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Friday
Jun102005

Nest of Vipers!


Because of what must have been some terrible mixup, I was not on the guest list for the Shiny Toy Guns show at the Viper Room. I was informed that I would be on the list as Johnny Metropolis, so you can imagine how embarrassing it was to say that to the bouncer and get denied.

Luckily, I am awesome, and after popping a Mentos® I walked around to the band entrance, picked up a keyboard case, and carried it inside.

Flawless victory.

At the show were my new friends B-Job and Robbo, both indie/electroclash DJs from Oklahoma of all places. To be fair, they are from Tulsa, a city that does have a reputation for being the 21st century oasis in Oklahoma’s vast and uncaring desert of hopeless bleak despair. It’s nice to like something from Oklahoma, you don’t get the chance often.

Both gentlemen were kind enough to let me hang behind the decks and pick up some DJ tips. Robbo wasn’t even two songs into his set when some bald old English fellow stumbled over to the booth and screamed at me, “PLAY BLUE MON-DIE!!” He came back in a short time and demanded we “PLAY SOME HAPP-AY MON-DIES!!”

I told him Robbo didn’t have any Happy Mondays, and asked what his hard-on for Manchester bands was all about. He laughed and said something like, “I’m impressed jfijfioeurj you know fjhosifjd Manchester muhnaustzzzz you’re alright, mate.”

That was kind of him to say, but I still wasn’t going to fuck him.

Shiny Toy Guns were characteristically excellent but the real surprise of the night was Boygirl. Check them out for yourself. I’d write more about their music and performance but I need to save it for my forthcoming electrocore review, which I am looking forward to writing with lots of colorful language and big words and spelling and grammar to make people think I know what I’m talking about. You know, as in not like this livejournal.

After the shows, I introduced myself to a girl I’d been chatting with on MySpace, but we didn’t get to talk much because her mohawk-sportin’ date teleported to her side almost immediately. I was impressed.

Sunday
Mar202005

Conspiracy.

There’s no doubt about it: conspiracy’s afoot.

It had long been my intention to discuss in my building’s monthly association meetings the outrageous behaviour of a few unknown residents concerning the communal shopping carts in the garages. As is the case with many apartment complexes, the sub-levels in my building are home to a small number of shopping carts— stolen, presumably, from various area supermarkets by a previous generation of residents whose bravery I cannot even begin to describe. It was certainly the hope of these heroes of old that the carts would be shared by future occupants in the spirit of courtesy and peace; to create in our own little piece of decaying and decadent Hollywood wretchedness something that Norman Rockwell would be proud of and perhaps wish to paint.

I shed tears of shame this day.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The betrayal of the most fundamental ideals of our foreresidents did not begin today, but several months in the past, when I was forced to scour the property for a cart after failing to find one in the garage elevator room, which had until then been the unspoken but plainly designated shopping cart storage bay. It was during this cart-hunt that I happened to glance over at one of the particularly expensive vehicles in the northwest corner of the garage.

Situated between the yellow luxury coupe’s front bumper and the garage wall was one of the COMMUNAL shopping carts. The owner of the hideous car had tried to HIDE THE CART behind his vehicle so he would always have one when he came home from the shopping!

WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? WHO DOES THAT?

All of this man’s female ancestors must have mated with decidedly inferior breeds of bulls in order to produce so genuinely worthless a specimen of humanity as he. But he wasn’t the only one. I discovered additional acts of EVIL in the weeks to come, and even now, months later, I am still unable to comprehend the unspeakable volumes of greed one must possess to embark upon such a despicable undertaking… god, some people are just so POOR EVIL… it makes me want to puke. It was all I could do not to write a livejournal entry about it.

But all that changed today. Today those fuckers have gone too far. As I was docking my automobile just now after a quick trip to Ralph’s® to pick up some shaved roast beef as well as some apparently magic crystals that keep my home free of the stench of cat waste, I saw what is easily the worst thing I’ve ever seen: shopping carts up against the wall of MY parking space.

Not one, but TWO. And in their customary interlocked configuration!

I’ve been framed, confirming once and for all that my home is, like, SO bugged. The perpetrators of these decidedly unneighborly shopping cart shenanigans are quite clearly in league with the building association’s board of directors — all of whom were elected — if not actually the board themselves. I’ve absolutely no public recourse now; all official channels are obviously closed to me. If I brought up the shopping cart situation in one of the meetings, I’d probably end up locked in the sauna and left to suffocate. No, my only choice — nay, there is no “choice.” There is but one path left for me, and it is the path to war.

I must become… a bat nusiance.

If my parents were dead, I would at this very moment wait a few weeks for it to rain again and go to their cemetery and swear on their graves that I will not let this aggression stand, man. I will dedicate my life or at least the next day or so to ridding my formerly safe building of all shopping-cart related CRIME. God, I hate CRIME! The next time I see that some bloated sack bastard has tried to conceal a shopping cart in their parking space, I am TOTALLY GOING TO MOVE IT BACK TO THE ELEVATOR, I MEAN IT. I’m going to do it again and again and again and again and again and again until they’re forced to give up their odious ways or just figure out they can keep the carts in their kitchens until they need them again like I do sometimes.

Saturday
Feb192005

Dress like your mother.

Attended a St. Patrick’s Day party last thursday (yeah, I know) at U.A.S. HQ in the LBC. It was pretty fun and good to hang with the whole squad together again, although I was a little surprised by the considerable fratguy contingent among the guests. Even the gay dude was a bro. There were also a bunch of pretty girls who wouldn’t talk to me.

Everyone was pretty drunk, but none more than this guy, Zack. When I pulled up around 10:30, I could see Zack stumbling around outside near the U.A.S. vehicle bay. It wasn’t long before I had to help him out of the bushes in which he’d prepared a small resting place for the night. I hate being that drunk, so drunk you’re compelled to run around outside and lay in the grass and fashion little habitats for yourself to curl up and die in. Poor fool. But I was still drunk enough to puke bright green rum & coke and fall asleep on the bathroom floor. God, it was so wonderful there. The regenerative properties of a nice, cool bathroom floor are unparalleled, but that treacherous bitch Becca kept waking me up each time I went back to puke. I fell asleep on the living room carpet while Becca watched Pirates of the Caribbean, and when I woke up, she’d finally passed out (she was more than a little wrecked, at one point exclaiming “I don’t know where my face is!”) Having determined for myself that my sobriety levels were within 30% or so of nominal, I quietly escaped from the estrogenical gulag in remarkable batman/ninja-like fashion and successfully negotiated my way back to Hollywood.

I spent the next day feeling like my stomach was a huge rusty bucket filled with green poison with a tiny pin-hole in the bottom and that I’d never feel well again until all of it dripped out. Tylenol® usually does it for my hangovers, but I suspect this one was compounded karmic interest for my having made it home safely and possibly worrying my friends. I did manage to get out for about an hour to celebrate my friend Blake’s birthday at 4100 in Silverlake. I’m not sure if I like that place or not, but I had to go, since I expected Blake to come to my party, and I can’t if I don’t go to his. That would just be rude. I ran into some old friends there and invited them, too. I’ve been inviting people like it’s my fucking job. This thing might get out of hand.

Speaking of my fucking job, it looks like there might be some significant developments in that area in the near future. I’ve several new prospects, all of which are things I would enjoy, but I don’t want to jinx any of them by putting them down in print. Whenever I do something like that, whether it be about a job or a plan or a promise, whatever it is I’ve discussed never comes to pass. I’d like to do everything at once if I can. I’d have so much more to talk about at parties.

Went clubbing last night with Sexfro & $unny, who will be at my party, and Aaron & Nicole, those fucking Judases. Apparently Nicole’s favourite tattoo artist from NYC will be in a San Diego the weekend of my party, and Nicole just has to get inked by this one guy. Presumably, she’s already got a design ready that just about any of the innumerable tattoo artists in our neighborhood could reproduce faithfully, but she is a fickle witch of a girl and is dragging Aaron down there with her. I’m starting to feel like there may not be enough guys at this party, believe it or not.

Anyway, the club was good but S&$ left pretty early, apparently because they’d assumed I’d left when I disappeared for a while. I was actually talking to some cool girlz in a band, so it’s completely understandable that S&$ thought I must have just gone home alone or something. Once again I was quick with the party invitations, writing my e-mail address on a napkin, using the back of the friend-of-the-girl-I-was-interested-in as a makeshift desk. For those of you gasping in horror at the unchivalrousness of this act, you’d do well to remember that chivalry is an inherently sexist concept that serves to perpetuate the wholly inequitable position of women in our society, and really, by using that chick’s back as a writing surface, I stepped up to the plate for change.

And by that point I was pretty sure the girl I liked wasn’t into me anyway, so I didn’t give a fuck.

I think I might have missed the Pink-Dot® guy while I was writing this. Shit.

EDIT: I didn’t! Ha ha.

Thursday
Feb172005

Bombs over Alhambra.

Had lunch with the Old Arabic Crew™ last week. These meetings happen one Friday a month in a really awful Lebanese restaurant in Alhambra, and they’re attended by my father and six or seven of his cracked out friends and colleagues from back east (way, way east). Most of these guys are between late 60s and 70s and are retired from professions including: banking, real estate, import/exporting, consulting, film school chairmanship, professional gambling, weapons development and arms dealing. And I’m not kidding about any of that.

Naturally, I find these gentlemen to be educational instruments of great worth. Amou (“Uncle”) Roger— who used to travel the world for Lockheed Martin, teaching foreign military personal how to operate war machines — spent most of the lunch talking about what he learned at an investor’s conference in Florida a couple of weeks ago. I know these lunches sound horrifyingly dull, but I’ve occasionally enjoyed the rewards that come with listening to what men of their years and experience have to say. If you’re at all interested in making a shitload of money over the next few years, buy land in the sunbelt. New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada — these places are going to explode.

That fact prompted my Amou George (who’s recovering nicely from a 90 thousand dollar spinal cord operation) to explaim, “I hate Arizona. If there’s one place I truly hate, it’s Arizona.” He never explained why. Lots of funny stuff at these lunches, like my dad trying to tell jokes. I can’t even begin to figure out how to convey the hilarity of this in text form, but take my word for it: Dad is not funny. He tells horrible jokes and nearly collapses in a fucking fit of laughter because he thinks he’s so goddamn funny. Seriously, a fit. You’d think he was about to fucking die from laughing, the poor fool.

History and politics come after money on the list of conversation priorities, and that’s where things get really fun. Let me tell you something, these old dudes really have it in for the British. “As bad as this President is, Andy,” Amou George told me, “and don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand Bush —”

“Son of a bitch,” Amou Naseem interrupted, as he did nearly every time someone mentioned the President’s name.

“Everything is really the British’s fault!” George continued. “If you think about it, you can trace every fucked up thing in the world back to those goddamn Brits.” Which segued into a discussion of India’s independence, which segued into a discussion about Eisenhower telling the Brits and the French to “stay the hell out of Egypt” when they wanted to go in and reclaim the Suez Canal that Nasser had nationalized (in spite of the fact that the Brits and the French and the Israelis actually financed the canal’s construction) because Ike didn’t want Egypt going to the Soviets for help and because he was rumoured to have installed Nasser in the first place because Egypt’s previous leader King Faruk was supposedly a British puppet, which segued into a discussion about how Christians and Muslims always got along back in Palestine, which segued into a discussion about how Judaism is supposedly the only one of the “Big Three” that directly alienates people (“chosen people” and whatnot), which segued into a discussion about how the guy who designed the phrase “Judeo-Christian” was the greatest genius social engineer in history, which segued into a discussion of Newt Gingrich.

“Son of a bitch,” Amou Naseem said, again.

I gave up years ago trying to argue with my dad and his peers about the Jewish thing. I mean, I think any thinking person can understand, at least on an academic level, why older Palestinians might harbor some degree of prejudice for Jewish people, but the final straw came for me when I was visiting Dad and his mom and they tried to tell me the government’s anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft® was a Jewish conspiracy perpetrated out of jealousy over not making any money in computers in the 80s.

But these lunches aren’t just full of greed and hate.

“The greatest enemy of the Arabic people is themselves” is something I hear a lot. One thing you need to understand about Arabic people is the history. It’s not that Arabic people love history, it’s that history is in the blood. You can talk to any Arabic man of my father’s generation and they can tell you the history of the world. Every name, every place, every coup d’etat, every thing.

It’s heartbreaking to see how much pride they have in the history of the Middle East and talk about how it’s all turned to shit. Corrupt monarchies, warlords, despots, extremists… bleh. I’m really grateful to have spent my earliest years in a place like Abu Dhabi. I lived with Muslim neighbors; my mom was respected as a woman; we were always safe; and we had this amazing desert right at the end of the street that we used to shoot fireworks into at night.

Saturday
Feb052005

Coachella.

For my undying faith and relentless pursuit of truth and righteousness, the lord has seen fit to reward this humble servant with the most fucking fabulous Coachella lineup in the history of all things. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of my favourite bands are playing the festival, and I’m so excited it’s all I can do to not go outside and push models into traffic.

As many of you may already know, I have been waiting ten years to see The Prodigy in concert. One of the first bands I followed religiously, The Prodigy have in the past cleverly planned their US visits to coincide with times during which I was trapped in boarding school; visiting overseas; sick with chicken pox; immobile with depression; or consumed with a fierce obsession to crusade around the country and talk about freaky mutant people spanking each other. It’s unfortunate for the Prodigy that their first US performance in years is coming so many months after the release of their latest, underrated album,Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. Even the briefest of promotional tours — just Los Angeles and New York! — would have, I suspect, improved the disc’s sales considerably. As of this writing, AONO is generally considered a flop.

Reports of European shows have been exceedingly favourable, with news that mastermind Liam Howlett’s continued to develop and evolve many of the new tracks on stage, as well as reexamine the old classics (the new version of “Firestarter” is most welcome, as far as I’m concerned). As I said in my review last September, AONO is a booming proclamation of Howlett’s renewed vigor for songwriting (read: fucking you to death on the dancefloor), and I can’t wait to get rocked proper in the desert later this year.

AONO’s greatest strength is inspiration. It’s been a long time since I heard a dance record that so beautifully conveyed how much fun its creators were having during the production. Since, maybe, the last release by The Chemical Brothers.

Push The Button, released stateside last week, is (I think) the fifth album by the duo, whom, you may be surprised to learn, I was not a huge fan of as a kid. Probably thanks in part to my obsession with David Bowie and Brian Eno’s incalculably brilliant 1995 death-of-the-twentieth-century concept album 1.Outside, and because of my having been forcefully inserted into what was essentially a McCarthian, segregation era right-wing gulag of a town, I was extremely preoccupied with the idea of living in the future. As such, I gravitated towards music and fiction that my adolescent self felt would reflect the culture of and be mainstream in the new millenium. My favourite comics and films were things like Transmetropolitan, Cyberella, Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys,and Terminal City, and my music of choice was all but exclusively what they were calling electronica.

The Prodigy sounded like the future. Underworld sounded like the future. All the drum n’ bass, jungle, hardcore, trip-hop, rave, ambient, house, prog-house and the rest of those impossible genre classifications all sounded like the future.

The Chemical Brothers did not. Their music was too retro. The psychadelic imagery, the funky basslines and guitar licks, the old skool vocal samples and rap sounds; even the the soulful britpop singers created an all too organic experience for me to appreciate. In my mind I imagined us now living in apartments that looked like the insides of iMacs with pixilated Japanese text tattooed on our faces and listening to misshapen wave forms for sex music, not chilling out in a flannel beanbag with a Corona, a cigarette, a pair of Pumas® and mouthing the words, “the brothers gonna work it out” over and over.

Naturally, my 15 year old vision of the future never happened, electronica returned to the underground with a quickness, and I became a big Chemical Brothers fan. Also, I now drink Corona, wear sneakers and lip-sync, but no beanbag yet. Ironically, as the Brothers became “dancier” with each new release, I found myself most drawn to the first two albums (although I try to make it a point to listen to “Hey Girl, Hey Boy” almost every day — for strength). That’s probably why I like Push The Button so much; it’s a return to finding the best things about the music these guys love and spinning it (heh) into something new and glorious.

“Galvanize,” their bombastic lead single collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip (whom, for the purposes of this journal entry, I will pretend to know a lot about) is an instant Chems classic that actually improves with every listen (but avoid the radio edit, it’s definitely missing something), and they turn in yet another (potential) hit with The Charlatans’ singer Tim Burgess (“The Boxer”). Other standout tracks include the dirty hillbilly instrumental “Marvo Ging,” tribal and ethereal “Hold Tight London” featuring vocals by somebody called Anna-Lynne Williams and drums by The Charlatans’ drummer Joe Brookes, and “Believe,” the album’s only electroclash conceit with vocals by New Order tribute band du jour Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. And speaking of New Order, the Chemicals have, after several attempts over the last decade, finally written the New Order song they’ve always wanted to, and it is the stunning instrumental “Surface To Air,” easily their best album closer yet.

But Push The Button’s not all fun games. The Anwar Superstar collab “Left Right” is clearly the standout shit track of the album, followed closely by “Come Inside,” which may contain the most annoying vocal sample the Chems have used yet. A very respectable backing track saves “Come Inside” from total failure (instrumental mix b-side, fucking please), but nothing can save “Shake Break Bounce,” which is dire and stupid and goes nowhere and resembles the duller, more meandering tracks on the Prodigy’s Always Outnumbered….

All in all, a very successful comeback by The Chemical Brothers after the largely disappointing Come With Us. It’s a shame the Flaming Lips won’t be returning to Coachella this year, because a live performance of the excellent “The Golden Path” single would please me immensely. Even more tremendous than that would be New Order’s Bernand Sumner joining the Brothers on stage with his guitar for a rendition of their Surrender single “Out Of Control.” More orgasmic still would be the Chemicals joining longtime heroes New Order on stage to perform their amazing 24 Hour Party People collaboration, “Here To Stay,” the best New Order single since 1993’s “Regret.”

There is nothing I can possibly say about New Order that hasn’t been said before and doesn’t dramatically understate their importance. New Order are fucking heroes. There is absolutely no music produced in the last fifteen or twenty years that doesn’t owe something to those musicians, and it’s a tragedy that so few Amerikans seem to be aware of it. Hopefully this high profile festival appearance — which is to follow the release of their new album Waiting For The Sirens’ Call, already assessed by some journalists as the album of the year — will be a crash course for the ravers. Er, I mean punks…?

Eh, probably not, since Frank Black’s apparently the only one allowed to be an old, fat, ugly rock star anyway. Oh well, good luck, boys.

(and no, i’m not saying the Pixies suck, i’m saying the man’s getting on a bit, leave me alone it’s true)

Redemption and relevance in the eyes of fickle Amerikcan children seems to be a chief theme of this year’s Coachella festival, which brings us, finally, to nine inch nails.

Nobody on the ticket has as much to prove this year as NIN. Once considered by many fans (and now just many journalists and other musicians) to be on par with Nirvana as one of the most important acts of the 90s, Trent Reznor has squandered the people’s good will in remarkable Bush-like fashion. Following a hugely successful period in the mid-nineties that saw Reznor release the mega-selling, genre-defying masterpiece The Downward Spiral and its subsequent remix projects; tour with David Bowie; produce the Natural Born Killers soundtrack album, featuring yet another new song; launch his record label nothing with the debut of Marilyn Manson; produce and co-write Manson’s multi-platinum Antichrist Superstar; and record a lauded cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” for The Crow soundtrack, Reznor went into hiding, emerging briefly in 1997 with the Lost Highway soundtrack on his own nothing records, featuring the shockingly impressive “The Perfect Drug,” a single so anarchic in its style that it defies any accurate classification. It was impressive, to say the least, but its heavy drum n’ bass influence and pop chorus alienated some fans. I loved it, myself.

nine inch nails finally returned with 1999’s double-disc The Fragile, “their” first album in five years. The Fragile was a remarkable achievement in sonic artistry that set the production bar so high no major rock band has since reached it. Unfortunately, the album was impenetrable (and possibly too expensive) for basically everybody, and plummeted from the number 1 spot more quickly than any record ever had. The Fragile has aged clumsily since it came out six years ago. While the production and instrumentation remain very impressive, especially on the more experimental and instrumental tracks (which most casual listeners probably wouldn’t enjoy), about half the songs on the double-album feel shoehorned-in and would be better suited as b-sides. Reznor’s apparent lack of concern for grammar also hurts the album considerably (which is pretty damning, considering the run-on sentences in this journal). More bloated than epic, The Fragile would have made a brilliant single-disc album with accompanying EPs in the tradition of The Downward Spiral. Had this been the case, I think we would have been reading a lot of comparisons between The Fragile and Kid A, an equally difficult album that was still embraced by the public). There are a million ways to compare and contrast the two albums, and another million ways to speculate why one did better than the other, so I’m not going to go into it here, but I think it’s an interesting discussion. Unfortunately, having the discussion would mean someone would have had to actually listen to The Fragile, and such people are scarcer than girls who read Batman comics.

Six years absence after a total flop album is a recipe for suicide in today’s music industry (and yesterday’s, too, I suppose), yet tickets for the first new NIN tour dates in London are reported to have sold out in just twenty minutes, and somebody has enough faith in Reznor’s new album to give him top billing at the extremely important Coachella Music Festival, although it is true that nine inch nails concerts are by definition fucking brilliant, and that alone might be enough to ease any skepticism the Coachella promoters may feel. In any case, it will be very interesting to see what nine inch nails returns with in April.

Also appearing are lesser dieties Weezer, Wilco, The Faint, Fantomas, Josh Wink (who’s collaborated with Reznor before — another live duet, maybe?), Gang of Four, Roni Size, Junkie XL, M.I.A., and the great Dresden Dolls. It is my hope to see all these acts and to avail myself of the high content of underground hip-hop at this year’s festival. You know, so I can roll.

So thank you, O lord, for bestowing this concert lineup unto me, and for letting me get that hotel room fairly close and at a reasonable price.

Please, God, don’t let it suck.

And please don’t blow up my radiator again on the way out to the desert ok thnx God bye.