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9Dec/11Off

I Wanted My MTV

When was the last time you could honestly describe a 600-page nonfiction book as a thoroughly absorbing page-turner? Such length is usually the province of academic works requiring an investment of patience and concentration from the reader. Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum's I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution (Dutton, 2011) makes no such demands, at least not if you are of the generation that witnessed the rise and fall of Music Television. You  will recognize the names of the artists, videos, and VJs, and you may find yourself as riveted to this sizable oral history as you once were captivated by untold hours of MTV.

Like its subject - the first decade of MTV - Marks and Tannenbaum's weighty tome unfolds as a series of easily digestible segments. The authors eschew editorializing in favor of letting people speak for themselves. Each of its 53 chapters begins with a brief introduction followed by artfully intercut interview transcriptions. The effect echoes the pace of vintage MTV, when the fledgling network actually aired music videos and the mesmerizing imagery turned over with the regularity of a kaleidoscope.

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1Jul/11Off

Great Albums: A Parodic Quartet

I love music, and I have a special affection for cleverly written, expertly performed, lovingly produced tunes that not only deliver the musical goods but also take a satirical jab at convention with a dry sense of humor. Fitting that bill perfectly are the songs on four very different albums that never fail to amuse me.

The Rutles was released in 1978 as the soundtrack album for Eric Idle's All You Need Is Cash, a television mockumentary that parodies the rise and fall of The Beatles. The show itself is uneven, but its incredible attention to detail is mirrored in 14 songs written and produced by Neil Innes, a founding member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Monty Python collaborator. Innes and a group of session musicians manage to emulate the Beatles as faithfully as any tribute band while slyly stretching a variety of Fab Four styles into the absurd without so much as a wink or a nod.

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6Aug/10Off

Something (Fried) For Everybody

DevoColumbus1

The Brothers Mothersbaugh whip it good at the Ohio State Fair.

"How many people believe de-evolution is real?" called out DEVO bassist Jerry Casale during a lively performance at the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday.  Perhaps no other venue is better suited for procuring anecdotal evidence for the band's philosophy, as the fair was populated by a typical assortment of Ohioans representing a wide swath of the evolutionary scale.  There to indulge their worst dietary habits were a number of vendors offering the signature fair food, which is anything that has been deep-fried.  Beyond the traditional elephant ears, funnel cakes and french fries wafted the aroma of deep-fried candy bars, Twinkies, Oreos, Pop Tarts, peanut butter buckeyes and even garlic mashed potatoes.  "If you fry it, they will come" seems to be the mantra of our state fair, and that may be as damning a tidbit of evidence for de-evolution as any.

How fitting, though, that amongst the fetid stalls of prize-winning livestock and numerous exhibits featuring the best of Ohio's diverse products should be a showcase for the Akron band that was not only ahead of its time but ahead of its place as well.  Promoting their recent release, Something For Everybody, DEVO is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and long-overdue recognition for a unique and enduring artistic statement.  They gave their home state an entertaining set that demonstrated the compelling mix that they have offered throughout their career:  incisive social satire and infectious songs delivered with great technical skill and an irresistible sense of humor.

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