HITS Daily Double
“The guitar lick that starts after the bridge and continues through the outro is just amazing—it has a really elegant tension, and the strings underneath it complement it rather than just adding schmaltz.”
——Attorney Jeff Leven on the Pernice Brothers’ “Zero Refills”


We Hope Your Team Wins This Weekend…Unless It’s Playing OUR Team, That Is
1. Bob Marley & the Wailers, Exodus (Deluxe Edition) (Tuff Gong/Island): I was inspired to go back to this 1977 release after reading Vivien Goldman’s evocative account of the making of the album, during the reggae star’s extended stay in London after the failed attempt on his life back in Jamaica. My own personal Marley favorite has been Rastaman Vibration, which I voted one of my Top 50 albums of all time in the Rolling Stone poll, though both Catch a Fire and Burnin’ are probably more edgy. As Goldman points out, several of the tunes on this album were left over from the Rastaman sessions, but the band itself never sounded better, thanks to the rock-steady guitar work of relative newcomer Junior Marvin and the in-the-pocket riddims of bassist Familyman Barrett and brother Carlton on percussion. The band lived and played together, and that tightness comes across musically and spiritually on the album’s opening side, from the opening chords of “Natural Mystic” (“…blowing through the air/I won’t tell no lie/If you listen carefully now, you will hear”) to the stark prophecies of “So Much Things to Say,” “Guiltiness” and “The Heathen.” Goldman points to the title track as Marley’s ultimate proclamation, the thing that made him universal, the notion of Diaspora, that somehow he’s unable to get back to where he belonged, a real fear during that time he was estranged from his two beloved homelands—his own Jamaica and Jah Rastafari Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia. It’s Side Two that contains the flip side of Marley’s militancy, his songs praising sexuality (“Jamming” and “Turn Your Lights Down Low”), the ache of romance (“Waiting in Vain”), the beauty of nature as reflected in his cherished backup singers the I Threes (“Three Little Birds”) and, finally, his anthemic tribute to Curtis Mayfield, “One Love/People Get Ready,” perhaps his most emblematic and best-remembered musical message. Shortly after the album was completed, Marley returned to Kingston for the legendary One Love Peace Concert on April 22, 1978, where he famously joined the hands of opposing political leaders Edward Seaga and Michael Manley onstage. A little more than three years later, on May 11, 1981, Marley would be dead of cancer after a growth that started in his toe from an old soccer injury. The deluxe edition includes the “Punky Reggae Party” single he recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry, as well as five songs cut during a live performance at London’s Rainbow Theater in June, 1977, showcasing a band that was probably the best and most accomplished of Marley’s career.

2. Tsotsi: Finally caught up to this movie, last year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film (directed, remarkably, by white South African Gavin Hood), on cable, and it knocked me out. Its depiction of gang life in a Johannesburg shantytown resembled nothing so much as the street corners of Baltimore in The Wire, as young men jockey for power and survival, trying to escape their surroundings, but doomed to live and die in them. A remarkable Presley Chweneyagae plays the title character, a petty thief and amoral thug who is forced to care for a several-month-old baby he finds in the backseat of a stolen car. Placing the infant in a shopping bag, he attempts to diaper him with newspaper and feed him with canned milk before forcing a woman in the neighborhood at gunpoint to nurse him to keep him alive. Like Children of Men, the presence of the infant humanizes Tsotsi and gives him the impetus to try to forge a new life, even if it’s impossible. In the mode of Third World masterpieces like The Harder They Come or City of God, the movie takes us into a world that is foreign, forbidding and frightening, and locates the universality at its heart.

3. Notes on a Scandal: Richard Eyre’s U.K. dark comedy is a direct descendant of homosexual panic movies like the 1961 William Wyler-directed/Lillian Hellman-scripted adaptation of her play The Children’s Hour, about a pair of students who accuse two of their private school professors of being lesbian, and even camp classics such as Robert Aldrich’s black and white 1962 Southern Gothic Bette Davis-Joan Crawford vehicle Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Judi Dench gets to chew scenery as a sexually frustrated, matronly middle-school teacher who tries to guilt/blackmail younger colleague Cate Blanchett into a liaison after catching her in flagrante delicto with one of her teenage students. The best part of the film is Dench’s quite catty, lacerating, interior dialogue, penned by The Closer playwright/screenwriter Patrick Marber and author Zoe Heller, on whose book the film is based, followed closely by a crazily overwrought score from the usually minimalist Philip Glass, which tends to play up the soap opera’s more melodramatic elements by ratcheting up the tension. Blanchett brings a colt-like beauty and more depth than the rather opaque character deserves, while the always-wonderful Bill Nighy plays her rather blissfully clueless, compassionate, but increasingly exasperated husband. It’s a tribute to the work of the two leads that the story remains fraught with foreboding, but it’s hard to sympathize with either of them in the end, though Dench sitting languidly in her tub bemoaning the aching emptiness in her life while puffing on an ever-present cigarette cuts to the bone of her seemingly prim and oh-so-proper character, aching to touch and be touched in a way that is both chilling and sad.

4. Peter Frampton, Fingerprints (New Door/A&M/UMe): It’s hard to remember sometimes that Frampton was an art school mate of David Bowie and a much-in-demand heavy metal blues guitarist for late-’60s British bands like The Herd and Humble Pie before he became Alive! as the fuzzy-haired, blurry, Vocoder teen heartthrob of FM staples like “Do You Feel Like We Do” and “Baby, I Love Your Way.” Maybe hoping to live down the treacly sentiments of the unfortunate follow-up I’m in You, Frampton prefers to let his guitar do the talking on this new, all-instrumental album, and boy does it ever, as the muso coaxes what often sound like human voices out of his array of custom axes. On his Grammy-nominated (for Rock Instrumental) version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” it’s almost as if he’s using a talk box on his Gibson Les Paul, the pealing notes a piercing cry in the wilderness, the thick, multi-layered ambience making words superfluous in conveying the song’s apocalyptic vision. Opener “Boot It Up” has a thunderous, techno-funk beat; “Grab a Chicken (Put It Back)” a finger-lickin’, southern-fried acoustic Delta sound; “Cornerstones” a classic Blind Faith/Cream majestic Claptonesque feel, featuring a rhythm section manned by none other than bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts, while “Smoky” is a Wes Montgomery jazzer leavened with a chill-inducing gospel B-3 organ. The closing “Souvenirs De Nos Peres (Memories of Our Fathers)” sports a Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks-meets-Manhattan Transfer-meets-Django Reinhardt gypsy vibe, complete with an Eastern European flavored five-string viola that cuts like a hot knife through the butter of the arrangement. Come to think of it, the album demonstrates why Frampton probably was driven to hide behind electronics and effects as a vocalist. He sounds a lot more comfortable having his music—and these Fingerprints—speak for him.

5. Christgau’s Consumer Guide: The self-described Dean of American Rock Critics has been publishing his monthly report cards on album releases since July, 1969, mostly in the Village Voice, where he worked until getting unceremoniously fired back in the summer as part of the New Times’ shameless purging of the venerable alt-weekly’s old guard. Christgau’s pithy comments and densely cryptic haiku often masked his indefatigable devotion to the task of delineating the A and A-minus albums from the B+, Cs and occasional D-minus with tireless, repeat listening, which is all the more remarkable considering he’d give what he graded as “bad” records the same amount of time to sink in as he did “good” ones. Alas, Bob’s influential column has resurfaced online, bi-monthly for now, at msn.com, where you can read the latest installment and a typically thorough explication of his critical methodology here. Giving Bob Dylan’s Modern Times a rare A+, Christgau calls it a “conservative” album that would be “stultifying” without the master’s twisted take on Confederate poet Henry Timro, whom he allegedly plagiarized. “Note the intrusion of his old friend deliberate barbarism when, for instance, Timrod’s ‘logic frailer than flowers’ produces Dylan’s ‘more frailer than flowers’… The entire construction is a thing of grace—conservative, and new under the sun.” He gives The Who’s Endless Wire a “C” for “Dud of the Week” honors, blaming Roger Daltrey's inability to handle the vocals, but dubbing the album unlistenable for a more “complicated reason”—Pete Townshend, “the leader who decided prog was a peachy idea… designates yet another song cycle a ‘mini-opera’… [and] gives the orders around here.” Yo, Bob. Welcome back.

6. ego trip’s The (White) Rapper Show (VH1): Kind of a hip-hop version of Real World, Surreal Life, Survivor, Big Brother, The Apprentice and American Idol all rapped into one, as 10 contestants hole up in a roast-infested South Bronx dive to vie for the distinction of being anointed the next Great White Hip-Hop Hope and win a $100k first prize by none other than 3rd BassMC Serch, dubbed Host/Hip-Hop Icon. It’s pretty clever as far as it goes, especially the auditions to winnow it down to 10, with plenty of eye-rolling by Serch and cohort, legendary rap producer Prince Paul. There’s some added hilarity with one John Brown, the self-anointed “King of the Burbs” who keeps claiming “I’m not a rapper, I’m an entity,” while espousing a vague “Ghetto Revival,” which he keeps chanting to the annoyance of most everyone around him, especially the fleshly Persia, forced to wear a giant N-Word around her neck on a heavy chain after uttering the expletive during a raging argument. That occasions a stern lecture by Serch, who obviously takes his job discovering the next Eminem seriously… aiiiiight? There’s also the requisite sexy blonde, a feisty U.K. rapper who calls herself Misfit, Bubba Sparxxx-style Texas good ole boy 100 Proof, who dubs himself the alcoholic rapper and a diminutive street urchin named G-Child who has the “balls” to declare Vanilla Ice her biggest inspiration. Not sure there’s another Ice, Ice Baby in this group, let alone a Slim Shady, but the casting covers an impressive scope of physical types, and shows a reverence for hip-hop culture, even if ironic. Still, the desire to be the next Marshall Mathers seems almost anachronistic, even quaint, as if they’re partying like it was 1999.

7. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: I’ve got a serious beef with the way bands are being admitted, which has been exacerbated this year. The ugliness over last year’s Blondie train wreck, with Frankie Infante and Nigel Harrison, who were, by the way, inducted with the band, practically begging to be allowed to play, is just the latest example of personnel issues overshadowing the affair, as it did when John Fogerty refused to take the stage with the other members of Creedence Clearwater Revival. At last year’s nominating committee meeting, right after complaining about the travesty of Bill Haley’s band the Comets or Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps not being in the Rock Hall, Seymour Stein lamented what a “travesty” it was that Deborah Harry wasn’t in. Not Blondie. Not Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri or even Frank or Nigel, for that matter. Debbie herself. Maybe it was a slip, but didn’t the old ad copy line go, “Blondie is a group”? This year, while voters had the opportunity to choose the entire Patti Smith Group for induction, only Patti was actually voted in, meaning no Lenny Kaye, Richard Sohl or Jay Dee Daugherty, either. Which seems odd, considering the entire Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five—including Melle Mel, Kid Creole, Cowboy, Raheim and Scorpio/Mr. Ness—are going in. Now, I have no problem with the inclusion of Flash, a pioneer in turntablism as the inventor of scratching on disc and originator of the break, but the group itself? They only had three hits in “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (which actually sampled Blondie’s “Rapture,” by the way), the groundbreaking “The Message” and “White Lines,” so I do have a beef. And what about Van Halen? Hall voters let both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar in, but they draw the line at poor Gary Cherone? Seems a bit arbitrary to me. And should all the Ronettes really be in the Hall or merely Ronnie Spector? Iggy or the Stooges? It’s just as debate-worthy for hot-stove discussion as the baseball writers’ decision to bar Mark McGwire from Cooperstown because of alleged steroid use.

8. The Getty Villa Malibu: I’m not a big fan of antiquities and ancient art, but this recently reopened companion to the Sepulveda Pass Getty Center, nestled on a bluff high above Pacific Coast Highway with a clear view of the ocean, features an impressive display of 1,200 pieces of Greek, Roman and Etruscan origin from 6,500 B.C. to A.D. 400, out of a total of 44,000 owned by the oil magnate trust. The setting is, as advertised, an Italian villa, complete with an amphitheatre and an outdoor patio with a restaurant, and on the December day I went, it could have been Tuscany, a gentle breeze blowing in from the coast, amid the lush gardens, fountains and pools surrounded with faux antique trompe l’oiel murals on the walls. One nude statue of Zeus, Hercules or Mercury looks the same as the next to me, but it is heartening that even great men have small penises, or some, none at all due to their age, and we all know how that can be. Some of the representations of Aphrodite are downright erotic, and the tributes to Bacchus make you realize people have enjoyed getting looped on intoxicants from time immemorial. Marveling at how things remain preserved for so many years, one begins to feel like the guest of a very wealthy collector, whose taste and splendid sense of history is on display for all to see. I won’t get into the ethics of how these pieces were acquired; that’s another story, of course, though the reported corruption only adds to the rarity and intrigue of the objects under question. The current exhibition, a series of stone mosaics from Tunisia and northern Africa, features a psychedelic portrait of Medusa that really does reward, unh, close viewing, if you know what I mean.

9. www.badmets.com: With a little more than a month before pitchers and catchers report to the N.Y. Mets’ spring training home of St. Lucie, it’s time for the hot stove league to end and the grapefruit season to begin, and this wacky site is a great place to start, not least because yours truly gets to join the ranks of celebrity Met fans Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, Jon Stewart, Ray Romano, Kevin James, Matthew Broderick, Gary Dell’Abate, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, Adam Horovitz, Chuck D, noted absurdist Samuel Beckett (?!) and my good pal, High Times corresponding editor Steve Bloom (whom I thank for turning me on to the site). Reflecting the masochism of the true Mets rooter, the site features “Bad Mets Gossip” by subject (crime, death, drugs, rumors, women) and an all-time Worst Mets Team ever, featuring some classic playas hated like pitcher Victor Zambrano, closer Mel Rojas, Kaz Matsui, Bobby Bonilla, Mo Vaughn, Vince Coleman, Roger Cedeno, Juan Samuel and ex-skipper Art Howe. What, no George Foster, Kevin McReynolds, Jim Fregosi, Joe Foy, Roberto Alomar or Carlos Baerga? Play ball.

10. Gripe of the Week: Isn’t it annoying to have to sit through that long list of end credits at the movies just to see what music has been used on the soundtrack? Seems a real “eff you” to our industry that songs aren’t revealed until long after every gaffer, electrician, caterer, best boy and make-up artist has had their name crawl by. Then, to add insult to injury, very often the songs are scrolled in two parallel columns, which even for an expert multi-tasker like me, isn’t easy to decipher. I thought about this while waiting to see the songs come up at the end of Alfonso Cuaron’s mind-bending Children of Men, whose soundtrack, as duly noted in the L.A. Times, adds immeasurably to the film’s sense of future dread, blending Deep Purple’s “Hush” and a full excerpt from the still-grand “In the Court of the Crimson King” with rabble-rousing protest songs by John Lennon and Jarvis Cocker interspersed with high-brow fare like Krystof Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” and British composer John Tavener’s commissioned piece, “Fragments of a Prayer.” It’s high time the Oscars rewarded this kind of work with a Best Soundtrack category. And don’t get me started on TV shows, which, unless they’re getting paid to put up an ad card identifying a song from a particular album, usually don’t list music credits at all. —Roy Trakin

You’re gonna have to come up with your own ideas for this weekend, kiddies, because Calendar Boy is in bed with the flu and unable to offer his usual half-assed selections. But you sportsters are already acutely aware of the fact that this is the ultimate weekend of the NFL postseason, with double bills on both Saturday and Sunday, topped off (on paper, at least) by New England @ San Diego Sunday at 1:30 on CBS. As for the rest of you, get thee to a cineplex before the good movies disappear.


I recently met Jeff Leven, a young attorney who recently started working with leading music firm Davis & Shapiro, and found out how he got his start in the business, along with other interesting factoids about his life, including his thoughts on his Ohio State Buckeyes getting massacred in the BCS title game.

How bummed are you about the Ohio State massacre on Monday considering you’re a Columbus guy?
It was painful. The truth is, the media treatment of the whole thing destroyed us—Florida came in absolutely impassioned and enraged, and meanwhile we were overstuffed and complacent from Heisman dinners. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

How did you get your start in the music business?
Depends on what counts. I promoted my first concert in high school (James McMurtry) and then booked shows and did late-night blues radio in college (which was a fantastic experience—Hound Dog Taylor at 3 a.m. never gets old). I've also done music writing all along, most recently with Paste magazine. But I never worked in music fulltime until I started practicing music law.

What was your major in college?
History, with a minor in American studies. I wrote my senior thesis on the zoot suit riots, and have actually always been something of a military history buff—the best paper I ever wrote throughout my education was on the Breaker Morant trial during the Boer War. There's a good movie that was done about it, although the movie doesn't really capture the fact that for people living in colonial South Africa at the time, the Boer War felt like a civil war as much as anything. Pardon the boring digression. I guess the way it all relates to music is that, like the history of the record business, the history of the British imperial era has lots of human drama and exotic plot lines.

Is being an attorney in the music business something you have wanted to be, or something you kind of fell into?
Something I wanted to be. I learned fairly early in life that I wasn't a good enough guitar player to make it that way (although I did have a punk band in law school that did a fun version of "Sonic Reducer," if I do say so myself), but also knew that my career had to involve music in order for me to really wake up thrilled in the morning. I went to law school with the specific intention of going into the music business that way. Law can be interesting in and of itself, but I wasn't one of those kids who grew up collecting Supreme Court trading cards the way some of my classmates in law school might have.

What bands are you working with at your firm?
All over the map. I'd rather not name names simply because to be strictly ethical I'd need to get their permission to list them, and the approval process would probably complicate your deadline.

If you had to pick one song from last year that you felt people missed out on, what would it be?
That's tough. I'm not sure most music people "missed out" on Midlake or the Hold Steady, so I guess maybe "Zero Refills" by the Pernice Brothers. The guitar lick that starts after the bridge and continues through the outro is just amazing—it has a really elegant tension, and the strings underneath it complement it rather than just adding schmaltz. The way that song is produced and performed has that warm, rich beauty that the best soft-rock records of the ’70s and ’80s had—the deeper, more Philly side of the Hall & Oates catalog, for instance. Other than maybe Josh Rouse two albums ago, no one has really bottled that sleepy, sun-worn vibe with as much conviction or panache in a long time.

Where did you work before being with Davis & Shapiro?
For two years, I was at Loeb & Loeb LLP—also a great firm. They courageously took me straight out of law school and gave me an amazing start.

Do you currently own an iPod, if so, what kind? What is on it?
I've got a now fairly old-school 40 gb one—it was a gift from my wife's sister when my wife and I got engaged. It's full all the time, so I keep changing what's on it. I guess there's some stuff that never leaves—Replacements, Clash, Whiskeytown, Motorhead, Wilco, A Tribe Called Quest, Bad Brains, Catherine Wheel, Husker Du, GNR, Beasties, Faces, Smiths, John Prine, Stereophonics, Bert Jansch , to name just a dozen plus. It's nice to have Fela Kuti on there, but all the songs are 20 minutes, so I have to pick one or two.

What is the best live band you have seen?
That's tough because often it's a certain show that's special and you can't replicate it every time. I mean, obviously Springsteen and U2 have the whole live thing all but mastered, but even then it's hard to match more intimate experiences—I saw Whiskeytown pretty early in a trashy Houston club with eight other people, and Ryan Adams was on fire. There was a King's X show once that was pretty magical, not so much because of the set list as that particular way the crowd reacted to it. The group Marah is consistently fueled live, as is the Hold Steady, largely because both of them clearly really care about making the show stick with you two hours after you leave the venue. My suspicion is that epoch-changing performances are more the stuff of critics and books and retrospect, while the best shows have a lot more to do with a band creating the space for you to have a moment if you're in the frame of mind to do so.

Lastly, why did you agree to do this interview with such a suckass magazine?
To paraphrase husker du—charity, prudence, and with hope I don't get misquoted.