Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2010, Part 2: 5 through 1

#5 - Fake Problems - Real Ghosts Caught On Tape
(Check out my original review here)
What an unusual band. When I saw them play last week, frontman Chris Farren looked more like he should be a Justin Beiber-style tween pop star. Instead, he's playing high energy pop-ish soul punk that sounds on this album like an odd blend of Against Me! and The Gaslight Anthem (both of which are friends and occasional tour mates of the band). Fake Problems have come a long way since their folk-punk days, and are definitely a band to keep on your radar for 2011 and beyond.
Favorite track: "ADT"

#4 - The Sweet Revenge - Creatures Of Routine
(This release is available for donation from Death To False Hope Records)
(Check out my original review here)
Combining the poppier moments of Rise Against and the more anthemic moments of Strike Anywhere with the harder pop-punk of Latterman and Chinese Telephones, The Sweet Revenge are a band that I was extremely eager to put on my top 10 albums list. When I first heard Creatures Of Routine, I knew I would have to hear some very strong competition for them to be knocked out of the top 5, and that competition never came forward. I hope for nothing but the best for them in the new year, and I hope to someday see them live.
Favorite track: "Burning Pictures"

#3 - Guster - Easy Wonderful
(Check out my original review here)
A polished pop gem. That's what I called Easy Wonderful when I reviewed the album earlier this year and I stand by that now. This is one of few 2010 albums that stayed in my car's CD player for days and days at a time. After so many repeat listenings, I do take back what I said in the review about the drums. Great addition to the discography of a long running band, and my favorite of the work they've done.

#2 - Against Me! - White Crosses
(Check out my original review here)
My #2 album of the year is also the first official review I wrote for this blog. Interesting. Like Fake Problems, Against Me! started out as folk-punk before eventually ditching the acoustic guitars. Unlike Fake Problems, Against Me!'s progression unleashed a firestorm of hateful former fans. The stubbornness and closed-mindedness of those fans works against them, as they probably boycotted White Crosses and, in the process, missed out on what may be the best songs they've written. A bit more punk than the arena-rock effort of their last album, New Wave, the album rests in the delicate area between mainstream rock and punk while exploring other styles.
Favorite track: toss-up between "Because Of The Shame" and "Ache With Me"

#1 - Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me
(Check out my original review here)
I'm going to be blunt: Any top 10 album list that doesn't include Two Cow Garage's Sweet Saint Me is not to be trusted. The band had the best album of 2010, as well as the best live show I've ever seen. I can't think of anything to say here that can match the album, so just go out and listen to it. Now.
Favorite track: "Lydia"

Top 10 Albums of 2010, Part 1: 10 through 6

I don't like to have my posts too long, so I split up my end-of-the-year top albums list into two posts. So here's the first post, albums 10 though 6. My tastes tend to favor the obscure at times, so you may not have heard of a few of these, but each is highly recommended by me.

#10 - Sundowner - We Chase The Waves
Check out my review here.
Chris McCaughan from The Lawrence Arms busts out a second album of alt-folk strummers. This time around it's mainly Chris on acoustic guitar and vocals, unlike his previous Sundowner album Four One Five Two which featured some strings that were pretty then but unnecessary now. Basically another contribution to the growing alt-folk scene, but a very welcome one.
Favorite track: "As The Crow Flies"

#9 - The Menzingers - Chamberlain Waits
I had heard about The Menzingers back around the time of their first album, 2007's A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology. But I didn't really pay attention to them until this year, when I was checking out BlankTV's Youtube channel and found a video for "I Was Born," off this album. I was hooked. Scrappy, rough-edged pop-punk, the best kind of pop-punk there is.
Favorite track: "Chamberlain Waits"

#8 - The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
Not as good as their last album, The '59 Sound, but much more advanced than their debut, Sink Or Swim. American Slang traded some of the soul and rock 'n roll vibe of '59 but brought in a harder sound. Honestly, looking at this album and hearing some of the name dropping in recent interviews, I am very interested to see what they come up with next (supposedly they are already working on a new one).
Favorite track: "The Diamond Church Street Choir"

#7 - Tin Horn Prayer - Get Busy Dying
A super-group of sorts, Tin Horn Prayer is comprised of members and former members of various members of Denver, CO bands (by the way, I recently decided to add Denver to my list of places I'd be willing to move to, so if anyone hears of any library jobs in that area let me know). That's pretty much all I know about this band, but I hope information about the becomes more available in 2011. These are definitely a band I hope to hear more from in the new year. A great take on the alt-americana thing, with some excellently rough vocals and some mandolin, which is not seen enough in the alternative music scene.
Favorite track: toss-up between "Better Living" and "Fighting Sleep"

#6 - Carpenter - Sea To Sky
Aside from one streaming track on some blog, I first heard these guys when they opened for Two Cow Garage. Honestly, I think I loved their set almost as much as the headliners. They're from Canada, but I hope they make more trips down to the states in 2011. Post-hardcore with a slight americana edge. They remind me a lot of Hot Water Music, which I consider a good thing.
Favorite track: "Mean Things"

Top 5 EP's/Splits of 2010 and runner-ups for Top 10 Albums

Assuming all goes right, later today I'm going to post my picks for the top ten albums of 2010 in two posts (one for 10 through 6, then one for 5 through 1). But I set strict guidelines for myself for that list, which caused me to exclude quite a few great releases (The Social Network Soundtrack, The Promise, 99 Sounds Of Revolution, Pretty Hate Machine, etc). Those guidelines also cut out any EP's or split releases, so before I share that list I wanted to share some picks for the top releases among those. (There were quite a few great digital releases through the Daytrotter Sessions, but I decided not to include those, only studio recordings with one exception).

#10 - Dan P./Toh Kay (Dan Potthast and Tomas Kalnoky) - You By Me, Vol 1
#9 - Bouncing Souls/Hot Water Music - Tour Split
#8 - John K. Samson - Provincial Road 222
#7 - Rust Belt Lights - The Truth About Us
#6 - Seahaven - Ghost 
#5 - Hot Water Music - Live In Chicago
#4 - Kelsey And The Chaos - Life Goes On
#3 - The Get Up Kids - Simple Science
#2 - Less Than Jake - TV/EP (check out my review here)
#1 - Dashboard Confessional/New Found Glory - Swiss Army Bromance

Why I Hate's singles series with their alter egos, Why I Hope
Eight Ghosts - 3 Songs About Losing
Brendan Kelly/Joe McMahon - Wasted Potential

Now for the second part of this post. I took all the albums I listened to this year and trimmed the fat, cutting away the albums that didn't measure up by comparison to others until I had a list of 20 albums. From there I carefully selected the better 10 for my upcoming Top 10 posts. But the other 10 were still good albums that I feel deserve some recognition. So, in non-ranked order here are the runner-ups to my Top 10:

Alkaline Trio - This Addiction
Barenaked Ladies - All In Good Time
Coheed & Cambria - Year Of The Black Rainbow
The Damned Things - Ironiclast
Dan Padilla - As The Ox Plows
Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle
The National - High Violet
The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - The Wages
Tim Barry - 28th & Stonewall
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Movies of 2010

My posts about the year's best music might be after the new year starts, due to some computer problems I'm currently having. One of my resolutions, though, is to be a bit better about posting in a timely manner, as well as posting more about library-related topics (which is what this blog was originally meant to be).

For now though, I present the Library Punk's list of the 10 best movies from 2010 that I saw. Sadly, there were a few that I wanted to see that I'm sure would have made the list (such as It's Kind Of A Funny Story), so this list can only contain the movies I actually saw. Not all were in theaters, and that might have effected their actual position on the list, but here are my top 10 movies of 2010:

#10 - The Other Guys 
The last movie on the list that I saw, so to be completely honest it might not have made it if it had more time to sink in. I saw it a little over a week ago, and I thought it was hysterical. A well-written, well-performed, original and unique take on the buddy-cop format. And I especially loved the financial crimes piece during the end credits (set perfectly to Rage Against The Machine's cover of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm).

#9 - The Crazies
If memory serves me correctly, this is the first movie on the list that I saw. Saw it in theaters and loved it so much that I bought it the day it came out and watched it again twice. I've watched it at least two more times since then (though once it was shut off early due to my friends wanting to watch something else). I watched part of the Romero original and to be honest, I didn't care for it. But this version is great. A twist on the basic premise of viral zombies in which the infected stay alive and crave violence.

#8 - A Nightmare on Elm Street
I had mixed feelings walking into this one. On the one hand, I had watched the abomination that was the Friday The 13th remake and had extreme doubts. On the other hand, I loved Jackie Earl Haley's take on Rorschach in Watchmen and was more that willing to see him take on Freddy Kruger. The second hand was rewarded as I greatly enjoyed this in theaters, and it held up on a second viewing on DVD. It's more realistic than the original, mainly in the form of Freddy's burned face make-up and the portrayal of the effects of sleep deprivation.

#7 - Machete
I confess, I was among the people who saw the fake trailer during Grindhouse and immediately demanded a full movie. Something about Danny Trejo (who I always enjoy seeing in a movie) as an ex-federale with his mind set on revenge just seemed right. I also respect how Robert Rodriguez can bounce between kids movies like Spy Kids and movies like this and his half of Grindhouse. This movie is also one of VERY few times I thought the whole "trying to be 'so bad it's good'" thing has actually worked out.

#6 - Despicable Me
Adorable. That is the word I use first and foremost in describing this one. My friends have gotten sick of hearing it. But the movie is adorable. I thought the movie looked interesting and possibly good when I started seeing commercials, but I was hooked the first time I saw the clip where the little girl screams "It's so fluffy!" while shaking a stuffed unicorn. Her preceding line, "It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!" is my ringtone. My friends have gotten sick of that, too.

#5 - Kick-Ass
A unique take on the self-made superhero. Kick-Ass is like if Batman didn't know how to fight, didn't have money, was a teenager and a little bit of a coward (as much a coward as someone can be if they're still willing to fight crime). Violent, vulgar and full of laughs, this one also had one of my favorite shoot-out scenes ever (when Hit Girl has the night vision goggles before the raid on the apartment).

#4 - Scott Pilgrim Versus The World
I'm a Michael Cera fan. I've loved him in every movie I've seen him in (Youth In Revolt just barely missed making this list). So to see him in a movie adapted from a comic book and modeled after video games was pretty sweet. Music is my favorite thing in the world, and Scott Pilgrim had plenty of that, including two battles based entirely on the performance of music. Great movie.

#3 - Inception
Based on all the hype, I'm almost ashamed that I don't have this higher up on the list. It seems like the kind of movie with subtlety that takes more than one viewing to properly grasp, so maybe after I've seen it a few more times it'll take a higher position. I love the online debate about the ending (if you haven't seen it and don't know what I'm talking about, don't go looking for it because it might spoil the movie for you).

#2 - The Book Of Eli
Gary Oldman and Tom Waits are a great combination in a movie. And use "post-apocalyptic" to describe anything and you've got my attention. Then there's the dual viewpoint of faith as a means of hope for those who need it and as a tool of oppression. Bleak and miserable throughout most of its runtime with appropriate moments of brightness. Great acting, especially from Oldman, who I consider to be one of the best actors currently working.

#1 - The Social Network
You really shouldn't use it as a secondary source when talking about Facebook, but this look at the social media empire's origins is great. Some amazing music courtesy of Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor and his longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. Some great acting, especially Jesse Eisenberg's nerdy, awkward and at time vicious portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. The film has seen many comparisons to Orson Welles's own film portrayal of a media mogul and to be honest, it deserves them. The Social Network may very well be the closest my generation gets to it's own Citizen Kane.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 5 Christmas movies

There may be one more post before Christmas, but due to work and last minute holiday preparations that is not a promise. Last Friday I wrote about my favorite Christmas specials, so today I decided to list my favorite Christmas movies.

Mixed Nuts (TriStar Pictures, 1994)
A group of people at a suicide hotline on Christmas Eve. Doesn't exactly sound like a cheerful holiday romp. But despite the premise, the movie is hilarious with a few sentimental moments mixed in. Mixed Nuts has for a long time been one of my favorite Steve Martin movies, second only to The Jerk. Martin plays Phillip, who, along with Catharine (Rita Wilson) and Mrs. Munchnik (Madeline Kahn), runs Lifesavers, a suicide hotline on the verge of bankruptcy. Lifesavers is also about to be evicted from the apartment that serves as headquarters by the building's owner. While trying to find a way to save Lifesavers, Phillip also encounters Catharine's pregnant friend Gracie (Julliette Lewis), Gracie's gun-wielding, "wall artist" boyfriend Felix (Anthonly LaPaglia), dim-witted, ukelele-playing t-shirt writer Louie (Adam Sandler) and depressed, crossdressing Lifesavers client Chris (Liev Schrieber).

Scrooged (Paramount Pictures 1988)
Aside from maybe O. Henry's The Gift Of The Magi, Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol seems to be the most-adapted Christmas storyline ever. As I mentioned Friday, the Disney version with Mickey Mouse is one of my two favorite adaptations. Scrooged is the other. The movie stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a television executive working on a live, Christmas Eve presentation of the Dickens work. Caught up too much in his work and neglecting those he cares about (and who care about him), Cross meets up with his own spirits of Christmases past, present and yet to come. A lot of sentimental moments are mixed with a lot of very funny moments, especially jokes where Cross confuses his own spririts with those of his television production. Highly recommended, though not for kids.

Elf (New Line Cinema, 2003)
An oft-quoted film about a human raised by elves. Will Ferrel plays Buddy, who, as a baby in an orphanage, crawls into Santa's gift bag on Christmas. Santa decides to give the baby to Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) to raise. Buddy is unaware of his human origin for years, until Papa Elf and Santa reveal the news to him. He decides to travel to New York City to find his biological father. The movie is hysterical at times, but also holds back for smaller laughs when appropriate, which I appreciated. Once again, there are also some sentimental moments mixed in, as all Christmas movies should be. I wasn't fond of the climax, though. I thought it was sappy and could have been done better. Overall though, a very good and very funny movie.

It's A Wonderful Life (RKO Pictures, 1946)
If Gift Of The Magi and A Christmas Carol are the most adapted and parodied Christmas works, It's A Wonderful Life is definitely in third place. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is about to jump off a bridge on Christmas Eve, which he perceives to be the only way out of the mess he's made of his business, Bailey Building and Loan, as well as with his family. An angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), shows up to convince him to reconsider. At George's request, Clarence shows him a world in which he'd never been born. Voted by the American Film Institute as the number 1 most inspiration film of all time, It's A Wonderful Life is a testament to the impact of the individual, and drives home the message that, as Clarence tells George, "No man is a failure that has friends." Of the films on this list, it has the most sentiment and least laughs, but it still has some funny moments.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Warner Brothers, 1989)
Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen Griswold (Beverly D'Angelo) return for the third Griswold vacation adventure, this time involving Clark's grandiose plans for celebrating Christmas with his family. From my perspective, this movie is the opposite of Wonderful Life in terms of sentiment to laughs ratio, falling heavily on the funny side. It's one of few films I've ever seen my dad laugh out loud during (he especially likes the sledding scene). It is also one of few films I try to see every year. As as side note, it contains what might be my favorite quote from any Christmas movie: After having a minor breakdown and cutting down a new Christmas tree, Clark tells Ellen that he simply solved a problem, "we needed a, tree..."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Punk Rock Christmas Songs

Another post is being written, but right now I wanted to share this:

It's an article I wrote a few years ago for the Triond network. I think by their terms of service, I can't post the article here, so I included the link instead. I'm not fond of the formatting. Looks like they've changed the design of the page it's posted on, which completely messed up the formatting I had. It's also an ad-heavy site, sorry.

Click the link for specific ramblings on each song, but my top 5 Christmas songs as listed are:
#5 - The Ramones, "Merry Christmas (I don't Wanna Fight Tonight)"
#4 - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "This Time Of Year"
#3 - The Vandals, "Oi To The World"
#2 - The Pogues, "A Fairytale Of New York"
#1 - The Kinks, "Father Christmas"

Apparently two years ago I was really into bands with names starting with The.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Nostalgia

I have yet to do anything fun for Christmas so today I thought I'd share some of my favorite Christma television specials. Unlike most of my friends, I wasn't really into the Rankin/Bass specials, but there are still plenty of yearly Christmas specials I used to watch. Not as many as there for Halloween, but I decided to continue my nostalgia posts for Christmas.

A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
Kermit and the gang head to Fozzie's mom's house for a country family Christmas, but she's already rented her house to Doc and Sprocket (of Fraggle Rock) with plans to head to Hawaii for the holidays. They all decide to spend Christmas together, with plenty of singing and sentimental moments. The special features all 3 of the main Muppet groups, with the Fraggles spending some time with Kermit and his nephew Robin and the Sesame Street gang showing up as well. Jim Henson even makes a cameo at the end, helping Sprocket wash the dishes. I was born just too late to remember seeing it on TV, but my parents taped the original ending and my sisters and I used to watch it ever year. I don't know what happened to the tape, but fortunately for me Youtube was invented.

Nester, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)
The only Rankin/Bass I really enjoyed as a kid. Also probably the only Christmas special I enjoyed that actually went back to the origins of Christmas. The special followed Nester, a donkey with ridiculously long ears. Kinda like Rudolph, he is mocked and ridiculed for this, but does his best to hide it. Mary and Joseph find him and choose him to carry Mary to Bethlehem. It's sweet and kinda cheesy and I watched it ever year when I was younger. More recently, though, it's only been on once a year and always seems to be when I'm busy. Then again, Youtube.

The Christmas Toy
Youtube link in the title. Another Henson special. Hosted by Kermit, The Christmas Toy tells the story of Rugby, a stuffed tiger that was the Christmas Toy last year and wants to be this year's Christmas Toy as well. In his attempt, he sets free this year's Toy, Meteora, a crazy doll. Rugby also has to be careful, because if a toy is seen out of place then they basically die. There's also a cat toy named Mew. Sing the first few words of the main song and either of my sisters will immediately join in.

The Toy That Saved Christmas
The most recent of my nostalgia items, as I first saw it in high school (I saw it about a decade ago, so I think that's long ago enough to count). It's a VeggieTales production that follows a toy, Buzz-Saw Louie, that becomes sentient and wants to find the true meaning of Christmas. Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and Junior Asparagus help him take on Wiley P. Nezzer (brother of Nebby k. Nezzer from Rack, Shack and Benny), the owner of the toy factory that spawned Louie. It also has the mini-feature "Oh Santa," in which Larry waits to give cookies to Santa, only to have them all taken before Santa shows up.

Mickey's Christmas Carol
I'm not gonna link this one, because I don't want Disney to sue me. A retelling of Dicken's A Christmas Carol with Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge and Mickey as Bob Cratchit. Aside from maybe Scrooged, it's my favorite version of the story.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AFI's Top 10 lists

I've been kinda neglectful of the blog lately. With the Christmas season in full swing, things have gotten busy (and tiring) at the retail store where I work, and most of whatever energy isn't used there I've been devoting to my hunt for a job in my field. I do have some plans for some posts coming up, but I wanted to make sure I got something posted today since it's been a while.

So, since most of my posts are music-centric, I decided to do a movie-based post. I was having a discussion with a friend the other day, and he was telling me that he and his girlfriend are working on watching more movies on IMDB's list of top-voted movies. That got me thinking, so for today's post I evaluated my own movie-watching history compared to the lists from the American Film Institute. I have so far seen 37 of the films on AFI's revised 10th Anniversary edition of their "100 Years...100 Films" list from 2007. I do intend to watch more in 2011. (By the way, I highly encourage you to read through AFI's "100 Years..." lists, as they are fun to read. Especially their list of top 100 movie quotes.)

AFI has also put together lists of the top 10 films in 10 different genres, so I decided to compare my history to those:

Snow White And The Seven Dwarves
Lion King
Toy Story
Beauty & The Beast
Finding Nemo

Romantic Comedy
Sleepless In Seattle


none (and I am quite ashamed that I haven't even seen Caddyshack)

The Third Man
North By Northwest
The Usual Suspects

The Wizard Of Oz
Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
It's A Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
Field Of Dreams
Groundhog Day

2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
E.T. The Extraterrestrial
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Back To The Future

Godfather, Part 2
Pulp Fiction

Courtroom Drama


I find it interesting that Animation is the genre I've seen the most in, having seen every single one of the top 10. I guess I have my parents to thank for that, as most of them are movies I watched in my childhood.

Anyway, AFI's website has a ton of lists that are just fun to read through. And I do think I may devote 2011 to watching the entire top 100 list.

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Songs

Do you remember the first song you heard by your favorite band?

While driving back to Dunkirk after taking a friend to the Buffalo train station, I put a mix CD into my car's CD player. As I listened to the first couple songs, I realized they were the first songs I had ever heard by either band. It had nothing to do with why they were on the mix, and I didn't notice it when I made the mix a few months ago, and I didn't notice it any time I had listened to the mix previously. But for the slightly less than 6 minutes that it took to listen to those songs, it was stunningly clear that these were the songs that brought me to the rest of the output of the respective bands.

The first was "Mean Things" by Carpenter. I had heard that these guys were going to be playing with Two Cow Garage at the show I went to a while back, so I checked them out, and "Mean Things" happened to be the song I found to listen to. It ended up being the only song I heard by them before that night, but immediately after the show I checked out their new-ish album and loved it. Carpenter aren't really a favorite band, but with each listen to Sea To Sky I see more potential for them to crack the top 10, possibly even 5.

The second was "Remedy" by Hot Water Music. "Remedy" was on the second volume of Dragging The Lake, a compilation series that was the result of a team-up between Atticus Clothing and SideOneDummy Records. The song came immediately after "I'm Not Invisible" by Rocket From The Crypt, which had sightly less of an impact on me. I ended up buying the album it's from, Caution, then moving on the rest of their catalogue. Of all the songs I have by them, only one ("Trusty Chords," from the same album) has had a similar effect on me.

My point is this: The first time you hear music by an artist you later grow to love is a unique experience. I can't think of any other media that can have a similar impact. The first time you see your favorite movie can come relatively close, but when you sit down to watch a movie you have a general idea of what you're getting into. Same with a favorite book. But hearing a new song out of nowhere and getting hooked is completely different. It goes right along my usual viewpoint that music is the most personal media form/art form in terms of interaction.

Listening to those songs made me think of an episode of American Dad. The episode in mind was called "My Morning Straitjacket." Upset that his daughter has gone to a rock concert, Stan rushes off to get her. In the process, he hears the music of My Morning and becomes entranced by it, becoming an obsessive fan. While more than a little exaggerated, that is basically what it's like.

So the next time you listen to one of your favorite bands, try thinking back to the first song you heard. It's amazing how much it can refreshen your love for their music.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Album Review - American Slang

The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang (SideOneDummy, 2010)

This album came out back in June, but since I didn't have this blog back then and there's nothing I want to review this week, I thought I'd review it now.

I didn't care much for American Slang the first time I heard it. I thought it was alright, but it didn't really grab me initially. It took a couple listenings for me to get it. The same happened with the preceding album, The Gaslight Anthem's SideOneDummy debut The '59 Sound. But I had loved their first album, Sink Or Swim, so much that I gave it a few more listens, and now I consider it to be a highly superior album. So when American Slang didn't hit me on the first listen, I gave it the same chance I gave '59

To me, '59 had a vibe to it, sort of a theme. Most of the album seems to be a nostalgic view of youth with songs like the title track, "Old White Lincoln" and "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" calling up images of high school and being in your early 20's. Even the iTunes bonus track, a cover of Robert Bradley's "Once Upon A Time," fits the theme.

Slang continues that theme, but twists it a bit. The first half of the album continues the nostalgic view of youth. Songs like the title track or "The Diamond Church Street Choir" feel like they would have fit right at home on '59. After that, though, the nostalgia starts to take on a darker vibe. Rather than celebrating the life lived, the album has a more "those were the good days," bitter vibe. This is most specifically seen on "Old Haunts," with frontman Brian Fallon pleading "don't sing me your songs about the good times, those days are gone and you should just let them go," then declaring, "God help the man that says 'if you'd have know me when,' old haunts are for forgotten ghosts." That last bit really stands out to me, as it stands in direct conflict with one of Fallon's earlier songs. "The Navesink Bank" from Sink Or Swim finds the singer saying exactly that, "Ah Maria, if you woulda known me when..." The lesson I take from it is that it's ok to look fondly on your past, as long as you remember that it's the past.

After one last burst of nostalgia in the form of "The Spirit Of Jazz," the album, and the bitter nostalgia, close out with "We Did It When We Were Young." The most melancholy song I've heard from TGA, "Young" is written to a woman from Fallon's past, a sort of "we had a good time, but now it's over and I'm with someone else" kinda love letter. Fallon declares that he "cannot hold a candle for every pretty girl" before closing out the album by saying "I am older now, and we did it when we were young." The iTunes version of the album comes with a bonus track, "She Loves You." The song is well written and well performed, and I love getting more music for my money, but this is one instance where I regret the presence of a bonus track. "We Did It When We Were Young" is just such a perfect closing track that its a shame for another track to start playing. It's like watching a movie that keeps going after the point where it should have ended.

Musically, the album builds on the modern punk meets classic rock and soul that TGA have been perfecting, but with more emphasis on the modern side. While I think '59 is a better album overall, Slang has its moments. Lots of great guitar work and Fallon continues his rough, honest delivery of the lyrics. The album has a few questionable moments though, most notably the opening of "Boxer," which is an otherwise good song.

If you've never heard TGA, this isn't the album I would recommend starting with. I would say start with The '59 Sound, but follow that up with American Slang.

Favorite tracks: "The Diamond Church Street Choir," "Boxer," "Old Haunts," "We Did It When We Were Young"


Monday, November 29, 2010

Album Review - Pretty Hate Machine (Reissue)

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine: 2010 Remaster (Bicycle Records, 2010)

In 1989, Trent Reznor released the first full length album under his Nine Inch Nails moniker, Pretty Hate Machine, on TVT Records. A commercial and critical success, the album cemented Reznor as a pioneer of the new American Industrial scene and an artist to watch in aggressive music.

The album is, simply put, amazing. Dark and moody, aggressive with some softer moments. But it is limited by its mixing and production. Later albums, such as the successful followup The Downward Spiral (which launched Reznor into the mainstream, mainly due to the popularity of "Closer" and "March Of The Pigs") and the tragically unsuccessful double album The Fragile, had significantly better production. It's not that the production of Pretty Hate Machine is bad, it just could have been better.

Well, now it is better. After years of bad blood between Reznor and TVT Records, Bicycle Records bought out TVT's catalogue, which included co-publishing rights to Pretty Hate Machine. Last week, Pretty Hate Machine was reissued in a remastered format that also included new cover art. In keeping with the Nine Inch Nails Halo numbering system, the reissue was given the number Halo 2R

The mixing is better all around, but two areas what really shine for me are the vocals and the bass. The vocals are much cleaner and clearer. Every bit of pain and despair Reznor recorded is blissfully intact for clear listening. And the bass is also clearer and more fun to listen to, especially on the tracks "Sanctified" and "The Only Time." The piano on "Something I Can Never Have" is also tweaked a bit, making the song just a bit darker (it's one of the darkest songs I have in my iTunes library). While the original is still amazing, the remaster, approved by Reznor, is a much better listening experience.

Another significant change is the art work. The original is pretty great (Reznor once stated that it is a picture of turbine blades distorted to resemble a ribcage), but the newer version (with a change in colors and word placement) seems more fitting to the new sound.

The track listing of the original songs is the same order, the order that Reznor intended. Which is good, as I have seen remasters that changed the order of the songs. The only change to the track listing is the inclusion of a cover of Queen's "Get Down, Make Love" (originally recorded for the promotional single release of "Sin"). It feels to me like it doesn't really fit with the rest of the album, but it was recorded in such a way that it doesn't feel too out of place.

Overall, Bicycle Music has taken an amazing album and somehow made it even more amazing. I would recommend this album to anyone who likes emotionally and sonically complex music, as well as to NIN fans that already have the original.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Posts This Week

You may have noticed there were no posts yesterday or Friday. I've been a bit preoccupied by my day job (retail/grocery, so you can imagine it's been busy lately) and working on my job hunt in the field. Combine that with not really having anything interesting to write about (no new bands to share, no new albums driving me to review them, haven't seen any new movies in a while) and I just haven't felt a compelling reason to post. So I'm taking the week off for Thanksgiving. In the meantime, I am planning some fun posts for the Christmas season, as well as some end-of-year retrospective posts. If there are any topics you'd like to read about for those two themes, leave a message in the comments and I'll see what I can do.

Also, if you have friends in a band looking for more exposure, tell them to get in touch with me. I love doing what I can to help out lesser-known bands. They can email me at tzdrojewski at gmaildotcom. Same goes for indie film studios, indie publishers, etc.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Few Random Bits And Pieces - 11/16/10

There aren' really any new albums out right now that I'm particularly interested in. Back To The Basement, the new Queers album, is out today, but I haven't really had much of a chance to listen to it. And I haven't really caught any movies in theaters since The Social Network. So while I sit here watching Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief (so I can return it to Netflix and get caught up on the last two Harry Potter movies before I see the new one), I thought I'd share some random little bits of stuff going on.

-Yesterday, Apple announced some big announcement that would be happening today. Apparently it was just that The Beatles are now available on iTunes. Is that really that big of a deal. As far as I know, the CD's are still in print, and a brief search on Amazon suggested that they're cheaper in physical format. The only reason it's a big deal is that The Beatles were one of the last major digital hold outs. So they finally caved. I was expecting something more exciting from Apple's hype.

-I'm not much a fan of Rockmelt. The browser does have some things I like, but there are a lot of features that I think get in the way. And as far as I can tell, I can't get rid of those features. I'll keep exploring, but for now I'm back to Chrome. I love you, Google.

-I finally saw Toy Story 3 last night. I have to admit, I've never been a huge fan of the Toy Story movies, though I do see their appeal. But I thought it was a nice way to close out the trilogy. Assuming they actually do end it, and don't try to continue it. Disney finished it, time to move on.

-I also finally saw Grown Ups. It was a nice reunion of a lot of 90's SNL alumni, and there were some good laughs here and there. But overall, I think it might have been the most poorly written major release I've ever seen. There were countless moments of dramatic build up that had little to no payoff, and nearly every problem presented in the film was either cast aside minutes later or conveniently solved minutes later. Lessons learned were explicitly spelled out for the audience. And, perhaps the worst of all, there was a huge reliance on fat jokes, fart jokes, crude slapstick and other easy comedy elements. Not a movie I would recommend. I told this to a friend who had seen it and his response was "Dude, it was an Adam Sandler movie." So? So was Funny People, and I loved that movie.

-Heard some of the songs off the new Ke$ha EP through a leak. I didn't hate it. I can't explain it, but even though every thing about her music contradicts my tastes and philosophies regarding  music, I enjoy it to a disturbing degree. I feel like I should hate every aspect of it, but I can't get enough.

-There's a lot of casting rumors and news going on. First of all, there's talk of Alan Arkin, Van Damme and Billy Crystal in the new Muppet move. One of the best things about the first Muppet movie was all the celebrity bit roles, such as Steve Martin and Orson Welles. I'm glad they continued that through so many movies and specials. Hearing these rumors do give me hope that this movie will continue Jim Henson's impressive legacy. There's also some rumors going on about the followup to The Dark Knight that adds support to the theories that Talia Al Ghul will be in it. Then there's the reports that Will Gluck has already tapped Emma Stone for a movie that has no name and no script and, as far as we know, no story or characters yet. Emma Stone is shaping up to be quite the leading lady, if a director will sign her before he even knows what the movie is about. Bow to the power of Emma Stone.

-The new Girl Talk album is interesting. And I mean that in a good way. Check it out if you get the chance. It's available for free under a Creative Commons license (and anyone who has read this blog from the start knows how I love Creative Commons).

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Essential Classic Albums

There's a lot of talk right now about the future of music. More and more releases are going digital. Some through Radiohead-style self-releases, some through digital-only labels like Quote Unquote or Death To False Hope, some through DIY sites like Bandcamp, some from labels trying to cut costs. But even as these releases go digital, more and more releases are also going vinyl. As we take steps forward, we also take steps back in some ways.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and so I decided to look some albums from years past for today's blog. Here is a non-hierarchical list of my essential classic releases. For the purposes of this post, "classic" is used to mean before 1985, the year I was born.

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run (Columbia, 1975)
There's a reason Bruce Springsteen is referred to as The Boss, and Born To Run is a prime example of his musical abilities. He may have fallen in recent years (seriously, have you listened to Magic?), but back in 1975 he was king of Americana Rock. Rolling Stone listed the album as their 18th greatest album of all time, and it deserves it. My favorite song is the title track, but the album also contains classic cuts like "Thunder Road" and "Backstreets."

Black Flag - Nervous Breakdown (SST, 1978)
In 1978, Black Flag stormed out of the suburbs of Los Angeles with their debut EP, Nervous Breakdown. Much like the Ramones sparked the American punk revolution a few short years before, Black Flag's touring inspired a firestorm of imitators across the country, making hardcore a solid statement within the punk scene. Kicking off with the title track, an ode to reaching the breaking point, the EP packs a lifetime of punk agression into just over 5 minutes. Later releases are alright, but for me nothing compares to this.

The Clash - London Calling (UK-CBS, 1979, US-Epic, 1980)
Compared to Nervous Breakdown, London Calling hardly sounds like an album that could be called punk. But The Clash were among the first to merge punk's aggression with other styles, in this case rockabilly, jazz, ska and reggae. A true pillar of punk history, Rolling Stone ranked London Calling 10 spots higher than Born To Run, at number eight. The album is also one of the best examples of blending punk and politics, covering topics such as commercialism and consumerism ("Lost In The Supermarket"), government oppression ("Clampdown") and social unrest ("The Guns Of Brixton," which some claim predicted the race riots of Brixton in the 1980's). The  title track also cites concerns over nuclear incidents (such as Three Mile Island) and the potential flooding of London. 

The Kinks - Muswell Hillbillies (RCA, 1971)
The Kinks are more well known for earlier protopunk tracks "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Night," as well as "Lola," about accidentally falling for a crossdresser in a bar. But Muswell Hillbillies is the album that makes them my favorite band of the British Invasion. The album blends the British small-town idealism they perfected on The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society with Americana influences. The album covers paranoia, shady fad diets, poverty, the growing concern of alcoholism, and dreaming of living in America. The album also features "Have A Cuppa Tea," a fun tribute to the British cure-all, a good cup of tea.

Various Artists - This Is Boston, Not L.A. (Modern Method, 1982)
Remember when I said earlier that Black Flag sparked hardcore throughout the country? That's a bit misleading. Punk rock was a pretty general movement, but hardcore developed in pockets. No two scenes sounded the same. NYC, L.A. and Chicago have long flourished as hardcore hotspots, but other pockets started up as their own scenes. In the early 80's, some members of the Boston scene were considered that local hardcore kids were taking too much of an interest in L.A. hardcore, ignoring their rich local scene. The response was This Is Boston, Not L.A., a compilation comprised of 30 tracks from Boston bands Jerry's Kids, The Proletariat, Groinoids, The F.U.'s, Gang Green, Decadence and The Freeze. There are countless compilations dedicated to documenting local scenes, but This Is Boston, Not L.A. stands as one of the best.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Basement Show Blog

I didn't have much to write about today, so I decided to share a blog that I've been reading lately. The blog is called Please Don't Hang Out In Front Of The House.

PDHOIFOTH is a blog devoted to pictures, stories, poems, etc., about basement shows. The blog was initially inspired by a contest by Red Bull where independent bands could submit songs, with 4 winning bands being chosen to play a basement show in New Brunswick, NJ, a city which is legendary for their basement shows. One band from that would then be chosen to open for the band Thursday.

The contest caught the attention of basement show veteran Aaron Scott, formerly of the bands Marathon and De La Hoya, currently of Attica! Attica! With a firm understanding of the meaning and importance of basement shows, Aaron was disgusted by a corporation's attempts to subvert the legacy. His response was to create PDHOIFOTH. The blog consists of fan-submitted stories, poems and pictures about what basement shows mean to them. The blog is also getting ready to release 2 volumes of a free compilation of fan-submitted songs.

Red Bull eventually pulled out of the basement show part of the contest and moved it t a venue, citing "the sensitivity of brining (sic) more attention to the basement show scene to the local authorities" as the reason. But the blog continues, documenting the current state of basement shows. They also have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Album Review - Decompositions, Volume 1

Hour Of The Wolf - Decompositions, Volume 1 (Think Fast!, 2010)

(As far as I can tell, this release is only available on vinyl or digitally.)

Hour Of The Wolf are a frustrating band when it comes to releases. They have steadily released some great songs, but only in the form of singles, EPs and split releases. Their unique brand of hardcore punk has not yet seen a proper full length release. Rather than remedy this with an album of new material, the band have instead released a the first volume in a compilation of all those scattered tracks.

HOTW have been compared to Black Flag, Motorhead and even The Misfits, and quite frankly those are all valid comparisons. They have an old-school approach to hardcore that owes more to Black Flag than modern bands like Terror or Blood For Blood. The aggressive instrumentation does call to mind Ace Of Spades-era Motorhead, with the menacing punk rock charm of Danzig-era Misfits. But HOTW do what I love about my favorite bands, they take obvious influences and spin them into something that is all their own. They also remind me a bit of a rougher version of Kill Your Idols. Rough in a good way, of course, as hardcore never sounds right to me when it's polished.

Volume 1 is, in a way, basically a glorified re-release of the band's 2006 EP, Power Of The Wolf, with a new track the band wrote for the release ("Domestic Wild") as well as some covers (Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown," The Nerve Agents' "Fall Of The All American," Kid Dynamite's "Breakin's A Memory" and The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog"). Think Fast! Records' statement about it says that this will be first time any of these songs are on vinyl, so that's not a bad for people who like vinyl. I would definitely recommend this to hardcore fans looking for a new band, but for people who are already fans that own the previous releases it isn't that great of a deal if you don't like vinyl. However, I just checked and the new tracks can be purchased individually on iTunes, but the release has not, at the time this is posted, been put on Think Fast!'s digital download store.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Upcoming Releases That Excite And/Or Interest Me

So my NaNoWriMo isn't getting much progress made, so I figured I should at least make sure I had a blog update for today, however late it might be.

I am constantly finding out about new albums coming out or recently out, but most of those are pleasant discoveries. Here is a list of known upcoming releases I'm excited about or at least have an interest in (due to the lack of specific details of some of them, often due to uncertainty from the band, I have decided to not include release date and label information like I usually would).

Hour Of The Wolf - Decompositions, Volume 1
This comes out tomorrow. I'll have more to say about it then.

The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
Rumored to be named in reference to The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead (and, in fact, frontman Colin Meloy namechecks Morrissey and The Smiths as influences whenever he can), The King Is Dead is the followup to 2009's The Hazards Of Love. As far as I know, the new album is not a concept album like Hazards was. I wrote on Friday about the first song they released from the album. Based on that song, I can't wait for this album to come out. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until January.

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine (reissue)
It's not a new album from the amazing Trent Reznor, only a reissue. But still, I never bought a copy of NIN's first album despite loving The Fragile, With Teeth and Year Zero. So when I heard about this, I thought I might as well make this the opportunity to pick up a copy finally.

The Aquabats! - Radio Down
The renegades from the doomed island of Aquabania (read the band's backstory, it's pretty awesome) are back with their first new release since 2005's Charge!! (the band has been a bit preoccupied trying to get a cartoon show made and working on frontman Christian Jacob's Nick Jr show, Yo Gabba Gabba). They were meant to release a full-length album tomorrow, but when Fearless Records picked up the release they asked them to postpone it and release this 3-song EP instead.

The Queers - Back To The Basement
They have a terrible name, but The Queers have been churning out great bubblegum punk since the 80's, when Joe Queer decided to take up an offensive name and rip off Screeching Weasel. I loved their last album, Munki Brain, so I'm looking forward to hearing what they sound like 3 years later. And the title seems to imply a return to roots, so that's cool too.

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys
Does Gerard Way know how make albums that aren't concept albums? I guess not. I thought I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love was decent. I thought Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge was pretty good. I thought The Black Parade was kinda meh. So I am kinda interested in hearing what this new one sounds like.

Friday, November 5, 2010

New Decemberists Song

Oh happy day! The Decemberists have released a new song! By visiting their official website ( and joining their mailing list, you can get a free download of a new track, "Down By The Water." Don' worry about the mailing list, they mainly send regular band e-mails, but worded Decemberists-style, so I always enjoy reading them. And you can unsubscribe if you want.

The song is great. Kinda reminds me of older, Her Majesty, The Decemberists era output from the band, crossed with Tarkio, singer Colin Meloy's previous band. Perhaps after the epic concept album The Hazards Of Love they felt like going back to their roots? It's a really good song, and I can't wait for their new album, The King Is Dead, available in January of 2011.

Here are the lyrics, for those interested:

See this ancient riverbed
See where all our follies are led
Down by the water and down by the old main drag

I was just some towhead teen
Feeling around for fingers to get in between
Down by the water and down by the old main drag

The season rubs me wrong
The summer swells anon
So knock me down, tear me up
But I would bear it all broken just to fill my cup
Down by the water and down by the old main drag

Sweet descend this rabble round
Pretty little patter of a seaport town
Rolling down the water and rolling down the old main drag

All dolled up in gabardine
The last flashing lee to appear nineteen
Queen of the water and queen of the old main drag

The season rubs me wrong
The summer swells anon
So knock me down, tear me up
But I would bear it all broken just to fill my cup
Down by the water and down by the old main drag

The season rubs me wrong
The summer swells anon
So knock me down, tear me up
But I would bear it all broken just to fill my cup
Down by the water and down by the old main drag

Down by the water and down by the old main drag
Down by the water and down by the old main drag

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

5 Bands You Probably Aren't Listening To, But Should

Sorry there was no post yesterday. I had some Internet issues and was offline most of the day. Combined with starting my NaNoWriMo project, I didn't have any time to post something.

Today I thought I'd use what little influence I have to throw a bit of attention on some lesser known bands. I've mentioned some of them before in previous posts, but now here's a post devoted to them. Check them out when you have a chance.

These guys are from Vancouver, British Columbia, way up there in Canada. I saw them live when they supported Two Cow Garage. They said at the show that it was only their second time in the states as a band, the first being an appearance at The Fest down in Florida last year. (As a side note, it kills me that I've never been to The Fest. Maybe next, which I've said every year for the past several years.) They released their second album in September, the phenomenal Sea To Sky. I really hope I get to see them live again some day. Go to their Facebook and check out the song "Mean Things." They kinda remind me of Hot Water Music, playing guitar-driven post-hardcore with a slight Americana twinge.

The Sweet Revenge
I randomly found The Sweet Revenge when I was looking through the available albums at Death To False Hope Records. Their album Creatures Of Routine is amazing, easily one of my top albums of 2010 (which I mentioned not too long ago when I reviewed it). Great guitar parts, great lyrics. They fall sorta on the musically upbeat side of melodic hardcore, kinda like a poppier version of Strike Anywhere. You can stream the album or download it (for free or donation) here (I especially recommend the tracks "Full House" and "Burning Pictures").

Dan Padilla
Dan Padilla, the band, not the man, as they often refer to themselves online. A great band that I heard about when ThePunkSite featured their album As The Ox Plows on their Free Music blog. The album is great (though I wish the vocals were a bit higher in the mix). They've got a sorta Menzingers/Dopamines pop-punk vibe to them. You can check out As The Ox Plows here, as Paper + Plastick Records have made it available with no financial risk.

Tin Horn Prayer
Apparently my inclusion in the promotional efforts for Two Cow Garage's last album got me on Suburban Home Records' media contact list. That's how I ended up with a free copy of Tin Horn Prayer's Get Busy Dying. And I love it. Only thing I don't like about it is that, like Dan Padilla, the vocals are bit too low in the mix for my tastes. The band who have an interesting alt-country/punkgrass sound, is made up of members and ex-members of various Denver bands.

Drag The River
Drag The River is a band that is, as one of their albums put it, bad at breaking up. They've been around since the 90's and are relatively well-known amongst the PBR-drinking orgcore scene, but have never really made the kind of impact in the mainstream that I think they deserve. Now is a great time to get into them, as they're planning a much-anticipated new album next year, and have posted a set of demos on their Bandcamp page that can be downloaded for a minimum donation of 50 cents. Worth it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

HMP #13 - Saw VI

Horror Movie Project #6 - Saw VI
Twisted Pictures/Lionsgate, 2009
directed by Kevin Greutert
written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan

Aww, the last entry of my Horror Movie Project. I'm gonna miss it, but I also look forward to going back to not posting every day, even weekends. I will continue to watch the horror movies I haven't seen, but the project has come to its conclusion.

For the last entry, I decided to watch last year's installment of the Saw franchise. (FRANCHISE SPOILER) Even though the infamous Jigsaw Killer has been dead for several movies, his grand scheme continues to unfold, engulfing FBI and the police as they try to find the apprentice who has been carrying out his plans (/SPOILER). This time, it's a higher-up at a health insurance provider who ends up stuck in John Kramer's test. Having spent his career deciding who should get coverage and who should be denied, effectively deciding who will live and who will die, he is forced to make several face to face decisions regarding who will survive the traps.

Previous entries implied that I like story over gore, so some readers might be surprised to hear how much I like the Saw movies. Sure, there's a lot of gore, but I do feel there's substance behind it. The filmmakers keep insisting that they're working toward a final payoff, where John Kramer's overall plan is finally revealed and concluded, so as long as they deliver on that promise, I think the length of the series will be worth it. That said, I liked most of the traps in this one. The barbed wire trap was pretty interesting, and the carousel trap might be my favorite from the whole series. The steam trap was bit of a fail, though. Overall, I liked this movie, and I really want to see Saw 3D, which came out on Friday and supposedly will be the last one.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

HMP #12 - The Return Of The Living Dead

Horror Movie Project #12 - The Return Of The Living Dead
Orion Pictures Corporation, 1985
directed by Dan O'Bannon
written by Dan O'Bannon

For the second-to-last installment of my Horror Movie Project, I decided to watch The Return Of The Living Dead. Along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this movie is part of the reason for taking on this project. I bought it last year when Walmart had a special display of movies for Halloween, and in all that time I never watched it, which I was kinda ashamed of.

So I watched it, and I liked it. It's a semi-sequel to one of my favorite zombie movies of all time, Night Of The Living Dead (after that movie, John Russo had the rights to the Living Dead name, which is why all the later Romero movies only had Dead in the name). But it's also not really a sequel at all, referring to Night as being "that movie where the corpses started eating people." Romero's Dead series remains my favorite zombie franchise, but this was an interesting take on the zombie ideas that Romero started. As far as horror-comedies go, this was definitely one of the better ones I've seen. A lot of nice puppet work (Tarman, the wobbly zombie with stump legs, the lady on the table, etc), and the zombies being able to talk and think was fun, despite being far from zombie cannon. I guess I'd watch the rest of the movies. They can't be any worse than Survival Of The Dead, right?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Nostalgia

Since so many people seemed to like the Nickelodeon Nostalgia posts I wrote back when this blog started, I thought it would be fun to write one for Halloween. These are some of the Halloween specials I loved when I was younger. Links to the specials are provided when available (some may be to the first part of the special, but you should be able to find the rest of it easily).

Marc Summers' Mystery Magical Special - Summers, then known as the host of Double Dare, hosted this special that also featured magician Lance Burton. Summers is driving a small group of kids home and gets a flat tire. Seeking a phone in a nearby mansion, they witness several odd occurrences (my favorite was always a lady dancing with a mop wearing a jacket and hat) and watch Burton sword fight a masked villain. I loved this special, but not many people seem to remember it. One of the kids was Shiri Appleby, who later was one of the stars of the show Roswell and the movie Swimfan. Another kid was Jonathon Brandis, who later supported Rodney Dangerfield in Ladybugs.

Disney's Halloween Treat - Another special from the 80's that my parens had on a VHS tape. I used to watch this every year. It's basically a clip show featuring spooky or scary moments from other Disney presentations, as well as footage of the Haunted Mansion ride. There were parts that I was always a bit creeped out by, but my sister was flat out terrified by.

The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile - A special that starred Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. They help a jack-o-lantern that, as the title implies, can't smile. He's sad because no one wants him, so he cries pumpkin seeds, which is pretty adorable. They also manage to cheer up a kid who's aunt is grumpy.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure - Garfield and Odie encounter ghost pirates in an attempt to get candy. Probably one of the more well-known of the specials on this post, since I know several people that loved the old Garfield specials. No link because I couldn't find a decent quality video.

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - Another classic. I'm pretty sure anyone reading this probably know it. No video again.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark - This show was a running series for a few seasons, so it's not really a special. But there were two early episodes that always stood out to me around Halloween"

  • "The Tale Of The Twisted Claw" - After a prank at an old lady's house the night before Halloween, two boys are given a special treat by the lady when they go trick-or-treating at her house: a twisted claw capable of granting wishes. The wishes, however, come at a price. This was I think the pilot that aired before the series started as a special.
  • "The Tale Of The Nightly Neighbors" - When an Eastern European family moves in the next door wearing all black and having a fondness for night, a brother and sister suspect that they may be vampires. Just another episode of the series, but it's one of the ones that stand out in my memory.
I feel like I'm forgetting at least one or two. I may have to update this later. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

HMP #11 - Deadgirl

Horror Movie Project #11 - Deadgirl
Dark Sky Films, 2009
directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel
written by Trent Haaga

Entry number 11. Only two more to go. I know what one of them is, still have't picked the other one. Suggestions are appreciated.

Deadgirl was recommended by a friend. It wasn't bad, but it didn't do a very good job of holding my attention. Two high school students go to an abandoned mental institution (because that always works out well in horror movies) to get drunk. In the boiler room, they find a dead woman covered in plastic. Though dead, she starts to move. While one of the two boys wants nothing to do with it, the other, being a teenage male in a horror movie, decides to use the body for less than respectable purposes. Another friend joins in, then they discover that a bite from the girl will create more bodies for them to use.

Like I said, not a bad movie, just not particularly attention-holding. It made me realize that maybe I should step up the quality of the movies for the last 2. I followed my friend's suggestion on this one, but I don't think I could recommend this to anyone else.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

HMP #10 - Teeth

Horror Movie Project #10 - Teeth
Roadside Attractions, 2008
directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein
written by Mitchell Lichtenstein

I took a break this morning from my current obsession over steampunk fashion to watch Teeth for the tenth Horror Movie Project entry. It is...disturbing. The basic premise is a girl who discovers she has teeth in her nether regions and how that plays a part (usually a bloody one) in her interactions with men. There odd bits of humor here and there to break up the tension, but overall this is one of the more disturbing movies I've watched for this project. But that might be because I'm a dude. I'd be interested to hear the opinions of any female readers that have watched this. There's more focus on the emotional impact of the situation than on gore, which if you've been reading these entries you know I like.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HMP #9 - Little Shop Of Horrors

Horror Movie Project #9 - The Little Shop Of Horrors
The Filmgroup Inc, 1960
directed by Roger Corman
written by Charles B. Griffith

For well over a decade now, one of my favorite film musicals has been Little Shop Of Horrors, starring Rick Moranis. So when I saw that the original 1960 film that inspired the musical was streamable on Netflix, I knew I had an entry of the Horror Movie Project ready and waiting. After watching ThanskKilling, a film that tried way too hard to be hilariously bad, earlier in the project, it was fun watching a movie that was genuinely hilariously bad.

It's a good movie, it's just that it's very obviously a product of 50's and 60's sci-fi/horror. The writing isn't great, but Griffith obviously tried. And the acting is just fun to watch. Plus, it started the film career of Jack Nicholson. Nicholson is often used to sell the movie in more recent packaging, but his role is minimal. He plays the character Bill Murray played in the later version. But his portrayal of a masochistic dental patient is subdued but still disturbing, and I couldn't help but think of his later role in The Shining.

Overall, a fun movie to watch. Not scary, but fun. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Album Review - Creatures Of Routine

The Sweet Revenge - Creatures Of Routine (Death To False Hope, 2010)

(Available for donation from Death To False Hope.)

Despite what so many of my friends say, there are still good bands starting out. They aren't on the airwaves, and just barely make album charts usually. But they exist, you just have to dig for them. A good example is The Sweet Revenge.

I found this album while going through the archives of Death To False Hope, a donation-based digital label (like Quote Unquote). While DTFH has some great bands and great albums, Creatures Of Routine really stood out to me. The Sweet Revenge kinda remind me of the melodic hardcore of Strike Anywhere and Rise Against as well as the harder pop-punk of Latterman or Chinese Telephones.

The album is fantastic. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a very good reviewer because I don't say many bad things about the albums. But I honestly have nothing bad to say about this album. Well written, well performed blasts of punk rock (and in one case, a blast of folk) with some of the best lyrics I've ever heard from this area of music.  I even like the album art, which is usually one of the last things I pay attention to with albums. According to a tweet from the band (the band actually tweeted at me in response to my own tweet!) their singer Clint did the artwork, and as a nice touch they currently use the same style all over their Myspace and Twitter Pages.

Upbeat tempos, great guitar work along the lines of Face To Face, amazing lyrics performed excellently. Easily one of my top albums of 2010 (I'm in the early stages of a Best Of 2010 list for the end of the year, and this album is one of the few that I've already put on the list). A band and album that definitely deserve more recognition than they are currently getting. Check it out on the link above. There's no risk to getting the album, but please donate to the band if you like it. You can also stream it without downloading.

Favorite tracks: "Full House," "Don't Look Down," "Burning Pictures," and "The Ballad Of The Silver Gun"

HMP #8 - ThanksKilling

Horror Movie Project #8 - ThanksKilling
Warner Brothers (distributor), 2009
directed by Jordan Downey
written by Jordan Downey and Bradly Schulz

I watched this one after a friend jokingly recommended it, saying that he had just watched it and it was horrible. Sadly, I took his warning lightly and watched it anyway. And it was awful. They apparently had a budget of $3,5000 (according to Wikipedia). I won't fault a movie for having a small budget, being a firm believer that throwing money at a film won't magically make it better, but a better effort could have been done with that money.

I think what I hated about it most was the attempt at comedy. Movies that are so bad that they're funny is a long tradition in horror, but I hate movies that try to exploit that by intentionally being funny-bad. And the jokes aren't even that great. There were two very painful and outdated references to JonBenet Ramsey, and the first one was placed so oddly that I'm pretty sure they meant to take it out of the script and forgot. The effects were awful, too. Almost like they were an afterthought during the filming process. "Oh yeah, special effects. Whoops almost forgot them." If I weren't watching it for the Horror Movie Project, I probably would have stopped watching after the first 10 minutes.

I love independent cinema and will overlook certain flaws for the sake of supporting the underground, but movies like ThanksKilling give the underground a bad name. Just an awful, awful movie that I would not recommend to anyone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Concert Review - Two Cow Garage @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo NY, 10/22/1985

Two Cow Garage, Live @ Mohawk Place
Buffalo, NY
October 22, 2010

Welcome to the first ever concert review on the Library Punk. I went to this show on Friday and decided to take the weekend to think about it, rather than write the review right away. After all, how do you accurately summarize one of the best shows you have ever been to?

The show took place at Mohawk Place, a bar in Buffalo, NY. I had never been this venue before. It reminded me of my favorite bar in Dunkirk/Fredonia, only somewhat bigger. I liked the venue, and now that I know how easy it is to get there and get back to Dunkirk I would definitely go to another show at this venue.

The first band of the night was a post-hardcore band called from Vancouver called Carpenter. I had never heard of the band before seeing them on the concert bill, but they were amazing. Very high energy, with the members bouncing all over the stage. They kinda remind me of a poppier version of Hot Water Music as well as The Loved Ones. Definitely the kind of band I like. The songs were great and very well performed. I'm gonna have to check out their album.

The second band was a pop-punk band from Michigan called Cheap Girls. Interesting name, more great music. I was a bit more familiar with this band due to my interest in Quote Unquote Records, who offered a free/donation album from the band called Find Me A Drink Home. They were a bit more stationary than Carpenter, but no less energetic. The singer kinda reminds me of a punk rock Stephen Page (formerly of Barenaked Ladies), with a little bit of Josh Caterer (of Smoking Popes). In addition to being a punk crooner and a great bass player, he was also funny, at one point lightly making fun of an audience member for standing in front of the speaker.

Then finally Two Cow Garage came on stage. And they were phenomenal. I thought Carpenter were energetic, but Two Cow Garage made them look like shoegazers. Singer/guitarist Micah Schnabel and bassist/singer Shane Sweeney were all over the stage when not singing, crashing into each other quite often while never missing a note. And whenever he was at the mic but not playing guitar, Micah did a weird sort of dance (check out the music video for "Lydia" for an example"). They played every song I was hoping to hear, even though at least 2 or 3 of them I expected them to not play. I love those songs on the albums, but they took on an all new life hearing Micah (and in some cases Shane) sing them in person. The show ended and I wondered over the merch table, only for someone from the bar to walk over and tell Micah the band had to keep playing because the crowd wasn't leaving. So they played 3 or 4 more songs. I ended up right in front of the stage at that point, and hearing Micah sings some of my favorite songs from less than 10 feet away easily made the top 10 moments of my life.

Overall, the show left me very optimistic about music. People are debating the future of music right now because of piracy and the impending failure of labels, and lamenting the overall lack of good music on the airwaves, so to see three bands playing amazing music just because they want to play it was uplifting. Watching Carpenter, Cheap Girls and Two Cow Garage play their hearts out on stage made me realize that that's why I want to start a band. Not so I can play arenas, not so I can play Warped Tour, but so I can play music I believe in to 50 or 60 people in the back of a bar that are there because they want to hear it.

It was just an amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Easily one of the best shows I've ever been to.

HMP #7 - The Strangers

Horror Movie Project #7 - The Strangers
Rogue Pictures, 2008
directed by Bryan Bertino
written by Bryan Bertino

The seventh entry. Only six more left. What films still remain? Who knows. But today's entry is The Strangers. Never saw this when it came out, despite having a little bit of interest in it. I do remember it coming out in theaters around the same time as the remake of Funny Games, which seemed to have a similar premise (the original is on my Netflix instant queue, so it might end up being one of the remaining six).

Kristen and James, a young couple, are spending the night at James' family's summer home. A less than successful marriage proposal has left a heavy feeling in the air. The night goes from bad to horrifying when a trio of masked strangers begin terrorizing the couple. Much like the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the focus is more on the psychological drama of the situation, with very little attention paid to gore. In a cinematic era where torture porn dominates the horror scene, it was a nice change of pace. Suspense is scarier than blood splattered everywhere, and this movie does a great job at creating suspense. Definitely one of the better horror movies of the past decade, in my opinion.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

HMP #6 - Severance

Horror Movie Project #6 - Severance
Magnolia Pictures 2006
directed by Christopher Smith
written by Jason Moran

For this entry in my ongoing horror movie project, I chose to watch the British horror-comedy Severance. I mainly chose it because it is streaming on Netflix was relatively short, plus it's been in my Netflix instant queue for quite a while. The film is about a group of employees from the European arm of a weapons manufacturer called Palisades Defence. The group head to a company lodge in Hungary for a team-building weekend only to end up at the hands of sadistic killers with a grudge against Palisades.

Of the horror-comedies I've seen, the movie is amongst the less comedic ones, though there are a few good laughs. The focus is mainly on the horror side of things. I would recommend this to friends that like horror-comedies, but it's not on the same level as, for example, Shaun Of The Dead.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

HMP #5 - Dance Of The Dead

Horror Movie Project #5 - Masters Of Horror: Dance Of The Dead
Showtime, 2005
directed by Tobe Hooper
written by Richard Christian Matheson, based on the story by Richard Matheson

Today's horror "movie" is the third episode of the first season of Showtime's horror anthology series Masters Of Horror. Featuring Robert Englund in the kind of role he's best known for, Dance Of The Dead takes place in the near future. A bioterrorism weapon called Blizz causes a deadly rain in major US cities, killing those it touches. Some survive however, in a state known as L.U.P. (Lifeless Undead Phenomenon). If pumped with blood, "loopies" (as they come to be known) will do a spastic dance, which is exploited by a bar called The Doom Room to entertain crowds of questionable youth.

It's more or less what I could have expected from Tobe Hooper given the premise. It's good, but I'm glad it was an episode of an anthology series instead of a whole movie. Not sure I could have sat through a whole feature length version. Much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there's very little gore, with more focus on the psychological aspects. It was alright, but to be honest I wouldn't recommend it to anyone except diehard Englund fans an a handful of friends that like this kind of stuff.

Friday, October 22, 2010

HMP #4 - Dracula

Horror Movie Project #4 - Dracula
Universal Pictures, 1931
directed by Tod Browning
written by Garrett Fort, based on the stage play of the same name by Hamilton Deane & John Balderston, adapted from the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker

Another one with Bela Lugosi, this one much more entertaining. Tod Browning's Dracula is another one of the movies that I was ashamed to have never seen. Lugosi's portrayal of the titular vampire is legendary, with a noticeable and lasting influence on all later incarnations of the character. It's a great movie, but I do think that as far as horror goes, F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens is a much better Dracula movie. Dracula is brilliant, but it was made by a major American studio, and so the horror aspect gets kinda watered down for mainstream appeal. Murnau made Nosferatu in Germany in the 1920's, in the golden age of German cinema, so it doesn't hold back as much. And that film's Graf Orlok (due to copyright issues, all characters had different names) is a less refined, much more monstrous version of Count Dracula.

Overall, Dracula is a fine movie, but since black and white tends to put some people off and it kinda drags at times (as classics tend to do by modern standards), I can't really recommend it to anyone who isn't a fan of classic films, classic horror, or Dracula or Lugosi in general, and most of those people have probably already seen it. If you have seen it and liked it, though, I would definitely recommend Browning's next movie, the cult favorite Freaks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

HMP #3 - I Spit On Your Grave

Horror Movie Project #3 - I Spit On Your Grave
Cinemagic, 1978
directed by Meir Zarchi
written by Meir Zarchi

Originally titled Day Of The Woman, I Spit On Your Grave is possibly the least-recommendable movie I have ever seen. It's not that it's bad, it's that the premise is about as far from family-friendly as you can get. Basic plot: A woman from the city rents a summer home in a remote mountain town, where some locals rape her, beat her and leave her for dead. After nursing herself back to health, she hunts them down and kills them in terrible ways.

I got this on DVD a while ago. I had read about it in some article about exploitation cinema and then randomly saw it at FYE just a few days later. Except even as I type that I realize I'm wrong, I heard about it from seeing a t-shirt with the one-sheet on It was cheap, so I got it, watched about half and hour of it, then turned it off. I don't know why there are some many movies I've only watched part of and never finished, but there are a lot. Anyways, I figured this project would be a fun way to watch it all the way through.

On a side note, I think I Spit On Your Grave would be a good name for a crappy metalcore band. Or that Brokencyde "crunkcore" garbage.

HMP #2 - White Zombie

Horror Movie Project #2 - White Zombie
United Artists, 1932
directed by Victor Halperin
written by Garnett Weston

My second entry in my Horror Movie Project ended up being White Zombie, which I watched via the Internet Archive. I watched it yesterday, as per my decision to watch one every day, but I watched it so late that I didn't think I could stay awake long enough to write about it. Nor should I have, as I had to get up early for work this morning. So here's my write-up.

Quite frankly, I was a bit disappointed. I started watching this once, probably about a decade ago, and for a reason I don't remember never finished it. I found it on the IA and decided to watch it and just didn't like it that much. It's not a bad movie, I was just bored. I can appreciate the impact it has had, especially that it is considered the first real zombie movie. In the voodoo sense at least. The modern zombie didn't really show up until the 60's with Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. I think that maybe why I was disappointed is that I was expecting too much based on Bela Lugosi's reputation. Lugosi plays a voodoo master who helps a Haitian plantation owner turn the woman he loves into a zombie so she'll love him instead of her husband.

Like I said, I was bored, but it's not a bad movie and I would recommend it to any Lugosi fans or fans of classic horror.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

HMP #1 - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Horror Movie Project #1 - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Bryanston Distributing Company 1974
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel

"Who will survive and what will be left of them?"

I mentioned yesterday that I had decided to watch one new (to me) horror movie a day until Halloween, starting today. I decided to start with the classic slasher film, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I had never seen it, and I was kinda ashamed about that. Especially since I bought it back in March, and it sat on my DVD shelves since then.

From the hype around the movie, I actually expected it to be more gory and disturbing. But I think that's because I was listening to people who saw it when it first came out. The waves and waves of gore that came after it have numbed me to movie violence more than I though, I guess. I can see how at the time it would have been considered shocking (especially that truck scene at the end).

Regardless of its shock factor now, the movie is revolutionary, and for good reason. It pretty much invented the slasher genre, in the same way that Night Of The Living Dead invented modern horror. So much of what is iconic about the genre started here, such as the masked, unspeaking killer (Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc).

One thing I noticed early on was the obvious influence on House of 1000 Corpses. I knew Rob Zombie took influence from all over classic horror, but I feel like I understand that movie better now that I've seen the direct influence.  Then, as I was thinking about that, I saw a shot that Zombie had to have directly borrowed for Halloween 2. So obviously Rob Zombie is a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (Note: I feel like this could be interpreted as saying Zombie ripped off Hooper, and I just want to clarify that I am not saying that at all. Borrowing from other movies is a tradition in film, just as it is in music and pretty much all forms of art. I think that what Rob Zombie did with that influence is unique and excellent, especially his flipping of the idea of "the last girl left alive.")

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rob Dickins' £1 CD Plan

Starting tomorrow, October 19, I plan on watching one new horror movie (new to me, as some of the planned movies are quite old) a day until Halloween. With each new movie, I'll write a post about the movie and my reaction to it. I decided to do this partially because I drank some egg nog over the weekend and was ashamed of myself for skipping into the Christmas season and skipping Halloween. Another reason is that there are a lot of horror movies I haven't seen and I'm a bit ashamed of that. Non-related posts will also show up throughout those days.

That'll start tomorrow, though. Today I wanted to bring up this news story I found on ThePunkSite. (Fuller version of the story can be found via BBC News.) Rob Dickins, former head of the UK's branch of Warner Music has suggested a new way to combat music piracy. His suggestion? Lower prices.

What Dickins wants to do is drop the prices of CD's to £1, roughly 1.58 USD. On the surface, without much thought, it sounds like a decent idea. One of the main reasons for piracy is high prices, which make consumers unwilling to take the risk on music they haven't heard yet. At one pound, it's less of a risk. Dickins predicts a "major CD" selling 200 million copies.

The problem is that even though that's a lot of copies, it still doesn't work out to that much profit for the labels. Dickins implied suggestion around this is to supplement sales with 360 deals. For those unfamiliar with 360 deals, let me explain. Traditionally, a record deal involved a label putting up the money for recording an album and promotion of that album. After earning back their investment, the label then takes a percentage of sales of the album. In a 360 deal, the label gets a cut of all sources of income for a band, including ticket sales and non-music merchandise (t-shirts, for example). This deal kinda sucks for bands, as it greatly cuts into their earnings.

I have a problem with Dickins' plan, but I also have a problem with the criticisms. Jonathan Shalit, who according to the artcile "discovered Charlotte Church and manages N Dubz and Russell Watson," compared the suggested price to that of bottled water: "A piece of music is a valuable form of art. If you want the person to respect it and value it, its got to cost them not a huge sum of money but a significant sum of money." This reminds me of The Cure frontman Robert Smith's comments regarding Radioheads decision to make In Rainbows available for a fan-specified donation ("You can't allow other people to put a price on what you do, otherwise you don't consider what you do to have any value at all and that's nonsense").

I disagreed with Smith back then and I disagree with Shalit now. I'm a huge supporter of what Radiohead did, what Nine Inch Nails did, and what the artists on Quote Unquote Records and Death To False Hope Records. What I find most disagreeable about Shalit's statement is that it equates music to money. He's talking about a piece of music as a form of art, and that's fine. Music is a form of art. But to then say that it HAS to cost money to be worth anything pretty much contradicts that. I feel like that's not the best way to have worded it, but trying to think about his statement equating monetary value and artistic value makes me so mad that it's difficult to think straight.

Overall, I don't think album prices are the cause of the music industry's decline. It's more about album prices combined with shady business practices (360 deals, cheating artists out of royalties, etc) and the constant pushing of mediocre music as "the next big thing." I agree that major changes have to take place for big labels to remain relevant in the future of music, but I don't think this should be one of those changes.