Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Emo Philips and Robert Plant, 1985


What more needs to be said, really?

Monday, March 30, 2009

It has come to this


A press release announces:

Auditions will be held Friday, April 10 in Los Angeles for drummers who are looking to play with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. They should send their background info, photos and performance web links via email only to: pumpkinsdrummer@gmail.com.

Vaselines to tour again

Sub Pop reports:

Sub Pop’s May 5th release of Enter The Vaselines is ... effectively a deluxe-edition reissue of the 1992 Sub Pop release The Way of The Vaselines with a new title and new cover art, both from the band, and a whole lot of new material (the entirety of the 17-song second CD/third LP has been added)...

It includes new mixes and re-mastered versions of everything by The Vaselines, plus never-before-heard demos, and live recordings from 1986 in Bristol and 1988 in London.


Sun, May 10th – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater
Mon, May 11th – San Francisco, CA – Bimbos
Tue, May 12th – Seattle, WA – Neumos
Wed, May 13th – Portland, OR – Doug Fir
Sat, May 16th – Chicago, IL – Metro
Mon, May 18th – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg

The Vaselines at Maxwell’s was one of my favorite shows last year. So sweetly raunchy. I’ll skip this, since it’s the kind of thing you can really only do once, but if you missed their handful of dates last year, do try to see of of these.

‘Little Red Riding Hood’ as infographic video

(Via Cool Infographics.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’

RIP Uriel Jones of the Funk Brothers. I don’t know if he’s even playing on this track — a mostly instrumental version of a minor 1966 hit by the Elgins — but it’s a perfect example of what Motown was all about.

Get your own Sally Jupiter cheesecake print


James Jean created a Vargas-style pinup of Sally Jupiter for the Watchmen movie — you can see it for a moment on the wall in Comedian’s apartment — and he’s now selling a 17 x 22 giclée (i.e. ink-jet) print of it on his own site. It’s going for $85, plus $8.75 shipping. Closer detail of it here, Jean’s sketches here.

Wonder if the Warner Brothers lawyers know about this.

(Via The Poster District.)

Blender pops


I’m very saddened to learn that Blender magazine is ceasing publication, effective immediately, according to the very reliable Nat Ives at Ad Age.

The music magazine ranks have been thinned in the past year or so, but this is a major blow. They did great work, kept the other mags on their toes, and in the five or six years I’ve been contributing I wrote a lot of pieces I’m proud of, thanks to ace editors Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks.

Paid subscriptions at the end of last year were 768,000, down 8 percent from the year before, according to Ad Age, while newsstand sell-through, the number that the bean-counters pay most attention to, was down 18 percent, at 44,000.

RIP. And, ahem, let’s hope that Alpha Media Group makes good on those freelance debts.

‘Evacuation and assistance in case of gas poisoning’


Hiro’s rough translation:

Don’t let the sick walk by himself.
Carry him quietly.
Go to the closest emergency site.
Don’t walk against the wind; reach the safer place that way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

West 24th Street


‘How China sees the world’

Brilliant Economist cover by Jon Berkeley, whose note above the Forbidden City (barely visible on this scan) reads: “With apologies to Steinberg and the New Yorker.”


The funny thing is that Chang’an and Dongdan are two of the only street names I remember from Beijing.

(Via Strange Maps.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three cheers for Hiro


Great news from my friend Hiroyuki Ito, whose brilliant photography you may have seen in a recent New York Times spread. Asahi Camera, Japan’s top photo magazine, is running a selection of his work in its April issue (left).

I picked up a copy at the Kinokuniya bookstore near Bryant Park, but Hiro tells me you can also get it at Asahiya, at 45th and Madison.

For those who have seen only his photojournalism, Hiro’s creative work is startling and thought-provoking. Taking his cue partly from Daido Moriyama, he engages in a kind of intuitive street photography: trusting his gut, he snaps dozens, hundreds, thousands of pictures with his point-and-shoot, often catching just the slightest glimpse of something before quickly putting it on film. Yes, film: dude is at the darkroom seemingly every other morning, and knows it’s time to develop when his fridge is filled with so many rolls of Tri-X that there’s no room for veggies.

He once described his method to me as “xeroxing the world.” If anybody else did it, the pictures would probably turn out looking like dull, blurry xeroxes, but Hiro lets the Force guide his camera, and so he often captures things more powerfully than if he stopped to frame and pose (and think).

Here’s an example, which is not in the Asahi Camera feature:


Hiro and I are collaborating on a nonjournalistic project, which we hope to share if I ever get off my butt and make good on my part of the deal.

Congrats, Hiro.

UPDATE: Here's an even better example of what he does:


Shepard Fairey ‘beautified’ SXSW

I hadn’t known about this, but Arrested Motion reports:

Visiting the Lone Star state with buckets of wheat paste and some good old fashion Obey elbow grease, Shepard hit up many prominent spots including Lance Armstrong’s Bike Shop: Mellow Johnny’s, Red 7, Emos, Home Slice, and many more.


(Via OMGP.)

UPDATE: More from Fairey’s site, Obey Giant.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SXSW: The bands unseen

My eardrums tell me I heard a lot of music at South by Southwest, but the numbers show that I caught only a fraction of what was available.

PhotobucketTypically I see about 50 shows, or about 2.5 percent of the total lineup (around 2,000 bands). This year I had to leave a day early, so I saw only about 40, or 2.0 percent. That’s inevitable, given the size of the event, but it’s also frustrating. How can anyone truly get a sense of the festival when you’re missing 98 percent of it?

Here are some of the performers I had wanted to see, and in some cases planned or even tried to see but couldn’t because of basic time-space physics, long lines, coverage redundancy or because they played while I was performing some essential biological function like eating or sleeping. (I’m sure I’m forgetting about at least 100.) Biggest regrets in bold itals.

  • Webb Brothers with Jimmy Webb
  • Diane Birch
  • Jason Lytle
  • Theresa Andersson
  • Afternoons
  • Magneta Lane
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage
  • Flower Travellin’ Band
  • Wolves in the Throne Room
  • Rolo Tomassi
  • Lissy Trullie
  • Girls
  • Port O’Brien
  • John Forte
  • An Horse
  • Gabriella Cilmi
  • Descartes a Kant
  • The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
  • Mariachi El Bronx
  • The Drones
  • Passion Pit
  • Little Boots
  • Natalia Lafourcade
  • Chin Chin
  • Cancer Bats
  • La Gusana Ciega
  • Jana Hunter
  • Belong
  • Rokhsan
  • Nid & Sancy
  • Mieka Pauley
  • Roll the Tanks
  • Ron Flynt
  • Shelley Short
  • Alela Diane
  • Lisa Hannigan
  • The Low Anthem
  • Shellshag
  • Micachu and the Shapes
  • Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
  • Slaraffenland
  • Slow Club
  • Abe Vigoda
  • Titus Andronicus
  • Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers
  • Afterhours
  • Hollywood Holt
  • Pato Fu
  • Belong
  • Chairlift
  • The Mae Shi
  • Or, the Whale
  • Max Tundra
  • White Lies
  • GZA with the Black Lips
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • Sleepy Sun
  • Ringo Deathstarr
  • Say Hi
  • Monotonix
  • The Shackeltons
  • Takka Takka
  • Those Darlins
  • Dananananaykroyd
  • Fionn O Lochlainn
  • The Octopus Project
  • Thao with the Get Down Stay Down
  • Ponytail
  • PJ Harvey and John Parish
  • Woods
  • Psychedelic Horsesh*t
  • Deradoorian
  • Phosphorescent
  • Deer Tick
  • Cursive
  • Janelle Monae
  • Roky Erickson with the Black Angels

I’m also bummed that I missed Flatstock. Biggest regret of all, though, is that I never bumped into Joe Gross. Shoulda made it to Flower Travellin’ Band. Maybe they’ll play in another 30 years.

UPDATE: After looking at Jake’s list, I can now add these:

  • Mount St. Helens Vietnam Band
  • The Week That Was
  • Viva Voce

More awesome than Austin?

Rob wrote the other day with news from Los Angeles, in an e-mail with the subject line “More awesome than anything you will see at SXSW”:

Last night I attended the Greg Proops Chat Show at Largo, which has become a regular enjoyment for me. His “house musician” is Jon Brion, and his special interview guests were David Cross and Dave Grohl. The format is that of a traditional late night talk show (opening song, stand-up monologue, two interviews, closing songs).

I had two revelations during the show:
  1. David Cross is an insufferable a**hole — something I already knew, but have now confirmed without a doubt.
  2. Dave Grohl is a funny-ass motherf***er, and quite possibly the Best All-Around Guy In The World.
But the true euphoric moment came at the end of the show, when Mr. Grohl expressively read aloud the lyrics of two Manowar songs (“Gloves of Metal” and “All Men Play on Ten”) while Mr. Brion accompanied him on piano playing lullaby music.

Then the two of them jammed out a medley of ’70s cock rock songs like “Slowride” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” — Brion on guitar and Grohl obviously on drums. In the middle of it, Brion yells “Drum solo!!!” and Grohl just stops, looking around and feigning confusion. After about 7 seconds of silence, Brion yells again “John Cage cover, ladies and gentlemen!” and they immediately pick back up again. For the rest of the set, Grohl looked and acted like Animal from the Muppets.


He’s right, I didn’t see anything as awesome as Dave Grohl reading Manowar. But I did see a few good things. (And ate a few good things, too.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ninth Avenue


Four-word reviews from SXSW

So. Despite the new Twitterific agony of deadlines every 10 seconds, SXSW was very good this year. It’s getting harder to select a single “breakout” band, or even a dozen of them. Partly that’s because the festival gets bigger every year — there were 1,958 official bands this time, and who knows how many more unofficial ones — but also because the “breakout” itself was an effect of a more monolithic media era when a handful of critics and publications created a consensus.

It wasn’t an illusion, exactly: there really was a consensus. That no longer seems to be possible, although I would love for a new band to be so great that they steal the show for real. (That would also be a great excuse for getting out of the other 1,957 shows, which get tiring.)

Herewith, all the four-word reviews I wrote for the ArtsBeat blog. There were maybe 10 or 11 more bands that I either didn’t see enough of to form even four words of an opinion, or didn’t think they were worth it. Wow, the introduction to a list for four word items is nearly 200 words long.

  • Daniel Francis Doyle: Spasmatic, atonal, yet precise.
  • Micah P. Hinson: So pretty, twangy, relaxing.
  • Photobucket
  • Gomez: Groovy ... whoa, double-kick!
  • Decemberists: Want opera? Must wait.
  • Crocodiles: Stylish wall of throb.
  • Wavves: Another duo bashes away.
  • Thermals: Sweaty; thanks for Nirvana.
  • Motel Motel: Yowling, exuberant Band-isms: emocana?
  • Two-Way Radio: Homely, cute. Metal disrupts.
  • Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers: That scream is primal!
  • Department of Eagles: In church, harmonies envelop.
  • St. Vincent: Graceful, ambitious. Odd banter.
  • The Wheel: Stark, eloquent Cash echoes.
  • The Donkeys: Mellow; sitar’s potential unrealized.
  • K’Naan: Schooled me re Mogadishu.
  • Dirty Projectors: Omigod omigod omigod omigod!
  • Blitzen Trapper: Lo-fi Americana doesn’t translate.
  • Pains of Being Pure at Heart (at Malverde): Childlike bounce brings smile.
  • Pains of Being Pure at Heart (at Opal Divine’s Freehouse): Too loud; intimacy lost.
  • Telepathe: Tribal futurism? Futuristic tribalism?
  • The Soft Pack: Prefer former name, Muslims.
  • Matt and Kim: They swear too much.
  • King Khan and the Shrines: Unabashed sleaze = rock’s origin?
  • Mi Ami: Tight like a fist.
  • Earthless with J. Mascis: Cathartic waves of electromagnetism.
  • Tinted Windows: Non-obvious supergroup actually works.
  • Crystal Antlers: Overcame double-drummer skepticism.
  • Silversun Pickups: Metallica opener. Shortest straw?
  • Metallica: Slayed. Surprisingly, didn’t overshadow.

Next list: all the bands I didn’t get to see.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My four words are nothing


By popular demand I’m doing my four-word reviews of bands at South by Southwest again this year. If I do every band I see for more than five minutes, I’ll end up with probably 30 to 40 reviews. But I’ve been put to shame by Paul Ford at The Morning News, who is doing six-word reviews of every act that has an MP3 posted on the SXSW site, and so far he’s done 1,302 of them. You can even view them on a Google Docs spreadsheet.

Hats off to Paul for his productivity, and for the zingers, like Alessi’s Ark (“Let’s camp and hug each other”), Very Be Careful (“Everyone stopped chewing and just stared”) and Silk Flowers (“Casiotone that should be left alone”).


(Via SXSW Baby.)

‘Teddy at the Throttle’


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Carnivorous urge, 1; resolve, 0

Promised myself I would try to limit intake of barbecue, burgers, Mexican and any other food that spills across the plate in caloric gobs. Then I stumbled on this place:


My penance: $30 in healthy staples at the local Whole Foods. I now have a hotel mini-fridge filled with pineapple, bananas, OJ, yogurt, milk, and yummy-smelling coffee.

SXSW blog, tweets, and actual articles


For all the South by Southwest news you could ever want, and more, I direct you to the extensive, mutli-platform coverage by myself and my colleagues at the Times.

We’ll be blogging at ArtsBeat, and I’ll be popping my Twitter cherry there too, to get you all those 140-character bons mots that just can’t wait for a full blog item. (Or full copy-editing.)

And, as a special bonus, we will also be writing actual articles for the paper — we’re talking thousands of characters here, allowing for things like quotes, ideas and narrative. You’ve already read some by David Carr and Jenna Wortham (right?), and over the next several days you’ll get more by me and Jon Pareles.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mr. Polka wants your pierogi vote


It’s not every day that you get a craven e-mail blast personal message from Jimmy Sturr, the 18-Grammy-winning polka king, so when you do, you pay attention:

Please help our sponsor out with this contest.

Jimmy Sturr
Gus Kosior V.P.
UPA Productions

He’s referring to the entry for Mrs. T’s Pierogies in the Best of Schuylkill County 2009 contest. (That’s category No. 17, Best Producer of a Schuylkill County Product, just past the Auto Body, Auto Dealers New, Auto Dealers Pre-owned, Auto Parts and Auto Repair/Service fields.)

Only one vote per IP address. 

The Dude, in prints


Finally I can post about this, now that a gift has been delivered.

I stumbled across the above image by Ben Swift last month in the GigPosters.com classifieds, where dozens of prints are offered each day, usually by their creators and for very low prices — basically, you can get original work by the Shepard Faireys of tomorrow for 20 or 30 bucks a pop. Not all of it is exactly for the ages, but there’s some interesting work being done. Despite my occasional tirades, this really is a boom time for fresh, young poster art.

Anyway, the brilliance of Swift’s poster speaks for itself, even while the Fairey Obama portrait is fast on its way to becoming a visual cliché. I ordered one for myself and another for a friend. (USA Today ran an online item, and within a day Swift ran out of his 80 prints. He had to print up a second edition of 180 to satisfy demand.)

What’s even cooler is that the piece is a contribution to “This Aggression Will Not Stand, Man,” a group show of Big Lebowski-inspired art at the Signed & Numbered Gallery in Salt Lake City, which is run by the sister of a member of Weezer:


There’s some very nice stuff in the show, including the below posters by Tyler Stout (“Il Grande Lebowski”) and Pete McDonough (“Gutterballs”). A report from the gallery opening, with pictures and interviews, is here.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hell no, Phil Rudd does not use a click-track


(1) Visual genius; (2) plot continuity

Couple more notes on Watchmen:

1. Johnnyripped wrote the other day with one of those awe-inspiring realizations you get about the book every now and then, reminding you of Moore and Gibbons’s meticulous brilliance. We’ll be finding easter eggs in the movie for years — like the “Burroughs St.” sign, or how Zack Snyder actually did sneak in a giant squid — but those seem more like superfluous gags than anything that reflects or illuminates the story.

Johnny writes:

The image of Veidt yelling “I did it!” in issue 12 is the image of the doomsday clock set to about 11:55. Meaning all Veidt has accomplished is pushing back the hands a minuscule amount.

See? Genius that keeps on giving.

2. Thinking about scenes omitted from the film, I began to wonder about the background to the murder that sets the whole story in motion. We don’t get a lot of this in the film, but bread crumbs are scattered throughout the book.

The central question of the whodunit is: Why did Veidt kill the Comedian? The answer, of course, is that he discovered Veidt’s plan to fake an alien invasion and frighten the world into peace. And how did the Comedian find out? In the book, we’re told that he stumbled across the secret island where the whole thing was being set up:


But elsewhere we get a few clues about the people who worked on this project. In a flashback in Chapter 2, the Comedian told Moloch that “on that island they got writers, scientists and artists,” and later we find out that those include Max Shea, author of the Black Freighter comic, and Hira Manish, a surrealist painter, both of whom had been missing for months.

Thing is, Shea and the others thought they were working on a movie. Even the scientists who cloned a psychic’s brain believed it was for the FX. From the wrap party in Chapter 10, just before they are all blown up:


So this raises the question: How did the Comedian put two and two together? How did he figure out that this was real, not just for a movie? Did I miss it in there somewhere?

Mr. Ripped and I drew up a few possible scenarios:

  1. Comedian saw them working on the “movie” but didn’t buy it, and investigated the hell out of it. (Unlikely. When Comedian confesses to Moloch — whose house was bugged — he sounds as though he just saw something awful and ran away. Besides, if he had investigated very far, Veidt would have found out long before.)
  2. Perhaps there were Dr. Evil-type goings-on at the island before the “movie” plan got hatched, and this is what Comedian saw. (Also unlikely. Comedian tells Moloch that he saw artists and writers. And it’s clear from the two scenes at the island that things were done on deadline.)
  3. Comedian found further evidence on the island that included the list of people who would get cancer, as part of a plot to frame Dr. Manhattan. As in, “What’s this? [Gasps.] A document titled ‘My Plan to Eliminate Dr. Manhattan and Achieve World Peace by Sacrificing Millions, by Adrian Veidt’?” (Unlikely, since Veidt isn’t this stupid. But it might be the only explanation. For one, this was the pre-Internet ’80s, so information would have to be stored locally on a computer, and we’ve see how sloppy Veidt is about passwords.)
  4. Simple incongruity in the writing. Oopsy daisy.

Other theories/corrections/schoolings? Also, I don’t even remember how Snyder handled this in the film. How did the Comedian figure out the plan? Or is that even why Veidt killed him? Never got around to that partly-for-fun-but-also-partly-for-even-closer-study second screening.

Absolute marshmallow perfection


Bravo, City Bakery and your 17th annual Hot Chocolate Festival. Bravo.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Street team or nerd tags?

West 18th Street:


West 24th Street:


Friday, March 13, 2009

Who watches ‘The Watchman’?

At this point I’ve read reviews I don’t agree with, reviews I do agree with, and others that have struck me as condescending or dismissive. But none have mystified me quite like this piece by one Brooke-Sidney Gavins. It’s in the otherwise solid Pop + Politics, which was founded and is edited by legit journalists.

Where to begin? How about the lede:

It’s really bad when the state of humanity hinges on a bunch of pseudo-sadomasochists parading around as costumed heroes who haphazardly decide to save the world for mere kicks and giggles. This is the twisted sense of humor and entire point of the mystery adventure The Watchman.

Ignoring for the moment the error in the title, is this really what the film is about? Do “pseudo-sadomasochists” (?) decide to save the world “for mere kicks and giggles,” and “haphazardly” at that? Most critics have figured out that the story is about Batman-style crime-fighters who, adrift and powerless in the real world, discover “the futility of heroism,” as one writer put it.

But I know how Gavins feels. I once saw a film that, despite a very long and labored build-up, turned out to be all about a guy’s sled. Talk about a “twisted sense of humor”!

Like her I was disappointed by some aspects of the film, such as the lack of depth in characters like “Oxymandias,” and its failure to convincingly portray the anxiety of a society on the brink of nuclear war. The movie is also very violent. Some have said excessively so, although I believe there’s a worthy debate to be had here, since in its time the comic was seen as shockingly gruesome. I learn from this review, however, that such a debate would be moot: “The violence depicted in scene after scene was extremely bloody, gross and overdone — enough to make a grown man cover his eyes.” 

The sex scenes have also been called out as fetishistic. I agree with that complaint, although I’m not sure Gavins exactly zeroes in on the problem by saying that these sequences “weren’t worth actress Malin Akerman even baring her breast.” Butt, maybe. Breast? No — Malin Akerman, you have gone too far.

But these are mere details. Surely we can agree that the movie has something to do with the idea of superheroes, and what it says about our society that we fantasize about salvation by these gods in Halloween costumes. Gavins illuminates:

Aren’t most superheroes like Superman concerned with unnecessary violence and killing people? Don’t most champions of justice risk their lives to save others and humanity? And don’t all superheroes have a special power or two that us mere mortals could only dream of?

On these accounts, viewers could legitimately question whether the movie had any bonafide superheroes at all.

Here’s the thing, Brooke-Sidney Gavins: The movie is about people who dress up like superheroes but have no special powers. They learn the limits of their humanity in painful ways: they are condemned by the society they strive to protect; their vigilante personas infect them to the point where they are sexually impotent without the costumes; and despite their excitement about getting back into the crime-solving trade, they can’t stop the deaths of millions of innocent people.

Let’s be fair to Gavins: it’s a complex movie, with a lot of big ideas in it. And how can you expect this Huffington Post contributor to piece it all together when she hasn’t bothered to look up the title, or even look beyond the press kit to find out who actually wrote it? (“... based on DC Comics’ award-winning, limited series graphic novel illustrated by Dave Gibbons.”) Given, that, I understand how she missed these rather important plot points, and also why it left her no time to spell-check. But at least Gavins got the “main theme”:

Thus, the only characteristic Watchmen smiley face this movie deserves is one that is turned completely upside-down and covered with the blood of its own fake super heroes. Like the main theme of The Watchmen: “Life’s a joke,” clearly this movie was too.

Or at least the review.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

‘Suicide Food’


A blog devoted to menus, restaurant logos, and other imagery in which animals participate in or promote their own consumption, complete with a five-noose “psych evaluation” rating system.

Suicide Food actively participates in or celebrates its own demise. Suicide Food identifies with the oppressor.... Suicide Food is not funny.

Via a contributor on Vintage Ads, where a version of the following classic was also posted:


Monday, March 9, 2009

Watchmen cupcakes


Definitely the first time I’ve ever thought the words, “I wish I lived in San Antonio.”

(Via, via.)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Enjoy ‘Watchmen’? Try Goo Goo Dolls!

What do fans of Watchmen and the Goo Goo Dolls have in common?

I have no idea, but apparently Warner Brothers thinks there must be something there, because the page for this YouTube video — just one digital drop in the movie’s enormous Internet promo flood over the last couple of weeks — includes nothing but Goo Goo Dolls links in the “related videos” section. (Seriously, every single link is for the Goo Goo Dolls.)

And they’re not even on the soundtrack.


What’s up, Warner Brothers?

Friday, March 6, 2009



(Film info; click for full poster size.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

First wonderful surprise of SXSW


Jimmy Webb with the Webb Brothers, Saturday at 11 p.m., at Prague.

I’ve given my fanboy huzzahs before, but it really will be a special performance: I hear that in addition to Jimmy and his brilliant sons, the show will include Jimmy’s father, Robert Lee Webb, a Baptist minister. Wonder if they’ll get grandpa to help sing “All the Cocaine in the World”?

Seriously, though, Christiaan, Justin and James, finish your album already. It’s been six years.