Yes, I have resorted to doing this kind of shit to pass the time. Anyway, these are some bands or artists that are often compared for whatever reasons and some of my thoughts on the matter.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Without a doubt, The Rolling Stones. The Stones seem to be tied to reality a bit more than The Beatles. Something that I find very attractive. Case and point, lyrics like “let’s spend the night together” obliterate dreck like “I wanna hold your hand.” It was dorky then, and it’s dorky now. The Stones went to places the Beatles would never go. Metaphors are great and all, but The Beatles always seemed to hide behind them. The Stones would just bluntly tell you what they were thinking. For this reason, their songs are just stronger, more interesting, and are more applicable to situations, moods, and mindsets I find myself in constantly. Would you rather listen to something exploring the concept good and evil in society, the very idea of having sympathy for the devil, or a song about holdin’ hands, meter maids, and shit? I want something with teeth.
Pearl Jam or Nirvana?
The teenage me would say Nirvana, but the forty-year-old me says Pearl Jam (it’s not even close). When I look back at interviews with Nirvana, they annoy me. They spend a lot of their interviews purposely being dicks (and not even funny ones – that is what makes it unforgivable). I remember one interview where they were as annoying and unfunny as Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley combined; this takes some effort. I’m sorry. I meant as pleasant and hilarious as Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley combined. Both bands had members that were around the same age, but the differences in maturity levels were off the chart. Other than Mike McCready, I don’t think Pearl Jam had any other members with addiction issues. Even then, McCready was never fucking annoying during interviews or public appearances. Over the years, I have been around a lot of drug addicts. Yes, I understand they need help, but goddamn, they are terrible company (and will rob you blind every chance they get). I always felt like telling them that I don’t think you’ll ever meet someone with a more negative view of life than myself, and I don’t have a drug problem — so, just shut the fuck up. To be honest, I haven’t seriously listened to a Nirvana album since Cobain’s suicide. I still like a lot of their catalog (at least, I think I do), but I never actively seek their music out. Pearl Jam, on the other hand, is listened to quite frequently. I find the band’s lack of irony a much-needed thing. In short, concerning the case of Nirvana versus Pearl Jam, sincerity with raw emotion trumps absurdity with raw emotion.
U2 or R.E.M.?
This one is tough. For a certain type of Boomer or Gen Xer, these were the two important bands. I am cut from this aforementioned slab of Gen X meat. I just saw U2 last month. While their albums haven’t been great (or even good) lately — with the exception of the wonderful song “Moment of Surrender” — they still deliver live; in this setting, they are hungry — very hungry. Visually, it was the most impressive media-related thing I’ve ever seen. While Achtung Baby is still my favorite album of all time, I’m going to have to go with R.E.M in this pair up. The fact they wrote a song about the mugging of Dan Rather by time travelers (based on a true story) and turned it into a song about the communication gap among generations is an impressive feat. They were good at writing songs about subjects that are not normally written about in pop music. That’s always been my favorite thing about them. Also, they knew when to hang it up (even though that should have been sooner than it was). That being said, it’s close to a tie for me, and the outcome would be different depending on my mood on any given day.
Weezer or Pavement?
These bands have not aged well, but I grew to hate Weezer. I really did. I see them as the soundtrack for people that watch The Big Bang Theory and genuinely laugh at it. Yes, they exist. I’ve met them. They smell like soured milk and buttholes, and they wear giant-ass glasses (just like “Weezer” himself) and have tattoos of stupid shit that make people who had tattoos before people who shop at J. Crew had tattoos feel much worse than the realization that people who shop at J. Crew have tattoos. My dislike for Weezer does have something to do with fashion. Before Weezer, if you were into a certain genre of music, you wore your hair long, modified your clothing, and really stood out among the mainstreamers, making the more fragile, sensitive ones a little uncomfortable. Post-Weezer, it was giant-ass glasses, a sweater, and short hair (short hair in the ‘90s! — not cool, man), making you look like a harmless nothing and chubby, religious girl on the honor roll magnet. It was so safe. I also hate Weezer’s faux meekness. I hate songs about males being uncomfortable around women. Jesus fuckin’ Christ, this is a tired trope. Someone kill it. Like R.E.M., Pavement could write songs about subjects not normally explored in pop music. My problem with them is, the irony is so thick … so very, very thick. Also of note, Stephen Malkmus learned how to play the guitar throughout Pavement’s run. He became quite good, too.
Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen?
No snark here. I really can’t decide. It’s a question for the ages. It’s beyond my understanding.
Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp?
While Mellencamp wrote one of my favorite lines: “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone,” I’ll have to go with Springsteen. He has been much more consistent. I don’t think this one is even subjective. You could probably prove this scientifically. What I do miss is, during the ‘80s how every single these guys released was used in some clueless Republican’s political ad. That was some funny shit.
Van Halen (Roth) or Van Halen (Hagar)?
I don’t like Van Halen — not my thing, but I do kind of like “Jamie’s Crying.” Therefore, it goes to the David Lee Roth version of Van Halen.
Poison or Motley Crue?
This is like asking me if I would I rather have lung cancer or brain cancer.
Joy Division or New Order?
The voice of Ian Curtis bothers me more than most things. Seriously, it’s one of the most horrible things I’ve ever heard. Moreover, I find Joy Division songs meandering, dull, and lifeless. Perhaps that’s the point, but man, it doesn’t gel with me. Also, the fact that Ian Curtis got married at nineteen and had a child very young is lame as shit. Hear me out. If you’re a regular-ass person that gets married as a teenager and then cranks out some kids before you’re off of your parent’s health insurance, you’re not cool, like, at all. Just because you’re a rock star doesn’t negate this; it makes it worse. Anyway, Curtis had to die, so New Order could live. In my opinion, no one has made better music to dance to than New Order. The clear choice, New Order.
Metallica or Megadeth?
Not really my genre, but I did experiment. Overall, I think Metallica is rather weak in the ol’ lyric department, and Megadeth really shines in comparison. Dave Mustaine actually writes songs about things that don’t involve the sandman, gripping your pillow tight, and going off to never-never land. Even though he has turned into an Alex Jones-style conspiracy theorist (I’ll blame the years of alcoholism), he’s kind of like the Dylan of metal. However, I can’t really do the metal stuff. It ain’t me, babe.
Rage Against the Machine or Audioslave?
Years ago, while waiting in line at a grocery store, a guy in an Audioslave shirt started a conversation with me out of the blue. I was quite young at the time, but he was even younger and started talking about his kids, again, never a good sign. I really wanted the conversation to be over as quickly as possible, and luckily, I forgot something and had to step out of line. (I lied. I didn’t forget anything.) I’m a lefty, so it’s Rage Against the Machine for me. Audioslave just doesn’t sound like anything I would ever listen to. It’s like Rage Against the Machine without the politics, which is the only reason I can tolerate Rage Against the Machine. It’s not a musical style I’m naturally drawn to.
Porno for Pyros or Jane’s Addiction?
Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro have turned into caricatures of themselves. I don’t think either band has really stood the test of time. They have their moments, but Jane’s Addiction had better output. The only way these albums work for me now is, I really have to pretend I’m back in high school while I’m listening to them. Overall, I don’t think their lyrics really probe deep enough. It’s almost there, but not quite. Also, something just feels wrong when I really think about it. I can’t tell if it’s the music or the fact that those responsible ended up on reality shows. I think it is the latter. They tainted themselves. Also, the inclusion of Perry’s wife in everything they do now is lame. Stop! Get it?
(Update: Since writing this, I listened to Nothing’s Shocking. It was working for me, and I wasn’t even pretending to be young. I really like the album’s art and title. Nothing is shocking to me, so there’s that.)
Radiohead or Pink Floyd?
I assume this is generational. It’s Radiohead for me, but as much as I listened to them back in the day, I rarely seek them out now. I find a lot of their newer work to be tedious and boring, but I find all of Pink Floyd’s work tedious and boring. However, for both bands to make music that I find tedious and boring — yet kind of enjoy — takes some kind of space rock magic.
Michael Jackson or Prince?
Prince was far stranger than Michael Jackson. So, he gets the edge just for that. Yeah, I’m just more of a Prince person. Other than a handful of songs, I never got into Michael Jackson. Overall, I thought his lyrics were pretty sappy. He had nice melodies, arrangements, and production, however. To be fair, Prince really wasn’t all that consistent either, but when he was on, he was really on. I have a theory that back in the ‘80s you either grew up in a Prince household or a Michael Jackson one. If you were neither, you probably grew up in a joyless, religious fundamentalist household and missed out on culture in general, making you a really fucked up teenager and an even more fucked up adult (okay, perhaps Porno for Pyros is better …). I definitely grew up in a Prince household. I wonder if this holds any kind of significance in how I turned out.
Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine?
The tastemakers of the era pushed me toward this movement and these bands. While I was influenced by certain publications and people, I was enough of my own person to not go along with everything they would recommend. The swing music revival got a great big “no” from me (this crowd was far worse than the Weezer scene). However, the no wave, shoegaze shit worked. I dug it, but I can’t listen to more than three songs in a row from any of these bands. It seems to be too emotionally draining or something. I also tend to skip any song Kim Gordon has lead vocals on. Her voice is terrible (still not as bad as Ian Curtis). It’s close, but I’m going with My Bloody Valentine only because I was hit in the face by a drumstick at a Sonic Youth show; it knocked me to the ground and caused nose bleeds and headaches for hours after the incident. I’ve never forgiven the band for this. It was purposely — but randomly — thrown into the audience. Stupid. Don’t throw things into crowds at an incredible amount of speed, assholes. Surprisingly, I can still listen to this stuff from time to time.
Roxy Music (with Eno) or Roxy Music (without Eno)?
Everything is better with Eno, even Bowie.
Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson?
Alice Cooper has actually made a couple of very solid albums, and Marilyn Manson has made … things. I do like how out of shape and fat Marilyn Manson has gotten. Nothing is sadder than aging goths, pseudo-goths, or whatever the fuck he is. I witnessed this first-hand at a club in Cleveland last week. Seriously, it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve watched relatives die.
KISS or a pile of shit?
Aren’t they the same thing? If not, I’ll definitely take the pile of shit.