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The Curmudgeon

Tis’ the season and all of that nonsense. What the Yuletide season is really all about is your money. This is the time of year when record labels release loads of really stinky Christmas compilations, box sets, greatest hit packages, live albums and beefed up reissues. It is quite maddening really. I mean, as the David Geffen’s and Clive Davis’ of the world count their money in their ivory towers, their minions set out into the world and release some really scary records to an unsuspecting mass public. This year it is happening again.

Johnny Cash is hugely hot, He has an action figure, a box set, a best of and several DVDs out to compliment both his newest batch of reissues and that Walk the Line film that stars that dead guy’s brother as Johnny Cash.

The reissue market has never been busier. This holiday season sees reissues with glossy liner notes and extra tracks from amongst others, The Human League, Kinski, Killing Joke, T-Rex, The Eurythmics, Brian Eno and Bruce Springsteen.

The season also sees scary new compilations from Death From Above 1979, Billy Joel and New Order, the latter of which have released a two-disc singles compilation from Rhino Records.

Beware of the terrifying new live Journey album.

Probably the best of the live records is Kicking Television: Live In Chicago by Wilco.

But regardless of your own personal preference please think before you buy anything. For the most part the Killing Joke and Eurythmics reissues are pretty nice. I’d get the New Order comp only if you don’t have all of their singles or live in a cave and haven’t ever heard of them.

Artists and labels squabble all of the time, but this one could get nasty really fast and change the landscape of how artists, past and present get paid in royalties. Apple Corp, the Beatles’ licensing and recording company has launched a suit against EMI records claiming they were not paid for over 30 million pounds in back royalty money.

New York’s legendary CBGB’s has won a short reprieve from the City of New York. The legendary punk club, scheduled to close earlier this year, will now close on Halloween of 2006.

As we veer into 2006 we get excited by the large number of interesting and good bands that are going into the studio to record new material for release later in the coming year. These include…

The Rapture has holed away in an NYC studio to prep work on their new album.

The New York Dolls will enter the studio early in 2006 to work on their first new record in years. The next Dolls record should be out by summer of 2006.

The Temptations, or what’s left of them anyway, are recording material for Reflections for a January release.

The Arcade Fire recently purchased an old church in Montreal to use for recording their next record. The band has begun writing some songs and will record in earnest after the New Year. If you can’t wait for that, then check out the excellent Arcade Fire side project, Bell Orchestre. They’ve just released a nice little album entitled Recording A Tape the Colour of the Light on Rough Trade records.

The Pet Shop Boys and producer Trevor Horn are putting the finishing touches on their new album, Fundamental, which will be released next spring. The band’s new single, “Numb,” penned by Dianne Warren, will out early in the coming year.

Supergroup The Minus 5 is set to record The Gun Album with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Peter Buck of REM, and Colin Meloy of the Decemberists.

Sheffield’s soon to be hugely massive Arctic Monkeys are in the studio through the New Year recording their debut album, Whatever People Think That I am That’s What I’m Not.

Franz Ferdinand is already hard at work on their 3rd album. The band will enter their studio next month and record new material for a summer release.

The New Year will also see some early tribute albums as well. Lots of people love Jeff & Tim Buckley. I loved Big Star but Jeff Buckley never really did it for me. But having said that, lots of people think their lyrics touch nerves and move people to open weeping. Now those people can revel in the joy of a new tribute album to the stalwart singing siblings, Dream Brother: The Songs of Jeff & Tim Buckley features covers of the brothers Buckley by The Magic Numbers, Sufjan Stevens, The Earlies, The Engineers and others.

Depeche Mode, who recently extended their North American tour, have been announced as a co-headliner for next year’s Coachella Music Festival.

The Bravery has been playing some new material during their opening slots for Depeche Mode in North America. The NYC based band plans to get back into the studio sometime next spring to record new material.

Prince will be back next year in a big way. The Purple One will release his new album, 3121 and mount a large world tour to support it.

Bjork is certifiably wacky. Last month, after turning 40, the former Sugarcubes singer enrolled herself in a sailing course so that she can learn to pilot her own boat. Björk plans to use her new nautical skills to sail the high seas in search of tranquility and adventure. It is unknown at this time whether she’ll talk like a pirate, but Bjork will be joined on her naval sojourn by filmmaker boyfriend Matthew Barney and their daughter.

We live in dark times: the environment is messed up, people are always at war, the world economy is on its ear and Mariah Carey has more Grammy nominations than should be allowed by her non-talented self. Besides her mental state and film career, Carey’s best work has always been her remixes, largely because DJ’s and producers can work around her stupidly lame voice with bigger, bolder beats and samples.

The Pogues are backed in full force with a March tour of Britain and the Eastern US.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will tour the States in support of their latest, Howl, this February.

Belle & Sebastian are releasing their latest album, The Life Pursuit, this February.

Richard Ashcroft will be playing songs from his new disc, Keys To The World, when he opens for Coldplay in March and April.

It has only taken a million years but The Flaming Lips have finally finished filming their film Christmas On Mars.

Sonic Life is the working title for the next album by Sonic Youth. The record will also be the last one that under their contract with Geffen records.

As much as I love the UK, I have to scratch my head and wonder why people like Joss Stone and Simon Cowell have the chance to have a #1 single at Christmas.

MTV recently purchased IFILM. This is sad because they clearly have no idea what they are doing and will ruin the medium of independent short films for all of us.

Former Guided By Voices singer Bob Pollard has signed to Merge Records. His new record, From A Compound Eye, comes out in late January.

I’ve been reading a few cool things recently. Over the last few years every time I went to Chicago comics I’d pick up a copy of this great indie comic called Demo. I’d managed to get most of them however I was a few short, so it was a big pain in the ass. Well, at long last I am appeased because there is a collection of Demo (by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan) from AIT PlanetLar. The series centers around a series of stories about interesting characters who much make life altering decisions in our hard, cold world. Each issue is part film noir, part Sin City and part pulp novel. It really is terrific stuff.

I am also reading Britpop by John Harris. It details the richly hedonistic years of British Pop music in the mid 90s. During this time Pulp broke out, Elastica set the world on fire, David Bowie came back, Alan McGee made his mark with Creation records and John Peel solidified his standing as a musical purveyor of exquisite taste. Of course the highlight of this era was when Blur and Oasis fought it out in the tabloids. The book offers a strong look at the social culture that afflicted the UK music scene during this time while offering many amusing tales about bands like Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Supergrass and the like.

All of the new “sci-fi” TV series offered by network television this year are crap. It is appalling at how mindless and stupid some of this stuff is. It’s also insulting to the intelligence of anyone with half a brain to offer them this as any type of entertainment.

Remember that episode of The Young Ones where they went into Narnia? That was funny. Why wasn’t that in the movie? In general I was pretty unimpressed by the whole thing. Maybe it was because you could see the strong LOTR influences all over it. Or maybe it just had too many kids. Maybe I just am too grumpy, but regardless I didn’t like it all that much.

King Kong, however, is a totally different matter. I knew I’d like it and probably be blown away, but I didn’t expect it to kick so much ass! It looked great and the digital effects of 1930s New York actually looked warm and cosmopolitan instead of cold and Lucasian. All of the actors were tolerable and Jack Black didn’t go too over the top and bring it all down. This is what epic cinema should be about.

Totsi is small South African indie film that is going to get some press soon. Stylistically it’s similar to City of God, but resonates with much more emotion and feeling.

I really liked Pierce Brosnan in The Matador. He plays a burned out, who the hell cares hit man who befriends a melancholy salesman played by Greg Kinnear in Mexico. Brosnan is just fun to watch here. He’s bitter, dour, mean-spirited and just doesn’t care about anything. Believe me it feels weird to say it was enjoyable to watch him onscreen. However, The Matador is one of those films that is fun to watch.

Richard Pryor will be greatly missed. The man was a genius. We will never again see an entertainer with such timing, poise and social relevance.

I really hate the holidays. I never have money to buy gifts, the over the top Christmas lights on people’s houses waste valuable energy that could be used to help keep the poor warm and everyone who is really annoying becomes even more annoying. Plus it’s a time for people to be really fake and cheesy and general stupid. Man I’ll be glad when it is all over.

All I really want for Xmas is for a big giant safe or anvil to fall on Paris Hilton. If I couldn’t get that I’d settle for Nicole Richie getting eaten alive by wild boars.

Why is everyone protesting the WTO meetings in Hong Kong when the real unfair trade practices are going on at the North Pole? Don’t they know that Santa Clause uses unfair wages, breaks unions and constantly ignores child labor laws in his use of Elves as a workforce. PETA should be alarmed at his treatment and emotional abuse of reindeer. Thankfully Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson stepped in to solve the volatile dispute between the Miser Brothers. If one of them gets a nuke it’s all over…

But despite my generally cranky demeanor towards the holiday I hope you all enjoy the time with your friends and family and bask in the gross abuse of capitalism with lots of cool gifts and very little bad fruitcake.

Ho Ho Smeg!