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Monday, May 31, 2004

Holy MindMeld
The ending of Heather Havrilesky's American Idol wrap-up at Salon:
... Fantasia Barrino has a gift that could make her bigger and brighter than the pop cultural supernova that created her.

And the ending of my American Idol wrap-up for the Post:
And it's what will hopefully separate Barrino from the troubled, if ultimately disposable, system that helped create her.
Wiener
More genius from Zach Werner. This time in an interview with CanWest News Service.

First, the usual "we only make fun of the slow kids cos we have to" explanation:

"You have to remember that the people we see have been whittled down. Every person that we see is an opportunity to do good television. It is a judging process, and the judging is pretty cut and dried, for the most part. It's a two-step process. There's the competitive end, where we're choosing the really good people. And then there's the casting end, which is about what will make interesting TV. The show wouldn't be any fun if we didn't have bad singers."

Then he attempts to mock host Ben Mulroney and, in doing so, manages to express incredible contempt for, well, everyone:

"You have to know he came to us last year without any experience. And he does in some way represent the average Canadian with regards to his musical taste, because he sure doesn't know anything about it."

(emphasis mine)

But what would anything remotely Canadian be without a little smug, holier-than-thou, anti-American rhetoric.

To start, Werner asserts that the judges for the Canadian version are superior to their American counterparts because Werner & Co are, in Strachan's words, "proven industry professionals."

Then this:

He is mindful of peculiar voting choices that threatened to derail American Idol this year, but he said that is part of what makes the Idol format so compelling.

"I would like to see more one vote/one household. But I don't know how you'd do that, and I'm not an expert on voting. If there's a difference between Canadian Idol and the voting in other places, it's that we are Canadians and hopefully we'll look at things in an intelligent way."


You know what Chang? You can start that invasion now.
This is inspired
The ilXor crowd counts down the Top 1,000 Perfect Pop Songs.
Drudge Report readers have their say
So someone's column made Drudge today. And some of the seven million people who apparently visit his site each day were compelled to share their thoughts.

A sampling:

You are correct; she is basically a parody of herself. But I take issue with your praise for Michael Moore. He lied about the Disney distribution squabble. Disney had never said they would distribute the film. He lied about the Disney tax breaks. They don't exist. His film is full of lies... Moore is exactly like Madonna. The difference is that the world hasn't caught on that he is simply a parody of what he once was. -John M.

While I don't think Madonna needs to be defended, as millions of fans obviously don't seem to mind the constant bombardment by bizarrely angry writers, I must raise an eyebrow at your criticism of Madonna's latest stage spectacle... Perhaps, I am once again, disheartened by the seemingly vicious attacks by the media on an artist who, regardless of her motives, is in fact bringing some sort of exposure to large groups of people who, otherwise, would be that much more ignorant. -Nicholas C.

When someone uses the word "re-inventing" that means that they didn't get it right the first time. Madonna is so 20 minutes ago, she looks like an old lady and even more incredibly stupid in those (ahem) sexy stage costumes that she doesn't look "right" in anymore. She should have quit long ago because nobody cares anymore and it seems like she doesn't care either! -Annie

While I appreciated your perspective on the Madonna of today, I thought your careless dismissal of Michael Moore as a "fat guy" was cheap, insulting, and superficial... Clearly, Michael Moore has had a powerful impact on world culture (fat or no) and should be respected for his commitment to telling stories that most filmmakers shirk. I think he deserves an apology. Your readers deserve a retraction. -Tracy S.

You're just NOW realizing that Madonna sucks ? I came to that conclusion in 1984 and other than some rare instances (Ray Of Light, Justify My Love), she HAS to be the most overrated performer of our time. Guys like Dave Marsh and yourself bought into all that crap for reasons that I'll never understand. I guess you think Britney Spears is the new Chrissy Hynde ? Here's a quick clue for future reference:
- when an 'artist' spends time dancing and working on choreography, they are clearly not working on MUSIC.
- if an 'artist' does not play an instrument or write songs, they are karaoke performers at best.
- if an 'srtist' HAS to shock in order to get attention, they are not worth your time or mine.
- Idol = crap -Dhani S.


Maybe you mean...
...'but a fat RICH guy swaggering through Cannes.' -Robert


One thing that stood out is her portrayal of the American Life. I question her ability to know what the American Life is? Most Americans I know are not filthy rich and certainly do not have their own private planes spiriting them around the world on a whim. I place her awarness of America on the same shelf as I do Jane Fonda, Michael Moore, John Kerry among others that have no clue as to what Americans are or what makes them tick. -Bob H.

UPDATE... The PopDirt kids are less impressed.
Ah-HA
Hate to harp on this (especially as the writer is a good friend), but my suspicions have been confirmed. While Ryan Malcolm has shipped 100,000 units of his dreadful debut, Home, he's scanned only 89,000 of those. Which is closer to 100,000 than I figured he'd be, but certainly not more than 100,000.

Oh that record industry and their quirky use of statistics.
And now, let's pause for a moment...
... to consider the infinite greatness of Bob Dole.

Meet the Press transcript here (scroll down).
Of Note
Frontline has a great companion site to its recent music industry episode.

The Toure interview, for one, is a good read.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Glass Houses, etc
The second season of Canadian Idol starts Tuesday. Set-up pieces here, here, here and here.

Aside from the suspicious record sales numbers offered by Ryan Malcolm's helpers (see below), there's this bit from Zach Werner, who is, like, so not a stand-in for Simon Cowell. So, like, stop asking him about it.

Anyway:

Werner has nothing but criticism for WB's Next American Superstar, an offshoot of the Idol formula.

On Superstar, the judges purposely mislead the terrible singers, telling them they're good and advancing them to the next round just for laughs.

"There is something tacitly nasty about what they are doing there ... why don't we get people to pee in their pants and laugh at them?" Werner asks.


So Ann Marie McQueen got the name wrong. But the better slip-up here is Werner's criticism. Because, of course, Idol does the same thing.

As McQueen notes earlier in her piece (but for some reason fails to explicitly connect):

This may be a talent show, but Werner and company also have to deal with some really bad singers who were advanced to the next round to boost the entertainment value of the show.

This from another Globe story on Saturday:

Both executive producer John Brunton and Kehoe noticed the good singers were very good, better than last year's bunch, and the terrible singers are much more interesting. "We are thrilled by their oddness," says Brunton, who adds: "We are going to blow [American Idol's] William Hung away."

Brunton spun even harder in a March Globe story:

Brunton is proud the Canadian version of the Pop Idol phenomenon "celebrates eccentric singers" instead of making fun of them. He admits it's a fine line to walk, but insists that, unlike American Idol, "we embrace [less talented singers] and put them on a pedestal. We are thrilled by their oddness."

Yes, yes. "Celebrates." Not mocks. Remember that when you're laughing at the tone deaf and ridiculous. Remember that when Zach is tearing them apart. You are all "celebrating" them.

Oh the arrogance.

***

In other Idol news, here Farley Flex discusses Canadian Idol's national importance with the Calgary Sun (scroll down):

"We take the high road," he says. "We want to discover talent."

"When you look at the makeup of the Canadian music industry, we don't have any success stories to speak of ... To have a true industry we need a consistent stream of talent in the marketplace.

"The problem here is that our expectations are based on American standards. It's a tough thing for any artist to come out of this country."


Yes, that's right. Canada does not yet have a single music industry success story to speak of.

What qualifies Farley Flex to say such a thing? Well, let's see.

Hmm. Well it says here that he helped manage Maestro Fresh Wes. And oh, he also sits as a board member for VideoFACT and FACTOR. Hey, wait a sec... aren't VideoFACT and FACTOR charged with creating "Canadian music industry success stories?" Is Farley saying these organizations have failed in that mandate? Hmmm...

Later in that interview with the Calgary Sun, Flex also starts to back pedal on last year's winner, Ryan Malcolm (can't for the life of me understand why when the kid's apparently sold 100,000 records!?).

"I don't think the best singer won," he says.

In a long ago interview with Maclean's, Zach Werner was more critical, as he is wont to be, but not at all in the way that Simon Cowell is. No sir.

After a couple of pints, Canadian Idol's nasty judge, Zack Werner, admits he hasn't listened to Malcolm's album. "I don't f---ing care," he says. While he's proud of the show and was moved by the Canadian Idol experience, he doesn't give the participants much respect. The talent manager liked only two of the singers, signed none and thinks the rest (including Malcolm) should know "they're contestants, not Coldplay."

***

Best of luck then to all this year's contestants. If you should suck, we shall celebrate you. If you should win, you might become our humble nation's first success story. Either way, we're not listening to your album.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Weekend Reading
Bullshit Detector: Has Ryan Malcolm really sold more than 100,000 records?
Diana Krall: Now too versatile a performer.
Canada's first pop music professor reflects.
Ben Rayner goes to Montreal for Mutek.
Sum 41 were evacuated out of Africa.
Robbed by downloading, the Tragically Hip are hitting the road to ensure they can still feed their families.
Nellie McKay is going to spend the next few months playing with Sting, Lou Reed, Alanis, the Barenaked Ladies, and Jamie Cullum. Thanfully not all at once. (Note: Toronto on June 30. See you all there.)
The Vines and Libertines are breaking up.
Enough already.
I love me some Superstar USA, but this is ridiculous (via Coolfer).
Barlow didn't appreciate my calling him a "pop star."
Matthew Good: Still angry.
Billy Corgan: Still searching.
Alexisonfire: Still screaming.
You might be a redneck.
Scott Weiland: rocker, lover, drug addict, kickboxer.
The Detroit Free Press is all over The Movement.
Priceless wisdom from Ice T, now a father of two, but still a pimp apparently: "Trust me, when Ice-T turned his life around, he turned around a nation."
Tony Blair, the rock n' roll prime minister: Where did it all go wrong?
And the strange tale of Pete Doherty.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Catching Up
Some recent stuff from the Post (might I interest you in a subscription?)

First, an ode to the one-hit wonder. Then, a backstage look at Jack Layton's adventures in rock n' roll.

Next, a chat with Ibrahim Ferrer. And, finally, Stephin Merritt discusses, uh, Stephin Merritt. Which, just for laughs, I'll reprint here too.

i praise
Critics can't say enough good things about Stephin Merritt's new album -- or enough bad things about him

Aaron Wherry - National Post

There are at least two Stephin Merritts. One we'll call The Musician, the other The Myth.

The first is often hailed as one of the greatest American songwriters of the last century. He is a master of wistful synth-pop, as melancholy as it is hopeful, delivered from glee and doom. The principal creative force behind a number of side projects, he's best known as the front man for Magnetic Fields.

Five years ago, that band released the self-explanatory 69 Love Songs, a three-disc collection of romantic pop that charmed critics and brought Merritt the sort of popular attention that had previously eluded him. Merritt and his band returned this month with the follow-up (the band's seventh album), an acoustic effort inspired by the ninth letter of the alphabet and everyone's favourite personal pronoun, i. Critics, like they have for most of his offerings, are tripping over themselves to sing its praises.

"The fabulously doleful I Thought You Were My Boyfriend could have bounced straight from the Human League's classic Dare, and could be the most dizzying three minutes of Merritt's increasingly brilliant career," raved The Guardian.

"Cupid's-arrow vignettes reach deep into the fictional dream through heedless genre-bending, ingenious rhyme and incongruous simile, bleary-eyed dislocation and straight-faced melodrama," added the Village Voice.

The second Merritt -- The Myth -- is another story. The reviews here less laudatory.

"Prickly," say most.

"A nasty man who derives great pleasure from torturing poor, innocent journalists," wrote Salon's Thomas Bartlett, reviewing the scouting report before a recent interview.

Elsewhere, Merritt is ... a) "terrifying" b) "an asshole" c) "famously moody" or d) all of the above.

Not even Stephin Merritt likes this Stephin Merritt.

"I've recently stopped reading my press," he says. "There was a series of articles that wanted to praise i and wanted to say something negative so they didn't seem to be gushing, so they attacked my personality. I understand the motivation for that, and I think it's forgivable, but for me, reading a whole series of that was a little crushing. So I've just decided to stop reading."

Merritt is certainly not without his quirks -- a soft-spoken sport with vocal tics to spare. He hangs out in seedy bars and does much of his writing there. In photographs he often looks too small, too normal. His voice, in song, comes often as a deep, deadpan baritone.

He used to write for Time Out New York, famously shredding Christmas albums each December and reviewing the latest offbeat calendars (including ones inspired by ferrets, Jewish celebrations and kabuki). He walks the streets of New York with a pet chihuahua named Irving (for Irving Berlin, the famous composer).

He once penned a story titled "So you want to be a rock & roll star?" offering a step by step, tongue-in-cheek guide to fame. And though he once flirted with a Boy-George look, his music, career and own kind of stardom have been quiet. An eager to please song-and-dance man he isn't.

The Myth, of course, only furthers one's fascination with The Musician. Not that the man in the middle need play along.

In a Time Out New York interview in September, 1999, he attempted to explain himself. "I clearly have a megalomania problem. But although I'm shy and I have poor social skills, I don't hate people, as everyone might believe."

When reminded of the quote now, he says,"I'm surprised that I said anything so personal in an interview. That was a bad idea.

"I don't agree that I have a megalomania problem. I think like any artist I have megalomania. But I think I channel it into my work."

But his reputation precedes him. So many journalists march into an interview with Merritt prepared for war, and The Myth persists.

"It's partly because they come to the interview with that impression having read it before. And partly because I have a low voice and a very slow and considered way of speaking, which for some people, especially outside New York, sounds hostile," he says. "People in New York don't think I sound hostile. But midwesterners for example, who tend to have higher voices and automatically friendly speech patterns, think I'm being rude. It's partly regional, it's partly that I just have a really low voice and it's partly that sometimes, when people ask me unbelievably stupid questions in the 20th interview that day, I don't respond as happily as they want me to."

As was the case with Bartlett.

"Speaking to people I greatly admire tends to make me very nervous, and judging from articles I found online, I had reason to be nervous speaking to Merritt," Bartlett prefaced in his profile. All was going well until Bartlett explained his admiration for Bjork. Here, Merritt picks up the story:

"Recently I was interviewed by somebody who wanted my approval and wanted me to agree with everything he said because he was a massive fan and incredibly happy to meet me. And then, when I didn't agree that Bjork was incredibly innovative, he got upset and wrote that I was a prick."

Wrote Bartlett: "Later we were talking about Bjork, and I mentioned how innovative I thought she was. Merritt looked a little incredulous and asked me what I was talking about. This should have been easy for me ... But feeling tongue-tied, I stammered for a moment, and then said something about the way she used non-rhyming lyrics, and strange, twisted phrase structures that were rare in popular music. This unleashed a minor tirade, albeit in the same monotone voice, with just an extra touch of pedantry."

"[It was] one of many interviews in which I thought we were getting along fine and then I read the article and it was nasty," concludes Merritt. But he makes few apologies. Except maybe for the ... extra ... long ... pauses in the middle of otherwise ... normal ... sentences.

"I find it annoying, too," he says. "It's the way my brain works. I don't think of really long James Dean sentences quickly."

Everything else is accepted as occupational hazard -- reserved for those who can dissect the human condition more eloquently in five minutes of music than most anyone else can do in four times the conversation.

"It's hard to get a sense of someone's personality in a 20-minute interview, and I guess they're building on this myth of me as a more interesting person than I really am," he says. "I'm not remotely reclusive. I'm never described as anything other than a nice person by the people who actually know me. I've been considered overly nice by some of the people who know me. I go out of my way to be nice to people who don't actually deserve it and then get in trouble. But there's this image of me in the press as somebody I don't even recognize."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

More Cut & Paste
In other news, that aforementioned label newsletter also brings word of Broken Social Scene.

Remember when this band didn't like to tour?

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE . ANNOUNCE SUMMER TOUR PLANS

This summer Broken Social Scene planned to stay home and record an album.... and so please find below their touring and touring and touring schedule.

What little downtime they have will be spent in Toronto at Dave Newfeld's Stars And Sonns studio working a new album.

They've also just putting the finishing touches on a video for Lovers's Spit.

+ germany/austria tour with STARS
May 27 . Germany . Hamburg, Knust
May 28 . Germany . Neustrelitz, Immergut Festival
May 29 . Austria . Kleinreifling, Seewiesen Festival
May 30 . Austria .Vienna, Szene
May 31 . Germany . Munich, Orangehouse
June 01 . Germany . Frankfurt, Nachtleben
June 02 . Germany . Muenster, Gleis
June 03 . Germany . Cologne, Primeclub

+ most of the rest of europe
June 21 . Holland . Utrecht - Ekko
June 22 . Holland . Amsterdam - Paradiso Upstairs
June 23 . Holland . Amsterdam - VPRO Club Lek Radio show
June 24 . Holland . Rotterdam - Rotown
June 26 . France . Evreux, Le Rock dans tous ses États
June 28 . France . Paris, Maroquinerie
June 29 . Italy . Bergamo, Lazzaretto (w/ Muse & Television)
July 02 . France . Belfort, Eurockeenes De Belfort
July 03 . Belgium . Werchter, Werchter Festival
July 04 . Denmark . Roskilde Festival
July 06 . Sweden . Malmo, Folkets Park, Accelerator The Big One
July 07 . Sweden . Gothenburg, Tradgarden, Accelerator The Big One
July 08 . Sweden . Stockholm, Munchen Brewery, Accelerator The Big One
July 09 . Norway . Kristiansand, Quart Festival

+ lollapalooza & the US of A.
July 14 . Auburn, WA - White River Amphitheatre, Lollapalooza
July 15 . Eugene, OR - Wow Hall
July 17 . Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre, Lollapalooza
July 20 . Chula Vista, CA - Coors Amphiteatre, Lollapalooza
July 21 . Pomona, CA - Glass House
July 22 . Ventura, CA - Ventura County Fairgrounds, Lollapalooza
July 23 . Tuscon, AZ - Club Congress
July 24 . Albuquerque, NM - Launch Pad
July 26 . Greenwood Village, CO - Coors Amphitheatre, Lollapalooza
July 28 . Minneapolis, MN- First Ave (w/ The Walkmen)
July 29 . Tinley Park, Il - Tweeter Center, Lollapalooza
July 30 . Chicago . Arts&Crafts Night @ The Empty Bottle
July 31 . Milwaukee, WI - The Rave (w/ Modest Mouse & The Walkmen)
Aug 02 . Clarkson, MI - DTE Energy Music Theatre, Lollapalooza
Aug 03 . Pittsburg, PA - Mr. Smalls
Aug 05 . Toronto, ON - Molson Amphitheatre, Lollapalooza
Aug 07 . Newport, KY - Southgate House (w/ The Walkmen)
Aug 08 . Columbus, OH - Little Brothers (w/ The Walkmen)
Aug 09 . Cuyahoga Falls, OH - Blossom Music Center, Lollapalooza
Aug 12 . Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post, Lollapalooza
Aug 13 . NYC . Arts&Crafts Night @ Webster Hall
Aug 14 . Mansfield, MA - Tweeter Center, Lollapalooza
Aug 15 . Northampton, MA - Pearl St.
Aug 16 . New York, NY - Randalls Island, Lollapalooza
Aug 18 . Camden, NJ - Tweeter Center, Lollapalooza
Aug 19 . Norfolk, VA - Harbour Center (w/ Modest Mouse)
Aug 20 . Charlotte, NC - Visualite Theater
Aug 21 . Atlanta, GA - Turner Field, Lollapalooza
Aug 23 . Houston, TX - Engine Room
Aug 24 . Dallas, TX - Smirnoff Music Centre, Lollapalooza
Aug 26 . Ottawa, ON - Ottawa Folk Festival
Less Carl Wilson. More Leslie Feist.
Or so they demand. And by "they" we mean Dan. Though Dan's pretty big, so he might as well count as two people.

Thing is, it doesn't appear much is going on with La Feist. She starts touring in June. She was in Toronto recently to shoot a video, do an instore at Soundscapes and perform with Broken Social Scene. Surely she's now off somewhere being lovely and talented.

So here's what the critics are saying (or what the Arts&Crafts newsletter says they're saying).

Note: The second one seems a little cliche, no?

"A collection of soul, pop, jazz and even disco tunes that's bound to show up on year-end top 10 lists" - Macleans
"A sweetly natural and intimate swing through the bedrooms, coffee houses, dance clubs and jazz bars of life" - National Post
"Every note is sensual bliss" - Exclaim
"If people bought this instead of Dido's albums, the world would be a better place." - The Face
"One of the warmest, purest, voices you'll ever hear" - I-D
"A heart melting mix of Astrud Gilberto exotica, Dusty Springfield soul, and Bee Gees solid gold." - Toro
"Move over Norah Jones, you've lost your crown" - Jack
"A true feeling for pop songwriting" - Rolling Stone
"A petite siren of considerable pulchtritude" - NME
"The 2004 female discovery - Les Inrockuptibles
"A record both majestic and accessible to all" - Les Inrockuptibles
"A totally addictive record" - Le Nouvelle Observateur
"A crystal voice splintered over jazz, disco, and folk melodies." - Liberation

***

Surely it's nothing personal Carl. Ya know. Kids these days. All they care about is lovely French ladies.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Well.
Looks who's back.
Just in time for dinner
Here's the recipe for Brian May's mum's blackberry puree.

My Mum's Blackberry Puree
This is something very simple, yet to me, even now that I am (nearly) grown-up, this is still the most delicious substance known to man (and vegetarian, of course).

200 (approximately 5 pints) luscious, fat blackberries
1 teaspoon water
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
2 Bramley's apples, peeled and chopped (optional)

My mum made it like this:

First, pick the blackberries while they are at their best, in late summer. Only use the ones that are ready to be picked (these are black all over, and come off the plant with a gentle pull). Wear covering on the hands and arms - the bramble bushes are vicious! About 200 luscious, fat berries is a good number to make enough puree for two luxury helpings, or to store in the fridge, to sip at for treats over a week or so.

Put the blackberries in a pan with a teaspoon of water to get them started, and 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar (this is where it gets naughty), though you can adjust this amount of sweetening to taste.

Gently bring to boiling point, stirring with a wooden spoon (that you don't mind getting stained dark purple). Turn the flame to low and keep stirring and squashing the berries until the liquid becomes an even paste, not longer than 5 minutes or so, because vitamin C doesn't survive very long at 100C (212F).

Now if you have a couple of freshly scrumped Bramley's cooking apples, they could be chopped up and put in the pan with the berries, for an extra tang. But blackberries on their own give the purest flavor.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour into a metal sieve, over a glass or china bowl. Use the wooden spoon to churn the paste around, squashing the juice through and leaving the seeds behind.

The pure, red elixir can now be eaten or put in the fridge. It tastes really fabulous poured over ice cream, or the "Junket" my mum used to make (a kind of vanilla blancmange), or as a sauce for fresh fruits, or just spooned slowly into the mouth as a wicked pleasure. My daughter also enjoys the puree frozen into an ice lolly.

Warning: This stuff stains everything it touches (wear a napkin) and is very acidic (go gently if your stomach is sensitive). But the flavour - it's a killer - is guaranteed to blast your taste buds into space! Make 2 "luxury helpings."
tour.tour
Sorry, lame blog post title.

Anyway. Here are the latest controller.controller tour dates:

MAY:
28 - St.Catherines @ Level3 w/ Madrid **ALL AGES** $6
29 - Guelph @ The Grad Lounge - Ladyfest Guelph Collective w/ Lesbians On Ecstasy, + More **ALL AGES** $10 adv // $15 door

------------------------------------------------------

JUNE:
2 - Toronto @ The Gladstone Hotel - SEXMACHiNE w/ Glass Candy & The Shattered Theatre, Duchess Says, DJ Mikey Apples $10
3 - Toronto @ The Rivoli - INVITATION ONLY PARTY
11 - London @ Call the Office w/ Death From Above, Tangiers, Uncut $7
12 - Toronto @ Studio 99 w/ Death From Above, Tangiers, Uncut $10
13 - Detroit @ The Majestic Theatre w/ Franz Ferdinand **ALL AGES**
14 - Toronto @ Kool Haus w/ Franz Ferdinand **ALL AGES** $17.50
16 - Ottawa @ Zaphod's w/ Panurge
17 - New York @ Shout w/ Tangiers
18 - New York @ Sin-e w/ Tangiers
19 - Brooklyn @ Boogaloo - Aerosol Burns (168 Marcy Ave in Williamsburg) w/ El Guapo **ALL AGES**
24 - Hamilton @ The Underground w/ Uncut **ALL AGES** $7
25 - TBD
26 - Simcoe @ w/ The Vermicious Knid **ALL AGES**

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Jewel is the new Courtney Love, Part II
Fans of everyone's favourite psycho snaggle-toothed songbird are all a twitter over her recent onstage breakdown (via Popdirt).

Some of the best bits:

shot77: She than proceeds to make fun of the "sweaty armpit guys". You know what? I was pretty hot and I can guarantee my armpits were sweaty. Does that make me a bad person? You would assume that someone who lived in a car before she made it big would be a little more understanding.

Sallyr: I still love her music and will continue to be a fan, but I feel as though I didn't get the "Jewel" experience that I had hoped for.

Fredsteve: Why should she give her all when the crowd are being so disrespectful? Jewel is a performer that believes in respect for the artist and if she doesn't get it she's not gonna stay onstage longer than she has to... At 90% of Jewel's shows, you can hear a pin drop for the entire show, unless the crowd is cheering after a song or laughing at Jewel's jokes.

StillWater3779: My thoughts and best wishes go out to Jewel. I hope she is handling things in her 'real life' well. It seems to me she's been going through a tough time for her, and I think its been difficult for a short while. I remember back in 1999, when I was down on my knees crying, with a gun to the side of my head, and I've never felt pain like that before. Too many things were going wrong for me. A few days later I saw SNL and the song 'Hands'. I just remembered a lot changed after that. Thats when I first got into Jewel's music, and influence. Yeah,.
Gabrielle Destroismaisons...
... to the rescue. Sort of.
Brendan Canning reveals all
To Billboard.

Nearly one-third of the new album is written. Though a release in early 2005 seems more likely than earlier speculation.

Working song titles include:
Handjobs for the Holidays
Jimmie and the Photo Call
Shoreline
Ibi Dreams of Pavement

Promises to be more "rockin."

In not-entirely related new release news, the Hidden Cameras should have a new album out in July. Hot industry gossip: It might not be released on Rough Trade in America. Currently being shopped around.
The NXNE tapes, Part I
So the vastly-inferior step-cousin of SXSW is fast approaching here in Toronto. And the only thing more exciting than the opening reception (free beer? don't mind if I do...) is the big fat package the organizers send out in the weeks before the festival begins. Inside are the EPs and debut albums of several dozen artists you've likely never heard of. And, more likely, will never hear from again. Still a big pile of CDs always holds promise (heck, that's how Pitchfork found Broken Social Scene).

So for the next little bit we'll be picking through the pile. Maybe we'll find another Broken Social Scene (as if!). Maybe we'll find another Shaye. Whatever.

Here, then, the first batch.

***

Gordon Vincent - You Should Know
From: Nashville, TN
Promo Says: "50's pool halls, big cars on lost highways. A runaway train with a destination... all his songs reflect the insights of an honest soul journeying through a treacherous world. They are nothing less than up-to-the-minute bulletins from the trenches of our time - fresh, green shoots from the best seeds that rock, folk and R&B ever planted."
We Says: Erm. Yeah. Not quite that good. Pretty standard country shuffles, strolls and stompers. Sometimes a little too obvious (did you know that "pain" and "rain" rhyme? yeah, us neither). But sometimes strangely compelling.
Grade: B-
More info

The Daybreak
From: Toronto, ON
Promo Says: "The Daybreak were born on November 22, 2001 when fellow university students Sumon Mukherjee, Mike Dawson, and Rob Domagala came together with the goal of making the best music - period."
We Says: Well then. Seems the highlight of their career to this point was an opening slot for The Music (who?) at Lee's Palace. Brit-lovin' dreamy guitar rock. Have listened to a lot of Verve records. Maybe some early Radiohead. Like The Music (who?), but a little quieter.
Grade: B
More info

Lonesome Heroes
From: Vancouver, B.C.
Promo Says: "With the first album completed just before this bio was written, Lonesome Heroes are ready to hit the road and serve up a taste of 21st century Rock & Roll."
We Says: Bunch of diversely talented musicians get together, make guitar rock with splashes of dreaded electronica, etc. Self-importance runs amok. Lose Yourself, a wanna-be nouveau-dance rock number, starts well and then descends into, well... this: "Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters/ Everyone around ya's such resisters/ Walking on your back till it gives them blisters/ I hope they get sucked up into twisters." Please say this is ironic.
Grade: C+
More info

Starvin Hungry - Damnesty
From: Montreal, PQ
Promo Says: N/A
We Says: Must ignore the dodgy name. And decidedly prog album cover - an eye within big red lips, drool (or is it a tear!?) dripping down. Also: The frontman isn't that guy from Blue Rodeo. It's actually that guy's twin brother, John Milchem (he started the band with his brother Glenn in 1995, but Glenn has since departed). Anyway. Apparently long overdue for our adoration. Crazy kids with their tight, shouty, snarly garage rock with hooks, horns, high-drama and everything. Not that we need another one of those round these parts. But still... "My love's a nuclear weapon/ sleepin' deep in the ground/ seepin' radioactive poison/ spreadin' cancer all around." Ahem.
Grade: A
More info

Monday, May 24, 2004

Request for assistance
On a much more serious note, Billy Corgan's blog has posted an alert for a missing Toronto girl (see the 05/07/04 message). Seems she was last seen in Chicago at one of his recent solo gigs. A picture is attached. As is information for the Chicago and Toronto police if you have any information.
Worst. Concert. Ever.
During a concert at the Hampton Beach Ballroom Casino, Jewel, reportedly, poked fun at fat people and those with no teeth, asked the audience to "shut the hell up," offered a ten minute discussion of Zoloft and Paxil, told people to stop looking at her teeth and start looking at her breasts, stopped in the middle of Who Will Save Your Soul because the audience was singing along, wouldn't allow smoking or drinking, and explained that all those who partake of such activities are sinners. Oh, and for the encore, she came out and yodelled for a minute and then left the stage.

Some fans, including a woman who drove down from Canada to hear the snaggle-toothed songbird, are pissed. Worst Jewel Concert Ever, say they.

Best Jewel Concert Ever, say the rest of us.

Anyway. Jewel is the new Courtney Love.
Eat like a rock star
Sure that Ibrahim Ferrer thing was pretty cool... but does any other blog have Billy Corgan's Russian Salad recipe?

Taken from a book I found called Food That Rocks.

Russian Salad
2 large potatoes, boiled, cooled, and chopped into small cubes
4 eggs, hard-boiled, cooled, and chopped into small cubes
3 scallions, chopped into small pieces
2 cucumbers, chopped into small cubes
4 sweet pickles, chopped into small cubes
One 8-ounce can sweet green peas
Salt to taste
Mayonnaise to taste

Prepare the potatoes and eggs. In a large bowl, "mix it all up" - the potatoes, eggs, scallions, cucumbers, and pickles. Then add the sweet green peas and mix again. Add salt and mayonnaise before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Enjoy.

Maybe later this week I'll post the recipes for Patti LaBelle's Potato Salad, David Coverdale's Soulful Shrimp Soup, Shania Twain's Potato Roast, Ted Nugent's Bubble Bean Piranha a la Colorado Moose, or Brian May's mum's Blackberry Puree.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Weekend Reading
New Music West seems to be in some trouble.
Morrissey announces his death to The New York Times.
Elsewhere the Times explores reggae's Real Rock.
Don't call it a gimmick: Jaime Cullum continues his "Look At Me! I Can Cover Cole Porter AND The Neptunes" tour.
Maroon 5's Adam Levine takes a stand: "Pop is beautiful. We're not afraid of that word."
Another Stephen Merritt feature, another interview in a seedy bar.
Chris Martin is already a shit father.
Ash was very nearly an Iron-Maiden influenced band called Vietnam.
Britney smokes pot. Almost falls down stairs.
There's a new music industry blog called Sellout Central (via Coolfer).
Stereogum has lots of good stuff.

David Enders, 23, decided to go to Baghdad a year ago and start a news magazine. Here's what he's learned (via A&LD).

Oh... by the way, Nick Hornby wrote a little piece about rock music. And somehow managed to piss off, like, everybody.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Fuck the cottage, let's spend the long weekend in this hotel basement
The trucker hat must die. But we'll forgive Kevin Drew because he and his band sing songs that make people hug. And dance. Sometimes simultaneously. While crying.

Second of two semi-secret, sorta-invite-only Broken Social Scene shows this evening at The Drake. Found their sweet spot around the time Jason Collett stepped to the fore (ask him where to find the best horse steak - "like butter" - in the city). Little game of Name That Song. John Crossingham channeling Chris Murphy. Collett doing Glad Girls. A nouveau disco. And Amy Milan's head nearly exploded during Anthems (with Julie Penner on violin).

All while Red Dawn played on the big screen — Swayze, Sheen and Caroline in the City killing them some commies.

End of a metaphorical chapter perhaps? Could've sworn I heard the promise of something new by the fall.

Concluded the man doffing his Trucker Hat, "You were perfect. And we had our doubts... stick around for some great reggae."

***

Unanswered questions:

Has Sarah Slean dyed her hair black?

Was that Sook-Yin Lee down near the stage?

And was the girl from the cappuccino commercial begging Remedios for a guest spot on the next album?

Friday, May 21, 2004

Sh-Boom
If only because I haven't seen them posted elsewhere and everyday a few souls arrive here in search of them, here are the lyrics for Feist's Mushaboom:

Mushaboom

Helping the kids out of their coats
But wait the babies haven't been born
Unpacking the bags and setting up
And planting lilacs and buttercups

But in the meantime I've got it hard
Second floor living without a yard
It may be years until the day
my dreams will match up with my pay

Old dirt road... knee deep snow
Watching the fire as we grow old

I want a man to stick it out and make a home from a rented house
And we'll collect the moments one by one
I guess that's how the future's done
How many acres how much light tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap on a little road barely on the map

Old dirt road... knee deep snow
Watching the fire as we grow old
Old dirt road... rambling rose
Watching the fire as we grow... well I'm sold


On a side note, maybe someone from the fan club can tell me why my advance copy of Let It Die differs from the final version. Tout Doucement is dropped, replaced by L'amour ne dure pas toujours which appears in the middle of the album. Pourquoi est-ce que c'est?

(Please limit responses to the English language.)
The Velvet Revolver Traveling Caravan of Rock Cliche
Notes from today's press conference with Slash, Duff, Scotty 2 Hotty and the boys...

-At first Scott Weiland wasn't sure "the world was ready for a rock n' roll band."
-But "music is the soundtrack of our lives."
-And "rock n' roll is the energy that fuels us."
-Says Weiland, "Music is my life."
-Plus, they "don't give a shit."
-When they perform together it's like "lightning in a bottle."
-When they decided to form a band they knew they had to "go for the jugular."
-Weiland came clad in hat, sunglasses and scarf and noted that he would not be speaking too much because he had to rest his voice
-He then chainsmoked like a 56-year-old granny in the middle of a particularly stressful round at the bingo hall.
-Question of the day: To guitarists Slash and Dave Kushner, "What is your guitar soloing philosophy?"
-When Duff went back to school a few years ago to get his degree (a four-year, he noted), all the kids would come up to him and tell him that their generation was lacking a great rock band. He suggested Queens of the Stone Age.
-Weiland is quite confident that Velvet Revolver can be the Pixies for the next Nirvana
-New bands that impress him: Jet, Loudermilk (now Gosling), and Pretty Girls Make Graves
-Weiland stands by his refusal to speak with the press. But he had already committed to today's conference and he is "a man of his word." Though if anyone were to dwell on his past, he would be forced to say "fuck you" and walk away.
-Finally, they don't come to Toronto for the pot, they come for "the pussy."

Everything else you could possibly ever want to know about these guys can be distilled from Elizabeth Bromstein's piece in the latest Now.

Says Duff: "Most of us have died at some point or another. Slash has died, like, four times. He's so hardcore, that guy."
All caps...
Memorials for the legendary Elvin Jones from The Telegraph, National Public Radio, Reuters, Billboard, San Diego Union-Tribune, BBC, New York Times, AFP and Associated Press.

Some great stuff from the blogosphere:
Paul Wells
Jay Smooth w/Bill Cole
Jay Smooth w/Warren Smith
Jon Caramanica w/Adam Mansbach (via Chang)

And two threads from ilXor.
Nellie McKay pays tribute to P. Diddy
Ye olde Mac seems to be choking on these for the moment. But I trust they are brilliant.
Like a true natured child
This is new. A source close to Courtney Love (someone calling herself Bourtney Bove perhaps?) tells Fox News' Roger Friedman that Virgin is to blame for Love's latest troubles.

Take it away, Rawg...

... I am told that Virgin paid for Love's rehab last fall at Wavelength, a voluntary facility in Malibu, so they could bring her back and forth to the studio when needed during the re-recording of "America's Sweetheart."

I say "re-recording" because apparently the album was originally made in France, then offered to four different record companies. Virgin, according to my sources, bought it and then demanded that it be completely redone — and fast.

"That's what put Courtney over the edge," says a source. "The album should have been released now, in June. But they announced that it was coming out in February. Courtney had all kinds of issues she was dealing with last fall. This endangered her life."

What's more, according to a publicist who works with Love and to another source, Virgin suggested Love put her 11-year-old daughter Frances Bean Cobain in the first music video from the album for publicity purposes.

"They wanted her to be video star," says a source. "They thought this was a good idea." At the time, Frances Bean was the subject of a custody dispute.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Streets Dates
Announced today. The Streets is coming! The Streets is coming! And he's bring Dizzee.

June 11     Mountain View - Shoreline Amphitheater  (w/ Dizzee Rascal)
June 12     Los Angeles - The Wiltern (w/ Dizzee Rascal)
June 15     Seattle - Nuemo's 
June 18     Park City - Harry O's
June 19     Denver - Fox Theater               
June 21     Minneapolis - Fine Line Music Café
June 23     Chicago - Metro
June 24     Detroit - St. Andrew's Hall
June 25     Toronto - Mod Club
June 26     Montreal - Club Soda

June 28    Boston - Avalon Ballroom (w/ Dizzee Rascal)
June 29    New York - Irving Plaza (w/ Dizzee Rascal)
June 30    New York - Irving Plaza (w/ Dizzee Rascal)
July 1     Washington DC - 9:30 Club (w/ Dizzee Rascal)
July 3     Atlanta - Earthlink Live

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

EXCLUSIVE: In conversation with Ibrahim Ferrer
This will be a rather long post, but well worth it I think.

Here's the unedited transcript of a couple e-mails I traded with Ibrahim Ferrer, of Buena Vista Social Club fame. He speaks little English, so these answers come through a translator.

As discussed here before, he's currently barred from entering the United States as a result of the Bush administration's crackdown on Cuba. Full story in tomorrow's Post.

--------------------

1) When did you learn your Visa application for the United States had been denied? Had you ever before had any problems gaining the proper documentation to enter the United States? What reasons were you given for the denial?

A few days before the travel date. No, I have never had such kind of problems to travel to the USA. I have had the pleasure of getting together with my US many times and all of them have been unforgettable. I think my audience there really welcomes me and they have shown me their love many times. I hope I can meet it soon again. Regarding these bureaucracy matters, you know, I really don't understand these matters very well. But I can tell you we have always been treated most respectfully.

As far as I know, the reason was that our presence was supposed to be detrimental to the interest of the United States.. Well... what can I say? I am a 76 years old man, I have never done or wished anything bad to nobody...

2) There have been reports in the American media that United States government officials were concerned that any financial rewards or gains you received while in the United States might be end up in the hands of the Castro government. Do you have any response to that? Do you have any relationship with Castro? Do you contribute financially to his government (other than through taxes, of course)?

I just can say I don't understand it. We have been in the USA many times before, and always by reasons of cultural exchanges. A cultural exchange between two great cultures, so that we get to know each other’s music and culture, and get the audience to know our music and culture. This is the same thing in Cuba: many US musicians come to the Jazz Festival of La Habana, so that we can enjoy their music.

As for the Award I will just say I have a small room in my house which I call “my museum”, where I store all the Awards I keep dearly together with presents from my fans and I must say I think I have them all!

No, I have no relationship with Mr. Fidel Castro. You see, I would be surprised if, for example, you tell me you do have a relationship with the president of your country. Politicians are very busy people, and that applies to our president as well, like any other politician of any other country he doesn’t have much time left. I had the pleasure to meet him once however: I was invited to a reception together with other artists, and we shook hands. In my travels I also had the opportunity to meet the Finland president, and some others that wanted to meet me because of my work as an artist.

No I don't, and to be true I don't see how could I. I was never asked to anyway. I do pay my taxes, guess like any other citizen of any other country.

3) Do feel you've become the victim of a political campaign by the George W. Bush administration against Castro and Cuba?

No. I have felt like a victim in my life. I think music has no passport and no politics, it arrives to everyone and it always brings you something, may be love, maybe hope, strength... This is my political principles: my music and my wish is to bring music and my love message to all people and all around the world.

4) Is it frustrating that art and music can't rise above such political actions?

As I was saying, I think that all kind of art: music, painting, literature... art is above all. Art captivates and has the power to make you see life in another perspective. And I don't think this can be stopped by no means.

5) What are your feelings toward America? Its people. And its government.

I have many friends in US. Also from all over the world: Canada, Japan, Island, Spain... I love all of them and they love me and my music, as has been shown many times. All people are the same to me, no matter what country, race, religion, social class... The only important thing is hearth, all the rest we don't choose., When somebody asks me what country I like best I must say I love all countries, I don't use to distinguish.

And regarding the government, I could not say... I didn't have the chance to go to school as I started working when I was very young, so I must say, and makes me embarrassed to say it, that I don't really understand much about politics. The only thing I can say is that I think that each country's citizens are the ones in the position to express an opinion, as they are the only ones that can really do it.

6) Could you ever have imagined that a legendary 77-year-old musician would be treated like a terrorist threat?

Well, I never really felt I was treated like a terrorist, and I hope never to be treated like one.
I don't mind to be treated like an old man... but I must say that I feel more like a little boy rather than an old man. Bear in mind I was born again just seven years ago, so I am around 7-8 years old now.

7) In a way, for many Americans especially, you were something of a Cuban ambassador - do you think artists like yourself and the Buena Vista Social Club had the power to break down a lot of the stereotypes and misconceptions about life in Cuba?

That is how I feel, like a Cuban Culture ambassador, it makes me feel proud because I see that people from all over the world loves our music.

Regarding life in Cuba, I thing this is like everything, every one has a particular opinion. I can only say to any one who wants to know Cuba, and has the opportunity to travel, just come and see it with own eyes. Like you do when you go to a new country were you never went before.

8) Have you had any problems entering Canada? (On a side note, I know cities like Toronto have become almost secondary homes for a great number of young jazz musicians.)

As I told you, I never had problems to entry any country; well, except this time in the USA to pick up the Grammy award. I could tell you many anecdotes. In many countries, I would be asked for autographs as I was going through the customs, people took pictures with me and some went to see my concerts afterwards.

I always felt very welcomed in Canada, besides I have good friends there that I hope to see in my next trip to Toronto next month. I have a family of friends there and I am looking forward to see them all; this will be next June the 10th.

9) And aside from all this, let's talk about the music - does it still excite you like it always has? Maybe even more so? Do things like the above only motivate you, give you an added incentive to bring your art to the world? What are you working on currently?

Music is my passion, my life, it is what I like to do best. I feel lucky to receive this gift from life at my age... and I want to enjoy it as much as I can.

Yes, maybe even more, because I am now able to understand things better, I can provide my own ideas and this makes me feel fulfilled. You must remember I fought all my life for music, and I didn't get much. I finally gave up, I retired, and then it turns out to be that the best was still about to come into my life.

What really motivates me is do things with love, whatever it is. When you do things with love, everything turns out well.

Well, I am on tour now and this is something I really enjoy to do. Be in touch with the audience is an experience that never stops surprising me.

I do have a project in mind and I am really willing to go for it; I have talked about it with Nick Gold, the company's president, and I hope I can soon start to record, as soon as I have time. I am sorry but I cannot tell you more about it, as it is a surprise.

10) What new musicians are exciting you?

I am crazy about my dear friend’s Omara Portuondo new album. It is called "Flor de Amor" and it makes you dream... I don't know how to explain you, it has Brazilian influences, and I have always liked Brazilian music, I even dared to sing some Brazilian song when I was young.
Omara's voice really wins your hearth...

11) And have you had much time to reflect on your amazing travels and successes of the last few years?

I think life is to be lived... I prefer not to reflect, the past is the past. The important thing is to enjoy life like just as if each day was the last day of your life.

Thanks again for your time. It is very, very much appreciated. Please let me know if there's any trouble translating any of the above.

It was a pleasure to do this interview. Written interviews are easier for me , I have more time to answer all questions.

My management office sent the interview to me, I only speak Spanish and badly! I hope to see you this summer in your town. Please send many greetings to your fellow people in Canada, I will soon be there whit you!

Ibrahim Ferrer


-------------------

Mr. Ferrer,

Thanks very much for your responses. Glad to hear things are well in Cuba.

1) You said, "I have felt like a victim in my life." When was that? Or did you mean you "haven't" felt like a victim?


(Translator's answer): This was a translation error, we are sorry for that! Mr. Ferrer's answer to that question was he never felt like a victim.

2) You also mentioned being born again. Did you mean that in a religious sense? Tell me about that. What inspired that change?

During all these years working as a musician I had to cross many obstacles: I was always told that my voice was no good, my name doesn't appear in many albums I have recorded. I have always loved to sing boleros, I feel boleros always brings a message, and my orchestra directors used to tell me my voice was no good to sing boleros. This brought me down and I chose retirement as I was really disappointed .

So when I was invited to record on the Buena Vista Social Club project, I was about to say no, because I was afraid to have another disillusion.

Once I arrived at the studio I saw Ry Cooder and Nick Gold, of my record company, and as I began to sing, seems that they liked my voice. This was the beginning of a new life to me. Now I feel recognition to my work, I know people like my voice and my style, and this feels like I was born again. That's why I always say I am like a seven-years old boy... I mean it in the artistic sense, of course.

3) Have you yet received your Grammy award for this past year?

Yes I did! And I am proud to say that my orchestra guitar player, great friend and great musician Manuel Galban has also received his, for his album “Mambo Sinuendo”.

4) You said about music - "I finally gave up, I retired..." When you were shining shoes, had you really given up on music and lost all hope in its powers? Is it strange to have to fight again to perform in a place like the United States?

Ok let me explain you this, I used to clean shoes, but this was not to survive. I was on pension and I had enough money to me and my family, but at that time I use to have some little bad habits, like smoking or drinking having a run with friends every now and then . So I used to clean shoes to be able to afford this bad little habits, spend some money with my friends out of the pension .... Let me tell you that now I don't smoke anymore and I am happy for this! I still drink, but very little. But I really recommend all smokers to give it up ...

I must tell you I was disappointed , but not with music or its power. I was disappointed with the world of music, because they wouldn’t 't give me no opportunity during all these years. I had got used to the idea and I had lost my hope. That's why I retired myself.

I think that life is a strange thing, full of surprises... Once I thought I couldn't expect anything from life anymore, and life was about to give me something I could never imagine even in my best dreams: people's love and recognition. My audience demonstrates it to me all the time, and this makes me fell very happy. I wouldn't say I had to fight. What I do is to give myself over; I give all I have inside my hearth, and I think this is something that all audiences in the world can understand, no matter from which country.

Of course, I always try to do my best at work.

5) And, finally, how are things in Cuba?

I don't use to get out much, I like to stay at home with my family, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren and with my friends. I love to get together with them and play domino at home. I also enjoy to spend time with my dogs, I have a soft spot for them... I have tree dogs: Principe, Rocco and Travi. I am always thinking about them when I am on tour, I cannot wait to see them again and play with them!

6) Do you perform regularly?

I always like to perform in Cuba because it's a very demanding audience who understands a lot of music. But I cannot perform there as much as I would like to, as I spend much time in my international tours. Me and my good friend Omara Portuondo did her new album’s ("Flor de Amor") presentation show at the National Theatre, which is an awesome theatre. I was invited to her new album presentation show and I enjoyed it very much.

7) Where are you currently living in Cuba exactly?

I am living in a very quiet zone with my family. I cannot tell you my address, otherwise I may be receiving many foreign visits at home within the next days...

8) And do you ever go and get your shoes shined?

I like shining shoes! I do it with much affection and, of course, I do shine my own shoes.
I know better
Clarification: When Avril Lavigne said Britney Spears dances "like a ho" she really meant "I just need to look after myself and everything will be cool. I am not going to start making comments that will start fights."

Says Avril now:
"Christina Aguilera and Britney do not bother me, I have no opinion on them. I have never evenmet themso how can I be expected to commentonwhat they do?"

Is Avril Lavigne slowly becoming the new Roseanne Barr (shrill, suffering from multiple personality disorder, etc)?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

What Would Courtney Do?
Probably buy this t-shirt. Then puke all over it. And, later, call it art.
College
Enough of that nonsense. Promise never to speak of it again.

Cos I have (finally) heard the future. And it is Afroman's Afroholic... Even Better Times (samples courtesy of Aaron Brophy at the Cancrit board).

If you listen to one song today, let it be Whack Rappers in which the man who gave us Because I Got High picks a fight with just about every other rapper on the planet.

Sample rhymes:

I think you cra-zee
If you like Jay-Z
Don't change clothes
Change the CD


Afro motherfuckin' M-A-N
Can't stand no motherfuckin' Ying-Yang Twins


I think Lil' Jon and the Eastside Boyz
Is an irritating, ignorant bunch of noise


Fabolous?
What's fabolous about it?
I think you terrible
Music unbearable
Ripping off Mase
With that look on his face
Oh man, I rest my case


Kelis, this is what I want you to do
Get on your knees
Face me
I've got a milkshake for you
And its tasty
Just like your album


Puff Daddy, enough already
Now it's P.Diddy
Still sound shitty
How can your group be called Da Band?
Nobody plays an instrument man


Why is David Banner running from the Klan?
What happened to the bitches man?


Missy Elliott, thinks she looks like Halle Berry
That's scary


(sung to the tune of the chorus from Work It)
Her CD ain't worth it
Put your money in your pocket and reverse it
Missy Elliott makes a bunch of bullshit


Even with a weave
I can't stand Eve
I can't stand Eve, that's what I said
She got a pinhead


Later he mocks 50 Cent for rapping like Mike Tyson.

It's the new How to Rob. Only for slow kids.
Sari
Kevin Garnett apologizes.
Comfortably numb
This rant from sometime ago is apparently making the rounds. Knickers everywhere twisting and such. Friends checking in to see if I've lost my marbles.

So let's clarify a few points:

First, there is little that condones illegal downloading of copyrighted material. As I've argued before though, the legality , for pro-downloaders at least, should be besides the point.

Despite the soon-to-be-tightened legal loopholes in Canada, both sides of the debate can generally agree that stealing material without the permission of the copyright holder is illegal. The real separation is this - pro-downloaders believe themselves to be freedom fighters for art, striking out against the record labels and corporations who control such things; record labels believe themselves to be fighting for control of the material they spend millions to produce and promote.

Of course, it's far more complicated than that. But that's the barebones basic of this squabble.

Anyway. In Canada, it's a little more complicated. And so, right now the recording industry is staging a two-headed campaign - arguing from one mouth that the government should continue to contribute tax dollars to support it; the other mouth asking the government to help the recording industry crackdown on downloaders (or freeloaders as my paper is fond of calling them).

The message to taxpayers: We need your money.
The message to downloaders: Stop stealing. We need your money.
The message to taxpaying downloaders: We need your money and while you're at it, stop downloading so you can gives us more money.

Oh, but lots of Canadian companies receive tax breaks and government funding and then charge us for their product, you say.

Sure. Fine. Can't dispute that. And if the consumer is satisfied with that set up, more power to them and the businesses they frequent.

But music consumers don't seem all that satisfied of late. In fact, they seem downright disgruntled. That's why they're going online and downloading to their cold, careless hearts' content completely free of guilt.

So here's several question that might be asked by all those music publications trotting out Save Factor editorials:

Nobody wants to see Jann Arden forced to work at McDonald's, but why should some night manager at McDonald's have to pay twice for his Jann Arden CD? What would the ramifications be of discounting in Canada those CDs from artists who have received government funding? What if we discounted all CanCon altogether?

Wouldn't downloaders be justified in saying to the recording industry - "We'll stop downloading your songs just as soon as you stop downloading our tax dollars?"

Why does the recording industry in this country feel such a sense of entitlement? Why do they feel they are owed both funding and changes to the federal copyright laws?

Has federal funding really produced a healthy national recording industry? Who has received funding? Who hasn't? Why? What exactly is this money used for? How often are loans not repaid? Why is it easier for some parties to receive loans and grants? And what exactly would happen if this funding was cut or cut-off entirely? Is it such that the recording industry has become dependent on federal funding? Is that really what the government and voters want?

And who is in control here? The industry? The government? Or the consumer?

***

Anyway. This all rather boring, no? That's probably why no one ever makes a fuss about much of the above or even asks the odd question. Set against health care funding or, say, Adscam, government money for the recording industry is rather insignificant. And most music writers would rather busy themselves with the minutiae of guitar solos and drum fills. Fair enough. So would we all.

***

An astute reader and industry expert notes that the Heritage Committee on Copyright may have offered their recommendations long before the Minister for that department rendered her verdict at the Junos. He may be right in this regard - I'm still trying to sort the whens and hows of that one out (this report for instance, backs up my original timing). But he knows far more of these dealings than I. Either way, there was no intention to suggest a conspiracy. Pandering to the record industry, maybe. But not quite Watergate.

***

P.S. I ask none of the above questions rhetorically.

***

P.P.S. Angry record industry types are invited to correct me on any and all points.

***

P.P.P.S. Until then, here is a Chart story with the record industry explanation of the Tragically Hip situation.

***

P.P.P.P.S. Another non-rhetorical question - is the real problem that kids these days, unable to find new music on the radio and tv, are turning to Kazaa and the like? Is that why they feel downloading should be free?

***

P.P.P.P.P.S. Realize that there are two major issues mixing here - the motivating forces/consequences of government funding for the arts and the motivating forces/consequences of downloading.

***

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Colby Cosh with a long ago post on downloading.

***

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Some numbers from Canadian Music Network magazine. Total music sales in Canada, according to Soundscan, are up 2.5% this year. Albums are up 3.3%. Singles are down 44.6%. The week ending May 9 saw a 12.5% increase over the same week last year.
Viral Initiatives
Highlights of the Beastie Boys publicity campaign for To the 5 Boroughs (taken from recent promotional material)...

Radio/Video:
-Ch-Check It Out single debuted on episode of The O.C. and was the #1 Most Added at Rock and #2 Most Added Overall - Week of Release - April 28th
-Ch-Check It Out video directed by longtime collaborator Nathaniel Hornblower - Premiered on all video formates with Heavy rotations Out of the Box - April 29th
-Various multi formate mainstream and campus radio promotions - June
-Network radio specials - June

Street/Club:
-Major street marketing including club/skateboard/life style/culture outlets
-Various club vinyl, remixes including major re-mix DJ competitions and launch events

New Media:
-Extensive on-line/viral initatives May/June/July
-Major portal features - i.e. Yahoo etc - June/July

Advertising:
-Extensive TV/radio/print buys (music, lifestyle, street) - June/July/August
-Street snipes/postering/graffiti - June/July
-on-line

Retails:
-Extensive window/listening post campaigns - June/July
-Major New Release and Catalogue campaign - May/June/July
-Clean/Vinyl available on S.I.S.

Media/Press/Promotion:
-Confirmed covers and/or major features in Chart (July), Peace (June), Strut, Exclaim, Pound, Blender, Rolling Stone, Spin, The New Yorker, etc.
-Toronto in-market promotion - including special appearances - June 2004 - TBC
-Major US TV performances throughout the summer

Tour:
-World tour begins in August 2004
-Canadian dates to be announced soon!

... Catalogue will be available at 18% discount...
Get this man in uniform
Kevin Garnett is an idiot. This is the NBA's Most Valuable Player pontificating on his preparations for this week's game seven between his Minnesota Timberwolves and the Sacramento Kings:

"This is it and for all the marbles. I'm sitting in the house loading up the pump, loading up the Uzi, I've got a couple of M-16s, a couple of 9s and a couple of joints with some silencers on them. I'm just loading up clips, a couple of grenades, a missile launcher with a couple of missiles. I'm ready for war."

Sounds like he's volunteering for duty Mr. Rumsfeld.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The bloom is back
Last week I argued that guilt was the motivating force behind the current Loretta Lynn love-in. That column can be found here.

A taste:

If Loretta Lynn were to pen a song about the celebratory critical reception to her new record, Van Lear Rose, it might be entitled If You'd Loved Me Then Like You Love Me Now. Or maybe Your Kisses Came Too Late. Either way it would tell the tale of an unappreciative husband, so inattentive he drove his wife to distraction. Only after she came round with her new beau, a dashing, charismatic younger man, did that husband remember why he'd fallen for her so many years ago.
It comes naturally
Last week's profile of Leslie Feist can be found here.

An excerpt:

Leslie Feist is roaming the streets of Paris, talking on her cellphone about the wisdom of an American president. Lincoln, perhaps. Or maybe Roosevelt.

"This is pathetic that I don't know who said this, but on a wall I have this card that someone gave me for my birthday that says, 'Do what you can where you are with what you have,' " Feist says. "I think it's either Lincoln or Roosevelt that said that."

It was in fact the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, who offered that wisdom, he of the equally Feistian notion that one should "speak softly and carry a big stick" (though apparently that one was actually a West African proverb).

"And I can add to that: Just go where you need to be," Feist says, getting back to her Roosevelt-inspired ethos. "Follow your nose. Stay liquid. And adaptable."
You put the Uperstar in Superstar
So, despite all the disenfranchised voters, Fantasia's going to win American Idol right? To be honest I haven't watched the show much, but Chang convinced me to give it another shot. And I've come to really like that Fantasia. She might just save that franchise for me. It's produced one colossal bore after another. But this girl's got some personality. And a great name. And she just might be a wee bit crazy. Oh, and she can sing too.

Anyway. The WB's Superstar USA is so bloddy mean, it's genius. Mrs. PopWherry argues it's taking advantage of these poor souls, but let's not forget that all are willing participants. And all believe themselves to be truly talented.

Alright. Yeah, I'm not even convinced by that argument. But it's at least hysterical in its cruelty (unlike say The Swan - which is just gross). And it's brought Vitamin C back to our televisions. What more could you possibly ask of a two-bit faux-reality TV show?

Further reading:
USA Today: Can't sing or dance?
Los Angeles Times: Superstar turns an Idol idea on its ear
Associated Press: Superstar USA apologizes for Make-A-Wish remark
Why'd you have to go and make things so carbohydrated?
Avril blames crap lyrics on crap food.

Also in that report, Avril on Marilyn:
“When we’re in the same city we get together and he’s so cool. One time, we hung out in his room and watched movies. I went to his show a couple of times and we hung out on the tour bus after. When we’re together it’s really cool because we just sit there and totally talk. It’s so healthy when I can sit down and talk to another artist who’s doing what I’m doing.”

Ah. But let's remember, for a moment, Marilyn on Avril:
"She came to one of my shows and we met backstage and I thought she was very, very strange, because she really doesn't have anyone babysitting her. There weren't any bodyguards and I don't know whether that was impressive because she was independent, or strange because she doesn't know that somebody might kidnap her, cut off her toes and sell them to someone like me on E-bay. I found her to be nice... but strange. And it's very impressive of her to hang out with me with dildocam around. No good can come of that, can it?"
Freedom
In response to popular demand, here's Guy Dixon's piece on Leslie Feist. On a side note, Guy, Carl and the rest of the Globe's Review staff are about to get a new editor. Good luck to all.

Singer finds she's a freer woman in Paris
At one point she shouts, "eh, Jean-Michel," and lets out a whistle. She's meeting friends in the city that she's beginning to consider home, and talking long distance on her cellphone about the circuitous route that brought her there in the first place. Sounds of birds and children from an ocean away are coming through the tinny reception. It seems so near and yet so subtly foreign, like her new music.
Fireworks
SFJ considers the infinite wonders of Nellie McKay:

Like Dylan, DJ Shadow, and Jack White, McKay draws from artists outside the present to set herself apart from the crowd—it’s a way of raising the bar, pushing herself toward better work.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Feist for sale
This Leslie Feist girl we keep talking about will be doing a solo in-store performance next Wednesday in Toronto.

The details:
Where: Soundscapes, 572 College St.
When: Wednesday, May 19 at 8pm.
Desperate cries for attention
A compendium of Avril Lavigne's recent exploits:

May 2: Claims bar fighting prowess in interview with the London Times.
May 5: Bemoans punk label on Radio 1
May 6: Tells Capital FM she loves to get trashed.
May 7: Expresses wish to record with the Darkness.
May 8: Makes out with that short guy from Sum 41 who used to make out with Paris Hilton.
May 8: Tells CNN she's involved in a horror movie project.
May 9: Tells German TV she once kissed a girl.
May 10: Claims skateboard as dinner table.
May 12: Calls Britney Spears a "ho."
May 12: Dismisses autograph seeker with "No, you'll just fu**ing sell it on ebay!" Then flips off paparazzi.
May 12: Complains that bodyguards are chasing the boys away.
May 14: Claims Canada is "too cold."
Get Your Hate On (II)
Gene Simmons on Islam:

In an interview with the Melbourne radio station 3AW on Thursday, he described Islam as a "vile culture" which he said treated women worse than dogs, forcing them to walk behind their men and forbidding them to be educated or to own property.

"Your dog, however, can walk side by side, your dog is allowed to have its own dog house...you can send your dog to school to learn tricks, sit, beg, do all that stuff," he said.
Get Your Hate On (I)
Morrissey on Bowie:

"(He is) not the person he was. He is no longer David Bowie at all. Now he gives people what he thinks will make them happy, and they're yawning their heads off. And by doing that, he is not relevant. He was only relevant by accident."
Lovin' It
A few of the first reviews for Leslie Feist's Let It Die to appear on this side of the Atlantic. More to follow, surely.

Now - Sarah Liss - 4/5
She interprets covers and originals with the emotional insight of a trained jazz singer, while producers Jason "Chilly Gonzales" Beck and Manu Chao's Renaud Lang frame Feist's dark bedroom tunes with delicately detailed arrangements – from the muttered background vocals, chimes and handclap percussion of lead single Mushaboom to the tiny gospel choir backing the buoyant take on Ron Sexsmith's Secret Heart. C'est formidable.

Eye - Stuart Berman - 4.5/5
The song forms she uses -- folk, bossa, disco -- may be traditional, even anachronistic, but she fills them with sultry shots of cigarette smoke that lend even the most familiar of settings an alluring mystique.

Chart - Lauren Ferranti
Elegance breathes amid sparse vocal and acoustic guitar arrangements, organ swells, happy hand claps and finger snaps.

And the only English-language review I've been able to find from the other side of the ocean:

The Observer - 3/5

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Canada: Stamping out crap metal one long-haired skid at a time
So we're bringing in HIV-infected immigrants by the bus load (we're not really all that outraged, just in need of a ridiculous comparison), but we're calling in the Mounties at even the slightest indication of metal band migration. Yes, I'd say this nation's priorities are in order.

Earlier this week, Drowning Pool's Stevie Benton took to the band's message board to explain why the metalheads would not be able to delight audiences north of the 49th parallel this year.

"Why won't you let us in?" he pleaded.  "It seems the people at the border don't like the looks of us.  Perhaps they feel we would corrupt the Canadian youths.  We were very much looking forward to doing just that.  We promise to keep trying to get in.  Maybe later this summer.  We're very sorry to anyone we disappointed.  Much love to all of you up there."

Much discussion of Canadian "suckage" ensued.

This comes shortly after those charged with defending our borders decided that Nikki Sixx and the rest of the boys in Brides of Destruction were equally unfit to enter our home and native land.

Frontman London LeGrand explains:

"I guess the Mounties are just a little too brainwashed to feel some compassion…but a person is only what they’ve been trained to be. We are all born un-judgmental, and we all prosper from everyone, whether it is from not wanting to be like someone in hopes to stop a cycle of narrow-mindedness, which is what I believe is the root of suppression, or wanting to be like someone in hopes tomorrow will be a better day for us all."

Er. Yeah. That clears things up.

Anyway. In Vancouver young metallers are being asked to explain where the mean police officers touched them when the band pretending to be Guns N Roses abruptly cancelled their gig there last year (something of a small riot ensued).

Apparently some of Vancouver's finest got a little carried away.

"I turned my head just in time to see a police officer strike me across the mouth," one fan testified before a formal inquiry. "I saw it, I felt it and I distinctly remember the sound of the metal object...hitting my teeth."

Like a man who had come across a bear in the woods, he played dead. And like baton-wielding bears, the police officers moved on to other prey.

"So I picked up my teeth and went to walk away."

The computer tech (hmm, rather unruly bunch those computer nerds) lost two teeth as a result and had to have six later removed. In total, he has spent "$25,000 having his teeth fixed, including bone graph procedures and implants." But he remains confident that Chinese Democracy will be released within the year and "like totally rock" making both the decade long wait and missing teeth all the more worth it.

So fans of both Drowning Pool and Brides of Destruction, best consider yourselves lucky. Cos even if your heroes had gotten past our crack border squad, our local constabulary would have been sure to greet you at the venue with a good ole fashioned teeth smashing.

Then again, you do like metal, so maybe you're into that sort of thing.

(We kid. Please spare us your reports of PopWherry's suckage. We are well aware of the problem and have attendants working day and night to rectify the matter.)
fairplay but who can i rely on then?
Alright. Nuff of that nonsense.

Let's take a few minutes to consider what defines greatness in recorded sound these days. According to John Mayer (see below), "great albums give you something good to chew on while you're waiting for dinner to cook."

The Streets' A Grand Don't Come For Free certainly meets, if not exceeds, this requirement. And there is much chewing to be found here and here.

Plenty of reading there. Give yourself an hour or so. Use the preceding and subsequent hours to listen and re-listen to the record.

Feel free to cry at the end.

When all else fails...
Why aren't we all, at this very moment, huddled around the nearest water cooler excitedly discussing the fact that, reportedly, Britney Spears is preparing to pose for Playboy?

Well the Fark guys (do any actual girls ever use Fark?) are talking. But about this fake (not work safe unless your occupation involves regular viewing of naked breasts) that's been circulating around the net as a possible Playboy leak.

Imagine what Avril's going to say when she hears about this.
Anyone can play guitar
Esquire has given John Mayer his own monthly column. Seriously. Stop laughing (and/or crying).

It's not yet posted online (or wasn't last time I checked). So here, I retype the work of John Mayer.

PopWherry: Sacrificing all self-respect for you, dear reader.

(all spelling and/or grammar errors are mine, unless they're his)

The Resident Rock Star
Monthly musings from our cultural advisor


Esquire has given me a third of a page to write whatever I please. Evidently it's bad form to sell it for ad space (sorry, Jim Ellis Ford and Mercury Dealers). So this month, I thought I'd share with you a new musician whose music's got me seriously worked up. But first, to gain your trust, a sampling of things I think I believe.

The White Stripes: I like them, but I don't see how they're in any way a manifestation of the blues.

The Neptunes: I could use their touch on my next record.

N.E.R.D.: Could use my touch on their next record.

The Beatles: I've missed too many episodes to follow the plot.

Kanye West: At last, hip-hop turns the hazards off and gets the flat tire fixed.

Ryan Adams: Wants it so bad, he became it.

John Mayer,
Heavier Things: B minus. Am I the only one who finds this record creepy to make out to?

Put this CD on: Good albums come with learning curves, and great albums give you something good to chew on while you're waiting for dinner to cook. I find myself chewing on another song off Nellie McKay's debut record,
Get Away from Me, about once every two days. While Joss Stone is busy being minted Miss Power of Suggestion 2004, this 19-year-old has quietly released one of the best albums of the year. Get Away from Me is a breakthrough album. It's also the kind of eclectic album that record companies don't traditionally have a clue what to do with. Based in jazz and borrowing heavily from musical theater, the environments are elaborately painted set pieces. Every melody — every musical event — is fully realized. In fact, there's more music in McKay's head than she knows what to do with. The next Joshua Tree it ain't, but 18 tracks on two discs ensure that if you can get past the fact that she raps without flinching on several songs, someday you'll get to hearing them all.

Next month: Ways for lazy industry haters to get excited about the music again.


So. What do we make of this?

I find myself very conflicted. I can't possible overstate my distaste for anything and everything John Mayer-related. Yet, I have done little to understate my affection for Nellie McKay.

So shall I reconsider my hate of Mayer? Or rethink my love for McKay?

Or simply conclude that even jerk rock stars will eventually get something right?

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