Friday, March 20, 2009

Milam's March Madness, Round 2 (West and International)

Welcome back to Milam's March Madness!

We've already cut the field down to 32 in our quest to find the Greatest Band on Earth. To catch up, click on the "Milam's March Madness" label to the right and see the full 64-band field, and the results from the first two rounds.

Let's keep it going with the rest of Round 2!

(***NOTE that the iMeem player to the right has a playlist for the Round 2 matchups. It will be updated daily with all the bands from each region.)

West Region

1) Green Day vs. 9) The Hives
Battle: Tough draw for The Hives. They can out-muscle, out-hustle, and out-pop practically any band on the planet...except Green Day. Here's the breakdown:
Green Day: We can bring three-chords and a cloud of dusk punk to the table.
Hives: So can we.
GD: We can bring irresistible pop hits to the table.
Hives: We can bring one and a half of those.
GD: We can bring a fifteen-year track record of enormous success to the table.
Hives: We don't have that, no.
GD: We can bring the best rock album of the decade to the table.
Hives: Where did you get those shoes???
Winner: Green Day

4) Counting Crows vs. 5) Maroon 5
Battle: Remember when I lambasted the Counting Crows for trying to take their music in a new direction and failing miserably? Remember when I did the same to Coldplay? So, on paper, wouldn't an unabashed Top 40 dance-pop band like Maroon 5 get kudos for playing to their strengths, finding a winning formula, and prolonging their success? Yes, they do. I've never been a Maroon 5 fan, but I've always given them credit. They know who they are, they know what they do well, and they deserve success. And while it would be brutal to watch them pull a Coldplay and, you know, try to be Important, the fact remains that they aren't important. They actively try not to matter. And, once upon a time, the Counting Crows did. And, once upon a time, the Counting Crows were great. They mattered so much, and were so great, in fact, that I'm letting the most recent indiscretion slide. This is me, wagging my finger, giving them a stern warning. Look at me, Adam! You sit in timeout and you think about what you've done.
Winner: Counting Crows

3) Weezer vs. 6) Jet
Battle: The battle here is between the aesthetic fun of both bands and what's really going on beneath the distortion and powerchords and derivitave hooks. While Jet never wanted, purported, or tried to be anything but AC/DC's nephew, Weezer set out to subvert the power-rock genre with equal doses sincerity, humor, and irony. Years ago, they largely reshaped American pop by perfecting this "ironirock" voice. Lately, they've added so many layers of goofiness, irony, and ostensible carelessness that they seem--and sound--suffocated by it. Maybe all that remains are fun pop songs, and maybe that's enough.
Winner: Weezer

2) Foo Fighters vs. 10) Band of Horses
Battle: I wrote recently about how very worthwhile, interesting bands like Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes occupy a niche market. They matter a great deal to a percentage of the population, but don't seek conventional "mainstream" success, Top 40 hits, etc. Well, Foo Fighters do. And, what's worse, they're savvier artists than Band of Horses. And one of the best live bands on the planet. So, if the rubric of this tournament is ultimately, "who's doing the most," it's time to tell Band of Horses about the lovely parting gifts.
Winner: Foo Fighters

Sweet 16 Matchups (ON TUESDAY):
1) Green Day
4) Counting Crows

3) Weezer
2) Foo Fighters

--There is a chance--an incredibly small chance--that the selection committee will pick Counting Crows for the upset against Green Day. And when I say "selection committee," I mean "me." And when I say "chance," I mean "probably no chance." You never know.
--Let's just call Weezer vs. Foo battle what it really is: the soundtrack to every middle school relationship I ever had. I don't know what's going to happen between these two, but I do know this: I'll end up wearing Adidas and vandalizing somebody's house.

International Region

1) Radiohead vs. 9) Belle and Sebastian
Battle: In High Fidelity, John Cusack enjoys B&S when he "just wants something he can ignore." And while B&S is best when they're not ignored, the point is that they're easy to ignore. You need to find them, you need to hear them, you need to listen to them, and you probably need to turn the volume down in the rest of your life for them to come through. Radiohead has never been easy to ignore. From "Stop Whispering" to "Paranoid Android" to "Idioteque," they're impossible to ignore.
Winner: Radiohead

4) The Strokes vs. 12) The Raconteurs
Battle: There's no question that The Strokes are the bigger band. They've had more commercial success, they've had more relative hits, they're the bigger draw at Ticketmaster, etc. It's tempting to call The Strokes the bigger band, but the Rac's the better band, but The Raconteurs have always sounded like a side project to me. That's not to say they aren't fantastic, or exciting, but most great bands benefit from the power of artistic focus. Addition by subtraction. For example, Jack White hones down the White Stripes' sound and makes more come out of it. Everything becomes more expressive, more cohesive, and more dynamic because of its initial stylistic "limits." The Raconteurs, song to song, have no limits. Their records sound like a bunch of ideas that Benson and White didn't think "matched" their other projects. This can be great, because they're top-flight songwriters, and they make unpredictable, irrepressible records. But The Strokes are the bigger--and better--band because of what they've chosen not to be. Bigger--and better--bands do more with less.
Winner: The Strokes

3) Coldplay vs. 6) Franz Ferdinand
Battle: If I found anything meaningful in Viva La Ricky Martin, this battle would go to Coldplay easily. Coldplay is arguably the biggest band on the planet--certainly Top 5--so any amount of artistic accomplishment would put them on the fast track to the Final Four. Two problems:
1) Their artistic accomplishments thus far have been incidental, and not recent.
2) Franz Ferdinand's most recent record is stellar. It's been a commercial success, and it's been a critical success. To boot, their last record was a breakout smash, and one of the strongest of its year. If we're looking for bands that "strike the best balance between pop appeal and great artistry," and I don't really believe Coldplay have found greatness as artists yet, how can they be the pick?
Winner: Franz Ferdinand

2) The White Stripes vs. 10) Against Me!
Battle: According to punk purists, Against Me! might just be the best punk band on the planet. They've found a way to give punk a freshly political voice without alienating its audience or its aesthetics. They're admirable, and enjoyable, and it's relieving to know bands like them are still out there. But the White Stripes are on a different level. If you argued that their stretch from White Blood Cells to Icky Thump is as good a four-disc run as any contemporary band has had, I wouldn't fight it. Much.
Winner: The White Stripes

Sweet 16 Matchups (ON TUESDAY):
1) Radiohead
4) The Strokes

6) Franz Ferdinand
2) The White Stripes

--A few 6-seeds have advanced. Maybe there are more upsets on the horizon? Or...are there?? To Be Continued???
--I would pay $95 to be in the same greenroom as The Strokes and Radiohead. Does Thom Yorke, disgusted by the groupie escapades and beverage spills and "loud noises" actually put up a partition in the middle of the room? Is it made of keyboards duct-taped together? Does it work? And what's on the Radiohead side? Do they request anything for their backstage area? A calculator and some Earl Grey? I'm brimming with questions.
--Franz Ferdinand vs. White Stripes will be an interesting battle for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most to answer the lingering question, "who sings in a less-coherent form of English?"


Agree? Disagree? Hit up the comments and join the debate!

The Sweet 16 starts on Monday...


Todd said...

New FFL Team Name: Earl Grey & Calculators

Chris Milam said...


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