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(Last updated
Mon, Feb 3, 2003 12:46 am)

The November Hitlist
30 Albums 10 Songs
HOW MUCH WILL IT HURT?:
Ten tips for the marathon virgin.Or...How to enjoy an exercise in maoschism.
FEATURED ALBUM:
TOM PETTY/HEARTBREAKERS
The Last DJ
FEATURED WINE:
Château d'Oupia Minervois 20001
Featured Mix CD:
Mixed Live: 2nd Sessions by Carl Cox
NEW! From the Jamming! Archives: The Jam
Interviewed in 1979
NEW: The iJamming! Interview: UNDERWORLD
"I got it in my head that I was going to die in a cheesy hotel room covered in cat's piss." NOW WITH LIVE PHOTOS
New! Coming and Going
Chapter 3: The Palace
NEW: The iJamming! Interview
RICHARD BUTLER Part 2
NEW! From the Jamming! Archives: Adam Ant
Interviewed in 1978

REMARKS REMADE :
Available Now!
The introduction to the new edition of my R.E.M. biography is here.

A Decade In Dance
BT & BANCO DE GAIA
10 Years (Apiece)
The October Hitlist
30 Albums 10 Songs
HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT
The whole Bloody 1990s cataloge
Last of The Summer Rosês:
Goats Do Roam, Vin Gris de Cigare and Rose of Virginia.
DID BIN LADEN WIN?
10 Reasons To Fear The Worst
From the Jamming! Archives:
PAUL WELLER
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
LEVI'S STROKES EARS
New York's rock'n'roll rescuers play Lowlife - loudly
LUNA at SOUTHPAW
Local legends and international influence come home to party
THE AUGUST HITLIST:
28 Albums Rocking Our World
THE TWO ARE ALRIGHT:
The Who at Madison Square Garden
AREA 2:
A wash-out
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE
The Movie
The Party
THE HOOTENANNY REVUE REVIEW:
Cedell Davis, Tuatara, and The Minus 5 atthe Knitting Factory
WILSON PICKETT:
Still 'A Man And A Half'
THE JULY HITLIST
30 Albums, 5 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies
TIMOTHY WHITE
An obituary by Chris Charlesworth
The REZILLOS:
Back On The (Flying Saucer) Attack
THE JUNE HITLIST
30 Albums, 10 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies.
MAY MUSINGS
Eight Days in A Week's Music:
Ed Harcourt, Vines, Candy Butchers, Timo Maas, Ashley Casselle & Adam Freeland, Aerial Love Feed, and enough little club nights to shake several sticks at.
LONDON MUSING
Tony's (lengthy) trip down nostalgia lane from his visit home at the end of April. Stop-offs include Death Disco, old Jamming! Magazines, life-long friendships, road trips to Brighton, Damilola Taylor and political frustration, Morrissey-Marr, Zeitgeist, Oasis, Dexys, Primal Scream, the current British music scene and more.
The iJamming! interview:
CARL COX
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
GOLDEN SHOT
hostess 'Lee Patrick' recalls her time as Keith Moon's amour
HEDONISM:
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
The iJAMMING! interview:
DAVID SYLVIAN
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:
MARK PERRY

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
TRAVIS.
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
LLOYD COLE
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
The iJAMMING! interview:
BOY GEORGE.
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
The full iJamming! Contents
What's new in iJAMMING!?

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FRIDAY NOVEMBER 22

DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS

Forget the front covers, the screaming hordes and the hit singles. The real sign that a band has made it big is when other bands start sounding like them. By that criteria, the Strokes are even bigger than they think they are. In the last few weeks, I've received two EPs that could easily have been mistaken as new Strokes releases, so similar are they in style and approach – at least on certain songs.

Longwave is a New York City quartet whose cerebral debut album Endsongs was written about favorably in these cyber-pages, and who subsequently hooked themselves firmly onto the coattails of New York's risen stars. They have since played as the Strokes' opening act (in the UK and USA), signed an American deal with the Strokes' record company (RCA), and engaged the services of the Strokes' publicists (Big Hassle Media). The band's new EP, Day Sleeper – strategically released on the Boston label Fenway to preserve indie credibility for as long as humanly possible – shows the obvious effects of this close relationship, with 'Pool Song' in particular (released as its own single in the UK back in August) featuring the same simplistic single-note guitar riffs as popularized by the Strokes, along with an almost identical sung-through-a-megaphone vocal.

San Francisco quartet The Pleased provide a more interesting test case, given that their home town is almost 3000 miles from Manhattan. But their five-song CD currently doing the rounds is alarming for how it absorbs The Strokes' strengths only to spit them back out under a different name. In fact, the first minute of 'Another Disaster' – with its chugging, tinny guitar riffs, disaffected, slightly off-key vocals, and slumming-it lyrics – is not just influenced by the Strokes; it's masquerading as the Strokes. And the plagiarism seems to be working. The Pleased are in the UK as I type this – on their second tour, no less – and both KROQ in LA and LIVE 105 in San Francisco are apparently pounding 'Another Disaster' which, to its credit, has a chorus the Strokes themselves would kill for. (On subsequent songs 'Swift Nude' and 'No Style', Pleased vocalist Noah Georgeson gets Julian Casablancas' shouts and warbles down to such a tee he could front a tribute band.)

Stroke this: New York City's Longwave Stroke that: San Francisco's The Pleased

The Pleased themselves seem blissfully unconcerned about the comparisons. Their web site proudly carries this quote from CMJ that "The Please [as they were called until last week] embody everything that's good about the Strokes," while the press release accompanying the American EP includes a bold-faced pull-quote from the San Francisco Gate informing us that "The Please have the right idea: adenoidal vocals, throbbing bass and hooky songs drippy with affection for the Romantics, the Strokes and other buoyant pop boys." As if we couldn't tell. The EP – which has many an attractive, if not exactly original quality - came courtesy of Big Hassle Media, by the way. Yes, the Strokes' publicists. Talk about insider trading. . .


. . . And if we are going to talk about insider trading, it won't be long until the conversation comes round to Terry Venables. American readers might say, Who? English and Australian ones will have no such problems of name recognition, given that Venables once managed their international football teams. Neither will my fellow Crystal Palace fans, who endured Venables in the twilight of his brilliant playing career and the dawn of what looked like being an even greater coaching career. Unfortunately, after taking Palace to the top of the league for 4 days in 1979, it all went pete tong, and Venables left Palace under a cloud so mysterious it would be better described as an impenetrable fog. This didn't stop him returning in 1998 for half a season that could not have been more disastrous had he signed expensive and mostly disappointing players from a dozen different nationalities and helped put the club into receivership. Oh hang on, he did. 'El Tel's ability to bounce back into ever more lucrative football contracts has never ceased to amaze me, which is why, as a fan twice bitten by his full-on greed and half-hearted involvement, I shed no tears over his current hardships at Leeds United. If you want to know what I'm talking about – or if you need to know, in more detail, who I'm talking about – click here to read a damning, telling timeline from the Guardian.


And finally, at least for this week, if you want to read a chapter from my new R.E.M. book, Remarks Remade, entirely for free, with no strings attached, you can do so by following this link to Rocksbackpages.com. Of course, if you want to buy the book, that's fine by me also. You can do so by clicking here.


THURSDAY NOVEMBER 21

GET YOUR WAR ON!

After a week in which Osama Bin Laden turns out to be alive after all, Iraq says it will re-admit weapons inspectors yet George W. Bush prepares for an invasion anyway, fundamentalists are arrested in London on suspicion of trying to spread cyanide through the Underground, and a letter from Al Qaeda publicized through its propaganda outlet Al Jazeera instructs all Americans to convert to Islam (yeah, right), it seems only fit and proper I pause to promote a cartoon. Not any cartoon, mind, but Get Your War On, the online sensation started by David Rees last autumn to put voice to his sense of helplessness when the U.S.A. started bombing Afghanistan.

You know that sense of helplessness, don't you? Because if it's ever disappeared over this last year – perhaps during a week in which Afghanistan seemed to be at peace, Osama Bin Laden appeared to be dead, and the Palestinians and Israelis gave the impression of talking to each other rather than killing each other - it returned as sure as night follows day. That helplessness is there right now, in front of all of us who know we want a different, better world but know we don't want to have to leave the one we're currently occupying to make way for it. And if that sense of helplessness made you feel like screaming, shouting, drinking – or just being incredibly sarcastic – then Get Your War On is your type of cartoon.

Your ability to find Get Your War On online is dependant on whether it has exceeded its band width yet again; this has truly been an Internet phenomenon. But Brooklyn-based publishers Soft Skull Press had the smart sense to collect Rees' first year of cartoons into a book that would make an ideal Christmas/Hanukah/Ramadam present for any of us (do they give presents at Ramadam? I genuinely don't know) - especially as it holds religion to account for many of our current problems.

Get Your War On's success lies in its simplicity. Making no claims as a visual artist himself, Rees instead takes generic non-copyrighted clip-arts, primarily of office scenes, with the occasional domestic conversation and child-in-front-of-a-computer for variation, and has these generic characters spout forth the kind of drunken, angry, fearful, cynical vitriol that lies not far below the surface of all of us right now. (Especially in America, where the series is clearly set.)

Like the majority of underground cartoonists/satirists, Rees is rabidly anti-Republican. But he's not enough of an appeaser to make apologies or excuses for the murderers on the other side: he just expresses his total disbelief at our fucked-up world by allowing his characters to swear incessantly as they express their own disbelief. And Rees has the good sense to point accusatory fingers right at the source of our global problems: religion. Check one of his debut 4-panel cartoons, posted on October 9 2001.


Several of Rees' strips make a concise point in one panel. Example #1: "If you're not with us you're against us, huh? I like it – so nice and simple! When do we start bombing western Europe?" Example #2: "Here's what I don't understand – couldn't the evil geniuses at Enron have figured out a way to ruin the lives of, oh, say Al-Qaeda – instead of their own goddamn American employees." Example #3: "How much do you wanna bet that if terrorists blow up the Statue of Liberty, France won't even OFFER to replace it."

The good thing about the Soft Skull book over the Internet edition, apart from the fact that its clears up some of the imagery and lettering and that we can access it in the bathroom, is that it allows us to follow the strip along a time line. In so doing, Rees is shown up as one of the many thousands of cynics and doubters who thought that a War that couldn't be won in a month was a War that couldn't be won at all – as per the following strip posted just days before the Taliban fell.


I don't share Rees' perspective on several aspects. And I've noted that the longer his strip runs, the more he seems to be towing the standard far left line – which is long on finding fault with the current international leaders and their actions, but is mighty short on offering workable solutions. Should a cartoonist be required to find solutions? Probably not – and if he merely voices our frustrations and hidden fears, then that's surely good enough. My biggest issue with Rees, then, is his subjective memory. Taking a page from Bush's book and understanding the importance of focusing on a single issue, Rees speaks out strongly in his cartoons against the use of landmines, and their devastating effect on the Afghan population in particular. Far from trying to profit from this strip, he's taken donations for, and all book royalties are going to, 'Adopt-a-Minefield,' a non-profit "effort to remove landmines around the world."

This is admirable. His cartoon strips – particularly those set during the 'Afghan campaign' this time last year – are particularly outspoken about the potential horrors of dropping food packages into uncleared mine fields. But such is his anger on this latter matter that he neglects to mention who planted all those land mines in Afghanistan in the first place: the same country that invaded a relatively prosperous Afghanistan at the end of the 1970s, launching a 20 years+ civil war that has left over well over a million dead, and giving rise to al-Qaeda as a potent opposition force in the process: the Soviet Union. It's this kind of political amnesia that prevents me holding hands with the anti-war movement, because too many of its members are only willing to see one side as the aggressor in this world – their own. If Rees was brave enough to take on God in his cartoons, he should have had no problem throwing a few well-placed expletives the way of a now disgraced and disbanded communist Empire.

When all's said and done though, we need our David Rees. We need someone who can scream so loudly on our behalf, someone who can see through the hypocricy, lies and doubletalk and throw it right back in our faces. The following strip was the second to be published last October 9, 2001.

And this one was posted almost exactly a year later, on September 29, 2002


Get your war on, indeed.


WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 20

THE DREAM THAT KEEPS US ALIVE

Kevin Sampson's brilliant satirical rock'n'roll novel Powder is finally out in the States. And what a surprise, the cover was better in the UK (see below).
Flicking through the New York Times Book Review last week, I was happily stunned to read a full-page critique of Kevin Sampson's satirical rock'n'roll novel Powder. First published in the UK in 1999, Powder was a runaway success in its homeland. Sampson, a founding editor of terrace culture fanzine The End and the former manager of terrace culture indie-rockers The Farm, knew more about the inner workings of the international music business that most authors - and turned out to have the novelist's knack for nailing those intimate details in print. (He'd already made the successful switch from journalist to novelist with Awaydays, an intensely violent novel about Tranmere Rovers football gangs in the new wave era of the early 80s.) On the page, Sampson exhibited truckloads of the famed Scouse wit, and it hardly harmed his sales figures that just about everybody in the British music industry bought a copy to see if they'd been caricatured – and if not, to guess whom exactly had been.

Though Powder is rooted in the obsessively trendy British music business, its story quickly transfers to America, once its central band the Grams sign to a thinly disguised real-life label – the novel is dedicated to Seymour Stein, if you need a hint – and as such, it's continually baffled me as to why Powder had never been published in the States. Now that it's finally out here, I can't help but worry that it's too late – especially as the story is so obviously rooted in the 90s. At his end, Sampson's written another three novels in the interim – though none have had a similar cultural impact, and it seems like he's settled into a modern-day Richard Allen role rather than developing an Irvine Welsh-like international reputation. For my part, it's a full three years since I wrote about Powder in a column for the debut issue of Revolver – a magazine which set out to become an American Q or Mojo and subsequently settled for becoming an American Kerrang! I mention that because the fickle nature of the music press is a constant theme throughout Powder, one that begins on the novel's opening page in which the Grams' front man Keva McCluskey sits down to read an NME cover story on his most bitter rivals.

Sampson has great fun imitating and ridiculing the British press throughout. The peak of fictional journalism (does that make it meta-fiction or meta-journalism?) in his continually hilarious and often incisive soap opera comes when he devotes five full pages to a perfect pastiche of a pretentious NME cover story (sample sentence: "In our simplicity, we imagine that this is why a group is born and this is the dream that keeps them alive") then has McCluskey – for it's the Grams who are now the cover stars - immediately skewer the hyperbole by observing that "It was all bollocks, the romantic suppositions of a bad writer who wanted to be mates with a band."

I got to thinking about Powder yet again yesterday when I read Paul Moody's feature in the current NME on Radio 4, a New York band I've championed frequently over the last year and whose front man, Anthony Roman, also runs my local Brooklyn record store, Somethin' Else. (And has subsequently become something of a good friend.) Given that he was obviously flown over to New York to write his story, Moody needed a colorful description to justify the expense, and he didn't let the side down. Here's his opening few sentences.

Do not adjust your eyes. New York on Halloween is a sight to behold.
Witches lurk on every street corner, candy-crazed children of the damned at their side. Sceptre-wielding mini-ghouls accompanied by slobbering, caped hell-hounds yell "trick or treat" at anything that moves.
Anthony Roman and Gerard Garone from Radio 4 gaze out at these hi-jinks impassively from the depths of a boho Brooklyn coffee shop. Here, modern jazz mingles with the slow murmur of erudite conversation and the sound of tumbling chess pieces. As a five-year old in a Scream mask strolls in demanding cookies with menaces, NME suggests there may be some witching hour-related fun to be had this evening.
Anthony forces a rictus smile. "Halloween," he says, shaking his head, "is not cool."
He should know. As premier representatives of the New York punk-funk renaissance, Radio 4 are about as chilly as cool gets.

A five year old demanding "cookies with menaces." Or maybe not. More Brooklyn Halloween pictures here.
. . .And so on. My point? For one, Kevin Sampson couldn't have satirized it better. (It’s a relief to know that some things, like hyperbolic NME features, never change.) And for another, this stuff is so much funnier when you actually know the relative mundandity beneath the outwardly glamorous description. The boho coffee shop was obviously Somethin' Else's next-door neighbor, Moda Vecchia, whose owner Chris Acosta, after years of an uphill battle championing the entire burgeoning 5th Avenue stretch, will no doubt be thrilled to read is now deemed officially modern jazz 'boho' The five year olds "demanding cookies with menaces" could easily have included my own harmless son Campbell, except that he's now seven and this year 'trick or treated' on 5th Avenue as a lego Bionicle. That said, he's hung out at Moda many a time – even played chess there, though I'm not so sure he's contributed 'erudite conversation' to the background boho hum. Don't get me wrong, it's all good (fun). But still, reading this description provided me with the rare and fascinating realization that my everyday neighborhood environment had just been officially 'hipsterised' by no less a style Bible than the NME, right down to the condemnation of the one thing that actually made the scene unusual from any other day on almost any other New York City block – Halloween. (And Anthony, what's up with that? Halloween's so cool it chills.)

This all connects, as I love things so doing, to the fact that I'm going through one of those twice-a-decade thin-outs of the CD collection, a miserably tiresome exercise to which there is no easy alternative short of a) keeping everything, or b) throwing everything out. And so I find myself briefly playing CDs by long-forgotten one-time contenders to hear if they can justify continued existence in my collection. Most of them, of course, can't – which may serve to thin my shelves but won’t make getting rid of the plastic any easier, nor their legacies any greater.

Still, I'm particularly struck by how much music I'm discarding from the Britpop era of 1995-97, when I held an A&R consultancy job for an American major that involved trying to find the next UK sensation. Believe it or not, several of the following acts were highly touted at the time: Surge Emergence, Supernova, Superstar, Splashdown, Swingset Police, Stella, Sludge Nation, Skycycle, Sterling, Starlings, Syndicate, Sussed, Scarfo, Star Club, Sixty Channels, Star 69, Swales, Smudge… And as you can tell, those are just the S's. If you want to convince me that any of these bands' albums are worth keeping, speak up on the Forum. And if you're a devoted reader of the NME, you've got my endorsement on Radio 4, for what that's worth. Just remember to take it all with a large dose of . . .powder. After all, in posting the U.S. cover of Sampson's book up above, I notice that it contains the pull quote "the best novel ever written about rock'n'roll" from a review in. . .you guessed it, the NME.


TUESDAY NOVEMBER 19

BREAKING THE LOOP BY CHANGING THE RULES

One of the only panels I attended at the CMJ Music Marathon this year was the annual 'RPM' confab, entitled 'Sample and Hold: Is Electronica Stuck In a Loop?' The conversation itself certainly seemed to revolve around the same issues as every year: college radio DJs complaining that they don't get serviced with enough cool music (so go out and buy it), that not enough big name DJs come to their town (so put on your own parties), and wondering aloud how they can take the music 'overground.'

This last, common question misses two key points as far as I'm concerned: 1) that with the past success of Fatboy Slim, Prodigy, Moby, Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method and the inevitable co-option of the culture by Madonna, the music clearly went 'overground' a long time ago, and conversely, 2) the whole nature of dance/electronic music is that it's constantly innovative, forever evolving and deliberately challenging, and that by creative necessity, it belongs 'underground' where it has that freedom to keep experimenting.

Little was said about the machinations of either touring or distributing dance music, which is fair enough given that CMJ is primarily about college radio. Yet one reason for sticking with dance-techno-electronic music at a time when some of its bigger acts appear to be on the commercial wane, is because it remains the one culture still willing to challenge our traditional perceptions of what constitutes entertainment, product, and art - and whether something can be all three at once.

For example, on Wednesday November 6, I saw Ben Neill open a triple bill at the Bowery Ballroom. At first, it looked like the classic avant-garde line-up: Ben on his MIDI-equipped self-designed mutantrumpet (see photo at left), Eric Calvi on various keyboards, a pair of Mac laptops in front of each, and Andrew Montgomery, the vocalist from Scottish band Geneva, singing in an intense falsetto not entirely unlike that of Erasure's Andy Bell. The most interesting aspect of the show though, was the backdrop: animations from the recent Volkswagen ads for which Neill was hired to compose the music, which not only formed the basis for his cleverly-titled new album, Automotive - but for most of tonight's performance too.

By showing TV commercials on stage, it may seem like Ben Neill is just a little too enthusiastic to suck corporate cock. But consider his previous involvement with a multinational - signed to a subsidiary of the enormous Vivendi/Seagrams/Universal/ Polygram corporation, which only released his music on condition that it owned the copyright, and which then struggled to successfully market it and certainly failed to successfully sell it, after which, not surprisingly, it ended the business relationship (though it still owns the copyright). I asked Ben after the show which was a better business deal for him – Verve Records or Volkswagen – and after he stopped laughing hysterically, he made the following points. . .

Firstly, that the car company/ad agency paid him more for a few 30-second commercials than he'd ever received from a record company to record a whole album. Secondly, they allowed him to keep the copyright and the publishing, which not only encouraged him to turn the spots into full tracks, but which then gave him the freedom to sell the subsequent album to a label of his own choosing (the wonderfully creative Six Degrees). And thirdly, of course, Volkswagen promoted hell out of the music, via its TV ads, entirely for free.

Ben himself actually likened the process to classical days of yore, when artists such as Beethoven and Brahms were commissioned to compose specific projects by the royalty of the day. Volkswagen is not royalty, Ben Neill is no Beethoven, and I don't believe that anybody should shill for a multinational (or royal family) unless they're willing to defend that corporation's product and policies – but in fairness, I think that last condition of awareness should apply when signing a major label deal as well. (Does anyone remember the outcry when the Gang Of 4 signed to EMI, which was also a major British defense contractor? Thought not…) Still, from Ben's point of view, an especially acute one given that he doesn’t fit into any easily marketable niche, this has been a win-win situation, and as much as it indicates how certain corporate brands will pay whatever it takes to look 'hip,' it's also one example of how some artists may soon be able to circumnavigate the major label process entirely - while still earning good money and gaining publicity in the process.

Also on the bill at the Bowery were the Baldwin Brothers – not the Long Island actors and presidential wanna-bes, but the quartet from Chicago, whose refreshingly organic live show was a welcome surprise given the rather staid nature of their debut album, Cooking With Lasers. The Baldwins (see right) evince a mad scientist look in their suits and ties, compounded by a dependency on Oakenfold-sized headphones, but they balance the analogue and the digital with admirable grace. TK Widner delivers true funk off a Fender Rhodes (occasionally switching to a Nord Lead for the more techno-driven tracks), Jimmy Deer occupies stage center on bass, drummer Jason Hinckle keeps the beat to his own digitally-delivered backing, and turntablist JB Royal ensures that the overall sound stays sample-happy. Scratch the DJ (if you get my gist) and they'd have a line-up almost identical to jam band the New Deal. Fortunately though, from my anti-noodling perspective, the Baldwins seem more concerned with the tight beats of funk and hip-hop than the spacious sounds of techno or house, and while their presentation would benefit from an occasional guest vocalist such as appears on their album (especially given that one of them, Geri Soriano-Lightwood was about to perform in the headlining band), by set's end they had the room jumping.

The night's gradual backward journey from avant-garde innovation to crowd-pleasing entertainment culminated with Supreme Beings Of Leisure. You can tell a lot about a band by its following, and the audience now featured lots of stylish, 30-something couples evidently attracted to the idea of a female-fronted, multi-racial band that blends sixties spy themes with cocktail jazz arrangements, and multi-cultural influences with just enough progressive beats to be considered danceable. It's an obvious recipe for success, which is partly why the act's eponymous debut album was a sleeper hit a couple of years ago. But there's also such a thing as trying too hard, and both onstage and on their new album Divine Operating System, Supreme Beings of Leisure seem overly eager to please. The combination of bright stage lights (especially after the support acts were forced to play in the shadows), the -stated dance moves, excessively multi-culti influences of it all and singer Geri's overly outgoing personality all made me feel like I was being force-fed a Benetton lifestyle ad. I didn't stay long.

Similar accusations of lifestyle salesmanship could be thrown at Thievery Corporation, who headlined (and sold out) Irving Plaza the following Tuesday, November 12 - except that where SBL fail by trying too hard, the duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton succeed by acting like they're not trying. By understanding a crucial element of hipsterism – that no club is ever worth joining that seems desperate for you to join – Thievery Corporation have created their own small but genuine and self-controlled lifestyle empire. They own a successful Washington D.C. cocktail bar, the Eighteenth Street Lounge, which not only lends credence to their be-suited image of constant sophistry, but also provides ongoing funding for their independent record label of the same name. The positive cash flow from the bar has allowed them to spurn major label offers – furthering their credibility and control - while releasing other artists through ESL has furthered their already considerable reputation as entrepreneurs and producers. Everything plays off everything else to evince an image of complete cool and self-made success: when Thievery Corporation use cars in their photos and onstage videos, it's not to sell you a VW but to let you know they own a sporty MG.

(As an aside, in linking to these artists' web sites I note their rather overt obsession with selling a comfortably hip image - what with Baldwinstyle, SBLeisure and 18thStLounge.)

Thievery Corporation's inherent knack for presentation: Drums, percussion, vocals, pads, Technics and sitar fill the Irving Plaza stage.

As such, the duo's music has occasionally been criticized as but an afterthought – no more important an aspect of the lifestyle than the bar, the car, the label or the suit. (Read this scathing review of their new album, The Richest Man In Babylon, for a well-argued example.) On album, Thievery Corporation can indeed offer more style than substance (their tracks often seem better suited as DJ material than for intensive listening), but on stage, the duo's inherent knack for presentation disguises such issues. At Irving, Eric (on Technics, spinning specially-produced dub plates) and Rob (on pads and a Mac laptop), were quickly joined by a drummer, a percussionist, and then another percussionist who soon switched to the sitar – an impressive instrument in any live band, but especially useful if your music engages in international sound-biting. And whereas the Baldwin Brothers lacked for a vocalist, and yet Supreme Beings of Leisure's Geri was too full on, Thievery Corporation successfully covered all bases, starting out instrumental, then alternating the classy female singers LouLou and Pam Bricker, after which long-term front men Roots and Zee came on to toast, sing and dance over the dub-heavy grooves. The encore, not surprisingly, featured the whole ensemble – with Roots and Zee inviting girls (girls only, you'll note, and only the pretty ones at that) from the front rows to come join the dance.

It was an uplifting and entertaining live show and in New York, which has always been a fertile ground for trip hop, down tempo vibes, and which embodies the notion of the melting pot, it was received with rapturous applause. Personally, I thought it was a good enough live show that it should have been even better. The sub-bass was so solid that I wanted to see it as well as feel it (you'll never encounter a real reggae band without a bass player), and I had a similar longing for a brass section given that there were so many horn parts in their arrangements. My expectations are more than they can currently afford to deliver, but having seen their show grow over the years, it's not entirely unrealistic.

Thievery Corporation with vocalists Roots and Zee: entertaining but not show stopping.

More importantly perhaps, I desperately longed for a genuine chorus or two, and at least one show-stopping vocal delivery. (Compared, for example, to the Basement Jaxx' songwriting and choice of singers, Thievery Corporation are also-rans.) Finally, less is often more: with all the onstage dancing during the encore, I was reminded of Groove Armada's concert here a couple of years ago when it descended into what the band itself admitted was "a college night out."

Leaving these criticism aside, there's so much to admire about Thievery Corporation – not least that the live show was collectively much greater than the sum of its individual parts. Ultimately though, the most striking thing about them is their business sense: they're an international success story that maintains complete control and ownership of their art and its marketing. So while they're partly a lesson that even low-tempo dance music can create high energy in concert, they're most important as an example of how to play the game and win. And it appears to boil down to this: create your own universe, occupy the positions of power, make up your own rules of the game and offer the public just enough insight that they want to join in. Do it right, and no one can ever say you're not a winner.

MONDAY NOVEMBER 18

WINE! EASY LISTENING!

Lots coming up this week on the site, but until I'm ready to post something substantial, here's a quick link, sent to me by my friend Max. As you may know if you've been following this site, I've interviewed a couple of DJs (Timo Maas and John Acquaviva) about their wine tastes. I should be talking to the likes of Sir Cliff Richard instead, given that the saintly singer has now gone into wine production. Good for him. Slightly worrying that his favorite summer sipper is also Saddam Hussein's wine of choice (Matteus Rosê), but it would be surprising if Cliff had perfect taste, don't you think?


FOR NOVEMBER 9-15 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes CMJ report including Datsuns, von Bondies and My Favorite, and political Eagles)
FOR NOVEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Halloween, the New York Marathon, and British Cuisine)
FOR OCTOBER 26-NOV 1 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes live reviews of The Streets, Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Flaming Sideburns, Stellastarr*; Jam Master Jay; Halloween) FOR OCTOBER 19-25 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Underworld live, Atlantic Avenue antics, Girls and Boys night)
FOR OCTOBER 12-18 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Bali Bombing and stupid editorials, the Electro-Clash festival, VHS Or Beta, Ballboy, Mindless Self Indulgence, 2 Many DJs, Tom Petty, The Streets, pointless stop-the-war e-mails)
FOR OCTOBER 5-11 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Steve Earle and John Walker's Blues, Dreaming Of Britney, Girls Against Boys and Radio 4)
FOR SEPTEMBER 28-OCT 4 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes White Stripes live, Morel live, My Generation re-issue)
FOR SEPTEMBER 21-27 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Creation live, Village Voice, Wine not Whine and more)
FOR SEPTEMBER 14-20 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Firefighter Andre Fletcher, Untamed, Uncut, and more September 11 Musings)
FOR SEPTEMBER 7-13 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Sep 11 memorials, Did Bin Laden Win?, Scissor Sisters and Electro-clash)
FOR AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Strokes live, The Rising, Saint Etienne, Team USA, a.i., Tahiti 80, Dot Allison)
FOR AUGUST 17-30 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes holiday musings, wine reviews, Luna at Southpaw, and more)
FOR AUGUST 10-16 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes lengthy Who live review)
FOR JULY 27-AUG 9 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Area 2, 24 Hour Party People Party, Hootenanny Tour, 2 Many DJs and more.
FOR JULY 20-26 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Wilson Pickett, John Entwistle, rebuilding downtown NYC)
FOR JULY 13-19 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Love Parade, Teany, RenewNYC, Femi Kuti, NRA, Londonisation of New York, Britishification of Global Rock)
FOR JULY 6-12 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Mike Meyers as Keith Moon, the RAVE Act, John Entwistle, Michael Jackson, Southpaw, Moby Online, Layo & Bushwacka!,
(accidentally deleted)
FOR JUNE 29-JULY 5 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup Final, John Entwistle's legacy, The Who's decision to carry on, the meaning of July 4)
FOR JUNE 22-28 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Dr. John, Doves, Mermaid Parade, John Entwistle's death, Timothy White's death, Clinic Firewater and Radio 4 live, The Who's decision to carry on)
FOR JUNE 15-21 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Liars live, GiantFingers, the Big Takeover)
FOR JUNE 8 -14 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, StellaStarr*, Jose Padilla, Dee Dee Ramone, suicide bombings)
FOR JUNE 1-7 DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Southpaw, Six Foot Under, Andrew Sullivan)
FOR LATE MAY DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR MAY'S EIGHT DAYS IN A WEEK'S MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR LATE APRIL LONDON MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR EARLY APRIL MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
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