Saturday, March 31, 2007's just so, so wrong...

UPDATE: Viacom sucks, and the British are too sensitive.

Start At The End

If you love film the way I do, you probably have a genre or sub-genre that excites you on a molecular level. For me it's crime thrillers & mysteries, noir, neo-noir, etc etc. I mostly like the heavy dramatic variety, but the occasional lighter kind is good too (like say Out Of Sight from 1998, which remains the only worthwhile work that Jennifer Lopez has ever done). My problem, then, right now, is that I am majorly psyched because I just saw The Lookout, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I want to type & type & type about it, and well the problem comes in that I'm totally jazzed and can't focus on one thing...Look at this, I'm even runnin' my sentences on. As a bonus dilemma, I also want to catch the newest episode of South Park which is replaying in seven minutes. So that's like, what, 18 things I want to tell you about. I'm not going to sleep until I run out of things to say, I promise. It's gonna be a long night, but in here somewhere will be a glowing movie review.

Somehow, I don't get why Van Halen's "Jump" is a good stadium song. Granted, it's during the Lakers/Rockets game, so ya know, haha, get it, slam dunk = jump. Yeah whatever. Also, Amy Poehler (sp? I'm too lazy to check) is on Leno, and well (a) nice legs, and (b) bored me enough to watch the Lakers/Rockets game. Be more funny.

Speaking of Out Of Sight, Paul Schaffer's band is playing the Isley Brothers' "It's My Thing". And again, The Lookout was written & directed by Scott Frank. Frank is apparently one of my favorite screenwriters, and I didn't even realize. He wrote both Out Of Sight and Get Shorty. I like both; both are also Elmore Leonard novels. Both are crime thrillers. Difference though - The Lookout is (a) not an Elmore Leonard novel adaptation, (b) nor funny. The Lookout is wonderfully tense and downbeat and exhilarating and...uh...wait...

South Park is on. I'll be back...'s a '24' parody, and it's already hilarious.
There is a nuclear bomb in Hilary Clinton's vagina.
Trey & Matt are fucking out of their minds.

TV On The Radio is playing "Wolf Like Me" on Kimmel. This is sublime, and the musical freedom that Kimmel gives his performers more than justifies the existence of his show. Will Arnett has a mustache. They're gonna play "Dirtywhirl" off the air. This is blowing my mind right now.

Scott Frank obviously (...or maybe not) whittled The Lookout down from years of stray script ideas. The story isn't exactly special, in fact it's so straight-forward and kind of predictable that you could call it classic. It's one you've seen before, but that's because it's really really excellent. Small town high school jock star falls from grace, becomes cast aside loser, gets wrapped up in criminal plot (in this case, a heist of the bank he works as a janitor at) only to make his stand right at that climactic moment. Frank's brilliance is injecting his hero with a soul abyss, a deep sorrow my girlfriend said, that you rarely see in movies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Chris Pratt is soaked in sadness, his eyes always downcast; he looks like a dank basement. There are no bright colors in (t)his world until Isla Fisher's panties - the color of raspberry ice cream at Friendly's, that lavender that leans on the red side.

Chris Pratt's affliction, the thing that places him firmly in the loser column, is his short-term memory loss and some motor skills problems. Now, we all saw Memento, and we know, it's a masterpiece. But this is different. Guy Pearce is awesome in that - but, well, he played it like he thought it should be played, as an actor, with a part and a script. Gordon-Levitt becomes it. He is this guy. He put himself in the life of a young guy who, in one night, in one accident, lost everything, and never came back the same. He disappears so completely, and sucks you in. Pearce's Leonard was at least still able, physically. Chris Pratt can't walk quite right, he can't lift a beer with his left hand, he blurts out inappropriate things to the women he likes, he gets the shakes, fits of rage, uncontrolled crying. That's why it doesn't matter that you just know how it'll end. You need to see it. You need to know, to see what happens to Chris Pratt. My girlfriend works in the health field - she's worked with people who've had serious brain injuries, and seen the spectrum of emotional wreckage that comes with it. She assures me, Joseph Gordon-Levitt got it exactly right, and it kills you to see him suffer, but as an audience member you're loving it. This why you pay for those ten dollar tickets. JGL is a talent to keep a close eye on. I said it in the beginning of this blog, when I talked about last year's Brick. When I die, I expect Joseph Gordon-Levitt to be my generation's Paul Newman. An actor of such stature that the mention of his name will immediately bring to mind a career of impeccable choices and breathtaking performances. I see the future, motherfuckers.

...I'm listening to the new Kings Of Leon album, Because Of The Times. It's brilliant. They manage to be completely retro, and yet not sound like are they really retro then?? Yeah, I actually want to redact that, because every other review is going to use the word 'retro', and it's just not the right word. This album is doing something very unique - it's 100% a late night rock album, at the very least it needs to be dark, like 9pm before you put it on, but I'd say optimum range is 1am-ish. There is no way in hell that you could listen to this during the day, at least not the first half, which is where I'm at. I even want to say it's specifically a soundtrack to low lit debauchery, the spirit of Exile On Main St. filtered somehow through Andy Gill and The Edge, or the other way around. Haunting. Haunting is the word...OK, my one reference is, "Trunk" sounds like the second half of The Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking"...OK, I'm done. It's also one of the greatest driving albums ever. "Ragoo" is the only weak track really...I wonder that it's title comes from that Adam Sandler skit from his second album, with the goat and the ragoo festival, cuz it's got that skank to it. It might be the greatest album specifically for open-highway night-driving of all time...AH, this makes sense - from The Observer Music Monthly:

Kings of Leon have spent much of the past couple of years in potentially soul-sapping support slots on extended US stadium tours by the likes of Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam and, most significantly, U2. But rather than be ground down by that experience, they've used it as the jumping-off point for a bold expansion of their own parameters

Yeah, that's tells me alot. The rhythm section, especially the bassist, paid alot of attention to Ament & Cameron. I'm going away in two weeks, Down South where the Followill boys are from, and I can't wait to drive on the interstate at midnight, surrounded by 18-wheelers, doing 90mph, listening to "On Call" or "McFearless" or "Black Thumbnail".

In alot of ways, the KOL album brings me back to The Lookout. I immediately perked up when the film started with fellow Southerners, My Morning Jacket's instant classic "One Big Holiday" from 2003's It Still Moves; there's a serendipity between Southern bands and the lands they come from, sprawling fields stretching like languid guitar lines, and in this case towering arpeggios crashing down as Chris Pratt's car does. And well, there's that sense of possibility, of the great farmlands, open wide across the middle of America, that these bands can conjure up. Because Scott Frank cast such excellent actors in his four major roles, they give the characters possibilities; they give them outs, choose-your-own endings. But in order to have those, you have to be in touch with where you're from, and why you are where you're at now. Gordon-Levitt has it easy in that sense; as the main character, his reasons are the crux of the tale. Not so for Jeff Daniels' Lewis, or Isla Fisher's Luvlee, or Matthew Goode's Gary. But no matter; they work wonders in scenes that are as much highlights as Gordon-Levitt's star turn. When Lewis argues with Chris at a restaurant, and snaps at the waitress for the check, it says volumes about how he's been mistreated as a blind person. His conversation/interrogation of Luvlee illustrates the same, a wisdom that can only come from being screwed over multiple times...there's a reason Ray Charles had all the same denomination of dollar bill. Luvlee is the most wide open; her moment, tears down her cheeks as she looks across the snow covered fields in the distance speaks volumes about her dissatisfaction with her life and her guilt about how she's treating Chris - hooker with a heart of gold and all that, 'cept for she's a stripper. As she looks in half-horror at the guns for the heist, Matthew Goode's Gary gives her that ice cold look, like 'if you double cross us, I'll have that emotionless spectre Bone snuff out your candlelight of life'. Gary stays sinister throughout, making you wonder if his high school back story really would check out. But in the final moments, it's his shortcomings, not Chris', that are left hanging, unforgiven.

...there's something very very special about De La Soul. It's too broad a feeling to really pinpoint why. Their greatness is just so...right. I think Plug Wonder Why is my favorite MC.

"Have You Ever Been To Electric Ladyland?" might be the most underrated song in Jimi Hendrix's catalog. It's completely alone, a nice little soul number. I remember reading that it was the only song he ever did where he was happy with his vocals. Which is amazing to me, cuz I think he's one of the greatest singers; his phrasing is second to none. I sometimes wonder what the Motown and Stax cats thought of him. I gotta imagine at least The Temptations dug him, considering their "Ball of Confusion"/"Cloud Nine" period.

Scott Frank's directorial debut is a success because he took the time to carve his characters some real details, and then found the right actors to make those details work. The journey need not be unique every time now in film, because fucked up shit happens to all of us, and it's those shared experiences that makes life easier. And Chris Pratt is on the road to forgiveness; his story is rewarding because the end justifies the beginning.

Raz's ratings
FILM: The Lookout

MUSIC: Kings Of Leon's Because Of The Times

-The Lookout website
-Kings Of Leon website
-Kings Of Leon video for "On Call"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Happy Accidents

Resurrecting the battle cry of the late great TV painting teacher, Bob Ross, I give you the first installment of what will/should be a regular element of this here technihome of mine (and ours...mi casa and all that; I didn't take Spanish in high school). I tend to always listen to my iPod on shuffle, and so I'm going to post particularly excellent strings of random songs intersecting real life in great ways. Sometimes it results in those priceless moments when a place and time become permanently associated with a song. This intersection is "Manic Depression"; this on-ramp is "Sure Shot" by the Beastie Boys. Etc and so on.

The Nitrous Mix, or how I learned to love the dentist

Intro song: Pretenders' "The Wait" (the single version from the No Thanks! box)

I hadn't been to the dentist in years, and my mouth has suffered accordingly. My girlfriend was nice enough to hip me to her longtime mouth doctor. He gave me nitrous; I've never had nitrous before. Ooooh this is a nice feeling...
-Beck's "Sissyneck"
His assistant says to take deep breaths and I'll feel the effects. Thank you, J-Lo wannabe with too much fake tan. How can someone find pink Gucci sunglasses that can double as dental goggles?? My feet feel like their lifting off, like 20 helium balloons are tied to my ankles...
-The Beatles' "Paperback Writer"
My nose is across the room. This the best high since the first time I took a hugh bong rip. The dentist tells me to put my head back and open wide, and I get two shots of novacane to the jaw. He asks how I'm feeling. I tell him I feel like a Picasso painting.
-Sonic Youth's "Teen Age Riot"
This is now the best high I've ever had. My arms are like jelly, my scalp is living its own life in the Hamptons. This song is officially the best dentist song ever; when played loud enough, it totally drowns out the drill. Steve Shelley is pounding me into the ground. I can taste the grooves of Lee Renaldo's guitar strings; it's like putting a penny in your mouth. Awesome...I think I skipped a Led Zeppelin song...
-Eric B. & Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul"
I'm exploring the embryonic world of this leather recliner, the orangey haze of nitrous...I guess it's orange cuz of the light coming through my eyelids. I can count the little bloodways branching throughout my visual window treatments. There are 7,439 of them. I think. I think I just got a third shot of novacane...
-Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Y Control"
Oh, what's that? Oh the dentist is tapping me. How am I supposed to turn down my iPod if my hands are across the hall in the supply closet? WHAT DO YOU WANT? Open wider, he says. I mumble if he wants me to open wider to just tap my numb chin, cuz I totally don't want to turn the music down again. Jeez...The conversation must've been longer than I remember because "Intergalactic" plays, and I miss it...
-Common's "The 6th Sense"
The dentist yanks at my wisdom tooth. I barely feel it. He could tear my head off, and I'd probably yawn...
-Notorious B.I.G.'s "Gimme The Loot"
I'm coming out of it, and all I remember is Biggie insisting I stick & move, stick & move. But apparently I don't have to explain shit because I've been robbing motherfuckers since the slave ships. Something like that.

I've held my ground, now I'm gaining soul...

Pardon me for a moment while I take off my critic lab coat, and put on my caring friend apron...

I was checking out the two new B.R.M.C. songs from their upcoming album yesterday, and while I had them playing in one open window, I was checking my friend Kim's livejournal in another (this would be the same Kim who has tried on the professional photographer hat, and it fits her pretty well - see link on the right). I usually try not to read the diaries of my friends, because I kinda feel like it's knowing something they haven't felt is important enough to tell me, but I do, on occasion pop by.

Kim speaks of feeling as though she is in a slump with her recent pictures, and her desire to emerge from the funk; she's in a state of transition and rebirth, she's moving and recalibrating herself into a temporary & smaller place. And right then, a sort of synchronicity hit me, a kind of reassurance butting heads with melancholy. Kim has been a great friend to me for over seven years now, and back around when the first B.R.M.C. album came out, Kim helped me make the first version of the Cut Shallow website. Blogs weren't hot yet; I had no clue about html, but Kim did, and she had a better computer, and her Dad had free webspace that he let me post on. And so when I heard these new Black Rebel songs, sounding more like the first album than the last two, it made me embrace all that Kim has done to help me put my ramblings out into the ether for people to read. And so I say to her - Kim, don't worry. Your photography is excellent. So have faith. I do.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Forgotten Blurs

So the new Arctic Monkeys single, "Brianstorm" is completely redunkulous...

and of course, everyone is going to be kneejerk haters, and pretend to be over them while actually jumping around their bedrooms to it. I love it, and I say so now.

Anyway, their drummer is sick, and that ties into a thought I had earlier today while eating a relaxing 15-minute lunch in my truck (I'm an expert now at eating a meal faster than you can order one). I was listening to the Buzzcocks' classic "What Do I Get?" and it occurred to me that almost any "Punk Rock" (I use it loosely) band is bought or sold on the heavyweight status of their skinbasher. Topper Headon, Rick Buckler, Bill Stevenson, D.J. Bonebrake, George Hurley, Steve Shelley, Brendan Canty, David Lovering - these guys are some of the best drummers ever, but because they play punk rock, a supposedly simpler form of music, you'll never hear them mentioned in the same breath with fuckin' robots like Neil Peart or Danny Carey. My real point though is, what the hell happened to John Maher??? As the drummer for the Buzzcocks, he seemed like the most agile of the UK punk drummers; his fills often sounded like machine gun fire. The man was a giant among children, a blur in a suit. And I thought of this today; if you google him or wiki him or go to, it's like he's been gone off the face of the earth for almost 2 decades. So if you know where he is, drop me a line... and next time you have a beer, raise it to John Maher, and all of the forgotten blurs.

Hey...Howie Mandel ISN'T on

I'm watching NBC's new shows right now. They're pretty good. Actually, Andy Barker P.I. was very good. I didn't see the entire thing - I was flipping over to watch a documentary on Hong Kong Kung Fu flicks, and also the 'Raisins' episode of South Park. Anyway, Andy Richter is perfect for the part of a C.P.A. fallen backwards into being a gumshoe. Honestly though, as expected, Arrested Development's Tony Hale pretty much makes the show. So yeah, I'd say it's a keeper.

Raines, starring Jeff Goldblum, has kind of turned into a pleasant surprise. First of all, it's this new...not Noir Redux, but like meta-Noir; it takes the structure of a detective story, the quirks of Chandler novels & Bogart films, and then slathers them with self-aware sarcasm (the victim has a Double Indemnity poster in her bedroom, Goldblum references Kathleen Turner in Body Heat). It worked spectacularly in Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Raines is similar, only scaled down for the small screen. Jeff Goldblum is also well suited for this new formula like Robert Downey Jr was. I don't know, maybe it's me - I'm a sucker for Noir & detective stories, from The Big Sleep to Chinatown to Memento. Second, well, if I was NBC, I would've publicized the fact that the show is directed by Frank Darabont, director of one of our generation's most beloved films, The Shawshank Redemption. So, that's good too. Third, the show is packed with great players. Nicole Sullivan sticks out, finally finding life after Mad TV that isn't a soda commercial; her sarcasm reflects Goldblum's. Relative newcomer Linda Park is intriguing, so I'll be keeping an eye on her. And here, get out your trusty IMDB and check out these names of excellent character actors: Matt Craven, Malik Yoba, Paul Scheer, Tracey Walter, & Ryan Hurst. Oh, and the first episode's victim is played by the gorgeous Alexa Davalos, who is kind of like a sexy version of Felicity (she's got that mane of curls that is muy caliente), and who was the only reason to watch The Chronicles Of Riddick. She should be a star by now, but be patient - she's going to pop up this November in The Mist, Darabont's third Stephen King film adaptation (after Shawshank & The Green Mile).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Please continue to look up

I just said it - it feels like 1990 again, that atmosphere that the great music of the underground is bubbling over into the mainstream. Well, add Arcade Fire to that list of bands I previously mentioned. Their new album, Neon Bible, debuted at #2 on both the US & UK charts last week. It sold 92,000 copies in the US, which isn't quite Shins numbers (I believe they debuted with 118k back in January), but I'm sure it's more than any 'industry experts' predicted... and also, Arcade Fire wasn't held up on the New Cusack Boombox like The Shins were.

Other upcoming volleys in Operation: Fuck Good Charlotte to look out for
The Special Forces...
LCD Soundsystem: Sound Of Silver (3/20)
Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank (3/20)
Fountains Of Wayne: Traffic & Weather (4/3)
Bright Eyes: Cassadega (4/10)
Wilco: Sky Blue Sky (5/15)

The Reinforcements...
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists: Living With The Living (3/20)
Kaiser Chiefs: Yours Truly, Angry Mob (3/27)
Kings Of Leon: Because Of The Times (4/3)
Jarvis Cocker: Jarvis (4/3)
Arctic Monkeys: Favourite Worst Nightmare (4/24)
B.R.M.C.: Baby 81 (5/1)
Maximo Park: Our Earthly Pleasures (5/8)
Ryan Adams: Easy Tiger (6/5)
Queens of the Stone Age: Era Vulgaris (June)
Interpol: Title TBA (June)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Here's Our Future...I Hope

I have mentioned that I'm a **revisionist**, and I produce evidence of that nearly every conversation I have concerning music & movies. I have proclaimed many a band the next greatest thing ever, and am known to crown a new greatest song of all time every month or so. I'll get back to this.

On Sunday, March 4th, I went into NYC, to the Bowery Ballroom, to see The Thermals, a punkish trio (quartet, on stage) from the Pacific Northwest (Portland, I think). Now, unfortunately, I must say I went alone. This is very significant. I don't like going to shows alone, and almost never have, because my A#1 rule... not rule, um, kinda like a personal guideline in life is that music (or anything) is better when shared with friends (or at least vaguely interested acquaintances). I guess you could make the argument that being alone increases the likelihood of meeting new people, and that may be the point you'll get out of this post at the end, but whatever, I'll continue.

I went to the show because (a) The Thermals recently-released third album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine (on SubPop) had been on repeat on all my various media playing devices - enough to be one of my Top 5 Albums of 2006 (you know that list I STILL haven't posted, that you are dying to read, and that I probably won't post for another month or so just to seem insouciant & punk), (b) their single from said album, "A Pillar Of Salt" was my pick for Best Single of 2006 (ditto on the lateness for that list, too.); the song and video are brilliant, necessitating better words than I can muster off the top of my head right now, and without a doubt allowed me to utter such **revisionist-friendly** statements like "That song could be 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' for this new generation" or at the very least, "That video is everything that's good about Rock & Roll and being young". Oh, and (c) The Big Sleep were opening, and they kick ass live.

In case any super-Thermals fans are reading (probably by search-engine accident, because I'm pretty sure I haven't reached proper blog stardom yet), I will admit I entered the show under-informed. I really liked the record, but had only really obsessively memorized the lyrics to "Pillar" and "Here's Your Future", and I kinda knew "How We Know" from their last album cuz the video was played on Fuse like three times. Apparently, I missed a memo, because to the sell out crowd of 800 people, The Thermals are the **best band ever** of right now. The band came out with humble thank you's for the surprising sell out, and proceded to more than earn their money.

Frontman Hutch Harris appeared to already be sweating during the hellos, looking at once energized and majestically wrecked, almost the spitting image of Tom Verlaine, 30 years ago, on the cover of Television's masterpiece, Marquee Moon. He knew that he had penned an album's worth of lyrics probing the uncertainty and insecurity that comes with being spiritual and religious in a world where priests do wildly inappropriate things, and where the Christian Right looks bent on world domination - so he was going to make us all believers. Bassist Kathy Foster, as always, was ready to play Bonnie to Harris' Clyde, her head full of curls forever bouncing like a bunch of tiny bungy-jumpers; and whether she knew it or not, you could tell from the young girls in the crowd that she was their new role model.

Almost immediately, I knew I was seeing something special - this wasn't a show, it was an event, maybe even a coming out party. As the band tore through "Future", "I Might Need You To Kill" and "An Ear For Baby" (the opening salvo from the new album), the place lit up with excitement. The normally jaded NYC crowd had uncrossed their arms, and were moving to the music. There was jumping, pogoing, even a bit of moshing, but with absolutely no aggression. The entire ballroom was a steambath of boundless joy. The Thermals came to rock, and their fans came to love them for it. And it wasn't just for the songs from the new album (which, being Pitchfork-approved, accounted for the people at the back of the room, still waiting on that memo), the fans came to hear all the songs, from all three albums, and they came prepared, knowing all the words. For every line that Harris delivered with dignity, there was an anthemic chorus that was shouted back by tired lungs and serated vocal chords. **I thought, 'This must be what it felt like to see The Clash in 1977'.**

After blasting through all ten songs from the new album, and probably 13 or 14 more from the previous discs, all in an hour, The Thermals left the stage as grateful for the experience as they were thankful for the opportunity. And I didn't feel like I missed out on sharing the show with someone, because I shared it with everyone. I want to say to you now, hey, dig this band. Get to this now, because this band is very special, and I don't ever want to have to be revisionist about this. Look around and see The Strokes and Wilco and The White Stripes, and then Death Cab and The Shins, and it's kinda feeling like 1990 again...the year before 'the year that punk broke.' I have hope that way more than 800 people in a club are gonna know The Thermals soon enough.

And, just in case you think I'm exaggerating, here's a little clip of the show I was at, from the song "Back To The Sea". Note how loud the crowd is...

This is an iconic video that pretty much justifies 25 years of ADD-inducing MTV jump-cut editting. Here's the clip for the Raz-approved Best Single of 2006:
The Thermals' "A Pillar Of Salt"

- The Thermals on Myspace
- Buy The Thermals on Insound
- The Body, The Blood, The Machine review on Pitchforkmedia

Here's some extra stuff for your viewing pleasure
(this is what YouTube is good for)
"Here's Your Future"

"St. Rosa & The Swallows"

"How We Know" video

"A Stare Like Yours"

"No Culture Icons" video (lo-fi, so you have to turn it up)

He'll flip ya. Flip ya for real.

Last night, I was watching The Usual Suspects while I was waiting for Rome to come on. Suspects is a minor favorite of mine - it'd probably make my Top 50 films, but not my Top 30 - but as much as I like it, I don't watch it that often. So, with all that time gone by, I left it on and came to a new realization: The Usual Suspects looks really low budget. They must've spent the majority of the money on securing the excellent cast, because if you watch it with what I've said in mind you'll find...
- that the lighting is kinda lame, especially in the jail/outside the jail at the beginning, and during the parking garage heist.
- that alot of the settings are very guerrilla-friendly, ya know, set up & shoot. The Asian temple, the parking garage, that tube where they bury Fenster... pretty much any exterior shots except the big set pieces on the docks. Alot of quick establishing shots are also used, like shots of random non-descript windows on buildings, then cut to the interior which then dictates what kind of building it is.
- that the costumes could be straight out of the actor's closets, especially Stephen Baldwin & his cheesy motorcycle jacket (WAY too recognizable for a criminal trying not to be ID'd). Redfoot ends up being the coolest muthafucker in the film, with his sweet tan leather coat.
So, next time you see The Usual Suspects, keep an eye out. It doesn't reflect negatively on the film really... in fact, it illustrates even more how Bryan Singer made the most of what he had. Plus, Kevin Spacey still turns in one of the greatest performances of all time.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

More Spinner [bonus track]

Apparently, the great David A. Sitek from TV on the Radio is a "badass photographer", according to the aforementioned AOL Spinner. Feel free to peruse.

I love you, Ted Leo / I join Spin class

On his superb new album, Living With The Living (out 3/20), Ted Leo asks 'Who do you love?' Well, I love you, Ted Leo. Just in case anyone thought this was turning into a Hip-Hop blog, I had to return with some good old-fashioned politi-punk fire in the tradition of The Clash. Besides being one of the nicest public figures I've ever met, Ted Leo and his music produce a very rare, extremely high level of anticipation in me; maybe ten artists get this reaction - it's like I'm ALWAYS waiting for the next album, even if I know they're not in the studio. And where some artists might disappoint, Ted and his new album do not. LWTL is a sprawling, varied rock album, packed with literate lyrics, spat and crooned with vitriol, with his troubled mind tearing itself apart over the state of our country. It is now the front-runner for best album of 2007, and unless there is an avalanche of classics, it'll surely stay towards the top of the list.

And speaking of Ted, because of him I stumbled on to AOL's Spinner, their music blog which is actually pretty damn good. They skew towards hipsters to pull the Sterogum readers, but cover all music news, and since its AOL, they pull more choice content, like free downloads from Bright Eyes, live footage of TV on the Radio, or in-office interviews & performances of Ted Leo. Check it out...

- Spinner
- Ted Leo's hilarious interview + 3 tunes
- 3x3: some live shit
- free stuff!!

a little taste - "Who Do You Love?"

Friday, March 9, 2007

Where Brooklyn At? Part 2

I needed to post this now, because in 13 minutes it will no longer matter...
Today is the 10th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.'s death. And I just wanted to say a few words.

For any Rock cats who can't seem to fathom what Biggie means to Hip-Hop, think of him like Jimi Hendrix. He took something that all his peers thought they knew, and blew it wide open. Their careers were short like their lives, but their legacies will extend for decades on end.

Rest In Peace. Respect due...
Age 17, freestyles already slaying.

This minute-long freestyle is one of my favorite pieces of music ever. I could listen to it all day.

Craig Mack's "Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)" - 43 seconds that put Biggie on the map.

"One More Chance (Remix)" & ugly as ever

Thursday, March 8, 2007

'Ain't no doubtin' the truth...'

I got a lot to talk about, so there'll probably be a handful of posts in the next couple days. I'm only home from work for a few, cuz I'm all novacained up from the dentist, but I gotta go back, so here's a quick note.

Nike commissioned a sweet track for the 25th anniversary of their Air Force One sneaker, and it's a dream for Hip-Hop heads. "Classic (Better Than I Ever Been)" is straight gold, produced with usual genius by DJ Premier, with the mic blessed by Rakim, Kanye West, Nas & KRS-One. The track is one of the best Hip-Hop singles of recent memory, and definitely ranks near the top, if not #1, of any kind of "commercial jingle" you can think of. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 3, 2007


OK, if you ask my friends, they can tell you that I love to rant about music, but this goes to the next level. I am really pissed off now. I know that...I think it was Brian Eno - cuz when in doubt, Eno - but I think Eno said that greatest hits albums were only for housewives...or some shit, I'm totally messing up the quote...The point is that greatest hits albums are crap, and real fans shouldn't get all bent out of shape over them since it's usually the record companies that throw them together (Speaking of: if anyone that works at said companies ever reads this, hire me to compile hits collections; I'd stick to the artist's vision & will give you good product - but I digress). I like to get bent out of shape anyway.

What happens when the record company head is the artist's "best friend", and the artist is dead?? You get the fucking rape of a great and vibrant career for truckloads of dollars.

I'm talking to you, Sean Combs, you motherfucking whore. You are a vaccuum in which art cannot breathe.

Stop ruining Christopher Wallace's artistic legacy. He was the greatest MC that Hip-Hop has ever known. His only competition would be from The R - Rakim, and it's close. I believe that Eric B. & Rakim's "Follow The Leader" is the greatest single MC recording in the 28 year history of Hip-Hop on wax. But Biggie's command of the English language, his ability to pull it & shape it & mold it, is second to none, and the variety of his elocution and rhyme schemes, his acute attention to detail, and his unique inflections, are what him make number one to me and alot of Hip-Hop fans. And this tremendous talent should be celebrated, not pissed on to prop up your own suffering career.

I read yesterday of the upcoming release of the long overdue Notorious B.I.G. Greatest Hits collection. Now, Pitchforkmedia was correct - you can have his two proper albums for $40 and be done with it. But I believe that hits collections are for the next generation, as introductions; all anthologies should be compiled with that in mind, not immediate dollar signs. Look at Al Green's Greatest Hits. At its core, it has remained the same for three decades, but gets added onto to further define its value. It is the ideal example. Why can't Biggie have that?? Let's look at the tracklist...

Juicy, Big Poppa, Hypnotize, Warning - OK, the hits. Check. But where is the monster hit "Mo Money, Mo Problems"? Could it be because Diddy is trying to have people forget the shiny jumpsuits, or is it because Mase left him for 50 Cent?

Ten Crack Commandments, Unbelievable - Universal genre favorites. Check.

One More Chance (Remix), Who Shot Ya - Ooh very good, hits not found on the original albums, so you get added fan dollars. Check. See, there is a way to do this with integrity AND dollars in mind.

Notorious Thugs, Niggas Bleed, Fuck You Tonight - Hmmm, I don't know what Mr. Puffy is going for here...I guess padding the collection with tracks from a bloated double CD, when this collection definitely doesn't need them. Now, I can see the argument for "Notorious Thugs", because alot of Hip-Hop heads feel this is an exceptional example of what I praised Biggie for before. He adapts his entire skill set to fit Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's quick stutter-step flow, and succeeds at a ridiculous level. But that doesn't change the fact that Bone Thugs take up too much of the track. Where's "I've Got a Story To Tell" or "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Kills You"? Where's "Sky's The Limit" (which was a single), or "Going Back To Cali"? If you're going to pull material from Life After Death, where are the iconic tracks? Where is the fucking immense "Kick In The Door"?? That should be front and center here...

Get Money (by Junior MAFIA) - Well, here ya go. Lose this song and add "Kick In The Door"; they share lyrics, but 'Kick' is (a) a better song, and (b) all Biggie. Replace "Get Money" with "Players Anthem" which is better anyway. Besides "Get Money" was always more about Lil' Kim anyway.

Dead Wrong (feat. Eminem) - Sean. Please. This is obvious whoring - there is no reason to have the later version of this song featuring Marshall on a Biggie Greatest Hits other than to maybe catch a couple extra bucks. His tacked-on appearance, while very good, was a novelty to begin with, and was played out as it should've been when it was originally released in 1999. Why not release a good quality version of the original B-side so that the fans will actually pay for not having to listen to the shitty vinyl rips that have been floating around the internet for years & years? I'd also add (actually, open the disc with) the 1993 freestyle of Biggie completely slaying Tupac (the one that begins with Biggie yelling 'Where Brooklyn at??'). While you're at it, please also add the great "Party & Bullshit", Biggie's first single. Its absence here is inexcusable.

Notorious BIG, Nasty Girl, Running Your Mouth, Want That Old Thing Back - This can now be called sick, and Diddy is dangerously close to necrophilia. These posthumous cut-&-paste jobs, two from previous collections and two "new" abominations, sink to a horrible low and are exactly what I'm talking about when I call Sean Combs a whore. They are shameless and, even worse, as far from essential to the legacy of The Notorious B.I.G. as one could get. They are not celebrations of Biggie. They are musical leeches sucking his soul dry. Meanwhile, classic cuts, like the ones I've mentioned already, or even better tracks from Biggie's near-flawless debut such as "Things Done Changed" or "The What" get left behind; "Everyday Struggle" and "Gimme The Loot" might actually be his best songs - the former the shining light of hope in the middle of his nihilism, the latter a masterful crime narrative in which Biggie rhymes as two separate people with two flows, at two pitches - and they are still nowhere near this "Greatest Hits".

In the end, even if Diddy thinks he's being noble, he's doing his late friend a disservice by giving potential listeners the wrong impression of what the recorded legacy of The Notorious B.I.G. should be. Christopher Wallace deserves to be remembered as a pioneer in his arena, just as Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley, and John Lennon are in theirs. He fills that space in the history of Hip-Hop. This compilation goes nowhere towards that goal, and Sean Combs' hand in this end result is wholly regrettable and borders on criminal.

Raz's Ratings
MUSIC: The Notorious B.I.G.'s Greatest Hits