HITS Daily Double
While Clap was initially embraced by Pitchfork-inspired webophiles, the buzz has predictably caused a backlash among the same hipoisie who were probably this Brooklyn-by-way-of-Philly band’s most fervent supporters. Such is life in the trend lane.


Yup, It’s NBA All Star Weekend, Which Gives Our Injured and Depressed Players a Few Extra Days of Rehab and Psychotherapy
MusiCares Person of the Year: Don Henley @ L.A. Convention Center: Once you're over the irony of sitting in a massive airline hangar-style room with the industry elite honoring a guy who’s made it his business to battle them tooth and nail, it was otherwise a pretty nifty evening. This annual pre-Grammy tribute to a selected artist who has devoted himself to social activism has become the weekend’s must-attend event, with a looseness that comes from not having to perform for a national audience. And while Don Henley is an artist you’d probably least associate with sentimentality, there were at least a few emotional chords struck, most notably in his thanks to manager Irving Azoff and family, for whom the event was a belated bar mitzvah. The musical performances did nothing so much as shine the spotlight, quite rightly, on Henley’s impressive songwriting oeuvre, starting with John Mayer’s stay-pressed blues licks on the jagged “Dirty Laundry,” before leading into Sam Moore's joyful gospel-soul rendition of “The Last Run.” Keb Mo’s “One of These Nights” made you aware of the song’s delta roots while Tricia Yearwood’s “Take It to the Limit” could have come right off Common Thread, that Red State compilation of the Eagles’ tunes which reintroduced them to the marketplace several years ago. Shawn Colvin’s “End of Innocence” was marred by a couple of dropped microphones, but nevertheless accented its sweet-and-sour blend of hope and sorrow, while The Dixie Chicks’ “Desperado” was the perfect auto-referential choice, the gals leaning into it with some understated self-mythologizing. After some brief, but hilarious, swipes at the record labels, joking that Mozart died penniless after he was signed by Doug Morris and Jimmy Iovine to Interscope, while Stephen Foster was buried with 38 cents in his pocket from his deal with Capitol-EMI, the Recording Artists Coalition founder proceeded to slam-dunk a four-song mini-set capped by “Boys of Summer,” “Wasted Time” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” which proved a virtual primer of his roots in Texas country blues and R&B marinated with southern-fried soul. On this night, though, the music was secondary to the message and the collective goal, which was achieved thanks to a record $4.2 million raised to help musicians in dire financial and medical need. And after all the gloom, doom and finger-pointing in the record business, that was reason enough to be proud of its ability to make a difference, just as Henley himself has with his songs…coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you.

2. Patti Smith, Twelve (Columbia): I know that Patti’s induction this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has prompted a spirited debate in the blogosphere on whether she deserves the honor or not, but then again she has always been a polarizing figure on the rock & roll landscape. The thing about the nascent punk movement in New York that she was a part of was the fact that she made it possible, for the first time, to be a fan and actually participate in the music and culture. Maybe you hadda be there to completely get it, but it was cool seeing Patti gradually transform from an awkward, if hip, suburban geek outcast piss-factory worker into a self-created rock & roll poetess/shaman who got to rub shoulders with her heroes, from role models Bob Dylan, Keith Richard and Lou Reed to Andy Warhol and William Burroughs. Yes, it was an exhilarating time to be in New York, but Patti’s influence went beyond the local scene and around the world, inspiring a legion of un-stereotypical women to front their own rock bands, become poets or rock & roll niggers… in short, to live their dreams, however unlikely. Now, for all those who feel Patti’s best work was covering other artists—whether it was her only Top 40 hit, Bruce Springsteen’s “Because the Night,” her very first single, a take on Billy Roberts’ garage-band classic, “Hey Joe,” or her memorable versions of Van Morrison’s “Gloria,” the Velvets’ “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together,” Chris Kenner’s “Land of a Thousand Dances” or The Who’s “My Generation”—this album’s for you. Smith and her underrated band—the real crime in Patti’s election is that the rest of the Group, especially the great Lenny Kaye, don’t get to enter with her—show their love for rock, metamorphosing from fan to interpreter on a dozen of their own musical influences. There are sultry, sensuous takes on “Are You Experienced?” and “Gimme Shelter,” while Patti shows off a deceptively effective croon on Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and a version of Neil Young’s “Helpless” that creeps up on you. She illuminates a pair of obscurities in Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble” and Dylan’s “Changing of the Guard,” from the underrated Street Legal, while showing a remarkable ability to channel Grace Slick in “White Rabbit.” There is a great, deliberate cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” with a single, plucked banjo accompanying Smith’s explicit, urgent enunciation, which stresses the sheer power of the lyrics as poetry before climaxing with one of her own improvised incantations. She brings a New Jersey twang and easy confidence to the Allmans’ “Midnight Rider,” concluding with an urgent take on Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise,” the inspiration for Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which she turns into a plea for racial tolerance and world peace. Patti’s approach mirrors the enthusiasm of a fan and the analytic insight of a critic, both of which she was before virtually willing herself into a performer. With a cast of collaborators that includes Chili PeppersFlea, Television’s Tom Verlaine, the Holy Modal Rounders’ fiddler Peter Stampfel, playwright/actor Sam Shepard (who had an affair with Smith, co-writing the play Cowboy Mouth) on banjo, Eminem songwriter/keyboardist Luis Resto as well as her son Jackson and daughter Jesse, this is a real extended family affair. Of course, there are those, including a number who have known her from the start, that believe she basically created her own hype and doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. But if you still doubt Patti Smith has a rock & roll soul, one listen to Twelve will convince you otherwise.

3. The Police at the Grammys: There was a time when they could fill Shea Stadium, which is hard to believe, but I was there, and every little thing they did that night was magic, the peak of their career. In fact, there was nowhere to go but down after that, so they quit while they were still ahead, or before they killed one another, whichever you want to believe. Sting’s insufferable self-confidence (or some would say arrogance) pretty much defined the group at its height, and kinda followed them into their self-imposed hiatus. Like David Byrne and Talking Heads, it was pretty much assumed the trio wouldn’t get back together until the artist never formerly known as Gordie Sumner was good and ready, which is apparently now, with a full-scale international tour about to roll out. I, for one, was surprised at the level of almost desperate enthusiasm for their return, though I’m disappointed by the apparent lack of any new music. That said, their performance of “Roxanne” to open the Grammys showed off the band’s supple strengths—their spacious, dubwise sound, anchored by Stewart Copeland’s muscular world beat and Sting on the most melodic bass this side of Paul McCartney. Guitarist Andy Summer remains the secret weapon, someone who subtly provides color with a few deft strokes, his squiggles and attenuated riffs just enough to fill in the blanks, but never overstepping their bounds, tuneful but abstract, too, the ultimate art-rock. Band reunions are always suspect, but the ones that matter are important for one chief reason—we get to hear some great songs played again by the very same musicians who created them in the first place. Consider this a Police tribute...by the Police.

4. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder (ADA): Meet the new art-rock, not quite the same as the old art-rock. I can dig where these self-possessed indie stalwarts are coming from—they cast a nostalgic look back at the DIY punk-rock of '70s New York, where the jump from downtown experimentation to uptown major label was just a subway ride away. These days, that dream may be short-circuited, but the distance has been shrunk by the Internet, which makes it a lot easier to start your own label, press up that CD, put up a MySpace home page, then enlist Andy Allen’s ADA gang to distribute it for a cut of the action, while you control the rest. It’s all very admirable, except, of course, while Clap was initially embraced by Pitchfork-inspired webophiles, the buzz has predictably caused a backlash among the same hipoisie who were probably this Brooklyn-by-way-of-Philly band’s most fervent supporters. Such is life in the trend lane. What with that kind of background din, it’s a surprise you can concentrate on the music, but once you do, you’re smack up against lead yelper Alec Ounsworth’s mannered David Byrne-isms, which aren’t as annoying as they sound. In fact, the archly named, sing-song “Mama, Won’t You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning” (a nod to Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”) has the clever matter-of-fact pop-cult references of such Heads classics as “Life During Wartime” and “Once in a Lifetime” (“Know that Mama told me/Never to come/But I came softly, slowly/Banging me mental drum”), just like “Satan Said Dance” recalls Eno’s Afro-techno influence on the band. Other highlights include the woozy, piano-driven “Love Song No. 7” with its Beatlesque, psychedelic “Strawberry Fields” vibe, the hook-and-hold, smart garage-pop of the dreamy “Underwater (You and Me)” and the closing “Five Easy Pieces,” whose whirling, surround sound incorporates a chanted vocal, plaintive Dylanesque harp and buzzing Joy Division bass line wrapped inside a Velvets drone. Sure, they’re too clever by half, and not nearly as good as they think, but this is the kind of initiative we should encourage, even if it is preaching to the converted effete rock snob. “Don’t think on an offer you can’t refuse,” sings Ounsworth. “Yesterday’s not quite the same let’s make it plain/ There are things that I can do.” Call it the sound of one Clap Handing and just Say Yeah. You won’t be sorry.

5. Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope (Sire/WB): “It breaks my ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-heart,” stutters this charming 27-year-old Russian émigré and alum of the East Village anti-folk scene. Originally discovered by The Strokes and tapped as an opening act on their 2003 tour, Spektor had audiences wondering the identity of the little girl on-stage alone at a piano. The Moscow-born yeshiva grad, who left Russia with her parents at nine, has the delicate, high-register range of Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos, the self-possessed operatic quirkiness of Fiona Apple (“Apres Moi”), the preternatural sass of Lily Allen and Cat Power (the current single, “Fidelity”) and the poetic imagery of Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde (“That Time,” about finding “a human tooth down on Delancey”). In the sing-song “On the Radio,” she croons about listening to Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” twice “’cause the DJ was asleep” and in the rhythmic “Hotel Song,” juxtaposes lyrics about “dreams of Orca whales and owls” by chanting “a little bag of cocaine.” She’s pretty literate, too, with references to influences like the Beatles in “Edit” (Dr. Robert and Uncle Albert) and Billie Holiday in “Lady.” You gotta hand it to Seymour Stein, who recognizes how a vivid personality can translate onto disc, and credit to what remains of his Sire label for sticking with Spektor, since this album has been out since early last year, and is just now breaking the new-fashioned way, through YouTube, Grey’s Anatomy, satellite radio and TV spots.

6. Republic (650 North La Cienega Blvd., L.A.): Open less than a year, located just north of Melrose Ave. on the east side of La Cienega, this lavish restaurant also boasts an attached club with an entrance around the corner. You enter the eatery through a vertical outdoor wall waterfall, mirrored by a similar one in the dining room itself, which also includes an open fire pit and floor-to-ceiling wine storage, where “wine fairies” are hoisted up with a harness and let back down after fetching your selection. The menu, created by Chef Gabe Morales of BOA Steakhouse and Katana fame, is filled with such carnal rarities as Oven Roasted Ostrich Filet ($36) and Cassoulet (duck leg confit, fennel sausage, white beans and pork belly for $31), but I opted for the traditional Colorado Lamb Rack ($34), kind of the large version of the chops they were handing out at last week’s UMG Grammy party. In other words, you knock them off with three or four bites instead of one or two. I also had a taste of my friend Gene’s “Tomahawk Braised Short Rib,” which required no chewing, but simply melted in your mouth. For appetizers, we all shared the Mini Pulled Pork Sandwiches, which were a little like upscale Sloppy Joe’s and tasty, only I would’ve removed the pickle, and the Maine Lobster Corn Dogs, living up to their name with a chunk of lobster instead of a non-kosher frankfurter, covered with the classic coating and served on a stick. For a side dish, we ordered the lyrically titled “Oh, the World-Famous Smoked Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese,” the latest highbrow variant on the traditional comfort food, and it was pretty good, just the right level of crunch and cream. By the time we finished at around 9, the bar area was packed and buzzing, with the most significant factor girls outnumbering guys some 7 or 8 to one, 90% of them leggy blondes with fake breasts. Talk about your just desserts...

7. www.veryhotjews.com: The new blog from former HITS editor, Oxford grad, holder of a doctorate in English lit (with an expertise in Herman Melville) and all-around factotum Simon Glickman and his partner, film and TV writer Sera Gamble, tackles a variety of pop culture topics on a semi-regular basis, with an implied answer to the immortal question, “Yeah, but what does it mean for the Jews?” The duo’s latest meditations involve mortality, aging and coping with the death of a loved one, Valentine’s Day and the joy of treif, a paean to pastrami and the Dixie Chicks, what’s creepy about Holocaust Remembrance Day, how to teach your kids to hate Hitler and delaying your orgasm by thinking of Nazis in jackboots during sex. There are numerous educational links and photos to illustrate the many fine points Simon and Sera muse about with tongue-in-cheek didacticism. And, while the dropped science is worthy, the message is in the medium and, of course, the context, the kind of thing Marshall McLuhan would be rapping about today if he were both alive and Jewish.

8. Tom Waits, “Danny Says”: I haven’t quite been able to get through all of Waits’ monumental 56-song, three-CD Orphans, but this cover of the Ramones’ song, from the “Bawlers” disc (the other two are dubbed “Brawlers” and “Bastards”), was one of the first songs to stick and hold. This slowed-down, bluesy lament about life on tour, dedicated to the band’s one-time manager, legendary HITS “Far Truths” columnist and food critic Danny Fields, is a perfect example of Waits finding the poignancy of romance alongside some hilarious kvetching. “Sound check’s at 5:02/Record stores and interviews/Oh, but I can’t wait/To be with you tomorrow,” he drawls, expressing the yin and yang in a pair of couplets. “Watching Get Smart on TV/Thinkin’ about/You and me and you and me,” Tom croaks, capturing the longing that goes hand-in-hand with the ennui. Like Waits’ growling, throaty death rattle, “Danny Says” locates the hopeful romantic found each time you scratch a hardened cynic while sagely acknowledging how they are one and the same.

9. Andy Samberg: While he’s nowhere as consistent, or as talented, as fellow SNL cast members Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson or Jason Sudeikis, for that matter, the comic who got his start doing parodies for Joel Gallen’s MTV Movie Awards show has emerged as the logical successor to such deadpan greats as Bill Murray, Adam Sandler and Jimmy Fallon. Last year, he scored a signature digital short with partner Chris Parnell on “Lazy Sunday: The Chronicles of Narnia Rap,” which you can see here, while this season, his duet with Justin Timberlake on “D**k in a Box” is a viral sensation, and can also be viewed here. The irony is that Samberg is often unfunny within the context of the show, but truly shines on the individual film pieces. With his unruly mop of hair, goofy what-me-worry grin and gangly gait, Andy evokes guffaws even before he opens his mouth, a characteristic of the similarly goofy Sandler and Fallon, who share his quality of letting the audience in on the joke with a wink and a leer. It’s not hard to predict Samberg sure looks like the next big star to emerge from Lorne Michaels’ talent hot house.

10. Gripe of the Week: I’ve voted in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll every year since around 1978 or ’79, looking forward to seeing who my colleagues chose, and always enjoying the erudite, inevitably longwinded take of its founder, the estimable Dean of American Rock Critics, Robert Christgau. This year, with Christgau gone and new Voice music editor Rob Harvilla taking the reigns from Bob and Chuck Eddy, the deadline was moved up a week, which was confusing enough, but also all votes were being tallied online. I tried to submit my ballot three separate times, but it didn’t go through, for some reason, though Harvilla kept insisting I try again. Much to my chagrin, I found out last week my ballot was never tallied, which understandably diminished my enthusiasm to study this year’s results. Another website, www.idolator.com, entered the fray with their own Critics’ Poll, undoubtedly siphoning off some Pazz & Jop Pollsters, with the Voice survey sporting several hundred less participants than last year. I grew up reading the Voice, got turned on to serious music criticism by Christgau and film writing by the great Andrew Sarris, whom I got to study under at Columbia University’s MFA film program. Even after I moved to L.A. in 1985, I kept track of the Voice, often buying it, and in later years, following it online. With New Times’ acquisition of the parent company of the Voice and L.A. Weekly, though, my interest has waned. Both alternative weeklies have become virtually unreadable, with interchangeable writers and none of the iconoclastic wit and opinionated blather that made them so great. The nadir was reached a couple of weeks ago with L.A. Weekly music editor Kate Sullivan’s cloyingly fawning cover story on Morrissey, highlighted by such insightful queries as “Do you believe in ghosts?” and “Why are you giving me this interview?” I’m all for getting the critical viewpoints of the younger generation, and females in particular, out there in equal measure, but don’t expect me to go silently along. My omission from this year’s Village Voice poll may well have been inadvertent, but the more I think about it, the more I believe it could be deliberate in the future. —Roy Trakin

Friday, Feb 16th
Mana "Amar Es Combatir Tour 2007" @ Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City.

Common @ House of Blues Las Vegas.

NE-YO @ House of Blues Las Vegas.

Saturday, Feb 17th
NBA All Star Saturday night on TNT: Featuring the three-point shootout and slam dunk challenge.

Pete Yorn w/Aqualung, Charlotte Martin, The Robby Armstrong Band @ House Blues Anaheim

Sunday, Feb 18TH
NBA All Star Game from Las Vegas on TNT

The Shins @ The Paramount Theatre, Seattle

Ghost Rider
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliott, Peter Fonda
The story is based on the Marvel character Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stuntman who becomes the host of a "spirit of vengeance" in exchange for the safety of his true love. At night he's transformed into a fiery demon with superpowers who chases bad guys.
Thoughts: I’ve really been looking forward to this movie; I just worry because they are releasing it in February as opposed to the summer, so I guess we shall see.

: Ryan Phillippe, Chris Cooper
: Eric O'Neill's dream of becoming a big-time agent in the FBI is finally coming true; he's been promoted to work with renowned operative Robert Hanssen. But O'Neill soon realizes that he's supposed to spy on Hanssen — a suspected traitor within the organization.
Thoughts: I’m hearing good things about this movie, so I’m hoping it will turn out to be the first legit film of the new year.

Also opening this week:
Bridge to Terabithia

Another year, another few months of bad movies. My recommendation is that you review my top movies of last year below and check out the ones you have yet to see.

V for Vendetta
This is my favorite movie of the year, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.

Babel: This may be the most depressing movie I have ever seen, but also maybe one of the best. It’s simply breathtaking and almost leaves you speechless when it ends. I must warn you that this film isn’t easy to watch, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

The Last King of Scotland:
All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable. I believe he will win for best actor. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.

Happy Feet:
Sheer brilliance. More than just an animated movie about penguins, it has real-life political views and it is definitely a movie the whole family can enjoy. The music is awesome, and the dancing is sensational, thanks to Savion Glover.

Notes on a Scandal: Really good and really intense, and both Kate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench are amazing.

Blood Diamond:
Yes, it’s extremely violent and gory, but well worth seeing nonetheless. Plus, Jennifer Connelly is so beautiful.

Little Children
This movie is incredible in so many ways, including the unique way it was executed. Hard to describe, it’s one of those movies that just leaves you breathless.

Casino Royale:
One of the best Bond movies I’ve ever seen.

Borat: All I have to say is, “very niiiiiiiiice, I like it.” This is by far the funniest movie of the year.

World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.

The Illusionist:
Giamatti and Norton are truly brilliant.

X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.

Mission: Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.

An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year. A must-see.

The Devil Wears Prada: Makes my list because Meryl Streep is truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if for nothing else.