Monday, July 31, 2006

moving to help the next generation of kids not screw up popular culture

Today at lunch, I had a conversation with my co-workers in which I revealed that one of my biggest fears is that I'm no longer in a place to shape pop culture. Not in a way that I ever had my own Entertaiment Weekly, Spin, or DIW to dictate what was cool, but there was a sense of accomplishment in hand-stapling my own zines, as well as interviewing a bunch of bands before they became regulars on TRL and Pitchfork.

Goofing off on the Interweb, I discovered this New York Times article (by way of the Gawk) in which older (and some not-so older) business people are hiring kids in their teens to be their conduit to the youth of America. I was briefly sad, then I laughed. Loudly.

If there's one thing I've learned from having a younger sibling or three, is that kids don't know shit. Including me. When I was 15, I'm pretty sure that my goal wasn't to be a singer in a hardcore band. In fact, I can guarantee that my number one goal when I was 15 was to be a famous mixtape DJ, a goal that a) isn't very hard to achieve anymore and b) doesn't mean crap.

Here's the thing about teens in general: their tastes will change constantly, and maybe that's why these out-of-the-loop folks are hiring kids, but then again, tastes are dictated by trends, and who controls the trends? Viacom, Universal Music Group, and News Corp. So if you really want to know what's going on with youth culture, wouldn't it be easier (or at least cheaper) to cruise Myspace, watch some MTV, and keep an eye on Jay-Z?

I think so, anyway. I certainly wouldn't go to my brother to find out what's cool since his current musical diet consists of Hyphy Bay Area Rap which, save for E-40, is terrible.

It's not out of the question that one day these kids will rule the world, and that's not my main gripe. The question is why would I trust the musical palette of a generation of spoiled brats whose main vehicle of communication is a cell-phone with a QWERTY keyboard and whose grammar is reduced to half-words and idiotic acronyms (whatevs and LOL)?

I wouldn't trust these halflings with my life, let alone decide whether Panic At the Disco will be the "new" Duran Duran.

the greatest hip-hop movie you cats forgot about

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Cinematic excellence and hip-hop seldom go hand-in-hand. For example, I highly doubt that people are pushing for a special edition DVD release of the Ice Cube/Ice-T crime drama "Trespass" or that there's a cult following for the MC Lyte flick "Fly By Night," but there's at least one hip-hop movie that's held in high regard, "Wild Style."

What's so fascinating about "Wild Style" is that you pretty much get to see hip-hop culture as this raw, virginal force; this is especially true since the film was made during the hip-hop's infancy. It's an exciting movie to watch, for sure. Fast forward to 2004 and we're given, "Fade to Black," a documentary exhibiting Jay-Z's retirement show from Madison Square Garden.

While we currently have these two films to bookend hip-hop's film experience, what about the middle? What films can we count on to display what many people have regarded as the "golden age of hip-hop?" There's really only a loose checklist, held together by cast members -- "Juice" featuring a young, pre-gangsta Tupac, "Who's the Man?" featuring every name in hip-hop in 1992, "Cool as Ice" starring everybody's favorite rapper, Vanilla Ice.

Most people usually forget "House Party."

This 1989 Reginald Hudlin film is probably the milemarker for hip-hop's golden age; let's forget the absence of the Native Tongues (who are usually referenced), but let's look at it as a snapshot of the late '80s/early '90s. Committed to celluloid, you have Groove B. Chill's faux Dana Dane persona, Kid-N-Play's willingness to dance (when's the last time you saw a rapper bust out moves like them?), Martin Lawrence's secret vinyl arsenal, and most of all, the soundtrack -- a series of pre-New Jack Swing singles and Flavor Flav party raps.

Ultimately though, "House Party" embraces the suburban take on hip-hop, in all its colorful, Cross Colour glory. Films such as "Wild Style" and "8 Mile" depict hip-hop as an urban experience, glossing over its commercial appeal for a sense of grit. But in "House Party," Kid-N-Play -- our protagonists -- are suburban teens, one of whom (Play) is a spoiled, upper middle class high school senior. But he can still flow real well, thus proving that thug life doesn't mean mic skills.

Though "House Party's" subsequent sequels were as vapid as that new Paris Hilton record, the original stands as a testament that there was once a time where middle America could still embrace good hip-hop, that there was once a time when white kids didn't try to dress like they were in Onyx, and more importantly, it reminds us all that there was once a time when hip-hop was actually fun.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

tidbits 7/25/06

- who likes burritos? me, that's who.

- eisley posted the new video for "memories." it's pretty cool as far as music videos are concerned

- i have some new stuff posted from the latest ish of redefine

- rhino has recently reissued bjork's warner bros. catalog with dualdisc special editions

- i've been hooked on past episodes of CSI lately.

album o' the day

Leigh Nash
"Blue on Blue"
(One Son/Nettwerk)

Leigh Nash is the lady who sang her little heart out in Sixpence None the Richer, a Christian pop band, who had a fairly large hit ("Kiss Me") with the 'tween crowd. Somewhere, post-Sixpence break-up, Nash found herself hitting a solo stride, contributing to soundtracks and doing justice to the breath-y female vocal genre, not unlike Dido, Jenny Lewis or Feist.

Unlike Dido, Jenny Lewis or Feist, however, Nash does not mask her shortcomings by pandering to dying "electronica" fans, making false claims that her record is an R&B album or releasing a really bad remix album. None of that. Leigh Nash's solo album is simple and easy on the ears. It's the kind of record that both you and your mom could share, though you'd no doubt tell your peers that it's a guilty pleasure like Gwen Stefani. But nobody should be ashamed of owning "Blue on Blue," unless you're really into the Misfits.

[Leigh Nash at Myspace]

Friday, July 21, 2006

can cut chemist save "turntablism?"

Today, I received a copy of the new Cut Chemist solo album, "The Audience Is Listening." Many people who are familiar with mainstream hip-hop know Cut Chemist (nee: Lucas McFadden) as one of two DJs for Jurassic 5 (Nu-Mark is the other), and people who are hippies may know him from the earliest incarnation of Ozomatli.

Outside of those groups, however, the Cut has a particularly high profile: his Brainfreeze and Product Placement collaborations with DJ Shadow (live performances that emphasized funk and garage rock 7 inches, respectively), his production and remix contributions for several elite artists (Ugly Duckling, Jem), his expansive knowledge of rare breaks, and let's not forget his legendary performance at Future Primitive with DJ Shortkut.

What's interesting about Cut Chemist's solo release is that it's Warner Brothers' second "turntablist" release in the year and a half (Z-Trip's "Shifting Gears" was the last one) and if Z-Trip's record sales were any indication, then the suits should expect this record to brick. Bad.

Then again, the main problem with Z-Trip's album (as well as the last two X-Ecutioners albums) was the decision to make it less about DJing and more about the rapping, plus all parties involved had someone from Linkin Park guest on their records. Cut Chemist has taken on a different approach, inviting lesser known rappers to guest on a few track and focusing more on the instrumental and scratch aspect.

While "The Audience Is Listening" is less fleshed out than DJ Shadow's "Endtroducing" and less bombastic than Triple Threat DJs' "Many Styles," it's still an easier listen than Z-Trip's album. There's less going on in terms of "musical diversity." Cut Chemist basically made the kind of mixtape that would've been huge six years ago and I can't get mad at the guy for it.

I would imagine the people who used have a boner for the term "turntablism" listening to this album and really, really enjoying it. So much in fact that perhaps they may take up the turntables again. Maybe.

the holographic review

New London Fire
"I Sing the Body Holographic"

When I first heard the debut album from New London Fire a year ago, I swore up and down that it was going to be the biggest thing since Depeche Mode, or at least The Killers. A few months after streaming their album on their site, the band then released a free teaser EP called "A Wave Form" via the interweb, and then...nothing.

Originally slated to be released back in the winter, New London Fire's "I Sing the Body Holographic" finally finds a proper release on Eyeball Records, which isn't too big of a surprise considering that singer Dave Debiak's Sleep Station has been on Eyeball since its inception.

A vast departure from the indie rockness of Sleep Station, NLF is a nu-wave band, which makes it more of a shame that their record wasn't released a year ago. But that doesn't mean that the songs have declined in quality, quite the contrary, actually.

The lead single," Different," though featured on numerous comps and the "Wave Form" recording, still sounds great and ambitious. The subtle track "Nadine" is a throwback to latter-era R.E.M., the album builds up to the anthemic "Gremlin in the Machine" only to walk away slowly with the final track "Somewhere in Between," an acoustic campfire tune (complete with group singalongs, mind you).

There are some seemingly uninspired moments on the record: on "Someone Like You," the male/female vocal play sounds close to Open Hand's "Tough Guy/Girl" and "When I Try" is the same old generic nu-wave crap that made Action Action's first album the stinker it was.

Though it's a shame that the record seems trite given the amount of bands who've come out Moog-ing themselves to death, a good record is still a good record and at least New London Fire have that going for them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

the not-so happy hollow

"Happy Hollow"
(Saddle Creek)

Unlike some of their Saddle Creek brethren, Cursive hasn't been successfully baited by major labels or found themselves to be objectified as sex symbols. In fact, the band is probably revered for singer Tim Kasher's heart-on-sleeve-yet-multi-symbolic lyrics, a loving tribute to bands of yesteryear such as Rites of Spring. Following a year-long break, Kasher and his Cursive company return to bring us "Happy Hollow," a departure from 2003's "The Ugly Organ."

Almost immediately, "Hollow" presents itself as less of a moody record and more of the type of rock & roll concept record that Cursive is able to craft. The change is probably due to the much publicized exit of cellist Gretta Cohn; as is such, the band have traded strings for horns, which are prominent in the lead single "Dorthy At Forty."

Much of the album builds on allusions to "Wizard of Oz," but also find time to hit some social commentary through tracks like "Big Bang" and "So-So Gigolo," the latter featuring some lead guitar parts straight out of the Slash book of riffs.

When compared to "The Ugly Organ," Cursive is obviously evolving, not unlike Weezer or Jimmy Eat World. "Organ" may be considered their peak as a band, but "Happy Hollow" further solidfies Kasher's place in Saddle Creek as their most underrated, yet most prolific, songwriter; and while "Hollow's" usage of horns can be construed a misstep since, at face value, Cursive comes off more like a New Orleans marching band rather than the people who brought us "Burst and Bloom." Then again, if this band didn't take chances then we wouldn't have something like "Domestica" or "The Ugly Organ" to hold in such high regard. While I wouldn't say that this is Cursive's best album, it's very strong and reminds us that at one point there was a Cursive without the cello.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

...and the rant continues

Listening to Morrissey always put me in somewhat of a somber mood, so I'm listening to Cursive's new "Happy Hollow" in favor of "Viva Hate."

To piggyback from my earlier post, I'd thought I'd share Krys Jagger's general info from her myspace account:

"Krys Jagger is a pop icon, raconteur, award-winning writer, and socialite found wherever the light shines the brightest. Her works include poetry, short fiction, Gonzo Journalism, and social-commentary. Famous for her quick wit and candor, Jagger has several projects in the works, and is currently contributing to a variety of publications. For more information on Krys Jagger, you may contact her Publicist at"

Does anybody find this a little self-indulgent? Maybe it's because I'm somewhat of a self-deprecating bastard, but there's a part of me who feels that even a media whore like Paris Hilton would see this description as nothing more than the apex of conceit. Here's what problematic about Jagger and her "fansite," real writers are never celebrities. You can find instances in which this thought could be disputed (Hunter S. Thompson and Lester Bangs maybe), but when has someone like Oliver Wang or Jessica Hopper found themselves with a fansite, let alone a publicist? Part of being a music writer is that you're grounded, you have your ear to the street and your finger on the pulse of the community. Placing yourself above that makes you nothing more than a (pardon the language) starfucker (word to NIN).

[P.S. Gonzo journalism is played. Seriously, it's an excuse to have something published with very little substance. If you're not Thompson or Holden Caufield, then I suggest you stop this gonzo business and stay off the crack]

[P.P.S. Jagger is from Salinas, California, where I lived for a few years in between parents and let me say that the town sucks, and to prove my point, they shut down a number of local libraries including the John Steinbeck library. If this town doesn't even a have decent library, how can it harbor a starlet like Jagger. I guess that's why she had to move to NY and star in a shitty show]

[update: Her real name is Krystal Simpson. Go figure.]

clown shoes

[hipster photo proudly borrowed from]

So if you haven't heard, the forces of evil (read: old media) Rolling Stone and MTV have consummated an evil marriage by birthing a reality TV show of ridiculous proportions (as if reality TV in general wasn't already ridiculous). The basic premise is that they find a few William Millers from around the U.S. and have these jagoffs show what it's really like to be a "music journalist." Here's what I've learned about music writing from the 10 years I've been doing it:

1. You get a lot of free shit (albums, tickets, shirts, etc.)
2. You don't get paid as much as movies and television would lead you to believe
3. Death threats come and go but no one ever acts on them. Yet.

I'm not quite sure how MTV plans to stretch out the most unglamorous task into an entire season full of random acts of drunkeness and drama, but they'll probably find a way. I have this feeling that Krys Jagger (the dime in the ungodly hipster shades) will probably be the lightning rod for any grief that will occur. Check out her Myspace page. Really now, what kind of reality TV star has a fan site before the show hits the air? Maybe the kind who starts her own fan page, oh snap!

[On a side note, it annoys the hell out of me when people don't reduce the size of their photos. Seriously, I don't need to look at an enlarged picture of your coked up face, girl.]

[Related Links]

Gawker's Coverage of Rolling Stone's Likely Demise

Friday, July 14, 2006

Rhymin' Festival!

"Blue Collar"

Rhymefest is probably best known for penning "Jesus Walks" for every hipster's favorite rapper, Kanye West. But behind that notoriety, Rhymefest is a fairly headstrong emcee in his own right. "Blue Collar" is a bombastic debut, the kind of album would've been big in the 1990's, but due to the destructive nature of contemporary hip-hop, this record might go gold (emphasis on might).

"Collar" opens up with the huge-sounding "Dynomite." This is a pretty hard song to follow up on since the lyrics are strong and the beat is just classic golden age hip-hop. The anti-girl track "Stick" samples the shit out of Run-DMC's "Peter Piper," but given the song's topic, I doubt Rev. Run would approve of this song; if not for the beat, actually, I wouldn't give the song a second spin. There's also an amuzing reworking of the old Foundations song "Build Me Up Buttercup" featuring a very dead Ol' Dirty Bastard. I would liken it to the Biz's "Just a Friend." It's that good.

For the most part, "Blue Collar" is stronger than your typical hip-hop release. It would be a very consistent record if "Chicago-Rillaz" was omitted from the tracklisting, but the strength of the beats and Rhymefest's lyrics really makes that song a small shortcoming in an otherwise great debut album.

where's my deluxe edition of "pinkerton"

"I'm not convinced that we have a greatest-hits album that is worth putting out at this point." -- Rivers Cuomo

Hey Rivers, though you may not be too aware of this due to your recent nuptuals and general insanity, but there's actually two Weezer greatest hits albums. This one and this one.

I can't say that I'm too surprised that Cuomo is putting the brakes on his long-running band, Weezer. Post-Pinkerton, they always seemed like they were on the verge of breaking up, which may or may not have been attributed to Cuomo's legendary ego. Though their last three albums have been lukewarm at best, Weezer has still gone on to maintain their cult-like status despite giving frat boys anthems such as "Beverly Hills" and "Hash Pipe."

I personally have very fond memories of watching Weezer play and enjoying many of their records (even the "Green Album!"), but I must say that this break-up is long overdue and most definitely welcome by yours truly.

Like many people in their 20's, I want to preserve the legend of Weezer with their apex (and arguably overhyped), "Pinkerton." And like those same kids, I'd rather not be reminded of how Cuomo whored out his writing to bands such as Cold and Limp Bizkit, as well as going back to writing generic pop songs to get some of that Clear Channel money. Essentially, we can credit Cuomo with rubbishing the Weezer mythos.

At the same time, the slow suicide of Weezer has also birthed bands such as Ozma and The Rentals (featuring former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp) who not only owe a lot to Weezer, but are up to par with Cuomo's melodic nerd confessions.

[Related Links]

Rivers breaks up Weezer via MTV
The Rentals

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

when pop-punks turn into hipsters

[this asshat was cooler when he played pop-punk. now he's just another run-of-the-mill jock with easy access to money, coke and pro-tools]

Due to the buzz generated by the Internet, someone thought it would be a good idea to let Midtown's Gabe Saporta go to town on the theme song for Sam Jackson's new movie, "Snakes On a Plane." The end result is Cobra Starship's (a.k.a. Saporta and a rotating line-up of idiotic guests) "Snakes On a Plane (Bring It)," a three-minute song using snakes as a metaphor for shady people, and while I'm not the first person to report how ridiculously lame this song is, I should point out how Saporta (as well as a host of other former pop-punk superstars) have been shifting towards danceable hipster tunes...possibly trading in their royalties for coke.

You see Gabe, nobody can take your faux-hipster shit seriously since you spent the last eight years or whatever, playing cheesy pop-punk songs; actually, come to think of it, nobody should take hipsters or pop-punk kids seriously, so I guess you have that commonality going for you.

Anyway, the song itself is pretty bad: blaring horns and plastic strings that sound like their straight out of ACID, the hook sounds like the chorus from "Fame," and that dude from Gym Class Heroes pops in at the end, rapping the worst lyrics since "Nookie" by Limp Bizkit. Yeah I'll say it: Fred Durst is probably better than Schleprock (does he still use that name?). Maja from The Sounds also appears on the track, doing that annoying Gwen Stefani-chant thing; most of all, however, her appearance solidifies the notion that people (guys and lesbians) buy The Sounds because she's in the band and not for their music.

If you're currently in a pop-punk band and you're contemplating making the transition into the hipster dance genre, listen to this song and save yourself the years of embarassment that will follow.

tidbits 7/12/06

* hilarious interview with manny from saves the day and glassjaw on base_001

* spin put up some awesome live videos of say anything

* finally!!!!!! the teaser for transformers!!!!

* did you get the new dashboard album? yeah, me neither. i can really see this band taking off to be the new dave matthews band.

* the new tegan and sara DVD is coming out with the quickness...pre-order that ish!!!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

lindsay "sweet 16" lohan might appreciate this

Evertan Lohan, you're lucky that a resourceful website such as Youtube exists, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to find these sweet videos of actual, real live DJs on the internet. I believe a "Thank You" is in order somewhere.

* DJ Babu's "Blind Alley" routine

* P-Trix's "Itsowezee" routine

* Melo-D and D-Styles (Beat Junkies) scratch session

* Rob Swift "Nobody Beats the Biz" routine

* Scratch Perverts at Skratchconn 2000 (on a sidenote, I recently donated my shirt from this show to Goodwill, it would be a gas if some old lady was wearing it)

* Invisibl Skratch Piklz Vs. X-Men (X-Ecutioners) (this is 20 minutes long, but worth it)

...and the number one reason i have lost faith in everything

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, that's Lindsay "Tore Up From the Floor Up" Lohan manning the turntables at some shindig with Steve "I Am the Shame of Asian-Americans Everywhere" Aoki. (BTW, this image was delightfully borrowed from the Cobrasnake, via Gawker's Blue States Lose).

So, ouch that hurts a little. Here I am, a dude who spent a good chunk of his formative high school years learning stuff about DJing, particularly the all the trickery that made Omar Epps cool in "Juice," and the obsession of tabloid America walks in and acts like she knows what's up (sidenote: If you look closely, Lohan is using "Scratch," a program that turns your mp3 files into usable "virtual vinyl." She's not even using real records). As you can imagine this is somewhat disturbing/frustrating/etc. Must we really revisit the whole "I hate hipster DJs" thing every year?

I guess this picture's probably the worst of them all because it really does signify that any dolt (such as Evertan Lohan) can stand behind turntables (when in reality they're using iTunes) and act like they're rockin' the party. I hate to say this, but perhaps DJs with anything remotely close to talent are as dead as the dodo.

Friday, July 07, 2006

the comic-movie embargo

I hate Bryan Singer.

Not for having a revisionist take on X-Men, not for his Christ-esque take on Superman, and not for "The Usual Suspects" or "Apt Pupil." I dislike Singer because X-Men succeeded.

I was probably one of the few comic book fans who were able to divorce the movie property from the comic; as is such, I liked it a lot. But along with the success of the X franchise (as well as other films such as "Sin City," "Fantastic Four," "Spiderman" and "V for Vendetta"), now we have a bunch of studios readying more comic flicks: "Fantastic Four 2," "Iron Man," "Green Hornet," "Watchmen," and "Wolverine" are a few titles that are being eyed for release.

I can really imagine all these movies coming out and just bricking -- "Captain America" style. I didn't mind "X-Men" as a movie because a) they've been talking about doing an X-Men movie for 15 years or so (even toying around with Clint Eastwood as Wolverine at one point) and b) due to the popularity of the title, it was inevitable.

But a "Watchemen" movie? Seriously, folks, unless it's an animated feature with an "R" rating, I'm hesitant to believe that such a production would yield positive results. In fact, even dead titles like "Brigade," "Gen 13" or "Power Man and Iron Fist" would probably suck, too.

Part of the excitement of reading comics is that your imagination is still being exercised and now with the Hollywood money machine trying to bank on every property, it will cheapen the thrill of comics.

So Hollywood, stop screwing with my comics and go work on a remake of "Dutch" or something, since remakes seem to be all the rage these days.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

wack ass zeroes vs. crazytown 2: the final showdown (or why i am always right)

Earlier this morning, I wrote this long-ass post defending my work to some piles who had way too much time on their hands. I didn't want to give them a sense of satisfaction, so I deleted the post, only leaving this as an example of how ignorant some people (and bands) are:

dumb song 1 and dumb song 2.

thoughts on "rock star: supernova"

It's bad. Like scraping a Brillo pad over your eyes.

Let's recap: "Rock Star: Supernova" is a show on CBS that finds Tommy Lee, Gilby Clarke and Jason Newstead attempting to revitalize their otherwise dead careers by forming a superband called, you guessed it, Supernova. The reality show's plotline focuses on the band's search for a singer -- as well as all the bickering among the contestants.

The band itself sounds like a band that features ex-members of Metallica, Motley Crue, and Guns & Roses, so you could pretty much figure out what kind of shit comes out of their amps. The contestants, for the most part, are the kind of people who listen to local "hard rock" stations -- the kind of people who get Nickelback's lyrics tattooed on them and own at least two Fuel albums. If you don't know, these images come to mind:

Thus far, some of the contestants have been singing rockin' hits by the likes of Evanesence and Goo Goo Dolls, as well as shitting on classics by The Who and The Police.

So with that said, it's terrible, but I'll probably continue to watch it because, during the summer, there's nothing else better on television. It's a new all-time low for me.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

the 90's just keep coming back

Tha Dogg Pound
"Cali Iz Active"

The time machine otherwise known as pop music just keeps churning out long forgotten hitmakers of yesteryear as Snoop Dogg's posse, Tha Dogg Pound gets another run for the gold with their new album, "Cali Iz Active."

Tha Dogg Pound was probably one of the most overlooked groups on the old Death Row roster (word to Lady of Rage), though their core members had as much to do with the label's success as their iconic logo. Daz produced the bulk of Death Row's non-Dre catalog, particularly in the label's heyday (1993-1995) and Kurput was easily the strongest emcee, perhaps better than the label's bread and butter, Snoop and 2Pac. Though their debut, "Dogg Food," was as strong as it could be, it was followed by a series of disappointing group and solo releases, as well as public fueding between the duo and Death Row.

"Cali Iz Active" finds Daz and Kurupt adding Snoop to their group, thus making a trio, though it should be noted that the O.G. duo still handles a bulk of the work.

When it comes to the gangsta rap genre, time typically does not side with the artist and such is the case with Tha Dogg Pound. They try their best to act has if the downtime between 1997 and 2003 never happened and as a result there are tired songs such as "It's Craccin All Nite" (which rips off Dead Prez's anthemic "Hip-Hop") and "Fakenass Hoes" are buried within the tracklisting. These songs are pretty sad attempts to show DPG's diverse sound. Yeah, right.

The best tracks, "Kushin' N Pushin," "Keep It Gangsta," and "It's All Hood," center around Daz's classic production techniques, which rely heavily on west coast soul samples. It's everything that Cube's "Laugh Now, Cry Later" wasn't.

"Cali Iz Active" describes the strengths of the album best; while Daz and Kurupt attempt to modernize their sound, they succeed when they brandish their blue bandanas and walk the familiar gangsta lines that made them so great to begin with.