Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Eagles Are Overrated

Okay, today I plan on discussing why, exactly, I feel that the classic rock band The Eagles is highly overrated. Yes, I am going to go there. I said it. I realize this is going to piss off a large demographic of people, but as with most times I piss off a large demographic of people, I don't care. It's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. You're not likely to change it. Their music doesn't appeal to me. All I'm going to do is state my case as to why. You may try to enlighten me, to share your experiences and visions and opinions and bring me to see this glorious, landmark band through your own interpretations, but keep in mind you'll be defending one of the largest groups of anal-retentive assholes to ever form a band, and Joe Walsh.

My criticism of The Eagles is different from
my criticism of Phil Collins, particularly his solo recordings. Despite the fact that I find Phil Collins to have grown flat and nasal over the years and that he accompanies his performances by the most shrill of generic, synthesized instrumentations, I still like a lot of Phil Collins' material. Maybe I'm just that insane, but even though he lost 95 percent of his vocal range, the man can emote like a punch in the face. He's fun to listen to. The Eagles are not.

Now, I've found that documenting my aversion to The Eagles might be more problematic now that I'm actually embarking upon it than it was a few weeks ago when it sprung into my head that, hey! I should make a journal entry about how much I loathe and despise The Eagles! The problem is that I've recently discovered that I can't quite pinpoint why, exactly, I hate The Eagles so. I'd considered listening to some of their music to inspire me, to fill me with enough rage and spite against them to jump up and shout, "AHA!! THERE!! THERE IT IS!! THAT'S WHY I CAN'T FUCKING STAND THIS BAND!!" The only problem is that, to do that, I would actually have to own some of their music in order to listen to it. I admittedly only own one of their songs, "Get Over It," that I downloaded because I refuse to buy a $20 CD from a band I hate just for one song that they happened to not get so completely and utterly wrong.

That's partially why I have determined that Metallica will never get one more red cent of money from me. I won't download their music because I'm fairly certain that, like child pornography, any small bit of Metallica music that is offered online is most likely a plant to catch the number two worst criminals to ever have existed, right behind pedophiles: People who download music from the Internet. So I won't download a Metallica song or album, but I won't buy it either in any way that would directly contribute to any member of the band or anyone who supports them at any time possibly owning a small percentage of my income. I wouldn't even pay them for their old music, back when they were halfway good, just because of how unbelievably greedy and hypocritical Lars Ulrich and the band were when they allowed themselves to be used as puppets to their masters in the Recording Industry Association of America against their own fans who were downloading some of their songs. You know what? Metallica hasn't put out a good album since 1985 or a passable album since 1991. They deserve to have their albums stolen until they can figure out how to produce music worth buying again. St. Anger should have not only been stolen straight from stores, but thrown into a huge pile in the parking lot and burned with welding torches, it was so bad, followed by the band itself. If I feel relatively curious on the new Metallica album, I will wait about a week and buy their shit used. FUCK paying Metallica.

Anyway, The Eagles. I could have downloaded a great number of Eagles hits to listen to while writing this to get my blood boiling and my seething hatred at a proper level for tearing Don Henley and Co. a new one, but somehow listening to a stream of Eagles songs, to me, would be like sticking my finger down my throat, wrapping it around my uvula and ripping it out so I might never stop vomiting. It would be like
repeatedly punching myself in the balls. It would be like listening to an endless parade of adult contemporary, modern country music. It's something that they should do to terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay to encourage them to confess to crimes they would never conceive of committing until Congress decides that it's cruel and unusual punishment.

Instead, I've strapped on the headphones and am having my ass kicked straight off by Tori Amos' new album, American Doll Posse, which is a pure monster of a phenomenal CD, jam-packed with, like, twenty million songs full of Tori doing whatever the fuck it is Tori does that makes us like her so much. I hadn't been keeping up on my Tori news like I should have been, so when I saw this at Wal-Mart, I was like, "Hey! I don't recognize that Tori Amos CD! Is this new? It doesn't look like yet another greatest hits CD. . . Huh! She's playing dress-up again. . . This isn't another covers CD, is it? I don't recognize any of these songs. This must be a new Tori Amos CD! Well, fuck! I have to buy this now!" So I'm going to be writing about The Eagles, which I know almost nothing about except that I can't fucking stand them, with quite possibly their creative polar opposite, Tori Amos, kicking my eardrums in the ass, and I just got done listening to four full CDs of Henry Rollins' spoken word performances over the weekend, so as you can tell already, this is going to be one monster fuck of an eclectic post.

Okay, The Eagles. I hate them, as a band. I hate their songs. I can't cite specific examples of why I hate their songs because, like Justin Timberlake, Sean Combs, Avril Lavigne, Nickelback, I've heard enough of them to be able to pinpoint that, Hey! This is really bad music! And then I avoid them like the plague, like the blight on music that they fucking are. The only problem is that The Eagles, in particular, are almost unavoidable because they're a classic rock band, which means they routinely get played on the last bastions of good music and ample selection left on the radio, the classic rock stations. So, essentially, all I have to judge this band by are the songs I've heard on the radio over and over again, like "Life in the Fast Lane," "Witchy Woman," "Heartache Tonight," and the infamous "Hotel California," not one of which have inspired me to actually buy an Eagles album or follow the band religiously or petition their reunion or do anything but despise them for littering my airwaves with this limp, bland, uninspired crap.

I think that is the best way to sum up The Eagles' sound, "bland." When I think of the band, it invokes the image in my mind of the color brown. A dusty brown, like a dusty, old, abandoned ghost town, with sand and tumbleweeds blowing through. It's empty. It's emotionless. Their most exciting songs, like "Life in the Fast Lane" try to generate enthusiasm, but with a canned rhythm, generic guitar work, and characteristically uncharismatic vocals, even it falls flat. The Eagles are best known for their sad anti-ballads like "Witchy Woman" and "Desperado," which are slow and dull enough to make time stop. Whenever they get played on the radio, I know I can look forward to sitting through what feels like an hour and a half of boring, half-hearted crooning about shit I could not begin to care about.

Don't even get me started on "Hotel California," which is supposed to be their standout, benchmark legendary track. Their fans compare "Hotel California" to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" in meaning and impact. Okay, let's see, if there is one song from the entire rock and roll era of music that might transcend the ages and be remembered centuries from now like the finest Beethoven symphonies, it might, might, be "Stairway to Heaven." "Stairway to Heaven" is the rock song to end all rock songs. When Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin IV and people first heard "Stairway to Heaven," the world collectively went, "FUCK!!" They knew, they knew, that, truly, that was the day the music died. That was when every single other rock performer either figured, or should have figured that they might as well hang it up, that no one else would ever come up with a more profound musical and lyrical embodiment of rock and roll, and ever since that landmark day musicians could stop trying so hard to come up with the seminal rock song because they knew they probably never would, no matter how hard they tried. Music got a lot more fun, and a lot more crappy, and many a band has tried to outdo or even recreate their own "Stairway to Heaven," yet in over thirty years, none have achieved it. "Stairway to Heaven" is the alpha and the omega of all rock songs. To even dare to consider thinking about comparing motherfucking "Hotel" motherfucking "California" to "Stairway to Heaven" is nothing short of musical blasphemy. If you have ever, even in the most potent of bong hits, thought, "Maaaan! 'Hotel California' is, like, The Eagles' version of 'Stairway to Heaven,'" you need to go listen to country music for the rest of your life because you don't fucking deserve to listen to rock and roll!!! (And I don't even care for "Stairway to Heaven" all that much. I've burnt out on it. I actually like "Kashmir" more, but I'm not fool enough to deny "Stairway's" place in rock history.)

"Hotel California" is a Don Henley song, at best, only delivered with the stylistic tedium that only The Eagles could create. This brings me to probably the most irritating aspect I find in The Eagles as a band. Each of the primary three members of The Eagles were much more exciting songwriters in their solo careers than they were as a band. Granted the only actual album I own of any of The Eagles solo is the greatest hits package of Don Henley because he recorded for it a song that is still listed as one of my favorites, "The Garden of Allah," and back in 1995, when he released it, peer-to-peer file sharing just wasn't a popular concept, and if you went on IRC and asked for a Don Henley song, you'd probably be banned from the client. Still, "Garden of Allah," is this killer track about the devil coming to corrupt corporate America and finding out he's already become obsolete, and more than half the song is performed spoken word by Henley in a guttural growl as The Devil. I took an acting class at one ponit in high school because I had a throwaway credit and that seemed to be the most interesting of the options available. I sucked at it, but somehow everyone else sucked so much worse than me that I became a star pupil. I got the teacher to allow me to perform the spoken word portion of that song as a monologue on stage and aced the class with it. I embellished on his delivery and added pacing and mannerisms and it came across so perfectly people were a little afraid of me afterward, so I have a nostalgic soft spot for that song.

Don Henley is considered probably the single most uncool person in rock and roll. He is a tightly-wound hardass who hates just about everything about the recording industry, and has been very vocal with his criticisms of the MTV generation and the cookie-cutter, corporate rock it's spawned. Eeeeeee-yeah, that Don Henley. But he's come up with some fun songs from the Age of Excess, in spite of his lashing out at the very thing he is. "Dirty Laundry" and "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" are fun songs, and you can't ignore the classic opening bars of "The End of the Innocence." Now, I haven't heard anything from Inside Job, but up to 1995, even the most soft-hearted ballads Don Henley has released in his solo career, even "The Heart of the Matter," were more exciting and inspiring songs than anything I've heard The Eagles put out, with the possible exception of "Get Over It," which, admit it, is just the Don Henley solo song that Don Henley never released.

I have absolutely not followed Glenn Frey, so I have no real idea what his solo work sounds like except for his two big Eighties hits, "You Belong to the City" and "The Heat Is On," which were two dynamite tracks for their time. "'The Heat Is On?' Fuck yeah, the heat is on! It's on the street!" Then the obscurity from when he was spawned opened back up and swallowed him up once more, and he was never seen or heard from again, so I have no idea what he's like in personality or musicianship save for those two songs.

Then there's Joe Walsh. Joe Walsh is the mountain rock answer to Jimmy Buffett, or California's answer to Lynyrd Skynyrd, whichever you prefer. He is single-handedly the most successful, well-known, and well-liked ex-member of The Eagles, possibly because he had a career before, during, and after his involvement with the band. The Eagles was just, like, this thing he was in for a while, and then he wasn't, but he never stopped doing what he did best, kicking out memorable guitar riffs and having a shitload of fun. He doesn't even have to write songs anymore. He just shows up, plays a few licks, and a concert forms. If you listen to the man, he doesn't even know where he is or what he's doing there, he just mumbles to himself, chuckles, whips his guitar out of nowhere like he's Wakko Warner, and starts playing. He could be doing the USO or talking to an Entertainment Tonight interviewer, and they're like, "Joe! Joe! Joe! What the hell are you doing?!" And he's like, "Ermmer frrrmrr efram fffrrrfffrrr, heh heh heh," and, BOOM, "Rocky Mountain Way" starts up. I'm not necessarily saying that Joe Walsh is a cool dude, mind you, but that Joe Walsh is to The Eagles what "cool" is to listening to an audio recording of your trigonometry textbook read by Orson Welles.

So I can't stand The Eagles. As a band, I find them to be dull and uninspiring and uncharismatic. It's pathetic when you can say that Don Henley's solo career was more exciting than the best songs The Eagles have to offer as radio hits. People credit The Eagles with forming the basis for what is known now as "classic rock." Yeah, if by "classic rock" you mean artists like Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and John Mellencamp and Bryan Adams, and a whole host of other artists throughout the Seventies and Eighties who have given us one non-threatening, uncreative, uninspiring, and unexciting song after another for upwards of three decades now, who have littered the radio with 4/4 rhythms and recycled melodies and unchallenging, safe lyrics. Granted, not all of the songs the artists I mentioned above have put out are utter crap. Some are downright tolerable if listened to casually and sparingly, but how many times can you hear "Feel Like A Number" or "Jack and Diane" over and over again before it drains your thirst for life? Whatever kinds of people is it who peruse their music collection and think, "Hm, what haven't I heard in a while. What, out of all of these hundreds of albums should I choose to enrapture myself with today? Shall I go with the underappreciated but progressively brilliant Purpendicular by Deep Purple? Or how about the avant-garde Simple Minds masterpiece Real to Real Cacophony? Perhaps Physical Graffiti, the only Led Zeppelin album that might arguably be able to top Led Zeppelin IV? Ooh! I know! I'll put on Bob Seger's Against the Wind!" Then their CD tray opens up and the disc goes flying out of the machine and narrowly misses their head before being embedded halfway into the far wall, and the CD player shouts, "What the fuck is this shit!? Put something worth playing in me right now or I'm going to start playing everything backwards and convince you to kill your family and yourself!!"

The Eagles is the type of classic rock that helped to inspire this modern concept of country music with its predictable structures and blue collar lyrics that are constructed from randomly conjoined clichés specifically to appeal to the lowest common denominator of casual music fans who just like to have background noise they don't have to think about or appreciate as they drown the pointlessness of their boring lives in beer after beer until it's time to go to bed and repeat the process the following day. These are the people who profess to love acts like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban, but give you no more than a blank stare of confused befuddlement when you dare to so much as ask them why, ask them what is so great about these artists that makes them so utterly indespensible to them, as a fan. I love doing this to country music fans. "Is it the prolific, existential quality of their lyrical fortitude that you enjoy so much? Or could it be the systematic chaos of their subtly nuanced drumming patterns? Is it their ability to warp your understanding of dexterity in the blur of fingers as they move from completely unrelated chord progressions on their guitars in lightning-fast, rapid-fire succession? Or is it the overall compositional style that moves you so deeply? Is it the hints of freeform jazz mixed with baroque that Tracy Lawrence employs that compels you to study his honed craft as an artist?" By then their eyes are darting about in little tiny seizures as their brains try to wrap around the information you just threw at them, and they just stutter out, "I-I-I. . . Just. . . Like. . . This song. . ." Then I put on some King Crimson and inform them that if music were math, this would be advanced calculus, and just after the opening tritonic scales of "Level Five," their brains just fucking melt. It's great fun.

So I hate The Eagles for their bland, unstimulating songs littering my radio and inspiring generations of songwriters from John Mellencamp to Nickelback to the entire modern country music movement to follow in their footsteps. The only worthwhile song I've ever heard from The Eagles, as a band, was "Get Over It," which is so much a Don Henley song it surprises me to think that Joe Walsh actually contributed to it. It's so full of Don Henley's tightly-wound social commentary delivered through his characteristic bitchy whine that it just makes me want to shout, every time I hear it, "Don! Just get the fuck over it already!!" Although, it is the first track they were able to record in over twenty years that combined a driving rhythm with slightly intense guitar work and provocative lyrics, so I have to give it credit where credit is due. Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while. Judging by every other song I've heard, however, I can find no discernable reason why The Eagles is one of America's most beloved bands. Maybe someone could explain it to me, but I doubt it will make me reach the point where I can sit through "Witchy Woman" again without privately seething.

np: Tori Amos - "You Can Bring Your Dog"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man...I can appreciate that you don't like The Eagles, but comparing them to Nickelback? A bit harsh, man.

2:16 AM  

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