29 September 2007


Mets win, Phils lose. But hey, we've been in tougher spots before.

26 September 2007

Greil Marcus is Smarter Than the Both of Us (Put Together)

Just for the record, the name is misspelled on the book jacket

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Writers have been known to drink too much. Salman Rushdie was once accompanied by men with concealed weapons. But authors are not wild on tour. They are tired. Rock bands are not wild on tour either. They've just read Bataille's "The Notion of Expenditure" and want to try it out.

Powell's has an Ink Q&A interview up with one of my favorite authors, the incontestably brilliant rock-cum-cultural critic Greil Marcus. To celebrate, the paperback edition of his latest book, The Shape of Things to Come, has been knocked down 30% to a well worth your while $10.50. I can't say that it's his best work (I strongly recommend In the Fascist Bathroom and The Dustbin of History), but it is a strong testament to his thrillingly kinetic intellect and his ability to craft a consistently compelling read even out of the most complex and convoluted thesis (John Winthrop-to-Twin Peaks-to-Pere Ubu in under 350 pages).

Signs That 'Idiocracy' is a Documentary From the Future #124

This is not an internet hoax

So last week, I talked a bit, indirectly, about the reissue boom fueled by the music industry's desire to sell you the same damn album over and over again. I'm not here to belabor the point, but come on, this is a two disc deluxe edition of a seven-year old, widely available album that has precisely one thing to commend it: the formerly ubiquitous Summer of '00 mopedown "Kryptonite". Which you can purchase for 99 cents from iTunes, or, better yet, illegally download for free. Which, come to think of it, you can do with every song on the original issue of The Better Life. Which, come to think of it, is what's killing the music industry, which, with reissues like this, is demonstrating why it deserves to die. Kind of like an Escher drawing.

On the bright side, that 14-disc, 3 DVD Nickelback boxed set complete with Chad Kroeger Nativity Set carved from depleted uranium should be exclusively hitting Best Buy any day now.

25 September 2007

Rip Van Kemp

"Sir, 'The Shocker' is with your pinky, not your ring finger."

Former Congressman, Bob Dole VP candidate, Buffalo Bills QB, and supply-sider Jack Kemp (R-NY) made either an astute or completely oblivious observation in last Wednesday's Washington Post. The article, "Debate No-Shows Worry GOP Leaders", addressed the refusal of leading Republican presidential candidates to attend debates targeted at primarily African-American and Latino voters. Rudolph Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt "Way!" Romney, and John McCain have all begged off a debate hosted by talk show host Tavis Smiley to be held at Baltimore's Morgan State University and aired on PBS; all save for John McCain also skipped a similar forum broadcast on the Spanish-language network Univision. Concerned that the GOP could be sabotaging its future electoral prospects by essentially bricking itself off from the growing electoral influence of minority groups, Congressman Kemp said:
We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us. What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote.
The cheap laugh here is obviously the idea that Republicans don't already meet in a country club in the suburbs. Arguably, a not insignificant reason for the Democrats' 2006 victories was that voters in swing districts and states perceived their representatives to be out of touch, pigging out on the tabs of K Street lobbyists instead of addressing their constituents' needs and concerns. The GOP, which had swept into Washington in 1994 with a mandate to purge the excesses of Democrat's nearly 40 year reign, left town twelve years later as the lap dog of America's wealthy corporate elite.

Kemp's criticism is particularly resonant because he is not the first Republican to evoke the Arcadian imagery of the country club to characterize the party's aloofness. In fact, "Country Club Republican" is the gentlemanly pejorative for practitioners of the socially moderate-cum-liberal, business-friendly but economically "responsible", non-ideological Republicanism practiced by the Dwight Eisenhowers, Nelson Rockefellers, and Tom Keans of the world. The movement conservatives who currently control the GOP came to power deriding these Mayflower-descended elites, sensing that they were not sufficiently dedicated to a socially conservative, anti-tax message - the message the party has used to successfully woo millions of working class whites into the GOP fold. The Country Club set has managed to retain control of the Republican Party across the Northeast, where the mainstream GOP message holds the least appeal, but their grip even here is tenuous; they are being squeezed into irrelevance by the increasing regional dominance of the Democratic Party, a development rank-and-file Republicans are attributing more and more to insufficient ideological purity amongst their leadership.

Kemp's argument is merely a logical extension of this viewpoint. Taking the place of patrician stuffed shirts is the burgeoning "if you're white, you're right" mentality of Republican leaders, reacting both to the hard line anti-illegal immigration positions of the rank-and-file, as well as an implicit anti-urbanism that is now virtually a plank in the party platform. Republican presidential candidates, concerned with appealing to primary voters, are under tremendous pressure to demonstrate their bona fides on the immigration issue. This manifests itself not only in a game of "see-if-you-can-top-this" vis-a-vis who's immigration plan is more draconian, but as a rhetorical firefight where no one (again, save John McCain, and even he's trying to change the subject) wants to be seen ceding a sliver of ground. Skipping the Univision debate was a short term tactical maneuver designed to avoid the appearance of pandering to an audience unschooled in the Mother tongue - a voting block unlikely to provide much support in, say, the Iowa caucuses.

Essentially Republicans find themselves straddling the fault line between the discontent of their traditional white base and the fact that Latinos represent the fastest growing segment of the American electorate. While GOP candidates are quick to differentiate between legal and illegal immigration, and swifter still to decry overt xenophobia or racism, the fact of the matter is that the ugly tenor of the debate is still audible through the static. Many Latinos who are either American citizens or reside here legally fear that the tremendous gains their community has made, economically and in terms of larger social acceptance, could be eradicated by a heavy handed enforcement-oriented approach towards illegal aliens. By identifying itself too strongly with anti-illegal immigration policies, the GOP could unintentionally signal to Latinos that it is either uninterested in their votes or actively working against their best interests - a perception mirroring the attitude of African-Americans towards the party. Unlike African-Americans, however, the GOP cannot concede the Latino vote to the Democrats without dealing a severe blow to the party's ability to compete, especially in swing states where Latino voters sometimes form a significant proportion of the electorate.

Kemp's concerns, however, are not merely a reaction to the arithmetic of political expediency. If the Republican party is to survive as a viable political organization deep into the 21st century, it is going to have to not only win a greater share of the minority vote, it is going to have to convert more minorities to Republicanism. President Bush, who carried 40% of the Latino vote in 2004, was attuned to this distinction, effectively highlighting the links between his governing philosophy and the traditional cultural conservatism and strong work ethic characterizing many Latino American households. He has also prioritized the placement of African-Americans and Latinos in positions of prominence in his administration: Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice as his Secretaries of State, ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and former Secretary of Education Rod Paige. One can characterize these appointments as mere tokenism, not indicative of the overall Bush track record, but it should be acknowledged that tokenism is certainly not confined solely to the Republican party, and that even token appointments can send a strong signal about a person or party's political values.

Fascinatingly, Bush's most ambitious attempt to enhance Republican prestige with Latinos was his plan to dispose with the illegal immigration issue once and for all - the very same plan that all of the Republicans hoping to succeed him (again, save John McCain) are defining themselves in opposition to. The President proposed an amnesty program that would offer the estimated 12 million illegal aliens residing in the United States a path to citizenship and would establish a temporary guest worker program, permitting migrant laborers to enter and exit the U.S. legally. It's a powerful idea; by enacting such an amnesty, Bush could essentially have his own Lyndon Johnson moment, enfranchising a significant new bloc of voters while demonstrating to Latino community that the Republican Party is capable of advancing its interests. It's not precisely analogous to 1964; after all, the Democrats are unlikely to try and exploit an amnesty's polarizing effects, as the Republican Party did with the Civil Rights movement in developing the so-called "Southern Strategy." However, it would play a big role in maintaining the GOP's viability with Latino voters, preventing the Democrats from gaining an immutable political advantage. An amnesty would be a practical demonstration of the Republicans' vaunted commitment to hard work and economic opportunity; what could be better than allowing more people a shot at owning a piece of the American dream?

Bush's amnesty is, of course, dead at the hands of his fellow Republicans. Certainly I don't wish to characterize the President's plan as flawless or perhaps even the best course of action, but the policy's fate was not arrived at based upon its merits anyway. The GOP's base revolted against the very concept of an amnesty, and Republican leaders, already reeling from Iraq and scandal after scandal, decided that backing any version of the President's plan was too costly. The primary circus, with its demands for demonstrations of fidelity to the mainstream Republican program, is only serving to exacerbate the situation.

Queried about the front-runners' apparent unwillingness to address Latino and African-American audiences, one unnamed adviser to a GOP presidential candidate retorted, as only an anonymous hack can, "What's the win?" The moral response: having a presidential candidate demonstrate that he won't totally ignore roughly a quarter of the American people, a figure sure to have grown since the 2000 Census. The cynical response: you won't join the Whigs in the history books by 2050.

19 September 2007

Licht und Blindheit

Thou shalt not covet

This fall, Anton Corbijn's long-awaited film about the life and times of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis, Control, will finally see release. Between 1977 and 1980, Curtis and his Joy Division bandmates delivered two classic albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, and several indelible singles ("Transmission", "Atmosphere", "Love Will Tear Us Apart"). Curtis, an epileptic whose condition was worsened by the stresses of a rock and roll lifestyle and a collapsing marriage, killed himself at age 23 on the eve of the band's first American tour; the rest of the group went on to form New Order.

Control caps a peak in the Joy Division nostalgia boom that began with the revival of the post-punk sound by acts like The Strokes and Interpol and the subsequent release of Michael Winterbottom's Tony Wilson/Factory Records biopic, 24 Hour Party People. Certainly Joy Division wasn't rescued from obscurity per se; the critical and commercial success of New Order coupled with the particulars of Ian Curtis' demise ensured that the band's legacy would endure at some level. Yet it's clear that the band's influence hasn't been this pervasive since the 1980s, with Curtis himself seeming of late to hopscotch Kurt Cobain as the martyr-suicide du jour.

Attempts to commercially exploit this renewed interest in Joy Division have been strangely absent to this point; even as New Order has rolled out two new studio albums and several (mostly redundant) comps this decade, JD product has been limited to spartan CD editions of the aforementioned Unknown Pleasures and Closer; posthumous odds-and-sods comp Still, excellent 7 and 12-inch roundup Substance; and the botched best-of, Permanent. There has also been an overview box set, Heart and Soul; a collection of BBC recordings; and two recently issued live albums of dubious audio quality, Preston 28 February 1980 and the superior Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979. Of course, the market is also flooded with all manner of bootlegs, demos and other such ephemera, most prominently recordings made by the band in their embryonic stage when they were still known as Warsaw (they changed the name when it was suggested that posters for gigs could be mistaken for travel adverts).

The release of Control changes all of that. Most obviously (and inessentially) comes the soundtrack album for the film, featuring new compositions from New Order; tracks from JD influences such as David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, and Roxy Music; Joy Division originals "Dead Souls", "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and "Atmosphere"; the cast's take on "Transmission"; and a possibly unfortunate cover of "Shadowplay" by The Killers. As an aural accompaniment to the film, the track selection appears to be pretty choice, if not precisely earth-shattering; as a stand-alone album, it seems that most Joy Division fans, which I assume will make up the film's core audience (at least in America), would already by pretty well steeped in this musical milieu - if you're not, well, get thee to record store and buy Low, The Idiot, and Never Mind the Bollocks.

More promising then is the planned October 30th reissue of Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and Still as 2-disc sets, each backed by a previously unreleased live set (no mean feat, considering how picked over the Joy Division vaults must be right now). Unknown Pleasures and Closer are canonical records, and the idea that they have been allowed to languish in their original masters while Speak & Spell and The Top get lavish 2 CD editions is pretty perverse, even if you think of the whole reissue trend as nothing but grave-robbing and extortion. The inclusion of Still in the reissue campaign indicates that it is considered by the executors of the band's recorded legacy as part of the official, original discography; a much-maligned attempt to stem the tide of bootlegs that flooded the market following Curtis' death, the record functions more as a monument to the group than a coherent album.

The "For Fans Only" highlight of this cornucopia is the reissue of Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and Still in their original incarnations on 180-gram virgin vinyl. I am not one of those people who believe that everything necessarily sounds better on vinyl, but is important to note that Joy Division's albums were initially created with the physical constraints and possibilities of the medium in mind. How will the bands' cold, distant sound, seemingly tailor made for digital ones-and-zeroes, translate to the ostensibly warmer sound of vinyl? Listening would certainly be a more proactive experience, with the requirement that the record be flipped from side A to side B drawing out the album's underlying themes, highlighting the rationale behind the track listing (something regrettably absent in the CD era) and aiding the listener's understanding of the record's psychological topography. Perhaps, though, the greatest pleasure will be the opportunity to see Peter Saville's remarkable sleeve designs as they were originally intended: the iconic dying pulsar of Unknown Pleasures, the portrait of an Italian family tomb on Closer (this sleeve was criticized as a crass attempt to cash in on Ian Curtis' death, though the design was settled upon while he was still alive), and the stately clothbound sleeve of Still.

Each of these records, reissued by Rhino, may be obtained separately: roughly $18 a piece for Unknown Pleasures and Closer and $50 for Still (ostensibly the original sleeve effect is reproduced on the reissue, thus explaining such a princely sum for a two LP set). Or, in what I can only hope is a nod to Factory Record's legendary commitment to opulence in design, you can have all three albums together in a special limited edition box designed by Peter Saville. Cost: $200. That's right, you could have all three records separately for under $90, or you could spend an extra $110 and get a cloth covered box as well. That is, a cloth covered box strictly limited to 2,000 pieces, with none to be manufactured in the future.

Somewhere, Tony Wilson is smiling.

18 September 2007

"Getting the Reissue Treatment"


Pitchfork loves reissues, because they give the site's writers a chance to evaluate albums that they are already pretty familiar with, allowing them to bask in the soft glow of nostalgia, correct the historical record, or bury that ax they have to grind square in someone's head. Hell, they've reviewed Pet Sounds twice already! So, as we eagerly anticipate having a stroke at the inevitably sub-10.0 review for the upcoming reissue of Unknown Pleasures, a random sampling of the reissue goodness that the Fork has bestowed on us thus far:

Pink Floyd - Piper at the Gates of Dawn: 40th Anniversary Edition
(Capitol 1967; r: 2007)

Piper is a trendy pick for favorite Floyd album because a) it is the only record to feature psych-savant and tragic acid/mental illness casualty Syd Barret and b) a lot of people really hate Roger Waters. This self-explanatory reissue comes in either a two or three disc package, the two disc containing the stereo and mono mixes of the record, and the three disc with non-album singles and b-sides. According to reviewer Joshua Klein, this is not a treasure trove: "This new edition underscores the reality that EMI and/or the surviving members of Pink Floyd-- especially since they shifted from band to de facto corporation-- have been either downright stingy with their unreleased archives or hopelessly coy about what may lie in there..." As for the record itself, the critical consensus is largely upheld: "Few would criticize the merits of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn itself (as reflected in the rating above)-- it's an essential album." Bonus anti-Wall drive-by: "By 1980's The Wall, Pink Floyd had become sterile and solipsistic."

Wire - Pink Flag/Chairs Missing/154
(Harvest 1977, 1978, Warner Bros. 1979; r: 2006)

Wire's first three albums constitute something of a rock snob holy trinity. Released within a three year span, each record displayed a marked evolution in sound over the last, with Pink Flag's articulate, minimal first wave UK punk spilling over into the Eno-inflected ambient experimentalism of Chairs Missing and terminating in 154's even more obscure foray into synth-layered post-punk. The reissues are most notable for stripping the bonus tracks off of the previously available (but difficult to find) CD editions, thus presenting the records as they were initially intended by the band. Joe Tangari uses his second bite of the apple to respectfully appraise Wire Mk. 1 (the band ceased making music for a time after 154, famously claiming to have run out of ideas), and affirm the idea that 154 is ever so slightly inferior to its predecessors; this is completely bullshit, as tracks like "Outdoor Miner", "Map Ref. 41°N 93°W.", and "The 15th" amply demonstrate.
RATINGS: 10.0, 10.0, 9.1

The Stooges - The Stooges/Fun House
(Elektra 1969, 1970; r: Rhino, 2005)

My biggest problem with Pitchfork is the arbitrary nature of its vaunted numerical rating system: can we possibly discern within a decimal place on a 1-to-10 scale how good a record is? Joe Tangari's review of the first two Stooges albums is case in point. Both albums are widely acknowledged as essential progenitors of the American glam and punk scenes of the 1970s - assigning a numerical value is kind of like saying the pyramids at Giza are 0.5 points better than Stonehenge. Plus a sub-9.0 rating for The Stooges ought to be enough to have your rock critic credentials permanently revoked. So we're saying that Strawberry Jam is better than the first Stooges record? Really?
RATINGS: 8.9, 9.4

Beck - The Information: Deluxe Edition
(Interscope 2006; r: 2007)

You've heard of inessential reissues: surely Elvis Costello's back catalogue does not require an new exhumation every time he jumps record companies. Well, this is an inessential review of an inessential reissue. To be fair to Interscope, this kind of ex post facto "value added" repackaging doesn't quite fall under the rubric of reissuing so much as it is an attempt to sucker Beck's most ardent fans into buying the same record twice, so that they might have the cursory bonus CD of six remixes. The review, however, is a clearly a second crack at The Information itself, which P'fork reviewed only six months earlier, with Ryan Dombal assigning the record a 6.9, saying "Although The Information contains some of his most aware, intriguing lyrical head-scratchers yet, the familiar musical settings are something of a letdown from an artist famous for complete reinvention." Curiously, Nate Patrin brings a tentative, "we come to praise Beck, not to bury him" approach to his write-up: "The Information's a pretty decent album, and time's been fair to it: After half a year's worth of exposure, the moments that sounded like blatant sore-thumb references on first listen...feel a bit more integrated into a greater sonic whole, while the album's less-immediate experimental tracks...have worked their way from dull, instant skip-overs into tolerable diversions." Wow. Sounds pretty...noncommittal. Luckily, Pitchfork is free, or else this review might be accused of serving solely as a space-filling cash-in.

Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica: Extended Edition
(Epic, 2000; r: 2004)

So you were wondering when we were going to get to that whole "ax to grind" bit I was talking about: well here it is. Initially, Pitchfork gave TM&A an eye-popping 9.8 review, with ex-Forker Brent "I made that story up about the Beastie Boys' publicist" DiCrescenzo capping off perhaps the most positive review written by anyone about anything ever by claiming that "OK Computer must be mentioned, for Modest Mouse just got invited to the same club." Well, four years after its initial release, a remastered TM&A (Modest Mouse's first record for major label Epic) was reissued with new cover art and bonus tracks in anticipation of the follow-up, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. Re-reviewer Stephen M. Deusner makes it clear that he has few quibbles with DiCrescenzo's original assessment; his take is all about the apparent sacrilege of the reissue concept itself. The new art's no good ("too abstract, muted, and minimalist"), the new mix is apparently sharper but evidently superfluous ("I doubt there have been any great strides in audio technology that would render the original primitive"), and the bonus tracks pointlessly extend an already-marathon listen while adding nothing new. Deusner characterizes this issue of TM&A as a "near-deluxe" edition, despite the paltry extras and the $12 price tag; I would suggest that it was a fair attempt by Epic to cash in on the new Modest Mouse fans garnered by "Float On".

Pavement - Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe
(Matador, 1992; r: 2002)

Sadly, Chris Ott's review of Matador's super deluxe ten year anniversary reissue of Pavement's outstanding debut appears to no longer be available on the Pitchfork website. From what I recall, however, it was one of the few Fork meta reviews that actually worked really well (Nick Sylvester's take on Daft Club is pretty priceless too). Instead of turning in some sober reassessment or attempting to put his own critical stamp on Slanted, Ott's review was a fawning devotional to the album handwritten on yellow ruled notebook paper. He succeeds by communicating the idea that a record can be so beloved and idealized by the listener that any attempt at critical distance would be a total put-on; it's right up there with reviewing your first kiss.
RATING: 10.0

17 September 2007

I Guess He Didn't See "Swing Kids"

"Yeah, I'm the worst person ever."

Apparently, this is real:

Dance Band Rules And Regulations During The 3rd Reich

In the repertoire of light orchestras and dance bands, pieces in fox-trot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20%;

In the repertoire of this so-called jazz type, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life ("Kraft durch Freude"), rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;

As to the tempo, too, preference is to be given to brisk compositions as opposed to slow ones (so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro commensurate with the Aryan sense for discipline and moderation. On no account will negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) be permitted, or in solo performances (so-called breaks);

So- called jazz compositions may contain at the most 10% syncopation; the remainder must form a natural legato movement devoid of hysterical rhythmic references characteristic of the music of the barbarian races and conducive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so- called "riffs");

Strictly forbidden is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (e.g. so-called cowbells, flex-a-tone, brushes,etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of brass-wind instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yell (so-called wa- wa, in hat, etc.);

Prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);

The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions; plucking of strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality. If a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, let strict care be taken lest the string is allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;

Provocative rising to one's feet during solo performance is forbidden;

Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);

All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them violon-celli, violas, or possibly a suitable folk instrument.

Signed, Baldur von Blodheim
Reichsmusicfuhrer und Oberscharfuhrer SS

14 September 2007

I Have Seen Rock and Roll Future and Its Name Is

Booker Owes Me a T-Shirt: The Classic Jams of K-Rock

Bet you never thought you'd see this again

I, like most of you, am of the last generation of Americans whose teenage years came and went before the advent of the mp3, illegal downloading, and the iPod. Sure, we had computers, and even internet connections - mostly dial-up, and mostly via the Gestapo of the information autobahn, America Online (I got TOS-ed once for heckling in a chat room; how do you like me now, motherfuckers?) - but hi-tech was still on the periphery as a source for both information and entertainment.

In celebration of those heady days of driving around, hanging out in parking lots, and whacking the shit out of mailboxes with baseball bats, here are some highlights from the Voice of Liberty, WXRK New York, K-Rock who recently arose from the dead when its abortive shift to an all-talk format flopped.

Lo Fidelity Allstars - "Battleflag"

There was a time when The Prodigy, The Crystal Method et al were actually considered fodder for mainstream rock radio. If it came out a year or two earlier or later, "Battleflag" would have been a Brits-only curio, like Denim or Ocean Colour Scene or something, instead of a rather frequently spun K-Rock fave. Still tough to believe this was sammiched between Metallica and The Offspring or something.

The Offspring - "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)"

Speaking of which. There was once a time when The Offspring were a semi-respectable grunge-punk (?) act with alternahits like "Come Out and Play" and the still classic "Self Esteem". "Pretty Fly" pretty much put a lid on that phase, turning the Offspring into a full-time sub-Blink 182 dick-and-fart joke outfit. Admittedly, having no taste when I was 16, I thought the shit was great.

Incubus - "Drive"

Admittedly, I never had much use for Incubus; their music is eyeliner-wearing puss-rock, but for some reason, K-Rock listeners do love their puss-rock balladry (see: Stain'd). I imagine these guys are driving around in the band Scion, calling each other bro and drinking Mad Dog 20/20 out of a paper bag.

Powerman 5000 - "When Worlds Collide"

There were a lot of one-hit wonders on K-Rock; Powerman holds up as one of the best. I saw these guys open for Kid Rock in '99 at Hammerstein Ballroom, and they were almost better than the headliner. Unfortunately, while they did have day-glo space suits and shit, they did not have strippers, complete with poles. Snap.

Lit - "My Own Worst Enemy"

Lit once had it all - a radio-ready hit single, a video where they played on a gigantic Pamela Anderson (the not as-bad-as-all-that "Miserable"), goatees. Now, who knows? This video was clearly the product of the late '90's lounge-lizard craze that was kicked off by The Big Lebowski and Swingers and ended tragically in Smashmouth.

Blink 182 - "Dammit"

This song was a fork in the road for Blink. Their next album was titled Enema of the State, and their fate as the thinking man's Bloodhound Gang was sealed.

Limp Bizkit - "The Nookie"

Believe it or not, these guys were probably the biggest band in the world non-U2 division circa 1998-99. Fred Durst was the Chuck Berry, if you will, of rap rock.

Linkin Park - "One Step Closer"

And the rap rock Beatles. Interestingly, Linkin Park seemed to have ditched the now-passe hip-hop aspect of their music and hopped on the emo bandwagon: allegedly their new record features no rapping whatsoever (I guess Mike Shinoda will have plenty of time to work on the second Fort Minor album). LP is keeping on strong, having three consecutive multi-platinum albums to their credit, including 2007's Minutes to Midnight. That's more than you can say, certainly, for

Papa Roach - "Last Resort"

Now, even a cynic like me is forced to admit that this song is still kinda catchy. "Last Resort" is kind of a pre-millennial perfect storm of nu-rock tropes: the rapping (obv.), the larynx-shredding screaming, the woe-is-me lyrical content, the fisheye camera lens, white kids throwing gang signs in a rock music video. Unlike Linkin Park, Papa Roach promptly announced their intentions to seek legitimacy, with frontman Coby Dick dropping his nom de rock in favor of his given name, Jacoby Shaddix and publicly swearing off the rapping - which, as you may have noticed, is pretty integral to the success of the hit single off of the platinum album. You'll also note that no one talks about Papa Roach anymore. Hmmm.

System of a Down - "Sugar"

The success of Rage Against the Machine inspired a legion of politically incoherent leftist rock groups; System of a Down, who would later release a b-sides record cleverly titled Steal This Album, is one of those groups. Of course, the lyrics, which one would assume to be the main method of delivery for the band's constructive "fuck the System, the System's fucked" message, are virtually unintelligible. America's unwitting, uncomprehending youth failed to heed the message and rise up; hence the Machine grinds on.

Deftones - "Back to School (Mini Maggit)"

The Deftones were kind of the Next Big Thing That Never Was. Their White Pony record was one of the most relentlessly hyped albums of the late '90s, and it didn't see release until 2000 (I saw them at Ozzfest '99, almost exactly a year before White Pony came out, and they had promotional banners for the record on stage). Interestingly, "Back to School" wasn't even initially on White Pony; it was a re-recorded version of album closer "Pink Maggit" released by the band when their label, Madonna's Maverick imprint, ran out of marketable singles. Honestly, this song may be the best sounding thing here.

Eminem - "My Name Is"

This motherfucker. The late '90s was a pretty fascinating era musically, when you consider the fact that mainstream rock of the era was openly embracing hip hop as an influence. Method Man was hanging out on Fred Durst's couch; Ice Cube was on the Family Values Tour. Of course, this cross pollination was a one-way street; good luck getting play on K-Rock if you were a black rapper. But if your name was Eminem, well, come right on it. Em soon distanced himself from the rap rock crowd in favor of playing up his 8 Mile street cred, but in the summer of '99, you could be forgiven for not taking him seriously.

Korn - "Freak on a Leash"

If there was one band that served as the center of the K-Rock constellation, it was Korn. Their confessional rage-out style (lead single Jonathan Davis was infamously molested as a child) coupled with their embrace of the rhythm bridged the gap between grunge and nu-rock. Their Family Values Tour was a seminal rock event during the late '90s, boasting the biggest names in nu-rock: Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Incubus, Staind, and Rammstein to name just a few. Their video for "Freak on a Leash" managed to reach number one on MTV's Total Request Live with virtually no promotional push by the band or its label. Now, I'm not endorsing Korn (never liked them myself, really), but it's pretty remarkable to consider the fact that at one time, these guys were contemporary rock and roll in America.

13 September 2007

Stuck in a Tube

One ringtone to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

So I am in the midst of a hot four-film Thursday here. Thus far I have completed Jodie Foster-Peter Sarsgaard Red Eye-meets-Panic Room airplane thrilla Flightplan, Ryan Gosling as a crack addict high school history teacher in Half Nelson, Kirk Douglas as a cynical newspaper man manipulating the story of his career in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, and I am currently re-watching one of my recent favorites, Jean-Pierre Melville's semi-autobiographical Resistance film Army of Shadows.

My all haiku reviews:

Flightplan (2005)
"Where is my daughter?"
Jodie Foster may be nuts
But probably not

Half Nelson (2006)
Teacher is on crack
He passed out in the bathroom
Just like my high school

Ace in the Hole (1951)
Mentions Floyd Collins
There's a guy stuck in a cave
Kirk Douglass's chin

Army of Shadows (1969)
Nazis everywhere
Will Kanye outsell Fiddy?
Nazis, everywhere

11 September 2007

Never Over

Blame this guy

Update: Sure enough I went to Target, and picked up Graduation for the princely sum of $9.98 + NJ 7% sales tax. Favorite line so far: "I'm like the fly Malcolm X/Buy any jeans necessary."

'Cause I Can't Wait No Longer

Looking at this is giving me cavities

Now, I don't know how someone can first drop out of college, register late, and then graduate, but presumably if anyone could do it, it would be Mr. Kanye West. The reviews of his third album, Graduation, are pouring in, and they are, for the most part, effusive. Stylus, granting a GPA-enhancing A-, says "Musically, at least, it’s the most accomplished thing he’s ever done." Pitchfork clocks West at an 8.7 and Best New Music honors (the fifth album in the past two weeks to get the BNM designation - dag yo), claiming that Graduation is "his greatest leap forward, and further proof that few are as skilled at tracing out the complicated contours of pride, success and ambition as he is." Rolling Stone, in a review shockingly not assigned to Robert Christgau, gives West 4 1/2 stars, noting that there are "no skits" on the record.

I haven't heard all of Graduation yet; major labels enforce their embargoes pretty consistently, nullifying the advantage that living in the epicenter of the Manhattan-Brooklyn-Fords record store triangle confers. I'll probably go to Best Buy or Target at lunch today and pick up the album for $9.99. Listening to the iTunes samples this moring and lead singles "Can't Tell Me Nothin'" and Daft Punk-sampling "Stronger" all I can say is that whatever criticisms you read about Kanye's perceived inability to rap, ignore them: they're irrelevant now. Kanye is hip-hop's most ambitiously pop aspirational figure; you get the feeling that he would rather be Thriller-era Michael Jackson than Tupac Shakur. With Graduation, he's either leaving the relatively conservative formal notion of rap behind, or reshaping it entirely in his image. Two years ago when 50 Cent's The Massacre and Kanye's Late Registration dropped, 50 moved 1.1 million units in the first week of release to West's 860,000; it says a lot about the respective current standings of these two titans of the industry that Graduation is better than even money to take down Curtis when this week's Soundscan figures are totaled.

Now, because we believe in equal time here at Inconsistently Updated, the incomparable, the un-embeddable (wack, yo) Kenny Chesney.

09 September 2007

"It's Britney, Bitch"

"Like a stripper from East Texas"

UPDATE: We got NARCed. Oh, well.

07 September 2007

Art Thou Readee For Somme Foote-Ball?

Math was never their strong suit

Some of my fondest memories of college....well, one of my fondest memories of college occurred in the friendly confines of historic Franklin Field during the first semester of my freshman year, when Penn's football team managed to emerge victorious in a 36-35 shootout with Harvard, winning on a missed Crimson field goal attempt as time expired. The victory preserved an undefeated Ivy season for Penn and set up a championship tilt with the equally undefeated Cornell; the Quakers went up to frosty ol' Ithica and shellacked the Big Red 45-10. After the Harvard game, me and a few thousand other students rushed onto the Franklin Field astroturf and attempted to execute the Penn tradition of uprooting the goalposts and hurling them into the Schuylkill River. Apparently, either the administration got tired of replacing the goalposts, or the Philadelphia authorities frowned on thousands of rowdy white suburbanites throwing a large, non-biodegradable object into the river, because a) the goalposts were now sunk into the ground with concrete, and b) campus police and security immediately set to the task of clearing us off of the field - I'm told that after I left, the pepper spray came out. Even so, it was a fleeting moment of spontaneous pandemonium during my college career - a nice complement to the fun-but-pro forma rounds of "Drink a Highball", the ensuing toast-hurling, and other assorted trad foofaraw that were typically more hotly anticipated than the actual games themselves.

In honor of that moment, I present to you my completely uninformed Penn 2007 Fact-Free Football Preview, wherein I will predict down to the final score the results for all of the Quakers' contests this season without relying heavily on football facts or observations.

Week 1 - Lafayette, 9/15
$1 for the first person who can tell me what Lafayette's nickname is without having attended Lafayette personally or having a family member who is a student/graduate.
Prediction: Penn 46, Lafayette 4 (two safeties scored when Penn snaps ball out of the end zone due to lack of knowledge about rarely performed "punting" maneuver)

Week 2 - @ Villanova, 9/22
I know what you're thinking: Villanova has a football team? Sadly, yes.
Prediction: Penn 56, Villanova 10

Week 3 - @ Dartmouth, 9/29
And so it begins. Penn, being an Ivy League school, cannot participate in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) playoffs; the Ivy League championship is the only thing we care about. The only thing that determines the Ivy League championship is your head-to-head record against other Ivies. So, in essence, the previous two weeks were pre-season games for the Quakers. The Dartmouth squad, probably coked out of their mind and tuckered out from whining about how their frats used to be so awesome before the administration stepped in and were the real inspiration for Animal House and everything, will be the first to taste our wrath for realz.
Prediction: Penn 89, Dartmouth 1

Week 4 - Georgetown, 10/6
If this was a basketball game, we'd be in trouble.
Prediction: Penn 37, Georgetown 0

Week 5 - @ Columbia, 10/13
Real football fact alert: Columbia's football team is something of a joke. During the 1980s, they went something like five consecutive seasons without a win - not much has changed since. Also, their freshman dorms are very, very tiny, like closets or jail cells.
Prediction: Penn 97, Columbia -5

Week 6 - Yale (Homecoming!), 10/20
Another actual fact: Yale was last year's Ivy football champ, sharing the crown with...Princeton. Penn lost at New Haven 17-14 in overtime last year; I anticipate that the favor will be repaid in kind. Tri-staters can catch all the action on the YES Network.
Prediction: Penn 73, Yale 6 (OT)

Week 7 - @ Brown, 10/27
Brown finally got a curriculum a couple of years ago (apparently prompted by their sliding U.S. News ranking; way to stick to your academic guns), all but guaranteeing that their graduates will have to learn something during 7 years of college. Of course, that something can probably still be basket weaving or bong maintenance.
Prediction: Penn 48, Brown 4:20

Week 8 - Princeton (Parents Weekend...!), 11/3
The Penn-Princeton rivalry only really applies to basketball: no other Ivy has won the hardwood championship since Cornell did it in 1988, and only six times in 51 years has neither school won at least a share of the title. Still, I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at a beatdown on the gridiron, assuming that Princeton can a field a team, what, with the annual all-Eating Club cooking sherry drink-off scheduled for the same weekend at Old Nassau.
Prediction: Penn 117, Princeton -24

Week 9 - @ Haaavaaaahd, 11/10
Any institution that has granted President Bush an advanced degree should have its academic credentials stripped. That, and "The Red and The Blue" is a vastly superior tune compared to the fake-Latin bowdlerization that is "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard." (Apparently Latin envy runs rampant in the so-called "upper echelons" - it's a tradition at Princeton for the student speaker at commencement to deliver an address entirely in Latin; the graduates are surreptitiously supplied with an annotated copy of the speech complete with cues on when to laugh, applaud, etc. How very droll.)
Prediction: Penn 10,000, Men of Harvard 0

Week 10 - Cornell, 11/17
Ah, Cornell, our traditional season-ending opponent. Excellent Hotelier program, a gorge, sub-zero wintertime temps and plenty of snow - it's practically the U Miami of the Ivy League! This one could be a squeaker.
Prediction: Penn 27, Cornell 26 1/2

So there you have it: a 10-0 season and another Ivy crown for the trophy case. Remember, we promised baseless analysis, not unbiased analysis.

06 September 2007

What'll $5,000 Get Me?

Mommas don't let your children grow up to be legislators

IM from friend today: "Congratulations on being the only person in NJ politics who wasn't arrested today."