Friday, October 27, 2006

Visiting Time Is (Almost) Over

October has been a banner month for friends and family visiting, but after this weekend we have a breather (at least until Thanksgiving). Tonight friends from college are coming in for a wedding, and to test the sleep-friendliness of our floor, while at the same time Alma’s cousins are in town to see the Pet Shop Boys (to the best of my knowledge).

I’ll be at the Pet Shop Boys, too, reviewing for the Trib. They’re one of my favorite groups, and if the drop off in quality over the year is obvious, it’s also pretty relative. The worst of these guys is better than the best of most. Ironically, while the albums are pleasurable for the contrast of ebullient disco songs and socio-political lyrics, the live shows smartly downplay the, well, smarts in favor of clever design and nightclub pacing. They've been reduced to (large, gay) cult stature in the States, but I respect the group for not giving up on us Yanks and bothering to tour every few years. It was here, after all, that the group's music first gained traction, back when effete, sneakily subversive synth-pop of a distinctly British bent could slip on the airwaves.

A couple of nights ago I went to see Lindsey Buckingham, erstwhile leader of Fleetwood Mac and someone I believe to be one of the very few pop geniuses at work today. And yes, he did play “Holiday Road” from the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” soundtrack. See? Genius.

Last night I saw the Hold Steady. The last time the Brooklyn by way of Minneapolis band played Chicago – well, not counting Lollapalooza, which was kind of an exception to several rules – was at the Empty Bottle. This night they sold out Metro, which is about five times the size of the Empty Bottle. Good for them! It was also one of the best shows I’ve seen in months, tons of fun. To see them fueled by the enthusiasm of so many rabid fans warmed the heart on a cold and

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Not Me, You Fool!

Once again, you can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

This Would Make A Great Onion Headline

But it's not.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Hey, it looks like Genesis is reuniting. That's cool, but following last year's tease of a rumor that Peter Gabriel and guitar hero Steve Hackett would be on hand as well, and that Collins would stick mostly to drums, and that the material would concentrate on the pre-pop weird days, this comes as a bit of a disappointment.

Oh well. There's always the wonderful Musical Box. I'm thinking of seeing them do the entire "Selling England by the Pound" in a few weeks. Their "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" was ace.

Macca Attack

OK, so Paul McCartney is allegedly a wife beater, or something like that. I wonder what started this sudden escalation from recent ex-wife Heather Mills? Surely it can't be this curious little complaint, that Macca:

"Objected 'vociferously' when she asked to buy an antique bedpan to save her crawling to the toilet at night."


December's Children

I've always been a bit dubious about the Decemberists. Something about Colin Meloy's use of obscure and esoteric language feels flashy just for the sake of flash, and his defense (along the lines of "no one ever questions the type of words used in poetry") does him no favors. It takes a certain kind of person to liken himself a poet, and indeed that pretension - plus loads of whimsy - has kept me from embracing the group even as its acclaim and fame have grown.

And yet. The new album "Crane Wife" is great. Really great. The hooks are sharper, the melodies more moving, the lyrics somehow more sedate in their anachronistic, antiquated glory. Meloy and pals even frontload the disc with a veritable prog epic, a four-part suite that brings to mind Yes or Genesis (and sent me back to the latter's brilliant "Selling England by the Pound" to confirm that it really sounds like a cross between both).

The fact that the album doesn't fizzle out after that early 13-minute departure says a lot of Meloy's newfound focus. Was he aware of the pressures and expectations of a major label debut? Or is he just getting better? Either way, I'm the first in line to eat crow. Honestly, there's nothing more pleasurable to me than reappreciating a band that has disappointed me in the past by way of their superior new material. It happens less frequently than you think.

OK, back to business ...

The past few weeks have been pretty busy, with more than just kid's stuff, for once. The paper mysteriously turned the tap back on and the assignments have been flowing ever since. The past few days I've caught Madeleine Peyroux, Lily Allen and Evanescence on stage, three acts who could not possibly be any more different from one-another.

At the Evanescence show last night (a small venue deal in advance of a 2007 arena jaunt), I saw a guy with eye-liner and a light application of foundation. My first thought was, hey, a guy wearing make-up! And then I thought, duh, of course he his. For those unfamiliar with Evanescence, the neo-Christian group espouses a likewise neo-Goth fashion sense, with black clothes - and black everything, for that matter - the immutable look. Like the woe-is-me lyrics, however, it's all surface, and I was shocked by how boring it was live.

Lily Allen looked more or less how I felt at Evanescence, like she wanted to be anywhere else but Chicago. Who could really blame her? Her album (already out and a hit at home in the UK) doesn't come out here for three months, so why put a lot of oomph into a set when you know you'll be back in earnest later?

Peyroux has a similar F.U. sense about her, but she takes it out in the promotional machine and not her fans. In print she reads like a big crank, but she clearly loves performing. With a nice selection of covers - Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, Elliott Smith - she's like Norah Jones for the foreground rather than the background. Funny, though, how many people responded with whoops to her rendition of Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love." Yes, the word "love" throws folks off, but the songs a different sort of break-up number, inspired not by waning passions but by the prison ovens of the Holocaust.

That Leonard Cohen. Always good for a chuckle.

This Post is for Bethany

Hi Bethany!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Alma Complained I Haven't Been Posting Much, So Really, Alma, This Post is For You

Hi Alma!

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Tri*une and Star*ucks

Anyone wondering about the current state of newspapers should read (or skim, if you pardon the pun) this pointless Tribune piece about Starbucks customers making their own "ghetto lattes" out of cheaper espresso shots and the free in-store milk. Why? Because it really underscores how bad things have gotten in journalism when a Trib piece does little beyond reiterating, more or less, old-news internet forum debates about the ethics of said "ghetto lattes," despite the fact that Starbucks itself has already officially come out and essentially given "ghetto lattes" their blessing.

Like, where's the controversy? What's the news? Is it more or less ethical than Starbucks charging so much for a cappuccino, despite the fact that they're making out like bandits based on the relative costs of milk and froth (aka air), versus the cost of actual coffee used and consumed? How about the fact that Starbucks charges a premium price for their brew, despite the fact that their brew is less than premium since the company has to cut so many quality-control corners (Iike buying beans as well as the plantations that grow them in bulk) just to keep up with demand?

A better debate would be the ethics of walking into Starbucks with a cup and simply filling it up with free milk. The jury's still out on that one, though up in Canada we did just that for the sake of Baby Z. I did buy coffee first, and it wasn't a Starbucks, for that matter.

Also up for debate: walking into McDonald's a taking 100 ketchup packs.


Not to take too many shots (ha!) at Starbucks. I still maintain that were it not for that company we'd still be buying our coffee at McDonald's, and while I understand McD's now serves a better brew, I appreciate the fact that the nation has been awakened to the fact that the variety and variation of beans is not unlike the variety and variation of wine. But if you're going to offer free milk, don't be surprised if people take it. Save that shock for a paper willing to write about it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oh, Iggy!

Rumors of it have abounded for decades, but at last we have proof. Here, via the Smoking Gun, is Iggy Pop's tour rider. For the unintiated, the tour rider is what an artist provides a venue in advance, listing their wants and needs. Most are pretty straight forward - towels, beer. Some are more extravagent - I've heard Aretha Franklin demands lots of gold and fine china. But Iggy ... well, what else would you expect from Iggy?