Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Duke dug Noel Coward

Dick Cavett blogs about meeting John Wayne who professes a love for Noel Coward.

To be honest, I was more surprised to learn that Cavett blogs than that The Duke dug Coward. Anyone intimate with Red River or She Wore A Yellow Ribbon or The Shootist knows Wayne possessed an enormous artistic intelligence which he rarely had the opportunity to display outside of the maligned genre that imprisoned him so compellingly. "Get John out of the saddle and you've got trouble," Joan Crawford concluded about the admittedly awful wartime melodrama Reunion in France (1942).* But to quote Howard Hawks quoting John Ford, who knew better, that big sonofabitch could act and thus he could've knocked Coward's Blithe Spirit out of the park, spurs well-hidden beneath tux and tie.

Still a good ole boy, though, as Tab Hunter's autobiography makes clear.

* Roy Newquist, Conversations with Joan Crawford (New York: Berkley, 1980), 90.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fave 100 Singles (and 10 Albums) of the 2000s

1. A*Teens: "Halfway Around The World" (MCA 2001)
2. Alcazar: "Crying at the Discotheque" (BMG 2000)
3. Sisqo: "Thong Song" (Dragon/Def Soul 2000)
4. !!!: "Me & Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story)" (Touch & Go 2003)
5. Blackout Crew: "Put A Donk On It" (All Around The World 2008)
6. Owusu & Hannibal: "Lonnie's Secret" (Ubiquity 2006)
7. Shelby Lynne: "Killin' Kind" (Island 2001)
8. Hard-Life: "Hard Toxic (Stupid September Mix)" (mp3 2005)
9. Basement Jaxx: "Romeo" (Astralwerks 2001)
10. Lady Sovereign: "Public Warning" (Def Jam 2006)
11. Palomar: "Knockout" (Self-Starter 2002)
12. Alphabeat: “Fascination” (Copenhagen/EMI 2008)
13. Eve: "Tambourine" (Aftermath/Interscope 2007)
14. Grace Jones: "Williams' Blood" (Wall of Sound 2008)
15. Palomar: "Up!" (Self-Starter 2002)
16. Amerie: "1 Thing" (Columbia 2005)
17. Ryan Leslie: “Gibberish” (Casablanca/Universal/Motown 2009)
18. Bitter Sound Foundation: "Why Does Michael Hurt?" (www.bitter.cream.org 2002)
19. Twista featuring Kanye West & Jamie Foxx: "Slow Jamz" (Atlantic 2003)
20. Britney Spears: "Oops!...I Did It Again" (Jive 2000)
21. Lady Gaga: "Bad Romance" (Interscope 2009)
22. Taylor Swift: "You Belong With Me" (Big Machine 2009)
23. Rich Boy: "Drop" (Interscope 2009)
24. Lil Wayne: "A Milli" (Cash Money/Universal/Motown 2008)
25. Mocean Worker: "Under The Matzos Tree (Remix)" (mp3 2006)
26. Supersystem: "Everybody Sings" (Touch & Go 2005)
27. Destiny's Child: "Lose My Breath" (Columbia 2004)
28. Aqua: "Cartoon Heroes" (MCA 2000)
29. Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott: "Get Ur Freak On" (The Gold Mind/Elektra 2001)
30. The Dismemberment Plan: "The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich" (DeSoto 2001)
31. Dizzee Rascal and Armand Van Helden: "Bonkers" (Dirtee Stank 2009)
32. The Federation: "18 Dummy" (Reprise 2006)
33. Black Eyed Peas: "My Humps" (A&M 2005)
34. Timbaland and Magoo: "We At It Again" (Virgin 2000)
35. Kylie Minogue: "Love At First Sight" (Mushroom 2002)
36. Escort: "All Through The Night" (Escort 2007)
37. M.O.P.: "Ante Up" (Loud 2001)
38. Adele: "Chasing Pavements" (XL 2008)
39. Kanye West: "Gold Digger" (Roc-A-Fella 2005)
40. Britney Spears: "Piece of Me" (Jive 2007)
41. Madonna: "Music" (Maverick/Warner Bros. 2000)
42. Major Lazer featuring Vybz Kartel: "Pon de Floor" (Downtown 2009)
43. Das Racist: "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" (original mix) (mp3 2009)
44. Justin Timberlake: "Like I Love You" (Jive 2002)
45. Basement Jaxx: "Plug It In" (XL/Astralwerks 2004)
46. Rick Ross: "Hustlin'" (Def Jam 2006)
47. Usher: "Yeah!" (Arista 2004)
48. Lee Ann Womack: "I Hope You Dance" (MCA 2000)
49. Shakedown: "At Night" (Defective 2002)
50. Guillemots: "Who Left The Lights Off Baby" (Fantastic Plastic 2005)
51. Black Leotard Front: "Casual Friday" (DFA 2004)
52. Liam Lynch: "My United States of Whatever" (Global Warming 2002)
53. Lil Mama: "Lip Gloss" (Jive 2007)
54. Alcazar: "This Is The World We Live In" (BMG International 2004)
55. Lady Gaga: “Poker Face” (Interscope 2008)
56. Damian Marley: "Welcome to Jamrock" (Tuff Gong/Universal 2005)
57. P!nk: "Just Like A Pill" (LaFace 2002)
58. Daniel Bedingfield: "Gotta Get Thru This" (Relentless 2002)
59. MC Lars: "Signing Emo" (Sidecho 2004)
60. Jesse McCartney featuring Ludacris: “How Do You Sleep?” (Hollywood 2009)
61. Portobella: "Covered in Punk" (Universal Island 2004)
62. Kanye West: "Paranoid" (Roc-A-Fella 2008)
63. Truth Hurts featuring Rakim: "Addictive" (Interscope 2002)
64. Armand Van Helden: "My My My" (Southern Fried 2004)
65. Soulja Boy Tell 'Em Feat. Arab: "Yahhh!" (Collipark/Interscope 2007)
66. Mew: "The Zookeeper's Boy" (Sony BMG 2006)
67. T.I. feat. Rihanna: "Live Your Life" (Grand Hustle/Atlantic 2008)
68. MIA: "Galang" (XL 2004)
69. The Juan MacLean: "Give Me Every Little Thing" (DFA 2003)
70. Baha Men: "Who Let The Dogs Out" (Artemis 2000)
71. Magnolia Shorty: "Smokin' Gun" (Take Yo Shirt Off/Gutta Bounce 2009?)
72. Gnarls Barkley: "Crazy" (Downtown 2006)
73. Kings of Leon: "Use Somebody" (RCA 2008)
74. Webstar and Young B featuring The Voice of Harlem: "Chicken Noodle Soup" (Scilla Hill 2006)
75. 2ge+her: "U + Me = Us (Calculus)" (TVT 2000)
76. Girls Aloud: "Biology" (Polydor 2005)
77. Barenaked Ladies: "Pinch Me" (Reprise 2000)
78. Rihanna: "Don't Stop The Music" (Def Jam 2007)
79. Lloyd Feat. Yung Joc: "Get It Shawty" (Universal Motown 2007)
80. Raffertie: “Sugar” (Seclusiasis 2009)
81. Nas: "Black President" (Def Jam 2008)
82. Las Ketchup: "Aserjé (The Ketchup Song)" (Sony Discos 2002)
83. Skeletons & The Girl-Faced Boys: "Fit Black Man" (Ghostly International 2006)
84. Britney Spears: "Womanizer" (Jive 2008)
85. Janet Jackson: "Rock With U" (Island 2008)
86. Simon Bookish: "Terry Riley Disco" (Playlouder 2006)
87. Timberlee ft. Tosh: "Heels" (mp3 2008)
88. Stereotyp: "Keepin Me (Fauna Flash remix)" (G-Stone 2006)
89. Cortney Tidwell: "Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ewan’s Objects In Space remix)" (Ever 2007)
90. Koffee Brown: "After Party" (Arista 2001)
91. Bobby Pinson: "Don't Ask Me How I Know" (RCA 2005)
92. Ladytron: "Destroy Everything You Touch" (Island 2005)
93. Valeria: "Girl I Told Ya" (Interscope 2007)
94. Natasha Bedingfield: "Unwritten" (Epic 2005)
95. Walter Jones: "Living Without Your Love" (DFA 2009)
96. A.R.E. Weapons: "Don't Be Scared" (Rough Trade 2003)
97. Invisible Conga People: "Weird Pains" (Italians Do It Better 2008)
98. The Pierces: "Boring" (Lizard King 2007)
99. Ying Yang Twins: "Wait (The Whisper Song)" (TVT 2005)
100. Kiley Dean featuring Timbaland: "Make Me A Song" (Beatclub/Interscope 2003)


1. The New Pornographers: Mass Romantic (Mint 2000)
2. Glasvegas: Glasvegas (Columbia 2009)
3. Belong: Colorloss Record (St. Ives 2008)
4. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 2: The Doldrums (Paw Tracks 2004)
5. Dixon: RA.048 (Resident Advisor 2007)
6. M.I.A./Diplo: Piracy Funds Terrorism Volume 1 (Hollertronix 2004)
7. M.I.A.: Kala (Interscope 2007)
8. Wide Right: Sleeping on the Couch (Pop Top 2005)
9. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Epic/Razor Sharp 2000)
10. M2M: Shades of Purple (Atlantic 2000)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Osmium-tipped phonograph needles!

Forgive the iPadness of the snap and just swim in all those heavy metal signifiers.



P.S. Osmium is the heaviest of metals (or as Wiki puts it, "the densest natural element...twice as dense as lead").

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Getting the Led out

So you're going through a difficult change in life. Living in a big, bad city. Working a new job. What music do you reach for to weather this new chapter? Why, Led Zeppelin of course.

It makes perfect sense that Robert Christgau labeled Zep r&r - "not rock and roll, dummy, rest and recuperation, a fantasyland grand enough to blot out a world that remains too big and uncontrollable."* A world where you, oh I don't know, take the bus south instead of north and wind up 45 minutes late for a lunch where you're meeting your new colleagues for the first time. Yeah, "Whole Lotta Love," blot that out please!

And if you want to understand this form of r&r more deeply, I suggest taking in Erik Davis' terrific 33 1/3 on Led Zeppelin IV. Davis rightly casts IV as the soundtrack to a teenage imagination, his most definitely included. "I have tried to give the ensorcelled boy I was the temporary reins of a man's mind," (10) he says of this book and on my second reading, I skipped most of the second half where he imagines IV as the Tolkien-esque odyssey of a doomed stud he calls Percy. But before then, he does a marvelous job of discussing the album as an Album, a thing, matter: artwork, cover gimmicks, outgroove inscriptions, lyric sheets, etc. Late 1960s/early 1970s rock was a commodity form above all else and IV was its ultimate fetish. Officially titled with four unpronounceable sigils, "the album no longer referred to anything but itself: a concrete talisman that drew you into its world, its frame" (25). Indeed, countless Zepheads have scanned those sigils for meanings. And when those offered only riddles, they turned to each side's narrative sway or the overall album design or the band's thing-like music (which Davis astutely links to military invasion and a cinematic taking up of space). But "these sigils, and the musical sounds they announce, don't mean stuff as much as make stuff happen" (26). In short, exactly the album you'd want as you start your new life in a big, bad city.

Fwiw, here's how I rank 'em:

IV - Although I'm fine with a copy excluding "Going to California."
Houses of the Holy - Danciest.
II - Most chutzpah.
III - After "Immigrant Song," too consistent.
Physical Graffiti - Too long.
In Through The Out Door - Too unfocused. But underrated. They would have made fine MOR balladeers. And the dazzling "Carouselambra" pointed towards a tragically curtailed career of, what, art-rock circus-boogie.
I - Too slow.
Presence - Their Tusk, I suppose. But with waaay fewer anti-socialites overrating it. "Achilles Last Stand" is all-time, though.

* Robert Christgau, "Genius Dumb: Led Zeppelin," in Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 90.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Justin Bieber 800% Slower

In case you needed to be told, teenpop is more threatening than the blackest of metals and the most avant of gardes. The latest proof lies in the fear Justin Bieber and his army of adoring tween fans instill in the hate dorks who keep punking him. First there were premature obituaries. Then 4-chan sociopaths tried to reroute his tour to North Korea. Even at his own shows, the dude's not safe, taking flying objects to the head at a recent date (although apparently thrown by a fan, but that doesn't cancel out the glee with which the video has replicated over the interwebs). Clearly, tweens requiring no validation for their objects of worship make these bullies scared. One could riposte that 4-chan chicanery would be wasted on Marduk or John Adams. Ok so then why not punk, oh, Lil Wayne or Eminem? Yeah I thought not.

Now there's J. Biebez: U Smile 800% Slower which seemed poised to join the pranks above. No doubt it comes from a bad place. Someone who records under the name Shamantis has taken chopped and screwed and Beardo disco to new levels of extremity and used a program called PaulStretch to slooooooooooow down Bieber's latest single, "U Smile," by 800%. Ya know, to "improve" it ("800% better than the original" goes one of many tired jokes in the comments to the youtube of the original). The rub here is that, although I hate to say it, it actually does! Smart people know that there's no improving on teenpop at its best. But "U Smile" fails to transcend the assembly line. Slow it down 800%, however, and you get 35 minutes of Popol Vuh-style vocalese and furnace blasts a la my beloved Belong with a still-recognizable Bieb moaning at us from The Phantom Zone. His voice stretches out like streaks in the sky while some sort of sound or movement continues to wash onshore beneath him. I've listened to it three times now and it's all really quite lovely, something a My Bloody Valentine fan could swallow with ease. Would that all disdain for teenpop could result in such beauty. But let's not try to "improve" "I Gotta Feeling" next, kay?