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The Curmudgeon – June 2005

It may seem strange to start off this column by writing about Paul Anka. But that’s exactly what I am gonna do. That’s because Anka has just released a new album, Rock Swings, which takes rock standards as reworks them as lounge songs with surprisingly freakish success. Anka’s material is diverse and strange, ranging from popular rock anthems like Van Halen’s “Jump,” Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without A Face.” He also offers warped covers of the Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin,” R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Softer things like Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” and Spandau Ballet’s “True” are also included. Anka has somehow managed to reinvigorate these songs, many of which were crap to begin with.

The Kinks’ Ray Davies has signed to V2 records.

[ad#longpost]Permanent Record: Live and Otherwise is the new DVD compilation from The Violent Femmes. The DVD follows up Permanent Record, their soon to be released best of album. The band is supporting the CD and DVD with a short summer tour.

!!! (Chick Chick Chick) have covered The Magnetic Fields’ “Take Ecstacy With Me” for their new EP of the same name. Their version is a much more sprawling and epic number complete with long electrobreaks and swishes of guitar. Very fun stuff.

Liz Phair, who has been in the studio readying a new album, will mount an acoustic tour this summer which includes a stopover in Chicago for Lollapalooza.

Scientists are hard at work on developing a pesticide that will finally do something about Gwen Stefani.

This autumn, Sonic Youth will reissue their magnificent album Goo with extra tracks and demos

Could there be a more stupid name for a movie than Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Oh wait, Revenge of the Sith was taken (speaking of which, what a giant waste of time that was).

Another waste of time is the Warped Tour. I mean really, who wants to pay two zillion dollars to park in a crappy amphitheater and then listen to twelve hours of ignoramus rock with thousands of other stupid kids?

Duran Duran

Back in the day I was the weird kid who hated Duran Duran. I hated their records, their stupid clothes and most of all their stupid smirks that shrouded their inner demons which all screamed we are crap but you love our crap so we are smirking quietly as they made a mint. Now they have reformed in their original incarnation for a world tour. It saddens me that energy and money are being wasted on them again. Think of the environmental damage caused by thousands of Duranies driving an average of fifteen miles each way to a show. Then the band uses way too much energy to have the show which raises energy prices which hurts the common guy who doesn’t like their music. Then you must consider the wear and tear and traffic congestion their eighteen RVs, which are used to haul them and their equipment from place to place. Plus their fans tie up the hair stylist industry with their wacky hair. Oh, and let us not forget all the animals that are harmed because they need makeup to disguise the fact that they are crap and really five hundred years old. In the long run, everyone would be better off if they kept their goofy haircuts to a minimum and stayed home and read a book.

Now that NPR/PBS have been given a fiscal reprieve from Congress could the folks at PBS re-evaluate what the hell they show sometimes? They still have great stuff on history and science and news type stuff, but when you look at the network now, Sesame Street is wretched and the pledge drive entertainment is always atrocious. We have all seen The Irish Tenors: The Concert for Dagobah & Yanni: Dead at the Acropolis two hundred times now. Wake up people. Personally, I think it all went to hell when Morgan Freeman quit being Easy Reader on the Electric Company. As for NPR, they need to lose their monotone voices and scream once in awhile. Sometimes their programming tends to get too boring. They should realize that even geeks like us get bored. But in general I am glad they were spared the fiscal budget axe because they are one of the last tools of public education around.

Wimbledon would be much more interesting if they put landmines on the court.

Norway is aflutter these days because their best pop import, Royksopp, has released their first single, “Only This Moment” from their second album The Understanding.

Ben Hiller has been tabbed to produce the new Depeche Mode album, which is currently being mixed in California for an autumn release. Hiller has previously worked with Elbow and Blur.

Electrelane and Le Tigre are joining forces for a short summer tour of North America.

Jason Mraz is a crap musician who needs to put his baseball hat on straight.

Jack White

Someone, anyone please…shave Jack White.

The KLF, a band that irked ABBA and once burned a million pounds has returned yet again. This time they have re-re-re-re-released a new(er) version of their classic single, “What Time Is Love? KLF VS. Ricardo Villalobo.” “What Time is Love?” is the first of ten remix projects planned by the KLF this summer. Future re-workings of the song are expected from DJs Deichkind, Dixon, M Schaffhäuser, Chris Liebing and Tobi Neumann.

Just because you can make a remake of Herbie the Love Bug doesn’t mean that you should! Yes the original films were stupid and goofy. But they were charming and fun too. These fragments of my childhood have been desecrated by The Man. They didn’t need to be destroyed by some stupid studio that can’t develop new movies. Having said that, what genius decided to put Lindsay Lohan in a new Herbie movie at the expense of Dean Jones or Don Knotts? Don Knotts is an American comedic genius…Lindsey Lohan has big boobs. Adding the whole NASCAR element too it really takes away form the films original premise as well. Stupid, stupid, stupid film studio!

The first “new” series of Doctor Who is now complete and the verdict for the most part has been positive. Christopher Eccleston was terrific and I hate to see him go. In the long run, his tenure as the Doctor will be seen as a good one that could have been much better if he had stayed on longer. I am all good for giving the new guy a fair chance, but he is pretty goofy looking. I am though kind of annoyed by the TARDIS’ interior and Russell Davies’ proclivity for having quasi-companions for a few stories and then writing them out. I do think that they need to bring in more writers and keep the show fresh. Thank goodness we may see the Cybermen next year, because they are kick ass.

I saw Crash recently as was stunned to see Marina Sirtis doing this thing called acting.

I am appalled that Better than Ezra is still around. They have made an ounce of talent go a very long way.

It is amazing the run that Coldplay are having. Their album went #1 in 22 countries and you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing their music being played. It’s overkill indeed, but at least it’s not something more horrible like White Lion or Celine Dion.

Despite the politics, expense and general annoyances, there are reasons to get excited about DragonCon. I mean really, where else can you party down with Captain Marvel himself, Jackson Bostwick, or hear Richard Hatch give the same panel talk he gave at DC 95? Despite this it’ll be good to see Hattie Hayridge and the Firefly people. I only wish that the DC would trim away the fat programming that no one really cares about and expand stuff that people regularly attend across the board.

What the hell is wrong with Tom Cruise? I used to think he was just a no-talented acting weirdo. Now he’s a jerk with a girlfriend who is too stupid to know she’s being taken for a ride. Enough already! No one cares about him, his bad movie or his stupid lifestyle. Cruise is responsible for some of the most heinous films of the last two decades yet magically his career has endured with some amount of star power. It’s so sad to see that people even care about him. I think his recent antics will hurt his movie…that and the fact that it will suck ass.

Speaking of H.G. Wells, it is a tragedy that his work is so underappreciated by contemporary society!

Billy Corgan took out a full page add in the Chicago Tribune last month to announce he is reforming the Smashing Pumpkins.

Following the departure of two members, guitarist Porl Thompson has rejoined The Cure for their summer tour schedule.

A reformed Dead Can Dance is touring the States this summer.

Look for the newly reformed Pink Floyd to make a gazillion dollars with a fall reunion tour.

Sigur Ros have finished their new album which will be due out later this year. Iceland’s finest will tour the State this August and September.

Another Icelander, Bjork, is turning Japanese. The singer has recorded a heavily Japanese influenced soundtrack for Matthew Barney’s latest film project, Drawing Restraint 9.

Following the critical success of two preceding records, Mute records have decided to release the self-titled debut album from M83 on September 6th.

Brian Eno is rumored to be getting along with Bryan Ferry again. This amazing turn of events means that collaboration for new Roxy Music material could be in the works.

I think I’ll close out the column by mention some stuff to read. I have spent most of the past few months getting caught up on stuff and it’s been great.

The Fall of Berlin by Antony Beevor. Beevor has yet to write a boring book on the war and this Springtime for Hitler was truly tragic.

1776 by David McCulloch. He’s an American treasure. This covers the entire year of 1776 and the travails of revolution and flows pretty well.

It’s A Long Way Down. Nick Hornby returns to the novel with great results in this hilarious story about a group of people who all meet on the same roof to commit suicide.

The Curious Life of Robert Hooke. Lisa Jardine explores the life and times of Newton’s biggest rival and the man who measured London.

Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett. The world is a better and funnier place because The Pratch is in it to write amazing stories like this one. This is the first book in a new trilogy and if you read carefully you’ll find a not-so-veiled response to the War in Iraq.

Lastly, the one weird delight of the past few months has been John Kelly’s The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time. Kelly parties like it’s 1349 as he describes the Plague’s origins in Central Asia and how it may have spread to Medieval Europe. Obviously the Black Death was no picnic, but Kelly’s narrative goes a long way in helping us understand how seriously this overlooked epoch in history completely devastated civilization.

Leave it to me to end a column on a plague, but hey we live in a time when illiteracy and cultural coolness are viruses of their own. With that in mind I promise next month will be more exciting and positive. I know for sure there will be a preview of DragonCon in it and I’ll probably go on about some fall releases as well. Until then, stay out of the blistering summer heat and for God’s sake, don’t eat the blue M&Ms.


  • Only You Can Save Mankind is actually a re-issue in hardcover, Prattchett actually wrote that one in the early nineties, There’s already two sequels and a stage play of the middle book Johnny and the Dead, i liked them quite a lot. The reference you noticed to the War In Iraq was probably from the first one.

  • Which is quite ironic, actually. I love Pratchett and all that flows from that endless creative typewriter of his, and this ‘reference to Iraq’ just goes to show that good satire is always relevant