Maybe just a little?

In an interview on XFM Online, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo claims that the difference between now and back when he was at Harvard cultivating the Pinkerton-era material is that “I’m not a miserable little bitch any more. I was in school about two weeks before I realised that it was really boring and wanted to come back and rock.” I think that’s funny. Maybe he’s no longer miserable, but I get the distinct impression that he’s still a little bitch.

By the way, check out Buddyhead’s gossip section for all the latest news about all your favorite stars. It’s rough out there.

Fugazi, Shellac, and The Ex: Sound Of Impact

PUNK ROCK TEARS THE ROOF OFF THE CONGRESS THEATER

Six dollars and your best thrift store gear got you through the door to Chicago’s Congress Theater on Sunday night to watch Fugazi, Shellac, and The Ex unleash guitar tones seemingly designed to tear the marble wainscoting from the theater’s elegant, aging walls. In the finale of two nights’ worth of vintage Hardcore Punk, all three bands proved that being an iconoclast doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be funky, rock wild, or have the best-sounding guitars of all time.

The Congress isn’t your average punk rock venue. Over its almost 70 year existence, the old movie palace has been the site of almost every kind of event, excluding demolition derbies and rodeos. Still going strong in 2001, its domed roof and gilded Classical Revival-meets-Italian Renaissance trappings looked Sunday upon a legion of Indie Rockers, who descended on one of the Summer’s biggest shows. By this point in their storied career, Washington DC’s Fugazi might as well be the elder statesmen of Hardcore Punk, having among their ranks innovators of not only the early 80s movement that propelled that genre, but also the brains behind bands that years later have come to influence “Emo”: Embrace and Rites of Spring. Together with Brendan Canty (drums) and Joe Lally (bass), guitarists/vocalists Ian Mackaye and Guy Picciotto have honed Fugazi’s propulsive post-core groove, continually pushing and challenging their music, as well as their own emotional boundaries. Their uncompromising stage show is legendary – as Canty and Lally build a watertight vibe, Picciotto flails and pikes, while Mackaye’s bald head reveals veins barely containing his rage. Though their set Sunday night would find them in a more relaxed mood, it was still enough to drive the faint of heart from stage front.

But before Fugazi could lie waste to the room, it was The Ex’s chance to crack some tile. The Dutch quintet’s swirling, chain-driven approach to agit-prop rock was downright scary. Sounding at times like a funkier Sonic Youth fronting the Velvet Underground’s rhythm section, the band hurled out more freaky melodies and beats than a 50s Crypt-Rock revival night. With vocalist GW Sok swaying robotically at the mic, chanting his liberal socialist tirades, two guitarists and a bassist plodded and hopped about the stage like the zombies of Re-Animator, all along emitting skittering, distorted guitar lines that complimented pounding, incessant percussion. 4/4 time was meaningless to The Ex; instead, they became the musical equivalent of a Hydra, placing beats or squalls of distortion at points normally intended for rest. Part improvisation, part manic dedication to noise, and entirely engaging, The Ex definitely delighted the ghosts holding court in the Congress Theater’s arching red dome.

Don’t hate him because he hates the human voice. Hate Steve Albini because his guitars will always sound better than yours. Watching Albini and cohorts Todd Trainer (drums) and bassist Bob Weston assemble their gear, it became clear that Shellac’s set would be a study in jarring sound economics. Trainer’s simple 4-piece kit crouched between two stainless steel boxes that looked like an industrial design student’s attempt to build the perfect Martian amplifier. And after the obligatory Weston-led question-and-answer session, Shellac embarked on a sardonic, screed-filled sonic journey that probably shook loose more of the Congress’ ancient plaster than Fat Man and Littleboy combined. Whatever you think of Albini or his band’s uncompromising music, his impossibly treble-y skronk has to make you shake your head in admiration. (But I agree with PJ Harvey: He still mussed up Rid of Me…)

After Shellac’s remorse-less set, It was nice to see Ian Mackaye smile. As he and Fugazi took the stage, he was concerned more with how many fans had been at both night’s shows than delivering one of his infamous anti-moshing tirades. Joshing aside, it was time to rock, as the band launched into “Do You Like Me” from 1995’s Red Medicine. Because of their staunchly underground career path, Fugazi’s ability to straight up kick out the jams might be underestimated. But here were four musicians locking into a tight mix of upbeat hardcore that seemed ready to bust out of its cage at any moment. While Mackaye has lost none of the anger that filled his voice so long ago in Minor Threat, he has learned to use it as a foil to Picciotto’s more protean vocals. Mackaye’s rebel yell is still a one-trick pony. But in the arsenal of Fugazi, it’s a real howitzer.

While there were no shortage of anthems (“Promises;” “Lockdown”), the band took time to showcase their more atmospheric side, which has been evolving over their last few records (as well as on the soundtrack to Instrument, Jem Cohen’s film about Fugazi). At times the group almost sounded like Tortoise as they built and dismantled the instrumental interludes from Medicine and 1998’s End Hits. This is not a stretch. Fugazi has always been a groove-based band, even during their most angry or ear-splitting moments. And there’s a good chance Guy Picciotto would make a great R & B singer, with his pliant vocal chords and shimmying stage moves, suggesting Prince with no spine. Fugazi may indeed be moving in a more studied, less punishing direction with their forthcoming material. But the great thing about Sunday’s set was the band’s ability to move between experimentation (including giving the ever-silent Joe Lally the mic for a few numbers) and sheer, sonic power. And they didn’t even need Martian amplifiers to do it.

JTL

Six Degrees of the Bay City Rollers

The folks over on the Bomp! List have been playing a fun new game. The idea is to get from one band to another completely different band in as few steps as possible.

The rules:

1) Pick two somewhat popular but fairly unrelated bands.

2) Go to allmusic.com and type in the name of one of them.

3) Using only the ‘Similar Artists’ link, find your way to the second artist.

I attempted to go from the Sonics to NWA but after about 1,000 clicks only made it to Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and MC Ren. Let us know how you did!

“Buy, buy, buy”

Here I am, reading the newspaper on a Monday morning. . . .

I see an ad for Verizon. Which, I discover, is sponsoring the Nsync tour. Fine. Presumably teenage girls can rack up more minutes on their limited dialing plan than their parents can afford. But those ads for credit cards that can be yours regardless of whether you have two nickels to your name have to appeal to someone. . . . Do they have debtors’ prisons any more? Do they let you have cell phones there?

Then I see a small feature story about how there is a “#1 Fan Barbie,” with the plastic fetish shilling Nsync. It’s the first time said ├╝bermodeldoll has ever had such a tie-in (although one can only suspect that there are multitudinous non-official tie-ins that have nothing to do with what Ken would find appropriate). Is there a limit to the number of Barbies that any little girl can own (I don’t even want to think of the grown women who have trouble arranging their Barbies in light of their more recent Beanie Babies obsession: manufactured housing only has a limited number of spaces for knick-knacks—or is that “treasures”?)? Do they have debtors’ prisons any more? Do they let you bring your “little friends”?

There is a disturbing trend here.

I guess she is the devil after all

Wow. I found a site that puts Focus on the Family’s Plugged-In to shame. Fight the Good Fight reveals how “the most popular musicians from the 1950’s to 2000 have been and are being used as puppets by Satan and his fallen angels to increase man’s rebellion against God.” I can dig that, but even my girl, Britney? Well, I guess so. Who knew?

Keep music evil (image from unamerican.com)

Thanks to Plastic for uncovering this site.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee HookerDamn, man, John Lee Hooker died yesterday. To me, this guy was the true king of blues, an artist that recorded some of the most amazing music I’ve ever heard. (Yes, even his stuff with Canned Heat.) An inspiration for anyone who ever played guitar. A Detroiter. Another one bites the dust, another hero of the great era in American culture gone. It makes me wonder what we will have left to mourn when I become an old man. Will I get this knot in my stomach when I hear that Sting kicks? I doubt it.

The Gorillaz: King Bong

When I first heard about the Gorillaz, I got really excited. The Gorillaz are a cartoon band that is actually made up of the guy from Blur, Dan the Automator, Del the Funky Homosapien, and some turntable wizard. And drawn by the original creator of Tank Girl. That sounded really cool to me.

And then I saw the video for “Clint Eastwood” on 120 Minutes (yes, believe it or not, 120 Minutes is still on the air — Sunday nights on MTV2). The video clinched it for me. A great sing-songy pop chorus, classic Del rhymes for the verses, and fresh production (as always) from the Automator. The cartoon didn’t impress me that much but the song was great. The Gorillaz seemed to totally reinvent and revitalize two genres that I’ve pretty much stopped caring about: britpop and hip hop.

Unfortunately, the album does not continue along the same lines. “Clint Eastwood,” in fact, is the only track that features both Del and the guy from Blur. Del shows up by himself on one other track, but the rest of the album is basically just a solo album by the guy from Blur that’s produced by Dan The Automator. And as that, it’s pretty cool. Some nice beats, some cool vocals, some Blurry guitars. But I was hoping for so much more. I was hoping for a new direction, a new sound, a new combination of different musical styles. In essence, I wanted Del on every track.

It would have been so cool. It still is pretty cool, but not in the way that I wanted. Nevertheless, my friends can expect to see “Clint Eastwood” showing up on lots of my mixes this summer.

ANGELINA JOLIE’S 15 MINUTES: GONE IN 60 SECONDS

HackersSince bursting upon the scene in Hackers, a cinematic triumph from 1995 that also starred that guy who played Sick Boy in Trainspotting, Angelina Jolie has marked her territory in Hollywood. She also began pissing all over the public consciousness.

Where’s Charlize Theron when you need her? Here’s a girl who made a big splash with a hot nude scene (with James Spader in 1996’s 2 Days In The Valley), becoming all the rage in Hollywood almost overnight. Angie made a similar move, probably when that sequel to Hackers didn’t pan out. She starred in the HBO biopic of Gia Carangi, doffing her kit repeatedly (most hilariously in an early sequence involving a overacting fashion photographer. “Keep the fence,” he says. “Lose the clothes.” Snooze.) What separates Ms Theron from good ol’ Angie is that Charlize can actually act. I think in the version of Cider House Rules starring Jon Voight’s daughter, Candy pulls a shiv on Homer in that orchard. Thankfully, that version was left on the cutting room floor. Another good thing about Charlize, besides her normal, human-like lips? She doesn’t waste a lot of ink with bizarro statements about her freakish sex life. I mean, Angie vociferously denies sleeping with her brother out of the left side of her mouth, and then describes a typical day at the Billy Bob/Angie Circus out of the other. “If there was a safe way to drink his blood, I’d love to. We’ve thought about it. You lay in bed and you just want to bite holes in each other. It’s not about cutting yourself or some kind of weird thing — now it’s just, ‘I want to eat him.” This from the latest Rolling Stone, the one with the oh-so-perfect tagline ‘Angelina Jolie: Blood Sugar Sex Magic.’

Why must we endure this torture?

The really sad thing is that I can see Angie starring in Bad Reputation: The Joan Jett Story. Can’t you? Can’t you see those enormous Mick lips wrapped around a microphone, lip syncing to “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”? Oh, the horror. I don’t know if such a film is in the works, but I hope that Ang isn’t a Glorious Noise reader, or I’ve just set the wheels in motion on the very thing that will send me to my grave.

But at least that grave hasn’t been bought, in advance, by me, for myself and my mate. That’s just another wacky occurrence in the humdrum life of Johnny Lee Miller’s ex-wife. I’ll just be over here eating orange food with Billy Bob.

(Aside to The Donnas: You can make a Joan Jett movie anytime you want.)

JTL

I BREAK FOR MONSTERS OF RAP

No matter what the genre, late-night music advertising usually offers you the same product: A compilation of over-licensed tunes packaged with artwork emulating the wares of a Soviet street vendor. Whether it’s Monster Booty, Zamfir, or the infamous Freedom Rock, what you undoubtedly end up with is never as great as it sounded before you sent $19.95 to that address in Sioux City, IA or Fort Collins, CO. But Monster Booty is not worth your money. Not even with the free “I Break For Monster Booty” bumper sticker. So it’s important to really study one of these comps, and try to break down what’s really going on between the beats, and why everyone seems to have a few of these things hanging around.

Monsters of Rap is no exception to the late-night rule. It’s all here – Songs that have seen more licensing than the DMV; not to mention cover art that would find a happy home as the backdrop for your more discerning cable-access program. But there’s a catch. Alongside faves by Sir Mix-A-Lot and Tone Loc lie tracks from Gerardo, Positive K, and – oh my – Onyx. After Candyman is finished “Knockin’ Boots,” you get to hear Snow whine his way through “Informer.” Now, when you’re sitting around cool with your dibbie dibbie girl, do you really need the boho chest thumping of “Slam”? Well, no. But you have to admit that Kyper’s use of the riff from Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is pretty tight.

This dichotomy of beats exists because Monsters of Rap takes its archeological approach to the genre very seriously, choosing to include not only the obvious hits and overplayed gems of every other comp, but also tunes emblematic of lesser-known hip-hop revenue streams. For example, the much-derided “milktoast” trend of the mid-90s is chronicled here in full. So your $19.95 not only assures you and your party guests hours of rump-shaking courtesy of Wreckx-N-Effect, it also encourages you to explore the furious battle rhymes of 3rd Bass in their – ahem — seminal “Pop Goes The Weasel.” And it turns out Pete Nice is still pissed off at Vanilla Ice.

Everybody needs a few Monsters of Rocks horning in on the margins of their record collection, right next to Star Wars: Christmas in the Stars and that Blue Note V/A that you keep around for when there’s wine being served. The hormone-injected beats of a DJ E-Z Rock or the comic rap antics of The Fat Boys will undoubtedly come in handy the next time you and your friends drink too much, if only to entice someone who really shouldn’t to bust a few breakdance moves. And sure enough, thrown in among the ones even your Grandma can rap along to will be something rotten in Denmark, like Oran “Juice” Jones or Was (Not Was)’s “Dinosaur.” So just make sure you stay near the CD changer’s advance button.

Wiggle it, just a little bit, as it grooves.

JTL

Philosophy & Britney: Musings on the Preceding Post Minus One

A fundamental question is: How much of an individual is separate from the persona? To the extent that the persona is the model of the way that one portrays one’s self in public, and to the extent that individuals are, arguably, defined by how they behave or are perceived in a public setting (if a persona was wandering alone in a forest. . .), then the individual is the persona, at least as a practical manner (with “practical” representing social interaction rather than solipsistic activities). To be sure, no one actually knows how one’s self is perceived by others (one might think that he is being cool while others might think he is being a complete ass. . .while another group of people might think he is being cool: everything has to do with context). But one must present him- or herself in a certain way and there are only a certain number of repertoires that one can engage at any point in time (e.g., I don’t think that it would be taken as an acceptable behavior if one was to present one’s self as, say, a French serf from the mid-16th century); Ziggy Bowie clones are seeming more appropriate (although it would seem to me that there is a curious temporal lag here, too).

While an individual’s self-creation of a persona is one thing, the creation of a persona by a third party is something else entirely. The dismissal of or embrace of Britney has more to do, I suggest, to the fact that Spears is a simulacra than with any snobbishness, direct or reversed. What she is is the consequence of someone creating an object, a Gibsonesque idoru, something that goes far beyond the arch artificiality that is fundamental to and of “The Mickey Mouse Club,” from whence she emerged. This has nothing to do with her singing ability. The reference that Jeff makes to Madonna is exceedingly apt, in that among pop performers she is the one who has worn personas like clothing, moving from one outfit to another, changing with time. Note, for example, how Britney’s initial innocence has given way to naughtiness (but one that we can take is being not scandalous because if Bob Dole finds her to be appealing, then one need not worry about inappropriateness, because Bob Dole would be the first to tell you that Bob Dole, if nothing else, is as appropriate as Bob Dole can be. . .or so the Bob Dole persona would lead us to believe). And presumably she will be morphed into a variety of other guises as time goes on. Public stasis is death, as any viewing of “Entertainment Tonight” will prove.

While one would certainly be in favor of authenticity in place of artificiality, the questions that remain are what would those guys in the park kicking ollies be if they weren’t faux Beasties Boys; what would those guys in Einstein’s Bagels be in they weren’t wondering how to buy a single colored contact lens to achieve the two-color effect; who would anyone be if they weren’t something within the context of our understanding? Fooling one’s self too much is pathological, just as too much self-awareness is debilitating (as Eliot’s Prufrock asked “do I dare eat a peach?”—when you get to this state, you’re thinking way too much).

As Bishop Berkeley argued long ago: To be is to be perceived.

Rock and roll can change your life.