Dear good people of France: Give singer Mike Patton a permanent residency at the most disreputable lounge in Paris, posthaste. Dressed like one of the lowliest hit men of the “Sopranos” crew, the former Faith No More and Mr. Bungle shredder brought a louche elegance to Serge Gainsbourg’s “Requiem pour un Con” at the Hollywood Bowl.
There was no shortage of singers pleased to slip into Gainsbourg’s white Repetto shoes at Sunday night’s Beck-produced Gainsbourg tribute, including his progeny, Lulu — but Patton, possessed of a slithery outlaw charm, was the evening’s breakaway lead. As the bass slinked around beatnik conga drums, he half spit and half savagely whispered in French his regards to life lived as a jerk. Occasionally he wriggled his eyebrows or widened his eyes, as if he’d just spotted a cold-blooded femme across the room.
With the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Scott Dunn and Gainsbourg collaborator Jean-Claude Vannier and a crack live band reunited from Beck’s 2002 album, “Sea Change,” the true star of the evening was Gainsbourg’s towering songbook, a four-decade flirtation with every style of music that caught his eye — from chanson to ye-ye pop to Afro-Cuban jazz, American folk and reggae. A re-creation of the “Lolita”-like concept album written by Vannier and Gainsbourg, 1971’s “Histoire de Melody Nelson” was performed in its entirety for the evening’s sweeping finale.
When dealing with material that demands so much personality, perhaps more than it does technical skill, the singers who brought their own style to Gainsbourg fared the best. The diminutive goth singer Zola Jesus brought a throaty swagger to her version of “Harley Davidson,” but she also knew when to downplay her Joplin-at-the-opera tones, as evidenced by her gentle backup vocals on the breezy meringue, “Sea, Sex and Sun.”
It’s fairly common for a major label recording artist to switch to an indie label as time goes by and their impact on the charts waxes and wanes, which is just what happened to country singer-songwriter Dwight Yoakam in the '90s, after his seven-year streak of top 10 country singles slowed.
That makes it all the more unusual to get news today that Yoakam has not only returned from indie land, where he’s been living musically in recent years, to a major label, but to the same parent company, Warner Music Group, he left a decade ago.
The 54-year-old Kentucky musician-turned-actor is slated to release a new album for Warner Bros. Nashville early next year, the company has announced. It will be produced by Yoakam and Joe Chiccarelli, who has worked with such alt-rock acts as My Morning Jacket, the Shins and the Strokes. Yoakam also has been recording some tracks with Beck.
“When I heard his current music, I was blown away,” Warner Music Nashville’s President and Chief Executive John Esposito said in a statement. “I think that it is some of the best music he has ever done, and I’m incredibly proud to have him back at Warner Bros. Records.”
His most recent studio collection was "Dwight Sings Buck," his 2007 salute to his early idol and mentor Buck Owens, on New West Records/Via Records. It's been a quarter century since Yoakam's acclaimed major-label debut, "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.," came out.
For the Record, 12:37 p.m., July 5: An earlier version of this post stated that Yoakam's "Dwight Sings Buck" album was released on the Via Records label. It was released by New West Records/Via Records.
-- Randy Lewis
Photo of Dwight Yoakam at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio in 2008. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.
The multimedia artist Doug Aitken, who envisioned the Artist's Museum Happening at MOCA on Saturday night, had a singular mission: to describe and then harness the energy of the West, for one fleeting evening.
The trio of musicians who performed as the evening's central entertainment scraped at the spirit of this ineffable and wild territory: Devendra Banhart, filling in the role of scruffy bohemian; Beck, the sun-kissed folkie who's drawn inspiration from trashy strip-malls; and the Brazilian former exile and Tropicalismo poet, Caetano Veloso.
Before the musical interlude, the mood in the tent set up outside the museum was already sparking. Yet, it was also curiously mellow, a California combination if there ever was one. Bejeweled diners picked at their delicate heirloom lettuce salads underneath white sculptures designed by Silver Lake architect Barbara Bestor. With black draping covering the walls, the room was dark and softly lit. Wherever the eye roamed, the contradictions of this particular slice of Los Angeles could be caught in the complex interchange between the nipped-and-tucked patrons of the arts, and the networking gypsy artists who need them.
On a stage in the center of the room, Banhart was the first musician to perform, playing "At the Hop" from his 2004 album, "Nino Rojo." Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and cleanly shaved, Banhart relied on his vibrato to color in the song's child-like rhymes. It was an openhearted start, effectively setting the mood for Beck's and Veloso's wistful music.
Track-by-track: Beck, Nigel Godrich, Emily Haines, Bryan Lee O'Malley & Edgar Wright dissect the 'Scott Pilgrim' music
Fifteen pages into the first volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-part Scott Pilgrim series, the characters break into song -- or at least they rock out as much as one can in a black-and-white graphic novel. Electric bolts shoot from the singer's mouth, O'Malley provides a chord progression and a teenage girl watching the rehearsal falls in love.
As for the sound, the reader is informed it's "kind of crappy," but the rest is left to one's imagination. Such could have been the fate of Edgar Wright's big-screen adaption of O'Malley's tale of twentysomething hopeless romantics. After all, bringing rock 'n' roll to the big screen is not the easiest of feats, and with video game quirks and elaborate action sequences, it'd be easy to see how one could conclude that it would be best for "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" to just to do away with the rock.
As star of the film Michael Cera put it to our sister blog Hero Complex, "Whenever you see a band in a movie, the music is barely passable. It's like when you see a film, and someone is writing a book. Whenever you hear excerpts of the writing, it's just terrible. You're like, 'That's what they're writing?' It's kind of the same theory."
Early versions of the script, which is credited to Wright and Michael Bacall, did in fact do away with the music -- completely. With Cera's Pilgrim forced to do battle with the seven evil exes of the object of his obsession, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" has plenty of ground to cover without the rock 'n' roll.
"In the first draft of the script, there was this running joke that you never heard the bands," Wright said during a Q&A following a recent Los Angeles screening. "You heard the intro, and then it would cut to the next scene, and somebody would be going, ‘Oh my God, that’s the best song ever.’ That was a joke for a long time."
At least until Nigel Godrich entered the picture.The famed producer, best known for his work with Radiohead, Beck and Paul McCartney, was entrusted to bring to life the sound of the punky Sex Bob-Omb, the fictional band in which Cera's Scott Pilgrim plays bass (poorly). Godrich made overtures to Atlanta punks the Black Lips, put ultimately persuaded close friend Beck to lay down sketches of a couple dozen garage rock songs.
"I completely understand why you might downplay the music in the script," Godrich said. "It’s one of those things where it might be better to just not hear any music and to leave it to your imagination. Then it will be as good as it will ever be. But once a few inquiries were made, and it was clear that we could maybe get those people to contribute, it was an exciting prospect."
In addition to Beck, the "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" soundtrack, released Tuesday via ABKCO (also available in a digital expanded edition), features original songs from Broken Social Scene -- in full thrash mode -- as well as a previously unreleased cut from electro-rockers Metric. The 19-track album is rounded out by songs from the Black Lips, T-Rex, the Rolling Stones, Frank Black and, of course, Plumtree. Some of the bands in the film are referenced in the comics or were suggested by O'Malley, and others were selections from Wright.
Pop & Hiss spoke to Wright, O'Malley, Godrich, Beck and Metric's Emily Haines, asking them to contribute to a track-by-track look at the songs in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." It's the second installment of this blog's look at the music in the rock 'n' romance picture, as earlier Godrich and Beck spoke in detail about the thoughts behind Sex Bob-Omb.
Track-by-track analysis is after the jump.
But is it as good as 'Spinal Tap'? Beck and Nigel Godrich discuss the music of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World'
Paul McCartney, U2, Radiohead, R.E.M., Air, Beck and Pavement are just a few of the artists that grace his resume. But the name that was perhaps far more intimidating? Sex Bob-Omb, a pretend group concocted for "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."
"It's always terrible," Godrich said of movies that contain an artificial group. Action-romance "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" has four of them.
Godrich was entrusted by director Edgar Wright to oversee what would ultimately become the backbone of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World": The film's original music. There were moments when Godrich couldn't help but wonder whether he was setting himself up for failure. On one visit to the Toronto set of the film, Godrich caught the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line" on a plane. It only made him feel more out of his element.
"I was just thinking about how terrible it looked," Godrich said. "It just didn’t look like they were playing. This can so easily be awful. My benchmark was 'This Is Spinal Tap.' That’s the best ever realized band in a film. They’re playing, they look like they’re playing and the songs work. That’s something very difficult to do. So is this as good as 'Spinal Tap'? That was my internal discussion."
In other words, does the rock in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" break the scale and go to 11?
One will certainly have a hard time claiming that Wright's adaption of Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-part comic series doesn't take its music seriously. Silver Lake's genre-hopper Beck and Canadian indie-pop act Broken Social Scene were among those tapped to contribute original music, and acclaimed electro-rock act Metric donated an unreleased cut.
Wright's attention to rock detail extends beyond its roster of artists. In this 99-cent-single-obsessed download era, the inhabitants of "Scott Pilgrim" geek out over albums. When Michael Cera's namesake character takes a girl on a date, they go to an old-fashioned, bricks-and-mortar record store to thumb through CD racks.
Capturing the look was comparatively easy. Cera's lovelorn Pilgrim struts his musical knowledge at Toronto's famed indie store Sonic Boom, one of the many real-life locales used in the film. But when the fictional band Sex Bob-Omb takes the stage at dingy dive bars -- Pilgrim is the act's bassist -- the actor knew that any sense of rock authenticity could be lost the moment he struck his instrument.
"It can be such a miss when bands are supposed to be good," said Cera, whose Pilgrim must battle the seven "evil" exes of the object of his obsession, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). "Whenever you see a band in a movie, the music is barely passable."
The songs of Sex Bob-Omb, six of which are on the ABKCO soundtrack, to be released today, anchor the film. The sloppy, fuzz-laden anthem "We Are Sex Bob-Omb" opens the movie, playing over an extended credit sequence. The sludgy, self-depricating "Garbage Truck" scores one the film's most pivotal early scenes, when Pilgrim is introduced to the first evil ex. Godrich turned to longtime friend and collaborator Beck to knock out the songs that would ultimately be branded Sex Bob-Omb.
"The problem you see in films about garage bands or fledgling bands is that you can tell how pro the music is," Beck said. "It doesn’t feel genuine. All I had to go on was the comic book. When I was writing the songs, I was looking at frames from the comic book."
One of the year's most anticipated geek films, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," may take its inspiration from a series of anime-inspired books by Bryan Lee O'Malley, but the graphic novels at their core are grounded in rock 'n' roll. Loaded with cartoon-ish fight scenes and a view of the world through a video game lens, the vision of "Scott Pilgrim" is one that throws out a lot of pop-culture references. But it's through music that its characters bond, grow some confidence and get comfortable with their misfit trappings.
A trailer for the much-anticipated fantasy-action-romance hit the Web today, debuting on the Apple site. For now, you can watch it after the jump. It moves fast, but it offers a glimpse of Michael Cera in the starring role, and his latest pink-haired girl obsession in Ramona V. Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Saddled with a fear of commitment, Cera has to engage in a series of exaggerated, kung-fu-like battles with Ramona's exes -- her baggage -- to win her heart.
There are scenes of Cera brandishing a guitar, but the full spectrum of music in the film is left largely to our imagination. Canadian synth-rockers Metric have a showcase cut in the film, and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich served as the film's music supervisor. Local audiences, however, will want to pay close attention to the scruffy guitar riffs that permeate the trailer. That's a peek into some of the original music for the film, which was crafted by Silver Lake alt-rock hero Beck.
Those paying close attention to the music will hear, a Universal spokeswoman confirms, a brand new cut from "Sex Bob-Omb!" There's two tracks in the trailer -- one more rootsy-pop, and one with harder-edged sound. Not familiar with Sex Bob-Omb? That's the fictional band that Cera's Pilgrim performs in. In real life, it's Beck. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" opens Aug. 13.
Watch the trailer below:
David Campbell had a unique vantage point for observing the first sprouting of the musical vision of a certain modern rock hero: his son, Beck.
“When he was first starting to get interested in music, I think he was around 11 or 12,” said Campbell, who’ll be conducting the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra on Sunday behind Ray LaMontagne at the Hollywood Bowl, one of four concerts for which he’s created the orchestral arrangements to accompany a variety of pop and rock performers.
“Earlier than that he was mainly writing -- stories and poems -- so I thought he was going to be a writer,” said Campbell, who was busy at that time in the early ‘80s scoring string, horn and full orchestra arrangements for a wide array of recording artists. “He was hanging around the studio a little bit at the time, and one day I thought I’d take some time and show him some stuff about what I was doing.
“Somewhere about five minutes into it, he stopped and says, ‘That’s really cool -- but what if you did it this way?’ I forget what it was, but he said something really cool and it took me by surprise, and I had the thought, ‘Wow, I should shut up and just ask him what he thinks.’
“That’s kind of set the pattern for our collaborations ever since, because he has such a unique perspective on creating anything, really: music, drawings, conceptual stuff,” said Campbell, who has contributed musically to nearly all of Beck’s albums.
“So that’s basically how it rolls. When we work together, the first thing I want to know is, What does he think? And then I fill in.”
Photo: Stefano Paltera / For The Times
*Update: An earlier version of this story said Campbell would be conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Sunday with Ray Lamontagne.
What do you get when two incredibly creative musical minds sit down to simply talk with no agenda and nothing to hawk? Two guys mostly talking about where they grew up, the lost works of Euripides, and performing live without proper amplification.
Silver Lake's own Beck Hansen has just launched a series on his website "featuring conversations between musicians, artists, writers, etc. on various subjects, without promotional pretext or editorial direction."
Beck's fatal move was choosing Tom Waits as his first guest. Not because Waits isn't much of a conversationalist -- just the opposite. Once you document a free spirit like Waits riffing without a net, how is Beck going to top that?
In Part 1 of their conversation together, Hansen and Waits provide so many good moments that you're doing yourself a disservice by not reading the whole thing. Beck swears in the conversation that people today are obsessed with "Best Of" lists, and we're not going to argue.
After the jump are the three best moments of their exchange.
There's been a touch of Internet controversy today about Beck's somewhat-impromptu show at the Echo tonight, first started by blogger Sketchytown, then picked up by the LA Weekly's West Coast Sound blog. Both blogs raised a flag about a charity cited on the show's promotional material, Educating Children International, which, according to the promo poster, will get the "net proceeds" of the show priced at a cool $35.
Nothing was mentioned about any connections with Scientology, and the website for the charity turns up an error message. So what's the official word from the Church of Scientology? Is Educating Children International a charity working with Beck's known (and controversial) path of spirituality?
It turns out it is.
When Pop & Hiss first contacted Scientology representative Karen Pouw, she did not recognize the charity name, but within 40 minutes or so she called back to say she had done some more investigating. She said it was part of Educating Children, a charity run by Indian Scientologist Mohammad Khalil Ullah, who has built at least three schools in South Asia, according to materials posted at the website www.educatingchildren.cc, a URL that Pouw also cited. Note the picture on the homepage of children celebrating in front of a school with a sign clearly stating "West Bengal Scientology Free School."
Pouw said about the charity, "We have volunteers there working in orphanages and getting children to school." She also stated, "I'm not speaking on behalf of Beck, but I believe his concert is in support of this charity."
When asked if Beck had a statement about the charity or tonight's show, his representative in New York declined to comment. A representative at the Echo did not answer our request for a comment.
The real question, of course, is whether Beck should've been more transparent about the show's beneficiary. If you're planning on going to the show tonight, does this change your mind or otherwise color your feelings about L.A.'s indie son?
-- Margaret Wappler
Photo: Benjamin Reed/Los Angeles Times
Malibu is no longer where it's at for Beck. The musician has just lowered the price on his second home (wait, Beck has a second home?) in Malibu to a cool $2,345,000. It was previously on the market for nearly $2.4 million. The Times' Ann Brenoff has more details on the home here.
Beck now has two houses on the market. His Hancock Park abode was listed at $9 million in July, but more recent listings have it reduced to $7,350,000. Is the "Pay No Mind" singer plotting an escape from L.A. or just flipping houses as a reflexive real estate move?
— Charlie Amter
Photo credit: Adrian Tiemens