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The Hopeless, Hungry Side of Town.


“In 1968, legendary badass Johnny Cash reportedly visited Nickajack Cave in his native Tennessee, with the intention of killing himself. Instead, he had something of a spiritual experience in that cave…This macabre personal narrative is visually represented in a new music video for the once and always Man In Black, one which begins by taking viewers right into the maw of that cave, and ends with our exit.”

“I’m no slave to whistle, clock, or bell, not weak-eyed prisoner of Wall Street. Let me be easy on the man that’s down. Let me be square and generous with all. And guide me on the long, dim, trail ahead that stretches upward toward the Great Divide.” Via Fast Company‘s Joe Berkowitz, John Hillcoat of The Proposition and The Road has fashioned an evocative posthumous video for Johnny Cash’s “She Used to Love Me a Lot.” The lines above, which begin this clip, are from Badger Clark’s “A Cowboy’s Prayer.

Put the Needle on the Record.

“What can I say? God bless Elliott Smith. We had been talking to him during the course of that film, and he was really struggling. I just feel lucky. Once again, I think it’s Wes’s ability to work with music in a sequence. It’s just so powerful and so touching and so sad and so beautiful.”

Vulture talks about the music choices in twelve iconic Anderson scenes with longtime Wes Anderson collaborator and music supervisor Randall Poster, including Richie’s bad day, above, also channeled by sad Kermit, below.

Things Have…Changed?


“It feels silly to make this point for the umpteenth time, more than half a century after Dylan released his debut album, but here goes. Bob Dylan, history has shown, is a wily and willful character. Arguably the only through line in his career is his tricksterish determination to upset expectations; to thumb his nose at his fans and hagiographers; to épater la bourgeoisie, especially by acting bourgeois.”

New York Magazine music critic Jody Rosen argues Bob Dylan is having a laugh in his new Superbowl Chrysler ad. “Dylan hasn’t recorded a protest song in decades, but make no mistake: The car ad and the yogurt ad, they’re protests.”

“When Clint Eastwood did his Chrysler Super Bowl ad, he was introduced with a silhouette, and there was never any doubt; once Dylan appears the ad does everything short of superimposing a neon arrow labeled ‘Dylan’ and directed at him. At one point, he actually goes into a guitar store, stops, and brings his face close to a rack of books with his name and pictures on their covers.”

Meanwhile, The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson argues it was a dumb ad anyway. “It’s not even the best car ad Dylan has ever made; he did a better job for Cadillac.” (And for Victoria’s Secret, for that matter.)

Like Rosen, I think this was very much in keeping what Dylan does these days. And like Davidson, I thought the ad could have been better — Even the syncing of Bob’s voice and face seemed off.

My biggest issue, intentional or not, was that the sincerity of Bob’s pitch was completely undercut by the song in the background — “Things Have Changed”. It’s a little late in the day to try and repurpose Dylan’s existential classic, and an obvious riff off the almost snide self-assurance that Good Will Inherently Prevail in “The Times They-Are-A-Changin’,” into an upbeat marketing anthem.

Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove…You can’t win with a losing hand…All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.” Theoretically, Bob is telling us to Buy American, Buy Detroit, but all I could hear was the ode to not giving a good-goddamn about a broken world anymore. “Highway 61″ or the jaunty “Stuck Inside of Mobile” would’ve made more sense.

This Man was Made For You and Me.

“‘My job,’ he said in 2009, ‘is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.’” Pete Seeger, songwriter, archivist, activist, and godfather of the folk revival, 1919-2014. “‘The key to the future of the world,’ he said in 1994, ‘is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.’”

River of Song.

“The Music Timeline shows genres of music waxing and waning, based on how many Google Play Music users have an artist or album in their music library, and other data (such as album release dates). Each stripe on the graph represents a genre; the thickness of the stripe tells you roughly the popularity of music released in a given year in that genre.” Some click-bait fun for a slow day: Google Research’s Music Timeline.

Still Not Selling Any Alibis.

“‘The effect can only be surrealistic if the channels are realistic,’ says Vania Heymann, the video’s 27-year-old Israeli director. ‘In reality, channel-flipping is a very passive act. You’re sitting back in your house, doing nothing. We wanted to make it an active thing, reediting the song itself to make a new version.’

As making the rounds today: Forty-eight years after that trademark snare-shot first “kicked open the door to your mind,” as Bruce Springsteen once put it, Bob Dylan’s seminal “Like a Rolling Stone” gets a spiffy official interactive video. I clicked on this yesterday and didn’t even notice the lip-syncing on every channel. In my defense, I may have gone to the finest schools alright, but I only used to get juiced in them.

Them Big Boys Did What HBO Couldn’t Do.

“As you probably heard, the onetime juggernaut of a video rental chain formally pulled the plug on most of its remaining retail stores this week. Just think of all those abandoned storefronts where people used to rent ‘Wall Street 2′ or ‘Pain and Gain’ or whatever; just think of what Bruce Springsteen, the bard of economic collapse, might have done with such a…well, I was about to type ‘catastrophic occurrence,’ but..it was more like a sector of the marketplace realigning itself with technological reality after years of denying the inevitable.”

Down in South Carolina, back in 1993, I wore the blue and yellow, got ten free films a week. I built up some movie knowledge, right near the Florence Mall. Now those tapes have been taken away, lost amid the suburban sprawl. After mining the Internet hivemind, Matt Zoller Seitz gathers odes to the end of Blockbuster in the style of Bruce Springsteen.

Mowing neighborhood lawns notwithstanding, Blockbuster was actually my first job. And, while I never cottoned to their Republican-leaning ways or their ridiculous drug test policy, it was a pretty good gig for a high school kid, all in all — if you could withstand the same twenty trailers and episode of Duck Tales playing ALL THE TIME. Like I said, ten free movies a week. As an 18-year-old just working to raise beer-money for college, you can’t beat that with a stick.

A Brief Period of Rejoicing.

As going around the Interweb of late, Colombian artist Dicken Schrader has formed a Depeche Mode cover band with his children Milah and Korben, where they sing about deviant romance, the world’s incurable propensity for greed, and the usual DM smorgasbord of heartbreak, depression, and regret. The kids are alright.

Those Pipes, Those Pipes Still Calling.

“‘Its long-time popularity, especially among the Irish diaspora in America and Britain, has made it a bonding agent for exiles,” adds Brian Mullen. ‘It is a way for them to recognise themselves, and others to recognise them, as a group.’”

Among them, of course, Leo O’Bannon: On its 100th anniversary, BBC surveys the enduring popularity of Danny Boy. “All the flowers are dying, and they will be for a long time, but then they’ll bloom again and Danny will still be on the road. You never know, because somewhere the pipes, the pipes will be calling.”

Another Side of Llewyn Davis.

“Just as sure as the birds are flying high above, life ain’t worth living without the one you love.” Speaking of quality music from Coen corners, the soundtrack to Inside Llewyn Davis is now streaming at NPR. Below is the song from the trailer (and quoted above), Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford’s rendition of the 1908 traditional, Dink’s Song (Fare Thee Well).

A BWOMMPology from Zimmer.

BWOMMP. “‘Oh, it’s horrible!’ he told Vulture. ‘This is a perfect example of where it all goes wrong. That music became the blueprint for all action movies, really. And if you get too many imitations, even I get confused!’” BWOMMP. Inception scorer and BWOMMP creator Hans Zimmer would like to apologize for the BWOMMP.

Update: “[R]eading [the Zimmer article] and seeing someone on the inside, who knows exactly how everything happened, outright lying, that bothered me. I just feel the truth on the whole process should be explained once and for all.”

And now we have a BWOMMP-troversy: Inception sound designer Mike Zarin says Zimmer is full of it regarding the origins of the BWOMMP. Having watched all three iterations of the trailer in this link, I’d argue Zack Hemsey’s “Mind Heist” really captures the first BWOMMP in all its glory.

Tired Pony, Still Bucking.

“Well, I love those songs. But I never want to play ‘Losing My Religion’ again. ‘Man on the Moon,’ it’s a great song. But it’s five minutes long and I’ve played it a couple thousand times.” Two years after R.E.M. called it a day, Salon checks in with the still-prolific Peter Buck. “You know, I kind of like the fact that maybe I’m done saying things to the public. I’m just finished.” (Buck Photo via here.)

River and Atoms.

When not sitting ringside while the GOP devours its own tail, the ladyfriend and I have been continuing to take in concerts around the area. Of late:

Okkervil River at 9:30 Club: It Was My Season | On a Balcony | Black | For Real | Rider | Pink-Slips | John Allyn Smith Sails | Stay Young | Lido Pier Suicide Car | The Valley | Red | Kansas City | Where the Spirit Left Us | Down Down The Deep River | Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe | Lost Coastlines

Encore: Walking Without Frankie | A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene | Unless It’s Kicks

I wasn’t familiar with these guys at all before the show — Apparently, they’ve been at it for fifteen years — but they seemed to be a pretty solid alt-rock outfit out of Austin. The songs that had the biggest impression on me, live at least, were The Valley (“Fallen in the valley of the rock and roll dead!”) and “Lost Coastlines” (buoyed by some very Morrissey-ish crooning by (iirc) the bassist.)

Atoms for Peace at Patriot Center: Before Your Very Eyes | Default | The Clock | Ingenue | Stuck Together Pieces | Unless | And It Rained All Night | Harrowdown Hill | Dropped | Cymbal Rush

Encore: The Eraser | Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses | Rabbit in Your Headlights | Paperbag Writer | Amok.
Encore 2: Atoms for Peace | Black Swan

Nor, being a movie more than a music guy, was I aware that Thom Yorke and Flea were taking time away from their respective SuperGroups to make Afrobeat albums as Atoms for Peace. Hard to pick a distinctive best moment from this show — Most of the songs ran together here (in a good way, if you enjoy more beat-intensive variations on that distinctive Yorke-shire croon.)

That being said, after watching Flea (Age 50) hop around like a madman half his age throughout this show — in the same week that Sandra Bullock (Age 49) braved the vicissitudes of Zero-G Ripley-style in Gravity, it sure seems like 50 is the new 30 these days. And that puts me solidly in my 20′s – Woot.

In Brendan Behan’s Footsteps.

“While MacGowan remained the undisputed Pogues leader and frontman, the more restrained Chevron was a rock-strong accomplice, comfortably taking on occasional lead vocals, turning his hand to banjo and mandolin as well as guitar when the occasion demanded, and pitching in with more overtly tuneful material like Thousands Are Sailing and Lorelei.”

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you? And did they still make you cry? The Pogues’ Phil Chevron, 1957-2013. “In 2007 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. His last appearance was at a testimonial concert in his honour in Dublin in the summer.”

We Can’t Stop…Hrm, Wait, We Can.


It’s my blog, I can do what I want: As making the rounds today, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Fallon, and The Roots perform an inordinately catchy acapella version of “We Can’t Stop”, so far the minor-key pop anthem of the year. I have to say, leaving the embarrassing VMA performance, Sinead-feuds, excessive tongue-wagging, and whatnot aside, Miley now has two certifiable earworms to her name — this and “Party in the USA.”

I just wish my brain didn’t keep inserting the John Boehner drawl in to the song now (“The Government!“), on account of last week’s Saturday Night Live. But glad to see pop culture reflecting that this is a Republican-induced meltdown happening here. (SNL Link potentially NSFW, tho’ apparently SFSNL, so your Mileyage may vary.)

Get Up to Get Down.

“‘Until our country’s funky leaders can resolve this deadlock, U.S. funk leadership, and the booties of all Americans, will remain immobilized,’ said Gregory Tate, domestic motorbooty-affairs reporter for The Washington Funkenquarterly. ‘Unless a compromise can be reached soon, the entire nation’s thang could be in serious jeopardy.’”

Also in music-related shutdown humor, a classic from The Onion highly-pertinent to today’s troubled times: National Funk Congress Deadlocked on Get Up/Get Down Issue. “A growing number of citizens are fed up with the nation’s current leadership for putting party politics before the need of the people to turn this mother out.” Ya heard?

The Lowliest Adventure.


“Times are getting hard, boys. Money’s getting scarce. If things don’t get no better, boys, gonna leave this place.” Not to spoil anything for all those a few chapters or seasons behind, but, as you’ve probably heard, Breaking Bad has been firing on all cylinders in its final few episodes.

One comedy highlight in an event-filled and otherwise jet-black episode this past Sunday (and since I’m a sucker for both Glenn Yarbrough ditties and Sisyphus metaphors): Walter White rolling through the desert (even past his old Season 1 pants.) As such, here’s this week’s current earworm, and no mistake: “Take My True Love By the Hand,” by Glenn Yarbrough and the Limeliters. Enjoy.

A Mean Fender Corgi.

“People who play bass with their fingers look like they’re tickling hairy dogs.” And, lo, a meme was born: Because of, y’know, the Internet, Bassists tickling dogs. It’s heartening to see that Daft Punk opted for a traditional K-9.

Heard that Hoot Owl Singing.

The Roots on New Years’ Eve notwithstanding, I’ve been derelict about posting on live entertainment I’ve seen this year, like Louis CK in Baltimore, The Motherf**ker with the Hat at Studio Theater, The Last Five Years in Shirlington, Dean Fields in Arlington and The Postal Service at Merriweather Post.

All that being said, since there’s an especially clear precedent here — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 — I shouldn’t neglect to mention I caught my tenth Dylan show two weeks ago, as part of the Americana Music Festival (with Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, and Wilco). Here’s the setlist:

Things Have Changed | Love Sick | High Water (For Charley Patton) | Soon After Midnight | Early Roman Kings | Tangled Up In Blue | Duquesne Whistle | She Belongs To Me | Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ | A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall | Blind Willie McTell | Simple Twist Of Fate | Thunder On The Mountain | All Along The Watchtower | Ballad Of A Thin Man

Perhaps it’s because the setlists are fluctuating less this tour, or he’s playing a shorter set, or he’s just inspired by the bands he’s touring with, but this was actually the best I’ve heard Bob sound in awhile. He seemed animated and his voice, while always gravelly these days, sounded more mellifluous than it’s been in many a moon. “Things Have Changed” and “Ballad of a Thin Man” are always favorites, but the highlight for me this time around was finally catching Blind Willie McTell live — You can see it as well above, thanks to Joanna’s Visions.

Also, due to the vagaries of having a job and all that — the festival started at 4:30pm over in Columbia, MD — we missed Ryan Bingham’s set and all but the last song of My Morning Jacket, but here was the evening for the Wilco-inclined (who were also very good):

Ashes of American Flags | Bull Black Nova | Blood of the Lamb | Christ for President | I Am Trying to Break Your Heart | Art of Almost | Jesus, Etc. | Can’t Stand It | Born Alone | Passenger Side | I Got You (At the End of the Century) | Heavy Metal Drummer | I’m the Man Who Loves You | Dawned on Me | A Shot in the Arm | The Lonely 1

When Routine Bites Hard…


And ambitions are low. And resentment rides high, but emotions won’t grow… “The game asks players to explore relationship issues like miscommunication, emotional impasse, and the sadness of separation, and players must learn to accept that not all relationships are salvageable. Each level of the game is inspired by a verse of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’” Meet Mario’s older, depressed cousin, Emo! Anyway, haven’t tried this yet, but it’s definitely in the queue.

Series of Melancholy Tubes.

“It was thirty years ago that a band from Manchester released their first single ‘Hand In Glove’. For the next four years they released the songs that made me laugh, made me cry and definitely changed my life even if they maybe didn’t save it…This is my tribute.”

Panic in the Tubes of London: In the spirit of the recent Super-Morrissey, a fan recreates The Smiths’ discography as the Underground. Click through for prints or t-shirts.

Rider on the Storm.


“We knew what the people wanted: the same thing the Doors wanted. Freedom.” The not-so-secret weapon of The Doors and one of rock and roll’s great psychedelic keyboardists, Ray Manzarek, 1939-2013.

Bowie’s in Space.


“‘I’m very happy that…7 million are interested. It is very interesting and historic to be in space,’ Reuters quoted Hadfield as saying.” Do you want to borrow my jumper, Bowie? This has been making the rounds for a few weeks now, but still definitely worth a post: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield covers “SpaceOddity” aboard the ISS. “The five-minute video posted Sunday drew a salute from Bowie’s official Facebook page: ‘It’s possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.’”

This Charming Man of Steel.

Recent immigrants, tyrants and serial killers have all had their turn. Now Brazilian artist Butcher Billy — the same fellow who did the Legion of Doom onesreconfigures the Justice League as post-punk/new-wave icons. Click through for Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sue, Johnny Rotten, and Billy Idol.

You May Say They Were Dreamers…

“Like many of his peers, Havens was a songwriter…But Havens also knew a great contemporary song when he heard it, and made his name covering and rearranging songs by Bob Dylan and the Beatles. ‘Music is the major form of communication,” he told Rolling Stone in 1968. “It’s the commonest vibration, the people’s news broadcast, especially for kids.’ Richie Havens, folk singer, troubadour, and opener of Woodstock, 1941-2013.

“Bob radiated a passion for justice, and with joyful fervor he inspired everyone around him to share his belief in, and commitment to working for, a more democratic and just society. Through a long and varied career, Bob took on many roles and causes – but all of the chapters in his remarkable life were connected by his essential decency, kindness and compassion.” Bob Edgar, former Congressman, campaign finance activist, and president of Common Cause, 1943-2013.

There’s No I in Teamocil…

“I’m a HUGE fan of Arrested Development. Once I heard that each episode in the new season was going to focus on a different character, I thought it would be fun to create a series of art doing the same.” In anticipation of Season 4, artist Josh Cox creates a series of Arrested Development throwback album covers. I probably would’ve more explicitly riffed off this for the above one.

“Hooray, We’re Done.”

“With Calexico taking the reins as house band, the benefit concert (for children’s music education charities) featured a veritable who’s who of R.E.M.’s 1980s independent peers (the dB’s, Feelies, Throwing Muses), a healthy smattering of acclaimed newer acts (Kimya Dawson, Keren Ann, Guster), a couple of their Athens compatriots (Apples In Stereo, Vic Chestnut)…After Patti Smith sang ‘New Test Leper,’ Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe came out to join her for a finale of ‘E-Bow The Letter.’ This was to be the last time that the three remaining founding members of R.E.M. performed together in public.”

In Salon and excerpted from his new book A Perfect Circle, Tony Fletcher chronicles the last days of R.E.M.. There’s a touch of the hagiography that accompanies music books like these — I’m a pretty big R.E.M. fan, but, as I said when the band retired, both Collapse Into Now and Accelerate seem like relatively uninspired U2-style conscious-comeback albums, and, in terms of the last decade, I prefer the band’s more experimental work on Up, Reveal, and Around the Sun. Still, worth a read if you’re at all REM-inclined.

Oh Maggie, what did we do?


“Well I hope I don’t die too soon, I pray the lord my soul to save. Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live long enough to savor. That’s when they finally put you in the ground, Ill stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.” The soundtrack for today was written decades ago: I went with Elvis (who talks about this song here), but could just as easily have gone with Morrissey or Pink Floyd or Sinead O’Connor or a whole host of others.

In any case, Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013. As I said when Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms passed, I’m of the Hunter Thompson on Nixon school when it comes to political obits. Let’s not diminish what Thatcher passionately stood for throughout her life by engaging in ridiculous happy talk at the moment of her death.

This Prime Minister has lot to answer for, from bringing free market absolutism and trickle-down voodoo economics to England, with all the readily preventable inequality it generated, to supporting dictators and tyrants around the world — Pinochet, Botha, the Khmer Rouge — to, of course, the Falklands War.

Much as with Reagan here in America, England still lives under Thatcher’s shadow. To quote today’s Guardian, “her legacy is of public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed, which together shackle far more of the human spirit than they ever set free.” But to her credit, at least Thatcher (a chemist by training) was very vocal about the threat of climate change in the last years of her life.

Update: Salon‘s Alex Pareene has more evidence for the prosecution, including graphs of the rise of inequality and poverty on Thatcher’s watch:

“Britain no longer ‘makes’ much of anything, and when those lost jobs were replaced, they were replaced with low-wage, no-security service industry work…Really, it’s hard to argue with former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who remembered Thatcher on Sky News yesterday: ‘She created today’s housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. And she created the benefits crisis…In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong.’” (Last quote also birddogged by Dangerous Meta.)

Discontinuity and Rupture.

‘Many music critics still believe in magical black people: “Oh, they’re making crazy, avant-garde music in Chicago, and it’s called juke”,’ he says. ‘But at the same time, the privilege of being a black man with a middle-class background at the start of the 21st century is that I can do whatever I want: it doesn’t have to feel representative. I was nerdier than people wanted DJ /rupture to be.’”

On the eve of his new reinterpretation of works by Julius Eastman, The Guardian profiles musician and recombinator Jace Clayton, a.k.a. DJ Rupture, a friend of mine from college and, along with Parks and Recreation creator Mike Schur, author Nell Freudenberger, and star Rashida Jones, one of the more accomplished members of Harvard’s class of ’97. “Boston’s extremely segregated…And musical segregation was indistinguishable from actual segregation.”

A Cold and Crystal Hallelujah.


“It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift…” Street performer Petr Spatina plays Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on a set of crystal glasses. (Via Open Culture.)

Cohen’s original notwithstanding, I’ve always been partial to k.d. lang’s version, and was the version I was thinking of in this part-prescient, part-embarrassing post from November 2008.

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