Hear it when you listen: the best of Duran Duran

First off, Interpol weren’t fun. Even in 1981 Simon Le Bon sounded like he used a roll of pound notes as tobacco paper; the extravagant bass lines were the giveaway. In and out of fashion because they’re absurd, Duran Duran was a boy band with a solid record collection and an interest in contemporary chic: Herb Riits, Steve Meisel, Sri Lanka. Six years ago I explained how to me Double D existed as a singles band; end to end these songs shimmer like comparable work by Joan Jett, the Buzzcocks, Human League, and Reagan-era Rod Stewart. During their Clinton-era comeback I heard more than listener grumble that perhaps the central trio (Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist/ageless hunk-a-saurus John Taylor) had songwriting chops after all. I suppose Duran Duran‘s Velvets cover persuaded these guys that Taylor Dayne understood A/C production.

Well, no — their peak was in 1984, when in Robert Christgau’s memorable phase U.K. new pop conquered the world and went phfft. He wrote bullshit about Duran being fascists too, as if copy editors confused his Consumer Guide with a column about Ed Meese. But 1986’s Notorious, released as the mousse began to soften, uses Nile Rodgers to better effect than Power Station did Bernard Edwards. Their best album after Rio, it plays as a Britfunk apotheosis, with the drums held at gunpoint by the coke dealer. But the lurid, purploid confidence off the 1982 album remains their cornerstone — the only album to name check Voltaire and the superego over slap bass. Although they’ve deigned to work with Justin Timberlake and Mark Ronson, don’t count them out — ever.

1. Hold Back the Rain
2. Hungry Like the Wolf
3. Planet Earth
4. My Own Way
5. Last Chance on the Stairway
6. The Reflex
7. Vertigo (Do the Demolition)
8. Is There Something I Should Know
9. Anyone Out There
10. Lonely in Your Nightmare
11. New Moon on Monday
12. Hold Me
13. Come Undone
14. Notorious
15. All She Wants Is
16. The Flame (Single Mix)
17. New Religion
18. Ordinary World
19. First Impressions
20. Friend of Mine
21. The Seventh Stranger
22. Union of the Snake
23. A Matter of Feeling
24. The Promise
25. Meet “El Presidente” (7″ remix”)
26. Election Day (Arcadia)
27. Communication (Power Station)
28. Careless Memories
29. Too Much Information
30. Serious

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to retire in 2018

Well. The Democrats have an easy pickup now:

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of the Florida legislative delegation and the first Cuban American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after 38 years in elected office.

“It’s been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” the Miami Republican told the Miami Herald in an exclusive telephone interview Sunday. “We just said, ‘It’s time to take a new step.’”

Her unexpected retirement marks the end of a storied career in which Ros-Lehtinen repeatedly broke political ground as a Cuban-American woman — and gives Democrats an opportunity to pick up a South Florida congressional seat in 2018.

Ros-Lehtinen, 64, was elected last November to Florida’s redrawn 27th district, a stretch of Southeast Miami-Dade County that leans so Democratic that Hillary Clinton won it over Donald Trump by 20 percentage points. It was Clinton’s biggest margin of any Republican-held seat in the country.

“Easy pickup” for any party not the Democrats, let me be clear. It would be very much in character to lose a race that’s theirs to win.

As for Ros-Lehtinen, her adamantine support for Israel, all manner of foreign wars, and for federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case (never let putative supporters of limited government forget this abhorrence) are a blight on a career admirably devoted to the rights of queer citizens and the health care of the poor and elderly. Although she had no choice but to be one of the last remaining GOP moderates with this district, she hasn’t softened these positions an inch.

Singles 4/28

You want an idea of what The Singles Jukebox does best? Read Maxwell Cavaseno’s blurb for “Dis Generation.” Raising blood pressures and arguing with the blurb will get you nowhere.

Click on links for full reviews.

Future – Mask Off (8)
A Tribe Called Quest feat. Busta Rhymes – Dis Generation (8)
Rae Sremmurd – Swang (7)
Kevin Ross – Long Song Away (7)
Silent Siren – Fujiyama Disco (6)
Clubz – Popscuro (6)
Keith Urban feat. Carrie Underwood – The Fighter (5)
Luke Combs – Hurricane (4
Halsey – Now or Never (4)
Gorillaz feat. Mavis Staples and Pusha T – Let Me Out (3)
Calvin Harris ft. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams & Ariana Grande – Heatstroke
Broken Social Scene – Halfway Home (4)
Lady Gaga – The Cure (3)
Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister – Saturn (3)

I kiss and tell all my fears: the best of INXS

A lizard prince bitchin’ in long hair and leather, confident in the Giants Stadium scale adoration of black boys and white girls, white boys and black girls (especially in South America, where teens adored him), Michael Hutchence died before he turned into Roger Daltrey. He was Bono as a libertine, and to my ears INXS’s arena moves have aged better. They were pop and pop product, proud of it, their credo condensed in the lyric excerpt I used for this list.

1. Original Sin (Extended remix)
2. Shine Like It Does
3. Don’t Change
4. Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)
5. What You Need
6. Devil Inside
7. Listen Like Thieves
8. Not Enough Time
9. Disappear
10. Bitter Tears
11. The One Thing
12. Suicide Blonde
13. This Time
14. Same Direction
15. Need You Tonight

Jonathan Demme: ‘inventiveness and visual intelligence’ to concert films

Slate’s Sam Adams uses a just released Justin Timberlake concert picture to adduce Jonathan Demme’s genius for shooting concert performances:

But despite the victory-lap setup, Demme frames the concert as just another day on the job, especially for musicians and dancers in Timberlake’s expansive retinue. Timberlake is the movie’s center, but it often seems more interested in the people off to either side. During “Let the Groove Get In,” Timberlake strides out onto a transparent catwalk stretched over the audience, the better to show off his impressive dance moves. But when it’s his turn to hold the spotlight, Demme cuts back to the stage, framing a distant Timberlake between a horn player and a guitarist whose bodies dominate the frame, as if to remind us who’s really responsible for that all-important groove.

Adams rather too strenuously assures readers that Timberlake is a minor performer, but it doesn’t matter. Demme’s method allowed vestigial talents their moment — and why not? Flattering the performers by emphasizing their labor on stage constituted Demme’s best talent; Demme had no patience for star turns. A pity he never filmed Drake.

Best singles of 2017 – First Quarter

I counted about fifty singles I could’ve included in what looks like a banner year for Asian pop rankings on my lists.

NOTE: These are unranked.

1. Migos – T-Shirt
2. BGA – Who’s It Gonna Be
3. Prince Royce & Shakira – Deja Vu
4. Paramore – Hard Times
5. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – I Feel It Coming
6. NCT 127 – Limitless
7. Lana Del Rey – Love
8. Future – Mask Off
9. The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions
10. Candi Carpenter – Burn the Bed
11. Miranda Lambert – Tin Man
12. Joey Bada$$ ft. Schoolboy Q – Rockabye Baby
13. Sheryl Crow – Halfway There
14. Jain – Makeba
15. Taeyeon – I Got Love
16. Ariana Grande ft. Future – Everyday
17. X0809 – Ho
18. Jesca Hoop – The Lost Sky
19. Violeta Castillo – Bajo la lluvia
20. Lorde – Green Light
21. Mary J. Blige – U + Me (Love Lesson)
22. Juana Molina – Cosoco
23. Runtown – Mad Over You
24. RAYE – Shhh
25. Ghost – Square Hammer
26. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin – No Heart
27. The Mountain Goats – Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds
28. Prince Royce ft. Gerardo Ortiz – Moneda
29. M.O ft. Kent Jones – Not in Love
30. Natalia Lafourcade ft. Los Macorinos – Tú Sí Sabes Quererme
31. Stormzy – Big for Your Boots
32. Laura Marling – Wild Fire
33. NSG – Eyelashes
34. GFriend – Fingertip
35. Rae Sremmurd ft. Kodak Black – Real Chill

Jean-Pierre Léaud dies exquisitely in ‘The Death of Louis XIV’

At fourteen, Jean-Pierre Léaud let his face be ravished in the most haunting last shot in cinema history. In François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, the mischievous Antoine Doinel, played by Léaud, runs and runs from his parents and adolescent bullshit. Stopping at a beach to catch his breath, he turns to the camera, a freeze frame of exhaustion and skepticism. Few child actors can reprise the freshness of their work before self-consciousness freezes them. Léaud emerged a good actor and a touchstone of the French New Wave, appearing in Godard, Eustache, Bertolucci, and more Truffaut films; he was particularly effective in Stolen Kisses, where Doinel emerges as a young adult with a vast capacity for self-amusement.

As he aged, however, the camera noted the round blandness of his face, like a bare rump. Playing the Sun King in The Death of Louis XIV, the seventy-six-year-old Léaud surrenders any relation to the rest of his body. In one of film’s longest goodbyes, he’s shot from the head up as the grandest and greatest of French autocrats succumbs to the infection from a gangrenous leg. Covered in powder and garnished with an enormous wig that Falco would have envied, Louis looks absurd, but the way Catalan director Albert Serra (Story of My Death) frames that wrinkled prairie you can’t laugh at him. Ruling France for almost seven decades comes as naturally as eating or farting; losing his corporeal form requries no commensurate loss of mental vigor or lapse into spiritual torpor. Like Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress but less impishly, Louis is so comfortable with the trappings of power that he becomes power.

That’s the grand joke in Serra’s film. As his ministers gather around for the death watch, motivated by grief and relief, Louis’s head fills the screen in elephantine proportions. He epitomizes Western autocracy and is its end point, dying eighty years before his great-great grandson was guillotined before a braying mob. Autocracy can be hell on one’s dignity, though, and as his scheming doctors, who can’t decide whether to keep Louis alive or let the bastard rot, force food on him Louis becomes a sad clown choking on red wine. Courtiers cheer when he can swallow a bisconi. Life is measured in milliseconds of time. Ignore him at your peril, though. At the point when his soul looks like it’s going to shuffle off its painted, periwigged coil, Louis agrees to put to death the doctor who misdiagnosed him. C’est la guerre.

As these description suggest, The Death of Louis XIV is a sedentary affair, but for a while a fascinating one. Serra and cinematographer Jonathan Ricquebourg capture the plush leisured rottenness of wealth beyond measure; you can smell the sweat and mung on the  scarlet cushions, see the dust hanging in the fetid air. Should this be his swan song, playing Louis is an appropriate farewell for Léaud. The role doesn’t require him to “act” – it requires him to behave, which makes sense: Léaud’s serenity, often settling into passivity when a director didn’t hit him with a riding crop, has always suggested a connection to the values of silent cinema. In the last third, when Louis seems to rally, he breaks the putative third wall, breaks through space and time, to gaze defiantly at the audience, as if daring them to will his death. With Serra swathing him in another exquisite medium shot, Léaud suggests Falconetti herself. What a farewell.

GRADE:  B+

Obamacare’s strange new afterbirth

Sixty-one percent of Americans favor keeping and improving the Affordable Care Act, while only thirty-seven percent favor repealing and replacing it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll:

While Trump voters do overwhelmingly favor repeal-and-replace in the abstract, there is not much support among them for the ideas at the core of the concrete replacement Trump is championing. This suggests that a key piece of conventional wisdom about this debate — that Trump will badly disappoint his base if this plan doesn’t go through — perhaps deserves more skepticism.

The new poll also shows that Trump’s bluster about sabotaging the ACA to force Democrats to the table is a non-starter with the public, including with his supporters. Americans overall say that during this debate, Trump and Republicans should make the law work as well as possible by 79 percent, while 13 percent want to make the current law fail as soon as possible. Even Trump voters say this, 58-28.

Further:

Trump strongly suggested during the campaign that he represented an ideological break from Paul Ryan and House Republicans when it comes to government’s role in covering poor and sick people. He then embraced Ryan’s plan, because it turned out (shockingly) that he just wanted the “win” of crushing Obamcare, with zero concern for the details or human toll the Ryan replacement would impose on millions. The public has rejected the wildly regressive Ryan vision, and this route forward only carries further political peril.

Diagnosis: the patient lives, and the Senate will ensure its continued survival.

Hard as hell: the best of Rick Rubin

Present at the creation, Rick Rubin oversaw so many seminal hip hop records that he earned the right to grow his hair as fugly as he wanted. How Slayer, the Chili Peppers, and, uh, Mick Jagger assumed he’d bring anything other than cachet is a story I’d love to hear ’round the bar in heaven. The simplest explanation is that as a teen he loved metal for how it sounded, and hip-hop to young Rick was the new metal. He wasn’t wrong. By the time the geezers hired him he must have thought he could make them sound good too. He wasn’t wrong, for the most part.

1. LL Cool J – Rock the Bells
2. Beastie Boys – The New Style
3. Run-D.M.C. – It’s Tricky
4. T La Rock and Jazzy Jay – It’s Yours
5. Roy Orbison – Life Fades Away
6. Tom Petty – Yo Don’t Know How It Feels
7. Johnny Cash – The Beast in Me
8. The Bangles – Hazy Shade of Winter
9. Slayer – Angel of Death
10. LL Cool J – Going Back to Cali
11. Jazzy Jay – Def Jam/Cold Chillin’ In The Spot
12. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Suck My Kiss
13. Run-D.M.C. – Christmas in Hollis
14. Johnny Cash – Hurt
15. Jay-Z – 99 Problems
16. Dixie Chicks – The Long Way Around
17. Neil Diamond – Oh Mary
18. Jimny Spicer – This Is It/Beat the Clock
19. Mick Jagger – Wired All Night
20. Lady Gaga – Dope

Thinkin’ things through: Angaleena Presley and Kendrick Lamar

Angaleena Presley – Wrangled

To denounce the state of country music, Nashville rapper Yelawolf rasps, “Just a crazy load of these country posers/I supposed a couple are real, but they’ll never make it/So Thank God for Sturgill Simpson/cuz Music Row can fuckin’ save it” in cadences familiar to fans of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The song, imaginatively called “Country,” begins with what sounds like a sampled sports car revving up, a prelude to Angaleena Presley’s gettin’ all fired up reciting her own subterranean homesick blues over a twangy riff. It’s not “Accidentally Racist,” the 2013, LL Cool J collaboration that made Brad Paisley a laughing stock, but it is irrelevant.

On her second album Wrangled, Presley offers a dozen tunes that sometimes flirt with, if not irrelevance, redundancy. Stories about teenage misery (“High School”) and mean girls (“Bless Your Heart,” whose chorus sports a neat inversion) sit beside admissions of swagger. (“Outlaw”), the most novel of which takes Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” around the block to pick up gunpowder and lead (“I painted my face like a rodeo clown” – damn). Despite the songwriting help from Guy Clark and Chris Stapleton, and first-rate guitar work, Presley lacks expressive range. When her Pistol Annie comrades run out of material, they can always sing: Ashley Monroe has her pained, dulcet alto, and Miranda Lambert compensates with range and dynamism. Although I’ve no evidence for this claim, Presley reminds me of Brandy Clark,  a songwriter who had to learn to sing the songs she wrote — and did. Presley’s not there yet. Folk rock verities with country accents – what Wrangling offers, no more.

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Expressive range Kendrick Lamar’s got. Psychological and moral range too. As a listener who thought To Pimp a Butterfly was often too busy, I recoil too from “LUST” and “HUMBLE,”the arrangements devoid of their predecessors’ colors and tones. But there’s nowhere to hide from “DNA,” a series of upper cuts and KOs expected from classic Marley Marl or Pete Rock, not Mike WILL. At the moment when career patterns require the sick-soul-of-success album (“How many accolades do I need to block the now?” he raps at one point), Kendrick understands that form is what affirms; he insists on musical correlatives for monologues that dissolve into narratives, on autobiography broadening into biography. Whether citing Deuteronomy and sampling Beanie Sigel’s “Die” or interacting with a sinister piano line by The Edge that would spook Chris Martin, Kendrick goes from subject to object and back again, using and being used, noting enemies everywhere from the back streets to Wall Street and in the Oval Office, whose occupant puts Barack Obama’s flaws in context; he might even die walking home from the candy house. As on the fiercest tracks on To Pimp a Butterfly, “I” and “he” dissolve. After two weeks living with DAMN, I’m convinced it’s not a great album, but it’s an exciting one. I understand how kids can love Drake and Kendrick: in Drake they hear echoes of their dumbest thoughts, expressed or private; in Kendrick they hear their thoughts contextualized, a way of knowing they’re not alone.

‘He kind of asks for it’

Demonstrating how he has adapted to the times, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming shares his views on queer rights with high schoolers:

For the last question from students, sophomore Bailee Foster asked Sen. Enzi about the LGBTQ community — specifically what he was doing to help Wyoming live up to its nickname as The Equality State.

Enzi prefaced his response by stating that several situations across Wyoming cannot be taken care of by laws alone; that not every issue has a “federal, one-size-fits-all solution.”

“That’s one of the problems we have in this country; thinking that everything could be done by law,” he said. “What we need to have is a little civility between people.”

Enzi went on to say that he enjoys Wyoming because “you can be just about anything you want to be, as long as you don’t push it in somebody’s face.” He followed his statement up with an anecdote about a man wearing a tutu being surprised that he gets in fights at the bar.

“I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way that he winds up with that kind of problem,” he said, reemphasizing his belief that “everything can’t be done by law.”

I’d like to see him tell a class of female students that a woman in a mini-skirt kind of asks for it. These troglodytes will never understand that if you’re black, queer, and a woman, walking down the street as yourself is a provocation, an incitement.

The god’s truth

Unless Congress paid for a border wall, the president warned a few days ago, he’d shut down the government and refuse to pay states the federal subsidies required to keep the Affordable Care Act going. Then he changed his mind. Those who study the hieroglyphics on “Morning Joe” wondered if Trump was bringing The Art of the Deal to Washington.

It took Josh Marshall long enough to admit the following in public:

What seems clear with Trump is that the exercise is likely mistaken in itself. There’s no Trump viewpoint or thinking or goal to represent. There’s no actor at the center of the machine, at least not one who remains constant enough in any aim or view to matter. So there’s no point figuring our which advisor speaks for the President or represents his thinking. Because, fundamentally, there’s no thinking to represent.

Because, fundamentally, our president is an imbecile. But it doesn’t matter that he’s an imbecile: voters elected an imbecile because imbeciles Shake Things Up; besides, in their minds an imbecile is no more competent than the typical federal employee.