Oct 312007

Happy Halloween

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Gosling, “Mr. Skeleton Wings”

Oct 282007

"Said baby that’s alright"

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Blind Lemon Jefferson performing “Black Snake Moan”.

I was going to gush about this song, but I think it speaks for itself.

Oct 252007

Well, reviews were late again this week, but you got not just one, but two of them — one from me, and one from guest reviewer Trevor Skelton. Go, read, enjoy. And tune in next week when I’ll be reviewing the new solo album from Serj Tankian. (He didn’t win the popular vote in the comments, but one of the voters told me she was changing her vote. Honest! This isn’t creative vote-counting on my part, I really am just here to enact the will of the people.)

You also get voting options. Yay voting! The options this week are a giant vortex of fame, with such big names as David Byrne and The Eagles. So dig in and enjoy!

Avenged Sevenfold, Avenged Sevenfold LINK
Backstreet Boys, Unbreakable LINK
David Byrne, The Knee Plays LINK
The Eagles, Long Road Out of Eden LINK
Saves the Day, Under the Boards LINK
Britney Spears, Blackout LINK

Bonus, value-added option (with hat tip to Ann):
Various Artists, I’m Not There OST LINK

Oct 252007

Guest Reviewer: Trevor Skelton
Artist: Jimmy Eat World
Album: Chase This Light
Label: Interscope
Release Date: Tuesday, 2007.10.16
Rating: Ж out of ©π

Three years. Three long, lonely years was how long Jimmy Eat World fans had to wait for their sixth studio album. Hopes were high, expectations lofty; the stage was set.

And then, Jimmy, Eat and World came in and pooped on every prop made-up for opening night. Chase This Light has left this die-hard Jimmy Eat World fan disillusioned, frustrated and a little chaffed.

I really only have myself to blame; all the warning signs were there. The single they put up on their website a month ago I found mediocre; I shook it off as merely being a weak, but spirited opener to the album. I read the early reviews stating that although the songs were all made-for radio singles, the closing track was magnificent, leaving me hopeful. After midnight rolled around, I listened to some of the clips on Amazon.com; I found that a lot of them sounded similar, but I assured myself that they were only thirty-second clips of four minute songs. I kept these overly optimistic thoughts up until I bought album today, until the need to carry them expired.

Rather than having my doubts dashed, they were bolstered, and then some. The album is just bad. There isn’t one particular aspect that ruins the whole package; it just isn’t a good LP. So instead, I’ll list out the major weak points I could find:

Track Length: As I mentioned above, the tracks are shockingly brief for a Jimmy Eat World record. We’re talking about a band that banged out a fifteen-plus minute closing track on Clarity. Here, they managed only a couple four minute tracks and even a few two minutes blurbs are included, a rarity for the band. While length doesn’t necessitate quality, it often does for the Tempe-based band. Since Clarity, the band had focused a great deal of their time on creating an environment for a song (see: “23”, “The World You Love”, “My Sundown”, “A Sunday”) and it is next to impossible to do in under three minutes, as this mess of an album proves.

Continuity: Nothing flows together in this damn album! The problem with having every track being a possible single is that any chance for a cohesive album is shot. Even Bleed American, their breakthrough album chock full of singles, had moments where everything progressed in some sensible pattern; the fast-paced, rock-based start (“Bleed American”, “A Praise Chorus”) gave way to soothing tunes (“Your House”, “Hear You Me”), which led to a pleasant resolution (“My Sundown”). On Chase This Light, you could start anywhere on the album, play it through, back to where you started, and never know where the start, middle or end of the disc was. This attribute definitely adds to the album’s lifeless aura.

Originality: Not only did they screw up the perfect formula they brewed on Bleed American, they couldn’t even give us anything original in return! The band owned the recipe for a solid, catchy, meaningful track. I took comfort in knowing that even if they didn’t get that creative, at least they had that to fall back on. Instead, they threw it all out, abandoning the new avenues taken in Futures, along with the undeniably good pop sense harnessed in Clarity and Bleed American. It seems as if they wanted to combine a little bit of all their good material into each of the eleven tracks. Much as when you mix together all the colors from a fresh box of crayons, you’ll just end up getting a shade of ‘blah’, the same happened with Chase This Light.

Mood: There isn’t one worth noting, unless you count ADD-influenced, post-punk. I consider it so for two major reasons: all the songs are (by Jimmy Eat World standards) way too short and a majority of them have the same attributes. At least six of the tracks (“Big Casino”, “Let It Happen”, “Carry You”, “Feeling Lucky”, “Chase This Light”, “Firefight”) have the same tempo and pitch, without any sort of depth to them. Hardly an air is built around the song and then it’s over, leaving the listener wondering what the hell that was that just flew through their head. Jimmy Eat World is known for creating basic pop songs and making them something special, often by incorporating smooth harmonies, uplifting riffs and/or sweeping, inspiring soundscapes. Sadly, this, with rare exception, is absent from the album, making it seem almost as if the band is absent as well (read: probably high). It’s not that the tracks in themselves are aesthetically poor; it just gets old the third time around.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s like when you go back and watch Jumanji again (since it’s been a decade or so) and even though you remember really loving it, something is gone. That original excitement you felt when Robin Williams almost got shot isn’t there anymore. Not that the movie is awful or even that bad; it’s just nothing to write home about. Herein lies the problem with this album; the fans know what Jimmy Eat World is capable of, but they clearly didn’t deliver.

When a band produces good quality music, they build a reputation for themselves, and as a result, an inclination of what to expect comes to fruition. This is human nature; when something pleases or displeases us, we remember it for future reference. Mind you, no one seems to have a problem with this…until it’s considered when a release ends up blowing more chunks than a reverse garbage disposal (read: Chase This Light).

In reviews, I’m finding this line of justification come up a lot: “It seems like a disappointing album because it is being measured up against their previous releases which were so strong.” What a cop-out! So, we can’t go into an album with any sort of expectation? If this is the case, then why wasn’t Peter Criss given another chance at a successful solo career? For the very reason that he sucked and we knew he always would! He knew it himself!

This is why I am giving Chase This Light two frowny faces and a Cyrillic character out of copyright-symbol-pi. Regardless of what I, and thousands of other fans expected, it just isn’t what we deserved after three years of waiting. The effort they put into it is a slap in the face to every angst-filled thirteen year old who used part of their Seven-11 money to purchase the album.

Fans, you have my sympathy.

Oct 252007

Jimmy Eat World; Chase the Light

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Artist: Jimmy Eat World
Album: Chase This Light
Label: Interscope
Release Date: Tuesday, 2007.10.16
Score: 6/10

When a band releases a new album after a multi-year hiatus, the tacit expectation that it’s going to be awesome or horrible. This is, of course, an unfair expectation, but it actually tends to be right more often than it’s wrong. One either gets a brilliant album like Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero or a disc full of trash like the unfortunate Zeitgeist by the Smashing Pumpkins, to use two modern examples. This is doubly true when the album marks a fairly dramatic shift in sound. Which is exactly why the thorough-going pop mediocrity of Jimmy Eat World’s sixth studio album Chase This Light is so frustrating.

First of all, this is not the Jimmy Eat World that soaked the airwaves when I was in high school. It’s an altogether poppier group which has drifted enough in their sound that they’re almost as close to Maroon 5 as they are to themselves, circa 1999. Their newfound pop stylings, while sometimes catchy, are obviously unfamiliar territory, and the quartet mostly blazes through it with bland, obvious hooks and lyrics that are, at best, kiddy-pool deep. The whole album is shot through with base competence.

The best that can be said about the album is that it does have a few catchy riffs and lyrics. Unfortunately the band seems unable to string enough of them together in one song to really make a truly great pop tune. They’re all well-performed, reasonably formulaic, and almost all have a standard enough sound to feel familiar even on a first listen.

Of course the most notable thing about the album is that it really is a pop album. There are some strands left from the pop-punk beginnings of the band, but it seems like for the most part they’ve lost what rock they had. Songs like the boppy, glitzy “Here It Goes” leave no doubt that neither rock nor punk are on the agenda anymore. The opening track and first album single “Big Casino” starts with probably the heaviest riff on the album, transitions into an Ataris-esque pop-punk verse, and then into a call-response pop chorus. Except for a few brief moments throughout the album, this pop composure never breaks.

The album is, throughout, typified by mediocrity, both musically and lyrically. True pop is obviously new territory for the band and while they have the basic themes down, and know enough to string together riffs and vague, but resonant lyrics to make a tune, they’ve done nothing on Chase This Light to reassure the listener that they’re still capable of the catchy brilliance of their earlier work. Songs like “Firefight” bounce along homogeneously, with little variety or inventiveness. The lyrics aren’t well-crafted enough to make much sense, much less convey any kind of real message. The drums are energetic, but invarient. The guitar lines are simple and repetitive. The over all effect is reasonably competent and, as such, is fairly indicative of the entire album.

Jimmy Eat World fans might be interested in hearing the new direction that band have taken their sound. Hopefully it’s a sound they’ll pursue and refine. I’d love to hear them do pop music with the same kind of creative energy as some of their earlier punk-influenced stuff. As it stands with Chase This Light they’ve shown that they can do the kind and quality of pop music that we’ve all heard before. I’m hoping next time around they’ll give us something more: a reason to celebrate their entry into the genre.

Oct 242007

Suckage part X

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Hey kids, sorry to do this to you once again, but I’m going to be a day late on my review once more.

As a mea culpa, here’s one of the most fun videos of all time, for one of the greatest videos of the 80s: A-Ha’s, “Take On Me”.

Oct 232007

How does Serj Tankian pull this shit off? I’ve watched this video about a half dozen times now and I fail to see how he could put out something so blatant, didactic, and pretentious and have it work SO well. This is the kind of video that should have me hitting stop with a groan about 30 seconds in, but instead I just sit and watch slack-jawed.

Seriously, Serj Tankian is one of the only people so committedly campy enough and completely brilliant enough to make this work.

(Video is for “Empty Walls”, off his new solo release. Major tip of the absurd top hat to Ann.)

P.S: I totally wish I was able to pull off the ring-leader look that he’s got going in this vid.

P.P.S: His beard is pretty clutch, as well.

Oct 212007

Thank god we’re safe from foppish mope-rockers

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[politics]This is the latest in random abuses by the DHS that just makes me sick. Schneier has been right this whole time: none of this is security, it’s security theater. Full of sound and fury and signifying that we’re sinking billions of dollars a year so that fascist dickheads can play at security. [/politics]

Seems the DHS has snagged Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla’s hard drive as it was crossing the Canadian border via courier. The contents? The masters for his new solo LP.

The AP has a remarkably even-handed assessment of the whole thing. And thank god, the original MTV coverage about it is about as bad as journalism can get while still plausibly being called journalism. It does, however, give some good page-time to Walla himself, so it’s worth reading, if you’re a DCfC and/or Chris Walla fan.

Bonus Chris Walla quotes: “Luckily, the tapes are Plan B, so while I’m bummed about the whole thing, it could be a whole lot worse. … I still get to play music. I mean, I’m not at Guantánamo or anything like that. I mean, my drive might be. They could be water-boarding my drive for all I know.”

AND

“This is a solo record, which is a little bit scary, because there’s a feeling of ‘Oh, you’re officially making a statement,‘ and you’re either the fist-waving left or the flag-waving right, and there’s no in between. … But I made this record because it felt irresponsible for me to have a platform for what I’m thinking and not use it. And not just to do political songs. If all I wanted to do was cover Air Supply songs, I could’ve done that too.”

UPDATE: The Daily Swarm goes a bit hysteric on Walla, Barsuk Records, MTV, et al. and receives a remarkably even-headed, professional email response from Mr. Walla. The article itself is a bit screedy, but Walla’s response is worth reading. Scroll down to the big quoted chunk toward the end to find it.

Oct 202007

"He’s studies fashion, she studies art."

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Can I interest sir or madam in some Sleeper this evening? Perhaps “Inbetweener”?

(Hmm, . . ., it really is true: Brit Pop vocalists really were all fairly androgynous. Louise Werner looks particularly boyish in this video.)

Oct 192007

OT: Tea

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God Bless Moby.