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    Grammys: Inside Clive Davis' Annual Gala

    In case you missed it, here are some notes from record mogul Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, where booze got drunk, chicken got ate, songs got performed, and tushes got kissed. --After a rousingly robotic "Boom Boom Pow" with her usual crew, Fergie Blackeyedpea (with guest guitarist Slash) acquitted herself nicely on "Sweet Child o' Mine." Really. Girl can sing. --For someone who makes a very good living as broadcaster, Ryan Seacrest inspired a chorus of crickets with his awkward, rambling intro of veteran record man Davis.

  • Kiss, 'Sonic Boom' (Kiss)

    In the 11 years since releasing the patchy Psycho Circus, Kiss have marketed kaskets, opened a koffeeshop, and released krappy solo albums, apparently on a mission to make everyone but diehards forget that, for a few LPs running, they were the greatest rock band of the '70s. It's a breath of fiery air, then, that their latest is as close to a return to classic form as anyone could reasonably expect. "Never Enough" and "Stand," in particular, equal the anthemic might of "Rock and Roll All Nite," while "Danger Us" actually transcends its silly titular pun. The clichés (sorry, lyrics) otherwise define hoary, as backbones slip, things go out of the frying pan and into the fire, and hearts beat like drums. Nice to hear some things never change. BUY: Amazon

  • Kiss, 'Sonic Boom' (Kiss Records)

    In the 11 years since releasing the patchy Psycho Circus, Kiss have marketed kaskets, opened a koffeeshop, and released krappy solo albums, apparently on a mission to make everyone but diehards forget that, for a few LPs running, they were the greatest rock band of the '70s. It's a breath of fiery air, then, that their latest is as close to a return to classic form as anyone could reasonably expect. "Never Enough" and "Stand," in particular, equal the anthemic might of "Rock and Roll All Nite," while "Danger Us" actually transcends its silly titular pun. The clichés (sorry, lyrics) otherwise define hoary, as backbones slip, things go out of the frying pan and into the fire, and hearts beat like drums. Nice to hear some things never change.

  • The Upper Crust, 'Revenge for Imagined Slights' (Camp Street)

    For hard-rock jokers with one very specific gag -- performing as puffy-shirted dandies -- this Boston quartet keeps coming up with great punch lines. On their fifth studio album in 14 years, the humor is mostly broad ("Lackey, bring me bonbons, although I have no appetite," a spurned Lord Bendover laments) and rarely subtle (the sublimely awkward extended intro to "Long Table for Two"). But by expanding their usual arsenal of AC/DC-style stompers and Ramones-y pogos to include funk-metal, opium-den psych, and jammy balladeering, they create songs that -- no joke -- would kick even if they didn't concern pederasty, oenophilia, and the dangers inherent to generations of inbreeding. BUY: iTunes

  • Marilyn Manson, 'The High End of Low' (Interscope)

    Not that anyone but that kid serving you at TCBY was counting -- but after a seven-year break, goth rock's funniest creep welcomes back guitarist Twiggy Ramirez for this collection of 15 necromantic vamps, mass-murder ballads, and stormtrooper anthems (including the stupendous "Arma-goddamn-mother-fuckin-geddon," where Manson's glorious glam roots are showing). While it's still easy to dismiss his shock tactics as puerile and insensitive (if you're gonna sing about someone "pretty as a swastika," they'd better be really ugly), he hasn't sounded this vital -- and tuneful -- since Mechanical Animals. Oh, the horror! BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Peter Doherty, 'Grace/Wastelands' (Astralwerks)

    The seemingly constant rehabs, arrests, and prison stints. The romp with Amy Winehouse and a filthy handful of newborn mice on YouTube. It's all too easy to dismiss Pete (now Peter, for a touch of class) Doherty as nothing more than a smack-addled wretch. But there's little denying the former Libertine and current Babyshamble's talent as a songwriter and, well, presence. As if channeling Serge Gainsbourg -- a kindred louche European who probably smelled and couldn't quite sing -- Doherty flits through genres on his first solo album like a nodding junkie discovering what's been buried in his pockets all these years.

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    11 Thoughts About the Grammys

    1) Justin Timberlake and Dwayne Johnson joke about general stores and a band called the Beatles Fighters on music's biggest night, hear crickets. Where's Bruce Vilanch when we need him? 2) The night's best rock performer? Carrie Underwood, take a bow. And your guitarist Orianthi Panagar can take two. 3) Coldplay wins Song of the Year for "Viva la Vida." Joe Satriani throws off his Snuggie and chucks his flat screen out the window. 4) Most self-effacing moment: During Kid Rock's performance of "Amen," which sounded more U2 than U2, his mug shot is projected behind him. But after "Rock N Roll Jesus," could the director have cut to a worse crowd reaction shot? I mean, who farted? 5) "From Cain and Abel to the Jackson Five, brothers have rocked our world..." Ahhh, that's more like it.

  • Supersuckers, 'Get It Together' (Mid-Fi)

    Though nothing here matches the wit of "Pretty Fucked Up" or "Rock Your Ass" (from 2003's criminally overlooked Motherfuckers Be Trippin'), these country punks can still craft a classy hook. Their seventh studio album balances extra-greasy riffs("What It Takes," "I Like It All, Man," and the Ramones-quoting title track) with cowpoke loping ("Paid") and a crushing Death Valley ballad ("Breaking Honey's Heart"). As you'd expect from 20-year road dogs, the playing couldn't be sharper. And plenty of lyrical quirks remain: On "Sunset on a Sunday," frontman Eddie Spaghetti compares his romantic neglect to blowing off his homework. So (im)mature. BUY: iTunesAmazon

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    Five Music Videos That'll Make You Smile

    In these troubling times, it's important to acknowledge the therapeutic powers of a good YouTube surf. Below, a few of my personal favorite video tonics, which may even become yours.1. Sparks, "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" They've just released their 21st (!) album (featuring the brilliant "Lighten Up, Morrissey"), but this 34-year-old Top of the Pops clip offers the brothers Mael in all their falsetto-y glam-rock glory. And though they may be miming, nobody does reaction shots like that Weimar-era freakshow on keys. 2. The Dickies, "Banana Splits" Ignore the disconnect of a guitarist named Stan Lee wearing a T-shirt featuring a DC Comics character and just savor the fruity mise en scene of this hysterical promo, which I'd like to think inspired Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldiers." 3. Dr.

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    7 Thoughts About Against Me! Live

    1. Still touring in support of New Wave, the best album of 2007, the Gainesville-based punks showed no signs of tiring, playing as if this were the first gig in their hometown after a six-year absence. 2. Live, the songs off the Butch Vig–produced album sounded spectacular, all beefy riffs, sweaty shouting, and huge heart. If released, say, five years ago, when the music business wasn't in such obvious chaos, New Wave might've been a game changer a la Nevermind or London Calling. Now we'll never know. BTW, is it time to pour out a 40 for the game-changing album? 3. When guitarist James Bowman sang Tegan Quin's lines on "Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart," the band proved once and for all that it is possible for a guy to take on the female half of a duet and not sound ridiculous.

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