Monday, April 30, 2007

"Rotate" - New John Wicks and the Records!




Thanks to the kind offer from NYMary and Steve to contribute to PowerPop; it's a thrill to offer my first post! The timing could not have been more fortuitous as woofers and tweeters at Chez Charlemagne have been working overtime thanks to the stalwart representative of the USPS who slipped John Wicks and the Records' long-awaited anthology "Rotate" through my mail slot last weekend.

The Records have always been "Top of the Pops" in my pantheon of powerpop purveyors. At the time the band released their genre-defining first single "Starry Eyes" in 1978, I was a punk rocker who took Joe Strummer and the Clash's admonition in "1977" about "no Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones" a bit too seriously. The punk party line told us we were fighting a musical revolution and anything that came before had to be destroyed! But after hearing the four minutes and twenty-three seconds of "Starry Eyes" that punk rock epistemology was forever discredited for me. By seamlessly melding the amphetamine rush of punk with the crystalline jangle of vintage Brit-invasion the song singlehandedly reunited me with my rock and roll roots the Beatles, the Raspberries and Blue Ash and led me to discover other kindred spirits like Shoes and 20/20 who were re-imagining the classic pop rock repertoire of the 60s and early 70s.



That brings us to "Rotate." The Records went on to release three classic LPs in their heyday: "Shades in Bed" (1979), "Crashes" (1980), and "Music on Both Sides" (1982), but by the mid-80s they were finished. John's musical efforts in the intervening period were high quality, but unfortunately infrequent. He contributed tracks to several compilations (a lovely version of the Beach Boys' "Darlin'" to "Smiles, Vibes & Harmony – A Tribute To Brian Wilson" in 1990 and "Her Stars are My Stars" to "Yellow Pills, vol. 3" in 1995 to name a few) and as John Wicks and the Records he released the great "Rock'ola" on the Spanish label Rock Indiana in 1998. While John continued to record and play live, fans of the Records have anxiously awaited a new long player for nearly 10 years. That wait is now over.

"Rotate" reworks 4 stellar tracks from "Rock'ola" and adds 8 new recordings to the mix. It could just have easily been called "Revolve(er)" as John's musical palette continues to mirror the Records' classic sound, one that is heavily influenced by middle-period Beatles songcraft. As in his previous work, John's penchant for crafting gorgeous melodies remains undiminished. Stellar tracks include the opener "Oh Yeah!" with its infectious chorus and "That Girl is Emily" which utilizes a sweet, slighly lysergic circular guitar motif that immediately places the song high on the list of great rock tunes written about girls named Emily. "Different Shades of Green" and "So Close to Home" are instant powerpop classics which would have fit comfortably on "Crashes" with their shimmering guitar work and anthemic choruses. Of the new tunes, many like "Rotate" and "Desert Sky" explore decidedly darker themes of crisis, despair, and redemption than John's earlier work. One of the standouts of this song cycle is"The Lost Years,"a touching autobiographical song chronicling John's post-Records depression and recovery. "Rotate" closes with a stripped-down version of the Beatles' "We Can Work it Out" that brings the listener back full circle and is a fitting tribute to John's foremost musical influence.

"Rotate" is a must-have for Records fans and true powerpop aficionados. Without question, John Wicks remains at the top of his game and continues to make great music. You can pick up your copy of "Rotate" from Ray at Kool Kat Musik here. If you act quickly, you can purchase a special two-disc version autographed by John that includes an exclusive 5 song bonus EP of previously unreleased live/studio tracks! Get it now!

Simply the Best

You know, there are days when I think that The Dickies were not only the greatest rock band in history but in fact the highest achievement of Western Civilization.

In that spirit, please enjoy a video of the Dickies performing the profoundest song ever written.



Tra la la, indeed.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

And So It Was That Later....

Those who know me best -- by which I mean a couple of ex-girlfriends and several posters at Eschaton who I haven't actually met -- know that over the years I have taken a certain amount of, shall we say, abuse due to my enthusiasms for certain bands who strike regular folks as, well, icky.

For example, my fondness for the 4 Seasons, well known in these precincts, has inspired a fair amount of "say it ain't so" guffawing, and as a result I plan to post a spirited defense of my fellow Jerseyites as soon as Rhino's apparently definitive new
4 Seasons box set
arrives in the mail.

I've also gotten chortles galore when rhapsodizing about the thousand sensitive beauties of the Guess Who , and one of these days I intend to similarly defend the honor of those underrated Sons of Saskatoon. (Perhaps we'll have an All Canadian Content Day in Plum P's honor).



But the band that people really -- and I mean REALLY -- think I've taken leave of my good senses over whenever I allow as how they might have been great is, hands down no contest, Procol Harum. And by people, I mean my esteemed co-blogger NYMary, among scads of others.

Since the first thing of mine NYM let me post here was in fact a long and hopefully convincing appreciation of PH, I'm not gonna belabor the point further, except to say that this video -- from a German TV show in the early 70s -- pretty much encapsulates everything I like about the band. If you're keeping score, the songs are the gorgeously mournful "Pilgrims Progress" and "Quite Rightly So," one of the truly great lost singles of the 60s.



Two points worth noting: This isn't the group's classic lineup, but with the exception of a not quite ready for prime time guitar solo near the end (I don't remember which of Robin Trower's replacements was in the band at this point) it sounds exactly the classic lineup anyway. More important, as was his wont, genius drummer B.J. Wilson pretty much steals it. Wilson, who memorably pounded the skins on Joe Cocker's studio version of "A Little Help From My Friends," is pretty much my all time favorite rock drum guy, and he remains to this day the only one whose (rare) live solos failed to reduce to me to scowling fidgets.

We're the Young Generation And We've Got Something to Say

Next time somebody makes fun of The Monkees direct them to this video for "You Just May Be The One".



Written by the great Mike Nesmith, and if there's ever been a better opening bass riff let me know.

One of these days I'm gonna post a video of my 80s skinny tie band doing our brilliant cover of it.

NYM adds: I completely agree re: Nesmith, and while there's obviously some debate about the birth of country rock, I would argue that "Sweet Young Thing" and "Papa Gene's Blues" are right up there as foundational tracks of the genre.

Enjoy These Fine Audio Products

We're still waiting for our new co-blogger Kid Charlemagne to get off his lazy ass and post something.

But in the interim, courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony at NYCD, here's some amusing and alarming info about this week's releases.

TORI AMOS - AMERICAN DOLL POSSE. We're gonna take a wild guess and surmise that her ninth studio album sounds more or less like the other eight. Available as a plain old CD or as a special edition with a DVD including unseen footage plus a 36 page booklet and -- are you ready? -- FIVE POSTCARDS! "Dear Zelda, listening to Tori's latest album. Wish you were here. Fondly, Millard."

CHANTAL KREVIAZUK - GHOST STORIES. Nothing to say about this one, either. We just like typing "Chantal Kreviazuk." It's even more fun to say aloud.

RUSH - SNAKES & ARROWS. Rush is one of those bands where you say "Damn, I hate Rush -- except for 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Limelight' and 'New World Man' and 'Subdivisions' and... OK, I guess I don't hate Rush." Which doesn't mean you're necessarily going to care about what they have to say in 2007, but they deserve a little respect nonetheless.

SOUNDTRACK - SPIDER-MAN 3. Remember back in the '90s, when every summer there would be a ton of soundtracks from big-budget action films featuring new songs by a bunch of high-profile bands, sporting a ridiculously high list price? Well, go back to the future with this $18.98 turkey featuring new songs from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flaming Lips, the Killers, Jet, Snow Patrol and more! Apparently nobody told the good folks at Reprise Records that people stopped spending $19 for CDs around 2001. And that they download the two songs they want from soundtracks like this, rather than buying the whole thing. But God bless 'em for trying, even if this is the kind of thing that made us close our brick-and-mortar store (I think we still have a few copies of the Mystery Men soundtrack, if anyone wants them). Pre-order it and we'll be able to hook you up with it for even less than $18.98!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why Gummo Is a God, Reason #478

Because he tipped me off to this:
Squeeze and Fountains of Wayne
Tickets go on sale Saturday, April 28 at 10:00am.
Category: Concerts
Venue: Beacon Theatre
City, State: NY, NY


Done and done. Woohoo!

World Famous in Albania

Ever wondered who Borat's fave girl singer is?

Wonder no more.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold The Balkan Bombshell -- the majestic
Shkurte Fejza.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Babyblogging: The Triumphant Return

I finally decided to just order a new cable for the camera, so we're back in business!



Pensive Teen.



Nice path!



Her Highness.



Hey! We're walking!



The Boy.

RIP: Bobby "Boris" Pickett

Dead at 69.

Bobby "Boris" Pickett, whose dead-on Boris Karloff impression propelled the Halloween anthem to the top of the charts in 1962, making him one of pop music's most enduring one-hit wonders, has died of leukemia. He was 69.

Pickett, dubbed "The Guy Lombardo of Halloween," died Wednesday night at the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital, said his longtime manager, Stuart Hersh. His daughter, Nancy, and his sister, Lynda, were at Pickett's bedside.

"Monster Mash" hit the Billboard chart three times: when it debuted in 1962, reaching No. 1 the week before Halloween; again in August 1970, and for a third time in May 1973. The resurrections were appropriate for a song where Pickett gravely intoned the forever-stuck-in-your-head chorus: "He did the monster mash. ... It was a graveyard smash."

The novelty hit's fans included Bob Dylan, who played the single on his XM Satellite Radio program last October. "Our next artist is considered a one-hit wonder, but his one hit comes back year after year," Dylan noted.




But why was he banned in England?

Weekend Listomania

Well, folks, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, it's gonna be non-stop hookers and blow here at Casa Simels. Good times!

Posting by moi will necessarily be a little sporadic, so here's a fun project for you in my absence:

Most Wrist-Slashingly Depressing Songs of All Time!

My totally top of my head Top Three:

1. Richard and Linda Thompson -- "Down Where the Drunkards Roll"

2. Richard and Linda Thompson -- "Has He Got a Friend For Me?"

3. Richard and Linda Thompson -- "The End of the Rainbow"


Hmm. I'm beginning to see a trend here.

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Crossposting Alert

In which I terrify Ace of Spades with a Sheela Na Gig.

Below: A far preferable Ace of Spades.

They Walk Among Us

So as I mentioned last week, I picked up the current issue of MOJO magazine, which comes with a CD featuring tracks by 15 new (or newish) British bands.

Surprisingly, none of them suck. In fact, nearly all of them were interesting-to-terrific.

As it turned out, my second favorite was by The Aliens, an outfit that I must confess I had never heard of. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should also confess that I was unfamiliar with their earlier incarnation as the Beta Band, who apparently were highly regarded, although not in my apartment.) In any case, the track in question, "Honest Again" (from their 2007 debut album "Astronomy For Dogs",) was a stunner, a swirling swash of psychedelic pop that sounds a bit like Brian Wilson through a cannabis haze -- at once melodic and accessible and a little off-kilter and disturbingly melancholic. Very impressive, in other words.




I haven't heard the rest of the album yet, but here's the official video of the first single, "Setting Sun". Another very cool song, although the wonderfully cheesy organ riffs nudge it more into the realm of 60s garage psych. BTW, our good friend the divine Plum P, Canadian DJ extraordinaire, tells us that the album is in heavy rotation at her station, Radio Montreal 101.5 FM. I believe Plum's show is on tonight, actually, so check it out (the station streams). Be warned, however: everything's in French!!!

Meanwhile, here's an interesting
Guardian interview with Aliens frontman Gordon Armstrong, who apparently has done more drugs than you've had hot meals.

Willard Scott Doesn't Care About the Weather in Your Neck of the Woods

And may I just go on record as saying I don't give a rats ass where in the world Matt Lauer is?

Seriously...having tech problems, but with any luck I'll be posting some interesting stuff later today.

Hint: It involves our good friends in the Great White North.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Videoblogging: Popstar!

For two of my favorite people, steve simels and the divine watertiger.



Damn, I love this song.... and luckily, the video confirms my suspicions that "after a couple of hits/ she'll be buying a new pair of mitts" should really be "tits," which was the conclusion I reached listening to the song on my own.

The Big Throwdown

Bette Midler's probably not the first name that comes to mind when you think power pop, but stick around and all will be made clear.

And while you wait, enjoy this priceless 1984 video pas de deux with Mick Jagger, set to the haunting strains of the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden." Directed by Allan Arkush, of "Rock n Roll High School" fame. And filmed, if memory serves, at the then terribly trendy Danceteria, a low dive where I killed many a brain cell back in the day.




The Stones cover, BTW, was featured on Bette's "No Frills" album, a commercially unsuccessful attempt to repackage the singer as a New Wave diva a la Cyndi Lauper. It wasn't a terribly good record, although as you can see she sang the pants off "BOB."

But more to the point, the CD (recently remastered) features Bette's absolute finest recorded moment -- a version of "You're My Favorite Waste of Time," by power pop god Marshall Crenshaw, that takes the soaring melodicism of the original and ups its ear candy quotient by a factor of ten.
I'm assuming it's on iTunes, so do yourself a favor and get thee hence immediately.

Wednesday Glam Blogging

Yes folks -- from 1972, here's a video of irrepressible sharp dressed men Slade performing their tender love madrigal "Mama Weer All Crazee Now".



Back in the day nobody quite got the connection, but Slade's best stuff is so power pop it's not even funny. Monstrous riffs, catchy tunes, big guitars...let's face it, if they were just a tad less raunchy they'd be Badfinger.

Incidentally, the group's one and only feature film, 1974's Slade in Flame has just been released on DVD. It never played theatrically in the US (although superstars in the rest of the English-speaking world, Slade were never more than fanzine faves in the States). But by all accounts, it's an extremely dark and cynical look at the inner workings of the music biz, and most Brit critics think it's the best dramatic rock flick ever.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Old News is Bad News

Just learned that legendary garage rock frontman ?, of ? and the Mysterians, has lost all his possessions in a house fire. The Mysterians, of course, are best known for the classic "96 Tears".



Mr. ? (as the New York Times would call him), nee either Rudy Martinez or Reeto Rodriquez, has been living with his manager and manager's wife for many years, while continuing to perform live and record. Their Clio, MI home burned on January 17, and all that was saved was three (of the seven) Yorkshire Terriers they'd raised and a couple of pairs of ?'s trademark Raybans. Unfortunately these folks had no fire insurance. If you'd like to help out, donations can be sent to:

? and the Mysterians
P.O. Box 96
Clio, MI 48420

You can also visit the band's MySpace page for the latest information on all things ?.

Enjoy These Fine Audio Products

Courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony of NYCD, here's some informative and alarming thoughts on some of the albums dropping (as the kids say) this week.

ARCTIC MONKEYS - "FAVORITE WORST NIGHTMARE." It took a couple of listens for us to get into their debut because the hype surrounding it made us expect the next Sgt. Pepper, when it was really the next Goodnight Vienna. That said, we are looking forward to their followup, and their inevitable stadium tour.

LOU REED - "HUDSON RIVER WIND MEDITATIONS." The 91-year-old Reed, who from what we hear has one of the nicest lawns in New York state, is also a longtime practitioner of yoga and tai chi. Here he takes a break from such commercial releases as "The Raven" to release a record of soothing harmonics so that the listener can settle his or her mind and open his or her heart. You too, after listening to this wonderful release, will also be able to look like a 91-year-old woman named Yetta. Thanks, Lou! Aaaaahhhhhh....

PATTI SMITH - "TWELVE." Have you ever wondered what Patti Smith singing Tears For Fears would sound like? Well, wonder no more, because it's here, along with covers of The Beatles, Neil Young, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and more. Not bad, Patti. All that's missing is "Old Cape Cod."

W.A.S.P. - "DOMINATOR."
Heavy metal legends return with an album we have absolutely no feeling about whatsoever -- we just wanted to ask this question: Who was lead singer Blackie Lawless' uncle? The answer -- Yankees pitcher Ryne Duren! Thank you very much.

There's more at their website, so get over there and give them some love.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hindsight is a Bitch

Here's a 2005 video by some bozos called The Right Brothers proving that wingnut triumphalism is no less unintentionally hilarious when it comes with a decent tune and a backbeat.




Seriously -- this is a laugh riot unparalleled since Connie Francis recorded "Nixon's the One" in 1968.

John McCain: Bigoted Asshole, Lousy Rock Critic

By now, you all know about Republican presidential candidate John McCain's most recent contribution to our national discourse.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The liberal group MoveOn.org is launching an ad against Republican John McCain and his joke about bombing Iran, arguing that the nation "can't afford another reckless president."

The group plans to spend about $100,000 to air a commercial on network and some cable television stations in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that hold early contests in the presidential nomination process, spokesman Alex Howe said Friday.

McCain, campaigning Wednesday in South Carolina, answered a question about military action against Iran with the chorus of the surf-rocker classic "Barbara Ann."

"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," he said. "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..."

McCain defended the joke during a campaign stop in Nevada on Thursday.

"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters in Las Vegas. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

Asked if his joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

McCain's comments, posted on YouTube, had been viewed at least 118,056 times as of Friday morning.




Apart from its stunning assholishness, there are several ironies attendant to McCain's comment.

For starters, "Barbara Ann" is not a Beach Boys song. Brian Wilson and company's version was a cover of a 1961 doo-wop hit by The Regents.

And the "Bomb Iran" parody that he thought so funny was actually by Vince Vance and the Valiants, a still active oldies revue that originally released the loathsome song on -- get this -- Towel Records.

Towel. As in Towelheads.

And here's the kicker: Both Fred Fassert -- who wrote the original "Barbara Ann" -- and his brother Chuck -- who sang on it -- were of Iranian descent.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Two Enthusiastic Thumbs Up!

For those who care, my review of the DVD of Little Children is up at the web site of PREMIERE, the no longer available in dead trees format movie magazine.

H/t the divine Jenny From the Blog.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Note

Housekeeping going on in the sidebar; please be patient. Also, if anyone knows how to get my sitemeter back online, I'd appreciate it.

Weekend Listomania

Well, it's Friday, and my Oriental houseboy Kato and I must don our costumes and go out to fight crime. Consequently, posting by moi will be sporadic for a bit.

But in the meantime, here's a fun project.

Best Record Which Sounds Eerily Like The Work of Another Artist.

[arbitrary qualifier: No obvious pastiches -- no Rutles or Dukes of Stratosphear -- need apply]

My totally off the top of my head Top Seven:

1. The Knickerbockers -- "Lies" (The Beatles)

2. Fontella Bass -- "Rescue Me" (Aretha Franklin)

3. Mouse and the Traps -- "A Public Execution" (Bob
Dylan)

4. The Jags -- "Written on the Back of My Hand" (Elvis Costello)

5. Terry Anderson -- "Weather or Not" (Keith Richards/Rolling Stones)

6. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- "American Girl" (Byrds/Roger McGuinn)

7. Count Five -- "Pyschotic Reaction" (Yardbirds)


Join in, won't you?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

To Alberto Gonzalez

Who had a really, really bad day...



Who wants to bet? I say by May 1st.

He said "I don't recall" 74 times! After weeks of rehearsal, err, refreshing his memory. Huh.

Death Where is Thy Ring-a-Ding-Ding?

Here's a genuinely great (and diabolically catchy) song about mortality -- a subject that pop and rock don't usually deal with, for obvious reasons.



It still boggles my mind that it's by former teen sensations Hanson.

And speaking of irony -- it pretty much killed their career.

Wanks For The Memories

When it comes to great rock songs about masturbation, you just can't beat (sorry) the Vapors 1980 "Turning Japanese.".



Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I stumbled across an interview with the song's author, Vapors frontman David Fenton, in the March issue of MOJO magazine.

"Everybody thinks it's about masturbation," says Fenton, now a lawyer at the Musicians Union. "It started when we went on tour in the U.S. They thought "turning Japanese" was British vernacular. It's about a guy who's left by his girlfriend, all he has is a photo of her. He's trapped in a prison of his own making.

In America, when I was asked 'Is it about wanking?', sometimes I'd say 'Yes, it is' and sometimes, 'No, it's not.' But really, it means whatever you want it to mean."


Thanks for the disillusionment, Dave. Sheesh -- next thing you know, Cyndi Lauper will be telling us that "She-Bop" is actually about He-Man and She-Ra's little sister.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

John Lennon is Dead, Yet Peter Frampton Walks the Streets a Free Man

And may we introduce to you -- the trailer for the legendarily awful film version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.



I was actually acquainted with the guy who wrote this steaming pile of offal, and a bitchier old queen you never met. He hated rock-and-roll and considered the film his revenge on the music.

Ah, good times.

I bring the whole dismal affair up as a warning, however.

Think there couldn't possibly be a worse two hours of celluloid with a soundtrack of bad Beatles covers?

Wrong. Julie Taymor's Across the Universe is coming soon to a theater near you.

Leather Tuscadero Phone Home

From those heady Glam Rock days of 1973, the lovely and seriously under-appreciated Suzi Quatro performs the tender madrigal "48 Crash".



You know, back in the day there were serious rumors that Suzi and Rick Derringer were actually the same person.

Hey -- did you ever see the two of them together?

I think not!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Breath of Fresh Air

Missed this when it came out, but a few weeks ago, Ken Tucker of NPR's Fresh Air did a terrific review of Jeff Murphy's Cantilever.

Listen here.

Not irksome in the least.

Metal Machine Music For Swinging Lovers

I would like to go on record as saying I have absolutely nothing to say about the new album by Nine Inch Nails.

Extremely irksome New York Times critic Kelefa Sanneh is all a-twitter over it, but as I said, he's extremely irksome.

In any case, the two best things to say about Nine Inch Nails have already been said. The first -- from an episode of Beavis and Butt-head, where the pair watched a NIN clip on MTV in which Reznor kept bumping into and knocking over the amplifiers. "I think," Butt-head intoned, "he should have prepared for this video a little better."

The second, from Courtney Love, who briefly, er, dated Reznor.

"It was more like Three Inch Nails."

Oh, the Humanity!

You know, when I first heard a Buzzcocks song in a car ad, I just shrugged.



I figured, now you flannel-shirted pieces of Gen-X fetal tissue will know how my peers felt when Nike used the Beatles "Revolution" to sell sneakers.

But I just heard the La's sublime "There She Goes" in a goddamn Bali Bra commercial.



Swear to god, I'm gonna take a hostage....

Children By the Million Wait For Alex Chilton

On the subject of Big Star, words pretty much fail me.

But I think it's safe to say that if there's any band that sums up the mission statement of the blog you're reading at the moment, it's Alex Chilton and company.

Here's their ineffingly poignant "Ballad of El Goodo" in very serviceable amateur video footage from a 1993 reunion show.



That's two of the Posies along with Alex and original drummer Jody Stephens, and yes, this is from the same show immortalized on the "Columbia" live album.

BTW: There's a really good version of "Out on the Street" from the Leno Tonight Show a few months later somewhere; here's hoping somebody will YouTube it at some point.

Happy Fifth Birthday!

...to Atrios. If you don't know Eschaton, you should: simels and I met there, among other things. Atrios' main concerns are the intersections and effects of media on politics and vice versa, and when we live in an age where the VP knows which Sunday shows to use to launch propaganda, those are pretty important points to explore. But he's also funny, snarky, sharp, a genuinely nice guy, and he's created a warm, wacky, foulmouthed and quite genuine community of commenters. Thanks, Atrios, for letting us turn your blog into an MTV-style party house.

Happy Birthday!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Unravelling Wilbury

Hmm...I see that legendary Texas psychedelic rocker/head case Roky Erickson played his first ever show in New York City on Friday night. And according to the NY Times' Jon Pareles, he was pretty darn good.



Erickson, whose 1966 13th Floor Elevators hit "You're Gonna Miss Me" figured prominently in a series of Dell Computer ads recently (garnering its composer the biggest royalty checks of his life, one hopes)is currently touring, and good for him. If he shows up in a club near you, definitely check him out; the guy's a mesmeric singer and he's actually written a lot of very cool songs over the years. "I Walked With a Zombie," in particular, has had an honored place on my mp3 player for quite a while.

If It's Too Loud You're Too Old

Picked up the new issue of Mojo magazine the other day, which comes with a CD featuring tracks by 15 new British bands.

Surprisingly, almost none of them suck.

And "Don't Give Up, by the poised to be incredibly trendy Noisettes, is just flat out great. A way cool mix of blues, jazz and punk -- to my ears they sound like a bunch of contemporary hepcats updating the Yardbirds doing Mose Allison.

Enjoy, won't you?



(h/t Sal and Tony and the divine Plum P)

Attention K-Mart Shoppers

Courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony of NYCD here's some amusing tips about this week's interesting and alarming new album releases.

COWBOY JUNKIES - AT THE END OF PATHS TAKEN
. The new album from the band that just keeps making new records. We have many friends who are fans of the Junkies, and we're very happy for them. We, on the other hand, find them snooze-a-riffic, and have had more fun with an old David Frye album, a bottle of Phisohex, and our neighbor's dog, Foamy.

AVRIL LAVIGNE - THE BEST DAMN THING. "Avril Lavigne" ain't kiddin' nobody. She's April Levine from Canarsie. Everybody knows this. What kind of name is "Avril"? Isn't that something you take for a headache? "Damn, I feel a migraine coming on, gimme two Avrils."

THE NOISETTES - WHAT'S THE TIME, MR. WOLF. Creating a buzz with their EP from a few years back, this record has the potential to be #1 in the hipper-than-thou department for at least a week. Pretty soon, they'll be selling out Brazilian soccer stadiums just like Arcade Fire, while Marshall Crenshaw continues to deliver milk in Ho-Ho-Kus for rent money. We love you, Marshall.

MICHAEL PENN - PALMS & RUNES & TAROT & TEA. "Smilin' Mike," the clown prince of rock music, gets compiled, featuring all his hit, with some album cuts and demos.

JOSEPH ARTHUR & THE LONELY ASTRONAUTS - LET'S JUST BE. Another introspective singer-songwriter blah blah blah blah. Enjoy.

More protean NYCD wisdom can be found here. Give 'em some love.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Listomania

Sorry about the late posting...tech glitches.

Feh.

But while I work on the definitive Hanson essay (NOT a joke)
, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Worst Ever Covers of Pop/Rock Songs
(non-celebrity edition: No Shatner or anything of that ilk need apply)

My strictly off the top of my head Top Five:

1; "Signs" -- Tesla

2. "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" -- Bryan Ferry

3. "The Ballad of John and Yoko" -- Hootie and the Blowfish

4. "White Lines (Don't Do It)" -- Duran Duran

5. "Let's Spend the Night Together" -- David Bowie


Jump in, won't you?

His Girlfriend is the Weather Lady!

As my esteemed (and inexplicably locked out, but working on it) blogmate frequently notes, Adam Schlesinger is a freaking genius. "An earworm factory," noted the divine watertiger in comments at Eschaton the other day. Another commenter pointed out that to create a film around a single song, in which the song appears repeatedly, and have people NOT end up hating the song, is an achievement in and of itself, certainly Oscar-worthy.



And so it behooves all pop fans to sit up and take notice when Fountains of Wayne comes out with a new record, as they did a couple of weeks ago.

Like all great pop bands, FOW has a formula: finding meaning in the small moments of small lives that create great resonance with their listeners. And so: getting a tattoo to impress a girl, sitting in traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge, trying to get home drunk from Port Authority, waiting for a refill on coffee. But from these more-or-less universal experiences, FOW crafts poetry. It's truly a thing of beauty.

And then there's the music. Thers frequently teases me that the boundaries of powerpop are hard to define, and thus there's no concrete generic definition beyond a Potter Stewart-y "I know it when I hear it," but that's not quite true. I would argue that powerpop is one of the most directly referential genres, that its structures and melodies and harmonies are instantly accessible, and often just-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue recognizable. It's not criticism, then, to identify the familiar elements in a powerpop song: the tribute is part of the point, and the ability to create new art from a familiar palette is a gift, not a flaw. The smack of instant recognition is joined by the wonder of discovery in the best powerpop.

And so, Traffic and Weather.

Like 2003's Welcome Interstate Managers, T&W focuses on the small things. "Someone to Love," the first single/video, sets up a traditional romantic structure: two lonely urban professionals, obviously destined for each other, on a collision course. Which fails. "Seth Shapiro is trying in vain/ To hail a taxi in the morning in the pouring rain/ Beth MacKenzie sees one just up ahead/ She cuts in front of him and leaves him for dead." And that's it: the missed moment, kismet wadded up in a gutter. These are the little tragedies, Schlesinger implies, the ones we don't even know about. It's heartbreaking, in a bizarre way. Contrast this with the comical "'92 Subaru," about remaking a Greenpeace-mobile into a boogie van.

As always with FOW records, the first three tracks are a 1-2-3 punch of glory, and the third here is "Yolanda Hayes," punctuated by a "Good Day Sunshine" short, sharp guitar line, and focusing on falling in love with the girl at the DMV. The meandering canvas of the next eleven sons touches on many other of these little moments in little lives: my own favorites include: "This Better Be Good," a snotty adolescent demand for an explanation from a cheating girlfriend; the fabulous title track; and "New Routine," focusing on the new rootlessness as a cure for boredom and unhappiness.

A great record, which will, as promised, worm its way into your consciousness. You'll be singing these in the shower for years.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Radio Heartbeat Power Pop Festival, NYC

From The Village Voice:
The gesture was characteristic of power pop's history of missed opportunities, unfortunate circumstances, and generally shitty luck. The scene, built on sugary melodies and electrifying riffs, blossomed in the early '70s but was bullied out of existence soon thereafter by punk. In their day, bands such as the Speedies, the Go, and Milk 'n' Cookies sold out shows at CB's and Max's and signed major deals, only to watch their heart-on-sleeve sentiments get pissed on by punk's more rousing needle-in-arm aesthetic. A few short years later, it was over. "We just got lost in the sauce," shrugs Justin Strauss, singer for NYC power-pop legends Milk 'n' Cookies, whose 1976 debut album rotted on Island Records' shelves for two years before the label released it just as the band dried up.

The idea of a festival (really, a record-collector rally) celebrating bands that could've been contenders sounds about as much fun as a lecture series from Other Music employees on how you don't appreciate Hot Chip enough. That wasn't the case with Radio Heartbeat. The classic bands, many of which hadn't performed in 30 years, talked less about finally getting their due and more about being happy that someone wants to hear them again. "After 25 years, I finally feel like I fit in," Sir David James Minehan, frontman for the Neighborhoods, told the crowd on Friday night during a wild and frantic set. Many of the old bands, especially Milk 'n' Cookies and the Go, gave killer performances that left super-fans smugly grinning at those of us who didn't own the out-of-print singles.


They should have asked us first. We could have helped.

h/t Thers

Plus, don't miss the NYC Pop Fest in May! (kudos to our regular reader Preznit Give Me Turkee, one of the organizers)

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

Anybody who doesn't think there's a direct line between suburban ingenue Lesley Gore telling a guy "You Don't Own Me" (in 1965)(can't embed, but definitely follow the link)
and the fiercely erotic Pink telling another guy that it's U + UR-Hand tonight (in 2006) really hasn't been paying attention.



Just saying.

Hero Takes a Fall

So the other day I'm watching the usual nitwits nattering on about the Mohammedan Menace over at Fox News when it dawns on me that in today's media-political climate, the chances of an oldies station giving any airplay to the Bangles hit "Walk Like an Egyptian" are probably a little slim.

And I don't even want to think about why I haven't heard Gene Pitney's "Mecca" on the radio of late. Sheesh.

But back to the Bangles, a group that doesn't get nearly as much respect as I think they deserve. A lot of that stems, I suspect, from the aforementioned "Walk Like an Egyptian," or more specifically the endearingly goofy video that accompanied it, which most people probably remember more than the song itself. It's such an iconic 80s artifact I guess folks find it an embarassing period piece nowadays, an unpleasant reminder of an era when Judd Nelson or Ally Sheedy could actually open a movie.



Another probably more important reason, however, is that the Bangles kind of devolved as they got more successful. Their first album is a classic, a near perfect confection of jangly guitars, soaring harmonies, and beautifully put together songs based on all the best 60s pop-psych and folk-rock models, the whole thing overlaid with a smart, subtle feminist lyrical perspective. Didn't sell that much, but as debuts go, it was the best thing of its kind since Marshall Crenshaw, and it's held up equally well. (And for those of you who missed it, here's a killer live version of one of its best songs, "Going Down to Liverpool", in which our heroines simply drip sex appeal and charisma).

Unfortunately, the second album (the one with all the breakthrough hits, including "Egyptian") while entertaining, was dangerously over-produced by comparison (the guitars seemed to disappear from the mix, a sure sign of trouble to come). And the third and final one was basically a crass attempt at glomming a bigger mainstream market share, with all the rough edges smoothed out and a plethora of horrific power ballads penned by hacks like Desmond Child (or at least that's the way I remember it). Sold like grits in Valdosta, but once the dust cleared the Bangles were pretty much over.

Which was a shame, because through it all the gals remained a kick-ass live band, and when given their head their pop instincts remained strong; it's no accident that they did a great cover of "A Hazy Shade of Winter", the obscure Simon and Garfunkel tune that for over a decade had all but sat up and begged for a hot rock re-wiring (A NYM fave!!). And I think it's a safe bet that more than a few of the Riot Grrls of the 90s were closet Bangles fans, so it's not like they weren't influential.



Oh well, the saddest words, might have been, blah blah blah.

Consumer Note: For a while, I thought I had to choose between two clips of "Liverpool." Originally, I was going to post only the official MTV video, directed by and co-starring Leonard Nimoy(!!!!). But then I saw the live one upstairs and frankly I just swooned. Man, did I have a crush on aubergine-tressed bassist Michael Steele. So finally I linked to both of them. Sue me already.





Ladies and gentlemen -- The Bangles!!!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

She's Just Gone Solo

All kidding aside, there are times when I find myself thinking that the late Sandy Denny was the greatest girl singer in history. Certainly, nobody else has ever been able to go from heartbreakingly vulnerable to pin-you-against-the-wall regal within the space of a single line like her.

I have a regrettable tendency to throw the word "goddess" around promiscuously, but Denny was the real deal. The sad thing is that had she been a teeny bit more conventionally attractive -- by which I mean skinny -- she would have been a superstar on the order of Linda Ronstadt.

These dark musings were inspired by stumbling across the following video on YouTube the other night. It's pretty much her signature song (of the autobiographical variety) and it's a document from a 1974 small club tour she did with a particularly nice incarnation of Fairport Convention; the lineup is the three Daves (Pegg. Swarbrick and Mattacks), plus her hubby Trevor Lucas and the brilliant guitarist Jerry Donahue.



I saw a show on the tour from pretty much the same audience perspective as whoever shot this clip, and I must say that seeing this after all the years was a moment beyond Proustian.

BTW, if you have the disposable income, there's a 3 CD Denny box set you really need to get, if only for the spine-tingling duet version of the Everly's "When Will I Be Loved" with Linda Thompson. As Cameron Crowe famously said of something else, you still can't buy a better album.

Update: One of the saddest things about Denny's way-too-early death in 1977 was that she had a barely seven month old daughter. Hubby Lucas died of a heart attack in 1989, and I'd always wondered what happened to the kid. I'm happy to report that a Google search just turned up the fact that Georgia Lucas gave birth to Sandy's grandchildren -- two beautiful twins, apparently -- in 2001.

To My Secret Internet Fiance, SteveNS

...who, in a moment of inspired brilliance, has nailed the metaphor of the year.

I give you: President Sanjaya.



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Consider: they are both in way over their heads, both look the part but cannot actually perform, both have vapid smiles at nothing, and both have sycophantic girls propping them up.

And Ann Althouse loves them both!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

America's Toastmaster General

From the 1988 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies, here's a chance to enjoy the spectacle of Mike Love of The Beach Boys making a braying jackass of himself.



The phrase that immediately comes to mind is -- oy gevalt.

BTW, Love was of course the driving force behind the creation of the Beach Boys masterpiece "Pet Sounds."

To hear him tell it, at least.

Tuesday Morning Brit Invasion Revival Blogging

From the Montreux Jazz Festival sometime in the early 80s, here's a great live clip of Elvis Costello and the guys from Squeeze doing Manfred Mann's Pretty Flamingo.



I've long fantasized that if they'd made a video for the song when it first came out the title object of desire would have been played by Jean Shrimpton. If they were filming it today I might cast -- hmm, not sure. Saffron Burrows, maybe.

Elvis actually sounds like he was genetically bred to sing this, BTW.

Update:Turns out that the otherwise obscure Mark Barkan, who wrote "Pretty Flamingo," was also the co-author of the geatest rock song of all time.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

From today's New York Times:

Rock bands including Oasis, the Killers and Kaiser Chiefs plan to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by recording their own versions of its tracks, Agence France-Presse reported. With the Fratellis, Travis, Razorlight and James Morrison, they are making cover versions of the songs for a two-hour BBC radio broadcast on June 2. The original album, released on June 1, 1967, included songs like “A Day in the Life,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Geoff Emerick, the audio engineer who recorded “Sgt. Pepper” at the Abbey Road studios in London, will record the new versions using the same four-track equipment.



Well, you kinda knew this was going to happen.

Actually, the March issue of MOJO magazine came with a similar CD, except that with the exception of Echo and the Bunnymen nobody had ever heard of any of the bands doing the (mostly) mediocre covers.

Huh.

And simels thought he was kidding?

After forty years spent thinking about what might have been, ejected former Beatle Pete Best has said he’s finally ready to make peace with Paul. “We’re not getting any younger,” he said. “We know what we’ve done and we’re not going to think any worse of each other if we had a chat now. God bless us all: it was all 40-odd years ago.”


via Rolling Stone

More Gratuitous Canada Bashing

An addenda to our post below on the New Pornographer's cover of "Your Daddy Don't Know," by Famous-Only-in-Canada 80s hair band Toronto:

NYMary asked me if I wanted to put up a clip of the Toronto version as well. Cowering in fear because of the Canadian Content law, I agreed.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't have it.

I am now a fugitive from Canadian justice. Mounties, do your worst.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Greetings From the Great White North

There are many words that can be used when the subject is Neko Case -- words like "divine," "the greatest female rock singer since Chrissie Hynde," and "this woman must have my baby" most immediately spring to mind -- but in any case, they are all rendered superfluous in the face of this video of Neko and her chums in the New Pornographers performing "Your Daddy Don't Know," an obscure song by Famous-Only-In-Canada 80s hair band Toronto.



There's a little story about that song. A while back, my generous to a fault co-blogger NYMary happened to send me a CD she'd burned of the new album by the aforementioned New Pornographers. It sat on my desk for a week or so, and when I got around to listening to it I was enjoying it immensely as expected until the final track --track 15, if memory serves -- suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only was it totally unlike everything that had come before (this was decidely not a product of the band's low-fi aesthetic) but in fact it sounded like the greatest Rick Springfield song that Rick Springfield never recorded. Compounding the mystery, when I looked up the album's track listing on Amazon, it turned out the album did not in fact have a track 15.

A frantic e-mail to NYMary soon cleared things up: She'd forgotten that she'd appended the song as a bonus track (it was from a single she had somewhere else or something) and yes, it did sound a bit like Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl," but it was in fact Neko and the gang doing an obscure song by the aforementioned Famous-Only-In-Canada 80s hair band Toronto.

Have I mentioned that Neko and the rest of the New Pornographers are Canadian?

Anyway, last night (through a set of circumstances too bizarre to recount here) I found myself in attendance at an A Cappella Battle of the Bands concert at Symphony Space In Manhattan (apparently there is a thriving A Capella band subculture in this country that I had been blissfully unaware of). So one of the groups comes out and starts wailing on "Your Daddy Don't Know" and they weren't even Canadian. I was floored, but even more so when they segued out of it and into "Jesse's Girl."

Hey -- I said it was a little story. I didn't say that it was going to be interesting.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold

In honor of Easter, our good friends (and acclaimed New York Times Op-Ed contributors) Sal and Tony of NYCD have amusing and informative things to say about some of this week's new CDs.

JENNIFER LOPEZ
A major release we forgot to mention is J-Lo's first all-Spanish language album... we don't remember the name of it. It's in Spanish. But in related news, there was a mass suicide at the Mall Of America, when 73 moviegoers drank liquid bleach during the closing credits of Monster-In-Law.

BRIGHT EYES - CASSADAGA. What can we say about Conor Oberst that is printable? Is it necessary to overhype every new artist that comes out? He's fine -- a harmless singer-songwriter with some good material and some real crap, too. We just can't buy into the hype, nor will we be seeing him at any one of his 219 nights at Town Hall.

GENESIS - REISSUES. Part of an ongoing reissue campaign to coincide with their semi-awaited reunion tour, five post-Gabriel LPs -- A TRICK OF THE TAIL, WIND & WUTHERING, ... AND THEN THERE WERE THREE, DUKE, and ABACAB -- get the SACD and DVD treatment. Each reissue features 5.1 Surround Sound, videos, and unreleased material. And, for those keeping track, these were the five records that the post-Gabriel lineup released that were worth your time.

LESLEY GORE - EVER SINCE. The first album in a mighty long time from a woman who once had a greatest hits album annotated by Tony, who cowrote the article in the Times with Sal. And Sal, like Tony, loves the early Lesley Gore stuff. And both Tony's dad and Sal's mother love them.

GRINDERMAN - GRINDERMAN.
Nick Cave's new lineup featuring a few Bad Seeds is an in-your-face, gritty rock n' roll extravaganza. It's so dark that when it went to night school, it was marked absent. But seriously, lemon ices.


SLY & THE FAMILY STONE - COLLECTION (7 CD BOX SET).
This has been promised for months, and even at this late date we don't know if it's going to show, but assuming it does, you're gonna want it. Their entire studio output from 1967-74, featuring such classics as STAND, THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON, and FRESH, not to mention the seminal and underrated debut, A WHOLE NEW THING, and everything else in between. Each set is individually numbered and newly remastered (four of the seven are remastered for the very first time), and all the discs feature anywhere from three to eight bonus tracks. This is STRICTLY LIMITED! The individual CDs get released on 4/24, or so they say. Either way, hop on it quick!!

Incidentally, I'm reviewing the above Sly reissues for Sound & Vision (AKA The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review) and we'll post a link as soon as its up.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Springtime for Hitler

Enjoy this fine video clip of Teutonic titwillow and footnote to New Wave history Klaus Nomi, won't you? I'm not so sure that Lou Christie did, but who knows.



For what it's worth, this guy used to have dinner all the time at a restaurant/bar I used to hang out at in the late 70s. He actually dressed like that when he went out in public.

It's a Mod Mod Mod Mod World

In honor of Pesach, here's a stunning live clip of the Creation and their brilliant Making Time.



Eddie Phillips, the guitar player seen here using a bow light years before "that asshole Jimmy Page" (source: Ray Davies) was so flash Pete Townshend actually asked him to join the Who.

Friday, April 06, 2007

I'm, Uh, Famous

I forgot to mention my occasional posting at Whiskey Fire, where the noble Thers is allowing me to vent politically and allow me to stay on topic here. It was a good opportunity, and he gets a lot more hits than we do here, so I'm glad to do it.

But I never thought for a moment I'd get a link from Andrew Sullivan.

Wow.

UPDATE: A celebratory video!

Weekend Listomania

Well, I see my cocaine stash is getting dangerously low, so my posting will be sporadic until I get in touch with Larry Kudlow's former dealer. In the meantime, here's a fun project for you guys.

Best Dylan Covers That Aren't By The Byrds or the Band!

My totally top of my head Top Eleven (in no particular order):

1. "Absolutely Sweet Marie" -- Jason and the Scorchers

2, "The Mighty Quinn" -- Manfred Mann

3. "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)" -- Eric Clapton (live at the 30th Anniversary concert)

4. "Chimes of Freedom" -- Bruce Springsteen

5. " Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" -- Neil Young (also live at the 30th Anniversary concert)

6. "Percy's Song" -- Fairport Convention

7. "If Not For You" -- George Harrison

8. "It Ain't Me Babe" -- The Turtles

9. "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" -- Them

10. "All Along the Watchtower" -- Jimi Hendrix.

11. "I'll Keep It With Mine" -- Nico

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Love You So Much Part Deux

Just wanted to add that the Sal and Tony who authored the brilliant NYTimes op-ed piece NY Mary posted below are our old friends from NYCD, the greatest neighborhood indie record store in the history of Western Civilization.

Nowadays, they do most of their business on-line. Hie thee over to their hilarious blog here and give them some love.

I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both

Would be an even more appropriate title for this Op-Ed from today's NYT. In its entirety (but not from behind the curtain).

Spinning Into Oblivion

DESPITE the major record labels’ best efforts to kill it, the single, according to recent reports, is back. Sort of.

You’ll still have a hard time finding vinyl 45s or their modern counterpart, CD singles, in record stores. For that matter, you’ll have a tough time finding record stores. Today’s single is an individual track downloaded online from legal sites like iTunes or eMusic, or the multiple illegal sites that cater to less scrupulous music lovers. The album, or collection of songs — the de facto way to buy pop music for the last 40 years — is suddenly looking old-fashioned. And the record store itself is going the way of the shoehorn.

This is a far cry from the musical landscape that existed when we opened an independent CD shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1993. At the time, we figured that as far as business ventures went, ours was relatively safe. People would always go to stores to buy music. Right? Of course, back then there were also only two ringtones to choose from — “riiiiinnng” and “ring-ring.”

Our intention was to offer a haven for all kinds of music lovers and obsessives, a shop that catered not only to the casual record buyer (“Do you have the new Sarah McLachlan and ... uh ... is there a Beatles greatest hits CD?”) but to the fan and oft-maligned serious collector (“Can you get the Japanese pressing of ‘Kinda Kinks’? I believe they used the rare mono mixes”). Fourteen years later, it’s clear just how wrong our assumptions were. Our little shop closed its doors at the end of 2005.

The sad thing is that CDs and downloads could have coexisted peacefully and profitably. The current state of affairs is largely the result of shortsightedness and boneheadedness by the major record labels and the Recording Industry Association of America, who managed to achieve the opposite of everything they wanted in trying to keep the music business prospering. The association is like a gardener who tried to rid his lawn of weeds and wound up killing the trees instead.

In the late ’90s, our business, and the music retail business in general, was booming. Enter Napster, the granddaddy of illegal download sites. How did the major record labels react? By continuing their campaign to eliminate the comparatively unprofitable CD single, raising list prices on album-length CDs to $18 or $19 and promoting artists like the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears — whose strength was single songs, not albums. The result was a lot of unhappy customers, who blamed retailers like us for the dearth of singles and the high prices.

The recording industry association saw the threat that illegal downloads would pose to CD sales. But rather than working with Napster, it tried to sue the company out of existence — which was like thinking you’ve killed all the roaches in your apartment because you squashed the one you saw in the kitchen. More illegal download sites cropped up faster than the association’s lawyers could say “cease and desist.”

By 2002, it was clear that downloading was affecting music retail stores like ours. Our regulars weren’t coming in as often, and when they did, they weren’t buying as much. Our impulse-buy weekend customers were staying away altogether. And it wasn’t just the independent stores; even big chains like Tower and Musicland were struggling.

Something had to be done to save the record store, a place where hard-core music fans worked, shopped and kibitzed — and, not incidentally, kept the music business’s engine chugging in good times and in lean. Who but these loyalists was going to buy the umpteenth Elton John hits compilation that the major labels were foisting upon them?

But instead, those labels delivered the death blow to the record store as we know it by getting in bed with soulless chain stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart. These “big boxes” were given exclusive tracks to put on new CDs and, to add insult to injury, they could sell them for less than our wholesale cost. They didn’t care if they didn’t make any money on CD sales. Because, ideally, the person who came in to get the new Eagles release with exclusive bonus material would also decide to pick up a high-speed blender that frappĂ©ed.

The jig was up. It didn’t matter that even a store as small as ours carried hundreds of titles you’d never see at Best Buy and was staffed by people who actually knew who Van Morrison was, or that Tower Records had the entire history of recorded music under one roof while Costco didn’t carry much more than the current hits. A year after our shop closed, Tower went out of business — something that would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier. The customers who had grudgingly come to trust our opinions made the move to online shopping or lost interest in buying music altogether. Some of the most loyal fans had been soured into denying themselves the music they loved.

Meanwhile, the recording industry association continues to give the impression that it’s doing something by occasionally threatening to sue college students who share their record collections online. But apart from scaring the dickens out of a few dozen kids, that’s just an amusing sideshow. They’re not fighting a war any more than the folks who put on Civil War regalia and re-enact the Battle of Gettysburg are.

The major labels wanted to kill the single. Instead they killed the album. The association wanted to kill Napster. Instead it killed the compact disc. And today it’s not just record stores that are in trouble, but the labels themselves, now belatedly embracing the Internet revolution without having quite figured out how to make it pay.

At this point, it may be too late to win back disgruntled music lovers no matter what they do. As one music industry lawyer, Ken Hertz, said recently, “The consumer’s conscience, which is all we had left, that’s gone, too.”

It’s tempting for us to gloat. By worrying more about quarterly profits than the bigger picture, by protecting their short-term interests without thinking about how to survive and prosper in the long run, record-industry bigwigs have got what was coming to them. It’s a disaster they brought upon themselves.

We would be gloating, but for the fact that the occupation we planned on spending our working lives at is rapidly becoming obsolete. And that loss hits us hard — not just as music retailers, but as music fans.

Tony Sachs and Sal Nunziato own an online music retail business.


Sad.

h/t Atrios

Dead Man Rocking

Have I mentioned how much I like using the phrase Live Zombies?

One of the most pleasant musical experiences I've yet had in this young century was catching the 2005 reunion tour by Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, working together as The Zombies for the first time since 1967. So I'm pleased to report that Rhino Records has just released a two CD document of said tour, "Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London."

Like the Manhattan show I attended, the gig immortalized here includes chill-inducing version of songs from the band's sublime "Odessey and Oracle" album, plus some old Argent hits (Argent bassist Jim Rodford, later of the Kinks, is in the band), a few of Colin's solo efforts (including the gorgeous version of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" he did with the other Dave Stewart on Stiff in the early 80s) and of course Zombies numbers both familiar ("Time of the Season," "She's Not There") and semi-obscure (the oft-covered "I Love You") and wonderful ("Indication," perhaps their hardest hard-rocker). I could have done without the Argent stuff (I don't think anybody needs to hear "God Gave Rock N Roll To You" ever again, quite frankly). But most of what's here is pretty remarkable, if for no other reason than the fact that Blunstone's breathy choirboy tenor -- perhaps the most inimitably gorgeous vocal sound to have emanated from the British Invasion -- is totally undimmed by time.

To prove our point here's a nice live clip of Time of the Season from a different gig on the tour, and as a bonus, the original band doing Tell Her No on "Shindig" back in the day.



Oh, and Rhino's also releasing a DVD video of the album if you're so inclined.

Live Zombies, indeed

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Music Biz Confidential

From the vastly entertaining 1990 documentary Happy Together, here's a clip of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (AKA Flo and Eddie) of the Turtles discussing their managerial problems over the years.



Hilarious stuff.

But aspiring bands please take note.

(A tip of the Powerpop Hat to my good friend Laura Giantonio, travel agent to the rockstars, for hipping me to this).

It's Monkey Time!

If there was a better rock song commercially available in 2006 than this instant classic by the unrepentent New York Dolls then I, for one, did not hear it.



Don't miss the bit with Dick Cheney shooting somebody in the face.

Save Soviet Jewelry

The Keith Richards-snorted-his-dad story is, in fact, untrue.

In case you missed it, this little yarn first appeared in the pages of London's notoriously unreliable New Musical Express. The magazine quoted the Rolling Stones guitarist as saying, "The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared. ... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

This wildly dubious quote proved irresistible to newspapers, wire services and TV and online outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, from The Associated Press to Forbes, The Drudge Report, Breitbart and E! Online. In fact, it was such a great story that nobody bothered trying to confirm it with a Richards representative — why spoil the fun with facts?

In a buzz-killing mood, though, we decided to check with Richards' longtime manager, Jane Rose. We asked her about the dad-snorting quotes in the NME interview. She responded with an e-mail:

"Said in jest," she explained. "Can't believe anyone took [it] seriously."


Emily Litella regrets the error.

Nevermind.

What's terrifying is that it was completely believable, and why not? Did he also not snort rat poison? --NYM


Keith Richards Remembers his Papa.

Die Yuppie Scum

Robert Christgau -- the Dean of American Rock Critics, and one of the few people left in this business who's actually older than me -- is....well, freaking out or something.

Over at his new home at MSN, in this week's edition of his long running Consumer Guide he has the following to say (in the "Dud" category) about the new Thom Yorke album.

I'd hoped that either I would learn to like this Thommy Boy excursus or the disaffected young professionals who hang on his every megrim would call an anxiety attack what it is. No such luck. Few believe Yorke's solo daybyew has the weight of a Radiohead album, that increasingly rare and invariably overrated thing.

Setting aside the above's general incoherence and the reference to "disaffected young professionals" (presumably the ingrates at the Village Voice who kicked him out the door -- shamefully in my opinion, but still):

"Yorke's solo daybyew"?

Oh I get it -- solo debut.

Tres hep coinage, Bob. Give us a hollaback when you get a chance.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Speechless, Part 2

I got nuthin'.

Rolling Stones wildman Keith Richards claims he snorted his own father's ashes during a drugs binge.

Richards made the extraordinary admission in an interview with NME magazine.

"The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father," he said.

"He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared, he didn't give a s***.

"It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

Richards' father, Bert, died in 2002 aged 84.


But a certain coblogger of mine has used this opportunity to bitchslap Joke Line, which I find completely appropriate.

Timeless Melody

17 years later, you still can't buy a better album than the eponymous debut of The La's. Every song a perfect little unpretentious (some of it so bare bones it could pass for skiffle) pop gem. Was it irony or coincidence that these youngsters were from Liverpool? Both, actually.

And don't even get me started on leader/songwriter Lee Mavers' vocals. I can't think of a rock frontman before or since who managed to sound simultaneously so winsome and so knowing.

So why wasn't there a second La's album? Rumors abound, and over the years Mavers, who's a bit of a recluse, has developed a (perhaps undeserved) reputation as a tragic burnout a la Syd Barrett. Of late there've been a few hints in the Brit music press that perhaps he's getting something together, but to date nothing conclusive

So while we wait, here's a terrific live clip of their genre-defining signature song There She Goes from the old Letterman show, in 1991. Rickenbacker twelve-string heaven.




Incidentally, there are people who say this sunnily innocent-sounding number is about heroin. Is it? I've listened to the damn thing for what seems like a thousand times and -- damned if I know.

Update: I just noticed -- Letterman's holding up a cardboard CD longbox at the beginning of the clip. Some of you younger readers may not know that's how we enjoyed the rock-and-roll music back in the day.

New FOW!

In my mailbox:
Fountains of Wayne's new album, Traffic And Weather, is being released TODAY by Virgin Records. Entertainment Weekly calls it "a simply wonderful CD of songs about love, lust and loneliness."

Order here.

Spring tour dates on sale now! Details available at the newly redesigned fountainsofwayne.com (make sure to click around for surprises).

New video for "Someone To Love" starring Demetri Martin coming soon.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Classical Music on Doctor Who



h/t dan mcenroe

New Modest Mouse

Heard a review today of the new Modest Mouse CD. As with a lot of the neo-80's bands, I like it when I hear it, but I'm pretty agnostic when it's not actively in front of me.

I may have to change that perspective. My students have been recommending Modest Mouse to me for years, but I've been resistant for reasons which aren't all that clear to me. Then I heard today that this with new record, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, veteran Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr had joined up, giving them actual 80's cred. Nice. And it's not too Smithsy, at least not based on what I've heard, so extra nice.

Here's the first single, "Dashboard," which the link above describes as:

the most successful track on We Were Dead is the one that pushes hardest against the group's established formula: the almost gaudy single "Dashboard". With Modest Mouse's trademark itchy guitars all but drowned out by brass fanfares and slurring strings, "Dashboard" is the Vegas version of "Float On", and it works as an experiment to see just how far they can push the dissonance of Brock's multi-tracked barking against slick, commercially ambitious surroundings.




Good song, cool video. I can't let it pass, however, without noting its the clear inspiration:

The Tigerbeat Goes On

Extremely irksome New York Times pop music critic Kelefa Sanneh weighs in on some new CDs with typically too-cutesy-for-words results, complete with the obligatory reference to Billboard Chart listings.

This kid is rapidly turning into the Rex Reed of rock writing.

High Fidelity

Courtesy of my good friends Sal and Tony at NYCD, here's an informative and amusing preview of some of this week's fine new audio products.

BLACK SABBATH - "THE DIO YEARS." Ah, the Dio years -- how the mere mention of the name mingles memory with desire. Their first post-Ozzy record, "Heaven & Hell," is arguably a hard-rock classic. Their two followups (follows up?), not so much. This collection compiles some of each, with three newly recorded tracks, just in time for Pesach -- and their sold-out reunion tour.

HILARY DUFF - "DIGNITY." Dignity is a word that instantly springs to mind when we think of Hilary Duff. (Have you SEEN "Cheaper By The Dozen 2"?) And this is her most dignified album to date.

KINGS OF LEON - "BECAUSE OF THE TIMES." First there was Arcade Fire. Then the Killers. Now, the third most overrated band in the history of overrating bands, the Kings Of Leon, release their third not-so-good CD. Buy it now! Only in theaters.

BEYONCE - "B'day (Deluxe Edition)". Just in case you still like CDs, here's another ripoff that's sure to try your patience. This time, you get a bonus disc with THREE brand new, never-released songs, and SIX brand new, never-released songs in Spanish! This is, as our Spanish friends say, "Caca de vaca."

TIMBALAND - "TIMBALAND PRESENTS SHOCK VALUE." The Eugene Landy of Britney Spears' life drops his new joint which features collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Fall Out Boy, The Hives and Elton John. Our Yiddish friends refer to this as "trayf."

BTW, for those of you who don't live in Manhattan, NYCD was until recently the Greatest Neighborhood Indie Record Store in the history of Western Civilization. Now they mostly do business in cyberspace.

Go to their blog and give them some love.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Totally True. No Kidding.

We don't believe it either, but according to the New York Post:

Beatles to Reunite.

Paul and Ringo will be joined by Julian and Linda Harrison (the babe from the original "Planet of the Apes."

Here's the first video.