Oct 25 2010

you’re sucking all over me

It turns out I saw an indie-rock legend last week and I didn’t even know it.  That’s probably because his band suuuuuuuuuuhuuuuuuuucks.  J Mascis is the drummer for a band called Sweet Apple, who are keeping the seventies alive with songs that weren’t very interesting when Thin Lizzy and Golden Earring first recorded them thirty-five years ago.  They opened for Guided by Voices last week.   And if the lead singer hadn’t tripped over his shoelaces four or five times, they wouldn’t have been entertaining at all.  Feel the pain, indeed.

Oct 21 2010

forgive me, father pollard…

…for I have rocked too hard.

Oct 6 2010

black cat, black cat

The autumn concert-going season kicks off this evening with a trip to the Black Cat to see Pete Yorn.  The Black Cat is my favorite music venue in DC, because even when it’s sold out it’s never crowded.  For a long time I wondered why this was, because a sold-out 9:30 Club is nuts to butts.  But recently my architect friend Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo explained it to me.  Because the main stage of the Black Cat is on the second floor, the width of the exit stairs is the primary factor in determining occupant load.  The stairs are narrower than the size of the concert hall requires, so the hall cannot by law be completely filled.  It sucks for the Black Cat, but it works out well for you and me.  Look for me there tonight way back by the sound board – where the crowd is thin and I’m closer than most to the fire exit.

Anyway, Pete Yorn will be approximately the thousandth artist I’ve seen at the Black Cat.  And since he’s not quite Rocktober-worthy, here’s a little taste of the first.

Jul 6 2010

i wanna be mesmerizing too

Liz Phair released a new album through her website over the weekend.  The first… uh, single, I guess, is called “Bollywood” and it signifies a bold new direction for Liz.  It’s become increasingly clear that, like Weezer and Ryan Adams before her, her career has evolved into an elaborate and unending piece of performance art.  Or practical joke.

You might think that moment had come with the release seven years ago of a pop song called “Hot White Cum” that celebrates semen as a solution for healthy skin, among other ailments.  But you’d be wrong.  “Bollywood” makes that song seem like a good idea.

Jun 21 2010

bloodbuzz ohio

This is a watershed moment here at hotrod.vox.com.  For the first time in over four years, our humble blog is sponsored by a song that is both current and relevant.  But more specifically, current.  The latest by the National – High Violet – has only been out for a little over a month.  It’s spent five weeks (and counting!) on the Billboard charts, peaking at number one.  Here’s the band performing our titular song on Letterman on the same day as our latest anti-Netflix rant.

I’m not sure why I bought this record.  Nobody has ever specifically recommended the National to me, and I didn’t – at the time – own any of their other records.  (And though I’ve since bought Boxer, I’m kind of indifferent about it.)  I would say that Pitchfork told me to, but they’ve given high marks to plenty of records with which I haven’t bothered.  At any rate, I’m glad I did.  I’ve listened to little else over the past few weeks.  The National are from Cincinnati in the same way that the Hold Steady are from Minneapolis – which is to say that they’re actually from Brooklyn.  But if they were from Queen City for real, they’d be the third best Cincinnati band after Afghan Whigs and the Newspaper Taxis.

May 16 2010

collect them all!

I’ve never really thought before about what my favorite songs are once you get past the top five or ten.  So I didn’t have any major crises of conscience (read: Coldplay) when it came to expanding that list to the Hotrod Top 100.*

ABBA – Waterloo/AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long/Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)/The Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby/The Beach Boys – Sloop John B/The Beatles – She Loves You/The Beatles – Ticket to Ride/Beulah – Night Is the Day Turned Inside Out/Big Star – September Gurls/Big Star – Thirteen/Billy Bragg – Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards/Billy Bragg & Wilco – California Stars/Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive/Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – I See A Darkness/Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart/Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Brilliant Disguise/Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Thunder Road/Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69/Buddy Holly and the Crickets – Everyday/Built to Spill – Car/The Clash – I Fought the Law/The Clash – Rudie Can’t Fail/The Clash – (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais/Creedence Clearwater Revival – Lodi/The Cure – Close to Me/Dar Williams – Highway Patrolman/David Bowie – “Heroes”/David Bowie – Space Oddity/David Bowie – Suffragette City/Def Leppard – Photograph/Del Shannon – Runaway/Derek and the Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues/Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen/Don Henley – The Boys of Summer/Dusty Springfield – Son of a Preacher Man/Elton John – Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters/Elvis Costello and the Attractions – High Fidelity/Elvis Costello and the Attractions – No Action/Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds/Everclear – Wonderful/Flaming Lips – Bad Days/Fleetwood Mac – Second Hand News/The Grifters – Holmes/Guns N’ Roses – Rocket Queen/Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine/The J. Geils Band – Centerfold/The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back/Jackson Browne – Somebody’s Baby/The Jayhawks – Blue/Johnny Cash – Wreck of the Old 97/Johnny Cash – Sunday Morning Coming Down/Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’/Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone/The Kinks – The Village Green Preservation Society/Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks/Liz Phair – Divorce Song/Lyle Lovett – The Girl in the Corner/Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird/Madonna – True Blue/Matthew Sweet – Sick of Myself/Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs – Stay/Michael Jackson – Billie Jean/Neko Case – I Wish I Was the Moon/Neko Case – That Teenage Feeling/Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945/Night Ranger – Sister Christian/The Old 97’s – Big Brown Eyes/The Old 97’s – Designs on You/The Old 97’s – If My Heart Was a Car/Outkast – Hey Ya!/Palace Music – Ohio River Boat Song/Pavement – Range Life/Peter, Paul, and Mary – Stewball/The Pixies – Here Comes Your Man/Prince – Little Red Corvette/Prince – Purple Rain/Queen – Fat Bottomed Girls/Radiohead – Creep/The Replacements – Achin’ to Be/The Rolling Stones – Let it Bleed/The Rolling Stones – Tumbling Dice/The Ronettes – Be My Baby/Roy Orbison – In Dreams/Sam Cooke – (What a) Wonderful World/Sinéad O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U/Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – The Tracks of My Tears/The Temptations – Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)/Tom Petty and the Heatbreakers – American Girl/Tom Waits – Jockey Full of Bourbon/The Traveling Wilburys – Handle With Care/Uncle Tupelo – Gun/Van Halen – Ice Cream Man/Van Halen – Jump/The Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning/Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London/The White Stripes – The Hardest Button to Button/Wilco – Box Full of Letters/Willie Nelson – Sad Songs and Waltzes/The Wrens – She Sends Kisses/The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps

* There are 101 songs, but that’s because I like to include the ‘Honorable Mention’ on the lists I make.

May 6 2010

italics mine

I recently watched Adventureland.  I picked it up at a discount when Video Vault closed on the hope that for ten bucks I’d want to watch it more than once.  I chose wisely.  The story is not a sprawling epic novel like War and Peace.  Rather, it’s a small and mostly quiet short story about one youthful summer.  Adventureland was directed by Greg Mottola, who previously directed Superbad, and the movie’s sweetness is a nice counterpoint to Mottola’s earlier and raunchier work.  The movies are cut from the same cloth, though, and it’s not difficult to see the character of James, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg (also seen in the best movie of 2009: Zombieland), as an extension of Michael Cera’s.  They even share some of the same (consciously unassuming) mannerisms.

Yo La Tengo wrote the score for the movie, but what stands out most are the songs – which I know from the commentary were written into the script.  (Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” is actually a minor plot point.)  At first, some of the songs bothered me.  “Pale Blue Eyes” – from the Velvet Underground’s self-titled album The Velvet Underground – seemed a little obvious until I realized it was supposed to be on a mix-tape James made for Kristin Stewart (as seen in the Twilight movies, which were based on the Twilight books) who does have pale blue eyes.  The music is obvious in the movie because it would be obvious in real life.  My favorite musical moment was the selection of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – which played over a fireworks display in the middle and was one of the more perfect marriages of music to imagery and tone I have ever seen in a movie.  In fact, the movie critic for Slate managed to irk me in her review of Adventureland – titled “Back in the Summer of ’87” – with the following observation: “…includes a few classic ’80s touchstones (the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” the Replacements’ “Unsatisfied”) but also unearths worthy smaller hits like Crowded House’s…” [Italics mine.]  I’m sorry, but “Just Like Heaven” reached #40.  “Unsatisfied” didn’t chart at all.  “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – from Crowded House’s debut Crowded House – went all the way to #2 on the Billboard charts.  The song is certainly worthy, but in no one’s conception of reality – except, I guess, Dana Stevens from Slate – is it “smaller.”

The critical reception to Adventureland was somewhat spotty.  I have a few critics I like to read after I watch a movie, and in most cases they tend to be along the same wavelength as me.  They’re not quite so aligned with this one.  You already read my beef with the critic from Slate.  David Edelstein, from New York Magazine, on the other hand suggests that what makes the movie “…such an unexpectedly potent little number is that Adventureland comes to stand for Stagnationland; the real roller coaster (i.e., life) is just outside the park.”  My go-to critic for years has been Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, but unfortunately he was less bullish on Adventureland, saying in part…  Well, actually I don’t know what it says because Rolling Stone has redesigned their website, making it much tougher to search for these things – but his blurb on Metacritic says “Adventureland throws a lot at us, but not enough of it sticks.”  And I have enormous and obvious respect for Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times; I just wish he’d written something that would make a good blurb.

All in all, though, I would recommend Adventureland to almost anybody.  It was definitely more enjoyable than that conference – Italics and Quotation Marks in the Written Word – I went to recently at the University of Minnesota.  I attended a panel on “Titles of Works.” Borrrrrrrrr-innnnng.

Apr 9 2010

treading water

Okay, okay.  I know.  Really, I do.  I’m waaaaaaaay behind.  I get it.  You don’t have to hound me.  I just haven’t much felt like writing of late.  Yes, there are several outstanding items that require my attention  And yes, I will address these topics in the coming week:

High Church of the Indie Rock Orthodoxy (DC Chapter): Last week I saw Wilco and Vampire Weekend, and both shows were worthy of much more than my meager-to-nonexistent commentary.  I aim to right that wrong.

The Onion AV Club Undercover: It would be generous to call my half-assed introduction to this new feature, which was to recur over the next half a year, “cryptic.”  I’m now three weeks behind, and there has already been a modest surprise.  No, it’s not Bryan Adams covering “I Will Dare,” but Lord knows I wish it was.

Photos From My Bike: I don’t even know how many weeks past due I am on these posts.  I’ve lost track, and it would probably depress me to pay attention to the date on my introduction.  Skipping a week for weather-related reasons certainly didn’t help with my sense of urgency.  This topic is the most important of these three.  I should – I do – know better than to slack on this.  I really don’t know what has gotten into me.

Mar 18 2010

a man called destruction

There are music fans who like cover songs because they believe those songs offer a glimpse through an artist’s carefully constructed public facade.  I am not one of those music fans.  I think cover songs are an integral part of that carefully constructed facade, and most often reinforce our preconceived notions about an artist.  That’s why I have no doubt that Alex Chilton was an untortured genius.

Alex Chilton was the driving artistic force behind one of the best and one of the worst records in my collection, and I don’t think that would have bothered him.  Alex Chilton was the opening act in one of the worst concerts I have ever seen, and I don’t think that would have bothered him.  He was literally booed off the stage, and it sure didn’t seem like that bothered him.  His last studio album was called Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy, and since no A&R guy on the planet would insist on that title I can only assume that it was his idea.

Alex Chilton wrote some of the finest pop songs that have ever been recorded.  In fact, he wrote the best pop song that has ever been recorded.  But everybody is sharing those songs today.  I prefer to remember him gleefully playing an insipid cover as a crowd of rowdy frat boys (and three confused Big Star fans) booed him off the stage of the Masonic Auditorium in Toledo, Ohio.  I don’t think this would bother him.

Alex Chilton – What’s Your Sign Girl

Oct 25 2009

ziggy played guitar

Velvet Goldmine is not a great movie. It does, however, have a great soundtrack featuring a nice mix of glam-rock era originals, covers, and pastiches.  I especially like the songs written for the film by Shudder to Think – partially because they're only barely more ridiculous than "Ziggy Stardust" and partially because I've now fulfilled my Rocktober quota for bands from the District of Columbia.

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