Last night I relived my childhood. I saw The Police in concert. The sound of Sting's voice filling an open-air stadium (this time in Oakland) really took me backthough the biggest Proustian moment came when I saw Police posters for sale. Posters!
The performance was fantastic. Sting can still sing gorgeously. He's still got a winning little twist to his mouth as he does it, and if my ass and biceps look as good when I'm 55, I will be seriously, seriously happy. (I'm not sure if it was an ironic note or not, but the band revisited its 80s look, headbands, sleeveless shirts and all.) The really great thing about the show was seeing the band feeling free to delve deeper into their influences. Sting got a little scat into "Roxanne," which might have been borderline cheesy in a solo performance, but with Stewart Copeland there to reign him in, it was amazing. There is obviously still some interpersonal tension, but, damn, hearing them let their songs get a little abstract and airy, but thenPOP!bring them back down to earth, made me really wish they had been able to make that compromise as a band. In my younger years, I would send a dozen roses backstage for Sting at every concert. Last night, I thought the roses were for Stewart. (Andy came across as a man with ample skills but little soul.)
One disappointment: There was no political statement or undertone. Correction: During "Invisible Sun," a song about the bleakness of the industrial age, the video monitors showed footage of what might have been Iraq. But, come on, "Bombs Away" was an obvious follow-up:
The President looks in the mirror and speaks
His shirts are clean but his country reeks Unpaid bills In Afghanistan hills Bombs away But we're O.K
"Walking in Your Footsteps" also begged to become a song about exploding the carbon bomb instead of the atom bomb (Hey there mighty brontosaurus / Don't you have a message for us? You thought your rule would always last / There were no lessons in your past. / If we explode the atom bomb, / Would they say that we were dumb?).
Nonetheless, the songs revealed their well-craftedness as the band turned some major chords minor, filled up some places that had been emptier, and emptied out some places that had been fuller. The Police aren't just the pivotal band of my youth; they're also a band that has earned a significant place in musical history.
Guys in robot masks and silver pants everywhere can start computing their travel plans now: NME is reporting Daft Punk's highly anticipated new feature length film, Electroma, will screen at various locations in the US and Canada this summer. The film premiered at Cannes last year, and apparently involves a couple robots who travel around America in a quest to become human. Why do robots alwayswant to be human? Don't they know about, like, acne?
Electroma will screen in LA on June 29th and Miami on July 29th, as well as in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
A couple previews have made it onto YouTube. First, the official trailer, which is pretty great, and gives you a sense of the film's pace:
Then there's this, which is apparently an actual excerpt. NME is reporting the film is "silent," but I think they mean it's not accompanied by dialog or any Daft Punk music, and indeed, this segment features Todd Rundgren, to spectacular effect.
Not included in this week's Top Ten: Major concert events at the Shoreline, controversial finales to popular television shows, or the new Queens of the Stone Age album, even though there are good things about all those things. But the Top Ten must be an honest appraisal, and if I'm moping around to swirly dream-pop and grooving to Southern hip-hop, then I have to tell you that, right? No off-limits topics here, thank you very much.
10. Pissed Jeans "Secret Admirer" (from Hope for Men on Sub Pop)
If there's a better way to weed out weak and infirm listeners from the Top Ten than by kicking it off with distorted and scream-filled sludge metal, I don't know it. Take that, Riffers. This Pennsylvania foursome evoke a couple great hard rock bands (like The Melvins and The Jesus Lizard) on their second album, and this medium-tempo track has the growling menace of Killdozer. Anybody remember any of those bands?!
9. Sonny Jim "Can't Stop Movin" (video via Stereogum)
The song, a filter-happy rework of an old Jackson 5 number, is pretty cool, but for me it's all about the video: disco-riffic footage from the Jackson 5 cartoon show, cut up to match the samples. There's a moment when all the Jacksons' faces appear, one by one, in screen-filling heart shapes, as their bell-bottomed silhouettes dance below did we actually watch this?!
8. Pantha du Prince "Florac" (from This Bliss on Dial, stream on his MySpace page)
Yes, yes, I know: the Top Ten needs more German techno like the internet needs more, um, geeky dudes like me writing about stuff they like. But this is a little different. Pantha du Prince (a.k.a. Hamburg's Hendrik Weber) makes minimal electronic music with a darker, more organic feel than his contemporaries; his MySpace page lists his location as "Antarctica," and you can almost believe it.
7. ComaR - "Mr. Jones in a Forest" (The Cure. vs. Mike Jones, mp3 via Comar's site)
While it's doubtful any "Forest" mashup will ever equal the spine-tingling beauty of Gordyboy's 2003 Bjork combo "A Hidden Forest," French bootlegger ComaR has made an enjoyable runner-up. Houston rapper Mike Jones and his backup singers sound even more menacing over the Cure's double-time beat, and it's actually fun enough that you could almost dance to it. And not just that goth "swirly dance."
6. Justice - Essential Mix, BBC Radio 1, Sunday June 10th, 2007
(listen for the next week here or grab an iffy-quality mp3 here)
The French techno duo's highly-anticipated album, (yes, that's a cross), comes out tomorrow, and this set is like a soundtrack to the release party. Squeezing a record 70 tracks into their two hours, and veering from Janet Jackson to the Chemical Brothers, the Human League to, um, the Ronettes, what Justice lose in beatmatched flow they more than make up for in fun. And I do like fun.
Guitarist Pete Townshend (The Who) is coming out with his latest musical next month, "The Boy Who Heard Music." Based on an online novella, this won't be Townshend's first go at the theater, with The Who's rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia paving the way. Last year, Duncan Sheik (a 90s one hit wonder with the infamous "Barely Breathing") co-wrote the music to then off-Broadway, now Broadway musical Spring Awakening, a story about adolescent sex in Germany in the 1890s. Are quasi-washed out rockers finding a new career in musicals? Just ask Sheik, who in a recent article admits to hating musicals, but spent five years working on one anyway.
29-year old Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just won Britain's Orange Prize for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun. Rina Palta interviewed Adichie for Mother Jones last October; she also gave the novel a big thumbs up"a great read... without the oppressive symbolism or exoticism common to novels by young authors from so-called third world countries."
Chicago alt-rock elder statesmen Wilco have licensed tracks from their new album Sky Blue Sky to Volkswagen to accompany TV commercials featuring, for instance, the amusing antics of a tow truck driver who really likes the cute little VW GTI. Wilco apparently felt insecure enough about this decision to release a multi-paragraph statement defending themselves on their website. "We feel okay about VWs," the statement reads, in what I assume Volkswagen considers the indie-rock equivalent of a ringing endorsement. But Wilco didn't come to this decision lightly:
There's something about the band name The Traveling Wilburys that's about as exciting as a bowl of cold oatmeal. But the band, which consisted of Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, was considered a "fantasy camp for rockstars" when it first popped up in the late 80s.
Despite the fact that two of the band members have since passed away, the Wilburys are making a comeback with two volumes of reissued CDs. I admit, my friends and I went to great lengths making fun of the "old dudes" with a lame band name playing boring songs, but you can't ignore the Wilburys. The individuals that make up the group have a pretty amazing combined body of musical work, and as an ensemble, they snagged two hit singles and a Grammy.
If you liked the Beatlemaniacal Powerpuff Girls clip Ben posted below, check out this sentencing memo from a Montana judge (via the Smoking Gun). Peeved that a 20-year old burglary defendant had alluded to the band as the "Beetles" in a letter to the court, Judge Gregory Todd responded thusly:
If I were to overlook your actions and Let It Be, I would ignore that Day in the Life on April 21, 2006. That night you said to yourself I Feel Fine while drinking beer. Later, whether you wanted 'Money' or were just trying to Act Naturally you became the Fool on the Hill on on North 27th Street. As Mr Moonlight at 1.30am, you did not Think for Yourself but just focused on I, Me, Mine.
Because you didn't ask for Help, Wait for Something else or listen to your conscience saying Honey Don't, the victim later that day was Fixing a Hole in the glass door you broke. After you stole the 18 pack of Old Milwaukee you decided it was time to Run For Your Life and Carry That Weight. [...]
Later when you thought about what you did, you may have said I'll Cry Instead. Now you're saying Let it Be instead of I'm a Loser. As a result of your Hard Day's Night, you are looking at a Ticket to Ride that Long and Winding Road to Deer Lodge. Hopefully you can say both now and When I'm 64 that I Should Have Known Better.
Judge Todd then said the word and set the would-be beer thief free, giving him three years probation.
Monday seems like a better day for the Top Ten, doesn't it? First of all, I have way more time to think about it, plus I can include fun stuff that happened over the weekend, maybe. More imporantly, the Top Ten can now be a kind of beacon of happiness, shining the sweet light of musical joy during your time of greatest darkness. Am I mixing sound and light metaphors here? Ah, well, screw it, it's Monday.
10. The National "Mistaken for Strangers" (from The Boxer on Beggars Banquet)
Are The National America's Pulp? No, that's not entirely right, but as Pitchfork put it, their music grows on you, and Pulp were kind of like that too: pulling in disparate influences, writing sometimes-obtuse lyrics that often dealt with class differences, and rewarding repeat listens. This track, a dark and driving moment on a none-too-bright album, is sung in the second person, but seems pretty sympathetic to "the unmagnificent lives of adults."
9. The New Pornographers "My Rights vs. Yours" (mp3 via The Yellow Stereo) (from Challengers, out 8/21 on Matador)
While some are calling it "boring," I think the Pornos are allowed to mellow out a bit, and just because a track doesn't end with a rousing chorus of "hey yas" doesn't mean it's bad, people! Plus, while the lyrics are as obtuse as usual, the theme appears to be a bit more sedate and complex, reflected in the song's unusual twists and turns.
8. Sa-Ra "Hollywood" (mp3 via me) (explicit lyrics)
I actually blogged about this track about a year ago after hearing it on Garth Trinidad's show on KCRW in LA; not to brag, but to lament that it's still not readily available, although a promo copy did show up in my inbox just the other day. Apparently there was some trouble with a label deal that's keeping "Hollywood" from seeing the light of day, which is too bad, since its 80s-style synth-R&B (reminiscent of, I dunno, Mtume or One Way), combined with a conflicted lament about the Sa-Ra "collective's" hometown, makes it seem like it could catch on.
7. Tie: Rihanna "Umbrella," Amy Winehouse "Rehab," (live at the MTV Movie Awards, Sunday 6/3)
While MTV's annual tribute to cinema has never really been anything but a series of promotional tie-ins and celebrity appearances (accompanied by deafening screams), there were three good things this year: 1) Sarah Silverman, who's always great; 2) Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen making out; and 3) the two bits of live music. First up was Rihanna, whose guitar-enhanced remix of "Umbrella" brought the crowd to their feet; then came Amy Winehouse, whose sped-up version of "Rehab" seemed lifted directly from another era. Winehouse especially seemed to kind of roll her eyes at the ridiculousness of the surroundings, giving a knockout performance while seemingly barely lifting a finger.
6. Ulrich Schnauss "Gone Forever" (Robin Guthrie version) (from the Quicksand Memory EP on Domino)
While we wait for the July 10th release of Goodbye, the new full-length from this German electronic artist, we can content ourselves with a new version of one of his old songs put together by a musical ancestor: Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. The processed guitar sound is instantly recognizable, and it makes swirly-pop fans like myself all the more sad that the Twins' planned reunion in 2005 never happened.
Anniversaries are kind of dumb, even if it's the anniversary of an album that supposedly changed music forever. As you've probably heard, The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came out 40 years ago this weekend; it's a completely arbitrary moment, except in a kind of "boy, 40 sure is old" sense, and honestly I've never really listened to the album all the way through (I prefer Revolver, and I'm more of a Stones man anyway). But it does provide an excuse for digging through the hard drive for some amusing mashups featuring tracks from Sgt. Peppers.