Chartburn Logo

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Mainstream Rock: Kiss, “Psycho Circus” (1998)

Robert: In my best Paul Stanley impression, minus the made-in-Brooklyn falsetto: “Ya know something, people, we have been given a gift. More specifically, you have been given a gift — the gift of this attached MP3!”

Classic Kiss is back! Ace and Peter are back! The makeup and costumes are back! … Unfortunately, the melodies aren’t, at least not on this song. I like a lot of Kiss’s tracks from the ’70s, and 1982’s “I Love It Loud” is great, but “Psycho Circus” is forgettable. Didn’t the Psycho Circus album bomb? And is it still Kiss’s most recent studio album? Gee, I hope Paul and Gene have found a way to make money aside from album sales. Good luck, fellas. You can do it. I just know you can.

Jeff: I want to rock and roll all night — and party every day. I do not, however, want to hear this song ever again.

Beau: The line between Kiss and Spinal Tap, never designed to be a full-scale wall in the first place, has never seemed so blurry.

Darren: Crikey, somebody got a sweet deal on a green-screen room. Also, just taking a swing in the dark, did Desmond Child cowrite this? If not, he was certainly there in spirit. Paul Stanley and Child in the same room, each taking their stab at the lyrics, could actually create a cheese-flavored cliche vortex the likes of which Chester Cheetah has never seen.

Ken: I’m not a Kiss fan. They made a total of one song that I really like (“Tears Are Falling”). That said, I have to say … no, I don’t like this, either. The video has flashes of humor, though.

Will: “Psycho Circus” was the title track to the bandÁ¢€â„¢s reunion album — trumpeted as the first featuring all four original members in two decades — and it was everything you possibly couldÁ¢€â„¢ve hoped for. It sounded like old-school KISS, offering a catchy chorus and plenty of rock goodness, and it was the perfect concert opener, with Paul bidding you Á¢€Å“welcome to the show.Á¢€ And, hey, I saw the band on their reunion tour, and it fucking rocked. (PaulÁ¢€â„¢s best patter for the evening: Á¢€Å“Hey, everybody, itÁ¢€â„¢s Wednesday night … but letÁ¢€â„¢s pretend itÁ¢€â„¢s Friday night! All right!Á¢€)

Too bad the rest of the Psycho Circus album in no way lived up to this song. I remember writing in my review that, admittedly, one derives a certain amount of comfort from knowing that if someone had to write a song called “I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock & Roll,Á¢€ at least it was KISS, but that didnÁ¢€â„¢t actually serve to make it any good. Plus, how cheesy a song was Á¢€Å“Raise Your GlassesÁ¢€? Awful, awful stuff. It later turned out that only one song on Psycho Circus (Á¢€Å“Into the VoidÁ¢€) actually featured all four original members, with the rest mostly being a Paul-and-Gene record, which only partially explains the recordÁ¢€â„¢s heavy dreck content. Even so, “Psycho Circus” still remains one of my all-time favorite KISS tracks.

Dunphy: I suspect it was about 1986 when the verb “rock,” as opposed to the genre, became terribly uncool. Think about it. When a band couldn’t think of a song devoted to screwing or drinking, they wrote songs devoted to rocking. And their fans threw up horns and shouted, “Whoo-hoo! Yeah! Rockin’!” Kiss were preeminent in the classification of Rock Song Devoted to the Institution of Rock Songs. Every album seemed to have a paean to “rawkin’.” It subsided later on, mostly in those non-makeup years, but the Psycho Circus album, retro in every respect, seemed poised to mount a comeback.

Thank God that didn’t happen. And, yeah, this is as silly as everything else on that album. Borrow Destroyer from your dad instead. You’ll thank me.

David: Is it just me, or do I detect the faint whiff of grunge? I actually felt sorry for conventional rock bands in the ’90s. They were just hopelessly fucked. Except for Aerosmith, of course, but now Aerosmith is a completely different kind of fucked.

Beau: Kiss at least had the option of being campy. If you didn’t want to take it seriously, you didn’t have to. You could just bop along to it, knowing that it was all a bit silly but harmless. Can’t do that with “Cryzamazingy” or whatever Aerosmith was singing then.

Kiss also has the advantage that Gene Simmons, unlike Steven Tyler, will never age. Steven Tyler can be an old guy, but Chaim Witz will always be Gene Simmons. He’s a character, a persona. Saying Gene Simmons ages because Chaim Witz is older is like saying Bart Simpson has aged because Nancy Cartwright isn’t a young woman any more.

Zack: I don’t have any particular axe to grind with Kiss, but this is simply awful. While the video features some fairly interesting perspective shots, the lurid backgrounds overwhelm pretty much everything else. I’m not sure if Paul Stanley is intentionally channeling Ozzy Osbourne in parts, but his vocals are so weak that I’d imagine there are twenty singers in Kiss tribute bands that could easily outsing him.

It’s weird — watching Kiss without an adoring audience is kind of like watching a porn flick starring an actress who isn’t wearing stockings or high heels. I mean, sure, there’s no reason why the absence should affect their ability to perform, but it just feels like something essential is missing.

Vrabel: That KISS song and album resulted in a whole heap of hate from the good folks at the Insane Clown Posse, who were furious.

“Fuck Gene Simmons, you make me sick, psycho-sick, you just stole my shit!”

Well, it sounds better coming out of Violent J.

Also, Violent J has a point.

This is the worst beef in the history of music, by the way.

Will: Pft. Kiss had the better shot at a lawsuit, having originated the whole white-makeup-with-designs-on-it concept decades before.

Py Korry: I guess it’s too much to ask Violent J to type in a keyword like “Kabuki” into a search engine and see what happens.

Zack: I remember hearing those two idiots on Howard Stern’s show one time discussing how they would be releasing a cover of Sly Fox’s “Let’s Go All the Way” and claiming to know nothing about the song. I desperately wanted a microphone in front of me so I could ask them “then why are you recording it?” I assume they would have insisted that their record company put them up to it, and then I could point out how they were just little bitches that did whatever their management told them to do. And then Sharon Osbourne would kick one of their asses.

Dunphy: Pfeh. They were just mad because it suddenly dawned on them — “Oh man, we suck even worse than this!”

Jon: Kiss has sounded generic for a long time, but this song represents a real low — it’s kinda sub-“Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight.” As the video lumbered by, displaying no personality whatsoever behind the makeup and Gene’s tongue, I imagined that those guys could be anybody. In fact, why aren’t there five bands named KISS out on the road right now — all with the same makeup? They could do a Blue Man Group-type thing: put one group in permanent residency in Vegas, have a couple touring groups, and Gene could stay home, bone Shannon all he wants (lucky guy) and make bad reality shows.

David: My God, that’s fucking genius.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Modern Rock: Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Fall Down” (1994)

Will: Once upon a time, my greatest moment of rubbing elbows with celebrities was having sung Á¢€Å“SheÁ¢€â„¢ll Be Coming Á¢€ËœRound The MountainÁ¢€ live on the radio with Toad the Wet Sprocket as they were supporting their Bread and Circus album. ItÁ¢€â„¢s since been superseded, but it will never be forgotten. I love these guys, and although their profile was on the decline by this point (check out the sales graph and youÁ¢€â„¢ll see the major, major spike for Fear), this was an absolutely kick-ass pop nugget.

Darren: When you combine the name Toad The Wet Sprocket with four of the least-likely-to-be-rock-star-lookin’ fellers in all of rock and roll, is it any wonder I can’t remember that they actually do this song?

I just can’t get my feeble mind to associate Toad with a song that is this goddamned catchy.

As far as rock videos go, my vote for “how-soon-can-you-blow-a-good-setup” is 00:17.

Beau: If you’re named after a Monty Python bit even I don’t recall, chances are you’re going to have questionable taste. This one isn’t bad, and I suppose I can’t blame them for the era of mope-rock that followed.

Dunphy: I am uncomfortable with Toad. For every decent pop tune like this, we got two mopey Muzak-ready MOR tracks. Though I don’t know the title, there’s a Toad song that has, in the chorus, something about “left behind…” and “…I’m not blind.” Literally, when I worked retail, I heard that song every day from the day of its initial release. That’s probably eleven years. What do they say about familiarity?

Eh, whatever. I liked Gin Blossoms better anyhow.

Jon: This is the time on Sprockets when we have a dance marathon!

TTWS were a welcome presence on mid-’90s radio; I don’t remember ever being unhappy to hear them. They were a nice break from all the post-grunge soundalike bands. Though it must be said, if there was a concert in which TTWS performed the Gin Blossoms’ greatest hits and vice versa, I bet nobody would know the difference.

Zack: Are you kidding? All the Gin Blossoms ever sang about was getting falling-down drunk. Whereas Toad at least had the philosophical range to muse about how long it would actually take before the aforementioned falling down occurred.

Ken: I love “All I Want,” and a band I was in used to cover “Fly From Heaven,” so I’m always ready to give them the benefit of the doubt despite their silly name. I just don’t feel that this track has enough to distinguish itself from a number of similar entries.

David: It’s easy to pick on bands like Toad for their earnestness and mopey tendencies (thankfully, no songs about dolphin fetuses), but they were a damn good little pop band. For a while, anyway. This is from my favorite Toad record, though I much prefer “Something’s Always Wrong.”

Michael: At the risk of becoming “the Chartburn guy who has seen all the really bad movies,” I must point out that this song is on the soundtrack to Drop Zone, the Wesley Snipes/Gary Busey skydiving bankrobber movie. One of the few films that can go toe-to-toe with Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (mentioned last Chartburn) for unintentional hilarity.

Quite a nice song, too — I always liked Toad. Beautiful backing harmonies.

Zack: For a band that first formed in high school and took their name from a Monty Python sketch mocking absurd band names, Toad hasn’t done too badly for themselves. The obvious urgency in the guitar hook in this song has always resonated with me. The creepiness of the characters in the video seems rather forced, though. (Aside to Jeff: Don’t forget to mention Glenn’s solo show and his rider)

Jeff: See, for me, this marks the spot where the Sprockets started to lose the plot. It’s got “Windmills,” which rules, but eh…I don’t know, most of the rest of the record never did much for me. And “Nanci” makes me want to punch things. Wait, were we talking about “Fall Down”? It’s okay.

Zack reminded me that I was one of the promoters for a Glen Phillips show awhile back — my business partner and I brought him to a nifty little theater in San Jose. Great show, if I do say so myself, and Phillips was about as ego-free as you could hope a once-platinum artist could be. (And so tiny!) He had two things on his rider: 1) A nice vegetarian meal, and 2) A bottle of Irish whiskey. He acted surprised that we came through on both counts, but damn if he didn’t suck down most of a bottle of Bushmills during his set.

Jon: Toad the Wet Sprocket actually released albums? I had no idea. I always thought of them the same way I thought of most other ’90s mod-rock-radio acts (Bush, Live, Third Eye Blind, Dog’s Eye View, etc.) — nice singles, no way in hell the albums could possibly be any good.

Robert: Glen Phillips does some backing vocals on Wheat’s Per Second, Per Second, Per Second … Every Second, but I can’t remember what song or songs he’s on, though I am obsessed with that album. I heard a bootleg of one of Wheat’s concerts from 2003, at which Phillips was in attendance to sing with them, but their frontman, Scott Levesque, introduced him by the wrong name, then corrected himself, which made me wonder if Wheat knew Phillips before he sang on their album or if Aware, their label at the time, said, “Hey, this guy’s on our label too. You should use him. Actually, you will use him. Don’t argue.”

Beau: Why would you name yourself Wheat when there’s already been a Bread? That’s like naming yourself the Stones At the Top of a Hill Waiting to Be Pushed.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Adult Contemporary: Peter Cetera, “One Good Woman” (1988)

David: I am a total sucker for Patrick Leonard’s production. I just love the way it sounds. He found a way to take this song, which has no real backbone, and polish it to a Top 40 shine. The moment in the instrumental break where Cetera raises his eyebrows just a touch for added emphasis while humming is begging for a Captain Video! commentary.

Ken: Better than I expected it to be. You can’t blame him for the bad ’80s production. It was, after all, the bad ’80s. It’s not something I’m going to find myself hitting the replay button on, but it’s not bad.

Zack: With the possible exception of Freddy Mercury, I don’t think I’ll ever like a song where a male singer is working in this high of a register. Peter Cetera’s mullet isn’t quite as bad as the one Popdose’s own Jeff Giles used to sport, but it’s pretty close. This song is only just over four minutes long, but it’s so tedious it felt more like sixteen.

Beau: I love the way he rhymes “fi-ya” and “hi-ya” in an attempt to emote over the incredibly bland late-80s synth piano backdrop.

Will: Schmaltzy or not, the dudeÁ¢€â„¢s got pipes, and he wraps them around a soaring chorus like nobodyÁ¢€â„¢s business. I love the drum explosion immediately before the chorus kicks in, tooÁ¢€¦but not as much as I love that black vest heÁ¢€â„¢s sporting!

Dunphy: Oh, here we go. For everyone who has the nerve, the audacity, the brass cajones to insinuate that solo Cetera is just one lame rewrite after another of the same damn song, I say… ditto.

Jeff: When I interviewed Cetera, he told me this was supposed to be on the soundtrack for Big, but some kind of last-minute business stuff got in the way — this was apparently the genesis of the “fortune teller” line. Sort of a tenuous link to the movie, but hey, whatever. Even 20 years later, I’m surprised Warners didn’t do more with this album; it featured guest spots from Madonna, David Gilmour, and had most of Cetera’s best solo material. It’s the best (only?) proof that ol’ Clench Jaw Cetera was capable of more than lowest common denominator balladry. C’est la vie.

Jon: Oh, the chemicals that had to die to lacquer his hair into place! Nevertheless, this was Cetera’s last really good single, and it is really good. I’d rather watch that crazy video for Chicago’s “Stay the Night,” though, with Cetera playing mechanic and checking out the chassis on that woman with the never-seen-in-nature grille…

Robert: “No Explanation,” from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, is better. I love how some of the original members of Chicago who are still in the group are still talking trash about Cetera in the liner notes of the recent Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition disc. Get over it! He was in the band for 18 years. Clearly he paid his dues.

Beau: But he never really felt like he was part of the band. (Obligatory Steve Perry joke.)

Robert: My feeling about Cetera is that since he was in Chicago for 18 years, he had a right to go to college, so to speak, once he turned 18. He deserved his freedom. Now, once you’ve been to college and tasted freedom, you start to realize how hard it was for your parents to raise you and pay your way through your four years of financial freedom, and you start to forgive them for minor infractions that were mostly your fault anyway, you immature little bastard. Therefore you’d think that Cetera might’ve wanted to return to Chicago at some point. Then again, those guys didn’t spring him out of their womb. They didn’t raise him. They didn’t change his diapers. Lots of times band reunions happen because people want the money or a return to the spotlight, in spite of old wounds that still haven’t healed. Maybe Cetera doesn’t need the money. Or maybe he just doesn’t want it. If so, good for him. Suck it, James Pankow.

Beau: In Cetera’s defense, let’s consider the music Chicago was making around the time of Cetera’s departure. I wouldn’t hang around, either. If I’m going to do wuss-rock, I’m going to do it on my own terms so I can maintain a shred of my masculinity.

Dunphy: (In best Scooby-Doo voice) Hunnnh??

More likely he wanted to maintain a shred of the profit pie. Peter Cetera’s wuss-rock canon and masculinity aren’t necessarily a perfect fit.

Jeff: Cetera wrote or co-wrote the lion’s share of Chicago 16 and Chicago 17 — especially the hits — and he’d been a main songwriter in the band since the early days. I don’t think maintaining a piece of the profits had anything to do with his decision. Given that he was one of the only members of Chicago who was, um, “healthy” enough to write songs in the early ’80s, their wussification had everything to do with him and David Foster making a steely-eyed run for the money. And it worked — from everything I’ve heard, Cetera likely enjoys a steadier stream of mailbox money from those old Chicago albums than any of the guys who are still in the band.

Which probably has everything to do with why there hasn’t been a Cetera/Chicago reunion. He hates to tour, he was never particularly friendly with the horn section, only has one ex-wife, and he probably makes more doing nothing at all than he does when he bothers recording new music. His old bandmates have also driven the Chicago brand name into the dirt — on the rock-reunion continuum, a Cetera/Chicago tour would fall closer to the Squeeze end of the spectrum than Van Halen or the Police.

Jon: Wow, I just rolled out of bed, fired up the old computer and immediately was greeted with the quote of the day. I’m envisioning Jeff interviewing Cetera, and Cetera leaning in conspiratorially and saying, almost under his breath, “You know, Jeff, I was never particularly friendly with the horn section.”

No matter how the members of Chicago have sullied their own good name, they seem to perform in the only place it counts–the box office. I’m guessing Jeff is right to say a Cetera/Chicago reunion wouldn’t have too much cultural impact, but that’s partly because Chicago can still (however inexplicably) sell out an amphitheater without him. How much better could they do with him?

Darren: I dunno…lately they’ve only managed to do so when linked with some other band that’s driven their good name into the dirt.

**cough** beach boys **cough**

Talk about an evening of songs you really, REALLY don’t ever need to hear again, performed with all the painted-on enthusiasm of a Branson, MO lounge act.

Cetera probably cackles with a glee few of us will ever know whenever one of the guys still in Chicago (and thus still sharing the cash with, like, fifteen other dudes — and that’s just counting the other band members) lays into him.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
R&B/Hip-Hop: Boyz II Men, “End of the Road” (1992)

Dunphy: Omnipresence. You couldn’t take a whiz in a Japanese hibachi restaurant without hearing this song. It created the mold by which every latter Boyz song would follow — the harmony, of course, the classic R&B tempo, and that insipid begging monologue in the bridge! Please, baby, please! I’m so sorry. You caught me again. But I swear, I swear, on my Uncle Dave’s grave, you know Uncle Dave, the one with the you know who liked to you know with the He/Shes, if you take me back, just take me back, I promise with all my heart and soul, I won’t violate the pastries in your kitchen anymore. Not even the Hostess Doughnettes… But maybe the Ding-Dongs…

Jon: Bleh. How is is possible that, by the time their hits dried up, Boyz II Men were responsible for three of the five biggest singles of all time — including this one? At least this is better than the others. I completely blame Boyz II Men for the death of melody and the rise of melismania in R&B music. I can’t bear to listen to anything of theirs after “Motownphilly”; everything else is excruciating, starting with “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday (When Your Voice Extends Every Syllable Over 10 Notes).”

Zack: Like most sequels, this one isn’t quite up to the standard of the original. Michael McCary’s spoken word section in the bridge provides an eloquent reminder of what happens when you trust a big butt and a smile, but overall I’m thoroughly unimpressed by this song.

Will: This is a nice enough song, and you canÁ¢€â„¢t deny their solid harmonies, but I find it absolutely inexplicable that it was as huge a hit as it was.

David: That spoken word bit came on, and all I could think of was “Dick in a Box.”

Jeff: Speaking as someone who was in his senior year of high school in 1992, please allow me to say, with great volume and bitterness: Fuck this song. Fuck this song, fuck “I Will Always Love You,” and especially fuck “Save the Best for Last.” Worst prom year ever.

Jon: I’m with you on all these except the last one. When you say “fuck ‘Save the Best for Last,’ I think of Vanessa in that video and I’m ready to take you up on it. She was hot; too bad she’s now Cruella de Ville…

Zack: You watch Ugly Betty? Fag. (Hey, do you think Betty is going to go with Gino or stick with Henry?)

John: During chilly evenings (that means when it dips into the 50s here), the boyfriend will grab the fur throw on the couch and wrap it around his head and shoulders — we both then immediately start singing “Save the Best for Last” and laugh and laugh and laugh …

Good times. It helps if you’ve seen the video. And if you know that my boyfriend is basically Wilhemina minus the conscience.

Ken: I have always been a huge fan of this song. Boyz II Men may have been the last in the long line of great vocal groups. The lead vocals harmonies are beautifully done. It’s a heartbreaker, and it’s one I certainly have and will continue to hit the play button on. This is the song that found the Boyz their rightful place in the pantheon with groups like the Chi-Lites and the Delfonics.

Robert: Ken, you’re very kind to compare these guys to the Chi-Lites and Delfonics. I’m more on Jon’s side Á¢€” “Motownphilly” was fun, and then it was just one overheated ballad after another. I was shocked when I found out in ’99 that Boyz II Men’s duet with Mariah Carey, “One Sweet Day,” was #1 for something like 16 weeks at the tail end of ’95. I know a lot of songs stayed at #1 for ten weeks or more in the ’90s thanks to the craziness of SoundScan rankings, but I missed “One Sweet Day” completely in the fall of ’95. You’d think a song that big would’ve appeared on my radar at some point, even if I was a college student at the time who wasn’t listening to that much new music on the radio, but it never did.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Hot 100: REO Speedwagon, “Keep On Loving You” (1981)

Zack: Wow, the last two entries on Chartburn this week are remarkably tolerant towards infidelity. There’s some weird part of me that likes REO Speedwagon’s music, even though I know I’m not supposed to.

Will: I miss the days when videos were bookended by dramatic storylines. You gotta love Kevin CroninÁ¢€â„¢s acting when he delivers the line, Á¢€Å“Á¢€¦but sheÁ¢€â„¢s so beautifulÁ¢€¦Á¢€ IÁ¢€â„¢d never claim that the guy has one of the manliest voices in rock Á¢€ËœnÁ¢€â„¢ roll, but this is a stone-cold AOR classic, and I can think of no occasion when IÁ¢€â„¢ve ever turned the dial when itÁ¢€â„¢s come on.

Beau: At the time, I probably would have run screaming from the room rather than hear this song one more time, and I still think the guitar solo is crap. But you have to give the song its due. If truly memorable ballads were easy, Boyz II Men would’ve recorded one.

Robert: The Lemonheads did a B-side cover of “Keep On Lovin’ You” in ’96, and Evan Dando was asked in an interview for Athens, Georgia’s Flagpole alt-weekly if his version was meant to be ironic. He said it wasn’t Á¢€” he bought Hi Infidelity in eighth grade like everyone else, and he wished rock stars would act like rock stars onstage again the way, say, REO Speedwagon and Kiss did, instead of shyly saying “thanks” after finishing a song and then quietly starting the next one. Dando does add some toking noises (sorry if my pot lingo is out of date Á¢€” I’m a square) to the Lemonheads’ version of “Keep On,” but otherwise he sounds sincere in his delivery. And he does have a much better voice than Kevin Cronin.

Beau: Reminds me of another Athens-related irony question — R.E.M. covering Lou Gramm’s “Midnight Blue” in concert. Weird.

Cronin’s delivery is fine for what it is, but if you put this song in the hands of a truly gifted ballad singer, you’d have something special. Not sure why the first name that sprang to my mind was Joe Cocker.

Jon: I’m sorry, but R.E.M. covering “Midnight Blue” wasn’t weird, it was validation. “Midnight Blue” is an awesome, awesome song — one of the last great pre-grunge “corporate rock” hits. Haven’t we had this conversation somewhere before?

Robert: Yes.

David: When I was a sophomore, I had study hall for my last class, and we could leave early. I would get a ride home from this senior girl. On one of her notebooks she wrote the words, “When I said that I loved you, I meant that I loved you forever.” We’re too cynical to admit it now, but that was powerful stuff to a teenager in love. Kevin Cronin wasn’t just a singer; he was a philosopher, dude. Still, thank goodness Gary Richrath was there to kick him in the nuts when it came time to do the solo.

Ken: What can I say? It’s an ’80s arena classic. Let the fist-pumping and arm-waving begin. And while we’re at it, let’s admit how great some of those Journey songs were.

Dunphy: Ken, it’s like I don’t know who you are anymore!

I can only handle two REO songs, “Take It On The Run” and this one, but just barely. Kevin Cronin’s pathological abuse of the “R” sound is still a big, big thorn. “Still I don’t remem-berrrrrrrah'” and “And we’re still ta-getherrrrrrrrah” can irritate after all these years, but in the grand scheme of AOR, I’ve heard worse. In the REO scheme I’ve heard much, much worse.

In tangentially related news, Cronin recently wound up on Fox’s “Don’t Forget The Lyrics” program. My only comment is that after a certain age, men who have their hair frosted are just begging for a prostate exam.

Ken: Did you ever stop to consider the tragedy of being a ’60s leftover in a room full of ’80s kids?

Jeff: One of the great ongoing debates in my marriage is over whether Kevin Cronin is “cute” (my wife’s position) or whether he “looks like he was built out of leftover Muppet parts” (my position). Cronin is one of the most annoying vocalists in the history of rock & roll, for exactly the reason Dunphy mentioned. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him. Also: I’d like Michael to test out whether or not it’s possible to play the guitar solo with eight fingers, because I suspect Gary Richrath had both of his middle digits extended in Cronin’s direction when he recorded it.

Jon: Dude, haven’t I made this clear? Cronin lives in my ‘hood; our kids will be in school together next year. When I rope him into an inevitable Popdose interview, I’m going to quote your whole “sewn together from Muppet corpses” line, and I’m gonna send him to your house to sing “Can’t Fight This Feeling” to your wife — and give you a great big kiss.

Dunphy: Go for it. Someone has to tell him the frosted tips make him look like an old idiot.

Michael: Because I am apparently Jeff’s guitar monkey, I tried playing the solo eight-fingered.

It’s possible, but tricky. Next time Jason and I get together, I’ll try and videoptape it.

Jon: Look, how many of you haters were actually 15 and living in the heartland when this song came out? Well, I was, and it was written into the contract that I had to leave the house immediately upon hearing “Keep on Loving You,” head for the record store and buy a copy of Hi Infidelity. (How do you think that album stayed at #1 for 15 weeks? We were programmed, man.) I was happy to do it, too. It rocked — rocked, you hear me? — until a couple years later, when I discovered that it really, really didn’t.

Loverboy opened for them on tour that spring, if I remember correctly. Yeah, I was there. I was still there for the Good Trouble tour, too, I’m now embarrassed to say…

David: You just reminded me of my favorite line in The Commitments: “You were the first one into Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and the first one to realize they were shite.”

Dunphy: Loverboy opened for them that spring? Didn’t that tell you something?

Jon: At that moment, Loverboy had exactly one single, the pretty-awesome “Turn Me Loose,” and anyone (like me) without MTV hadn’t yet seen the dreaded Mike Reno bandana.

Not that I didn’t go see Loverboy again the next year, by which time I was 16 and definitely should have known better…a pre-“Cuts Like a Knife” Bryan Adams opened that show…

I’m just digging myself in deeper, aren’t I? Dammit!

David: I love Get Lucky, so if you’re digging yourself in deeper, I’m right there in the trench with you. Unless you admit to liking “Loving Every Minute of It,” at which point I shoot you in the back and make up some story about “friendly fire.”

Jon: I wouldn’t claim any admiration for “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” but I am partial to “Hot Girls in Love.”

Dunphy: Christ Almighty, next you’re gonna get all weepy at the mention of “Almost Paradise.”

Jon: Don’t be ridiculous. I’d rather listen to Cetera and Cher sing “After All.”

As long as we’re circling back around to other “artists” involved in this column, when I defended “Save the Best for Last” I should have noted that one of the characters on Ugly Betty discovered just before the strike that her father is…Gene Simmons.

Dunphy: Finally! A plot every human being born after 1975 can relate to!

Jeff: I owned “Too Hot” on cassingle.

What’s that, you say? You’ve never heard (or heard of) “Too Hot”? Why, it was the special bonus track on Loverboy’s first best-of, 1989’s Big Ones (even if you’ve never seen the album artwork, you have a pretty good idea what it looked like).

I also owned Wildside on CD at one point — that was the one with the godawful “Notorious” on it — and even though I’m positive I didn’t pay for it, I think that still puts me down deeper in this hole you two are digging.

Robert: Someone put a vinyl copy of Big Ones in the “Free CDs” bin at work two weeks ago. I was shocked — obviously it belonged in the “Free LPs” bin.

Beau: A friend told me he saw Loverboy open for ZZ Top once. It didn’t go well. While Reno cavorted about how he “gotta do it my way,” the crowd started chanting, “Z-Z TOP! Z-Z TOP!”

What really bugged me about those early Loverboy videos was the freeze-framing on the drummer. (Top of my head, I think the spelling is Matt Frenette.) It’s even worse than the Cinderella video where we see the look of determination on the keyboardist’s face when he … changes notes.

I think Reno has redeemed himself in middle age with his sense of humor. He told one of the VH1 retro shows that he still wears red leather pants, same size. Except they’re 36×32 instead of 32×36. You and me both, Mr. Nevada.