HITS Daily Double
“I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” might not be “She Loves You” or “Satisfaction,” but the thrill of discovering a hidden culture creating its identity from the ground up is one and the same.


There’s Something Goin’ on and You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You, Mr. Cheney?
1. The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth (RCA)/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah): I basically cut my critical teeth and entered the biz on the late-’70s downtown N.Y. punk-rock scene, so you know I’m going to dig these two inheritors of the garage-meets-SoHo torch. The former Manhattan prep-school slackers arguably launched the whole neo-post-punk scene, though Julian Casablancas and company seem to have been overshadowed by the likes of the retro-roots White Stripes on one side, and the ’80s glitz of The Killers on the other. While their second album seemed way too much a three-chord carbon copy of their debut, they’ve gone completely in the opposite direction on their all-important third, which seemed to get off to a shaky start with the Weezer-esque Peter Gunn-meets-pop metal grind of the first single, “Juicebox.” The new track, “You Only Live Once,” is more like it, with its metronomic, Cars-like push-and-pull, deadpan vocals and Tom Verlaine guitar ripples finding the melodic heart beneath the skeletal rhythms, while "Razorblade" actually has the temerity to nick a chorus from fellow downtown boho Barry Manilow's "Mandy." And you gotta love a band that can begin a song, "I don't feel better when I'm fucking around." Current indie fave Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a true grass-roots success story, with influential website Pitchfork Media championing the Philly-Brooklyn hybrid featuring the David Byrne-like wail of leader Alec Ounsworth, who brings that manic intensity (and a mean harp) to songs like “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away,” “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and the climactic “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood,” which sounds like the band’s answer to “Life During Wartime.” The backlash may have already set in, but anybody that can channel the Talking Heads’ unique brand of avant-pop and minimalist funk transcends nostalgia in my book. —Roy Trakin

2. Arctic Monkeys, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” (Domino): This first single from the highly touted U.K. band’s just-released debut delivers on its promise, a slice of Britannia culture that recalls The Streets in its depiction of working class sturm, angst und catharsis. It might not be “She Loves You” or “Satisfaction,” but the thrill of discovering a hidden culture creating its identity from the ground up is one and the same. Especially dig the way the song careens in and out of several tempo changes, all punctuated with staccato guitar blasts and the Rotten-esque Cockney bleating of vocalist Alex Turner. And while there are certain similarities with their U.K. labelmates Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys have emerged full-blown amid the rubble of post-modern rock. —RT

3. Neil Young Heart of Gold: Jonathan Demme’s filmed documentary is basically a faithful rendition of Young’s concert at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, introducing his latest album, Prairie Wind, last year. Performing under the specter of his own brain aneurysm and his father’s recent death, surrounded by family (including wife Pegi as backup singer) and friends who have played with him for more than 30 years, Young’s music takes on a wistful tone of mortality, at once nostalgic, but also fearlessly eyeing the future. “The Painter” sets the stage for the life of an artist, concerned with colors, textures and the aesthetic as the world passes before his eyes, but “It’s a Dream” is the emotional center of the work, a vision of life as a series of memories “without anywhere to stay.” “Here for You,” an empty-nester’s love song to his college-age daughter, evokes welling in the eyes, but it’s the set-closing songs not from the album—“I am a Child,” “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon,” “Old Man,” “Needle and the Damage Done,” “Comes a Time” and the solo finale, “The Old Laughing Lady”—that bring the trip full circle. Demme’s faithful adaptation, which concentrates on close-ups (making the impish Young look like a jowly Yoda) and the subtle interaction between the musicians, makes this one of the most beautifully filmed concerts ever, up there with both Scorsese’s The Last Waltz and his own Talking Heads film, Stop Making Sense, which is high praise indeed. It was well worth the $14 I shelled out to see it on the big screen with pristine digital sound at the lush ArcLight Cinema. —RT

4. Avenged Sevenfold @Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk: The only reason I was at this show was to accompany my 15-year-old daughter and her friend, and by the time I adjusted my sight to the flashing strobes and billowing smoke—not to mention the roar of the crowd—that greeted this Huntington Beach fivesome to the stage, the both of them had disappeared into the moshpit, where I warily kept an eye on them through the rest of the show. Like System of a Down, Coheed & Cambria and Mars Volta, ASX, as their fans refer to them, stand at the apex of punk, speed-metal and prog-rock, a ranting, roiling mass of catharsis accompanied by a blast furnace of molten riffs. Like such nu metal Brit practitioners as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, Sevenfold feature dual, dueling, flame-throwing guitarists in the well-named Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance. The tattooed and very chiseled and muy macho vocalist M. Shadows nevertheless channels both Priest’s Rob Halford and Queen’s Freddie Mercury... not that there’s anything wrong with that, pounding the stage on such numbers as “Beast and the Harlot,” “Burn It Down” and the signature “Bat Country.” They’ve already seen their third album, City of Evil, go gold with nary a media nod or a fan over 30, but the audience seemed to be made up of other bands in awe of their technique and sheer power. And with their non-stop, 75-minute-plus throttling roar, they make “rock & roll” groups like the Rolling Stones look every bit their age for a NASCAR-weaned generation raised on speed and noise. —RT

5. Firewall: This supposed high-tech thriller starring Harrison Ford as a bank technology security officer whose family is held hostage by bad guy Paul Bettany starts off promisingly enough with multiple film stocks showing how a man’s identity can get stolen under his nose—even a so-called expert at preventing such an occurrence. But, like most other American thrillers over the past few years, too-stylish-by-half British director Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon, Brimstone & Treacle) is unable to sustain the tension, while at the same time being forced to up the ante on the terror and violence. And no one has yet been able to figure out how to make typing on a keyboard a compelling visual act. When you strip away all the computer age jargon and graphics, we’re left with a standard cat-and-mouse chase, which is even less interesting these days than seeing someone crack a computer code. —RT

6. www.wolfgangsvault.com: A site that is apparently run by people who worked with Bill Graham Presents (Wolfgang was his birth name), it offers all sorts of vintage rock posters, concert T-shirts and music memorabilia connected with Graham-promoted venues like the Fillmores East and West, etc. And while they’re obviously trying to sell you merch, the site boasts a feature known as Vault Radio, original, unadulterated live tapes of classic performances by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dylan and the Band, the Allman Bros., Cream, etc., on random rotation, complete with dates and venues. I caught Zappa and the Mothers doing “Peaches En Regalia,” from a performance at the Fillmore East, June 5, 1971, which I was actually at. That evening, Zappa was joined onstage by John Lennon and Yoko, who proceeded to jam on a song called “Scumbag,” which featured Ono underneath a bag, and was later featured on the Mothers Live album and Lennon and Ono’s Sometime in New York City. Unfortunately, that’s not included here. —RT

7. www.mrkahoona.com: Only on the Internet. I stumbled upon this site quite accidentally, featuring a beatific-looking Indian man in a turban who dispenses advice on all sorts of pertinent matters, including (but not limited to) baldness, a small penis and securing a body for when you die, with homilies like “If you run hard enough, you’ll see your back” and his “Mantra of the Day,” all accompanied by exotic tabla-thumping, the inexplicable chirping of birds and the occasional belch. There’s also a series of subtitled ads for penis extenders and Kahoona Air that seem to be taken from commercials for foreign TV and soft-core porn videos. And there’s plenty of room for you to advertise as well. Weird. —RT

8. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Banana Recordings/Fierce Panda): I raved about their first single, “Formed a Band,” and its promise to “write a song that makes Israel and Palestine get along” several weeks ago, but the album is filled with the kind of gung-ho amateur spirit and communal vibe that British rock & roll still cherishes, but is mostly absent in U.S. pop music, except for hip-hop. Arising out of an art collective, they are anything but arty, with a straight-forward approach to songs that are just about what they say they are, including “My Little Brother” (“...discovered rock & roll/There’s a noise in his head and he’s out of control”), “Modern Art” (“...makes me want to rock out”), “Good Weekend,” “Bad Weekend,” and the instant classic “Moving to L.A.” (“I’m considering a move to L.A.... Hang around with Axl Rose/Buy myself some brand-new clothes”). —RT

9. Martha Logan: The President’s First Lady, as played by Designing Women’s Jean Smart on 24, is based on the real-life Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell, who regaled the press with late-night phone calls during the Watergate scandal detailing conspiracy theories and, like the Smart character, was discredited as a wacko loose cannon by the White House. Burning a gaze through her indecisive husband as he waffles on terrorist demands and tries to squirm out of his skin, Logan is the conscience of her country, but at the same time, a meddlesome wife that “doesn’t get the realpolitik.” The yin-and-yang of that position is placed in stark contrast by the extreme circumstances, with Smart reflecting the anxiety in her eyes as the president’s wife tries to maintain a First Lady-like demeanor and kick her weak-willed husband’s ass at the same time. —RT

10. Elvis Costello's Grand Ole Opry debut @Ryman Auditorium, Nashville: With Emmylou Harris as hostess, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, Fats Kaplan and Viktor Krauss as his back-up all-acoustic hillbilly band, the man who cut a tenderly bleeding "Good Year for the Roses" on his punk country tribute Almost Blue all those years ago made a vintage debut on the Mother Church of Country Music, the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. Costello's reverence was deep and sincere, embracing Whisperin' Bill Anderson's "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face" with an intro that marveled at meeting the Opry mainstay the previous evening, an almost elegiac "Love Hurts" and Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," plus the more modern Gram Parsons' "Wheels" and his own "American Without Tears." Gillian Welch delivered the knee-buckling gospel witness "The Keys to the Kingdom" to the beyond, playing cocktail drum...and so it went. Sixty minutes of magic and merging that could've only happened at one place: the Grand Ole Opry on a Saturday night. —Holly Gleason

Re: Transamerica, which I haven't seen—only just saw Capote and White Ray…er, excuse me, Walk the Line…this week at the half-price place moments from my folks' retirement village in Florida (both flix good, but not as great as I'd been led to expect—Hoffman astounding, Witherspoon a dynamo, but Phoenix, too—I dunno, obtuse or something—leaving a hole in film's center)... Specifically, since I am in Fla., I suspect that, like here in Del Boca Vista, the elderly in question are of New Deal/Great Society generation/urban liberal Jew stock. Other parts of this land they may not even dare to show that flick, I dunno. Then again, when we did a gay-rights debate on Larry King Live after Brokeback Mountain (which ah ain't seen neither) won the Golden Globes, one of our guests was the out gay ex-mayor (now councilman) of Casper, Wyoming—where Matthew Shepard was murdered. Anyway, you hadda be in the clubhouse exercise room here this week, where I'm working off the brisket with which my mom shtups me. Nothing but old ladies on treadmills hooting with glee at CNN stories on Cheney jokes and T-shirts ("Ready! Fire! Aim!" and "Shoot first... Refuse to answer questions later") and snorting, "Too bad he didn't shoot himself...or that BUSH! Oooh! When I see HIM, I have to turn the channel!!" Re: Winter Olympics: I have to agree for the most part... especially, sorry, with these ludicrous extreme sports deals. The Flying Tomato: athlete or total fucking goof? (I also have issues with ESPN giving NASCAR the time of day. That ain't no fuckin sport, sorry. Sure, it's a skill... but so's being a plumber, a waiter, a prostitute...). Yet I do get sucked into the figure-skating drama (how bout Johnny Weir's missed-bus diva meltdown?!). And the traditional skiing is too redolent of vintage Wide World of Sports moments with Jean-Claude Killy and Franz Klammer not to still dig (but memories of Chris Economacke in the pit still don't sell me on auto racing!). Re: Buzzcocks, you know how much I love them (I still vividly recall listening to 45s of "I Don't Mind" and "What Do I Get" at Trakin’s place on 25th St....not to mention "the fake Pete Shelley"), and the Kinks are my very fave Brit Invasion band—yet I never saw that connection and only really see it now in terms of the career-sloggers-deserving-greater-acclaim-on-artistic-merits angle. I can see the Clash-Beatles analogy, especially as counterpoised to the Pistols (as Xgau put it way back when the Pistols wanted to tear it all down, the Clash offered a hope of building it back up), but I always saw the Buzzcocks as the Punk Beatles if only for their brilliance at love songs. Then again, their love songs were usually LOST love songs and thus oozed melancholy—a defining Ray Davies trait. So hats off to ya! Michael Shore ([email protected])

Friday, Feb. 24
Head Automatica & Morningwood @ Recher Theater: Towson, MD

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club w/ Elefant @ Exit/In, Nashville

Lakers vs Clippers @ Staples Center (ESPN, 5, 9): The Clippers come in hungry after losing their last five in a row on the heels of an impressive road trip. The Clips have added some more weapons to their team and will look to get back on the winning track against the rival Lakers. The last clash saw Kobe score a bunch in a row to bring the Lakers back from a double-digit deficit in the second half before the Clippers took the lead back in the final seconds, with Kobe hitting another amazing shot to win it. The Clippers will need to bring their A game in order to slow down Kobe.

BET Presents Ginuwine w/ Jagged Edge, Donell Jones & Case @ Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City

Digital Underground @ House of Blues on Sunset.

Saturday, Feb. 25
New York Comic-Con Show @ Jacob Javits Convention Center: The first New York edition includes everything from informal panels to conferences to screenings. Among the top animators in attendance will be Neal Adams, the man who resurrected Batman into the modern world at DC Comics; Todd MacFarlane, the hugely successful creator of Spawn; and Kevin Smith, the indie filmmaker and avid comic buff. Feel the draw?

Mardi Gras @ The Farmers Market in Los Angeles: One of SoCal’s biggest Big Easy events of the year, with a weekend blowout of food, music and revelry just before the Lenten season of reflection and abstinence begins.

Ragga Muffins Festival featuring The Wailers, Matisyahu, Gregory Isaacs and more!! @ The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium: San Francisco

Relient K w/ The Rocket Summer @ McDonald Theater: Eugene, OR

Il Divo w/ Hayley Westerna @ Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City

Sunday, Feb 26th
New York Comic-Con Show @ Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Sevendust w/Wicked Wisdom (featuring Jada Pinkett Smith), Social Burn and more @ House of Blues on Sunset

The Legend Buddy Guy @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

Not a very big weekend as we wind down in February but look for the movies to start to get better kicking off next week with 16 Blocks, which could be the first really good movie of the year.

Running Scared

Starring: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri, and Johnny Messner
Synopsis: A low-level gangster has the task of getting rid of the guns used in mob killings, which he's been doing by storing them in his basement for some reason. When the friend of his 10-year-old son steals one of the pistols and uses it to kill his violent stepdad, all hell breaks loose, as the mob flunky has to recover the gun before it falls into the cops' hands.
Thoughts: I only recently started seeing trailers for this movie, and you know what, I think it could be a sleeper. It is directed by Wayne Kramer who did The Cooler, another movie that was sort of under the radar but turned out to be an awesome movie.