Looking back on these two years, I really cannot explain how crazy they were for me and my family. Actually, those 24 months were actually 26 months of chaos as I had arthroscopic surgery on my left ankle in November of 2003. Over the years, I had severely sprained and twisted both of my ankles while playing basketball, so I knew a day, or days, of reckoning would be coming soon enough. So, at the age of 40, I got my most bothersome ankle repaired with an outpatient surgery, followed by six weeks of physical therapy (no problem because I tried to maintain a fairly decent exercise regime at this point). I also knew that I would be having my right ankle scoped on my birthday in February, which would put me out of commission for the first week of the track season.
So, I survived both surgeries as the track team went on to have what I call me Dream Team season. This 2004 team accomplished many things that had not been done by a HSE boys track up to this point. The boys had ended perennial state boys track power Carmel 31 consecutive Hamilton County Championships when they dropped the hammer that night in early May. Over the course of the next three weeks, this team took home the championship trophies for the Hoosier Crossroads Conference (HCC) the second year in a row, the Sectional (first time in school history for the boys program) and the Regional (actually, this was the second time HSE had ever won this championship. And, at the Regional, the guys performed so well that we ended up having the largest number of boys who qualified for the State meet that year. No, we didn’t win the State championship, but what can you say win the guys set new school records in a majority of the events for which we had qualified. In other words, we hit the best in the State with our absolute best performances, only to finish just outside of the podium, which meant only a handful of the guys ended up as All-State track athletes.
So, the 2003-04 school year ended on an up note, even though the team fell short of our goal to have finished in the Top 5. No matter what, however, HSE boys track was a state power and have remained that way ever since (they even won a state championship back in 2013). Of course, my life seems to follow Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states for every action, there’s an equal but opposite reaction. First off, I know that Newton was discussing the actions of matter in motion, not the highs and lows of life. Yet, I do find it amusing to compare a normal person’s rollercoaster ride of life in scientific terms, but sometimes its just plain fun to “misuse” scientific theories.
Which leads us on to November 2004. After getting home from church, I decided that I was going to mow the lawn one last time before the temperature got too cold to mow. As I was changing my clothes, I bent down to pick up my T-shirt that I had just throw to the ground in reckless abandon. As I went to straighten back up, I felt a severe grabbing of my lower back muscles and could not straighten up. You see, in 2002, I had a laminectomy, discectomy and bone spurs, pieces of cartilage and bone fragments removed from my spinal column in the L4/L5 region. Well, that disc had finally given up because now I needed fusion surgery. The neurosurgeon who did the 2002 surgery handed me off to an up-and-coming orthopedic surgeon who had developed a huge reputation after saving the careers of many professional and college athletes who had faced similar situation.
So, this guy performed a posterior fusion of L4/L5. Little did I know that I would become part of the wrong 1% crowd: the 1% whose fusion surgery would never fuse and that would result in most of the back issues I deal with to this very day. Still, I was hopeful that this would fix my issues of chronic back spasms, chronic and acute pain along the L4/L5 region of my spine and the chronic nerve-based pain that was radiating from the spinal cord through my gluteus maximus on both sides, down both legs and into my ankles and feet. The chronic back pains wears you down. The chronic back spams constantly take your breath away at least two or three times per week (That’s why I take UP TO three muscle relaxers per day. But, it’s the nerve pain that puts everything over the top since no amount of medication will ever reduce which individual or cocktail of various pain medications you use. Plus, you get side effects of the nerve pain of numbness down both legs (try to walk or get up out of a chair. Also, that nerve issues can cause either the muscles to have severe spasms, or, my personal favorite, your legs will begin twitching on their own. That twitching is what I call having “frog legs,” based on the old high school biology experiment of sending electrical impulses from a dry cell battery into an amputated frog’s leg to watch the leg twitch. I have found that still being attached to the leg or legs as they twitch violently with no way to control them.
At that time in March of 2005, my family and I were very hopeful that this surgery would be the magic bullet that would end the need for oral pain medications (I was never addicted to those opioids. They made me feel cloudy and I hate them!). Unfortunately, that was not to be. When I kept complaining that something was not right in the fusion area, the surgeon forwarded me onto pain management. And, that became a four-year battle with two pain management groups and Lords know how many insurance companies, as our schools kept searching for the cheapest deal for group insurers.
Needless to say, I really wasn’t in the mood for music over 2004 and 2005, so this list reflects this troublesome period in my life. Overall, there were small numbers of albums from each year, so I combined them into a bigger blog entry. Hold on to your hats.
Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004). The full-length debut of this fantastic Canadian band is like the best acoustic combination of Springsteen, U2 and Bowie. These people opened up like no other band from this moment in time. It was as if this band was formed in the Eighties but transported to the early 2000s so their impact would be even more dramatic. “Neighborhood #1” and “Wake Up” still resonate with their post-punk attitude and classic rock feel. What a great start for a great new band!
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004). Finally, a band has burst onto the scene while wearing unironically wearing their Duran Duran influences on their collective sleeves. This new wave-loving band recorded some of the most fun dance/rock since the MTV days of D-squared and INXS.
Green Day – American Idiot (2004). Legend has it that Green Day a fully recorded their follow-up album to 2000’s Warning but had the final tapes stolen. And the story continues, the band regrouped, albeit in a foul mood, and proceeded to write a protest concept album against America’s War on Terrorism carrying over into Iraq. Subsequently, American Idiot saved Green Day from becoming a Nineties punk nostalgia band, like Blink-182, and launched them into first-ballot inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This is called serendipity.
Kanye West – The College Dropout (2004). In 2004, there was nothing on the radio that sounded as radical as “Jesus Walks.” What?! A sociological protest song incorporating Jesus in it? Whoa! This Kanye West has a set on him. And, he proved his budding artistic vision with the rest of this outstanding album. For the opening decade of the new millennium, Kanye proved to be as important as Eminem not just in the rap or music worlds, but as a pop culture icon.
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (2004). Once again, we have a country legend being creatively revitalized by an iconic musician/producer from a totally different world. In this case, The White Stripes’ Jack White breathed life into the great Loretta Lynn’s career by striping her music down to its bear essence thus allowing her timeless vocals to carry the project. This is another wonderful example of country music getting back to its emotional roots through alternative rock.
Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004). When I heard this Modest Mouse album for the first time, I remember saying how much this band sounds like Talking Heads. Well, besides being a major influence on the band, the Heads reference really solidifies itself based on the fact that both bands love to take a base melody that could be as sugary as any bubblegum hit and scuff it all up with deliberately strange noises, off-kilter lyrics, otherworldly funk rhythms and deadpan vocals. Oh, how I wanted this band to continue through the years, much like I did for the Heads. And, in both cases, their demises left me feeling empty, no matter how often I play their old stuff.
The Killers – Hot Fuss (2004). Leave it to my older son to turn me onto this band, then make fun of me for loving “the Eighties stylings of The Killers.” What’s there not to love about this Las Vegas band? They have internalized every great Eighties new wave song and thrown in some classic Hall & Oates, to create their own exciting brand of pop/rock for the Millennials. This album remains the band’s finest moment so far, even though they have proven themselves to become consistent hitmakers.
The Libertines – The Libertines (2004). Hey British empire! We hear you have the latest “it” band over there! Obviously, picking up where Oasis and Blur left off seven or so years ago, The Libertines had the sound. They also had the troubled creative visionary in the group, Pete Doherty. Of course, the band had the goods, as you can hear on their debut album. But, like the Sex Pistols and Oasis’ Gallagher brothers, this band had a supremely talented lineup that was equally combustible. So, all we could do is watch this group waste its talent as the whole thing went up in flames.
The Streets – A Grand Doesn’t Come for Free (2004). The first thing I had to ask myself after hearing The Streets for the first time was whether this was a British parody of American hip hop or was this the real thing? I came to the conclusion that The Streets was being sincere about his criminal life. I also concluded that the creative mind behind The Streets, Mike Skinner, just might be as mentally disturbed as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Eminem and Kanye West. What I am surprised the most about this album’s influence is that there have not been any significant pasty white Englishmen rappers to follow in The Streets’ wake.
Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree (2005). On their first two releases, Fall Out Boy show promise in the new pop punk category. Finally, they made this album while hitting on all cylinders. The energy remains, along with the teenage snarky in their lyrics, but it’s all dressed up in a shiny, pop/rock production gleam. Finally, FOB is on par with Jimmy Eat World as well as the other outfits who were equally influenced by Green Day and Weezer.
Kanye West – Late Registration (2005). Although this album is lacking the world-changing single that was “Jesus Walks,” Late Registration is still a major step forward in the creation of Kanye the Hip Hop Genius. Now, Kanye was making inroads within the world of pop music as he made the timely move to cash in on Jamie Foxx’ Oscar-winning portrayal of Ray Charles by having Foxx join him on the big pop smash hit “Gold Digger.”
Mariah Carey – The Emancipation of Mimi (2005). By 2005, Mariah was in desperate need of a big hit. Since her salad days of the Nineties, Mariah had been on a slow decent toward mediocrity after her TRL-televised mental breakdown and the soft sales of her last album. This time, instead of recording middle-of-the-road soft tune after soft tune, Mariah channeled her inner Beyoncé and took us all to the clubs for her most success album since Fantasy. Plus, “We Belong Together” gave her a mega-hit as well. I’m calling this one a comeback.
My Morning Jacket – Z (2005). MMJ finally recorded their most balanced and focused album that the mainstream began to take notice of this talented band from Louisville, Kentucky. Their special mix of indie rock, classic rock, pop, alt.country, R&B and jam band tendencies were finally given the laser-like focus the band always needed in order to succeed. Quickly, MMJ became my favorite 21st century rock band.
The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan (2005). After gaining an adoring following of critics and fans alike, Jack White and his former wife Meg White finally gained enough confidence to begin to indulge their inner artists and follow Jack’s personal muse. Now, Jack was writing songs on his piano and acoustic guitar, giving the public an inkling that his production work with Loretta Lynn was going to steer him in a newer, more textured direction. Perhaps the best comparison of this album would be to Led Zeppelin III in which both bands wander around the musical landscape for inspiration. And, in both cases, the moves were brilliant for the long term effects on their careers.
And, that’s my favorite albums of 2004 and 2005. See you soon! Peace.