Thursday, July 28, 2005

When You Realize You Chose The Wrong Medium
We have to admit it: we heart payola.

Not actually receiving it of course. No, sir. We accept no bribes. We tolerate no freebies. Oh sure, there are the CDs. And the concert tickets. And the books. And the odd t-shirt. And sometimes plastic cups filled with Coca-Cola. But that's where we draw the line. (Faintly. In pencil. And without the use of a ruler. But a line nonetheless.)


No, we love payola because it begs the question: What exactly is the difference between Celine Dion and Franz Ferdinand?
An update on our Bulgarian friend. This arrived today from Scott Morin, director of Universal Jazz in Canada:

From: Morin, Scott
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 12:04 PM
To: Neiko Genchev
Cc: Aaron Wherry
Subject: FW: A letter from Faber Publishers - Bulgaria
Importance: High

Hello Neiko,

I just wanted to send you a quick note that I received your gift for Illiana from Diana Krall today. She signed a happy birthday wish to Illiana on a photo and autographed it. I will send this to you via Fed Ex today along with some music for Illiana.

I am sorry we missed Illiana's birthday. Diana was on tour and only this week was able to do this for you, but she wishes a very happy birthday to Illiana as do all of us at Verve/Universal Music Canada.

You should receive the package from Canada sometime mid-next week.

All the best,

Scott Morin

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Capitalism Moves Quickly
Spent most of Saturday here. Many, many witty remarks to make about hippies as a result. Suffice it to say, we were previously unaware of the need for a "drum co-ordinator." Or the tastiness of a mixed-berry hemp smoothie.

Anyway. Before the final set of the evening, one of the emcees announced the imminent arrival of "the best band in the world." Liss and us exchanged quizzical (or cynical) glances. Surprisngly, neither Sum 41 nor Wide Mouth Mason followed. Instead, said "best band in the world" on this night was Arcade Fire. Of course.

If bands were like baseball or algebra, this BBITW stuff would be easy to prove or disprove. We could run daily standings. There would still be pointless debates and quizzical/cynical glances, but we could at least fall back on some sort of proof. (Save for the statistics, we've lately imagined the last decade pre-Nirvana to be sort of like this. Bands were like teams. Things were, altogether, more fun.) Of course, bands have little to do with algebra. At least any bands anyone actually listens to.

But setting aside our initial cynicism (this should be a vocally announced pre-requisite to almost all human interaction), we should say that if we were to create a BBITW league, Arcade Fire would likely be ahead of all others. By at least a few games. Thanks to several major victories over a tough road schedule and continued success at home.

Now, you will be easily tempted to argue at this point that they aren't that good. And they probably aren't. And yes, it's all very subjective and wrong-headed to try and measure these things, like trying to suss out sincerity (as if anyone of even mild intellect would ever bother with such a silly pursuit).

But really.

If you start with the qualifier that at least some percentage of real people must have heard said BBITW (thus eliminating approximately 7,206 indie-bands-of-the-week) and balance at least some sort of popular and critical consensus against your own rabid fandom in order to at least feign objectivity, you'd probably have about 25-30 bands who could reasonably compete for said title. Many of these would be considered "established" bands. The Arcade Fire would probably be amongst the newer franchises.

Consider then the competition.

U2 is the biggest band in the world (largely an economic measure), but they are several albums removed from reasonably being considered the best. Coldplay are nice. But X&Y v. Funeral is a blowout in favour of the Montrealers. Wilco is coasting after their championship season of 2002. Radiohead had a good run, but it feels like a long time since they were serious contenders.

The White Stripes are the Oakland Athletics. Brilliant in theory and discipline, but not quite there. The Strokes are possibly the Texas Rangers or maybe the Atlanta Braves, depending on how favourably you view said band and said teams. Modest Mouse are a decent club, but they really only have one ace starting pitcher (a southpaw named Jesus de la Floaton). The Flaming Lips would be baseball's equivalent of the Phoenix Suns. We think. Green Day are a powerhouse. But seemingly less a team of destiny than one of happenstance.

There are about a dozen other bands who could be thrown into the race and have at least the potential to put together a great season, but are missing a consistent middle infielder or lefty out of the bullpen (including, but not limited to: the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foo Fighters, Sleater-Kinney, Queens of the Stone Age, Weezer, Franz Ferdinand, Drive-By Truckers, Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins and, of course, Zwan). And another eight or bands that people would like to believe are worthy of consideration, but ultimately harbour serious shortcomings and would fade in August(including, but not limited to: the New Pornographers, Holy Steady, Spoon and, of course, Oasis).

All things considered, no other band going has quite the same mix that is currently found in the Arcade Fire. They have depth, speed, size, power and momentum. Not to mention the always important "intangibles" (in this case, a cute violinist). Like all great teams in their moment, they seem nearly unbeatable at their peak. By luck or genius, they seem fated for here and now. All culmination and redemption and so forth. At least in hindsight. And, ultimately, if you told us we could pick one band to play one show with the larger fate of the human race at stake, they would be our immediate choice.

They are not quite the '27 Yankees. And may yet prove to be only marginally more important than the '97 Marlins. But. BUT! At this moment they're deserving of their own Wheaties box.

(This is arguably the dumbest attempt we've made at a point. Though the competition in that regard is stiff.)

(Ah, yes. Of course. "What about Broken Social Scene?" Well, we're lately prone to agreeing with Newman. If only about this. Broken are less a band than a lifestyle choice. Or a movement. We haven't quite reconciled how that fits into our BBITW league. As soon as we figure that out, we'll let you know.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Innocence Lost
How will we ever trust the music industry again?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

To The Slaughter
When Liss and us drive to Hillside together today, we will probably end up discussing Gwen Stefani. This is likely what we (and by "we," we mean "I") will say:

Consider every other fair-skinned female pop star of any accomplishment in recent memory. Or at least our recent memory. They were all about something.

Madonna, of course, was about lots of things. Still might be. Depending on how much you thought she was about in the first place. Britney was a virgin. Now she's reality TV (see also: Lohan, Lindsay). Christina has always been the over-compensating, but forever over-shadowed, second-child. Jessica is America personified. As, in her own way, is Hilary. Ashlee is celebrity eating itself. Kylie is "at least partly in the tradition of artists like Klaus Nomi, Sparks, Gary Numan, etc."*

Gwen, so far as we can tell, has no such subtext. She is essentially about nothing. Except being a pop star. And making pop hits. Her shit is bananas. All style, no substance.

(Even the Harajuku girls. They may be racist, sexist, patronizing, colonial, frustrating and problematic. But what is Gwen trying to say with them? Other than, 'I thought it would be neat to have a bunch of Harajuku girls follow me around while I pretend only I can see them because I'm a weird pop star. Cool, huh?')

(Obviously it's problematic for a male of voting-age to argue as much about a female. So let's clarify: we don't think Gwen is empty. We just think she's about nothing. There's a difference. For the record, we think Gwen probably tests as a genius on standard IQ tests and is in absolute control of her every action and reaction. She is an empowered woman and probably a champion of feminism. Young girls should look up to her. And we also don't think she's dumbing herself down or even being manipulative. Probably the opposite. In fact, she's probably smarter than 93% of her peers.)

(We also realize that whenever you say something is about nothing, it instantly becomes about something. We wish there was some way to get around this. But there probably isn't. Except maybe to never to mention to anyone that you think something is about nothing. We promise to do that next time.)

*Direct quote from a rather contentious debate, about a year ago, on a music critic messageboard of local repute.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Given all of this, don't Broken Social Scene have to include a cover of the Strokes' New York City Cops as a hidden track on the next record?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

And I Invented The Bottomless Peanut Bag
Sufjan Stevens' Come On Feel The Illinoise (officially, but less excitingly named, Illinois) is quite obviously a classic. Except that it's not.

It is probably the best record we've heard this year (this is not be confused with our favourite record of the year, that title probably belonging to Ladies & Gentlemen or the Nellie McKay record we haven't even heard yet). It is critically acclaimed. Already a collector's item because of some messy business with The Man. And potentially important to Midwest America's understanding of itself, both in terms of its romantically ideal, but ultimately dark past and in terms of a future when the offensive line on your high school football team might very well be a terrorist cell. Or something like that.

Anyway. If there haven't been already, there will soon be profiles in The New York Times, New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly. Illinois will probably get nominated for the Shortlist Prize. People you don't generally consider very cool will probably end up asking you at dinner parties if you've heard of this Soufjan fellow.

Maybe all of that will come to pass. Maybe none of it will. Regardless, Illinois will remain a great record.

But we won't be listening to it in 20 years.

We don't think.

Though we can't quite articulate why. It's not that Illinois isn't great. Or uniquely compelling. Or likely immune from the ravages of fashion and time which will certainly doom The Blue Man Group and 50 Cent.

It is probably all of those things. But we can't imagine any measureable amount of people playing his record (on whatever ear implant has replaced the iPod by then) in 20 years. Maybe because it's too conceptual. Or because, by then, we will be enjoying his 50th and final ode to the U.S. of A., a techno-funk investigation of Iowa. But probably for a lot of the same reasons no one listens to Gay Dad, the Strokes or Hawksley Workman anymore (though we did hear the latter on the radio the other day and quite liked it).

Which of course begs the question: What will we still be listening to in 20 years? This is not to be confused with: What should we be listening to in 2005? Our question is not as immediately relevant or remotely knowable. But more important. And fun.

Consider the last two and a half years. We have. At least briefly. Taking into account nostalgia, popularity, critical acclaim, timeliness, timelessness, personal taste, the inability to account for personal taste, association with narcotics, potential for future curiosity, current fan base, melody and smell.

This left us with ten, maybe eleven, albums. There are probably more. But in the interests of not devoting the rest of our month to this, we have opted to go with ten (or eleven). We are probably serious about half of them.

1) The White Stripes - Elephant
If Mojo still exists, its editors will demand that Elephant be discussed at length in its pages at least once every four months.
2) OutKast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below
If only for Track 9 on the second disc. And maybe Track 7.
3) Blink-182 - Blink-182
The closest the current generation has to Van Halen. At least four failed reunions are all but guaranteed.
4) Jay-Z - The Black Album
Sorry Kanye.
5) Foo Fighters - In Your Honour
The closest the previous generation has to both Van Halen (figuratively speaking) and Nirvana (practically speaking). Once, Dave Grohl nearly became Tom Petty's drummer. This also tells us he will probably forever be "respected."
6) Radiohead - Hail To The Thief
Will be studied seriously at 30% of all liberal arts universities on the American East Coast. Probably already is.
7) Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust
There will still be boomers. And they will need something to talk about. No really.
8) The Mars Volta - De-Loused In The Comatorium
Because every 38 seconds, ssomewhere on Earth, a teenage boy discovers Rush.
9) Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway or Gretchen Wilson - Here For The Party
Possibly both. Maybe neither.
10) Britney Spears - Greatest Hits

Usher should probably be on this list, but we'll never quite understand why. Alicia Keys will be on this list if her next album is half as good as we think it could be. People will probably still listen to Green Day. But probably not American Idiot. Some will still enjoy Avril Lavigne. But only vaguely. X&Y will be the one Coldplay record no one listens to. We want to believe we'll all still be listening to Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire. Eminem will be Dylan, Bowie, Madonna or Twisted Sister. John Mayer's television career as Conan O'Brien's replacement on the Tonight Show will have allowed us to forget about his music.

Darkhorse: 3 Doors Down, The Shins

No One Will Remember: Fountains of Wayne, Michelle Branch

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Is anyone honestly surprised by this? Seriously?

Buried in the "Encore" album notes is a line that reads, "To my fans ... I'm sorry," adjacent to an image of a bullet. Really? Buried? On our copy, IT'S WRITTEN ON THE RECORD ITSELF.

In November, Eminem unveiled his mind-set for everybody -- and nobody caught on. His new album was titled "Encore," complete with a cover photo that showed him taking a bow. For his fourth release since his 1999 breakout, Eminem had chosen to announce the end of the show.

"I was actually pretty shocked when no one picked up on the concept," said manager Rosenberg.

Yeah, well, that bit at the end where he fired on his audience and then turned the gun on himself (complete with bloody depictions in the liner notes and a picture of Em holding a gun in his mouth on the inside back cover, his finger on the trigger) was pretty subtle.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Damn The Man
This doesn't sound good.

Wild speculation here.

Update I. The plot thickens. And hardens.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

You Do It
Sure. This INXS business is a bit daft. But it does mean that the SFJ-approved Tara Sloane is now blogging. And here are the words she would like to live by:

I will create my day
I will create my reality, moment to moment
I will change my mind
I will open myself to the infinite realm of possibility
I will leave room for auspicious coincidence
I will not decide what is next
I will not decide what is real
I will not expect
I will have confidence
I will boycott self-doubt
I will have confidence to go beyond hesitation
I will not be afraid to be afraid
I will remember who I am

Oh, yeah. I will also have fun...

Also: She will reserve the right to misname Radiohead's video for Just. Probably unironically.

(And if there is any saving grace in this thing it's that it is so completely free of irony.)

(Suggested twist for the finale: Immediately after the winner is announced, just as he/she is raising his/her arms in celebration amid confetti and satanic hand gestures, Brooke Burke takes him/her out from behind with a steel chair. At that point we learn the entire production has been a clever ruse. Who we think is Brooke Burke then pulls off a cleverly designed mask to reveal Courntey Love. Or Terence Trent D'Arby. The joke is on us. World domination ensues.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hey Hey You You
Got a ticket to Hillside? Want to sell it to us? See e-mail addresses at right. We ain't too proud to beg.

Monday, July 11, 2005

'As a result, people who this for a living tend to have a peculiar self-image; the relative worth of rock criticism is their core existential crisis.'
Cough. Cough.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Sorry Young Man, That Up-Turned Collar Is Fooling No One
This is our week in baseball. Which is no excuse really. But we also have a sore throat. So there.

When we return, probably within 24 hours, there will most likely be discussion of this, this and this. And maybe an attempt to explain why Justin Peroff is Broken Social Scene's Reed Johnson.

In the meantime, we tip our cap to Jay for taking it one day at a time, giving it 110% and showing some heart.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

'Sincerity Is The New Irony'
And now we rave.

G'head. We saw most of you at Feist this evening, even if you didn't see us. One of you was holding a flower.

(Quite, quite good we thought. Actually, our exact words, in a text to a friend immediately afterwards were, 'so awesome.' So there.)

Friday, July 1, 2005

Luther Vandross

(We realized Friday evening that discussing dead rock stars is a silly and sometimes counter-productive pursuit, but then Luther died. And around our household this is nearly cause for tears. For a lot of reasons we won't get into here. Even though we acknowledge that getting into such reasons is why exactly 92.5% of all blogs exist.

In any event, we will say this: At some point in the next 18 months, someone or something will make-up one of those '50 Most Important Artists Of The Last 60 Years' lists and Luther Vandross, perhaps even rightly, will not be on it. Even though he was probably three times more relevant than exactly 20% of the people who will appear on said list.

Not simply because he made Young Americans one of David Bowie's best singles. Or, according to a four-year-old special we just watched on BET, appears on Chic's Le Freak.

He also contributed to The Wiz. And wrote jingles for Coke and NBC. He produced, backed up or did session work for Bette Midler, Ringo Starr, Stevie Wonder, J. Geils Band, Quincy Jones, Cat Stevens, Cher, Sister Sledge, Roxy Music, Aretha Franklin and Richard Marx. Performed duets with Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Frank Sinatra, Beyonce, Gregory Hines, Busta Rhymes and Dionne Warwick. Sold 25-million records of his own. Sang approximately 87 songs that included the word "love" in the title, including: Power of Love, Endless Love, Crazy Love, Love the One You're With, Love Forgot, Love Don't Love You Anymore, Nobody To Love, Stop To Love and There's Nothing Better Than Love. Is featured on the soundtrack to, we're guessing here, about 1 in 15 weddings. And pretty much defines his own genre of well-loved music.

Maybe only if he'd written Happy Birthday would more broader a spectrum of people been exposed to at least some part of his repertoire. And even then the difference would be marginal.

Bonus points: He created his own burger. May or may not have been gay. And was otherwise complicated enough to inspire this.

Anyway. We argue all of this without having heard much of said musical output. But, like we said, there were nearly tears round here. And we can almost guarantee you that won't be the case when, like, Dylan dies.)
When People Associated With Rock N Roll Say Silly Things That Are Obviously Contradicted By Reality
Warning: The following contains only trace amounts of positive energy.

Live 8 organizer says: "These concerts are the mouthpieces of the public."

Live 8 organizer says: "It's about opening your minds, not your wallets."
And yet.

(Sorry. Way too easy, we know. But still strangely satisfying.)

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