Friday, September 14, 2007

The Friday Five

Some links to take with you this weekend:

1. The best commercial I've seen all year. You will never hear Phil Collins the same way again.

2. Seeing Elvis Costello the other night led me to this Elvis wiki with enough to satisfy a fan for days. (Here's the setlist from the Charlotte show.)

3. Scott Price is one of the best writers left at Sports Illustrated. In his college days, he wrote sports at UNC Chapel Hill at the same time a kid named Michael Jordan played there. This piece for the Oxford American talks a little about that, and more about what it's like to be a writer, especially a sportswriter. Mighty fine work.

4. I'm doing some work on a story about the Spongetones -- the Charlotte pop band that was huge here in the '80s and still plays to devoted crowds today. Their MySpace page is incredibly detailed -- it's like an encyclopedia of the band, complete with music and video.

5. Those of us who follow SEC football are obsessed with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, one of the most hyped QB prospects ever -- it is quite possible, although he has never done so in a game, that he can simply vanish from the field and materialize in the end zone. I went to Georgia -- Florida's hated rival -- so of course I want to hate Tim Tebow. But he's making it really hard. This New York Times piece reveals him to be an interesting and (it hurts to say this) decent guy.

If you've run across cool stuff you want to share, link away in the comments. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Elvis review: Do lyrics matter?

Last night we saw Elvis Costello (with his longtime keyboardist Steve Nieve) at the Belk Theater. Tremendous show. Elvis is mellower now, even sort of charming, although the angry Elvis came out in the antiwar comments he sprinkled in between songs. Most of the crowd cheered, but he did get a few boos -- possibly the first boos in Belk Theater history.

Pretty cool to see that he can still stir people up.

But for most of the night I was thinking about lyrics. I'm a former music writer, and I will be sent straight to music-critic hell for saying this, but here it is: Most of the time, lyrics don't matter to me.

What moves me about music is the melody, the groove, the arrangement, the way the sounds blend and clash. Lyrics are part of that, but mostly for how they sound, not for what they mean. I was on my fourth R.E.M. album before I could understand a word Michael Stipe said. But that mumbly voice, paired with that music, was perfect.

Bob Dylan, on the other hand, is overrated. (Definitely going to music-critic hell now.)

I bring this up because Elvis Costello is an exception. He's such a gifted writer that you can parse his songs like a poem, but they also fit in with the sound of the song. Plus he has one of my two favorite couplets in rock history, from "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes":

I said "I'm so happy I could die"
She said "Drop dead" and left with another guy...

My other favorite couplet, from the Ramones' "Teenage Lobotomy":

Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em
That I got no cerebellum

As you can see, I'm not exactly an intellectual when it comes to this stuff.

Got your own favorite lines? Reviews of the Elvis show? Or any Dylan fans out there who want to defend their guy? Fire away in the comments...