Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Crappy Old Blog/Shiny New Blog Crossover Continues!

Here's the introductory post:


Mad World coverHi. Welcome to Mad World: The Blog Of The Book. Take your shoes off. You’ll find the Purellto your left. Comfortable? Good. Here’s the introductory explanation. Some 18 months ago, we saw a brief interview with Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp celebrating the 20-year anniversary of his classic blue-eyed British soul ballad “True.” The piece, discussing the inspiration, writing and recording of the song, as well as its reception and place in pop history, ran a scant two paragraphs but, at the end of it we exclaimed in unison, if not perfect harmony: “We would happily read a hundred of these stories!” By that we didn’t mean we wanted to read a hundred stories of songs by Gary Kemp (except for the one that went, “She used to be a diplomat and now she’s down the laundromat.” That deserves deeper scrutiny). No, we wanted to hear the true stories behind our favorite new wave songs — our favorite songs from the years between 1978 and 1985, a.k.a. The Last Golden Age Of Pop.
So that’s what we did. (We’re saying that glibly, like the idea flowed smoothly from conception to completion; you can’t imagine the endless emails back and forward to Bananarama. They’re still holding out!) We approached our favorite artists from our favorite era and asked them to take us on the journey that led to their breakout song. Their “Tainted Love,” their “True,” their “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” their “Blue Monday,” their “Girls On Film” and their “Mad World.” And yes, okay, even their “I Ran.” Their response: “Never use the word journey again!” Their second response was a British-accented YES. Not that we planned it this way, but “Mad World” turned out to be a very UK-centric piece of work. America is represented by, among others, Devo, Berlin and Animotion (don’t rush to condemn us over that one: it’s a harrowing story of record industry abuse and chicanery, we promise). We wish we could have included more European acts. After all, new wave, more than any other genre before or since, broadened the American mind and weakened it’s resistance to foreign tongues. But we’re still waiting to hear back from Nena, Peter Schilling and Falco. (That’s right, we buy into the whole Falco Lives! conspiracy theory.)
We heard stories of bands of brothers who weathered changing musical climates, emerging as enduring iconic figures. We heard stories of groups who shattered into angry, ego-bleeding pieces at the first caress of fame. We heard stories of artists who stumbled accidentally into success and stories of people amazed by the endurance of the music they created all those years ago.
We talked to Duran Duran, New Order, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gary Numan, Devo, OMD, Simple Minds, Thompson Twins, ABC, Berlin, Bow Wow Wow, Adam & The Ants, Depeche Mode and many more about the culture of the times, the highs, the lows, the fights, the failures and, obviously, the hair. And then we threw it all in the blender, added our own individual opinions and, thus, a book was born. Perhaps not the most definitive book on the subject; certainly not the most serious. But definitely the only one with a Kajagoogoo interview that runs longer than most Kanye West monologues.
And this is our little hub, our little atrium where we’ll keep you updated on the progress of the book as it takes its first faltering steps into the cruel marketplace. We’ll share some extra content — bonus tracks, if you will — that didn’t make the final edit. We’ll make lists (because no one can live without lists). And we’ll keep you up to speed on the artists in this book, the artists who may not have made this book but who, hopefully we’ll give the attention they deserve in the future, and the newer artists who fly their own version of the new wave flag in these hardscrabble times. Now and then we’ll even talk some shit about the current state of pop culture.
Welcome aboard!

I Do Such A Great Job Updating This Blog, I've Started Another One!!!

Yes, in order to promote and maintain interest in my upcoming book about the 80s new wave phenomenon, my self and my co-author Lori Majewski, have thrown together a brand new blog.

Not only does it look a little cleaner and shinier than this here rusty shack, but I make a hand-on-heart commitment that it will be updated somewhat more regularly than I seem to manage here. As well as the expected stuff about Mad World and it's exciting contents, we will endeavor to publish fun recurring features, such as Last Week We Loved, where we discuss things that we loved from last week. (It's a tricky concept, I know, you'll get used to it.) Plus, there will be videos, lists, maybe the odd interview. It'll be a good time.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Three years between posts is fine, right?

While the YA industry and I sort out our differences, I have a new book, written in conjunction with my friend Lori Majewski, on the horizon. Mad World:An Oral History of Songs And Artists That Defined The 1980s--it may take me until the 2080s to remember that subtitle-- is, as the title suggests, a book about the much-maligned new wave era. As well as overviews and commentaries by the co-authors, it features brand new interviews with the likes of New Order,Duran Duran, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, Spandau Ballet, Human League, Simple Minds, Dexys Midnight Runners, OMD, ABC, Berlin, Adam & The Ants, Kim Wilde, Thomas Dolby, Thompson Twins,Ultravox, Soft Cell and, yes, A Flock Of Seagulls. And yesx2 Kajagoogoo. We talk about their breakthrough hits, the prevailing culture of the times,the highs, the lows, the fights, the failures and, it goes without saying but obviously I'm saying it, the hair. This book was a lot of fun to write and, hopefully, it'll be equally as enjoyable to read. It's in no way an erudite, chin-stroking rock critic dissection of the decade. It's two fans freaking out over their favorite songs by their favorite artists from their favorite era. Well, one and a half fans. (I have issues with overt emotions).

Monday, December 13, 2010

TV Club Has A Cold! least this half does. The healthier half is at


CC: "I want Channing Tatum to stop being in stuff." Rarely do I go
quoteable on this show, but this? From the mouth of Harry Shum? So
meta it's beautiful, and beautiful even if it weren't meta. And I'm a
person who has zero problem with Channing Tatum being in stuff.
JB: Every episode of Glee is already a Christmas episode.

The Sing-Off
CC: Well the high school kids failed and got rightfully booted, then
the Whiffs were actually really good and got wrongfully booted. Boo.
Not okay. Especially when the sellouts and the vocal jazz nonsense
people are still around. But I guess none of it matters since
Committed is totally winning this whole thing, which we already knew,
but which was aggressively reconfirmed because once again with the
blatant pimping (nobody else keeps getting cuts to the judges going
ballistic while they're singing). And they're singing I Want It That
Way next? PUH. LEEZE. Just tell me where I can buy the album
already and let's all move on.
JB:The Whiffenpoofs already have the world on a plate. Don't waste a second of sympathy on these privileged elitists. So says the disgruntled alumnus of Glasgow College of Technology. If we've learned one thing from TV talent shows, it's this: the journey is everything. Yes, Committed probably has it all sewn up, but don't count out the oldsters. Staying power. Inspirational. Also, the judges totally empathize with the crushed rock star dreams of the Southern singer with the high keening voice. Redemption. Second chance. Just saying.

Top Chef All-Stars
CC: Jen wuz robbed.

Vampire Diaries
CC: Okay, the scenes with Caroline watching over Tyler as he wolfed
out were, like, totally NOT warm and fuzzy but somehow they were also
warm and fuzzy, because my god! The caring! The friendship! The
genuine worry about how he was doing and the horror of seeing him go
through the pain! It was like gender-flipped childbirth. With more
chains. Or maybe less chains or the same amount of chains, I don't
know, it's a crazy world out there and maybe that's how some moms
JB: Shout-out to Vampire Diaries B-Team! Candice Accola and--I IMDB'd him!-- Michael Trevino have got themselves a storyline. Wolfnephew, in particular, sold the shit out of his big we-don't-have-an-FX-budget--so-this-is-all-on-you transformation moment. As of right now, I'm way less invested in the moonstone shenanigans as I am in knowing how Tyler/Caroline plays out. They're best friends but they're mortal enemies. And rarely-seen nice guy Matt has yet to find out the truth about his girlfriend and his best bud.(Question: is Aunt Jenna now surpassing Joyce Summers in protracted obliviousness?)

CC: I did this thing of I started watching it, and then halfway
through I had to pause and go do something and then I forgot that I
hadn't watched the whole thing and erased it. Whoops. Took them long
enough to explain that frickin' computer chatting program, by the way.
We've only been wondering what the FUCK is up with that thing since
the beginning of the season. Did anyone else find it totally
distracting that at one point Nikita and Alex were both wearing
basically the same magenta-ish lip color and had the same verrry
narrow dark blond highlights? Just me? Okay. The lip color is
seriously distracting though. I've noticed it previously on Alex.
I'm not making this up. It is in no way a neutral. I don't know what
the makeup department is thinking. Nobody's putting that color on
just to walk around in their sweatpants in their ubersecret deadly
assassin training facility. Nobody!
JB: Did not register the lip color. Except that I found myself thinking a few times, ` Are they gonna kiss?' (They're in a high pressure situation. It's not unheard of). Maggie Q's big "She's loose!" scene with the chains was potentially iconic and cut away from way too prematurely. Her rampage through Division was absurd and badass and I could have watched it for an hour. Robin Givens is still acting? Did not know that.

CC: Tiny harmonica solo!
JB: I have watched approximately eight thousand hours of X Factor and Idol and I don't think I've ever seen people as oblivious to how horribly they're singing as Paul McCartney and his band. I have watched Bill Hader play approximately eight thousand characters and Stefon is the only one he can't get through without cracking up. And wouldn't this have been a good week to bring The Miley Cyrus Show back?

Friday Night Lights
JB: Everyone's suffering because of this humiliating storyline about Julie Taylor sleeping with her married TA. Julie's suffering because Mrs TA whacked her in the face in front of the school causing her to run home and refuse to go back. The Taylors are suffering because their glowing self-image as perfect nurturers just took a dent. How can they be the immaculate parents they think they are if they raised such a nitwit? The team's suffering because Coach is so bent out of shape he misses delivering his send-out speech(Billy Riggins--unsung hero of this season! steps in and KILLS! )The show suffers because they get the coach to the game with seconds to spare, giving him just enough time to tell his guys "How you play tonight is who you are for the rest of your lives" AND THEN WE DON'T SEE THE GAME! The next scene is the victory celebration! The suffering is about to continue with Vince's ex-con dad who beat up a drug dealer for hassling his boy. No problem with that. But once he'd kicked the shit out of the guy, Vince's dad took away his gun. Guns and Friday Night Lights are not a good fit.

X Factor
JB: The Final! The winner--not a surprise to anyone but Simon Cowell who was convinced his boy band were set to take the crown and threw quite a sulk when they lost-- was a girly-voiced housepainter called Matt Cardle who seems set to join the ranks of Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze and last year's already-forgotten winner as male singers beloved by women who have no intention of ever buying their records. Here's Matt's celebrity duet. Be glad you're not watching this in 3D otherwise you'd run the risk of a detached retina from his boner:

And here's the runner-up who has a shot at a career if she does more stuff like this and less of the snoozy ballads she did on every other show:

Movie Club

Black Swan
CC: This shit was awesome and makes me very much want to go slowly,
dramatically mad, or just lose a lot of weight so I can look amazing
in multiple layers of body-skimming sweats/tanks/shrugs made of very
cozy-looking, soft materials.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like TV Club!

What happens in TV Club here, also happens in TV Club at

CC: UNLEASH HEATHER MORRIS! She is a caged beast, UNLEASH HER! Well they sort of did, thank god, during Valerie, but all the rest of the time, you can just see her practically jumping out of her skin wanting to do better choreography, it's like all that aggressive dance talent is just simmering below the surface, except it's not simmering, it's boiling over the whole time, because they NEED TO GIVE HER MORE TO DO but anyway, I didn't like that Train song and of course, now I like that Train song, thanks to the Dalton Academy guys who actually DO A CAPPELLA UNLIKE EVERYONE ELSE ON THIS SHOW. Argh. Is what I say. Yet again.
JB: Unleash Naya Rivera, too. Was that really her first solo in a season-and-a-half? She's got the most commercial voice out of any of them. Do not unleash Dianna Agron and Chord Overstreet. Jesus Christ, I thought the Black Eyed Peas took a shit on Time Of My Life. And why was that deemed sectionals-worthy and not Dog Days Are Over which, whatever your Florence stance, is a showstopper? I don't buy the blondes as a couple, either. In fact, I don't buy any of the couples as couples. Not Brittany and Artie. Not the Asians. Not Finn and Rachel. Kurt and Rachel, I buy them. We almost made it through an entire episode without a Glory of Kurt moment. Then they unveiled the Kurt as molting Dalton warbler metaphor at the end.

Vampire Diaries
CC: Will my fellow Jeremy/Bonnie 'shippers please join me in a rousing rendition of "WHAT THE FUCK?!" Come on, show. Let's do this. Let's make this happen so I can watch it happen. By the way, why can't Katherine just bite Jeremy's finger off with the ring on it and then kill him? She cut off Uncle John's finger with a knife and then stabbed him, can't she bite off Jeremy's ring finger? Anybody? Just me?
JB: Did the witch and the warlock have weather-sex? I think they did! Can I say something about the moonstone? It would be good if it glowed or floated or changed colors or did SOMETHING to merit the massive investment we're having to make in its mystic properties. Because right now? It's not very impressive. Also not impressive: Bonnie the witch's screechy version of Only Happy When It Rains.

The Sing-Off
CC: This is my new favorite show (shut up, it's winter TV doldrums right now) and I am about to say many things. It's much better than it was last year. I love when people get genuinely excited about their competition, and it totally happened twice tonight, when the blue Oregon guys were losing it over the young black guys during Maroon 5 (and who wouldn't...those guys are gonna win the whole thing unless the Glee fan contingent puts the high school group ahead of them, plus they almost killed Boyz II Men judge), and then when the teal people from LA, that guy in the middle, was totally doing the "wwhhhaaattt" hands-on-head thing during Apologize. Did anyone else think it was totally cheating for the teal LA people to totally Frankenstein together a group JUST for the purpose of this show, including people who had BEEN ON BEFORE? Did anyone else think there was literally a ZERO percent chance that the southern guys were gonna sing anything OTHER than Hey Soul Sister for the next episode? Was it me or did most of the Seattle people have, like, that confusing thing where they might be 14 or they might be 40 or maybe it was just that one person? And how terrible was Nick Lachey's outfit? AND HOW AWESOME IS BEN FOLDS? HE IS THE MOST OF AWESOME!!! Him ripping on the cymbals thing and then demonstrating it was possibly the best part of the whole show. Other than, of course, the young black guys (because there were also old black guys, who are fine and cute in their own way, but this show belongs to the young black guys). I had something to say about the groups who got booted but whatever, they're booted, I already forgot what it was.

CC: If this show could make me care as much about the non-Nikita scenes as I do about the Nikita ones, we'd be in good shape. For instance, I found the revelation that Nikita works out at 3 in the morning at some pool in New Jersey WAY more interesting than Alex's entire subplot this week. I can't tell you what said subplot was because during those scenes I was too busy trying to calculate whether it's possible for me to watch every single episode of Battlestar Galactica during my winter break. It is.
JB:The pre-credits narration is getting longer and more complicated every week. We now have THREE shadowy organizations.. We've got Division. We've got the one they unveiled a couple of weeks ago. And now we've got Oversight. We also have the recurring plot about the seven black boxes which is both vitally important and not worth mentioning from week to week. But honestly? As long as I see Nikita getting in wet towel fights at Newark Community Center, I don't care.

The Walking Dead
CC: Oh my god, I can't believe they Lost in Translationed us! And we had to wait until the very end for any skull-crunching zombie action! Boo! BOO! *starts counting minutes till show comes back*
JB: Sometimes when I watch this show, I feel like an Amish teen on Rumspringa. I absolutely accepted that cast member Laurie Holden would sacrifice herself in the CDC blast and the black lady whose name we do not know and who had barely uttered a word make a break for freedom.

Friday Night Lights
JB: I do not play sports. I do not watch sports. I know nothing about sports. After this away-game episode, I wanted to be part of a team. Any team. There was a scene before the big game. The Coach is sitting out on his hotel balcony. A few feet away, four of the Lions are hanging out, joking, talking about the game, telling stories. They don't know he's there, listening. The scene doesn't go anywhere, doesn't add to the story. But it lasts for three, maybe four minutes and when it's over, you think, what other show would do that? Even if you don't like you like Friday Night Lights, if you don't like football, if you don't like PEOPLE, the camaraderie on display here was just undeniable. (After they won the game, the team celebrated by branding each other with hot pieces of bent wire. And even THAT was heartwarming!) This was an absolute, all time Top 5 episode, almost but not entirely marred by the Season Two-level embarrassment of the Julie Taylor: Adultress plot.

JB: I'm looking forward to Little Fockers about as much as I want to hear that new Diddy Dirty Money album.

JB: It started with a decapitation. It ended with a disintegration. In between, there were multiple stabbings, rape jokes, angels getting boners watching motel room porn, naked demon torture, invisible hellhounds and incest gags. Return to form!
CC: I...may have to start watching this show.

X Factor
JB: The semi finals. Of all the hundreds of thousands of Bruno Mars-affiliated songs this year, I have one favorite and while this young person attempted to slaughter it, she left some life in the corpse:
Just when it looked like Rihanna's wounds had all healed, she gets clobbered again:
And this happened:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TV Club Is On Thin Ice!

There's nothing you can read here that you can't also read at
JB: Bullying is this show's vervain. You can't get away from it. And how does Glee define bullying? Failure to properly celebrate The GloryOf Kurt. Which is something Ryan Murphy is not guilty of. Kurt's dad's wedding vows? An apology to Kurt. Finn's wedding speech? Another apology to Kurt plus a dance. The Glee club's petty differences? Forgotten in the face of having Kurt's back. Even the nightmarish Carol Burnett storyline ended up with an anti-bullying speech reminding us that Kurt might not have been onscreen but his Glory was still being celebrated.
CC: My jaw literally dropped with how bad the sound production was in this (again, watched only the songs). A very wise fellow viewer mentioned that the thing they do to everyone's voices (I'm talking about that ridiculous wedding number) is the equivalent of the Barbara Walters camera. Difference? Walters needed it. THESE KIDS DON'T. They can sing! Let them fucking SING! Argh. (Bruno Mars is a genius, by the way...I thought "Just the Way You Are" was the most pandering song ever in the history of man, but that "Marry You" song is also his? Good lord. Give him all the money in the world, he's taken James Blunt's lady-trapping key-word-hitting game and hulked it out into some of the most catchy-ass tunes ever.) So, once again, my best Glee experience this week has been the ACTUAL a cappella number featured in the below youtube (I'm on record as being thoroughly sick of the reaction shots, but Puck's here is gold), and I don't even LIKE this song:

JB: Bruno Mars wrote Cee-Lo's Fuck You. So he's working both sides of the pandering equation.
CC: OMG WHAT?! WHAT! WHAT! He's a genius! He's a fucking genius! Cee Lo was totally at my work today, by the way.
The Walking Dead
JB: Some shows go through entire seasons without amassing as many highlights as this single episode managed. The blonde survivor waiting for her sister to revive then shooting her in the head. The beaten-up wife slamming a pickaxe into the skull of her dead zombie husband.Shane the cheating deputy being tempted to shoot Sheriff Rick. The bitten guy left at the roadside to die. The lone scientist. The white light as the doors of CDC open. I'm fully committed to The Walking Dead but most of the post-pilot episodes had a `Yeah, this character stuff kind of drags but but bear with us cuz there's zombies and gore on the way' vibe. Not this one. This had a `See, almost a whole hour went by without a single zombie and you didn't even notice' vibe.
CC: Remember in The Notebook when Ryan Gosling goes "I love you" and Rachel McAdams takes a long pause before saying it back? You know how in Rocky Horror they do that "antici........pation" thing? Blonde lady shooting her sister was the zombie equivalent of that. JUST SHOOT HER SHE'S A ZOMBIE OH MY GOD JUST SHOOT HER ALREADY WHAT IF SHE ENDS UP HAVING LIKE REALLY FAST REFLEXES FOR A ZOMBIE DON'T LEAN IN JUST SHOOT HER AAAAAA!!!! Tension created? In spades. Thanks, show,I love you and I hate you for it.
Skating With The Stars
JB: I vaguely remember Fox trying something like this a few years ago.Lasted one season. Ended with Kristy Swanson double-axeling off into the sunset with her married partner. But a British version has been going strong for a while now. That's because they know how to do it right. Hire fat people, old people, unsteady people and a judge who has no problem telling a female athlete dressed in brown she looks like shit circling the drain. I FF'd through most of Skating W/TheStars but I still saw enough to know they took a different approach.First, there's only six(6) skaters. I know it's a short season but that's not enough to decide who you like, who you hate, who you like to hate, who's comic relief and who you don't care about. Second,no-one's fat or old. Third, the judges. I've seen Boomkack on other shows. She's crazy. She's a screamer and a shoe-thrower. Here she's telling Sean Young what a privilege it is to meet her. And Johnny Weir! Johnny Weir tells people he LIKES they look like shit circling the drain. But not this version. This version applauds Vince Neil for his courage. Fourth, the host. I've heard Americans complaining they can't understand Vernon Kay's northern English accent. I'm from Scotland, a mere stone's throw from where he lives. I follow maybe every fourth syllable.
JB:Mary-Louise Parker needs to quit acting because she's never going to get another part as good as the one she's got here. I always forget Weeds is still on. Then I find another season of it taking up DVR space. The last few years, I've gone to get rid of it, checked out a couple of episodes and stuck around for the whole thing. I never bother watching when it's actually showing because I still think Weeds is about a suburban mom who becomes a pot dealer. I keep forgetting they blew up that whole premise. Parker's character married a Mexican druglord last year. Then her psycho son killed his mistress with a croquet mallet. In the season I just watched, she's shooting people with crossbows, having angry sex with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and fucking up the lives of everyone she meets. And even when she's tied up in the trunk of a car next to the body of the journalist she got killed, she still does this doe-eyed, mussy-haired thing like she's not sure if she's in a dream sequence. I look forward to forgetting all about her and rediscovering her show this time next year.
X Factor
JB: Rock Week. You know what that means:

End of the road for that dude. But nothing can stop these kids:

Jabbawockeez at the Monte Carlo
CC: I saw this live show in Vegas. It was, of COURSE, fucking awesome. All the bits you love and remember from their ABDC performances, plus all sorts of new, equally as awesome or even more so, stuff. I sat slackjawed and leaning forward in pure happiness the whole time. So nice to see these guys reaping tons and tons of well-deserved rewards. Afterwards we were walking around the casino and I randomly saw Victor from Quest Crew. You know he was totally hangin' with the Wockeez that weekend. And in fact you DO know cuz I checked twitter and that's exactly what they said.