“Weird” Al Yankovic is turning into a fantastic insult comic.
He has released two videos so far from his latest album, “Mandatory Fun,” and aside from being spot-on parodies of two of the most popular songs of the year, they are beautifully dickish in an inarguable way.
“Tacky,” a riff on Pharrell’s “Happy,” highlights the terrible fashion trends of Crocs, stripes and plaid, and the idea of taking selfies with the deceased at a funeral. The video features several comedians, mostly notably Jack Black, who is tacky defined with his high-waisted pants, rhinestoned fanny pack and obsessive twerking. It does such a good job of pointing out the stupidity of all these actions and looks, that anyone finding themselves associated with anything mentioned in the song should feel immediate and extreme shame. Then never do that thing again.
“Word Crimes,” a take on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” is basically Yankovic being a grammar Nazi. Dangling participles and contractions aside, he belittles those who use numbers for letters and single letters for full words (unless you’re Prince). It’s sweet release for that inner word cop that wants to spring out and beat the mob of uneducated slobs senseless with their own words. Yankovic has saved us much embarrassment and heartache.
The videos are part of his 8 videos in 8 days project, which in itself is a riff on Beyoncé’s latest release. Bey put out an album of 15 songs and 17 music videos available only on iTunes in December, with complete secrecy before its release. It sold a million copies in less than a week. Yankovic will release a full album in physical form, but has hinted that this album, the last under his current record contract, might signal a change. He says on his blog that he’s “weighing his options.”
Here’s hoping those options include a deeper delve into insult comedy.we
Last week, it happened for the fourth time. The radio alarm went off, and a “Morning Edition” host announced the death of a Ramone. Groggy and dispirited, I brushed my teeth, made coffee, put on a Ramones t-shirt—cheesy, I know—and went out to face the world, which otherwise continued as normal.
And then the funniest thing happened. I felt great all day.
Tommy Ramones was 65. A lot of the headlines read something like this: “Tommy Ramone, last surviving member of seminal punk band The Ramones, dies.” Which is only semi-accurate, since three former but non-founding Ramones are still with us: Marky, who replaced Tommy on drums in 1978; Richie, drummer during the Marky-less period between 1982 and 1987, and C.J., who replaced bassist Dee Dee in 1989. Emphasizing this seems in keeping with Tommy Ramone’s unassuming public demeanor. He was okay with the spotlight, but preferred to be out of it.
Even so, there’s a sense of finality to our loss of Tommy. For most punk devotees, experiencing the densities of that universe happened primarily though records, magazines, and 30-minutes sets at run-down music clubs. Only four people ever knew what punk’s storied big bang was truly like from the inside, and they’re all gone now. The music of the Ramones may be immortal, but its members were not.
The t-shirt I picked out to observe the latest occurrence of the traditional Ramones mourning period is pretty threadbare. I have three Ramones t-shirts, and nowadays I parcel them out only for special occasions. Wearing one makes me feel liberated, invincible. To commemorate Tommy, the t-shirt with an image of the cover of their 1978 album “Road to Ruin” seemed the most appropriate. Tommy had left the band by then, but he did produce the album, putting his given name, “T. Erdelyi”, in the credits.
Of all the Ramones, founding or not, Tommy was the least Ramone-like. He didn’t even look like a Ramone; in the plentiful black-and-white photographs of the group’s formative period in the late 1970s, he’s a short, impassive, frizzy-haired presence in a band of tall and dark scowlers with long faces (even Dee Dee, whose face was as round as a full moon, packed a long face to put a pouty horse to shame). Without Tommy, there’d be no Ramones. A recording engineer who ran a rehearsal studio, he managed the fledgling band as a pet project and hopped in on drums when they couldn’t find anyone who could deliver the straightforward style he had in mind. Thus, their personas emerged: Joey, the lovable weirdo; Johnny, the asshole; Dee Dee, the cute lunatic; Tommy, the pragmatist. Which is probably why no one ever says, “Tommy’s my favorite Ramone.” In a group of strong personalities, he functioned as a low-key buffer.
Lou Reed died back in October, and I know I’m not the only one who took it hard. Lou Reed couldn’t just die—he was Lou Reed! For months, inspired by the nudge of Reed’s death, I played “Songs for Drella”, “Transformer”, and all of my Velvet Underground albums every day, steeping in the perfume of the works he created. It was as if I was just a young whipper-snapper branching away from traditional radio pop and dipping my toes into the deep, alluring waters of arty outsiders for the first time.
I feel a selfish jab of darkness every time I see a breaking-news tribute to a lost public figure or beloved entertainer. If perennial fixtures such as Dick Clark and Casey Kasem can die, then so can my parents. So can the entire way of life I grew up with. So can I.
But after the initial shock sets in, a Ramone dying doesn’t bum me out. Leaving this planet is the final gift an artist or entertainer—these people whose music and words and images we are so intimately familiar with—gives to us. I rarely listen to The Ramones anymore, so sublimated is their essence into my existence. My heart beats a cadence of “Hey, ho, let’s go!” without me even thinking about it. But I played Ramones records, cassettes, and CDs all weekend long, and I reconnected anew with the things I like to think I strive for. Directness. Dynamism. And yes, pragmatism. Even just seeing the band’s name in its trademark blocky font furnishes a mainline rush to that heady time when I relied on a scrappy group of ersatz musicians to keep me going. And going, and going. We die, Ramones die. Inspiration endures.
Did your 2014 Coachella Wristband Ticket Box with stop-action video and radio frequency IDs get lost in the mail? Yea, so did mine.
But don’t trip on being broke and stuck at home. The first ever Wish I Was At Coachella party is happening tonight at Christy’s in downtown Santa Rosa, where homegrown boys DJs Sykwidit and E20 are going to spin everything under the hot desert sun, from Outkast and Skrillex to Chvrches and Little Dragon. Come get your dance on and don’t be like these guys. The North Bay’s baddest party DJs are gonna rock all the real bands you are gonna miss because you couldn’t decide what to wear.
Christy’s On The Square, 96 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa (707) 528-8565, free before 10:30pm.
San Diego reggae band Tribal Seeds are rising stars in the landscape of California roots music. They have sharp, inspiring verses, solid stage presence, and vocals that melt. Both lead singers, Steven Jacobo and newly added E.N. Young, have that hypnotic, echoing vocal style similar to Harrison Stafford of Groundation.
With so many one-dimensional skank rhythms tying up the airwaves, it’s refreshing to hear a band that embraces melodic bass lines and off-the-wall keys. E.N. Young’s melodica performances practically steal the show. As was the case at California Roots Music & Arts Festival along with bringing up Rebelution’s lead singer, Eric Rachmany, Adam Taylor from Iration, and Kyle McDonald, singer/guitarist for Slightly Stoopid to sing “Vampire”, all while smokin’ a giant spliff.
Tribal Seeds are touring nationally with Slightly Stoopid and Atmosphere this summer. They play the Greek Theater in Berkeley July 19th.
Ever heard of Bulldog Media from Windsor? You have now – and you’ll most likely hear a lot more of them in the coming year. With 15 Bulldog Media crew members at Cali Roots Fest 2013, they were by far the most influential media presence on the ground. Check this Day 2 compilation video from five different “Bulldog” angles during Tribal Seeds’ “Vampire”.
She is known as the Queen of Rock n’ Roll. Rolling Stone Magazine called her one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. She’s hot, she’s vegan and she runs her own NYC-based record label Blackheart Records. Viva La Glam Rock!
“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was originally by the Arrows but Jett’s version hit the stratosphere of classic rock anthems (Billboard number 1 in 1982). If she doesn’t win this year’s Rock And Rock Hall Of Fame nomination, you’ll be stoked you saw her before she becomes embossed in rock and roll gold.
If you avoid Top-40 on the radio and don’t tune into what’s left of MTV, you probably haven’t seen the music video for “Thrift Shop” by Seattle hip hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Well here it is, and it’s good – its got nearly 300 million YouTube views for crying out loud.
“One man’s trash is another man’s come up”: they strut grandpa’s coats, jump racks of old blue jeans, and mock everyone in the club with matching $50 t-shirts. It’s an ode to the working class and a big overdue fuck you to capitalism. For all the materialistic lust of the early 2000’s, in post-recession times what else is there to do but hype the thrift shops?
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform the official opening night of BottleRock. If you already have a 3- or 4-day pass you can go for free, but you need to fill out the RSVP form to guarantee a ticket. They are asking for donations as little as $1 are requested to benefit Autism Chords and The City of Napa Parks and Recreation. And if you didn’t buy festival passes, tickets are only $40 (purchase them here) – definitely the most affordable show on the BottleRock bill.
From inside the dark, dingy dives of century-old buildings to the roof-top pool bars of boutique hotels, Mexican rockers Café Tacvba are played at least once every hour, of every day, somewhere in Mexico City. They are by far one of the most prolific bands of the “Spanish Rock” movement of the 1990’s. And with the same original members since starting in 1989, their sound is perfected experimental rock. If that makes any sense.
Five years after the release of their last album Sino, which won two Grammys for Latin song of the year, the band just came out with El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco (The Object Once Called An Album). The record is a pretty good look at the band’s sound over the last decade, including their classic mix of alt-rock with ska, electronica, and varieties of indigenous folk music of the Americas – you can hear the entire album here.
The New York Times once called Cafe Tacvba “one of the most important bands in the hemisphere. A smart, cosmopolitan band with a broad streak of lighthearted surrealism.”
Among many great tracks, one of their more famous songs is “Eres“, but this video of “Olita de Altamar” (2013) shows the eccentricity and spirit you can probably expect on stage at BottleRock.
If you need a reason to show up early to BottleRock on Saturday, Best Coast should help. If you’re still sleeping off a hangover or whatever, though, at least get there to see Sharon Van Etten. Her great 2012 album Tramp keeps blowing new listeners away,and she’s tremendous live.
Music is a funny thing, and you never know when it’s going to fuck you up. I wandered over to a side stage at Outside Lands last year and ran into Van Etten singing “I’m Wrong,” and just started crying, and I don’t know why.
Here’s footage of the same song, from New York City. Hang with it. It’s a slow build.
Once, I watched Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices go off on every “it” band of the moment in a typically drunk onstage rant. He lambasted the Strokes, Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (this was 2003) and, finally, Kings of Leon, whose name he spat out with disgust.
Then, good ol’ Pollard: he reconsidered. “Actually I kind of like Kings of Leon. Sorry.”
This had once held title as the greatest thing to happen in the band’s career, until 2010, when a flock of pigeons decided to shit all over the band in St. Louis, abruptly ending the show.
No, really, it’s true. Below is footage, and though you can’t make out actual aviary feces, you can check the drummer’s reaction at 1:12. After “Taper Jean Girl,” only the third song in the set, the band stormed off the stage and cut the show short.