Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Artist of the Decade: Musical Performer

I love end of the year lists! This is a bonus year as I get to not only make end of the year list and end of the decade lists. Get ready for a slew of them... I'm starting with musical performers, because they are probably more engrained in my life than any other entertainment. Music fires me up and mellows me out. It makes me feel and it makes me think. It makes me laugh and makes me cry. It makes me feel as big as a Macy's Day balloon and as insignificant as a 42 year old bald guy at a rock club.
Most of these guys have been in multiple acts throughout the decade and they received bonus points for it. Here goes...

1. Dave Grohl - The frontman of one of my favorite bands of all-time, Foo Fighters. Foo Fighters have been putting out great albums since the previous decade, but continued to rock into the 21st Century. Like many bands, their best work is likely behind them, but I find enjoyment is each of their offerings. Dave penned the best song of all time, Everlong. Their music can rock my balls and it can touch my soul.

Foo Fighters used to have excellent music videos. I love videos that tell a story, make me laugh and are at least somewhat related to the song. To complete the musical enjoyment trifecta, Dave Grohl is a remarkable front man in concert. I have seen Foo Fighters live in three states this decade! He is funny and engaging and leaves me contently rocked.
All of that work with Foos would put Dave on this list by itself, but he catapults to the top with his work as drummer for Queens of the Stone Age (see Homme, Josh below) and Them Crooked Vultures. Not to mention his drumming with that one band in the early 90's. He also worked with Tenacious D on their album and stared as the devil in the D's excellent Tribute vid.

2. Eddie Vedder - The frontman of another of my favorite bands for the past two decades. One of the things I like about Eddie so much is that he and his music has seemed to grow up with me. He still rocks hard but he also knows how to drop it down a notch and hit my tender side. Pearl Jam albums seem to be just as good now as ever. You'll read about Backspacer on this blog later during the BS Album of the Year article. His solo soundtrack for Into the Wild completely made that movie. I loved it. How he didn't win an Oscar for that I'll never know. Along the same vien, Pearl Jam's Man of the Hour for the movie Big Fish was a very touching song for me during my father's passing. Plus he loves the Cubs and even had a Cubs "fight song" recently.

3. Josh Homme - No musician makes me want to wear shades and have a smoke as much as Josh does with his music. And I hate smoke. I just feel cooler when I listen to him. Josh is one of these musicians that cannot be contained in one band. He is Queens of the Stone Age. There have been about 40 people in that band but Josh is the only constant. I have split his music into two mixes, I Heart Rock and Burnin' Phatties. Queens music wavers from too heavy stoner rock to straight up kick ass rock and roll. From my favorite bands, QOTSA has more songs that I just delete than any others.
His (originally) two-piece, dance rock band, Eagles of Death Metal puts him on this list. I love EODM. Rock music has never made me want to shake it as much as the Eagles. They put on an excellent live show (without Josh) as well. They are the ultimate good-times, partying-hard rock and roll band.

Josh also gets into his studio in Joshua Tree with his friends where they experiment musically (and I assume chemically) in the Desert Sessions. The best songs from those sessions typically make it onto a Queens record. Recently Josh teamed with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones to put out a pretty good album under the band name Them Crooked Vultures. To me if seems like a QOTSA record with a bit of a Zepplin touch.

4. Billie Joe Armstrong - As front man of Green Day, he has been responsible for two of the best albums of the decade. American Idiot won the BS Award for album of the year two consecutive years! As great as those albums are, Billy is here because of the stage. He is just unbelievable in concert. The amount of fun that he has and gives is off the charts. You must go to a Green Day show if given the chance. Despite an overuse of "SACRAMENTO!!!" during the show, he is a good time. Add to his concert presence the stage musical version of American Idiot and he has contributed very much to my musical enjoyment this decade. I cannot wait to see AI on Broadway. Hopefully they will have made a couple of plot tweaks and I will be able to count American Idiot in the top 5 BS Musicals of all time list as well.

5. Craig Finn - Craig would finish higher on the list, but I didn't really get into him until the past few years. But his bands The Hold Steady and Lifter Puller have been in constant circulation for me during that time. Lifter Puller was Craig's earlier group (with Hold Steady guitarist, Tad Kubler). They are similar to The Hold Steady, but they are maybe a little punkier where The Hold Steady is a little more based in classic rock. What makes both bands spectacular are not the rockin' music (which is very good) but the amazing lyrics. I don't even know how to describe them. At different times the lyrics are smart, deep, crazy, non-sensical and can follow a story line from other songs. The "characters" in the songs are not my type of people, but the clever lyrics make me care about them nonetheless.

Putting Craig high on the list is his live performance. Oh my goodness. Dude puts a lot into his stage appearance. I love that he talks to the audience, off mike, during just about every song. He looks like every office's IT guy but from the stories he tells, he has had a much different life than those guys.

6. Jack White - Ok, this was supposed to be only a list of 5, but I couldn't talk about musical powerhouses of the decade without mentioning Jack White. He carries his sister/wife though the White Stripes. The White Stripes are an excellent mix of blues and hard rock that are led by Jack's excellent ax work. The songs seem simple and not over-produced. Jack also team up with actual musicians to form The Raconteurs, a band name that enhanced my personal vocabulary. The Raconteurs sounded a lot The White Stripes with a full band. Very good music there too.

As you read previously, I am a sucker for good music videos and Jack was in two of my favorite music videos of the decade. One involving a bull fight (Conquest) and the other a soap box derby (Steady As She Goes). There were a couple of other cool ones, one directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame and another featuring all legos. I wasn't bowled over by White's recent collaboration with the Kills singer to form The Dead Weather. Meh. I did enjoy him in the music documentary this year, It Might Get Loud. See it. It is more about people with passion for something then it is about technical guitar playing.

Jack's the only guy on this list I haven't seen live. I not sure I want to. He is an odd duck and I'm not sure he'd put on a very entertaining show outside of a bunch of kickass music.

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