Lil Soldiers, Boot Camp, No Limit Records, 1999. I think I might've reviewed this one for a newspaper. I'm sad that I didn't keep my copy of it.
The WSJ notes that outbreaks of chlorine-resistant cryptosporidium -- a parasite that gives people the shits -- are on the rise at public pools. Although chlorine might not kill the thing, strong ultraviolet light does:
Now, many water parks are installing ultraviolet systems, which kill parasites including crypto when water passes through the systems' black light. Seven Peaks Water Park, in Provo, Utah, invested about $250,000 in UV systems, said the park's maintenance engineer, Ken Kroeber. Park officials were concerned after some people who became ill in last year's outbreak said they had swum there, though the water wasn't ever tested for the parasite, he said.
The article does not mention that another form of parasite, the raver, is not killed by black light.
This is either totally sincere, or utterly arch. Either way, I'm relatively OK with it:
Cabin "Dance With Me" (mp3)
Somebody kidnapped Lenny Kravitz:
Bigelf "Money, It's Pure Evil" (mp3)
What Laura Says, "July 23" (mp3)
Who does this dude think he is?
Charles Hamilton, "Brooklyn Girls" (mp3 via YouSendIt)
Taylor Swift "Taylor Swift" (Big Machine)
If you have an eMusic account, you've probably seen Taylor Swift's debut album gazing at you from the top of the site's bestseller chart for about a year or so. It's like some sort of bizarre quantum-physics particle (the T-Swift? the Swifton?) -- a mysterious and powerful presence offsetting the Indie Rock Strong Force that dominates the Top 10 at any given time.
She has another record on the way in the fall, but this one remains a pop-country juggernaut, with certified-multiplatinum sales and a gaggle of singles issued over two years -- including this year's "Picture To Burn," which contains the immortal line, "So go and tell your friends I'm obsessive and crazy/That's fine, I'll tell mine you're gay." If you look closely, she's not concerned about debunking any rumors about herself, and she's not goin' homophobe -- she just wants to keep her fellow hotties from lining themselves up as rebound material. She hates his pickup truck, too. "As far as I'm concerned/You're just another picture to burn," goes the chorus. The real implication? She's already burned several pictures of exes.
But despite such displays of feistiness, the girl who manifests herself on Taylor Swift is economically comfortable (deprivation isn't an issue) and largely twang-free (she's from Reading, Pa., which isn't quite in the sticks). And those reasons -- along with its perfectly professional Nashville sonics -- are probably why the album is still selling like hotcakes. A couple of decades ago, you'd find a copy of Huey Lewis' Sports in lots of suburban bedrooms, for largely the same reasons. By comparison, that album was like, totally edgy. But hey, a girl can grow, can't she? Here's what she told CMT:
It's so fun to see you come out on stage singing an Eminem cover and your version of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" rocks. Any plans to do a duet with a rap artist on an upcoming album?
Ha ha! I don't know! I'm not planning anything like that right now, but I think the coolest thing in the world would be to do something with Jay-Z. When I was 11, I sang the national anthem at a 76ers game in Philly. Jay-Z was sitting courtside and gave me a high-five after I sang. I bragged about that for like a year straight. I love doing cover songs that nobody expects. When I went to live shows, I always loved stuff like that. I like it when something you wouldn't expect to happen onstage happens -- musically or visually. I think Sugarland does a great job of incorporating different surprises into their shows.
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When I was in 5th or 6th grade, one of the local dads decided that my elementary school needed a feeder team for its official Catholic league basketball squad, which was generally dominated by 7th and 8th graders. He rounded up players -- including yours truly -- and booked some practice time at a nearby public school's gymnasium. (My school didn't have a gym.) He botched one important thing, though: Our entry paperwork for the B-level league. Oops. We were left out.
This came as a tremendous relief to me, however. First off, I couldn't even make a layup. (Despite coming of age in the Dr. J/Larry Bird/Magic Johnson era, I didn't live in a basketball-oriented house.) But more importantly, I was very pale and somewhat pudgy. (I would only get fatter until about age 13, when things kinda evened-out for good.) The idea of practicing layups -- though humiliating -- was at least a familiar process; I'd already learned to hit a baseball, swim fearlessly and throw a football, so it was just another sports drill. But the pasty-and-round thing was a source of true anxiety. I was mortified by the thought of standing in front of hundreds of people in only a tank top and short-shorts. (The shirt-under-the-uniform thing, if I remember correctly, was made acceptable by Patrick Ewing a few years later.) Even Kurt Rambis, perhaps the dorkiest dude ever to play in the NBA, was kinda cut, y'know? I didn't even have armpit hair yet.
Includes a Johnnie Cochran reference:
High Decibels, "Miss Cindy" (mp3)
It's like the opposite of "Once In A Lifetime":
Grampall Jookabox, "The Girl Ain't Preggers" (mp3)
All of a sudden, Polvo busts into the room:
Sunfold, "Sara The American Winter" (mp3)
In the broadest sense, I came close to "seeking comfort" in a prostitute, just once. It was the winter of '95/'96, and I had been in the D.C. area for less than a year. I slogged to the Black Cat on a wintry evening to see the New Bomb Turks. The small crowd included a large, unintentionally dangerous punker. At one point, his spiked leather jacket opened a shallow-but-painful gash in my thumb. Later, he inadvertently smashed my toe. I stumbled out into the street, after the show, to find that about 4 inches of snow had fallen. The streets were dead. My plan of catching a cab home to Alexandria looked futile (this was back before Metro started running its trains later). I had at least $30 in my pocket, believe it or not. I started walking toward downtown on 14th Street (which was still pretty bleak in those years), and I soon noticed that there were still two or three hookers strolling the sidewalks, aimlessly. I passed one; she acknowledged me with one of those are you OK sugarbear? kind of comments; I said, "I'm alright" with a grin. With my foot and thumb throbbing, I walked at least another block and realized, "maybe one of them know where to fetch a cab." I almost turned around and asked for a hooker's help; soon after, a driver in a ramshackle taxi spotted me and pulled over. He greeted me with a mixture of sympathy (it was cold out), gratefulness (I was a paying customer), and suspicion (what was I doing on 14th Street at 1 a.m.?).
A prominent network should give Pat Summit and Bruce Pearl a morning TV show. Then somebody can shoot video of me watching that show. When my brain turns to mush, blood starts gushing from my ears and I start clawing at my eyeballs like a chimpanzee beset on all sides by a swarm of carnivorous insects, it will make an awesome YouTube clip.
Summit and Pearl are absolutely unbearable in this:
(Wednesday's Review will return next week. The Secret History of Pop Cesspool continues on Thursday.)
It's quite possible that my first awareness of substance abuse came from "Curious George Goes To The Hospital," a book I received -- I think -- as compensation for the fact that my brother was born. I remember perusing it at a relative's house, not my own, perhaps while Mom & Dad parked me there so they could plus-one the family. It's all fuzzy evidence, but it adds up to some good context, right? (No, wait: I was only 2½ then. My exposure to the book might've happened much later, when my bro went in for some outpatient surgery.) Anyway, George's drug use amounts to this: Discovers ether. Huffs it. Trips balls. Passes out. (The scene has spawned a cottage industry of T-shirts targeted at stoner dudes.) As I grew into the section of boyhood that afforded me opportunities to consume illicit shit, I was a teetotaler. Miller Lites in the woods? Blah. Marijuana behind that unfinished house? No way. Some Skoal down by the creek? Barf. A nip of yer pop's whiskey? You're totally desperate, man. Most of those decisions can be traced back to Catholic guilt, which can be traced back to my youthful receptivity to the suggestions of allegedly upstanding adults. But I will say this: That image of George, passing out in a dark room? It's kinda bleak. I'll skip the ether, thank you very much.
In the original Pee-Wee Herman Show on HBO, there's a scene when the disembodied Jambi is given a pair of hands. He's extremely grateful, and he makes a comment along the lines of, there's something I've been wanting to do with these for a long time. It's one of the greatest jerk-off jokes in television history, but I can't remember what my initial reaction was in 1981, as a 10-year-old kid who watched that seminal episode any time I could. At that point in my life, I understood the concept of "playing with yourself," but the connotation of that phrase was "wasting time" -- and not "masturbating." But the gag is funny even if you don't know exactly what Jambi is implying, because he exuded an elemental salaciousness that was inherently comic. Within a few years, I had no doubt about what Jambi really meant. Ew, yo.
Y'know the scene in "First Blood Part II" when Rambo gets all-too-familiar with pig shit? It had a huge philosophical impact on me. I don't remember the exact details, but it appeared to involve tons of filth and slop and excrement. Here's where it kicks in, for me: Sometimes when I have to do something kinda nasty -- empty a vacuum cleaner, unclog a sink, scoop up animal feces, etc. -- I recall that scene. Now, my sympathies don't go out to Sly Stallone or the John Rambo character. The '80s are over. No, I think about the fact that there are people who have actually been submerged in shit, and I say to myself, "whatever I'm doing right now is not as bad as that."
Have a great weekend!
I think I'm tired of Ira Glass, but that doesn't mean I dislike him. And, funny enough, he kinda has a similar view of Rush Limbaugh:
“Rush is just an amazing radio performer,” says Ira Glass, a star of the younger generation of public-radio personalities. “Years ago, I used to listen in the car on my way to reporting gigs, and I’d notice that I disagreed with everything he was saying, yet I not only wanted to keep listening, I actually liked him. That is some chops. You can count on two hands the number of public figures in America who can pull that trick off.”
Glass compares Limbaugh to another exceptional free-form radio monologist, Howard Stern. “A lot of people dismiss them both as pandering and proselytizing and playing to the lowest common denominator, but I think that misses everything important about their shows,” he says. “They both think through their ideas in real time on the air, they both have a lot more warmth than they’re generally given credit for, they both created an entire radio aesthetic.” (NYT Magazine)
I think I'm tired of Stern, too.
And I know you think I'm lazy and lame for quoting last Sunday's magazine on a Thursday.
It's a circle of frickin' love around here, I tell ya.
Dwele "Sketches Of A Man" (Koch)
Unlike lots of knuckleheads, Dwele can actually claim a strong J. Dilla connection: The legendary producer scouted out the upstart Detroit R&B singer at the turn of the century, and Dwele soon became an accessory to Commons and Kanyes. As such, he's also the quintessential upmarket R&B loverman -- not a crass high-roller or a mogul wannabe, but an aesthete with a strong gentlemanly streak and top-shelf friends. The late Dilla understood several kinds of cool, including that kind.
But is Dwele too nice? On "Sketches Of A Man," his third disc, the only tension comes from the singer's refusal to neither smolder nor erupt. Don't go looking for the slightest bit of fire, even in the most obvious places. The single "I'm Cheatin'," for instance, is about scoring two sides of the same girl: "And then you took off your clothes/You asked me who I wanted/The nasty one I suppose," he croons, turning a potential mindfuck into nothing more than a mundane roleplay. The song's hooks are likeable enough, though -- I hear faint echoes of D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar." (More on him in a minute.) The funked-up "Workin' On It," likewise, plays more like a sketch of agitated funk, and not an actual attack. The album-ender "Body Rock" gets closer, but only by taking a circuitous pop route.
But it's the nerdy stuff that really trips me up, and not just because I'm a big nerd myself. The happy-go-lucky, organ-and-piano-flecked "A Few Reasons (Trust Pt. 2)" is a satisfying exaltation of a relationship -- until he brings up Web apps: "If we had computer love/I would let you hack my MySpace/If your love was a dance/You could YouTube it." When I was outside doing yard work the other day, a car drove by with New Edition's ancient "Mr. Telephone Man" playing. Dwele's tune is already more dated than that one. Elsewhere, he drops at least one deflating reference to an Apple ("5 Dolla Mic").
A few tracks are pleasing in a no-nonsense way, though: "Blow Your Mind" is believable; "70's" and "Love Ultra" are memorably sunny; and "Spiritual" has some Dilla-esque weirdness. And that's where we get back to D'Angelo: It's safe to say that Dwele wouldn't have a career without the big man from Virginia, in the sense that "Brown Sugar" truly was a game-changing song for neo-soulsters. But within 5 years, D'Angelo and Dilla were holed up together, making Voodoo. Nothing is cooler than that, and it's amazing how far away it seems sometimes.
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So, the esteemed folks at Live Nation have a little festival called Download 2008. It should probably be called College Rock Never Actually Died, It Just Got Even Whiter. But that's another story.
I'm here to bitch about Live Nation's misplaced priorities. This three-city fest is certainly gonna sell a fair share of tickets. Profits will be made. So it's rather sad that the Downloads page of the, uh, Download festival has only four fuckin' songs.
Skinflints! Give some more shit away!
Sixteen years later, I still get mileage out of the Bushwick Bill quote, "Why you shot me in the eye? I woulda shot you in the body!" ("Ever So Clear," 1992.) Such sweet paradox, on so many ridiculous levels. That said, I can't even imagine what verbiage might be available on his new Jesus piece. From allhiphop.com :
Rapper Bushwick Bill, a member of the controversial, legendary Southern rap group The Geto Boys, is set to release his sixth solo album, with an unexpected twist. Testimony of Redemption, which Bushwick hopes to release later this year, will be his first foray into Gospel Rap. The new album is mostly autobiographical and confessional in nature, with Bushwick apologizing for his past misogynistic lyrics on “Praise of a Good Woman” and owning up to his wild past on “Renewed Mind,” which borrows the same Isaac Hayes sample as the Geto Boys’ classic “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.” Full Story
They forget to mention that Bill's relationship with the ladies is still a work in progress.
If somebody is being nerdy and annoying, you look at 'em and say, "You're gettin' your nerd on right now. If Rae Dawn Chong had a sibling, and it was you, they'd call you Nerd-On Chong."
It's got a nice dynamic, because it's actually more gentle than it seems. After all, if somebody was Nerd-On Chong, they'd be Tommy Chong's kid, and that's not so bad, right?
Katy Perry is apparently Queen Shit right now, and the only reason I know this is because I went to Billboard.com on a whim. (ZZ Top shacks up with Rick Rubin!) So, apparently, Perry's girl-kissing song is a big sloppy hit. The video looks like a shampoo commercial that has been raped by Fredericks Of Hollywood. It needs a few dudes doing the following:
1. Dry-humping each other, fully clothed, in the background. Y'know, like friends do.
2. Squeezing bottles of shampoo onto the ladies. It's all about the product, people.
She also has a song about how I'm so gay; the video for that song needs a ZZ Top cameo.
The Fairline Parkway "A Memory Of Open Spaces" (The Kora)
My favorite brand of indie pop is best described through negations: It's not too careful, not too precious, not too gentle, not too coy and not too cold. Of course, that's a rather fussy way to explain un-fussy music. (It's like when you're at a wedding, and somebody reads 1 Corinthians 13, the one about how love is not this-or-that, and you want to blast J. Geils' "Love Stinks" on a boombox.)
Anyway, you probably could see this coming: A Memory Of Open Spaces hits all of those "nots" -- it's a subtle album that never turns somnolent, and it offsets its cozy-chair sonics (barely-there vocals; acoustic guitars; firm-but-quiet drumming; and occasional piano, horns or strings) with perfectly controlled undercurrents of tension and dissatisfaction. The country-dusted "Robbed Blind" is quintessential: The lyrics are tough to quote, but from what I can make out, they're more about entropy than anything. And the band plays as if fueled only by breezes and rustling oaks. The Sea & The Cake would've made it icy; Sufjan Stevens would've gone searching for some agape. (It's much of the same elsewhere on the album. I'm not sure how I feel about the kinda-cranky "Movie Stars," though. It's basically a roll call of old-timers, and it's way more conceptual than anything else on the disc.)
None of this should be surprising; almost everybody in Fairline Parkway has served some time in bands with a similar indie-pop M.O. Their collective resume includes not only the New Zealand-inspired Roofwalkers (which is still an D.C. active band), but also Antlerand, The Kingdom and The Minders. But A Memory Of Open Spaces stands on its own as a pretty little thing -- another unassuming lesson about the fine line between holding back and shutting down.
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I'm not gonna knock the Rothbury Festival's mega-green/ultra-conscious credentials; big fests can be filthy, yucky, wasteful things. But I will say this: If they really wanted to get people's attention -- and truly add some backwoods Michigan flair to the event -- they'd book Ted Nugent.
Looking at the lineup, I see some golden opportunities for multiple varieties of dissonance. For maximum effect, I'd probably wang-dang-doodle the Nuge between, uh, Medeski, Martin & Wood and Sage Francis.