Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I also can report that Paul Westerberg's solo career got off to a very promising start before derailing a third of the way into his second album. But his first one, 14 Songs is real solid and it served as my soundtrack to many a solitary walk through the deserted streets of west Evanston at dusk. The first song, "Knockin' On Mine," is a great, rowdy hit-the-road type of anthem. I still remember him playing it on Saturday Night Live in 1993 on his first solo tour. (This post is quickly turning into my personal nostalgia tour. Well that's kind of the Replacements for you.)
And then as far as blatant Replacements followers go, my personal favorite is Buffalo Tom. Much like the 'Mats, they've been cruelly denied the big-time success they rightfully deserve, but their fan base is very loyal. (Especially in Boston, where they're from.) Their new album, Three Easy Pieces, was way up on my Top 10 list from last year, but this track, "Mineral," is from Let Me Come Over, which almost everyone agrees is their apogee and perfect for those who appreciate the more tuneful side of the Replacements.
Finally, two pieces of 'Mats trivia for those who care. (Sure you could look the answers up online, but you could also switch around chess pieces while your opponent is in the bathroom.)
1. (easy one) The Replacements' bassist, Tommy Stinson, is now a member of what band? If you don't know this, you like Hannah Montana.
2. (harder) What New York (state) band was loudly trumpeted as the next Replacements, embraced by members of the band, and even released a single that was co-written with Paul Westerberg-- only to go on to an utterly unimpressive career devoted to selling out at all costs?
I'll post the answers in the comment section tomorrow. I think these are pretty easy-- if you cheat they're really easy-- especially the first one.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
This may not sound intuitive at first, but the band they remind me of most on this album is Still Feel Gone era Uncle Tupelo. Some of the themes are similar, and you can even just barely detect a dash of country at the edges of some of the Let it Be tracks ("Unsatisfied" in particular strikes me as, at the very least, a song it would be very easy to do an alt-country version of). But the main thing that strikes me is how clearly influenced Jeff Tweedy was by Paul Westerberg's vocals. There's an mp3 floating around on the internet of Wilco covering "Color Me Impressed" live, and before playing it Tweedy jokingly says "Everything we do is based on The Replacements." But compare these two songs and tell me that there's not a grain of truth in that:
Here's "Answering Machine" from Let it Be:
And here's Uncle Tupelo doing "Gun":
But today I was listening to The Milk-Eyed Mender in my car (I've quickly learned that is is the medium by which music is heard in Los Angeles-- a car stereo), and I came to an important realization. (I hope you're sitting down as you read this.) On certain tracks, Joanna Newsom sounds much more like Butters from South Park. Check out "Inflammatory Writ."
I will of course be publishing these findings in a major academic journal this fall, but I wanted to give you all a sneak preview since my discovery is likely to send shock waves through the industry. At the very least, it will rival my 1994 treatise on the manifold similarities between the voices of J Mascis and Elmer Fudd.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Pitchfork, despite it's often questionable taste, borderline offensive approach to hip hop and cocksure writing staff, continues to provide the most/best content anywhere.
Two cases in point -
1. The Pitchfork music festival has a ton of bands over 3 days in Grant Park and it's only $65 total. They have Public Enemy, Mission of Burma and Sebadoh all playing seminal albums in their entirety. If that's not putting their money where their mouth is I don't know what is.
2. Pitchfork.tv just launched, and tho it's clearly still a beta operation, they've blown any comparable website out of the water. Here's Dirty Projectors performing for them:
Saturday, April 26, 2008
It perfectly captures the PR bullshit relationship that rock zines like Rolling Stone have with the big rock bands, in particular, the tendency with each 3.5-4 star review of an established band's new album to point out how it was a response to the faults of their previous album.
A little background on my personal relationship with R.E.M. I really love their earliest albums and their mid-90's work. Murmur, their first record, might still be their best, but who could argue with Reckoning or Automatic For The People? I also love Fables of the Reconstruction, Life's Rich Pageant, New Adventures in Hi-Fi and Up. (I know it's not cool to like Up, but Tex Plush can back me up on that one.) Really I love almost everything they've ever done (including Monster)... up until Reveal, which was disappointment personified, and Around the Sun, which was borderline horrendous.
As bad as they'd been recently, Accelerate is near total redemption. I'm particularly thrilled with the punk-like energy on tracks like "Living Well Is The Best Revenge," "I'm Gonna DJ" and "Horse to Water," the latter of which can be heard below.
And where there isn't punk energy, there's awesome melodies and appropriately political lyrics, like on "Mr. Richards."
Yeah, the album isn't perfect. "Hollow Man," "Houston," and "Until the Day Is Done" are all fine but unremarkable. But there isn't any jaw-droppingly bad song wrought with self-righteousness a la "I'll Take The Rain" or "I Wanted To Be Wrong"-- lowlights from their two prior releases. The worst songs on this album are merely good.
To conclude, I've been listening to this album non-stop since I got it, so much so that I haven't even had time to listen to the new Sun Kil Moon, which I bought on the same day. Check it out.
Ok, so the Onion article brought up a thought I had about the massive plot hole in Back to the Future. And I'm not even talking about the alternate reality stuff from Back to the Future II, which was awesome and blew my fourth grade mind, even if it probably doesn't stand up to logic.
Instead, I'm talking about the ending of the first movie. In the beginning of the film, the McFly family is a bunch of losers-- the mother is depressed and overweight, the father is a wimpy nerd who accomplished nothing and his brother and sister are lazy and worthless. Marty, perhaps to escape his dreary family life, hangs out a lot with an eccentric local inventor, who one night calls him up to go test out his new time machine before (SPOILER ALERT) getting shot by Libyan terrorists. At that point, Marty goes back in time and the movie as we know it plays out. While in the past, Marty shows no concern for the "Butterfly Effect" and, in fact, dramatically changes the future of his family life.
Then when he goes back to the future/present, he finds that his family life has changed-- his father is a successful science fiction writer, his mother is confident and attractive (not unlike how she was in 1955- va va va voom!) and his brother is gainfully employed ("What? I always wear a suit to the office!"). Now, I'm going to put aside the implausibility that with all those changes the exact same sperm/egg combos would have resulted at the same times, producing Marty and his siblings exactly as they were before, genetically speaking. And he even had the exact same girlfriend (and had made the same plans to go to the lake that weekend-- only this time he's got a kickass truck!). There will of course be problems when his family's like, "hey remember that time last year when you did such and such." And he won't, because he had a completely different upbringing.
But here's the weird thing-- when he returns to 1985, he goes back to the parking lot to find the scene from the beginning of the movie play out exactly as it did the first time (except of course that (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT) the Doc is now wearing a bullet proof vest). Except the Marty who he watches go back in time had a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SET OF LIFE EXPERIENCES. I'll accept that to protect the space time continuum, Doc Brown made sure that he still became friends with Marty and he still sent him back to the past at the exact same moment as before (he had seen the video footage of same). But here's what I'm wondering-- and this would have been an interesting additional sequel. What exactly did the alternate, better-1985 version of Marty do when he went back in time. He would have, of course, heard about his parents' meeting and falling in love, all thanks to their mysterious friend Calvin Klein who was never heard from again after totally rocking the dance with his Chuck Berry/Pete Townshend/Eddie Van Halen-like guitar heroics. So he would have had a different set of priorities while back there, and moreover would have been especially taken aback that the meek, deferential Biff with whom he had grown up, was a bullying asshole who pushed his dad around. I wonder what that movie would be like....
Well, here's the thing-- I don't have to wonder! In Back to the Future II, Marty goes back to the past from the future (in order to get the sports almanac back from Biff). And he sees the exact version of himself that I was just talking about and, as he sees, that Marty does the EXACT SAME THING HE DOES IN THE FIRST MOVIE!! That's weird!
As I think about it, maybe that's not a fundamental flaw, as much as it is overwhelmingly unlikely. On the other hand, maybe it raises some interesting questions about fate and free will.
[As a sidenote, while you can come up with plausible explanations how this would happen, I feel like the filmmakers weren't expecting the audience to think about these issues. We were just expected not to question the concept of Marty basically revisiting the first movie because, on a meta-level, that's just really cool (which it was)].
Anyway, so I posted that and then some people responded and I responded to them:
I think that's the paradox I was getting at. One answer, sent to me via email by [redacted] is that time travelers are constant, like the speed of light. Truth be told I'm not sure I understand that from a physics perspective, but it does sort of explain the answer to your question, which is why his own memories didn't change immediately upon his father kissing his mother at the dance.
So then, yes, the space time continuum trumps. And that leads to the exact thing I was musing about-- what were the life experiences of Marty 2? (Marty 2= the one who Marty 1 sees escape the Libyans at the end of the first movie). We know that he basically reenacts the first movie, because Marty 1 sees him in Back to the Future II. But what happens to him after that? I think he's stuck in some kind of feedback loop-- bc think about it. For whatever reason he finds himself in the exact same circumstances as Marty 1, having performed the exact same actions too (ie, calling himself Calvin Klein, getting his parents to kiss, and finally playing Johnny B. Good at the dance). We also know that he gets sent back to 1985 via the lightning storm. When he gets back to 1985, he is in the exact same position he always knew. His parents are cool, his siblings are cool, Biff is a wuss. That's how he grew up, thanks to Marty 1, and he goes right back to it and continues on his way. Now, of course, his story is much less compelling because he doesn't go through that same emotional journey that Marty 1 went on-- his family was always ok, so he didn't have that same existential dissatisfaction that Marty 1 originally had.
BUT, meanwhile, we also know that Biff went back to 1985, gave himself the sports almanac and ended up becoming rich, creating the dystopian 1985 from the middle section of the second movie. At that point, i could be wrong, but there should be three Marties existing in the same place and time (at least).
Marty 1- the one we all know and love
Marty 2- he should have gone back there too, because Biff gave himself the almanac the same night.
Marty 3- the one who GREW UP in that alternate reality. To get around this last one, the writers concocted the idea that he was away at school in Switzerland (which incidentally would really screw up him going back in time in the first place-- especially now that Doc Brown, as we know, is committed to an asylum in that reality).
UNLESS-- Marty 1's actions in the second movie (retrieving the sports almanac and burning it) insured that Marty 2 never saw that dystopian 1985 because by the time he went back there, Marty had already fixed everything. Thus Marty 2 can continue to exist happily ever after in the happy Marty 2 loop.
What's also weird to wonder is which set of memories and experiences does the Marty of 2015 have. He of course is a bitter, failed man because he drag raced with Needles (Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers!), and hurt his hand, thus runing his very promising music career playing instrumental versions of Huey Lewis hits. But which set of time travelling experiences does he have?
I think at some point the story definitely collapses in on itself. All I know is this: only seven more years until we have HOVERBOARDS!!!
1) While I was home last week I watched part 2 on demand, and it's still awesome, though it's hilarious how futuristic they expected the world to be by only 2015. On the other hand, I was in Grand Central the other day and they had these weird ads projected up on the pillars there and it totally reminded me of the kind of constant advertising they often put in movies set in the future (I think Minority Report had a lot of stuff about that).
2) The best resources for all of this are
A FAQ written by the filmmakers-- shows that they were well aware of these issues. It's actually really fastinating
Wikipedia, as always, comes through. The graphic showing the various time lines is especially useful. It also links to the entry on "The Grandfather Paradox," which is interesting too.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
McCarren Pool holds an insane amount of people - JellyNYC (who is NOT producing this show, but do selflessly and brilliantly produce the greatest free live concerts ever known to man) claims that capacity is 5000+, which means that all told they (by 'they' I in no way mean JellyNYC, the producers of entirely separate yet incredible free live shows) stand to make at least $250,000 for this show, not including beer, etc.
I don't have enough fingers on my hands to count the amount of shows i've not purchased tix to for this summer because of the excessive cost. Wilco is probably the only band I would do this for (okay, Led Zeppelin too), but I'm forgoing seeing them multiple times this year because every single show is so expensive.
Just goes to show how the industry to trying to make up for the lost revenue of CD sales. Prepare to start paying much much more for every concert, except for the free shows put on by JellyNYC. Those shows will be free. And well produced. By 5 hard-working people that have 1 over-exuberant friend.
Monday, April 21, 2008
-The French Connection
-The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3
Anyone know others? Ridiculously enough, I've never seen Taxi Driver or Mean Streets, so those will probably have to come soon. But any others? (I've already seen Dog Day Afternoon, but that's the same idea. Midnight Cowboy maybe?)
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Echo & the Bunnymen - The Cutter
This is the first track off of Echo & the Bunnymen's Porcupine album and was a single. I first was curious about them after hearing about how much the last Arcade Fire album rips them off (answer, as it turns out: a lot!) and then I heard "Killing Moon" in a bar and loved it and that was that. Anyway, for people disinclined towards the kind of anthemic semi-dancey British New Wave/Post-Punk that the Bunnymen traffic in, this song might not do it (i.e., Drischord probably needs not apply) but as for me, I can't get enough of it. The bridge sections especially (starting at 1:45, and coming in again at 2:53 or so) kicks my ass every time.
PS Ok, that's annoying-- apparently to embed it, it has to be in mp3 form. I rip almost all of my music in .m4A form, which has slightly better quality at lower bit rates than mp3. I have an mp3 version of this song anyway, but still, that's a silly feature.
I can't say I listen to much Frank Zappa anymore (and as with Labyrinth, probably wouldn't be that impressed if I heard this song for the first time today), but at the time this song completely blew my mind. By the time Frank came on the track and started explaining the different time signatures each instrument is playing in, my conception of music would never be the same.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
There's something that amuses me about our generation's recent re-appraisal/appreciation for Graceland (Vampire Weekend, obv, but also other bands now not being embarassed to namecheck the album, including, if I recall, Travis Morrison from Dismemberment Plan in an interview a couple years ago, et al). For people who are our age (that is mid-late twenties/early thirties), Graceland came out when we were at the perfect age to sort of passively and subconsciously absorb music that was being played by our parents (1986). Though everyone goes through a period where the music they want to listen to is the exact opposite of what their parents listen to, I have a feeling that many of us retain an affection for stuff we listened to as kids before we really had the opportunity to form our own taste. Although I can now listen to Graceland and appreciate the fluidity of the playing, the seamless integration of genres, and the effortless-seeming hooks, etc, when I was a kid I just loved the horn riff from "You Can Call Me Al."
I feel the same way about lots of things-- movies I loved as a kid will always make me happier than any movie I saw later and think is objectively "better" (Back to the Future-4-Life). And with other types of music-- as a kid, I was exposed through a variety of means to a handful of musicals, the cast albums to which are still some of my favorite music ever. While I generally have a soft spot for watching (and sometimes performing) musical theater, I'll never enjoy the ones I see now as much as the ones I saw/committed to memory back then. So, while I love Pirates of Penzance because I watched the Kevin Kline/Linda Ronstadt*/Angela Lansbury movie version literally hundreds of times, I've never seen HMS Pinafore and I can't imagine I'd like it that much. And for that matter, while I appreciate other Paul Simon albums (and actually grew up in a similar way with the Simon & Garfunkel albums, though at a slightly older age), I don't get nearly as much joy from them as I get from Graceland.
I wonder if there are any other pieces of culture (musical in particular) that were as ubiquitous and widely acclaimed as Graceland was at the time that can/will be re-appraised by our generation because we basically have an almost Pavlovian response to it.
*Incidentally that was another gateway into Graceland for me-- I already knew Linda Ronstadt as "Mabel" so I was really psyched to hear her duetting on "Under African Skies."
Friday, April 11, 2008
I'm far from an expert on them and really only know two eras of theirs - their first album and their "return" in the mid 90s. First album is obviously pre-Belew and back then, yeah, they were one of the wankiest prog bands to ever wank. But they kind of rocked a bit too. Their first album is something of a guilty pleasure. In searching YouTube for a good video of the original band playing live, I found, uh, this. It's "In the Court of the Crimson King" (which was used spectacularly in Children of Men) set to a Tom & Jerry cartoon. This may be best viewed while hanging out with your favorite talking towel.
As for Belew's involvement - I actually have not heard that first album with him. By the time I pick them back up in the 90s they are firmly in the mode of "old guys showing off their virtuosity". Which I guess is what they always were, but at least when they were younger they had some ambition and gusto. Now they're just... well, judge for yourself. Here's "Elephant Talk" from, I don't know, some album with Belew. VROOM maybe?
Paul Simon's got a monthlong residency at BAM with three sets of concerts, each of which is basically a hybrid concert and tribute. This one was "Under African Skies," so it was entirely songs from Graceland and the intermittently awesome/weak Rhythm of the Saints. Ladysmith Black Mambazo was there in full force, as were several African (and one Brazilian) singers who sometimes sang lead on the various tunes. All in all it was fantastic-- the backing band was phenomenal. He still has the same bass player from Graceland (who plays those awesomely rubbery fretless bass licks, as well as the Seinfeld theme-esque slap breakdown in "You Can Call Me Al") , and guitarist from Saints. And there were something like five percussionists who played various and sundry instruments. The groove was airtight-- something the boys in Vampire Weekend (who were in attendance, "predictably," per Tex) could learn from (not that i'm hating).
By far the highlight for me was David Byrne, who first danced awkwardly and tall-ly while he sang backup during "Born at the Right Time." That was awesome because it reminded me of what I would do if I were in his position.
But then he took the lead on "I Know What I Know," and even more awesomely, "You Can Call Me Al." I do hope some enterprising soul managed to film this and puts it up on youtube, because it was fantastic. Imagine what it would sound like if David Byrne sang "You Can Call Me Al." Amazingly, that's exactly what it sounded like! Though that seems redundant, it doesn't quite capture how much it sounded like a perfect mash-up of "Once in a Lifetime" and "You Can Call Me Al." I kept expecting him to segue straight through "Who will be my role model? Now that my role model is gone. And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house! And you will tell yourself, this is not by beautiful wife! But if you'll be my bodyguard..." It was great. Afterwards he got on his bike.
Related question: Adrian Belew played guitar on Talking Heads' Remain in Light. (Amusingly, I believe he also did some session work on Graceland). After playing with Bowie and the Heads, Adrian Below joined Robert Fripp in King Crimson. I have always written off King Crimson as proggy wanking (without having heard it, in fairness), but apparently the first album they put out as the revamped King Crimson, Discipline, is not proggy at all, and actually continues in the new wave worldfunk vein of Talking Heads, et al. Does anyone have it? How is it? I'm looking your way Dr. Kittybrains...
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Personally, I take this song as an encouraging sign that Wayne is leaving his thug pose at the door with his new album, and is trying to cross over into the 14-year-old girl demographic (which I have to assume is at least part of the marketing plan with this video). This may just be a mediocre sex song, but I'd certainly take it any day over the songs he used to write about shooting snitches.
But what I find amusing about the video is this: in the recent tradition of such lamentable pop hitmakers as 50 Cent, Lil' Wayne has chosen to base an entire song around the idea that eating candy can be a metaphor for oral sex, and in particular that a "lollipop" is like a penis. In this context, Wayne seems to spend an awful lot of time in this video with a lollipop hanging out of his mouth. And granted, most of the time he's just holding the lollipop in his hand and waving it around at the camera, but periodically it's definitely in his mouth. It seems like a strange oversight for an industry as homophobic as mainstream rap.
Of course, he also spends a lot of time sitting on the roof of a car playing an electric guitar...in a song that to my ear has a total absence of guitar. So it seems as if nobody put a lot of thought into the subtleties of this video.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Anyway, this is mostly just a rambling excuse to post some videos, but I do think it's a shame that the kind of individuality from a guy like Cave is so often bred out of rock. Or maybe I'm just becoming a cranky old man myself.
Here's a classic from Mr. Cave which you really must watch:
And the new single:
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Friday, April 04, 2008
My second complaint is that, while their commitment to contemporary issues makes them unique, they often whittle down an issue to a mere fraction of itself and thereby distort what actually happened. I still like the show, but I feel like Parker and Stone haven't matured alongside their fans who discovered them as teenagers. Too often they just end up playing to a new generation of teenagers.
Now I need to admit that the show may have taken a crazy left turn in the last 5-6 minutes and I wouldn't know because I turned it off. But that's my feeling based on what I saw.