Thursday, October 12, 2006

Movie Reviews: Fearless & The Protector

I saw both of these in recent weeks, so I figured it's about time I get around to talking about how MUFUGGING AMAZING THEY W.... I mean, read on!

Movie Review: The Protector

For people who read this blog (yes, both of you), you have probably read my review for Ong-Bak. This movie is by nearly all of the same people.... Tony Jaa and Petchtai Wongkamlao, and their director buddy, Prachya Pinkaew. It's also in the same vein... Tony Jaa uses mad fucked-up anti-gravity superhuman skillz of awesome to defeat a buttload of criminals who stole stuff from him and his people. However, you are NOT going to a Tony Jaa flick for the plot. You are going for the awesomeness of his performance, and the righteous fury of vengeance.

And neither disappoints here. With ten times as much money to play around with, and the entire Australian action film industry to draw upon, there is no shortage of car chases and bad-ass fights. In spite of all the INCREDIBLY memorable action sequences (the burning church, the throne room, the flying party crasher) there is one that sticks out even among all this: a six minute SINGLE TAKE sequence of Jaa walking from the street, through a restaraunt, into a hotel, up ten flights of ramping stairs and wide open terrace, into another restaraunt, all while dispatching of somewhere around forty people in quick fights. Let me repeat... this was ONE TAKE! The camera guy was chasing Jaa the whole time, and it never cut away. It was choreography ART!

There are also a whole lot more side characters this time around, both good guys and bad. Sullen criminal underbosses, angered policemen and their partners, sick animal dealers, power-mad politicians... it's a smorgasborg of stereotypes, but DAMMIT, it's done so well you scarcely even notice. Also, unlike in Ong-Bak, here Jaa gets his ass handed to him a few times. Those fights he wins, he WORKS for it, and he works it for the camera to godly levels.

Real Movie Rating: 3 out of 10.
Action Movie Rating: 10 out of 10. If it gets any better than this, it hasn't been done yet.

Movie Review: Jet Li's Fearless

Jet Li's final movie.

It's a travesty, it's horribly unfair... but it's true. Mr Li is retiring from the big screen, and unlike most people who quit 'the biz', I have to respect his reason. To him, martial arts movies have abandoned the principles of wushu... they've all become revenge movies. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in spite of it's grandeur and epicosity, was a revenge flick. Unleashed (Danny the Dog elsewhere) was a revenge flick. Hell, Lethal Weapon 4 (the one he was in) was a revenge flick, in it's own way. Wushu is not about revenge...

... and for a while, watching this movie, I called bullshit on him. It was all about revenge! Revenge, savage beatdowns, killings... for revenge. As the movie passed the mid-point, and the plot fully unfurled itself, I saw that it was exactly how Jet Li had meant to go out. No longer about revenge, but about honesty and inspiration and respect, Fearless transcends the normal martial arts movie mold, and becomes truly great.

Jet Li may be looking his age, but he was playing a middle-aged father and husband, so it worked for him. This movie was also based on a real-life man in China at the turn of the century, so it also works for him that he looks like a real-life man. His skills are still pure beauty to watch, like a waterfall or a rainbow, and I wish him the best in his future life kicking around his mansion and reading poetry.

Real Movie Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Action Movie Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Monday, October 02, 2006

Television Review: The New Shows

Now, I should say straight up that I haven't watched ALL the new shows... let's face it, if I did that, I'd need three TiVo's, a personal assistant, and a mufuggin LOBOTOMY. However, there are a few that, for better or worse, I have watched, and I'd like to complain about them now.

First off, my pick of the bunch:


When I saw the very first ads for this, I thought "Hey, cool, James Woods is back on television. This might be good. Hmmmm, legal drama, and it looks like he has a cadre of hip young attractive lawyers... ok, now it sounds dumb." Then I saw the ads right before it aired, and I thought "Ok, he's ranting, being a jerk, and drawing on a clear board while everyone stares at him. So it's basically House, only with legal problems. Uhm, ok... hooray, plagiarism! This will probably suck." Then I watched it, and I finally thought "Wow, that was pretty good. The characters are two and a half dimensional, James Woods is awesome as always, and Seven of Nine is not a showpiece." Yeah, by the way, Jeri Ryan is on the show.

So far, I like it. I've seen two episodes, and it hasn't gotten stale, and only one scene has made me groan, but all in all, I like it. Stark, the main character, was a high priced defense attourney for 20 years, one of the best in America. When he arrives at a clients house to see a girl slashed and murdered, his client soaked in blood, and said client saying "Well, mny lawyer's here. You should just let me go right now," he has a nervous breakdown, and gets forced by the Mayor himself to become a district prosecutor on the toughest cases. Stark likes this, after finding out what a bunch of sick fucks he's been defending, but he is still manic-compulsively obsessed with winning over the truth (but, like House, I am now willing to give this show a whole season to develop it's characters).

Rating: 8.75 out of 10


When I saw the first ads for this, my thoughts were "WOOO!! YEAHHH!!Gabbagabbasquee Adrian Pasdar is back on TV, and he's, like super-powered, and it's all about real-world abilities, and YEAHH!! WOOO!!! PURPLE!!! AWESOME!!!"

Then I saw the show.

I am so disillusioned with how television producers view comic books, if they seriously think that THAT is the pinnacle of the comic-to-television migration. The characters are LESS than one-dimensional, and with the exception of Hiro and SuperCheerleader, I actually sort of hope they all die in horrible, horrible ways. Hopefully soon. The dialogue is among the worst I have ever had the displeasure to listen to. True, the visuals and cinematography are really quite good (except for the wierd flying scene at the end, which should have had big glowing words flashing "LOOK! WIRES! Big wires! We're not even trying!") and the IDEAS are all great, but the show.... the show...

... the show needs to be rescued by a real superhero.

Rating: 3 out of 10, and a warning that it better improve, or drop to a 2.


Please vanish. Please go away. Please stop clogging up the airwaves.

Rating: 0 out of 10.


I had such high hopes for a show like this... I mean, it's Ron Livingston, and Gina Torres, and... and some redhead chick. Some of the dialogue is pretty good, but the premise of their job is going to wear thin very fast, and the chemistry was pretty much set out for the whole season five minutes out of the gate. As far as I can tell, every episode will be like the previous... a sort of a standoff with the viewers. Ron Livingston needs a role where his every-guy laconic awesomeness can shine, but this show is weighed down with too much drama, and not enough depth or entertainment. Sigh.

Rating: 5 out of 10. It could have gone all the way...


I was truly stoked about this show, and I was so happy when I found out it would be aired on Space on Saturdays. Then I found out it also aired on Wednesdays on regular television, and so all the good parts were spoiled for me in my House forum. All in all, the show has a buttload of potential, but the first episode was... actually slow. For a movie about the nuclear apocalypse, it dragged on interminably. I give it four episodes to improve, or Skeet Ulrich may have to come off my Christmas card list.

Rating: 6.1 out of 10.

To sum it up... watch Shark, try Jericho, and spend the rest of the time watching Supernatural DVDs.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Music Review: Top Five Review - "Rock"

I know, a lot of you are saying "But rock is metal, and metal is rock! What the hell is wrong with you, you beige-wearing retard?" Well, I'll tell you why... they're not the same. They're the same thing in the same way that orange is red. You can start with red, but you need to add other ingredients, and make fundamental changes to the structure, to get orange from red... and get metal from rock.

Rock is roots, and as such, it encompasses a much larger oevre of possibilities... thus, you're gonna see some wierd choices here. My advice to you: shut up, and let me do my thing here, ok? Ok. :)

Top Five Rock Albums

Not having many real "rock" albums myself growing up, these are fairly narrow choices. Most of you will be mad to not see Big Sugar on here, but the fact is, I didn't like any SINGLE album of theirs enough to pick just one. I like their entire CATALOGUE... spread out accross all their albums there is a ranbow of genius, but one color of a rainbow just isn't as impressive as the whole thing. So, lets begin!

Number Five --> The Presidents Of The United States Of America - Self Titled

That's right, all you metal-banging spike-wearers! PUSA! Chris Ballew, Mike Dederer, and Jason Finn... the peculiar trio with the two-string guitar, three-string bass, and a Junior Mini drum kit... put out my number five rock album of all time. With ten gallons of inspiration in a five gallon talent hat, this album attracted a cult following with a sound never really heard anywhere before. With some blues riffs, some heavy-metal riffs at the end, and the catchy, simple, but brilliant interplay between the bass and guitar, the music itself would be worthy of this award, but the true insane genius lies in the songs. Love songs about strippers, songs about dead frogs, car-enthusiast bugs, fruit, cats, nudity, candy, and geriatrics make this just about the most diverse, ludicrous, and satisfying records I've ever heard.

Number Four --> Clutch - Blast Tyrant

"Nuh uh, Mighty! Clutch is METAL!" Clutch is NOT! Clutch is ROCK! Some Clutch SONGS on some CLutch ALBUMS are metal, but these boys are rock... hard rock, grindy rock, stoner rock, but still rock, and this album, one of their more recent, is probably the best SINGLE album of theirs I have. Robot Hive / Exodus didn't really seem like Clutch to me... maybe Clutch Lite. Elephant Riders was a CLOSE second for this, followed by Transnational Speedway League... but Blast Tyrant takes it home. With their first two songs using acoustic guitar (heavy acoustic), as well as some randomly layered tracks with some guy speaking Polish, this was by far their most experimental album to date. Using a pipe organ to highlight some songs, Clutch lead Neil Fallon described this album as "a soundtrack to a movie that exists in my head". Indeed, the songs do seem to loosely follow some story about pirates, witches, death, life, and travelling wierdos... but who cares! With a huge, cohesive sound, I never get sick of this album, or any track on it.

Number Three --> Live - Throwing Copper

When the Great Scorer comes to write his definitive list of top albums of all time, this will be on there, guaranteed. One of the best things to come out of the entire alternative rock scene, Live's second album departed from the moody but upbeat theme of Mental Jewellery to create something totally different. Brilliant bass, a guitar permanently stuck in minor and flat chords, and songs ranging from dead bodies found in a creek to stalker-ish feelings of love and devotion, to death and birth, and other wonderfully depressing concepts. With amazing use of silence and noise, whispering and screaming, the whole album moves in waves from black to white, happy to sad, and drags the listener along with it. Loud enough to count as hard rock in places, but soft enough to still be alt, Live created this singular high point of the 90's.

Number Two --> Barenaked Ladies - Gordon

"Mighty, what the hell is WRONG with you? GORDON??" That's right, bitches... Gordon! BNL's debut album, which I got for Christmas when I was a kid, and listened to almost enough to wear out the tape before New Years. Seriously, on the 16 hour train-ride home, I listened to it the ENTIRE time, using up six batteries in my walkman, just flipping the tape over and over and over... Introducing me to lighter rock, as well as blues, jazz, and lyrics that weren't serious, BNL was the first real album to totally open me up to the world of music. With love songs that confused my 11-year-old hormones, funny songs that I didn't understand, and serious songs that sounded funny, it challenged me to develop and mature my musical aesthetic. All seriously talented musicians, singers, and songwriters, it was also the first album to make me think about drumming, and bass, and harmony... it was the first for a lot of things, and it's EARNED the number two spot. Which brings us to:

Number One --> Mayfield Four - Fallout

The number one rock album in my whole Universe by a huge long shot. I first heard this album when I was at college for the first time. I was playing Samurai Showdown IV, and I was doing pretty good, when Jon snuck up behind me and put headphones over my ears and ordered me to listen to this new album he'd just bought. Sure enough, the very first track had me completely hooked. I hade it through four songs, and the entire game, in a haze of heartfelt singing, lap steel, rock guitars and wizardly drumming. I had to wait a whole day to hear any more of it, but I listened to the album probably four times through, just laying on my bed with the speakers up, lost in a haze of genius. To this day, one of my biggest regrets is missing their show at UCC... Jon went, and sat at the bar with them after they were done their set. Myles, the lead singer, went on to form Alter Bridge with Creed after they kicked Scott "I'm Jesus" Stapp out, and thank God they did... Myles phenomenal natural singing talent blends very well with Creeds metal soul, but he'll always be the lead singer for the best god-damn band I've ever heard... Mayfield Four.

Well, now we're down to the songs... place your bets now!

Number Five --> Spacehog - In The Meantime

I don't remember where or how I heard this song first, but it's always stuck with me... the driving bass, the lilting guitar intro, the soaring voice singing heartfelt lyrics about something I still don't understand... I'm never sure what I feel about this song, or what it's about, or why it sounds like it was recorded through a wall of styrofoam, but it moves me to this day no matter how often I hear it. I have every Spacehog album, and although uniformly awesome, this song rises WAY above any other track... that rare stroke of godly awesome that strikes some bands struck them hard, and I'm glad it did.

Number Four --> Big Sugar - Dear Mr Fantasy

Sure, it's a cover song, but I didn't know that until a few months ago, so lick me. Gordie at his guitar-playing and emotionally-singing best. A wonderful blues song played on hard-rocking double-necked Gibsons, with the fluid bass, omnipresent harmonica / saxophone solos, this is music the way Canada intended it to be... toe-tapping, head-nodding, and all-around better than everyone elses. There's not much I can say about this song, really... it's awesome. Just awesome. Really awesome. I miss Gordie. :(

Number Three --> The Smalls - There's No Question

"Why do you like this song? It's not like the others on the CD..." My wife said this after I fell in love with this tract, the final track on To Each A Zone, and she was right. The Smalls were without a doubt the hardest thing to come out of Taber, ALberta since the mine closed, but I just didn't love all their stuff. Corby's hypnotic bass, playing lead as was intended by nature, completely makes this song. Starting off mournful with a bare minimum of drumming, and the meandering bass tune, you really, REALLY hear what the Smalls singer can do when he puts his mind to it. Always clear, sometimes not an asset for a hard-rocker, he totally does his best work on this song. Singing about how one can't give in to depression and despair, the song takes off near the end when the guitar comes in with a vengeance. For no single reason, this song makes it to my Number Three very easily, and it gives me hope that somewhere, someday, bass might be respected as an instrument by more than just hard-core annoying afficionados such as myself.

Number Two --> Tin Star - Head

Yup, this is unique. Making it all the way to number two, I first heard this song... on a television ad for the bands album. They only played about thirty seconds of the track, and most of it was muted to the announcer could babble on about them, but it gripped me. It was six years before I had the means to download this song, but SOMEHOW, the name of the song, the band, and that thirty-second tune stayed with me, and the first time I listened to it, in the computer lab at college with my headphones on, just sort of made everything else melt away. Progressive experimental electronica-rock, the guitars were so distorted as to almost sound like some sort of synchroniser. The drum beats were a mix of drum-machine and real-life, but the bass and guitar were all real people. Superb singing, strange lyrics about insanity and studying, this song was used in 'The Sixth Sense', and a few other movies, as well as a couple car commercials. Tin Star's biggest claim to fame was this song, and boy, they deserve it for this track. Although the rest of their stuff is a little too esoteric and experimental for my tastes, this song totally bridges the gap between electronica and rock for me. Kudos.

To anyone who knows me, or has a good sense of premonition from my list of albums, the number one song will not be a surprise.

Number One --> Mayfield Four - Overflow

A huge song, with three distinctly different parts, this track near the end of the album knocked me on my ASS the first time I heard it. Myles' voice soars to amazing heights with lyrics that still make me a little misty-eyed. With imaginative and deceptively simple guitar licks, and a surprisingly complex bass line, it starts off with Myles singing as deep and breathy as he can (the guy's got just inhuman singing range). At seven minutes, it's their longest song, and they just poured everything they had into it. I was told that this song got two full minutes of standing, screaming ovation at the live show... bastards. I must have listened to it a thousand times, and it was the first song I ever heard to inspire me to write... I still remember the exact scene from the exact story, and exactly how it goes, everytime I hear this track, when I'm not moved to reflection about how the song used to make me feel. I had to take it out of my mix-tapes, though, because it tended to make me absent-minded and overly-emotional when I was driving. Godly in all respects, this song shall likely remain my favorite song of all time, second to none, and possibly ever.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Music Review: Top Five Review - "Metal"

This is my double-top-five review of Metal... Top Five Albums, and Top Five Songs. This might take me a bit, given the very, very, VERY large collection I have, but I figure this would give me something a bit out of the ordinary to post about. (Also, HOLY CRAP, two weeks since my cover song review? Wow!) Let's start this puppy off with...

Top Five Metal Albums

Starting with number five, I'll work my way down to number one in the traditional fashion.

Number Five --> Monster Magnet - Dopes To Infinity

I've reviewed this album before, in a previous post. I'll try to expand upon my review here, but start off by saying that Dopes to Infinity was packed to the absolute brim with thundering, rocking, well-layed guitars, marching-beat drum-lines, and the scream-tacular voice of Dave Wyndorf. That trademark cat-screech can still come accross as the definiton of hardcore nearly a decade later. Huge songs, most of them nothing more than guitar solos linked together with peculiar lyrics, make up half the album, paying far more attention to the rhythm section than most other metal bands. One gets the feeling of actually being submerged in guitars, rather than simply being surrounded. I have since discovered that this album's genre is actually "stoner metal", but these are just frivolous labels to me. It's all metal, and it's all good.

Number Four --> Metallica - S&M

Ok, this is a bit of a cheater cop-out, but the fact is I didn't like any single Metallica album ENOUGH to include it, whereas this album brings together the best versions of their best songs, so... bite me. I couldn't, in good conscience, do a heavy metal review and leave out Metallica... it just wasn't going to happen. S&M combined Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in what had to be possibly the greatest Metallica concert since the Moscow Airport show. Many of Metallica's songs lend themselves extremely well to orchestration, particularly off of Load and The Black Album. Bleeding Me and The Outlaw Town, and perhaps One, benefitted the most from this treatment, and have enriched the lives of all true metal fans everywhere by lending credibility to the art. Now, if we could only get Hetfield to stop making albums...

Number Three --> Motorhead - Everything Louder Than Everyone Else

For a band with 23 studio albums, this was a hard pick... but the definitive double-live album will have to do. After all the struggle, the fame, the drugs, the egos, the quitting, this album brings everyone and everything back together, and shows us why no-one but Motorhead can claim to have been anywhere near the beginning of heavy metal. One is reminded of the poingant riddle posited in "Empire Records":

"Who would win in a fight, Lemmy or God?"
"Uh... Lemmy?"
"No, I mean God!"
"Trick question, asshole! Lemmy IS God!"

The brilliant guitar, one of the greatest rock drummers in history, and Lemmy's inimicable voice and poingant, angry, dirty, and surprisingly deep lyrics... it's Motorhead. The only reason they didn't make it to Number One is a personal choice... call me a phillistine, but the contemporaries have just edged them out.

Number Two --> Deftones - White Pony

This hurt, since I had all three major-label Deftones albums on my short-list, including Around The Fur and Detones (Self-titled). I also wanted to put the B-Sides & Rarities album on here, but since it's not original music (or at least co-written), I didn't feel it was really a Deftones effort. Even so, White Pony just edged out the others to make it to our Number Two spot. Regarded by many to be their most polished and mature album, 2000's White Pony made it to #3 on the billboard charts, the first good nu-metal band to get that high since Korn (although both bands eschew the title of 'nu-metal'). With several songs from my short-list of favorite tracks, White Pony is probably the pinnacle of the entire new metal movement... with the possible exception of individual albums, the entire metal scene has been descending into mankiness ever since then... but we'll always have this album, with guest vocals on two tracks by progressive metal prophet Maynard Keenan.

This now brings us to the number one spot. I've spent the past hour messing around with my song collection, wracking my brain, trying to think of the metal album I like best... which is difficult, since everytime I think I settle on one, I feel bad for not picking another. There's all these voices in my head saying "But Clutch isn't METAL, are they? Hey, you can't put the Deftones on there twice... dude, you don't like Seether THAT much..." It wasn't easy... it was painful... I think I'm bleeding from more than three orifices... but here we go. My number one, the one album that has had more influence on me than any other:

Number One --> The Crow - Official Soundtrack

I hear booing, don't I? The fact is, this one album introduced me to just about every sort of music I like now. It had Nine Inch Nails, mixing Trenty's computer wizardry with metal guitars... it had Pantera doing a little speed-thrash... it had Rollins Band belting out a song about a homocidal superhero... a dozen bands with a dozen styles, all of them loud (and two quiet tracks by Violent Femmes and Jane Sibbery, the Femmes "Color Me Once" among my favorites on this album). I listened to this one album for probably a year straight with everything I did. To this day, I HAVE to play X-Com to this album, just because it was the album I had on EVERY time I played. It introduced me to "goth" music, to "stoner rock", to "speed metal", and just about everything that I love today, as well as an appreciation for the eperimental side of heavy metal. My Number One Favorite Movie Of All Time brought me my Number One Favorite Metal Album Of All Time... I don't know what that says about me, but if you don't agree, then go write your OWN blog and stop whining. *smack*

Top Five Metal Songs

This might be a little bit harder for me to do, since whereas I have dozens of favorite albums, I have HUNDREDS of favorite songs. HUNDREDS!! Gyyahhh!!! Even so, I've got my short-list... so it's time to get out the chainsaw and start carving this down. Don't like at me like that... you can carve with a chainsaw...

Number Five --> Filter - Hey Man, Nice Shot

First heard on the all-station late-night program "Overnight", this song dogged me for MONTHS! Eventually I found myself staying up until three AM with my sister's tape-recorder stereo just to get this song onto a tape so I could listen to it whenever I wanted. This was pre-Crow, this was pre-Soundgarden... hell, this was pre-Metallica, for me. This was my first taste of metal... and I LIKED it! With his amazingly expressive screaming and grinding guitars, this was like nothing I had heard on daytime radio, or "Pussy FM", as I like to call it. By a long shot the best song Filter has ever put out, this made it to the top of the metal-pile just through virtue of longevity and influence. Over a decade later, and this is still one of my favorite hard songs.

Number Four --> Clutch - Guild of Mute Assassins

By any and all regards this was most definitely NOT a hit song, but by any and all regards it was wierd, even by Clutch standards. A peculiar bit of distorted storytelling, this song has a straightforward but pervasive marching-drum beat, and perhaps one of the greatest seven-minute guitar leads ever. Although distorted almost beyond recognition, the real power and tune comes through if you can get this song onto speakers powerful enough to handle it. The song's obvious premise is a secretive group of assassins who forfeit their humanity to belong, and to kill... kill anyone. The chorus is powerful enough to lift your heart, with Neil's growly voice at it's best, despite the material he has to work with being hardly the type of thing to bring a smile to your lips. For not trying to make a hit song, and just trying to make a GREAT song, this one, a Clutch rarity, makes it all the way to number four.

Number Three --> Metallica - The Outlaw Torn

Another unpopular Metallica track, this song capped the much-maligned Load album. At 9:58 in length, it's the longest Metallica song ever (although with the long fade-in and fade-out, it's arguable). Song length has never equated greatness, though... which is why we must move on to the middle of the song. With a haunting bass & guitar tune, both very understated, and a tricky but memorable drum line, the song relies on mood, and Hetfield's voice, to carry the message of loss, love, and loneliness. The lyrical poetry gets very moody, almost emo, far more than most other heavy metal bands would dare to go, but Hetfield, the Cowboy from Hell, can pull it off. With two long, rambling, and powerful guitar interludes, the incredible length of this song is needed to fully convey the feelings expressed. The last great Metallica song, it didn't need power, or distortion, or speed, or crashing drums... it just needed skill and talent, and it proved that the band still had it.

Number Two --> Deftones - Be Quiet And Drive

It was so hard to pick ONE Deftones song again, since I have their entire catalogue... but I had to go with this one. I think it was the first Deftones song I ever heard, and it's stuck with me. Never relying on easy or conventional chord construction, this heavily-distorted guitar-driven symphony has almost imperceptible note changes, seeming to flow back and forth between melody, verse, and chorus in an entirely new, organic way. With a bare minimum of lyrics (54 words, not counting individual lines being repeated), you'd think that this song wouldn't have the emotional punch to make it to the penultimate position, but Chino, as always, conveys what he needs with a combination of minimalist and saturation... in this case, minimalist words and a saturation of layered, symphonic guitar work. It's hard to say exactly what he's saying with this song, but the fundamental message is loud and clear: getting away. Getting out of town, getting out of a relationship, and just driving, being free... the freedom message that metal has championed since the beginning.

And now we're at my Number One Metal Song Of All Time. Just like above, I'm having some problems narrowing it down to ONE... I mean, I've got about 1100 heavy metal songs on my machine. And I gotta pick ONE! ONE!!! Ack! But here goes....

Number One --> American Head Charge - To Be Me

You weren't expecting that, were you? This song caught me out of left field, too... I heard AHC on Tundra Trash one day, and I thought it was pretty good. I got their music, and I thought some of it was pretty awesome, and some of it was quite mediocre. This song, though, just floored me... it was PERFECT! It was a strange, almost celestian convergence of skill, talent, inspiration, and opportinuty that this song made it onto their album. The lyrics are almost perfect for heavy metal, the guitar is a roaring, raging demon of sound, and the quiet, almost childish piano tune that leads the song in and out is the perfect complement. The bass is almost drowned out, but it plays its part backing up the guitar, and the drumming, as with all AHC songs, is way above average. While not a brilliant song, sometimes brilliance can simply be superceded with truth, which elevates this song to my own personal #1 spot.

There. I'm done. My hands are tired...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Music Review: Wierd Cover Songs

In recent years, the Cover Song has become sort of it's own genre of music. Bands such as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes or individuals such as Richard Cheese have made careers (or just side-jobs) as cover artists. Richard Cheese does piano lounge covers of rock, metal, and rap songs, such as Nine Inch Nails "Closer" and Kelis' "Milkshake", as well as the brilliantly placed "Down With The Sickness" by Disturbed, which made perhaps the most surreal horror scene in recent years in the new Dawn of the Dead movie. Me First is actually composed of famous punk singers from OTHER bands, who just do whatever song strikes their fancy, from Simon & Garfunkel, to the Gilligans Island Theme Song, to Van Morrison. They've developed a minor cult following, and soon will have to start touring just to keep the fans happy.

Others, though, just do the odd cover song and throw it in with their own original material. Few are as well known as Johnny Cash's recent three: Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt", Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage", and U2's "One". All three can be considered superior to the originals (although maybe a tie with "Hurt). I'd like to take some time to shine a light on some lesser-known cover classics.

Ben Folds Five - Bitches Ain't Nothing ... A cover of the Dr. Dre / NWA song about dating hookers, the piano-lead college-rockers lend a deeply disturbing tone to this song. With his soulful voice and lilting keys, Ben Folds doesn't make the crude lyrics sound the slightest bit forced (which is understandable, given that he swears profusely throughout his normal popular up-beat rock songs). Rap covers are becoming more common these days.

Deftones - No Ordinary Love ... One of the greatest progenitors of the Nu-Metal movement, the California-based Deftones were an obvious choise for a hip-hop song. Lead singer Chino Mareno's raspy, throaty, almost falsetto voice was meant for poetry, as three critically-acclaimed albums will attest to, but when you take away the thundering guitars, driving bass, and brilliant drumming, you're still left with a butt-load of talent. This cover of the romantic urban ballad by Sade fits absolutely perfectly with Chino's style of nervous anger and repressed emotion. Which makes the next review even stranger.

Deftones - Simple Man ... That's right, the Lynyrd Skynyrd southern rock hit, as covered by California's own alt-metal gods. They abandon their own crashing guitars, though, in favor of a more subdued and more faithful guitar rendition of the classic song, and Chino's voice hits heights of smoothness and soul rarely seen in his own music. If not better than the original, it has been perfectly adapted to the current generation, and the message of life-long happiness is not lost in the translation.

Big Sugar - Let It Ride ... A Canadian blues-rock cover of a Canadian rock song? More interesting than it sounds! Gordie Johnson's guitar commands a whole lot more attention than any of the instrumentation of the original song, but it never drowns out the lyrics, and the marching-beat riffs seem to make you want to hop in a car and let it ride, too. A perfect choice for the hard-rocking funky-blues white-boy guitar god from the praries.

Metallica - Turn The Page ... Perhaps the greatest Metallica song in recent years, this heavy-metal take of the soulful Bob Seger classic of the loneliness of the road seems to take the whole world away (if you have enough power in your sub-woofer... this song has BASS!) Hetfield's voice gets its first decent workout in years, and they remembered what song gave them their first taste of ultra-fame... the quiet, restrained, angry and lonely metal guitar and the huge, almost operatic sound of the entire band working together. God, I love this song.

Foo Fighters - Baker Street ... Well-distorted through old-style tube-amps, this song is not changed too too much from the original. It's louder, it's heavier, but for a relatively simple cover, the Foos make it sound like their own. There's not much I can say to this, other than I appreciate it when a band takes the time to cover a song that they can pull off... which brings us to perhaps my favorite.

Mayfield Four - Inner City Blues ... There's not many rock bands with the balls to cover Marvin Gaye, let alone one of Marvin's lesser known works, let alone have the vocal talent to pull the whole thing off. The voice sounds errily identical to that 70's soul legend, but the lap-steel and rock bass give the song a more angry, less despairing feel. It gives you a sense of hope, rather than a sense of failed familiarity, and thats something a great cover should do: be the same song, with the same words, and the same music, and yet come accross so different, because the band has made it it's own.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Holiday Review: Valentines Day

Also known as "Singles Awareness Day", Valentines Day (or St. Valentines Day) is the holiday in which people are morally obligated to purchase presents for those they love, in order to more succinctly drive home the fact that they are not worth presents at any other time of the year. The Wikipedia article on Valentines Day itself has, unfortunately, been completely expunged of any factual truth dating after the early 1900's, in a storm-trooper assault of corporate article-editing, so I'm going to have to find other credible sources here.

My main source is my good friend Khonsu, who has the following to say on the matter:

FUCK! Am I the only person who HATES getting Valentine's GIFTS? Being given a V-day gift is like saying to your partner "Here, I care only about nationally recognized days to show affection because otherwise you won't fuck me tonight and I won't have anything to brag about on the 15th." Am I the only woman that enjoys sex for SEX instead of just "rewarding" my "faithful and loyal" for not fucking up? Seriously--I ALREADY HAVE A DOG, I DON'T NEED TWO. The only begging my partner should do is if a ninja jumps into our bedroom and threatens to play Raffi at 78RPM on an old record player every time I orgasm. "No, please, no more Bananaphone." THAT'S IT.

Everything Vlad (her boyfriend) wants? He gets. Everything I want? I get. See how NICELY that works out?

That pisses me off about a lot of women--they treat men like dogs, literally, dogs. The only logic I can see behind this is that most women are bitches, so I guess the only proper fucking they can get is from a sire.

Fuck teddy bears. Fuck chocolate. Fuck stupid, girly schmaltzy bullshit and FUCK HALLMARK, TOO!


Isn't she just precious?

Of course, since my wife doesn't feel this way, I have to go out and buy her some candy and flowers right now. Excuse me.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Television Review: Childrens Programming Part II

I'm back, and so are a whole new host of unholy childrens entertainment enemas. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, and some of them are really bad, and some of them give "bad" a bad name, but one this is for sure: they do exist, and that's the saddest thing of all. Onto the reviews!


I first heard this show before I saw it. I was intrigued by the introduction music, which is horribly catchy. Soon I was forced to watch this breathy little three-year old big-headed compuclaymation kid and his anthropomorphic friends have silly little adventures. Obviously influenced in form and style by anime, Pocoyo is narrated by one of my heroes, Stephen Fry, also known as General "Insanity" Melchett. Pocoyo is an exceedingly cute character, as are all of his friends. The animation is top-notch, the musical score is soothing, and the voices are not irritating. It's a silly little show with no true educational merit, but it's something I don't actually mind watching with ym son, if only to impart some sense of animation style and culture. This show actually gets a 7.9 out of 10.

When they introduce the "guys" on this show, you can almost hear the song from Brain Candy... "I'm gay, I'm gay! He's gay, he's gay!" This show is just creepy... they take five attractive youngsters in the peak of their physical beauty, and at the peak of their post-pubescent raging hormones, and make them frolick around in silly costumes on stage to entertain children. You just know that the after-parties for their shows are bacchanals of drugs, booze, and pixie sticks. To start off, the show is needlessly loud. Their singing skills, which are actually considerable, are usually drowned out by having them sing chorus-style to feet-thumping rhythms which were produced with the "Hit Song" button on a producers keyboard. The skits are strangely meaningless, the acting is god-awful (stop staring at the CAMERA!!!) and the entire show is designed to give kids the physiological signs of a sugar rush, without the actual sugar, resulting in an inexplicable addiction to brightly colored pleather pants and cowboy hats. And that's just the boys. For lowering the standards of normal children everywhere, Hi-5 gets a 1 out of 10.

Bearenstein Bears

The freaking Bearenstain Bears. No more am I allowed to go to sleep without hearing the accursed theme song to this plot-anvil atrocity of a morality injection. The most unrealistically functional family in the Universe shows us that you can be hugely popular no matter how strange you are, that every single trouble you encounter as a child can be solved with a fortune-cookie platitude, and that every day ends with a family more in love with itself than the day before. The sugary-sweet hammer to your forehead reminds you every day that families on TV are better than yours. The animation is good, the music was all right the first eight hundred times I heard that damn violin, but that's where the goodness ends. I hate this show. I hate this show so very, very much. But, it isn't truly BAD, so I am forced to give it a 3 out of 10.

Toopy and Binoo

The story of a sexually confused mouse and his asexual stuffed speechless feline life-partner and their adventures, quite literally, in storybooks. Told with nonstop giggling, the click-and-stretch cel animation is smoothly done, and the voices are pretty good, and there's enough peculiarities in an episode to amuse my brain, but it's still most definitely a show for kids who aren't old enough to find something childish. Often found cross-dressing, wearing lipstick, or just generally wishing he were a princess, Toopy acts out parts from popular storybooks to catchy little piano riffs, while his mute feline companion (who, I have to admit, is really cute) does wierd little asides in the background. It was an effort at a show for little kids that adults could get a chuckle out of now and then, and it mostly worked. 6.75 out of 10

This conceptual nightmare of a show is broken into four segments. One: an early twenties psychology student (just guessing) looks at the camera and with a secretive grin on her face that seems to say, "I'm not wearing underwear," she recites a limerick or song or poem. Then a little girl comes and sits next to her, and they go through it together. That's it. Two: The Four Tones, all dressed in green, sing doo-wah songs with the Doo-Wahs, four puppets as shown above. The kids are urged to "Do what the Doo Wahs do!" While the creepy black guy, the creepy Irish girl, and the two 'other' Four Tones sing along, the Doo Wahs make little motions until it's their turn to sing. It grates, but it's good music. Three: Captain Hup and his Stretchy Communist Balet Dancers frolick around, making wierd positions with their bodies while the audience tries not to stare at Captain Hup's amazingly unnecessary codpiece. Four: Four hiply-dressed urban teenagers (three black, and one redhead girl) make silly noises and robotic dance motions in turn, then all together, and most of them are usually racially offensive to three of the four members of this troupe. I ain't saying anything. The show is colorful, lacks a soundtrack, and is shot entirely on one of four solid-color backgrounds. Even Sebby is bored of this show now. 2 out of 10

Big Comfy Couch
Starring the extremely-well-known but hardly-famous Alyson Court, voice of Jubilee in just about every X-Men cartoon, Big Comfy Couch is a strange form of entertainment. Starring exclusively people over the age of 30, it's about a 'little girl clown' named Loonette. She lives on a gigantic couch, which is meant to reduce her to childlike proportions. She has Molly, her puppet, and her Granny Garbanzo (played by the awesomely named Grindl Kuchuka), the postman Major Bedhead (who rides a unicycle well!) and her Auntie Macassar (for those who don't know, an antimacassar is a kind of colorful woven blanket thingie). There are actual plots to these shows, even if they are simplistic. The one that sticks in my memory is where Loonette has some sort of heavy-metal throwdown while singing "I"M MAD!" while flames lick at the screen. I kid you not. That made all the silly episodes so very, very worthwhile. The show isn't condescending, the people radiate friendliness, and the morality-anvils are bearable. There's even interludes with her dolls (who are played by normal people wearing gigantic fuzzy heads) and the Dust Bunnies Under The Couch (who are just sooo CUTE). All in all, this is a strange offering, and I like it. 7.2 out of 10.

This bizarre claymation show stars a simple-minded blue dragon, named Dragon. His friends are all as equally cleverly named, except Mailmouse, who has an extra word thrown in there. Dragon spends his days trying to hide the fact that he is mildly retarded, but when he brings a snowman into his house, opens the windows, turns off the heat, and then moves outside into the snow, you can't help but feel a little sorry for the network that is exploiting him. His adventures are brief and silly, and are actually made up of four or five segments, so that an individual segment can be stuck between full-length shows on Treehouse as filler. There's nothing wrong with this show, but nothing amazingly right. It's cute, though.... so 5 out of 10.

Farzzle's World
Ugh. My brain. Although conceptually pretty neat, this show just bugs the hell out of me. The entire soundtrack is composed of stock sound bits of wind, and brooms, and stuff... except for Farzzle himself. His bits are actually sounds recorded from a little tiny baby, and the gibberish is used as the basis for the show. Farzzle plays with flying brooms, gets sucked up into bubbles, flies through space, and does other batshit random stuff to the endlessly-replayed sounds of a baby's oohs, ahhs, and giggles. It's crudely animated (ostensibly on purpose) and, despite that, there's about 90 people in the credits. This show is purposeless, and even my son doesn't really watch it anymore. 2 out of 10

Mighty Machines

This show I don't really mind, since it's pretty much purely educational. It's footage of machines doing what they do, but they're voiced over as if the machines themselves were talking. Awful accents and corny dialogue make it utterly hilarious to watch, as evidenced by the fact that I can drawl out "Ohhh, Kubota!" in a thick Irish brogue and send my entire family into fits of giggles. Thanks to this show, my son knows about skid-steer loaders, underground salt mining machines, combine harvesters, tree barkers, and dozens of vehicles and machines even I don't know the names of. It also helps him get a grasp for engines and mechanics, stuff I still don't totally get. I'm for this show, since it entertains my son (it's one of his favorites!) and teaches him non-stop. 9.1 out of 10