Diamond in the Rough

SHINE ON YOU TACKY DIAMOND Let us now praise Rick Rubin, the burly bearded Buddha-man with a Slayer jones and a hard-on for Donovan’s soft underbelly, for he truly is a man for our season. We live in a time where the once vast continuum of recorded music can be instantaneously traversed with the click of a mouse, affording the great unwashed the kind of helicopter-eye overview that was once the sole privilege of record store clerks, promophiliac critics and music-biz poohbahs like Rubin, who have the fuck-you money to buy everything and the limitless leisure time to actually listen […]

These Monkees Gone To Heaven

Discussed: FRANK BLACK FRANCIS Black Francis Demo Spinart NIRVANA With the Lights Out Geffen ELLIOTT SMITH From a Basement on the Hill Dreamworks Okay, everybody who’s not a member of Franz Ferdinand, please raise your hand if you’re bored with the ’80s revival. I see, I see. Thanks, you can put your hands down. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t just me. Still, I have to say that one of my very favorite CDs released this year was recorded in 1987. The first disc is a one-take hootenanny of nearly all the songs that would appear on the Pixies’ Come on […]

Rock Snob Loot

The Wilco Book (PictureBox Inc.) If you’re one of those Being There dead-enders who thinks Wilco has long since crossed the line from artsy to fartsy, you might want to pass on this. But if you quietly applaud Tweedy and co.’s courage to continually tear up the script in the pursuit of creative spontaneity and musical discovery, then this is for you. It’s a handsomely illustrated doodle pad in which band members wax poetic about the art of rock and the building blocks that make it possible, with essays by Rick Moody and Henry Miller and a CD of unreleased […]

Riddle Me This

Reckoning รท Crooked Rain Crooked Rain = Around the Sun? Twenty years ago — let’s just pause and think about that for a sec, 20 years ago — R.E.M. released Reckoning. It was the much-anticipated sophomore release by the underground’s then-favorite sons of the South. The album made good on the kudzu-crusted promise of the band’s bewitching and ultimately confounding debut Murmur, radiating a murky but hopeful aura to an alt-world grown weary of punk’s safety-pinned doom and goth’s spider web of gloom. “I’m the sun and you can read,” they sang, or at least that’s what it sounded like–you […]

Bono’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother

Or why U-2 Does Not Suck (Despite What You May Have Heard) Because some bands have greatness thrust upon them and other bands thrust greatness upon themselves. Because U2 knew that if they had it both ways, they could be bigger than Jesus. Because in the early ’80s, if you listened closely, you could actually hear Bono’s mullet. Because the Edge figured out early on that with the right ratios of pinging echo to pealing delay, the electric guitar could build cathedrals of sound that are holier than thou. Because Bozo-haired bassist Adam Clayton and pretty boy drummer Larry Mullen […]

Ryan’s Hype

Ryan Adams Love Is Hell, Pt. 1 Love Is Hell, Pt. 2 Rock N Roll My fantasy Paris Hilton porno tape is a never-ending security cam loop of the bottle-blond heiress working behind the counter of a 7-Eleven. No nudity, no sex — just her ringing up Twinkies and cigarettes and doling out Lottos in grainy black-and-white, humbled by the indignity of earning an honest, modest living. Now that would be hot. I’m pretty sure there’s a market for a similar tape starring Ryan Adams. Like Paris, Adams is famous for reasons that remain unclear to most — he was […]

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things

Elliott Smith, 1969-2003. Near the end of The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson’s storybook cinematic fable of wasted potential, the character of Richie, a disgraced world-class tennis player with a dark secret, looks soulfully into the bathroom mirror. It’s impossible to say what he’s thinking — he looks scared, confused, angry, on the verge. A tensely strummed acoustic guitar spirals in the background, accompanying a hushed, faintly ominous vocal. It’s Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay.” Richie picks up a scissors and methodically, if crudely, crops his shoulder-length tresses down to the scalp. He lathers up his lumberjack beard and shaves […]

Anarchy in the A.C.

Okay Mr. Punk Friggin’ Rock. Before we even get started, you need to come down off your high horse. Take it slow, big fella. You’re not as young as you used to be, and it’s a long way down. All right, both feet on the ground? Good. Yes it’s true, the Sex Pistols played at the Donald’s Trump Marina casino on Saturday night, and you know what? They rocked, without apology. Like they meant it, man. At this late date — some 25 years removed from the filth and the fury of their snot-caked birth — what more could you […]

Decades Under The Influence

My Surefire Predictions For The Future Every generation gets the future it deserves — which, with precise karmic symmetry, usually works out to be a revival of the decade 20 years prior to the present. Like clockwork, the decade 20 years past is retrieved from the dustbin of history and embraced, semi-ironically, as a totem of wet-eyed nostalgia for those who survived it and a gauche treasure chest of kitschy exotica for those too young to have actually experienced it. In the ’70s, it was the ’50s, with Happy Days and oldies sock-hops. In the ’80s, it was the ’60s, […]