Sunday, February 11, 2007

Vox in the Box (12)


I am tired of checking this site to see if you turkeys wrote something, only to run into that picture. Being on the grounds of Cleveland Sports Torture, I feel obligated to write about the BCS game. I was near certain before kickoff (and about 9 seconds after) that BCS stood for "Buckeyes cover spread." But I can't write about a game that never happened. You know how Simmons has talked himself into believing that Rocky V never happened? Same thing here. I quote Vox 11, after beating Michigan "we won the national championship in my mind that day." We all figured the two best teams in college football were meeting on that brisk November Saturday afternoon in C-bus, anyway. So there you have it, we're national champs. That was easy. Ohio State: two national titles in five seasons. 14-0 in 2002. 12-0 in 2006. Tressel: undefeated in BCS bowl games. Nice. Macys actually manufactured a few thousand Buckeyes National Champions T-shirts. So they're out there somewhere. Too bad Florida lost to Auburn. I heard the Gators had a great squad this year, but I'll never know cause I never saw'em play. Man, I love it when the lie becomes the truth. Hey, hey, Billie Jean is not my lover.

So since there's been so much press about the dominance of TSmith and another Buckeye National Championship, won't you indulge me a bit as I write about 2007's Rock Hall induction. You may have heard REM and Van Halen lead the class that will be enshrined in March-- two bands that resonated with me particularly between the ages of 17 and 24. Two great American outfits at opposite ends of the rock spectrum. I could write a term paper on REM-- an efficient, durable and provoking four-piece that emerged from Athens, Georgia to compose some of college rock's most enduring anthems. Despite enormous commercial success from 87-91 with chart-toppers Stand, Losing My Religion and the nauseating Shiny Happy People, REM actually peaked creatively with their next two albums, the hauntingly incomparable Automatic For the People and the unabashedly plugged-in follow up, Monster-- which proved REM sounded better loud, and maybe wasted much of their career on meditative string arrangements. Sadly, REM albums haven't been relevant since '98, the year Bill Berry left the band and REM went drum-machine. So that's your condensed VoxNotes of REM's history. Before we get to Halen, I should mention REM are a very underrated live act thanks to Stipe's unexpected energy and a very diverse set list.

OK, here's the theme of Vox 12:
1. Edward Van Halen is a jackass
2. Edward Van Halen is the luckiest musician alive
3. I'm down with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar


I'm aware that EVH's gunslinger guitar-playing spawned thousands of imitators and single handedly created the hair metal genre. Without Halen, we wouldn't have Def Lepard, G&R and Bon Jovi. Of course, we also wouldn't have Winger, Dokken and LA Guns. Eddie didn't strum chords; he touched strings, and the sounds that came out of his Peavey Amp went beyond what anyone thought possible from a guitar. He reinvented the instrument. We all know this. Van Halen is to the electric guitar what Vince McMahon is to wrestling, what Tony Hawk is to skateboarding, what The Real World is to reality television. A pioneer.

That being said, he's an asshole. A lucky asshole. Did you know that, as children, Alex was on guitar and Eddie's first instrument was the drums? When Alex was kicking his ass on the drums, Ed turned to guitar out of frustration. So if Alex wasn't such a percussion prodigy, Eddie never would've learned to play guitar. And if you didn't know, Van Halen kicked bassist Michael Anthony out the band. Why? So his teenage son, Wolfgang, could be the bass player. Anthony had been VH's bassist since it's inception playing frat parties in 1970s southern California. While Eddie and Alex feuded with frontmen, it was Anthony that was the stabilizer-- just like on stage with his muscular bass lines. Anthony never could have imagined that Eddie Van Halen's little kid was being groomed to take his place. You take away Eddie's family, and he has no band. And you know he's probably pissed he never had another kid to assume lead singer duties. When you're a lucky asshole, you benefit from the most successful lead singer transplant in rock history...and you just keep flushing it down the toilet. The Van Halen front-man timeline looks like this: Roth, Hagar, Roth, Cherrone, Hagar, Roth.

Diamond Dave vs the Red Rocker: The induction ceremonies should be great theatre-- even though Hagar and Roth have gotten past their differences. Because VH had a distinctly different sound and fanbase as Van Halen and then Van Hagar. I am one of the only VH fans on the planet that actually digs David Lee and Sammy. Despite a limited range, Roth's bravado, acrobatics and stylish pontificating made him a complete original among rock vocalists. It seemed like Roth was born for Eddie's guitar, neither as a backdrop or to nail the notes, but to confidently surf Eddie's dazzling shrieks and squeals. Sammy's refined and balanced tenor was an extreme departure from Roth's vocal gyrations. The Red Rooster could be tough if necessary, but he could also project vulnerability if the melody lines demanded it. Hence, the Van Hagar era is overloaded with stonewashed romance and idealism in tunes like, When It's Love, Love Walks In, Why Can't This Be Love, Can't Stop Lovin' You, Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do). I think you get the picture.

David Lee didn't talk about love. No time for that when you're having one night stands with your ass against the record machine. So maybe that's why rock purists embrace early Van Halen. Roth has always been a poster boy for rock-star antics and rebellion. And I love him. His radio show ruled; his auto-biography, Crazy From the Heat, convinced me he's one of the 10 smartest dudes on earth. I even liked his solo career, right down to that Eddie-ripoff playing a talking guitar in Yankee Rose. (Speaking of Yankee Rose, there's a Goose story here. I'll try to not to bore you with "my kid" tidbits. Like Simmons, I'm perfectly aware that people really aren't interested in reading about somebody else's kid. But this is relevant. Goose and I were watching VH1 classic. It's a weekday ritual for us. She bounces to the We Are the 80s beats in her exersaucer while I fuck around online, enjoying vintage videos as background noise. Well, I've always loved the beginning of Yankee Rose when David Lee dresses up as a cannibal, walks in to the Convenient store and tells the clerk: Give me a bottle of anything. And a glazed donut. To goooo. There's an extreme close-up of Dave's face when he says those lines and Goose just flipped out. She was perfectly fine, then came the Roth close-up and she's crying her eyes out. I though it was a coincidence. But today, Yankee Rose came on again and Goose freaked out at the exact same part. Go figure. She doesn't seem to fear anything. Dogs, snowstorms, bigger kids at daycare, titanic poops, etc. But she's lights-out scared of David Lee Roth. Sorry, had to share. It's my column. Fuck you, I'm from Brush.)

Back to the point; truth be told, Roth only had one great album with Van Halen-- their debut. The following efforts produced a hit single or two but were messy, formulaic attempts to recreate the spontaneity of Van Halen 1. On the other hand, Hagar made three excellent albums with VH-- the legendary 51/50, F.U.C.K, and the underrated Balance. I heard Why Can't This Be Love on 98.5 yesterday,and, even though NCX pays its rent spinning Van Halen, the track sounded so fresh. Ditto for the opening bars of Standing On Top of the World, which TAM still uses for Tribe games. And the Right Now video is epic (must use that word once a column). Right now, Hey! It's Your Tomorrow. Right now somebody is walking on to a nude beach for the first time. Right now, Ed's got his hands full. Right now, it's time for the Random Top 10.
SamVox's Top 10 Movies of 2006

1. The Departed. Calling it Scorcese's best since Goodfellas, doesn't do it justice. That's true, of course. But this film succeeds at levels of complexity that would amaze any great filmmaker. DiCaps turns in a performance rivaling Diaries. Damon is ridiculously good as always, in a role that's a combination of his characters in Talented Mr. Ripley. Oceans 11 and School Ties. Wahlberg is incredibly intense. Alec Baldwin, hilarious. Only the overhyped Jack Nicholson muffs it, choosing to go cartoonish (as usual) and over-the-top when the Frank Costello character called for restraint and subtlety.
Best scene: Leo gets his in a thunderstorm and shadows sex scene; Scorcese nicely underscores the mood with Comfortably Numb wailing at the forefront.

2. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. This film will have it's way with you. When you come out of the theatre, the wind has been knocked out of you and breathing in the here and now won't make much sense. You just want to turn your life back 20 years and see if you can dodge the moment somebody beat the innocence out of you. And you're not sure if you've been conned by first time director Dito Montiel, who cant resist The Big Tragedy. He borrows from Spike Lee and Scorcese in almost every scene, but manages to pound out one of the most authentic films I've ever scene. This movie is pure contradiction, and nobody plays conflicted like Robert Downey Jr. And to think I only saw this one because I caught Rosario Dawson's name in the credits on the movie poster outside the theatre. I figured she might show her rack. No luck, but this is her best role ever-- atoning for the nightmarish Clerks II.
Best scene: Eric Roberts in the state pen. I'm convinced if you want to make great art, just cast Eric Roberts. The rest takes care of itself.

3. Little Miss Sunshine. Greg Kinnear nails it, as usual, as Father Dysfunctional in a messed-up family. Or are they? Like Ferris once espoused to us-- every family is slightly dysfunctional even if they don't wear it as outwardly as Cameron's did. It's too simple to say Sunshine shows how to battle dysfunction by laughing in its face; the film is more of a satire on the American Dream.
Best scene: Any close-up of Steve Carell's face.

4. Borat. I like movie very much. I think, maybe Borat go to far in quest to find CJ. I see in American news, so many sue Borat for reasons I do not know. In my country, we support your War of Terror. Everyone is united in U, S of A. Everybody sue anything that moves. Eh, why not? Borat need dirty Jewish lawyer, no?
Best scene: All scenes with CJ. I love her. Where to find?

5. Inside Man. Not your typical Spike Lee joint, mainly because most of the stars are white. This film masquerades as a bank robbery, while successfully chipping away at the new New York stereotypes that have emerged post 9-11. Despite an abnormally plodding performance by Clive Owen and the usual cop song and dance that is no longer organic territory for Denzel, Lee still injects the audience with his brand of original politics and power. Yes, I'm a sucker for bank robberies, but Spike Lee is still a directing God. Many won't agree, but he keeps on kicking convention's ass while most Americans want the same old cliche for their $7.50.
Best scene: Denzel tackling Clive Owen down the bank's flighty staircase. You think you know what's going on, but you don't.

--- warning: serious drop-off in quality after the top five ---

6. The Night Listener. Hardly classic Robin Williams, but very disturbing and scary. Even if you walk out feeling unsatisfied, this is one of those flicks where you have to rate it just because you spent most of the movie afraid of what would be revealed to you next.
Best scene: That blind chick knowing Robin Williams is following her. Ok, that's my only spoiler moment in this Best Scene theme, but I'm pretty confident none of you will see it.

7. Beer League. Mrs. Vox dragged me to this one and I was ready to take a critical poop on it, but then Ralph Macchio appeared and I was disarmed. Seeing this film was similar to seeing Artie Lange's stand up act at the Hard Rock in Vegas. I thought the jokes were stupid, but I laughed pretty hard anyway. And afterwards, I just wanted to get drunk and slap some strippers in the ass.
Best scene: Anthony DeSando, former Sopranos thug, putting the Devanzo shift on Artie.

8. Right now I'm watching Match Point for the third time this week and wishing it came out in 2006. But every time I hit info, it says 2005. This is a very compelling movie that I cannot discuss with you on the '06 countdown. Email me and I'll share my theories. By the way, 2006 seemed to be the year of movies I was jacked up for that totally let me down: Rocky VI, Superman Returns, and most notably, Clerks II. Anyway, eight is Miami Vice. Sex, drugs and crime have perhaps never been pulled off so stylistically. Eff Michael Mann for not using the TV theme song-- that's really half the reason I rented it. Colin Farrel is ultra cool in the Crockett role, but the film suffers from a wreckless narrattive style. Slow it down, Mr. Mann. Slow it down. Some of us ain't that smart.

9. Invincible. Greg Kinnear making the countdown twice this year. I never would've predicted it. He rules as Coach Vermeil, and his wife is played by Paige Turco. That name means nothing to you, but she was "Melanie" on All My Children in the late 80s and I was obsessed with her. You think you're getting melted velveeta with this Disney movie, but instead you get fairly digestible cream cheese. Hard to go wrong with Mark Wahlberg as the symbol for Philadelphia's late 70s identity crisis.
Best scene: Vermeil raging on Marky Mark for missing that first tackle on special teams.

10. The Devil Wears Prada. In almost any other year, this flick misses the Top 10 (I didn't see United 93 or V for Vendetta-- both of these could've knocked Devil off this list, so maybe it's fate I'm supposed to write about it). Devil is really just a long episode of Sex and the City with better acting and hotter chicks. But it's saved by a few things:
A) Anne Hathaway (though I preferred her as a rodeo gal in Brokeback Mountain) and Vince from Entourage playing Vince from Entourage.
B) The use of City of Blinding Lights during Hathaway's arrival to Paris (best scene).
C) The great Meryl Streep (light years away from River Wild). Her character may seem far-fetched, but some of us (Pucky) can relate because we really have experienced that kind of bitch-boss.

Last call: Double-shot of Halen on the house--

I been to the edge
and there I stood and looked down
you know I lost a lot of friends there baby
I got no time to mess around
mmmm, so if you want it got to bleed for it baby

---

another world, some other time
you lay your sanity on the line
familiar faces, familiar sights
reach back, remember with all your might
ooooh, there she stands in her silken gown
silver lights, shinin' down

I am SamHagar in the box.

Hey Rae, what you said is true....parting is inevitable