Thursday, May 31, 2007

Unyielding Commissioning Loves L.A. like Randy Newman

Couldn't find a Magic Johnson Article: Fishbone is touring, and you should check them out. Chances are if you live in another country, you're more interested in them, but they're only one of the greatest live bands in history. I haven't seen the new lineup sober (and when I say sober, I'm referring to them, not me), but based on the album, I have to think they're pretty solid. I'm still bitter about the fact that I was out of the country when they played Illinois (that's right - Illinois, not Chicago). My dad sent me this article discussing the current state of the band and their tour. It sounds like Angelo is getting a bit burned out. So go see 'em. And bring your Nuttmeg...

Also interviewed this week, Perry Farrell in the Onion A.V. Club. He also touches on the late 80's LA scene, how these band got their start, and how they changed the music industry. They mainly talk about his new outfit, Satellite Party, but it's worth a read.

No mo'! Lollapalooza has added a bunch of kids' bands as well as moe. I saw moe. open for The Who last fall. Let's just say I was not impressed. The lineup is getting bigger, but not looking at all better. I'm more pumped up for Pitchfork right now. The bands they add are a helluva lot more compelling.

How's the rawk up there? Full time baller and avid music fan Paul Shirley's new book is getting good reviews. He's a quality writer, but I've yet to read his book. You can purchase it here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

OWR: Super Size Me

71: Blithe

In Defense Of: The Mosh Pit

There are times in life when I feel I am fortunate. They may not come that often, but for certain opportunities into which I’ve stumbled, I am grateful. In my life as a music fan, I’ve caught many an amazing performance and had some wonderful experiences at shows. But there are many who can say that. I’m lucky because I was able to catch the last days of beautiful mosh pit perfection. I was going to write that moshing gets a bad name these days. However, it is more accurate to say that moshing doesn’t have much of a name at all. When’s the last time you went to a concert with a mosh pit?

See, the pit used to be a wonderful place that was totally dictated by the band’s performance. There was a natural ebb and flow to its energy. When the music would get crazy, so would all the kids in front of the stage. In that craziness, there would be crashing and bumping, and maybe even a jab or two. Every person was entitled to their individual display of exuberance while contributing to something bigger than themselves. There was something organic about the movement of the pit. Some would have people running full speed across the open space, others would have more of a circular, swirled motion, and some were just people jumping up and down together. It didn’t necessarily help the band interact with the crowd better, but fans felt more involved with the show. You couldn’t help but derive more enjoyment from the performance.

Additionally, every single person in that pit viewed you as a brother. If someone fell to the ground, those around him would immediately stop and help him up. Nobody was out to hurt anyone else. People did not attack one another. When the band played a slower song, the moshing stopped because it was all about the music. There was never moshing for its own sake. Some may prefer having a seat at a concert, but even if you stand, you’re stuck in the assigned spot declared by your ticket stub. You can’t passionately jump around to the music you’re hearing. Well, you can, but only within your two foot area. And God forbid you accidentally bump into another person. In the pit you were free to roam. If you were somehow stuck behind the tall guy with unkempt hair or sweaty dude in a leather jacket, it didn’t matter because everyone was going to move as soon as the next song kicked in. It was an egalitarian place. No one deserved a better time than anyone else. Again, we were all brothers.

I started by saying that I caught the last days. I figure I went to maybe three or four concerts with great pits. It’s an opportunity I will always cherish. Because soon after I was discovering my love of the mosh, it was dying on the vine. I saw Smashing Pumpkins at Metro right when Siamese Dream was released. I was astonished to see that there were people wearing tie-dye shirts and hiking boots. I had no idea that hippies were into the Pumpkins. Unsurprisingly, they had no idea what they were doing in the pit. They were actually crowd surfing when no bands were on stage. I couldn’t believe it. It clearly annoyed the hell out of everyone, and Billy Corgan even addressed it during the show, saying, “If someone is jumping on your head during the slow songs, just dump them on their ass.” My disdain for these hippie-come-latelys reached its peak when one of them was surfing during the intro to Window Paine (a slow build). He was flailing his arms and legs like an epileptic and I caught a hiking boot right in my eye. I immediately grabbed his ankles and threw him down to the ground. I was angry. But not just because I had been kicked in the face during one of my favorite songs. Because I had the feeling that moshing was about to die.

Sadly, I was right. As the alternative genre took over popular music, kids who’d seen too many Pearl Jam videos thought they knew what moshing was all about. I recall being punched in the face and kneed in the crotch. That never should have happened. I got in a shouting match with some fourteen year old girls at a Tool concert in Detroit because they were shoving unsuspecting people in the back, forcing them into a pit they had no interest in joining. They felt it was their right to do whatever they wanted. I nearly punched a 14 year old girl that night. But this isn’t just about me. At Woodstock ‘94, kids moshed to Joe Cocker. Joe freaking Cocker! At Woodstock ’99, Limp Bizkit played a song about breaking things, and the fans lost their damn minds. Moshing's worst moment was far more tragic. At a Korn concert last summer, a father was murdered by a fan who took mosh pit violence to an extreme.

But it's not moshing's fault. Like many things that began great, the masses immediately corrupted it. There are some who are actively trying to recapture those days. I’ve given up. Most people at shows these days like to stand around and applaud when the band is finished. And that’s fine. Really. People should enjoy themselves however they prefer. You can’t mosh by yourself. And I’ve lost faith in other fans’ ability to know how to behave. But I will always revel in those shows where I felt like I was somehow more than just a fan watching a performance. I was a small part of the music. Me and my brothers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Busy as hell today, but I thought you might enjoy this. The camera's a bit shaky, but the band sounds excellent. This was from the Sunday show - I think Friday's verison of Haiti was better, but perhaps that was because I hadn't seen them play it before.

Back with an impassioned "In Defense Of" tomorrow.

Monday, May 28, 2007

OWR: The Prestige

66: Ostentatious

Schwarzenegger Sunday: Total Recall

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders above. Note – there will always be spoilers.

Arnold plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who has recurring dreams about Mars which quickly lead him to obsession. He goes to Rekall to have a fake Martian memory implanted. However, before they can implant the new memory, he has a “schizoid embolism” and is placed in a cab while still unconscious. As he tries to go home, he finds himself attacked by various thugs and then his wife. He manages to escape a series of violent shootouts before discovering via a taped message that he’s not really Douglas Quaid, but a man named Hauser who was working for Vilos Cohaagen, governor of Mars. After informing him of his previous memory replacement, Hauser tells Quaid to go to Mars to destroy Cohaagen’s operation. Upon arrival, Quaid meets Melina, a prostitute with whom Hauser had history. Melina brings Quaid to Kuato, the leader of the Martian rebels. Kuato is able to unlock Quiad’s buried memories of alien artifacts within Mars. However, in meeting with Kuato, Quaid unwittingly leads Cohaagen’s forces to him. They kill Kuato and Quaid is set to be refitted with Hauser’s personality. Quaid is able to overpower the technicians, get to the alien artifacts, defeat Cohaagen and start the alien reactor which in turn provides Mars with a clean, breathable atmosphere.

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: Arnold has a few lines here, but most are in the second half of the movie. The Quaid character was originally written as more of a milquetoast and was punched up a bit after Arnold was cast. Once Quaid gets in touch with his inner Hauser, he tosses out a few decent ones 5
“Whatcha been feeding this thing?” “Blondes.”
“You wouldn’t hurt me, would you sweetheart? After all, we’re married.” Quaid shoots Lori in the head and says, “Consider that a divorce.”
A deformed gentlemen says, “You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face around here, Hauser.” “Look who’s talking.”

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Arnold plays it pretty straight, so there are not very many lines here. The ones listed above are the best, save one more which we’ll get to shortly. 3

“I’ll be back.”: This is n/a, which surprised me. There was the perfect opportunity for it in the scene where they’re about to reprogram Quaid as Hauser. Cohaagen could have said, “Yeah, but you’ll be Hauser,” or something a bit wittier than that…

Smarmy Villain: Vilos Cohaagen is played by Ronny Cox, who is basically reprising his role from Robocop, but somehow far more evil. Cohaagen is ruling Mars so ruthlessly, you wonder what he’s really getting out of it. Sure, he’s probably rich as hell. And at one point he explains why he’s “such a happy person”: “Because I've got the greatest job in the solar system. As long as the Terbinium keeps flowing, I can do anything I want. Anything. In fact, the only thing I ever worry about is, that one day - if the rebels win, it all might end.” You might remember Cox from his first role as the reasonable and just Drew from Deliverance. Here, he’s as sinister as can be. This is a man who kills his own goldfish solely out of rage. After shutting the air out of one section of Mars, killing Kuato and apprehending Quaid, he is asked whether air should be returned to said section. His response, “Fuck ‘em. It’ll be a good lesson to the others.” 10

Rough and Tumble Henchman: We’ve seen a lot of classic henchman here at Schwarzenegger Sunday, but no one embodies the category quite like Michael Ironside’s Richter.He is fiery and determined, pouring every last ounce of energy into killing Quaid. The fact that Richter’s girlfriend is “porking” Quaid as part of her assignment certainly doesn’t help matters, nor does the fact that Quaid later kills her. Look at the glee on his face when he thinks he’s managed to kill Quaid: Richter is as tough as they come and hell bent on stopping Quaid at all costs. 10

Diminutive Sidekick: Quaid doesn’t really have a sidekick. Kuato helps him a bit, and he makes Danny DeVito look huge. He’s small enough to live in another man’s belly. The closest thing to a sidekick is Benny the taxi driver, but he ends up turning on Quaid once they meet Kuato. n/a

Rejected hot love interest: Quaid’s wife Lori is played by Sharon Stone in her absolute prime. I can still remember seeing this movie in the theaters and being somewhat in awe of how attractive she was. It would be understandable if Quaid simply wanted to continue as a construction worker on earth, being satisfied with a woman this good-looking. However, he not only denies her pleas to keep on truckin’, he shoots her in the head. I can’t fathom a greater rejection than that. 10
Not nearly hot enough love interest: Rachel Ticotin’s Melina is certainly attractive, but not on par with Stone. She’s athletic and sleazy and demure, just as Quaid requested at Rekall. She’s tough, too, but again when compared to an in-her-prime Sharon Stone, she’s not nearly hot enough. 7

Arnold yelling: Arnold is yelling, shouting, and grunting throughout the entire film. The very first scene is a dream where he falls off a cliff on Mars, landing on a rock where which breaks his mask. I believe the opening line would be written: “Aaaahahhahahlalhahhhhh!” The high point of his yelling, and also one of the better lines he drops is when he is using a giant high-powered drill to kill Benny and he hollers, “SCREEWWWWW YOOOUUUUUUU!” 10

Arnold cursing: We don’t get a poignant curse word here because Arnold is cursing throughout the entire film. In fact, everyone is. Apparently Mars is not a place big on decorum. My two favorites are probably when the thugs attack him after he goes to Rekall and he exclaims, “What the FUCK did I do wrong???” and when he tells Cohaagen, “That’s the best mindfuck yet.” 7

Arnold crazyface: Pretty solid, eh? 8
Superfluous Explosions: There are some explosions here, but not at the superfluous level to which we’ve become accustomed. The only truly superfluous one is when Quaid leaps from the Johnny Cab, and tries to run him down, crashing into a wall before blowing way up. The car appears to be electric, so I’m uncertain of how on earth it would explode like this. But beyond that, we get a few small bursts. This probably makes sense because a big explosion on Mars would lead to a cracked dome and everybody dying. 5
Director: Paul Verhoeven made a name for himself when 1987’s Robocop hit theaters with its subversive view of the future. Total Recall established him as a major director, a distinction he solidified with Basic Instinct. However, his next film, Showgirls, was a critical and box-office bomb. He did not work with Arnold again, but according to the DVD’s featurette, they’re still pretty good friends and thoroughly enjoyed working together. Arnold had been a big fan of Robocop and claims that Total Recall was a major boost to his career.

Franco Columbu: n/a

Sven Ole-Thorsen: Sven does not appear in the film, but he is listed as a “Trainer.” I’m not sure if he simply parlayed being Arnold’s buddy into a free trip to Mexico, or if he actually did some work. 3

Shirtless Arnold: When Arnold wakes up from his dream at the outset of the film, he’s shirtless, and possibly completely naked in bed. After that, he keeps his clothes on for the remainder of the movie. 4

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: There are various brutal killings throughout the movie – 77 in all. But they broke the mold with this one. After departing from Quaid under the assumption that he would soon be Hauser, Cohaagen and Richter invite Quaid to a party. But not before Richter punches Quaid in the face solely for his own pleasure. That was apparently a big mistake as it sent Quaid into a rage that enabled him to slay all the technicians and escape with Melina. Eventually, Quaid and Richter meet in a battle on a platform elevator. With Ricther hanging over the edge of the platform, Quaid pulls him back on just enough that his arms are ripped off when the elevator passes a rock ceiling. He then falls several hundred feet to his demise as Quaid says, "See you at the party, Richter!" 10

Even more severely brutal killing of villain: Cohaagen and Quaid meet at the on-switch for the Alien reactor. Cohaagen tries to convince Quaid that starting the reactor would blow up the planet, but based on what Kuato told him, Quaid knows better. However, Cohaagen has rigged the switch with a bomb. Quaid throws the bomb down an airshaft before it explodes, but when it does, it creates a hole which sucks the air out of the room. Cohaagen falls through that hole and lands on a Martain hillside. The lack of atmosphere results in his eyes bugging out, his skin being stretched and him basically “bloating” to death. It’s quite gruesome. 10

Plausibly implausible plot: As you can see, everything is quite farfetched. Alien artifacts on Mars that can create an atmosphere immediately by melting a glacier? Bad domes resulting in mutant freaks? Memory implants which make you think you’ve been somewhere? I could make this list a lot longer, but you get the gist. However, they do such a good job of setting up the fact that we operating in the future, that it all sounds somewhat feasible. The special effects are superb which adds to the realism. They even won a Special Achievement Oscar. In any event, we buy into everything, and somehow it all makes sense, ridiculous though it may be. 10

Ambiguous ending: It’s not simply implied, it’s stated and acknowledged by the characters. Quaid says, “I just had a terrible thought – what if this is a dream?” Melina responds, “Well then kiss me quick before you wake up.” They embrace and instead of the screen fading to black, it fades white. This is meant to imply that instead of really being on Mars, Quaid could be back at Rekall, getting lobotomized. 10

I vividly recall seeing this movie in the theater when I was 15, and enjoying the hell out of it. When it was released, it was on a different level than any movie preceding it. The gory violence combined with the blatant sexuality and science fiction ingenuity captivated audiences. Watching it now, it doesn’t play as well as it used to, but perhaps that is because I’ve just seen it too many times. As mentioned above, it’s an incredibly well-done movie, particularly in how they set up the future in a believable, yet still fantastic way.

The biggest theme is whether any of this is actually happening or if it’s all in Quaid’s mind. The filmmakers try to toe the line halfway between each possibility, but the repeat viewer can’t help but try to take cues one way or the other. My take is that if you have to choose, it’s all in Quaid’s head. Some of this is the fact that situations are simply too perfect. Benny the cab driver ending up working for Cohaagen all along would be an example of this. Coincidence is the norm throughout the film. Other points include: Rachel Ticotin is clearly the woman he chooses when at Rekall, and is labeled “41A”. The doctor who visits him on Mars to try to “talk him out of his psychosis” is the same guy who was in the TV ad for Rekall. One of the Rekall technicians implanting his memory looks at the plot of his implant and exclaims, “That’s a new one. Blue sky on Mars.” All of these point to the fact that it is likely Quaid never leaves Rekall, never takes a trip to Mars, and never ends up giving the planet atmosphere. But I’m willing to accede that there is no definitive answer on this, which makes the movie that much better. This is definitely one of Arnold’s more rewatchable outings.

All the Schwarzenegger Sundays:
The Terminator
Raw Deal
The Running Man
True Lies
Pumping Iron
Conan The Barbarian
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Last Action Hero
Roundup, Part I
Roundup, Part II
The George W. Bush Administration

Friday, May 25, 2007

OWR: Network

96: Profound

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Unyielding Commissioning Has Open Ears

Hulk Smash! I’m sure a lot of you are soooo over Billy Corgan and whatever he’s up to these days, but I’m still keen on Pumpkins news. You’ve no doubt heard that the band is reformed, but only with Corgan and original drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. James Iha is reportedly not part of it and I’m sure D’Arcy is long done. Current word on the street is that the new members are: guitarist Jeff Schroeder (most recently a contributor to The Lassie Foundation), bassist Ginger Reyes of the Halo Friendlies, and keyboardist Lisa Harrington of comedy music group, The Housewives. I imagine that many today are saying, “Why don’t you just go away? You’re done, hang it up.” I do not share that opinion. Once upon a time, the Pumpkins were my absolute favorite band on the planet. I felt personally connected to Siamese Dream in a way that I’ve not felt with any other album. So the band holds a special place in my heart. Clearly they went through a steady decline with each album after Siamese Dream, bottoming out when their sound became overproduced, and Corgan’s ego ran out of control. I’m sure that ego has had few alterations since that time, but after spending some time with Zwan (an era I referred to as Corgan’s “Happiness Pie” phase) and an experimental solo album that was somewhat well received by critics, but not purchased by very many actual customers (likely because of the $18.99 sticker price), he’s decided that it’s time for the Pumpkins to make a Jimmy Chitwood-esque comeback. The forthcoming album is set to be called Zeitgeist and is due to be released on July 10 (same day as Interpol, for what it’s worth). You can listen to the first track, Tarantula, here via Spinner. My take is that the production is still a bit too slick, but the darn thing really rocks. Chamberlain’s still a phenomenal drummer, and Corgan is smart enough to let him do his thing. Of course, I do wish they would have called it “Taranchula” instead. Feel free to judge for yourself. Either way, I’m excited for the new release. The world is a better place with the Pumpkins a part of it.

Rhymes with Orangina... Apparently, Scott Stapp drinks Orangina. Now the next time someone asks “Who the hell buys Orangina?” your answer will be at the ready. And are you surprised?

Here there be tygers!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

OWR: Lord of War

73: Ambitious

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Arcade Fire w/ Electrelane @ Chicago Theater

I’m not really sure how to write about this experience. I knew that being in the 4th row would be phenomenal, but it surpassed my greatest hopes. Having just seen the band perform two nights previous, you might expect me to have been sated to the point where my excitement had diminished a bit. But if you know me at all, you realize just how much I crave seeing this band perform live. I liken it to pining away for a woman from your school or office for months – maybe even years, only to finally hook up with her one night when you weren’t even expecting it. Not that anything like that has ever happened to me, but you get what I’m saying. Even though I had these tickets in hand for a few months, reality didn’t set in until the band took the stage.

Being that close made for a wholly different concert than what I’d witnessed on Friday. Even though they probably played equally well, it was six times the show simply because I was so near to all the action. The band entered from stage left this time, eschewing the aisle entrance they deployed on Friday. The first song was Wake Up, which happened to be the unplayed song I most missed hearing Friday, and I had chills for its entirety. That is such a powerful opener, the same one that kicked off their set at Lollapalooza 2005, I can’t see why they wouldn’t use it for every show. You have all ten band members singing together at full volume. I snuck a glance over my shoulder and I swear that every spectator in the packed house was doing the same thing. It was visceral. I felt like I’d received my money’s worth already.
From there, the band played a set almost identical to Friday night’s show. During (Antichrist Television Blues), it became clear that even the songs I’m not that enamored with were going to be amazing from this vantage point. The only one that still felt a bit flat was Black Mirror. The whole theater went nuts for No Cars Go. I still think this version is not as good as the original, but the energy flowing around the hall was impressive.

I spent a lot of time focusing on the various band members’ level of musicianship. The obvious point of note is how they all switch instruments throughout the performance, and all of them sing. Few bands have the versatility to accomplish what they do. But beyond that, they are all extremely talented, playing their parts with equal parts skill and ferocity. The most impressive onstage performance was by Régine Chassagne. She dances around the stage as the band’s internal muse, taking time to look crowd members in the eye, imploring them to sing along with her. When she was on our side of the stage, I was compelled to watch her because she was so engaging.

Neon Bible contains many criticisms of church, but at the same time, Arcade Fire is somewhat of a church themselves. Emotion hit me throughout the performance as I was dancing and jumping around. I felt like I easily could have been at one of those Pentecostal churches where people are overwhelmed. The pinnacle of the evening was easily when they closed their main set with Power Out going right into Rebellion (Lies). It’s an extremely powerful coupling. Again, I glanced behind me during the chorus of Power Out and I swear that everyone was shouting along. I felt that I was able to get a glimpse of what it must be like to perform to an audience like that. It’s clear why the band plays so hard and puts so much energy into their performance - they get it right back. This was definitely the best show I’ve been to in several years, and certainly in my top ten all time. What an experience.
Electrelane put on a damn good performance as the opening act. They sound quite a bit like Stereolab, but rawkin’ – which is what Stereolab should have been anyway. Mia Clark was absolutely shredding her guitar, seemingly in her own world as she performed. Kudos for wearing high heels while doing it, too. During their last song, they bled over into a brief, wild cover of “96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians, which is pretty much the best cover a band could ever choose to do. Great set by them. They’re playing the Empty Bottle tonight if you’re free…

Other notes: I sat next to Tim Robbins and Rachel McAdams who are in town filming a movie. McAdams was going almost as crazy as I was – believe me that’s a strong statement. No, I didn’t take their photo. This ain’t that kind of blog and I’m no paparazzo... One dollar of every ticket sold on this tour goes to Partners in Health, a charitable organization providing health care to the poor. Seems like a good cause if you’re looking to donate... Various fans kept crashing the front section because security was kind of erratic (I think they rotated and some were more aggressive than others). As they were bumping into me, I very quickly decided I would not get annoyed. After all, what makes me better than them? I hadn’t paid more for my seats. I purchased my tickets right away and got lucky. But that was true of everyone seated on the floor. All three shows were sold out in minutes. Of course, I didn’t mind when security would periodically clear them out of there, but I was glad I had the right attitude. Also, they announced that taking photos was not allowed. So the ones you see here were done on the sly, when security wasn’t looking. I feel like I could have done better, but didn’t want to (a) get booted or (b) have my camera taken away. Here are some more:

Monday, May 21, 2007

OWR: Casablanca

89: Proud

Arcade Fire w/ St. Vincent @ Chicago Theater

It seems that every time I read anything about Neon Bible, The Arcade Fire’s new release, critics are compelled to write that the new songs “look outward” while the first album “looked inward”. This is mainly a focus on their lyrics, and may well be true, but I’m the type of listener who tends to notice lyrics years after owning an album. In actuality, the music on the new songs is far more intimate. There is a sense of closeness to each song, and the nuances are extremely important. Funeral had many bombastic tracks, but when I First Blushed Neon Bible, it took me until the final song to feel like the band was hitting its potential in terms of musical drama. I mention all of this because it had a major impact in what transpired at Friday’s show. Every one of those older songs played better than any of the new ones.

It is important to note that my seats were on the floor, directly on the middle aisle, but all the way back in the 29th row. They were actually a prime location at the outset as the entire band entered by walking down that very aisle. Win Butler was in the lead, followed by Richard Parry and then the rest of the band. After taking the stage, they quickly fired off four songs from the new album (Black Mirror, Keep the Car Running, AC TV Blues, No Cars Go). Those are the exact four songs from the release that I have found somewhat uncompelling. At least to me, all of the songs felt like warm-ups. The crowd was appreciative enough, but I doubt that they were anyone’s favorites either. So the show had a slow-build quality to it. After that, they played an excellent version of Haiti, with Régine Chassagne busting out her best Molly Ringwald-esque dance moves. Laika followed that and the show immediately amped up to a higher level. Will Butler and Richard Parry were literally pummeling one another with various instruments, megaphones, and mic stands. When not involved in physical battles, Butler smashed crash cymbals together or onto the stage itself. You could call it musically violent.

From there it was back to newer songs. Neon Bible was followed by My Body is a Cage – two songs I was eagerly anticipating. Unfortunately, they are the two quietest Arcade Fire songs, and the two women in front of us decided to take that time to chat about lord knows what. It was impossible not to be distracted by them. They were emblematic of much of the audience that night who seemed solely interested in the songs from Funeral. Unfortunately for all those people, the band had played nine Neon Bible tunes before getting to a third older song.

I did lead off by saying that the older songs played better live. Part of that may be that they have been playing the songs for a lot longer, but the bigger issue is that they’re louder songs with more amped up intensity. They closed their main set with Power Out leading right into Rebellion (Lies), bringing the entire audience to a frenzy. Well, as frenzied as things can get at the Historic Chicago Theater (which is a gorgeous venue, by the way). They came out for the first encore with Ocean of Noise followed by Tunnels, on which their main French Horn player totally ran out of gas. He was frantically rubbing his lips during rests, hoping to get some muscle tone back into them. I played the horn for ten years, and I can recall that distressed feeling. Maybe that’s not something most people would have noticed or even cared about, but hey, that’s the kind of detail you get with this blog… In any event, it was a great song to end a show on. But, after going backstage, they returned once more. A lot of people left before the last encore which is utterly baffling to me. Why on earth would you ever leave a show before the house lights came on? I’ve been to two shows where bands came back and played after the lights came on. Why would you jet when it’s still dark? It's not like there's a big parking lot to escape as nearly everyone took public transportation.

The second encore consisted only of Backseat, which had always been the song on Funeral I would listen to simply because it was at the end of the album. I never found it that engaging or important. But this rendition was spectacular. Chassagne put her heart and soul into those lead vocals, and the rest of the band perfectly supported her. It wound down with the whole band singing quiet a cappella to a captivated audience. I was hoping for Wake Up at some point, but it’ll have to wait until next time. Speaking of next time, I’m going again on Sunday, but this time I’ll be in the fourth row. My big hope is that the new songs play much better sitting that close.

A few other tidbits… There were more good-looking women at this show than at any other I can recall. It was really impressive. At one point Win talked about being at the Bulls game Thursday and the fact that people were not allowed to stand near the end of the game to urge on the home team. His conclusion: “There is no God.”

The opening act was St. Vincent, which began with Annie Clark onstage by herself, doing a sort of Andrew Bird thing. She played guitar with some backing loops and a bass drum. Her band joined her after three songs. I said to my friend, “She looks cute from here.” His response: “That must mean she’s thin.” On the whole, she’s clearly very talented, but the songs are a bit erratic. She often resembled Björk which is of course high praise, but I think eventually, her songs will be a bit more streamlined, making them more powerful. Either way, she showed great poise and talent up there in front of a large hall whose audience had likely never heard of her before.

Set list as best I can remember:
Black Mirror
Keep the Car Running
(Antichrist Televlision Blues)
No Cars Go
Neon Bible
Body is a Cage
Well and the Lighthouse
Power Out
Ocean of Noise

Friday, May 18, 2007

Unyielding Commissioning Doesn't Eat at Burger King

All right. We get it! I don’t know if you’ve heard but apparently there’s a new Shrek movie coming out this weekend. Apparently you can get all kinds of Shrek bric-a-brac at various locations around town. I can’t even begin to keep track of all the corporate tie-in ads I’ve seen, and I don’t watch much television. The last time I can recall a movie having this much corporate sponsorship, it was The Cat in the Hat. So my new theory (based off of two movies I’ve never seen) is that the more co-promotion tie-ins, the worse the film. Who’s with me? But then again, if I go to Quiznos, I think they’ll give me a free Shrek plastic sack. That is hard to pass up…

Is that all you’ve got? Lolla keeps adding bands and I keep not having heard of them. Check out this list: The Postmarks, John Paul White, Tom Schraeder, Cage the Elephant, Smoosh, MrNorth, Kevin Michael, Powerspace, Inward Eye, Wax on Radio, Dear and the Headlights, Ludo, The Graduate, Lady Gaga. Are these for the kids stage or something? I may not be Lester Bangs or anything, but last year’s list was infinitely more recognizable. I’m starting to get way more excited for Pitchfork who is hosting a ton of bands I’m eager to check out. Plus, it was only 35 bucks for two days.

That said, Against Me! has been added to the Lolla lineup, so at least there’s hope of them adding some more established acts.

Sorry for the light posting the last two days. A hectic work schedule and the Bulls getting knocked out of the playoffs have hampered my time and motivation respectively. Lots more next week including two Arcade Fire reviews (show starts in 3.5 hours!).

OWR: Million Dollar Baby

68: Dubious

Thursday, May 17, 2007

From Whence Bill Walton Came

Short on time today, but listen to Jesse "The Body" Ventura's commentary here and tell me that Bill Walton doesn't owe him some royalty checks. "That's TERRRIBLE!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

OWR: Rushmore

92: Sincere

Unyielding Commissioning Gets in on the Sunday Action

My new favorite blogger: This is hilarious. I don’t have a ton to add, but I believe it was likely written in response to the two times I posted links to this blog on articles by the AV Club.

I’ll not be back. E! Online is reporting that we have not seen the last of the Terminator, but we have likely seen the last of Arnold’s involvement with the series. The big Schwarzenegger fans I know are appalled, insisting that you can not have a Terminator movie without Arnold. I have mixed feelings. At this point, I consider myself the internet’s eighth most acclaimed Schwarzenegger expert (just a guess). My take is that it’s a Catch-22. Can you possibly have a Terminator movie with Arnold at this point? The guy dyes his hair auburn and has a gait similar to Mike Ditka. The steroids have caught up with him. I wouldn’t be afraid of a T-101 played by Arnold at this point. Would you? I just can’t see him as a killing machine anymore. Plus, if he were included, they would use him to take the campiness even farther (think: “Talk to the hand,” but at every possible moment until we’re in a Terminator parody).

The bigger issue is, will they have Nick Stahl? It would be nice if we could finally get some consistency in our John Connors. He did a fine job in the last film, and if they’re going to pick up from where they left off, it will be crucial to have him involved. That said, I am more than fine with someone replacing Claire Danes. The biggest outlying issue of all – who are they going to get to play Reese? Can any young actor even come close to following in Michel Beihn’s footsteps? I’m skeptical. But I suppose if they found DeNiro to replicate Brando, you never know. Yeah, that’s right. I just compared Reese to Vito Corleone.

In general, this is probably a bad idea – even T3 was against the spirit of the prior movies (“no future but what we make”). Since it is Judgment Day, then we know it’s too late to change the future on that front. All of the time-travel aspects that took the first three movies beyond a basic action flick will likely no longer be present. But clearly the way T3 ended, they were going to make another one. For any franchise, they keep making sequels until they stop making money – no matter how bad the new installment’s script is (see Jaws: The Revenge for the most egregious example).

Contemplate this on the tree of woe. In other Arnold-related news, a remake of Conan the Barbarian is apparently in the works. As I explained Sunday, the original is a masterpiece. The utter disaster that was its sequel has always been a disappointment to me. As director John Milius said, it should have been a trilogy and that trilogy should have been excellent (they had a different theme planned for each movie). The sequel they made totally destroyed the franchise to the point where people are wary of a remake now. In this instance, however, I don’t see how you can adequately make the movie without Schwarzenegger. When it comes to murderous robots, you can always design them differently. Since Conan is an individual character, I don’t see any way he can come in different shapes and sizes. Whoever, they cast in that role will be inevitably compared to 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it’s unfathomable that the actor will measure up. Another thing Milius siad when trying to convince Dino De Laurentiis that Arnold was the right guy for the part was that "if Arnold didn't already exist, we'd have to build him from parts." It’s a project doomed from the beginning (that pun was unintended), even if they do get the Wachowski Brothers to direct.

Death from Warszawa 2007. In Poland last week, I spent some time hanging out with lead growler from Concrete, an up and coming metal band. The man is obsessed with metal, and doesn’t speak a ton of English (although in comparison to my Polish vocabulary, he’s Noam Chomsky), so we mainly discussed music. Check out their myspace page if you dig the heavy stuff. It’s pretty darn good!

Here there be tygers!

E les tigres sont ici!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tapes 'n Tapes w/ Ladyhawk & Harlem Shakes @ The Abbey Pub

A wise man once said, “Beer is the reason I get up every afternoon.” I can relate to that notion – and while I like beer, I am more into the pursuit of quality rawk. After spending Friday night getting 1.5 hours of sleep on a steel bench in the Warsaw, Poland airport, one could argue that I’m crazy for wanting to catch a show on Saturday. But thankfully the Abbey was hosting Tapes 'n Tapes for both early and late shows which meant I could hit the early one and still get home in time to crash by 11:00. What I’m trying to say is, it was absolutely worth it.

Harlem Shakes opened with a peppy set of songs that got better and better as their time continued. Early in their performance, I was thinking that something was missing – and not just a belt, shoes, and socks for lead signer Lexy Benaim, though they were noticeably absent. The first thing you notice about Harlem Shakes is that guitarist Todd Goldstein and bassist Jose Soegaard appear to be in a facial gesticulation contest. I mean they really go for it. And Goldstein is clearly the winner. For several songs we were simply mesmerized by his “astonished tortoise” gestures. Most of their better tracks feature falsetto backing vocals which fit nicely beneath the rest of the sound. The two standout songs were “Carpetbaggers” and “Red Right Hands” (not a Nick Cave cover). Generally, Harlem Shakes has the feel of a “little band that could.” Which kind of doesn’t make sense since they’re just starting out, but they were thoroughly enjoyable. The already somewhat full crowd gave them a nice ovation when they were finished.

Vancouver’s Ladyhawk has no clear relation to the 1985 Mathew Broderick/Rutger Hauer movie, but I’m not sure why you would name your band that if you didn’t want to create such a connection. They came out loud and stompy, seeming genuinely happy to be playing in front of us. Frontman Duffy Driediger is a short, but burly fellow who spends most of the show with his eyes closed. He was also lacking a belt, and at various points we were given view of his plumber’s crack. What’s with no belts tonight? Bassist Sean Hawryluk’s long hair seemed to move in slow motion as he played – much like 80s metal bands perfected their headbanging skills, Hawryluk has his headswaying technique down. We again got a lot of harmonies with this group, mostly coming from drummer Ryan Peters. The band didn’t pay much attention to the crowd – they could have been playing in their basement in Canada, but it didn’t matter much. Comparisons to Neil Young are apt, and the set had enough fire and energy to keep the crowd engaged. I bought their album after the show, and it’s quite good, if a bit short. It’s somewhere between Young, the Old 97s, and the Black Keys if that helps.

According to the people I know that have played there, the sound guy at the Abbey is notoriously difficult. He does what he wants and doesn’t want to hear much input from the performers. He’s also like 6’4”, so he can probably get away with that more easily. I bring this up because Harlem Shakes set was somewhat quiet, Ladyhawk’s was probably the prefect volume, and Tapes 'n Tapes was a bit too loud – particularly the bass drum. I had earplugs in, but every time Karl Schweitz hit that thing, I could feel myself being pushed back a step from the soundwaves. I don’t know why you would give the bands different volumes, let alone why the bass drum would be at such a level so that it could knock over people’s beers. “Just Drums” opened the set, and the band kept things moving along. Frontman Josh Grier sported one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t seem to bother him as much as it bothered me. They played their songs pretty similarly to the album versions, but the vocals got way more intense and passionate. Included in the set were at least four new tracks which ranged from potentially great to decidedly meh. But I won’t pass judgment until an album comes out. Towards the end of the set, some woman came in late to meet her friends and kept whacking me with the purse she had draped over her shoulder. It also bothered me that she was dancing like my mom dances to rock music. My mom is 70 years old. Young people shouldn’t dance like that. She was better than her friend who was doing something precisely halfway in between the hippie dance and the robot. It didn’t make any damn sense. I repeatedly knocked her purse off her shoulder, but she was undeterred in her efforts to ruin the show for me. Perhaps I was getting a bit cranky and intolerant from the lack of sleep, but these were annoying chicks. I hope they read this and feel badly about themselves. In any event, the set closed with rousing versions of “Insistor” and “Jakov’s Theme” (in Soviet Union, rawk show watches you!). The two shows in one night thing probably kept all the sets a bit shorter, but that was not problematic as all three performances were great.

Monday, May 14, 2007

OWR: Adaptation.

84: Clever

OWR: Matching Answers

Well color me disappointed that no one threw any comments up with guesses for the matching quiz. I figured at least one of 'em would be easy. Anyway, here are the answers:

64: Heavy --> North Country
55: Conceited --> The Squid and the Whale
74: Circumspect --> Broken Flowers
87: Rich --> Once Upon a Time in America
50: Absurd --> Me and You and Everyone We Know

We're back in action this week on our normal schedule...

Schwarzenegger Sunday: Conan the Barbarian

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders above. Note – there will always be spoilers.

The movie opens in Conan’s village with his father teaching him important life lessons such as the riddle of steel. Conan then witnesses his entire village’s slaughter at the hands of Thulsa Doom and his soldiers. His father is mauled by dogs and his mother decapitated. Conan is enslaved, left to work turning the wheel of pain in the middle of nowhere. He grows strong and is purchased to compete in gladiator competitions. Conan is undefeated in these pit fights and is elevated to the point where he becomes educated and taught swordplay. His owner sets him free whereupon Conan befriends Subotai, an archer and thief. In trying to track down Thulsa Doom, they encounter Valeria, a female warrior, who joins up with them and begins a physical relationship with Conan. They are sent by King Osric to rescue his daughter who has fallen in with Doom’s cult. Valeria and Subotai choose to take the money and run, leaving Conan to go after the princess on his own. Thulsa Doom’s guards capture Conan and he is beaten and left for dead on the Tree of Woe. Subotai and Valeria are able to nurse Conan back to health and agree to help him. They infiltrate Doom’s lair, discovering not only that they are engaged in orgies and cannibalism – at the same time – but that Doom has the ability to turn into a snake when he feels like it. However, in their escape, Thulsa Doom is able to kill Valeria with a snake/arrow thing. Subotai and Conan face Doom’s men in an extremely violent battle in the desert where they are holding the princess. They defeat everyone except for Doom who rides away at the end of the fracas. Conan returns to Doom’s temple and decapitates him using the remaining half of his father’s sword. He burns the temple to the ground and seeks his fortune elsewhere.

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: Conan has a few really poignant ones. His character is a driven one, and his comments reflect that. “Conan! What is best in life?” “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!”
“The gods are pleased with you. They are going to watch the battle.” “Are they going to help?” “No.” “Then tell them to stay the hell out of the way.”
“Is this, uh, your robe? A priest’s robe?” “Yes. It’s all I have.” “Good. It’s all you’ll ever need.”
Plus another classic which we’ll get to soon. 7

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: This is not the kind of film where Arnold is going to be throwing zingers around. It takes itself very seriously, and that’s really the only way to play it. Otherwise we’d end up with something like Conan the Destroyer or worse. There are the lines above, and while he is educated (eventually), Conan is a man of few words. In fact, his main companion in the movie, Valeria, is only addressed by him verbally on one occasion. 2

“I’ll be back.”: Pre-terminator, so this is n/a

Smarmy Villain: James Earl Jones portrays Thulsa Doom as pure evil. It is said that he is supposedly a thousand years old, and this may be true. But we can be certain that he is arrogant, selfish, and power-hungry. He lives to sing his own praises and trample all who stand in his way. He can mesmerize foes with merely his gaze. You get the feeling that he would love to have Conan join his side, but he understands too well how Conan feels about him. He has the best lines in the movie because his character is such a force of nature. 10“They shall all drown in lakes of blood. Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark. Now they will learn why the fear the night.”
Rough and Tumble Henchman: We actually get two of them here. The main henchman is Rexor, played by former Oakland Raider Ben Davidson. I’m somewhat terrified of his mustache, let alone the rest of him. He’s 6’8”, tough and ruthless. Plus, he still fights using Conan’s father’s sword. That’s badass. More on the second henchman later. 10
Diminutive Sidekick: Professional surfer Gerry Lopez plays Subotai. I have no idea how tall he actually is, but if I had to guess, I’d say “not very.” 7

Rejected hot love interest: While being educated during his enslavement, Conan is also “bred to the finest stock.” I suppose rejection is not an option in those cases because he did not have the opportunity to continue a relationship. Upon first being granted freedom, Conan encounters a witch played by Cassandra Gava whom he promptly beds. However, she starts to have a bizarre reaction to his, um, lovemaking so he promptly tosses her into a fire. I think it’s fair to call that a rejection. I tried to find some extra information regarding Cassandra, but all I could find was that her nickname is “Shmooziac.” 9
Not nearly hot enough love interest: Sandahl Bergman plays Valeria. She is somewhat striking and athletic, but beauty-wise is not on par with the other women Conan beds. However, after being bred to the finest stock for a considerable period of time, I’m willing to believe that at this point he is looking beyond physical beauty and building a more meaningful relationship with a person sharing common interests. The only other thing I’ve ever seen Sandahl in was a horrendous Donny Most vehicle called “Stewardess School.” These are the kinds of movies you end up renting in junior high, people… 7
Arnold yelling: Conan’s first lines of the movie occur in a pit fight when he is viciously attacked by his opponent. His reaction is to say "Aaaarhrahaallalharhrhararhahrha" for about five straight minutes. There are many various other hollers throughout the film, notably in the final battle scene. 9

Arnold cursing: The movie is set in a time before modern cursewords, but just before the final battle is to begin, Conan says this: "Crom, I've never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one - not even you will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought or how we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important. Valor pleases you Crom, so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!” 6

Arnold crazyface: I have to claim some bias in this instance. This is probably my all-time favorite Arnold crazyface. Technically we have seen crazier here at Schwarzenegger Sunday, but this particular one fits the storyline so well. He sees Rexor charging at him on horseback, wielding Conan’s father’s sword and he just goes berserk. Vengeance, murder, and hate are in his eyes here. 10
Superfluous Explosions: We get a little fire near the end, but this is n/a

Director: John Milius did not work with Arnold again, but they seem to have great admiration for one another. Milius is an interesting character and his commentary track is hilarious because he takes the movie so seriously. Like he thinks it’s real or something. However, the most notable thing is that the Coen brothers partially based Walter Sobchak on him. If you can get your hands on any current footage of him (the featurette on the DVD, for instance), the resemblance is clear.
Franco Columbu: Very early in the film, Franco shows up on the scene. Nice wig! 8
Sven Ole-Thorsen: In his first on-screen role, Sven plays Thulsa Doom’s other main henchman, Thorgrim. He appears throughout the film, brandishing a gigantic hammer which he uses to bop people on the head. Plus, his character is also capable of raising gigantic snakes. 10
Shirtless Arnold: Nearly every scene in the movie has him shirtless. And when he’s crucified on the tree of woe, he ends up in just a loincloth. 10

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: Rexor is sliced up pretty good, and particularly screwed over because Valeria actually comes back from the dead to give him a whack. However, Thorgrim gets it even worse when he is impaled on a booby trap Conan set up prior to the battle scene. 8
Even more severely brutal killing of villain: Conan is able to sneak back into Doom’s temple, approaching undetected from behind him during a sermon. Doom tries his staring hypnosis thing, but Conan is able to shake it off and chop Doom’s head off using three successive whacks with the sword. Blood sprays everywhere. Conan then tosses the head down the steps of the temple and it rolls for minutes. 9

Plausibly implausible plot: There are ghosts, witches, snake-humans, snake-arrows, and all manner of physical brutalities in this film. They wanted it to take place in a “time before history”, and I think that they got that right. There are a few action sequences where the blood packets are a little too obvious, and perhaps that big snake was state of the art at the time, but it looks a bit hokey now. The overall plot is probably unfeasible, but we never question it. The only thing I don’t get is how his biceps would get big while turning the wheel of pain? Seems like he’s always pushing it forward. The biggest stretch is probably the character of Thulsa Doom. He’s the most fantastical thing in the movie, but Jones does such a wonderful job playing him, we don’t question it for a second. 7

Ambiguous ending: Things are pretty neatly wrapped up. All we get is our narrator telling us that “in time, Conan became a king by his own hand. And this story shall also be told.” So we are curious about the how and why in that statement, but since we were already told what will happen, perhaps it’s not ambiguous either. n/a
This is such a finely crafted film, going through our standard SS categories does not do it justice. There are so many aspects of this film worth noting. The score is absolutely fantastic. It is on par with Mahler or Holst and each piece fits its scene perfectly. You will hear this music in many trailers for other movies and various TV spots. The sets they came up with are also fantastic. Check out these two: Milius never made another film on par with this one, and it’s a shame that the only sequel they made was the abysmal Conan the Destroyer. Really, that movie is terrible. Don’t ever watch it. But this one is amazing. I honestly feel it’s truly underrated and deserves more attention and recognition. It’s incredibly violent, and the plot moves very quickly, but the characters, story, and attention to detail are unbeatable.

All the Schwarzenegger Sundays:

Friday, May 4, 2007

OWR: Matching!

There will be no new posts to this here blog next week, so you will have to get your fill by perusing the old material. I recommend the Oscar First Blush or anything involving Thax Douglas. We'll be back in business for a new Schwarzenegger Sunday on May 13th and continue on with our normal programming from there.

In the meantime, I thought I would mix up the One Word Reviews this Friday and give you some time to think about them. Here you will find five movies and five OWRs. It is your job to try and guess which review goes with which film. No, there are no trick questions where I put the real review next to the right film. They're all out of order. If you want some insight into my tastes, here you can find all the OWRs to date.

64: Heavy

Once Upon a Time In Ameica

55: Conceited

Me and You and Everyone we Know

74: Circumspect

The Squid and the Whale

87: Rich

North Country

50: Absurd

Broken Flowers

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Unyielding Conditioning Gets You Served

Go get it! Feist's new record, The Reminder, is out this week. The place to go is Best Buy which not only has it for 7.99(!), but also has limited edition copies that come with three free downloads of additional tracks. No First Blush on that one, but I recommend picking it up. I've only gotten through it once, but there are a lot of interesting tracks including a kickin' Nina Simone cover.

My nerdy sense is not tingling. So who's going to the midnight showing of Spider Man 3 with me tonight? Nobody? You all say that you can just wait and see the exact same movie at a reasonable hour tomorrow or any other day for the next two months? I see. I understand that some movies have cult followings and warrant the midnight treatment - and I know that Spider Man as an entity has a cult following, but I'm just not seeing people line up to see a pretty standard action movie. Just my two cents. Don't get me wrong, I want to see the movie too, but if I'm staying out 'till 2 AM on a Thursday, there will be a fair amount of booze involved. If they do line up - there's no way they look like this:

Pay your respects to the Godfather! May 3rd is James Brown's birthday, so it's high time you recognized him as the greatest performer who ever lived. This video should be about three minutes longer (the beginning is cropped), but you get the idea. Apparently the Rolling Stones were supposed to appear onstage immediately after Brown, but were terrified to do so. I implore you to watch this again and again today. James, you left us too soon...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

OWR: Amélie

86: Darling

First Blush: Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond

I envisioned these First Blushes as something that would come along once every two months or so. Little did I know that so many of my favorite established artists would be releasing new material this spring. This marks the eighth album to be reviewed here in this manner. Color me surprised. It’s also the last one for a while (unless there’s some upcoming album I’m unaware of). So if you feel like this place has been heavy on the blush (they call it rouge in France, you know), no need to complain - at least until the Interpol album comes out on July 10.

Dinosaur Jr. had been around from the mid 80s through the late 90s, but “being around” meant different things at different times. They began as a trio with J Mascis on guitar and lead vocals, Lou Barlow on bass and sometimes vocals, and Murph on drums. With thunderously crunchy guitar licks and mournful vocals, the band developed a wide and devoted cult following. By the late 80s, Barlow and Masics were not coexisting well, resulting in Mascis “breaking up” the band in 1989. At least that’s what he told Barlow. The next day, the band “re-formed” without its original bassist. Barlow went on to form Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, while Mascis recorded the majority of bass parts from that point on. Dino continued to gain in popularity, peaking in 1993 with their album, Where You Been. Mascis kicked Murph out before the next release, choosing to record the albums all by his lonesome. By 2000, J started a new project, leaving the moniker Dinosaur Jr. behind him. However, in 2005, the original lineup reunited, played some shows, and decided that they got along OK after all. A spot at Lollapalooza was given, and a national tour followed, with the majority of songs being played coming from those initial, original lineup days. Beyond is the first release with that lineup since 1988’s Bug. Let’s see how they did!

Track 1 – Almost Ready
0:01 – Things kick off with a hot guitar solo and fuzziness from all the instruments – even the snare drums!
0:38 – “Come ooon, life. I’m almost ready…” I could be hearing that wrong, but that’s what I heard. What a catchy chorus. And this is a classic Dino track. Stringy-haired gentleman across this land are bobbing their heads back and forth as we speak.
1:39 – First really dirty solo from J (first of many we hope!).
1:58 – “Find the truth, I’m way off track again.”
2:27 – OK, even if the rest of the album turns out to be garbage, they quite a tune here. Hummable, singable, headbangable if you wanted. A perfect first track.

Track 2- Crumble
0:02 – The intro reminds me somewhat of "The Lung" from You’re Living All Over me (but that’s grossly misleading as this song is much mellower and sweeter – I just didn’t know that two seconds in, but I do now at 17 seconds in – sue me).
1:05 – I love and hate these short titles J always gives his songs. They definitely fit the tunes and the band, but it makes them so darn hard to remember. And they’re almost never taken from the chorus.
1:39 – Super-rich guitar chords here.
3:11 – Why do I feel like we’re four or five songs in already? Each of these first two songs have a lot of different segments. The sound is excellent thus far. Very rich and buzzy.

Track 3 – Pick Me Up
0:23 – The riff here is almost a mid-90s glam rock thing (an era that should never have been). I can’t really explain it. I’m sure it’ll change in a second.
0:37 – Yeah, very J Mascis + the Fog right now.
1:25 – “Am I wrooooooong? All alooooong….”
2:04 – If anyone can get his guitar to sound just like a Theremin, it’s J Mascis.
2:47 – Break it down now, half-speed.
3:37 – An extended, lyrical solo from J.
4:56 – Solo still going. I miss the guitar as a lead instrument, don’t you?
5:58 – I think we get some strings in the background here, but who can be bothered by them? J is wailing…

Track 4 – Back to Your Heart
0:15 – First track with Barlow singing. There is something very charming in his delivery. His voice is smooth, but with a hint of urgency.
1:39 – The chorus is very bluesy – almost stompy with Barlow crooning the song’s title.
3:02 – “Think about the future, let the past unwind,” which I guess kind of explains how we got to this point.

Track 5 – This is All I Came to Do
0:02 – Punchy opening to this one.
1:04 – OK, the title on this’n’ll be easier to remember as the chorus is “This is all I came to do…” repeated four times.
2:03 – I kind of feel like the boys mailed this one in. It’s clearly a Dinosaur Jr. song, but there’s not much to say about it beyond that. They’ve got several songs akin to this one that are better. Even the words in the chorus are vanilla.
4:20 – Nothing new to report. Just giving a shout out for the stoners.

Track 6 – Been There All the Time
0:14 – Now we’re rawkin’ a bit more. Murph is in control here.
1:15 – “Is it ooooon me?” is repeated. A quicker pace – this sounds like classic Dino. Did I use that line already? Whatever.
2:19 - Tons of guitars going every which way all at once.
3:30 – Damn is J punishing that guitar!

Track 7 – It’s Me
0:09- Verrry Thunderkiss ’65! (chun-chun-chugga-cha-chun-chun-chugga)
1:57 – Definitely the heaviest track thus far – at least from the guitars. Murph isn’t really pounding, but is quite active.
3:27 – “I know why – I know why, if I can fight will you believe?” I’m not sure how that goes together, but it’s a positive lyric to be sure.
4:27 – My receipt says “CD/DVD” for this purchase. Should I be excited? Or is Best Buy just kinda dumb?

Track 8 – We’re Not Alone
0:05 – Light and sweet guitars get the last third of the album going.
1:04 – So this is the one for the ladies – or something. The plaintive male: “I wanted you to say… be around.”
1:57 – A held chord fades out, and the whole song shifts a bit – a little peppier and more positive.
2:32 – Man did J live in the wrong era. He’s shredding on a sweet little love song and it fits perfectly. If this was 1988, people would have worshiped him. What? Dino was around in ’88? Oh yeah. Maybe they should have done a video with strippers or something.

Track 9 – I Got Lost
0:26 – All acoustic guitars.
0:37 – Toms fill in the gaps a bit.
1:08 – There’s falsetto J. I wasn’t sure if he was still into that. It’s a very sparse song for him to be climbing that high, but it’s working for me right now.
2:51 – I can’t really understand J when he’s singing this high. We do have a cello involved now (kind of snuck up on me). But the song is not going through many other changes.

Track 10 – Lightning Bulb
0:08 – Lou singing again.
0:22 – “Truth is no one knows, how the garden grows.” I missed the line that followed this, but that’s kind of blah, no?
0:50 – The bass is throbbing right now. It’s almost funky, but too heavy to be so.
2:33 – It’s so different from something J would write. I like this song, though (reminds me of Flame by Sebadoh – nowhere near as great as that song, but there’s some connection there).

Track 11 – What if I Knew
0:13 – Start of this one indicates a calm finish to the album
0:48 – Super buzzy
0:54 – Edgy guitar solo – it’s sharp like a blade, hanging out over the top of everything
3:15 – This song is just a vehicle for another impressive solo. And that’s how it’s going to wind up.

They found the right place – right in between their old, old stuff and the most recent releases by J Mascis + the Fog. I would have liked something a bit more epic along the lines of Get Me or Alone, but maybe I’ll discover that kind of thing buried in here on subsequent listens. The album is getting great reviews and I can see why. If you’re at all interested, I recommend going out and picking it up (cheapest price I found was Circuit City for 12.99). Oh, and you should also pick up You’re Living All Over Me as well as Where You Been, you slacker!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

For some strange reason, I didn't go to Coachella last weekend. Many did including the Arcade Fire. Apparently Rage Against the Machine stole the show, but here's Rebellion (Lies) by Arcade Fire.