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Kevin Costner & Modern West

You know how Kevin Costner starred in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Do you remember the Bryan Adams song that was bigger than the movie itself? Of course you do! Now imagine that Kevin Costner somehow became Bryan Adams in real life, and you wouldn’t be too far off from the reality of Modern West, an Americana outfit founded by Mr. Costner and friends dedicated to churning out good ole Heartland Rock in the vein of Springsteen, Petty, Mellencamp, Henley and, yes, Adams. Three solid, unpretentious, albums and the hauntingly subdued soundtrack to the History Channel’s Hatfields and McCoys miniseries in less than a decade represent a pretty good yield for any band, making it clear that this is no mere celebrity novelty project. Check them out—with Costner’s daughter Lily as opening act—at The Paramount if you like your bar bands to sound exactly like a bar band sounded in 1988—which is exactly how a bar band should sound.

Sun., April 13, 8 p.m., 2014

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Nickelback’s Shitfaced Nights and Blowjob Queens

So if it’s true that President Obama will bring us together as one nation to heal the wounds of the last eight years, end the Iraq War, bolster the middle class, teach the world to sing, and render the red-state/blue-state distinction irrelevant, then whither Nickelback? What will become of the Canadian rockers whose meat-and-potatoes badassery has come to exemplify the Los Angeles Times–approved genre “flyover rock,” an earnest and hedonistic style that elitist coastal types rarely even acknowledge, despite the fact that this band has sold a staggering 23 million albums? (Case in point: Number of words in the body text of Nickelback’s Wikipedia page: ~545. Number of words in the Strokes’: ~1,700!) With W. now officially a lame duck, what’s to become of Hinder, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, Saving Abel, Carolina Liar, Theory of a Deadman, Seether, Finger Eleven, Breaking Benjamin, Staind, Evanescence, Puddle of Mudd, and all the other acts the majority of the recordbuying (as distinct from blog-reading) public actually financially supports, a/k/a the bands defining rock ‘n’ roll at this particular moment in time? Will terrorist-palling elitists now have to somehow embrace records like Dark Horse? Because this could be tough.

Even for Nickelback, their latest is ridiculously brazen, comically outsized, and defiantly Bruckheimer-esque, which makes sense: It’s produced by Mutt Lange, he of Def Leppard’s Hysteria, ex-wife Shania Twain’s Come on Over, and Bryan Adams’s “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (a serious inspiration here). There’s an almost touching clumsiness to Horse‘s opening trifecta, starting with the industrial beats and arc-welder guitars of “Something in Your Mouth,” which notes, approvingly, “You’re so much cooler when you never pull it out!” Next comes “Burn It to the Ground,” its clomping drums and call-and-response Hey!s nicked from Gary Glitter, its lyrics from Immanuel Kant (“No class/No taste/No shirt/Shitfaced!”—wait, is that Hegel?). To finish it off, there’s uplifting lead single “Gotta Be Somebody,” in which frontman Chad Kroeger Big Gulp–belches, “There’s gotta be somebody for me out there,” said person being, one concludes from the first two tracks, a mythical, contest-winning blowjob expert with a soft spot for shit-kickers.

The songs not explicitly about bonin’ chicks concern such subjects as romancin’ chicks (“I’d Come for You,” an unapologetic quote of Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You”), the dangers of doing (the wrong) drugs (“Just to Get High,” an unapologetic quote of GNR’s “Mr. Brownstone”), and the power of positive thinking (“If Today Was Your Last Day,” an unapologetic quote of Dr. Phil). The album closes with its best song, “This Afternoon,” a monstrously catchy, feel-good country-rock tune about hanging out with your homies and “hittin’ from the bong like a diesel train” while listening to CCR and Bob Marley: “Drink up/Fall down/Do it all again.” Here, finally, is a sentiment all (North) Americans can get behind.

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The Offspring’s Downer Return

These dudes were certainly never feeling the wistful teenage nostalgia of Bryan Adams’s “Summer of ’69″—over 20 years, the Offspring became experts at penning dark accounts of modern youth set to buzzsaw guitars and a rapid-fire beat. But unlike their contemporaries in Green Day and Rancid, the SoCal quartet surfaced as a punk band largely without a punk attitude. There was scant bratty posturing and middle-finger fanfare; instead, they focused on peer violence, desperate alienation, and the seemingly unavoidable corrosion of youth. Forget “If the Kids Are United”—now you gotta keep ’em separated. Sad stuff. From their 1994 breakthrough single “Come Out and Play” to 1998’s “The Kids Aren’t Alright” to 2003’s “Never Gonna Find Me,” the band came off as a bunch of ominous sociologists: Hell, even “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” and “Hit That” documented the dumbass (yet ultimately amusing) frat-boy lifestyle as well as any season of The Real World.

That their eighth full-length, the Bob Rock–produced Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, hasn’t strayed far from previous subject matter isn’t unexpected. The lyrics on their first record in five years are reliably heavy on downers and doubt, despite catchy hooks that could angle a whale and loud, scouring choruses. But the patchwork of styles thrown around here distracts you from the album’s strengths. The power-punk and emo tracks (“Nothingtown,” “Rise and Fall,” “Let’s Hear It for Rock Bottom”) fare fine; same goes for the electrocuted guitar blasts and SoCal bro-whoa-oh-oh harmonizing on the war-themed lead single “Hammerhead.” But who knows what the hell they were thinking with the acoustic-driven “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” and “Fix You,” which suffer from frontman Dexter Holland’s strained nasal intonations and calculated earnestness. Yes, that is a dancey, fluttery Panic at the Disco intro you hear in “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid”; yes, “A Lot Like Me” sounds like AFI by way of Coldplay. This music raises more eyebrows than it does fists.

Even the speedy hardcore offerings double back to cheesy devout-rocker territory. Stuttering riffs and snapping snare aside, “Trust in You” could have come straight off a Christian-rock album, with Holland pleading: “Pull me up.” “Half-Truism” begins with a flurry of conviction, but the chorus slows and sways while Holland bleats: “It’s ashes to ashes again/Should we even try to pretend?/All our light that shines strong only lasts for so long.” Hoist a lighter, bro—maybe these are the best days of our lives after all.

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Talk to Me, Lou

“Lynn? Who’s Lynn?” I hear Lou Reed say to a gallery employee across the floor at 401 Projects. She’s begging Reed to find a moment to speak with me—”It would be really good to have a write-up of this exhibition,” she implores—but, alas, no dice. According to Steven Kasher, who is designing the exhibit along with Reed, an interruption to answer a few press questions is impossible because “Lou wants to continue with the process because it’s a process, and he’s really concentrating.”

Here’s the setup: Lou is helping to hang “Vision of Rock,” an exhibit of photographs taken by rock musicians who also fancy themselves photographers—some seriously, some just as a lark—which has been curated by Mark Seliger. I have been invited to talk to the legendary Lou, who is wiry and any-age in jeans and tie-dyed tee, and I have rushed over, excited, between fashion shows.

I know Lou likes me on sight because when I first arrive, we chat inanely about my lipstick for a few minutes. Little do I know that this is the longest conversation we will have. He blows me a kiss from across the room, and that’s totally it until he finally gives in to collective pleading and toddles over. Here are his remarks in full:

“I love the photos of Mark Seliger, in the first place. I worked with him before; I wrote the forward to his book. I love all the musicians and their photography. I mean, I like what they sing and what they photograph—these are all overachievers. Don’t miss Lou Reed’s Berlin, coming to the Tribeca Film Festival! Bye-bye.”

And then he’s back staring at the wall, and I’m off to the Baby Phat
show, where the larger-than-life ex-wife of mogul Russell Simmons continues to try her hand not at music but designing.

But I’m not mad at Lou—not really. How can you be mad at a guy like Lou? In fact, I’m so not mad that I decide to stop by at the exhibit’s opening-night party, where a number of rock-star photographers will be in attendance. I am also able to view the works as Lou means them to be seen: “I thought everything would be grouped together by artist, and then Lou came in and made a tornado,” Seliger says admiringly of Reed’s eclectic decisions. “He was hanging till 5 p.m. this evening. Lou did it!”

A lot of the work is mesmerizing: Melissa Auf der Maur‘s raucous rock scene captured in The Sweden Incident; Lenny Kravitz‘s portraits of impoverished residents of Brazil;
Patti Smith‘s heartbreakingly poignant photo of Robert Mapplethorpe’s velvet slippers, embroidered “RM.”

Patti isn’t here tonight (maybe it’s just as well—I love her so much I might be tongue-tied anyway), but here is
Michael Stipe, who’s got a bunch of pics in the show and who says of his fellow artists: “Well, their music is certainly varied, and so is what’s represented here.”
Bryan Adams, of “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” fame—who is, in fact, a serious professional photographer—is responsible for some of the show’s most arresting images: a bare-breasted Pink in a denim mini reaching for the sun; a pensive Brian Wilson; Tony Blair strumming a guitar; and a very congenial Queen Elizabeth. I can’t help but notice what Her Majesty is wearing—it’s Fashion Week, after all—and the queen certainly has a look in her strict suit, pearls and pin, and her patent bag matching her shoes. But the setting is hardly formal; the room she’s in is charmingly run-down, and there’s a line of Wellington boots by the door.

Adams is off in a corner, as voluble as Reed was taciturn. When I ask him about Queenie, he tells me: “It was shot in Buckingham Palace for the Jubilee. It’s the garden entrance—it’s sort of where the corgis go out. I think Her Majesty is a bit of a gardener. She was very nice—I had five minutes to shoot it.” Which is more time than I had with Lou.


And Back in Fashion Land . . .

Adams is a doll, and I would be happy to chat with him for hours, but unfortunately I must rush up to the Warhol Factory X Levis X Damien Hirst show at the Gagosian gallery, where we sit surrounded not by rock-star photos, but by Hirst’s humongous spin-art creations. Which is not to say there’s no rocker connection: The renowned Malcolm McLaren, who was once married to Vivienne Westwood and more or less invented punk, is sitting directly across the runway from me, and the show—models wearing Levis and tees along with a quartet of spin-art-decorated clothes allegedly created by Hirst himself—begins with the strains of an ancient recording of the Velvet Underground (hi, Lou!) live at Max’s Kansas City.

The use of rock music to make fashion cool—the opposite is less frequently the case—is hardly new. Last Tuesday alone, Betsey Johnson, who was in fact once briefly married to Lou’s bandmate John Cale, presented her collection as a personal retrospective of dance styles, beginning in 1958 when Betsey was junior-prom princess (her show invitation had the photo to prove it); at
Heatherette, the rapper Lil Mama kicked off the show with a deafening rendition of her big hit: “My lip gloss be poppin’ . . . and all the boys keep stoppin’.”

There was plenty of stoppin’ but not much poppin’—at least not initially—at
Marc Jacobs‘s show. Though it was scheduled to begin at nine, invitees were informed at the door that the show had been postponed till 11 and they should go have a drink or something. The delay was rumored to be due to the late arrival of the clothes (like Marc didn’t know six months ago this show was coming up?), but I have my own theory: I think Jacobs likes to keep everyone waiting because it makes his show seem like a rock concert.

After all, Marc, who is a recent graduate of rehab and is sporting an impressively lithe physique, has to have a little fun: When you’re not getting high and you have a ton of responsibilities—which include not just running your own business, but also being creative head of the august Louis Vuitton—maybe you’ve got to do something a little irresponsible to feel young and cheer yourself up. And, of course, Jacobs has always studded his front row with rockers; past guests have included Madonna, P. Diddy, Debbie Harry, and Lil Kim enjoying one last bash before she went to jail. This season,
Courtney Love—now so thin she’s a ringer for Ashley Olson—waited with the rest of the crowd, who were, despite their griping, as excited as 14-year-old Beatlemaniacs.

It wasn’t a rock group that finally emerged a little after 11 (early by nightclub standards) but a parade of models in deconstructed dresses, which means a lot of chiffon underpinnings and highly visible bra straps. It was fresh and sexy but also vaguely nostalgic, like the sort of thing an addled trannie might have concocted for a night on the town back in the day when Marc hung out at Jackie 60 in the meatpacking district, long before Stella and Jeffrey colonized the neighborhood.

Marc’s new frocks were, in fact, perfect for Warhol glamour girl
Candy Darling (born James Slattery), who died in 1979, and whom Lou Reed—Lou, you’re everywhere!—once described thusly, capturing the spirit of that lost world:

Candy came from out on the island
In the backroom she was everybody’s darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
Said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.

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Music

Unfortunate Monikers
Trying to decide which is worse: Sarah Assbring’s real name or her artistic alias, El Perro Del Mar. “You changed your name to Latrine?” “IT USED TO BE SHITHOUSE!!”

Fashion Oddities
The remarkable similarity between many male presenters and performers at the Country Music Awards to David Bowie. That’s a nicer way to put it than ” ‘The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You’–era Bryan Adams.”

Vital Reissue
The utterly essential two-disc deluxe edition of Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Like a strip club in portable form.

Relationship-Destroying Video Game
Oh shit, Guitar Hero II is out. Gonna be bedridden with pneumonia for, oh, about the next three weeks.

Journalistic Coup
Giant thought bubbles in New York Daily News front-page headlines. An encouraging trend, along with the political events they portray.

This Song Will Change Your Life
Willie Nelson’s brash addition to the Mount Olympian pile of “Hallelujah” covers. Betcha this was Ryan Adams’s idea.

Technological Marvel
Firing up the ol’ Schadenfreude Machine for the sure-to-be-sub-Antarctic public reception to the Microsoft Zune MP3 player and its revoltingly wack-ass DRM restrictions. After you play a track five times the whole player blows up.

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The Sky’s the Limit, Not Your Cash, on This Roof Deck

With outdoor seating in Manhattan at a premium, the massive roof deck of 230 Fifth makes for an instant hit. Decorated with palm trees and petunias, it gives space-cramped New Yorkers ample room to bask in the warm breeze while pretending to be unimpressed by the improbably close skyline. In fact, the view makes it easy to overlook the questionable music—think Bryan Adams and Tiffany. Chairs and tables dot the roof, where seated patrons dangle stilettos from manicured toes. Numerous waiters swoop through the crowd toward each table, refilling drinks surprisingly quickly. While the squishy rubber floor covering functions to evenly disperse the crowd’s weight, it also cushions the fall of anyone imbibing too many vodka tonics ($12) and beer ($9). Those craving creamsicles should opt for the luscious Golden Dream ($15), made with Cointreau, Galliano, orange juice, and cream. True, 230 Fifth offers more than rooftop bliss—it includes the downstairs Penthouse, where the purple and aqua decor may confuse patrons into thinking they entered a 1980s movie theater. All the more reason to stick with the roof. After all, it’s the closest you will get to the outside of the Empire State Building without scaling it yourself.

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Content Canadian Explores Hotels on That Side of Paradise

Some of you want to come up here to Canada to avoid the draft or get an abortion. You should know that the country is divided between Beige Provinces and Gray Provinces. The Maple Leaf is a brand icon, not a symbol, so as usual the chiaroscuro cover graphic of Bryan Adams’s new Room Service has no relation to the album title. At least this time the title is related to the contents, as the vocals were all recorded in hotels while Adams was on tour. None of these hotels were the crackhouse SROs in Vancouver’s downtown East Side serial-killer playground, even though the first song here is called “East Side Story.” Like that other Roxy Roller named Bryan, this one started off glam-rockin’ (“She’s a kind of gnu that belongs in a zoo,” from 1977’s “Shut Up”), but it was the not-Canadian one who sang in French occasionally, although that one never exploited the dumpster as a lead instrument, Eno or no. No dumpsters here either, as all the ones in Vancouver are at full occupancy.

In “This Side of Paradise,” this Red Ensign colonial, who duetted with Mel C and recorded an ode to Princess Di, refers to 69 again, a recurring theme with him. And who wouldn’t want to see a video featuring those two? Diana hairstyles are still quite common up here, so people who didn’t get any pussy in the ’80s can move to Canada and redo their adolescence, except better. Maybe one day the National Film Board will release the Di/Mel C 69 video and we’ll be able to pay for our own missile defense. Until then, if you need superstar-tribulation gravel-gargling with frostbitten funk, gangrenous guitars, and a surreal B&W cover, then stick with Nazareth’s road-fever epic Close Enough for Rock and Roll, which happily includes “Vancouver Shakedown,” which you can listen to while filling out that immigration form. That’s a song about the End Times. Did you know that government phone numbers in Vancouver all start with 666?

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Lonely Planet

Matt Dillon’s obligatory shot at life-rafting his career with a sullen, self-directed quasi-indie, City of Ghosts radiates an old-fashioned literary vibe. Concerned largely with amoral ambience and a moody vision of American loners vaguely lost in the humid corners of civilization, the film shadows the Hemingway legacy right through to Paul Bowles, Graham Greene, Paul Theroux, Thomas Sanchez, and co-screenwriter Barry Gifford. This dynamic—interior desolation expressed as port tropique chaos—rarely functions compellingly as a movie, and Dillon’s film musters gobs of atmosphere and touristy menace without attending much to story or character. As a parable of glib American righteousness ensnared in a third-world shitstorm more or less manufactured by American greed, City of Ghosts has a thin prescience, but as drama it stagnates.

The setup has potential: Dillon is an insurance agent whose company’s mysterious bigwig vanishes when scores of hurricane-devastated policyholders are ripped off. Told by investigators to sit tight, Dillon’s cagey dope instead hightails it to Cambodia to locate his partner in crime (James Caan). From there, the filmmakers merely sunbathe in local color, leaving their hero to dawdle with blustery Phnom Penh bartender Gérard Depardieu, flirt with archaeological preservationist Natascha McElhone, and bicker with fellow goldbricker Stellan Skarsgård. Amid the ceiling fans, gulped liquor, and sweaty T-shirts, the need to find Caan’s smooth-talker is a shruggable dead end, and little remains for Dillon’s opaque moper besides retrieving his stolen passport and eventually trying to buy the kidnapped Caan back from corrupt Cambodian military. City of Ghosts has a few haunting tableaux, most of them in a fog-blanketed minefield, but for the most part the movie wanders on a slack leash. Saying the film indulges in exoticism—in the alien texture and lawless qualm of Southeast Asian life as it’s perceived by outsiders—doesn’t mean it’s only a fantasia of stereotypes. Thanks to our intervention, Cambodia remains a bombed-out semi-anarchy riddled with political murders and gang commerce. Dillon’s larger misjudgment isn’t ethnocentric tunnel vision so much as thinking that simply lollygagging around this sad wasteland was enough of a statement.


For world-class lapses of judgment, Andrei Konchalovsky’s House of Fools is a berserk overachiever. Based on a fascinating news item that arose from the Chechen war—a mental hospital on the region’s border was abandoned by its staff thanks to nearby combat, and the inmates sustained themselves in the interim—the movie is a blast crater of preening caricature and stupefying narrative ideas. In the tradition of Philippe de Broca’s odious cult fave King of Hearts (at Film Forum next month), the mentally disabled (including a fair number of actual handicapped) are portrayed as cute, goofy, spirited, and endearingly eccentric. The script folds in a shaggy dwarf, a mincing cross-dresser, and an obese anarchist, and with the cast being encouraged to howl and twitch, the institution comes off as Monty Python’s Hospital for Over-Actors. Konchalovsky’s idea of how the mentally ill behave without supervision or medication is to have them swinging naked from chandeliers. The movie’s heroine, Janna (Julia Vysotsky), is an impish, lisping gamine in delusional love with Top 40 relic Bryan Adams—who, as if to evoke for us the fresh hell of a maddened consciousness, makes several appearances as himself in Janna’s dreams, singing the same awful Bryan Adams song seven or eight times.

Konchalovsky seems to think this collision of tastelessness and trampolining nonsense makes for some kind of humane poetry, but House of Fools only settles its boots on the floor once a troop of Chechen soldiers occupies the facility, initiating a series of skirmishes and bombing raids, as well as Janna’s pointless heartbreak. Konchalovsky takes no side in the conflict—the generalized war-is-bad aphorisms fall profoundly from the mouth of an awakened catatonic, natch. Still, nothing will linger in your nightmares like the soft-focus image of Bryan Adams pouring champagne for a posh trainload of raving mental patients, to the relentless tune of “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.”


Relatively harmless, Michael Prywes’s local indie Returning Mickey Stern takes aging Yiddishe cronies Joseph Bologna and Tom Bosley (who boasts a Snagglepuss version of the rote Eestin Yuh-up accent) to Fire Island’s Ocean Beach after burying Bologna’s wife. Immediately, silly magical realism manifests, as doppelgängers of all three appear, post-pubescent and in need of matchmaking. The notion of grievingly happening upon your dead beloved, young and lovely again, is simple and potent, but the film’s airless amateurism, belabored ethnicism (“Oy gevalt!”), and trite dialogue kill it in the water.

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’80s Without a Face

A whole side of dance music has been carefully airbrushed from the History of Rave proper like Trotsky from a Soviet textbook. Hipsters write music history, and hipsters abhor this music because it enacts (unintended?: yeah, only ’cause there’s no explicit manifesto) kulturkampf on everything they hold dear. “Deep House? Detroit Techno? Drum’n’bass? Whuzzat??”

This stuff is trance, I suppose. Or a form of it anyway. It’s got the requisite great whooshy bits that sound good on hallucinogens. But it also thrives on cover versions of dentist-waiting-room pop: old new wave, monster ballads, the narco-dreck of the depths of the mid ’80s. It’s Bridge and Tunnel, but also huge with frat boys in New England college towns. A veritable Benetton rainbow of white middleclassness.

“Chart Trance” or “Pop Trance,” as some people derisively call it, has been a staple on the European mainland for the last decade. Which is ironic, since trance was originally posited as the mature alternative to raving, but also unsurprising because the combination of regiment, rigor, and cheap melodrama here touches on deep recesses of the Euro-soul. And the Euro-American soul, too: When it’s 5 a.m. and you don’t know where your children are, they’re probably dancing to this.

So here’s what I know about DJ Sammy: He’s been producing since the mid ’90s. He’s from Spain. He looks how you’d expect: spiky bleached hair, skinny, Eurotrashy, the suitably deadened eyes and slack grin of a professional hedonist. He’s also really popular in all the places you’d expect (i.e., Germany.) He’s featured on compilations with titles like Club Nation America and Dance Explosion 2003 (the future is now!!). And he’s a fucking genius.

What else could you call the man who instigated the beautiful bizarritude of Bryan Adams being the biggest thing in the ass end of Clubland 2002? Besides, only a genius could wring even fatter, shinier globules of anthemic pathos from Adams’s 1985 ballad “Heaven.” And in possibly the greatest example yet of dance music just not getting it, Sammy strip-mines Don Henley’s morose yuppie lament “Boys of Summer,” flipping and reversing it, pumping it full of bliss like a Botox treatment for the soul.

Sammy released an album this year, also called Heaven. Aside from Bryan and Don, it features an awful cover of the Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” But he is best enjoyed in the mix (either live in a club or on pop radio after midnight on a Saturday) or on a compilation surrounded by trancebag remixes of Mary J and J.Lo. (Or, if you’re a Bryan Adams fan, you can find Sammy remixing the first single from his upcoming album. They’ve even gotten to be great pals!)

There’s a reason Sammy and his undercarriage retrofits are so ruthlessly effective. If indignant rock critics were really industrious, they’d invent a time machine to travel back and assassinate Giorgio Moroder with extreme prejudice. Insidious rhythm in place, Sammy can easily cherry-pick melodies (and cultural memories) proven by time and popularity to stick to the brainpan like glittery peanut butter. It’s functionalist drug music, if that wasn’t readily apparent. And if it works as pop music too, well, that’s just a happy side effect.

Dance has done a lot over the last 10 years to shove its way into the history books as something “more than just disco.” Of course, misguided attempts at self-preservation are sometimes not considerably better than consignment to the dustbin of fads past. And legitimacy can be just another marketing tool. The most recent Madonna single came with at least seven Big Name reproductions, a long way from the days when Maddy 12-inches featured quasi-anonymous “dance mixes.” Where does fashionability end and functionality begin?

Wholesale piracy of popular songs aside, DJ Sammy and his brethren (DJ 8-On, DJ@Work, et al.) are actually throwbacks to a more invisible time in club culture. Nobody really knows who these guys are, and frankly no one cares. I suspect Sammy realizes, and gracefully and graciously accepts, that this is his brief moment in the sun, soon to recede. His world doesn’t function, nor can it thrive, on star power, at least as commonly practiced.

And I suppose that’s the other reason his music cuts like a knife (and feels so right). It conforms to every clichéd worry of the ghosts of rock critics past. There’s no real way to get across to most Serious Music Fans why this stuff, gliding friction-free across the face of good taste, is worth their time. A factory somewhere could be cranking it out as easily as ICBMs or lawn gnomes or hamburgers. Look closer, and sometimes in place of the face, you’ll find the heart.

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Kitsch Me Deadly

About a year ago, I caught a grumpy Lita Ford on VH1 inquiring about where all the good times had gone. She reminded me of the little kid yelling, “I want my Maypo!” in an old commercial for oatmeal mush. And this new CD looks like her delivery of said “Maypo,” but couldn’t she come up with a less awful title than Greatest Hits Live!? Even something like Lita Rips a New Hole in Yer Ass would be better. It’s 2001, Lita, not 1978, fer cryin’ out loud!

Nevertheless, Lita’s Live! whatsis shows again that integration of funny-car muscle guitar with loud, glowstick-wavin’ arena pop was always a fine idea, even if that sad old young feller who offed hisself did kneecap the style at the beginning of the last decade. The album’s meat is taken from Stiletto, but superior to the originals by benefit of ebullience of presentation in front of perspirin’ mammals. On “What Do You Know About Love,” Lita twists her way across the dancefloor as the band drags the denim wallflowers in attendance over the limbo rock. And “Holy Man” has Lita’s journey-hack cronies punching the hook into the end zone behind Southern Cal student-body-right guitar power chomps. “Shot of Poison” is Bryan Adams versus Scandal, and Adams wins. Plus there’s Motörhead licks dressed up with reverb, and a guy gettin’ hit in the head with a beer bottle for not payin’ attention to the domme onstage.

The only shortcoming is that, as on any offering in the age of CD, the gas expands to fill all the space allowed. In other words, there’s about a mole’s worth of excess phlogiston (for you artsies, those are scientist euphemisms for what comes out of the south end of a northbound bull), an Avocado Number’s worth of duff track. For instance, “Close Your Eyes Forever” proves only Ozzie gets away with dirges. And “Hungry (for Your Sex)” . . . well, let’s just say Lita’s eyes were bigger than her stomach on that one. Oof!