You can see the seeds of pop culture ranging from the Beats to punk-rock to reality TV in Warhol’s glorification of consumer culture, his incredible meshing of high and low culture into a cool medium that is its own message.


Ya Gotta Have Heat, All Ya Really Need Is Heat
Here in SoCal, we’ve entered that miserable stretch of summer that simply must be endured. With that in mind, we offer several means of escape—to the beach with a book, to an air-conditioned multiplex, to an art exhibit that’ll make you feel cultured as well as cool. Or you can just stare at your computer screen like you’re doing right now and sweat out the toxins. It’s nice to have options.

1. Bruce Springsteen:
He sure sold a lotta records. You'd think they could get him on TV. (SG)

2. Signs (Touchstone): If you haven’t seen it but you’re planning to, stop reading this NOW… For the rest of you, guess what? There’s no twist. (BS)

3. Andy Warhol at MOCA L.A.: This impressive exhibit, at prices of $17 per adult and $8 per kid, is the post-Pop equivalent of standing on line back in the early ’60s as a kid in the freezing cold waiting to see the Mona Lisa at the Metropolitan. The incredible range of work, from his beginnings as a commercial artist sketching shoes and department store ads to his final giant canvasses depicting Mao and tacky versions of The Last Supper, solidifies Warhol’s status as perhaps the foremost artist of the 20th Century. You can see the seeds of pop culture ranging from the Beats to punk-rock to reality TV in Warhol’s glorification of consumer culture, his incredible meshing of high and low art into a cool medium that is its own message. If you're gonna go, go now--the show closes after next weekend. And definitely get the Dennis Hopper-narrated audio tour at $5...worth it to hear Warhol whining when one of his portrait subjects finds his commissioned painting "unflattering." That and a Velvets sound track, too. (RT)

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm reruns (HBO): The most mortifying show we ever loved. Watch it with someone you can tolerate. (SG)

5. NFL Preseason: It’s way too soon to care. So why are we watching so intently? Because we’re lame? (BS)

6. Rhino box sets: Great-sounding, great-looking, lovingly assembled ARTIFACTS. Check out, for example, the lavish new Yes career retrospective, In a Word, complete with five discs, comprehensive companion book and signature Roger Dean art work. Download that, ya punks. (SG)

7. Richard Ford, A Multitude of Sins (Alfred A. Knopf): These short stories by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sportswriter and Independence Day focus on the moral implications of adultery. From N.Y.’s Grand Central Station and New Orleans’ French Quarter to the Midwestern anonymity of St. Louis, the turnpike motels of Connecticut and the wide-open spaces of Grand Canyon, the mere contemplation of an extramarital affair creates a ripple effect that changes a fabric of interrelated lives. Like James Joyce’s The Dubliners, these finely etched scenarios contain subtle epiphanies that evoke the tyranny of fate and the impossibility of escaping the past with an existential shrug that results in a hard-earned self-knowledge. (RT)

8. Sex and the City (HBO): It's season what, 16 or something by now, and here's the thing I still don't understand—how can she afford to live like that just writing a column? (SG)

9. Simon & Garfunkel reissues: I dunno what was more surreal, reliving an album I wore out at age five (Bookends), or flipping through the reissued CD booklet and discovering that one of my co-workers wrote the liner notes (fellow cesspoolian Bud Scoppa). As you’d expect, Sony Legacy's remaster job on S&G’s five original albums (Wednesday Morning 3am; Sounds of Silence, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water) is just about perfect. Previous editions of these classics on CD suffered from horrible sound; that’s not the case here. Without getting into the boring specifics, it’s safe to say that audiophiles will be blown away by the sound quality of these discs. On a related note, Art Garfunkel’s first full-length recording in (umpteen) years is coming in the form of Everything Waits to Be Noticed, an album he’s just completed with close collaborators Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock for the newly re-christened Manhattan Records. Several HITS folks (myself included) are quite fond of the advances we were able to get hold of. (MM)

10. Top Dog/Underdog (MCA): The soundtrack to the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which juxtaposes classic blues, soul, jazz and hip-hop, got four stars in Rolling Stone. Assuming you didn’t believe what we said (who would?), you now have a legitimate reason to pick up a copy. (BS)

As my colleague Simon Glickman remarked on hearing the young Aussie band’s second album, Garage Mahal (WEA Australia), these guys have “more hooks than the proverbial tackle box.” Taxiride played two label showcases in the States last week for crowds that were a mixture of curious weasels (including a bunch from various WMG entities, who have first dibs) and the band’s numerous industry fans/friends. I’m among the latter, having A&R’d their Jack Joseph Puig-produced first album, Imaginate, for Sire, which was dismantled just as the album was released in mid ’99. On the evidence of the new album and the set I witnessed, it’s hard to say whether Taxiride is now a pop band that rocks or a rock band that pops, but whatever it is, it's impressive live—sublime vocal harmonies, cranked-up guitars and skyscraper hooks (architecturally like power ballads, but with far less cheese). Primary writer/guitarist Tim Wild is a budding pop-rock auteur, Jason Singh is a rock star waiting to happen and Tim Watson is a gifted vocal stylist. All three drive the girls wild and charm the pants off of everyone—you should’ve seen them work the room post-show. This band is clearly SO much better than 99 1/2% of the crap cluttering the record stores, I'm surprised nobody has snatched them up already. Image-wise they’re to the left of BBMak but rock much harder, and they’d fit beautifully on a bill with Maroon5 (see immediately below). They're by no means PoMo, although they consider themselves to be a rock band; what they are in terms of both craft and charm is a neoclassic Beatlesque band. While I do adore them (that's part of what I find most convincing about them, that they're adorable), I'm also acutely aware of what they can do. Wish you'd been there. Managed by Jay Wilson and Kent Sorrell (Train). —Bud Scoppa

Maroon5, Songs About Jane (Octone):
Anyone with even a passing desire to waggle their boogie bone will certainly jump on this band’s wagon and ride. The former Kara’s Flowers is here to groove you, and their obvious love of soul and R&B—rhythm guitar doesn’t get played like that in a rock band—injects the songs in this set with scary momentum. Singer/writer Adam Levine’s melodies and performances are nothing short of transcendent at times, and while it’s tempting to say the band sounds like an earthier Jamiroquai, their blend of material and influences is something uniquely their own. “This Love” and “Tangled” will give you the idea, but “Sunday Morning” and “Sweetest Goodbye” will make you believe. —Jon O’Hara

Beth Orton, Daybreaker (Heavenly/Astralwerks): This Brit singer/songwriter conjures more atmosphere in a few notes than most of her peers summon in a career. This evocative set—featuring collaborators as diverse as Ryan Adams, the Chemical Brothers and Emmylou Harris—marks a further refinement of her rapturous style. The jazzy grooves and swooning strings built into the arrangements carry more drama than on her past albums, allowing Orton to go to thrilling new places with her inimitable, throaty voice. Standout tracks include cinematic opener “Paris Train,” the poppy, piano-driven  single “Concrete Sky” (a duet with Adams), the elegantly funky “Anywhere” and the exquisite “God Song.”
Simon Glickman

Frou Frou, Details (MCA): Singer/writer Imogen Heap and electro-virtuoso Guy Sigsworth have joined forces on an album that deftly plays with aural light and shadow. Heap’s flutey alto naturally projects melancholy a la Beth Orton, but she leavens the vibe with Alanis-like falsetto slides and verbal incongruities (“Do just what I tell you and no one will get hurt,” she coos in the quippy “Psychobabble”). Sigsworth, who’s worked with Madonna and Bjork, proves himself equally adept at synthpop sheen and trip-hoppy melodrama. On lead single “Breathe In,” Heap spars with her lover as Sigsworth’s electronics burble sanguinely, while “It’s Good to Be in Love” finds a spurned Heap swept into a chorus hook as delectable as it is ironic. —BS

Mike Doughty, Smofe + Smang: Live in Minneapolis (MD): In this live, limited-edition CD, ex-Soul Coughing singer/songwriter M. Doughty gains a first name and loses his downtown N.Y. skronk-jazz-rock for an acoustic guitar. The inspired between-song patter pokes fun at MTV’s Cribs, being addicted to Starbucks and requests from the audience. That patented throaty voice harks back to primitive blues on SC faves like the Jonathan Richman-meets-Paul Simon nursery rhymes of “Circles” and the playful singalong on “Janine,” as well as new songs such as “Grey Ghost,” in which he scats nonsense syllables for a spontaneously made-up bridge. Classic moment: Doughty tells the crowd, “Whenever you get that impulse to shout for ‘Freebird,’ shout ‘It’s Raining Men’ instead.” Roy Trakin

Dave Pirner, Faces & Names (Ultimatum/Artemis): Pirner’s first project without his Soul Asylum band mates is a complete change of pace. Following big-rock opener “Teach Me to Breathe,” he flings aside that endearingly ratty voice in favor of the nuanced crooning of a blue-eyed soul man, of all things. Pirner’s alter-ego vocals float atop languid N’awlins grooves further enriched by quantized beats courtesy of a studio tag team whose collective credits range from Sheryl Crow to Scritti Politti. On an album that’s full of surprises, Pirner manages to work in tracks that reference fellow Minnesotans Dylan (the title song) and Prince (“Much Too Easy”), and that’s his own trumpet playing on the seductive “Someday Love.” It really shouldn’t work, but it does. —BS

(Columbia Pictures):
This should be next week’s box office champ as The Firm-managed bad boy Vin Diesel takes over the title of Latest Action Hero as the post-grunge James Bond. Directed by The Fast and the FuriousRob Cohen, who knows his way around a B-picture with unpretentious, Roger Corman-type pizzazz. The plot surrounds Diesel as a real-life Jackass named Cage, whose underground thrill-seeking stunts threaten him with a prison term until, naturally, he’s enticed to join the government by agent Samuel L. Jackson and infiltrate an underground Russian crime ring. Horror director Dario Argento’s lovely daughter Asia is the love interest. Sony has pulled out all the stops for this one, with a website, www.sony.com/TripleX, that offers cast & crew information, a Gameboy, downloads, promotions, contests and information on the Universal Records soundtrack. The double-CD set, half rock and half hip-hop, features Rammstein, Drowning Pool, Queens of the Stone Age, Moby, Gavin Rossdale and Orbital on the former and Nelly, Lil Wayne, N.E.R.D., Big Tymers, Mack 10, Mr. Cheeks, Dani Stevenson and Joi on the latter.

Blood Work (Warner Bros.): The question isn’t whether director/star Clint Eastwood can compete against the specter of Vin Diesel, but whether he can stop—pardon the expression—the bleeding. The Clint plays a retired FBI profiler with a recent heart transplant who risks his life when he’s hired by the sister of the woman who gave him his ticker to investigate her death. Turns out the killer, who staged the murder to look like a random robbery, may be a serial killer Clint’s been hunting down for years. The screenplay’s by the usually erudite Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, A Knight’s Tale, which he also directed), so it may not be as pat as it sounds, and Eastwood has learned from Don Siegel, the master of this kind of B-movie. The key, as it was with In the Line of Fire, is whether the feeble and obviously long-in-the-tooth Clint, who had intended to retire on his boat in the L.A. harbor, can’t drive and needs a regular nap, can muster up the endurance to find the killer. Among the co-stars are his cardiologist (Anjelica Huston), an eager neighbor who helps him out (Jeff Daniels), along with comic Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh (We Were Soldiers) and Wanda DeJesus (Flawless, The Insider). The website at www.bloodworkmovie.com is, like its star, no-nonsense, with a Se7en-like Flash intro and the standard features—photo gallery, trailer, poster, multimedia downloads, an excerpt from the Michael Connelly book and a plot summary.

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Dimension): El Mariachi/From Dusk Till Dawn director Robert Rodriguez has created a franchise with his family-friendly action flicks based on the premise about a family of spies. This sequel to the sleeper hit features Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino as the parent agents and very talented kid performers Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as the offspring who follow in their footsteps. The promising supporting cast includes Mr. Corinthian Leather himself, Ricardo Montalban, and Holland Taylor as the grandparents, indie icon Steve Buscemi as the mad scientist bent on world destruction, Cheech Marin and Beavis & Butthead King of the Hill mastermind Mike Judge. The plot this time involves the siblings setting out for a mysterious island, where they team up with a set of rival spy kids to save the universe. The Milan soundtrack album features the score by Rodriguez and John Debney, as well as a track, “Isle of Dream,” sung by Vega. The website at www.spykids.com is as slick and well-produced as the movie, with info, contests, games, merchandise, various gadgets used in the movie, trailer, downloads, etc.

The Good Girl (Fox Searchlight): Jennifer Aniston takes an indie turn as a married woman whose frustration over not being able to conceive leads her to strike up an ill-fated affair with an eccentric, increasingly obsessed discount-store clerk (played by the much-touted Jake Gyllenhaal of Bubble Boy and Donnie Darko). The black comedy’s from the team of writer Mike White and director Miguel Arleta, responsible for the similarly sardonic cult success Chuck & Buck, and the advance word is that this is some of Aniston’s best work, which admittedly ain’t saying an awful lot for those who aren’t fans of Friends. The supporting cast includes a who’s-who of today’s best indie performers, including the always-superb John C. Reilly (Magnolia, The Anniversary Party, The Perfect Storm, etc.), O Brother and Minority Report’s Tim Blake Nelson and Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, Mumford). The website at www.foxsearchlight.com offers info on cast and crew, the story, trailer, photo gallery, e-cards, a theater finder and message board. —RT

This week I’ve been accused of being a bad influence, and I don’t like it. It’s because I’m a bartender. People are looking for an excuse to misbehave, and sitting at my bar during happy hour quite often is their excuse. Sure, I’m cute, blonde and make a killer drink, but it’s not my fault if a group of studio employees gets fired for not going back to work after lunch—their boss even called the bar. This week’s cocktail of the week is dedicated to my mouse-eared bar customers who probably got fired last week for enjoying too many of these shots.

Blow Job
1 oz. Vodka Stoli Vanilla makes it great
1/2 oz. Amaretto
1/2 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
Topped with lots of whipped cream

This is typically a shot done at bachelorette parties. A willing male participant sits in a chair and the shot is placed between his legs, then the bride-to-be is expected to kneel down in front of him and do the shot without using her hands. If the guy wants to be a real gentleman, he can hold her hair for her. I thought this was an odd shot for a group of adults to be doing at happy hour, but I didn’t argue—who am I to judge them for doing sissy shots? Besides, they were tipping well.

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: My friends have been yelling at me for weeks to get out of the Valley and find some cool bars on the other side of the hill, so this week I ventured to Las Feliz. The place I’ve chosen is dark enough that you could probably get a blowjob without anyone noticing, but I wouldn’t suggest it because it’s usually packed. The Good Luck Bar on Hillhurst is small, dark and funky. The decor resembles something out of an old Chinese martial-arts movie. Chinese lanterns line the oval-shaped bar, and the wallpaper is red with black velvet—very cool. It took me approximately two minutes to befriend the cute bartender, Marcos, who was doing a lot of talking to us, and not a lot of bartending, but we didn’t mind. This is my favorite new place!

De’s diss of the week: If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the whole routine where you have to wait in line and be on a list at most Hollywood clubs. You’re forced to wait outside until some power-loving doorman decides you’re cool enough to go in. This is the reason why I don’t go to those places, but I was shocked to find that one of my favorite mid-week hangouts turns into one of these places on Saturday nights, and it’s in the Valley. The Firefly in Studio City usually gets my highest recommendations, but not on Saturday nights.
—Denise Bayles

We'll miss those smoke-filled rooms. (5/10a)
Some guys have all the luck. (5/10a)
A Big honor for Jon Platt (5/10a)
Our resident redhead praises girl in red. (5/10a)
Alan Jackson brings back hard country. (5/10a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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