Entry for June 14, 2006

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I’d like to take this opportunity to single out the extremely hip Spin magazine—have you heard of it?–which recently, and quite boldly, compiled a list of the 40 “most vital artists in music today”!

No, I won’t bore you with all the details. Why spoil the suspense? But I would like to congratulate Spin on its superb rankings, which clearly were the result of deep thought and undoubtedly profound discussion!

And I would also like to congratulate Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—“a rotund Pakistani sitting on a mat waiting for Allah,” as they call him—for his whopping showing in 34th place!

Who knows? With any luck, maybe next year he’ll beat hot competition like Rancid (#30), Prodigy (#24), and Hole (#8) and give my personal hero Trent Reznor (#1) a real run for his money!

Boy, I bet Green Day (#36) were pissed!

***

VAN MORRISON The Healing Game (Polydor) Van Morrison puts out consistently good records—this one’s his best in maybe five years—but…but…there’s always something weird going on!. One year he’s wearing a hat that looks like Zorro’s, the next he’s walking a muzzled dog with a girlfriend, and now the poor guy—who eight years ago was raving about getting “a couple of jars of mussels and some potted herrings in case we get famished before dinner”—is short, stubbier than ever, and singing “This weight is weighing on my heart/This weight is tearing us apart.” Dude—if you don’t mention it, maybe we won’t notice! 4/5

BAADER MEINHOF Baader Meinhof (VC/Caroline) A snappy, tastefully-textured album here from Luke Haines, of Brit hipster combo the Auteurs, this apparent “side-project” takes its name from the fun-loving German terrorist group of past repute, and includes such hit single candidates as “Kill Ramirez,” “There’s Gonna Be An Accident,” and my personal fave, “Theme From ‘Burn Warehouse Burn.’” With its various violins and cellos, and Haines’s knack for turning out the odd memorable lyric now and then–“you’re going home in a fucking ambulance,” for instance—who knows? Baader Meinhof may “terrorize” the charts and “explode” at any moment! 4/5

SERGE GAINSBOURG Du Jazz Dans Le Ravin 5/5 Couleur Café 5/5 Comic Strip 5/5 (all Philips/Mercury) Known to European music fans for eons—and to eager-beaver American alternative rock fans (superstarMick Harvey devoted an album to his songs a while back) for minutes–Frenchman Gainsbourg was a multi-talented performer with a biting wit (just ask Whitney Houston, who did a TV show with him once) (like, you’re really gonna see Whitney Houston, right?) and ears the size of ping-pong paddles. Guess life’s just like that! Still, berets off to Mercury for issuing this stuff; though “Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus,” his 1969 European hit with Jane Birkin, was issued in the States, a lot of this stuff simply never came out here. That his last name sounded like dog food was, apparently, not a major factor!

BILL DING Trust In God, But Tie Up Your Camel (Hefty) Naturally the son of film director John Hughes (provocatively named John Hughes III!) gets to make records as a matter of course—darn that 1983 AFTRA decision–but hey, it’s OK! Because, like this group’s previous singles, this nicely-packaged album is exquisitely recorded and surprisingly good. More a studio creation than an actual live performing quartet, Bill Ding borrow “elements” (molybdenum?) from Miles Davis’s “So What,” feature additional instrumentation such as cello, clarinet, violin and trumpet, and probably have more money that anybody. But hey—even that’s OK! I’d sure like to see them on MTV! 4/5

HANDSOME Handsome (Epic) Admittedly I got one or two disgruntled e-mails from readers questioning the five-star rating I gave to obscure British band Me a few BAMs back—but again, I meant what I said, and I’m sorry if you’ve never heard some of these bands I write about. That said, let me point out that when I hear this debut album by Handsome—which features past members of Helmet and Quicksand—once again, I think of Me. 3.5/5

(BAM 5/1/97)

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