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Monday, January 30, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bring Me the Horizon -- There is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It, There is a Heaven, Let's Keep it a Secret


It's been less than a year since I posted a rambling 5/10 review for this album.
Absurdly, I still find myself popping it in from time to time...why?  I don't understand it. I hate this band's image. I hate their dumb, profane, narcissistic lyrics. I hate how repetitive some of the songs get, and how some of the four minute tracks seem to go on for four hours.  I hate that I've listened to the song "It Never Ends" more than all but five other songs in the last two years.

I mean, look at this dude. He looks like a frat boy from hell. And that stupid, overdramatic intro, and that cheesy choir, and that chopped-up post-chorus, and that pretentious ambient section before the outro...CRAP!!! I'm listening to it again...

2010 Epitaph Records
1. Crucify Me 6:19
2. Anthem 4:49
3. It Never Ends 4:34
4. Fuck 4:55
5. Don't Go 4:58
6. Home Sweet Hole 4:37
7. Alligator Blood 4:31
8. Visions 4:08
9. Blacklist 4:00
10. Memorial 3:09
11. Blessed With a Curse 5:08
12. The Fox and the Wolf 1:42

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Brendon Small -- Homes Movies: Bonus CD


Home Movies was one of the best television shows in history, and possibly the greatest cartoon series ever aired. Unfortunately, few people have heard of Home Movies, fewer have watched it, fewer have bought the season four DVD boxset, and even fewer have noticed that there was a free soundtrack for the entire series tucked inside. I noticed, though, and I loved it, and I don't care if anyone else does because I am going to review it right now.
My thesis here is that you don't necessarily have to be a fan of Home Movies to enjoy this soundtrack.
Do you like Franz Kafka?
Do you like rock operas about Franz Kafka?

You are in the right place because guess what tracks two through five are? Brendon Small, Home Movies' co-creator, is also a music major, and he took great joy in combining his passion for comedy and music in one place. As funny as some of these songs are (and most are hilarious without needing any context...I mean, who doesn't like a song about fighting by using jazz?), there are also some quite beautiful compositions.  Nestled right after "Septopus," a ballad about a seven-tentacled sea-monster who lives on top of a submarine and is always eating pies, the instrumental,"Heart Smashers Theme" is as wistful as a Sunday afternoon.

So there you have it, a near perfect soundtrack full of laughs and beautiful music. You have to purchase the final season of the show on DVD to get it, so you might as well just buy all four seasons and watch the whole thing. You'll thank me later, if you're courteous, I guess, and not some mean, pie-hogging Septopus..

2006 Shout! Factory
1. Season One Opening & Closing Theme 0:45
2. Franz Kafka! Intro 1:19
3. Turnin' To A Bug 0:21
4. Livin' Like A Bug Ain't Easy 0:49
5. Franz Kafka! Finale 0:16
6. Louis Louis Rap 0:37
7. Don't Put Marbles In Your Nose 1:12
8. Don't Kill Children 0:41
9. Season One Act 2 Theme 0:22
10. Season Two Opening Theme 0:21
11. Crazy Legs 0:51
12. Crazy Legs Ballad 0:34
13. Jason's Theme 1:22
14. Jazz Fight 0:48
15. The Birthday Song 1:21
16. Sunset Theme 1:59
17. Alone 1:01
18. President King's Theme 1:29
19. Starboy & The Captain Of Outer Space 0:49
20. The Compliments Song 1:31
21. Hot Dog Music 1:31
22. Victory 1:33
23. Mr. Pants 1:17
24. Bad Coffee 0:58
25. Duanetastic 3:11
26. Duane Outro 1:34
27. Landstander Theme 1:17
28. El Escapo 1:43
29. No Skin Off My Ass 1:19
30. The Ballad Of King Arthur & Robin Hood 3:37
31. Duane's Practice 0:28
32. Jimmy's Big Solo 0:56
33. Duane's Big Solo 0:43
34. Trust Yourself 1:47
35. We Are Artists 0:39
36. Coffins & Cradles Theme 0:53
37. Welcome 2 Hell 2:12
38. Bye Bye Greasy (Medley) 6:01
39. I'll Race (Reprise) 0:33
40. Septopus Theme 1:41
41. Heart Smashers Theme 1:31
42. The Wizard's Baker Rock Opera 1:37
43. I'm A Kid Again 1:28
44. Psycho-Delicate (Medley) 4:16
45. Dog Training Montage 1:48
46. Brendon Steals The Test 0:40
47. Brendon Cheats 0:51
48. Bagpipes 0:52
49. Ping Pong & Too Koo 1:01
50. Timmy! (Medley) 2:37
51. Brendon's Camera 1:10
52. Season Two Closing Theme 0:33

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rare Personal Thoughts

I know six years ago I posted my naked thoughts on everything and revealed personal details of my life as if I was going to die tomorrow, but I haven't done that in quite a while. I use six years (The Nicsperiment hits eight this year) because that was the turning point in my life. I found a wife, moved to her city, quit blogging for more than a couple years, knocked her up (my wife, not the blog), had a kid, did a bunch of things. Now I am back in my country homeland, except now I've got a spouse of five years and a son. The weird thing about it is, I felt like my life had literally limitless directional possibilities six years ago, and now that I've returned, I see the result of one, arguably, the absolute best one. But what if I'd gone another way?
What if I went through with my plans to attend grad school? What if I'd gone to grad school in a distant corner of America? Would I be back here now, or would I be resettled? What if I had joined the Peace Corps? I was about two months away from signing up. Would I live in another country right now? How many languages would I speak? Would I be dead? What if I had given up on grad school, flaked out on Peace Corps, and just stayed where I was, ignoring my feelings for the woman who became my wife? Would I still be working at that library in Zachary and living in the country? I'd have a bridge to get there quickly now. Would I still be living in the same spot I am now, in the same home, but alone? What things would I have accomplished in Pointe Coupee parish these last six years? Anything? Would I be depressed? Would I have suffered from depression these last six years instead of enjoying the emotional roller-coaster of married and parental life? Where would my wife be? My son would not exist. Those two thoughts are certainly the most frightening. Where would my church be (I only came to know of it because my wife was a member)? Who would have led the youth, helped with the children, played the drums, played the bass? Most likely more importantly, where would I be without the church? Would I have married someone else, and have strange, faceless, mystery children? (Don't worry, babe, I don't want any other wife, or any other children. You're the only one for me!)
I really don't care about any of that stuff because there is only one reality and it is the one I am living in right now. I am only reminded of that time because I am back in my homeland again, and the last time I was here, I was in the same position I am now...limitless possibilites, and a lot of good options to choose from. I just pray that I make the correct decisions again. Whatever happens, I am glad I have a desert rose ;) and a sea creature-phile along for the ride with me. Wherever we're going, I can't wait to get there...then again, it is the journey, right?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Brave Saint Saturn -- Anti-meridian


Excellent middle chapters are tough to follow. I like Return of the Jedi as much as any 80's kid, but let's face it: it's not as good as the Empire Strikes Back. I actually really enjoyed the second Matrix film, but I don't think the third film was what anybody wanted it to be. Brave Saint Saturn's Anti-meridian is in the same spot.  What should it be about? How should it feel? How should it sound? To compound the pressure more, Reese Roper was put in perhaps the worst place an artist can reside: he had infinite time on his hands to work on the album. Instead of having to just roll with the decisions compounded time in a studio would offer, Reese was faced with the proposition of making a decision, having the time to undercut it, and then having the time to undercut it again. In this mode things can sometimes never sound right. On top of everything, Roper's bandmates were spread across the country, making collaboration difficult.  All of these factors should form a recipe for disaster, but miraculously, Anti-meridian, while not matching its predecessor, is a solid album and a worthy closer to the Brave Saint Saturn trilogy.
One thing that marks this album though, is, surprisingly, darkness.  It probably isn't as dark as its predecessor, but...
On the surface, Anti-meridian is the tale of how the surviving members of the USS Gloria make it back to Earth, and what happens after they return.  Underneath it's about a lot of things, American social issues, the church, feelings of failure and undeservingness, and basically everything that had been on Reese Roper and Dennis Culp's minds in the five year interim between Five Iron Frenzy's demise and this album's release.  The thickest strand is perhaps Roper's character's feelings that despite his crew's accidental successes, their mission was a failure, which one can't help but transpose into Roper's feelings about Five Iron Frenzy and that band's dissipation. Sure, Five Iron is back together now, but in 2008 they were deader than expressions involving disco, and Reese's feelings of disappointment is perfectly understandable, even the disappointment he feels toward himself, and just how much fans of the band can get to him. I'm sure Five Iron Frenzy devotees never expected to hear Roper say "I hate you all!" but his repeated screams of this at the end of "Fortress of Solitude" are as convincing as anything he's emoted.  Hey, I said this album was surprisingly dark, didn't I?
Most of Roper's tracks are predictably great, though the album-opening ELO cover feels a little out of place, and Roper original "When You Burn Too Fast" is just a little over the top. His "Always Just Beneath the Dawn," which describes the problematic relationship Reese has had with his father is an emotional highpoint, though it certainly is at the right place smack in the middle of the darkest patch of songs. Perhaps the biggest disappointment on Anti-meridian is some of Dennis Culp's output. While his two contribution's to The Light of Things Hoped For were both quite strong, Culp's first contribution to Anti-meridian, "Underground" is by far one of the band's weakest songs.  It's tired topic of the current music market is out of place on the album, and the song isn't great to begin with. "Hero's Homecoming" is a bit better, particularly benefitting from an unexpected bridge, and "Fields of the Fallen" and "Begin Again" and are both back in the realm of high quality we expect from Mr. Culp.  While I'm knocking flaws, sixteen tracks is probably a bit overkill, though two are ill-advised interview segments with the surviving Gloria members about their now ended mission. The news broadcasts on The Light of Things Hoped For worked far better, though these two short segments aren't bad enough to be distracting.
Despite these flaws, Anti-merdian holds its own. "Mercenary" and "Starling" might be the best one-two punch Reese has conceived, except for the double-closers on this same album, "These Frail Hands" and "Invictus." "These Frail Hands" closes out the USS Gloria's story, as, far in the future, the astronauts reflect on their need for God as they fade into the night. The repeated refrains from "Gloria" and "Daylight," the album closers from Brave Saint Saturn's previous two albums, over the final chorus of "These Frail Hands" are particularly affective. "Invictus" is just straight up worship, a powerful song, and another candidate for Reese Roper's most passionate vocal performance. "Invictus" is a wonderful conclusion for the album, but it's also an excellent finale for Brave Saint Saturn's entire trilogy. Roper's wife Amy's background vocals give the saga an even greater feeling of completion.
Overall, Anti-meridian is a lovely and fitting conclusion to one of the more intrepid musical endeavors of the last decade.  It might not be perfect, but it's got the Spirit of a Champion.

2008 Department of Biophysics
1. Here Is The News 3:41
2. Mercenary 3:21
3. Starling 4:00
4. Underground 3:46
5. When You Burn Too Fast 3:04
6. Through Depths of Twilight 3:09
7. Hero's Homecoming 3:34
8. Ammodramus 1:56
9. Fields of the Fallen 3:57
10. Always Just Beneath the Dawn 3:52
11. Fortress of Solitude 4:16
12. Blessed Are the Land Mines 4:57
13. Aegolius 1:49
14. Begin Again 3:37
15. These Frail Hands 6:05
16. Invictus 3:19

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Brave Saint Saturn -- The Light of Things Hoped For


In my lifetime I've heard the "we're not a Christian Band, we're Christians in a band" argument ad naseum.  I remember going into Wal-Mart after DC Talk dropped Jesus Freak and seeing it on the end of the isle with a huge sticker that said TO BE FILED UNDER ROCK/ALTERNATIVE.  Even the most audaciously-titled Christian album of all time insisted on not being categorized as a Christian album. Meanwhile, publications make "Greatest Christian Albums Of All Time" lists that further blend the line. In my opinion, Christian music is the same as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's view of pornography: I know it when I see it...or rather, when I hear it.
So why all the setup? Because I'm about to review one of the most unfairly overlooked greatest Christian albums of all time.
In the spring of 2003, Five Iron Frenzy frontman, Reese Roper, was facing the dissolution of his band.  Not only that, but he had been scorned badly by several women, engagement rings rusting in his apartment, and he had lost friends dear to him.  In other words, it was time to make the Dark Night of the Soul album he was always destined to create. Even better (for the listener...maybe not Reese), Roper's side band, Brave Saint Saturn, had already released a semi-concept album about a ship exploring the moons of Saturn.  Why not nab that lingering concept and run with it? On The Light of Things Hoped For, Reese uses the concept of feeling distant from the light of Christ to that of a space crew marooned in the everlasting darkness of a deep space eclipse. If that sounds heady, it's not...or rather, it is not emotionally alienating--it's actually quite the opposite.
I don't know if an actual, real Christian has made an album this honestly harrowing.  When Reese tells his ex-fiance on "Enamel," "Here's to me saying fare thee well, and when you hear this song, I hope it hurts like hell," he isn't trying to shock. He really feels this way. 
Roper and his crew (Five Iron bandmates Keith Hoerig (bass), Andy Verdecchio (drums), and Dennis Culp (various musical contributions, and writer and singer of some songs of his own)) are drawn as astronauts in comic panels in the CD booklet. These panels, along with several segue tracks, flesh out The Light of Things Hoped For's plot. The songs follow the band members' thoughts, first optimism at going home, dark thoughts on failed relationships, the darkness consuming as the ship is lost behind Titan, the eclipsing moon. From there, the crew reflect on and regret moments of their lives on Earth, as death approaches. In the album's final act, 800 million miles from home, the crew attempt one last shot at redemption. 
As I just said, the angrier songs come early, and the second half is more reflective,  lifting off with the so painful it would be unbearable if it wasn't so beautiful, "Estrella." The song is about Reese's friend, Matt Estrella, who died at 25 of Neurofribromatosis.  Reese beautifully and sadly illustrates how Estrella's own life and faith was a bonfire to Reese's tiny hotel match. That most beautiful and mysterious of instruments, the musical saw, makes an appearance in the song, and its ethereal beauty adds yet another cosmic layer to the density of The Light of Things Hoped For. 

The album contains dozens of deft touches like this, breaking strongly from the simple acoustic/electro pop of Brave Saint Saturn's debut. 
Culp's two songs in this latter half are also quite strong: "Heart Still Beats" describes his impotence at being any kind of assitance to a down and out neighbor, while "Recall" remembers that before Culp screwed up everything, there was light in his life.  And finally we get to the final track, "Daylight."
Storywise, the crew is at the end of their rope, making a last chance at seeing the sun again and regaining communication with the world...but the song is about Reese's desperation and last grasp at hope.  If anyone has put more passion in their voice than Reese does at the end of this song, it isn't on record.

Did you hear the news today?
I'm not coming home
And I wished it all away
I felt so alone
And the darkness crept it's way
Like stars we know will die too soon
There is never any sunrise here
in the shadows of eclipsing moons
Crawling on a tightrope
The bravest thing I have is hope

Daylight, save me
Daylight, save me
Tonight, tonight

Halogen, the lights will flicker
Incandescent burning lies
And the silence stands for nothing
Desperate I search the skies
Aching for a spark
Trembling in pitchest dark
Daylight, save me
Daylight, save me
Tonight, tonight

I'm not going to spoil the ending to the song, but above are the lyrics up to the bridge. People talk about "J"s per minute, but I don't think it matters because often it doesn't mean anything but marketing.  Few modern songs, or albums for that matter, have earned or mean their "J" count like this one.  The Light of Things Hoped For is one of the best Christian albums of all time, and a great album all around.  I highly recommend it, and I suggest anyone who likes their music honest and full of feeling should check it out immediately.

2003 Tooth & Nail
1. Prologue 1:12
2. The Sun Also Rises 3:15
3. Binary 3:54
4. Mercury 0:42
5. Enamel 3:32
6. Anastasia 4:18
7. Titan 3:35
8. Gemini 1:06
9. Estrella 4:37
10. Heart Still Beats 4:28
11. Babies Breath 4:07
12. I Fell Away 3:13
13. Recall 4:21
14. Atropos 1:08
15. Daylight 6:24
16. Irides of M 2:06

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Brave Saint Saturn -- So Far From Home


About thirteen years ago, Reese Roper was left at the altar.  I am going to imagine this set off what he must now think of as his "dark period (he's married to someone else now, is a nurse, and seems to be doing great)." The only good to come out of his misery was some really great music. His main gig, Five Iron Frenzy released the best thing they ever made, and Reese formed this side band, Brave Saint Saturn.  That isn't to say that So Far From Home, or even the entire Brave Saint Saturn trilogy is based on Reese's breakup, but a major component of the anger, isolation, lonliness, and sadness found within takes form from it.
For instance, the song that kicks everything off compares Reese's feelings to those of a robot marooned in space...and it is quite sad.  When a song involving a robot can elicit tears, that song is most likely not about a robot.

While So Far From Home is the first part of a trilogy, the band hadn't quite yet formed its identity or the story it wanted to tell.  While some of the themes are in place here, the album overall is pretty helter skelter, and far less dark than the following two albums.  Those who've only heard those two might be surprised at the light-heartedness of some of these songs, particularly the unfortunate, but fairly humorous joke-rap of "Shadow of Def," or the random Michael W Smith cover. Despite this, there are some inarguably great songs on this debut, enough to make this a decent listen even with its misteps, and the closer, "Gloria," really hints at some of the expression to come.

2000 Five Minute Walk
1. Prologue 1:31
2. Space Robot Five 4:45
3. Indpendence Day 4:34
4. Shadow of Def 4:25
5. Resistor 4:19
6. Fireworks 3:41
7. Under Bridges 4:16
8. Data Stream One 0:38
9. Rocketown 4:45
10. Moon Burns Bright 3:08
11. Two-Twenty-Nine 5:40
12. Gloria 3:34

Coming Up for January's Back Half

The B's keep moving, another album gets a 10 (if any letter gets more 10's than B, I'll B surpised...yuk yuk). Also, Reese Roper proves that if you break up with him he will write an entire space trilogy of albums about it, and you won't come off too well. And finally, the Boss makes his appearance. But is he just an overrated by Rolling Stone washed up has been? Or has he earned his moniker? Stay tuned...unless I die, in which case I demand that this picture be posted on this blog every day until the Internet crumbles into oblivion. Photobucket

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bob Marley -- Legend


My first memory of music is my mom waking me up from my afternoon naps with Bob Marley's "Jamming" (the vinyl single with the live version of "No Woman No Cry" as the B-Side). Well, that and Barnes and Barnes' "Fish Heads," but she usually did that song acapella (and in a slightly lower octave). 
Anyway, "Jamming."
I can't really think of a more calming song for a two-year old to wake up to in late afternoon sunshine than "Jamming." Almost all of Marley's most relaxing jams are here on Legend, but his angrier protest songs are also represented, as well. This balance shows the loving care that went into this song selection, and gives the dead legend his due. While reggae is the genre Marley pioneered, many "sensitive" guys with a guitar have attempted to cop his good vibes with their own "sound." They often fail for one simple reason: Marley's music was actually about something, and their's isn't. This is what sets him apart, and the difficulties of life he sang about make the "love" he also sang about actually seem earned and real. It's nearly as affecting as "Fish Heads."

1984 Island
1. Is This Love 3:50
2. No Woman No Cry 7:08
3. Could You Be Loved 3:57
4. Three Little Birds 3:00
5. Buffalo Soldier 4:18
6. Get Up Stand Up 3:17
7. Stir It Up 5:30
8. Easy Skanking 2:57
9. One Love/People Get Ready 2:52
10. I Shot the Sheriff 4:40
11. Waiting in Vain 4:16
12. Redemption Song 3:48
13. Satisfy My Soul 4:31
14. Exodus 7:40
15. Jamming 3:31
16. Punky Reggae Party 6:52

Monday, January 16, 2012



She was fresh out of college
First one in her family to go
And California seemed like heaven
Pulaski, Tennessee was her home

She worked on losing her southern accent
Turned her back on her Baptist ways
She bought some clothes that barely covered
Her fair skinned body, went to Nashville and caught a plane

The clouds rushed beneath her
As the L.A. smog filled the air
And she smiled when the airlock opened
And the Pacific breeze blew through her hair

She thought about the boys from Alabama
Who came into town every Friday night
And drank beer out of big glass quart bottles
And left their trail of blood and tears behind

She thought the men in California would be different
She'd grown up watching them on her TV
But the men she came to know in California
Left her longing for Pulaski, Tennessee

Good ideas always start with a full glass
And just breathing here can make a girl's nose bleed
Dreams here live and die just like a stray dog
On a dirt road somewhere in Tennessee

The storefronts are all filled up with eyeballs
As the policemen clear out the street
For a line of cars with their headlights burning
Driving slow through Pulaski, Tennessee


Hollywood Sucks

NBC deceived me into watching this year's Golden Globe Awards.  I was promised Ricky Gervais devastating all of the celebrities that I dislike.  I missed his opening monologue (thanks, Eli Manning!), which was apparently most of his screentime because for the next 2.5 hours he was barely onscreen.  So instead I was stuck with more Hollywood gluttony. Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet having to act shocked and surprised that they were receiving yet another mansion doorstop.  What was worse, all of the celebrities were taking shots at Ricky that he really wasn't getting a chance to respond to.  You could tell by the way he was widely sidestepped by all of the actors that they didn't want anything to do with him.  They definitely had a "we're better than you, pathetic little man" thing going on.  How unfair! Lower-middle class Southernors want to see all the people they are jealous of taken down a rung, not their champion vanquished.  I mean, LSU, the Saints, they all got whipped this week.  Now the pompous fame-whores were getting the last laugh as well?
Finally, as the show ended, Ricky came out to say goodbye:
"Thank you. That's it. Congratulations to all the nominees and all the winners. Thank you so much for coming. And I hope you enjoyed the goodie bags and the Champagne and the gold. I hope that took your mind off the recession, for a little while. Thanks, goodnight."
The sad thing is, that comment only convicts those of us with a conscience. So as all the debutantes rose from their seats to hit another party, you can bet they didn't bat a pretty little eyelash.
NOTE: Apparently some people didn't get the joke...The humor is that while those of us suffering from the economic recession are watching this program in our homes and struggling to pay our cable bill to do so, the Golden Globe attendees arrive in limos, are wined and dined, given jewelry and other gifts, and have their egos lifted into the sky. Gervais was sarcastically taking them down a peg, showcasing the hypocrisy of an event where wealthy people who lie for a living are spoiled and spoken of in the highest manner, as if they are the most valuable, incredible humans alive.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alabama Sucks

Imagine that one night I call you up, tell you I am going to beat you, come into your house, and beat the crap out of you in front of your wife and children.  You stay home for two months healing, thinking about nothing but me, while I am out scrapping and barfighting, taking on and defeating all comers. One night I get a phone call from someone saying you are on the way to my house. Who is more prepared to kick the crap out of who? Who is more motivated?
That's right, Bama, you are, you bunch of sniveling brown-nosers.  How can you even hold your trophy high given the back problems you must be having from all the bending over backwards you've done begging the BCS to let you into this game? I had absolutely no idea that there are practice games 3/4 of the way through seasons. I didn't realize that the NCAA approved of teams playing warm-up matchups against its opponents.  Why practice against your own squads when you can simply practice against and test the weaknesses of the teams you have to play? Losing to them doesn't count because it's just practice.  Heck, why even play a regular season?  After we played AND BEAT YOU the first time, why didn't the BCS just declare the season officially over and announce that the whole season to that point was complete and that LSU and Alabama would now play again for the NCG. 
Because after beating a team in their own house, we had to prove that we were worthy to play them again by playing more frequent and more challenging games than they would. What was the point of any of those games? Why force other college's athletic programs to waste money on their November schedules? Just pack it up and go home, guys.  Season's over.  Alabama got their practice shot at LSU.  Now they're ready for their DO-OVER.
That's right.
All of the commentators need to get something straight: Alabama is not the only team that can beat LSU. Alabama is the only team that can beat LSU if they get a do-over.
Alabama, your abomination of a championship means absolutely nothing. You won the moment it was announced you would be playing. No one outside of your state cares, and ESPN couldn't wait to get the headline off their website.  Your 12-1 record means nothing. The 13-1 team you just beat already beat you in your own home in one try. Your wife and children saw it happen, and even as they draw a "14" on your helmet, they know the truth.  You won a game on a stage your disinterested opponent already cleared.
Did LSU and their coaching staff stink it up on January 9th?  Sure they did.  It's pretty difficult to work up the desire to kick someone's butt when you've already done so in front of their loved ones.
Screw Alabama. My grieving schedule runs backward, just like the logic that allowed the Crimson Turds a two-month grace period. Alabama Sucks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

blink-182 -- Neighborhoods


The assertion that Neighborhoods picks up right where blink-182 left off nine years ago is close to correct. Neighborhoods is leaner and meaner than its predecessor, with most of the fat shaved off.  Unfortunately, lack of fat means lack of comfort, though there is still the simple comfort inherent in hearing Tom Delonge and Mark Hoppus sing on the same song. The impetus for the self-titled album's bleaker tone seemed to be romantic trouble, but here the guys seem to be going through an absolute existentialist nightmare. Their thoughts are far more adult in tone, though the junior high potty language knocks this down a bit.  As usual, Travis Barker's drumming is blink-182's secret weapon, constantly pushing forward, more complex than ever. His energy is unbreakable, and every dark sentiment on this album can't bring it down.  The first half is particularly dreary. Though things brighten up a bit in the second half, we still get lines like "It's a long road through the night."
Bleak doesn't mean "bad," though, and all the songs here are absolutely solid. Every band member is better at what they do now, and Neighborhoods sounds like a true collaboration, all three guys working together to create good music. And a quick rant: several critics have been severely half-assing things by looking at this album title and assuming and proclaiming in their reviews that Neighborhoods has something to do with the suburbs, like Arcade Fire's pompous misfire from 2010. It doesn't. Neighborhoods designates the different territories of music and thought intersecting throughout the three very different band members' collaboration. It's a joy to hear that collaboration once again functioning, though I hope next time blink will be coming from a happier place to create a sunnier album.  As it is, though, Neighborhoods ain't a bad place to live and is about as good a come back as one can expect after a nearly decade long hiatus.

2011 Interscope
1. Ghost on the Dance Floor 4:17
2. Natives 3:55
3. Up All Night 3:20
4. After Midnight 3:25
5. Heart's All Gone 3:15
6. Wishing Well 3:20
7. Kaleidoscope 3:52
8. This Is Home 2:46
9. MH 4.18.2011 3:27
10. Love Is Dangerous 4:27

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Les Miles Will Not Be Getting a Raise This Year

Photobucket Well, that wasn't very fun. LSU was truly peeleed, and while I think Les Miles might be one of, if not the best coach LSU has ever had, he coached the worst game of his LSU career last night. His stubborn refusal to change an offensive gameplan that wasn't working behind a quarterback who wasn't executing, while the man who led us to eight straight victories, including wins over this year's Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl champions rode the bench is absolutely unfathomable. Miles said he wanted to keep in the guy who could "move his feet," but what he really needed was a quarterback who could move the ball down the field.
Miles took away a chance to win the game. It was only a chance,. Lee may very well have thrown an interception on his first pass, but would he have tossed anything as abyssmal as Jordan Jefferson's shovel pass interception? No. That was as bad as it gets.
I've stuck with and defended Miles through the quarterback fiasco of the last four years. Both Lee and Jefferson were thrown into situations they weren't ready for due to the injury of Andrew Hatch and Ryan Perriloux's Ryan Perriloxing .  Now both Jefferson and Lee are gone.  I hope they both find success in whatever fields they choose (I think it's pretty clear their football careers are over). Next year it looks like we will be starting off with a young quarterback who has not only been immersed in our offense for a year, but has actually taken game snaps and thrown the ball.  Whatever weird streak of loyalty Miles has had to Jordan Jefferson, which seemed to be the biggest flaw in Miles' mostly stellar career at LSU, has finally reached its end. Anyone yelling "fire the coach" obviously hasn't been paying attention for the last seven years.  Miles is a great coach whose "never give up" attitude infects his players.  But last night, and highly uncharacteristically, Miles appeared to give up.
Well, it's time to cut out all of the advertising.  Get back to what you do best, Miles.  Drop the Cane's chicken fingers, rebuild in the offseason, and on September 1st lead your 2012 Tigers into Tiger Stadium to demolish North Texas and begin your path to another great season, hopefully one with a happy ending this time.  And along the way, remember who you are. Last night we wanted the riverboat gambler who never quits. Not an invisible man. 
Bring back The Hat.

Postscript Quote
"I told my team that I did not see it coming, and I think that's my fault," said Miles. "I wish I could've done something to help them. For the players to put themselves in a position to win a game like that," he continued, "to them I owe a lot. We have to do better."
And that's why I love you.  See you in nine months, coach.

Monday, January 09, 2012

blink-182 -- blink-182


A band "maturing" can be a good thing, or it can be a terrible thing. Branching out and trying to be more sophisticated can have the unintended consequence of revealing an absence of talent.  On their self-titled album, blink-182 reveal themselves to be a truly talented band.
From the get go, there's obvious growth. "Feeling This" is a sex song, but instead of distractedly turning on the TV "What's My Age Again" style, blink-182 actually want to have it.  For a band like blink-182, that's honestly a step up.  It means they can focus on one thing, and are over their ADD--and this album is certainly focused.
I think the secret to this album's success is that while blink experiments a lot, particularly in guitar sounds, they focus on things they know.  There aren't any salsa songs here.  Drummer, Travis Barker, is one of the most talented in the world, so obviously any work he does programming beats, which occur from to time, is coming from a percussively knowledgeable place.  Bassist and guitarist/co-vocalists, Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge, were both obviously huge dorks/emos in high school, so adopting a bit of a Cure-like sound (to the point of actually having Robert Smith sing on a track!) on some songs makes perfect sense.  The best idea the band had, though, was not sapping the album of energy.  Sure, there are some slower, balladesque songs, but there is enough high energy, fast-paced material to offset them so the album never bogs down.  Most importantly, the emotions here don't seem false.  Over-emotive at times?  Sure.  But even at their most heart-on-the-sleeve moments, like "Always," blink-182 sound genuine.  It doesn't hurt that they still have a sense of humor, even if it isn't nearly as overt.

2003 Geffen
1. Feeling This 2:53
2. Obvious 2:43
3. I Miss You 3:47
4. Violence 5:20
5. Stockholm Syndrome 2:42
6. Down 3:03
7. The Fallen Interlude 2:13
8. Go 1:53
9. Asthenia 4:20
10. Always 4:12
11. Easy Target 2:20
12. All of This 4:40
13. Here's Your Letter 2:55
14. I'm Lost Without You 6:22

Get Pumped!

It's finally here! After all the waiting and waiting, the National Championship Game will happen tonight. Go Tigers!
I know some people hate football, but that doesn't diminish my love for the game one bit.  You have to think, a lot of these guys have athletic skills the rest of can only dream of, given by God, and what better way to glorify Him than to use them.  What I am saying here is that playing football can be an act of worship just as much as well...anything.  That leads me to something else awesome.
Last night Tim Tebow and the Bronco's won their playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I used to hate the guy when he played for Florida because he was LSU's enemy, but now that he is in the NFL, I feel differently.  Tebow has shown himself to be a true believer, which makes him my relative, which means I have to pull for him.  ESPN recently put a microphone in Tebow's helmet for a game.  While I must warn that he sings about as well as I do, check it out.

"No matter what, Lord, win or lose, give me the stength to honor you." This is the correct attitude. Bob Costas once ripped on players who claimed that Jesus lifted them into the air and helped them catch a game-winning pass. As there are people praying on both sidelines for victory, there really isn't any kind of way to understand who God wants to win a football game, or if he even cares. What Tebow prays 5:40 into this video is the right attitude. In life I want to win, but more than anything, I want to glorify God with my actions. That is by far the more important thing. And on that note, here comes another blink-182 review.

Friday, January 06, 2012

blink-182 -- Take Off Your Pants and Jacket


blink-182 pick up where they left off with Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.  The music is still fun and fast-paced, but slightly darker and a little more mature.  When I say, "A little more mature," put extra emphasis on the "little," and take another look at the album title.  I think I just made that dirtier somehow...
Anyway, this album is probably a bit more profane and raw than Enema of the State, and probably not quite as fun, but the tiny increment of maturational increase just barely makes up for it.  I prefer Enema to this (the album, not the bowel cleansing), but Take Off Your Pants and Jacket is not any worse of an album.
Maybe I was just too old for this in 2001.

2001 MCA
1. Anthem, Pt. 2 3:48
2. Online Songs 2:25
3. First Date 2:51
4. Happy Holidays, You Bastard 0:42
5. Story of a Lonely Guy 3:39
6. The Rock Show 2:51
7. Stay Together for the Kids 3:59
8. Roller Coaster 2:47
9. Reckless Abandon 3:06
10. Everytime I Look for You 3:05
11. Give Me One Good Reason 3:18
12. Shut Up 3:20
13. Please Take Me Home 3:05

Thursday, January 05, 2012

blink-182 -- Enema of the State


 I have a few friends who swear blink-182 sold out when they signed to MCA. Like most of my peers, the first time I heard blink-182 was the song, "Dammit," on the soundtrack of the overrated film, Can't Hardly Wait, so I can't vouch for that first sentence. I can say that blink-182's 1999 debut for MCA, Enema of the State, is insanely catchy, fast-paced fun.
This is the tape you steal from your sister when she isn't around and jam out to it in your car when you are seventeen and...what, they don't have tapes anymore? Kids don't jam out in their cars anymore? Rock music is dead? Well, crap. Nevermind.
Maturity isn't the name of the game here and shouldn't be. "What's My Age Again?" is the perfect anthem for a seventeen year old, or at least for me as a seventeen year old (This song was gleefully blaring at so many functions I attended in 1999, I can't fit half of them here). Six years later, co-singer Mark Hoppus's assertion that "nobody likes you when you're 23" sadly turned out to be correct for me, too. But at 23 or...GASP!...30, this album is still enjoyable, even if you've only got a little youth left in you. When I don't like this anymore, I'll know I'm officially old.

John Henson, come back!!!

1999 MCA
1. Dumpweed 2:23
2. Don't Leave Me 2:23
3. Aliens Exist 3:13
4. Going Away to College 2:59
5. What's My Age Again? 2:28
6. Dysentery Gary 2:45
7. Adam's Song 4:09
8. All the Small Things 2:48
9. The Party Song 2:19
10. Mutt 3:23
11. Wendy Clear 2:50
12. Anthem 6:09

Based on a Poo Story

I just passed the most recent ugly billboard for the film The Devil Inside.  Like every movie involving demonic possession recently released to theaters, the tag "Inspired By True Events" is plastered on every advertisement.  This of course gets people curious, but something needs to be cleared up.
Here are the true events The Last Exorcism is based upon:
There was an exorcism once.
That's it.
I need to make a movie where I eat a sandwich then get kidnapped by terrorists and kill them all with a hamburger bun, then I eat the hamburger bun, then aliens beam me into their starship lair but the transportation process makes my stomach wobbly and I vomit the hamburger bun onto the aliens and it turns out their only weakness is human bile and they all collapse into toxic piles of acid and I pilot their starship back in time and prevent the JFK assassination by accident because I was actually attempting to attend the first screening of Star Wars in 1977 but since I am in 1963 I just go see a double bill of "War is Hell" and "Battle Cry," coincidentally the same screening Lee Harvery Oswald was attending when he was captured but he is not captured because he is as flat as Kiera Knightley under my starship.  You know, I did eat a sandwich once, so:

Also, sorry, Kiera Knightley...

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Another Stupid Pitchfork Review

I haven't exactly been vague on the subject of my distate for I still visit regularly, though, so I must hate myself or something. Anyway, I've complained heartily about their overuse of hyperbole, but here I would like to complain about an offense even more egregious: Pitchfork staff writing reviews based on a narrative the author has already pre-set, and not based on the actual music the writer is reviewing.
My case in point today: Andrew Ryce's review of The Weeknd's Echoes of Silence. Ryce gave the album an 8.1 out of 10, a score with which I actually agree. It is the content of his review that disturbs me. My complaint revolves around Mr. Ryce's description of the song "Initiation."
Says Ryce, " It's (previous song "XO/The Host") transparently deceptive, and it slips into "Initiation", a cringe-inducingly detailed tale of drug-fueled kidnapping and gang-rape told through the part-grunted, part-rapped exhortations of an inhuman goblin." Man, that is some lurid detail there. What a shocking description of a song. It's like he's talking about a snuff film or something.
The Weeknd's 2011 mixtape trilogy is filled with some pretty depraved content. The protagonist, if one can possibly call him that, does drugs all day, engages in meaningless sex, thinks he is the greatest person in the world, and hates himself. He gets ticked at the girl he usually sleeps with on Thursday for calling him on Wednesday. When he finally consents to come over, he tells her to let him keep his eyes closed so that he can imagine he is with someone else. He's cold, and he's a huge jerk. Actually, at times, most people are. But just being a self-obsessed jerk is quite far from kidnapping someone and raping them.
If Echoes of Silence revolves around a theme, it's that girls who mean nothing to the protagonist throw themselves at him because he is famous, but couldn't care less about him, while the girls he does care about don't love him, and love other men (which is, of course, ironic). By the end of EOS, he actually seems to have found love, singing in "Next," "I got my baby waiting home/She been to good too let that go." But outside of this one woman near the end, he is extrememly jaded on women and the way they perceive him. On "Initiation," he sings to a girl who is tagging along and trying to get with him, "I got a test for you/you say you want my heart/well baby you can have it all/there's just one thing that I need from you/it's to meet my boys/I got a lot of boys." The word "boys" can have at least two meanings here.  The first is literal, and means that he is asking the girl to sleep with all of the guys in his crew. The second, and more heavily implied, is that his "boys" are the copious amounts and varieties of drugs he has been taking for the majority of the trilogy. The lyrics, imagery, and tone of the song all jibe with this interpretation.  Both are disgusting, and it's obvious that what the protagonist really wants is for this girl to just go away.  She never gets kidnapped, and she never gets raped.  Whatever horrible, messed up things that happen in this song are consensual, and reflect the awful psychologist's dream of this three-part mixtape series.
 If you've made it this far into my diatribe, you know that description I just gave was long and actually required me to think outside of just composing an eye-catching sentence. But Ryce heard the song, noticed the dark, agressive vibe, picked up on a few words, took the meaning he wanted and ran with it. In doing so, he actually undersells the depth of an album he is attempting to recommend.
So to use your own tactics once again, Pitchfork: you suck.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

My 2011 Booklist

At the end of 2010, tired of having people ask me what books they should read, I posted a list of every book I read that year. I found doing that strangely fulfilling, and also a great record for myself, in case my book journal is ever lost. With that said, here is a complete list of the books I read in 2011 in the order I read them with notes by favorites or disappointments.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym -- Poe (Absolutely incredible. An unrecognized classic that deserves its due)
A Contract With God -- Eisner
A Life Force -- Eisner
Dropsie Avenue -- Eisner
The Shadow Knows -- Madden (An excellent, haunting collection of short stories. One day Madden will be remembered as the master he is. Hopefully his two Pulitzer nominations help.)
Imaginary Jesus -- Mikalatos
A Fire Upon the Deep -- Vinge (This book blew my brain apart. Vinge is brilliant)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn -- Twain (2nd Reading)
Decision Points -- Bush
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Allies -- Golden
My Life -- Clinton (Between this and Decision Points, I am seriously considering never voting again. I am not kidding. And was 1,000 pages really necessary?)
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex -- Denning
Fear Agent: Re-Ignition -- Remender (Art by Moore)
Fear Agent: My War -- Remender (Art by Opena)
Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye -- Remender (Art by Moore)
Tales of the Fear Agent -- Remender and Others (Art by should really check this one out.)
Fear Agent: Hatchet Job -- Remender (Art by Opena)
The Fox and the Hound -- Mannix (Incredible and CERTAINLY not for kids. I can't believe this is out of print.)
Candide -- Voltaire
The Giver -- Lowry
Fear Agent: I Against I -- Remender (Art by Moore)
A Good Man is Hard to Find -- O'Connor (My tenth time through the titular story, first through the collection.)
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Conviction -- Allston
Abducted by Circumstance -- Madden (Writing better in his 70's than most young men)
The Silmarillion -- Tolkien (I thought it would be a chore, but I think it is now one of my all time favorites. Awesome.)
What Would MacGyver Do? -- Vaughan
Fear Agent: Out of Step -- Remender (Art by Moore and others)
Tender is the Night -- Fitzgerald (Currently 202 pages in, and currently pretty disapponted.)