Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fuck Off, 2008

Good fucking riddance, asshole year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Hanukkah, Johnnyheads!

Confession: Johnny ain't Jewish. But, since I neglected to do a Christmas post and tonight is the last night of Hanukkah, I thought I'd sneak one in under the guise of the Festival of Lights. (Sorry for misleading my Jewish readers—please don't respond with waves of Israeli air strikes.)

Oy vey! Touchy subject. There's nothing funny about the Gaza Strip. (Except for the comedy special, Mahmoud Abu-Massad: Live On The Gaza Strip! Have you seen this? It's hysterical!)

Not funny, Johnny. In very poor taste. My apologies again, to both my Jewish and Palestinian readers. Speaking of comedy specials...well, we'll get to that in a bit. But, first, how about a Christmas story to ease the tension? No? Well, too bad. Johnny's had a few too many egg nogs and he's in a storytelling mood. Many, many years ago, when Johnny was a little boy, his older brother nudged him awake at 5am on Christmas morning. "Let's go downstairs and open our presents!" he said. "Shouldn't we wait for mom and dad?" Little Johnny asked. "Won't we get in trouble?" "Nope," his brother assured him. "C'mon..." Johnny dutifully followed his big brother downstairs to the living room, where the glowing Christmas tree—barren when he went to bed hours earlier—was surrounded by presents of all sizes and shapes. His brother gathered all the gifts labeled "Johnny" and formed a big pile at Johnny's feet. "Go ahead," he said. "Open them..." Johnny quickly opened the first box—a Buck Rogers Star Fighter!—and then moved on to the next. And the next. With his brother goading him on, he opened present after present, with not a pause in between. Soon enough, Johnny had opened all his gifts. He looked over at his brother and noticed he hadn't unwrapped a single present. His brother leered at him and said, "Christmas is over!" He then got up and went back upstairs to bed. Johnny looked at the big grandfather clock in the hall. It was 5:07 am. Johnny sat amidst torn shreds of wrapping paper and piles of tainted toys, knowing his dad was going to beat the shit out of him when he woke up in a few hours.

Nice story, huh?

Well, Christmas 2008 is also over, Johnnyheads. Hanukkah, too, in a few hours. But, that doesn't mean the magic is over. Because both can live on ad infinitum, thanks to—awkward segue—A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All. Have you seen this? Why the fuck not? It's absolutely brilliant. Blows Mahmoud Abu-Massad: Live On The Gaza Strip! out of the water. Stephen Colbert open-mouth kisses a bear, for chrissakes! A bear! And no, I'm not talking a-subculture-of-the-gay-community-consisting-primarily-of-large-hairy-and-usually-bearded-men bear. (Though, that might be awesome, too, in its own beautiful way.) I'm talking a bear bear. What more could you want in a Christmas Special?

If you somehow missed its 8 zillion airings on Comedy Central, you can buy the DVD here. Until then, enjoy the following clips, courtesy of Johnny himself. As you'll see, it turns out there was a little something for my Jewish readers, after all. (Sorry—nothing for the Palestinians. Please don't send intense rocket and mortar fire into my home.)

"Can I Interest You In Hanukkah?" Fuck yeah, you can.

John Legend's "Nutmeg." Even dirtier than you think.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This Day In Johnny History...

DECEMBER 23, 1993: Johnny sees the most conflicting double-feature in history—Schindler's List followed by Mrs. Doubtfire.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas To The Asshole In The Santa Hat

Yes, I see you. Everyone sees you. After all, you're the only asshole on 14th Street wearing a Santa hat who's not soliciting donations for the Salvation Army. I understand your need for a hat—it's 35 degrees and sleeting. But, why not wear a wool hat like the rest of us? Why go for the Santa hat? Please don't answer that. Because I know the answer. You went for the Santa hat—just like you do every year—because you're an asshole. At work, you're the office asshole. The guy who hangs around the office later than everyone else because he has nothing better to do. At home—I'm presuming you're single and live with two other assholes on the Upper East Side—you're thought of, even amongst those assholes, as the asshole of the group. You're the guy who date-raped your friend's cousin when she came to visit him back in college, right? You wear Family Guy boxers. You love the Yankees, Halo 3 and Maroon 5.

You're an asshole.

And it would give me great pleasure to punch you in the balls.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Note From Johnny's Cleaning Lady

"Hello. Thank you so much for your generous Christmas gift. It's a pleasure to work with you. Please buy more Soft Scrub. Also, we need more quarters for laundry."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Like You've Never Owned A Van With Heart-Shaped Windows And Airbrushed Images Of A Crying Android, Topless Women And Winged Men Shooting Arrows...

Click for larger, i.e., more awesome, image.

Surely, this is the greatest means of transportation in the history of civilization, no? Isn't this what we've been building toward as a people for the last million years? The only vehicle that perhaps rivals it is the Popemobile—and only because it's bulletproof. This van—seriously, have you ever seen anything more beautiful?—is parked in Soho nearly every day. Today, I finally summoned up the courage to take its photo (I'd been reluctant to do so for fear of stealing its soul). And contrary to popular belief, if this van's a rockin, absolutely come a knockin. I guarantee they'll not only welcome you, but invite you to join them in whatever depraved activity they're engaging in. Or so I've heard...

It's like seeing my diary in airbrushed picture form.

Why so sad, Android?

Yes, her nipples are shaped like hearts. Yours aren't?

You'd like me to sip from your chalice? I'd be honored, miladies.

You were awesome in X-Men 3!

From Jersey, huh? Never would've guessed that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Ow! My Freakin' Ears!"

Truth be told: I don't hate Chinese Democracy this week as much as I did last week. But, that doesn't mean I like it. And make no mistake—this is not a Guns N' Roses record, this is an Axl Rose record. (As we all know by now, Slash, Izzy and Duff left the band long ago.) Chinese Democracy sounds nothing like the G N' R you remember. Looking for some "Nightrain"? Won't find it here. "Patience"? Nope. Fuck, you'd probably settle for some "Back Off Bitch" or "Pretty Tied Up" or some other less-than-stellar track from Use Your Own Illusion I or II at this point, right? Sorry. (Side note: If you want to hear those two overstuffed albums distilled into one brilliant album, try and dig up a copy of the kickass mix tape I made back in college, Choose Your Own Illusion. Not too fucking clever.)

Granted, the sound of music--ah, The Sound of Music. Now there's an album. And a better one than Chinese Democracy, at that. Don't even pretend you don't like "Edelweiss." Confession: Johnny used to sing his own heartfelt version of "Edelweiss." The lyrics were exactly the same, with one minor change.

Anal bush, anal bush
Every morning you greet me
Small and white
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me

I swear to God, aside from "anal bush," those are the actual lyrics. I didn't change another word. Okay, where the fuck was I? How on earth did we go down that path? Oh, right—The Sound Of Music. As I was saying, the sound of music has obviously changed since the last Guns record 17 years ago. What's funny—or rather, tragic—is Axl's been recording this record for so long that, while it doesn't sound like 1991, it also doesn't sound like today. (Whatever that sound may be. The Jonas Brothers?) It sounds like 10 years ago and that is much, much worse. In other words, Chinese Democracy sounds exactly like a Korn or Limp Bizkit album. Most of its tracks were dated well before the great Y2k panic, so one can only imagine how it sounds in 2008.

But, that's not even why I dislike it. It comes down to one simple factor. Listening to Chinese Democracy is not an enjoyable experience. It is not fun. In fact, it's a fucking drag. It feels like work. And if you think G N' R was never about fun, you are sadly mistaken. Appetite For Destruction was an absolute fucking blast, an insane thrill ride. It tore out of your speakers sounding like nothing that had come before it and nothing that's come since. These guys are fucking crazy (hey, hey), you thought. Listening to Appetite made me want to snort coke with these guys on the Strip. Down a couple liters of whiskey with Slash and Izzy at the Whisky (and maybe get into a brawl with Brett Michaels). Have a stripper inject heroin directly into my cock—fuck snorting it off her tits, that's for pussies. (As you can tell, Johnny's been around the block.) Appetite made me feel alive. Chinese Democracy depresses the shit out of me. It makes me want to kill myself, and not in a good "Enter Sandman" kinda way.

Slash said in his autobiography (Holy shit! That guy wrote a book? Not read a book—which would be astounding—but wrote one) that he walked into the studio when recording first began back in 1994(!) to see "rows and rows of Pro Tools servers and gear. Which was a clear indication that Axl and I had very different ideas of how to do this record." Gone were the days of five musicians just playing rock and roll in a studio, with someone there to hit the record button and replenish the booze. The way Appetite was done. (And, yes, they were musicians—Slash, Izzy and Duff's influences and musical styles cannot be underestimated. They contributed as much to the Guns sound as Axl.) A lot of people describe the sound of Appetite as raw, but I don't entirely agree. Fresh, absolutely. But raw? Those songs were fully realized and complete and phenomenal. And while Use Your Illusion I and II stepped away from that sound—most of its tracks were too polished, too "produced,"—both still had a shitload of great tracks.

Chinese Democracy opens with the title track, and I'm not gonna lie to you, the first 1:30 seconds are nearly astounding. Right up through Axl's trademark wail, you think, holy fucking Christ, after all this time, after all the impossible expectations, this motherfucker is going to pull it off. Then, just as quickly—and spectacularly—it drops like a kamikaze into a warship. The track goes nowhere and it does so in a hurry. After which, Chinese Democracy can be divided into two albums, the aforementioned Limp Korn record and too many limp ballads all trying to sound like "November Rain." The first one, "Street Of Dreams," comes closest, and is probably the best song on the record. However, it pales compared to older ballads like "Don't Cry," "Estranged" or "So Fine." Still, overall, the ballads fare far better than the "industrial" stuff. "Shackler's Revenge" and "Better" are, um, worse than any single track on Appetite, G N' R Lies, and both Use Your Own Illusions. That's 50 tracks we're talking about. "Better" begins promisingly, until you get to the throwaway, grating chorus.

Now I know you better
You know I know better
Now I know you better!

Believe me, it sounds even worse than it reads. Axl had nearly 20 years to perfect it and this is what he settled on? It's almost unlistenable. As for "Shackler's Revenge," am I the only one who thinks its title sounds like an Atari game from 1983?

"If The World" and "There Was A Time" are (sort of) ballads, I suppose, but not in the classic Guns sense, i.e., piano, strings, crescendo, followed by a mind-blowing Slash guitar solo, where he's playing while standing on top of a piano alone in the fucking desert. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Oh, and both songs suck. So there goes my prior assessment that the ballads were superior.

"Catcher In The Rye," perhaps more than any other track, sounds like it could almost feel at home on one of the Use Your Own Illusions (though definitely not Choose Your Own Illusion, let alone Appetite). Reminds me of "Yesterdays." One of the better songs on the record, except for the title/chorus. Axl singing, "The catcher in the rye again..." just sounds odd and not in a good way. I don't listen to G N' R to hear Axl namedrop J.D. Salinger or Holden Caulfield. What's next? A song about Atticus Finch? Guess he's still trying to court that high school audience, just like he did back in 1987. When he was twenty-five.

"Scraped" and "Riad N' The Bedouins" sound like one, continuous, overlong bad song. They honestly sound identical. The only thing "Riad" has going for it is the cool G N' R-esque N' in its title. (Though, I suppose it could also be construed as Prince/I Would Die 4 U-esque. That would not be as cool. In fact, it might even qualify as pretty gay. Confession 2: Johnny fucking loves Prince and has been known to sing "I Wanna Be Your Lover" to many a lady.)

"Sorry" and "Madasgascar" are total snoozes. Just writing about them is making me drowsy. "Madagascar" is the track everyone's raving about? I don't get it. It just kinda plods along. There's no hook. And what's with the MLK and Cool Hand Luke excerpts? Yes, it's cool to hear "What we've got here is failure to communicate" again, though it only reminds me that this track blows compared to "Civil War."

In perhaps the greatest insult yet heaped upon Chinese Democracy, dare I say "This I Love" would not sound out of place on The Phantom Of The Opera soundtrack. Axl—God bless him—sings his heart out and should really consider sending a copy to Andrew Lloyd Webber. Slash must be rolling over in the coffin he no doubt sleeps in. (Axl on The Great White Way is not that far-fetched—one need look no further than his hammy performance in the video for "November Rain." Plus, his pal Sebastian Bach appeared on Broadway in Jekyll & Hyde back in 2000. Way to maintain all that street cred you built up with "I Remember You, " Sebastian. Hmmm, that first name isn't helping either. Could 'Sebastian' be any farther from 'Axl' on the name spectrum?)

Well, what do you know? "I.R.S." and the album-closer, "Prostitute," are actually kinda cool. Fuck, maybe this album isn't as bad as I thought. For an Axl Rose record. Because no matter what the album cover says, it's not Guns N' Fucking Roses.

Of course, the real question is, will we still be listening to Chinese Democracy 20 years from now, like Appetite For Destruction? Not a chance. Granted, Appetite is arguably the best debut album of all time. (Along with, in my humble but correct opinion, an entirely different type of album—Pete Yorn's Music For The Morning After. Yorn gets extra points for being such a dreamboat. But, loses serious points for failing to live up to his debut's brilliance. But, that's another post.)

Regardless, good for W. Axl Rose for finally having the balls to release Chinese Democracy. After all the money (a rumored $14 million), all the hype ("Biggest Release Ever!"), and all the ink spilled about it (see Spanish Johnny's recent review, titled "Ow! My Freakin' Ears!"), he released it knowing full well it could never live up to the expectations. And you know what? It doesn't.

Spanish Johnny is the noted author of government-issued STD pamphlets ("Going, Going, Gonorrhea" and "Chlamydia: Bad, But Not As Bad As You Think") and the syndicated dog column, Life Is Ruff. He resides in New York's Upper West Side under a bridge in Riverside Park.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008