2/28/2010

The Great Green Way?

We caught Green Day live on MTV for the release of their 2004 American Idiot album and were impressed by the energy and maturity of the songs--not enough to become fans, though. We also had to acknowledge the ballsiness of writing a decent concept album and how, musically, the Berkeley, CA trio had finally made something of themselves.

Now we hear that the album has made into a Broadway musical set to debut in late March. Good grief.

Avatar up for Best Picture: Really?

We enjoyed the far superior American Beauty (1999) but did not deem it to be Oscar-worthy, so imagine our surprise when we heard James Cameron's Dances with Wolves in space was one of the nominees this year. Man...

2/24/2010

Patti LaBelle Disses Idol Judges

AP:

NEW YORK – Patti LaBelle thinks some people shouldn't be on "American Idol" — and she's not talking about the contestants.

"Some of the judges, I don't think they're qualified to even judge," she said in an interview Wednesday.

The veteran R&B diva wouldn't say which judge she thought was lacking on the hit Fox show, which has Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres picking America's top singers. Tuesday's "Idol" episode saw 12 female semifinalists competing during "Hollywood Week."

LaBelle said she was asked to be a judge on the series before Paula Abdul; a rep for the show had no comment on whether she was. LaBelle feels like the judges' comments to the contestants are too mean.

"The comments that were made, they could make you like wanna kill yourself," the 65-year-old singer said.

LaBelle's advice to singing hopefuls: "If you believe in yourself, just go for it. What do you have to lose? And when people tell you 'You can't,' you have to say, 'I can.'"

On the one hand, it's good she addresses this nonsense of putting any old clown on the panel to judge. For better or for worse, Cowell represents--as well as Jackson and DioGuardi--the gatekeepers of the music industry. If in addition to DeGeneres they're gonna bring on Howard Stern--who has not been involved in music for decades now, except as a fan--they might as well add to the panel average Joes off the street and call the show American Karaoke. Seriously.

As for her words of encouragement to contestants, they are not exactly what the literally dozens of clueless, untalented fools passing thru American Idol's ranks need to hear to further embolden themselves and torture the rest of us with their mediocre to foul vocalizing.

Then again, what do we care?

2/23/2010

The Emperor's New Codes: Celebrity in the 21st Century

We really don’t care about John Mayer’s sex life or any other nonsense his diarrhea of the mouth—and/or computer keyboard—provokes him to put out there. But there was one point he tried to make in his recent, now infamous, Playboy interview when discussing why he and on-and-off girlfriend Jennifer Aniston weren’t together that spoke to us about a much larger topic.

When he mentioned that the bulk of her fame had been achieved in the pre-online social network era, “before TMZ and Twitter”, he basically alluded to the 40 year old Aniston being an old fart who couldn’t understand why Mayer had to constantly tweet, etc. (Allegedly, "she saw [Mayer's] involvement in technology as courting distraction." We think so, too.) “The rules of celebrity have changed” or something to that effect, was his defense.

The problem with that is, as a good friend of ours recently brought up in conversation, this unfettered self-promotion may help celebrities stay in touch with their audience but at some point the person's “crazy” is gonna come out and the PR nightmare will ensue. Whatever. Mayer is part of a generation that seems to have very little understanding of what true privacy or instinctual self-preservation are; everything's one big joke. But we don’t care much about that, per se; it’s the current lack of mystery regarding an artist’s public persona that we bemoan.

Are we witnessing the end of the artist as the icon of escapism? If that dude on stage is portrayed as ostensibly just another 9-to-5er on temporary vacation, should we care how they come about creating their art? Do we feel the same about them and their process? Does this feed into the reality TV mentality that you too, however untalented you may be, have a chance at being a “star”?

Surely a middle ground can be found between the over-the-top mythic tales of how, for example, Jimmy Page composed the music to Led Zeppelin classics while secluded in a dark castle, surrounded by Aleister Crowley paraphernalia; and on the other hand, the constant barrage of OMG, I-just-had-an-organic-ham-sandwich-on-whole-wheat tweeting that passes for communication these days. Right?

Which is why this particular bit in the NY Times last week seemed so refreshing:

To promote her new album, Sade said little but sang much. She performed on Today, The View and Late Show With David Letterman but gave very few interviews. That reticence—which goes against every rule in the current pop-marketing playbook—may have worked to her advantage on the radio, said Doc Wynter, vice president of urban programming for Clear Channel Radio.

Of course, we’re talking about an artist who debuted a quarter of a century ago—yes, that’s how long ago 1985 was—one whose audience can be assumed to be the over 35 crowd. But the question is, have the rules indeed changed? Is the audience truly looking for artists to “show that you don’t take yourself seriously,” as Mayer asserts? And is the risk of coming across as a buffoon—or worse—just a byproduct of the way business is done these days?

Let’s hope not.

2/20/2010

Happy Birthday, Kurt

The mighty KC would've turned 43 today, Feb. 20th.

2/19/2010

Massive Attack Trades Beats for Sleep



MASSIVE ATTACK
Heligoland
[Virgin-2010]


After 2003’s 100th Window [Virgin] was derided by many critics as an exercise in treading water, suggesting Massive Attack should shift gears and distance themselves from their trademark gloomy trip-hop,
it looks like the Bristol ensemble took notice.

Be careful what you wish for.

Although they each have their moments, the band's first two albums—Blue Lines [Virgin-1991], Protection [Virgin-1994]—never impressed us much. They were competent but, ultimately, forgettable representative artifacts of their time that would’ve left the band as mere ‘90s nu-soul footnotes had they not released the groundbreaking,
and highly influential trip-hop masterpiece Mezzanine [Virgin-1998].

Five years later, amidst continued personnel upheavals, 100th Window was lukewarmly received despite bearing such gems as the Sinead O’Connor-sung “What Your Soul Sings,” a triumph for both the Irish vocalist and the band. "Stop repeating yourself", detractors said.
And it seems like they listened. Unfortunately.

We're not advocates of artists making the same record again and again, but we certainly don't favor changing course for the hell of it, without some sort of artistic impetus as the catalyst. In any event,
it's hard to tell whether Massive Attack succumbed to outside pressure, were influenced by their recent soundtrack work, finally felt it was time for a change, or all of the above.

Regardless, there’s not much of their most recognizable latter-day sonic traits on Heligoland, except for the gloominess that has permeated their best music. Unfortunately, the depth their dark trip-hop gave that bleak sound is for the most part unaccounted for here.
And the likes of mainstay vocalist Horace Andy, along with TV on the Radio's Tunde Adibempe, Damon Albarn, Guy Garvey (Elbow),
and Hope Sandoval, try their damndest to make up for what is essentially serviceable contemporary soundtrack music; in effect,
an updated version of their skilled but not terribly interesting early work.

Highlights: “Babel”, “Paradise Circus”, “Rush Minute”, “Saturday Come Slow”.

Sade is No.1

It's been a almost a decade since the sultry Nigerian-born British songbird released an album, but this week Sade's latest, Soldier of Love [Epic] debuted at the top spot on Billboard's main album chart, with sales of half a million copies off the bat, making it an immediate gold record. Very cool.

The rest of the Top Ten includes albums by Lady Antebellum, Jaheim, Li'l Wayne, Josh Turner, Toby Mac, Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas, Susan Boyle, and Taylor Swift.

Senator Mellencamp?

AP:
An online effort to draft Hoosier rocker John Mellencamp to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Indiana's Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh is building up steam.

Twitter is abuzz with the rumor and three separate Facebook groups have been set up, with the largest boasting about 2,000 members.

Mellencamp is no stranger to politics. In 2008, he recorded a radio commercial supporting Barack Obama's presidential campaign and requested that Republican candidate John McCain stop playing his songs, including "Our Country" and "Pink Houses," at his rallies.

Mellencamp's songs often have political or social themes. He is a co-founder of Farm Aid.

On Thursday, Mellencamp spokesman Bob Merlis said the musician "has no statement to offer."

Happy Birthday

The Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell monster riffmeister himself, Mr. Tony Iommi (62); on Feb.19th.

Here he is on this gem from Sabbath's 1981 album, Mob Rules: "Voodoo"

2/18/2010

Abbey Road Up For Sale

The world famous Abbey Road Studios, where most notably the bulk of The Beatles' albums were recorded (including its namesake, right) as well as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon; Radiohead's The Bends and OK Computer; and the final albums by both Elliott Smith (Figure 8) and Oasis (Dig Out Your Soul), respectively, has been put up for sale by the cash-strapped EMI label--owner of the legendary facilities--in an attempt to avoid defaulting on a major loan.

Here's a suggestion to someone who might be able to help:

Sir Paul, instead of just bitching about it and remaining on the sidelines like you did when you let Michael Jackson buy your catalog and subsequently place "Revolution" in a Nike ad, buy the damn thing! 16 million dollars for a place that holds a big chunk of your legacy is not that bad a deal, right?

Jay-Z Advises British Music Biz to Streamline

Spinner:

"People have to be smarter about how they A&R, and what they put out," he told the BBC. "Record companies need to catch up to that, someone needs to send them the memo."

Speaking of his time as label boss at Def Jam, he continued:
"I remember the first year I was at Def Jam we put out 56 artists. There's not 56 great artists in the world, and this is one company. One company operating for like, 80 artists in a year. That's just too many."

Now, we don't necessarily disagree with Jay-Z, but since the UK and European music industry seem to be doing much better that its American counterpart--they still have chain stores like FNAC, HMV, Virgin, and even a couple of Tower Records stores in Ireland, for example--they should take the rapper's advice with a grain of salt.

What advice does he have the crumbling US music biz?
That's something we'd genuinely be interested in hearing about.

What We're Listening To

BLACK SABBATH Mob Rules [Warner Bros]
EARTH WIND & FIRE Greatest Hits [Columbia]
GUIDED BY VOICES Half Smiles of the Decomposed [Matador]
ME'SHELL NDEG√ČOCELLO Plantation Lullabies [Warner Bros]
JOHNNY PACHECO El Maestro [Fania]

What are YOU listening to?

Kevin Eubanks to Leave Leno's Tonight Show redux

Bandleader/sidekick Kevin Eubanks will be on board when Jay Leno returns to The Tonight Show on March 1st, but won't be sticking around much longer afterwards. (The noted jazz guitarist is said to be interested in touring behind his own projects.) So, who will replace him? Rolling Stone offered up a couple of choices, so we thought we'd come up with five of our own, in alphabetical order:

- Bootsy Collins
Brings humor, soul, and large group experience to the table. Could be a cool counterpart to Jimmy Fallon having The Roots as his house band. Oh, and yeah: he's a legend.

- Danny Elfman
Could be the wackiest dude to ever hold the job, hands down. Though, probably not much going on in the sidekick department. Plus, he's got that insanely lucrative day job.

- Trevor Rabin
The film composer and former Yes guitarist is safe choice but would probably be the last one on this list to be up for consideration.

- Andy Summers
The ex-Policeman has done it before (on The Dennis Miller Show, during the early '90s), is knowledgeable about all kinds of music, has a sense of humor, lives in California, and is not doing much these days. Then again, he is 67 years old, so...

- Dweezil Zappa
Why not? Zappa is a SoCal native familiar w/show business who has experience leading large musical ensembles and a healthy sense of humor. Perfect, right?

Any suggestions?

New Releases

Here are some of the albums that have recently debuted:

LUCIEN DUBUIS TRIO & MARC RIBOT Ultime Cosmos [Enja]
ANGELIQUE KIDJO Oyo [Razor and Tie]
MASSIVE ATTACK Heligoland [Virgin]
ALLISON MOORER Crows [Rykodisc]
SADE Soldier of Love [Epic]

2/17/2010

Q: Daddy, what is a Lady GaGa?

A: Bad Eurythmics made by a Madonna / Marilyn Manson wannabe, honey.

2/15/2010

RIP: Doug Fieger (1952-2010)




Vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter for The Knack,
Doug Fieger
, died at his home just outside of Los Angeles on Feb 14th, after a 6-year battle with cancer.





A Detroit area native, Fieger is best known for co-writing his band's 1979 power pop classic "My Sharona", a six-week, #1 Billboard
chart hit and worldwide smash which became a staple of FM radio.















According to published accounts, Fieger fought a fierce battle against cancer the last few years and even had surgery to remove two tumors from his brain in 2006. At the time of his death he was 57 years old.

Those of you who are regular readers are aware of how The Knack's debut album was and continues to be a big deal 'round these parts...







We'd like to extend our sincerest condolences to his family, friends, band mates, and fans of The Knack at this time. Goodbye, Doug.

The Kiko Jones Experience: Episode 18

After a bit of a hiatus we've put together another podcast.
(The link to this episode is at the top right hand side of this page.) Enjoy!

1. AC/DC “Jailbreak" from the '74 Jailbreak EP [Atlantic]
2. DINOSAUR JR “Start Choppin'” from the album Where You Been? [Warner Bros]
3. DAVID PAJO “Cyclone Eye” from the album 1968 [Drag City]
4. THE BLACK CROWES “Wiser Time” from the album Amorica [American]
5. THE BLACK KEYS “Grown So Ugly” from the album Rubber Factory [Fat Possum]
6. THE BUDOS BAND “Ghost Walk” (self-titled album) [Daptone]
7. CORNELIUS “Star Fruits Surf Rider” from the album Fantasma [Matador]
8. LOS TRES “Jarabe Para La Tos” from the album Fome [Sony US Latin]
9. DADA “Posters” from the album Puzzle [IRS]
10. DEVO "Satisfaction (I Can't Get No)" from the album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo! [Warner Bros]
11. DON CABALLERO “In The Abscence Of Strong Evidence To The Contrary, One May Step Out Of The Way Of The Charging Bull” from the album What Burns Never Returns [Touch & Go]
12. FIREHOSE “Can't Believe” from the album Flyin' the Flannel [Columbia]
13. GUIDED BY VOICES “Bulldog Skin” from the album Mag Earwig! [Matador]
14. ELTON JOHN “Levon” from the album Madman Across the Water [MCA]

2/13/2010

From Snoop Dogg and Soundgarden to Snooki and The Situation: MTV Removes 'Music Television' from its Name; Surprises No One

LA Times:
[T]his week the 29-year-old network bowed to the inevitable and finally scraped the legend "Music Television" off its corporate logo.

The change was a belated acknowledgment of what has been obvious for years: MTV has evolved into a reality channel that occasionally runs programs that have to do with music.

But the shift is significant because, in an era of rapid technological change and microscopic attention spans, how networks identify themselves matters more than ever, experts say.

MTV "realized being 'music television' was too limiting," said Dave Howe, president of Syfy, home of such series as "Stargate Universe" and the now-defunct "Battlestar Galactica." Howe says the right brand is essential "to cut through the noise and clutter of the media explosion" bedeviling the TV industry.
You know you've sunk to even lower depths when you're getting props from the dude who changed Sci-Fi's name to SyFy. Good grief, man.

The Real World...so much to answer for.

2/12/2010

Pitchfork Reviews Sade's Latest (gives it a 7.0)

Too cool for school P-fork checking out the bedroom queen's new album? And giving it a good review?! Repent, the end is nigh!

Seriously, PF's Jess Harvell does bring up an interesting point:

For decades, pop fans have been mistaking reserve for repression, and composure for lack of soul. In 2010, though, things seem to be changing, at least a little. Describing something as "smooth" no longer sets off the same alarms for younger listeners, or younger critics. And Sade's Solider of Love is kind of a litmus test in that regard. Sade hasn't changed, and Solider of Love will likely be the year's most relaxing album. But will listeners reared to expect the immediate gratification of rock or rap go for music that hovers tremulously on the edge of both pleasure and pain?

We actually caught her appearance on Letterman this week, in which she performed the album's title track, "Soldier of Love", and were not immediately captivated by it. A couple more spins maybe? (Oh, and btw, Sade's last studio album, Lovers Rock [Epic] was released in 2000. And before that it was Love Deluxe [Epic] in 1992. Boy, have you been missed lady!)

But we did get a kick out of the still super hot 51 year old (!) being awkwardly ogled by Dave. ("I need a drink", he blurted after greeting her.) Man, not even with his recent sexual escapade scandal could he hide his horn dog nature. Ha!

[Did Dave actually say Craig Kilborn at the end?]

2/11/2010

Remembering John Hughes

Matthew Broderick, Anthony Michael Hall, and the girl considered his muse, Molly Ringwald talk to Vanity Fair about working with '80s teen bard John Hughes, who passed away in August of last year.
The web exclusive conversation can be found here.

2/10/2010

No. 9: Happy Birthday...to us

9 years ago we started a weekly e-mail newsletter that eventually became the blog you are reading right now. It's been a fun, frustrating, yet fantastic ride, so thanks for reading, especially to those of you who've been faithful "5"ers all these years. Cheers.
(Is an anniversary podcast in order? Hmm...)

Also, props to our anniversary twin, Glorious Noise, a knowledgeable bunch of righteous bastards we've been fans of for a very long time, and who keep it legit while sailing across this sea of online bullshit.

2/09/2010

Who's Next?

We only caught the last 15 mins. or so of this past Sunday’s Super Bowl, so we missed The Who’s half-time performance. (We're not football fans but were rooting for the New Orleans Saints for obvious sentimental reasons.) By all accounts it was not up to par, and supposedly was not even close to the intensity they showed at the MSG Sept. 11th concert, shortly after the WTC tragedy.

But we have to take issue with the comments by former music industry shill turned contrarian, grumpy old man Bob Lefsetz, who goes off on The Who’s performance and then on classic rock in general; lumping Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey with Paul McCartney, U2, and The Stones in calling them all has-beens. (This is a new low for the trash-talking Lefsetz; if artists that can haul out 50,000 people to see them perform are has beens, who are the big stars? Lady GaGa? Please.) Aside from ragging on the physical age of these rockers—I don't hear anyone using that argument against Willie Nelson or Sonny Rollins, for instance—his biggest beef is that “[t]his music hasn’t mattered for a very long time. It’s truly classic. But it’s aged.” Well, yes. But that’s not the problem per se.

We don’t listen to classic rock radio unless were driving around with someone in their car. And whenever we do listen to classic rock radio, it’s the same tunes over and over: for example, instead of, say, “The Song is Over” or one of their other great deep album cuts, it’s one of The Who’s CSI songs; Jimi Hendrix has 3 official studio albums plus Band of Gypsys and plenty of posthumous releases, yet “Purple Haze” is on regular rotation. Of course these songs have lost much of their potency—they’ve been overplayed to death!

But there’s more to these artists than the 3 or 4 songs classic rock radio is stuck on. After all, the main reason why these artists are legendary and tens of thousands still show up to see them perform every night is quite obvious: a lengthy catalog of seminal tunes that will be around long after you, we, Bob Lefsetz and whatever nonsense the hipsters like this week have all departed from God’s green Earth.

2/08/2010

Long Live Rock? - Favorite Super Bowl Half Time Quote

"How many people out there are thinking, 'I didn’t know CSI had a band. Why are they old?'”

- On The Who's performance at the NFL's Super Bowl XLIV

Ouch!

2/06/2010

Delco: Visionaries or Clowns?

Madrid-based rockers Delco, are celebrating the release of their second album Radiohead-style: inviting fans to pay what they please, but for their live shows rather than a disc. Basically, after the band's performance, you place in a container whatever amount of money you think the boys deserve for the show.

Good grief.

Listen, everyone should be able to do as they like with their music, but we’ve always felt the stage is where the audience rewards you for being in agreement with your music; they liked what they heard on your record and now want to peel off a couple of bills to see your perform said music.

But like everything, there are always those rodents hoping to take advantage and not pay for the efforts of others. (Hence music piracy.) That's why in these times, when recorded music sales represent a less than ever reliable source of revenue, it seems crazy to embark on a live pay-what-you-want situation. What's more, after years getting little or no financial remuneration to speak of, to pass around the hat once again seems somewhat ridiculous and reminds us of the saying about being "more of a papist than the Pope.”

However, in Delco’s specific case we see it more as 'gimmick' to attract people than otherwise. Particularly since these shows were to promote the release of the album and it's doubtful they’ll try this in a continuous manner on the road without a sponsor of some sort.

Meanwhile, here's a track from their debut:

Robi Rosa - "Madre Tierra"

Unfortunately, he’s best known as the guy who wrote “Livin’ la Vida Loca”, “Shake Your Bon-Bon”, “The Cup of Life”, and the infamous William Hung vehicle “She Bangs” for his former Menudo bandmate Ricky Martin. But Robi Rosa is much more than that: his album Vagabundo [Sony-1996] is a dark rock and roll masterpiece sung in Spanish and one of the best albums of the decade in any language.
(If Alice in Chains' Dirt had been made by a romantic junkie poet with a feel for psychedelia, it would probably sound like Vagabundo.)

Here he is rockin’ out to Vagabundo’s first single and one of my favorite songs of his: “Madre Tierra” (Mother Earth) from the recent live album/DVD Teatro.