Lust for Freedom, Fear No Evil, Grim Reaper, Beavis and Butt-head, Weezer, and the wolf-headed version of the Minotaur

February 28, 2009

lustforfreedom

OK, I have to confess that I’ve never seen this movie. But I’ve seen about one hundred other women-in-prison movies so I don’t think that really matters. Actually, maybe I have seen it–they’re so hard to tell apart that it wouldn’t surprise me.

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Around the same era that I was watching women-in-prison movies, I was living in a large house with a bunch of guys. We were in college and poor. We had a radio with a cassette player in the kitchen, but only one of us still had any cassettes. All of them were metal. So I listened to a lot of metal while cooking and eating boxed mac-and-cheese and similar food-like substances.

I don’t remember most of it, other than some Stryper I was already familiar with and some late Blue Öyster Cult. The chief exception was Grim Reaper, who were so over-the-top in their sheer “scary” metal power that they couldn’t help but leave an impression. How do you forget songs with titles like “Night of the Vampire” and “Suck it and See”? How do you forget an album named Rock You to Hell?

Obviously, you don’t.

“Lust for Freedom,” from the Rock You to Hell album, is the theme song to the women’s prison movie of the same name.

While reasonably well known among American metalheads, Grim Reaper was only exposed to a substantially larger audience once. That was on “Beavis and Butt-head,” where Butt-head demanded that they “stop in the name of all that which does not suck.”

grimreaperfearnoevil

Apparently, Weezer edited the video for Grim Reaper’s “Fear No Evil” and used it for “We Are All on Drugs.” The official Universal Music video of the song isn’t that at all, and I can’t find the Grim Reaper version online (update: see below). That’s a real shame–lots of folks have seen the awesomeness of Dio’s “Holy Diver” video, but the “Fear No Evil” video is just as awesome but not as well known as the song wasn’t a hit.

You really have to see this. After all, how many videos are there out there where the band emancipates slaves and defeats the wolf-headed version of the Minotaur through the magic of rock? Two, I guess.

If anyone knows where I can see the Weezer video, please let me know.

Update: Hell, yeah, found it. (WMV format)


Happy 77th Birthday, Johnny Cash!

February 27, 2009

Yesterday would have marked the 77th birthday of country legend Johnny Cash.  There’s really not anything I can say about the man that hasn’t been said before, so I will refrain from any more mythologizing on the subject.  Instead, I will allow the music to speak for itself.

Happy birthday, Johnny!  You are missed.

Johnny Cash – “San Quentin” – 1969 


New Releases of Note: 2/24/09

February 27, 2009

Black Lips – 200 Million Thousand

J.J. Cale – Roll On

Chris Isaak – Mr. Lucky

Johnny Cash – Original Sun Singles ’55-’58

Jerry Lee Lewis – Original Sun Singles ’56-’60


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 15 (2/26/09)

February 26, 2009

Idol LogoResults show for group two!

Who Should Advance

  • Allison Iraheta. A powerful performance of a tough song (“Alone” by Heart) and a nice surprise since the producers didn’t feel that she was important enough to mention hardly at all during the earlier episodes.
  • Adam Lambert. The “Satisfaction” camp-o-rama was an arresting performance, made extra-memorable by being slotted last, always a big advantage with the voters.
  • Jesse Langseth. I’m torn between her and Mishavonna Henson, and might change my mind if I watched both performances again, but it doesn’t much matter because neither are going through.

Who Will Advance

  • Allison Iraheta. The performance was a knockout and the judges didn’t say one bad thing about it.
  • Adam Lambert. They were almost as enthusiastic about this one.
  • Megan Corkrey. I do not understand the judges’ obsession with this girl, but their ill-placed but fulsome praise will likely be enough to brainwash the public into advancing her.

Let’s see how I do. Spoilers below the fold, of course.

Read the rest of this entry »


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 14 (2/25/09) (II)

February 26, 2009

Idol LogoFirst off, a big thanks to Jason for covering for me last night. I haven’t read his post yet (don’t want spoilers!), but I can tell from his intro that we have some differences of opinion that should make it fun. (Jason, if you like Tatiana, please never set me up on a blind date.) I look forward to reading it after I’ve watched the episode.

So here, a day late but hopefully not a dollar short, is my blogging on last night’s episode. This means my results post will be a bit late, but I will post it tonight. (Update: Up now.)

Read the rest of this entry »


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 14 (2/25/09)

February 25, 2009

I will be filling in for Gordon for tonight’s live blog of “American Idol.”  There will probably be a bit more snark, but I will try to keep it objective.  I promise not to call anyone a crapweasel.

I will say that, unlike Gordon, I am a fan of Nick Mitchell/Normund Gentle, but  no special treatment.  I also liked Tatiana, and I hope to see her back next week.

Here we go! (spoilers below the fold)

Read the rest of this entry »


Album Review: Various Artists – Dark Was The Night

February 25, 2009

Back in December when I first saw the list of contributing artists on a press release from legendary indie label 4AD for their charity compilation Dark Was The Night, I was floored.  The list reads like a veritable Who’s Who of indie rock in 2009, or at least the folky and/or high profile American/Canadian subsection of it.  The disc notably features some great duets between some of the biggest names in independent music today.  Here’s the alphabetical list of performers as it appeared on the release: 

Andrew Bird
Antony + Bryce Dessner
Arcade Fire
Beach House
Beirut
Blonde Redhead + Devastations
Bon Iver
Bon Iver & Aaron Dessner
The Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
Buck 65 Remix (featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti)
Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues
The Decemberists
Dirty Projectors + David Byrne
Kevin Drew
Feist + Ben Gibbard
Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear + Feist
Iron & Wine
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Kronos Quartet
Stuart Murdoch
My Brightest Diamond
My Morning Jacket
The National
The New Pornographers
Conor Oberst & Gillian Welch
Riceboy Sleeps
Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio)
Spoon
Sufjan Stevens
Yeasayer
Yo La Tengo

All together, there are 31 tracks of new material and cover songs, all recorded specifically for this compilation. The project was produced by The National members Aaron and Bryce Dessner to benefit Red Hot, a charity dedicated to AIDS prevention and relief (also responsible for other fifteen other compilations, such as 1993’s No Alternative).

It’s very difficult to review a compilation of this scope, and I don’t have the tme or inclination to provide a track by track review, but let me start by saying that it is almost uniformly excellent.  There are very few throwaway tracks here, and the vast majority of the songs are fully realized, album ready gems.  Disc 1 is a very mellow affair, but it never gets boring.  Standouts include Feist and Ben Gibbard performing an inspired cover Vashti Bunyan’s “Train Song,” original Bon Iver tune “Brackett, WI,” The National’s “So Far Around The Bend,” Antony Hegarty’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home, and Sufjan Stevens covering the Castanets’ “You Are The Blood” .  Okay, the whole first disc is pretty great!

Disc 2 kicks off with a powerhouse combo.  Spoon’s “Well-Alright” is a catchy, stripped down bit of Buddy Holly punk.  Next up is the Arcade Fire, contributing a typically bombastic cut in “Lenin,” followed by Beirut’s easily recognizable squeezebox ditty “Mimizan.”  Next up is My Morning Jacket’s gorgeously laid-back “El Caporal.”  I could keep going, but practically everything here is well done (special extra shout out to Andrew Bird’s “The Giant of Illinois”).  Cat Power’s “Amazing Grace” is a bit straight forward and disappointing, Disc 2 as a whole feels a bit less cohesive than Disc 1, and there are a few instrumentals on each disc that I could do without, but there’s very little else to complain about.

Some may be miffed that large swaths of the indie rock community are left off of this compilation (Punk? Noise rock? Electronic? Metal? Hip hop? Europeans?), and others may be turned off by the generally slower, more laid-back pace.  This is not a risky bunch of recordings, but it’s not meant to be.  The overall effect of the record is that a bunch of indie rock heavyweights came together to have a good time and record some great music with their friends.  On top of that, they did it all for a good cause, to help prevent and provide relief for one of the most devastating diseases of the modern age.  Right now, Dark Was The Night is avaialable through Amazon.com’s download service for $11.99 (it was $9.99 just yesterday!).  At that price, you would be a fool not to own it. 

Feist and Ben Gibbard – “Train Song”

As an added bonus, here is a video of Vashti Bunyan performing the song that would later become “Train Song.”  It’s called “17 Pink Sugar Elephants,” and I think I prefer it with these lyrics.  Amazing how her voice has barely changed in over 40 years.  Enjoy!

Vashti Bunyan – “17 Pink Sugar Elephants”


Tinted Windows: The Most Awesome Thing You Will Read All Year

February 25, 2009

Tinted Windows is a new supergroup. Who is this supergroup composed of?

  • Taylor Hanson (Hanson)
  • James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins)
  • Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne)
  • Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick)

Power pop heaven! Well, except for James Iha but I think he’s a big Cheap Trick fan so maybe he can pull it off.

The album comes out April 21. I can’t wait.


“Put the Message in the Box” by World Party

February 24, 2009

So I was at a local tavern and this song came on over the satellite radio. The guy standing behind me immediately started asking if someone had one of those phones that could identify the song when you dial a certain number (a cool feature I’ve used myself on occasion). I turned and told him it was “Put the Message in the Box” by World Party, and saved someone 99¢.

I liked all of this band’s singles. Never bought one of their albums. Not sure why. I see they have a best-of out. I really should pick it up.

For God knows what reason, it takes about thirty seconds for the song to start in this video.

How many songs are there out there that reference Supertramp?

Now I’m jonesing a little bit. I may have to post “Ship of Fools” tomorrow.


Album Review: Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP

February 23, 2009

Buzz about Bon Iver’s self-released 2007 album For Emma, Forever Ago had already grown fairly loud before it was finally picked up and given a wide release by Jagjaguwar in February of 2008.  I remember reading about it on some forum in late 2007 and desperately seeking it out.  I was, like many others, taken with the story of the artist who spent a long winter alone in a Wisconsin cabin composing, to borrow from the title of a Dave Eggers memoir, “a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.”  But good backstory aside, the music on the album both lived up to and surpassed my expectations, becoming one of my favorite releases of the last decade.  However, the story has been repeated so often that it threatens to marginalize the artist and the music itself.  Add to that the fact that the music on this record was light years away from anything that Justin Vernon had ever produced before with his previous band DeYarmond Edison, and the question on many people’s lips has been: Can Justin Vernon overcome the sad-boy-in-the-woods mythology of his first release and once again capture lightning in a bottle?

To answer this question, Vernon has provided us with the Blood Bank EP, a short collection of four songs that should lay to rest any fears that For Emma was some kind of fluke.  The first two songs on the record, “Blood Bank” and “Beach Baby,” mirror the familiar acoustic ruminations of For Emma, but they have a more polished and fleshed out sound, with Vernon now accompanied by two steady bandmates.  “Blood Bank” opens with the great line “I met you at the blood bank/We were looking at the bags/Wondering if any of the colors/matched any of the names we knew on the tags.”  The song begins the slow shift in tone as the icy winter and heartbreak of For Emma begin to melt away.  Vernon describes a new love that warms him with kisses, candy bars, and the rubbing of hands.  “Beach Baby” is a brief backslide into grief with its weeping steel guitar and brief description of a lover leaving, but it too recalls a memory of warmer times with its description of an intimate oceanside encounter: “Once a time put a tongue in your ear on the beach.”  To complete the tone shift, “Babys” is a departure from the familiar acoustic strumming that we have grown accustomed to, with its stabbing keyboard and the repetitive call to arms “Summer comes, to multiply!”  The song could be the soundtrack to a spring thaw, when beasts from the animal kingdom awaken from their winter slumber with thoughts of little more than procreation on their minds.  This caps off the subtle three song shift in which, through careful selection of track order, Bon Iver prepares us for his most ambitious departure yet.

The most captivating of the four songs is the final track, in which Vernon eschews all instrumentation for just his voice and a vocoder.  “Woods,” reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” begins slowly with a single voice, but on each successive verse, a new layer of encoded harmony is added to the mix, until a full on digital chorus explodes after the fourth pass.  It’s a gorgeous experiment that pays off in full, goosebump-inducing rewards, as Vernon announces that he’s no longer just that sad guy in the cabin.  Instead, he is an artist with the confidence, talent, and smarts to ease his fanbase into new territories while retaining the qualities that made his debut record connect with so many people.

P.S.  I have read a few reviews of this EP, and no one yet has mentioned Vernon’s very subtle and brief flirtation with a vocoder on For Emma track “The Wolves (Act I and II).”  If you listen very closely, you can hear the vocoder in a background vocal on the third and fourth times Vernon repeats “What might have been lost.”  Did anyone else notice that besides me?

Bon Iver – “Woods” (you’ll need to crank your volume a bit for some reason)


Three Quick Movie Reviews

February 22, 2009

friday_the_thirteenth_ver2

Friday the 13th

Despite their horrid reputation, slasher movies can be good. The original Halloween, for example. Some of Dario Argento’s films (especially Profondo Rosso/Deep Red). A Nightmare on Elm Street. There is nothing in their DNA that dictates that a slasher movie must suck.

I had some minor hope for Friday the 13th. I thought that maybe an iconic character, decent production values, and a desire on the part of the studio to relaunch the franchise might mean that they’d actually put some effort into making it at least an entertaining way to kill an hour-and-a-half and a couple of beers.

Wrong. The new Friday the 13th is about as cynical as movie-making gets. The people behind this disaster didn’t even try to make it watchable. They started with a script that an eighth-grader could have written, hired a bunch of generic physically attractive actors, then directed it with the skill level of a below-average TV movie.

They didn’t even use the infamous trademark “chi-chi-chi/ha-ha-ha” except for over the studio logo at the beginning, showing that they had about about as much respect for the franchise as they did for the audience.

I guess they figured that the name alone would cause enough stupid people to buy enough tickets opening weekend to make the movie profitable. I’m sorry to have been a help in proving them right.

taken1

Taken

Much better than Friday the 13th is Taken. Liam Neeson shines as Bryan Mills, a retired government agent prompted manically back into action when his daughter is kidnapped in Paris to be sold into sex slavery.

Taken is a terrific thriller that doesn’t waste a moment of its tightly-edited screen time. Its only drawback is indulging in the latest stupid fad of choppy editing in the action sequences. However, compared to the competition, Taken‘s offenses in this area are relatively minor–i.e., you can actually tell what’s going on. It’s much better in this regard than that awful James Bond movie I was subjected to a couple of months ago. In fact, I wish the team behind Taken had made Quantum of Solace instead of the jerks who did, from the writer, to the director, all the way down to the best boy. Taken is a rollicking good time, and highly recommended.

The Inglorious Bastards

This is the movie Quentin Tarantino is loosely remaking (as Inglorious Basterds for some reason).

The Inglorious Bastards is a shameless Italian rip-off of The Dirty Dozen. A bunch of US Army troublemakers in France find themselves out of the brig and on an Allied mission to steal the guidance system of the German V-2 rocket. This, of course, involves massive amounts of low-budget violence, as well as the most gratuitous nude scene in the history of motion pictures.

Either you like this sort of Euro-trash, or you don’t. As for me, I like it a lot. Sure, the characters are ridiculous stereotypes more suited to the ’70s than 1944 (angry black man,  long-haired hippie dude). Sure, those characters are only slightly deeper than the ones in Friday the 13th. Sure, it’s pretty moronic. But any movie with both Bo Svenson and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson is hard not to love.

In addition to its other charms, The Inglorious Bastards has a rousing score that I hope Tarantino adapts for his version.

Tarantino’s remake:


New Music: U2 – “Get On Your Boots (Sexy Boots)”

February 21, 2009

I was listening to the radio yesterday, and I heard this song from U2’s upcoming album, No Line on the Horizon, due out on 3/3/09.  I vaguely remembered hearing some buzz and excitement about how this upcoming album was highly anticipated due to its “experimental” rock sound.  I will confess that I haven’t purchased a U2 album since Achtung Baby, so most U2 news doesn’t really stick with me.  For the last ten years, it seems Bono’s highly publicized humanitarian efforts have been the major attention-getter, with the music of the band taking a backseat.

After hearing this first single, I have to say that history will not change, as there is no chance I will be buying this record.  I have nothing really positive to say about the song and it’s obvious and well-worn message about sex and violence.  Every time Bono says the words “sexy boots,” it makes me want to punch something.  Musically, this songs sounds like something that came out in the mid-90’s.  That’s not exactly what I would call “experimental. ”  Overall, the song is incredibly forgettable, for which I am thankful, as I hope to forget about it as soon as I submit this post.


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