the first 3 months of 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007
1. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It
2. Ted Leo - Living With The Living
3. Prodigy - Return Of The Mac
4. Eleni Mandell - Miracle Of Five
5. Trans Am - Sex Change
6. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
7. Rich Boy - Rich Boy
8. Money Mark - Brand New By Tomorrow
9. Consequence - Don’t Quit Your Day Job
10. Nels Cline/Andrea Parkins/Tom Rainey - Downpour

So far this year, albums by aging but not ancient indie rockers have been treating me well, guys who are in their 30s or 40s and are making pretty similiar stuff to what they were doing 6 albums ago but not totally inferior to the old stuff either. Sloan gets the spirit award for going nuts and splattering every song idea they have into one album, though. Still barely anything in the way of rap albums on the shelves, and most of the ones scraping by on this list now probably won't be anywhere near it in 9 months.

1. R. Kelly f/ T.I. and T-Pain - “I’m A Flirt (Remix)”
2. Swizz Beatz - “It’s Me Bitches”
3. Natasha Bedingfield - “I Wanna Have Your Babies”
4. Fergie f/ Ludacris - “Glamorous”
5. The Game f/ Kanye West - “Wouldn’t Get Far”
6. Kelly Rowland f/ Eve - “Like This”
7. Mika - “Grace Kelly”
8. Young Jeezy f/ R. Kelly - “Go Getta”
9. Kanye West, Rakim, Nas and KRS One - “Classic”
10. DJ Khaled f/ Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman and Lil Wayne – "We Taking Over"
11. Lil Mama - “Lip Gloss”
12. Incubus - “Anna Molly”
13. D.G. Yola - "Ain't Gon' Let Up"
14. DJ Unk - “2 Step”
15. Justin Timberlake - “What Goes Around...Comes Around”
16. Fall Out Boy - “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race”
17. Stephen Marley f/ Damien “Jr. Gong” Marley - “The Traffic Jam”
18. Three 6 Mafia f/ Chamillionaire - “Doe Boy Fresh”
19. Audioslave - “Revelations”
20. Saliva - “Ladies & Gentlemen”

I almost just made the top 10 all R. Kelly, because dude is clearly intending to run this year like he did '03, but for now I'll be more discerning with his output. As I mentioned a couple months ago, "Glamorous" just cut-and-pastes Fergie over the Polow beat and Luda verse from the Zone 4 remix of Gwen Stefani's "Luxurious," but I like that beat and verse enough that I don't mind the new lead vocal that doesn't fit quite as well (the funniest part is when Fergie layers an introspective "my daddy told me so" bit over the "IF YOU AIN'T GOT NO MONEY TAKE YOUR BROKE ASS HOME" chant). I didn't expect DJ Unk's follow-up single to do anything for me, but it's basically "Walk It Out" redux with way more interesting stuff going on in the beat. And he's bringing "jiggy" back! And I'm glad that Audioslave finally broke up, but it was nice of them to finally release a single I really like right before doing so.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I've got a feature on Bossman in the Baltimore City Paper this week, and it's kind of a big deal because it's my first cover story. It's cool to come full circle and do this after writing about Bossman on Gov't Names for the past 3 years and then writing for CP for the past 2 years, although it wasn't the best idea for me to embark on this undertaking right after I started a new job and didn't have as much time as I used to to obsess over my articles. But the EIC really helped me hammer this out and make it better than it would've been, and I think it can really stand up as maybe the definitive Bossman profile, at least at this strange point in his career where it's still not really clear what's gonna happen with his label. Anyway, check it out, I hope you enjoy it.

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Monday, March 26, 2007
Consequence - "Night Night" (mp3)

I don't think anyone ever had any illusions about Consequence's slim chances of rap stardom, even ten years ago when he was with Tribe, and it's hard to even read the intended irony into the title of his debut solo album, Don't Quite Your Day Job. Still, shit dropped with a whimper. I don't understand why Billboard is listing it on their independent albums chart, since, as it says right there, it was released by Columbia, so what the fuck. But if it is just Billboard's mistake, it's an understandable one, because it's totally going under the radar. It's a shame, I've always been rooting for him, and when I saw the College Dropout tour at UMBC I went to the merch table and had Cons sign a mixtape.

It's not like Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music's brief track record hasn't been successful so far; he took John Legend to platinum and brought Common back from the Electric Circus brink. So you'd think he'd be pulling out all the stops for the Consequence album, or at least making sure you knew it existed. It probably would've helped to drop it a few months after either Kanye album, when "Spaceship" or "Gone" was still fresh in the public's mind. Hell, the album was probably done all the way back then, but labels will push shit back for years just in case lightening strikes and the artist lands a hit single they can launch it with properly. But the crazy thing is, after Cons rhymed over dozens of Kanye beats on mixtapes, dude's barely on this.

Not that I'm mad at the relative lack of Kanye starpower on the album. He only produced one new song, and the other two that he appears on are both pretty old: "Grammy Family" from the DJ Khaled album, and the positively ancient "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly," which first appeared on Kanye's Get Well Soon mixtape in 2002. I remember posting it in a semi-nostalgic way over a year ago, after seeing footage on MTV of them shooting a video for the song, which has yet to see the light of day. Kanye can't even get that out on YouTube but he has time to make a video for his "Throw Some Ds" freestyle? Seriously, though, the non-Kanye beats are generally tight, and mostly by unknowns, and "Night Night," produced by Younglord The Truth, is really killing me right now. Consequence's mushmouth delivery never totally does his flow justice, but that's kinda part of his charm. I'm just sayin', I wouldn't feel real great about my career right now if I was GLC.


TV Diary

Sunday, March 25, 2007
1. "Acceptable TV"
I had to check out this new show on VH1 just to see how they would execute the premise, airing a bunch of mini-pilots and then letting the audience vote on the website to decide which shows would be back the next week. Initially I was a little disappointed to tune in and learn that the concept wasn't quite that wide-open -- all the shows are generated by the same cast of writers and actors (although there's a revolving spot of user-generated videos that people can submit on the website), and it's pretty much all comedy. Thankfully, though, the stuff they're making is, for the most part, pretty funny. It's basically a sketch comedy show where you get to vote on what you actualy want to see as a recurring character or concept. And even when the concept is pretty dumb, like, say, the game show parody called "Who Farted," the actual bit is pretty funny, mainly because of the little jokes they add, like the contestent finding out he's adopted in the middle of the show. Also the running jokes about "integrated advertising" were funny in a have-your-cake-and-make-fun-of-it-too way. I hope this show does well and stays on the air, because I definitely wanna see how this experiment turns out. I voted for "Joke Chasers" and "Homeless James Bond" this week, btw.

2. "The Riches"
I've never really had much interest in the FX channel's basic cable HBO wannabe approach to original programming, but I was intrigued enough to check out this just on the basis of Eddie Izzard in a dramatic lead role. And given that the other lead is Minnie Driver, I'd kind of assumed it took place in England, so I was a little surprised to tune in and see it taking place in Louisiana (their characters are supposed to be Irish Travellers, but they're pretty much speaking with American accents). I missed the pilot but I got sucked in by the 2nd episode pretty quickly, so I'm looking forward to seeing where the plot goes. Also, the daughter is way cute. Even if Studio 60 does come back anytime soon I think I'm gonna spend that timeslot with this show.

3. "'Til Death Do Us Part"
When I was writing about Cry-Baby recently and looking up John Waters on IMDb, I saw that he'd recently appeared on a few episodes of a show called "'Til Death Do Us Part" and assumed that for some reason he'd gotten a recurring role on that crappy Fox sitcom. Turns out he's the host of a new show on Court TV that dramatizes spousal murder in a kind of trashy, light-hearted way, like "Tales From The Crypt" and he's the crypt keeper who introduces and narrates each sordid tale. They ran two episodes on its debut night, but honestly the first one was so bad I didn't even stay around for the 2nd. The plots are all based on real life cases, with the names and details change, but the whole thing kind of feels soapy and fake anyway. The hook seems to be that it's not clear until the end of each episode whether the wife or husband commits the murder, but I think that'll just end up leading them into a lot of samey storylines in which both has a clear motive and prolonging the conclusion until after the last commercial break. It's kinda cool to see John Waters in a TVseries, but he only seems to get like a minute or two of screentime, so I'm gonna have to file this next to the upcoming Hairspray remake as something where I'm happy he's getting the paycheck but I'd prefer to avoid it myself.

4. "Raines"
Not long ago, I was thinking about how Jeff Goldblum had been kind of MIA for a while, and that I missd his oddball presence in movies and wondering when he'd start turning up again. And it seems pretty apt that at this phase in his career, he'd join the growing rush of mid-level film stars moving to TV. But when I found it when it would be yet another hourlong drama about someone who solves crimes by communicating with ghosts, my enthusiasm was dampened. But I gave it a chance, and it's a pretty charming show so far, mainly for being very self-aware of its own ridiculous premise. Raines's condition is a delusion, not a supernatural power, and he knows it, and jokes about it to the sassy ghosts, who change in personality and appearance as he learns more about who the victims were and figures out how they died. It's novel and a little refreshing, but in a way it's even more risky than going for the suspension of disbelief if a straight up ghost story, because of the wierd catch 22 of a guy who has no illusions about the illusory nature of his vivid hallucinations. I'm not sure how well they'll be able to keep up that tension beyond the first run of episodes, and it's the kind of thing that could end up crushed under the weight of its own premise, in the same way that "House" is starting to feel a few seasons in. So far so good, though.

5. "The Dresden Files"
Now, this is a full-on supernatural crime solving show, but it's on the Sci-Fi Network, so, duh. J.G.'s been watching it and I've been slowly getting into it myself. The main character is a wizard (played by a Brit with an American accent, much like Eddie Izzard and the "House" guy), and there's some cheesy Sliders-style low budget special effects, but the show has a certain charm. I also like that the Scully-style lady cop skeptic isn't his only possible love interest, and her skepticism is a lot more plausible because she's never around when all the crazy supernatural stuff goes down.

6. "American Idol"
It's kind of ridiculous how much people are overreacting about the whole Sanjaya thing. Howard Stern and Vote For The Worst aside, there's no way this kid is getting to the finals, and my faith that the Idol gods are just gods was affirmed when Sundance and Antonella didn't get to the top 12. And Sanjaya definitely earne his keep for another couple weeks with the entertainment value of his perm that one week, and his insane performance of "You Really Got Me." I just feel like this whole thing is gonna get ugly, with a lot of people saying vaguely racist shit (the theory a lot of people are repeating about Indian call centers keeping him on the show is pretty borderline already). I'm still really rooting for Jordin, and I like Gina although it doesn't look like she'll last very long. Like a lot of people, I cooled on Blake after that week where he revealed his terrible sketch comedy character, and said that 311 was his favorite band, and I'm still a little tentative with Chris Sligh. And I like Melinda and Lakisha but I'm not totally on board with the idea that they're crushing the competition. Every year there's at least one or two black women who can belt like noone's business, and seem really initially impressive, but once you get into all the different trials and genres, some much more interesting singers emerge.

Saturday, March 24, 2007
This comic is generally lame and this week's was no different, but it was pretty funny that it appeared in this week's City Paper exactly 4 pages after a full-page ad for this concert.

Friday, March 23, 2007
Rich Boy - "On The Regular" (mp3)

I didn't have very high hopes for the Rich Boy album, despite the lion's share of it being produced by probably the most exciting producer in rap and R&B at the moment, Polow Da Don. While I still think he's Canibus's long lost twin, Rich Boy is not a real lyrical dude, and it speaks volumes that he kicked the same verse on the 2 best songs I'd heard by him (the "Back In The Mud" remix and "Throw Some D's"), and it wasn't even the best verse on either song. But I was kinda surprised when people I knew would give the album a fair chance were reporting that it was terrible.

Still, as the first quarter drought of major label rap albums slowly comes to an end, I'm pretty desperate for anything new to jam to, so I went ahead and picked up to make up my own mind. Apparently I wasn't alone, either, since the album did pretty respectable numbers the first week. I mean, not T.I. numbers, but Yung Joc numbers, which was more than I would've bet on. And honestly while I'm not gonna stick up for it hardcore, it's pretty enjoyable. Rich Boy even displays more vocal range that I knew he had, occasionally throwing a melodic riff into that sticky thick accent. But the real strength of Polow's involvement is that Rich Boy is the rare commercial rap album where the softer, more R&B flavored tracks like "Good Things" and "On The Regular" are actually highlights. Instead, it's the mean mugging shit, like that new single that was in the last Rocky movie, that bore me.

The liner notes themselves are kind of illuminating; for instance, Butta produced "Throw Some Ds," Polow only co-produced it (although it's pretty obvious that the synth riff is his, if nothing else). I'm also kind of ashamed of myself for not knowing until I read it that the sample is "I Call Your Name" by Switch, because that song blew my mind a few years ago hearing it on the radio late at night. In other surprising production news, "Get To Poppin'," which was hyped up a couple years ago almost purely on the basis of it being ostensibly produced by Timbaland (at least, I assume so because I can't think of any other reason people got so excited about that boring song), is credited solely to Brian Kidd, with no Mosely acknowledgements in sight. Kidd was in Timbo's camp a few years ago and produced "Ryde Or Die Bitch" (I guess he was Danja Handz before Danja Handz), so I'm not surprised. But it's interesting that Kidd's now getting all the credit, considering that Tim is looking more and more these days like a Dr. Dre-style brand name for all sorts of ghost-producers to toil under (he just disguises it more subtly by beatboxing and doing a bad Nate Dogg impression over everything).


In My Stereo

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Rich Boy - Rich Boy
Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - Living With The Living
The Who - A Quick One While He's Away
The Beatnuts - A Musical Massacre
UGK - Ridin' Dirty
DJ DMA & DJ Domination presents - Coast 2 Caost Mixtape Vol. 2: East Coast Edition
Bossman/DJ Envy/Big Mike - Yellow Tape
B.I.G. Status - Green Day
Big Brother Konan presents - High Rolla Records Compilation Volume 1

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Monday, March 19, 2007
Trans Am - "Triangular Pyramid" (mp3)

I was telling Mat about the new Trans Am album the other night because I want him to get it and get hyped up to go with me to their show at the Black Cat next month, but also because he's the person that got me into Trans Am in the first place. I haven't investigated their back catalog too deeply, nothing since Red Line, and I don't know if anything they do will ever match the rush of the best stuff on Surrender To The Night, but it's nice to hear a new album really returning to their strengths, after the somewhat off-putting bits I heard off their last couple albums. Not too much overt retro aesthetic or weird semi-ironic concepts, and only a little of the singing that almost never seems necessary on their records, just some really good instrumental jams, each with its own distinct sound. At their worst, Trans Am are kind of like a proto-LCD Soundsystem, showing off their record collections in a winking, self-deprecating way. At their best, their ideas and musicianship make you ignore all the subtext and just enjoy the hell out of listening to them play, at least if you're like me and really get off on stuff like drum fills and synth tones.

The fact that Sex Change feels like such a 'classic Trans Am' album is kind of odd, though, considering that, according to the spiel about the album on the Thrill Jockey site, they really went out of their way to abandon their traditional writing and recording methods and stand-by instruments and force themselves out of their comfort zone. But maybe it makes sense, then, that it's almost like a pure distillation of their tastes and skills as musicians. I liked the tasty little acoustic guitar bits on Red Line a lot, so it's no surprise that the slow jam at the end of Sex Change, "Triangular Pyramid," is a highlight for me (the chords kinda remind me of "Lee #2" too, which helps). But what really kills me is the last minute or so of the record, when it kind of gets filtered down into these pings of sound, like the whole band has been reduced to this fading signal that sound like a haze of guitar with occasional snare drum pops in the background, really beautiful stuff.

Movie Diary

Friday, March 16, 2007
1. 300
I can't say I totally predicted 300's record-breaking box office, but I was pretty sure it was gonna be huge just based on the fact that virtually all my friends were hyped about it, J.G. and I were motivated to go see it opening night, which we rarely are, and the theatre was packed. I ran into my college roommate out in the lobby, and the exchange we had walking past each other was basically "dude..." "DUDE." Considering that I've been completely ambivalent or outright hostile towards most of the big ancient battle epics that Hollywood's been churning out since Gladiator, I think it kinda speaks volumes that even I was able to get excited about this movie. Mainly because, instead of going for some vague sense of realism and still ended up with a bloated, historically inaccurate piece of shit like Troy or Alexander, 300 goes straight for the visceral shit, delights in the cheesy dialogue, and adds the perfect amount of mystical weirdness. And gets it all done in under 2 hours. I'm kinda glad I saw this in a relative vacuum, not knowing much yet about the historical context or the brewing controversy about undertones regarding race and present day wars. To me it was just a cool ass movie with lots of crazy, memorable visuals, and I'm glad I saw on the big screen.

2. Two For The Money
This is the kind of movie that feels like a total waste of an afternoon even when there's nothing else on TV and nothing better to do. There's a halfway intriguing story in there, but the direction the whole thing is headed gets telegraphed so baldly that even the little twist at the end feels obvious and stupid. Doesn't help that Al Pacino's been playing that same basic character for half of his movies for the past 15 years.

3. Cry-Baby
Sometimes I feel like a bad Baltimorean for how limited my experience with the John Waters oevre is, mostly the later, accessible stuff, and even then not all of it. I'm glad I finally watched this one, it kind of takes the camp of Hairspray to pretty entertaining extremes without as much affectionate nostalgia.

4. Silent Movie
Similiarly, I feel guilty about any Mel Brooks movies I haven't seen in their entirety, because he's directed at least 2 or 3 of my top 10 favorite comedies of all time. My dad always raved about this one to me, although thankfully while I was watching it I'd forgotten that he told be about the gag based around who says the only line in the movie. Some great slapstick with musical accompinent, especially Marty Feldman's amazing elevator sequence set to a drum solo. Also, Bernadette Peters being crazy hot in this. In a weird way I think this movie's gratuitous celebrity cameos, which were kind of gags in and of themselves, predicted that as a trend that you see in comedies constantly these days.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Sonic Youth mix for John

disc 1:

1. Theresa's Sound-world
2. Schizophrenia
3. Bull In The Heather
4. Disappearer
5. Skip Tracer
6. Brother James
7. In The Mind Of The Bourgeois Reader (mp3)
8. Reena
9. Silver Rocket
10. Titanium Expose
11. JC
12. Expressway To Yr Skull
13. Blink
14. Dirty Boots
15. Hoarfrost
16. Cross The Breeze

disc 2:
1. (I Got A) Catholic Block
2. Cinderella's Big Score
3. Purr
4. Genetic
5. Kissability
6. Rain On Tin (mp3)
7. New Hampshire
8. Turquoise Boy
9. Sugar Kane
10. Becuz
11. Shadow Of A Doubt
12. Sunday
13. Brave Men Run (In My Family) (mp3)
14. Eric's Trip
15. Kotton Krown
16. Teen Age Riot

I love making best-of mixes of my favorite bands, little personalized greatest hits compilations, and there's no band I've done that with more than Sonic Youth. Back when I was still driving a car with a tape deck and was constantly, compulsively making cassettes to listen to, I made a whole series of SY mixes divided up by lead vocalist: Thurston songs, Kim songs, Lee songs (which I re-did as a CD mix last year), and instrumentals (which was a really fun one I might re-do on CD someday). J.G. asked me to make her a Sonic Youth primer a couple years ago, and it was one of the last tapes I ever made before the tap deck I used to make mixtapes on broke and I got a computer with a CD burner (man I miss making tapes). A couple months ago, J.G.'s brother John, who I burned a CD for last year, also asked me for a Sonic Youth mix, and after putting it off for a while, when I found out when we'd be seeing him this weekend, I hunkered down and made this.

It wasn't a hard decision to make it 2 discs (it's the least I can do to try to cover a 14-album career in any halfway representative way), but I also had to give into the temptation to make the selection idiosyncratic enough for me to fully geek out over. So I included "Schizophrenic" and "Teenage Riot" (although the latter was a real last minute addition), but I didn't put them on the beginning of sides 1 and 2 like I did with J.G.'s mix. I included a few favorite singles, but ignored a lot of other ones (I wanted to use the early version of "Sunday," which I've always liked more, but I couldn't find my copy of the SubUrbia soundtrack). There's some indulgent inside baseball kinds of blocks and transitions, like the trilogy of songs based on Thurston's "Altar Boy, Church Basement" and a segue from song 1 on Sister to song 2 on Experimental Jet Set in reference to the fact that the latter album was recorded over the master tapes from the former album, and if you turn up the volume high enough you can hear some of Sister bleeding through on certain Jet Set songs. And then there's "Blink," which as I wrote about a while back, wasn't even domestically available until recently, and is an offbeat choice but one of my favorites. I don't think I really got into "Reena" until well after I named Rather Ripped my #2 album of 2006, but now I can't stop- listening to it. Hopefully John will hear something on there that'll further his interest in my favorite band.

TV Diary

Sunday, March 11, 2007
1. "Andy Barker P.I."
It's maybe appropriate of his role as sidekick to Conan, but nonetheless a little depressing, that since leaving Late Night seven years ago, Andy Richter doesn't have much to show for it other than a lot of bit parts (in mostly crappy movies, but a few good ones, and also a funny recurring role on "The New Adventures Of Old Christine") and a couple short-lived sitcoms. Still, "Andy Richter Controls The Universe" was pretty great (and is all over YouTube), and "Andy Barker P.I." is looking pretty promising, based on the first half of the six episodes I've watched so far, which is streaming well before the pilot airs this Thursday. It doesn't feel like it quite hits its stride and really become funny until the 2nd episode, although it's not as funny as the show it's replacing in its timeslot, "30 Rock" (which isn't really saying anything, because "30 Rock" is the funniest show on television right now, man I hope both these shows survive to see next season). It's exec produced by Conan, and reminds me a lot of the pilot he and Robert Smigel wrote in the early 90's for Adam West, "Lookwell" (which is also on YouTube), the whole goofy crime fighting farce thing, more overtly goofy than, say "Monk." One of the many really annoying people from "Arrested Development" is in this, although thankfully he's not quite as annoying in it, as is the guy who played the cab driver character in "How I Met Your Mother" that was for some reason abandoned after the first few episodes.

2. "The Winner"
I had moderately high hopes for this being decent, but Jeff is right that it's got a little bit of promise but ends up being kind of a chore to watch. I'm one of the few people who will stick up for 3 camera sitcoms with live audiences these days, but the laugh track in this is just oppressively loud and fake-sounding. Rob Corddry gets in some great throwaway lines here and there, but I don't know if I'll keep up with this one, especially when they seem to be running two episodes every week.

3. "The Sarah Silverman Program"
Another show I kinda gave a half-assed chance but I'm not sure if I'll ever sit through a whole episode. I never thought Sarah Silverman was really particularly funny to begin with and after my brother's incredibly accurate summary of her whole schtick, I can't really take her seriously at all.

4. "American Idol"
To echo what's been said by many people elsewhere, this has been a weird season so far, with an especially weak lineup as far as the guys go. That said, I get pretty irritated when the judges get haughty about it, because hey, they decided who was in the 24. So if they didn't pick the best out of all those thousands of people, it's kinda their fault. I'm just glad that Sundance and Antonella are gone, I was starting to feel a little fatalistic about the really annoying people sticking around too long. Right now, I'm really rooting for Jordin and Melinda and Gina and LaKisha, and I'm kinda rooting for Cris Sligh and Blake but am ready to kinda turn on them if they keep getting progressively more annoying.

5. "Ego Trip's The (White) Rapper Show"
I tried to give this show a chance, multiple times throughout the season, but maybe all the people who raved about can explain to me how it isn't, for long long stretches, total boilerplate reality show stuff? I mean it's as boring as most of those 'Celebreality' shows. A lot of the jokes were pretty funny on paper and I liked that it managed to be silly and irreverent while still very much from a hip hop nerd perspective, but in practice a lot of the gags got old and is it just me, or was the whole game show bit stolen from "I Know Black People" on "Chappelle's Show"? In terms of the whole humiliating contest stuff, it's actually a lot like "The Surreal Life: Fame Games," except that show is funnier.

6. "Extras"
I liked the UK version of "The Office" well enough but never particularly revered it, so I was mildly curious about this. I only saw a little of the first season and then all of the 2nd season, and it seems like it got a lot weaker in the 2nd season after it started to let go of the whole point of calling the show "Extras" and became a meta-commentary on formulaic sitcoms. The show itself is kind of tied to a really repetitive formula, but the celebrity cameos are generally pretty funny, as is the manager character.

Thursday, March 08, 2007
Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - "La Costa Brava" (mp3)

Having lived with Living With The Living for a while now, in that filthy advance leak downloader way that I rarely indulge in, I'm still feeling my way through it, figuring out where it fits in his discography, which will probably be somewhere in the middle. After all the talk of how it'd somehow be Chisel-esque, I'm not hearing that at all, which I'm glad for, because I don't really like Chisel at all (I'm not even sure what Ted could do to really recall that era, unless he suddenly became a much weaker, less confident singer than he's been the last few years). In a way, this is the record I expected him to make after Hearts Of Oak, stretching further out into each of his favorite musical avenues, celtic and reggae and hardcore, instead of going straight down the middle with a tight little power trio album like Shake The Sheets, which really really grew on me over time. I actually think he's shown some remarkable restraint over the last few years, to not go off adding more and more instruments and going off into endless Elvis Costello-type genre pastiches or try to create his own overblown Sandanista, which, in light of indulgent stuff like that "Tej Leo" record, seems entirely possible. By that standard, even the varied and slightly overlong Living pulls back a bit.

"Sons Of Cain" blew me away the first couple times I heard him play it on tour, but since Pitchfork posted the mp3 a while back, I think I've started to burn myself out on it, and the demos of "Army Bound" and "Some Beginner's Mind" that Ted posted on his site last year, already. "Sons Of Cain" is still probably the best song, but I'm starting to really dig into the less familiar ones, and it's the longer songs towards the end that are really killing me. Living With The Living might get hated on a little for not being as frontloaded as his records usually are (seriously, Tyranny and Sheets kinda blow their load in the first 5 songs). The big pretty ballad, "The Toro And The Toreador," is better than it has any right to be, and "La Costa Brava" has kind of just had me in a trance for the past few weeks, I'm not even totally sure what it is that I love about it. He better play it at the D.C. show in a couple weeks. I think I might even buy the album after all, mainly to check out that 5-song bonus EP that's supposed to come with it.

In My Stereo

Monday, March 05, 2007
Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
Television - Adventure
Sonic Youth/ICP/The Ex - In The Fishtank
Mobb Deep - The Infamous
DJ Heathen presents - The Mr. Me Too Mixtape!
DNA/Roc-A-Fella - The Chain Remains: Rebirth Of A Dynasty
Ckrisis - Muscle Up Vol. 1
Testme - Testme Talk Vol. 2
Da Woodz - Time Iz Everything
K-Swift - Jumpoff Vol. 9: Holiday Edition

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Netflix Diary

Friday, March 02, 2007
1. Idiocracy
It's kind of interesting how, when Beavis & Butthead first came out, it seemed like Mike Judge's sense of humor was stupid, or that his humor was simply about stupid people in a blunt, slapstick-y way, like Dumb & Dumber. But in retrospect, it seems kind of painfully clear that stupidity itself is his topic, whether it's institutionalized corporate stupidity in Office Space, naive, well-meaning small town stupidity in King Of The Hill, or the nihilistic teenage stupidity of Beavis & Butthead. So Idiocracy seems like an almost inevitable move for him, a exaggeration of what all these different forms of contemporary stupidity could mean for future generations. Office Space infamously made barely a blip at the box office before becoming a cult classic on DVD, and the fact that Idiocracy barely played in theatres has led a lot of people to assume that scenario will play out all over again. It might, but it's definitely not as funny as Office Space, and also lacks that "hey, I work at a boring desk job too!" thing that's led to the whole culture of cubicle humor like Dilbert and The Office and countless TV commercials which is becoming more tedious and repetitive than an actual desk job. Idiocracy is pretty funny, though, so I can't complain, it was worth the rental. There are some lines I'd quote but I won't spoil it for you.

2. Silent Hill
The first or second Valentine's Day that J.G. and I ever spent together, we ordered Chinese food for dinner and watched horror movies, and so we kinda decided that would be our V-Day tradition and have done it almost every year since. We watched a couple new-school scary movies that didn't turn out to be very scary, though. Honestly, the video game version is way creepier. I used to have a roommate who'd play Silent Hill for hours on end and that shit is creepy as hell, all the fog and quiet and then crazy shit happening out of nowhere. The movie does a decent enough job of emulating that vibe, but the result is pretty boring, because walking someone walk through fog is a lot less exciting than playing a game where you're walking through fog and don't know what will happen next.

3. The Cave
Another ho-hum horror movie we watched on Valentine's. This one was kind of cheesy and fun, though, in that sense where you can kind of bet on which characters are going to die first and who'll survive at the end, which J.G. is way better at than me.

4. The Exorcist
Now this is a horror movie, maybe my favorite of all time. J.G. had never seen it, so we rented it for V-Day but didn't watch it until the following weekend. No matter how many times I see it, it still sticks in my head for a few days afterward (during which time I listened to all the Sparklehorse songs with reference to 'Captain Howdy'). Especially this time, because I watched all the bonus stuff on the DVD. The best part is the commentary track by the author of the book William Peter Blatty, which wasn't recorded while watching the movie, so what he says has no relationship to the visuals and ends halfway through the movie. So after he finishes talking, they fill up a few more minutes of the audio track with a bunch of outtakes of Mercedes McCambridge recording the dialogue for the voice of the demon. Supposedly they had her smoking a ton of cigarettes and eating egg yolkes to get her voice sounding that hoarse and otherworldly, and that voice makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I wish she'd been the lead singer of a band.

5. "The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy"
I remember watching this early 80's BBC mini-series version on PBS at my dad's house when I was a kid and had just started reading the book series. But J.G., also a fan of the books, had never seen it, and in light of the recent Hollywood version I kinda wanted to revisit it. The acting sometimes leaves something to be desired (although noone in the cast is as egregious as Mos Def, there's also nobody as perfectly cast in their roles as Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy and to a lesser extent Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel in the new version), but the cheesy low-fi special effects kind of suit the overall depressing view of space travel that the whole series takes. And since it's a lot longer, it fits in a lot more key scenes and gags that I'd kind of forgotten about since the last time I read the book.

6. Liberty Heights
I saw this back when it had just come out on video, and probably watched the second half of it on cable a dozen times, but it'd been a while since I watched it in full, so I thought I'd revisit and show it to J.G., who I knew would probably like seeing Ben Foster and Adrien Brody in early roles. It's a little more melodramatic than, say, Diner or Tin Men, and the score is really overbearing, but it's still a pleasure to watch any of Levinson's Baltimore movies, about kids growing up here around the time my dad was that age. Also, Bebe Neuwirth being a total MILF in this.