the Buzz for January 2011


Neil Young — “Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)”
(from Philadelphia [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]) — Philadelphia - Philadelphia (Music From the Motion Picture)

At work yesterday, I got sucked into watching Jonathan Demme’s magnificent 1993 masterpiece Philadelphia, which was playing as the Sunday afternoon feature on one of the local stations. I hadn’t seen the film in at least a decade, and I was instantly captivated anew by the sheer power of Tom Hanks’ wrenching, riveting performance (which won him the first of his two Academy Awards), and by the unlikely bond that Hanks manages to forge with Denzel Washington (criminally underrated — but incontrovertibly brilliant here — in regular-Joe mode). (Also, by the by, was I taken by what a frighteningly steely bitch on wheels that sly ol’ poker-faced Mary Steenburgen can be!) Bruce Springsteen’s thrilling theme song from the film, “Streets of Philadelphia,” hogged all the attention at the time — winning the Oscar and a passel of Grammys — and perhaps deservedly so, but I have to confess (and I thought this at the time, but having just re-experienced this cinematic touchstone, I really think it now): Young’s staggeringly simple, achingly transcendent ode to love and brotherhood, which plays over the film’s credits, is haunting and astonishing, a pitch-perfect aural catharsis which wisps by like the graceful ghost of a gratefully remembered dream.


“Not actors. Real people with real opinions.”

— the small-print disclaimer which flashes on the screen during the new television commercial advertising the Total Pillow, a seemingly unremarkable variation on the classic U-shaped travel pillow whose TV spot features folks standing in a shopping mall and singing this product’s praises. (This probably isn’t that funny, but I found it rather amusing, as the implication here seems to be that other commercials of this type showcase fake people with artificial opinions. Incidentally, I ran across this commercial while watching an old episode of A’s new favorite television series, Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing, which I wrote about on this site last April and which, he has implored me to inform you all, returns for its fourth season this coming Thursday night.)



“Here’s where I landed on Lady GaGa: the kids need it. She speaks for the freaks of the Midwest…. It doesn’t matter if it’s boring music; she’s still waving the freak flag. It doesn’t matter if it’s inauthentic — it matters that if you’re 14, you get the message that it’s okay to be weird…. But here’s the barb with Lady GaGa: since she’s waving the freak flag but conforming so heavily to the pop structure, is she ultimately doing more long-term harm than good by telling kids, ‘Be yourself, be weird, but be thin and beautiful and….'”

— The Dresden Dolls’ frontwoman Amanda Palmer, discussing Lady GaGa — in what may be the most concise, astute, and acutely observed dissection of Gags’ current spot in this society that I’ve ever heard expressed — in Spin magazine’s annual year-end roundup issue.



There’s a bit more action at the record store this week than there has been in the last couple, but this Tuesday’s biggest release comes to us from the film world, where the bona fide frontrunner for this year’s Best Picture Oscar makes landfall on DVD. Dig in:


Nomination ballots for this year’s Academy Awards race are due at week’s end, and you can bet your bippy that a good many of them will be marked with across-the-board votes for
The Social Network, David Fincher’s dazzling dramatization of the controversial origins of the global phenom now known as Facebook. Working with a typically terrific (and vividly verbose, natch) script from the masterful, magnificent Aaron Sorkin — whose efforts here are damn near certain to land him the golden statuette he has long deserved — Fincher assembles a crackerjack cast to bring this story to life, including the staggering Jesse Eisenberg (who so flawlessly and fabulously crawls into the skin of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that it’s quite easy to take for granted what a taut tightrope he is walking in portraying a character who is not always easy to like) and the amazing Andrew Garfield (as Zuckerberg’s college pal and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who finds himself frozen out of the company after Mark is seduced by the bells and whistles of Silicon Valley), and coaxes from all this post-adolescent agita a riveting yarn about youth, deception, and what it truly means to be a friend in today’s isolated world. (Incidentally, the great character actor David Selby — best known for his starring roles in Dark Shadows and Falcon Crest — appears in Network as an attorney who engages in several blisteringly brilliant scenes of verbal jousting with Eisenberg, and we discussed his role in this film when he
popped into Brandon’s Buzz Radio last October.)




I have been chasing my new boxer puppy Kelly around my house for four straight days now, watching her get used to her new digs and trying — mostly in vain, unfortunately — to prevent her from peeing on every flat surface in sight. Hence, I am so far behind in Buzz posts this week that I fear I’ll never get caught up. (Regardless, I’ll try!) Luckily, this week’s record store report is a spectacularly easy one:


  • Easy because there are no major new wide releases of note this first week of 2011; indeed, the only arrival of consequence is the third wave of this superbly efficient Icon series of best-of compilations which began rolling out back in September. The latest lucky recipients of retrospective discs in this series include:

    • Vanessa Carlton (who has spent the past decade chasing the ghost of her spry debut smash “A Thousand Miles”)
    • Brian McKnight (ditto, regarding his solo star turn with
      1999’s “Back At One”)
    • Imogen Heap (whose set includes her brilliant 1998 debut singles “Come Here Boy” and “Candlelight,” as well as some work she did as lead vocalist for the electropop band Frou Frou)
    • Lee Ann Womack (whose disc blessedly includes “Mendocino County Line” — her exquisite duet with Willie Nelson — but, sadly, not her terrific cover of Don Williams’ “Lord I Hope This Day is Good” — which really ought to show up in Honey from the Hive, stat — nor her unjustly overlooked latest single, “Solitary Thinkin'”)
    • that legendary, late southern sage Jerry Clower (“The Chauffeur and the Professor” failed to make the cut here, but just try not to laugh listening to “You’re On My List”)
    • El DeBarge (most of whose disc is turned over to the wonderful work he created in the mid-to-late-’80s with the family band that bore his surname)
    • Cher (whose set is half ’60s-era classics like “Half Breed” and “Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves,” and half second-act triumphs like “I Found Someone” and “If I Could Turn Back Time,” but you won’t even “Believe” what’s not present and accounted for here)
    • and, finally, Sheryl Crow, whose entry in this rollout comes in a just-the-facts-ma’am single disc or in a more robust two-disc set.