Thursday, May 24, 2007

Don't Make Me A Target

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Merge Records, 2007

Austin, TX's Spoon has always been one of those "almost" bands. Every time they release an album, it seems to be on the tip of every rock critic's tongue, and yet, they can never seem to get that big break. Not even the big break by indie rock standards. Not even some degree Shins or Death Cab-esque success amongst the college set. Lead singer and principal songwriter Britt Daniel always just escapes recognition as an incredible songwriter, regardless of the fact that Spoon's work is often associated with the new millenium rebirth of the endlessly influential Austin music scene. No matter how much acclaim they recieve, Spoon, like Andy Richter, "just can't seem to attract a real audience."

To be fair, I was one of those people that passed the band over time and time again before actually settling down and listening to 2005's Gimme Fiction, and even then, it was only because I had heard "I Turn My Camera On" on an episode of Veronica Mars and Against Me!'s Tom Gabel had declared it one of his favorite albums of the year. It's hard to recognize what it is about Spoon that makes them so exciting or listenable. There are moments when you want to say that it sounds kind of run-of-the-mill, but there's just something in there that keeps you coming back, trying to solve its puzzle. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga isn't a rock and roll album, and it's not a straight pop album. It straddles the line between rock and pop better than any other band has in the last ten years. The album is heavy on the piano, which is hardly a bad thing. The haunting second track, "The Ghost of You Lingers," fades in three different vocal parts one after the other, sounding (surprise!) like ghosts, while the organ jams away incessantly to a point that's almost obnoxious.

Why Spoon cannot attract an audience is inexplicable. The songs are there. Songs like "The Underdog" and "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case" sound like they could have been outtakes from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. They would fit in on Top 40 stations, they would fit on alternative stations. So why is it that a great song like the closing track, "Black Like Me," will probably never see the light of day, except for maybe in the background of a Coke commercial? Well, I don't really have an answer for that. Perhaps it's not really energetic enough for the rock crowd, or it's a little too simple for the indie crowd. Either way, it's not important. Some of the best artists go unnoticed during their time.

The dub posturing of "Eddie's Ragga" sounds more authentic than it should coming from a pop-rock band from Texas, which kicks off the stellar b-side of the album. While, not to say anything bad about the album's first 5 tracks, it's on the last half where it really picks up steam and shows the progression Spoon has made as a band, and that Daniels has made as a songwriter. The horn section in "The Underdog" sounds like it was lifted straight out of one of the Fab Four's poppiest tunes, which should make for some interesting comparisons, and the rhythm section of Jim Eno and Rob Pope are one of the tightest in operation today, and Spoon is lucky to have them as an anchor for each song.

To say something like, "Spoon has finally released the album that will send them hurtling into mega-stardom," is a complete falsification. After six full-length albums, it seems unlikely that people will be eager to just jump on all of a sudden. Spoon's ethereal and powerful pop-rock hasn't changed in style, it's just gotten better since 1996's Telephono. People who haven't given them a chance by now aren't going to any more convinced to, but hey, it's completely their loss. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a near-perfect pop record without being too boring or over-caffinated, and likely one of the best we're bound to hear this year. (4.5/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Eddie's Ragga", "The Underdog", "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case", "Finer Feelings"
More Along These Lines: The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema, The Beatles - Revolver, Interpol - Antics
Download The Album In The Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

That last "More Along These Lines" is there because Interpol and Spoon have similarly tight rhythm sections. It's something I've always compared about the two. I'm on the last leg of this 16 hour RSR shift. I get to go home in about 30 minutes, which is exciting, althought I'm dreading the thought of walking home. Big props to my man Austin on this review. A lot of what appears in here came from a conversation we were having while I was writing this.

I'd have more to say, but I just posted like 8 hours ago, and in that time, all I've done was sit and watch TV. Although, I have been watching Rock Star, starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston, and man, that movie BLOWS. "So stop watching it," you tell me. Oh yeah, and why don't I stop breathing while I'm at it. Dick.

That's it for today. I'll be back tomorrow, as always. I might go to the movies tonight, so I might have something to say about that. Later, skaters.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Well I've Got Rhythm & I've Got Dreams

Fake Problems - How Far Our Bodies Go
Sabot Recordings, 2007

Potential. It's one of the last things a band on the verge of their big break wants to hear. Unfortunately, it's the word that's going to get tossed around in the direction of Florida's newest sons, Fake Problems. That's not to say that these boys (seriously, these kids are barely of age) aren't innovative in their own right. They obviously have a great understanding of the songwriting process, and some great lyrical styles, but at the age these boys are sitting on, they could be the Beatles and they'd still get that term thrown at them. So does it stick?

The short answer; yes. While Fake Problems has produced one of the most impressive and original sounding debuts punk has seen since Reinventing Axl Rose, it still has that air of over-zealousness that leads a band to ignore their tiny mistakes. Sometimes a flawed record is a good thing, though. A sense of youthful exuberance is all over this album though. Like some bastard child of pre-Communique American Steel and Tim Barry of Avail's solo work, How Far Our Bodies Go is a true punk-country hybrid, Fake Problems are able to bring in instruments like a mandolin and a violin and make them rock out loud. Tracks like "Staying & Leaving as Living & Dying" and "Busy Bees" are perfect examples of this. Lead singer Chris Farren has also taken on a more autobiographical style of writing, replacing heavy-handed political statements with quips and antecdotes about leaving college and childhood memories of his mother.

A lot of the new subject material has made this album a much more intense venture than the band's first two EP's. Every second of songs like "To Repel Ghosts," and "Maestro of This Rebellious Symphony," feels like the band is about to explode out of your headphones, tearing a hole through your head from one ear to the other (once more, youthful exuberance). However, it's not the exuberance that's keeping the band down. The more energetic songs come across great. It's the slower songs where the band starts to falter. The interludes and reprises are unnecessary, and take up space on the end of songs that would otherwise be easy to listen the whole way through. The last two tracks of the album are so lacking in that exuberance that they just sound comparatively lazy.

So is "potential" one of those words I'm going to have toss back in this band's face? Unfortunately, yes. While Fake Problems have finally released some material that's an actual reflection of their live show (read: good), they're still spending too much time on their idea of artistry. Fake Problems have written nearly two handfuls of incredible songs, but they are somewhat marred by the fact that the listener is forced to sit through lackluster interlude tracks and lazy ruminations. But like I said, there is a lot of potential here. Let's hope that by the time their next album drops, they'll have been able to cut away some of that fat. (3.7/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Born & Raised", "Maestro of This Rebellious Symphony", "To Repel Ghosts", "Life's a Drink, Get Thirsty!"
More Along These Lines: Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose, Tim Barry - Laurel Street Demo, Drag the River - Hobo's Demos
Download The Album In The Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
Fake Problems - How Far Our Bodies Go

Weird that two of the "More Along These Lines" albums were demos, huh? I even almost chose Against Me!'s Vivada Vis demo tape as well, but decided that it was a little too folksy. I guess that's a good example of that youthful exuberance and inexperience I was talking about in the band. Today's review was pretty short. I'm debating whether or not I'm going to actually do another one before my 8 A.M. - 4 P.M. shift is done. But then i remember I'm probably going to be so wasted after my first 8 hour shift at RSR that I'll sleep through the second one. Why I've chosen to participate in what's known around my house as the "16 hours of pain," I've no clue. But here I am.

I started my first summer class today. It's "Coming of Age in Cinema," which, believe it or not, also has it's own blog, which I've handsomely linked over in the links section of this page. I'm excited about the class, it should be pretty fun, most of the movies we're screening are pretty awesome (the ones I've seen, at least, which is like 5 out of 16 of them). Sorry about the small image size on this post, this is sincerely the largest image I could find on the tubes. It's a shame, because it's good artwork too. Steak Mountain does some great work.

I'm not sure I enjoy this terrifying anime show on Adult Swim. Shin Chan, I believe it's called? It has to be one of the raunchiest shows I've ever seen, right up there with Bill Plympton's more X-rated material.

Alright kids, I'm going to try and sleep a little maybe, and I might post again during my next shift, and I might also finally finish this Sociology project I got an extension on last week. I might also decide to re-watch all of season 3 of Veronica Mars on AllUC. Or decide that I want to finally start watching Heroes. Either way, I'm in for something or other. Sorry I'm not so eloquent right now, but it's 4 in the morning and I've been up since 9. Later skaters.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Dashboard Melted But We Still Have The Radio

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Epic Records, 2007

Isaac Brock is a complete maniac. What other man in the world of indie rock would have the audacity to just call up legendary Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr, and ask him to help write his band's new album? Crazy a ploy/gimmick as it sounds; Brock has made one of the smartest moves of his career in enlisting Marr to join the band. This album contains some of the most abrasive and most accessible songs in Modest Mouse's discography. Aside from the second single, "Missed the Boat," there's not a single track on the album that sounds like any of Marr's work with that other band.

Together the two indie rock visionaries have crafted, as Brock calls it, a "nautical balalaika carnival romp." We Were Dead is an underwater album in the vein of Ween's The Mollusk. Granted, in terms of composition, the two albums sound nothing alike, but both sound like something you'd hear on a cruise ride on a glass submarine, only Modest Mouse's sounds like it's taking the submarine equivalent of the Titanic on a trip through the arctic. I suppose the comparison is kind of irrelevant, but it's the only other nautically-themed record I could think of off the top of my head.

The album kicks off with the rollicking "March Into the Sea," with Brock unleashing his famous bark against a stomping beat supplied by always impressive Jeremiah Green, breaking violently through the quiet squeeze-box organ intro. The first single, "Dashboard," also holds up nicely with an extremely danceable beat, accompanied by Marr's distinct talent for melody. As a first single, it's a perfect follow-up to the band's work on 2004's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, showcasing a familiar sound and infusing it with an overall idea of what the album sounds like. The album is full of tracks that traverse this line. "Fly Trapped in a Jar" and "Florida" are great old-school, quirky freakouts centered around the band's jagged guitarwork and Brock's trademark vocal style. On the other hand, slower-going tunes like "Parting of the Sensory" and "Fire it Up" are both slower, quieter, and more reminiscent of the Mouse's more recent work.

The real standout of the album, however, is the epic "Spitting Venom." The song takes a Decemberists-esque acoustic guitar riff that almost sounds like Brock just fucking around. Something that might have been a 30 second interlude on the band's last album. While you're trying to figure it out, at the 1:30 mark, the whole band suddenly barges into the frame, like they're ambushing Brock, who thinks he's doing a simple acoustic tune. Luckily for everyone, he decides to go along with it. The song continues to run in cycles like this, slowing down, and then picking back up in full force, culminating in a 3 part harmony as the horn section wails away in the background.

Modest Mouse are, if anything, consistent. With the exception of Good News, if you like one song on the album, it's likely you'll like the rest. The nice thing about We Were Dead, is that it throws some caution to that formula. However, it's not quite enough to supply the variety that the band is really capable. Fortunately, with this album, the songs are solid enough, that it's easy not to mind listening to that same structure for 14 straight tracks. (3.9/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "March Into the Sea", "Dashboard", "Spitting Venom", "Invisible"
More Along These Lines: The Arcade Fire - Funeral, Man Man - Six Demon Bag, The Pixies - Trompe le Monde
Download The Album In This Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Much like with yesterday's review, you can look at this as me playing catch-up. I couldn't really find the right note to end that review on, so you're left with a poor concluding paragraph. Deal with it. Like I said yesterday, the season finale of Veronica Mars was on tonight. It was good. In some ways, it exceeded many of my expectations. Like how I thought it'd be a cop-out to throw Veronica and Logan back together just to make everyone happy, even though that's what I really wanted to see. They tackled it well. Logan (played to perfection by scientologist Jason Dohring) got to beat the shit out of two different dudes, there was tons of bloodshed, Dick revealed a budding problem with alcoholism, Jake Kane made a reappearance, plus there was tons of Wallace, which is something that had been missing for a while. All in all, a solid episode(s), but an unfortunately premature ending to a show that had an extremely bright future.

My first summer class starts tomorrow, but don't let that deter anyone, because I'll still be working these ridiculous 4-Midnight shifts at resident safety, where I'll have plenty of time to write one entry a day. My relief is probably showing up here momentarily, so I'm going to cut this a little short. I'd like to remind everyone again to check out that new Okkervil River track, it's bangin'. The link is in yesterday's post. Also here's a link to the new Interpol tune. I'm digging it. Reminds me more of Turn on the Bright Lights than Antics. As always, enjoy your evenings, I'll be seeing y'all tomorrow. Later skaters.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I Hope You're In Your Car Right Now, Turning This Shit Up So Loud

Lifetime - Lifetime
Decaydance Records, 2007

It's a story we've all heard a thousand times. Band goes unrecognized during their time, only to be fully appreciated after their demise. Everyone lamets the fact that the band split and wishes and wishes for a reunion, and when it finally happens, they all get excited. Then the band decides to record some new material that sounds a little poppier than it used to and their whole fanbase cries "Sellouts!"

After Lifetime reunited after an 8 year hiatus for a few shows in the summer of 2005, no one had really expected a new full-length within the next two years. What came even more unexpectedly was the fact that it would be released on Fall Out Boy Pete Wentz's label, Decaydance. Lifetime's two proper full-lengths for Jade Tree Records were the stuff of legends; part Husker Du, part Jawbreaker, all Jersey. So there was rightly a lot of speculation about what the album would turn out like. Fans of Lifetime should, in fact, be worried about this album, because all of the mall punk kids hanging out at Hot Topic are going to love it, and the worst part is, so are they.

Lifetime isn't really a departure from the the sound the band forged at all, but that speaks volumes for the driving melodic hardcore that Lifetime helped innovate. It holds up. The intro to "Try and Stay Awake" is a throwback to Jersey's Best Dancers' "Cut the Tension," and "Haircuts and T-Shirts" harkens back to everything you loved about every song Lifetime has recorded. In fact, the only discernable difference between the eponymous album and any of Lifetime's previous output is the change in lead singer Ari Katz' voice from a slightly mumbled, corpulent shout, to a slightly higher-pitched sing-speak, which make for a plethora of "Ari was better when he was fat!" jokes.

The lead track, "Northbound Breakdown" is one of the best opening tracks so far this year, with a chorus you'll be singing by the second time around, and a ridiculous breakdown, and the closer "Records at Nite" is a quintessential Lifetime breakup tune. Lifetime have a gift for not wasting any time. If you're thinking you can skip the last 15 seconds of any track on this album, you're probably going to miss the moment that will sell you on the song. Mr. Katz' gift of gab is second only to the honorable Blake Schwarzenbach in terms of punk rock balladry. His compelling and heartfelt words have always been the perfect compliment to his band's pop-punk-core. You'd be hard-pressed to find a punk out there who won't melt at a line like "I don't trust a thing in sight when everything is overrated. You're so good you just can't fake it." Katz lyrics aren't the only star of the Lifetime show though. Scott Golley's dextrous and powerful drumming carry many of the songs, pummelling each roll and crash with force and agility.

So what's the answer to the big question? Does it hold up to Hello Bastards and Jersey's Best Dancers? Admittedly, it is a much more commercially viable record, but a majority of that has to do with the musical climate of today. Lifetime is a more than worthy addition to a legendary band's catalogue. The band goes on to once again make it acceptable for even the most hardened of "punx" to have a heart. (4.3/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Northbound Breakdown", "All Night Long", "Can't Think About it Now", "Records at Nite", "Haircuts & T-Shirts"
More Along These Lines: Saves the Day - Can't Slow Down, Embrace - Embrace, Shook Ones - Sixteen
Download The Album In The Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
Lifetime - Lifetime

Hey guys, this one was a little late today. I know the album came out in like February, but I feel like I've got a lot of catching up to do these days, so I'm kind of arbitrarily choosing albums for my reviews. Has anyone ever seen reruns of like the first 2 or 3 episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? There's this whole extended theme song that's a good 2 verses longer than the one we're all accustomed to. It details his momma packing his suitcase and his flight over in first class while he ogles the stewardess' tits. It's a little awkward and disillusioning.

In less exciting television news; tomorrow night, the CW network is airing the final two episodes of the brilliant and recently cancelled Veronica Mars. It may surprise a lot of you to know that VM is my favorite show on television (or was, rather), but The Simpsons hasn't been good since I was in middle school, and Arrested Development already got cancelled. But seriously, if you enjoy this blog, you'll probably like V Mars. It's got the same "snarky veneer of intellectualism," as I believe Lewie phrased it. Also, it has Kristen Bell, who is smoking hot, and the love of my life.

There's no link today, which I believe I explained to you fuckers yesterday. Seriously, I'll get that up and running again soon. Also, I found a track from Okkervil River's upcoming LP over at Pitchfork Media, and it's fantastic. Will Sheff's vocals are astounding, and it's got that same "big" Okkervil sound I've come to love. You'd do well to check it out. Your life will be better because of it. That's all for today, guys. I'll be back tomorrow with some shit or another. Later skaters.

Post Script: One of my roommates just clued me into this fancy screening of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. It's being done at the Lincoln Center on Sunday (5/27), and it's a restored print that's apprently never been screened before, plus a Q&A after with one of the actors, who also helped create the fucking lens Kubrick invented to make the film. You can click this link here, if you're in the New York metropolitan area and want to check it out. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Summer Preview '07 -or- I'm Too Lazy and Unfocused to Write a Whole Review

The summer album release marathon always comes with a lot of excitement/anticipation/disappointment. Much like the summer blockbuster movie season, a lot of this year's biggest albums will drop between May and August. What this little post plans to do is prepare you for it. I've got 5 tracks from 5 of the most anticipated albums of the summer. I've listened to them over and over and over again just so I can tell you all about them. Enjoy!

The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"
From the album Icky Thump (due out: 6/19/07)
There's a lot of worried speculation about this record. The White Stripes recording on digital equipment? Absurd! Well fear not, because at least "Icky Thump" is a hit. Choosing this title track as the lead single was a bold move by Jack White. It's far and away the most difficult single they've released, but it works. The track contains some of White's most impressive guitar work, and changes its style at the drop of a hat. It's a complicated song, but what it says about the rest of the album is bold as hell. Lead single says "most accesible track," and if "Icky Thump" is the most accessible track on this album, I'm psyched to see what other kind of insane shit Jack and Meg have come up with for Icky Thump. The song is worth it for the 3 separate guitar solos and the stomping organ riff in the song's intro. (4.2/5 Stars)

Against Me! - "White People for Peace"
From the album New Wave (due out: 7/10/07)
This album probably isn't in the same echelon as say, the new White Stripes or Kanye records, but it's got a place in my heart, and it is probably the biggest punk album coming out this year. That being said, I picked up this final version of "White People for Peace" from their tour-only 7 inch, after having heard it a couple of times live, plus some random YouTube videos of it. To be fair, this has been my least favorite track that I've heard from this album, which isn't to say that it's bad, it's just a little lackluster. The overt political message reminds me a lot of Searching for a Former Clarity's "From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Energizer)", which also wound up being a single that I didn't particularly care for. Musically, it's a much slicker track, and almost, dare I say, trendier sounding. It has been growing on me as I've exhausted the hell out of it, but it's still a pretty weak single for a band that can do a lot better. Oh well, at least it's not as bad as "Full Sesh," the b-side of this 7 inch. (3.2/5 Stars)

Kanye West - "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
From the album Graduation (due out 9/18/07)

This track was a big disappointment to me. Kanye sounds lazy as hell on it, and the lyrics leave a little to be desired. I dig the beat, but I feel like Kanye is trying way too hard to be Jay, and unfortunately, that seems to include aping his reitrement home sound from Kingdom Come. I'm still reserving some hope that the rest of Graduation will reaffirm my faith in Mr. West, but this is a very poor first impression coming from a man whose first two records had great singles. Not to mention the reappearance of Coldplay's Chris Martin on the album. What the fuck is next? Coldplay drops their next album on Roc-A-Fella and brings Dame Dash along as hypeman on their next tour. Come on guys. (2.0/5 Stars)

Aesop Rock - "None Shall Pass"
From the album None Shall Pass (due out 8/28/07)
This track has been in my head since I first heard it. It's nice to hear a good old fashioned Blockhead beat again. Aesop is at the top of his game on this track. It's simple, repetitive, and limber, and it's catchy as fuck. This is, hands down, my most anticipated hip-hop album of the year. And the recent confirmation that The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle will be guesting on the album just makes it more exciting. (4.0/5 Stars)

Queens of the Stone Age - "Sick, Sick, Sick"
From the album Era Vulgaris (due out 6/12/07)

I'm not yet completely sure what to make of this tune. It's much more harsh and abrasive than any other single QOTSA have released. It kind of makes sense though. The way Josh Homme has described the upcoming Era Vulgaris, is that it was inspired his daily commute through Hollywood, which he's described as being "dark, hard, and electrical." The track features Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas on Casio synth guitar and backing vocals. It has the same trippy, spaced-out atmosphere, and fuzzed-to-death guitar that I've come to love about the Queens, but it worries me if this is what the whole album is going to sound like. Josh Homme's voice is still in top form, and the band doesn't seem to have slipped much after the loss of Nick Oliveri, but I definitely couldn't handle a whole album of this. For extra gross-out factor, check out the video for the track. Terrifying. (3.7/5 Stars)

Download all 5 tracks here:

Hey guys! I realize I took a considerable amount of time off there, but I unfortunately fell into that whole "post-spring break realize I've got a ton of shit to do and the year is almost over" thing, and I just never got back to this bad boy. Unfortunately for you, here I am. My semester just ended, and I've got two more days before my summer classes start, so I'm going to try to update this sucker more often. I've got an ass-ton of stockpiled reviews/review ideas that are just sitting around that I need to throw on here. The only bad news is that free links might have to stop for a while because my external hard drive (where I keep all of my music) got pwn3d, and I need to take it to Best Buy for a full data backup, but sooner or later, they'll start again. If I really get off my lazy ass this summer, I'll try to update this every day, or at least every other day. I know I said that during spring break, but come on, I've got 3 months of nothing here. I need something to keep my brain going.

But hey, it's summer. I'm going to go outside tonight and grill myself a big ass steak, have some beers, and maybe take a nice jaunty little walk around the neighborhood. Later skaters.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

It's Blood. Son Of A Bitch.

Directed By: Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino (featuring Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, & Edgar Wright)
Dimension Films, 2007

Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have become, as of late, every male film geek's wet dreamweavers. Rodriguez' Sin City set a new bar for every comic book film to follow, and Tarantino has been making films for film majors since 1992's Reservoir Dogs. Needless to say, Grindhouse is the team-up that every nerd that works at Blockbuster has been waiting for, and the film delivers on everything that gets their Back to the Future panties wet. Grindhouse is 3 hours and 15 minutes of blood, gore, laughs, gore, curse words, pop culture references, B-movie shout-outs, and more gore. But most of all, Grindhouse is just fucking fun.

The film begins with a trailer for a Rodriguez film starring Danny Trejo (Desperado, Con Air) as a Federale hired by the FBI to do a hatchet job in the U.S. called Machete. As the only trailer for a real film in the movie (it's going straight to DVD, look out for it), it's not worth a whole lot of mention here, but it looks awesome, so there you go.

After a credits sequence borrowed from Tarantino's previous two films, the Kill Bill series, Rodriguez' "zombie" flick, Planet Terror begins. Planet Terror stars Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer sans leg in a west Texas town who must escape the outbreak of a deadly virus that is turning people into zombies. Josh Brolin knocks his role out of the park as a doctor trying to get to the bottom of the outbreak, and Marley Shelton's role as his vindictive and mysterious wife is also spectacular, especially the scene where she's attempting to get her anesthetically impaired hands to open her car door. The best things about B horror films that you love laughing about are here: the unnecessarily convoluted plot, the gratuitous blood and gore, the sexy femme fatale. The plot twist where you learn that Bruce Willis' character, Muldoon, killed Osama Bin Laden, who unleashed a biological attack on his men, is absolutely hysterical. Like all the best cheap zombie directors, Rodriguez is able to convince you that he's completely serious.

The best gag, however, is the "Missing Reel" plot device. One moment, Freddy Rodriguez and Rose McGowan (complete with wooden peg leg) are about to get their fuck on, the next, the rib place they're hiding out in is on fire and surrounded by zombies. The characters make references to things that happened that we've missed, but in such veiled terms that it makes it that much more amusing. Quentin Tarantino makes a brief appearance as a creepy military officer that attempts to rape Marley Shelton and Rose McGowan. The unfortunate part of this (or maybe the fortunate part) is that you can tell Tarantino wanted to be menacing, but just came across as creepy. And not creepy in a genuine sense, but creepy in the sense that it's Quentin Tarantino trying to rape Marley Shelton and Rose McGowan.

Rodriguez' half of this double feature embodies everything that Grindhouse should be. He plays up all of the cliches of the B movie business, and somehow manages to do it with a straight face. There's not a whole lot of substance here, and it's honestly more of a comedy than a serious horror film, but it works. Like I said, it delivers exactly what it promises.

Between the two features, there is an especially lovely treat in the form of three fake movie trailers by some of today's leading horror directors. Rob Zombie (a personal favorite) leads the pack with Werewolf Women of the S.S., an hysterical send-up of Nazi horror films like Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S.. Revered German actor, Udo Kier makes an appearance in the trailer, as does Nicolas Cage in a great turn as Dr. Fu Manchu, the head of the werewolf operation. Following Werewolf Women, we get Edgar Wright's (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) offering, Don't, which features a spectacular voiceover from Arrested Development's Will Arnett. Eli Roth's slasher film, Thanksgiving brings up the rear, and is actually better than any two minutes from the entirety of Roth's previous work.

After the trailers, we segue into Tarantino's film, Death Proof. From the get-go, the film is very Tarantino. The problem overall with Death Proof, is that it's way too Tarantino. The dialogue is witty and quick, but there's too much of it that doesn't go anywhere. In the film, Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a retired stuntman that delights in murdering sexy girls with his car. After a long and drawn-out segment at a bar, Stuntman Mike kills some girls he meets at a bar. This segment is unbelieveably weighed down by Tarantino's dialogue, bloating what should only be a 10-15 minute segment into nearly 45 minutes. The film recovers somewhat in the second half, with a bitchin' chase scene, and some great stuntwork by the lovely Zoe Bell. Again, the "Missing Reel" gag comes into play, but it's completely unnecessary and Tarantino doesn't play on it at all. It's hard not to feel like Tarantino dropped the ball on his half of this film. Too much dialogue, too much homage, and not enough substance. Russell's character seems to do a 180, going from a calculating badass, into a scared little girl. The main problem with Death Proof is really that it's just way too Tarantino. It seems as though he becomes way too emotionally invested in what he produces to know what to cut from his films. The second half of Death Proof feels more like the sequel to the first half, instead of feeling like the same movie. The only thing they share is the principal character of Stuntman Mike. Bitching aside, Death Proof delivers some solid performances from Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, and Kurt Russell. And when it's not being too full of itself, it manages to eke out some great lines and a killer fucking car chase.

Overall, Rodriguez' Planet Terror trumps Death Proof on every front, but the real stars of the show are the auxillary players that bring the fake trailers. Wright, Zombie, and Roth all slay their parts, and prove that brevity is, in fact, the soul of wit. That's not to discount either Rodriguez or Tarantino (well, maybe a little bit), but it's proving the point that it's the little things about Grindhouse that make it so enticing. The little details like the ads and the trailers and the pre-credits credits and the worn look of the film and the cigarette burns. The beauty of this film is in the details, but when it comes down to it, it still leaves a little bit to be desired. (3.4/5 Stars)
More Along These Lines: Steven Speilberg's Duel, George A. Romero's Living Dead series, Rob Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses & The Devil's Rejects

I Never Met A Traitor I Didn't Like

Hot Cross - Risk Revival
Equal Vision Records, 2007

There are few releases slated for 2007 that came as hotly anticipated as Hot Cross' Equal Vision debut, Risk Revival. After the "screamo" supergroup (comprised of former members of Saetia, Joshua Fit For Battle, Off Minor, and even the founding drummer of Matador darlings, Interpol) jumped ship from Virginia's highly regarded Level Plane Records for greener pastures in the recently floundering Equal Vision, there was a lot of speculation as to how Risk Revival was going to turn out. Especially after its release date of August 2006 got pushed back six months after the band was unimpressed with Mike Hill's production.

Suffice to say that there was no sense in worrying. Unless, of course, you're the kind of person that is a bigger fan of times when Hot Cross was just Saetia Jr. instead of loving them for becoming their own band on 2003's Cryonics. If you're looking for the old-school Hot Cross, it's not to be found here. This album is decidedly more rock n' roll than any of their previous material, and former band member, Josh Jakubowski came through in the clutch after the firing of producer Mike Hill. Dual guitar parts from Casey Boland and Matt Smith (also the bassist) fill every void of silence in the album, making Risk Revival like a perpetual motion machine. It's very clear that the band has been listening to a lot of Drive Like Jehu, and the proverbial wall of sound that the instruments create is direct evidence of that.

When listening to some songs, you feel like the sound never stops. The band goes on and on without resting, and when you think a riff is over, it just picks up and starts again. All the hallmarks of Hot Cross' post-A New Set of Lungs material are there; complex and intricate guitar parts, frenetic drumming, and shrill vocals. However, what sets Risk Revival apart from other albums by the band is the expansion into new territory. Lead singer Billy Werner, known for his spitting/screaming work in Saetia, makes a lot of attempts to actually sing on the record, and believe it or not, a lot of it turns out to be pretty good. While some of the lighter fare falls flat in light of scorchers like "Kill the Name", "Turncoat Revolution", and "Fire the Foundations", some of the attempts at changing up their style prove to be successful. "Cardiac Silence" sounds like a garage rock reinterpretation of Pg. 99's glory days, and the doom-inspired "Silence is Failure" drudges through at a key point in the album, not to mention the barnburner of a closing track, "Scrape Wisdom".

Hot Cross are incredible musicians, and unlike a lot of bands in the same genre, they want you to know that. Unlike friends in bands like Lickgoldensky, Welcome to the Plague Year, and Combatwoundedveteran; Hot Cross doesn't want to focus on chaos. From the first moment, it's easy to recognize how structured each track is, and how well composed everything is. Like Don Caballero meets Rites of Spring. In the end, though, Risk Revival comes across like a Fun House era Stooges that's been practicing all day, every day in a meth lab that's actually just a small closet. And that sound is what makes it the best aggressive album so far this year. (4.3/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Turncoat Revolution", "Fire the Foundations", "Cardiac Silence", "Scrape Wisdom"
More Along These Lines: Saetia - A Retrospective, Yaphet Kotto - We Bury Our Dead Alive, These Arms Are Snakes - Easter
Download The Album In This Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass: Hot Cross - Risk Revival

Yo, yo, yo! I'm back, reporting from the Empire State (where Ghostface retired Ma$e). I seriously can't get enough of that damn Hot Cross album, awesome cover art, and great driving music, especially if you're driving through New Jersey. And it's surprising because I was kind of bored by it on the first couple of spins. I'm glad I waited this long before writing a proper review. However, I've been listening to quite the diverse playlist lately. Since my spring break, it's been pretty much all Megadeth, Girl Talk, and Hot Snakes. Seriously, I've been rocking Girl Talk's Night Ripper like three times a day for the last week. Imagine being able to hear every song on the radio at any given moment at the same time. That's what listening to Girl Talk is like; mash-ups to tha x-treeeeeeeeem! Speaking of To Tha X-Treme, the new Devin Tha Dude record is solid, I'll have a review for it sometime in the near future.

I'm switching over to MediaFire for my file-hosting needs at the behest of my boy Harrison, also, because apparently the links never die and it uploads faster and all that jazz. Honestly, I like it a lot better, it's solid. MegaUpload can puff a dick. Anyhow, there's another Flavor of Love marathon on (Season Two this time!) today, and I'm going to continue watching it, and maybe make myself a ham sandwich on white bread, and maybe download some porn. I saw Grind House the other day, and so I might also go ahead and review that along with Children of Men. But for now, I'm a watch Flava Flav get him some action on a boat. Later skaters!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Flavor Of Love Is Still On

I suppose technically now, it's the reunion episode, but it's all Flav. This is just a quick little update to let y'all know that along with my reviews, I'll be posting links to download the album. I thought this would be a nice little addition here, so if one of these reviews entices you enough (or if you's just broke), you can check it out, free of charge. Just a little gift from me to you. Just check out the link at the end of each review (album reviews only, i can't give live sets from the shows I go to, mostly because I don't have them to share).

Also, a shameless plug for my boy, Professor Nazty Fresh over at Better Than Butt Sex. The fool does almost the same thing that I do, except more hip-hop oriented, and much more funny. Peep the Professor and his proverbial posse of proteges at this link:

They use words like "illustrious", which is a word I learned in the fourth grade when I wrote an alliterative report about Illinois.


There's A Flavor Of Love Marathon On, So I'm Paying Attention To You

El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead
Definitive Jux, 2007

El-Producto (born Jamie Meline) is, without a doubt, one of the most important figures in modern backpacker hip-hop. So important, in fact, that it's damn near impossible to address anything he does without mentioning his groundbreaking work in Company Flow or his highly successful label, Def Jux.

Consider them mentioned.

It's hard to believe that it's been five full years since El-P dropped Fantastic Damage, his first full-length. Any reviewer would like to say that in that time, his style has changed, or that he's relaxed a little after turning thirty, like a lot of rappers disillusioned by the game do, but the fact of the matter is that he hasn't. He's the same dude he's always been, and if anything, he's more paranoid, more frantic, and more dense than ever, and it all shows on I'll Sleep When You're Dead.

Another thing that shows is the kind of company El-P keeps. The album features guest spot from your fallbacks on the Def Jux roster. You got Aes Rock throwing down a verse on "Run the Numbers", which is probably the hottest track on the album. On the flipside of that, the untalented and overhyped Cage (formerly of the Smut Peddlers) helping out on "Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love)", which is probably the weakest point on the album. Slug and Murs provide backup on "The League of Extraordinary Nobodies" and Lif shows up for backups on "Up All Night". That's not the interesting part though. All over the album, there's live bass contributed by Yo La Tengo bassist, James McNew (who apparently shares an apartment building with El-P). Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala show up to add guitar work and vocals to the opener, "Tasmanian Pain Coaster", Glassjaw/Head Automatica frontman, Daryl Palumbo adds vocals and keys to "The Overly Dramatic Truth", Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails sings the hook on the lead single, "Flyentology", and indie-rock sweetheart, Chan Marshall (Cat Power) duets with El-P on the closer, "Poisenville Kids No Wins".

When El-P set out to make this record, he wanted to create a "psychedelic Boogie Down Productions record," and it's safe to say that he's accomplished it. The album is thick with heavy beats, and there's hardly any space to breathe in it. Admittedly, El-P's strength isn't as a rapper, but he makes up for it with his immaculate and diverse production work. His strength is in the way he is able to match his almost awkward vocal style to his beats. The denser his rhymes get, the denser his beats get, and the more he lets loose, the more frantic the beat becomes. For the most part, the album consists of the traditional Def Jux sound; tracks like "Smithereens (Stop Cryin')" and "Drive" wouldn't sound out of place on damn near any Def Jux release. At the same time, El-P is traversing a lot of styles here. "The Overly Dramatic Truth" is almost like a ballad, and probably the closest El-P's going to come to a love song. This track is where a lot of the live instrumentation becomes apparent, and it works well with his style.

"Flyentology" sounds like El-P's remix of a Nine Inch Nails song he made up in his head. In fact, a lot of this album reminds me of a time when Trent Reznor was more beat-oriented (I call that time 1999). The at once grimey and lush production is reminiscent of NIN's double-album The Fragile, and it holds up without being too overbearing.

Unlike with some of his recent work (High Water, I'm looking at you), Lazerface rarely missteps on this album. It's everything he's good at; diverse instrumentation, claustrophobic vocal delivery, experimental soundscapes. If El-P can drop a solo album like I'll Sleep When You're Dead every five years, he's going to continue giving backpackers all over the country something to strive towards. (4/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Run the Numbers", "Flyentology", "Drive", "Tasmanian Pain Coaster"
More Along These Lines: Aesop Rock - Bazooka Tooth, Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus, Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile
Download The Album In This Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead

So I've been slacking a lot lately here. It's been, what, a month, since I last posted. Today we got a nice fancy review of El-Producto's new album, and as an added bonus, i'm adding a review of the El-P show I caught at the Bowery a couple of weeks ago. In addition, since I'm on spring break (woo) these days, I'm going to try to update everyday for the next week or so, depending on how many papers I feel like not writing. In the coming week(s), look for reviews of:
Hot Cross - Risk Revival (Equal Vision Records)
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic Records)
The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Matador Records)
Citizen Fish/Leftover Crack - Deadline Split LP (Fat Wreck Chords)
Air - Pocket Symphony (Virgin/Astralwerks Records)
Nine Inch nails - Year Zero (Nothing Records)
Along with whatever albums I've been listening to lately, plus whatever movies I feel like talking about, so that should be fun.

But sincerely, kids, it's been a rough couple of weeks out here on the island. I'm trying to keep up, but it ain't easy to run a blog that nobody reads. I'm currently stuck at work with nothing on television but a Flavor of Love (Season One) marathon, so I felt like I'd give you fuckers something to read. Before I start this review of the El-P show, I'd like to state that it's not going to be quite as professional as other reviews I write, seeing as how when I showed up, I had missed the opening acts and was fairly whiskey drunk. Anyhow, here it is, it should explain everything. Later, skaters!

El-P/Aesop Rock/The Weathermen/Def Jux Allstars
Bowery Ballroom, NYC, 3/22/07

On the average Thursday night, I'm drunkenly attempting to get a bunch of unruly college kids to focus on creating a humor magazine so that we can finish our meetings and go get drunk(er) somewhere. It's a rare event that will cause me to give this up. El-P and Aesop Rock at the Bowery Ballroom is that kind of an event. Being that I had been loving El-P's new record and that Aesop Rock is kind of like Jesus to me, I couldn't resist.

That evening, I set out for Queens to meet up with a friend and get my whiskey on in his apartment. After a run-in with another friend of ours, I departed, drunk, on the F line downtown, and when I finally arrived, I saw (literally) the last 20 seconds of The Weathermen's set. A little disheartened, I was still psyched about Aesop Rock being on next.


Now, let me explain that this is my second time "seeing" Aes, and the first time, he split a set with RJD2 and did 2 songs altogether ("Coma" and "Fast Cars"). After waiting, El-P takes the stage. I'm confused, wondering if maybe I had caught the end of Aesop's set, and if I had, why had Aesop gained so much weight.? Either way, I embraced the fact that I'd never see Aesop live and moved on to be psyched about El-P. El-P's set was absolutely solid. He played damn near every song off I'll Sleep When You're Dead (and goddamn near in order). The transition of the songs from the studio to a live setting with live bass and drums and keys was pristine. Everything sounded great, Camu Tao was hyping the crowd the whole time, and El-P had mad energy.

About halfway through the set, El-P brought out Aesop, and they did "Run the Numbers", and then as a bonus treat, Aesop stuck around to perform "None Shall Pass" the title track from his upcoming full-length. I've been having trouble getting over what a great song "None Shall Pass" is, and it's nice to see Blockhead back on the beats for Aesop. After that, Aes left the stage, never to be seen again, and El-P finished out the set on his own. Introducing "The Overly Dramatic Truth", El-P introduced his backing band as R.O.D. (or Room of Dudes, if you will), and declared that they were working on an album, which could prove to be an exciting take on rock music. Or a complete disaster, I'm not quite positive yet.

The set finished out with "Poisenville Kids", and an encore comprised of songs from Fantastic Damage, which featured "Deep Space 9mm", "Accidents Don't Happen" (bringing Cage out for the second time in the evening), and "Constellation Funk". After the show, I picked up a sick Def Jux t-shirt, which someone has pointed out to me, may have been designed for a woman. I refuse to believe it, personally. Also, I was able to snag ISWYD on vinyl for ten bucks, which was mad sweet. I finished out the night by driving home and drinking wine from a box while my friend Chandy got naked. All in all, though, a good experience. (3.5/5 Stars)

Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Breakdown After the Disco

Against Me! w/ The Riverboat Gamblers & Fake Problems
Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ, 3/2/07

New Jersey is widely recognized as being one of the most terrifying places in these United States. Against Me! is widely recognized as being one of the most intelligent and exciting live acts in those same United States. The combination of the two makes for some interesing events.

Against Me!'s following has grown larger and larger with each ongoing year. This particular show being this reviewer's tenth (count 'em, 10) show, I had never seen such a large crowd at an Against Me! headlining gig. Not to mention the collective age of the crowd seemed to hover around the area of 16. But again, that's neither here nor there.

Florida's Fake Problems opened the show, and played very much like a younger, more handsome version of their headlining statemates. They most certainly won the crowd over, and after having heard some of their recorded work previous to the show, it's quite clear that they are a much stronger live act than a studio act. As long as Fake Problems can keep good company like Against Me! and O Pioneers!!! (and apparently whatever other bands have exclamation points in their names. Shit, why don't we mention !!! and On! Air! Library! while we're at it?), they'll go far in the world of punk.

Unfortunately, Texas' Riverboat Gamblers were very much the opposite of Fake Problems. The Gamblers' records are good dumb punk rock fun with a heavy dose of solid garage rock, however their live show was sporadic and over-the-top. Lead singer Mike Wiebe spent his entire set trying to get the crowd involved, running back and forth, twirling the microphone, climbing on the P.A.'s, and doing David Lee Roth-style mid-air splits. However the one thing he forgot to do for a majority of the set is sing. Wiebe spent more of the set as a hype-man than as a frontman. While his bandmates were able to keep up the backups during the drunken singalong choruses, and it was fun to see Gorilla Biscuits drummer, Luke Abbey, filling the vacant spot in the Gamblers' roster, their scatterbrained frontman was unable to keep up with the rest.

Against Me! is a band that doesn't often disappoint, and when you get them at the top of their game, you're in for one hell of a ride. Against Me! were clearly on top of their game last night. After seeing a couple of consecutive lackluster Against Me! tours, it finally seems like Gainesville's favorite active punk band have finally rediscovered themselves, and rediscovered their love for what they do. From beat one, it was clear that this show was about having fun. After months upon months of having to deal with the "sellout" label, Against Me! is finally comfortable with who they are, and what music they're playing. This setlist was truly one for the fans, featuring heavily songs from Reinventing Axl Rose and As the Eternal Cowboy. With the exception of the three "singles" from the Searching LP, there was no other material to be seen from their last album. Keeping with their traditional no bullshit sets, Tom saved his banter for the last song on the setlist, which only consisted of a mere "Thanks a lot."

The new songs sounded fantastic. It's clear that Tom's been rocking his Replacements back catalog real hard lately (if their stellar cover of "Bastards of Young" wasn't enough proof), and it's coming across incredibly. The new songs sprawl and snap a lot like "Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry, Balled Fists" (a personal favorite of mine), which serves as a great indication as to what New Wave is going to sound like.

However, the biggest moment of the night came after the setlist was completed. After cheering for an encore, the band re-emerged from the backstage area. There's not much of a way to make this more or less exciting or any way to butter it up or anything like that, so here it is:

The first encore of the night was the title track of 2002's The Disco Before the Breakdown EP. The magic of this particular song is that it's an extremely rare treat for any fan of Against Me! to see it performed live. Some people go to ten Against Me! shows over the course of four years before they ever see it played live. Some men are even content to never see the band again once they've seen it played. It's that big a deal.

Against Me! has the power to bring a room (no matter how big) together for an hour plus change like no act on this planet right now. Their old songs still sound great, and the new ones sound just as good. The sky is the limit when it comes to this band's potential. (4.5/5 stars)

And just for shits and giggles, here's the approximate setlist from that show:
Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
Cliche Guevara
From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Energizer)
Rice & Bread
New Song 1
Walking is Still Honest
You Look Like I Need a Drink
New Song 2
Reinventing Axl Rose
Americans Abroad
Sink, Florida, Sink
Don't Lose Touch
New Song 3
T.S.R. (This Shit Rules)

The Disco Before the Breakdown (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)

More news after this commercial break.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Who Do You Love?

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Living With the Living
Touch & Go Records 2007

Most critics and fans alike will agree that Ted Leo can do no wrong, and for the most part, they're all correct. Mr. Leo's newest jaunt is his fourth full-length (first for legendary Chicago imprint, Touch & Go Records), and by a longshot his most ambitious album to date. Produced by former Fugazi drummer, Brendan Canty, Living is brimming with everything you could want from a Ted Leo album. Lean, speedy post-punk jams, quasi-dub movements, even a good handful of lengthy tracks reminiscent of fan favorite, "Stove By a Whale." But somehow, this album sounds simultaneously more and less like Ted's past work.

The album's opener, "Sons of Cain" is a classic Pharmacists rock-out. Chris Wilson's drumming is tight and speedy as always, as Ted begins his frenetic strumming. This track, along with "Who Do You Love?", and the closer, "C.I.A." wouldn't sound out of place on any previous Pharmacists album. What's always been incredible about Mr. Leo is his ability to learn from his past. Not simply his musical influences, but his own musical history. From The Tyranny of Distance to Hearts of Oak to Shake the Sheets, he has taken the best parts of each album, and incorporated them into their successors, all the while adding new things to build from.

However, the difference between Living and say, Shake the Sheets, is that with Living, it may perhaps be just a bit too ambitious. While Leo scores with the reggae posturing of "The Unwanted Things", and hits home runs with the sprawling "La Costa Brava" and "The Lost Brigade", he manages to overreach just a little bit with the shorter tracks like "Colleen" and "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb."

In reality, this album is structured very much like his previous works. Ted Leo has a crack band, and he's a punk rock savant, who, unlike most in genre, is able to take all of his influences (The Pogues, latter-days Clash, The Jam, Billy Bragg, Minor Threat) and actually make them work together. He can create simple songs that will apply to the most hardened of hardcore kids, the most simple of Top 40 listeners, and the snobbiest of indie rockers all at the same time. Even with a few missteps on this album, Living With the Living still holds true to the same ethos and musicianship that Ted has always promised. (4/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Sons of Cain", "La Costa Brava", "The Unwanted Things", "C.I.A."
More Along These Lines: The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy, & the Lash, Billy Bragg - Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, Stiff Little Fingers - Inflammable Material
Download The Album In This Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Living With the Living

A few swift news items from the past week before we all move on with our days:
  • Rage Against the Machine added three new dates to their reunion show/now tour of SoCal. Unless you'll be in L.A. late this summer, it's probably not worth it to you.
  • Jeff Rosenstock's electronic-ska act, Bomb the Music Industry! have finished demo-ing their new album, and plan to record soon, with a tour to follow.
  • Naked Raygun made Chicagoians very happy by announcing 2 reunion shows in their hometown, featuring guests like Dillinger Four and The Bollweevils.
  • Hardcore stalwarts, Gorilla Biscuits announced a tour of Germany.
  • North Lincoln posted a couple of demos in preparation for a very busy year.
  • Former Godflesh frontman, Justin Broadrick's new band, Jesu, who just recorded a new album, were detained on their way into the states this week in support of Conquerer, and were forced to cancel some shows.
  • Former None More Black teammates, Colin McGinniss and Paul Delaney (also of Kill Your Idols) have announced a new act, called Ram & Ox, possibly in response to the announcement of former NMB frontman Jason Shevchuk's new solo act, OnGuard.
  • Thomas Barnett & Rob Huddleston's old outfit, Inquisition are reuniting as well.
  • The Onion's A.V. Club interviewed the almighty Ian MacKaye
  • El-Producto detailed his new album, I'll Sleep When You're Dead which will feature guests like Trent Reznor, Aes Rock, The Mars Volta, & Cat Power. Check out the first single, "Flyentology" (featuring Mr. Reznor), on iTunes right now.
  • While on the subject of album details, Josh Homme and the Queens of the Stone Age detailed Era Vulgaris, and will also feature Trent Reznor, in addition to Mark Lanegan & Julian Casablancas.
  • Shearwater signed to Matador Records and planned a re-release of last year's Palo Santo.
  • The Jesus & Mary Chain tickled everyone's balls with talk of a new album and more tour dates.
That's the end of that folks, stay tuned next week for reviews of the new Leftover Crack/Citizen Fish Split album, Against Me!'s live show in New Jersey on Friday, and perhaps a full review of my top 10 of 2006. We'll see where the week takes us. Later, skaters.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

This Ain't No Party.

To be fair, that title's a bit of a lie. Not to say, of course, that this blog is anything like a party, because, hey, this is the internet; it's hard to have internet parties unless you're still in the fourth grade and AOL "lesbian" "chat rooms" are back in style.

But I suppose that's neither here nor there.

What is here is this fancy new blorg. This is heretofore your new stop for musical jibber-jabber and various other exclamations of "I Pity the Fool," because, if I may remind you, this ain't no foolin' around. I'm like Mr. T if Mr. T was more like Ice-T. Just saying. I took the name for this page from one of my favorite Talking Heads tunes ("Life During Wartime" from the good but not great album, Fear of Music) and made an adorable little current pop culture reference to Panic! at the Disco, all the while making the statement that you will not find Panic! at the Disco on this site, except of course for in the title.

This will more than likely begin as a weekly blog, probably updating on Fridays or Saturdays, or perhaps even on Sundays. It'll contain album reviews, show reviews, film/DVD reviews, a handful of interesting music and film news bits, top 10's, and a plethora of other interesting and terrifying stories and other odds and ends and such.

As an introduction though, I struggled for a while over which album I'd want to review to make for a good, well, introduction. I wanted it to be something good, somewhat recent, a little unknown, but a good indication of my tastes and what I plan to tackle within this blorg. My decision ended on one of my all-time favorite albums; DJ Shadow's 1996 hip-hop masterpiece, Endtroducing... (the cover of which, you can find at the tippity top of this post). Enjoy.

DJ Shadow - Endtroducing...
Mo'Wax Records 1996

When people think of the label, "hip-hop", they don't normally picture a white kid from Southern California. In 1996, DJ/Producer Josh Davis (a.k.a. DJ Shadow) changed all that. In one fell swoop, Shadow released his first solo record, gained credit for creating the halfway-popular "Trip-Hop" trend that followed through to the late 90's, and made the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the first album based entirely on sampled sources. Shadow sampled everything from old radio and T.V. commercials, archived speeches, drum loops, and artists as diverse as The Beastie Boys, Stanley Clarke, and Masters of Ceremony. And that's just on the forty-eight second intro track.

Davis is less a musician and more a conductor on this album, piecing together rhythms and movements, queueing up every single instrument and putting them into perfect poisiton. And the beauty of Davis' work on this record is that, despite only using pre-existing sounds, he manages to make the entire thing sound like one living, breathing organism. The album sounds alive in a way that every other electronic album before (not to mention the ones that tried to copy it after) had never been able to accomplish. Tracks like the opener, "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt," and the single, "Midnight in a Perfect World" both sway and swell with bold, shimmering keys, while the drums in the background crash away almost sloppily, but the closer you listen, the more you can see where it's all going. These songs are, dare I say, like The Bealtes at their finest moments; you can imagine every note, even if you can't hear it, and you know exactly what note is coming next. That's not to say that the album is predictable, it's saying that it's got such an understandable flow to it at points that you can feel Shadow's vision and you know exactly what he's trying to do.

However, not every song is designed in such a way. The more epic tracks like "Changeling/Transmission 1" & "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain" switch channels without warning, careening from metal blastbeats to funk rhythms to old fashioned hip-hop and soul breaks. But even with this seemingly sporadic and A.D.D.-style form of songwriting, it all makes sense. Unlike with most albums or songs where we see frequent changes in tune or time, Endtroducing... doesn't need or provide the time to readjust. Shadow keeps on like a steam locomotive with the brakes cut, stopping for nothing, flying through landscapes, all the while with it's eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Even forgetting the sheer scope and mythology surrounding this album, it's undeniable that this is not only DJ Shadow's strongest work, not only one of the best albums of the 90's, but one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever concieved. (5/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt", "Changeling/Transmission 1", "Midnight in a Perfect World", "Mutual Slump"
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DJ Shadow - Endtroducing...