Don’t look back in anger
AUDIOSYNCRASY - Igan D’Bayan () - December 30, 2005 - 12:00am
It is a mental riot for me to look back on 2005. On some days, I felt like a character in Waiting for Godot or Groundhog Day: nothing really essential ever happens, so why get out of bed at all? On some days, it felt as if an asteroid or the Whore of Babylon were going to hurl itself from the sky and kill everyone on the planet – and only Bruce Willis can save us. Some days were hits; some days were misses. Life… music… art… can anybody tell the difference?

We listened to wistful songs by Hale and Cueshe, and gagged wistfully (believe me, it can be done). We watched humdrum reality shows. (If I wanted to see nobodies doing nothing all day, I would just examine my own life). We watched actors hamming it up in bird suits. We went bananas over a giant ape (the embattled COMELEC commissioner, not King Kong). We were broke the whole year, but we managed to have a good time. We rocked with Imago, Urbandub, Radioactive Sago, The Dawn, and NU 107. And we rolled with the punches.

One of my influences as a writer, rock n’ roll journalist Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide in February at the age of 67. Thompson didn’t just write articles for newspapers and magazines like Rolling Stone and Playboy, or fiction and non-fiction (in alcoholic tomes such as Hell’s Angels, The Rum Diary, Kingdom of Fear, and his masterpiece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), he created a mind-set. The term "gonzo journalism," associated mainly with the maverick author, is a "style of writing as well as an attitude." In gonzo, subjectivity is king. The first draft is usually the best draft. And the journalist flashes the dirty finger to objectivity, boring sobriety, and anonymous journalism.

Thompson jousted against Richard Nixon, bats in Barstow, lizards in Las Vegas lounges, hallucinatory enemies, and the assorted undertakers of mediocrity. But he couldn’t deal with his own ghosts, so shoot himself he did. What a gray day that was.

In music, there were untimely exits as well. Derek Bailey, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Luther Vandross, among others. The members of pop punk group Blink 182 announced they would take an "indefinite hiatus." I don’t think punks held their collective breaths. Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch left Korn when he became a Born-Again Christian. Jonathan Davis and the rest of the band just shrugged off the guitarist’s departure (although they would obviously miss his monstrous riffing). Score one for Jesus.

Just before the original members of Pink Floyd reunite in Live 8 and make hell freeze over and pigs fly over the skies of London, legendary rock group Cream (composed of guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker) plays a couple of dates at the Royal Albert Hall. I managed to get hold of the DVD and came to the conclusion that those geezers could still play. The band smokes in classics like White Room, Sunshine Of Your Love, and Badge. Slowhand was on fire. Jack Bruce grooved and soloed. And nobody could keep time like Ginger Baker, dentures and all.

Audioslave became the first American rock group to perform in Cuba. The band (one-fourth Soundgarden, three-fourths Rage Against the Machine), performed Cochise, Like A Stone, songs from the new album "Out of Exile" like Be Yourself, as well as tracks by Rage and Chris Cornell’s old band.

It was great to see Cornell sing Black Hole Sun (accompanying himself with an acoustic guitar). His voice has transformed from the Robert Plant squeals of yore (in albums like "Ultramega OK" and "Loud Love") to a soulfully raspy baritone (from the "Temple of the Dog" record to the present). Great to see Audioslave do a cover of Spoonman (although I miss Matt Cameron’s syncopated drumming). It doesn’t quite work when the band does Rage covers. Imagine a Zack-less Sleep Now In The Fire. Hopefully, Audioslave will explore more epic tunes (a la Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter or Kashmir).

Another saga in the weird world of Michael Jackson: he was acquitted of the child molestation charge. Must have been the lucky pajamas he wore to a hearing.

The members of Destiny’s Child (Beyoncé and the other two) announced they would be disbanding upon completion of their world tour. Several months later, they "reunited" in Oprah’s show.

Billy Corgan comes out with a solo album "The Future Embrace." No one gave a rat’s ass.

Live Aid founder Sir Bob organized Live 8 to call for more aid for Africa, debt cancellation and fairer trade laws with a slogan "Make Poverty History." The simultaneous concerts (in London, Philadelphia, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo, among other cities) aimed to raise public support, and were timed to coincide with the G8 summit of world leaders, which took place in Gleneagles in Scotland.

Paul McCartney and U2 opened with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and, boy, did we enjoy the show. A drunken Pete Doherty of The Libertines sleepwalked on stage with Elton John on a T. Rex tune. The Who did Won’t Get Fooled Again, still riveting after all these years. Neil Young did a poignant reading of Four Strong Winds with his wife.

Sir Paul closed the entire thing with a couple of Beatle tracks such as Get Back, Drive My Car (with George Michael, ugh!), Helter Skelter (a song Charles Manson stole from the Fab Four, according to Bono) and The Long and Winding Road punctuated by the "la-la-la-la" part of Hey Jude, which became a global sing-along as other artists got on the London stage to engage in cause-oriented karaoke.

Oh, yeah. Pink Floyd proved that petty bickering (legal battles over an inflatable pig) could be transcended for a worthwhile cause. Guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason, keyboardist Rick Wright and bassist Roger Waters reunited just for the Live Aid gig, playing for the first time in 24 years. The last gig they played together as Pink Floyd was in 1981. That’s ancient history – older than the parting of the Red Sea, the Last Supper, or Michael Jackson’s first plastic surgery procedure.

Some albums were hits (not just in terms of chart performance) Bright Eyes earned the "Next Bob Dylan" tag with "I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning." Tori Amos sang agelessly as always, breaking hearts and mending them again with "The Beekeeper." The Mars Volta put out a mélange of prog, punk and science fiction in "Frances the Mute." New Order made even the dead dance with "Waiting for the Sirens’ Call." So did Franz Ferdinand. Oasis revisited old glories with "Don’t Believe The Truth." Coldplay churned out more hits with "X&Y." As usual, Chris Martin praised everyone. The White Stripes stripped down and blew minds away with "Get Behind Me Satan." Paul McCartney and The Stones displayed vital signs (centuries after reinventing rock n’ roll). Sigur Ros and Elbow purveyed thinking man’s rock. And Kate Bush created music to accompany hurrying light and other aerial spectacles. She still can make listeners feel how it is to be hounded by love.

Some albums were misses. Guns N’ Roses is still missing-in-action; Rose apparently busy with beautifying himself.

Some albums were bought by Satan to be used as aural torture in the innermost circle of hell. Limp Bizkit put out a "greatest-hitz" compilation (great?) and "The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1)." The unquestionable truth is that there should be no Part 2. Jennifer Lopez bothered with another album. So did Gerri Halliwell. Shakira made even more indecipherable songs. The Backstreet Boys put out a new album (not realizing boy bands are terribly passé). Ashlee Simpson, after the lip-syncing fiasco on Saturday Night Live, has the gall to waste manpower and money by making "I Am Me." You are you and you suck.

Just when I thought Mariah Carey would forever disappear into a deranged diva rehabilitation clinic (with escalators and elevators, of course, since Mariah doesn’t "do stairs"), she hoodwinks millions into buying "The Emancipation of Mimi," one of the most successful albums of 2005. Oh yeah, she joins The Beatles and Elvis in the pantheon of artists with the most number of No. 1 singles. God have mercy on us all. The music is lackluster as always, the videos are sleazy as ever, but the Minnie Mouse of R&B music is still hot property, apparently.

Appropriately. Most of us in 2005 were like Mariah Carey: successful and screwed up at the same time.
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