Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Muslims (the San Diego Band, Not the Followers of Islam) Change Their Name to the Soft Pack

I would venture the Mumbai attacks had something to do with it. There had been a lull in major extremist religious terrorism, and calling themselves "The Muslims" was a way to turn people's heads without immediately offending anyone (which they shouldn't really have had to do, their music stands on its own merits).

Interestingly, Mumbai is of course the (relatively and not really) new name for Bombay and there is a band with Bombay in its name playing one of the upcoming Vampire Weekend shows at Terminal 5.

The Soft Pack is a terrible name by the way.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

After 3 (?) Years: Brand Spanking New Metric

But you won't find "Help I'm Alive" here. Here's the google blog search link or you can of course use the Hype Machine.

The first half of the song is fine but when the riff kicks in...hotchie motchie. The record to come, still not titled, and now announced rather vaguely as coming out in the new year, appears to be heading for "best record yet" status but of course only if "Stadium Love" is on it.

Axl should have taken some tips from Emily.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

David Byrne Helps The Brighton Port Authority While Neko Case Helps Crooked Fingers

A guest-star twofer:

David Byrne helps Norman Cook's mysterious superstar collective sideproject on the cut called "Toe Jam":
You can watch the official naughty video on You Tube

Neko Case guests on Crooked Finger's new LP (as do other notables but we're sticking with Neko).

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Guns n' Roses"' "Chinese Democracy" is "finally released"


No thanks

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Bad AC/DC Fan, Bad

In exchange for not going to the MSG shows, here's "Rock n Roll Train".

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The Verdict on Girl Talk

It's art. It's not conventional music. The shows at Terminal 5 should not have been considered concerts. In fact, Terminal 5 ideally fits such a spectacle (it used to be Club Exit after all). What is mind boggling is how popular this guy is...though of course it is a popularity with people you just want to smack around.

All I want to know is...what if his laptop crashes?

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The Curious Case of Chairlift

No not because another band finds success from a deftly made Ipod commercial, but because this is a band devoted to the most unlikely sound ever to make a hip return: 80's German-esque synth pop. Well maybe not that surprising. If 80's cheese rock can be ironically revived, why not the world of Nina and Trio? Now why kids from Boulder (of course transplanted to Brooklyn) should be the ones to rediscover this sound, who knows.


The bottom line is - there is no sound that can't be revived. Personally, I'm going to make the case for 1920's Hot Jazz. It'll be a twenty-three skidoo all up and down Fort Greene.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Great Conundrum of Kings of Leon

It's the age old debate. When a band changes sounds, are they doing it because of their own artistic progression, or because they want to make money on whatever is trendy? We know a band like the White Stripes did it purely for the former, whereas a band like the Gossip did it purely for the latter. But what to do with Kings of Leon? Their follow-up record to their country-rock hipster debut was moderately OK and their last album - which marked their first big departure from their original sound - was pretty bad. Of course, that translated to increasing commercial success and attention from mainstream rock press. And now they come out with a brand new record that falls in line with the post-U2 genre of pounding, serious pop music masquerading as arena rock (in other words, music made for Grey's Anatomy).

But the thing's good. It sounds like the best of that genre. So it begs the question: even if a band changes its sound just to cash in, does it matter if the band is actually good at it?

"Sex on Fire"

And for full circle's sake: "Molly Chambers"

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The Return of New York Going to Hell in a Handbasket

The state can't get it straight up in Albany while the city cuts and slashes away, incomes go stagnant, and the MTA decides to roll back the clock on the subway system back to the 1970's (with the big exception of $100 unlimited cards). In better news, you can console yourself in our increasingly have-not city with a crème brûlée doughnut.

If things really go sour, I'm officially reforming the Warriors and reopening CBGB's.

Also, this will happen:

And yes, Pennypacker is well aware of the remake being made.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New and Re-New from Action Painters

"How Could It Be So Wrong" is a dandy that the Brooklyn kids have been working out in the live sets and they've now unleashed it as a track on their MySpace page.

Meanwhile, "456", has been spruced-up and repackaged, and now comes with a lovely little performance video:

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Monday, November 17, 2008

A Quick Remark on TRL

What? TRL? Pennypacker, has your noodle been boiled?

All the media reflections on the (probably temporary) demise of MTV's Total Request Live only address the program as the last vestige of MTV's actual music programming and as the cauldron of corporate modern pop/rock/hip hop with the accompanying teenage shrieks (and Mariah Carey stripdown). What all the reports neglect is how TRL originally got started. Way back in the year 1997, MTV attempted a nightly bloc of music oriented programming (this was also back when the network was still aimed at older twentysomethings and more music-minded youth) that included a half hour video countdown show hosted by a then quiet, self-effacing young man named Carson Daly. As the tween-driven world of Britney Spears and the Backsynch (?) Kids took shape, and MTV's more mature programming went out the window, only then did that countdown show get turned into an afternoon shriek fest.

The point is, there was a time when MTV was livable. The Real World wasn't half bad. The music was mature. There was music, period. I haven't been able to get past watching more than five minutes of MTV in this entire decade. It's dead.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

F@CK You Megatron!

I have to quibble. Technically, the Transformers shoudln't be able to sit in those chairs as they are supposed to be about 20 feet tall:

Transformers go Hollywood

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Rock n Roll Means Well: The Drive-By Truckers & The Hold Steady @ Terminal 5

The Drive-By Truckers; The Hold Steady
@ Terminal 5
New York, NY - November 6, 2008

A great week for America should, by all rights, include two of America's great signature sounding bands on their "Rock n Roll Means Well" tour. From the heart of the South come the stereotype smashing Drive-By Truckers, Alabama folk who make it OK for us Yankees to embrace a little bit of Dixie without the stench of trials & tribulations that have plagued other consciously-Southern bands (ahem, Lynyrd Skynyrd and uh...Lynyrd Skynyrd). Truly children of Muscle Shoals, as well as of the Dead and the Winter brothers and the immortal Allman Brothers, DBT have earned their stripes. Whether it be Patterson Hood's mix of Garcia-esque singing before punk-inflected vocal riffs or Mike Cooley's perfect southern alt-country twang (think Uncle Tupelo, John Hiatt, and a male Lucinda Williams all rolled into one), DBT crafts each song with a distinct purpose and no two songs sound alike, which is pretty significant considering how easy that can happen in this genre. The rockers work more than the slow ones, and the less jam the better, but that's this old Yankee's way, it doesn't take away from the talent.

Starting off with the ever relevant, "Stay Positive", the Hold Steady made sure to devote their set to the President-Elect. Tad Kubler wore a Bad Brains-style shirt that replaced that legendary band's name with you-know-who, and ol' Bobby on the drums simply wore a God Bless America t-shirt, reflecting the rediscovered patriotism flowing through the Fake America. Craig Finn said it was going to be a celebration and it sure was. "Massive Nights", "Banging Camp", and "Constructive Summer" were just a few of the anthems befitting the night. Though "Lord I'm Discouraged" probably didn't fit the sentiment, it was worth it for Koob's best solo.

And if it was a night for America (truly reflected in Patterson's story of his 88-year old great uncle putting away years of prejudice to vote for a black man), it was a night for the Gibson guitar company and a nice old man named Les Paul. Truly, if there was ever any doubt as to the best guitar in the whole damn world, those doubts can be squared well away thanks to this "Rock n Roll Means Well" tour.

And both bands playing "People Who Died" by New York's own Jim do you think it sounded?

This week should never end.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Electric Slide Election Edition

  • He did it.
  • We did it.
  • As an American, I don't think I've ever had a happier moment.
  • John McCain proved in his speech that he still has more class and more dignity than the people he has surrounded himself with the last few months. If the McCain of this speech was the candidate of the campaign, Obama may not have had such an easy electoral college win.
  • In equal measure, Obama's reference to the old Republican Party is exactly the kind of rhetoric that should bridge and inspire those who are willing to listen.
  • Great goodness - George W. Bush is not only 70 days away from leaving the Presidency, he was told tonight by a distinct majority of the nation that if they had to do it over again, it would be thanks but no thanks. Vindication.
  • I wonder what was making Sarah Palin actually cry.
  • I would like to put into words, the true words, what I feel about Obama, about the moment, about this night, about the future, about what I appreciate, about my country but tonight, Tavis Smiley said it better than anyone (save maybe John Lewis) could:

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Your Election Day Playlist

To get the anger out and over with:

"All You Fascists" by Wilco & Billy Bragg
"American Idiot" by Green Day
"Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" by Neil Young

If you're still huffing about 2004, and if Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, and the Republican rally mongrels really boil your blood - use these three songs to fume a bit and get some catharsis. You may want to skip this if you want to get right to the excitement and, hopefully, the vindication.

To get through the day and as the early returns come in if it looks close:

"Stay Positive" by the Hold Steady
"Mr. November" by the National
"I Believe in Miracles" by the Ramones

The Hold Steady one speaks for itself, and the National song - while maybe being a little uncomfortable in its line "I'm the great white hope" - is a real humdinger and has also been dedicated to the candidate by the band, which has endorsed him wholeheartedly.
In regards to the Ramone song, see my big mushy final note on the campaign.

If it's a loss...
Well as there is no song called "I can't believe this fucking happened (again)":

"Don't Stop Believing" by Journey - for the ever-hopeful
"Old Man" by Neil Young - for the resigned
"Miami 2017" by Billy Joel - the Obama-loving Piano Man has just the song to console yourself in that drunken sad but rock sort of way
"Walk" by Pantera and "Take Off" by Bob and Doug McKenzie with Geddy Lee for those thinking of doing something drastic

If it's a win...

"The Touch" and "Dare by Stan Bush - oh yeah
"The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen - of course
"Sign Sealed Delivered" by Stevie Wonder - you'll probably hear it from Obamapalooza in Grant Park either at the victory moment or at his entrance or exit
"Instant Karma" by John Lennon - good post-hippie liberal party music
"Simply the Best" by Tina Turner - for the sports-like atmosphere
"City of Blinding Lights" by U2 - Obama's entrance song at the convention; not the best U2 song but it has their stock dramatic opening that they are so damn good at
"Yes We Can" by and friends - just because, and if you're feeling really sappy

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Do You Believe In Miracles?

Four years ago, with the specter of the most totalitarian regime in American history keeping its lock on the White House, I was a very manic, paranoid, and angry person. Fortunately, it turned out W. Bush was more of a lazy oaf who just enjoyed winning elections more than he truly believed in what he preached and what was preached on his behalf (though the effects of what he has done on the down low in terms of our rights and freedoms is something that has to be carefully examined in the coming years). For all my screaming and ranting of "DIE NAZIS DIE!", the great Right Wing Balloon just sort of had its air taken out by its own ineptitude. And at the same time, with the breath of distance, I looked at some of my more extreme leftist cohorts and had to take a step away from their even more manic attitudes.

So comes Obama. Suddenly, the raging anti-intellectualism of the decade is made moot. Suddenly, sound judgment, temperament, rationality, reason, all that good stuff, was made acceptable again. While I don't really regret the rage I felt towards the Right Wing in 2004, I do regret not having the grace and composure of Barack Obama.

And while I do still champion progressive, dare I even say "liberal", ideas, I am more infused with the practical realism that Obama brings to the table. To be uncompromising in our ideals, but practical in our application, is as stable and correct one can be in governance, politics, and society. And also, a little dose of "get a grip" is a healthy thing. Now when my like-minded patriots on the left scream "It'll be fascism if McCain wins!", I know better.

John McCain shamed himself with his campaign in the last couple months but I won't hold it against him, in part because - should he indeed lose on Election Day - I assume he will go back to being John McCain of years past, and he will have a spot at the table in the new Washington that Obama will attempt to forge.

I amaze myself that I have consistently avoided a personal repeat of 2004. I don't find myself screaming at the people at the McCain rallies. And even with all the anecdotal and statistical stature of the racist and the ignorant and the hateful and the paranoid, I'm not full of blood boiling rage. I am more about my guy than I am against them (probably a first in my adult political lifetime, and maybe contrary to what I said earlier). And while I do fear, do worry, that all my bitter cynicism following 2004 may very well be justified on Election Day, I still have the hope, the positivity, that this all may very well just happen as it should.

If Obama wins, does he win because the American people saw the light? That except for the extreme nutcases on the right, the great muddy middle finally saw the goodness and nobility of progressive ideas as embodied by Barack? Probably not. Americans are just extremely fickle. But in the grand scope of American history, in all its complicated and multi-layered roads, to be at this moment in and of itself constitutes a little miracle. One doesn't have to believe in anything divine to believe in miracles. When human nature time and again outdoes itself after years of expected behavior, that's a miracle. For all the flaws and hypocrisies, what happened in Philadelphia in 1776 was indeed a little miracle. And despite the horror of what's been done to peoples on this (and other) continents since, every step forward taken by people (as complicated and difficult as they have been and can be), is a miracle. Slowly but surely, despite all our machinations, we continue to show the ability to make progress. Times are very tough right now, and even though the last four years didn't prove to be the second coming of Hitler, America always stands at the danger of not just falling backwards but veering off onto dangerously wrong avenues of thought and action. An Obama win (and of course hopefully a good Obama administration) would not only steer the ship of state back away from those dangers, it would mark another great miracle in the complicated and often tragic story that began all those years ago.

Yesterday, I wrote we're gonna do it for Studs. And we still will. But we're also gonna do it for Joey. Talk about miracles - he got his former friend and political enemy Johnny to play on this song (as well as "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down"). And even now, as the political and personal background to the sad Ramones drama still plays out, it remains a little miracle that someone like Jeffrey Hyman was able to succeed in his life, a life that was cut way too short. So let's do it for him. And Strummer. And Cash. And for all the rest - Neil, Dylan, The Boss, Billy, Costello, Bragg, John and Exene (and though he disagrees with us, the good spirit that is Billy Zoom because we love him anyway), and all the others who are responsible for me being a pathetic mush I am right now. But above all, let's do it for ourselves and for this country and idea that - at least for me - Barack Obama has made me give one last chance on.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

We're Gonna Do It For Studs

Just four days before the possibility of one of the most significant moments in American history, we've lost Studs Terkel. The great oral historian and personality, the Bronx-born but Chicago-reared Yid, didn't so much say it all about America but had America say it all for itself. He was a true progressive, a lover of folk, Jazz, and blues, a patriot (the good kind), and a blue-collar intellectual. The would-be Secretary of Labor in a faux-Jack Tanner administration, Studs was all about capturing the American Experience in all its imperfections and pockmarks and still coming away with a sense of goodness about the whole damn thing.

The Times Obit and NPR can do him more historical justice than I can, but I'll say this: Let's do it on Tuesday for Studs. For all his naturally cynical worries about any candidate of Obama's stature, the identity of the Obama campaign can be wrapped up in the passion and soul of Studs Terkel. His whole working life, Studs championed the causes and ideas that have led to this moment. And to see a fellow immigrant to Chicago be the one to possibly bring it all home (albeit without Studs' confrontational and relentless political style), that's what it is all about. Furthermore, it is one big step in the chapter of American history and it has been done in great part to the mobilization of, and effort by, a coalition of the People (capital P) - the very thing Studs was about and sought to capture from the voices of the participants.

Let's Do It For Studs.

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