Tournament of Rock IV: the KISS pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!In the previous match we saw a mild upset, as Bad Company nudged out Don Henley. In Alanis Morissette’s world, that’s ironic. BadCo advances to the Sweet 16.

Up next: pod #6, where we have posted urgent testosterone warnings.

  • #7 Seed: KISS
  • Bad English
  • Genesis (post-Peter Gabriel – 1978-forward)
  • Nickelback
  • Whitesnake


Rooted in the campy theatrics of Alice Cooper and the sleazy hard rock of glam rockers the New York Dolls, Kiss became a favorite of American teenagers in the ’70s. Most kids were infatuated with the look of Kiss, not their music. Decked out in outrageously flamboyant costumes and makeup, the band fashioned a captivating stage show featuring dry ice, smoke bombs, elaborate lighting, blood spitting, and fire breathing that captured the imaginations of thousands of kids. But Kiss’ music shouldn’t be dismissed — it was a commercially potent mix of anthemic, fist-pounding hard rock driven by sleek hooks and ballads powered by loud guitars, cloying melodies, and sweeping strings. It was a sound that laid the groundwork for both arena rock and the pop-metal that dominated rock in the late ’80s.

fikshun: Aren’t these guys the ultimate winner? They kept up the standard “put out a new album every 6-9 months” routine for years. No one can touch their merchandising. The bass player owns the brand likenesses for the drummer and guitarist!!! Oh, and name one other band that has such low corporate ethics that they see nothing wrong with marketing albums to kids with songs about butt sex and sex with minors.

Me: A friend of mine once asked what could possibly be more conservative than long-haired “heavy metal” rebellion among working class teens in the Midwest. He wasn’t talking about KISS specifically, I don’t think, but when I was in high school the only thing more mainstream than KISS was maybe Coke.

Jim: Why these bastards aren’t the #1 seed is one of life’s mysteries.

Bad English

Following Journey’s temporary breakup in 1987, guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain teamed up with Cain’s former bandmates in the Babys — vocalist John Waite and bassist Ricky Phillips — to form Bad English. Drummer Deen Castronovo, who would later join Journey in the late ’90s, completed the lineup. One of the last supergroups of the decade, Bad English made power ballads like there was no tomorrow — and they did it better than most, due in part to Waite’s strong vocals and Schon’s creation of the power ballad prototype during his years with Journey. As the ’80s gave way to the ’90s, the group scored two huge hit singles — “When I See You Smile” and “Price of Love” — and watched its self-titled debut (released in 1989 by Epic Records) reach platinum certification.

Me: I loved John Waite. And I had loved The Babys before they split up. So you take three former Babys and add a guitarist who used to play with Santana and heck, that’s a formula for awesome, right? I momentarily lost sight of the fact that three of those guys either were or would be in Journey. Which was a formula for…well, formula.

Jim: Any band with Journey connections is damned forever. No exceptions.


Genesis started life as a progressive rock band, in the manner of Yes and King Crimson, before a series of membership changes brought about a transformation in their sound, into one of the most successful pop/rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, the group has provided a launching pad for the superstardom of members Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, and star solo careers for members Tony Banks, Michael Rutherford, and Steve Hackett.

Brian Angliss: Genesis with Peter Gabriel may have been artistically interesting, but the music sucked. Genesis after Peter Gabriel, on the other hand, was a hell of a lot more fun, even though the trio seemed hell-bent on cranking out crappy social commentary (along with the occasional / real / social commentary) at least three times per album. [Crappy = “No Son of Mine”; Real = “Land of Confusion”]

Me: In truth, post-PG Genesis didn’t really become a king-hell monster of commerce until the self-titled release in 1983, a good five years after Gabriel left. And even at that point, mainstream wasn’t necessarily a bad word. Back then you might not be John Lennon, but that didn’t mean you were the Bay City Rollers, either.

Jim: Genesis with Peter Gabriel – interestingly artsy-fartsy. Genesis without Peter Gabriel – neither interesting nor artsy-fartsy.


Few bands did more than Nickelback to establish the force of slick, commercially minded post-grunge in the 2000s. Led by vocalist Chad Kroeger, the band initially emerged in the late ’90s as Canada’s answer to Creed, prizing a blend of gruff vocals and distorted (yet radio-friendly) guitars. After a handful of singles failed to gain much traction in Canada, “How You Remind Me” caught hold in 2001, eventually topping the charts in several countries while gathering four Grammy nominations and four Juno Awards. Creed imploded several years later, but Nickelback’s popularity only grew as the decade progressed, effectively eclipsing those acts that had once informed the band’s sound.

fikshun: So corporate that I’m not sure if I’m thinking of them or Coldplay.

Bonesparkle: Ah, yes – the kings of Contemporary Corporate Douche Rock. Their lawyers are still trying to decide whether or not the band can sue itself for plagiarism.

Jim: Journey for people who can’t tell the difference between Nirvana and Candlebox – or Bush – or Nickelback…wait….


During 1982, Coverdale took some time off so he could take care of his sick daughter. When he re-emerged with a new version of Whitesnake in 1984, the band sounded revitalized and energetic. Slide It In may have relied on Led Zeppelin’s and Deep Purple’s old tricks, but the band had a knack for writing hooks; the record became their first platinum album. Three years later, Whitesnake released an eponymous album (titled 1987 in Europe) that was even better. Portions of the album were blatantly derivative — “Still of the Night” was a dead ringer for early Zeppelin — but the group could write powerful, heavy rockers like “Here I Go Again” that were driven as much by melody as riffs, as well as hit power ballads like “Is This Love.” Whitesnake was an enormous international success, selling over six million copies in the U.S. alone.

Me: Tawny Kitaen rolling around on the hood of that Jag was the archetypal expression of the ’80s aesthetic. Discuss.

Jim: Any band that evokes any memory of Tawny Kitaen deserves rebuke. Discuss.

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The rules.

Image Credit: Last.FM

The GOP and God-sanctioned rape

I live in Indiana with Richard Mourdock, the man who believes rape and the resulting pregnancy are parts of God’s plan.

I have never been raped, but I know something about rape. When my mother was in her sixties, she was raped twice by a serial rapist who was never caught. My daughter was sexually assaulted at college and the assailant walked away with an off-the-record rebuke. And a former high school girlfriend was kidnapped and raped while hitchhiking.

Here’s what I know about rape.

Six months afterward, I have seen my mother start shaking uncontrollably and then cry for hours.

I have heard my daughter scream in the night, and when her mother ran to comfort her, I have sat in bed listening helplessly.

I have been told by my former girlfriend that she can no longer have sex, because whenever a man touches her she goes completely rigid, stiff as a board, not even able to speak.

So no, I have never had a 250 lb man squeeze my throat until I heard things cracking while he shoved a dick up my ass, but I know something about rape.

I am tempted to wish the gift of rape upon Mourdock’s family, but I cannot. So let me wish this. Mourdock, may you be judged by a god who has rape as part of his heavenly plan.

It's time for the feds to consider RICO charges against the Boy Scouts of America

Back in September Kim Christensen and Jason Felch of the Los Angeles Times broke an absolute blockbuster of a story: the Boy Scouts of America have, for decades, been providing cover for pedophiles in its ranks.

Over two decades, the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.

A Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 has found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.

Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, “chronic brain dysfunction” and duties at a Shakespeare festival.

DATABASE: Tracking decades of allegations

The details are contained in the organization’s confidential “perversion files,” a blacklist of alleged molesters, that the Scouts have used internally since 1919. Scouts’ lawyers around the country have been fighting in court to keep the files from public view.

In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.

The raw numbers are terrifying, and now Congress is being asked to audit the BSA’s youth protections.

The effort to seek a congressional inquiry came Thursday as the attorneys released more than 20,000 Boy Scout documents identifying more than 1,000 leaders and volunteers banned from the group after being accused of sexual or inappropriate conduct with boys.

How many victims are out there? Well, research suggests that only one in 10 molested boys reports the crime, so you do the math. If the Times report is accurate, then we’re talking about Jerry Sandusky times…what? 100? 1000?

You might expect, with good reason, that the public response to this outrage would be nigh-on nuclear. After all, we’re talking about the most appalling violation of trust fathomable – the only scandal in recent memory on a par with the BSA conspiracy is the Roman Catholic Church’s pedophile ring.

Instead, the outcry has been minimal, at best. The organization’s decision to deny one member his Eagle rank because he’s gay seems to have garnered about as much national attention. (How ironic, by the way. If you’re a gay kid who has earned Eagle, screw you. If you’re a gay who wants to be a scoutmaster, thanks, but you need not apply. If you’re a pedophile, though, we got your back.) Granted, the Boy Scout scandal isn’t threatening any football programs, but still, you’d think it would be driving at least a little bit of interest, wouldn’t you?

In any event, the Times report paints a picture of BSA leadership involved in a systematic, sustained campaign to cover up felony behavior. Earlier today, I found myself wondering why we weren’t hearing more about federal investigations into these crimes. More specifically, I began thinking that perhaps RICO charges might be in order.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act…focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually do it… While its original use in the 1970s was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its later application has been more widespread.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I reached out to Guy Saperstein, one of America’s most prominent attorneys. Here’s what he said:

I think RICO has been used in a few cases against Catholic church officials; I don’t recall if the cases were successful, but the cases went to juries, so at least a few federal judges found RICO to be applicable. The same standard could apply to the Boy Scouts, but to be successful under RICO, it would have to be shown that the abusive activity was at least sanctioned, if not designed, at the upper levels of the organization to be considered a criminal conspiracy. I also remember RICO being used here in Oakland against the head of the Hell’s Angels, Sonny Barger, a case defended by a friend of mine, but Sonny was acquitted or the jury hung when it could not be proven that running drugs and killing people was a policy of the Hell’s Angels.

So pursuing the Boy Scouts using RICO might be a potentially viable course of action (the case seems, from what I can tell, to be more or less parallel to the Catholic Church situation) although the outcome of such prosecution would be anything but certain. Was covering up for pedophiles “policy”? I’d think you could make the case, but I’m also sure that the BSA can afford good lawyers.

The BSA, for its part, seems to understand the gravity of its situation. (I expect those lawyers I just referred to have discussed the organization’s civil liability with leadership.)

The release of the files has been an embarrassment to the Boy Scouts, which in 2010 finally adopted a policy of requiring local scout leaders to report sex-abuse allegations to police.

“There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and, in certain cases, our response to these incidents, and our efforts to protect youth, were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong,” said Wayne Perry, the national president of the Boy Scouts, in a statement last week. “Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or, worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies.”

It’s good to see them working to fix the problem, but in no way does this excuse those guilty of criminal behavior in the past.

I hope federal authorities are paying close attention to this case. We were repulsed by the Catholic Church’s game of musical pedophiles and I think the multi-tiered Sandusky cover-up at Penn State is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Here’s yet another large, powerful organization that spent decades violating its constituencies in the most reprehensible manner imaginable, and it’s about time that everyone – everyone – entrusted with the well-being of children came to understand that institutional enabling is as bad as the actual raping.

For all we know, there are other organizations out there still hiding serial pedophiles, and it would be good if the directors of said organizations had one more reason to come clean. Today.

The seven kinds of rape (thx to the GOP for sorting this out)

Back in the old days rape was rape. Or, at most, there were two kinds. There was the “put on a ski mask and rape her at knifepoint” type and there was the “she said she was 18” statutory type. Which wasn’t really rape at all, because, I mean, LOOK at her. And she really wanted it.

These days it’s more complicated. There’s ALL KINDS of rape, and it’s important to understand the differences because some of them have distinctly religious implications. That is, if you’re being raped, it helps to be aware of whether or not it’s God’s will, for instance. That way you can know whether or not you should be enjoying it (in a holy spirit way, not a sins of the flesh way, you whore) and you can even be thinking about whether or not you’ll be blessed with a pregnancy. Maybe you can even start thinking about baby names.

Brainwrap over at Kos has updated the handy-dandy Republican Rape Advisory Chart you may have seen floating around on Facebook. It explains the different kinds of rape and provides certifying information from Republican candidates for elected office so that you know it’s valid and not some shit that a bozo just made up.

Please share this with any friends you think might benefit from it. You know, like potential rapists or undecided women voters.