We’re in the Sweet 16, but if you’re just catching up, click the “Milam’s March Madness” label to see the results so far.
Also, Go Tigers.
1) U2 vs. 5) Queens of the Stone Age
Battle: Tournaments are a tricky thing. They should be the ultimate indicator of one team/band’s domination over the others, but matchups play a huge role. For example, if MGMT hadn’t faced My Morning Jacket in Round 2, they might’ve gone further. I think they’re currently better than the Top 32. But they got an unlucky draw and went out earlier than they might’ve otherwise. Relatedly, Queens of the Stone Age produced one of the decade’s best rock albums, Songs for the Deaf, are a top tier live band, seem incapable of mediocrity, and don’t stand a chance against U2. Scope is the issue here, and QOTSA’s relative weakness. They’re not trying to take over the world, and U2 is. Or already has.
2) My Morning Jacket vs. 3) The Killers
Battle: My favorite matchup on the board: two of the biggest American bands to emerge in the last several years, at a time when great new bands are an endangered species. One is discorock for the eighties nostalgist, synth-heavy and Vegas big; the other is epic Americana for the classic rock revivalist, one part rural atmospherics, one part hypermodern pop. One is proudly synthetic, the other organic. Both are idiosyncratic, ambitious, and best when they think the least. Both are hugely successful–the Killers after a quick label signing and a breakout debut album, the Jacket after years of independent releases and constant touring. The Killers lose the live show matchup, but who wouldn’t? My Morning Jacket might be the best live band on the planet. You could make a convincing case that Hot Fuss is the most important record either band has put out, but MMJ’s catalog has been consistently better. And there’s really no question–among Jacket and Killers fans alike–that MMJ’s 2008 release (Evil Urges) trumps the Killers’ (Day & Age). I could expound all day on why that is, but the fact remains: MMJ’s doing their best work right now, and you can’t necessarily say that for the Killers.
Winner: My Morning Jacket
Elite 8 Matchup (ON WEDNESDAY):
2) My Morning Jacket
–Here’s the central question, and one that has plagued me: if my rubric is “who’s doing the most,” how far can a band like My Morning Jacket go? I ask because they occupy the post-Napster bizarro-world of great, hugely successful bands that don’t have landmark hits on their resume, but dozens of fan-favorite tunes that get airplay, film and TV placement, and are recognizable to casual listeners. Against a band like U2, do you need Billboard firepower to compete? Even if I think MMJ’s a better band, doesn’t “doing the most” partly imply reaching the most people? So how can U2 be topped?
What do y’all think?
1) Pearl Jam vs. 4) Kings of Leon
Battle: If their next six years progress like their last six, Kings of Leon will be hard to beat. Soaking up the influence of travel-mates U2, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, they’ve grown exponentially as artists and performers, and their ceiling is as high as anyone’s. Short of Radiohead-inspired-musical-wheel-reinvention, there’s nothing that KOL can’t currently do, or probably won’t develop in the future. If I had to pick a band right now to make “The Leap” (from Top 20 to Top 5), it would be them. What’s more, if Pearl Jam had never released Pearl Jam in 2006, or if it had been anything but stellar, KOL might pull this upset. On past work alone, Pearl Jam’s nearly untouchable. But it’s their most recent record–a breathtaking outing from a band that should’ve peaked creatively 10 years ago–that’ll prove decisive. They (somehow) still win the game of “what have you done for me lately?”
Winner: Pearl Jam
2) REM vs. 3) Black Crowes
Battle: You know who hasn’t won the game of “what have you done for me lately”? The Black Crowes. Even if REM’s most recent outing (2008’s Accelerate, a lively and inspired record) wasn’t good, it would’ve been enough. As much as I like/liked the Crowes, it’s this simple: at no point in their career have they been better than REM.
Elite 8 Matchup (ON WEDNESDAY):
1) Pearl Jam
–Pearl Jam and REM were arguably my favorite bands growing up. I’ve written before about Ten and Automatic for the People being the first records I owned (co-owned with my brother). If the measure of music is how much it matters to a person, you could make a case that no two bands have mattered more to me. Picking one of these will make me pace around the room, hands on hips, shaking my head, practicing a speech like I’m leaving my wife. Afterward, I’ll need a linoleum floor, moonshine, and three to eight weeks. I am in no way ready for this.
Who do you like for the Final Four? Hit up the comments and join the debate!
Sweet 16 for the West and International Region tomorrow…