the Buzz for June 2008


“I’m not gonna equate the two… there’s no degree here, but my son can’t go surfing in the bloody ocean for two weeks because they’ve shut the oceans down in California because they’re so filthy, and I can’t have sex without wrapping my body in rubber…. We have done a terrible, terrible… we have damaged so much. We are so far away from what is natural and what is healthy and what is normal.”

Susan Powter, discussing the AIDS crisis with renowned naturopathic physician Dr. Jane Guiltenan on her radio show in 1998.


So, the event itself had the phenomenally awful timing to fall during the most brutally busy weekend of my entire year (which explains why this is being posted twenty-four-plus hours past the fact), but the fabulous Sherry Ann celebrated her birthday yesterday. I phoned her at midnight to offer her fond wishes (a tradition we began back when we were but wee chillins), and she was ringing in the day by camping out in the front yard (in a tent and everything!) with her two sons. When I expressed disbelief at the mere idea of this, she informed me, as if it was the most (and perhaps only) natural thing in the world to say, “I’m the mother of boys. Boys like to do boy things.”

After our (too brief) conversation, I was left to ponder how (and why) I never really cared to do so-called “boy things” like camping (which, as my mother and sister will haply attest, I hated — and, often, flat ass refused, with adamant vehemence — to do) and fishing (the single time I went with my grandfather on a walleye hunt, the revelation that subduing our quarry actually meant touching it revolted me so much that it took me weeks to surmount the trauma) and watching football (a hobby I didn’t stumble onto until I was well into my twenties, and the only reason it happened then was because I thought UT’s then-QB One Major Applewhite was the most hopelessly adorable guy I’d ever laid grateful eyes on) and working on cars (can change a tire and check the oil, that’s pretty much the extent of my skill set). Rarely ever have I felt even an iota of angst about my lack of interest in any of these pursuits, which means this entire post has nothin’ to do with nothin’ (and certainly has no relevance vis-a-vis Sherry’s special day), so even though it may or may not like I’m aiming for something profound here, I’m quite honestly just musing.

Had “boy things” filled the gaps in my attention span, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Buzz would be non-existent, so even if it accomplishes nothing more, may this silly blog illustrate with fierce and unyielding precision that “boy things” are overrated anyhow.

Much love always (and happy birthday!), Sherry Ann.

P.S.: The maid’s name was Florence. 🙂


dear diary

posted at 1:18 am by brandon in come on, girlfriend, SHOOK me

“If you were ever to let those things out, I imagine that empires would fall.”

Courtney Love, reacting to the news that Stevie Nicks has kept a comprehensive journal throughout the entirety of her storied career, during a 1997 chat with the legend for Interview Magazine


It was just brought to my attention that today, June 11, is A’s sister’s 24th birthday. Had I known this, I’d have had something up on the Buzz much sooner, H! Forgive your brother; he’s forgetful sometimes.

Happy birthday, my darling!

Mazel tov,

the Buzz.


At first glance, his career may well seem star-crossed: the youngest son of a man who is widely regarded to be the planet’s finest songwriter decides to stake his own claim on his father’s profession. The son forms a band, stumbles more or less across instant success (give or take an unfocused yet promising debut album) by tossing top 40 radio one of the smartest tandems of smash singles the format has ever seen. The son — whose devilishly smoldering (if slightly off-kilter) good looks only serve to cement his status as a lustworthy rock star — lands on every relevant magazine cover in creation, and the band, showered by now with gushes and with Grammys, seems to be riding a unstoppable rocketship straight to the top.


Except: in a brilliantly faulty judgment call, the band waits four years to write and record the follow-up to their shattering breakthrough, by which time the gurus of pop culture have deemed their style of music — so ubiquitous in their brief heyday — to be unforgivably gauche. The album fails to sell, and so do the next two (despite a handful of killer tunes contained therein), and the band, who had made their pilgrimage to the pinnacle seem so damned simple, realizes just how imperceptibly fleeting celebrity can be.


The Wallflowers are far from dead (or so they swear), but the band’s lead singer Jakob Dylan (son of Bob, natch) has just released his first solo project, a spare and haunting album called Seeing Things that is built around an acoustic guitar and, more importantly, around Dylan’s reedy yet undeniably affecting voice, an instrument that sold five million copies of its band’s second CD — 1996’s classic Bringing Down the Horse — a decade ago solely by transforming forlorn songs about homelessness (the mind-blowingly fine “6th Avenue Heartache,” which featured a to-die-for harmony vocal from head Crow Counter Adam Duritz) and suicide (the monumental “One Headlight”) into radio-friendly pop fodder.


The slight hint of resignation that now emanates from his vocals seems to suggest that Dylan is perfectly at peace to be respected as a songwriter and nothing more. (And, maybe just maybe, that was his goal all the while.) And although it’s sometimes too quiet and too unassuming, Seeing Things is a striking collection of songs from a man who long ago proved that although fame — particularly the sudden variety of same — is transient, talent isn’t.



“I love The Sopranos, it’s a fantastic show…. I’m fascinated by the writing. I’m a Jewish guy; if I wrote for The Sopranos, you’d be saying things like, ‘I am so in the Mafia!'”


— comedian Garry Shandling, opening the 2000 Primetime Emmy Awards



and those who matter don’t mind

posted at 11:25 pm by brandon in mine's on the 45

Believe me here if nowhere else, singers: when gay folks fall madly in love with you, you’re in like Flynn, baby. We are positively undying in our loyalty and devotion to your craft and to your output. We support you when no one else will give you the time of day (how else to explain why you crazy gals Taylor Dayne and Nicki French still have careers?), we love you even when you lose your marbles (and, in some cases, because you lose them, correct, Liza?), and we stay at your side through thick and thin, through addiction and sobriety, through brilliance and boredom.

In honor of Pride month, a prodigious passel of inarguable gay icons have just released new projects for us to devour gratefully. Allow the Buzz to guide you along a tour of these records, replete with snap judgments as to their worthiness and/or lack thereof. (Believe me here, as well: your crazy Uncle Brandon will never knowingly mislead you!)



what if she was juliet in a mini?

posted at 11:30 pm by brandon in mine's on the 45

All the way back to her stint as the lead singer of the quintessential ’80s band ‘Til Tuesday, I’ve generally been able to take or leave her music — though her 1995 breakthrough “That’s Just What You Are” remains a touchstone (as does her bravura work on 1999’s brilliant Magnolia soundtrack), and I’ve got a twenty dollar bill that says her interpretation of “The Scientist” (from the deluxe edition of her 2004 album Lost in Space) is stronger and more profound than Coldplay’s — but it’s impossible not to admire Aimee Mann‘s incredible moxie and flippant panache. (Or — on a totally shallow note — her cooler-than-cool husband, the woefully underappreciated Michael Penn.)

Singularly unimpressed with the overgrown machinery of the music business’ major label system, Mann struck out on her own in the late ’90s after two acclaimed efforts for Geffen Records stiffed huge. Turned out to be the smartest move Mann ever made: this week brings us @#%&*! Smilers, Mann’s sixth do-it-yourself effort (counting a concert recording and a Christmas album) and the one with arguably the highest profile. No major stylistic shifts here; if you dug her before, you’ll dig her now, and if she annoyed you before, well…. Regardless, there can be no discounting her accomplishments as a true maverick. Way the hell before it was tres chic to do so, Mann was brave enough to blaze a trail that some of the biggest names in the business — Yorke, Amos, Reznor, to name but a few — would end up following her down.


keep digging

posted at 10:34 pm by brandon in words to live by, I should think

“Life is a dream anyway…. Sitting here tonight… forty years ago, I wanted to come to the Actors Studio. None of it makes any logical, left-brain sense to me. There’ve been books written about it… that there’s something in us that we deeply understand, deep in our nature, deeper than anything we can even begin to comprehend. Certain moments in our life, we get little signals, little flashes… little flashes that says, ‘It’s yours if you want it….’


— the brilliant Anthony Hopkins, discussing with James Lipton the seemingly incomprehensible nature of his directorial debut Slipstream, on “Inside the Actors Studio”



like her nerve, love her heart

posted at 12:31 pm by brandon in now hear this

One of the most consistently fabulous voices in country music belongs to the peerless Martina McBride, whose chops are on full display in her new CD/DVD set Live in Concert. Taken from a September 2007 stop on her Waking Up Laughing tour, the set list for Live hopscotches recklessly across the thrilling breadth of McBride’s catalogue, from her first big hits “My Baby Loves Me” and “Wild Angels” to her classics “Independence Day” and “Broken Wing” to her newer smashes like “This One’s for the Girls” and “Anyway.” She also closes the DVD with a pair of daring covers, one of Pat Benatar’s milestone “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (which brings to mind the terrific 2003 installment of CMT’s “Crossroads” the two women shared) and the other of Journey’s iconic “Don’t Stop Believin'” (on which McBride turns in a surprisingly mean facsimile of the one and only Steve Perry).



All of twenty when he broke through seven years ago with his cocksure summer smash “Fill Me In,” super-suave Brit Craig David is back to take another stab at conquering America. His brilliant 2001 debut Born to Do It launched a trio of radio hits (the terrific “7 Days” and the middling “Walking Away” being the other two) and seemed to herald the arrival of a monumental new talent.


Things didn’t quite work out that way. Lead single “What’s Your Flava?” managed to cause a minor ripple, but David’s 2002 poorly-promoted follow-up Slicker Than Your Average was rushed and sounded like it, and barely went gold despite his debut’s platinum-plus triumph. And minus a stateside release of any kind, 2005’s The Story Goes fared even worse.


But undeterred, David soldiers on. Built around a sizzling David Bowie sample, the spankin’ new club smash “Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance)” beautifully teases Trust Me, which manages to capture all the sexy fun of Born but which also bespeaks the wisdom that only years of dizzying success and wrenching failure can provide. Fewer folks have ever deserved more a second shot at superstardom.



light the candles

posted at 11:23 am by brandon in him him him

This very day — June 5, 2008 — A is out in Calla-forny celebrating his 29th birthday. He insisted he wasn’t planning on doing anything special, no matter how much I pleaded with him to at least go buy himself a birthday pretzel, or a birthday Jamba Juice, or a birthday slice of Stefano’s Pizza. So I’m asking you all to help me guilt him into treating himself indulgently today. (Oh, and to send along birthday wishes, too!)

Happy 29th, A! We love you in the heart!


While doing a bit of long overdue spring cleaning this evening, I popped into the player a Roxette DVD I stumbled upon at Half Price Books a few weeks back. Instantly, I was blown completely away by the utter magnificence unfurling before me. I didn’t even bother to read the back of the box when I first picked it up; this being from one of my five favorite-ever bands, I simply added it to the stack of items I had already earmarked for purchase and continued shopping, none the wiser to the breathtaking brilliance I was now holding.

These kinds of surprises are the most pleasant ones: The Ballad & The Pop Hits: A Complete Video Collection is a superlative visual accompaniment to the two hits collections (divided as indicated in this DVD’s title) Roxette released in 2004. (The Ballad Hits was the only one of the pair released in this country, and if that fact alone doesn’t make you want to instantly emigrate to Sweden, I s’pose nothing will.) The DVD contains thirty-seven of the band’s music videos, a few dating all the way back to their humble (and hilariously lo-tech) inception in 1986, and pretty much all of them — even 1993’s dopey “Almost Unreal” from the disastrous Super Mario Bros. film — supremely entertaining.

But the real hidden jewels here are a couple of hour-long documentaries which close out the disc. One of them is a riveting recollection of the making of Joyride, Roxette’s 1991 smash second record; the other chronicles the band’s brutal 1995 international tour in support of Crash! Boom! Bang!, a stunning album which the f–king idiots who run American radio refused to play because, somewhere between 1992’s “Spending My Time” (their final domestic top 40 hit) and 1994’s “Sleeping in My Car” (Crash‘s leadoff single), it was inexplicably decided that Roxette had gone hopelessly out of fashion.

You’ll understand how wholly ridiculous is that notion when you spend some time with this DVD, which contains no fewer than ten undeniable pop music masterpieces, each from the minds and mouths of a couple of luminous Swedes — Per and Marie, kind of a European remix of Conway and Loretta — who will forever got the look.