Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nothing Interesting Is Happening In Music.

I know, because I've just checked Idolator.

I defy you to find anything remotely inspiring going on in the world of music because it's not. I'm not eagerly awaiting an album at the moment. Don't have any concerts lined up except for a rescheduled Cure concert in MAY. No decent gossip--even Amy Winehouse is turning me off with her pathological codependency.

Is everyone taking some time off for the holidays? Have I become incurably jaded and apathetic? Or are there some new and exciting developments in the world of rock that I am not currently aware of? (Perhaps Danny Angel will have a dispatch from the world of ancient Egyptian-themed death metal.)

I want to write a funny, thought-provoking post. Really, I do! I'm just kind of at a loss.

So in lieu of actual discussion, here's a picture of our new dog, Anubis. (Speaking of ancient Egypt...) He comes home on Saturday.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Kevin DuBrow, lead singer for Quiet Riot, passed away this past Sunday in his home in Las Vegas. Cause of death is still unknown at this point. He was only 52. It's kind of surreal to know he's gone when I just saw him in concert barely a month ago.

And while I'm not a fan of Hawthorn Heights it's still a shame to say they also suffered a loss this weekend. Guitarist Casey Calvert passed away in his sleep on the tour bus on Saturday in Washington D.C. Cause of death is unknown in this case also but fellow bandmates/friends say "...with absolute certainty that he was not doing anything illegal. Please, out of respect to Casey and his family, don’t contribute or succumb to any gossip you may hear." He was only 26.

Rest in peace, guys.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

He Was Up Above It

artist rendering by Zeemort

Trent has been all happy go lucky these days from the launch of Saul's new album, becoming label free, and just generally being Master of his Domain, as evident from this artist rendering (drawn from life), but it seems there's a hitch with the new remix album...or the remix album site anyways. From the site:

19 November 2007: Copyright Fun

Several years ago I persuaded my record company to let me begin posting my master recording files on, in order to see what kind of user-generated content would materialize from my music. I had no agenda… the main reason I did it was because I thought it was cool and something I would have liked to do if it was available to me. A lot of really fun stuff started to happen….communities developed, web sites were created, even traditional radio got in the game and began playing the fans' mixes. I felt the experiment, despite not having a specific purpose, was a success. So much so that we're now releasing a remix album that includes some of this fan-created material as well as the actual multitrack master files for every song from my latest record, Year Zero.

One piece was missing to me and that was an official presence for aggregating all of the fan-created remixes. Several intrepid fans had stepped up and done a great job providing a destination for people to post these, but I felt all along this was a function I should more directly support. So, upon release of this new remix album, our plan has been to launch an official site on that would provide a place for all fan remix material and other interactive fan experiences.

Or so I thought.

On Saturday morning I became aware of a legal hitch in our plans. My former record company and current owner of all these master files, Universal, is currently involved in a lawsuit with other media titans Google (YouTube) and News Corp (MySpace). Universal is contending that these sites do not have what is referred to as "safe harbor" under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and therefore are in copyright violation because users have uploaded music and video content that is owned by Universal. Universal feels that if they host our remix site, they will be opening themselves up to the accusation that they are sponsoring the same technical violation of copyright they are suing these companies for. Their premise is that if any fan decides to remix one of my masters with material Universal doesn't own - a "mash-up", a sample, whatever - and upload it to the site, there is no safe harbor under the DMCA (according to Universal) and they will be doing exactly what MySpace and YouTube are doing. This behavior may get hauled out in court and impact their lawsuit. Because of this they no longer will host our remix site, and are insisting that Nine Inch Nails host it. In exchange for this they will continue to let me upload my Universal masters and make them available to fans, BUT shift the liability of hosting them to me. Part of the arrangement is having user licenses that the fans sign (not unlike those on MySpace or You Tube) saying they will not use unauthorized materials. If they WERE to do such a thing, everybody sues everybody and the world abruptly ends.

While I am profoundly perturbed with this stance as content owners continue to stifle all innovation in the face of the digital revolution, it is consistent with what they have done in the past. So... we are challenged at the last second to find a way of bringing this idea to life without getting splashed by the urine as these media companies piss all over each other’s feet. We have a cool and innovative site ready to launch but we're currently scratching our heads as to how to proceed.
More to come….

By the way, the potential implications of a lawsuit like this one go well beyond creating hurdles for a Nine Inch Nails remix site. Here is an excerpt from technology site Ars Technica regarding a similar lawsuit Viacom has filed against YouTube:

The DMCA's Safe Harbor provisions aren't just important to video sharing sites; they're important to almost every sector of Internet-based business.
"Nearly every major Internet company depends on the very same legal foundation that YouTube is built on," said von Lohmann. "A legal defeat for YouTube could result in fundamental changes to its business, potentially even making it commercially impossible to embrace user-generated content without first 'clearing' every video. In other words, a decisive victory for Viacom could potentially turn the Internet into TV, a place where nothing gets on the air until a cadre of lawyers signs off," he said. "More importantly, a victory for Viacom could potentially have enormous implications for Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, MySpace, and many other Internet companies, because they all rely on the same DMCA Safe Harbors to protect many facets of their businesses, as well. The stakes are high all around."


All joking aside folks, this is a serious issue. That much is made clear in the lawsuit excerpt. Wish I could elaborate more but a touch of food poisoning has me down. -blech- Damn the man!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crime Time

Someone's been a naughty, naughty boy. Please, George, tell us you didn't really want to hurt him....

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Review of the Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!

Alright guys. Let's just back away from the last few posts with all the unpleasant comments they generated and move on to something I'm sure we can all love. Saul Williams's new album:

The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!

I'll admit I was leery at first because while I liked some songs of his previous album, it was by no means my favorite, but I still wanted to support this new "label-free" experiment Trent and others are working on. I'm happy to say that my fears were completely unnecessary, and this album totally rocks! Download it for free or download it for $5, the choice is yours, but just DOWNLOAD IT! The cover of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is almost worth the $5 on its own, and you shouldn't cut yourself short in the sound quality on this one or any of the other heavily layered tracks. Free 192kps mp3 = crap -OR- $5 320kps mp3 = much higher quality. Or even go for the $5 FLAC lossless audio, but be prepared to use a conversion program to get it to play.

You can clearly hear Trent's NIN influence in the music, and he is credited on most of the songs. If a person were to listen to Year Zero and this album back to back, I don't think they'd be surprised to learn they were recorded about the same time (both being worked on while Saul was the opening act during the [With_Teeth] tour). Both are beautifully layered with "noise," but where Trent makes his lyrical points blunt with NIN, Saul speaks in wide-ranging metaphors cleverly concealed in catchy, dance-able beats so that his "message" isn't completely overpowering. I recommend listening to the whole album before specifically reading the lyrics; it makes it easier if you can hear the flow as you go. Saul has a sense of humor about studying lyrics so closely though. If you're reading through them in iTunes, when you get to the last song, instead of lyrics you get "enough already. Stop reading and dance" and then a plug to his other book The Dead Emcee Scrolls ("available now in bookstores" he tells us).

While I like all the general topics brought up throughout the songs (standing up for yourself, problems with political authority, self doubt, etc), I wasn't so keen about all the "N" bombs being dropped. It's just not my style and therefore not normally something I even give a chance, but after reading a bit from a document included with the leaked tracks, you realize he's intentionally trying to make you feel uncomfortable.

"The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! is the lovechild of Trent and me. The NiggyTardust concept sets me free to do more on stage with costume, etc. than one might expect from a regular Saul Williams show. It allows me to put my theatre training to use. I've also thought long and hard about all the discussion surrounding racial epithets etc. and chose this title as a means of furthering the dialogue while also showing how creativity will outlive and outshine hatred of any kind."
He's wanting to change the interpretations and negative connotations surrounding it. That's commendable and should make for an interesting show when he goes on tour to support this release. So our dear RoRo was onto something. Saul's taking it back, y'all.

But like Saul said, "enough already" on over-analyzing words because the music is pretty amazing too. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" has been overhauled into a bouncy, up-tempo beat that is infectious. It started with just tapping my foot, but by the second round of "oh, oh, oh"s, I was singing along. This one sticks in my head all day and is definitely one of my top three picks. While the majority of the other tracks have that NIN-influenced abrasiveness or sound "hard" because of the delivery of the vocals (e.g., "Black History Month," "Convict Colony," "Break," "Skin of a Drum," "The Ritual"), the songs that really stood out and blew me way were the softer and self-doubting "No One Ever Does" and the simply structured "Banged & Blown Through." I love the vulnerability of the keyboards and the soft texture of the vocals in "No One Ever Does." And while the drumbeat of "Banged & Blown Through" is strong, the falsetto backup vocals manage to still make it feel vulnerable and it gets me every time. That's not to say I don't like the harshness of the other songs mentioned above because I do. In fact, I would say it's the perfect set up to make these softer tunes really jump out at you.

I feel the album artwork is also worth mentioning. I felt that leery sense again when I heard Rob Sheridan had a hand in it, but it's not as bad as all that. The booklet is included with the download as a .pdf file, and much of it reminds me of what was briefly shown in Saul's book (s)he, only with color. Even the lyrics, handwritten in most cases, add to the eclectic group of artwork. There seems to be a running theme of Roman-inspired horses, a few images of Egyptian Gods, and this little voodoo-looking guy. You can clearly see him on page 26 of the booklet, but notice that he's also hiding behind a layer of paint on pages 17 & 27. His little eyes peek out at you. Kind of creepy, no? My point here is that anyone concerned with this new manner of music distribution and seemingly inevitable extinction of album artwork or booklets needs only look through the included .pdf file to see that it will be okay. Perhaps that makes me old school, but I like looking through that stuff. It enhances the tone of everything else. I'd like to think of the much criticized ARG as Trent's online (albeit elaborate) version of Year Zero's "album artwork."

Overall, I think that Trent and Saul mesh well together, and I hope they stay close for future projects. Their two styles and passions (music and lyrics/spoken word) compliment each other. It's been fun delving into this album and its layers and layers of content, and I can't wait to see what else is waiting to reveal itself in subsequent listens. Bottom line people: YOU SHOULD GET THIS.

Prince, R U fucking kidding?

So we're all in agreement that Prince is a musical genius, right? Because he is. And like many geniuses, he has always been prone to...eccentricities. But I scarcely have words for this latest bit of news:

Fan sites dedicated to Prince say they have been served legal notice to remove all images of the singer, his lyrics and "anything linked to Prince's likeness," and have vowed to fight what they said was censorship.

The move was a shock to many of his followers and came two months after Prince threatened to sue YouTube and other major Internet sites for unauthorized use of his music and image.

But by targeting fan sites directly, Prince risks a backlash, and the sites have vowed to unite under the banner "Prince Fans United" and take the matter to court if necessary.

"We strongly believe that such actions are in violation of ... freedom of speech and should not be allowed," said a statement from the three sites --, and

A company helping Prince control his image and music on the Internet said the fan sites had spun the story so that it was "incorrect and misleading."

"At no time is Prince suing his fans and this is not about freedom of speech," said John Giacobbi, managing director of Internet policing specialist Web Sheriff.

"The current issue is one between Prince's record label and three unofficial Web sites and relates to the use of Prince trademarks and photographs, many of which are Prince's copyright," he told Reuters.

In a statement released later, he added:

"These forums have taken it upon themselves to wear the crown of being the self appointed representatives of the millions of Prince fans worldwide, despite the fact that they only represent a tiny fraction of Prince's global fanbase."

I would like to think that this is all a big misunderstanding, or perhaps Prince is receiving the world's worst advice from his representatives because frankly, this whole controversy seems very un-Princelike. This is the man who changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol during a battle with the recording industry, the man who wrote "slave" on his cheek to be displayed during a performance, the man who has taken to giving away free copies of his albums.

But if you go to, for example, you can see the text of a letter allegedly sent to these fan sites from Web Sheriff, which represents AEG Worldwide, Paisley Park Enterprises, Prince, etc. etc. This letter allegedly threatens the fansites involved with Prince Fans United with charges of libel (libelous statements supposedly being complaints that Prince is "attacking" his fans), and it states: "Whilst writing, we would caution you against communicating any further correspondence or remarks to third parties that could, in any way, be construed as being libellous of PRINCE or that could otherwise constitute a malicious falsehood, injurious to our clients’ business interests."

So, in other words, what Prince and his legal team appear to want is an immediate cessation of all discussion of Prince that could be construed as critical and the immediate takedown of all images of Prince, quoted lyrics, and anything Prince-related. Like I said, either a HUGE misunderstanding...or the worst advice EVER. I mean, how is shutting down fan discussion on the Internet going to enhance one's career as a rock star? Regardless of whether you belive copyrights are being infringed upon, isn't it far more damaging to send threatening legal letters to your biggest supporters? Check out the forums of the aforementioned fansites to read the litanies of anger and betrayal.

Now, over here at Places Parallel, we continue the grand tradition of Wearing These Chains in being extremely willy-nilly with copyrighted images, lyrics, etc. Granted, if a copyright holder ever contacted us to have an image removed, I'm sure that we would quickly comply. However, what we're largely performing for these artists at the same time that we're all wasting time at work is FREE ADVERTISING. Even when we're bitching about something, it is still FREE ADVERTISING. In my opinion, fans should be *encouraged* to express their love for an artist ad nauseam, to ooh and aah over the latest pics, to debate the meaning of the newest lyrics. That is how you ultimately sell merchandise, albums, and concert tickets. There are tons of bands that would KILL for the devotion that these fans have for Prince, even though they wouldn't receive a dime from these websites.

Not to mention the fact that it's not 1984 anymore, so really, Prince should check himself before he wrecks himself.

Prince is a hugely talented and influential artist. Let's just hope that other artists aren't moved to follow suit. Especially you, Trent.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lou Reed & the Killers

Since my last post brought out the bile in so many, namely Gabriel and his toadies, I'm going for a kinder, gentler Rotard today. (JR, you totally made my day giving me a nickname that sounds like I'm a snooty French whore! D'accord!)

But I've decided to keep with yesterday's Joy Division theme and point everyone in the direction of the Killers' cover of "Shadowplay." So what do y'all think? When I first heard they were covering Shadowplay, my initial reaction was, "Oh, Brandon, no you are NOT!!!" Covers so rarely turn out well, particularly covers of songs that are near and dear to my heart. And really, the only decent Joy Division cover I've ever heard thus far is from Sir Trent himself with "Dead Souls."

But as it turns out, I've been pleasantly surprised with the Killers' take on "Shadowplay." They update the song without changing the general melacholy mood. But they don't veer too off course with their updates either, making the song unrecognizable. It's definitely a more uptempo take on the song, but one that stays true to the source. Of course, Brandon Flowers's nasally voice is quite at odds with Ian's monotone drone and I think competes with the strong bass of the song. Perhaps I'm just too used to Ian's sound, but I find myself wishing it were Ian's voice set to the Killers' instrumentals.

The Killers' new album, Sawdust, comes out next Tuesday, and based on their "Shadowplay" cover and their new single "Tranquilize," I'm excited. Like so many sophomore albums, Sam's Town was less than interesting, especially considering the brilliance of Hot Fuss, which still is in my regular rotation three years after its release.

Their video for "Tranquilize" is pretty interesting, given that Lou Reed not only makes an appearance, but his voice eminates from Brandon Flowers. Sorry, but Brandon aint' got nuthin on Lou. In any event, take a gander.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ian Curtis: Tragic Figure or Self-Absorbed Twat? A Review of Control

I'd heard about Anton Corbijn's movie Control a couple of years ago, when production was just beginning. As a big fan of Joy Division since I was in diapers, I was excited. No, thrilled is more the word.

So Maise and I, following a fabulous dinner at Carnivale, headed to the Music Box Theater, which my mom referred to as a "rat-infested shithole." And yeah, she was kind of right, but for whatever reason, it was the only theater in Chicago to be showing this movie. But I didn't care about the screen that was approximately the size of my TV or the less-than-comfortable seats because after two years of waiting, here was the tragic story of one of the most beloved bands of my youth. I was psyched.

Maybe too psyched. Honestly, after all that anticipation, I was waiting to be blown away by Ian Curtis's tragic story. But in reality, for the entire two hours, I was pretty bored. The movie, despite its fantastic JD soundtrack, plods along so slowly that at some points, I nearly dozed off. Ninety percent of this movie is Ian being morose: he glumly watches TV; he glumly smokes a cigarette; he glumly bounces from his wife to his mistress and back again. The moments of levity are so few and far between that this whole movie was just one big downer.

Samantha Morton's and Sam Riley's performances are stellar as Deborah and Ian, but the rest of the actors aren't really given much to work with. In fact, the rest of the characters are largely nonexistent. Even Annik Honore's role is rather thinly drawn seeing as she was the source of such turmoil in Ian's life.

Ian's struggles with epilepsy also seem like an afterthought. They are present, but that part of his life takes a backseat to the love triangle he created with Deborah and Annik. This thoroughly surprised me since it's my understanding that his condition was one of the major contributing factors to his suicide.

But my biggest gripe about this movie? Ian is completely unlikeable throughout most of it. When he starts out dating Deborah behind his best friend's back, eventually stealing her away, all I could think was, "That's an asshole thing to do!" Which is is how I felt about most of his subsequent actions. He treats Deborah poorly, expecting her to support his sorry, unemployed ass both emotionally and financially right after giving birth to their daughter. And he expects all of this while he trots through Europe dicking around with Annik. There are some rather touching moments when you think to yourself, "Aww...the poor guy," but there are so few of those moments that I left the movie thinking far less of him than I had previously. I didn't even find it that upsetting when he does eventually kill himself. In fact, I kind of felt relieved for Deborah, who could finally move on with her life.

All in all, the movie paints Ian as a self-absorbed, selfish, depressing bloke who just happened to create some fantastic, highly influential music. Whether this is an accurate portrayal of his life, of course we'll never really know for sure. I realize that Deborah's autobiography Touching from a Distance was the source material for the movie, so of course her point of view is treated most sympathetically. But after watching this, my love for Ian has been torn apart just a little.