Monday, August 25, 2008

Have you guys been keeping up with the leaks from the new Jeezy album? Do you know how much this album is going to rule? I mean Jesus Christ, this morning's one-two punch of "Welcome Back" and "Circulate" is just pure unalloyed disgusting confidence, Jeezy flexing a much-improved flow over these huge mythic instrumentals. Plus there's "Put On," my favorite single of the year. And looking at the tracklist, this thing is conspicuously low on big-name event-rap. Jeezy's last two albums (Let's Get It especially) are remarkably consistent slabs of evil, and this one has a good chance of being better than either. And if he actually manages to work in that recession-talk theme, which still hasn't happened on any of these tracks, all the better.

Speaking of big-name event-rap, let's talk about "Swagger Like Us." When the song showed up in my inbox Saturday morning, I was pretty sure it was a cobbled-together fake, especially when the M.I.A. sample and the discordant bleating John Carpenter synths first came in, like someone was cruelly manipulating me to get as amped as possible. But no, it's real, the four biggest rappers in the world rapping over an evil-sounding M.I.A. sample. And still it's somehow not that good. How does this happen? As hard as the beat knocks and as happy as I am to see M.I.A. getting this insane marquee look, that sample is really not a workable hook. And three of the four rappers practically fall asleep on the track; T.I.'s the only one who really works up any sort of froth. I mean, I like all the Oceans Eleven movies way more than anyone I know, and even I know that you can't just convince a bunch of famous people to show up and call it a day, you know?

Oh, and Biden? I'm good with that, I guess. Still. Fuck Delaware.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Somehow I'd never heard of the Gaslight Anthem before reading what Jon Caramanica wrote about them here, and I have to say I feel like a tool right now. Because The 59 Sound is absolutely kicking my ass right now and I can't believe I was missing out on something so completely up my lane. I'm pretty much going to like any punk band who does that burly grown-man belted-out quasi-folk Bouncing Souls/Alkaline Trio/Against Me thing. But the Gaslight Anthem do it with a real sense of sweep and style; the young-Springsteen comparisons Jon throws around are completely on point. And some of their songs are so sad, like great country songs. They get a little cute with the fuzzy-dice Americana imagery maybe, but holy shit this band rules. And I can't stand the idea that there's a whole world of bands like that out there and I just don't know about it since I stopped paying attention to these shitty Warped Tour Myspace emo bands. So do I just have to start reading now? Is that the only way to keep up?

Monday, August 18, 2008

You know why Obama shouldn't pick Joe Biden as a running mate? Delaware. I drove through that motherfucker yesterday, and it somehow gets worse every time I have to do that. If I can't drive through your state without wanting to stab myself in the neck, you shouldn't get to be vice president. It's really that simple.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Here are some things that happened at last night's Rancid show: They played one Op Ivy song: "Knowlege." They opened with "Radio" and then went straight into "Roots Radical," no pause; it ruled. At least a couple of people jumped off the ten-foot-high speaker-stacks into the crowd, but nobody seemed to get hurt. Somehow I got marked as the guy to talk to if you wanted to crowdsurf (I'm guessing it's because I'm tall), so I had to boost up like ten people, including this one skinhead guy in a Lamar Odom Clippers jersey who probably spent like half the damn show crowdsurfing. Matt Freeman played a total batshit lightspeed psychobilly bass-solo on "Maxwell Murder" that seemed to go on forever and pretty much obliterated everyone's brains. Tim Armstrong proved himself to be the one person alive who can wear a Matrix trenchcoat in 2008 and not look like a total herb; it was some sort of vato variation on it, but still. Their new drummer held it down even though he's the guy from the motherfucking lameass Used and I miss Bret Reed and I think it's pretty shitty that they got a mohawk guy for a drummer since I always liked the dynamic of Rancid being two mohawk guys and two non-mohawk guys. (Tim Armstrong's not a mohawk guy anymore, but he was, which is what matters.) During Sick of It All's opening set, they split the crowd down the middle and then had everyone run right at each other, which was crazy. Rancid played at least one song from every album, and I think they played for longer than I've ever seen them play. One guy ran up to me at one point and hugged me, and my eyes were all blurry with sweat so I couldn't tell if I knew him from Baltimore or something or if he was just some dude. I got all worried that my wedding ring would slip off my finger in the pit, but that didn't happen. I sweated through my T-shirt, for the first time in I couldn't even tell you how long. My brother took off his shirt, this bumblebee-striped polo thing he had to wear for work that day, and threw it, and then I kept seeing people throwing the shirt around like it was a beach ball at a Dave Matthews Band show.

That was the first of five Rancid shows at Irving Plaza. I briefly considered trying to go to all five, but then I realized that I am old. Good thing too; I am fucking dead today. It's an immensely, enormously gratifying thing to get to see your high-school heroes up close, still playing the fuck out of the songs that once kept you alive. (I think I might've sort of cried during "Who Would've Thought," can't totally remember.) But when that band is Rancid and people still mosh like they were fifteen even though they do not weigh what fifteen-year-olds weigh anymore, it takes it out of you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Never Back Down is basically the Drumline of pitfighting movies, and it still manages to kind of suck. But apparently nobody told Djimon Hounsou he was in a total piece-of-crap movie. He's got the Orlando Jones role, and still he gives this really intense and focused performance, and he looks better doing the UFC stuff than most of the younger folk in the movie. Good villain, too, but the people who make these movies need to stop inventing tragic backstories for their boring-ass heroes and instead just hire some actors who aren't totally charisma-free.

Outlaw Vern, who I guess has been around forever but who I just started reading, is quickly becoming my go-to source for cheesed-out action movie recommendations, so I have him to thank for Rogue, the Citizen Kane of direct-to-video crocodile-attack movies. It's an Australian movie from the Wolf Creek guy, but there's no horrible torture scenes in it because crocodiles don't torture people. And it's a real movie, with three-dimensional characters you mostly don't want to see eaten and a great slow build and a couple of incredibly tense scenes. I would've liked a few more cool death-scenes, but this is actually a pretty great horror movie. No idea why it's called Rogue, though. As far as I could tell, the crocodile didn't absorb the powers and memories of the people it touched; it just ate them.

Michael Phelps is from Baltimore and all, so go Michael Phelps, but I have to say this whole thing where you can get multiple gold medals for swimming is kind of bullshit. So the best basketball players from every country all come together, and the most that one team can hope for is one gold medal. Meanwhile one guy can win like ten of them just for swimming really fast because he wins a bunch of different types of swim-races. Shouldn't there just be one medal for swimming? Like, pick a type of race and stick with it. Or else give out gold medals for half-court basketball and three-on-three and dunk contests and shit. Maybe Horse or 21. It's only fair.

This Re-Up Gang album? Not that bad! OK, so there's "Fast Life," which basically sucks. (Though I like the line about "the coup got a mind of its own like Christine." Rappers, please reference old-school Stephen King more often. Also Clive Barker. Thanks.) And more than half the album is just We Got It 4 Cheap 3 tracks with different beats, which is weird because most of those beats were original in the first place and you don't need to clear samples on Koch. (And the "Dey Know" freestyle doesn't make any sense when it's not over the "Dey Know" beat.) But I like a lot of these new beats, these cheap plastic fake-Neptunes things. And the non-"Fast Life" new songs are all good. I like that one is called "Money" and one is called "Street Money"; it's important to differentiate.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I was pretty drunk during the Boredoms lots-of-drummers thing last year. I still remember it as one of my favorite events of the summer: amazing location, beautiful day, hordes of amped-up music-writer compatriots, free beer. I wish I could remember more about the music. All I can call up is Eye, trident upraised, smacking these horizontal bars and making these huge bwaaaaow noises while all the drummers went nuts around him. The Gang Gang Dance lots-of-drummers thing this past weekend wasn't the landmark event that last year was, but I'll probably remember the music more: waves of pulsating synth-glurgs and guitar-vrooms and house-music thuds, all the drummers surrounding the stage barely audible even though there were eleven more of them. Not being drunk probably helped too. Bridget and I spent most of it sitting by the river and looking at the Manhattan lights all slowly coming on. With that amazing synth racket behind me, it reminded me of the opening of Fulci's Zombi, underwater Moog-fuzz soundtracking that shot of Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry.

Another fun thing I did this weekend: Pineapple Express. When Shaun of the Dead wanted to switch from comedy to zombie movie, it was crazy abrupt: all this sad and gorey stuff happening, people crying and getting pulled apart and killing their loved ones and stuff. When Pineapple Express becomes a violent action movie, it manages to keep the ramshackle stoner-fuckup sensibility it'd already worked up, thank God. But also: a violent action movie! In 2008! The fights in Pineapple Express are great because you can tell what's going on and because the people involved look like they're actually getting the shit kicked out of them, hitting their heads on bathroom sinks and shit.

So I can finally talk about my new gig now. CBS Interactive (the thing that bought CNET) is starting a new music blog, and I'll be writing for it. Former Spin and Blender editor Craig Marks is running it, and the other writer they've hired is Andy Greenwald, who wrote the emo bible Nothing Feels Good, so you know this shit is legit. The site's called Juke, and it'll launch in the fall. This won't be that much like Status; I'll be writing a whole bunch of posts every day rather than spending forever ranting about one thing, and I'll have actual editors, so hopefully I won't disappear so far up my ass so often. I'll put something up here when the thing actually launches. So there it is. I hope you guys read it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm reeling from the idea that we lost Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac in the same weekend. Both way too young, both basically geniuses, both captured at the absolute height of their powers headlining great documentaries (Wattstax for Hayes, Kings of Comedy for Bernie Mac). Hayes played a free show at the Prospect Park bandshell just a couple of months ago. He was definitely looking pretty frail, to the point where he had to stay seated most of the time and people had to lead him on and offstage. But his voice sounded exactly the same as it always had, and he was robust enough to do a full show without losing his place or running out of steam or forgetting the words to "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." The first graph of the Status review I wrote for that show was one of my favorite things that I wrote in those last few months, and today it almost reads as a premature obit:

Isaac Hayes co-wrote "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Comin'" for Sam & Dave. He played the Duke in Escape From New York. He recorded a ten-minute disco-funk epic about threesomes. He headlined the 1972 Wattstax festival wearing a vest made out of chains. He showed up on "I Can't Go to Sleep," one of the most hallucinatory songs in Wu-Tang Clan history, basically playing Ghostface's conscience. He wrote the euphoric "Theme From Shaft" and won an Oscar for it, becoming the first-ever black non-actor to win one. In the early 70s, he routinely turned Burt Bacharach pop standards into unrecognizable woozy endless psych-funk odysseys, which then became hits. At an age when most of his peers were either dead or fading away on the nostalgia circuit, he accepted a voice-actor role on a gleefully offensive cartoon about kids made from construction-paper cutouts, playing a character that spoofed his sexed-out persona, and he scored one of his biggest-ever international hits in character. Basically, Isaac Hayes is one of the most unfadeable badasses in pop-music history, and so it was an unpleasant shock to see that a stagehand had to help him to the stage at the Prospect Park bandshell last night.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Bernie Mac RIP. This fucking blow.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Erykah Badu really put it down on Monday night at Wingate Field out in Flatbush. I really love those Wingate shows. Out of all the free-concert series that take over New York every summer, the Wingate one is probably my favorite, even though they don't sell any food inside the venue and it takes forever to get out of Flatbush at night. It's a huge venue, basically high-school football field with a bigass stage attached, and you can show up just a little while before the show and still get in, as long as you don't mind listening to Marty Markowitz talk about civic pride for like an hour. (It's more fun than it sounds.) And they actually book acts who people want to see. Like Erykah Badu.

Badu's recent psyche-soul earth-mother kick is basically tremendously pretentious all the way around, but she makes it work because she commits to it completely. She's got presence for days, she can sing her ass off, and the band she's got these days (flute player and all) know exactly how to play off of her and follow her cues. I couldn't get all the way behind New Amerykah because there's practically not a single hook on the whole record, but that's not as much of a problem live because you know she's got "Tyrone" and "Bag Lady" in the chamber and ready to go whenever people get too restless. (She's also really funny, which helps.) A Fluxblog-type setlist for the Monday night show would be like this: some song / some song / Erykah taps on a drum and makes weird mouth noises for a couple of minutes / something that Andy Beta said was an Ethiopian love-dance or something / long dorm-room bong-hit monologue about a documentary she saw one time / some song. But she's got enough force of personality to make it work, and whenever the jumbotron camera would zoom in on her face, with its giant afro-wig, when she was hitting a high note, she'd look like the Maggot Brain cover, which I liked. And it was sort of a blessing that the crowd thinned out a bunch before she finished; it gave everyone room to move. I was standing near the back of the field, and during the last song a crowd of about a hundred people, all standing near me, started doing the Electric Slide for some reason. It ruled. People need to do that at shows more.

Also, I thought it was really smart that Badu's DJ started the show by playing "A Millie" and then cutting it off right at the "where is Erykah Badu at" part.

A quick point about the whole Badu-having-kids-with-rappers thing that everyone was getting upset about a few weeks ago: Nobody's mentioned that Badu has really good taste in rappers to have kids with. Andre 3000, the D.O.C., and Jay Electronica are all great rappers! And I have this vague idea that they all seem like they'd be pretty good dads, especially the D.O.C. I like the idea that there's a kid in a backyard somewhere playing catch with that guy, anyway. And meanwhile she dated Common's lame ass forever but never had his kid. Good job, Erykah Badu!

Monday, August 04, 2008

So Doomsday. How did the guy who made The Descent, probably the best horror movie of the past five years or so, manage to fuck up his big post-apocalyptic set-piece so completely? Seriously, I'm not exactly a hard guy to please with this stuff. If you make a post-apocalyptic movie, there's a pretty good chance I'll like it. I liked Waterworld, you know? I liked Reign of Fire and the last Resident Evil movie. (First two ones not so much.) And it's not even that Neil Marshall is completely and obviously biting the living hell out of The Road Warrior and Escape From New York, though he definitely is. It's that he managed to put this piece of crap together with no cool villains, no halfway intriguing characters, no comprehensible fight-scenes, no good one-liners. And the scenarios aren't cool or believable; they're just bullshit. Like, for instance, if you were a survivor in walled-off isolated plague-decimated Scotland, would you grow a mohawk and tattoo your face and go all nuts cheering for your roid-freak leader in a big death stadium while he sets intruders on fire and then eats them? Or would you go wear medieval armor and live in a castle and allow a vague philosophy-spouting Malcolm McDowell to become your leader? Because neither of those options looks all that great to me, frankly. Fuck Doomsday.