Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Honeymoon Is Over

>> Featured Artist: Tony Xenos

Athens, Ohio, may not have the bustling music scene of its Georgian counterpart. Still, Ohio University's backyard produces more talent than most other towns of like population. Tony Xenos, formerly - and sometimes still - of the late-90s hometown heroes The Cactus Pears, started his solo career as the frontman of Rubberband Racecar Go, a gadget-acoustic-rock outfit that provided outlet for his Beasties-influenced inner Tony.

Xenos followed up the 2001 "Try Autopilot" with 2004's "Birthday," the product of a much more mature songwriter; in fact, Xenos had long been out of undergrad and had moved on to teaching high school math. On songs like "Super Hero" Xenos' love for Michael Stipe's voicing (and his music - Xenos is unabashed about his R.E.M. influence, having written a song about one of the other-Athens band's posters) is unavoidable. Still, the lyrics are top shelf, equal if not sometimes surpassing, Stipe's.

But the too-easy comparison may be the one thing that confines Xenos to the local-scene stardom he enjoys. That said, Mister Toaster has never been one to pass up raw talent.

Oh, except for that time in grad school.

>> Album Lookout: Sam's Town

The Killers - Released: October 2, 2006 Island

We are not Killers haters. Yet.

One might recall when The Toaster Talks was happy to award the Las Vegas pop act with the No. 1 song of 2004, "All These Things That I've Done."

That said, Brandon Flowers needs to shut his I'm-gonna-be-a-rock-star-forever mouth and undersell for once. The single for the upcoming album,
"When You Were Young" has been "leaked" and the world's axis has been displaced. We are hurtling toward the sun.

And then we popped it in the tape deck. The arrangement sounds just about right - a throwback to the late '80s with those verbed-out drums (Who are these guys? Mike and the Mechanics?) - and the synths made us want to Dance. Yes, capitalized.

The lyrics floated by...until "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus." Oh, that caught our attention. Who doesn't look like Jesus? Oh, "but he talks like a gentleman." (And later, "but more than you'll ever know"). Oh, OK. And then..."They say the devil's water, it ain't so sweet."

Now wait a minute. I think we all heard Bono's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame monologue about how the best songwriters are either running toward god or running away from god. But just dropping these otherwise meaningless references into a song doesn't make it spiritual.

It's just another boy-girl-oh-the-confusion song. And it bores us.

>> Reverting to: 1972

The Cuyahoga River has been described a number of ways in its history. Time said it was a river that "oozes rather than flows." Fair enough. It did catch fire - or at least the "sediment" floating on it did, anyway - on a few occasions way back when.

Randy Newman deals with it lovingly on
"Burn On." The track from his 1972 album "Sail Away" represents to us the misery that was Cleveland, Ohio, in the '80s. More precisely, the misery it was being an Indians fan. It opened the classic film "Major League" with a whimper - just as the situation called for.

Well, friend, those days have returned. The Tribe is playing near .400 baseball. We just play this song and cry.

"The lord can make you tumble / the lord can make you turn / the lord can make you overflow / but the lord can't make you burn"

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