Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Upcoming Show: Oasis at The Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA - 12/04/08

Oasis lorded over rock in the 90's in the most annoying way possible: I'm sorry, but unpleasant, bickering brothers in the style of the Kinks is not cute to me. And who the fug (at the time) under 30 cares about the Beatles? But I feel it is my duty to alert you all to the Gallagher brothers arriving from England and landing in Los Angeles to play "Wonderwall" for the bajillionth time at the Staples Center on December 4, 2008, which is my father's birthday, by the way. Enjoy!

Though I was and am not their biggest fan, they did have a few tracks that resonated with me. This song in particular, from their first album Definitely, Maybe, I always felt was one of their hardest rocking:

Oasis - Supersonic (1994)

When I was first learning to play guitar, I would play that solo lick after the chorus constantly. This is actually a crackin' tune. Still not going to the show, though.

I Can't Believe You Don't Own This F%#kin' Record - Kyuss - ...And The Circus Leaves Town (1995)

One of my favorite parts in an admittedly not-90's movie, High Fidelity (2000), is when Jack Black gets his panties in a bunch because a dimwitted customer does not own Jesus and Mary Chain's "Psychocandy." And how right he is. The 90's were the last time that music was listened to in 60-80 minute blocks in a predetermined sequence, unlike in our currently singles-centric, iPod-driven technological age. I Can't Believe You Don't Own This F'in Record concerns itself with the full-length albums that shaped the musical landscape of the 90's.


There are some bands from the 90's that are so damn good they make me want to cry. In the 90's, back East, I had never been to a desert before. Kyuss, to me, sounded like what I imagined the desert to be like: arid, trippy and overwhelming all at the same time. Kyuss, from Palm Desert, CA, was hailed as something of a Velvet Underground of metal...they held an underground cult status in the metal and rock scene, and eventually were recognized as the standard bearers for a certain kind of sludgy, Black Sabbath-esque hard rock.

Really, all of Kyuss's albums should be featured since they spent such a relatively short time as a band (1989-1995) and had such a consistently fresh and exciting take on bottom-heavy metal. ...And The Circus Leaves Town is special to me since it introduced me to the band shortly before they broke up and morphed into the fire-breathing superband Queens of the Stone Age (which formed in 1997), and it contains what is one of my top ten favorite songs ever: "Catamaran":


John Garcia was one of my favorite lead singers in the 90's. His voice had a uniquely rough, yet oddly vulnerable quality to it that was a great contrast to the rumbling guitars, kind of like Danzig without the fascination with Elvis. Even when his singing was "tough," it felt like he could get run over by those Mack truck guitars at any time. Listening to this record was like discovering Sabbath's Master of Reality album all over again, with the lead vocalist singing as if he spent his youth inhaling desert sand and cactus needles instead of ashes from Birmingham factories. Heaven on Earth.

Many of Kyuss's songs had an innate groove to them as well that I was attracted to: I mean, just because I embraced punk, metal and hardcore didn't mean that I had disavowed the need to shake my thang every now and then. Many of the low-end bands that followed in their wake, especially Fu Manchu, didn't quite seem to pass that test for me. Kyuss had a slinky, sensual vibe to all their music that a teenage girl truly appreciates when she's listening to her Walkman late at night. Here is a video for "One Inch Man" off of this record that perfectly illustrates what I mean:

John Garcia did not follow the path of Queens; instead he moved on to the (unfortunately) short-term project, Slo Burn, from 1996-1997. They put out an EP in 1996 called Amusing the Amazing, which is actually worth checking out because it sounds exactly like Kyuss, and features this amazing song, "Pilot The Dune":

Guitarist Josh Homme, of course, leads the very successful outing, Queens of the Stone Age, with Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters even playing the drums for the entirety of their excellent 2002 album, Songs for the Deaf. I, however, recommend Queens's self-titled first album if you are a Kyuss fan, since their sound had not quite developed into the kind of more mainstream rock that Queens is known for today; it still stays quite close to the more dank immersion into metal that is Kyuss.

The very tasty Josh Homme, friends

See You At The Show: The Pretenders at Amoeba Records Hollywood, September 29, 2008


Chrissie Hynde and James Walbourne of The Pretenders played an acoustic set at Amoeba Records Hollywood yesterday, as well as signed vinyl copies of The Pretenders' new album, Break Up The Concrete. The somewhat large (in the hundreds) number of people there to see the divine Ms. Hynde were herded in like rock-loving cows to watch from behind the rows of CDs...this brought the wryly funny Chrissie to admit that she was impressed that Amoeba trusted the audience not to steal anything.

While fans tried to steal Chrissie's heart (some guy proposed marriage right after she sat down, to which she could only reply yes), she had stolen ours from the minute she opened her mouth. She sounds exactly like her recordings, and exactly like how I remember her when my favorite "modern rock" station back in NY would play "Precious" for the 90th time that day.

She and James did not, however, play "Precious," or hardly anything old, besides "Talk of the Town," which got a very warm reception from a clearly, ahem, older crowd. This set was about selling the new album, and sell it they did. The tracks, including "The Nothing Maker," "Love's A Mystery," "Don't Lose Faith In Me," "Almost Perfect," and "Boots of Chinese Plastic" were all strong and just as engaging as the old Pretenders hits. Chrissie flubbing the words during a senior moment on "Almost Perfect" fit the charming, intimate vibe of the show, and the rough and tumble rockabilly of "Boots of Chinese Plastic" made me want to go put on creepers and climb in my 1965 GTO. Except for wishing that Amoeba would rearrange its space to accommodate a live audience for its in-store shows (as much as I enjoyed doing research in the CDs for this blog), it was a very satisfying show, with great, nimble guitar work by James Walbourne. And Chrissie looked fabulous too.

I'm very sad that we were unable to take pictures or video during their set, so I have nothing cool to show you that I shot, so I have a video for "Talk of the Town" (1981), from The Pretenders' second album, that they performed yesterday:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Upcoming Show: The Pretenders - Amoeba Records Hollywood, Sept. 29

Chrissie Hynde and James Walbourne of The Pretenders are playing an acoustic set tomorrow at Amoeba Hollywood (6400 Sunset Blvd.) at 6pm and signing copies of the new Pretenders record, Break Up The Concrete. Sorry for the short notice, I'm just finding out about this too.

The Pretenders saw a great resurgence in their popularity in the 90's, especially upon the release of the single, "I'll Stand By You" (1994). I love The Pretenders, I lost their greatest hits CD during a move once and was pretty bummed. I hope to see you there tomorrow!

Upcoming Show: My Bloody Valentine - Santa Monica Civic Center, Oct. 1-2

Just popping in to let you know that the infamous My Bloody Valentine are finishing up what amounts to their comeback tour at the Santa Monica Civic Center in CA this Wednesday, October 1, and Thursday, October, 2. I will be at the Wednesday show and am super excited about this. I love the earsplitting and beautiful feedback-laden guitar sound of My Bloody Valentine. They are apparently listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for loudest concert.

This band has been M.I.A. since their indie-rock classic album, Loveless (1991). Here is the excellent "Only Shallow" from that record:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Movies You Might Have Missed: Naked


I watched English filmmaker Mike Leigh's "Naked" last night with my fiance, and we were both struck with how well this beautiful and haunting film holds up fifteen years later. It leaves a surprisingly exhilarating aftertaste of youthful rebellion. So much can be said about this dark, nihilistic movie that is truly unlike any other Mike Leigh film, even his similarly angry Meantime [1984], Leigh's skinhead movie featuring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.

The film proved controversial upon its release, and Mike Leigh faced charges that he was a misogynist and that he made the audience sympathize with a main character who is a rapist. Now, the question of whether or not Johnny is a rapist is just one of many that Naked will have you asking. Mike Leigh, in an interview on the Criterion DVD special features, maintains that Johnny is not a rapist, but a frustrated victim of his own idealism. Naked is a brilliant, funny and excoriating examination of urban loneliness and despair at materialist culture in contemporary London.

David Thewlis, as the constantly wandering Johnny, is remarkable. He won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993 for this film. His performance blows through about a million emotions, sometimes in the space of one scene. Johnny's philosophical rants, along with all the rest of the actors' dialogue and story, were the result of improvisation honed through almost 12 weeks of rehearsal. I doubt there are many actors who could have handled this tightrope of a character with quite the same precision and aplomb that Thewlis did:

Mike Leigh mentions in the interview that he feels that the films that he's written conventionally aren't as good as the films that he's made as a result of working together with the actors to create the characters. He says that it makes the work richer, and I have to agree. This is clear in this well-known scene where Johnny and a building security guard trade esoteric theories about the apocalypse, the prospect of the future and God:

Lastly, this film is blessed with graceful cinematography and a fascinating score by composer Andrew Dickson. They aid in relieving the audience of what could have been an oppressive heaviness in tone, and lifting the film into the realm of the spiritual:

(NSFW - Naked is a foul language fest!)

Naked is just awesome. See it as soon as possible.

People Who Died: David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

The film of Jim Carroll's autobiographical novel, The Basketball Diaries (1995), reintroduced the Jim Carroll Band's 1980 song, "People Who Died" to 90's kids. And so it goes with this feature which is obviously about people who are strongly associated with the 90's who have unfortunately kicked the bucket.


David Foster Wallace's recent suicide (he was found dead by hanging in his home in Claremont, CA on September 12, by his wife) kind of caught me off guard. At my small liberal arts college in New England, this postmodern author was a vaunted figure. We were all big fans of his writing, and girls were big fans of his decidedly rugged, decidedly unwriterly looks and persona. These things aside, I was mostly shaken because I also suffer from depression, and here was a guy I admired that lost his fight with it. Reading about his accomplishments in the requisite tribute articles that popped up immediately after the news broke, I wracked my brain trying to figure out why this happened. Then it came to me: it isn't for me, or anyone else, to figure out. He decided what he had to do and did it. Case closed. Here is a picture of David Foster Wallace smiling:

Instead of dwelling on the writing that accentuated his depressive tendencies, I'd like to highlight an essay about David Lynch that he wrote for the September 1996 issue of Premiere called "David Lynch Keeps His Head." Foster Wallace helped me to better understand a filmmaker that I also idolized (and still do--I choose my film school partly because Lynch is a graduate). He brought keen insight, wit and humor to this and every subject he wrote about. Please find a copy of his Lynch essay here.

No discussion of David Foster Wallace is complete without mention of his 1996 fictional novel, Infinite Jest. This tome is the Book-Most-Used-As-A-Drink-Coaster-In-Hipster-Small-Liberal-Arts-School-Graduate-Apartments. At 1088 pages, this thing is a mammoth that no one I know has ever finished. It is Pynchon on steroids. Unbelievable. I'm serious when I say that I have always been cowed by the impressive size of Infinite Jest. I will read it someday.

In the meantime, I am reading Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present (1990), which was co-written by David Foster Wallace with Mark Costello. Check out an excerpt about rap's incredible rise to widespread popularity in the mainstream in the 90's:

David Foster Wallace was a great writer and a true individual. R.I.P.

Friday, September 26, 2008

See You At The Show: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds at The Hollywood Bowl, September 17, 2008


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds kick ass. That's just all there is to that. All my cellphone videos of the show are marred by my booty-shaking during Nick rockin' out gothic hits "Deanna," "The Mercy Seat," and "Stagger Lee," then singing along in off-key intoxication to "The Ship Song" and "Into My Arms." Here's a still instead:

This man is as old as my 'rents but he kicks it harder than popular twentysomething bands out there now. As William Miller from Almost Famous might say, he's incendiary. Don't believe me? Read reviews of the show here and here.

Though Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have been around since the dawn of Time (OK, 1983), I am a huge fan of Cave's 90's period. Here is a video from the album Let Love In (1994):

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - "Do You Love Me?"

And another from Murder Ballads (1996):

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - "Henry Lee" featuring Polly Jean Harvey

P.S. Hey film fans: Nick Cave wrote a great film set in the 19th century Australian outback called The Proposition. This film is criminally overlooked, though everyone I worked with at the Arclight loved it when we screened it for like a week. You will love it too:

The Proposition (2006)

Kevin Smith Wants You To Know What He's Thinking

I love Kevin Smith. While I was working part-time at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood during my stint in film school in 2006, I had the pleasure of seeing the man himself speak several nights in a row after his triumphant movie "Clerks 2" screened. He was funny, much more bald than I remembered him and somewhat tired, since the screenings were late. Oh, middle age.

Kevin Smith has a book available called My Boring Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith. It's been available since September 2007, but I had no idea it was out, so I figured that you didn't either.

As you know, Kevin Smith has a new film coming out called "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks. You can see both the red and green band trailers here. But this being a 90's blog, here is some original recipe flavor Kevin Smith for you to savor:

Clerks (1994) [NSFW for you wage slaves]

Movies You Might Have Missed: Metropolitan


"Movies You Might Have Missed" is where I will talk a little bit about 90's movies that may have slipped under the radar for the casual moviegoer. The decade was ripe with high-quality, low-budget indies that were critics' darlings but remain mostly unknown to a wider audience.

I start off with Whit Stillman's debut film "Metropolitan" because it is quite possibly my favorite indie movie of the 90's, with the exception of Hal Hartley's "Trust." I grew up in Westchester County, surrounded by a tony snobbiness that can only be found in that wealthy area of the country, all the while with my eye trained downriver to Manhattan, where a better brand of snobbiness could be found if one ventured out. Metropolitan is a sharp, funny, Henry James-esque comedy of manners that pokes fun at a certain kind of absurd sense that "the rich are different" as well as retains a warmth and fondness for its often self-absorbed characters. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 1991.

From the underdog story of Tom Townsend trying to fit in with the debutante crowd, to all the boys being in love with Audrey...

...an innocent girl fetishized into being sexually active before she's ready...

...to Chris Eigeman's amazing turn as Nick Smith, who is in love with himself, this film packs a big punch for a story that is spent mostly in drawing rooms and the New York City streets.

Check out some clips from the film:

Metropolitan was reissued as a Criterion Collection DVD in February 2006. Run, don't walk to purchase this wonderful film. I leave you with one last endorsement: The song "Dry Your Eyes," by Brenda and The Tabulations is featured prominently in this movie. This 1967 minor soul hit, when my mother heard it while I was watching it one day, nearly knocked her on her bum. "How'd this white boy know about this song?!?" The song is a great aural representation of how deeply one can become attached to this elegantly restrained, yet emotional film:

Brenda and The Tabulations - "Dry Your Eyes" (1967)

See You At The Show: Nine Inch Nails at The Forum, September 6, 2008

See You At The Show is a feature where I will review a recent concert of a 90's artist or fondly recall memorable shows from my 90's past. The title "See You At the Show" is a reference to the song "Middle Name" by MxPx. If you don't remember MxPx, they are a fab punk band that are sometimes remembered for being Christian, but that shouldn't be held against them.

MxPx - "Middle Name" live in São Paulo


Nine Inch Nails was my first concert at the age of 15 in 1995. I saw them at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island on the classic Self Destruct Tour supporting the then-new, now essential Downward Spiral album. This event was so classic (Adam Ant made an appearance to perform a few songs, including "Physical [You're So])that I was actually more nervous than jazzed to see them a second time this past month. I am quite an adherent to the early NIN industrial sound, despite all my efforts to get into the more muscular rock sound he's developed in the past few years.

I have to say that I am still wedded to the dark, sinuous sensuality of Trent Reznor's early music. Though late period songs like "1,000,000" and "The Hand That Feeds You" rock as hard and aggressively as Trent's post-alcoholism biceps, I didn't start whooping and hollerin' like all the other goth fangirls until tunes like "Piggy," "Wish," and "Terrible Lie" were unfurled. But then it was on. The best thing was the massive video screen light show, an installation which was as impressive as anything at MOMA or the Guggenheim or someplace like that. Check out a poor example courtesy of my cellphone camera:

Nine Inch Nails still kick all kinds of butt, but I was hoping for more of the good old days from them. They played a jazz oddysey style interlude (Spinal Tap fans know what I'm talking about) of the songs "Ghosts" 1, 25 and 19, but I wish that they'd have ditched that for a brutally short and violent song like "Big Man With a Gun," that says everything about how heinous war and male pride is more efficiently than the entire fall of government and destruction-themed concept album, Year Zero:

NIN - "Big Man With a Gun" live in Ghent, Belgium 1994
(Lyrics NSFW for those of you lucky enough to have a job)

Nevertheless, here is a video of Nine Inch Nails at Red Rocks in 2008, for my newbie friends that, just like me, can't get enough of Trent:

NIN - "1,000,000"

For those of you in the know, that is Robin Finck on guitar, a member of Nine Inch Nails' touring band from 1994-2000, who's recently rejoined the group.

Please also check out a Rolling Stone article previewing the Forum show here.

Soundtrack of Your Life: Pavement - "Gold Soundz/Range Life"

When I'm in a crappy, crampy mood like I am in today, music usually saves the day. "Soundtrack of Your Life" will feature select tunes from the 90's that felt that they were literally the saving grace of a sometimes boring day to day.

First up is the formidable indie rock band Pavement, and their indelibly good singles, "Gold Soundz" and "Range Life." These songs are the epitome of the lazy, hazy summer songs that appeared quite frequently throughout the 90's. These two always felt like companion pieces to me, demanding to be heard one after the other every time you listened to either one of them. And as I get older, I come to appreciate the hopefully sad quality of Stephen Malkmus's lyrics...a taste from "Range Life":

after the glow, the scene, the stage, the set
talk becomes slow but there's one thing i'll never forget:
hey, you gotta pay your dues before you pay the rent.
over the turnstile turn out in the traffic
there's ways of living it's the way i'm living
right or wrong, it's all that i can do,
and i wouldn't want to let you be.

The wistfulness hits me hard now that I'm at the point in my life where childhood and even adolescence are starting to become harder to see in the rearview, and I don't always know how to be an adult. But also Malkmus calling out Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots in his delightfully tongue-in-cheek way was actually quite a ballsy move for a time when those bands ruled the Earth.

Admittedly, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994) is my favorite Pavement album. It was reissued in 2004. I do recommend you pick it up if you are still into the whole physically-walk-into-a-record-store-and-buy-an-actual-CD thing. That would be very 90's of you. :-)

You can find the hilarious video for Gold Soundz here.

Please enjoy the video for Range Life here:

Can I just mention how much hotter and more intriguing girls were in videos back then? It was fun to see punk rock chix on the telly when you were one.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brandon Boyd of Incubus is a Suprisingly Wonderful Artist...

...actually, not so suprisingly considering that his artwork is a perfect visual equivalent to the often psychedelic nature of Incubus's music, especially the early stuff off of the albums Fungus Amongus (1995) and S.C.IE.N.C.E. (1997). I was a big fan of the short but sweet Enjoy Incubus EP (1997) in college, "Azwethinkweiz" is the shizz. Brandon Boyd (lead singer of Incubus) will be exhibiting his art at Mr. Musichead Gallery on 7511 W. Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles until September 27. You can have a look-see at his stuff here: Brandon Boyd.

Now please enjoy a live video of Incubus playing "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song) at a private show in L.A.:

This song is such a damn heartstring-tugger for me.

Death Metal Isn't Mood Music?

I love the "Dear Prudence" advice column on Slate. com, and one of her most recent letters threw me into a paroxysm of emotion about my 90's past. The gist is that the letter writer's boyfriend can't get in the mood for love unless he is also jamming out to some death metal at the same time. The seemingly overwhelmed girlfriend is alarmed by this. You can read the full letter here: Slate.com - Dear Prudence.

I had to laugh at this clueless girl. I am a metal girl at heart. I greatly appreciated the 9o's ability to supply sufficiently loud and nihilistic music on a constant basis. My first boyfriend was a man in his early 20's (I was only 17) who believed that wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket that weighed 50 lbs. more than he did, over a band t-shirt, was the height of fashion, painstakingly painted an exact replica of the album cover of Dark Side of the Moon on his bedroom wall, and whose favorite band was Deicide. And it was great. This chick mentions that her boyfriend gets a huge charge from listening to it. Exactly. It's nearly impossible to understand the lyrics concerning dismemberment and the fall of God anyway. You mean this isn't mood music? Excuse me.

Deicide - "Once Upon The Cross" (1995)

It Came In Through My Bathroom Window: Nirvana: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

There's literally a window high on the shower wall in my bathroom, and just now, I hear Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blasting from the neighbors next door. I haven't experienced that in years. These days, it seems like when you hear this song up in the club or whatever, it's mashed up with 50 Cent or whatnot. I'm from New York, and folks back East are wonderfully loud and obnoxious, and are more than happy to pump whatever their favorite music is loud enough so you can hear it too, no problem. Also, back in the day, when we all had to listen to the same radio stations (it wasn't satellite radio and internets back then), you had the privilege of listening to a repeating playlist of popular tunes 1,000,000 TIMES PER DAY. In the case of Matchbox 20, this was a bane. With "Smells Like Teen Spirit," this was a miraculous boon.

While this may seem like the most obvious thing to post about on your 90's blog, it is the most obvious earthshaking event of the Nineties, other than when Kurt threw in the towel in '94. I remember when this video premiered on MTV in 1992, my Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson-soaked brain absorbed it in shock and confusion. Ninth-graders were abuzz at school the next day about the weirdo white boys with dirty hair and dirtier guitars.

Please enjoy "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come As You Are" mixed with an interview of Nirvana in the bathroom. I always loved Nirvana interviews, especially Kurt, because they were playful, funny, but always intelligently threw off the interviewer and the audience with disinformation and irony, kinda like yummy young Dylan in the "Don't Look Back" days.

Please do check out the 2006 documentary "About A Son" if you haven't already. It is basically a series of interviews that the journalist Michael Azerrad conducted with Kurt Cobain in preparation for the book he wrote about Nirvana, Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. It's very intimate and Kurt is lovely.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Remember the 90’s? Good. Because it wasn’t that long ago.

Welcome to Damn The Man, Save The Empire! 90's Pop Culture Blog! I am your own personal 90's - ologist, ready to guide you through the bittersweet pain that is nostalgia for things that happened 5 minutes ago. That is so five minutes ago! That was an expression from some 90's movie, I think, but we'll get into that later.

I want to explain why I've chosen Empire Records as a muse for this blog. I think that this highly goofy, alarmingly commercial yet oddly sweet and sensitive movie really embodies the spirit of a decade that is often looked at through rose-colored glasses. It is the celluloid embodiment of all that I feel for the music, film, politics, and general pop culture of the 90's. While the film was unpopular upon release, possibly because of its seemingly rank co-optation of outsider and radical music subculture and values, but time has proven that once you get past the bright and sunny glossiness of the film and Liv Tyler, there lies an unassailable message: Seize the day! OK, so that was Dead Poet's Society, which misses the 90's mark by one year, but anyway...

The song "This is the Day" by The The (a 90's fave) that appears at the end of Empire Records sums up what I'm trying to say about why this blog had to be. I think about life in the 90's nearly every day. It was a halcyon period, that sure, wasn't perfect, but it sure is fun to think about. Some videos for you, friends:

The The - "This Is The Day"

Coyote Shivers performs "Sugarhigh" with Renée Zellweger on vocals