Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rock & Roll Hindsight Part 3 - STEVE STEVENS

You may not know this name, but you probably know his music.

Steve Stevens (born as Steve Schneider on May 5, 1959, in Brooklyn, New York) is a brilliant guitar virtuoso, but not in the ultra-complex-and-complicated classical/metal kind of way for which someone like Yngwie Malmsteen or Buckethead might be better known.  No, Stevens has a solid, hard rock, classic-wail appeal reminiscent of Randy Rhodes or Slash.

Stevens is most notably known for his work with rock icon Billy Idol.  You can hear his work on such hits as "White Wedding", "Dancing With Myself", "Eyes Without a Face" and "Rebel Yell," the latter two containing some of my favorite work of his.  His sound stands out with an awesome rhythmic riff at the bridge (at about 02:25) in "Eyes", and an amazingly-intricate-yet-hard-rockin' intro riff with a balls-to-the-wall energetic solo featuring a crazy, staccato "machine gun" sound effect (at 2:39) in "Rebel Yell".

But Idol's albums aren't necessarily where Stevens peaked.  

In 1986, the "coolest" movie of the decade hit theaters - Top Gun!  Stevens rocked out the awesome guitar work on the Kenny Loggins smash hit, "Danger Zone" - perhaps one of the most explosive little guitar solos ever recorded! That's him, also, in the movie's main title music (entitled "Top Gun Anthem" on the soundtrack) with '80s instrumental-cheese guru, Harold Faltermeyer (who brought you the ultimate '80s cheese track, "Axl F" from the Beverly Hills Cop movies).

And in 1987, a strangely gender-ambiguous figure (entirely clad in latex, high heels and a huge, jet-black, spiked, permed hairdo) rocks some edgy, flamboyant guitar sounds in the Michael Jackson video for "Dirty Diana":  That's Steve Stevens.  The main chorus riff in this song is pretty cool (but sounds even cooler played at double-time, as I discovered when I learned how to hold the "fast-forward" button half-way down when I was 8 years old), and toward the end of the song, (circa o4:20) Stevens uses some interesting pedal effects to create an awesome siren sound.  It's pretty dang cool.

Stevens has also appeared on several other band's/artists' recordings, including an amusing little techno/chorus 2000 track by Juno Reactor, a band "known for (their) cinematic fusion of electronic, orchestral and global music" (Wikipedia.com).  The track is called "Pistolero" and was later featured in the Robert Rodriguez film, Once Upon A Time in Mexico (2003).  Stevens' kick-ass acoustic, flamenco guitar solo makes this song awesome all by itself.

Stevens has also produced several solo albums of his own.  1989's Atomic Playboys was a critically acclaimed mix of flamenco and hard riff-rock, while his 1999 release, Flamenco-A-Go-Go, was obviously a more flamenco-style collection of his work set against electronic and atmospheric tunes - very jazzy and relaxing in most cases.  (I recommend the stand-out title track.)  He's also just released his 3rd full solo album - Memory Crash - this year.

Steve Stevens is one bad-ass guitar player.  Listen carefully to his work the next time you hear any of the aforementioned songs on the radio... or just listen from the playlist below!


Friday, July 25, 2008

Rock & Roll Hindsight, Pt. 2 - WAYNE'S WORLD


Perhaps creator Mike Myers didn't know the effects his goofy characters of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar would have on the young lives of American kids, but Wayne's World - the movie and its supplemental soundtrack album - was a powerfully educational tool in the field of rock-n-roll-literacy for myself and countless others in the early '90s.

The movie, Wayne's World - starring Myers and fellow "Saturday Night Live" cast member, Dana Carvey - hit theater screens in the winter of 1992 and changed the way we'd all look at cable access and the town of Aurora, IL forever.  I, myself, was 11 years and 5 months old - just finishing up grade school - when this movie came out, but I vaguely knew the characters from my limited viewings of SNL in those days.  (Plus, the movie was a huge hit.  So everyone in the country became aware of the characters fairly quickly after that, anyway.)

Besides being two buddies in the suburban landscape who had their own cable access TV show - also called "Wayne's World" - the characters of Wayne and Garth centered their entire existence around one thing: Good Rock & Roll Music.  It wasn't often mentioned or discussed - it was just their way of life.  

"I think we'll go with a little Bohemian Rhapsody, gentlemen?" Wayne suggests, as he pops a cassette tape of the by-then-all-but-forgotten epic Queen hit into the tape deck of the Merthmobile, ("Good call!" replies Garth,) commencing with what is arguably the most famous head-banging scene in film history.  This moment in the film's title sequence brought the Queen record back to the U.S. Billboard Music Charts, topping out at #2 for a total of five weeks, for the first time in 17 years.

When Garth first sees his "dream girl," (played by Mrs. Dan Akroyd, herself - the lovely Donna Dixon,) he fantasizes about seducing her to the sensual rhythm and electrifying riffs of Jimi Hendrix's Foxy Lady - which was, for some of us, a first impression of the Guitar God's work.

When we first meet Wayne's love interest, Cassandra (Tia Carrere), she's fronting a rock band - Crucial Taunt - at "The Gasworks" ("an excellent heavy metal bar - always a babe-fest!") where the bouncer, Tiny, is played by rock legend, Meatloaf.  The band is first seen finishing up a cover of Hendrix's Fire, and when Wayne first catches sight of the Cantonese rock vixen, he's overcome with hearts and stars as Gary Wright's Dream Weaver plays in his head - another big hit for the soundtrack.  Wayne later tells Cassandra that her band "wails".  "You're Double Live Gonzo!  Intensities in 10 Cities! Live at Buddakan!" - all references to famous live albums by Ted Nugent (1978, 1981) and Cheap Trick (1978), respectively.  (A little-known fact. . . but now you know.)  Crucial Taunt later performs a rockin' cover of Sweet's Ballroom Blitz.  I can never hear this song again without thinking of this film.

Garth rocks out on the drums at the local music store, while Wayne buys his beloved Fender Stratocaster.  When Wayne attempts to play a song, he's stopped by the salesman who then refers him to a sign on the wall: "NO Stairway To Heaven".  I had no idea what this meant when I was 11, but as I became infatuated with the instrument myself, I became well versed on the importance of this rule.  "No Stairway!?  Denied!"

The boys go to an Alice Cooper concert in Milwaukee, where they get to go backstage, meet The Dark One himself, and are educated about how the city got its name.  "Actually, it's pronounced, 'Mee-lee-wah-kay'," Cooper tells them.  "Which is Algonquin for 'The Good Land'."

"I was not aware of that!"

The fashion of the main characters was subtle but powerful, as well.  Both wore stylistically-ripped light-faded jeans.  Wayne was in his trademark tight, black tee and his one-of-a-kind 'Wayne's World' ball cap, while Garth is always in one of his seemingly-endless streams of Aerosmith, Van Halen or Motley Crue shirts, usually adorned with a flannel, plaid-print shirt.  And both are never without their Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars; a fashion statement that echoed through the screen and eventually onto my very own feet.  The Chucks just "go" with everything.  The Chucks are Rock & Roll.

Wayne's World was directed by punk rock filmmaker/documentarian Penelope Spheeris, whose expertise in rock music films made her an ideal visionary for this project.  She seamlessly incorporated a world of rock music - and the love for and enjoyment of it - into a great story with hilarious characters, making the background element of "Rock & Roll" an even more profound and solid presence.

The soundtrack enhanced the existence of a lot of music I hadn't noticed much initially in the film, like Cinderella's Hot And Bothered, the Bulletboys' cover of Montrose's Rock Candy, and Eric Clapton's Lovin' Your Lovin'.  Seemingly unknown rockers like Rhino Bucket's Ride With Yourself and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' b-side Sikamikanico, are brought to life with extra vindication by the fun-lovin', hard-rockin' duo.  Further education was driven home with the inclusion of the Ronnie James Dio-fronted Black Sabbath track Time Machine, and Cooper's Feed My Frankenstein.  And finally, we're given an excellent rockin' version of the Wayne's World Theme Song, written by Myers and legendary SNL Band leader, G.E. Smith.

I don't think the creative minds behind this film had any idea about the influence their little picture would have on me or kids my age, but it was a strong foothold and a huge launching pad for my own odyssey of musical exploration that would come with my teenage years.  Thanks to Mike, Dana and Penelope!

Party on, Wayne!  Party on, Garth!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sarah and NO No Name?

I found out a little late, but it seems that Mike Nelson, aka "No-Name," of the Sarah & No-Name Morning Radio show on Alice@97.3 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been "let go."  I listen to the first 30-minutes of every show from down here in San Diego via daily podcasts, but I will not be listening from now on.

Here's the FULL STORY.

Whatever the politics may be, No Name was let go by Station Manager Greg Nemitz and some unknown board of decision-makers... and now it's just "The Sarah and... whoever is still in the studio" show.  This is utter, utter, bullshit.  

People have been calling the show in tears - literally crying - about the loss of their favorite morning deejay, and the politics of CBS Radio and whomever they may be in bed with are screwing over the loyal listeners in an amazingly ballsy move that I really hope will NOT pan out for them.  I hope CBS Radio loses billions.

If you're a fan of the show, as I was - I repeat, "WAS" - take up arms for a minute and sign this PETITION or find a way to let Alice Radio know that you're done listening.  This is what I wrote for my petition signing: "I would never listen to just Sarah, just as I would never listen to just No-Name. You don't just CUT Peanut Butter out of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich! It needs both! Radio Alice just redefined 'SUCK'."

I know it's nothing Earth-shattering, but I'm pretty sad about it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: "The Hold Steady"

Not much has been coming out in the last couple weeks, but here's a band I've seen advertised and reviewed with praise recently:

THE HOLD STEADY - Stay Positive

Here's the low-down on these guys: They're from Minnesota, this is their fourth album, and they've really just exploded in the last year after opening for the Rolling Stones and The Stooges in Europe, yet they've established themselves recently as "America's Bar Band," and with good reason.

The band consists of five guys:

On vocals and guitar, Craig Finn gives this band their signature sound with a drunken-drawling voice that reminds me of the gritty, guttural growls of Dicky Barrett (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) combined with the spirit (and meandering, poetic lyrics) of Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) and a tinge of the controlled, hardcore stylings of Greg Graffin (Bad Religion).

The brilliance and clarity of Franz Nicolay's keyboards also helps to define this band's sound, and, again, reminds me a lot of early Counting Crows.

Tad Kublar's guitar is the final key element for this band. A few of his solos can certainly be credited with taking their respective songs to new levels. This guy's not trying to reinvent the wheel, here. He's just out to make great sounds on his instrument. His tone and style remind me of a lot of Classic Rock bands, and the way he loves to bend rich, full, loud notes for the most dramatic effect is something that has been sorely lacking in modern music for far too long.

Bobby Drake is on drums and Galen Polivka is on bass, and as well as these guys do their job on this record, I get the feeling that if they were replaced, no one would really notice.

The new album, Stay Positive, (the first I've ever heard of theirs) is pretty damned great!  It's part punk, part folk, and part rock.  Several parts of it - as you may have noticed - remind me of early Counting Crows records, specifically the 1996 album, Recovering The Satellites, which was dark, brooding and moody, yet insightful, poetic and romantic. Stay Positive often feels the same way, but there is also a very obvious similarity to Bruce Springsteen's 1970s and 1980s sounds with The E Street Band. (One track, "Yeah Sapphire", features a keyboard riff almost lifted entirely from "Born To Run".)  I also hear some Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)-style power chords, some of Rich Robinson's (Black Crowes) guitar riffs, definitely some of (The E Street Band's) Clarence Clemons' saxophone, and a hodgepodge of other borrowed styles, all boiling down to an ultimately original sound. The wandering narrative track, "One For The Cutters", opens with a busy harpsichord piece that sounds like something off of Tori Amos' first album. And if you're any kind of a fan of The Band, (that is, an actual band called "The Band,") you'll be able to easily compare the density and richness of The Hold Steady's sound. But the personality these guys create with all of these various stylings is infectious!

To look at these guys, you might think that the cast of The Man Show put a band together, or you may get a "nerd-rock" feeling like you used to get from Weezer (before they became mega-stars). But to listen to them, you'll know they're all world-class musicians who care more about the emotions of music than the technical stuff. . . but they're great on that aspect, as well.

Overall, the band's sound is rich and moody, but also optimistic. Songs like "Constructive Summer," and the album's title track are fun, sing-along rockers, but they can also get deep and dramatic as in the beautiful power-ballad, "Lord, I'm Discouraged". The songs are all unique and colorful in their own light. Finn's lyrics are artsy, poetic, visual, subtle, clever and profound - he's not dumbing it down for anyone. He makes references to Led Zeppelin (Joke About Jamaica), The Ramones (Constructive Summer), and Billy Joel (Both Crosses). He writes about drug abuse, religion, small town murders, and tragic women, yet never with the holier-than-thou sensibility that we might expect from, say... Bono.

The Hold Steady's songs have the feel of a brilliant independent art film playing out before our ears, as opposed to the suped-up, glossy, hi-res, "Hollywood productions" we're used to hearing on the radio these days.

You can listen to a few of their best tracks for free at The Hold Steady Myspace Page. Or you can sample all the songs and download the album at iTunes.

Buy it, and give it a good week of solid listening. I think it will grow on you quickly, even if it sounds a bit obscure at first. Great album!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Trailers!

When I went to see the new Batman flick on Friday, I saw a few cool trailers - and I thought I'd discuss them briefly here.

  • We'd already seen the preview for Disney's upcoming cookie-cutter cartoon, BOLT back when WALL*E came out last month. This one is going to be hyped-up like crazy and won't be that great of a story - that's where my money's at! But it will be in 3D, which is always getting better these days, so... it may be worth a matinĂ©e.
  • Then, we had a real surprise! TERMINATOR: SALVATION! (Due out next year.) The crowd (including myself) went nuts when these words appeared on the screen. This will be the first Terminator film without Arnold, and I'm all for it! This is the only decent way to go with the story - follow John Conner as he rises up against the machines. I hope it will tie in a bit with the young television series, "The Sarah Conner Chronicles". It looks visually gritty and dirty - nothing like the crisp and clear 1991 "Judgment Day", when civilization still had a chance. This is post-apocalypse, people! Get ready! Our caped-crusader, Christian Bale, will take over as the new John Conner for this chapter. Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of filmmaker Ron Howard, and accomplished actress in her own right) will portray John's wife, Kate (formerly played by Claire Danes) and John's father-to-be, Kyle Reese will be played by Anton Yelchin (who was terrible as the lead character in Charlie Bartlett (2007), but seems to be getting great roles in the near future). Directed by McG, music-video-director-turned-Charlie's Angels-shmuck takes a crack at directing this one - let's hope this film is his salvation, as well. This should be quite a ride.
  • There was also a very uninformative introductory trailer to the new Cohen Brothers film, BURN AFTER READING. There's a stellar Cohen cast here, and Brad Pitt joins in for the first time in one of their films. Looks good.
  • THE WATCHMEN... meh.





  • And finally, Julianne Moore, Mark Riffalo and Danny Glover star in the adaptation of Jose Saramago's novel, BLINDNESS. This one looks pretty intense. The use of a lot of over-exposure in the film after a point in the story when an epidemic of blindness sweeps over the country has already got me squirming in my seat. Scary stuff!
That's all! See ya!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Movie Review: THE DARK KNIGHT

"That was the movie I've been waiting my whole life to see and didn't know it!" -- Mike Schwartz

Christopher Nolan, director and co-writer of Legendary Pictures' The Dark Knight, may have just made the best film of his career. He definitely has made the deepest, darkest and greatest Batman movie to date. And why limit those accolades to just 'Batman' movies? This is probably the most incredible superhero movie (or comic-book/movie adaptation) audiences have ever seen. I knew it was going to be good, but only by actually sitting down to watch this film (many sequences of which were shot on the giant, technologically advanced 70mm IMAX film cameras) on a big screen with a big crowd can you fully comprehend the genius of the work that went into this production. I'm calling it "The Godfather of superhero movies!"

Unlike his predecessors in the Batman film franchise, (the visionary Tim Burton and the extremely lack-luster Joel Schumacher,) Nolan has created a setting in the real world and in modern time. As with the previous film, Batman Begins (2005), Chicago doubles for the dark, crime-ridden Gotham City these days, and no apparent set design is made to the architecture or infrastructure of the city. This helps to create a far more reality based world in which a man dressed as a bat could actually exist. Nolan wants us to imagine that this could be happening somewhere out there in our own world, not in some fantasy.

And then, in comes Heath Ledger's Joker. Although his posthumous appearance on the big screen lends his performance in The Dark Knight a certain air of romance and a gravity it may not have had otherwise, Ledger's portrayal of the most perfectly quintessential and dastardly villain in comic book history is supreme! The Joker jumps of the screen with a fire and madness the likes of which filmgoers haven't experienced since Hannibal Lecter. . . and, dare I say, more so!

And how does this Joker compare with Jack Nicholson's 1989 performance? It doesn't! Ledger takes sick and twisted insanity to a whole new level, leaving Jack's Joker looking cartoony and almost silly. And, as a final credit to his phenomenal acting abilities, Ledger had only a "one-take" chance to do a shot in which a hospital behind him explodes and collapses, and he nailed it with the precession that only the greatest of actors can pull off! Simply brilliant! This is cinema-character history! Give that poor, dead boy the Oscar NOW!

The rest of the film is taken up by decent performances by the rest of the great cast, including Christian Bale (as the hero in question), Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Eric Roberts. Even Cillian Murphy pops up again as Prof. Jonathan Crane (a.k.a. the Scarecrow), Anthony Michael Hall has a spot as GNN (Gotham News Network) reporter Mike Engel, and LOST's Nestor Carbonell is struggling to get noticed as the mayor of Gotham. But it's certainly Ledger who steals the screen.

Clocking in at more than two-and-a-half hours, The Dark Knight is intricately laced heavily with message. The major theme of the film is the concept of heroes and the various "faces" they may take in a city of millions; be it the clown-caked countenance of the criminally-insane Joker (a hero of chaos), a masked-visage vigilante Batman, or the unmasked, honest face of elected official, Harvey Dent, who's selfless and bold in his determination to clean up Gotham as district attorney. In a ironically prophetic statement about the Roman guard-turned-tyrant, Julius Caesar, Dent tells Bruce Wayne about the value of sacrifice: "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." The idea being that we all have it in us to be a hero or a villain. Wayne believes in choice and inspiring others to find the bravery to make the right choice themselves. Dent seems to agree, in the sense that "you make your own luck." Both Batman and The Joker have made their own luck. Not all luck is good.

Batman faces a plethora of the Joker's classic catch-22 situations which force him (or other victims) to make a choice between one terror or another: save Dent or save the woman he loves; kill or be killed, etc. The Joker's ultimate objective is not to destroy Batman, but to murder his image as a hero. He wants to force the dark knight into a choice that will turn him into a villain in the eyes of Gotham's citizens and kill their spirit.
The Joker is not driven by greed or a desire to kill; all he wants is "a world without rules." He wants to show the human race that order is the same as chaos - that chaos is the natural order of things - and that the only difference comes in our reaction to each.

Batman only wants to show the ordinary citizens of Gotham that they needn't be afraid of such murderous madmen, organized crime syndicates or the petty thugs that rule the streets at night. Bruce Wayne dreams of returning the city to the way it was when he was young, when his father had built it into a shining metropolis. He knows that it can be this way again, and he knows that the citizens of Gotham believe in it, too. Dent believes it. Rachel Dawes believes it. Lt. Gordon and Lucious Fox believe it. But the mob has a vested interest in Gotham, and The Joker has them wrapped around his green and white little finger.

The Dark Knight also seems to pay homage in a very subtle way to previous films in several cases. Multiple scenes had a bit of a deja vu feel to them, like a Batman/Joker showdown in the middle of a huge, empty thoroughfare, as well as another duke-out between the two on a high rooftop. The demise of one Bat-vehicle and the surprise emergence of another one isn't exactly a new concept, and the Joker barging in on a classy party reminded me of The Penguin doing the same in Batman Returns (1992). Does the Joker attending a meeting of mobsters to take over as their new leader ring any bells? Even the Joker's evil scheme that forced Batman to choose one of two people in peril was very Lex Luthor-esque, a la Superman (1978). But none of this seemed derivative or ripped-off, but only homaged in an honorable and still unique way.

This film is worth every penny of the ticket price. The action sequences are amazing, the stunt work is top-notch, and the pacing of the story makes it feel like no time has gone by at all. The music is simple and effective, and the sound design is incredible - often acting as a score in huge action sequences where no music is heard at all. Whatever problems may have arisen on the previous venture, Batman Begins, have been well ironed-out by now.

The Dark Knight is the best Batman movie to date and it will be virtually impossible to top it... but at this point, I'm keeping great faith in Christopher Nolan and his team.

RETURN OF THE GRAMMAR NAZI

Guten tag, morons!  

It is I, Grammar Nazi!  I'm back to ask you all a very serious question: "Wie sagt man 'IDIOT' auf deutsch?"

Today's three lessons come from just a few of the ceaselessly stupid things that I hear coming out of your mouths everyday.  Some of these could be considered pet peeves of mine, or cases where I simply prefer one way over another.  But, even if this is the case, just remember this: I AM ALWAYS RIGHT!  (If you have trouble remembering this simple, little nmemonic device, just remember this equally easy-to-remember one: I AM NEVER WRONG!)

And now, we begin our lesson.

LESSON #4 - "ANYWAYS"

I hear you all saying this one.  And I do mean ALL of you!  Scarcely a single one of you ever gets this one right!  I hear you say things like, "Duh. . . I'm an idiot, but it doesn't matter, anyways! I've been one all my life!"  or  "Anyways, I'm not gonna worry about how stupid I am.  It's not like I can be any better!"   

"Anyways" - with an 's' at the end - is NOT A WORD!  It never has been and, God willing, it never WILL be!  Here's how we can look at this one. . . 

The correct word is "anyway", and this word can be looked at simply as "any way you look at it", or "in any way possible", meaning "ultimately", "eventually", or as a way to shrug off a statement in a passive manner, like "besides".   But what you keep saying is "anyways" - as in "any of the ways you look at it" or "in any ways possible", which may seem like a proper statement, but it's not.  

When referencing "any" out of a possible many "ways", you're still referring to only ONE - a SINGULAR object.  (And in English, we just don't pluralize a singular.  It's just how we do things.)  So, when you are saying something in a sense such as "in any way you look at it", what you're really saying is, "no matter which (ONE) way (of the MANY ways) you should choose to look at the situation..." - and this is still a singular phrasing of the term "way".  That is why you should say "anyway" and not "anyways".

If you insist on using that plural form of "way", the way you do in "anyways", just be sure to break it up into its root words - "any" and "ways" - and make it plural by adding two little words in the middle, and make the phrase, "any of the ways".  Now, what you've done is to denote that the singular word is "any" - meaning, "to choose any singular thing out of many" - and the plural word is "ways" - meaning, "there are many ways from which to choose".  By adding "of the", you've actually separated the subject and object of your sentence, and you can now refer to "one of many", instead of just "one".  Good for you!

Do we all get it now?  Good!  DON'T let me hear you say it wrong again!


Lesson #5 - THEN vs. THAN

Okay, kids -- let's regress back to first grade, (or even the brilliant German invention of KINDERGARTEN!,) and cover this ground again.

This isn't so much a problem in the oral/spoken English language, but more so in the written format.  I see you kids texting and IMing and emailing your friends - or even ME! - with such comparative phrases as, "I'd rather see this movie then that one." or "My dad's richer then your dad!" when the word you mean to be saying is "than".

"Than" is preposition used to conjoin two comparative (or contrasting) things in a sentence. ("Conjunction Junction... what's that function?")  

But the word you've been typing is "then", which means "at the time in question".  It has absolutely NO PLACE in the sentences you've been typing!  Save this word for such phrases as, "First, we should read The Grammar Nazi's blog, and then we should hang ourselves for having been so painfully stupid all along!"  You see how the word is used to denote at what point in time a certain thing should be done?  "First this, then that!"

I know this can be confusing, but just know that these are two very different words, and that 
interchanging them can subject you to public ridicule... BY ME!  And that fact alone should help you hesitate before you blatantly spout out yet another completely nonsensical statement.

Lesson #6 - "LITERALLY"

Yes, this one may be one of your biggest blunders yet, you imbeciles!  

"Oh my god, he was so cute that when he walked by and smiled at me, I literally dropped dead!"

No, my pathetic little valley girl.  Unfortunately for all of us, this statement is completely false.  You did not "literally" drop dead, even if you fainted, stopped in your tracks, or just got some basisrecheneinheiten in your magen!

What you meant to say was that you figuratively dropped dead.  Here's the difference:

The word "literally" means "in a literal sense", or "the words I'm using here denote exactly what happened, word-for-word, without dramatization, exaggeration or hyperbole."

The term "figuratively" means, "in a figurative sense", or "the words I'm using here DO NOT denote exactly what happened, but rather exaggerate for the sake of drama using a comparative phrase, scenario, or idea to emphasize the power of the actual scene."

So you see, the true error here is that you have used the term, "literally", to mean the exact opposite of its definition (or its antonym), "figuratively".  And that is just another example of why you're a total moron.

So, Little Miss Sweet Valley High, the next time Jonny Hightops comes walking through the hall and smiles at you, you can report this event to your equally bimboic gaggle of girlfriends, (whose bleach in their blonde hair has seeped far deeper than the roots,) you can tell them, "When he smiled at me, I literally stopped in my tracks, and I figuratively was on cloud nine!"

Now let's have no further incidents of this vapid, intellectually-void chatter from you dimwitted dingbats again, or you shall have hell to pay!

mit Liebe,
G.N.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New Album - Beck

BECK - Modern Guilt

Beck's at it again, but this time he's given equal screen-time to the hot, young producer, (and one-half of the hip-hop/soul duo
Gnarls Barkley,) Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse. But, unlike. . . say, Coldplay's new album, (which is a bit more subtle about the presence of producer Brian Eno,) Modern Guilt is a perfect 50/50 share of each of it's artists.  And that's what makes this a very unique Beck album - it feels more like a collaboration.

The total running time of the 10-song album is under 34-minutes, so it is a quick and tight little collection of post-modern/throwback/ultra-real/psychedelic weirdness. Danger Mouse brought out the high-end percussion sounds, some crazy synthesized beeps, bloops and buzzes, and even invokes some seriously 60s psychedelic stuff!  One of 
Rolling Stone Magazine's Senior Editors, Melissa Maerz, points out how reminiscent it is of early Pink Floyd, or The Zombies... and I can see that in a few tracks.

There really aren't any radio-friendly "hits" on this album, but that's not a bad thing - it's actually a result of some serious musical art going on here!  At times, it can be very hypnotic and rhythmic in an almost primitive kind of way.  And unlike most of Beck's lyrics, you can actually understand full phrases within these lyrics.  (He only did this once before, in 2002's Sea Change.)  Maerz, (again, over at Rolling Stone) says there's a lot of spirituality and ethereal musings in the lyrics on this album, and if Beck would ever annunciate! - even just a little! - maybe I could have heard some of that philosophical pondering he's said to have done here!  But that's okay.  That's part of Beck's artistic charm: the way he mutters through his lyrics and usually doesn't focus on them even meaning anything.  So it's cool.

You could actually split this album into two parts: the first half has the more interesting and almost poppy sounding music, and the second half is far more weird and atmospherical - just good background tunes.  In fact, if you were to just play this album from start to finish, what you'd notice is that the end would come suddenly and shock you into awareness that you had just been listening to music, but that you're not anymore.  It certainly happened to me a couple of times already.

My favorite tracks are, "Youthless", "Modern Guilt" and "Gamma Ray" - these felt to me like they had the most personality, but I'm still getting to know the songs.  But what's great about Modern Guilt is that it isn't just a collection of individual songs - it's actually best played as a whole album; a single unit of music.

In the end, all you want to know is: "Should I buy this album, or not?"  Here's a simple test:

Do you like ALL of Beck's music?  If "Yes", then you SHOULD buy Modern Guilt.

Do you like only SOME of Beck's music?  If "Yes", then you should probably NOT buy the album, as it is not his usual feel-good party music.

Did you like Beck's 2002 album, Sea Change? If "Yes", then you should check it out - but if "No", then you'd hate Modern Guilt.

See ya next time, folks!