Neo-Soul Whities : Aioli Vs. Mayo

Today on The Singles Jukebox, we encountered a new Amy Winehouse single. Next week, we’ll deal with Christina Aguilera’s new (not for want of a better word) “joint.”

What strikes me about these two singers (and the wildly disparate levels of popularity that both have acquired) is how both employ strikingly different methods and achieve very different results, but both are more or less reaching for the same golden apple. Both are white girls who sing against a backdrop that recalls the “classic” soul sound. Christina Aguilera started her career as an oversinging sub-Britney Spears and is now an oversinging sub-Joss Stone. Amy Winehouse, though awarded plaudits and praise in her native UK, can’t get a record deal in the states for all the bloggers in Brooklyn.

The bothersome thing here is that everything you would want from a white pop star singing ostensibly “black” music is encapsulated in the young Ms. Winehouse - she’s effortlessly strong-throated, naturally attractive, and presents a (for want of a better phrase) positive role model for teh ladies - smart, vulnerable but tough, etc.

On the other hand, Scaguilera has pretty much gone through every phase of tartdom, so her neo-soul is strictly of the Janie-Come-Lately variety. Besides, all the DJ Premier beats in the world can’t rescue you from a history of looking like a complete skank for publicity. None of which would bother me, but the bitch cannot sing.

But don’t take my word for it… their two current singles:

Amy Winehouse - “Rehab”

Christina Aguilera - “Hurt”

Amy moves on to a strikingly Motown-derived sound, far afield from her more contemporary debut yet still enticing (though I stand by my 6/10 rating). Xtina moves… nothing but my sense of pity for this tired, rubbish country.

October 31, 2006. Uncategorized. 1 Comment.

Ladytron & CSS @ the Meridian, 10.22.06

Last night’s show was atThe Meridian, a downtown venue across I-59. Large dancefloor, expensive drinks, good sound, no complaints.

CSS opened and have honed their live sound considerably since July. (Though they played exactly the same set.) Before, they seemed to lean on a punk-rock exhuberance and went a bit strong on the nasty guitar sound. Last night saw them sounding loads more balanced, a lot closer to the sound of the album, but a bit punchier and still nicely guitar-heavy. Lovefoxx was in particular form - spouting non sequiturs and random jabber before, in between, and during the songs - sometimes taking the form of directives to the audience. “You go get a drink!” “Everybody needs to shave! I am very hairy right now!”

The crowd was fairly responsive to CSS, even some of those who had been spotted by yours truly while waiting in line saying, “the opener is… CSS… whatever that is.” (In fact that particular person was so enthusiastic they ruined at least several good photos with her big fat arm. Ahem.) But there was definitely no question as to who the mass of black-clad bodies had come for. Ladytron go on to screams and hollers, and in return had a special Houston-arific backdrop during their first number, flashing a big “HELLO HOUSTON” and showing sped up and treated footage of downtown, the skyline and a highway exchange or two. (Lord knows we have plenty.) They played a solid set, injecting some jaggedness and noise into their sometimes overly clean sound, but still keeping it smooth enough to keep the heads bopping.

Lord knows synthpop can lead to some stilted performer-crowd interactions, but (Martin Gore strike me dead) Ladytron seemed almost warm, thanking the massed trendoids, even commenting on the great reception they’ve gotten in Tejas in general and Houston in particular. They certainly didn’t hold back for the encore - they must’ve been off stage for a minute at most (no bong hits for this lot) - when they popped back in and delivered ass-kicking versions of “Send Me A Postcard,” “The Last One Standing,” and an eagerly-awaited (by me at least) “Destroy Everything You Touch.” All told, an excellent reminder of how great this band can be when they’re on - a fact I’m too often neglectful of. Well, no more sir!

October 23, 2006. Uncategorized. No Comments.

MTM Last Show Set List Found! Huzzah!

I found it!

October 14, 2006. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Growing Old Disgracefully

The genial lie that most self-appointed cultural historians would love you to swallow is that young, “hungry” artists make vibrant art but, as time goes on, they become mellow, gentrified parodies of their former selves. While I won’t dispute this on the whole, I do think that the overall picture is a bit more complicated. Notwithstanding what the ravages of time can do to ones’ very vocal chords, some of our greatest singer-songwriters (though I loathe that term) manage to wrangle some of their greatest work while in the latter portion of their careers - I’m thinking Waits, Cohen (up until his recent Sharon Robinson-curated downturn), Prince, etc. All have had “comebacks” ranging from moderate to formidable, all suggest the distinct possibility that the most interesting things they have to say may be, as yet, unspoken.

For years Caetano Veloso, he of the unassailable early cred as pioneering Brasilian composer and interpreter, has been drifting slowly but surely in the direction of mediocre balladry. Recent albums for Elektra Nonesuch have borne witness to a lush, orchestrated, inarguably gorgeous direction that lacked any of the grit and vibrancy of his early work. Veloso’s last record, the “tribute to American songwriters” A Foreign Sound cast him in a ghastly Rod Stewart-esque mould - sure, he covered “Come As You Are,” but the results were more Paul Anka than anything else. Stacked up against the usual suspects from the Great American SongbookTM and all yer Tropicalia begins to look like so much flash in the pan.

So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I turned to Ce, Veloso’s outright tribute to my old archnemesis Bob Dylan. Fortunately, it’s also his “rock” record - though there’s a great deal more “roll” here than anything else.

Son Moreno may be partly to blame for injecting the proceedings with a youthful energy, but I refuse to believe that this isn’t a Caetano show first and foremost. His singing, for one, hasn’t been this effortlessly edgy in years - listen to “Rocks,” which, umm… rocks. Elsewhere, the familiar smoothie of recent efforts is still in evidence - “Nao Me Arrependo,” which opens with the same three notes as “Walk on the Wild Side,” is more of a stroll, and trannies are conspicuous only in their absence. But there’s also a yearning here, a jazz-derived opening of the throat that Veloso’s avoided since his days on Verve.

The rest will have to wait upon a future, actual review of this record, as I’ve just received word that such a thing is pending… for now - let us revel in the fact that it’s never too late to learn some new tricks… well, maybe it is. But you can always relearn some old ones. And in the end, that’s more than enough to ask of those who have given so much of themselves to be cultural institutions rather than mere artists.

Here’s to being old as fuck! (Clink)

(Cross posted with Funky Funky 7.)

October 12, 2006. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Myra & Jerry Lee

bless our great land,
those wondrous
Defenders of the Faith
who dwell therein!

Standing guard above
such devillments of virtue
as naive,
unadorned and ignorant
turned so inwardly, so
so famillialy

And though, the
scorn of the faithful
cannot arrest the beating
of hearts, it stands
to Disapproval;
and though it
cannot alter
in one or any
the existence
of desire,
let it be the
burning mark of

Fuck that.
Better an ounce of forbidden lust
on Earth
than a King’s Ransom
of sanctimonious, judgemental
self-righteous “love”
in so-called

The beating of thy
Almighty wings, ’tis
but so much
beating-off, I fear.

Mallory O’Donnell, 2006

October 11, 2006. Uncategorized. No Comments.