Saturday, February 24, 2007

the most beautiful girl in the indie-rock world

I'm sorry for objectifying you like this, Britta Phillips, but you are the prettiest woman in indie rock.


Phillips turns 44 this June. How have two decades of life on the road not weathered her? They've weathered this guy, and he's been living comfortably in a mansion since 1994:



Phillips provided the singing voice of Jem on the animated series of the same name back in the '80s. Around the time that show ended, she appeared as one of Justine Bateman's bandmates in Satisfaction, a 1988 feature-film vehicle for the Family Ties costar that quickly became better known as one of Julia Roberts's first movies. (A pre-stardom Liam Neeson's in it too.)


I think I saw Phillips from a distance in early 2002 as I was leaving the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. She was part of the Atlanta band Ultrababyfat for at least one album, Eight Balls in Reverse (2001), and toured with them to promote it. I had come to the 40 Watt that night to see David Cross do stand-up—he opened for Ultrababyfat (sorry, UBF, my friend and I didn't stay, but you're about to find out why, because I know your friend Mary reads this and will rat me out to you)—but I ended up passing out in the middle of his set. I'd never passed out before. All I remember is thinking, "It's really hot in here and I feel nauseous, so maybe I should go outside and get some fresh—"

Next thing I knew, I was being lifted up off the ground—I'd fallen backward onto the people behind me. I had an empty beer bottle in my hand, so I'm sure the people behind me thought, "This guy can't handle his alcohol." Well, sure, sometimes, but not after one beer.

Wait, why am I talking about an embarrassing moment of mine from five years ago? I'm here to objectify Britta Phillips's beauty, not discuss my firsthand knowledge of "the vapors."


In 2000 Phillips became a member of the critically acclaimed indie-rock band Luna, which broke up five years later. She also recorded an album with Luna frontman Dean Wareham in 2003 called L'avventura, and now they have a follow-up, Back Numbers, ready for release.

Phillips is a talented singer, songwriter, bassist, and actress. But it doesn't hurt that she also happens to be gorgeous (say it like Lionel Stander did over the opening credits of Hart to Hart). Get thee to a cheesecake-y Blender photo shoot, posthaste!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Boston and its wicked retarded reaction to guerrilla marketing

Here at Mulberry Panda 96, I like to stay on top of breaking news. Did you hear about that thing in Boston a few weeks ago? Well, thanks to patience and lots of procrastination, I finally have some perspective on it. Here's what I think: Boston, you looked foolish when you panicked over those Aqua Teen Hunger Force ads. Even your own citizens were laughing at you. So you felt really embarrassed, and what do embarrassed cities do when other cities laugh at them? They get crazy pissed.

Which is . Hey, it happens. Remember Chicago in the summer of '68? Not a single hippie has been spotted here since that summer. You showed 'em, Chicago!

Boston's reaction also reminds me of an incident from my own life a few months ago. Luckily I didn't have to resign from my job because of my sociopath coworker's embarrassment, but the head of Cartoon Network, Jim Samples, did feel compelled to resign. Samples was the head of CartoonNetwork.com when I started working there in 2000. Nice guy, and good at his job. And maybe guerrilla marketing has gotten out of hand, but the fact that those Aqua Teen Lite-Brite-esque ads had already been up for two or three weeks in plenty of other major U.S. cities, like New York and Chicago, and hadn't caused any panic makes Boston's reaction seem even sillier. If New York didn't freak out, doesn't that prove the ads were fairly innocuous?

Nelsson

I hope that a sketch-comedy group somewhere in this country in the fall of 1990 brainstormed a scene or song parody featuring the heretofore unknown, model-handsome twin sons of Harry Nilsson. "We can't live / If living is without your love and affection ..."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Andy Dick's new album

Andy Dick's new stand-up/music album came out today. It's called Do Your Shows Always Suck? 

A lot of people I know think Andy Dick isn't funny. But they think Family Guy is hilarious, so we'll call it even. I generally prefer a less abrasive approach to comedy, but there's something about Dick's timing and commitment to his shtick that I've loved ever since I first saw him on The Ben Stiller Show back in '92. I never saw NewsRadio during its original run on NBC, but Dick's sketch show, The Andy Dick Show (MTV, 2001-'03), had its moments, and The Assistant (MTV, 2004) was a great parody of the reality-TV genre that allowed Dick to act like a dick (or be a dick, depending on how "real" you think the show was) and comment on his "Hollyweird" image all at once.

AllMusic.com's review of Do Your Shows Always Suck? isn't favorable, and judging by the track titles, I don't think I'll be buying it. Dick has probably been helped more often than he's been hindered by network censors who won't let him say, or at least will bleep out, whatever foul-mouthed thought comes to his mind. I'd like to think he's better off when he has to rise to the challenge.

Here are some of the track names:

"Beautiful Urinal"
"Dip Your Cock in Vodka"
"Cock & Balls"
"Cancerous Testical"
"Jerkin' Off a Wombat"
"Before AYDS Came Out"
"Damn Good Pussy"
"Poke a Hontas"
"Leonard's Ass Is Bleeding"
"Dirty Sanchez-V-Hot Karl"
"Mom, You Fucking Whore"
"Niggers!"

And probably the most telling of all:

"Look at Me"

comedy math

Let's review:

1. fake-obese Ben Stiller singing Kelis's "Milkshake" = end credits of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

2. fake-obese Eddie Murphy, as a woman, singing the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha" = trailer for Norbit (2007)

3. chubby Kyle Gass singing "Don't Cha" = TV ad for Wild Hogs (2007)

4. husky Will Ferrell singing the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" = TV ad for Blades of Glory (2007)

Conclusion: laughs may increase in relation to actor's girth, prosthetic or otherwise; actor can be black or in drag, but whiteness of actor increases intended hilarity of hip-hop song being performed poorly.

Am I missing any movies from '05 or '06, or before '04? Let me know.

Monday, February 19, 2007

you and your sister

From the Chicago Reader, 2/16/07: "[Sean Moeller] couldn't see the point in starting his own printed zine in a rapidly digitizing world, and as for blogs, he says, 'Everyone and their sister has a fucking blog.'"

For the record, I don't have a sister.

'Bout time ...

Late last month I discovered that Sly and the Family Stone's first seven albums are being re-released in March with bonus tracks and new liner notes. This is great news ... except that I already own these albums, and sentimental value will only allow me to sell one of them, 1971's There's a Riot Goin' On, back once I get the new version. (I bought the original at a not-so-great time in my life.)

In 2004 I bought a reissue of Hall & Oates's Private Eyes, mainly because the copy I already had was in desperate need of a volume boost. But did I sell the first copy back? Hell no! I bought it in the fall of '96, which was an amazing time in my life. Maybe it's not a great lesson to pass along to your children, but one day I hope to teach my kids the value of being a pack rat. Memories you can actually hold in your hands deserve your respect.

Warner Bros. and Rykodisc have been threatening to reissue all of the Replacements' albums for a few years now, and when they come out I'll have more "twins" in my collection. So be it. Like a lot of people, my musical tastes matured and solidified (but hopefully didn't petrify) in college; also like a lot of people, my college years (three of them anyway) were some of the best years of my life, so I don't want to part with the CDs I bought back then.

One complaint about these Sly reissues—Epic/Legacy isn't putting out 1975's High on You. This is the one Sly album I wanted that I was never able to find in stores when I was in college, and in the Internet age I'm not that interested in paying for a $40 copy from Japan on Amazon.com. Yes, I'd pay that much on a whim if I found the album in some random record store, preferably in a city I was visiting, but finding an import CD on the Internet takes away the thrill of the hunt.

High on You features two great Sly songs that I know of: "I Get High on You" and "Crossword Puzzle."
There may be more great songs on this album. I just haven't heard them yet. You should reconsider, Sony bigwigs.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

PAX begat "the i," which begat Ion Television, which begat ...

Back in 1998, PAX TV came on the national network scene like a bat out of hell. A Christian bat out of Christian hell, that is, because PAX tried to rival the major networks with sex-and-violence-free shows. Nice try, PAX, but you need more original programming than It's a Miracle, the Billy Ray Cyrus vehicle Doc, and Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (that kind of cutesy spelling is inexcusable, even if you are a good Christian) to compete with all the great sex and violence that's on NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox every night. (Sorry, CW, you still don't count.) And do I really want to watch Montana doctor Billy Ray Cyrus teach Christian values to New Yorkers when I can hear Courteney Cox tell someone to suck her dick on a cable show like Dirt? Of course not! My TV time is limited and must be used wisely.

In 2005 PAX became "the i." CBS lawyers, did you notice this? Your network is "the Eye," and all of a sudden PAX is calling itself "the i." I don't know if "the i" had any original shows, and I'm not going to look it up either, but I'm pretty sure they dropped the Christian angle for the most part at this point.

Last month "the i" became Ion Television. The last three letters of "television" are "ion," see, but I prefer to think of Ion Television as dropping an atom bomb of great programming on regular TV every single weeknight! Here's their Monday-Friday prime-time lineup:

8/7c
: Mama's Family
9/8c
: Diagnosis: Murder
10/9c:
Charlie's Angels

On weekends Ion shows movies and things like BodogFight: USA vs. Russia. (Would a formerly Christian network resort to canine death matches for ratings? Maybe if they promote Cold War-era patriotism. Is Sue Thomas's seeing-eye dog one of the competitors? If so, I'll tune in. Wait
—according to Wikipedia, Sue Thomas was a deaf FBI agent. But I know she had a dog. What was the dog for? Was it a "hearing-ear" dog?)

The show that I'm happy to see on this lineup is Charlie's Angels, which probably made lots of conservative TV watchdogs uncomfortable 30 years ago. Charlie's Angels was known as a "jiggle" show because it featured its three lead characters running around in bikinis or other skimpy outfits or just plain bra-less quite a bit. I was five when this show was canceled after five seasons and four cast changes: Farrah Fawcett left after the first season (somewhere a 21-year-old David Caruso began to admire Farrah for more than just her feathered bangs and iconic swimsuit modeling) and was replaced by Cheryl Ladd; Kate Jackson left after the third season (apparently she was offered Meryl Streep's Oscar-winning role in Kramer Vs. Kramer but couldn't get out of her Angels contract to do the movie, so she quit in '79) and was replaced by Shelley Hack; and Hack was replaced after the fourth season with Tanya Roberts, who didn't bring up the low ratings that Hack was blamed for, but it was about time the Angels had a hot redhead on their staff. Jaclyn Smith was the only Angel to stay for five full seasons. Way to stick it out, Jaclyn.

What I love about Charlie's Angels, as viewed in 2007, is that it's so ... quaint. Thirty years ago there were only three networks, and cable was still a long way from being in everyone's home. Even when the show was canceled in 1981, cable was a new phenomenon, so I wouldn't be surprised if "low" ratings for Charlie's Angels were probably something like 12 million viewers a week, numbers that a show like The Office would love to have today.

Right now Ion is airing the fifth season of Charlie's Angels. I'm a sucker for final seasons of long-running shows, when the writers and cast are going through the motions and seem ready to move on. Pity poor Tanya Roberts, the newbie, but at least she got her big break on the show and was then ready to star in big-screen classics like The Beastmaster and Sheena, a movie that somehow got rated PG by the puritanical MPAA even though it features full-frontal nudity. (Not that I'm complaining ...)

An episode I saw last week featured a villain who dressed up like Robin Hood and went around the backlot of Mammoth Pictures shooting at people with arrows. The Angels posed as stuntwomen at the studio to find the masked archer.


See what I mean? Silly but charming, especially in light of current shows like CSI and 24, which usually deal with grim subject matter. Maybe post-Watergate, post-Vietnam America needed a lightweight detective "drama" like Charlie's Angels 30 years ago. And maybe, as our current "long national nightmare" winds down in the next few years, it'll be time for another show like Charlie's Angels that can become a top-ten hit.

(Never mind that I hated the Charlie's Angels movie from 2000 and skipped the 2003 sequel. It's tough to make Bill Murray look bad, but Charlie's Angels accomplished that task easily. No wonder Murray skipped the sequel too.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

movie names

Hey, you know what's a good title for a movie? This one.

And guess what? It's the one-year anniversary of my internationally broadcast scratch paper! Set off the confetti cannons! Thank you so much, letters that make up words and words that make up sentences and sentences that make up paragraphs and paragraphs that make up rambling screeds. I couldn't have done it without you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

band names

I proofread concert and club listings at work on Wednesdays. Here's a band name I like a lot:

Neil Diamond Phillips

But then I've always liked celebrity-themed band names. In Atlanta 20 years ago there was a group called Kathleen Turner Overdrive, whose name popped up in the movie High Fidelity in 2000, though I have no idea if John Cusack and his fellow screenwriters knew about the "real" KTO. A great name's a great name, after all. Still, I wonder if the band took it as a compliment. (I'm pretty sure they disbanded long before High Fidelity came out.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

finite

It's not that I want to live forever. I just want everyone I care about to live longer than me.

Monday, February 12, 2007

blood blister update

The visual reminder of January 31's blood blister finally peeled off my middle finger on Saturday. Please pass this news along to your loved ones.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

chaff-less

Back in October I mentioned one of my new favorite songs, Wheat's "Closer to Mercury." It comes from their third album, 2003's Per Second, Per Second, Per Second ... Every Second, which I finally bought yesterday after copying it from my brother back in December. He found out about Wheat back in July after copying "Closer to Mercury" from my computer and immediately thinking, "I wonder if they have more songs like this one."

They do. "I Met a Girl," "Some Days," "These Are Things," "Life Still Applies," "Can't Wash It Off"—every single one has giant pop hooks and ready-for-my-close-up vocals by Scott Levesque, who also gets nicely swoony/dreamy on songs like "Don't I Hold You" (the hidden track that's an update of the version that appears on 1999's Hope and Adams), "The Beginner," and "Hey, So Long (Ohio)." The reviews from 2003 that I've readfrom both critics and bloggerssay that Wheat changed their sound quite a bit for Per Second in an attempt to gain a wider audience. This seems to have angered certain fans who fell in love with Hope and Adams, an album you can hear for free at thiswheat.com, a band-sanctioned Web site. It's also giving away Wheat's first album, 1998's Medeiros, as well as demos from 1996 and early versions of songs from Per Second that were recorded in 2001 for Nude Records before that label folded—Wheat then signed with Aware/Columbia and recorded the Per Second songs all over again in the fall of '02.

It's awfully nice of Wheat to give away their first two albums for free (both are out of print), and it gives new fans like me a chance to see if their sound changed that much from '99 to '03. It did, but it's not like they sold out to get some face time on VH1. (If that was in fact the plan, it obviously didn't work.)

If you're a fan of smart, shiny pop music like I am,
it seems clear that what Wheat did for Per Second was to bring their previous sound into focus and give it some caffeine. They upped the tempos and added lots of background chatter and chopped-up guitar fuzz that don't overwhelm the melodies, and they weren't afraid to put glorious falsetto "hoo hoo hooos" in the choruses. I have a ridiculous crush on this album.

(Here's someone else's love letter to Per Second. It's hard to follow at times, but the writer makes a good point about Per Second in comparison to Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin, albums that are easy to like but hard to fall for.)


One review favorably compared album opener "I Met a Girl" to vintage Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates, which reminded me that back in 1998, New Radicals' hit "You Get What You Give" was alternately called Rundgren-esque and the best song Hall & Oates never recorded. (When Hall & Oates covered New Radicals' "Someday We'll Know" in 2003, with backing vocals by Rundgren, it seemed like they were returning a compliment.) Personally, I kept focusing on the fact that New Radicals' lead singer, Gregg Alexander, sounded a lot like World Party's Karl Wallinger. And in 2002, when Santana and Michelle Branch's "The Game of Love" came out, I thought, "This sounds like 'You Get What You Give.'" It turned out that Gregg Alexander cowrote the song.

Let's see, where was I before this tangent? Oh yeah—if you liked what New Radicals did on
Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, you'll probably like what Wheat does on Per Second. And you should already like Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates, but that's a given.

Did Wheat hire a big-time producer in order to make what was once blurry crystal clear? Nope, they used Dave Fridmann, former Mercury Rev bassist and perennial Flaming Lips producer. (John Fields is credited with producing the songs "Breathe" and "Closer to Mercury.") Fridmann also produced Hope and Adams, so it's unlikely he forced any kind of agenda on Wheat, although the sonic quirks you hear on Lips albums like The Soft Bulletin also shine through on Per Second.

Per Second seemed to come and go in late '03 and early '04, which is a shame. Songs like "I Met a Girl," "Closer to Mercury," and "Some Days" belong on the radio and should be on the radio, but that battle's never going to be won. And with Wheat's popularity still safely contained, much like a virus, fans can continue to appreciate them as a well-kept secret. It's just that Wheat now has two types of fans, I suppose—those who love them for Hope and Adams and those who love them for Per Second. I'll take the instantly memorable hooks of Per Second's songs any day over Hope and Adams's less immediate melodies.

Their new album, Everyday I Said a Prayer for Kathy and Made a One Inch Square, is supposed to come out this spring, and judging by the two songs I've heard so far, the remaining members of the group appear to be retreating from the big pop shine of Per Second. I'm disappointed, but I don't blame them. Maybe they weren't entirely comfortable with the gloss the last time out. But they hit one out of the park with Per Second, so there's no need for them to feel embarrassed.

(On a side note, I often wish AllMusic.com allowed for open editing the way Wikipedia does. All Music incorrectly lists the 12th track on Per Second as "This Rough Music" instead of "This Rough Magic," and the review of the album states that "Closer to Mercury" is a remake of Hope and Adams's "Don't I Hold You" and that there's a second version of "Closer to Mercury" tacked onto the end of the album, even though, as previously mentioned, the hidden track is the 2003 version of "Don't I Hold You," which sounds nothing like "Closer to Mercury." There's a box marked "Corrections to this Entry?" at the bottom of almost every page on All Music's site, but nobody seems to have checked the few corrections I've sent in since 2000. Pay me to do it, All Music. I'd love to.)

Friday, February 2, 2007

snark

I've been a little too snarky lately in this space. I apologize for that. But John Parr, Little Richard, and the Ewoks, you had it comin'.

power-hungry teddy bears

Recently my favorite coworker teased me for having the "Ewok Celebration" song from Return of the Jedi on my iPod. Kind of embarrassing, especially since I was going to delete it from the iPod after I got home from work, but not because I don't like the song—I just didn't want the six-minute version I'd found over at Looking at Them. I wanted the seven-minute, 55-second version from 1993's Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology, see, with all the weird Ewok chirping intact. (Once a Star Wars nerd, always a Star Wars nerd.)

But
after singing/serenading part of the song to my coworker, I decided to look up the lyrics. I'm glad I didit turns out the Ewoks were singing "yub nub" instead of "jub jub." That's like discovering Jimi Hendrix was saying "excuse me while I kiss the sky" instead of "excuse me while I kiss this guy." Knowledge is good.

Here are the lyrics in Ewokese:

Yub nub, ee chop yub nub
Ah toe meet toe peechee keene
G'noop dock fling oh ah
Yahwah, ee chop

Alright, that's enough of that. If you want to see all of the lyrics in Ewokese, go here. ("Peechee keene"? I smell a rat.) It's the English translation that interests me.

Freedom, we got freedom
And now that we can be free
Come on and celebrate.

Power, we got power
And now that we can be free
It's time to celebrate.

You got power? Please. Ewoks, you may have taken down a bunch of Imperial stormtroopers with nothing but slingshots and cuteness, but the Rebel Alliance would enslave your entire race in a matter of minutes if you tried to stage some sort of coup. As Han Solo would say, don't get cocky.

blood blister

I have one on my middle finger on my left hand. I don't remember my last blood blister, but I've never had one on a finger as far as I can remember.

Brilliant observations like that one are catching the attention of bloggers everywhere. How do I do it? Well, I get my fingers caught in drawers as I'm closing them, that's how.

another word that should be retired in 2007

I heard "poop" too much in '06. Sure, it's a hilarious word if you're five, but why do adults in America find bodily functions so funny? Damn this puritan heritage of ours. We'll never move past it. (P.S., ladies: I don't need to know what you do in the bathroom. Ever. Do you hear me? Especially if you're attractive. Or related to me. I'm not denying you have the same functions as me. More power to you. But I'd rather not know.)