Archive for December, 2008

Born to Run From Your Principles: Springsteen Partners With Wal-mart

Posted in music, politics on Wednesday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Yesterday it was announced that Bruce Springsteen would sell a new (another) Greatest Hits CD exclusively through Wal-Mart. He already has a Greatest Hits collection, and this one is certainly geared toward very new/casual fans who don’t own any of his CD’s. I don’t have a problem with that part of it. Nor do I mind that recently he’s been more than willing to appear on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and the upcoming Super Bowl.

What I do have a problem with is Bruce Springsteen getting in bed with a notorious corporation like Wal-Mart. I try to keep the art/music separate from the artist and his personal life and politics. But since Bruce has always been one to speak out on the socio-economical injustices in America and the world, he’s opened himself up to some sort of scrutiny. While I don’t begrudge him trying to make an extra buck or million, even through repacking old products and making mainstream TV appearances to maximize his exposure, I’m still a bit shocked that he would allow himself to be associated with Wal-Mart.

As many of you may already know, Wal-Mart has a notorious reputation as a company with serious blemishes on it’s record relating to worker’s rights and compensation, discrimination against women and minorities, the environment, and health care.

If you know me, you know that I’ve been a big Bruce fan since I was about 13 years old. I love his music, his legendary concerts always live up to the hype, and his willingness to speak out on social and political issues was almost always a little icing on the musical cake for those of us who agreed with him. But now this. Is it possible that Bruce’s record company cut this deal and Bruce had no choice or control to stop it? Maybe. But I doubt it.

Shame on you Bruce. Yea, there’s bigger fish to fry in this world… if you can still afford seafood in the present economy. And sure, I’m a hypocrite cuz there’s several things in my house made in China and I’ve inadvertently given money to companies with sketchy labor practices. But unlike myself, Bruce Springsteen is one of the few people in the world who has the money, power, and platform to not only say no to corporations like Wal-Mart, but could speak out against them.

Please visit the following sites for more information about Wal-Mart:

Wake Up WalMart
WalMart Watch/issues
Facts from the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices

Time Capsules 2008: the Inevitable Best Albums of the Year List Thingy

Posted in music, time capsules, top 10 lists on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

“Time Capsules” is our way of putting some of our favorite albums from particular years into a… little, um, time capsule so music fans can read our reviews of notable releases from various years. We were going to take the actual CD’s and launch them into space in real time capsules, or bury them in the ground so future generations and/or aliens could be sure to find the best CD’s preserved. But that seemed a bit pricey and foolish. Plus, aliens (and/or future generations) aren’t likely to go digging thru the ground looking for stuff, they’ll probably just poke around on the internet. Let’s hope they find this site sooner than later. Here’s the best of 2008:

THE BEST
The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely

THE RUNNER UPS (OR IS IT RUNNERS UP?)
Stephen Malkmus – Real Emotional Trash
Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creations Dark

THE BEST EP OF THE YEAR
One Day as a Lion – One Day as a Lion

THE REMAINING TOP 20
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig! Lazarus Dig!
Felice Brothers – Felice Brothers
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis – Two Guys With the Blues
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Metallica – Death Magnetic
The Roots – Rising Down
Beck – Modern Guilt
KRS-One – Maximum Strength
Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cardinology
Nas – the untitled album formerly known as Nigger
TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Kings of Leon – Only By the Night
Black Keys – Attack and Release
Mike Doughty – Golden Delicious
Bob Mould – District Line
Old 97s – Blame It on Gravity
Dr. Dog – Fate

THE ONE THAT DESERVES ITS OWN CATEGORY
Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs

THE BEST REMASTER/REISSUES
The Replacements – Tim and Pleased to Meet Me
U2 – Boy
Whiskeytown – Strangers Alamanac

THE ’07 ALBUMS PLAYED A LOT IN ’08 AS NEW TO ME
Public Enemy how you sell soul to soulless people who sold their soul
Magnolia Electric Company (Sojourner box… and all their stuff)
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch
Radiohead – In Rainbows
They Might Be Giants – Here Come the ABC’s


As always (if possible), don’t buy any of this stuff at BestBuy, Target or on Amazon. Support your local independent record store (while it still exists) and buy from them.

Axl’n’Roses Chinese Democracy

Posted in music on Friday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Just listened to this album. Not sure why.

If it sounds like an Axl Rose solo album dressing up as a Guns’n’Roses album for Halloween… it’s cuz that’s pretty much what it is. It’s not the first band to have one person keep the name and use it, but yea, this is an Axl & Friends album obviously. And honestly this album woulda been just as weak 15-16 years ago. So it’s not that I’m “disappointed after the long wait” cuz I was never waiting for it and never much of a Guns’n’Roses fan anyway.

The incomparable Chuck Klosterman started his review this way:

Reviewing Chinese Democracy is not like reviewing music. It’s more like reviewing a unicorn. Should I primarily be blown away that it exists at all? Am I supposed to compare it to conventional horses? To a rhinoceros? Does its pre-existing mythology impact its actual value, or must it be examined inside a cultural vacuum, as if this creature is no more (or less) special than the remainder of the animal kingdom? I’ve been thinking about this record for 15 years; during that span, I’ve thought about this record more than I’ve thought about China, and maybe as much as I’ve thought about the principles of democracy.

If you read his whole review, he’s actually quite generous and seems to actually like the album. My review goes like this: Part boring, part horrendous…. mostly forgettable soulless schlock rock. Okay Axl, go away for another 15 years thanks.

But Klosterman sums it up better:

Sometimes it seems like Axl believes every single Guns N’ Roses song needs to employ every single thing that Guns N’ Roses has the capacity to do—there needs to be a soft part, a hard part, a falsetto stretch, some piano plinking, some R&B bullshit, a little Judas Priest, subhuman sound effects, a few Robert Plant yowls, dolphin squeaks, wind, overt sentimentality, and a caustic modernization of the blues.

Of course Rolling Stone magazine has it in the top 10 of their Best Albums of the Year list, which makes sense for a magazine that puts Britney Spears and the Jonas Brothers on the cover.

But really, in the end it’s just hard to respect a guy who wants to be treated like a genius but cant even bother to show up for work. From TheAge.com:

Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose has been missing for two months.

The eccentric rocker has infuriated bosses at record label Geffen after disappearing without promoting the band’s long-awaited Chinese Democracy album, which was released last week 15 years after the last Guns N’ Roses LP.

A source told Britain’s The Sun newspaper: People have been trying to contact Axl for two months and he’s completely AWOL. It is frustrating because the album would have had a much better chance of going to number one if he had only been prepared to show his face.

You would have thought after spending all those years on an album you might do a few weeks of promotion.

Chinese Democracy was beaten to the number one spot in the UK album charts by The Killers’ Day and Age, which sold 200,000 copies nearly twice as many as Axl’s record, which is rumoured to have cost $13 million, making it the most expensive ever album.

The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe

Posted in music, video on Friday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Just found this cool version of the song “Old Enough” from the Raconteurs Consolers of the Lonely album. But this time Jack White and the boys rock it bluegrass style with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe. Intersting take on a great song, and a solid performance:

Thankful

Posted in misc.blurbs, photos on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank
Been lacking in posting new stuff to the blog lately. But since it’s that time of year, figured I’d share what I’m most thankful for: my beautiful son and his mama. Here they are, identities concealed, but still one of my favorite shots.

Keep an Eye on W

Posted in politics on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

As I mentioned in a previous post a few weeks ago… while we all bask in the afterglow of Barack Obama’s victory and follow news of his new administration (and the daily horrors about the economy), lame duck President Bush is quietly sticking it to us (and the environment) one last time.

From the Associated Press: “Angry environmentalists launched an online campaign Wednesday urging President-elect Barack Obama to undo a federal rule that clarifies when coal companies can dump mining waste in streams, calling it a long-awaited ‘parting gift’ from the Bush administration.

“North Carolina-based Appalachian Voices and others blasted Tuesday’s Environmental Protection Agency decision to endorse the mining rule as the death of freshwater streams and the likely start of a new surge in mountaintop removal surface mining across Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.”

Juliet Eilperin wrote in yesterday’s Washington Post: “The regulation got signoffs from the Office of Management and Budget and the Environmental Protection Agency this week and will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The change is intended to resolve a nearly five-year-old fight over how companies can dispose of the vast amounts of rubble and sludge created when they blow the tops off mountains to get to the coal buried below, although the incoming Obama administration could revisit the issue.”

In the New York Times, Robert Pear and Felicity Barringer write: “The rule is one of the most contentious of all the regulations emerging from the White House in President Bush’s last weeks in office. Mr. Bush has boasted of his efforts to cooperate with President-elect Barack Obama to ensure a smooth transition, but the administration is rushing to complete work on regulations to which Mr. Obama and his advisers object. The rules deal with air pollution, auto safety, abortion and workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals, among other issues. The coal industry could be the largest beneficiary of last-minute environmental rules.”

‘This is unmistakably a fire sale of epic size for coal and the entire fossil fuel industry, with flagrant disregard for human health, the environment or the rule of law,’ said Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund.”

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