Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The (White) Trash is Burning

There is a fetid, rotting, festering stench emanating from popcult central, and it's leaking into the collective brain pan, infecting and affecting my dream state, maybe yours.I just wanna sleep and conjure up normal guy images of money, food, breasts,or my face on Mt. Rushmore, but instead it's pea brained Britney and her train wreck keep-a-rollin'act, shaving off her hair and getting double-inked a mere month or so after flashing her twat all over the Internet, a bit after Manikin Nicole Smith did her Marilyn OD imitation, in between the soft parade of American Idol rejects, retards, psychopaths, pantie-eaters, back door men, pederasts, bunny-fuckers, toe-lickers, and transvestite grannies trotting out their paleface MC Hammer moves and Mariah Carey death yelps, a year after Tommy Boy Cruise did the kindergarten bop on Oprah's couch, sometime past Flavor Flav (a strange celebrity mutation of Uncle Remus, Leon Spinks and Huggy Bear) has spawned not one, but three reality TV delights, when every hammer head from Hulk Hogan to to Gene Simmons to Diaperboy Danny Bonaduce (Where's Patrick Swayze when you need him?) gets their 23 minutes of mean screen time, when Mickey Mouse Grad Justin Timberlikeme slaps his skinny white cartoon paw over Janet Jackson's implant, when they hold auditions for everything from cable sports anchor to wife-swapping and crappy house-switching (my pitch--Do You Want To Assassinate the President with judges Chuck Barris, Jack Abrahmoff,the RZA and Mark David Chapman), before Michael Richards choked on his own long-necked bile and Mel Gibson did the anti-semitic version of Road Warrior.(Remember that the simple unseen mental picture of Robert Downey all bombed out in the random neighbor's bed is still better than any one given scene he's ever done up in an actual movie.) As jumbled and feverish as my nightly dreams are I can still see some of the more stark, fearsome images clearly-- like an acidic, industrial fog settling all over the wide foreheads of the townspeople in Des Moines Iowa, where even the lonely meter maid knows how much Nicole Richie's ass weighs, where the town councilmen hover in a backroom downing shots of Drambuie and getting strangely excited watching mole-like Paris Hilton spreading her legs in some scuzzy video, where the head librarian dreams of the day she gets to wrestle her chubby, harelipped, pedophile cousin on Jerry Springer's just-waxed floor, where the day care provider sets up the Dancing with the Stars tape loop featuring new competitors Heather Mills, the porky ugly guy from 'N Synch, and Stephen Hawkins in order to lull the pre-schoolers to sleep, where the guys in the firehouse place bets on possible bone breakage next time Ellie Wiesel gets roughed up, where the porcelain skinned cheerleaders spend inordinate amounts of time in huge, full length mirrors, transfixed and zen-like, trying to remake their tawny visages to some close approximation of the rag-doll,Skeletor, horror-film waif looks of Ashlee Simpson, where the rabid, ranting ghost of Strom Thurmond leans over the shoulder of the middle-aged Presbyterian accountants giggling over stale popcorn, cheap vodka, and the latest episode of Survivor, where the Little Leaguers collectively count down Barry Bond's march to obliterate Hammerin' Henry Aaron, where the drive-in never stops featuring the collected works Rob Schneider, Johnny Knoxville, and any kinda movie with a midget, where, if you gulp down just the right mix of booze, perfume, and cough syrup and squint yer eyes Eastwood-like, the putrid gray clouds that hover over the airfield at night remarkably resemble a painterly frame of OJ Simpson sporting a beatific smile while caressing a pair of gloves. Geez, with dreams like these, who needs reality?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lust For Life

Apparently, dead men do indeed tell tales, or at least the posthumous documentaries made about them manage to allow a certain dialogue to swirl up from the dust kicking around the ol'lost highway. Venerated songwriter, cult figure, and lifetime misfit Townes Van Zandt gets his dues in "Be Here To Love Me", an ambling and blackly funny doc about the virtual godfather of alternative country, a singer/songwriter held in the highest esteem by the likes of Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson. Van Zandt fought the demons of booze, drugs, and mental illness his whole life, fashioning a non-career out a handful of obscure releases and one giant songwriting hit "Pancho and Lefty" The doc has some great home movie footage, plus some neat performance stuff, and the chorus of talking heads, particularly comrade-in-arms Guy Clark, wax eloquent about the guy with a plaintive mixture of irony and regret. Everybuddy knows the basic tale of Hunter Thompson, Gonzo King, and "Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride", is another doc marked by gallows humor, ostensibly celebrating a writer, his lifestyle, and the damnable trappings of fame. Although a parade of Hollywood hipsters fill the screen (Gary Busey, John Cusack, Sean Penn, Little Johny Depp, Harry Dean Stanton, Benecio Del Toro, with death rattle narration provided by Nick Nolte) some of the more intriguing commentary is provided by William Buckley and George McGovern. The doc's real highlight is the hilarious juxtaposition of Bill Murray and Johnny Depp doing their respective on-screen Hunters alongside footage of the reel thang. For a whole lotta of us who growed-up in the 60's and 70's there will never be anything quite like initially discovering Thompson and his fuel charged stylings, and this doc only makes you wanna dive right back into his incendiary and laff-riot prose. Of course my man Iggy ain't dead yet, although he's clawed his way outta the clammy grave a few times, and he's front and center in this month's (March) Esquire, being the subject of the rag's regularly featured "What I've Learned". A few pithy excerpts: "I'm not a one-trick pony. I've had my picture in People magazine vacuuming the floor.", "I was lucky. I'd seen my own vomit and it was green.", "I really don't want to crawl under the table and shiver and see little mice running under my eyes for the next fourteen hours.", "I have no idea why a guy would bring a jar of peanut butter to a concert."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Grammyrama 06

The Grammy's, while always a reliable boost for sales, particularly with the boutique, non-mainstream stuff, were always marked by music biz nitcrits as too staid, laughingly wrongheaded, accompanied by a live event that was about as exciting as yer Uncle Louie's Knights of Columbus retirement party. Of course, during the last few years the event and the actual nominations have righted themselves, and, while still patently mainstream, the night and the awards have become eminently watchable, and often pleasantly surprisingly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I watched the whole damn thang, and dug a whole lot of it. (Aside # 1:Little Rhody went 1 for 2 with Bill Harley winning for Best Spoken Word for Children, and Duke Robillard losing Best Traditional Blues Album to Ike Turner.) (Aside # 2: Yet another sign that the Apocalypse is upon us--Eddie's Murphy's Norbit opened with huge box office-his 4th biggest opening evuh--despite being crushed by reviewers everywhere and boasting a series of TV ads that just scream out s-t-u-p-i-d-i-t-y.)

Money, That's All I Want--The Police pick the easy route, do "Roxanne", including the hoary extended dub section, and Sting (looking like a scary cross between Brian Bosworth and Malcolm McDowell) gets all dressed up in retro duds.

Who Knew?--Joan Baez looked remarkably elegant and middle-aged sexy as she praised our newest avatars of free speech, The Dixie Gals.

Didn't Alvin and the Chipmunks Already Win a Grammy?--Although the Dixie Gals looked all growed up it was the twisting and turning of Natalie's extremely chipmunk-like mouth I couldn't take my eyes off.

James Brown Hadda Get on the Goodfoot In His Grave, Part 1--Wyclef Jean proved that rythmn ain't genetic as he stiff-leggedly bopped his way around the shaking hips of Shakira.

James Brown Hadda Get on the Goodfoot In His Grave, Part 2--Obvious but nice touch of draping the JB cape around the unoccupied mic stand.

James Brown Hadda Get on the Goodfoot In His Grave, Part 3--Prince, epitomizing cool once again, gets up, smiles slyly, and intros Beyonce with the briefest of sentences.

James Brown Hadda Get on the Goodfoot In His Grave, Part 4--Was QT, or Quentin Tarantino, (who more and more looks like the head on top of a Pez dispenser)on drugs, drunk, or just doing his best to invoke the carnival barking spirit of a bygone era of honky-tonks, the chitlin' circuit, and wild and crazy DJ's as he took his turn at announcing the nominees?

Eyesight To The Blind--Certainly, the most terrifying sight of the evening was of self-satisfied Don Henley pumping his fists at the Dixie Dollies, the suddenly anointed successors to the likes of Lenny Bruce, Frank Zappa, Richard Pryor, and Public Enemy.

I Can See Clearly Now--Where Scarlett Johannsons' orbs, splendidly spilling out of her outfit, as large and luminescent to you as they were on my extra large TV screen, or where they a bigtime Grammy special effect like all the forlorn little cuties holding candles upside their necks during the Ludacris number, or the amazingly innovative use of released confetti during the Chili Peppers ditty?

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes--Since when did Chili guitarist John Frusicante suddenly start to look (and dress) like Justin Timberlake's older, nerdier brother?

Best Shout Out-Ludacris to Bill O'Reilly.

The Apocalypse is Definitely Around the Corner--Ornette Coleman (in a kick-ass zoot suit) forced to introduce the likes of James Blunt, and (gulp) worse, stand there while Carrie (Sybil) Underwood won.

Don't Knock The Rock--Flea did it up twice, despite the Peppers strangely muted performance--jumping around in yellow soccer uniform (a tribute to Beckham?) and posting a sign over his amps that said "Love to Ornette Coleman".

Veg-et-a-bles--While Queen Latifah probably should get marked down as a zucchini,her presenting partner Al Gore definitely had it down as a kumquat.

Growing Up in Public, Part 1--Justin Timberlake has come a long way baby, but, why oh why, keep the whitey-white sneakers on (the ultimate fashion sin--a grown man with sneakers or sandals), which make him look far too close to a singing, dancing live action version of Mickey Mouse?

Growing Up in Public, Part 2-John Mayer was rocking the curly locks, but it was his beat-up, paint-flakin' guitar that scored the real points, though I'm not quite ready to pull out the green and buy his, ahem, blues album.

Growing Up in Public, Part 3--Sure Christina Aguilera might have finally escaped her early skank-as-diva persona, but that Jean Harlow do looked like it could cut through a diamond.

Growing Up in Public, Part 4--Kudo's to Mary J. Bilge (and her posterior)for showing maturation as an artist and a person, but jeez, don't ever invoke the glass-breaking vocal stylings of Patti Labelle while trying to do justice to an emotional number.

In Memory of Marcel Marceau--The strange Bob Willis/Don Henley tribute turned out to be 3 parts Don, 1 part Bob,yet the scarily enacted pantomine between Sybil Underwood and The Rascal Fattie guy during "Life in the Fast Lane" was more horrifying than any guts-on-display scene in any recent horror movie.

Life's Been Good To Me So Far--Dan Wilson,the leader of indie faves Semisonic, looked like a dazed 13 year old who just had the neighborhood sweetie's hand in his pants as he traipsed up on stage to share in the Grammy spotlight of the Dixie Chicklets.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Weekend Warrior

After a long dispute-laden week in the wonderful world of organized labor, and a lengthy evening manning the door at Nick-A-Nees on Friday, I was ready to head straight into middle-age hibernation and curl up in the coziness of my Cranston cave, but alas, plans had been set in motion, for which I dutifully planned to sleepwalk my way through. Little did I know that, once again, the saving graces of rock and roll, the divine intervention of pop music, the sharp but soothing tones and precepts of going honky-tonkin' would turn me from a shrunken mouse-like state to my natural cool daddy self. Yep, and it was all accomplished in five easy random steps:
1. Started Saturday morning with a fog-clearing attempt at diving into the printed page, in this case a recently acquired used book by one of my personal writing heroes, the one and only Nick Tosches (Dino, Hellfire, The Devil and Sonny Liston),a 1985 revised edition of 1977's Country: Living Legends and Dying Metaphors in America's Biggest Music. Tosches writes about country with an alchemist's eye, weaving together the mojo of British balladry, New Orleans Jazz, jump blues, hillbilly weirdness, and the first stompings of early rock and roll in his typically overcharged rock-and-roll-academic-on-methedrine-and-vodka style ("A few years later people began speaking of the revolutionary pop-country fusion wrought by the Byrds and Bob Dylan. Could Bob Dylan do The Clam? I bet Dino could."), and in between chapters entitled "Loud Covenants" and "Stained Panties and Coarse Metaphors" there is plenty of dizzying theories, arcane facts, and enough mesmerizing off-color song titles compiled that the reader may began to feel hungover.
2. Resting my weary eyes and overstimulated brain mid-afternoon, I uncurled my tightened fingers from my ever present weekend companion (the remote) and discovered a Sundance Channel screening of New York Doll, a well-received doc about New Dolls bass player Arthur "Killer" Kane, and a film my good pal (and Dolls manager) Darren Hill had raved to me about many times. The doc was subtle and superb, a heartbreaking tale of a once brash musician who falls into extremely hard times and discovers a measure of peace through his involvement in the Mormon Church while still yearning to rock, joins the Dolls for a reunion gig and passes away soon after, strangely content with his hard boiled life. The filmmakers wisely take no easy shots at the Mormons or the Dolls, instead they wisely follow Kane's simple and often sad sack story, the the movie is joyous and heartbreaking, a lyrical ode to the power of rock, and a neat mediation about loss and friendship.
3. Early Saturday night brought me to the Narrows Art Center in Fall River with stepson Jesse along for the ride, for an acoustic gig by the brilliantly erudite singer/songwriter/rocker Alejandro Escevedo, ex-member of The Nuns, Rank and File,the True Believers, and critically praised solo artist. Escevedo, accompanied by a fellow guitarist, was in turns, funny, fierce, and achingly heart rendering. He knows how to plug into that high lonesome sound, color it with Texmex flavorings, and nail it to the floor. It was probably one of the most rocking acoustic gigs I've ever seen, and Escevedo sweet melodies, hard strummed chords, and sharp tales of fathers, lovers, the American landscape, and his own mortality are still ringing through my head.
4. Post Narrows, scrambled to Jakes in order to catch my friends The Dino Club, a band I collaborate on the occasional lyric with. As much as I desired to hear an all scottyd songathon what caught my ears during the lengthy and raucous set I watched was how sublime the fine art of covering a song can be. Mark Cutler has had a long history of making specific covers as much his own as the bevy of originals he's written, but that night, listening to the boys weave two nuggets (a torrid and intense "Girlfren"/Modern Lovers), a beyond crackling "Venus of Avenue D"/Mink DeVille), two hoary chestnuts which I would advise most bands to avoid at all costs( a blazingly anthemic "Gimmie Shelter"/Stones that was boosted along mightily by special guest Jeri Verdi and a hypnotic chug-a-chug "Sweet Jane"/Velvets), and a smartly rethought Lieber and Stoller classic (the big-banged,rooster-rocked "Poison Ivy"/Coasters)into their lively set of originals, I could only smile with contentment. The band (Giusti-Tanaka-Torrey) clicked along like a hard charging freight train gliding and curling around a craggy mountainside. It was fun, it was inspiring, it was, ahem, pure unadulterated rock and roll.
5.Sunday was Superbowl, and a game unfolded about which I felt strangely neutral. The halftime guest was the one and only Prince, and one had to wonder which Prince would appear--Asscheek Boy, Funkyman, or Mystical Symbolguy. Nope, the way my weekend was going I shoulda put some green down-It was rockin' Prince, strutting his stuff in the pouring rain, making mincemeat out of his guitar strings, winking a wicked eye at all of America, and delivering a strange medley comprised of princetunes and excerpts from "Proud Mary', "All Along The Watchtower", and (give Dave Grohl one huge shout-out) the Foo Fighters "Best of You". Prince has been and can be a towering pop music genius, and this Sunday he tore the house down, effectively wiping away the putrid stench of many Superbowl halftime circus-like fiasco's of the past.