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Hey everybody! This week at Music for the Masses we are ramming our fist in and digging deep into an un-lubed vault to pull forth one of the legendary issues of this here column. “Legendary how?,” you ask. Why, because I say so, that’s why…and umm, because it was the issue from exactly a year ago and I just couldn’t get motivated to write about the new one from the Cowboy Junkies. Sorry. Life… what an unfair bitch, huh? Now, if you are a long-time reader, well, gee, it really sucks to be you this week because you’ve already read this and, I’m sure, laughed till you cried. However, if you are relatively new to our corner of the web, file this one under “New To You” and enjoy a time in this articles existence when I actually did multiple reviews all by myself with nary a Double A or J.D. in sight, opened with a mighty helping of non-musical bullshit, the site was named after a butthole and I had a weird infatuation with Clay Aiken…umm, don’t ask. So, without further ado and because I need to get back to watching Face Fucke…I mean, working, I present to you this little blast from past…

MUSIC FOR THE MASSES

April 19th, 2006

By M.C. Bell


Hello, friends. Glad you made it back, safe and sound. I have a question for all you out there: do you enjoy sleep as much as I do? If you’re anything like me, and we’ve already established you are, then the answer is “Damn straight, M.C. You bet we do!” And I gotta say, friends, I enjoy the hell out of sleeping but unfortunately, I had been having a little trouble lately falling to sleep on the spotty, old futon. Hell, even the old stand-bys like warm milk, sex, which I like to call “Dancing with the Jackson 5″ and the last couple episodes of Lost couldn’t even put me to sleep. And believe you me, if the last couple episodes of Lost can’t knock you out, you know you’re in trouble. I was so desperate, in fact, that I turned to an amazing, little pill known for its dramatic effects. No, I’m not talking Viagara®, although, I will admit that a 4 hour erection gets to be a little tiring. I’m actually talking about Ambien®.

Have you heard about this stuff? If you haven’t, let me be the first to tell you that, holy crap, these pills REALLY work. Here’s the directions for usage, as I understand them: Take two pills, chase them with a fifth of Jack and wake up sometime next Tuesday. What’s that you say? Can’t afford to sleep for 6 days straight? No worries, because you see, that’s the best part. Apparently, while you are asleep, your interactions with the world never stop. Pretty cool, huh? Of course, you do need to be careful, because, as I have been made painfully aware, you can get yourself into all kinds of mischief.

For instance, it appears that while enjoying my Ambien slumber, I have become quite the internet shopper. My favorite item? Underwear. No big deal, right? In fact, when I awoke the first time and found 4 packs of Hanes skivvies on the counter, I was like, “Cool! New sausage covers!” You see, I really needed new underwear because most of my old ones looked like they hit a deer doing 60. But over time, I started buying. . .umm, “strange” underwear and then, one of my friends showed me this. . .

Apparently sometimes, when I’m asleep, I just want to feel pretty.

You know, it’s all fun and games until your friends show you a picture of yourself, with freshly shorn legs and your junk taped to your butt, dressed in Wonder Woman underwear, flexing in the middle of your tricked out bachelor pad. These are the things that make you say, “Whoa!” So, needless to say, I’ve cut back a bit on the Ambien consumption. Good thing, too. I was starting to have some pretty bizarre dreams. In fact, just the other night I was dreaming that I was eating tootsie rolls from a fancy hors de oeuvres tray and woke up hugging my cat’s litter box. You know, maybe I should stop taking this crap before I buy something really expensive or dream that I’m eating a hot fudge sundae and wake up with a spoon sticking out of my ass.

I bought this new video and some of her perfume, which smells like 4 day old ham and stale urine.

So, friends, if you know anybody who needs a crate of the new Mariah Carey perfume, which is called, provocatively enough “Crème Filled,” “The View” cookbook, tickets to Puppetry of the Penis or some velour sweatpants with “I Love Simon Cowell!” emblazoned across the ass, let me know. Or, hell, maybe I’ll just throw them back on eGay where I found them. Ba da bum!!

But enough about that. This week, we have some exciting new releases like the sequel to Operation Mindcrime from Queensryche, the new Flaming Lips, Blue October and Built To Spill. Plus, we get to hear what some readers are listening too. Pretty full plate, eh? So. . .what do you say? Let’s get to it, shall we?

Artist: Queensryche
Album: Operation: Mindcrime II
Bastard Love Child of: Cool, old Queensryche and the newer, “suckier” version.
Best for: Making you realize two things about this band, a) Geoff Tate has “questionable” sexuality and b) the band’s best music is behind them.

Wow! Is that “Pleather?”

Ask any progressive metal fan and they’ll tell you that Operation: Mindcrime II is the coolest and most highly anticipated event of the year. However, what they won’t tell you about this new Queensryche release is that it is also, arguably, the coolest thing to happen to them in the last 18 years outside of the one time they “accidentally” saw their cousin’s tit while water-skiing. Seriously. You see, it has been 18 long, lonely, masturbation-filled years for Queensryche fans since they were first treated to Operation: Mindcrime.

Now, many of you out there are probably asking yourself “Why in the hell is this new release so exciting?” And the answer to that is simple, folks, but bear with me a sec. You see, first, I gotta tell you that Operation: Mindcrime is one, kick-ass album. And, for those of you who don’t know or have smoked WAY too much meth recently, Mindcrime is a progressive-metal concept album that tells the story of a government-trained killer, Nikki, who is set up for the murder of his girlfriend after refusing orders to kill her and is sent to prison to play butt-darts with his cell mate, Leon. Okay. . .maybe that last part is just “implied.” Regardless, the disc was a marvel of progressive musicianship and a monster hit for the band. Oh yeah, and it is, easily, one of the best concept albums ever produced.

So, needless to say, any fan would be excited by a continuation of this story. But in all actuality, Operation: Mindcrime 2 is exciting to progressive rock fans because after looking at the lead singer here. . .

many of us were just happy that the new album wasn’t a sequel to this. . .

Seriously… I’m convinced that we dodged a bullet here. That’s right, friends, luckily, Queensryche decided to ignore Geoff Tate’s proclivity for ass-less chaps and body glitter and decided to go back to what they do best as a band: angry, pissed-off concept albums. Operation: Mindcrime II fits that bill nicely and picks up the original’s story right where it leaves off. Our hero, Nikki, is still in prison and still scratching his head going “WTF?” However, as the album progresses, Nikki is released and we soon come to find out that there is going to be hell to pay. You see, apparently Nikki is a little peeved at a) being wrongfully imprisoned and b)having his asshole re-sized to accommodate an eggplant. Again, I’m pretty sure that last part was “implied.” And being a trained killer and all, Nikki has little trouble exacting revenge on his tormentors, with the exception of Leon, in a sufficiently bloody way.

All in all, I gotta tell you. . .the whole “Rock, Revenge, and Redemption” angle works really well here. It’s more than apparent that these guys desperately miss their original guitarist, Chris Degarmo, but overall, their sound is as loud, complex and entertaining as it has been in years. It is also nice to see the band move back to their progressive roots and riff-heavy music. Operation: Mindcrime II still captures the whole “musically adventurous rock opera” thing, but falls short of being as brilliant as its predecessor. Still, I gotta say that it manages to entertain both fans and non-fans alike.

Supposedly, one of the main selling points for old fans of the band is that Mary’s killer is finally revealed. But I gotta tell you… I’ve listened to this disc like 18 times, plus I read the lyrics, and I couldn’t tell you who the hell murdered the nappy whore. Maybe it was Dr. X in the Billiards Room with the Candlestick. Shit, I don’t know.

If you are an old fan of the band, I would definitely recommend buying the CD. . .of course, I’m sure that most of you already have. For you non-fans out there, do yourself a favor and pick up the original Operation: Mindcrime. It doesn’t get much better than that. Then, once you’ve been converted, come back to this new album and check out my personal favorites: “I’m American,” “The Hands,” “Re-Arrange You,” “The Chase” (which features guest vocals from Ronnie James Dio as Dr. X) and “Please Don’t Do Me In The Ass Again, Leon. . .I’m Sore.” Of course, that last song title, I believe, is mostly just “implied.”

Sir… I’m going to have to ask you to remove the ferret from your chest and slowly. . .slowly take your hand out of your pants.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Artist: Flaming Lips
Album:At War with the Mystics
Bastard Love Child of: The Velvet Underground and Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd.
Best for: Making Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” seem “not all that weird” and somewhat “entertaining.”

“I’m in the Flaming Lips band. My best friend is my right hand.”

You know, the first thing I think about when I hear the words “Flaming Lips” is “Good lord, woman… get yourself to a gynecologist, stat!” The second thing I think about is that I always wanted to be a free-lance gynecologist but, apparently, the great state of Colorado frowns upon somebody opening a clinic out of the back of a’72 Dodge Dart. Third, I think about Wayne Coyne’s bizarre-ass, little musical group from Oklahoma… where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains.

Love them or hate them, you have to admit that the guys in the Flaming Lips, well, mostly Wayne, have created some of the most interesting, unusual and, more times than not, annoying music out there today. Originally formed in 1983, the FLips, as their equally freakish fans like to call them, have been cranking out art house, acid pop at a fairly prolific rate. Of course, this assumes that you consider Wayne Coyne’s attempts at directing an “orchestra” of 40 cars with synchronized tape decks as “music” (I shit you not. Try as I might, you just can’t make some of this stuff up).

Now, it is usually easy to dismiss a band like this (I’m looking at you, Coulier!), but what keeps the Flaming Lips interesting is that every once in a while, they hit one out of the park. Take their last album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, for instance. That disc was actually a main-stream hit. In fact, it was the most success the band has had in almost 13 years (and no, I don’t count that appearance on Beverly Hills, 90120 as a measure of success. If it would have been Melrose Place… or Charles In Charge, maybe.)

 

Honestly? My money’s on the “guy in black” being the REALLY fucked up one.

So, needless to say, when I picked up the new disc, At War with the Mystics, I had no clue what to expect, aside from some freaky guitar work, and my expectations could not have been lower. And maybe that’s EXACTLY why I enjoyed this disc as much as I did.

Believe it or not, At War with the Mystics is actually a pretty straight forward, psychedelic rocker with only minimal, “spacey” interludes. I’m guessing that Wayne is finally taking his meds. Hooray, for Lithium!! Keep in mind, though, this is still a Flaming Lips disc. For instance, I did start to panic a bit when I heard the very first track, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” for the very first time. If you haven’t heard this song yet, think of the most annoying voice in the world, say Fran Drescher’s, and picture it saying “Jah, Jah, Jah,” over and over again. Yeah, exactly. I honestly thought the song was going to make me sterile. . .not sure how, but I SWEAR I could feel the little guys dying. . .and all I could think was, “Oh shit. Here we go.” But these moments are, thankfully, few and far between and don’t detract as much from the “actual” music as they did on either of their last two albums.

If you are unsure of whether or not this disc is for you, I would recommend that you dress up in your finest “Green Alien with Giant Yellow Nippples” costume and check out they very Floyd-esque tracks “The Sound of Failure” and “It Overtakes Me.” If you dig the sound of those two tracks, this disc is a safe and solid bet.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Artist: Blue October
Album: Foiled
Bastard Love Child of: Peter Gabriel and Nickelback. . .that one’s for you, Chris!
Best for:Helping you understand that some artists do their best work while totally and completely bat-shit, insane.

I’m pretty sure they are yelling something about wearing eye shadow to the photo shoot.

Much like my friend, Justin, I’m sitting here in my dippity-do room at the hospital, typing on the old tuna. They tell me that I recently had some kind of psychotic break, triggered by repeated listenings of John Tesh’s new album Tunes From A Giant Forhead. But how can I argue? I love tacos. Talking to the doctor, the one who looks like Dick Cheney, I came to the realization that I can only, truly, find my happy Plah-doh© place if I’m listening to singers who dance like Peter Gabriel. Crazy, huh? Yep, peanut butter! Find me one of those floating in the sky and I’m going to be happier than Michael Jackson on a NAMBLA-sponsored camping trip. Ever hear John Cusack play his raincoat to Kate’s Bush, I mean, Kate Bush? Whatever, porkchop… I will not hurt the nice people. But Peter Gabriel’s music, to me, is about as good as talking envelopes get. Uh oh… here comes the orange nurse with sleep in her hand. What’s that hairy nurse? Time for my pills? But I’m talking to my friend’s right now and I don’ttttttttttttttttttttttttttt….

Okay… back now… for a bit. Now where was I? Oh yeah… Peter Gabriel. So, right about now you are probably saying to yourself, “Holy shit, that was weird” and “Hey, that’s great, but what exactly does Peter Gabriel have to do with the dude, up there in the picture, wearing the latest from Mabeline’s ‘Trashy Club Whore’ collection?”

Well, I’ll tell you. See, first, Justin Furstenfeld, that guy up there with a mild case of “gender confusion,” had a little problem with “reality” and was “committed” to an “insane” asylum. . .like me. Who knew they could commit you for putting too much male nudity up on the internet? Unlike me, he is the lead singer for a hot new group, Blue October, and the dude sounds EXACTLY like Peter Gabriel. And no, I’m not hallucinating again or throwing that comparison around lightly. And yes, I am lucid enough now to know that I’ve said that before, like with the group Elbow, but this time I mean it… kinda like when I tell the girls I date that I’m only going to put it in for a minute and then take it right back out (And, yes, they are having me work through those “lying” issues in therapy, too). I defy you to listen to this band for more than 30 seconds, any song, and tell me that Justin doesn’t sound like a Gabriel clone. And no, junior, I don’t mean that in a bad way.

This is Blue October’s new poster warning of the dangers of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

I mean it in an “Oh my God, that crazy SOB created an AMAZING disc” way. I’ve always said, when it comes to musicians, and on-line music reviewers, “the wackier the better.” And if Foiled represents the kind of material that you can come up with while swatting at imaginary bugs and watching Judge Judy between sponge baths, then I’m all for it. Hell, if this is the kind of output you can have when you’re nuts, I might extend my stay a bit. After all, I get three squares a day here, all the drugs I can take, a free drool-bib and a nice spot down by the duck pond for when I get “too excited.” I’ve even had time to create a list of singers and artists I feel should be committed, too. First up? Easy. Brittany “Baby, You Can Drive My Car” Spears.

You want crazy? This chick is crazy.

Bat-shit insane, “cuckoo for Coco Puffs,” Looney as a Tune… whatever… Blue October (consisting of lead vocalist Justin, three or four random voices in his head, violinist/keyboardist Ryan Delahoussaye, drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld, guitarist CB Hudson and bassist Matt Novesky) has crafted a virtually perfect album. Pretty lofty statement, huh? No, I’m still not hallucinating… although I feel the pills wearing off and no, I’m not joking. Foiled just surpassed Hotel Lights as my favorite to be released this year. Each and every song here is single-worthy, immediately recognizable, catchy, clever and most importantly, different in both tempo and mood. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m serious. It is truly phenomenal, with a little something for all the different voices in your head. I firmly believe that this is the album that will finally break this band… in a BIG way. You heard it hear first, pudding hand. Uh oh… fading fast… better wrap this up.

In addition to the first single, “Hate Me,” check out the pencil’s best songs, the melodic and moody “Into the Ocean” and the spank-tastic “X-Amount of Words.” You know, Timmy ate it, too, and he didn’t turn green so you should definitely know that its absolutely brilliant. Buy the whole disc and eat it on rye with a slice of pickle. That makes for one, delicious swimming pool!!!

Rating: 5 out 5

Artist: Built To Spill
Album: You In Reverse
Bastard Love Child of: Pavement and Neil Young
Best for:Making any yard, garden or record collection complete.

3 guys and their lawn gnome.

So, you probably don’t know this, (kudos if you do), but that guy in the picture above, Doug Martsch, wearing the hat with the “reservoir tip,” is an honest to goodness, alternative guitar god. Bet you’ve never heard that statement before, eh? Let’s see… counting all of the “alternative guitar gods”… you have… umm, well, Doug and… umm.. a nd J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. … and, well, that’s about it.

Here’s Doug showing his “cheeky” side during Lollapalooza.

Yep, without a doubt, Doug can play one mean guitar AND, apparently, grow one helluva beard. Together with an ever-rotating cast of supporting characters, Doug Martsch crafted numerous, outstanding, guitar-driven albums, like 1994’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, fan-favorite Perfect From Now On and the amazing Keep It Like a Secret, that helped make Built To Spill one of the biggest alternative acts of the ’90’s. Of course, tearing up the stages of Lollapalooza as one of the more consistent and entertaining acts didn’t hurt, either.

And then came their last disc, Ancient Melodies of the Future, a self-indulgent (even for these guys) and boring piece of crap that put a halt to the band’s stellar, indie track record. In fact, if there is ANYBODY out there thinking of buying this album, give me your $12 and, in return, I’ll kick you square in the nuts. Trust me. . .it will be a more enjoyable experience. Of course, if you don’t have nuts (i.e. ladies or married men), well… give me your $12 and I’ll just sucker punch you in the throat. Again… it will be a much more enjoyable experience.

In fact, I had all but forgotten this band until, during a random conversation, I was informed that Doug and the gang (no relation to Kool) were coming out with a new album. Needless to say, when I first heard this, I was a bit conflicted. At first, I was like “Sweet! Those guys used to rock.” But then I was like, “Ahh. . .damn! How am I going to kick myself in the nuts?” Luckily, I’m not going to have to figure out the logistics on how that would work.

Here’s Doug enjoying a smoke in his garden home.

Built To Spill’s new album, You In Reverse, is a winner. Straight up. The songs are still expansive and the guitars are still intricately tangled and fuzzy, but the Boise, Idaho based band has trimmed things up a bit. For starters, the songs are a tad shorter (with the exception of the opening track) and the “Bearded One” has somehow managed to replace his propensity for ripping killer guitar solos with a more restrained propensity for turning a catchy, lyrical phrase. Pretty slick. And I will readily admit, tightening things up works EXTREMELY well. However, you old school fans should be forewarned because it’s highly likely that the inclusion of the additional, and more subdued, vocals is going to piss you off. But then again, your propensity for not showering pisses ME off, so we’ll call it square, k?

The “other” thing I really like about this new album is how Martsch crafts the solos to not sound like filler… umm, even though they probably are… and the sound here, overall, is a lot less “jam band.” In particular, check out the concise guitar work in “Conventional Wisdom.” Good stuff! Other album highlights are the tracks “Liar,” the album closer “The Wait” and the Tex-Mex romp “Mess With Time.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT… AGAIN.

So… last time out, I begged you fine folks to let me in on your secret, musical worlds and only a few of you actually responded. And to those of you who did? Thank you and know this… I am reserving a special place in heaven for you, as I do for all of my special helpers. Of course, it’s at the “kid’s table” with Jon Benet, but don’t worry… we’ll save you some potatoes.

For the rest of you, I am going to create “Hell on Earth” until you shoot me an email telling me which bands or songs make your naughty spot tingle. How am I going to do that? Simple. I am going to run a fresh, new picture of Clay Aiken each and every time until I am satisfied. Consider yourself warned. Oh, and enjoy the picture there of Clay having his prostrate milked.

Bet hey… how about some props for the foks that sent me the 411, ‘aight? For instance, I received this email from “A,” an actual, female reader. Seriously. You know, much like the Yeti or Bigfoot, I knew in my heart that female readers existed but I never had proof… until now…

“A” writes: “What I’m playing over and over and over and over… is the new Dresden Dolls, “Yes, Virginia.”

Outstanding, “A. I, too, enjoy the whole “German cabaret” alternative thing and I’m not even gay! Well, at least not since that one time in college, but I was really, really drunk and I barely enjoyed it.

I also received an email from one of the coolest readers I have, Josh Rothberg. Not only does Josh have impeccable taste, but he, apparently, has a set of the biggest balls I have never seen. Check out how he not only gives me his top shelf bands, but he also offers up, unsolicited, a list of guilty pleasures…

Here’s a list of bands and artists that grab me by the balls and squeeze ‘em until I’m singing like Clay Aiken:

Wilco. System of a down. Audioslave. Kanye West. Weezer. The mutha-fing White Stripes. and, my all-time favorite band ever, The Beatles. old school, but still the shiznit.

As for my guilty pleasures: Rockwell “somebody’s watching me”, Alice Cooper “man behind the mask”, Limahl “neverending story”, Gerard McMann “Cry little sister”—Marilyn Manson’s got nothing on Gerard McMann, believe it!

You know, out of respect for Josh’s “largeness” and for him actually admitting to liking Rockwell… I will reserve further comment. I’m not even going to say anything about a white guy’s blatant use of the word “shiznet.”

And last, but surely not least… we have Slack Robert, from Canada. Of course, as many of you know from past experience with readers from Canada, I will have to slow down my typing now so that Robert can read along…

Right now, its Social Distortion’s Sex, Love and Rock and Roll…

What else is spanking my ass and calling me Suzie these days…? Hank III. Metric. Magneta Lane. Elliot Brood. The Populars. Broken Social Scene. Brian Setzer’s new one kicked me in the ass, drank my whiskey and left me for dead on the side of the road. The Swiftys. The Kills. The Inner City Surfers.

Wow, Robert. That’s an impressive list. Here’s how I read it:

BLAH BLAH Social Distortion’s Sex, Love and Rock and Roll BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH Hank III BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH Brian Setzer’s new oneBLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.

So, in regards to your list, Robert, I, too, really dig Social D, Hank III and Brian Setzer.! Just joking, man. Nice work. I honestly haven’t heard of a lot of those Canadian bands, but if you say they are winners, I will definitely check them out. After all, one of my favorite bands of all time hails from Canada… Rush, baby!! Yeah!!

Well, friends, I’m afraid that is going to wrap it up. Whew!! That was a long one, huh? Until next time, keep wearing it proud and playing it loud.

Send your herbal sleep remedies, review copies, presents and assorted hate mail to:

M.C. Bell
P.O. Box 1222
Arvada, CO 80001

See you next week, folks!

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