Whenever the yearly wrap-up is upon us, it's hard to not be at least slightly amused by the various rock star feuds that fueled the previous months' headlines. But for whatever reason, 2008 was a rather quiet, peaceful one. There will always be a few snide remarks that bands will hurl at one another, but this year those musicians were just too darn busy being productive.
We finally saw Metallica and Guns N' Roses put their latest albums to bed, while reunion tours of Van Halen, Smashing Pumpkins, and a host of hair metal bands kept fans smiling. In spite of all the economic woes, we at least could rely on rock. So when it came time to compile our list of the Good, Bad, and Ugly of 2008, we almost believed there might have been just a few more angels than devils. Well, almost.
Not to be outdone by previous years, 2008 did produce its share of trainwrecks. There weren't quite as many as in 2007 (Pete Doherty, where are you?), but musicians and their never-ending love for alcohol and/or drugs provided us with plenty of ammunition.
Giving drug addiction a run for its money were monster egos, which were also in ample supply in 2008. It's certainly a much healthier alternative, and diva fits will always be a welcome addition to our list of the Good, Bad, and Ugly. Thanks, Chris Martin, for making us smile.
Metallica's Glorious ReturnIt seems like a lifetime ago that Metallica had become the bane of metal fans everywhere. You just had to mention the words Napster and Lars in the same sentence, and there would be at least one person in the room ready to chime in with their anti-Metallica rants. The band's situation didn't improve with the release of 2003's St. Anger, with widely varying reviews that kept many fans with their grudges intact. But time has made the legendary metal outfit wiser, and thankfully, still capable of writing a solid album. Many are calling the new record Death Magnetic a return to form, even in spite of the mastering issues that have plagued the CD version. While some are insisting that a new-and-improved edition of Death Magnetic be released to make up for the distorted mess currently on the shelves, Metallica can at least sit back and know that their credibility in the metal world has once again been restored.
Video Games: The Best Publicists Around?Okay, I can already hear hordes of you out there decrying the value of the Rock Band or Guitar Hero franchise, but it's hard to deny that video games are a brilliant means of promotion. Take a band like Fall Of Troy, for example. Vocalist/guitarist Thomas Erak admitted that sales for his album skyrocketed after his song appeared on Guitar Hero III last year. The biggies are also recognizing the power of the XBox 360, with former untouchables like Metallica and Tool giving Guitar Hero the right to feature their songs. The debate will forever go on about the value of playing a video game vs. actually playing a genuine musical instrument, but it's probably time for that battle to die. The fact remains that Rock Band and Guitar Hero often boost album sales just as effectively as the usual PR route, and that can't be such a horrible thing - particularly for up-and-coming bands that need all the exposure they can get.
Josh Freese, Family ManFor every self-absorbed, better-than-thou rock star is a guy like Josh Freese, who could give lessons in family values to all those right-wingers out there. Known as the go-to percussionist on the music scene (he's played with everyone from A Perfect Circle to The Vandals), Freese recently made the news when it was announced that he would be leaving his gig in Nine Inch Nails.
A headline like that usually signals creative differences or the age-old rehab excuse, but with a newborn child on the way, the drummer simply wanted to spend more time with his family. Kudos, Mr. Freese.
Axl RoseHe's a man of his word, that Axl. It didn't seem possible that we would ever get another studio album of original material from Guns N' Roses, but the man did it. In a way I'm sad that the running joke of Chinese Democracy's never-ending recording session is over, but it has indeed been promoted (or demoted, depending on your perspective) to that of a real, megabyte-holding CD. Despite the passage of time, Axl fans still exist out there, as was made apparent by Chinese Democracy earning the #1 slot on the iTunes Rock Charts - well, globally at least. The album didn't fare quite as well in the old USA (peaking at #4), but it's still likely that Axl and the ungodly number of rotating members of GN'R will eventually recoup the money spent in recording costs. Of course, it may take 17 more years.
Axl RoseAnd The Dr. Pepper FiascoIt took 17 years for this? For as thrilled as some are to finally have Chinese Democracy in their hands (and we're also still standing by Rose's slot on the Good list), there's a whole other segment of the population that is perplexed and dissatisfied.
Let's be clear - Chinese Democracy is not a bad album by any means, but it's hard to say if it's the grand opus that many envisioned. And if you're familiar with Axl's latest rift (check out the scoop here), then you know one simple question has overshadowed any comments about the music on Chinese Democracy. Where is my f**king Dr. Pepper?
Led Zeppelin Minus Robert PlantWhen Led Zeppelin reunited to play a benefit concert in London last December, there seemed to be a unanimous comment from critics and fans alike: This is a band that is still at the top of its game. Many left asking, Is this a sign of new recordings to come? Maybe a full-blown tour? Perhaps, but therein lies the problem. Robert Plant has no intention of taking part in another reunion and Jimmy Page appears to be going forward with the idea. Talk of a replacement singer has abounded, leaving many Zeppelin fans with a foul taste in their mouth. We already are missing the late, great John Bonham (son Jason filled in during the reunion), and now Plant is going to be a no-show? You could get the best frontman out there to replace Plant, but you would still be approaching GN'R territory or even Smashing Pumpkins' skewed version of reunion. Nobody wants that, Jimmy.
Billy Corgan Vs ConcertgoersThere's a love/hate relationship involved with reunion tours. Certain rules apply for the artist most of the time: Play the hits, keep the crowds happy, and they might just be willing to hear a few new tracks. But as any fan of Smashing Pumpkins is well aware, Billy Corgan has his own playbook. During many of his live gigs this year, Corgan has appeared conflicted and agitated after seeing that concertgoers are less than thrilled with the unfamiliar setlist. At one particular show at the Chicago Theatre, Corgan questioned, Why are you so upset with us? It's because we don't do what you want us to do. He topped it all off with, We don't know what the f**k you want from us. It's probably not a wise idea to spit venom at your fans, but only a rock veteran who's been playing gigs for at least 20 years would understand that.oh, wait. Billy, do some serious soul searching - or at least look into perfecting the art of interpersonal communication.
Travis Barker's Plane CrashTragedy tends to hit the rock world every few years, and on September 9 it seemed like another talented musician might be lost. It was on that day when drummer Travis Barker was critically injured when the Learjet 60 he was aboard crashed in South Carolina. The accident killed 4 and injured fellow passenger/friend DJ AM, while Barker was left with serious burns.
As horrific as the incident was, it seems to have put things in perspective for his bandmates in blink-182. Ever since the pop punk group disbanded in 2005, bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker have made no secret as to their dissatisfaction with guitarist Tom DeLonge's lackadaisical involvement during the band's final days. The plane crash has seemed to open up the lines of communication once again, however. It's too early to expect a full-blown reunion tour, but Hoppus did report on his blog that the trio has been reconnecting as friends.
The BBC Interview With Coldplay's Chris MartinJournalists and Coldplay fans, take note: Don't ask too many details about the meaning of Chris Martin's songs. Apparently public figures who write albums for millions to hear get a little freaked out when asked such questions - or at least that was the case for Martin back in June.
When probed about whether he was preoccupied with death (alluding to his new album Viva la Vida or Death And All His Friends), Martin accused the reporter of twisting his ideas and proceeded to excuse himself from the interview. There are certain stars that can pull off that type of move, but a man who writes soft rock tunes like Yellow and The Scientist doesn't quite make the grade.
Scott WeilandLeave it to Scott Weiland, the epitome of the turbulent-yet-consistently-charismatic rock star, to keep the ugly coming each year. No one can take away the fact that Weiland is a phenomenal performer and carries the attitude and star power of a modern-day Iggy Pop, but the vocalist is not always the most coherent. If you saw the American Music Awards, then you witnessed Weiland's awkward presentation of the singer Pink. Speaking in long, slow sentences, the audience was left wondering if the STP frontman was back to his old bad habits.
Well, if Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagan was speaking the truth on a Seattle radio morning show in November, the demons are still aplenty with Weiland. While the AMA appearance wasn't a total trainwreck, the frontman was indeed a spectacle, particularly considering he announced that Pink's new single is called - and this is no joke - Sober. Ladies and gentlemen, Scott Weiland. Master of irony.
Frontwoman Stabs Guitarist For Flubbing A RiffIt's not uncommon to witness tension amongst bandmates onstage, but 19-year-old Italian heavy metal vocalist Cristina Balzano apparently doesn't want to waste time with verbal arguments.
The frontwoman of Soul Cry opted to stab her guitarist when he apparently failed to deliver the perfect riff. The 16-year-old victim made it out alive, but Balzano is a reminder that metal is not always pretty.
Arrests GaloreIn 2008 there were assorted rock stars arrested for drugs and/or drinking, but if you take a look at the past few decades, addiction is not necessarily a new thing in the music world. Although tortured soul Steven Adler's arrest for drug possession in July was yet another sad incident in his ongoing battle against chemical dependency, seeing straight-laced musicians like Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora arrested for drunk driving or Barenaked Ladies' Steven Jay Page nabbed for cocaine made for some of the more shocking headlines of 2008.
Amy WinehouseWinehouse could very likely be the trainwreck of the century. She's more R&B than rock, but we had to add her to the list.
After all, she makes Scott Weiland and Courtney Love look downright professional.
By Amy Kelly