Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love" (Live at O2 Arena, 12/10/07)
The first thing one notices is: so many dudes, and so much bald. Anyone with a fetish for paunchy bald guys with a lot of money would be in heaven at this show. But then, that riff starts up, sounding even on this cell phone camera like it's being played by the finger of God, and you remember what the fuss is about. Wait, where's my hair going and why am I so flabby around the middle?
Quick, before we get too old, let's watch Portishead:
Portishead - Unknown New Song (Live at ATP 2007, 12/7/07)
Well! Now that's... noisy? Actually, after a minute, the clanking industrial drums become kind of hypnotic, and singer Beth Gibbons' voice is still powerful, both delicate and anguished. It's a catch-22 for bands like this: the reason they gained such enormous adoration was their boundary-pushing innovativeness, but then how do you progress and continue to innovate without losing what made you special? Apparently by out-clamoring Nine Inch Nails. Hmm.
My post last week on the debate around female circumcision is still on my mind, as well as the world's. Today, a NY Times piece on male circumcision, as well as my original post, has me thinking. OK. Circumcising baby boys is wrong, too. Happy now?
I gave little thought to my own son's future, let alone his rights, when I left that decision up to his father since I knew what he'd decide. Had I been on my own, I'm sure I would have had it done with little thought but at least, that way, I had plausible deniability going for me if Junior came after me in the future. That was 2001 and the backlash against the practice was in its infancy. Now, though, I don't see how you can support the practice for men but not for women. Of course, circumcising anesthetized babies in a hospital is a far cry from doing it to 12 year old in the village square. Still, adding an operating room in the latter instance might be painless but nonetheless wrong. If either a boy or a girl wants to be circumcised once adult, who's to complain (see: breast implants and 're-virgination' procedures)? But until the health claims made for male circumscision are proven (see the above article), it's hard to see how the practice can be justified on grounds of tradition alone.
Man, I hate having to carry my thoughts through to uncomfortable conclusions. I'd rather change a 1,000 mouse traps than my mind.
(Also, see the Huffington Post on a western woman's investigative foray behind the veil since there's a pretty straight line between it and FGM.)
While we were digging out from 9/11 and the nation spent so long hysterically trying to account for everyone, a writer friend told me that after most mass accidents -- train wrecks, etc -- some people were found to have used the tragedy to decide to disappear. They'd turn up months or years later, usually by accident or the diligent work of family members who hadn't known they'd been abandoned, simply having decided to walk away from it all. I don't know whether to condemn or admire these...bastards? Maybe they're heartless schemers and maybe they're just more brave and honest than the rest of us.
Britain's "Canoe Man" is simply the latest, if not the smartest. He deserves nothing but condemnation. Had he, and his wife, foregone the insurance money and simply walked off into the sunset together, hand in hand, to start over again like Adam and Eve in the Canal Zone, you could see the poetry. But what they've done to their sons: inexcuseable. You can live without your children, your parents, a lifetime's worth of friends and your country but not without an unearned windfall?
While my recent month-long jaunt of DJ gigs around Europe didn't allow me much time for sleeping or eating, let alone exploring the local music scenes, I was lucky enough to have a variety of musical items cross my path in one way or another. Whether it was my fellow-DJs' favorite bands, a CD I grabbed at a random record store, or just something I saw on TV, here's some of the most memorable music from my trip. It's heavy on the France cause that's where I spent the most time... sorry, Belgium.
10. Sasha* (Germany)
Okay, I get one of these. This came on TV when I was in Germany, and while the song is a rather dull piece of throwaway pop-rock, and the video isn't anything to write home about, holy crap is he cute. Look at his little beard and his little T-shirt and his adorable little hairdo!! Who cares about the song, Sasha speaks the international language of hot. (*Not to be confused with slightly-less-hot-but-far-more-talented Welsh DJ Sasha) Sasha "Hide & Seek" (from Greatest Hits--who knew he had any?)
9. DJ Moule (France) (check out his website here)
Not that the other artists on my list aren't attractive men and women in their own right. For instance, this Bordeaux-based DJ and musician accompanied me on the French leg of my little tour and was liable to lift up his shirt and show off his abs at climactic points in his sets. Well, he deserves whatever silly indulgences he wants, since his productions are flawless pieces of energetic mashuppery, seamlessly blending classic rock riffs with breakbeats from the Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim. MP3: DJ Moule "Dig It On" (Chemical Brothers vs. T-Rex vs. Anne Lee vs. Marvin Gaye)
8. Village Kollektiv (Poland) (check out their MySpace here)
Blending the indigenous music of Poland and Bulgaria with dubby beats and drum 'n' bass rhythms, Village Kollektiv avoid the usual clichés of "world music with a beat" through sheer musicianship and a kind of dark intensity. Based around the creative partnership of producer Rafal Kolacinski and his wife, singer Weronika Grozdew-Kolacinski, the combo also brings together a wide range of traditional local musicians on instruments like the gadulka, the dulcimer, and everyone's favorite, the hurdy-gurdy. MP3: Village Kollektiv "Wysoki Ganecek" ("High Porch")
7. DJ Mehdi (France) (check out his MySpace page here)
I've featured Mehdi's epic electro track "Signatune" in my Top Ten previously; the track's surging chords were an oddly perfect fit with the awesome accompanying video's tale of competing car stereo systems. His second full-length album, Lucky Boy at Night, fits in with hipster Ed Banger labelmates like Justice and Uffie, but Mehdi's roots in the French hip-hop scene (along with his Tunisian background and childhood in the rough northern suburbs of Paris) show through in the music's gritty intensity. DJ Mehdi "I Am Somebody"
6. Plastic People of the Universe (Czech Republic)
The day I left for the tour, the New York Times featured an article about the Plastics that proclaimed the psychedelic combo had "catalyzed democracy in Czechoslovakia." Well! So, um, how does it sound? I stumbled into a record store in Prague and cobbled together a half-Czech sentence or two to ask the clerk what CD I should buy from the band, and he pointed me towards Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned, more of a collection of demos and live recordings than an album per se, and a little challenging of a listen on the iPod. More accessible is "Nikdo" ("No One") from a 1997 collection: its rolling rhythms evoke both Can and Frank Zappa. Stream: Plastic People of the Universe "Nikdo" (click here and scroll down to the music player)
I had just turned 12 years old when Thriller came out, and while my musical taste was already showing signs of techno snobbery (boy, did I love that Human League album) I was just as caught up in Michael Jackson mania as everyone else. Released on December 1st, 1982, Thriller suddenly seemed to be everyone all at once, and even at the time, the album felt like an Event, with an almost electric feeling in the air when we'd put on "Beat It." Of course, an album that's sold 104 million copies can never be said to really have "gone away," but its thin, oddly minimalist sound couldn't have been less in fashion in the 90s. Listen to "Billie Jean's" legendary bassline: when it steps up a fourth on "who will dance/on the floor/in the round," it's almost comically high, barely a bass at all. But clearly "Billie Jean," which along with "Beat It" is the album's creative and popular peak, has remained a dance floor staple, achieving an iconic status that inoculated it against divergent trends. It's only this year, however, that some of the album's "lesser" tracks seem to have found new life in high-profile samples and remixes.
It's a big (extended) weekend for fans of long-lost bands, with highly-anticipated performances from two wildly different UK legends (although it suddenly occurs to me that their music often shares similarly sludgy tempos which could possibly engender an amusing mash-up). First up, on Friday night Bristol's reclusive trip-hop combo Portishead played their first live show in a decade at a place called, erm, Butlins Minehead, apparently some sort of "resort" or something on England's west coast. Butlins' website, with its big-eyed teddy bear mascot, could not be a greater contrast with the bleak sounds of the jazzy trio, and the UK Guardian's review found the venue disappointing, with its dinner options limited to Pizza Hut and Burger King. Not surprisingly, they also found the performance underwhelming, with the band sounding "nervous" and new material "hard to get a handle on." The paper admitted that the band "caught fire" during the classics like "Sour Times" and "Numb," but perhaps it's a sign of how desperate people are for anything Portisheaddy when they say that the "highlight" of the show was notoriously dramatic singer Beth Gibbons laughing off a mistimed entry into a new song. Like, hooray, they didn't have an emotional breakdown? The UK Telegraphwas more generous, calling Gibbons' voice "undiminished" and saying the new material seemed to be "moving in wider directions."
Led Zeppelin's return is set for only minutes from now and the band have already made news with their backstage demands, and they're not of the "no green M&Ms" variety: the band's rider requested only tea, coffee and an ironing board, although the promoters said they'd give them a bottle of wine anyway. Details of the band's rehearsal have also hit the press, with a fan who was supposedly at the soundcheck posting on the band's official forum that they heard "Good Times/Bad Times," "Ramble On" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine" at the rehearsal, and that "Page was on fire completely awe inspiring!!" NME will be live-blogging the show with a song-by-song account, if you're obsessing and weren't lucky enough to with the ticket lottery.
By now everyone's seen the big news about the Grammy nods: Kanye gets a bunch, Amy Winehouse gets almost as many, and Bruce gets denied in the Album of the Year category. Since the Grammy nominees have about as much to do with good music as, I dunno, the contestants on America's Next Top Model have to do with human beauty, it doesn't really pay to fret about who's been unjustly denied a nomination. What's more interesting is finding evidence there are some serious weed smokers in the nominating committees, allowing both compelling and completely baffling nods to slip through.
Jay-Zmay be splitting from his label Def Jam after allegedly demanding "big, big money" that Def Jam bigwigs found "excessive." The rapper's contract is set to expire at the end of the month, and the article helpfully points out that instead of working on his negotiating skills, he was celebrating his 38th birthday in Paris. No wonder he needs more cash.
Brit combo Manic Street Preachersare accusing Radiohead of "demeaning" music by allowing fans to decide how much to pay for their new album, In Rainbows. This is a band right up there with Robbie Williams on the list of Bands Most Successful In Europe That Nobody In the US Has Ever Heard Of. Anyway, their bassist Nicky Wire spoke to UK newspaper the Daily Star, saying the free download phenomenon is "ruining" the music industry.
Can't get enough of Benny, Bjorn, Anni and Agnetha? Well, starting in 2009 you'll be able to take a chance (ahem!) on the Abba museum in Stockholm, a three-floor complex dedicated to the Swedish legends. The complex will include a room dedicated to the band's fashions as well as a recreation of their recording studio. Hey, let's watch an Abba video.
Starting next week and over the next few months, several American airlines will begin testing Internet service on their planes.
On Tuesday, JetBlue Airways will begin offering a free e-mail and instant messaging service on one aircraft, while American Airlines, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines plan to offer a broader Web experience in the coming months, probably at a cost of around $10 a flight.
Tuesday, 7:05 am, JFK to DFW, JetBlue Flight 263:
Seat 5A: Dude, what u doin? just took off. drunk off my ass by 1 PST HELL YEA. Flyin suks.
Seat 14F: hi mom.just tok off. $10? tis connectn so lame.
Seat 17C: wassup? jus tk off. i thot stewardss wer supposed 2b be hot? pilot has a lisp. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!
Seat 19D: i wanna divorc. jst took ff.
Seat 22B: just tuk off. r u there?! OMIGOD. Loser in 5A watchng porn!!!!!!!!! its 7:06 in THE MORNING!!! Flyin is he wurst. ths connectn suck bg tme. shudda brout a book....