Openings (Sort of): The Violet Hour

imageIf we were perfect, face it, you’d be a little suspicious. And indeed, the late 2007 opening of this cocktailers’ paradise did manage to sneak by us; but a recent life-altering visit made it necessary to correct this tragedy. Enter through a secret, (naturally) boarded-up Wicker Park façade into a film-set-dramatic Victorian gothic space (all lavish curtains and resplendent chandeliers) manned by sexy, tattooed hipsters in vintage evening wear.

Toby Maloney (ex of N.Y.C.’s Milk & Honey and Pegu Club) and his fellow tipple artistes make magic of cocktail classics nouveaux, from a menu broken down by base liquor—all to a lascivious ’60s soundtrack. Cell phones are gloriously forbidden. If Nick Cave were a bar…

Openings: La Cite de la Mode et du Design

imageIn Paris, the answer to every civic problem might actually be: more fashion! Indeed, anchoring the Docks de Paris project revival of a downtrodden Left Bank industrial site along the quai D’Austerlitz, La Cite de la Mode et du Design is set to be the capital’s fourth museum dedicated to matters sartorial. As the name indicates, this one will also address a broader spectrum of design, and up the fab factor by incorporating designer boutiques and a chic rooftop restaurant from the people behind Georges, the Pompidou’s futuristic eatery in the sky.

I Dream of Dubai

imageDubai is the UAE’s Vegas, a place where petroleum-funded glitz and the slightest hint of self-consciousness ne’er do come within a thousand kilometers of one another. And all those jet-setting glamour-pusses who have been invading its shores obviously need hotels of correspondingly shameless profligacy in which to bed down. The new Intercontinental offers up 500 rooms of incredibly swish luxy along historic Dubai Creek. It’s all about the spectacular views and unmatchable service.

The Desert Palm (pictured left), conversely, is an oasis for epicures with poolside villas, on-site squash courts, wine tasting, horseback riding and dining amongst the stars (both kinds, probably). There will be pricey bubbly.

Gilding the Frilly

imageAh yes, the new gilded age. New York now flaunts the sort of wealth disparity that has inspired entire nations to revolt. And if Wall Street is the Versailles of high finance, this is surely its Petit Trianon. Another winner from those purveyors of chic sleeps at Thompson Hotels—led by tastemaker Jason Pomeranc—Gild Hall features such signifiers of the posh life as a private library, champagne bar, Slim Aarons photographs, and sheets with really, really high thread counts.

The overall feel is more mod-rustic than austerely modern, which should make Todd English’s soon-to-come sophisticated tavern the perfect stylistic complement. An embarassment of riches? Ah, let them eat hot dogs!

R.E.M. Cycle

imageDarker, rockier, a bit more weird, Accelerate is R.E.M.’s least detached album in years. Michael Stipe sings with passion, and Peter Buck’s authoritative jangle is fully present. R.E.M.’s accelerated vitality seems linked to a rediscovery of their roots. “Living Well’s the Best Revenge” is a Dylan-meets-Clash rocker; the “Sweet Jane” guitar hook on “Supernatural Superserious” reiterates the band’s debt to the Velvet Underground. “I’m Gonna DJ,” meanwhile, retrofits the band’s already apocalyptic 1987 hit “It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” with a frustrated irony reflecting our current societal dystopia. Fine, indeed.

Malcolm McLaren Fires Off!

image1. I hate airports: They smell like old socks, rotting bodies, and filthy food. The cattle ranch aspects, the airless, timeless, boring sense of death about them. Their pretense at being beacons of knowledge about the cities they are built around. They’re presumptuous and odious products that are supposed to inform us and celebrate the city they fly out of and the cities they fly into.

2. I hate warm, red wine from California. I hate the words “Californian zinfandel,” Californian “champagne” (Champagne is a place, a part of France where only champagne can be made.)

3. I hate the English. They are a nation of liars. Their survival depends entirely on how successful they are at practicing a culture of deception.

4. I hate TVs in taxis; London and New York both have them. They make you lose faith in information. They destroy your imagination. They ruin your appetite for everything, including sex. They are a curse on people and animals. Taxis were the last place you could rest your feet and not have to buy anything, be sold anything, where you might simply make love in the back seat. Now, it just feels like war getting from A to B.

5. I hate certain people who speak with dull confidence. I experienced it once with an English girl’s parents whilst Christmas holidaying in France. I locked myself up in a church afterwards, just to get away from them. I never had sex with that girl again.

6. I hate anyone who speaks badly of Apple (the company). It is the best thing about America besides Thom Browne.

7. I hate music that doesn’t look like anything. 8. I hate fashion that doesn’t have the “beat.”

9. I hate myself if I can’t understand an idea.

10. I hate not being an artist all the time.

The Breeders’ ‘Mountain Battles’

imageThe band’s first album in six years sees the Breeders holding fast to the sound and vision that has been theirs since Safari and Pod. Now, as then, the backbone of Battles is the famous breathy Deal vocal, high, sweet, and little girlish. This is a relief because the songs they sing are fragmented modernist pieces; stories in search of narrative and ending. The most successful track, “German Studies,” is, sadly, in German.

Get out that Berlitz CD. “It’s the Love” crackles with vintage Breeders cheer. To those nostalgic for Clinton-era indie pop, these thirteen tracks will bring succor. But like all trips home, the house feels smaller than you remember.

The Duke Spirit Kills Wimpo Rock with ‘Neptune’

imageIf wimpo rock (i.e. Travis) is dead, this is absolutely one of the bands that assisted in its glorious murder. Blonde bombshell Liela Moss is like Blighty’s own Brigitte Bardot (minus the shite politics), her arousing, husky-voiced sexuality giving the impression she would as soon devour you as seduce you. Her boys back her up with the sort of colossal but intensely visceral riffs worthy of Suede or the Jesus and Mary Chain. “Without joy, joy, joy and the rain/ I could feel forever the same,” Moss howls. Fortunately, this one’s a bloody monsoon.

Getting ‘Awkward’ with Be Your Own Pet

image“What’s the point of doing something/ If you can’t feel the pain?” Jemina Pearl roars in “Super Soaked,” the leadoff track on Get Awkward. Frontwoman Pearl makes you feel the pain, all right: she exudes the feral hardcore charisma of Darby Crash, Exene’s boho intelligence, the shoutalong melodies of Brody Dalle, Bikini Kill’s DIY anger—yet still comes off individual and untainted. When Pearl’s anti-diva expressionism fuses with her band’s hyper art-garage attack, the volatile compound provides extra-lethal teenage kicks.