Film Review: The Front Runner Apologizes For the Past To Condemn the Present 

The Pitch: In 1984, a relative Democratic unknown named Gary Hart came shockingly close to a national party nomination, on the strength of an issues-focused, grassroots campaign. By 1988, he was widely and statistically considered the favorite to earn the blue-ticket nomination against George H.W. Bush. As the opening titles of The Front Runner suggest, however, a lot can happen in three weeks. What starts as a Miami Herald investigation into a tip about Hart (Hugh Jackman) and a mistress quickly spirals into something much bigger, and soon Hart is forced to deal with a firestorm from a very new media, a 24-hour cycle hungry for as much news as it can possibly make. All the while, Hart attempts to finish the campaign, even as he and his team begin to realize that they might have lost control of the dialogue.

News, Real and Otherwise: The Front Runner is the sort of historical biopic which insists on its present-day relevance at every turn. It’s in the way that Hart sneers at the mere notion of a politician’s personal life being relevant to their leadership qualifications. It’s in the way that director Jason Reitman goes out of his way to kick up the perception of “tabloid” media as an amorphous, morality-free collection of would-be paparazzos calling themselves political reporters. It’s in the way that the screenplay, by Reitman and Matt Bai and Jay Carson, goes out of its way to repeatedly highlight how slam-dunk electable Hart was, at least until a media more interested in being first than being decent entered the picture. At every step, The Front Runner wants audiences to draw parallels between the American political process of 30 years ago and the present-day state of things. It’s just ultimately thoughtless about what it chooses to argue within them.

After all, the film’s opinion on the media’s “proper” role seems to shift with the scene. To the slick-talking, endlessly sure-footed Hart, reporters are a resource to work with, and work over. To his campaign manager Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons), they’re the scourge of any decent presidential candidate. To Reitman, they’re a walking symbol for whatever hyper-current dialogue he finds himself wishing to play out within his recent-period setting. Is it amoral for a pair of Miami Herald reporters (Steve Zissis and Bill Burr) to hide outside Hart’s D.C. townhouse, waiting for a story to happen? Do Hart’s indiscretions matter to the greater political process? Members of his campaign team engage in hand-writing dialogues about male power and personal ethics but reach little in the way of conclusive evidence. But all the while, that dastardly media is lurking nearby, staking out the entirety of Hart’s Colorado property to harass his wife Lee (Vera Farmiga) and daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever).

Sins of the Father: It’s clear who The Front Runner blames for the end of Gary Hart’s campaign, but what ultimately undoes any chance of Reitman’s film succeeding either as satire or as prescient commentary is its insistence on indicting virtually every guilty party except for Hart. The Altman-esque exchanges between bureau tables full of journalists and political hucksters say a lot without ultimately saying much at all, playing out both-sides arguments about the media’s role in politics and the responsibilities of candidates to the public without circling around to consider the most central conundrum on hand.

Gary Hart’s presidential run ended because he repeatedly cheated on his wife, and then alternated between bloviation and outright anger when confronted about it by journalists. Yet as The Front Runner sees it, Hart was the kind of salt-of-the-earth visionary who could have Saved Politics, if only the forces of greed hadn’t conspired to slander his decent name. It’s the same rhetoric that emerges whenever apologists of Bill Clinton’s conduct argue for the greater good. And even if the film occasionally attempts to hedge its own perspective on the matter, it still contorts to allow space for Hart the misunderstood wunderkind. Lee makes mention of understood “allowances” throughout their marriage. Donna (Sara Paxton), the young lover in question, wonders about her safety and her prospects on Hart’s campaign in equal measure, at least at first. Hart responds to implications that his philandering could affect his presidential prospects with bellowing fits of righteous indignation. And even when The Front Runner gets around to considering whether maybe it’s Hart who dug his own grave, it never stays there for too long. It’s more concerned with what it has to say about an alternate future than it does about the fraught present.

The Verdict: If there’s a facet of The Front Runner that justifies the film’s seemingly purpose-void hand-wringing about protecting liberal icons, it’s the central performance by Jackman. As Hart, he’s alternately strapping and conniving, a seemingly kindhearted man who’s also smart enough to see straight through somebody in seconds and get whatever he wants out of them. While the film keeps his indiscretions almost exclusively behind closed doors, there’s a palpable disconnect between Hart the future DNC electoral pick and Hart the flop-sweating upper-class male desperately clutching onto his career as it slips through his fingers. Jackman draws this tension out throughout, a desperation lurking just behind his eyes even when he’s watching the noose tighten.

There’s a great deal of talk along the lines of worrying about “the candidates we deserve” throughout The Front Runner, and there’s a strangeness to the film’s attempt at prescience along these lines. To consider 1988 a more politically innocent time in America involves a narrowly selective reading of modern political context, and yet this is one of the many implications that Reitman’s film pursues. The Front Runner is a naively misguided product of panicked, desperate modern times. But perhaps even worse, at least for the type of film it wants to be, it lands somewhere between irrelevant and a woeful misreading of the room. To incriminate A Current Affair in the present state of things is to yell into a void, hoping the echo will come back.

Where’s It Playing?: The Front Runner is now playing in select cities, and will expand nationwide in the coming weeks.

Trailer:

Dave Grohl opens up about what he learned from Kurt Cobain’s death 

Dave Grohl’s been honest about the ways he’s still reckoning with the loss of his Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain 24 years ago. In a GQ cover story from May, the Foo Fighters frontman revealed that he still can’t listen to his old band. Now, in a recent interview with PBS, he took a moment to discuss what he learned from Cobain’s passing.

“When Kurt died, I remember the next day and thinking, ‘I still get to live’,” he says in the below clip. “So I’m going to live everyday like it’s my last one. Even if it’s the worst day, I’m gonna try to appreciate it.”

He added, emphatically, “And I still feel that way. I never wanna die. I honestly feel like if get to do this, and I’ve got these beautiful kids… I’m all good. That’s how I feel.”

It’s a lovely moment from the interview, one that resonates before Grohl even speaks. The pall that falls over his face when the interviewer mentions Cobain is enough to break your heart. Watch it below.

The surviving members of Nirvana reunited last month at Foo Fighter’s Cal Jam. Over the weekend, Grohl fired up his smoker to serve up some BBQ to California firefighters taking on the Woolsey wildfire.

Classic Album Review: Blood on the Tracks Remains Bob Dylan’s Most Emotionally Charged Record 

Vivid Seats Ticket promoBlood on the Tracks makes the case for still owning physical albums. If it doesn’t already exist, there’s a remarkable essay waiting to be done just on the experience of holding Bob Dylan’s 1975 masterwork in one’s hands. Like the songs within, the album sleeve, when flipped between front cover and back, evokes so many strong, immediate feelings. There’s the curious neatness of the underlined, right-justified, all-capitalized artist name and title descending line by line, one word at a time, down the left-hand side of the album front in white. A band of reddish purple (or purplish red) drapes (not drips) beneath it – a color much closer to a deep bruise than pooling blood. Such a simple, precise layout for such a raw and emotionally restless record.

However, we then gaze to the right to find Paul Till’s hazy cover photo. If we let our eyes focus for a moment, an image, which has more in common with Monet’s “Water Lilies” than the artwork of most ‘70s folk rock albums, comes to the surface. The dulled boundaries of Dylan’s profile float, as if ripples on a pond, but somehow hold together below a thick head of curled hair and a thin pair of dark sunglasses. The image might be of Dylan sitting at a piano, but he could just as easily be posing for the U.S. Mint.

Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks Back Cover

No doubt an art class could spend an entire period making heads or tails of French artist David Oppenheim’s illustration on the sleeve’s reverse, and Pete Hamill’s sprawling 1974 liner notes horseshoeing around Oppenheim’s sketch could themselves warrant liner notes. All of it instantly unforgettable. Branded in the mind at once and always. An arrangement of images and words and colors and fonts that somehow portend a classic album – a work of great weight – before ever listening to a single recorded note or lament. Anyone who has ever spent time holding the record can attest to that apparent heft.

However, nothing, apart from the songs themselves, carries the power of that title: Blood on the Tracks. It’s the type of phrase that indeed could’ve been “written by an Italian poet from the 13th century.” One that didn’t originate as the title of a ’70s acoustic pop album but rather endured the linguistic weeding out of the centuries because nothing quite so durable in construction, relevant to experience, or forceful in its evocations emerged to replace it.

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Consequence of Sound and Sony bring you an exploration of legendary albums and their ongoing legacy with The Opus. Hosted by Paula Mejia, the first installment starts Friday, November 16th and revolves around Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks in conjunction with the new Bootleg Series release, More, Blood, More Tracks. Subscribe now.

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They are words, as Dylan sings, “that glow like burning coals.” In their short breath, we can feel the brute force of the “freight train” Dylan sings about in “Simple Twist of Fate”. Of course, we can also leave the literal or figurative train at the station all together. For many, it’s more powerful to think of Dylan, a man once dubbed a savior and prophet, as having shed his blood across these painful songs – or tracks. Having given something so vital of himself as one’s agony and anguish.

Most critics and listeners consider Blood on the Tracks to be the breakup album to end all breakup albums, attributing the record’s many bruises and wounds to Dylan himself, who was in the earlier stages of a crumbling marriage to Sara Dylan during its writing and recording. Son and musician Jakob Dylan has gone so far as to describe the album as “my parents talking.” However, Dylan has long denied this speculation, expressing “Idiot Wind” levels of frustration at the claims during some interviews and acknowledging the possibility that parts of his real-life pain might’ve seeped into the songs in others.

What everyone seemingly agrees upon is that the album is soaked through and dripping with pain from every groove. A few months after the release, Dylan told Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary in a radio interview that “a lot of people tell me they enjoyed that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that — I mean, people enjoying that type of pain.” But is it Dylan’s suffering that we embrace or the unique outlook and treatment he offers of something as familiar and universal as heartbreak?

While most breakup albums depict their protagonists at their lowest, most broken heap-on-the-floor moment, the songs of Blood on the Tracks treat relationships (and their demise) like a much longer and varied stretch of track. The album awakens with “Tangled Up in Blue”, putting us in mind of a red-haired girl from the past, only to take us through the couple’s story and leave us back in the present with the image of the storyteller setting out to write their next chapter. Dylan credits painter Norman Raeben with inspiring these “time-jumping” songs.

Likewise, “Shelter from the Storm” finds its weary traveler taken in by a woman, with subsequent verses skipping between his departure, additional memories of his arrival, and reflection on their final falling out. In some ways, it’s a more honest depiction of how our minds piece together memories to build a version of the past, but it also allows Dylan to express the idea that the pain he once felt (“Now there’s a wall between us/ Something there’s been lost”) has ultimately led to the gratefulness he later pledges (“I’ll always do my best for her/ On that I give my word”). It’s so rare on this album that any one verse, let alone song, signifies only a single emotion.

Little about the sound of the album itself suggests devastation. There’s certainly a sting to the dirty blues of “Meet Me in the Morning” and a melancholy emanating from both the gentle interplay of guitar and piano on “You’re a Big Girl Now” and the mandolin and organ floating throughout “If You Say Her, Say Hello”. Still, most of Blood on the Tracks opts for acoustic plucking that typically belies this type of subject matter.

The rambling opening of “Tangled Up in Blue” makes us want to strap on our boots rather than wallow in bed, the gallows cabaret of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” could be playing at this harvest’s barnyard hoedown, and the scathing “Idiot Wind” taps into an anger that one rarely associates with the melancholy heartache of breakup albums. Strange of all might be the bouncing, playfully phrased “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, a song that mixes the jubilation of a present dalliance with the disheartening letdown of the inevitable writing on the wall.

But what stands out most of all about Blood on the Tracks remains Dylan’s brutal honesty. While we may never know for certain whom Dylan is singing about or to (if anyone), there’s no mistaking the genuine feelings that are being imparted in these songs. A line as simple as “I’ve got to get to her somehow” (“Tangled Up in Blue”) tells us everything we need to know about the speaker’s desperation and determination.

There’s no misinterpreting the vitriol rising from Dylan’s wounds on a line like “You hurt the ones that I love best/ And covered up the truth with lies” (“Idiot Wind”) or mistaking the helplessness as he wails, “I’m going out of my mind, oh oh/ With a pain that stops and starts/ Like a corkscrew to my heart/ Ever since we’ve been apart” (“You’re a Big Girl Now”). Whether or not Dylan has let us glimpse into his own personal life through these songs hardly seems to matter by album’s end. He’s given us a look at something as sincere as anything can be — real or imagined.

Bob Dylan more blood more tracks bootleg box set

Bob Dylan, photo by Ken Regan

More than 40 years later, we continue to turn to Blood on the Tracks when our own lives turn as messy as the emotions in these songs. It’s an album that understands that pain takes on many different forms while also realizing that our lowest points aren’t that far removed – one way or the other – from our best times. That happiness and pain are part of life’s bargain and inseparable. If Blood on the Tracks was any less painful, it would be dishonest. If it was any less hopeful, it would be pointless.

Essential Tracks: “Tangled Up in Blue”, “You’re a Big Girl Now”, and “Shelter from the Storm”

Superorganism on Potentially Babysitting for Stephen Malkmus 

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Vivid Seats Ticket promoWelcome back to another episode of This Must Be the Gig, the podcast that gives you an all-access pass to the world of live music! The indelible Iceland Airwaves first launched 20 years ago, and this week Lior Phillips checks in with her first in a series of reports from the magical festival.

Lior sits down with two members of the incredible live band Superorganism, just prior to the group’s sublime Reykjavik set. Orono Noguchi and Soul discuss their first concerts, getting to meet (and potentially babysit for) Stephen Malkmus, getting a pep talk from Nardwuar the Human Serviette, and so much more. Tune in next week for even more exciting reporting from Iceland Airwaves!

This episode was brought to you by our friends at Vivid Seats.

Listen above and subscribe now to keep your finger on the pulse of the live music world.

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Meek Mill is dropping a new album later this month 

Meek Mill will release a new album at the end of the month. As Vogue reports, the Philly rapper’s as-yet untitled record will be out on November 30th and addresses “his experiences and the issue of social justice.”

The LP will serve as Meek Mill’s first full-length effort following his release from prison earlier this year after the Supreme Court of Philadelphia overturned his controversial, heavily-criticized sentence. He previously shared his Legends of Summer EP, which included the Miguel-featuring single “Stay Woke”. Meek’s last album was Wins and Losses in 2017.

Since getting out of prison, Meek Mill has taken up the role of an avid advocate for criminal justice reform. Revisit the rapper discussing the subject on The Tonight Show below.

Dan Aykroyd is still trying to make Ghostbusters 3 happen 

You’ve got to hand it to Dan Aykroyd; the quirky comic is certainly tenacious. He’s been trying to get a third entry in the original Ghostbusters series made for almost 30 years at this point. Even after numerous false starts — including the 2016 female-led reboot — the man who played Ray Stantz still has hope. In fact, in a recent interview, he revealed there’s a new script for Ghostbusters 3 being penned right now.

“There is a possibility of a reunion with the three remaining Ghostbusters,” Aykroyd said during a discussion on AXS TV’s The Big Interview with Dan Rather. “It’s being written right now.”

The three he’s referring to are, of course, himself, Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore), and Bill Murray (Peter Venkman). Murray has been notoriously evasive when it’s come to strapping on the proton packs once more (though he did cameo in that reboot two years ago). But Aykroyd went on to say that he’s pretty sure he can get the actor back in the brown flight suit.

(Read: Bill Murray’s Top 10 Performances)

“I think Billy will come. The story’s so good,” he said. “Even if he plays a ghost.”

In the past, Murray has said he’d only consider returning for a third Ghostbusters if he could play a ghost. A script in which his character died in the first scene and came back as a specter was actually once green-lit, according to the original films’ director Ivan Reitman. The plot would have seen Oscar, the son of Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett and — demanding on your interpretation of certain quotes — Venkman’s stepchild or lovechild, picking up the family business. However, Reitman could never reach the infamously hard to contact Murray, and then Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) got sick and passed away in 2014.

Perhaps the new take Aykroyd mentioned is a reworking of that original script to excavate Ramis’ scenes, or perhaps it’s something else entirely. Sony’s Ghost Corps, the production company tasked with overseeing the Ghostbusters franchise, is also working on an animated feature. A sequel to Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call is unlikely considering the hit it took at the box office, something Aykroyd blames on inflated reshoot costs.

Even as a mega-fan with a tattoo to prove it, this writer isn’t so sure we should keep trying to animate a movie like blasting so much echo-slime into the Statue of Liberty. Maybe it’s best to let sleeping terror dogs lie and just be happy that all four GBs were able to reunite for the closet thing we’ll get to a true sequel, the 2009 video game.

Black Sabbath in line to be honored with bridge and bench in hometown of Birmingham, England 

Black Sabbath could soon be turned to steel in the great magnetic field that is the band’s hometown.

According to the Birmingham Mail, the city of Birmingham, England is set to pay tribute to their most famous musical sons by naming a bridge after the band and immortalizing them with a stainless steel bench upon that span. The bench will feature images of the original lineup of the doom metal legends, including drummer Bill Ward, with the words “Geezer. Ozzy. Tony. Bill. Made in Birmingham 1968.” etched upon it.

The bridge in question is situated on Broad Street, a lane that boasts the city’s Walk of Stars, a Hollywood Walk of Fame-style tribute to the famous people that have emerged from Birmingham.

As Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Tony Iommi already have stars on this street, the city council will cap off their tribute to the band by awarding one to Ward and one to the whole band. Those five stars will be set in front of the soon-to-be crafted steel bench in, naturally, the shape of a cross. Other musicians who have stars on the street are Slade frontman Noddy Holder and ELO co-founders Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne.

This project is being spearheaded by Mohammed Osama, an architect and Sabbath fan who lives in Dubai. He says he hopes that this tribute can bring all four original members of the group together one last time. “I mean just reunite them at their home town,” he told Birmingham Live, “no gigs or anything. Just the four them being celebrated together at their home town would be the best ending and closure I could possibly think of.”

The plan just needs final approval by the city council, and it appears that Iommi himself is a fan of the plan, tweeting about the project yesterday:

Black Sabbath wrapped up a nearly 50-year run last year with Ozzy, Iommi, and Geezer playing massive shows around the world and finishing their final tour with two nights at Birmingham’s Genting Arena. Bill Ward was absent from the tour, after financial disputes and other issues caused him to exit Sabbath prior to recording their final album, 13.

Janelle Monáe covers Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “High Tide or Low Tide”: Stream 

Janelle Monáe has already lined herself up a busy schedule for the coming year, having signed on for a number of forthcoming films, including a Harriet Tubman biopic, the animated film UglyDolls, and a live-action adaptation of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. Even with all this on the horizon, she’s not done supporting her latest musical effort and Album of the Year contender Dirty Computer just yet.

Monáe recently stopped by Spotify’s studios in New York to contribute to the streaming platform’s Spotify Singles series. For her entry, she recorded a laid back, wafting cover of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “High Tide or Low Tide”. She also shared a new live version of her own “I Like That”, one with a similarly relaxed, immersive vibe. Take a listen to both below.

Revisit Monáe’s expectedly show-stopping performance of “Make Me Feel” for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert below.

Toto Thinks Weezer Will Play “Africa” Forever 

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Today’s episode of Kyle Meredith With… features classic rock legend Steve Lukather of Toto, who talks about everything from the “pamphlet jerk-fest” of Rolling Stone today to Weezer’s successful cover of their revitalized smash hit “Africa”. Lukather laughed about the band’s take on their song, saying: “They’re gonna have to play that song for the rest of their lives, too!” The guitarist also discussed his new memoir, The Gospel According to Luke, and the prolific combined studio credits of Toto as a whole, which range from Michael Jackson‘s Thriller and work with The Beatles and Ringo Starr.

Kyle Meredith With… is an interview series in which WFPK’s Kyle Meredith speaks to a wide breadth of musicians. Each episode, Meredith digs deep into an artist’s work to find out how the music is made and where their journey is going, from legendary artists like Robert Plant, Paul McCartney, U2 and Bryan Ferry, to the newer class of The National, St. Vincent, Arctic Monkeys, Haim, and Father John Misty. Check back Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new episodes. Rate the series now via iTunes.

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Clutch announce 2019 US tour dates 

Maryland rockers Clutch are gearing up to hit the road again next year. The band just announced a month’s worth of tour dates that will take them around the U.S. in February and March of 2019 to support their most recent album, Book of Bad Decisions.

The tour kicks off on February 19th at The Senate in Columbia, South Carolina, and wraps up on March 19th at New York’s Irving Plaza. Tickets will go on sale this Friday at 10am ET through the band’s website. You can also get them here.

That last date should be of particular interest to New York-based Clutch fans as the band was forced to cancel the second gig of their two-night stand at Irving Plaza last month after frontman Neil Fallon inexplicably passed out on the street in Secaucus, New Jersey. According to the singer-guitarist’s social media account, no cause was found for the incident and the tour picked back up the next night in Philadelphia.

Clutch are currently heading off to Europe for a series of dates starting on November 27th in Amsterdam and have a few more 2018 U.S. dates on the docket, including a big New Year’s Eve gig in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Masonic Cleveland Auditorium.

Clutch 2019 U.S. Tour Dates:
02/19 – Columbia, SC @ The Senate
02/21 – Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
02/22 – Fayetteville, AR @ Majestic
02/23 – Austin, TX @ Stubbs BBQ
02/24 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Varsity
02/26 – Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theater
02/27 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s
03/01 – Billings, MT @ Pub Station
03/02 – Missoula, MT @ Wilma Theater
03/08 – Wichita, KS @ The Cotillion
03/09 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom
03/10 – Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theater
03/13 – Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
03/14 – Green Bay, WI @ The Distillery
03/16 – Snowshoe, WV @ Ballhooter Spring Break, Snowshoe Mountain
03/18 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom
03/19 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza’

clutch tour poster 2019 Clutch announce 2019 US tour dates