The Dead Business Model

May 5th, 2008 by dave

In the latest issue of Bob Lefsetz’ consistently brilliant Lefsetz Letter, which I agree with wholeheartedly about 90% of the time, and almost always amazes me with the pure energy that pops out of the thing, he writes about the fact that Trent Reznor has taken Radiohead one step further and is just releasing his latest album for free. I’m not even a big Nine Inch Nails fan and I think that’s pretty goddam cool.

Lefsetz goes on to compare somebody like Trent Reznor to somebody like Mariah Carey — one is a legitimate artist (as I said, I’m not a big fan, but still, there’s no doubt that the cat would be making music whether it paid the bills or not), and the other is the product of careful marketing and other folks’ songwriting and puppeteering producers, and probably equally the product of some trainer somewhere who finally got her to lose that last twenty pounds (come on, it’s not coincidence that that’s happened in concert with the latest big “comeback”). One can afford to release his album for free because he’s got fans, people who care about his music, the actual music, not the ringtone or the video, people who will come to see him play live, who will buy his next album or single, no matter how it’s released. The other has people who will buy whatever is being pimped to them that day/week/month. Can anybody sing a Mariah Carey song for me? Not the one with ODB on it? I couldn’t hum the first bit of a Mariah Carey song, and that’s because there are no Mariah Carey songs. There are songs that Mariah Carey sings all over, melismas up and down during, but none that she actually created, that have any kind of Mariah Carey soul in them. She might as well have bought them off eBay.

So Mariah Carey will never release a free album, for for Reznor, it actually kind of makes sense. Lefsetz takes it one step further:

“It’s not about free music. And it’s not about piracy. It’s about the democratization of access. About the rising power of the audience. Don’t pay attention to the mainstream pundits. They’re just looking to save their jobs, no different from Universal Music or Sony BMG. They want it the way it’s always been. But it’s never going to be that way again.”

It’s interesting, but I’m not sure whether it’s all the way true. It’s kind of what we thought Napster had done, five or six years ago. That turned out to be a different animal altogether.

I think what he’s talking about is the Grateful Dead model, actually, where you focus on music and touring and you let go of royalties and hit records. The Dead let anybody who wanted to come on in and tape a show, then hand off as many tapes as they wanted to all their friends. That’s fucking viral marketing, and those hippies were doing it since the 70s. That’s how you spread the word. Not through ringtones and copyright lawyers. That’s why people were going on tour with the Dead, city to city, year to year. You think anybody is looking to follow Ashleigh Simpson around the country?

You can say what you want about the music and the patchouli and the whole hippie scene, but holy shit, those hippies went and made up a business model that just might work in the twenty first century, and that’s more than you can say for anybody else.

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Posted in music, pop tarts having 2191 comments »

Six Months Late Movie Reviews: No Country, Blood, Juno

April 30th, 2008 by dave

There are lots of things I thought were bullshit until I had a kid, but one of the main ones was hearing people say “I never go to the movies anymore.” It always sounded kind of defeatist and stupid, like, Dude, if you really want to go to the movies, you can go — don’t blame the kid. But here’s the thing: man, I never go to the movies anymore (it’s simple economics: in order to go to the movies, we need to pay somebody ten bucks an hour to sit on our couch and watch our television, so there are very few movies that seem worth the cash; if we’re going to pay somebody to use our interwebs while we’re out, we’re going to get drunk). Anyway, the point of this post isn’t to bitch about how I never go to the movies anymore, since my friend Netflix sends them directly to my house. The point is to finally weigh in on some movies everybody else saw six months ago.

No Country for Old Men:

Damn am I glad I didn’t pay somebody to sit in my house while I watched this movie. I’m really surprised it won best picture — was that some kind of lifetime achievement award for the Coen Brothers? If it was, then I’m cool with it. After all, those cats made Fargo and Raising Arizona and O’ Brother Where Art Thou and the Big Lebowski, so their lifetime achievements are pretty fucking impressive. If it was just for that one movie, then what the fuck?

It’s not that I thought it was bad. It was well done, well acted, interesting to look at, an obviously compelling story by Cormac McCarthy. The thing is that I really didn’t give a shit about anybody in that movie at all. Nobody. They were all kind of half interesting, but, not to get all workshoppy and all, but I just didn’t care whether Josh Brolin or the dude with the haircut or Tommy Lee Jones won/lived in the end. Without that, it was kind of like watching a bunch of insects attack each other — interesting, but not really compelling.

But the worst thing to me was that it was so straightforward — where was the Coen Brothers’ trademark wit? Where was the quirk? I was expecting Fargo but it was actually kind of like Fargo with all the character stripped away, like Fargo made by Clint Eastwood. A bowl haircut is funny — I’ll give you that — but it can’t carry a whole movie.

There Will Be Blood

Like Old Country, a sprawling story featuring people who are mainly no good. Unlike No Country, for some reason, I really gave a shit about Daniel Day Lewis and that kid from the Little Miss Sunshine movie. I’m honestly not sure why — maybe because we saw the entire relationship develop, or maybe because we get to watch them grow and change, or maybe because they didn’t so much change as reveal themselves very slowly over time. Whatever the reason, I thought this was great.

A little too Paul Thomas Anderson, in that it was long and a little overacted (although that even worked for me — it felt epic, rather than stupid). Thankfully, no raining frogs.

Juno

Since I’m soaking in pop culture all the time, and I devour Entertainment Weekly every Friday afternoon as soon as it arrives, I knew all about Juno. What I knew was the perhaps-too-snappy dialog, the no-way-does-this-really-exist 16 year old girl who loves the Stooges and classic slasher fare, Michael Cera as George Michael Bluth in funny running shorts, the stripper turned screenwriter thing. All that was there. And yeah, the dialog was too clever by half, but only in spots, and sometimes it was totally brilliant (”Juno: You’re so cool because you don’t even try. George Michael Bluth: I try really hard actually.).

But I was really surprised at how much else was there. For the lack of a better word — and I guess I’m supposed to be some kind of writer or something, so I really should be able to find a better term, but, well, I need more coffee — it had a lot of heart.

Most o that supplied by Jennifer Garner, who I thought was amazing. This might have a lot to do with the fact that I’m an adoptive parent, but man, every time she was onscreen, you could just feel the keening. (Trust me, young people, if you don’t recognize the look, you will when you get to your thirties — I”m not saying you’ll have it, but you’ll see it. A lot.).

Back to the dialog: I thought one of the best lines was when she looks at Jason Bateman, in the middle of a very heavy conversation about their relationship, at a point where it seems like the thing she wants most — a kid — is going to vanish into thin air because Bateman basically can’t come to terms with the fact that he’s in his thirties and he’s not Dave Grohl and he’s actually a suburban dude about to lock in his suburban-ness with the addition of a kid (hmmm….been there…), and she looks at Jason Bateman and says “that shirt is stupid.” To get all writer-like, that line says everything she’s thinking, in a totally surprising way that’s absolutely true to both characters. I know, because it would work on me.

Okay, that’s all for now, tune in six months from now when I review Shine a Light and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

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Posted in movies having 4705 comments »

Live Music Report: Levon Helm at the Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore

April 29th, 2008 by dave

Most rock shows make you glad to be alive. Some make you glad to be there — you think, Shit, something a little special is happening tonight, thank god I got my ass off the couch and schlepped down here. Other shows, like the Levon Helm Band at the Ram’s Head Live last week, are so great that they actually make you wish you had followed a very different career/life path, one that might bring you, eventually, at, say, the ripe old age of 67, to lead an eclectic and ridiculously talented group of friends and musicians in a two and a half hour show that can only rightfully be called a celebration.

And it was a celebration of a lot of things, not the least of which that Levon Helm is still with us, still making music, and still singing in that rough-hewn Arkansas whiskey voice. It’s a voice unlike any other — as American as Joe Strummer’s was English. It’s a voice that he comes by honestly — Helm was the drummer and one of the primary vocalists in The Band, he played on Dylan’s first electric tour and then, tired of being booed every night, quit to work on an oil rig outside Texas, then came back into the fold when the Band holed up in Woodstock to make the first of their legendary albums, Music from Big Pink. Later, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer (3 packs a day), underwent chemotherapy, literally lost his voice, then got it back and started making music at his house in Woodstock. Eventually, they invited the public, where for a fee you could watch the Levon Helm band jam at their weekly “rambles,” where guest like Elvis Costello or Allen Touissaint regularly stopped by. The ramble is a low key, family affair, and this is what Helm brought with him to Baltimore.

From the opening notes of Ophelia, the entire show had a gently rollicking feel, with people coming on and off stage regularly, vocals shared among 6 people, and instruments regularly traded between songs. Helm’s daughter Amy even came off the microphone and got behind her father’s drums for one song, and the incredible brass section played just about anything that can be played (seriously — sousaphone, piccolo, along with every kind of saxaphone, trombone, trumpet). If there’s a word that describes the vibe it would be generous. Helm regularly took a back seat while members of the band or other vocalists took their turn in the center stage.

The music was amazing. They worked through a number of the Band’s greatest hits, including Ophelia, It Makes No Difference, Chest Fever (with Garth Hudson’s organ intro played, amazingly, by Campbell on the electric guitar), The Shape I’m In, and The Weight. Nobody on stage would likely pass muster with Simon Cowell — they were all a few years past twenty, a few pounds past belly shirts — but a more talented group of musicians is unlikely to grace that stage anytime soon.

If you’re a fan of The Band (and I’m always surprised to find people who are not, to which my only response is “Dude?”) or of Americana in general, you need to see this band while they’re still around. Go to Woodstock — it’s worth the money. Or see them on the road. See them while you can.

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Posted in stuff that is awesome, music having 6316 comments »

Is This Thing On?

April 16th, 2008 by dave

Well, not really, for the past few months, that is. I’ve been neglecting my jibber jabber duties here and over at Barrelhouse while I got some real job shit together. Anyway, together, back, jibber jabbering away. More soon.

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Posted in lazy having 9415 comments »

Obligatory Tom Cruise Post

January 24th, 2008 by dave

So Tom Cruise is crazy. Completely batshit, raving, super mega jumbo extra crazy. That’s been well established. So much so, in fact, that he’s still Gawker’s main navigation item, and the story over there is morphing into coverage of the coverage (stories about how other websites can duplicate Gawker’s incredible, Tom Cruise related traffic surge).

If you haven’t seen the video, you really have to check it out. It’s fascinating and funny and profoundly creepy. I think this quote sums it up nicely: “”Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it’s not like anyone else…you know that you’re the only one who can help.”

He talks about how scientologists are the only ones who can “bring peace” and “healing” and “clean this place up” and lots of kind of grand, super vague assertions along those lines. He laughs maniacally and talks about how he doesn’t let SPs (those would be suppressive people, aka, all y’all, aka, anybody who is not in Tom’s cult).

Anyway, I can’t recommend it more highly. Definitely the best movie he’s been in since, wow, I guess maybe Top Gun. When was the last time that guy was in a good movie, anyway? And don’t give me Magnolia, that bloated frog raining piece of crap.

So the most interesting thing about the movie, and Tom Cruise in general, is what a good story this is. It’s Elmer Gantry and All the Kings Men meets, shit, I don’t know, some movie where a giant weird church founded by a science fiction writer hoodwinks some half-smart movie star into believing that he’s conquered time and space and can do anything he wants, and that they know this because the made-up instruments that they’ve created tells them so. Seriously, that’s a good movie.

I’m really curious what Tom Cruise thinks his abilities are. In Tom Cruise’s head, can he really help a car accident victim? Like, just because he’s “OT7″ and more “clear” than John Travolta. Can he bring peace? What would that mean? How exactly would he pull that off, scientologically speaking? I’m honestly curious about this. I picture him in some big room in Clearwater Florida, with some kind of football helmet with wires coming out of it on his head, and a big made-up control room thing — lights flashing, charts, things blipping and beeping — and that David Miscavige character standing there pretending to read the fake blips and saying “Oh my god, Tom, you are sooooo clear. Sweet LRH, you can do anything you want to…hey, let’s go make a video with you laughing like a madman and saying crazy shit…”

But when Tom Cruise thinks about these notions, “peace” or “cleaning things up,” what the hell is he thinking about. Would he start with a mission statement, draw up a list of stuff to do, a workplan, measurements of success? I mean, I build websites here at my real job, and it takes a shitload of paperwork and a lot of people working in concert just to get one of these little things online. And we’re not exactly working on world peace, or cleaning up the world, or, you know, vaguely doing something assertive that would make the world a better place for the aliens that are sleeping in our bodies.

So when Tom Cruise pictures Tom Cruise “helping” or “cleaning things up,” does he picture himself as a cross between Kofi Annan and George Bush and the Terminator? Or does he just imagine that he stands there on the roof of the Hollywood Celebrity Center and, like, thinks really hard about “helping” or “cleaning things up.” Does he assume that he is so goddam “clear” that he just forces all of this shit back into shape (whatever that might mean)? Maybe if him and John Travolta stand at opposite ends of the earth and both think about it really hard, lightning bolts will come out of their heads and cleanse the earth in the fire of L. Ron Hubbard’s made-up righteousness.

Seriously, what do you think this jackass thinks he’s talking about?

[double-dipped from the Barrelhouse blog]

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Posted in crap that is not awesome, stuff that is awesome, douchebaggery, Uncategorized having 6035 comments »

Facebook, Myspace, and Ikea

January 22nd, 2008 by dave

There’s an interesting article on Slate today that compares Facebook to Ikea. The basic idea of the article is this: “a defining idea behind Wikipedia, Facebook, and blogging platforms such as WordPress is that if you give people the right tools, they’ll use them to create wonderful things in collaboration with each other or with the organization that provides the catalyst.”

Like Ikea, Facebook and Wordpress provide the basic framework and enough flexibility to let creative people be creative and voila, everybody’s happy.

I wouldn’t disagree with that, but as somebody who builds websites as part of my real job, I’ve noticed another glaring similarity between Facebook and Ikea: they both offer a clean, contemporary, almost creepily sterile environment.

Anybody who has made the move from Myspace to Facebook has undoubtedly noticed the general sterility of the Facebook environment. It’s a professional place, functional and clean. People mind their manners. They tend to speak when spoken to.

If Facebook is Ikea, Myspace is that part of town that’s not quite gentrified, where you’re likely to rub elbows with the heavily tattooed and scantily clad, where any friendly gesture must be taken with a massive grain of salt. Hey friend, why don’t you come on over here and I’ll show you some pictures from spring break? She is good looking, yes, well, come on over here, friend, and I will introduce you to her friends. For some reason, those italics translate into a Russian accent in my head.

There is none of that on Facebook. On Facebook, there is scrabble and trivia, groups organized by geography and who used to work at Arthur Anderson or the Nature Conservancy. Facebook seems like a place where you might be able to find some reasonably priced bedroom furniture, maybe grab some affordable, acceptable meatballs for lunch. On Myspace, you might be able to find Ghostface Killah or Girls Gone Wild or some kind of shady scheme involving penis enlargement and Nigerian bank accounts.

There’s no doubt that Facebook is a better application. It’s functional. You can actually use it. Like Ikea, it’s predictable, inviting, contemporary without being overpoweringly cool.

But like a gentrified part of town that’s now filled with Macaroni Grills and Chipotles (I’m looking at you, Silver Spring, Maryland), even as more and more of us settle in with our trivia and our scrabble, our nice, solid, acceptable group of friends, we know that it’s not quite as much fun without the freaks and the scammers.

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Posted in Uncategorized having 6872 comments »

My Name is Dave…I Like to Dance!

December 20th, 2007 by dave

My favorite new TV show is fun, bouncy, hip, weird, and nearly impossible to get out of your head. It’s had guest stars as diverse as Elijah Wood, Mya, Rahzel from the Roots, the Shins, Sugarland, and Tony Hawk. Members of Devo and the Aquabats form the house band. Biz Markie has a regular spot.

So why haven’t you heard of this show? Maybe because it’s for two year olds. The show is Yo Gabba Gabba and my son, who is two, loves it. Due to this fact, it’s been on nearly constant rotation on our Tivo, and I have to admit that I kind of love it, too.

The first thing I noticed about Yo Gabba Gabba was how much better the music was than the rest of the kids shows. It’s a low barrier, I’ll give you that, but with musical roots from Devo through the Aquabats, and a strong awareness — or maybe a better word is “acceptance” or “embrace” — of hip hop, Yo Gabba Gabba is one of the few kids shows that seems like it was made in this century. Hip hop beats flow throughout just about everything, from the moment the host, DJ Lance Rock, ambles onstage with his boombox, until he packs the little monster guest-stars into their little portable stage.

In between, the show is really all about music and dancing. One of my favorite segments is when they have kids jumping up and down and yelling, “My name is Dave…I like to dance!” Other segments, clearly aimed at Gen X parents like me, feature brief, pixelated visions of what look like old video games, a snatch of Frogger, for instance (although it’s not Frogger, it looks just like it).

Each show features musical guests that range from everybody mentioned above to some Japanese hardcore band that sang a song composed of these lyrics: “one to three four five six! One two three four five six!”

And of course, there’s The Biz:

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Posted in tv, stuff that is awesome, music having 5906 comments »

Dear Good Charlotte

November 26th, 2007 by dave

Well, boys, I guess it’s finally over, huh? Not a bad run, really, for a band that, let’s face it, twins, really wasn’t very good to begin with. Somehow you struck a nerve anyway, with your boo-hoo faces and your rock and roll accoutrements, and your little power pop, watered down punk thing seemed to be just the thing that tweens were looking for — something not so scary as actual rock, but played by people with tattoos that might freak out the parents.

Thinking about it now, I’m surprised it took this long. I mean, you really never were very good or memorable. That one song, the one with the video, I guess was allright, for what it was. You know the one I’m talking about? Neither do I.

I would have thought you would have destroyed any possibility even acting like you think you’re a real rock band when you started dating eighteen year old tween starlets. Or when you started knocking up mean little celebrities with no discernable talent who look like skinny little boys. But let’s face it: no amount of neck tattoos or Daddy Didn’t Love Me interviews or goth make-up is going to cover up the fact that you lipsynced on a float sponsored by an oil company in the Macy’s Fucking Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Rock and roll, boys, rock and roll!

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Posted in crap that is not awesome, music, douchebaggery having 384 comments »

Live Music Report: Hold Steady at the 9:30

November 21st, 2007 by dave

The Hold Steady played last night at DC’s 9:30 Club and, against all odds (age, work, other places I really should have been, if I wasn’t a moron, like in my house with my wife and child), I was there. And damn, am I glad I was. The Hold Steady play bar band rock with punk and Springsteen undertones, and last night’s show was just that: like seeing vintage Springsteen fronting a punk band, singing songs that were maybe written by Denis Johnson.

Starting with Hornets! Hornets! — “she said always remember never to trust me, she said that the first time that she met me, she said there’s gonna come a day, when I’m gonna have to go, with whoever’s gonna get me the highest” — they tore through a series of highlights from their past three albums, including some of my favorites (Stuck Between Stations, Chips Ahoy, Stevie Nix, Massive Nights, Boys and Girls in America).

I was a little nervous coming in, to be honest, because the Hold Steady is pretty much my favorite band right now, and I wasn’t sure how Craig Finn’s voice would hold up in concert. He’s not a singer so much as a shouter — part David Byrne, part, I dont know, David Cross? — and that doesn’t always work live. As it turned out, he was better live, as was the band, as tight a unit as I’ve seen since the Dip Dap Kings.

Finn even gave a local shout out that seemed completely earnest: “I’ve known about the 9:30 Club since I’ve known about rock and roll.”

The Hold Steady get compared to Springsteen a lot, because they work in the same territory as Springsteen’s earlier stuff — street kids, fucking up, normal folks who are, well, fucking up — and parts of their sound are undeniably E Street Band-esque. Last night included a few moments that could have been right out of Jungleland, but also a few that could have been right off London Calling or If You Want Blood, You Got It. I saw Springsteen a few years ago and it was undeniably great. He works like nobody’s business, and his catalog is so deep that he play for literally hours and still not cover my ten favorite Bruce tunes. Still, The Hold Steady last night, in a small club, was about as good as rock and roll gets.

Anyway, I could keep blabbing, or I just just give you this link: amazingly, NPR is streaming the whole show from last night.

Never thought I’d say this, but NPR rocks.

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Posted in stuff that is awesome, music having 5584 comments »

NYC and DC Readings, Nov 15 and 17

November 14th, 2007 by dave

Just a note that there are a few upcoming readings (and then I’ll get back to the usual bloggy jibber jabber):

Thursday Nov 15: At Mcnally Robinson Bookstore in New York City, with Jennifer Banash and Christian TeBordo, also of Impetus Press. 52 Prince Street, wherever that is. Click for details.

Saturday Nov 17: DC Release party for Ryan Seacrest is Famous. Steve’s Barroom, 1337 Conn. Ave NW (south of DuPont Circle), second floor. Come and join us.

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Posted in Uncategorized having 6663 comments »

About Another Harebrained Scheme

Another Harebrained Scheme is the blog of writer and normal dude Dave Housley, author of the book "Ryan Seacrest is Famous." This is where Dave spouts off randomly about book stuff, pop stuff, lit stuff, and whatever other stuff he feels like spouting off about.