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…

MH-18 MAKES ME WANNA SMOKE CRACK

I always thought that Maxim was written at a 12th grade level. Now that I’ve read MH-18, the new magazine aimed at America’s male teenagers from the makers of Men’s Health, it turns out I was right.

Ask my man Phil Wise about Maxim Magazine and he’ll most likely wince in pain. Back in the day, he’d subscribed to the mag, and found it to be to be a good read…if the cable’s out, you lost your little black book, and bandits made off with your record collection. Excluding the occasional decent article, Maxim’s content pretty much puts the toilet bowl back into bathroom literature. The joke got even funnier when Dennis Publishing (Maxim’s sugardaddy) unleashed Blender, a music magazine written in the same towel-slapping tone as its brethren. And now Men’s Health has sent out MH-18 to meet the masses. Like li’l Aaron Carter following in the Backstreet footsteps of his crooning brother Nick, MH-18 has combed its hair like Maxim and started hanging out at The Peach Pit.

MH-18 is published by Rodale, Inc., the parent of Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and other magazines with covers featuring shirtless dudes with great abs. Though it isn’t affiliated with the Dennis Group, there’s no mistaking the look and feel of a mag like Maxim, Blender, or Stuff. Where Maxim’s masthead features the calling card of SEX SPORTS BEER GADGETS CLOTHES FITNESS, MH-18 has its own, pre-kegger version: FITNESS SPORTS GIRLS GEAR LIFE. The articles are a potpourri of inspirational bios, female tips, product reviews and Men’s Health-type fitness how-tos. The snapshots of young athletes are the best. In a very Boy’s Life sort of way (“you too can be a rodeo rider! C’mon, it’s easy!!!”), surfers with names like C.J. and Hawkbit tell the average lawn-mowing high school shmoe what’s it’s like being a world-class wave rider. It’s the same fawning type of copy that reigns over at Rosie, where a profile of Hollywood newcomer Shannyn Sossamon lets every lonely girl in the world know how to get discovered lickety split.

One insight into the demographic research sunk into MH-18: no music/movie reviews. Instead, the last third of the book features reviews of video games and personal electronics gear. In the Summer 2001 issue (ft. a Judas Priest-clad Mena Suvari on its cover), the “Report Card” section features reviews of personal CD systems by two high school cross-country runners. Like the interactive nature of Disney’s Zoog TV cable outlet or similar articles in magazines aimed at teen girls, MH-18 is making an attempt at least to actively involve the voice of its target market. I guess I’d still like to see music reviews or band profiles. Maybe the guys in Blink-182, Sum-41, or SR-71 could review MH-18…

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve subscribed to Maxim, too. After all, I’m as big a fan of young starlets doffing their kits as the next dope. But just like Phil Wise, it’s the copy that kills me. It’s white noise in print. And MH-18’s attempt to latch onto the younger brothers of Maxim’s subscription base kind of kills me. Rodale’s press release for MH-18 describes what its editor believes about his new ad vehicle: …[MH-18 will] “help teen males break through the clutter of information to find out what they really want to know about being fit, looking great, and staying on top of their lives at home and school.” And hey man, that’s great. I know that I was like a little lost sheep without MH-18 to guide me through puberty. But later on in the same PR, MH-18’s ad director weighed in with his thoughts (perhaps while lighting a cigar made of C-notes). “Teenage spending power was more than $150 billion last year, and is expected to grow by almost 10 percent a year well into the decade,” stat[ed] Steve Bruman, Advertising Director for MH-18. “MH-18 magazine and Web site offer a new conversation for marketers to reach this young, dynamic segment.”

MH-18: We’re here to make sure that you’re just as dumb as your older brother.

JTL

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.

GLORIOUS NOISE HAS ITS FINGER ON THE PULSE

In a recent GloNo discussion (see the comments on my EX-FL article), I suggested that MTV might look into some sort of reality series combining dopey Americans’ passion for wrestling antics with the lowest-common-denominating tripe of its current hit show “Jackass.”

Well, when you’re right, you’re right. Even if it is about something as moronic as this.

A story on Salon.com details the World Wrestling Federation’s plans for a reality-type show – broadcast on MTV, of course – featuring a house full of wrestling wannabes duking it out for 12 weeks. The payoff? Nah, not a cool million. Instead, the final male and female left standing will receive their hearts’ desire: a pro wrestling contract.

Hear that? It’s the sound of America’s collective consciousness getting dumber.

JTL

Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt

Very seldom does a internet news posting make you want to run out and rob a bank, or better yet, knock over one of the largest auction houses in the world on a Thursday afternoon. This is one of those rare occasions. Christie’s is auctioning off the original typed scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I quote from the auctioneer’s site: “the working draft from which the published novel derives. Typed by Kerouac in New York City in a 20-day marathon between April 2 and 22, 1951.” Still mulling over whether or not you should dig out your ski mask and water pistol and head over to your nearest savings and loan? It’s 119 feet long, typed on a continuous scroll of paper! Throughout the manuscript Neal Cassady’s name is crossed out and Dean Moriarty’s is pencilled in by ol’ Jack himself…

Weezer, or Harvey Danger?

Weezer, or Harvey Danger?

The problem with Weezer’s newest self-titled album is that Harvey Danger already made it. But Harvey Danger sounded like Weezer when they released their first record in 1998. Uh-oh. Who’s on first? And does it matter if it’s all just the same?

In 1994, Weezer released its (first) self-titled album on DGC, and blew alternative music wide-open with a series of witty, rocking singles that were accompanied by witty, scholcky videos (courtesy of Yahoo Serious-esque auteur Spike Jonze). Within Weezer’s arsenal of chugging riffs and cooing harmonies could be heard echoes of The Cars, Cheap Trick, and even the 70s cock-rock of AC/DC and The Sweet. The band’s success was notable, inasmuch as their members went out of their way to appear as geeky as they were in real life (Overheard at record store in 1994: “Who are these losers on the cover of Weezer’s album?”) Sure, the “Happy Days” reset in Jonze’s clip for “Buddy Holly” was funny, but it only fueled the geek nitrous in the back of Weezer’s Chevelle. You ain’t going to catch STP looking likes geeks in their videos, dude…

Two years later, Rivers Cuomo, et al released the more introspective Pinkerton. It was promptly shit-canned.

You might remember the boys of Harvey Danger, but their record company doesn’t. In 1998, their churning, vitriol-spitting rocker “Flagpole Sitta” broke nationwide on modern rock radio after the fledgling group’s album was snatched up by Slash Records. The kids from Washington made the rounds of MTV chats, Spring Break concerts and radio station appearances. They were well on their way to rock stardom. They were promptly forgotten. Did you know that the followup, King James Version, was released in 2000? It was pretty decent, too…

It’s funny. When “Flagpole Sitta” hit, I remember thinking that it was the best song Weezer never wrote. What I had always loved about Weezer’s first record was the viscous brown noise of the riffs. Harmonies were fine, but it was the teutonic underbelly of “My Name Is Jonas” that melted my butter. Same deal with the Danger and their big single. “Flagpole Sitta” stood out from the modern rock pack because of its surging beat that seemed to choke the very melody being sung by Sean Nelson. Unfortunately for Nelson and his band, they spent all their gold with “Flagpole Sitta.” But evidently Spike Jonze wasn’t interested in crafting a few wily, culture-twisting videos for them to sustain the wilted power pop of their would-be followup singles, and they faded faster than you can say “writer’s block.” And 2000’s King James Version was released to the kind of fanfare reserved for a CCM crossover act. Sound familiar, Weezer? It should, because Pinkerton suffered a similar fate. Taken at face value, it’s a great record. But after the animated geek metal of their first album, Cuomo’s “series musician” gag didn’t have anyone laughing.

Unless their next video is the sequel to “Sabotage,” Harvey Danger will most likely be erased from most memory banks until “Flagpole Sitta” surfaces as track 5 on Rhino’s Monsters of 90s Alternative in 2010. But Weezer? Ho ho, they’re back with a tour and an album. It’s even produced by Ric Ocasek, and the single “Hash Pipe” is getting a major push in modern rock formats. And darn it anyway, there’s even a side-splittingly hilarious video to accompany the track, as well. But the master tapes must have been switched, because the mediocre sonic rough-housing on this most recent of self-titled Weezer records just makes me think of…Harvey Danger. Cuomo, Inc. has spit out 25-plus minutes of Play-Guitar-The-Roy-Clark-Way “alternative” rock, most of which wouldn’t sound out of place as filler on the next Halloween installment’s soundtrack. Basically, if you take ‘Weezer’ off the front cover, you’re left with a bunch of guys writing follow-the-melody guitar solos with an occasional flash of their lost brilliance.

I don’t think that Weezer’s new record can be saved by a few funny videos and the Geffen marketing machine. Bizarrely, neither does the band. My man Jake quotes River himself in his GloNo feature article on Weezer. Cuomo lays it down:

“I don’t expect it to succeed commercially, unlike everyone at the record company,” he says. “They’re all gonna be incredibly disappointed in a few weeks. The thing that I’m worried about, and this is a real concern, is that I also think our fans are gonna hate it.”

If a half-hearted attempt at rocking falls in the forest, will there be any fans around to hear it? I don’t know, but the Danger’s Sean Nelson does. You can ask him. He works third shift at the Carl’s Jr on 29th Avenue in Spokane.

Say it ain’t so…

JTL

Pop Haiku

As the GloNo team is obviously a crack crew of wordsmiths, and as time is sometimes in short supply, perhaps a means by which postings can proliferate is through the use of haiku. As you may recall from your days behind a desk (or you may not, given distractions/unconsciousness or both), a haiku is a total of 17 syllables arranged 5/7/5. As in:

Navel contemplate
Audio irrelevance
Oops: did it again

Who knows: We might have a whole new critical genre on our hands.

EX-FL

Who do we have to thank for the current climate of Rap Rock trash, wrestling home videos, and baggy black jeans on the great unwashed teens of America? Good Morning, Vince McMahon…

Vince McMahon’s burlesque football wet dream is mercifully over.

The XFL officially disbanded yesterday, with its backers NBC and McMahon’s WWF both admitting over $30 million in after-tax losses. That’s a lot of loot to buy a few dates with some washed-out strippers (X-strippers?). But that’s always what the XFL seemed like, even in its youth (4 months ago). It seemed like the league’s only purpose was to procure more face time (and more action) for its blustering, precocious demagogue. If McMahon wasn’t the face of absurdity already, showing up on a WWF program greased up like King Vaseline and barking insults at his audience, his appearance on Bob Costas’ “On The Record” was the end of the line. The comically inflated McMahon sat on the edge of his chair, jabbing his finger and spouting bizarre rhetoric at the diminutive, cool-as-a-cucumber Costas like Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons on steroids and horse pills.

Now that his attempt to make up for getting cut from the Frosh football squad is over, I assume McMahon will return to what he does best: dumbing down America in new and ever-exciting ways. And with a little help from his friend Ozzy, things’ll go smashingly, mate.

Vince McMahon revolutionized the wrestling industry by infusing his WWF with heaping helpings of violence, titillation, and the live-action equivalent to Mick Mars’ talk box screed intro to the Crue’s “Dr Feelgood.” It was like watching a live feed into the mind of Josh, your 14-year-old neighbor. Josh may like boobs and power chords (not to mention Samsonite chairs across the neck), but he doesn’t know a thing Real Rock. And as the WWF picked up steam, its popularity fueled the like-minded antics of Rap-Rock and the OzzFest Nation. Like Monsters of Rock before it, OzzFest by the late nineties had become the standard bearer for limp-haired quartets with names like Saliva, Fist In Face and SupraNought. The shit-core plied by these groups was really not that different from the WWF’s turnbuckle pulpit ranting and flash pot bombast. Rap Rock had its Ozzy, and wrestling had its McMahon. Two guys who made a career of out shocking people just enough, and letting the rumors take hold like a cheetah taking down a gazelle.

But McMahon lost his shirt on this XFL jazz. After all, $30 mil buys a lot of Stacker-2. And Ozzy? Well, his fest is rolling through a town near you this Summer, with its usual array of sweating, angry men in black, red, and tattoos. And that’s just the audience. On stage, you’ll see the musical stylings of MuDvAyNe, Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, and the too appropriately named Pure Rubbish. Even ol’ Marilyn Manson is getting out the vinyl jodhpurs and evil white makeup for a very special, even evil-er appearance. Ooh, scary. So OzzFest 2001 fighting the good fight while the WWF tries to recover from its fearless leader’s excess. It may not go away anytime soon, but even these genres’ biggest supporters have to sense the inevitable. Whether it’s He Hate Me or Hatebreed, the tide has to eventually turn away from the extreme in sports and music. The gazillion-dollar failure of McMahon’s XFL goes a long way toward proving this. And if this Summer’s OzzFest ticket sales aren’t as lively as they could be, there’s a good chance Mr Record Label Man’ll start thinking about putting his money elsewhere. Besides, the Rap-Rockers are running out of evil-sounding names. And Krokus: The Sequel doesn’t really have staying power, you know?

The cyclical nature of pop music is a proven fact. And keep in mind that the current, blowhard version of the WWF is the league’s second incarnation (note to Hacksaw Jim Dugan: you were my favorite). So let’s hope that The Man is as sick of Vince McMahon as I am, and stops giving him airtime/seed money/support.

Same goes for you, Ozzy. There’s a hole in the sky.

JTL

What about me? It isn’t fair, I’ve had enough now I want my share: Open mic night

Open mic nights are a pisser. The talent ranges from three-chord Lisa Loebs to MFAs trying to impress their hippy girlfriends with Phish covers. It’s a funny scene and most bars that host open mics foster a certain group of regulars. Tonight I hit the open mic night at Quenchers on Western and Fullerton here in Chicago. It was standard fare.

A friend of mine called and left a message that he’d be down at the open mic at Quenchers and that I should meet him there. Well, I had some other business to attend to so I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. After some wrangling with the guy at the video store over my WAY overdue late fees for Bring it On and Citizen Cane, I made my way to Quenchers.

At first, things were slow. The hosts of the night were still trying to get the P.A. to work and weren’t having much luck. Rule #1 of open mic night is a crap P.A. Bar owners feel that if you’re willing to play for free, unannounced and without a bar tab, then you probably don’t deserve a P.A. Tonight at Quenchers was no different, but with enough spilled beer and cursing they got the damned thing in order and opened the night up.

The hosts of tonight’s free-for-all didn’t do it for nothing. They were a two-piece acoustic group with a CD to hawk, and man did they. They opened the night with a short set and then promised to return for a midnight reprise. It was a girl singer who mentioned Lucinda Williams as an influence but wrote and sang more like any other college girl with an eighth grade break up on her mind.

Just the same, they were better than act two. The second group to perform was a “blues” group (this is Chicago, after all) fronted by a late twenty-ish guy decked out from head to toe in pristine Nike gear. Our boy Damien did his damnedest to bring us down to the delta but only managed to bring us to Bone Daddy’s Rib Joint on Armitage. The first song of his set was some rambling number in a standard blues progression that had something to do with leaving his girl alone. The only vibe I got from this cat was a sense that his shoes were too white, his golf shirt too pressed and that he was probably singing something along the lines of the Mutual Funds Blues— a tune my unemployed ass can’t even hum!

Act two fared worse. Candy took the stage with her ornately decorated guitar. It was a hodge podge of catalog pictures and Precious Moments scenes all laminated on the soundboard of her $35 guitar. To make matters worse, her songs gave me the distinct feeling that she was a charter member of the First Wives Club. Egad, would this torture never end?

Yes it would. As soon as we came back to our hosts.

They came back on stage for an early staging of their midnight set to calm the brewing frustration in the bar. The original numbers were well rehearsed, tightly written and easy on the ears. But their triumph did not come without a price. In the middle of the second song of the set someone from the audience decided to join in, This isn’t necessarily unusual and is often encouraged at open mic nights, but this character took over the set. A regular, who plays the conga, set up right next to the stage and proceeded to pound away at his native beats while our heroine poured her heart out. Now, not only was the interloper too loud, but his African ballyhoo was entirely out of place in the middle of Plain Jane’s honky laments. Evil eyes were cast upon Conga Jim, but to no avail. He played on and nodded appreciatively between songs. Nobody knew what to do, so they played with their uninvited guest. The essence of the songs was lost and we all kind of clapped dully when the set was finally over.

As another brokenhearted stockbroker strapped on his Ovation guitar for a round of health club sorrow, I ordered another $1.75 Pabst and scratched my name on the board. Who am I but another out of work dotcomer with three chords and a story to tell?

Rock and roll can change your life.