Mainstream Rock: Metallica, “The Day That Never Comes” (2008) (download)

Robert Cass: It’s time for me to come clean with all of you — I’m from the future. Though I’ve been living among you for some time now, I was born in a more technologically advanced age in which time travel is possible. Unfortunately, they don’t make ’em like they used to, so my time machine broke once I arrived here. While I wait for repairs to be made and tricked-out accessories to be added by a man named Robert Zemeckis, who I was told could help, I’m basking in the awesomeness that is 2008.

You people really don’t know how good you’ve got it. For instance, did you know that the music of this decade is the best music of all time? It’s true! Those of you who think the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s produced the best pop music are hopelessly stuck in the past, whereas I’m literally stuck in the past, but at least I know for a fact that music peaked in the “aughts,” so I actually have something to get misty-eyed about.

Ah, 2008. It was the last time Metallica would put out an album. In 2010 they broke up after Kirk Hammett’s hair plugs gained artificial intelligence and strangled him in his sleep. He was the buffer between James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, who couldn’t get along without him there to block their punches. Hetfield retreated to a cabin in the Ozarks, where his homemade brand of “light” moonshine made him a billionaire, and Ulrich retreated to Middle-Earth, where he became a wizard.

In the future there is no war. But there are still anti-war videos. It gives liberals something to do on their down time at the re-education camps.

Beau Dure: Re-education? Does that mean in the future Americans are educated in the first place? That’s an improvement.

As for me, my nightmares about the “One” video will be replaced by nightmares that we get to the future by listening to this dull remake of it over and over, eight grueling minutes at a time.

David Medsker: Over eight minutes, yes, but there isn’t much of a song there. That whole “This I swear” part was particularly bad. Yes, Kirk got to shred at the end. Good for him. Bored now.

Darren Robbins: I remember when I first heard this song way back earlier this month. I was trying to figure out how to change the password on my banking website and darn if those bastards at WaMu could be bothered to make it easy for me. I clicked here, I clicked there…I used all reasonable logic and still I came up empty. Only when I clicked on the button CLICK HERE FOR FREE SMILEYS was I finally rewarded…

With free smileys and a fuckload of spyware, but I digress.

As for the video, the only thing that’s missing is a big fat Rock Band 2 logo at the beginning, middle, and end of it. Seriously — talk about a slow-motion posefest. Thing is, that’s no cinematic effect. that’s actually how Metallica moves these days. I kid, I kid.

Mike Heyliger: I didn’t discover Metallica until, believe it or not, the 1989 Grammy Awards, when they performed “One.” My junior high graduating class of 3-400 kids had not one person lighter than cardboard in it, so my exposure to metal (or metalheads) was quite limited. It was another story once I got to high school, though.

I tend to not go for music that’s particularly loud or abrasive, so I actually like the more palatable Metallica/Load/Reload stuff more than I like the early stuff. This falls somewhere in the middle. It has a semi-discernable melody, but tons of riffage as well. I’d like the song better if it were cut in half,though. 8 1/2 minutes is just too long to ask me to concentrate.

Jon Cummings: If Metallica and the Iraq War were transported to the ’70s, this video would have been attached to a soft-rock song called “Billy, Don’t Be a Vengeful Bastard.” The narrative stretches out like an overlong guitar solo…in fact, it stretches out in tandem with two or three overlong guitar solos, to the point where I thought the “day that never comes” would be the day the clip ends. This is why I’ve never given two shits about Metallica.

Jeff Giles: Eight and a half minutes long, but it feels like 15 — and the video only makes it worse. What was the point of all this, exactly? I hate to say any band’s earlier work was better, but this really feels like a pale, crappy retread of Metallica from 20 years ago. I don’t think there’s anything left for these guys to say.

Dw. Dunphy: The video is awful, I’ll just shoot that little Crite right here and now. Throw some steel guitar twang over it and you might have a Toby Keith video (There’s strong, then there’s Toby Keith strong.) The actual song? Well… I kinda like it. Sure the lyrics are horrible, and yes, technically love is a four-letter word, but I hoped no one would ever use that old warhorse again without at least a shot of irony.

Having said all that, the song works as both a post-Justice hard rock ballad and a thrash slam from days of old. If you don’t think too hard about it, it gets you by. In the big picture, what does it say about the modern music charts that this is the song I like best for the week?

Taylor Long: Hey, I used to like this band. When they were good. And, actually, even when they weren’t that good. Which basically means I liked them through Load. Although S&M is awesome. But seriously, James Hetfield (who I even had a crush on at one point!) doesn’t sound like Hetfield half the time. He’s not growling. He sounds like some wimpy asshole. I don’t know if I can make it through this whole thing, it’s making me sad.

Will Harris: Not bad, but at the risk of being called a blasphemer, I’ve always thought most of Metallica’s songs went on too long, and at 8+ minutes, this is certainly no exception. But, then, I haven’t really heard anything from them that’s caught my ear since their cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.”

Taylor: METALLICA COVERED BOB SEGER??? HOW DID I MISS THAT??

Dunphy: They also covered Lynyrd Skynyrd on that same album, alongside Pepper Keenan and Jerry Cantrell. Mind you, they were all probably drunk at the time…

Scott Malchus: This is the sound of a band trying to recapture their glory days and boring us to tears, and with the usual Rick Rubin blandness. NEXT!

Dunphy: Scott, how can you say that? He singlehandedly saved Sony Music and sent Jakob Dylan’s solo album to the top of… Oh, wait, is someone spraying polyurethane in the next room?

Scott: It’s funny, I used to be so impressed with Rubin’s production, especially what he did in the early 90’s with the Chili Peppers on Bloodsugarsexmagik and especially on “Mary Jane’s Last Dace” with Petty and the Heartbreakers. But I now think that Brenden O’Brien’s skills had just as much to do with the fucking awesome sound of “Give It Away Now,””Suck My Kiss” and the rest of that record, and that Petty and Mike Campbell had a little more control (plus, Stan Lynch wasn’t going to let some producer ruin his last recordings with the band).

Sure, Rubin brought Johnny Cash back from purgitory and allowed him to leave this world with dignity and the acclaim he deserved (from a new audience). But everything he produces sounds the same, just as everything Jeff Lynne produces sounds like ELO and everything that Mutt Lange touches sounds like Def Leppard.


Modern Rock: Staind, “Believe” (2008) (download)

Taylor: I used to like this band, too. But they were never good, and I’d rather forget about that time in my life. Moving on!

Scott: Remember the ’80s, when every metal band had to do a power ballad? Now every band does its emo-metal ballad. Who do we blame, Nickelback? Staind doesn’t do it for me, sorry. NEXT!

Will: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…I think I’d rather listen to this than the Metallica song. And I say that even though I hold the opinion that this sounds like re-hashed Nickelback.

Jon: You know the music-video era is over when a tubby slob like Staind’s lead singer, Aaron Lewis, is considered photogenic enough to get significant airtime walking on a beach and lip-syncing. Couldn’t somebody have slapped some makeup (and hair, and a rubber suit) on this guy? Or at least had an animated fly buzz around his face? No wonder MTV stopped showing this crap! This kind of generic, mid-tempo AOR pablum has rarely lent itself to good videos, and this is no exception. The comments on YouTube note that Staind is currently opening for Nickelback at an amphitheatre near you. I wonder if, some nights, the two bands change places in the lineup without announcing it–and nobody notices?

Dunphy: I remember when I first heard “It’s Been Awhile” from Break the Cycle, only once. I thought Aaron Lewis sounded like Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, but without all the mid-Eastern vocal acrobatics. I picked up the CD that day, listened through a couple times, then sold it on eBay a week later (At least it sold. I’m still stuck with an Orgy CD bought under the same circumstances.)

My point is that even if I didn’t have the previous experience of being once burned by Staind, this song would immediately present itself as the douche-rock it clearly is. Even the earnest verse, growly chorus, lumbering beat remains consistent. Even so, it’s nice to think that after all this time, they can still get on the charts with the same old formula from the good/bad old early aughts.

Darren: My friend Robin absolutely loves this song. We met way back in 2004 when we worked together. One day, I walk in and the guy in the cubicle between us is blasting Barry Manilow on his headphones so loud that a tinny Barry Manilow may as well have been in the room crooning “Copacabana.” We didn’t know each other yet, me having just started at the company mere days before, but our eyes met as we both stared daggers at the guy and we became fast friends. This song always reminds me of her, mainly because not an email goes by where she doesn’t mention that she’s listening to the tune and telling me I should do the same. Maybe today I will.

Okay, I just listened to the song/watched the video. It was exactly as I expected it to sound and look…chubby knuckledragger dude walking on the beach, stoned dude half-passed out on the couch…gentle guitar melody that lasts only long enough to make you crave the all out rock assault that comes when the A&R man says it’s time for a chorus. This kinda tune is the Y2K version of the hair metal power ballad, isn’t it? As predictable as a Lindsay Lohan car crash, and god bless Staind for giving the world a song you can sing along to without having ever heard it before.

Jeff: I’ve never been able to understand the appeal of this kind of music. Can anyone help me out here? What kind of person listens to Staind or Linkin Park for fun? What has to be going on in your life for you to say, “You know what I could really go for right now? An entire album’s worth of loud, dirge-y whining”? It never seems to go out of fashion, either. I don’t get it.

Medsker: If Dr. Phil had a house band, it would be Staind. And like Jeff, I have no idea what people see in them. I always thought of them as the band that helped someone through a difficult time in their lives, but once they got through it and were happier, they would never want to listen to them again. God knows I don’t want to listen to them again.

Mike: Staind has essentially made the same record something like six times in a row, and I think people are finally starting to notice. It wouldn’t hurt Aaron Lewis to crack a smile every once in a while.

Two quick things upon watching the video: 1) Who wears sneakers when walking on the beach? and 2) If you dipped Aaron Lewis in brown paint, wouldn’t you end up with a dead ringer for Darius Rucker?

Robert: Ah, that special genre of the aughts that you know as “emo.” Because of Staind’s “Believe” video, the National Transportation Safety Board installed a bald, overweight guy in the backseat of every car in America by the following year. The reasoning was that drivers won’t get sleepy and drive off the road or into other cars if they look in the rear view mirror and suddenly see one of “them” in the backseat. This form of employment financed Frank Black’s next seven solo albums. (Mike, you’re right about Aaron Lewis being dipped in brown paint and looking just like Darius Rucker. In fact, when President Rucker died of a heart attack while making love to his mistress, his administration did just that. It was quite a scandal.)

Beau: Can Future Man explain why this genre of music just re-records the same song over and over? Nice that the guitarist learned how to play harmonics for this one, I suppose.

Robert: No, it’s still a mystery, but you probably won’t be surprised to know that the future is even whinier and mopier than what you know as the present. This financial crisis turned everyone into babies. Tom Joad and other fictional characters would be disgusted, I’m sure.

Jeff: Speaking of President Rucker, did you guys know Hootie has a Top Five country single? No shit, he’s the new Charley Pride. Check it out.

Robert: A friend of mine who lives in Charleston, SC, said that it’s all over the country station there. He met Rucker five years ago or so when he was recording with Rucker’s sister’s brother-in-law or something like that, and Rucker said, “Whenever I pick up this one guitar of mine, I always write a country song.” I still like “This Is My World,” his 2001 R&B song from Back to Then and the Shallow Hal soundtrack.

Mike: I still play Back to Then religiously. It’s not a bad album at all.

I just realized something. People say (when I have a beard) that I look like Darius Rucker. Does that, by extension, mean that I look like a skinny, dark Aaron Lewis? Say it ain’t so!

Dunphy: Country Hootie couldn’t be any worse that David-Gates-singin’ Hootie or Burger-King-Shill Hootie. So good for Hootie.

Robert: When did he sing a David Gates song?

Dunphy: He covered the theme from The Goodbye Girl.


Adult Contemporary: David Cook, “Time of My Life” (2008) (download)

Will: For those who thought Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” was a little too rockin’ for their tastes.

Dunphy: Ech. ECH. David Cook can braid David Archuleta’s bung hair for all I care.

Ten years from now, that might be the best offer either of them get.

Jeff: I’m beginning to think that the songs American Idol gives its “winners” are written by the same manatees that write Family Guy. I couldn’t even make it all the way through this one.

Medsker: I quit watching AI after Melinda Doolittle was outsted (call me paranoid, but I’m convinced that was an executive desicion, not the work of the voting public). Sounds like I haven’t missed much. Man, couldn’t they hire Burt Bacharach to write the winners a song? Jesus, this is awful.

Jon: Forget the snark: It’s time to drop some sincere, heartfelt science on David Cook’s future as a recording artist. Throughout the Idol season, Cook seemed to want people to think he was simultaneously a Daughtry-esque rocker and a heartthrob who could sing “Hello” with as much impunity as Archuleta. Now he has a Number One single at AC–with, by the way, probably the best of all the singles Idol winners have been saddled with over the years–and the question remains: Who does he want to be? If he can continue to thread this needle, he may have a significant career as a pop artist — if he can find good pop songs, which is a big if. However, his Our Lady Peace fandom seems to mark him as someone who would like to be “harder,” and who may have exploited the pop covers just to advance through Idol. But can he write his own material? If not, he’s headed for Bo Bice-land, trying to wring hard rock from Kara DioGuardi types. My suggestion: David, bubelah, try to be a man first. Rock as hard as you can on your first album, and if nobody’s buying you can always slink back to Archuletaville. Will he take my advice? We’ll find out in a couple months–when his first single will probably be a cover of “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

Dunphy: You do realize who you’ve told David Cook to follow in the footsteps of…

Scott: I have to say, I like Cook’s voice. I think he sings with some emotional depth that you don’t expect from a pop singer. I can’t hold the song against him because it was handed to him when he won American Idol. I hold judgment against his career until something new comes along. Until then, I’ll take this over Metallica and Staind.

Taylor: David Cook kind of looks like Dane Cook. Now the real question is: who’s worse? I would say no contest in favor of Dane, but after listening to this, I’m not so sure. Oh god, I bet this is going to be next year’s graduation song or some bullshit.

Mike: I don’t think American Idol is the downfall of music as we know it, but I conveniently managed to ignore it until about three years ago (the Taylor Hicks/Daughtry season), and have watched sporadically since. The thing that struck me most about this year’s contestants is how absolutely beige they were. I don’t see David Cook having any kind of long-term success, especially when he’s biting off of Edwin McCain. This song is basically “I’ll Be” mashed up with Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”

Darren: For most of us, there is a song that we equate to all the special times in our life. Falling in love, breaking up, having kids, you name it – if we’ve lived it, there is a song attached to it in our minds. This song, of course, was one I found myself coming back to for the two weeks when I was a little unsure of how I was going to meet all my expenses and was too stressed to sleep. One of these days, I may even get around to listening to it all the way through. Not while driving, though…

Robert: Ah, early-21st-century music generated by popular TV shows. In the future, people love buying music that plays when they open their morning paper. It’s how everyone samples new music in the future, and it was a real boon to the sagging newspaper industry. Also in the future, music like David Cook’s “Time of My Life” can be converted into fat-free vanilla ice cream in less than 30 seconds!

Beau: I think if we put this song in newspapers, we’ll go out of business even faster. I’m still hoping to hang on until the 2012 Olympics. Or can Future Man tell me if Iceland wins the handball gold that year?


R&B/Hip-Hop: Jazmine Sullivan, “Need U Bad” (2008) (download)

Mike: What exactly did Missy Elliott add to this record except for a couple of annoying screams? And is it me, or is she (Missy) the most overrated artist of the past 10-15 years? Otherwise, this song is fairly pleasant. I guarantee you I’ll forget about it in 15 minutes or less.

Will: I actually liked this track…and I would’ve liked it even more without Missy Elliott. But even her presence couldn’t kill the reggae groove or Sullivan’s soulful vocals. Of the bunch, this is the only one that I’d actually enjoy hearing again.

Jon: Now that we’ve discussed David Cook, my critiques are stuck in Idol land. Dawg, this Jazmine is hot hot hot hot hot! She worked it out! This girl can definitely blow!

This record has a great early-’70s Hi Records feel when it’s not bogging itself down in lame toasting, which is just a’ight for me (dammit!). Nice tune, great singing. I’m a fan.

Dunphy: What a comedown. Last week we had Ray, Goodman and Brown singing “Special Lady.” This week? Tired faux-reggae beats, overworked vocals and a text message title. And you wonder why I live in the past?

Scott: Awwww, let’s go! Never heard this song before, but I love it. Nice to here some reggae rhythms in there and some great harmonies.

Taylor: This song is pretty okay, but the beat reminds me a little bit of “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill, and I’d rather listen to that.

Jeff: Nice. It’s overly busy, but I like the retro-flavored arrangement, the melody has some pleasant push and pull, and Missy doesn’t overwhelm the song. But yeah, I can’t listen to it without thinking about Lauryn Hill.

Robert: Ah, 2008 music that sounds like 1998 music. In the future people still want “that thing,” and they still need it bad. Thanks to cloning services, you can get that thing from whoever you want, or at least an incredible facsimile that won’t yell “Fire!” or spray you with mace as soon as you make a move.

Beau: Yeah, I’m getting suspicious. Are all these songs really from 2008?

Medsker: She oversings it, like all singers do it these days (fuck you, Mariah Carey), but the tune itself isn’t bad. That fake Jamaican bit at the end was bad, though.

Mike: I don’t blame Mariah for the oversinging. Whitney was doing it five years before that, and Chaka and Patti both had their moments prior before that. I love all four of ’em, but damn, there’s something to be said for subtlety.

Medsker: Whitney always had the big voice, but man, I don’t remember her running over a song the way Mariah runs over “Someday.”

Robert: Remember, I’m from the future. It gets more and more melismatic for the next ten years, then suddenly every female singer sounds like Janis Ian again.

Medsker: How many years before that sweet, sweet day?

Dunphy: Knowing my luck, it’ll be the day after I lose my hearing.

Robert: No, you’ll be dead long before th– … I mean … never mind.

Darren: I dunno about U, but I am totally down with songs that use “U” in place of “you”, “2” in place of “to”, “4” in place of “for”, and so on. I honestly think Prince was just in a hurry one day as he wrote out lyrics for a show and used “U” for the first time. Not long after, he realized that this verbal shorthand was a great way to save a few seconds of his life. But then it kinda got out of hand…I liken it to the time me and my buddy Jim were coming back from a gig in downstate Illinois. Bored out of our minds, we started talking back and forth in this hilariously exaggerated southern accent.

After about four hours of this, we found we couldn’t stop. Seriously, we had both forgotten our actual accents. The woman behind the counter at the truck stop in Kankakee didn’t seem to mind, but by the time we hit Chicago, we were starting to get some stares – not condescending stares, mind you, but ones that seemed to say “you know, we could probably rob these guys real easy”. That’s probably what happened to Prince – he started writing U and 2 and 4 and whatnot and then discovered that he couldn’t stop. And damn if it hasn’t spread like a fungus…heck, even Sarah McLachlan is doing it these days…and now poor Jazmine has caught the bug.


Hot 100: T.I., “Whatever You Like” (2008) (download)

Darren: I’d probably like this song a whole lot more if it was called “Whatever U Like.” Just sayin’, y’all.

Medsker: Where rap’s reigning bag of douche reinforces every negative stereotype about hip hop culture in four minutes (wicky wicky fo’ minutes). If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought this was a parody video.

Jeff: Ah, every girl’s dream — to be plucked from the fry house and turned into a trophy ho by an unwitting parody in designer clothing. I can have whatever I like? I want Slick Rick back.

Will: Yawn. I’ve forgotten it already. It’s no wonder I’ve given up the Hot 100 altogether.

Scott: I like the video better than the song. ‘Nuff said.

Taylor: I like T.I. more as a guest on other people’s songs than on his own. Sorry, dude.

Robert: Ah, late-’00s “hip-hop.” In the future hip-hop is just called music, because the ingredients of hip-hop eventually bled into every genre. (Beethoven has never sounded crunkier.) In prison T.I. found religion, and later he became governor of Texas. He made a run for the White House, but the incumbent, President Rucker, won that election. I voted for the president, but I couldn’t help thinking how closely T.I.’s story paralleled that of a certain president from your time, who we know in the future simply as Saint George.

Dunphy: Whatever I like, huh? Can I get a semi-automatic with a couple hundred rounds, a Versace shoulder holster and all that without the three day waiting period? Come on, T.I. Hook me up. As much as that drug-addled L’il Wayne annoys me, I’d take him over T.I.’s lifeless, hackneyed, sugar-daddy-on-the-cheap antics any day.

Mike: Sorry, T.I. fans. As someone who has loved hip-hop from its’ infancy, I have NO clue what people see in this guy. He’s not witty, he’s not a particularly good lyricist, and he sounds like he belongs on the short bus when he raps. I was trying not to have a Bill Cosby moment here, but what does it say about our society when the artist with the #1 single in the country is a convicted felon who’s headed for the pokey on a weapons possession charge?

Jon: And in the rap-video version of “Cop Gives Waitress $2 Million Tip,” or whatever the title of that movie turned out to be (It Could Happen to You?), we have an inspiration-free rapper offering to take the fried-chicken girl out of her humdrum life. I feel I can say whatever I want about T.I., at least for the moment, because he’s still under house arrest. He is, isn’t he? Well, I don’t want him bringing his arsenal of semis after my ass, so … this is a great song! I’m so happy for his chart-topping success!