Thursday, May 29, 2008

"You Can't Take Love For Granted"

I think because of when I first got into stuff like this that it seems as if I like some of the so-called "weaker" albums by established artists.

But, whatever, Elvis Costello's Punch The Clock and Graham Parker's The Real Macaw remain two of my favorite albums from 1983.

I remember getting a bit rankled in 1988 when people were raving about Tracy Chapman like she was the first person to pick up an acoustic guitar.

In the words of Morrissey in The Smith's "Shakespeare's Sister" single: "I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar then it meant that you were a protest singer."

I think Marti Jones covered this song on her great 1988 CD Used Guitars.

This clip features Graham accompanied by guitarist Brinsley Schwarz who also had a band with the same name which featured a pre-Rockpile Nick Lowe and Iam Gomm -- British rock seems a small world sometimes.

"You Can't Take Love For Granted"

Friday, May 23, 2008

"All Because Of You"

New Puffy AmiYumi!


This track was apparently an Avril Lavigne b-side written by Butch Walker and it's in English.

Here is a clip from May 17, 2008 of Puffy performing the song on Japanese TV:

And, last year's "Oriental Diamond" performed on the same show:

You can order the single here and first pressings come with a DVD!

"Tuff Gnarl"

The news that Sonic Youth is doing a "greatest hits" CD for sale at Starbucks stores has left this aging indie rocker nostalgic and perplexed.

I recall with some affection arguments I had in 1987 and 1988 with employees of other record stores -- not the ones I worked at -- in the D.C. area about bands like Husker Du and The Replacements signing to major labels.

I remember vividly one guy swearing that he would never listen to anything by those two bands on Sire despite the fact that just about anyone would agree that The Replacements' Tim on Sire is the band's finest hour (yeah, Pleased To Meet Me has the ultimate hook of "Alex Chilton" but Tim just seems as perfectly fucked up and melodic as any band could possibly be on one album).

Husker Du fans, myself included, were a bit more upbeat about the band's signing to a major label; it seemed the wise thing to do as this band, prolific to a fault in the mid-1980s, had all the earmarks of a band about to break into the mainstream like R.E.M. -- alas, that never happened.

At the time, I thought it laughable to ignore artists one liked simply because of their choice to sign Sire Records. After all, Sire was good enough for The Talking Heads and The Ramones so who were these Reagan-era hipsters to look down their nose at the Huskers or The 'Mats?

Over the course of a few years -- a few decades -- I've come to feel that there is some integrity in doing things the indie, non-corporate, way (like Fugazi, maybe) but it's the results that matter in the end.

And the proof of that was the deal Sonic Youth got with Geffen in 1990. From all appearances, the band did not have to compromise in the slightest when they signed to Geffen and their albums on the label don't really show the signs of corporate interference, do they? -- "100%" is hardly radio-friendly.

They were probably one of the last bands to be able to get away with this kind of deal before indie and grunge were turned into corporate styles to be marketed just like gangster rap.

So my take on the matter is that Sonic Youth is doing Starbucks a favor and if some yuppie hears an old Sonic Youth song for the first time and then goes out and finds EVOL and reads about the band, good for him.

There is something wonderfully ironic about the fact that a Sonic Youth CD will now be easier to find in a coffee shop in the middle of America than in a music store.

Here is one of my favorite Sonic Youth songs -- from their major label period! -- Yikes! -- with a pregnant Kim Gordon rocking out on "Bull In The Heather" on Letterman's show in Spring, 1994:

And for the hipsters out there, here "Tuff Gnarl," maybe my favorite track from the 1987 SST album Sister:

TRIVIA: My big regret from 1990, when I briefly worked as Assistant Manager at a Kemp Mill Record Store, (apart from actually working in that place) was not going to meet Sonic Youth at the Warner Brothers offices in nearby Greenbelt, Maryland. At the time, Geffen was still a WB-distributed company and invites to this meet-and-greet were the only cool promo-type thing I remember being offered at Kemp Mill. Compared to my previous gig at the University of Maryland Record Co-Op, it was a land barren of freebies from the majors.

I gave the passes to my friend Billy from the nearby used record store I used to work at partly to piss off the Kemp Mill district manager -- I hated that job and that guy! -- this was the guy who did a surprise appearance at my store on 4th of July weekend and had the nerve to bust my chops for playing a Marvin Gaye "Greatest Hits" because it was not in the Top 40-approved in-store playlist.

And the idea of Billy, who looked like Dave Grohl in the "Teen Spirit" video at the time, showing up in my place at the Geffen offices to meet the Youth and have some free food seemed fitting; I knew he would enjoy it one way or another.

Another post and I can relate how I almost got fired from the Co-op a few months before it closed when I was "managing" Billy's band, Elegant Mess, who made Sonic Youth look like The Monkees.

Hey, I did get their tape into the hands of people at the Shimmydisc label and they name-dropped the band in the College Music Journal (CMJ) so that is a minor victory.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Return Of The Fratellis

They're not exactly re-inventing the wheel are they? The Fratelli's Costello Music was one of my favorite CDs of 2006 (I think it came out in 2007 in America) with "Chelsea Dagger" quickly jumping into the upper echelons of my favorite Britpop songs of all time.

But as these clips from the Jools Holland show show, the band is striking the same vein of pub rock on the soon-to-be-released 2nd album.

I think these songs will grow on me as soon as I have the CD in hand but at first listen they sound like 1997 Supergrass b-sides; that's not exactly an insult but in 2008 it kind of is.

"A Heady Tale"

"My Friend John"

"Mistress Mabel" (official video)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

God Bless Liam!

The NME is reporting on a report in the Sun breathlessly relating Liam Gallagher's new Beatles bowl cut!

Only Liam can get away with this kind of thing, right?

The picture below from the NME is how I prefer to visualize my-favorite-active-singer-from-Manchester-who-is-not-Morrisey!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan

Imagine my surprise in actually finding something I desperately wanted in a local Best Buy store!

As I learned the hard way over the last 5 years, the Celestial Region 3 Shaw Brothers reissues go out of print fast -- nay, almost immediately!

So last year when I was on my Lily Ho kick, I started buying all of the Shaw DVDs I could find containing this amazing star only to find that one of her biggest roles was a DVD that was out of print already.

1972's Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan is a wild, guilty pleasure -- not quite as raunchy as some of the other mid-1970s Shaw films I've seen but definitely a bit more daring than anything Cheng Pei Pei ever did.

Other experts have reviewed the film with more insight than I can provide so I'll just stick to this DVD.

The print is supposedly anamorphic widescreen. I watched most of my Shaws on my older, smaller TV, and not on my newish 40 inch widescreen monstrosity so the best I can say is that the picture is good but a bit blurry in one or two spots -- not sure if that was a technique in the film or the print -- but not enough to not recommend the film.

The film is presented in Mandarin with removable English subtitles, or in an English dub which I did not sample.

The extras are quite good; about 15 or so trailers for the other Shaws in the Image Library. And a 40-minute selection of trailers for other 1980s to 1990s Hong Kong films, some quite obscure, and none with English subtitles. That was a weird, nice treat.

There is a 12 minute featurette (produced for the French edition, I'm guessing from the credits) that has interviews with Lily Li (!), Shaw Yin Yin, and Candice Yu.

They discuss the film and the remake (Candice was in that) but Lily Li spends a good few minutes discussing Tropicana Interlude where she first worked with Lily Ho. As that film is now one of my favorite Shaw titles, I was quite happy.

All in all, a great disc for under $20 considering the Celestial Region 3 is long out-of-print; and the extras were certainly a very pleasant surprise.

For a review of Tropicana Interlude, check out Brian's which says it better than I could.

I, however, would give that film a much higher rating -- Lily Li was petulant and cute, Lily Ho ravishing, and the costumes, locales, and silly 1960s tunes made it a near masterpiece in my book -- like a Beach Party movie with Lily Ho instead of Annette Funicello!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Morrissey on Ferguson

How did I miss this or not read about it?

Love the American Idol shirt -- the sense of humour is still there, I see.

"Look out, here comes, here comes..."

If an alien landed on earth -- and said alien had never heard rock music before -- and asked me: "Give me two examples of perfect rock songs."

I would give that alien these two videos.

The Bangles' "Hero Takes A Fall" is the first thing I heard by the group in late 1984and the video is a bit laughable but I have to say that Susanna Hoffs' voice on it is just about the best female singing I've ever heard. Yes, it's only pop but the kids still love it.

Sure, Janis and Aretha seemingly put more soul and obvious effort into their singing but, for me, the vocals on this track are the right mix of vulnerable and cocky and the way she sings "Here comes, here comes" in the final bridge just makes me weak in the knees.

England's The Primitives rode in on the C-86 wave like a female-led Jesus and Mary Chain, however, The Primitives, with leader Tracy Tracy, owed a bigger debt to 1960s American pop -- think the same things that inspired The Bangles (once called The Bangs) only fed through feedback like the Mary Chain. The Darling Buds covered the same ground but without the hooks of this band.

Both songs are obviously retro in many ways but neither one is entirely beholden to its influences; they both are bold, stand-alone singles that other bands would kill for.

And, apart from the visuals in the clips, neither one sounds too terribly dated despite being recorded in the mid-to-late 1980s, an era known for production overkill.

Both should have been huge hits and I am continually perplexed as to why music like this was never as big as Jody Watley or Madonna.

I never got to see The Primitives -- I don't think they ever toured the States -- but I did see The Bangles twice, even meeting them in 1989 when "Eternal Flame" was still a big, big hit.

On a personal level, Blondie's Deborah Harry may be the first female pop singer that caught my eye, but, at the end of the day, Susanna Hoffs is the ultimate American woman vocalist for me.

It's subjective but it's my blog.