Friday, August 31, 2007

Just Married

The caption, from the Associated Press: Sean Fritz embraces his new husband Tim McQuillan, right, after they received their marriage certificate, Friday, Aug. 31, 2007, in Des Moines, Iowa. The Ames, Iowa, couple was married a day after a judge threw out the state's ban on same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
[Emphasis mine.]

Oh, you haven't heard? The gays are marrying, fast & furious, in Polk County, Iowa. The march of equality may be slow, but it's happening, folks. Get the fuck used to it.

(slight return)

Not only am I blogging regularly again (here, and here), I'm actually writing for Stylus again, lo and behold. Two pieces today: a review of the new(ish) Kanye West mixtape, and the return of Saturday Night Barn Dance, the (usually) monthly country music column I co-author with Josh Love.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

An open letter to Timbaland

Hey, Timbo. Yeah, you wuz robbed last year - no matter that Rubin produced Cash's last will & testament and a highly overrated Dixie Chicks album, YOU deserved the Grammy for producer of the year. You OWNED 2006, and AMPAS bitches didn't even nominate you. Suckas. That being said...

1. Plz stop rapping. Now. Kthxbye.
2. Maybe just maybe you're overextending yourself? I mean, your cut on M.I.A.'s new album, "Come Around," is the weakest on there by furlongs. I don't think there was enough of M.I.A. on it - I mean, "Earth Intruders" (which is far better than most folks say) is nothing but a Björk song, but "Come Around" could be back-of-the-album filler for Furtado. Or Shock Value, for that matter.
2a. I think it's time for a vacation. Go somewhere nice and warm and full of thong-clad ladeez and don't do any work for, like, 2 months. You'll thank me.
3. Don't start a "rock band" with Furtado. Bad. Idea.
4. Listen suggestion: check out how the space is used on The Unforgettable Fire. That's a version of - how to say? - your work is getting cluttered. You can't put everything on a track.

You're one of the greats, easily - up there in the pantheon with Jam & Lewis, George Martin, Spector, Moroder, Q. You're a king. So act like one, please.

much love,
the other TI

Friday, August 24, 2007

O, Canada!

Sure, it's easy to dog Canada, Canadians, Canadian music (two words: Nickelback's "Rockstar"), but they've given us a few good records, at least. Besides the '80s output of Rush, I mean, 'cause that's in its own category: LOVE LOVE LOVE '80s Rush, especially '84's Grace Under Pressure and '85's Power Windows. Anyway, when I attended Purdue in the late '80s, we got our dorm cable off satellite, but the university was too cheap to unscramble MTV. Ergo, our music video channel was also Canada's: MuchMusic. At the time, it was gloriously, gleefully schizoid, and paid a lot more attention to the underground than its south-of-the-border cousin. I learned of a fair amount of artists via MuchMusic, and some of 'em I even still fancy.

Grapes of Wrath (that name!) are a prime example: in the US they had the slightest taste of college radio success, but in their native Canada they were not quite stars, but semi-names at least. They made tuneful, jangly pop from the R.E.M. school, and wrote some decent songs; "O Lucky Man" was always my favorite.

I also discovered the incredibly, delightfully weird Dalbello thanks to MuchMusic. Had she come around just a bit later, she might have slotted in nicely alongside Tori Amos and Bjork (with an added soupcon of Heart's Nancy Wilson - and Heart, in fact, later covered her "Black on Black" as "Black on Black II"). Her "Tango" sounded like nothing else at the time (1987) and still sounds fresh to this day. For pete's sake, it's a major label pop-rock song prominently featuring an accordian - non-ironically! (This video is nicely odd, as well - check out some of Dalbello's facial expressions. Drama, anyone?)

No, I didn't learn Chilliwack from MM; they're from 1981, or at least their sole US hit "My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)" is. It's a blissful slice of anonymous studio-pop, cf. Steel Breeze and their early '80s ilk, only with much poofier proto-mullets (I attribute that to Canada solely). I've never heard another note by them, and I don't care a whit. Why ruin with the memory of one lovely, mawkish single?

My favorite Bryan Adams record is neither Reckless (okay, but very hit-or-miss) nor Waking Up the Neighbors (vile schlock focus-grouped for women 25-49), but his 1987 (relative) flop Into the Fire, all atmospherics and downbeat moods, kind of like a much glossier take on the same year's Springsteen opus, Tunnel of Love. Today, it almost comes off as a self-sabotaging move in direct opposition to the endless hits of Reckless. (I don't think one as ambitious as Adams would ever actually attempt self-sabotage; I'm just saying.) "Victim of Love" is its apex: "Table for one and a broken heart to go"? This is one delicious cold stare of a single.

I can't resist: Rush it is. "Distant Early Warning" blew my mind at age 13, and I'll argue it still holds up, as does the entirety of the heavy-concept Grace Under Pressure. There's no one quite like Canada's most major power trio.

Simple Minds - "All the Things She Said" (Once Upon A Time, A&M 1985)

Besides the video, which I happen to find pretty great (I love video tropes like this), the song jams, insofar as Scottish guitar-pop-rock can jam. It fascinates me how Jim Kerr and company had figured out how to take U2's sound to the masses before U2 themselves did, albeit with slicker (Steve Lillywhite) production and somewhat weaker songs. U2-lite: now with 50% less charisma! (Now matter what Chrissie Hynde might think, Kerr's pompous ass has got nothing on Bono's pompous ass.) But I nonetheless love the textures of this song - such as the gently lowing synths connecting the bridge and final choruses - and much of its brethren on the Once Upon A Time album, which largely splits the difference between the likes of "Promised You A Miracle" and "Don't You Forget This Was the Theme from The Breakfast Club."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Diddy featuring Yung Joc, The Game, Big Boi, Rich Boy and Keyshia Cole - "Last Night (Remix)" (no label 2007)

Like WHOA - not because of the rappers guesting on this remix so much (though it's always good to hear Big Boi), but for the backing track that's sampled wholesale. Suffice it to say you should recognize it. (Audio only.)

Tiffany Evans featuring Ciara - "Promise Ring" (Columbia 2007)

Finally caught this on 106th & Park (annoying at times, but the hosts are appealling and it's a good, simple way to hear the new urban joints) last night, and while Evans' vocals are unspectacular (and Ciara just sound sweeter every time out, it seems), the track itself kinda jams, especially the second half of the chorus. Not surprisingly, Mr. Collipark (Ying Yang Twins) co-produced this cut, which definitively proves that crunk&B is dead, as it's just morphed back into what it kinda was all along: booty music. Think "My Boo," think "Lookout Weekend" (some freestyle was really just early bass music), think a little L'Trimm even - booty-slash-bass music will never die, and once you hear a Disney version of Ciara doing it, you know it's back. "Promise Ring" is good-not-great, but it's good enough to care about.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


And it keeps swingin'. Oddly enough, even though I've started blogging semi-regularly again (even over here; musical watershed post later today), and pretty much only blog music and occasional popcult here, my blog-reading interests have moved back towards mostly personal, gay-oriented writings (both blogs and, gasp, livejournals). I'm adding some to the links, in case you care. (Hell, in case anyone besides Soto is even still reading these days, 'cause God knows he won't read such faggotry.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Time - "777-9311" (live on American Bandstand, 1982)

I guess Prince-slash-MPLS is officially a today's, ahem, "theme."

Some observations:
1. Note that they're playing live on AB, which NO ONE ever did (or got to do, as the case may be).
2. Note that they TEAR SHIT UP.
3. Note that barring their 1990 comeback (however brief it was - i.e., one album) this was their biggest hit, peaking at a frustrating #2 on the R&B chart (and #88 pop, 'cause sometimes popsters are SUCKAS).
4. Note that there STILL AIN'T a Time anthology available. C'mon, Warners! (Then again, considering how little you get right these days, I guess I shouldn't be surprised...)

Sheila E. - "The Glamorous Life" (The Glamorous Life, Warner Bros. 1984)

Sheila E - glamorous life
Uploaded by capitainfunkk

Still one of my favorite singles EVER. (I called it #16 all-time in this post last November, but these days it's more like top 10.)
Still has one of my favorite lyrical phrases ever in "if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it lingerie."
Still has one of my favorite lyrics ever in "Boys with small talk/and small minds/really don't impress me in bed."
Still features some of the finest percussion work in a top-10 pop single.
Still quite possibly the finest musical moment 1984 had to offer, its chief competition being her mentor's "I Would Die 4 U."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Daryl Hall - "Someone Like You" (live on Late Night with David Letterman, 10/29/86)

This is a superb performance, apparently the first one Daryl did live as a solo artist: his voice is as creamy as ever, but with a touch of gospel-y grit (most noticeable at the song's end, when he really starts testifying), his impressive mane was never more lion-like, and G.E. Smith delivers some tastefully blistering guitar work. I especially love his solo, the definition of economy. The song is probably my favorite from Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine, a classic Dave Stewart overproduction (read that both ways) which definitely deserves, and needs, a good remastering job. (Thanks, as ever, to Soto for directing me to this clip.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fellow travellers

Mixtape Maestro Presents: 90's R&B Junkie has more ads, news feeds, and the like than I'd like, but I'm willing to put up with 'em for MM's takes on every #1 R&B single (sound familiar?) of the '90s. Good, astute writing plus a dogged determination to track down video links for each song equals a quality blog well worth your time.

And holy shit, the great Ned Raggett is finally, at-long-last, blogging! Hoo-RAY.

Bananarama - "I Heard A Rumour" (Disorderlies Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Tin Pan Apple/Polydor 1987)

The ne plus ultra of Stock-Aitken-Waterman. The insistently throbbing production here is enough to rival the great Moroder's work, and the lyrics are better than you might recall. Bananarama themselves sell the hell out of the song, which ended up one of their biggest hits worldwide (it helped that it came the year after their US #1 "Venus"). There's a joie de vivre here that's uncontrollable and unstoppable; this may not be the trio's finest hour, but it's my favorite of all their singles, and further proof that when they were on, SAW were fairly unbeatable when it came to pop perfection.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Good rockin' tonight

Hello again.

re: 756

Dan Wetzel says it much more eloquently than I could. My one-word summation of Bonds' "accomplishment"? FRAUD.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rod Stewart - "Young Turks" (Tonight I'm Yours, Warner Bros. 1982)

"Billy pierced his ear, drove a pickup like a lunatic."

...and was apparently stalked the whole time by the kids from Fame, if this video is any indication. How coked up must Rod have been when this clip was recorded?

For the record: my third-favorite Rod single, after "The Killing of Georgie (I & II)" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You." Sure, this is trash, but it's lip-smacking. Rod's early '80s were full of this stuff, and much of it's still tasty (cf. "Tonight I'm Yours," "Infatuation" [fatuate me!], "Passion").

Monday, August 06, 2007


I don't only listen to vintage AT40, y'know. Mostly, perhaps, but not only.

The Freemasons just seem to get better and better... and with B'Day, they seem to have taken on the same role for Beyoncé that Morales had with Mariah for much of the '90s, as her remixers of choice - and deservedly so. I've liked damned near every mix of theirs I've heard (and their rub of "Beautiful Liar" is one of the year's best tracks), but with "Green Light" they take what's frankly a sub-standard song (esp. by B's standards) and whip it into a sexy frenzy. Damn, they're good.

I've never cared much for Keyshia Cole. Yeah, girl can sing, but she never seemed to have any control of her instrument. But then I kinda liked what she dropped on Diddy's "Last Night" (shut up, it's actually alright), and now she goes and delivers a first single to make me real curious about her sophomore joint. "Let It Go" is luciously produced, riding a loop from Mtume's certified classic "Juicy Fruit," while Keyshia sings richly without overdoing it. Missy adds some flava, and Kim - well, I still like the sound of her voice, even if she doesn't seem to be actually saying anything these days (plastic surgery consequences?). This is delicious.

I've also traditionally slept on UGK, a/k/a Underground Kingz. Bun-B and Pimp C just haven't done much for me, but it looks like it might be time for a re-evaluation. They tease their first album in over 5 years (out tomorrow, 8/7) with a killer slab of southern-soul-sampling, produced by Three 6 Mafia (when they're smart, they're top of the game) and featuring vocal assists from the experts known as OutKast. "International Player's Anthem" doesn't hit you over the head in any way - it creeps up on ya. (And add this to Andre 3000's pile of great '07 appearances: Lloyd's "You," Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's," and now this "Anthem." Is he putting himself in the running as 2007's MVP?)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Inexplicable 2

Here's another one. While I despise the fact that Phil Collins won an Oscar for his crap Tarzan song, I wouldn't have minded so much had he been awarded one for "Separate Lives," from 1985's White Nights. It's a duet with the then-and-soon-to-be-again-unknown Marilyn Martin. ("Who?" is right: she hit the US top 40 as a solo artist just once afterwards, with the #28 single "Night Moves.") It's also incredibly ssssssslow - seriously, I can't think of a slower #1 record since. But Collins nails the song's pathos in his vocal, and Martin emotes her ass off as well. (Not surprisingly that she was good at that; her most notable work previously had been supplying backing vocals for Stevie Nicks.) This is one sad, sad song that rips your heart out and just leaves it on the floor, cold and ignored. One of the finest songs of Collins' career (he wasn't always vile), hands down, and sadly forgotten these days. Remember with me, won't you?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Frank Stallone - "Far From Over" (Staying Alive OST, Polydor/RSO 1983)

One of the great pieces of semi-anonymous male uptempo soundtrack schlock (and the early '80s had a lot more of it than you might think - start with Michael Sembello's #1 "Maniac" and go downhill from there), Sly's little brother actually made the pop top 10 with his (ahem) gem from the Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive. He apparently does Sinatra-style stuff now, according to his website (warning: annoying embedded music). My favorite line from his Wikipedia page is this (emphasis mine):

"A self-titled album soon followed from RSO, in the style of 1980s pop."

I believe it's true, but what the hell does it really mean?

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