The Guardian‘s Richard Williams offers a preview of the “new” “Bob Dylan” album, created along the lines of Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Woody Guthrie records — old Basement Tapes-era lyrics, new music. ‘Everybody brought their A game,’ he said. ‘But you don’t record all 44 versions of these songs in 12 days by being precious about it.’”
In a six-part-series for Vulture, The Roots‘ Questlove explains, in his view, how hip-hop has failed black America. [Part 1.] Only two parts in, but so far he’s dead on. I know I’m turning forty this year, so there’s probably no small amount of Get-Off-My-Lawn involved. But, imho of course, something went wrong when commercial hip-hop took the hyper-consumerist turn awhile ago.
Back in the day, you had East vs. West coast (if I got to choose a coast, I got to choose the East — I live out there, so don’t go there), the Pan-racial, regular guy optimism of the Native Tongues; the history- and political-minded hip-hop of Public Enemy, Gangstarr, X-Clan, KRS-One; the skewed pop-culture funhouse of the Wu-Empire, rappers like Slick Rick, Nas, & Rakim working their own unique thing.
Now, some of Kanye’s experimenting aside, the hip-hop mainstream — from my admittedly limited perspective — seems to be mainly concerned with needle boats. “Who’s to blame? It’s hard to say. Certainly, Puff Daddy’s work with the Notorious B.I.G. in the early ’90s did plenty to cement the idea of hip-hop as a genre of conspicuous consumption.”
Then again, as a few people pointed out in the comments, the evolution of hip-hop from diversity to commodity isn’t happening in a vacuum. The music world, in most any genre, seems to be in a really bad way these days. But again, this is always the aging person’s lament. Now Get Off My Lawn.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.)
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?
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.