Music Features

Obsessions and Lamentations #19

Wing Beat Fantastic

Ok, how come no one told me that Andy Partridge, the genius behind much of the greatness of XTC, co-wrote a bunch of songs with ex-Zappa guitarist Mike Keneally, who sings and just happens to sound almost exactly like said genius?  The resulting album (Wing Beat Fantastic) is a mostly delightful collection of Partridge-isms; chords you've never heard of, brilliant and adventurous melodies, and ingenious arrangements.  It’s not XTC, to ask for that would be tempting the gods, but it’s perfectly appropriate to trot out that shopworn phrase, “the next best thing”.  Some of these songs could sit easily on the best XTC records, which is saying something.  You Kill Me could have easily slid into Mummer, and Your House is a tender cousin to Rook from NonsuchI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s too much music being released!  Who can keep track of this torrent of output?  Wouldn’t a little discernment do us all a little good?  No, we are busy hyping Daft Punk, which isn’t bad if you like that kind of thing, despite being French, and so one of our greatest songwriters is not even a footnote.  Shame on you.

Steven Soderbergh

I subscribe to the auteur theory, which Wikipedia tells me is the view that a “director’s film reflects the director’s creative vision”, or maybe I should say that the films I enjoy most are ones that seem to have sprung whole from the minds of their authors.  Soderbergh is certainly an auteur in this sense, not least because he mostly operates independently of studio interference, writes, and even gets behind the camera much of the time.  Yet, in my mind at least, there’s something keeping him out of the Hall of the Greats that includes Kubrick, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, Ozu, Godard and many more.  He’s made a lot of very good movies, not the least of which was a remake of the Tarkovsky film Solaris, and even his less inspired genre exercises, like the recent Side Effects, are usually worth watching and make for a satisfying movie-going experience.  Some would say he achieved greatness with early films like Out of Sight and The Limey – I think the closest he got was with his first feature Sex, Lies and Videotape and the mini-epic Traffic – but while his unique sensibility is always there on the screen, I hardly ever find myself breathless watching these movies.  He’s a sophisticated, learned entertainer of the Spielberg variety, which is a worthwhile thing to be, but I would never say I’m “entertained” by Paths of Glory or Rashomon; I’m astounded.  But it’s still kind of sad that he’s announced his retirement from feature filmmaking, because directors with a singular vision, great or not, are hard to find.  I’m looking forward to what he does on other platforms, like the upcoming Liberace film on HBO, and I can also recommend you check out his recent speech at the San Francisco film festival if you want to know why the local multiplex is becoming a depressing Hall of Justice while people are still making interesting films all over the world.

The Adam Carolla Show Podcast

If you’re like me, you thought Adam Carolla was just one of those seemingly ignorant dudes from The Man Show, who drank beer while girls jumped on trampolines and a live audience of yokels cheered them on.  Now that the other dude, Jimmy Kimmel, has established himself firmly in the late night mainstream, it’s time to take a second look at his ex-partner.  I’m here to tell you that Carolla, who is quickly becoming the king of the burgeoning podcast universe without major backing or conventional advertising, possesses what may be the sharpest comic mind of his generation.  I’m serious.  His ability to reel off funny riffs, on almost any topic and completely off-the-cuff, is second to none.  I know this because he has had some of the best comedians of his generation on his podcast, and while a select few, like Dana Gould, Greg Fitzsimmons and the multi-talented but seemingly insane David Alan Grier, can go toe to toe with him on occasion, none can best him in a comedy throwdown once the jokes start flying.  He also has a healthy and refreshing perspective on life, grounded by his experience cleaning carpets and digging ditches, that circumvents most PC bullshit you tend to hear through traditional media outlets, without the resentment and mean-spiritedness of the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world.  Typically, he got in hot water when asked who is funnier, men or women, and he answered men.  He reasoned that men use humor to win mates and therefore spend more time and effort trying to be funny, and also looked at the preponderance of men over women in the professional comedy world, and came to the conclusion that, on average, men are funnier than women.  Maybe he’s wrong, maybe he’s right, but you’ll have a tough time arguing with his reasoning.  Well, it didn’t take long for this to become “women aren’t funny”.  If your brain did that magical translation into approved language without any help, then his is not the podcast for you.  And that’s too bad, because we need someone to pick up George Carlin’s mantle, blowing the whistle on the thought police and our increasingly stupid culture, and while the great man is not going to be replaced any time soon, Adam will do just fine.