Monday, February 28, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day archive

What the hell are you doing watching The View? Turn off them gabby bitches--even though Joy Behar, the only regular on The View who's never said anything stupid, is alright in my book--and tune in to the 'Rock Box' block from 9am to 11am on Mondays and Fridays on A Fistful of Soundtracks. 'Rock Box' also airs at 4am and 3pm on Mondays and 5am and 3pm on Fridays.
January 3, 2011: The Crystal Method, "Starting Over"
January 4, 2011: Run-DMC, "Rock Box"
January 5, 2011: Pulp, "Like a Friend"
January 6, 2011: Classic & 86, "Ridin'"
January 7, 2011: The Roots feat. Malik B. & Dice Raw, "Here I Come"
January 10, 2011: Puccio Roelens, "Caravan"
January 11, 2011: The Who, "I'm One"
January 12, 2011: Madvillain feat. M.E.D. a.k.a. Medaphoar, "Raid"
January 13, 2011: Stevie Wonder, "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
January 14, 2011: Elton John, "Amoreena"
January 17, 2011: Edo G feat. Masta Ace, "Wishing"
January 18, 2011: The Motherhood, "Soul Town"
January 19, 2011: Tom Jones, "Sex Bomb (Peppermint Disco Mix)"
January 20, 2011: Matt & Kim, "Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare"
January 21, 2011: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Crosstown Traffic"
January 24, 2011: A Flock of Seagulls, "Space Age Love Song"
January 25, 2011: Brother Noland, "Coconut Girl"
January 26, 2011: Spandau Ballet, "Gold"
January 27, 2011: Aloe Blacc, "I Need a Dollar"
January 28: 2011: Harry Nilsson, "Jump Into the Fire"
January 31, 2011: The Blind Boys of Alabama, "Way Down in the Hole"
February 1, 2011: Vampire Weekend, "A-Punk"
February 2, 2011: Beastie Boys, "Shambala"
February 3, 2011: Cameo, "Candy"
February 4, 2011: Tony Lucca, "Devil Town"
February 7, 2011: Earth, Wind & Fire, "Reasons"
February 8, 2011: Dinah Washington, "This Bitter Earth"
February 9, 2011: Raekwon feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and GZA, "Guillotine (Swordz)"
February 10, 2011: Iggy and the Stooges, "Search and Destroy"
February 11, 2011: Neil Richardson, "The Riviera Affair"
February 14, 2011: The Jackson 5, "Never Can Say Goodbye"
February 15, 2011: The Skyflakes, "Talk About Today"
February 16, 2011: Pixies, "Where Is My Mind?"
February 17, 2011: The Dubliners, "The Rocky Road to Dublin"
February 18, 2011: Roxy Music, "Same Old Scene"
February 21, 2011: The Bar-Kays, "Too Hot to Stop"
February 22, 2011: Geto Boys, "Still"
February 23, 2011: Death from Above 1979, "Romantic Rights"
February 24, 2011: The Heavy, "Short Change Hero"
February 25, 2011: The Pogues, "The Body of an American"

The "Rock Box" block on A Fistful of Soundtracks airs 4-6am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Mondays and 5-7am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Fridays.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: The Pogues, "The Body of an American"

'For Christ's sake, Hugh, play the fucking song already!'--Freamon
"On its surface The Wire is a cop show, the most stereotype-ridden of TV genres, yet nowhere in The Wire do stereotypes exist. There are no good guys and bad guys, merely men and women who work on opposites sides of the socially acceptable. The Wire treats both as people caught up in the same racial, class, and political tensions that afflict any American, and dramatizes them in manners that feel natural. It's why you're not surprised that African-American detective Lester Freamon knows the words to the Pogues' 'Body of an American' when it's played at a cop wake in an Irish bar."

--Bret McCabe,
Baltimore City Paper, January 12, 2005

Song: "The Body of an American" by The Pogues
Released: 1986
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: When Robert F. Colesberry, a co-executive producer of my favorite TV series of all time, The Wire (as well as an occasional actor who appeared on The Wire as homicide detective Ray Cole), died of complications from heart surgery in 2004, series creator David Simon had Colesberry's character die off-screen, and in the "Dead Soldiers" episode, he paid tribute to his mentor and friend through a heartfelt and rousing scene in which a bar full of white and African American Baltimore cops holds an Irish wake for Detective Cole.

"I started listening to a lot of different music for this scene, and The Pogues just naturally came into it, and 'Body of an American,' which seems to tell its own story in its own way about life and about loss, just became this thematically perfect thing," said Simon during his "Dead Soldiers" audio commentary. "The idea that [Baltimore detectives] would lay a guy out on the pool table and do a detective's wake and then sing this song seems entirely reasonable. They don't have this tradition, but they should."



The Shane MacGowan-penned gem, which is about a wake for an Irish boxer-turned-soldier, a real-life prizefighter named Jim Dwyer, "the man of wire," was reprised twice more on The Wire: when the "Corner Boys" episode paid tribute to another deceased Wire cast member, Richard DeAngelis, by giving his cop character Raymond Foerster a sendoff similar to Cole's and when a fake wake was held for Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), a comedic highlight of the series finale "-30-."

The eulogy that Sergeant Jay Landsman (Delaney Williams) gave for Cole was filled with references to past Colesberry projects like Mississippi Burning, After Hours and Simon's HBO miniseries adaptation of his own book The Corner. When Landsman delivered his fake eulogy for McNulty, his lines about McNulty's disregard for rules and authority could double as a comment on what The Wire itself accomplished as a TV series and an exploration of "a dark corner of the American experiment" during its extraordinary five-season run: "He was the black sheep, a permanent pariah... He did what he wanted to do, and he said what he wanted to say, and in the end, he gave me the clearances."



All the other "Rock Box" Tracks of the Day from this week:
The Heavy, "Short Change Hero"
Death from Above 1979, "Romantic Rights"
Geto Boys, "Still"
The Bar-Kays, "Too Hot to Stop"

This is the final "'Rock Box' Track of the Day" post. The "Rock Box" block on A Fistful of Soundtracks airs 4-6am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Mondays and 5-7am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Fridays.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: The Heavy, "Short Change Hero"

This house can be found in the same neighborhood as The House That 'Starved' Built and The House That 'Testees' Built. #lamejokeaboutcancelledfxoriginalshows
Song: "Short Change Hero" by The Heavy
Released: 2009
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's featured in the end credits of Dwayne Johnson's recent revenge flick Faster, which earns points for also featuring Guido and Maurizio De Angelis' "Goodbye My Friend" from another revenge flick, the 1974 Franco Nero actioner Street Law. Viewers of the Syfy original series Haven might be familiar with "Short Change Hero" from its appearance in Haven promos.

Coming soon: Abe Vigoda in Slower.
I'm a fan of the British band The Heavy. I'm not a fan of Hollywood's current perception that "How You Like Me Now?" is the only song The Heavy has done. So I'm glad Faster gave exposure to a Heavy track that's not "How You Like Me Now?"

Both those jams and "That Kind of Man" sound incredible live. Hell, all of The Heavy's songs sound incredible live. (David Letterman loved The Heavy's live performance of "How You Like Me Now?" with the horn section of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings so much that he did something he had never done before: he had the musical guest do an encore.)

Heavy frontman Kelvin Swaby shows off the hole he's dug for Justin Bieber.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Death from Above 1979, "Romantic Rights"

Rob Huebel, Jason Woliner, Aziz Ansari and Paul Scheer can't believe how boring my blog profile is.
Song: "Romantic Rights" by the once-disbanded, soon-to-reunite-at-Coachella Canadian duo Death from Above 1979
Released: 2004
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: Dig that scratchy opening guitar riff. The opening title theme and bumper music for the Aziz Ansari/Rob Huebel/Paul Scheer MTV show Human Giant is my favorite theme tune for a sketch comedy show since Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet's instrumental "Having an Average Weekend" on The Kids in the Hall (Heavy D's second theme for In Living Color wasn't too bad either).

From 2007 to 2008, Human Giant gave us delightful moments like a sex tape in which Will Arnett says he gets turned on by abortions, a biopic about post-9/11 Bush starring a lisping preschooler as "Lil' Bush" ("Deeth colorth don't run!") and an Indian American sketch comic who managed to be funny without relying on minstrel-y, MetroPCS Tech & Talk commercial-style shtick. But the greatest moment from the Human Giant quartet (the fourth and largely off-screen member is segment director Jason Woliner) has to be when Ansari, Huebel and Scheer took over as MTV hosts for 24 hours, brought to the MTV studios musicians they enjoy but TRL and The Hills viewers wouldn't have cared for (like Tapes 'n Tapes and Ted Leo) and were given free rein to air on the channel whatever music videos or old MTV shows they wanted to see. Their hijinks during the 24-hour live telecast made the long-irrelevant channel temporarily watchable again.

After the MTV show ended due to the stars' commitments to other projects, the Human Giant cast members haven't been doing so well. Ansari is now starring in the great ensemble show Parks and Recreation and Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer's upcoming 30 Minutes or Less with Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, a film Ansari has called "Heat with two really dumb dudes." Huebel is a cast member on Adult Swim's hilarious Childrens Hospital and has snagged a role as George Clooney's best friend in Alexander Payne's next movie The Descendants. In addition to co-hosting How Did This Get Made?, an amusing podcast in which he and his friends take a crap on crappy movies like Burlesque and Old Dogs, Scheer is starring in both FX's The League and Adult Swim's upcoming Childrens Hospital spinoff NTSF:SD:SUV and got the chance to work in close proximity to Kelly Brook's uncovered boobs in Piranha.

Dwayne McDuffie (1962-2011)

A shot from 'Divided We Fall,' one of many Justice League Unlimited episodes written by Dwayne McDuffie.
Dead at 49, Dwayne McDuffie was an incredibly prolific comics and TV animation writer who, as a story editor and frequent scriptwriter for Justice League Unlimited, helped make that cartoon the most satisfyingly written DC Animated Universe show since Batman: The Animated Series. But McDuffie's greatest contribution remains Milestone Media, the indie comics company he co-founded in the '90s to make the way-too-white superhero genre more diverse and to give comics writers and artists of color more opportunities behind the scenes.

"It showed that there could be actual black people in comics," wrote comics reviewer David Brothers in a Black History Month tribute to McDuffie and Milestone that he posted a couple of weeks before McDuffie's death yesterday. "The company was full of people who looked, acted, and talked like people I knew. This is a big deal, believe it or not."

It was also a big deal for Asian American readers like myself who grew up in a multiracial world that wasn't being reflected enough in superhero comics (sadly, it still isn't) and were looking for comics that featured Asian characters who were raised in America like we were and weren't foreigners in corny dragon-themed or martial arts-themed costumes that were the Asian equivalent of the "headband and yellow disco shirt" that The Boondocks once joked about in regards to Luke Cage's costume. Milestone responded to the lack of Asian American characters in superhero comics by creating the immortal hero Xombi and Third Rail, a Korean member of the Blood Syndicate, a superhero team comprised of gangbangers who were mutated by radioactive tear gas during a police crackdown on gangs. Latino and gay characters also inhabited the Milestone universe.

He's X-static about whupping some ass.
The most popular and enduring Milestone creation is McDuffie's Static character, a.k.a. Virgil Hawkins, a constantly bullied inner-city high-schooler who gains the ability to manipulate electricity after being exposed to the aforementioned radioactive tear gas. When the original Static comic debuted in 1993, I was glad to finally come across a comic about teens where the high school setting was hardly as clean-cut as Riverdale High or whatever campus subjected Peter Parker's Spider-Can to frequent wedgies. In other words, Ernest Hemingway High resembled the school I went to. Virgil's campus was beset by gang violence and racial conflict, elements that were watered down but still addressed in Static Shock, a more kid-friendly animated version that McDuffie was also involved in.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Geto Boys, "Still"

Samir finds a peaceful solution to his paper jam problem.
Song: "Still" by Geto Boys
Released: 1996
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's the Office Space copier-bashing scene music.

Whenever I get frustrated with a misbehaving copier, I wonder if there's a baseball bat lying around nearby, and I start to mutter, "Back up in yo' ass with the resurrection..."

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: The Bar-Kays, "Too Hot to Stop"

It looks like Michael Cera's about to do a fan dance with the '70s Columbia logo. Um, God, I said to You I wanted to see Emma Stone do a fan dance with the '70s Columbia logo, not Michael Cera.
Song: "Too Hot to Stop" by The Bar-Kays
Released: 1976
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It accompanies both the Foxy Brown-style opening credits of Superbad and Bernie Mac's slap-happy entrance scene in Head of State. In Superbad, "Too Hot to Stop" was an immediate sign that the Apatow production's soundtrack was going to be anything but irritatingly twee ("I want to tongue kiss whoever decided to keep the movie devoid of any twee music. Seriously, I do. Preferably with a Curtis Mayfield song blasting," wrote film blogger Kim Morgan in 2007). The 1976 tune is from the Mercury Records-era incarnation of The Bar-Kays, which opted for more of a P-Funk-influenced sound than the Stax-era incarnation that gave us 1967's "Soul Finger" (a classic I first heard while watching Spies Like Us as a kid).

They're each doing what is known as the 'I'm with Awkward' gesture.
Because of its line "I don't mind if I'm considered uncool," "Too Hot to Stop" was a fitting choice for a film that involves a kid like McLovin who doesn't care how uncool he looks when he tries to spit game. Too bad Superbad couldn't find some way to work in The Bar-Kays' equally fitting 1981 jam "Freaky Behavior" during the party scenes or the moments of awkward second base.





Friday, February 18, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Roxy Music, "Same Old Scene"

Angry that crimefighters from other countries are busting local bad guys that he'd rather get first dibs on, Gene Hunt attempts to run over 'those bloody Hero Turtle wankers' as they pop out of that sewer.
Song: "Same Old Scene" by Roxy Music
Released: 1980
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's mainly due to its appearance at the end of the first episode of the impressively soundtracked British cop show Ashes to Ashes, a sequel to the original version of Life on Mars that ran on BBC One from 2008 to 2010 and like the original, left a present-day British cop stranded in the past (this time, it was Keeley Hawes' Alex Drake, trapped in both 1981 and huge Dynasty shoulder pads).

From an Ashes to Ashes first-season soundtrack album customer review at the British version of Amazon.com, which notes that "Same Old Scene" isn't on the album:
But most mystifyingly, the one track which for me was as much the theme of the series as Bowie's 'Ashes To Ashes' itself - Roxy Music's 'Same Old Scene' - is also not included. This track was used in the ultra-cool sequence at the end of episode one which contained virtually no dialogue. The piece of music that the show's producers were originally going to use for this was 'Imagine' by John Lennon; considering how much the mood of the sequence would have been altered if they had gone ahead, it becomes clear how essential this Roxy Music song actually was in setting up the dark, brooding, sexually charged atmosphere so successfully evoked.
BBC America has yet to air Ashes to Ashes' third and final season, which I haven't seen yet, so unless I click to Wikipedia to read the spoilers, I have no way of knowing if Ashes to Ashes ended in a brilliant, David Bowie-scored way like the original Life on Mars did or in a batshit-crazy, completely random, "Poochie died on the way back to his home planet"-style way like the American Life on Mars did. Apparently, decades-old reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation are a bigger priority to BBC America (last time I checked, that show's not British).



All the other "Rock Box" Tracks of the Day from this week:
The Dubliners, "The Rocky Road to Dublin"
Pixies, "Where Is My Mind?"
The Skyflakes, "Talk About Today"
The Jackson 5, "Never Can Say Goodbye"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: The Dubliners, "The Rocky Road to Dublin"

'Block his blind jab, counter with cross to left cheek. Discombobulate. Then resist urge to utter cliched saying like 'Who's your daddy?''
Song: "The Rocky Road to Dublin" by The Dubliners
Released: 1964
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: Because of Warner Bros.' announcement from the other day that Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes sequel finally has a title (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), today's track from the "Rock Box" playlist is the Sherlock Holmes bare-knuckle boxing sequence music. It's the Irish folk band The Dubliners' 1964 recording of "The Rocky Road to Dublin," a 19th-century "slip jig" about an Irishman who travels from the town of Tuam to Liverpool to look for work and--here's a shocker--he gets in a fight, where his moves probably aren't as well-thought-out as the moves Sherlock comes up with to win the pitfight.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Pixies, "Where Is My Mind?"

Rosie O'Donnell hated Fight Club so much she spoiled its climactic twist on her talk show on the day the movie opened nationwide. Too bad she wasn't inside one of the collapsing buildings in this scene.
Song: "Where Is My Mind?" by Pixies
Released: 1988
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It turns up at the end of Fight Club, while the nameless Edward Norton character and his girlfriend Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) watch the results of the Norton character's plan to free everyone from the stranglehold of credit card companies by obliterating all the companies' office buildings. "The ending of the film provided a bit of a prelude to the global financial crisis that the world is currently embroiled in," says a Popdose blogger about Fight Club's final scene.

A year before Fight Club's 1999 release, the frequently covered Pixies tune made its first soundtrack appearance in the Adrien Grenier/Clark Gregg coming-of-age flick The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, which is about the strained relationship between a misfit teen and his cross-dressing stepdad and is worth checking out if you ever wanted to know what Agent Coulson from the Iron Man movies and the upcoming screen version of Thor looks like in a lady's wig, a dress and heels.

Inspired by the odd behavior of the little fish that followed around Pixies frontman Black Francis while he went scuba diving in the Caribbean ("Animals were hiding behind the rock/Except for little fish"), the tune has turned into a go-to song for conveying inner turmoil or insanity. "Where Is My Mind?" has also been used in Veronica Mars' "Driver Ed" episode, Criminal Minds, The 4400, HBO's stylish and well-produced promos for its broadcast premiere of The Dark Knight, It's Kind of a Funny Story (which features a piano-only instrumental version by French pianist Maxence Cyrin instead of the original Pixies version) and the full-frontal flasher chase scene in Observe and Report (where the flabby flasher's dick flaps back and forth in vomit-inducing, psyche-scarring slow-motion to the tune of a faithful cover version by City Wolf).

But the most effective use of "Where Is My Mind?" remains the conclusion of Fight Club. The oddly uplifting track will forever be identified with the uplifting sight of every credit card company being blown to smithereens.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: The Skyflakes, "Talk About Today"

Harold Goes to the White Castle in the Sky is available wherever DVDs are sold via Paramount Home Entertainment.
Song: "Talk About Today" by the Bay Area-based Filipino American indie band The Skyflakes
Released: 2001
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's featured in frequent Fast and the Furious sequel director Justin Lin's 2002 breakthrough film Better Luck Tomorrow, a landmark moment in Asian American indie cinema that I referenced in the following webcomic.

The Palace: So This Is Where the Asians Hang Out?, Chapter 5 by Jimmy J. Aquino
Which moment in Better Luck does "Talk About Today" appear?: It turns up during the sequence where Ben (Parry Shen), an overachieving teen athlete striving to get into both an Ivy League school and the pants of unattainable cheerleader Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung), hangs out with Stephanie (the below photo is from this sequence) and teaches her how to shoot a basket, which she nails on her first try.

Ben gives Stephanie a few pointers about painting that he picked up from watching Bob Ross and lulls her to sleep.
The tune, which is about a snotty overachiever who can't let go of high school ("That's him/Still living in his glory days/Oh no that's him/Still talking about his SAT's"), was a perfect song choice for this film because "Talk About Today" foreshadows what Ben and the band of wannabe gangsters he's fallen in with will be like after college. I think they'll act as if high school never ended and continue to be the same amoral, power-hungry hustlers we saw on display in Better Luck, as hinted by laconic, Tim Riggins-ish Han's post-high school career choice of illegal street racing in Lin's Fast and the Furious installments (Sung Kang's Han character in those films--like the upcoming Fast Five--is the same character Kang played in Better Luck).

As someone who's seen The Skyflakes perform live and also carries around "Bad Thoughts" and "Things to Do" in the iPod, I was jazzed to hear one of their tracks turn up during Better Luck. I can't help liking a Fil-Am band that consists of "movie buffs with a sense of humor," according to an SFGate article that mentions the tracks they've written about movie characters (but the characters they chose aren't typical ones that are written about by most bands--"Cellar Door" is about Donnie Darko, while "Now What Do We Do?" references the Ellen Burstyn character in Requiem for a Dream). The band's Cardigans-esque penchant for dark lyrics underneath a deceptively sunny sound is enjoyable too.

Hear The Skyflakes choose to live in the now at my SwiftFM site.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: The Jackson 5, "Never Can Say Goodbye"

This is the final shot of Crooklyn before the awesome closing credits montage of Soul Train clips. The tune during this shot is not 'Never Can Say Goodbye.' It's 'Mighty Love' by The Spinners. I couldn't find any good shots from the 'Never Can Say Goodbye' sequence online. Plus, that compressed anamorphic shit Spike Lee did with the shots in that sequence ain't exactly easy on the eyes.
Song: "Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5
Released: 1971
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It was featured in 1994's Crooklyn, one of my favorite Spike Lee Joints. In an A.V. Club "Random Roles" piece that was posted last week, Crooklyn star Delroy Lindo said his film, which flopped at the box office, found its fans on video:
One of the things that's been interesting about the legacy of the film is that I can't tell you how often I'm walking down the street and somebody will come up to me and say something like, "My daughter loves that film," "My daughter knows every scene in that film," "My daughter went through a period where she would come home from school and put in the VHS of Crooklyn." I mean, I hear that a lot, or people saying, "Oh my God, that was my family." And not just African-Americans. I've had white people say "You know what, I'm from Brooklyn, that was my film; that's so evocative for me of my family, of my past."
Which moment in Crooklyn does "Never Can Say Goodbye" appear?: The sequence where Troy (Zelda Harris) heads back to Brooklyn and says goodbye to both her Virginia-based cousin and compressed anamorphic widescreen (to the relief of viewers who were annoyed by the way Spike intentionally distorted the film's images to convey Troy's discomfort in Virginia).

Crooklyn is where I first heard "Never Can Say Goodbye," which was written by actor/minister Clifton Davis of That's My Mama and Amen fame. Thank you, Spike, for introducing me to so many fantastic pieces of music like the original version of "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "Chaiyya Chaiyya."

You know those Kidz Bop cover versions of pop hits? I'm looking forward to hearing the Kidz Bop crew take a stab at Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You."

Kidz Bop covers of songs like "Since U Been Gone" make no sense because they have kids sing about relationship baggage they haven't experienced yet. You don't have to be Lorne from Angel to be able to detect that in their soulless delivery. I can't take seriously a tune about relationship woes if it's sung by someone who still eats paste.

"Never Can Say Goodbye" should have been just as nonsensical because little Michael Jackson was also singing about adult heartache, but his voice in that tune is the opposite of soulless (it's also devoid of the showboating that a whole future generation of American Idol contestants is so fond of). I have no idea which moment from his effed-up childhood Jackson was recalling in order to embody the angsty character in "Never Can Say Goodbye"--Alex, I'm gonna go with "What is heartache over a rat he lost?"--but whatever it was, it fueled one hell of a performance during "Never Can Say Goodbye." That's what separates young Michael Jackson from whatever Village of the Damned they pluck those Kidz Bop studio singers from.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Neil Richardson, "The Riviera Affair"

Ocean's thirteen? What's he doing for his thirteenth birthday? Have his pubes shown up yet?
Song: "The Riviera Affair" by Neil Richardson
Released: 1970
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: When I first saw Ocean's Thirteen, I dug the old-sounding Warner Bros./Village Roadshow logo music.

I wasn't aware that the logo graphics and music were a reference to '70s and '80s TV, in keeping with the film's nostalgia for things like '60s and '70s caper flicks and the camaraderie of the Rat Packers who starred in the original version of Ocean's Eleven (as heard in "You shook Sinatra's hand," the film's frequently repeated line to Al Pacino's villainous character about how much of a backstabbing asshole he's become). I didn't grow up in New York, so I learned on YouTube that the swanky Ocean's Thirteen logo music--"The Riviera Affair," a library music cue written by British composer Neil Richardson, who died in October at the age of 80--was the same instrumental that used to open and close the "4 O'Clock Movie" broadcasts on New York's WOR.



Steven Soderbergh's shout-out to the WOR movie broadcast graphics is the director's way of saying, "Ocean's Thirteen is just like those old, breezy caper flicks that used to turn up at 4:00 on WOR."

Neil Richardson (1930-2010)
Richardson's instrumental was left off the Ocean's Thirteen soundtrack album, but it's part of 1996's Sound Gallery '60s and '70s library music instrumental compilation. An Amazon.com user review of The Sound Gallery sums up "The Riviera Affair" well. "Picture David Janssen and Diana Rigg cruising in a turquoise convertible along the open highway with the wind in their hair and the glorious possibilities of the future before them," says the reviewer. "This will give you just a small idea of how glorious and transcendent this tune is!!"

True, although when I hear "The Riviera Affair" and picture nearly the same thing--a relaxed playa cruising in a turquoise convertible along the open highway with his woman by his side--the twitchy star of the original Fugitive TV series doesn't exactly come to mind.

In 2009, another one of Richardson's loungy library music instrumentals was used to great effect when director Michel Hazanavicius gave ample screen time to Richardson's "Rio Magic" in the French spy spoof sequel OSS 117: Lost In Rio.

All the other "Rock Box" Tracks of the Day from this week:
Iggy and the Stooges, "Search and Destroy"
Raekwon feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and GZA, "Guillotine (Swordz)"
Dinah Washington, "This Bitter Earth"
Earth, Wind & Fire, "Reasons"

Murray Gold's Doctor Who: Series 5 score album lands in the "Assorted Fistful" block on A Fistful of Soundtracks

The 11th Doctor races to retrieve his much-maligned fez.
I enjoyed Steven Moffat's fifth-season revamp of Doctor Who and composer Murray Gold's new themes for the show, so I'm adding several standout Gold cues from the fifth-season score album to "Assorted Fistful" rotation. The two-disc album from Silva Screen came out in November in the U.K. and finally hit our shores just recently.

Gold's rousing "I Am The Doctor" theme for The 11th Doctor (Matt Smith, who's been a terrific Doctor, despite the Tucker Carlson bow tie) is my favorite theme he's written for any of The Doctor's post-Paul McGann incarnations so far. When I first heard it during the "Eleventh Hour" season premiere, I thought to myself, "Okay, I gotta cop that CD." I like how Gold takes the percussion during the "I Am The Doctor" motif and makes it simulate a ticking clock, like in the "Amy in the TARDIS" cue that concludes "The Eleventh Hour" as The Doctor activates the new TARDIS for the first time.

"I Am The Doctor" and "Amy in the TARDIS" are part of the "Assorted" playlist, along with the season finale cue "The Sad Man with a Box," which includes some nifty electronic effects that represent the "timey-wimey stuff" that goes down during the finale. When I first heard the CD sound as if it were being played back in reverse and then paused, I got worried and thought my CD was skipping, but then I remembered it was an electronic effect from the scene where River Song (Alex Kingston) gets trapped in a time loop.

I'm looking forward to season 6 (finally, an episode shot on location in America, with actual American actors for a change, instead of British actors mangling American accents!), and I'm wondering what Gold has up his sleeve for the theme that will represent "the silence that will fall" in the new season. I'm thinking Gold will take the Pootie Tang approach (no music).

Dana Gould explains on Conan why the reality genre isn't worthy of being labeled as reality

I've heard Dana Gould riff on his hatred of reality TV before, but I never get tired of it. My thoughts on reality TV are the same as his: "You're watching people who aren't actors put into situations created by people who aren't writers, and they're second-guessing how they think you would like to see them behave if this were a real situation, which it's not... You're watching an amateur production of nothing!"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Iggy and the Stooges, "Search and Destroy"

The Smoke Monster meets the Puke Monster.
Song: "Search and Destroy" by Iggy and the Stooges
Released: 1973
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's featured in the 2010 Lost episode "The Substitute." It also turns up in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Which moment in "The Substitute" does it appear?: A drunk Sawyer (Josh Holloway) plays it on a record player as he's paid a visit by the Man in Black (Terry O'Quinn).

From the A.V. Club review of "The Substitute":
I know that our Lost creative team never picks any piece of music at random, so what can we learn from Iggy & The Stooges’ “Search & Destroy?” (Besides the fact that it is maybe the most awesome rock ‘n’ roll song of all time?) The song can be read simply as a reflection of Sawyer’s return to an “I hate the world” attitude, but there might also be something to the lines like, “Somebody gotta save my soul,” and, “Baby penetrate my mind.”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Raekwon, "Guillotine (Swordz)"

Huey realizes he forgot to bring along a mask with him to protect his face from Stinkmeaner's flying spit.
Song: "Guillotine (Swordz)" by Raekwon feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and GZA
Released: 1995
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: This kickass Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... track from the Wu-Tang member with the biggest Mafia genre fetish (he provides the third verse in the track, after Deck's opening verse and Ghostface's second verse) is featured in the 2005 Boondocks episode "Granddad's Fight," which introduced one of my favorite Boondocks running gags, the use of a chair as a weapon (I call it "chair fu").
Which moment in "Granddad's Fight" does it appear?: The Samurai Champloo-esque dream sequence in which Huey (Regina King) fights Granddad's blind nemesis Colonel H. Stinkmeaner (Cedric Yarbrough).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Dinah Washington, "This Bitter Earth"

Damn you, music clearance fees!
Song: "This Bitter Earth" by Dinah Washington
Released: 1960
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's featured in director Charles Burnett's ultra-low-budget but visually stunning 1977 debut film Killer of Sheep. Because it's Black History Month, today's "Rock Box" post is the second of two consecutive posts about existing songs from Killer of Sheep, a work that SeeingBlack.com referred to as "an important missing link between the Blaxploitation era of movies of the 1970s and the 'New Wave' of Black filmmakers that began with Spike Lee's debut in 1986."
Which moment in Killer of Sheep does it appear?: "This Bitter Earth" accompanies the film's most memorable scene, in which Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders) and his nameless and neglected wife (Kaycee Moore) slow-dance, perhaps the only worthwhile part of Stan's day, which is mostly spent at a grueling job at a slaughterhouse. Washington's couplet "What good is love/That no one shares" is like a comment on the end of the scene. Stan, exhausted from work, walks away, and his wife--who clearly hoped their dance would turn into something more--is heartbroken.

The song also accompanies the film's closing images at the slaughterhouse where Stan works. The pre-2007 version of Killer of Sheep concluded with Washington's cover of "Unforgettable" instead of "This Bitter Earth." But because the company that owns "Unforgettable" got stingy while Burnett and Milestone Films were trying to resolve the music rights issues that prevented moviegoers from seeing this much-praised film for years, Burnett had to replace "Unforgettable" with "This Bitter Earth."

Hear "This Bitter Earth" at The Wily Filipino's Killer of Sheep Soundtrack Mix.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Earth, Wind & Fire, "Reasons"

The Dog-Faced Girl hopes there are talent scouts from Barnum and Bailey who are watching her stuff her paw into her mouth.
Song: "Reasons" by Earth, Wind & Fire
Released: 1975
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's mainly due to its inclusion in Killer of Sheep, a long-unseen, black-and-white 1977 gem from filmmaker Charles Burnett about the working class in Watts. Music rights issues were the main reason why Killer of Sheep, which Burnett made as his thesis film when he was a grad student at UCLA, wasn't released theatrically until 2007. Back when Burnett filled his soundtrack with songs by the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Paul Robeson and Dinah Washington (a complete playlist of Burnett's selections in chronological order can be found here at The Wily Filipino), music rights weren't a big deal like they are today. It took several years--and $150,000--for Burnett to clear all the existing songs (only one track was too pricey to clear, and that was Washington's cover of "Unforgettable").

Black History Month is a great time to discover Burnett's landmark achievement in both African American cinema and indie cinema, which he said was "a demonstration to show the working class who they were." Too many contemporary American films that are centered on communities of color are heavy on the speechifying or pandering and do more telling than showing. Killer of Sheep simply shows.

At one point, Burnett's camera captures a little girl (dog mask-wearing Angela Burnett, the director's daughter) playing with her doll and clapping and mumble-singing along to Earth, Wind & Fire's That's the Way of the World track "Reasons." The kid's off-key sing-along is one of many moments in Killer of Sheep that establish the film's setting and mood better than any piece of dialogue or voiceover ever could. Another moment along those lines is the image of kids leaping from rooftop to rooftop--hey, they're the first parkourers--and it's such a striking shot that it's no wonder Mos Def turned it into the cover of his 2009 album The Ecstatic.

Jason Bourne stole his moves from these Watts kids.
I'm glad Burnett was able to clear "Reasons" because I just can't imagine Killer of Sheep without that scene.



Tomorrow's "Rock Box" Track of the Day is another tune from Killer of Sheep.

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Tony Lucca, "Devil Town"

'If the quality of writing on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS were the base standard for all network television, cable TV would collapse overnight.'--Patton Oswalt
Song: "Devil Town" by Tony Lucca
Released: 2007
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: This frequently covered, Daniel Johnston-penned tune is featured in several Friday Night Lights episodes, including the first-season FNL eps "Eyes Wide Open" and "State" and this week's ep "Texas Whatever." It was also used in FNL's season 3 promos on DirecTV's 101 Network.

Because the Super Bowl is this Sunday, and then three days later, FNL--the best scripted drama series about football ever made, even though season 2's forced "Landry kills a guy" storyline was a huge fumble--is airing its final ep, today's "Rock Box" post is focused on "Devil Town."

The song, one of many great finds by FNL music supervisor Liza Richardson, has been as much of an essential part of the TV incarnation as Explosions in the Sky's instrumentals were in the 2004 FNL film. Johnston's lyrics are a perfect match with the bleakness of FNL ("All my friends were vampires/Didn't know they were vampires/Turns out I was a vampire myself/In the devil town"). The show already used up its "Devil Town" card in the penultimate ep this week (the tune was a fitting farewell to the East Dillon Lions), so I doubt the track will resurface in the series finale, but I'm sure Richardson has picked some equally striking tune for the occasion as we hear "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!" chanted one last time.



All the other "Rock Box" Tracks of the Day from this week:
Cameo, "Candy"
Beastie Boys, "Shambala"
Vampire Weekend, "A-Punk"
The Blind Boys of Alabama, "Way Down in the Hole"

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Cameo, "Candy"

I think this is the most naked a future (and now former) Law & Order assistant D.A. chick has ever gotten on-screen.
Song: "Candy" by Cameo
Released: 1986
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's featured in The Best Man (and was stupidly omitted from the Best Man soundtrack album). It also turns up in the Death at a Funeral remake.
Which moment in The Best Man does it appear?: The Cameo jam is the bachelor party lapdancing music for Candy (Regina Hall), an Audre Lorde-reading stripper Murch (Harold Perrineau) falls for. It also plays while the characters do the Electric Slide at the wedding reception at the end of the movie. "If you ask me, it's impossible to not like a film that ends with the entire cast doing the electric slide to Cameo's '80s funk classic 'Candy,'" wrote online film critic Michael Dequina in 1999. True that.

When Hall appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2005, her entrance music was "I Want Candy" by The Strangeloves. Someone in The Max Weinberg Seven must have been a Best Man fan (La Bamba?).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Beastie Boys, "Shambala"

Frank McPike has gotten much less dorky since he quit the FBI and ditched his habit of making random Tarzan yells.
Song: "Shambala" by the Beastie Boys
Released: 1994
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: It's featured in the Breaking Bad third-season finale "Full Measure."
Which moment in "Full Measure" does it appear?: A Beasties instrumental from Ill Communication that contains Tibetan monk chants and references to Adam Yauch's Buddhist beliefs, "Shambala" accompanies the not-so-pacifist sequence where Mike (Jonathan Banks), the ex-cop-turned-cleaner who works for drug tycoon Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), wipes out four Mexican cartel members at a chemical supply warehouse.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: Vampire Weekend, "A-Punk"

This is the same expression Will Ferrell had all through that week when he and his fellow SNL cast members had to work with guest host Chevy Chase.
Song: "A-Punk" by the yacht-rocker-wardrobe-loving band Vampire Weekend
Released: 2008
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: I have no idea what exactly this song's about, but it opens my second favorite Adam McKay movie after Anchorman. In addition to Step Brothers, "A-Punk" has also been featured on the Britcom The Inbetweeners.

The foul-mouthed Step Brothers premieres tonight at 8 on FX with all of its f-words gone and one of its best gags--the sight of demure Mary Steenburgen unleashing an f-bomb--ruined.