Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jason Lee

Before his roles as the Chimpmunks' David Seville, and Earl Hickey from My Name is Earl, actor Jason Lee was known for the cool, quick-tongued iconoclasts he played in many Kevin Smith movies. His Brodie Bruce character from Smith's 1995 Mallrats would provide the template for Ryan Reynolds' career.

Prior to being one of the coolest guys of the late 90's, he was an even cooler guy in the early 90's. Still in his prime as a professional skateboarder, he upped his cool cred with appearances in a couple of music videos for alternative bands: Redd Kross' 1993 hit "Jimmy's Fantasy,"

and the Spike Jonze produced "100%", Sonic Youth's lead single from 1992's Dirty.

The previous year it was a different Jonze production that would be the genesis of both his and Jason Lee's careers. The relatively unknown though groundbreaking skate video, Video Days, heralded as setting the standard for the genre, introduced Jonze as a creative mastermind behind the camera and Lee a magnetic presence in front of it. It was Lee's performance at the end of the video that caught the attention of Kevin Smith.

The song in the video, "The Knife Song," was early 90's tune by Milk, a short lived band fronted by Jeff Tremaine, who along with Jonze and Johnny Knoxville would later create the Jackass franchise.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


One of the most popular music scenes of all time, it was during the 'Summer of Love' in 1967 that this unexceptional San Francisco intersection would emerge as a cultural landmark. More than a goldmine of terrific art and counter-culture, it defined an entire movement and became the permanent mecca for hippies, beatniks, bohemians, and all their imitators. Crazy politics aside, psychedelic rock still remains among the most sentimental and listened to genres of modern popular music.

Haight-Ashbury's prime messengers, the Grateful Dead, would for the next three decades unwittingly provide the template for everything hippy. Their tours were psychedelic carnivals that provided a religious rite of passage for those who would come to be known as Deadheads. It was Jerry Garcia's death in 1996 that finally laid rest to one of music's most unique followings.

Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" were the twin themes from the summer of 1967 and terrific samples of two different psychedelic styles. The adrenaline rush of "Somebody to Love" was the up tempo blues-rock sound that had become popular in America and the U.K., while "White Rabbit" was the ultimate acid trip, less a traditionally structured song and more of a hypnotic two minute trance.

Getting their start as the house band at the legendary Avalon Ballroom in 1966, Big Brother and the Holding Company would later that year team up with a young Janis Joplin, launching her into one of the 60's most memorable icons.

Two lesser known bands from the scene: Blue Cheer (named after a brand of LSD) with "Summertime Blues" and Moby Grape (named after a joke involving a purple whale) with "Hey Grandma."

Quicksilver Messenger Service with "Fresh Air," live at another seminal San Francisco concert hall, The Fillmore.

Monday, March 28, 2011

David Lynch soundtrack side A

One of Hollywood's most unique filmmakers, his name has become synonymous with modern cinematic surrealism. His first three major films (Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Dune) presented a sporadic, though brilliant mind with a particular fondness for the dreamy and bizarre. He is the rare sort of artist that appeals to both cult and mainstream audiences, and sometimes neither.

It wasn't until his 1986 release Blue Velvet that he found his voice. His embrace of pop music, used in wonderful juxtapositions, would be a common theme in his later work. Blue Velvet was partly inspired by the dark elements Lynch heard in Bobby Vinton's early 60's hit.

Even more chilling was his use of Roy Orbison's "In Dreams."

Long time Lynch music collaborators producer Angelo Badalamenti and singer Julee Cruise with the ethereal "Mysteries of Love."

If David Lynch himself had a personal theme, it could be nothing more than the first few seconds of Julee Cruise's "Falling." He did after all write the lyrics to the song. Another Badalamenti-Cruise project, the Grammy Award winning Twin Peaks theme became more popular than the short lived TV series.

The light and breezy "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart."

One of Lynch's most diverse uses of music was in his 1990 film "Wild at Heart." Thrash, pop, big band, rockabilly, cool jazz - all here with nothing out of place. The sunny, optimistic sounds of Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" that introduces the movie quickly gives way to one of Lynch's all time most gruesome scenes.

Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" was the perfect theme for the movie, a haunting rockabilly ballad that perfectly channelled the 50's crooning Elvis in Nicolas Cage's 'Sailor Ripley' character.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Having sold over 30 million discs, Canada's Nickelback is one of the nation's all time most popular rock and roll exports. They have been nominated a half dozen times for every major music award and with the exception of a Grammy (despite six nominations), they have won at least a couple from each event.

Since their second release, the late 90's breakthrough The State, they were poised to sound like they could define the next post-grunge FM sound. Charted singles like "Breathe" and "Leader of Men" sounded like a rising band ready for the spotlight. Their 2001 release Silver Side Up made them bona fide rock stars, and with arena anthems like "Never Again," "Too Bad," and especially the popular "How You Remind Me," it was easy to see why.

The next year lead singer Chad Kroeger would team up with journeyman Josey Scott for the Spider-man 2 classic "Hero." Though Kroeger was the only member of Nickelback on the song, it didn't matter. Same music, same face, same thing. "Nickelback" was now in the business of big Hollywood themes.

Through the decade it's been steady as she goes:

Gold and platinum records, blockbuster movie themes, WWE and Olympic anthems. They sell out concerts worldwide and have influenced dozens of chart topping bands. As far as rock bands go, they don't get much bigger.

So why do they suck?

They may be one of the world's most popular rock acts, but they are reviled in a way no band has ever been before. Not Poison, not Bon Jovi. Nickelback hatred is unique. Despised by critics and constantly mocked by the public, this video from a few years ago displays a short timeline of the perpetual attacks that seem to take place on Wikipedia's Nickelback entry. Relentless, it is one of the most vandalized non-political pages I've ever seen:

By the late 90's it was assumed that the FM sludge of bands like Bush, Creed, and Big Wreck would be on its way out. Except for the purpose of music history, no longer would there be use for the term 'post-grunge.' This tiresome cliche of rock grandeur was supposed to end with the new millennium, but the zombie Nickelback resurrected the corpse.

In addition, Nickelback has come to symbolize the phony rock star. A glossy rock and roll rebel that is nothing more than a subsidiary of a big corporation. Their tensionless and perfectly crafted songs about strippers and booze as seen from the loser's table has become the muzak of FM radio. Strange, considering they're nice, humble guys who don't even party like rock stars should. That might actually be the sole reason for the immense Nickleback hatred: they're boring.


Despite the A-list cast and big Hollywood pull, Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia wasn't very popular, but to many who have seen it, it's highly memorable. One of the most riveting movies of the past decade, it's a web of damaged characters, complex relationships, and some lingering and disturbing examples of loneliness. After the opening narration, Aimee Mann's spooky cover of Harry Nilsson's "One" sets the perfect tone for the movie.

The soundtrack is mainly an Aimee Mann vehicle as she performs all but a few of the songs. She received a Grammy nomination and an Academy award nomination for "Save Me," a video that has her filmed with different characters in different scenes from the movie.

The soundtrack's most beautiful song is without a doubt the haunting "Wise Up." The song occurs near the end of the movie where the characters, in various states of redemption seeking, individually sing along in a truly captivating sequence.

The few non-Aimee Mann songs include the film's score by Jon Brion and a couple of Supertramp songs: "Goodbye Stranger" and "The Logical Song." (audio only)

Tom Cruise's best role ever:

A link to the movie (missing part 5!) on YouTube.

Here's Aimee Mann 17 years ago with "I Should've Known."

And 25 years ago with 80's new wave band Til Tuesday.