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From Wu-Tang to 'Walk Hard'

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From Wu-Tang to 'Walk Hard'

From Wu-Tang to 'Walk Hard'

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(Soundbite of song, "Rushing Elephants")

WU-TANG CLAN (Rap Group): (Rapping) Yo we came through thumpin' like elephants. The new Ranger's (unintelligible).


That would be some of the new Wu-Tang Clan which is released this week, as well as the "Walk Hard" soundtrack sparing no artist feelings and a super secret side project from a multiplatinum selling band - not that big a secret - but I'm trying to build some suspense here.

Andy Langer, a music critic for Esquire magazine joins us. Hi, Andy.

Mr. ANDY LANGER (Music Critic, Esquire Magazine): Good morning.

STEWART: All right. So the Wu-Tang Clan - it's called "8 Diagrams," can you just give us a little background of Wu-Tang for those who are not familiar?

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. I mean this is the most important collective perhaps in hip-hop history and, you know, they've gone onto spawn folks like Ghostface Killah, you know, Method Man, RZA who is the mastermind of the Wu-Tang Clang. And this is the first record and what seems like forever from, you know, all eight emcees - of course, Ol' Dirty Bastard has died since the last record - which makes this one both less light and a little heavier because he's not there. But going into this record, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah both did interviews saying that RZA had taken charge and more so than usual and had ruined the record for them.

BURBANK: They were talking all this crap.

Mr. LANGER: And they got a lot of bad press from themselves going into the record.

STEWART: Let's take a listen to the record on the other side and later in a second we'll talk a little bit more about that rift.

Mr. LANGER: All right.

(Soundbite of hip-hop music)

STEWART: That's the latest from the Wu-Tang Clan "8 Diagrams." What were you saying, Luke?

BURBANK: I was just saying it was amazing to read about them talking all this crap about each other while they're making the record. I wonder does that make for a good record or not, Andy?

Mr. LANGER: It makes for a mediocre record.


Mr. LANGER: This is, you know, this is not as bad as you've heard it might be. It's not as great as you'd like it to be either. I mean it's somewhere in between. It's not the disaster that these guys led you to believe it could be. But it's, you know, it's sort of - it's a little either too soft or lush depending on how you want to (unintelligible) or look at it. It's sort of a middle of the road hip-hop record with a lot of great moments but they're buried between a lot of mediocre moments.

STEWART: All right. Our next up, we have the Foxboro Hot Tubs "Stop, Drop and Roll." First, let's listen to one of the six tracks list on this EP. This is "Ruby Room."

(Soundbite of "Ruby Room")

Unknown Male (singer, Foxboro Hot Tubs): (singing) (Unintelligible)

STEWART: Okay. So there are people out there saying, okay, this sounds tremendously familiar. I know that voice. I know that voice. Whose voice might that be, Andy?

Mr. LANGER: That would be the Green Day or my new favorite band.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: And I'm not sure which. This is supposedly, reportedly, possibly Green Day.

STEWART: Allegedly Green Day.

Mr. LANGER: And if it is, then it's another case of an enormously big band releasing free music on the Internet. If it's not, then it's a great hoax and you've found a band that gave you six songs that you really like, I mean, because these are really well-written, really great two and a half minute pop songs and there's six of them here. They're absolutely free. They're calling themselves the Foxboro Hot Tubs and nobody's denying in the Green Day camp that it's Green Day. Nobody is saying that it is either. And, you know, if it is, this is just another case of free music on the Internet from a huge band and it's something between projects for them. I mean they're working on a big new record and this is just the case I guess where they put some leftovers online but these are really good leftovers.

STEWART: Well, forgive me for not being a Green Day encyclopedia but, you know, other artists like Paul Westerberg has recorded another name Grandpa Boy and who could forget Garth Brooks and Chris Gaines.

Mr. LANGER: I've been trying.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I won't let you forget it. Is this the first time Green Day has ever allegedly recorded under another name?

Mr. LANGER: Well, they allegedly released a record under the name Network, you know, and used masks ala Daft Punk. And they may or may not be Network, but this is the first time that I think, you know, that they've put up the music for free that way, assuming this is Green Day. And that's what make it special is that, you know, there's no cost here. I mean you just go and you can download the whole thing, all six songs free. And, you know, as I say they're good songs, too, which is the bonus.

STEWART: We're talking to Andy Langer. He's music critic for Esquire magazine. Okay. So I've been waiting for this one the "Walk Hard" soundtrack. This is a new comedy due out from Judd Apatow of "Superbad" fame and "Knocked Up" fame, stars John C. Reilly and it basically sends up the whole genre of rock and roll biopics. So in terms of the soundtrack, is it actually John C. Reilly, the actor, performing all the songs?

Mr. LANGER: It is John C. Reilly, the actor, performing all the songs and he's just completed or I guess he completes this week his Cox Across America Tour and he's actually out there…

BURBANK: That's C-O-X.

STEWART: Right. His character's name is Dewey Cox.

BURBANK: We can say that on this show.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Cox Across America.

Mr. LANGER: He's - he's on a six city tour and I actually went to see them the other night here in Austin and they were terrific. I mean as John C. Reilly playing the character for 40 minutes in the club and the soundtrack is…

STEWART: Oh, it sounds good.

Mr. LANGER: …much the same, a bunch of funny songs that fit perfectly with this movie that send-up of, you know, "Ray" and "Walk the Line" and then there's the song we're going to discuss.

STEWART: Let's listen to "Walk Hard."

(Soundbite of song, "Walk Hard")

Mr. JOHN C. REILLY (Actor): (Singing) Walk hard, hard. When they'd say you're all done. Walk bold, hard when they say you're not the one.

STEWART: He can actually sing a little bit, wasn't he in "Chicago" John C. Reilly?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: The musical "Chicago." He's actually got a decent voice.

BURBANK: Well, and also he was in "Boogie Nights." He sings this terrible song "Feel My Heat" when Mark Wahlberg makes a record which he sings so badly on and I guess he was faking it in "Boogie Nights."

Mr. LANGER: I think so. Marshall Crenshaw wrote some of these songs and…

STEWART: Love (unintelligible).

Mr. LANGER: …and the soundtrack song, I mean the title song features Jewel, Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett and Ghostface Killah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: All of four them together.

BURBANK: (Unintelligible).

STEWART: John C. Reilly and it is not the train wreck you think it is. It's - it's really funny. It's - this is going to be a really entertaining movie with just as entertaining soundtrack to go with it.

STEWART: All right. We were talking about giving away your music for free. Big Head Todd is back and (unintelligible) take it, take it all. What's he doing? What's the band doing?

Mr. LANGER: Well, I mean this is a perfect case of where the Internet and where, you know, this sort of new music business model work because this is a band with a recognizable name but it's a band that most people wouldn't cross the street for. And…


Mr. LANGER: …I think the combination of those things makes this where they're going to give away their record. They're giving away 500,000 copies of the record through radio stations who will then split the cost of mailing the CDs. These are real CDs not just downloads. So they're going to package up the CDs, mail them to people that are already fans of similar formatted radio, and that way 500,000 people wind up with the Big Head Todd CD in their home and the theory is people will go and see Big Head Todd the next time they come through town.

BURBANK: Do they realize that that process involves people listening to Big Head Todd's CDs?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: Exactly.

BURBANK: That's where I think it breaks down.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. They say though - and this is the interesting part - they say they see this record as their main marketing tool. It's no longer a source of income meaning records are no longer a source of income. They're going to give it away online for free as well. So you can just go straight to their site and download the record there or you can get it from one of your radio stations that are supporting the Big Head Todd project and they'll send you the actual CD, and so, we'll see. It's a new way, you know, this combination where they're sending physical CDs and their letting you download it for free is in itself interesting and new…

STEWART: All right. With a minute left…

Mr. LANGER: …(unintelligible) every couple of weeks.

STEWART: …with a minute left, Jacob, could you hit the Led Zeppelin?

(Soundbite of song, "Rock & Roll")

Mr. ROBERT PLANT (Vocalist, Led Zeppelin): (Singing) It's been a long time since I rock and rolled…

STEWART: All right. This is the yes or no question for you, Andy. There was this big reunion concert tour last night of Led Zeppelin on stage - good to have them back or maybe we just remember them as they were?

Mr. LANGER: Absolutely good to have them back. Everyone walked out of that place happy. Apparently, the reviews were instant. The YouTube videos I've seen like 11 songs on YouTube already and they look terrific, they sound terrific. And if they go on the road, you know, look, 20 million people try to get 16,000 tickets to this one show - if they go on the road, if they do play Bonnaroo this summer, if they do play America, who is not going to want to see Led Zeppelin

STEWART: Dude, that was a long yes or no, but a good one. Andy Langer, music critic for Esquire magazine. Thanks, Andy.

Mr. LANGER: You got it.

BURBANK: Thanks for listening to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. Enjoy the half second of Led Zeppelin.

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