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Turkey Shoot 

A moment of grousing about this year's lamest ducks.

The holiday season is upon us again, and we all know what that means: giving to those less fortunate, celebrating family and friends, eating your body weight in peanut brittle, and making an ass of yourself at the office party. To prepare for all the goodwill, we're gettin' the negativity out of our system in advance by taking to task the artists and albums that have annoyed us most in 2002. Before we sit down to our Thanksgiving feast, let us carve up a few turkeys of our own:

Most Off-Putting Album: Toby Keith's Unleashed

Tommy Lee's latest, Never a Dull Moment, was a strong contender for this one, but frankly, the guy's got more tattoos than fans these days, so we won't add insult to injury. Instead it's Toby Keith, whose reactionary Unleashed suggests that Keith's hat size trumps his IQ. Maybe it's us, but we'd prefer not to get our politics from a guy who spends his free time cutting phone commercials with Terry Bradshaw and Alf. There's no denying that Keith can pen some sturdy honky-tonk anthems, and Unleashed does pack a pretty mean punch. Unfortunately, Keith undermines his music with knee-jerk patriotism in lines like "This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage/And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American way." Well then, we don't feel so bad about kicking this record to the curb.

Most Overhyped Band: The Vines

The editors of Britain's N.M.E. must have been smoking as much reefer as Vines frontman Craig Nicholls for them to have branded this bunch the second coming of Nirvana. Second coming of the Stone Temple Pilots is more like it. Sure, their debut is a barnburner, and the band kicks up a storm when it plays live . . . but c'mon, with so many folks anointing this bunch the latest saviors of rock, we wanna get free from all the hype.

Most Disappointing Album: N.E.R.D.'s In Search Of . . .

We're sure Fred Durst is a big fan of this grossly overrated debut from producers extraordinaire the Neptunes, because it proves that black dudes can screw up the rap-rock thing just as badly as white boys like him. With the exception of the admittedly kick-ass opener "Lapdance," the disc quickly descends into boneheaded braggadocio, lukewarm Prince-aping funk, and downright awful rock posturing. We nominate "Rock Star" for worst single of the year.

Most Disappointing Tour: Warped

The intermittent rain showers that dogged the Cleveland stop of Warped 2002 put a damper on things. That noted, this year's installment of the annual punk rock caravan still was uninspired at best. We would have rather spent our time passing kidney stones than enduring sets by has-beens like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and never-weres like Lagwagon. Warped normally does a decent job of diversifying its lineup, but this year, the only non-punk headliners were Flogging Molly and Morgan Heritage, both of which had already appeared on past Warped bills. When NOFX frontman Fat Mike half-jokingly announced from the stage that he was fatigued and planned to give only 70 percent this time out, he was apparently speaking for the whole tour.

Artist Who Most Needs to Give It a Rest Already: Tom Petty

Okay, let's get this straight: After more than two decades as a rock-radio staple, with platinum records as a result, Tom Petty is mounting the high horse to gripe about the poor state of the FM dial? On his latest, The Last DJ, Petty lambastes rock radio for being overly corporate and dictated by the almighty dollar. Wow, what a news flash. Petty's sudden urge to bite the hand that has fed him for so many years doesn't exactly reek of altruism. Fact is, radio programmers have finally caught on to the fact that Petty has dropped pretty much the same album on four separate occasions over the last decade, so they've stopped playing the dude's music. Petty, naturally, is pissed, so he's launched an assault on rock radio. Too bad he doesn't show the same vigor when penning his tunes.

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