Real Life Rock Top 10

Special Out of Town Out of Mind Summer Edition!

Topics:

1) Monkees, “Summer 1967 — The Complete U.S. Concert Recordings” (Rhino)

Proof that the economy is still humming: Market calculations indicate there remains enough disposable income to ensure a positive return on the release of a double live CD collecting, in their entirety, four shows consisting of the same 17 songs. Played in the same order. By the same people.

2) Advertisement for U.S. Trust (Los Angeles magazine, June) & David Leonhardt, “If Richer Isn’t Happier, What Is?” (New York Times, May 19)

This column does not credit the existence of political conspiracy or coordinated propaganda. Therefore the simultaneous appearance of a news story about how “money really cannot buy happiness” and how “even though income [has] risen dramatically since World War II, Americans say they are no happier” and an ad headed “Money Is Not the End of Worry. It Is the Beginning” can have nothing to do with deflecting resentment over the unprecedentedly regressive character of the recently passed tax bill. “You have more dependents, more possessions, more investments,” says copy under a stark painting of a 40-ish woman who looks like Daria without a sense of humor. “Yet you’re still expected to fight your way through a zillion e-mails and voice mails each day, just trying to hang on to your sanity, your ideal weight, and your quality time with your family. How can you explain to other people the fear that your children might never need to work?” “Who would believe all that money could ever feel like a burden rather than a blessing?” the ad asks. It answers not just for U.S. Trust, but for the person idly reading along: “We would.” Wouldn’t you?

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3) Quasi, “The Sword of God” (Touch and Go)

Earnest playing, uninteresting singing — of a certain strain, indie music of absolute purity.

4) Nick Lowe, “The Convincer” (Yep Roc)

From the last of the rock ‘n’ roll pranksters, songs too dull even for parody.

5) Scott Miller & the Commonwealth, “Thus Always to Tyrants” (Sugar Hill)

Nothing here — not the cravenly self-conscious rewrite of Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain,” especially not the even more cravenly self-conscious rewrite of the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” — suggests this isn’t an homage to John Wilkes Booth. Except that Scott Miller’s declamatory style isn’t going to scare anyone.

6) “Love, Janis: The Songs, the Letters, the Soul of Janis Joplin” (Columbia Legacy)

She didn’t mean it. Whatever it was.

7) Bonnie “Prince” Billy, “Ease on Down the Road” (Palace)

Going nowhere, particularly on the swooning chorus of “Just to See My Holly Home,” where it doesn’t matter.

8) Yayhoos, “Fear Not the Obvious” (Bloodshot)

A foursome with bad teeth in a fearless stumble into the Faces’ “A Nod Is as Good as a Wink … to a Blind Horse,” which pays off on “For Crying Out Loud.” And on “Dancing Queen,” where the three-sheets-to-the-wind band turns its roadhouse into a karaoke bar.

9) John Carman on “Bad News, Mr. Swanson” (San Francisco Chronicle, June 1)

On a comedy about a man diagnosed with terminal cancer, which will or won’t appear this fall on FX cable: “The medical death sentence emboldens Whaley to seize control of his life and become more assertive with his estranged wife, his overbearing father and his bosses. He also finds himself in a fantastical relationship with Death, a spike-haired, beer-swilling reaper played by John Lydon, the erstwhile Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.” Wow, death! What’s next, the antichrist?

10) Joe Queenan, “Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation” (Henry Holt)

The BBG defined not by the conventional 1946-62 but by 1943-60 (“Randy Newman, one of the few famous Baby Boomers who is not a thoroughly revolting human being, was born in 1943. I need him in this book”), and including an “Are You a Full-Fledged Baby Boomer” quiz with good questions and bad answers. For example: “On August 3, 1962, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan are paddling a canoe down the Potomac at 12 miles an hour. Meanwhile, Charles Manson, James Earl Ray and Mark David Chapman are hurtling toward them in a motorboat cruising at 75 miles an hour. If the two boats collide just south of the Jefferson Memorial, which Baby Boomer hero will still be assassinated in the next few years: (A) Martin Luther King, (B) Bobby Kennedy, (C) John Lennon, (D) John F. Kennedy.”

Real Life Rock Top 10 answer: A, B, D.

The Rude Mechs' theatrical adaptation of Greil Marcus' book "Lipstick Traces" will play Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at DiverseWorks in Houston. For more columns by Greil Marcus, visit his column archive.

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