HITS Daily Double
Maybe this is the year every team in the NFL finishes in a .500 deadlock… absolute mediocrity. It would be a perfect sign of the times
we live in.


Is That Something You Might Be Interested In?
Dirty Pretty Things, Waterloo to Anywhere (Vertigo/Interscope): Back in the good old U.K., The Libertines were just a few next-big-things ago, with the team of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat hailed as the newest incarnation of punk duos like Strummer and Jones or Morrissey and Marr. The split between the two was especially messy, as Doherty descended into a tabloid hell of drug arrests set against a well-documented off-and-on fling with supermodel Kate Moss. Stung by his bandmate’s demise, Barat regrouped with Libertines drummer Gary Powell, as well as sometime members Didz Hammond on bass and guitarist Anthony Rossomando, retreating to L.A. and Glasgow to get it all off his chest in a new incarnation. Indeed, songs like “Bang, Bang You’re Dead,” which starts off with a trumpet flourish, then mutates into “London Calling” before scolding, “I gave you the Midas touch/And you turned round and scratched out my heart,” might seem to be directly about the falling-out if he didn’t insist in interviews the daggers were aimed instead at his inner “evil Carl." And while Barat has been portrayed as the more rational and sensible of the two, his own demons lash out in the angular Arctic Monkeys-meet-Buzzcocks intensity of “Deadwood” and the “Secret Agent Man” by way of “Love Like Anthrax” syncopation of “The Enemy,” as well as the anti-gossip swirl of “Blood Thirsty Bastards” and “Doctors and Dealers.” Barat references New York punk in the Velvets cum Voidoids of “If You Love a Woman,” then joins the Only Ones and “Looking for a Kiss” in the Smiths-evocative “Last of the Small-Town Playboys,” which reminds you that Powell sat in on drums for the Dolls at Morrissey’s Meltdown Festival when the band first came back two years ago. While he may not achieve the druggy highs of his ex, seeking his British holy grail of Albion and the promised land of Arcadia, Barat’s Dirty Pretty Things seem to have carved out their own terra firma turf, which, for now, makes a fairly sound foundation. —Roy Trakin

2. Chip Taylor, Unglorious Hallelujah/Red, Red Rose & Other Songs of Pain & Destruction (Train Wreck/Back Porch/EMI): I know Chip Taylor back from our days together at Polydor Records, where he was an A&R exec, and it always surprised me that he was (a) Jon Voight’s brother and (b) the author of “Wild Thing.” Now, if you listen to Jimi Hendrix’s version, you realize the Troggs’ classic, which he penned as a staff writer at CBSApril-Blackwood Music, is actually a grinding, tongue-in-cheek blues song, laced with a sexual double-entendre irony typical of the genre. A man of no small contradiction, Taylor was born in suburban Yonkers, NY, but has made his reputation as a roots country-blues storyteller in the tradition of his heroes like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zant, whom he pays tribute to in “What Would Townes Say About That.” This double-CD is Chip’s first solo release in six years, spotlighting his own transparent, naturalistic style, leavened with his recent duet partner Carrie Rodriguez and the sound of his plangent harp. Like the Dixie Chicks, Taylor turns the genre’s traditional blue-collar bias to blue-state politics, descrying violence in the title track; tweaking my country right or wrong in the sing-song, Arlo Guthrie-like “Hallelujah Boys” (“If you gave your life when you fought in ’Nam/And if you’re Rosa Parks…will they thank you ma’am”); praising pacifism and forgiveness in “Jacknife (Livin’ Out in the Fields),” about a true-life instance where Lincoln pardoned a Civil War deserter, and channeling the surreal, reality-is-stranger-than-fiction vibe in the Dylanesque documentary of “Thursday Night Las Vegas Airport” (“Screen right—they’re bombin’ the hell out of Baghdad/Screen left—you got the quarterfinals of the NCAA”). The second disc deals with love and romance in all their various guises, from natural beauty (“Red, Red Rose”) and companionship (“One Thing I Wanna Tell You”) to pain (“Little Darts”) and longing (“Santa Cruz”), all delivered with a well-worn basso profundo as leathery and comfortable as an old shoe. —RT

3. Comedy Central’s Roast of William Shatner: For those who remember Red Buttons at the Friar Club, let’s get one thing straight: This is not your father’s celebrity roast. While those often private affairs were apparently filled with booze, expletives and political incorrectness—highlighted by the brouhaha six years ago when Ted Danson showed up in blackface to roast his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg—these days, things have gotten seemingly even coarser and dirtier, or at least more visible. Executive produced by our old pal Joel Gallen’s Tenth Planet Productions, this latest installment of the series, which last time put Pamela Anderson on the spit, sets its sites on Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, who proved a remarkably good sport, as a group of self-admitted C-list comics, most prominent of which was probably Stern show regular Artie Lange and clueless Andy Dick, joined what-are-they-doing-there? nostalgia icons like Betty White and Farrah Fawcett and Bill’s former Star Trek co-stars Sulu’s George Takei and Uhuru’s Nichelle Nichols, both of whom seemed to truly enjoy socking it to the Shat. Leonard Nimoy, meanwhile, couldn’t even be bothered to show up, instead appearing in an amusing taped opening episode in which he gets in his own shots at his one-time Trek colleague over the phone. Don’t want to spoil the punchlines, except to say, despite pre-show warnings, there were plenty of hair jokes (Sulu introduced himself as “Takei, as in toupee”) and severe nettling all around, especially toward toastmaster Jason Alexander (Lange: “He’s gone from being in a show about nothing to doing nothing.”) The roast phenomenon, once hidden in back rooms away from the wife and kids, has come full circle with its appearance on basic cable, where, even with the frequent bleeps, is still filthier than anything you’ll hear this side of The Aristocrats. If only the Palestinians and Israelis could get together like this, diss one another and laugh about it, we might solve the Mideast crisis over a few rounds of Jack and soda. —RT

4. L’Enfant (Sony Pictures DVD): Reminiscent of the amoral nouvelle vague of Godard’s Breathless, this French/Belgian film from brother directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is that much harsher in its depiction of existential bleakness, opening with a tight shot of Deborah Francois’ beautiful teenager Sonia, cradling a newborn baby as traffic whizzes past her in the industrial wasteland of a dank border town in Belgium. Jeremie Renier’s Bruno is her scavenger boyfriend, a petty thief and hustler whose every move is based on his own animal-like instinct for survival and ability to scam cash. His latest scheme involves leasing out his girlfriend’s apartment while she’s in the hospital giving birth, then selling his own newborn child, a move that finally dawns on him as wrong after Sonia kicks him out, setting him on a literally circuitous route to redemption on motorbike and foot. The bleakness of the landscape mirrors the vacuity of the individuals’ souls, as Bruno leads his victims on a wild goose-chase, unable to get loose, literally steps from getting caught. He spirals downward until hitting bottom, and only then does the film end where it began—in media res, with a blank slate prelude to another day in the urban jungle, doing what it takes to live for another 24 hours. There are elements of European noir as well as the classic French New Wave of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le Flambeur in the film’s unsparing, existential outlook, made ever more stark and desperate by the competitive thanklessness and harsh anomie of modern society. —RT

5. Toscana (11633 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood): For someone raised on Italian food in New York City, and I don’t mean Mamma Leone’s, but places like Sinatra’s old hang Patsy’s on West 56th, it took me a long time to find a decent equivalent in L.A. This nondescript restaurant, in a breezy Brentwood office building, is a noted celebrity hang—I’ve seen Michael Eisner eating there with his family on Mother’s Day as well as Jane Fonda and noted Eye-tal record exec Phil Q—but it's just as welcoming to the non-famous regulars, like me. The maitre d’ and waiters are all friendly and jovial, making you feel right at home in the surroundings, greeting you at your table with a bowl of iced celery and peppers and oil and vinegar for dipping your bread. My favorite appetizer is the burrata, a lush, melt-in-your-mouth variant of buffalo mozzarella made out of cow’s milk from the region of Andria. I’ve tried spaghetti a vongole all over L.A. and elsewhere, and Toscana’s version is one of the best, not too watery, the tiny clams perfect, the pasta slightly al dente, with a sharp tang of peppery garlic unleashed by each bite. Absolutely one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Except for perhaps the old-school Mo Ostin hangout Ristorante Peppone in Brentwood Village, this is as close to Little Italy as you can get in L.A. —RT

6. NFL Preseason: Are you ready for some football? Well, no not yet, thank you. I’ve long ago learned the NFL exhibition season is to be survived, since I’ve spent so many summers having my hopes dashed even before opening kickoff with year-ending injuries to would-be QB saviors like Joe Namath and Chad Pennington. As a Jets fan, I’ve come to expect the worst, and am often not disappointed, but paradoxically, when there are fewer expectations, the traditionally jinxed franchise, which hasn’t won a championship since the monumental upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III, often surprises, and this is one of those years where the experts have mostly dismissed our chances of being anything more than, at best, a .500 team. With a Bill Belichick disciple, 35-year-old first-timer Eric Mangini, at the helm, yet another rebuilding process is underway, led by a sore-armed quarterback (Pennington) and a sidelined Hall of Fame runner whose career is in jeopardy (Curtis Martin). Still, the parity in the NFL over the last few years is encouraging, and all you have to do is stay hot for 16 games, not 82 like in basketball or 162 as in baseball, so there’s more room for upsets and dramatic improvement. Not that I’m expecting either. One thing you learn as a Jets fan—prepare for the worst and anything better than that will seem like success…which means I’ll grudgingly take 8-8 if we at least show some improvement and offer hope for the future. Anyway, there don't appear to be any super powers that are head-and-shoulders above the league this year. An injury here and there to key personnel is enough to even things out. Maybe this is the year that everyone finishes in a .500 deadlock…absolute mediocrity. It would be a perfect sign of the times we live in. Tie one for the Gipper, indeed.

7. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, Turntable Matinee (Yep Roc): A stalwart traditionalist going on his 11th album in more than 15 years, Robert Williams’ Big Sandy character remains true to his roots in rockabilly, country swing, Memphis soul and even Latin-tinged sambas. The opening “Power of the 45” sets the tone, with a needle hitting a scratchy groove, leading into a name-check tribute to inspirations like Little Junior Parker, Little Willie John, Ronnie Dawson, Lazy Lester, Chuck and Richard Berry, Link Wray and Joe Clay, some remembered, some in the dustbin of pop culture. This is no novelty, but a heartfelt tribute to the past, updated with a post-modern wink that doesn’t let irony get in the way of feeling on songs like “The Great State of Misery” and the mournful steel guitar of “Lonesome Dollar.” There’s an authenticity to these reproductions, a sense that this is more than just music to Sandy and his boys, but a way of life and culture they are preserving against the encroachments of the modern world. It’s still cool, daddy-o, not just an exercise in nostalgia but a blueprint for a better tomorrow.—RT

8. Martin Landau: I have no idea who his agent Bob Ryan is based on; some say Robert Evans, others that he’s a combination of any number of over-the-hill 10-percenters living on past glories, but his addition to the Entourage cast turned the season completely around. His trademarked “Is that something you might be interested in?” mercilessly mocked by Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold, could become the catchphrase of the moment. The fact that his beloved project is a script for a Ramones biopic called I Wanna Be Sedated in which Vince wants to star as Joey is the cherry on top of the satirical sundae. As if Landau wasn’t great enough in his Oscar-winning role as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood or as the philandering husband in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, he outdoes himself here. “I ain’t riding in that Nazi sled,” he says about Ari’s BMW. It’s a perfectly pitched performance from a real pro’s pro. —RT

9. Shawn Green: Mazel tov. This Mets season has been Amazin’ enough, recalling the magic of such championship years as ’69 and ’86 (it was 20 years ago today), but now they’ve outdone themselves, with GM Omar Minaya performing the ultimate mitzvah by trading for the team’s most prominent (and only?) Jewish player since Art Shamsky to fill the gap in the outfield caused by Cliff Floyd’s injury-plagued season and the forced trade of Xavier Nady to the Pirates for a reliever to replace the injured Duanar Sanchez, hurt in a cab accident, of all things. While Green’s power numbers have steadily decreased since his 40-homer/120-RBI heyday with the Dodgers, he’s a welcome addition to the Noo Yawkers’ suddenly formidable lineup. And he sounds excited to go to a city with the largest Jewish population in the world. Just as long as a crucial playoff game isn’t scheduled for Yom Kippur (which he sat out while playing for the Dodgers), we’ll be beseder. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: Where have all the promos gone? Is Eliot Spitzer looking to eliminate them as part of his payola campaign? If you’ve been writing about pop music for the past three decades, like we have, the promo “review” copy has become a standard, but now it appears to be just one more thing on the industry’s endangered species list. An entire economy has been built around these discs, which are technically “on loan for promotional purposes,” and remain the property of the record label, theoretically to be returned on demand. That’s one reason that hybrid indie retail stores like Amoeba Records, which sell them at reduced prices, aren’t high on the industry’s list of favored customers. With rampant Internet piracy of advance records, labels have taken to all sorts of security measures, ranging from watermarked copies to forcing hapless reviewers to judge the new album in an office with only a pad and a pencil for company. Now, Universal Music Group, for one, has set up a dedicated website for reviewers to both stream and download new releases, which in theory is a great idea, though for those of us who have to keep track of new releases, it’s a little hard to get used to. Consider it just one more evolutionary thread in the content business’ ongoing transition into a product-less economy. —RT

I just received the iriverclix, the latest in MP3 technology, and I gotta say, this thing is awesome. It’s much more user-friendly than the iPod because of the new D-Click System it has implemented. The device is tiny and it doesn’t have any scroll buttons; instead, the device is a button—all the user has to do is click one of the four sides to navigate around. The screen is beautiful, the graphics are nice and the way it works seamlessly with Windows Media Player makes me not really miss my iPod. Another really cool feature is a built-in FM tuner, so you can listen to whatever radio station you want. Of course, if you aren’t in a good area, it won’t come in clearly, but when you are, it’s acceptably hi-fi. It also allows you to preset up to 20 stations. I’ve also been using MTV’s Urge, which is their answer to iTunes. They have a lot of the new music users may seek, but on the downside, you can’t download videos—users must subscribe to another service to get music clips. But other than that, the clix works like a charm, making it easy to navigate around and search for music. All in all, I’m very impressed with both the iriverclix and Urge. —Je-c

Friday, Aug 25th
John Mayer: Toyota Concert Series on Today @ Rockerfeller Center (NBC)

Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks in Arizona (Prime Ticket):
Just last week, it looked like the Dodgers were going to run away with the division, but the Padres had something to say about that, sweeping the D-men and cutting the lead to just one game. San Diego's had the Blue Crew’s number all season long. Now, the focus shifts toward the D’backs, who trail the Dodgers by four games. The Dodgers will look to future hall of famer Greg Maddux to get them headed back in the right direction.

Foo Fighters Acoustic Tour @ Auditorium Theatre

ET: RiverFlicks @ Hudson River Park, Pier 46: Escape the artificial air conditioning and claustrophobic seating of indoor multiplexes with the return of this very popular outdoor screening series. Families and friends sit under the stars (seating is provided) and watch classic flicks to a beautiful backdrop of the Hudson River and New Jersey skyline. Check out the classic ET, the last movie in this outdoor screening series.

Saturday, Aug 26th
Sunset Junction Street Fair in Silverlake: The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ashford & Simpson and the Cramps are all on the roster for 2006, as are dozens of other bands representing the worlds of funk, alt, classical, Latin and straight-up rock. Check the official site for full details and times.

Hoobastank and Nickelback @ Smirnoff Music Center, Dallas

American Idols Live @ Staples Center: The top 10 performers from the last season of American Idol are featured in this summertime sure thing or must-to-avoid, depending on your attitude toward the franchise. The lineup: Ace Young, Bucky Covington, Chris Daughtry, Elliott Yamin, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Lisa Tucker, Mandisa, Paris Bennett and outright winner Taylor Hicks. The ticket price is high, but Idol is a phenomenon, so expect a packed house of screamers.

Justin Timberlake @ Avalon in Boston.

Eighteen Visions @ Piere's, Fort Wayne, IN
Matt Costa @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

The 44's @ Stubriks, Fullerton, CA

Sunday, Aug 27th
Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks (Ch. 9): Concluding game of the three-game series featuring rookie sensation Billinglsey against newly acquired Livan Hernandez.

Rickenbacker 75th Anniversary featuring Jefferson Starship, Chris Squire & Friends, the Smithereens, Minus 5, Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet, Billy Hinsche, Marty Willson Piper & The Electric Mood Maidens Hautewerk @ House of Blues on Sunset

Third Eye Blind @ House of Blues in Chicago.

The Sound of Animals Fighting w/Special Guests Matt Embree of RX Bandits, Anthony Green of Circa Survive and Cinematic Sunrise @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

John Fogerty @ Cricket Pavillion in Phoenix: Until Fogerty released Deja Vu All Over Again in September 2004, the less-than-prolific artist hadn't released an album of new material in more than seven years. Of course, even Fogerty knows it's his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs that people come to hear. Put him in, coach, he's ready to play.

André Benjamin, Antwan Andre Patton, Paula Patton and Terrence Howard
Synopsis: In a Prohibition-era speakeasy, a manager-performer and his piano player fight off gangsters looking to take over their business.
Thoughts: This was supposed to come out at the beginning of the year and it got pushed back… I’m hoping it was worth the wait. As a huge OutKast fan, I believe this movie will be pretty good—at least that’s what I am hoping. They haven’t ever let me down with their CDs; hopefully, they won’t with their first movie, either.

Also Opening This Weekend:
Another Disney sports movie. I’m so sick of these; there hasn’t been a good one since Remember the Titans.

V for Vendetta:
This is my favorite movie of the year so far, 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.
World Trade Center- Another important movie that I urge people to see, I was in tears, although a lot of it is hard to watch, its quite an astonishing story.
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 non-stop 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!!!
Nacho Libre: The funniest movie of the year. Jack Black rocks.
The Devil Wears Prada: This movie is making my list because Meryl Streep was truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if nothing else.