With July nearly upon us, it’s tier time here at Rotographs. Following up on my previous themes of Kurt Russell movies and vacation destinations, I have decided to assign hard rock bands to this month’s tiers. This idea came to me at about 3am on Friday night, and I haven’t thought of anything better, so here we go.
Before we get into it, please fight off the temptation to flood the comments section with “DUDE YOU DIDN’T RANK [insert band here] WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU” posts. I’ve only got seven tiers to cover the very broad genre of ‘hard rock,’ and I had to save two of them for Creed and Nickelback. Give me a break.
It’s Led Zeppelin. As a society, we pretty much all agree that Led Zeppelin is the greatest hard rock band of all time, and as a society, we got that one right. Their first six albums are all timeless classics. We all have our favorites — I’m a “Led Zeppelin IV” guy, with a serious soft spot for the underrated “In Through the Out Door” — but I won’t argue if you personally prefer their many other great records.
As luck would have it, this is the perfect analogy to refer to the players in tier one. Like most Led Zeppelin albums, these second basemen are all pretty much at the same level of awesomeness. The days of Jose Altuve’s personal tier are over — more the result of so many second basemen performing at a high level, than a reaction to Altuve’s own production (which is still rock solid).
I could honestly make sound arguments for each of these four guys to be the top second baseman rest-of-season. I shuffled the order in this tier several times, finally settling on Brian Dozier in the top spot. These four are all truly elite options, and so is “Houses of the Holy.”
If you can listen to Van Halen without rocking out in some capacity (let’s say an aggressive foot tap, at a minimum), you might want to go to the doctor to make sure that you are not dead. I think they can do tests for that, but I’m admittedly no expert.
Van Halen dominated rock radio in the eighties, with their anthemic hooks and guitar wizardry flooding the airwaves. By my count, their catalog includes three truly top-notch records (“Van Halen,” “Women and Children First,” “1984”) and four other very good ones (“Van Halen II,” “Fair Warning,” “5150,” “A Different Kind of Truth”).
However, unlike Led Zeppelin, Van Halen isn’t perfect. An uncomfortably long decade of their career was spent making sub-replacement level powerpop with Sammy Hagar, and at one point they actually thought it was a good idea to make an entire record with the guy who sang “More Than Words.”
Still, on the whole, Van Halen is a perfectly good listening choice for any mood or situation. Also, the fact that they reunited with David Lee Roth four years ago has largely helped fans forgive them for the 1990’s.
I just can’t help myself when it comes to Logan Forsythe. Fun fact: Forsythe has climbed at least eight spots in these 2015 rankings with each monthly installment. I wrote about him a couple weeks ago, and it continues to amaze me how extraordinarily consistent he’s been:
- April: .282/.370/.465, .835 OPS
- May: .297/.368/.465, .834 OPS
- June: .315/.398/.438, .836 OPS
He’s got eight homers and seven steals on the year, putting him roughly in line for a 15/15 season. Throw in the fact that he’s hitting .299 — and bats either fourth or fifth in the lineup every day — and you’re talking about a bonafide five-category contributor. And yet, somehow, he’s owned in fewer than 40% of Yahoo leagues. This makes absolutely no sense to me.
My injury concerns regarding Anthony Rendon have grown so severe that I wonder if he’ll be able to produce in any significant fashion for fantasy owners this season. He certainly didn’t do much in his 18-game cameo before returning to the disabled list. He was 20-for-69 (.290) and drew nine walks, but he didn’t homer and was 0-for-2 on attempted steals.
Jeff Sullivan’s excellent piece on Joe Panik — and Panik’s staunch refusal to stop hitting baseballs — convinced me to give him a huge bump up the list this month. If you find yourself still on the side of the non-believers, educate yourself like I did by reading Jeff’s article. Panik may not actually be an .850+ OPS hitter, but he’s a heck of a lot better than I’ve given him credit before.
King’s X is a tremendously underappreciated band. The Houston-based trio is responsible for one of my favorite albums ever, the unforgettable 1989 record “Gretchen Goes to Nebraska.” From the opening tones of the album-opening track “Out of the Silent Planet,” King’s X explores sonic wonderlands that most other hard rock bands don’t even realize exist.
In addition to “Gretchen,” King’s X would go on to release the bone-crunchingly heavy “Dogman” in 1994, along with several other very strong albums. To this day, their live show is a whirlwind of energy, despite the fact that the band members range from 53 to 64 years old. I’ve seen them a good half-dozen times, and have never walked away disappointed.
Like the players listed here, King’s X does have significant flaws that keep the band from contending for a higher tier. Their lyrics can get far too awkwardly literal for my tastes, and most of their 21st century studio output has been roughly replacement-level music (with the exception of 2008’s very good “XV”).
DJ LeMahieu’s offensive production has been on a steady decline since his ridiculously hot .406/.446/.522 April. After a .720 OPS in May, LeMahieu dipped down into the .600s in June. Then again, he also stole five bases last month, so he continues to find a way to provide value. I just feel like the ~.700 OPS version of LeMahieu is the responsible expectation, and he’s not going to swipe five bases every month to offset that.
The fact that AC/DC is one of the most commercially successful bands of all-time is one of the most befuddling aspects of humanity. It’s not that AC/DC is all that bad, it’s that their sound has about as much flavor as a piece of dry toast. They are objectively one of the most sonically limited bands ever, and the one sound they’ve been producing over and over for decades is aesthetically unpleasant.
AC/DC is possibly the lowest common denominator musical act to ever achieve widespread success. Perhaps that’s part of their appeal. Their music is so simple and repetitive that it makes people feel smart, because it’s so extremely easy to predict what happens next, even for a first-time listener.
It’s the same theory behind why terrible sitcoms pull in great ratings on television. For viewers of those shows, the ability to see the jokes coming a mile away is a good thing. These viewers aren’t laughing at the jokes because they’re funny, they’re pride-laughing at themselves for figuring it out before the punch line. What other explanation is there for “Everybody Loves Raymond” dominating ratings for a decade?
AC/DC is the “Everybody Loves Raymond” of hard rock music. Martin Prado is the AC/DC of second basemen. Martin Prado = “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Sure, he doesn’t have enough power or speed to ever be truly exciting, but his predictable .280ish batting average is somewhat comforting in its annual repetition. I guess.
Rougned Odor has been on fire since his return from Triple-A, where he was crushing the ball to the tune of a .352/.426/.639 slash. Back in the majors, he’s already picked up two homers and four steals in two weeks, while also hitting for average. If he keeps it up, he could be upwardly mobile on this list next month. Still, let’s not forget how bad he was to begin the year, and that we’re dealing with a very small major-league return sample at this time.
We get but one shot at this life — unless reincarnation is a thing, but let’s just proceed under the assumption that it isn’t. Your hours on this earth are finite. You will not live forever.
Yet, with all the music that exists in the world, some people still choose to spend time they will never get back listening to Dokken. I will likely never reach the point where I understand these people. I don’t think I want to.
Owning any of the players in this tier is more cringe-inducing than listening to the Creed song “With Arms Wide Open” in its entirety. It’s more annoying than the fact that Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti set a world record on the song “Higher” by playing the same six-note guitar riff 51,204 times in the song’s five-minute runtime. You know the one.
Remember the time Scott Stapp picked a fight with the entire band 311, and they beat him up so badly that their singer fractured his hand from punching Stapp so many times? If you own Omar Infante, you know exactly how Stapp felt as he picked himself up off the floor that night, having just gotten wrecked by a bunch of pacifist neo-hippies.
TIER UGGLA – NICKELBACK
Much like Dan Uggla, Nickelback is an easy joke — perhaps one of society’s easiest, at this moment in history. However, some old person once told me that there’s value in doing a simple thing, as long as you take pride in doing it right. That’s what I’m going to do right here, right now.
Back in 2000, I saw Nickelback play on their first major tour. Their album “The State” was just starting to gain traction on the radio, and they booked a gig at a place called Playmaker’s Pavilion in my hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. Tickets were $10.
When you’re a bored teenager in North Dakota, you jump on any opportunity that might result in anything other than pure, unadulterated ennui. It was either go to the Nickelback concert, or sit in my buddy’s basement, having yet another Mario Tennis tournament on the N64. To Nickelback we went.
One of my friends decided to buy the CD so that we could listen to it before the show. I recall the album having one song that was actually kind of good. Upon revisiting the song yesterday, I can see why I felt this way.
Titled “Cowboy Hat,” it has a semi-clever guitar hook and a structure that actually diverts away from the band’s typical formula. Hell, there’s even a time change right after the bridge! Not bad, Nickelback! It’s not especially good, but it is substantially less bad than all other Nickelback songs.
After listening to the CD, we arrived at Playmaker’s, which was exactly the kind of venue you’d expect for an early Nickelback show in Fargo. Playmaker’s Pavilion was essentially a large cement box, and I was always rather amused by the building’s only memorable feature — two huge chandeliers hung way up in the rafters, which were every bit as out of place as it sounds.
Playmaker’s claimed to hold wedding receptions and such events in their large cement box o’ fun, and would lower these chandeliers to put some lipstick on the pig. I would imagine that any wedding that actually held its reception at Playmaker’s likely ended in divorce.
I don’t think “marital bliss” is the next item on the list of life after “held reception in large cement box that reeked of stale cigarettes.” Who knows, maybe the chandeliers helped. The hopeless romantic in me hopes that’s the case. The jaded realist in me knows it’s not.
So, getting back to Nickelback, we get to the show, and my one hope after shelling out my $10 was that they’d play “Cowboy Hat.” Getting to hear a non-terrible song in a live setting is one of those things that makes life VERY EXCITING when you’re under the drinking age in North Dakota.
Just like John Q. Viewer watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” I bet you all know exactly where this story goes next. Nickelback played the entire freaking album, except for “Cowboy Hat.” Of course they did.
After the show, the band members were mingling with the crowd a bit, so I took it upon myself to ask Chad Kroeger why they hadn’t played “Cowboy Hat.” His response was surprisingly honest. It was also something only a total rube would be dumb enough to tell a random kid at a concert.
“I can’t actually sing that song. It’s too high for me.”
I mean, imagine a young fan walking up to Dan Uggla and asking him why he didn’t do anything good in a baseball game, and him just saying, “I can’t actually hit a baseball.” Sure, it’s true and honest — which are good and just qualities — but it’s still a really stupid thing to say.
I was 15 years old, and I was still firmly in the ‘artistic integrity before all else’ phase that most young musicians fall into, before eventually realizing that selling out is actually the dream. People who don’t learn this lesson are the reason why there’s so many weird middle-aged dudes playing at coffee shops.
Suffice it to say, I hadn’t learned that lesson yet. “I can’t actually sing that song” was not even on my mental list of possible responses to my question. I couldn’t believe a band would ever record a song they can’t actually perform. I was also kind of a jerk, so I let him have it.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, but my voice raised exponentially with each word. Within seconds, I was practically screaming at Kroeger for lacking even a shred of integrity. Seriously, if you lack the ability to perform something, don’t record it in the first place! For example, I can’t play the saxophone, but then again I’ve never played a song that involved me pretending to play any sort of woodwind instrument.
Kroeger was completely flabbergasted. He just kind of stared at me as I berated him. He looked embarrassed. Eventually, he just quietly walked away with his head down, staring at his feet in shame. So, not only is he a poser and an idiot, he also lacks the spine to stand up for himself against a 15-year-old kid. Way to go, Chad.
As for the song in question, “Cowboy Hat” is sung in the exact same register as every other Nickelback song. When he said the song was too high for him, I can only assume he was talking about the “Ooh yah” stuff that comes in around the 3:33 mark.
First off, it’s a totally inconsequential little piece of the song, and I honestly doubt anyone would have noticed/cared if they left it out entirely. Beyond that, the vocal part in question is already sung in falsetto and kind of sounds like garbage on the record. It can’t be too hard to suck at something live, when you have already perfected the art of being terrible at it in the studio.
A little bit of research shows that Nickelback actually did perform “Cowboy Hat” live four times the next year, between October and December. They have never played it in the 14 years since. Perhaps they decided to give it a shot, before realizing they shouldn’t take fans’ money to pretend to do something they cannot.
There’s a lesson here for Dan Uggla. Maybe it’s time for him to stop cashing the paychecks he receives in exchange for pretending to play baseball.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.