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Of course, my bumbling Mets are already in midseason form, as I wonder if Kazuo Matsui is Japanese for Roberto Alomar, wait for Jose Reyes’ hamstring to heal and contemplate whether Mike Piazza is any less gay as a first baseman than he was as a catcher.

THIS WEAKEND PLANNER’S BUSTING OUT ALL OVER

It’s Time to Spring Ahead with 24’s Kiefer Sutherland, Train, Unknown Hinson, Nellie McKay, Los Lonely Boys, Tears for Fears and Sophie B. Hawkins
It’s spring, a time for a young man’s fancy to turn to…what? The final three games of the NCAA basketball tournament (I’m still picking Duke, but UConn is looking tough), baseball opening day (the Orioles vs. the cursed Red Sox Sunday night on ESPN) and the Stanley Cup playoffs (hey, at least my Islanders look like they’re gonna be in it). Of course, my bumbling Mets are already in midseason form, as I wonder if Kazuo Matsui is Japanese for Roberto Alomar, wait for Jose Reyes’ hamstring to heal and contemplate whether Mike Piazza is any less gay as a first baseman than he was as a catcher. Meanwhile, the presidential race kicks into high gear, as Dubya threatens to go the way of his father with unemployment, gas prices and war casualties soaring, censorship rearing its ugly head, and John Kerry nowhere in sight. Where’s FDR when you need a New Deal? So here’s an ode to the season’s annual renewal, as roses bloom, the grass turns green, female flesh is revealed, you gain an extra hour of daylight and we hunker down for another long, excruciating summer rooting against those damn Yankees.

POPCULT TOP 10
1. 24: Back after a month hiatus for American Idol, Kiefer Sutherland once more holds the fate of the civilized world in his hands, as the deadly virus starts spreading through the ventilation system of an L.A. hotel, causing those who are infected to start bleeding uncontrollably through their noses. Don’t know about you, but watching people die slowly one-by-one in a confined space serves as an all-too-apt metaphor for what the record business has been going through the last four years. And that makes it even more compelling than reality television in my book, which just happens to be TV Guide. At a certain point, you just wanna tell Sutherland’s uberagent Jack Bauer: "Hey, dude. Don’t bother. It’s only going to get worse." (Roy Trakin)

2. Train at the Exit/In, Nashville: Patrick Monahan is an incredible singer—and secure enough in his sweet, yet yearning pitch that he eschews the usual calisthenics that lesser vocalists use to show you "their talent." Instead, he digs in, digs deep and pulls back the curtain on oceans of emotional nuance, while laying bare want, desire, appreciation and vulnerability. And when he digs into his record collection—Zeppelin’s "Ramble On," Aerosmith’s "Dream On," Otis Redding’s "Hard to Handle" or Marvin Gaye’s "What’s Goin’ On"—the pliant quality twinges with muscular command. Especially heartening was the notion that Train is a full-service, hit-the-marks, push-the-gas-going-into-corners band, as comfortable on a vast array of covers played for the sheer joy of it (Lou Reed’s "Walk on the Wild Side" to George Michael’s "Faith") as its own songs of romantic doubt and devotion. Guitarist Jimmy Stafford’s sun-through-a-magnifying-glass leads buzz with the nervous edge of great rock, while the rhythm section pumps a groove with locomotive intensity and deep-seated roll. Proving, finally, that melody doesn’t negate one’s ability to rock, that pop doesn’t have to be wimpy and that lyrically coloring outside the lines is as captivating as ever. (Holly Gleason)

3. Unknown Hinson, The Future Is Unknown… (Capitol Nashville): This truly oddball alt-country act, with his glued-on sideburns, pompadour and, um, fangs, may seem like a quasi-surrealist joke at first. The sense that this might be a mere novelty record is compounded by nutty titles like "I Make Faces (When I Make Love)," "Polly Urethane" (the best ode to an inflatable love doll since Roxy Music’s "In Every Dream Home a Heartache"), "Peace, Love and Hard Liquor" and "I Cleaned Out a Room (in My Trailer for You)." But Hinson, who produced, played and sang every note, has an effortless flair for melody and a sensibility informed by classic honky-tonk music. In fact, the songs are uniformly catchy and frequently inspired. And you’ll laugh your ass off. (Simon Glickman)

4. Nellie McKay at the Knitting Factory, L.A.: Some might say this 19-year-old is too precocious for her own good, but talent like this can’t be contained. Sitting alone at a piano—where she’s equally adept at New Orleans boogie woogie and Bach minuets—McKay comes off like Patti Page meets Patti Smith, a satirical story-teller with a sardonic edge that recalls Randy Newman on political/personal songs like "Change the World" and "Really." Capable of the Norah Jones-like croon of "Manhattan Avenue," the Eminem rat-a-tat hip-hop of "Sari" or the anti-yuppie rant of "David," she leads the adoring audience—who shout out song titles, much to her amazement—in a multi-part sing-along in Mandarin. This is the kind of artist major labels used to sign and let develop into inevitable superstardom. The pleasure now will be in watching this cult ingenue grow into her boundless ambition and mainstream potential. (RT)

5. What’s Your Pimp Handle?: This online engine will solve that dilemma for you; just plug in your name and find out what your stable should call you. Just type in HITS Weakend Planner, hit the "Pimpify!" button and voilàMack Master HITS Glide. Don’t like the first suggestion? Just re-pimpify. (SG)

6. Los Lonely Boys (OR/Epic): An indie sensation (it currently resides at #3 on the influential CIMS chart) that OR has been nurturing since last summer and Epic just picked up in January, this West Texas band of brothers swept the recent SxSW Austin Music Awards and are selling at the influential Waterloo Records chain which helped break Norah Jones. Featuring the three twenty-something GarzasHenry on guitar, JoJo on bass and Ringo on drums—the band mines the fertile bilingual rock tradition of Santana and Los Lobos, giving it a youthful flair and drive. Taking the multi-cultural nature of their name into the lyrics and styles, the record touches on just that musical melting pot, brewing up an ageless mix of classic jams, psychedelic flourishes, plaintive border sounds and country blues. If it’s more a dip into the past than a peak into the future, the widespread appeal, and grass-roots momentum, are nevertheless undeniable. (RT)

7. Tears for Fears, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (Arista/RMG): Holy Toledo, are they back. First the Gary Jules/Michael Andrews cover of "Mad World" blows up, and then these canny pop-rockers return with an incredibly gorgeous new album. The Beatlesque melodies on the new disc are butter. Unshackled by ’80s production nonsense, Roland and Curt really show what they can do, and the glittering theatricality of their presentation goes right to the pleasure center. Highlights: "Size of Sorrow," single "Closest Thing to Heaven" and "Who Killed Tangerine?" (SG)

8. They Might Be Giants, Indestructible Object (Barsuk EP): The prankster-pop duo gives fans a stopgap treat in the form of this five-song sampler which includes, among other tracks, "Am I Awake?" (the theme for the TLC network series Resident Life), a new version of "Ant" and a live cover of the Beach Boys classic "Caroline, No." For more info, reach out Alison or Jessica at Girlie Action. (SG)

9. Autopilot Off, Make a Sound (Island): Despite the fact that my first published writing appeared in Maximum Rock n Roll, I’m not very punk-rock. I’ve been to the Warped Tour a couple times, which I think is a great show, and I’ve been sent a lot of discs from nameless, faceless black-jeans-wearing, heavy-rockin’ new punks, but most haven’t registered much with me. Sure, I like Rival Schools and am happy that my 13-year-old nephew loves Jimmy Eat World, how could I not? Still, when the advance word on the full-length major-label debut from New Jersey’s Autopilot Off was that it was head and shoulders above their peers, I wanted to believe. It doesn’t disappoint. More melodic than your typical pop-punk, it has plenty of heavy moments, such as the title track/first single and the blistering "Blessed by a Nightmare." Yet, what makes this the just-hard-enough record for the early spring are the tight song structures, the sing-along melodies, and the intelligent lyrics. Most of us aren’t the target audience for soul-searching melodic punk, but great records transcend their pigeonholed genres. This is one of those times. (David Simutis)

10. The Thaw: It has been a strange winter. One day scraping 70, then hurling snow at us the next. It seems, though, as if spring has finally declared residency. The evenings have a warm tinge to them that permeates our body—and creates a tempo that is languid, yet unfurling. Bask in these first days of fewer clothes, enjoy the end of the day as a time to unwind and reach for the sky… It is truly the blessing of winter's end, and it should not be taken lightly. (HG)

YOUR WEAKEND QUESTION
I’m a social drinker. I like to have a couple beers on the weekend, sometimes a margarita, sometimes a shot of tequila or Jagermeister (no, I’m not a fratboy.) But lately when I’m out, I’ll have a cocktail of vanilla vodka and ginger ale. People have heard me order it and copied me. In fact, every time I mention it, somebody else says they like vanilla vodka, perhaps with orange juice. So, I wonder, is there anything more delicious than vanilla vodka? I hope this isn’t making you miss Denise Bayles. Send free liquor samples to: [email protected]. (DS)

SOPHIE B. GOOD
Sophie B. Hawkins at Calliope Festival, Hollywood, FL
: A small but faithful crowd attended the second day of the Calliope Festival, an all female music gathering, headlined by Sophie B. Hawkins. Fans gathered at the foot of the stage singing along with her on such songs as "As I Lay Me Down" and mouthing the lyrics of "Damn, I Wish I Were Your Lover."

The small crowd provided an intimate setting for Sophie, who appeared to enjoy herself singing to the mostly lesbian crowd. The angelic, waif-like Hawkins even removed her long sleeve shirt, cavorting onstage in a Snuggles T and wiggling her butt at the end of the concert. The crowd loved it.

The 16-song, hour and a half set consisted mostly of her greatest hits with a few songs from her new album Wilderness, the fourth for this Grammy-award winning artist. Throughout the concert, Sophie displayed her versatility, playing keyboards, banjo, acoustic guitar and electric guitar.

Keyboards and drums backed her up, and they were tight. On "My Best Friend," Sophie and the keyboard player jammed, providing some rock & roll for the mostly folk-oriented festival. "SweetSexyWoman," one of the songs showcased from the album, featured a soulful Sophie and the title delighted the crowd. On "Only Love," she displayed her talents for the spoken word, alternatively chanting and singing. (Janet Trakin)

NEW YORK MINUTE
Ring in spring with Train, who wrap up a three-night stand at Bowery Ballroom (6 Delancy St.) on Friday (April 2) and Saturday (April 3). Josh Groban pulls the same schtick with multiple concerts at Radio City Music Hall (1260 Ave. of the Americas) Friday and Saturday. Monogamous giggers include Phantom Planet, who invade Irving Plaza (17 Irving Place) on Friday, and Liz Phair, who is sure to sing "Why Can’t I?" for her Roseland (239 W. 52nd St.) date on Saturday. (Valerie Nome)

YOUR WEAKEND WEATHER
After last weekend’s heat wave in L.A., this weekend’s cool temperatures will come as a welcome relief. Expect gloomy clouds and highs only in the mid-to-upper-60s, with lows in the low 50s all weekend and into next week. Don’t be sad; all your favorite restaurants will have heat lamps for you. In NYC, where they know that if it’s too cold to be outside, you go inside, you don’t heat the outdoors, it’s going to be a reminder that it may technically be spring, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be cold and rainy. Highs will only be upper 40s and mid-50s, and lows will approach freezing. Yuck. Don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke detectors and set your clocks ahead. You have a great excuse to be late for the next few days. (DS)

NOTABLE & QUOTABLE
"I kiss people with my soul," Justin Timberlake tells In Touch. "I don’t kiss them with my mouth." Oh really… (VN)

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
Hellboy (Revolution/Sony)
Premise:
Based on the Dark Horse comic created by Mike Mignola about a Nazi experiment with an alleged child of Satan that goes awry, as the boy is adopted by U.S. agents and raised to be a full-fledged demon and a force for good.
Stars: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, Doug Jones, David Hyde Pierce, Jeffrey "Hey Now" Tambor
Director: Guillermo del Toro
reteams with his Cronos and Blade II co-star Perlman.
Thumbs Up: Looks a little more clever than your average comic book movie, with an edge of humor.
Thumbs Down: Will it be any more entertaining than The Hulk?
Soundtrack: Varese Sarabande album includes score by Marco Beltrami
Website: www.sonypictures.com/movies/hellboy features information about the movie, "Pipeline to Production," "Hellboy Chronicles" and "Hell Media" as well as a trailer, a featurette, a message board, concept art, del Toro comments and audio clips from the score.

Walking Tall (MGM)
Premise:
Remake of 1973 Phil Karlson revenge flick which featured a wooden stick-wielding Joe Don Baker as sheriff Buford T. Pusser. Pusser is now portrayed by wrestler The Rock as a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces renamed Chris Vaughn who returns to his hometown and is elected sheriff to clean up the crooked casino where his ex-girlfriend works as a dancer.
Stars: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, John Beasley, Ashley Scott
Director: Kevin Bray
(All About the Benjamins)
Thumbs Up: Could be fun in a B-movie, genre, shoot-em-up sorta way.
Thumbs Down: Where’s Joe Don Baker when we really need him?
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.WalkingTallMovie.com blasts off with The Rock wielding a two-by-four and looking to rumble, featuring a trailer, move info, story, production notes, cast and crew iformation media, downloads and promotional events.

The Prince and Me (Paramount Pictures)
Premise:
A free-spirited American college student (and motorcycle enthusiast) attends an Indiana University, where she falls in love with one of her classmates, not knowing he’s actually a Danish prince undercover as a regular guy.
Stars: Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Miranda Richardson, James Fox
Director: Martha Coolidge
(Real Genius, Out to Sea, Rambling Rose, Lost in Yonkers, Valley Girl)
Thumbs Up: Stiles is always good, and Coolidge has proven adept at this kind of youth comedy.
Thumbs Down: This plot device has been worked to death in everything from The Princess Diaries to Chasing Liberty to A Tale of Two Cities.
Soundtrack: Hollywood Records soundtrack features Josh Kelley, O.A.R., Eve 6, Jennifer Paige, The Cars, Leona Naess, Five for Fighting, Kinky, Los Lobos, Joss Stone and Jennifer Stills.
Website:
The trailer can bee seen at www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/theprinceandme/large.html

Home on the Range (Walt Disney Pictures)
Premise:
Animated musical feature about a herd of cows who get together to save the ranch and avoid being sold to the local meat-packing plant.
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench, Cuba Gooding Jr., Randy Quaid, Roseanne, Jennifer Tilly, Charles Dennis
Director: Will Finn
(co-director of The Road to El Dorado) and John Sanford
Thumbs Up:
Looks amusing enough, and Disney’s animation prowess should never be underestimated.
Thumbs Down: Can traditional flat animation succeed in a world of Pixar-styled 3D graphics?
Soundtrack: Disney Records album features award-winning Alan Menken (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Hercules, Pocahontas) score and songs by k.d. lang, Randy Quaid, Bonnie Raitt, Tim McGraw and the Beu Sisters.
Website: disney.go.com/disneypictures/homeontherange/main.html features the movie, previews, characters, music, gallery, games & downloads that enable you to help Buck rescue his pals and win a free song.

Thanks to Roy Trakin, Simon Glickman, David Simutis, Holly Gleason, Janet Trakin and Valerie Nome for pruning this Weakend Planner.

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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