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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One Word Review: 21

50: Ponderous

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Races Against the Blogger Scheduled Outage

So we gotta go quickly!

Smokin! - Roger Ebert on smoking. As per usual, his prose is rocking. Go read it.

You're crazy - A 14 question Guns N Roses quiz. I got 11 / 14. Sometimes I feel like I'm beatin' a dead horse. But can you beat my score?

There goes your afternoon - Pitchfork gives us their list of the 200 greatest songs of the 1960s. It's solid.
(HT Byronne)

Smashed - Stereogum has a new Smashing Pumpkins song called G.L.O.W. It's solid, too, believe it or not. I have no idea if it stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. No, I don't know the Farmer's Daughter's phone number. Yes, I do know Mt. Fuji's.

Kicking ass for God - Scene Stealers Top Ten this week - Top Ten Slapstick Horror films. The #1 is right on. I can't really speak to the rest. Sorry for the whole brevity thing today, but you got your links, so don't complain!

5-4-T: Break in to get down

I am no fan of musicals. This is because the music is almost always awful. But even a hard case like me has some soft spots. So, in this Five-For-Tuesday we track down on-screen musical interludes that are wholly welcome breaks in our ongoing narratives.

5) Aimee Mann - Wise Up - Magnolia (Jarmsusch on steroids)

4) Linda Scott - Every Little Star - Mulholland Dr. (positively dreamy)

3) Kecak Natives - doin' their thing - Baraka (these boys are really into character)

2) Norman Blake - A Man of Constant Sorrow - O Brother Where Art Thou? (bonafide)

1) Ray Charles - Shake a Tailfeather - The Blues Brothers (Kanye wishes he could shake a tailfeather like Brother Ray)

So what did I forget? I mean besides Pink Floyd: The Wall.

Monday, October 13, 2008

One Word Review: Hitch

53: Sugary

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Throw Down

Best Youtube I've seen in a while. Enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning is Short On Time, Long on Empathy

Bill Murray Opens Up - Bill Murray got divorced. That really sucks. He was really bummed. You can read about it here. Bill Murray's a good dude.

That Sounds Far Too Reasonable - This year's Oscar Broadcast will be airing commercials for movies for the very first time. Apparently they didn't want anyone to think anything was rigged or connected. That's OK, the gigantic CARS sign you hung over James Taylor's head did that two years ago.

Live from Lolla - Check out some of your favorite Lollapalooza performances in AT+T's Blue Room. Let me recommend that you start with Yeasayer and go on to Bang Camaro. Or whatever you like.

And since I have no time for anything else, check out a great moment in live television:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday Youtube - Influenza Edition

Because I feel like hell on a hockey puck today...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Is Your Father

James is Worthy - James Earl Jones is being given a lifetime achievement award by the Screen Actors Guild. The voice of Darth Vader, Terrance Mann in Field of Dreams, Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope, King Jaffe Joffer in Coming to America, Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian, Mufasa in The Lion King or even Professor Banks in Soul Man, Jones always left his mark in any role. I'd see him portray anyone in anything and surely enjoy at least a little of the film. He's earned all the kudos (and is a proud Michigan graduate - at least we've got something going for us this year...).

Bachmann is Back - Crooked Fingers' new album, Forfeit/Fortune, was released today. You can get it here. Check out the song Phony Revolutions from the Baby Stew folks. Also, Stereogum has a video up for "Let's Not Pretend." So far, the sound is darker and even more stripped down. I will surely buy the album, but am a bit skeptical thus far. Let me know what you think.

Oh yesssss - Stereogum also has a new song from Andrew bird. Click here to have a listen at "Oh No." It reminds me very much of "I Saw the Light" by Todd Rundgren.

Stodger Dodger - Ebert explains his preference for movies that do it old school (but indicates that he's evolved a bit, too).

Not Frankenstein - Boris is playing the Empty Bottle on November 29th. I urge you to GO! Go, go, go go! You must see Boris. Hopefully they have enough "electrical power" this time. Also, Smashing Pumpkins are playing the Chicago Theater Novemeber 18th and 19th. Even I've lost interest by now. But the Chicago Theater would be a much better place to see 'em than, say the Rosemont Horizon.

Superfreaky - Cameron Hawk guest-posts his Top Ten Movie Pop Songs, and it's absolutely perfect. Go to Scene Stealers and check it out.

Yo Quiero Dinero - Ugh. Beverly Hills Chihuahua won the box office last weekend. What is wrong with you people?!? A movie based (loosely) on Paris Hilton's pet? Sometimes I'm glad I left the country.

5-4-T: Kickass Covers That You Forgot On Your Stupid List

There have been a ton of lists published in the last few years containing the "top cover songs of all time". In this week's Five For Tuesday, we include songs that belong in high esteem in any discussion of covers, but were not mentioned on hardly any of those lists. So have at it!

5) Faith No More - War Pigs

4) Alkaline Trio - Exploding Boy

3) Otis Redding - A Change Is Gonna Come

2) Jimi Hendrix - Like a Rolling Stone

1) Stevie Wonder - We Can Work It Out

What overlooked covers did we forget???

Friday, October 3, 2008

One Word Review: The Sweetest Thing

21: Wasted

Note - I have no idea if it was named after the song.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Is Eating Eggs

I Know Now Why You Cry - I've already touched on the notion of McG directing the fourth Terminator installment is a plan akin to giving Sarah Palin the "nukular" codes, but now we find out that said director has been lying to the press about the background of the project. In interviews, he has claimed that James Cameron has given Terminator: Salvation "his blessing." Cameron has now come out and rejected those claims. Just a reminder, McG's previous direction credits include: Two Charlie's Angels movies and "We Are Marshall." Also, he calls himself McG. I fear the future.

No More Sorry - Jim DeRogatis was at the My Bloody Valentine show at the Aragon and came away feeling loveless. And it looks like most of the commenters agree with his assessment of the show. That was actually my initial expectation for this reunion, though people quickly convinced me that I was wrong. I am sorry to be vindicated.

You Wild, Beautiful Thing - I'm late with a reaction to the death of Paul Newman. It's been hard for me to adequately summarize his career and impact. It doesn't make any sense, but on occasion, people feel like they actually know certain celebrities. I still don't know the reason, but Paul Newman has always been like that for me. Perhaps it's because I saw The Sting when I was six years old. Or maybe it's because a close friend of mine nearly sat on his sandwich at a film screening in New York City. But I think it's because Newman was so at ease when wearing his characters' skin. You never got the sense that he was acting hard.

And when you think of all those wonderful roles, for most of them, you can't imagine anyone else playing the part. There was something accessible about his characters, even though they were often outsiders who preferred to stand on their own. Because of that accessibility, he was different things to many people, as you can see by all the various takes on his passing. He was perhaps the most humble movie star in history, seeming to care more about the world around him than himself or his work. Newman was a wholly unique entity, and I don't think we'll ever see anyone like him again.

Various reactions from Ebert:
Blog Entry
Retro Column

The Playlist
Maureen Dowd
La Vie En Robe

And finally, Scene-Stealers' Top Ten Paul Newman Movies