the Buzz for November 2008


“Chicas, Chicas, Chicas!”

— the illuminative text found on a twelve-foot streetside banner advertising The Pink Flamingo, a new strip club which just opened for business in East Austin next door to my weekend workplace. (Again, probably not funny to anyone but me, but I laughed over this for two hours this morning.)


Happy Thanksgiving, all. May your day be filled with fun, family, friends, and football. (And not necessarily in that order.)


“When Clark Gable opened his shirt to reveal a bare and matted torso in his Oscar-winning performance in It Happened One Night (1934), men’s undershirt sales took a 40% drop.”

— a fun fact from Mr. Smarty Pants Knows, The Austin Chronicle‘s endlessly entertaining font of useless trivia.



A number of this week’s high-profile releases are dropping a day early to get a jump on the pre-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy, and though there are still a handful of A-listers in the pipeline — Miss Britney next week, and Fall Out Boy on December 16, most notably — what follows represents the meat and potatoes of ’08’s holiday slate of music. Eat up, kids.


His last American album — the unfairly ignored The Lead and How to Swing It, which featured a knockout guest appearance, done as a favor to her record label, by one Tori Amos — was released fourteen years ago, and while 1999’s Reload was an overseas blockbuster, he’s been off the radar for most of the last decade. But that all changes this week, as ’60s icon Tom Jones, the man whose slick swagger practically invented the term “blue-eyed soul,” returns with his much-hyped comeback effort, 24 Hours. Emboldened both by the back-to-basics return to form of Neil Diamond, and by the retro-soul explosion touched off by Amy Winehouse, Jones looks to find the sailing fairly smooth. All he’s gotta do now is deliver a great album.



stop the insanity

posted at 11:12 pm by brandon in devil ain't got no new tricks

“New rule: Don’t pretend Twinkies are healthy now, just because you can get the 100 calorie size. Here’s the miracle: They’re smaller. And here’s how to make your own at home: Cut an old Twinkie in half. And here’s how to make it healthy: Throw both halves in the toilet and eat a carrot.”

Bill Maher, peeling back the truth on the world-famous Hostess snack cake, which is now claiming to be a waistline-friendly dessert choice, on his HBO series “Real Time.”


“Behind closed doors, they’ll tell you it’s over. Record companies can’t profit unless they retain ownership of artists’ work, and that’s why labels are in a bad situation. People with content are going to win.”

Prince, laying down for USA Today the altered realities of the “new” music business


Considering that her last best of set — 2006’s divine Most Wanted, the “collector’s edition” of which came in the coolest black cardboard box bundled with the first music-related poster since George Michael’s Faith days (Lord Jesus, that stubble! And that cross earring!!) that I’ve seriously pondered Scotch-taping to my wall — only came out two years ago, does it land on the side of overkill? Probably. (Sherry Ann even went so far as to term it “ridiculous” in a recent instant message session, although, given the issues she’s facing with Jason Mraz and his flip insistence on re-releasing the same material over and over and over, she’s scarcely in a position to judge.) Is it a worthwhile investment nonetheless? You betcha.

Featuring two new tracks — and, just for good measure, remixes of those two new tracks — plus a handful of past classics, The Best of Hilary Duff can now be found at your local record store, and with its bargain list price (below ten bucks at Best Buy, kids), it might just be the steal of the season.

In part, you can thank the incredible Ryan Tedder for that. Tedder, the driving force behind OneRepublic (hands down, the year’s best new band, as A is bound to learn when we see them play in Austin this evening), also moonlights as one of the most in-demand songwriters and producers in the pop world today — he’s had his hand in so much of 2008’s brilliant music, from Leona Lewis to Natasha Bedingfield to Josh Hoge to James Morrison, above and beyond what his band itself accomplished, that my upcoming year-end countdown is gonna seem like a shrine to the poor man — and he is the man behind those aforementioned new Duff tunes: “Reach Out,” a sly, dynamite reworking of the 1991 Depeche Mode classic “Personal Jesus” (the lyrics are now not as subversive by half, but on that legendary refrain, the one that goes “reach out / and touch me!” (and don’t even play like you can’t sing it by heart!), Duff matches Martin Gore’s iconic come-hither growl bar for bar, believe it); and “Holiday” (not a cover of Madonna’s 1984 breakthrough, but rather a devastating chronicle of the end of a relationship, delivered by Duff with the shattering ease and grace of a young Streisand).

Not to be overlooked on this album are the classic Duff smashes of yore, like last year’s “With Love” or her 2003 tours de force “Come Clean” and “So Yesterday” (the latter of which, in particular, has aged as flawlessly as one of A’s favored zinfandels), and if the price of access to those sparkling new Tedder tunes is having to sit through these songs one more time, I reckon I can totally live with that.

In other words, keep doin’ your thing, Hilary. The Buzz loves ya, gal.



The economic news gets bleaker and bleaker, but lucky for us, the names get bigger and better in the music world, as a handful of the year’s most anticipated releases make their arrival in record stores across the land this week. I’m telling you, if this slate doesn’t jumpstart the holiday shopping season, nothing will.


Two compact discs and one digital video disc would seem to be adequate acreage in which to assemble The Definitive Rod Stewart, and, indeed, things go swimmingly on the audio side of this project: evenly split between his hedonistic years (the mid-to-late seventies, which yielded such classics as “Hot Legs,” “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and “Tonight’s the Night”) and his more grown-up ones (late eighties, early nineties, which gave us a string of triumphs capped by the monumentally staggering cover of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train”), the two CDs very effectively cover a wide swath of Stewart’s legendary career. (For good measure, the good folks at Rhino Records who oversaw this collection even threw in Stewart’s shattering (and super-rare) cover of “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda)” — another Waits classic, that — which, heretofore, has only been available in America as a b-side.



“…but the album’s strongest track is the wickedly strange “Fly On the Wall,” on which Miley-as-sex-kitten ends up channeling — and convincingly, at that! — both Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar in an off-the-wall instant classic.”


me, reviewing “Fly On the Wall,” an unexpectedly brilliant gem from Miley Cyrus’ stupendous summer album Breakout, in a Buzz post dated July 29.


“The album’s second single, ‘Fly On the Wall,’ finds the singer influenced by Gwen and Avril, while her more experienced (read: older) co-writers wink and inject some ’80s new wave influences, a la Blondie and the B-52s, which means fans’ parents can join in on the fun, too.”


— critic Chris Williams, reviewing “Fly” for the November 15 issue of Billboard Magazine.



“God wants her to go the hell back to Alaska and fall off a glacier or somethin’.”


me, commenting to A on Sarah Palin’s declaration that she’s praying to God to show her the way to her political future.  (Palin’s exact quote — trust me, you can’t make up stuff this rich!:  “I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is.  Even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door.  And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”)




So, we finally have a new president, which means we can finally get back to the important stuff: what we’ll be listening to when we realize that the cesspool of American politics will likely do to him exactly what it did to most of the rest of ’em. Lucky for us, we’ll always have magnificent music on which to fall back.


Speaking of our new president, a compilation album which was commissioned Barack Obama’s campaign (and which, heretofore, was only available with a donation to the campaign’s website) has been granted a mass release.
Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement features previously released tracks from Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Stevie Wonder, among others, as well as a new track from John Legend (an impassioned cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”) and a new collaboration — their second — between Kanye West and Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine.



Dear Mr. Obama,


I understand you’re kinda new at this racket, so let me say at the outset that I’m willing to give your shameful ignorance the benefit of the doubt, and willing to believe your silly, impetuous actions on Friday will never again be repeated.  But, sir, you’ve been president-elect for barely a week, and you’ve already made no fewer than one enormous miscalculation, one which, try as I might, I simply can’t allow to stand.



bombs away

posted at 11:28 pm by brandon in utilitarian really is the word, Ricardo

“The urinals in the Singapore and Amsterdam airports have little pictures of flies etched into them so men have something to aim for.  This reduces maintenance costs.”


— the “go figure” entry from last week’s edition of Mr. Smarty Pants Knows, my favorite column in the Austin Chronicle.  (If anyone out there remembers L.M. Boyd’s homespun canards from your newspaper’s lifestyle section, you’ve got a pretty good idea the kind of trivial territory Pants swerves fabulously into.)