• Black Rock: An Oral History

    In 2008, indie-rock bands with black members virtually amount to a genre unto themselves; think TV on the Radio, Black Kids, Bloc Party, the Dirtbombs, Apollo Heights, Earl Greyhound, and Dragons of Zynth, among many others. But that prolificacy was hardly the case 20 years ago, when four African American New York musicians called Living Colour, part of a local movement dubbed the Black Rock Coalition, released their first album, Vivid. Their goal: to assert that a new generation of black musicians could play more than just R&B and hip- hop, and could rock the house as much as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Arthur Lee, and Jimi Hendrix had done before. Now most of the scene's bands are either footnotes or forgotten. But in light of their heirs, it's worth looking back on the successes, struggles, and legacy of '80s black rockers.

  • The Raconteurs, 'Consolers of the Lonely' (Third Man/Warner Bros.)

    Is Jack White better off working with only one other person? The second album from his frisky-boys side project causes you to wonder. As on 2006's Broken Boy Soldiers, White and friends make like kids bashing out AC/DC knockoffs in a suburban garage. His sheer delight at playing off more than just Meg is evident in the bench-pressed riffs of "Five on the Five" and "Salute Your Solution"; the slide-driven "Top Yourself" beefs up the Stripes' often malnourished, Led Zep–derived arena blues. But too often, the Raconteurs' love of twisty, monolithic rock gives way to bombast that teeters between homage and parody. You don't so much listen to Consolers of the Lonely as ask questions while it's playing. Is "The Switch and the Spur" the closest anyone's come this decade to mimicking Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge"?

  • T Bone Burnett, 'Tooth of Crime' (Nonesuch)

    Few musicians conjure apocalyptic dread better than Burnett, and few plays foresaw a world of toxic entertainment more presciently than Sam Shepard's 1972 Tooth of Crime. So a Burnett album based on Shepard's old project makes sense. But between the singer/songwriter's hectoring-preacher delivery and predictable surf-guitar-noir arrangements, the result is one dreary sermon. Even moments of potential transcendence -- like the lofty "Kill Zone," co-written with the late Roy Orbison -- feel leaden. When Burnett opens his mouth, he brings everything down, and not just mankind. BUY: iTunesAmazon

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    Who Earns What

    It's widely reported how much the wealthiest pop stars make. Pick up a fi nancial magazine and you'll read about the 2007 earnings of the Rolling Stones ($88 million), U2 ($30 million), and Britney Spears ($9 million). Even Elvis Presley took in $49 million last year -- and he's been dead for 30 years. But what about everyone else -- the musicians, record execs, technicians, bloggers, and photographers? How much do they bring home -- and how have the realities of a depressed music business affected everyone from A&R reps to record store employees? To find out, we asked more than two dozen men and women in the biz to list their perks, pains, and yearly pay. We won't pretend to call this a scientific survey, but we can say that these are all legitimate players and workers, some of whom have appeared in this very magazine.

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    Hey! Ho! Let's Shop!

    Another day, another delivery of Ramones wear to the East Village home of Arturo Vega, the band's former lighting director and art coordinator. (He designed their eagle insignia.) "More merchandise," Vega says with a resigned smile, ripping open a box containing new T-shirts featuring the faces of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy. In his apartment, Vega, who still consults on the group's products, shows off his work: officially licensed shower curtains, pillows, and bar stools. On his laptop? Photos from surf-and-skate apparel company Hurley's recent launch party for its new line of Joey Ramone clothing -- T-shirts and board shorts featuring the late singer's praying-mantis frame and black-waterfall hair. Board shorts? Furniture? Bathroom supplies? The Ramones may have disbanded in 1996, but the retail presence of the most iconic of American punk bands is far from sedated.

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