Keep It Real 

We pitch a hard-rockin' reality show, talk Jesus with an ex-Card and have a little tiff about Brian Wilson

Reality TV has ruined enough lives. From The Apprentice Rebel Millionaire Benefactor to Amazing Real Big Surreal Idol Life Race, the line has been crossed, blurred, obliterated. People who shouldn't be in family photos are now "celebrities" (see: Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth); people who shouldn't have been celebrities are clawing their way back to face time through the auspices of reality TV (see: Brigitte Nielsen). Throw your hands in the air -- we don't care.

So let us end this farce. B-Sides alternated coffee and rye whiskey for six days while hammering out the script for our new reality series, entitled simply Portmanteau. We pitched it to Mark Burnett as a cross between The Odd Couple and every other reality show, and it stars Goatwhore (New Orleans' evilest black-metal band) and Cattle Decapitation (San Diego's virulently anti-meat grindcore band). It is our best work, and if it doesn't result in the FCC leveling huge fines against Burnett and the destruction of his career, we'll add more whiskey. Here's a teaser:

Cattle Decapitation, nattily dressed in identical Carcass T-shirts, finishes hand-lettering their protest signs, each one bearing the slogan "Vivisection is the Wrong Direction." Carefully, the placards are stacked on the edge of the kitchen table.

Enter Goatwhore, bleary-eyed and slinging handles of Old Crow. Singer Ben Falgoust, carting a severed goat's head under his arm, belches. Casually, he chucks the head onto the table, scattering posterboard and globules of flesh everywhere; the head, sporting smeared lipstick and false eyelashes, comes to a rest in singer Travis Ryan's lap. Everyone's shirt falls off, revealing nipples galore. Ryan shakes his head, Falgoust belches again, and both bands make the Wyld Stallyns air-guitar motion. Cue theme song and closing credits. -- Paul Friswold

Brian Wilson: Hero or Villain?
Jordan Harper: This is it? This is the album we've been whispering about and dreaming about since we learned to whisper and dream? Brian Wilson's Smile is a muddled, shapeless mess, the druggy musings of a completely fried mind. Most of the album is equal not to Pet Sounds, the glorious album that got us all excited about Brian Wilson in the first place, but instead the later, horrible work of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett. The emperor wears no clothes!

Roy Kasten: God's own jukebox couldn't live up to the myth or hype surrounding this resurrection. But free your mind, and your body and soul will follow Brian Wilson into a sonic land as innocent as it is brainy, as carefully conceived as it is first-hand, as storied as it is fanciful, as utterly original as it is purely musical, and only as muddled and shapeless as the messy utopia of American music itself.

JH: Agreed that no album could live up to the hype that surrounded Smile before its release. That's why it should have stayed mysterious forever. Unheard, it was a holy grail for pop musicians to strive for. And off the top of my head, I can think of plenty Brian Wilson-worship albums that I'd rather listen to than Smile. Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle, Archer Prewitt's White Sky, the Apples in Stereo's Tone Soul Evolution. A lot of people hold up Brian Wilson as their god. And not one of them wrote a song as bad as "Vega-Tables."

RK: Or as bonkers as "Barnyard." And yet no Wilson wannabe ever wrote (or co-wrote) a song as exquisitely weird as "Heroes and Villains," as visionary as "Surf's Up." The re-recordings, even "Good Vibrations," trump the '60s versions, partly because Wilson's voice, now a lightly trembling baritone, sounds wiser, more vulnerable. Smile isn't really a song album -- it's a series of movements, greater than the sum of their parts, which for all their fractal harmonies and lush spectacle sound wildly fun. The playful, silly pleasures sweetly temper the ambition. Besides, holy grails are for votaries; Smile is for the frolic-loving music lover in anyone.

JH: It's "Good Vibrations" that makes this such a heartbreaking record. That song is just about as perfect a pop song as has ever been constructed. Like the best work of the Beatles or the Flaming Lips, it's a song that says that pop music can be transcendent, that it can be as gorgeous and moving as any other type of music known to man. Wilson was so close. To get mere frolic instead? It's sad.

RK: On this album, frolic is transcendent. You were a kid once; we all were. And on Smile, the only emperor is the emperor of ice cream, the boy-inside-the-man making peace with the lost sweet tooth of youth (and a lost masterpiece) by affirming that it's still OK to love sound, to delight in comic-book daydreams, to bounce and bop and cut and paste on a whim, to feel really, really good. That's why great pop music has always made us smile. -- Jordan Harper and Roy Kasten

How Sweet the Mound
Thank ex-Cardinal pitcher Kent Bottenfield -- and Jesus -- for Jim "Hollywood" Edmonds. While currently injured Halo second baseman Adam Kennedy is the most tangible evidence that Anaheim brass weren't completely insane in trading the chest-hair-shaving, Britney Spears-listening, All-Star center fielder to the Cardinals before the start of the 2000 season, it was really Bottenfield and his eighteen wins that sealed the deal. Then the Lord gave the one-year wonder shoulder problems, and so Bottenfield focused all his creative energy on writing, singing and producing Christian music. The result is the hulking Hoosier's solo debut, Take Me Back, which includes a breathtakingly corny rearrangement of the most sacred of hymns, "Amazing Grace," that borders on parody. Which compelled us to buzz Bottenfield and ask why, Lord, why?

The Riverfront Times: You live in Indiana. Are you familiar with the St. Louis interpretation of the term "hoosier"?

Kent Bottenfield: No, I'm not. Do I want to know?

No. What motivated you to scrap the traditional arrangement on "Amazing Grace?"

It's a great song, but you sing it so many times that you can go through the motions. Having a new arrangement makes you listen to the words and brings the message out. I understand some people don't like it, but there's a reason behind it.

Your record label, IBB, stands for Intentional Base on Balls, because, as you say, "We all need to have an intentional walk." Does this rule apply to Barry Bonds, who has had more than his share of intentional walks in the 21st century?

It's really a call to Christians, and I don't know where Barry is on that subject.

Do you feel that Christian-rock icon Michael W. Smith should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland?

Wow. It just depends on how people view it. For his genre, he's probably the top and has brought it to where it is today. So, in that sense, yes. But he obviously doesn't reach the heights of the Rolling Stones in terms of popularity and sales.

If the Cardinals fail to win their first World Series in 22 years, will it be because it is God's will and that He has a plan that will yield greater good for Cardinal Nation than a ticker-tape parade?

I don't view it that way, and I never viewed it that way when I was on the field. The only thing God is concerned about is how an individual handles himself. If they win or not -- I don't believe He even deals with that. He's more concerned with the heart than the actions. -- Mike Seely

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