Ribbed For Your Pleasure 08.04.04: The Happy Recap

Music That Matters
Mike Agranoff – The Modern Folk Musician

This is just a fun, folksy album that got a lot of play back in my days as “DJ Scooter” at WHRW-FM. I liked to play all 20 minutes of “Ballad of the Sandman” at the end of a semester, simply to remind me what kept me going. Check out Mike’s Web site and my final Blacklog post for more information about the album, including lyrics and an MP3 of this song…

Said But True
“As an artist, album-by-album, you can’t judge them, because all you can put into it is what you know and who you are at that time. So it’s not fair to judge one album [against] another, because every time [I record an album], I have grown a little more.”
– LL Cool J talking about his newest album, The DEFinition, in a Billboard interview

It’s all about growing a little more, each thing you do, isn’t it?

“You’ve never heard any reggae before?”
“Ray Gay? I’ve never heard of the dude.”

– Just one of many classic conversations between the “city kids” and the “Amish kids” on the surprisingly not shallow “Amish in the City”

The Happy Recap
I absolutely hate the fact that I all but predicted that Bob Murphy would join Ronald Reagan and Ray Charles as the third member of my childhood “pop culture universe” to pass away in the last few months. When I heard the news yesterday afternoon that the voice of the New York Metropolitans baseball club died after a short battle with lung cancer, I couldn’t help but choke up as I held back the tears, and a flood of memorable sports moments flashed behind my ears. I’ve heard Murph intro the “Happy Recap” after a Mets win, with the instrumental version of “Meet the Mets” playing in the background (hey, this is a music column and all), too many times to count, but it’s something I never got tired of, never got bored with.

I think that’s the point of all things pop: from art to entertainment, games to sports. We’re constantly in search of the next big thing, the latest trend, the slice of pop culture that at the very least won’t be a waste of our time, and ideally will constitute anywhere from three minutes to a couple of hours really worth getting excited over.

Unfortunately for me, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been excited over something in the world of pop music. For every new TV show that turns me on, there are ten new singles that make me want to turn off the radio. For every exciting finish to a USA vs. Germany (what?!) men’s basketball game, there’s a lazy new release from a promising young band. For every surprise showing at the box office for an independent film by people named Gibson or Moore, there’s an increasing indifference from the record-buying public.

Why not just quit, then?

Hey, don’t think I haven’t thought about it, and hey – as I’ll mention at the end of this column – there’s nothing wrong with changing things up a bit, moving on when it’s time to try something that you think will really get the juices flowing. But more to the point, I won’t stop writing about music – or pop culture in general – because there’s always that inkling of hope, that glimmer off in the distance, that makes you believe that something really great is out there, begging to be discovered. I’ve been talking with a lot of kids younger than me lately, and they seem genuinely enthusiastic about New Music. I’m being inundated with talk of bands I’ve never heard of like Muse, who a friend described to me as “Radiohead with more rock,” or female singers like Katy Rose, who I’ve seen described as “Avril Lavigne if only she was more like Liz Phair.” Is it possible that every new musician out there isn’t as boring as that Mraz fella? Not as unoriginal as those Hive people? Not part of some strange alien culture born on the Disney Channel (or one of their siblings)?

I see a whole lot of possibilities out there, as these things called “the Internet” and “satellite radio” seem to really be taking off. Shit, I might even buy an iPod or take advantage of that Napster deal where they give away a free Samsung player with a year’s subscription (if it’s still available) before the end of the year. Plus, labels seem to be getting more creative, promoting new bands during TV shows, in video games, and pretty much all over the place. They key is choice, here, and just as – in my opinion – TV programming has gotten significantly better due to the proliferation of cable and satellite channels, and the quality of film has been going strong with more and more indie films breaking into the mainstream, I can’t help but feel that music will head in that same direction. Would it be great if the Big Four major record labels did more to seek out and cultivate new talent, and took more of an “artist development” approach to business rather than a “next big HIT” one? Absolutely. But it’s easier to make, distribute, and find music now more than ever before, and hopefully that means that they’ll be a lot more to write about as time goes on.

Till My Head Falls Off…
I like to close each column with a quick thought or three that tie music into “the real world” in one way or another – and hopefully lead to some feedback. Let’s do this:

– Speaking of music marketers finding new and creative ways to promote the bands they represent, I read recently that shows like “The O.C.” plan to do more of this type of “product placement” in the upcoming season, to the point where they plan on creating a new set that’s similar to the Peach Pit After Dark, where new bands can be showcased as part of the storylines. Hey, as long as it’s giving new groups like Death Cab or Rooney exposure (not that I necessarily like them, but at least it’s not Britney Simpson, or whoever), and they don’t OVER-do it, I think it’s a great move.

– So the activist members of the music community finally decided to get together and “rock for change” this coming presidential election – and I say good for them. I’ve always said that I don’t have any problem with celebrity pundits, so long as their pontificating is done in the appropriate context. If I pay to see a rock show, I want the band to rock my f*ckin’ socks off. But if they’d rather get political, than at least advertise it beforehand, so their fans know what to expect.

– And one more thing that’s a bit off-topic… With mixed emotions, I’d like to let everyone know that this is my last column for 411mania.com. I’ve had a wonderful time writing for this site since it first expanded into music coverage back in the summer of 2002, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. What I am trading it for, though, is one of those exciting, new choices that I spoke about above. Along with some other members of the 411 family, starting next week, I’ll be writing for a new Web site, and it’s something that I’m confident will really get my juices flowing and heart pulsing. I’d like to take a moment here to thank Ashish for all of the support and freedom he’s given me for my almost two years at 411mania.com, Widro for bringing me to 411 in the first place, and an incredible music staff that has been a great group of writers, a pleasure to work with, and – no matter what their individual futures hold – will continue to be some of the most creative, exciting people to be associated with. It’s been a pleasure, and an honor to be a part of 411’s debut music staff with Evocator, Nason, Wallis, CLAIRE FLYNN BOYLE, Weathered, Katz, Martin, Cody Webster, Iago Ali, and some fella named Freakboy, and to have been through the Ryan T. Murphy Era, the Tom Cocozza Era, the Jeff Modzelewski Era, the Joe Posten Era, and the Elliot Smilowitz Era of 411. There’s plenty more to name, and not enough space to name them in, but I want everyone to know – yes, that means you, Melchor! – that part of my heart will always beat “411” and the great staff here, and wonderful readers, have really made this whole thing a rewarding experience. As a great lady once said, thank you for the time and the courtesy…

Until next time…

peace. love. moe.

– Matthew