Monday, October 30, 2006

Out-Sourcing Strikes Again: Rock's Last Great Hope Will Soon Belong To Some Kids In Thailand
Apparently I missed this Forbes story last week, explaining in great depth how Nirvana will live on in prime-time crime dramas and eco-friendly consumer products.

I can't decide which part is my favourite, so let's review a few of the highlights.

In marketing materials that the company presents to prospective customers, Primary Wave pitches Cobain as an influential music icon with broad appeal.

"To Gen X, Cobain was their voice," the pitch reads. "To the Boomers, he was a revolutionary and to Gen Y, he is as iconic as James Dean, Che Guevara and John Lennon."

The Boomers consider Kurt Cobain a revolutionary? Really? So when I go home this weekend and ask my mum and dad to describe what Kurt Cobain means to them, the first word they will use will be "revolutionary?" Are you sure? Do you have some focus group data to back this up? Because I'm pretty sure the first word they will use to describe to Kurt Cobain is "dead" or possibly "who?" (1)

Primary Wave approached CSI: Miami music supervisor P.J. Bloom in August about the possibility of using Nirvana songs in an episode of the show, one of the most popular programs on television, both in the U.S. and overseas.

As it happens, the 37-year-old Bloom is an avid Nirvana fan who followed the band from its early days before it broke big nationally. After Bloom quickly warmed to the idea, he asked Primary Wave to make sure that all those with an interest in the deal -- Geffen, Love, former Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl and their managers -- were all supportive of the concept.

Once that was secured, both sides laid down some basic ground rules. Primary Wave stipulated that the episode using Nirvana music not feature any suicide or drug-addiction themes -- Cobain famously struggled with heroin. Bloom, in turn, insisted that CSI: Miami have exclusive TV rights to Nirvana songs until the episode airs...

Bloom declined to disclose the plot of the episode, saying only that it involves "evil military recruiters."

This actually makes a lot of sense. If Cobain didn't already write a song about evil military recruiters, I'm sure he would have had he lived long enough to do so. Failing that, maybe he would have tried to put an ironic twist on Elvis' military, er, career and joined the Marines. How fantastic would that have been? Probably like Matthew Modine's character in Full Metal Jacket only with a raging heroin addiction and a propensity for non-sensical battle cries (2).

Bloom says he's aware that the use of Cobain's songs on a TV show might rankle some fans.

"It's going to happen with or without me," he says. "They should find solace in the fact that it's a true Nirvana fan that's behind the wheel. [The show] will use the music in a way that maintains Kurt's legacy and keeps that intact. I wouldn't do it any other way."

Asher agrees. "If a hundred kids in Thailand watch [a TV show featuring Nirvana's music] and think, 'Wow, who's that?' then we've accomplished our mission," he says.

Several questions of varying importance:

What exactly is Kurt Cobain's legacy at this point?
How exactly does an overwrought crime show starring David Caruso having anything to do with that legacy?
And, finally, how many kids in Thailand watch CSI: Miami? CSI: Las Vegas, sure. But CSI: Miami? I'm not even sure why people in Miami would watch CSI: Miami. Are we to believe David Caruso pulls huge audiences in Thailand? Is Caruso to Thailand as Hasselhoff is to Germany? Is that what's sustained him since NYPD Blue?

(1) To clarify against misinterpretation, this is not to question the general, pop culture knowledge of my parents. Quite the contrary. Furthermore, if I was a baby boomer, I wouldn't give a shit about Kurt Cobain. Seriously. Why would I care? My generation had the Beatles, Rolling Stones and some pretty good years of Frank Sinatra. Kurt Cobain? Whatever.
(2) "Sickening pessimist, hypocrite master/ Conservative communist, apocalyptic bastard/ Thank you dear God, for putting me on this Earth. I feel very privileged, in debt for my thirst!"

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The Internet Sucks
So on the day I start a new job, Jalen Rose gets waived by the Knicks and Reese Witherspoon calls it quits with that weird-looking dude. Couldn't this momentous occasion in my personal history have arrived with some sign of hope? Some news of renewal? Is that too much to ask?

Ah, phew... here we go. Crisis averted.

(By the way, I no longer work here. I now work here. Please adjust your address books accordingly.)

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

58% Want Change
The other day I was riding eastbound on the subway when I decided that Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor is quite possibly one of the greatest records ever made.

This is not necessarily a particularly noteworthy revelation, save for the fact that the chief complaint noted in two of Food & Liquor's more notably lukewarm reviews is that Food & Liquor is, to the contrary, not one of the greatest records ever made. Explained one of the reviewers after rhyming off Food & Liquor's flaws: "Of course, this sounds negative, but it's more the notes of a slightly disappointed fan."

This is, of course, a completely reasonable way to review records. Jay-Z's new album will be judged this way. As is the follow-up to basically any critically acclaimed or best-selling album with the possible exception of Radiohead's Kid A (1). But this is, of course, completely insane in almost every other respect.

Imagine if you started living your life like this - judging every experience, relationship and moment by how close it came to being the greatest experience, relationship or moment of your life and being disappointed if it failed to do so. How much and what would you ever enjoy? Would you find yourself forever chasing the perfect meal, lover or episode of Saturday Night Live? Or, after about two weeks, would you end up huddled and naked in the corner of your living room, rocking back and forth and endlessly muttering to yourself the catch phrases from your favourite mid-90s SNL skits?

I would suggest the latter. First, because so much of what you do, who you meet and where you go would seem disappointing, or at least underwhelming. And second, because even when you found examples of true greatness, the discovery would be tempered by the knowledge that everything else would be that much more unlikely to measure up.

This is, obviously, an awful way to live. But, equally obviously, a perfectly fine way to review records.

The obvious moral? Everyone should be a follower of music, but no one should follow music.


(1) It's actually sort of difficult to explain why that happened exactly. Some would suggest it's because Radiohead went so far out of their way to change their sound and therefore appeared daring, self-aware and, in making something so apparently uncommercial, uncorrupted by "the industry." But if that were so, Radiohead could have cut a certifiably great glam rock record and been as well received. And we all know that never would have happened.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Right Answer
My top ten list submitted for iheartmusic.net's annual ranking of the hottest acts in Canada. Anyone who does not agree is wrong.

1. Alexisonfire - So ridiculously under-valued. I generally have no time for screamy stuff, but I love this band. And I imagine that Dallas Green is basically a new Elvis for a generation of Canadian teenage girls.
2. k-os - Because his basic stance is: If you don't like me, there's something fundamentally wrong with you. Awesome.
3. Final Fantasy - Might actually be more impetuous than k-os. Not really a big fan of the music, but I encourage his success because it will inevitably be interesting.
4. The Tragically Hip - Write this down. Twenty-five years from now, long after they've more or less broken up, they're going to get back together, cut a live-off-the-floor acoustic record and subsequently bask in the glow of profound critical reassessment. Buy this stock now.
5. Malajube - Every anglophone's token French band after their Polaris performance.
6. Bedouin Soundclash - I wasn't entirely convinced. Then I saw them eating at a Bennigan's in Rochester, NY.
7. Billy Talent - They're so close to be a truly great band. At the very least, they've got the market cornered on ridiculous haircuts.
8. Nelly Furtado - Congratulations, you're no longer a one-hit wonder. You're a two-hit wonder. Who was out-sung by your producer on the latter.
9. Amy Millan - Not just because I got paid by her label to write her bio. I swear.
10. Eva Avila - Am I completely insane to believe Eva will be the first Canadian Idol winner to actually matter? Probably. But if loving her is wrong, I would prefer not to be right.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It Was A Good Year To Be Kurt Cobain
So long as you don't mind being dead. The best part:

"New York publishing company Primary Wave has already signed a deal to highlight Nirvana songs in an episode of CBS-TV's CSI: Miami, the magazine said."

If you cried upon hearing that Kurt Cobain had shot himself in the head, you probably just threw up a little bit in your mouth. Thing is, I'm fairly certain that if Cobain had refrained from shooting himself in the head, Come As You Are would have only shown up on CSI even earlier.

(Hey, remember that time John Mayer was on CSI? Man, that was awesome.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bob Rae: The Hip-Hop Candidate. Obviously.
From Julie Smyth's Ottawa notebook in Saturday's Post:

"Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae, fresh from skinny-dipping with Rick Mercer, will show off his musical talent at a gala concert and fundraiser on Wednesday in Toronto, where he will accompany singer Michelle Roth on piano. Mr. Rae is an accomplished pianist and composer and supporter of the arts. (Among the things he has taken credit for: a homegrown hip-hop scene in Toronto that he says resulted from a jobs program while he was premier of Ontario. He has also composed a song, called All in the Boat Now, about multiculturalism)."

(Emphasis mine. Obviously.)

Update. Adam Radwanski, the esteemed, gracious and remarkably talented managing editor of Macleans.ca, writes:

When I interviewed Kardinal Offishal last year, he explicitly gave credit to the NDP-era programs for giving kids like him a chance to hone their artistic skills, including rapping.

This obviously does not mean that Rae is a founding father of Toronto's hip-hop scene, but it's not entirely ludicrous to suggest he contributed to its development.

Agreed. There's certainly a case to be made for Rae on this account. In fact, I'd love to see him explicitly highlight his love of Canadian hip-hop at the Liberal convention next month. Surely it would win him one - maybe even two - delegates.

He would risk alienating Dan McTeague though.

(Hey, remember when The Globe wrote that editorial about 50 Cent? Ah, those were the days.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lonely End Of The Rink
I invented a new game while driving back and forth between Rochester (1) last week: Imagine The Tragically Hip In A Different Context (2).

For instance, had Gord Downie's acceptance speech/poem (3) from the non-televised half of the Juno Awards a couple years ago in Winnipeg been delivered by Owen Pallett at the recent Polaris Prize ceremony it would not have been met with a shrug and then soon forgotten. Instead it would have become holy grail to the Final Fantasy faithful. The over/under on subsequent blog posts would have been something like 3,000 (4). In fact, there would probably be at least three blogs dedicated to discussing and debating Pallett's precious verse.

Or let's say In View, the first single off The Hip's new record, was instead the first single off the next Arcade Fire record (5). Actually, I'm not entirely convinced it isn't an Arcade Fire song, but if it were released under their name, it probably would have gone down as one of the most beloved in the history of music blogs. Hands down winner as Pitchfork's single of the year. Probably would have made the Stereogum dude cry.

Other scenarios to debate: Family Band, the second last track on World Container, would be the second-best Killers' track of the year. And if Gord Downie were 30 years old right now, he would be Kevin Drew.

Anyway. Also while driving between Toronto and Rochester I decided that the Tragically Hip are the Canadian band most responsible for the current generation of Canadian rock. Much of the best music of the last four years was either implicitly or explicitly influenced by The Hip. Or it was created in almost direction reaction to them. I'm entirely convinced of this.

I'm also fairly certain it's always a bad idea to listen to the photographer who says, "Yes, just put this scarf on and, um, how bout you sit in front of this fire place and, yeah, perfect." He or she does not have your best interests at heart.

(1) Rochester in four words: Like Buffalo. Only smaller.
(2) The home version should be in stores in time for Christmas.
(3) A transcript was once posted on The Hip's website but then they re-designed and it was lost to this mysterious series of tubes. It was entitled We Are The Next Us and basically celebrated all that has become The Hip, while attacking those who use the "it's not the band I hate, it's their fans" line of argument to slur them. That probably doesn't sound very exciting, but you have to believe me, it's great. Once I track down a copy, I'll post it here.
(4) Granted, that wouldn't have made as much sense coming from Pallett.
(5) On MuchMusic right now - Skee-lo's I Wish I. I love that he's rocking a University of Michigan jersey. I still find him 200% less ridiculous than Mad Child. Stop scowling dude. You're fooling no one.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Purple Hearts
Now that Paul McCartney's an alleged wife beater, will all those music programmers who fashion themselves great defenders of society's moral standards when they ban Gary Glitter, Michael Jackson and the like, be brave enough to remove the Beatles from their playlists? I mean, because obviously they wouldn't want to be seen as promoting such heinous (alleged) actions... would they?

Speaking of tastefulness, my favourite McCartney-Mills divorce headlines so far...

The Times: All you need is lawyers
The Australian: Carry that weight
Chicago Tribune: Paul vs. Heather: Help!
New York Post: Let it Bea
Glasgow Daily Record: Hard Di's night
The Times: Hey, feud

Thursday, October 19, 2006

'Telfair was observed making a phone call after the chain was stolen.'
For a basketball writer who also still writes about music, what could possibly top this story? LeBron James joining Boyz II Men and forcing the Cavaliers to put the group in the starting line-up? P.Diddy letting Dikembe Mutombo guest on his next record? The Raptors giving Master P a tryout?

Wait. Forget that last one.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So I'm in Rochester, New York, seated at a table in famed American eatery Bennigan's, enjoying my buffalo chicken sandwich when I look over and see two guys from Bedouin Soundclash dining at a booth by the window. What on earth, I say to myself, are two guys from Bedouin Soundclash doing in Rochester, New York? Well, apparently they're playing a show tonight.

Anyway. This probably goes down as my second greatest restaurant-related brush with fame, just after the time I saw Bree Leslie Pucilowski at a Mexican place in Austin, Texas.

Also, this reminds me that Matthew at iheartmusic.net (apparently assuming it still exists) asked me a few weeks ago to contribute to his second annual list of the Hottest Acts in Canada.

Last year's top five was, in order, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade, Final Fantasy and Feist. Since then only Final Fantasy (I believe) has released another record (unless you count Feist's b-side thingy) and, with the Polaris win recently, he probably tops this year's poll pretty easily (all those dickhead music critics again failing to get behind their own).

I get to nominate ten acts, ranked one through ten. And now, as I digest that buffalo chicken sandwich and watch Law & Order rerun about freedom of the press in my hotel room, I ask myself, can I really leave Bedouin Soundclash off my list? They aren't really my thing. Seem like good guys. Obviously have great taste in restaurants... I'm just not a big fan. Still, the kids love them. Or so I grasp from my hour or two of MuchMusic each week (plus they had a diary on MTV and they don't just hand those out). And who am I to deny the kids?

(Other bands that probably should make the list but won't: the Tragically Hip, Sloan, Alexisonfire and of course... Shaye.)

(If I had to make up my top ten at this very moment, off the top of my head, it would be: 1. Alexisonfire. 2. k-os. 3. Final Fantasy. 4. The Tragically Hip. 5. Nelly Furtado. 6. The Hidden Cameras. 7. Malajube. 8. Cadence Weapon. 9. Metric. 10. Broken Social Scene.)
Jesse Brown Can Blow Me
Apologies for the sudden hiatus. Not sure what happened to the last two weeks. Contrary to media reports I was not in Africa stocking up on poor children to remain current.

We now return you to your irregularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The 33 Scariest Words In Rock 'n Roll
"Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida is working on a unique personal project, a spoken-word solo album particularly inspired by slam poetry and the artists who emerged from those powerful open-mic competitions."

The most fantastic story you'll read all day is here. This instantly becomes the most anticipated record of the year, doesn't it?

Update 6:09pm EST... At the very least, maybe we'll finally get to see Raine go one-on-one with Malcolm Jamal Warner in a Slam Poetry smackdown.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Copyright Controls!! Interoperability!! WOOOOO!! Par-tay!!
Actual items on the "programming matrix" for the Future of Music Policy Summit in Montreal this weekend.

Thursday, October 5
11:30am - 12:45pm Losing Music: Preservation and Storage
4:30pm - 5:45pm Meet the Mini-Me-dia
4:30pm - 5:45pm International Touring and Visas

Friday, October 6
10:00am - 11:15am Format Wars: Digital Rights Management and Interoperability
11:30am - 12:45pm Avatars with Guitars: Music for Games
6:00pm - 7:30pm Cocktail Party hosted by Consumer Electronics Association

Saturday, October 7
9:30am - 10:45am In Perfect Harmony: International Copyright Issues
1:30pm - 2:45pm A State of Independents: The Changing Definition of Indie
4:30pm - 5:45pm Policymaking: How to Make an Impact

David Byrne's also doing a lecture, entitled Record Companies: Who Needs Them? It is described thusly:

"Beginning with a breakdown of music distribution into five approaches, David will discuss the options along the continuum: from extremely hands on for the artist, to almost completely hands off. While monetary returns [per unit] often follow and parallel a sliding scale, i.e. the more hands on the artist is, the more they stand to make per unit sold, that doesn't mean the most hands on approach is for everyone.

"During this presentation, David Byrne will explain how 1) the rapid fall of recording costs and 2) the rapid fall of distribution costs have tilted the economics of the music industry in the favor of the artist; what kinds of business models make the most sense for the artist; the ramifications of each business model; and most importantly, what artists should be aiming for in the long run."

Those in attendance will also receive a rockin' rectal exam as a special bonus.

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