Sep 28th, 2007 // 4 Comments

schubertdip.jpgEMF has finally returned to us! And “unnecessary reunion”?? Has Rolling Stone not read a single Klaxons review in the last 12 months? [Rolling Stone]

EMF Reunites

Sep 28th, 2007 // 4 Comments

schubertdip.jpgEMF has finally returned to us! And “unnecessary reunion”?? Has Rolling Stone not read a single Klaxons review in the last 12 months? [Rolling Stone]

Nelly Is The New Boredoms

Sep 28th, 2007 // Comment

nelly.jpgMaking me dreadanticipate Idolator’s BET Hip-Hop Awards live-blog even moreso than I was already–and finally bringing together early ’00s pop-rap and ladies who play the tympani–Nelly is “holding open auditions for an all-girl drumline for his performance at the awards on October 13″ according to XXL. Interested parties “should know how to play the trumpet, tuba, snare drum, bass drum or tri toms and be able to march with their instrument.” Perhaps they will then use his head as a drum in retaliation for the “Tip Drill” video.

Nelly Holding Auditions for All-Female Drumline [XXL]

“Across The Universe” Gets Lost In A Nostalgic Haze

Sep 28th, 2007 // 13 Comments

Ed. note: Here’s another installment of “VHS Or Beta?”, where Andy Beta looks at the music behind the movies–from preserved-by-Criterion classics to completely inane summer blockbusters. In this installment, he travels back to the ’60s with Julie Taymor, the Beatles back catalogue, and the Fab Four-created world of Across the Universe:

I saw a film today, oh boy. About how a working class-band from the industrial town of Liverpool–a borough of Merseyside, England–soundtracked the American experience for countless privileged suburbanites who were totally innocent before they learned life lessons about love and death and stuff like that and grew up to make lots of money so as to dictate the listening habits of all subsequent generations.

Well, Across the Universe, the second full-length film from Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor, isn’t quite as described in the sentence above, in that there is actually no British band extant in the film, yet their presence is inescapable. From the songs heard on the radio to those sung between people, from the inane snatches of dialogue exchanged between characters to the very names of these people (Jude, Maxwell, Lucy, Prudence, Sadie, Rita, Jojo, etc.), this group simultaneously is infused in the world, transcends the world, and is absent from it, making for the most extreme example of Transtheism glimpsed in popular cinema. Which is to say that these Liverpudlians are more popular than Jesus.

To best appreciate Across the Universe, an intimate familiarity with this British group’s discography, lexicon, legacy, and mythos is crucial, lest you miss a stack of rib-rattling wink-wink nudges-nudges, such as when Prudence (a Vietnamese lesbian) comes in through the bathroom window, gets greeted with “Hello Hello” and says she comes from “Nowhere, Man.” Later on, when Prudence is trapped in the closet (sadly there’s no R. Kelly in this world) and her roomies sing “Dear Prudence” to her, it’s coupled with a visual component that feels like some counter-culture episode of Friends. On acid, naturally.

Weirdest is how the film must dance around the issues of the sixties while scrubbing itself to a PG-13 façade, making NBC’s 1999 miniseries The ’60s seem like a gritty, street-level documentary in comparison. Here’s what was “evil” back then: record execs, the war, SDS SDR radicals, “The Man.” When Jude and Maxwell bond during the dance sequence of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” they pantomime taking drags off of an invisible joint. As the stresses weigh on singer Sadie (who, it should be noted, is both “sexy” and a dead ringer for Janis Joplin), she deals with the mounting pressures not by snorting mountains of coke and smack, but by having another sip of whisky.

Across the Universe does note the seeming cultural clashes in the beginning of the film, jumping between idyllic American sock hops in white satin and the grimy black-leather drinking spots of Liverpool, showing that both worlds are united through music. When “Let it Be” plays during a race riot and a white soldier’s funeral, we’re meant to realize how this music unifies, no matter the skin color. Or, to take the words of token black righteous soul brother African-American representative Jojo (who wraps Sadie’s scarf around his afro and conspicuously plays electric guitar like the only other African-American guitarist in the history of the world, Jimi Hendrix): “Music’s the only thing that makes sense anymore.”

And yet the film not only interprets these vivacious pop songs with all the subtlety of a soused blues bar band, but constantly makes this music act as sheer adherent for its confusing montages. After Jude fails to sketch a green apple for his friend’s record label, he resorts to squishing produce to the sound of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” said berries becoming cluster bombs, grenades, blood bags, and the Strawberry Jamz record logo (which must’ve really steamed the B**tles-averse Animal Collective). Elsewhere, a homeless man (played by Joe Cocker), a pimp, and some hoes sing “Come Together” to welcome the characters to the East Village. Dr. Robert (played by Bono) rocks a cowboy hat and hideous Fu Manchu while sneering out “I Am the Walrus” as the characters take a polarized, fish-eyed school bus ride out to a hallucinatory puppet show helmed by Mr. Kite (Eddie Izzard), all of which serves as some sort of send-off for Maxwell, about to get shipped off to Vietnam.

Here the most telling appropriation of said band’s back catalog appears. A Big Brother-esque poster of Uncle Sam screams out “I Want You” and Max undergoes a nightmarish dance sequence right out of The Wall: square-faced soldiers strip him down, check his teeth, collect his piss, dress him for deployment. Boots squash the foliage of Vietnam underfoot, the camera pulling back to reveal the troops lugging a cumbersome Statue of Liberty, her torch acting as battering ram as they scream out: “She’s So Heavy.” It explicitly comments not just on America’s foreign policy in war, but also in culture. Anyone younger than fifty might feel similarly oppressed, while the bald men who hummed (in the wrong key) throughout the film might not know what my complaint is.

Simple: I too got indoctrinated into this religion, I too came of age to the same soundtrack and subsequently embraced its iconography and symbolism, despite it being some thirty years on. I fell in love with a girl while singing the lyrics to “Run For Your Life,” lost my virginity to “Revolution #9,” had my mind blown by “Dig It,” and–when a dear friend (who similarly worshipped such deities) took his own life–I found solace in the strains of “Blackbird.” There is a profound enlightenment to be found within this pop band’s career, in how youthful uniformity gives way to discovery of self and the subsequent onset of adulthood and its attendant responsibilities, but that’s not how Across the Universe plays it. Instead, the film opts for knee-jerk nostalgia and an immature (rather than childlike) look back through a glass onion.

I’d be remiss in not admitting that I teared up during Across the Universe, as certain chord progressions stirring up deep-seated memories, but Sounder and Old Yeller get me all misty-eyed too, and I wouldn’t subject myself to two hours of psychedelic pet-offing either. It’s a cheap trick to use such “universal” music to simply trigger the audience’s personal remembrances of such things past. Seated in the theatre, I felt like a fool on a hill.

Beyonce Will Not Give Up Her Right To Wear Miniskirts

Sep 28th, 2007 // 14 Comments

beyonce.gifBeyonce has canceled her scheduled Nov. 1 show in Kuala Lumpur after Muslim groups in Malaysia objected to her performance; according to reports, she also refused to abide by the country’s dress code for women that are onstage, which dictates that female performers “must show no skin from the tops of their chests to their knees.”

Said sartorial restrictions–which also threw a wrench into plans for Gwen Stefani’s Malaysia concert last month, although she decided at the last minute to put on some tights under her revealing outfits–were enacted in 2005 as part of a suite of rules for performers that also include “no hugging or kissing audience members or fellow artists, no jumping or shouting, no throwing objects onstage or at the audience and no foul language.” Yes, that’s right: A woman wearing, say, a scoop-neck top while singing is just as threatening to polite society as people throwing bottles around a full auditorium.

Beyonce’s Malaysian Debut Axed [Billboard]

“Spin” Tries To Recapture The Spirit Of ’77

Sep 28th, 2007 // 6 Comments

spin%20rotten%20cover.jpgAnd now it’s time for another installment of Rock-Critically Correct, in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe, and Spin are given a once-over by an anonymous writer who’s contributed to several of those titles–or maybe even all of them! After the click-through, he examines the most recent issue of Spin:

Your correspondent has, more than once and perhaps tiresomely, discussed Rolling Stone‘s interest in the music and culture of the late 1960s. But he is never under any illusion that RS is doing so in a purely evangelistic fashion: those 1967 retrospectives they’ve published this year are larded with advertising and he’s sure they did well on the newsstand. Many folks who fetishize those times can be relied upon to buy those issues, and that’s that.

But the cover image of the October Spin is a file photo of Johnny Rotten squeezing a zit–in service of a 30th anniversary “1977: the Year Punk Exploded” package–and YC is fairly sure that said picture will not inspire appreciably similar feelings on the part of late baby boomers/early Gen Xers. The punk explosion, as it were, was not something that every American knew was happening (whereas every Briton certainly did). It was very important to isolated kids and musicians alienated from the likes of Styx and disco, but YC doubts very much that those now-grown ex-malcontents are going to impulsively part with four bucks upon seeing this cover.

Spin has been here before: in 1986, Rockbird-era Debbie Harry appeared on the cover of a “10th anniversary of punk” issue that seemed to be heavily influenced by then-staffer/Punk Magazine mainstay Legs McNeil, who went on to write Please Kill Me. This time around, the package seems very Mojo-ish: a selection of the “30 Essential Punk Albums” is indistinguishable from any similar list that the British mag has published God Knows How Many Times.

The issue’s centerpiece is “The Spirit of ’77,” by … wait a second here! Where’s the byline? It appears nowhere in the piece’s eight pages: one must consult the table of contents to learn that it’s by Music Editor Charles Aaron. Aaron, who lately has been cast as Spin‘s Big-Picture Guy, describes how a kid in mid-’70s America might have encountered this scabrous subculture, which bubbled up from under a completely indifferent monoculture. While Aaron’s prose is typically insightful and well-turned, the essay is oddly structured. He begins by noting how American culture in the 1977 seemed eviscerated, then describes how The Tom (“HAW HAW HAW”) Snyder Show and The New York Times‘ Bill Safire tried to decode punk, and then composes a laundry list of seemingly every band and every punk scene active in America and Europe that year. Since a sympathetic American’s perspective at that time would be disjointed, perhaps it’s appropriate that this essay has a similar effect. But it could have done, for instance, with an examination of how far and wide the influence of the class of 1977 has gone since then.

And the coverboy? 1977-era diehard and editor of The Big Takeover Jack Rabid sits down with Rotten, now 51 but evidently still moved to be reflexively contrarian in interviews. He likes Journey! He doesn’t like a lot of other ’77-era punk bands! His appearances on Judge Judy, Fuse’s Bodog Battle of the Bands, and I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here are just as subversive and daring as any music he’s ever done! The New York punk scene was too cerebral and not firebrand-ish enough! In one of the roundtables that follow, Blondie’s Chris Stein notes that Rotten “likes to be a public bitch and say how fucked up everything is and how much he hates it.”

About those roundtables: each is composed of veterans of the London, NYC and West Coast punk disaporas. English scribe Dorian Lynskey helms the first, and Rabid the following two. Supervising a conversation between Harry, Stein, Suicide’s Alan Vega and the Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba very likely rendered Rabid the proverbial pig-in-shit: it’s too bad that that the conversation tends to be pretty much of the “boy, New York was cheap and unsafe, but by God, we could do whatever we wanted” variety. Same goes for Rabid’s LA/SF reunion, comprised of sundry Dils, Avengers and Weirdos. Curiously, the Slits’ Ari Up and Tess Pollitt are present for this discussion, since they were in Hollywood for a gig, but, being Londoners in ’77, the two have nothing at all to contribute regarding the West Coast scene. The London contingent is assembled from X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene, the Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell, the Damned’s Captain Sensible and a bunch of also-rans along the lines of the Ruts, the Vibrators and Eater. The Clash’s Mick Jones also is interviewed briefly for “A Riot of Our Own,” in which he isn’t moved to say anything he hasn’t said before many many times.

While YC wrote these words, he found himself listening to the Bee Gees and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, two groups that are held up by many of the above roundtablers as reasons punk had to happen, so he’s pretty much unsympathetic to any claims that pre-punk ’70s music needed to be destroyed. He also remembers that, as a lad who read the rock press in the 1980s, the 1977 punk movement was held up by its advocates as being just as perfect and canon-ready as late-’60s culture is by its partisans. Which is all to say that he doesn’t think ideology works as a way to experience music any more (maybe it never did), and that he wishes that Spin had found a way to address the 30th anniversary of punk in a more novel, less hidebound way. If one of Idolator’s curators didn’t much care for Anthony Bourdain’s jaundiced view of 1977-era NYC on this issue’s back page, YC thinks at least that Spin could have used a few more pieces as refreshing as his.

Sep 27th, 2007 // 1 Comment

RIAA.jpgSo apparently the “first jury trial” that the RIAA has undertaken is set for this Monday in Duluth, Minn. If you’re in the area and not doing anything, feel free to stop by and hock a big loogie on one of the RIAA lawyers, as the court will be open to the public. [Recording Industry Vs. The People]

First RIAA Jury Trial to Start Monday

Sep 27th, 2007 // 1 Comment

RIAA.jpgSo apparently the “first jury trial” that the RIAA has undertaken is set for this Monday in Duluth, Minn. If you’re in the area and not doing anything, feel free to stop by and hock a big loogie on one of the RIAA lawyers, as the court will be open to the public. [Recording Industry Vs. The People]

Nicole Scherzinger’s New Single Tries To Feel Like The First Time

Sep 27th, 2007 // 6 Comments

Last month, I wondered if Her Name Is Nicole, the forthcoming solo album from former Pussycat Doll leader Nicole Scherzinger, was en route to becoming a flop–the first single, the T.I.-featuring “Whatever U Like,” had lousy sales and bad iTunes feedback (it wound up not even cracking the Hot 100) and a second song, “Super Villain,” leaked shortly after “Like” tanked. Now, a third song from the album (“Baby Love,” featuring has made its way out to the Internet, and for some reason the PR people working the record are gamely calling the song her “first single.” Are attention spans in this decade really that short?

In addition to “Baby Love,” and its lengthy, at-sea video, being pushed out and rechristened as the album’s first radio offering, the release date for Her Name Is Nicole has been pushed back from Oct. 16 to Nov. 6. Last-minute reworking or schedule fine-tuning on the part of her label? Either way, here’s hoping the powers that be retool that godawful cover.

The most surprising thing out of all this? “Baby Love” actually isn’t a terrible song–its airy acoustic-guitar balladry actually makes me think of some of the tracks on the Siobhan Donaghy album, albeit in more Americanized, “soulfully sung” form, although the recessed vocals on the chorus sound kind of weird, given that they’re supposed to be the big punch of proclaming love and all.

Nicole Scherzinger – Baby Love feat. [YouTube]
Earlier: Pussycat Doll Goes Solo, World Goes Back To Whatever It Was Doing Five Minutes Ago

Sep 27th, 2007 // Comment

lilwayne.jpgWith just a tease of a headline, we learn that “Lil Wayne is giving an exclusive, online concert on Oct. 7.” But where? And what time?? Dammit, XXL stop purposefully screwing with all those Wayne-obsessed indie-rock kids! [XXL]