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Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Nicole Scherzinger does.

The transcript follows.

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J. Freedom du Lac: So, Shakira has endorsed Obama.

And there goes the schwing vote.

Let's chat, shall we?

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Washington, D.C.: Everyone likes to talk about Amy Winehouse's health and personal drama, but what have you heard about prospects for another album? I can't wait to see what she does next.

J. Freedom du Lac: I haven't seen/heard anything about her getting back into the studio to start work on a new album, other than this report in the Times of London.

Sez the story: "The singer has got some new material - when summoned for a crisis meeting with Universal's international boss Lucian Grainge this year, she tried to impress him with a song - but she continues to play summer festivals (or in the case of a date in Paris last week, not turn up) and has not been anywhere near a recording studio."

"Universal can hardly complain, given the longevity of Back to Black, but there is little doubt that the record company is keen for her to produce a new album before the public finally tires of the endless tabloid tittle-tattle. Even if it were hastily recorded, at best a new album from the 24-year-old would not appear for a year."

Not quite sure why it would take a year for a completed album to come out. That really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, given the speed with which labels can get product online and onto the streets. Even with a major marketing campaign, I just don't get why Universal would need a year.

By the by, here are the top three current Amy Winehouse headlines via Google:

Amy Winehouse On Suicide Watch

Amy Winehouse and producer Mark Ronson reunite for tribute track

Amy Winehouse turning to Church Of Scientology?

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Arlington, Va.: first up, i never met her, am not related, and am not her. but i do wonder why catherine p. lewis doesn't get more assignments from the Post. i swear i can tell her reviews every friday without checking bylines, because they're just, well, better than the others. i could elaborate, but, really, the question is, why doesn't she get more assignments? do you hate her? does she pal around with terrorists? did she tase malitz? (and if this is the first time someone has posted a fan note to a critic on these chats, well, i'm just feelin' all mavericky today.)

J. Freedom du Lac: Blame Canada. Seriously.

CPL has been spending way too much time up there for work. And by "work," I don't mean the excellent freelance criticism she contributes to The Post. It's all about that day job.

The Friday reviews in Weekend, by the way, are assigned and edited by the Weekend staff and have nothing to do with the album and performance reviews that I assign for Style. We're a hydra-headed beast here at The Washington Post.

Tasing Malitz would be a pretty good band name.

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Washington, D.C.: What do you know about the quality of the performances the Who and also Tina Turner are giving these days? I see both are coming to the V-Center this fall.

J. Freedom du Lac: The Who killed it at the first U.S. Virgin Festival two years ago. Really vital performance. The key, I think, was putting Zak Starkey on drums. He seemed to press the pace a little bit and that gave the set some real edge. Nothing phoned-in about it.

Not sure about Tina Turner. Great live performer, of course. But the last time I saw her was during that duet thingy with Beyonce on the Grammys, and let's just say that it wasn't Tina's finest moment. She'd lost a little bit off the old fastball.

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College Park, Md.: Yo, my man J--

What do you think of TV on the Radio's new album? I still can't make up my mind. It's great, but I don't think it stands up to some of the songs off "Cookie Mountain," specifically "Wolf Like Me" or "I Was a Lover." Thoughts?

J. Freedom du Lac: I generally like the way it sounds. Great textures. I definitely prefer it to "Cookie Mountain," which didn't exactly speak to my sensibilities (such as they are).

Having said that, while it'll probably going to win the Idolator and Pazz and Jop polls, it's not Top 10 for me.

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Bethesda, Md.: Do you or any of the spectators out there know anything about a band called The Crash Motive out of the University of Delaware?

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't, other than what I'm seeing/hearing on their MySpace.

Here's the most important bit of info, from the band's MySpace blog:

"Not Giving Up played during MLB's first instant replay"

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Orange County: I just caught wind about a free concert for Nickelback at the Forum in Inglewood this Saturday (as seen on their website). Apparently, they're filming a commercial and will only play about three to four songs. Should I bring a bag of rocks to hurl at them on stage as a sign of appreciation like the fans do (see youtube) in Portugal?

J. Freedom du Lac: Hot rocks!

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Severna Park, Md.: Hey Malitz. Where would you take a hipster for a hipster bachelor party?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm going to answer on his behalf here, since he's busy steaming about Nick Cave and The Interview That Never Happened.

He'd probably suggest yet another Double Dagger concert. That's usually where he is, unless the Wizards are on TV. Or he's watching his fantasy baseball team melt down in real time.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: Isn't Tina Turner, like, 100 years old? Daltrey and Townshend are still in their 70s!

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, since you asked:

Tina Turner is 68.

Daltrey and Townshend are 64 and 63, respectively.

I think the average life expectancy of women is, like, 4-5 years greater than it is for men, so basically, they're the same age.

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Rockville, Md.: There are hipsters in Severna Park? Who knew?

J. Freedom du Lac: Asking on behalf of a friend, I'm sure.

Though isn't that where Steve Danneman - the 2005 World Series of Poker main event runner-up - is from? Or was that Severn?

J. Freedom du Lac: Not that Danneman is hip or anything.

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Why such hatred of Nickelback?: I mean, they're just mediocre and hardly worth mentioning, much less going out of your way to throw rocks at them.

J. Freedom du Lac: For the same reason people hate Rascal Flatts. To the haters, they are the embodiment of mass-appeal mediocrity - and, possibly, all that is wrong with the music business.

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Even with a major marketing campaign, I just don't get why Universal would need a year. : Maybe it would take them that long to clean up the album, being that it would be a bunch of hastily recorded songs by a heroin addict. I don't think you can do that many drugs and still keep your voice and your ability to perform.

J. Freedom du Lac: Could be that, I suppose. Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi's superlative production work on "Back to Black" was such an important part of that album's success. Team Winehouse will really need to lean hard on top-level producers again this time through, I think - though I sure hope they don't do the 22-producers-for-12-songs thing that so many artists are doing these days.

Re taking a lot of drugs and keeping your voice, etc: Seen Etta James lately?

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If music has "mass appeal": is it necessarily mediocre?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yep. Unless you think that 200 million Celine Dion fans can't really be wrong. (Or 20 million Hootie fans. [Or whatever hugely successful act you feel is worthy of slagging here.])

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Minneapolis, Minn.: I caught Liz Phair's Exile nostalgia tour at First Avenue in Minneapolis on Saturday. She was fantastic. I was 14 when Exile came out, and it still blows me away. It could have been the most fun I've had at a live show in a very long time.

This was the ultimate gift to her fans, especially since her later music has been so....meh.

J. Freedom du Lac: Just passing this along.

BTW, I was all set to go to the "Exile" show in DC ... until I wasn't. Wound up watching the last night of the Dem convention to file some updates for this story.

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Chicago, home of two playoff flops: Regarding haters - with all that is going on around us today, it's kind of silly to expend energy on hating someone as mopey as Nickelback.

That said, I hate Billy Joel with a fiery passion.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nickelback-hating as escapism: Nothing wrong with that, is there? Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I hate the Cubs more than anything right now.

I stupidly picked them to win it all, and they couldn't even win a single game? Thanks, boys. I also had the Angels, but I can't say I feel too bad about them getting bounced, given what they did to my Giants in 2002. Also, preserves Ervin Santana's arm for 2009, when I'll need him as I defend yet another FBL title.

Meanwhile, Malitz had the Red Sox over Dodgers in 5, which is probably what MLB and Fox execs are hoping for, too, though they'd prefer a seven-game series.

But I digress.

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Re taking a lot of drugs and keeping your voice, etc: Seen Etta James lately? : Okay, I think there are exceptions, but I do believe that most people who live that hard aren't going to be able to keep it up.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't disagree.

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Dover, Del.: Dear J. Freedom Du Lac:

Do like the song "Johnny Freedom" by Johnny Horton? I do!

J. Freedom du Lac: "If we need a handsome fella so the ladies' hearts can throb/There's a Yankee Doodle Dandy always handy for the job."

Sounds like something Daddy Yankee might want to cover, just as soon as he's done fending off questions (and Fat Joe invective) re his endorsement of John McCain.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I doubt that most people who follow Winehouse's career on Google headlines are even aware that she's a singer. She's entered the realm of Courtney Love, Yoko Ono, and Pete Doherty - famous for being famous. It doesn't matter what the second album sounds like unless she dies. Even then, not so much.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's true, though there are still some of us who think of her as more than a walking (stumbling?), self-destructing celebrity disaster. That album (her second, by the way; the first, "Frank," was finally issued stateside after "Back to Black" took off) -- anyway, that album was, and is, pretty great.

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Springfield, Va.: I caught Alejandro Escovedo on Austin City Limits a few weeks ago. I think he is coming to Birchmere next month. Do you think it would be a good show?

J. Freedom du Lac: He was pretty good at the 9:30 club over the summer. Not an all-timer by any stretch, but a good rock-and-roll show. Klimek's review here.

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Freeport, N.J.: Say it ain't so, J. Freedom. Bruce Springsteen has a certain mass appeal. Bruce Springsteen is not mediocre. Just because someone has mass appeal does not mean that they are mediocre. It just happens that there is more to the rule than the exceptions.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm not saying all mass-appeal artists are mediocre. Just that it's flat-out ridiculous for somebody to argue that an artist's popularity somehow proves that said artist isn't mediocre.

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You Can't Stop Rock and Roll: How will the current economic conditions affect tours for 09 and beyond?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's already having an impact. Hearing more and more reports of ticket sales for certain shows/acts falling short of their usual/expected levels. Not all of them, of course. But look, people just aren't spending as much money on concerts as they did last year and the year before. It'll be interesting to read Pollstar's year-end report on the concert biz.

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Political World: Daddy Yankee or Bruce Springsteen, it doesn't matter. Rock stars endorsing politicians is a dangerous game. Tony Blair was publicly supported by Noel Gallagher and other top British bands during his first run for PM. They were sadly disappointed when the realities of governing and Blair's support of Bush in Iraq made him seem like just another politician and not the messiah he ran as.

J. Freedom du Lac: Well based on that example, why would you only say that it's a dangerous game for rock stars? Wouldn't it therefore hold true that endorsing candidates is a dangerous game for anybody, from the labor unions to church leaders?

You're not really explaining how/why it's dangerous.

I'm with REM's Mike Mills on this one.

This is from the Post Rock interview I did with Mills in the spring.

Q: Do you think the band has lost some fans over the years based on politics? And do you you care?

A: I think it's possible that we've turned a few people away because of our overt political stances. I'm a little sad for that, but at the end of the day, no, I don't care. Because I think as human beings and citizens of a democracy, it is, if not your duty, certainly your right to speak up and be heard. I think everyone should do it: Truck drivers, dentists, what have you.

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It doesn't matter what the second album sounds like unless she dies.: I think that will happen sooner rather than later. The girl doesn't want help. How long can she keep going?

J. Freedom du Lac: I used to wonder that about Courtney Love. But guess what? She's still here.

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Springsteen has mass appeal.: At least, that's how I've always seen him. A pop star.

J. Freedom du Lac: See above.

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Eastern Market: I just wanted to give a tip of the cap to Nick Cave for an absolutely incendiary performance on Sunday at the 930. From the very first song, the show just roared. Nick was at his strutting, mocking, teasing, howling best, and the Bad Seeds blasted even the new (and strong) material with fervor and frenzy. It was a rough, sweaty, nasty evening of rock and roll played with conviction, and without an ounce of compromise.

I'm not sure there is anyone out there that plays any harder or louder, and that near the edge of reckless. Cave isn't young anymore, but he is still a force of nature. I feel fortunate to have been left, a little stunned, in his wake.

J. Freedom du Lac: Malitz totally agrees.

See here.

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Woody Soprano: Springsteen's mass appeal was due to the quality of his pre-1983 music, the marketing of the Born in the USA album, and and since then, a deserved great reputation as a live act. His recorded output since the mid 1980s has revealed his limitations. Please explain to me the dustbowl accent on a greaser from Freehold, NJ.

J. Freedom du Lac: Only if you first explain the swampy Southernisms of John Fogerty, a guy who was born just across the San Francisco Bay from me.

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Re: 20 Million Hootie fans: Hootie is back!

J. Freedom du Lac: Forget Cliff Lee.

Newly minted country star Darius Rucker is the comeback player of the year.

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Santogold: So what is your take on Santogold?

J. Freedom du Lac: That I like her more when she's doing Jam covers produced by Mark Ronson.

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Mass appeal = mediocrity?: What about all those Beatles fans? Are they all wrong, too? Or your fave, Bruce?

J. Freedom du Lac: See above. (The Springsteen answer; not the one about Santogold.)

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Washington, D.C.: Hiya JF du L How is your list of albums of the year coming along? Do you have a top 9 yet? OK, how about top 5. What should we be sure not to miss (assuming it's not too late)?

J. Freedom du Lac: I think we covered this a few weeks back.

So far, nothing has displaced James McMurtry's "Just Us Kids" in the top slot.

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Oasis: What's the over/under on the verbal abuse from the crowd toward them?

J. Freedom du Lac: I dunno, but bet the over if Malitz is there. He really put the hurt on Oasis in his "Dig Out Your Soul" review today. It's possible that Information Leafblower Kyle will never speak to Malitz again.

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Winehouse vs. Love: Yeah, but Courtney does have one thing to slap her back to reality when she gets too far out of line - the knowledge that she'd be leaving a kid with no parents. That's a powerful motivator.

That being said, it kind of makes me angry now when tracks from Frank or Back to Black come up on my iPod - if I had half that talent, the last thing I'd do is piss it away in full view of the entire world. Feh.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, because that damning Vanity Fair story on Courtney from her train-wreck days really made it clear that her child was one of her major concerns.

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Revelations 101: Now we know where you were born. Explains some, but not all.

J. Freedom du Lac: You new here? That's hardly a revelation.

I mean, I only talk about my beloved hometown of San Francisco (official motto: Greatest City in the World!) all the time.

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South of Springfield: HMMMMM..

So if Nickelback and Rascal Flatts are the current embodiment of mass-appeal mediocrity - and, possibly, all that is wrong with the music business -- does that make them the Journey and REO Speedwagon of the new millennium?

J. Freedom du Lac: Close. More like the post-grunge Styx and the country-rockin' Backstreet Boys of their time.

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Anonymous: John Fogerty had/has a fascination with back water swamp rock. He just happened to be born on the West Coast. Fogerty understood the void at that time in rock music for "his" type of a back beat.

J. Freedom du Lac: That was really a rhetorical question, but yeah. And he pulled it off.

By the by, was just listening to the Fantasy reissues of those first six Creedence Clearwater Revival albums and was really struck by a really explosive live version of "Fortunate Son" that something like a proto-punk song. Great stuff.

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Conyers, Ga.: ... by way of Toronto. "Alan Thicke is Canadian. Can't get any whiter than that" - JFduL. Meant to berate you on this last week! According to the 2006 Canadian census, about 20% of Canadians were born in a foreign country. (You could look it up!) The USA - not so much - only 12% or so. duDe you need to get out more - say Toronto- which really is a multi-cultural city; not to mention has a pretty vibrant music scene. "Hey Mr. Editor, I need to go to Toronto to get me some education and see which Wash, DC bands are playing there." You're welcome!

J. Freedom du Lac: You and your statistics.

Actually, I argued briefly (less than 2 seconds) with my editor that the Scandinavian countries are really about as white as it gets. But we still stand by our gross generalization.

What percentage of the overall population in Canada is black? It's something like 3 percent, right? I guess we could've said can't get any whiter (or Asian, or Iranian, etc.) than that. But hey.

Having said that, I wouldn't mind a fact-finding mission to Toronto, so long as I didn't have to stay in a place where there were bed bugs. One of my Style colleagues was there recently and came back looking like the dude from Nickelback after a rock fight in Portugal. She was just covered with red marks.

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Famous for being famo, US: I strongly disagree that Yoko fits into that category. While there is no denying that her relationship with Lennon made her a household name, the fact remains that she was already a star on the Manhattan arts scene when Lennon was still playing strip joints in Hamburg.

J. Freedom du Lac: Passing along this point, which is a good one.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: Fortunate Son IS a great song that has suffered through too many years of overplaying, misuse (Wrangler jeans?) and improper context.

J. Freedom du Lac: Maybe the weirdest version of "Fortunate Son" you'll ever hear: Cat Power's, at least at the outset, when Chan Marshall et al slowly pluck all the teeth from the song. It eventually ramps up, though. And suddenly, it's seething almost as much as the original. Almost.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you excited as I am about the Of Montreal show Thursday?!!!!2!

J. Freedom du Lac: You've got about three exclamation points on me.

Thanks for stopping by, folks. Same time next week, unless we decide to meet in a breadline instead.

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