Friday, December 5, 2008

The Strokes' Julian Casablancas Must Be Wonderin'

So little by little it seems all the members of The Strokes are starting their own side projects and sorta pulling it off. Albert Hammond Jr. is on his second solo album. Both were very well-received, critically. And now drummer Fabrizio Moretti has two side projects: the hilarious, psycho-hippie-hillbilly on crack project Megapuss, which could only be fronted by Devendra Banhart, and now Little Joy. That's all fine and dandy, except that Little Joy sounds really good and really, really like The Strokes down to the very drunken, passive-aggressive lazy, highly-nuanced croon of Stroke lead singer Julian Casablancas. On Little Joy, Moretti teamed up with Banhart collaborator and Los Hermanos lead singer Rodrigo Amarante, who does such a convincing Casablancas voice, you swear you just heard a new Strokes song. I can just imagine how the conversation between Casablancas and Moretti must have gone after the Nov. 4, 2008 release of the self-titled Little Joy record.

Moretti (M): I wanted it to be a surprise, Jules... so did you hear it? What did ja think?

Casablancas (C): Dude... What the f**k! It's not bad enough that you didn't alter your drumming whatsoever from how you play with us, but you also had to get a vocalist that sounded exactly like me?! Jesus.

M: Come on dude... We are making Brazilian indie rock--nothing like what we do on The Strokes!

C: Os Mutantes was Brazilian indie rock. This project of yours sounds like The Strokes with a few sprinkled lyrics in Portuguese. You gotta be sh*ttin' me! Why not bring some of these great ideas when we start recording the next Strokes record this year?

M: Dude... you're such a d*ck! Like you really let me throw my two cents when we're making a Strokes albums. I'm the effen drummer, remember? The Beatles didn't even let George Harrison get too many of his ideas in there... Ringo? Two words: Yellow Submarine, biatch.

C: Alright dude... what can I tell you? Congrats? Congrats on being the Strokes drummer who formed the new Strokes with a different lead singer?

M: A**hole. [hang ups]

C:Merry Christmas, Ringo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Watch After Watching

It's been ten years since the Coen Brothers released their box office trash, but cult classic flick, "The Big Lebowski." Without exaggeration, I have seen the movie about 20 times from start to finish. But even so, I couldn't tell you the plot. One person mistakenly pisses on another's "valued rug" that "really ties the room together." The porn industry and nihilists get into the mix. Everyone is chasing everyone and it's almost impossible to keep track of exactly the who the "you" is in the memorable quote: "This is what happens when YOU f**k a stranger in the a**!" The point is that the plot is forgettable and negligible almost by design. The Coen Brothers' penchant for characterization is the selling point. Each character in "The Big Lebowski" delivers deliciously hilarious lines. Each character is complex, idiosyncratic and completely believable. And together, the characters stitch together a fantastic movie experience that could have had a million different plots and the outcome would have been the same. That's the Coen Brothers' magic. It's visible in "Lebowski," but also "O, Brother Where art Thou?," "The Ladykillers" and "No Country for Old Men."

So now we get to the Coens' new release, "Burn After Reading." It's receiving lukewarm critical response on account that the story is not that good. Well... duh... the proof is in the characters. And by that measure, this movie is bound to be another Coens cult classic. Each character delivers lines that no doubt will be memorized and uttered millions of times, over and over. John Malkovich's rage-fueled pompous, has-been CIA operative couldn't be funnier. George Clooney's womanizing ways, sexual deviance and preoccupation with kitchen floors is hysterical. Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt, who work together at a gym, form one outrageously enjoyable doofus sandwich. CIA head J.K. Simmons and CIA officer David Rasche's two closed-quarter meetings provided some of the best comedy in the movie, while "heart-in-the-right-place" hero Richard Jenkins was impossible to root against. And so on and so on. Over the years, each character will learn to be loved for their quirks and terrific lines.

Most movies tend to be a one-time affair: you watch it once and you're done. But with the Coen Brothers, you can help but watch their movies over and over and over, hoping to catch something about their compelling characters that maybe you missed the first twenty times. "Burn After Reading" is one you will watch after watching and then watch it some more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Has-Beens on the (Old) Block

I'm the first to preach that music writers should leave the auditory art form to the ears of the beholder and simply provide context, but what the old, newly reunited New Kids on the Block are offering up is just too good to pass up

Now look, I'm a two-song (max) closet Kids sympathizer. I want them to succeed as much as the next thirtysomething gal who was teenboppin' back in the Kids' heyday. But the stunt they're pulling is just... Well, what's the technical term? Oh yeah, ick!

So here we are in 2008. The Kids are back together and all growns up. Their girlie-girl demographic who were weezing, crying, screeching for them are all pushing 30 now. It would seem that their target demographic would be those thirtysomething'ers seeking to relive the glory days, right?

Nope. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure who the hell they're singing to/for. The first single called "Single," goes a little something like this:

"It don’t matter cuz ur here now
and the music ur enjoyin’
So for the next couple minutes
Baby i’mma be ur boyfriend

"Pretty mama if ur single…single
(u dont gotta be alone tonite)
NE-YO: so while the dj play this single…single
(just pretend that i’m ur man tonite)"

Okay. Just two things: Not sure that "I'mm be ur boyfriend" is going to do much for a woman in her '30s. And if they're singing to a much younger crowd--somehow selectively forgetting that they've aged 20 years--is kinda weird.

And all of this is based on hearing the first single of their upcoming full length LP. Can't wait to hear what the rest of the album has to offer with such enticing song titles like "Sexify My Love," "Put It on My Tab" and "Officially Over." If they would have sang "D*ck in a Box," at least that would have been funny.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hot Hot Heat Want Their Rip-Off Back

So the much buzzed about Black Kids, who are not all black by the way, do a pretty good job of ripping off the Cure. I mean that as a compliment. Just listen to "I'm Making Eyes at You" and tell me that puppy's arrangements aren't the Cure (c. Head on The Door) freshly cloned? That particular Cure line-up and sound is not a bad version of the Cure to clone at all. But then it struck me: it's not the Cure that the Black Kids--purposely or not--are ripping off. The Black Kids are ripping off Hot Hot Heat's Cure rip off. Just for s-n-g's I threw a few Hot Hot Heat songs and a couple of Black Kids songs into a playlist and hit shuffle. The resemblance from lead vocals to arrangements was plagiaristically stunning. I wonder if the Kids realize this? In my heart of hearts, I don't have a problem with this. I rather have 100 Cure knock-off bands that some of the garbage making waves recently. Just a thought.

Speaking of the devil... This just in: "Perfect As Cats: A Tribute to the Cure" will be released on Oct. 28. Here's the track list:

Tracklist For Perfect As Cats: A Tribute To The Cure:

Disc 1
01. Fascination Street - Xu Xu Fang
02. A Forest - Bat For Lashes
03. Killing An Arab - Hecuba
04. The Caterpillar - Astrid Quay (of Winter Flowers)
05. The Walk - Indian Jewelry
06. Six Different Ways - Rainbow Arabia
07. Why Can't I Be You? - We Are The World
08. In Between Days - Blackblack
09. Pictures of You - Rio en Medio
10. Fire In Cairo - Gangi
11. Kyoto Song - Joker's Daughter
12. 10.15 Saturday Night - Aquaserge (with Laure Briard)
13. Grinding Halt - The Muslims
14. M - Voyager One
15. The Hanging Garden - Ex-Reverie
16. The Drowning Man - Caroline Weeks (of Bat For Lashes)
17. All Cats Are Gray - Devastations

Disc 2
01. Primary - Dandy Warhols
02. The Upstairs Room - Veil Veil Vanish
03. Charlotte Sometimes - Wolkfin (ex-Junior Senior)
04. Jumping Someone Else's Train - Army Navy
05. A Strange Day - Ich Bin Aiko
06. The Exploding Boy - Lemon Sun
07. The Kiss - Corridor
08. The Love Cats - Katrine Ottosen (CALLmeKAT)
09. A Night Like This - Silver Summit
10. Love Song - Mariee Sioux
11. Close To Me - Kaki King
12. Sugar Girl - Buddy
13. Hot Hot Hot! - Les Bicyclettes Blanches
14. Let's Go To Bed - Tara Busch
15. The Funeral Party - Jesu
16. Three Imaginary Boys - Sarabeth Tucek
17. Disintegration - Lewis And Clarke

Check myspace page here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vampire Weekend: Believe da Hype

Not one to usually jump on the bandwagon, but I gotta say... this ride's worth every bump (and beat). Though to my credit, if you scroll down and look at my "2007 Playlist from Hell," I did have "Mansard Roof" down as a fav of 2007. This music speaks for itself. If you have your doubts listen to "A-Punk" and/or "Walcott" for starters. Or you can start with "Oxford Comma," because nothing quite says Ivy League geeks-turned-punks like the first line of this track: "Who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma?" But punk is just the tip... er Friday of this weekend. Juiced up with African pop on one track and snobby violins to go with your silver spoon stirred tea on another, these guys don't go wrong anywhere on this album. It's a rare listen-through-the-whole-thing type of affair.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The White Stripes Sing in Spanish

If you missed my Jack White/White Stripes bashing e-mail a few weeks ago, go ahead and read that now. I'll wait.

Okay, so the only thing to report at this juncture is that The White Stripes have released a Spanish-sung version of "Conquest." Sure, it's as gimmicky and as much a novelty item as the Pixies' barely understandable (in Spanish or English) "Vamos" or "Isla del Encanto," but Jack singing in Spanish is actually not too terrible. So for now, he's partially forgiven for thinking this song sounds like Mexican mariachi music instead of Spanish paso doble. Maybe, I was a little too hard on ol' Jack White, after all on "Ickey Thump" he does thump anti-immigrant sentiment when he sings, "Why don't you kick yourself out, you're an immigrant, too?"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mexico and Spain Are Two Different Countries, Jack

Maybe this is my retaliation for the shitty way in which Jack White said farewell (he mumbled a mixture of "thanks" and "fuck yous" and "motherfuckers") to his audience at the conclusion of the White Stripes' show at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Virginia in 2007. But I wouldn't have a leg to stand on, if Jack and Meg wouldn't have begged for it by cementing the most common mistake made in music this past year. Many music publications who commented on the song "Conquest" off the White Stripes over-hyped "Icky Thump" album, suggested that the Stripes where scratching a mariachi or Mexican itch during the intro, when in fact, the blasting horns and bullfighting flavor of the song was 100 percent, unequivocally "paso doble"--a traditional Spanish (as in from Spain) played during a bullfight. Up to Dec. 11, 2007, I thought it was simply a case of journalists committing a benign, literary faux pas much in the same tradition that many Americans shout "Olé!" when about to chomp down a fajita at a Mexican food joint. (For the record: "Olé," sangria, tapas, flamenco, castanets are mostly Spanish traditions, while "Orale," margarita, fajitas, Mexican hat dance are... well, Mexican). Anyway, on Dec. 11, the White Stripes released their "Conquest" EP on iTunes. Track 5 is called "Conquest" (Acoustic Mariachi Version). ¡Pinche cabrones! Now that, my friends, IS Mexican slang.

"Walk Hard:" Laughing at Tragedy

Gratuitous or unprovoked meanness just doesn't sit well with me. Comedy at the expense of someone who really doesn't deserve it takes the funny element out of it.

"Borat" was a classic example. The world laughed and praised this guy who turned a struggling country and its people into the laughing stock of the world. Who the hell knew anything about Kazakhstan before Sacha Baron Cohen found this novel way of making himself rich by pretending to be from there and singlehandedly attributing the worst, unfounded stereotypes you can imagine to them? You can picture the scenario when a mostly uninformed American, who watched "Borat," encounters a Kazakhstani student at a bar. Embarrassing.

The more recent movie that comes to mind is "Walk Hard." All I needed to see was one trailer to be utterly disgusted. Although I'm a fan of John C. Reilly and I get the whole Johnny Cash/Jim Morrison/etc. parody, some stuff is just sacred and unnecessary. Of all the material to chose from in Cash's life (and, admittedly, there was plenty to mock, even though I am a diehard fan), they chose to mock the tragic death of Cash's older brother Jack who died in a power saw accident when he was only 12 (I believe). The movie trailer shows a kid learning to play a guitar and singing something stupid like, "I cut my brother in half" or some crap like that. WTF!