30 August 2002

22. chairmen of the board, "pay to the piper"
why here? i wanted to end the disc on an upbeat note.
why this song? after "band of gold," this is the finest thing holland-dozier-holland had anything to do with in the 70s. after they left motown, they set about creating a blueprint for post 60s pop/r&b that was as fabulous as it was short-lived. like many of those early hot wax/h-d-h numbers, the track itself is hysterical, motown laced with mania. lyrically, this is one horny-ass song: it's about this guy, the lead singer, who's seeing this chick, spending his last dime on her, and is getting no play. the pre-chorus goes, "i played the tune, you dug the beat, now come on girl, be nice to me"; if not for matters of censorship and of good taste, it should have been, "i played the tune, you dug the beat, now come on girl, and suck my meat." it even rhymes better. in the annals of pop, blue balls have never been made to sound so joyful.
21. shangri-las, "dressed in black"
why here? see number 20. "dressed in black" segues into the unfettered horniness of the track 22 than it does into the refined jauntiness of "la vie en rose."
why this song? the b-side of "he cried," "dressed in black" deserves to be spoken in the same breath with other shangri-las classics like "leader of the pack," "past, present and future," "give him a great big kiss," etc. it's something of a sequel to "leader of the pack," but stripped down to chilling effect. the lyrics read like pages from a teenager's diary as only shadow morton could write them. parents forbid girl to see boy. girl espies boy, dressed in black, from her window. girl is implicitly dressed in black because black is how she feels on the inside. the chorus is a towering, two-hanky affair, images of lips locked and embraces shared as painted from memory. best of all is the ending: a spoken vocal is accompanied solely by a knocking meant to symbolize feet climbing stairs. love has gone forever and the silence is disquieting.
20. edith piaf, "la vie en rose"
why here? i fucked up, i admit it. i forgot that i had this song on the list. the question became not where do i want this, but what song would sound better seguing into the other?
why this song? i was walking around the house singing, "deeeeeee de de de de de deeeee de de de de de deeeeee de de de de de deeee deeeeee" and that had to stop. compilation disc as exorcism.
19. derek & the dominos, "bell bottom blues"
why here? at this stage in the disc, why not? starts sharply and ends sharply, can be sandwiched between most any song combo.
why this song? this song was at the core of my derek & the dominos dilemma. it's remarkably well-made. in complimenting it, i sound like the rolling stone record guide: "stinging guitars...pleading vocals." and then further praise, "well-developed melodically...the band plays as one..." comes across as something you'd find on a rock 'n' roll report card. maybe it all boils down to passion: i have a hard time believing that someone as dull and as tasteful as eric clapton can really feel something; God knows i've rarely heard it in his guitar playing, and so i'm loath to say it's 'passionate.' maybe once i get past this stumbling block i'll be able to admit to myself why i like this album. it could be the passion.
18. beatles, "paperback writer"
why here? similar in tempo to "home in your heart." a capella openings almost always make for good transitions.
why this song? there seems to be something a cult around "paperback writer," and i never seemed to understand it really. yeah, released between rubber soul and revolver, it marks their departure from writing pop songs for the sake of writing pop songs, which isn't without a significance, but significance never made my captain beefheart records sound any better. a few days before making this disc, i heard it on cbs-fm and thought it sounded really great: bass high in the mix, scraggly guitars, classic wide stereo separation. sometimes i find songs just click like that when i'm in my car and at the mercy of the radio.
17. solomon burke, "home in your heart"
why here? one of those mood-setters i'd mentioned earlier (along with track 22, it was the other song i considered opening the disc with). i decided that i had enough of the pussy shit and needed a rollicking soul anthem. begging in soul meant making a lot of promises to the loved one, but it rarely involves self-effacement.
why this song? solomon just doesn't sing about it, he is about it. he'll travel over mountains and through byways; he'll give you candy-coated moonbeams and nights, ho ho, nights filled with love and sweet dreams. the rhythm section is bumptious in both the literal and onomatopoeic senses, trying to keep pace with burke, grooving all the way.
16. tim buckley, "song for jainie"
why here? alpert fades long and slow; this track comes in very quietly with a rickenbacker. thematically, they're very similar.
why this song? well, the last time i was at my sister's, they were watching not another teen movie. some of you may pretend to forget that, in the trailer, the boy decides to sing a song with his beloved's name in it and he chooses "jainie's got a gun." music idiot that i am, this was the first thing i thought of during that scene and it would've been just as unfunny as "jainie's got a gun," and it would've been quite bewildering as well. anyway, tim buckley courts his love with poesy and a clover ring, and if you examine the goods he brings, it seems pretty silly. but it's a lovely song and it only encourages my feeling that early buckley was little more than a florid micky dolenz. which is still a good thing.
i'd like to say thank you to everyone for their kind words regarding the vmas. and, also, to those of you who were kind but whose urls didn't show up in my referrers, you need to try harder.

29 August 2002

oh, good night.
there's something in axl's eyes that i can't quite describe, other than that they look different. he also seemed downright humble with kurt loder right after the show. and sounded almost philosophic during the interview. i guess that's what growing up does to a person.
well, i guess imx (formerly immature) and b2k aren't the same group.
what's amusing about this new guns 'n' roses is that none of the members have forsaken the image of the band they were formerly a member of.
i think this is "madagascar" they're playing now, which was one of the best songs from the rock in rio set a couple of years ago.
i really wish i did have a tape in the vcr. what an inscrutable looking bunch.
best video: eminem, "without me." it'd been a bad year for videos. normally, the white stripes would be lucky to get a breakthrough nod. eminem looks genuinely chastened after that last outburst. too bad.
alright, how wasted is nelly?! bringing a drink on stage! HOLLA.
it seems like the surprise will be g'n'r, if that's what jimmy fallon was implying with his sung clue of "patience." unless he was referring to the lloyd cole song of the same name.
viewer's choice award: michelle branch, "everywhere" michelle branch?! is this payola for during the sorority life theme?

wait a second, michelle branch is drunk too? what's going on here? isn't she like 16?
there's something very goldenpalace.com about j.c.'s shirt.
wait a second, justin's wearing a different hat...
did the clipse just lipsynch?
the clipse and justin may be the most improbable pairing of the year.

i know justin really loves michael, but he has to accept that usher is better at imitation, except justin's falsetto sounds eerily like jacko's. perhaps he has a little m.j. in him after all...uh.
whoa, it's like a stereo, but it's really big.
except frank black was too heavy to have pelle's ego (at least on stage) and kurt was never as good looking as nicholls.
it's sort of nirvana vs. the pixies, isn't it?
there probably aren't two different lead singers than howlin' pelle almqvist and craig nicholls, the former, good-time guy who doesn't write his own songs (supposedly), the latter, troubled genius.
the hives are fun.
HA HA HA HA. this is what the show needed -- antagonism between moby and eminem. despite his music, eminem really is a humorless bastard.
best male: eminem, "without me". christina & em reunited for the first time. no hugs exchanged, though his boys are giving her the eye...
psst, someone should tell christina aguilera that her (enhanced?) breasts are hanging out.
wow, i really can't tell the difference between moby and the guy from linkin park.

no, you weren't the only one who saw the glimmer of fear in the eyes of the olsen twins after the r. kelly crack.
the osbournes seem uncharacteristically non-judgmental in these viewer's choice spots...
maybe i should've watched that sheryl crow performance but it seemed more harrowing than i was in the mood for at the time.
no, i couldn't see rudy introducing guns 'n' roses either.
it's terrible having an "oo" sound in your name. it makes it seem that people are always saying "boo" when they call your name in unison, cf. rudy giuliani, bruce springsteen, xuxa.

but at least rudy grabbed some of that j. lo booty.
did j. lo get an invite to puffy's party?
jimmy fallon seems to speak of the g'n'r rumors...or at least he said, 'what you may have heard is true. you won't want to miss it.'
pink: "i'm too drunk for this."
best female: pink, "get the party started"
not very punk rock of avril to be presenting with the daughter of the king of rock n' roll...

though that dismissal, "yeah whatever she said," was fiesty.
hate all you want, and i have, but that was the best performance of the show. i mean, pogo sticks.
hey, is that wade robson dancing with puff?
i hope diddy isn't scuffing his shoes with all of this activity. that would be the anithesis of 'fly shit.'
didn't tlc do this planet rock routine a few years back?
lest ye forget, puff daddy, as he was called then, invented the remix. michael jackson, on the other hand, invented usher's steps.
i hope they got invites to puffy's party for that "hardest working man in show business" line.
it seems like run-dmc have been on every mtv show since 1999 or so.
except there's a lot more drunken bawdiness at a wedding and a shitload more grandstanding -- and showmanship! -- in a school play.
the show so far feels more like a wedding or a school play, the people behind the scenes hoping that everything goes off without incident.
best group video: no doubt, "hey baby." drummer still in pants. guitarist in mickey mouse shirt still looks unexplainably morose. i really feel like i'm watching video (as opposed to videos).
but the show must go on, so just as soon as they're ushered off, it's back to best group video. not the most comfortable segue.
t-boz and chilli carried themselves with dignity and grace in what must've been a difficult position.
God has been called by many names tonight: God, Jesus, Lord, Father, Ja.
apparently, there's more tlc to come. no confirmation on whethere or not they're changing the name to two-lc.
and she had "one minute man" dedicated to her! the injustice!
tribute to 'left eye' lopes. mtv is creating an aids scholarship in her name. aaliyah didn't get this kind of send-off...
when did eminem get buff? must be a recent development, otherwise i'm sure we would've seen him rapping topless before.
is that bono in the yellow glasses in eminem's "congress"?
what joke? "fat joe ate one of the olsen twins." feel free to ask again, 'what joke?' he won't feel so good about himself if joey crack pulls a big pun. and he shouldn't forget that fat joe's under investigation in a beating case...
he will not let that fat joe joke die.
oh, i forgot jimmy fallon was on this show.
best rock video: linkin park, "the end." did dave know beforehand? is that why he made the linkin park crack? will sammy make an effort to listen to linkin park now?
jesus, whose hair is worse? dave's or sammy's? they call sammy 'the red rocker.'
God, i hope the michael jackson thing wasn't meant to be the big 'surprise.'

there were rumors that guns 'n' roses were going to perform. i'd take it, even if axl announced, "we're going to perform something long and ponderous from our forthcoming album. but first, here's a video presentation."
has there been a highlight yet? i love springsteen but sometimes i just feel like you've got to be there. "the rising" seems like such a perfect studio creation that it's impossible to improve upon unless you're in the crowd.
i like these slow-mo, self-congratulating 'vma moments' that bring the show back in from commercial. so glossy.
best new video: avril lavigne, "complicated." her worst nightmare realized: she's accepting an award from the very people -- prefab pop hopefuls -- she's railing against.

it looks like there was some kinda of tie-up in kelly's attempt to give avril hug. perhaps avril was being punk to the very end and refusing the emrace of the SYSTEM.
kelly is holding the prize...is it prophetic?
scarier still, she's the second best artist in the bunch. after b2k.
i bet paula wishes she could say "yanking two big heads out of his tight ass" on fox!

is there any truth to the rumor that there's a petition against ashanti's nomination for best new artist?
as usual, simon is dead-on with his assessment.
i was going to predict randy was going to say 'mtv, mtv, mtv.' hard to believe now, i know, but i really was going to.
pink sees this impersonation of ryan seacrest and bryan dunkleman and knows it's supposed to be funny but she can't make out why.
what a gyp. she didn't even reenact the animated sequence.
YES! i love that line. "beside her silicone i look minimal..."
shakira performing. but will there be LIVE puncturing of fake breasts? reason enough to stay tuned in for the next few minutes. unless you're the sort who goes for her hip-swivelling. in which case, it's just another reason.
best hip-hop video: j. lo ft. ja rule, "i'm real (remix)" well, i guess they had to give her some enticement to show up...

meanwhile, sheryl crow is non-plussed.
so hip-hop, by mtv definitions, is the blurring of rap and r&b. or, more succinctly, the mix of rap & ashanti.
best hip-hop video? isn't rap the music, and hip-hop the culture...

well, not unless j. lo represents the culture.
so the ones in p.o.d. are the swarthy ones, and the ones in linkin park look like moby and that one guy from 311. alright, that's settled.
i don't know that i can keep this up. it's kind of dull. and the show hasn't been great shakes either.
best rap video: eminem, "without me." eminem and the jackass crew on the same stage: everything wrong with america isolated.
they're like weezer for kids who don't like irony. but like sideburns and acoustic guitars.
but now, mtv 2 award: dashboard confessional, "screaming infidelities." DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL?! fuck this shit.
oh, if you couldn't tell earlier breakthrough video: the white stripes, "fell in love with a girl."
justin timberlake doesn't know quite what's going on.

m2 award: never let it be said that mtv doesn't know how to promote its programs and channels. up next, celebrity kidnapped! with your host dave holmes.
anthony kiedis said "emo."
are the vmas the one major award show where no one really cares about who wins?
ah, nas 'is gonna play the big man' and hope for peace in hip-hop! unlike the belligerent jay-z...and then ja rule comes out and yells "MURDAHHHHH!!!!"
nas is now down with murder squad. if you ain't know, now you know. sadly, he's not raising the bar in his feud with jay-z.
is it just strange synchronicity that i was watching singin' in the rain earlier? GET OUT OF MY HEAD, JA RULE.
'ladies and gentlemen, tonight the role of ashanti will be played by christina millan.'
WHOA. b2k. they are live beings. and they look a bit like immature.
the white stripes and the olsens on the same stage: only in america. jack white looks SHARP! "thanks mary-kate and askley." meg looks good...and she talks.

did i mention i had a dream about the white stripes the other night?
breakthrough video is a category i don't understand. i always thought it to meant a video which makes the artist a superstar. i don't think any of these were really hits. it seems to be more about being a left-field video.
even they seem incredulous as to the 'dirty deeds' they've allegedly done.
the olsen twins seem anathema to mtv.
by the way, i hope b2k win the viewer's choice and best new artist awards as i still don't quite understand them. perhaps a win will give them a platform on which to explain what they want, who they are and, most importantly, why they are.
i wonder when this osbournes skit was shot. i thought they'd be shameless enough to have sharon, live from chemo. was ozzy duped? was he told it was for a 9/11 special?
both the Lord and the matrix referenced in mary j.'s speech: what an interesting theology.
best r&b video: mary j. blige, "no more drama." i can't say i've ever seen this video.

(somewhere, the neo-soulsters are griping at the generalization of r&b as 'get busy' music.)
kylie and enrique: what an unimpeachably pretty couple of human beings.
pink, ladies and gentlemen.
i don't like this transmission -- it seems to put a greater distance between myself and the show. it looks like an mtv becoming video.
i guess she's more of a singer/song-writer than an actress. j. love, that is.
funny she introduces pink since the tag 'singer/song-writer' as applied to jennifer love hewitt made me think of pink mentor linda perry. no i don't know why either.
'singer/song-writer jennifer love hewitt.'
i'm going to make a conscious effort to refrain from using the word 'well' for the next half-hour or so.
given the dire straits vh1 finds itself in, can mtv afford the hi-tech look of the show? perhaps if vh1 continues to simulcast mtv programming...
'go pee'? isn't that what ashanti's performance is for?
best pop video: no doubt, "hey baby." bonus: the drummer has pants on.
he looks more star trek than ever, except not even uhuru had boots that superfly.
well, michael jackson's appearance explains why the show still looks pre-recorded...
well, it's always nice to see james brown, regardless of the context...well, there was blues brothers 2000...
did anna kournikova get herself eliminated from the u.s. open so quickly so her pesky profession wouldn't conflict with the vmas?
...and telling people that they wouldn't want it.
sure, jimmy fallon rails against macy gray advertising her album, but isn't this whole opening just an implicit way of telling people he has an album out?
perhaps moby and eminem should team up on a version of "without me," to show that eminem really isn't a technophobe. perhaps not.
the way he's dressed, i don't think the boss could make it into diddy's party.
the way that a 'special location' had been bandied about, i figured he'd be performing from ground zero.
am i the only person who sees the similarity between james gandolfini and the boss?
'P.S. DO NOT DISTURB THE SEXY.', or the ten commandments according to p. diddy, e.g. 'thou shalt wax thy bush.' the rules that one must respect and adhere to in order to make diddy's post-vmas bash 'the greatest party of all time.' from the smoking gun; thanks to maura for the heads up.
i'll be watching the vmas tonight, talking back to the screen, monitoring the red carpet, and counting how many times forthcoming albums are plugged. check back here at 8:00 est for LIVE coverage.
15. herb alpert, "this guy's in love with you"
why here? electric pianos and electric light orchestras go so well together, i think.
why this song? one of those 'frame of mind' songs. besides that, it's a beautiful, breathless, hopeful thing, comfortably resting on the edge of a precipice, piano lines cascading like waterfalls. why bacharach thought to give this to alpert, i'll never know, but i guess that's why he's the master.

28 August 2002

14. olivia newton-john w/e.l.o., "xanadu"
why here? "when the last time" ends with a squiggle, "xanadu" sounds like a synthesizer aping a jet take-off. at this point in the disc, it's enough for me.
why this song? the best e.l.o. productions sound wind-swept, like sunshowers sweeping across fields, and this one is no exception. the octave pianos also make it sound like a low-rent abba -- which is what e.l.o. were, right?

27 August 2002

just watched nikki's performance of "edge of seventeen" on american idol and this thought occurred to me:
are karaoke bars to american idol producers what the mls is to the u.s. soccer federation? that is, developmental ground for talent that may never catch on with america?
thanks to matthew for the heads up on the new u2 single, "electricial storm" -- and if it were any good, he'd get a link too. (ha ha ha, just kidding.)

great title; a shame to waste it on what is very obviously a single for a greatest hits package. g.h. singles usually offer up everything that a band does well presented in the most ramshackle fashion imaginable. sen. bono displays his typical optimism in the face of overwhelming odds; he sings the chorus in falsetto, reminding the listener that he used to be able to hit those notes full-voiced, and to show that he hasn't lost all of it by smoking and singing the refrain to "bad," he does a bit of moaning. meanwhile, larry mullen jr. bashes away on the drums; adam clayton stands around looking intelligent and, like most aging rock bassists, is the dignified foil to the outlandish frontman and quietly brooding guitarist; and the edge makes like an electrical storm before bumping into the guitar break from "walk on" -- one can imagine the song ending the way it does because it becomes obvious to even bono that they're getting self-parodic. essentially, g.h. singles leave the listener to listen to the other songs on the compilation to see how good a band can sound when the parts are assembled properly.
i'm listening to a track by england's the music called "the truth is no words," and it's one of the most unlikely things i've heard in some time. rock scholars have put forth the question for years and now this leeds-based band, one of the music press's latest raves, has arrived on the scene with the answer. the question: what if led zeppelin were a BAGGY band? the answer: why, they'd be the music. it's a preposterous, unthinkable thing, something you couldn't imagine existing in this millennium. and yet it does and it's absurd and i'm finding its charms increasingly harder to resist.

baggy bands were always trying to be the stones or the beatles (and, sometimes, the zombies); i'm not sure why it never occurred to them to try to be led zeppelin...besides the fact that, well, you know, it's utterly INSANE. the 'e' is gone and in its place are the old tropes about squeezing the lemon and 'love' measured in inches (probably, i have no idea what the song is about). the singer is like jack white with a clamp on his scrote and the band emits a sense of groove that is decidedly, endearingly english. perhaps bell bottomed bluesmen derek & the dominoes explained it best, saying a little about their own appeal in the process: "it's all wrong but it's alright."
i bought two of the rolling stones remasters today, beggars banquet and let it bleed. i don't own any sacd equipment so i supppose my critique is akin to commenting on the digital technology of attack of the clones by watching it at a standard projection theatre.

what i can tell you validly about beggars banquet is this: it's faster, ever so slightly. the press releases have touted this as the first time the album will be heard at proper speed. the difference is just tiny enough to have a disorienting effect on the listener. to me, it was like experiencing the world when one is sleep deprived: everything seems a wee bit off. i did the math: every minute on the remaster is equal to 61.2 seconds on the old issue.

let it bleed is also a shorter album now: the new cd more closely resembles the original lp as the 3-4 second intervals that were inserted between tracks on the original cd have been deleted, so it's now as it was meant to be heard. and after my first listening, again it's a small change but it's a definite improvement.

so what does it sound like on antiquated equipment? having listened to both the original and remaster of let it bleed, certain things make themselves clear. it feels as if the masters have been scrubbed: after listening to the new, one can hear, as if they were at a latter-day stones concert, the rust and age clinging to the vocals and instrumentation. there's no hiss and it's a lot cleaner, but not less murkier -- i'll use "gimme shelter" as an example. the drum parts have been bolstered and given more heft. the bass, which feels flat and amorphous on the original, now seems almost palpable -- it's now like a living, breathing entity, an onerous cloud that ambles and menaces. the miasma is still present, it's just better defined now.
"in 1986, abcko records released the first compact discs of the rolling stones catalog. over the years we have had many requests to re-issue these titles using the latest digital mastering techniques. however, we did not feel the improvements in cd mastering warranted this -- until now. with the right technology in place, we spent hundreds of hours researching, and more importantly, listening to the analog masters that exist in the vaults. it was a long and painstaking process, involving a quest on both sides of the atlantic to find the best and purest sources of the rolling stones' work.

this disc actually has two layers. one is a normal cd. the other layer is a super audio cd (sacd) of the same repertoire. both layers benefit from the direct stream digital (dsd) encoding which captures every nuance of the original master tapes. you will hear the 'rawness' of the guitars, the vocal quality and the natural distortion of the band as it sounded in the studio. and you can hear it on any cd player you own today or any sacd-compatible player."

26 August 2002

13. clipse ft. kelis, "when the last time"
why here? because when he was young and passionate, this sort of thing would've pissed morrissey off, no end.
why this song? the follow-up to "grindin" opens like it's about to break into "rumpshaker," a great thing. then it has this synth squiggle that sounds like a pissed-off modem. kelis is given a featured credit though she doesn't seem to do more than sing a "la la la" or two -- these variations on the smurfs theme seems to be a new neptunes songwriting tic. pharrell is featured a lot more -- maybe they're just trying to float kelis's name back out there so that her album may be one day released in this country. he gets to be a bad m.f, which is always funny because he listens to steely dan and seems to be as soft as double-quilted t.p. per usual, he commands some silly girl to move her ass and she does and so will you.
ms. dynamite's "dy-na-mi-TEE" = what erykah badu should be doing right about now, that is making entertaining, self-mythologizing records instead of singles with boyfriends retreading said boyfriend's past extended metaphors.
12. smiths, "paint a vulgar picture"
why here? "the golden age" ends on one of those blips that radiohead made all the rage several years ago; the sharp beat of the drum seems a nice refutation of that.
why this song? i recently compiled a smiths disc and that necessitated a relistening to, among their other records, strangeways here we come. i was struck by how shiny and spangly the track was. oh, sure, the singles, the smiths best of volumes 1 and 2 followed by the very best of the smiths has made a mockery of the song's intent but, still, they can never taint you in my eyes.
11. beck, "the golden age"
why here? i just liked the way the strumming of guitar chords fit after the slow fade of "hold me tight." it's just chromatically pleasing.
why this song? apparently, winona (allegedly) stole more than just handbags and hair accessories: she also absconded with beck's heart, and the forthcoming sea change seems to be the break-up album. ever savvy though, beck has the good sense to seem vaguely depressed so there are no embarrassing andy partridge-like demonstrations of spleen. musically, that gram parsons tribute had quite an effect on beck as he's set out to create the 'cosmic american music' parsons was always talking about but rarely creating, and in the refrain he quotes george jones ("these days, i barely get by.") the voice seems to have changed a bit, now falling somewhere between gordon lightfoot and bruce springsteen when he's being unbearably earnest; lines like "you got to drive all night just to feel like you're okay" recall the latter's dark night of the soul wanderings in nebraska. taken as a whole, "the golden age" is expansive, sighing, surprisingly sincere and, to my non-fan ears, the best thing he's done.

23 August 2002

10. the treasures, "hold me tight"
why here? "heart of rome fades very fast and the concussive opening of "hold me tight" shoots the gap.
why this song? in terms of production technique, this is my favorite phil spector song -- i could only imagine how brilliant it sounded on am radio. the echo is such that the song doesn't seem to be coming from an external source; rather, it seems to be playing directly inside your head, the perfect place for such an exquisite, swoonsome song to be heard.
9. elvis presley, "heart of rome"
why here? "starman" ends on a fading singalong and then segues right into another one.
why this song? "heart of rome" was june '70 single for the king, a modern remake of styne/cahn's "three coins in the fountain." again, released in june 1970 and one can already hear the differences between his 60s work and that which was to follow: the arrangements stopped being polite and e's voice had increased in density, an instrument that would become a little more country and a lot less rock 'n' roll with the passing years. if one accepts "suspicious minds" as his demarcation line (and, perhaps, as his apex), elvis began easing into the 70s in august '69 and "heart of rome", for what it's worth, is one of his finer overcooked numbers of the 70s, though not a jumping-off point by any means.

22 August 2002

nickelback rocked!: or should that be 'stoned'? either way, it's biblical justice at its finest.
8. david bowie, "starman"
why here? "la cienega" ends with a lengthy fade, drifting away with a lazy acoustic guitar solo. "starman" reaffirms the theme with its admittedly less lazy acoustic opening.
why this song? the 'overture' to the ziggy stardust film at the film forum was the album itself (not, that is, the film's soundtrack). i'd always had it in for "starman" because of the whole "over the rainbow" thing. but having little except to listen to it, i realize that "over the rainbow" is hardly the point, and the song doesn't really begin until the string flourish and bowie singing "let the children..." and ronson wringing the neck of his guitar, a soundtrack to a film all its own.
so, if anyone wants to claim that the fix is in on american idol, now's your chance. unless you want to wait & see if nikki can knock off justin next week.

personally, i'm not terribly surprised. i thought that, based on perfomance, justin and tamyra had given the weakest the previous night. out of what had been considered at the time the top three, i thought she was the most assailable: kelly has 'the voice' and justin is the mop-top, even if his dancing makes him look like he has rickets. even nikki has her whole single-mother thing going on, rarely something, though, that is supported, let alone endorsed, by the heartland. but she's attractive and, oh yes, white, like the majority of voters, i'd reckon. voters who are probably more familiar with melissa etheridge than stephanie mills, and nikki is a straight melissa etheridge, the best of both worlds!

until the last two weeks, i wasn't convinced of tamyra's abilities. the only thing she seemed to communicate was a smug satisfaction with the sound of her own voice, cooing her way through songs by tina turner and gladys knight, originals that were marked with youthful impatience and unbearable longing respectively. and then came "a house is not a home," followed by last night's "feel the fire."

oh, but between those two songs came a feeble attempt at patti labelle's "new attitude." no one sings patti labelle for emotional nuance or to demonstrate subtlety. when you take up one of her songs, you're trying to go as far over the top as possible (ask randy: he apparently worked with her!). maybe tamyra didn't understand this or her maybe throat problems left her incapable of even trying. it was bad and may have left an impression on voters who didn't stick around for the second round. simon said last night in his post-mortem, "you're judged on your last song," which wasn't the case because then it would've been nikki voted off or, in a perfect world, justin and his bumbling "p.y.t." no, i think tamyra knew that patti labelle would be exactly the kind of vocalist who would fare well on american idol and she went for it. whereas the other three don't need to project themselves into singers beyond their capabilities, tamyra, like an uber-christina christian, knew what she had to do and, in the back of her mind, may have suspected that even that wouldn't be enough, that talent would only carry her so far.

someone said last night that the contestants were being judged by different criteria.yes, patti labelle would kill in this type of competition, especially, if she were cute and white. step right up, kelly...
caveat emptor: dr. pepper red fusion tastes more like regular dr. pepper. a lot more.
7. ryan adams, "la cienega just smiled"
why here? "i threw it all away" is a mix nightmare: it doesn't end properly as it segues into the following track, and the ending is far too abrupt to even attempt a fade. i tried to patch things up by throwing in this track with its sudden, though not jarring, piano opening.
why this song? there are few artists who are as eminently hateable based on image and influences alone as ryan adams. this is one of two adams-penned songs i can claim affection for, the other is whiskeytown's "jacksonville skyline." like that number, "la cienega" is a quiet, atmospheric effort, mercifully lacking his trademark swagger and 'tude. instead, it's a burnished piano and strings ballad redolent of his number one fan elton john's early 70s work.

21 August 2002

6. scott walker, "i threw it all away"
why here?: ferry's urbanity and, oh yeah, his vocal style sit comfortably next to scott, while acknowledging his (i.e. scott's) influence on both.
why this song? scott only gets better with each passing year. on this dylan cover, he sounds like the ghost of heartaches past, imploring the listener to change his foolish ways before he ends up like scott, recording albums solely for the enjoyment of wire magazine's editorial staff and producing pulp's least successful venture, all of this while in chains, no less.
5. bryan ferry, "one way love"
why here? "wonderful summer" stops on a dime with some seagull noises; i wanted to shift tempos a bit, so i inserted this track with its echoing sampled beats opening.
why this song? chris spedding's guitar shines brighter than the lights on broadway, and is far more glamorous to boot. it's splendid, incandescent pop, one of the many highlights of ferry's frantic, and the only cover -- of a drifters tune -- to stand toe-to-toe with the originals. for a vastly different version, see dexy's cover, the b-side to "keep it part 2."
4. robin ward, "wonderful summer"
why here? "summer, highland falls" ends with a fading, lovely piano run, and it almost seems to segue right into the seaside sounds and swelling backing vocals of "wonderful summer."
why this song? i heard this on cbs-fm the other day and i became assimilated to the oldies hive mind: "why don't they write songs like this anymore?" so ephemeral, it's like sea mist: soothing as it strikes you and forgotten shortly after. contrary to christian doctrine, no one quite glows like a young girl who's been deflowered. robin fails to make the same mistake as britney: she doesn't equate sex with love and she's therefore left with only gratitude in her heart.
3. billy joel, "summer, highland falls"
why here? "autumn goodbye" has a slow fade and, since it was an uptempo song, i usually like to have it followed by something with an abrupt opening, like the piano chords here.
why this song? good fucking question. it's one of three billy joel songs i can tolerate: when used as a bonding exercise, i can sing along with "piano man"; if it were performed with sincerity, i could listen to "tell her about it." "summer, highland falls" is the only one i active like, though -- it plays to my weakness for wistful summer songs and for melancholic, winding piano lines. still, he's his own bernie taupin with lines about "either sadness or euphoria," and it features yet another of the cheesiest horn solos in the history of recorded music (cf. "just the way you are"). but, damn, that piano is pretty (and it also proves the causative link between joel and vanessa carlton that maura has proffered.)
2. britney spears, "autumn goodbye"
why here? for all of its greatness, "the love i lost" has a pretty lousy and, not to mention, quick fade, with pendergass ad-libbing and being cut off in mid-sentence. i wanted a song that snapped back quickly, preferably with a spoken or sung intro.
why this song? my current frame of mind dictates a need for melodrama. besides being her second best song, britney's "autumn goodbye" is also her most emotional performance, a howl of pain especially when compared to number four's gentle magnanimity. it also opens up a three-song salute to summer -- back to school commercials always trigger this impulse. but it's not over until i trot out "all summer long."
ashanti -- ten times more hated than iraq: an internet petition has garnered 20,000 signatures denouncing the selection of ashanti as soul train's lady soul entertainer of the year. while one can't deny her ubiquity, some of the signees are saying "she's just not talented enough" to receive the award named in honor of aretha franklin.

20 August 2002

i made a mixtape today, a compilation disc if you prefer. inspired in equal parts by matos' mix project and freaky trigger's c90 series, i'm going to discuss it here.

usually when i make a disc, it contains new things that i'm feeling and old songs that are either chosen subconsciously because they convey my mood or because i was reminded of their existence (and greatness) by the radio. (all of this is to say that i rarely make 'theme' discs unless they're being assembled for someone else.) this one is like all of the rest, then, and it begins with:
1. harold melvin & the blue notes, "the love i lost"
why here? there were only three tracks on this entire disc that i thought suitable for the leadoff spot; the other two ended up being used to change mood or tempo. and, besides, i think the "love i lost" makes for one of the best openers in the history of pop. like most great gamble & huff productions, it starts slow and builds, instrument by instrument, establishing the mood before the singer opens his mouth.
why this song? unlike most gamble & huff productions, however, a mood isn't created so much as a palette. the mfsb orchestra embellishes and expands it, creating a canvas the size of philadelphia for teddy p. to bark out his grief in the most upbeat of fashions. and by the time he's removed the dagger from his heart, the nation's fifth-largest city proved just large enough to contain it all.
i just wanted to take a moment to proclaim the brilliance of dj lance lockarm, one of the more consistently genius masher-uppers out there. from what i understand, his mix of public enemy's "bring the noise" and m's "pop muzik" is getting airplay, quite deservedly. his latest concoction is a mix of the rap from the beastie's "so whatcha want" and the track from my bloody valentine's "i only said," with additional percussion from schoolly d's "saturday night." utterly fantastic.

14 August 2002

has anyone heard the jay bennett album, and if so, would they care to make any sort of recommendations?

13 August 2002

today at the record store, i was puzzled to discover that mary kate & ashley olsen, those twin tycoons of teen, had a greatest hits album out. i was astounded when i saw that this album, featuring the hits "that funky musicology" and "gimme the life of a pirate," was actually their third such volume. this feat puts them in the class of artists like elton john, bob dylan, and billy joel; that they achieved it in such a short span of time puts them in a class of their own.

12 August 2002

i was watching m2 earlier and i saw the video for aimee allen's "i'd start a revolution."
what's good:
she looks like joan jett by way of angelina jolie.
what's bad:
she sounds like pat benatar by way of limp bizkit.
what's good:
the full song title, "i'd start a revolution (if i could just get out of bed)."
what's bad:
blink-182 show up in the video; as does that guy from orgy. not from a particular orgy, but from the band of that name. do people still remember them? they did a remake of "blue monday"? they have mishandled hair? it wouldn't surprised me if they've slipped our collective mind: my nephews don't know who pearl jam is, and i likes it that way.
and also:
she raps.

it seems rap-rock now has its female voice. to the world's detriment, it's not lisa lopes.
rare instances where soulseek is found to be superior to winmx: when one is searching for mocky's "fuck all night" and not dmx's "it's all good (fuck all day, fuck all night.)"
sight and sound's top ten poll. taken this year, the world's top critics -- along with the guy who voted for snatch -- vote on the greatest films and directors ever.
thanks to matos for the link.
i just wanted to draw attention to a couple few blogs i've been reading since my re-emergence. they are:
fluxblog: matthew writes well and enthusiastically. he also enjoys sign o' the times, pointed me in the direction of new radiohead live tracks, and is familiar with wilson and alroy. so maybe he isn't keen on the rising but i choose not to hold it against him for now.

sex & sunshine: alex's site is awash in interesting links, and sunlight. now he doesn't like the strokes, but he did say this this very site has "some interesting condensed link rich posts," and heaven knows i'm not immune to flattery.

technicolour: welcome to the world of jess harvell where talk talk's laughing stock is the greatest album ever and other really weird things happen. it's all good though because jess once said he "heart"ed me, even if the heart did look like cock & balls. (and, yes, jess he does say "the subway is a porno." meep.)
nearly two-thirds through the year and it couldn't be a better time for best-of 2002 lists!

10. the hives, "hate to say i told you so"
9. busta rhymes ft. p. diddy & pharrell, "pass the courvoisier, part ii"
8. space cowboy, "die 4 u"
7. the streets, "weak become heroes"
6. the rapture, "house of jealous lovers"
5. eminem, "without me"
4. bruce springsteen, "the rising"
3. nelly, "hot in herre"
2. andrew w.k., "party hard"
1. conway, "lisa's got hives"

10. the vines, highly evolved
9. raphael saadiq, instant vintage
8. bryan ferry, frantic
7. sonic youth, murray street
6. pet shop boys, release
5. bruce springsteen, the rising
4. tom waits, alice
3. wilco, yankee hotel foxtrot
2. various, the best bootlegs in the world ever
1. andrew w.k., i get wet

10 August 2002

QUICK! someone give me a plausible reason for enjoying layla & other assorted love songs. because i do, and i can't explain why. it has a lot going against it, like hoary blues cliches and, if the inlay photos are anything to go by, a shitload of facial hair. is it merely the ultimate triumph of craftmanship? or is it just duane allman?

08 August 2002

my favorite song from belle & sebastian's recent broadcast from peel acres is a sad lament called "desperation made a fool of me" (search for "despairation..."). like "the boy with the arab strap" and "the rollercoaster ride," there's an inexorable pull (or drag) to the track. unlike either, the only place to hear the titular phrase is in the resignation of the music. additionally, it's not a strum-along: reference points seem to include abba, orange juice and river-era springsteen. like the last's "the price you pay," the listener gets the sense that the narrator has been chastened but that the beat goes on regardless, long after the fade-out.

07 August 2002

what a preposterous night on american idol!
the theme from american bandstand! (apparently my thought processes are too linear. "bohemian rhapsody"? i mean, really)
a ford focus commercial/skit that was like a monkees outtake!
r.j. is saved!
christina is eliminated from her death bed!
and now r.j. is probably going to last another week because he's not only adopted, not only a victim of a tragic stage fall, and not only from cumming, georgia, but now he's also a crier! a weeper! his tears will buy him votes! AGGGH!
for michael's bemusement, the ten words that appear in the most songs on springsteen's the rising:
10 times (out of 15):
"rise" and inflected forms.
7 times:
"dark" ("-ness")
6 times:
5 times:

five of these can be considered positive; four, negative. "morning" depends on its context.

"worlds apart" contains eight of these words, while "city of ruins" has seven. "let's be friends (skin to skin)" has none, but the theme of "skin" is a tacit element of the physical concerns of the album.
last night on american idol:
tamyra: was fantastic. she looked and sounded the part of big band singer. despite her talent or, perhaps, because of her talent, there's an aura of impenetrability about her and it wouldn't shock me to see her in the bottom three either this week or the next. (that is, if they continue with the bottom three format.)
nikki: i agree with randy: great shoes. she had the moves down and i even liked the song, but nikki hasn't sang a song that'd test her range since "unchained melody" and she missed a note at the end. it could be curtains for her...
christina: hey! whaddya know, she asserted herself a bit -- maybe she's been hearing from friends and fam about her reputation. might not be enough to move her out of the bottom three, but it could get her a contract regardless, if simon's crush hasn't already cinched that.
justin: i really wish he would stop dancing; i just can't bear to watch that hair flop around. does he use the motion of the hair to entrance our youth? justin always gives you just what you'd expect but nothing more, like the bar mitzvah entertainment that he is. the justin mafia, turned off by justin's bold assertion of his artistic vision (covering dony hathaway, or did he just go to an alicia keys show?), will return after taking the week off and he'll be back near the top.
r.j.: someone put him out of his misery, please. first off, he sings one of my favorite sinatra numbers like it was an o-town ballad; granted, the arrangement was atrocious. secondly, he exudes the same asexual air as modern-day jermaine jackson, a sort of plastic sheen that makes it look like he's smiling even when he's not (and antiseptic suits don't help things much). as one of the judges might say, we have no idea who r.j. is -- besides the adopted-one-who-fell-off-the-stage from cumming, georgia -- because he certainly hasn't demonstrated it through his performances.
kelly: i think kelly is my new crush. she looked like an andrews sister last night; better still, she didn't sing an aretha song and she didn't sing like re-re either. she's got the rootsy charm that the others lack: young girls will look up to her because she's more approachable, the britney to tamyra's christina a.

bottom three: nikki, r.j., christina.
loser: nikki, and i don't think simon will tell her to give him a call.

the real question is: what lame skits or production numbers will fox foist upon us this week in order to fill out the thirty minutes? "bohemian rhapsody," maybe?

06 August 2002

good riddance, you long-sock-wearin', toe-on-the-line-steppin', enlarged-adam's-apple-havin' motherfucker. (though i'm sure he's a nice enough guy.)

05 August 2002

land of a thousand dances: mike is back, and he's talking merzbow!

02 August 2002

julia roberts on full frontal:
"i just follow steven around...i don't care what he's doing! it doesn't have to have anything to do with anything. after i read the script, i called him and said, 'i don't understand any of it. i'm totally there!'"

has anyone ever read terry southern's blue movie? an a-list director decides he wants to make an art-house porn film; the biggest female star in the world, craving critical acceptance, signs on to play the lead. not that full frontal is porn or anything, but.

01 August 2002

i think i like the yeah yeah yeahs' "bang" because, please forgive me, it continually threatens to break out into "cold sweat." i hope the forthcoming lp is more like this and "mystery girl" than, say, "art star." (or even "our time," which is great but don't we already have the strokes? and they record in HI-FI.)
for the "dread & anticipation" file: elvis 30 #1 hits.
"The new mixes don't change Elvis and his musicians' work, but they showcase that work in a way that makes the most of their brilliance when listened to on today's audio equipment."

here's a link to an interview with david bendeth, a member of the remastering team. his objective:
"The main objective was to be able to take an Elvis record for the first time and be able to play it on your stereo system at home, … your computer system at home, …or your car and have it be heard at the same contemporary caliber of any record you could buy in the store today. We want the songs to sonically contain the full dynamic range of bass and treble. To have full dynamic range is to have all of the tones hitting your ear at the same time and having the level also be competitive to every other record that’s out in the market right now. That process alone kind of gives you a new sound."