Singles Going Steady
his week on Singles Going Steady—the triumphant return of LL Cool J, the not-so-triumphant reappearance of Counting Crows, the critical Modest Mouse follow-up single, the most controversial country-rap crossover of the year, and an even more X-Rated turn from Petey Pablo! Seriously, how does he do it?
Ian Mathers: My brain tells me I’m tired of heavily synthesized rap songs about big butts with great choruses. It’s scary how often I don’t listen to it. The best part, of course, is when Petey makes what I presume are sounds intended to imitate the sound of a vibrating ass. Classy.
Josh Love: Towards the end of the thirteenth track on his new album, Petey pledges to get serious for the remainder of the CD—grown folks shit, he calls it. Petey seems like a man of his word, delivering thoughtful meditations on friendship, handling gossip, staying true to your roots, and spiritual faith. Then comes the bonus track, and it’s about four-ways, vibrators, and asses like butter rolls. Like Apu once said to Macca, “Well, whatever, whatever, it had a good rhythm.”
Akiva Gottlieb: One of the crunker cell-phone odes I’ve heard in recent years, especially if you change the word “crunker” to “least exciting”.
Gabe Gloden: There are two reasons I like this song. One is this line from Petey Pablo, notable for its sheer crassness: “Every ho got somethin’ vibrating in her cootchie. Bzzzzz.” The other is Rasheeda’s scene-stealing second verse from the perspective of a stripper in the club, “Make a nigga wanna eat it like a vegetable, when he see that ass rise like a buttered roll.” It’s always great to hear a woman out-rap and out-pose the male headliner.
Matt Chesnut: First: true to the song’s title, the bass is really vibrating on this one. Second: “These cats thank they pimpin’ like Don Juan/But they all played out like The Thong Song.” Oh hell yyyeah.
Andrew Unterberger: Is anyone else slightly creeped out by this song? It just sounds so sinister, almost downright evil at parts. It’s cool enough and Petey Pablo is still awesome, but in the future I’d like to be a little less intimidated by my big-booty anthems.
LL Cool J
Ian Mathers: Timbaland is, for me, a pretty hit and miss producer; because his highs are so stratospheric, a merely good Timbaland production seems lackluster in comparison. “Headsprung” isn’t one of those highs, although the woozy refrain is pretty addictive. Unfortunately, LL Cool J does very little for me, but most of the song is chorus. So that makes this my favorite LL Cool J single, then…
Josh Love: I don’t know if it says more about Timbo’s godliness or L’s desperation, but it’s clear the latter has adjusted his style to better fit the former’s beats. It’s a shame too, because Cool J’s greatest distinguishing feature has always been his playfulness, but here he comes off like just another rent-a-thug—ergo, the whole track hinges on Timbo, who’s clearly on grade-A autopilot here.
Akiva Gottlieb: ...or, "LL Cool J: With A Vengeance". Somehow, J (who must be aging) sounds both contemporary and toward the top of his game. Good to see today's crew making room for elders in da club. Getting "headsprung" is like getting your eagle on, right?
Gabe Gloden: Could it be? The original Queens MC going dirty south? I guess this completes LL Cool J’s career journey of through every hip hop trend in the continental United States. He’s done raw East Coast beats, he’s emulated LA’s funky gangsta rap, he’s even done lover man R&B ala North Carolina’s Jodeci, now he’s enlisted Timbaland and adopted a near Southern drawl. I can’t even tell it’s him, actually. LL Cool J might as well have his own “Hip Hop America” cultural program on PBS where you watch him travel from town to town every week soaking up the local hip hop trends.
Matt Chesnut: Question: Whom do you turn to when you need a hit? This, of course, has three answers: Lil Jon, The Neptunes or Timbaland. So, with Tim in tow, LL is back. And how. When the chorus rolled around with those echoing vocals in the background, I was sold. And ladies, no need to get yo hair done. LL’s gonna get yo head sprung.
Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, this is Timbaland’s show through-and-through. LL Cool J never sounded so boring, but when you have a backing (and chorus) this fucking badass it doesn’t make a lick of difference. Let’s hope it gives LL’s career enough of a second wind for him to gain some genuine momentum for the first time in almost a decade.
Ocean Breathes Salty
Ian Mathers: Not quite as stirring as “Float On”, but with better lines: “I’ll tell you what you get / You get away from me” and “You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death?” are both pretty good. The song itself if decent if pretty standard “indie rock”, American division, circa 2004. It’s not bad by any means, but could use a better/more noticeable chorus.
Josh Love: For the followup to "Float On," indie-rock's feel-good story of the year, Modest Mouse gleefully tackles moral hypocrisy and goes God-baitin’ to boot—you know, typical late-July radio fodder. I think about all the over-serious thirteen year-olds who bought this album ('cause obviously somebody's not stealing it) with no prior knowledge of the band, much like I did with Automatic for the People in 1992. Then I feel really fucking old. Note to kids: go back to Linkin Park, all is forgiven.
Akiva Gottlieb: The Mouse is doing an exemplary job of unearthing choice singles from a vaguely underwhelming new album. Though it lacks the shout-along choruses of “Float On” and “Bury Me With It”, “Ocean Breathes Salty” is just as buoyant and hummable, and suits Brock’s affected, rhythmic vocal delivery perfectly.
Gabe Gloden: Is anyone else creeped out by Modest Mouse’s presence on the charts? Never in a million years would I have anticipated this level of commercial success for the guys. Stranger, then, to hear a lyric from their new single that could have been torn directly from Fred Durst’s high school diary, “Well that is that and this is this. You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get. You get away from me.” Although not as glorious as “Float On”, I’ll take this over Hoobastank every day.
Matt Chesnut: I like the phrase that utilizes that light-as-air organ. I ordinarily find Isaac Brock’s voice quite grating, but during this part, it’s rhythmic and bouncy. And I dig the “You wasted life/why wouldn’t you waste death” line. Other than that, though, the rest is a bit stale.
Andrew Unterberger: A far more characteristic Modest Mouse anthem than their entirely unexpected breakout crossover “Float On,” this dreamy number with wavy guitars, hi-hat heavy drums and Isaac’s herky-jerky double-tracked meditations on god knows what, this song will be the true test of whether or not Modest Mouse were a mainstream one-trick pony. Here’s hoping.
Accidentally in Love
Ian Mathers: I don’t automatically hate the Counting Crows, and I’ve even managed to like some of their singles pretty seriously. Not this one. First of all, the idea of being “accidentally in love” is inane, and the rest of the lyrics are as bad if not worse. When did Counting Crows turn into a more-annoying counterpart to Smashmouth, anyway?
Josh Love: Looks like someone's settled comfortably into their role as Smash Mouth Mk. II. Playing out the string, selling Coke on the side, the Crows turn in an ebullient ode to ogre love-making that almost lets you forget how Hard Candy was such a donkey. As with everything else in the world, however, this could have used more Puss 'n' Boots.
Akiva Gottlieb: I’m a slightly-abashed Crows fan, always have been, and this is the band at its sunniest. I usually prefer their moodier album tracks to their more celebratory, populist sing-alongs (cuz hey, I’m indie!), but this single is tuneful, concise and belligerently unhip. The fact that the Crows are still semi-relevant after ten years gives me hope for the undying spirit of 90’s modern rock.
Gabe Gloden: Thanks to “Mr. Jones”, the accidentally popular Counting Crows can still release average to below average songs to a generous amount of fanfare, because they share a lot of the same dedicated fans as the Dave Mathews Band and Phish. Now I know that doesn’t automatically make them a bad band, but what’s true in the world of juvenile corrections, is also true in pop music. The crowd you choose to hang out with begins to influence a pattern of behavior and, in the case of the Crows, it has been unfavorable, causing their songs to suck progressively more and more.
Matt Chesnut: Why did this have to be the Shrek 2 representative? Why couldn’t it have been the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song? Dear dreadlocked dude from Counting Crows: You are not Van Morrison and your songs are boring and it’s not 1995 so why do you still have a record contract? Respek for handclaps and that’s all.
Andrew Unterberger: Ah, for the Counting Crows’ gloriously middling adult-contemporary anthems of yesteryear. Songs like “Round Here,” “A Murder of One” and “A Long December” will always bring a tear of nostalgia to my eye, but they haven’t made a number as affecting in a long time. This one’s closer than some, but still not hitting on nearly the same level.
Big & Rich
Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)
Ian Mathers: Until now I’ve never met a pop-country song I didn’t want to leave in a ditch, but this… this is glorious. The problem with all those other songs wasn’t that they were glossy, it’s that they weren’t this much fun. Dum de de dum, de de dum, de de dum, de de da da! Dum de de dum, de de dum, de de dum, de da da, la la la...
Josh Love: A cerebral post-punk trio from the Pacific Northwest, Big and Rich combines the instrumental cacophony of Sonic Youth and Les Savy Fav with the lo-fi songwriting genius of Bob Pollard. The band's first single exhibits all the willfully obscure tendencies that have already endeared these wildly difficult indie-rock newcomers to Pitchfork and KEXP. Typically angular and lyrically obtuse, it concerns cowboys and the women who like to ride their dicks. Of course, Chuck Eddy hates 'em.
Akiva Gottlieb: After seeing Chuck Eddy call Big & Rich’s new one the “album of the decade,” I certainly hope this single isn’t the crown jewel of their catalog. While the memorable chorus packs a minor punch, the much-discussed hip-hop influence isn’t prominent enough to lift the song past permanent rotation on CMT. And I assume Big & Rich is setting their sights on something higher.
Gabe Gloden: Sure, it’s just like Kid Rock, only a little more country and a little less hip hop, but could it become the next big thing? Will the bling bling generation trade in their Escalades for Chevy trucks? Will the bottles of bub gather dust on their new ice-laden wine racks, only to be replaced with fifths of Jack and Red Man? Will the Bush campaign attain the rights to use this song as their 2004 campaign theme? Crazier things have happened. Kid Rock, anyone?
Matt Chesnut: Incidentally, I thought I was going to hate this song but I don’t. The banjo lick is nice and country music needs a break from all the rabid jingoism and Ford commercialism from ol’ Tobe. Plus, this is the theme for the World Series of Poker, which can’t be a bad thing. But this is a message to the students of O’Connor High School. Before long, every Copenhagen dipping, Wrangler-wearing douche bag at your school will be blaring this from their Confederate flagged monster truck. I am thankful I have graduated.
Andrew Unterberger: Well, this one’s certainly a lot more tolerable to us non-country folk than “Redneck Woman,” but it still doesn’t tickle my fancy. They get major points for that slogan-happy chorus, but the “bling-blinin’” shit just rings stupid to me. Whatever, maybe I’m hopeless when it comes to pop-country crossovers.
Ian Mathers: I didn’t know Hoobastank were emo. No, wait; bad emo. I also wouldn’t have known this was Hoobastank if you didn’t tell me, and although it has a slightly more metallic sheen than some, it’s mostly just indistinguishable from the masses of what we laughingly call “modern rock”.
Josh Love: “It seems to me that all of us have lost our patience.
'cause everyone thinks they're right, and nobody thinks that there just might
be more than one road to our final destination”
“I'm tired of playing games, of looking for someone else to blame
for all the holes in answers that are clearly showing”
“So why does there only have to be one correct philosophy?
I don't want to go and follow you just to end up like one of them”
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my honor to introduce the next President of the United States, Sen. John Kerry, everyone!
Akiva Gottlieb: Certainly an improvement over the turgid melodrama of “The Reason”, this song showcases Hoobastank’s edgier side…which doesn’t mean it stanks much less. Kinda instantly forgettable, and I don’t want to talk about it.
Gabe Gloden: There’s so much controversy in the music community over where, exactly, Hoobastank got their name. There are those who feel it was adopted from a band member’s Swedish middle name, and then there’s the vocal camp that feels it’s a derivative of the phrase “Who’s Butt Stinks?” Even others argue that it’s just some last minute made-up word because they were too busy being haphazardly thrown together by a major label. But there’s no controversy surrounding their quality. They suck.
Matt Chesnut: This reminds of my every local show I’ve gone to. No one’s paying attention to the band except a couple of the band’s friends, the cigarette smoke is wafting in the night air, I’m coughing and I think “So, this is it. This is how I die.” This song is the same. The vocals are totally negligible, the chorus is just there, I’m coughing, and I think in some ironic twist, my life will end when this song is playing. And then the song is over. Well, at least I have my health.
Andrew Unterberger: Hoobastank may currently be tied with Nickelback as the most hate able band on the planet, but let’s face it—“The Reason” was a great song. Or maybe not, but I’ll always hold a soft spot for it. However, one power ballad is probably going to be enough for these guys, and “Same Direction” places them firmly back in dire “Crawling in the Dark” territory. Eh, it could still be worse—yeah, Nickelback, you heard me right.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-07-30