All posts by Jake Brown

Happy Birthday Dude

It’s Bob Dylan’s 60th birthday.

Jolie told me a story about how when she was a little girl she heard a song on the radio. The singer’s voice appalled her. She couldn’t believe how grating this man’s voice was. She asked her mom why music like this was allowed on the radio.

“It’s political,” her mother said, and left it at that. That was enough. It all made sense.

I love Dylan’s voice. And I love his songwriting. And I love the fact that he introduced the Beatles to grass. And I love that he plugged in and went “rock and roll” when all the folkies thought of that as the ultimate sell-out. He may be a creepy old guy who looks like Vincent Price now, but he’s still got more of the rock and roll spirit and soul than anyone else out there today. Especially those of his generation…

Who needs Napster?

Napster’s new subscription service is dumb. More than five bucks a month for files “limited in audio quality and unable to be burned to CD.” Please.

Fortunately, there’s a new kid in town in the peer-to-peer file-sharing world, KaZaA.com. Unlike Napster, it allows you to search for and download files directly from your browser. Actually, it only allows you to do this 15 times before it requires that you download the KaZaA Media Desktop, which claims to provide faster searches, faster downloads, resumable downloads and more files. Or you can delete KaZaA’s cookie and do another 15 browser-based searches. Also unlike Napster you can get at other users’ video files, documents, and other files as well as audio files.

KaZaA is not a Gnutella client, so those of you who are trying to reunite the world will be disappointed by one more splinter of an already fractured user base. But most of my searches returned several hits, so there are apparently a lot of people using it. The technology claims to be 50 times more scalable than Gnutella.

KaZaA’s network is a distributed, self-organising network. Neither search requests nor actual downloads pass through any central server. The network is multi-layered, so that more powerful computers get to be search hubs (“SuperNodes”). Any KaZaA client may become a SuperNode, if it meets the criteria of processing power, bandwidth and latency. Network management is 100% automatic – SuperNodes appear and disappear according to demand.

So it seems pretty cool. Unfortunately, they will only allow you to get at mp3s with a bit rate of 128 kbps or less until they can figure out a deal with “European collecting-rights organisations.”

It’s worth checking out KaZaA.com before the Man shuts it down.

Blender: Rock and Roll and Boobies Too

But no nipples.

I spent about an hour last Saturday morning hungover on my brother-in-law’s crapper. Did the same thing Sunday morning. The john is well-stocked with several issues of Maxim and Stuff, and I’ve started to like those magazines for what they are. They’re fun. And occasionally there are some interesting articles. The thing that really angers me about them is that they never show nipples. They show all kinds of cleavage and every young starlet in every imaginable sultry pose, but never any nipples.

That just seems cheap to me. A rip off. A prick tease. A Playboy-Lite for these neo-Puritanical times. Playboy at least has great fiction, intelligent interviews, and halfway-decent articles. All that and full nudity.

But still, I no longer resent Maxim and Stuff for their rather meat-headed editorial slant. There’s a certain playful anarchy going on in there. Like when they teach you step-by-step how to pick a lock. Maybe this sounds to you like a recipe for drunkfratrape disaster, but I’m hoping it’s pretty harmless. Let’s the kids think they’re being naughty without really causing any trouble.

Plus, I read an interview with a sexually precocious 17-year-old supermodel who blew off the advances of a member of a certain boy band, claiming, “The Backstreet Boys are all butt ugly.” I’ve had a soft spot for these rags ever since. Call me open-mided. Or call me a sucker. Whatever. It’s pop trash and it’s entertaining. Like watching the E! channel.

So when I read Michael Goldberg’s column, The Drama You’ve Been Craving, about publisher Felix Denis’ new music magazine, Blender, I had to pick it up. Even though Goldberg warned me not to:

If Blender succeeds by following the approach Dennis has taken with Maxim and StuffMaxim is currently the best-selling general-interest men’s magazine in the U. S. — we may end up longing for the days when we could count on Rolling Stone, for all its problems, to occasionally deliver a solid article about a meaningful artist such as Radiohead or Tom Waits. Clearly Blender will be targeting “generation mook,” those Tom Green/Limp Bizkit/Eminem-loving kids. I’m expecting the worst.

Well, after reading through much of the premiere issue, I think Goldberg can relax a little. Maybe.

Maybe Blender is being sneaky, and corporately co-opting “cool” like the Gap, Volkswagon, and Sprite, but Issue One contains an interview with Thom Yorke of Radiohead, a big article about Weezer, a full-page review of the new Lucinda Williams album (plus a full-page picture — a woman baring no cleavage for once), and a two-page review of the new Beach Boys reissues.

Granted, the interview with Yorke is based on dopey questions sent in via email by fans. And Weezer isn’t exactly an underground band, and the writer didn’t defend Pinkerton nearly strongly enough. And much of the rest of the issue is filled with “bootylicious” photos of Janet Jackson and Destiny’s Child. But check out this excerpt from Andy Pemberton’s editorial:

Who else would review over 200 CDs every issue and cover everyone from the big fish to the tiny minnows? Who else knows that music is beautiful and scary and sad and wise and fun – especially fun – whatever genre it’s from? Answer: no one (we checked).

Except Glorious Noise, of course. We’ll let Blender focus on the fun, and that’s okay. Fun music has it’s place. Not everybody has to be heavy and serious and snobby. And if Blender turns a few frat boys on to Lucinda Williams or Alejandro Escovedo then that’s good for everybody, right? Except for the snobs who want to keep their favorite bands as their personal pets. And we’ll let them worry about it themselves.

Read more Bangs

I found a site that has more Lester Bangs reviews. Beware: the site is in French even though the reviews are in English. No comments about whether or not Bangs’ writing can actually be considered English, okay? Anyway, it’s nice to see someone else serving up stuff that is otherwise unavailable. That is, unless you want to search them out on ebay.

To read the bootleg Lester Bangs reviews on Glorious Noise, check out our Features page.

That’s all right

I don’t know how long this has been up, but Emusic.com has a great collection of Elvis photos from his 1954 Louisiana Hayride days. In my opinion, this is when Elvis looked his best. He’s so cool in these pictures, it hurts to look at them.

ElvisThese were the days of the original Sun Sessions, when Elvis, Scotty and Bill — with a whole lotta help from Sam Phillips — were actually creating a whole new style of music, a combination of country and western with rhythm and blues that no one had heard before. Say what you want about Bill Haley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry — all great artists — but they didn’t come up with anything as new as our boy, Elvis.

Just listen to that very first single. “That’s All Right” is an obscure blues song by Big Boy Crudup, hopped up all hillbilly-style. The flip is “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” a famous Bill Monroe bluegrass hit, rocked out with no trace of bluegrass left in it. It’s not just a white boy trying to sing like a black guy. It’s way more than that. Al Jolsen tried to sing like a black guy. Bing Crosby did too. What Elvis did changed the world. And that’s the way it is.

How many years?

There’s a silly article on Slate.com about how rock and roll flourishes every 12 years. According to the author 1967, 1979, and 1991 were abnormally good years for music, and therefore, we can expect another high point in a couple of years.

Looking casually at my Desert Island discs (which I’m already completely unsatisfied with, by the way), I noticed that none of my picks were released or recorded on any of those years. I’m too lazy to go through everybody else’s picks and determine when the good years were, but if someone else wants to do it, feel free.

I think the overall flaw with Geoff Shandler’s theory is that great music has been written and performed and recorded and released every single year. And a lot of it. Sometimes (often) the great records don’t sell a ton and they don’t make it to the charts or to the radio, but they’re out there. It may be hard to find them, but they’re around. The current state of music is pretty great. I’ve picked up some great albums recently. The fact that the radio stations play a bunch of crap and MTV doesn’t show videos anymore only means that we have to work harder to find the good stuff.

The web can help. Along with legally dubious means such as Napster and good old-fashioned FTP, there are tons of legitimate sites that have songs available to stream and/or download for free. I like Listen.com and it’s always my first stop when I hear about a band I want to check out. If they don’t have anything there, I resort to CDNOW for audio samples or to Napster to see if anything’s out there.

And don’t forget about your local, independent record stores. As long as the guys behind the counter aren’t snotty punks, they will usually have a few current releases to recommend. And they should even let you listen to it before you buy it. Get to know them. Let them get to know you, and I guarantee their recommendations will be more suited to your taste than anything a computer database can come up with.

Good music is available now, and it’s always been available. Go out there and find it. I just picked up the new Me First and the Gimme Gimmes record and it’s a hoot. Non-stop fun. All covers of 60’s songs. Maybe not for everyone, but I smile every time I listen to them roaring through Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.”