Wow! Five comments in one day on my last post! That's pretty damned good considering my recent track record! I suppose that means you guys missed me. Sorry for the long delay, but I've been working long days lately only to come home, eat something, work for a few more hours from home, sleep, and do it all again in the morning.
So here's a blog of news and reviews.... well, mostly reviews.
First, I want to address that I certainly don't dislike SNL, but I think they could be doing things a bit better. And, sorry Brad, but I'll take several slightly-different/mostly-identical Toonses skits over some of the stuff I've seen lately. But, yes Sean, I do agree that it's still an awesome show. I may never stop liking this show. I'm just complaining about a very small portion of the show's aspects. And Katie, you're right - I forgot to mention Wayne's World - but that's a perfect example of what I mean. But I can't wait to catch their prime-time political specails during the next few weeks' run up to the election. Should be good times.
Now for a few album reviews. Short ones... with letter grades this time!
BEN FOLDS - Way To Normal
This is a good album - short (42:05) and fun. Not too many weighty ballads, and more than a few poppy, happy, good old fashioned "Ben Folds Five"-style tracks. It's not the best thing he's ever done, but it's up there with Rockin' The Suburbs. Folds is still experiemnting a little with his music, but not too much - which is good to hear. Maybe Ben understands that he's famous because he was doing something right, and that deviating too far from that initial sound could be bad.
I gotta give this album a B+
The Frown Song
You Don't Know Me (feat. Regina Spektor)
TV ON THE RADIO - Dear Science
I don't really know these guys aside from that one single they had out before, "Wolf Like Me", and the fact that I saw them perform live at Street Scene last month. They turned me on enough to download their new album from iTunes, and I was pretty impressed. These guys have a cool sound with lots of drums and horns and guitars and some funky vocals. I hesitate to label it or put it in a genre for fear that, (like Grunge did back in the early 1990s,) this may be the start of some new sound that will someday have a name, but for now is just fresh and unique.
The 12-track album clocks in at close to an hour, with the songs ranging from quick 3-minute ditties to a 7-minute-plus dreary, dramtic, bluesy epic. You really feel like you get something for your money with this band.
I gotta give this album an A-
Dogs of Light
OASIS - Dig Out Your Soul
I just got this album today, so I've only listened to it once, but upon first impression I'm left a bit unsatisfied. It's a good album, but it's only about 45-minutes long and only a few tracks really rock out, while the others offer a heavy, bluesy, mid-tempo, swaggary kind of thing. The production of this album is classic Oasis - crunchy and imperfect, a bit echoed and very psychedelic (much like the album's cover - I dig it). But, overall, it's missing a few real epic rockers or something. I'm not sure, I'll have to give it a few more spins and, of course, the essential "road test". I'm currently seeking out, via the Inter-Webs, a couple more bonus tracks that were only on the Japanese retail release of this album, so maybe those will help me enjoy the album more.
I dig Noel's vocal contributions, as always. And Liam sounds as good as ever. The first single, "The Shock Of The Lighting", is the best thing the band has done in years. I just wish there were a few sibling songs to that one on here, and so far, I don't hear one.
So, for now, the album gets a B.
Bag It Up
The Shock Of The Lightning
(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady
THE PRETENDERS - Break Up The Concrete
It's been about 6 years since their last release. But what's the verdict on "Concrete"?
It's pretty good (that is, if you're into The Pretenders). That Chrissie Hynde sounds exactly like she did 30 years ago, and although the band isn't made up of all the original members, they sure sound great on this album. There's some great guitar-work on here that never sounds over-produced or anything. The album's got a timeless, classic kind of sound about it. There's a lot of acoustic guitar in the mix which gives it a nice, organic feeling. And with founding member Martin Chambers' competent percussion and Hynde's unique voice, the rest of the band is lifted to a level greater than the sum of its parts. Basically, The Pretenders hit it out of the park on this one. I can tell I'm gonna enjoy this album for a long time.
Boots Of Chinese Plastic
Don't Lose Faith In Me
Break Up The Concrete
Okay, there's your quick and dirty album reviews. Now, how about a few movies?
I saw Burn After Reading and Eagle Eye last weekend. I was rather let down by Burn, as it was one of the more subdued Coen Brothers comedies ever made - on par with Intolerable Cruelty (2003), meaning it was good, but not "Coen Brothers good". It certainly was no Raising Arizona (1987) or The Big Lebowski (1998). The star-studded ensemble cast was enjoyable and the story held my attention, but in the end, as you'll see if you watch it, all is for naught. I just wanted to jump into another theater and see a movie with an actual ending... so I did.
Eagle Eye was a really good Sunday afternoon action/thriller/sci-fi flick. It wasn't dumb or cheesy at all, even if it was a little far-fetched. I'm really enjoying this young superstar, Shia LeBoueff, and I have really come to be a fan of Michelle Monaghan in her ever-expanding list of films. (She was great in Gone Baby Gone (2007), Mission: Impossible III (2006) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).) If you just wanna eat some popcorn and watch a good action flick with some great acting (also from Michael Chiklis and Billy Bob Thorton), go check out Eagle Eye.
Then, this weekend, I rented The Onion Movie and Black Snake Moan.
The Onion Movie (made by the people who bring you the fake news at www.theonion.com), is basically an updated version of John Landis's Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)... which is awesome. It's just a bunch of random spoofs and goofy skits, some pretty risque or downright dirty, all intertwined into a little story about a newscaster being forced out of his own journalistic integrity. If you haven't seen it, all I'm going to say is.... "COCKPUNCHER!" Now go rent it.
Black Snake Moan - starring Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake and Samuel L. Jackson in one of his more enjoyable roles. This film is about an aging, divorced, heart-broken, ex-bluesman and farmer, Lazarus (Jackson), and a young, drug-addled, sexually-victimized nymphomaniac, Rae (Ricci), crossing paths in the rural South. When Lazarus decides to "cure" Rae of her "wickedness", he chains her to his radiator to keep her from getting out of his house and into more trouble. In classic Hollywood screenwriting tradition, both characters learn and grow from each other (without any kind of sexual/romantic relationship), and both characters are able to move on.
But the real star of the film is the blues music that is featured and even performed by Jackson himself. The opening sequence plays to The Black Keys' "When The Lights Go Out", a heavy, rhythmic, almost Zeppelin-style blues groove (think "When The Levee Breaks"), and then Jackson plays a very dramatic rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Black Snake Moan", accompanied by thunder, lightning and heavy rain on a tin roof, as Rae clings to his leg in great fear of the storm (among other things) - it's a great little scene. And finally, you gotta hear Jackson's version of the blues standard "Stack-O-Lee" - it's pretty unlike all the other versions; very contemporary, abridged and cinematic. A good little blues rocker. I picked up these three tracks off the soundtrack, availible for download on iTunes. Check 'em out.
Okay, that's enough outta me for now.