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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Black Smoke, No Pope

Latest round of balloting fizzles out in a puff of smoke.

I’m only posting this cuz we beat Drudge to it. Personally, I think the dude was lying when he said he surfs 14 hours a day looking for news. More like 14 minutes 9-5.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Okay, Regardless of What Happens…

Whoever gets tossed tonight (I think Bo is going, but I’m not sure), I have to say this: I get a kick out of Bo. He’s a little cocky, he’s got a good voice, and he puts on a good show.

Unfortunately, he picked the wrong time to be timid. The last two weeks were bad for him and his appeal is already a little limited compared to the teeny-bopper favorites. His performance tonight would’ve kept him out of the bottom three for the week, though.

I predict that he’ll be gone at the end of the night, I hope that I’m wrong, and I’d like to note that I haven’t hit a single one of my predictions yet.

For whatever it’s worth.

Update: My goodness, but Nadia is beautiful.

Spoilers below the fold.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

American Idol: Because the Evil Never Sleeps

Yes, it’s true. It’s American Idol night and I am, once again, planning to insult Paula Abdul, marvel at Scott’s continued survival, and wait (without hope) for someone to sing a Mark Lanegan song. Will my dream never be fulfilled?

So, hey, Ryan Seacrest is an idiot. Just thought I’d mention it.

Songs from the year you were born is the theme this evening. I’m going to have to give that some thought later today.

Side note: How wealthy did Simon become in creating his very own venue for insulting people? Amazing.

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Son of a Freakin’ Dangit…

I had been looking forward to the movie version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I had wanted it to be a good thing. I had hoped that it wouldn’t be ruined by a bad adaptation.

Dangit.

Closer, A Review

Critical darling, Closer, doesn’t deserve the praise. As an adaptation of a play, it fails on nearly every level to be a good movie: its characters are unlikable, its dialog not even vaguely resembling real life, and its emotional outbursts carefully manipulated until they have only a tenuous connection to ongoing events in the movie.

Jude Law and Julia Roberts come out of the wreckage reasonably well. They play a couple of people with serious personality and fidelity issues who do their best to ruin their own lives and the lives of those people around them. Clive Owen, a fine actor, has moments where he is not unutterably bad, although some of the worst emotional ping-pong moments belong to his character. Natalie Portman has no such redeeming moments. She is miscast, her performance is poor, and her character is written ridiculously.

It is hard to blame the actors when the script is truly hideous. The dialog is stilted and unintentionally hilarious. At one point, well into the film, Natalie Portman’s is tasked with asking, “Do you still fancy me?” The line may have worked well on a London stage, but from her mouth it simply sounded goofy and overdone. Ditto the “do you desire me/ no I do not desire you” exchange even later in the movie.

Sometimes dialog can be unrealistic while remaining compelling. The characters in The Royal Tenenbaums, for instance, often sound nothing like real life people having a conversation. Yet the dialog is clever enough, and funny enough, that the conceit comes across well. Closer has neither the charm nor wit, and the writer didn’t have the talent, to carry off the stylized dialog.

Instead, almost every line is a reminder that this, which may have worked wonderfully on stage, is just a bad adaptation. Stage plays have a kind of cadence that is anything but natural, and Closer never feels anything close to natural.

The movie is empty of moral depth or happiness, preferring to be cynical and knowing and utterly unpleasant. It is populated by an incestuous, manipulative group of selfish children, untouched by anything outside of their insular little foursome. Dumb, reprehensible, shallow, poorly done, and miserable.

Please, don’t bother.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

American Idol: The Day After Week Whatever

I’m surprised that both Vonzell and Nikko are on the chopping block. That Scott is in the group isn’t surprising at all--he was somewhat safe when he was singing well and there was a larger pool of untalented competitors. Now that he’s singing poorly, he has absolutely nothing going for him; he isn’t pretty and he isn’t charismatic.

Bo, in his admission that he was surprised to not be in the bottom three was great. It didn’t feel like false modesty (he really wasn’t particularly good the previous night) and it didn’t feel like he was trying to ingratiate himself with the crowd. It just sounded like he knew that show tunes were a bad fit, his performance wasn’t so great, and he was lucky to be sitting on the couch while the others were near the wrong end of the boot.

Now, I’ll be really surprised if Scott doesn’t go, though…

Paula Abdul: still an idiot.

Spoiler below the line.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

American Idol: Week Whatever

American Idol is here again and Ryan Seacrest is wearing a hideous sweater. That last bit isn’t relevant, I know, but it is worthy of note.

All the good bits are below the fold to protect those still innocent in the ways of the Idol.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

The Soundtrack for a Hard Worker

What am I listening to as I sit here trying to find a shred of creativity to help me finish off the current phase of a project? Glad you asked…

  1. Mark Lanegan, “Resurrection Song”
    Spare, emotional, tragic, and gorgeous. As I’ve said before, this is the song that gave the site its name. You should all pay your respects by purchasing it on iTunes. Frankly, I would be surprised if you were disappointed.
  2. Echo and the Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon”
    Their best and most memorable.
  3. Aimee Mann, “Wise Up”
    What a beautiful, brutal song. The final line--"so just give up"--is sung so quietly, without histrionics, that it is devastating.
  4. Brian Eno (w. Daniel Lanois), “Silver Morning”
    A sparkling, gorgeous two and a half minutes of guitar gently welcoming a sunrise. One of the most uplifting instrumentals I’m ever likely to hear. And like that perfect dawn, it’s over far too soon.
  5. Eric Burdon, “Sixteen Tons”
    I believe this version of the song comes from the underrated classic, Joe Verses the Volcano. Let’s just say that it’s become my theme songs…
  6. Thirteenth Floor Elevators, “Slide Machine”
    Strange, psychedelic song with uneven vocals, odd bubbling sounds in the background, a memorable tune, and southern blues lyrics. Nothing says “music geek” like Thirteenth Floor Elevators.
  7. Grant Lee Buffalo, “Lady Godiva and Me”
    I can’t tell you how much I miss this band’s strange mix of rock and roll, backwoods sounds, and poetic lyrics. Grant Lee Phillip, on his own, is still good, but Grant Lee Buffalo was phenomenal.
  8. Ministry, “Should Have Known Better”
    Well before the hardcore industrial music, there was this lightweight synthpop. Something about that makes me giggle.
  9. ZZ Top, “Have You Heard?”
    Back before they made videos with spinning guitars, Playboy-esque women, and cars that launched like the space shuttle, these guys played kick ass blues songs. Tres Hombres is a classic.
  10. Belly, “Stay”
    An odd song with undeniably beautiful vocals and disturbing lyrics. Seductive, longing, and tender.
  11. And, lastly, Joy Division, “Heart and Soul”
    Icy cold and distant, it trips along with an uneven rhythm. Joy Division was never as pretty as New Order (except, perhaps, on “Love Will Tear Us Apart"), but the challenge was worth the effort.

Alright, then, pretty pictures here I come…

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Heavy Metal v/ Heavy Metal

Or why Anthrax might want to stick to rock-related endeavors.

Er, rock music, that is.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Back to the Idol

Tonight they sing the 90’s. There was a lot of really good stuff in that decade, but there was just as much crap. This could be frightening…

Bo Bice Some Black Crows song. This song sucks--in its original version and in this setting. The good of it is that the man knows how to perform and that’s his saving grace. The vocal performance wasn’t so great tonight, but the overall performance was, ahem, rockin’. Simon’s wedding singer comment was a little harsh, but the fact is that this wasn’t a great musical moment.

Can I tell you how much I hated the Black Crows? I don’t see myself ever being nostalgic for that band…

The rest of the updates will be in the extended entry to save McGehee’s rather particular tastes.

Read the Rest...

Miss Jo’s Kentucky Derby Q & A

A brief Question and Answer segment for those who know nothing about the Kentucky Derby.

Because the Kentucky Derby is only a matter of weeks away, and because it is an American sporting institution no less than the Super Bowl, it is time for me to provide you with an extremely basic primer. I consider it my duty as a horseman (or would that be horsewoman?) and a patriot.

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Review: Woven Hand at Benders Tavern

On Good Friday, the g-phrase and I attended what was probably the best concert that I will see this year.

Benders Tavern is a bar and small concert venue that sits in the building formerly occupied by the Goth bar, Onyx. Where it used to be dark and gloomy, with its TVs showing a mix of stylish and campy cult films, Benders is a brighter space with more buoyant colors. It was the first time I had been in the bar since before it had changed ownership, and the experience was a little disconcerting.

The part that made it so strange wasn’t the new style, though, it was that some of the clientele didn’t seem to have changed all that much. Pierced and tattooed people still attended, wearing their uniforms of black PVC and leather, carefully cultivating their ironic detachment and sartorial separatism. At least one of the concertgoers was a former Onyx employee who wore a familiar starter Al Jourgenson Goth cowboy getup. I was surprised to see them at the comparatively happy Benders and even more surprised to see them attending a Christian rock concert.

But that’s precisely what was happening. The scene was the people--the tiny shot girl with the pink, wool bunny ear cap and an unsettling, vampiric smile; the cocktail waitress with the exaggerated, cat’s eye granny glasses; the cocktail waitress with what looked to be tatts covering her entire torso and arms. Scattered throughout was a smattering of people like me: jeans and sweaters type people who looked more out of place than the guy with plugs in his earlobes.

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Beading, My Anti-Drug

Pedantry has a quick rant about anti-drug measures on an Indian reservation in Maine. (Click on the link to go see the ad.)

Honest to God, I suspect it’s stuff like this that keeps drug addiction rates so high on native reserves. I mean really, get bored stupid doing traditional arts and crafts for the tourists, or get stupid directly thanks to a little puff of weed. I’d probably take option two.

Meanwhile, Kevin at Wizbang has more information about the shooting at Red Lake Indian reservation in Minnesota. The shooter had a partner. They may have been planning another Columbine. A decade or so ago in a native town in Canada a bunch of teenagers decided to commit suicide by sniffing gas. They were found out and saved but not until after they’d sniffed a lot of gas and lost a lot of brain cells.

The idea that we should preserve an ancient way of life, and force people who through the sheer chance of genetics happen to be inheritors of this ancient way of life to live that life is insane. It’s more than insane, it’s racist.

There are many who choose to preserve their ancestors’ ways. That’s fine with me, and I support it. I’m not sure what the ancient ways have to do with casinos, bungalows and beat up Fords, but that’s not my concern. If the goal is to preserve tribal identity and live as a nation-within-a-nation then there’s something that needs to be said—You can’t preserve tribal identity if your kids are frying their brains using the white mans drugs.

You guys need a different plan. Personally, I don’t think making beads for tourists cuts it.

Note: There are tribes out there that are quite successful. I mean no disprespect to them.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Review: Queens of the Stone Age, Lullabies to Paralyze

Queens of the Stone Age Sessions@AOL

Sometimes a good album--even a particularly good album--can be a disappointment. In the case of Lullabies to Paralyze, the disappointment isn’t that the songs aren’t better or that the band isn’t as good without the volatile Nick Oliveri playing bass. The songs are solid nearly front to back and the only musical presence that is missed is that of Dave Grohl on drums. No, the disappointment is that the CD doesn’t feel like much of a move forward for a band whose first three albums all had singular, unique identities. Damned good is a step down from the greatness of Songs for the Deaf and Rated R, in particular.

It starts out well enough. The slow, precise “Lullaby” is a spare song, but when part-time vocalist Mark Lanegan starts singing, it becomes something much deeper. Lanegan’s voice has a transformative power, lulling the listener away from what could otherwise have been a tiny, cliché of a song. It also stands as the only surprise you’re likely to find on the disc.

“Medication” and “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane” both drive the disc forward with aggressive rhythms and the kind of hard rock that is hard to find from Grammy-nominated, big-selling bands these days. They both stand as good, but typical, efforts from the band; the songs are performed well, all the ingredients are there, but it’s hard to escape the sense that we’ve heard these tunes before.

A song like the slower, but wonderfully titled “Tangled Up in Plaid,” is the reason that it would be a crime to neglect to buy the album. A song like “Burn the Witch” is the reason that Lullabies still comes close to being a classic.

With Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top adding a touch of Texas blues and Lanegan providing a dry-throat scrape to back up Josh Homme’s high and clear falsetto, is the best song on the album. It exists in a place not far from Led Zeppelin, but belonging entirely to the Queens of the Stone Age. Anyone with a love for rock and roll will be singing along at the end—"Burn the witch, burn to ash and bone.” Demented, sure, but catchy as hell.

Another obvious highlight is the first single, “Little Sister,” which is almost as radio friendly as Songs for the Deaf’s perfect “No One Knows.” It would be safe to predict movie placement and radio overkill for the fun little rocker with the sing-along chorus. Soon after “Little Sister” closes out the first half of the disk, though, the going gets bland. “I Never Came” stands as the kind of near-pop song that makes Queens a still-cool band balanced right on the edge of the mainstream acceptance, “Skin on Skin” just makes for unpleasant, tedious listening.

Intriguingly distorted vocals don’t manage to save “Someone’s in the Wolf” from its arty pretensions. At over seven minutes long, the song devolves into Halloween sound effects and musical noodling that ultimately prove tiresome. From there, most of the remainder of the disc is skip-it filler. The only exceptions are the groovy “You Got a Killer Scene There, Man,” with it’s almost impossible to hear guest vocals, and the mellow “Long, Slow Goodbye.”

The UK version of the album (NME.com is streaming the entire UK release on their site) has a couple songs that we won’t be seeing on the US release, and that’s an absolute shame. The first song, “Like a Drug,” is elevated from one of the Desert Sessions discs and sounds like a song recorded in the late 50’s or early 60’s; the cover of ZZ Top’s “Precious and Grace” is an intense, earthquake of a song. With Billy Gibbons and Mark Lanegan exchanging vocals, this one would have been the perfect bookend to the opener. The US release is poorer for the absence.

Lullabies could have been great, but its second half is too self-indulgent and the overall disc doesn’t present the same kind of step forward that came when the band went from the self-titled album to Rated R to Songs for the Deaf. Lullabies is an album with some great moments that doesn’t quite live up to the expectations.

But those moments of greatness still act as a compelling reason to buy the thing.

Check out the live performances in the Sessions@AOL archive.

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