Book review: This Ain’t the Summer of Love

By , March 30, 2010

This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk
By Steve Waksman

Waksman demonstrates the formal give and take between metal and punk. He successfully illustrates that within the music itself there was always a dialogue between the two as opposed to the malignant verbal snowball fight took place within the media starting in the late 1970s. Not that said dialogue was always as hot and heavy as a teenage makeout session. In early chapters Waksman contrasts ideological strains by comparing artists: the Runaways vs. the Dictators; Iggy Pop vs. Alice Cooper. The word “grunge” appears nowhere on the book’s cover, yet Seattle’s finest is Waksman’s great synthesis.

Waksman’s own unsaid ideology is that even in rock, that most populist of mediums, there is an underground, critically fecund history that differs from the mainstream narrative. The underground hidden channel is where new forms are born and therefore the specimens that get canonized are made. Waksman knows that the critics that know best wrote in zines not magazines. Another emerging thesis: any label that released Black Flag’s My War, Minutemen’s Double Nickels On the Dime, and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade all in the same year has a claim to best rock label of the 1980s (or maybe any other decade for that matter). The label: SST Records. The year: 1984.

TV Series review: Big Train

By , March 30, 2010

bigtrain_6_396x222Big Train
Series created by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews

Give me a whoop whoop if you love sketch comedy!  Yikes! Now people are staring at you…Oh well, perhaps it’s apropos to start a review of an absurdist, deadpan comedy show with an awkward moment.  Without any further ado, allow me to introduce Big TrainBig Train was created by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, whom you may know from the brilliantly funny Father Ted.  You won’t exactly be laughing out loud upon viewing any of the twelve episodes of Big Train; rather, you’ll think of one of the sketches days later and laugh maniacally in an inappropriate place (like the intense study area of your library!)  Standout sketch characters include the evil hypnotist,  foul-mouthed Florence Nightingale, and Dracula, who has an aversion to the sight of blood.  My personal favorite is the boss who diverts his employees’ tough questions with magic tricks and puppies.  Keep in mind this is Comedy 401, not 101.  I’d recommend a visit with Monty Python before you catch the Big Train.

- crystal

Book Review: Ripped

By , March 27, 2010

Ripped Small

Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
By Greg Kot

The music industry is broken.  The labels know it.  The artists know it.  Consumers definitely know it.  Greg Kot knows it, and he seems kind of happy about it.  In his book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music, Kot catalogues how different musicians found ways to go over, under, around, and through the majors in order to find new paths to fans and profitability in the Wild Wild West chaos of the digital frontier.

Most of the stories Kot included were familiar, but he also introduced, at least to me, a few new artists, such as Girl Talk, who are making some high-quality music—even if it is a mash-up of other unlicensed samples. 

Here is the best music quote ever:

“[The album is not dying.] What’s dying is the idea of only the crappiest crap, made with the crappiest intentions, with the crappiest production, to entice the most airtime on the crappiest giant chains of radio stations, bought and paid for by crappy labels and dictated by some crappy, contemptuous, lowest-common-denominator projecting programming executive from his crappy polling printouts in some crappy office somewhere, to ensure we all swallow the same crap all over the country at the same time, and then placing that one slice of crap on a longer disc with a bunch of even crappier crap.  That is the concept that is dying.  Amen.”
                                                                      – Jack Rabid, editor of The Big Takeover

 Amen, brother. Let’s get back to the business of making great music and let the bottom line take care of itself.

- Amanda

Book List: Novelizations of the life of Jesus

By , March 26, 2010

Despite the Bible being one of the most widely read pieces of literature, many novelists have felt a desire to write about the life of Jesus. There are many variations on what has been called “the greatest story ever told.” Some authors try to stick as closely to the Bible as possible, while others try to portray events as they think they might have occurred, and some simply go off the chart entirely creating fantasies or comedies of the well known story.

Check out Novelizations of the Life of Jesus

- Bryan

Legends of Film: Catherine Wyler

By , March 22, 2010

Bill brings us an interview with Catherine Wyler, daughter of William Wyler, director of such films as Ben Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives, and The Desperate Hours.

Crystal’s picks: Ewan McGregor

By , March 21, 2010

crystalspicks_markeeActor, singer, and adventurer Ewan McGregor celebrates a birthday on March 31st. McGregor was born in Scotland in 1971, to teacher parents that encouraged him to pursue his acting dreams. After attending London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama for three years, he left right before graduating to take a role in a TV miniseries called Lipstick on Your Collar. McGregor has had a successful acting career in both mainstream and independent films. His first notable performance came in the 1994 film directed by Danny Boyle called Shallow Grave. Boyle directed McGregor again in the gritty film Trainspotting based on the novel by Scottish writer Irvine Welsh. Star Wars fans were pleased with his portrayal of young Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episodes I, II, and III.

Musical fans discovered McGregor could sing when he appeared along side Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!. In 2004 he and friend Charley Boorman traveled around the world on motorbikes. Documentary footage of their journey was made into a TV series called Long Way Round, then a follow-up series called Long Way Down.

Check out movies with Ewan McGregor

Music Review: Lady Antebellum

By , March 20, 2010

LA 1LA 2 Lady Antebellum/ Need You Now
By Lady Antebellum

If you’re looking for some good music, then I have got the group for you. (Even if you’re not looking, you should still hear these guys). Two years ago the relatively unknown group Lady Antebellum hit the country music scene, selling just 40,000 copies of their self-titled debut album in their first week out. Made up of two guys and a girl (but sadly no pizza place), it took a while for the sound of Charles Kelley (brother to pop star, Josh Kelley), Hilary Scott, and Dave Haywood to catch on at radio.

Last July, however, “I Run to You” became the band’s first number one hit.  Partially because of the successes of “Run to You” and the debut single from their second album, “Need you Now,” but also because of high profile performances, like at the Grammy Awards and on Oprah, Lady A’s sophomore release sold almost 500,000 copies its first week out in January.  It’s since done about 200,000 more, meaning the album is certified gold.  In this depressing age of decreasing sales, those numbers are huge.  What a difference a coupla years makes.

Need You Now is more mature, with a little more depth to their material than the first album. For this record,” Charles said, “We wrote a lot…but we [also] went and found a couple of really strong songs that we didn’t write, and I’m just as proud of those as I am of the ones we wrote. And again, we’re storytellers and not everything has to be a personal experience, but something you can relate to.”

I bet most of you have heard “Need You Now” or “American Honey” the latest single. If you want to listen to a couple of Lady A’s musical offerings, you can check out March’s Popmatic Podcast.

Before I leave you, I want to give a shout out to Michael Rojas, keyboard player extraordinaire for both Lady A albums.  I met Michael when I first moved to town to intern at Sony, and he was always one of my favorite session players.  In listening to the songs, I was loving what I was hearing – enough that I pulled out the booklet to see who it was. I should have known.  So congrats to Michael for some awesome finger work. Rock on, my friend. And rock on, Lady A.

Book List: Lost Treasure

By , March 19, 2010

lostreasureWho hasn’t daydreamed about fighting their way out of this economy by finding and hoarding large amounts of lost treasure?  Anyone?  Unfortunately, these books will mostly tell you about other people who have done just that, thereby depriving the rest of us of yet another cache waiting to be discovered.  But anyone looking for a good dose of history, legend, and adventure in their nonfiction reading will surely find something on this list:

Check out books on Lost Treasure

- Ben

Popmatic Podcast: March 2010

By , March 15, 2010

Clint said Bryan was snobby so B goes all pulp Sci-Ffi on you when he compares audio editions of two classic Philip K. Dick novels. Amanda considers whether Lady Antebellum are next big thing. Since it is Women’s History Month, Bill brings us an appreciation of actor… Jeff Bridges.

Check out items mentioned in this month’s podcast

Crystal’s Picks: Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees 1931 – 1940

By , March 4, 2010

crystalspicks_markee March isn’t just for basketball, it’s also time for the Academy Awards!  After many years of five “Best Picture” nominees, ten films have been shortlisted for this year’s award.   Although this category has included only five nominees for many years, there have been as many as twelve films nominated.  If you want to geek out on the Oscars, visit the Academy Awards Database. Listed here are films that were nominated from 1931 to 1940, when the “Best Picture” category was called “Outstanding Production,” and the number of films nominated topped out at twelve.

Check out Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees 1931 – 1940

- Crystal

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