Archive for October, 2006

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Radiohead – My Iron Lung [EP] / Airbag/How Am I Driving? [EP]

October 30, 2006

Radiohead – My Iron Lung [EP]

Radiohead may be an alternative gargantuan today, but before they dove into the ocean of experimentation, they were a fairly straightforward and enjoyable pop/rock band. This timeframe could be described as starting with The Drill EP, the bands first release, and through Pablo Honey to The Bends. The Bends is easily the bands best album from this period, and Pablo Honey is comparatively inferior and even a bit mediocre save a few very strong moments. The disk that seemed to be forgotten in obscurity is this EP which was released in between Pablo Honey and The Bends. It features only one album track from The Bends which gives it it’s name, and otherwise delivers on the level of containing enough new material at the time to almost constitute an album if they added one or two more tracks.

The title track is obviously a winner, but the b-sides are what the fans will flock to this one for. Strangely enough, the disk gets reliably weaker as it goes along. The first b-side on the disk, The Trickster, is generally argued to be one of the bands absolute best b-sides period, and surely deserved to make it to The Bends in replacement of perhaps a weaker song such as Sulk. It’s crafty and many times snide attitude gives it true color. Lewis (Mistreated) almost could have been a Pop Is Dead clone, but instead makes itself out to be fine guitar pop. Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong ends up being a warm, comforting endeavor and Permanent Daylight is a delightful outing into guitar layering pop heaven. After these tracks, the songs get progressively worse but still comfortably abrasive and nice. Lozenge of Love is a very quiet ballad with only so much direction. The final b-side, You Never Wash Up After Yourself, is quite the elementary and unsophisticated little blurb. The EP reaches it’s low point with an accoustic take of Creep where Thom Yorkes vocals and guitar playing are clearly not in tune. This version is inferrior to it’s Pablo Honey predecessor in every way, not even getting remotely close to catching the energy of the original pop anthem.

This is really not just your average EP full of sub par b-sides. It was a gateway into the era of The Bends and on it’s own has some pretty great material. This is a pretty big haul of material for an EP, especially considering it’s fairly obscured time of release, but it is well worth getting. It’s not that hard to track down and has a wealth of great material that is essential for Radiohead fans to feast on eventually.

Radiohead – Airbag/How Am I Driving? [EP]

Fast forward five years.

When Radiohead released OK Computer, there was a pretty big immediate buzz. Every song was in some way a type of revelation to the fans, and praise of surpassed expectations could be heard from fans of not just the British pop band but also fans of alternative rock. With the unanimous love for the album through critical praise and sheer sales came a slew of singles. This Japanese import is a compilation of not only a brilliant track from OK Computer, Airbag, but also six b-sides compiled from the OKC era singles. The disk is worth the high import price you may need to pay for it, as the songs are all classic Radiohead tracks.

Pearly is very much in the same vein as The Trickster was around five years earlier. The song plays with a sneaky and almost sinister mood at times, and ends up being one of the catchier b-sides the band ever made. This track alone would make even an expensive import an essential for the hardcore Radiohead fan, but the rest of the disk does justice to even the most touching moments of OKC by creating a simmilar atmosphere and feeling. Meeting In The Aisle is a fantastic drifty instrumental that complements the OKC era art as good as the strongest of the bands A-Sides. The next song, A Reminder, is a wonderfully relaxing piece that even complements the instrumentation with ambient background city noise (possibly Japanese noise, as this was a CD to accompany a Japanese tour) and a tired sounding Thom Yorke producing more poetic gold. The surreal and curiously pretty Polyethylene, Pts. 1 & 2 is a tough one for any listener to fit their head aroun, but worth getting to know in the end. Melatonin is another nice ambient gem that would almost be worthy of accompanying Fitter Happier as an effective transition piece elsewhere on OK Computer. And Palo Alto, a louder and more catchy and abrasive rocker ends the EP with great success.

If you are one of the many who were touched by the beauty and creativity of OK Computer and feast for more simmilar material, and wouldn’t mind shelling out a fair bit of cash for this rare import, the purchase wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s clear why these songs are b-sides, that much is very obvious, but it should be noted that these all feel like lost passages in the masterpiece that is OK Computer. If taken in the same light as that of OK Computer, this is a great collection.

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Asobi Seksu – Citrus

October 26, 2006


I do have more than one addiction you know. It’s not just buying stuff. I also have another, more healthy, material and borderline chemical addiction. It’s seasonal though. Every winter, clementines start appearing in the stores. I suppose you can get clementines at any time of the year, but in the summer they just aren’t the same. They are many times shrively and flavorless. But come, oh, late November through late March or so, the good ones are in stock. I’m a coinesseur by now, surely. The plump things will someday turn my skin orange, I swear. The best ones are from either Spain (where they taste of a sweet, almost perfume-like tint of flavor) or South Africa, but you can get a good or bad batch from anywhere. Those things are fricking dangerous. Eat one in the morning and you are hooked. You have to take one or two to work or school, or else you will end up feeling the pain. Anyway, this is one of the reasons why March is a crappy month for me many times, because I’m going through clementine withdrawal when the crappy ones hit the stores. I would be over at the grocery store seeing if they might have a half decent batch, but as I’m writing this, I’m essentially a chipmunk because I just got all four wisdom teeth out. PAIN. SUFFERING. BLOOD. HUNGER.

Sorry, I had to get the mindless rambling out of the way first. You all know I just love to do that, theres really no way around it. If I didn’t do it first I would end up doing it in the middle, so it’s really for the best. Anyway, I’d like to say that shoegaze isn’t dead. It just seems like whenever I am discussing the genre with someone, I hear a “shoegaze FTW” or “it’s dead man, let it go.” Shoegaze is only dead in the same way that many other subgenres are dead, meaning their popular time period has come and gone and now it has sank back into obscurity. Which really doesn’t mean it’s dead. People still make bad 80s style hair metal albums, and occasionally a britpop or grunge album. And in the same way, people still make shoegaze albums. This one, for example, is clearly nothing less than a fantastic shoegaze album and it was released this year. Asobi Seksu has been around for a little while on an indie label, and despite their clearly eastern name, the band is based in NYC. The eastern part most likely comes from the lead singer, a petite Japanese woman named Yuki Chikudate.

The band had another album, but I haven’t heard it yet. But the general concensus seems to be that this kicks the crap out of the debut. It’s not necessarilly typical shoegaze, but these guys know where their roots are and are not afraid to show their style and how it is both borrowed and homegrown into being something special, and wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Sophia Coppola movie soundtrack (speaking of which, I really have to see Marie Antoinette). It’s good night time music, and the band is constructed around the signature shoegaze wispy but abrasive guitars and driving beat. The drums are aggressive but friendly, and the sonic sheen is very skillfully made. It should be noted that at times, Asobi Seksu attains the shoegaze ideal of making guitars and keyboards and such not even sound like themselves anymore, but like an ethereal angelic layer of sonic cake. Other sound effects are well placed, such as bells and chimes at times.

Our princess from the land of the rising sun Yuki Chikudate is one of the main attractions of this band, and in many ways she is very talented. She plays keyboard for one thing, and I not only find it baffling how people can play keyboards in the first place but even more baffling that they can do it and sing at the same time, which Yuki does. They play live a lot, you know. And goddammit she has a great voice. Veluptuous and playful at times while painfully honest at others, and she can hit really high notes with pretty good success (save a few really high ones that her voice falters a little on). Her voice really makes a lot of the songs on this album special. Thursday, the albums decided high point and subject of a fantastic music video, is her knockout moment. Yuki actually speaks fluently in both English and Japanese, and she uses the dynamics of both languages in the music, sometimes singing in English and in Japanese at other times.

It’s hard to say how much ground this album covers. There are times where you may think that you have heard what songs have had to offer earlier on in the album to some extent, but really, all of the songs here are good, most great. The album is given a slightly misleading start with Strawberry. Great song, but really it’s much different than the colour and texture of the rest of the album. It’s more j-pop than anything else here, and it has a sort of floatyness like everything else but instead adopts a more lighthearted and strolling feel. Lions And Tigers is perhaps the albums most touching and lovely moment, and is still enveloped warmly by the sonic gale that is present everywhere else on the album. Even more charm is added when Yuki’s voice sometimes teeters on the edge of out-of-tune, but this can be a little aggravating for people very involved in theory, which fortunately isn’t me quite yet. Thursday is the pop gold and choice song of the entire album, and it has a tune that is nothing short of classic, and New Years is about as good relishing in a great abrasive anticipatory glory. But really, nothing can prepare the listener for Red Sea, the albums clear high point. The song starts off quiet and lush, and ends up bursting into one of the most epic and wonderfully beautiful (yet almost tragic in some kind of strange Slowdive-y way) shoegaze explosions ever. There is nothing else so sonically huge and exciting on the rest of the album. The highest notes Yuki misses are the songs only weak points. But this song proves that the band and the album are truly unique, and the tearing tsunami of gorgeous sound later in the song is extremely memorable and enjoyable, if not a bit trance enducing.

Great, great album. A true winner in indie rock, and also shoegaze rock. Of course this year older rock bands seem to reign supreme with their new releases, but this is a recent band delivering an album that is so fresh and wonderful that it can still be considered one of the years best. Like any shoegaze, you really need to crank this up to get the full feeling. If you don’t, the sound will be distant and difficult. If you do, it will be warm, sweet, and succulent. Stop the fruit train, because this fuckers jumping on, and it’s got a crowbar set and ready to beat some ass.

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Brian Eno – Music For Films

October 23, 2006

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a problem, perhaps an addiction. It’s not an addiction that will kill me or make me lose my hair or turn my skin all clammy, but it’s an annoying one nonetheless. I buy way too many CDs. Well, I acquire way too many CDs. I don’t have a lot of money as it is and I am going to have to start to worry about college and other such expenses soon enough. Which makes my addiction all the more ridunkulous. When I see something I want, I say to myself, oh, if I had that I would be content enough to not buy any albums for a loooong time. Never works out. I always seem to make certain excuses as well to justify or protect my (what could be) dangerous habit, but I think it’s really time to buckle down. I do have some solutions that I could employ, and aren’t even that hard at employing. I should be more akin to roughing it musically than I already am, so I’ll try my hardest to review my current stash (ginormous) within the next few months without getting anything else. I have so fricking many things that I could review right now. This is one of them, and consequently one of the worst CD buying decisions I have made in the past few months. It’s Brian Eno yes, so I suppose it has to be good if you are in the right mood for it. It is, that’s very true. But it was way too expensive, even considering the fact that I could likely not get it for any cheaper elsewhere, as it is a rare import from Holland like most all of Eno’s work seems to be.

If you have ever enjoyed the wonderful sounds of Eno’s Another Green World (If you haven’t, fucking do it now. That’s a goddam order soldier.), than you might be able to equate most of the songs on this collection as music close to Becalmed, Zawinul/Lava, and possibly even Little Fishes if you want to stretch it, mostly in the way of length. The music is what the title suggests, music that sounds like it really should be from a film soundtrack. That said, like movie soundtrack nuggets, most of the songs on this album are very short, somewhat spontaneous and different from one another, and very atmospheric and interesting. I believe many of them were actually used in movies, interestingly enough.

This is, quite simply, ambient music. Keep in mind the circumstances in which it was made though. The year is 1978, and the release was technically before that of Ambeint 1: Music For Airports even though it was the same year and the man was arguably already working on the more well known masterwork. This is actually a collective work as well, and the credit on the album goes to several different people other than Eno on different occasions, the most interesting of these people being Percy Jones, Phil Collins, and Robert Fripp. But Eno himself did most of the work, and this shows in the striking simmilarity and comparable soundscapes to his later work in the Ambient series. All this said, each track is a meticulously created synth instrumental, and sometimes they work fantastically. Other times though, the pieces feel almost criminally underdeveloped and able of being crafted into something perhaps simmilar to the better tracks on Another Green World, where the instrumentals dwarf all others.

It should be noted, though, that even the underdeveloped and simple songs are joys to listen to. Brian Eno is not close to a typical music artist, so obviously this album is going to be quite different. I can immagine even the most avid listeners and fans of Eno at the time who had enjoyed not only Roxy Music but Another Green World and Eno’s other great albums would be surprised and put off by this, at least slightly. The album isn’t really organized, and songs with certain emotions don’t necessarilly carry to their followers. The biggest problem would be the fact that many of the songs could be extended a minute or two and would still fit snuggly into the format of the album. Even considering the typical length of records at the time, this clocks in at 40 minutes or so, a bit shy of the typical release. But those problems aside, most of the music here is just as breathy and atmospheric as any Brian Eno ambient work you will find.

The mood is typically very relaxed. Only the artists truly know what context these songs were supposed to be played in, but the titles hint at some theatrical situations that may or may not be fitting. Slow Water is a wonderful piece that whispers of a shimmering transparent flow. Another great one, Task Force, speaks musically of a late night city group who finds some excitement among the monotony. ‘There Is Nobody’ comes close to a flat out groove among the bleeps and bloops. The three part relaxing melancholy of Sparrowfall 1-3 are also very delightful and worth extended listens. But the two obvious winners are Quartz, a shimmering dreamer, and From The Same Hill, with it’s lovely acoustic guitar.

I guess I shouldn’t stress the fact that these pieces are relaxed so much as they are atmospheric. Alternative 3 is good, but surely disturbing. The idea here is what you would expect. It’s a collection of moody instrumental pieces that could easily be placed in movies. Considering the time in which it was made, this album is WAY ahead of it’s time and worth a listen if you are a fan of any other of Brian Eno’s ambient music. If you have heard his earlier pop or Another Green World and none of his later stuff, this might be a bit difficult if you are expecting any of the same, but it is still a great treasure box of mood pieces. Was it worth it for me? Probably not, as there are many other great Eno instrumental albums which I don’t have the pleasure of owning or even having heard, and it fetched a very high price that I was dumb enough to pay, but I am still happy with it because it is Brian Eno, and it’s really hard to go wrong with his art.

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The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics

October 19, 2006

Alright, so sue me. I’m many months late on this one. I almost always am, when I think about it. I’m constantly talking about stuff that was realeased a long time ago, but I really suppose that this is okay. I already did Yoshimi, so I figure that I kind of owe it to this one to review it.

I felt like I really had to get this for whatever reason. Ever since The Soft Bulletin came out so many years ago, the attitude and shape of The Flaming Lips’ music changed dramatically, and for the better, into a more sensitive and gorgeous sound of touching meaningful music, while the eclectic ideas and lyrics were still preserved. Fricking great move, to be honest with you. The addition of orchestral bits onto many of the songs is beautiful. This album isn’t as much a testament or a big beautiful body of music as Bulletin and Yoshimi were, but it is still a grand addition to the Lips’ library of music by supplying the listener with a lot of great music.

I think the mood is a lot more relaxed and less structured around hooks and more around wistful long winded mood pieces than it’s sister albums. And it’s not too difficult to compare it to it’s siblings. Yoshimi always seemed to me to be a daytime sort of album, and in comparrison this album is much more oriented with the night. You can see some simmilarities to older Lips’ material with songs such as Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, one of the standout tracks. Simmilarities to Bulletin are about as much as Yoshimi honestly, because that album set the stage for all of the bands subsequent material. Most of the songs are more mellow chill-out songs, which is exactly the opposite of what I was expecting. Having “At War” in the title sort of implies a more upbeat type thing to me at least, and I was expecting it to be a very fast moving album.

I’m pretty happy with it though, and everyone else I know who has it seems to like it too. Most people I have talked to about it have either said that they thought they didn’t quite give it enough of a chance, or that it was growing on them. My Latin teacher is a big Lips fan, and he says he liked At War With The Mystics more than The Soft Bulletin.

Really, this is as eclectic a Flaming Lips album as any, so there is no point in me trying to sum it up, because everyone knows that when it comes to this band, it’s brilliant parts are really what make the whole so gorgeous. I guess what you need to remember is by this time, the band has established a signature sound and knack for making songs that sound interesting and different even to the most avid of fans that have come to expect the unexpected.

The first song of interest is, once again, Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, which is very simmilar to the sound of Transmissions in many ways. You get the feeling that Wayne Coynes voice is gradually getting worse, but really, this is the first time it shows. On Yoshimi he sounded great, so what can you do? It doesn’t sound bad, just a tad different. But Yeah Yeah Yeah Song is a very clever little tune, and lyrically it talks about what the listener (or maybe the singer) would do if he had opportunities to do things of great power. It’s probably political, but because this is a band who knows how to approach serious issues in a sensitive and lighthearted way, no sound or feelings are gotten in the way of due to politics. They would just never let that happen.

I guess the albums hookier moments are some of it’s strongest. Yeah Yeah Yeah Song is not the only obvious standout. It Overtakes Me is a segmented piece, the first of which would surely get some good radio play. I would have appreciated it more if this song was split up into two, and actually also the same with The Sound Of Failure. But really, it doesn’t matter that much. I’m no stickler for organization, and anyone who knows me can vouch for that. Mr. Ambulance Driver has a great tune too, and is probably the most likely to get radio play due to the mildly strange nature of Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and It Overtakes Me. I guess the only problem with that would be the lingering ambulance sound in the background that would probably spawn a lawsuit. The song is a joy to listen to, a very touching and contemplative piece that is perfect for a late night mood shift with equally inspired and serious lyrics. I can safely say that this is truly one of The Flaming Lip’s finest and most touching moments.
A lot of this album is more psychedelic and trippy, and most of the songs are longer more atmospheric pieces, the best of which is Vein of Stars, an absolutely gorgeous song that evokes images just as beautiful as the name suggests. My Cosmic Rebellion develops in a more gentle way, but very much in the same medium sized beautiful way that Vein of Stars does. Some other highlights include the shorter more groovable tracks, such as The Wizard Turns On… and Haven’t Got A Clue. Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung and Goin’ On close the album pretty well. Pompeii really should get some serious credit though, for being able to crank out a cosmic spacey atmosphere with no real hook other than the pretty chords. As far as weak tracks go, you could make an arguement for Free Radicals (hell, I think it’s just funny) and maybe The W.A.N.D. But really, I believe that every song can get the listener tapping their foot or smiling in some way.

I think the real problem here is that the songs aren’t all completely hooky or as glorious as previous Lips material. Either way, this is a good, even great album and another fine addition to the Flaming Lip’s saga of post Zaireeka albums that seem to be the soundtrack to an exciting and ethereal life, and not to mention a great addition to the bands impressive full catalogue.

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Frances Bean Cobain Fansite Online, Proves World Really Is Full Of Creeps

October 16, 2006

Being a hardcore Nirvana fan, I can tell you that news that relates to the topic at hand is few and far between, and when it is there, it isn’t always so interesting. And really, it has no reason to be. However, right now things are pretty upbeat, considering a wealth of releases to be looking forward to. Not too long ago I checked my favored source of Nirvana news and found that there is a new biography on the horizon. I may see if I can get it. Kurt Cobain was recently on the cover of Uncut magazine, and the accompanying article on the grunge scene was fantastic (save the abscence of Alice In Chains coverage). Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! is getting a DVD release with some unreleased material.

I also noticed another update. It said that Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of Kurt Cobain who any Nirvana fan knows was the absolute best thing that could have ever happened to him, has a fansite where over 1,000 images of her can be found, along with extensive information, videos, and a journal where Frances herself writes and keeps “fans” updated with details of her personal life.

Within seconds I felt sick.

Everyone knows that celebrities have an especially hard time raising their kids to be respectable people. The cameras are already enough to make me nuts. All Access is TV that makes me want to puke. What the media does to these people is ridiculous. If you want to see them on the red carpet, that’s great. At a press release? Fantastic. But I think it’s upsetting to see even these rich actors who I many times resent due to their position get harassed and snooped on by dickheads with cameras. I find the practice of celebrity worship something to be taken with a grain of salt. I have given up on my dream of the lack of it, because I know it’s not going to happen. But what is even worse than celebrity worship is putting their kids in front of the lens. It’s creepy shit, I’m not going to lie to you. I saw a picture of a member of Radiohead and his little kid on the internet once, and that deeply disturbed me. That’s the kind of stuff that just really shouldn’t be circulating, because I know for a fact that they don’t want those pictures being seen by just anyone.

I suppose the situation is different for Frances Bean Cobain. To explain what the media was like all those years ago is difficult. People were still settling into the new age and the celebrity culture, and they weren’t used to music having attitude and not being hair metal or really bad pop. But I won’t go there. What the camera saw back then was different. And when Frances Cobain was born, Kurt couldn’t have been any more proud and happy, which is why he brought her to interviews and award shows and concerts. And people respected their privacy a little more. The slander was still there like it is now, but at least no one was sneaking into back yards or snapping photos of them shopping constantly. And to be honest, the Cobain family was larger than life. It was a celebrity situation that was unlike in many subtle ways anything the people had seen before.

Part of what is unnerving is the fact that the daughters of other celebrities don’t get fanclubs like this. Why? Because their parents would do something drastic about it. However, the situation IS different and the Cobain family, with all due respect, isn’t a completely pampered group like your typical celebrity family is, not that I really keep track of any. It’s innocence. Courtney Love doesn’t take her daughter out to press releases all the time for a reason. She understands that her daughter is not just the child of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, but also a person with her own identity. If she wants to get famous on her own and make music or be an actor, that’s great. Then people can start building a mindless fanbase. But she hasn’t. She’s fourteen. I was fourteen not too long ago. I know damn well that fourteen year olds should not be subject to this.

But what really bugs me about this is personal, I won’t lie. I don’t like to see the daughter of one of my musical idols have her privacy raided on the internet. I feel hesitant speaking for him, but if Kurt Cobain was still with us, I’m pretty sure he would be disgusted and offended. In many ways, the death of such a great man marked the beginning of such a brutal celebrity culture (or perhaps it was the birth of Frances that spawned it, it’s hard to say), and I can only dream of what kind of songs he would write about all this utter nonsense that is Hollywood today. I’ll admit it, I am guilty of visiting the website, and I wish to see it’s demise. I’m not going to post the URL here simply because it just shouldn’t get anymore traffic. I checked the photo gallery (god save me) and clicked on “top rated” and what I got angered me even more. There were pictures of all kinds, even baby pictures which I know for a fact that the poor girl would not want shown to anyone. And not baby pictures in public at award shows that the parents were alright with having taken. I mean home stuff. But the most viewed picture on the website is a grayscale photo probably taken recently, with her hair covering one of her eyes. I looked at the photo for a few seconds. She looked strikingly like both Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. It didn’t take me long to realize, even if she is a nice looking girl and daughter of a, well, celebrity, that this was some really fucked up shit.

What is really strange is the upshot of the site is that they claim that Ms. Cobain is actually in contact with them, and writes in a journal on the website. I find this blasphemous. I may be naive, but I’m not stupid. The “girl” (whoever she may be) who writes in this journal is of an uncanny resemblance to the typical California dumb blonde high school girl. Say what you will about Courtney Love, she would surely not raise her child to be a “liek, myspace” teenager. Beyond that, common sense tells us that Frances Cobain would never want to be a celebrity for who she is known as, nor would she want to associate with a webpage that posts her baby pictures, one of which even shows her without a shirt on (albeit almost fifteen years ago). The proof pictures are horridly fake and a sign that says “It’s Me!!” really says nothing. I suppose I theoretically could be wrong and this may very well actually be Frances Bean Cobain writing on this blog. But I would just like to say that it’s extremely unlikely, close to flat out impossible. Even if by a snowballs chance this is Ms. Cobain, I would apologize. But not for my opinions. I still feel that this site is not only silly and stupid, but also wrong and disrespectful. Beyond that, there’s a lot of fucking creeps out there. No, a ton. And for every fourteen year old girl, theres three times as many creepers, at least. Even then, that’s a generous estimate. Really, myspace is a bad idea, even more strange and even possibly dangerous as this. But people chose to have profiles on myspace. This is pure calculated impersonation.

So I implore you, administrators of “Frankly Frances,” to remove your webpage from the internet. Your site is wrong on too many levels. You have lied, fueled the evil celebrity pestering fire, and no doubt embarrassed the person who you worship so.

That is all. If you disagree, please leave a comment. I’ll be sure to consider your views and no doubt shoot them down accordingly. I can’t see this one being argued against too easily.

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Smashing Pumpkins Reunion (New Album?)

October 11, 2006

To be honest, no real news within the past month or so. It has been almost a month since the last little update here and close to jack shit has happened. Jimmy has continued to post new “Love Letters” getting less and less sappy and Billy-esque the farther they go along. But even though they are interesting, they reveal nothing. No real news along the lines of any band lineup. The Pumpkin Queen was, however, revealed to be of some official descent and is the manager for the site, I believe.

The only two sites right now that you can take seriously are the official myspace page and smashingpumpkins.com, the latter of which is pretty much in limbo. The former is, and you’re going to love this, turning into an outlet for complete tools. I got weirded out when I saw fan directed videos, avatars, and artwork posted all over the place on the myspace page. But hey, whatever. Some of the videos are actually alright, and myspace has always been the home of huge tools everywhere. But they I saw a fanmade music video depicting various Naruto scenes played to Bullet, and I basically said screw it, I’m checking back once a week. Last time I checked, a small FAQ on the left border was there. The four questions that were asked are obvious, and vague as to who answered them.

Q. Who’s in the band?
A. Not telling.

Q. When is the album coming out?
A. Soon.

Q. What does it sound like?
A. The Smashing Pumpkins.

Q. I want to submit art…
A. Submit to The Pumpkin Queen. We’re down with avatars, myspace layouts, fan directed videos…

Pretty much the same bull. But hey, it’s just a matter of waiting. At the moment I’m optimistic about Iha, neutral about D’arcy. I just can’t see only Billy and Jimmy popping out of some cake at an executive press-release somewhere yelling “gotcha, bitches! It was US the WHOLE TIME!”

Well right this second, it’s the night before Halloween, which means it’s the essential pumpkin time of year. Really, it’s never been about candy, although that sure is a plus, so much as it’s about getting off your ass and doing something outside, be it hiding in some bushes, walking somewhere, or just sitting on your porch. You can bet I’ll have Mellon Collie blasting if at all possible, wherever I may be. I’ll try to smash a pumpkin, but I can’t make any deffinitive promises.

Strangely enough, smashingpumpkins.com was updated again.

“IN STUDIO NOW! ALBUM OUT SOON!!”

Reall, what does that mean? I made a guess a while ago that I’d have the next SMP LP by January or February, and if they are really getting their asses in gear we’ll see what comes of that prediction. More Jimmy “Love Letters” which are essentially still bullshit. Like, still stuff you would expect Billy to say. The only thing worthy of note is that as of the third post, drums were almost done being tracked and that they would soon be “cutting BC loose to work his magic.” Which essentially could mean anything from recording and overlaying guitars to simple producing stuff, but it was mentioned before that Roy Thomas Baker was done being worked with, so really theres no way of knowing how far in production they are. Like, if drum tracking was JUST done with and a producer was finished up with, well what the fuck. You know?

The music player and youtube video are everchanging. The music player seems to be changing daily to differeng lower key songs and a bigger one every so often, usually live takes. The youtube portion is always live stuff, always featuring all four original members. Which is strange. Draw from that what you will. Apparently there was some message for a talent search or something which I missed, and I can’t find. I can’t really say anything more about that.

If it’s pumpkin day tomorrow, I guess there very well might be anything ranging from nothing to a “love letter” (god these things suck) to a bigger announcement. Billy is scheduled to play with Pete Townshend on TV sometime in the near future. I’ll keep this posted if anything happens.

Well, within the past half week or so the three songs that have been playing on the Pumpkins’ myspace have been everchanging. Every day mostly, and more often than not live takes of great songs that weren’t necessarilly hits. I guess I would probably still kill a man to see the Pumpkins in all their glory, but I would really consider their studio work to be far superior to their onstage sound.

Anyway, Jimmy Chamberlain did a few blog posts which he described as “love letters.” Well, at least it’s not Billy. He really didn’t reveal much besides the fact that he was doing drum tracking and they finished up working with Roy Thomas Baker. Beyond that, the obvious question of who the band even is right now save Billy and Jimmy is conspicuously being dodged.

For those too lazy to check themselves, Jimmy is pretty much talking like you would expect Billy to. Talking about souls and shooting stars and shit. If the posts are frequent I’ll be happy, even if they are vague. This waiting sucks, doesn’t it?

Some news. The music player on the SMP myspace has some songs up and running now. Bury Me, Set The Ray To Jerry, and Daughter are all on there now. All tracks we had before, and obscure lesser known tracks as well, save maybe Bury Me. I believe Daughter was co-written by D’arcy. Whether or not this means anything is unclear. Beyond that, it has also been announced on the myspace page that a studio blog of Jimmy Chamberlain will be in commission soon.

Alright, I’ll be blunt. There isn’t enough information to really justify a post, but I’m doing it anyway. I’m going to try to take this is slowly and as basically as I can. If I have any of this information wrong (which actually isn’t too unlikely), I appologize.

Well, as most of you know, a few months ago smashingpumpkins.com was updated. I believe it used to just redirect browsers to Billy Corgans website or myspace, I forget which. Well, not too long ago it was actually directed to the url with a big SP heart in the middle over a white background, and a little bar to enter in your email address for a mailing list. The site was quickly assumed legit, because it was directly affiliated with Warner Brothers. Time passed. A lot of time. And eventually the site was updated with a little passage of text on the bottom. I forget the exact wording right now, but the gist of it was that the “Smashing Pumpkins” (in quotes because really I have no idea what that means right now) are in the studio and are working with producer Roy Thomas Baker on their first album since 2000.

Which brings us to another issue which has been alluded to but not officially stated numerous times. Who are the Smashing Pumpkins now, if they really do exist anymore? It has been pretty common knowledge that James Iha and D’arcy will not be involved, and it might just be a Billy Corgan/Jimmy Chamberlain thing going on. What do I personally think of this? Not good. But really there isn’t much to back up this as fact beyond past statements of James and D’arcy that they aren’t exactly interested in such a reunion. Beyond that, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they didn’t end up being included, though I would be very bummed.

Jimmy Chamberlain was interviewed in a German (or perhaps it was French. One of the two) drum magazine not too many months ago as well. He requested that questions about the band not be asked, but they were, and he sort of brushed them aside. But he did reveal the detail that many songs are being worked on. Like, a lot. Beyond that, back in September, an interview with Kill Hannah (whatever) revealed that the band had heard two instrumental tracks from the, uh, band, after having dinner with Billy and that they were good. Specifically, “the intelligence of Machina” and “the accessibility of Mellon Collie” were stated to be signature of the sound. Beyond that, the only instruments were guitar and drums. Whether or not this is true is a tad hazy, but I wouldn’t be too surprised.

Five days ago (October 6th), Billy’s myspace got a facelift. A new background and logo were posted. However, go there now they have been taken down, as well as the audio from TheFutureEmbrace and other such things. It looks pretty blank right now. But go to smashingpumpkins.com and you will see something different. Specifically, the background that was included on the myspace page for the time it was there. The image is a big grayscale American flag type of image, with thirteen stars that look like they just might be simmilar to Billy Corgan’s handwriting (which is actually rather distinctive if you are a fan) next to a jagged SP logo.

Strange, but interesting. Beyond that, the message that the band is in the studio is gone. Whether this means the band is out of the studio or not is unclear. The bar for entering your email address for the mailing list is still there. To make things more confusing, there are other myspace issues and mysteries cause even more weirdness. On the sidebar of Billys myspace page, a url was provided for the actual url, which is that of another profile completely. http://www.myspace.com/billycorgan This is a relatively blank page with only scattered information. Friends are being added, but no comments allowed. It is rumored to be Billys personal myspace page where he does other stuff (you never used to see him online on the previous myspace page anyway). And now there is this. http://myspace.com/smashingpumpkins Official or not? I’m pretty goddam sure it’s an altered version of Billys old myspace which can no longer be reached. But note the standalone player and how it is attatched to an undefined file. To be honest, I’m taking all this out of the mouths of many. There seems to be confusion as to which myspace page is in fact official. It’s all very confusing, and I’m not going to try to even begin to understand the little details which I have just described.

The only truly official and non-mistakable detail is the flag. The image has spawned much controversy, as many people see it as a sign of political music. Personally I agree with the few who say that Billy has already stated that he does not wish to make political music or tell people how to vote. Beyond that, I don’t really care whether his music is political or not.

Upon further inspection, the picture of the flag is sourced from the following link.

http://s71.photobucket.com/albums/i153/Janelly333/

Some people have been saying that this person is affiliated with Billy Corgan and works for him in the marketing department. This very well could be true. The fact that this is where it’s sourced from means something after all. The fact of the matter is, there has been a ton of confusion over the past few days over, really, nothing. I mean, a total lack of details. The truth of the matter is, Billy Corgan, as ingenious as he is, is a bit of a mystery to all of us outside of his music, and quite the paranoid perfectionist so it seems. I know someone who heard his previous marketing agent speak at a conference, and she described her old job as working with the “male diva” Billy Corgan. Maybe not a diva, but Billy does seem very shadey with the updates both official and questionably official, a fact which I am not quite happy with. This is all very strange yes, but it’s really more of a matter of anything happening at all.

I’ll keep this post updated continuously for as long as I feel I need to.

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Shuffle Time, Again

October 9, 2006

Hey, sorry about the missed update on Thursday again. It’s not that I’m running out of things to say so much as time to say it in. And beyond that, I am having difficulty finding things to review that haven’t already been acclaimed by everyone already. It’s not that I don’t want to review things like Oasis, Tool, or Liquid Tension Experiment. I’m just 90% sure that you don’t give a shit. And why should you? I don’t want to stray too far into the mainstream even though I am your typical mainstream whore. I just want to keep things a tad interesting.

Sonic Youth – Silver Rocket

Talk about a dream job. What non-jock guy wouldn’t want to be Thurston Moore? He’s around fifty now, and yet he’s still kicking, producing great records with his art punk band that not only revolutionized music, but can still kick out some good hooks and also features his lovely wife. Now that’s the life. I haven’t heard Rather Ripped yet but I’m told it’s pretty awesome. Daydream Nation, however, I have heard and it is an awesomely badass album not to mention revolutionary and extremely important on it’s own. Silver Rocket is actually a standout punk song of sorts, with a livid guitar squall in the forefront driving it all the way home. It’s no Teenage Riot, but holds it’s place as a fantastic short rocker.

Head Automatica – Broklyn Is Burning

Theres something awesome about this, but I don’t know what. It’s got a solid beat I guess, and the riff is nice, but that’s about it. It’s kind of sleazy rock, and if you are in the right mood for it, that’s good. I haven’t heard too much else by these guys nor do I really have a desire to. I believe they just recently came out with a new album. The guys voice really annoys me though, enough so that even if this is a half-decent song, I have absolutely no desire to get anywhere close to anything with these semi-emo vocals.

Stone Temple Pilots – Days Of The Week

This was one of STPs last hits off of Shangri – La Dee Da in, what, 02 or 03? Something like that. The album is rather difficult but if you give it a chance it could be considered better than No. 4, which is usually classified as a little better than Shangri. In any case, this is one of the bands better songs. But there are a few other good ones on that album… Bi-Polar Bear, Hollywood Bitch, even Coma. Theres good things to be found in the druggy mind of Scott Weiland, and it’s surprising enough that these good things are infectious straightforward pop. Purple was the height of that talent though, and after that things sort of went downhill, at least as far as albums go. The band still produced pop gold until the end, but just not consistantly as they did before.

Home – Smashing Pumpkins

This is one of the better tracks off of Machina II, the final album from our great friends Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve already ranted more than necessary in refference to their current situation, so I won’t do that. But this is a great song from a pretty underrated album. In my opinion, Machina II is miles over Machina/The Machines of God. For whatever reason, it is just much more inviting and comforting than it’s predecessor. For those of you who don’t know, the album was only released in hard copy form in extreme rarity in the form of four rare EPs (I think they may have all been vinyl, actually), but the gist of the whole thing was that the bands last album was encouraged to be shared on the internet for free. What a nice gesture. The only problem might be the production, and even then that might just be the version I have. I’m sure there is a higher quality version elsewhere on the web. Anyway, this is actually a standout track from an album that really shines and serves as a grand sendaway to SMP.

Led Zeppelin – Night Flight

As far as I’m concerned, Physical Graffiti was the last Led Zeppelin album that really mattered. Presence never did anything for me, nor did In Through The Out Door (although I guess In The Evening is a classic product of it’s time). I never even really liked Houses of The Holy that much either, but I would still say it’s a good album. Physical Graffiti, however, remustered the bands old energy and innovation and put out all the cards on the table. It was a big deal when it came out, surely. My mother even remembers the sign in the local mall above the entrance to the record store. “ITS NOT HERE YET.” That’s just how big they were. Half the album was new stuff and the other half old unreleased stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint which was which, but you can hear some of it having some newer eastern and even dance type stuff in it, while the other half is more vintage Led Zeppelin, consisting of more bluesy and pop stuff. This is one of the better tracks from that world. Great track from a great album.

Nirvana – Stain

Well, it was bound to happen. How many Nirvana songs do I have on my iPod anyway? Over two hundred easily. So one is bound to come up early in a shuffle. To be honest, there isn’t too much special about this song. There are some Nirvana songs I just don’t like. They are few and far between yes, and most of them are b-sides like this. It’s just generally an uninspired obnoxious rocker. And yet when I get to this whenever I listen to Incesticide, I won’t skip it. It’s got pretty good production and the solo is good. It’s got the punk attitude down, it just doesn’t follow through with it, and the lyrics are kind of tasteless. Not much else to say.

Porno For Pyros – 100 Ways

Theres something strange about Perry Ferrel…
Wait, I didn’t just fucking say that, did I?
EVERYTHING is strange about Perry Ferrel. He’s totally weird, but ingenious too. For some reason, not one of my friends likes Jane’s Addiction, and they seem to bring up the fact that they don’t like them at totally irrelevant times. I can’t understand that. Whatever. Porno For Pyros was the sort of follow up project to Jane’s Addiction featuring Perry as the main songwriter. They had two albums, and the approach was generally much more relaxed and mellow. This is a pretty good song, but there is something unnerving to hear him making something serious and contemplative instead of genuine angry punk like Mountain Song. I still like it though.

Elvis – Can’t Help Falling In Love

Here’s one from the King, maybe my favorite song from him. It’s just a beautiful love song. It’s a cover, like most all of Elvis’ songs, but we all know that Elvis didn’t really shine in his songwriting ability so much as his keen delivery. Everyone has to have a little Elvis, right? Right. Want a greatest hits? Go here and prepare to get sick.
http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:6qotk60x9kr0~T21
I myself find the vast number of movies he starred in more dependably hokie and interesting than I find his music ingenious or fantastic. He’s the man, theres no denying that.

Tool – Parabola

Tool disorients me. They are a great band, don’t get me wrong, but they have some obvious downfalls. One of which is their fanbase, which is about 7/8 complete and total ass wipes. Second is the fact that I personally find it tiring to listen to one of their albums all the way through. Their sophistication in the metal genre is off-putting to the casual listener too. Their sound is very tribal and often times filled with strange time signatures and progressive outings that people find difficult. I know I sure did, and it took me a long time to bring myself to like Lateralus. But it happened eventually, and this is probably one of the better songs off of the album, standing up there with The Grudge, Reflection, and Mantra (what can I say, I was never really one for Schism).

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dosed

The best song off of the bands best album, By The Way, easily. To be honest I’m not a big fan of the band, but they can pull off some great songs if they put their mind to it. I think the main reason why is Anthony Kiedis. I think the instrumentation of the band is utterly fantastic. But with his voice and lyrics… I find I can’t really take them too seriously anymore. Especially on Stadium Arcadium. There are so many great songs there just ruined by uninspired lyrics, but you have already heard my take on that album. Coincidentally, my friends mother recently saw Anthony Kiedis in an airport. Apparently there was some fuss in the ticket line with him, and he was a little flustered. Keep in mind that my friends mother is pretty much the biggest RHCP fan EVER. He was doing a little damage control I think, so he allowed a picture to be taken with her. Strangely enough, she saw the band on an airplane ten years earlier, before she was a fan. Weird coincidence.

Brian Eno – The Big Ship

Another Green World defined the electronic genre and what synthesizers could do in not only a pop context but in a lush instrumental. It’s easily one of the greatest albums ever made, truly a one of a kind piece. This is one of the instrumentals, which arguably make up the more interesting portion of the album. A very floaty and airy guitar fuzz wall is in the middle, with a piano like instrument augmenting the chords, a noteworthy beat supplementing the beauty, and an interesting synthesizer cut in the background (which if you listen closely enough, is in the same rhythm but not the same time as everything else). The image is what it sounds like. Think a traveller who has come all the way from a monastary in sixteenth century England, now arriving at a port with a big beautiful ship ready to take off to his next destination into the early morning sea.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Dirty Water

This is the opener to the bands 1994 accoustic album Stoned And Dethroned. It’s really a very relaxing tune. The entire album is underrated I’d say, and it contains a lot of mellow almost country-ish chill tunes. Like Psychocandy, it’s got such a great number of songs that it should keep even the most avid Chain fans satisfied for a long time. To me, this is the more obvious choice for a single, way more obvious than Come On or Sometimes Always (with all due respect). This song reminds me of when I was on vacation in upstate New York when I was in Seventh grade. We stayed with some relatives, and we all went swimming in a pond one day. I didn’t really swim so much as put my feet in the water. I was still a little pampered back then, so I didn’t really want to jump into the dirty and cold water on that chill late summer morning. It wasn’t that big of a pond as far as diameter goes, but it was bordered by an extremely high cliff, at least a few hundred feet tall. I remember someone saying that the pond was probably at least as deep as the cliff was tall. That always stuck with me for some reason.

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Sephiroth and Sora SUCK (Nerd Rambling)

October 7, 2006

I feel like I have to get some stuff out of the way. So if you are embarassed by the continued complaints of a typically inward nerd, then skip this post, please.

Sephiroth is in no way a “cool” villain. He is also in no way even a good or effective villain. I know, I have played the game, and I have even mildly enjoyed it, but I still fail to see how Kuja of FFIX fails to get the same recognition as this flavorless schmo. What I would like to point out first is the fact that the only reason that Sephiroth seems to get any popularity at all is due to the length of his sword. Beyond that, not only is he a bad and uneffective villain, but also an uneffective and mediocre character in general. The fact that he ends up wasting so many people in the game means nothing, at all. If you want someone with a big sword, at least just worship Cloud Strife, who even then is a bad character, but at least has some sense about him not only to keep his mouth shut most of the time, but to say sensible things when he does open it, at least most of the time, and have a generally impressive plot twist circle around him and his experiences with the aformentioned lame antagonist. At this, whenever Sephiroth opens his mouth, the only thing that seems to come out is mindless rambling that passes as mysterious, when in fact it is more a failed attempt at mystique and existential philosophy. What I hated about Sephiroth is that he had almost no motivations other than being crazy and attatched to his “mother,” a situation that was not even well explained, and I’m usually pretty intuitive and can pick up on these things easily. What I loved about Kuja was the fact that he was crazy with some kind of guidelines. He just wanted to fuck everyone over, even himself, which is really the essential attitude of the best villains in fictional history, even if you can make the arguement that it makes him a shallow character with no real ambitions (but he does have them, they are just not easily seen). Also keep in mind that Final Fantasy IX is arguably my second favorite game ever, so I’m not just some Final Fantasy slammer with no other purpose.

If you are going to make the arguement that the prime reason for the genious of Sephiroths character is how much the player comes to despise him, you have already dug yourself into an inescapable hole considering that the majority of his fanboys seem to begin to worship him through just the first play through when they realize, “oh shit, he’s got a big fucking sword, all those guys on the message board were right, he really is badass.” I am usually a sucker for storylines and find myself enthralled in even the most typical of RPG storylines. Not only did the gameplay of FFVII annoy me, but it’s characters and the storyline did too. As far as characters go, the only ones I could relate to were perhaps Cloud (he’s surrounded by fucking morons), Red XIII (the curiousity and cluelessness were a nice touch), and maybe even Cait Sith (because he’s strange. I liked that, and there was something to be said about his ultimate motivations). Honestly, I wouldn’t have been sad about the death of anyone else at the hands of this dickhead with a long sword and grey hair, let alone Aeris, who I had not grown to know or love at all during the span of the game. Maybe if the writers had given Aeris more depth in her text, she could have been more easily likeable and approachable as a character. They did not. I found myself wondering why I was supposed to be sad about a girl who I met only so many hours ago being killed. The player barely even knows her.

And this next part is taken directly from a post I have made elsewhere, which I do not feel like re-writing up or rephrasing. The arguement was, “Link vs. Sora,” Link obviously being our favorite hero (who at least doesn’t botch the character development which he ingeniously does not have) from the Legend of Zelda series (when I get my Wii, don’t expect me to be outside for a while), and Sora obviously being the sissy little bitch from Kingdom Hearts.

“I love how Final Fantasy fanboys make arguements solely based on the fact that Sephiroth has a badass sword, and therefore should be the medium of comparison for anything ever. So if I’m gathering this right, and this is assuming that Link and Sora even live in the same universes so that they could even fairly be compared by anyones standards (lol THEY DONT), then because Sora can beat Sephiroth, and because Sephiroth is teh badass and he has a badarse sword and therefore is inately the most powerful being ever, that means that Sora is greater than Link because link cannot beat Sephiroth. Are you seeing the blatant flaws in logic here?

And considering the fact that the performance of both Link and Sora are dependant on A. The most “powerful” weapons in their respective games (which we will just assume is rather obvious, even though it isn’t and this flaw in logic has already made this arguement a complete mess as it is) and B. the performance of the player, the real competition should be between Zelda fanboys and Final Fantasy fanboys. The fact that both parties have even allowed themselves to become equated in stupidity over this arguement is utterly embarassing.

But I think we all knew that. This arguement is trash and everyone knows it. So I will submit my opinion which will no doubt be cut down with the argument that Sora has a fricking sharp key [with stat boosts too!] and therefore wins. And we all know what an “opinion” is and how they aren’t necessarilly NOT BS because sometimes they are just facts worked into opinion form. And my opinion, and this is an opinion because you fricking can’t argue against my view of the situation because I know what I’m thinking, is that Sora is a wimp, the fact that he can beat teh Sephiorth (your bishie) means nothing, and he cannot be magically made more important because of the overdramatic and impotent nature of the game he is in.”

One of the girls in the advisory class that I teach with one of my friends was wearing a Kingdom Hearts shirt. This deeply distressed my friend. In retrospect, he is really the smarter of us when it comes to video games, because he realizes that their only real purpose is to release stress and let your primal instincts take flight. For this reason, which is one I can wholeheartedly understand, he hates RPGs. He has no interest in the storylines like I do, and for a very good reason at that. He loves God of War, and it made him furious that Sora beat Kratos in one of the previous Gamefaqs character battles. I’m surprised he hasn’t tried to destroy the Square-Enix headquarters by now, they just piss him off that much. Justifiably? No. But it brings me to the point that Kingdom Hearts is such a fucking bad idea. The Final Fantasy series contains mystique and sophistication (well, most of the time, and I’ve already outlined in some vague way the times that it doesn’t), and the Disney series contains many times slapstick humor and classic cartoon characters.

Just because asians like both DOES NOT MEAN THEY SHOULD BE FUCKING MIXED.

And both worlds are good, that much I’ll say. But so not worth putting together. Just because Disney is in Kingdom Hearts does not make it better simply because people have sensitivity for the franchise and think “well shit, just because it has Disney characters doesn’t mean it’s kiddy.”

Shut the fuck up and eat your goddam Klondike Bar.

I promise I won’t do anymore mindless rambling like this ever again.

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Beck – The Information

October 5, 2006


I’ll admit it, I felt like a little kid when I removed this album from the plastic. Beck really does know how to market an album, that’s for sure. The thing is practically a toy, or at least as close to one as an album will ever get. Beck has always been one for getting out very broad ideas in a very broad way, but they are ideas nonetheless. The idea here is individuality and creation, as shown by the Lego block Beck logo on the front. And actually, also shown by the fact that this logo is the only thing on the front besides a square grid where you can place stickers that are included in the inner sleeve. The same goes for the back cover, except the blank space is all next to the tracklist. Yep, Beck (or maybe his art director or something) made the album art, but the man knows that expressing ones self is very important and fun, so he let you do the arrangements. I have a feeling that different copies of the album have their own sets of stickers too.

And you know what godammit, he didn’t have to do this at all. He so easily could have just released the songs and have been over with it. But instead his aim is to be creative, and in this venture he suceeds with flying colors. I have a serious doubt that anyone else has ever had the idea to let the listener create their own album cover. Beyond this, Beck also makes the purchase a double whammy by including a DVD with low budget but indefinitely interesting music videos for each song on the album. It’s a curious and extremely confusing way of putting out an album, and yet it’s delicious too. It’s not like Beck is trying to make a big statement as opposed to being a smartass or just having fun. If that was the case, he would have just released the album on CD-Rs, or maybe just give the listener a blank CD with the address of some music industry jackass in the sleeve.

In this way, Beck is really trying to detatch himself from the big business music industry bullshit that not only poses a problem for Beck himself, but also for the listener. If Beck wanted to, he could release all of his music on a tiny independant label, or better yet, make his own (really, I’m surprised that he hasn’t done this yet). And yet he seems to have found some kind of comfort in Interscope. Which is why the anti-piracy warning on the back is almost conspicuous. I’m pretty sure the man isn’t that concerned about money, so this almost seems like a thing that he had to get out of the way before letting loose. He has said in interviews that he realizes that the internet age has changed things considerably. Instant information happens. File Sharing happens. Youtube happens. So in a way he trys to accomodate to the situation.

And yet the album itself is pretty much what we have come to expect from an excellent Beck album. It’s varied yes, as that is just what Beck does best. Even considering the spontaneity of Mellow Gold and Odelay and also the themed shape of Mutations and Sea Change, this is a middle ground alongside Guero. The general idea behind the album is to crank out relaxing chill tunes, and usually in a more electronic and synthetic way, deviating strongly from Becks early days as a writer of lazy and occasionally touching folk songs. But then again, the artist has no real need to proove himself, so as he has done before, he really can do whatever the hell he wants and still be effective, which is why almost all of the tracks are great, and not just good, but great in their own individual ways. Of course there are a few clunkers that you can see the direction in but still fail in comparrison to the rest. These songs are later in the album though, after the long haul of fantastic songs. Standouts are I Think I’m In Love, a stellar tune that anyone can relate to, because love really is a curious but beautiful thing. Cellphone’s Dead stands out to, as an eclectic and heavily beat oriented obvious choice for a single that is meticulous and clever with it’s details. The piano-centric Strange Apparition is a glorious throwback to days of pop old, and We Dance Alone, a track around the middle of the disk, is a hypnotic electronic dance groove. The true standout track is Nausea, a rock solid groove with a bit of downhome simplicity, a song that ranks among Beck’s most instantly gratifying and fun with it’s extravagant decoration. And the equally impressive Movie Theme would be a gorgeous closer if it wans’t followed by the traditional strange noise track to wrap things up.

The problems are pretty apparent though. I’m not going to pretend that Beck is anything close to perfect, and he just can’t seem to get his musical demons dealt with, and they still plague him. The main problem is the vocals, which he seems to not even take that seriously anymore. We all know that Beck likes to rap and he can in fact do it well, but more often than not he falls back into familliar patterns when he could have just as easily sang a simple little tune and not have to worry about people getting discouraged with his predictably unpredictable lyrics and raps that always work in the exact same predictable ways. Beyond this, many lyrics are forced with aimless launches through choruses. The lyrics “I think I’m in love, but it makes me kind of nervous to say so” are nothing more than him falling on his ass and not really doing much to recover. Unlike Guero, The Information really doesn’t have too many hooks, and while they are there, they, uh, dance alone few and far between. Also, some songs are just generally uninspired. The 1000BPM/Motorcade/The Information block is horribly tiring and mediocre. These problems do have cushions to fall on, because when the vocals are bad, the great music pulls it back up. And Beck fans also find comfort in the weirdness of even the least accessible songs.

It just seems a shame to me that Beck has not realized his problems and remedied them somewhat. I’ve never been too much of a fan of rap, and while Beck doing it does make the practice more tasteful, he does it somewhat too often now, and no longer in the glamorous pop context that helped out Loser.

But I will be the first to say that I am completely satisfied with this purchase. Considering the fact that I got to make my own cover and feel like I was eight again (yes, that’s good), have the DVD, and be surprised by a generally outstanding album that I was expecting to be mediocre, I got it for about $10 at tower records. Now that’s a real steal if I have ever seen one. The fans will appreciate this the most, and even casual listeners will recognize the signature Beck sound and approach that span the album. First time Beck listeners would think, what the hell is this? But no one was expecting Beck’s everchanging agenda to accomodate to brand new fans so easily. The approach is cool, the music is great, and it’s fricking Beck.

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Jet Li's Fearless

October 2, 2006


The problem with this movie isn’t even brought upon by itself. The curious thing is, the movie is advertised as an epic blockbuster, Jet Li’s last starring role in a martial arts movie. And it is made to seem like this movie will end up being an action extravaganza, with fists, legs, and swords flying constantly. However, this is not the case at all. The truth is, this movie is not even an action flick. If you go into that theater expecting lots of action and don’t make the connection midway, you will only leave frustrated. While it lacks in the action department, it makes up for it by being a simply fantastic movie dealing with morals, life lessons, and great imagery.

I’ve only seen a handful of other Jet Li movies. Beyond a few select scenes from other movies like The One and Once Upon A Time In China, I’ve seen four others besides this. The first was one called Born To Defense, which I believe came out in the mid-eighties. It featured Li as a war hero who (you get to see him in some pretty badass Chuck Norris like warzone activity at the beginning) came home only to find himself and his fellow Chinese friends bullied and victimized by abusive American jock sailors. He puts up with it, but decides he needs to do something about it when his good friend ends up getting killed due to the reckless morons. So he does something about it, and the movie concludes with a fierce adrenaline pumping battle in the local fight club, a scene which I now associate with Dream Theater’s song Panic Attack. I remember it being a great movie and the shots of urban China being pretty cool, but not a great deal more.

Another I have seen was the 95 gimmicky but deliciously bad action blockbuster The Enforcer. It featured guns, explosions, kung-fu, “thrill a minute” action and a stereotypical punk antagonist that would even the best bad-guy actors impressed at his assinine and utterly silly nature. And beyond that, it features the infamous “Jonny Spin,” a really short sequence that will strike the viewer as being one of the most awkwardly silly but hilariously awesome fighting techniques ever used against more than one enemy. I liked it. I saw Hero too, which was only a few years ago. For some reason, I liked that one too. But I would probably prefer The Enforcer over it even if I know Hero was downright better. There was some sort of lack of too much real action, and a lot of the effect came through learning lessons. It was more of a drama from the ancient east with swords and spears occasionally thrown in with sort of a Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon angle, much like House of Flying Daggers in the operatic sort of way, but better. I saw Unleashed too, which I was also entertained with. The action was sort of minimal in that too, but the movies charm came through the brilliant characterization. Morgan Freeman played a wonderful piano tuner and Bob Hoskins played one of the better bad guys I have ever seen.

Anyway, while he’s no Bruce Lee, he is at least more tasteful than Jackie Chan usually is, and can kick out the action better too. Which is why I was expecting this movie to be much more fast paced, you know, to make the mans send off more thrilling. Instead, the approach is decidedly more tasteful. While there is some great martial arts and swordplay, a lot of the movie revolves around Jet Li as a character and how he changes, much like Unleashed, and much in contrast to his stoic but effectively non-changing character in Hero. Jet Li plays Huo Yuanjia, a Chinese master of a wushu style that his father forbade him from practicing during his living years. Of course we are talking about Jet Li, and Jet Li don’t take no shit from no one, so not only does Jet Li end up learning the style, but also fights his way to the top and gains pride and fantastic glory in the fighting circle.

But that’s where this movie gets you. It’s Jet Li’s last starring role, so he is more than likely portrayed as a flawless character who does a lot of ass-kicking, right? No, very wrong. In fact, the movie almost throws every chopsaki stereotype into the movie at first, and then brilliantly disassembles them all as soon as they are up in full force. Huo ends up having an extremely overinflated ego, and when one of his students comes home injured illegedly at the hand of the only master that Huo has not yet defeated during his flawless battle history, his reason to fight the man is only rekindled. So he disrespects him on his own birthday, and lets loose the scene for a massive battle in a restaurant almost made for a grand chopsaki scene.

I won’t delve into those specifics, but then things go awry, and Huo ends up finding a myriad of people dead, including those he loves. So he does another very Unleashed type thing to do by exiling himself to a far off land where he reluctantly starts over and makes friends with a charming blind girl named Moon and a nice old woman only referred to as Grandma. He learns new angles in life and realizes that he must travel back to where he came from in order to set things right.

Huo as a character develops marvelously in Fearless, not much like you would expect him to, but in a great way. The fact that Huo as a character already has some ego issues makes for a very interesting transformation. The movie itself is built as an epic drama type of thing, and the filming and imagery is top notch. The action is cool too, even if there are only so many fighting scenes. They are all top notch and great, but most of them take place right away. In this way, the writers and directors trick us and reveal to us what this movie is truly about later on when Huo smells the breeze in a rice field. While not a quintessential action movie, this film is a great send off for the great actor/performer that is Jet Li. People with a taste for action movies but wants something with a little more clarity will love this, and fans of Jet Li will like it even more, as it is him doing exactly what he wants to be doing, in a very peculiarly beautiful way.