Well, the year is at an end and everyone has taken yet another, giant step closer towards their final days here on shopping-mall Earth. That moment, when fate grabs us by the ankles and wrenches us kicking and screaming from the only existence we’ve ever known. Every groove in the sidewalk is the fingernail scrapings of some poor lost soul frantically clinging on till the very last. And mass shootings, horrific wars, starvation and unbridled suffering, in its many glorious forms; dog our weary days as we march relentlessly towards our own oblivion.
On the upside, there was a lot of great music in 2012. Not much of it on mainstream radio, but still survives in the shadows. There was also a lot of complete shit, but I won’t bore you with that.
Except for the number one example of 2012 auditory poo.
I am, of course, speaking of Aerosmith’s new release: “Music from Another Dimension.” This sucker took over 11 years to write and record. Now, that may not seem long compared to say building the Great Pyramids or inventing a type of fudge that can be eaten and worn as pants but let’s put this in proper context. It took only 7 years from Kennedy’s announcement that we were going to send a man to the moon to the moment when Neil bounced down off that ladder thus providing paranoid delusionals with decades of entertainment, spouting inarguable proof that the whole thing was a conspiratorial fake. Alexander the Great conquered the known world in about 11 years… on horseback and while feeling up other guys in togas. All we asked of the Toxic Twins is they come up with a couple of hummable tunes and some listenable filler.
The Beatles wrote and recorded all of their albums in about half that time. Imagine: you have twice as long as the Beatles entire recording career to put together just one album. Plus, you have all that multi-tracking and new technological gizmos to come up with sounds that John, Paul, George and Ringo couldn’t even imagine. (especially Ringo) Plus, plus, Steven Tyler is a better singer that John, Paul and George combined.
I’ve often espoused, to anyone who would listen, that Mr. Tyler should be imprisoned in a recording studio for the rest of his natural born life and made to sing as many songs as can be physically squeezed out of his transcendent voice box. The wastrel ways of his youth have already robbed us of countless tunes adorned with his vivacious vociferations. Enough is enough. I had considered petitioning Congress, but those fuckers can’t seem to get even trivial things accomplished, never mind something as important as this.
Back to My Spleen-Venting Point: And yet… with the benefit of the average dog’s entire lifetime and unspeakable amounts of ooftish, they offer up this festering bucket of duck plop.
True, this glorious band of yore (and probably no more) did have a number of distractions to contend with. If I had groupies lined up around the block, competing feverishly for the right to forage in my snakeskin pantaloons, I might also be hard pressed to pick up my guitar with the same regularity as I did during my humbler days… but 11 years??? I mean, at sixty-plus, their venereal Vesuvius can only be good for one or two eruptions a day, max.
And true, they did put out that cover album along the way. Honkin’ on Bobo should have been a clue, I guess. (Even though I thought it was a very enjoyable musical outing.) You wait three years and all you can come up with is a covers album… What? It took you 3 fucking years to pick 12 songs you didn’t even write?
On top of that, they’re all sober! It’s only been seven years since the Stones’ last release and they’re way older and falling down drunks. Keith Richards has thrown up more food in his lifetime than he’s eaten. What the fuck have Aerosmith been doing with their time?
Now, is this the worst album I ever heard? No. Not by a Richard-Marx long shot. I own Lou Reed’s Metal Machine music… on vinyl and CD! It should just be so much better. But, perhaps I’m suffering from Ishtar Syndrome.
Let Me Explain: Ishtar took a very long time to make (not eleven fucking years – but quite a while) and cost 50 million dollars when the average movie cost 10. For that kind of time and money, people were expecting to see armies of Orcs charging up the walls of Minas Tirith and what they got instead was a Hope/Crosby road picture. Now, Ishtar is a fantastic film. (No, I’m not kidding) My family watches it at least twice a year. We shall be screening it for my daughter’s boyfriend come Christmas Day. It is that good. But, there’s a great old saying: “If you’re expecting Ice Cream, the finest fish in the world will taste like poison.” The audience was expecting to see the visual equivalent of Middle Earth in eye-popping detail and what they got was a couple of idiots staggering across Elaine May-reshaped sand dunes. Thus, this cute, funny buddy picture became poison in the mouths of the movie-going public.
Back, Once Again, to My Venting: So, perhaps, due to Ishtar Syndrome, their new album was doomed to disappoint before it even drew its first mediocre breath. After waiting 11 years for these mega-talented individuals to put out a new CD, maybe my expectations were too unrealistically high. Unreasonably lofty. Or was Randy Newman talking about Boston’s naughtiest boys on Bad Love when he penned:
“When will I end this bitter game?
When will I end this cruel charade?
Everything I write all sounds the same
Each record that I’m making
Sounds like a record that I made
Just not as good!”
Music From Another Dimension does sound like their other albums… just not as good.
Phew! I’m off my soapbox now. Probably time to get a move on and tout some of this year’s primo tuneage and there have been some humdingers. The numbers next to the songs mean nothing. It was hard enough whittling down my massive pile of favorite ditties to these few; my head would explode if I tried to put them in an order of preference.
Disclaimer: You will notice that there are a lot of double X-chromosomed singers in my list. I have a weakness for bubbly pop chanteuses. “I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it either.” (A line from Ishtar)
Second Disclaimer: I don’t listen to much radio and I don’t watch those “hip” television shows that feature emerging artists, so if any of these tunes have been played so much that you’d rather stab yourself in the ear with a Bic pen than listen to it again, I apologize.
1. Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound – Little Red Wagon
Audra Mae just possesses one of those magnificent voices and adds it deftly to this is a joyous and tuneful celebration of economical transportation. This album is highly recommended.
2. Dia Frampton – Isabella
Ms. F. was on one of those television game shows for singers. Luckily, I didn’t know that when I listened to this song so I wasn’t able to put my snob ears on quickly enough to cock a snook at it. The sad fact is, I really like this song despite her appearance on The Price Is Right of music shows. And you will too.
3. Imaginary Flying Machines – Country Road
This 2012 ear-grabber is off the Princess Ghibli album and the sun doth rise up its musical ass. A John Denver song being sung in Japanese by a heavy metal band? It just doesn’t get any better than that.
4. Gemma Ray – Alright! Alive!
It was very hard to pick the song I liked the most of Gemma Ray’s Island Fire album. After much back and forth listening and teeth gnashing, I decided on the above but it could have easily been Bring Ring Ring Yeah or Runaway. This is a very good album. Pop at its finest.
5. Ivy Quainoo – Do You Like What You See
Miss Quainoo also won one of those horrible singing shows. (In Germany, I believe) Again, I could not get my snob-ears on in time. This is just wonderful.
6. Hoots & Hellmouth – I Don’t Mind Your Cussing
When you come upon a band with the name Hoots & Hellmouth, you don’t really no what to expect. There is just something about I Don’t Mind Your Cussing that grabbed me and made me smile. It’s a simple enough song but it has a real charm.
7. Sara Watkins – You and Me
I went to see the Watkins play at the Largo about six months ago. Sara had just put out her new album and she played this song. It was love at first hear.
8. Leo O’Kelly – Alcohol
This is Leo O’Kelly I got this song off a compilation which I seem to have lost. Luckily I still have this tune. I found it obsessive and haunting.
9. Mim Grey – Traveling Star
I only heard this song by Mim Grey the other day so I’m hoping my judgment is sound and it’s not just a Johnny-Come-Lately pick. (the opposite of Ishtar Syndrome) I can remember when CHUM-AM would periodically put out a “Best Songs of All Time” list. I used to get apoplectic when people would vote and 17 of the top 25 songs of all time were on the CHUM chart that week. I mean, fuck off, people. Have some Goddamn perspective. This, on the other hand is a very nice song.
10. Javina Magness – Make It Rain
A blues song that got me. Not that blues songs don’t get me but this one got me.
11. Whitton – ‘Til the End
Girlie pop. You may have noticed I have a weakness for it. And girls in general, but it’s still a terrific song and I can give up girls anytime I want. Honest.
12. The Lumineers – Flowers in Your Hair
A bouncy little country-folky tune that makes you feel good on a cloudy day.
13. San Cisco – Beach
I can imagine being on a beach with the sun going down and listening to this song. Of course I would have to have a glass of fine wine and a deck chair. Sand can get cold pretty fast, once the sun goes down.
14. Ruffled Feathers – Canals of Suzhou
Another chick of the female persuasion. But there is a trumpet in the song. I find that to be a very male instrument, don’t you?
15. Serena Ryder – What I Wouldn’t Do
Great song and a terrific voice. And… she’s Canadian. As much as I have a weakness for girl singers – if they’re from Canada, it just seems to completely tip the musical scales in their favor.
16. Cold Stares – Jesus’ Brother James
A little testosterone break here. This is a nice rocker, the way they used to rock in the good old days. Sibling rivalry can happen, even in the most pious of families.
This tune is just as good with an acoustic guitar.
17. Brendan Benson – Bad For Me
Brendan put out one of my top songs of the year 12 months ago with A Whole Lot Better.
He’s back with another corker, from his new album. Bad for Me is the kind of song that would have been a gigantic hit and considered a classic, if it had come out in the ’80s or earlier when people had taste. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much call for well-crafted songs anymore.
18. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Dolly Parton – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.
I wasn’t going to include this song because it came out in 2008 but Frank Gutch Jr. egged me on. It was on a retrospective this year, so I might be able to squeak it through on a technicality. Dolly does one of her all-time best vocals on this. It really is a new look at a great old song.
19. Bonnie and the Clydes – It Ain’t Nothin’
What a cute little tune. I’m so glad people still like this kind of whimsical country-flavored pop. The world is a happier place for it. http://www.divshare.com/download/21476430-f26
20. Jordan Minor – The Ballad of William Bonney
I dithered over this last choice. Dithered I say. There were so many very worthy candidates I had left to pick from but, in the end, my ears kept leading me back to this song. There’s something about the way it builds that just sautés my asparagus.
So as this year ends, we stand at on the borderline between all that was and all that will ever be. We can all look back with thankfulness and joy to the great music and the artists who gave it to us over the last 12 months but at the same time, we can also look forward to the next Aerosmith album… in 2023.
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Darrell Vickers is now a Friday Contributor to DBAWIS
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Darrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg. CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay. From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S. He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.) Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music. Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com .