23 December 2002

before i wrap up for the year, i leave you with a christmas mix i made that focuses on original xmas songs penned after 1958. that year serves as ground zero as it saw the release of "run rudolph run" by chuck berry, a ground zero unto himself, which announced rock's entry into the holiday fray.
1. chipmunks with david seville, "the chipmunk song"
2. stevie wonder, "what christmas means to me"
3. saint etienne, 'i was born on christmas day"
4. elton john, "step into christmas"
5. bing crosby & david bowie, "little drummer boy/peace on earth"
6. waitresses, "christmas wrapping"
7. beach boys, "little saint nick"
8. britney spears, "my only wish (this year)"
9. pogues ft. kirsty maccoll, "fairytale of new york"
10. john prine, "christmas in prison"
11. charles brown, "please come home for christmas"
12. james brown, "sweet little baby boy"
13. stevie wonder, "someday at christmas"
14. ramones, "merry christmas (i don't want to fight tonight)"
15. chuck berry, "run rudolph run"
16. low, "just like christmas"
17. darlene love, "christmas (baby, please come home)"
18. wham!, "last christmas"
19. donny hathaway, "this christmas"
20. vince guaraldi trio, "linus and lucy"
21. burt bacharach, "the bell that couldn't jingle"
22. james brown, "go power at christmas time"
23. clarence carter, "back door santa"
24. run-dmc, "christmas in hollis"
25. slade, "merry xmas everybody"

happy holidays!
apologies to those of you who were hotly anticipating the number one single on saturday. that very morning, i slammed my right index finger in my car door and thus had a harder time than usual writing. then again, if you visit this site often enough to be looking forward to such a thing, you probably also have a good idea of what that pick would be. and so...

1. andrew w.k., "party hard"
i was watching one of the episodes of vh1's i love the 80s and under discussion was the key-tar, that very 80s combination of guitar and keyboard. dave mustaine came on, dismissed it (obviously), but he also dismissed the ideas of keyboards in rock, which is a fairly common attitude unfortunately, and one that negates the influence of little richard, johnnie johnson, and jerry lee lewis, to name only a few, on the history of rock 'n' roll. andrew w.k. isn't of the same mind -- to say the least -- and it's one of a handful of the reasons why he is maligned. however, andrew w.k. is rock 'n' roll, in a way that no other band or artist today can lay claim to. "party hard" is "tutti frutti" and "let's spend the night together" and "louie louie" and "blitzkrieg bop"; not "a day in the life" or ok computer or even "you know you're right." its appeal, in true nuggets fashion, lies in its ability to make you forget you have a brain for 3:04; its creed: "life is to be lived and not thought about," and also: "pleasure is never guilty." "meaning," as far as awk is concerned, is not found within poetic couplets but in the immediacy of sound: the electric surge that coarses through your veins, the sudden rush of blood to yr skull. he's wagner, penniman, and steinman wrapped up in one: volume, grandiosity, absurdity. he speaks in CAPS LOCK. he smashed his face with a brick because...well, why the hell not? he's elvis in high tops, our stupid messiah, and unlike the beatles or velvets, he's not why people form bands: he's why we listen to music.

20 December 2002

2. eminem, "lose yourself"
i didn't want to put "lose yourself" this high but eminem was implacable; that he's not in the top spot is only because he was shouted down by the artist at number one. "lose yourself" is inexorable and obstreperous; people who didn't like eminem up to this point -- my nephews, for two -- are caught up in it, and that's in no small part due to the use of rock dynamics. when i first heard it, i mistakenly lumped it in with "cleanin' out my closet" and it wasn't until i saw 8 mile that it finally set in and made sense. one of eminem's rare gifts is that he brings real-life people into his rhymes -- his mother, his ex-wife, his daughter -- and makes them interesting if only be association. (even benzino.) with "lose yourself," he draws the audience in, regardless of age or race, and refuses to let them go. greil marcus has called it a career-defining hit. it's amazing that, with all of the huge, epochal hits eminem has behind him, marcus could make such a claim; and it seems ridiculous that he could compare it to "like a rolling stone" or "gimme shelter." but most amazing of all though is that he's right on all accounts.

19 December 2002

3. missy elliott, "work it"
musically, "work it" (and under construction) offer big, honking nods to the old school. this is, of course, a new development since missy and timbaland have always seemed to be forward-thinkers. as i think someone else may have said, we expect missy singles to create new subgenres of music, but here instead she and tim are content to revitalize the old school and introduce not just the sound (cf. "grindin'" and its updating of schoolly d.) but the look and the culture. in a war-torn, materialistic hip-hop world, missy is bringing it stylistically and sonically back to the simpler days. missy herself has always been a throwback, particularly to the pre-rakim days of rap when rhymes were rarely metaphorical (or metaphysical) or political. at the beginning of her career, she was maligned by purists for lines like "beep beep who got the keys to the jeep," much the way an andrew w.k., himself redolent of an earlier time (and i don't mean the 80s), catches flak in a post-kurt cobain world. for his part, timbaland foregos the role of traditional hip-hop producer (a.k.a. beat-maker) to instead play the gil evans to her miles, the nelson riddle to her sinatra. the track is propulsive and in a state of perpetual motion, but it always allows missy to speak, to sing, to just plain bug-out. missy and tim press rewind, take it back one time, and get us to do the same.

18 December 2002

4. bruce springsteen, "the rising"
the most classic(al) evocation of the springsteen legend since..."badlands," i'd say, and it's due in large part to the e street band who sound mythic themselves here. quiet verse, chorus with thrumming bass, drum fill, full band on second verse, chorus, la la las, guitar solo, bridge, quiet extended verse, slow build, full band on chorus, la la las. like "the scientist," it sounds overly calculated on paper but that's because max weinberg's drums and bruce's wailing guitar don't translate well to paper and ink. that "the rising"is about a 9/11 rescue worker is no longer news, but what still surprises me is how the bridge -- with the "faces gone black" and "eyes burning bright" -- still affects me so. like many songs within his catalog, "the rising" is a celebration of a life even as it was written in the shadow of death. it's a reminder that the best way to honor those who died that day is to live unafraid; that despite the events of that tragic morning, it's still no sin to be glad you're alive.

17 December 2002

5. conway, "lisa's got hives"
it's arguable that the worst tracks on the recent tlc and missy albums were the treacly tributes to left eye. when intimate relationships are involved, sadness is the first reaction to a death. as fans, though, without the sense of personal loss, i think we tend to want a celebration of that lost life. the best thing that could be done is to find a way to release this commercially, a la "freak like me." it represents lisa at her best (the hives, too) -- vibrant and excited. what's more, it flat-out rocks; as mike pointed out, it's the only rap-rock that has ever sounded fully convincing, and the only bootleg i've heard that surpasses the originals that comprise it. i don't think i'm misstating the case to say that the interest in bootlegs has waned. a few more numbers like this -- where the artist is not trying to be snarky or cheeky or, worse, obvious, but strictly attempting to entertain -- should reverse that trend.
attention must be paid. i really need to apologize for not linking to the church of me before today. it is maintained by ilxor don marcello carlin, and if you're familiar with him i don't need to tell you that it is absolutely required reading. right now, he's working on his favorite films of the year (which i really can't do until i see the two towers, about schmidt, gangs of new york, and the hours), compilations, and he does me a great service by reviewing the new common record, electric circus (verdict: i must buy it.) so go there now; don't waste your time here!

16 December 2002

6. coldplay, "the scientist"
science: aside from one other number released this year -- on its way in this here countdown -- "the scientist" is the most meticulously crafted single of the year. the pieces are carefully measured and combined with cold precision: spare piano, melody, chorus, spare piano, full band, melody, chorus, break, wordless falsetto, coda, music drops out, voice. magic: despite its calculated origin, it works. it is reducible; it can be dissected and its parts analyzed, but its essence escapes the eye and entangles the heart. i shouldn't like this and yet it strikes the same chords as peak u2; it has the same ability to make me feel blithely blissful. some things science just can't explain.
as you may know, the way vh1 has been filling the gaps between commercials has been dubious at best. the rerun show reruns? all access: booty call -- an analysis of the asses of pop-stars? one meaningless awards show after another?but the most treacly, unbearable "show" they've attempted to foist upon an indifferent public to date has to be jen loves ben. it's like j-lo's "dear ben"...only extended into an HOUR-LONG TELEVISION SHOW. i ask you: how bad could liza's reality show have really been? i mean, really?

15 December 2002

7. streets, "weak become heroes"
in walker percy's novel, the moviegoer, binx bolling performs what he calls "repetitions," evocations of past events. he'll go to a film he saw ten years ago and, in the darkness of an empty theater, reflect on how his life has changed since then. mike skinner does the same thing, only his memory is stirred by hearing a certain song, he becomes mesmerized by piano notes. and with good reason: this might be the most pristine keyboard sound i've ever heard on a record; a coruscating gold. he notes that his life has had its ups and downs but the song remains the same. memory fades, but the same piano loops over and over and over...

14 December 2002

8. electric six ft. jack white, "danger! high voltage!"
jack white may want to rethink his group's dynamic because he sounds really great with a bassline, even if that bassline may lead the listener into singing, "you and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals..." or maybe it's just me. best disco-metal single since "i was made for lovin' you."

13 December 2002

9. hives, "hate to say i told you so"
after the 1,000th listen, one starts to think that these guys are too intelligent to be making this music. not that higher aims are more admirable necessarily, but that it's really too studied to work as well as it should. sure, iggy's bright but in a brilliant beast kinda way, not in the snarky, wink-wink howlin' pelle fashion. it is difficult to interface with both this song and this band unless you try to obviate the need to by shouting along and, in which case, are the words you're shouting registering? and doesn't it seem a bit wrong? i'm left with the impression that behind the histrionics they're rather hollow, intentionally so, like a bunch of stuffed matching suits. but, oh, that riff. best walking song of the year.

12 December 2002

10. kylie minogue, "come into my world (fischerspooner remix)"
an argument could be made -- rather easily -- for the inclusion of "can't get you out of my head," but i was walking around, going "la la la, la la la laaa la, la la la, la la la laaa la" some months before that single broke into the billboard hot 100 in january 2002. besides, i've had enough of kylie and her hooks having their way with me; now, i'd rather listen to someone get their hooks in her...and who would've figured that she and fischerspooner would hit it off so well? (perhaps she held mssrs. fischer and spooner rapt with stories of what the 80s were really like.) what made "can't get you out of my head" was kylie, her kittenish sexuality and her appearance in the video. by contrast, "come into my world" works not because of her physical presence or any of her attributes, but simply because it is kylie and that fischerspooner have taken her vocals and have inserted behind her a throbbing bassline. they press a button and she pants out of sexual exhaustion, and once they feel she's had enough, they digitally manipulate her into perpetual orgasm. like early duran duran videos, a fischerspooner touchstone, it is pure male fantasy but also aural ecstasy.

11 December 2002

11. clipse, "grindin'"
what "grindin'" does, more than any other record i've heard this year, including andrew w.k., is make me acutely aware of just how white i am.
thomas has begun his top 50 of the year. and given the fact that he compiled one of my favorite singles of the 90s lists, i'm very interested in seeing how it all turns out.

now, in shitty lists news, spin has named its tops for the year...and it's like it's 2001 all over again! in a year most notable for julian injuring his knee and missing a lot of gigs, the strokes were named band of the year. yes, it's all very last year but, oh, it continues. spin's promo copy must've gotten mislaid or lost under a pile of strokes press releases because white blood cells (rel. jul. 3, 2001) is their album of the year. maybe they just didn't get around to buying it until it was re-released with a bonus dvd. no, if that were the case, is this it would've taken top prize. for single of the year, they manage to avoid the anachronisms, but bad taste is far trickier to elude. one had a 66.67% chance of picking a good eminem single, and yet spin still somehow managed to choose "cleaning out my closet" as the year's best. well, maybe next year "lose yourself" or "without me" will be honored...unless white blood cells is still eligible.

10 December 2002

12. space cowboy, "die 4 u"
now herre's a summer hit that translates well to the winter months. prince's sentiment is, of course, warm but the sound, particularly that subtle synth french horn, was frigid; space cowboy only emphasizes that aspect with the antiquated synths he employs: one can actually hear the dust in between the notes, redolent of drafty attics. i think i made the link between prince and electro elsewhere -- the romantic fatalism, the electronics, all of the female singers sounding like wendy & lisa at the opening of "computer blue." it is ultimately they who are the most successful inheritors of his legacy. space cowboy even one-ups the master by realizing that the repetition of the bridge only makes the song better. true, the use of dynamics -- not to mention the truncation of the title (space cowboy apparently has no interest in self-sacrifice) -- lessens the message but these electro-types really don't mean it; it's all ironic, right? or do they?
from yesterday's times, my obituary.

09 December 2002

i saw adaptation earlier today. and once i've organized my thoughts, i'll likely say something about it. what i can say with certainty right now is that it contains the best deconstructionist joke i've ever heard.
13. yeah yeah yeahs, "bang"
"machine" was officially a single; "bang" is just the first track on their debut ep. and it doesn't even serve as the title of the ep. someone, please, assist me here; let me know the legality -- and not the discretion -- of such a move. why would i place myself in such a moral quandary when "machine" is so readily available and easy on the conscience? like "hot in herre," "bang" is another triumph of personality, this time for karen o., that siouxsie sioux in debbie harry's clothes. as she delivers the lines, "bang bang bang, the bigger, the better" over the break, she elevates herself quite knowingly to the status of greatest phone sex operator ever. and it sounds like "cold sweat" without the sexual angst (and bassline!) she dismisses a lover coolly -- "as a fuck, son, you suck" -- and, like tweet, proves that sisters are indeed doing it for themselves.
re: the good mr. finney's comments: a) it's not number 2 because it's my list. actually, i think i'm way too much of a synesthete to enjoy a warm weather song in the winter. or just chalk it up to hemispheric differences. b) we're both wrong. i wouldn't say it's generic because the beat isn't insistent enough and the keyboard aren't chirpy. i also disagree with myself: it's not mediocre. how about uncharacteristically muted? i'm not sure how the process usually goes, but i get the sense that the neptunes make the beat and the artist writes a song. "hot in herre" strikes me as opposite; the beat was made-to-order because i can't think of another neptunes production where the keybs are so humid (cf. kool & the gang's "too hot.") unlike, say, "pass the courvoisier," "hot in herre" isn't about pharrell -- it's a platform for the artist. now, with so much personality to burn, when will nelly release his double album?

08 December 2002

14. nelly, "hot in herre"
fact: "hot in herre" is a lot more fun when listened to with a group than by one's self.
fact: there wasn't a more quotable single released this year. for example: "i was like, 'good gracious ass is bodacious'"; "me and the rest of my heathens"; "get on up on the dancefloor, give that man what he askin' for"; "cos i feel like bustin' loose and i feel like touchin' you"; "'girl, i think my butt gettin' big'"; "unless you gon' do it"; et. al.
fact: nelly says, "i've got a friend with a pole in the basement," not, "i've got a friend with a phone in the basement." it really makes a lot more sense that way.
fact: "hot in herre" is a rather mediocre neptunes production and, similar to missy's "work it," it represents a triumph of the artist's considerable personality.
fact: it's fucking cold in her(r)e; reason why this doesn't make the top 10.
best piece of sports commentary in many a moon. from larry merchant on hbo, critiquing jameel mccline's reluctance to hit wladimir klitschko in their wbo heavyweight title fight last night:
"mccline acts as if attacking klitschko was like attacking russia in winter."

07 December 2002

15. flaming lips, "do you realize??"
on paper, "do you realize??" is a preposterous conceit; i don't think that even bono in a room full of aids-stricken orphans feels this empathetic. listening to it, however, is an altogether different experience. when wayne coyne sings, "do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?" i sit and listen and say, "you know, i didn't realize that"; such is the feeling of revelation. appeals to the part of me that watches the wizard of oz and is held captive by childlike awe; and not the part that comments on how, even in her films, gay men were inexorably drawn to judy garland. "do you realize??" is the lips' latest attempt at crossbreeding "over the rainbow" and "what a wonderful world"-- both of which they've covered -- with puppy dogs and sunshine. it's also their most effective, and affecting.

06 December 2002

16. rapture, "house of jealous lovers"
2002: the year the punks remembered how to dance, and it was dfa who jogged their memories. (technically 2001, i guess, but let's hear it for zeitgeist-defining re-releases!)
why this isn't higher: apparently the punks have forgotten how to edit judiciously; brevity formerly being one of their strong points. which is a too-clever way of saying: it doesn't justify its length.

05 December 2002

17. n.o.r.e. ft. pharrell, "nothin'"
listening to "nothin'" with its female vocals an ostensible snatch from the smurfs' theme song, i'm reminded of biggie rhyming over a gay anthem on "mo' money mo problems." unlike the falsetto on "grindin'," this juxtaposition of the menacing and the innocent isn't chilling: "nothin'" is confrontational where "grindin'" is nonchalant, and there's something more elementally frightening about someone who whistles as he decides how to do you harm. still, you can dance to "nothin'."

also: the neptunes foray into eastern music illuminates the difference between them and timbaland: tim is about the means; the neptunes are about the sound (particularly the melody).
can anyone let me know if the new shania twain album is any good? what little i've sampled seems encouraging; i want to know if i should put it on my christmas list.
overheard from the t.v., an ad for the new rob schneider vehicle, the hot chick:
"from some of the guys who brought you deuce bigelow and the animal..."

are there people out there with worse track records and yet are allowed to continue making films? i mean, sure, tomcats and sorority boys are really bad, but at least i can take comfort in knowing that "some of the guys" who perpetrated those films will be refused work from now on. (right?)

and! "some of the guys"? does this mean it's going to be better...or worse? did they lose the dead weight or did the one with sense -- and a conscience -- opt-out?

04 December 2002

18. tweet, "oops (oh my)"
so why are female masturbation songs so damn sexy when distaff versions are so damn desperate? is this a "why do you guys like watching two chix make out?"-type question: guys find it ineffably appealing and females won't betray their sex and say otherwise? is it because the female orgasm is a mystery? or is it because female masturbation songs typically sound like this -- spiked with orgasmic sounds and sighs, icy cool like a breath freshener commercial, totally in control as if it were her choice -- and male masturbation songs sound like...i dunno, any band whose members wear tight t-shirts and wear countenances that are frequently fraught with guilt and despair. the ladies aren't saying, and that's okay, as long as they keep singing.
the adams family were on the family feud today but that was only the third most amazing thing about today's show. second was the fact that richard "please don't call me 'al'" karn didn't riff on the name. most impressive, in a runaway: one of the questions put to a hundred people was "name ways someone from a foreign country can prove their patriotism." both families were stumped. they got the top two answers: fly a flag and learn the language. the rest, in order: vote, listen to springsteen, and buy american. forget gallup or eagleton, family feud has their finger on the pulse of america like no else out there. immigrants, illegal and otherwise, take note -- and fear!

03 December 2002

19. queens of the stone age, "no one knows"
(note to self: like band more; masculinity at stake.) i never thought i'd call qotsa "jaunty" but here we are. backing vocals, polite drum fills, and josh homme's falsetto all combine to make my head bob side-to-side in the same effeminate fashion actuated by "walking on sunshine." then, the dam breaks, and the flood pours forth: the chorus grabs one by the testicles (or the vulva, depending) and you're left trying to decide whether you want to play air drums or air guitar. since you can't pogo and play the drums, my decision is made for me. "a day in life" by those pussies the beatles occupies the break and things go a little prog before we're led back to beginning. once again i coo along with josh, grin, bob my head, and hope that no one's been watching me.

02 December 2002

nas pegged as sell-out by entertainment weekly. (italics denote shock; are not grammatical.)
also, i'm going to begin a countdown of my twenty favorite singles from this year. one should appear daily. oh, and look at that! there's number 20.
20. busta rhymes ft. p. diddy & pharrell, "pass the courvoisier, pt. ii"
the beatles went from "she loves you" to "strawberry fields forever" in four years; hip-hop has gone from sipping on gin and juice to passing the courvoisier in nine: clearly, refinement has been a long time coming. not only is the booze more expensive, but so is the production help. i don't think i'd mind a pharrell solo album if he played the foil to established artists a la timbaland, but his ego is so big now -- talk about "his" music -- that i doubt it'd be possible. diddy's made a living talking over other peoples' records and his performance here is the best use of a diddy in a supporting role since "all about the benjamin." for his part, busta does the "rawr rawr" bit that we've loved for years now. and as the drinks are passed and the hoes assessed, a mariachi band continues to play -- forcefully but with a minimum of exertion.
heigh-ho, yours truly here. apologize for the absence: thanksgiving brought visiting relatives and parties and dinners. beyond that, i also had some school work to. you probably won't read about narrative technique in bleak house and daniel deronda, and you probably won't read about an essay on war and my grandfather, but here it is anyway.

20 November 2002

songs to download & sing: in this order.
thrills, "santa cruz (you're not that far)"
-times change, i suppose, but what true-blue smiths fan could've imagined that morrissey would endorse a reggae outfit? none, and with good reason: the thrills are about as far removed from rock n' roll (and reggae) as can be. what starts out unnervingly like ben folds' "brick" soon assuages fears with banjo and barrelhouse piano, and ends with a leisurely gait akin to "raindrops keep falling on my head." is this what badly drawn boy records are meant to sound like?
roots ft. nelly furtado, "sacrifice"
-nelly plays the diaphanous dolly on the choruses, leaving the ragga ching-ching-chanting alone. what impresses most is the airiness of the track, elegant keyboards playing off of thrumming guitars.
fabolous, "this is my party"
-itchy and edgy, with a hopped-up organ part courtesy of timbaland. an aside: is fabolous (a) an unwitting misspelling (b) a dialectal thing, like "herre" or (c) an intentional misspelling because "fabulous" is oft-times associated with drag queens?
blur, "don't drop the bomb when you're the bomb"
-the parting with graham now plays like a refutation of guitar rock. oh, that bbc america would broadcast top of the pops so i could see this appearance: the band in basic black, armed with strap-on 80s keyboards and powerbooks, 'playing' with their backs to the audience.
joe ft. jadakiss, "i want a girl like you"
-for the neptunes, retro-minimalism sounded neat; for timbaland and missy, it's something of a tract. for rodney jerkins, it's a cash-in, but i can't quibble with the results. this almost puts me in mind of make it last forever.
robbie williams, "come undone"
-it's about the pitfalls of fame; about robbie's divided soul; about his love/hate affair with the england that made him. but let's not shit ourselves: it's about the chorus, and it soars appropriately.
slum village ft. ms. jade & raje shwari, "disco (remix)"
-conscious rappers set science aside in favor of the busting of moves. ms. jade teaches them the newest steps.
erick sermon ft. al green, "love iz"
-e-double jax another track -- "love & happiness," this time -- and the sampled artist has the good sense to be alive. al green on a hip-hop record seemed inconceivable at one point but, hey, it iz about love.
mariah carey, "bringin' on the heartbreak"
-starting at 2:58, i finally hear what many reviewers indicated about the xtina album, i.e. she's cracked. mariah shows that la aguilera has still much to learn, and what could be a better object lesson than an overblown orchestral remake of a def leppard hit? of course, the preceding 2:57 proves why sensible people don't listen to mariah carey records.
bobby darin, "i think it's going to rain today"
-the discovery of this version of the song makes me consider cloning mike's 'clowns' project. judy collins, manfred mann, melanie, bette midler, joe cocker, dusty springfield, rick nelson, ub40, neil diamond, francoise hardy, the animals, helen reddy, nina simone, ritchie blackmore (!). very tempting.

17 November 2002

"what do you think of modern art?" gardener raymond deagan asks this question of his employer, cathy whitaker as the two view a painting by miro. in the hartford of 1957, modern art is as strange a sight as a black gardener and a white housewife standing side-by-side, speaking to each other with familiarity. raymond sees modern art as a continuation of spiritual art, a stripped-down continuation: everything unnecessary is removed and the emphasis is on shape and color. cathy's contemporaries prefer the work of michelangelo; her reply to raymond -- "i know what i like and what i don't like" -- is typical of her position and class (upper-middle), but, though she can't quite express it, one senses that her appreciation of miro is genuine...as is her appreciation of andrew.

the evaluation of art is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. take douglas sirk, for example. his detractors think his melodramas of the fifties were trashy and vulgar. so too do his fans, but they also realize that there's more than just what meets the eye. todd haynes belongs to this latter camp, and his new film, far from heaven, from its florid title card to its bold use of color, is an homage to the master and a brilliant, affecting work in its own right. as the film opens, a close-up of a canvas adorned with brilliant red, yellow, and orange brushstrokes fades into the foliage of a tree in a quiet, rustic neighborhood where autumn is in full flight. this transition from painting-to-reality is the obverse of the film: in far from heaven, norman rockwell's saturday evening post covers are put under the magnifier, revealing layers and details unobservable from a normal distance.

cathy whitaker is a suburban housewife with two delightful children and an impeccable home, a woman whose good deeds do not go unnoticed by the society pages of the local paper. like her friends, she wears long, frilly dresses and scarves; says things like "perfectly lovely" and "darling" and "a wretched mistake"; she even wraps dinner and delivers it to her husband when the demands of business dictate long hours. frank whitaker is a successful sales executive for magnatech, manufacturer of televisions and radios. in fact, the whitakers are 'mr. and mrs. magnatech,' the thoroughly modern couple pictured in magnatech advertisements. look closer at the ad and, amid the colored dots, you'll see strain marking the face of mr. magnatech and concern troubling the countenance of his wife.

frank has a problem, the nature of which i won't divulge in this review. after its discovery, neither he or cathy are able to talk about it properly. cathy, at first, tries to ignore it. when frank brings it up, cathy notes her inability to deal with it. for his part, frank is hardly more eloquent, unable to complete a full sentence. they decide to together to get help for him, though it proves a difficult road. frustrated, frank screams, "i just want to fucking get it over with!" and, given the film's context, it feels like a backhand strike.

it is in the midst of this family crisis that cathy strikes up a friendship with raymond deagan, the family's gardener. he is sympathetic and a calming presence. besides working as a gardener, he also owns a supply store. his discourse at the art show demonstrates that he is cultured. he is also a widow with a young daughter. during their first meeting, cathy is being profiled by the local newspaper. overseen by the reporter, cathy is noted as "being kind to negroes" in the article. her friends note that she's always had something of a liberal streak in her, performing plays with "sweaty jews" in her youth, the kind of action that earned her the nickname "red." as her marriage devolves and her friendship with raymond develops, cathy finds herself the victim of the eyes of hartford: their judgement unleashes grievous consequences upon both her and raymond.

far from heaven may be exactly the kind of film sirk would've liked to have made in the 50s. his last major film, imitation of life, hints in this direction; perhaps the inability to do so was one of the reasons behind his early retirement. the hollywood code would never have allowed many of the things that occur in this film to find their way on screen. deagan asks, "can't we see beyond the surface, the color of things?" his question seems to have a double meaning: it can be directed at those who love sirk merely for the appearance of his films, ignoring his critique of society, but it's also intended for the audience. beyond the code restrictions, this film could never have been accepted in the fifties: the sympathy for deagan and cathy would not be there; filmgoers would not rally behind raymond's plea for acceptance. thus, the reason why far from heaven needed to be a work of modern art: a contemporary audience realizes how silly a lot of what happened in the fifties was: the styles, the sayings, the gender roles, the racism. haynes allows us to strip away all of that which is unnecessary. as we look beneath the surface and examine the film carefully, we see that what was essential back then remains so today: love, understanding, compassion.

15 November 2002

for reader ease, here is the entirety of the jay-z review, in chronological order, with the addition of 'the curse.'

"i want to thank...bono and family for your hospitality and for showing me how to live in the south of france." (from the liners of the blueprint 2: the gift & the curse)

listening to the blueprint, the first, i'm reminded of how rich an album it is, how the flow, the music, and even the sleeve combine to produce this sumptuous piece of music. in this 'cribs' era, it's very easy, with the aid of a little bling, to create the appearance of opulence -- home movie theatres, waterproof pool tables and personal starbuckses. the blueprint's singular accomplishment, however, was to exude class. at the time, i said it was like floating in a glass of kristal: the blueprint 2, then, is what happens when that glass overflows and one drowns in it.

when building a structure, a second blueprint is only necessary when the original is found to be flawed in some way, or when a refinement of sorts is required. running contrary to this, the blueprint 2 is an explosion of the first: 'the gift' disc is an expansion of the light-hearted, celebratory half; 'the curse,' a disc full of the introspective material that largely comprised the second half of the blueprint. 'the gift,' by and large, is being able to be jay-z and to share in the benefits reaped thereby; 'the curse' is having to live off record, having to go through real life being sean carter -- young, black, and rich -- and dealing with the problems that have plagued his past and present.

the blueprint 2 is also a refutation of its forbear: the sound is far less cohesive and, unlike the last record, relies heavily on superstar producers (timbaland, dr. dre, the neptunes). the sleeve is no-frills and no-nonsense: gone are the measurements and the actual blueprint, replaced by close-ups of jay-z throughout and, for the back photo, a christ-like pose, jay in white, emitting white light from his hands, while an adoring crowd looks on. the cover shot recalls earlier jay-z albums where the emphasis was on his face. the blueprint was an aberration, with jay smoking a cigar, shot from above, and the feet of his crew visible along the right border. it's a pose that says: "i've made it."

"this must be the way the nigga pac felt when he made me against the world, all eyez on me..." (from "some people hate")

the double albums that seemed to start the trend amongst rappers were 2pac's all eyez on me and b.i.g.'s life after death. with these two, what the double seemed to imply was a sense of having made it; that they were at the point where their personalities had expanded so that they couldn't be contained on a single disc. that album for jay-z seemed to be the blueprint: from the cover down to the songs themselves, it represented all that was great about the man. jay's fecundity is renown: since 1996, he's released at least one album a year. this double contains a great deal of material, but what's even more shocking is that, with all the music floating around since the blueprint, he could easily fill another disc. he really has nothing left to prove, so i can only guess that he wanted to create that hip-hop, no, that rock n' roll anomaly: a great double album.

"the sinatra of my day" (from "hola hovito")
"we made us, the ratpack, i'm sinatra..." (from "i did it my way")

not exactly hyperbole. like frank, jay-z doesn't work with what is considered traditional r&b, stax loops notwithstanding, yet he does posess a certain soulfulness in his delivery. consider jay-z the vegas sinatra: despite the heavy drinking and all of the skirt-chasing, when he's on, and has the right song, he's able to tap into something very real. "you must love." "soon you'll understand." "song cry." like eminem, his chief artistic and commercial competitor, jay posesses two distinct identities: the jigga-man and sean carter. the one fucks hos and drinks mo, the other reflects on the poverty of his childhood and mourns black-on-black crime. what he has over eminem is that both of his personas are enjoyable; he doesn't grate when he turns and faces himself. the presence of one only improves the other, just as sinatra sings for only the lonely balances out songs for singin' lovers. jay is not ashamed to cry; eminem can't get past anger and consequently, as on "cleaning out my closet," bitches and moans.

"for those that think hov fingers bling bling'n either haven't heard the album or they don't know english, they only know what the single is, and singled that out to be the meaning of what he is about..." (from "the bounce")

'the gift' begins on something of a dour note. spidery guitars and moby pianos make "a dream" sound more like foreboding nightmare. since the whole nas feud, jay-z seems somewhat shaken, unsure exactly of where he stands with the hip-hop community. (perhaps this is why he released a double, to reassert himself?) b.i.g. comes to him in his dream and basically tells jay to stay the course, his appearance serving to remind the listener of jay's pre-eminence on the scene.

"a dream" plays like a prelude, containing an underlying motif of insecurity and defensiveness that will haunt the rest of the set, especially on the 'the curse' disc. "hovi baby," then, acts as the true album opener: like "the ruler's back," it's more in the spirit of jigga-ness that prevails on 'the gift.' when i first heard it, i was quite pleased. not necessarily with the song, which was good if not great, but with the fact that it seemed as if jay had a band backing him. i said at that time: "jay-z owns his career." despite record company pressures or commercial concerns, jay's career will go exactly where he wants it to (see the unplugged album with the roots, for one). disappointment set in when i saw the credits: "hovi baby" contains a sample from the video mix of tlc's "diggin' on you," suggesting that perhaps jay-z will go where his producers take him.

from the rest of the disc, one gleans the following:
-jay-z's been in the game since, very likely, the listener was suckling at his mother's (i.e. the listener's) breast. ("the watcher 2")
-jay-z may or may not be bonking beyonce. ("'03 bonnie & clyde.")
-jay-z, at times, makes music "for the grown and sexy" ("excuse me miss.")
-jay-z is an international lover ("all around the world.")
-jay-z, it's safe to say, has more money than you. ("poppin' tags")
-jay-z can fuck all nite if you can. ("fuck all nite.")
-jay-z is more than a match for osama bin-laden. ("the bounce.")

and all of this is very humorously told -- it's what we expect. what we *also* expect are great beats, club bangers. it's on the count that 'the gift' disc the fails. "the watcher 2" offers more of the monstrous precision that has ruined a number of modern-day dre productions. the neptunes tracks ("excuse me miss," "fuck all nite"), and this holds for their productions on 'the curse,' sound more like kelis tracks than n.o.r.e. or clipse or benzino beats. not a bad thing in itself since their r&b productions are frequently less one-dimensional, but here the synths are of a sugary, hi-c variety that go down easy but pass through one's system quickly.

"all around the world" sounds like a blueprint outtake and "poppin' tags," despite big mike -- sans cock rhymes -- and big boi's presence, bores and trundles on for an inconceivable six minutes. "'03 bonnie & clyde," though, surprises: up to this point, it had probably been my least favorite jay-z single, but in the context of the album, it sounds fantastic and, truth be told, it makes me crane my neck. and, per usual, timbaland doesn't disappoint: on "what they gonna do," sean paul grumbles and talks about anal sex (i think) while fresh sly stone percussion rattles and thudding synth notes fall from the sky. then a dancehall beat emerges and makes one wonder why timbaland hasn't produced a beenie man or sean paul single (or has he?). "the bounce" does just that during the voices, hardly exciting, but the chorus has a classic timbo touch, this undecipherable, crackling vocal sample that becomes incredibly addictive.

the last track on the disc is "i did it my way," which samples the song of the same name. as sung by paul anka. jay rhymes about being the new sinatra on this track while anka -- the song's english translator -- sings one of ol' blue eyes's signatures. besides coming at a higher price, a sinatra sample would've been difficult to contend with -- the song would no longer be all about jay-z, which would be a sin. sinatra made "my way" his own through experience; elvis, by sweat; sid vicious, through sneer. jay accomplishes the trick through juxtaposition: the production is similar to "hard-knock life," but the difference here is that the sample is off-set by a hard hip-hop beat, which makes the chorus twinkle brighter and the pause more poignant. a very bizarre, very affecting success.

by touching on his troubles with the law and with a tenant review board, "i did it my way" is the segue between the two discs, foreshadowing the perils of fame that become an unfortunate pre-occupation of 'the curse.' it's fitting that the jay-z persona begins to fade away before the conclusion of this disc and that the beat is 'affecting' rather than, say, 'slamming.' what i expected from 'the gift' was, well, an orgy of beats and rhymes. the disc blew its load early and had a hard time keeping it up throughout. sounds like a curse to me. but what does 'the curse' sound like?

"it ain't just hos and gun shit, i switch topics..." (from rell's "it's obvious")

'the curse' disc is where we expect to find DEEP THOUGHTS, to discover the state of s. carter and hopefully get more of that redeeming vulnerability. if you weren't aware, jay-z has become rather famous. as evinced by the shout to bono, he's gone global. i believe it was b.i.g. who said "mo' money mo problems," a sentiment echoed by jay on this record. and so here is the problem with 'the curse': fame may indubitably be a bitch, but is there anything more fucking boring than listening to a famous person bemoan their situation? tackled correctly, it's presumably possible to evoke sympathy from the listener, but that album, as of november 15, 2002, has yet to be made. what we learn from 'the curse':
-sean carter had his application rejected by a condo governing board ("diamonds is forever.")
-sean carter has been hated on and continues to be hated on ("some people hate.")
-sean carter is a philanthropist and no one gives him his due. ("blueprint 2.")
-sean carter, it is safe to say, has more money than you. ("nigga please.")
-sean carter is bothered by fans in clubs, especially by his male fans. ("2 many hoes.")
-sean carter owns a record company, a record company with artists ("diamonds is forever"), artists who appear on jay-z's album ("u don't know (remix)," "as one.")

intrigued yet? of course, i lathed this disc to fit my purposes. the tragic thing is that jay-z hasn't forgotten how to tell a story, to make the listener genuinely feel something. "some how, some way" is a beautiful throwback to the previous album. it's a standard tale of finding one's way out of the hood, but the attention to detail and the sighing of the track elevate it.

"meet the parents," on the other hand, isn't standard. the song is told through the vantage point of a woman whose wayward son has just died and his body is available for viewing down at the station. jay-z recalls the events that led up to the woman's pregnancy, aspiring to poetry with lines like, "it was just this night, the moon was full, and the stars were just right." striking an autobiographical note, jay-z, raised by a single mom, exhorts, "niggas, be a father, you're killing your sons." it is positively galvanizing and its presence on the album merely illuminates all of its faults.

ironically enough, the beats are better on this disc than on 'the gift.' "u don't know," a remix of a blueprint track, benefits, like all tracks laced with landmines, from the appearance of new roc-a-fella signees, m.o.p; "diamonds is forever," with its hushed synths, is insidious; "2 many hoes" pulses with indian strings, boom-bap beats, and a yelping vocal sample; "ballad of a fallen soldier," though dubiously comparing nyc cops with al-qaeda, weeps like an s.o.s. band ballad. 'the curse' is a triumph of style over substance, like the blueprint 2 as a whole. i've nothing against such an arrangement, except when, by and large, the style is about as happening as karl kani or cross colors.

the blueprint 2 calls to mind another double album that appeared at about the same time as all eyez on me and life after death. drunk on their own essentiality, the wu-tang clan released wu-tang forever and the whooshing sound that accompanied it was the sound of their commercial prospects going down the shitter. not that i think that this album should hurt jay-z's commercial standing, but at the foundation of both of these records is colossal self-absorption. the blueprint 2 makes for a house that is often very impressive to look at with many modern accoutrements, but it's not a home where you'll find jay-z's heart. like a blueprint, it's all plan, little execution; lots of talk, little action. jay-z may want to take a look at this blueprint and reconsider it; issue a third blueprint with amendments and refinements. or maybe he should scrap the plan and start from scratch: there's enough evidence on record to prove that he's still got the raw materials.
since the gulf war, saddam hatred has always been close to the surface. but with patriotic fervor running high, the release of conflict: desert storm for xbox -- perhaps you've seen it on tv, the ads ending with a cgi image of saddam in crosshairs -- well, it strikes me as something of a cash-in.

13 November 2002

w/r/t jay-z, i'm working on it. look for it tomorrow, i think. for now, meta-criticism: "2 many hoes."

11 November 2002

songs to download & sing: (in this order.)
justin timberlake, "cry me a river"
jay-z, "2 many hoes"
tlc, "damaged"
brendan benson, "tiny spark"
freeway, "line 'em up"
yeah yeah yeahs, "maps"
missy elliott, "gossip folks"
foo fighters, "times like these"
clipse, "young boy"
nickel creek, "spit on a stranger"
i had wanted to write an in-depth review of 8 mile, but i figure i can save myself a lot of work by simply saying that 8 mile = rocky iii. it's a fight film for a generation more involved with the battles between jay-z and nas than those between roy jones jr. and john ruiz. this realization dawned upon me from the very first scene: jimmy "rabbit" smith jr. (eminem) in a dingy bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror, shadow-boxing, improving his footwork. there's a palpable sense of pre-fight jitters; physical proof of the same when rabbit vomits into a toilet. he's led out of the men's room down a dark corridor, wearing a hood, with his entourage bringing up the rear.

8 mile is rocky iii, in particular, because rabbit loses that first battle -- he chokes. the momentarily victorious clubber lang is embodied by battle champion poppa doc; eminem, of course, is the great white hope himself; future (mekhi phifer) is his apollo creed, helping rabbit to regain the "eye of the tiger." alex (brittany murphy) is his adrian, sort of; the spectre of vanilla ice is thunderlips, a towering illegitimate that he must topple. mickey is, essentially, 8 mile itself and all that it encompasses: the dead-end job, the ex-girlfriend, the trailer park with his drunken mother and his innocent little sister.

though i won't go into it, i was pleased that the movie didn't have a tidy resolution. like with any rocky movie, the filmgoer knows from the start that the rock is going to win, and i don't think i'm spoiling anything by saying that rabbit ultimately triumphs. but he's not fighting for the belt; he's fighting for, as trites as it sounds, respect. his victory is merely a first step in some direction. going in one knows the outcome, and in these films it's all about how the filmmaker pulls it off. curtis hanson, for his part, acquits himself and his film quite thrillingly: the end battle scenes are as exciting and as purely visceral as any film i've seen since gladiator.

eminem's performance was also a pleasant surprise. sure, he's playing himself, like prince in purple rain, but who knows his life better? he drifts across the screen rather effortlessly, feeding off the energy of those around him and directing it back at them. there are some lines where he seems to strike the right note, as if he were replicating a past response to a similar situation in his life rather than producing a reaction suitable to the actual scene. overall, though, you rarely notice that he's acting -- as fair a compliment as he could ask for.

as the film comes to a close and the credits roll, the opening chords of "lose yourself" are heard. in it, you hear the triumphalism of bill conti's original rocky theme, "gonna fly now," and the savage determination of rocky iii's "eye of the tiger." it confirms that the film has done everything it set out to do.

here's a final reason why 8 mile is rocky iii: it was also the best of the series.

10 November 2002

more on femme fatale. i had wanted to say that the film is also about how difficult it is, in this technological world, to maintain any semblance of privacy. the audience shares in this as they themselves feel as if they're being monitored.

more comparisons: hitchock, as always. romijn-stamos is the hitchcock blonde, obviously. chinatown: the relationship between ashe and nicolas bardo (antonio banderas) mirrors that of evelyn mulwray and jake gittes: guy takes photo of high society woman, feels bad about the repercussions of his act.

09 November 2002

"if you could see the future...would you change it?" this question, posed by a french psychic, emanates from an unwatched television; it also weaves its way through brian de palma's femme fatale. laure ashe (rebecca romijn-stamos) is a thief who double-crossed her partners and was left for dead by one of them: it doesn't take a mystic to see that if she doesn't change, her future outlook is not so good. the deus ex machina presents itself through a case of mistaken identity. without a second thought she leaps at this second chance, knowing that she'll die without it, and hoping that she doesn't live to regret it.

it probably wouldn't surprise you to read that a de palma film is all about image, image, image. the double-cross takes place at the world's largest flesh festival, cannes; flashbulbs illuminate the red carpet as stars from around the world parade down the red carpet; there is a rather steamy sex scene that takes place in the auditorium's ladies' room. but in femme fatale, the concern is with images -- a developed photo is of greater interest than its flesh & blood subject. television screens, passport photos, films, posters, computer monitors: despite being placed in the background, this is where femme fetale's story is told. tellingly, the film opens with a scene from double indemnity; in an act of foreshadowing, ashe's image reflects on the television screen, becoming one with barbara stanwyck. (of note: double indemnity, an english-language film, is broadcast with french subtitles; much of femme fatale is the exact opposite. it represents one of the most extensive uses of subtitles in a studio film that i've seen in quite some time.)

de palma seems to be saying that, in today's society, with our power books and digital cameras, everybody is watching everybody else. at one point, at cannes, the cameras turn around and give the impression that the audience itself is being watched. the audience, for its part, rarely gets the chance to watch the film through its own perspective: de palma not only fetishizes technology -- phallic stun-guns, slithering spy cameras, weaponry caressed like body parts -- but he also employs it handily. the film is seen through binoculars, high-tech spy gear, and night-vision goggles; point-of-view is frequently altered, placing the moviegoer into the scene; angles, especially those of the slowly descending sort, are varied throughout. the ultimate effect: you're watching someone else watch the film.

so the virtuoso filmmaking offers its own thrills, but wouldn't be worth much of a damn without a story (remember timecode?) and the script, written by de palma, is frequently compelling. comparisons have been made with mulholland drive, and they're not unsubstantiated. there's hott lesbian action, yeah, but there's also a question of identity and doppelgangers and the mutability of the future. lynch's interest, however, is in metaphysics; de palma's with the purely physical. so femme fatale doesn't resolve itself with a little blue box, but the plot device is so pat that you'll wish it did.

which is to say that the film is not flawless: aside from the resolution and some other plot points that i really can't go into, romijn-stamos isn't naomi watts and she probably should've watched double indemnity more carefully. but what she does have over barbara stanwyck is a supermodel bod and a director not shy about employing it. those looking for deep meaning are hereby directed to the arthouses: drunk on voyeurism, femme fatale is all about surfaces. and gloriously so.

07 November 2002

ready to have your mind blown? okay. there's a track on the new jay-z album entitled "guns 'n' roses." it features lenny kravitz. it samples cake, i.e. the band. still with me? okay. it is produced by HEAVY BUM-DIDDLE-LEE-D. where has he been?! apparently scouring cake records, searching for breaks. the cake community is up in arms -- since they seem to be centralized in new york state, very few of you are in any immediate danger. cake themselves remain suspiciously quiet regarding the matter.
i just saw a commercial for fsad. that's "female sexual arousal disorder," when a woman is unable to achieve or maintain, yes, sexual arousal. (like the germans, american society is slowly coming up with a name for everything.) the commercial wasn't really catchy, though. it was just a bunch of multi-culti women in front of a colorful background -- and no, there wasn't any morphing whatsoever. also: no images of happy couples out experiencing life, free of crippling dysfunction or of people looking at themselves in mirrors with a palpable sense of smug self-satisfaction. worst of all, it lacked a clever tagline. two suggestions:
fsad: he's not the only one who can't "get it up."
fsad: because maybe you really do have a headache.

though i expect the mass-mailers out there to come up with something far more clever.

05 November 2002

i apologize to those of you whose lives have been thrown into utter disarray by my absence. i assure you: i have been writing. just not here. i've actually had to write four essays for school: two, of a "creative" nature, are viewable here; the other are not (one is about moll flanders and becky sharp; the other is about the films of don siegel). so, if you want to read about glasses and youthful solipsism, go right ahead; if you want to learn more about the links between hot dogs and family, you're equally free to do so.
i don't think i've ever linked this before. if i have, it certainly wouldn't hurt to re-post. for timbaland fans out there, here is his production discography, courtesy of timbaland heaven. latest additions are the justin trax, i believe. simply put, you need to hear "cry me a river."

01 November 2002

finally, a political party i can get behind. (shizzolator link courtesy of thomas.)

30 October 2002

you awaken to find yourself, to your great dismay, in teletubbyland. an innocuous keyboard tone rings over and over; vague squelching sounds can be heard in the offing; the sun child gurgles malevolently; and a female chorus sings: "noo-noo, that noo-noo, noo-noo for you, noo-noo for you." a bad trip? far too cliched. no, it's the last thirty seconds of killer mike ft. outkast's "akshon (yeah!)" earthtone iii's productivity may be low but every time they release something, it drops one's jaw. killer mike, for his part, raps effectively in his da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da fashion and, once again, disconcertingly makes reference to his "cock." the release schedule for decemeber shows something called outkast presents...big boi's speaker box, a double-disc set. anyone have more information on this?
n.e.r.d. win the short list award. is it because pharrell rides a bicycle? and listens to at the drive-in? the most shocking information from this article: chad hugo wasn't present because, according to pharrell, he was "locked up." but he seems like such a nice boy!

28 October 2002

repent! REPENT!
songs to download & sing: (in this order.)
kylie, "come into my world" (fischerspooner mix)
killer mike ft. outkast, "akshon"
robbie williams, "feel"
yeah yeah yeahs, "machine"
missy elliott ft. ms. jade, "funky fresh"
jay-z, "hovi baby"
trina ft. ludacris, "b r right"
toni braxton ft. loon and pharrell, "hit the freeway"
justin timberlake, "senorita"
beatings, "bad feeling"
fischerspooner justify their existence. like trevor horn & the buggles with the chick in the tube, they digitally manipulate kylie until, at 3:22, she reaches a state of perpetual climax. utterly fantastic (and hot.)

27 October 2002

robbie williams, "feel." "feel" won't win any new converts; it won't alienate old fans. so then you're left wondering: is it interesting? pearl jam has carved out a career doing this exact same thing: are they interesting? no, says me. are they good? is "feel" good? well, it depends if you like that sound. "feel,"then, is the sound of robbie lifting the british music industry onto his shoulders, and the ensuing strain can be heard in the strings, in robbie's voice, and in the pensive piano. robbie is playing to his strength, a populism that, unlike u2, is direct and, unlike oasis, is made for yer mum. so if this isn't your thing, you won't want to hear it; if you live in the u.k., it seems like you're going to have little choice.

25 October 2002

paul wellstone, r.i.p.: anyone who knows me can tell you that i'm far from a liberal. however, i respect anyone with strong convictions who adheres to them despite the costs, especially in the ethics black hole that is washington.

as if that wasn't enough, a passing closer to my heart: richard harris, r.i.p. i was effected by this more than i could've imagined. the rims of my eyes were laced with tears. the only man, in my opinion, to conquer...no, to subjugate screen, stage & stereo has died. his two albums with jim webb remain amongst my favorites: by turns ridiculous and strangely affecting. my sadness is deepened because i think i've seen the last of a kind pass on: hard-drinking, hard-living, hard-loving; the type that waged full-out war on life, with unquenchable passion for all that they did; the breed that remained a men's men despite a sensitivity and compassion that ran deep. a thought that tends to lessen that sadness: one can never say that richard harris didn't live.

22 October 2002

new best commercial on television: cedric the entertainer asks grimace something i've always wondered about: "what are you?" the hamburglar says something unintelligible in response and ced asks if the hb was talkin' about his (i.e. c the e.'s) mama. after the cut, a dancing cedric coaxes grimace into doing the bump along with him.
chief charles moose is the kind of name that many authors aspire to creating, but that so few actually do.

21 October 2002

WOWIE ZOWIE! i want to tell you about the new blackstreet single, "wizzy wow" featuring mystikal. here's the problem, though: i don't know what i think of it yet, but i do know that you should hear it. the track sounds alive, like it's a living, breathing, dancing entity. it whispers, it growls; it belches, it stomps; it roils so that you swear that you never hear the same sequence of sounds twice. fitting, then, because teddy riley hasn't sounded this vital since, ohhh, "girlfriend/boyfriend"? could a recent declaration of bankruptcy be behind this renewed vitality? it's very obvious that he is trying and that's the problem, the line between desperation and inspiration being so thin. "i'm a, i'm a fucking legend," he screams, the man who laid the groundwork for r&b futurism fifteen years ago wondering if anyone can still hear him.

you know what, though? this is great, and the mystikal rap cinches it. it is so GLORIOUSLY misogynistic (and, sadly, so indicative of why he found himself under arrest for alleged aggravated rape):
"wizzy wizzy, that's my kind of bitch,
she can't cook but she can ride that dick,
know she ain't smart, but she's got nice tits,
she mess around but that's still my chick."

17 October 2002

i got e-mail today from "kelly clarkson." she asked me if i was interested in something "hot, young, and tight" -- and i'm not talking about the performances on american idol's greatest moments. i wasn't, really, but since she offered...

i'm trying to get my head around this. (oh God.) it certainly doesn't take long, does it, before one's identity is co-opted by the spammers of the world, but what are they trying to accomplish? do they think that the average e-mail reader has stars in their eyes, that they're saying to themselves, "well, i can't delete this, it's from kelly. i mean, perhaps stardom isn't all it's cracked up to be and she finds the world of internet porn far more fulfilling, not to mention lucrative"? sure, i read it, but that's my nature. obviously i know it's not from the real kelly. (obviously.)

now, on the other hand, if i receive e-mail from nikki...

16 October 2002

songs to download & sing: in this order.
wire, "trash-treasure"
johnny cash, "bridge over troubled water"
wayne wonder, "no letting go"
common ft. mary j. blige, "come to me"
madonna, "die another day (thee retrolectro mix)"
benzino, "rock the party"
the fall, "bill is dead"
jackson browne, "late for the sky"
vogues, "5 o'clock world"
mcalmont & butler, "back for good"
-if you live in the uk, you should probably buy this since it's for charity and all.
punk rockers -- and this means you, april ((c) maura) -- don't get their music played on lite-fm.
isn't it queer?: michael is reviewing fifty versions of "send in the clowns." but, of course, you knew this because you've been reading about merzbox for a month now. riiiight?

15 October 2002

fall sets in and the change of season can be observed in my new mixdisc. as a change, i'm going to make notations about this disc synesthetically.
1. tom petty, "american girl" (from greatest hits comp, orig. 1976)
-red, white, and...yellow! like a red backdrop with splotches of white and yellow.
2. easybeats, "friday on my mind" (from nuggets, vol. 2 box, orig. 1966)
-pulsating red and purple.
3. happy mondays, "dennis & lois" (from pills 'n' thrills 'n' bellyaches lp, 1990)
-coated in yellow, with threads of green.
4. lemon jelly, "space walk" (from mp3, 2002)
-yellow and white swirls to start; the same colors undulate by song's end.
5. louis armstrong, "we have all the time in the world" (from best of james bond comp, orig. 1969)
-very dark, red & purple unfurled like red carpets.
6. pet shop boys, "only the wind" (from behaviour lp, 1990)
-thudding black with delicate purple and amber stabs.
7. r. dean taylor, "there's a ghost in my house" (from mp3, 1965)
-the color of chrome, and just as reflective.
8. primal scream, "movin' on up" (from screamadelica lp, 1991)
-just like the album cover, only formless.
9. faust, "it's a rainy day, sunshine girl" (from so far lp, 1972)
-a blank slate that, after seven minutes, becomes a melange of dull colors.
10. creedence clearwater revival, "born on the bayou" (from chronicle, vol. 2 comp, orig. 1969)
-black with golden strands echoing forth.
11. beck, "round the bend"(from sea change lp, 2002)
-the children's raft ride in the night of the hunter. or, if you've never seen that, a black hole.
12. manic street preachers, "a design for life" (from everything must go lp, 1996)
-a rainy afternoon, seen through a veil of tears.
13. moby, "feeling so real" (from songs: 1993-1998 comp, orig. 1995)
-throbbing reds and purples.
14. ll cool j, "mama said knock you out" (from all world comp, orig. 1990)
-a light yellowish-brown with dust motes floating.
15. mitch ryder, "when you were mine" (from mp3, orig. 1983)
-translucent with red vocal shadings.
16. smiths, "cemetry gates" (from the queen is dead lp, 1986)
-a large pile of november leaves.
17. take that, "back for good" (from mp3, orig. 1995)
-flickering purple-flamed candles in the darkness.
18. richard & linda thompson, "dimming of the day" (from watching the dark comp, orig. 1975)
-the evening sky lined with barren trees. richard's vocals on the bridge light a pale fire.
19. boyz ii men, "please don't go" (from cooleyhighharmony lp, 1991)
-moonlight illuminating a very fine, snow-laced web.
if msnbc is wondering why their ratings are in the shitter -- goodbye, ashleigh banfield! -- it's because 1) not enough norah. and! 2) natalie, natalie, natalie morales is working the graveyard shift. i stumbled across this jersey-educated hottie last night when i was flipping violently between cable news networks looking for more info on the latest sniper-shooting. she stumbled and stammered a lot, as if she wasn't used to having to work on her feet (which may be the case, given the lateness of the hour.) but she looked great doing it.

meanwhile, rupert murdoch's fox news is cock of the walk, but there is not a single beguiling anchor to be found on his station. is this not the man who gave the world page 3? he better heed the failure of msnbc and get some talent on the air.

13 October 2002

hey kids! the 6th annual freaky trigger focus group results are in! it's topped by a bootleg! and in the time it's taken to get this fg up, the bootleg has become totally passe! also: it's taken so long that i no longer agree with -- or even understand! -- most of my comments. to wit, i said this w/r/t to tweet and i don't know what it means:
"not that it matters, really, since it's a fucking pear"

(but, but tom, you get my link wrong on the contributors page! the horror!)
for delillo fans: his next novel, cosmopolis, will be published in april 2003. here's a description, presumably from promotional materials:
This is the story of a spectacular downfall. One man, one day, the trembling of global markets. Eric Packer, age 28, emerges from his $104-million penthouse triplex and settles into his lavishly customized white stretch limo. At age four, Packer figured out what he would weigh on every planet in the solar system. Now, he is a billionaire asset manager, and on this April day in the year 2000, he is a man with two missions: to pursue a cataclysmic bet against the yen and to get a haircut across town. His journey to the barbershop is a contemporary odyssey, funny and riveting. Stalled in traffic by a presidential motorcade, a music idol's funeral, a movie in the making, and a violent political demonstration, Eric receives a string of visitors - his experts on security, technology, currency, finance, and theory. Sometimes he leaves the car for intimate encounters. Sometimes he doesn't have to.

for more info, and to see the book's cover, visit the delillo site at perival.com.

more don d.! the rights to underworld were purchased at the time of book's publication by scott rudin (south park, the royal tenenbaums). p.t. anderson was approached to direct, but he ultimately passed and rudin's option lapsed. the rights have since been bought by robert greenwald (xanadu, the burning bed (!)).

meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, barry sonnenfeld and disney obtained the rights to white noise in 1999. their option was scheduled to run out this month, but as recently as june '02, the movie was mentioned to have been in development at disney. i'm a bit nervous about this, but we'll see what happens.
is anyone else outraged by the nissan xterra ad featuring the stooges' "t.v. eye"? i like to consider myself a rather relaxed person. oh sure, i get flustered, even flabbergasted at times. but when i saw this ad -- with extreme skiers, no less -- i felt genuine outrage. of course this isn't the first time iggy/stooges music has been used in ads: there was nike and "search & destroy"; "the passenger" for guinness; "real wild child," used by ftd; and the ubiquitous "lust for life." none of these bothered me at the time -- in fact i was pleased to see the music get some recognition. perhaps i feel this just ossifies the trend of using "alt" music in ads, of appealing, well, to whom, exactly? it seems like it's done just to get on my nerves. "tv eye" feels like an especially personal affront, it feels like a violation of my headphone world. funhouse, i gather was not a commercially successful album, and "tv eye" is an album track. it's a song i've never heard anywhere outside of my room, my car, my discman; a song i felt that i, in particular, championed. and now it's being used to sell cars and, worst of all, it's not even a good commercial. i'm just tiring of this infringement upon my secret world by large corporations. it feels as if there's no place left for us to live privately anymore, with our passions undetected by the mainstream.
"the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit."

11 October 2002

ever notice how celebrities never endorse tampons? it's a big market, i'd bet. as big as hair color, i would imagine, if not bigger. and it is the feria commercial with natalie imbruglia and beyonce knowles that calls this to mind. if i recall correctly, that commercial has a lot of quick cuts and makes it seem like there are more people in the commercial than just those two. similarly, this tampon commercial i saw last night used these techniques: it was very flashy for a tampons commercial. one shot had five good-looking young women standing together, and each had been featured separately. at this group shot, i stared intently, to the point of squinting, to make out if any of them were famous. i don't think they were.

i certainly can understand the reticence on the part of female stars. i mean, who wants to be associated with menzies? but have the companies tried to reach out? is it just a waste? like the commercial where one sees a hot, active chick shooting the shit, stealing one's heart, until she asserts that she "may have herpes, but it doesn't have [her.]" is natalie imbruglia, at this stage in her career, really above doing tampon ads? perhaps they should give the celebs in the surreal life a call. why, i bet hammer would do it.

10 October 2002

the best commercial on television is for steven seagal's true hollywood story. it seems to be about only twenty seconds long. first, the professional announcer sets the scene, intoning over a montage of seagal images. then it cuts to video footage: seagal, with his back to the camera, is running down a hall. his arms, swinging very freely, are bent at about a 140-degree angle; his hands, open, are pointing towards the ground; his feet are giving his ass a kicking with every stride. over the top of this, a disembodied voice says, "if you look at him run, he runs like a woman."
kabbalism: is it the religion for celebs who smirk at scientologists? reason i ask is that i just saw madonna on larry king talking about the sect. it seems like a very convenient faith: according to her, one is not beholden to petty dogma or forced to adhere to constricting rules, dietary or otherwise. instead, they just have to understand that "we are all one." jesus was a kabbalist, she says. so is guy ritchie. (guess who converted whom?)
"the ketchup song" is the worst song on the radio right now. thankfully, for now it's quarantined on ktu, which always seems to be ground zero for this type of contagion, cf. "heaven." now, i was aware of "the ketchup song," how it was poised to be the next big novelty hit. also, i heard this song on the radio which i wanted to come home and say was the worst song currently on the airwaves. i subjected myself to at least two minutes worth of the song, a song that seems to be nothing more than the chorus of "rapper's delight" with some "la la"s thrown in and set to a "latin" beat that even paulina rubio would scoff at. i'm saying to myself: "this must be 'the ketchup song.' it has to be." so i sit through this onslaught and, whaddya know, the dj doesn't say what the song was. so i go to ktu's website, check their playlist -- and there it is. "the ketchup song." i verify some lyrics, and that brings us up to date.

"the ketchup song" is the sound of your mother dragging you out to the dancefloor at your sister's wedding.

09 October 2002

i don't think i've said anything about erick sermon's "react." hip-hop's recent fling with the east began with timbaland's asian dalliances and were brought further into focus by dj quik's production on "addictive" by truth hurts. that track was structured so that it seemed like the bollywood soundtrack was coming from a passing car of from the upstairs neighbor's apartment. truth hurts peformed her half of the song as if she were coolly unaware of her hindi counterpart. this is where "react" differs from what came before it: the chorus of the song is a reaction to the vocal sample. "whatever she said, then i'm that," sermon responds. this self-consciousness would seem self-congratulatory in other hands; sermon is such a laid-back, mirthful guy, though, that i'll give him a break (a luxury i wouldn't afford to, say, jermaine dupri). besides, it's satisfying to hear him finally formulate a cogent post-epmd, post-zapp sound, like an artless timbaland with dr. dre’s polish (providing he did produce the track, which has always been his raison d'etre.)
what the FUCK?!: pardon my language but, again i say, what the FUCK?! link from mitch; i don't know whether to thank him or to (meep) spank him.
stolen from bill:
Not a sample sale?

Toni Braxton is accusing hitmaking couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles of "lifting" one of her songs.

A few months ago, expectant mother Braxton recorded "Me and My Boyfriend" (which samples Tupac Shakur's "Me and My Girlfriend") for her CD "More than a Woman," which is due out next month.

Braxton's Arista Records rep, Chris Chambers, tells us that Braxton offered Def Jam Records president Kevin Liles, a friend, the chance to hear the completed track early.

According to Chambers, Braxton believes Liles "played it for [Def Jam artist] Jay-Z" and that the rapper and his new love interest, Knowles, cribbed the Tupac sample and a melody from Baxton for their duet "Bonnie and Clyde."

"When you listen to them, they are the same song," claims Chambers. "She [Braxton] thinks it's unethical."

A Def Jam rep had no comment at press time.

i remember a similar 'disagreement' transpired between ice cube and cypress hill, the latter claiming the former stole a beat of theirs that they'd played for him the studio. this situation is interesting because, in olden days, r&b artists used to make the beats that rappers stole: in this scenario, an r&b singer is claiming that a rapper stole a beat that she in turn stole from another rapper. now, i tend to like it when r&b acts jack hip-hop beats -- besides being turnabout-is-fair-play, it's almost like a bootleg, airy vocals and melodies contrasting with a hard-hitting track. what i no longer care for are acts who utilize a beat that was once an r&b song but a song that only became popular after it was used by a hip-hop artist, e.g. ashanti's "foolish." it's the same kind of recycling that makes "heaven (candlelight remix)" insipid, viz. power-ballad-cum-lame-dance-cum-power-ballad-all-over-again.

08 October 2002

being granted the right to perform a bond theme is an honor, a recognition of either where one is at in the industry (a-ha) or how far one has come (tina turner). then, of course, there's the strange case of matt monro. but i digress.

with this boon, there is the weight of expectation and legacy. since bond has been ceded a gradually lower profile, catering to a niche market, the former is easily borne; the latter is arguably as strong as ever, with the redoubtable ghosts of john barry and shirley bassey ever-present. most artists commit self-abnegation, surrendering their particular styles and checking their egos at the door -- iggy pop, for chrissakes, on the shaken and stirred comp, mews a respectful "we have all the time in the world." a small few, though, have made bond their bitch. so to speak.

paul mccartney was the first artist to pen his own bond theme, but the overlapping of styles -- the pomp, the circumstance -- between bond and wings makes this a negligible case. next, then, were duran duran, who flung both bond and his heritage into the fire and forced him to dance therein. the end result: a #1 pop single. "view to a kill" sounds like contemporaneous duran duran material, and even the sampled horns from the 007 theme reinforce that. maybe this is why i'm reminded of duran duran when i hear madonna's "die another day."

like the duranis, madonna makes bond bend -- or dance, even -- to her rules. "i'm gonna break the cycle, i'm gonna shake up the system," she says and that she does. david arnold, current bond composer, is electro-friendly but it's hard to imagine that anyone but madonna and (i'm guessing) mirwais had a hand in this single. pizzicato strings swoop in and out of the track, blissfully unaware of the beat's fluctuating rhythms, of the stop-and-start patterns of the track. james bond is reimagined as a club maven, living in williamsburg, listening to tiga, and the change does him good. the change will assuredly do the bond theme good: "die another day" is the first single since, yes, "view to a kill" to trouble the pop charts. meanwhile, madonna, known for her penchant for frequent reinvention, wisely stays the electronic course and comes up with her best single in ages.

07 October 2002

songs to download & sing (in this order):
lemon jelly, "space walk"
mitch ryder, "when you were mine"
jay-z ft. beyonce, "'03 bonnie & clyde"
ll cool j ft. marc dorsey, "love u better"
suede, "lonely girls"
sinead o'connor, "molly malone"
foo fighters, "all my life"
shania twain, "gonna getcha good"
snoop dogg ft. pharrell, "from tha chuuuch to da palace"
von bondies, "it came from japan"
can anything be inferred about the politics of the networks showing -- fox, upn -- and not showing the president's speech on iraq? (abc, cbs, nbc.) abc may not want to interrupt its lead-in to monday night football; cbs, to everybody loves raymond. and nbc has msnbc (and fear factor.)
i've been negligent by not mentioning some of the fantastic blogs that have recently registered on my radar. they are:
submeat: thomas has great taste -- mainly because it seems to mirror my own -- and probably the best 90s list i've seen to date. (and i don't expect to see too many more.) also, he was unwittingly the catalyst for this post, reminding me of the great sites that i've been meaning to give a nod to for the longest time.
perpetual motion: bill johnson! one of my old a.m.prince cohorts, all grown up and with a site of his own. oh, sure, he likes jeff buckley, but he's generally good people. just don't ask why they call him junebug!
the minor fall, major lift: tmftml is a great repository for links and features pithy commentary on each. readers of this page may remember when it went through a newslink phase, but rest assured, tmftml pulls it off with greater aplomb.
the rub: first off, the rub is one of the best-looking sites i've come across and, hands down, the most attractive pita page. but, like yours truly, more than just looks factor into its appeal. the writing is intelligent and compelling even though, musically, our taste has little intersection. different strokes and all of that.
no rock&roll fun: simon b. writes at length about a number of uk music issues, all of which are dear to my anglophilic heart. PLUS: lots of pictures of debbie harry.
spizzazz: spizzazz has fairly great taste, avril notwithstanding. moreover, there's a free-wheeling, devil-may-care approach to writing that was once this page's stock-in-trade.
odd credit from the sopranos: watching the credits after last night's episode, i noticed this: dialect coach to mr. gandolfini. he was born and raised in westwood, nj; he went to rutgers. why does he need someone to teach him how to speak like he's from jersey? is his accent not stereotypical enough?
ti esrev er dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup i: so, if you haven't figured out yet, the backwards message in the chorus of missy's "work it" is saying, "i put my thing down, flip it and reverse it." in the second verse, she says, "watch the way missy like to take it backwards." credit it to windows sound recorder and an inquisitive nature.

06 October 2002

(n.b. the new jay-z single, i've just discovered, is officially being called "'03 bonnie & clyde." it's gone by both names on the net, and even that title is a nod to a line in tupac's original ("'96 bonnie & clyde.") i could've edited the below to include this information, but i didn't want to ruin the symmetry.)
the metempsychosis of tupac shakur: following tupac's passing, the race was on as to who would be the new tupac. an early contender was dmx because he was raw; his music belied his east coast roots; and he was often seen shirtless. he also had the dubious task of resurrecting steven seagal's film career with exit wounds. the co-star of seagal's lastest movie is the next in line for the tupac crown: ja rule. like dmx, he has a penchant for toplessness; unlike dmx, the ladies love him for his vulnerability. ja rule's problem, though, is that he's far too eager to please. for sho', tupac wouldn't have done a j-lo duet unless he was poking her, and so the search continues.

the least likely person to inherit the role, particularly given his fealty to his boro and his kinship with biggie, is jay-z. and yet the new jay-z single, "me and my girlfriend," is "me and my girlfriend" by tupac, d.b.a. makaveli. the beat is the same, the chorus is the same -- well, almost: beyonce sings the second line of the chorus which, in the original, went "down to ride to the bloody end." it doesn't go that way anymore. i have no idea how one begins to credit this thing. (for one, i suppose, there'll be a writing credit for prince, whose "if i was your girlfriend" is interpolated near the end -- a jay-z addition to the original. )

on the heels of common's "i used to love h.e.r." rappers nationwide begin introducing metaphor to their rhymes. so in pac's version, "me and my girlfriend" is about his 9mm; jay-z takes the literal route and makes it about his sex shooter, his girl. rumor has it that jay is poking beyonce, to the, one can only imagine, great consternation of matthew knowles. jay-z has his thuggish side, as we all know, and even his misogynistic side, but here he offers some tenderness: "the problem is you dudes treat the one that you're lovin' with the same respect that you treat the one that you're fuckin'." he even talks about watching sex & the city!

virility, ruggedness, and sensitivity: jay-z states his case as heir to both biggie and pac.
zadie smith's second novel, the autograph man, is out. and apparently it is no good. a shame since i was looking forward to it; anyone want to say otherwise?
you know you're watching too much reality tv when you're watching tlc's a dating story -- now, wait, i'm not finished -- and you recognize the woman as one of the "contestants" from the bachelor (gwen). i think this even one-ups big brother 3's josh appearing on blind date. (but still not as amusing as bobbie brown's appearance on the self-same show, where she gets dissed by a meathead.)

03 October 2002

another week, another mix. here are the contents of my latest compilation.
1. blondie, "hanging on the telephone" (from parallel lines lp, 1978)
-a telephone ringing seemed like the perfect place to start; in this age, it's environmental static.
2. kitchens of distinction, "drive that fast" (from mp3, orig. 1991)
-band's name came up when the topic of interpol was broached. hearing this is a brilliant outgrowth of that discussion. like bunnymen for u2 fans. i'd buy this album if i could find it.
3. patrick hernandez, "born to be alive"(from disco box box, orig. 1979)
-i remember hearing this on the radio and thinking it was new order. until i realized radio doesn't play new order.
4. golden boy ft. miss kittin, "rippin kittin" (from mp3, orig. 2002)
-not a reinterpretation of the misfits' "mommy, can i go out and kill tonight?" or a nod to mother, may i sleep with danger? or even a rape fantasy about la kittin, but immensely enjoyable all the same.
5. madonna, "die another day" (from mp3, orig. 2002)
-oh, i want to say more about this later.
6 beck, "lost cause" (from sea change lp, 2002)
-supposedly the "winona" song. somehow she came up in my class about victorian literature. beck, however, did not.
7. prince, "when you were mine" (from dirty mind lp, 1980)
-because i couldn't find a decent-sounding version of mitch ryder's cover.
8. al green, "i tried to tell myself" (from have a good time lp, 1976)
-his most insidious hook. i find myself singing it more than any of his other songs, so i put it on a disc.
9. coral, "dreaming of you" (from mp3, orig. 2002)
-probably the most garage-sounding song of any i've heard during this whole 'revival.'
10. rolling stones, "i just want to make love you" (from the london singles collection comp, orig. 1964.)
-because i do.
11. buddy holly, "i'm gonna love you too" (from the buddy holly collection comp, orig. 1957)
-much better than the blondie cover. though the above's "not fade away" is better than his.
12. creedence clearwater revival, "travelin band" (from chronicle, vol. 1 comp, orig. 1970)
-long one of the gaps in my listening. quite intentionally since i find most of their hits boring. but columbia house interceded, said i needed to fulfill my obligation and the pickins were slim. so i ordered chronicle. this is my favorite, currently, as it plays into my love of little richard, and then throws in a little chuck berry and chubby checker for the hell of it. i like my rock loud and fast. just like my women. (i also like my rock short, but that's not necessarily always the case with my women.)
13. ramones, "do you want to dance?" (from rocket to russia lp, 1977)
-i had the beach boys cover on one of my recent mixes. i had heard the original -- by bobby freeman -- on the radio the other day and was impressed by how three very different versions were made from such paltry original material.
14. mitch ryder & the detroit wheels, "jenny take a ride!" (from rev-up: the best of... lp, orig.
-the first bootleg? combines chuck willis's "c.c. rider" and little richard's "jenny, jenny," mixes them up, and gives it a clever title. neat!
15. aerosmith, "mama kin" (from aerosmith lp, 1973)
-covered, but not improved by guns 'n' roses. aerosmith at their most doll-ish, like "human being." which guns 'n' roses did improve upon.
16. sinead o'connor, "mandinka" (from the lion & the cobra lp, 1987)
-i love sinead: her look (and her looks), her attitude, her sound. but there are few of her songs that i really like. this is one of them.
17. playgroup, "number one" (from playgroup lp, 2002)
-i'd really love new daft punk, but this will do for now.
18. sam cooke, "tennesse waltz" (from keep movin' on comp, orig. 1964)
-never has this sad song seemed so celebratory. credit it to cooke's vocals, among his best and most exuberant.
19. gene pitney, "every breath i take" (from back to mono (1958-1969) box, orig. 1961)
-i really don't know how this song got here. i suppose i hear a collection of songs and then another song starts to float through my head, suggesting itself as a fine compliment to the rest. this would be one.
20. new edition, "can you stand the rain?" (from greatest hits, vol. 1 comp, orig. 1989)
-nostalgia. pure nostalgia.
21. elvis presley, "in the ghetto" (from elvis 30 #1 hits comp, orig. 1969)
-as mentioned earlier, the track with the best remastering. and a damn fine song besides.
22. coldplay, "amsterdam" (from a rush of blood to the head lp, 2002)
-oh, i know. i know.
23. frank sinatra, "dancing on the ceiling" (from in the wee small hours lp, 1954)
-the last track selected for the disc. it struck me as a perfect coda -- to-the-point longing, a suitable response to coldplay's vague melancholy.

01 October 2002

karen o. is the shirley temple of rock. and i would not like the yeah yeah yeahs if she were a man. it is her cooing that keeps songs like "tick," "black tongue," and, yeah, even "bang" from being garage-rock bores. a chorus of "uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, OOOH" would simply not work in the hands of a male singer, and i'm sure it doesn't even translate to the page very well. it is the pitch hit on that "OOOH" that resonates with me, somewhere south of a girlish shriek, somewhere north of an orgasm.

and i'm not sure what this says about me. am i a sexist? am i merely buying into karen o.'s shtick unquestioningly? for the record, i've seen her and i'm not really that attracted to her -- does this mitigate things? or does it make me even more irredeemably male, i.e. the phone-sex-operator effect?