Cover Story: The Good, the Bad and the Sucky

The 100 best and worst things about the world of music in 2005

 
Jonathan Mannion


Czar*Nok became the first Rap group from Cincy to sign to a major label.



1. In a great year for CD releases by Greater Cincinnati artists (see next week's CityBeat for a full run down of the best local discs of 2005), it was hard to top the debut from Heartless Bastards, Stairs & Elevators, released by esteemed indie label Fat Possum Records. With their timeless Rock & Roll pumped with an impeccably soulful Zep-Blues heart, the Bastards had a banner year, earning glowing reviews from big-time publications like Rolling Stone, touring relentlessly (including a slot at the huge Bonnaroo fest) and cleaning up at the local Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, where, despite a tragically cut-short performance (marred by clueless soundpeople), they snagged both Album of the Year and Artist of the Year trophies.

2. R Kelly is a genius, but not the kind of one he thinks he is. Kelly proved his unintentional comedic talents with the "so bad it's good" R&B soap opera, Trapped in the Closet. The ongoing video series starred Kelly as a lothario caught in a virtual love-octagon, leaving no detail unsung. Now I've finished that sentence ... and I'll take a swig of Diet Pepsi ... I'd really like a cigarette ... but I have to finish this article ... damn, I shouldn't have said "100 things" about '05 ... maybe next year I'll just say 30 ... but it's too late now to change it ... so I'll move on to the next item ... right after I take a shower ... oh my God, we're out of shampoo ... guess I won't be taking a shower ... so I'll just finish this list thing ... and then I'll take a shower and wash my hair with soap ... now onto the next item ...

3. At the rate it's going, the MidPoint Music Festival should be on the level of South By Southwest and the CMJ music conference within a few years.

The event — which showcased hundreds of unsigned acts from around the world in one wonderful weekend in September — drew 50,000 music lovers and musicians Downtown. Greg Dulli's keynote interview with journalist Alan Light during the daytime panel and workshops was a highlight in itself, as Dulli mixed his trademark hilarity with insightful comments about the music industry. The local music event of the year for four years running now, we can't wait to see where MPMF goes next.

· The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards returned to the Taft Theatre for the first time since the Afghan Whigs were inducted into the CEA Hall of Fame in 1998. It was also the first year the awards program was split to give both the theater and music communities their own ceremonies, enabling November's musical celebration to be expanded to feature longer performances from the local groups appearing (which included 500 Miles to Memphis, Czar*Nok, Heartless Bastards, Thee Shams, The Greenhornes and Marvin and the Experience). The peerless John Von Ohlen, a local Jazz giant, was inducted into the CEA Hall of Fame, while presenters included the likes of Bootsy Collins, Peter Frampton and new Mayor Mark Mallory. Despite the growing pains that came with moving the event to a much larger venue (hopefully the sound issues will be fixed next year), the CEA show was still the local music party of 2005 — actually two parties, if you count the great post-show shindig at alchemize featuring a sweaty surprise set from psychodots.

4. With the music industry still floundering with issues like copy and copyright control, several sonic artistes made some engaging and creative music in protest. DJ Food's (djfood.org) encyclopedic epic, "Raiding the 20th Century," is the best place to start for an exhaustive history of mash-ups and sound collages, presented in DJ mix-style and spliced with insightful spoken word passages.

5. The kings of the art/music protest, Negativland, released No Business, a commentary on sampling and copyrights delivered in their "trademark" funny and thought-provoking cut-up style (and the bonus "©" whoopee cushion was a great touch).

6. A group known as Dean Gray released American Edit, an avant-garde remix of Green Day's American Idiot album that immediately drew the ol' "cease and desist" from lawyers but still managed widespread exposure thanks to "Dean Gray Tuesday," where scoundrels posted the "illegal" files all over the Internet.

7. We love them, yeah, yeah, MMMRRHHHHAH! A mash-up tribute band called Beatallica (beatallica.com) was served with a "cease and desist" in February from the folks at Sony music. The group performs Beatles songs in the style of Metallica; Sony (which owns Beatles song rights) said the schtick caused them "substantial and irreparable injury." Fans and activists accurately argued that Beatallica is a parody, still legal in America (at least for now). Lars Ulrich from Metallica (of all people) helped the band negotiate a deal with Sony, and the group parlayed the good publicity generated by the case into a successful international tour.

8. The Greenhornes continued their march to world domination with a new deal with V2 Records ensuring a huge audience for the band's increasingly refined, vintage-flavored Rock & Roll. Thanks to a global tour opening for The White Stripes, the band played the biggest Cincy venue any local band has played in a long time when they supported the Stripes at mammoth Music Hall. V2 released an EP and "catching up with ..." collection in '05, but the band's forthcoming full-length will likely have us calling next year "The Year of the Greenhorne" once again.

9. Hollywood royally screwed up the Johnny Cash movie, Walk the Line. Despite solid acting, the script got away from Cash's musical life and instead turned its attention to his love affair with June Carter, making the film an annoying love story instead of a respectful tribute to the artistic life of one of music's all-time greats. Cash appeared to practically bully himself into Carter's heart — in the film, she seemed to give in only to stop Cash's obnoxious wooing. Only Hollywood could make Johnny Cash come off like a total pussy.

10. INXS replaced their dead iconic singer Michael Hutchence with ... some dude. And you thought there could never be a Beatles reunion after Lennon and Harrison died? Reality TV, make it happen!

11. Underground (and locally-based) Hip Hop institution Scribble Jam celebrated its 10th anniversary by taking the show on the road before culminating in its annual battle/showcase concerts at Annie's (not to mention the multi-media events throughout the city on the same weekend). Scribble's solid national reputation for representing the best in cutting-edge Hip Hop continued with a lineup that featured indie heroes like Edan, Prince Paul, Lyrics Born, Masta Ace, Psalm One and Glue.

12. The Rock music trend of the year was ... Prog Rock?! Cookie-cutter-melting bands like System of a Down and The Mars Volta enjoyed huge sales and showed the major labels that the public doesn't just want dumbed-down music that panders to the lowest common denominator. Well, most of them still do, but the tide might be changing. The once-safe record collections of Rush/ELP/Yes/Genesis-lovin' dads around the world are now ripe for pillaging.

13. Martin Scorsese's exhilarating Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, was the DVD and TV event of the year for real music lovers. While covering only the early period of Dylan's career (from his beginnings through his "gone electric" breakthrough), the film's brilliance was in presenting his early legacy in context with the musical and social revolutions of the day. Ever since his video for Michael Jackson's "Bad," we knew this Scorsese fella had a gift.

14. The nightly news tells us on a regular basis about the dangers of all things we love. Is there anything that doesn't cause cancer anymore? In '05, researchers put the beloved iPod on the "if it feels good, it'll hurt you" list by declaring that consistent use will make you go deaf or, at the very least, cause auditory hallucinations.

15. First they sue their customers, and then they (ahem, allegedly) try to trash their computers. The "public relations nightmare" file for the music biz isn't getting any smaller. Trying to guard against illegal copying, Sony put software on their CDs that hides itself on users' computers like spyware, creating technological nightmares for many. The news made the rounds fast, and within days Sony — while still insisting that the software was not "intrusive" — offered a fix that removed the software. Many of the artists on Sony labels apologized profusely for the mix-up and denounced their labels' action. By year's end My Morning Jacket was even burning free copies of their latest album for disgruntled fans.

16. The king of the new kaleidoscopic "Folk" explosion, Devendra Banhart is an eccentric oddball of the borderline genius variety. On his fourth effort, Cripple Crow, he casts a wide net and makes his "career artist" bid with a dynamic and lysergic collection of brain-tickling songs that float like a psychedelic butterfly and soar like a magical dream, mixing fluttering Tropicalia, fuzzy Folk and T-Rex Rock & Roll for the year's most soulful and timeless album.

17. You know you have a strong local music scene when you can pick up an entire monthly magazine dedicated to it. Only Local Music debuted in '05, featuring a mix of interviews, features, reviews and musician tips. They need better copy editors and layout people, but the added exposure it affords local artists makes it a valiant effort.

18. We all kind of knew and assumed it was the case anyway (and it was barely a secret in industry circles), but New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's successful probe of label-to-radio-programmer payola gave us firm evidence that commercial radio sucks because music corporations pay for it to suck. Spitzer's investigation found evidence that programmers received under-the-table payoffs in exchange for radio play, resulting in the Warner Music Group having to pay a $5 million settlement.

19. On the eve of their final indie release on local label Nice Guy Records, Cincy's Punk/Pop faves Bottom Line announced their deal with major label Maverick Records.

20. Cincinnati's Blues scene and local Blues lovers had a tough year in some ways, with new Blues-centric venues Fat Fish Blue and UpStarCrow closing down before they got much of a running start. But you wouldn't know it if you went to this summer's well attended Cincy Blues Fest at Sawyer Point. A great lineup of national and local performers drew thousands to the river's edge.

21. Kentucky's favorite sons My Morning Jacket toned down the murkiness (and reverb) for one of the best albums of 2005, Z. The band could have easily "stayed the course," after releasing a couple of drooled-over albums that wowed critics and fans alike. Instead, they retooled their lineup and expanded their sonic palette to include more than just the sound of Neil Young performing at the bottom of a giant, empty oil barrel.

22. Clear Channel isn't the first thing you think of when it comes to local music. But WEBN's award-winning music director Rick Vaske (aka The Dude), a longtime local music supporter, worked to change that perception in '05, launching the weekly all-local program Native Noise. The Sunday night show was a nice reminder of WEBN's glory days, when the station's format epitomized the freeform FM radio heyday and local music was more than welcome to join the party (remember the "Album Projects"?).

23. Experimental music purveyors Art Damage Inc. , a collective of boundary-pushing musicians and aficionados that formed around the influential, long-running Art Damage radio program on WAIF-FM, opened a new all-ages venue in Northside to provide a performance home for touring acts and local artists. The Damage fills a real void on the local music scene, which has been lacking clubs that allow under-agers as well as venues that support fringier musical acts.

24. Another sign of a strong music scene? There's a movie centered around it. Dead On, the latest movie from local musician and filmmaker John Parker, debuted Oct. 19. The experimental film explored the ups and downs of playing original music in Cincinnati and featured numerous live performances. Among the artists featured in the film: Moot, Roesing Ape, Jake Speed, Cole Brothers, Hobilly, The Wolverton Brothers, Meadoe, The Wankers, Buckra, Straw Boss and about 30 others.

25. The Bears didn't release new material this year, but an entertaining road movie about the band's comeback eased the jonesing for many fans. Fittingly, Out of Hibernation, crafted by a team of Chicago filmmakers, had its world premiere in Cincinnati in October.

26. Psychodots (The Bears minus Adrian Belew) did release new material this year. Instead of their usual one-off "we need Christmas money" shows around Thanksgiving, the 'dots put out Terminal Boulevard, their first disc of new material in a decade. Slightly looser and more rockin', the album shows the local Pop/Rock trio sounds better than ever. Likewise with the 'dots solo output — Chris Arduser's The Celebrity Motorcade and Rob Fetters' Musician.

27. Czar*Nok took their bouncing, streetwise Rap sound to the masses this year, releasing their debut, That One Way, on Capitol Records. Pimpin' might not be easy, but this skillful duo sure make it look that way, as they became the first Cincy Rap act to release an album on a major label.

28. Jammin' On Main, the long-running annual streetfest that often drew some of music's biggest names, was called off in '05. Showing the local music scene's more proactive stance, though, a group of local musicians and boosters decided to take advantage of the void and launched the all-local "Jammin´ On " fest, which filled several Downtown venues with original local music for a weekend in May. Keeping the good vibes going throughout the year was the similar yet slightly smaller "Exile on Main" series, which brought the same concept to some of the same clubs on a monthly basis in fine "Final Friday" fashion.

29. Weird "Those Crazy Kids" Trend of the Year: Ringtones! For those over 30, that's the term for the songs coming out of cell phones in lieu of the stodgy old "brrrrng." There are now charts of the top downloaded songs used on people's cell phones, and at the Billboard awards 50 Cent gave a heartfelt acceptance speech after winning the "Ringtone of the Year" trophy. In England, a ringtone topped the British singles chart for the first time — "Axel F" by something called "Crazy Frog" (apparently it's a wacky animated frog with a small, uncovered penis) outsold every other single in the country, knocking Coldplay's "Speed of Sound" into second place.

30. Kanye West made the cover of Time and kept creative Hip Hop on the charts with Late Registration, but many Americans know him for his now infamous uttering during a Hurricane Katrina relief telethon. "George Bush doesn't care about black people" was one of the best catchphrases of the year, outdone only by W's own "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." It was also the best thing Mike Meyers had done since the So I Married an Axe Murderer.

31. Other interesting Hip Hop that fought the power of bling, gluttony and gunplay: Little Brother, DangerMouse, Edan, Glue, Atmosphere and Blackalicious.

32. Christmas albums, at least good ones, are one of the hardest things to pull off in music. Jake Speed and The Freddies made it look easy with the fantastic Losantaville, which mixed Speed originals with a few classics. Speed's writing and the Freddies' (and special guests') performances helped make the album on par with their non-holiday releases. If there is a "War on Christmas," after listening to this "Jesus-free" yuletide gem we're on whatever side Jake's on.

33. The '80s revival continued in '05, with bands like The Killers, The Bravery and Franz Ferdinand continuing to ride high on the charts and VH-1's I Love the ´80s getting more sequels than Police Academy. Locally, the ´80s Pop Rocks II June benefit show for AVOC, featuring a gazillion local bands covering '80s chestnuts, was a massive success at the Southgate House.

34. It looked like Green Day might have been done before this year. A couple of mediocre albums, a power ballad used as the soundtrack to every "poignant" scene put on film over the span of several years and a song in a Pepsi commercial — it appeared the group was on its way to becoming about as relevant as Simple Plan or Good Charlotte. Then came American Idiot, a blockbuster concept album that included impossibly hooky, pertinent Pop songs (with many lyrical stabs at the Bush regime), and suddenly it looked like Green Day was not only going to be around for a while but might just end up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

35. Their message was, well, "wrong," and their music was awful, but the trio The Right Brothers pulled off one of the shrewdest P.R. campaigns of 2005. The group's song "Bush Was Right," about exactly what you think it is about, received major coverage from myriad news outlets. But one network not buying the hype was MTV, who declined to run the video. The band considered this a form of censorship, saying they didn't get airtime because of the message. Hmm, unsigned, sub-par Pop/Rock band with a song that sounds like warmed over Third Eye Blind covering Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire?" Yeah, it was the "message."

36. The Madison Theater got a hopeful makeover, with House of Blues and Charles Attal Presents taking over booking in bringing in big acts like Modest Mouse and Garbage. Sadly, old debts came back to haunt them and the groups pulled out of the club not long after taking over. Elsewhere, the Covington hopeful Radio Down and the long-running local music staple The Barrelhouse also closed their doors in '05. Greater Cincinnati lost three solid, original-music friendly clubs, but ...

37. A gaggle of new venues helped pick up the slack. The Radio Down folks took their act down the street to the new Mad Hatter, Radio Down became the eclectic The Loft and The Viper Room proved that you can have a great, successful Rock club in the heart of Downtown.

38. New-school Funk fave Freekbass suffered a serious accident while doing a show in Montana this summer. The singer/bassist suffered a nasty fall and had to spend some time off the road recovering from severe internal injuries. The Freek bounced back, though, in time to accept his band's award for Best Funk/R&B act at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards with a heartfelt, gracious speech. Chris Sherman also was behind the four-stringer for the much-anticipated reunion of '90s Funk kings SHAG, who re-formed for a benefit at Bogart's in October for percussionist/hypeman Mark Chenault, who's been undergoing treatment for bone cancer.

39. Nouvelle Vague was more than just a record you'd pull out to make your friends laugh.

74. The Doing and Selling the Most with the Least Award goes to 50 Cent, an unimaginative, marble-mouthed MC who sold more albums than anyone in '05. Mr. Cent at least seems to understand it's all a sham and fleeting; he released more "product" this year than General Mills and General Motors combined, including an autobiography, the requisite "drug dealer goes straight" Rap movie and, new for '06, a dildo made from a mold of his penis. Classy!

75. The Doing the Least with the Most Award goes to Weezer, whose single "Beverly Hills" put a giant, stinky splotch on an otherwise stellar career. Leave the gimmicky, novelty songs to The Offspring, please. Irony is so last decade. Rivers Cuomo must have needed some more dough for that Harvard tuition.

76. Reunited and it feels alright, I guess. The Pixies continued their triumphant "greatest hits" tour throughout 2005, giving a lot of other groundbreaking bands who didn't get their due during their time the idea that traveling across the country and playing to rooms full of music nerds beats smoking pot and watching TV. Dinosaur Jr., Slint, Camper Van Beethoven, Olivia Tremor Control, Gang of Four and several others jumped on the reunited bandwagon to fans' delight and music critics' dismay.

77. The ongoing saga of legendary New York City Punk club CBGB´s reached an apparent conclusion. After ongoing battles over unpaid rent, the club will now stay in its current locale only until Halloween of '06. But the real bad news might be what owner Hilly Kristal does once the original club closes. He's reportedly intent on opening the club at another location, with an eye on perhaps franchising the name and opening another CBs in (gulp) Las Vegas. Unless there's a team of employees whose sole job is to piss all over the bathroom floors every 15 minutes, the authentic CBs vibe will never be replicated.

78. Cincinnati's longtime rep for being behind the times (thanks Mark Twain) was shaken up by Shake It Records, which issued Auto Glamour Sound, a retrospective of the output of underground label Hospital Records. Proving that Cincinnati has actually been ahead of the curve at times, the release chronicled the adventurous Post Punk movement of the late '70s and early '80s, when the scene mirrored the more lauded Northern Ohio uprising that spawned acts like Pere Ubu and Devo.

79. No Macca boobies? The Super Bowl halftime show this year was mildly entertaining, although the younger set probably wondered who the old man with the funny looking guitar was. Paul McCartney performed a straight-ahead mini-set of Beatles songs and "Live and Let Die" without incident. Reports said that producers insisted on pouring over every lyric to make sure they passed FCC muster, although we'd argue that "Get Back" (with its references to "California grass" and "a man who thought he was a woman") wouldn't exactly thrill the Jesus freaks. But questions like "Mommy, why would a man think he was a woman?" were probably preferred over "Mommy, what's an erection that lasts over four hours?" The answer, of course, is either "a miracle" (from Mom) or "a myth" (from Dad).

80. Guided By Voices were still playing music in 2005 (for a couple of hours at the end of their New Year's Eve finale, anyway). Despite their dissolution, there was no shortage of fine GBV product on the shelves. Relaxation of the Asshole (the first official post-GBV release for the singer/songwriter) was a drunken Bob Pollard "comedy album" culled from between-song stage banter recorded during various GBV tours. With track titles like "Is There a Grandfather Clause for People Who Need a Cigarette Really Bad?" and "Funk Zeus," we say give this man a network sitcom, pronto. More "traditional" GBV releases included an exhausting DVD of the band's full last show, Jim Greer's entertaining but puzzlingly oblique biography, a Propeller reissue and the Suitcase II four-disc rarities box set. Pollard's "solo" career high-kicks off in earnest in '06.

81. In April, the Chicks RockFest, celebrating women in the Rock & Roll field, returned for a two-night stay at the Southgate House. Word of mouth, widespread Internet press and promo and the ambitious "Chicks on the Road" national tour helped put the event on the national radar, resulting in submissions from all over the country this year. Local performers included Pale Beneath the Blue, Abiyah, Fairmount Girls, Backseat Virtue, Soul Casket, The Walker Project, Hungry Lucy, The Gregory Morris Group and Whitney Barricklow Band.

82. Making a case for not sticking it out in the Cincinnati music scene was now Brooklyn-based The National. Featuring all Queen City natives, the band's Beggars Banquet debut, Alligator, helped make them one of the more universally-praised Indie bands in the country in '05.

83. Greater Cincinnati was once again well represented at Austin's huge South By Southwest festival in March. Heartless Bastards, The Sundresses and The Kim Taylor Band made their way south for the granddaddy of all music conference/showcases. Wacky hijinx and merriment ensued.

84. Bush is still president — nice work, R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen and all of those "Lick Bush" bumper stickers! With an arrogant swagger akin to a blindly drunk sailor winning a hooker for a night in an arm-wrestling contest while on shore leave, the evangelical family-value folks took W's religiously-assisted faux mandate as a sign that it's time to get serious about turning the U.S. into that small town in Footloose. The Jesus freaks were outraged (as they so often are) that heathen rocker (and Bush supporter) Kid Rock was scheduled to appear at a "youth concert" during Bush's "I'm still the king!" inauguration extravaganza. Lyrics to Rock's early song "Pimp of the Nation" began making the media and neo-con rounds and, in no time, he was off the bill. The "family" groups took credit, but reports surfaced saying Rock had never even been booked. Sounds like more "sketchy intelligence" from the crusaders.

85. Our long national nightmare continued into 2005. Ashlee Simpson still couldn't sing! Simpson's "shocking" Saturday Night Live meltdown was nothing compared to her performance at the Orange Bowl halftime show. Recordings of her tone-deaf performance (followed by a meteor storm of boos) became popular on the 'Net, making it the "Howard Dean Scream" clip of '05. But isn't complaining about Simpson's singing prowess a bit like bitching about the lack of plot in a porno film?

86. Bruce Springsteen has long been a crusader for the "working man," but Mr. Blue Collar priced many of them out on his current tour, which hit U.S. Bank Arena in August. Tickets were $78 and up, and that's before the service charges. The kicker? It was a freakin' solo acoustic tour.

87. Neo-cons and other misguided citizens of our fine country are fond of throwing out the adage, "Freedom isn't free." You know what else isn't free? Bat mitzvahs. David H. Brooks, CEO of the bulletproof vest corporation DHB Industries, knows this all too well. For his daughter's bat mitzvah (which celebrates a Jewish girl's entry into "adulthood" on her 13th birthday), he hired 50 Cent, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Aerosmith and Kenny G to perform. (This man has his pulse on the music-listening habits of 13-year-olds, no?) The shindig cost Brooks a reported $10 million, a drop in the bucket for a man with a huge contract with the U.S. Defense Department. Ultimately, you, the tax payer, helped pay for the party. Princess thanks you.

88. Every year there are a couple of Top 40 singles that either transcend the predictably empty popness of the singles charts or operate with such a refined Pop-song mastery you have to wonder if the writers shouldn't be working for the government to get secrets out of terror suspects. Guilty pleasures this year include Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," My Chemical Romance's "Helena" and "Hung Up," by Queen of the Guilty Pleasure, Madonna. An example of pandering Pop science gone horribly awry came via the Black Eyed Peas' atrocious "My Humps," the Syrup of Ipecac of Pop songs that stands alone as the worst single of the year, decade and millennium.

89. Indie Musical Hotbed of '05: Canada?! The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade, Death From Above 1979, Black Mountain, Metric, The Constantines, Stars ... what the hell is going on?

90. If you are a member of No Doubt and you're not married to that shaggy guy from Bush, not followed around by a team of hot Asian chicks and not prancing around in camel-toe-friendly unitards in music videos, you might want to be looking into future employment options.

91. Funniest Musician Interviewed in CityBeat in '05: Evil Jarred Hasselhoff of pranksters The Bloodhound Gang. He dissed Cincinnati (on the flood of 1997: "That wasn't a flood, it was a douche"), ripped Dave Matthews ("The only bands that get good reviews are bands like Dave Matthews Band. If that's what good music is, then I want to make completely lousy music") and pontificated on Germany's porn standards ("I remember I bought a movie there at this rest stop ... called Shit Lovers #23. It was 29 minutes and 56 seconds of a guy taking an enema and trying to take a shit and then three seconds of him taking a diarrhea shit on a chick's face. That is considered entertainment in Germany"). Sigh. You had us at "shit lovers," Evil.

92. The Wussiest Music Feud of '05? No, not 50 Cent vs. The Game, but Brandon Flowers of The Killers vs. Sam Endicott of The Bravery. Calm down, ladies. Either slap it out on pay-per-view or get together and braid each other's hair while extolling the virtues of Yaz and making smores.

93. The radio industry pushed a new "variety" format nationwide. The Jack format mimicked the iPod "shuffle," playing seemingly random and often disparate tracks back to back, meaning you could hear "Total Eclipse of the Heart" followed by "Fuck Tha Police" (well, conceivably). Many of the stations reportedly saw ratings jump when switching to Jack, though some reports said listenership leveled off after a few months. Perhaps because people realized they could just actually listen to their iPod shuffle.

94. Austin City Limits continued its run as the best American musical program on television. The show's quest to feature fresher acts manifested itself in great episodes spotlighting artists like Guided By Voices, Wilco, The Pixies, Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse, Rilo Kiley and Spoon in '05. Coldplay closed out ACL's year with a mesmerizing appearance, highlighted by a surprising cameo by Michael Stipe. Producers told NPR's All Things Considered that they hoped nabbing a big-timer like Coldplay would give them more leverage to convince top-of-the-wish-list legends Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan to appear on the show. The question at this point is, "Why wouldn´t they?"

95. The Take Some Time Off Please award goes to U2, who seemed to say "Yes" to every promotional opportunity available, short of writing a jingle for Coca-Cola (and that's just 'cause Jack White took the gig). I mean, c'mon — a cameo on HBO's Entourage? Let's hope all this extra cash goes to paying down some poor African country's debt.

96. Cheeky British Pop singer Robbie Williams won a lawsuit against two tabloids that ran stories saying he had a sexual liaison with another man in a nightclub bathroom. In the past, he'd been teasingly coy about his sexuality, some now say to keep his gay fans buying albums. Some gay groups are asking the singer to donate his legal winnings to homosexual rights groups, saying that the lawsuit in itself might suggest to some that he is anti-gay.

97. Axl Rose still didn't release the new Guns 'N Roses album, Chinese, uh, whatever it was called (it's been so long). But he did get some interesting press. The readers of teen mag ELLEgirl voted Axl the second "Coolest Old Person" in the world, beaten only by what was apparently the most popular answer: "Grandparents."

98. With the exception of perhaps the Parents Yummy Cookie Council, any organization with the words "Parents" and "Council" in its title reeks of foot-soldiering for the neo-conservatives' war on culture and free speech. It also insures an audience with the government's henchmen at the FCC. The Parents Television Council filed a complaint with the airwaves' watchdog over ABC's failure to censor The Who's performance during the Live 8 benefit concert in early July. The network missed the lyric "Who the fuck are you?" during the band's rendition of their hit "Who Are You," poisoning the minds of those three or four kids under 18 who even know what "The Who" is.

99. Billy Corgan's first solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, was released in June, but the self-absorbed singer's actions in '05 were more like someone desperately attached to his past. The AltRock pioneer bought two full-page ads in Chicago newspapers the same day his album dropped suggesting that the Smashing Pumpkins would reunite. Way to promote the new stuff, Billy! Do we need to tell you the album flopped?

100. Most anticipated release of '06? The Rap debut of Kevin Federline, sure to be the "Trapped in the Closet" of the new year. Count on it. ©

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