Unrescuable Schizo feature: Check out our FAVORITE 30 SONGS OF THE 2000S.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Arm me with harmony: VH1 ranks the top hip hop songs ever

VH1 loves them some lists. The latest is the Top 100 Hip Hop Songs of All-Time. When I initially heard the concept, two songs popped into my head. The first was "Rapper's Delight," which has to be on this list in much the same way that "Thriller" will forever be on any list of the best music videos of all-time - even if it's not really deserving, it has to be there because it was groundbreaking at the time. The other song that occurred to me was "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" by Dr. Dre, my favorite rap song ever.

Accordingly, these two songs rank #2 and #3 on VH1's list, behind Public Enemy's "Fight the Power." Overall, I can't quibble with the list. Even folks who aren't huge fans of the genre have to appreciate the dozens of gems here, including Salt N Pepa's '80s dance anthem "Push It" (#9); Jay-Z's Annie-cribbing "Hard Knock Life" (#11); Naughty by Nature's subtly explicit "O.P.P." (#22); Young MC's cerebral ode to sexing, "Bust a Move" (#47); Busta Rhymes' fantastically absurd "Woo-Hah! Got You All in Check" (#56); Big Pun's piano-heavy "Still Not a Player" (#76); and Biz Markie's deliriously off-key "Just a Friend" (#100).

VH1 allowed only one song per artist, so acts with multiple deserving songs got the shaft (i.e., no "99 Problems," "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," or "Big Pimpin'" from Jay-Z). As for Eminem, I feared that VH1 would select one of his bigger pop hits, like "Lose Yourself" or "The Real Slim Shady," but they did the right thing and went with "Stan" (#15), the most brilliantly-written rap song I've ever heard - I still get chills listening to it. And how about the inclusion of the long-forgotten (but awesome) "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo" (#92), a 1991 hit by female rapper Yo-Yo?

If I could add just one song to the list, it would be another long-forgotten 1991 hit: "I'll Do 4 U" by Father MC, which deftly samples Cheryl Lynn's "Got to be Real." Or how about "Jump" by Kris Kross? Come on, that track is undeniable - it's the "MMMBop" of hip hop! Or what about Blackstreet's "No Diggity"? Wow, I guess there quite a few songs that should've been on the list.

The show begins airing on VH1 on Monday, September 29 at 10 pm. For the complete top 100 list, go here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

World/Inferno aftermath

Last night's World/Inferno Friendship Society show was excellent, even though the sound at Belvedere's is not exactly stellar, and some of the band members were absent for personal matters. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple hundred people there. Singer Jack Terricloth did some crowd surfing, which, in Belvedere's cramped quarters, placed him perilously close to the ceiling.

I had a hard time getting good pics because of the darkness and smallness of the room. At one point, I had my camera aimed at Jack while he was crowd surfing, ready for the perfect photo, only to find myself forcibly guided into the (thankfully tame) mosh pit, and by the time I emerged, the moment had passed.

Afterwards, we chatted for several minutes with drummer Brian Viglione, previously of the Dresden Dolls. He is psyched to be part of World/Inferno, and his enthusiasm is palpable. He confirmed that he will be part of the band's next album, to be recorded in the coming months.

When I casually brought up this blog, Brian noted that he'd seen the blog, and in fact made a post on World Inferno's Myspace blog that linked to our interview with Terricloth. See, famous people read us!

Clay Aiken comes out

Clay Aiken comes out of the closet. I'm shocked! No, really, I am. Not that he's gay, of course. But that he had the balls to be open about it. I expected him to pull a Barry Manilow and just go through his whole life pretending.

The night before, Lindsay Lohan finally confirmed her relationship with Samantha Ronson. And a couple weeks ago, Perez Hilton reported that New Kids on the Block's Jonathan Knight has a boyfriend. Who knew there were all these gays in the music business?

Also, I must take this opportunity to plug Clay's song "Invisible." I still listen to it. It has a sugary chorus that sticks in your head, even if its lyrics are creepy and stalker-ish (If I was invisible/If I could just watch you in your room...) Or maybe that's precisely why I like it?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Interview with World/Inferno Friendship Society

Photo credit: www.polstarphotography.com

Last fall the World/Inferno Friendship Society played at Mr. Small's Theatre with the Subhumans and a handful of other punk bands. It was a hardcore crowd - lots of big dudes in studded leather jackets - and when World/Inferno came on, with their nice suits and accordions and horns, the crowd was clearly skeptical. People were looking around like, What is this nonsense?

And then World/Inferno began playing. Within minutes, the angry mohawked kids were dancing around and having a blast. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society will be visiting Belvedere's in Pittsburgh on September 23. We rang up the group's charismatic frontman, Jack Terricloth, a man who joyously answers his phone thusly: "This is Jack. What's your name?" Terricloth told us about his online advice column, our questionable taste in music, and the likelihood of his band doing iPod commercials.

I’ve read many different descriptions of your sound. One of my favorites is “an insane punk circus.” Do you think that’s accurate, or do you have a better description?
“Circus punk” is the one I always go for. Whether or not I’m insane, of course, is for the authorities to decide. But I feel like I’m perfectly normal.

We’re big fans of the Dresden Dolls - their drummer Brian Viglione is touring with you now. How is he fitting in?
Like butter. We’ve known each other for a very long time. We used to play with Dresden Dolls all the time. It was just perfectly natural for him to come into the fold.

Who else will be playing with you on this tour?
There’ll be at least seven of us. I believe Raja Azar is playing piano. We have two horn players, Miss Corrigan and Mr. Hess. And also Miss Sandra Malak is playing bass. And of course Mr. Lucky Strano. Is that everybody? It’s always an adventure, I never know who’s gonna show up.

Which rock n roll frontmen have inspired you?
Well, I do like David Bowie very much. But I don’t like rock n roll very much at all. I’d say, Cab Calloway or Paul Robeson would be inspirations to me.

Your last record (Addicted to Bad Ideas) was inspired by actor Peter Lorre. What took you down that path?
Being in the position that I’m in, which is the frontperson of an angry, anti-establishment band, I’ve often tried to look back and see people that were antecedents of this kind of thing I do, and, other than Paul Robeson, Peter Lorre seemed to be that guy. Peter Lorre seemed successful, completely his own man, and at the same time, completely fucked up. When you’re writing about stuff, nobody wants to hear about how Jack Terricloth feels about his life. I was trying to find someone in the past with the same kind of problems in the same kind of situation that we’re in, and Peter Lorre seemed like that guy.

What are your plans for the next record? Will there be any specific themes on it?
We’re recording it in March of next year, and it should be out by next fall. I think one theme record is enough. This one’s going to be a bunch of great songs kids can cry and dance to at the same time.

You have a feature on your website called “What Would Jack Do,” where fans write to you for advice. Why do you think people seek your guidance?
(Laughs). I get away with stuff, and they want to know how to get away with stuff as well. And I’m happy to share my misguided guidance.

If Apple called and wanted to use one of your songs in an iPod commercial, how would you respond?
How much money? We’ve actually had that happen a couple of times, and they’ve never offered as much money as would be worth us looking foolish to our friends. However, we do have a figure in mind.

Do you prefer the cult following you have now, or someday would you like to subvert the mainstream?
What’s that quote… They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom for trying to fight the system from within. I don’t really want to be inside the system. I love the cult kids, they’re all just like me, we hang out. But whatever happens happens. Could not give a damn either way.

Photo credit: Konstantin Sergeyev

I understand that you’ve written some books. What are they about and where could one track them down?
They’re available on amazon.com and all that. The last one I wrote was about a bartender who is, against his will, brought into secret police of a post-revolution city in some place that seems like New York, but also seems like Eastern Europe. It’s about choices people make, basically. Like, if you had no money, and the government offered you a bunch of money to do something you do anyway, what would you do?

If you had to give up music or drugs for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Oh, definitely drugs. Music is the reason I’m alive. Drugs are just a hobby.

What can folks expect if they come see you at Belvedere’s?
They should expect sweating and drinking and crying and laughing and pogoing, and they should also expect whatever they’re going to do, because that’s what we’re going to do. So there will be dancing, drinking, singing, and having a very good time.

Finally, we did a feature on our blog where we ranked all 100 bands we saw live last year, and World/Inferno came in 12th. Should we apologize for not ranking you higher?
Out of 100, 12 sounds ok. Who were the top 11?

I don’t remember all of them off the top of my head… Daft Punk, the Hold Steady, TV On the Radio, Pearl Jam…
I like TV On the Radio, they’re cool. Pearl Jam? Did you say Pearl Jam? Is the year 1993? I mean, you’re gonna start talking about, like, Boston or something after that. It’s the 21st century, come on. Get with it!

Video: World/Inferno Friendship Society - "The Brother of the Mayor of Bridgewater"

The World/Inferno Friendship Society play at Belvedere's on Tuesday, September 23. Visit them online at www.worldinferno.com or www.myspace.com/worldinferno.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jenny Lewis has an acid tongue

Quick post today... Jenny Lewis, solo chanteuse and Rilo Kiley frontwoman, has a new record coming out next Tuesday. Acid Tongue will be her first release since 2006's Rabbit Fur Coat. The new record features an Elvis Costello duet - that's one I'm looking forward to hearing.

MP3: Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue

Friday, September 12, 2008

Violent Femmes cover Gnarls Barkley

submitted by Deena

I guess one good cover deserves another. As usual, I'm behind the times with this, since the single was released June 24, but if you haven't given it a listen yet, check it out: http://www.myspace.com/violentandcrazy

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Germs movie chronicles life of Darby Crash

submitted by Deena

Better late than never, right? Here are my thoughts on What We Do Is Secret, which debuted in theaters August 8, and the Germs/Darby Crash story in general...

The movie centers around five years in the short life of Darby Crash, notorious frontman for The Germs, a band thought to have pioneered the hardcore punk genre. It stars Shane West, Bijou Phillips, Rick Gonzalez and Noah Segan, and if it came anywhere near Pittsburgh, I certainly didn't hear about it. So I'm stuck waiting for it to come out on DVD.

And even though WWDIS received a bittersweet review from AVclub.com and was called "unsatisfying" by the New York Post, I'm still intrigued by this film, mainly because Darby Crash's life always seemed so disturbing and yet strangely beautiful to me.

A typical Germs show would involve Crash slashing his bared chest with jagged glass shards and flailing his body into the crowd while hopped up on any given assortment of substances. "He couldn't go onstage without drugs," said Don Bolles, Germs drummer in 1978. Cult fans would receive a "Germs Burn," which was a cigarette put out on the inside of your wrist.

Some say that Crash was terribly tormented by a deeply closeted homosexuality, a fact which had long been suspected and is shown definitively in the movie for the first time. To me, his facade of violence seems to be a reflection of his inner struggle with this issue. How sad that he didn't feel he could be open during the sexual liberation revolution that went with LA punk.

Crash killed himself in a premeditated, heroin-facilitated suicide that many believed was meant to ensure his own legend at age 22. Of course, John Lennon was murdered a day later, leading Crash's dramatic exit to fall into obscurity.

The actors in WTDIS perform nine Germs songs in the movie and worked under the musical direction of original Germs guitarist Pat Smear. I appreciate that more and more movies are doing this, though I know it's a far cry from the real thing.

At any rate, I'm interested to know if anyone's seen this, and their thoughts on Crash in general. Is this the type of legacy he planned to ensure, and the attention, albeit much later than his actual death, that he would have wanted?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Live blogging the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards

Last year was so much fun, we're doing it again... live blogging the 2008 VMAs. The show is hosted by Russell Brand. God knows why they chose him, but we can talk more about that later...

So, the pre-show is underway. I don't know who these people with the microphones are, except for country teen queen Taylor Swift, who is inexplicably providing fashion critiques. She says of T.I., "You are classing up the VMAs." T.I. says he'll be performing tonight with Rihanna, which is good to know since I haven't yet checked the list of performers.

MTV's Sway is in a helicopter over Hollywood, for no apparent reason. He's interviewing Katy Perry, who is slated to perform "Like a Virgin" tonight, which I think is stupid. That's already been done twice in VMA history. She claims to have a "special guest" in tow. I hope it's Marilyn Manson.

German band Tokio Hotel arrive on the red carpet in a monster truck. This makes no sense at all since frontman Bill Kaulitz is quite possibly the most feminine male rock star in history. Perhaps they're purposely trying to confuse people. They are interviewed by John Norris, making his first appearance of the evening. As I noted last year, I greatly enjoy his presence since it gives the show at least a shred of journalistic credibility.

Rapper T-Pain arrives on an elephant. Word.

Taylor Swift is interviewing Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry. A faux-beef develops, since all three are up for Best New Artist. Taylor deserves the award, but I'm betting Miley wins it. I don't care about any of these people, I just want Miley's brother Trace to show up. Katy says she is resigned to losing and will make a moonman out of tin foil.

Kid Rock and Michael Phelps arrive together for a joint interview with Norris. What's up with that?

Sway interviews the Jonas Brothers. I've never heard any of their music. I guess tonight will be my indoctrination.

Sway asks Paris Hilton, "What does BFF stand for?" This man is out of touch - get him off MTV!

It's a Slipknot sighting! The band appears on the red carpet in their masks, interviewed by some supermodel. This sight is freaky and bizarre. It's the highlight of the evening so far.

A pregnant Ashlee Simpson shows up. How did she choose her outfit? "You gotta pick the ones that don't stick to your belly," she tells Taylor.

Paramore arrive in two smart cars. Says one anonymous male band member, "Everyone's rolling in Escalades, we were like, dude, we're just gonna go in smart cars!"

Following an unfunny skit with Jonah Hill, Britney Spears appears for the much-ballyhooed show opening. She's wearing a tight dress and looks great. All she does is introduce the opening performance. That was it?

Rihanna appears with a Pink-esque mohawk and a bunch of dancers in tight leather. She performs a rocked-out version of "Disturbia." I think Rihanna is a lot more quirky and strange than we thought. Awesome.

Host Russell Brand comes out. "I happen to know you don't know who I am," he says. "Let me assure you I am famous in the United Kingdom. My persona don't really work without fame. Without fame, this haircut could be mistaken for mental illness."

He riffs on American politics, talking about the father of Bristol Palin's unborn child: "One minute he's having fun in Alaska, having unprotected sex, the next minute he's off to the Republican convention! That is the best safe sex message of all time."

Jamie Foxx presents the first award. Best Female Video goes to Britney Spears for "Piece of Me." I can't determine whether this is justified, because I've never seen any of the nominees - it's impossible to find music videos these days, unless you scour YouTube. Brit gives a low-key speech, thanking "My two beautiful boys, for inspiring me every day."

For some reason, they're giving down-to-the-minute teasers. Katy Perry will be performing in 13 minutes. The Jonas Brothers will appear in 9 minutes. Set your watches!

Russell Brand is very likable so far. His nervous energy is endearing, and he's telling funny jokes about the artists without being mean or catty. What a novel idea! After every performance, he says "Fantastic, that was great!" in totally unironic fashion. Russell introduces Demi Moore, who presents Best Male Video to Chris Brown.

Taylor Swift introduces the Jonas Brothers. OMG! They are performing on a set that looks like the steps from Sesame Street. Is Big Bird gonna come out? I'm rooting for Oscar the Grouch. They are playing some acoustic number which is evidently called "Love Bug."

My curious friend Robin asks a truly deep question: "What if you were the ugliest Jonas brother?"

Katy Perry is playing "Like a Virgin," but they only show about 30 seconds of it. I'm confused. That was the performance we've been hearing about all week?

Michael Phelps is on stage and he could not be more monotone and boring. He introduces Lil Wayne, Leona Lewis and T-Pain. We're not very impressed with their performance. And as Robin notes, Lil Wayne isn't even that small. "Lil Wayne, you're too big to be Lil Wayne."

The award for Best Dancing in a Video goes to the Pussycat Dolls. Snooze. At least it gives us a chance to see Nicole Scherzinger, hottest female in the world.

Paramore perform live from the Whiskey-a-go-go across the street. They play their hit "Misery Business." Hayley Williams is sporting bright red hair and banana pants.

Best Rock Video goes to Linkin Park's "Shadow of the Day". Slash laughs loudly as he announces them. Was he laughing at them?

Finally, something worth watching - P!nk performs her bitchin' new single "So What" on a soundstage with city buildings in the background. She angrily breaks windows, then removes her blue dress to reveal a form-fitting leather getup, cut so low that we can see her taped nipples. A great performance. There's nothing more exciting in pop music than an angry P!nk.

In a stroke of genius, MTV invited Slipknot to present Best Hip Hop Video. It goes to Lil Wayne's "Lollipop."

Responding to Brand's jokes about the Jonas Brothers' promise rings, Jordin Sparks lashes out, in a friendly way: "It's not bad to wear promise rings because not every guy or girl wants to be a slut." Snap! The first friction of the evening. I wonder if Brand will respond.

T.I. performs, and Rihanna is back to sing with him. This is sketchy. Having an artist perform twice is the telltale sign of really lousy awards shows. I'll let it slide this time, because I like Rihanna.

It's Christina Aguilera, who is amazingly the grizzled veteran of this year's VMAs. She's playing her new single "Keeps Getting Better," with a group of dancers dressed in suits and carrying briefcases. It's different, that's for sure. This is the first time I've heard the new song and I'm digging it.

"What a wonderful performance, well done Christina," Brand says. He offers a (sorta) sincere apology for insulting promise rings. "I don't want to piss off teenage fans. Quite the opposite. And by opposite, I don't mean that I want to piss on teenage fans. That got me in trouble before..." They cut to a crowd shot of the Jonas Brothers, who seem either supremely pissed or just plain uncomfortable. There is no way their mom will let them go to the VMAs ever again.

LezLo presents the moonman for Best New Artist to Tokio Hotel. This is no surprise, since the award was voted on by fans, and their teenage fans were the most likely to participate in the text messaging voting process. "I can't describe it in any words, what we are feeling now," mumbles Kaulitz.

Paris Hilton presents Best Pop Video to Britney Spears. I was hoping the Jonas Brothers would win - I want to see one of them cuss out Russell Brand! Anything to liven up the show. Britney thanks her fans and family. "Did she give the same speech twice?," Robin accurately asks.

Holy crap, I just realized the show is almost over! You don't see two-hour award shows these days. This one has flown by - not because it's been particularly entertaining, but more because the show has had an ADD vibe. I'm still flummoxed by Katy Perry's 30-second "Like a Virgin" performance. Somebody has some explaining to do.


Kid Rock plays "All Summer Long," the new song that I'm liking way more than I'd like to admit. It's the "Werewolves in London" sample - it's irresistible.

Kobe Bryant gives Video of the Year to Britney Spears. I think MTV gave all the awards to Britney tonight because they want her to come back, and they want to singlehandedly take credit for her resurrection. It's kinda shady, if you ask me. To her credit, Britney appears totally mature, happy, and in control.

After vowing last year to never appear on the VMAs again, Kanye West is back to close the show, playing a new song. It's a love song with marching band drums and slight vocal distortion. I can't describe it well, but I like it.

"What a wonderful evening it's been," exclaims Russell Brand. This wasn't a particularly memorable VMAs, but Brand was outstanding. I've read a bunch of reviews that say he sucked. Rubbish - he was the highlight of the evening.

"This is the launch of a new Britney Spears era," says Brand. "Consider this the resurrection of Britney Spears!" Bingo! I nailed it.

Brand leaves us with this nugget of knowledge: "I've decided to take up chastity now, because I've been inspired."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Mitch Hedberg!

For years I drove people crazy by endlessly quoting Mitch Hedberg jokes all the time. I went to see him live in 2005, a month before his untimely death, and snuck in a lo-fi recording device. Someday, perhaps, that bootleg will see the light of day.

In the meantime, word comes that a new Mitch Hedberg CD will be released on September 9, entitled Do You Believe in Gosh? Since Hedberg's death, I've scoured the Internet for video clips and bootlegs, and I'm convinced that I've heard ever joke Mitch ever told. Will this disc surprise me and produce something new?

Who knows. But you can bet I'll be picking it up the day it comes out. Below is an unconfirmed track listing, which reveals several familiar tracks ("Imagine if the Headless Horseman had a headless horse... that would be fucking chaos!"), and several that don't sound familiar at all ("The Vacuumist?")

1. The Improv Fairy Tale
2. Door Deal
3. Hot Air Balloon
4. Headless Horseman
5. Hotels and Beds
6. Phil
7. Restaurants
8. Texas and Sea Food
9. Tea Ski
10. Canal Smarts
11. The Vacuumist
12. Belt
13. Soda Pop

Here's some vintage Mitch:
Video: Mitch Hedberg on Conan O'Brien

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Who needs love when there's Southern Comfort?

Who Killed Amanda Palmer, the solo debut from the Dresden Dolls singer and soulmate of yours truly, comes out September 16, and it is brilliant.

The disc was produced by Ben Folds, and it's got the kind of bouncy pop tracks you might expect to hear on a Ben Folds Five record, as well as some gorgeous ballads. I'm particularly excited that the plaintive "Ampersand" is as good on record as it is live.

As always, the stars of the show are Amanda's deeply personal words, which range from longing and forlorn to wickedly funny.

"The ghetto boys are catcalling," she sings in "Ampersand," before asking, "I wonder if this method of courtship has ever been effective. Has any girl in history said, 'Sure, you seem so nice, let's get it on!'"

St. Vincent's Annie Clark makes on appearance on "What's the Use of Wond'rin?", which sounds like an old-fashioned lullaby. Clark's voice is alone with a music box for the song's first 90 seconds, before Palmer jumps in, and they duet beautifully to close the song.

That track is followed by the lively "Oasis," which features hand claps, synthesizers, and Beach Boys-esque surf-pop background vocals, even while Palmer sings a story about being raped and getting an abortion. It's a combination that couldn't possibly work - except it does. The title is a reference to the arrogant British band - "I've seen better days, but I don't care/Oasis got my letter in the mail."

"Strength Through Music" is yet another standout, a sparse piano ballad about violence written just after Columbine. The silence between notes adds tension and drama, in much the same fashion as Sigur Ros' "Heysatan."

Palmer has a knack for identifying life's most troubling moments and expressing them in a heartbreaking manner. She can feel our pain, and her wounds provide a catharsis for listeners who identify with her. It's like she's on the cross for all of us. Wait, did I just compare Amanda Palmer to Jesus? Sure, why not.

"Just cause they call themselves friends doesn't mean they'll call," she laments in the pretty "The Point of it All." In "Another Year," she depressingly decides to postpone her ambitions, reasoning, "I'm only 26 years old. My grandmother died at 83. That's lots of time, if I don't smoke. I think I'll wait another year."

Admittedly, I'm a huge Dresden Dolls fan, and not at all impartial. But I honestly wasn't expecting a lot from this disc. I thought it would be a pretty quiet, low-key effort that wouldn't compare to the Dolls' records. Thankfully, I was dead wrong.

Videos have already been shot for several of the album's tracks.

Video: Amanda Palmer - Strength Through Music

Video: Amanda Palmer - Runs in the Family