Thursday, January 31, 2008

Recent Radio Highlights

Blanche is profiled on NPR's All Songs Considered, in a fan-submitted program of bands few people have heard but should. The first album and "Another Lost Summer" are profiled while the cryptic news from Blanche HQ continues to suggest sluggish progress on the future due to forces beyond their control. A damn shame.

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir on KEXP

If Billy Brag was a pop singer, he'd be Jack Penate.

Mick Jones and Tony James' Carbon/Silicon is so-so (though the opening riff to "The News" is stellar) but their interview with Terry Gross is excellent.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Dream Ticket: R.E.M., The National, and Modest Mouse

The most local date right now is Jones Beach on June 14th. Then down in Philly at the Mann Center on the 18th. A Gotham date is set for the 19th, venue TBA.

If the National aren't huge after this, Pennypacker will eat his newest fedora.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Michael Clayton

I did not expect much from Michael Clayton. It seemed to be a typical evil-corporation-combatted-by-avenging-lawyer film, but that isn't what we have here. It takes a turn from the conventional and delves deeper into the minds and psyche of the characters involved. Rather than bask in the sanctimony of a valid message, it's a driven study set as a thriller. It is so multi-layered and the dialogue so rich, Michael Clayton feels like an Indie film disguised as a Hollywood opus.
George Clooney, if he hasn't established it before, does it now: He's THE leading man of the big stars. He has the look and grace of a Cary Grant with the affability and understated bravura of a Spencer Tracy. Tom Wilkinson and Sydney Pollack each revel in roles made just for them (who plays older New York mega-rich types better than Pollack?) and Tilda Swinton takes what could have been a one-note character andd makes her the most complicated villain to come around in sometime.

It's not the best picture of the year, not even close, but it's the major studios' best film of the year by far.

You know the scorecard by now, I won't even bother writing it.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stereogum Gets Nostalgic...

...for Williamsburg 2001.

Man, I remember Luxx. I went there once. It was my first gig back in the city after graduating school. I saw The Sounds. Remember the Sounds? They were that Swedish band that went on every late night TV show and didn't stop touring but their second album was terrible and then the chick went on to take part in one of the worst things in the entire history of our civilization...the Cobra Starship video for Snakes on a Plane.

Anyway, that was a fun night. I tried to pick up a chick reading Al Franken's book at the bar but my friend with me blocked me thinking his "born again, pious Jew" image would be sure to earn her sympathy and therefore earn him a date. I was too fat anyway so it was just as well.

I never went back and Luxx closed early the next year. I had no idea until this moment that the Trash Bar is what became of Luxx. I didn't even remember how we got there or what it looked like outside, I was that drunk. So what street was I on after the show getting cheers and calls for my AC/DC shirt (this was BEFORE the AC/DC shirt fad took off...I may have started it...)? Grand? Metropolitan?

Doesn't matter. And the Electroclash fad was before my time (though years later, I came to like Fischerspooner but had no idea they were considered part of that scene). I was with the Sounds:

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blanche's "A Year From Now" Is Today's Top Tune on KCRW

Not too shabby.

Could a performance on Morning Becomes Eclectic be far behind? Probably.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

My Teenage Stride Makes You Want To Dance With Molly Ringwald

Not just another Brooklyn band, My Teenage Stride taps into the bar band fun of 80's New Wave Pop, recalling the best of the Cars, Men at Work, and the one hit wonders like Modern English. "To Live And Die In The Airport Lounge" is an instant classic:

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Always Look On The Bright Side of Life

  • So Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and Talking Heads have their new generational spawn. It makes sense what with the rise of various ethnic music entering the Indie circles. As pan-African sounds join the parade, it's no surprise that Vampire Weekend and Yeasayer are leading the charge, the former in the form of Graceland and Police-like rhythms, the latter in the "In Your Eyes"/Byrne-like complexity vein. Even Hot Chip have done a cover of "Graceland". And Hot Chip just plain rule.
  • But don't count out Beirut, DeVotchka, and Gogol Bordello. Eastern-Euro sounds aren't out of the picture yet. And Flogging Molly is back this year. Despite their Warped-tour affiliations, they have always been the best ambassador for Celtic sounds in rock music since the Pogues.
  • A review of Cloverfield will be coming but it must be said: after all that original hype, including on this blog, the final product already appears to be a letdown. It appears to be more of a typical pick-off-the-beautiful-young-people orgy than a deep, psychological essay on 9/11. And it's not actually Godzilla. Nuts.
  • The preview of The Duchess is the worst trailer I have ever seen. All that pompous build up for just another "Let's hide Keira Knightly's closet lesbianism" charade.
  • Someone has stolen the Funky Fresh and I am determined to get it back.
  • Poor Ryan Adams is losing his mind (more than usual) over his break-up. D.R., let's meet up for some diet cokes, introduce me to your gal pal Mandy, and we'll talk. Cheez-Its: The Movie!
  • Elwood, is it true you read the gossip pages? No of course not. All it takes to learn the details of Ryan's hope is his very own YouTube page.

  • Labels:

    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    Juno & Kimya Dawson Own America

    It's come to this: a quirky, Indie soundtrack for a quirky, Indie-spirited film is in the Billboard top ten. TOP TEN! How in the heck did that happen? Did an army of quirky teens and 20-somethings push the High School Musical tweens out of the store? The Moldy Peaches have practically reunited because of this and Rhino has its first top ten release in the 30 year history of the label. This is just plain odd and wonderful.

    There doesn't even seem to be a proper video filmed for any of the songs on the LP.

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    In Honor Of Skipped Shows:

    Au Revoir Simone last night at the Bowery Ballroom via dslsabbat:

    Blonde Redhead

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    There Will Be Blood

    Paul Thomas Anderson's fifth feature leaves his familiar zone: the final third of the 20th century and the early days of the 21st in Southern California and delves into unchartered territory: the dawn of the 20th Century. It departs from the modern conundrums of life and finds itself at the start of modernity, when the modern American story first took root, when the outcome of the homesteaders met the century that defined a civilization.

    The remainder of this review will bear spoilers so be warned:

    Never has there been a film that so bluntly states that in the end, Selfishness should triumph overall. In no uncertain terms, P.T. Anderson takes the modern Republican party and makes it look at its origins in the hellfire of California oil wells, via the work of Upton Sinclair. The film is the account of the genesis between the barons of unbridled new capitalism and the sham of religion, the birth of the fruit most exemplified by Ronald Reagan. And in the end, it sides with the capitalist. At least the ruthless oilman understands his dimensions, he understands his goals and his motivations. He's not deluding himself with the grandeur of superstition, false prophecy, and all around bullshit. Even when the faith brings about a goodness in some people that can give the oilman pause, in the end it is the foolishness of the believers that bears witness to the primacy and supremacy of Daniel Plainview. His last name could not be more obvious. In opposition to the masquerade of Sunday, there is the plain view.

    In other words, for all his Mormonism, Mitt Romney is vindicated by his venture capitalism, at least in the eyes of There Will Be Blood. And the film is the ultimate judgment on George W. Bush's electoral victories, and it exposes those victories for the Popsicle sticks that they were. Of course, Daniel Plainview's simple quest for the wealth from oil, to facilitate a very sympathetic need to escape from the world, to hide away from people, is much more acceptable than a modern American company's quest for ultimate profit by hidden fees and abuse of customers. If Anderson's opus treads wrongly in one fashion, it is the complacency with which it makes even the worst of Plainview seem infinitely better than any aspect of Sunday's sham, and that's only because of what it implies for everything since.

    And now the judgment of the quality of an entertaining picture:

    Anderson has never faltered as a director, even in his self-congratulatory masturbation of Magnolia. But he has never been more lucid and better than here. Every shot, every frame is a crisp capture of the narrative. His leap from his familial surroundings to new ground not only signifies his endurance as a landmark director, but as a contributor to the American canon, the pantheon of cinema.
    Daniel Day-Lewis is receiving his biggest raves since My Left Foot and he deserves every inch of it. From the meticulous care of his accent to his facial expressions to his sheer presence, the actor may be channeling a thread from his role of Bill Cutting in Gangs of New York to here. One could see a little hammyness in both roles but few actors could be faced with such obvious over-playing and then tame it like Daniel Day-Lewis does.
    The supporting cast is flawless in every sense of the word, led by Paul Dano - who last year was arguably the one cast member of Little Miss Sunshine who didn't deserve an Oscar nomination but who deserves one here. The kid is now a man.

    Did Paul Sunday actually exist? This ambiguousness is the trademark of the new great films of our era...which brings us to the ultimate question:

    How does it stack up? With a couple exceptions, There Will Be Blood is edging out No Country For Old Men for best picture. Placements by Atonement and The Diving Bell & The Butterfly aside, these two neo-westerns are duking it out and Anderson's work seems to be getting the best of the Coens. But is it justified? No. Of course Hollywood would respond to a story about its own origins before a nihilistic weave of malfeasance, but that does not obscure the truth. For all the power of There Will Be Blood, it doesn't hold a candle next to No Country For Old Men. Where the former lavished in its own compelling opulence, the latter exulted in its simplicity. Where the former relied on the gravity and gravitas of its star and his sincerity in every single moment of every single scene of the work, the latter took all things in equally, from the concept of the screenplay to the equity of the ensemble, to the sheer horror of its stillness. If one character dominated the latter it was because he benefited from the energy around him, whereas the former would have fizzled out if not for what its one character brought out of the rest of the picture.
    In what should have been the ultimate battle, Anton Chigurh made mincemeat of Daniel Plainview.

    Chigurh 1, Plainview 0.


    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    Maybe It Is All Waves and Radiation: The Airborne Toxic Event

    Pennypacker's been reading Don DeLillo's White Noise for most of the last two weeks, so when the band known as the Airborne Toxic Event became known of tonight, it was a bit of...well...Deja vu. Well not really - but it was a tad stunning. Especially considering one of Pennypacker's favorite pastimes is to find band names in potentially every phrase in the language...but this one had not occurred to me in the last two weeks. Maybe I'm on Dylar.

    And they're actually quite good too. Credit goes to Oh My Rockness for its latest batch of podcasted mp3's (ignore my weak comment on that page..."kinda" and "weird" may work on other sites but they have no room on this page).

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    Woody Allen Speaks

    This doesn't happen too often: Woody on WNYC today discussing his new film.


    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    She Walked In With Legs As Long As The Mighty Mississipp

    The gloriously blunt, debauched, fantastical world of pulp - which spawned film noir - is getting the treatment from some two-bit mug and he went and got himself on the radio.

    Boy if I had a nickel for every time some skirt walked through my door and got me mixed up in a mess of guns, booze, and dames, I'd be sitting in an ivory tower on Park Avenue. Instead, I'm down here in the muck, running this two-bit operation, slurping down absinthe like I'm Ernest Hemingway. Of all the luck. And the next time some cheap floozy tries to get her hooks into me, I'll give her the lug. It'll be curtains for her and all the other bozos. And if I don't, well, that's half the adventure. Anything for a buck, Mac. Anything for a buck.

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    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Recent Radio Highlights

    Jack White on NPR's Morning Edition discussing "Conquest", among other things.

    Au Revoir Simone on Fair Game

    Carrie Brownstein analyzes the Presidential candidates' use of songs

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    Saturday, January 12, 2008

    The Reign of Brooklyn

    Again borrowing from Stereogum and again MTV profiles music: It's just about official now that Brooklyn not just dominates over Manhattan but exists as an independent, unjoined entity.

    Brooklyn - and by Brooklyn this means only Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and now parts of Bushwick - is self-sustaining. Bands reside, record, and perform all in Brooklyn and now there are a host of different sized venues (from the holes-in-the-wall that Todd P cultivates to the Luna Lounge and Music Hall) for these bands to scale the ladder of.

    This is all a bit confusing as it didn't seem that there would be any reason to disassociate Hipsterville East - Williamsburg - from Hipsterville West - The LES. One would truly have to be in the know, in the "scene" to distinguish a happening, creative flourish of activity in Brooklyn from one not happening in Manhattan. But in a way, it does make sense. The garage rock scene did die off - all the "the" bands seem to have disappeared, moved on, or changed their game. And while the Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, Pianos, Cake Shop, and Arlene's Grocery all pack in a ton of excellent and creative acts - there is a sense of being stifled in the LES. If anything, it's a product of rent and migration. As more and more artists moved to Brooklyn as a means of survival, they turned Brooklyn into the self-sustaining city it is today. Why trek across the packed L train or pay expensive cab fares over the bridge when you can set up shop a few blocks away in a loft?

    A few observations on the piece:
    -The dismissal of not having Brooklyn roots was sort of obnoxious. It is doubtful that there is some backlash against these bands for not being made up of born-and-bred Brooklynites. Rock n' roll has never been organic to Brooklyn. It has been to Queens for some reason, but not Brooklyn. Brooklyn natives used to be pop singers and now they're mostly rappers. So relax. Fuggedaboutit!
    -While Todd P is mostly correct in that none of these bands sound the same, most - at least those profiled on MTV - all seem to be inspired by the DIY-keep-it-dissonant ethic of the No Wave movement that were headlined once by Sonic Youth, again by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and will be headlined again by one of these bands. It all does sort of blend together after a bit.
    -Kyp Malone may be seen all over Williamsburg but you know - you can see him all over Chelsea too. So there.

    As all things of this nature go, there is always instant nostalgia for a few years before. All these come-and-gone live spaces longed for and remembered by a dwindling few as new blood comes to roost in the new hot spots. It's happened to Manhattan neighborhoods over and over and it will happen again in Brooklyn. As Zebulon has replaced Tonic, something in the next few years will probably replace Zebulon. And in 10-15 years, people in Sheepshead Bay, Canarsie, and Coney Island will talk about the old days of Yeasayer and MGMT at a Todd P party on Bushwick Ave (or something to that effect).
    Of course by that time, Brooklyn may very well just be independent from Manhattan altogether (let's face it, it isn't just the hipsters that don't need Manhattan to survive...all the new immigrant communities all over the borough seem to be doing just fine) and we'll all be distracted by the Mayoral election contest between the incumbent old fogey Bruce Rattner and the insurgent relative youngster Elwood Pennypacker, whose coalition of Carribean, Russian, Chinese, and Hipsters, combined with a surprise endoresment from former President Bloomberg, could deliver City Hall at Erasmus to the upstart. Plus, the TV on the Radio reunion show at the Brooklyn Dodgers first game back home since '57 will be all the rage. You never know...

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    Drunk on Pomade, Lime Ricky, Cherry Wine, & Pepsi Cola: Heavy Trash at Glasslands

    Heavy Trash; Puddin' Tang; Feels So Good Let's Do It
    @ Glasslands
    Brooklyn, NY - 1/11/08
    There is no one quite like Jon Spencer. An amalgam of every pure, vibrant form of Americana rock n' roll, Mr. Spencer embodies the spirit of Elvis Presley and the fire of Jerry Lee Lewis in the rhetorical guise of Tom Waits. His hypnotic voice brings Buddy Holly to the cerebral world. Roy Orbison to the dark side. All the more fitting then that his collaboration with Matt VERTA-Ray (apologies for the misspelling in the year-end review that - for reason beyond control - cannot be corrected) found its way to an esoteric art gallery on the industrial wasteland of Kent Street in western Williamsburg. Between Matt's gruff-yet-suave git skills and Jon's all-encompassing gravity, along with more than able bass and drum players, Heavy Trash is the most thrilling revival of American music. Period.
    "Outside Chance":

    "Crazy Pretty Baby"

    Puddin' Tang's terrible name (though Puddin' remains one of the funniest sounding words in the language) does not get in the way of their garage-stomp rock. Somewhat eclectic and good fun.
    The needlessly longed name Feels So Good Let's Do It suffered from persistent tech problems and that DID get in the way.


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    Friday, January 11, 2008

    1900s, Stevie Jackson, Laura Gibson @ Union Hall

    1900's; Stevie Jackson; Laura Gibson
    @ Union Hall
    Brooklyn, NY - January 10, 2008

    What is it with Union Hall and Chicago bands and gals named Laura?

    Chi-town wunderkinds the 1900's shimmy and shake with their effervescent Indie pop-rock, still culling the best bits of the 70's and even making this old curmudgeon finally warm up...ONLY A LITTLE Fleetwood Mac. And when they aren't doing that, they're jamming psychedelic rock n' roll and ending the show with a big flourish, the knockout "Two Ways". A fantastic way to kick off the year. And they're all lookers - every one of 'em.

    Stevie Jackson of Belle & Sebastien played light-hearted acoustic folk and entertained the crowd with his amicable personality, nice suit, and Scottish accent. Glasgow: clearly the Chicago of Scotland. Or is Chicago the Glasgow of America? Stevie rocked out on a Gibson SG during the 1900's finale and did a little all out power pop of his own when the band joined him for his finale beforehand (Soundbites NYC has a video). He also had Laura Cantrell to sing a couple ballads, including Hank 1's "Lost Highway".

    Acoustic singer-songwriters are a dime-a-dozen and it's hard to stand out. But Laura Gibson not only stands out, she radiates. Her substantive, full, textured ballads are matched by her delicate, warm persona. She has a true magnetic presence on the stage, not in spite of, but because of, her charming softness. It was like listening to a cloud.

    If Laura Gibson's and Laura Cantrell's appearances at Union Hall tonight weren't enough for you, Cantrell will be back in a short order as will Laura Veirs.

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    Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    Adventures of Old New York: The Hell's Kitchen Edition

    This didn't even happen on the remaining decrepit industrial side streets towards the West Side Highway. It happened on a corner of fashionable, trendy 9th Ave, the check cashing shop next to one of the sleek restaurants that populate the strip - an intersection between "Clinton" and "Hell's Kitchen".

    There are moments when the old New York, the old Hell's Kitchen, has a sort of allure. The art to the madness and depravity. Similar to the aesthetic beauty found in abandoned industrial areas. Essentially, the places where Batman would be. It almost makes one to get a going-bald buzzcut, grow a mustache and a paunch, and become a New York Police Department detective. Or, alternatively, just look like Serpico. When in doubt, just look like Serpico.

    When people, such as those in the article, refer to the incident as a relic of the old Hell's Kitchen, one of the last gasps by the dying generation of older junkies being crowded out by the wealthy and the elite, they need to simply take a bus over to the East Side and go uptown, head over the Triborough Bridge (or is that the RFK Bridge now?), and stop off at Randall's/Ward's Island, go past the soccer fields, and make a stop at the homeless shelter. Not only will they find the old junkies faffing about, they'll find young ones too.


    Monday, January 07, 2008

    Vampire Weekend on MTV

    They play music on MTV? (A swipe as old as MTV's abandonment of music)

    But wait - they play music on MTV!

    They play Vampire Weekend on MTV.

    Just six months ago (?) they were opening for the Thermals at Maxwell's.

    It boggles the mind. But in a good way.

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    Sunday, January 06, 2008


    Several months ago, there was a defense of the Era of Quirk on this blog. But lo and behold, just a few months later, that defense has been softened by the failings at the heart of Juno. Between the oh so cute animated (of sorts) opening sequence (something that appears is or will be director Jason Reitman's stock-in-trade) to the mind numbingly relentless witticisms poured on by stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody (I hate that quirky name), Juno - to borrow from Midge Simpson - doesn't just cross the line, it throws up on it. How quirky is Juno? It's Knocked Up for the hipster set. How hipster is Juno? The White Stripes not only get mentioned in the film, but Jack White gets made fun of.

    Awful film, right? Nope. Despite the early onset quirk overload, and the beyond excessive use of "dude", Juno is one of the best films of the year. Reitman stewards the ship better than he did his first feature, the still fine Thank You For Smoking, and he is able to seam a valid look at teenage pregnancy, even through the eyes of a too-smart-for-her-own-good little hip Indie chick. Cody's love of punk, Indie, and all things good music - from Mott the Hoople and the Stooges to the Melvins and beyond, in conjunction with the fantastic soundtrack anchored by Kimya Dawson, make Juno the rock movie of the year and the Indie cred music movie of the year.

    (The issue of abortion and the decisions made by the characters in Juno and Knocked Up will not be dwelled on here because...well...would you want to touch that one?)

    But above all, the acting carries the film. Ellen Page was already exceptionally good in the disturbing Hard Candy (but admittedly forgettable in the last X-Men movie as this writer had to be reminded she was in it, and prominently at that). In Juno however, she soars, literally leaps over a career's work of evolution, and is instantly the actress of her generation. Her inherent warmth saves the character from being a stripped-down, soulless machine of one-liners and boring old teenage angst. She's surrounded by a crackerjack ensemble, most notably the veteran character actor J.K. Simmons, in arguably his biggest role to date, and his biggest departure from the usual rabble of toughies he's known to play. It's always, always, satisfying to see a long time supporting player get to have a moment and this is it for Simmons. Juno reunites two of the actors from the best network sitcom of the decade, Arrested Development: Jason Bateman and Michael Cera, the latter of whom already made a winner this year in Superbad. Bateman has so far departed from his teenage acting days it's not even something to reflect on anymore. He's an actor. End of story. Cera may be treading on a one-note style of acting but here he shows a little more depth and range, despite his incessant (though always charming) Cera-ness. If he was better in Superbad, it's only because he was crowded here. Allison Janney never falters and she brings a lot to the unique role of a stepmom who not only means well, but does well and there is little if any time wasted on conventional step-parent fodder. Hell, even Jennifer Garner is good in this thing and that's saying something. The few other teen characters in the film are also all played well despite the fact they are given the remainder of Cody's blather that the Juno character doesn't have to speak.

    Amazing how so much can be written about a very good but not perfect film whereas the perfect No Country for Old Men consisted of a one-line review. But that's just how it is. A wordy movie gets a wordy review and an austere, stoic, breath of cinema gets a terse one. For all the love one may have for Juno MacGuff, it's muted by a single shotgun blast from Anton Chigurh. Chigurh 1, Juno 0. Sorry, kid.

    Next up: There Will Be Blood. If anyone can stop Chigurh, it must certainly be Daniel Plainview. Or so THEY all say. We shall see...

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    Thursday, January 03, 2008

    Hot Chip Are Coming

    Next month's Highline show is sold out but BV is reporting a Terminal 5 date for April.

    It was recently read that Hot Chip's music can be described as "future rock". Not sure what the heck that is supposed to be. It's techno rock. Or even techno pop. And scratch all the labels, it's more like Devo in a darker, slower mood. And while we're on the subject, what is "math rock" (as Battles is described)?

    "Ready for the Floor"

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