Of all the ultra-mega music superstores, Tower Records always appeared to be the best. While the prices were positively mall-tastic, its selection was often as good as many mom & pop stores. Tower also had a lot of zines and books that most record stores wouldn't bother to carry. So, if you didn't have an awesome indie record store in your town but had a Tower, then you didn't really have it that bad. And while record store aficionados may have been a little bummed about Tower's passing last year, they surely weren't as "bummed" as all the indie labels and distributors that had product returned to them after Tower shuttered for good.
But now it seems that a rebirth may be in the works. In an auction last March, Caiman, Inc acquired the Tower logo, Tower.com, and all of the company's intellectual property for $4.2 million. The London-based company currently employs about 200 people, has offices in Montreal and Sacramento, and a warehouse in Miami. In a Billboard article, Caiman CEO Didier Pilon said that the company plans to relaunch Tower.com, as well as open physical superstores in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco within nine months. Pilon won't be without knowledgeable help, as he has hired former Tower purchasing executive George Scarlet as director of entertainment purchasing, along with Kevin Hawkins, a former buyer for Tower, to work on the project.
Even though Caiman usually uses one-stops and some independent distributors to stock music on its own Caiman.com site, it hopes to change over to buying direct from indie and major distributors and, in certain instances, direct from indie labels themselves for this new venture. Pilon went on in the piece to say that Tower.com, which is still operational and gets 40,000 unique hits a day, will relaunch with new technology, offering 275,000 CD and DVD titles, over a million books, and vinyl. Pilon hopes that all this will help Tower.com not only stand out from the pack, but become "the entertainment destination." If this endeavor is a success, it could provide indie labels and distro with some of the revenue they lost after Tower's initial demise.
Fans of short, imperative sentences everywhere rejoice!
Sugary, spazz-pop rockers Get Him Eat Him are so hyper they might just win this year's award for "Most Mistakenly Japanese Band of the Year" (last year's award embarrassingly went to Deerhoof before it was revoked and given to rightful Ritalin-hiders The Fiery Furnaces).
Nope, despite all aural evidence to the contrary, this spastic and twitchy, unabashedly colorful, Energy-drink-addled quintet hails from the O.G. American city of Providence, Rhode Island. And this summer, these over-stimulated University Boys will be packing up all of their collapsible, travel-sized drum kits, cute vocoders, pictures of their moms, and ADD medication as they leave-behind the ol' Divine City for a five-week tour in support of their new album Arms Down, which is due June 5 via Absolutely Kosher Records.
Who wants to bet they bring their Nintendo Wii with them?
Get Tour, Eat Dates:
My first reaction, being the Tiny Mix Tapes humorist that I am, was to make this article about the country Canada rather than the band. I would talk about the country coming down south to traipse all around the stars and bars displaying its musical fury. But then I thought to myself, “that is immature, Petya.”
And this thought, as they tend to do, led me to another thought, “Is there a barometer for immaturity?” To answer simply, yes. I mean, I’m in control here, so why not? The scale is going to work like this: 1-10; 1 being a complete moron and 10 being a PhD.
First up involves Manfred Mann’s song “Blinded by the Light.” Clearly, Manfred sings, “Revved up like a deuce.” Now, many people sing, “revved up like a douche,” and it is those people who rank around '5' on the immaturity scale. My next example comes from a slideshow I viewed in high school. We were flipping through pictures at a conference at some community college when a guy’s face showed up all melting to one side. He looked hilarious, I mean the whole left side of his face looked like it had gone numb and hung a little lower than it should. My buddy and I started laughing incredibly loud, and the MC of the slideshow informed us that this man had obviously suffered from a stroke. So, laughing at stroke victims is going to be about a '2.' I’d say '1,' but I’m not going to put myself that low on the scale. Making fun of kids that shop at Hot Topic is going to be a '7' because they partly deserve it, yet I know you wore Jeancos in middle school too. After that, it’s pretty much your call. Taking one bite out of every cupcake at Kelly’s birthday party is pretty funny, but some might rank that a '3,' while the same people would deem a mushroom stamp on passed-out Patrick’s forehead an '8.'
The main idea behind this article is to get you to think before you act. Next time you’re watching Blow and “Blinded by the Light” starts up, don’t say “douche.” Please.
Oh yeah, the tourdates! O Canada!
Are You Telling Me the Minus The Bear Tour Is Already Underway and We Haven’t Written About It Yet? Well, Don’t Blame Me. I Stubbed My Toe!
The house party was well underway, and very well attended after kids from the rival high school had spread the word around to "go trash some goof's house." Word got 'round eventually to Seattle's finus, Minus the Bear, who decided to let off some steam and take a well-deserved night off from recording their new album and before starting a spring tour with The Honorary Title and labelmates Chin Up Chin Up. Taylor Hawkins (no relation to Foo Fighters drummer of the same name, but just as punchable), entrusted by his parents to "make sure the plants get watered and the cat fed," talks to the freshly arrived constables: Jack "JJ" Johnston and John "Double J" Jackson.
JJ: So, tell us again more about what the holy heck happened here. You said something about the guitarist, um, David Knudson, standing on some sort of table?
Taylor: Not "some sort of table!" An antique early-Georgian oval pedestal mahogany table that my parents swindled some little old lady out of at a garage sale last August! That's what "sort of table"!
Double J: Um, o-kaaay. What did he do?
Taylor: He was wearing a bandolier of shot glasses and was pouring jiggers of my parents Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac while reciting the "last barman poet" speech from Cocktail! I mean, c'mon! First of all, Tom Cruise is so lame...
Double J: Now, listen up, son. You don't have to take that tone. Tom Cruise is a great actor and I'll be damned...
JJ: It's okay Double J...
Double J: No, it's not okay. I'm taking a stand here, JJ. I've had enough of people badmouthing one of this nation's greatest human beings, living or dead or otherwise. Anyone who has breathed sweet life into the two true Gods on Earth, Vietnam vets and NASCAR drivers, has my respect. Viva la Cruise, I say!!!
Taylor: Okay! Okay! I'm sorry alright!? But what are you going to do about my house?
JJ: Alright, we are all tired and upset... let's keep this professional. Anything else happen?
Double J: Once again you're the model of reason, JJ. Okay, what about this bucket of animal entrails, sweetbreads, offal, and stomach lining sitting here.
Taylor (looking at list of "suspect" names with instruments played by each member of Minus the Bear for some reason): Him, Cory Murchy, the guy playing bass, said he needed them for something. I think he wanted to make haggis.
Double J: He, he... bass players... What else?
Taylor: The drummer, Erin Tate, stole the $150 my parents left for emergencies and said he was going to buy a couple of cases of beer.
JJ: Should have a lot of money left if he only bought a couple of cases...
Taylor: He brought back two hookers with him, too.
JJ: Okay, that adds up then. I've found you can get two hookers for a reduced rate at the corner of First & Nelson, if you're willing to pay for some drive-thru burgers and give them a lift home after you've finished your monkey business.
Double J: That's true. How do you think I've managed to save some money for our upcoming trip to Acapulco? I've been getting busy 'round the back of the station on company time for barely anything because I throw my regular gal a couple packs of smokes and let her wear my cop hat. At least I think it is a gal... I'm usually pretty wasted at that point during my shift.
Taylor: Would you guys stop talking about hookers!
Double J: Sorry son. Uh, yeah, we really are taking this seriously. What about the keyboardist, Axl Rose?
JJ: It says Alex' here.
Taylor: Him? He managed to get two sumo wrestlers to come over and fight in my kitchen. Then they whipped off their obis and made... um, they made...
JJ: What was it son? "If you can't tell the police something, it isn't worth telling." Haven't you read our posters? Spit it out, son.
Taylor: Um... sweet, sweet love.
Both cops: Bleaaaaghahahahahahaha!!!
Taylor: It's not funny... the singer, Jake Snider, was wearing my mom's wedding dress and my dad's favorite fish tie. He also got someone to make a plastercast of his cock 'n' balls and put it on the mantle!"
JJ: He, he. Alright, alright.
Taylor: ... then he took some acid, climbed on our roof and yelled, "I am a golden god!" before jumping into our pool!
Double J: Like in Almost Famous? Cool.
Taylor: No, not cool!
JJ: Alright. Enough is enough. You badmouth Tom Cruise, you obviously have something against ladies of the night. I, I, I've had it! I need to unwind. Sit here and we'll be back later for some more answers after checking out the band. C'mon Double J.
Taylor (reduced to tears): Sob, sniff... but, I made the complaint, shouldn't you be doing something? Blubber, blubber...
Cops: Tut, tut... sit!
Sure enough, the cops went around back to where the band was winning over everybody on site with their shenanigans. The two relaxed and hit on underage girls while the five monsters of schizo jittery rock proceeded to play throughout the night. All the partygoers were instantly bellowing cheers and some were reduced to tears of joy, as MtB regaled all with tracks from its dynamite releases, including some new songs from their forthcoming album, Planet of Ice, due August 21. Among these was "Dr. L'Ling" which some revellers were already familiar with because they had heard the tune by clicking on the band's most excellent label's website Suicide Squeeze. You never know what will happen when Minus the Bear play, but it's always a treat. We can't promise impromptu monologues from half-assed movies, Scottish delicacies, or decorative mantel casts, but then again, we can't not promise you won't not see any of that either, neither... capiche? "Taylor" unfortunately won't be at any of the dates listed below; he still suffers from night terrors and is presently undergoing severe psychological treatment to cure his chronic screaming that happens whenever anyone mentions the words "Minus the Bear" in his presence. The tour started last week but continues... tonight!
05.02.07 - Santa Cruz, CA - The Catalyst $
05.03.07 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall $
05.04.07 - San Luis Obispo, CA - Downtown Brew $
05.05.07 - Los Angeles, CA - Ex Plex $
05.06.07 - Solano Beach, CA - Belly Up Tavern $
05.08.07 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues $
05.10.07 - Colorado Springs, CO - The Black Sheep $
05.11.07 - Lawrence, KS - Granada Theatre 4
05.12.07 - Iowa City, IA - Picador $
05.13.07 - Champaign, IL - High Dive $
05.14.07 - Sauget, MO - Pops $
05.15.07 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen (early show)%
05.15.07 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen (late show)#
05.16.07 - Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Theatre ^
05.17.07 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club $
05.18.07 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club *
05.19.07 - Fargo, ND - The Aquarium $
05.21.07 - Omaha, NE - Sokol Underground $
05.23.07 - Denver, CO - Bluebird $
05.24.07 - Aspen, CO - Belly Up $
05.25.07 - Salt Lake City, UT - Club Sound $
05.27.07 - Quincy, WA - Gorge Amphitheatre, Sasquatch Music Festival
# Chin Up Chin Up
$ Chin Up Chin Up & The Honorary Title
% The Honorary Title
^ Chin Up Chin Up, The Honorary Title & Maritime
* Chin Up Chin Up, The Honorary Title & P.O.S.
Minus the Bear, plus the possible tracklisting:
1. Burying Luck
2. Ice Monster
4. White Mystery
5. Dr. L'Ling
6. Part 2
7. Throwin' Shapes
8. When We Escape
9. Double Vision Quest
Internet Radio Equality Act Introduced To Congress; Copyright Royalty Board About To Feel Neglected, Lonely, And Part Of Bad Boys II
On March 2, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) ruled that internet radio stations would have to pay royalty fees ranging from 200% to 1200% more than the stations pay now. Leave it to three lame-ass judges named James Scott Sledge, Stanley Wisniewski, and William J. Roberts to decide on the royalty rates. Homeboy James Scott Sledge even has the fancy name of Chief Copyright Royalty Judge. Anyway, that trio of jackasses have decided on the new rates that the CRB will put on internet radio stations. It makes perfect sense, because most of the internet radio stations are noncommercial so they don't make any gold. Wait. How are these purveyors of music supposed to pay outrageous royalty rates if they don't make any dough through their noncommercial station? Exactly, they won't be able to, and they'll eventually go bankrupt if the act goes into effect on May 15. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me either, children. SaveNetRadio has been attempting to fight the evils of the CRB, but now it has a hell of a fighting chance.
Enter Jay Inslee and Donald Manzullo, a Democratic representative from Washington and a Republican representative from Illinois, respectively. These two men are responsible for introducing the Internet Radio Equality Act To Congress. To spice up how bills are typically proposed, I now will place Jay Inslee and Donald Manzullo in an extremely political, buddy-cop movie dialog where they break into Congress and present the Internet Radio Equality Act.
Jay: "Alright, everybody shut the fuck up about all this Iraq shit; we've got more important matters to attend to."
Donald: "That's right, motherfuckers."
Jay: "First off, I'd like to say a couple of things. James, Stanley, and William -- you can suck it. This CRB royalty crap is bullshit, and I've got just the secret weapon to destroy it. Show em' Donald"
Jay: "See that right there? That is the Internet Radio Equality Act, and it's about to bring down this shit. Don, explain it to them."
Donald: "Alright, listen closely. I don't want to repeat myself, and I sure as hell don't want to have to unload this clip on you motherfuckers. What we are proposing is simple. We need to modernize section 118 of the Copyright Act. Don't you understand that over 800 stations across the country are noncommercial? Section 118 has always read that public radio serves a different purpose from those commercial motherfuckers, and because of this, they can't pay the same types of rates."
Jay: "Basically, what Don is saying is that this shit is whack and we need to get a handle on this before May 15. Because on May 15, the CRB ruling goes into effect and we can't be having that, can we Don?"
Don: "Hell no!"
Jay: "Right. So our bill is going to propose that we update the royalty rates to those of the satellite radio stations. This way we can make this shit fair and not ridiculous like James, Stanley, and William want it to be.
Don: "That's right bitches."
If you want to support the cause of SaveNetRadio, you should give them a visit.
Time was, in the mid '90s, that Royal Trux were getting their shit out there. Remember the post-Nirvana corporate sweep of the underground? In one of the more surprising twists of those quaint times, Virgin saw potential streams of $$$ being squeezed out of the delectable psyches of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema. They signed them to the label, and you do tend to wonder what the fuck the Virgin A&R goons were thinking. I mean, have you heard Twin Infinitives?
Sure enough, Virgin dumped them from the label after their second LP for them, Sweet Sixteen, was released with the cover that just keeps on giving every time you see it -- a close-up photo of a toilet bowl overflowing with puke and shit. Wal-Mart probably chose not to stock the record. They left the label in a financially agreeable situation with the completed master tapes for their next album stuffed down their loon pants and rushed back to Drag City to continue their reign of magnificence. Sweet.
As we all know, after they split, Jennifer got rid of the extraneous letters to create RTX with some other longhairs, and produce two more wodges of flanged-out, bestial rock, the most recent being the ultra-sick Western Xterminator (TMT Review). And now, all the cool children from coast-to-coast will be begging for an advance on their allowances as they hear the news that RTX are coming to deliver the rawk in spades to their lil' ol' towns!!!
If that wasn't good enough, the noted stoner rock combo Totimoshi are supporting. I don't know much about these dudes, except they are heavy and their bassist is Cuban. This, of course, would probably cause Jesse Helms to flip his lid; that is, if his brain still worked anywhere near enough to realize what the fuck is going on. Hell, he might even blindly wander into a show by accident with his nurse and help make it, like, the PERFECT night.
You'd better be quick to rearrange your calendars, though, because this shit is starting to go down as of just about now.
Get on the rad times xpress:
All dates with Totimoshi except #
This year's shortlist for the, um, Shortlist Music Prize has been announced, and oh Nelly, you won't be surprised, enthused, or even amused by the nominations. Reaching deep into the upper crust of alternative music and scanning P4K's front news page for a week-and-a-half, the esteemed Shortlist Organization has chosen the following Wunderkinds (and Tom Waits) for recognition:
Band of Horses, Beirut, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Cat Power, Girl Talk, Hot Chip, Joanna Newsom, Regina Spektor, Spank Rock, and yes, Tom Waits.
How, you may ask, did an organization esteemed as the Shortlist Organization come up with such a veritable paté of a final list? It wasn't easy: First, a longlist of 60 albums were nominated by a grab bag (possibly ill-advised) panel of judges, all of them musicians themselves. And it's clear that most musicians, outside of their own contributions, are very, very insulated. Notable panelists, for better or worse, are Franz Ferdinand, Wayne Coyne, Snow Patrol, KT Tunstall, Panic! at the Disco, and last year's Shortlist winner, Sufjan Stevens. To his credit, Sufjan picked albums including my personal fave, Matmos' The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast.
The winner of this year's list (mark your calendar, Ronnie Vannucci!) will be announced sometime in May, so until then, we have the soothing sounds of Greg Spotts, co-founder of the Shortlist: "This is the year of the storyteller. More than half of our ten finalists are wordsmiths who create unique characters and narratives, interpreting our complex world in new ways." SPANK ROCK!!
Ghosts and Cats and Pigs and Bats With Brooms and Bats and Wings and Rats: Caroline Distribution Release Schedule to Include Humans
Owned by EMI, Caroline Distribution is the "indie" distro that packs your favorite chain stores, sub-distributors, and mass merchandisers with artists such as Animal Collective, El-P, !!!, Panda Bear, Air, Grizzly Bear, and Femi Kuti. Next Tuesday (May 8), Caroline will be even more prominent in the indie world when it floods stores with Spiderman of the Rings, the much-anticipated, much-hyped album by Dan Deacon.
But music ain't the only thing on its release schedule. According to Billboard, Caroline has penciled in June 1 as the day it will "release" its entire regional sales force, which aligns nicely with EMI's "Cut the Fat Cuz the Fat Ain't Cuttin' It" plan. With regional sales passed off to major label distro EMM (EMI Music Marketing), Caroline will now act as a national sales force out of New York.
"We now have to pitch to Caroline sales people who then have to pitch to EMM sales people who then have to pitch to the retail buyers," a label head told Billboard. "Everything is going to filter through EMM, and that means more competition for their attention."
With physical music sales on a downward slope, Wal-Mart is considering reducing its CD shelf space for more lucrative products like DVDs and video games. Needless to say, the prospect of this event would be highly damaging to the music industry. Along with other "big-box" stores like Best Buy and Target, Wal-Mart accounts for roughly 65% of total CD sales, according to a report in Wall Street Journal.
"Recently, Wal-Mart has quietly circulated word to major-label distribution executives that it will reduce the space devoted to music, perhaps by as much twenty percent, in hundreds of its stores," said the report. "Some record label executives say they have heard similar warnings in the past that have not materialized."
What would this mean for independent music? With the demise of Tower last year, a company that supported the medium-to-bigger-sized indie labels, the effects on independent music were financially damaging. Wal-Mart, however, isn't known for its staunch support of independent music. Sure, the big boys of indies will likely lose space on the shelves, but this move would be much more devastating to the future of major label domination.
On the digital front, Wal-Mart intends to increase focus on its 88-cent digital downloads. But with a teeny independent music selection and downloads that only play on portable devices that support protected WMA files (Mac is not supported!), Wal-Mart will continue to remain virtually insignificant to independent music supporters. Major labels, on the other hand, better hope Wal-Mart's shitty digital service improves, or they will have to search elsewhere to pick up the slack.
I once worked at an elementary school. There were many perks: free cafeteria fish sticks, bucket loads of finger paint, and as many Cold War-era history and geography textbooks as I could carry. On my daily rummaging through the boiler room, I came upon a dusty suit case-style record player labeled Califone. I plugged in the 58 lb. audio monstrosity and played the paper-thin National Geographic vinyl Whale Calls of the North Atlantic that must have been sitting inside the case since the Carter administration. Years of neglect, a warbly belt, and a cheap tube amp later, and what to my wondering ears should appear but the greatest post-rock album I'd ever heard. Needless to say, I'm glad I didn't pick up the mosquito surrounded brown paper bag with Red Red Meat scrawled across it in magic marker.
I like to pretend that Tim Rutili and Tim Hurley had the same kind of experience before crafting Califone's 1998 self-titled debut, but I should probably come to terms with the fact that they didn't. Well, with a 23-stop 2006 tour under their belts, Thrill Jockey's beautifully subtle roots rock soundscapers will be setting out on a May/June cross country excursion to promote their understated masterpiece, Roots & Crowns.
Check out their video for "3-Legged Animals" here. It warms my heart and freaks me out like those hot summer day trips to Coney Island with my crazy aunt.
Here are the days and places: