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Toby Keith and Josh Groban are what the public hungers for, and there are people we work with who can’t decide which is more riveting, Meet My Folks or Dog Eat Dog. In retrospect, the reruns were better than this—and Jeff Zucker is clearly the devil.

THE REAL DOG DAYS OF
WEAKEND PLANNER

Wouldn’t It Be Cool If We Could Just
Sleep Through This Next Part?
Why are we depressed? Let’s see what we can come up with off the top of our achin’ head. For starters, maybe this music-biz down cycle isn’t just a cycle… We own a couple thousand of shares of AOLTW stock, and we no longer open the mail sent by our broker… We’ll have to work till we’re 85, assuming anybody will give us a job—which ain’t gonna happen… Toby Keith and Josh Groban are what the public hungers for, and there are people we work with who can’t decide which is more riveting, Meet My Folks or Dog Eat Dog. In retrospect, the reruns were better than this—and Jeff Zucker is clearly the devil. (What did Katie Couric see in him?)… There are enough idiots on both sides to make a baseball strike inevitable—but will they do it on Sept. 10 or wait till the 12th? Compared to all of that, we’ll take six months of mere hot and smoggy any day. So when’s the first televised pre-season NFL game? We can hardly wait.

WEAKEND POPCULT TOP 10
1. Topdog/Underdog (MCA):
The soundtrack to playwright Suzan-Lori ParksPulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play starring rapper Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright provides an overview of the unbroken link between blues pioneers like Muddy Waters, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker, soul great James Brown, jazz giant Wayne Shorter and modern-day hip-hop icons like Wu Tang Clan, DMX and Jay-Z. Wish some of the play’s spoken parts were interwoven with the music, but Topdog/Underdog could just do for African-American music what Hair did for rock & roll—legitimize it for the Great White Way. (RT)

2. Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton Mifflin): Moving, funny, touching and ultimately horrifying; simply the best book of the year. (LB)

3. Kings of Convenience, Quiet Is the New Loud (Astralwerks): These Norwegian acousticians are true to their album title, concocting a hushed, unsentimental sound that ranges from early Simon & Garfunkel to Antonio Carlos Jobim at his most whispery. An absolutely perfect Sunday morning record. (BS)

4. Amelie (Miramax Home Entertainment): A charming trifle from magic realist French director Jean-Pierre Jeneut (Alien: Resurrection, Delicatessen, City of Lost Children). The irresistible Audrey Tautou stars as a Parisian version of Ally McBeal who goes to a great deal of trouble to make other people’s dreams come true while failing in her own search for true romance. The film itself is a love letter to the city by the Seine that has inspired its own real-life tour of the movie’s many locations. Check Jeneut’s thoroughly disarming commentary on the DVD, where he claims to have been inspired by M. Night Shyamalan’s explanations on The Sixth Sense disc. (RT)

5. Simon on American Idol (Fox): Imagine how much more closure aspiring artists would experience if real-life A&R people were as candid as this guy? By the way, a number of people in the HITS cesspool actually care about this show. (BS)

6. Solomon Burke at the House of Blues, L.A.: The king of rock & soul made a triumphant return Wednesday night following the release of his new album, Don’t Give Up on Me (Fat Possum/Epitaph Records). The comeback features songs written especially for him by the likes of Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Nick Lowe and Dan Penn. The 370-pound-plus Hall of Famer, who sat in a throne-like chair at center stage, was backed by a nearly 20-piece band, complete with several mid-set showcases for his four children. That magnificent voice held sway through a series of songs that paid tribute to peers like Wilson Pickett, Ben E. King, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Don Covay and Dylan (a snippet of “Maggie’s Farm”). The rotund Burke doffed his white fedora while his two sons literally mopped his brow, leading the audience in a gospel-styled rave-up like the Sunday services he presides over at an Inglewood church. One listen to that mellifluous tenor and you instantly realize where Van Morrison learned everything he knows about phrasing. (RT)

7. Promise Ring, Wood/Water (Anti-): Their original emo fans seem confused by the Milwaukee band’s fourth album—“I feel that they have goton to mellow,” one laments on amazon.com—but when I listened to a CD-R earlier this week on a tip from a friend, I encountered a beautifully controlled, musically adventurous work that intermixes moments of intimacy and explosiveness. Blur producer Stephen Street was apparently just what the doctor ordered for this maturing band, and Davey von Bohlen’s pinched tenor (which resembles that of The Flaming LipsWayne Coyne) and wry lyrics fuse genuineness and artistic intent in a manner that recalls Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Who knew? (BS)

8. Spell check on Microsoft Word: You’d be shocked how many “professional” journalists fail to notice the squiggly red lines under certain words in the copy they submit. If they noticed, they’d fix the misspellings…right? (BS)

9. Pedro the Singing Monkey: If you haven't heard this best-kept-secret of the underground proto-thrash leftist garage resistance, it may already be too late. Better late than never, though, because a natural find like this only comes around once in a blue moon. Is this the Year of the Monkey? (JO)

10. Verne Troyer on Extra: Says he's dismayed by constantly being typecast as “elves or aliens.” C’mon, Hollywood—how about casting Mini Me as a mini-leading man or a mini-heavy? (BS)

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
Austin Powers in Goldmember
(New Line Cinema): The third time can't be the charm, can it, though I did like the second better than the first. Mike Myers returns as the titular secret agent for the third installment of the spoof spy series that some are saying is also the best, though early critical returns seem to suggest this one-note spoof has run its course. Except at the box office, which is what really counts these days. The movie co-stars Beyonce Knowles (as Foxxy Cleopatra), Michael Caine (as Austin’s dad), Fred Savage, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling and, of course, Mini-Me Verne Troyer, though past ingenues Heather Graham and Elizabeth Hurley apparently ended up on the cutting-room floor. This time, Powers returns to the ’70s, which promises plenty of jokes about Afros, spandex, blaxploitation flicks and disco, amid a plot that revolves around Dr. Evil kidnapping Austin’s father, Nigel Powers. Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) is on board for the third time, with his oft-underrated comic touch. The Maverick soundtrack features new music from Beyonce, as well as Britney Spears (who makes a cameo appearance), Angie Stone, Smash Mouth, a Dr. Dre remix of the Rolling Stones’ 1978 smash, “Miss You,” and a version of “Alfie” by Susanna Hoffs. The website, at www.austinpowers.com, is chock-full of special features, including a Spy Navigator that gives you a spy name, tours of Austin’s pad and Dr. Evil’s lair amid all the cast and crew information and requisite product cross-promotion.

The Kid Stays in the Picture (Focus/USA Films): This documentary, produced by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and based on the autobiography of the same name, features the life story of legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans, best-known as the head of production for Paramount on such movies as Chinatown and The Godfather Evans also became embroiled in The Cotton Club murder of producer Roy Radin and was memorably impersonated by Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog. There’s plenty of vintage footage from Evans’ own collection showing him as a young leading man in Hollywood. Also featured, the much-ballyhooed short film of him begging the Paramount board not to sell the studio because he had a Mafia film directed by Francis Ford Coppola that could just turn its fortunes around. The cartoon website, at www.thekidstaysinthepicture.com, features a gallery of vintage stills, a trailer, wallpaper, interviews with the principals and a history of Evans. The Milan soundtrack includes score by Jeff Danna, vintage tracks by Steely Dan, Elton John, Cat Stevens and the Commodores, as well as themes from some of his most famous productions, including a special bonus track of ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash performing “Love Theme from The Godfather.”

Who is Cletis Tout? (Paramount Classics): This crime spoof is being compared to Get Shorty, the tale of two prison escapees on the trail of loot from a 20-year-old diamond heist. Unfortunately, the plan is thwarted when one of them takes the name of Cletis Tout, a journalist who sold unflattering pictures to the tabloids and now has the mob on his trail. The eclectic cast includes Christian Slater, Richard Dreyfuss, Portia de Rossi, RuPaul and Tim Allen. The film was written and directed was Chris Ver Wiel, a screenwriter turned director whose writing credits include the 1990 vampire musical comedy Rockula, starring Toni Basil and Thomas Dolby. He made his directorial debut in 1996 with the low-budget festival fave Waiting Game, based on his own play about nine recently dead people on a train. This one has the feel of a real throwaway, with a rather attenuated website at www.paramountclassics.com/cletistout/ that features all the information in an animated backdrop that recreates the film’s setting.

Swimming (Oceanside Pictures): This coming-of-age film has been knocking around the festival circuit for a couple of years. Its theatrical release can be tied directly to the presence of Six Feet Under Emmy nominee Lauren Ambrose. She plays a young girl growing up in Myrtle Beach, SC, whose relationship with her best friend changes when a new girl and a drifter who sells T-shirts out of the back of his van hit town. The movie was directed by Robert J. Siegel, whose career goes back to the early '60s. Worth a look, if only for a glimpse of Ambrose’s early promise. Roy Trakin

DENISE’S WEAKEND COCKTAIL
Last weekend my partner in crime/drinking buddy/roommate left this wonderful city of Los Angeles for greener pastures, and a little square dancing, in West Virginia—leaving me all alone to search out and destroy the many drinking establishments in the city. This week I’m honoring her and all of the drunken Sunday afternoons we’ve spent together searching out the best margarita...

Cadillac Margarita
1 oz Patron silver (or any top-shelf tequila)
oz Grand Marnier (float on top)
Fill glass with sweet & sour mix
Splash lime juice
Salt rim of glass (optional)
Garnish with a lime

These are the deadliest of all margaritas. They taste sweet, go down smoothly and come up after eating a few late-night In & Out Burgers. Be very careful or you’ll end up praying to the porcelain god, as my roommates and I have done on occasion, usually after one of our infamous Margarita Sundays. After a few of these margaritas, I’ve been known to play the bongos with old Mexican men on Melrose Ave. and entertain onlookers by playing a ukulele on Olvera St. I’ve even gotten engaged, but that was on a dare, and the engagement abruptly ended once I’d finished my margarita. Don’t end up like me. Bartenders are allowed to act like idiots because we tip well; you don’t have an excuse. 

De’s best L.A. margarita bar: I can’t possibly think of mentioning margaritas without recommending Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks. This place is known for its ambience. It’s dark and reminds me of a velvet Elvis painting. The bartenders aren’t known for fast service, but two of their margaritas will have you forgetting your name and who you came with. Another suggestion: Order a steak quesadilla—it’s not on the menu but it’s fabulous! Casa Vega is great for happy hour and dinner, but if you plan on embarking on your own Margarita Sunday, I would have to suggest Don Cuco’s in Burbank. The bar area is small and crowded, especially on Sunday afternoons during football season. If you can get a seat, it’s a great place to watch the games.

De’s diss of the week: My target this week is as bad as Casa Vega is great. Acapulco Mexican Restaurant is like the McDonalds of Mexican food. This chain restaurant lacks any type of atmosphere, the drinks are weak, the food is bland and they don’t seem to mind. I went to the one on Sunset Blvd., and the service was slow and impersonal. The only thing that had any character in this joint was our server, who was giving us an attitude. —Denise Bayles

LIPS INK
The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (WB):
With apologies to J.J. Cale, Leon Russell and Dwight Twilley, pop miniaturist Wayne Coyne has to be the most cosmic Oklahoma rocker ever. This follow-up to ’99's brilliant The Soft Bulletin is a conceptual art-pop diorama seemingly influenced by Japanese anime and Spielberg's A.I., which encompasses the emotional thrust of Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" ("Fight Test") and the epic sprawl of Neil Young’s "Expecting to Fly" ("In the Morning of the Magicians"). Coyne is at once capable of concocting a Broadway-style libretto and locating the melody in Zappa-esque musique concrete, and when he croons, "I thought there was a virtue in always being cool," he doesn't hide his disappointment that's it’s no longer enough. —RT

FACE TIME
Mark Copley, Limited Lifetime Guarantee (RCA):
Massachusetts native Copley is the latest manifestation of what is once again becoming a commercially viable hybrid: the ax-slinging singer-songwriter with matinee-idol looks. Produced by David Werner, himself a rockin’ writer-artist (on RCA, yet) back in the glam era, and A&R’d by Steve Ralbovsky, who discovered rockin’ writer-artist Matthew Sweet, Copley’s debut album specializes in midtempo tracks that escalate into anthem-level choruses and feature instrumental passages that isolate his guitar chops. Fronting a studio band anchored by powerhouse drummer Josh Freese and collaborating with Werner on all 11 songs, Copley is earnest and intense throughout, but never more so than on the single “Surprise,” a shotgun marriage between Pete Yorn’s “Life on a Chain” and Everclear’s “Santa Monica.” Will this album grow on you like Yorn's musicforthemorningafter and John Mayer's Room for Squares did? I have no idea (and I admit that as a former A&R guy). Bud Scoppa

REVENUE CHART:
RAINING CATS & DOGS
Starring Doja Cat, Nipper and Ms. Larry David (5/13a)
RECORDING ACADEMY LOCKS IN HARVEY MASON JR. AS CEO
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. (5/14a)
TIME TRAVELING
WITH CLIVE (UPDATE)
Beam us up, Uncle Clive. (5/13a)
ROCK HALL INDUCTEES:
NEW & OVERDUE
Todd gets in. Finally. (5/13a)
KG's HOT ALT SUMMER
She also reviews the best outdoor Bluetooth speakers. (5/13a)
RHYTHM, BLUES AND THE FUTURE
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
WHO'S NEXT?
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
JUST THE VAX, MA'AM
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
WORLDWIDE GROOVE
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?
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