This past weekend, at the yearly, international MidemNet music marketing forum, a new mega-superhero was born. Near the sunny beaches of Cannes, the world caught its first glimpse of the mysterious being known as Merlin. Uniting some of the most formidable independent labels in the music world, the London-based organization will combine the special powers of each affiliated record company to form a whole far more fearsome than the sum of its parts.
Meet the Recordteers:
- Rough Trade... packing the punch of tight pants-wearing Eurotrash everywhere!
- Beggars Group... encompassing every hip record label ever to exist!
- Tommy Boy... bridging the gap between classics like De La Soul and crap like Jock Jams within a single roster!
- Ministry of Sound... clinging bravely to extinct genres of electronic music with the strength of 10 DJs!
- Epitaph... providing the soundtrack to half-assed adolescent rebellion throughout suburbs everyhere!
- Cooking Vinyl... housing bands like Hanson and The Prodigy, who might as well have stopped existing 10 years ago!
Apparently when all six labels put their unique rings (Epitaph's has a li'l spike on it; Tommy Boy's is predictably iced out) together, a big green dude in tights flies out of them. That's Merlin, and he works to even the playing field for (large, successful) independent labels! Dubbed the fifth major and helmed by Chris Caldas, Merlin will represent the companies in digital licensing deals. He's already made friends with SNOCAP -- which is not a new club drug endorsed by those crazy Ministry of Sound kids. It's actually the company that represents MySpace, and the deal will give Merlin artists access to partnerships with the social networking site and other, less important Snocap partners.
Label reps leaving MidemNet were quoted as singing:
Fuckin' Merlin, he's our hero,
Gonna take the majors down to zero,
He's our rosters magnified,
And he's fighting on the indie side!
Hear what Merlin has to say:
"THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL LICENSING AND OTHER BUSINESS SHIT IS YOURS!!!"
I am looking out my window right now at one of the busiest intersections in the city. I see 12 cars in two left-hand turning lanes waiting for the light to flash green. I count only four with turn signals blinking in wait. Deep down, I think these non-signalers believe they are being a little rebellious in their driving. Can I be witnessing the start of a revolt against the rules of the road? Will this lead to a complete abolition of traffic restrictions, by-laws, and warnings and the beginning of a more humane relationship between drivers and pedestrians, where slowing down is natural and traveling by motor vehicle will require a new set of communication aides using eye contact, nods, gestures, and (seriously) kindness? Could traffic be our new target of "the war on...," like drugs or obesity or jealousy before it? Have I had too much coffee this morning?
History's political revolutionaries (and perhaps traffic pioneers too... I really don't know) are much more lauded than their musician equivalents. But sure enough, these freedom fighters exist and are carrying out their subversive missions right under our noses to little acclaim from society at large.
Canada's leading electronic hell-raiser Tim Hecker has quietly shown himself to be a realistic rebel with release after release of disorienting abstract and ambient sounds. They may not be the equal to those of grand radicals such as Moses, Robespierre, Jefferson, Bonaparte, Gandhi, Lenin, Tse-tung, Perro, and the like, nor are they like the cities of Ejby in Denmark, Ipswich in England, and Ostende in Belgium, which have implemented some of the "traffic calming" practices described above, but Hecker's efforts have effectively constructed change and spread basic truths throughout the musical word, and that's not something to scoff at.
It's small-scale stuff, but it's a hell of a lot more than the do-nothings do! Montréal label Alien8 Recordings is re-releasing Hecker's 2003 super-acclaimed-but-long-out-of-print set Radio Amor today. Growing stature and popular demand would dictate an expanded deluxe reissue, but Radio Amor will appear without any bells or whistles, buttons, or lick-me temporary tattoos. Nope, it is just the wonderful album now made more readily available for fans and friends to reacquaint themselves with and for new audiences to discover.
Hecker does perform live from time to time, but it is a rare treat. Rumor has it that there will be a show in April at Tonic in NYC featuring Hecker with fellow revolutionary forces Phill Niblock and Mario Diaz de León. Best keep your eyes peeled for details and date.
Radio Amor, again:
1. Song of the Highwire Shrimper 2. (They call me) Jimmy 3. Spectral 4. I'm Transmitting Tonight 5. 7000 Miles 6. Shipyards of la Ceiba 7. Careless Whispers 8. The Star Compass 9. Azure Azure 10. Trade Winds, White Heat
TMT is sympathetic. We know you have been balls deep in Christmas-spending spirit for months, so the last thing you want to hear is news about potential purchases. We also know what complete consumer behemoths you all are, so we feel it is our duty to fuel your insatiable inner spendthrift gluttons and tell you that GM have hooked up with XM Satellite to offer, what they say is, a compelling deal. It supposedly went down like this:
[The scene is at GM HQ. A conference call is happening.]
Steve Cook [EVP of Automotive at XM]: "So Rick, what do you think about partnering up and offering XM in some models this year?"
Rick Lee [GM Executive Director]: "Well we've had good luck over the years, but we are always looking for new ideas to grab new car buyers. Satellite radio is hot right now, and we need something big this year. We need something that still shows why we are the best."
Lee's Suckup PA: "Best in the West! Um, the East too..."
Lee: "Uh, yeah... Anyway, where was I there? We need something big this year. As far as marketing it goes, we've always had success with our Chevy ads. America can't get enough of real-life images with a soundtrack of non-threatening, middle of the road, bright-white rock by Bob Seger and John (Cougar) Mellencamp. We definitely will have to throw in some sort of patriotic heartstring-pulling campaign to go along with it."
Cook: "Great. I'm sure we can come up with something super-duper!"
Suckup (rambling): "...North and South too I guess..."
Lee: "Ok, what do you say we go for 1.8 million vehicles? And I'll start right this instance on the advertising."
[Lee presses button on desk and half a wall recedes, exposing Bob Seger sitting on a backwards chair looking intently at a Rubik's Cube, while John Mellencamp dances around flicking watermelon seeds at Seger's greying mullet.]
Lee: Boys, boys!!! Hey, over here! Yeah, that's right, over HERE! Listen up you two... we don't pay you for horsin' around, now…"
Suckup: "Yeah, you heard Mr. Lee... no horsing around! You dick-lices."
Lee (rolling eyes): "Alright. We love what your commercial songs have done for our Chev truck line, so we thought we might pick your brains about an idea we have for partnering up with XM Satellite."
Seger: "A satellite? Where are they going to put that?!? My satellite takes up half the friggin' back porch. Mind you, I do like my Larry the Cable Guy.
[Frisbee sails into Lee's face, bloodying the corner of his mouth.]
Mellencamp: "Hey, gimme back my fuckin' Frisbee man! C'mooooooon! I got that fuckin' Frisbee in Louisville."
The Seeg (crooning): "My America... includes Louisville, Jacksonville, Lafayette Ville, Doggerville, Villeville..."
Cougar (reaching desperately for frisbee): "Don't you take Louisville for your song. Louisville is mine. That's where I got my frisbee! Give it baaaaaack!"
Lee (giving back frisbee to Mellencamp while he tussles his hair): "There you are kiddo. Now listen, we really need to inject some life into our new oh-eights this year. Sedan sales are the shits."
Seger: "Sedaaans... ooh la la... look who's hawkin' freakin' sedans now! I can't write a song for a sedan company! Trucks. Trucks! TRUCKS! Trucks and 8-tracks, what else do you need?"
JayCeeeM: "Yeah, my kin won't go anywhere unless we're in a truck! Ask 'em. Teddy Jo, Justice, Hud, Speck, the twins Choate and Scrote, and Queenie Beth Skoal Bandit travel in style, in the back on the flatbed on air mattresses."
Lee: "Cool down you two. We're planning on spreading the offer to 50 of our GM models. Trucks included."
Mellancoog: "Do you know what C-H-E-V-R-O-L-E-T stands for? 'Cheap, Hardly Efficient, Virtually Runs On Luck Every Time'!!! Hahaaaaaaa!"
Secretary (taking dictation and smiling): "Oh you..."
Mellencamp: "You like that one? I got a million of ‘em. All the people on my tourbus think I'm the funniest person they ever met. Fer sure."
Cook (trying to make his voice heard): "Uh."
Lee: "Boys! Boys! Any thoughts?"
Seger: "Well, let me noodle a bit. Mi, mi, mi... myyy. Myyyyy A-merica..."
JCM (playing the exact same chord sequence as Segar): "Myyyyy A-merica..."
Seger: "Hey man!!! He's stealin' my tune!"
Cougar Mellencamp: "America... is Like a Rock..."
Seger: "Oh no, you did not!"
Lee (interupting Cook): "Jesus H. Crispies! Will you two knock it off!"
Mellen to the Camp: "...stumbling out the door / Like a Rock / falling on the floor..."
Lee: "Alright Johnny…time for bed little one."
Johnny Cougar: "Fuuuuuuuccccccckkkkkk yooooooooooouuuuuuuuu…I'm a big boy now! Maaan! I don't want to go to bed! Tits, no, I won't go!"
Lee: (consoling Mellencamp and nodding to Seger to follow him into their hidey house behind the wall): "I know, I know... you're a big boy now."
Lee (handing a slumbering 'Camp into Seger's arms and whispering): "Bob? Anything?"
Seger: "Nah. Leave it with me for a bit, and I'll come up with something for yas."
[Door slams shut and wanders back to his desk, sighing deeply.]
Cook: "Jesus, how the hell do you put up with that? Why do you even keep them around?"
Lee: "Ugh, they had some kind of crazy contract clause and we had to give in. Plus, Beavis and Butthead in there have made our company a ton of cash."
Suckup: "Beavis and Butthead! Hahaha... you've still got it Boss!"
Lee: "Uh, yeah. Anyway, as a I was saying, we really need something that says we're hip to the scene (aside to secretary... 'Did I say that right'?) and we have some history with XM when we introduced satellite in our Sevilles and Devilles a couple of years back. It's not like we're not going to do something original or use an idea that isn't stolen, even if it is from ourselves. Am I right or am I right?"
Suckup: "Right as rain, Big Guy!"
Cook: Well then, I think we're done here. Are we going to go with a free three-month trial period on all factory-installed models with XM?
Lee: "You know it!"
[Later, at a joint press conference.]
Lee: "This announcement continues to demonstrate General Motors' commitment to providing XM Satellite Radio services to our new vehicle buyers. This, coupled with our August announcement to lower the option price of factory-installed XM to $199, supports our effort to offer XM Satellite Radio to more customers (suckers...)."
Cook: "General Motors has been instrumental in growing our business by introducing millions of car buyers across the nation to the extraordinary content of XM Radio. XM has been focused on the new car market since inception and GM has led the way for the industry. It is exciting to see GM driving the installation of XM into significantly more cars and trucks as a means to differentiate and enhance the appeal of their vehicles (suckers...)."
Earlier today, we featured a contest called "What Would Björk say?" The comic above was filled out exactly the same as above, except the last frame had an empty quote box. We got hundreds of responses, most of them having to do with peeing or pooping. Surprisingly, there were a bunch that dealt with pizza and, unsurprisingly, lots of variations on "suck my dick" and "lick my balls." Lars von Trier was mentioned several times, of course.
Although some of the randomness (like Josia Hughes' "Okee, I tell you eh-we-ting: he look-a like a man!" and Nicky F's "Welcome to Mooseport, starring Ray Ramano"), crudeness (Paul Banks' "Fuckin' sausage fest up in herr"), and cleverness (Derek's "No time for the ole' in & out love, I just came to read the meter" and Jacob Harrison Jeffries' "Why haven't any of us moved in the past 4 frames?") are equally funny, I thought the O'Rourke comment was most appropriate for the comic and for TMT. Thus, Dan is the winner. Good work Dan, you're reader of the month. LUCKY YOU!
Heelys, paintball, "Dance Dance Revolution," thongs, Texas Hold'Em, "Takeshi's Castle," su|do|ku, fat laces, "Do the Bartman" ("shake your body turn it out if you're bad man"... wha?), all-conquering SUVs, freedom fries, Atkins, pocket bikes, Beanie Babies, knitting, American Idol, "Crazy Frog," pogs, Vanilla Coke, Crystal Pepsi, frosted tips, Yu-gi-oh!, The Da Vinci Code, sprawling lower-back tattoos, Von Dutch, reggaeton, "wassssssssuuuuuuuuuup!," fanny packs, Furby, emo asses (and their asinine signature haircuts), Napoleon Dynamite, text slang, Red Bull, "All your base are belong to us," the Reebok Pump, "The Macarena," flash mobs, '80s retro nonsense, "Kidz Bop," self-important reality show restaurateurs/realtors/rrrwhatevers, Napster, crocs, Snakes on a Plane, PBR, the cha-cha slide, "the Rachel," mojitos, bling-bling, Big Mouth Billy Bass, gangsta, Girl Power, pocket swearing machines, fruit boots (a.k.a. roller blades), Segways, Koosh balls, ad infinitum.
For the better part of the past two decades, Bill Callahan should really have been as welcome in this fad-driven, catchphrase-rotten "modern world" as a drum kit would have been in Anne Frank's Amsterdam Achterhuis. Thankfully, there has always been room for artists to cast suspicious, wry eyes toward our sick, disposable society. No more so than now. Ace songwriter and psychiatrist's wet dream Bill "The Thrill" Callahan will be releasing a new single called "Diamond Dancer" (b/w "Taken") on March 20 and a new album entitled Woke On a Whaleheart on April 17. The album, Callahan's 73rd (maybe), features contributions from Neil Michael Hagerty, Pete Denton, Elizabeth Warren, and Deani Pugh-Flemmings of the Olivet Baptist Church and will be released by long-standing label Drag City. However, this time 'round he has ditched the staid, vanilla Smog imprint. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for the high-octane, high-voltage, high-priest of song..."Bill Callahan"? It has taken years, but Callahan has emerged out of his well-protected shell and finally opted to record under his given name. This, along with playing recent shows billed simply as "Bill Callahan," means the Smog moniker has effectively been put to rest, at least for the time being. Oh well, life is too short to wax nostalgic on the triviality of recording and touring names. And who really cares... he could go by "Bigg Mouth Billy Bawlz 2 tha Cha-Cha Cally" and we would probably still buy his albums. Sorry, we would definitely buy his albums!