I caught the commercial for Buzz Ballads the other day, a whopping 32-track opus with the likes of Vertical Horizon and the Verve Pipe. When did this happen? Are we nostalgic for Bush and Filter already? Can't be. Has the hipster irony-clock been set forward too far? I was just getting my feeble mind wrapped around the Killers and the Bravery ripping Depeche Mode and the Cars. I mean, I will admit I miss my Smashing Pumpkins "Zero" shirt and my old Airwalks, but only in hushed tones and after a few too many.
Buzz Ballads is from the same people who gave us Fired Up and Goin' South. They have done this with other bands from the '90s, too. Most of the titles have some variation of "buzz" in them. Slapping together on disc what 94.5 the Buzz will gladly give you for free, without one drip of irony. Doling this stuff out like it was released yesterday. Buzz Ballads even has Everlast. Chew on that one, kids, while I go have a silver-pants flashback.
Now, I admit I dug this stuff in eighth grade. For better or worse, this is the soundtrack to involuntary erections and watching Singled Out with impure thoughts of what a 13-year-old like me would do to Jenny McCarthy for 30 seconds. The bands on this set are not Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden. The closest we get to Cobain is a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Tori Amos. She lends the only glint of...what's that stuff called where you aren't a joke and your music will stand the test of time? Oh, yeah, not being Eve 6.
We've got some stars here, though. Hole, for one. "Doll Parts" is all we get. Nothing from Celebrity Skin, the 1998 farce. That stuff wasn't so close to the riot-grrl output of their earlier work. See, it's like they want us to at least remember Kurt, by getting a song he (allegedly) wrote. The bands on this record are what he was running from, what he didn't want his own band to become. As for Courtney, we get the crazy heroin-addled widow, instead of the batshit OxyContin-addled loonball we see in the tabloids.
Oasis shows up. That's kind of undeserved, though. They just had to rip something from (What's the Story) Morning Glory, didn't they? Plunder Be Here Now, at least. I don't think they deserved this. They survived the '90s with at least a shred of dignity. Didn't they sell out a few shows this past year? They paved the way for the prodigious output of one Pete Doherty, so God bless them for that. We needed more celebujunkies.
We round out Buzz Ballads with Default, Tonic, Fuel and the rock juggernaut known as Collective Soul. You get the idea, sensitive ballads by earnest also-rans with a case of the Bonos. All leather pants and open shirts, begging for a feel.
As much as I hate this compilation, I still find it endearing. Even though these songs were not as artistically earth-shattering as the Radiohead and Wilco music that was coming out at the time, these tunes are the soundtrack to somebody's prom night. Maybe that's why we're going back to them now. A lame security blanket in the time of Saddle Creek.
I see this same disc coming out in ten years. Except it will be called Buddy List. We'll have Sum 41, the Used, Story of the Year and maybe even a little 30 Seconds to Jordan Catalano. And no question there will be a smug fat elitist like me bemoaning its cursed existence. Oh, shudder...
Between the Cracks
Eleven months ago, singer-songwriter Dean Strickland started walking around Texas, playing for tips in whatever club would give him a shot. Lugging his guitar and 60 pounds of gear on his back, Strickland has played 66 shows in 14 cities and figures he's caught almost 400 rides from strangers. That's a tough way to launch a career, but Strickland already has bookings through the end of the year, including a repeat at the Last Concert Cafe and a stop in a sushi bar in Austin this weekend. He came to the Houston Press offices to tell us about his weird walking tour and answer our Between the Cracks questionnaire.
Houston Press: You've been walking around Texas, from gig to gig. How exactly did that start?
Dean Strickland: I was in Dallas, in the Deep Ellum area, and had a gig at a coffee shop playing for tips. My brother said, "Why don't you go to Austin and try to get a gig there?" So I got enough money to buy a bus ticket to go to Austin. I thought I'd be able to earn enough tips to come back to Dallas, but when that didn't happen, somebody said, "Why don't you try walking?" It was 11 o'clock at night and I didn't know what else to do, so I started walking. A day and a half later I was in Dallas. I thought, "Well, that worked. I'll just walk everywhere and get around that way." And for a month and a half, I was walking back and forth from Austin to Dallas, getting gigs. Then I hitchhiked to Lubbock and thought, "Well, I can get around the whole state this way, why not go on tour?"
HP: Do you live somewhere? Or do you just go from gig to gig?
Strickland: When I'm on the road, I just live outdoors. When I'm in a city, I usually sleep behind a building or something. Sometimes I get to stay with friends I've made.
HP: How long did it take you to walk to Houston this trip?
Strickland: I started out from San Antonio at seven in the morning, headed out on I-10. After walking about 15 miles and three rides, I got to Houston about sunset. Getting to Amarillo is harder; that usually takes two or three days.
HP: What kind of music do you perform?
Strickland: Right now I'm playing a mix of bluegrass, country and folk music. I used to play punk -- positive punk, though. And I've done some rock and roll. I write songs, too. Mostly country music with humanistic lyrics. I want to write a whole album on the road and record it, one song in each city. I've already done a few songs like that, one in Austin, one in Lubbock, one in Wichita Falls. I still have quite a few left to do, but I've started.
HP: What's the best thing about performing?
Strickland: Just that I've made it that far, that I got on stage somewhere. Sometimes I don't even know that I'm going to make it to the gig, if I'm going to get to the city in time to play. So just getting there is a big accomplishment.
HP: What's the worst thing?
Strickland: I get a little nervous sometimes.
HP: How many girls have you picked up with the line "Hi, I'm a musician"?
Strickland: None. That line never really works.
HP: Finish this sentence: If I didn't have to worry about money I would...
Strickland: I would put together a CD and get a distribution deal. Right now all I can do is record a song every once in a while and carry around a few demos. I'd love to be able to make a whole CD and promote it.
HP: Finish this sentence: Right now I'd rather be...
Strickland: This is great, doing the interview with you. I might like to go do a television interview, but otherwise, this is fine.
HP: If they made a movie about your life, who would play you?
Strickland: Keanu Reeves.
HP: Who is the most important person in your world?
Strickland: I have to say me. I mean, I love my mom and my family, but I think I'm the most important person in my life.
HP: Tell us something people don't usually know about you.
Strickland: I have my record label logo tattooed on my arm, Never Say Die Records.
HP: Football or foosball?
Strickland: [Short pause] Football.
HP: Bert or Ernie?
Strickland: [Long pause] Ernie.
HP: Who would you rather marry, Nancy Reagan or RuPaul?
Strickland: [No pause] RuPaul.
For more about Dean Strickland and his Texas walking tour, visit www.onlinerock.com/ musicians/deanstrickland.
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