Monthly Archives: February 2010

Exile on Main St. Re-Issue

This has me super excited.  Album that got really got me into the Stones (though I do prefer Let it Bleed song for song).  Interested to see the bonus tracks.  Not sure whether I’ll get the DVD though.

Clash of the Titans

I saw the trailer for Clash of the Titans while watching the Olympics last night.  Damn does it look bad.  I was rooting for this one actually.  I’m a big fan of Greek Mythology and I know there’s a whole bunch of liberties taken with the story of Perseus  here, but this looks awful.  After a second view at the trailor, I’m feeling the same way I do about Pirates of the Caribbean – make it super campy, or super violent.  (Like 300).   But you can’t have campy and dark together – it just doesn’t work.  

Also, Liam Neeson does not make a believable Zeus.  I’m interested to see how Ralph Fiennes plays Hades since we all know he does bad-ass so well as Voldemort.  

I’ll probably go see.  Might be the funniest movie I’ve seen Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Astral Weeks Live in NYC – A Year Later

 

 


This weekend last year, I was fortunate enough to see Van Morrison perform Astral Weeks in its entirety.   I can’t even begin to explain how much this album means to me.   Even though Dylan is my favorite artist, I’ve probably listened to Astral Weeks more than any other album.  If Impressionism were put to music, Astral Weeks would be the soundtrack.  Unlike a lot of other albums which seem to fit a certain mood, Astral Weeks absorbs the feeling that you have at the time.  While the theme of the album is about looking back, Morrison created an album that has yet to be equaled in beauty by anyone.  The centerpiece of the album, Madame George (which may or may not be about a drag queen) is a swirling piece of music that sucks you in and never lets go even after repeated listens.  Everytime I listen to the song, I feel I’ve known Madame George and have to dry my eye and say goodbye along with Morrison.

When I first heard about the show, the thought that I would be able to go seemed out of the question.  This was a special show, and getting a ticket would be impossible.  Even having three people try to buy tickets at once seemed like a lost cause.  I managed to get through and get tickets because I exceeded my normal price for tickets.  “Fuck it, I’m going,” I thought.  And my friend, his girlfriend and I did.  

Without a doubt, the show was the best musical performance I’ve seen.  The first half  of the concert contained well known Van Morrison songs and he seemed happy to be there, but he tore through them like his mind was on something else. But by the time we got to Astral Weeks, it was easy to see why.   Performing an album like this must be emotionally draining.  This was no nostalgia act.  Some people complain when artists don’t talk, but Morrison is a professional. Stage banter would have taken away the beauty of such songs as “Sweet Thing” and “Ballerina”.  

The track list was tinkered with, and arrangements were changed a bit, but it was still Astral Weeks.  It retained the free-jazz spirit of the original album and Morrison’s voice still sounded as great as it always has.  When “Madame George” and Morrison sang “say goodbye to Madame George” – it wasn’t just the draq queen we were saying goodbye to.  We were saying goodbye to the idea that an album could mean this much to people and that music of this caliber is also gone as well.  

Olympic Musings

So far, I’ve enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics this year.  I feel as if it’s a warm up for the World Cup later in the summer, which I am already pumped at thought of.   It’s great the summer and the winter Olympics alternate but the unfortunate side effect is that viewers have to see Bob Costas nightly every two years instead of every four.  

Since this year the Olympics are in Vancouver, we’re treated to mini documentaries about what life in Canada is really like.  For instance, did you know there are Polar Bears in Canada?  Thank God NBC taught us that.  I can see a Polar Bear at the Baltimore Zoo.  When you devote only four hours of competition nightly, why is there a segment devoted to Polar Bears?  While I’m being obnoxious I’ll also go on the record and state that Julia Mancuso seems like a brat.  When Lindsey Vonn fell yesterday during one of her runs, Mancuso  was waved off to avoid running into her teammate.  Later  she was seen crying at the bottom of the hill.  And on top of that she wears a tiara?  Seriously?  

The great thing about the Olympics is that during an economic crisis, wars world-wide for 16 days, the world can get together and watch the best athletes come together and represent their countries.  Unlike music and literature (which I will argue is actually more inspiring but that’s another issue) there’s no question about who is the best.  It’s not a question of taste.  Everyone can look at Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn or Apolo Ohno and say, “Those guys are fucking great at what they do.”

Shutter Island

I saw Shutter Island yesterday and quite impressed.  It is definitely a great movie, but an underwhelming Scorsese picture.  That being said, I will take a sub-par Scorcese movie over any other any day.  For me, the ending was kind of predictable.  That’s not a criticism however.  Unlike a lot of other movies which depends so much on the revelation at the end, Shutter Island benefits from its predictable.  It’s not so much about the actual finale, but the cause – and the effect is truly gut-wrenching.  

Much has been said lately about DiCaprio and Scorsese’s relationship.  These two totally need to make more movies together.  This might be the finest performance that DiCaprio has given Scorsese – and he’s given two other fantastic ones (Gangs of New York and The Departed).  In Shutter Island, DiCaprio’s Tenny Daniels is pushed to the brink but he also pushes back at the doctors with such intensity that the institutions top doctor insists that it just, “a defense mechanism”.  

Much of the plot of the movie revolves around flashbacks when Teddy served in World War II.  As a liberator of a concentration camp, the horror he saw constantly haunts him.  But it’s also the present that haunts him as he begins to find out the the patients on the island are being experimented on just as the Nazis did in World War II.  

Shutter Island could only have taken place in early 50’s America.  Teddy’s own paranoia about what is really taking place on the island, perfectly suits the fear of Communism that was taking over the US at the time.  The experiments that the doctors are pulling on the patients is very much akin to the Eugenics experiments that the Nazis tried.  (Check out Edwin Black’s War Against The Weak for further information on this subject.  I highly recommend it.)

Ultimately, Shutter Island fails as a Scorsese classic, because Teddy is too caught up in his quest to figure out what is taking place on the island to be relatable and memorable.  I never found myself having sympathy for him like I did with Henry Hill, Travis Bickle, or Bill the Butcher.  However, the movie is still terrifying in ways that only Scorsese could pull off.

Charity Singles

Over the past week, most of the (major) music sites have been posting articles about the  “We Are The World” remake.  Sure it’s a good cause, and I suppose that most of the artists that are contributing are feeling good about their contribution.  I’m not that cynical that I believe most of these artists are in for publicity.  (I usually do believe that, but when it comes to tragic circumstances, not so much.)

My problem with the sudden over-flow of charity singles is that they all suck.  The original “We Are The World” wasn’t that good either.  It was a bloated mess full of musicians singing one line.  Before the remake has anyone really thought about that song in about 20 years?  Probably not.  It’s not the classic that lots of people think it is.  

MTV has a couple of articles about Lil Wayne taking over Bob Dylan’s “classic” line.  Honestly, as a huge Bob Dylan I forgot he even sang on that song.  Before I YouTubed the original video, the only things I remember about it was  Dan Ackyroyd hanging out in the back looking like he was important, and Springsteen singing earnestly in his jean-jacket.  So as you can see, the original had a huge impact on me.  But I really could care less about Lil Wayne singing Dylan’s line, because Dylan didn’t write the song so it’s not like he could claim the line as his own.  

Even worse than “We Are the World” remake was “Stranded” – the collaboration between U2’s Bono and Edge, Rihanna, and Jay-Z.  Apparently it was written in a couple of days, and recorded in a week.  And it felt like it too.  At much as I dislike both versions of “We Are The World” at least it was somewhat catchy.  I just listened to “Stranded” for the second time, and seconds later I forgot the melody.

If you think I’m being too cynical here, perhaps I am.  The idea of charity singles is great, but Quincy Jones was behind “Thriller” – a pop masterpiece.  Yet when it came time to create a song that actually meant something, he came up with something trite and bloated.  The same goes for Bono and The Edge.  They’ve written many great songs about the troubles in Ireland, and Africa.  And when a song actually has the potential to make an impact they create one of the worst songs they’ve contributed to since 1997’s Pop.  

It’s not Christmas anymore, but this gets my vote for best charity-single ever:

John Mayer’s Mouth

 

Asshole

 

I’ve never been a fan of John Mayer.  The dude can play guitar for sure.  But it’s been a long time since a musician has become so self-absorbed.  It’s hard to imagine a musician who also is so insistent on squandering his own talent.  Even before the infamous Playboy interview, it was always apparent that he would open his mouth a little too-wide and regret it.  Like his idol Eric Clapton, Mayer said something insensitive, dumb, and degrading.  Clapton’s remark about British immigration was more or less forgotten.  Mayer’s of course (shouldn’t and) won’t be forgotten.  Part of this has to due to with the digital age we live in, and how fast information travels.

I for one, don’t buy his apology.  Using the racial slur was bad enough, but his apology was even more offensive, I think.  In his apology (which of course he had to Tweet) he writes: “It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there’s no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged.”  Who the hell does Mayer think he is?  Did he think that for a second that he was some great African-American scholar?  

As someone who plays blues and has such respect for the blues, Mayer should know better.  Regarding his comments about his dick being a white supremacist, I’m not sure if he was trying to be funny or “intellectual”.  But either way, it showed his true color – in his using of the racial slur, he said he wasn’t getting a “hood pass”.  Ironically, he was telling everyone he did by using that word.

A word to the wise Mr. Mayer – disappear for a while.  Close your Twitter account.  If you still want to make music fine – just make it about the music.  And shut your mouth.

The Who And The Superbowl

Ten years ago, I probably would have thought that The Who playing the Superbowl was the greatest thing ever.   When I was a teenager, to me The Who were the greatest band ever.  They were loud, violent in their performances, and Quadrophenia is a definitive album for the misunderstood teenager.  Pete Townshend in his younger years had a magnetic presence on stage with his windmills and guitar-smashing, but he was still awkward.  

At 28, the very things that made The Who great to me as a teenager, are the very things I don’t like now.  Almost all of their songs are loud – there is very little variation in their songs.  Even the (few if any) ballads are loud.  Their songs don’t speak to me the way they did when I was younger.  And most of all – I find them awkward.  This isn’t to say that I detest them, but I hardly ever go back to them.  And when I do, I only listen to a few of their songs.  I find “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” bloated and boring.  They may have some great songs, but there is nothing in the Who’s catalogue that is as transcendent as “A Day in the Life”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”  

Which brings us to the Superbowl.  I’m not suggesting that the performance will bad – The Who were always a great live band.  I’d never deny them that.  But their music is hardly party music.  The Rolling Stones set contained “Start Me Up” – not one of my favorites but it’s a party song.  Or in the case with U2, who played the first Superbowl after 9/11 – their music was perfect for a wounded nation.  Last year’s performance by Bruce Springsteen was great.  Not only was it musically fantastic, but even for his earnestness – Bruce knows how to bring in a party.  Only Springsteen could have told a world-wide audience to “put down your chicken wings.”  

Pete Townshend said that The Who’s set will contain bits of Tommy, “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  See Me, Feel Me?  Seriously?  Sure they might be their biggest hits, but will Tommy’s spiritual awakening connect with American audiences?  I’m not so sure.  Well, at least Led Zeppelin hasn’t reformed – then we’d have to put up with “Stairway to Heaven” or “Kashmir” at the Superbowl.