Where We Offer Only a Few Suggestions
To Distract You This Weekend
Just because each passing day makes it a little easier to deal with the tragedy of Sept. 11 doesn't necessarily mean that it makes any of it easier to understand or accept. And in the spirit of moving slowly back toward some semblance of normal—or whatever will pass for normal in the wake of all this—we offer our readers this slimmed-down version of our planner. Have some fun, kids—it's good for you.

Bob Dylan: Love And Theft (Columbia):
Destiny seems to have singled out the wily, enigmatic Dylan yet again by corresponding the album's release date with the first day of the rest of our lives. Love And Theft is the album we had to have at this shadowy crossroads, with a post-millennial hellhound on our trails.

At certain times on this expansive work, the still-brilliant 60-year-old artist comes off as a charlatan with a painted-on moustache; at others he's a fabulist who puts Romeo & Juliet in a '65 Mustang; but in the album's most profound moments, I'm compelled to believe this guy possesses the gift of prophecy. On Love And Theft, Dylan intimates the mortal dread that plagues our sleep in troubled times, but he also reminds us of the enduring comforts that sustain us through our lives' most difficult passages.

The trick of title is that its most important word is And (that's apparently why it gets a capital "A" on the album cover)—the two surrounding words are interchangeable with myriad others. Because the shell game Dylan is playing on the record is the interlocking of extremes: light and dark, smooth and rough, comfort and caution, old and new, Tin Pan Alley and Delta blues, sagacity and spontaneity, memory and anticipation, fact and fabrication all get mixed and matched under his sleight of hand.

On the most apparent level, Dylan's gambit shows itself in the segues: The sense of dread in "High Water (For Charley Patton)" chillingly connects to the times we're living in, while the subsequent "Moonlight" unselfconsciously evokes the innocence that now seems lost to us. That startling transition is itself followed by another, in "Honest With Me," a snarling, ragtag rocker straight outta the hellbent poetics of Highway 61 Revisited, and yet another, in the timeless "Po' Boy," with its celebration of what's really important: true love, home cookin' and knock-knock jokes.

Thank you, Mr. Interlocutor, for coming up with just what we need at precisely the right moment. Somebody send a copy to the President, NOW. Bud Scoppa

Randy Newman, "Political Science":
In the liner notes to his new Rhino Records best-of compilation, Newman writes about this song: "Never out of date, unfortunately." Don't recall if it made the celebrated Clear Channel list of tunes you shouldn't play during wartime, but it addresses the current, apocalyptic crisis with an acerbic, Dr. Strangelovian sardonicism that brought a smile to my face this week, along with Dylan's hilariously poignant "Po' Boy." As Newman puts it, tongue firmly ensconsed in cheek: "They all hate us anyhow, so let's drop the big one now." Never has global annihilation sounded so darn appealing. —Roy Trakin

We asked HITS staffers what music they've turned to during this uncertain period. Here are some of the responses.

Dave Adelson:
I've been listening to my conscience.

Yennie Cheung:
Perhaps it's an unconscious desire to think happier thoughts, but in recent days I've been listening to mostly upbeat music--particularly power-pop and ska by indie bands such as Teen Heroes. The discs listed below are the ones I've been listening to the most. I'd actually hoped to travel up to the San Francisco Bay Area to see these two bands this weekend, but reconsidered in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Should you be in the area and need some sure-fire fun, I'd suggest Slow Gherkin and/or The Huxtables. As for the former, thoughtful ska isnt easy to find, but it's plentiful in Slow Gherkin's performances and on its album, Shed Some Skin (Asian Man Records). Lines like "Crowds of people standing, yelling, screaming, What's going on? I must be dreaming" from the title track sound chillingly familiar right now. This reflective but perky band is playing at 924 Gilman in Berkeley tonight. The Huxtables are up-and-coming geek-rockers from Santa Cruz with a charm that easily distracts listeners from the woes of the outside world. They will be playing an early show with Ozma at the Outhouse in Los Gatos on Sunday (9/23).

Jeff Drake:
Primarily I've been listening to music from the Clear Channel list--must be the contrarian in me. But even if their entire catalog hadn't been singled out by The Man, Rage Against the Machines The Battle of Los Angeles would probably have found its way into my regular rotation again, just as it has in previous moments of frustration, confusion and sadness. The late addition to my playlist is Tracy Bonham's "Second Wind" from her sadly overlooked Down Here. "Wicked wind you taught us how to love again," Bonham sings. "While rain and thunder are threatening they're circling us here/Wake the lightning softly whisper in her ear in her ear/Tell her we're in need of finishing things down here."

Rebecca Esmerian:
For the last three days, I've been listening to the Stones' Exile on Main Street nonstop, with the exception of throwing in some Roxy Music, which I normally never listen to, but the music just felt so good.

Karen Glauber:
I don't know about you, but I have run out of words to express how devastated, numb, freaked out and anxious we all are about the events commencing Sept. 11. To pass the nights of little or no sleep, I compose set lists in my head of "mix CDs" of songs that offer comfort and catharsis. Here's last night's list, "compiled" at 4 a.m.
Johnny Cash: "The Mercy Seat"
Costeau "Last Good Day of the Year"
Moby "Natural Blues"
Joseph Arthur "In the Sun"
Dusty Springfield "I Just Can't Make It on My Own"
Robert Fripp "Here Comes the Flood"
Starsailor "Good Souls"
Pete Yorn "On Your Side"
American Music Club "Outside This Bar"
Jeff Buckley "Hallelujah"
Remy Zero "Glorious #1"
Big Star "Ballad of El Goodo"
The Blue Nile: "Let's Go Out Tonight"
Todd Rundgren "Just One Victory"
Dusty, Todd and Big Star are frequent guests in the late-night programming in my head, which is not registered to BDS. Yet.

Simon Glickman:
While I wouldn't profess to having become "jaded" about music, there's something about associating it with the work week that--while in some senses ideal--perhaps tends to desensitize the hairs on the back of one's neck a bit. But it's also undeniable that music is always waiting for us when we're at our most raw. Reeling from the monstrosity of what happened in New York, DC and Pennsylvania (and from suddenly coming down with a nasty illness), I've been about as raw as I get lately. While all kinds of music has soothed me or gotten my blood pumping, I invariably return to a certain mode of melodic, somewhat baroque pop-rock. It may not be what radio loves at the moment, but it's my radio--and sometimes I think it's saving my life. Here are two sterling examples.

Grant Lee Buffalo Mobilize (Zoe/Rounder): A gorgeous, nearly perfect record, brimming with exquisitely written and sung tunes. What's more, the themes are more resonant after the recent nightmare than they were before, from opening song "See America" to the yearning "Humankind," which owns "it's hard to love your fellow man" but wishes for a better humanity. Listening to the songs now and recalling the incredible outpouring of charity and love in the wake of those multiple catastrophes, it's as though a prayer has been answered.

Holcombe Waller Extravagant Gesture (Napoleon): Armed with a sensuous, expressive and versatile voice that can't help but recall Jeff Buckley, this young San Francisco troubadour also reveals stunning chops as a writer. He'd stand out for his obvious gifts alone, but Waller has the one irrefutable mark of an original--he draws you, effortlessly, into a world of his own making. There are also intimations of "Astral Weeks"-era Van Morrison and other impeccable influences, but mostly this just sounds like great, warm music that makes its own rules. Amazing songs like "To Be Beautiful," "In All Ways Your Casanova" and "Anthem (Will I Forgive Myself If I Can't Help You Anymore)" are exactly what I've needed to lose myself in; their fierce compassion is pure balm to the bomb-ravaged world outside. He'll be performing in L.A. Monday night at the Knitting Factory.

John Lenac:
I've been finding myself pulling out CDs from my early days in radio: The Jam, the No Alternative compilation, Daniel Lanois For the Beauty of Wynona, Nirvana's Bleach.

Mike Morrison:
The best way I've found to escape into music is to relive an album that was important in my youth. There's nothing like hearing one of my "classics" for the first time in 10 or 15 years. Fortunately, this week I took possession of a new Universal catalog release, The Who's Live at Leeds—Deluxe Edition. Like others in the series, it has three to four times the material originally released. Right now, the soundtrack to my life is Disc Two, which comprises the second set the band played that night in 1969 at Leeds University—the entire Tommy "rock opera." I've been meaning to buy Tommy on CD, knowing that when I finally did, it'd be a treasure trove. I saw The Who several times (and worshiped them) when I was a tyke, so there is much in this set to feed my appetite. It's as comforting as can be, considering the circumstances.

Jon OHara:
Tori Amos
performing Tom Waits' "Time" on Letterman Tuesday night. Profound.

Marc Pollack:
Surprisingly, I've been listening to some really heavy stuff—Korn, Drowning Pool, etc. Don't know why, though.

Toni Profera:
The new Angie Stone five-song sampler that has been floating around from J Records, the advance of the Jaguar Wright CD and the newish Boz Scaggs--love it.

Jeff Rabhan:
I've been digging in the crates for some of Motown's finest. In particular, Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" seems to have a whole new meaning to me, as do the sweet offerings of Al Green. When times get tough, the tough listen to soul.

David Simutis:
1. A purloined copy of Wilco's unreleased Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. As weird and disjointed a pop record as youll findor in this case, not find. The melodrama, filtered through krautrock with hints of country, makes for a good driving-to-and-from-work record, if only because it keeps me from listening to news radio.
2. An advance of Kasey Chambers' Barricades and Brickwalls (Warner Bros.): Australian alt. country. A little heartbreak and wide-open-sky sentiment. Sort of the record you'd hope Lucinda Williams would make every year. This one isn't being released until January.
3. Death Cab for Cutie, The Photo Album (Barsuk): There's something so insular about these navel-gazing indie-rock geeks, that the personal becomes universal.
4. Mary J. Blige, "Family Affair" (MCA): Even if I didn't want to hear it, it's everywhere.
5. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, All This Useless Beauty (Rhino): The dark and witty songs on the reissue of his 1996 album just feel so right sometimes.

Nicole Tocantins:
Remy Zero
's "Perfect Memory." I would say the whole album, but especially that track. So unbelievably touching.

Glitter (20th Century Fox):
The tale of a young singer who overcomes a turbulent childhood and struggles for pop stardom on the New York club scene in the early '80s. No, it's not the Madonna story, and it's probably closer to the Rick Springfield-starring Hard To Hold than Prince's Purple Rain. For better or worse (and judging by the 4 p.m. midweek media screening time, it's undoubtedly the latter), this is Mariah Carey's starring motion picture bow, and it's bound to be worth some camp-inspired giggles. Before the war broke out, some more perverse friends were planning to skip work to see it opening day. If the film just followed Carey's real life, it could even achieve a Behind The Music appeal, but advance word is particularly dire, even though no one I know had actually seen it. E.R.'s Vondie Curtis Hall, who directed, previously helmed the Tupac Shakur-Tim Roth movie Gridlock'd—which at least had a gritty realism to it. And it is the only new major studio release of the week. But, in the wake of what's going in, Mariah's troubles don't seem to amount to a hill of beans, as Humphrey Bogart put it in Casablanca. The Virgin Records soundtrack album is the first in the diva's reportedly $80 million deal which has gotten off to a decidedly shaky start. It even seems as if they're trying to bury the film's rudimentary website at www.glittermovie.com.

Hardball (Paramount): The Keanu Reeves vehicle, lovingly referred to as The Bad News Bears N the Hood, was directed by Brian Robbins (Varsity Blues), the second baseball movie of the summer to come from the team of Robbins-Tollin after Summer Catch, both scripted by John Gatins. Reeves plays a gambler who has to pay off his $12,000 debt by agreeing to coach a Little League baseball team in inner city Chicago's Cabrini-Green projects. Of course, the kids have no skills and less motivation, with a pitcher who pitches while listening to Notorious B.I.G. on his headphones. Need you ask, they both learn something from each other as teacher Diane Lane and opposing coach D.B. Sweeney are amazed at what a loser Keanu is. Hey, Reeves hasn't been this cuddly and lovable since, unh, Sweet November. It's all pretty predictable, down to the heart-tugging ending. Judging by its debut at the top of the box office last week, the movie has definitely struck a chord with an America whose democratic beliefs have been tested to the core by recent events. Which is cool, but why is it the white man who must always save the inner city? Oh right, it's Hollywood. The So So Def/Columbia Records soundtrack features the title track, sung by Lil' Bow Wow, Lil' Zane, Lil' Wayne and Lil' Sammie, with Jagged Edge, Jermaine Dupri, R. Kelly, Da Brat, Mobb Deep and Xscape. The baseball-oriented website, www.hardballmovie.com, lets you download wallpaper and digital baseball cards, view the trailer, read a story synopsis, go behind the scenes and get information on the cast and crew. —R.T.

Ghost World
(United Artists): Call it Enid and Rebecca Strike Back. Along with Spielberg and Kubrick's A.I., this is the best American movie of the year, a refreshing antidote to all the current jingoistic flag-waving, no matter how well-intentioned. The fiction film debut of Crumb documentarian Terry Zwigoff, based on the underground comic by co-screenwriter Daniel Clowes, is a painfully honest vision of alienation, dorkdom, the limits of art, hypocrisy and the existential loneliness of the human condition, with plenty of belly laughs along the way. American Beauty's Thora Birch proves to be her generation's Christina Ricca as Enid, a precocious, cynical, but affectingly vulnerable high school graduate searching for a soulmate in a world with few role models. The Horse Whisperers' Scarlet Johansson co-stars as her best buddy Rebecca, forced to eventually leave Enid behind as she copes with the real 9-to-5 world working at a Starbucks-like coffee joint. Steve Buscemi is perfect as a Flaky Foont/Don Knotts-like nerd who collects rare jazz 78s and lives in his own world of campy artifacts and yellowing photos of legendary blues greats, only to be targeted by Enid as a fellow loner. The tone is measured, black and spares no one, not even its star, who ends up leaving town in a bus Graduate-style on a road to nowhere in particular. Brad Renfrot is superb as an asexual convenience-store clerk who is badgered into driving the girls around in his car, while Ileana Douglas and Bob Balaban represent an adult world which tries, but just can't connect, with its charges. The soundtrack is on Shanachie and could well be an O Brother Where Art Thou?-styled sleeper. —R.T.

Marketshare machers. (10/27a)
Lamar enters the House of Jody. (10/27a)
It's a lock. (10/27a)
Planning for an Election Day hopped up on painkillers. (10/27a)
Vote. Do it now. (10/27a)
Bring your umbrella.
Mulling possible surprises.
Why not wear a mask indoors?
What drugs will help us get there?

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