Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Might as well quote the whole thing:

The Knitting Factory along with H.O.P.E. (Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment) are offering the good people of America who have been duped into buying Ashlee Simpson's CD a reprieve; the opportunity to turn in her CD for one of a higher entertainment quality. Just bring your Ashlee Simpson CD down to the Knitting Factory Box Office between 10 and 5 PM Mon thru Sat and get one by the likes of Elvis Costello, The Ramones, X, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Aretha Franklin, Mr. Bungle, Ray Charles, Abe Lincoln Story, Grateful Dead, Neil Hamburger, Joni Mitchell, and Brian Wilson (while supplies last / selections vary) courtesy of Rhino Records in replacement. If you're in a city outside NYC, contact Hopeinfilm@aol.com or visit www.hopeinamerica.com for an exchange.
I like the concept, but I'm a little troubled by the choice of artists. While they're all great, they're largely artists from the LP/birth of FM radio era, including bands with dead members, which perpetuates the idea that being a real musician is an antiquated notion. I realize that Rhino specializes in reissues so they're unlikely to have anything new in their catalog, but this would be even more meaningful if they offered exchanges for recording artists of the MP3/birth of satellite radio era who are doing it real, like the Roots or Interpol.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I'd held off on commenting on the Ashlee Simpson SNL lip-synching debacle because I didn't want to repeat all the obvious reactions. What I do find troubling is the idea that lip-synching is now so commonplace that our youngest generation of music fans might not be appalled. One of the Simpson camp's myriad justifications is that every major star these days does it because fans want the live performance to sound like the record. Maybe this is an inevitable expectation in this age of overproduced albums, particularly with the widespread use of ProTools for pitch correction and other technological enhancements for "singers" who can't really sing. By extension, it implies that fans expect live performances to replicate overproduced videos in which singers (and I again use the word loosely) execute precision dance moves, never running out of breath because they are mouthing along to their own recordings for filming.

I guess this is where I'm hopelessly old school. For the bands I love the most, the challenge of recording is to capture the energy of the live show, not the other way around. When this controversy arose a decade ago regarding Janet Jackson's "live" performances, I opined that I'd rather take a chance on a Replacements show, where they might be horrible or they might be utterly amazing, then get the predictability of canned performance.

I have my doubts about all the "major" artists resorting to backing tracks and canned vocals. Many minor ones certainly don't; you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone doing this among the determined fringe who play venues like the Empty Bottle and Schuba's. Considering that she charges hundreds of dollars for the best seats, Better Midler would qualify as a major artist, but she made a point of the announcing at a recent show that the voice and the tits were real. Which makes Bette Midler more punk rock than Ashlee Simpson.