Category Archives: Television

John Oliver, I love you.

I know this is an old episode, but there have been so many good ones, and I don’t have cable, so I was unaware of it.

Thank you, John Oliver, for saying that our prison system is broken. Thank you for saying that prison rape, and “drop the soap” jokes, are tired and cruel and silly and unacceptable.

And thank you for keeping it up with similar messages. I was so moved by the clip above that I had to check out Oliver’s most recent show. I was not disappointed by this one, about the ridiculousness of municipal fines for tiny little infractions, and how the fees on those services can snowball into a world of fuckedness:

I’ve recently been unemployed, for the first time basically since 2001 (give or take a week here and there in 2012 and 2013 when I got laid off and then hired within a fortnight). This lack of work couldn’t have happened at a worse time, since I’m kinda crazy and have incurred thousands of dollars in fees for things I was late on paying, even though I had the money, like a ticket for driving with an expired tag, or a minor tax fee to the state of California (where I got over $1000 just as a penalty for about $2000 worth of overdue taxes).

I’m in a world of financial hurt. And yet I am technically a lucky fella–on a good year, I can pull in an upper middle class salary doing tech work. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be gainfully employed, working hard, making minimum wage, and trying to pay off these ridiculous fees.

I’m glad someone is preaching the healing truth about how fucked up our federal, state, and local governments have become, and how we’re making billions of dollars for private companies at the expense of the poor, and even at the expense of government. We needed someone to tell us this.

Thank you, John Oliver. Now it’s up to us to do something about it.

In 2008, Voxhaul Broadcast called me a “tard” and told me to “suck their dick.” Five years later, they still have no soul.

So, I watch The Walking Dead every week. I know it’s a guilty pleasure, but not every show can be Mad Men. And hey, I’m an ADD-crazed fool constantly drawn to distraction material, which explains how I’ve sat through every season of Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Battlestar Galactica that can be viewed on Netflix. And I wish I was talking about the 70s Battlestar, but I’m not—I’m talking about Dean Stockwell as a cyborg who fucked his own mother, herself a cyborg with amnesia played by Nan Vernon’s sister who thought she was a human and was saving her husband’s life (okay, the new series is not without its charms) … meanwhile years are going by, and I’ve yet to publish my first book.

Anyway, I’ve been in Austin for SXSW for the past ten days or so, and I just got back to L.A., and tonight I was catching up with my Walking Dead episodes. During a commercial break in the most recent one, there was a brief promo for the Talking Dead panel show, hosted by Chris Hardwick, that follows each new episode of The Walking Dead. In the blurb, Hardwick casually mentioned that one of his guests tonight was Voxhaul Broadcast, and they would be performing their song from the Walking Dead soundtrack.

“Voxhaul Broadcast?” I thought. Voxhaul Broadcast … Voxhaul Broadcast… hmm, why do I know the name Voxhaul Broadcast?

Oh, that’s right…

Voxhaul Broadcast doesn't know the difference between

Yep, Voxhaul Broadcast, the band on Talking Dead last Sunday, once called me a “tard” and told me to suck their dicks.

To explain why an indie rock band with a name like “Voxhaul Broadcast” would feel justified in attacking me with poor grammar and vaguely homophobic insults, let’s rewind back to 2008. At the time I was freelance writing for Losanjealous.com, a fairly strong competitor of LAist. My first assignment was to review an Earlimart show. Voxhaul Broadcast was also on the bill, and while I devoted very few words to them (because it was a review about Earlimart), I did manage to say that Voxhaul Broadcast “kept serving up tunes like indie iceberg lettuce, with no flavor to distinguish one from the next.”

And that was it. Admittedly, I was critical of the band. But as anyone who has read my work knows, I am very skeptical of any music that sounds “indie” as a genre unto itself. You know what I’m talking about: music that has Chris Martin-esque falsetto male vocals, or that has guitar seemingly ripped from U2 via a flavorless Blonde Redhead, paired with a bassist who just plays “dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum” quarter-notes all damn song along the chords’ roots. I’m talking about pleasant rock music that won’t interrupt your conversation, with a live drummer who plays muted disco beats even though the music isn’t meant to be danced to, except maybe on the grass of some indie-rock festival while you’re shirtless and wearing a crown of glow sticks. I’m talking about music that takes rock’s gleefully ugly 13-year-old unconscious id, pretends it’s a well-thought-out romantic strategy, and champions it with soaring anthems, not as an anti-hero in a leather jacket, but as a beautiful stoic angel whose every vague dig against the establishment is to be taken as a poignant critique on society.

And I think that’s what struck such a chord with the Voxhaul Broadcast guys. It wasn’t that I said I couldn’t remember their songs, but that I said they were “indie.”

Voxhaul Broadcast didn’t want to be an indie rock band, or so they claimed at the time. Their MySpace page listed their influences as James Brown, Al Green, and Donovan; they wanted to be a soul band with heart. But having a record (or more likely, an MP3) in your collection doesn’t mean your band follows in that tradition. Though they conned a few other blogs into quoting their press release verbatim, the concept that this band was a “soul” band or even soul-infused was just sheer fantasy: I’d challenge them or anyone to show me what part of those rhythms, guitar licks, or lyrics sounds sounded even remotely like “Funky President” or “Love and Happiness,” much less “Catch the Wind” or “Sunshine Superman.” Any claims to soul you might actually locate in Voxhaul Broadcast’s music were (when they remembered to include them) straight from Vampire Weekend, or the Strokes, or any of the other of the umpteen mostly-male bands with guitarists who play on the upstroke with their distortion turned off. It’s not even funky—it’s just that singer David Dennis’ voice has a little more growl than Thom Yorke, and sometimes their songs are a little more lively than Death Cab for Cutie.

And that’s why I compared them to iceberg lettuce and then quickly moved on, with no intention of fucking with their shit. But these guys went completely ballistic, posting comments on Losanjealous about me and then going on this website to accuse me of lying and taking their quotes “out of context,” as though there’s any way to take “suck my dick” out of context. Or that it was somehow “false reporting” to critique them as a talentless drivel band trying desperately to jump the train headed for Sell Out Station.

Anyway, I guess this blog’s Voxhaul Broadcast article stayed in the top of Google’s search for a while, because I kept seeing comments on the thread way after I’d moved on with my own life. Finally, after maybe a couple years, the comments stopped and I put Voxhaul Broadcast’s boorish insults and bland music out of mind. In hindsight, I think I heard about them from time to time appearing on bills with much better bands, e.g. on shows that L.A. RECORD would list. But I hadn’t seen Voxhaul Broadcast live since, and I was surprised to hear their name on Talking Dead.

Funny thing is, though, that Voxhaul Broadcast’s story arc has proven them to be the indie-ist of indie sellouts, exactly as I’d described back in 2008. They did continue to play not-soul music. They did try and succeed in embracing Nic Harcourt, and they did scam their way onto the soundtracks of terribly treacle-y films, e.g. The Vow and the Nicolas Sparks vehicle The Lucky One, and the slightly more fun 90210 (what, not good enough for Gossip Girl?). Funny, their website doesn’t really mention their ties to such wonderful, soulful cinematography. Some bands would find a bunch of humor in getting a gig on movies they don’t particularly like, but you get the vibe that Voxhaul Broadcast are worried too much about their image to boast about their appearances, and too worried about pissing off potential date-film directors by openly mocking them.

That said, performing a song on The Walking Dead is something of a coup for these fellas, and honestly, I was watching hoping that it would be good. A lot of bands start off being kind of generic and grow into a wonderful sound of their own, and maturity can improve lyric writing a great deal. I have critiqued a lot of bands who either took my words to heart and changed, or completely dissed me by making the most awesome album ever, gleefully proving me irrelevant through sheer talent, and I’m okay with being wrong if I get some good music out of it. Some bands even became my friends after I criticized them in print, because really, until you start going to my blog and calling me a “tard” liar, I don’t hate you and you don’t hate me—it’s nothing personal, just a critique of music that also at times steps out of your personality and says things you wouldn’t say to someone’s face in polite society.

But change and maturity were not to be had: this performance by Voxhaul Broadcast of “In the Wilderness” is somehow even worse than the weird nu metal Ray Charles blues of Jamie N. Commons from the week before. “In the Wilderness” has just a few strummed acoustic chords, plus a slight little flourish that would almost be good if it wasn’t lifted piecemeal from Kirk Hammett.

And the lyrics—oh man, the very first thing ol’ David sings is that he “Stood at the edge of the valley/looked at the ground below.” He knows that valleys are the low part and that the mountains are the high part, right? It’s hard to see much below you in a valley.

Watch the clip, and listen to the lyrics of this thing, if you can stomach them. He goes on to talk about how there’s a “wolf inside my heart” for some girl, which would be hard to fit in there since she’s already “the wilderness inside me” that may or may not have fueled a fire that “cold desperation” may or may not have let go out—it was a jumble of mixed metaphors, the kind Holland-Dozier-Holland would never have strung together. I haven’t even gotten to the earthquake or how he can’t run forever because he’s hungry and he eats weird metaphorical animals. And if all this talk of “hunger” or “wolves” is making you think it’s a Duran Duran song, well, even a third-bit copy of Duran Duran would at least provide the faint glimmer of nostalgia to get you through.

Look, guys, Voxhaul Broadcast, you were jerks to me once, pretty big jerks, to a little guy who only wanted to write articles about music (most of which you’ve never heard of, but that’s okay). Being a masochist, I would have loved to see you kick my ass a little. But sad to say, in the past five years you haven’t done anything to prove you’re not still talentless, unimaginative hacks barely hanging onto your Nicolas Sparks soundtrack gigs because you’re halfway cute and have a good agent. For a second, a mere split-second, I almost thought you done good with this Walking Dead appearance. But you’re still indie iceberg lettuce, mere filler between zombie attacks and Channing Tatum’s abs.

In the future, if you’re going to put some music in a horror franchise, at least pay heed to your indie rock forefathers and get yourself into a goofy video.

P.S. Oh, and hey guys? For the record, I like sucking dick. I’m still sucking dick. Just not yours.

interview with Tim Heidecker (of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!)

Somehow I was pulled into interviewing Tim Heidecker at the last minute for L.A. RECORD. I’m not saying I was unprepared, but I had only about 24 hours to get this together. He and I didn’t have my famous chemistry, and he had no interest in talking about the sexual inappropriateness of David Liebe Hart, but I still got some great answers out of him, largely about his recent album. Read it here.

Michael J. Nelson, why did you break my heart?

Okay, so this is a personal request, done late late late in the day.  But can I ask why one of my personal heroes is a right-wing fuck, and has been for years?

Well, let me say this, I read the National Review cover to cover.  Check in at Townhall.com every day.  Check the Washington Times daily.  Listen to Dennis Prager and Michael Medved on a regular basis.  Read Mark Steyn with regularity.  Read the Weekly Standard.  So, yes, I do vote Republican.  As the pundit Hugh Hewitt has observed, there are indeed two Americas: Serious America and Silly America.  The Democrats seem bent on turning this into Silly America, so I stick with those who wish this to remain Serious America.

 So, now that it’s six or so years since you said those flippant words, and Bush has proven to be the most wasteful, unconstitutional, and deceitful president we’ve ever had, can I get a retraction from the man whose comedy I love so dearly?  I can understand that as the writer and actor on an underdog show, Mike Nelson might have sympathy for Bush, a president whose lack of popularity surely puts him in the “cult following” category of presidents such as Fillmore or Taft.  But jeezuz, Nelson, your show is so much better than your politics.  Maybe your inability to see the continuity between Republican pro-rich policies and the current economic fiasco we’re in stems from watching all those plotless Coleman Francis movies?

The best thing I can say about Nelson is that because he never wore his politics on his sleeve, he was able to make me laugh, and poke fun at movies without revealing how truly enthused he was about some of their saccharine religious plot-points.  But jeezuz, your people destroyed our country.  I hope Joel Hodgson rips your heart out of your chest with his teeth and videotapes it, so he can make fun of it later.

the eagle never hunts the fly

I just finished reading Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood.  While it was cool to read about Frank Zappa’s log cabin and Joni Mitchell living with Stephen Stills, I have to admit that in my heart, I still prefer balls-out rockers to any of these hippie fucks.  What the fuck can Stephen Stills tell me that the Music Machine can’t blow out of the water?  You can FEEL this music.  In your groin.

As for Laurel Canyon, it was a decent read, though there was a whole chapter and a half about the Troubadour that had very very very little to do with the book’s thesis statement.  For the record, I love a good chunk of the musicians who lived in Laurel Canyon back in the day.  The ones who live there now suck ass, though.

I want Mike for Christmas!

Santa brought me the Young Ones on DVD, the OHM electronic music box-set, some cook books including The Veganomicon, and even winter snows!  But perhaps my favorite gift of the modern era is the internet, where I can go back and see strange clips from things I saw on telly when I was ten!

I saw Peter and Davy a couple weeks back at a showing of Head, where Peter said that Mike was always an “againster” during the Monkees heyday.  But it looks like he was a joiner for at least a little bit during this goofy time in eighties history.  Note how thrilled Martha Quinn looks!

Slade beats Simon LeBon at Christmas!

It’s fifteen minutes until Christmas!  Enjoy it the Slade way.  From The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer

Beverly Garland RIP

Beverly Garland died this week.  The press remembers her mostly for her television work, and as a Roger Corman B-movie actress.

I remember her as both!  Who can forget Swamp Diamonds on Mystery Science Theater 3000?

And let’s not be hasty and forget Gunslinger!

my biggest problem with Sarah Palin

More than all her wacko pro-life beliefs and her inexperience, I hate Sarah Palin because she tarnishes the name of one of the best comic actors of all time!

Ted Kennedy at the DNC

Man, I loved the speech.  And I loved Ken Burns’ tribute movie!  I was genuinely touched.  I’m so impressed that Kennedy, who’s been such a positive force for the advancement of liberal ideals (well, except for that one thing), was able to get out of his sick bed and come down for what may likely be his last public appearance ever. 

Goddam was that inspirational, not just for his message, but for his courage.  People like to use the word “courage” when people do anything in public, but risking your life when you have a malignant tumor is fucking courageous.

However, I do have to admit that seeing Kennedy in glasses made me think of primarily one thing: David Hockney.

There’s one big difference between Hockney and Kennedy, though–Kennedy is actually good at his job.