I just saw Muse at the Greek—my third time—and let me tell you, they may be the best live band in the world right now!


Not the Banks of Marshall Amps, Silly—
We’re Talking About the Air Conditioner
1. Pearl Jam (J Records):
Clive Davis has encouraged a generation of classic rockers through the years, from Patti Smith and Graham Parker to the Kinks, the Grateful Dead and later, Carlos Santana and Rod Stewart, to do their most commercially successful work by concentrating on songcraft and accessibility. It hasn’t always resulted in artistic triumph—Lou Reed comes to mind as one notable failure—but Mr. D’s astute reading of the marketplace has, for the most part, proven a boon in polishing up the name brand for both old and new audiences. Enter Pearl Jam, a band that has made a career of confounding mainstream expectations, but also threatened to find itself trapped in the gilded cage of cultdom. Whoever it was that convinced Eddie Vedder and company to reach out beyond the committed to summarize their career strengths has helped them create PJ’s most relevant album in years. Like U2’s two recent albums, the group tears into the anti-drug “Life Wasted,” the anti-war “Worldwide Suicide” and the anti-mortality “Comatose” with the out-of-the-gate roar of openers like “Vertigo” and “Beautiful Day,” but it isn’t until the tribal psychedelic Doors buzz of “Severed Hand” and the patented existential angst of “Marker in the Sand” that the band truly starts to connect on a human level. The second side, starting with the eminently hummable “Unemployable,” features a sequence of songs right up there with “Jeremy” and “Evenflow,” especially the contemplative politics of “Gone” (“This American dream/I am disbelieving”) along with the bluesy rant and The Edge-like guitars of “Army Reserve.” By the time Vedder channels “Love in Vain”-meets-“Moonlight Mile” Jagger on the aptly named “Come Back” and the entire band climbs the stairway to heaven in the epic, Dead-inspired finale, “Inside Job” (“Life comes from within my heart and desire”), it is clear Pearl Jam has returned as a rock force to be reckoned with. —Roy Trakin

2. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped (Geffen): Like Pearl Jam, the world’s foremost underground art-rock hybrid turns its 20th studio effort into one of the most accessible albums in an impressive 25-year career (15 of which have been improbably spent on a major label). One-half of alterna-rock’s First Couple with Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon coos “You keep me coming home again” on the melodic opener, “Reena,” setting the stage for a record that combines the Television guitar melodies of “Incinerate” with the Verlainesque boast of Moore’s “I ripped your heart out from your chest.” Back to a four-piece with longtime members guitarist Lee Ranaldo and drummer Steve Shelley, Youth sound as tight as you’d expect from a band that’s played together in its current form for more than 20 years on the Velvets-like political screed “Do You Believe In Rapture?” as they muse, “Do you believe in second chance.” Gordon’s melodious vocals give the band a softer feel on almost half the songs, including the frankly sensual “What a Waste” (“You’re so chaste/I can’t wait/To taste your face”), performed by Thurston, Kim and daughter Coco as the town troubadours on this year’s season finale of Gilmore Girls. There are still plenty of the band’s patented jams on songs like “Turquoise Boy,” which juxtaposes Gordon’s throaty whisper with majestic, cascading riffs, along with the trippy “Lights Out,” the shimmering “The Neutral,” the tuneful, mostly instrumental, “Pink Steam” and the subliminal undertow of (“ready”) “Or” (“not”). Although still “indie” rock’s #1 cult band, Sonic Youth prove you can teach an old dog new tricks, and if there was any justice in the world, they’d be as big as some of the many bands they’ve inspired. After all, if it weren’t for them, Nirvana never would have signed with Geffen, and the rest is history. Thankfully, Sonic Youth aren’t history by a long shot as they continue adding to their musical legacy. —RT

3. David Wright: As a lifelong New York Met fan conditioned to habitual failure, the emergence of this anti-Bonds—I’ve taken to calling him Roy Hobbs, the Robert Redford character in The Natural—is almost too good to be true. Last week, he marked his first selection to the National League All-Star team by finishing second in the Home Run Derby and clouting a round-tripper his first time up in the actual game. Then, it was onto Late Night With David Letterman, where he casually bantered with the host and showed off a dazzling grin that was every bit as seductive as the talk-show icon’s gap-toothed smirk. The only sour note was his inclusion in a commercial for a faith-healer shown on the Mets’ cable channel, but that turned out to be just a misunderstanding. Wright insisted he would never dream of endorsing a religion or proselytizing for one. Still, after the tragic, self-induced demise of such homegrown Mets stars as Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, we can be forgiven if we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. —RT

4. Tender Greens (9523 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA): Culver City must be the new Pasadena, its balmy 77 degrees providing a welcome respite from the triple-figure heat in the Valley. This prime stretch of Culver Blvd. sports a restaurant run by Harrison Ford’s son and this new would-be franchise, a winning combination of fast-food service, comfort-food home cooking and very reasonable prices which had us begging the owner to open a Woodland Hills branch. The menu is simple, but fresh, with a choice of Angus Flatiron Steak, Free Range Chicken, Line Caught Ahi Tuna and Oxnard Vegetables available as a sandwich ($9) or as a plate with the delectably creamy Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes ($10), both with salads. There’s also a choice of “Big Salads,” ranging from a Grilled Chicken Caesar and Chinese Chicken Salad to Mediterranean Spinach and Happy Vegan, each just $9. The steak was melt-in-your-mouth luscious, the salad crisp and flavorful. My wife ordered the Red and Green Butter Lettuce small salad for $5 with four hefty chunks of Ahi Tuna added for an additional $4, a bargain. And don’t forget to try the lip-smackingly good Devil’s Food Cupcake with Toffee Crunch ($3). Even this certified choco-phobe approved. Tender Greens is the kind of restaurant that has you asking yourself, “Why aren’t there more places like this?” —RT

5. Grant-Lee Phillips, nineteeneighties (Zoe/Rounder): One might regard this album of covers from the MTV age as a holding action for the former Grant Lee Buffalo leader after three solo albums, but that would be wrong. Tackling songs of cult faves from the Pixies (“Wave of Mutilation”) and Robyn Hitchcock (“I Often Dream of Trains”) to The Cure (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and the Smiths (“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”), Phillips explores their undercurrents of desperation and alienation by making each his own. That’s especially true for Joy Division’s “The Eternal” and the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way,” as Phillips digs into Richard Butler’s gruff whine to expose the implicit heartache below the surface. The Church’s “Under the Milky Way” is given an art-rock twist, Nick Cave’s “City of Refuge” becomes an ominous acoustic blues, while R.E.M.’s “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” is delivered in a bass-heavy funereal plaint that accentuates its melancholy. By approaching the material with that bittersweet perspective of a fondly remembered, now-distant past, Phillips locates the gravitas in a decade more known for its glitz. —RT

6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black’s directorial debut (named after the collection of critic Pauline Kael’s work) is a PoMo faux noir that is the most self-conscious send-up of the genre since Carl Reiner and Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid with a definite nod to Quentin Tarantino’s high brow/low brow Pulp Fiction. Robert Downey Jr. is a delight as the narrator who insists on breaking the fourth wall to address the audience directly as his petty thief is mistaken for an actor while on the run from the cops and is sent to Hollywood to audition for a film. There, he gets caught up in an Elmore Leonard-like case of mistaken identity trying to come to the rescue of femme fatale Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible: 3, Boston Public) with out-of-the-closet, but hardnosed detective Val Kilmer (aka Gay Perry), who is supposed to help him train for the role. As long as the dialogue zings back and forth like it was written, the movie holds your interest, but once the pedestrian plot begins to rear its head, it’s all downhill, though a technically amazing finale in which Downey literally hangs onto a corpse’s hand from a sign on a 101 Freeway downtown overpass while he cuts down his pursuers gets high marks for action. And you gotta love any movie in which the hero loses the tip of his finger only to see it eaten by a dog. —RT

7. Cache: Translated as Hidden, German-born writer/director Michael Haneke’s French language psychological thriller stars Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche as an upper-middle class couple with a young son whose lives begin to unravel when they discover someone’s been surreptitiously taping their Paris home after receiving a series of videos left on their doorstep. Haneke includes plenty of static shots of the house, forcing the viewer to scan the screen to see what’s going on, a metaphor for the way the bourgeois shut themselves off from the world behind closed doors. Auteuil plays the host of a TV show about books who harbors a secret guilt from his childhood that he tries to keep “hidden” from his family, whose trust is gradually eroded by the lack of communication. And while the Freudian explanation is no surprise, Haneke keeps the ambiguity as to the observer and the observed until the very end, inviting the viewer to examine the images for meaning. He takes what is implicit in Hitchcockian suspense and makes it explicit, as a seemingly perfect family is actually fraying from conflicting emotions, including fear and paranoia. Whether those feelings are justified or not remains a mystery. My only quibble: what upscale household still has a videotape machine, not a DVD player? —RT

8. Hudson Marquez, “The Rise and Fall of the Tail Fin: Secrets of the Cadillac Ranch” at the Billy Shire Fine Arts Gallery, Culver City: Part of the Ant Farm Art Collective, the famed ’60s commune that created the series of buried Cadillacs in the Texas plains that has become such a cultural icon it was featured in Disney’s Cars, Hudson Marquez returns to the art scene with this series of mixed-media sketches and diagrams that breaks down the work year by year and model by model, tracing the evolution of its tail-fin design. With a nod towards the original ‘60s west coast comic book artists like R. Crumb, Robert Williams, Gilbert Shelton and Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith (who is even included in one of the pieces), the canvases are crammed with facts, figures, bawdy reminiscences and tributes to blues artists known and obscure, including Slim Harpo and Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones, bringing rhyme, reason and relevant background to the seemingly random act of creation, e.g., “The guy who gouged us for the ’49 Sedanette took his cash to the Eager Beaver titty bar in Lubbock and spent all his cash on Jack Daniel’s and a gal in red heels named Kitten. I know this because we were there spending our art money on Gio, Angie and Bambi.” —RT

9. Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (Bravo): If you think all celebrities lead fabulous, exciting lives, well, you’re only half right. The wonderfully self-deprecating Griffin might try a little too hard, but she proves the business of show is no walk in the park, as she is shown entertaining for a transgender benefit in someone’s kitchen, hawking Alka Seltzer, presiding over a Learning Annex for would-be comedians and participating in a fashion show with her dogs. When she’s not working, Griffin is hanging around in her A-list Hollywood Hills manse with her Blackberry-toting hairdresser husband, tattooed, put-upon personal assistant, elderly parents, German dog trainer and assorted gay admirers. If this be the stuff of stardom, it’ll make you think twice about fame, but Kathy is a good sport through it all, whether she’s learning to ice-skate with Olympic champion Johnny Weir or stripping down to her bra with the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy gang. Bravo has suddenly transformed itself into all reality TV all the time, a format that is like heroin. Once you’ve stumbled upon it, you can’t kick it. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: Never mind 9-to-5. In The Devil Wears Prada, you realize that Anne Hathaway’s ambivalence towards (as well as the film’s implicit criticism of) her 12-hour days comes across rather quaint in the wake of the currently rampant American workaholism. A friend recently applied for a job as a personal executive assistant at a well-known Hollywood entertainment firm and was told by the human resources rep in no uncertain terms the hours were 8 to 8, an assertion that didn’t even surprise my friend, who basically accepted it as standard operating procedure. So why do conservative and liberal types alike complain that parents aren’t spending enough quality time with their children? The choice for a woman, if she wants to be a mother and still wishes to work, is especially Damoclean…damned if they do, damned if they don’t. We ought to make up our minds—do we sacrifice our personal lives for careers or not? And while it’s obviously an individual decision when and if we choose one or the other, we shouldn’t have to answer for it every day… even if it’s inevitable we will. Whatever happened to the four-day work week, anyway? —RT

Friday, July 21
Bon Jovi @ Soldier Field, Chicago

Unwritten Law @ House of Blues, Anaheim

Mary J. Blige @ Madison Square Garden

Saturday, July 22nd
Home Remodeling & Decorating Show @ LA Convention Center: Hey fellas, if you are looking for something to do with the wife, fiancée, girlfriend, etc., this might be a good place to take her.

Van's Warped Tour 2006 featuring Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, NOFX, Cartel, Eighteen Visions and many more @ Utah Fairgrounds, Salt Lake City

Fourth Saturday Family Fun Day @ Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta: The fourth Saturday each month from April through September brings Family Fun Day to Olympic Park, and this kickoff event teaches “All About Art.” Along with street performers, face painters, wandering minstrels and favorite cartoon characters, “All About Art” features cool hands-on, interactive workshops.

Muse @ Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix: I just saw them at the Greek—my third time—and let me tell you, they may be the best live band in the world right now! Muse is truly amazing, and totally worth seeing if they’re playing in your neck of the woods, because they only come around once a year at most.

Nickelback and Hoobastank @ Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
Rusted Root @ House of Blues on Sunset

Giant Village in Downtown L.A. (West Sixth St. and South Hope St.): If you're a fan of electronic music and all-night parties, get ready have your eyelids peeled back, because this mammoth outdoor music showcase has few peers. That's because it stretches across more than five stages in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, making it one of the more alluring outdoor events of the summer. Plus, the talent here is deep indeed: From superstars like Paul Oakenfold, John Digweed and the Crystal Method to new jacks like Deep Dish and the postmodern circus of Mutaytor, Giant Village is brimming with house party heavyweights. That’s what it says here, anyway.

Sunday, July 23rd
Cardinals vs. Dodgers @ Chavez Ravine: Most likely their season is over, but if you still feel like supporting them, head on out—at least the stadium is nice.

2006 Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival @ Fox Theatre in Atlanta Presents: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Say Anything @ House of Blues, Lake Buena Vista, FL

Breaking Benjamin @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ
Peeping Tom (featuring Mike Patton) @ The Avalon, Hollywood

Lady in the Water
Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Mary Beth Hurt, Freddy Rodriguez, Jeffrey Wright, Sarita Choudhury, and Bob Balaban
An apartment superintendent discovers an unusual woman swimming in the complex's pool. He comes to learn that she's actually a "narf," a creature right out of a fable, who's been sent to warn humanity of a race of mystical creatures that's come to harm them.
I am huge fan of M. Night, and I think this could be another good one. I was disappointed with The Village, so I am really hoping he redeems himself with this one. I hear this one is his most straightforward film without any tricks in it, but that means there probably are.

Monster House
the voices of Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nick Cannon, Jon Heder, Kevin James and Jason Lee
Three kids set out one Halloween to score loads of candy. When they visit a seemingly haunted house — which may be responsible for the disappearance of other trick-or-treaters — their innocent outing turns in to a dangerous adventure.
Thoughts: My guess is this movie is going to be surprisingly good. It’s from the minds of Zemeckis and Spielberg, and it stars a bunch of talented people doing the voices. This one appears to be fun for the whole family.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Anna Faris, Eddie Izzard and Wanda Sykes
Synopsis: Matt Saunders has the perfect girlfriend, Jenny Johnson. But what he doesn't know is that she's also a superhero known as G-Girl. When his relationship hits the skids, Matt thinks he can just give Jenny the boot. But once scorned, Jenny uses her superpowers to get back and Matt and break up his new relationship with his co-worker Hannah.
: I think this movie looks hilarious. I mean, it's such an original concept, but at the same time I'm sure many people have fantasized about it. Can’t wait to see it.

Other Movies Opening This Week:
Clerks 2:
Didn’t like the first one; couldn’t care less about this one.
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren

V for Vendetta:
This is my favorite movie of the year so far, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.
X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply Awesome!!! Johnny Depp is brilliant Bill Nighy is creepy Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and non-stop action.
Mission Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.
An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year… A MUST-SEE!!!
Nacho Libre: The funniest movie of the year. Jack Black rocks.
The Devil Wears Prada: This movie is making my list because Meryl Streep was truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if nothing else.