The Smiths are reuniting! Obviously, Mike Joyce won't be there, since relationships are a bit fraught, what with him suing his former band mates, then trying to sell unreleased Smiths material on eBay. And, as yet, there is nothing more solid than a rumor that Morrissey might turn up. But, as Billboard reveals, Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke (the bass player) are definitely reuniting! The pair will perform together in January, for the first time since 1987, at a cancer benefit in Manchester, England, with or without their enigmatic frontman. And if a two-fourths Smiths comeback isn't enough of a draw, the concert lineup also reportedly includes New Order, Doves, Badly Drawn Boy, Primal Scream's Mani and Stephen Fretwell.
Never mind her lack of any acting experience, or the fact that "she doesn't look much like Nina Simone," Mary J. Blige thinks she has a lot in common with Simone, whom she is to play in a new biopic of the legendary singer: "Our fans love us real hard," Blige says in an MTV News interview. "Her fans wanted to hear whatever they wanted to hear from Nina -- the same kind of thing with men, bad men, you know. Then she finally ends up with the good one, and then she dies." Well, one hopes not too much in common.
U2 fans, meanwhile, will be excited to hear that Bono not only is appearing in the new Beatles-themed musical "Across the Universe" -- whose extras were confusing New Yorkers this fall -- but is going to deliver "several of the film's important lines." This bold claim is disclosed by Canada's Jam! Showbiz, along with the fact that the 45-year-old megastar will play "Dr. Robert, a spiritual character" and sing "his rendition of the classic Beatles' tune 'I Am the Walrus.'"
Perhaps Bono and Blige will spare a thought for poor Justin Timberlake as they embark on their new careers as thespians; Hollywood, it seems, has not been returning Timberlake's calls. "Justin has missed out on two Hollywood film roles because casting directors thought he sounded too much like a boy," a British tabloid claims. "He was dejected after the casting bosses rejected him," a "pal of the star" tells the Sun. "At first they refused to tell him why they had reached their decisions, in case it hurt him. But he wanted to know if he needed more acting experience. And they eventually confessed they rejected him because he sounded more like a 12-year-old than an action hero."
The Guardian has an entertaining interview with new Brit hip-hop hopeful Plan B here. As lazy comparisons go, "Eminem meets the Arctic Monkeys" is certainly eye-catching, but not entirely accurate. The Eminem part makes sense: Plan B is a rapper, he swears a lot and he's white. But the Arctic Monkeys? Because he has released only two singles? Because he's British and hyped? Because he's white? The few U.K. rappers to break out of the indie ghetto have tended to subvert the hip-hop template, as with Lady Sovereign's "grime" sound, or the Streets' urban storytelling. Plan B as yet seems to possess merely a fairly standard Brit flow, which suggests something of a niche appeal. He does have two things going for him, though. First, he raps while strumming an acoustic guitar, which is a decent gimmick at least. Second, his second single, the Prodigy-riffing "No Good," comes with this quite extraordinary stop-motion animation video; it's worth checking out, even if angry U.K. hip-hop isn't really your thing.
On a technical note, the Sacramento Bee has a fascinating, in-depth article comparing vinyl, CDs and iPods in sound quality. Five volunteers were blindfolded and given music from a variety of genres to listen to on the different formats. From my amateur analysis of the results, I note that while nearly everyone correctly identified on what format they were listening to Mile Davis' "So What," the opposite was true for Boston's "More Than a Feeling." This suggests that Boston rocks too hard for current audio technology, and that it may take generations before we are technologically capable of fully appreciating the majesty of "More Than a Feeling" (via Coolfer).
Finally, of course, don't forget that there are only eight more mix-tape-making days until Christmas. Various blogs are offering indie-type track listings with Yuletide themes. If you are still at a loss, the Independent has an article with a few more "classic" suggestions here.
-- Matt Glazebrook