Reviewer gets best of Ken Saturday, Jan 2 2010 

The year, it seems, has started with a nice throwback to 1990. That year, Kenny Vasoli of the famed Starting Line from Philadelphia was a mere 6 years old, and a tantrum like the one he’s thrown would be more acceptable, perhaps even expected from him.

please don't be mean to me...or I'll call you a hipster.

Kenny responded to this review, which, admittedly, deserves to be derided. It’s wankery. No self-respecting journalist should put his name on such a badly-written piece. It’s a cry for attention..and one that seemed to reach the ears of the heroic, self-righteous Kenny.  However, what Kenny did was no better than what the journalist did. Take a gander:

Dear Philadelphia Weekly & Bill Chenevert,

I am Ken Vasoli, singer and bassist for The Starting Line. You know..the
“horseshit” band with an “insufferable brand of whine.” Thanks a million
for printing that article filled with those classic low-blows. Good move
too, you guys are giving Pitchfork a run for their money by cleverly cutting
down bands like us, its clearly the hip elitist thing to do. Congratulations
in advance for the increase in readership, as I’m sure will be the result of
bashing a popular philadelphia band.

What exactly was the point if the article? Was it to prevent people from
attending a show that’s already sold out, or perhaps to convince thousands
of Philadelphians that they have inferior taste in music? Regardless, I’m
happy to report that the two shows were both a fantastic success. I could
barely hear myself over crowds’ singing. These shows gave us in the band an
indescribable feeling of joy, one that I’m sure Mr. Chenevert will never
experience in his pathetic excuse for a career. I imagine the closest he
will come to such euphoria will be masturbating to a Deerhunter record while
reading the single comment left for his review bashing Coheed and Cambria.
I win.

Happy New Year.


Everyone gets upset when they read a negative review. But what Ken did was deplorable, unacceptable for an artist who takes himself even remotely seriously. I can’t fault him for wanting to respond to this article, in all fairness. This article is trash. This article was clearly written, as said before, to get the attention of the fans of the Starting Line and make them angry. The author is a bad writer who deserved to be taken to task for his self-indulgence. HOWEVER–and this is indeed a big HOWEVER, big enough to warrant all capital letters–this is perhaps the last way to go about taking anyone to task. Kenny played all the classic cards–the hipster card, the “I’m better than you” card, the “BUT IT MEANS SOMETHING TO SOMEONE” card–and went the way of Bemis in “Admit It!!!” with divisive language that rather than addressing the shortcomings of a bad article simply does the same thing as playground name calling.

This is simply childish. Responding to someone’s opinion the way Kenny did is stupid. It’s self-aggrandizement as a response to self-aggrandizement, first of all, and has no place in critical discourse about music. Second–and this is the worst part–it’s hypocrisy. Kenny loves the good reviews of all the kids in the crowd at his shows, but when someone says “man, I don’t like the Starting Line,” he can’t handle it. He only wants edification, not actual critique. Had the article actually been of any repute, Kenny would still, I think, be mad, mostly because of his go-to “classic low blows” about Deerhunter and Pitchfork, which demonstrate a lack of respect for a music scene he may not necessarily be into (though, as Person L suggests, he at least WANTS in, so perhaps he’s angrier because he hasn’t been accepted into this indie scene…which also could explain the earlier-than-planned TSL reunion…hmmmmm….)

At any rate, Kenny’s response is the ultimate in hypocrisy. If he would rather operate on the same low level as this “reviewer” than actually be the better man, so be it. That’s just one less band I have to take seriously as artists among the rapidly-narrowing field of generic pop-punkers.


Editor’s note:

I just want to highlight the fact that Ken referred to music journalism as a “pathetic excuse for a career.” The Decomposed Blog may just be a little wordpress weblog, and we’re not a blip on anyone’s radar at this point, but I still love what I do here. I’m sure David, Tim, Evan, and Max would agree with me when I say there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to write about something you love, which for all of us, is music. As David pointed out, it is utter hypocrisy for Ken to all-of-sudden thing music journalism is a such a terrible career choice now that some shitty writer made fun of him. He says that his problem with the review was that it was before the actual show. I ask you this, Ken; if the review had been overly positive, praising your show before it happened, while simultaneously making fun of hipsters for not enjoy your band, would you have responded to it? Would it have been a tragedy then? Clearly, you’re a very self-righteous individual, so please consider adding this gem to your sermon; if you do not want to be criticized, don’t bother attacking entire professions, genres, and scenes just for the sake of defending yourself.



Review – Bob Dylan – Together Through Life Thursday, Dec 17 2009 

One of the things I enjoy least about Bright Eyes are the Conor Oberst devotees who say things that don’t make any sense, calling him “the voice of a generation” and “the next Bob Dylan.” I could write a doctoral dissertation on how both these assertions are wrong, but instead I will spare Oberst (who I enjoy) and argue that we don’t even need a new Dylan, because the one we have still works just fine, thank you.

It's alright, Ma, it's only aging

On April 28, 2009, Dylan released Together Through Life, a collection of 10 bluesy songs cowritten with The Grateful Dead’s Rob Hunter. The album is sonically a trip down memory lane; the songs drift breezily through 1950’s blues and rock ‘n’ roll, all framed by David Hidalgo’s romantic accordion playing. “Romantic” is kind of a cop-out adjective, but it’s the perfect word not just for the accordion but for the album itself: it is decidedly lighter, both musically and lyrically, than 2006’s Modern Times, and it only further proves that Bob Dylan can still fulfill the role of Bob Dylan like only Bob Dylan could. He foregoes the meditations that have peppered his last three studio albums, instead opting for a more lively, carefree approach both to living and songwriting. The lyrics are a far cry from the surrealism that characterized the best of Dylan’s past work, and are even further removed from his iconic “finger-pointing” songs. Dylan seems to have embraced not only the political world in which he lives, but also the fact that it isn’t the politics that are important. In “It’s All Good,” he smokily croons, “Big politician telling lies/Restaurant kitchen, all full of flies/Don’t make a bit of difference, don’t see why it should,” a sentiment that back in the day would have made Greenwich Village folksters even angrier than electric guitars.

It is this sentiment that makes this album so excellent, and why it has landed itself a spot on my list of the top ten albums of 2009. Instead of speaking for anyone, Dylan once again speaks for himself. He revels in the fact that he is still alive but is sneakily mournful, never once forgetting that he’s old and getting older. If anyone else had written “I’m lost in the crowd/all my tears are gone,” it wouldn’t be as significant as it is coming from an old man whose last decade was characterized by the duende of having to accept mortality. He’s done with being sorrowful; this album is a testament to that. He finishes the stanza: “All I have and all I know/Is this dream of you/Which keeps me living on,” which is exactly what we all need to hear. Here is a man whose well of sadness has dried up, someone who no longer is king of the world and who no longer has the ability to galvanize throngs of adoring fans, bitter former fans, and bemused music journalists. Even though he’s lived a long, exhausting, difficult life, Dylan’s still got his priorities straight. This is an album about love, an album by a man who clearly understands all of our most intimate issues, problems, gripes, and pains, and who still says, “it’s all good” when you have love. Is the album perfect? No. But if it were, it wouldn’t be as charmingly Bob, as devilishly Dylan, as it is.

Score: 7/10


Review – Blink-182 – Blink-182 Monday, Jul 13 2009 

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way; I do not like Blink-182 in the least. However, I have an immense amount of respect for them. With the release of Enema of the State in 1999, Blink-182 popularized the genre of pop punk, simply because, at the time, they were doing it better than anyone else. Their follow up, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, continued them on the path of being teenage anthem kings. However, in 2003, Blink-182 ditched the fart jokes and dick references and crafted an album completely different from anything they’d made before. Some fans called it a self-titled, while others said it was untitled. No matter what it was, it cemented Blink-182’s status as, not only the biggest star of their genre, but the innovators of it as well. The release of Blink-182 proved that the pop punk genre Blink had helped create could be clever, mature, and unique. It was a huge risk for Blink to take it paid off dividends to their history. Unfortunately, soon after the release of Blink-182 Blink went on an indefinite hiatus and, soon after, broke up for good. Blink-182 serves as a reminder that these Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Travis Barker were always smarter than we gave them credit for.

Blink-182 opens with “Feeling This”, a pop punk anthem to sex done in a more mature way than was thought possible from the genre at the time. Musically, it shows a band abandoning their traditional aspect of loud, fast, power chords, opting instead for a drum-driven rhythm. This musical differences is shown several times throughout the album (“Violence”, “All of This”). Also, the lyrics on Blink-182 are different. For example, on their previous records, it wasn’t uncommon to find Blink singing about fucking dogs or getting blowjobs. However, their lyrics on this album venture through loneliness (“I Miss You”), frustration with life (“Always”), and several other themes previously undealt with for the band. Now, this album isn’t for everyone, of course, but if you don’t like anything else Blink-182 has done, there’s a slight chance you’ll enjoy seeing the direction they were going in before their hiatus. If not for breaking up, with the influence and mainstream appeal they possessed, Blink-182 could have easily been one of the major musical revolutions of the 20th century.

Overall rating: 8.1/10