Thursday, September 3, 2009

See You At The Show: Nine Inch Nails, Hollywood Palladium, September 2, 2009 & NIN Cancel Tonight's Show at Music Box @Henry Fonda Theater


First of all, did I ever get lucky. I have the worst news for all you NIN fans chomping at the bit to see their last L.A. shows before Trent Reznor says hello to marriage and a long hiatus...Nine Inch Nails has cancelled tonight's show at the Music Box @Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, CA due to Trent being ill with influenza. Here's what's posted on the front page of

"We're very sorry to announce that Trent is ill, and on his doctor's orders we will not be able to perform tonight's show at the Henry Fonda Theater. This is the only information we have at this time, we're posting this early announcement as a convenience for those of you who had plans to attend. Reimbursement details will be posted as soon as we figure them out; likely within the next 24 hours. We wish this wasn't necessary and we're very sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for your understanding."

Bummer. Trent did mention at yesterday's incendiary Palladium show that he was feeling poorly and apologized to us for the condition of his voice (which I thought sounded great in spite of), remarking that it sounded like "the inside of an AM radio" to him. Poor, poor Trent.

For more on this depressing matter, check out the LA Times music blog.


As far as yesterday's show at the Hollywood Palladium -the first in the L.A. series of NIN "Wave Goodbye" tour shows- well, it was bloody hot, for starters, as evidenced by the above photo of Trent courtesy of the LA Times. In the smaller atmosphere of the Palladium (compared to the ginormous ampitheatre and arena venues like the Verizon Wireless Ampitheater and The Forum, at which I had previously seen Nine Inch Nails in the past couple of years), NIN glowed and burned like a fire that caused us all to sweat bullets. It was a pretty magnificent night for black-clad industrial and rock music fans.

Nine Inch Nails' 1995 tour supporting The Downward Spiral was my first concert ever. Nassau Coliseum out on Long Island. I was fifteen, and though I was stuck in the nosebleed section, it was and remains one of the best shows I have ever seen. Dripping wet and ecstatic yesterday, seeing Trent the right way, up close and personal, brought me back to that initial fervor I felt for the band as a teenager.

Oddly enough, yesterday's show was all about that seminal album. It really should have been called "The Downward Spiral Tour," because with the album played impeccably and in its entirety (even including ambient moments like "A Warm Place"), it was the highlight that every true NIN fan has been hanging in there for. Trent and his band played LOUD and with metallic gusto, but also with incredible nuance and delicacy on songs like "Hurt" and especially "Lights In The Sky," from 2008 album The Slip, a song that I can't say I had ever really appreciated until now.

All this plus some old-school jams ("Head Like A Hole," "Terrible Lie," "Burn," "Suck") and the surprise guest, '80's electronic music stalwart Gary Numan (who rocked out his songs "Metal" and '80's Karaoke Night jam "Cars" in his black eye makeup, blacker hair and pale skin, looking like some kind of cool goth man-insect), NIN's funeral was instead a kind of celebration of a bygone era of angry, darkwave electronic music.

Don't take my word for it, though...LA Times can hook you up with another perspective.

Here are some live videos from the "Wave Goodbye" and "NIN/JA" tours, starting off with a couple from yesterday's Hollywood Palladium show...we can only hope that Trent isn't serious about the "goodbye" part; maybe just "until later":

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pearl Jam News!


Good news, gang...Pearl Jam's new album, Backspacer, is set for a September release and their new Cameron Crowe-directed video, "The Fixer" is available as a free download from iTunes. You can also score a digital download of the single, and while you're at it, pre-order the album, why don'cha? Yay! It's almost too much to bear.

Here is the fantastic new video if you absolutely cannot make your way over to iTunes, for your viewing pleasure:

Apparently this video is part of a larger commercial deal with the Target corporation, which is pretty eyebrow-raising indeed for such a vehemently anti-capitalist band. But like their manager Kelly Curtis said, it wasn't like they weren't releasing albums for Sony for almost two decades (Backspacer will be released by Universal Music Group). Go figure.

Here's a short about the making of the Backspacer album:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Soundtrack of Your Life: The Best 20 U2 Songs of the '90s

U2 - ACHTUNG BABY (1991)

U2 - ZOOROPA (1993)

U2 - POP (1997)

This special edition of "Soundtrack of Your Life" is in response to two things specifically: 1.) News from that the European leg of their current 360° Tour is winding down and will be wending its way into the U.S., where I will be catching it at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on October 25. Click on the website for tour dates in your area! Hurry!!

2.) Paste Magazine put up a very interesting list of The 20 Best U2 Songs of All Time on August 4...I was dismayed to see the list lacking in U2's formidable '90s output, so I decided to sate '90's U2 fans with our own list. So there!



It's so tough to write a list U2's best '90's songs without putting the entirety of Achtung Baby on the list, thereby defeating the purpose of said list. This classic U2 album, startlingly under-represented on Paste's list, is fawned over and argued about by rock music fans to this day. And out of an album full of gorgeous tunes, "One" is the one, hands down.

I remember being enthralled with this song in the early Nineties; I taped it off the radio and listened to it every chance I could get; I loved that it had three totally different videos in rotation on MTV, directed by Anton Corbijn, Mark Pellington and Phil Joanou, repectively.

"One" was the glue that held the band together in the face of creative strife. There seemed to be a divide between continuing to sound like the U2 of the '80's and progressing into a newer sound, inspired by younger rock bands and electronic dance music. "One" clearly shows that U2 was not down for the count yet in terms of raw spirit, as its presence on many "Best Rock Songs" lists shows.

Here is a great documentary on the song "One" called "A Story of One," in two parts:

U2 also performed this song live in 2005 in New York with '90's R&B diva, Damn The Man fave and Yonkers, NY native, Mary J. Blige, which was later recorded and placed on her 2005 album, The Breakthrough. I have to say, Mary kills this song.


I bet you thought I was going to talk about "Mysterious Ways" next... I will.

One of my best friends in college had a radio show right before mine for a while called "Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle." Love this song. Underrated and sexy as hell.


First of all, Zooropa is that ish. Do not be swayed by U2 snobs who turn their nose up at the band's innovative genre-melding post-80's work. Zooropa will make your booty bounce.

It has to be said: "Lemon" is an awesome song. Quite unlike anything else in their catalogue, but a manifestation of previous ideas harbored by The Edge and Bono, it is Teutonic electronic dance majesty. Combined with Bono's in-concert red-devil-horned alter-ego MacPhisto, it doesn't get any better. Proved that U2 had many styles, and rockin' the dance floor was one of them.

The really cool video, directed by Mark Neale (who also directed videos for the Counting Crows, among others), was actually a tribute to 19th century English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who was a pioneer in capturing motion on film using multiple cameras, then projecting the result using his zoopraxiscope device. It seems as if his photos of American bison set in motion may have been a reference for the Mark Pellington video version of "One":

(The main inspiration for that video is actually photographs of buffalo by '80's gay NYC artist David Wojnarowicz.)

I think the vocal arrangements and Bono's falsetto are pretty remarkable in this song. I also like the Pet Shop Boys-ish Euro-sophisticate quality of it.


I love this promo photo because it was on the cassingle my Mom bought for us, she loved the song too. In fact, we bought several copies of this song throughout the years, in a vain search for superior sound quality. The need to hear this song as crisp and clear as a bell was that strong.

I do also remember that the B-side to this song was a duet with Frank Sinatra and Bono on the song "I've Got You Under My Skin"; written by Cole Porter song, it became a hit for Sinatra in 1956. It was re-popularized in the 90's by bands like U2 and Jawbox.

"Stay (Faraway, So Close!) was actually recorded with Frank Sinatra in mind; in fact, the song bore the working title "Sinatra" throughout the recording process. The song had already found life during the Achtung Baby sessions, but was only completed after German film director Wim Wenders requested a song for his 1993 film "Faraway, So Close!," a sequel to his 1987 classic film, "Wings of Desire."

I love "Wings of Desire," so I adored the poignant video for "Stay," directed by Wenders and Mark Neale. Enjoy:


"If God Will Send His Angels" is kind of like "Stay" Part Two, especially if you consider that the song was featured on the 1998 film "City of Angels" soundtrack, which was an American remake of Wim Wenders's 1987 film "Wings of Desire," directed by Brad Silberling. My best friend and I listened to this song over and over again in the dorm at college...we thought our hearts might break from its sheer beauty. A lot of U2 fanatics like to poop on Pop, but I suggest you don't go there.

Longtime U2 collaborator Phil Joanou directed the video for the song, which I am only just now getting the pleasure to watch. Thank you YouTube!

GONE (POP, 1997)

My husband is a fan of this song..."Gone" is a song about the emotional twists and turns of being a rock star, and is often dedicated in concert to the late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide the same year that Pop was released.


This song did not make the Paste Top 20 U2 list, and for why, I'm not sure. This song heralded the return of U2 in the '90's as the Sexiest Band On Earth, and with good reason. Its snaky, sinewy exotic vibe, throbbing guitar line and Bono in his ruffly red shirt, black-black hair and tight leather pants in the video was all one needed to know, really.

The much-played video was directed in Morocco by French person Stéphane Sednaoui, who was responsible for many a dope video in the Nineties, including Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away," "Breaking The Girl" and "Scar Tissue," Smashing Pumpkins' "Today," Björk's "Big Time Sensuality" and "Possibly Maybe," Garbage's "Queer," Alanis Morrissette's "Ironic," and U2's own "Discothèque."

Though I am unable to embed a copy of that fabulous video for you all, here is the wonderful "Solar Plexus Extended Club Remix" of the song for your perusal:


"Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" is one of the more overlooked songs on 1991's Achtung Baby, and again, I'm not sure why. This song is as ravishing a song of love and lament as they come. It's like that feeling the last night that you're intimate with a lover that you will be broken up with wrong, yet so right.

BTW, this video is amazing:


I always had a soft spot for this song's industrial-ish flair...It is an exemplar of a certain kind of '90's sensibility when it came to pop genre-blending; incorporating dance, electronic and hip-hop sounds into rock music. I was a big fan of industrial and experimental bands like Soul Coughing back then, so this was right up my alley.


I remember it taking me and my friends in high school a minute to get used to this song. It was a lot to take in at thirteen years of age, especially given that I hadn't had my full education in industrial music and musique concrète, and Stockhausen and such yet.

Even yet and still, I learned, and came to love another unusual entry in the U2 catalogue. This song was a leftover from "Achtung Baby," and the backing track was combined with The Edge's monotone delivery of his own lyrics to create the song, in addition to keyboards laid down by producer Brian Eno. The song was released as a video single, much in the way that Madonna's song "Justify My Love" was released as a video single in 1990 to great controversy. "Numb" was also the debut single of the album Zooropa, an unorthodox choice if there ever was one.

This video was directed by Kevin Godley of the British band Godley & Creme, and was later remixed by the '90's industrial/performance artist group, Emergency Broadcast Network.

Emergency Broadcast Network (EBN) version:


Me, I'm partial to dance and electronic music, so it was thrilling to me to see U2 give in to their inner mirror ball with much of their '90's output, culminating in the tune "Discothèque." This song has many haters, but that's just too damn bad. This is a fun, silly song with a tasty hook, video courtesy of Stéphane Sednaoui:


This is a good example of the kind of shimmery, hummable single that was pervasive throughout the '90's for many rock/pop bands, and would become kind of the linchpin style of the strongest singles to come for U2 on subsequent albums. Just mm-mm good.

Here's a lovely live version of the song from Slane Castle in Ireland:


The 2007 Julian Schnabel-directed film "Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly)" reminded me and my husband again of the wondrous uplift of this song. Yet another underrated Achtung track, it's a soaring piece, and U2 doesn't quite take flight in the same way again until "Beautiful Day" off their 2000 album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, which is appropriate since Bono's description of what the latter song is about seems to fit both tunes: "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has."


Another little-mentioned song off this seminal album. I love when Bono gets down in his more sensual, R&B slow jam mode, similar to what he achieves on "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World," so this song is catnip to me.


I was going to talk about "Acrobat," which made an appearance on the Paste U2 list and appears to be a favorite for U2 connoisseurs, but I tip in favor of "Love Is Blindness," a beautifully wintry ode to how-so-very-confusing love can be. I love its dark chocolate-y, late-night, rain-spattered-boulevard-under-a-single-streetlamp jazziness. I love when rock bands pull out their jazz hands; Pearl Jam pulls off a similar act with the song "Indifference" on their 1993 album, "Vs." I once intercepted a mix tape that was meant to be delivered to someone else to make my own copy because it had "Love Is Blindness" as one of its first tracks.

It feels like Nina Simone or somebody should have popularized this song, but it was written during U2's Rattle and Hum sessions. Not to be missed.


I am a big fan of the gauzy, dreamlike quality to the whole album Zooropa, and its title track just exemplifies the detached aesthetic. It feels like a particularly kind pharmaceutical high, but the danger of the big comedown always lurks. Producers Flood (one of my favorite music producers from the '90's; he was down with Nine Inch Nails, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, PJ Harvey, Jesus and Mary Chain, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.) and Brian Eno (along with The Edge) were responsible for manifesting the sound of a dystopian future Europe.

The phrase "dream out loud" from the song is a reference to the song "Acrobat" from Achtung Baby.


In compiling this list, I have to admit that I have been reintroduced to quite a few of the songs I ignored the first time, and this is one of them. What a sweet and sexy song. It reminds me of Madonna's "Borderline" period; just youthful innocence and exuberance. Sit back and think about that first love for me, please:


It is rather weird how Bono name-checks Michael Jackson in this song, so that it sounds like "Michael Jackson, history," as in Michael Jackson is history, rather than just shouting out the name of his 1995 album.

The lazy stroll of the song and see-sawing main guitar (or just as effectively, strings) chord progression is tailor-made for hazy summer days:


This song is "Love Is Blindness" Part Two, but you can never have enough sexy, smoky jazz-bo flavor in your life, believe me. The '90's had a lounge-y, cabaret-ish, jazzy undercurrent that I was really into. Songs like this one remind me of songs like Morphine's "Yes" and "Whisper" (from their 1995 album, Yes), and Depeche Mode's "Blue Dress" (from their 1990 album, Violator). Put these on the hi-fi if you need a left-field song to get your "Lay Lady Lay" action on. You will not fail.


This song obviously rocks. It too was built around a guitar riff that Edge created during the Rattle and Hum sessions.

The video features a 360° camera effect created by Simon Tayler of London production company Artem, which won a 1992 MTV Video Music Award for Best Special Effects. While that is all well and good, I agree with a YouTube commenter on this video: Bono does look oh-so-good in leather.

That makes twenty, guys! But I have an extra-special treat for you...This song was originally released by U2 in 1987 as the B-side to the "Where The Streets Have No Name" single off of their album, The Joshua Tree. It was released in a couple of different versions thereafter, including this 1998 version that showed up on their compilation album, The Best of 1980-1990. I think I probably love this song more than anything on here (except for "Stay (Faraway, So Close!), that's my jam). It is that excellent. Kevin Godley directed this really funny, sweet video, enjoy:

If you made it this whole way, congratulations! Here's a cookie! If there's a song that I missed that you love, please sure sure to comment...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Flaming Lips' digital 3 song EP "SONGS FROM THE FUTURE ALBUM EMBRYONIC" available now!


Very good news from Wayne and the gang... Flaming has announced that three songs pulled from The Flaming Lips' upcoming album Embryonic ("Convinced of The Hex," "The Impulse" and "Silver Trembling Hands") have been made available for download from digital retailers such as iTunes, which has the whole shebang listed here for $3.87. Exciting!

Now I'm going to do you a favor and throw up some videos of The Lips performing "Silver Trembling Hands" and Convinced of the Hex" at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago this past July 19 to wet your whistle for these new tracks:

NSFW for those of you lucky enough to be hanging on to your job...Wayne is pulling an MC5 here and calling out to his sexy MFs incessantly. Keep your day job!

I love me some Wayne Coyne. I just do.

Monday, July 27, 2009

People Who Died: E. Lynn Harris, 1955-2009

R.I.P. E. LYNN HARRIS, 1955-2009

I was saddened to learn that author E. Lynn Harris died on Thursday, July 23, 2009 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA of undisclosed causes. Openly gay himself, Harris's novels about the experiences of gay black men (often living in the closet or "on the down-low"), beginning with the self-published 1994 novel Invisible Life, became surprising popular and influential on black literature and mass-market literature in general.

Though Harris's writing wasn't considered prestigious or "literary" by critics or peers, it was a remarkable accomplishment to write about the black gay community, which continues to be a taboo subject, and have the audacity to be successful at it. Harris self-published "Invisible Life" in 1991 and sold it out of the trunk of his car, punk rock style. According to the New York Times, Harris attempted to persuade booksellers to sell his book in their stores, and was given the advice to get a New York agent, which led him to an agent who was able to sell the book to Anchor Books, an imprint of Doubleday Books.

He subsequently went on to publish over twelve more books, ending with the novel Basketball Jones in 2009. I remember being in a Barnes and Noble when E. Lynn Harris was scheduled to read from one of his books and answer questions from what looked like a largely black and female clientele. There was an amazing excitement in the air over this man and his somewhat soapy but all-ballsy tales of deception and sexual intrigue. The literary world and the world at large have lost an original. R.I.P., E. Lynn Harris.

If you are interested in learning more about Harris's work, check out his website or an audio interview with Radiah Hubbert on her show "On The Line" featured on

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson- Promoter Statement. Official Ticketmaster Site

Here's some info on future ticket refund for the "This Is It" Michael Jackson concerts that were scheduled for London, England's O2 Arena next month, for those of you who jumped on tickets to what would have surely been phenomenal shows.

Michael Jackson- Promoter Statement. Official Ticketmaster Site

Been continuing to rock out to MJ at various points all throughout this weekend. Here are some more 90's joints from Mike's catalogue, starting with the 1995 R. Kelly-penned ballad "You Are Not Alone" from the album HIStory (featuring ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley!):

"They Don't Care About Us" is another single from the HIStory record that generated some controversy over allegedly antisemitic lyrics contained in the virulent social commentary song, prompting rancor from critics and Jewish community leaders, including film director and friend Steven Spielberg. The lyrics were later edited after a public apology by Jackson.

The song is accompanied by two videos by director Spike Lee: one based in the favela of Salvador Bahia, near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the other set in a prison. Spike Lee and Jackson faced opposition from the Brazilian government in preparation to shoot the video, charging that the singer was exploiting their poor and projecting an image of Brazil's seeming social failings would be bad for tourism. They eventually shot the video and were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by the community that lived there. I think that the video is an earthy and defiant slice of life and an uncommonly down-to-earth appearance by jeans, no less:

I really like both these videos. I think they are strong collaborations between Lee and Jackson. They really focus Jackson's righteous indignation in the song into very authentic and artful visuals reminiscent of the insurgence of Lee's earlier films, especially 1989's "Do The Right Thing."

The 1997 Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix album is an interesting musical re-discovery in the midst of the hoopla surrounding Jackson's death. A collection of remixes of the then-new Disc Two songs from the 1995 double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, it's a fascinatingly dark and funky carnival ride through Jackson's paranoia about media scrutiny and the perils of being a crazy-talented dancing machine:

"Ghosts" is a weird little morsel from the same album. WARNING: This is almost for Michael Jackson mega-fans and 90's completists only. It is, in its entirety, an almost forty-minute long music video that tells the story (co-written by Jackson with Stephen King) of a character called "The Maestro" who is chased out of town by angry residents, illustrating how Jackson felt in the wake of child sexual abuse charges he incurred in 1993. It is the longest music video ever produced to date, and was directed by Hollywood special effects/makeup wizard Stan Winston, who himself passed away June of last year.

This is something I didn't really get to the first time around in the 90's, so this is pretty interesting's a shorter version:

The choreography at the beginning of this is actually pretty badass, despite all the creepy tomfoolery with the harlequins later on.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson, King of Pop, 1958 - 2009


Man, I have totally been avoiding this post like a muthafunka since I heard the news yesterday afternoon. I'm so mad at the world that I can't get in to see his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and discarded disrespectful signs calling people who visit the other MJ star "morons" because it's the wrong star, as if this guy doesn't understand why they're leaving memorials there (same name, guys). This thing is crazy.

Michael Jackson's story is so prolific and filled with incredible innovation and artistry, as well as stomach-wrenching lows, that it's almost too much to cover in a blog post, and anyway, we all know the story at this point:

Gary, Indiana. Poppa Joe Jackson and his brood. The Jackson 5. Michael goes solo. Michael goes solo in a BIG way with the 1982 Thriller album. Awesome John Landis-directed video. Motown 25 and the moonwalk. Hair-raising Pepsi commercial. Paul McCartney and the Beatles catalogue. "We Are The World." Bubbles. Neverland Ranch. Bad. Awesome Martin Scorsese-directed video. "Black or White" with Macauley, and Michael smashing up a perfectly good car. Superbowl XXVII. Lisa Marie Presley. Child molestation allegations. HIStory. Deborah Rowe. Prince Michael I. Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Prince Michael II (Blanket). More child sexual abuse allegations. The trial. Mounting debt. Neverland Ranch auction. 50 sold-out "comeback" concerts in London, England. Jackson suffers cardiac arrest and dies at age 50 in Los Angeles, California on June 25, 2009.

Since Damn The Man is focused on 90's pop culture, I'd like to zoom in on Michael Jackson's 90's output, which, while not as momentous and earthshaking as his 70's and 80's work, is of just as high quality. I love not only his work, but work by other 90's artists inspired by Michael Jackson's awesome ebullience and generosity in his music and stage performance. I miss the guy like crazy, and it probably goes without saying you miss him too.

First video up is his single "Remember The Time" from his 1991 album Dangerous:

MJ performs with Slash (former guitarist of rock juggernauts Guns 'N'Roses) on his hit single "Black or White," also off of the Dangerous album:

Here is the full official (though not original uncut) music video for "Black and White," including the controversial second half. This video debuted in its entirety on FOX and MTV on November 14, 1991, and the latter "panther" half of the video was so divisive that it was subsequently deleted so that it was able to air on MTV regularly. This version here also lacks the "violent" smashing of car windows by Jackson that caused much of the controversy.

"In The Closet" is a song from the 1991 Dangerous album co-written by the R&B singer/musician/producer Teddy Riley (Guy, Blackstreet), and it's underrated and great, in my opinion. It was originally conceived as a duet between Jackson and Madonna, but their collaboration on the song came to an end due to creative differences. The beautiful video features 90's supermodel Naomi Campbell and was directed by incredible fashion photographer Herb Ritts, who made both Campbell and Jackson look like glowing gods of the Mexican ghost town, if I do say so myself:

Michael Jackson's 1995 single "Scream" from the double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I is a collaboration with his sister Janet Jackson, and is notable for its very 90's, very expensive video directed by visionary and Satellite Films director Mark Romanek, at that point sought-after in the music video world for his dark, intense videos such as Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way."

"Scream" was and still remains one of the most expensive videos in music video history, with a budget of approximately $7 million. Here is an interview that Entertainment Weekly conducted with Mark Romanek about his memories of making this amazing video and working with Michael.

Please enjoy the video:

Here are a couple of special 90's treats associated with MJ that I just love. First up is the 1993 number-one hit single "Right Here/Human Nature" by R&B group SWV. It stayed at the top position on the Billboard R&B chart for ten weeks, making it the longest run at number one of any R&B single in 1993. It samples Michael Jackson's 1983 single "Human Nature" from his blockbuster album, Thriller, which was co-written by Steve Porcaro of popular 80's band, Toto (I love the song "Africa" with a passion).

SWV is one of my favorite R&B groups from the 90's and I absolutely adore this song, both versions. The video for the SWV track is lovely as well, featuring the band looking quite pretty with their own hair (no lace fronts) and riding pants with white shirts. This song in all forms is a breath of fresh air, which is why I'm including a clip of MJ busting it on his 1987 Bad tour after the SWV clip:

The second thing I wanted to throw at you is one of my very favorite movie scenes ever, which came to my mind when thinking about the joy that MJ's music brought to so many different people. The wonderful 2006 film "Clerks 2," directed by Kevin Smith as a kind of sequel to his cult hit 1994 film "Clerks," contains a lovely scene in which his main character Dante finally realizes that he has fallen in love with his boss/friend Becky to the tune of The Jackson Five's 1970 number-one hit single, "ABC." It is as simple and heartwarming as that sounds:

I could go on and on, but the only thing left to say is Michael, we miss you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Variety Review of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds"

I don't know about you, but as a diehard Tarantino fan, I am curious as hell about his upcoming film, "Inglourious Basterds," due out in theaters on August 21, 2009. Click here for a review of the film by Variety.

I realize I'm slow on the uptake in posting this, but the review is pretty detailed, and hell, the movie isn't out for another two months. I loved his segment "Death Proof" from 2007's "Grindhouse," but this is a whole 'nother animal.

Take a break from chewing down your fingernails waiting for this thing and enjoy the trailer:

"And I want my scalps!" That line makes me lose it every time I watch this trailer. A German friend of mine ( he was the director of my short film, "Spent," which you can find in the Blogroll in the sidebar) is actually working on the German subtitles of the film, and intimates that the film is quite good, though he won't give me details. I sure hope so.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Shawshank Redemption of Mainstream Cinema: Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)


No matter how old I get, or how old he gets, John Cusack is the cure for what ails me. I was in a totally hellacious mood last night, so I took in a viewing of the fantabulous late-90's cult comedy "Grosse Pointe Blank" via Netflix's extremely handy "Watch Now" feature. Mood uplifted!

As I researched the film, the most-pondered question on the Internet was, "Is this the most perfect movie ever made?" The answer, of course, is no. But damned if Johnny, Minnie and the gang don't make it feel like it is.

The story, for those too young or indifferent to have been completely consumed with love for Cusack through multiple viewings of Cameron Crowe's 1989 classic film "Say Anything" is this:

An emotionally bereft hit man, Martin Q. Blank (Cusack), decides it's time to quit the business. His decision comes at an inopportune time, since his nemesis, a fellow hit man named Grocer (played rather brilliantly by Dan Aykroyd), is tired of all the snafus in scheduling hits, and wants to form an assassins' union, including Blank. Martin Blank makes it clear to Grocer that this is not going to happen. Because of Blank's increasing stress, he fouls up a very important hit.

To make amends, he has to perform one last job in his native Detroit, Michigan. It just so happens that his 10-year high school reunion is happening at the same time, giving him a reason to go back and find Debi, the girl he left behind in her prom dress all those years ago to join the army and start killing people, and resolve the true source of his anxiety.

Blank also forces his therapist, Dr. Oatman, into treating him. Don't forget the two wisecracking government spooks who follow him back to the lush greenery of Grosse Pointe, a rich suburb of Detroit.

Absurd, I know. But absurd is kind of the point of "Grosse Pointe Blank," and it does it very well (further underlined by the overwhelmingly over-the-top nature of Grosse Pointe Blank's unofficial sequel, 2008's "War Inc."). The script is delightfully witty and strikes a delicate balance between upbeat optimism and dour cynicism. The direction, in my opinion, is not always technically competent, but maintains a consistently funny and offbeat tone, helped in large part by the impeccably curated soundtrack featuring 80's punk, ska and New Wave such as The Clash, The Specials and Violent Femmes (The latter's "Blister In The Sun" is kind of an unofficial theme for Martin's return to Grosse Pointe).

The cast is the biggest reason to keep coming back to "Grosse Pointe Blank." John Cusack is at his Cusack-y best here: young, cute, manly yet sensitive, wonderfully dark. Yum.

Minnie Driver is terrific as Debi Newberry, a very cool chick who has a hip radio show and burning hate/love for the long-lost Martin Blank. After the "airplane" scene (if yr a girl, you will love the airplane scene, trust me), it is no wonder why they briefly dated in real life. They have a naturally zesty and sexy chemistry that is simply fun to watch.

Jeremy Piven as Blank's best friend from high school, Paul, is as hyperkinetic and hilarious as ever, almost as if this is how Droz ended up after he finally graduated "PCU" (1994).

Dan Aykroyd, as previously mentioned, is comedy gold and a welcome addition to the film. All the rest of the supporting actors all round out a very appealing and top-notch cast.

This film brings back a lot of memories, good and bad, of transitioning into young adulthood from adolescence, and it fits where I'm at now, what with my 10-year college reunion coming up next summer. I can see watching it through painful life transitions for years to come. It may just be the perfect movie after all.

Click here to see a short but awesome interview with young John Cusack promoting the film on "Access Hollywood" back in the day.

More videos! Yay!!!

I love this fight scene. John Cusack is an avid kickboxer, and actually trained with the fellow he's kicking on in this scene, master martial artist Benny "The Jet" Urquidez. Apparently Urquidez has also trained Dave Mustaine of Megadeth in martial arts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Show Tonight! Swing Out Sister at B.B. King's, NY, NY


80's & 90's Euro-pop sensations Swing Out Sister (singer Corinne Drewery and keyboardist Andy Connell) perform tonight in support of their 2008 album "Beautiful Mess" at B.B. King's in NYC. If you are on the East Coast and in a dancing kind of mood, do me a favor and check this out. I am incredibly jealous of you.

Being naturally drawn to loud, gritty, hate-and-frustration-driven music, it is somewhat incongruous that I would love a sophisticated, jazzy band like Swing Out Sister, but deep in my heart, I am a dancing queen, and there is nothing like a clean, bouncy pop track to purge the need to shake that thing. Swing Out Sister's exuberant songs, especially their 1986 breakthrough single "Breakout" and 1992's cover of the 1969 Barbara Acklin soul classic "Am I The Same Girl?," are a great pick-me-up when life gets you down. These songs live on my top-down convertible mixes in my car!

And now for some interesting videos:

Swing Out Sister - "Breakout" (Live 1989 The Prince's Trust Rock in Concert - National Exhibition Centre Birmingham, UK - July 18th and 19th)

Swing Out Sister - "Am I The Same Girl?" (Live 1993 at The Jazz Cafe)

Friday, May 29, 2009

People Who Died: Octavia Saint Laurent, Transgendered Performer (? - 2009)


When I got tipped off about Octavia's death through the Peace Bisquit email newsletter, I have to say I was very saddened. Transgendered entertainer Octavia Saint Laurent died of cancer on May 17th. She was a featured performer in the wonderful 1990 Jennie Livingston-directed documentary "Paris is Burning," which was focused on the underground LGBT "ballroom" community in NYC, consisting of drag queens/performers grouped into "houses" (such as the House of Mizrahi, of which Octavia was a part, and eventually added "Mizrahi" to her name to acknowledge her membership) and competition through dance/posing, specifically "voguing," popularized in the mainstream through the 1990 Madonna single/video "Vogue."

Octavia Saint Laurent was also featured in a 2006 documentary covering the same topic called "How Do I Look," directed by Wolfgang Busch. It picks up where "Paris Is Burning" left off, using footage collected from 1990-onward to create a comprehensive portrait of the ball community since the success of "Paris Is Burning" and "Vogue."

Every time someone from the spectacular film "Paris Is Burning" passes away, the world gets a little smaller and grayer. If you have yet to see it, Netflix it right away. If you're on the lazy side, no fear, a "Movies You Might Have Missed" feature post will be coming soon just for you. I wish I had more information on Octavia Saint Laurent for you, but here is a short article at My and a video clip of Octavia Saint Laurent from "Paris Is Burning." Octavia, you will be missed:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

People Who Died: Jay Bennett, Ex-Member of Wilco (1963 - 2009)

R.I.P. JAY BENNETT, 1963 - 2009

This whole business with Jay just makes me very sad. For those who don't know, Illinois native Jay Bennett was a musician who was a member of the alt-country band Wilco from 1994 until he was fired from the band in 2001, a tumultuous affair partly chronicled in the 2002 Sam Jones-directed documentary about Wilco, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." He died in his sleep on Sunday, May 24, 2009. The cause of death at this time is undetermined. A Champaign County, IL coroner's report is forthcoming after further testing.

Bennett subsequently went on to a lower-profile solo career, eventually recording five solo albums, including 2002's "The Palace at 4am" with Champaign, IL musician Edward Burch and 2008's "Whatever Happened I Apologize." He was finishing the album "Kicking At The Perfumed Air" at the time of his death. He also produced Blues Traveler's 2005 record "¡Bastardos!" and was a successful studio musician, playing on albums of musicians like Sheryl Crow.

Bennett contributed his talent as a multi-instrumentalist and producer to Wilco's during and including the live tours and records including "A.M." (1995; only live show) , "Being There" (1996), "Mermaid Avenue" (1998), "Summerteeth" (1999), and "Mermaid Avenue Vol. II" (2002), culminating in his contentious recording work on 2002's much-beleaguered rock masterpiece "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," which resulted in producer Jim O'Rourke remixing the title song "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," eventually taking over mixing of the entire album, and precipitated Bennett's unceremonious departure from the band.

Unfortunately, this embarrassing fall was documented in the film "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," which, IMHO, kind of depicts Jay in a less-than-favorable light. Apparently, he agreed, because Bennett filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Wilco frontman and founder Jeff Tweedy on May 4, 2009, for $50,000 in recompense for unpaid royalties accrued during his time in Wilco and his negative portrayal and unauthorized use of his image in the film.

Even worse was that Bennett was having trouble as of late with a hip injury incurred while he was a member of the band Titanic Love Affair in the 90's. He was preparing to go into hip replacement surgery, but found his insurance would not cover the procedure. He struggled with gathering the funds required to pay for the surgery "out of pocket".

Jay Bennett seemed to catch a raw deal in the end, especially when it comes to the impression the general public got of him as a musician and band member from "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." Jay seemed like an enthusiastic and committed artist who only cared about progressing the music to the best place he could guide it. "Summerteeth" and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" are two amazing records that are touched by his care and contribution, and that's awesome. The fact that he lived the last portion of his life in frustrating emotional and physical pain is depressing. You will be missed, Jay. Thanks for bringing music into the world.

Here are some clips of Jay Bennett playing with Wilco, including some portions of the doc "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart". For more info on Jay Bennett's contributions to the "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" record, I highly recommend you click here. For an interview conducted by Glorious Noise with Jay Bennett about "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and his leaving Wilco, you know what to do. Fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Upcoming Show: The Prodigy at The Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood, CA - May 27, 2009


Ooh boy, if you live in Los Angeles, this will be a special treat for you...Tomorrow night, yes, TOMORROW, so step on it if you're interested, UK electronic music giant The Prodigy will be rocking the Hollywood Palladium (6215 Sunset Blvd.) at 8pm. It's their "Invaders Must Die" tour, which be the name of their new album, of course, which features my close, personal friend Dave Grohl on drums for the track, " Run with the Wolves," btw.

My email username in college in the 90's was "Firestarter." Even my Mom liked "the little crazy clown" in the video for "Firestarter," who would shake his two little green tufts of hair around in a paroxysm of firestarting emotion. I somehow managed to miss them live back in the day, so I am super-psyched to see them tomorrow.

The Prodigy, who are mainly comprised of founder/songwriter/DJ/keyboardist Liam Howlett, dancer/vocalist/clown Keith Flint, and MC/vocalist/contact lens-wearer, Maxim Reality, have been in the business of tripping you out since 1990, and following the release of their excellent 1992 rave disc "Experience," The Prodigy's status as real anarchic barnburners in the electronic/dance music world was established.

For serious, if you love some hard-edged techno, check out "Experience" and 1994's "Music For The Jilted Generation,"(which was re-released in 2008 as "More Music For The Jilted Generation") both groundbreaking albums for the UK/US rave scenes.

Their 1997 album "Fat of the Land" was their true breakthrough album in the States, debuting on the Billboard chart at number one and eventually going double platinum. "Firestarter," "Breathe" and the controversial "Smack My Bitch Up" are all featured on this record, expanding their sound from their tightly-wound techno rave style into a more rock-oriented, guitar-laden sound. There is much to say about this album, so look out for a I Can't Believe You Don't Own This F%#kin' Record post coming your way soon.

So I've got a video for you from each 90's-era Prodigy record, enjoy:

The Prodigy - "Wind It Up" (from their 1992 album, "Experience")

The Prodigy - "Their Law" (from their 1994 album, "Music For The Jilted Generation")

The Prodigy - "Firestarter" (from their 1997 album, "The Fat of The Land")

Yessss! You know this is what you really wanted to see. You're welcome.