the Buzz for May 2013


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Blake Shelton & Trace Adkins — “Hillbilly Bone”
(from Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton) —

So, that big ol’ barbecue feast that was originally supposed to take place the weekend before last got delayed until last Friday night, but rest assured: the brisket was lean and juicy, the turkey was fabulously moist, and both A’s and my hillbilly bones were tickled but good by our rather rare smoked meat throwdown, which was well worth the wait. (PS: No peacocks were harmed in the creation of this blog post.)




The Airborne Toxic Event — “This is London”
(from Such Hot Blood) —

Dialing way back on the overblown percussion and ersatz edginess that liberally littered their massively disappointing second record, Mikel Jollett and his band are back on track big time with a terrific third effort, which is anchored by this ethereal, string-drenched gem, a quietly haunting (if slightly melodramatic) tale of love, lost youth and pub-stumbling chaos across the pond.


Katy Perry — “Peacock”
(from Teenage Dream [The Complete Confection]) —

True story: on my way home from work Sunday night, I stopped by our favorite local BBQ joint to pick up several heartstopping pounds of various classes of meat (and a quart of cole slaw and a loaf of bread, just to even out the prospective plates to be created from this meal). I did this because, earlier that day, A had put the notion in my head that this should be our dinner, and he is such a ginormous carnophobe — quite literally, he says endearingly wacky things like “I’ve only had three salads this week!” on a regular basis — and he of course had the great fortune of setting up house with a native Texas boy who wholeheartedly believes “hamburger” is one of the four main food groups (and who, natch, believes that lettuce is meant to be nothing more than a crisp, pretty garnish for said hamburger), so whenever he suggests a meal that in any way involves beef, I tend to leap at the chance.

It being the evening of Mother’s Day in the heart of the Lone Star State, I clearly should have been able to predict that the joint would be a mob scene. And indeed, when I stepped inside, I immediately caught sight of a line of folks easily numbering eighty to one hundred, all of them waiting patiently to be fed. I put myself at the back of the line for the moment, but it quickly became clear, after standing there for five full minutes and not moving a centimeter, that no barbecue would land on my plate that night.

Dejected, I headed back out into the parking lot and toward my truck, where I immediately caught sight of a whole new bizarro quandary: while I had been inside sorting out my dinner options, completely out of left field, a living breathing peacock — I swear to Jesus this is the truth! — had emerged and was standing directly before my pickup sniffing my passenger side headlight. It wasn’t difficult to foresee the dilemma awaiting me, as there was a young, goofy couple — each of them clutching their smartphones like they were out to win a prize — standing behind the beast and repeatedly snapping pictures.

I slipped around the cars that were parked next to my truck and came around the side in order to enter my vehicle, praying that I could get inside without being attacked by the damn bird, all the while hoping that the sound of my truck cranking up would startle it enough so that I would be able to make a clean getaway without having to make the ultimate Sophie’s Choice: would I be forced to run over the peacock in order to be able to get home, or would I be forced to sit there and wait until it decided on its own accord to move the hell out of my way? Making matters worse: the aforementioned couple had seen me enter my truck (read: I now had fucking witnesses capable of testifying about whatever choice I would end up making), and the idiot male half of the twosome had begun flailing his arms about like Icarus and yelling, “There’s a peacock in front of your truck! Hey, a peacock! In front of your truck!” I waved back to indicate that I was, in fact, fully aware, and he resumed snapping his photographs, happy as a clam.

I sat there cooling my heels for a couple of minutes, pondering the idea that only in Austin, Texas is foolishness like this even remotely capable of coming to fruition, when suddenly, to my immense relief, I saw the bird’s head slowly start to bob up and down, and his body begun to strut toward the other side of the parking lot. Then I realized what he was walking toward: three more couples had converged on the scene, camera phones in all hands, now blocking my exit entirely. Seemingly left with no other easily identifiable options, I, too, decided to join in the fun: I rolled down the window, grabbed my iPhone, and snapped my own damned picture, which you can see below.

(The wrap-up on the above story: after three or four minutes, the peacock strolled away back toward the wooded area behind the restaurant, without ever fully revealing his evidently impressive plumage, and all the formerly enthralled photographers headed back to their cars and drove away. As for me: dinner that night was grilled chicken, baked mac and cheese, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and garlic toast, all courtesy of A, who very generously tossed this glorious meal together at the very last minute. Our barbecue feast is slated to occur later this week, on a day yet to be determined, and you’re all invited.)



Mariah Carey — “Almost Home”
(from Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful) —

The industry is (rightly) going nuts over Miss Mariah’s triumphant new collaboration with red-hot Grammy nominee Miguel, which is impacting top 40 radio in a big way this week, but I’m still scratching my head wondering what exactly happened with this delightful piffle. On the face of it, in terms of Oz-related film themes, attempting to follow up no less a universally beloved cultural touchstone than Judy Garland’s pristine “Over the Rainbow” just seems like pure folly, the least enviable task in the whole of modern music history. Smartly, Carey and company — including a mystifying five (!) co-writers — chose to flip the script, delivering a soaring, thoroughly harmless uptempo anthem which instantly re-establishes her as a relevant pop star. (True, “Home” is loaded with those trademark vocal trills that made Carey an icon two decades and change ago, but with the surprising electronica-inspired flourishes — courtesy of Norwegian production team Stargate, best known for their Grammy-winning work with the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, and countless other pop tarts — buried deep within the music’s mainframe, this tune wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on radio playlists next to Tegan and Sara — who have most probably already locked up tight this year’s single of the year derby with their fabulously fun breakthrough smash “Closer” — as spring turned to summer.) I have no credible intel on if mainstream pop radio just turned this one down flat, or if Island Def Jam blocked Disney from pushing this, knowing they had the Miguel duet in their back pocket — and if someone out there reading this knows the whole story, please share it with me — but no matter: in the daunting Oz canon, there’s no song like “Home.” It’s a lovely, eminently listenable, (almost) brilliant gem.


Counting Crows — “Start Again”
(from Underwater Sunshine) —

Some sixteen months ago or so, on a glum and gloomy Friday the 13th, I lay curled up like an inconsolable baby on my living room couch and wept like a dejected puppy watching what I truly believed were the final episodes of my all-time favorite television series, ABC’s classic soap opera One Life to Live, a show I had watched more-or-less daily for twenty-four of its forty-four years. (You may or may not recall my tear-stained love letter to my beloved Llanview-ites, which I wrote with drenched eyes, heavy heart, and gritted teeth on that final, ferociously wrenching afternoon.)

But just as nobody is ever really dead on soaps, rumors of the series’ demise turned out to have been greatly exaggerated: last week, One Life blew back onto the airwaves — alongside sister soap All My Children — via a groundbreaking online venture spearheaded by maverick production company Prospect Park, who have committed to at least a year’s worth of half-hour episodes of each program which are streaming on Hulu and Hulu Plus (and — new revenue stream alert! — which are available for download from the iTunes store.)

With the exception of Dorian Lord’s fabled mansion (which is now a sad shell of its formerly sprawling, gloriously grand self), the sets of One Life 2.0 — which had to be completely reconstructed from scratch, since ABC spitefully ordered the originals destroyed shortly after production had wrapped — are meticulously faithful renditions of their predecessors, and a large chunk of the show’s criminally cool cast — led by the peerless Erika Slezak, and including Hillary B. Smith, Robin Strasser, Jerry VerDorn, Bob Woods, Roger Howarth and Kassie DePaiva (who own 12 Daytime Emmys and roughly a zillion nominations between themselves) — have signed back on for this revolutionary reboot effort. (In addition, though she has since left the writing team, the opening scripts are being co-written by the fiercely fabulous Susan Bedsow Horgan — a not-infrequent visitor to Brandon’s Buzz Radio, and the woman who nurtured this show through its true glory years in the mid-1990s.)

It remains to be seen how this wickedly bold programming experiment will play itself out — Prospect Park has signed on for a year initially, and though we all pray this venture is a blockbuster success that makes those fops who run ABC rue the fucking day they ever decided to divebomb their entire daytime lineup in one fell swoop, just between you, me, and the lamppost, I’m having more than a little trouble figuring out how these folks are even going to get close to recouping such a massive monetary investment — tens of millions of dollars for each soap, and that’s not even counting the costly advertising blitz that has heralded these two shows back to the big time — by relying solely on the brave new frontier of online content delivery. But no matter: even if it is just for a year in the end, I can’t even begin to express how thrilling it is to again be able to revisit my fictional Pennsylvania pals for a spell each day, and to get a bit of real closure on a Life that found itself snuffed out long before its time. Second chances rarely come more well-deserved.


Elton John — “Little Jeannie” (from Greatest Hits 1970-2002) —

Even casual visitors to this site figure out fairly quickly that I am a massive soap fan, and for that, we can happily blame my maternal grandmother, who quite literally arranged her entire life around CBS’ forty-year-old classic serial The Young and the Restless. (Don’t think I’m kidding about that, either: she owned a catfish restaurant in the Texas Panhandle when I was a kid, and she opened the doors at 12 noon everyday, for the sole reason that her favorite soap came on at 11am and she could watch it while doing all her prep work for the day to come.) Her favorite character: the indomitable Katherine Chancellor, the alcoholic rich-bitch busybody played with inviolable grace and grit for nearly the entirety of Restless‘ run by the legendary Jeanne Cooper.

Cooper passed away yesterday morning at the age of 84, following a couple of years of steadily declining health and a brutal month battling a nasty infection that required multiple hospitalizations, and while the news was not exactly a great surprise — particularly if you’ve been following her son Corbin Bernsen’s regular Facebook and Twitter posts, which have kept her fans up to date on Jeanne’s condition — the loss is a staggering one for the increasingly insular world of daytime television. (Ironically, Cooper’s final Restless appearance — which was taped six weeks ago or so, just prior to her penultimate hospital stay — aired just last Friday, and fittingly, her bittersweet closing scenes were with Jess Walton, whose character, Jill Fenmore, has been the bane of Katherine’s existence since Nixon was in the White House.)

It seems silly to sit here and type a sentence like: I regarded, in a funny and wholly real way, Mrs. Chancellor as something of a surrogate grandmother. Although, it’s quite true that Katherine — and Cooper — managed to outlive both of my own biological grandmothers, and it’s equally true that Cooper could forever be counted on to shoot it straight, in the great matriarchal tradition, packing her hard-won sage wisdom into every syllable of her dialogue, no matter how soapily inane it may have been. (Indeed, if you allowed her dishy, divine memoir — Not Young, Still Restless — pass you by last summer, it’s just out in paperback, and you should run not walk to the closest bookstore: the tome loaded with fabulous stories about her experiences as a contract actress during Hollywood’s golden age, as well as tales about her triumphs and tragedies as an Emmy-winning soap queen. When she spills some delicious tea about the time her daffy co-star Kate Linder — who has portrayed Katherine’s hapless housekeeper for more than three decades — supposedly tried to get Cooper fired and usurp her onscreen position as lady of the manor, you’ll be rolling off the sofa in fits of laughter.) Fare thee well, madam; my daily visit to Genoa City isn’t gonna be the same without you, gal.


Whitney Houston — “Love That Man [Peter Rauhofer NYC Mix]”
(from Love That Man [The Mixes]) —

Tori Amos — “Flavor [Peter Rauhofer Club Mix]”
(from Flavor [The Mixes]) —

Anyone who gives even the slightest damn about the world of dance music must find him- or herself in deep mourning this day at the stunning death of the extraordinary DJ and remixer Peter Rauhofer, who lost his brutal battle with brain cancer yesterday at the far-too-young age of 48. Rauhofer never quite managed to hit the same rarefied commercial air as a handful of his peers and progenitors (think Todd Terry with his crazy-cool radical reinvention of Everything But the Girl’s formerly mellow “Missing”; think Brian Transeau’s electrifying mid-’90s work with Billie Ray Martin and others), but those trademark tribal beats with which he dabbled (and dazzled) so brilliantly were instantly identifiable, no matter the artist. He was probably best known for his work with Madonna and Cher (the classic remix of whose 1999 international smash “Believe” landed him a Grammy in 2000), but this morning, we here at the Buzz choose to pay our respects by blasting a pair of our favorites from among Rauhofer’s lesser-known mixes: “Man,” a rare highlight from the regrettably dreadful “crack-is-wack” period of Miss Whitney’s recording career; and the spankin’-new “Flavor” (released just last December), as glorious a career-capper as one could envision. (As I tweeted yesterday upon learning of Peter’s passing: The Goddess has been remixed by the best over the years — including the aforementioned BT, whose mad 1996 masterpiece “Blue Skies” made all of us burgeoning house fans rejoice, scream “Tori Tori hallelujah,” and be glad in it — but never once did she sound more bold, more bangin’, more badass than when in Rauhofer’s crisp, capable hands. You were a magicmaker at twirling the knobs and spinning the beats, Pete; may you now rest — and remix — in peace, ever.