Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 sounded like ...

Your guide to retro 2008. The unoriginality matrix. The rip-off ledger. “It happened last year ... and a few years before that, and a bunch of times in the 10 years prior, and then probably it happened for the first time about 12 years before that.”

All these titles will work just fine. None are truly fair, and indeed there’s a good deal of this music that I like. But the first rule of snobby criticism is that if there’s enough to like then there’s enough to not like. So ...

That 2008 “best of” band ...... basically sounds like ...... circa:
Crystal CastlesKraftwerk1981
Crystal StiltsVelvet Underground1968-69 (“quiet” period)
Jay ReatardBilly Childish 1991
Beach HouseMazzy Star1993
Lykke LiBjörk? (does she have a
less talented sister?)
School of Seven BellsLush1990
TV on the RadioTV on the Radio2006
Guns N’ RosesGuns N’ Roses1991 + 25 TB of tinkering
Fleet FoxesMy Morning Jacket2003
Department of EaglesGrizzly Bear2004
The Ting TingsToni Basil with Devo1981
Vivian GirlsBeat Happening covering
My Bloody Valentine
Hercules and Love AffairPet Shop Boys1988-ish
The Hold SteadyShane MacGowan with
the E Street Band
Girl TalkSoulwax2001

Contributions? Challenges?

Coming soon: My best-of list(s) for 2008.

Happy New Year


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rolling Stone interns, old at heart

The most interesting year-end list I’ve seen is by Rolling Stone’s interns, posted yesterday:

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
The Black Keys - Attack & Release
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Beck - Modern Guilt
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Conor Oberst
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Portishead - Third

Besides the obligatory Fleet Foxes, these are suspiciously baby-boomer choices for a bunch of 20-year-olds. Does anyone under 40 really care about the Black Keys’ humorless retro blooze? And Beck? Coldplay? My Morning Jacket? Portishead? Fine albums, and MMJ will probably place high on my list. But I’m 34.

Are the interns really this fuddy duddy, or are they just brown-nosing their bosses with RS sacred cows like Beck? (Who has gotten at least four stars for everything since Mellow Gold, which of course got three and a half.) If the latter, they’ve gone too far: Even those masthead elders are hip enough to recognize TV on the Radio, Lil Wayne, Girl Talk, Blitzen Trapper and Santogold.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

’Tis the season to download the WPIX Yule Log for iPod


Alessandra Stanley’s column today about video yule logs reminded me to remind the world that the great WPIX Yule Log — the original — is available as a download for your iPod.

Which means that while you’re waiting on line at the airport or being shoved in the face by someone’s luggage on an Amtrak train, you can find comfort in 240 by 180 crackling pixels on a 6 minute 3 second loop.

And although classic WPIX remains the greatest television station ever — two words: Phil Rizzuto — I learned this year that even we New York chauvinists can reach to our friends across the country in Yule Log solidarity. It was filmed in a house in California on a hot August day in 1970.

Something to chat about over your wassail games this year.

Holiday greetings from Thelma Todd


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

‘Ultrasonic Melody’

The Defenders/The Petitioners/Ben and Sam, July 2003. Calling Tresider Burns ...


My Best Got ’08

From GQ:


Click here for the indispensable Edirol R-09, and here for that interview with the guy from the New York Times.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nice posters at MBV

MBV, a new blog tended collaboratively by the people behind the Catbirdseat, Fluxblog, Largehearted Boy and some other sites, has been running some very nice posters by the likes of Doublenaut, the Small Stakes, Toy Habit Studios and Nate Duval. The health or demise of the modern-day gig poster is a debated topic, and perhaps not debated enough. There is wonderful work being done. But you're more likely to see it online than stuck to any wall.

Here's one recent MBV selection by Joel Wheat of (?) Toy Habit:


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Press release of the day: Rosco P. Coldchain


Not a press release, actually, but a news blast. But I think Rosco P. Coldchain is my new favorite rapper name. I look forward to Ponch N CHiPz, Da F Troop and William K.A.T.T.

Philadelphia rapper Rosco P. Coldchain has been arrested in connection with the murder of a local man, sources have confirmed with A source who wished to remain unidentified told that the rapper, notable for his affiliation with hit production team The Neptunes, is being questioned in connection with the incident. While details are sketchy, the unidentified victim, a man in his teens or early 20’s, was gunned down near Cottage Street and Wakeling around 7:30 pm last night (December 18).... Police stopped two men in the area after the shooting and questioned them, one of whom turned out to be Rosco P. Coldchain, born Amin Porter. At press time, Coldchain was arrested, but police have yet to charge him with any crime, as they investigate the deadly shooting.

Unfortunately for Mr. Porter, however, he was not the only one who thought the name was cool.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reading Reed, Reed reading


Saw Lou Reed the other night at the Housing Works Bookstore Café in SoHo, reading from his new collection of lyrics, Pass Thru Fire.

Like everything Reed does, it was amazing and perplexing. When he didn’t look bored, he looked wounded; when he didn’t look wounded, he was angry, physically so — the crowd was told that flash photography was forbidden, and when some poor schmuck snapped him with flash at close range, Lou slammed his fist in rage.

He’s constantly slipping between emotional extremes, on the one hand aloof and cynical, on the other vulnerable and coiled like a snake. When he performed Berlin in Brooklyn two years ago, I couldn’t take my eyes off his face: such numbness and yet such pain. You can see it in Tony Cenicola’s wonderful portrait of him that accompanied my interview with Reed for that show. I was jealous; I hadn’t even come close to cracking that shell.

Nor will I ever, and nor will you. Because perhaps the most important part of his persona is something that I realized was the answer to one of the questions put by the Housing Works audience. (They couldn’t ask directly — the mere mortals had to write their questions down on slips of paper, to be asked later by Alan Light, whose expression upon being shot down by Reed’s gruff answers was priceless.)

The question was, “What’s your secret to being cool?” He’s a pro, so he made some pithy joke, and he got his laugh. But the real answer is: Be an asshole. Be superior, be indifferent, be too self-absorbed to care about anyone else, but then lash out. Show gratuitous anger. Show that the slightest thing that other people do can piss you off — that their very existence pisses you off. That’s how to be cool, and it’s why no one will ever be cool the way Lou Reed is cool.

But enough about that.

Pass Thru Fire. Not impressive, for several reasons. Not because of the literary content — though Reed himself seemed barely interested as he read his own words, two or three of the songs, especially “Rock Minuet,” froze me.

What’s irritating is that the book is one more bit of redundant catalog exploitation, and it’s sloppily done, too. By my count this is Reed’s fourth book of lyrics. It follows Between Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics of Lou Reed, which I got for Christmas in 1991; The Raven, from 2003, which is the lyrics to POEtry, Reed’s “disjointed gray mass” of a theater piece, after Edgar Allan Poe; and the previous edition of Pass Thru Fire, from 2002. The new edition adds about 100 pages, with The Raven and a short section called “The Latest.”

And that’s just the books. This is the guy whose music has been compiled, boxed and otherwise repackaged at least 12 times in the U.S. (and still more overseas): Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed (1977), Vicious (1979), Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-1980 (1980), City Lights (1985), Walk on the Wild Side & Other Hits (1992), Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology (1992), The Best of Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground (1995), Different Times: Lou Reed in the ’70s (1996), The Definitive Collection (1999), NYC Man: The Collection (2003), Platinum & Gold Collection (2004), and Playlist: The Very Best of Lou Reed (2008). (Only one of these is really essential: Rock and Roll Diary, with definitive liner notes by Ellen Willis.)

Plus eight live albums: Rock n Roll Animal (1974), Lou Reed Live (1975), Live: Take No Prisoners (1978), Live in Italy (1984), Perfect Night: Live in London (1998), American Poet (2001), Animal Serenade (2004), and Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse (2008).

Who knows how much of this clutter Reed himself can be blamed for, and how much is the cheap and greedy work of anonymous label executives over the years. But there’s no excuse for the book, which was laid out as though the designer had just gotten his first copy of QuarkXPress and was dying to show off that he new how to add smudges and wavy lines to the text, and have it all line up in a circle pattern and then fall apart, etc., etc.; if you saw a copy of Ray Gun in 1993, you’ve seen it all. But it’s more than dated, and it’s beyond gimmicky. It’s idiotic, tasteless and even disrespectful — to his own work.

Here are a few pages from the book. These are not doctored and are not scanner mistakes — this is really the way it was designed. Lou, how could you. Is it just so that you can release The Ultimate Pass Thru Thought and Expression Collection, Velvet Edition in 2013?


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Press release of the day: Manowar approve French balls


As you know, “other bands play, Manowar kill[s].” But what you may not know is that your favorite Buffalo-area codpiece-metal band also excels at the art of press releases and fan-club announcements. Which makes sense, really, for four guys who once signed a record contract in their own blood.

So I was delighted but not in the least bit surprised by the bellicose, homoerotic flair of today’s statement from the Kingdom of Steel. Other bands — the kind without loincloths, for example — might simply say that they were playing the Hellfest festival in France next June, and add that tickets were going on sale, here’s the website, yadda yadda. But Manowar kills.

A French hero has risen! MANOWAR has found a promoter with the balls to bring us to the country of France! On June 21, 2009 MANOWAR will headline the Hellfest 2009 set to take place in Clisson along with special guests HolyHell. Tickets are for sale online at For more information and directions please visit

We call all French warriors to battle! The Kings Of Metal will crack the earth in Clisson!

More tour dates for 2009 will be announced shortly, including the third edition of the Magic Circle Festival. Stay tuned!

Seriously, when was the last time you heard a band say something like “We will crack the earth at the Qualcomm Center”? Unless you’re on the Manowar mailing list, my friend, you haven’t heard that in a number of years.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Found while purging huge amounts of crap from my now-slightly-less-cluttered apartment: my earliest “professional” clips, from when I began contributing to New York Press in 1998.

They had run a solicitation on their front page bulletin-board column, which said something like: “Even though we know we’re going to be flooded with hundreds of pages on ‘heaven rock,’ we are hereby looking for music writers; send in a sampling of what you can do.” I went out and reviewed an Oblivians show at Maxwell’s, and faxed it in. John Strausbaugh, still one of the best editors I’ve had, told me to keep them coming, and the first one they printed was on You Am I.

Also accomplished on last week’s much-enjoyed staycation: finally figured out how get my printer to scan. So one plus one here equals a bunch of non-Googlable 10-year-old clips scanned and uploaded for your enjoyment, Kind Reader.

Included: that You Am I review, which appropriately enough begins with talk about temp jobs; more “Live Dates” on Daniel Johnston, Michael Hurley, Brad Mehldau, Pharoah Sanders, and the reopening of Maxwell’s with Neutral Milk Hotel and Fugazi; an early review of Fantômas, accompanied by a brilliant Mike Wartella illustration; a review of an S.O.D. reunion show, with wonderful art by Roy Tompkins, which I later bought from him and has hung on my wall ever since; an angry CD review of my beloved Pastels (Illuminati, their remix album); and a Q&A with Nick Lowe.

There’s plenty more, from both New York Press and the defunct New Times L.A., which I contributed to for a couple of years (here’s a Freedy Johnston CD review); I’ll post more when I can.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Big Brother, version

Got this in an email this morning:


“As someone who has purchased Stephenie Meyer books or searched for ‘Twilight’ at”?! WTF? How much did Ms. Meyer's people pay to have Amazon comb through their search logs for this?

What’s next? “As someone who once rolled over a dirty spam link but then thought better of it...”? “As someone who has read more than 16 Star Wars-related entries on Wikipedia...”?

Museum of propaganda: ‘Thank you, Malta!’


Sunday, December 7, 2008