Charles Aaron



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    Eminem's New Video: Random and Embarrassing?

    Eminem has every right to portray the character of a serial killer, as he does in his new "3 A.M." video. But does he bear any artistic responsibility to explore, in even the most remote way, why that character is doing what he's doing? Motivation? Context? Anything? At one point, he sing-songs, "She puts the lotion in the bucket / He puts the lotion in the bucket," referencing The Silence of the Lambs in a half-hearted attempt at a psychosexual one-liner. But it just seems random and embarrassing. In the video, Eminem plays "a hooligan who's used to usin' hallucinogens," a shirtless, homicidal basket case who flashes back to scenes of mass slaughter that he can't remember committing.

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    Why Record Stores Are the Greatest One-Night Stands Ever!

    Whenever I've walked into a great independent record store for the first time -- from Wax 'N Facts in Atlanta to Wuxtry in Athens, Georgia, to Charlemagne in Birmingham, Alabama, to Aquarius or Amoeba in San Francisco to Village Music in Mill Valley, California, to Waterloo in Austin, Texas, to Dusty Groove in Chicago to Pier Platters in Hoboken to Birdell's or Beat Street in Brooklyn to Music Factory or Finyl Vinyl or Vinyl Mania or Fat Beats or the old Times Square Record Mart, or dozens of others in Manhattan -- I've been intimidated to the point of speechlessness. But it wasn't because I was afraid the one asshole clerk was gonna embarrass me for asking a stupid question -- though that has happened occasionally and isn't an irrational fear.

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    Dead Weather Play Their First Live Show

    If your beef with today's crop of rock bands is that they're sexless, style-challenged dweebs who play their instruments like they're afraid to break a nail, then the Dead Weather certainly corrected that situation Tuesday night during their first-ever public show at a packed Bowery Ballroom on Manhattan's Lower East Side. During the band's encore, "Hang You From the Heavens," singer Alison Mosshart (also of the Kills) -- a wraith-thin tangle of bird's-nest black hair, cigarette smoke, leather, and lipstick -- spat the sacrilegiously nasty come-on: "I wanna grab you by the hair, and drag you to the devil," as the trio in black behind her sounded like a late-'60s/early-'70s gang of white afro'd skeeves (plus a ringer Latin percussionist) in bell-bottoms, tiny tight t-shirts, mustaches, and unlicensed handguns, working out a four-minute version of rock, blues, funk, and soul, that would l

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    Eminem's New Video: "Totally Bewildering"

    The weirdest thing to me, so far, about Eminem's rather bewildering new single/video "We Made You" (an apparent effort to defibrillate "The Real Slim Shady") is that when I clicked over to watch it this morning on the blog of Em's manager, Paul Rosenberg, the first thing that popped up was an awkwardly comedic ad for "My Navy My Future," a recruiting campaign funded by the U.S. Navy.

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    Anti-SXSW Party: Mess With Texas!

    For years, there have been Austin shadow parties and festivals in opposition to SXSW's corporate juggernaut -- the best, known affectionately as Fuck by Fuck You, booked local (and international) punk bands to squall and scream and spill beer all over the backyard of a venue called the "Typewriter Museum" (the 2009 event was redubbed Type by Type Writer). Then there've been New Yorker Todd P's confoundingly creative, lo-fi noise/punk/folk bashes. ÂBut this year, SXSW's most ambitious rival came courtesy of Los Angeles underground promoter Sean Carlson, who organized the free, all-day Mess With Texas extravaganza.

  • Hot Leg, 'Red Light Fever' (Barbecue Rock)

    The Darkness' peacock-ish pop-metal frolic left frontman Justin Hawkins nose-down in a powdery trough by 2004, but here he tries to end a personal five-year slide on his new group's feisty debut. And most of these tautly played tracks -- the operatically clucking "Chickens," the glam-boogie piety rant "I've Met Jesus," the kooky strum-along saga "Trojan Guitar," the Flashdance- flaying "Cocktails" -- tweak cock-rock riffs with a synth-pop joie de vivre that illuminates Hawkins' falsetto freakazoid shtick am far better than the Darkness' Queen-size, pan-flute flameout, One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back. He'll never be anybody's Marc Bolan, but at least he's trying.

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 'It's Blitz!' (Interscope)

    You're a zero-ohh....No matter how breathily Karen O exhales, or how temptingly the synths drone and swell around her, it's a curious rallying cry. And as the opening track on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' third album unfolds, it's unclear whom she's addressing, where she's going, or what's gonna happen when she, or we, arrive. "Get your leather on" is the only real directive. Is this a party, an initiation rite, or a club-kid rendition? But as the band surges to an electro-rock whoop, there's a profound catch in Karen's voice: "Get to know whether you're cryin', cryin', cryin' alone / Can you climb, climb, climb? Oh-ohh," she entreats. Time to stop pretending, kids. In many ways, Karen O is the spiritual den mother of the late-aughts Facebook strays who embraced MGMT's "Time to Pretend" and "Kids" as winkingly misty, Linus-blanket hymns.

  • U2, 'No Line on the Horizon' (Interscope)

    "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" reads like a bumper sticker on an SUV in a Wal-Mart parking lot -- a meek yelp of rebellion from a mortgage-stressed husband who dreams of creeping out for Nascar Bud Shootout night at Hooters. But on the song of that title from U2's 12th studio album, Bono belts out the line with liberating glee -- like a giddy favela kid swinging onto an arm of Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue.

  • Dan Deacon, 'Bromst' (Carpark)

    If you're the sort of lapsed grad student who wears Super Mario t-shirts and freaks the fuck out at art spaces in emerging neighborhoods, then Dan Deacon is already your electro-punk party hoss par excellence. But when the winningly pudgy Baltimorean isn't pogoing amongst the masses -- as tinny eight-bit beats chatter like an orgy of chipmunk ringtones -- is his Saturday-morning-cartoon concerto worth getting up for? On 2007's Spiderman of the Rings, that moment of worthiness was "Wham City," a sweetly cacophonous 11-minute-plus crescendo to a defiant nursery-rhyme chant. And it's also the aesthetic jump-off for Bromst, which mixes electronics with live percussion, brass, vibraphone, player piano, marimba, etc., to deepen the nods to Steve Reich's minimalist throb and chime while winking at the choral psych pop of Mercury Rev and the Polyphonic Spree.

  • The Prodigy, 'Invaders Must Die' (Cooking Vinyl)

    When the Prodigy appeared on SPIN's September 1997 cover, the U.K. group's third album, The Fat of the Land, had been tagged as electronica's de facto reinvention of rock'n'roll. But it also marked the Prodigy's reinvention from rebellious rave icons to a theatrical rap-rock troupe performing punky hit "Firestarter" with no-hawked punchinello Keith Flint front and center. Madonna anointed it her favorite "workout music." talk about death knells. But after a decade-plus of diminishing returns-2004's flailing Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned ditched Flint and MC Maxim reality in an ill-fated gambit -- Invaders Must Die is a stirringly workmanlike, if retro, blast of founder/producer Liam Howlett's anthemic breakbeat spazz.

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