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Happy New Year

Let's pop off a ticklish one before we wander into the land of recaps. Aaron Funk, the noise-meister behind Venetian Snares, reports in the January 2003 issue of Playboy magazine that the unlikely source material for his next record will be the delightfully intimate sounds of he and his girlfriend, Rachael Kozak (aka Hecate), fucking. If you've heard either Venetian Snares or Hecate you'll realize that being polite and saying they are just "nibbling" or "fondling" or "working their way around the in-field" just isn't descriptive enough for the aural assault that their music can be. This is break-core in the 21st century, kids. Everything you thought possible has been done already and there is someone somewhere who will be willing to take cash in exchange for doing it with or to you. And someone else has built a soundtrack to accompany that activity.

Funk follows both Matmos and Herbert who used medical equipment for their A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure and Bodily Functions records, all of which is a progression out of two decades of Einstürzende Neubauten records. Performing under the name Nyphomatriarchs, the record will be out in early 2003 on Hymen Records and we will leave it up to you to determine what sounds (treated and modified, of course) correspond to what sexual activity. Don't listen alone. Do it with a friend.

A Very Cheeky Christmas

U.K. chain store Woolworths has had some trouble with pudgy little fingers gone a-wandering. The hot item this Christmas season appears to have been a Kylie Minogue advent calendar. That's right, you heard me correctly: Kylie and little doors hiding bits of chocolate. Woolworths' managers were discovering that door number 27 was fairly consistently breached and the chocolate gone. The location of this door? Right next to Kylie's bum.

250,000 of the calendars had to be repackaged in stern, puritanical plastic wrap. Boys everywhere in England were dreaming Christmas night of the back door action they'd gotten with the pop superstar and the tiny chocolate reward for their endeavors.

All I Got for Christmas Was a Big Fat Lawsuit

David Lee Roth is suing his old bandmates of Van Halen. Roth filed the suit in early December and alleges that his old buddies in Van Halen conspired to keep monies received from the sales of their records, cutting him out of the financial loop. He argues the band signed a hush deal with Warner Bros. for increased royalties without his knowledge or authorization. 2001 estimates of monies lost through this secret deal top $200,000. Roth is suing for the usual bling-bling package: unspecified compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages and legal fees in addition to the money owed him and accrued interest.

Roth was the lead singer for Van Halen until 1985 when he quit the band for a lackluster solo career. He reunited briefly with the band in 1996 to record some new vocals for tracks on their greatest hits album. He was replaced with Red Rocker Sammy Hagar who was with Van Halen until 1996.

New Year's Resolutions, Part I

I'm not going to say anything about Guns 'n' Roses frontman Axl Rose in 2003. I don't think anyone is interested anymore and God knows the joy has gone from poking at his continued inability to catch a clue about being a professional musician. Following Guns 'n' Roses shining moment in Vancouver at the start of their latest tour (well, it was more of a dark void on stage), all went well for a week or two until the band reached Philadelphia. After MixMaster Mike's opening scratch and cut fest, the audience was eventually informed that Axl Rose was sick and wouldn't be performing that evening.

Fans -- you know it -- rioted. The Guns 'n' Roses tour gave up the ghost shortly thereafter and Axl has made some noise about checking into a health clinic to get himself straightened out.

Like I said, it has become akin to kicking a dead horse, so I won't belabor the point. I bought both Use Your Illusion records when they came out and rocked pretty hard with them for a number of years. Out of fondness for my youth, I'm just going to look away from now on. It's just not pretty to watch.

New Year's Resolutions, Part II

While we're talking about professional behavior, Peter Gabriel just wrapped up his first U.S. tour in ten years, touring for his new record, Up. We caught his stop in Seattle and it was an evening to be remembered. Not only gregarious and thoroughly appreciative of the audience, his band, and the innumerable stage hands who kept every aspect of the complicated set running, Gabriel performed for more than two hours, highlighting his new record while also serving up a fantastic selection of material from his previous albums. A master of showmanship, Gabriel delighted and enthralled those in attendance, clearly enjoying himself immensely.

The rest of you prima donna rock stars out there, pay attention please. Axl Rose: bad. Peter Gabriel: good. You want our money and our adoration? Pick your role models accordingly.

I am probably remiss for not turning in a full review of Peter Gabriel's new record, Up, and in my defense I can only say that the review would only be one sentence: "The great tragedy of the world is that you're still reading this when you should be out buying this record." There is no one like Gabriel making music today and Up is a record which encapsulates everything that he's done for the past twenty years and dares everyone else to make records that are even as half as complex, brilliant, emotionally moving and texturally challenging as this record is.

Housing Market Collapses

Bidding for a number of Enimen's former houses on eBay these last few weeks has been more entertaining than actually owning said houses. As we reported last month, bidding for his old home on Timkin Avenue reached a whopping $12 million. Shortly thereafter, bidding collapsed as investigations into bid placements revealed that the abundances of discretional funds were just wishful thinking on the part of the bidders.

After weeding out the phony bids, the auction closed without anyone meeting the reserve amount of $120,000. Bought for $45,000, the house had recently been appraised at $91,000. Other houses which Eminem has inhabited during his time in Detroit (and, apparently, there are quite a few) have not done well on eBay, either. One had a minimum bid of $500,000 and failed to attract any takers, while the owners of a third residence are still hoping to nab $1.2 million for the shack they've got.

Gosh. Remember the days when music memorabilia was just guitar picks used in concert or maybe a torn t-shirt? It was such a more innocent time then...

Last One Out Get the Lights, Please

Lots of changes happening just before close of the year. Online retailer CDNow has folded up most of its US-based offices. Owned by BeMusic, Inc. (a subsidiary of German conglomerate, Bertelsmann AG), CDNow is no longer in the business of actually selling music. All visitors to their website are redirected to an Amazon-ized version of the CDNow database, an unfortunate change since the Amazon-ization appears to have removed one of the best aspects of the CDNow shopping experience: being able to preview the tracks of records. Shucks, let's just say it like it is: Amazon is one step closer to controlling how and what you buy online.

One-time patron of the truly independent musician, MP3.com is no longer allowing musicians to offer free access to their music without paying the company a fee. Non-Premium Artists (you know, those who aren't being extorted a fee for the privilege of being listed) are now limited to only offering three songs (regardless of how many MP3.com might be storing on their servers) for the general public's consumption. Vibrant expression of unsigned talent making its way in the world? Not here anymore. Try IUMA.

Allstar, the music news website which funneled news to CDNow, has also closing its doors. In existence since 1996 and once called the "defiant upstarts" of the music reporting business by Joey Ramone, Allstar has been consistently the only daily online source for music news, covering a wide range of genre markets with their reporting.

I'm supposed to be providing URLs for those sites and subjects which can be listed and it just doesn't make much sense to give you http://www.allstarmag.com when it just resolves to CDNow's home page. The sad bit is that if you go to http://www.cdnow.com, you end up at Amazon.com. The Internet isn't supposed to be a confusing place, but there it is.

On the band front, Midnight Oil has decided to call it quits. Frontman Peter Garrett has quietly decided to pursue other interests and will no longer be stalking the stage and howling for the Australian band. The remaining band members have said that they will continue to make music in some fashion but have not yet decided to make public their noise-making plans.

Candlelight Vigil

Mary Hansen, singer and guitarist for experimental pop band Stereolab, was killed in a traffic accident on December 9th when she suffered a collision with an automobile while out cycling. A member of the band since 1992, she had also contributed vocal work to Moonshake and The Wolfhounds. The band's official statement reads: "The suddenness of her death has shocked the band. Mary was a special person. Our thoughts are with her family and friends who will miss her greatly." She was 36. At the request of her family, donations may be made to CanTeen, The Australian Organization for Young People Living with Cancer.

Stereolab have a string of albums to their name which resist convenient categorization. Filled with a love for '60s pop kitsch and the Germanic art-rock moment, they brought the musical fringe onto center stage and wrapped it all up in foreign lyrics about Marxist ideology. Sounds sinister and slightly campy and probably very askew the mainstream sensibility, but Stereolab's enduring and endearing qualities are that they've made this conglomeration of the past and analog instruments a fascinating listen.

Punk Statesman Gone (Rest in Peace, Joe Strummer)

In other tragic news, Joe Strummer, frontman for The Clash, passed away shortly before Christmas. Autopsy results conclude that Strummer's death was caused by a naturally occuring heart attack. Strummer collapsed at his home in Somerset shortly after returning from a walk with his dog. He was 50.

Born in Ankara, Turkey, with the name John Graham Mellor on his parents' lips, Joe also spent time growing up in Mexico, Germany and Egypt. He spent a few years in London after attending a Surrey boarding school and art college before he formed his first band, the 101ers, and one night opened up for the Sex Pistols. Mesmerized by their vitriolic energy and fury, he saw an energy that the Sex Pistols were tapping, and believed he could do more. Teaming up with guitarist Mick Jones, bass player Paul Simonon and drummer Nicky "Topper" Headon, Strummer formed The Clash.

The Clash released five albums between 1977 and 1985, each one a politically-charged call to arms. 1980's London Calling is the record most commonly labeled as their enduring landmark, a sprawling two-record collection which freely mixed reggae, rockabilly and punk into one snarling mass. 1982's Combat Rock spawned two radio staples, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" and "Rock the Casbah," with the former continuing to send over royalty payments to this very day with its compilation and licensing appearances.

But it was never about the money for Strummer, who once turned down a sizable amount of money to put together a "Grab the Cash" reunion tour of the United States. [The Sex Pistols, England's other founders of the punk movement, took the cash without any hesitation and, while they attempted to pretend that they weren't in it for the cash, no one listened.] Strummer, in both The Clash and other bands afterward, continued to perform benefit shows. Most recently, he performed a show in aid of the striking Fire Brigades Union with his new band, The Mescaleros. The Mescaleros have two albums to their name, 1999's Rock, Art and the X-ray Style, and 2001's Global a Go-Go.

Strummer's family has requested that his fans send contributions in his name to the Nelson Mandela SOS AIDS Benefit Concert in South Africa. The show will take place on February 2nd, 2003. Strummer had been scheduled to be part of the performance. Visit MandelaSOS.com for more information.

Left-wing singer Billy Bragg writes about the late Joe Strummer: "Within The Clash, Joe was the political engine of the band, and without Joe there's no political Clash, and without The Clash the whole political edge of punk would have been severely dulled." The Clash are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March of 2003 and it was rumored that they would perform together at the induction ceremony for the first time since the original lineup broke up in 1983.

Quote of the Month

"The spirit of rock 'n' roll helped to stop the Vietnam War. Perhaps it's a bit crazy for me still to feel like that. But I can't help it. Someone's got to keep the faith." Joe Strummer, 2001.

-Mark Teppo
Senior Editor

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