Mary Kate and Ashley: Your Sweater Isn’t All They’ll Destroy

Despite his nauseous run as the nervously glowering host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” and whatever you think of those rumors that his standup act is actually really funny, it’s safe to say that Bob Saget has officially made a comeback this TV season. Er, at least for a little while. His new vehicle is the family sitcom “Raising Dad,” a WB product that is allegedly on a chopping block still fresh with the blood of Emeril Lagasse. Similarly, “Full House” alum John Stamos has been thrown a bone by ABC in the form of “Thieves,” some sort of ill-conceived spy comedy that nevertheless must pay better than being a professional Husband of Supermodel. The series’ vital signs are currently stable, but its Friday night timeslot and Uncle Jesse’s bizarrely Richard Grieco-like presence (not to mention any number or re-hashed plots from “Masquerade”) should put it on life support toot suite.

Instead of angling for face-time on the networks, Saget and Stamos might give think of looking up former co-stars Mary Kate and Ashley Olson, the twins who aged in realtime as Michelle, Danny Tanner’s youngest daughter on “Full House.” Now older, yet somehow still JonBenet Ramsey lookalikes, the twins preside over a multi-million dollar corporation built on their squeaky-clean image and cloying omniscience on childrens’ programming. With all the benjamins they’ve raked in with their videos, cartoons, magazines, and television programs, the Olsens could probably spare a few carrots for their former co-stars.

And now, it looks like Mary Kate and Ashley are adding emo-rocker to their list of celebrity accomplishments.

The Olsens will perform a version of Weezer’s “Island In The Sun” for the soundtrack to their upcoming film (see? Another medium conquered by this dynamic duo of capitalism!) “Holiday In The Sun,” the soundtrack of which is due November 20. The girls will perform the song with a band called Empty Trash, a group that seemingly doesn’t exist on the Internet. Maybe its Dave Coulier’s new project. Who knows. Whoever Empty Trash is, and however the twins got the idea of doing a Weezer cover,No one knows what this coition of alt pop and budding starlet will mean for Rivers Cuomo, his band, or music in general. What do all those rabid Weezer fans that Glorious Noise is so good at offending think of this development? And just when will “Thieves” be cancelled?

You’ve been warned. Happy Halloween.

JTL

Rude Awakening: Glenn Kotche and Guest

Glenn Kotche and Guest at Chicago’s Hideout Inn

As a kid, I never had much appreciation for abstract art. It seemed like just a lot of lines and splotches of color on canvass, or twisted metal and broken glass trying to be passed off as “sculpture.” It wasn’t until I was in 10th grade and I’d found a biography of Picasso that I started to realize what was going on. I saw Picasso as a classically trained artist who could paint portraits as vivid and realistic as a photograph but one who grew tired of the confines of fine art. He knew the rules and broke them. It was an awakening.

Friday night at my beloved Hideout found a room full of sleepers still trying to rub the gunk from their eyes as Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy were packing up their gear after a 40 minute set of spastic percussion and caustic feedback.

The Hideout had a Wilco-heavy bill with John Stirratt’s Autumn Defense (See Jake Brown’s upcoming review of this great band) checking in with material from their new album and Kotche opening the night with an undisclosed performance. Being the drummer for Wilco, questions were bandied about as to what Kotche would do? A half-hour drum solo? Spoken word set to rhythms? Or would he have help? Rumors soon spread that he would indeed have help from none other than Jeff Tweedy.

Rumors of a Wilco members hanging at the Hideout will usually draw a small crowd on any night. An Autumn Defense show draws larger crowds of melodic-pop music lovers. A “secret” performance from Tweedy draws a packed house with dozens of California Stars lovers hoping to catch an intimate performance of their faves like those that long-time Wilco fans brag about in the Lounge Ax days. The place was abuzz with people high-fiving each other for finally getting to see one of these famed stripped down sets. They should be careful what they wish for.

Kotche took the stage with his un-announced accompaniment and without a word from either, locked into a set of unstructured, unrestrained noise.

The crowd was mostly obliging as a one minute of feedback stretched to three, but nervous jokes and furrowed brows soon surfaced and the groundlings began to stir.

“Can you dance to this?” a blonde to my right jokingly asked her beau.

“Number Nine,” a Beatle-hip scenester droned from the back.

Three minutes dragged to ten and conversation circles formed. Most people realized this was a night of avant-garde and resigned themselves to waiting for the next act and the fact that at least they can say they saw Tweedy up close. Still others held out, hoping this was an extended intro. meant to throw the audience off and that soon enough they’d be hearing the heartbreaking strains of Far Far Away and the rawk-stomp of Casino Queen. Surely, America’s pre-eminent songwriter will bless us with his songs!

God Bless Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy for NOT playing any songs. Those folks on the countless message boards devoted to Wilco can rest assured that they did not play Hesitating Beauty for the one-millionth time. This was a night of art. Pure expression devoid of rules.

That’s not to say that Tweedy’s pop sensibilities didn’t pop up from time to time. There were enough riffs to make most hardened Classic Rock station manager grin and Kotche and Tweedy craftily raised and loosened the tension with swells and lulls of sonic pressure. But it was not a night of well-crafted country/folk balladry. In fact, as the screeching howled into the half-hour mark, already alienated No Depressioners around the world could be heard drawing a warm bath and getting out the razor strap.

Friday’s show may have been seen by some as self-indulgent, but Wilco has been struggling to shed the alt.country moniker for years. Tired of being pigeon-holed by an obsessed fan base hell bent on keeping them for their own, the Band who helped define the genre is growing out of its skin and alt.country Rumplestiltskins should wake up and smell the music.

A Brand New Culture War That Takes Till It Hurts

Some of you may note that the headline above combines the two headlines directly below this with—what else—but a reference to none other than Sting. As I’ve previously mentioned, I happen to use MSN for Internet access, and when I logged on this afternoon I not only discovered a brand new interface for the site, but right there on top, a photo of the musician in question, who was hired by Microsoft (and for some reason, Intel Pentium 4 has something to do with it: perhaps the performance will be done while the band wears bunny suits) to help promote XP. (At least the folks from Redmond didn’t try to roll out the Stones again a la Win ’95.)

So let’s see. . .We have sab’s “Big Business” slathering Sting across the ‘Net (the concert, physically happening in NYC, is, of course, being webcast); this, unlike what Phil wrote about, is clearly about commercialism, pure and simple.

The benefit concert in NYC, regardless of how good it was or wasn’t, still reminds us of what the best in music is all about, which is a generosity of spirit, if not always one of fact.

Seems to me that these corporate gigs show that “The Man” hasn’t sold us out, but that the people who we may have once thought were on “our” side are really most interested in their own self-interest.

“We won’t get fooled again”? I doubt it.

The Culture War

I am amused by the recently oft-mentioned notion that we can “win” the war on Afghanistan, err. . . terrorism, by bombarding “them” with DVD players and Britney Spears CDs. You know you’ve heard it, this ridiculousness that’s being spouted both by the mainstream media and in annoying chain e-mails. (Funny, this correlation is; there’s more truth in it than anyone wants to admit.)

But is this idea—to show the poor people of the world just how great capitalism is and thereby cause them to embrace us, disregarding their own centuries-old culture for no more than a Slurpee—new or even novel? It’s no secret that for the past 20 years Big Business has been trying to slather our crass commercial culture over the globe like so much Miracle Whip.

How truly insidious is this? Consider the following quote from The End of Marketing As We Know It by Sergio Zyman, former chief marketing officer at CoKKKe: “Anybody who has traveled or studied history knows that the French are different from the Italians, Mexicans are different from Guatemalans, and Brazilians are different from Argentines. Even though they may share borders and some have common languages, each country has its own superstitions, myths, history, demographic makeup, economy, and problems. All of these things make up the fabric of these countries. And it is on these fabrics, or canvases, that you have to paint your brand.”

And what happens when you paint on a canvas? Last time I checked, paint permanently alters the canvas; it will never again be pure and free of color. The same thing happens once we cover the world with brands and consumerism: It will change forever. (Better for the multinational cartels, as it’s an easier sell with every successive generation, as the differences fade and the local culture more resembles our own. Success breeds more success.)

Look closely at Zyman’s statement. Most countries in Europe are attempting to shed their national economy in favor of an E.U.-based economy. Witness, the Euro. “Problems”? As far as I can see it, our problems here in the U.S. have a tendency to take on extreme importance everywhere in the world, as our companies have such great impact on employment and commerce worldwide. (Not to mention our government and its ham-fisted control of the political agenda of most of the first world.) And myths, history and superstitions are nice, but in the face of the ubiquity of Hollywood, they don’t stand a chance. (When in Austria two weeks ago, I went to see American Pie 2—in English. While driving through Italy, I tuned in a pretty good classic rock station: Eagles, Stones, Who, etc.)

Give it another generation and Europe’s culture is gone. Another generation after that, kiss the rest of the world goodbye.

Britney Forever!

So to the people of Afghanistan, here’s what you have to look forward to. From a recent USA Today article: “Among those waiting to buy the double-disc set [Star Wars, Episode I: Phantom Menace] is Doug Radcliffe, 29, of Jacksonville, Fla. He saw the original Star Wars when he was 5 and was instantly ‘obsessed,’ he says. He spent 12 hours in line to watch Menace when it opened in theaters in May 1999 and plans to be at the local Best Buy on Tuesday morning as soon as it opens. Says Radcliffe, ‘I’ve invested a considerable amount of money in a home theater audio system, and the pod race and light-saber battle, especially, should possess enough bass and surround effects to rattle the walls.'”

Give till it hurts

Rock stars unite for 9-11 attacks, but does anyone care?

By Phil Wise

With all the madness surrounding the September 11 attacks, people feel as though they should do something—anything to help. The incredible outpouring has dwarfed even that of the We Are the World spectacle of the early 80s, both in contributions and pomposity. But is it fair to criticize people for trying to help?

Two scathing articles about celebrity benefits to raise money for attack victims question the importance and even motivation of these types of benefits despite their raising of millions of dollars. It makes one wonder if it’s worth the effort to help when all you’ll get is grief.

Most of the criticism of Paul McCartney’s “Concert for NYC” and Michael Jackson’s “What More Can I Give” shows centers on a few things: shameless self-promotion by artists, lack luster performances and a never-ending barrage of preaching.

Jim DeRogatis described the McCartney show as a corporate bloated marathon punctuated with “annoying telethon glad-handing, unbearable bathos and disturbing outbursts of unrestrained blood-lust and blatant jingoism” (jingoism: our hot new buzzword replacing “uber-anything” as THE thing to say at parties—ed.)

DeRogatis continued to bash the Concert for NYC as a just plain boring with “imminently forgettable pop stars doing their awards show shtick.” Even performances by seasoned veterans who’ve built careers on “delivering” were “mostly just incredibly lame.”

And then there’s Jacko’s party, which got such a whipping from Salon’s Eric Lipton I won’t even comment further. Read for yourself.

Now the Beastie Boys join the fray. A press release from Beastie, Adam Yauch, dated October 16, announced the New Yorkers Against Violence (hence forth referred to as NYAV) benefit. The show is scheduled to take place at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan on October 28. But with the flak both Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson have taken in recent days, are the Beastie Boys setting themselves up for a sucker punch?

I think it’s safe to say the NYAV will be relatively free of corporate pandering and unrestrained bloodlust, but the telethon glad-handing by way of tolerance preaching could reach new heights. While I agree that intolerance only plays into the hands of those who committed the attacks, most of us and almost certainly EVERYONE who might attend this show, gets it. It’d be like preaching to the choir while the church is burning.

The NYAV line up includes the Beasties playing a “short hip-hop set with Mixmaster Mike,” the Strokes, B-52s, Cibo Matto , Saul Williams, Rivals Schools and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Save the Strokes’ almost guaranteed self-promotion and the B52s one-millionth mind numbing attack of “Love Shack,” NYAV isn’t likely to fall into the trap of mediocrity that soaked the Concert for NYC.

Ultimately, all of the performers in each of these benefits deserve some credit. They did pull together to play benefits, surely disrupting touring and recording schedules. In a time when self-congratulating awards shows seem to be on every week, can they even be blamed for less than inspiring appearances and callous promotion? Yes, they can, but they’re trying and here’s to hoping that those associated with the New Yorkers Against Violence benefit don’t come home with a black eye.

Wilco Worries

I saw Wilco play on Oct. 5. Or perhaps I should say I saw Jeff Tweedy play with his backing band for the first time. Either way, what I saw was not the same group I’d seen over the years at the Majestic Theater. It certainly wasn’t the one I’d seen perform at Aquinas College in support of Mermaid Avenue or at the now-defunct Lounge Axe during the NBA Finals in 1998.

Of course it wasn’t the same. Bands change over the years, they release albums, they drop and add members. Sometimes a good band starts to suck. Sometimes bands just call it quits and other times they drag out their own death as solo projects, age, drugs, whatever, begin to take their toll. I’m not suggesting Wilco is necessarily going down any of these paths, not when their best album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, has been recorded and awaits release. But I’m nervous.

I’m not going to go into an in-depth analysis of the show, set lists, etc. Suffice to say, it was a good show. I enjoyed it. Most of the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Though from my observation, Tweedy didn’t, and that’s where my nervousness comes from. He/they played for about an hour, Tweedy standing at the forefront, Tweedy calling the shots, Tweedy obviously at the center of everything happening, the others acting merely as support. Fine. But having seen the way that Jay Bennett and Tweedy used to riff off each other, having seen the two of them fueling each other on stage, well, I missed that. Apparently, so did Tweedy.

After the first hour, having not previously addressed the crowd, Tweedy comes to the mic between songs and asks the question: Are you guys enjoying this? The crowd cheers and Tweedy responds: I guess I’ll have to take your word for it. Then he says this will be the last song and they play “I’m the Man Who Loves You.” And it rocks and they leave.

The music is, in a word, phenomenal. But the attitude. . . huh?

After the obligatory 10 minutes, the group returns to rabid cheering. And Tweedy lambastes the crowd for “people talking in the back.” Now mind you, the vast majority of the first hour of music was YHF stuff, which, lest they all have broadband Internet connections, I can’t see faulting the crowd for not knowing or being into. But see, it’s not really the talking that’s the problem, people talk during shows all the time. It’s more that Jeff Tweedy is “alone” on the stage now; Bennett’s gone, his guitar(s) left with him, and the ultra-introspective Tweedy is left with no creative foil and a hell of a lot of guitar work. So Tweedy’s looking to the crowd for the sort of feeling he used to get performing with Bennett. As we all know, the crowd is a fickle mistress. (As Tweedy alluded to, some of the people out there are trying to get laid, get drunk, or worrying about shit that’s a bit more important than his lamentations on American society. And I’m sorry, Jeff, but you’ve got to let them be.)

So perhaps I’m just such a Wilco geek that I can’t stand to see the band change? Perhaps, but remember, I liked the show. I had a good time. It was better than the last Wilco show I’d seen at the Majestic. Once Tweedy got over his talking-in-the-back angst and started rocking, or “playing the hits” as he may have felt he was being forced to do, even the talkers shut up and screamed along to “Passenger Side” and “California Stars.”

So, take it at face value; go see Wilco for yourselves. Let me stress, it’s a good show without Bennett. But it’s different and there’s always potential for disaster when things change, just as there’s potential for further greatness. We can probably all agree that the last thing in the world a band that’s been as wonderfully creative in reinventing itself with every album should do is churn out Summerteeth replicas, AC-DC-like.

But be forewarned: If you see Tweedy up there on stage sucking down the coffee and whining, he might need cheering up. He misses Jay. Buy him a beer—or offer a ten-spot to pay for your CD-R copy of Yankee.

[Correction: the show referenced in the lede was at Calvin College in support of Summerteeth; Wilco has never played Aquinas. -ed. 10/18/2017]

Jenny Toomey: Beauty, Pt. II

Jenny Toomey at Schubas, Chicago, 10/16/01

It was a regular independent music hoedown inside Schubas music room Tuesday night, as Jenny Toomey brought her solo act to Chicago, building out from her indie rock roots with a backing band that showcased not only Toomey’s trademark voice, wit and lyrics, but the challenging interaction of keys, cello, bass, violin, and even some castinets.

Throughout the 1990s, Toomey played and sang in great bands like Tsunami, Grenadine, and Liquorice. If that wasn’t enough, she was also the creative force behind Simple Machines Records, which functioned both as a source for amazing music by such groups as Rodan, Autoclave, and Lungfish, as well as an incubator/how-to manual for anyone wishing to put out records and generally give the Record Biz the big kiss-off. Toomey and Simple Machines partner Kristin Thomson’s 24-page record-making guidebook is at least as legendary as their label’s stellar music releases. And Toomey’s literate punk rock approach to the DIY aesthetic only grew. After A Brilliant Mistake, Tsunami’s 1997 swan song, the rocker and Georgetown grad formed the Future of Music Coalition, a group dedicated to artists’ rights in the brave new world of digital music and even bigger Big Business.

Toomey returns in 2001 with Antidote (Misra), an ambitious double-disc set that offsets the traditional tools of rock with instrumentation like vibes and strings. One thing that hasn’t changed throughout her career though is Jenny Toomey’s self-confident, sardonic, and extremely straightforward view of all things love and life. And Tuesday night in Chicago, those sensibilities were in full-effect, fronting her crack backing band. With Franklin Bruno on keys, Amy Domingues doubling up on cello and electric bass, Jean Cook’s violin existing as fiery monster or sidling accompaniment (sometimes both at once), and Jay Tobey’s understated, genre-bending percussion, Toomey’s new material came off as a potent mixture of moods, and a brightly-toned illustration of just how far independent music has come since the days of Simple Machines’ first few 7″ recordings.

Recorded in both Nashville and Chicago, Antidote‘s songs give Toomey an opportunity to furthur showcase her wonderful pipes, while still putting forth plenty of observation into not only love and relationships, but just what the hell we’re all supposed to be doing here. Touches of her more rocking past surfaced here and there Tuesday, but it was the deeper material that gave she and her band a real opportunity to show off their chops. With Cook’s violin meshing with both the keyboards and the bass, Toomey was content to fill in with her guitar while really relishing her vocals. An appearance by Chicago’s own Edith Frost (also a collaborator on the record) on backing vocals was a real treat, as was The Coctails’ Marc Greenberg sitting for Bruno at the ivories for a few songs. And Domingues might have stolen the show with her cello, playing deliberate lines that followed the ebb and flow of Toomey’s fiery/funny/sad/jazzy vocal delivery.

Mixing instruments not necessarily in concert with one another is nothing new. But sometimes it can seem like a cliché, like in the context of an artist’s first solo work, and especially if that album is a two-disc affair. But Antidote is quite the opposite. Toomey recorded much of the Nashville material with members of Lamchop, that city’s fine collective of musicians that have been melding soul, country, bluegrass, and rock together for over ten years. And she also collaborated with Calexico, another group that has made great music with their stylish cocktail of southwestern and country/western influences. At Schubas’ on Tuesday night, it was actually the more instrumentally diverse material that had the most resonance, which would have silenced any blowhards in the crowd, had they shown up to, say, heckle the band featuring funny instruments. So at the end of the show, when Toomey told a funny story about buying a pair of antique castinets in a junk store, and Domingues produced the very items from her bag of tricks, strapping them to her fingers and taking position with her hands by the mic, no one thought anything was out of the ordinary. And then Jenny Toomey and her band performed a wonderful Spanish-tinged number from Antidote, castinets and all, and it rocked just as much as any rock band would.

Artists have the right to create whatever music they want. And when it happens to be really amazing, that’s even better.

JTL

Wilco Film: Get It While You Can…

There’s a new web site for the unfinished, unfinanced, unreleased documentary film based on the recording of Wilco’s unreleased fourth album. The album, of course, is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The film is called “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” And just as Wilco has turned to the internet to stream their new album to its fans, director Sam Jones is making clips of his film available online. According to the site, “The film is currently about halfway complete, and the filmmakers are seeking financing and distribution through independent means.”

There is a ton of information here, and I haven’t even begun to get into it all. Along with the movie clips, there’s a photo gallery, a filmmaker’s diary and a message board.

Regarding the movie clips, the site says:

This page consists of unedited documentary footage culled from over 50 hours of film, and will change every two weeks. The website may be the only venue to ever show these clips, as they may very well end up on the cutting room floor. Keep an eye on this page for snippets of new songs, rare performances, and unedited dialog.

Sounds good to me. I can’t wait to get home and dive into it. Until then, let’s all cross our fingers and hope that this movie actually gets completed and released… Oh yeah, the album too.

More Glorious Noise Radio Updates

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last playlist update, so we swapped in ten new songs hand picked by Glorious Noise contributor Johnny. The new stuff includes tracks by the Rolling Stones, Jim White, PJ Harvey, Tribe Called Quest, Clem Snide, Fugazi, the International Submarine Band, Wire, Sleater-Kinney, and the Verve. So check it out by clicking on the radio icons at the top of the page. New feature: you can now see what’s currently playing on Glorious Noise Radio by clicking here. There’s over four hours of great music (66 songs!) constantly streaming for your listening pleasure.

Another thing: as you might have noticed, the site’s layout has moved around a little. The Glorious Noise design department is furiously cranking out plans to make the site more navigable, easier to read and better looking. Updates will be trickling in over the next several weeks. Let us know what you would like to see improved…

Continue reading More Glorious Noise Radio Updates

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