31 March 2010
29 March 2010
28 March 2010
24 March 2010
21 March 2010
19 March 2010
18 March 2010
Alex Chilton passed away suddenly in New Orleans last night, of a heart attack they say. He was way too young to go: only 59.
A cult icon for most of his career, Chilton's got his start in the '60s when he fronted The Box Tops at the tender age of 16 and scored hits like "The Letter," "Soul Deep" and "Cry Like a Baby." It was his work with Big Star during the '70s that cemented his stature as a legend, though, through a trio of distinctive albums (#1 Record, Radio City, Third/Sister Lovers) that virtually laid the foundation for indie rock. Unfortunately, like so many other cult stars, Chilton's work was largely met with indifference by the record buying public, despite widespread critical acclaim. Maybe now people will listen.
Sadly, Chilton was set to play with the reunited Big Star at SXSW this weekend.
17 March 2010
16 March 2010
13 March 2010
11 March 2010
10 March 2010
09 March 2010
Once upon a time, in the days before the shopping mall, a tremendous amount of care went into the windows displays of men's clothing shops. Leaders in the Ivy League look like Brooks Brothers in New York and J. Press in Connecticut set the tone, but there were similar shops the length and width of the country and during their heyday, those window displays nothing short of meticulously assembled mini-masterpieces.
San Francisco's Financial District is home to one of the survivors of that fine tradition, Cable Car Clothiers at 200 Bush Street, and its windows are just as majestically appointed now as in years past. There are shops in the city selling similar gear – in fact, there's a Brooks Brothers mere blocks away on Post Street – but only the Cable Car window displays offer such splendid little snapshots of sartorial elegance...
08 March 2010
07 March 2010
The Academy Awards are today, and it's still a little shocking that despite expanding the nominations from five to 10, the contest for Best Picture is more or less between two films: Avatar and The Hurt Locker. That's especially a shame because while The Hurt Locker is a worthy of recognition, Avatar really shouldn't be on any list including the word "best," unless it's for the relatively small field of best 3D effects, or maybe there could be a new category: Most Finely Polished Turd.
People say Avatar was an amazing experience. Good films are judged on more than that, though, and ignoring the unique way Avatar was presented, there's really not much to recommend about the film. Even people who like it admit the story wasn't particularly good and there wasn't anything to separate the acting from that of any other big budget action flick. But it raked in pile after giant pile of money and the Hollywood press breathlessly dubbed it a "game changer," so obviously, it deserves an Oscar nomination.
Meanwhile, brilliant pieces of filmmaking like A Serious Man, District Nine, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Up and Up in the Air and are all considered long shots in the Best Picture category. That's the irony of it all: For once the nominations are packed with genuinely great films, there's a better than good chance the film that didn't even deserve the nomination will win the actual award.
For what it's worth, here are my picks:
06 March 2010
I was a little too young to be aware of the Runaways when they were actually together, but I do remember the huge and sudden impact Joan Jett had on music a few years later. I saw Jett at one of the first live shows I went to in the early ‘80s and she had a truly magnetic stage presence, dangerous as well as transfixing. Her genuine achievements – the Runaways were the first all-girl rock band, Jett’s Blackheart records was the first record label started by a woman, a string of platinum albums and Top 40 singles, including the chart topping “I Love Rock and Roll” – haven’t exactly been celebrated over the years, but I’m guessing the upcoming Runaways film will change that. It could turn out a hot mess, but the casting seems impeccable and there’s an energy to the trailers that suggests Hollywood may gave gotten a rock biopic right for a change. Michael Shannon certainly seems dead-on as creepster Svengali Kim Fowley, and if you compare the trailers to clips of actual Runaways performances from the ‘70s, both Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning seem to be channeling Joan Jett and Cherie Currie amazingly well...
05 March 2010
Look! It's Paul Weller performing "Start" at the 2010 NME Awards a couple weeks, with Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and Gem Archer (Oasis) on guitar. Weller was awarded the recipient of the NME's "Godlike Genius" award, which carries on in the fine tradition of the magazine'sridiculously hyperbolic reader's poll categories like "Most Wonderful Human Being," which Weller won three years in a row between 1980-82.
This latest award probably owes more to the fact Weller won "Best Songwriter" and The Jam was "Best Vocal Group" in the NME reader's poll four years in a row (1979-82), not to mention the fact The Jam's All Mod Cons, Setting Sons, Sound Affects and The Gift were all voted "Best Album."
Once staunchly against delving into his rich back catalogue, songs by The Jam made up half his set at the awards ceremony. It appears to have sounded great, it's a little disappointing that the fierce young Mod who lectured Pete Townshend on the evils of including "My Generation" in The Who's live set back in 1980 has made something of a ritual out of closing his own shows with "Town Called Malice."
04 March 2010
When a friend of mine recommended Sia's Some People Have Real Problems to me back in 2008, I couldn't have been more skeptical. My sole exposure to Sia Furler up to that point was the half-remembered video for an early single called "Breathe Me," which I vaguely recalled thinking was pretty clever. The video, that is; the song hadn't made much of an impression on me. I gave Some People Have Real Problems a listen, though, and not only did I like it, but it wound up being one of my favorite albums that year.
And now she has a new album, We Are Born, on the way and "You've Changed" is the first single:
03 March 2010
02 March 2010
A 30-year-old Jonathan Ross interviewing a 32-year-old Paul Weller: The freshly minted Paul Weller Movement is discussed, Modernism is compared to Catholicism, Weller dismisses the term "rock star" as an insult and tribute is paid to (then) recently deceased Steve Marriott via a cover of Small Faces classic "Tin Soldier."
A mere two years later, Weller's solo career blew up with the critically acclaimed Wild Wood, before Stanley Road became his best selling album.
After which he became a rock star.
01 March 2010
For fans of British ska/pop icons Madness, 2009 was something of a banner year: Not only was the band's first album of new material in 10 year, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, a career highlight, but front man Suggs released his first book, Suggs and the City: My Journeys Through Disappearing London.
Released within months of each other, the more cynics amongst us might wonder if the pub date of the latter was timed to cash in the success of the former, but when both record and book are so clearly cut from the same cloth, why quibble? "From Regent's Park mosque on to Baker Street, down to the Cross, where all the pipes smoke neat. To Somers Town where some things never stop, the Roundhouse, the Marathon Bar in Camden Lock," Suggs intones on Folgate's opening track, but he could just as easily be reeling that list off in the opening pages to his book. Both are born of Madness' enduring love affair with Britain's capital, especially the city's more quintessential aspects, and only a few pages into Suggs and the City it's obvious Suggs has more to say about London than even a full album's worth of songs might allow.
Based in part on Suggs' ITV series, Disappearing London, the book is the singer's firsthand account of his excursions into the history of an extraordinary city that is fast disappearing from view. Moving from the bars and cafes of Soho through the pubs of Camden Town, then winding his way through London's music halls to the heart of the music industry on Denmark Street and on to various eateries, football grounds and cinemas, there's hardly an aspect of London's rich and varied urban history Suggs doesn't cover. Not all of the information is indispensable and some of the recounted stories may well be more fiction than fact, but it's all thoroughly entertaining, if not a bit sad at times.
Indeed, Suggs laments many cafes, pubs, restaurants and music halls that that have vanished as he wrote, sadly underlining the timely accuracy of his book's sub-title. There are maps at the beginning of each chapter with markers for the Suggs visited, but all but three of the maps have listed marked with asterisks and a legend that reads: "No longer operating as described in text." The book never descends into self-pitying preservationist rhetoric, though, instead merely asking readers to appreciate the city's many wonders while they still exist.
Far from a standard city guide, the real charm of Suggs and the City is how effortlessly Suggs manages to infuse his quirky tour of this every-changing city with his own character, salting in personal recollections amongst the numerous anecdotes and at times making the book as much a glimpse into his own history as it is London's. Best of all, Suggs' conversational style makes the book a quick and easy read that is both entertaining and informative, whilst never working too hard at one or the other.
Highly recommended, then, and although being a Madness fan may make Suggs and the City somewhat more enjoyable for some, it's definitely not a prerequisite for this heartfelt love letter to one the world's greatest cities.
A couple of clips from the ITV show...
Suggs and Steven Fry visit a tobacconist:
Followed by a tour of the Granada Cinema in Tooting: