Just like Sho Kosugi in Nine Deaths of the Ninja, Bill Callahan… He Change Color!… Like the Chameleon!

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!

Depress to impress:

TSA Announces: Explosions In The Sky Allowed In 3 oz Containers or Smaller

Air Travelers around the world breathed a sigh of relief when the TSA adjusted its ban on Explosions In The Sky. Air travelers may now carry Explosions In The Sky in their carry-on bag when going through security checkpoints. With certain exceptions for prescription and over-the-counter Explosions In The Sky, baby formula and breast Explosions In The Sky, and other essential Explosions In The Sky, the following rules apply to all liquids, gels, and aerosols you want to carry through a security checkpoint.

1. All Explosions In The Sky must be in three-ounce or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or toothpaste tubes rolled up are not allowed. Each container must be three ounces or smaller.
2. All Explosions In The Sky must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon-sized bags or bags that are not zip-top such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed. Each traveler can use only one, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag.
3. As it has not yet been safely tested by the TSA, FDA, or RIAA, the 2007 output of Explosions In The Sky (an LP entitled All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone) is banned from air travel until further notice.
4. Making jokes about Explosions In The Sky is an arrestable offense:

“New Tour Dates” Starring The Walkmen

This year, The Walkmen saw Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions and raised him a Pussy Cats, a complete cover album originally recorded by John Lennon (during his "No Yoko" phase) and Harry Nilsson in 1974. I found out how bad I am at Texas Hold'Em last week, but I can still be trusted on this call. Some people say they should've come up with some higher quality o.g. material for their latest album, A Hundred Miles Off, but I say I've never heard a better album to drink in your favorite old man bar to than Pussy Cats. I am indeed a lady and not an old man, but like I said, trust me on this one.

You can have your own lost weekend at one of these joints:

The Books Continue Code of Silence on What Could be a Triple-Disc Multimedia DVD Project for All We Know; Tour

It's been nearly 16 years since the release of The Books' debut full-length, Ten. Now on its way to selling 10 million records in the U.S. alone, Ten has become one of the true defining characteristics of Generation X, a landmark album that has managed to transcend all criticism, an album that inadvertently mapped the existential terrain of the alienated youth of the early '90s. With singles like "Evenflow" and "Jeremy," it'd be ridiculous not to at least consider Ten as a contender for the greatest album of all-time.

It's now 2007, and we are still awaiting the follow-up to Ten. Some of us are growing impatient, some of us have even lost all hope -- but I'm not one of them. I still believe in The Books, and I know they'll make a return once they're ready. Hell, if their MTV Unplugged performance taught me anything, it's that a strong, resonating statement can be made with something as mundane as a marker. In this sense, the block of silence is a truly beautiful statement. But I think I speak for us all when I say that I hope the silence doesn't last forever...

Alright, time for a morning jerk!

Photo: Greg Whitmore

Put on Your Happy Hats: Arab Strap to Release Swan Song Compilation Alongside Releases by L Pierre and Malcolm Middleton

With only two options currently available for consumers interested in satellite radio, the possibility of a merger between XM and Sirius is leaving many hardworking radio lovers quivering in their unlaced booties. Although FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (my BOY!) ensured reporters at a recent press conference that current FCC regulations would prohibit said merging, loopholes may exist. The Wall Street Journal has mentioned that XM and Sirius could try to convince the FCC that they're not only competing against each other, but also against normal radio stations, internet radio, and podcasts. An alternate method of coercion could be sending an unrated version of Beerfest to Martin's home address.

The prospect of a satellite radio duopoly turning into a monopoly has sent a group of law students from George Washington University into an epileptic fit. After regaining consciousness, these students formed the Consumer Coalition for Competition in Satellite Radio, or C3SR. I'm torn between steering this acronym toward a joke about Julius Caesar or Star Wars, so instead I'll merely mention that the name is just one 'C' away from being a seriously explosive coalition. Phew.

The initial goal of C3SR is to increase awareness of the pitfalls of the potential merger. Chris Reale, one of its founding members, said, "When I subscribed to XM back in 2005, I had a choice. Now it looks like some of my favorite channels may disappear and/or the subscriptions fees will go up if this merger happens." The secondary goal of C3SR is to provide every American with a free motorized leather chair, though Reale admits that this will have to be dealt with in due time.

There are always killjoys at every Christmas party ruining the fun for merrymakers by moaning on and on about how we should remember that this time of year is a joyous time for many, but is a depressing bundle of nerves and gloom for others. Like I really need to hear that Christmas is the worst time of the year to buy pets for loved ones and that suicide rates skyrocket in December when I'm trying to make nice with the new office co-worker who has yet to figure out what a creep I am! Take that shit away from me, Tim Burton! As for the pet buying, it's true -- so think about it before you buy your little critters (just doing my part for the neglected animal world...). But in regard to the suicide rates, I have my suspicions, despite many empirical statements to the contrary. My evidence simply says otherwise. The winter chill of January/February is a bitch on the fragile psyche, and these three facts alone should make it clear that this time of year bears witness to much more mental anguish than sunny December:

- an increase in people getting left-breast tattoos of Anne Rice's misty profile floating over a somber piece of Dante's poetry

- all-time high "serious" levels among Nazi Low Riders (many are finding it difficult to even muster up the energy to spray jizz on the face of a passed-out member!)

- not one, not two, but three new album releases related to a legendary tormented Scottish duo

Of course, all Goth vaulties and nouveau Nazi fucks are complete poseurs in the downcast game when compared to über-misers Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat, a.k.a. the band formerly known as Arab Strap. Or so they would have you believe. As we posted some months ago, the beloved Glaswegians have split, but that does not mean the show is over. Despite being associated with the dark stuff of life, both Moffat and Middleton have so far managed to surprise us with the upbeat feel of their solo projects while keeping their lyrics personal and conflict-ridden. So turn those frowns into straighter lines or even, gasp, smirks, and put on your happy hats, because here we go!

Malcolm Middleton releases his third album,A Brighter Beat, on February 26 on Full Time Hobby. The full-length is the follow-up to his outstanding 2005 album, Into the Woods, and will be preceded by single "A Brighter Beat" (b/w "Point of Light") January 22 on limited-edition 7-inch vinyl concreteness and downloadable digital abstractness. So much for me going out on a limb and declaring 2007 "the return of the cassingle." Sadly, there is no North American release on the horizon, which is a shame because these songs, by the look of their titles alone, are screaming for a wider audience:

1. We're All Going to Die
2. Fight Like the Night
3. A Brighter Beat
4. Death Love Depression Love Death
5. Fuck It, I Love You
6. Stay Close Sit Tight
7. Four Cigarettes
8. Somebody Loves You
9. Up Late at Night Again
10. Superhero Songwriters

Middleton will be touring in support of A Brighter Beat, with dates opening for Sophia in Germany and Badly Drawn Boy in the U.K. before hitting the road for a brief English and Scottish headliner.

Middleton comes alive!