Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hamell On Trial at Satalla 

The one-man king of Punk-Folk-Comedy-Rock (not that there's much competition), Hamell On Trial, rocked it last night at Satalla, a primarily world-music venue in the West 20's where he's in the middle of a Wednesday night residency. After carving a nice niche for himself at the late Fez, it seems like he's looking for a new place to hammer in his rock & roll stakes. Remains to be seen whether this is the right room for him or not, but then Hamell is a musical force to be reckoned with who commands the audience's full attention no matter where he plays.

In a brief chat after the show, Hamell said he has just one song left to record for his second album for Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe label, due for an October release. Ani is producing.

Hamell plays Satalla again next Wednesday, July 6 for the last night of this residency. Show is at 9:30 p.m. $12 cover at the door.

You can hear Hamell on two of my podcasts, Show #2 and Show #9. You can download these shows for free directly from the pages linked here, or from the brand-spankin'-new Podcasts section of the iTunes Music Store.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Summer Maxwell's Mania 

That guy from Jersey City who is nestled comfortably between Trio and Triumph The Insult Comic Dog in my iTunes library is swearing that this Saturday, July 2 at Maxwell's will be the last time he plays out until the fall. Hmmm, we've heard that sort of talk before, Tris—not that we're complaining about you gracing us with another local show. This'll be another "very special episode" of the Tris McCall Show, with local rockers Cropduster (now actually known as The Brokedowns) backing him up instead of his standard big band. Sure to be the most balls-out rockin' Tris show you'll ever experience.

Saturday's show is also another one of Andy Gesner's Artist Amplification events. Andy is a longtime supporter of the Jersey scene whose shows and compilation CDs have featured a who's who of cool Jersey rockers. For this edition of Artist Amp Live, in addition to TrisDuster, Mike Tichy is playing. Tichy's narrative style is radically different from The Mooney Suzuki, the NYC garage punkers for whom he played bass in their pre-Matrix days. (I'm not dissing The Matrix, merely explaining.) I saw Mr. Tichy do a fine set at The Goldhawk in early 2004. We talked for a few minutes that night, and the guy couldn't have been nicer. Rounding out the bill are Skyline Rodeo and Meet Me In Montauk.

Jim Testa and his legendary Jersey rock zine Jersey Beat are also putting on a big show at Maxwell's on Thursday, July 21. The most rockin' Secaucans I've ever seen, The Wrens, will headline, so you know it will sell out. Also playing are The Milwaukees, who I saw once at The Budapest in New Brunswick sometime in the late '90s, and The Amber Jets. The show is $10, and it's a Jersey Beat benefit. It's all ages, and tickets are available at the usual Maxwell's sources: Tunes (225 Washington Street in Hoboken, no website), Other Music, and Ticketweb.

And check out Testa's priceless rant about CBGB, which Gawker picked up, thanks to the eternally vigilant Señor Snitch.

Other Maxwell's hotness in the next couple weeks:

Tuesday, July 5: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Ribeye Brothers
Rockin' Swedes I've never seen live before, and stompin' swamp rockers including some Monster Magnet guys who rocked the back room a couple months ago.

Wednesday, July 6: Barbiana Complex
I'm not going to come up with a better concise description of this Hoboken band than Chuck Eddy of The Village Voice, so I defer to him: "Thick, sprawling, psychedelic fuzz-goth with an echoing, incoherently poetic but still rather gripping Sugarcubish female voice up front."

Thursday, July 7: Bettie Serveert
Go Dutch.

Tuesday, July 12: The Spinto Band
As recently hyped by Sarah "Ultragrrrl" Lewitinn, which means they'll probably be huge in a few months.

Thursday, July 14: Dungen
Already sold out—glad I already bought my tix to see the Swedish rock wünderkind.

Friday, July 15: Holly Golightly, The Woggles
I've seen both at this venue before; I was bored by the former, awed by the latter.

The club seems to be in the final stages of its recent external facelift. Not sure how I feel about the words "bar" and "grill" on either side of the club's name, but both are technically accurate. More fitting words would simply be "rock" and "roll." I'll try to snap a pic of the new facade and get it up here soon. In the meantime, go rock there.

Grokster Update 

SCOTUS remanded the Grokster case back down to a lower court. The file-sharing war continues.

Brooklyn Vegan has a fine collection of relevant links, and rightly notes that Boing Boing is all over this thing. So is SCOTUSblog. Surprisingly, Lawrence Lessig hasn't weighed in about it on his blog yet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Top 25 Most Played 

A recent minor computer disaster caused by RAM gone bad caused about a third of the songs in my iTunes library to disappear. That's about 4,000 songs. Thankfully the files were not lost; it was just the iTunes library file that was damaged. It took a few hours to drag and drop all the missing tracks back into iTunes, but that was infinitely easier than re-ripping them all from CD.

Thanks to a nifty $12.99 program called iPod Access, I was able to restore my Playlists, all of which were also lost in The Great iTunes Disaster Of '05. So in the end, the only data of any consequence I ended up losing were the play counts.

Play counts are one of the nerdiest aspects of iTunes, a sort of listening diary the machine keeps for you, documenting your every auditory move. It chronicles exactly how many times you played a track, as long as you let it play through to the end. You also see when it was last played. Glenn McDonald took the capability for dorkiness and customization inherent in iTunes to its inevitable nth degree, but as he quickly noted, he was mostly kidding.

I've only had my iPod for about eight months, so none of the play counts were ridiculously high, and nearly 7,000 of the 11,000 songs on my Pod had never once been played on the Pod or the computer desktop. (They have all been played on CD before being ripped into the Library.)

Since I've lost all my play counts and it's (just like) starting over, I might as well document what the 25 most played tracks were over these eight months. I wish the list were more interesting. I stand by the Pitty Sing record as one of my absolute faves of the year, but a few months from now, I don't think they'd dominate this list quite so much. But whatever.

1. Radio - PITTY SING
2. We're On Drugs - PITTY SING
3. The Mattachine Society - THE ALUMINUM GROUP
4. Keep It Warm - FLO & EDDIE
5. We Feel Good (Future's Looking Fine) - ENDGAMES
6. Cold Hands (Warm Heart) - BRENDAN BENSON
7. New Song - HOWARD JONES
8. Bleeding Hearts - PITTY SING
9. Anyway - PITTY SING
10. Telephone - PITTY SING
12. Cinnamon Park - JILL SOBULE
13. Siren Song - CRAYON ROSARY
14. Dreadlock Holiday - 10cc
15. Blasphemous Rumours - DEPECHE MODE
16. Gotta Stay High - NEW RADICALS
17. Hanging On Me - PITTY SING
19. Love And War (11/11/46) - RILO KILEY
20. Hate It Or Love It (G-Unit Remix) -
21. Tangled Up In Blue - BOB DYLAN
23. This Is What I Do - RHETT MILLER
24. You Get What You Give - NEW RADICALS
25. The Trouble With Normal - BRUCE COCKBURN

So there.

In other iTunes news, I just downloaded version 4.9 with built-in podcast support, which gives me a convenient excuse to psyche you all up for the return of my Hoboken Rock City podcast. As I've mentioned, I'm re-launching it as a monthly program. With any luck, the July show will be here and available for your downloading pleasure next week.

On another iTunes note, you gotta love Shuffle play, which will teach you that The Doobies' "Long Train Runnin'" has the same rhythm as Morrissey's "Interesting Drug."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Dylan Does Jersey 

Bob Dylan in concert, Friday's show in Little Falls (or was it Verona?) was probably the second-best I've witnessed, ranking only behind an incendiary December 1995 set at The Beacon Theater with Patti Smith.

His friend Jerry Garcia had died in August of that year. It's just conjecture, but after seeing Dylan's performance that night a few months later, I couldn't help thinking that Jerry's death had been some kind of wake-up call. The show wasn't Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966 or anything, but it was intense. Granted, it had been four years since I'd caught Bob in person, so maybe he'd already found his groove somewhere between those first three times I saw him in '89, '90, and '91 and when I caught up with him again in late '95. I've seen him so many times since, though, and while none of the shows were bad, I'd never seen him that fired up again.

This past Friday, Bob came close. Focused and fierce, he unfurled a stunning set that included "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again," which had taken over for "Tangled Up In Blue" many shows earlier as the "Bob song I've never seen him do live that I most want to see him do." Now I have to pick a new one. The fact that Friday was the closest I've ever been physically to the man and his stage also added significantly to the performance's visceral power. Standing alongside Brooklyn Vegan (who shot a boatload of cool pics of Bob and Willie) and our mutual friend Lupe (who reviewed the show on BV's site), we were 20 or so people back from the stage. The Yoge, home of the Can-Am League's New Jersey Jackals, was a great setting on an almost-too-warm Friday night.

Other highlights included a stately "Desolation Row" and a rousing "New Morning." Not a single song from the years 1971 to 1996, which is weird, but he often ignores huge whole chunks of his career in concert. Leading off the show with two love songs in a row from Nashville Skyline was unexpected but really, really cool. Bob played a lot of harp. The band rocked a lot. The Bard himself rocked the most.

Set list:
To Be Alone With You
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Just Like A Woman
Cold Irons Bound
Desolation Row
Highway 61 Revisited
Not Dark Yet
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Make You Feel My Love
New Morning
Summer Days

It Ain't Me, Babe
Like A Rolling Stone

Scanning their way through "On The Road Again," "Crazy," "Always On My Mind," and other hits, Willie Nelson & Family were good too. Willie's voice has hardly changed through the last three decades or so. Sadly, he didn't match the intensity of the one previous time I saw him, at Irving Plaza about five years ago. Missed the very opening song or two of his set due to directions and parking snafus, so I'm not sure if he played "Whiskey River," but he was playing that execrable "Beer For My Horses" thing as we were walking into the ballpark. Willie's still totally worth showing up for, though.

Friday, June 24, 2005

'Cause Down The Shore Everything's Alright 

Growing up an Italian-American boy in New Jersey in the '80s, I had to take careful precautions to avoid the dreaded Guido tag: don't grease your hair, don't listen to techno, don't drive a Camaro. Thankfully, I had no desire to do any of this, so I was never in any real danger of being lumped in with a crowd that I felt no connection to. A decade and a half ago, a site like NJGuido.com would have horrified me.

My feelings now are more complicated, or maybe just convoluted. Are these my kinda people listening to my kinda music? Probably not. I don't hang out at those places. Hell, I'm a Jersey loyalist who grew up going to Long Beach Island and Seaside Heights, but since the late '90s most of my summer house and beach time has been logged in Fire Island and The Hamptons.

That's mostly because the Strong Island beach destinations are where my New York friends go, and their gravitational pull has sucked me in. And as loyal as I try to be to Jersey, I've found a lot to like out there. In the Hamptons, every house worth renting has a pool (and if you're not too stupid, a hot tub). Fire Island has no cars and virtually no crime. Some people who've never been to these places like to make preposterous assumptions about them—idiotic thoughts like "everyone who goes to the Hamptons is a rich snob" or "Fire Island is all gay." I am living proof of the falseness of these sweeping generalizations, which are no less erroneous than any of the typical Jersey-bashing comments that most of the rest of the world seems to get a big kick out of making.

So even if the NJGuido.com scene perpetuates some stereotypes about our state, they're also celebrating their Jerseyness. For that, I stand and applaud them. Guidos, let your Jersey freak flag fly.

With a scorcher of a Jersey shore weekend on tap, now's a good time to revisit Ken Goldstein's landmark interview with NJGuido.com founder Anthony "The Moo" Moussa. Ken recently retired from The Illuminated Donkey, the Jersey City-based blog he wrote for the past three and a half years, and the web is all the worse for it.

Though it comes from a totally different angle, the presence of a promising new Jersey City blog called New York's Sixth makes it easier to let Goldstein off the hook. Sort of a Hudson County version of everybody's favorite NYC snark-a-thon Gawker, Sixth looks like it'll be a blog worth keeping tabs on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Art House Summer Blowout 

A whole gang of bands are playing this Friday at Victory Hall in Jersey City for the Art House Productions Summer Blowout.

My Teenage Stride—Jedediah Smith's band, whose brilliant song "Happy Mondays" was featured in Hoboken Rock City Show #2—should be a highlight, with the ubiquitous Tris on keyboards. I've never heard any of the other bands, but American Watercolor Movement have been highly touted elsewhere. Admission is only $7, they're raising money for a multimedia theatrical show the Art House is putting on this fall, and Middle Eastern food and raffle prizes are promised.

All the more reason for you to go: to make up for the fact that I can't, because that night I'm seeing Bobby and Willie. It'll be my first Bob show in almost two years (had tickets for Hammerstein on the night of the blackout, and the show was made up the following week), and my fourteenth overall, but who's counting? Maybe the stars will align and I'll finally get "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again." I've seen Willie once before, about five years ago at Irving Plaza, and it was one of the five or ten best things I've seen in the last ten years. We'll see how many times he plays "Whiskey River"—last time it was three, but that was a two and a half hour set.

I'm also psyched because the show's at the Yoge, a place I shamefully have never been to. I hear it gets late early there. And nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded. And they give you cash, which is just as good as money...

Anyway, Bob and Willie are sold out, so you want details for the big party in Jersey City, right? Sure you do.

Art House Summer Blowout
Friday, June 24
8 p.m. - midnight

at Victory Hall
186 Grand St. at Marin Blvd., Jersey City
(10 min. from NYC near Grove St. PATH)

Live music by
American Watercolor Movement
Duncan Pflaster
Han Shot First
My Teenage Stride

Directions to Victory Hall:
Take the PATH train towards Journal Square or Newark to the Grove Street stop. Go up the stairs and take the exit WITHOUT the escalator. Walk straight to Marin Blvd. and make a right. Victory Hall is 6 blocks down on the left, 186 Grand St. at Marin Blvd., 3rd floor.

More info: Art House Productions or call (201) 915-9911.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Weekend In Review 

At the courthouse on Friday, Mr. Tris McCall was brilliant and Dave's True Story were charming as ever. I have pics, too, and hopefully I'll get a few up soon.

I never even mentioned in this space that I saw my favorite "new Dylan" of the past 25 years, Dan Bern, when he was at Maxwell's a couple weeks ago. Solid show, but not amazing, and I've seen him be amazing. Either there were a lot of new songs, or he drew heavily on more recent albums like New American Language and Fleeting Days that I haven't spent enough time with. Two tunes from the classic debut album, "Marilyn" and "Too Late To Die Young." Nothing from his brilliant 2004 release My Country II: Music To Beat Bush By. Maybe it's just too depressing for him to go there, but I would've paid an extra $5 or $10 just to hear "Sammy's Bat" (as heard in Hoboken Rock City Show #2).

Surprisingly strong Saturday night crowd at The Goldhawk last night (crowds can get pretty thin around here on summer weekends). I have the next two weekends off, putting me back in the rock & roll rotation on July 9, which seems half a lifetime away.

And the geranium that the Roberts campaign left on my stoop back in April with a note saying "Happy Earth Day from the Roberts Team!" might be dying. Commentary, coincidence, or just my not-so-green thumb?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Warden Threw A Party In The County...Courthouse 

So, Tris McCall. Singer, songwriter, synthesist. Proponent of all things local, specifically all things Jersey. Muckraker. Baseball fanatic. Web auteur; don't call him a blogger, he's been here for years.

Thanks to a mutual friend, I've been lucky enough to get to know Tris a bit over the past couple years. The passion he puts into all his creative endeavors—his music, his writing, his website, the multi-artist shows and festivals he has curated and booked and publicized, Lord knows what else he's scheming up while I'm writing this—is admirable. His recognition that local issues, events, and politicians affect our lives in profound ways informs his creative output, and we would all do well to emulate his positive mantra of civic engagement and responsibility.

To see the man's website morph from predominantly local indie rock reviews to in-depth interviews with Jersey City mayor and council candidates was to witness an incredible level of commitment to raising the local discourse on topics that affect everyone. Tris did all this with his trademark wit, and what he would probably agree is that uniquely Jerseyesque blend of skepticism and optimism. He is the hardest-working man in Jersey show business, and I swear his days must be more than 24 hours long. People are taking notice, too; around the time of Jersey City's municipal election last month, Tris reported that his website was getting 10,000 visitors a day. The New York Times chimed in with this nice feature (registration required) last week.

Tris' most recent CD, Shootout At The Sugar Factory (Melody Lanes), is an indie synth-pop-prog masterpiece. In retrospect, I vastly underrated it when I put it at #24 on my list of favorite albums of 2003; it should have easily finished in the top 5. Songs from Shootout are featured in Hoboken Rock City Shows #1 and #3, my first and third podcasts.

Anyway, Tris' songs often deal with local politics specifically, and usually deal with New Jersey in general. There's almost no precedent to the coolness factor, then, to the fact that this Friday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. sharp, Tris will be playing a live set in the old Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City, at the behest of local pol and County Executive Tom DeGise. Admission is $10. There are so many layers of irony here that it would almost be insulting to spell them out for you, so suffice it to say that this is a completely bananas proposition. It promises to be a hoot.

As if that weren't enough, my longtime friends Dave's True Story are also on the bill. Though the three-piece band lacks McCall's Jersey pedigree (they're a New York City kinda vibe, dig?), their jazz-folk stylings are unique in a world where very little music earns that description. Their brand-spankin'-new CD Nature (Bepop) eschews most of the lyrical goofiness that characterized their earlier albums, but songwriter/guitarist David Cantor crafted a solid collection of gems for this record, sung with swingin' style by the always alluring chanteuse Kelly Flint, with Jeff Eyrich on bass. Around the time their album Sex Without Bodies was released in 1998, I sat down for a playful interview with Kelly and David at Fez. I featured tracks from Nature in Hoboken Rock City Shows #7 and #9, and a classic from their self-titled 1994 debut CD on Show #3.

This Friday's gig is the latest in a set of monthly folk-oriented shows presented at the old Brennan Courthouse. As Tris has documented on his site, DeGise is a big-time folk music freak, and this musical series is his way of showing Hudson County's support for the arts. The courthouse might not sound like much of a venue, but it's a grand old edifice, a masterful piece of architecture that effectively dramatizes the importance of law in a civil society. For real—they don't make them like this anymore. It should prove an inviting space for both of these artists. It is not to be confused with the current, functioning Hudson County Courthouse, an ugly-ass building right nearby it, where I've served two terms of jury duty.

Verbatim from Tris, here's how to get there: "The Courthouse is at 583 Newark Avenue. It’s a big, beautiful Federal-style building that you cannot miss. Journal Square is the next PATH stop after Grove Street on both lines. When you get out of the Journal Square PATH station, you’ll be on Kennedy Boulevard. Walk one block north to Pavonia. Make a right. Cross Summit Avenue, and make the next left on Central. You should see the Courthouse building – it's big, imposing, and unmissable, and at the top of a little grass hill. Climb up the hill and go straight inside. The rotunda is right beyond the big entrance doors."

Be there or risk a contempt of court citation.

On a side note, re the podcast, I know I promised a new show for June, but I just flat out lied. I know, I know, I suck. Early July—I promise, ok? And from there on out, I'll try to make it an ongoing monthly deal. I've collected a bunch of cool stuff to play on the next show, and it should be good summer fun. All apologies for the delay.

Roberts Wins Big 

No great shock. I didn't vote for him, but I'm not terribly upset that he won. Let's just hope he listens to those of us who don't want to see Hoboken turned into a collection of tall buildings rather than a set of neighborhoods. Some development is fine—the massive building boom that created thousands of new housing units in town over the last ten years has kept rents in the existing apartments from going too high, in fact. But enough is enough. So, we'll see.

Friday, June 10, 2005

You've Said It All 

Skanatra is playing a free show tomorrow at 3:30 on the Hoboken waterfront, appropriately at Sinatra Park. Skanatra's repertoire of course consists almost entirely of Frank Sinatra material reinterpreted in a variety of reggae, ska, and rock steady stylings. Their legendarily energetic shows are a hard-partying good time, and they're extra fun when the summer wind comes blowin' in from across the Hudson.

Of course, there is one non-Sinatra song Skanatra has been known to perform, and that happens to be the famous Budweiser jingle "When You Say Bud, You've Said It All." As fate would have it (and fate usually gets its way), said beer company is sponsoring tomorrow's events at the park, and they will be parading actual Clydesdales down River Street at 4:30. You can't make this shit up. I mean, technically you could, but it's much funnier knowing that it's real. The horses also will be "on display" at said park from 5 to 7 p.m. No word on whether petting is allowed. If you're having just way too good a time to leave, there's even a $10 spaghetti dinner and a "Sinatra open mic."

When you're done stuffing your face with spaghetti and meatballs, do like Rod Roddy would demand and "come on down!" to The Goldhawk, where I'll be spinning tuneage from 10 p.m. until I am physically restrained from doing so. That's usually around 2:30 a.m., although it could come earlier if I play England Dan & John Ford Coley or something. It happens. And as you should all know, it's a one-way door at Hoboken bars after 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights—roaches can check out, but they can't check in.

If you find yourself about a 45-minute drive farther south tomorrow night, get yer '80s groove on at The Den in Somerset (700 Hamilton St., about a mile south/west down Hamilton from the Ale & Wich). My esteemed DJ colleague Pat Pierson and former Melody DJ Peter McCabe have been hosting a totally rad '80s new wave night there on the second Saturday of every month since last summer. I never get to go because I'm usually spinning on Saturdays myself, but I hear they get a good mixed crowd (The Den is pretty much a gay bar) who appreciate the kind of music that used to be played at the late, great Melody Bar in New Brunswick in the '80s and '90s. Pat's also spinning at said Goldhawk tonight at 10 p.m. Every Thursday he's at The Loop Lounge in Passaic Park, which I hear is lovely this time of year. You can (and indeed should) listen to his Radio Boy show live streaming on the web today and every Friday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Rutgers' own WRSU. The man likes to DJ.

And peep this cool page of Hoboken pics that Mister Snitch found.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Anne Bancroft 1931-2005 

Yes, yes, she was Mrs. Robinson, coo coo ca choo and all that. But in my family's house, Anne Bancroft will always be remembered best as Antoinette, sister of Dominick DiNapoli, in the 1980 comedy Fatso. It's a movie so ingrained in three generations of my family for the last 25 years that I simply cannot write about it objectively. I'm just too close to it.

In addition to co-starring, Bancroft also wrote and directed this simple story about Dominick (played by Dom DeLuise), an overweight Italian-American New Yorker who confronts the fact that he's at serious risk of dying of obesity if he doesn't give up his beloved sausage and pepper sandwiches, chocolate eclairs, and all that other good, rich Italian food. There's a love story along the way, too, but the best bits in the film are the interactions between Dominick and his family and friends, all of whom go to great lengths to get him to stop eating too much. The inevitable hilarity ensues, and the film is awash in memorable scenes, quotable dialogue, and classic Italian-American themes like food, family, passion, and guilt.

I don't think critical response to the film at the time of its release was too positive, and the fact that Bancroft died before Fatso hit stores on DVD attests to its status as a somewhat forgotten little movie. I'll admit, too, that I haven't seen it since sometime in the mid-'90s, so the mists of time may be coloring my memory in a positive way, but I think only slightly so. This is a far better than average comedy, and it is surely one of the best and most realistic films about the common (read: "non-gangster") Italian-American experience ever made. Ms. Bancroft's only stab at writing and directing a feature outshined everything her husband Mel Brooks did on film since (that's including History Of The World, Part I, and don't even talk to me about Spaceballs). Suffice it to say that you should watch this film if you or someone you love is Italian-American, if you or someone you care about has ever struggled with their weight, or if you or anyone you've ever met in your life has ever eaten a cannoli.

Righting a longstanding wrong, Fatso will be released on DVD on July 12. It's terribly sad that Anne Bancroft did not live to experience that moment.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Every Brand New Day Should Be Unwrapped Like A Precious Gift 

The only commercial radio station in New York City that I found to be even vaguely tolerable, longtime oldies outlet WCBS-FM, changed its format on Friday to some heinous "mix" of train-wreck segues and songs nobody wants to hear. First song I heard on the new 101.1: "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks.

If the new station were truly free-form, or had any type of artistic or creative intent behind it, there would at least be that to recommend it, but there isn't. And even if there was, it still wouldn't matter. The station "went oldies" the same year I was born, making it pretty much the only FM radio station I've known under the same format at the same frequency for my entire life (I didn't discover NPR until my twenties). Even though I hadn't listened consistently the last couple years other than for a few minutes in the morning, there was a great comfort in knowing that CBS was there.

For most of my adult life—with occasional stretches on NPR stations WNYC and WFUV, just to break things up—the Realistic brand clock radio my grandparents gave me for Christmas in 1986 has been tuned to 101.1. More often than not, my morning began with a good song. If I was lucky, I'd wake up with a "Beatles Breakfast" block; short of that, it might be "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" or "My Cherie Amour." Harry Harrison, whose utterance "Every brand new day should be unwrapped like a precious gift" was the closest I came to experiencing religion in the course of most days, was the avuncular a.m. host until 2003, when the 8,473-year-old Morning Mayor was relegated to the Saturday morning radio ghetto. Monkee Micky Dolenz took over the weekday morning chair some months ago and was exceedingly listenable. Just last week, I got a groggy kick out of his rap about Deep Throat, and how now the only mystery left in the world was who is the subject of "You're So Vain," a comment that naturally led into said song. Micky, Harry, Cousin Brucie, Bill Brown, and Bob Shannon all got shafted in this format switch; none got to say farewell on the air.

In the past couple years, the programmers had eliminated doo wop and pretty much all pre-Beatles music from the rotation. I was happy to not have to endure The Penguins in order to get to The Beatles and Motown, but taking out Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard was just wrong. I thought it was a big hoot that the two biggest '80s synth pop hits in the U.S., "Don't You Want Me" and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)," had made the cut and were now officially oldies. (If anyone's keeping track, and I guess I was, the most recent songs I ever heard in regular rotation on the station, and therefore the two newest songs to be considered oldies, were two 1988 hits: Steve Winwood's "Roll With It" and Rod Stewart's "Forever Young.") Though not as adventurous as oldies stations in other markets, and not without some staple clunkers and bizarro segues of its own, WCBS was infinitely cool for playing classic pop like "More Today Than Yesterday," "Do You Believe In Magic?," and "Sugar, Sugar," along with a Beatles song every hour or so. Another station probably will come along to pick up the slack, but it won't be at that cool 101.1 frequency.

On another musical note (pun obviously acknowledged, if not premeditated), the sage Glenn McDonald's first new installment of The War Against Silence since last August is an eloquent if justifiably cranky commentary on why he, one of the last musical obsessives to resist the temptation to download music outside of officially licensed channels, finally gave in and began doing it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

First In War, First In Peace, And Last In The Political Primary Season 

In New Jersey, we take great, huge, heaping pride in our tied-with-Montana-for-last-in-the-nation primary date every June.

Okay, maybe not. Still, this Tuesday's the day when the state's registered Republicans will choose their party's gubernatorial nominee, and the state's registered Democrats will choose whether to vote for the Rock City's own Jon Corzine or catch up on the laundry. As one of the latter (one of the state's registered Democrats, not a laundry catcher-upper), I'll be doing the former (voting for Corzine), mostly just because I love to vote. And you should too.

If it's Tuesday night and you already put another dime in the washing machine, baby, fear not. As all registered voters of Hoboken ought to know by now, you'll get another chance to hit the booths next Tuesday for the Great Mayor & Council Runoff Election Of 2005. If you're scoring at home—or even if you're by yourself—that'll be your fourth opportunity to vote in the last nine Tuesdays, stretching back to the school board election on April 19. If that's not democracy, I don't know what is. Local campaign veteran Mister Snitch has an ongoing series of posts dissecting the original May election and analyzing the runoff.

On the national stage, I really dug The Talent Show's debunking of the myth of "moderate" John McCain.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Now He's Doing Horse, It's... 

Are you ready for the summer? Some links to start the new month.

Stylus' Top Ten Worst Ambassadors Of Italian Culture Via Song. Despite the fact that I've never even heard seven of these ten, this list resonated strongly for me, being a three-fourths Italian-American boy and all. Normally I'm curious to hear damn near everything, but I don't know how many of those seven I'll be seeking out. The piece's list of Italian-American musicians of note is good but could be expanded; if nothing else, Frank "Far From Over" Stallone and Joe "Honeymooners Rap" Piscopo are nowhere to be found. Hey, Joe Dolce's on the list; Joe P. is no less legitimate. And just to quickly riff off writer Dom Passantino's comments about stereotypical images of Italian-Americans in the media, the overrated Sopranos' reliance on tired Italian-related clichés never bothered me as much as the show's more egregious New Jersey-related stereotypes.

Audio and video of Lawrence Lessig's "Who Owns Culture?" dialogue with Jeff Tweedy, which I really wish I'd been able to attend when it took place at the New York Public Library in April. Via Coolfer. And speaking of Lessig, he's been in a lot of people's thoughts since the shocking, amazing New York cover story broke last week, revealing that the Elvis Of Copyright Law is leading the legal charge against a New Jersey statute that immunizes charities from negligence in order to obtain damages for a former student of the American Boychoir School in Princeton who was sexually abused there. The twist is that it turns out Lessig was subject to this type of abuse as well during his time as a student there decades ago. Insane.

The music biz would do well to heed Sasha Frere-Jones' anti-"listening session" manifesto, in which he states he will no longer review music if the only way he can hear it is in the label's or publicist's antiseptic conference room, and calls upon his brethren to take the same pledge. The man is right. Film screenings make sense for film critics, because usually you only need to watch a movie once in order to decide if it's any good. And the vast majority of movies—even many of the good ones—need not be seen more than once, unless it's Blazing Saddles. But good music demands repeated listenings. It's absurd to expect even the most seasoned critics to write an informed review after just one listening, under conditions imposed by somebody else.

Just for fun... Pickup lines: the first drafts. Link via the always-handy Twin Cities blogger Fimoculous.

'Cause when you plug Mike C., you plug yourself: after a rare two-week layoff, I'm spinning at The Goldhawk both Friday and Saturday this weekend. And look for the return of my web radio show / podcast later this month. The new plan is one show a month. That way, everyone can keep up. Especially me.

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