What a lovely concept is mainstream rock: all that subversive stuff was fun for a while, but isn't rock much lovelier now that it's straightened up and joined the hegemony? Hey, let's rank it by units sold to determine its relative merit! Here's a look at the week's Top Seven — as we know, Top Seven lists are less granular but ultimately more accurate than Top 10s.
1. GREEN DAY, "KNOW YOUR ENEMY" | Do we demand no more of our tunes than this? These guys were never much lauded for their groundbreaking melodies, but many have boasted that rare quality of instant familiarity — credit either the band's I-coulda-thoughta-that simplicity or their unabashed plagiarism. This, however, has all the charm and half the sophistication of a monophonic ringtone from 1998 — "Holiday" sounds like Rachmaninov by comparison. They pick a single melodic scrap — about a quarter of a tune, by generous estimate — and belabor the shit out of it. It feels half-cocked and unresolved, with the same maddening mental effect as hearing just the first three lines of a limerick.
2. PAPA ROACH, "LIFELINE" | Speaking of unabashed plagiarism . . . Actually, I'm of the mind that, coincidences aside, most song ripoffs are in the "My Sweet Lord" vein: a musician hears a tune and commits it to the subconscious, then regurgitates it with the sincere belief that it's original. I can allow that Papa Roach swiped the riff of the 2004 hit "Everybody's Changing" in all innocence, but I do hope they're racked with humiliation upon realizing that they accidentally ripped off a goddamn Keane song. Despite being all conceivable dimensions of entirely awful, "Lifeline" does have the unprecedented distinction of making Keane sound good by comparison.
3. SHINEDOWN, "SOUND OF MADNESS" | Shinedown are kinda Nickelback post-grunge rasp meets Godsmack lite metal, with a little Buckcherry playfulness thrown in. Recommended if you like: Audioslave, Mudvayne, Taproot, Slipknot, Silverchair, Everclear, Candlebox, uhh . . . Badfinger . . .
4. DISTURBED, "THE NIGHT" | Weeks ago, I remarked that "Indestructible" sounded pretty much like every other Disturbed track. I'm delighted to report that this one reaches a little farther, with some added vocal bombast and a slightly more ripping fingertap solo. Needless to say, it's still terrible, but after a decade of near-identical horseshit from these guys, I'm giving them a little credit for aspiring to an ever so slightly modified blend of crap.
5. SEETHER, "CARELESS WHISPER" | Yes, it's a post-grunge, butt-rock Wham! cover. If that alone doesn't rankle the ol' intellect, find it on YouTube for some amazing comments from rocker homophobes going out of their way to proclaim their hatred for the original: "george michel is a gay faggot seether made this song great." "[Seether] remade a crappy song and made it great. you can probably find the original wham version in the mens room next to george michaels kneeling behind a glory hole." In the hard-rockin' Wham! category, this cover's embarrassing, po-faced sincerity puts it a distant second to Limp Bizkit's winking "Faith." Which is about the gravest insult one can levy against a piece of music.