Trouser Wedge

Trouser_wedgeI came home the other night and couldn’t get the front door of my building open. I yelled up to see if any of my neighbors were home to let me in, when I noticed the AC unit of my downstairs neighbor, Pat.

Even though it was 20 feet up, the blue, pink and white spine was instantly recognizable: The Trouser Press Record Guide. Not only is it good for learning about everyone from the Velvet Underground and the Bonzo Dog Band to Joy Division and Nirvana, it’s also the perfect height to help prop up an air conditioner.

Not only was the TPRG my music bible in college, essential to my becoming a music know-it-all, I also used to work with TP editor Ira Robbins… all I can say is…sorry.

MP3: The Bonzo Dog Band – Trouser Press

Unplanned Events

Knockeduppic1 Wednesday was chock-full of missed opportunities and botched plans. I turned down tickets to go see Paul Weller at Irving Plaza, in favor of attending a test screening of Judd Apatow‘s upcoming comedy, Knocked Up, and then going to NorthSix for the club’s final show. Looking at the setlist from last night, I mostly made the right decision. Style Council night? Sign me up, but I’m not very familiar with his solo stuff, and am a passing Jam fan at best.

I’m definitely a bigger Judd Apatow fan, be it The Cable Guy, Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and have interviewed him twice (most recently here), so I was really looking forward to getting to see Knocked Up so early — it’s not out till this summer. It’s about a guy (F&G/ Undeclared/40-Year-Old Virgin scene-stealer Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote the script with Apatow) who has a one-night-stand with a girl (Grey’s Anatomy‘s Katherine Heigl)… and gets her pregnant. Unfortunately, it was a 6pm screening on the Upper West Side and by the time I got there, the line of college kids and comedy nerds was stretched well beyond the point where it looked possible for me to get in. I’ve been to enough of these things to know when I didn’t’ have a chance.

Here’s the
Knocked Up trailer, in either the red-band R-rated version, or the also-explicit International "teaser" which is basically just one scene from the movie. Looks like most of the Undeclared cast is in the movie, plus Harold Ramis.

Luckily I had backup plans. Alex Kapranos was doing an in-store at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, reading from his new book, Sound Bites. I’m not much of a "reader," and this was my first one of these, other than accidentally stumbling across one of CSPAN or something. It was a packed house, full of indie kids, college students, weirdos, aging hipsters, Mark Ibold, and at least a few people who seemed to have wandered in by accident. There were also a bunch of silly fangirls there (who looked a little too old to be doing such things) who immediately started screaming "ALEX YOU’RE SO HOT OHMIGOD SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!" when Kapranos appeared in jeans, a PiL t-shirt and leather jacket.

When the squeeing started Kapranos got a slightly frightened look on his face and I almost instantly regretted my decision to attend, but the girls mostly behaved themselves. What I like about him is how genuinely down-to-earth he is which I think is mostly based on not finding fame until he was in his 30s. Until "Take Me Out," Alex Kapranos was just this nice guy who had been in a bunch of somewhat known indie bands, but who had payed his rent by working various restaurant jobs (and, according to Wikipedia, as a welder) and other things.

He was pretty humble and nervous, admitting his coffee cup was full of red wine, but he did a great job reading maybe five of the articles from the book. (All had been originally published in The Guardian while Franz Ferdinand were on their 2005-2006 world tour.) While I already liked the book, it was actually much better hearing him read it aloud, you could tell it was really written as he speaks. He’s a witty writer too. One of the pieces, where he was faced with a dish of bull’s testicles in Buenos Aires, was especially funny.

After the reading, he took a lot of questions from the audience, which ranged from "You’re so awesome… how long did it take you to write the book?" (Answer: "A year, 400 words at a time.") to "What onomatopoeia would begin your autobiography?" (Answer: "a squelch.") He thoughtfully answered everything, even when declining requests to sing a song. Someone asked what his favorite NYC pizza place was, he admitted he didn’t know and asked for suggestions, resulting in a flurry of shouted replies — I heard DiFara’s mentioned, as well as bunch of Bleeker St places I’d never heard of. The best anecdote was about his favorite food as a child: white bread with loads of butter and sugar that he and his brother would then squash into a dense ball. If he didn’t already have a girlfriend, that would be the kind of story that gets you in good with the ladies.

Speaking of, I met my girlfriend at Men Kui Tei on 3rd Ave for a quick bowl of tonkatsu ramen. It’s been said here before, if you’re just going for the soup, Menkui Tei is preferable Momofuku any day. For these tastebuds, Momofuku’s broth is too salty ( everything else on their menu is awesome though). And you never have to worry about a wait.

Then it was back to the WB for the last-ever show at NorthSix: a killer triple-bill of Radio 4, The Big Sleep and !!!-offshoot Free Blood. Well it would’ve been killer if Con-Ed hadn’t turned off their power a day early. The show was canceled and it felt like the biggest letdown. But after three late nights in a row, there was also a feeling of relief. Was in bed before midnight.

First Impressions of Transformers Trailer

I was about four years too old for Transformers the first time around — they were definitely the toys I wish I’d had when I was 10 years old — and certainly too old for the cartoon series. So I don’t really have the excitement for the movie I would about, say, a Micronauts movie. And the fact that Michael Bay is directing makes it even less thrilling. But when the trailer hit the internet today, I bit.

Yep, it’s a Michael Bay movie all right, with things are blowing up real good. Wake me when the Autobots win. The only other notable thing, and the only reason I’m posting about this, is that star Shia LeBeouf (who I like) seems to wear a Strokes t-shirt for the whole movie.Transformer_strokes

I wonder if they’ll be on the soundtrack? And will either of those things be enough to get Miss Modern Age to buy a ticket?

Major Minor Details — Accounting Division

Thanks to US Weekly, we all know celebrities are just like us. But you may not realize that medium commercially successful singer/songwriters are just like us too.

Just ask Sondre Lerche, who will release his second album in less than a year, Phantom Punch, on February 7, 2007. For one thing, he’s just like us in that he has his own blog. And on that blog he informs us that he also has to do his own accounting. This is the ugly side of the music that VH1 never dared to go behind.

"This industry really eats you up and spits you out. And then you have to do your receipts.

Because I am with myself most of the time, no one is better suited in
explaining exactly why buying six horse masks is an expense that is
relevant to my business…"

Personally, I would think he could afford an accountant. I can afford an accountant. But I applaud his DiY attitude, nonetheless.

You can hear Phantom Punch‘s noisy, Joseph K-ish title track on Sondre’s MySpace page.

The song’s video (which explains something from the above quote) was directed by Kristoffer Borgli, who won a contest for the chance to do so. Someone likes Michel Gondry…

The F Word’s Here, the F Word’s There

FwordbabybirdPreviously seen as an explative-spewing bastard on Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and other series, Gordon Ramsey’s F Word aims to show a kinder, gentler side to Britain’s most famous chef. His goal: get people, women specifically, back in the kitchen and caring about food. That and getting fresh with hot chicks in the name of Good Television. I have to admit, I thought the first episode was pretty good.

When I first heard the title of the series, I immediately thought of the song "The F Word" by Babybird. And lo and behold, it’s being used as the theme song of the series. In fact, the song practically omniprescent throughout each episode.

MP3: Babybird – "The F Word"

If you’ve never heard of Babybird, it’s the pseudonym of Stephen Jones, who was somewhat of a Brit indie sensation in the mid-90s, but never even dented the public consciousness of America. Amazingly prolific, he released five albums of home-recorded songs in 1995, then rerecorded the best songs from those records for his proper debut, 1996’s Ugly Beautiful, which spawned the UK hit "You’re Gorgeous."

The follow-up was 1998’s dark, depressing There’s Something Going On — which kind of sank his career. (1998 was dark year in Britain, which also saw the release of Pulp’s This is Hardcore and The Divine Comedy’s Fin de Siècle — both downer albums from bands known for being a bit more fun.). 2000’s Bugged went virtually unnoticed but is actually a really great record, containing "The F Word" and the twisted ballad "Out of Sight." Nearly all of Babybird’s albums are out-of-print, but the 2004 compilation Best of Babybird hits most of the high points.

Babybird went dark after Bugged, though in 2002 Jones released an album under his own name, Almost Cured of Sadness, a bedroom-recorded affair which featured a lot songs with annoying Chipmunk vocals.

But I’m happy to report that Jones has revived the Babybird pseudonym with his new album Between My Ears There’s Nothing but Music. It finds him in fine form, bizzare but undeniably catchy. My favorite is "Lighter ‘n’ Spoon" that puts an interesting spin on the old two-peas-in-a-pod theme. I don’t see it being used as a TV theme any time soon, but stranger things have happened.

MP3: Babybird – "Lighter ‘n’ Spoon"

Gordon Ramsey’s F Word airs Sunday nights at 9PM EST on BBC America.

Karl Lagerfeld: I’m Your Fan

I was flipping through the new Caroline Distribution catalog when this stopped me dead in my tracks:
Karl_lagerfeldInitially, I thought it was a CD from Germany’s most famous exports, Heino. Right country, wrong guy. The title read, Karl Lagerfeld: My Favorite Songs. Oh dear. Could the 73-year-old German fashion icon and former fan-waver be recording an album of standards? (That would probably be a lot like a Heino record, come to think of it.)

No. Turns out Lagerfeld has compiled a two-disc set of his favorite songs — presumably used in recent fashion shows.

Heino is not on it, though "Blau Blueht Der Enzian" would make perfect catwalk material.

I was all ready to make more jokes at his expense, but then I read the tracklisting which, the sell sheet claims, was chosen by Lagerfeld himself. LCD Soundsystem. Stereolab. Xavier Cugat. Stravinsky! The Fall!! So I can only make fun of the "Amazing CD digipak design" which Lagerfeld also created. Actually, I haven’t seen it so I can only judge the cover. He’s just not the same without the girth… and the fan.

Full tracklisting for Karl Lagerfeld: My Favorite Songs

1.    Devendra Banhart – Feel Like a Child
2.    The Boy Least Likely To – Be Gentle with Me
3.    Minotaur Shock – Vigo Bay
4.    Lindstrom & Prinz Thomas – Mighty Girl
5.    Mayber & Aguayo – Slow
6.    LCD Soundsystem – Too Much Love
7.    The Free Design – The Proper Ornaments
8.    The Pipettes – Your Kisses are Wasted On Me
9.    Smokers Die Younger – Yer Actual
10.    Electrelane – Eight Steps
11.    Xavier Cugat – Perfidia
12.    Planning to Rock – I Wanna Bite Ya
13.    Fiery Furnaces – I’m in No Mood
14.    A Hawk and a Hacksaw – Romceasca

1.    The Fall – Blindness
2.    Stravinsky – Pulcinella
3.    The Bell Orchestra – The Upwards March
4.    Siouxsie & the Banshees – Spellbound
5.    Matmos – Solo Buttons for Joe Meek
6.    Caribou – Lord Leopard
7.    Goldfrapp – Slide In (DFA remix)
8.    Joakim – I Wish You Were Gone
9.    Stereolab – I Was a Sunny Rainphase
10.    Kreidler – Cervantes

Buy it from

Where’s the Love?

While trying to wrap up what’s turning into a long-winded review of Tuesday night’s Dears show at Bowery Ballroom (apocalyptic!), not to mention thoughts on such things as the new Scissor Sisters (disappointing!), Idolator (it’s a blog!), the new TV season (I watch too much TV!), and a hundred other posts not likely to ever materialize(I’m lazy!)…

…I’d like to point you toward my friend Toby’s blog, Finest Kiss. Toby and I worked at our college radio station together during George Bush, Sr’s presidency, and he went on to be Music Director at WCDB in Albany during his grad school days. There he amassed a giant indie rock 7" collection. He’d send me mixtapes compilations of them, most of it which I’d never heard of before (or since). But there was a lot of great songs that never made it to CD, even though this was the mid-’90s. Many of these bands never got further than one single and a chickfactor review.

Before this gets too lengthy, the point is Toby has started digitizing these little slabs of lost vinyl and is now offering them up as MP3s, the first of which was posted today.

Anyone remember Swedish band Neil Armstrong? Check it out.

Hopefully, Toby will be industrious and keep these coming at a regular rate. I have been looking for a quality MP3 of Monsterland‘s "Peanut Butter Karma" for forever. Anyone got that one?

Not So Legendary

My first job in New York was producing a syndicated radio show for college stations (it was snappily called Music View) and while it didn’t pay much, I could use the studio as all I wanted on nights and weekends. Studio is a kind word. Though it was 1995 and fully in the age of ProTools, we had a one-inch tape 8-track from 1980 or so and not in the greatest condition, and I was cutting up interviews on a reel-to-reel with a razorblade. Nonetheless, as someone who had only messed around on a cassette four track, this was the real deal. And we had good microphones.

Armed with a Gibson ES-325 and a Roland PMA-5 providing everything else, I recorded a handful of songs in 1997, using the band name My Legendary Girlfriend. (I was into Pulp at the time.) The idea was to release a 7″ single, but it never happened. And then the only copy I had of them — the original DAT I mixed the songs to — went missing about six years ago and never thought I’d hear them again. But it turns out my friend Jason had the DAT and he mailed it to me recently. I borrowed a DAT machine and took a listen. I didn’t cringe…much.

So here they are, all recorded in 1997. With a drum machine and synth bass, I embraced the ‘Eighties-ness of it all — which is fine, I love all that stuff. The musical cribbing is rather shameless. In fact it’s entirely intentional. See how many references you can spot!

Now in easy BandCamp streaming:

• My Legendary Girlfriend – “Mix Tapes for Girls”
Featuring some singing that drifts into Vegas-style a couple times — yikes! This was actually covered by the Behoovers… whose frontman is my old boss.

• My Legendary Girlfriend – “Test Tube Babies”
I could’ve been The Postal Service if only I’d known how to actually use the equipment. My mom’s favorite.

• My Legendary Girlfriend – “Ten Minutes More”
A veritable ode to 1986. In retrospect, I shoulda worked in “I Melt With You” at the end too.

A couple years after recording these, I discovered there was a Scottish band using the name My Legendary Girlfriend, and they actually played live and had (have) a website. So I changed my moniker to Snowpants. But the other MLG has since broken up (and never known in the US), so I’m claiming back the name. For this post at least.

It’s amazing how much the lyrics have dated: mixtapes, prepaid phone cards… the far-off year of 2002. A lot has changed in the last ten years.

“Good taste is what makes you end up with Tortoise.”

Avclub_logoI’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but The Onion’s AV Club is one of the few outlets out there that actually gives "entertainment journalism" a good name. And they’re actually getting better. One of my favorite new features is "Random Rules." While they aren’t the only mag to get a celebrity to put their iPod’s on shuffle and have them talk about what songs come up, The AV Club does it better than anyone else.

To date, it’s usually a comedian, but this week they talk to LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy — it’s an absolute must-read. If you didn’t respect the man before you certainly should now. Murphy is eloquent, erudite, refreshingly unexpurgated.

There couldn’t be a more perfect song to come up first than The Fall‘s "In the Park." It’s hard to imagine anyone listening to LCD Soundsystem’s debut and not realizing what a massive Fall fan Murphy is (as am I), but this cinches it:

I love The Fall. To me, it’s the best catalog in rock history. I’ll take
it over The Beatles or The Velvet Underground. It’s really beautiful
and broken, and it was the first thing I found that was completely
unencumbered by bourgie tastes. Bands like Echo & The Bunnymen — when
you’re a teenager, that shit’s great. You’re like, "Oh, this is dark
and mysterious and English." But it’s really juvenile in terms of its
aesthetic. The Fall was different. There’s no candy.

He goes on to discuss Devendra Banhart, Lou Reed, Can, and the Finding Nemo DVD. Elsewhere, there are new interviews with Alan More (who knows the score) and Alan Arkin (maybe the best thing in the overrated Little Miss Sunshine), a wrap-up of the Pitchfork Music Festival and San Diego Comic Con, and a list of 14 Classic Tom Petty opening lines. Now if they’d just put their food section online

MP3: The Fall – "In the Park"

Growing Onions

Has anyone else noticed that The Onion has changed in the last month? Not a SPIN-style revamp (devolution) or anything, but they have been fiddling with the look, and expanding things as well. In the NYC print edition three weeks ago (or so) The Onion looked radically different, to the point where I thought it might be a joke. All new fonts and, to my horror, new people/photos in the "What Do You Think?" section. But the next week, the familiar faces were back and the fonts looked more normal, but it was apparent America’s Finest News Source had undergone a rethink/redesign. This week’s Onion has a Sports Page. New feature? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

You notice it more in the print edition, if it’s available in your area, especially in the AV Club half where coverage has grown — specifically the local coverage. The NYC edition now includes a food section! It’s only two pages, but I did a double take when I saw the interview with Gilt chef Paul Liebrandt in last week’s issue. There’s small (one page) but well-selected restaurant guide too. Onionrestaurantguide_1
Except where they recommend Williamsburg’s SEA. With seven other Thai restaurants within walking distance, why would The Onion pick the place filled almost entirely with Sex & the City wannabes drinking $11 mojitos while vapid chillout music blares on the soundsystem?  The food is fine, but Chai — less than a block away — has great food and a more understated ambiance.

Other than that, it’s a nice addition to The Onion. Too bad its not online.