Deep Thoughts: About New Beck, Old Wars, John Prine And How To Give A Dirty Santorum

As a boy I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes when I grew up, but now I’m thinking I wanna be Nigel Godrich. Seriously, the “it” boy producer’s life is most people’s idea of a rock ’n’ roll fantasy camp. Just take a look at his day planner for the last couple of years. Monday: Give Paul McCartney edge. Tuesday: Dial back Thom Yorke’s edge. Wednesday: Make Beck a man. Ironically, it’s the latter who suffers the greatest cred deficit these days. Some say Beck jumped the shark back at Midnite Vultures. Others lost faith when they found out he was a […]

Gitmo Jukebox

Just Like War, Torture Is Over If You Want It Like STDs or race relations, torture is the great unspeakable. Nobody will talk about it. Not your friends or your family, not your congressman or Fox News and certainly not our president. He won’t even use the T-word—he calls it “alternative interrogation” like it’s something you’d see on the midway at Lollapalooza. Well, you can call rape “a forced backrub with benefits,” but it’s still rape. Perhaps the least heinous of all reported U.S. torture techniques was the blasting of Eminem and Dr. Dre at teeth-rattling volume into the virgin […]

Mystery Tramps

New Morning For Dylan Or I Hate Paris In The Fall Hi, kids. Welcome back! You can leave your summer book reports on The Stranger and the cruel meaninglessness of existence so-why-even-bother? — in 800 words or less — on my desk after class. And be forewarned, anyone still pronouncing the author’s name like “anus” is simply not going to pass this class. On a happier note, I have a fun assignment for you today: Compare and contrast the new Bob Dylan album Modern Times with the new Paris Hilton album, which is called … wait for it … Paris. Why all those frowns? What’s […]

Salty Dogs: M. Ward And The Pirates Of Doom

Blood, Sweat And Come: Folk Music Takes No Prisoners Folk music gets a bad rap, having long ago been relegated to the leafy retreats of crunchy granola ninnies in white socks and Birkenstocks, where its rough-hewn hymnals were gutted by time and the ’60s, and reduced to politically correct acoustica, liberal bromides and impotent protest. What’s missing from most people’s assumptions about folk music is the blood, sweat and come, not to mention the staggering body counts, laments for lost limbs, dead wives, drowned babies and hard rains. And that’s just the happy songs.Velveteen folk-rocker M. Ward is self-schooled in […]

Dead Flowers: Syd, Arthur & The Acid-Minded Professor

Chalk it up to karmic coincidence that the deaths of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and Love’s Arthur Lee—two of ’60s psychedelia’s most beloved and drug-damaged souls—should bookend the recent publication of Robert Greenfield’s Timothy Leary: A Biography. Though Leary has been dead 10 years, Greenfield wakes his trippy ghost and, à la A Christmas Carol, forces it to confront the damning facts of his past: his reckless acid-for-all advocacy (Leary never really bothered to point out that, um, maybe children and the mentally unstable should not take LSD); his snake-oil charm and countercultural carpetbagging (from stoner Harvard prof to gun-toting […]

Karma Police, Arrest This Blonde

A Bush Twin Claps Thom Yorke’s Eraser. The cosmic bargain, shook on long ago, clearly states you can’t pick your parents or your fans. This partly explains why Thom Yorke, so famously tormented by Radiohead’s dizzying ascendancy, has been trying to thin the herd with increasingly inscrutable sounds and arrangements, constantly second-guessing the band’s instinct for anthems with arty and invariably electronic detours. The intent, aside from making some strikingly original music, was to scare off the sheep like a boozy fratboy trying to intimidate a blind date with high speed and fast turns. Except when Yorke finally pulls up to […]

Wake Me Up When The ’80s Are Over (Again)

Gettin’ Your Hot Chip All Up In My Brightblack Morning Light Back in the early mid-’80s that today’s hep cats so lovingly fetishize and cloyingly recycle, there were two kinds of bands. Those that looked forward and those that looked back. The forward-lookers were going for the shock of the new, of course, while the backward-lookers opted for the comfort of the past. The forward-lookers were usually British, had pouffy hair and billowy pastel clothes that snapped and zippered in weird places and all of them seemed to get their names from either A Clockwork Orange or Barbarella— Duran Duran, Heaven 17, […]

Death To The Pixies!

All Good Monkeys Go To Heaven A word of warning: This is gonna be one of those columns where I go on and on about my little monkey shines with famous alt-rock personalities. Millions of people love it when I do that, but others seem to get very, very angry about it, stomp their feet and write mean letters that hurt my feelings. If that sounds like you, stop reading right now. I’m serious. I don’t want to even see you in the second paragraph. Set the Wayback Machine to 1988. I’m a college DJ stranded in the middle of […]

WAR OF DISTORTION Mr. Young Goes To Washington When Stephen Colbert hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner — the annual D.C. puppet show where reporters play pattycake with the Prez — he rode the Trojan Horse of Truthiness right up to the President’s table and unleashed its hidden contents: a disinfecting dose of reality-based reality, thinly-coated with irony for easier digestion, though impossible to swallow for those weaned on Fox News comfort food. Speaking truth to power at point blank-range, Colbert’s barbs essentially added up to: The emperor has no clothes, and all of you, the Fourth Estate, have become nothing more […]

Amazing Grace

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN WE SHALL OVERCOME: THE SEEGER SESSIONS It’s no accident that you don’t really know what Pete Seeger did. That he’s truly larger than life, an American original, the kind that walk out of storybooks, like Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed, but more real. That he more or less singlehandedly carried the burden of pure roll-up-your-sleeves and speak-truth-to-power lefty populism, social justice and humanitarian conscience on his back for the better part of the 20th Century, with amazing grace and without complaint. For his trouble he’s been tarred and feathered, beaten and blacklisted, and officially written out of history […]

At The Twilight’s Last Gleaming

The Lonesome Crowded Death Of Grandaddy And All Who Sailed With It The posthumous album by Grandaddy opens with the forlorn voice of a child simultaneously invoking the album’s title and asking the question innocents invariably ask in the wake of a divorce, fire, flood, hurricane, towering inferno, earthquake or Poseidon adventure: What Ever Happened To The Family Cat? Trust me kid, you don’t want to know. As you have no doubt heard by now, this will be the final Grandaddy album and, really, that should come as no surprise. Most bands have a shelf life of ten years tops — five […]

Cosmic Americana

THE FLAMING LIPS At War With The Mystics (Warner Bros.) Having become sentient in the mid-’70s, somewhere in the middle of that that vast mountainous Pennsyltucky between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, I had a front row seat to one of the places where the ’60s went to die: the hinterlands. While more cosmopolitan zip codes were sampling disco, cocaine, Members Only jackets and punk, all I could see growing up was ex-greaser shitkickers in dirty bellbottoms, Greg Brady haircuts, faded Dark Side of The Moon T-shirts and knocked-up girlfriends in peasant dresses billowing with pre-natal pulchritude, blasting Zep, Floyd and Yes […]