sallah pulitzer

As predicted in this space months ago, my old Toledo Blade colleagues Mike Sallah and Mitch Weiss appear to be finalists for a Pulitzer Prize this year. And judging by the competition (a WaPo piece on the Nature Conservancy [!] and a NYT series on workplace safety [!]), I think it’s got a good shot. Rock on, brothers.
If I were feeling self-loathing, I’d point out that The Blade, of dinky Toledo, Ohio, has had two Pulitzer finalists in the last four years. In the last eight years, my current employer, much larger and more prestigious in every way, has had…never mind.

rain story

I don’t think it’s online, but my dull story about rainfall is on page B6 of today’s paper. Woo hoo — nothing more exciting than a “it rained yesterday” story. Featuring my first use of the phrase “intense aquatic assault” in a published piece.

tindersticks reissues

Why do bands always do this? The Tindersticks, a truly great band at moments, is reissuing much of their recorded output with better sound and (for most of the albums) a bonus disc of outtakes, demos, alternate versions, etc.
I’m all for reissues, but what about we loyal ‘Stickers who paid good money for the original versions of these CDs back in the day? I’m torn between the horror of paying for the same CDs twice and the horror of missing out on Tindersticks songs circa 1992-1996, when they were really on top of their game.
A quick guide to the reissues:
– On their overall sound (quoth the prolific Stephen Thomas Erlewine): “Tindersticks were one of the most original and distinctive British acts of the ’90s, standing apart from both the British indie scene and the rash of Brit-pop guitar combos that dominated the UK charts. Where their contemporaries were often direct and to-the-point, Tindersticks were obtuse and leisurely, crafting dense, difficult songs layered with literary lyrics, intertwining melodies, mumbling vocals and gently melancholy orchestrations. Essentially, the group filtered the dark romanticism of Leonard Cohen, Ian Curtis and Scott Walker as filtered through the bizarre pop songcraft of Lee Hazlewood and the aesthetics of indie-rock. Though their music was far from casual listening, Tindersticks gained a dedicated cult following in the mid-’90s, beginning with their eponymous 1993 debut album, which was named Album of the Year by the Melody Maker.”
– If you don’t have the first album (dancing woman on cover) or the second (black-and-white tailoring photo on cover), the decision’s easy — buy them. (Both albums are called simply “Tindersticks” — hence the cover photo information.)
Popular opinion generally gives the first one the edge in quality. I think they’re both brilliant, but I’ll take the second. It’s got a sinewy, dark edge that is absolutely perfect for drinking alone. Plus, the bonus disc for the second album is the rare and much sought-out “Live at the Bloomsbury” show.
– The third album (“Curtains“) didn’t thrill me, although the promise of cleaned-up sound (the original was a bit muddy) is intriguing. And the bonus disc of b-sides looks promising.
– Album No. 4 is the Nenette et Boni soundtrack, which is hard to find in this country. Haven’t heard it, but Tindersticks are perfect for soundtrack work. (I’ve got another score of theirs, for Trouble Every Day, and it’s gorgeous.)
– The fifth album is Simple Pleasure, which I’ve never been able to find — I don’t know if it was ever released here or not.
The band also plans a best-of called “Working For The Man,” which, judging from the track listing, appears to be a good introduction. (For what it’s worth, there are two more recent Tindersticks LPs — the misdirectedly R&B-vibed Can Our Love… and the slight-return-to-form Waiting For The Moon.)

alistair cooke retires

As Jane points out, the BBC’s Alistair Cooke has finally retired at the age of 264. (Okay, 95.)
I have a soft spot for guys like Cooke, the old model of foreign correspondence — a dapper European soberly chronicling the day’s events without so much as scuffing his shoes. (I wrote a lengthy profile of a somewhat analogous figure, Fernand Auberjonois.) Cooke’s audio “Letter From America” (the last one’s here) was a lovely, calming (if occasionally in need of a good editing) respite from standard radio. I had a few fond midnights in Zambia listening to Cooke on the shortwave.

trs-80 and virtual cdmom

While I’m posting about bands whose names start with T and end with 80, Chicago “straight experimental/techno/pink floydish stuff” band TRS-80 shows a lot of promise. (Although I’d term them more a “jazz-drumming/analog-electronics-loving/hip-hop-beat-having/more-DJ-Shadow-influenced-than-Pink-Floydish” band.)
MP3s available: Math Basket and Phantom Power.
Now that basically every band in the world posts MP3s on their web sites, I’m considering bringing back a completely virtual form of the old CD Mix of the Month Club. Instead of actual CDs being burnt and mailed, it’d involve me pointing to about 80 minutes of good MP3s available for legal download. Would you be interested, loyal readers?

tahiti 80 stuff

I have a very strict policy of never posting to this site on February 29. Thank heavens I was able to muster up the restraint to meet that policy. Now I can relax until 2008.
A brief video teaser for the new Tahiti 80 album. As Air has become more boring over time, Tahiti 80 have undeniably become The Most Important French Band. I’ve been a fan since ’00, when their first album was the last CD I reviewed for my old job as Toledo rock critic. A lot of pop, a little frizzy Eurodisco, a little friendly juvenilia, and Xavier Boyer’s great, childlike voice. They’re the French Beach Boys, I tell you. (I mean, look at their web site. Look at those goofy, lovable poses. Half Monkee, half Brian Wilson on the cover of Pet Sounds.) Some random T80 things:
A Tahiti 80 video press kit (good stuff there, big download)
Click on media here to see several videos. (“1,000 Times” is a favorite of mine.)
Video of the band playing on Morning Becomes Eclectic in 2002. (Or just the audio.)
An earlier MBE show from 2000.
It’s down now (for “maintenance,” allegedly), but there used to be a live show streaming here.