Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Why the hell not let Adam Sandler remake The Longest Yard? There are still more ideas in it than in many Hollywood movies you'll see in '05. Sandler's serviceable as imprisoned QB Paul Krewe, Chris Rock does his Chris Rock thing as the sidekick (which is really all you could want from such a flick, and damn if his jokes aren't mostly pretty funny), and Burt Reynolds adds a little gravitas and the best acting here. Sure, this bowl of H'wood popcorn's got a few unpopped kernels in it, but it's tasty enough on a hot summer afternoon, if a bit oversalted here and there. B

Subjects for further review: "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer

Have you listened to the horns on this, especially the trombone? Yowza.

Monday, May 30, 2005

These are my URL ABCs:

I did this more like Matos than Defective Yeti, whatev. But what a great meme.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

So Faith Hill's back, and apparently she wants to atone for her I-all-but-gave-up-country-to-be-a-bigger-pop-star-than-Shania sins, if her new single's any indication (plus, rumor has it that her forthcoming album Fireflies is as country as Cry wasn't). "Mississippi Girl" has vaulted into the top 20 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart in just two-count-'em-two weeks, largely because it's a fair representation of why folks feel in love with Faith in the first place. She's no one's puppet, but an independent woman with a stunning gift of a voice who grew up just like you - well, maybe not, but she certainly proves the theory that damned near anyone with some talent and moxie can become a superstar (roles in Hollywood films! Married to Tim McGraw! I mean, really, what more could you want?). So this "Girl" is country-pop, if that - it's closer to just plain country, but with Faith sometimes it's hard to be sure, and it sounds great on the radio. However, some (including me) might question the wiseness of releasing a single, let alone an album-launching one, all about how you're "jes' folks" even though you sang at the Oscars and were in The Stepford Wives, et cetera. We'll see how successful the single is, but this much is certain: if the album bears any resemblance to its first single, Nashville (and country fans across the country) is about to say, "Good to have you back, Ms. Hill."

The lead contenders for 2005's country rookies of the year, at least commercially speaking, so far are Sugarland, a girl-boy-girl trio with one female who looks alarmingly like Sharon Gless (she's not the lead singer), and one who's pretty, albeit in a conventional way (she is). Their debut single, "Baby Girl," is nearly vomit-inducing for me, 3 minutes of claptrap that goes nowhere and gets there too damned slowly. But the follow-up, "Something More," well, is. Granted, its lyrics aren't exactly anything new: it's basically another "I've gotta live, rather than let life get to me" tune, but it's sung rather ebulliently, sounds really really great coming out of a car radio on a sunny day, and its chorus features the word "bliss," which you just don't hear enough in country songs. Or any songs, for that matter. So let's say they're 1-for-2 so far, and see where they take it from here.

Twiggy should be fun. J. Alexander (a/k/a Miss J) will definitely be fun. But no Janice Dickinson?! America's Next Top Model just won't be the same without her. Could I have a moment, please? *sniff*

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Subjects for further review: "Ice Cream" by Raekwon featuring Method Man and Cappadonna

"Caught me like a fresh-water scrod": and you need more evidence of the Chef's lyrical brilliance why, exactly?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

As long as they don't have to feature a bunch of G-Unit cameos on their records, I love the idea of Mobb Deep and M.O.P. signing with 50 Cent.

If Andre Agassi decides it's time to exit stage left, he'll do so forever a champ in my book. He's the only men's player in the last 35 years to have a career Grand Slam, too.

From: Paul Cox
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 11:28 AM
To: Thomas A. Inskeep

True or false: U2 are and will be the last great rock star band in history. Perhaps Guns N' Roses could have taken the title away if it weren't for Axl's neuroses.

Why do I bring this up? Bands now are anonymous, with the occasional exception of the lead singer. Do you know the name of Coldplay's bassist? Do you have any idea whether or not the drummer for Evanescence is married? Nope.

The public just isn't interested in idolizing groups anymore. Just idolizing songs.


From: Thomas A. Inskeep
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 11:38 AM
To: Paul Cox

All too true. I'd add that the public will idolize singers, not just songs, but certainly not groups. It's almost surprising to me to see Coldplay garnering all of these magazine covers which then feature the whole band; who cares about anyone but Chris Martin, if even him? Oasis have never been more than the sum of the Gallagher brothers, and no one but hardcore Blur fans knew Graham Coxon until he left the band. The closest anyone came in the past decade-plus (post-GNR), I think, was Radiohead, but going avant-garde doesn't make you rock stars.

Whereas even my mother knows who Keith Richards is, if not Larry Mullen, Jr.


From: Paul Cox
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 11:46 AM
To: Thomas A. Inskeep

Right, I was teetering over whether or not to include Radiohead, and I think the title applies in some aspects, but they're still not massive on the scale of a U2 or a GNR.

REM is made up of very distinct individuals, but I wouldn't exactly call them rock stars.

But yeah, my mom might not recognize Larry Mullen, Jr., but I guarantee she knows who The Edge is.

If anyone tried to name himself The Edge these days, he wouldn't be taken seriously.


From: Thomas A. Inskeep
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 12:14 PM
To: Paul Cox

I think R.E.M. were very, very close, but they never went all the way in terms of stardom, especially not in the U.S. (how odd that after taking so long for them to take off in Europe, they're now bigger there). Same thing with the Chili Peppers - they're awfully close, but they're not quite on that same scale. With what they've done with 'American Idiot' on a global scale, I think Green Day have a shot in one or two more albums, but I'm not betting on it (I think theirs is likely more a
zeitgeist moment than anything).


From: Paul Cox
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 12:27 PM
To: Thomas A. Inskeep

What began with the Beatles ends with U2. And that's probably how it should be.

Less than 48 hours before we crown a new American Idol, last season's winner Fantasia finally gets some pub from NPR - for the "controversy" over "Baby Mama." Weird.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Subjects for further review: "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen

You know what makes this song such a ridiculous triumph, even moreso than John Deacon's superb bassline (albeit one stolen from Chic)? It's that, even with his getting loud on the song's second verse, Freddie Mercury keeps his vocals very restrained. Hell, on the first verse and through most of the first pass through the chorus, they're nearly clipped. Freddie keeping a lid on it keeps a lid on the whole song, and as you know, a covered pot comes to a boil that much more quickly.

My good friend and co-worker Bob Fuller is a highly talented writer. To wit, here's his account of lines and lines of Star Wars fans waiting for last night's midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith. He didn't intend to see them; he just happened to be having dinner near a 24-screen movie theater.

We went to see the menagerie of Star Wars fans waiting patiently outside the theaters hours before the movie was supposed to start at midnight. We expected to make fun of the people, calling them "Trekkies" and so on, but it was actually a lot of fun and they all seemed very friendly and happy.

The atmosphere was like a party with some people dressed in the costumes of their favorite Jedis. There were no Darth Vaders, however. No ewoks. No wookies. I suppose those were waiting in Hollywood at [Mann's] Chinese Theatre. There was one very-round fat guy in a red
Return of the Jedi t-shirt (probably an original from the 80's) and with long, black, dirty hair pulled back under a black baseball cap and with enormous sideburns like Elvis had when he was fat. I said, "Oh, look. That guy's dressed like the Death Star." Other people in the line laughed and told us that earlier that very guy was giving out candy. I don't think I would accept candy from a Death Star Elvis, but I guess the gesture was friendly, so maybe I would have. And I like candy.

Other people played cards on makeshift picnic blankets and there were some kids with light sabers who pretended to fight on the steps leading up to the theater. One of the many theater personnel who worked overtime that night stopped them before they tumbled down those stairs. The theater set up a table to sell hotdogs and sodas for $1 each outside the theater. That's $2.50 less than they sold the same things inside the theater. The girl working that table had her hair like Princess Leia from the first Star Wars, but the rest of her was dressed strictly AMC polyester.

Target sent a bunch of people with free Target Star Wars bags of snack food for the people to eat while waiting in line. I saw a bottle of water and some pre-packaged cereal in one. Business at Starbucks was brisk -- I laughed when I saw the t-shirt on one customer there. It read, 'Sith Happens.'

Oh, and for the record, I've not seen the movie, I'm not going to see the movie, and I've no interest whatsoever in anything Star Wars-related. I'm not trying to sound churlish - it's just not me. [This weekend the bf and I are planning to see Crash, and next weekend, he'll see Sith while I take in the remake of The Longest Yard.]

Mark Cuban gets it so, so right regarding Yahoo!'s new music subscription service and the RIAA's ever-present wrong-headedness. Please read.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

So on my way home today I was listening to Jack FM, and heard Red Rider's "Lunatic Fringe" - immediately followed by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins's "Easy Lover." I'm not sure which delighted me more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

This exchange began with Alfred asking me if I could help get Eric Clapton's "It's In The Way That You Use It" out of his head.


From: Thomas A. Inskeep
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2005 12:22 PM
To: Alfred Soto
Subject: When I was 17, I did what people told me

Oh, but I've always liked "It's In The Way That You Use It"! I think Clapton's mid-'80s period might well be his best. "Forever Man," and for that matter the whole 'Behind the Sun' album? C'mon! It's all certainly preferable to the "Unplugged" evisceration of his catalog, or his "I'm old and thus must make blues records" period we're currently enduring.


From: Alfred Soto
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2005 12:30 PM
To: Thomas A. Inskeep
Subject: it's in the way that you use me, it comes and it goes

I never said I disliked "It's In The Way..." - I just haven't been able to get that stupid guitar synth riff out of me head. And it sounds like a beer commericial jingle, rather like one of those Steve Winwood songs popular at the time. I quite like "Forever Man" too (it's the equivalent of Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About": a generic song reimagined thanks to great playing and singing), and that other hit, with the booming gated Phil Collins drums ("She's Waiting," is it?). And you're right: he's more fun as a popster than as a blues pilgrim, although I HATED "Change The World" and "My Father's Eyes."

Speaking of Phil...how 'bout those mid '80s production jobs? Philip Bailey's "Easy Lover," Frida's "There's Something Going On," his remix of Howard Jones' "No One Is To Blame" - all wonderful songs.


From: Thomas A. Inskeep
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2005 2:00 PM
To: Alfred Soto
Subject: Behind the bushes, until I'm screamin' for more

Eric Clapton: better a popster (popstar?) than rockist.
Phil Collins: better a producer than an, ahem, "artist." [Best song involving him as an artist: Genesis' "Mama." Best song involving him in another capacity: unquestionably, Frida's "I Know There's Something Going On."]


That was it, thanks to the fact that Alfred and I are 3 hours apart (ergo, my mid-afternoon is his quittin' time). Today's topic was the best-selling duo of all-time; I started by asking the Notorious S.O.T.O. what his favorite Hall & Oates song is.


From: Alfred Soto
Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 12:37 PM
To: Thomas A. Inskeep
Subject: Maybe I should feel guilty; is that the American way?

In certain moments "It's A Laugh" might be my fave. The faux Spector production, the sarcasm, Oates' harmonies (he's just genius at them; who said he was another Andrew Ridgeley?), the live-ness of Hall's vocal. I remember driving home from a party with my best friend about 8 months ago ... shouting the lyrics to this. He loves H&O too, one of many reasons I love him.

How much did H&O play on their own recordings? (perhaps the reissues clear this up.) I was thrilled to find out this weekend that they recorded "I Can't Go For That" all by their lonesomes. A friend in the Philly area said that Oates is actually quite a good guitarist.

You're so right about "Your Imagination" though. That organ hook is sick-catchy.


From: Thomas A. Inskeep
Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 1:53 PM
To: Alfred Soto
Subject: You remember me? I used to be your boyfriend

How funny - "It's A Laugh" is one of my favorite pre-'Voices' tracks, too (along with "Abandoned Luncheonette," "Las Vegas Turnaround" (the 'Abandoned Luncheonette' album is SO underrated, and cries out for a remaster/reissue), "Melody For A Memory" and "Sara Smile" (so pretty, something else they never get enough credit for). And you're so right about John's backing vox - he and Daryl have such amazing harmonies. Really sterling. [And they still do! Their new covers album (which I've only previewed, not actually bought) isn't consistently great, but it's got some very high points, selections which could certainly join their pantheon - and as we both know, even so-so H&O is still alright, generally.]

Usually, John plays guitar and Daryl keys on their stuff, but not much else. Having seen 'em live (twice), I can vouch for John's guitar abilities; he's quite, quite good. [Daryl's competent, but nothing special on keys.]

"Your Imagination" is genius! Those ultra-paranoid lyrics! That creepy organ! Those scary-cooing backing vocals on the chorus ("youuuuuur im! ag! in! a! tion!")! One of my ten favorite songs, by anyone, EVER.


Feel free to toss your two cents into the ring; that's what comments are for.

Robert Altman directing Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan? As mother and daughter? In a film written by Garrison Keillor?! Excuse me while my brain explodes.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

From the "oh, you didn't know I'm gay?" department, here's some news on the forthcoming film adaptation of Dreamgirls. I'm liking the names attached to this. Yes, I'm sure plenty of people will bitch and moan about Beyoncé's casting, but who better to play the Miss Ross role?

Art Brut might change your life - completely meta, completely British (accordingly), a little snarky, a little like if Franz Ferdinand would just rock the fuck out or if Bloc Party had never heard Gang of Four and PiL. They'll make you listen to lyrics again, they'll make you bop your head, they'll make you wonder if the Kinks would sound like this if they started out right now. If lines like "popular culture no long applies to me" turn your crank, then you need this band. Their debut's titled Bang Bang Rock and Roll, it's currently only available as an import, and it's a bargain at twice the price, whatever that price may be.

Oh, good Lord, have you heard the disaster that is the new System of a Down single, "B.Y.O.B."? Apparently, it stands for "bring your own barfbag" - or at least it should. I hated thrash metal in the '80s (that's why it took me a good while to appreciate, say, Metallica), and that hasn't changed. And then they trainwreck the song into this bizarre power-pop chorus, like they crash-landed on Planet Cheap Trick; that doesn't work, either. Any hopes I had for their forthcoming pair of albums have been severely dashed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I'm very, very flattered.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The bf listened to part of Daft Punk's new Human After All this weekend and said to a friend, "You know how they used to loop 16 bars over and over? Now it's just 8." And sadly, he's so right. This album's got to be one of '05's more thudding disappointments so far - though it's interesting in a kind of drone sense, and as background, and were it harder could make for some pretty good techno ("The Brainwasher," f'instance, isn't all that far removed from Beltram). Don't misunderstand me, though; I'm definitely damning Human After All with this faint praise.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Who, exactly, is Backstreet Boys's comeback single, "Incomplete," supposed to appeal to? Teen and tween girls aren't going to go for it; the production's way too mature to appeal to the Radio Disney audience. BSB's old fans have moved on. And I can't imagine this appealling particularly to adult women. As the bf points out, it's like Duran Duran's comeback, only BSB haven't been away long enough. [And whoever thought it was a good idea to not have Nick Carter sing lead on the big comeback single should be fired immediately.] Did I mention that "Incomplete" is awful, too, a total sub-Creed dirge? Ick.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The first single from Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi, "It's Like That," was an awful mash of Run-D.M.C. lyrics, a messy Jermaine Dupri beat, and a completely irrelevant cameo by the completely irrelevant Fatman Scoop. Fortunately, things have turned around on follow-up single "We Belong Together," which is fairly great. This is a ballad with a beat, something Mariah's sorely needed for years now. It sounds like JD took an old Bone Thugs-N-Harmony beat and recycled it to fine effect, with MC working it until it works. And her lyrical references to Bobby Womack and Babyface - the latter regarding hearing him sing "I only think of you..." on the radio, but Mariah doesn't finish the lyric ("...on two occasions," from the Deele's "Two Occasions," natch), which makes it all the better (proving that she's doing this one for the R&B fans). Welcome back, Mariah. It's about time.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

An email conversation.

On 5/3/05, Thomas A. Inskeep wrote:
> > >
> > > So, Paul, I want your opinion on something that drives me crazy: damned near all of the "indie kids" (I'm including you in that number, and people like Perpetua, the ILM cabal, et.al.) give love to all of the "right" pop records these days (Annie, Juliet... remember the hubub over Sugababes?), know about them pre-release, etc. But there's no corresponding love for new R&B records. [To wit: do you know who Bobby Valentino, who I'm listening to right now ... even is?] Why d'you think that is - especially considering the mad love lots of your compadres give to, say, Lil Jon?
> > >

> > From: Paul Cox
> > Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2005 8:42 AM
> > To: Thomas A. Inskeep
> > Subject: Re: indie kids go pop
> >
> > I have no clue who Bobby Valentino is, but if you stamp him with the R&B tag it's something I'll likely avoid. I think the real reason for acceptance of new pop stars is the way they reference the '80s. Indie kids say out loud that the '80s were lame, but at home it's all they listen to. When someone like Annie comes along, she seems like a more musically aware version of a star from the old days. And, often, because these people play with live bands (and even more rarely record
with live instrumentation), they get the collective thumbs up.
> >
Most R&B is still recorded with cheap ass drum loops and piddly keyboards. For every Timbaland or Dr. Dre making it work, there's 1,000 producers who are fucking it up.
> >

> On 5/3/05, Thomas A. Inskeep wrote:
> > So, correspondingly, you think that's why singles like Amerie's "1 Thing" and Beyoncé's "Crazy In Love" are so beloved by the rockcrit cabal - because they sound so "live"?
> >
> > And that still doesn't explain the love for, say, a David Banner (whose entire Caucasian fanclub, I think, is on ILM).

On 5/3/05, Paul Cox wrote:
> I'm not a good foil for this argument, because I have little love for anything tipping "crunk." I have no explanation for David Banner or Lil Jon or Ying Yang Twins, etc.
> But yeah, I fully believe that's why "1 Thing" and "Crazy In Love" crossed over so well. Indie kids will talk about Motown and Stax until they're blue in the face, but you won't find them listening to any modern r&b ...not even in private.

From: Paul Cox
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2005 8:55 AM
To: Thomas A. Inskeep
Subject: Re: indie kids go pop

(I should point out that "Yeah" by Usher is the exception to the rule, because Usher is a badass and that song was a monster.)

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