Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Full Of Itself Sometimes Too

Good one - As an aspiring writer, I find it sometimes helps to go back to things I've written that I thought were good or clever. It's useful for two reasons. 1) I often realize that I wasn't so good or clever, and it is a nice reminder that progress can be made (and hopefully has been made). 2) It turns out that the line was indeed quite a good one and it's fun to feel like you put something good together. It's nice to see that one of the best writers working today, Roger Ebert, engages in the same type of self-aggrandizement. Today in his blog, he looks back on some of his favorite lines from the thousands of reviews he's penned. Maybe of them are derogatory zingers, a way of dealing with the pain of enduring horrendous films. As you might imagine, it's a very long list (and continues to get longer as fans leave reminders of their favorites in the comments section). Here's one that made me chuckle:

It was W. C. Fields who hated to appear in the same scene with a child, a dog, or a plunging neckline--because nobody in the audience would be looking at you. Jennifer Aniston has the same problem in this movie even when she's in scenes all by herself. -- "Picture Perfect"
And this one:
Two things that cannot be convincingly faked are laughter and orgasm. If a movie made you laugh, as a critic you have to be honest and report that. Not so much with orgasms.

Still that time of year - Now Greg Kot has declared his top ten concerts of the year. His list is vastly superior that of his colleague, Jim DeRogatis, and Greg and I actually have the same #1s - Stevie Wonder at Taste of Chicago. Jim's still going with his year-end lists, giving us his worst/most overrated albums.

ITTOYA - Over at Baby, You've Got A Stew Goin', Steve is laying out all kinds of end-of-the-year lists. His favorite albums, songs, books, even TV shows. (There are good TV shows? I had no idea.) Rather than link each of those individually, I simply direct you his way so you can peruse on your own.

ITTOYA, Part IX - The Onion's AV Club has a great rundown of the year's best films. Reading their list, one can't help but note what a weak year it was. Decades from now, we'll be looking back at 2007 as one of the great years in cinema history. 2008, not so much, but in case you're wondering what to rent or watch, they provide an excellent year-end roundup.

Everything's coming up Milhouse - Mental Floss presents a Milhouse Van Houten quiz. And just in time for Christmas! I scored 11/12. How'd you do?

Tohhhh-gah tohhh-gah! - Yes, I find myself linking to Scene Stealers Top Ten list every week. But that's only because they keep putting out great lists. This one leaves something to be desired, but only because there are so many examples of Great Movie Party Scenes that just can't fit into the list. However, it seems that every time they make a list I end up leaving a comment about a John Landis movie that they forgot. I don't know why this keeps happening, especially because he only has five movies that I really dig. Mayeb they each have a slice of life that can be found in a top ten list... But this time, he tops the list. Go take a look in case you haven't figured out which one I'm talking about yet.

HOOOooooo! - Someone put a lot of effort into this. No, as far as I know there isn't a real Thundercats movie in the works, but who needs real when someone can throw this together for us? (HT: TMB)

5-4-T: Believe it or not, I found five worthwhile Christmas songs!

And they're all originals, how you like 'dem chestnuts?

Fishbone - It's A Wonderful Life

Run DMC - Christmas in Hollis

James Brown - Soulful Christmas

Ramones - Merry Christmas Baby

Marvin Gaye - I Want to Come Home for Christmas

And one for all the members of the tribe out there:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Youtube

Warning, if you haven't seen No Country for Old Men yet, skip the youtube today. Go rent the movie and come back.

This is a fan-made video, and it's interesting to note that the ostensible main character of the film doesn't show up at all. And you don't miss him at all. And also, this is really freaking badass. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Explosively Excited

For all you Big Jim Slade fans - To be released in 2009, Black Dynamite is apparently a real movie. And while it is clearly a send up of 1970s Blacksploitation theater, it has also done us the favor of taking itself very, very seriously. Even the soundtrack seems promising. Please. I'm begging you. Go watch the trailer. Note that it is definitely not safe for work, unless you work in a brothel. Odds that this film gets an airing in Buenos Aires: 2.3%. Odds that I fly back just so I can watch it: 8%. Odds I find a way to see it eventually: 100%. There is no official release date yet, but everything about this seems badassss....

It's still that time of year - Hear Ya Indie Music Blog is running down their top 50 albums of the year. Unlike most of these, year-end lists, this one is actually interesting. #s 50-41 went up on Monday, and 40-31 arrived yesterday. Each album listed has an mp3 so you can check out the band yourself. The list is highly recommended for your musical edification. Watch their site for updates throughout this week.

Abiding their time - Requisite report from Lebowskifest brought to you this time by the New York Times. Honestly, everyone I know who's attended the festival came away perturbed by the level of pretension and how all the attendees tried to out-Dude one another. But any mainstream media coverage of this phenomenon is a welcome thing. They did go and actually speak with original Dude, Jeff Dowd, and ask him about the white russian thing. His summation: they're tasty.

Looking a lot like that time of year - Greg Kot of the Tribune runs down the year's best boxed sets. Then he gives you his favorite albums of the year. His choice for #1 comes as no surprise based on his previous ovations - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Everywhere you go - Jim DeRogatis also weighs in on the albums of the year. His choice - also Nick Cave. Maybe these dudes are hanging out together too much. Personally, I found the Nick Cave album to be fine, but nothing remotely as earth-shattering as they are trying to convince us. Jim also lists his top ten concerts of the year.

Naughty and nice - Scene Stealers is in the giving mood and drops two Top Ten lists on us. First, Top Ten non-Christmas Christmas movies. Second, Top Ten Christmas Scenes. Note that no movies end up on both lists. I had no idea Eric was such a yen for Yule... As per usual, both lists are highly entertaining. Check 'em out...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

5-4-T: Colorfully Colorless

There are some people I know that refuse to watch black and white movies. It isn't simple prejudice. Generally it's because they don't want to watch anything older than the 1960s. Heck, maybe most of them won't watch anything older than the 1990s, but whatever the reason, the lack of color turns them off right away. In today's Five For Tuesday, we examine modern movies left intentionally colorless, and the impact of that decision.

Honorable Mention) Clerks
Really, I just wanted to include the below scene. Obviously this was done for cost reasons, but if the movie were in color all the amateur acting would have stood out that much more, right?

5) Good Night and Good Luck
When they showed test audiences screenings of George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck, they felt the actor portraying Joseph McCarthy was overdoing it, stretching the bounds of believability. Unfortunately for history's sake, that was no actor, but actual footage of the senator from Minnesota. Had this film been in color, all verisimilitude would have gone right out the window. To correctly place the events in their time in history, B&W was the only way to go.

4) The Man Who Wasn't There
The Coen Brothers have long traded in the world of Film Noir, but in their purest homage to the genre yet, they chose to limit Roger Deakins' considerable talents to blacks, whites and grays only. That didn't harm Roger at all as he won the AFI award for cinematography and was still nominated for an Oscar. Given Billy Bob Thornton's bland main character, removing all the color from the film put all of his minimal actions (mainly just sitting there and smoking) in stark relief. It also effectively placed the film in 1950s America.

3) Manhattan
One of Woody Allen's most acclaimed features, Manhattan is part ode to his city and part lament for all the humanity residing there just trying to get through it all. The opening montage shows off the city in glorious fashion, but when the characters are forced to deal with one another and their own failings, the lack of color makes it seem all the more personal and intimate. After all, "we're just people."

2) Schindler's List
Putting the film in black and white not only effectively entrenched its place in historic terms, it made it more palatable. Because had all its gruesome details played out in color, it would have been far too much for most filmgoers to take. Black and white in this case allowed viewers to witness the film as the episode in history it was intended to be and be detached enough to make their way through it.

1) Young Frankenstein
Mel Brooks has plenty of fans. I'm honestly not one of them. But in Young Frankenstein, he struck gold. His most hilarious movie from start to finish, it's one of the best spoof pictures ever made. In color, the film would have failed to adequately set up the gags. In an oblique way, the movie feels like it could have been made right after the 1931 classic.

So what's your favorite modern-day B&W movie?

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I can't get enough of this right now:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Has Had About Enough

Smashed - Greg Kot interviews Billy Corgan and more amazing blather comes out of his mouth. There is some interesting material, but with Corgan, you never know when he's going to reverse himself, so it must all be taken with a big grain of salt. Most notable is that he seems to admit that Zeitgeist isn't very good and that they've gotten better through touring. That was my exact premise for why the album was so weak. Still, Billy's always entertaining. My favorite quote:

"We didn’t come back for the cash, we came back to be great again. It made me mad that people thought we’re done, that we don’t have a future. Get out. We don’t want you. We’ve never been that band. That happy band. We picked up where we left off. We’re not the retirement band playing our old hits. ... I don’t give a [expletive] that most of my heroes got lame when they turned 40. I spent most of the last decade thinking about that. Why do they go from this insanely high level of work to diminished echoes of the past? And I think it’s a coziness thing. You do something amazing and you don’t want to lose the crowd that tells you that’s amazing. You’re out in the cold. Well we like to be out in the cold. We’re done with the record business, so we’re free to do whatever I want."
At this point, I feel like you can just throw out any topic to Corgan and he'll go off on an insane rant. For instance, if you were to walk up to him and say, I dunno, "Toaster!" His response would probably be something like:
"D'arcy wanted to take a toaster on tour because she was obsessed with having chunky peanut butter slightly melted on her PB&Js. This was back when we were driving around in a rented van and didn't have anyone's help with anything. James was still dating her and was totally conflicted because he knew it was a dumb [expletive] idea, but it was his girlfriend. So we battled over this [expletive] toaster for three weeks before we left town and it was one of the things the band never came back from. But [expletive] that. I don't want to talk about the past and all of those things. We're a new [expletive] band."

It's that time of year - The Onion's AV Club goes through their picks for the top 30 albums of 2008. Aside from Death Cab for Cutie being too high, it's a pretty solid effort.

It's that time of year, part II - Roger Ebert declares his top 20 movies of 2008. Alas, the move to Buenos Aires means that I've only seen, like, three of these. And I call myself a movie blogger. Anyway, as with just about anything written by Ebert, this one is worth reading.

Strike up the band, turn off the random - Eric over at Scene Stealers lays out his top ten fictional movie bands. Also, in the comment section, I scuffle with someone over the most insignificant of problems. Yay internets!

Denied - Mental Floss has a quiz about actors who were nearly cast in famous roles. It's a tougher quiz because you have to identify the lie instead of the ture statement. I don't know why. 8/10 for me. How'd you do?

Friday, December 5, 2008

First Blush - Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy

We haven’t first-blushed anything in a while around here. Part of that is due to the Buenos Aires move, but also because there just haven’t been the released worth reacting to in real time. But now, from Los Angeles and parts-unkown, comes a release more deserving of a First Blush than any we’ve seen previously. Coming 17 years after their last real album, and utilizing only one of Guns N Roses’ real members, Chinese Democracy is technically the most anticipated album in history. Rumors indicate that over 13 million dollars were spent on the release, which is amazing for a band whose prime was so long ago. I could pontificate further, but rather, let’s find out what all the fuss is about, shall we? OK, Axl, let’s see whatcha got!

Track 1 – Chinese Democracy
Distant sirens are always a risky way to begin an album, even if they are actually guitars meant to sound like sirens. But that’s the band’s first salvo in 17 years. Meanwhile, hushed voices argue in some language (presumably Mandarin?) - are they the hushed voices of political freedom? Only Axl knows. Speaking of Axl, he joins in at 1:20 with his trademark wail. Halfway through, the song definitely sounds as though it’s from a different time (that time being roughly 1994), but there is no doubting that it rocks, which is what we’re here for, right? “It don’t really matter, I guess you’ll find out for yourself.” Lyrics were never Axl’s strong suit, so why the high-minded title if you’re just going to ramble about nothing? I guess it’s not nothing to him. Anyway, so far, I’m impressed.

Track 2 – Shackler’s Revenge
Heavy and dissonant for the sake of being dissonant and heavy. Wow are these lyrics bad: “Don’t ever try to tell me how much you care for me.” Well through the song, I find myself uncompelled to write anything. With an album runtime of 71 minutes, maybe they should have left this one out, or at least not made it track #2. Or maybe it’s all downhill from here. If so, I have some laundry to tend to.

Track 3 – Better
We’re not in classic GN’R territory here. Axl is trying to sound inspirational. His strong suit has always been faux anger, but this song is working anyway. This track is halfway between Alice in Chains and Helmet’s Betty album. Nice evolution, but again, very ’94. Perhaps these 14 tracks are meant to represent each of the years that have passed in the making of this album? THAT would be quite the concept. I can’t wait to see what the band does in response to 9/11 and Katrina!

Track 4 – Street Of Dreams
Uh-oh, Axl sat down at the piano again. And there’s some acoustic strumming going on. This may be November Rain, part III (yes, Estranged was part II). 45 seconds in, Axl is really Joe Cockering it up here. I must admit, it’s bringing a smile to my face that is only 40% based on amusement. It’s a little melodramatic, but not quite as heavy-handed as the Use Your Illusion melodrama. But I could do without this one. 3:55 in, Axl has discovered protools. That’s not a good thing, and we end on an incredibly cheesy chord from the string section.

Track 5 – If the World
I just noticed that there isn’t much bass work of note on any of these songs. I must admit that the band misses Duff McKagan. I never, ever, thought I would say something like that about duff McKagan. Axl’s flexing his range and this one just kind of plods along. But it’s inoffensive in its plodding. This song doesn’t bother me at all.

Track 6 – There Was A Time
Despite my hopes that this is a cover of a superb James Brown hidden gem, it’s not. “It was the wrong time for you, it was the wrong time for me, it was the wrong time for anyone, but it looks like it’s meant to be.” This song could be about anything, but I want to assume that it’s the story of Chinese Democracy, any and all definitions. “But there was a tiiiiiiimmmMMME.” OK, he just won me over, despite the annoying strings. A ton of guitar solos on every track, which is great. The solos themselves aren’t great, and definitely below the standards set by Slash in the band’s heyday, but if they just tried to gloss over his absence with heavy riffing, the result would have been a disaster. Incidentally, there are seven different people credited with “guitar” on the album, and I have no idea who plays on which songs. 4:05 and Axl is really wailing right now. No protools needed. Damn. That’s right, I said dayamn.

Track 7 – Catcher in the Rye
Can you imagine GN’R titling a song Catcher in the Rye back in the day? There is no “Back Off Bitch” to be found on this album, apparently. Now is when I reiterate that faux anger is Axl’s strong suit. I’d like to hear more of it here. Incidentally, this one sounds like Keane or Maroon 5 covering a Guns N’ Roses song. No, that isn’t a compliment to anybody.

Track 8 – Scraped
A capella opening (but it’s more “Ah! Capella! Make it stop!”). But from there, we start to rock again. “Don’t you try to stop us now. I just refuse. Don’t you try to stop us now. ‘Cause I just won’t let you!” Wailing and riffing galore. This is what we came for.

Track 9 – Riad N’ the Bedouins
A loose, but kickin’ track with aggressive vocals. “I don’t give a fuck ‘bout them, ‘cause I am cra-zy!” Axl used to sing, “You’re crazy,” but maybe he’s somehow become even more self-centered? That’s what happens when you break up a band and then continue using its moniker when you really just mean yourself.

Track 10 – Sorry
Oooh, dark and spooky. “You’d like to think that some way it’s me and not you.” Yeah, Axl’s not very well read, is he? This song’s not bad – very late 90’s, early 00’s, post-Soundgarden bluesy whatever. (Actually, it most closely resembles the supremely mediocre post-Blind Melon outfit, Unified Theory, but nobody’s heard of them – quite rightly – yet this works.) “Close your eyes, all well and good, I’ll kick your ass like I said that I would.” He really means this stuff – at least he thinks he does. This time my smile is 95% amusement-based.

Track 11 – I.R.S.
Stompy track that features Axl front and center. This is the closest we’re going to get to rap-rock, but he’s definitely singing each word. “Gonna call the president. Gonna call a private eye. Gonna get the IRS. Gonna get myself the FBI.” By the way, I’m pretty sure this is a love song. 3:31 – extended wail that just blew my damn mind. This might be the best track on the album (guitar solos are top-notch on this one, too). OK, that was actually like Nickelback, but perfected. I’m as shocked as you are that I think such a concept is a good thing. No, that still doesn’t leave me with any hope for Nickelback.

Track 12 – Madagascar
Horn and string arrangements are followed by electro drums and Axl sounding tender. Then we get melodramatic again, but once again it works. The second half of this disc is far superior to the first. Now there are audio clips by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” spliced with far too many others, including the same Cool Hand Luke clip they used on Civil War. The track has degenerated to nonsense. It cannot be taken seriously (even though it’s actually a good song). Who let that idea pass the smell test? Never mind, I know who.

Track 13 – This I Love
Uhhh…. sounds like a Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. “I just can’t let it die, ‘cause her heart’s just like miiiine.” Even for a vanity project, this track is far too indulgent. I foresee them playing the song as the last encore while even the die-hard fans stream for the exits.

Track 14 – Prostitute
This is sounding really cheesy for a song called Prostitute. “Iiiiii saw the damage in you, my fortunate one – the ending of youth.” How perfectly unsubtle. The album ends by mellowing out into a strings-only finish. I don't expect to play these last two songs very often.

On the whole, my first blush take is that this album is surprisingly good. Because, let’s be honest, everyone thought this would be Axl’s ego just taking a dump on a record. Does it have anything to do with China or democracy? Not as far as I can tell. Most of the lyrics are horrendous, but that comes as no surprise. Will the album be a hit? There isn't much out there like this right now, and the brand name is relatively useless. I don't hear a smash single, but at the same time, a lot of people will really dig the album as a whole. Was it worth the 17 year wait? Um, sure. Is it on par with Appetite for Destruction? Of course not, but its unevenness perfectly matches that of the Illusion records. What's lacking is the rebellious persona that Axl wore so well in the past. But if a 46 year old redhead with braids in his hair tried that, would any of us take him at all seriously? In sum, Chinese Democracy is probably as good as it could possibly be.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Woefully Short On Content

Hanging On - Phil Rosenthal reports that so far, the removal of Richard Roeper and "friends" from the cast of "At the Movies" has led to a downturn in the show's ratings. Very much like Rosenthal, my first inclination was "serves the bastards right!" But also very much like Rosenthal, I then realized that they're actually doing pretty well. Time will tell if this dumbed-down version of the show takes hold. I'm guessing that they're in serious trouble in the long run. I've always liked Ben Mankiewicz's work on The Young Turks, if not his delivery. Ben Lyons, on the other hand, is by all accounts a dummy. We'll see if the public likes their reviews dumbed down and corporatized.

Speaking of Bens - Roger Ebert really lets Ben Stein have it over his pro-Intelligent Design "documentary." This is a long piece, but freaking hilarious.

They're Not Gonna Take It - The Trib runs down the worst holiday albums of all time. What's the best of all time? Of course, it's Fishbone's It's a Wonderful Life EP!

Big Girls Don't Cry - Scene Stealers' Latest top ten - Gigantic Women! No, Amazon Women on the Moon is not included. I think they have a no Guttenberg clause over there.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Heard These Guys Yet? - Nov 08

Happy winter, everyone. We're back with another slew of recommendations for you.Put these on your wish-list for Santa!

Recommender: Biz
Band: Child Bite
Blurb: Apparently there are still some young people out their delivering high-energy punk-influenced rock. I "discovered" this Detroit band when they opened for Tight Phantomz at a loft party space that has a a pretty humorous name which I'm not sure I can say on this respectable family-oriented blog. This was in January and one of the coldest nights of the year, as I remember nearly freezing to death walking the five blocks from the venue back to my apartment. Luckily, Child Bite was worth the frost bite. They had a frantic-spastic sound that was quirky and artistic while still maintaining a lot of groove. If you like to see a band with fantastic live energy, these are the guys! They had a saxophone among their arsenal, and I remember thinking it really added to their sound. I bought their album Gold Thriller after the show, and found it was pretty good, but it didn't capture the live energy and I missed the horn. When visiting my friend Mr. Moses in Detroit, I learned he works with some of the guys in the band and also digs their rawk. I just more recently picked up their latest album, Fantastic Gusts of Blood, which I like better than Gold Thriller and comes closer to the live energy I remember.
Reminds me of: A faster, more hectic version of Devo
File Under: Word to your Mothersbaugh
But don't take my word for it: Child Bite at Myspace

Recommender: PMaz
Band: The Golden Dogs
Blurb:I will start by saying this will probably be the worst band review I end up doing for this blog. Why? Well, there's a couple reasons: 1) I have only heard one album by this band and 2) I have no idea what to say about them. The closest band I think they sound like are The Rosebuds (first album only), but does anyone else even know The Rosebuds? Interestingly, they were listed first on Allmusic as a similar artist. The review for the latest album keeps mentioning Paul McCartney, but other than the cover they do of the McCartney gem "Nineteen Hundred Eight-Five", the similarities stop there. I heard about Golden Dogs via a quote by one of the members of Sloan. I love Sloan, so they like a band, I figured I would give them a chance. But perhaps they were just plugging a fellow Canadian band. But before I go further, let me make it clear....I do like Golden Dogs. And though they sound a bit like early Sloan, I think there high energy noise pop sounds more like The New Pornographers, also employing the backup female vocal from time to time. There are a few mid-tempo pop numbers here as well. This is the second time I have reviewed a band from Canada. Maybe I should consider a move.
Reminds me of: The Features, Superdrag, and a watered down Arcade Fire.
File Under: Air Bud VI: Rock and Roll Over
But don't take my word for it: TGD at Myspace

Recommender: Jonas
Band: Mice Parade
Blurb: Mice Parade could pretty much be the poster child for what the Indie/Emo “sound” is... They are guitar-centric, have soft and emotional vocals, and songs that move from sad and earnest to optimistic and bright. Although they have been around for a bit, they really came to prominence last year with their eponymous release. Mice Parade have two drum kits going, which makes their sound particularly alive and vibrant, without ever seeming overpowering. The first track, “Sneaky Red,” is an up-tempo track that instantly gets the ball rolling with banging drums and fast-paced guitars. The album then takes a 180 degree turn to tender sadness with the “Tales of Las Negras.” This is my top pick on the album, and is one of my all-time favorites, anywhere, ever. This album continues to bounce back and forth from emotional highs and lows for the remainder, with brilliant results. The only track I’m not sold on is the “Double Dolphins On A Dime” due to the presence of vocals of Mum’s lead singer, Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir (I’m personally not a fan of her voice). So, Mice Parade comes highly recommended and is an album that I have pretty much had on my ipod since I first got it a year ago. It’s always a gratifying listen, even on its 100th play.
Reminds me of: Take a pot of Pinback and add a cup of Death Cab’s Transatlanticism, stir.
File Under: The Mouse that Roared Softly
But don't take my word for it: Mice Parade at Myspace

Recommender: Reed
Band: Chairlift
Blurb: At first blush, Brooklyn's Chairlift comes across as overly mellow, almost to the point of being lackadaisically droney. But a funny thing happens upon repeat listens. You realize that they're actually making brilliant pop music, only it occupies the same space as other spaced out acts such as My Bloody Valentine or Lush (only without all the fuzz). Yet Caroline Polachek's vocals remind me a bit of Nico from The Velvet Underground. See, I'm having a hard time describing this to you because they've got a really unique thing going. Recently, the band landed a pretty sweet gig, opening for Yeasayer on a North American tour. Their debut album, Does You Inspire You, is worth a listen. Give it three spins and it is bound to win you over. (As an added bonus today, TLOBF digs Chairlift, too!)
Reminds me of: Stereolab meets Suzanne Vega on ecstasy
File Under: All Tomorrow's Sweeties
But don't take my word for it: Chairlift at Myspace

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Wanes Nostalgically

Your City To Burn - Jim DeRogatis is in full-on nostalgia mode with the Smashing Pumpkins' (kinda) reunion tour blowing through Chicago. First, he looks back on the four biggest Chicago acts of the early 90s and laments that they're not bringing the good rawk nowadays. Jim talked about this on Sound Opinions back in August, but is bringing it up in more detail this time. Money quote:

Whatever mistakes they might make... from the perspective of the mid-'90s, it was hard to imagine the bands of the alternative moment ever becoming the artistically stilted, cash-hungry or pathetically reactionary dinosaurs that preceded them.

Sadly, the argument can be made that that's exactly what's happened.
Hey, it happens. Most bands don't age too well after four years. How many musical acts truly have legs? It's a rare thing. Going beyond Chicago and looking at the entire early-90s alternative scene, I can only name the following bands that put out anything remotely interesting post 2000:
Dinosaur Jr.
Fishbone (playing the Double Door on 11/22!)
The Flaming Lips
Nine Inch Nails

But Jim then goes one step further and pulls up four previous columns he wrote on the Smashing Pumpkins. There was a time when I would have pored over every word, but now I feel like I'm too busy. Or I don't care that much (perhaps because I live in South America and can't exactly see these shows). And today, he reviews last night's show. Sounds like it had its moments, but was far from mind-blowing. Greg Kot review is here.

Great Scott! - Christopher Lloyd's house burned down. Bummer.

Still Good Dudes - Your every-so-often update on the two main characters from Hoop Dreams. Seems like they're both doing pretty well and are, like, even older than I am. Weird.

Cleared for arrival - Stereogum checks in on Andrew Bird's progress. The new album doesn't come out until mid-January.

Somewhat Frightening - Another quiz from Mental Floss. This time it's name actresses in bad horror movies early in their careers. I think I got around 85% or so, but I can't even remember anymore.

Shaken, not good - Scene Stealers presents the Top Ten Worst Bond Movies. There have only been 23 Bond movies and the fact that they can make a top ten worst (and still receive complaints about what was omitted) tells you why Mike Myers had such a successful experience spoofing them.

Hear his train a comin' - Mitch Mitchell passed away last week at the age of 61. He and Noel Redding were often blasted as not being talented enough to share the stage with Jimi Hendrix, but one could then ask for a list of people that would meet such a standard (the list in its entirety: Stevie Wonder, James Brown). Mitchell didn't pound as hard as Keith Moon or some of his other contemporaries, but his wild, aggressive style perfectly set the table for Jimi's frenetic riffing. Yet, on the tunes that weren't trying to run you over, such as "Wait Until Tomorrow", his agile rhythms and deft approach served each song perfectly. I've been spinning nothing but Hendrix for the last week and appreciating Mitchell as much as ever. Here's Dan's unique take. But now, watch Mitch go to work:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Picks On Dumb Nerds

Check that marquee again, son - From YPR, a list of ill-conceived musical double bills. They did leave out Bush / ...and you will know us by the trail of dead, but it's a pretty hilarious list. The R. Kelly one is easily my favorite. But I won't ruin it for you. Go see for yourself.

Flunking science class - This had to be hastily done. Newarama has their Top 5 Plausible Science Fiction Films. #1 is 2001: A Space Odyssey. That's an easy call and absolutely accurate. From there, the list decends in to an utter joke. #2: The Truman Show - they view it as plausible because Survivor and Big Brother exist. Um, those people signed up to be on television. You know how much the set alone would cost for The Truman Show? Let alone all the actors and everything else? Please. There's no way such a program stays on the air for 30 years. #3 Gattaca - OK, we'll give you that one. #4 Iron Man. Iron Man?!? Come on. #5 Jurassic Park. I'm willing to accept that the premise is inherently feasible, and maybe the book makes a more compelling argument, but the film is an overt exercise in fantasy. There is nothing about it even pretending to be realistic. So instead of just complaining and acting like a smartass here's my rebuttal:

A much better top 5:
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Blade Runner
3. Children of Men
4. Gattaca
5. The Abyss

Just like the phrase itself - Over at Scene Stealers, Eric provides us with his Top Ten Movie Series that have jumped the shark. Aside from picking the wrong film of the series for his #1, it's pretty spot-on.

And since we seem kinda light today, here's something that someone reminded me you should see because reading is fundamental!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Gets Enlightened a Bit

Missed Him and Will Miss Him More - Ever heard of Nathaniel Mayer? I hadn't, but over at HearYa, they tell the news of his passing this week. With a rasp that would make Tom Waits blush, and fuzzy blues riffs that would do the same to the Black Keys, he's right up my alley. Check out "Lonely Man" over here, and judge for yourself.

Someone's Been Eating My Porridge - And it's the Country Bears! You may remember a few months ago, we examined the actors most devoted to their paycheck, or at least with the most egregious examples. Well, now Mental Floss gives you the chance to guess which awful movies actually featured Christopher Walken (our #2 biggest Paycheck Hound), and which did not. He's got that many duds. I scored 15/18, see if you can beat it.

Mo' Music! - Check out the newest, latest, greatest music and entertainment website, Shockhound.com. They've got loads of music for sale, reviews, t-shirts, and your own customizable community features. Definitely an interesting new endeavor.

I can't pronounce it either - Sigur Ros has a new video. It's all very film school senior project, but the song's great! Check it out at Stereogum. They also have a new Smashing Pumpkins video I couldn't manage to get to play. But you can give it a shot if you're inclined.

Speaking of Grant Park - Lollapalooza also rallied and has signed a 10-year contract. Let's hope they can get their act together in coming years and not rest on their laurels. This past summer's was easily the worst (in terms of music anyway) of the four so far.

Proudly Standing Up - Roger Ebert laces into George Bush for appointing Lee Greenwood to a six year term on the National Council of the Arts. Then he backs things off a bit and gives Mr. Greenwood some marginal credit for living a long ass time. I've said this before, but Ebert's really hitting his stride as a blogger, even if he goes too light on the snark sometimes.

This List Is Overrated - Scene Stealers list this week is the Top Ten Overrated Films of all time. As you might imagine, it's generating a lot of discussion. Gladiator, the most overrated entity on the planet, only made the honorable mention list. Just a reminder, I recently posted a Top Ten of my own over in those parts. Considerably less commentary on that one. Go leave a note if you're bored or somethin'.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dr. Strangelove Drops the Bomb on the 2008 General Election

It seems like three or four years ago now, but back in March, we took a look at the presidential primary race through the Dude’s sunglasses, reviewing all the quotes, incidents and worthwhile happenings. A couple months later, we compared the candidates to professional wrestlers. With the election set for Tuesday, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give this another go. And because so many moments have delved into the absurd, the movie that most aptly sums up the general election season is Stanely Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Two warnings: this is kinda long and my photoshopping incompetence persists. Anyway, without further ado, let’s see what happened. On with the quotes!
“Your Commie has no regard for human life, not even of his own. For this reason men, I want to impress upon you the need for extreme watchfulness. The enemy may come individually, or in strength. He may even appear in the form of our own troops. But however we must stop him. We must not allow him to gain entrance to this base. Now, I'm going to give you three simple rules: First, trust no one, whatever his uniform or rank, unless he is known to you personally; Second, anyone or anything that approaches within 200 yards of the perimeter is to be fired upon; Third, if in doubt, shoot first then ask questions later. I would sooner accept a few casualties through accidents rather losing the entire base and its personnel through carelessness. Any variation of these rules must come from me personally. Now, men, in conclusion, I would like to say that, in the two years it has been my privilege to be your commanding officer, I have always expected the best from you, and you have never given me anything less than that. Today, the nation is counting on us. We're not going to let them down. Good luck to you all.” – It didn’t take long once it was clear that Obama was going to sew up the Democratic nomination. The right wing immediately picked up the most extreme of Hillary Clinton’s attacks, trying to paint him as some nefarious outsider. Obama’s a Muslim. Obama’s not a real American. Obama’s a community organizer! And most recently, Obama’s a socialist. It looks like it’s not working out any better for McCain than it did for Hillary.

“I know how it is, baby. Tell you what you do: you just start your countdown, and old Bucky'll be back here before you can say ‘Blast off!’” – When Hillary Clinton began her speech at the Democratic convention, lip readers could easily note Bill’s “I love you, I love you, I love you,” presumably directed in her direction. Was it just for show like Buck Turdgidson’s efforts to placate his secretary? Only Bill knows for certain.

“He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” – General Ripper’s ideological, paranoid ramble used to justify the attack that really sets things in motion is oddly comparable to Mitt Romney and Rudy Giulani’s aggressive speeches at the Republican Convention. Romney especially blamed all of society’s ills on Liberals who were hell-bent on the destruction of the United States as we know it. Coming from Rudy, the pro-choice, thrice-married former mayor of New York City, it was especially ironic.
“Well, I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones. You sure you got today's codes?” – Trying to steal some of Obama’s thunder from the his big speech at the Denver convention, the following day, John McCain announced his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin. From Republicans not named Bill Kristol, the response was generally, “Wha…?” From Democrats, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. High fives all around!”

“If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!” – Turdgidson’s excitement over the potential bomb run without perspective of where he was or whom he was talking to was matched by die-hard Republicans who immediately fawned over Sarah Palin after her convention speech. As time passed, they either rallied all the more or saw that the emperor had no clothes. Well, ‘cept for those clothes that cost 150 grand…

“I told you never to call me here, don't you know where I am?... Well look, baby, I c-, I can't talk to you now... my president needs me!... Of course Bucky'd rather be there with you!... Of course it isn't only physical!... I deeply respect you as a human being... Some day I'm gonna make you Mrs Buck Turgidson!... Oh, listen uh, you go back to sleep hon, and Bucky'll be back there just as soon as he can... All right... listen, sug, don't forget to say your prayers!” – Turdigson’s attempts to convince his secretary to take it easy and allay her fears are oddly reminiscent of the McCain campaign’s approach to the disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters. Suddenly Republicans were lauding Hillary as though they’d always been huge supporters, claiming she'd been jobbed out of the nomination and going as far as nominating a woman for Vice President with the main purpose being to pick up female votes.
“Well, boys, I reckon this is it - nuclear combat toe to toe with the Rooskies. Now look, boys, I ain't much of a hand at makin' speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin' on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin'. Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human bein's if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelin's about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back home is a-countin' on you and by golly, we ain't about to let 'em down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important promotions and personal citations when this thing's over with. That goes for ever' last one of you regardless of your race, color or your creed. Now let's get this thing on the hump - we got some flyin' to do.” – In efforts to pump up Sarah Palin’s foreign policy credentials, Cindy McCain went on ABC News and said, “Remember, Alaska’s the closest part of our continent to Russia.” It seemed somewhat ridiculous, but it somehow became a talking point, even coming directly from the Governor’s mouth when she spouted, “As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska.” It also led to this wonderful image from “the mind of Sarah Palin”:
“Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.” – Trailing by only a bit, the McCain campaign not only decided they were going to start playing hardball, they announced to the press that they would “go nuclear” on Obama and start an all-out attack. Apparently they didn’t learn the lesson of the Democratic primary when Hillary Clinton announced the “kitchen sink” strategy. The negative campaign blitz harmed McCain even more than it did Senator Clinton.

“Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.” – Originally, this quote was assigned to the infighting that was rampant in the Clinton campaign in the second half of the democratic primary, but now we’ve seen even worse incidents coming form the republicans. McCain staffers have referred to Palin as a “diva,” claiming that she has “gone rogue.” Later, staffer Nicole Wallace was thrown under the bus for clothesgate.

“Based on the findings of the report, my conclusion was that this idea was not a practical deterrent for reasons which at this moment must be all too obvious.” – For a reason still unkown, considering the ton of the rest of the campaign, McCain chose not to go after Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Could it be because Sarah Palin has her own preacher problems? Or perhaps they felt it would be harder to play up the Muslim storyline at the same time? Still, for all of Obama’s “questionable relationships,” this one seemed like the most obvious to utilize. The man God-damned America, for Pete’s sake!

“Well, boys, we got three engines out, we got more holes in us than a horse trader's mule, the radio is gone and we're leaking fuel and if we was flying any lower why we'd need sleigh bells on this thing... but we got one little budge on them Rooskies. At this height why they might harpoon us but they dang sure ain't gonna spot us on no radar screen!” – Originally, Peter Sellers was to have four roles in the movie, but couldn’t manage to get the folksy voice down for Major T.J. “King” Kong. Instead, Slim Pickens stepped in and nailed the part. In her vice-presidential debate performance, Palin did her best Pickens impersonation. While some right wingers saw starbursts, most people wondered why she was talking like that.

“You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.” – The most absurd comment in the movie, outrage at the destruction of a vending machine’s changebox, goes to the most absurd outrage of the political campaign. When Obama talked about putting lipstick on a pig in reference to McCain’s economic plan, the Republicans stamped their feet and tried to imply that he was talking about Sarah Palin. For the most part, the public didn’t buy it.

“I think you're some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts. Now move!” – Colonel Bat Guano is certain that Ripper and Mandrake are up to some sexy shenanigans, when reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Well, OK, if Ripper had his way, maybe not, but regardless, the McCain camp tried to claim that Obama wanted to teach small children “comprehensive sexual education,” even though that didn’t meet with reality. It was an overreach that harmed them greatly with voters.

“Stay on the bomb run, boys! I'm gonna get them doors open if it harelips ever'body on Bear Creek!” – The plan to attack Obama as voraciously as possible was put in place immediately, and most wingnuts, particularly the crew at Fox News stayed on script. But at times a few people went too far. Most notably, Liz Trotta who joked that it would be a pretty cool thing if the man was murdered.

“Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.” – In the primaries, once Obama’s message of “change” caught on, Hillary tried to co-opt it for her campaign. It didn’t work. The McCain group went one step farther rebranding their team as “Change You Can Believe In,” directly lifting the words from Obama’s brand, and showing the same kind of envy for the enemy Turdgidson admits to under his breath.

“Mein Führer! I can walk!” – The biggest “ooops” comment of the movie was easily surpassed by Joe Biden who began (and ended) his own presidential campaign by calling Barack Obama “clean” and “articulate”. Recent blunders also include referencing a restaurant that doesn’t exist, stating that Obama will be tested immediately in office, and talking about President Roosevelt going on Television during the Great Depression.
“Hello?... Uh... Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes...” – The most hilarious and ridiculous phone call of the movie goes to Sarah Palin who earlier this week was pranked by a Montreal radio station. Just listen to it.

“Our source was the New York Times.” – In a portion of her disastrous Katie Couric interview, perhaps for fear of answering “incorrectly,” Sarah Palin couldn’t name a single newspaper she reads.

“Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the fear to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing.” – William Ayers, the most oft-uttered talking point from the right wing, didn’t exactly instill the fear in the public that the Republicans had hoped. Perhaps we’ve become inured against such tactics after eight years of Bush/Cheney.

“Ah, oh, no... well, I don't think they wanted me to talk really. I don't think they wanted me to say anything. It was just their way of having a bit of fun, the swines. Strange thing is they make such bloody good cameras.” – John McCain was at his best when telling stories from the past, particularly when discussing his time in a Vietnamese prison camp. In fact, the biggest thing working against him and in favor of Obama in this campaign is that he is a storyteller. McCain loves to talk about things that have occurred already and does so with considerable charm. But at a time when most Americans are wanting to move forward, it doesn’t rally the electorate. And Obama was just better at talking about the future.

“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?” – An odd question that seems to have no place in the debate, and the fact that it implicitly references how the water gets to us means that we now get to hear from “Joe the Plumber.” “Joe” suddenly became the attention of millions of Americans thanks to McCain dropping his name at the third debate. Of course, Joe was really a Republican and really had little to say when he went on TV. But at least he held a press conference. That’s more than we can say for Mrs. Palin. Just today, "Joe" has declared Barack Obama a traitor. His presence also reminds us of this fifteen year old Onion story.

“General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring!”
“Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.”
– Quite surprisingly, there have been many Republicans coming out to endorse Obama. None more notable than Chris Buckley, son of William F. Buckley. For the endorsement, Buckley was fired from the National Review, the magazine founded by his father. After towing the party line for so long, jumping ship is the ultimate taboo and a slap in the face of the system that got us to this point in history.

“If you don't put that gun away and stop this stupid nonsense, the court of Inquiry on this'll give you such a pranging, you'll be lucky if you end up wearing the uniform of a bloody toilet attendant.” – After gun-control issues harmed the Democrats in 2000 and 2004, they have largely tried to avoid the issue this year, and have done a decent job of it. But Obama did make a rather large blunder by claiming that some voters choose against their own self-interest because they “cling to guns and religion.” This statement harmed him both in the primaries and in the general election. Without it, his lead would be larger.
“Mr. President, if I may speak freely, the Rooskie talks big, but frankly, we think he's short of know how. I mean, you just can't expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like some of our boys. And that's not meant as an insult, Mr. Ambassador, I mean, you take your average Russkie, we all know how much guts he's got. Hell, lookit look at all them them Nazis killed off and they still wouldn't quit.” – The derisive comments in a moment of otherwise civil discourse with the Russian ambassador reflect the same tone and attitude that led McCain to avoid eye contact with Obama in the first debate and call him “that one” in the second.

“Well, he just went a little funny.” – Similar to Ripper’s brain, the economy went a little funny, impacting the election greatly. McCain was in trouble already, but when the stock market crashed, it was something he had as much control over as Dimitri.

“Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!” – The panicked reaction of the McCain campaign during the financial collapse led to a “suspension” and threats to postpone the second debate. And it does a fair job summing up their approach the whole thing. Always following Obama’s moves, playing defense the whole time, and generally trying to counter Obama’s moves rather than making their own, the mineshaft gap has been the difference in the election. If the polls are right, we’ll see the election of a new party on Tuesday. It’s obviously incredibly important, but you have to admit that this has been the most fascinating election you can recall. From start to finish, it has been hilarious, outlandish, thought-provoking and above all, passionate on all sides. America’s ready to make amends with itself, regardless of who wins on Tuesday. But you can bet on this, your grandchildren will ask you where you were, what you thought, and how it all went down. See you at the polls!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Fights The Law

Baby You Can Drive My Car - Mental Floss has a quiz based on cars named in song lyrics. Kinda neat. I think I aced it, but it's been a week and I can't remember. How's you do? Also, while we're at it, here's a Beatles quiz. Not only did I not ace it, I flunked. Bad.

Wistful Thinking - I'm starting to get a little worried about Roger Ebert. Not because there is any kind of decline in his work - on the contrary, his blog has been truly amazing as of late. But because he seems to be so focused on summing up his life. Like he's writing his electronic memoirs or something. First he very thoughtfully contemplates his life without a voice and the nature of communication itself. Then he lays out his ethical ground rules for movie critics. My favorite bullet point:

Beware of verbal parallelism. Never make a statement such as, "I like women in real life, but I didn't like 'The Women'." Readers may write you sharing that they loved "JFK," but they fly out of O'Hare.
The whole thing is definitely worth a read whether you ever want to review a movie or not. Whoops, just broke Rule #1!

Down the Youtubes - Well, it took a really long time, but they've finally done it. MTV has put together a relatively decent video site. Go here to check out thousands upon thousands of your favorite videos. I highly recommend this classic. Or if you're up for something more blatant, this'n. Seriously, though, say goodbye to the rest of your day.

Classical but not classic - But I'm not sure. Yo Yo Ma and Andrew Bird diddle around on their instruments a bit. I guess it's something.

Watch for the Wrath of Wesley - For some strange reason, the Chicago Tribune has named their 25 worst TV shows of all time. First of all, just 25? I could give you 100 in a few minutes. Secondly, Mr. Belvedere? I'm not going to try to tell you that it was the greatest show in history, but it was fifteen times the show that, say, Just the Ten of Us was. Also unfairly maligned, The Ropers. The show had no business existing, but Normal Fell is always a good time. Plus, to condemn shows that were only on for five episodes is kinda dumb, especially when Melrose Place is sitting there, unnamed. Seriously, when you go to name the worst musicians of all time, you don't talk about the guy in your cul de sac who plays in his garage on Saturday mornings.

What in the Heck's a Barack Obama (from The Onion)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

5-4-T: Underrecognized Albums of the 1990s

It's easy to look back fondly on the music of the 1990s. Firstly, for me, it was my high school and college years, which made gave every musical note more weight. But more significantly, it was a time when the fans began to exert their power over the radio station programmers and record companies. They had no idea what hit 'em. And yeah, we had to endure Collective Soul and Creed piggybacking on the alternative boom, but after the thin decade that was the 1980s, we were bestowed a wealth of innovative and powerful music. Still, some have slipped through the cracks of history. I've never liked the term underrated, because it all depends on who's doing the rating. So, in this week's Five For Tuesday, we look at the five most underrecognized albums of the 1990s - the albums that may not have influenced an army of indie rawkers, but nonetheless were brilliantly of their time

Honorable Mentions:
Antenna - Sway
12 Rods - Split Personalities
Mr. Bungle - California
Blinker the Star - August Everywhere

5) Pond - Rock Collection
Pond is a band whose career lasted the entire decade and then abruptly stopped. After a somewhat flat second release, their third album, Rock Collection, was their quirkiest with various unnamed, bizarre tracks and an opening song that starts before you're even ready, surprising the listener immediately. Whether you’re into quirks or not, the album remains brilliant. It lopes along in a casual way, but has hooks buried beneath the surface of nearly every tune. Surpassed in the mainstream by bands doing similar things in far less compelling ways like PUSA and Weezer, when Rock Collection failed to sell (I still see this record at used CD stores all the time), the band called it quits. Chris Brady went on to form Audio Learning Center and released another solid record, but I’ll always look back at what might have been had people been paying more attention.

4) Quicksand - Slip
Walter Schreifels has reunited his bands The Gorilla Biscuits and Rival Schools, but unfortunately the reunion that would be truly exciting has yet to be announced or even hinted at. Many bands are labeled post-punk, a term that means many things to many people. But nobody in the genre ever put together a record as loaded with songs both punchy and brainy. To this day, and despite many solid efforts, this album has never been surpassed. Between Alan Cage’s thick but precise drumming and the powerful wall of fuzz on every track, it’s a record that still cooks. In the summer of 1993, they opened for Anthrax and White Zombie. That lineup made no sense, but in its day somehow existed. But really, who else was Quicksand going to open for?

3) Digable Planets - Blowout Comb
This jazz-hop group scored a surprise mega-hit with 1993’s Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat). On their second album, they ratcheted up the atmosphere and pumped in more intricate rhythms, leading to rave reviews. When shopping at Dr. Wax records in Evanston one day, I asked an employee what he thought of the new album, “It’s the best hip-hop record I’ve ever heard.” “Really?” “It’s the best hip-hop record I’ve ever heard.” He was emphatic, and he was pretty close to right. The lyrics may not be profound or as clever as on their first album, but the musical innovation easily makes up for it. But with the hip-hop world being drawn to the gangsta style of Tupac and Biggie and no catchy single akin to Rebirth of Slick, few paid the record any attention. Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul weren’t exactly burning up the charts anymore either and their mainstream relevance was also lost to the cultural trends. I was lucky enough to snag 2nd row seats to a Digable Planets show around that time, and while the Dr. Wax guy may have been overrating the album just a bit, I can safely say it was one of the best sets I’ve seen by any band in my life.

2) Swervedriver - Mezcal Head
I’ve already written somewhat extensively about Swervedriver here this year. I covered their entire output and then reviewed their Metro show. But if any band was more underrecognized in the 1990s, I haven’t heard of them. Mezcal Head races out of the gates and doesn’t relent until Track 9, the slow groover Duress. With Adam Franklin displaying mastery of his guitar, the 90s fuzz pours out of the speakers on every track, but pops with an energy that no other “shoegazers” could match. It’s an album I’ve listened to probably a thousand times and still feels fresh as the day it hatched. Swervedriver never made the big time, nor did anyone from their specific style of indie fuzz rock, but the style of clamor was borrowed for multi-platinum records for bands such as Smashing Pumpkins, The Verve, and Foo Fighters. Of all the bands doing it, nobody did it better than Swervedriver done did it on this album.

1) Blind Melon – Soup
Blind Melon will always be known for two things. First, for their smash hit single, “No Rain.” Second, for the heroin overdose of lead singer Shannon Hoon. The single that spawned their success could easily be labeled cute, and the video, complete with dancing bumblebee girl, would be, uhhh… double cute. Instead of resting on their laurels and putting out a record with more cute singles, the band put forth a far more creative effort, lyrically, vocally, and musically. Genre-bending roots-rock with real soul and fat production, the album grows on you with each listen. This was music that nobody else was making at the time, with only occasional hints of grunge guitars and flashes of the spookiness that showed up on so many other albums. The record was delayed due to Hoon’s stint at a rehab facility. He died just months after it hit stores. Adding to an already tragic story, Soup remains generally undiscovered by fans and critics alike. Incidentally, Greg Prato of AMG agrees with me. Give this one a spin if it's been a while.

So which great underrecognized 1990s albums did I forget?

Monday, October 27, 2008

One Word Review: Grand Theft Parsons

57: Anachronistacular

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Youtube

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Braids Its Hair

The Bloom is Off - The new GNR album, Chinese Democracy arrives exclusively at Best Buy on November 23rd. However, you can listen to the first single, also titled "Chinese Democracy" right now! Just click here. Didja listen? What did you think? It's better than anything by The Darkness. Is that a compliment? Honestly, I thought it was way better than I expected. That's right. It was mediocre. Greg Kot agrees, but isn't as nice about it. At least it reminds me of Klosterman's hilarious review (note the date, please). That's gotta count for something, right?

Top o the Topps - Levi Stubbs, the lead voice behind legendary Motown group The For Topps passed away the other day. They were probably never in my personal, principal tier for Motown work, but they definitely led the second. I could go on, but Dan said it way better than I could hope to, so check out his writeup while I go listen to "Bernadette" for the 17th time today.

Ridin' Around Town like Mike Gravel
- Jens Lekman sings his song "Black Cab" in the back of an actual black cab. And the only instrumental backing is one of those thumb pianos.

Walkin' Around the Park like Mike Gravel - The Verve's latest video from their album Forth is kind of boring. At least it matches the song. Yet, I link anyway! Check it out.

Leaving The Lights On Tonight - Also, here's Eric from Scene Stealers' Top Ten Scariest Movie Themes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5-4-T: Because They Can

In honor of the release of Oliver Stone's W., in today's Five For Tuesday we look at the rich and powerful villains in the history of cinema who have no qualms about stepping on the little guy in pursuit of greed and lust for power. Now, Stone's film paints a more dunderheaded, sympathetic character then the scoundrels we'll see here. But he fits the profile nonetheless. So, without further ado, let's check out some evil-doers.

5) Bob Gunton as Warden Norton - The Shawshank Redemption
Warden Samuel Norton: I'm sure by now you've heard. Terrible thing. Man that young, less than a year to go, trying to escape... Broke Captain Hadley's heart to shoot him, truly it did. We just have to put it behind us... move on.
Andy Dufresne: I'm done. Everything stops. Get someone else to run your scams.
Warden Samuel Norton: Nothing stops. Nothing... or you will do the hardest time there is. No more protection from the guards. I'll pull you out of that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the Sodomites. You'll think you've been fucked by a train! And the library? Gone... sealed off, brick-by-brick. We'll have us a little book barbecue in the yard. They'll see the flames for miles. We'll dance around it like wild Injuns! You understand me? Catching my drift?... Or am I being obtuse?
Warden Samuel Norton: [to Hadley] Give him another month to think about it.

4) Klaus Kinksi as Aguirre in Aguirre, der Zorn GottesDon Lope de Aguirre: I am the great traitor. There must be no other. Anyone who even thinks about deserting this mission will be cut up into 198 pieces. Those pieces will be stamped on until what is left can be used only to paint walls. Whoever takes one grain of corn or one drop of water... more than his ration, will be locked up for 155 years. If I, Aguirre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees... then the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the wrath of god. The earth I pass will see me and tremble. But whoever follows me and the river, will win untold riches. But whoever deserts...

3) Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be BloodDaniel Plainview: I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.
Henry Brands: That part of me is gone... working and not succeeding- all my failures has left me... I just don't... care.
Daniel Plainview: Well, if it's in me, it's in you. There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone.

2) Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen in Total Recall
Technician: Sir, the oxygen level is bottoming out in Sector G. What do you want me to do about it?
Vilos Cohaagen: [as if obvious] Don't do anything.
Technician: But they won't last an hour, sir.
Vilos Cohaagen: Fuck 'em. It'll be a good lesson to the others.

1) John Huston as Noah Cross - ChinatownNoah Cross: See, Mr. Gitts, most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they're capable of... anything.