6
Jun 02

dee dee ramone dead at 50.

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dee dee ramone dead at 50.

5
Jun 02

r. kelly indicted on child pornography charges

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r. kelly indicted on child pornography charges: once in a while, i guess a grand jury can see something wrong with a little bump & grind.

29
May 02

10 things of recent vintage that i’ve been listening to:

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10 things of recent vintage that i’ve been listening to:
conway – “lisa’s got hives” (from here)
rap-rock that won’t appeal to rap-rock fans — too much estrogen, too much, well, fun. it seems to me that the best mash-ups are those that wouldn’t appeal to the constituencies of either (or any) of the bootlegged artists.
dj shatterglass – without m (from here)
here’s an exception. if eminem fans could swallow the discoid original, i couldn’t see them having problem with, gasp, “pop muzik.” m fans are far less forgiving. if eminem didn’t already have enough worries with the bootlegging, his “without me” is quickly becoming one of the most mashed-up tunes ever. this one is damn fine, though it could use more bass in the mix.
nelly – “hot in here” (single, from nellyville lp)
standard issue neptunes track, perhaps a bit more steely dan than recent work. saved from being as mediocre as nsync’s “girlfriend” — a song that not even nelly could salvage on the remix — by virtue of nelly being nelly, and not, say, joey fatone. the force of his personality and his inexhaustible array of hooks are what ultimately make this a great single, suggesting that, like education, the neptunes productions are only as good as what one puts into it.
outkast – “land of a million drums” (single, from, i shit you not, scooby-doo ost lp)
just about the most peculiar artist/film tie-in since hammer and the addams family. bypass the references to the mystery machine and scooby snacks and you have another left-field outkast track, a song that lives up to its title as much as “bombs over baghdad,” “so fresh so clean,” or “southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.”
the jamie starr scenario, “welcome to thee lite” (12″ single)
jamie starr, for those unaware, was the alias under which prince wrote and produced for the time. the name seems to be an acknowledgement of his influence more than anything else as this song sounds little like prince (or the time, for that matter), except that the scenario seem to own the same equipment he was using in 1982. instead, it falls somewhere between daft punk’s discovery and the nu-electro of artists like felix da housecat and miss kittin and the hackers. nothing but a synth riff repeating over a sequencer and synth drums, but, baby, does it sparkle.
primal scream, “miss lucifer” (single, from evil heat or whatever they’ve decided to call it)
rest easy, kids. stop confounding your friends and family with your speech because, by the looks of things, vowels are okay again. bobby g. has seemingly taken all of his hostility towards the inherent fascism of the latin alphabet and funneled it into this booty-shaking single. futuristic garage rock, but it’s not garage and it’s not rock — the archtype for the new album appears to be their cover of the third bardo’s “i’m five years ahead of my time.” though i imagine there are more infuriating tactics to come with the album and its marketing, for now i have difficulty hating a single with a chorus of “shake it baby,” sung in a mick jagger falsetto shriek. a return to the simplicity of give out but don’t give up is surely welcome at this juncture.
tom waits, “i’m still here” (from alice lp)
“you haven’t looked at me that way in years,” rasps ol’ tom on this is a lovely ballad of weary, ragged devotion from, imo, his best lp since the black rider. the voice is getting worse, but if anything, he’s becoming a better actor as the years go by, putting over nearly everything he applies that pneumatic wheeze to.
the rapture, “the house of jealous lovers” (12″ single)
sort of like a more disco gang of four, without the politics. ooh! even better! like wildbunch and jack white’s “danger! high voltage”, but not quite as good.
the vines, “mary jane” (from highly evolved lp)
highly-touted aussie youngsters the vines are noted for their rocking-out, but it’s the slowies that make the album a keeper as far as i’m concerned. they all share this air of pastoral contentment: they’re swaying lullabies for hot summer nights — soporific, if only that word held positive connotations. epic rock ballads, but not in the course of nature/chad kroeger & josey scott sense — i guess it’s a bit like radiohead ca. the bends but warmer with lush, elton-john style backing vox. like most young boys who are scared to show their sensitive side, they rocked out on the ending at their new york debut, a show that brought out the rock press big-shots (and nikolai stroke!)
bryan ferry, “i thought” (from frantic lp)
it’s been, what, 30 years since the last ferry/eno composition? it’s been time well spent by both: on the first two roxy albums, it was the contrast between the two egos and the conflict between their styles that forged the vitality of those records; now, they seem to be on the same page and the results could hardly be more engaging. the gathering storm of keyboards and effects amounts to nothing but a delicate spring rain over ferry’s eternal croon, ending the record on a high and with the hope that the two won’t be strangers in the future.

14
May 02

sunday corny sunday

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sunday corny sunday: another week, another voice piece, this time written by ilx contributor and all-around fine figure of a fellow, michaelangelo matos. play on!…or play-ed out? you’ll just have to find out for yourself what matos thinks of the new moby album, 18 (though, admittedly, the title of the piece may let the cat out of the bag). a different kind of moby’s 18 is on mtv2 as i write this: moby, playing 18 of his favorite videos, by 18 of his favorite artists (what’s the name of that album again?). cue up gorillaz and the occasionally homophobic korn! and, um, “natural blues” by moby. lordy, indeed.

7
May 02

october symphonies

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october symphonies – an excellent piece by the village voice’s dennis lim on two overlooked, autumnal british pop records, the pet shop boys’ release and pulp’s we love life — one released quietly in the u.s., the other, not at all. lim uses the word ‘threnody,’ takes on all of those whom equate “irony” with “not meaning it,” and gives a kicking to julia roberts and nick hornby all in the same article (and who hasn’t wanted to do that at least several times?).

27
Sep 01

various artists, “what’s going on?”

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“what’s going on?” is a great song: it was great for our parents; it’s great listening still for us; and it’s especially great if you’ve got a cause. any cause, really. it could be aids, it could be helping victims of terrorism (or, to be more politically correct, victims of failed u.s. military policy in the mid-east). leave it to bono to realize: “bloody hell, it could be BOTH!”

and, oh yes, it is. “what’s going on?” features an a-list of stars, though, really, who let the guy from savage garden in?; if you couldn’t be on tribute to heroes, you’re on here. (if you couldn’t be on here, you’re on the montel williams (!) helmed “we are family”; God knows what michael jackson is doing with his “what more can i give?”; even elvis is reaching from beyond the grave, releasing a single of previously released material such as “if i can dream”) an incredible array of talent — the backstreet boys to nas; britney spears to nelly — take on an incredible song and the results are…well, incredibly bland. a fellow more churlish than myself would say: “surely, the victims have been through enough!” it’s no “voices that care” but it’s still better than “hands across america” — can someone remind me of what that whole thing was about? — and i hope it sells lots and lots of copies and gives equal help to the victims of 9/11/01 and the victims of aids in the african sub-continent.

23
Sep 01

FROM DEPTH TO HEIGHT – Mercury Rev’s All is Dream

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With their 1995 album See You on the Other Side, Mercury Rev created a world for the listener to inhabit. It was a world where adagios and allegros lived together in peace, where the boundaries of the staff were not strictly enforced, where tones were free to be polygamous; sounds of different colors, genres, and creeds coexisted harmoniously. World building is a difficult thing to do and takes a lot out of a band — don’t believe me, just ask the Lord — and maintaining it is nearly as difficult, so for their follow-up, 1998’s Deserter’s Songs, they staked out one particular corner, an America romanticized, as only a Canadian can do, by Robbie Robertson, only more inhabitable and, therefore, less realistic. Deserter’s Songs, whose childlike sense of awe and wonder concealed a masterful sense of composition, hearkened back to an era when there were still frontiers unexplored and riches undiscovered. As it begins, All is Dream, the new album, is what happens when one gets lost in the unlit backwoods of America, when astonishment gives way to fright, when the fairy tales are stripped away and the nightmare sets in. On All is Dream, Mercury Rev leave the confines of their upstate New York estate, with the listener in tow, only to find themselves lost in a world of their own making.

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26
Aug 01

aaliyah, r.i.p.:

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aaliyah, r.i.p.: when one watches the news, they’re welcoming anonymous tragedy into their lives: livery cab driver shot dead in brooklyn; raging fire claims the lives of three people; fifteen dead in bombing in the middle east. if anything has desensitized society to violence and death, it’s the news. which is why, when i had channel 4 on last night, hearing tale of breaking news from the bahamas where a plane crash claimed the lives seven, “a camera crew,” i looked up for a second before returning to whatever it was i was doing at the moment.

do we watch the news to hear this? or are we merely viewing it, looking out for our concerns, pricking our ears up when the names of the dead or indicted are revealed? when i woke up this morning, i went to cnn.com and saw the headline: “aaliyah dead,” followed by the words “plane crash in the bahamas.” it’s amazing how much changes when one substitutes “aaliyah” for “a camera crew.” now it’s universal tragedy; for most of us, she isn’t kin, but she’s someone we’ve brought into our homes, via her albums or watching her on television or in the movies. one’s initial instict is: well, it must be someone else. in this case, that’s dismissed quite quickly: how many aaliyahs do you know? and if aaliyah is the name of your daughter, sister, mother…only in a perfect world would her life be memorialized so.

it still hasn’t registered really. it’s difficult quite often for a celebrity’s death to resonate: she’s never been more than an image, a voice for the majority of us — how did we really know she lived in the first place? there is no void as there would be with a family member or friend, at least no physical void. it becomes doubly hard when it’s someone like aaliyah who’s only given us but a handful of years. but what years they were: along with collaborators timbaland and missy elliott, she’s given us some of the finest pop singles of the last five years. she never possessed the strongest of voices but through the force of her personality — she had that ineffable trait, “star quality” — and pure determination to make her mark, she became a megastar, selling millions of records and even receiving the call from hollywood (besides romeo must die, she was also to star in the adaptation of anne rice’s the queen of the damned and the upcoming matrix sequels).

at age 22, she seemed poised to become the next janet jackson — a mononymic multimedia star, lighting up the big screen and blowing up the radio. but now it’s all over — i don’t know how to stop writing, how to end this. it’s impossible to be poetic about this right now and yet it seems wrong to to end it so tersely, as stark as death itself. damn it. rest in peace, aaliyah, you had so much left to say and there’s so much left to say about you but death’s got my tongue and out of respect for you, i’ll not struggle to say anymore.

13
Aug 01

MR. GREENGENES, WAX, AND THE UNDERGROUND LIVE MUSIC FROM OCEAN CITY, MD – AUG. 6, 8, & 11

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MR. GREENGENES, WAX, AND THE UNDERGROUND
LIVE MUSIC FROM OCEAN CITY, MD – AUG. 6, 8, & 11

i have to start a band. upon leaving monday’s performance by mr. greengenes, with the history of mediocre bar band shows ringing in my ears, i uttered this very phrase. the mr. greengenes show provided the impetus, the seed of an idea that would burst into wondrous bloom by the time we gave up waiting on line for entrance into the venue where the underground were playing.

one can only put up with so much banality before they can take no more and throw their own hat into the ring, vowing to be “different.” mr. greengenes were, dare i say it, pretentious, as far as bar bands go. they had a percussionist. they were occasionally given to really bad guitar squalls. the lead singer was far too well versed in the mannerisms of rap-rockers as seen in videos beginning with faith no more’s “epic” and ending with 311’s “down,” with special attention paid to the grandaddy of them all, “give it away.” he had a nasal voice too, i believe he even jested about it. the radio commercials which featured the lollipop guild singers from the wizard of oz suddenly make a lot more sense now. the venue was paddock’s, alternately called by members of my party “PAD-dock” or “pa-DOCK!” like a squawking bird. it is a bar, simple and plain. the waitresses and bartenders were scantily clad and hot, so scantily clad to the point where one didn’t even have to trouble themselves with fantasizing about them nude and so hot that one needn’t worry about one of them ever touching your person. the ringing in my ear from the performance has since faded, thankfully, a perfomance that included a rendition of kid rock’s “cowboy” (yay!) and david gray’s “babylon” (boo!). points for not doing merely a tribute to modern rock radio, which brings us to…

WAX! awful! even my friends who like this kind of music agreed. the band came close to approximating the heavy sound of today’s modern rock, but the singer, well, he did not. after their take on godsmack’s “awake,” i gained unfathomable depths of appreciation for the vocal skill of THEIR lead singer. put simply, modern rock requires a singer with authority, with a commanding presence — wax’s singer lacked both, as if he were merely plucked from the audience at random before the show because he had a “disturbed” t-shirt. a shame, because the setup at seacrets, that night’s venue — and also where the underground would perform — was the best i’ve ever seen for a shitty club band. for God’s sake, they had a JUMBOTRON SCREEN behind them, to capture every lame pose and exhortation for the crowd to “scream.” setlist was filled with predictable faves like linkin park, the aforementioned godsmack, creed, staind…if you like these bands, think of other bands you like and they probably played them too, and to show they had range, they did white rap classix like “jump around” and, oh yes, “butterfly”. onstage patter went invariably along the lines of “does anyone like NICKELBACK?” where “nickelback” could be replaced with any band name. my “no”s were cruelly ignored and thus wax made “the list.”

i never did get to see the underground, not related to “velvet” or any other particular underground that comes to mind, barring a brief view at the feed from the jumbotron. they did american hi-fi’s “freak of the week” and the lead singer had a backwards hat. oh, this band actually had a chick in it and she, as i’m sure you’ve guessed by no– no, she didn’t play the tambourine. she in fact played keyboards. while the underground did damage to the main stage, we found ourselves sitting at a table by the bay as reggae music wafted through the evening air and discussed things like whether or not girls have it easier than guys when it comes to dating and whether or not we’d stay with a woman we married if she became incapacitated afterwards, part of a long line of “what would you do?” questions prompted by the song of the same name, most of which are too crass to get into here…but oh how we laughed.

what we didn’t discuss was my plans for a band, a band that would one day rule the world with a gloved fist. during greengenes, disgusted by their normalcy, i’d come up with the basic concept. i’d be the front personally and i’d wear a dress and either beat myself about the face or, less painfully and more realistically (relatively speaking), i’d apply makeup to make myself look like i was beaten — a complete powderkeg of gender issues. to this, i’d add an unlit cigarette which would remain so. the band would wear masks and black, this much was certain, but what i debated, what i went back and forth about was the kind of mask, the kind of black attire. i narrowed it down to two choices: o.j. simpson masks, with black from glove to boot or mummenschanz masks, with black leotards. i remain undecided.

at the wax show, thumbing my nose at the k-rock or, for ocean city residents, 93.5 the beach playlist, i came up with OUR playlist. after the poor reception “holly holy” received at the (actual) beach that morning — i always throw in songs i know my friends like and then add in a wild card to gauge reaction —
i concluded that we’d play neil diamond and neil diamond only. seeing as how i myself only like about 10 or so neil diamond songs, i added motorhead to the repertoire, along with a smidgen of belle and sebastian and, of course, the new york dolls. all of which, and here’s the TWIST!!, would be played as soul covers. how they’ll play horns through the masks is a logistical nightmare that i haven’t yet begun to unravel.

on line (on line! waiting!) for the underground, passing the time as freakishly accurate doppelgangers of friends in absentia passed by, i determined our name and how we would sell ourselves. the name: freddie and the dreamers, a perfect blend of bad irony and wide-eyed optimism. i would be animated, doing splits and kicks and dishing out abuse to audience, my disdain for whom would be palpable, while the masked figures would be stoic and still, striking their instruments somberly. our posters would be 8×10 glossies of me, individually kissed by yours truly, signed “hope to see you at the show tonight. love, freddie. p.s. DARE TO DREAM.” it was at this point that it became perfectly clear that i was aiming for the strokes position — criminally ignored in our homeland, loved abroad. sure, it won’t be easy finding four to six talented musicians who are completely egoless, but i dare to DREAM! i dare to be DIFFERENT! or at least ape better BANDS! so if you think this is a great idea, drop me a line before i come to my senses. if you’re a chick and you think that this is absolutely BRILLIANT, i’ll propose marriage to you as long as you’re between the ages of 17 and 20 and are “fresh-faced.”

or, at the very least, i’ll let you play tambourine.

14
Jul 01

KELIS, “YOUNG, FRESH AND NEW” MARY J. BLIGE, “FAMILY AFFAIR”

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KELIS, “YOUNG, FRESH AND NEW”
MARY J. BLIGE, “FAMILY AFFAIR”

“i’ve gotta be young, fresh and new,” kelis sings in her upcoming single, knowing full well that, along with producers du jour the neptunes, she is all three. what she can’t say she is, however, is superstar — in an alternate universe, she has macy gray’s success, kelis being the macy gray for people with taste. unfortunately for her, i can’t see “young, fresh and new” troubling the charts anytime soon; fortunately for us, i say that because the single is unlike anything else you’d hear on the radio. what it sounds like is video game music, for one of those scenes where the hero has pressed the self-destruct button in the enemy’s lair and has thirty seconds to get out: kelis navigates a deluge of whirring noises, harsh synthesizers and fuzzed-out bass, tempering it all with a heavily-harmonized, heaven-sent chorus. if it doesn’t make trl, it’ll, at the very least, increase her standing amongst alternative soul fans and production geeks like myself, almost as valuable to the record company as actual sales.

at the other end of the spectrum exists mary. mary is probably now bigger than she ever dreamed she’d be when she was young (fresh, and new), staring out the window of her family apartment in the bronx. she sells out concerts the world over; racks up platinum album after platinum album; she’s sung with elton john! it’s gotten to the point where the “j. blige” is superfluous, like aretha, she is now just “mary.” she is the standard bearer, the queen of hip-hop soul, the one kids (kids! mary’s now 30 don’tcha know) like kelis are trying to chase down. on “family affair,” she’s joined by another individual at the head of their field, the one and only d-r-e, dr. dre, a dream pairing if i’ve heard one.

so it comes as a disappointment that “family affair” even pales in comparison to share my world‘s lead single, “love is all you need,” which despite its faults was anthemic at least, and this isn’t to say that “family affair” is a bad track. dre comes with top-shelf production — when you hear the snap of the drum machine, and the crispness of the synth strings, you just know it’s a dre production. his machines sound like the best money can buy, so good that they don’t mind being synthetic. like breast implants, who cares if they’re real or not when this is the end result. mary is in fine form, and it’s about time she did a record for the cars and clubs. the song goes on like this for three minutes and you’re nodding your head…and then it all goes wrong. nothing changes at that moment, and that’s the problem: you come to the realization that there’ll be no strong bridge or a change in the beat. like a number of dre’s recent productions — xzibit’s “x” — comes to mind, the best moment is the opening, when the beat is still fresh; when you discover that you’re going to hear it all song long, the thrill wears off. “family affair” is, ultimately, a record made by two people who know that their names will sell it, that as long as they make merely good records, no one’s going to knock them off their thrones.

it’s 1974. aretha franklin releases let me in your life. it’s staid, it’s a let down; it’s still good as most 70s aretha albums are, but it’s know what you were hoping for: you want “rock steady” and you instead get “i’m in love.” that same year, betty davis — funk goddess and wife of miles — releases they say i’m different; one listens to the record and can’t help but feel that the title is an understatement. now, on the whole, betty davis is neither better nor more important than aretha franklin, but for one year, for one album, the queen was dead, love live the queen. it’s now 2001, and the queen’s vital signs are looking bad, and hospital workers say they saw a shady-looking orange-haired woman hanging around her room…