Friday, January 30, 2009

Soundtrack of Your Life: Pearl Jam - "Black"


Right now, I'm muy pissed off at Pearl Jam. I live in Los Angeles, and I been waiting what seems like forever for them to play my area as PJ, not Eddie Vedder solo or any other incarnation. I need the love of a good band! Please!!

I just wanted to throw you a quick video bone that I was alerted to on YouTube...a classic 90's recording of PJ opening up for The Rolling Stones. Your 90's-ologist can remember when "Black" was one of the first rock songs that she ever really knew and to this day I love its unintelligible, bodice-rippingly romantic goodness. Please, enjoy:



Pearl Jam - Black (Live 1997, Oakland, CA; from their 1991 album, "Ten")

Soundtrack of Your Life: Morrissey - "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get"


MORRISSEY - "THE MORE YOU IGNORE, THE CLOSER I GET" from his 1994 album, "Vauxhall & I"

This song makes me feel all kinds of wistful. I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school and just coming into full fruition as a maniacal Smiths fan. Being the melodramatic sort that I was as a teenager, I listened to "The World Won't Listen" (1987) almost everyday on my hour-long bus ride to my all-girls Catholic high school, and played "Asleep" and "Stretch Out and Wait" over and over and over again. Morrissey understood the misery of having to wear an ill-fitting plaid jumper and itchy wool knee socks nearly every day of one's young life.

I was familiar with his solo stuff at that point, including 1992's "Your Arsenal" album (that features the increasingly-relevant-to-my-life single "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful"), 1990's comp album "Bona Drag" ("November Spawned A Monster,") and 1988's 'Viva Hate" ("Suedehead," 'Everyday Is Like Sunday"), but nothing Morrissey put out under his own name lit my fire quite like this tune.

Because I worshipped Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, I always bemoaned the loss of the element of his piercing fretwork on Morrissey's solo stuff. This song solved that problem for me. This track has biting but beautiful guitar work to match the equally biting wit hunkered down in Morrissey's lyrics. This song became Moz's first hit single in the U.S., and the album went Top 20 here as well. Not bad.

Here's a live version of this wonderfully 90's work from one of my very faves and Coachella 2009 artist:



Morrissey - The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get (1994 Live, Top of The Pops)

Coachella Announces April 17-19, 2009 Concert Line-Up!


COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL, INDIO, CA - APRIL 17 -19, 2009

Man, take a gander at this line-up, people. First off, 90's fans should be very pleased at the 90's-licious choices on deck here: Morrissey, Leonard Cohen (who enjoyed a brief revival back then after his music was featured prominently in the 1994 film, "Natural Born Killers"), The Crystal Method, hip-hoppers Rahzel and People Under The Stairs, Thievery Corporation, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Henry Rollins, Turbonegro, Superchunk, Drive-By Truckers, Calexico, Bob Mould, The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, Paul Weller (of The Jam and Style Council, who had a very good single called "Sunflower" from his 1993 album, "Wild Wood" that I liked very much), Roni Size, Groove Armada and Perry Farrell (founder of fellow 90's summer mega-music festival, Lollapalooza, as well as frontman of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros).

Dayum!!!

Plus, offically Damn The Man-approved acts like X (!!OMG!), Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Macca himself (that's Sir Paul McCartney to you plebes), Girl Talk, Crystal Castles, M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Felix Da Housecat, The Killers, Amy Winehouse, TV on the Radio, Mastodon, Liars, Throbbing Gristle (!!), Antony & The Johnsons, Public Enemy (!!), Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Horrors will also be contributing to the festivities. Good times.

Here's some Coachella-flavored video love for you all today to enjoy:



Paul Weller - Sunflower (Live Jools Holland 1993)



Bob Mould - If I Can't Change Your Mind (Live Paradise Lounge, Boston - November 2007; from the band Sugar's classic 1992 album, "Copper Blue")

Man, I miss distortion on the guitar! No one plays like that anymore. We're so boring now.



Roni Size - Share The Fall (from his 1997 album, "New Forms")

Man, I miss drum and bass! That was my shizz when I had two good knees!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Shawshank Redemption of Mainstream Cinema: Sundance Film Festival, Part One: Clerks (1994)




1994 SUNDANCE FILMMAKER'S TROPHY (DRAMATIC) WINNER - "CLERKS" directed by Kevin Smith

"I'm not even supposed to be here today." Out of all the quotes in this most amazingly quotable of quote-worthy movies, this one stands out because it sums up all the aggravation that the underpaid and under-appreciated felt at that time in the early 90's. It was a whine from somewhere deep in the soul, and New Jerseyite Kevin Smith proved himself to be the slacker's filmmaker with this masterfully amateurish debut film.

It's hard for me to even start with this film...I feel like we've all sat in our parent's basements and TV rooms, or in heavily hot-boxed dorm rooms, and cackled our asses off to this thing many, many, MANY times. I mean, from lead convenience store clerk Dante and his shoe polish-smelling hands, to his girlfriend performing a certain sexual act 37 times (in a row?), to Snowball, to drug dealer Jay and Silent Bob (who is actually director Kevin Smith) and their friend Olaf from Moscow and "my love for you is like a truck...BERSERKER!", to any number of truly funny gags ("OOOhh...Navy Seals!")... not to mention the 90's-tastic music of Soul Asylum, Alice in Chains, Bad Religion, etc... if you have to ask, you may never know.

What's remarkable now is seeing how his brand of raunchy, lowbrow humor mixed with sincere moments of reflection and sensitivity is a major influence on a lot of contemporary film comedy, including the Crown Prince of Comedy, Judd Apatow (whose own reign began in 1999 with the short-lived but beloved TV show, "Freaks and Geeks"). I feel as if we as a film audience are better able to stomach frankly graphic descriptions of sex, such as the sex position discussion at the electronics store ("the Dirty Sanchez, the Rusty Trombone...") and the poker scene that parses out the differences in ladies' nipples in "40 Year Old Virgin" ("the bumpy braille nipples...the Stevie Wonders...") if it weren't for Smith's unabashed willingness to let it all hang out.

"Clerks" was genuinely shocking for a more innocent time, and what's more...it was real. Real young people I knew spoke that way, and finally, a movie for us! That this film ever made it past film snobs to assume a mantle of indie greatness is something that even your 90's-ologist struggles to understand.


This was a film by a Jersey boy, filled with Jersey people (whose suspect acting and outdated hairstyles/clothing were part of the fun) that spoke to provincial, everyday worries... Does my girlfriend really love me? Do I really love her? Will I ever (or want to) get married? I hate this stinkin' job and this crap town, how do I get out of here? I'm afraid, will I ever be someone? Why do I feel so unsatisfied? My favorite part of the film is when Dante's best friend and fellow clerk Randal calls Dante on his failure to take responsibility for his own happiness. That a film that had previously had a girl go catatonic from having relations with a dead man in a convenience store bathroom can end with such a life-affirming theme is nothing short of a masterpiece in my book.


Here are some words from Kevin Smith himself that can be found in the Clerks X Criterion Edition of the film that was released in 2004, which I highly recommend picking up. A picture of Smith's notes on the lines of credit that he took out to make the film ("clerks" famously cost a little over $27,000 to make and earned over $3 million at the box office)follows:





He's got seven credit cards on that list. I love how open Kevin Smith is about his ambition and process as a filmmaker and the road from total ignorance to some experience and more money, but still near-total-ignorance. He's a human being, and that can be a refreshing thing in Hollywood.

"Clerks" is a monster that keeps on rambling, too. It's spawned "Clerks: The Animated Series" that had a short run on ABC in 2000, a series of comic books written by Smith and "Clerks 2," the wonderful 2006 companion piece that made me cry for joy when I first saw it. By all rights, it should have been abysmal, but Smith really pulls out the stops to make a still raunchy and lowbrow, but very touching and, ironically, mature film that is in a lot of ways better than its predecessor. If you don't believe me, you should read up on the 8 minute standing ovation that the film got at the Cannes Film Festival that year.

Enough of my yakking. You want clips, you got 'em. After the first clip, which is a trailer for the film, "Clerks" clips are NSFW, I repeat, NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Turn down your computers, wage slaves. Enjoy!



Berserker!









I could do this all day, but here's some NSFW "Clerks 2" for your pleasure:









I know I'm clips-crazy today, but your 90's-ologist is a tiny bit delirious from the sickness she's caught, so bear with me.

Upcoming Show: Crooked Fingers (featuring Eric Bachmann of Archers of Loaf) at Bordello Bar, Los Angeles, CA - February 2


If you are a true-blue 90's indie-rock fan and are going to be in L.A. on Monday, February 2, you may want to drop by Bordello Bar for Crooked Fingers, former Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann's musical project for the aughties. In October 2008, Crooked Fingers left indie-rock label Merge Records and struck out on their own with their "Forfeit/Fortune" album, which is apparently as lush and as dark as it wants to be. The show starts at 8:30pm, and Bordello Bar can be found at 901 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.


Archers of Loaf was one of those bands that it took me until my Mach 3 phase of indie-rockness to get to, but once I did, I was thoroughly pleased with the often noisy, frenetic punk-infused pop that these Chapel Hill, NC guys purveyed (alongside fellow Chapel Hill natives, Superchunk and Polvo) that kind of became the trademark 90's indie-rock sound.

Their debut album, "Icky Mettle," was released in 1994 on Alias Records, and proved to be their breakthrough record. The single "Web In Front" from the album became a college radio hit, was the only video for a few months in 1994 to play between movies on USA Network's "Up All Night" program, apparently, which warms my 90's-besotted heart to think about. The release and subsequent popularity of their second album "Vee Vee" in 1995 spurred 90's Uber-Beeyatch Madonna to court them for her Maverick label. They said nopers on that, but did tour with Weezer that year, which was a hectic experience for the band, given that Weezer fans weren't feeling their more abrasive sound and the crews were no picnic either.

I love learning more about bands that I didn't get the chance to get more familiar with (barring their music, of course) back in the day. Here are some Archers of Loaf videos to equate you with a really cool Band You Might Have Missed:



Archers of Loaf - "Web In Front" from the album "Icky Mettle" (1994)



Archers of Loaf - "Might" from the album "Icky Mettle" (1994)



Archers of Loaf - "Harnessed in Slums" from the album "Vee Vee" (1995)

It's music like that that keeps me plugging away at this blog. It helps me hold on to some pretty good memories of being young and in love with everything. Here's a Crooked Fingers jam for ya, enjoy:



Crooked Fingers - "New Drink for the Old Drunk" from the album "Crooked Fingers" (2000)

Monday, January 26, 2009

One In A Million: Info on Upcoming Aaliyah Biopic





Meet Keisha Chante. She's a Canadian singer who's going to be portraying Damn The Man favorite and 90's R&B songstress Aaliyah in an upcoming Bill Condon-directed biopic (Condon also helmed "Dreamgirls" and a future Movies You Might Have Missed feature, "Gods and Monsters" (1998). I have to thank my favorite gossip site, Bossip, for tipping me off on this one. If you need a bit more reputable resource, BET can help you.

Here's what Bill has to say about preparing Miss Chante for the role:

“We are going to great extremities to make this movie perfect. We have (Keisha) Chante in extensive… …training studying, speaking with family members, watching personal footage and in choreography training with Aaliyah’s choreographer and dear friend Fatima Robinson. This movie will will be seamless the same way it was for Selena fans who enjoyed Jennifer Lopez.”

It kind of makes me chuckle that the 1997 film "Selena" is the yardstick for excellence with this thing, since I thought I was the only one who really liked that movie. One can, apparently, be wrong about such a thing. Future Shawshank Redemption of Mainstream Cinema feature here on Damn The Man, I promise!

Your 90's-ologist feels that this Keisha chick looks a'ight, I guess, but there is no replacement for the real thing:



Aaliyah - "The One I Gave My Heart To" from her 1996 album, "One In A Million"

Nine Inch Nails "Lights In The Sky" Tour 2008 Photo Prints Available!


Front Row Center, a web service that provides professional concert photos to people just like you, has Nine Inch Nails prints available from their recent "Lights In The Sky" tour. I reviewed the Los Angeles leg of the show here on Damn The Man a few months ago, and I highly recommend that you check out these photos because the lighting design was AMAZING for this particular tour.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Congratulations to Melissa Leo of "Frozen River"!


So Damn The Man-approved actress Melissa Leo of 90's classic TV show "Homicide" has been nominated for a lead actress Oscar for her performance in "Frozen River," a film I recommended here about a week or so ago (which is also a Sundance Film Festival favorite from 2008). Congrats Melissa!

If you would like to see a full list of the 2009 Oscar nominees, please click here.

Here's a Blacktree TV interview with Melissa Leo and her "Frozen River" co-star Misty Upham talking about the film:

The Shawshank Redemption of Mainstream Cinema (and Movies You Might Have Missed): Sundance Film Festival - Introduction


Though I have lots more to say about the Notorious B.I.G. and the two albums that put him on the map as a hip-hop icon, I have neglected Damn The Man's film buff side as of late, and would be woefully remiss if I did not give a nod to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah that has only two more days to go, unfortunately. If you want to keep up with the films and film news that is coming out of the festival this year, head on over to the official website or Flavorwire's daily blog of the fest.

The Sundance Film Festival was kind of a mythical destination for me as a budding film buff in the 90's, a kind of indie-movie Avalon where only life-changing works of art emerged from its snowcapped mountains. In hindsight, this is still true, and a recent article from Variety about Sundance's milestones over the years prompted me to feature seminal 90's Sundance films that affected not only mine, but so many other budding filmmakers lives at the time. I will start with director Kevin Smith's 1994 film "Clerks," a 90's staple film of the slacker set, namely, me and my stoned friends.

As it turns out, Sundance began life the year I was born (1978--you do the math!) as the Utah/US Film Festival based in Salt Lake City, and came into its current prominence after Robert Redford's Sundance Institute took over management of the fest and moved it to Park City in the mid-80's. Sundance continues to be a great launching pad for filmmakers (a fellow grad of the film school that I attended, his film won the World Cinema Audience Award in 2008 and subsequently went on to become the first Academy Award entry for nomination from his home country of Jordan) and is a classic 90's film institution like no other. It truly paved the way for independent film to positively change mainstream American cinema. Please enjoy the upcoming retrospective on some great films!

Film Review: "Notorious" (2009)


I have been so busy trying to get tantalizing content together for Damn The Man that I have not been able to give you the skinny on "Notorious," the 2009 biopic directed by George Tillman, Jr. (who directed the 1997 movie "Soul Food" that spawned the Showtime cable TV series of the same name) about the short but incredibly remarkable life of one of the pillars of 90's hip-hop/rap, The Notorious B.I.G., from his beginnings before his 1994 "Ready to Die" album to his death in 1997 prior to the release of his 1997 album "Life After Death."


The real Biggie Smalls, or Christopher Wallace, as his mama Violetta called him, pictured above, was a fascinating enigma for hip-hop and rock music fans. He was a walking contradiction: big, black and ugly ogre and ladies' man...ruthless crack-slinger and sensitive street poet...relentlessly detailed journalist of urban woe and materialistic party animal. Reggie Rock Bythewood and Cheo Hodari Coker, screenwriters of "Notorious" seem plugged in to these inherent oppositional forces in Biggie, and drop the audience into the maelstrom of this man's motivations for his extreme actions in life, thereby crafting a compelling retelling of a familiar story to music fans.

Even if Biggie's story isn't familiar to you, it's possible to come away from "Notorious" with a new appreciation for the man, his work and the overwhelmingly difficult circumstances under which he led his life. The quite astute casting of the film is partly to thank for this, especially newcomer Jamal Woolard as Notorious B.I.G., who captures the strangely alluring and captivating quality of the main character, Derek Luke as rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs, and Antonique Smith as R&B singer/love of Biggie's life Faith Evans, who I felt really embodied the sweetly vulnerable yet tough quality of a particular kind of East Coast gal. The relative physical attractiveness of the actors compared to their real-life counterparts, a mainstay practice in casting in Hollywood film, I believe really works in this story's favor, as it helps to draw the audience into trusting in what could have been some very unpleasant or exploitative portrayals of difficult characters.




















In fact, the turn away from exploitation to a truly tasteful attempt at dramatizing Biggie Smalls's often sensational life is something that allows me to recommend the film wholeheartedly. Biggie is a musician that I hold close to my heart as a 90's girl and New Yorker, and I was simultaneously excited and hesitant to see the film. "Notorious" managed to cleverly weave the inspiration for his cutting, wittily urbane rhymes and funkdafied backing music into the fabric of the plot, warming the cockles of all those who can rap "Juicy" and "Who Shot Ya?" word-for-word. This film trumped my low expectations to be a very well-done (though not transcendent--the direction was maybe too "safe" to reach those heights that his music did) film about a very important musical figure who changed the game of hip-hop forever.

Don't take your 90's-ologist's word for it, here's a review from Black Voices blog for your perusal. Here's a more critical review of the film if you're on the haters' side of things from Slate.com.

Also, here's a lovely profile of the actress Antonique Smith from Black Voices blog.

Please check out the trailer for this surprisingly good and emotional film:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When 90's Musical Genres Collide: Mike Daly of Whiskeytown, Time Flies When You're In A Coma and MTV's Headbanger's Ball







This is really great for Damn The Man when this kind of thing happens...One of my new favorite websites and books is Time Flies When You're In A Coma , a place where the words of metal gods transform into daily affirmations and advice that work like nothing since "The Secret," I'm telling you. Please visit this site if you are in a bad mood. It is the cure. Here's a sample:



Well, I've just discovered that I neglected to note that Mike Daly, former member of Ryan Adam's pre-massive-success, 90's alt-country band Whiskeytown (1994-1999) is the author of the book and owner of the very funny website. And now, MTV's Headbanger's Ball, (which enjoys life even now, but was alternately maligned during the 90's for its format switch from hair metal to "grunge" and loved by those of us starving for videos of heavy music on MTV at the time) has an interview with the man himself on why an alt-country pioneer is giving advice culled from metal lyrics now. Check it out here.

I found out about Whiskeytown later in the 90's, but was immediately hooked, being that I have a soft spot for No Depression-era alt-country (No Depression being the name of the premier magazine about the genre; it began life in 1995 and just became defunct in Fall 2008) and Americana-flavored music like Uncle Tupelo, Wilco and The Jayhawks.

Their 1995 debut album "Faithless Street" is a great place to start if you're interested in getting into alt-country,and interesting for Ryan Adams fans who are familiar with his particular brand of ego-driven contentiousness. I have a love/hate relationship with Adams himself, having seen him play at a small NYC bookstore called Bluestockings the night before the first time he was going on tour with the Rolling Stones...he was positively giddy with excitement and gratitude, and his performance was spot-on and moving. But then you hear the stories about his fights with fans, baqndmates and critics alike (you can check out his pissed-off voicemail to Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis here) sometimes lead you to believe that the man is full of more than his own genius.

Here are some gritty fan recording videos of Whiskeytown songs off Faithless Street. Grab yerself a beer, kick off them sh*tkickers and rock with me on the porch, y'all!



Whiskeytown - "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight" (Live April 1997, St. Louis, MO)



Whiskeytown - "16 Days" (Live April 1997, St. Louis, MO)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"The Art of Change" West Coast Inaugural Ball - Downtown Los Angeles, CA - TODAY!!


THE ART OF CHANGE INAUGURAL BALL - DOWNTOWN LA, CA

This seems to be sold out, but for the intrepid among you who have connections/devious plans, there may be time yet to get in on this party celebrating Obama's presidential inauguration at the Mayan Theater, 1038 S. Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Doors open at 7pm. If you are as bummed about not getting out to D.C. as I am, this may be your ticket. You can also watch it live at that site if you cannot get down there. Notice that 90's American electronic music luminaries The Crystal Method are on the bill. In fact, here's a blast from the Method's past just for today's events:



The Crystal Method - "Keep Hope Alive" (From their 1997 album "Vegas")

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow: Live Streams of Inauguration of the Forty-Fourth President



Unfortunately, we're having technical difficulties here at Damn The Man, so you'll have to run over to Hulu.com if you want to watch their stream of the inauguration (be warned: it is Fox News providing the video). You can also watch live streaming at CNN.com and CBS News.com as well! I'll check in with you guys later!! Happy Obama Nation Day!!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr. Martin Luther King Would Have Loved The 90's...and tomorrow's Presidential Inauguration

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. HOLIDAY/PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION 2009







What fascinating times that we live in that the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday can be followed up a day later by the inauguration of the first black American President. It is, least of all to say, overwhelming. Much is being made of this convergence, and of the summoning of the spirit of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, by President-elect Barack Obama on the eve of his inauguration as 44th President of the United States.

Yesterday's inaugural celebration in Washington, D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial found Obama addressing hordes of people in much the same way as Dr. King had forty-six years ago during his "I Have A Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and delivering a brief, but similar message of hope and abiding faith in the dream that all Americans share: freedom and opportunity. It is a deep thing to think that in a country that was built upon the backs of enslaved Africans, we will now entrust the safekeeping and guidance of our country in the hands of an African-American man. Dr. King said in his "I Have A Dream" speech:

"It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning."

Deep. If you would like to read the rest of his speech, please click here. Here is a video of the speech for the rest of you:



If you are in L.A., the Fine Arts Theatre is having a free inauguration screening beginning at 8 a.m. at 8556 Wilshire Blvd. If you are looking for an inaugural bash to attend in, well, anywhere, MoveOn.org has a nifty search engine for you. Hulu.com is also presenting the inauguration live at their site, and they have been nice enough to allow bloggers to embed the code to their live stream, so you can also watch it here tomorrow morning. ABC will be the only network televising the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, a really cool deal where they'll be making the inauguration accessible to all people. Folks scheduled to perform for what will surely be one of the most massive crowds to ever fill a space as small as D.C. include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Stevie Wonder, Nick Cannon (who will D.J.) and additional performers TBA.

Also, in a 90's-style twist, a commemorative inauguration CD/DVD will be available for purchase. Here's some info as provided by Christine Nyholm of Suite 101.com:

The PIC has announced the release of a commemorative inauguration CD/DVD which will features top recording artists and eight of President-elect Obama’s campaign speeches.

The 18-track CD features songs by will.i.am, the Tony Rich Project, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Ozomatli, Sheryl Crow, India.Arie, James Taylor, Melissa Etheridge, Lenny Kravitz, Robin Thicke, Maroon 5, Usher Raymond IV, BeBe Winans, Wilco, Jennifer Hudson, Death Cab for Cutie and Common.

The CD-DVD will be available for purchase at official inaugural events in Washington D.C. and is also available at the PIC online store.

That's all folks! See you here tomorrow for the live stream of the show!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Baby I Love Your Way: Ministry - "Lay Lady Lay"



MINISTRY - "LAY LADY LAY" From their 1996 album, "Filth Pig"

As I mentioned in the last post, I have an abiding fantasy of the "Lay Lady Lay" guy: a space-age bachelor pad man who has a knack for making the ladies feel special. He's kind of like Rob Lowe's character in the 1992 film "Wayne's World," who snags super-hot rocker babe Tia Carrere because he can speak Cantonese and pours her Dom Perignon in his penthouse apartment with the spectacular view. But what song does he throw on the Bose to get an edgy rocker chick in the mood?

Industrial stalwart Al Jourgensen and Ministry's 1996 cover of Bob Dylan's 1969 classic song "Lay Lady Lay" should do the trick. I was super jazzed that they played this song when I saw them play at Roseland in New York a few years ago. I always felt like I was the only fan of this tune when it first came out. Now that I see the YouTube comments under the video, I can see that this feeling is wrong, but back before we were all driving the information superhighway, one got the distinct impression that neither the album Filth Pig nor "Lay Lady Lay" were going to get much play from rock audiences, period. I thought it was a shame since the sonic change in direction seemed to be a good one for a band that had been coasting on loud and abrasive noisiness for quite a few years.

I think this cover is great because it retains the original sexiness of the song, but smooths out the edges to a pleasantly gravelly wash of sound. It's almost shoe-gazer, like My Bloody Valentine or Swervedriver and such. I think the video very appropriately uses color to complement the song:



A very clever YouTube commenter of the video mentions how the bossa nova rhythm of the song "kills it." I could not agree more. Combined with the fuzzed-out guitars, it just livens it up, makes it more sleek and updated. I just really adore this tune. Ministry never really got their props for this one. You're welcome, Al.

Soundtrack of Your Life: New Edition - "Can You Stand The Rain"


NEW EDITION - "CAN YOU STAND THE RAIN" From their 1988 album, "Heart Break"

OK, I know that it says 1988. Not the 90's. But lots of songs that came out in the very late 80's enjoyed life in the early 90's, especially when they were created by a viable 80's pop group that was steadying itself for a 90's comeback, such as Boston's own New Edition.

New Edition, in my opinion, do not get their just due. These guys were doing the boy band thing way before those New Kids put on their first pair of British Knights and learned the white boy shuffle (after which they were first in line for former New Edition manager Maurice Starr's next Boston casting call; he would become their manager after he split with New Edition). "Cool It Now," "Mr. Telephone Man," "Candy Girl..." these were all sunny pop tunes that took some of the very heavy load off of Michael Jackson in the race to sufficiently entertain a modern R&B and pop audience in the 80's. By the end of the decade, the band sought to be seen less as boys and more as men (hence their 1991 single "Boys to Men," and subsequent bestowing of this name to their proteges and wildly successful 90's R&B act, Boyz II Men), and started pumping out suave jams like "Can You Stand The Rain."

Look at them in their suits...We had the 45" vinyl record of this song in my house, and this was the photo used on the sleeve. They were dead up serious about their new image and it worked for that moment which saw an upswing in smooth and elegant urban music. With the addition of non-Bostonian Johnny Gill (he's from D.C.) to the mix after the departure of Bobby Brown (who was pursuing his solo career), they were once again on their way to relevance. Success!

I love this song. I miss these types of sexy jams...You throw these on the stereo (in today's case you click open iTunes), dim the lights, light a few candles...you know the rest. I call these "Lay Lady Lay" songs...Bob Dylan, ironically, wrote the smoothest jam there is way back in 1969. All a swingin' guy has to do is throw "Lay Lady Lay" or "Can You Stand The Rain" on the Hi-Fi, turn the lights down low, pour his lady friend some Martini & Rossi, and let whatever happens happen, baby.

Here is New Edition performing "Can You Stand The Rain" on one of my favorite 90's shows, "The Arsenio Hall Show:"



"Just plain Ron, I guess..." I love the interview with Arsenio afterward. Damn The Man promises you more Arsenio in the future. Not to mention Bell Biv Devoe!

Here's the studio track for those of you who have never heard the song before:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Soundtrack of Your Life: Mint Condition - "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)"


MINT CONDITION - "BREAKIN' MY HEART (PRETTY BROWN EYES)" From the 1991 album, "Meant To Be Mint"

I have to thank my favorite gossip site, Bossip, for jumpstarting the ol' memory on this song. Mint Condition was a contemporary R&B group that fell under the same umbrella as other "New Jack Swing" groups of the early Nineties like Jodeci, Guy, Blackstreet, LeVert, Brownstone and K-Ci & JoJo. 1991's "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)" was one of those junior high school dance jams for New York kids...hearing this or any other hit single by one of these groups and I am instantly 12 again. It is fun, however, to go back and hear how these guys could SANG. Back then, talent was actually enough to get quite a few folks by, and we are all better for it.

Here is a live video of "Pretty Brown Eyes..." Put on a Hypercolor shirt and enjoy!

People Who Died:The 90's misses Aaliyah on her 30th Birthday...


R.I.P. AALIYAH - 1979 - 2001

Your 90's-ologist misses Aaliyah. Great contemporary R&B singer, Brooklyn native and true child of the 90's, Aaliyah would have turned 30 years old yesterday. Aaliyah died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001. Her plane malfunctioned and went down shortly after attempting to leave the Bahamas (where she had just shot the video for her wonderful 2001 single "Rock The Boat") for New York. She is buried at Ferncliff Cemetery located in Hartsdale, NY (the town where I went to high school, incidentally).

She was famous for many things, including being secretly married to mentor R. Kelly when she was only 15 years old, but above all she was an innovative artist who reflected the times she lived in by being open-minded and interested in other types of music outside of her own genre, including metal (she was a fan of bands like Korn), incorporating those styles into her own music (with the help of famed R&B/Hip-Hop/rock producer Timbaland and songwriter Missy Elliot). I really enjoyed this creative aspect of her sophisticated and modern songs. BabyGirl was an original, adventurous spirit who continues to influence scores of young pop and R&B artists today (I'm talking to you, Rihanna!).

Though she had only three albums to her credit upon her death, "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number (1994), "One In A Million (1996) and "Aaliyah" (2001), it feels as if Aaliyah had countless songs that struck emotional gold and stick with you even now. She was beautiful, inside and out, and it's a shame more pop stars don't follow suit. Here are videos for songs off of each of her albums:


AGE AIN'T NOTHING BUT A NUMBER (1994)




Aaliyah - Back and Forth

No matter what you may think of R. Kelly and his neverending embarrassment of riches, he is responsible for nurturing Aaliyah's talent in the early years, and was lead songwriter and producer of her debut record.



ONE IN A MILLION (1996) (My personal fave!)




Aaliyah - One In A Million



Aaliyah - If Your Girl Only Knew



Aaliyah - 4 Page Letter


AALIYAH (2001)




Aaliyah - Rock The Boat



Aaliyah - More Than a Woman



Aaliyah - We Need A Resolution



Aaliyah - Try Again

This is a track from the 1998 "Dr. Dolittle" soundtrack:



Aaliyah - Are You That Somebody?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The 90's Loves Freedom to Marry Day!


One of the aspects of the 90's that I always loved was its abiding concern with getting folks turned on politically, especially young people. It was also a decade that saw gay rights cut a much wider swath in the fabric of political and social life in the United States.

On Election Day in November 2008, the fight for gay rights and equality saw quite a setback with the passage of Prop 8, which has made marriage between same-sex couples illegal in the State of California, repealing an earlier California Supreme Court ruling (May 15, 2008 - "In re Marriage Cases") which found it unconstitutional to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. On February 12, 2009, National Freedom to Marry Day will consist of same-sex couples requesting marriage licenses from their local County Clerk's offices to highlight the negative impact that Prop 8 and continued discrimination based on sexual orientation has on the gay community.

As a political activist and concerned citizen, I wholeheartedly support this action, and if you feel like I do, please go here for more information on how you can be involved. As a newlywed, I can only say that my reaching this important milestone in my life has been bittersweet in the face of this loss for not only gay Americans, but all Americans. See you at the courthouse!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Soundtrack of Your Life: The Verve - "On Your Own"


THE VERVE - "ON YOUR OWN" (FROM THE 1995 ALBUM, "A NORTHERN SOUL")

When it comes to 90's British rock bands, if Oasis was the Beatles, then The Verve was the Rolling Stones, and I am a Stones girl all the way. Before "Bittersweet Symphony" and "Urban Hymns" was this song. I remember seeing the video for "On Your Own" late at night on one of MTV's "alternative" rock shows, probably "120 Minutes," and was entranced. From frontman Richard Ashcroft's adorably Mick Jagger-ish English gauntness, to the haunting cinematography that perfectly complemented the equally haunting melody, I was hooked. I think I am actually more in love with this song than any other one in The Verve's entire output. It's that good. Enjoy please:

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Marley & Me" is surprisingly 90's-centric


The 2008 film "Marley & Me," featuring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as the world's most obnoxious dog owners (or owners of the world's most obnoxious dog--whichever), is mostly set in the 90's and has the soundtrack to prove it. So here is a list of all the 90's tunes that show up in the film:

1. R.E.M. - "Shiny Happy People" (from the 1991 album, "Out of Time"):

This song drove many a person crazy, from the earworm of a hook to the almost sickeningly shiny and happy video (featuring Kate Pierson of the B-52's, who sings on the track), but it is and will ever be, incredibly 90's.



Bonus points to those of you who can identify Jane Pratt, editor-in-chief of the defunct and beloved guide-to-the-90's magazine "Sassy" (1988-1994, R.I.P). Here's a hint: in this miasma of 90's fashions, there can only be one daisy-covered dress.

2. Ben Folds - "Rockin' The Suburbs" (from the 2001 eponymous album)

This song is not technically Nineties, but Ben Folds sure is. 90's babies, I've got a gun to your head, sing "Brick!" Louder! You could belt out every word, because that's how big Ben Folds Five was. I myself liked the song "Underground," one of those 90's ironic commentary songs that I mentioned in the last post. In fact, instead of "Rocking The Suburbs," here is a video of Ben Folds Five playing "Underground" live in 1998 on "Sessions at West 54th:"



Check out that dude pull off a backflip at 3:44.

3. Hootie and The Blowfish - "Only Wanna Be With You" (from the 1994 album, Cracked Rearview)

Ah, Hootie. One of the funniest parts of Cameron Crowe's 1996 film "Jerry Maguire" was when the little boy in the airport walks up to Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s football player character and asks him if he's Hootie. It makes me wonder how many times people walked up to singer Darius Rucker and called him Hootie to his face.



Hootie and The Blowfish - Only Wanna Be With You (Live 2008, Joe's Bar, Chicago, IL)

4. Us3 - "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" (from the 1993 album, "Hand on the Torch")

This song was a big favorite of my Mom's. She tends toward more polished, sophisticated sounds, and this track, which sampled Herbie Hancock's Blue Note Records recording "Cantaloupe Island," certainly met those standards. Us3 was an English group, and I was a big fan of dance and electronic groups out of London at the time, so this song fit right into my tastes. A fun and cool track that makes you miss well-crafted radio singles.



Sorry about the out-of-sync sound.

5. Bruce Lash - "Lithium" (2003 cover of the Nirvana song from the 1991 album, "Nevermind")

I had never heard this cover of Nirvana's "Lithium" before seeing this film. It's actually quite appropriate considering that lounge music and lounge covers of rock music became somewhat popular for a short time in the 90's.



6. The Verve - "Lucky Man" (from the 1997 album, "Urban Hymns")

All one has to say to 90's kids is "Bittersweet Symphony" and visions of hysterical drunken nights and bleary-eyed Walks of Shame (avec Walkman) dance in their heads. The Verve is a pretty legendary 90's band, with great songs to boot. "Lucky Man" is one of them. Peace out.

Soundtrack of Your Life: Local H - "Eddie Vedder"


LOCAL H - "EDDIE VEDDER" (FROM THE 1996 ALBUM, "AS GOOD AS DEAD")

I cannot stop humming this song for some reason. Since I'm in a jangle-pop mood at the moment, I figured I'd talk about it.

Local H was, and continues to be, an interesting band. Starting life as a two-piece (Scott Lucas, the band's singer/guitarist and only permanent member, Joe Daniels on drums), their raison-d'etre was to ironically comment on the then-existent frenzy that ensued in the music scene in the wake of the insane popularity (and bankability) of Nirvana. In fact, they were often compared to Nirvana, and I'm sure it bothered these fellows quite a bit.

There were more than a few bands in the 90's that were in the business of ironic commentary on the music scene (see Smashing Pumpkins'"Cherub Rock," Pavement's "Range Life") or trends in popular culture at the time (Deadeye Dick's "New Age Girl"), but Local H's songs were particularly biting, and therefore, entertaining as hell.

"Eddie Vedder," as a song and a concept, is damn near perfect. It has a melody that swims in your head for days (I stop short at calling it an earworm since it's so good), jangly and crunchy guitar sounds for that caramel plus nougat quality, and lyrics that will make you laugh if you remember the rock supremacy of Pearl Jam back in the 90's. Like I said, perfect.

Here you go:



What was also pretty cool about this original Local H lineup was that the drummer was black. This could not be underestimated in the 1990's rock scene.

Upcoming Show: Gin Blossoms at House of Blues, West Hollywood, CA - 2/19/09



Gin Blossoms, a somewhat-guilty-but-not-really pleasure for me in the 90's, is playing the House of Blues in West Hollywood, CA on February 19. You should also know that they have a new record available called "Major Lodge Victory," off of which the single "Let's Play Too" is featured in the Owen Wilson-starring comedy "Drillbit Taylor."



1992's "New Miserable Experience" was the public's introduction to this Arizona band, and although they had a reputation of being just a little cheesy and bland, this was one of the first records that I consciously thought was truly sad. Though the music was brightly lit, with infectious hooks, the overall tone of the album was rather melancholy, and kind of ushered me into a lifelong love of sad-core music. My belief in the band's essential sadness was intensified by the knowledge that Doug Hopkins, the Gin Blossom's original primary songwriter, committed suicide in 1993.

This band probably wriggled its way into my purview because they played the kind of jangly pop-rock that I still love to this day. They were like R.E.M. Jr., or just a placeholder until you discovered Buffalo Tom, The Tragically Hip, Polaris/Miracle Legion, and Camper Van Beethoven (not to mention Camper's 90's incarnation, Cracker).

Here are some videos of my fave tracks off New Miserable Experience. They're mostly live performances since Universal Music Group has disabled embedding of their clips on YouTube. Beware: the crowds sing every word and are very loud. Enjoy:



Gin Blossoms - Found Out About You (Live, Quad Cities Summerfest)



Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy (Live 2007, Mt. Clements, MI)



Gin Blossoms - Until I Fall Away (Live 2006, Springfield, OH)



Gin Blossoms - Allison Road

I have to point out how great frontman Robin Wilson's voice sounds in the live recordings. He looks different, but sounds almost exactly the same as his old recordings. Wonderful.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Was A TV Baby: Homicide: Life on the Street


HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET (1993-1999)

I just finished watching the very good 2008 film "Frozen River" featuring the actress Melissa Leo, who was on NBC's classic TV show "Homicide: Life on The Street" for about four years as Det. Kay Howard, until she was unceremoniously booted from the show for not conforming to Hollywood's standards of female beauty. Why this would matter when Melissa and the show were so kickass, I have no idea. But I could not let my memory of such a moving and exciting show go by without a mention here on Damn The Man.

Kay Howard was, for a time, the only female detective on this cop show (such a show now holds the fancy-dance name of "police procedural") set in Baltimore, which was in keeping with the show's source: David Simon's 1991 true crime book, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets." David Simon would later go on to create one of the most critically acclaimed cable shows ever, "The Wire," a show that I also admire that continued Homicide's legacy of hard-hitting, uncompromising storytelling. It only helped that film director Barry Levinson served as executive producer (I love "Diner" to little bitty pieces).


This was a show so good that although it aired on Friday nights after the second season, and I was teenager at the time, my bum was glued to my seat in front of that screen every week. What made it different from other cop shows, and nearly every other show in general, was how gritty and no-nonsense it was. Then and now, these types of network shows tend to have a plastic veneer on them, a cheesiness that's both off-putting and superficial. "Homicide: Life on the Street" sought to give a true picture of what the Baltimnore streets were like for criminals, cops and civilians alike. The naturalistic documentary-style filmmaking helped to contribute to this air of authenticity.

The diverse cast was also a big draw of the show, including the aforementioned Leo, Andre Braugher as Det. Frank Pembleton, Kyle Secor as Det. Tim Bayliss, Yaphet Kotto as Lt. Al Giardello, Richard Belzer as Det. John Munch, Ned Beatty as Det. Stanley Bolander, and Daniel Baldwin as Det. Beau Felton. While the whole cast was impressive, and grew ever more expansive as the show went on, it was really Dets. Pembleton and Bayliss that ensured that viewers came back each week. Pembleton and Bayliss are truly one of TV's great duos; their intense questioning of suspects was the emotional Molotov cocktail that is missing from today's "procedurals." The rest of the cast and each week's stories kind of revolved around these mooring scenes, and the effect was hypnotizing.

I love this show. I know alot of folks missed out on this show because of its scheduling back then. I encourage you to pick up its DVD sets if you like "Dexter" or "The Wire." This precursor to these shows is only rivaled by, possibly, "Hill Street Blues." Possibly.

Please enjoy some clips from the show here. Prolific 90's music video director Mark Pellington (Pearl Jam's "Jeremy") co-directed an early opening credit sequence for the show. A very young Jake Gyllenhaal and Robin Williams are in the second one:





Pembleton and Bayliss!!!



Here are a few clips of the fifth episode of Season 1 called "Three Men and Adena." Check out the video Bayliss is watching in the first clip...very 90's:







They sometimes did crossovers with "Law and Order"...Check out Baltimore filmmaker John Waters! OMFG!! I love their NYC vs. Baltimore dialogue here:




Please check out the trailer for "Frozen River" featuring Melissa Leo of "Homicide":