Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chaos and Creation In The Backyard is now officially depressing and more

So much of the latest Paul McCartney album is about his soon to be ex-wife supporting him and how new this love was and all that. I guess that's what you get for marrying a gold digger your kids hate - an album outdated less than a year in.

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I've been listening to a lot of music lately that has sort of an ambient/lethargic bent, specifically a new-ish band called Brightblack Morning Light. Long songs, slow building, with slinky guitar parts, strong basslines and breathy vocals. Also, i've been digging on the demos for Ghost Wars, featuring Foo Fighter/Sunny Day Real Estater Nate Mendel, along with the former lead singer of Juno. You can find them on myspace.

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I've also re-committed myself to attemting the New York Times crossword puzzle each day. That's a real easy thing to do Monday and Tuesday, but by Thursday i'm feeling stupid as i'm out of practice.

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Going up to Connecticut this weekend to hang with Mr. David Colemand and Ms. Laura Harrison. That should be fun. Then, on Sunday i have the wedding of the lovely Ms. Rebecca Wills and Mr. Timothy Kessler. That too should be a good time.

Gotta love a long weekend.

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Oh, and i love my laptop.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Baseball Day in NJ

A few Baseball-related thoughts to start this final week of June...

First of all, anyone who has even a passing remembrance of the Mets of the early 90s, or just wants to know just how egos can ruin a team should read this. Sorry Erin, but Bobby Bonilla was an asshole...

Second of all, shame on all of baseball for putting up with Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie is a fantastic manager and has done a superb job in Chicago, turning the White Sox away from nearly 90 years of failure to a 4-game sweep in the World Series. However, two gay slurs to the media in two years is cause for a serious supension. Now, i don't know if Jay Mariotti, writer for the Chicago Sun Times, is gay or not, but i can tell you that no matter what, he doesn't deserve to be called a "fucking fag" either. I may not like Mariotti (he's the smarmiest dude on Around the Horn), but he's a journalist who simply questioned the way that Guillen handled a young pitcher. That is his job; to analyze the moves of the sports figures of the Windy City.

On top of that, Guillen's apology was so half hearted and insincere - to give you an idea, he said he wasn't homophobic because he goes to WNBA games and has tickets to a Madonna concert. MLB and the White Sox should step in and severly reprimand Guillen and send the message that slurs just aren't welcome in baseball. For a sport that was at the forefront of breaking segregation and embracing players of all races, for a sport that donates millions of dollars to charity, and for a sport that fines people for throwing their helmets, a slap on the wrist doesn't work for a biggot.

The Mets are back in Beantown for the first time since beating the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. I'm waiting for a ball to run through the legs of Kevin Youkilis tonight, even though there is no way he could catch Jose Reyes anyway. One day people will be talking about this 2006 team like people talked about the 1986 Mets - simply impressive.

And finally, the Tigers are for real. I wasn't a believer until recently, but watch out for this team.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Pop Matters, again

Once again, Pop Matters has an extraordinarily brilliant article on bigotry, stupidity, the Constitution and gay issues. I really could link to them every day...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Plagiarism is the new Creativity

Everywhere i look lately, famous songs are being ripped off. I thought that i was reading a bit too much into this, until Entertainment Weekly called out two of the songs that i had recently thought were too similar for comfort. Well, folks, hopefully i can illuminate you to some of this tonight, here at the Rant.

Case #1

"Mary Jane's Last Dance
Dani California

First of all, titling your song a person's name, and then throwing in an alternate spelling (I'm looking at you Ms."Sk8r Boi") does not make you cool, hip, or anything other than what you are, which in the RHCP's case is washed up. Second of all, do we need another RHCP song about California? "Under the Bridge" was enough for me, and i have never once dreamed of Californication.

But the real insulting part about this is how close their new hit really is to the Tom Petty song of 13 years ago. The chord progression is damn near exact, and the vocal melody, down to the mentioning of a location in verse 1, is eerily close as well. Basically, Anthony, Flea and co. are getting lazy. I hope Mr. Wilbury sues the fuck out of them.

Case #2

Is She Really Going Out With Him?
Steady, As She Goes

I first heard the Racounteurs on my recent trip to Los Angeles, and upon hearing this single i said "Somewhere, Graham Maby is pissed off." My friend Scott had no idea what i was talking about, but Maby was the bass player for the Joe Jackson band, proprieters of the hit "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," which Jack White and co. completely steal for "Steady As She Goes." For reals. Listen, to the introduction of the bass line and tell me it's not nearly a note for note rip.

Case #3

Wendy's Commercial
"Take Me Out to the Ballgame"

Ask Erin, this one is going to drive me to an early grave. In a series of new Wendy's commercials, there is this whistling melody that is notes # 2-7 of "Take me out to the Ballgame." That is frustrating enough. But in all the commercials, this is randomly placed and played multiple times throughout the commercial, seemingly for no good reason. A guy is ordered food, CUE WHISTLE. Squirrels steal a car, CUE WHISTLE. Not once, but 3-4 times. It feels like the government put a chip in my brain that says "eat Wendy's Brian (which has worked well for the past 10 years or so)," and then whenever the commercial starts, some sort of electromagnetic field from my brain and the TV triggers that noise in my skull to remind me that i'm hungry for a #4 with a coke. Over and over for the remainder of the 30 second clip. I literally freak out when this comes on it bothers me so much. Fuck you, Dave Thomas. You haunt me from the grave you corpulant bastard.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

AIDS Turns 25


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

If you're going to rip someone off, it may as well be Bowie

As a music fan, i often hear/read about performances that i missed. Whether it be iconic for its size (Woodstock, the Beatles at Shea Stadium), or a surprise guest (when Dan got to see Sufjan Stevens guest at an Iron and Wine show), or just a really great set (like any number of shows by any number of bands). Well, this morning, whilst procrastinating, i was reading an interview with Dan Bejar, aka Destroyer, aka the Bowie sounding guy who does 2-3 songs per New Pornographers record. He was talking about the millieu of the live performance and said "I think the Merge showcase we played at the 2002 CMJ, during the This Night tour, might have been the best Destroyer show ever."

This may seem like another piece of Salvatore pining over a show missed, except for the fact that i was there - and i did not appreciate it.

Destroyer is one of the many bands i dismissed initially because of a sonic similarity. Bejar's voice is very David Bowie-circa 1972 (when Bejar was born actually). I know Bejar didn't align his DNA to purposely create a Thin White Duke-esque voice, but he certainly doesn't shy away from phrasing, singing and generally sounding like Bowie. After the aforementioned CMJ showcase, when Bejar and co. got a standing ovation, i wondered aloud to the strangers next to me, "Haven't these fucking people heard of Bowie?" To which they replied, "Who cares?"

Well, i did, dammit! In a world where conformity is encouraged at every level, indie rock should be unique and not instantly remind you of something as universal as Ziggy Stardust. Sure, every band has a song that sounds like someone else - but to my ears, every song in a catalog shouldn't be confused for an outtake of someone more famous. Especially if every song evokes the same guy.

So this begs a question. If you happen to have a natural tint towards someone famous, should you be blamed for emulating them? I mean, there are a dozen guys i can think of off the top of my head who would love to be compared to Bowie - people who spend their entire career trying to achieve a similar balance of credibility, instant recognition and financial success would kill for his voice. So is Bejar really doing anything other than simply taking advantage of a natural ability? If you are a great baseball player who can hit like Tony Gwynn, people would love you, not deride you for it.

And Bejar, on a personal level, does not play up the Bowie thing - he doesn't pull an Oasis and compare himself to his sound-sake. He's put out three Destroyer records since 2002, and each one has been unique and moderately successful. He is pushing his own boundaires with each release and seems to be genuinely commited to a career of idiosyncratic indie rock - albeit idiosyncratic indie rock that people will constatnly compare to Bowie.

What i believe we must do in cases such as Destroyer, is that we must look past the obvious to the subtle. This is, obviously, easier said than done. Frank Black, when talking about one of his favorite albums, Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man, he says that you must think of the dated 1980s production as "the frame that surrounds the songs." Maybe the Bowie thing is just an ornate frame, that through careful studying, can reveal something really special within.

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I don't know if i agree with all the points made here, but it again shows that for good writing on the interweb, Pop Matters is king.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion, Beirut, Etc.

This past Friday, my father and i took in the new Robert Altman film, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, based on the popular NPR radio show. The film, much like the radio program, is fantastic, and really showcases what is so great about the show - it shouldn't exist. Radio drama mixed with traditional country/folk songs and old timey commercials shouldn't be on the same dial with the ClearChannel owned schlock that is 99% of radio. So Kudos Altman and Garrison Keilor, for championing something that most of the potential audience for this film will never understand, appreciate, or even know exists.

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While at my cousins' birthday party on Saturday, i came up with a brilliant idea for a new television show: Celebrity Beer Pong (Beirut). Think about it: In the age of reality TV, one hit wonders and terribly bland sitcoms, there are a treasure trove of young celebs who are dying for more tv exposure. Imagine seeing a Survivor pong tournament, with the winning team to face the Amazing Race team. Or you could go retro: Team 90210 Vs. Team Melrose Place. Spike TV will eat this shit up...

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"New Slang" by the Shins has been in my head now for 5 days straight. I'd be annoyed, but it may be a perfect song. So i can deal with that.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Quick Hits

Just a few things to share today, of varying importance.

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First and most important, it is time (once again) to step in and save NPR and PBS. For those who like news, entertainment, education and muppets, you can't just sit there and watch public broadcasting have its funding slashed again. It is bad enough that after Charlie Rose or Tavis Smiley i have to sit through Toyota commercials, or how This American Life is brought to you by Volkswagon, but do you really want your kids to grow up in a world where there is no Sesame Street? I think not...

Just sign it, dammit:

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R.I.P. John Tenta, aka pro wrestler Earthquare. This guy was so scary back in the late 80s/early 90s i used to have nightmares about him.

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To read an absolutely terrific article, click here and enjoy the always wonderful Pop Matters, and their take on the independent record store/book store culture.

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Couldn't these two hacks be seperated at birth?

Met's Pitching Coach Rick Peterson:

Beach Boy Mike Love:

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The Mets have only lost 5 series so far this year. They have tied/won the other 15 they have played. That is pretty staggering. Taking 1/2, 2/3, 2/4, 3/4, or an entire series 75 percent of the time? I'll take that anyday.

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And finally, check out the trailer for the fantastic film BRICK. One of the best films i've seen all year:

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

That's the Way God Planned It

Billy Preston died yesterday at age 59. This name probably does not ring a bell for many people, but for a Beatles devotee like myself, his loss will be recognized as what it is: a very sad loss.

Billy was one of those musicians who seemingly was everywhere for a period of time, yet never really got enough credit for his work. He played with Little Richard, was a keyboard prodigy (like Stevie Wonder) at age 12, was the only artist ever credited on a Beatles single ("Get Back" by The Beatles with Billy Preston), he played at their final ever live performance on the rooftop of Abbey Road studios, played on 5 Rolling Stones albums, plus albums by Elton John, Bob Dylan (the classic Blood on the Tracks), a few Beatles solo albums, co-wrote the Joe Cocker classic "You Are So Beautiful," won a few Grammys, had two solo #1 hits and was the first ever musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

He was also a man who was always smiling - his big toothy grin was many times accompanied by a larger than life afro. His positive energy can be seen on this clip. This is from the famous Concert for Bangla Desh - the very first all-star charity concert. Billy manages to upstage Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and George Harrison with his one song showcase of his Gospel hit, "That's the Way God Planned It." His vocals and organ absolutely smoke on this live recording, but the true legacy of Billy comes not with his voice or his hands, but with his feet. Watch, towards the end of the performance, as Billy leaps up from his organ, as if somehow beyond his own control and starts dancing across the stage. This is met by smiles in the band and roaring applause from the audience. You see a man who doesn't simply want to dance - he needs to move, the music is so within his body.

Some thirty one years later, Preston again managed to upstage everyone on stage at the Concert for George - a tribute to his friend George Harrison. Taking George's "Isn't It A Pity?," Billy sings and plays his ass off, in the company of Paul McCartney, Clapton, Tom Petty and more once again steals the show with his consomate musicianship. Sure, lots of Billy's records were less than fantastic. Sure, he had drug problems and served time in prison. But listen to his early 70s material, with or without other artists surrounding him, and you will be pleasantly surprised at just how talented this unsung organist was. You'll be missed, Billy. Rest in Peace.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I think it would make me MORE violent

Manilow Vs. Crime