;It's quite possible that not all followers of this impossibly hip column are young. Well, those readers, along with my chronically nostalgic New Yorker buddies, will dig the Sound of the City box set that was released this week. The crypt keepers over at Time Life have dug into the repository and come up with this omnibus of doo-wop that's worthy but very white, considering the genre's black roots. But that's because the scope here is decidedly narrow and focuses on Italian-American groups in the New York area between 1956 and 1966, thereby giving the term "doo-wop" a tickling new meaning. Nifty racial epithets aside, the three-disc anthology includes a booklet with background on each track and a foreword by doo-wop king Dion.

;;Though not quite as interesting as the cassette comp I made from a stack of old 45s belonging to the aunt of one of said New York friends, this collection is comprehensive and contains some primitive recordings of songs ("Barbara Ann") that later became big hits for other groups. A nice trip back to da ol' neigh-buh-hood.


;The beat

;Turns out, every day isn't like Sunday. At least not like the Sunday of July 15, which was a melodrama-rama that started at Hard Rock Live with His Royal Miserableness Morrissey. Though he's past his fighting weight, figuratively and physically, the English crooner still commands adoration as the Elvis of the alternative generation. For better or worse, the old boy's schtick has stayed true, with iconic voice and teen pinup ambition still intact. Being that histrionic seldom comes without consequence, though; in one of many moments of self-induced swoon, he tore off his shirt, revealing a dumpling physique and sharply reminding everyone that time has indeed marched on. Opener Kristeen Young packed some heavy theatrics herself. With a starkly effective stage and lighting setup and some of the fiercest plinking a keyboard has seen in quite awhile, her charged set rained down the angst like a punk rock Tori Amos.

;;Later that night, the Social was the scene of a more self-aware sort of schmaltz: burlesque cocktail act Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. Their deal, in case you don't know, is that they trawl contemporary popular music for songs to interpret as comic lounge-jazz. So, sure, it was a nominally amusing show. Thing is, even though their tack is fetching, its sheer obviousness wears thin. Dick Cheese & Co. are a novelty act, and like all novelty acts, there's that point when you've had enough. And that was reached before they got off the stage.

;;Two nights later at the Social, a couple of acts proved that anyone can have a career – or at least their 15 minutes – in rap these days. Gutter prince Mickey Avalon claims a rough past pocked with drugs and prostitution (though how much of it you believe is up to you). But instead of expressing himself through punk rock like any self-respecting junkie whore would, he's decided glam-rap is his calling. I'm all for the whole carnival-of-debauchery thing, but he's one of the many no-talents who clearly mistake the simplicity of what Peaches is doing as easy. Wrong. In the face of bush-league rapping skills, the packed house was a triumph of image and story line over talent.

;;Also stinking up the room were his boys Andre Legacy & Dirt Nasty with a set that was similarly bawdy and equally lame (again, the whole not-being-able-to-rap thing). Their string of exaggeratedly hard rhymes about cocaine and hookers was more stand-up comedy than anything resembling music. Which woulda been fine if it were, y'know, funny. The only yuk-worthy fact here is that Dirt Nasty is actually Simon Rex, the former MTV veejay and, yes, star of gay masturbation films (under the name "Sebastian").

;;The night's sole redemption was hearing Phat-N-Jazzy cornerstone DJ BMF play to a large crowd that wasn't his own, forcing him to at least stick his head out of the hip-hop underground that he rules. And he proved his craft by playing known, easily-digested songs (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Outkast) remixed with sick basement beats, the kind of roughneck breaks that made Baltimore's DJ Equalizer famous.

;;After a bit of hibernation, Brooklyn chamber-pop band Ladybug Transistor has emerged, landing at Back Booth July 21. Most acts of this pastel ilk aren't just content but actually aspire to become wallpaper. But with a new, more resolute stride, Ladybug Transistor stood out far more than most of their contemporaries. Though this sort of indie pop hasn't been especially fashionable this decade, Ladybug sounded invigorated with great attention to detail, Gary Olson's expressive baritone and a great guitarist (Ben Crum, also of Great Lakes) who really wants to be in a country band.

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