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by Crispin Kott

24 Mar 2010


The homogenization of music isn’t anything new. For ages, the less nerd-savvy customer service geek in corporate record stores has been twisted and trained to “upsell” by suggesting a “similar” artist to go along with the one the consumer is hellbent on purchasing.

“Like Fugazi? You ought to give Blink 182 a shot! Or Staind!”

As I’ve grown older and technology has increasingly become a baffling ordeal, computer programs are doing the work pimply ninnies wearing nametags used to perform perfectly well enough on their own. And clear as I can see, iTunes is the worst jerk among the whole jerky lot of them.

by AJ Ramirez

23 Mar 2010


I have to confess, I’m not too familiar with the musical oeuvre of the recently-passed Alex Chilton. Most of what I know about the late Big Star frontman stems from laurels handed out by disciples such as the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck.  Don’t worry, fellow music aficionados; I do plan to thoroughly acquaint myself with the Chilton back catalogue over the next week. Certainly my primary reason for doing so is to explore the music of one of the most-lauded cult figures of rock ‘n roll, but another reason is because some frequently grumpy yet supremely talented guy named Paul Westerberg wrote a song about his hero that makes a very convincing case for Chilton’s artistic importance by virtue of being so effectively heartfelt in its admiration.

Yes, the Replacements’ 1987 single “Alex Chilton” is mired in a reverb-heavy production that dates the recording heavily and robs song of some of its punch. Its sound is a telling grab for commercial radio airplay by one of the founders of alternative rock, an ambition that would later sink the group for good. Nonetheless, the song overcomes its faults to become of the Mats’ greatest anthems. That’s because it’s instilled with an exuberance and conviction that overwhelms the band’s penchant for self-sabotage. In “Alex Chilton” we don’t get Westerberg the brat or Westerberg the misanthrope (although both personas resulted in stellar moments elsewhere in the Replacements discography). Here we get Westerberg the hopeless romantic, a man who wore his heart on his sleeve arguably better than any other songwriter of his generation. When Westerberg belts out the lines “I never travel far / Without a little Big Star” right before the guitar solo is unleashed, he’s as passionate about his love for Chilton’s music as he is in any of his ballads.

The Replacements practically charge through “Alex Chilton” in an effort to reach the promised land of the song’s infectious chorus. And what a chorus!  Setting it up with a surging prechorus where Westerberg contemplates a world in which the underappreciated Chilton’s music was heard by far more souls than had ever actually picked up a Box Tops or Big Star record (“Children ‘round the world sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ‘round”), the band that made such a potent declaration of discontent with “Unsatisfied” sounds like it wouldn’t want to be anywhere else when it hits those chorus hooks.  The words are straightforward (“I’m in love / What’s that song? / I’m in love / With that song”), yet when filtered through Westerberg’s ragged-yet-aching pipes they are both an epiphany and a loving statement of devotion.

Really, the appeal of “Alex Chilton” is a testament to both the Replacements and to the song’s namesake. Paul Westerberg’s talents as a singer/songwriter in his mid-‘80s prime were such that he could encapsulate his feelings regarding one of his favorite musicians in just a few choice lines. But he wouldn’t have anyone to focus his pop song hero worship if not for the late Mr. Chilton, a man who judging solely by this song most certainly earned his legend. And if Westerberg can’t go anywhere without some Chilton tunes playing on his stereo, I sure as hell need to start catching up on the man’s legacy.

by PC Muñoz

22 Mar 2010


This V-C-V was first published March 14, 2006 on pcmunoz.com

“Dear Mama” - Tupac
Written by Tupac Shakur, Joe Sample, and Tony Pizarro
Contains a sample of “In My Wildest Dreams” by Joe Sample, and an interpolation of"Sadie”, written by J.B. Jefferson, B. Hawes, and C. Simmons
From Me Against the World (Interscope, 1995)

Me Against the World, the Tupac album on which “Dear Mama” first appeared, is lyrically one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time. It was a commercial success, and I always say that if Tupac had been a guitar-slinging rocker, critics would have injured themselves thumbing through their thesauruses in their attempts to locate the vocabulary to properly praise the emotional insularity and foreboding themes of this record. But alas, it was the mid-‘90s, and Tupac was hip-hop through and through. Not only that, he had “Thug Life” tattooed across his abdomen, a felony conviction on his record, and an infamous attempt on his life still fresh at the time of this release. So, in 1995, Me Against the World was often seen as another “gangsta” record, despite the intense, spiritually-driven themes Tupac explores on this album.

by Jimmy Callaway

21 Mar 2010


In the music of the disenfranchised, it should not be a shock to anyone to often find a motif of unity. After all, the artists in question tend to be driven to create their music by a sense of difference, of outsidership, and in turn, their core audience can very much relate to that feeling and are thus drawn to the music.  In the rock pantheon, this is a constant source of inspiration: The Who’s “My Generation”, the Ramones’ “Cretin Hop”, and Sham 69’s “If the Kids Are United”.

Naturally, this tradition carried over into rap music, especially in its developmental years. Examples of what this writer likes to call “posse anthems” include but are not limited to “Posse on Broadway” by Sir Mix-a-Lot, “Too Much Posse” by Public Enemy, and “Rollin’ wit’ the Lench Mob” by Ice Cube. Like the above-mentioned, these tracks express a departure of the artist from what can be termed the mainstream, but also makes clear that the artist is far from alone in this, citing the allegiance of the artist’s friends and compatriots.

by Christian John Wikane

19 Mar 2010


The sun has finally peeked through the clouds in Manhattan. It almost feels like spring. In fact, the afternoon is ideal for a wedding.  That’s exactly what Carole Pope notices as she strolls through Central Park. In just a few days, she’ll jet up to Ontario for a three-night stint. For the time being, though, she’s content to ponder what quality she shares with Orlando.

Like the title character of Virginia Woolf’s literary masterpiece, Carole Pope has challenged convention throughout her career, first as the trailblazing front-woman of Rough Trade and then as a solo artist. Her autobiography Anti Diva (2001) traces one of the most compelling life stories in popular music. Described by Pope as, “a comment on the times, beginning in the summer of love. It drags me kicking and screaming into the 21st century”, the book was recently optioned for the screen.

The forthcoming biopic is just one of many projects Pope is currently undertaking. Between recording a new album, promoting her last record (Transcend), and touring the film festival circuit for Suck (2009), a rock and roll vampire story that pairs her with Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, and Moby, the “anti diva” is as prolific as ever.

While taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of a Chinese wedding, Carole Pope checked in with PopMatters for this latest edition of 20 Questions.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
A Single Man. Usually anything about death or where the character’s really feeling lost, I can relate to.

2. The fictional character most like you?
I’d like to think it was Orlando (laughs). I just related to the character’s ambisexual being. I love that book.

3. The greatest album ever?
Wow. It might be the Beatles’ White Album. When it came out in 1968, I remember playing it on my Seabreeze or whatever I had. I think pretty much all the songs are mini-masterpieces. They’re very visual, which I relate to.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars, because I remember Bill Murray singing the theme song on Saturday Night Live (laughs).

5. Your ideal brain food?
I guess fish. I love spicy tuna. It just seems like really clean food.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I guess the fact that we actually got a record deal, as Rough Trade, for our second album, Avoid Freud (1980).

7. You want to be remembered for…?
I think just being outspoken and being innovative and doing a lot of things before other people did, even though I don’t get recognized for them…she said bitterly! 

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Definitely Bowie. He’s such a chameleon.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
I wish I’d written one of Bjork’s songs, because I worship her. I think that she’s really an amazing, innovative artist.

10. Your hidden talents…?
I can cook, though that’s more of a hobby. I’m obsessed with music and art.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Being true to yourself. Maybe it’s my advice to me! I think I advise myself. I think it just evolved from being an artist. The minute you’re not true to yourself, you create traps.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Probably my guitar.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I would feel best if I had some Prada, but I don’t (laughs). I wear a lot of G-Star. There should be some designer who designs clothes for dykes. It could be somewhere between men’s Prada and G-Star, as far as I’m concerned!

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Probably my friend Tim Blanks, because he’s the most confusing and interesting person I know. I am met him in Toronto. He used to live in Toronto in the late ‘70s, and then he turned into this fashionista. Now he writes for Style.com, which is Vogue online. I wish he’d write an autobiography.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I’m kind of drawn to the court of Louis XIV. I don’t know why. I’d want to be a guy, though (laughs), or dress like the guys. The women had to wear all those corsets. Maybe I could just be like a peasant, I don’t care! No, I’m lying. I’d want to be the Sun King.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I wouldn’t hire a hit man, I’d be the hit man. I would probably go on a spa vacation.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Chocolate. It chills me out. I don’t eat a lot of it, but it’s a little treat, a little something at the end of the day.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Right now it’s the city, but that could change. If I was rich, I’d live in Europe—I would live in London or Rome—but New York City is the next best thing.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Hello, can I get some equal rights over here?

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on now?
I’m working on a new album, Transcend. “Johnny Marr” and “Shining Path” are on iTunes. Suck is premiering at MoMA. I just did another movie in Toronto called Trigger, directed by Bruce McDonald. My guitar player and I and some drummer we never worked with performed a song. Bruce McDonald is a really great Canadian filmmaker. He did Hard Core Logo (1996). More movie work for me! I would love to do more film scoring.

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