Rock Me, Baby

Michael Abernethy

It's hard to imagine a new mother not having a problem with a bunch of guys drinking beer out of her baby bottles.

Rock Me, Baby

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm ET
Cast: Dan Cortese, Bianca Kajlich, Carl Anthony Payne, Joey Slotnick, Tammy Townsend
Display Artist: Tony Krantz, Bob Myer
Network: UPN
Creator: Bob Myer

I got a kitten this weekend, and having him here has completely changed our routine. This is as close as I've come to having a newborn around the house. And yet, I still know more about good parenting than the new parents on UPN's latest comedy, Rock Me, Baby. I know not to let a group of drunken men smoking cigars hold a baby, which is more than new father Jimmy (Dan Cortese) seems to know. I'm also fairly certain that it's a bad idea for a woman who's breastfeeding to participate in a beer chugging contest, which new mother Beth (Bianca Kajlich) doesn't know. And I don't think that you should leave a newborn baby unattended to run off to another part of the house to have sex.

It's understandable that Jimmy and Beth would make these mistakes, because they're both dumber than you could imagine. And so are their friends. Rock Me, Baby takes viewers into the lives of people who many in society would prefer never reproduce. We think that not because these people are inherently bad, but because we can't help but worry about what kind of life the kid is going to have. Apparently, it never occurred to Beth and Jimmy that having a child would result in changes in their lifestyles other than Beth quitting her job. So now, they find themselves grappling with these adjustments, which is the focal point of this new series.

The changes are especially difficult for Jimmy, who is a radio shock-jock with a reputation as a badass and a penchant for fart jokes. Suddenly, he has to learn how to be an adult, making adult decisions about adult issues. It is a process completely unfamiliar to him; Beth has never expected responsible behavior of her husband up until now, content to be his playmate along the way.

The pilot episode finds Jimmy and Beth beginning to deal with their new life with Otis, their infant son. After he yawns on the air, both Jimmy's producer, Boyle (Joey Slotnik), and his on-air partner, Carl (Carl Anthony Payne), begin hassling Jimmy about "getting soft." Carl is particularly relentless in taunting Jimmy, accusing him of being whipped, and gets Jimmy to admit on-air that he and Beth haven't had sex in five months. Jimmy tells his listeners that he's had to rely on the "ole crankshaft" to get his jollies, which, understandably, annoys Beth when she hears the broadcast.

To make things up to her, Jimmy insists that Beth enjoy a night out with the girls, even though it means he will miss one of his co-workers' bachelor party. Not content to let Jimmy spend the night at home alone with his new son, Carl brings the party to his apartment. Despite Jimmy's protests, the guys take over the place, even bringing in a stripper. Naturally, this is when a drunken Beth arrives home, entering the house in time to see a huge group of men gathered around a strange, skimpily clad women holding Otis.

Surprisingly, or perhaps because she's too tipsy to think the situation through clearly, Beth is not upset. The fact that Jimmy did manage to stay sober and refused to allow the stripper to perform her act in the apartment help, but it's hard to imagine any new mother not having a problem with a bunch of guys drinking beer out of her baby bottles. But Beth's reaction is to reward Jimmy with a trip to the bedroom after all the guests have been shuffled out, ending their long drought.

If Jimmy and Beth have any redeeming qualities as parents it is their willingness to try. Despite their screw-ups, they both want to be good parents and to do the right thing, even if they haven't got a clue. It is particularly refreshing to see this desire in Jimmy. His yearning to be a positive force in his family's life makes him an anomaly on tv. This is a man who places his wife's needs before his own, who tries to shield his child from his unsympathetic friends, and who is unapologetic to his buddy and employer about not being a party boy anymore. The sincerity of his efforts to learn how to be a good husband and father already makes him a better parent than many of the other tv dads. He's still a fuck-up, but at least Jimmy is trying.

Unfortunately, though, this positive image is buried in one of the worst sitcoms on tv. A sitcom should be funny; viewers should laugh, at least occasionally. While Rock Me Baby is to be commended for not relying on the toilet jokes that seem to be Jimmy's stock and trade, it makes no effort to supply any other types of jokes either. As I watched the premiere episode, I grew to want there to be fart jokes, if they would have brought a smile to my face.

Far more problematic for the series is that it is schizophrenic in its approach. One the one hand, Jimmy and Beth clearly lack any substantive parenting skills and repeatedly make the wrong choices. On the other, they both try so hard to be good parents, they seem admirable. Those viewers who would be attracted by the "bad boy" shock-jock image of Jimmy will likely be turned off to find that the show is really about the struggles of parenting. Those who would be attracted by the prospect of exploring the humorous dimensions of new parenting will likely be horrified by the poor parenting decisions the couple make. Since the series has been paired with The Mullets on UPN's schedule, it is most likely the network is trying to appeal to the former audience rather than the latter. However, the structure of the series is such that it will disappoint any potential viewer.

I went into viewing Rock Me, Baby expecting it to be bad. However, as the first episode progressed, I started wanting the show to be good. As soon as Jimmy agreed to forgo his night on the town to allow his wife a well-earned night out, I felt that tv had finally come up with a character that, although dumb as dirt, really could be a model for new fathers in terms of his recognition of his role in the family. It's such a shame that this role model is buried in a show that is so unwatchable.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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