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June 23rd, 2015



NPR: In December 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union just months after Abraham Lincoln, from the anti-slavery Republican Party, was elected president. In April 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, S.C. Ten other states would eventually follow South Carolina in secession, forming the Confederate States of America. However, of the three flags the Confederacy would go on to adopt, none are the Confederate flag that is traditionally recognized today. The “Stars and Bars” flag, currently the subject of controversy, was actually the battle flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. After the war ended, the symbol became a source of Southern pride and heritage, as well as a remembrance of Confederate soldiers who died in battle. But as racism and segregation gripped the nation in the century following, it became a divisive and violent emblem of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups. It was also the symbol of the States’ Rights Democratic Party, or “Dixiecrats,” that formed in 1948 to oppose civil-rights platforms of the Democratic Party. MORE

THE ATLANTIC: Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston church, sat for an hour, and then killed nine people. Roof’s crime cannot be divorced from the ideology of white COnfederateFlagSkullsupremacy which long animated his state nor from its potent symbol—the Confederate flag. Visitors to Charleston have long been treated to South Carolina’s attempt to clean its history and depict its secession as something other than a war to guarantee the enslavement of the majority of its residents. This notion is belied by any serious interrogation of the Civil War and the primary documents of its instigators. Yet the Confederate battle flag—the flag of Dylann Roof—still flies on the Capitol grounds in Columbia.

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it. That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…

This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly COnfederateFlagSkullthe manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Those who have defended keeping the Confederate flag flying at the Capitol have often described it as merely a commemoration to the Civil War dead. But as the writer K. Michael Prince documents in “Rally ’Round the Flag, Boys!,” flags were not used in this way at the Confederate memorial on the Capitol grounds in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Only in later decades was the flag introduced — and steadily elevated in importance — to bolster the idea of white supremacy at moments when South Carolina’s Jim Crow-era government came under federal pressure to allow black citizens even nominal civil rights. Hence, the Confederate battle flag was displayed in the South Carolina State House in 1938, after angry Southerners in Congress managed to defeat a bill that would have made lynching a federal crime. They saw that law as an intrusion on what was often called “the Southern way of life.” The flag was brought into the State Senate two years after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. The flag was quietly moved up to a position of pride on the dome on the Capitol in 1962, after President John F. Kennedy called on Congress to end poll taxes and literacy tests for voting and the Supreme Court struck down segregation in public transportation. By this time, of course, the flag had been closely associated with racial tyranny. MORE

CNN: Now that the so-called Stars and Bars is linked to last week’s church massacre in Charleston, S.C., some flag manufacturers are having a serious discussion about whether they should continue to make it. “We don’t want to cause someone continued pain because what it represents,” said Reggie Vanden Bosch, president of the Flag Manufacturers COnfederateFlagSkullAssociation of America in Wayne, Pa. “We’ll definitely spend time as an industry group discussing that.” The group represents about 38 flag manufacturers and retailers. Vanden Bosch is also vice president of sales for Valley Forge Flag, a 133-year-old maker of flags from more than 200 countries, states, territories, and also branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. He said sales of the Confederate flag comprise a “miniscule” part of his overall business. MORE

Again, we utterly condemn Roof’s despicable killings, but they do not detract in the slightest from the legitimacy of some of the positions he has expressed.” The council’s site also has a statement from the organization’s president, Earl Holt III, saying, “The CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website.” MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Many of the themes promoted on the council’s website resonate through an online manifesto apparently written by Dylann Roof, who has been charged in the killings last week in Charleston. The manifesto traced the motivation for the shootings to a twisted epiphany: a Google search that led to the council’s website, where “pages upon pages of brutal black on White murders” were tallied and described. “I have never been the same since that day,” the manifesto attributed to Mr. Roof said. MORE

THE ATLANTIC: The manifesto is wrong on the facts. A 2014 report by the Sentencing Project found that the media empirically tend to over-report crimes with black offenders and white victims. But the group he cited, the Council of Conservative Citizens, has spent a great deal of effort trying to convince people that black-on-white crime is a real menace. (Journalists are often bombarded with publicity materials for White Girl Bleed COnfederateFlagSkulla Lot, a book purporting to reveal the truth about black-on-white crime.) MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Since it rose in the 1980s from the ashes of the old and unabashedly racist White Citizens’ Councils, the Council of Conservative Citizens has drifted in and out of notoriety. But it is clearly back in: Last weekend, three Republican presidential candidates — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky — announced that they were returning or giving away donations from the council’s president, Earl Holt III.

Since 2011, Mr. Holt has also contributed at least $3,500 to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who is expected to run for president. A spokesman for Mr. Walker said he would donate the money to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which is helping families of the Charleston massacre. All told, Mr. Holt, who did not return calls for comment, has given at least $57,000 to Republican candidates for federal and state offices. But those contributions, first reported by The Guardian, tell only part of the story of the council’s ties to Southern Republican officeholders. In the 1990s, the council counted influential Republican friends from town halls to the halls of Congress. Among those who have addressed its meetings were Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, at one time the Senate majority leader; Haley Barbour, a former national Republican chairman who was campaigning for governor in Mississippi at the time; and Mike Huckabee, the presidential candidate who was then Arkansas’ lieutenant governor.

More recently, Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina dropped a council official in her state, Roan Garcia-Quintana, from her re-election campaign’s advisory committee in 2013 after his COnfederateFlagSkullties to the group became public. In 1999, a cascade of reports linking Mr. Lott and other prominent Republicans to the council led the party’s national chairman, Jim Nicholson, to urge all Republicans belonging to the group to quit the organization, calling it racist. MORE

NPR: A two-thirds majority in both the state House and Senate is required to remove the flag. However, there may be a workaround, and the law itself could be changed by a simple majority. The Post & Courier has a running tally of state lawmakers and how they stand on the issue. At her press conference, Haley said if the legislature doesn’t finish its session by acting to remove the flag, she will call an additional session. Also under the 2000 compromise: lowering the flag requires approval of the legislature, which is why even after Haley ordered the American and South Carolina flags ordered to half staff following last Wednesday’s massacre, the Confederate flag remained at full staff. MORE

THE POST & COURIER: The Post and Courier has reached out to lawmakers across South Carolina to find out where they stand on removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. This is a work in progress, and we encourage you to keep checking back as we reach more legislators and update our results. We encourage any lawmakers reading this to get in touch with us and weigh in with their thoughts. We began polling lawmakers at about 9:00 am Monday, and have been updating this page with responses as we receive them. The collection of responses remains on-going. The page will update in real-time, no need to refresh. MORE

Flag Poll copy

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INCOMING: Bowie’s Golden Years

June 22nd, 2015

Bowie Box Set Cover


PARLAPHONE: On this day in 1971, David Bowie performed for the first time at what was then known as the ‘Glastonbury Fair’. Today in 2015 as the Glastonbury Festival approaches once more, Parlophone Records are proud to announce DAVID BOWIE FIVE YEARS 1969 – 1973, the first in a series of box sets spanning his career. The ten album / twelve CD box, ten album / thirteen-piece vinyl set and digital download featurs all of the material officially released by Bowie during the nascent stage of his career from 1969 to 1973. All of the formats include tracks that have never before appeared on CD/digitally as well as new remasters. Exclusive to the box sets will be Re:Call 1, a new 2-disc compilation of non-album singles, single versions & B-sides. It features a previously unreleased single edit of All The Madmen, which was originally set for a US release but was never actually issued. Also included is the original version of Holy Holy, which was only ever released on the original 1971 Mercury single and hasn’t been available on any official release since. Also exclusive to all versions of Five Years 1969 – 1973 will be a 2003 stereo remix of ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ by the album’s original co-producer, Ken Scott, previously only available on DVD with the LP/DVD format of the 40th anniversary edition of the album. The vinyl box set has the same content as the CD set pressed on audiophile quality 180g vinyl.The box set’s accompanying book, 128 pages in the CD box and 84 in the vinyl set, will feature rarely seen photos as well as technical notes about each album from producers Tony Visconti and Ken Scott, an original press review for each album and a short foreword by legendary Kinks front man Ray Davies. MORE

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BEING THERE: Morrissey @ The Academy Of Music

June 21st, 2015


Photo by DAN LONG

Two songs into his set at the Academy of Music on Saturday night, Morrissey paused to catch his breath and to beg the crowd to “save us from the memory of Delaware,” where he and his band were met by a sparse crowd of booing yokels at the Firefly Fest the day before. The near-deafening response made it clear that he’d get his wish. The packed house at the Academy got their wish, too: Moz more than rebounded from the Delaware disaster with an electric performance that kept the crowd on its feet for two hours and 20 songs that spanned from The Smiths years to Morrissey’s latest, World Peace is None of Your Business.

Thirty years to the month after The Smiths enchanted a room of fatalist misfits (including yours truly) at the Tower Theater, Morrissey is thicker and grayer — as are we all. His croon was in excellent form, however, remarkable considering the health problems that forced several rounds of tour cancellations last year. Let’s hope that a couple of off-mic coughs between songs isn’t indicative of any lingering trouble. The crowd at a Morrissey show knows that he’s not going to give them a cakewalk, as evidenced by the horrifying slaughterhouse footage projected behind the band during “Meat is Murder” and the medley of citizen-taped police beatings during “Ganglord.” They also know that they’ll be rewarded for their suffering with Smiths deep cuts like “What She Said” from 1988’s Rank and “Speedway” from 1994’s Vauxhall and I.

The encore, “First of the Gang to Die” from 2004’s You are the Quarry, was reminiscent of Morrissey’s gladiolus-flinging days with Marr & co., as a half-dozen adoring fans jumped on stage and ran to their hero for a hug before getting tackled by stage security. A clearly tickled Moz responded by switching the refrain “First of the gang to die / oh my” with “First of the gang to die / nice try.” Our conquering hero ended the show by tearing off his white shirt and throwing it to the screaming crowd. What a difference a few miles up I-95 makes. Suck it, Dela-where. – JOANN LOVIGLIO

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INCOMING: Summer Of Love

June 20th, 2015



I go way back with these guys, back to 2001 when they were just called Bill Ricchini [pictured, right], aka the Philly-native-turned-Brooklandian-ad-man pure-pop-for-now-people auteur/wunderkind who is, for all intents and purposes, Summer Fiction. Back then Ricchini was a dotbomb refugee who spent the unemployment benefits afforded him by his freshly-issued CDNow pink slip building a sad-sack bedroom-pop mini-masterpiece called Ordinary Time that worshipped at the altar of the three B’s — Beach Boys, Beatles and Bachrach. Critics swooned, chicks screamed, Jesus wept. He followed it up with the more-assured but-less-appreciated Tonight I Burn Brightly in 2005. After playing out that string, Ricchini took an early retirement from public music-making Bill_Ricchini_photoshoot9867and settled into a years long hermitage in the straight world of day jobs, domesticity and crock pot cookery. In 2010, he adopted the nom de pop Summer Fiction and threw his hat back in the ring with a self-titled collection of lush, sad-pop gems, most notably the standout single, “Chandeliers,” which really must be heard while watching this wonderful video (think Wes Anderson does French New Wave). Now comes Himalaya, the official soundtrack to your summer. Impeccably recorded in Manchester with former-Philly-music-scene-fixture-turned-Mancunian-ex-pat Brian Christinzio of BC Camplight fame behind the board, the new album sounds like it was recorded in an abandoned church with nothing more than Johnny Marr’s 1983 Black Rickenbacker 330, a bottle of Pernod and a candle. The guitars ring and chime and sparkle immaculately in between pristine silences, and the vocals map the velveteen intersections of heart and ache, invariably clustering into swooning Wilsonian chorales (most notably on the glorious Beach Boys homage of the title track) and Spectorian sighs. As with every Ricchini outing, Himalaya is a sun-kissed, windows-down ride to the gilded palace of mope where, as per Mike Love’s apocryphal complaint about Pet Sounds, even the happy songs sound sad. Gorgeous stuff. Resistance is futile. – JONATHAN VALANIA


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BEING THERE: Shamir @ Making Time

June 20th, 2015



Making Time celebrated its 15th anniversary in grand fashion last night at the Philly gayborhood’s Voyeur Nightclub, with a highly anticipated headlining set from dance-pop’s biggest and newest up-and-comer, Shamir. The 20 year-old sensation from Las Vegas has set himself apart from the pack with his breathtaking countertenor, lovely persona and vibrant variety of songs. Popping up on stage a few minutes after midnight to an immense roar from the hyped up crowd, Shamir knew exactly what kind of time the club was looking for as he kicked off his set with a pep in his step. Wild screams of bliss and countless individuals feverishly bouncing up and down told the story of Shamir’s 50-minutes of glory, especially during the performance of his extravagantly funky hit single “On The Regular.” Contrasting to the glamorous high-energy side of his repertoire, Shamir also incorporated a much more soft and delicate array of songs such as “Youth” (in which a full crowd sing-a-long was induced), an acoustic performance of “Darker” and the elegant “Head In The Clouds,” all of which showcased his strikingly androgynous countertenor voice. At the conclusion of his set, Shamir jumped into the crowd as the last song in his set wrapped up and began singing and dancing with members of the crowd, hugging people left and right and simply rejoicing in the beauty of the night. After his set concluded, I stood at the edge of the upper balcony watching him make his way through the crowd greeting everyone with a bright smile and gratitude in his eyes. I then came to the warmhearted conclusion that I want for nothing but greatness to come in the future of this wonderful young artist, and for him to continue pushing the boundaries of gender, music and self-expression until death do us part. — DYLAN LONG

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EARLY WORD: The Perfect Prescription

June 19th, 2015

Swamp Is On


R5 PRODUCTIONS: Back in 2013 both Dr Dog and the Pig Iron Theater Company were awarded a Fostering The Arts Grant from the Knight Foundation. Two years and hundreds of meetings later they will finally present their work with a four night stand at Union Transfer in September. A full collaboration between one of Philly’s most popular bands and the award winning experimental theater company. We don’t want to give away too much right now other than the collaborative effort will transform Union Transfer like you have never seen it before, a complete take over of the space in our venue. Their “experiment and transmission” will begin at 8pm each night followed by a full concert by Dr Dog. Tickets go on-sale this afternoon at 12 noon. We HIGHLY recommend getting tickets for this unique show as we expect all four nights to sell out. We are super excited to share more information about this special event as we get closer. Hope to see you there!

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TONITE: Shamone It

June 19th, 2015



VILLAGE VOICE: Almost overnight, Shamir Bailey became something of a hero. At this time last year, he was releasing his first EP, the five-track Northtown, named for the Las Vegas suburb from which the singer-songwriter hails. Immediately, the EP showed a rare promise, garnering positive reviews for its clever meld of smart synth-pop and disco-inspired beats. And then there was Shamir himself: an über-stylish youngster, barely twenty, with a voice that sounded surprisingly like Nina Simone’s. He was entirely self-styled, from the way he sang and the smart construction of infectious songs that lay just somewhere left of mainstream pop, to his vibrant sartorial choices, to his nonchalant deconstruction of gender. Like Madonna, like Prince, like Beyoncé, “Shamir” became an immediate and singular brand, the kind of artist the world can identify simply, by only one name, because there is no one else to compare them to. In May, Shamir released his first full-length LP, Ratchet, on XL Recordings, to pretty much universal acclaim. The record was produced by Nick Sylvester, the Godmode label founder and former Pitchfork staffer who recorded and released Northtown on his Brooklyn-based imprint after Shamir sent him some demos. Like the EP, Ratchet is an eclectic blend of genres – R&B, disco, rap, funk, house – bursting with hooks and sharp turns of phrase. It’s a collection of songs you can hear once and never get out of your head, a glorious whirlwind of party anthems that manage to be heartfelt and distinctive. MORE


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BEING THERE: Robert Plant @ The Mann Center

June 18th, 2015


Photo by DAN LONG

Flash back to 1972 in South Plainfield, NJ. I’m three years old. My earliest memories are of my father and I pulling the pots and pans out of the cupboard and setting them up like rack toms on a Ludwig kit because he and the drunk and stoned partygoers who were at my house every weekend were ripe and ready to watch me do my thing: the outro of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll.” Bonham’s mini-solo/big finish was in my hands now. Wooden spoons in hand, I blasted out the fills with such vigor – in my mind the spoons had flames shooting out of the ends and I nailed every hit perfectly. In the eyes of the bikers, truckers, and ne’er do wells at the party, I was a total spazz that had them guffawing until tears streamed down their cheeks as they cheered me on for an encore.

Shortly thereafter, around age five, as my fragile brain started to make more connections and Zeppelin became absolute magic to me. Nothing had ever taken my mind and soul and transported both into another dimension like this music. Listening to “The Battle Of Evermore,” the Eagle animal spirit flies me over the evergreen forests through the rising mist at 60mph. “Misty Mountain Hop” still flashes visions of denim-clad, boot-wearing cool guys hanging out in the sunshine smoking that stuff that smelled like burning rope. “Going To California” lit a fire in my heart that felt like it would lead me to my wife someday. Zeppelin made me want to be a magician when I grew up. Not the “pull bunnies out of a hat” magician, but one who can make things happen through the focus of my own will. Pretty fuckin’ cool shit for a five year old.

I’ve never lost my love for Zep over the years, except for the letdown of Jimmy’s drunken string plunking at Live Aid, and Robert’s pained overreaching, despite his diminished vocal range. His solo career has always been admirable, whether his “Big Log” days or The Honeydrippers or the Grammy-winning Raising Sand with Alison Krauss — all those stylistic changes always seemed to fit him like a glove.

Fast forward to last night’s Zeppelin-rich set. I had been telling two of my School of Rock friends (who are incredibly talented female vocalists) right before the show, to not be too disappointed with Robert’s voice if he tries to go for the upper register. I couldn’t have been more wrong as they opened with “Wanton Song” and he nailed every note. The crowd went nuts for all things Zep with “Black Dog,” “The Rain Song” (my wife and I had our first dance on our wedding day to this), “Trampled Under Foot,” “The Lemon Song.” Note that most of these gems start out in straight up Zep style, but midway through get broken down and deconstructed into World Music versions barely resembling their former album version selves. That’s the Plant style, which got dangerously “Dave Mathews-y” during a few tunes (yeesh!). When they jumped into a sped up “double-time boogie woogie” jam during “Whole Lotta Love” (or was it “Rock & Roll”?), I thought I was gonna blow chunks. It sounded like Zeppelin on Broadway. Nevertheless, Plant and company kept up a great energy level and the crowd responded in kind. A sustained roar pf applause brought them back quickly for a well-deserved encore. Every face I saw had a huge grin on it, mine included. It was that kind of gig. – DAN LONG

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HOT DOCUMENT: Message From Neil Young

June 18th, 2015



Yesterday my song “Rockin’ in the Free World” was used in an announcement for a U.S. presidential candidate without my permission.

A picture of me with this candidate was also circulated in conjunction with this announcement but It was a photograph taken during a meeting when I was trying to raise funds for Pono, my online high resolution music service.

Music is a universal language. So I am glad that so many people with varying beliefs get enjoyment from my music, even if they don’t share my beliefs.

But had I been asked to allow my music to be used for a candidate – I would have said no.

I am Canadian and I don’t vote in the United States, but more importantly I don’t like the current political system in the USA and some other countries. Increasingly Democracy has been hijacked by corporate interests. The money needed to run for office, the money spent on lobbying by special interests, the ever increasing economic disparity and the well-funded legislative decisions all favor corporate interests over the peoples.

The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling is proof of this corruption, as well as the proposed trade deals, which would further compromise our rights.

These Corporations were originally created to serve us but if we don’t appropriately prioritize they will destroy us. Corporations don’t have children. They don’t have feelings or soul. They don’t depend on uncontaminated water, clean air or healthy food to survive. They are beholden to one thing – the bottom line.

I choose to speak Truth to this Economic Power. When I speak out on corporations hurting the common man or the environment or other species, I expect a well-financed disinformation campaign to be aimed my way.

Such is the case with the reaction to my new album The Monsanto Years, which covers many of these issues. I support those bringing these issues to light and those who fight for their rights like Freedom of Choice.

But Freedom of Choice is meaningless without knowledge.

That’s why it’s crucial we all get engaged and get informed.

That’s why GMO labeling matters. Mothers need to know what they are feeding their children. They need freedom to make educated choices at the market. When the people have voted for labeling, as they have in Vermont, they need our support when they are fighting these corporate interests trying to reverse the laws they have voted for and passed in the democratic process.

I do not trust self-serving misinformation coming from corporations and their media trolls. I do not trust politicians who are taking millions from those corporations either. I trust people. So I make my music for people not for candidates.

Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.

- Neil Young

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

June 18th, 2015




Screenwriter Oren Moverman talks with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about the film’s depiction of the Beach Boy’s troubled life. We’ll also listen back to an interview Gross recorded with Wilson in 1988.

PREVIOUSLY: Love & Mercy tells the harrowing, heartbreaking story of the life of Brian Wilson — Beach Boys auteur and resident genius — which goes like this: Angel-headed boy from Hawthorne, California, at the dawn of the 1960s, smitten by the harmonic convergence of The Four Freshman and the shimmering Spectorian grandeur of “Be My Baby,” forms band with his two brothers and asshole cousin, calls it The Beach Boys, writes uber-catchy ditties of Zen-like simplicity about surfing, hot rods and girls (despite being slapped deaf in his right ear by his sadistic tyrant of a father), boy becomes international pop star, boy has nervous breakdown and retires from touring and retreats to the studio where he gets into a race with the Beatles to get to the next level, boy takes LSD, boy blows mind, boy sees God, boy starts hearing strange and beautiful music in his head, boy plays the studio like an instrument, sings choirs of angels, creates music of overarching majesty, astonishing beauty and profound sadness, boy makes greatest pop album of all time (Pet Sounds) and the greatest song of the 20th Century (“Good Vibrations”), boy starts hearing terrifying voices in his head, beset by demons Beach Boys With A Surfboardfrom within and without (his sadistic tyrant of a father, his asshole cousin) boy loses mind and, eventually, the confidence of his band mates who pull the plug on his game-changing “teenage symphony to God” originally called Dumb Angel, but later re-titled Smile, boy retreats into a years-long bedroom hermitage of Herculean drug consumption, morbid obesity and sweet insanity, columnated ruins domino, family hires Mephistophelian psychiatrist/psychic vampire Dr. Eugene Landy (played with satanic aplomb by Paul Giamatti), who switches out boy’s steady diet of cocaine, LSD, sloth and love_and_mercy_xlgself-pity for a zombie-fying regimen of prescription narcotics, fitness Nazism, and 24-7 mind control, boy meets girl (Melinda Ledbetter, his soon-to-be second wife, played by a big-haired, puffy-shouldered Elizabeth Banks) at a Cadillac dealership and falls in love, girl rescues boy from the clutches of evil doctor, boy lives happily ever after, or a reasonably close approximation thereof.

Pretty simple, really.

Granted it’s not a story that lends itself to the linear-flow cradle-to-grave biopic treatment, which is no doubt why Love & Mercy director Bill Pohlad (executive producer of Brokeback Mountain, 12 Years A Slave and Tree Of Life) and screenwriter Oren Moverman (I’m Not There, Jesus’ Son) elected to craft a bi-polar narrative that switches back and forth from the middle-aged Brian (played with aptly vacant affect by John Cusack, who eschews impersonation for for understated evocation) and young genius Brian (played with doughy intensity and uncanny resemblance by Paul Dano, who does not so much impersonate young Brian Wilson as inhabit him), in a race to the middle where they collide in the time-space-continuum of Brian’s bedroom in a mind-bending montage that is both loving homage and direct quote of the mysterious metaphysical endgame of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ancient, iconic moments of Wilsonian mythos — the barefoot, white Chinos- &-blue Pendelton shirt-wearing, surfboard-toting photo shoot idylls; the terrifying nervous breakdown at 20,000 feet; the acid-fueled, poolside transfiguration; the Wrecking Crew’s adoration of his otherworldly compositional prowess; the drug den wigwam in the living room and the piano in the sandbox; the fireman-hatted Smile session meltdown; the prison of belief in Landy’s methods (less a therapist than a sinister puppeteer) — are recreated in arresting, picture-perfect period detail. The cinematography nails the shifting tone and color and tint of the times and the score and sound design is suitably mind-altering. Pedestrians may quibble, but that will fall away in time. Love & Mercy is a grand and lasting monument to the noble beauty wrung from one man’s epic suffering. It is the story of Icarus on the beach, of the boy who got too high — flew too near the sun on wings of wax — and the man who fell to Earth. – JONATHAN VALANIA

PREVIOUSLY: Discussing Love & Mercy With Brian Wilson

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THE BEING THERE: Dillinger Escape Plan @ UT

June 18th, 2015


Anybody who knows anything about thrash-y Jersey mathcore avatars The Dillinger Escape Plan went into Union Transfer last night expecting non-stop moshing, crowd surfing and acrobatic stage diving. But last night the barrier that usually separates the fans from the stage at these sort of shows was duly absent, which of course only further encouraged reckless stage-diving havoc while packing the front three rows of fans together smack up against the front of the stage like smelly, headbanging sardines. Mutoid Man, the supergroup consisting of members from the heavy hitting Cave In and the legendary Converge (one of my favorite groups live, ever) wasted absolutely no time heating up the room with their hasty riffs and relentless drum fills, finally awakening the crowd into the first frenzied pit of the event after a relatively dormant presence during openers Rosetta and Primitive Weapon. Sweet melodies of fast-paced thrash punk bounced around the room just like the by-then dripping-in-sweat moshers as the three-piece wrapped up their set of brain-melting punk rock, giving way to the entrance of The Dillinger Escape Plan. As DEP’s madman lead singer Greg Puciato appeared on-stage, the crowd immediately began morphing as the pit rapidly widened, pushing all onlookers up squished together against all four walls of the steamy punk rock purgatory Union Transfer had become. The pitch black room suddenly lit up with a seizure-inducing wall of strobe lights, and The Dillinger Escape Plan immediately kicked off their psychotic set with the killer “Mullet Burden,” causing countless fans to succumb to the all out sweaty blitz of a mosh pit that took full formation within seconds. Churning out disturbing anthems such as “Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants” and “Panasonic Youth,” upside-down bloodied up teenagers littered the crowd as the contorted stage flips maxed out at 30 kids a minute. Bodies continued pouring back out into the crowd and an accelerated rate, leading up to the climactic finale where Dillinger invites up as much of the crowd as humanly possible up on stage, which with the lack of a barrier and the energy of the crowd, was accomplished within 60 short seconds. The madness hit its absolute peak when the band climbed on top of their amps for the closing classic, “43% Burnt,” an the entire stage exploded into an uncontrollable moving mass of bodies, culminating in a brilliant 10-foot stage dive by Mr. Puciato. After successfully shoving every single stage-crasher back into the pit, now slippery with sweat and saliva, The Dillinger Escape Plan concluded their session of intense hardcore degeneracy and exited the stage, leaving a powder burn on the collective face Philadelphia once more. — DYLAN LONG

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June 18th, 2015



It’s surprising that the term “supergroup” hasn’t garnered a more negative connotation. Every time a new one pops into existence, the band almost always fails to live up to its quixotic expectations, giving fans and music writers nothing more than just a really bad case of musical blue balls. There’s a lot of reason to believe that the newly formed FFS (acronym for Franz Ferdinand + Sparks) might be deemed for the same fate. The band, as their name ever-so-creatively suggests, is a conjunction of both noughties Scottish dance-rock band Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, a willfully cheesy LA-based glam band who’s enjoyed a cult following since forming in the early 70s. Statistically speaking, the band’s four Franz Ferdinand-derived members make up for 66.6% of the group, while the other two members, brothers Ron and Russell Mael from Sparks, complete the remaining 33.3%. However, the band’s sound is closer to the inverse, as the album entirely consists of a synth-driven sound, lending itself more to the likes of Sparks than Franz. But before you throw FFS into the “forgotten” bin along with The Firm, the Damn Yankees and Chickenfoot, you should know that there’s some needles in this haystack. See: “So Desu Ne.” The song begins with a catchy synth riff, and is kept alive by an equally catchy chorus. The album’s lead single, “Johnny Delusional” is also worth a spin on your turntable, even if Alex Kopranos’ choppy-yet-anthemic lead vocals might remind you of The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gotta Be (500 Miles)” at first. Rounding out the record is “Piss Off,” a last-ditch attempt to salvage what is a mostly mediocre album. But with lyrics like “Tell everybody to piss off tonight,” “They should piss off and leave you alone in your world tonight” and then adding “piss off” five more times, it becomes clear that FFS relies too heavily on their catchy sound and needs work at the whole “writing good lyrics” thing. – TOM BECK

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HOW TO GROW UP TO BE A DEBASER: An Intensely Personal Q&A w/ The Pixies’ Black Francis

June 17th, 2015

pixies - 011 CROPPED


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the complete and unabdridged version of my 7200 word Q&A with Black Francis of The Pixies’ for the cover of the March 2014 issue of MAGNET MAGAZINE. We’re reprinting it now on the eve of the Pixies’ performance the Mann Center. Enjoy.

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA The year is 1988. I’m a college DJ stranded in the middle of Pennsyltucky. Entranced by the naked boob on the cover of Surfer Rosa, I slap it on the turntable and…they had me by the first 20 seconds of “Where Is My Mind?” They never really let go. Shortly thereafter I got a gig working for a Pennsyltucky daily. They asked me one day if I wanted to interview some guy named Black Francis from the Pixies. Would I? Man, this was a dream come true! I could finally learn the WTF of lyrics like, “He bought me a soda, he bought me a soda/ And he tried to molest me in the parking lot.”

When I got him on the phone, he was no doubt bone-tired from endless touring and weary of answering stupid fanboy questions. He insisted I call him Charles and pretty much refused to give me a straight answer to any question. “Who cares?” he’d say. “We just try to make cool rock music.” I remember thinking: what a dick.

It’s 1993. In the wake of a dispiriting trail of tears across North Ameria as U2’s opening act, and years of low-intensity inter-band strife, Black Francis breaks up The Pixies via fax,PIXIES MAGNET COVER rechristens himself Frank Black and proceeds to release a steady string of increasingly irrelevant solo albums. Kim Deal managed to land on her feet, but after a few seasons of success, the Breeders’ career collapses under the weight of the Deal sisters’ substance abuse and related baggage. Joe Santiago managed to eke out a living scoring films you never saw along with the occasional episode of Weeds and the second season of Judd Appatow’s Undeclared. And the drummer gave up music to become…wait for it…a magician.

In some ways — ways he is still not fully ready to cop to — Black Francis suffered the most. Breaking up the Pixies was Black Francis’ original sin. The world — at least the part of the world that had any bearing on the life of Charles Kittredge Thompson — loved the Pixies and decided that he would be punished for his sins with a long twilight bar band exile of dwindling record sales, half-full concert venues and diminished cultural relevance, despite making music that was, almost without exception, as good, if not better in it’s own way, than his Pixies work. “Everything I do as a solo artist will always be overshadowed by this other band called the Pixies,” he says in the documentary Loud Soft Loud. “It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s always going to end in tears.”

The cold hard fact is, people like bands, not songwriters. A band is a narrative – with archetypes, the cute one, the funny one, smart one, and so on — a songwriter, in the public’s imagination, is just some guy who bangs out jingles to make the mortgage every month. Barry Manilow is a songwriter, The Beatles are a narrative. People love good stories more than they love good songs. Frank Black didn’t have a good story.

It would take him a decade to figure that out.

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Via BuzzFeed