Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Monday, April 23, 2007

La Môme

They made an Edith Piaf movie! The lack of subtitles doesn't really matter for English speakers, since the trailer speaks the universal visual language of campy diva biopics used since time immemorial: flashbulbs, applauding crowds, poignant backstage makeup removal, onstage collapse, lonely beachscapes, and more tragic screaming than you can shake a Judy Garland at. Also: tantrums! boxing! cross-dressing! France in the 1920s and 30s sure was a swell place for cross-dressing.

Friday, April 20, 2007


No Shouts, No Calls is phenomenal. The whole thing, from start to finish. Intricate and chiseled and crafted with great care. Becky and I happen to be doing features on Electrelane at the same time, so we are comparing notes--she's already incubating a theory that correlates 1) expatriate identity; 2) waves/water/sailing and the oceanic feminine in pop music; and 3) the last part of The Sex Revolts. I don't have a frame yet, just breathy questions, e.g., Is Emma Gaze the best drummer ever? Was that a hi-hat or a crash cymbal? Can a harmonium have a different mood than a regular organ? No Shouts makes one ask such questions, and rewards careful, reverent listens. It is going to be a huge record in a few months, for serious.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

EMP Pop Con 2007

Mairead is on a panel with Greil Marcus at this weekend's Pop Con. Her talk is triply worthy of attendance right out of the box, first because it is on Karen Dalton and therefore sidesteps the Dylan/Springsteen/over-analyzed wank-rock vortex of music crit doom; second because it promises to recoup all of the interviews Mairead did for her Bust piece on Karen that didn't make the final version (Lenny Kaye, Joanna Newsom, et al.), as well as her thoughts on the curious dilemma that is trying to memorialize someone seemingly removed from yr own time and place and personal experience; and third, because it is Mairead. Not going with her to the conference this year is going to be weird--like the part of E.T. when Elliott goes to school while E.T. stays at home, and E.T. drinks beer and does crazy stuff, and Elliott feels it, too, because of their psychic connection, and kisses the girl and saves the frogs from being dissected in science class. Save the frogs, Mairead! Save the frogs!

Some other nifty writers will be at the Pop Con, too:

Simon Reynolds,“Just 4 U London: Place and Race in British Dance Culture from Rave to Grime

Daphne Carr, Selling Sad: How Hot Topic Made the Mall (Safe for the) Miserable

Douglas Wolk, "The Woman in the Back: Clydie King in the Shadow of Classic Rock

Kara Jesella & Marisa Meltzer, "From Stupid Girls to Rebel Girls: Are Girl Power Anthems Saccharine-Flavored Sisterhood or a Political Force?”

Maura Johnston, “The Season Came To An End: Freestyle Brings Loneliness To A Crowded Dance Floor

Michaelangelo Matos, "A Matter of Trustafarians: Behind the Bob Marley Poster on the Dorm Room Wall"

Monday, April 16, 2007

The bats have left the belltower

The Illuminoids' Beck vs. Devo vs. Bauhaus has precious little Bauhaus (it's just "Undead! Undead! Undead!" tossed off at the end of the chorus and then a glimmer in the outro to finish) but it's organic enough to win the Pogo mashup seal of approval. Someone who had never heard these songs could reasonably believe this was the original version. Bauhaus are still my favorite pop music product named after an art movement. Art Brut and De Stijl finish second and third, respectively.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bona drag

Female masculinity in hip-hop alert: as noted by Bex, "Like a Boy" is not the only recent video to include scenes of a normally high femme ladydiva sharing the screen with a digitally superimposed image of herself in boy drag. Beyoncé does it in "Upgrade You," too, though she's a bit less ferocious about it--she stops short of anything too overtly kingly and just wears baggy jeans and trainers with a white dress shirt and swept-back hair. Still, her Jay-Z impression is a thing to behold (cocked head! toothpick! lip curl!), and all the more interesting for the fact that towards the end of the video she literally transforms into him before our eyes. Whether this is more about gender fluidity or the perils of spending too much time with yr boyfriend, I dunno. Watch especially 2:33-3:25. The morph happens at about 2:99.

When you cross-reference Ciara and Beyoncé with this weekend's Village Voice cover on the AG subculture/community in Brooklyn (photogallery is too adorable for words), you get a far more sophisticated acknowledgement of the intersections of race and gender than the mainstream is usually willing to offer.

P.S. Re: non-draggy, jewelry-in-lipsticked-mouth, woman-as-commodity parts of "Upgrade You": I forgive and enjoy them, as I have decided they are camp and satirical. Yes. Anything that aspires to be a live-action recreation of Scrooge McDuck swimming through his safe deposit treasure room counts as satirical in my book.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Back in Albion

Homoerotic lightning rods The Libertines (the crucial ones, at least) reunited onstage tonight. Keep yr eyes peeled to NME, it'll be nothing but rapturous, swooning fanboy commentary for the next month at least.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

"2007. Ladies, I think it's time to switch roles."

Five things I never imagined would happen, but somehow miraculously have happened, or are about to:

That Ciara's video for "Like a Boy" would deliver on the promise of its single to such a gob-smackingly complete extent it would feature an army of dancing near-drag kings. It's hard to believe this is real, it's so beautiful and feminist and gender-slippery, as if Ciara's been reading her Judith Butler. Aaliyah comparisons are totes deserved from here on out.

That the New York Times Magazine
would run a full-page portrait of Miranda July. I still do a double-take every time I see her in a mainstream publication. It's like Huggy Bear in Newsweek--that insurmountable question of, "HOW DID THIS GET HERE?" It was awfully lame that the NYT decided the most important part of this feature was the pictures--as if all you really need to know about the six female actors and directors they interviewed can be gleaned from their headshots. There were quotes and tiny bios in the print edition, but you could barely make them out. The New York Sun has a much less fluff-dried piece on July's new show going up at The Kitchen here.

That someone
would find a way to make "My Humps" even more annoying than it was. That that someone would be Alanis Morissette.

That Matthew Bourne would announce his next project is a male-male re-do of Romeo and Juliet. He's going to use the Prokofiev score rather than the Tchaikovsky one. I like the Guardian's report best, with its overtones of, Listen, buddy, you'd better really queer it up this time and not just tease us under the table! And finally, speaking of teasing under the table, I also never imagined

That Morrissey would come to a tiny theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and that said theater would be within walking distance of my house, and that I would not be in town at the time. Similarly, that Morrissey once gave an interview wearing what appeared to be a leather jacket in a room full of taxidermied birds while sitting next to an unflappable Johnny Marr decked out with a human skull and a sparkly debutante necklace. I'm not complaining about that last bit, but one wonders whether the producers had the Smiths confused with Sex Gang Children.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mika vs. Mika Miko

Down 'n dirty title bout in five rounds. Take yr corners.

Mika: queeny divo poptimism (+400)
Mika Miko: riot grrrl's not dead (+800)

Lyrical catchphrase
Mika: Love, love me! (+100)
Mika Miko: Get excited! (+100)

Essential performance accessory
Mika: dandified jouissance (+700)
Mika Miko: telephone mic (+500)

Preferred vocal technique
Mika: falsetto (+600)
Mika Miko: shouting (+300)

Secret musical superpower
Mika: ventriloquizing Freddie Mercury (+400)
Mika Miko: ventriloquizing Carrie Brownstein's guitar (+1000)

Final Score: Mika: 2200 Mika Miko: 2700