6/28/2007

Spice Girls Reunite for World Tour

by "5" contributor Jeff Kent

People of the world! Spice up your life! Baby, Scary, Sporty, Posh, and, yes, even Ginger Spice announced a dozen dates for a full Spice Girls reunion tour this morning at London's 02 Arena, according to various reports. Spanning six continents (better luck next time, Antarctica ), the tour doesn't go down until December, presumably due to Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton's pregnancy. Wow, Babymama Spice!

Tickets for the tour will be sold via the Spice Girls website. You have to register first, and then get picked at random for the privilege of buying tickets. It's that special! Maybe they're playing, like, the Troubadour and the Knitting Factory?

Apparently, there's a greatest hits album in the works, as well as a documentary, which the gals promise will show their "gritty side." I always thought the bathroom scene in the Spiceworld film was gritty enough, but I guess maybe they swear a lot or something.

This reunion marks the first time the five Spice Girls have performed together since Geri Halliwell's departure from the group in early 1998. The remaining members, as you may or may not recall, continued on as a foursome for a short time—issuing the unfortunately-titled Forever album in 2000—before parting ways to focus on various solo projects.

According to their website, "girl power is back and stronger than ever." Thank god for that.

Say you'll be there (all venues TBA):

12-07 Los Angeles, CA
12-08 Las Vegas, NV
12-11 New York, NY
12-15 London, England
12-20 Cologne, Germany
12-23 Madrid, Spain
01-10 Beijing, China
01-12 Hong Kong, China
01-17 Sydney, Australia
01-20 Cape Town, South Africa
01-24 Buenos Aires, Argentina

6/26/2007

Beetle Bum

OK, let’s clear the air first: we’re not ‘60s hippies; war-protesting, student-activists from the ‘70s; or communists. (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of them.) But we’ve always found it in very poor taste for artists to license their songs for commercials. Those of you that have been reading “5” for a while are quite aware of our position. Bottom line: unless you’re broke, we see no reason for an artist to mess with the bond their music has forged between us to sell us carbonated sugar water or maxi pads. (Not that there’s anything wrong with either of them.)

In the last decade or so, classic tunes and otherwise have been popping up in ads for everything from soup to photocopiers to jeans to cars. (It’s especially sad when they strip and dispose of the lyrics and just use the melody, as in Campbell Soup’s use of Prince’s “Starfish and Coffee” or worse when they clearly subvert the original meaning of the song to sell you some denim as done with Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”.) This has become so commonplace these days that when news of Wilco’s music being featured in Volkswagen ads reached us, we just shrugged. Who’s got the stamina to argue about this anymore?

But what finally shook us up was “Yankee Hotel Paycheck,” a Pitchfork article by Chris Dahlen that proposes that we not only not be tolerant of these situations but that "artists should embrace the idea of partnering up with corporations to ensure artistic development and career security." Huh?! What?! Come again?!

That this concept is wrong on so many levels pertaining to artistic individuality and the artist’s ability to establish a true audience allegiance—should we really believe in you if all you’re trying to do is sell us some moisturizer?—is just the tip of the iceberg. What it advocates, purposely or not, is to remove whatever creative independence is left out there and for its practitioners to join the assembly line with the rest of us. Hell, at one point Dahlen even states, “Working for the man is good enough for the rest of us. Shouldn't it be good enough for rock stars?” No, sir. Because, at the very least, what kind of hope or escapist daydream could we aspire to indulge in if the lives of our artistic heroes became as monotonous, repetitive and ultimately, unfulfilling, as many of our own? Like the Wilco song says, “What would we be without wishful thinking?

6/25/2007

What We're Listening To

BLITHE Verse Chorus Verse (Alias)
JANET JACKSON Control (A&M)
JELLYFISH Spilt Milk (Charisma)
MICHAEL PENN MP4: Days Since a Lost Time Accident (Epic)
YES Tales from Topographic Oceans (Atlantic)

What are YOU listening to?

An Apple—or Two—A Day

Apple Inc. Now the US's Third-Largest Music Retailer
John, Paul and George—sorry, Ringo—Reach the Top of the Charts

Yadda, Yadda, Yadda

The death of the music business as we know it…2,700 record stores shut down in the last 4 years…more than 5,000 record company employees laid off since 2000…blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it all a thousand times. (And if you’re an up and coming artist you might be freaking out and rethinking those college plans.) But before you crank up Timbuk 3’s gloriously ironic anthem “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”, ask yourself if you’ve seen/heard anyone proposing solutions or positive alternatives to this mess. Not really, right?

Rolling Stone
got five industry people to weigh in on where they think the business is headed and how labels can survive in this brave, new, digital world. One of these options is downright scary for artists—labels also managing your career and taking a piece of your gigs and merchandising revenue is almost like Major League Baseball revoking free agency or worse—but see for yourself.

Would You Like To Join the Good Sgt?

Revisionist history is a bitch. Few things are more insidious than the re-writing of the past, done so for the sake of appeasing the purveyors of a sinister agenda. But what’s really lame is cowardly music journalists dumping on artists/albums years after the fact, simply because they lacked the courage to stand up to musical peer pressure. And now they need to get this off their chest. Boo-hoo. As “5”er G.R. Jones would say, “Ninja, please.”

A few years ago the folks at the now defunct online mag Jaguaro went down this road and we called them on it. Recently, it was UK newspaper The Guardian’s turn to publish a similar list. Entitled “Sgt Pepper Must Die!” the article takes the Jaguaro model and gives it a shiny new look. You see, those opining this time were not lowly music scribes but artists themselves, taking on the alleged musical shortcomings of their brethren. Here we go...

While some points in this dissing of a baker’s dozen worth of rock and roll sacred cows and/or critical darlings are arguable and valid—and we feel that anyone has the right to criticize that which they have an issue with—the likes of Eddie Argos from Art Brut and Tjinder Singh of Cornershop should take a long, hard look at their respective bands’ rather feeble catalogs and contribution to music before slagging The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut and The Dark Side of the Moon, respectively. The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne—whose own The Soft Bulletin was derided and ridiculed in the Jaguaro piece—goes to town on Nevermind, calling Nirvana's landmark album “a poisonous, pernicious influence” and believes that those coming to it now for the first time would likely mutter to themselves “‘Who is this band that sounds just like Nickelback? What are these drug addicts going on about?’” Pretty rich coming from a guy whose band’s key musical ingredient is someone who was a raging junkie for a decade. And Wayne, didn’t you write “She Don’t Use Jelly” and perform it on Beverly Hills 90210 (not to mention the Lips’ appearance on "Top of the Pops" in the UK with Justin Timberlake on bass)? You know, glass houses and all that. Jeez.

Draw your own conclusions here, people.

6/21/2007

It's A Myracle!

MYRACLE BRAH / Lakeside Lounge / NYC / 6-20-07
After a close to three-year stretch between visits, Baltimore's own kings of power pop, Myracle Brah, led by the great Andy Bopp, made this one-off trip in advance of the release of their latest album, Can You Hear the Myracle Brah? due Sept. 4th. With Greg Schroeder on drums and vocals, plus noted singer/songwriter Cliff Hillis on bass(!)—keyboardist Marge Willin was M.I.A. for the evening—the Brah kept the faithful in blissful delight with potent versions of songs both old and new, while promising to return for more in the very near future. We’ll be waiting.

Check them out here.

6/20/2007

The Kid Is Alright

Two years after bursting on the scene in 1966, The Monkees had grown tired of their status as the Prefab[ricated] Four and unleashed a trippy, plot-less, non sequitur-ridden, fuck you of a movie called Head. It has since become a cult favorite but did little business when released in 1968. As the story goes, the teeny-boppers who favored the group were summarily turned off by the pseudo avant-garde stylings of the flick, while the hip, intellectual types that would’ve reveled in the movie’s gleeful desecration of mainstream consumerist pop culture types—such as The Monkees themselves—would not come within a mile of a film starring an allegedly disposable pop group. Thus, it died a quick box office death.

Teen sensation Drake Bell—who, for the record is 21—shares with The Monkees the music-career-propelled-by-a-hit-TV-show phenomenon. His “Found A Way” plays over the opening credits of the hit Nickelodeon sitcom The Drake and Josh Show and last September Universal released a spruced up version of his independently-released debut album Telegraph and renamed it It’s Only Time, which of course includes “Found A Way”. And yes, the teeny boppers love him. But like The Monkees’ problems with their aforementioned film, Bell’s got a potential audience that may be rejecting him while depriving themselves of a tasty treat. You see, It’s Only Time is some top-notch, modern, Beatles/Beach Boys-influenced, power pop ear candy of the type that fans of Jellyfish, Sloan, Fountains of Wayne, Ben Folds, and Mike Viola and the Candy Butchers, to name a few, would go ga-ga over. Yes, you read right.

And the sad thing is, no one will ever make an effort to appeal to this small, but extremely loyal niche. We only found out about this kid and his superb album after flipping channels, hearing “I Found A Way” on his show, and being completely floored by it. Too bad. But on the bright side, if this is the kind of music that tweens and teens are gravitating to, then it’s gonna be alright.

6/19/2007

A Hard Rock Classic Revisted


SOUNDGARDEN

Superunknown

(A&M-1994)


In the June ’07 issue of Paste magazine, Brian Howe starts off his review of Nine Inch NailsYear Zero by asking “Has any genre aged more poorly than grunge?” (Apparently he has not heard of freestyle.) He goes on to defend Nirvana but proceeds to skewer the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots, and eventually gets around to reviewing Trent Reznor’s latest offering. While we personally believe that only the aforementioned Mudhoney can lay claim to the grunge moniker, we took the bait of Howe's inquiry and in the process decided to set up an iPod playlist with the mighty Soundgarden and reacquaint ourselves with the goods.

The first to sign with a major label but the last of the big ‘90s Seattle bands to break on through to the mainstream, Soundgarden’s early material is not that far removed from the tunes that made them the rock gods they briefly were. Whether their initial offerings Ultramega OK and the Grammy-nominated Louder Than Love—what a great title!—have aged well is a moot point. They are both—as is the entire Soundgarden catalog, for that matter—highly representative products and artifacts of their specific time and place, and as such should hold up to both scrutiny and repeated listenings. Of course, your mileage may vary.

That said, the kind of subtlety, nuance and attention to detail that characterizes Superunknown, their fourth and best known album, was never implied before. Certainly not on their first two full-length releases and not on their breakthrough 1991 disc, Badmotorfinger, despite that album’s marked improvement in every aspect over the band’s previous work. Soundgarden’s sound was at the intersection where Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and punk rock meet. On Superunknown they deftly added elements of pop and psychedelia and put together what is widely recognized as the best hard rock record of the decade.

And when you listen closely to this 70-minute, tour de force you can sense that the band knew it was onto something; that their songwriting had turned a corner and the need to make a lasting musical statement was in the air. However, a non-sympathetic ear in the studio could've changed the course of the album in irreparable ways. Luckily, former Material keyboardist Michael Bienhorn would be enlisted to flesh out the band’s sound with a panoramic, accessible production that brought out and featured Soundgarden’s best sonic qualities.

As for the songs themselves, the singles “Spoonman”, “Fell On Black Days”, “Alive in the Superunknown” and of course, the crossover pop hit “Black Hole Sun” were all an inescapable part of the mid-‘90s MTV-watching, radio-listening experience. But an album of this depth offers plentiful rewards, especially over time: in addition to the above, the plaintive “Like Suicide”; the defiant “My Wave”; drummer Matt Cameron’s “Mailman” with its dirgy, psychedelic Sabbath undertones; and the apocalyptic “4th of July”, are all a big part of what makes Superunknown a landmark record, offering up a widescreen view of this important hard rock quartet at the height of its powers.

6/18/2007

When I'm 65

Happy birthday, Sir!

6/11/2007

Tony vs. Tony

So, there seems to be a large faction distressed with last night’s final episode ever of HBO’s monster hit The Sopranos. Here in New York both the Post ("Chase will have to live with what he did last night") and Daily News ("It didn't end. It just stopped"), have respectively given us their venomous 2 pennies on the matter, while the Times called it "a perfectly imperfect finish”, which only goes to show that like much of the audience, the critics have not really been paying attention to this show.

For if they had, they’d known that Sopranos creator David Chase is not a man prone to tidy and predictable conclusions. The man does not believe in closure. (Did we ever find out what happened to Furio or the Russian in the woods?) Even though he teased us up until the very end with numerous possible scenarios for violence, he didn’t succumb to a big massive bloodbath or a redemptive epiphany in this last episode. (Which, by the way, could’ve benefited from an extra half hour or so, just to improve the flow a little better. It does seem rushed at times.) Not much in the way of death and mayhem, although New York crime boss Phil Leotardo did get whacked and deservedly so. Just business as usual. Nothing major. Just another day in the life of a Mob boss and his peeps.

That is why, despite Chase having Tony Soprano play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at his table’s mini jukebox as he waits for the family to show up for dinner at an old hangout, the end credits rolling with no musical backdrop is significant. He clearly did not want whatever song they used in this closely scrutinized and always welcome spot to be mined for clues or interpretations. Life goes on, pure and simple. Say what you will about the final installment of one of the most brilliant TV shows in history, but please, don’t call it unexpected.

Meanwhile, Jersey native, main Scrub and alleged Sopranos fan Zach Braff was a presenter at the Tony Awards which had the misfortune of taking place the same night as the last stand of that other Tony. Despite defensive little quips by Braff ("I haven't seen any of the last four episodes") and newly, self-outed—whoa, big surprise!—former Frasier star and Tony nominee David Hyde-Pierce (“Please, who would ever think of watching The Sopranos?”) those assembled to honor the mostly dreadfully corny, tourist trap, anachronistic, nonsense also known as Broadway musicals—the good plays rarely get as much, um, play as the cheesy song-and-dance crap—knew what was up: "I think the ratings are gonna be very low this year, especially between nine and ten," said actress Jane Krakowski, one of the evenings presenters.

I don’t know how that actually turned out, but to answer Mr. Hyde-Pierce’s question, people uninterested in the nauseatingly silly form of entertainment you purvey but instead craving well-written drama by one of the shining lights of the genre, that’s who.

John From Cincinnati
? I dunno…

Tony vs Tony

So, there seems to be a large faction of folks distressed with last night’s final episode ever of HBO’s monster hit The Sopranos. Here in New York, both local tabloids, the Post ("Chase will have to live with what he did last night") and Daily News ("It didn't end. It just stopped"), have respectively given us their venomous 2 pennies on the matter, while the Times called it "a perfectly imperfect finish”, which only goes to show that like much of the audience, those at the Post and the News have not really been paying attention to this show. For if they had, they’d known that Sopranos creator David Chase is not a man prone to tidy and predictable conclusions. The man does not believe in closure. (Did we ever find out what happened to Furio or the Russian in the woods?)

Even though he teased us up until the very end with numerous possible scenarios for violence, Chase did not succumb to a big massive bloodbath or a redemptive epiphany in this last episode. (Which, by the way, could’ve benefited from an extra half hour or so, just to improve the flow a little better. It does seem rushed at times.) Not much in the way of death and mayhem, although New York crime boss Phil Leotardo did get whacked and deservedly so. It was just business as usual, nothing major. Another day in the life of a Mob boss and his peeps.

That is why, despite Chase having Tony Soprano play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at his table’s mini jukebox
as he waits for the family to show up for dinner at an old hangoutthe end credits rolling with no musical backdrop is significant. He clearly did not want whatever song they used in this closely scrutinized and always welcome spot to be mined for clues or interpretations. Life goes on, pure and simple. Say what you will about the final installment of one of the most brilliant TV shows in history, but please, don’t call it unexpected.

Meanwhile, Jersey native, main Scrub and alleged Sopranos fan Zach Braff was a presenter at the Tony Awards, which had the misfortune of taking place the same night as the last stand of that other Tony. Despite defensive little quips by Braff
("I haven't seen any of the last four episodes") and newly, self-outed—whoa, big surprise!—former Frasier star and Tony nominee David Hyde-Pierce (“Please, who would ever think of watching The Sopranos?”), those assembled to honor the dreadfully corny, anachronistic, tourist trap nonsense also known as Broadway musicals—the good plays rarely get as much, um, play as the cheesy song-and-dance crap—knew what was up: "I think the ratings are gonna be very low this year, especially between nine and ten," said actress Jane Krakowski, one of the evenings presenters. We don’t know how that actually turned out, but the answer to Mr. Hyde-Pierce’s question is: people uninterested in the nauseatingly silly form of entertainment you purvey, who instead crave well-written drama by one of the shining lights of the genre. That’s who.

John From Cincinnati
? Um, dunno…

6/07/2007

What We're Watching/Listening To:

COLDPLAY Parachutes (Parlophone)
FLAMING LIPS The Fearless Freaks DVD (Warner Bros)
THE GRAYS Ro Sham Bo (Epic)
ELLIOTT SMITH New Moon (Kill Rock Stars)
WILCO Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch/Warner Bros)

What are YOU listening to?