Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does This Mean...There Is A God?

I'm not sure if this is proof of God's existence - or proof that God is truly dead - but Anton LeVey's "Black House," for decades the San Francisco headquarters of LeVey's Church of Satan, has now been supplanted by a really fucking ugly condo duplex.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fuck, Yes! LL To Publish Her Diary

Lindsay Lohan is planning to one-up all of her mouthy former bodyguards by going ahead and publishing all of the lurid details of her descent into addiction and nymphomania herself. I can't wait; this is going to be so sweet! No word yet on when it comes out or who will publish it, but believe you me I'll keep you updated.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

LL To Participate In Scared Straight Program At Morgue

This summer Lindsay Lohan will visit a morgue as part of the plea deal she struck with the court in her drunk driving case. The visit is part of a "scared straight"-style class conducted by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, in which a couple dozen other DUI perpetrators will participate. Lindsay and her classmates will all have to confront dead bodies at the morgue as an object lesson in the possible consequences of driving drunk. As I'm sure you will remember, Lindsay was arrested twice last year on DUI charges and pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor drunken driving and cocaine possession charges. LL has also performed many hours of community service and served a day in jail as part of the plea deal.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Sugar, Sugar": The One That Started It All?

What's your favorite song? Mine's "Sugar, Sugar." You know that song, right? It's pretty awesome, isn't it? It probably won't surprise you to hear that it topped the charts both in America and in the UK when it was released in 1969--but did you know that Billboard ranked it as the #1 single of the entire year? So, it beat out all singles released in 1969 by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder, for instance. When I was in high school I used to spend a lot of time riding around in my friend Jason's car, listening to 104.3 (which used to be an oldies station) on his disintegrating car stereo. Invariably "Sugar, Sugar" would come on at some point in the day, and we would turn it up and rock out. Back then we used to joke that "Sugar, Sugar" was the first indiepop song because the simple chord progression (C Major--F Major--G Major), the fuzzbox lead guitar, and the amateurish-sounding female vocal interjections reminded us of the songs on the 7 inches I had ordered from Slumberland and the Bus Stop Label. Actually "Sugar, Sugar" was the opposite of amateurish; it was written by Brill Building mainstay Jeff Barry, who also penned "Be My Baby," and (yes the sleeve of my copy of End Of The Century confirms he also wrote) "Baby, I Love You." Ellie Greenwich, Barry's partner in writing "Baby, I Love You" didn't help write "Sugar, Sugar"--but is one of the studio musicians who performed on the record. I could have guessed all of this stuff, but what I had no idea about is that The Archies, who "perform" "Sugar, Sugar" are the characters from Archie Comics, who somehow sang Brill Building pop songs on I guess a TV show. So that's why they didn't tour.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ten Reasons To Be Mod In 2008

I know you've been thinking about it for a long time; we all have. But I'm hoping maybe this year's the year. Let's all buy parkas and Chelsea boots and exclusively hang out with girls with pixie cuts--like we used to in high school. Not convinced? Well, for your perusal I have compiled this list of why you and I should finally take the plunge and be mods in 2008.

10) It's the only counterculture where no one will mind that we don't give a shit about anything besides hair gel and name brand clothes. It's pretty disingenuous to embrace some kind of bohemian counterculture and then spend $75 on a haircut and $150 on jeans. When you're a mod, you won't have to feel a tinge of guilt for your zealous consumerism.

9) Vespas get 70 miles to the gallon. That makes for economical transportation no matter how long this Iraq thing takes. Keep your gas money and spend it on hairspray.

8) It's the only thing you can do that will truly piss off your hippie parents. Keep your hair above your ears and wear a tie everyday. It will eat them up inside.

7) You can't get AIDS from popping pills. Just ask Stiv Bators' ghost.

6) 1960's American R&B is still the greatest music ever recorded. The best thing you can say about any of the records that have been recorded since is that they remind you of how good Stax and Motown were.

5) Every woman looks beautiful with short hair. Admittedly counter-intuitive, but undeniably true.

4) We'll be all ready for ska's fourth wave. It will arrive any day now.

3) Even Brooks Brothers sells peg leg suits these days. Unfortunately they cost like $1900.00. Fortunately 501's and tennis sweaters work just as well.

2) Rock and Roll sucks and people who listen to it deserve to get beaten up. Go back to Liverpool, assholes.

1) If you are mod, nice girls will look at you expectantly as they eat ice cream. Just look at that--it looks like the most fun I've ever seen in my entire life.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Return Of Love Rock?

After about eight years of that whole black-on-black, angry, politico-rock horse shit, it's starting to look like we might be able to wear whatever we want and start listening to good music again. I have no idea what caused it, but what I call "the dark age" of rock-as-monolith, bands with dress codes, vegetarianism as a musical movement, and, of course, dire cynicism about love and sex, seems to be, well, no longer hip. How do I know this? What could possibly make me so brash as to hope for this? Witness the title of the forthcoming album by Xiu Xiu, Women As Lovers. Would that have ever flown in 2000? No, ma'am. And just look at the cover art; it's more love rock than anything I've seen since Heather Lewis sang on The Wedding Present's Watusi album. Sell your Stones records, pull out your Cat's Miaow CDs, and keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Newsflash: Lohan Likes To Fuck Italian Men

MSNBC's obvious department has been working hard on its story about one Alessandro diNunzio's comments about the night he spent with Lindsay Lohan recently while she was at the Capri Film Festival, reporting what we all could have guessed about LL: that she's really bright and funny and flexible, that her sexual aggressiveness does a poor job of disguising her insecurities, that she (like all truly attractive women) wears mismatched underwear, and that she hopes that having sex with "nice boys" will help her put her alcoholism behind her. Congratulations, Mr. diNunzio--but, buddy, I would have fucked her for so much longer than "one-and-a-half hours."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I Fucking Dare You To Buy Tender Forever's Wider

My prediction that women will start dressing like butch lesbians to attract men has already come true, and, although I knew it was going to be hot (check out the picture), I wasn't ready for this. Yesterday when I dropped by Reckless Records on the way home from the Loop I was thrilled to find a copy of Tender Forever's new LP Wider. K Records has been repping Wider pretty hard on its website recently, and I vowed to buy a copy after visiting the act's myspace page and being confronted with the cover of Justin Timberlake's "My Love" that plays as soon as the page loads. It might cause an involuntary roll of the eyes to see a K act categorize itself as "Soul" on its myspace page, but take my word for it: the tag is appropriate.

Tender Forever is the stage name of multi-instrumentalist Melanie Valera. Valera's music career started in a girl group cover band (ironically, that would be the ideal culmination of the music career of my dreams) in her native Bordeaux, France. So, like The Softies or Black Tambourine, Valera's songwriting is largely informed by Phil Spector-like compositions. But this isn't the late 80's, and Wider isn't that kind of K record. The fact that Valera lists Cody Chestnutt among the brief list of influences on Tender Forever's myspace page and the fact that she would cover a Justin Timberlake song conclusively shows that she is totally dedicated to soul and the institution of the love song and that she is perfectly willing to subvert counterculture expectations to maximize their effect. So she dances, flirts, (reportedly) gets emotional on stage, uses a drum machine--whatever it takes. And she musters up quite an amount of swagger, but the really compelling thing here is the vulnerability. Here is a person with apparently little musical training who is going to walk onto a stage, set up a laptop and start dancing and singing her heart out about love. And in true DIY fashion, all of the fragility, the awkwardness, all of the vulnerability just make the record more sexy.

I believe in the love song as an institution, like, say, Elvis Costello does. If you must know, last night I put on headphones and listened to The Ramones' cover of Phil Spector's "Baby I Love You" six times in a row before going to bed. But Valera's songs are even more about love than your typical love song; they're about finding a secret place in the back yard to kiss, about how fast your heart is beating and about how "like war," broken hearts last forever. They're about how even if you break my heart I'm willing to take all of that pain for the chance to be in love with you for just a little while. You know, I don't think I've ever heard any woman besides maybe Diana Ross talk about her "heart" as much as Valera does. Hearing the word repeatedly as I listen to this record sort of puts me in a trance, and by the fifth time I hear it I just want to fuck.

So, everybody agrees that independent records are a great way to learn things by example, right? The counterculture is overflowing with all kinds of people who learned how to dress or how to play guitar or to run a distro or that they should be anti-colonialists or anarchists or vegetarians or whatever just from listening to records. But here's a record that may actually inspire you to do something that matters in your life. And that's the powerful thing about this record--the thing that might have you on edge when you listen to it--because it might actually change you, or give you an ultimatum. Because Melanie Valera may actually get in your face, dance around and tell you that if you're not taking a big chance, then you're not actually in love right now.

Published December 2007. $10 if ordered directly from K Records.

P.S.: Here's a Spanish language review of Wider from a blog called Fuck Me I'm Twee.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

DVD Review: Bobby (2006)

Yesterday, as I checked the mail at my P.O. Box, there was a little disc-mailer containing a case-less DVD of Emilio Estevez's 2006 film Bobby. As a devotee to Lindsay Lohan's film career, I had purchased the thing used over the internet, with a sort of "better late than never" attitude. Bobby is an interesting case. The film was quite well-received, winning several awards (Best break-out actress: Lindsay Lohan) Yet the movie did nothing at the box office and sold less DVDs than I Know Who Killed Me. Maybe that's because the movie is--well--boring, slowly imploding under the weight of the distractingly and confusingly star-studded cast. A useful and, I think, inevitable, exercise is to compare and contrast the movie with another Lohan-graced flop, Georgia Rule. And, after only a little reflection, I can confidently say that the Rule is the finer film.

Strangely, the two movies are, in many ways, sort of mirror images of each other, or opposite sides of the same coin. Georgia Rule stars Felicity Huffman as a delusional alcoholic; Bobby stars Williams H. Macy as a self-righteous prick. In Bobby, Lindsay Lohan has a bit part as a woman who selflessly marries some schmuck so he doesn't have to go to Vietnam, then (wait for it...) falls in love with him, whereas in Georgia Rule LL stars as a monumentally selfish girl who becomes intrigued with the possibility of preventing a Mormon boy from going on his mission, then realizes she's become dependent on his Platonic companionship. Both films feature particularly trying, extremely mannered direction--Emilio Estevez channeling Robert Altman, corralling dozens of actors and extras as his camera people do their 100th down-the-hall-and-around-the-corner-and-into-a-different-room take, and Gary Marshall being, well, overly Gary Marshall I guess. Bobby (supposedly) received a seven-minute standing ovation at The Venice Film Festival; Georgia Rule was universally panned by critics and audiences alike. Bobby is like a 3-ring circus with a million things happening at once, while Georgia Rule's story has one moving part. Perhaps most importantly, both movies are great examples of how people totally steeped in Hollywood's weird pseudo-reality can take any subject matter and make it utterly unrelatable to anyone born outside the TMZ.

Either way, for all of the films' parallel fuck ups, Bobby is the bigger fuck up of the two films. Bobby is one of those Hollywood back-patting circle-jerks that can only appeal to Los Angeles County liberals who truly believe that giving lip service to race issues and supporting one fabulously wealthy, magazine-cover-handsome man forty years ago makes them monumentally Good people forever. Georgia Rule, by contrast, pandered to absolutely no one--one might say to a fault. To Georgia Rule's credit, the film was able to take extremely commonly-treaded subject matter and make a huge splash with it. Even if the impression Georgia Rule left the audience with was one of confusion or even disgust, it makes more of an impression than Bobby, which is able to take an exceptionally exciting subject matter and do nothing but make a yawn-fest for all non-Venetians. Honestly, why do I give a shit that the hotel's retired doorman is really good at chess? And why the fuck is he hanging out with Harry Belafonte? Is Harry Belafonte paying himself in this movie? And by that point, you've lost the viewer for good. I don't mean to totally shit on Bobby, because there are some nice things about it; Christian Slater is quite good as the (admittedly totally one-dimensional) racist kitchen and hospitality manager, and the few brief scenes featuring Nick Cannon as the temperamental, hard-ass young black RFK campaign worker are awesome. I guess, when it comes down to it, the main problem with Bobby is the same simple problem the viewer encounters with most Hollywood movies--not enough Lindsay!

2008 Sees Launch Of Whisky-Themed Wiki

On the first of this year one Ian Buxton launched, initially utilizing content provided by whisky author Gavin Smith. I, for one, am excited that there will be a free, centralized, and exponentially growing source of information about whisky on the internet.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

AEM Bargain Bin Selection #2: The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem's In Person At Carnegie Hall

$0.49, Reckless Records. My friend Brendan's family is so Irish that I learned about The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem while sitting around the dinner table at their house. Put simply, this act is the gold standard when it comes to recording artists of Irish folk music, and the record of their 1963 concert in New York was a breakthrough record with regard the entire genre for American listeners. I was shocked to find this admittedly scratched up copy neglected in Reckless's bargain bin, and thrilled to listen to it's anthem in celebration of the IRA and what must be an unusually ribald rendition of Galway Bay. And, of course, it's even more fun to listen to it after a few drinks.