Sunday, October 30, 2005

Playing Chicken

We had the neighborhood Halloween parade. Good thing someone now knows how to walk, since a stationary chicken just wouldn't be as ... scary!

Talking Heads

At last, they've finally remastered the Talking Heads catalog, one side of each disc in stereo with bonus tracks, and the other in 5.1 surround sound. This needed to happen, too, since the albums as available were muffled and muddy. The two downsides, however, are not insignificant. One, for some reason I couldn't copy these into iTunes and then to my iPod. Instead, I had to (illegally) download the entire set, which I of course already owned, just to get usable MP3 copies for the iPod.

Second, the packaging is dumb. None of the individual CDs feature tracklistings or the album's title on its spine, making them frustrating to store or casually peruse, considering they're housed in a big, white plastic brick. Sure, it's better than the previous Talking Heads boxed set Rhino came up with, which doesn't even fit on a shelf and proved a woefully inadequate tease. But better means very little when they still make the damn albums so hard to listen to.

Boston Market

The other day was another epic baby day, with Alma working late and me in charge of keeping Z. busy from 6 to 6. So at the end of the day, I suggested picking up some food to make the evening easier. Alma agreed, and said we should try the new Boston Market.

Now, Boston Market is not new. It's been around for years, and has become something of a comfort food staple, a bridge between traditional fast food joints and the slightly more upscale and more expensive "fresh" fast food places (like Chipotle, for example). Well, this Boston Market has been in River Forest, right in between Old Navy and Whole Foods, for years, and I'd never been there. In fact, if I've ever been to Boston Marktet at all, it was years ago. But a few months beforehand they decided to transform our local Boston Market into an experimental "fresh" food palace, the only of its kind. They still sell chicken, of course (was it always "all natural?). But now they also sell fancy sides, like apricot sweet potatoes, corn bread, nice desserts and specialty salads and sandwiches. When we walked in they very enthusiasticallly described the new menu, and noted that everything - including the desserts! - could be sampled. Then they more or less forced me to eat a huge sample portion of a teryaki chicken sandwich, which was indeed great.

Another cool aspect is that they sell various canned and ready food goods - like jams, artisan breads, sauces and the like - and that they sell bamboo plates and whatnot. In fact, in lieu of silverware or plasticware, the in-house cutlery is bamboo as well, which is clever, cheap and environmentally sound. They look neat, too.

Anyway, we got a whole chicken and a couple of sides for $14, which is just a couple of dollars more than two burritos at Chipotle. Good to know this place is around in case of culinary emergency.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

See You Later, Hot Potater

It's good to know that when faced with a common challenge, our elected officials of both parties can still make an energetic, bipartisan effort to get things done.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

President Job, Part 865

This piece is the closest I've seen to observing a George Bush curse. President Job strikes again. I wouldn't stand near this guy in a lightning storm.

Left is Right

Usually the left wing is every bit as nutty as the right wing, but this litanyputs this whole Plame thing in persective.

I'm glad I didn't stay up to watch the rest of last night's Sox game. I made it longer than I have for any previous game - to the bottom of the 10th - but then I gave up. At least in baseball, unlike the TV-timeout intensive football or basketball, the games stretch on for what seems like a good reason.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And so it begins ...

Baby Z. is starting to walk.

View this clip on Vimeo

The '80s are the '70s (and sometimes the '60s, too), but mostly they are right now

It’s interesting that New Order, Depeche Mode and Echo and the Bunnymen – all ‘80s college rock acts – should release albums in 2005 that recall some of their best work. But it’s not really an ‘80s revival. I’m reminded of something Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens told me, namely that despite releasing all their albums in the ‘80s, the Go-Betweens never considered themselves an ‘80s band. They had their roots, like Depeche Mode, New Order and Echo, in the ‘70s post-punk boom. The same could be said for such ‘80s stalwarts as ABC, Human League, Duran Duran and the like.

Now Madonna: totally ‘80s. So much so that not only does her excellent new song “Hung Up” reference her own pop ascent, but also samples ABBA’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).” Normally I have a problem with would-be hit songs that sample previously established hit songs, but eh. I’ll give Madonna the benefit of the doubt. After all, she wasn’t yet insufferable in the ’80s, so a return to form in her case might come as something of a welcome self-imposed gag order. It’s impossible to get into the groove when you’re getting down with Kaballah.

ABBA, for what it’s worth, had their roots in the ‘60s and hit it big in the ‘70s, but their success continued through the ‘80s. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” was a hit in 1979, right when Madonna was perfecting her New Yawk accent. Madonna supposedly had to beg the band, since ABBA doesn’t usually like to share their Swedish magic.

Merry Fitzmas!

Sure, the White Sox are doing pretty well. Frankly, I've been too pooped to watch any of the games all the way through, preferring to find out the score the next morning. In this age of instant gratification, that somehow feels more ... gratifying. But tomorrow I'm honestly more excited about the real prospect of indictments. President Job has had this coming for a long time, but this isn't some kind of test. Rather, it's a big ol' F" letter grade for failing.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

One Year

A good friend noted how she couldn't believe Baby Z. was almost a year old. But boy, is it easy to believe from this end! Almost walking, almost talking, lots of teeth, even more personality ... it's like having the world's smartest pet wandering around the house, and she's still developing exponentially.

Speaking of pets, Alma always tells me about the ritual relationship between Z. and Tallulah, the more tolerant of our two cats. But yesterday was the first time I really saw it in action. Z., up from her nap, wandered over to where Tallulah was splayed across the rug and proceeded to whack her affectionately again and again. Fortunately, Tallulah seems to like this, though after a few minutes Tallulah whacked back and I had to remove the baby. Funny to watch, though. I guess after nearly a year of being relatively starved for affection, Tallulah will put up with anything.

She also now wakes me up regularly between 3 and 5 am for food, or sometimes just to say hello. Thanks, cat!

Friday, October 21, 2005

New Pornographers

The prospect of a Karl Rove indictment is like four cups of coffee and a box of fresh doughnuts.

Last night I caught the New Pornographers, who managed to sell out the Metro and get themselves booked there again for a New Year's Eve show ($60!). I haven't listened to the band much lately, and they sometimes get on my nerves, but they were grrrr-eat last night. Tighter than I've ever seen/heard them, and in fine, funny form. Dan Bejar, also the singer of Destroyer, one of the most annnoying bands on the planet, emerged from the wings, beer in hand, to sing a couple of his N. Pornographers songs, too, but hey, he's fine in small doses. And Neko, of course, sang her heart out, a great front-line team with Carl "A.C." Newman. The latter joked, after someone requested "O Canada," that the Canadian national anthem had been changed to "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers. Neko noted that the American national anthem was long ago changed to "Hotel California."

All the same, I left right before the encores, since I was tired and wanted to let my ears rest, too. Another weekend of no music! Well, at least until Sunday, when I see Cat Power.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

God Hates George Bush, Part 339

Once again, it really appears that God hates George Bush. And, as Alma said, the rest of us aren't so hot on him these days, either.

We're #1!!!

I'm sure some folks in Florida are worried about the approaching hurricane. But I have a feeling that deep down, the average Floridian - and the average American, for that matter - will take some sort of pride in getting struck by the most powerful storm on record. Hey, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade! And then find some way to rub the rinds in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Beware of Dog

Even though it was cold enough inside the house that I put on a sweater, a quick poke of the head outside revealed that it was about 75, sunny and clear, so I decided to walk to the bank, post office and library. Along the way I passed a fenced in yard with a "Beware of Dog" sign hung on it. Forget the fact that the fence was about waist high, and any dog contained by it of limited threat. It occured to me just how formal and antiquated the word "beware" actually is. "Danger." "Warning." These are words you see every day, on signs and elsewhere. But when was the last time anyone actually used or encountered the word "beware" outside of a "Beware of Dog" sign? All it does is make me think of Universal's classic "The Wolf Man" - 'be-vare!" - or Burt Bacharach's "Blob" song - "beware of the blob!" - not very timely references.

Now, if there was a big hound of the Baskervilles-type creature roaming around the mist covered city, then yeah, beware. But some barking puppy? Forget it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Depeche Mode

There's nothing quite like a return to form. Except that Depeche Mode never strayed too far, if at all. Sure, "Ultra" and "Exciter" weren't the huge smashes that "Violator" and "Songs of Faith and Devotion" were, but those latter two were the odd albums out, the point where Depeche Mode's cult most thoroughly intersected with the mainstream. “Ultra” and “Exciter,” on the other hand, were evolutionary steps the band took in light of Alan Wilder’s departure and singer Dave Gahan’s drug addiction and rehab, but that makes their respective successes that much more impressive.

The new “Playing the Angel,” however, may be the best Depeche Mode album since “Violator,” vying with New Order’s “Waiting for the Sirens Call” for best comeback – which is simply to say a consistent collection of songs, as opposed to a couple of cool singles and filler, like the New Order’s pale “Republic,” which gave us “Regret” and little else.

“Playing the Angel” was produced by Ben Hiller, who previously helmed records by Doves and Blur, but unlike Mark Bell, Bomb the Bass’s Tim Simenon and Flood (the producers of the past three or four Depeche albums) has no real identifiable sound. Maybe that’s why the focus here is so firmly on Gahan’s singing and Martin Gore’s songs, with Gahan contributing three songs and Gore coming up with “Precious,” one of the best singles the band has ever recorded and a conspicuous linchpin around the middle of the disc that holds the more rocky first half and the more spare second half together.

There are some sly and overt references to early Dm works, but rarely does the disc sound like retreads. That's harder to pull off than it sounds. Just look at Nine Inch Nails (who I like). Reznor only released four albums, and as much as I like this year's NIN offering "With Teeth," it does sometimes sound like Reznor's struggling to stay fresh and alive. Dude, try keeping it up for 25 years!

Glad to hear them doing so well.

History of Violence

“A History of Violence” may be the least David Cronenberg-like David Cronenberg movie, with the exception of maybe his previous film “Spider” and certainly “M. Butterfly” (his most anomalous work). The only real overt hallmarks of his past works are the jolts of humor, the grizzly gore and, of course, the two sex scenes, which Cronenberg reportedly added to the story (adapted from a comic) and which add a lot, thematically, to the film.

If the majority of Cronenberg’s movies deal (sometimes metaphorically) with fear of reproduction and the uneasy interaction between humans and technology – and in particular the potentially destructive, dehumanizing and alienating effects of the latter, so prone to abuse – “History of Violence” has themes more directly applicable to everyday life. Particularly the tenuous threads that hold families together, the way violence leads to more violence, lies beget more lies and basic moral issues of right and wrong. It also works as a sneaky satire of the big lie that is the American Dream. This makes the movie possibly Cronenberg’s most thematically rich to date, or at least since “Dead Ringers,” and likewise his best made.

[Though come to think of it, there's a steady stream of alienation running through all his films, with technology or biology simply often the vector, unlocking something uneasy or disturbing but probably innate in humanity - Cronenberg remains nothing if not an adamant Darwinian, which in his world always leads to bad things. Funny how primal acts are almost always equated with negativity, as if a smile is somehow less primal. But I digress.]

It’s also the first Cronenberg movie Alma has seen before me, oddly enough.

She also saw “In Her Shoes,” which has gotten nothing but positive notice but little in the way of box office draw. I can’t say what may be going wrong – I haven’t seen it yet – but I’ll probably catch it later this week along with “Wallace & Gromit.”

Friday night I caught Richard Thompson live, acoustic, paired with fellow legend Danny Thompson (of Pentangle and Nick Drake fame, among many, many credits – Talk Talk, The The, even a few acts without repeated words). D. Thompson always has the tougher job in these duo settings, since every bit the virtuoso as Richard it’s a lot harder to show off on upright. The showing off was left to Richard, who is of course and international treasure and without a doubt the most tasteful virtuoso on the planet. Always interesting as well to watch a guitar hero who’s hardly indebted to the blues, at least the blues beyond “Be-Bop a –Lula.”

Friday, October 14, 2005

Good Touch

Contrary to some opinions, the Bloodhound Gang's "The Bad Touch" may be stupid, but it is not forgettable. In fact, it may be awesome. For a few years I held onto that album just for that one song until I realized that that, on the other hand, was truly stupid.

The Boss and Beyond

As a young punk in his early ‘20s, Bruce Springsteen envisioned himself a Dylan-styled wordsmith, and stuffed his songs with more alliterative verbiage than some could support. As a man in his ‘50s, however, he’s come to recognize the importance of economy. In fact, beginning with “Darkness at the Edge of Town” and especially with “Nebraska” and “Born in the USA,” Springsteen started stressing the simplicity of his lyrics over the overblown arrangements.

That’s why his occasional solo jaunts are such a treat. If the songs on this year’s “Devils & Dust” just sort of sit there on disc, they really shine live, as do re-workings of Springsteen’s 30-plus years of music. With just his guitar (or pump organ, or electric piano, or piano, or autoharp, or ukulele or sometimes just his stomping boot), Springsteen boils down the songs to their bare essence, which not only makes you pay attention to the lyrics (a plus when it comes to otherwise melodically dull tracks such as “Reno” or “Matamoras Banks”) but makes him find ways to make his old songs interesting.

The coolest thing about last night’s show, besides the fact that just one man on stage could keep a United Center crowd silent, was the way Springsteen dusted off forgotten or intentionally ignored songs to come up with something special. In the former category were “I Wish I were Blind,” which Springsteen himself noted came from his worst record “Human Touch” (“in Norway they say it’s my masterpiece!”). In the case of the latter, Springsteen has finally begun playing songs from “Tunnel of Love” again, his last true masterpiece.

Sure, there were no tour debuts, and no real nuggets like “The Promise”,” or “Stolen Car” or any of the other dozens of surprises he’s sprung on recent audiences. But boy, the guy’s great.

On a completely different note, Dead Can Dance were predictably magical. No one saw this reunion coming, and no one knows where it’s going (if it goes anywhere else), but if the Auditorium Theatre show turns out to be the group’s last, then wow – way to go out on top. Like a few dozen other acts, Dead Can Dance is selling limited run recordings or each stop on the tour, but unlike most others the things are truly works of art. Am I a sucker for buying one, considering I’ll probably never listen to it? Nah.

Two nights before that, Tortoise and Daniel Lanois met for a head-on collision of styles and approach that neither act quite survived. By choosing Tortoise as his backing band was like Lanois tying an anchor around his neck before attempting to swim across the English Channel. Needless to say, there’s a reason John McEntire will never produce U2 – he and the rest of Tortoise are so soulless it was distracting. It was like watching Devo back Al Green or something.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Are CDs indestructible?

I hope so, since this video shows what I have to contend with, per baby Z.'s curiosity and increased mobility:

View this clip on Vimeo

Friday, October 07, 2005

Batman to the Future!

Just look at this cover. George Clooney’s the star, but his picture is smaller than Schwarzenegger’s and he’s billed second to him as well. Schwarzenegger, of course, is now a Governor. Chris O’Donnell just had his stinker TV show cancelled after two episodes. Uma Thurman is as big as star as Clooney in her own right. And Alicia Silverstone is MIA. What a weird time capsule.


They say once you have kids you’ll never need an alarm clock ever again, and it’s largely true, though my wife weaned me from sleeping in pretty early. Yesterday she roused me from sleep to let me know that baby Z. had not only had an accident, but that the baby and the crib were smeared with poop. I only had a few hours of sleep, but groggily I went to work on the room while my wife cleaned the baby.

Needless to say, I didn’t feel totally up for catching Sleater-Kinney, but I’m glad I changed my mind. The group has been great all six or so times I’ve seen them, and last night was no exception. Especially impressive were the songs from “The Woods,” which made up the bulk of the set, as well as the band’s timely reworking of CCR’s “Fortunate Son.” Which, disturbingly, has been timely throughout the whole five or so years they’ve been playing it. Sigh.

The Ponys opened, and I was not terribly impressed. They basically sounded like the Dandy Warhols, only with their ‘90s West Coast heroin chic replaced with a late ‘70s NYC heroin chic. That they missed the opportunity to introduce a Midwest heroin chic will haunt them to the last of their derivative days.

The show cost about $17, which come to think of it was what I paid to see U2 back in 1987. My, how times have changed.

No shows this weekend (thank God), but next week is Daniel Lanois, Dead Can Dance, Bruce Springsteen and Richard Thompson. A good week for music by white people. And in the case of Dead Can Dance, really, really white people.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Is this decade close to over yet?

When asked if our government was prepared for a bird flu pandemic, even Alma was cynical.

"Yeah, right, not unless Bush heard it from a high school buddy or some longtime adviser who worked for his father."

The President is such a sad, sad man, so proud of his loyalities to people that consistently lead him astray. Dick Cheney, friend of dad, heads his Vice President search and chooses himself. Harriet Miers? Probably the closest person Bush could find come deadline, which is why he insists he picked the best candidate for Supreme Court he could think of (which says lots of Miers' past claim that Bush is the most brilliant man she has ever met).

So this avian flu could be really serious, but I have a hunch Alma is right. Bush won't even hear about it until Jonesy or Petey or Big Butt Billy or Stinky or Texas Willie runs it by him over golf, and even then they'll probably downplay it.

"Bird flu? When was the last time you saw a sick bird? Don't worry about it, Mr. President. Now watch this putt."

Anyway, since we've already established that God hates President Bush, plan on 1/3 the planet getting wiped out by pigeons and chickens some time in the next three years.


Two new DVDs, just in time for Halloween. One, called "Monster High," boasts on the cover "from the Executive Producer of Swamp Thing 2," which does not make me want to see it. The other is an old Italian giallo flick called "Strip Nude for Your Killer." That title does not make me want to watch that one, either.

Jesse Loves ...

I'm working on a piece about the adult film industry, and just got a great celebrity/porn star wooing anecdote. Nubile thesbian Jesse Jane (no, I'm not linking) has dated off and on a couple of infamously randy rock stars, one who plays drums in a band that rhymes with "Otley Ooh" and the other who performs as something that rhymes with "Id Ock." At one point she was apparently dating them both at the same time, plus several other folks. "Dating."

Anyway, both rock stars have been recently leaving Ms. Jane messages, trying to get back in her pants, but she's not biting. So "Id Ock," as a gesture of goodwill, sent a packed Budweiser truck to her conservative, military-background father back in Oklahoma. That means "friend for life" in those circles.

You'll know the gesture paid off when you're downloading the inevitable home movie.

Snake Vs. Alligator

Sometimes things have to be seen to be believed. According to this BBC report, a python in the Everglades ate an alligator and then exploded.

Pearl Jam Get the Led Out

Last night's Robert Plant/Pearl Jam show was great, not really for either of their individual sets but for their collaboration. As Pearl Jam wrapped up "Given to Fly," which even the die-hards concede is a bit of a "Going to California" rip-off, Plant and a couple of his bandmates came out and segued into ... "Going to California." Quite chill inducing. Then Plant and Pearl Jam played "Little Sister" and "Money (That's What I Want)," the latter a fitting choice considering the $1000 ticket price of this Hurricane Katrina benefit.

And then things got really cool. Plant and Vedder dueted on "Fool in the Rain," reading from the same lyric sheet because - get this - Plant had never performed the song live before, neither as a solo act nor with Led Zeppelin. Pearl Jam was a little stiff playing such a hard song, but they obviously were having a blast, especially drummer Matt Cameron. He's no John Bonham, but he aped the Steely Dan-tricky drum part pretty perfectly. And yes, they did the samba break down!

Plant then sang a beautiful "Thank You," and it looked like the show was over until everyone came out for a final encore of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," with Plant offering another first. He played guitar, standing stage left in the background, leaving the frontman spotlight strictly on Vedder. Now that's something you don't see every day.

Rumors are already swirling as to whether Vedder or others will show up at the Sleater-Kinney show tonight, another benefit, although only about one-fiftieth the price per ticket.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New Yorker

I don't know how this slipped by my notice, but it seems they're selling the complete "New Yorker" on DVD-ROM for about $60. It takes up 50GB, and even if it's a waste of money and even if I will never look at it, I snatched one up. At the very least, they stopped selling "The Complete National Geographic" because the mag was sick of fending off lawsuits over rights issues filed by various writers. "The New Yorker" has deeper pockets, but still.

Anyway, the cartoons alone are worth it, and the magazine even teases an old essay about the birth of television. No doubt the tip of the iceberg, and certainly the start of a fallback toward mass illiteracy.


Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) has a real one of a kind type of voice. It just so happens that it sounds like several other one of a kind voices, especially Bryan Ferry. No matter: his set at the Park West was really sweet, and his stage presence (or lackthereof) actually quite endearing. One moment his voice is soaring high in that wobbly falsetto. The next he's making small talk in his modest, just another guy speaking voice. His current songs are a little limited/limiting, but expect better things from him in the future.

CocoRosie opened up, and they may indeed be the most annoying band in history, like a half-baked Bjork with a b-boy fetish.

Tonight, amazingly, I get to see Pearl Jam and Robert Plant play a Katrina benefit. I've really come to respect the former for many reasons - as performers, as activists, as fan-centered. I don't really know the last time I put on one of their records, but I don't complain when I hear them on the radio. Plus, their decision to release every single live show is just super cool. I loved that period when the Pearl Jam section in the stores was something like 300 CDs deep. Take that, Mark E. Smith!

Robert Plant's new solo album "Mighty Rearranger" is actually quite good, and I've never seen him live. No doubt he will get the Led out, too. Interesting thing about Robert Plant is that like Bowie and Springsteen he's one of the few rock stars who really keeps his ear to the ground, seeing shows and buying new records. He's a fan, first and foremost.

Monday, October 03, 2005


No question, Seymour Stein was a huge figure in the record industry. His place in history was made secure by signing the likes of Talking Heads, Ramones, the Pretenders and (of course) Madonna to his Sire imprint. By all accounts he's a great guy, a mentor-type, and he also supposedly coined the term "new wave" (to circumvent radio's refusal to play "punk"). But does Sire Records deserve the same boxed set treatment and iconic status accorded monumental imprints such as Stax, Motown, Blue Note, even Atlantic? Or Reprise? Or Slash? Or Sun? Or Rough Trade?

“Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story” doesn’t quite make the case, in part because so many of Stein’s new wave and beyond signings were cherry picked from the UK, where the bands already thrived. I mean really, who associates My Bloody Valentine with Sire and Seymour Stein? My Bloody Valentine = Creation and Alan McGee. The Smiths = Rough Trade and Geoff Travis. Depeche Mode = Mute and Daniel Miller. Pet Shop Boys = EMI. Echo and the Bunnymen = Chrysalis. Aphex Twin = Warp. The same goes for cherry picking from Too Pure, Beggars Banquet or 4AD. Who thinks of Stein when you think of those labels?

Even in America, Stein gets little credit for signing, say, Ministry after so much indie success on Wax Trax, or The Replacements post- Twin/Tone. Does signing such established acts really count as risk taking or being pioneering? Ich don’t think so. Does it make him any more than an astute businessman to realize that these acts of significant cult status might make him a few extra bucks with wider, Warner Bros. backed distribution? Perhaps.

However, as a free-ranging, three-disc mix CD, “Just Say Sire” is a hoot, not distinguishing between Morrissey and the Cult, The Saints and Aztec Camera, Wilco and the Undertones, etc. It’s all over the place, and enjoyably so. Also, whenever something like this comes out from Warner Bros./Rhino, it brings hope that one day they might finally remaster the Smiths back catalog, or maybe My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” or “Shake Some Action” by the Flamin' Groovies. God knows, the latter’s title track to my ears sounds better on this comp than it does anywhere else. Usually it sounds like a cassette that had been left in the sun on the beach to have the surf wash over it repeatedly, and not in a romantic My Bloody Valentine wall of sound way, either.

I once saw Seymour Stein here at an Interpol show. He sat next to me surely pondering the best moment to dump a load of money at their feet and beg them to leave Matador.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

8. Bryan Ferry, 9. Siouxsie Sioux, 10. Steve Harley/Cockney Rebel

Bryan Ferry has an uncanny ability, given his interpretive skills, of transforming nearly any song into a Bryan Ferry song. At the height of his campiness, backed by most of Roxy Music, he could also make almost any song sound like a Roxy Music song, as he does with Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” which he gives a forceful, fun 4/4 beat, backing vocals and even some giddily unnecessary sound effects.

Siouxsie and the Banshees have always been a grey area for me. I know the hits (of which “Cities in Dust” is one), but never spent the time with the group to get to know them better. That will change, since I downloaded their entire back catalog in anticipation of remastered albums coming soon. In the meantime, I was reminded of how great this song is, every bit as apocalyptic as Dylan (Siouxsie once covered “This Wheel’s On Fire” without knowing it was one of his, based solely on the imagery) but danceable and featuring one of Budgie’s best drum parts. Really rhythmically inventive. No wonder the Slits brought him on board for their first record. He’s what’s keeping “Cut” together (though not what makes that album great, of course).

Steve Harley and his band Cockney Rebel were sorta contemporaries of Bowie and Roxy, but made even less of a dent in the U.S.. That’s a shame, since their first two albums were equal to those act’s best early works. “Judy Teen” is on the first album, “The Human Menagerie,” a single tacked onto the end. I love his singing on this, because despite being entirely in English his slurred, stylistic phrasing makes it sound at times like at least three different languages.

This is another record my local record shop recommended. They were surprised I hadn’t even heard his big hit “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me),” which apparently everyone in England knows, and which was apparently used in “Velvet Goldmine,” a film I don’t remember much about except that I didn’t like it very much.

Mould Does the Du

The last time I saw Bob Mould, he was touring behind his “Modulate” album, a sort of techno/guitar disc that pissed off a lot of his fanbase (despite the fact that, as my friend Mark points out, it actually resurrects a song from Husker Du’s “Warehouse” sessions). At the Park West, leaving the show, I was waiting for a different friend to come back from the bathroom and I overheard someone complaining – politely – to the guy selling Mould’s merch. The gist was: I’ve seen Bob Mould a number of times, beginning with Husker Du, through his solo stuff, Sugar, “The Dog and Pony Show,” and I was so disappointed to see him running around the stage alone, playing guitar to a drum machine, that I’m never paying to see him ever again.”

I didn’t pay myself, but I sort of felt the same way. I always liked Grant Hart’s songs better, and Mould peaked with the first Sugar album “Copper Blue” and the subsequent “Beaster” EP. After that, he got happy and got completely boring.

So it was with some reservations that I went to see Mould play again, lured only by the novelty of 1) a full band 2) a full band featuring Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and 3) the first time Mould has ever played Husker Du songs with a full band since Husker Du imploded. I don’t regret going, but I can’t imagine ever seeing him again. The new material was bland and forgettable, but as if acknowledging how far he’d strayed from his roots and/or the stuff people love him for, he played a whopping 7 songs from the first Sugar album. Some Husker Du songs, too: “Makes No Sense At All,” “I Apologize,” “Chartered Trips,” “Hardly Getting Over It,” “Could You Be the One” and “Celebrated Summer.” Most were pretty good, but the always-gloomy “Hardly Getting Over It” was even draggier than usual.

After some debate with Mark, we came to conclusion that while we differed on whether Grant Hart wrote the best Husker Du songs, he definitely wrote the best song on each album: “It’s Not Funny Anymore,” “Turn on the News,” “Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill,” “Sorry Somehow” and “You Can Live at Home.” The one exception is “Flip Your Wig,” whose best track is either “Makes No Sense at All” or “Divide and Conquer,” though Hart’s “Green Eyes” and “Flexible Flier” come close. That could explain why it’s probably the best start to finish Husker Du album.

Anyway, the next time I hear Husker Du will be on the albums and the albums alone, perfection forever. It was nice to see Mould sort of recognize that he may never top that stuff, but he didn’t seem to be having a lot of pleasure doing so.

By the way, Mould looked pretty buff, given his gym regiment, but Brendan Canty (seen above) looked from our perch like he had a beer gut and man-boobs. He’s a family man, to be fair, but if Fugazi ever got back together again he really needs to hit the gym, too. That way he’ll be nice and healthy sitting in the tour van, regaling Ian, Guy and Joe with all these stories of nice clubs that Fugazi’s never been able to play.