Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tennessee: 48, Arkansas State: 27

What do you want me to say, it was Arkansas State. Our offense looked great. Kudos to Ainge for, again, being the (literally) brightest player on a wildly erratic team. Most Valuable Player B would have to be Lucas Taylor, who, for the first time, looked like a real receiver, displaying, on two occasions, some serious sticky-fingers and an unrelenting desire to get the ball into the endzone, which was nice, seeing as how Austin Rogers, with the occasional easy drop, is quickly distancing himself from any further Steve Largent comparisons. Our offensive line—while efficient pass blockers—can’t seem to push people of the ball in the running game. Lamarcus Cocker’s 100+ yards were more a result of some crafty running and the overmatched personnel of Arkansas State, than any sign of dominance on the line of scrimmage. Florida’s near loss to Ole Miss was a perfect example of how our linemen have been unable to capitalize on these kinds of missed opportunities (Florida’s case being their inexperience). Our defense was…atrocious. Career advice to Jonathan Heffney: If you want to play ball on Sunday, you need to learn how to wrap-up. Spearing runners with your helmet and forearms isn’t working in college, what makes you think it will in the NFL? You are no Roy Williams, sir. (Oh, and a negative four yard average on punt-returns is…not good.) Our linebackers are so translucent that I have a hard time telling you their names (Mayo, maybe?). I am officially a fan of Eric Berry: He hits hard, wraps up, and occasionally picks the ball off (and he’s only a freshman…yay!). We have two weeks to prepare for an overrated Georgia team. My prediction: If Tennessee can hold Georgia to under thirty points, we might have a shot. If…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter: Thoughts

Socially conscious white-boys with a guitar and a pad of paper are a dime a dozen nowadays. Luckily Bob Dylan came along and saved white America from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, reminding us that, while we might not have created rock and roll, we did invent modern poetry.

Idaho born Josh Ritter seems to be part of the same Mid-Western Review that includes such artists as Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens, and the ever sprawling Arcade Fire. While Bright Eyes has distinguished himself by focusing on his voice’s crackling desperation (and indulging in the occasional electric experiment); and Sufjan Stevens continues to do a lot of heavy lifting as he makes sure his experiments maintain their mid-western moderation (regardless of the state he’s in); and Arcade Fire has, well…continued to add members/instruments/layers with each album; Ritter has kept close to his roots (Dylan and Cohen) channeling their lyrical dexterity into a fusion of mid-western rock and indie-pop-pretension, which, on this, his third album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, serves him well. While never hard enough to call himself “working class”, Ritter manages to exude a confidence that seems to separate him from his contemporaries. Sure, Ritter can keep his voice down with the best of them on songs like, “Still Beating”, “Wait for Love”, and the elegant “Temptations for Adam”; but (perhaps channeling a bit of Mellancamp) Ritter knows when to kick the doors down. The rocking first track, “To the Dogs or Whoever”, an electric ode to calamity, is a dynamic burner in which Ritter weaves a cleaver tapestry of romantic quests and historical analogy. In “The Right Moves”, Ritter fulfills the promise of the album’s title and crafts a song that could have easily been a number one single in 1977. If there is one thing Ritter’s contemporaries could learn from this album, it would be its’ much needed brevity: no long discourses and aimless narratives here. Ritter gets in and gets out. Relationships are dissected with a sense of urgency. For example: “Open Doors” is a song so bitingly brisk it sounds like Springsteen circa Tunnel of Love and is a worthy sequel to that albums masterpiece “Brilliant Disguise”.

The few missteps on this album result from Ritter becoming possessed by his idol Leonard Cohen, the exercises in misery are a bit much (“Wildfires” and “Moons”). Yet, at its core, Conquests puts Ritter right up there with his contemporaries and effectively raises the bar. Here’s hoping they rise to the challenge.

(Two) Song(s) I advocate paying real money for it’s(they’re) that good: “To the Dogs or Whoever”, “Open Doors”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tennessee: 20, Florida: 59 (Ouch...)

Awful. Just plain misery. Take everything I said about the Cal game (here), subtract any optimism I may have had, and add: At least Eric Berry had a good game (well…with exception of that touchdown that was thrown just over his extended hand); and: Austin Rogers, instead of looking like Steve Largent, with his alligator arms and blatant chest-deflections at critical points during the game, looked like John "Hot Rod" Williams (just read it). Watching Tennessee fumble away another touchdown (like they did at Cal) after a momentum changing play; followed by Florida’s subsequent fumble and recovery on their own one-yard-line and a fifty-yard bomb on their first play from scrimmage, was like pouring salt on an open wound that has been festering for seventeen years—or, ever since Tennessee began playing Florida on a regular basis. Tim (Superman) Tebow’s completion to Percy Harvin was as much a result of two exceptional athletes making a great play, as it was another example of the by-their-finger-tip breaks that seem to always go Florida’s way. I’m resigned to the fact that Phillip Fulmer is not as good a coach as Urban Meyer (or Steve Spurrier… or Nick Saban), and I fully expected us to lose this game; but watching that a chain of events unfold, in the almost supernatural manner in which they did, was just another reminder that the only way Tennessee has a chance of beating Florida is if God has something else to do that day. Just awful. Go Vols…

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sky Blue Sky: Thoughts

In case you haven’t heard, allow me to be the millionth person to say (before discussing Wilco’s most recent album) that Jeff Tweedy, the long time maestro/face/ voice of the band has… given up prescription pain killers. I mention this simply because most people who decide to talk about Wilco’s newest (and mellowest) album, Sky Blue Sky, feel it relevant. Listening to the album, I couldn’t help but wonder what one had to do with the other since Sky Blue Sky is one of Wilco’s more trance-inducing albums, with songs fading lazily into one another (not quite, but similar, to a Jack Johnson album with better lyrics) in a subdued state that made me question how people would read this as a sign of Tweedy’s sobriety. Perhaps it’s because he is more lucid here, his lyrics more concrete and solid. Gone are the paranoid apparitions of, say, “Kid Smoke” (off of A Ghost is Born), as are the shards of noise and feedback of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot that seemed to be scrapping behind Tweedy’s eyes and into his skull. On second thought, perhaps it’s worth mentioning again… Jeff Tweedy is off prescription painkillers!

I couldn’t offer an opinion either way as to whether or not this is a good thing since Wilco can always be counted on to make good music. But the quiet discipline of Sky Blue Sky, while making it the perfect album to listen to when you’re feeling particularly melancholy or numb (and 70’s AM rock just isn’t cutting it), lacks the devastating cacophonous beauty of previous albums (most notably on tracks: “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and “At Least That’s What You Said”), or the jaunty march of 1999’s Summerteeth, or, heck, any of the Mermaid Avenue albums. Still, there are gems here: “Impossible Germany” is an ideal track for the resolute stoner, and “Hate is Here” is Tweedy at his most Beatles-esque. The best song is, however, the powerful, “Leave Me (Like You Found Me)”, a quiet apology/plea (hence the parenthesis) to an absent lover to rescue the narrator from his addiction (by abandoning him). It is a song that, in any other hands, would sound self-pitying, but with Tweedy’s measured vocals, comes across as sincere and practical.

Jeff Tweedy may be off of prescription painkillers, but he hasn’t lost the ability to craft important music. Still, one hopes that the reconciliation phase of his sobriety has run its course and, on his next album, and that he can go back to kicking the television.

Song I advocate paying real money for it's so good: "Leave me (Like You Found Me)"

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tennessee: 39, Southern Miss: 19

A rejuvenating performance by the Vols. Hopefully it was enough to fend off Appalachian State (thank you Ducks!) and keep us in the top 25. Erik Ainge looked like a mini-Manning (only much taller), distributing the ball across and (finally) down the field with fantastic accuracy and making sophomore Austin Rogers look like Steve Largent resurrected. Ainge’s stats would have been better if his young receivers hadn’t dropped some difficult (but not impossible) balls. Arian Foster was a beast, rushing for an efficient 125 yards on 23 carries. LaMarcus Coker was MIA, but true freshman Lennon Creer came in at the end and showed some serious moves and speed, something Tennessee will desperately need next weekend. Xavier Mitchell was (thankfully) back on the field, and it only took the entire first half for the defense to wake-up. Still, the sight of Southern Miss. Quarterback, Jeremy Young, running freely in the first half, coupled with a nearby TV highlighting the manner in which Florida dynamic-duo Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow were galloping over Troy, made me nauseous. With exception of 47-yard FG Special teams were (as usual) atrocious, but it was encouraging to see Jonathan Hefney returning punts. A Vol fan at the bar next to me was wise enough to opine: “I think we may just be bad enough to beat Florida.” Here, here, I say.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Datarock: Thougths

Who would have thought—despite debuting almost twenty years ago on the tail of punk music—that new wave would have outlasted grunge? Starting as far back 1978, with the evolution of Blondie and Elvis Costello and the debut of bands like Talking Heads and Joy Division, we’re still reaping the benefits; while grunge, although having birthed two of the most significant bands of the last twenty-five years (Nirvana and Pearl Jam), would be hijacked for MTV by a group of suburban white boys aching for hip-hop credibility (Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, Lincoln Park) and dying a slow death as “nu-metal”. While never giving us quite an equivalent (although there are those—like me—who would claim that New Order and The Talking Heads weren’t too shabby), new wave gave us some of the best singles of the 80’s, songs and bands whose influence can be found all over the current indie-rock scene. Heck, one could argue that, until they found Springsteen, The Killers were the best retro-new-wave act around.

Anyone half-interested in listening to the bastard children of Devo and The Buggles would be wise to pick up the self-titled debut of the Norwegien group Datarock. Datarock is a typical example of your older sister’s geek-rock: lots of synthesizers, beats that fit in nicely at the whitest club while also serving as an awesome soundtrack to a Tetris tournament. What makes Datarock stand out isn’t their simple and excessively catchy shoulder-shakers, but the way they successfully blend their influences, most notably Devo and New Order, with a not so subtle splash of their Scandinavian neighbors ABBA. Of course, to attempt such a feat, one needs be aware of the inherent pitfalls, but, thankfully, if there is one thing Datarock has in spades its self-awareness. The first track on the album, “Bulldozer”, is either an elaborate joke, or a Tenacious D-like attempt at crafting—wait for it… the greatest new-wave song of all time! You decide. Here are a few lines form the first verse: Bulldozer, Bulldozer. Bulldozer, Bulldozer. Bulldozer, Bulldozer. Bulldozer, Bulldozer. BMX, IS BETTER THAN SEX. BMX, IS BETTER THAN SEX. Hilarious. If, of course, your like your funny danceable. If that is the case, feel free to enjoy tracks “I Used to Dance with My Daddy”, the best song to use backmasking since “Revolution 9”; or, “Fa-fa-fa” a hopping riff that veers dangerously close to Franz Ferdinand.

Datarock clearly enjoys playing with their influences. Occasionally they drift too far into the shadows of their elders, which can, at times, seem self-indulgent, but they are never boring. While songs like “Computer Camp Love” and “Ugly Primadonna” would hardly qualify as a Devo b-side, “Sex Me Up” and “New Song” could have easily been included on Devo's greatest hits. “The Most Beautiful Girl” is a pitch perfect Human League homage, while “I Will Always Remember” plays like an unrecorded ABBA track, a group whose influences can also be found on the track “Gaburo Girl”. Datarock’s ability to emulate and embellish their mentors is never more apparent than on tracks like “Laurie” and “See What I Care”, the later song being the best song on the album; a track so perfect that it manages to resurrect the melancholy of Joy Division’s (suicidal) Ian Curtis and eerily reunite him with his band-mate's spin-off, New Order. “See What I Care” is such a good song, it has a decent shot of making it onto the soundtrack of Sophia Coppola's next film (and I mean “appearing on the soundtrack” for a Sophia Coppola film as the highest compliment possible for any new wave act). Maybe Datarock’s shtick will get old. But if you’re still dancing, do you really care?

Song I advocate paying real money for it’s so good: “See What I care”

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Get ready for music. Oh, and an interlude concerning Tony Snow:
"Elvis Presley ain't got no soul.
Jimi Hendrix is rock and roll.
You may dig on the Rolling Stones,
but everything they did they stole.
Elvin Presley ain't got no soul.
Bo Diddley is rock and roll.
You may dig on the Rolling Stones,
but they ain't come up with that shit on they own.
Who am I... Who am I..."-Mos Def

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tennessee: 31, Cal: 45

We lost. We could have won. But it could have been worse. Erik Ainge looked extremely competent, if not a little gimpy when throwing over fifteen yards. Arian Foster, at times, looked big and fast like the Lawrence Phillips of old Nebraska, but he seemed to run out of steam too quickly and too often, on two separate occasions when it seemed like he could have scored—something Cal never looked…slow, that is. Our receivers, mostly freshman and sophomores, were invisible and skittish; one play in particular in which a receiver pussy-footed his way across the middle (a no-no), thus missing probably one of the hardest and most accurate passes from Ainge all night, which he didn’t even see, was a prime example. Our line, with exception of that opening drive, kept Ainge off the turf. Our punter looked terrible, but Vol fans understand that it usually takes a Colquitt until his senior year to be any good. Whoever we have doing the kick-offs might as well boot it out-of-bounds every time because he clearly can’t kick it pass the thirty-yard line, as Cal seemed to start at least on the forty every series; adopting this strategy would guarantee that our opponents start no further than the thirty-five yard line. In order to keep our (suddenly) thin defense rested, our offense is going to have to score often and slowly, especially if they’re going to stick to this no-huddle business. By the end of the game, it was clear that they (the defense) could hardly muster the strength to tackle Justin Forsett (93 yards in the fourth quarter). The good news being that our defense proudly maintained its tradition of being one of the worst tackling teams in the NCAA, a longstanding Tennessee fault that I have stopped believing will ever change as long as John Chavis coaches defense. Seriously, watching our players make the (admittedly) talented Desean Jackson look like Reggie Bush was embarrassing. The loss of Xavier Mitchell is catastrophic. If we lose Jonathan Hefney to injury, we might as well offer opposing offenses 6-points and devote our time to becoming extra-point blocking machines since it is clear that Hefney and Mitchell (along with Jerod Mayo) are the only guys who can tackle. Freshman star recruit, Eric Berry, looked like a beast when he nailed Cal track phenom Jahvid Best, and he seemed to be the only player in the secondary who could keep step with Desean Jackson--here’s hoping he continues to get better and not arrested. Next week Southern Mississippi, followed by Florida. Not to be a homer, but we could win both of those games, but we could also lose them, which, I imagine, goes without saying.