Song of the Day: January 26

Artist: The Flaming Lips

Song: Sun Blows Up Today

Album: The Terror

New Flaming Lips? New Flaming Lips! The band’s 16(!) album, The Terror, is due out on April 1st and they’ve put this euphoric blast of energy out as a non-album single. We are in for a treat if this is indicative of the album’s overall sound. This track somehow manages to simultaneously be accessible, raucously lively and sonically adventurous, no small feat. Bass fuzz and crashing cymbals combine with handclaps to give it a bouncy danceable vibe; it’s not a stretch to imagine this in one of those “silhouette rocking out” ipod commercials. At the same time, chiming guitars and Wayne Coyne’s vocals give it a lighter, airy vibe. The expert mixing assaults the brain from all sides with blissfully overwhelming sound. And, speaking of overwhelming, check out this lyric video; this is like itune’s visualizer tripping bear balls on LSD.

Song of the Day: Friday, January 25

Band: Brand New

Song: Secondary

Album: Your Favorite Weapon

Before reaching greater acclaim with a more refined and “mature” sound, Long Island’s Brand New released a great little emo/pop-punk debut album entitled Your Favorite Weapon. Like the rest of the album, “Secondary” follows the genre’s template to great hooky success, with the verses seamlessly flowing into an explosive chorus guaranteed to start a pogo-pit. However, the best part is the song’s ending: blazing pop-punk guitars, reckless energy and several layers of passionate vocals bring the song to it’s soaring, anthemic climax. Many band’s might have attempted this sound, but few did it better.

Song of the Day: Wednesday, January 23

Band: Florence & the Machine

Song: Girl With One Eye

Album: Lungs

Florence Welch has a big voice and she certainly isn’t afraid to use it. This perverse revenge fantasy is fueled by the singer, who’s masterful vocal performance brings the song’s clearly unstable protagonist to life. There’s a sneering rage to the vocals which simmers below the surface of the quiet verses until it downright explodes into a final stomping chorus, all of this coming over a wonderfully creepy, Minnie the Moocher-esque guitar riff, echoing with reverb at every sinister turn. Don’t make Flo cry.

Defenseless Backs

arrington sucks

There is plenty of blame to go around following the Patriots devastating season-ending loss Sunday Night. Poor red-zone execution, inconsistency on third down, turnovers and uncharacteristically horrific clock management all made healthy contributions to the loss.

However, the fatal flaw for the Patriots was crystal clear. We all knew going into the season that depth (or lack thereof) in the secondary was an issue. It wound up biting them in this, the biggest game of the season.

Much had been made about the impact midseason pickup Aqib Talib had made on the defense. The Patriots defense improved noticeably since acquiring the troubled but clearly talented Talib. They stopped hemorrhaging big plays in the passing game. They blitzed more often and more effectively, largely due to newfound confidence in the secondary’s ability to hold up in coverage. They attacked offenses.

Talib’s impact on the defense’s performance was undeniable, but his usefulness went far beyond his skill set. Talib’s importance was absolutely magnified by the Patriots lack of depth behind him. For starters, Talib’s stabilizing presence (using the words “Talib” and “stable” in the same sentence admittedly feels strange considering his dubious history) allowed Devin McCourty to move to free safety. McCourty’s combination of range, tackling ability and football smarts made him a natural at safety. His cerebral “quarterback of the secondary” presence appeared to play a large role in the defense instantly and dramatically cutting down on the miscommunications and blown assignments that consistently hurt the team during the early part of the season.

The other key impact Talib made simply by being on the field was taking snaps away from other, ahem, less qualified defensive backs. Acquiring Talib pushed Kyle Arrington down to nickel corner. It made Marquice Cole almost exclusively a special teamer. It was also what allowed McCourty’s move to safety, where it created a similar effect by keeping the erratic play of Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson largely on the bench.

However, trading for Talib was ultimately putting a band-aid on a wound. It works for a while, but once the band-aid peels off (or injures a hamstring) the problem is still there.

This was evident when Talib sat out most of the Patriots late season matchup with Jacksonville to rest his injured hip. With fellow starter Alfonzo Dennard also sitting with an injury, the Patriots were forced to go back to the season opening starters: Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington at corner, Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory at safety. This combination promptly went out and made Chad Henne look like the second coming of Johnny Unitas.

The Pats are still good enough on their worst day to beat the lowly Jags on their best day. That obviously wasn’t the case with the Ravens. Baltimore curiously used a very conservative, run-first offensive approach in the first half and experienced little success. However, even Jim Caldwell wasn’t dumb enough to realize that Kyle Arrington couldn’t cover Adam Smith, let alone Torrey Smith. Baltimore came out in the second half and threw the ball 24 times (while only running 8 times, including a scramble) on their first five possessions. The result? Flacco was 15-24 for 169 yards and three unanswered touchdowns.

Simply put, Baltimore knew its receivers would be able to make plays against the personnel New England had on the field. They mercilessly attacked the mismatches (Flacco was 5-5 for 62 yards and a beastly Anquan Boldin touchdown when targeting poor Marquice Cole) and made New England’s defense look helpless.

New England’s success has come despite serious secondary concerns for several years; Tom Brady and their passing game are good enough to mask those problems against most NFL teams. However, the team’s lack of quality depth in the secondary has clearly been their Achilles heel the past two seasons. They can not afford to inadequately address this in the offseason, particularly with the Brady/Belichick window of opportunity growing smaller by the minute.

In fact, free agency seems likely to create serious change in the Patriots defensive backfield. Talib, Arrington, Cole and Patrick Chung are all impending free agents and it’s quite possible that none of them will be back. Talib’s ambivalent comments after the game indicated that he will be looking for a decent payday. Belichick has said plenty of positive things about Talib in the past two months but it’s hard to imagine the team ponying up too much money to keep him, especially with Wes Welker and Sebastian Vollmer ahead of him on the team’s list of offseason priorities. Chung’s inconsistent play and consistent injuries have caused him to fall out of favor with team. Arrington’s play as a starter this season was a painful reminder of the Peter Principle; he was clearly promoted to the level of his incompetence. Cole actually might have the best chance of returning, but more for his ability on special teams (good) than on defense (bad).

Either way, ch-ch-ch-changes are clearly coming to the Patriots defensive backfield. That can only be a good thing.

Ray Lewis is a Fucking Murderer: Stop Lionizing Him

ray lewis cuffed

This Sunday, Ray Lewis will take the field for what could be his last game (although Vegas seems to be more convinced of that than I am). There will be a million shots of him before, during and after the game. Ray Lewis dancing! Ray Lewis giving a pump up speech! Ray Lewis looking intense on the sidelines! Ray Lewis jumping on the pile at the end of a six yard run! The words “future Hall of Famer” will be breathlessly repeated time and time again by Simms and Nantz. We will hear about his “leadership”, his “dedication to the game” and his “work ethic”.

We won’t hear at all about the inconvenient fact that he most likely was directly involved in two murders and got away with it. For some reason, that little bit seems to have been stricken from the record with Ray.

The fact that the majority of the public and media has willfully chosen to ignore this is beyond frustrating. The fact that Lewis is undoubtedly a Hall of Fame level player shouldn’t overshadow involvement in a murder. The fact that the rehabilitated Ray does plenty of charity work, openly speaks about religion and is beloved by his teammates shouldn’t overshadow his involvement in a fucking murder!

How is this difficult for people to grasp?

Oh, so you say Ray’s name was cleared in court. That technically is true; Ray notoriously struck a deal with the prosecution, resulting in his murder charge being dropped in exchange for testimony against his two friends also entangled in the murder case and an obstruction of justice charge.

However:

We know that the murders happened. Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker are not dead by accident. They were brutally stabbed repeatedly in the heart and liver. Their wounds suggest that the knives used were twisted once within their bodies to maximize the damage. This clearly was a case of cold-blooded murder.

We know that the stabbings occurred in the midst of a brawl between the two victims and Ray’s entourage. In other words, Lewis, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were in a fight with Lollar and Baker which resulted in those two men getting viciously stabbed and left to bleed out in the street.

We know that the three men fled the scene in Lewis’ limo. We know that Lewis’ white suit, stained red with blood, was mysteriously disposed of and never found. We know that Lewis told everyone in the limo to “keep their mouths shut”, a statement that played a large role in his being charged with obstruction of justice. We know that Lewis admitted in court to giving a “misleading” account of the past night’s events.

Does any of this seem like the actions of an innocent man?

Evelyn Sparks, a female passenger of the limo, testified under oath that she saw another passenger dispose of a laundry bag in a trash can outside a fast food restaurant. What seems more plausible? The prosecution’s suspicions that the bag contained Lewis’ evidence-stained suit? Or Lewis’ claim that he simply has no idea what became of that suit? Amnesia sure is convenient, huh Ray?

Oakley and Sweeting were cleared of their charges largely because the testimony of Ray Lewis was vague as hell. It was also a steaming load of horseshit; Ray knew what happened. It he was actually as unsure about what happened as his testimony claimed, he wouldn’t have known of anything to tell everyone to shut up about in the limo.

What seems more likely? That Ray Lewis and his friends are completely innocent men? Or that the combination of suspicious cover-up behavior and the kind of legal defense a four year, $26 million contract can buy was able to manipulate the system enough for all three to walk?

Are we seriously naive enough to think that acquittal, particularly acquittal of a rich, powerful celebrity, in the US Justice System is equivalent with innocence?

Finally, in the end, was there enough concrete evidence to convict Ray Lewis of murder? No. Is there plenty circumstantial evidence that strongly suggests that he was heavily involved? Abso-fucking-lutely. At the very best, he explicitly helped two men get away with murder. Pardon me for convicting him in the court of my own goddamn opinion.

Ray-Lewis1

Shhhhhhhh…that was like…a long time ago, man

Many have pointed out the irony of Ray being hired by ESPN, noting that the Worldwide Leader is a subsidiary of Disney. When Lewis was voted the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, less than a year after this aforementioned, ahem, “incident”, it was quarterback Trent Dilfer and not Lewis who delivered the famous “I’m going to Disney World!” catchphrase.

However, the fact that a company that once shunned Lewis is now hiring him isn’t a sign of his “redemption.” It’s a sign of how full of shit everyone who have fallen for Ray’s act are. None of the details of the murder case have changed. The only thing that’s changed is people’s perception, as they seem to stick fingers in their ears and shout “LA LA LA LA LA LA!” instinctively whenever they are confronted with a realistic interpretation of the evidence surrounding that case.

You know whats a crime? (Well, besides a famous athlete literally getting away with murder). Ray’s last stand has received non-stop, slobbering coverage while Tony Gonzalez has been relatively ignored. Let’s compare these two. Both are clearly in the discussion for best ever at their respective positions; sure fire, first-ballot Hall of Famers. Both are renowned for their incredible longevity. Both are beloved by their teammates and fans. However, Gonzalez has long been known as one of the good guys in the NFL. Ironically, he is known for saving lives, not taking them.

Also lets not forget Tony G. is a much better football player at this point in his career than Ray is in his. When was the last time Ray made a play close to as good as Tony’s toe-tapping touchdown last week?

In the end, I don’t care how much Ray’s teammates love him. I don’t care that he talks crazy-as-all shit about God.  I don’t care about his stupid fucking dance. I don’t care about how much he undeniably loves the game. I don’t care how good he is at obnoxious self-promotion (and he’s great at that). He was heavily involved in a murder and got away with it.  I hope this weekend is his last game and that the Ravens lose in an unfathomably heartbreaking fashion.

I’ll miss Tony Gonzalez. I will be happy to see Ray Lewis gone.