7/29/2009

The Daily Show: "Race Card"

In recent times, no one did race-based comedy better than The Dave Chapelle Show.

But The Daily Show nails it with this bit:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Henry Louis-Gate - Race Card
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
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Unfunny Business

Funny Games (2007)
Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt

Funny People (2009)
Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen

Frequently, cable TV affords us the opportunity to check out past and current films of note that we either missed or had no earthly desire to commit time, money, and a trip to the local cineplex in order to experience them. Being bored and on the couch often rounds out our cable movie-viewing trifecta. Here's two instances in which we wish we'd read a book instead.

German director Michael Haneke caused quite a stir with his scene-for-scene remake of his 1997 film Funny Games, the newer version specifically for the American market. Why? Well, you see, he wanted to make a statement on how desensitized American audiences are to blood and gore and violence. But in a luridly mocking tone.

The gist: a couple of white-gloved, squash player-dressed teenage serial killers hold a middle class family hostage at their Long Island summer home, inflicting mental and physical cruelty, culminating in death. (A good chunk of this occurs off-camera and is coupled with smarmy instances of breaking the "fourth-wall".) The subtext: Americans are bourgeois, dumbass consumers of the likes of Saw, Hostel, etc. who don't know any better.

Maybe. But Haneke failed twice: his approach is more damaging than engaging; and he remade his movie to do so. Like Johnny Rotten once famously said, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"


You all know we are no fans of Adam Sandler 'round here. Nope.
And while there were some funny moments in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, we're really tired of the kind of purposely anti-comedy Judd Apatow and co. seem to revel in. Seriously, Superbad? Pineapple Express? Year One? Michael Cera?!!

So now we get the Sandler-Apatow double whammy that is Funny People; its title a HUGE misnomer based on the half-hour featurette and the TV ads we've seen. (The movie opens on Friday, Aug. 1st.) Sandler plays a famous comic who's told he's got less than a year to live. One night he performs at the same comedy club as a struggling stand-up (Rogen) who he hires as personal assisstant/writer/friend. Stand-ups perform. Hilarity ensues. Well, no. Not really.

Unlike the 1988 Tom Hanks-Sally Field vehicle Punchline, which was a drama about stand-up comedians, Funny People makes a failed attempt at being a comedy. Of course, our take is solely based on a half-hour featurette and the TV ads we've only witnessed, so the rest of Funny People could have some great jokes in it. But since the norm is to always put your best stuff in the promotional material, we highly doubt it.

Ugh.

7/20/2009

RIP: Gordon Waller

Gordon Waller of '60s pop duo Peter and Gordon, passed away on July 17th of heart disease.

He was 64 years old.

MCA Has Cancer

Beastie Boy Adam Yauch--aka MCA--has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his salivary gland, which has prompted the canceling of tour dates and postponing the release of their most recent album. The tumor was said to be found at an early stage and appears to be very treatable, requiring surgery and treatment. Best of luck to him.

Happy Birthday

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana (62); Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook (53); former Soundgarden/Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell (45); Pearl Jam founder/guitarist Stone Gossard (43); and hip-hop royalty Kool G Rap (41); all on July 20th.

7/16/2009

'The Cleveland Show'

From what previews we've seen, it's kinda weak if you want our opinion. Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad!) may have finally stretched himself too thin. Check out the extended trailer:



The Cleveland Show debuts this fall on Fox.

7/15/2009

NYT: Peter Keepnews reviews Elijah Wald's 'How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll'

You can read Keepnews' complete review of Wald's new book here. In the meantime, here's our 2 cents:
If you’re looking to be convinced that the Beatles destroyed rock ’n’ roll, then strangely enough, “How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll” is not for you. The title is a come-on: the Beatles are among the many subjects Elijah Wald addresses in this cheerfully iconoclastic book, but they are not what it is about.
Oh, nice: a little bait and switch to sell books. That’s a good start.

While Wald never says in so many words that the Beatles destroyed rock ’n’ roll, he does take a stance several degrees removed from standard-issue Beatles worship. He suggests that their ambitious later work, widely hailed as a step forward for rock, instead helped turn it from a triumphantly mongrel dance music that smashed racial barriers into a rhythmically inert art music made mostly by and for white people. Whether you agree or disagree, you have to admit that’s a provocative assertion.
Not once you've heard/read this tired argument one too many times from the same people who despise anything with a more sophisticated chord progression than, say, the music of Bo Diddley, The Velvet Underground, or the Ramones. (You know, the ones who use the word “jazz” as an epithet.) Pass.

…he ends up taking aim, for example, at the notion that mainstream pop music in the early 1950s was mired in white-bread mediocrity, as embodied by the likes of Perry Como, until Elvis Presley and company came along to rescue it. He doesn’t deny that rock ’n’ roll delivered a new energy and a new attitude, but he maintains that Elvis and Perry had more than a little in common — and he notes that plenty of teenage rec­ord buyers liked them both.
That Como and Presley “had more than a little in common” and “plenty of teenage record buyers liked them both” does not dilute one iota the fact that “mainstream pop music in the early 1950s was mired in white-bread mediocrity”. So, what’s the point?

7/12/2009

Are We The Only Ones Who Think...

...if hip-hop was, as Public Enemy's esteemed Chuck D once called it, "the black CNN", is it now the black QVC?

7/09/2009

Happy Birthday

Man, we're getting old: Beck Hansen turned 39, on July 8th.

7/08/2009

Milestones: 'Prince'

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]


PRINCE
(self-titled)
[Warner Bros-1979]

Most of the recorded studio output of Minneapolis’ pint-sized monarch has been a one-man show from the start, but it's arguably his sophomore album on which he pulls it off better than the rest.
On a personal note, this was our introduction to Prince and has over the years remained very near and dear to our hearts.

If you don’t own this one, do yourself a favor and get it. If you haven’t heard it in a while then reacquaint yourself with a cool album made at the onset of his artistic reign; just as Prince was about to take us for a wild ride, and long before the hype, the hieroglyphics and the heartbreaking artistic downward spiral--now, hopefully in remission--took hold.

Highlights: "I Want To Be Your Lover", the original version of "I Feel For You" (a sizeable hit for Chaka Khan in the mid ‘80s) and "Why You Want To Hurt Me So Bad?".

Mr. Jones' 5 Favorite Guitar Solos

Time to geek out: Even though we're old metalheads 'round these parts, we don't believe in soloing for the hell of it or just because you can. The song is always king in our book. But sometimes nothing is more inspiring or exciting to hear than an able six-stringer chokin' that baby AND bringing the song to new heights. The following do it for us (in chronological order):

"Cinnamon Girl"
Neil Young Everybody Knows This is Nowhere [Reprise-1969]
Ah, the one-note solo. Awesome. And we too, could probably be happy for the rest of our lives with a cinnamon girl.

"Since I've Been Loving You"
Led Zeppelin III [Atlantic-1970]
Sure, he could sometimes be a little bit on the sloppy side with his soloing but, damn, this is some killer shit Jimmy Page is playing here. Although we've listed the original seek out the live version from How The West Was Won [Atlantic-2003] or even The Song Remains The Same
[Swan Song-1976] concert movie. (The soundtrack does not include the song.) Plus, according to a recent confession, our taking a younger, more talented sibling to a midnight showing of TSRTS, helped indoctrinate him in the ways of the six-string. So, there's that.

"My Sharona"
The Knack Get The Knack [Capitol-1979]
Bert Averre simply kicks ass with a tasty, lyrical solo that's practically a song onto itself.

"Driven To Tears"
The Police Zenyatta Mondatta [A&M-1980]
As his post-Police jazz albums demonstrate, Andy Summers is a very underrated guitarist. This track features some cool out licks of the kind more commonly associated with fellow guitarist and collaborator, King Crimson leader Robert Fripp. If you can find a copy of the long out-of-print new wave compilation Urgh! A Music War [A&M-1981] check out the fiery live version included.

"Sweet Child O' Mine"
Guns 'N Roses Appetite For Destruction [Geffen-1987]
After years of forced exile, overnight the wah-wah pedal was rendered cool again thanks to Slash and this track. The solo is a two-parter: a faux classical start that builds up and leads into a ballsy conclusion that rocks so hard you forget this was a ballad you were listening to. Yeah.


Special Mention:

"I Want You To Want Me"
Cheap Trick Live At Budokan [Epic-1979]
Crunchy and tasty, fits the song to a T. Loved it. Still do.

"Bury Me"
Smashing Pumpkins Gish [Caroline-1991]
Billy Corgan's scorching solos towards the end of this tune still make our day.

"Sick Of Myself"
Matthew Sweet 100% Fun [Zoo-1995]
One of our favorite songs of the '90s and home of one of the most loud, raucous, joyous, grin-inducing guitar solos ever captured on tape, courtesy of former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. "One more time", indeed.

Music Labels Reach Online Royalty Deal

NY Times:

Internet radio, once on its deathbed, is likely to survive after all.

On Tuesday, after a two-year battle, record labels and online radio stations agreed on new royalty rates that cover music streaming.

Many of the music sites had argued that the old rates were so high that they were being forced out of business. That could have come back to haunt the record labels, since for many people the sites are becoming a useful way to discover music.

“This is definitely the agreement that we’ve been waiting for,” said Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora, one of the most popular Internet radio sites with 30 million registered users.

In 2007 a federal royalty board ruled that all so-called webcasters needed to pay a fee, set to increase to 0.19 cent a song next year, each time they streamed a song for a listener.

Webcasters said the fees would eat up most of their revenue, which generally comes from advertising on their sites and in their music streams, as well as from subscriptions and fees they earn when a listener clicks to buy a song from a digital music store.

The sites in question often provide customized music streams, but listeners do not get to directly choose which songs they hear, and they are not permitted to store the music on their computers. For example, on Pandora users type in the name of an artist they like, and the service begins playing music with similar characteristics.

The new agreement treats sites differently depending on their size and business model. It applies to companies that make most of their money from streaming music, so webcasters like CBS Radio, which runs online music services for AOL and Yahoo, are not part of it. It covers the period from 2006 through 2015 for big sites and through 2014 for small sites.

Webcasters with significant advertising revenue, like Pandora or Slacker, will pay the greater of 25 percent of revenue or a fee each time a listener hears a song, starting at .08 cent for songs streamed in 2006 and increasing to .14 cent in 2015. Pandora had $19 million in revenue last year and expects that to rise to $40 million this year.

Small sites with less than $1.25 million in revenue, like AccuRadio, Digitally Imported and RadioIO, will pay 12 to 14 percent of it in royalties. All stations will be required to pay an annual minimum fee of $25,000, which they can apply to their royalty payments.

7/07/2009

Happy Birthday

The former Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr (69), on July 7th.

New Releases

This week's include:

CARL CARLTON Everlasting: The Best of Carl Carlton (Hip-O Select)
THE JAYHAWKS Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology (Sony Legacy)
MARCY PLAYGROUND Leaving Wonderland...In a Fit of Rage (Woz)
MAXWELL BLACKsummers'night (Sony)
ONEIDA Rated O (Jagjaguwar)

Take that, iPod!

Tech magazine T3 lists the top music-related inventions of the last 50 years, and Sony's portable cassette player, the Walkman (which was introduced exactly 30 years ago), made the top spot. (The iPod is #3.) An interesting list, to say the least.

The 'Brüno' Question

How is it possible, after the Borat movie, that people would fall yet again for the same nonsense and be comedic fodder for another of Sacha Baron Cohen's lame-ass concoctions? Not even talk show Richard Bey was aware of Borat or even suspicious of this Brüno character? Or former presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his advisors? Really? Jeez...

'Porky's' Remake Slated for 2011

Yeah.

And Savage Steve Holland (Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer) is in charge of the script. No comment.

What's in a Name?

The folks at the Sci-Fi have decided to change the network's name to SyFy. Now, unless they have become a joint venture between Sylvester Stallone and Fyvush Finkel, this is one stupid idea.

7/06/2009

Milestones: 'Get The Knack'

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc. which celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. -KJ]


THE KNACK
Get the Knack

[Capitol-1979]

In essence, power pop is meant to be a melodic, catchy, mostly guitar-based sub genre with lyrics detailing the ups and downs of romance in its various permutations. But rarely is its vibrant nature equally raunchy, sleazy, and put forth by practitioners unafraid to flaunt these attributes as Los Angeles quartet The Knack do so well on their debut. (Hell, the big hit on this disc is a naughty ode to a real-life under age girl.) This is not an album made by shy, sensitive, poetic, loner types but instead by guitar-wielding lotharios who know how to get into the girls' pants. And do so.

Clearly indebted to the early years of a certain Liverpool quartet—the album’s front and back covers reference Meet The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night, respectively—Get the Knack rode its mix of updated Beatlemania, suggestive lyrics and classic pop songwriting chops all the way to the bank: its sales of five million copies make it one of the most successful rock debuts ever. (Props to lead guitarist Berton Averre and the late Bruce Gary on drums for their stellar performances throughout.)

For some reason, many others—especially in the music press—found their work to be contrived and over-hyped; it didn’t help that on subsequent releases The Knack never reached the same highs of their initial disc. But judged on its own terms, especially three decades removed, Get The Knack is a damn fine piece of melodic guitar rock that has aged incredibly well, with a couple of timeless tracks (“My Sharona”, “Good Girls Don’t”) that ensure many more listeners will have a chance to “get it” as well.

Highlights: “My Sharona”, “Good Girls Don’t”, "Let Me Out", "Siamese Twins (The Monkey and Me)", "That's What the Little Girls Do".

7/04/2009

Happy 4th!

As has become our custom, we give you the mighty Soundgarden's "4th of July," one of our favorites from the landmark Superunknown album. Enjoy!

7/01/2009

Milestones: 'Le Dernier Combat' (The Last Battle)

A quarter of a century ago, when he himself was just 25 years of age, noted director Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element, The Messenger) debuted with a film that can only be construed as a disastrous self-parody:
a French, black-and-white, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi movie with no dialogue.

Until you watch it, that is.

At the center of the grim, doomsday thriller that is The Last Battle (1984) is a struggle for survival, mainly between a man and his brutish enemy (played by Besson regular Jean Reno) in as dire circumstances as the premise would indicate. While the film has deservedly earned its cult status, it's fitting to point out that Besson is an artsy Frenchman--stereotypical redundance? you bet--enamored with Hollywood, a balance which helps keep the film in check. Definitely worth seeking out.

Another One Bites the Dust: Vibe Magazine

The popular music mag is calling it quits after more than a decade-and-a-half of publication. Founded by Quincy Jones in the early '90s, Vibe was a leader in urban news and entertainment. But despite a banner decade, which coincided with the stratospheric rise in popularity of R&B and hip-hop at the time, the magazine had fallen on hard financial times of late. According to The New York Times, Vibes's closing down is to be immediate.