Tuesday, February 1, 2005



the album is filled with their odd cold Sci-Fi Bossa Nova of the Damned that is their calling card

The Blue Nile
[Sanctuary Records]

The Eighties have garnered a worse rap than perhaps they deserved, thanks to the cocktail of VH1 and the ubiquitous and perplexing phenomenal success of “80’s Nights” at niteclubs across this fruited plain. I was in my hormonal prime during that decade, and I can confirm that, yes, they were shallow, vapid times consumed with awkward fashion and trappings of affluence.

The only saving grace the decade had was that it was followed by the lackluster ‘90s, which was just as artless a time; it just didn’t have the celebratory zeal the ‘80s did. I’m reminded of the scene in Valley Girl where a totally punked-out Nicholas Cage was extolling the virtues of the Plimsouls to his date, citing their passion, their fire. Now the Plimsouls, like many strapping lil’ bands of the day were OK, but it’s hard to imagine they would ever induce that kind of rallying, listening to them now. See, we in that pre-alternative era had to get excited about something, otherwise Mario Van Peebles would’ve lobbied congress to have the entire nation soundtracked with fat drum machines and sub-Cameo synth washes.

Punk had not really taken hold in my little high school backwater, so we retreated from the Scylla and Caribdys of Zeppelin and Skynyrd in the cold embrace of arty new wave. It was a weird form of rebellion, with our car stereos projecting the deconstructed adult contemporary of Peter Gabriel and Bryan Ferry, but it worked for us. It made us feel complex and sophisticated. The one pervasive requirement of a fad for the disaffected is that it somehow makes you feel superior than the lumpen masses, that your own Punk Rock Merit Badge is earned with your devotion.

So anyway, since we were in that pre-internet (the ‘80s were pre- a lot of things) cultural wasteland, we had to scour magazines and take whatever nibbles our lines would register. I saw a list of various stars favorite albums, and noticed with my keen eye for useless music trivia detail, that both Curt Smith of Tears For Fears and Thomas Dolby mentioned The Blue Nile’s A Walk Across The Rooftops as their favorite album back then, so that was endorsement enough for me.

We scored a copy (my clique had a somewhat collective record collection – once someone got something, everyone else got a cassette copy a month later, so the wealth could be shared whilst maintaining Who Got There First) and we were all blown away by the sheer otherworldliness of it. The Nile’s singer Paul Buchanan had the hoarse croon that was important to us for some reason, but the music was a delightful disjointed array of tin pans sounds and lonesome synth wails. Later, I learned that the record came about when Scottish synth manufacturer Linn needed a demo record featuring their LinnDrum equipment and enlisted our boys, and were to flabbergasted by the results that they started a label just to promote the record. To me, that album is one of the peaks of the New Romantic era.

Fast forward 20 years. The Blue Nile would emerge 3 more times over the stretch in even glacial integrals with yet another album that I would hope would be another dispatch from the cosmic iceberg that bore their debut, but to no avail. I thought Hats was just kinda lame – a little to Gorgio Mororder for my palate, Peace at Last had an uncomfortable level of Christianity in it for me, and it seems there was maybe another one in there that I never heard at all. So, here a week ago, I see they have yet again emerged with High, and I hoped for the best. It sounds a touch anachronistic, he still has that swallowed Sinatra delivery that I’ve moved past, but I think it still works. The ripple of beats, the quietly building synthesizer influx that threatens to submerge the whole studio by the end of the song, and Paul’s haunted sadness are all there. It doesn’t sound as immediate, as otherworldly as their debut did, but I am willing to cut them some slack. We live in an era of jump cut and disjointedness, so it’s difficult to out-scatter the contemporary scramble of life.

It opens with a piano-pulse laden “Days of our Lives” allowing the lyrics of looking back through the gauze of disappointment, brings the things I like about this band back to me. The high point for me is “Because of Toledo” where he croons about drugs and sobering up over a simple base of acoustic guitar and subliminal bass. It’s a distillation of the quiet excess of some of their other music that lets the smart melancholy shine through. The rest of the album is filled with their odd cold Sci-Fi Bossa Nova of the Damned that is their calling card, particularly “She Saw The World.” I doubt this album is going to make any converts, but if you ever donned your trench coat defiantly to your high school, this will give you a little smile. This is not the ‘80s of VH1, but that of Donnie Darko, where under all that gloss and shopping and subdivision dwelling, there beats a true and struggling heart.



My ‘lil itch gets scratched by weird albums: records that, when you try to describe them to others, garner you a puzzled glance.

10 Great Weird Albums of 2004

We all have our weaknesses. Some drop jaws for cowboys, or cheesecake, or perhaps some combination of the two. Some folks inexplicably have more than three pairs of shoes. Some get quizzically angry over grammar mistakes [Is that directed at me? - Ed.]. Hey, we are all consenting adults here. I support you being you and whatever it takes to make that happen. Me? My ‘lil itch gets scratched by weird albums: records that, when you try to describe them to others, garner you a puzzled glance. Given all that (and that my other weakness is top 10 lists. I’ll read “Top 10 Sitcoms to Fart During” if you write it), I hereby submit my favorite weird albums of 2004.

Ween – Quebec
This almost didn’t make it, in that it’s actually a pretty straight rock album for the Weeners. But, the fact that they have managed to take their (albeit less demented version of their) carnival of chops and bathroom humor to the masses and have it accepted gives me hope in this age of ever diminishing weirdness.

Xiu Xiu – Fabulous Muscles
I covered this album in greater depth here, this confounding amalgam of sounds and outburst. The marrying of the techno-esque racketscape of the music and Jamie Stewart’s painfully confessional lyrics and drama-major-on-steroids delivery makes for a deliciously singular experience.

Jandek – Live at Instal.04 Festival, Glasgow, Scotland (bootleg)
Anyone familiar with the mythos surrounding legendary Texas recluse, famous for issuing some 30 albums of the most dividing “outsider music” out there for as many years from his Houston PO Box, was shocked as I was to find that the Man That May Exist actually showed up to play an unannounced gig at a new music festival in freaking Scotland this year, backed by the unsinkable Richard Youngs on bass and Scatter’s Alexander Neilson on sympathetic drums. To all but the few of us fans, it was of less import than a bus in Liverpool running 10 minutes late, but to us true believers, it was like waking up to see the real Santa wiggling out of your chimney.

Frog Eyes – The Folded Palm
It’s refreshing to see that seed for bat shit exuberance planted by Antonin Artaud and the other crazy French poets from the ass-end of the last millennium is still managing convulsively bloom in the form of Canada’s Frog Eyes. The salivating dog that is singer Carey Mercer matched with the frenetic drive of the band, seeming to work together more on this one than in past onslaughts, make Mr. Frog Eyes’ wild ride the best in the park. This album will open your sinuses if you let it.

Black Dice – Creature Comforts
Once nihilistic agents of hardcore racket and self-destruction, the Brooklyn collective was somehow embraced by the Arts community and transformed into one of the truly unique sounding groups in operation. There is an undercurrent of Martin Denny’s exotica babbling through the jungle of electrical noise and disrupted rhythms. When the aliens land, they will head to the nearest indie record store and buy this since the special Mars-only release with bonus tracks is hopelessly out of print on their world.

Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender
This delightful tiptoe through the tulips somehow made it to the top of the buzz heap this year. And surprisingly, for a good reason this time. Newsom’s curly-girly voice dispelling her nautilus of verbiage matched with the deft twinkling and strum of a harp, of all things, is fresh and beautiful and delightful. Do believe the hype in this case.

William Shatner – Has Been
Now this was a shocker. We all know about his me-fest from the 60’s The Transformed Man with Dr. Demento fare like "Mr. Tambourine Man". When I saw this on the shelf, cover projecting the Shat with his head in his hands, I had the same reaction. Then I actually listened to it, at the urging of friends, and am delighted to report that this is one of the most captivating and effective bizarre vanity projects since Crispin Glover’s Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be from 1989. It’s collection of recitations, mostly of his own concoction (noteable exception being the cover of Pulp’s “Common People”, over brilliantly effective accompaniment by Ben Folds. It touches on fame, death, particularly the death of his wife from drowning, life and being a bad parent. You won’t believe me until you hear it, but William Shatner hits you with a photon torpedo of love from which you will not soon recover.

Ellen Fullman & Konrad Springer – Ort
Ellen Fullman is famous in art-music circles for the invention and playing thereof of her Long String Instrument, which is exactly what it sounds like, a 90-some-odd foot contraption of a hundred strings that seem to use the universe as its resonator when played, resembling what like God’s sitar might sound like. Her previous albums have consisted of textured drones and rasps from this wondrous thing, but somehow she got it into her head to use this thing in collaboration with German instrument maker, Konrad Springer to record some songs, like the folk standard “I Ain’t Got No Home.” What possessed her to take this path, I don’t know, but it is a cool record, opening with the VU-like rumble of “Glistening Glass” – one of my favorite songs this year.

Sunn O))) – White 2
Death metal is something I like in concept but rarely in execution. The druidic masters of the punctautionally convoluted collective Sunn O))) have managed to distill the elixir of D&D imagery, bass waves from the pits of Hades and the ambience of malevolence that forms your workaday death metal, stripped out all but the essential percussion and produced a frothy broth of weirdly satisfying ambient unease. This HighArt-sactioned method (championed by my favorite high brow music tome The Wire) presents truly unique results, a lovechild of the sterility of pocket-protector ambient music and the loamy belch of metal. Honestly, its not something I return to a lot, but it manages to create its own weird apocalypse when I do.

Keiji Haino – Black Blues
Extreme Japanese guitar experimenter Keiji Haino unearthed this double CD, both containing the same brace of loose interpretations of blues songs. The catch is: one is an acoustic disk, with his odd haunting voice slooooooooowly intoning these songs accompanied by a feather-light glancing on the strings, the other disk an exuberantly abrasive thicket of electric guitar racket. There are no overdubs, no other performers, just the cartoonish sunglasses-clad Haino exacting the extremes of the Blues idiom. Personally, the acoustic album sits better with me in that I don’t have the taste for Noise I once had, and in that it feels as if it’s being sung and played by a ghost.


CD Review: Iron & Wine – Woman King

I was waiting for the perfect opportunity to arise to extol the virtues of one of my favorite styles of music, the EP. Originally an extended play single, it rose to prominence in the 80’s so that the dance floor market could be breached with your otherwise not-so-dancey song, transformed by the magic of the Remix (generally entailing playing the song and then before the last verse, inserting some drum machine and synth washes elongating your thing in a matter that the girls can hit the floor, purse hanging from their elbow, cigarette in the other hand, and do the Eighties Sway.)

Fortunately, in the alternative music era that was the bastard step child of the college bong and disco, the postmodern filter was applied to this sub-par form and transformed it into a laboratory, where artists could make a mini-album, try things out without committing to a full turn of the ocean liner. Pavement was probably the band that really ran with this concept, making their 10,000 EP’s just as interesting and whole as their albums were. Now, in the era of holistic commodity, an artist need not throw out their banjo and glockenspiel experiments, since the welcome arms of the EP were willing to accept it.

Iron & Wine (essentially Miami’s Sam Beam, whisper-voiced folk mystic that invited himself into the collapsing castle of Sub Pop and released some of the absolutely best music of the past 5 years) has taken this tack on their recent EP Woman King. The hypothesis worked out on this one is: What happens if we augment the haunted pond of Beam’s guitar work and hushed voice with this strange beast called “percussion?” The results are a raging success. His majestic songs still retain the folk/blues riverrun of his previous work but glow and flow with greater vigor. The title track opens with the blatant juggle of sticks of some kind, mixed with the sounds of knives being sharpened, making his spooky ghost of a songcraft even spookier. “Jezebel,” which has been floating around for a while is given a Townes Van Zandt gravitas with its slow harpsichord pulse and second warm guitar. “Grey Gardens” makes excellent use of tambourine and ambient guitar, and the crown winner on the thing “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven” is a positively joyous romp with its biblical imagery and slide guitar and stomping drums. “In My Lady’s House” has a fantastic groove to it giving way to a daydreaming piano and the final “Evening on the Ground (Lilith’s Song)” invades you like the swarm of insects at the end of “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Pretentious reference on my part, to be sure, but I think it’s apt here. Iron & Wine, with its still slight components compared to say, Hoobastank, casts into the wind the finest songs in an original voice.

I was afraid the move he made from the four-track to the studio with last year’s ridiculously good Our Endless Numbered Days might open up a can of Losing Focus On What Makes You Good, but it is clear that he could go all Bjork on our asses and employ a band consisting of bugle and sewing machine, and it would still be the best thing out there.


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds –
The Lyre of Orpheus/Abattoir Blues

What to do when you are an elder statesman in a community that reveres your continued commitment to the cause, but in reality favors the young? Do you try to “hang,” throwing in an awkward sampling of your misconstrued take on youth culture into your presence, creating deafening silences amongst your audience when you exhibit them? Do you wallow in you decrepit establishment, relying on mere reputation as Once Being Cool to propel you along? It worked for Elvis in his later years, sorta, but he, like all other that fall into this trap becoming living cartoon versions of themselves, relying on the animation skills of others to keep you moving. The nobler path is to rally your resources, milk the cow of your public acceptance, and become a Pop singer. And I don’t mean like Britney Spears or Usher, I’m talking the old school “Pop” section of the record store where Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and Tim Buckley lie, a garden of perversity masquerading as lush topiary (ever listen to the actual lyrics to Tom Jones’ “Delilah?”) True, it may not be the most rock-n-roll way to go out, but really, you can only be in Van Halen for so long until you are doomed to become merely David Lee Roth. You might as well make the most of it.

Former punk rock poster boy Nick Cave has wedged nicely into this category of Pop Singer with his latest double LP The Lyre of Orpheus/Abattoir Blues. It is packaged as two separate albums, but really it is more of a large scale Special Performance (remember those? Used to be your couldn’t swing a dead cat at your TV with out hitting “Bob Hope In Hawaii” or something like that) running the wide range of Nick Cave’s songwriting niches. It opens (if you start on the Lyre side) with the title track that harkens back to the carnival-in-hell theatrics of the mid to late 80’s. Man, I used to love this shit, but somewhere after numerous variations of this kind of lurching macabre-ity from him and many others, I discovered the circus is boring. Still Nick can bring the goods as well as they can still be brought, but two back slides to this style (Abattoir’s “Hiding All Away” is the other) are the weaker points in this smorgasbord. The high points for me are the autumnal ballad “Breathless” (infested with a beautiful swarm of flautists), the overblown Neil Diamond storm burst of “Supernaturally” and the exquisitely contents-under-pressure soul-rock volcano of “There She Goes My Beautiful World” (my favorite of Nick’s adopted styles, this is his greatest examples of it since “Deanna” some two decades ago.) The Sinatra-grade wistful gaze into the Mirror of the Past that is “Abattoir Blues” seems a surprisingly vulnerable revealing look at the man who is famous for staying in character. Maybe it’s the oft-mentioned line “I woke up with a frappucino in my hand” gives this impression of exposure, since we have come to believe that Count Cave survives solely on communion wafers soaked in blood and whiskey.

To me, this is one of the freshest things he’s put out since quiet “The Boatman’s Call” in that he is expanding on his personas, and breathing his own life into them and for a change, not crashing every Hindenburg he inflates. Instead, the feel of the album is of soaring of the various landscapes he paints. And somehow, this distance makes the songs more believable, more direct than what I’ve heard in the past. He’s not trying to be Bruce Springsteen, trying to convince you he’s still mopping the floor of the Stone Pony, But he is letting you know he gets it, and he still has more to offer besides the same clown act. I just hope he keeps wiping off the makeup as he goes, one day letting that Bad Seed blossom like it wants to.


Magnolia Electric Co – Trials and Errors

How do we really change ourselves? Every couple of years we all are prompted to make big pronouncements of Making A Change, whether its be the perennially sourceless guilt factory of New Year’s Eve or accidentally stepping onto a scale. The problem is that cheerleaders always work harder than the team, and then the players who consistently fumble the ball feel guilty for the spirit squad pom-pomming their little hearts out - I remember offering a cigarette to a friend that I thought on occasion smoked, it led into a never-ending soliloquy about his “Forever promise to himself” (his words) that I was leading him to break. Of course he finished off my pack by the end of the evening.

This kind of foot-stomping reserve is what haunted Songs:Ohia’s Jason Molina as he shed his awkward project name for the jam-band sounding Magnolia Electric Co. Like I think the last Songs:Ohia album is actually entitled “Magnolia Electric Co”, but he toured under the MEC as his band name. It didn’t help things with the release of the solo album under his real name called Pyramid Electric Co which he claims to be called that only because of the first track bearing the same name. (A similar fate befell Will Oldham as he shed the Palace corporate identity with his brilliant Arise Therefore, like there were even stickers printed to cover the “Palace” on the first round of releases) Anyway….

Magnolia Electric Co, whoever the fuck it was by, had brilliant moments of juicy southern Indie Rock like the opener “Farewell Transmission” but it lacked the stethoscope intimacy that “his” previous albums all had. Thankfully, relentless touring as a band has rectified this situation as documented in the live album “Trials and Errors.” A mix of live reworkings of the previous record and a few new songs show a new hearty beast helmed by our identity-challenged hero. These songs rage with a slow burning gunpowder trail quietly shaking up the dust when the chorus erupts. An improvement here in my book is that his songs are allowed to glow with out all the accompaniments kinda sounding the same throughout the record, a “flaw” on his previous outings. Nope, The Company has a Crazy Horse rockishness in them, without undermining the persistent seriousness of their own particular Neil (underscored with the liberal quotes form Harvest’s “Out on the Weekend” on “Almost Was Good Enough”.) Neil Young references are a dime a dozen these days, but Molina manages to capture the old man's mercurial spirit rather than simply aping the bad monitor setting that has become the de facto hallmark of "Sounding like Neil Young." Instead, he seems to treat the cantankerous uncle of indie rock as his Zarathustra, being a model for how to slough off an established persona in favor of a new one. His voice has never sounded better as well, its odd squeak being bolstered with a new stride in his step. I particularly like the trumpet augmented “Leave the City” with its pony-loping glory and the Love-grade hullabaloo evoked in “The Last 3 Human Words” and the cocky, moody strut of “The Pig Beast,” also unabashedly Neil-ing it up with the big slurps from "Tonight's the Night"

But the whole thing is a killer record. One of many boot prints conferred by myself on my ass is that I missed them when they came through New Orleans last year and I missed it, but thankfully, this excellent record of their new meaty prowess has helped to soften the blow. There is a new album in the works from the group, so let's hope this firecracker is a harbinger of great fireworks ahead.


M Ward – Transistor Radio

As a rule I am not a “production quality” fetishist. In fact, I swing more in the other direction being an Authenticity Snob, desiring my Rock Music Service Providers to serve my product to me cold in the middle with blood on that plate. But every once in a while an album comes along that slaps me into realizing the magic in the sonic kitchen is just as important as the quality of the raw ingredients. Badly Drawn Boy’s “The Hour of the Bewilderbeast” is a prime example, and so is the subject of this review, the new masterpiece by M. Ward.

I remember sitting out on my swing set with my neighbor Tracy Quackenbush listening to the eerie transistor radio static of the minute silence when John Lennon died. Not that we were extraordinarily hip 3rd graders that had a grasp of Cultural Impact, we just happened to be outside listening to the radio hoping the Bay City Rollers would come on. Transistor Radio has this brilliant texture to it without being a gimmicky nostalgia hiss salad. Instead, its subdued recording, its mushiness sounds like its coming from someplace in the back of your head. It sounds like memory, if that's possible.

Now, the best Iron Chef Chen Kenichi in Music Producer Stadium could not prepare such a sumptuous feast without the aromatic and fresh ingredients. M. Ward always delivers, in my book, straddling the fence between straight up songwriter and loose poet, with his intricate guitar work, haunting deep-yet-high voice and devastatingly insidious turn of phrase. The opening track “You Still Believe in Me” sets the pace for this record, with its plunking and lilting guitar, so defining that you feel you can hear the actual wood of the guitar, resting on a soft featherbed of acoustic strumming and quiet reverb. His swallowed delivery of “Sweethearts on Parade” just melts me, with its sunny California beat slightly darkened by his vague sadness. The heartbeats that feed into the plaintive ballad “Fuel For Fire”, the Calexico-with–a-better-vocalist Old West romp of “Four Hours in Washington” leading into the stampede of “Regeneration #1”, the profound melancholy of “Deep Dark Well” all just knock me on my ass. Really, there is not a dull point on the thing. The real highlight for me is the quietly powerful strummed folk plea, “I’ll Be Yr Bird." Its like being knocked down with a blow from a wiffle bat. The track was originally included as a bonus on his Giant Sand-issued Duet for Guitars #2 but despite it being an older number than the rest, its a testament to what a strong and consistent song-maker M. is.

I really thought he could never top his last album Transfiguration of Vincent, and well, maybe he hasn’t. Instead of trying to compete with the wide pop swath of that masterpiece, he has shifted to a slightly more intimate direction and created a gem of equal luster. I urge you to sweep this up post haste and remind yourself what a Really Good Album sounds like again.


A Defense for Carrying a Jump Drive on my Keychain

Last week, on two different occasions, I was openly mocked by a group of my peers, one professional and one social, for having a USB hard drive on my keychain. Now granted, my jump drive is not the manliest of peripherals. It’s translucent purple plastic and was given to me by a former boss. It is not sleek, with metal and faux leather, but looks more like something from a gumball machine. Bear an embossed logo of a computer hardware giant, it does not – instead it is modestly festooned with the logo of a printer company, nearly rubbed off from being in my pocket. Regardless of its physical form, I was mocked by these two sectors of my Venn diagram for even having one.

Now my social compatriots are not the most technically savvy bunch. Hipsters, yes, but in an old school 80’s idiom. They do finally all have email, so that’s a milestone with this crowd of miscreant musicians. While they are all loquaciously knowledgeable about amplifiers and pickups and cables and whatnot, the simplest “hello World” of a webpage is deeply ensconced on the other side of the border formed by their digital ability. I have slowly been encroaching into their world with four-track recordings, but unlike the similar superior output by them all, the concept of digitizing them seems foreign, as if you tried to explain the virtues of a bicycle to a fish. They have been nice enough, expressing interest in my output, but when I pulled out my keys and said I might have one on my jump drive, they busted out laughing as if I had produced a pocket protector, hiked up my pants and started doing the cabbage patch.

The common bond among us is being music fans, always seeking new/old things, but forever they are asking to have a CD burnt of whatever is being discussed. I mean its cute and all, but why not send it in a telegram as well. I get to listen to music all day as a part of my job, and the thought of having to haul around and change CD’s seems hopelessly quaint now. I use my handy jumpdrive to transfer music back and forth between home and office, with my music folder organized and shortcuts strategically placed that the contents of my folder are presented to me in a simple mouse-over off the start button. And would they have seen the light, that information is best served digital, I could’ve transferred them the songs in the least obtrusive manner. But burn you a CD? Why not request I churn you some butter?

Now the mocking at work came as an even bigger surprise. There was some cumbersome SDK that we needed to borrow, but the customer needed the CD back and their suggestion was to make a round trip. I thought I was being triumphant with my simple little drive, but again rained down upon me the pocket protector comments. What kind of nerd has a hard drive on his keychain? The kind that is always prepared, the 21st century Boy Scout with his digital Swiss Army knife.

I do realize that using it is not the most sophisticated mechanism for transferring data throughout the ether. Email servers, streaming media, yadda yadda. Sure I could set up a media streaming server from my home machine making my stuff at arm’s reach constantly available. But those things require a silly level of devotion, spending time being my own tech support when I could be out kissing girls. I could carry an iPod with its gargantuan storage, but really, who am I fooling. I will never be seen on a treadmill boasting white earbuds pumping out Arcade Fire demos. The lowly jumpdrive is the perfect middle ground. It’s cheap effortless technology that works like a charm, doing only one thing but doing it well. Lug thee your vinyl in an oversized messenger bag if you must. Zip and unzip your CD booklet and wait in line at the Office Depot with frazzled buyers of ink cartridges if you need to hold onto your shiny scratched up wax cylinders. Me, I got things to do and music to listen to while I’m at it.


Rock music is a lot like fishing. When you are trying to lure in your near robotic prey, without the interruption of you catching them, they would swim endlessly in a soup of their own feces and stray bits of food lest you provide a sexy lure to win them over to Team Dinner. Some of these fishermen just happen to be cursed with lousy tackle such as Robert Zimmerman and Barry Alan Pincus and are forced to adopt the tail feather of Dylan and Manilow. Some like Cher and Prince, dispense with the caboose altogether, cutting in line on the Golden Path to single name immortality reserved for the likes of Jesus and Gargamel. Morrissey is an odd one, in that he chose to just be identified by the name emblazoned on his football jersey. Hip Hop and reggae stars regularly and successfully make themselves larger than life with outlandish identities. These masks are understandable. One needs to attract prey or you starve. But nowadays, we live in a time of plenty, where people need not utilize such tactics to bring attention. Instead, they hide behind these ostrich feather names hoping to keep the avalanche of fish from swimming in their part of the ocean.

There are many who could fall in this list, but here are ten that cover the bases:

"Sid Vicious" (AKA John Beverley or Simon Ritchie, no one is really sure) - This one was a borderline choice, since he was somewhat of a cartoon character, a husk of a person to wear the suit of a name. The reason he makes the list is that the irony became lost on the movement of supposed DIY-ers that were the sucker of the marketing ploy that was the Sex Pistols. Not that they don't have their actual importance in the progression/regression of music, but the persistence of the "Sid Lives" sloganeering underlying the top floating level of punk shows some folks never get the feeling that they've been cheated.

"Sebastian Bach" (AKA Sebastian Bierk) - Poor guy. I mean, it is close to his name, and if it wasn't for that famous lineage of actual musicians that bore the name so many years before, it would be a legitimate swap. And 80's metal had its share of bad names like Nikki Sixx et al, but those fit in with the wagging tongues in the cheeks of that music. Calling yourself Sebatian Bach is on par with writing under the name "Willy Shakespeare" It should have been apparent from the start that one's story is not going to end well.

"E" AKA "the eels" (AKA Mark Oliver Everett) - I actually think this is one of the worst on this list. When I saw his album "A Man Called [E]" surface in the racks at my college radio station, I felt the pure obnoxiousness of calling yourself "E" was crossing the line. Some 10+ years later I heard the eels' (just as bad, all lowercase) "Electro-Shock Blues" I was won over to his excellent breed of downer pop, but the terrible name still sticks in my craw.

"Elvis Costello" (AKA Declan McManus) - The rock giant I love to hate. I used to be a big fan, would wax poetic about him as I do the people I do now, but somewhere along the line I looked at him and thought, aren't you, um, a little old to still be "Elvis Costello" – a nom de Roque that probably held its conceptual water back when it was hatched back on the Mayflower, but is really just corny as fuck now. Especially now, when you are trying to become an Interpreter of Song, writing chamber music and whatnot. Plus, Declan is actually a pretty good name.

"Songs:Ohia" (AKA Jason Molina) - This favorite of mine has the special pretension distinction of utilizing a colon in his name. It's a particularly postmodern thing to do to have a name for your project, as if it is crucial to keep oneself out of the cauldron in which one mixes their brew. Especially when Songs:Ohia creates such personal heartfelt music. Mitigating factor: he appears to have dispensed with it.

"Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" (AKA Will Oldham) - My hero makes this list because he has many times forced me to explain who he is when someone asks "Who's your favorite?" and I am doomed to detail the various clumsy names he's operated under (Palace Brothers (a name I really like actually) Palace Music, Palace Songs, Palace and then the goofy Bonnie one) Having all those names sends up a red flag for not-worth-your time, much like if you were on a first date with someone, and they were delivered a court summons at dinner. But really, he really is good despite the air-quotes.

"Six Organs of Admittance" (aka Ben Chasny) - Another great musician who makes me feel stupid explaining that its just one guy and his expertly played guitar. "Six Organs" is a great backing band name like "Ben Chasny and The Six Organs of Admittance" ) but unto itself, it sounds like a hapless high school goth band.

"Sting" (AKA Gordon Sumner) - Talk about too old to be playing superhero. I mean, it really wasn't a very good name way back when he was cool (and he was once upon a time, cool), but now he has become the new Barabara Streisand, its time to let it go. It just looks silly on you, like that skirt he wore at the Grammies last year.

"Bono" and "The Edge" (AKA Paul Hewson and David Evans, respectively) - These two are the hands down winners. What more warning fable do you need for carefully picking your name than being a multi-millionaire rock star and megalomaniac force for cultural and political change, and still be saddle with a ridiculous name like "Bono?" I mean, didn't you notice Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu snickering at you at all those state dinners? They are thinking "At least that Bob Geldof guy had a real name." And "The Edge," that is a truly unfortunate choice. Do people actually refer to him as The Edge? "I got a triple grande hazelnut latte for 'The Edge' on the bar!" calls the innocent barista. "The Edge, your mother is on the phone!" hollers his wife from the kitchen. "Well, The Edge, that's all I need, I'll get that paperwork started" says his loan officer. Fellas, for real now, let it go.