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by Seamus Gallivan


AVRIL LAVIGNE 

Under My Skin

Isn’t it so cool that you can be punk and pop at the same time nowadays? Take Avril Lavigne. She’s got everything a pop starlet needs - pretty smile, hot body, and agood enough voice - heartthrob city. But all it takes is a little tweaking - give her a tank top and a tie, she gives you the finger, and bam! She’s punk! Oh, how can you spit on her, Patti Smith? She’s so adorable!

                Lavigne aggressively takes on some of teen life’s great dilemmas in her sophomore effort Under My Skin, such as why boys are mean, why parents are lame, and why society sucks. There’s not much wisdom here, but wisdom is for losers! When you’re nineteen and hot to trot, who needs substance? The lyrics and melodies are so much fun so sing along to that you totally forget that this has all been done a million times before. In “How Does It Feel,” when she repeats ad nauseam, “How does it feel to be/Different from me,” it really makes you sit back and think, “wow, I am different from Avril Lavigne. That’s crazy!” Try chewing on the opening line of the roaring “He Wasn’t” - “There’s not much going on today/I’m really bored.” I smell a songwriting Grammy!

                Lavigne is every man’s dream girl - we all want a smartass chick to go skateboarding and blow snot rockets with, as long as she shaves. We’ll recommend any of her albums as long as there’s lots of cutesy punk pictures in the liner notes that we can hang on our wall. She’s the greatest!


VON BONDIES

Pawn Shoppe Heart

                Coming in at a combined weight of about 385 pounds, Detroit-based co-ed quartet the Von Bondies are an emaciated enigma - are they heroin addicts? Vegans, maybe? Or are they on a hunger strike until someone takes them seriously? Who knows, but they know how to make sneering, glamorous press shots that make them look too cool for school, and these days that gets you in the studio door. They came out with Pawn Shoppe Heart, stamping them firmly at the forefront of modern suicidal glam rock.

                Just listen to scathing tracks like “Broken Man” or “Crawl Through the Darkness,” and you’ll get the gist. Lead singer Jason Stollsteimer has a wonderful knack for sucking the happiness out of a tune - hopeless depression hasn’t been this cool since Nirvana’s “In Utero!” And those lovelyladies, guitarist Marcie Bell and bassist Carrie Smith - so lost, so lifeless, so luscious! As I watched them tear through an opening set for the Cramps at the Sphere last May, I wondered, had they recently lost a close relative? Did the bus break down? Did they just have their wisdom teeth removed? Their relentless dedication to vapidity was so chic, it made me want to forget how to smile, too.

                The Von Bondies are poised to reach the top - the question is, will they make it before one or more of the members either ODs, commits suicide, or gets beaten to death by Jack White? Oh, who are we kidding, that’ll only make ‘em even bigger! The Von Bondies are the greatest!


Jessica Simpson

In this skin

Very rarely - once in a generation, maybe - a singer comes along and floors the music world with breathtaking soul and beauty. In our time, no one has captivated an audience like Jessica Simpson. For some, yes, it’s the boobs, but for us it’s so much more. Her latest release, In This Skin, is a whirlwind of ethereal yet heavy ballads delivered with the power and grace that only this queen of all divas can muster. This is the album Carole King’s Tapestry wished it were.

                But please, you say, don’t we already have enough mushy love songs? Well listen to these lyrics to find what pushes Simpson to the top - “I’m so happy that I found you/I just wanna break down and cry and laugh and hug and kiss.” Truly timeless - consider the envelope pushed. And though you may find it hard to believe, not long ago I said to myself, “what we need in music is for someone to release a note-for-note cover of “Take My Breath Away,” because I really haven’t heard that song enough.” Thanks, Jessica, I knew you’d come through.     

                We talk a tough game here, but all we really want is a God-fearing girl next door whose limited intelligence will never challenge us. Though it pains us to know she’s taken by that hunky crooner Nick Lachey, we thank him for the inspiration he gives her, not to mention their wonderful duets. We’ve instead focused our fan mail on her younger sister, who’s apparently looking for a break. As of this pressing, we sit patiently awaiting the arrival of the younger Ms. Simpson’s press kit, with eager hopes that she’s half as hot and twice as stupid.


William Hung

Inspiration 

We have so much to thank American Idol for. The first two seasons gave us winners Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard, who are well on their way to superstardom, while their bridesmaids, Justin Guarini and Clay Aiken, not only have their own hit albums, but have also become prominent gays rights spokesmen, and are rumored to be honeymooning in Cape Cod after getting hitched in Boston. But the third season is when things got crazy. Not only did the plight of East Amherst’s own 16 year-old geriatric crooner John Stevens become more important to Buffalonians than some silly war in Iraq, but the explosion of the ultimate idol, William Hung, has been mind-boggling.

                First, there was his show-stopping take on Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” The judges’ curious decision not to allow Hung passage into the next round has baffled many, but the diminutive UC-Berkeley student with mammoth lungs and dazzling dance moves got the last laugh, as he was signed by industry giant Koch Records and rushed into the studio in attempt to re-capture the magic. The result is the epic Inspiration, an earth-shattering collection of timeless classics that Hung absolutely grasps as his own, putting original artists such as Elton John (“Rocket Man” and more) and the Eagles (“Hotel California”) to shame, and sending frantic talent scouts to karaoke bars nationwide with contracts in hand.

                They can sign every hack from every dive they find, but there’s only one Hung, and this is way more than just a sing-along - this is perhaps the greatest concept album of the last thirty years. With four segments of motivational spoken word throughout, the album takes on its own life, and becomes an affirmation. “Inspiration” indeed - eat your heart out Dark Side of the Moon, this one actually makes sense.


Kenny Chesney

When the Sun Goes Down

There’s nothing better than not caring about nothin’, but that sentiment has many faces in music. Forget the “I hate everyone” or “my walls are closing in” kinds, I’m talkin’ ‘bout that six-pack, pick-up, watch-the-day-go-by mindset that Kenny Chesney’s got down. What’s so great about Chesney is that he takes advantage of clever videography to be badass in one turn and a softy in the next, meaning his concert crowds must be split between beer-guzzlin’ rednecks and screaming teenyboppers, and what two groups of people would you rather be able to exploit than them?

                “When the Sun Goes Down” makes clear that Chesney wishes he were Jimmy Buffett, and while we all know that’s a bit much to aspire to, we can’t blame him for trying. So he’s lost his cares, he’s got his beers, he’s on the beach, he’s got the girls, but he’s still not as cool as Buffett, so what can he do? Get Uncle Kracker to help out! Bingo, #1 hit! Not since the days of Wang Chung have we been given a better party anthem, and though it’s true that Kracker can only sing in one key, and poorly at that, his mesh hat and overweight heartthrob status easily make up for it.

                We haven’t even listened to the rest of the album because the party hasn’t stopped since we put that song on repeat, but we hear it’s all pretty good.




 

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