Saturday, May 02, 2009

#13 Song of the Decade- "I'll Believe in Anything"

#13- Wolf Parade- "I'll Believe in Anything"

People tend to place too much importance on music. I cringe whenever I hear someone say "punk saved my life," for example. I'm guilty of this hyperbole myself, of course, presenting my opinions on the timelessness or profundity or brilliance of pop music, even trying to make a career out of it. All too often, the truth is that I fish for that meaning in whatever's playing in the background. Increasingly, my own effort is incongruous with the amount of effort put into the music I'm analyzing. More than I'd like to admit, I feel silly for how committed I am to this stuff.

Still, there's a transmutative quality to music that touches everyone. I have this conversation with my dad a lot, how the perfect song at the perfect moment can magically take you back to another time of your life. It's the reason twenty-five-year-old Journey songs are still the most popular soundtrack of a bar, as well as the reason I can overlook the more troublesome aspects of rap music. That's what was playing the first time I kissed a girl; sorry if it has the f-word in it.

Songs may have come and gone without changing my life, but they can have a knack for transporting me to another more interesting and exciting time in my life.

One such song is by the Montreal quartet Wolf Parade, who were born in that strange indie rock period of the mid-aughts, when there were as many bands with "Wolf" in their name as there are swine flu stories on the news tonight. As I've mentioned before, I hosted a radio show in college, and I became very attached to their debut full-length Apologies to the Queen Mary, putting three of its songs into the station's heavy rotation. (Those canucks probably owe me some money.) Over time, however, I signed off every show with the first single, "I'll Believe in Anything," without even knowing why at first.

That's another thing music can do: tap into your subconscious. At the time I was graduating college with as little an idea of what I wanted to do as when I started, and I was simultaneously clinging to and rejecting any sense of routine. I felt suffocated by my long-term girlfriend and acted on that by flirting with a freshman at the station. In addition to that, I was getting my first batch of rejection letters from M.F.A. writing programs. I craved adventure, even though I wasn't doing anything to exact that desire, and that's a big part of what the song is about--wanting, even deserving, but not working for whatever you want. Insisting "Give me your eyes/I need sunshine," the song's speaker is needy, but at every turn--"I could take away the shaking knees/And I could give you all the olive trees"--he presents only empty promises. The more I played the song, the more I associated with its deceptively simple style--the backbeat of the verses is just a kickdrum--and the almost whiny tone yelped by the beautifully ugly voice of Spencer Krug.

For the second half of the song, the rhythm really catches hold over a few different key changes. It's a rollicking sort of feel, as if the band is in over its own head, trying to catch up to itself. Week after week, I played the song for my Friday afternoon listenership, and it was a great way to close my own pithy, canned dialogue, as I promised what I couldn't deliver. There's a quality of the song that is redemptive despite itself. Without a doubt, it's the most uplifting song to inform you, "Nobody knows you/And nobody gives a damn." There's something freeing in that line, that same mixture of anxiety and energy accompanying a big change in your life. In a way, the song said what I couldn't, and I used it to find a way to make peace with the ghosts of college and the challenges of my future. I played this song because it broadcasted all the self-deprecating and the grandstanding and the romantic whimsy for me. It purged me of whatever I wanted to say but probably shouldn't have, of what I wanted to do but probably shouldn't have.

A song might not have saved my life, but it may have stopped me from ruining it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brian Scalabrine: 2009 NBA Scrub of the Year

[Ed. Note: This is TANBR's three hundredth post.]

Most of the NBA's hardware has been given out by this point, but LeBron James isn't coming close to the biggest trophy. TANBR is happy to bestow its Matt Bullard Memorial NBA Scrub of the Year to the Boston Celtics' Brian Scalabrine.

He's the guy on the right.

Over the years, with past winners Rafael Araujo and Ronny Turiaf, we have determined the criteria that measures the impact a quality towel-waver can have on a team. Let's review what distinguishes Scales as a truly transcendent bench-warmer and, in the process, explain how his candidacy flies in the face of most of it.

a. Foreignness and b. Background
Unfortunately, the man known by Celts fans as Veal doesn't put up big numbers in this category, since he was born in Long Beach and grew up in the pedestrian Enumclaw, Washington. Likewise, he played his college ball at USC, and if it's good enough for OJ Mayo, it's honestly too good for the Scrub of the Year. I like for my scrubs to toil somewhere cold or play their way into a spot at St. Wherethehellisthat in Division II.

Before Boston signed him, he was the twelfth man for the Nets since 2001, which is a salient point. There may have been more deserving reserves out there, but I think the SotY has to go to a guy who has been around for at least three years. Spencer Hawes or Nicholas Batum is a better punch-line, but they have not had the time to cultivate the necessary personality to carry this honor. That being said, Scalabrine really makes his bones in the rest of the categories.

c. Playing Time
Because of the decimating injuries Boston has incurred, Veal is seeing some quality minutes, but he was one of the most unreliable presences in the league during the regular season. He's arguably the fifth best forward on the team and would normally get about twelve minutes a game, but no one ever even knows if he's healthy. Since November, he has strained a toe, pulled his groin, and--in the month of March alone--suffered three concussions. He's in street clothes as often as he's in uniform, and the front office is even throwing up their hands at this point. So it's win-win for fans of Scalabrine. You either get to see him losing leverage in the paint or you assume that his brain became slightly dislodged and collided with his skull. In the latter case, you get a good look at his new leather jacket.

Oh. I recognize him now.

d. The Look
Speaking of that leather jacket, the remarkable thing about Scalabrine's appearance is that he always looks awkward. On the court, he's a 6'9" redhead in a headband (red-head-banded?) jacking ill-advised threes. No matter what, you know when number 44 is in. But when he's cheering his team on from the sidelines, he still stands out. Although he has more jackets than Suze Orman, he always leaves the shirt untucked, which only exaggerates his size. Scalabrine is both put-together and sloppy. He doesn't really belong anywhere, which is part of the definition of "scrub."

e. Intangibles
Unlike previous winners of the award or other TANBR patron saints like Mark Madsen, Big Red has crossed over to a real fan favorite. He has become synonymous with the big, goofy, White playing style he personifies. People make tribute videos and buy his jersey, and when he's watching the game while riding a stationary bike, it's seen as good luck. Almost like one of Red Auerbach's cigars. And isn't that the biggest intangible of them all? When a basketball player becomes more important to his team as something other than a basketball player? That's what Scales brings to the table, and it's why he deserves Scrub of the Year.

"I strive to be a seven. Nothing more, nothing less." No further questions, your honor.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chris Berman Prepares His Nicknames for the New Draft Class

"Time for the Swami to work his magic, do what he does best. These rookies better know where their bread is buttered. Before I built this network from the ground fucking up, the draft was just thirty dudes in a circle flipping coins. It was like the average joe's fantasy football draft, which was also my em-effin' brain-child. Whatever fantasy football is.

"Let's play the name game. First, we got Matthew Stafford, who signed with the Lions for six years/seventy-something Bermans. Yeah, I just invented that. Stafford. Stafford. Let's see. If he gains some yards, I could say it's a Staf-ford pick-up. Like a truck. Stafford. Staph infection. Vaginas. Vaginas...I'm going to come back to this one.

"Jason Smith. He got picked by the Rams, so I could say, "Instead of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it's Meet Me in St. Louis!" That's fuckin' hilarious. TJ's probably going to ruin a broadcast from laughing too hard. What would my audience do without my awesomeness? As for his official nickname though, Jason Smith is kind of boring. Smith is like a blacksmith. Blacksmiths use fire. Fire is what it feels like when I pee. Vaginas...

Where are they? Purgatory?

"Tyson Jackson. This one I can do. Tyson "I'm Sorry Ms." Jackson? No, I have no idea what that means. "Iron Mike" Tyson Jackson? That's a bit more Boomer, but I can come up with something better. "Action" Jackson works, but I'm sure I've used that on some other guy named Jackson at some point in time. Being fucking awesome for twenty-five years presents problems like that. Jackson Pollock. Dripping. Vaginas. Dammit.

"Aaron Curry I can do. The other ones need some extra awesome, but I can handle this one in my sleep. Curry reminds me of currying favor. A favor you might need is disposing of a dead hooker. After you kill a hooker you might go out for Indian food. Aaron "Spicy" Curry. No faggot. Good enough. Vaginas."

"'Sup, Boomtown?"

"Jay Cutler? Who let you in here?"

"It's Coolio. I was down here doing an interview, and I asked where my fav TV personality and Nutrisystem spokesman was. Mike Golic wasn't here, so I wandered over, figured maybe I could help you with some of them famous nicknames of yours."

"To be honest, I was having a little trouble. These names are hard."

"Back at Vandy that was kind of my specialty. I had a lot of nicknames. People called me 'Cutty,' 'Cut-up,' 'Cutty-Buddy.' All types of shit."

"I would have called you 'First Cut-ler Is the Deepest.'"

"Like the Sheryl Crow song. Looks like someone's got his groove back. The next pick is Mark Sanchez."

"Any ideas?"

"Back where I'm from, we would have just called his ass 'Dirty' Sanchez. Maybe 'Filthy' Sanchez."

"What's that mean?"

"I don't really know. But I learned from you to stick with the first thing you think of, so let's move on. Wasn't there a guy called BJ that got drafted?"