Not a lot of people know this, but as well as being an accomplished singer of showtunes and a country & western star, John C. Reilly makes a working man’s living as a comedic actor. Will Ferrell is also adept at saying ridiculous things with a straight face.
On a completely unrelated matter, here’s a video of David Bowie dropping into Bing Crosby’s house at The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for a spot of singing/jousting to the tune of ‘Peace on Earth’ and ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ Make sure to click through for a free download of the track.
You could say I had an interesting Saturday night. I’d say it was one for the ages.
warning: what you are about to read does get a little graphic.
So I was visiting a friend in Hamilton, a shit-smelly city situated about 45 minutes Southwest of Toronto. The night started out pretty dull, actually, consisting of us sitting around watching Saved by the Bell episodes, sometimes with the commentary on, and eating soggy homemade ravioli. I don’t think we could ever imagine how the night would end just a few hours later.
After briefly deliberating, then wisely declining the prospect of going to a cougar bar, we wandered around downtown Hamilton for a few minutes. On our way, I met a homeless man who was really interested in Winter Solstice conspiracy theories and loved yelling at taxi cabs parked in crosswalks. Eventually, one of my friends pointed out a nearby bar, “Doors” I think it was called. He said the bartender was named Tyler, to which I vaguely remember saying, “hey, that’s my name”.
Cool story bro, right?
Then he goes on to tell me that the bar is known for having some weird goings-on. That and it’s often blasting Scandinavian metal. Against my better judgement, I started running. I never run. I wish I hadn’t. Walking inside, I didn’t hear Scandinavian metal. No, instead I saw a guy and girl duo on the turntables and MPC, a scruffy tall white guy rapping and someone dancing…
Users that are younger and more American than me might not really get this, but for somebody who didn’t get an internet connection until they were 16 and immediately set about using forums populated almost entirely by people over 3,000 miles away from them, the culture shock was surreal. I remember going into college and discussing all the crazy things we’d found out about the world at large from using forums the night before; learning that Americans think Blur are a one-hit wonder, for instance, was little short of mindblowing. The one discovery that stuck with me more than any other, though, was that no other country in the world cared about their Christmas #1.
It never occurred to me how silly this is until I had to explain it to a bewildered Canadian, but silly or not it’s true – the Christmas number 1 single is an absolutely huge deal in the UK. Getting it is a badge of honour for the bands that did, to the point where it even gets occasionally mentioned among the other major achievements of The Beatles (in ‘63, ‘64, ‘65, and ‘67) and Pink Floyd (1979 with “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2″), and has become the most commonly accepted barometer of the popularity of the Spice Girls. For some, their solitary Christmas #1 is enough to keep them famous among the general public for years to come – you’d be surprised how many parents in the UK started reminiscing about…
Backlash is such a strong word, and perhaps not the most appropriate one given the level of antipathy the group evokes among the internet cognoscenti, but it’s impossible to avoid the term in reacting to the Lonely Island’s new single ‘I Just Had Sex,’ which features imaginary tough guy Akon.
As an unabashed fan of the Lonely Island’s first CD, 2009’s Incredibad, I’ve always found it difficult to reconcile my love of their music with my complete disdain for SaturdayNight Live, and in particular Andy Samberg’s turgid contribution as a sketch actor. Like most of the SNL cast, Samberg as an actor represents the banal strand of comedy that dictates saying something in a funny accent automatically makes it ha-ha funny, when in fact all it does is make him look like a douchebag.
It’s a similar concept that has prolonged the painful career of Kenan Thompson. Thompson, who most famously played the part of the unfunny half of Kenan & Kel, seems to most rational observers to serve one purpose on the show: to play black characters in sketches where it would be racist for the white members to wear blackface. That’s not to say that SNL producers are racist. In fact, it’s the opposite – they hold black comedians to the same low standards to which they hold themselves. It’s equal opportunity mediocrity, and it’s rampant on SNL.
Which brings us back to the Lonely Island.
Over the past three or four years, the Lonely Island…
One often wonders that were Cee Lo Green to compose a Christmas track, would it sound anything like ‘Fuck Christmas.’
The short answer is no – for one thing, he’d probably release 11 censored versions before finally sticking the original out of sight mind at the arse-end of his Christmas album. The long answer is also no. The intermediary answer has yet to be confirmed but is believed to also be no.
As far as Christmas songs go, ‘Fuck Christmas’ probably occupies the same level of notoriety as Dog Soldiers does among werewolf films: everybody in the know knows the score, but nobody in the know is worth a fuck in the grand scheme of things. ‘Fuck Christmas’ wasn’t even deemed worthy of inclusion on Fear’s one work of note: 1982’s The Record. It ghosted in on reissues of the underrated hardcore band’s finest record.
As Christmas songs go, ‘Fuck Christmas’ has it all: a romantic, Dio-like proto-metal intro; rich Dickensian imagery; lots of them vibrato things on guitar; the “bad” F-word. More importantly, it flips the entire Christmas carol concept on its head. Frontman Lee Ving sings “don’t despair, just because it’s Christmas,” depicting The Most Wonderful Day of the Year, quite rightly, as the miserable, regret-filled season that is for many of us. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
And at just 45 seconds, it’s short enough that you can listen to 106 times in a row without getting bored. Hoo-ha!
I have a bone to pick with “Last Christmas” and no, it’s probably not the one George Michael is hoping for. I don’t really care that it’s overplayed and over-saturated. Five, now six times on today’s blog? Whatever. I don’t even mind George Michael’s breathy, exasperated delivery. I mean, it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’ll get over it. Nope. My problem with “Last Christmas” is that it does not make sense.
Now I don’t know what George Michael went to school for, if he went at all, but I doubt he studied much math. The other guy in Wham? I don’t know who he is. I don’t care, either, because he’s also obviously not too strong with numbers. Let’s look at “Last Christmas” as if it were a math problem. A really simple one, too. Like, second grade simple.
So, George Michael has one heart.
George Michael gives his heart away to someone. Presumably the other guy in Wham.
Guy who now has George Michael’s heart gives it away the very next day, perhaps explaining why I haven’t heard anything from him since.
At this point, George Michael doesn’t have a heart. Insert joke here.
How, then, can he give it to someone special next year?
“Last Christmas” is an insult to mathematical logic and I will not stand for it.
PS: You can point out that medically it is impossible for one…
Not a lot of people know this, but there are an awful lot of deranged, fanatical people out there who have dedicated large parts of their lives to archiving all 150+ versions of Wham!’s festive classic ‘Last Christmas.’
Naturally, I’m one of them.
Until an unfortunate incident with a fried motherboard destroyed my collection, I had upwards of 50 versions of the song in my possession, from almost every genre imaginable. Granted, many of those imaginable genres are the sort of trashy pop nobody sane would ever want to imagine (although I will defend Whigfield’s version to the death), but there’s an awful lot of good stuff mixed in there.
Come to think of it, had I been more clever about this, I’d have scrapped the “12 Days of Christmas” idea and just gone with the “12 Days of Last Christmas.” Maybe next year. In the meantime, feel free to take in 5 of the best.
Horses play an important role in western cultural mythology – think everything from the cowboys to Black Beauty – and it’s no less pronounced in music. Horses are hugely symbolic creatures: strong, graceful and difficult to tame. In other words, the very qualities that most (male) musicians would like to see in themselves.
I’ve decided to limit the countdown to actual horse-related songs, which unfortunately means no euphemisms. That means no ‘Horse it Into Ya, Cynthia‘ and no Band of Horses. It also excludes every song ever written about heroin, which rules out 90% of rock songs written between 1968 and 1995.
When I was fourteen, Muse became my favorite band. Considering what I’d been listening to before I heard them, they were actually a fairly sophisticated choice. I was finally starting to move beyond the realm of bands like Good Charlotte, Senses Fail, and New Found Glory (which I had moved on to from Christian music). I had been taking piano lessons for about five years, and I had grown to hate the instrument, mostly because I hated my teacher. So I was impressed with a band like Muse, who could write songs in which the piano sounded like something wholly different from the object of my distaste. They were playing the kind of music that I had always wanted to learn in my lessons but never did. It wasn’t necessarily difficult to play (barring the solo in “Butterflies And Hurricanes,” which floored me when my fourteen year old ears heard it), but it was certainly memorable, and as someone who wanted to forget all about the piano, that impressed me to no end.
Looking back, I find myself much more ashamed of loving them as much as I did than I am of loving a band like Good Charlotte, because Muse are now the worst band ever.
When Muse first started getting a lot of attention, there were a lot of Radiohead comparisons, which sent die-hard Radiohead fans into a tizzy because of Muse’s supposed unworthiness of the honor. That’s true, of course – Radiohead are a far superior band…
Identity is simultaneously everything and nothing in pop music: artists are constantly criticized for borrowing ideas and being carbon copies of someone else, but they also seem to try very hard to show that they are individuals. Most of the time though, their attempts are ill-conceived and often prove their detractors right. Christina Aguilera’s “Not Myself Tonight” springs to mind. After Back To Basics scrubbed Aguilera’s image squeaky clean, the logical step for a typical pop star would be to try to “do something different,” which in this case turned out to be an exact mirror image of the start of Aguilera’s career. Years ago she went from the innocent yet innuendo filled “Genie In A Bottle” (the girl next door laying fully clothed on a beach) to “Dirrty” (hookers engaging in sweaty wrestling matches; probably the first thing a lot of young boys masturbated to). Back To Basics saw her emulating the singers of the 40s and 50s, which means she wore white dresses and curled her hair and put on a lot of bright red lipstick, and four years later, the video for “Not Myself Tonight” featured Aguilera wearing a bunch of different S&M outfits. So really, “Not Myself Tonight” should have been titled “Myself Eight Years Ago.”
It’s hard to defend pop music when such faux pas are so commonplace. Even though Christina Aguilera is generally one of the better pop stars, you have to fault her for things like that when even fucking Ke$ha is doing…
I don’t particularly enjoy Christmas in any physical sense; I don’t buy presents for anyone and I don’t expect to receive any. We don’t decorate our house or get a Christmas tree anymore. Christmas is more of an obligation than anything at this point, and while that does depress me a little, it’s not a big deal. However, I’ll be damned if the Christmas season doesn’t weasel its way inside me every year. I wouldn’t call it holiday cheer – I’m a cynic at heart and Christmas is no different – but there is a certain pervading joyfulness underneath everything I do, humming away electrically to the tune of whatever Christmas song is stuck in my head or playing over some loudspeaker in a store.
My favorite Christmas songs utilize minor chords, and none do it better than “O Holy Night,” which has always stood head and shoulders above other Christmas songs for me. When I think of Christmas and winter, the first image that pops unbidden into my head is not one of snow or multicolored lights or wrapping paper. It is a very black night in which you can see every star in the sky, and there is profound silence all around. It captures both the beauty and stillness of winter but also those ominous qualities – the cold, the loneliness. The chord progression of “O Holy Night” embodies these things for me. Nothing explodes into glorious abandon quite like the chorus, but it’s so uncertain, teetering…
At a recent concert in Auckland, New Zealand, the U2 frontman paid tribute to 29 miners lost in the Pike River blast by dedicating two classic songs to the deceased: ‘One Tree Hill’ (itself inspired by an Auckland landmark) and, curiously and insensitively, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’ By all accounts, the bulk of participants took the tribute in the spirit it was intended, but many were offended by the rather crass choice of title.
Such daydreamy behaviour is not in the least unusual for our boy Paul, of course: the 50-year-old has a tendency not to see the woods for the trees in his eagerness, to put it charitably. Of more recent curiosity in Ireland has been the man’s total silence on his country’s economic woes, which have necessitated a bailout from the hated British, the dastardly Germans and the… well, we like the Swedes.
In normal circumstances, a tragedy on the scale of Ireland’s economic collapse would be Bono’s cue to hit the soapbox, but his bond with the old country has become evermore strained in recent years. His cosy relationship with Messrs Blair and Bush notwithstanding (though Ireland is more sympathetic to American interests than any other European country, barring perhaps the UK, we all have our limits), Bono and U2’s tax avoidance strategies have come in for increasing criticism at home.
Until recently, Ireland had a generous tax regime that exempted musicians (and…
Kevin Barnes, eccentric frontman of indie pop outfit of Montreal (that’s a lowercase ‘o’ mind you!) did something yesterday that not many artists do, for several reasons: he responded to a critic. The main reason, though, is quite simple – you can’t look good. Following his discovery of the 6.7 semi-dismissal from Pitchfork, he took to his blog to give his own snarky, critical response to a snarky, critical review. You can read it here but if you don’t want to, here’s the crux of the issue: Kevin Barnes feels misunderstood. His calls for a “fair and balanced review” amongst the slew of insults and sarcasm did serve a purpose though: it brought an important question back into the spotlight. Just what does a review serve to do?
Let’s put it into a wider context for a moment: the press are a huge part of a musicians life. The influence of a website like Pitchfork alone is enough to rocket the career of an upcoming independent artist into the spotlight or have it crumbling away like a fistful of sand. The evidence is clear enough to see: bands like Vampire Weekend can credit a lot of their current level of success to the hype Pitchfork spun around them (this isn’t a jab at the bands ability, for the record) and Fleet Foxes went from folk minnows to a debut album that charted in seven countries in the space of a year, on the back of a no-holds-barred 9.0…
It might be a reflection of me, or my friends, rather than the world at large, but the passing of Henryk Gorecki marked the first time since Michael Jackson that I found out about a musician’s death through a text message rather than the news. To me, it seems like that speaks volumes about how deeply people care about his music, how unerringly it connects with its audience. And this is to say nothing of the way one of his most famous and most cherished friends and compatriots reacted. As CBC reported, “[Krzysztof] Penderecki insisted on seeing him [in hospital]. We tried to joke, make plans for the future. Penderecki promised he would direct his Beatus Vir for his 80th birthday.” That birthday, like Penderecki’s own 80th, would have been in 2013. Something as simple, poignant, and sweet as that says everything. His death, like his music, was deeply human.
That is one thing that’s refreshing, almost, about Gorecki’s death. The last time I wrote an obituary for this blog, I was writing about a man that died very young and very suddenly. This time, I’m writing about a 76 year old man who had been ill for some time. There is no big story here, no coals to rake over, no skeletons in the closet to pause on – there is just a tribute to be paid to a great artist, and nothing more. We arguably haven’t had that since Stockhausen died, and even he did his…
Between each of Sufjan Stevens’ 2010 releases, All Delighted People EP and The Age of Adz (pronounced odds), it was awfully hard to not be enthusiastic at the notion of seeing his act live. In the past, Sufjan would have a near full orchestra for some shows and play a rather large-scale event, but no words or reviews could have properly prepared anyone for the show his entire ensemble put on last night at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, one of the most lavish and beautiful venues I have ever entered. Previously, comparing other releases such as Illinois and Seven Swans, I cannot say that I would have been chomping at the bit to see either live, but the energy and mystique that surrounds The Age of Adz was enough to imagine how it would all translate live. We all can sit and listen to any Sufjan Stevens record and not really get a clear picture as to how much or what kind of emotion was put into this record, but in person, watching the maestro perform his work, everything was revealed.
As the theater lights dimmed, a roar erupted as Sufjan Stevens took stage donned with a small set of white, feathered wings on his back. Gently strumming his banjo to “Seven Swans,” the entire theater was silent as all eyes and attention were squarely on Sufjan as no other band members were visible at this point. The first break in “Seven Swans,” which was originally just…