Thursday, April 30, 2009
Here is the cover art for the forthcoming album from Dinosaur Jr., the trio's second album since original bassist Lou Barlow rejoined the fold. Pretty sick, don't you think?
Farm comes out June 22 via Jagjagwuar.
Lou Barlow performing the Farm track "Imagination Blind" from a rooftop during SXSW 2009:
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
God, I miss these girls. When are you all gonna jump on the reunion bandwagon?
Here's a great clip of them performing at the late, great Tower Records (I believe from the looks of it the one downtown that was adjacent to Other Music) on March 30, 1998 in support of their all-time classic, Dig Me Out:
Here's a great clip of them performing at the late, great Tower Records (I believe from the looks of it the one downtown that was adjacent to Other Music) on March 30, 1998 in support of their all-time classic, Dig Me Out:
Well, Astroland may be a thing of the past, but that isn't stopping the Village Voice from curating another Siren Festival this summer. And from the line-up, it looks to be much better than last year's. For those of you who aren't going to be attending Wilco's concert at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls that day, here's the official press release information:
The Village Voice Announces Initial Lineup for the
9th Annual Village Voice SIREN MUSIC FESTIVAL™
at Coney Island
Saturday, July 18, 2009
BUILT TO SPILL, THE RAVEONETTES, FRIGHTENED RABBIT, GRAND DUCHY, MONOTONIX, MICACHU & THE SHAPES and more to be announced!
New York, NY (April 28, 2009) The Village Voice, the nation's largest alternative weekly newspaper, is excited to announce the initial line-up for the 9th Annual Village Voice SIREN MUSIC FESTIVAL™ at Coney Island on Saturday, July 18, 2009 from 12:00 noon - 9:00 p.m.
Scheduled performers include BUILT TO SPILL, THE RAVEONETTES, FRIGHTENED RABBIT, GRAND DUCHY, MONOTONIX, MICACHU & THE SHAPES, DJs and more to be announced.
This free, all day, all ages music festival will feature international, national and local bands and DJs performing on two outdoor stages in historic Coney Island. Now in its 9th year, the Village Voice SIREN MUSIC FESTIVAL™ has solidified its status as a leading New York City outdoor music festival, drawing over 100,000 music fans by showcasing indie rock veterans and emerging artists.
Budweiser returns to the Village Voice SIREN MUSIC FESTIVAL™ as the exclusive beer sponsor for the 9th consecutive year. Other sponsors include Metro PCS and Coney Island Cyclone Roller Coaster. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the 2008 Siren Festival:
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Does every dog really have his day? It seems like a comforting mantra, even if it means finally having your day makes you just another dog. Nathan Williams (22, Wavves,) seems to be having his, what with the NY Times lurking his live shows and Pitchfork complimenting him on his terrible hair cut. That Williams has the nebulous buzz shining a mean glare up his amusement park glasses seems supremely ironic given the brother’s longview of malaise and blunt hopelessness. “I’m going nowhere,” says the hook to “Beach Demon,” an early statement of no-purpose on an album whose bare transmission of word-data is wicked solemn, about as uplifting as a ten minute noogie. Of course, good music makes even the palest sentiments into strange magic, and with this in mind Wavvvesoperates as a case study in punk rock as blatant, giddy paradox. It’s hard to read this dude’s blandthems at face value (as soul searching ‘burban blues instead of self-effacing camp caricature) when their sound duds are so pleasing to the teeth and prickly to the touch (like thumb tack flavored Pixie Sticks) and when half of the song titles end in “Goth(s)” or “Demon(s)”. When Williams clamors, wordless and ecstatically haunted, on “Killr Punx, Scary Demons,” it sounds, to this ear, like he “means” it; when he wallows “I’m sooooo bored,” he sounds like a sly brat-poet trying to show you all the silly ways he can kind of say all the things that he can’t really say. Though Wavvves certainly seems like the kind of record that shouldn't be read, and just felt, I can't help but wonder if there is something else hovering in the static here that cuts a bit deeper than the tired "stupid is the new smart" line. If we are all bards, as a good friend of mine recently reminded me, then where is the rest of Williams' story? Is it all just weed and Goths and doldrums and feedback? Why can't I just shut up and enjoy a good punk record? -Tom Whalen
Video for "So Bored" by Wavves:
Thursday, April 23, 2009
MP3 - "Tin Birds"
VIDEO: "Setting Fire To Your House"
Think of The Shining. A deranged man wields an axe and chases a small boy through a labyrinth of snow-covered evergreen trees. The boy is saved by his own precocity: he hides his tracks, avoids destruction by retracing his own steps. His frenzied and desperate escape soon merges with its opposite: a meticulous retreat into order and safety. Blank Dogs apply an analogous strategy to their recordings and, like the boy who leaves the lunatic to die in the snow, the band never falls victim to its own chaotic tendencies.
Not to say the music isn't complex. The heavily distorted vocals sometimes work as another instrument--one of many layers of sound--but just when you think the lyrics are incidental, they take control and you hear the melody in the mumble. And while the guitar parts are often straightforward, they're never predictable. Same goes for the bass lines, many of which are instant classics. You swear you've heard them before. But Blank Dogs take their innate pop sensibility in a darker direction: the hooks are there, but they've been buried alive. And so on. The drums beat, the keyboards swirl. Elaborate descriptions are useless. The same song could be an adventurous dancehall hit, the first song you play when you feel the blues coming on, or the kind of thing that inspires your parents to send you to a shrink. Some of the songs are really pretty. No two people will feel the same way about any given Blank Dogs track because the songs are moody in the most literal sense of the word. They remind us of why our favorite bands are so good: Because we like them.
In 2007, when a handful of Blank Dogs' songs first appeared on MySpace, the initial whispers were that it was "some guy who records in his bedroom, on a four-track, nobody knows who he is". Much was made of this anonymity. "Much" in this case, meaning that a handful of people cared about this mystery way more than the man doing the recordings. Adding to the perceived mystique was the fact that the music was released at an alarming rate, without photographs, credits or liner notes. The band's website said they hailed from Madagascar. (Though a discerning eye could see that despite its relatively unknown status, the band's new releases were always conspicuously displayed at a record shop in Brooklyn.) Visually, the records themselves are timeless. Neither retro nor cutting edge, it's impossible to attach them to any era or genre, other than one of Blank Dogs own making. The attention to detail is absolute without being precious or contrived. The package is a perfect companion to the product: Entirely strange but somehow familiar at the same time.
Lo-fi, new wave, death pop, synth, minimal punk. To say that Blank Dogs transcend such labels is not so much false as it is pointless. The band's DIY aesthetic and recording style might easily be misunderstood as an ethos or an aesthetic choice--at worst, a conceit. Hardly. Listening to Blank Dogs, one gets the sense that the man behind the music is sitting in a windowless room somewhere puzzling over his back catalogue. Not because he's disappointed and not because it's bad-it isn't-but because he failed as only an accidental genius can fail: with surprising beauty. It's as if Mr. Blank Dog himself (Ok, we can call him Mike now..) thought he wrote the perfect power-pop song but when he played back his ELO rip-off, the orchestra pit was filled with broken robots and illuminated with matches that burned into darkness as fast as he could light them.
Each Blank Dogs song is like its own planet with a distinct internal logic, landscape, and atmosphere. With their prolific output--17 records in 2 1/2 years, Blank Dogs are creating a universe, not a discography-and that universe is expanding.
Complementing the fevered trail of records Blank Dogs have left on a variety of obscure labels-some small, some smaller, most destined for seminal status-the band has garnered attention from bigger indies as well. Troubleman Unlimited, known for working with bands that resist easy classification (Black Dice, Glass Candy) released a Blank Dogs LP in early '08 and last fall, Woodsist Records-home to Blank Dogs' cohorts Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, Woods, and Wavves-put out a mini-LP/CD called The Fields. A double LP, Under and Under, is forthcoming from indie giant In The Red. The most recent Blank Dogs record came out last month on Captured Tracks-a brand new label that rivals Mike's creative output. (Captured Tracks was started in 2008 by some guy in Brooklyn. Few people know who he is, but his friends call him Blank Dogs.)
04/24 Brooklyn, NY Monster Island
04/25 Queens, NY Silent Barn
05/08 Brooklyn, NY Bell House
05/10 Brooklyn, NY Market Hotel
05/16 Brooklyn, NY No Fun Fest / Music Hall
Video for "She's Violent Tonight":
Monday, April 20, 2009
by Rachel Linhart
Television producer extraordinaire and one of IRT's good friends from high school, Rachel Cawein-Linhart, has been obsessively following the murder trial of fallen rock 'n' roll production icon Phil Spector from the moment of the opening statements. Here is her assessment of last week's verdict.
Guilty. 2nd Degree murder. Today in Los Angeles, a city where justice and celebrity don’t always live together amicably, Phil Spector was convicted of murdering an actress in his home six years ago.
Shocking – the little man with a big reputation for pointing guns at people finally killed someone. It was only a matter of time. Music fans are already familiar with the legend of Phil Spector – He fired a gun into the ceiling during a session with John Lennon…He held a gun to Dee Dee’s head during a contentious recording session with The Ramones. When situations couldn’t be swung his way with manipulation, he let his firearms do the talking. Only this time someone ended up dead.
The facts? Spector – on various medications, drunk, picks up a middle-aged but still gorgeous actress who’s taken a night job as a hostess at the House of Blues. After closing, they ride in his limo to his “castle.” A few hours later, the driver hears a gunshot. Moments later, Spector emerges, gun in hand, saying “I think I killed somebody…” Cops show up, taser him, and haul him to the station where he becomes belligerent. He rails about his influence and contacts in the police department, how he’ll have all their badges, and refers to the victim as “a piece of shit.” The piece of shit was found slumped in a chair near his back door with her purse over her shoulder and a hole blown out the back of her head from the gun fired in her mouth. The gun, wiped clean and (presumably) placed next to her after the fact, was registered to Spector and came from the holster found in one of his drawers. Spector’s defense? Lana Clarkson, a woman he’d met for the first time a mere hours before, had chosen this time/place/weapon to kill herself.
His first trial, which started in May 2007, was entertainment of the highest order. CourtTV was on hand to cover it all. 5 women testified that Spector had threatened them with guns when they tried to leave his presence. Prosecutor Alan Jackson built a solid and logical case while Spector’s top-of-the-line attorneys acted like crazy people – Bruce Cutler yelled at and bullied witnesses on the stand then disappeared to shoot a pilot for his own judge show. Linda Kenney Baden spent the first few weeks with her arms perpetually draped around Spector’s shoulders, like some sort of murder trial hospice nurse. They hired the best forensic experts, who all then promptly made complete fools of themselves on the stand and, in the case of Dr. Henry Lee, permanently damaged their professional reputations. The current Mrs. Spector (a vulgar young chippie with aspirations of a singing career who was formerly his assistant’s assistant) also sass-talked Judge Fidler in open court. It ended in a hung jury because one man, the foreman, took the term “reasonable doubt” to mean “any possible shadow of a sliver of a thought of a doubt.” He convinced another suggestible juror to vote with him. On arriving home that day, Phil’s trophy wife humped his reptilian body like a lap dancer in their driveway for the benefit of the new choppers above rolling tape. Classy.
His second trial had significantly less coverage – the only people I know of who covered (close to) every day was the LA Times and the excellent trial blog Trials and Tribulations (http://sprocket-trials.blogspot.com/). The prosecution team was unchanged, but the defense team only included one attorney from the first trial. Many of the highly compensated gun-for-hire forensic experts were replaced. These proceedings bore none of the melodrama of the first trial. It did feature endless objections and nitpicking legal motions, presumably all raised in the hopes of creating grounds for appeal if he were convicted.
So why did this jury so handily send the boy genius 1964 to the clink? I believe the key is the 2nd degree charge. This was not offered to the jury in the previous trial. They chose between 1st degree murder and acquittal. This time around there was a third choice – a lesser charge. This was the right choice morally, although not legally. Let’s look at this case through the crystal ball of “what probably happened.” What probably happened was that Lana Clarkson met Phil Spector and went back to his place because she, like all of us in the entertainment industry, relies on her contacts to get her work, and having Phil in your address book has good to be useful. They drink some tequila (fact), he takes some Viagra (fact), he put the moves on her (his DNA was found on her breast), she decides to cool things off (because who wants to sleep with HIM?) and head home. He tries to convince her to stay, when that doesn’t work out, he introduces her to his handgun. I don’t believe for a minute that he set out that night to kill anyone. I don’t even believe he intended to kill her when he pointed the gun at her. It was clearly an accident. The trouble for Phil is, when you do something as reckless as aiming a gun you know is loaded at someone, it’s considered malice and therefore murder. But no matter, the LA district attorney, Lana’s family, and I will all accept 2nd degree as justice.
So what’s next for Spector? He’ll spend his first night behind bars tonight. Sentencing is scheduled for May 29th. He faces 15 years – life. But let’s face it – he’s 69. Anything is a life sentence.
Now my big question is – who will be coming out of the woodwork now that he’s been convicted? Ex-wife Ronnie Spector has been zip-lipped for the last 6 years. Her book “Be My Baby” is worth a read. She literally fled from their marriage barefoot and terrified. I cannot wait to hear what she has to say about all this.
Sadly for Phil, this will not be the last time he’s inside a courtroom. Ronnie, Darlene and a number of other female artists are suing him for back royalties. The hotel his legal team lived in for months the first time around is suing him for the bill he skipped out on. And Lana’s mother has a civil suit pending against him for her death.
To quote John Lennon, from the song that Phil produced for him… “Instant karma’s gonna get you / Gonna look you right in the face…”
Raw Footage of Phil Spector Trial from Associated Press:
Phil Spector's Wall of Sound:
Friday, April 17, 2009
BLACK CIRCLES KEEP SPINNING
The Importance of Record Store Day
By Greg Maniha
Photo: Breakdown Records Queens NYC
Let's face it, rampant capitalism has taken the joy of aquisition away from us for good. I don't care who you are, everybody loves to go out and spend a little on themselves for something they want rather than something they need. It's always more fun to go pick up a new book, game, or even a pint of ice cream than it is to pick up a set of say, batteries. The trouble is, now even the self satisfying act of getting something for you for the sake of injecting a bit of joy in your life has been bastardized by the mere existence of the dreaded entity known as the "big box retailer." WalMart, Target, Best Buy, Borders, Amazon and the various empires in between have seen to it that the art of getting something you love for yourself is nothing more than another task in our world of today. The idea seems to be that even if we simply want something, we zip over to the nearest big box retailer, grab the item and get out as fast as possible. Why would anybody want to stay in such a monstrosity any longer than absolutely necessary?
With this in mind, one would think it would be a no-brainer to come up with something creative to re-invent the conditions that contributed to a shopping experience from a bygone era. Big Box stores are just not fun to be in and support for the small, hands on, and yes, friendly stores we remember but never seem to see anymore is nonexistent on a local, national and, yes, political level regardless of what elected officials have to say about it.
Every single consumer industry would do itself a world of good by recognizing the need to promote occasional awareness for supporting the little guy in the sea of big fish if for no other reason that it helps business in America retain its roots.
The comic book industry hosts a free comic day for local comic retailers and the result is that during at least one day during the year, comic book enthusiasts will come out of the woodwork to purchase something in addition to the free items. Does it help the comic book industry? In the end, I'm not so sure it does. I do not see nearly as many comic retailers now as I did ten years ago and when I do see them, they are often surrounded by empty storefronts in low rent former high end shopping plazas. Regardless of whether it helps, the fact remains that there is at least an effort to accommodate and thank the loyalists among comic book fans for at least one day out of the year.
The record industry is perhaps on the verge of dying a horrible death and as much as it pains me to say this as a lifelong student of music, the industry has brought this looming situation onto itself. For too many years, the combination of fear and greed has driven a top heavy business loaded with self important, overpaid executives to make decisions based solely on protecting themselves in the short term rather than preserving the legacy of an overall rich archive of recordings for future generations to enjoy. Each and every time a new technological media delivery format presented itself, the record industry fought against it tooth and nail rather than find ways to embrace and adapt to it. When the blank cassette first appeared, they screamed bloody murder about "home taping" when in fact, many music fans were still buying the record as an equivalent to a "hard back" first edition and taping it with their home equipment. Eventually, the pre-recorded cassette would generate sales in and of itself. When the compact disc crept into the marketplace, they complained that technology was allowing the masses to have a recording on an equal level to a master recording (anybody who has had a chance to listen to a master recording forever is rewarded with a chuckle whenever they think of this argument.) When the digital audio tape, or DAT, was introduced at a consumer electronics convention, the record industry literally went to war to prevent it from ever being used as a delivery method for pre-recorded music on the basis that it could continuously record in "digital" quality. They even unsuccessfully attempted to prevent this format from ever reaching American soil, but it was ultimately embraced by recording studios and deadheads who taped Grateful Dead performances with the blessing of the band (tough shit, RIAA, you lost that one as you should have!) Overall, this technique of hostile resistance served the record industry well for a couple of decades until the advent of audio downloading exploded overnight in early 2000. Unsurprisingly, the record industry, as well as a handful of artists, reacted with a determination to prevent the technology from moving forward rather than seek ways to use it to the advantage of both themselves and their consumers. Now here we are in 2009! Downloading is more alive than ever with some of it being purchased, much of it happening without any money exchanging hands, and questionable recording quality regardless of whether it comes from iTunes or the hard drive of your buddy. Meanwhile, CDs are in danger of losing their footing in retail with every big box media retailer taking away swaths of space in their stores that were once reserved for recorded music.
In the middle of this brutal reality is a little event getting ready for a second coming called "Record Store Day." This annual event, at least for the moment, much like free comic book day, aims to raise awareness of the rapidly disappearing "independent record retailer." Remember the record store? It is possible that unless you came of age in the 80s or 90s you never had the chance to experience what it was like to discover music and be surrounded by people who truly absorbed it or truly felt helpful to you for knowing so much about the music you were hearing and seeking. If you can believe it in the age of WalMart, independent record stores still exist. It remains to be seen how much longer they exist in this world, but for the moment, there are still a few out there and on April 18th, they will be creating the most enjoyable shopping day of the year for music lovers.
Why, you may ask (or not, and if that's the case, just go to WalMart ) should I offer my valuable time to go to my local hole in the wall independent record store, if one even still exists in my area? Well, perhaps a far more creative take on the "so-called" exclusive releases could be a compelling enough reason to get you to drive to the bad part of town where the retail real estate is cheap and abandoned. Perhaps you are thinking that when The Eagles made their first record of new music in over 25 years, it was WalMart and only WalMart that got the exclusive release. I know you AC/DC fans out there (of which I am one) are remembering that sweet Black Ice box set with the T-shirt and god knows what else that accompanied the first new AC/DC record since the year 2000. Once again, WalMart prevailed in getting an exclusive release. Kiss fans could not manage to stay away from WalMart as the Kissology releases were filtering in with exlcusive a bonus DVD exclusive to, once again, WalMart. As a Bruce Springsteen fan, I was somewhere between mortified and laughing at the brutally awful and useless WalMart exclusive $10 Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band greatest hits package that hit the shelves the morning after the super bowl this year. This exclusive had nothing unreleased to offer and nothing to excite the fan-base. It was packaged with the intention of reeling in the potential new fan after witnessing the super bowl performance. In an ironic twist of fate, the online big box giant, Amazon, was offering the previously released Bruce Springsteen Greatest Hits CD for $4.99. At least this CD had 4 exclusive tracks to offer in addition to every track on the WalMart exclusive release. The point here is, you already get plenty of "exclusive" releases at your local WalMart, so how can a bunch of little record stores compete with the power of WalMart when it comes to exclusive music by the artists we all know and love? The answer, my fellow obsessive musicphile friends, lies in the comeback of vinyl!
As we have already covered, CDs are rapidly losing their ground. They are not going to go away overnight, but it has already been covered that they are losing their shelf space and losing sales in alarming numbers. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that people are spending more money on different forms of media entertainment, such as video games, but much of this of course, points to the inferior quality digital download offered by everybody from Apple to Amazon to Starbucks. There is one growing and as of yet, overlooked factor contributing to the troubles facing compact discs, and that is the comeback of the most beautiful sounding audio delivery format ever created, VINYL!!!!!!!!! You heard right, after years of digital exposure to music rapidly taking control and taking away an acceptable level of listening quality, people started remembering the full, warm and fresh sound created by placing an actual record on a turntable. Indeed, there are music business experts that believe in time we will be buying records that will include download codes which enable us to download the record we just purchased. This would in fact , eventually spell the end of the compact disc.
Record Store Day will be capitalizing on this small but rapidly growing trend and it creates quite the buying guide for the musicphile and casual listener alike. Do you long for listening to a remastered version of the Black Album or And Justice For All by Metallica? These two 4 record sets are Record Store Day exclusives. Do you have the urge to remember how you felt once you heard Jane’s Addiction for the first time, well, Record Store Day will get an exclusive 7-inch single of "Mountain Song" and "Standing In The Shower…Thinking." Perhaps you are a Bad Religion fan longing for the sound of their first EP on vinyl. If this is the case, you will have a chance to score a Record Store Day exclusive of their first 6 track vinyl release from 1981. Radiohead fans will have the opportunity to stock up on 10" vinyl versions of 12 of their previous singles. Def Jam records will be releasing a 4 record retrospective that will make any hip hop fan giddy with delight! In addition, everybody from Tom Waits , The Smiths, Slayer, Wilco and of course Bruce Springsteen will be releasing something worth adding to your collection. And on a final note about the importance of doing your music shopping on April 18th, WalMart does not even sell vinyl so you will never find these exclusives there.
I know that for my part, the Record Store Day exclusives I have in my sights include the Bruce Springsteen 7" of "What Love Can Do" with a live version of "Night With The Jersey Devil” on the flip side, any Radiohead 10-inch record I can find, the King Crimson 40th anniversary tour box, the re-release of the the pioneering MC5 single of "Kick Out The Jams"/ "Motor City Is Burning," the vinyl re-release of the first Queen EP, the Slayer 7-inch advance of the brutal "Psychopathy Red" and so much more than I will ever be able to afford on this day I am so looking forward to. Do you your eye on some gems in the pipeline? Check out the link below to find your passion and while you are there, check your area for special in-store appearances. You may find out that anybody from Disturbed to Wendy and Lisa from Prince and the Revolution are playing sets in your stores. You could stumble on quite the concert to compliment an already fun shopping day.
So in closing, Record Store Day is an acknowledgment that the music industry relies on the small shop to get the word out about music. Oftentimes, it is the people working and shopping in these stores that not only have a clear understanding of what you are looking for, but they can even recommend undiscovered artists based upon what you like already. My recommendation is to go pick up a new turntable (or dust off the old one) and get ready to stock up on the next big thing in music.
For a complete list of Record Store Day exclusives so far, please feel free to have a look at this link.
Jello Biafra on Record Store Day:
Thursday, April 16, 2009
TUESDAYS WITH AXL
The Case for why the Record Shop is Still Imperative to the Fabric of American Culture in Spite of Music Downloading
By Ron Hart
When I first started to make my own money as a high school student, Tuesdays were always my favorite day of the week, as this is historically the day of the week when the record industry releases their new titles to retail outlets. While not every Tuesday presented itself with something worthy of which to spend my hard-earned dollars, they were offset by those Tuesdays when the latest album by one of my favorite bands would come out, presenting itself as a day of holiday-like proportions.
One particular Tuesday that remains the most vivid in my memory was during my senior year in high school when Guns ‘N Roses released their double-LP Use Your Illusion. A small group of us all skipped classes that day in order to drive over to Strawberries in Newburgh, NY so we could be there right at 10 AM to pick up the two-CD (or, for those of us with less money at the time, double-cassette) just as the store opened up. The anticipation for these albums, though dwarfed in comparison to the band’s latest release, Chinese Democracy, was as high as any other title in my lifetime back then. And the whole ritual of getting everyone together early in the morning, meeting up at our friend Darran’s house, driving into Newburgh, grabbing breakfast at Perkins beforehand and then waiting for those doors to open so we could rush in there and grab the album to spend our skip day listening to it, reading the liner notes and arguing over which song is better was a bonding experience with good friends I will never soon forget. Unfortunately, in the advent of music downloading, this Tuesday tradition is in danger of becoming as archaic as stickball and marbles in the eyes of today’s youth.
There was a time when the only way to purchase the latest album from your favorite artist was to drive over to your nearest record shop and pick it up. However, there is a drastic and rapidly-evolving movement that has been cultivating itself over the course of this decade that has been impacting the way people get their music, all done from the comfort of one’s own home. On the surface, it seems like a great idea: Enjoying the luxury of downloading music right onto your home computer, which takes up zero room in your household unlike that unsightly CD shelf unit is now. However, whether the latest album from, say, U2 was downloaded from iTunes or on a Blogger site that helped to leak it two weeks before it’s intended release date, the quality and value by which that record was made as compared to earlier works in U2’s catalog has been dramatically altered, a casualty of the ripple effect the idea of downloading music online has caused in mass culture. This includes how we value the music as a tangible commodity, the quality and care by which it is made and, most importantly, the diminishing sense of organic community a record shop has provided for generations as its offspring move closer to exclusively digital means of social interaction.
Contrary to popular belief, there are still people out there who take pride in their collections of CDs and records and value music as something more than megabytes on a desktop. Unfortunately, for every one person who prefers to purchase music at a local record shop, they are outnumbered by those who have staved off purchasing their tunes the old fashioned way, which has spelled the death knell for just about every major record store chain throughout the last fifty years. And these days, you just can’t beat the price: $9.99-$19.99 per CD vs. FREE. In this economy, downloading music appears to be the only viable option allowing for music fans to stick to a budget while still enjoying the latest music releases.
The effect this Laissez faire, go-with-the-flow ascension towards the acceptance of downloading as a preferred way to buy their music, Americans, led by their children, have come to accept the MP3 as the primary means of listening to their favorite new song. “Song” being the operative word in that last sentence, because it’s the single tracks that matter most to the iTunes-buying public. At just $.99 per song, why buy the whole new album when you can just cherry pick your favorite tracks and save a few bucks? This kind of attitude undermines the intentions of most respectable recording artists, who create a full-length album to be listened to from beginning to end, not a compilation of singles. Or hire a jacket artist to do an intricate cover or pen a well-written, insightful essay for people to read in the liner notes for that matter, as CDs are running out of steam at retail with each passing year. “Why spend all this money on packaging and high-end recording equipment, when it’s only going to be played through tiny ear buds on an iPod?” the artist might ask themselves the next time they go over their budgets for their forthcoming studio endeavor. Needless to say, that romantic vision of the music fan with headphones on his ears listening to the album he and his friends had waited two hours in line to purchase, staring intently at the artwork on the cover, has given way to that same kid sitting in front of the computer downloading full albums within minutes to their hard drive and appreciating cover art as a thumbnail sketch that appears on a tiny iPod screen.
However, there are still a few of us who still see the value in buying music from the local record store. The record shopping experience as a whole can be seen as a tradition passed down from father to son, uncle to nephew, cousin to cousin and friend to friend as quality time spent socializing with others and strengthening the bond of relationships. Although one can easily argue the point that music is still very much placed within a social context in the online world, as such prominent community sites as MOG, MySpace and Facebook have all rooted themselves deep into the lexicon of people meeting other people through the common ground of music enjoyment. However, trading music files, e-mails and instant messages with people whom you only know as an avatar and a scrolling weblog on the screen does not offer the true sense of community that the social aspect of the brick-and-mortar record shop has provided for nearly nine generations. Nor can shopping on Amazon or iTunes compare with the social benefits of getting the latest updates on new music or discovering a rare album through face-to-face interactions with fellow shoppers or educated clerks.
It is important to recognize this major shift in how people obtain their music in today’s mass culture. This shift has helped the consumer save on spending while creating a significant impact on the economic growth for the musicians themselves, the record labels and the shops that sell these products. This change in the face of how we obtain music also has a profound impact on the value of the artist’s final piece of work and the social connection between fans and their music. The music buying experience is being replaced by a music downloading movement and is becoming less and less organic and genuine as more people continue to interact through networking websites instead of their own town square.
It’s very sad to think that in the none-too-distant future, the only way one will be able to get their music is through the Internet, thus leaving future generations completely unaware of the joys that getting together with your friends “to hit up the spots”, as we like to call it, had brought their parents and grandparents throughout the majority of music history. One can only hope that but a handful of these aging emporiums of sonic treasures will remain in existence in twenty years thanks to the elite few of this current generation who have jumped on the digital music backlash bandwagon early and spend their weekends at places like Flipside in Pompton Plains, NJ or Mr. Cheapo’s on Long Island (whose Commack location is pictured above) or Academy Records in Brooklyn or the Princeton Record Exchange doing what I did when I was their age, getting their fingers dusty and their knees scuffed up flipping through moldy old 33 1/3s on a dirty record shop floor.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Yep, I might have hated them in college, but in 2009 I'm all about the Grateful Dead, who just played their first show on their anticipated reunion tour in Greensboro, NC on 4/12/09, a recording of which has been made available on the amazing Archive.org site if you click here.
Or, you can just enjoy this embedded jukebox on our page. Either way, keep on trippin'! -Ed.
Celebrating The Legacy Of A Long Island Record Store Legend
Leading up to Record Store Day on April 18th, IRT will be posting articles written in appreciation of the place that, for many of us here in the office, ranks in the top 3 of our favorite destinations on this planet. This first piece is actually an aggregate of an old New York Times article written by Long Island Press editor-in-chief Robbie Woliver back in 2000 about The Music Arcade, a now-defunct record shop in Westbury, NY that closed down sometime in the early 00's. Actually, it's a profile of one of the store's former owners, Dave Bernstein, who has been a fixture of Long Island record shops for almost thirty years and someone who has seen me, personally, grow up.
I'll never forget the first time I met Dave when he was working at Titus Oaks, the record store from which The Music Arcade sprang. The best record store Long Island has ever seen, the sorely-missed Titus Oaks, which originally opened in Brooklyn by the guy who would go on to start the label that would sign Creed, was my first experience in serious record shopping. Built inside an old burger stand called Wetsons on the corner of Levittown Parkway and Old Country Road on the border of Hicksville and Westbury, Titus was the first record shop I ever went to. My uncle started taking me there when I was about 9. Initially, I liked to go there because they rented out videos for a time and had all the WWF Coliseum Home Videos, but eventually I started joining my uncle in rifling through their record bins.
During my tweens, it was my regular hang-spot during my summer and Christmas vacations at my grandfather’s on LI, predominantly because it was only a short walk from my Aunt Marie’s, who lived not even a mile from the place. Being that this was the late 80s we’re talking about, Titus was the epicenter of my brief but torrid love affair with the cooler end of the hair metal spectrum, having purchased such underrated classics as Blue Murder, Mr. Big’s first album and the amazing self-titled Badlands debut there in the used tape section.
Eventually, I began picking up actual vinyl from there and used CDs, but only after I moved back to Long Island in 1998 and Titus had since changed its name to Music Arcade and moved down the street to a nearby shopping plaza on Old Country Road. They had the greatest dollar record bin I had ever seen. I remember one trip where I scored The Cure’s Disintegration, The Cows’ Daddy Has A Tail and Ringo Starr’s Ringo, all for $3! If I won the Lotto, I would re-open Titus Oaks, internet be damned! It was the best store of its kind, a place that had everything and anything, usually for under $4.99.
Luckily, Dave is now a manager at Mr. Cheapo’s, my other favorite LI record shop, alongside Joe, who also worked at the old Titus Oaks location, and we always wax nostalgic about the old store. I can’t believe that dude’s known me since I was a wee lad. Titus Oaks will forever be remembered as the shop that broke my crate digging cherry. I miss it like an dearly departed relative.
So, in tribute to my man Dave, who also plays Joey Ramone in an amazing Ramones tribute band called Commando, please enjoy this wonderful article, which was written in 2000 and definitely harbors a foreshadowing message about the threat of music downloading when it was in its Napster infancy, especially considering the grave repercussions downloading has inflicted upon brick-and-mortar music retail as we near the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
And if you are in the Mineola or Commack area, stop in at Mr. Cheapo's and visit this living legend of record retail.
A Man Who Eats, Sleeps and Sells Music
By ROBBIE WOLIVER
Published: Sunday, October 22, 2000, New York Times
THE recording industry earned $14.6 billion last year, making listening to music one of America's favorite pastimes. But for some people music is more than entertainment -- it is an obsession.
Just ask Dave Bernstein. Or his ex-girlfriend, Michelle Zabe. Mr. Bernstein, who is in his 30's, and Ms. Zabe say the problem with their relationship was not the 12 hours a day he spent clerking in a record store. Rather, she became annoyed when he switched on the CD player as soon as he woke up in the morning, and eventually she moved out.
It is that nonstop devotion to contemporary popular music, from 1970's soul to progressive rock, his favorite, that attracts music fanatics to Mr. Bernstein's used-record store, Music Arcade, in Westbury.
Mr. Bernstein, who lives in Levittown, combines a vast knowledge of how to find cheap used CD's and out-of-print recordings with a kitschy-Vegas-meets-Marilyn-Manson shtick. He will even break into song.
Also a writer of music reviews for the local entertainment bimonthly The Island Ear and the trade magazine Albun Network, Mr. Bernstein typifies the music addict who frequents trade-in stores that sell used CD's and vinyl, collectible recordings, imports and current best sellers.
The shaggy-haired shop owner began as a clerk at Music Arcade 12 years ago, when it was called Titus Oaks. In the summer, word spread that the store was for sale. Many patrons expressed fear they would lose Mr. Bernstein, a storehouse of knowledge. Instead, he and a partner, Alan Lish, bought the store on Aug. 1. They rehired a former employee, Keith Kiernan, who has a following of his own, and this week they are officially celebrating their grand reopening.
While Tower Records might sell 500 Backstreet Boys CD's in one day, Music Arcade, one of several used-record stores on Long Island, sells that many total CD's in a week.
Packed away in a strip mall between a deli and a soon-to-open clothing shop, the 1,800-square-foot CD and record store also sells magazines, fanzines, books, videos, DVD's, posters, calendars and T-shirts.
Like most of his customers, Mr. Bernstein is a collector. ''I miss vinyl, the size of it,'' he said. ''I used to get records and love to look at the artwork and read the lyrics. Now you need a magnifying glass.''
He estimates that 75 percent of his customers, with whom he is on a first-name basis, visit the store several times a week.
One recent evening, 19-year-old Jared Crenshaw dropped by to check out ''new, obscure releases.'' It's a daily routine, and he spends about $20 a week, he said, ''when I have a job.''
''I find stuff here in their discount bin that I can't find for $20 in other stores,'' Mr. Crenshaw said. ''They can get me, in three days, what it would take other stores six months.
''Oh, man, records -- it's my addiction. It's my main form of entertainment. Other people go to restaurants and the movies, and they think I'm crazy because music is everything to me.''
A few minutes later, another regular shopper, Jerry Trupiano, a 55-year-old engineer from East Meadow who calls himself an ''eclectic music collector,'' entered the store. ''Record-buying is a habit I'd like to give up,'' he said. ''It takes up much of my time, but it's a great stress reliever.''
Anthony Cordaro, 33, of Old Bethpage, owns a real estate appraisal company and listens to music all day. Already holding seven CD's, he asked Mr. Bernstein for suggestions on new progressive rock.
Mr. Cordaro, a regular patron who describes himself as obsessive ''big time,'' usually arrives with nothing in mind, and Mr. Bernstein will direct him to something. He spends about $100 each visit and has ''never left without buying something.''
''This store is perfect for people who entertain themselves by buying, collecting and listening to music,'' said Wayne LeBow, another customer whose weakness is reissued classics. ''It's a little store where they talk to you, get to know you, and will search all over to get what you want.''
Mr. LeBow, who has patronized the store for five years, particularly appreciates Music Arcade's personal services, like weekly e-mail that notifies customers of recent used acquisitions.
''Dave has found things for me where he searched to Japan,'' Mr. LeBow said. ''No one else would do that for a customer.''
Once, Mr. LeBow, 47, heard a catchy song on the music system in a supermarket. ''All I knew was that they kept singing 'tears' and it was a woman. I mentioned it and Dave said matter-of-factly, 'Oh, that's ''Cry'' by the Sundays and I have a used copy right here.' ''
Much of the store's business depends on trade-ins. It gets an average of 50 used items a day. A customer brought in a dozen mint-condition records because he had made copies of them. ''It's a wonderful thing, getting a CD burner,'' he said.
One concern for the industry is music-sharing technology like CD burners and Napster, and while Mr. Bernstein said ''it is affecting sales by younger kids who can't afford to buy records,'' his clientele still wants the full packaging a CD offers.
''And there's still something about human interaction when it comes to music,'' he said.
Photos: Dave Bernstein, above center, one of the owners of Music Arcade, a used-record store in Westbury, flanked by the other owners, Alan Lish, left, and Josh Feigelman. Some of the store's offerings, left. (Photographs by Rebecca Cooney for The New York Times)
Monday, April 13, 2009
The IRT is saddened to hear of the death of 70s porn star Marilyn Chambers, easily one of the sexiest women to ever grace the 16mm.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Porn star Marilyn Chambers, who made waves in the 1970s by having screen sex with an African-American, has been found dead at her Los Angeles home at the age of 56, coroner's officials said on Monday.
The Los Angeles coroner's office said an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of her death late on Sunday night.
Chambers, whose real name was Marilyn Taylor, broke into the adult film industry by appearing in the 1972 film Behind the Green Door, which was among the first pornographic films released widely in the United States to attract mainstream attention.
The adult film caused a stir in part because Chambers was seen having sex with African-American porn star Johnny Keyes.
Chambers made more than 25 porn movies, trading on her earlier role as the blonde cover girl on the Ivory Snow soap box, where she posed holding a baby under the tag line "99 & 44/100% pure".
She also made several films with late porn star John Holmes, who died of AIDS complications in 1988, and she had flings with careers in music and politics. Chambers ran for U.S. vice president in 2004 on the Personal Choice Party ticket and released the disco single "Benihana" in 1976.
Chambers had a bit part in the 1970 Barbra Streisand film The Owl and the Pussycat, and starred in the 1977 David Cronenberg horror movie Rabid. But after establishing herself as a pornographic film star, she was never able to break into mainstream films.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
In tribute, please enjoy Ms. Chambers' music video for "Benihana":
1977 Midnight Blue Interview:
Inside Marilyn Chambers:
Monday, April 6, 2009
After making heads wait for the majority of the 00's for his follow-up to 2000's masterful Both Sides Of The Brain with an underwhelming one-off for Definitive Jux, that being last year's Eleventh Hour, Del That Funky Homosapien comes correct with his latest album, Funkman, which he has made available for free starting this week on his Bandcamp website.
Grab the Funk here
Classic Del from the No Need For Alarm era:
Friday, April 3, 2009
As the world waits for the long-awaited deluxe edition reissue of the Beastie Boys' 1992 skate-punk masterpiece Check Your Head, please enjoy this amazing, amazing find in Adam "MCA" Yauch's 1987 B-Boys side project Brooklyn, a band featuring Yauch on guitars and lead vocals, Bad Brains guitarist Daryl Jenifer on bass, Tom Cushman on second git and Murphy's Law drummer and current owner of the greatest breakfast eatery in the Hudson Valley, Dougie Beans. "Gratitude" off Check Your Head actually stems from these sessions.
I remember hanging out with Dougie back in New Paltz before a concert at Snug Harbor by our mutual friends in the seminal HV-based proto-metal group mearth., and he was telling me about this group and I thought he was fucking with me. Turns out he absolutely was not, and the proof can be found on the wonderful NYHC-based blog The Hardcore Archaeologist.
Hopefully one of these days, considering how the Beasties have taken to looking back in time with the recent reissues of Paul's Boutique and Check Your Head, an official release of this historic document will become available. Until then, hit up the Archaeologist and enjoy.
Beastie Boys "Gratitude" video:
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
2008 is regarded as a pretty shitty year by most standards. Other than Obama's victory there was little to celebrate. However, there was one other bright spot. Leonard Cohen's return to performing live. Judging from the two-disc live album documenting the poet laureate's stellar concert at London's 02 Arena in July of 2008, he's still got it. Most artists still performing as late into their career as Cohen have lost a lot of their impact. Either their voices have not aged well or they cannot maintain the level of energy they once did. Leonard's voice has aged well, evident on such beautiful performances of classic Cohen standards as "Suzanne", "Famous Blue Raincoat" and "I'm Your Man". It's one advantage of having a deep, monotone voice. And his style of music has always been subdued. His singing here is just as good as on his later period albums. And the arrangements of strings and back up singers give the songs rich, mellow vibe while not straining to far from the original album versions. If this concert was candy it'd be expensive dark chocolate eaten after a long day on the job. -Brad Filicky
"Suzanne" from Leonard Cohen's Live In London