Monthly Archives: June 2008

Media Mix XII: There Can Be Only One

Sometimes the Fates, and the flacks, are not with you. So no My Chemical Romance, John Mayer, or Los Lonely Boys reviews this week. Fortunately, the CD that did show up — from Austin’s Grupo Fantasma — ain’t bad.

NEXT: The Hold Steady Stay Positive and John “don’t call me Cougar” Mellencamp gets with T-Bone Burnett for his second consecutive album with the word “freedom” in the title.

The Forks, the Lap, the Fur: Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg

Review’d! You should totally pair this up with Realisms, the second half of the Hirshhorn’s The Cinema Effect exhibit, which I’ve written about for tomorrow’s Examiner.

Guy Maddin is the new ruler of my Netflix queue.

Wagon of Sorrow: Theater of War at SILVERDOCS

John Walter’s brilliant documentary, reviewed for DCist.

UPDATE 6/26/08: I got a nice e-mail about the review from Theatre of War director/editor John Walter, who reports that he is shopping the film around for a distributor. Best of luck to you, John! It’s a great documentary, and it deserves as wide a release as it can get.

John also sent this cool one-sheet image:

Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Still.

Emmylou Harris. National treasure, no? Yes. Reviewed at Wolf Trap for the Paper of Record.

If a European Superstar Plays the 9:30 Club and There Are Only 100 People There, Does She Make a Sound?

Nigerian-German folk-soul (er, foul?) singer-songwriter Ayo, reviewed in today’s Paper of Record.

Raging Bear: Kassim the Dream at SILVERDOCS

Reviewed for DCist.

David Segal had a great WashPo feature about Kassim in the paper on Monday.

Iron Man: Bulletproof Salesman at SILVERDOCS

I reviewed Paula Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s smart, fast SILVERDOCS entry for DCist.

Maiden Columbia

Aging gracefully? It’s for wimps!

If e’er you rolled a ten-sided die during the 1980s, you were a candidate for the Cult of Maiden. (Although I’m pretty sure that by the time I got into Maiden for a couple years starting in sixth grade, any hysteria over their alleged satanism had mostly blown over. Certainly, my mom never ordered me to take my Seventh Son of a Seventh Son poster down.)

My review of Iron Maiden’s nostalgic-by-design Somewhere Back in Time tour is in today’s Paper of Record.


Photo by Rocky Schenck.

My Weekend section debut is a review of Emmylou Harris’s fine new album, All I Intended to Be. I’m also covering her Wolf Trap show on Sunday; lucky me. And I actually interviewed her last week for a short profile, also out today.

Nice lady, she. Can sing a little, too.

No Art Required

The Paper of Record’s DeNeen L. Brown on R. Kelly’s acquittal on 14 counts of various kiddie-porn-related charges in Chicago:

“His work has pushed the limits of what was tasteful and what was comical, moving from ballads to farce. His multi-episode ‘Trapped in the Closet’ sex opera has logged millions of hits on YouTube. Watching it, you know it is not high art, but the song and the story pull you in anyway — with the feeling that you are watching people you know, in stories you know intimately.”

I don’t have anything to say about this — I haven’t followed the case, except to the extent that Dave Chapelle got some good satirical mileage out of it. But Kelly, as always, has plenty to say for himself.

Media Mix XI: O Eno, Where Art Thou?

Strong work, Coldplay. That’ll show ’em you’re no mere U2 cover band! That’ll show ’em all.

Dan Tyminski’s a fine, solid, mature record; easy to like, almost impossible to get very excited about. But good. Read all — er, a little more — about it.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About R.E.M.’s Merriweather Show This Week

Mike Mills and Michael Stipe at Merriweather. Photo by Kyle Gustafson.
Your questions, answered here.

The sharp-eyed shooter Kyle Gustafson took the pictures. I attended with the WashPo‘s J. Freedom du Lac and the City Paper‘s Andrew Beaujon, whose own perspectives on the show can be found here and here, respectively.

What the World Needs Now

I suppose there’s no point in even trying to deny that I have become the Paper of Record’s go-to guy for geriatric pop. I don’t mind, really. And if you can’t appreciate the composing gifts of an ace like Burt Bacharach, that’s your fault!

My review of Burt’s Strathmore concert appears in today’s Paper of Record; here’s a slightly longer version.

Lovers of avant-garde cinema will doubtless recall that when Austin Powers was released from his three-decade cryogenic freeze in 1997, the personal effects he reclaimed included only one LP: Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits.* Naturally! As he demonstrated in an elegant set at the Music Center at Strathmore Sunday night, whether it’s a 30-year hibernation you’re facing or merely a punishing DC summer heatwave, Burt knows just what’s needed to cool you down, Baby.

Sporting a sharp black suit (but no tie — ties are for squares), the newly octogenarian songwriter got a standing ovation before he’d played a note. Settling at the grand piano from which he would command an ensemble of seven players and three singers, he marshaled a single portentous chorus of his signature song, “What the World Needs Now,” before standing to lay out the agenda: A veneration of him, basically. “The music you’re going to hear was all written by the same person,” he said, beaming. And while an excess of chintzy keyboard washes kept the evening from attaining transcendent status (he’s supposed to be an ace arranger, too, right?) , it was a groovy romp through a peerless pop songbook all the same.

You don’t survive five decades in show business without some humility, and indeed none of Bacharach’s frequent citations of his successes and innovations came off as vain. After Josie James belted out “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (not quite Dusty Springfield, but she’s good), Burt pointed out that the song changes time signatures every bar. “I didn’t know any better,” he chuckled. (Don’t believe it.)

Medleys were the order of the day: It’s the only way he could begin to pack a representative sampling of his career into a planned 90-minute set that swelled to 110, Bacharach said, “because I feel it just so much.” An audience singalong made “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” the most fondly received of his movie themes (from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) but Burt appeared equally delighted to play loopiest of them, “Beware of the Blob” (from, er, The Blob). He mouthed the words, and occasionally rose from his piano bench when playing with particular brio, but left the singing — with a few tentative late-show exceptions — to the two women and one man seated on stools stage-left. The ladies, Donna Taylor and Josie James, were great. The dude, er, seems to have watched a lot of “American Idol.”

After 45 carefree minutes, Burt got serious, introducing a pair from his Grammy winning 2005 album, At This Time, his first foray into lyric-writing. The results were surprisingly political for a man caricatured (in this very review, in fact) as such a pillar of easygoing gentility. Singer John Pagano’s performance of “Who Are These People” notably omitted the F-bomb of the recorded version sung by Elvis Costello. Burt was toning it down for the well-heeled Strathmore crowd, right? Wrong. After the tune ended, Burt quipped, “Maybe that’ll become Scott McClellan’s favorite song.” Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Burt Bacharach: provocateur.

*Actually, I’m pretty sure that album in Austin Powers is called Burt Bacharach Sings His Hits, and that we even see a shot of the cover with that title. But as near as I can tell, Burt Bacharach Sings His Hits is not a real album; while Plays His Hits is. Maybe we all just learned something about Mike Myers’s sense of humor. I mean, Burt was never famed for his singing, right? And yet simply as a title, Sings is somehow funnier than Plays.

Seven Nights to Rock: Catching Up with Waco Brother-in-Chief Jon Langford

Spoke to Jon Langford again last week in advance of the Waco Brothers marvelous but, sadly, ill-attended show at the Rock and Roll Hotel last Thursday night, part of their seven-somewhat-far-from-one-another-cities-in-seven-nights tour. I was hampered somewhat by a very dubious bit of string connecting the cans between New York City and here, but Langford really doesn’t need me asking him questions to make him funny and insightful.

Media Mix X: I Love the 80s Edition

I actually did own a Poison album — on cassette — in the 1980s. I probably didn’t find out about Aimee Mann until Magnolia in 1999, like much of the rest of America. Though I did have the Jerry Maguire soundtrack, which included “Wise Up,” three years before that.

When I interviewed Aimee in January, I asked her to clear that up:

ME: You’ve introduced the song “Wise Up” a few times as “a song from Magnolia,” a film which of course made prominent use of, and was in part inspired by, your music. But “Wise Up” was on the Jerry Maguire soundtrack three years before Magnolia came out. Were you making a point by associating it with the later film?

MANN: Well, I wrote it for Jerry Maguire. [Writer/director Cameron Crowe] really liked the demo, and then he didn’t like the finished version, so he didn’t put it in the movie. Then after the movie came out, he called me and said, “I don’t know what I was thinking! Your version is awesome. I guess I was just kind of attached to the demo.” So he put it on the soundtrack album. So it’s there, and on the DVD, but it wasn’t in the original release of the film.

And then [Magnolia writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson] heard it, and he really liked it. So [the song’s prominent use in Magnolia, a surreal sequence wherein several characters in different locations are seen simultaneously singing the tune aloud] was kind of a sweet shout-out.

In any case, time and maturing taste has made my allegiances clear.