Smile Politely

Rocking in the Free World

Beginning with a little bit of house cleaning from last weekend, I though Seth McFarlane was great as the Oscar host, though I normally hate guys named Seth. Yeah, it was a little shaky here and there, but it was better than most. Like the Super Bowl halftime show, I think it’s probably a flawed concept to begin with. I don’t even care that some of the jokes weren’t that great. I simply enjoyed that I could sit there and imagine which group of people he’d just pissed off with a joke.

Honestly, I don’t understand all the sanctity of the Oscars to begin with. It’s a bunch of old white guys giving awards to a bunch of dysfunctional pretenders who most of us probably couldn’t share a cab ride with unless we stabbed them. Movies are great, but I really don’t necessarily need a critic or academy to tell me which ones are good.

If you’re watching the Oscars and you aren’t enjoying it, grab a DVD of Singing in the Rain and put that in the DVD player instead. That’s probably a bigger tribute to Hollywood than any half-assed Oscar telecast could ever be. Also, let’s be honest, most people are gonna bitch about whoever the Oscar host is. You know why, because most people like bitching far more than they like enjoying. I know I do. Let’s get it on.


Okay, this will be a fun little column that will probably piss several of you off, not in a real way, just in sort of a frustrating way. I’ll make a bold statement. There haven’t been that many great American rock bands. For a time now, a few of my friends and I play this little game. We try to come up with the greatest American rock bands, sort of like a Hall of Fame. Trust me, that shit is a lot harder than it seems, probably because we like to add a lot of jackass criteria.

First of all, they have to have been pretty famous, in an overall context, not just in a certain segment of the population. They also need to have a certain amount of longevity. Obviously, they have to be American. Lastly, they have to be cool, you know, in that snobby, pretentious way that many of us like to use when evaluating things. Yes, all of these rules are sort of ambiguous at best, but it’s still a fun little game.

Many of my favorite bands, like Husker du or Afghan Whigs, are great to me and they may also be cool and American, but they simply never gained nearly enough popularity outside of certain circles, and the slight mainstream success they had was very limited … so um, they’re out. I’ve also decided not to count a few other great bands, mostly because they are primarily known for their singers. I’m looking right at you Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.


We’ll begin the game proper with a few sort of tough ones that makes my list. Nirvana. They meet all the criteria except output. Still, they seem as strangely relevant today as they did fifteen years ago. I’m also putting the Beastie Boys on my list, even though I could probably argue that they weren’t quite as mainstream as I probably think they were. I’m also going to add Talking Heads with that same popularity clause.

See, it’s sort of tricky. So far I think we could argue that those three bands could be on the fence, but I’m putting them in. Here’s one that’s pretty easy, The Cars. Yeah, they were a little spotty here and there, but that first record alone would probably secure them an honorable mention. I don’t necessarily love The Cars, but they’re in. I really love the Ramones, but I’m not sure if they’re in or not. I think they are just because of staying power, but it’s pretty close. Compared with, say, Journey, they haven’t really sold that many records. Journey, by the way, didn’t make the list, you know, because even though it’s sometimes awesome to hear one of their songs, they really sort of suck.

I’ll throw in a few older bands that seem pretty easy to me. The Beach Boys make it easily, as does Credence Clearwater Revival. I’m also going to throw in Kiss and Metallica, though I sort of wish I didn’t have to.


You know how some people will argue that Bonds had a good enough career before he started using steroids to be a hall of famer? Well, these bands are sort of like that. Aerosmith and the Eagles probably get in because they were pretty great, at least in the beginning. Yes, things eventually got a little weird, and by weird I mean terrible, but there was still enough cool stuff to make the cut. I’m also going to include Guns and Roses in this same group. Actually, while we’re at it, I’m also throwing in Lynyrd Skynyrd, even though most of them are dead now and it’s still a band.

I should probably put Grateful Dead in this part, but man, it’s just so hard for me to like them. See, it’s weird, because I don’t even mind their music all that much. It’s just that I totally hate their essence. I’ll go ahead and put them on the list, but I want to make it very clear I don’t feel good about it.


For the last part, I’m saving two of my favorites who I think make it easily and sort of define what I’m talking about, Cheap Trick and REM. Cheap Trick has been around forever and they’ve been successful out the ass at least a lot of the time. No one could ever accuse them of not being cool … though actually, I’m not sure they got accused of being cool much either. Either way, they are sort of the definition of a great American rock band.

REM is probably not quite that definition, but they sort of are. I say this because they didn’t necessarily rock the whole time, but they were interesting the whole time. They may have made a few albums I didn’t love quite as much, but I really get the impression they never once phoned it in. Looking back over their catalog, that’s a veritable crap ton of great music, and the albums towards the end were better than I would have ever expected.

So, anyway, fun game, and the thing is, I’m sure I’m missing somebody, probably a bunch of somebodies. It’s a work in progress though s,o feel free to help me out if you’d like. It’ll be fun to tell you why your favorite band actually sucks.


Since I talked about REM, check out this digitally altered version of “Losing My Religion.” I actually prefer it to the original.


Now that I’ve come of age, I don’t care for coming-of-age stories.

Here’s a theory, just a theory, but if you come across a single, gay architect, you’ve quite possibly found the happiest man in the world.

Why the piss is there Braille on the drive-thru ATM machine? Yes, I suppose they could be in a taxicab … at least I hope that’s it.

Buona sera, senorina, kiss me goodnight.

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