Will Smith is no Alan Arkin

If I may humbly venture into Booze Movies territory for a moment...

I am entirely uninterested in seeing Hancock, but I can't help but pick up the gist of this film from recent mentions it's gotten online. Will Smith plays a washed-up drunkard of a superhero. The IMDB entry for this film shows one comment that ponders, "Hancock has the kind of premise that you wonder why it took so long for someone to put it on the big screen."

No need to wonder; it hasn't taken that long. We've already seen this premise in big-screen format. And I'm not making the weak comparison to Last Action Hero that some folks are making. Twenty-five years ago, it was a film called The Return of Captain Invincible, starring Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee. Did I mention it's part musical, too?

Check it out. You can own the DVD for the same amount it'll cost for just one ticket to see Will Smith's latest vehicle in a theater. Neither one is a great movie, but imagine how informed you'll sound when you can bust Hancock for ripping off an Alan Arkin movie from a quarter-century ago.

"On To Something" Coming Soon

Music Thing links to a trailer for the new Raymond Scott documentary On To Something, produced by Scott's only son, Academy Award winning cameraman and editor Stan Warnow.

Documentary Trailer for RAYMOND SCOTT: ON TO SOMETHING from Stan Warnow on Vimeo.

If you're not familiar with the innovative genius that is Raymond Scott, odds are you'll recognize his music - courtesy of one cartoon or another. If you've had the pleasure / displeasure of living with me in the last ten years or so, you know that the only way I can watch professional sports for any duration is with the broadcast's sound turned down and Reckless Nights & Turkish Delights playing loudly instead. (Try it; it's especially great with basketball.)

See also:
Manhattan Research - Book / 2-CD set detailing Scott's early, hand-made electronic instruments - which he often used in commercial work. This collection includes a collaboration with pre-Muppets Jim Henson and notes about the room-sized computer Scott used to essentially generate a click track.

Soothing Sounds For Baby - a three-part series of tone-poems designed to lull your little ones to relaxation, using instruments Scott created himself (in the lab featured in Manhattan Research, no less). Minimal, ambient music with a pop sensibility, years before Brian Eno or Kraftwerk.


Tuning In This Week

It's been an interesting week for music. Well, for the kind I pay attention to...

My Bloody Valentine played a warm-up show at a small London venue last week. Wired's Listening Post points to MP3's of the show (sounds like they were recorded in the room, not off the board). This tease of what's to come around Chicago in September might not be enough to make us forget that the much-anticipated MBV re-issues are delayed (again) because Kevin Shields is allegedly still writing the liner notes. Maybe he should have started those sooner.... like, in 1991?

Another bit of mixed disappointment came from Illegal Art this week: the new Girl Talk album. See, I paid for this album months ago as part of a four-release deal the label offered (I did it mainly to secure a copy of the Steinski retrospective). Well, the Girl Talk album, Feed The Animals, was delayed. Then released for free earlier this week. Hmpf! So in six weeks when the CD arrives (a schedule that still baffles me), I'll be long-since tired of an album that I legitimately downloaded yesterday. Girl Talk told Pitchfork that he pushed the release (wait, it was delayed... how can he call this a push to release it early? WTF?) because of the timely samples he's using, admitting that they'll be stale by the time the CD is pressed. Well, why bother pressing a CD at all, dude? And why ask me to pay for it several months before you're going to just give it away? You could have refunded me the purchase price, given me store credit at the label store, and made a better fan of me. Instead, I feel a bit swindled. I suppose I asked for it, but it's probably the last time I bother to buy Girl Talk's collage of what amounts to random preview clips of everyone else's songs in no apparent order. First listen: it's cute. Second listen: I think I could have done this better myself.

Things got better this morning when I was greeted with an email from Amon Tobin regarding his new online store. In addition to an official release of his soundtrack for Taxidermia, there is a slew of freebie content - live mixes and DJ sets mostly. There's also a feature called This Month's Joint, which is a new track available for purchase (MP3 or WAV) every month. This will help me keep my fix of Tobin until his Two Fingers collaboration is released. Nice. This guy is one of my favorite recording artists, and has been a big inspiration on my own recording endeavors.

Oh, yeah, there are also rumors flying about a leak of eight tracks off the much-fabled Guns-N-Roses album Chinese Democracy. If you're into that kind of thing.


It's Still Just Bud, Folks

Advertising Age this week published an article speculating that Anheuser-Busch's impending buyout by Belgian-owned, Brazilian-operated InBev would tarnish Budweiser's patriotic brand position. While Budweiser may lose the right to mix heavy-handed US patriotism into its brew of marketing, advertising and sponsorships (would this be such a bad thing, anyway?), the presence of foreign interests is nothing new to this brand. For example...
  • To this day, A-B pays a Czech brewery in exchange for rights to use the Budweiser name in the US. Paying royalties to a Czech brewery for your name isn't exactly what you'd expect of this allegedly "great American brand."
  • Clydesdales are another legacy in A-B branding and marketing. That's a Scottish breed of horse, for those of you keeping score. Again, not exactly Americana in origin.
  • Beer is not an American invention. In fact, its origins are traced to Egypt and Iran. The word "beer" is derived from the German "bier". American beer is the Johnny-come-lately in the history of the drink.
Of the Bud drinkers I know, everyone buys Bud for two reasons: price and proximity. As long as A-B provides the same cheap, available-everywhere swill that those folks enjoy (no offense, it's just not my ale of choice), who's going to care what the parent company is? The average Bud drinker isn't concerned with these things.

Would you stop drinking your favorite beer if the parent company - and nothing else beside perhaps the amount of patriotism in its advertising - changed?


MT9 An Empty Promise?

Buzz Feed spots a new audio format out of Korea called MT9. The buzz seems to imply that this format will overtake MP3 as the format of choice, but I think that's awfully premature and more than a little naive.
A new audio file format that may come to replace MP3s — six channels of sound that the user can control. What’s the big deal? MT9 files allow you to remix them — turn up the bass, make it a capella, create a music-only version for karaoke, etc. They’re getting a big push in Korea, whatever that means.
What that means: This is most likely a novelty format which will probably be aimed at mobile devices. That's my guess, anyway. In Korea, where they are light years ahead of the US in terms of mobile devices. Otherwise, there are too many issues with this format to be practical for proper music production.

First, you have only six channels. That might sound like a lot to the average consumer, but to anyone who's produced music it's extremely restrictive. The last forty years of popular music has been made with at least eight channels, with current releases going beyond 128 channels, limited only by processor speed and hard drive capacity. Some pop songs have more than six tracks of vocals alone!

The advantage over MP3 is that MT9 is modular to an extent, but it appears to be a novelty music technology for non-musicians. Like Guitar Hero; I'm sure it's fun and engaging, but it doesn't make you a guitarist. The modular aspect is not a unique advantage, save for the fact that the whole song seems bundled into one file - but that tells me that it's not going to be a file of any high fidelity.

I am immediately reminded of the loop packs that have been available for more than a decade - the most recent being things like Apple's Jam Packs for Garage Band or Randy Jackson's Producer's Packs for Acid. Sure, it is customizable sound, but it's not going to make you a producer just for turning one of six tracks on or off. This is actually content that's already been produced, then parceled into incomplete chunks that consumers can pay to re-assemble.

Realistically, as this article implies, MT9 is probably little more than a customizable karaoke format. It's certainly no MP3 replacement, though the press seems to want to make it one. Karaoke is a big business in Korea and much of Asia, so maybe this will be a hit there.

After over twelve years of producing and mixing music, I wouldn't abandon MP3 for MT9; I do work with MP3, but prefer uncompressed formats like WAV and AIFF. If this new format doesn't work with existing software and player applications, it's going to have a hard time being adopted. We'll see if MT9 ever makes it to US shores.

Venture Brothers Season Three is On

Yes. This is the clip reel shown recently at some Comic-Con or another, with scenes from the first three episodes. Last night was the premiere of episode one, Shadowman 9: In The Cradle of Destiny, which examines the origins of The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend (Maria and I call dibs on these characters for Halloween costumes, if she can get her voice low enough). Watch the full episode here.

This season, each episode has its own T-shirt, thanks to the Amazing Shirt Of The Week Club. I've already ordered my Guild Of Calamitous Intent shirt, but am not about to subscribe for a dozen $22 T-shirts. I'll just check back every week for the good ones.

Go Team Venture.