Monday, June 23, 2008

A Place For My Stuff 

Lenny Bruce was before my time, and though George Carlin's edgiest work was accomplished while I was an infant, it was his HBO specials in the '80s that taught me what edgy stand-up is.

Carlin was the people's comedian because he never put on airs and pretended to be above his audience. His observations were revelations, but he shared them in a down-to-earth way that made everyone believe, "Hey, I could've thought of that," even if you couldn't have. He showed us all what genius sounds like, without ever making any of us feel dumb.

"A Place For My Stuff" made a huge impression on me at age 12 and still resonates. It starts at 9:09 here in this clip from the 1984 special Carlin On Campus and continues here. Timeless...stuff.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brains, Looks, Money 

What better way to get back into writing about music than by, yes, writing about music. Here's what's rocking my world, circa...now.

My Morning Jacket
Evil Urges

Every recording by My Morning Jacket is weird, but they keep their audience engaged—and expanding—by flaunting a different layer of weirdness each time out. On Evil Urges, producer Joe Chiccarelli gives this Kentucky five-man electrical band a level of slickness that feels like the right fit for a somewhat more funkdafied, less rootsy-sounding set of songs.

MMJ is good for one or two punchy, uptempto tunes suitable for bar/club DJ play per album, and "Aluminum Park" fits the bill just fine. Their finest moments, though, are usually more esoteric songs like the title track here. Singer Jim James explores his voice's highest registers for a dreamy creation that takes previous Radiohead comparisons to their apotheosis. Elsewhere, "Highly Suspicious" is awfully good for a track that sounds like a Korn-inspired "Weird Al" song, and will probably become unlistenable forever if it somehow manages to becomes a rock radio hit. "Sec Walkin" and the two parts of "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream" are standouts as well.

(Having been involved on the editorial and marketing side of the band's four RCA releases myself [two studio albums, one live album/DVD, and an EP], of course I was dying to hear what they'd do next; I'm not disappointed.) Live is where they excel most. They're playing Radio City Music Hall this Friday, and we should all be thankful that Mr. James is an upstanding guy, because if he were to hand out Kool-Aid during the encore, thousands of takers just might line up with Dixie cups.


Everyone's comparing this Pennsylvanian new wave singer to Sri Lankan sensation M.I.A., and it's true there are a few worldy (world-y?) influences to be detected on her debut album. But despite forays into reggae-ish territory, this is pretty damn far away from third world–influenced hip-hop. There's more than a little Lene Lovich and Annabella Lwin in the vocals on the must-have opening track "L.E.S. Artistes" and many of the album's other stark songs, and Debbie Harry clearly made her impression as well.

Her take on The Jam's "Pretty Green" (not present here) was arguably the highlight of Mark Ronson's 2007 covers collection Version, and this debut album seems like that recording's more thoughtful extension. This is mostly straight-ahead rock sung by a non-white female, and that tends to throw some people off. What we may have on our hands here is this year's Kenna.

Flight Of The Conchords
Flight Of The Conchords
(Sub Pop)

The New Zealand folk-parody duo's exploits in New York on their HBO series were way too funny to not take seriously. Amazingly, most of the songs stand up on their own and are worth many more repeat listenings than anyone might suspect. Whether channeling The Pet Shop Boys ("Inner City Pressure"), Barry White ("Business Time") or French pop of the '60s ("Foux da Fafa"), their cleverness always amuses without going over the top. Though it's disappointing that not every essential song from season one of the TV series appears here—"If You're Into It" is only on last year's The Distant Future EP, and the brilliant "Sello Tape" is inexplicably still unreleased—this is surprisingly necessary listening.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sometime To Return 

The short version is that I've been busy.

This blog began some years ago as an outlet for my writing after Yeah Yeah Yeah, the Trouser Press-inspired indie-rock zine to which I'd dedicated blood, sweat and years, finished its eight-year run. I needed a new outlet, and for a while this was perfect.

Time wore on and my DJ career got busier. Then my full-time music biz job got more intense. It became increasingly more challenging to find the time for epic pieces like my annual best-music-of-the-year roundup, my exclusive interview features, or even my informative-type tidbitty affairs.

So I took a break. It turned out to be a long one. As I've recently made the almost obligatory transition from full-time staff to consultant status, my time has become more flexible, and I'm starting to pursue my rock journalism dreams once again. The best part is that I have more than enough consulting work to keep me busy while I find my way.

Frankly, I now contemplate the next phase of my career with more optimism than I would have guessed was possible or even sensible, given the state of the economy in general and the health of big record labels and big music publications in particular. I've already conquered one "dying" business; here's to vanquishing another.

On with the show, this is it.

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