It’s time for the Rock Hall to get Weird

If you’re like me, your musical journey has taken you through a lot of different phases. I definitely had my Ben Folds Five phase, my oldies phase, my contemporary Christian rap phase, and my David Bowie phase. Okay, I’m always in a David Bowie phase.
But one phase that almost every young music fan goes through is their Weird Al Yankovic phase. In 1993, Yankovic released his eighth full-length album, “Alapalooza,” and my eight-year-old world was transformed, never to be the same.
My next-door neighbor picked up the album, and I spent countless hours over at his house playing Sega Genesis and listening to such unforgettable songs as “Bedrock Anthem,” “Livin’ in the Fridge,” and “Bohemian Polka.” I started listening to Yankovic for the same reason most kids do: he was funny. But while I was chuckling along to songs about food and TV, Yankovic was subconsciously helping me appreciate the music of the bands he was parodying.
As my musical tastes grew and Yankovic’s career progressed, it wasn’t long before I was checking out the original songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Queen, and countless others. When I started to expand my listening into different genres, I started with the bands that Yankovic had parodied. Yankovic has expanded his repertoire as well, parodying current tracks by Chamillionaire, Usher, and Green Day on his newest LP, 2006’s “Straight Outta Lynwood.”
Despite the fact that he is mostly known for his parodies of popular songs, Yankovic is a talented songwriter in his own right. In addition to straight lyrical parodies, he also performs songs that sound like they could have been written by other popular artists. Among these ‘style parodies’ are songs in the style of Cake, Devo, or Bob Dylan. He pulls off each with uncanny accuracy, as proven by my roommates walking into the room and asking, “Hey, is this Cake (or Devo, or Bob Dylan)?”
Not only is Yankovic’s versatility unparalleled, his longevity is astounding as well. His debut album, “ ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic,” was released in April of 1983. In April of 2008, Yankovic will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that album’s release, finally making him eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
According to http://www.rockhall.com, The Rock Hall selects performers based on “the influence and significance of the artist’s contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” In January, the Rock Hall announced its 2007 inductees, a class headlined by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, R.E.M., and Van Halen. Without Yankovic, there would be no gateway to legendary artists such as these for young listeners. The influence of these artists is dependent on new listeners, a demographic that is often brought into the music world by Yankovic.
A generation of music fans who were six to ten years old in the mid-90s is now in college. These students are working at college radio stations, downloading from iTunes, and making purchasing decisions based on musical knowledge that began with Weird Al. An entire generation of college students, keeping the record industry afloat with a passion instilled in them by “Eat It,” “Christmas at Ground Zero,” and “Amish Paradise.”
If that influence isn’t significant enough for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then I don’t know what is.

The Shins’ new album proves worthy of long wait

It’s been four years since their last album and three years since they changed Natalie Portman’s life in Garden State, and The Shins are back on top of the music world with their new album, Wincing The Night Away. Released on January 23rd, Wincing debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart, their highest debut ever.
Let’s not mince words here: The album is phenomenal. If The Shins are a modern-day Weezer, this is their Pinkerton. If they’re Pink Floyd, this is their Dark Side of The Moon. Instead of capitalizing on their Zach Braff-induced fame, they waited four long years between albums. The result? A carefully-crafted masterpiece, as solid from top to bottom as some of the top albums of the past decade.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist James Mercer, keyboardist/guitarist/bassist Marty Crandall, lead guitarist Dave Hernandez and drummer Jesse Sandoval held their cards close to their chest while recording the album. Track by track they reveal their hand, starting with what should become an intro for the ages in “Sleeping Lessons.” It starts off nearly inaudible, and then opens further and further until it explodes into an energetic standout track.
The epic disc that follows could be described as the result of The Shins meeting Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division for a round of cold ones. In addition to the strength of the songwriting, producers Mercer and Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, U2) should be proud. They’ve kept all of the aspects that made The Shins’ previous albums (2001’s Oh, Inverted World and 2004’s Chutes Too Narrow) great, but coursing through it all is a hollow, almost 1980s sound. Melancholy is permitted to seep in, but depression is not. Each track is tethered in reality by either the lyrics or the jolliness of the music.
Perhaps the best example is the first single, “Phantom Limb.” Driven by Mercer’s trademark voice and one prominent tambourine, this sing-along is jam-packed with cheerfully melancholy lyrics, backup vocals by Anita Robinson of Viva Voce, and enough “whoa-oh”s to drown a horse. The fairly obtuse lyrics seem to be about the awkward end to an awkward high school romance, but you can’t help but sing along with a smile on your face.
Most of the lyrics on the album are nearly incomprehensible, as has become The Shins’ modus operandi. In “Red Rabbits,” a tune sounds like it was ripped off of a Velvet Underground record, Mercer croons, “Out of a gunnysack fall red rabbits/into the crucible to be rendered an emulsion.” If those lines were written by almost anyone else, you’d want to throw the songwriter down the stairs. But Mercer consistently pulls off such pretentious wordplay with a sort of “aw, shucks” demeanor that makes you want to pull him into a headlock and give him an affectionate noogie.
The highlights on this album are too numerous to mention. From the almost-jovial melancholy of “Turn On Me” to the delightfully-bizarre R&B beat of “Sealegs” (perhaps the weirdest track in The Shins’ arsenal), there is something here for everyone to love. This album should be considered the early front-runner for “Album of The Year 2007,” and you should be asking yourself not “should I pick up this album,” but “how soon can I get to the record store?”

Rocking Harder – 2/27

Muse – Knights of Cydonia
Artichoke – God Save The Queen
The Format – Wait, Wait, Wait
Franz Ferdinand – Michael
My Chemical Romance – The Sharpest Lives
Modest Mouse – Horn Intro
Modest Mouse – The World at Large
The Hives – The Hives – Introduce The Metric System in Time
The Shins – Phantom Limb
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Emily Jean Stock
Arcade Fire – No Cars Go
Michael Jackson – Bad
Mew – Apocalypso
Panic! at the Disco – Time to Dance
The Fratellis – Henrietta
Saves the Day – At Your Funeral
Sufjan Stevens – Jacksonville
Bloc Party – I Still Remember
The Decemberists – O Valencia!
Death Cab For Cutie – Crooked Teeth
Andrew Bird – Fake Palindromes
Fall Out Boy – I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)
Big City Rock – Human
AFI – Love Like Winter
Blink 182 – I Miss You
Foo Fighters – Best of You
The Get Up Kids – Close to Me
Alkaline Trio – Blue Carolina
David Bowie – Changes
The Killers – When You Were Young

Rocking Harder – 2/20

Hey, it’s the first show of the new semester! That means you get to read tracklists again! Yeah! This time around, I’ll be on Tuesday nights from 9-11 pm. So, yeah! Listen in!

DJ Shadow – The Outsider (Intro)
Arcade Fire – Black Mirror
Alkaline Trio – Burn
Muse – Starlight
The Format – The First Single (Cause a Scene)
Fall Out Boy – I’ve Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)
Wolfmother – Love Train
The Thermals – A Pillar of Salt
AFI – The Leaving Song, pt. 2
Foo Fighters – Best of You
The Shins – Sealegs
Mew – Am I Wry? No
Straylight Run – Toolsheds and Hot Tubs
Teddybears – Different Sound
Arcade Fire – Keep The Car Running
Interpol – Obstacle 1
Coheed and Cambria – The Suffering
Alkaline Trio – Blue Carolina
My Chemical Romance – The Sharpest Lives
Heavens – Gardens
Showbread – Mouth Like a Magazine
The Juliana Theory – If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?
Weird Al Yankovic – White & Nerdy
Rhymefest – Brand New (feat. Kanye West)
FurtherMore – Fluorescent Jellyfish
Matisyahu – Youth
The Killers – Sam’s Town
Ghoti Hook – Drop Dead
Reel Big Fish – Cheer Up
Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)