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White Stripes' 'Icky' Rules, But Gym Class Heroes?

First off, I’d like to thank everyone for the overwhelmingly positive feedback I received for the first edition of “Bigger Than the Sound.” There were a whole lot of really great comments made about the column – from your basic “this guy/MTV sucks” to the more advanced “this is my least favorite kind of pseudo-journalism” – but this was perhaps the best of the bunch:

“For a bad, bad man he’s got some wack witeboy p—y taste in music.”
РILX member f̩lix pi̩, Wednesday, 25 April 2007 17:41

If I knew how to work this Web site, I would make that the BTTS tag line … and not just because it’s true, but also because it’s not every day that your work merits a harshly worded, curiously punctuated response from the future of the Chicago Cubs. Thanks for the words, Félix … now let’s work on raising that OBP.

Anyway, all that vitriol made me realize that I should’ve shared
something with all of you before I wrote the first installment of BTTS:
I frequently have no idea what I’m talking about. Well, not really “no
idea”; more like “a very convoluted” one. I have, from time to time,
been accused of perhaps getting too hyperbolic about things (like in
2005, when I declared … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead’s Worlds Apart
the “album of the year” after one particularly voluminous listen in an
Interscope conference room; or later that year, when I crowned the
White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan the same; or just a few months ago, when I sent a lengthy e-mail to my colleagues proclaiming that Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero “will be just like American Idiot”) and as such, my initial take on most things usually cannot be trusted.
That said, I really love the White Stripes’ new single, “Icky Thump” (from the album of the same name). I mean, I really
love it. And if anyone within the Stripes publicity team would ever
respond to my requests to hear the entire album, I’d probably declare
it the year’s best without a second thought (though naturally, I would
later have second thoughts). Of course, my opinion of “Thump” was
formed only after I spent at least 24 hours calling it “sloppy,” “sort
of like ‘Riverdance’ ” and “second-rate Yes.” Which is funny, because I
now totally love the song, chiefly because a) It sounds like Jack is
playing the guitar behind his head the entire time; b) It may or may
not feature an actual bagpipe breakdown; and c) It sounds like
second-rate Yes.

And it doesn’t stop there. At the time of this writing, none other than the Gym Class Heroes – who I’d previously referred to as “the most ridiculous band on the planet” – have a single in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and an album that has sold more than 300,000 copies in roughly 11 months. To say I’d dismissed them would be an understatement … I never, ever, ever thought they’d sell a third of what they have, never envisioned them on “TRL.” To me, they made no sense: They sound like a funk band, they’re fronted by a guy who looks like the emo Method Man, their live set features a gentleman whose only discernable task seems to be waving a giant “GCH” flag and their bass player has a ponytail.

Yet, more than 10,000 people are compelled to buy their As Cruel as School Children album each week, and they enjoy almost universal message board appeal, proving once again that I really don’t have a clue.

So take that information, couple it with the fact that I once said
GCH’s labelmates Panic! at the Disco were “never gonna go anywhere,”
and it’s pretty obvious that I cannot predict what
is gonna be a hit, or which band is gonna make it. And as my track
record clearly shows, my initial opinions about most things are pretty
far removed from my final thoughts (plus, thanks to the magic of the
Internet, those predictions and opinions are preserved forever.)
And all that means that I should probably shut my mouth, but oddly, it
sort of fills me with the opposite sentiment. I don’t see myself
ceasing from penning breathlessly nonsensical e-mails about records
(“This new Mary Timony album is the best thing she’s done since [her
band Helium’s] The Magic City, because it sounds exactly like The Magic City!“)
or making ludicrous, irrational statements about the import of
so-and-so’s new single anytime soon, because, well, that’s what my
favorite rock writers have always done, and that’s sort of what being a
fan of music is all about.
What makes it risky – or fun, or, you know, whatever – is that my
e-mail address or my byline is always affixed to those statements and
speculations. I’m not afforded the luxury of anonymity. So some (OK,
most) of the time, I come across as, well, a little ridiculous. But,
then again, what’s the point of having a soapbox if you don’t use it?
After all, that’s about 85 percent of what’s awesome about this job.
The other 15? Having F̩lix Pi̩ talk shРabout you (and the free CDs).
Then again, if you ask me about it next week, I’m sure those numbers
will have changed exponentially.

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