Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Tuesday, Jan 23, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

IntifaxaDownload “Fazisi” (mp3)
from “Intifaxa”
by Muslimgauze
Extreme


“A contemporary vision of world music where western and Arabic rhythms create a chilling seductive state.”—Extreme


Lon Gisland EPDownload “Elephant Gun” (mp3)
from “Lon Gisland EP”
by Beirut
Ba Da Bing!


“The first Beirut release with Zach Condon and his full 12-piece orkestar, Lon Gisland is a must-listen for fans of Neutral Milk Hotel, Islands, Belle and Sebastian and the Magnetic Fields.”—Ba Da Bing!


Yes Yes To YouDownload “Left At the Party” (mp3)
from “Yes Yes To You”
by The Affair
Absolutely Kosher




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Sunday, Jan 21, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

El Perro Del Mar
God Knows [MP3]
Party [MP3]


El Perro Del Mar—God Knows


Macromantics
Scorch [MP3]


Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The Sons of Cain [MP3]


Lusine
Still Frame (Lusine remix) [MP3]


Youth Group
Sorry [MP3]


Efterklang
Swarming (Antenne Version) [MP3]


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Thursday, Jan 18, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

The View - Wasted Little DJs


“Musically, the history of Dundee, Scotland isn’t exactly littered with success stories. Indeed, the city has only two notable additions to the pop canon: The Associates and The Average White Band. But all that is about to change with the advent of The View, the city’s newest and greatest white hopes. Four alarmingly young (average age: 18) friends from the same housing estate, The View are comprised of Kyle, Keiren, Peter and Steve and formed from the ashes of an old covers band they formed at school, playing everything from Squeeze to The Sex Pistols. After deciding just over a year ago that their ambitions stretched considerably further than hawking “Up The Junction” around the pubs and clubs of Dundee, they began writing and rehearsing their own songs in the backroom of their local, The Bayview Bar (hence the band’s name). They soon settled into a “Monkees-like existence” of playing and writing together to the exclusion of much else. The last gang in town spirit comes across in their brilliantly bombastic debut album Hats Off to the Buskers—14 songs bursting with scrappy, swaggering teen spirit—to be released on 1965/Columbia Records on March 13th. Produced by Owen Morris (producer of the Verve’s Northern Soul and Oasis’ Definitely Maybe) it was recorded in rural Yorkshire in two weeks in May of 2006.”—Columbia Records

Pharoahe Monch - Gun Draws


“Pharoahe Monch debuts an internet-only video for his new single “Gun Draws,” which addresses the topic of gun violence. In this song, Pharoahe expresses his views from the standpoint of a bullet. In his refusal to edit the video’s “too graphic” content for television video outlets, the decision was to put this video on the internet.”—SRC Records

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Wednesday, Jan 17, 2007
by Mark Caro [The Chicago Tribune]

A whole bunch of movies you’ve never heard of will be debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, which runs for 10 days in Park City, Utah. A year from now, some of them may be among your favorites for 2007.


Here’s how a sampling of last year’s Sundance premieres fared:


Little Miss Sunshine. This was the rare Sundance comedy loved equally in and away from the mountain air. After its rousing premiere, Fox Searchlight paid a reported $10.5 million for it (a Sundance record), and it has gone on to gross close to $60 million in North America while racking up so many end-of-the-year kudos that it’s a probable Oscar best picture nominee. PopMatters review


An Inconvenient Truth. The Al Gore global warming movie, picked up by Paramount Vantage (nee Classics), became the year’s most popular documentary ($23.8 million gross)—as well as the most honored and talked-about. PopMatters review


The Illusionist. This Edward Norton-starring magician movie was pooh-poohed at its Sundance premiere, and its primary financier, Bob Yari, wound up releasing it under his own banner. Nice move: It became one of the year’s sleepers, grossing close to $40 million. PopMatters review


Wordplay. This crossword puzzle documentary was warmly received at the festival and beyond, drumming up a decent $3 million for IFC Films.


Half Nelson. Respected by festivalgoers though ignored by the awards jury, this drama about a crack-addicted schoolteacher grossed a modest $2.7 million for ThinkFilm. But Ryan Gosling’s performance has received much end-of-the-year recognition and could be Oscar nominated. PopMatters review


Quinceanera. The festival jury and audience gave top honors to this ensemble drama about the mostly Mexican-American and gay residents of a changing Los Angeles neighborhood. Back in the real world, reviewers liked it while art-house audiences nudged the box office up to $1.7 million.


God Grew Tired of Us. Winning the top jury and audience documentary awards was this emotionally potent depiction of Sudanese “lost boys” who wind up in the U.S. It opens, finally, Friday.


The Science of Sleep. Director Michel Gondry’s dreamlike follow-up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind never broke out, grossing $4.7 million after Warner Independent paid a reported $6 million to $7 million for the rights to English-speaking territories. PopMatters review


Sherrybaby. This drama about a recovering drug addict mother made a measly $199,000 but did earn Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe best-actress nomination.


A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. Despite mostly positive reviews, a couple of Sundance awards and a cast topped by Robert Downey Jr. and Rosario Dawson, this New York mean-streets drama barely cracked $500,000 at the box office.


Right at Your Door. This much-hyped, post-9/11, dirty-bombs-in-L.A. thriller didn’t kill ‘em at Sundance but nonetheless reportedly fetched almost $3 million from Lionsgate. The distributor has yet to give it a U.S. opening date despite releasing it in the UK last September.



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Tuesday, Jan 16, 2007
by Mario Tarradell and Mike Daniel [The Dallas Morning News]

Singular sensation: They popped onto the airwaves, then pooped out
by Mario Tarradell and Mike Daniel
The Dallas Morning News


The popular music landscape is littered with one-hit wonders, artists who scored big with a single song and then—poof!—disappeared like the eight-track tape. Some radio staples are pure fluke, a product of stars serendipitously aligning just so for a brief, catchy blip. Others are the beginning of a supposedly promising career that never advanced beyond the first tune. Those are examples of the song being bigger than the singer.


In one-hit wonderland there are the obvious, such as Anita Ward’s disco signpost “Ring My Bell” and Iron Butterfly’s epic, psychedelic rocker “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Then you have the obscure blokes who got lucky, say, Switzerland’s Double with its jazzy-dreamy “The Captain of Her Heart” and England’s Haircut One Hundred with the buoyant “Love Plus One.”


There’s no way to examine every one-hit wonder; we could fill the entire newspaper. But let’s look at 10 national momentary splashes, five Texans who scored once and five acts most people think were one-hit wonders, but the truth might surprise you.


—Mario Tarradell


___


THE NATIONAL WONDERS


Taco, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (1983)—Nobody would have suspected that Taco Ockerse from Indonesia could score a No. 4 smash with this synthesized, slightly dance version of the Irving Berlin classic. He did other period pieces (“Cheek to Cheek,” “Singin’ in the Rain”) in the same electronic pop vein on his only U.S. album, “After Eight.” But apparently he vanished once the clock struck midnight, because Taco was never heard from again.


Aldo Nova, “Fantasy” (1982)—Montreal’s Aldo Scarporuscio (no wonder he changed his last name) rode the synthesized classic rock train carrying an air-guitar nugget with a nocturnal vibe. The song pushed his 1982 self-titled album to double platinum. He could never follow it up, though. Two other discs failed to catch fire, and Nova is now more songwriter than performing artist. He penned “I Love You,” which Celine Dion sang on her 11-million-selling “Falling Into You.”


Dionne Farris, “I Know” (1995)—After a brief stint as a singer with hip-hop band Arrested Development, New Jersey’s Farris went solo and delivered “Wild Seed—Wild Flower.” The CD’s lone single sparkled in its rhythmic blend of pop, rock and R&B. It hit No. 4. And then ... nothing. We’re still waiting for her sophomore album. Maybe she knows something we don’t.


M, “Pop Muzik” (1979)—England’s Robin Scott adopted his one-letter moniker and sprinted to No. 1 armed with the bounciest, most effervescent piece of synth pop. Yet he was invisible. His album “New York-London-Paris-Munich” stalled at No. 79. Plus, although he released a handful more records, nothing else even charted. These days it doesn’t matter what he’s dubbed, he’s but a footnote.


The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star” (1979)—A studio concoction of Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn (later of Yes and Asia), the Buggles’ totally machine-driven single holds the distinction of being the first video ever played on MTV. Stateside the song stopped at No. 40 and its accompanying album, “The Age of Plastic,” never charted. But once you hear that song you won’t forget it.


Right Said Fred, “I’m Too Sexy” (1992)—Talk about a pop-culture phenomenon. RSF was the trio of English bodybuilding brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass and lean guitarist Rob Manzoli. The song was total novelty, adorned by a slinky dance beat and the monotone, baritone Fairbrass vocals. The mass fascination stopped there. RSF couldn’t produce a U.S. successor to the song or the debut album, “Up.”


Alan O’Day, “Undercover Angel” (1977)—For a spell in late ‘70s Hollywood, Calif.-born O’Day was all the rage. Well, at least his song was. His delicious slice of pure pop was inescapable. However, his album, “Appetizers,” had no staying power and he quickly evaporated into the Tinseltown ether. A bit of trivia: O’Day wrote Helen Reddy’s 1974 chart-topper “Angie Baby.”


Haddaway, “What Is Love” (1993)—Born in Trinidad but raised in Chicago, Nestor Haddaway had the dance floor packed every time his propulsive, swirling anthem played. In fact, you still hear the song during sporting events. Haddaway, on the other hand, is out of sight and out of mind. A self-titled debut album never led to a second disc in this country.


Eiffel 65, “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” (1999)—Baby talk or pop-hit genius? The male dance trio from Italy must have loved the United States right before the new millennium. The single darted to No. 6 and the accompanying album, “Europop,” peaked at No. 4 and sold 2 million copies. And where are they now? Hmm, perhaps shimmying by, well, the Eiffel Tower.


Ram Jam, “Black Betty” (1977)—A folk song, written by the legendary Leadbelly, transformed into a roaring, bottom-beat rocker. The New York City group enjoyed a No. 18 hit with “Black Betty” and a self-titled album that reached No. 34. A second album followed in 1978, but Ram Jam was already on its way to music industry extinction.


—Mario Tarradell


___


TEXAS WONDERS


Deep Blue Something, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1995)—Dashing siblings Todd and Toby Pipes considered their Denton band a more haunting version of R.E.M. What proved truly scary was that this buoyant little ode would be reworked by Interscope Records and turn into a No. 4 pop hit (and reach No. 1 in the United Kingdom). But then, DBS pulled a Toadies and disappeared into the deep blue, well, something. Actually, the Pipes brothers began producing records and drummer John Kirtland morphed into an indie record mogul.


Jeannie C. Riley, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (1968)—Raised in Anson, which is about 25 miles north of Abilene, she moved to Nashville in the late 1950s with her hubby to become a star. Which she did with this cheeky, Grammy-winning country ditty that made her the first female to hit No. 1 on the pop and country charts simultaneously and spawned a variety special, a movie and a TV series. After that, nothing crossed over to the pop chart despite a sultry (for the late ‘60s) image and Hollywood’s infatuation. She later became a born-again Christian and has made gospel albums ever since.


B.W. Stevenson, “My Maria” (1973)—Dubbed “The Voice” by music biographer Jan Reid, this Dallas native hit No. 9 with this taste of harmony-thickened country pop. Despite a glowing songwriting reputation and his status as a staple of Austin’s music scene at the time, he never seriously crossed over as a recording artist again, though his songs frequently became hits for other artists. Brooks & Dunn redid “My Maria” in 1996. Stevenson died in 1988 at age 38.


Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, “What I Am” (1989)—Darlings of Dallas’ Deep Ellum indie scene in the mid-1980s, the New Bo’s happened upon No. 7 pop gold with this jazzy, meandering song with Brickell’s pixie-ish, conversational vocals. However, no other song from its platinum-selling debut, “Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars,” made the Top 40 (“Circle” came close at No. 48), and after the follow-up disc tanked, the band did what Bohemians do and wandered off, with Brickell marrying Paul Simon and doing the motherly thing. A recent reunion has yielded little national notice.


The Fabulous Thunderbirds, “Tuff Enuff” (1986)—Dallas-bred blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan almost always existed in the shadow of his brother, Stevie Ray. The exception? MTV-era commercial success, epitomized by this macho No. 10 hit and the Austin-based band’s longtime status as Texas roadhouse rock ambassadors. Only thing is, “Tuff Enuff” is its only Top 40 score: “Wrap It Up,” its second-most iconic tune, only reached No. 50.


—Mike Daniel


___


WONDERING? DON’T BOTHER


Vanilla Ice—“Ice Ice Baby” was a chilling-enough tune to have hit Billboard’s top spot in 1990. But its daft follow-up, “Play That Funky Music,” by the cred-crippled Ice was even worse—and it reached No. 4.


Lisa Loeb—Only one song defines this ultracute, camera-kind Dallasite: “Stay (I Missed You),” which captured the top spot in 1994. But Dweezil Zappa’s former squeeze has had two other top 40 hits: the “Stay” follow-up “Do You Sleep?” (No. 18) and “I Do,” which reached No. 19 two years later.


Selena—By our definition, the South Texas-raised Latina songstress is a one-hit wonder. But the circumstances that surrounded the No. 22 hit “Dreaming of You” in 1995—her death earlier that year, her handlers’ posthumous finishing of the song and the grief that may or may not have pushed it into crossover territory, not to mention her legacy as a Tejano pioneer—masks the fact. Simply put, no one thinks of her that way, and that’s absolutely proper.


Arc Angels—Call the Austin supergroup a one-album wonder. Despite critical acclaim, heavy MTV exposure and an intent to exist for many years, the Charlie Sexton- and Doyle Bramhall II-fronted Arc Angels never issued a formal single from its lone self-titled 1992 album. However, three songs (“Living in a Dream,” “Sent by Angels” and “Too Many Ways to Fall”) did appear on the airplay-based Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.


Toadies—More than even Deep Blue Something’s smash (see above), 1995’s “Possum Kingdom” defined the propulsive North Texas indie-rock movement in the mid-1990s. But the Fort Worth outfit’s song never appeared on the pop chart, a fact that should prompt a few rubbernecks.


—Mike Daniel


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