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Last Saturday night, I caught a perfectly fantastic screening of Milos Forman’s early Czech film Loves of a Blonde at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and then had some wonderful barbecue at Smoke Joint. And then, quicker than you can say “white guy funk band,” my evening totally turned to shit. Upon returning to BAM to check out a free concert by White Rabbits, who I’ve heard great things about, I was faced with perhaps the most distasteful band I’ve had to see live in years.

They are called Miss Fairchild, and they are a bunch of guys from Brooklyn playing blue-eyed funk. Now, I’m as open-minded as the next girl, and I don’t think it’s impossible for white dudes to write some good songs in the genre. But this was so derivative as to actually be kind of racist. Their lead singer was a small, bearded guy in some vintage polyester. He was doing a calculated impression of James Brown. The lyrics and music were total ’70s cliches. And it was all kind of a shame, as the guy has a decent voice, a ton of energy, and the band is clearly quite competent. The only problem was… there was not an ounce of originality there. They may as well have been a cover band.

Now, it isn’t my policy to knock new, untested bands just for the hell of it. But what I see here is just another corollary to the growing trend of cultural tourism-as-music. In a way, it’s exactly like what Vampire Weekend is doing: steal some sort of music that you have no personal link to and repackage it without adding anything new. It seems soulless and boring, and frankly it’s annoying that people are so into these copies of copies of copies when there are a million great innovators out there.

What I’m trying to say is…

One, two, three, four, I declare a CULTURE WAR.

I don’t usually feel the need to repost my own articles here, but I want to make sure everyone listens to the new Mountain Goats record, Heretic Pride. It comes out tomorrow on 4AD, and it is fucking fantastic.

Suggested tracks:
“San Bernardino”
“Autoclave”
“Lovecraft in Brooklyn”
“Tianchi Lake”
“Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident”

My entire, quite lengthy, review is up at Tiny Mix Tapes. If that wets your whistle, you can stream the entire album here.

Some people are too cool to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Others are too hip for Rufus Wainwright. Well, whatever, man. I am gloriously lame, so my boyfriend and I spent this past V-Day at Radio City Music Hall watching Rufus.

Though I rarely spend so much money on tickets (anything over $20 tends to discourage me), the experience was well worth it. I’ve lived in New York for three years without once setting foot inside Radio City. The place is breathtaking: enormous stage, beautiful gold curtain, three levels of balcony, domed ceiling. Sure, all the tourists from Duluth, or wherever they come from, were kind of annoying with their glowstick-illumined frozen drinks and questionable concert etiquette, but we all have to interface with the real world sometimes.

The show began with a short, pleasant set by Sean Lennon. He joked nervously about playing depressing songs on Valentine’s Day and closed with a cute duet with his girlfriend. At one point, he mentioned that his mom was in the audience. I’m not typically so starstruck, but something felt wonderful about occupying the same room–albeit a very large room–as Yoko.

I had seen Wainwright before, and whether he gives it his all or comes across as a drink- and drug-addled sot, he always puts on quite a show. This performance was by far the most impressive I’ve witnessed from him. He played for almost two and a half hours, in two sets and a lengthy, show-stopping encore. Most of the selections came from his past three album, Want One, Want Two, and Release the Stars. Though I’m less familiar with those than I am with Wainwright’s first two albums, Rufus Wainwright and Poses, he brought every song to life with expressive singing, playful theatrics, a large band, and loud costumes.

Among the feats Wainwright performed that night were:
–a few Judy Garland songs, including “Get Happy,” performed in nylons, heels, and a blazer, backed by a chorus line of nuns;
–an un-microphoned version of an Irish folk song;
–an “Across the Universe” sing-along with Sean Lennon, his sister Martha, and his mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle;
–a rendition of one of McGarrigle’s own songs with her and Martha;
–“Gay Messiah” as production number, complete with the obscene use of a can of Silly String;
–three costume changes;
–and onstage pyrotechnics.

It was an ambitious performance, and Wainwright surpassed even the high standards he set for himself.

1. You Can’t Hurry Love — Diana Ross and the Supremes
2. Fistful of Love — Antony and the Johnsons with Lou Reed
3. Lovers Rock — The Clash
4. Find Love — Clem Snide
5. I Love You — Beat Happening
6. Big Love — Broken Social Scene
7. Some Kinda Love — The Velvet Underground
8. Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above — CSS
9. Bullets and Love — The Coup
10. Soul Love — David Bowie
11. Tuff Love — The Gossip
12. Pirate Love — Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers
13. Of Love and Colors — Lisa Germano
14. Drive Is that I Love You– MV & EE with the Bummer Road
15. ‘Cause I Love Her — The Brian Jonestown Massacre
16. I Let Love In — Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
17. The Desperate Kingdom of Love — PJ Harvey
18. A True Story of a True Story of Love — The Books
19. Love in Vain — The Rolling Stones
20. Loved Despite Great Faults — Blonde Redhead
21. A Lover Loves — Scott Walker
22. Ringo, I Love You — Stereo Total
23. Love, Love, Love 2 (Reprise) — Akron/Family

So what’s your favorite “love” song?

Xiu Xiu

I’m a sucker for a good cover, and the past few weeks have produced two of the best I’ve heard in a while.

Xiu Xiu featuring Michael Gira – Under Pressure

Under pressure indeed. Xiu Xiu have released a brilliant, dangerous, and sometimes ugly album that is receiving lukewarm, confused reviews. I have a feeling that Women as Lovers will look better to most people in five years than it does now. Meanwhile, listeners should at least be ready to get on board with this subtly dark cover of David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure.” Jamie Stewart and Michael Gira (of Swans and Angels of Light) do self-conscious impressions of Bowie and Freddy Mercury against a background of anxious brass and and muted synth. Caralee McElroy’s voice is a refreshing surprise. And the instruments get carried away with themselves.

Jeffrey Lewis–Do They Owe Us a Living?

By releasing a full album of Crass covers, called simply 12 Crass Songs, Jeffrey Lewis is doing the ’80s crust-punk band’s fans a great service. For the first time, we can make out the lyrics. This raucous, boy-girl, call-and-response folk version is just what this classic of sorts needed.

Something just occurred to me:

Johnny’s Greenwood’s score for PT Anderson’s auteur-tastic There Will Be Blood was just about perfect. I don’t even want to talk about the way he got screwed over in Oscar nominations. But there is another album that would ALSO work fantastically as the movie’s score: The Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. Sure, it would make the whole thing a little more postmodern and self-aware and distractingly filmic than Greenwood’s score, but I kind of dig that anyway. Though it was far from my favorite album of the year, this seems like the perfect use for it. Alternate DVD soundtrack, anyone? Perhaps muting the soundtrack and synching the movie with the record, Dark Side of the Moon-style?

Just imagine “Intervention” over the closing credits.