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Positively, Yeah Yeah Yeah



This Friday night at midnight the fun folks at The Cartoon Network will broadcast their Toonami Midnight Run Special Edition, an hour-long block of all-animated music videos. Hosted by TOM the 3-D computer-generated host, the program will feature three cool videos from the Gorillaz and four videos from Daft Punk including the worldwide premiere of their Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Also of new extreme eye-popping nature are the European sensations Cartoons DK -- a sextet of outlandishly costumed "toonagers" caught in a cartoon world, mixing an infectious clash of 1950s doo-wop, techno-infused rockabilly and costume identities that seem to have escaped from Pee Wee's Playhouse with hookah in hand. Can you envision the Neil Sedaka standard "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" strutted out with an upright bass designed from a towering hammer, a lead guitar crafted from a giant child's slingshot, gravity defying corkscrew bouffant hairstyles and backup singers morphing Betty Boop and Elvis? If intrigued by the promise of the international language of "oo ee oo ah ah, ting tang walla walla bing bang" processed through 21st-century iconology, reach deep for the kid in you and hunt down their first stateside release, Toontastic!, on the Edel America label.

Things are getting surreal at the nation's Drug Enforcement Agency as they have recently added glow items, pacifiers, masks and vapor rub to their list of official "drug paraphernalia." The items, all linked to rave culture, are part of the agency's desire to close down Ecstasy-fueled raves, but as the ACLU's Graham Boyd states, "If the police want to enforce drug laws, then they should go after drug dealers, but music and dancing are protected by the Constitution. Interesting food for thought.

Two new forthcoming tribute projects are in the works and I'm buzzed thinking about the possibilities. Oglio Records is putting the finishing touches on a two-volume series of CDs saluting the songwriting genius of Paul McCartney, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in memory of his wife Linda McCartney. The first CD is set for early October and will feature well-known artists taking their turn at his legacy under the title Listen To What the Man Said, with Semisonic, They Might Be Giants, Matthew Sweet, World Party and members of the Barenaked Ladies among the 16 contributors. Highlights will include Robyn Hitchcock's twist on "Let Me Roll It," the Finn Brothers of Split Enz and their take on "Too Many People," and Sloan's tip of the hat to "Maybe I'm Amazed." Later in October the label will issue the second volume, titled Coming Up, focusing on independent and lesser-known artists having a go at McCartney's catalog with promised delights from The Jellybricks, Cockeyed Ghost, Phil Keaggy, The Shazam and many more. Another tribute salute is on track from the MCA imprint as they're working on a new Red Hot Aids Awareness project titled Red Hot & Riot. This new collection features hip-hop contemporaries like Common, Mos Def, The Roots, Les Nubians, Nile Rodgers and Macy Gray covering songs by famed Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

My pick of the week is this Tuesday's Jetset Records release of Past Imperfect Present Tense, the debut solo album from Erik Sanko of Skeleton Key. If you turned on the band's last effort, the critically acclaimed Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon from 1997, you're sure to prick up your ears at the news of new material by their bassist and principal songwriter. Sanko's new effort is a dark, mesmerizing affair that shimmers in pensive circles of tinkling acoustic harmonies, swelling and creaking out an intimate lonesome call. Highly recommended for moody fans of Grandaddy, Elliott Smith and Tom Waits.

Television alert

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno hosts Lyle Lovett and Henry Rollins on Thursday, Aug. 30, and Snoop Dogg on Tuesday, Sept. 4; The Late Show with David Letterman welcomes Spearhead Aug. 30 and Bjork on Tuesday; Late Night with Conan O'Brien features Weezer on Aug. 30 overnight, Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro on Monday, Sept. 3 and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones on Tuesday; and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn gets goofy with The White Stripes on Monday, Sept. 3 and former New Kid On the Block Joey McIntyre on Tuesday.

New releases coming Tuesday, September 4

... and like the winds, young grasshopper, are subject to change ...

Converge -- Jane Doe (Equal Vision) highly anticipated return blending aggressive punk, metal and hardcore; Drag City Supersession -- Tramps, Traitors and Little Devils (Drag City) with label mates Neil Michael Hagerty, Edith Frost and Smogs Bill Callahan; Embrace-- If You've Never Been (Hut) import only; Firesign Theater -- Bride of Firesign (Rhino) all new studio album; Fugu -- Fugu 1 (Minty Fresh) featuring Stereolab vocalist Laetitia Sadier on the single "Sol Y Sombra;" Jamiroquai -- "Little L" (Epic) new 12-minute single from the upcoming A Funk Odyssey album; KRS-One -- Strictly For Da Breakdancers & Emcee (Cleopatra); Last Kreep -- Good Scratching Record (Hip Hop Slam) new vinyl-only release from DJ Eddie Def of the Bullet Proof Space Travelers crew; Love As Laughter -- Sea To Shining Sea (SubPop) recently supporting dates with J. Mascis & the Fog; Mazarin -- A Tall Tale Storyline (Spinart); Morcheeba -- Back To Mine (Ultra); Murder City Devils -- Thelema (SubPop) CD/EP; Bif Naked -- Purge (Atlantic); Orbital -- The Alltogether (FFRR / Sire) with guest David Gray; Real McKenzies -- Loch'd & Loaded (Honest Don's) kilts and mohawks get tossed in the pit as punk meets traditional Scottish folk music; The Residents -- Icky Flix Soundtrack (East Side Digital) re-recordings of selections featured on their new Icky Flix DVD; Busta Rhymes -- Genesis (J Records); S.O.D. -- Speak English Or Die (Megaforce) DVD release featuring Anthrax's Scott Ian; Skinny Puppy -- Doomsday Live (Nettwerk); Izzy Stradlin -- River (Bilawn Records) third solo album from the former Guns 'N' Roses guitarist featuring Rolling Stones keyboardist Ian McLagen; System of a Down -- Toxicity (American) on tour with Slipknot this fall; Dwight Twilley -- The Luck (Big Oak) all new power Pop featuring guests Rocky Burnett, Susan Cowsill and members of the Bangles; James "Blood" Ulmer -- Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (Label M) recorded at the famed Memphis studio and featuring his take on John Lee Hooker's "Money," Son House's "Death Letter" and Muddy Waters' "Evil" with producer and guest guitarist Vernon Reid; Various artists -- The Best of Sessions at West 54th (Columbia Legacy) featuring David Byrne, Suzanne Vega, Lou Reed, The Mavericks, John Hiatt and Ani DiFranco; Velvet Crush -- A Single Odyssey (Action Musik) 20-track collection of singles and rarities including their power-Pop take on songs by Gene Clark, The Modern Lovers and Teenage Fanclub; Violet -- We Both Know It's Out There (Wine & Vinyl) Brooklyn-based duo of Meredith Minogue and Jim Barry blending elements and influences of folk and new wave; Vue -- Find Your Home (SubPop)

[Copyright JOHN M. JAMES, 2001]

John James can be found via cyberspace at

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