If you can listen to it, you can copy it

We all know how badly the record industry wants to clamp down on CD copying. But what they think of as piracy, we think of as doing what we want with something that we legally purchased. An article in the Register reaffirms just how futile the record industry’s fight really is. The article refers to a German program called CloneCD that, according to their website, “writes in RAW mode, allowing full control on the written data. Therefore, CloneCD 3 will produce real 1:1 copies of your CDs.” Sounds pretty great. I’ve always feared that my digital audio extractions were somewhat lossy, so after I try this out I’ll let you know how it works.

There’s also High Criteria’s Total Recorder, which is totally worth the $11.95 registration fee. It allows you to convert any sound file on your computer to a WAV file (which you can then burn to CDs or convert to MP3s or whatever you want to do). Yes, any sound file, even streaming media and those fucking annoying Liquid Audio files. It doesn’t make perfect, digital copies since it has to use your sound card driver, but the fidelity loss is negligible.

If you download these programs now and make backups of the installation files, as long as you have a working computer with a CD drive, the Man will never be able to keep you from listening to your music whenever, wherever and however you want to. Sock it ’em.

FRONTIER JUSTICE: Johnny’s Issue Roundup

FRONTIER JUSTICE: Johnny’s Issue Roundup

Maybe it’s the heat, I don’ t know. But I just can’t concentrate. MTV may make Beck want to smoke crack, but it only makes me angry about 300 things at once. Luckily, there’s still live music to save me from the likes of corporate radio and Summer in the Keys. But I need to get some of this stuff off of my chest so I don’t give my favorite bartender a reason to kick my cynical ass out on the street.

Somethin’ Like a Phenomenon

Girl, you know it’s true: Boybandosity has reached critical mass. Backstreet Boy AJ Maclean’s very public breakdown (announced at a “press conference” thrown by his mates on that paragon of news journalism, TRL) and his group’s tepid stadium tour/album sales have helped make clear the fact that target markets age, too. But don’t cry for Jive Records. N*SYNC, that label’s other stable of high cheekbones and freakish haircuts, has naysayed the naysayers with Celebrity, their latest, er, effort. Roundly derided — basically because it’s really atrocious – the hourlong shitstorm of pompousity nevertheless debuted with authority. It’s first week sales were second only to No Strings Attached, the combo’s previous creative suckhole. So Jive’s still in the black. But it can’t last. Stadium tours are expensive, especially when you don’t sell them out. N*SYNC has something like 2,000 semi trucks carting around its stadium tour, and last time I looked, the Teamsters only get crazy with the hair gel when they’re getting real paid.

Celebrity’s overarching theme – Fame’s a bitch, man – suggests that Justin, et al have taken a page out of Bret Michael’s well-thumbed (in jail) handbook. Remember Native Tongue? That was Poison’s 1993 album that shit-canned CC Deville in favor of guitar savant Richie Kotzen in a quest for respectability. The non-mulleted respectfully kicked it to the curb. What Bret and the cads in N*SYNC don’t realize is that no one wants to hear a pop star complain about how many millions of dollars he makes. Especially when he sings lyrics like this:

Sick and tired of hearing all these people talk about

Whats the deal with this pop life?

And when’s it gonna play out?

Well man, hope you invested well, because there’s a Behind The Music about you in pre-production right now.

Sounding to Try Like You

Ever since “Loser,” Beck has enjoyed the kind of rep that is only written about in novels (no doubt written by failed musicians wishing for exactly that kind of rep..). A respected underground performance artist and purveyor of intelligent folk-core who records for indie stalwart (and tastemaker) K Records, and who hangs out with that label’s owner ( ex-Beat Happening Indie hero) Calvin Johnson, Beck also happens to be a quirky modern rocker who wears Prada, dates Wynona, and makes mad dollaz on Geffen. Since the days of Odelay, Beck has only solidified his credentials. The warmth of Mutations and Midnite Vultures’ sideways Prince sex jokes place him in an elite crew of artists (Bjork, Timbaland) who are thoroughly mainstream while still surfing the bleeding edge.

But a continuing argument amongst the GloNo editorial staff asks the question: Is Beck still relevant as a barometer of cool? His competing label heads seem to think so. It seems like every month something’s referred to as “the new Beck,” when the old Beck is doing just fine. They trot them out on modern rock radio, 3-minute singles of whizzing samples, snide lyrical couplets, and the random DJ scratch. Citizen King, Dynamite Hack, Scapegoat Wax – jeez, even their names are similar. Even those no-talent fucks in Better Than Ezra have jumped on the Beck party train, hiring DJ Swamp to infuse them with Beck-ness. “Extra Ordinary,” BTE’s new single, sounds like Z-grade Mr Hansen, with a little Sublime thrown in for good measure. I almost want to see Better Than Ezra on their new tour, just to see if they’re still as shitty as they were in 1995, touring with Ben Folds Five.

The real Beck please release an album toot suite, and put all these bizarre Becks back in their places? Then they’ll all just go back to impersonating Dave Matthews/Eddie Vedder (see Five For Fighting’s new album) and leave the big kids alone.

Get Your Freak On – Peaches and Taylor Savvy Make it Hot

Sucking on my titties/Like you wanted me/Callin’ me/All the time like Blondie/Check out my Chrissie be-Hynde it’s fine now all the time…

Last week in Chicago, things got a little hotter when Peaches rolled through town. The NC-17 material above comes from Peaches’ bomb track, “Fuck The Pain Away.” Never one to, ahem, beat around the bush, Peaches wears her mullet proud and promptly blows your eyeballs back through your skull with her Roland MC 505 beat box and a stable of hot, sweaty lyrics that would make Li’l Kim proud. The Teaches of Peaches, her current effort on Kitty-Yo, is chock full of the kind of shit that would make every 13-year old in the world giggle and squeal, listening to its swears and sexy beats late at night under the covers with a flashlight. That said, it also made the squad of indie rockers at Chicago’s Fireside Bowl shake their skinny hips like some kind of International Pop Underground sex show.

Arriving on stage in true flashy trash – thrift store lingerie that was boom-bada-boom stripped off during the duration of the set – Peaches was literally a one-woman sex machine. With pre-programmed MP3s laying down the beats, Peaches strutted all over the tiny stage, copping the stage moves of all our sexiest rockers, while at the same time toying with that very issue. After all, what is sexy about music, whether it be female or male, danceable or not? Is it Britney tearing off her tuxedo on an MTV award show? Or is it the one-two punch of Mick’s lips and Keith’s guitar slither? Or, is it Peaches, standing on stage, leading a crowd of stogy indie kids in a chant of “Guys, shake ya dicks, Girls shake ya tits”?

Peaches’ partner for her Chicago shows was Taylor Savvy, who quickly made R Kelly look bad in Earl’s own city. Savvy who looks like Jakob Dylan crossed with Randolph Mantooth, put together a set of sexually comedic musical numbers that featured crooning, brooding, and the kind of sweet nothings you usually hear The Onion’s B. Smoov uttering to his lady. With all of this coming from the mouth of a gangly white guy in the back bar of a converted bowling alley on a 100 degree night in Chicago, it was easy to see how Savvy quickly had the crowd eating from his hand. Leaping into off the stage to kiss the ladies’ hands, Savvy was like sexual energy incarnate. He also showed a real flair for improvisation, given that his accompaniment followed Peaches’ lead – pre-fab MP3s booming out the system while he gyrates on the stage like the Caucasian Maxwell. Try to do that in a new city every night, where no one knows you and they’re used to Gibson SGs and Marshall Stacks, and I’ll buy you a new hat.

JTL

The Economist on the online music-sharing world

And, for yet another mildly interesting article, go read this piece about the online music-sharing world at The Economist. It’s pretty basic, but for those of you who have been under a rock and have no real idea what post-Napster life is shaping up to be like, it’s a good start.

SPAM!

Okay, this has nothing to do with music, rock and roll, etc. But it is important, and it’s a great read, perhaps one of the most important pieces of journalism that I have read in the past few years. And fuck it, I’ve got the power to post this here, so I’ll abuse that power. It’s the nature of power to abuse it, right? Coca Cola thinks so, anyway. And that’s what this article is about. So for something totally off topic, go to Guerrilla News and read this article.

It’s long and it’s complicated; it concerns copyright law, covert oprerations by the CIA, bribery of judges in Chicago, and about a dozen other issues, most formidably that Coke has been screwing a single artist whose pop can designs they stole in 1989. Force yourself to read through the whole thing, it’s well worth it. And finally, thanks to Pat for digging this one up and forwarding me the link.

The Top 25 Liberty Songs

So I got my dead tree copy of the LP News in the mail yesterday and, lo and behold, it has an article on the front page: The Top 25 Liberty Songs. It’s a pretty cool list, and more enlightened than you might expect. Check it out. Not only is the Libertarian Party “The Party of Principle,” but it has good music taste too. That should be more than enough reason to vote for Harry Brown in the next election. (And yeah, I know there are two Rush songs on the list, but what do you expect—we’re libertatians, we have to like them because they like Ayn Rand.)

Continue reading The Top 25 Liberty Songs

White Stripes: Painting the World WHITE

Detroit’s White Stripes embark on world domination

By Phil Wise

It wasn’t so long ago that Detroit was the butt of all jokes. Everyone from Jay Leno and David Letterman to the writers of Kentucky Fried Movie were taking whacks at the Motor City. But it seems times have changed and Jack and Meg White of Motown’s own White Stripes are laughing now.

Not in recent memory has an indie band commanded so much attention as the White Stripes. With mentions in Entertainment Weekly, Time and twice in Rolling Stone, the White Stripes seem to be America’s sweethearts—or peppermint lollypops. Now the Stripes are taking their red and white fleet to the UK and finding the fickle British music press more than willing to sign on for a ride.

Last week’s NME had a one-page, full-color spread of Jack and Meg soaked in their Detroit sweat and signature red trousers. The headline screamed “White Noise, White Heat” as a double nod to Detroit’s only political/musical movement of worth, The White Panthers, and to the White Stripes’ Velvet Underground-influenced affinity for stripped-down jams. By reading the gushing write up you’d think Jack White was the second coming of Wayne Kramer, not the snotty little brother of John Spencer. But that was just a shot over the bow.

The coup de grace has this week’s NME features our heroes on the cover and declares them the “Sound of NOW!” How do they do it? I’m a fan of the Stripes and wish them all the best, but how have they seduced the media to the point of turning mild-mannered Arts & Entertainment editors into multi-national spinmasters?

The White Stripes have pulled off a major marketing coup with this media assault and the rewards could be great, but dancing with the British media can also be dangerous. If you thought the American media’s treatment of Milli Vanilla was bad, you should have seen what the NME and now defunct Melody Maker did to Johnny Marr when he left the Smiths. You’d have thought he killed Paul Weller!

So forge on, White Stripes, and find your fortune on the high seas. But beware the English congeniality, for even the great Spanish Armada met its brutal match at the hands of a British gentleman.

Deaf American

There’s a low grumble across America and it seems only Salon.com can hear it.

By Phil Wise

Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1995, there has been a steady consolidation of media in this country that threatens to choke our already anemic music business. The decisions for A&R, radio programming and concert promotion are falling into fewer and fewer hands. There’s a reason you only hear the same 12 songs on any Top 40-radio station (what happens to the other 28 songs you might ask). Intriguing stories of corporate bullying, backroom payoffs and political manipulation used to be the stuff of good reporting and would make an editor-in-chief dizzy with thoughts of Peabodies and other self-congratulating industry awards. But it seems nobody’s interested…well, almost nobody.

It’s long been popular to blame the failures of deregulation on Republican policies. I mean, it is their philosophy to let the market place set the rules and concerns of safety and anti-trust be damned. But Bill Clinton, no friend to the GOP, signed the Telecommunications act into law. And Clinton left the liberal base of the Democratic party behind long ago, contrary to what Rush Limbaugh and other rightwing blowhards would have you think. So if this failing policy that so blatantly spits in the face of liberal market controls is such an easy target, then where is the supposed liberal media? Now’s their chance to make fools of those stalwarts of free enterprise and they’re dropping the ball.

Enter Salon.com. Salon has been running a series of articles covering the disturbing consolidation of media. From the FCC chairman, Michael Powell’s (Bush buddy and son of Collin) revealing slip of the tongue in front of congress, to the heavy-handed market manipulation by Clear Channel Media and a certain good time pop-punk band. Salon seems to be the only high profile media source that smells a story.

It’s not to say that other left-leaning media sites haven’t also reported on these troubling trends, but none have Salon’s profile. And you can forget any reports from corporate hacks like Peter Jennings or GOP apologists like Fox News’ Bill O-Reilly. The rightwinger’s conspiracy theory of liberal media manipulation seems to fall flat when you consider that the parent companies of NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, AOL/TIME WARNER and other “mainstream” media outlets stand to make loads of money from these consolidations.

So, as the summer heat takes its toll on your good mood you can rest assured knowing that Clear Channel and Sumner Redstone know what’s best for you. Just flip on your radio to “the morning zoo” and listen to the banal sounds of Britney, Mandy, Christina or Mariah and hope to win tickets to see Lance, AJ, Joey, Mickey or Minnie. They all have homes in Orlando to pay for and we all need to do our part.

Here’s to Your Health

As we (I) are often prone to dissecting the relationship between corporate AmeriKKKa and popular culture (by way of advertising, “marketing”, etc.) on this site, I figured I’d throw this out there today. It’s something I have thought about a great deal, but it all came to a head while “reading” a copy of Men’s Health (gag, I know) during lunch. Forget why I was looking at such a worthless piece of dreck for a minute though, and concentrate on my point: We have lost the ability to be critical in today’s society.

I think we all realize that much of what we “consume” in our consumer culture, at least where entertainment and media are concerned, is garbage. But how did it get to be this way? I often hear the old dudes proclaim that “It’s always been this way” but I refuse to believe this. It’s gotten worse, for sure, and the biggest reason is that people are afraid to call something crap when it obviously smells, even when it’s stuck to their own shoe.

I was recently guilty of repeating that grandmotherly phrase, “You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” only to be repudiated by a fellow GloNo scribe: “But you get the most flies with shit.” And that’s it in a nutshell.

Take a look at Men’s Health (or any other magazine for that matter) and you find our culture reflected, the price tag still attached. Political Correctness dictates that they can’t really call a spade a spade; advertising revenue and the necessity to guard against ever saying anything that might offend anyone for any reason (for God forbid anyone take issue with something and make anyone’s job any more time consuming or difficult) make the rest of the self-censorship complete. And what are you left with? A bunch of drivel about nothing, with that cheeky (or “cute”, as one ridiculously corporate-brainwashed friend would say) tone that substitutes for voice.

What’s clearly missing from most media today is commentary. Analysis. Opinion, good or bad. Criticism. And it’s no wonder. We as individuals never want to have to defend anything we say or believe, because dammit, that’s hard work: thinking, forming complete sentences, arguing, writing, acting in a manner that inherently accepts responsibility for the outcome. All of these are frowned upon by society today. We’re taught from a very young age to look for the bright side, to view the glass half full, to be happy and content with whatever our situation in life might be. Seek comfort in like others. Work within the system. Do as you’re told. Advocate, but don’t agitate. Most importantly, respect others’ right to have an opinion—no matter how stupid or uninformed that is. “Hey, maybe Brittany Spears does have something to say!” After all, 50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong, can they?

Well, the Elvis fans weren’t—but they could have been. The Brittany fans, their opinion and right to hold it respected (of course), are fucking morons. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone needs to say this, out loud and loudly. Speak up and defend the opinion: Sting is an irrelevant and pompous blowhard; George Bush is the dumbest man to ever walk through the Oval Office, let alone sit behind the desk there; Modern R&B sucks so bad, it tarnishes the very term “rhythm and blues” (of which it has neither); Robert DeNiro has forgotten how to act and is but a caricature of himself. And on and on and on.

These are the things that need to be said. These are the ideas that will form a better society, which will allow us to differentiate, choose, and grow. If you’re not comfortable with having your own voice, fine; sit there and shut up. But remember, those who criticize are to be encouraged and appreciated, not vilified.

“In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.” –Edgar Allen Poe

The Next Plane to Good Writing

If you haven’t checked out Last Plane to Jakarta yet, it’s time do so now. It features some of the best music writing I’ve read since I was first cc’d on a note by Johnny Loftus. There’s a particularly great explication of a song by Chuck Berry on there right now. I love it when people go off the deep end over something they love. To me, that’s what it’s all about.

At the end of the article, the author dismisses his revelation like this:

…this isn’t exactly news. It’s nothing you’d want to admit to not knowing if you didn’t already. But every so often some song from the distant pass puts the fire of God on you and you gotta preach. I thank you for indulging me.

Preach on brother, preach on. We’ll stay tuned and continue to indulge you.

Ringo Starr: It Don’t Come Easy

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band

By Phil Wise

The Today show has a summer-long concert series in which artists perform outdoors at ungodly hours in the early morning. It seems like a nightmare to me, but the series has featured an eclectic mix of acts from ‘NSYNC to Tim McGraw. Not a particularly hip or cutting edge line-up, but this is morning TV.

Today’s featured act was none other than Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. This year’s band features an equally perplexing mix of artists including Sheila E. Ringo’s been touring with a different line-up in his All Starr band for about a decade and the roster reads like a roll call of Ringo’s AA meeting: Joe Walsh, John Entwhistle, Jack Bruce, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Todd Rundgren, Nils Lofgren, Dave Edmunds and many more. Now, no doubt this is a stellar line up of seasoned (sometimes seasoned and sautéed) veterans. No doubt they have some war stories to tell that I’d love to be privy to. Hell, some of these guys are bona fide legends. But, how do they play together some 30–plus years after some of them have made an impact on the musical landscape?

The Today show appearance started off with an interview with Ringo by Katie Couric. Despite Ringo always being presented as the affable, cheeky Beatle, he usually comes across in interviews as a bit sour and arrogant. Today was no different. Ringo seemed put-off that he had to appear on TV before noon and even after 35 years of press conferences, junkets and interviews, he still gets miffed when answering the same old questions about the Beatles and when or if the surviving three will reunite. Get with it Ringo, without the Beatles you’re painting houses—Ask Pete Best.

But let’s forgive Ringo his lack of nuance with the media. After all he was never the mouthpiece for the Beatles. He was the drummer and content in that role. So, let’s just look at the band.

Ringo took the mic for a few songs, including a Mattel-like karoke version of Yellow Submarine, and then handed vocal duties over to former Supertramp front man Roger Hodgson. Ringo’s taken plenty of heat for his “vocal stylings” over the years and I’m not going to throw another log onto that fire. Let’s just say that age has not turned a bottle of sour grapes into wine. Hodgson, on the other hand, still has that clear muppet-like voice he had on 70s hits like “The Logical Song” and “Give a Little Bit.” I hate those songs and always have, but if you like them then you wouldn’t be disappointed in their rendition today. But the accompaniment on all of those songs left a bad taste in my mouth. I had immediate flashbacks to a bowling alley “play room” and the smell of diapers and disinfectant-and-cigarette-smoke-smelling shag carpet. The combination of songs I’ve hated since I was three years old and the sweltering Chicago heat sent me into an immediate toxic shock.

But all things must pass and as Katie and Matt led us into a commercial I thought about poor old Ringo and his All Starr band. These are guys who at some point in their careers were at the topper most of the popper most only to end up in a two-bit cover band fronted by a short, angry half-legend. Do they miss the madness of their earlier careers? Are they content in life? And was it better to have been at the top and fallen than to have never seen the view?

Rock and roll can change your life.