Thursday, July 13, 2006


Games 87 through 89 – Mets

Marlins 3, Mets 2
Mets 17, Marlins 3
Mets 7, Marlins 6

Record at the All-Star Break: 53-36, Up 12 Games in the NL East

Well, just before the Mets’ season resumes play, I’m going to toss in a quick “state of the union” to counter my partner’s stellar work somewhere below. Although the outcome of the Midsummer Classic irked me, I won’t presume its result will have any bearing on the Metropolitans' fate, nor will I let it detract from one of the most enjoyable half-seasons in Mets history.

I’ll just jump right in here with minimal further preface; I’ll only say that lately the range of my creativity seems about as broad as Miguel Cabrera’s range at third base, so I won’t go far beyond the musical theme that’s been the tapestry draped on the back wall of MLC this year. I’ll be making this up as I go, so bear with me and we’ll see if I can make anything of this concept.

How to gauge the Mets at the Break? Well, if the New York Mets roster were comprised of musical acts . . .

. . . we’d certainly have one future candidate for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’d be an all-star rock and roll quartet probably featuring golden boy David Wright as frontman, drawing most of the media attention but backing it up completely. His obvious vocal talent would be matched only by sizzling guitar maestro Jose Reyes, a flashy, eye-catching wonder who rips through chords at a record pace and challenges his mates to keep up. That they do, as rhythm guitar and bass man Carlos “Ring My” Beltran, somehow overshadowed in this band, churns out steadily amazing sounds while Duke LoDuca mans the drum kit and leads from behind the scenes. If this group were to remain intact (always a big if in rock & roll), they could be kicking out this brilliant output for some time. Only one or two need to be “on” to carry the band, but if you catch them when all four are clicking, you’ll know you’ve really seen something. This act could be called something like The Clutch, with songs like “Walk Off” and “Legging It Out.”

Okay, we might have a few more sounds at Shea. We’ll keep it going for now.

Of course, Carlos Delgado would have been a part of The Clutch for some time, but he parted ways with them a short while back (creative differences). The Carlos Delgado Phenomenon has issued some mellow R&B guitar noodling of late (“Donning The Golden Sombrero” was an absolute dog of a record), but the fans know he contributes far more when he muscles up and plugs in. Look for a possible reunion with his old group as the summer wears on.

I also very much enjoy the sounds of Endgame, a blaring metal band. The outfit is carried by lead man Billy Wagner, hollering out his anthems while playing his enormous axe. Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman fill out the trio, capably supporting BWAG on “7th 8th 9th” and “Lowdown Mowdown.” They’ll issue a few duds, like their insipid cover of “Closing Time,” but they go beyond solid and represent a significant step up from the previous dearth of good hard rock.

Swerving towards the other end of the dial, the Adult Contemporary niche is brilliantly filled by piano man T. M. Glavine. His recent renaissance has been a return to his early days, best evidenced by more rocking tunes like “Added a Curve” and “10 Early Wins.” He’ll still occasionally show his age, nearing John Tesh territory with his rendition of Wang Chung’s “To Live and Die in L.A.,” but he represents the best of the genre, as far as I’m concerned.

Another leader in the singer/songwriter vein is, of course, Peter Martin, a.k.a. Pedro Martinez. “The Dominican Neil Young” is a legend in his own right, but recent years have found him more erratic than in his heyday. He’s still a marvel to watch live, even as he opts to play new works of questionable merit like “Toe Hip Labrum” or “Please Come to Boston and Beat Me Around Like a Slobodan Milosevic Effigy” instead of age-old classics like “Wicked Slurve” or “Horsehide Earring.” You just feel like he’s got another vintage record in him at any time.

Unsung punk act The Minions are surprisingly listenable these days. While clearly on the short end of the talent stick, the effort these guys put into every show is worth noting. Woody Woodward mans the mic but can play every instrument in the van. Chav Chavez only knows a few chords but hits them with impressive results most every time. Cass Castro is the burly big man banging out the beat in steady time. And new addition Frank Franco, an old blues musician, bops the bass beat with a casual cool that brings an unexpected boost to this otherwise straight-ahead group. A low risk/high reward result from these lads thus far. If you can dig up “Day Game After a Night Game” or “PH-Balanced,” you’ll undoubtedly like what you find.

Speaking of surprising, there’s no way you would have otherwise convinced me that a kazoo, tuba, & banjo trio would make for good music, but the corps of Xavier Nady, Jose Valentin, and Eli Marrero, who call themselves X-Stachio Nut, have somehow made it work. Their alternative alternative alternative rock act, with wacky tunes such as “Smoke & Mirrors,” “I Told You I Didn’t Suck,” and “Are You Sure They Can’t Test For This?” draws heckling from the purists among the music fans, but the proof is in the pudding, or something like that.

Also pleasing to the ears is a new 80’s cover band, Ollie & the Sidearms. You know you’re not getting the cream of the crop in this genre, but you can still like what you hear. With Ollie Oliver on lead guitar/vox and Chad “Rad” Bradford and Pedro “Feliz Navidad” Feliciano on twin synths, their versions of “Walking in L.A.,” “Cruel Summer,” “WHIP It” and “Hold It Now, Hit It” have kept me smiling all spring and summer so far.

Of course, not all of the sounds emanating from the clubhouse have been a joy to hear…

Hip-hop legend Cliff Floyd, a.k.a. “HBP,” has fallen on some hard times. It feels like he hasn’t had a hit in years, it seems like eons since his classic “Bombing Anaheim,” and his once cutting-edge production now sounds dated. He’s still got more talent in his pinky toe than most urban acts can cram into a room full of bodies, so I refuse to believe he’s done wowing us. He’s a guy, when the setting is right, than can knock one out of the park, if you will. It just happens a lot less these days.

Others are doing a better job, but I simply can’t sit through one of their albums. Steve “Tex” Trachsel’s slow-footed neo-country work is one of those. He’s clearly a solid talent, but the time-consuming, plodding twang of his sappy ballads is too much to bear. If you’re flipping around, you’ll discover he’s the best thing going in the genre these days, but if I have to endure “Throw Over (Part 7)” or “I’m Takin’ My Time, You’re Takin’ Your Base” one more time, I might break something.

Meanwhile, there are entire classes of music I’m just not digging. Take for example the carousel of performers in the techno outfit Staff Infekshun. DJ’s Sinister Bannister, Maine Man, Pelf, and the Pair o’ Cubans have all taken their turn at the helm, looping their bloops and blips and dunts and dunts, and as I took it in, it all seemed like one big amorphous blob of the same mediocre sound over and over. Not one song jumps out at me – don’t get me wrong, it’s not God-awful music I have to turn off, but it’s not the lift I was looking for, either. It’s going to either take a new mix-master or a renewed approach from one of these cats to get me back into it.

And what do the kids see in this young artist Heath "Clang" Bell? They all love him, but I hear crap like “Bleacher-Bound Catapult” and “Nice Nice BABIP” and I just don’t get it. Am I just getting too old?

Finally, it hardly warrants mentioning in the same post, but how about that horrible boy-band Fiasco? With Lima Time, Jorge Julio, Vic Zam, and Simply Kaz on various synthesizers and Casio recorders, this quartet of silence-destroying ear invaders stands out as the only wretched blemish in a summer of otherwise predominantly pleasant listening. Fortunately, their label tore up their contract, but the damage was done to my eardrums. I hope I never, ever again hear the a capella version of “Baby, No One Knows How Much I Love You But Everyone Knows How Much I Suck.”

And with that, I have to slag the program director and on-air DJ just a tad. I mean, how do Captain Minaya and DJ Willie defend some of these acts? It frightens me to think they might not have learned from some of their errors in judgment, but I’ll not give up on them yet. They’ve compiled a half-season’s worth of mostly toe-tapping tunes for us music aficionados so far, and there’s something to be said for that.

As for baseball . . . hell, I’ve got no time for baseball now, what with all the music to hear. You’ll have to figure out the state of the Mets yourselves.

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