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Odds/Sods, Bits/Bobs 

or, This Week in Meaningless Trivia

Wednesday, May 31 2006
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? DID ANYONE ELSE THINK it was weird that Rob Zombie performed at the KROQ Weenie Roast when he’s a DJ at their underdog competitor, Indie-103? I thought it was weird. Then again, KROQ is weird. Indie’s weird. So is Rob Zombie, in a way: He managed to embody and yet somehow transcend the nü-metal era by sheer force of personality or something. Or maybe it’s because underneath that corpsy-dreadlocky exterior, he’s a bit of a disco dude, really. There’s just something a lil’ funky in his sound. (I can’t decide if the title of his new album, Educated Horses, is terrible or great. It sounds like a pretentious R.E.M. album title to me — or else, you know, Brian Eno. Yes, the long-long-lost seminal 1978 Brian Eno album Educated Horses, featuring an uncredited cameo by Patti Smith.

? I’M STILL FEELING EXCITED about Prince and Burt Bacharach’s appearances on the American Idol finale last week. (See this weeks’ A Considerable Town section for my trip to the final night of competition at the Kodak theater.) Idol gets no respect as a music show, yet it does more than any other megamass-media venue to painlessly, gradually educate young people about America’s proud pop songwriting tradition. I mean, do you think the kids watching had any idea before that night about Burt Bacharach and his non-rhyming, 6/8-time, key-changing madness? (Although the omission of “This Guy’s in Love With You” from the boys’ medley was a letdown.)

? AS MENTIONED A FEW WEEKS AGO, I’ve been trying to listen to the debut album by the Raconteurs (who play the Fonda June 7), since I’m a fan of both its leaders, power-popster Brendan Benson and Jack White of the White Stripes. The trouble is, Broken Boy Soldiers doesn’t actually feel like an album by a band. It feels like a jumble of cool hooks and jams by guys from different bands, all of whom have rad ‘70s vinyl collections. Sweet harmonized guitars, stylish vintage keyboards, clever riffs and beats and tasty treats aplenty, everywhere — and yet, it doesn’t quite hang together. And no matter who wrote what, the lyrics White sings tend to have a sourness that seems sharper in the absence of a female bandmate. In a way, this project only highlights the irreducible specialness of the White Stripes, of their simple/simplistic dualism, and of the tenderness at their heart.

What is the bride or girlfriend of a Raconteur to make of “Steady As She Goes,” a tetchy, conflicted chant/rant on monogamy?: “You’ve had too much to think, now you need a wife?.?.?./Settle for a girl, neither up or down/Sell it to the crowd that is gathered round?.?.?.” (Ouch!) Or “Intimate Secretary”: “I’ve got a rabbit that likes to hop/I’ve got a girl and she likes to shop?.?.?.” (Oof!) And what about “Broken Boy Soldier,” wherein White shrieks, “I’m throwing the childhood scenes away/I’m through ripping myself off.” I wonder what Meg White makes of that.

? BUT YOU KNOW WHAT’S REALLY WEIRD? Out of the blue last week, I found this bizarre Brian Wilson cassette tape at Out of the Closet, called “BRAINS & GENIUS” (which is presumably a pun on its creators’ names). It’s got a sort of homemade-looking J-card thingy (Do you remember J-cards? The piece of paper lining a cassette?) that reads: “BRAINS & GENIUS presents SMART GIRLS Produced By: Brian Wilson & Eugene Landy.”

It gets weirder: The song, “Smart Girls,” is a rap song. And it samples all these classic Beach Boys songs, and it says it’s co-engineered by Jeff Lord Alge. (How many Lord Alges are there, for the love of Pete? That makes at least three Lord Alges I’ve heard of who do recording/engineering/mixing/mastering.) Jeff, Chris, Tom ?.?.?. one more and they could start an incredibly well-mixed boy band.

? “SMART GIRLS” IS PROBABLY the strangest bit of musical detritus I’ve found lately — although a coworker recently reminded me of the power and majesty of The Worst Album Covers in the World?.?.?.?Ever!, a 2004 collection by Nick DiFonzo whose title is self-explanatory. Obviously, the Christian Crusaders are real winners, but my heart belongs to “JOYCE.”

? BUT YOU KNOW what’s really, really weird? This new Bruce Springsteen record and tour. I mean, I like Bob Seger as much as the next guy. But I’m just not sure he deserves an entire tribute album by Bruce Springsteen. I mean, it just seems a littlepremature to me. Bob Seger’s not even dead yet.

? OK, THAT WAS A BAD JOKE. But seriously, speaking of Rick Springfield: It just doesn’t seem right. I mean, the poor guy. Everybody’s favorite underrated pop songsmith/pretty boy had a moderate hit in 1983 with a song called “Human Touch.” But Mr. Boss Man just couldn’t let it be, could he? No. It wasn’t enough that he had practically the same name. Ten years after Springfield’s “Human Touch,” Bruce had to have a moderate hit called “Human Touch.” (They’re both pretty good, too.)

Well, you can see ’em both this week: Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band perform Monday June 5 at the Greek; Rick Springfield performs Friday June 2 in the OC (Brea to be precise) at an apparently free weekend festival called “Summerfest.” Don’t feel bad for him; I’m guessing they pay well: Peter Frampton and American Idol Ruben Studdard will appear on the same stage the same weekend.

And you know Frampton doesn’t come cheap.

Reach the writer at ksullivan@laweekly.com

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