Sunday, December 31, 2006

Spittin' Wicked Randomness: New Year's Eve Edition

Currently on The Fake Life: My review of Pan's Labyrinth (go see it!), My Top 15 DVD's of 2006, and a New Year's Eve edition of What's Left?, concerning Alan Arkush's rock n roll comedy Get Crazy! And Bobbie makes her Fake Life debut with this well thought-out skewering of Dane Cook's Vicious Circle DVD. Check it out!

I didn't feel like I've seen enough movies this year to do a top 10 list or whatever, so I stuck with DVD releases for the article above. But the plan today is to go catch a double feature of Children of Men and Charlotte's Web, so if all goes well, maybe I'll post a preliminary list here tomorrow.

Elsewhere, check out this NPR story about the fight to save a playground made up of concrete sculptures of animals in San Gabriel. Apparently, authorities want to demolish it because it's not up to contemporary safety standards. It's a unique work of public art, an local excentricity in a world where every town looks the same, and people want to do away with it because kids could get hurt while playing on it. If I can get on my soapbox for a minute, and indulge my latent libertarian streak, kids are supposed to get hurt now and then. scraped knees, twisted ankles, even the occasional broken wrist, are parts of growing up. Kids survive them quite well, thank you. Leave this park alone. Also, scroll down the page and follow the link to this story about an even less safe "Adventure Park" in Berkeley, and this neat little essay about a mural over a playground, which kind of links this whole thing together.

Links to YouTubes of the 50 Greatest Cartoons Ever Made on one convenient page. Watch 'em before the copyright holders find out! (via Cartoon Brew)

AICN has posted video of Charlie Rose doing a roundtable interview with Mexican filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu (Babel).

What I should have asked for for Christmas. And, also via Bubblegum Fink, The Dukes of the Stratosphere EP! The best fake 60's psychedelic record ever!

Bandini's Best Tacos of 2006 list (essential)!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Friday YouTube: James Brown, 1933-2006

What a way to start Christmas. I sign on to AOL to see a picture of James Brown, with the caption "He made us feel good." Shit.

Forced to choose the most important rock artist of the 60's, my answer would be James Brown, who freed up rock's rhythms in a way analagous to Dylan's freeing of rock's lyrical content. Prior to "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" (or actually "Out of Sight"), rock songs were generally straightforward rythmically. The Bo Diddley beat was about as far out as it got. James Brown introduced a world of polyrhythmic syncopation that went straight back to Africa, with every instrument functioning as a drum, and multiple lines of rhythm snaking in and out of each other. The Godfather probably couldn't concieve of Led Zeppelin, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Miles Davis' 70's albums, or the entire genre of hip hop, but none of these would be possible without his rhythmic emancipation.

And of course, James and his band produced some of the greatest, most energetic, hard-edged rock n roll records ever recorded. No party mix is complete without a couple James Brown funk jams on the mix.

I was going to do a little biographical post here, but there's so many people more qualified than I to do so. Funky 16 Corners and Soul Sides have great tributes to the man up. Go check them out.

My top 5:

Bring It Up!
Make It Funky!
Ain't It Funky Now? (Live version from LovePowerPeace)
I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)
Don't Be a Dropout

James Brown throughout his career:

In the pre-funk 60's, dancing like a madman on The T.A.M.I. show to "Nighttrain!"

In the late 60's, tearing up "Cold Sweat" with the original J.B.'s!

In 1970 he fired his band and hired a bunch of young punks, including Bootsy Collins on bass and his brother Phelps "Catfish" Collins, one of my favorite guitarists of all time. His guitar solos make me wanna jump out of my skin!

By the 80's, Brown's popularity had become so great that he had his own prime time TV show, James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party!

More at Soul Sights!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

NPR story on Vince Guaraldi's jazz soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas. The story notes that this music is somehow perfect for the holiday, but is unable to say why it's so popular. Maybe it's because it doesn't sound like some condescending crap written specificaly for kids. Which is exactly why the special works in the first place. Also a very good interview with Tom Waits, and some songs from his new 3-CD collection.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Friday YouTube - Christmas Carols

Rock Chrstimas songs are an interesting phenomenon. There's so many of them, for one thing. Most are pretty second-rate. I love The Kinks' "Father Christmas," but I don't think anyone would rank it as one of their favorite Kinks songs, you know? But here's a couple exceptions.

First, "It's A Wonderful Life" by Fishbone. This really is one of my favorite Fishbone songs, which is saying a lot, because Fishbone is one of my very favorite bands. I guess it's not that directly a Christmas song--it's a song about the movie It's A Wonderful Life. It was originally released on an EP in 1987 with 4 songs, 3 of which were Christmas-themed. There was "Slick Nick, You Devil You," in which Angelo sang a poem about Santa robbing his house, a reggae song (probably their best straight reggae) called "Iration" that didn't have anything to do with Christmas, and a funky jam called "Just Call Me Scrooge."

Even better, here's Irish folk-punk band The Pogues with what might be their very best song, "A Fairytale of New York." In fact, this might be one of the greatest songs ever written. That line "I kept 'em with me babe" makes me tear up. According to one of the commenters on YouTube, this was a pretty big hit in Ireland and Britain, but certainly not over here. Came out the same year as the Fishbone tune.

And, what the hell, here's more Ramones.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

50 Years of "Louie Louie"

I'm not talking about the famous version by The Kingsmen (from 1963), but the original doo-wop version by Richard Berry (you can hear it here) celebrates it's 50th anniversary this year. At least it was recorded in 1956, although it may have been written in '55.

So, in that spirit, enjoy two of my favorite interpretations of this often-reinterprated tune.

Half Japanese - In the Hall of the Mountain King/Louie Louie
The Angels - Louie Louie

It is the best of songs, it is the worst of songs. A rock n roll song, a calypso song, a sea chanty, a filthy, dirty, obscene song, the story of rock n roll in a nutshell, the most ridiculous piece of junk in the history of damnation. A stupid song, a brilliant song, an R&B oldie, a punk rock classic, a wine cooler commercial, an urban legend, a sacred text, a song with roots, a glimpse of the future, a song that defines our purpose, the very voice of barbarism. A song that casts a spell, a song that ought to have been forgotten, and many times has been-and for all that, a song that roots into the brain until there's no erasing it. Barely a song at all-three chords and a cloud of dust; the song that really does remain the same-no matter the reinterpretation it suffers. An old story, an untold story.

-Dave Marsh ,
Louie Louie: The History & Mythology of the Worlds Most Famous Rock n Roll Song; Including the Full Details of Its Torture & Persecution at the Hands of the Kingsmen, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, & a Cast of Millions; & Introducing for the First Time Anywhere, the Actual Dirty Lyrics

(an excellent, essential book, by the way. I wrote more about it here)

Also, go to 7" punk and download the Black Flag version, and tell me Dave Grohl didn't STRAIGHT JACK that drum intro for "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

There's an assortment of "stock modules" used in our stage arrangements...These "stock modules" include the "Twilight Zone" texture (which may not be the actual Twilight Zone notes, but the same "texture"), the "Mister Rogers" texture, the "Jaws" texture, the Lester Lanin texture, Jan Garber-ism, and things that sound either exactly like or very similar to "Louie Louie."

Those are Archetypal American Musical Icons, and their presence in an arrangement puts a spin on any lyric in their vicinty. When present, these modules "suggest" that you interpret those lyrics within parenthises.

-Frank Zappa
The Real Frank Zappa Book

The Mothers of Invention - Plastic People
The Mothers of Invention - Son of Suzie Creamcheese

Friday, December 15, 2006

30 Years of Ramones on Vinyl!

Yes, punk rockers, you are OLD! My top 10 Ramones songs (the really obvious list):

1. Rockaway Beach
2. Teenage Lobotomy
3. Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio
4. Somebody Put Something In My Drink
5. Pinhead
6. Bonzo Goes To Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upsidedown)
7. I Wanna Be Sedated
8. Warthog
9. Psychotherapy
10. Blitzkrieg Bop

My top 10 Ramones Songs (not so obvious):

1. Carbona Not Glue
2. All's Quiet on the Eastern Front
3. 7 and 7 is
4. No Go
5. Danny Says
6. This Ain't Havana
7. Endless Vacation
8. Lockett Love
9. This Cabbie's On Crack
10. Questioningly

Anyway, here's your Friday YouTube, my favoritest rock video ever:

The amazing trailer for Rock n Roll High School:

And of course, who could forget this classic moment?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Read This Post

First of all, if you read this blog through a feed, I think for some reason you may have missed my post celebrating the 20th anniversery of License to Ill. So read that. And more importantly, read my new What's Left? column on The Fake Life about Song of the South and "The Censored Eleven." I put a lot of work into it. I wrote the rough draft nearly two weeks ago, but I kept tweaking it. It's a serious subject (these cartoons, and the way people perceive them, are like a microcosm of how we deal with race in America), so I wanted to do it justice, but I reckon it also speaks to how stressful it is to actually accomplish something, how fucking nerve-racking it is to put it out there, knowing that people are actually going to be reading it and picking it apart. So far, response to this seems to be pretty good. Read it and post a comment, or better yet, register for The Fake Life Message Boards and join the discussion.

While you're at it, check out some of the other great stuff posted on The Fake Life, like Andrew Clarke's awesome examinations of truck movies (Any Which Way But Loose and Smokey and the Bandit) or Doug Slack's look at rip-off movies (Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things and Galaxy of Terror).

L.A. Weekly has an overview of Stones Throw Records, which reveals that their headquarters are on Figueroa in Highland Park. How cool to find that the office of the best hip hop label on the west coast is right down the street from me! And Jonathan Gold is digging Dino's chicken, which is amazing, but really nowhere near as spicy as he makes it out to be. He's correct that the fries that have soaked up the chicken's grease are the best part, though.

Oh yeah, I have to tell you...we went to a Christmas party saturday (one of four we were invited to that day) and did karaoke, which is not something we do often. Bobbie sang "Santa Baby" in convincing floozy vamp, then I did "Viva Las Vegas," and although I didn't hit a single right note, I think the presentation of my Elvis impersonation was enough to make up for it. Then we both sang "Welcome to my Nightmare," which I think we did pretty well--that's one of the few songs that's right in my range, and Alice Cooper isn't that much of a singer in the first place. And at the end of the night, we did "Fight For Your Right To Party!"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

20 Years of License to Ill

Has it really been 20 years since that impossibly heavy levee-breakbeat first erupted from my speakers, since I first heard that nasal whine of "Becaaaaaaauuuse...?" Yes, it has, and to this day, listening to that rowdy disc brings back a flood of memories of wild, beer-soaked nights, crazy drunken exploits, rounds of shouting "WoahWoahWoahWoah WoahWoahWoah WoahWoahWoahBrooklynWoahWoah!" From the moment it first hit our ears, there was a recognition not only of great music, but of a set of kindred spirits, obnoxious teenagers with more energy than they had means to expend, howling into the New York night so loudly that we, down in the southern reaches of Florida, could hear them and howl back. This was music by, for and about hoodlums.

It's amazing to think that 21 years ago, I had no interest in hip hop. Not that I disliked it--the few times I'd heard rap records, I'd enjoyed the tongue-twisting staccato of the lyrics, and the electronic flourishes that had been popular on rap records in the wake of "Planet Rock"--but I was so obsessed with heavy metal, punk and 60's rock that I didn't really have room for anything else. Then I heard Run DMC's "Kings of Rock" (actually, my friend Dan pointed it out to me, arguing that "Any band that rhymes 'Every jam we play, we break two needles' with 'There's three of us, but we're not the Beatles' is cool"). This was a rap song propelled along by heavy metal guitars, which I thought was pretty cool, and while I didn't go out and buy the album, it did put Run DMC on my radar enough that when I read in SPIN (still in its early days and pretty good) that they had recorded a rap version of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, I got curious. On my next weekly visit to the cool record store (Record Bar in Ft. Pierce, which was managed by Disorderly Conduct/Foul Existence bassist Scot Lade, who had turned it into the hip punk record store for the area) I asked Scot about it. I was hoping I could get him to play it in the store, but being the natural born salesman that he was, he knew he had me on the hook, and could use my curiosity to reel me in. "Oh yeah," he said, "it's really cool. The song right before it ends with a drum beat, and then they mix it into the 'Walk This Way' beat, it sounds awesome." I couldn't stand it any longer, so I put down the money and bought a copy.

When I got it home, I listened to side one all the way through, and sure enough, that moment at the end of "My Adidas" when the drums go "do do DIP do dododoDIPdo, do do DIP do dododoDIPdo, do DIP dododo DIP, do DIP do do do DIP" was beautiful, and "Walk This Way" was a great recording. On my second listen through, I got into "It's Tricky," with its bouncy, uptempo beat and catchy chorus ripped from Toni Basil's "Oh Mickey." Third time through, I really started to hear the more purist hip hop track "Peter Piper," kicking the album off with a high-speed tongue twister and syncopated beats and bells. Eventually I flipped the record and heard the bouncy novelty track "You Be Illin'" and the title track, a much better rap-metal fusion than "King of Rock" (although I would later find out that their best attempt at this hybrid was "Rock Box" on their first LP). As I kept listening, I noticed how hard and percussive "Proud to be Black" was, and how cool that bit of falsetto in "Hit it, Run" sounded. In other words, I started to understand hip hop.

About that time, there was a piece on The Beastie Boys in SPIN, and I had an immediate reaction to it. They seemed like annoying assholes, these obnoxious white guys posing in their stupid Puma sweats. I was sure I hated them. When my friend Mike began talking about them, I told them they sucked. Then he produced a mix tape from a friend of his with a bunch of hip hop on it. And it had a Beastie Boys track on it, and Jesus, that song blew me away. Just knocked me out cold. Such a heavy track, I couldn't believe it. The next day I was at the flea market, and asked John, the guy selling records, if he had any Beastie Boys. I really didn't expect him to say yes, but he pulled out a 12" single, the B-side of which was called "Slow and Low." I wondered if that was the song I had heard. I had assumed that it was called "Let it Flow" or "Let Yourself Go" or something, but when I took it home and played it, that was the one. The A-Side, "She's On It," was a more upbeat, rockin' song, but "Slow and Low" was the one I couldn't get enough of. But hearing the whole album, the mix of styles, the flow of the songs, it was just an awesome piece of work.

License is completely of that moment, but at the same time, I don't think it's aged a day. They were clearly ripping off Run DMC's sound (although the contrast between MCA's gruff, Clint Eastwood voice and Mike and Ad Rock's nasal sneers added a nice touch), but they were coming from the opposite side--not rappers picking up rock moves, but rockers adapting to rap, and they took with them the dynamic song structures and album structure of rock. Where Run DMC's tracks often seem to trail off, designed to be mixed into the next track at a club or block party, the Beasties' tracks build to climaxes and end abruptly.

License is practically a survey of rap styles around in 1986, with Rick Rubin providing the perfect instrumental tracks for each. There's Miami bass on "Brass Monkey," Slick Rick-style storytelling on "Paul Revere" (where Rubin recognized the time to give the vocals space in his arrangements, although the backwards drum track is a nice touch), and gangsterisms throughout the album at a time when the only gangster records in existence were Ice T's "Six in the Morning" and Schooly D's earliest singles. In fact, one of two songs that had to be left off the record was a gangster track--does anyone know the title? I know it contained the line "Shot homeboy in the fucking face." If anyone has that track, I'd like to hear it. I do have the other censored track, a semi-cover of The Beatles' "I'm Down" which copyright owner Michael Jackson supposedly refused to clear. It's pretty silly, and I'm glad that the album ends with "Time to Get Ill" instead of this.

The Beastie Boys - I'm Down (mp3)

I'm also glad that they got talked out of calling the album Don't Be A Faggot.

I also find a parallel between the Beastie Boys' relationship with License and my own view of that part of my life. At one point, they seemed to have rejected it completely, so embarrassed were they by the asses they had made of themselves. Later, they seemed to come to some peace with it, accepting that period of acting like assholes was simply a part of growing up, even if they still seemed a little embarrassed by it. And that's pretty much how I feel about my own life between the ages of, um, about 15 and 21.

My top 10 albums of 1986:

1. TIE: Run DMC- Raisin' Hell
Beastie Boys - License to Ill: I actually like the Beasties' album better, but at that point they were really building on the groundwork that Run DMC had been laying for three years (ie, straight jacking Run DMC's style), so they share this spot.
2. Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising: the first truly great SY album (in what would be an amazing 6-album streak). It took me years to fully appreciate this. On first listen, the album's climax, "Death Valley 69" (still one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded) blew me away, and I found the whole album interesting, but it would be a long time before I could really penetrate the sounds, and come to a full understanding of what they were doing. Even better now on CD, with the awesome bonus tracks!
3. The Meatmen - Rock n Roll Juggernaut: if I was making this list in January '87, this would have been number 1. Like a funnier and better version of Spinal Tap, a thunderous sendup of excessive, macho, misogynist heavy metal. "Rock n Roll Juggernaut," "True Grit" and "Come on Over to Mah Crib" are as hilarious as they are hard-rockin', while "Centurions of Rome" and "Turbo Rock" try to keep a straight face while goofin' on Judas Priest. Side 2 loses momentum with some lame comedy skits (although I do love the bizarre gay sex fantasies conjured in the polka "Dich Streudle"), but regains it's footing for the climactic "The Sweetest Kittens Have the Sharpest Claws," which describes what would have been Russ Meyer's best movie if it actually existed.
4. REM - Life's Rich Pageant: from a Murmer to...well, not a scream, but a voice singing full and clear. REM enters the second phase of their career with this album, and while I don't love it as much as the more obscure, abstract stuff on their early albums, there are some of their best moments here, like the build to the solo on the pastoral "Flowers of Guatemala," the bridge on "Fall On Me," and the abstract poetry of "Swan Swan H" blooming into the pop perfection of "Superman."
5. Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper - Frenzy!: the term "psychotic rock n roll" gets used to describe a lot of unworthy shit, but this is the real thing.
6. Metallica - Master of Puppets: Metallica kept making the same album over and over, but this was the best version.
7. They Might Be Giants (s/t): I probably didn't hear this until early '88, but even then it seemed to come out of nowhere. Almost too catchy--after one listen, every single song was stuck in my head for days.
8. Butthole Surfers - Rembrandt Pussyhorse: not their masterpiece, but all their stuff from this period was amazing. I think of this as their mellow, pot smoking album.
9. The Flaming Lips - Hear It Is: the first band to non-ironically mix classic rock with punk? I don't know, great album.
10. The Jazz Butcher - Bloody Nonsense: this Robyn Hitchcock-influenced pop album caught my attention with goofy numbers like "Death Dentist" and "The Devil is my Friend," but it's off-kilter pop songs like "The Human Jungle" that really stick with me. Always brings me back to one night when I drove aimlessly around my town listening to the cassette trying figure out where my life was going.

Honorable Mention: Frank Zappa - Jazz From Hell: actually one of my favorite Zappa albums, it should really be on the list. Here's some other stuff I remember listening to:

Slayer - Reign in Blood: "Auschwitz! The meaning of pain! The way that I want you to die!" I have no desire to listen to this all the way through, but man, "Angel of Death" fucking kills me.
XTC - Skylarking: Checked this out of the library recently, and I had forgotten what an amazingly solid pop album it was. Treasured for the lazy "Summers Cauldron/Grass" and the atheist anthem "Dear God," but I'm really groovin' on "Earn Enough For Us" now.
Violent Femmes - Blind Leading the Naked: surprisingly great record, covering eclectic styles from punk to blues to ballads and brimming with sexual and existential angst (same is true of Hallowed Ground, by the way). This is another one that "takes me back."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday YouTube: Alice Cooper

Just so you know that I'm not dead, and this blog isn't abandoned, here's Alice Cooper doing "Under My Wheels" from his best album, Killer, on Beat Club in 1971.

Also, I like this guy's style:

CartoonBrew has a great review and some really excellent screencaps from a new 4-DVD set of Soviet Propaganda Cartoons! Rare Velvet Underground on Moistworks! Angry Samoans on 7" Punk!

Sunday, December 03, 2006


(Thanks to Bobbie Oliver for the title of this post!)

I guess it's a little late to be writing anything about the Michael Richards fiasco, but I started writing this post a few days ago, and since this has been a big topic of conversation around the household, at the comedy clubs, and over thanksgiving dinner, I figure I ought to get it out.

I'll start by saying that I'm not sure Michael Richards is a racist. My best guess as to what was going through his mind is something like "I'll do the wacky racist character! That'll be pushing the envelope!" If you follow the transcript, he says something like "Ooh, those words! They still have the power to shock," which leads me to think that he thought he was making some kind of Lenny Bruce-style comment on the power we give to racist words. I do think he went too far, crossed the line, was in the wrong, whatever, but I'm not sure his intentions weren't ironic. I'm not saying that I know Michael Richards isn't racist, but I am saying that I don't know that he is racist.

I also can't agree with one talking head on Scarborough Country last Monday who said that this was much worse than Mel Gibson's racist tirade against Jews. I would say, if we have to make such comparisons, that the Richards situation is less troubling, simply because it was on a stage at a comedy club, where people expect to hear some offensive stuff.

Now the Laugh Factory is announcing that it will be banning all "hate words," and fining comics who use them onstage. And inevitably, we're starting to hear comics get up in arms over this attack on the first ammendment by "the PC police" (I had found a particularly outspoken message board thread on the subject a couple days ago, but it seems to have disapeared, or at least escaped the all-seeing eye of Google). I always find it funny when white guys get up in arms about not being able to say "nigger" (I wonder how much a fuss these same guys made the last time cops put 40 bullets into an unarmed black man), but I do think there is a point, and I'll explain what I mean.

To illustrate my point, I'll post another example of racist humor by a low-level celebrity (which didn't get as much attention because it's in print, and because people care even less about John Kricfalusi than Michael Richards). Here's John K. opening his report on this year's ComiCon:

We drove down Friday night and Marc booked us at the lovely and inviting "N****r Rape Inn" in El Centro. Marlo had a refreshing night's sleep wrapped in cigarette soakened sheets, while horny men who recently have been given voting rights scratched at her door all night long looking for a little home-style unwilling affection.

Obviously, some commenters objected to this, and of course some immediately responded with nonsense like this:

Alright, everybody drop the race card already! At least John had the decency to censor his language! Give him some goddamn credit for once, instead of jumping on the bandwagon and calling him a "racist, sexist, homophobe"! I just LOVE the way you'll all say such wonderful things about him when you read your own agenda into his cartoons, but the minute he says something your particular pressure group considers the LEAST bit "offensive", you'll whine and bitch and cause a temper tantrum until you get your P.C. way! Man, some people love to use folks like John for their own personal interests!

Hilarious. But my point is, what JK said was offensive not because of his use of the "N word," but because it clearly expresses the idea that black guys just love rapin' white women! And that's an idea that could just as easily be expressed without the use of "hate words." Banning the words is missing the point, like removing the confederate flag from southern state flags without changing racist policies and practices within those states.

The other issue is that this seems to have not been an isolated incident. One female comic reports having been the recipient of a backstage verbal assault from Richards, in which he called her a cunt for 10 minutes. If people in power at the clubs had chosen to do something about this behavior then, they might not have had to go through this now.

So, I dunno...maybe this can be the first line in a dialogue, if anyone wants to have one.