January 2008

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For this week’s random cover we go to a hip hop artist, with the help of a legend of industrial music, covering one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Pretty standard really.

Saul Williams is a pretty interesting dude. In addition to being an accomplished musician he’s a well-respected actor and poet. He holds a master’s degree in acting and starred in the independent movie Slam before turning to music full time. He opened for Nine Inch Nails on their 2006 tour, and started collaborating with Trent Reznor shortly after that. Williams appeared on the Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero, then Trent Reznor produced his 2007 album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust. Williams gave away the album in DRM-less MP3 form to the first 100,000 people to request it from niggytardust.com (you can still get it but it will cost you $5, a reasonable price for sure).

On the album is Williams’ take on the U2 classic “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. Check out the video and the full song below:

Saul Williams - Sunday Bloody Sunday

Williams is hitting the road to tour behind the new album. Check the dates after the jump
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It’s a crying shame that more people don’t watch The Wire. Maybe living in Baltimore (where it is filmed and set) has me a little biased, but I have to say it’s one of the best shows of the last 10 years. The writing is absolutely incredible, constantly challenging the viewer to keep up with multiple characters and story arcs. HBO is currently airing the show’s fifth and final season.

In addition to just being a great show, The Wire has a history of giving back to Baltimore. Which is probably a good idea since it (accurately) portrays the city as a drug, crime, and corruption filled dump. Every year the show’s producers have thrown a big party to raise money for The Ella Thompson Fund, which attempts to give kids something productive to do with their free time and beautify the city by planting gardens in vacant lots.

The Wire on DVDThis year the show is taking an extra step by auctioning off merchandise to benefit The Ella Thompson Fund and The Baltimore Museum of Industry. You can check out all the auctions on eBay . Items include copies of the first four seasons of the show on DVD, autographed by the entire cast, custom-designed hoodies, and more.

So head on over to the auction and bid on something.

Anti-folk singer/songwriter Kimya Dawson
Sometimes an indie film rises to the forefront of the movie world. It garners attention for its director, its writer, and its stars. And sometimes, if the timing is right, it brings a lot of attention to the artists on its soundtrack. It happened to Iron & Wine on the Garden State soundtrack. It happened to a lesser extent with DeVotchKa and Little Miss Sunshine. And now all the buzz Juno is getting has given Kimya Dawson the mainstream exposure she deserves.
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The more I see about Michel Gondry’s upcoming movie Be Kind Rewind the more excited I get. It stars Jack Black and Mos Def as video store owners with in a difficult situation. Black’s character has become magnetized and accidentally erased all the videos in the store. So what do they do? They recreate the movies themselves. If you need to get caught up, go watch the trailer, then come back. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

One of the central concepts of the movie is Sweding. What does it mean to Swede? Gondry and Black explain:

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If you’re a regular reader you already know how much I love a good mashup. It’s the audio from the episode of Friends where Chandler and Joey take on Monica and Rachel in a trivia challenge. Only now the video is supplied by The Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Robin. Oh, and Ross is Superman. Hilarious.

Prince in Purple Rain
A great song can take on many different interpretations and still hold up. So this week’s random cover focuses on two very different versions of Prince’s classic “When Doves Cry”.

The song was the first single off of the Purple Rain soundtrack, and held the top spot on the charts for five weeks in 1984. Prince’s version is an mid-tempo dance number. The two versions I’ve got here are not. I don’t really see anyone getting up to dance to these, but the song still works.

This version, by The Be Good Tanyas, is about as close to the original as a country version can get. It keeps the same basic drum line and the tempo, but adds a bass line and switches up the guitar part.
The Be Good Tanyas - When Doves Cry

Damien Rice, on the other hand, pretty much disposes of everything from the original except the melody. It’s just him and an acoustic guitar, and that’s all he needs.
Damien Rice - When Doves Cry

Axl Rose
There are reports on the internets that Chinese Democracy, the long-awaited album from the-group-Axl-Rose-is-calling- Guns-N’-Roses-but-doesn’t-include-Slash-so-it-can’t-truly-be-GNR, is actually completed and has been turned into the studio. According to antiMusic Axl’s personal manager, Beta Lebeis said:

the album “was finished before Christmas.” Adding that “Everybody knows that.” She also said that Axl is currently “in negotiations” to set the release. So it looks like we may just see “Chinese Democracy” this year.

Yep. Heard that before. I’ll believe it when it actually comes out. Apparently the only thing holding it back is figuring out how to market it. Well, that and the fact that it may be the most expensive album ever recorded and Geffen is trying to figure out how the hell they’re going to turn a profit on it.

In the mean time, here’s one of the tracks that’s supposedly leaked from the album:

Guns N Roses - Irs

What do Star Wars and the classic Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America have in common? A Ha! It’s James Earl Jones. Well some jokester has takes Jones’ best lines from Coming to America and mixed them with his role as Darth Vader in Star Wars. And? A Ha!

RIP Heath Ledger

Heath LedgerAcademy Award-nominated actor Heath Ledger was found dead today in his New York apartment. He was 28. Details are still sketchy, but apparently he was found in his bed in a state of cardiac arrest, with bottles of prescription and non-prescription sleeping pills nearby. Police have not yet determined if he died as a result of an overdose, an if so, whether it was intentional.

More info at CNN, SlashFilm, and TMZ.

The Great Debaters
I saw the trailer for The Great Debaters a couple of months ago and thought it looked mildly interesting. Sometime you just want to go see a movie, and there’s so little out in theaters that “mildly interesting” wins. Such was the case tonight. And I was very pleasantly surprised.

Looking back on it I’m not sure what kept me from being excited about this movie. It stars two screen titans in Denzel Washington and Forrest Whittaker. It’s about the power of words and language. And it’s set in the Jim Crowe south, a time a place that seems completely foreign to me. These elements combine to form a solid movie, with stirring moments and genuine heart.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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