Hard Times in Hollywood

Q: What happens when you make a couple of acclaimed films (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) and follow 'em up with one mired in various chaotic circumstances, ultimately ending in a flop? (Plus, to top it off, Evan Almighty pretty much kills the chances of you making your dark, biblical epic about Noah and the making of the ark.)

A: You get to work with Mickey Rourke AND you get to revive a tired comic book/sci-fi franchise, that's what. (This is all just a roundabout way of saying director Darren Aronofsky is doing the new RoboCop flick.)

...and speaking of Rough Times

Did you know this was the starring film debut of both Dennis Rodman and Dane Cook? And do you know if whoever greenlit this project still has a job in the movie industry?

In the Meantime: Velvet Revolver Contemplate Hiring Spacehog Vocalist

Former Spacehog frontman--and Steven Tyler's ex-son-in-law--Royston Langdon is being seriously considered as Scott Weiland's replacement in Velvet Revolver. (Bills are piling up, eh, Langdon?)

Oddly, we think this could be an improvement for the dreadfully mediocre repository of Guns 'n' Roses alumni, as Langdon could bring his decidedly British, David Bowie-influenced vibe to the group. Or not.

Cheech and Chong Reunite

[Classic Cheech & Chong. Photo: Billboard.]

After 25 years apart, the dope-smoking, comedy kings of the 1970s are back. "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong will take their pre-"Just Say No" brand of comedy on the road for the aptly-titled What's That Smell? tour. The Grammy Award-winning duo will announce dates and further details of the Live Nation-promoted jaunt at a press conference later today.


New Releases

Not that many debuts today. Among them are:

WILLIE BOBO Bobo Motion [remastered reissue] (Verve)
ALICE COOPER Along Came a Spider (Steamhammer)
SOULFLY Conquer (Roadrunner)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Rock The Net: Musicians For Network Neutrality (Thirsty Ear)

The Gibson Store?

[Gibson Les Paul in action. Photo: Gibson.com]

A rumor has been brewing regarding Gibson Guitars’ interest in following in the footsteps of Apple Computer and opening their own chain of retail stores. Unlike the Apple outlets, Gibson’s would not carry the company’s entire line of products, just the highly-coveted Les Paul and ES-335 models. (However, that could be more than enough to handle: the manufacturer’s online catalog lists 13 different types of currently available Les Pauls.) Orders for specially customized Gibson guitars—which average around the $6,000 mark—would be taken at these locations, as well.

Gibson has been amply criticized of late for charging what many feel is an exorbitant price for the majority of its product line—the median price is $1300; The Les Paul Standard retails for $1900, while the ES-335 has a $2200 sticker price—which has led some to speculate this is the company’s response to the high prices its vintage and not so vintage models fetch on the used market. (Regular, used Les Pauls sell online for $1400-$2000 on average; Gibson’s new guitars have seen a 60% price increase in the last 15 years.) With your average Gibson going for the price of a used car and Custom Shop models (the Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, etc.) retailing for $5500, what once were musicians' tools are increasingly becoming toys for the wealthy.

Toby Keith Down with Lynching

Why are we not surprised? From our number one, national redneck idiot, Toby Keith's latest tune, "Beer for My Horses", with its subtle lyrics:

Grandpappy told my pappy back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he'd done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street
For all the people to see

And along with a threatening black man in its video clip (while Keith intones the line "We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds / too much corruption and crime in the streets") it's just great fun for the whole family! Lynching is cool, man.

What Took You So Long?

A few months ago, we told you about the recording industry’s bid to have ISPs charge their users an extra $5/mo to offset piracy, um, “file-sharing”. Well, it’s about to happen in the UK, but better: an effort to curtail illegal downloading 80% by 2011 has been outlined and looks to be put into effect by the government. It will involve the suspension and/or termination of internet service on the part of the ISPs, for repeat file-sharing offenders. The agreement includes the music and film industries as well as ISPs.

According to The Guardian, the three step process would involve “an ‘educational’ letter…sent to customers explaining the account abuse. If a customer was identified a second time, their account would be suspended until an undertaking promising no more illegal use was signed. A third breach would result in cancellation of their internet account.”

They should've done this at least 5 years ago. (Oh, and three chances is one too many, in our book.) No word on whether there will be equivalent US measures. (We hope so.)

'Paying for Downloads is Like Buying Air'

Yes, the above is the headline for St. Entienne keyboardist Bob Stanley's recent anti-music industry Op-Ed piece in the London Times. And it's a double whammy: in it he defends the practice of illegal downloading and simplistically defines the new business model for artists starting out: don't worry, the internet will do it all for you.

We love how artists who have done their stint in the record industry "machine" now enjoy telling us how the internet is the Holy Grail for unknown artists. Yeah, just get on MySpace, build a fanbase, tour the world and live happily ever after. Of course! What are these newbies thinking? The truth is, being on MySpace today is like having your record for sale in every Tower Records in the country 10 years ago: great, but if nobody knows it's there, what's the point?

Yes, you can get the necessary exposure on your own. But do you have the money to pay a publicist, the connections to get a slot on a good tour, the clout to appear on Conan? No? (Oh, that's right: it's the record comapnies--and rich kids--who have the resources to do that. Sorry.) You think plain old internet exposure is gonna make it all happen for you? Well if you do, start planning what to do with your Lotto winnings, 'cause you have the same chances of acheiving both.

Someone needs to ask the Bob Stanleys of the world to assume a new name, release their next album under the same circumstances they advocate for new, unknown acts and then tell us what they think.



This Week's Podcast: Episode 3 of The Kiko Jones Experience

Here's the playlist. Susbscribe for free and get the podcast on your iTunes as soon as it's uploaded. Check out the sidebar on the right and enjoy!

12 RODS "Kaboom!"
ZWAN "Ride a Black Swan"
BIG STAR "Thirteen"
DADA "Time is Your Friend"
RYAN ADAMS "Love is Hell"
THE POLICE "Next to You"
PREFUSE 73 "Perverted Undertone"
RADIOHEAD "There There"
ROBBEN FORD "You Cut Me to the Bone"
ROBI ROSA "Madre Tierra"
CHRIS WHITLEY "Narcotic Prayer"
CHRIS CORNELL "Wave Goodbye"

Nothing to Harp About

Lately we'd been wondering why our favorite newsstands/bookstores haven't been carrying Harp magazine. And we were ready to accuse them of periodical distribution slackerdom, but before we could embarass ourselves we found out the rock mag had gone under. Since mid-March. Jeez.

We did have a couple of disagreements with the folks over there, notably Mike Edison's nauseating hero worship of The White Stripes' "drummer" Meg White ["Open Letter to Harp Magazine", 5- 8/10/07], and their inaccurate and misinformed piece on rock en español/latin alternative ["Kiko vs Harp", 5 - 1/30/08], but regardless, we looked forward to and enjoyed reading every issue. (Yeah, even though it only took us 5 months to figure out it was kaput.)

So, Harp is gone. Yet Spin is still out there. [groan]

(Harp's website is still up. Check it out before is goes dodo.)

'Big in Tehran'?

Chris "Lady in Red" de Burgh is to perform an upcoming concert in Tehran--where he is quite popular--for an estimated 12,000 fans alongside Iranian band Arian, with whom he's previously collaborated. This would be the first time a western pop act has performed in the islamic republic since 1979. It also stresses how badly Iranian youth need to be exposed to better music.

Ex-Pumpkins Sue Virgin Over Royalties


In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzky-Brown, both 40, accused Virgin Records America Inc. of not paying them for music downloads and other digitally delivered Smashing Pumpkins music.

Iha and Wretzky-Brown, who were founding members of the Smashing Pumpkins, said in their lawsuit that, five years after the band first broke up in 2000, Virgin entered into a deal with [Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy] Corgan, 41, and began licensing Smashing Pumpkins music through electronic transmissions.

To date, Virgin continues to engage in the exploitation of electronic transmissions of the band's recordings without plaintiffs' consent," the lawsuit states.

A spokeswoman for Virgin, a unit of privately held EMI Group, declined to comment on the lawsuit because the company had not received it.


Jazz guitarist Hiram Bullock, whose numerous credits include stints with Gil Evans, Carla Bley, David Sanborn, The Brecker Brothers; producing fellow six-stringer Mike Stern's Upside Downside album; and as the original guitarist in The World's Most Dangerous Band, the Paul Shaffer-led quartet which was the house band for Late Night with David Letterman when the show debuted in 1982.

Bullock, who died on July 25th, had been diagnosed with cancer last year. He was 52.


The Jay Leno Saga

We don’t get it.

It was announced that Jay Leno would leave NBC’s The Tonight Show when his contract expired in 2009. Conan O’Brien would replace him and leave Late Night in the hands of former SNLer Jimmy Fallon. Leno would retire from TV and continue to do standup. Right?

But now, it turns out Leno might not want to leave but they already gave the gig to Conan—do you have enough savings put aside, Fallon?—while ABC, Fox, Sony Television, and who knows who else, are supposedly willing to offer Leno a boatload of cash—$40 million/yr—and a sea of perks. To Jay Leno? Serioulsy?

David Letterman and O’Brien are much more our kinda bag when it comes to talk shows, and despite what the ratings say, Letterman is the king. Period. (It’s quite understandable that Leno would beat Letterman in the ratings: the former runs a much more mainstream, old-fashioned operation, whereas the latter—who we feel is a direct influence on the likes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report—is still considered at this point “a grinning inquisitor who might slice you like lunch meat with his light sword of irony.” No contest. )

In any event, Letterman long gave up the Tonight Show ghost—the moment he jumped ship and went to CBS in 1993 pretty much sealed it—and has given O’Brien his blessing to take the gig once Leno’s gone. We don’t know if O’Brien’s brand of humor will translate to the 11:30 PM crowd, or if, God forbid, he’ll be forced to dull the edges of his humor. Now, that would be a loss.

Live Nation's "Summer Concert Stimulus Package": Shows for Just $10 a Pop

Wow, business must be really bad when gougers like Live Nation are offering select shows with name acts for $10 each. The again, when you look at those sad lineups $10 is more than enough. (Surcharges apply, of course.)

Here's what they're offering in the NYC area (check your local area listings or the Live Nation website:

Nikon Theatre at Jones Beach
July 30 - Poison with Dokken, Sebastian Bach
Aug 1 - Maroon 5/Counting Crows with Sara Bareilles
Aug 6 - Stone Temple Pilots with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Aug 10 - Judas Priest/Heaven and Hell with Motorhead, Testament
Aug 12 - Boston/REO Speedwagon
Aug 22 - Regeneration 80's Festival: Belinda Carlisle, Human League, Flock of Seagulls, ABC

PNC Bank Arts Center
Aug 2 - Opie & Anthony's Traveling Virus: Rich Vos, Jim Norton, Patrice O'Neal, Bob Kelly, Otto George, Mike Birbiglia, Nick DiPaolo, Greg Giraldo
Aug 7 - Maroon 5/Counting Crows with Sara Bareilles
Aug 9 - Judas Priest/Heaven and Hell with Motorhead, Testament
Aug 10 - Boston/Styx
Aug 12 - Ten Dollar Day with Dokken, Sebastian Bach
Aug 22 - Toby Keith with Montgomery Gentry, Carter's Chord, Mica Roberts, Trailer Choir

Nassau Coliseum
Aug 6 - Mayhem Festival: Slipknot, Disturbed, Dragonforce, Mastodon, Underoath, Machine Head, Walls of Jericho, Black Tide, Suicide Silence, The Red Chord, Five Finger Death Punch, 36 Crazyfists, Airbourne

Let Us Count the Ways

Well, it seems "The Count" was unavailable but that didn't deter Canadian songstress Feist from performing a tailor-made version of her inescapable hit "1, 2, 3, 4" on Sesame Street. Cute.


Lydon Accused of Racist Assault

Bloc Party's Kele Okereke alleges he was racially taunted and later assaulted by John Lydon and members of his entourage backstage at the recent Summercase Festival in Barcelona.

According to reports in the UK's Guardian, "It's not an issue of the physical assault, even though it was an unprovoked attack," said Okereke. "It is the fact that race was brought into the matter so readily. Someone as respected and as intelligent as Lydon should know better than to bring race into the equation, or socialise with and encourage those who hold such narrow-minded attitudes." He added: "I am disappointed that someone I held with such high regard turns out to be such a bigot."

Lydon has both denied the attack and accused Okereke of lying, stating "If they need publicity so badly this is the allegation universe they run into." He added, "We are in the middle of a wonderful tour, after 30 years we are achieving a true unity in our audience. They are multi-varied, all ages, all races, creeds and colours. When you are at a festival with bands who are jealous fools, lies and confusion usually follow."

Meanwhile, Gruff Rhys, frontman for Super Furry Animals, is said to have been present during the altercation and confirmed Okerke's version of the events in an interview with MTV News:

It was horrific. Kele is a very brave man and what he said is exactly what happened.”

Stay tuned.

PE Rocks the Pitchfork Music Festival

...and Glorious Noise's Jake Brown was there to witness the noise. This is how it went down.


Cheap Trick

[Dry Wood-2008]

The web is abuzz with former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg posting his latest album 49:00 for 49 cents on Amazon here in the US. (We don’t know if the decision to make it available dirt cheap has anything to do with his former band’s recent reissues selling abysmally.) We took the plunge and downloaded a copy—be careful: due to a glitch, you’ll be charged a whopping 89 cents if you download the album as a lone mp3 track as opposed to using the site’s “1-click” method—and were pleasantly surprised by the songs. The playing and production? Not so much.

Hopefully the incredibly low price is to entice you to buy the album later on when he records it properly, for this recording is, sound quality-wise, half a step up from an Ariel Pink album. (We can tell it’s just you on every instrument, Paul. Oh, and those overlapping songs are quite annoying.) Granted, Westerberg hasn’t exactly been making Tears for Fears-quality recordings, but seriously, these are demos, dude. If he's pulling a Bob Pollard and it turns out this is indeed the final product, well, that would be a bit of a shame. These songs deserve better. (Especially that cover of "I Think I Love You".) But at least we know Westerberg’s still got it. And that he remains the contrarian motherfucker he's always been.

As for the title, the album is only 43 minutes in length, so…

Quite a few. Too bad the download is one long nameless track without song titles. Hey, Paul: even Prince had a track listing for his uninterrupted album.

Young Changes His Mind. Again.

The off and on release of Neil Young's self-curated multi-disc Archives set had been surrounded by all kinds of changes and second guessing, but one thing remained pretty much certain: it was to be released on Blu-ray and not CD. Guess what? He changed his mind. It'll be available in both formats.

"Blu-ray is the future," Young tells Billboard. "It sounds the best, the navigating system is the best. I've made a lot of CDs and we've made a lot of DVDs, and Blu-ray technology is so far superior to anything else. The fact there aren't many players out there now doesn't meant that much to me, because it is the future, so I would rather focus on what's next. If you were to get a Blu-ray of the 'Archive', you would get the best."

Later this year, 10 discs from 1963-1972 will be the first official offering from Archives. When do they come out, you ask? C'mon, did you think old Neil was going to make it easy for ya?

The Rock /Jock Divide

Over the years we’ve come across quite a few rockers that have an alternating active/passive disdain for sports. (In case you’re new to this blog, big baseball fans over here.) We have always been intrigued by how uniquely American this phenomenon is. From the most truly indie of rockers to Johnny Rotten to Noel Gallagher, the Brits love their soccer, um, football big time. And every living, breathing, sentient Canadian man, woman and child worships hockey, regardless of class, ethnicity or economic bracket.

So what’s the deal here in the US? What’s the back-story on those rockers who hate sports? We’d really like to know. (And if it’s just a case of, “those dudes beat me up when I was in school”, we’ll be quite disappointed.) Any thoughts?

'Blog Rock'?

We've been part of a small contingent criticizing these mostly lame bands that are built up and just as quickly torn down by the uber fickle, superficial, oh-so-cool music blogosphere for a while now, so it was a matter of time before we'd come across coinage of the term. In this case it was the LA Times' review of this past weekend's Download Festival:

...a daylong venture into blog-rock and electro-pop headlined by [the Jesus and Mary Chain] at the Gibson Amphitheatre, [it] was a largely joyless occasion for pummeling fans with pitches for products as diverse as car insurance, chewing gum and portable hard drives between in-and-out sets on the rotating stage.

Can't see we expected anything different, JAMC and Gang of Four not withstanding.

What We're Listening To

NICK HEYWARD The Apple Bed (Creation)
PAUL McCARTNEY Memory Almost Full (Hear Music)
MERCURY REV Yerself is Steam (Columbia)
LES NUBIANS One Step Forward (OmTown)
DAVID TORN Lars and the Real Girl [soundtrack] (Milan)

What are YOU listening to?


Does the World Need Another Indie Band?

Minneapolis' Tapes 'n Tapes is a good example. Photo: Stereogum.

Tim Walker of Britain's The Independent asks the above question in
a scathing piece about the contemporary homogenization of the UK's indie rock scene.

These days the term 'indie' is little more than a generic sonic description for any band that plays guitars and probably wears skinny ties, skinny jeans, and skinny cardigans. [Andrew] Collins, a former NME writer and ex-editor of Q, says now: "'Indie' has become a meaningless term. It just covers guitar bands. But it was never meant to be about a type of music, it was a spirit and an attitude. When I glance around the bands that are supposedly 'indie' today, I don't see any attitude. I don't see any content in their records, any political interest in the band members. They're a terrible generation, unfortunately, but they're becoming famous overnight and selling a lot of records. I've heard them called 'mortgage indie'. It's a career path–a way of making a lot of money very quickly.

Valid points or old farts complaining because they don't get it anymore? Decide for yourself.

[Thanks to "5"er Robert Julian for the heads up.]

New Releases

Today's batch includes:

DAVID BOWIE Live in Santa Monica ’72 (Victory) *
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Something for All of Us (ACS)
LEE RANALDO Countless Centuries Fled Into (Table of the Elements)
MEL TORMÉ The Capitol Rarities (DRG)
U2 Boy / October / War [deluxe reissues] (Island)

* Click on link for full audio stream

No CD Sales, No Touring: Now What?

[Image courtesy of Idolator]

I refuse to buy music. If I really want to support an artist, I’ll come to the show and buy some merchandise. Playing live is where they make their money anyway.”

We hear variations on this one all the time. (And not just from the young’uns, by the way.) But you know what? We call bullshit: let's put aside for a minute the fact that is the lame cop out of someone who obviously knows what they're doing is wrong, and wonder what happens if the day they come into town you are sick, have to work late, are out of town, or you simply forgot, etc etc etc. Do you send them a check? Of course not. So spare us. What we’d like to know is how you plan on supporting a band that can’t perform live.

As we mentioned before, with rising fuel costs, many acts have had to pull the plug on touring. It’s gotten to the point that quite a few are contemplating leaving the current Warped tour, pushing tour sponsor AT&T to give each band a daily $500 gas card as an incentive to keep them on the road.

Think about that the next time you decide to ripp off an artist...whoops, sorry. We meant, the next time you file-share.

Trey Does Brooklyn

Guitarist Trey Anastasio will perform a warm up show in Brooklyn, for his Aug. 10th set at the All Points Festival in New Jersey. The Music Hall of Williamsburg will host the former Phish frontman's solo band for an intimate performance on Aug. 7th. Tickets go on sale July 26th.

Lamest Cover of the Year (so far)

It's not like the original was a killer song to begin with, so competition probably won't be fierce for this one.


The Kiko Jones Experience: Episode 2

This week the podcast includes music from Arcade Fire, Brendan Benson, Flat Duo Jets, Funkadelic, Milton Nascimento, Frank Zappa and much more. Check out the sidebar on the right.

New Damage

Chris Cornell in his Soundgarden days. Photo courtesy of Stereogum.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Following Soundgarden's dissolution, Euphoria Morning (A&M-1999), the solo debut by Chris Cornell was undoubtedly a highly-anticipated affair. And 'round these parts it didn't disappoint. (Those that were expecting something else were clearly not paying attention to a new direction Cornell was hinting at on the final Soundgarden releases. Or his songwriting on the Temple of the Dog album, for that matter.) After his three-album stint in Audioslave, alongside the instrumental members of Rage Against the Machine, Cornell chose to reward those of us patiently waiting for a followup to Euphoria with last year's Carry On, a lackluster release, which included an uninspired cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" that would portend even more dire musical consequences.

Many an eyebrow was arched when Cornell announced he had teamed up with r&b producer Timbaland for album number three. (Timbaland's widely reported assertion that the album would make the former Soundgarden frontman the "first rock star in the [urban night] clubs" didn't help things, either.) Well, if first single "Long Gone" is any indication, our worst fears have come to fruition. The man who once belted "Outshined" and "The Day I Tried to Live" has been transformed into...Seal. (Nothing against Seal, but c'mon.)

Now, we're not arguing against an artist's desires to explore new things and possibly reinvent themselves, or even refusing to wean ourselves off the nostalgia train, but...man, this is disappointing. Listen to "Long Gone" here and decide for yourself.

By the way, Cornell is touring with Linkin Park this summer--is he trying to go through with a deathwish or just looking to squander all the accumulated goodwill that's come his way over the years?--and it should be interesting to see if he'll be playing this newfangled material for that crowd. And what they would make of it.


Siren Festival 2008

We haven't been to one of these since the initial offering in 2001, when we caught great sets by Quasi, Superchunk and Guided by Voices--and, according to many disgruntled concertgoers, were spared from a lousy performance by Man or Astro Man? when we went for a stroll on the Coney Island boardwalk right before their set--because, well, the lineups haven't really enticed us, and being of the "October" persuasion, we have absolutely no desire to place ourselves voluntarily out in the blistering summer heat and humidity. This year we were going to make an exception to catch Stephen Malkmus, Broken Social Scene, and The Helio Sequence. But the current heatwave that grips our beloved New York City nipped that one in the bud.

So, how was it? The New York Times' Jon Pareles was there and called it "a sunny day at the beach full of ringing rock guitars and forecasts of doom: for romances, for lives, for nations, for mankind and, closer to home, for Siren in its current form." (Oh yeah, the festival might have to leave its current location.) Here's more.

Sad Fact of the Day

According to Billboard, Rhino Records' four expanded reissues--the first three albums and an EP--of The Replacements' output on the Twin Tone label have sold a combined 22,000 copies since their April release.

On September 23rd, Rhino will release expanded reissues of the band's final four albums, which were originally on Sire Records.

Sandler Honors The Who

You guys know how we feel about Adam Sandler--ugh--but the guy did a great job paying tribute to The Who with a solo version of "Magic Bus"--complete with his own lyrics and a Les Paul-driven Bo Diddley beat--at VH1's recent Rock Honors. Pretty cool.


Rock Sub-Genres for Dummies: 'Emo'

The late, great Sunny Day Real Estate. Photo: Heather Maceachem

is short for emocore, a contraction of emotional hardcore. The idea behind it was to combine aggresive music (hardcore) with soaring, anthemic melodies and introspective, well-written lyrics (hence the emotional part). Seattle's Sunny Day Real Estate (1992-95, reformed in 97, broke up in 2001) best defines the term and is, for many, the sub-genre's most important band.

Like punk, emo became a big deal in recent times. But something funny happened on the way to the bank: Imagine if the history of rock music--particularly punk--were revised and rewritten, with The Ramones and The Sex Pistols excised from the canon and replaced with Blink 182 instead. This is the paralell that can be drawn to current emo. SDRE is not even mentioned these days, while third rate, watered-down posers get to be pseudo avatars. You could say that emo went form being The Cure-on-steroids to Air Supply with distorted-guitars, spiky hairdos, and some of the whiniest, lamest lyrical content heard in recent times.


Happy Birthday

Now, this is a rock and roll birthday: Guitar god Carlos Santana (61), Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook (52), Chris Cornell (44), Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard (42); all on July 20th.


Free U2 Reissues in Streaming Audio

In anticipation of next week's reissue of the remastered, deluxe editions of U2's first three albums--Boy (1980), October (1981) and War (1983)--iMeem is streaming them for free, including live tracks, b-sides and bonus material.

The deluxe editions, which were overseen by the band's guitarist/keyboardist Dave Evans aka The Edge, will be released on July 22nd.

Write Your Own Caption

This is what the upcoming Metallica album, Death Magnetic, will look like:

The Rick Rubin-produced disc will be out in September.

...and speaking of Rick Rubin

In the past, we thought it was a no-brainer to figure out why such disparate musical types as Johnny Cash, Jay-Z, Metallica, and now Crosby Stills and Nash, among many others, have chosen to have their albums produced by Rick Rubin. The man’s ears for music of different styles coupled with his commercial sense were great selling points for artists and labels alike. But, as we’ve recently learned, it may be perceptions tied into a ‘brand name’ that are doing the heavy lifting in most cases involving Mr. Rubin.

As it turns out, sources tell us that Rubin not being present, let alone interacting in the studio with the artists he’s “producing” is one badly-kept secret in the music biz. (We’re assuming Johnny Cash didn’t stand for this.) Basically, his production modus operandi consists of having one of his engineers work with the artist in the studio, messenger the day’s results to Rubin’s home, where he will take a listen, jot down some instructions and messenger the music back to the studio for fine tuning. Um, really? Scores of people can do that, probably as effective as or even more so than Rubin. But. Uh-huh. Yup, here it comes: it’s the Rubin name that generates press (in most cases, immediate critical acquiescence); raises profiles; and hopefully, for all involved, plenty of sales and associated revenue.

Be that as it may, his methodology has slightly tarnished his rep in our book, regardless of the results. Your mileage may vary.

QOTSA To Headline Shneider Benefit

August 16th has been set as the date for a benefit concert at Los Angeles' Fonda Theatre for the late Natasha Shneider by Queens of the Stone Age, for whom Shneider was once a touring keyboardist. Also slated to appear are PJ Harvey, Tenacious D, former Soundgarden and current Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, alongside The Distillers' frontwoman Brody Dalle, Eagles of Death Metal's Jesse Hughes, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, Masters of Reality's Chris Goss, and Alain Johannes, Shneider's husband and bandmate in Eleven.

Proceeds will go to cover Shneider's medical bills, who died of cancer on July 2nd. Donations can also be made at www.natashashneider.org

Quote of the Day

"Unless you are under 25, and can fit into girls' jeans..."
- Garage rockers Mighty High frontman Woody High on the dim prospects for an aspiring rocker these days.


Pablo Pueblo

"5" er Carolina Gonzalez's revisiting of the Ruben Blades cinematic starring vehicle Crossover Dreams, got us in the mood to look back at one of the great salsa records of the genre's golden era, Willie Colon presents Ruben Blades: Metiendo Mano.
Sandwiched between Colon's lauded The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (Fania-1975)--featuring Blades and the departing Hector Lavoe--and the seminal Colon/Blades landmark LP Siembra (Fania-1978), Metiendo Mano is regarded by many as a solid precursor of bigger things to come, but plays "lean and mean, and thus light on its feet, like a welterweight boxer."

How apropos:

Among the stellar tracks on the album, are "Segun el Color", "Plantacion Adentro", "La Mora", and our personal fave "Pablo Pueblo" which our ears fell in love with from the very first time.

Here's Colon and Blades at a 1998 Amnesty International concert in Venezuela performing a rousing version of "Pablo Pueblo", which--as Blades states on stage--was written some 30 years prior. [Metiendo Mano album cover courtesy of allmusic.com]

(By the way, yesterday was Blades' big 6-0, so Feliz Cumpleaños, señor.)

Up next: "You're So Suave"

In probably the most blatant attempt at commercial licensing we've ever seen, Rick Springfield has released a carbon copy of his '80s hit "Jessie's Girl" called.... "What's Victoria's Secret?" (They both better have the same songwriters or somebody's getting sued.)


Want proof? You shall have it:

Rick Springfield - What's Victoria's Secret?

Joel Rocks Shea

Last night was the first of Billy Joel's 2 shows at the New York Mets' Shea Stadium. (Friday, July 18th is the second and last.) Billed as the last play at Shea, the July 16th performance featured special guests Tony Bennett, John Mayer, Don Henley, and John Mellencamp. Billboard was there.

No, not Limbaugh

The Colbert Report welcomed legendary Canadian rockers Rush, who had not appeared on American TV in over 30 years (!) The hipsters are probably having a fit...
A brief Q&A session with Colbert was followed by a live-in-the-studio performance of the band's "Tom Sawyer". Sweet.

Q: What's Your Favorite Colour? A: Green

Someone has purchased off eBay an unopened, longbox-packaged CD--remember those?--of Living Colour's debut, Vivid (1988-Epic)...for a grand! Seriously.

We still love this album, as well as Vernon and the guys, but why would anybody part with that kind of loot for a version whose only rarity is the bulky cardboard packaging? Who the hell paid $1,025 (plus shipping, of course) for a standard issue release of which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of copies are still out there? Man...this is why the terrorists hate us.


"5": The Podcast (aka 'The Kiko Jones Experience')

Yes, we finally got off our butts and put together a podcast. We still haven't decided how frequent these musical outbursts will be, but getting this hour-length blast off the ground is definitely a start, right? Check out Episode: 1 of 'The Kiko Jones Experience' and, as usual, feel free to leave any comments, praises, death threats or anything else that may strike your fancy. Just check out the player on the sidebar to the right. Enjoy!

(Our thanks to "5"er Harold Martinez for his technical assistance.)

In Defense of Gentle Giant

Author Rick Moody's "The Unfair Reputation of Prog-Rock Concept Albums Especially Free Hand" in the most recent issue of The Believer--which happens to be their annual music issue--raises its freak flag and champions the beleaguered '70s subgenre, particularly the band Gentle Giant and its 1975 concept album.

"...if you are finding that the relentless drum machinery of contemporary bubblegum and the tedious samples of hip-hop are not enough, try dipping into something more fanciful from the era when kind of being able to play your instrument was something you did not need to hide."

Amen, brother.

Did You Know...

...the most recent tour by classic rock radio staple Foreigner was sponsored by AARP? We shit you not. According to a press release, select members of the old-timers organization were given "the opportunity to meet the band and get photographs and autographs while mingling at Foreigner's exclusive VIP reception." We're guessing they chose Foreigner since the Stones would probably ditch them and run off with their daughters and/or granddaughters.

Who's That Fool?

So, once again Madonna puts her best—and only likely—talent at work: getting people to talk about her. It seems that the whole tabloid-driven “affair” between the Material Middle Ager and New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez is all a fabrication geared to raise her profile for an upcoming album and tour, and concocted by Madge and her manager Guy Oseary, who also handles…Alex Rodriguez. (Whose taste in women, btw, makes him the Bill Clinton of baseball.)

Yo, A-Rod: you got played, son.

Favorite Headline of the Year (so far)

From New York magazine:

"I Have Seen the Future of Rock and Roll and it is not The Hold Steady"

Indeed. Ha!


New Releases

This week's newbies include:

THE HOLD STEADY Stay Positive (Vagrant) *
JOHN MELLENCAMP Life, Death, Love and Freedom (Hear Music) *
NaS -untitled- (DefJam)

UNKLE End Titles: Stories for Film (Surrender All)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Passing Strange [Original Broadway Cast] (Ghostlight)

* Click on link for full-length stream

This Week's Playlist: Brotherly Love

A dozen tracks from outfits that feature siblings in their ranks, representing each of the decades since the birth of rock and roll. (Except the current one. Oops!) Enjoy!

1. ALLMAN BROTHERS "Melissa" from the album
Eat a Peach (Capricorn)
2. THE BLACK CROWES "Gone" from the album
Amorica (American)

4. EARTH WIND & FIRE "Can't Hide Love" from the album
Gratitude (Columbia)
5. EVERLY BROTHERS "Bye Bye Love" from the album
The Everly Brothers (Cadence)
6. ISLEY BROTHERS "It's Your Thing" from the album It's Our Thing (T-Neck)
7. THE KINKS "Picture Book" from the album The Village Green Preservation Society (Reprise)
8. OASIS "Some Might Say" from the album
What's the Story, Morning Glory? (Epic)
9. SPACEHOG "In the Meantime" from the album Resident Alien (Elektra)
10. STONE TEMPLE PILOTS "Interstate Love Song" from the album
Purple (Atlantic)
11. VAN HALEN "Dance the Night Away" from the album II (Warner Bros.)
12. THE WEBB BROTHERS "All the Cocaine in the World" from the album Maroon (Warner Bros.)


No 'Big' Deal

Insanely bored and feeling quite anti-social, we somehow ended up in front of the TV catching a recent showing of the 1988 Tom Hanks vehicle Big. (Don't ask.) For those of you that may have never seen the flick, Hanks plays Josh, a suburban 13 year-old who is granted his wish to be an adult by a carnival machine. He ends up in NYC working as a tester for a toy company, hilarity ensues (sort of), before he eventually realizes he's missing out on his youth and--with the aid of his best friend, who's in on his secret--locates the aforementioned wish-granting/fortune telling machine so that he can return to his old life. The end.

Now, we hadn't seen Big since it was first released 20 years ago, and didn't really care for it then. But this recent viewing left us shocked by how uncomfortable it is to watch. According to WikiPedia, it "was received with almost unanimous critical acclaim, and is considered by many critics the gold standard of movies in which a child is trapped in an adult's body. Many critics praised Tom Hanks for his 'believable' and 'adorable' performance." (Among them, Siskel & Ebert, who gave it their trademark "two thumbs up.") We beg to differ.

Granted, calling it "
the gold standard of movies in which a child is trapped in an adult's body" is surely damning it with faint praise, albeit unintentionally. But the major problem here is Hanks, who plays Josh as a 6-year old, and not the teenager his character is supposed to be. (Then 14-year old Jared Rushton, who plays Josh's best friend Billy, also goes the 1st grader route in his role. Of course, this is probably how the script was written.) This--and the unconvincing manner in which the adults interacting with this man-child conduct themselves--makes the suspension of disbelief inherent in taking in the movie even harder to embrace.

Sure, one can make the argument that 13-year olds from 20 years ago may not have been as 'with it' as their current counterparts. Except that the high school freshmen depicted 4 years prior in Sixteen Candles, for example, put that theory to bed immediately: Anthony Michael Hall's Farmer Ted and his co-horts may have been inexperienced, insecure dorks, but they carried on like kids their age and would surely be apalled by any of their contemporaries acting in the excrutiatingly infantile way Josh and Billy do in Big. (For one, Josh has no idea the clear insinuations made by Susan--an adult co-worker played by Elizabeth Perkins--when she comes home with him after an office party are sexual advances. Any chance Farmer Ted or his buddies wouldn't get it? Exactly.)

This is a movie made by people who had very-little to no idea what it is to be a teenager. Or maybe they were going for a faux 1950s vibe. In any event, ugh.


What We’re Listening To

THE ACTION Rolled Gold (Reaction)
EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Trilogy (Atlantic)
THE MOMMYHEADS self-titled (DGC)
MEL TORMÉ Swings Shubert Alley (Verve)
TV ON THE RADIO Desparate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)

What are YOU listening to?


New Releases

Here's a few of this week's notable debuts:

THE BASEBALL PROJECT Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (Yep Roc)
BECK Modern Guilt (DGC)
BILLY JOEL The Stranger [deluxe reissue] (Columbia)
THE MELVINS Nude with Boots (Ipecac) *
WILLIE NELSON & WYNTON MARSALIS Two Men With The Blues (Columbia) *

* Click on link to hear full-album stream


This Week's Playlist: Adrian Belew

Equally comfortable with the avant garde as he is with Beatlesque pop, this vocalist/guitarist/drummer/producer's resume includes his work with the likes of David Bowie, King Crimson, Talking Heads and Frank Zappa. This playlist is just a smattering of his
prodigious solo output--Belew has over a dozen albums of his own--which we highly recommend checking out. Enjoy!

1. "Lone Rhinoceros" from the album Lone Rhino
2. "Adidas in Heat" from the album
Lone Rhino
3. "I'm Down" from the album Twang Bar King
4. "Twang Bar King" from the album
Twang Bar King
5. "Guernica" from the album Desire Caught by the Tail
6. "Bad Days" from the album Mr. Music Head
7. "1967" from the album Mr. Music Head
8. "Young Lions" from from the album Young Lions
9. "Big Blue Sun" from the album Inner Revolution
10. "I See You" from the album
11. "Writing on the Wall" from the album Side One
12. "Madness" from the album
Side One

The Elvis Costello Music and Comedy Hour

Well, not quite. But not that far off, either: according to Billboard, Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... will consist of "conversations and collaborations" between Elvis and his guests. Among those guests scheduled to appear are Elton John, Tony Bennett, Lou Reed, and former president Bill Clinton.

The show, which will air on the Sundance channel here in the US, has already been refered to by its host as "a wonderful and surprising experience." No broadcast schedule has been announced yet.

The Dwindling Number of Quality Headliners

Trying to gauge the drawing power and continued relevance of the big acts of this decade in the next one, Idolator asks "Who's Going to Headline Coachella in 2013?" The answer isn't pretty. Can't say we're surprised.

Slayer and Mastodon Live Dates

As of now, only European shows have been announced, but fear not, our devil-horns-in-the-air friends, for upcoming US dates are said to be in the works.

10-27 Manchester, England
10-28 Birmingham, England
10-30/31 London, England
11-02 Cardiff, Wales
11-03 Glasgow, Scotland
11-05 Offenbach, Germany
11-06 Cologne, Germany
11-09 Stuttgart, Germany
11-10 Winterthur, Switzerland
11-11 Paris, France
11-16 Vienna, Austria
11-18 Munich, Germany
11-19 Berlin, Germany

The Feelies

Fellow blogger--and new "5"er; welcome!--God I Hate Your Band, caught the Jersey indie legends' 4th of July reunion show alongside Sonic Youth (which he excluded completely from his post. Hmm...)

Sub Pop Festival This Weekend

The venerable Seattle record label's 20th anniversary celebration will take place over 2 days, July 12-13, headlined by a reunited Green River. The Vaselines will be appearing as part of their first ever US tour; Flight of the Conchords [yawn], the great Iron & Wine, and Fleet Foxes will also be on hand, as well as Sub Pop alumni Greg Dulli, and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, led by Tad frontman Tad Doyle.

Roeper's Best and Worst of 2008...so far

We've given film critic Roger Ebert some space here before, so this time it's his TV partner Richard Roeper turn, who has selected his favorite movies of the first half of this year. What do you think?

Here they are:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

The Visitor
The Bank Job
In Bruges (which Teethwriter, also raves about)

Oh, and his pick for worst is...

10,000 B.C.


A Little Exercise (updated)

The music geek's equivalent to mental push-ups is one currently making the rounds on various music blogs: a list of favorite albums for every year since you were born. We've given it our own spin and instead of following the specified annuary approach, we decided to simply compile our list with favorite albums for each of the last 40 years. (Many years were tough but 1969 and 1986 were especially difficult to pare down to a sole album.)

A caveat: because of the restrictions inherent in this sort of exercise, less favored albums may appear in lieu of more cherished ones due to the former having little competition in their respective year, whereas the latter may have had some fine rivals for our attention to contend with.

So, here they are. What about yours?

1969 – THE BEATLES Abbey Road [Apple]
1970 – PAUL McCARTNEY McCartney [Apple]
1971 – TODD RUNDGREN Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren [Bearsville]
1972 – YES Close to the Edge [Atlantic]
1973 – PINK FLOYD Dark Side of the Moon [Harvest]
1974 – KING CRIMSON Red [EG]
1975 – LED ZEPPELIN Physical Grafitti [SwanSong]
1976 – PETER FRAMPTON Frampton Comes Alive! [A&M]
1977 – SEX PISTOLS Nevermind the Bollocks… [Warner Bros]
1978 – VAN HALEN self-titled [Warner Bros]
1979 – THE POLICE Regatta de Blanc [A&M]
1980 – THE PRETENDERS self-titled [Sire]
1981 – KING CRIMSON Discipline [Warner Bros]
1982 – RALPH TOWNER Blue Sun [ECM]
1983 – YES 90125 [Atco]
1984 – THE SMITHS Hatful of Hollow [Rough Trade]
1985 – SCRITTI POLITTI Cupid and Psyche ‘85 [Warner Bros]
1986 – PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED Album [Elektra]
1987 – GUNS N' ROSES Appetite For Destruction [Geffen]
1988 – LIVING COLOUR Vivid [Epic]
1989 – XTC Oranges and Lemons [Geffen]
1990 – JANE’S ADDICTION Ritual de lo Habitual [Warner Bros]
1991 – NIRVANA Nevermind [DGC]
1992 – PAUL WELLER self-titled [Go!]
1993 – SODA STEREO Dynamo [Sony US Latin]
1994 – SOUNDGARDEN Superunknown [A&M]
1995 – FOO FIGHTERS self-titled [Roswell/Capitol]
1996 – THE POSIES Amazing Disgrace [DGC]
1997 – RADIOHEAD OK Computer [Parlophone]
1998 – BECK Mutations [DGC]
1999 – THE FLAMING LIPS The Soft Bulletin [Warner Bros]
2000 – AIMEE MANN Bachelor No.2 [Superego]
2001 – JON BRION Meaningless [Straight to Cut Out]
2002 – BECK Sea Change [DGC]
2003 – NADA SURF Let Go [Barsuk]

2004 – MATTHEW SWEET Kimi Ga Suki [RCAM]
2005 – FREELOADER Cantina Claqueur [JSS]
2006 – THE RACONTEURS Broken Boy Soldiers [Third Man/V2]
2007 – IRON & WINE The Shepherd's Dog [SubPop]
2008 – AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB The Golden Age [Merge]
2009 – PEARL JAM Backspacer [Monkeywrench/Island]



Today is July 3rd. And since "three is a magic number..." (Wait--we thought "5" was the magic number! Oh, well...)

Blind Melon does the honors from School House Rock! Rocks


Musician/producer Natasha Shneider, died of cancer on July 2nd. The Russian-born Shneider, who alongside partner Alain Johannes and Jack Irons founded the rock band Eleven, made significant contributions to Chris Cornell's Euphoria Morning album and played keyboards for a stint with Queens of the Stone Age, among other performing and production projects.

A memorial concert is planned for August 16th in Los Angeles. Shneider was 52.

Album Sales Continue to Drop

Surprise, surprise: according to Billboard, at 2008’s halfway mark, album sales are down 11% from last year. Even though digital sales have increased by 34% and represent 15% of the market, CDs still rule the roost. Which is why the 16% decline in CD sales accounts for an overall 11% drop. Meanwhile there’s been an almost 50% increase in vinyl sales. Go figure.

The good news: album sales were down 15% last year at this same time so it’s 4 % better. Whoopeee! Um, yeah.

Rethinking the Blues

PopMatters' Mark Reynolds tackles a very interesting topic in his "Retelling the History of Black Music: Everything You Know about the Blues Is Wrong", which also weaves in a review of Elija Wald's Escaping the Delta, a new book which "explains [legendary bluesman Robert] Johnson’s genius not with mushy platitudes or hoary metaphors about trains and hellhounds, but with basic research and analysis. His digging reveals Johnson as an artist wholly of his time and place: a traveling musician in the ‘30s rural South, possessed of incredible skill and magnetism, and a keen student of what others were doing, taking in everyone from previous acoustic bluesmen Lonnie Johnson and Son House to the urban sounds of Leroy Carr.

But Wald ultimately places Johnson among his contemporaries as a “musician’s musician” whose sales and influence didn’t extend much beyond the Delta. The audience that elevated Johnson to the upper pantheon of musical titans was nowhere in evidence while he was alive, or at any point soon after his death.
Escaping the Delta is less a Johnson biography than a primer on blues music between the two World Wars."

Dig in, boys and girls.

Tweedy to Play Second Obama Benefit / Wilco Tour Dates

On July 11th, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy will perform a concert
to raise money for his senator, Barack Obama, who is scheduled to make an appearance at the show. Tweedy first played a benefit for the presidential hopeful in December 2007.

So, what's Wilco up to? Well they hit the road later this month and here are the dates:

7-25 Fairbanks, AK
7-26 Anchorage, AK
8-01 Chicago, IL - Lollapalooza
(Wilco performance and Jeff Tweedy solo set)

8-04 Indianapolis, IN
8-06 Jacksonville, FL
8-07 Charleston, SC
8-08 Cary, NC
8-09 Baltimore, MD
8-10 Wilmington, DE
8-12 Lenox, MA
8-13 Brooklyn, NY
8-16 Jackson Hole, WY
8-18 Salt Lake City, UT
8-20 Boise, ID
8-21 Spokane, WA
8-23 Bend, OR
8-24 San Francisco, CA - Outside Lands Festival
8-29 Stradbally, Ireland - Electric Picnic Festival