there is water underground.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


This is kinda fun. Maxim Magazine reviewed the Black Crowes’ recent album Warpaint and did not give it a very positive review. The reviewer gave the album 2.5 stars out of a possible five and stated that “it hasn’t left (singer) Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth.”

One problem: The reviewer hadn’t heard the album.

That’s right. The band has not yet released any advanced copies of Warpaint (due out March 4) for the press to review; they’ve only released one song which can be downloaded/stolen as a single. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Black Crowes, and I haven’t paid any attention to them since their first album Shake Your Money Maker (Remember She Talks to Angels? That’s a beauty). I’m actually surprised that they’re still recording; I was sorta under the impression that they just live underneath the Beacon Theatre in NYC, popping up to play a concert whenever they run out of pot. But this is some nerve on Maxim’s part. The band is pissed, and they have every reason to be pissed. Imagine if your boss gave you a crappy performance review but s/he hadn’t even seen any of the work you’d done! Maxim is no NY Times or Paste, but it’s still read by lots of people with disposable income who like the rock & roll (and Maxim does appear to have more boobies).

Not cool on Maxim’s part. To make matters worse, the official apology was also stale and unsatisfying: “it is our editorial policy to assign star ratings only to those albums that have been heard in their entirety. Unfortunately that policy was not followed in the March 2008 issue of our magazine and we apologize to our readers.” Yeah, we screwed up, whatcha gonna do about it, huh? Maxim went on to say that they “always prefer to hearing music [sic], but sometimes there are big albums that we don’t want to ignore and that aren’t available to hear. It’s either an educated guess preview or no coverage at all, so in this case we chose the former.”

So let me get this right… it’s commonplace for “journalists” to write about stuff they haven’t heard/seen/experienced? Huh. That’s news to me. Something tells me that the Maxim writers are spending too much time “reading” Hustler.

Of course, this little snafu makes me wonder what else has been reviewed without having been heard first. The movie Dogma comes to mind – there were nationwide protests from hardcore Christian groups before the movie was ever screened (and on opening night, Kevin Smith joined one – he brought a banner that read “Dogma is Dogshit”). It also poses an interesting question: What else can we review prematurely? Maybe Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Balls Skull should be reviewed based on the minute-long preview I saw on the internet (or maybe based on the title alone). Based on absolutely nothing, let’s have a critique of the new Al Green album, due out in the spring. (actually, I can’t wait for that to drop – it’s being produced by ?uestlove from the Roots, and that’s a cool combination). I’ve got a good one – based on this stellar standard of journalism displayed by the music reviewer, I’m giving the whole of Maxim Magazine zero stars… and that’s an educated guess.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Burning question: What do Bill Cosby, Beverly Sills, Johnny Cash, and Carl Jung have in common?

...nothing. Absolutely nothing. And yet, this is so, so brilliant.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Did It All For The Cookie

What's better than Sesame Street? Sesame Street on NPR! (side note: while typing the word "Street," I accidentally typed "Streep" and then thought about how awful it would have been for Meryl to name her child "Sesame.") My cheeks hurt from laughing so hard while watching this clip.

Thank you Kate. I save you crumb.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sweet Promotion

Didja hear? The makers of the crazy-addictive Guitar Hero game are coming out with the ultimate pander: an Aerosmith-specific version of the game. I guess I'm not really that surprised; they are the top-selling band in this country and have been around since before I was born (and Steven Tyler? ugly back then, ugly now). However, at some point in their more recent history they became irrelevant. Sure, their music has always been full of cheesy lines and cliche phrases, but Permanent Vacation? Great album. Toys in the Attic? Great album. Pump? Frickin' awesome.

Pump came out in October 1989, the perfect time for a nearly-12-year-old kid to start listening to that kind of stuff. It was loud, fun, and suggestive. As I entered high school, I bought all of their previous CDs (and tapes! remember those?) and I distinctly remember going with Jay, Mike, and phil to their concert at Jones Beach (putting it in context, the opening band was 4 Non Blondes).

It took a while for the band to release their next album - actually it took over four years. The band had ridden the success of Pump very far, making it all the way to Wayne's basement. Expectations for the new album were high. When it was released, Get A Grip, lived up to its initials: GAG. The music was not that great, but by that time every teenage boy was drooling so much over Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone - the stars of Aerosmith's music videos from GAG (when MTV played videos, sigh) - that the music didn't matter so much. By the way, how is it possible that she came from his seed? I don't get it.

Unfortunately, the band stopped mattering so much as well. They sunk deeper and deeper into ballads, cheese-rock and faux blues, reaching their nadir when they recorded "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for the dreadful Armageddon. Inexplicably, that was their very first #1 hit. They've been riding on those coattails ever since, releasing a couple of duds and yet popping up everywhere there's a chance to shamelessly promote themselves. And when I say "themselves," I really mean "Steven Tyler and Joe Perry." The rest of the guys seemingly couldn't give a shit.

So their evolution has taken them to this latest mutation. What a coup for Activision and Aerosmith, huh? Last year, people dropped one billion dollars on Guitar Hero. One Billion. Aerosmith has sold 65 million records. You do the math; they're gonna make a whole lot of dough from this.

How do I feel? Well, if the game eventually winds up turning more people on to music and getting more kids to take up actual instruments, then I'm all for it. But Activision - don't stop with Aerosmith. Get some Zep in there. Get some Who in there. Even some Santana. They obviously have to start mainstream. I'm waiting for a niche company to make a jazz version (let those kids fuck with some Charlie Hunter or maybe some Tommy Emmanuel and see what happens), or for some speed-metal company to kick it up a notch and do DragonForce. But what I really think is this: If I play a game that involves playing instruments (kinda) - and I have 20+ years of experience playing ACTUAL instruments - and I am not as good as Matt Engel, then it's a stupid fucking game. Scroll to 20:22; QED.

By the way, it seems that I've been beaten to the punch.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All Your Bass Are Belong To Me.

I think Scarlett approves of the new acoustic-electric.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

R-E-S-P-E-C-T my Seniority!

Aretha Franklin pulled a hissy fit today when she heard something that Beyonce said. Beyonce introduced Tina Turner at the recent Grammy awards (which, by the way, I was unable to watch live because Comcast likes giving its customers the shaft) by saying: "Ladies and gentlemen, stand on your feet... and give it up for the queen!" Aretha didn't like that so much.

Okay, everyone knows that Aretha is the Queen of Soul. Just like James was the Godfather of Soul. And Elvis was the King and Springsteen is the Boss and Michael Bolton is the Ass Clown. But Aretha needs to chill out a little. Maybe Beyonce really reveres Tina as her idol (that seems to have worked out well for Beyonce). Maybe Beyonce wanted to give a killer performance (which she did) and have one of the most influential people in the history of music up there on stage with her. Someone who could keep up with her. I ask you - could Aretha have danced and sang the way Tina did? Something tells me that she couldn't. At 65, Aretha is on the verge of exploding in her own shoes, whereas at 69, Tina looks and dances like she's Beyonce's older sister. Well, maybe not that young. But still - she's pushing 70, and damned if she doesn't have the moves.

Or maybe, just maybe, the writers chose to call Tina a queen because 1) she deserves it and 2) she has been referred to as the "Queen of Rock & Roll." They didn't call her the Queen of Soul. They chose to call her a queen. And she's amazing in her own right.

Now don't get me wrong - I love me some Aretha. She might justifiably hold that "Queen of Soul" title. She's done plenty with her life and yes, I have plenty of, uh... respect for her. She had 18 number one R&B hits. She was the first black woman to be on the cover of Time. She has received honorary doctorates from several universities, awards from two US presidents, and is the youngest person to ever receive a Kennedy Center Honor. She's even in my favorite movie. But she's definitely had her moments. Jason and I saw Aretha Franklin perform at one of those "Divas Live" concerts in NYC's Radio City Music Hall several years ago. First of all, she forgot the names of the six guys in the jazz group she performed with on that stage... guys like Herbie Hancock, Russell Malone, and Roy Haynes. She also left Stevie Wonder hanging by himself (not that the man couldn't hold his own; his unannounced performance was by far the greatest moment of that night). And at one point after Nelly Furtado sang her tribute and left the stage, both Jason and I wondered if Aretha had eaten Ms. Furtado backstage. Aretha has definitely become large, as the Onion astutely pointed out in this teaser - no article was even necessary. It might also be worth mentioning that her god-daughter (some chick named Whitney Houston) called Bobby Brown the "King of R&B." We all know that 'sanity' and 'Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown' are seldom seen in the same sentence.

Aretha - you're still the Queen of Soul. Tina can be a queen too, perhaps even the Queen of Rock & Roll. Don't think for one second, however, that you're the Queen of All That Is Music. Show some generosity toward your contemporary; you're both royalty. Now if only we could find someone to take that "Prince" title...