Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Battle for Late Night: It wasn't Leno Vs Coco; it was Us Vs Them

I wrote this piece for my mp3 blog about how the Late Night bloodbath that ensued earlier this year was more of a generational battle than a choice between Coco or The Chin. They won, we lost. Give it a read:

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doing their part - Haiti Benefit this Thursday at Chaplins

Rad local show that you should attend alert!

A number of incredible local musicians, including guitar wizard Trevor Gordon Hall and the Carolynn Cott Band are all slated to perform at Chaplins The Music Cafe in Spring City this Thursday.

Click the link for details.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Time Capsule: The Definitive Music of The 00's, according to Scene & Heard

iPod, iPhone, MacBook, Blackberry, Blue Tooth, BluRay, Myspace, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Xbox, and etc. These clever little gadgets and social networking outlets are, no doubt, a part of how future generations will look back on the 00's.

But aside from living it (or reading Wikipedia!), music continues to be the purest way to get a read on the history of the world. Because while technology defines the times (whether we're talking gun powder, electricity, 8-tracks, or rocket ships), it's the times that define the music - and to me that makes it a more personal, and real, account of what the world was like. What the people were like.

For example - look at the breadth of music these past 10 years. It's easy to grasp the decade without watching a single news reel (err, YouTube clip): wildly fragmented, at times apocalyptic, and often aimless or lost. There was definitely a lot going on beneath the surface, a lot of soul searching, a lot of growing up. It seemed every single genre suffered a damaging identity crisis - pop, hip-hop, rock & roll, alternative, hardcore, metal, punk, even country, all struggled to find new voice, new ground and new listeners.

Surely, it all had something to do with the internet tanking the record business, and the social state of the world as it recovered from culturally damaging terror attacks while marching into war and conflict. But it all felt like part of something bigger to me, as if this was truly the last gasp of one era and the ignition of another, crossing streams (which The Ghostbusters always warned us against doing!). The past (or age of 'The Boomers,' if you will) was ending, the future was struggling to get started.

And so, I am writing this for the future in hopes that they listen to this music and hear what the winds of change that blew through our trees and shook us to our roots sounded like. Perhaps this isn't how everyone remembers the 00's, but this is exactly how the 00's sounded here at the Scene & Heard bunker while we lived it. And because this was the decade where I "became of age," as they say (young love, high school, college, went to Europe, drove across the country, got a job with benefits, all that jazz), I think that makes me a qualified statesman to put forth this time capsule of music. These certainly aren't all my favorite records from the time, but after much deliberation and thought, these are what I find to be the most reflective and definitive of the time and my time in the 00's.

Children of the future, I give you the first decade of the 21st century...

N*Sync - No Strings Attached
Released March 21, 2000
Even if it makes your stomach crawl, you can't talk about the 00's without talking about how it started - which was ridiculously. This boy band album was inescapable, selling more than 2.4 million copies in just it's FIRST WEEK on store shelves. It spawned the same craze that Beatlemania wreaked on the young and impressionable of the 1960s by filling the world with more silly love songs. Except these five dudes didn't go on to make a White Album or Sgt. Peppers. Nevertheless, this album remains significant because this is where the music business peaked. As far as the industry is concerned, it was all downhill from here. As far as the rest of us were concerned (the ones who wanted better, less manufactured music - and not for $20 per CD), the music world was about to get a lot better, a lot more varied, and a lot more interesting. It was all uphill from here.

Glassjaw - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence
Released May 9, 2000
Often imitated, never replicated (see also: the entire "screamo" genre, ugh). This is what emo once meant, before it mutated into the ignorant, hosed-down excuse for guitar-flavored power pop it later became. While EYEWTKAS' abrasive hardcore edge can gut a stomach or two, it's the lyrical beauty and immeasurably intense delivery by frontman Daryl Palumbo that makes this, truly, one of the heaviest modern masterpieces of music. No other album in this time capsule blisters over with more fire or emotion than what you'll find here.

Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
Released May 22, 2000
Easily one of the most profound records of the time. An artist like Eminem was a total paradox. A white rapper, that wasn't a joke? Wait, what? This album - his second - was unmercifully confrontational, taking on the music business, pop stars, movie stars, paparazzi, parents, teachers, and the government. Not to mention, his own demons. But more appropriately, it verbalized all the boredom and angst of pre 9-11 America, word for word. Amusing, socially aware, emotional, dark, and outright foul. It was all these things and more, which is why it didn't matter what race you were or what type of music you liked. This album was the voice of the generation, and it said, "This is what we are like, and if you don't like that, just remember you're the sh*theads who raised us." It wasn't Bob Dylan, but that was kind of the point.

Radiohead - Kid A
Released October 2, 2000
No one had heard anything like this when it first came out. It. Blew. Minds. And still, more than 9 years later, it sounds as if it's a future masterpiece, beamed in from light years ahead of us, like a 'Pet Sounds' made by robots from Mars. I confess, the songs aren't my favorite Radiohead set, but like Sgt. Pepper was to The Beatles - Kid A was a definitive moment for the band, and for the future of music. A moment that will not be overlooked when future generations talk about Radiohead, who are to our generation what The Beatles were to "the boomers."

Coldplay - Parachutes
Released November 7, 2000
Speaking of Radiohead and The Beatles, Coldplay's pristine debut sounds at times like the well-mannered offspring of both musical giants, with a dash of U2 (circa Joshua Tree) for good measure. But this album remains their most basic, most poignant, and best. Particularly at a time when the musical landscape was cracking and shifting between soulless boy bands, Britney Spears, anger-fueled rap-rock and tough boy gangsta rap, four charming lads from England with guitars and pianos was more than a breath of fresh air - it was the first real moment of clarity and soul we'd gotten on the radio since Nirvana gave us that raunchy whiff of teen spirit in 1991.

Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American
Released July 18, 2001
By 2001, the hyper-passionate "emo" scene was gaining steam and young listeners by the cartload, and all it took was a little nudge from a catchy song called "The Middle" to push this burgeoning scene over in to the mainstream consciousnesses - even if this record was more an upbeat rock n' roller than Jimmy's 1999's "emo" masterpiece, Clarity. Suddenly Jimmy Eat World, and fellow groups like Saves The Day, The Juliana Theory, The Get-Up Kids, and Death Cab For Cutie all had the immediate ears of record label execs as they scrambled to find "the next big thing" in a business that was about to break. The album's title is still frighteningly prophetic of the terror attack that was about to rock our country to it's core (9/11) a few short months later. But Bleed American is so hopefully thunderous, and masterfully crafted with a hunger to be heard, that it provided us with affectionate relief from the wound.

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Global a Go-Go
Released July 24, 2001
The world was about to get a lot more complicated, not to mention fragmented, but this late career masterpiece by the late great Joe Strummer (former frontman of The Clash) took the precious time to embrace the world and it's rich supply of culture, ideas, sights and sounds. From the rollicking "Johnny Appleseed" through the hypnotic 17-minute opus, "Minstrel Boy", Strummer and his band of musical gypsies stir up a brighter view of the world, one that's wholesome, simple, fascinating, and ripe for the picking. We weren't prepared for the storms ahead, but this was most certainly the beautiful, peaceful calm before.

The Strokes - Is This It
Released July 30, 2001
Jack White often gets the due credit for the 21st century resuscitation of rock n' roll - and rightfully so - but it was this landmark album by some young, greasy-haired New Yorkers that really reminded us how good rock n' roll made us feel. The White Stripes brought back bone-saw blues and a Led Zeppelin-like mysticism, but it was The Strokes who brought back the swagger, the cool, and the booze-soaked nights of being, young, lost and in love. A sound reminder that the heart of rock n' roll still has plenty of blood left to pump.

Bruce Springsteen - The Rising
Released July 30, 2002
As the tale goes, shortly after the attack on 9-11, Bruce Springsteen was spotted by a stranger in Asbury Park - and the stranger said to him, "We need you." The Boss knew what he had to do - get the ol' band back together. Sure enough, the "the heart stopping, pants dropping, earth shattering, hard rocking, hips shaking, earth quaking, nerve breaking, history making, legendary E-Street Band" returned months later with their first blast of new music in 18 years. And for all that had fallen, this album rose magnificently to the occasion - and who better? For Bruce and the E-Street gang, it was the comeback of a lifetime - for the rest of us, it was the candle we needed to light such a dark hour.

Bright Eyes - Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
Released August 13, 2002
As the pop world continued to shift and buckle beneath us, new voices continued to sprout up through the cracks. But none showed as much generational promise as young Conor Oberst did on this breakthrough album. And with such captivating honesty and lyrical mastery, it was hard to resist branding him the next Dylan, particularly now that we were at war overseas and mired in political unrest. But unlike most "next Dylans," Oberst has made good on his promise, delivering classic album after classic album throughout this decade (recording as both Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band), and he has done so without pause or ever once looking back. If this was a decade of growth and new voice, there isn't a finer example - or one to be prouder of - than Oberst.

Brand New - Deja Entendu
Released June 17, 2003
For the young and restless of this decade's new breed of emo, this is the album that raised the bar. To fans of the band's straightforward buzz-sawed debut, Your Favorite Weapon, Deja Entendu was a radical reinvention, with entirely new song structures and a much more sophisticated and varied approach to song structure, flow and lyrics. Seems like a little leap now, considering how much the band continued to morph on later recordings, but this is one of the emo scene's proudest moments of growth this decade, not unlike when Radiohead jumped grunge for U2, taking the leap from Pablo Honey to The Bends.

Over It - Timing Is Everything
Released November 18, 2003
Emo might have been riding high, but pop-punk was riding higher. Bands like New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Good Charlotte, and Simple Plan had all found their true calling on MTV's popular after-school music video countdown, TRL (Total Request Live), waving around catchy anthems about being young, and/or in love. This album didn't register as even a blip on any mainstream radar, but it was a run away freight train, packing way more lyrical and breakdown punch than any of the bubblegum parading as punk on TRL. It wasn't a vein that other punk and emo bands hadn't already bled, but it's a treasure - and a rarity - to find such a record hammered out with such heart at such volume.

TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
Released March 9, 2004
If you could imagine what it would sound like if Radiohead kicked Thom Yorke to the curb and got Otis Redding and Sam Cooke to fill in on vocals, than you can see why music geeks wet their proverbial pants at first listen to this album. Aside from Radiohead's Kid A, this was the first sign that music was really starting to move into a new, and beautifully hypnotic, direction.

The Killers - Hot Fuss
Released June 15, 2004
Unless you read up on them, chances are you thought The Killers were Britain's next big thing. But these Bowie-esque Joy Division lovers were, quite the contrary, born and bred Americans from Las Vegas. Achieving immediate success with hit singles like "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside," The Killers quickly established themselves as one of the decade's best, and brightest, new groups.

Green Day - American Idiot
Released September 21, 2004
As the presidential election drew near, there were a number of artists who stood up to cry foul on George W. Bush and his Cabinet's continuing wars on terror and the middle east in response to 9-11. But none of these artists left as big a mark as Green Day did with this album, their first Who-inspired "rock-opera". And it was a welcome surprise indeed, coming from a band who had all but lost inspiration by the dawn of the decade. Just like the fire that made them hot in the first place, Green Day found rejuvenation by creating an outlet for a world they were disgusted with. Except, this time their disgust was with the grown up world, not the world of growing up - as on 1994's Dookie. It wasn't just a return to form, it marked a bold new direction that made the Bay Area trio one of the biggest bands in the world.

Nada Surf - The Weight Is A Gift
Released September 20, 2005
By now, the mainstream music business was in free fall. And because of it, better artists from smaller "indie" labels were on the rise - thanks in part to TV shows like The OC who brilliantly licensed and plugged these smaller bands. Groups like Arcade Fire, The Shins, and Spoon were all doing just fine without any major label muscle, thanks. Nada Surf, however, had already been up to the majors and been knocked down by the end of the 90's. There were lots of great indie records from this time, but none feel more accomplished or as instantly rewarding as this one. And few lyrics sum up this time better than "I watched life turn into a TV show" (from "Blankest Year"), partially due to the explosion of reality TV that was then in (disgusting) full bloom.

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Released March 3, 2007
The Arcade Fire's previous album, Funeral, is often cited as one of the decade's finest pieces of music - but I think this darker, denser set of songs is much more focused and reflective of the time it comes from. No, it wasn't the dark ages, or even The Cold War, but 2007 was a very claustrophobic, and hopeless, time. Britney Spears had lost her mind (homegirl shaved her head and attacked a pap car with an umbrella!). We were still at war in the Middle East and were still led by a president who had little - if any - respect around the globe. The whole world was a drag. The Arcade Fire sucked that in, and breathed out this anthemic, Joshua Tree-like hymn of hope for the times. It was moody on the edges, but if you got to the core, it sparkled light - and that wasn't easy to find at the time.

Radiohead - In Rainbows
Released October 10, 2007
The times, they were-a-changing. When Radiohead unveiled their latest album without a record label and with a "pay-us-whatever-the-heck-you-want-for-it-even-if-that-means-you-don't-pay-anything" model, there were those who said this was the future of the music business. It's hard to say it actually changed a thing, really, but it did prove that the record business was going to have to get much more creative if music was going to remain relevant in this brave new century of media overdose. Thankfully, there was much more to In Rainbows than how it was released. This delicate set of seared soul, breakneck guitars, and heart-wrenching love songs is Radiohead's most beautiful collection yet. Leave it to Radiohead to craft a record this gorgeous out of both hope, and apocolypse.

Girls - Album
Released September 22, 2009
This decade was hard on us. Growing pains, if you will. But the decade was exceptionally rougher for Girls frontman Christopher Owens who was raised in a cult that forced his mother to prostitute herself and watched his brother die because they didn't believe in modern medical methods. But salvation found him when he ran away and was taken in by a millionaire and moved to San Francisco where he met Chet White to form their band, Girls. Of course, running away doesn't clean out your closet - but building honest pop songs out of the pieces of your own broken heart helps. Musically, Album is vintage sun-soaked Happy Days garage rock, harkening back to a simpler time when things seemed warmer, happier, stronger. That's what this record is all about, and that's what the 00's were about: Building a better, brighter future out of the pieces of a broken past, to get back to where we once belonged. Couldn't end this decade on a more appropriate note if we wanted to. Here's hoping this decade treats us better than the last.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The greats who passed away this decade

As the minutes on the decade grow short, I'd like to take a moment of silence for some of the many entertainment greats who passed away these past 10 years. Through music, film and beyond, the following all helped shape the world we now live in.

*listed in loose chronological order of death

Big Pun / thanks for "I'm not a playa, I just crush a lot"

Jim Varney / Hey Vern, thanks for Ernest

Charles Schulz / thanks for Peanuts, Charlie Brown

Sir Alec Guiness / thanks for being our only hope, Obi Wan Kenobi

Walter Matthau / Thanks for The Odd Couple, and you played a perfect Mr. Wilson in Dennis the Menace, btw.

Robert Ludlum / thanks for Jason Bourne

Joey Ramone / thanks for being a punk rock icon

Perry Como / thanks for an awesomely classic Christmas album

John Lee Hooker / thanks for "Boom, Boom, Boom" and those talking-style blues

Chet Atkins / thanks for real country music

Aaliyah / thanks for "If Your Girl Only Knew"

George Harrison / thanks for "Here Comes The Sun" - not to mention everything else you did with The Beatles.

Layne Staley / thanks for "Man In A Box"

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes / thanks for "Waterfalls"

Dee Dee Ramone / same sentiments as Johnny Ramone, thanks for being a Ramone

Johanthan Harris / thanks for being the dastardly Dr. Smith on Lost In Space

Joe Strummer / You were, and still are, one of my greatest inspirations as a person. Thanks for The Clash, The Mescaleros, and your hunger for life. "The future is unwritten"

Nina Simone / thanks for "My Baby Just Cares For Me"

June Carter Cash / thanks for being Johnny's greatest love and inspiration

Johnny Cash / thanks for walking the line

Barry White / thanks for that sultry voice

Bob Hope / thanks for making our military laugh in times of war

Sam Phillips / thanks for discovering Elvis, Johnny, and helping raise rock & roll from it's infancy

Gregory Hines / thanks for your tap dancing and acting

Charles Bronson / thanks for Death Wish

Warren Zevon / thanks for "Werewolves of London"

John Ritter / thanks for Three's Company

Robert Palmer / thanks for "Addicted To Love," wouldn't have been the 80's without it.

Elliott Smith / thanks for "Figure 8"

Rod Roddy / Come on down, we'd like to thank you for your announcing on The Price Is Right!

ODB / thanks for "Baby I Got Your Money," not to mention your work with the Wu.

John Peel / thanks for your uncanny love and ear for good music, and sharing it with us on the Beeb

Christopher Reeve / thanks for being Superman, both in movies - and in real life

Rodney Dangerfield / thanks for the shtick, and let me tell ya, you got our respect

Johnny Ramone / Three Ramones too many to pass away in a decade, thanks for punk rock

Ernie Ball / thanks for "slinky" guitar strings

Rick James / thanks for "Super-Freak" and not to mention, the most memorably caricatured character on the Chapelle Show

Marlon Brando / thanks for Don Vito Corleone

Ray Charles / thanks for "What'd I Say"

John Entwistle / thanks for being part of the rhythm powerhouse that fueled The Who, alongside the late great Keith Moon on the skins

Will Eisner / Thanks for The Spirit

Ronald Reagan / Thanks for being president, and inspiring a great deal of great rock music (REM, Sprinsteen, etc) in the 80s while at it.

Johnny Carson / thanks for creating a late-night tradition, The Tonight Show, that will never be quite the same without you

Pope John Paul II / God bless, and thanks for being our Pope!

Luther Vandross / thanks for "A House Is Not A Home"

James Doohan / thanks for beaming us up, Scotty

Rosa Parks / thanks for not giving up your seat

Pat Morita / thanks for teaching Danny-son how to wax on, wax off, and kick some butt!

Richard Pryor / thanks for the outrageous comedy, you certainly helped change the face of your trade

Peter Jennings / thanks for World News Tonight, you were one of the greats

Lou Rawls / thanks for "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine"

Wilson Pickett / thanks for "Mustang Sally"

Hunter S. Thompson / With "Fear and Loathing" you got to the heart of what so many journalists are schooled to write about, but don't - the truth. Thanks for that wild, manic beast of drug-addled ink, blood and paper you helped foster. Gonzo journalism.

Coretta Scott King / thanks for your husband and everything you did after he passed. Wish you could have been in Washington DC last January to watch history unfold.

Paul Gleason / thanks for giving up your Saturdays to hang out with Bender in the Breakfast Club, I think I'd have done the same. "Next time I come in here, I'm cracking skulls."

Don Knotts / thanks for Barney Fife

Billy Preston / thanks for that killer solo on "Get Back," fifth Beatle

Syd Barrett / Thanks for your work early on with Pink Floyd - expanded the possibilities of music. Wish you were still here, Madcap.

Steve Irwin / Blimey, thanks for being the only person with enough balls to stick his head into a croc's mouth and make a tv series out of it.

Ahmet Ertegun / The history of rock & roll would hardly be the same without the stamp you put on it. Zeppelin, The Stones, the rest is history. Thanks.

James Brown / thanks for being one of the most intense and passionate men in show business. Live music, soul, funk and even punk wouldn't be the same without the benchmark you set.

Gerald Ford / thanks for stepping in for Nixon

Anna Nicole Smith / thanks for that bizarre reality TV show, and sure the Playboy spreads too

Max Roach / thanks for your fiery genius on the drums. You have the rest of the world beat.

Luciano Pavarotti / thanks for your unforgettable tenor

Ike Turner / thanks for "Rocket 88" and raising rock from infancy - you're one of the founding fathers for sure.

Kurt Vonnegut / thanks for Slaughterhouse Five

Lee Hazelwood / thanks for your cowboy psychedelia, not to mention "These Boots Are Made For Walkin"

Merv Griffin / thanks for Wheel of Fortune & Jeopardy

Robert Goulet / thanks for being the Chevy Chase of suave. Seemed there wasn't anything you couldn't do.

Evel Knievel / thanks for being certifiably nuts in the most awesome way - you set a world record with 37 broken bones to prove it. Also thanks for one of greatest quotes ever: "I beat the hell out of death."

Heath Ledger / I should thank you for your remarkably iconic turn as The Joker, but gotta be straight - you were pure gold in 10 Things I Hate About You. Thanks for that.

Charlton Heston / thanks for discovering that "SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE" and that we're already ON the Planet of the Apes.

George Carlin / thanks for your foul, unwavering honesty, and saying the things we didn't have the marbles to say - like the seven words you can't say on television. Easily one of the most brilliant minds of the past century - and he used it for good, not just by making people laugh, but also making them think.

Isaac Hayes / thanks for the hot buttered soul, Chef

Paul Newman / thanks for the salad dressing

Bo Diddley / they call you the Originator for good reason. You built your own guitar, and helped build rock n' roll in the process.

Bernie Mac / thanks for brightening up every movie you popped up in, Friday, Ocean's Eleven, Transformers, and even (God help me) Charlies Angel's: Full Throttle

Jerry Wexler / you were there with Ahmet as music history happened. Thanks for everyone from Bob Dylan to Dusty Springfield. Makes me wonder what happened to the music industry after guys like you?

Michael Crichton / thanks for Jurassic Park

John Updike / thanks for your brilliantly imaginative writing and poetry, AND for giving Berks County something intelligent to brag about

Dom Deluise / thanks for all the classic roles in Mel Brooks and Burt Reynolds movies

David Carradine / thanks for being the most deadly samurai with a lisp in Kill Bill

Farrah Fawcett / thanks for being Charlie's best Angel, Jill Munroe

Michael Jackson / thanks for the moonwalk, "Man In The Mirror" and the most 'thrilling' music video ever

Walter Cronkite / thanks for breaking the news to our old folks when news broke, your voice and your words are how they all remember JFK's assassination, Vietnam, WW2, Watergate, the landing of the Moon, etc.

John Hughes / thanks for making movies like The Breakfast club that showed kids do actually have brains, and even more heart

Les Paul / thanks for the sick guitar!

Patrick Swayze / thanks for keeping baby out of the corner, Roadhouse, and Point Break! (and of course, that SNL Chippendales skit with Chris Farley)

Ed McMachon / If The Tonight Show was the night sky, always full of (Hollywood) stars, you were the moon, baby - always around Johnny, always there to support him. Thanks.

Brittany Murphy / Liked ya in 8-Mile, but gotta thank you for your part in Clueless even more - that's a truly definitive movie of the times of the 90s.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 00's - The decade that took us back to zero

Y2k - what a joke that was.

Remember all that techno glitch jazz about how computers would think it was 1900 instead of 2000, wiping out power grids, bank accounts, satellites, and the internet in the process? That of course didn't happen, but when taking stock on this past decade, it does in some ways feel like someone hit the reset button and took us back to zero anyway.

From the terror attacks of 9/11, to the music industry & the global economy, to the rocky mental state of our beloved Britney Spears & Branjelina, these years have showered us with collapse.

Not to mention, the conflict in Darfur, the Iraq War and America's "War on Terror." Even Mother Nature joined in on the act, spurring cataclysmic events like the Indonesian Tsumami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina which caused unfathomable havoc.

And let's not forget about Octo-Mom or Balloon Boy, or the alarming number of VH1 reality shows that featured Flava Flav making out with Bridgette Nielson. Or the Dustin Diamond (Screech from Saved By Bell) sex tape?

Also, I graduated college, grew a beard and got a job with health insurance. The world would never be the same.

But despite this 21st century turbulence, there is little doubt that we are living in the future, and it's a future that glows promise (see also, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). Even if we aren't very well content with the job Obama is doing in office, there is something to be said about a United States of America that elected it's first black president in such a time of uncertainty and political unrest. Especially after the decade's two previous presidential elections were controversially split down the middle.

My favorite example to illustrate though, quite naturally, is the music industry.

Just look at how the decade started. Two of the biggest selling albums of 2000 were N*Sync's No Strings Attached and Radiohead's Kid A. Nearly a decade later, one of them is now regarded as a mere novelty, while the other still sounds like a masterpiece beamed in from the future. Kid A is regarded by many professional and amateur critics alike as "the" album of the decade - to which I cannot argue. These two albums are as symbolic as you can get, marking the peak of an era, and kicking down the future's door at the very same time.

The business free-falled from there. If you are the one person left on earth weeping for the music industry, look at who was turning the hefty profits before the business had it's spine ripped out, Mortal Kombat style, by the file-sharing internet world a few years ago. Limp Bizkit? Creed? Lip-syncing boy bands? Gangsta rap that had nothing to do with music or anything legitimate to say and everything to do with making money and living large? The record execs who fostered these "artists"? Trust me, it is not a BAD thing that these people are not shepherding the industry anymore. The music business, as it stood at the dawn of the decade, DESERVED to have the rug swept out from under it. And then kicked. And then spit on. And then rolled up in a cashmere rug and rolled down a steep embankment into oncoming traffic. And then nuked. It should be thankful to still have any pulse at all.

The artists left standing, now that the dust is beginning to settle, are making smarter music with more creativity, more hunger and more heart. And that's the only currency that stands to be tendered in a world where music is as fundamental to the passing generations as water is to life. (What? You don't think your heart beat is a song, or that birds, crickets, and whales all sing songs in search of peace, love and understanding?)

Don't get me wrong, we're not yet in any age of musical renaissance, but there is more out there than ever before and it's more accessible than ever before. To sum it all up in a word- CHOICE. Thanks to acts like Radiohead and computer programs like GarageBand and the ease of devices like the iPod - music is about as democratic and boundless as it can get. Music can be made by just about anyone and accessed and shared by even more. That creates infinite possibilities. If that's what it takes to keep Limp Bizkit out of the recording studio, I do believe that's a win for the human race.

And that's essentially what this past decade can be characterized by. Some of the biggest pieces of the world have crumbled beneath us, consumed by a weight of greed, power, politics, and just plain crap these past 10 years. But from the ashes, we are helping to build a whole new world from scratch, together. A world of more choices, more possibilities, more ways to share our hopes, joys and sorrow with one another. That of course, still leads to heinously bad movies, music, YouTube videos and motives - but I still call it a win for humanity.

This future we're building doesn't yet have flying cars, space colonies, or hover boards on the way any time soon - but it also feels like we, the little people, are more in control of what the future holds than we've ever been. And that's exciting. That's shelter from the storm.

That's why I've chosen to refer to this decade as "the zeros", as opposed to "the noughties" or "the ohs" or the "two-thousands." When you're at zero, there is no way, but up.

What about YOU? What did you love/loathe about the decade? Music? Reality TV? W. Bush impressions? FiOS? iPhones? Ex-girlfriends? Etc? Leave a comment about your 21st century break down!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm back, and with Christmas music!

I could make excuses about why this blog has gone so unloved by me this past half year. And you could say things, and I could say things, and it could get really ugly pretty quickly about how awful we've been to one another. But the point is this: I'm blogging now for the first time in months and I come with 3-jam packed mixes of excellent holiday music. Oh, stop, it's the least I could do.

Truth be told though, I make these holiday mixes each year for my family and friends. I figure you deserve 'em too. Go ahead, dig in! You can download the full mix at each link as a zip file. Check the comments for tracklistings!

Merry Little Chrismakkuh Mixacle 2009

Merry Little Chrismakkuh Mixacle 2008

Merry Little Chrismakkuh Mixacle 2007

And lemme tell ya, my head is whirring with all types of 'the decade is coming to end - quick, let's reflect on it all through the eyes of music, movies, and Paris Hilton.' Let's get through Christmas first, but expect some entertaining diatribing from this blog next week. I'm back!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't stop reading, streetlight people. We're giving away Journey tickets tomorrow.

You may have seen us advertising that we're giving away some tickets to see Journey & Heart in tomorrow's print edition of The Mercury.

So if you're a lonely girl living in a lonely world, or a city boy riding on the midnight train to anywhere, a singer in a smokey room, or just a stranger waiting on the boulevard... this post is for you.

Some of the songs in the following videos will be hidden in tomorrow's paper (a Journey through The Mercury, if you will), and you'll have to find them to win the tickets. More details and more Journey in tomorrow's copy of the paper.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

"I will name my son Batman if this page gets to 500,000"

Bands and celebrities often promise tidbits of info for scoring a set amount of Twitter followers or Facebook friends, but I just stumbled across my favorite social networking experiment yet...

I will name my son Batman if this page gets to 500,000.

Holy caped kid crusader! If this group gets more than 500,000 fans on Facebook, the guy will name his son Batman, which will either be really incredibly awesome in grade school or really awfully bad in high school. Or both. Apparently the guy's wife is completely on board with this too. I don't know who these people are, but what an amazing social experiment. Seriously.

He's currently at about 130,000, so the future Batman needs your help! Become a fan and become part of history. Take back Gotham!

The best part? This dad to be is dead serious.

Just think of the one liners that will be obnoxiously over-used in this future kid's life:
"Where does he get those wonderful toys?"
"Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?"
and of course...
"I'm Batman!"

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rob Zombie prepares re-make of The Blob; Phoenixville may want to start running out of theatre now

It's indescribable! It's indestructible! (It's inevitable!) Nothing can stop it!

No, it's not The Blob; it's a re-make of The Blob!

If you haven't already read in the rags, director/musician Rob Zombie plans to re-make Phoenixville's biggest claim to movie fame, The Blob. Why? Because Hollywood has mostly forgotten how to hatch new, exciting ideas for movies. That's why.

Though this hardened cult classic was already re-made once before (in 1988, by director Chuck Russell), the well, apparently, has a few drops left at the bottom yet. And most people like to pretend that remake never happened. But maybe, just maybe, third time is the charm?

This article from Variety indicates Zombie plans on putting a new twist on the tale, but doesn't offer much in details other than production is chalked to begin next spring.
"My intention is not to have a big red blobby thing -- that's the first thing I want to change," Zombie said. "That gigantic Jello-looking thing might have been scary to audiences in the 1950s, but people would laugh now." - Rob Zombie
I see your point, Rob, but how can you make THE BLOB without A BLOB? Maybe you should try going in a more Ghostbusters type direction with sci-fi comedy, opposed to sci-fi horror blood, guts, and bones. Just a thought. (Not that I want to see a re-make of Flubber of course.)

Of course, if Zombie can give it new life and properly update this story for the 21st century, that is something to get excited about. Isn't it?

But the real question is; what do you think about this, Phoenixville? This is YOUR movie, after all. Much of the magic of the original Blob is the various locations it was filmed in (all around our area, from Phoenixville to Chester Springs and Valley Forge), including your own Colonial Theater, which you triumphantly honor each and every summer with Blobfest, as you dart out of the Colonial's entrance hollering yourself hoarse alongside other Blob fanatics from around the country in glorious re-enactment style.
What does this mean to you?? Is this upsetting? Expected? Awesome?!

Would you be more offended if this 're-make' was filmed in the area - including The Colonial - or if Zombie shunned the classic's roots and filmed the whole thing in Nova Scotia, or something? (The 1988 remake was filmed in Louisiana.)

And if it's gotta be re-made, is it at least interesting to you that Rob Zombie is providing the vision for it? He won some acclaim for his own films (House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects), but his remakes of John Carpenter's untouchable Halloween and Halloween II seem to have upset more fans than not. (To be fair, no one could put their own stamp on those movies and do a better, more horrifying job than Carpenter.)

Whaddaya think? Good idea/bad idea? What's next? A re-make of Gone With The Wind, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson? Now THAT would be scary.

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