Are the White Stripes just an elaborate marketing 
Are the White Stripes just an elaborate marketing gimmick?
Patrick Pantano

Irony Loves Company

Irony will eventually destroy us. Of course, I don't really mean that. In these media-saturated, hopelessly self-aware end-times, we've developed a deep suspicion of sincerity. We dislike rock stars who mean what they say, which explains why most hipsters wouldn't piss on that Dashboard Confessional guy if he were on fire.

Perhaps it's just as well. Rock and roll thrives on the larger-than-life ethos, the outsize persona, the Kiss-style theatrical absurdity. It's an act, a joke, it's entertainment. So let us now ruminate on the All-Irony Top Ten -- because either they don't really mean it, or you don't really like it. Or worse yet, because you secretly do.

Mandy Moore, Coverage (Epic)

Just imagine eternally dour XTC mastermind Andy Partridge when he pops in this teen-pop cash grab and first hears his very own "Senses Working Overtime" recast as a demonic Jazzercise routine ("One! Two! Three! Four! Five!") replete with turntable scratches and grandiose autotune aerobics. Dear Mandy wouldn't know half these artists if they bit her in the ass, but though her Blondie is unspeakably hideous, her Joe Jackson ain't half bad. Whoops! Just kidding! Never mind!

The Darkness, Permission to Land (Atlantic)

They oughta set up a Betty Ford wing for rock critics who overuse Spinal Tap references (guilty!), but goodness gracious, do these English hype titans ever crank their amps to eleven and send you back to Bitch School with Stonehenge-caliber butt-rock that spontaneously combusts like a drummer choking to death on someone else's vomit in a bizarre gardening accident. You will openly weep upon hearing it, but instead of "Lick My Love Pump," the operative words are now "Get your hands off of my woman, MOTHERFUCKER!"

MC Honky, I Am the Messiah (SpinArt)

Indeed that last Eels album sucked. Yes, this burrowing-merrily-under-the-radar E side project redeems it. Freed of the squirrelly Eels frontman's usual cocktail of jet-black melancholy, this effervescent little instrumental adventure slaps earnest self-help gurus and cooing lovermen over goofy, ramshackle beats -- a welcome respite now that Beck is a heartbroken Serious Artist.

Macho Man Randy Savage, Be a Man (Big 3)

(Convulsing violently.)

Kings of Leon, Youth and Young Manhood (RCA)

More songs about having just killed a man from absurdly rail-thin sensitive boys too squeamish to squash spiders with their dog-eared copies of The Idiot's Guide to Freedom Rock.

White Stripes, Elephant (V2)

Is this all starting to feel a little bizarre to anyone? Too calculated, too prefabricated, too doggedly and self-consciously weird? Could this really be a nefarious hipster marketing scheme -- ooooh, they're brother-sister/husband-wife, ooooh, they're from Detroit, ooooh, they reference obscure art movements and cover Dolly Parton? The real White Stripes are butt-ugly fifty-year-old shoe salespeople from Eugene, Oregon, right?

Electric Six, Fire (Beggars/XL)

To save disco, we must destroy it. Call this Saturday Night Herpes, a deliberately hideous cock-rock-with-a-drum-machine sonic atrocity that allows low-riding badasses the unique opportunity to blast tunes entitled "Gay Bar," "Improper Dancing," and "Naked Pictures (of Your Mother)" without apology.

Turbonegro, Apocalypse Dudes (Epitaph)

Sublime Swedish meatballs that look like Marilyn Manson Mouseketeers, write like giggling Blink-182 disciples ("Rendezvous with Anus"), and inexplicably rock like Fugazi before old age and crippling self-righteous artiness finally set in.

Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve)

In which the thirtysomething übernerds pen "Stacy's Mom," a soul-obliterating infectious ditty about an underage chump lusting after his classmate's maternal guardian. This hyperliterate wiseass-fest drips pure smarm, but with pop this sharp the smirks feel like smiles, the elitism kicks like kisses.

Randy, Welfare Problems (Epitaph)

If Mountain Dew ever finances an Animal House sequel set at an NHL playoff game on nickel beer night, "A Man in Uniform" will blare over the PA as the inevitable brawl breaks out -- a fabulously butt-stupid fist-pumping anthem for mooks too self-medicated to ball their hands into fists. The insanely catchy "X-Ray Eyes," meanwhile, is far better a Strokes song than anything Room on Fire puked out. This is either smart people pretending to be spectacularly dumb, or vice versa.

But then again, aren't we all.


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