Monday, August 30, 2010

Epic Songs - Honorable Mentions

I forgot to put this on my earlier post. A list of songs that were considered for the list but were cut for various reasons:

Don McLean - "American Pie"
Queen - "Bohemian Rhapsody"
The Decemberists - "The Island"
The Decemberists - "The Tain (Pts. I, II, III, IV and V)"
Colin Meloy - "California One/Youth & Beauty Brigade/Ask (live)"
Rush - "2112"
Green Day - the two long tracks from American Idiot
Subhumans - "From The Cradle To The Grave"
Tool - "Schism"
Metallica - "One"
Metallica - "Enter Sandman"

5 Epic Songs!

Epic songs are sorta hard to define. Is it epic because of the length? Because of the story it tells? Some other element? I tend to rely on the unmeasurable and unquantifiable x factor when talking about music, so that's what it comes down to for me. Which songs make me think "this song is EPIC!"

So without further ado, my top 5 epic songs.

5) The Tragically Hip - The Depression Suite (We Are The Same, Universal 2009)
The newest song on the list, "The Depression Suite" seems to be about a man contemplating suicide. It starts with him hiding under his pillow (with his lover asking "Are you going through something") and progresse  through several different phases, including keeping a straight face to hide true thoughts ("I will make my face a mask"), reflecting on futility ("I'm thinking just in passing, what if this song does nothing")  and the oddity of situations ("bring on the requisite strangeness, it always has to get a little weird") before finally settling on plans for ending it ("don't you want to see how it ends"). That's my interpretation, at least. Others may see it differently. The style shifts with the lyrics, making almost seem like several different songs mashed together.

4) NOFX - The Decline (The Decline EP, Fat Wreck Chords 1999)
Several years before Green Day released their American Idiot, NOFX had already mastered the long-form punk story-song. Inspired by the title track to From The Cradle To The Grave by The Subhumans (and beating its over 16 minute length about about 2 minutes) , "The Decline" is a punk rock masterpiece.  The "decline" of the title refers to the decline of American society, criticizing loss of rights, the rise of the conservative Christian right, the imbalance of economics, the harshness of drug laws and government lies and murder. The narrator ends up giving up, declaring that we have "lost the battle, lost the war, lost the things worth fighting for." "The Decline" finds Fat Mike at his cynical best.

3) Coheed & Cambria - Welcome Home (Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness, Columbia 2005)
Coheed & Cambria are one of the most epic bands in general, using their 5 studio albums to tell the story of the Amory Wars, in which Man and Prise try to break the Mage's rule over the Keywork (if that doesn't make sense, check out the forums of C&C fanpage Cobalt & Calcium, they have some pretty good explanations of the albums). If this list were longer, other songs by the band would probably make their way in, especially "No World For Tomorrow" from the album of the same name and "The Broken," "Here We Are Juggernaut" and "Guns Of Summer" from the prequel album Year Of The Black Rainbow. The shortest song on this list, "Welcome Home" is also one of the two best in terms of just the music. Lyrically, the song focuses not on Claudio Kilgannon or his uncle the Prize Fighter Inferno, but on the writer of the story, focusing his hatred and anger toward his former love, threatening to bury her. With an amazing acoustic intro, driving riffs and an extended musical bridge with Ooh's in the background, "Welcome Home" is a defining epic song.

2) The Decemberists - The Mariner's Revenge Song (Picaresque, Kill Rock Stars 2005)
"The Mariner's Revenge Song" opens in the belly of a whale with two sailors who survived their ships being swallowed. The narrator reveals that he has been following the other sailor, intending to kill him. The rest of the song tells the story of how the narrator encountered the other man when he was "a child of three" and the other man was a "a lad of 18." The narrator explains how the other man seduced his widowed mother, then left her with all his debt. On her deathbed, the now mentally unbalance mother makes her son promise to "find him, bind him, tie him to a pole and break his fingers to splinter, drag him to a hole until he wakes up naked clawing at the ceiling of his grave." The boy lives as an orphan for 15 years before taking a job in a priory, where he overhears a whaler describing his captain to the prior. Convinced that the captain is the man he's looking for, the narrator joins a privateer to track down his ship. After several months, the narrator is finally closing in on the other man's ship when both are swallowed by a whale. The narrator proclaims that both of them being the only survivors means that it's a divine will that he should kill the other man, and the song ends with the narrator telling him to lean close so he can "whisper the last words you'll hear." A great recording of the song can be heard here. I highly recommend listening to it.

1) Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd, MCA 1973)
What other song could possibly be number 1? This song is THE epic song. Having it stuck in my head is what made me decide to write this post in the first place. For the first 4 1/2 minutes, the song is slowish and ballad-y, with an easy going acoustic guitar, some piano and some great slow blues in the background as Van Zant sings lyrics inspired by a band member's girlfriend's insecurities over devotion to the band. After that, the song kicks in to a rocking guitar solo that last over 4 minutes. One of the greatest studio solos ever recorded, and in the live recording it gets even better. I'm gonna stop typing and go listen to right now.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Album Review - We Chase The Waves

Short post today, I have to go get ready for work.

Sundowner - We Chase The Waves (Asian Man Records, 2010)

This album is absolutely fantastic. I first heard about Sundowner around the same time I started listening to Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry. I loved the idea of these punk rockers picking up acoustic guitars and making something different, so I was browsing iTunes in the "other customers bought this" section and came across Four One Five Two, Sundowner's first album.

Sundowner is the acoustic alter-ego of Chris McCaughan of Chicago punks The Lawrence Arms. There's an interview regarding this album over at

I've listened to the album in its entirety about 6 or 7 times since it came out on August 10th. The guitar parts are simple, but effective. The lyrics are often beautiful and Chris sings them very well. The album doesn't have the cello parts that Four One Five Two had, but the songs are so well performed that they aren't needed as much as they were on the first album. Highlight tracks for me are "Araby" (which I can't quite tell if it's a reference to James Joyce's short story of the same name) and "As The Crow Flies" ("I've got strings and calloused fingers, a scratchy throat, a melody that lingers," "I've got a bunch of notes I've scribbled down, I think I can make a song somehow").

Lawrence Arms bassist and co-vocalist Brendan Kelly also has a solo album expected out soon, which I am very excited about. So hopefully in the next few months I'll be able to write about that.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Internet Archive

One of my favorite things on the Internet is the Internet Archive. It's actually one of the things that drew me to the field of Library Science. Citing the burning of the library at Alexandria and the recycling of old films as inspirations, the IA exists to preserve our cultural artifacts.

One example is music. The IA hosts an impressive collection of live recordings from a number of bands. Sometimes the bands themselves submit the recordings. Other times, fans submit recordings of shows that they made after the band has submitted a letter saying it was ok. Some bands, such as Defiance, Ohio) also host albums that they've made available under a Creative Commons license. Another example is movies. The IA hosts an equally impressive collection of films, both feature length and otherwise. Old cartoons are also in the archive, including Betty Boop.

Here are some specific collections the IA hosts:

Grateful Dead - The IA has an agreement with the people that represent the Grateful Dead. Under this agreement, the IA can host a huge collection of live recordings of the band.

Prelinger Archives - The Prelinger archives are an assortment of ephemeral films collected by Rick Prelinger. The collection includes industrial training films, educational films (including the infamous "Duck And Cover") and drive-in movie ads. The IA site includes a link to the archive's official site, which features a downloadable guide to the ephemeral films in the collection.

The Way Back Machine - One thing the IA was created to do was to archive webpages. It does this through the Way Back Machine. According to its site at the IA, the WBM is a collection of over 150 billion webpages with the various versions archived as far back as 1996 to as recently as a few month ago.

Project Gutenberg - Gutenberg is an outside project that hosts its files on the IA. The project is a collection of public domain texts in a variety of languages from a variety of time periods and places covering a variety of subjects. Named for the man who invented the printing press, the project collected these works so anyone could read them without having to pay. After all, why should you have to pay to read a book that was written 200 years ago?

Librivox - I don't think this is an actual set-apart collection. Librivox provides free audio book versions of texts found on Gutenberg. The audio is recorded by amateur volunteers, so the sound quality and voices aren't always the best, but it's an interesting alternative to professional audiobooks.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

5 Essential Folk Punk Releases

Last week, I wrote about some of my favorite county-punk bands. So for today, I thought I'd write about a closely-related genre, folk punk. Folk and punk are not as far apart as some people like to think. Both are based on simple musical ideas that anyone can play, so it's not much of a stretch to combine the two ideas. Rather than write about some bands from the genre like I did with country-punk, I decided to list what I consider to be 5 essential folk punk releases.

In no particular order:

The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God
The original Irish folk punk group, The Pogues are one of the most well-known examples of the genre. This album was chosen for the list because it has my two favorite Pogues songs (the title track and "A Fairytale Of New York"), and also because of my two favorite Pogues albums (the other being Pogue Mahone) it is the only one to feature their original singer, Shane Macgowan (thought co-vocalist Spider Stacy did a good job filling in after Macgowan's departure).

The Zydepunks - ...And The Streets Will Flow With Whiskey
I have no idea how I heard about this band, but their blend of punk ideals and New Orleans zydeco is truly unique. The band sings mainly in French, so I think I would appreciate the album even more if I weren't so limited in language. One of my favorite tracks on the album ("Bwamba's Ramble"), however, is in English, at least partially (the lyrics trade lines between English and French). I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something they haven't heard before.

Spoonboy - I Love You, This Is A Robbery
David Combs, better known by his stage name Spoonboy, is/was the front man of a pop-punk band called The Max Levine Ensemble (I can't quite determine the active status of the band).  In 2005 he released I Love You, This Is A Robbery, a folk punk album consisting mainly of himself singing and playing acoustic guitar. Much like TMLE, the songs are short, mainly fast and recorded in a very lo-fi, cheap manner. Spoonboy has been a big part of the Plan-It-X Records scene, so it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone familiar to the genre that he made this list.

Andrew Jackson Jihad/Ghost Mice - Split
I was tempted to put Can't Maintain by AJJ on this list, but I decided that this split release was more descriptive of the folk punk idea, as well as a way to get both bands on the list without having to bump another release. Highlights of the release (in my opinion) are "We Shall All Die Alone Someday" by AJJ and "Oh Me, Oh Me" by GM.

Against Me! - The Acoustic EP
Recorded before their legendary fall from grace in the underground punk scene, The Acoustic EP is mainly made up of songs that would later be re-recorded by the band. Songs like "Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong" and "Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious" help cement the band in folk punk history before they started adding electric guitars, signing to bigger labels and appealing more to arena rock fans than Pabst-drinking bearded punks. The album is one of the finest punk EPs ever recorded (in my opinion), so I would highly recommend it if you like recent AM! and want to hear earlier work or if you just want to know what folk punk is.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nickelodeon Nostalgia, Part 6

The second part of my post about 90's Nickelodeon cartoons. Keep in mind, if I don't mention it here, I probably didn't watch it.

Hey Arnold! - I just watched the first episode on Netflix earlier today (side note: isn't Netflix one of the greatest things ever?). The show focused on a 4th grader by the name of Arnold (obviously) who lives in a big city (I don't think they ever said specifically what city it is). The show was about his day-to-day life hanging out with his friend Gerald. Also featured were the school bully Helga, her friend/lackey Phoebe and an assortment of other students and teachers. Arnold lived his grandparents in a boarding house that they own, so Arnold also interacted with an assortment of residents (one episode focused on Arnold collecting rent with Gerald). What I remember most about the show was the confusion regarding Arnold's clothing. Despite it being explained several times that he wears a long plaid shirt under his sweater, I remember a lot of people thought he wore a kilt or skirt.

The Angry Beavers - Angry Beavers focused on two beavers (Norbert and Dagget) who are forced to live on their own when their mother gives birth to new kids. They build a dam and interact with other animals in the forest, including a R&B singing bear and a shrew named Truckee. Norbert was always my favorite, though I suppose I was probably more like Dagget. The voice of Dagget later voiced the title character on my all-time favorite Nicktoon, Invader Zim (which I'm not writing about because it started after the 90's). A very weird show that I think was sadly underrated.

Spongebob Squarepants - What discussion of Nicktoons would be complete without mentioning Spongebob Squarepants. Now in its second decade (it started in 1999, so I decided to include it despite most of it being produced in the new millenium), Spongebob is one of the longest running series on Nickelodeon, as well as one of few Nicktoons to have a theatrical film spinoff (and also the only show I've written about that's still on the air). For anyone who has somehow not heard of it, the show focuses on the adventures of Spongebob Squarepants, a square sponge that lives in a pineapple, has a snail for a pet (Gary) and works at the Krusty Krab, a fast food restaurant. A great show that has had an impressive history with voice acting (both regular cast and guest appearances).

So that's it. Those are the shows I remember watching and being a fan of. I might at some point do more recent cartoons (started in or after 2000), because Nickelodeon's history of cartoons extends long after Spongebob.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nickelodeon Nostalgia, Part 5

Yesterday was my 25th birthday. I think that puts me in the right nostalgic frame of mind to write a post about 90's Nickelodeon. I would like to point out before I start that these are the cartoons I regularly watched and considered myself a fan of. Please don't bug me with "What about THIS cartoon?" because I probably just didn't like it.

Rugrats - For my generation, Rugrats is possibly the most well-known Nickelodeon cartoon, if you include the movies and the spin-off series, All Grown Up (if not, the most well-known, second only to The Ren & Stimpy Show). For the 5% of people who haven't heard of it, Rugrats followed the adventures of 4 babies (Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, and twin Phil and Lil DeVille) as well as two slightly older kids (Tommy's cousin Angelica and Susie Carmichael, the latter of which joined later in the series). Various adventures included a trip through "Mirrorland," being locked in a toy store, setting sea monkeys free at the beach and fighting various monsters. For me, the show kinda jumped the shark when Tommy's brother Dil was born (and jumped it again when Kimi joined the series as Chuckie's stepsister after the second movie), but I watched this show regularly since the first episode (which featured Tommy's first birthday).

Doug - Other than Ren & Stimpy, Doug comes closest to the popularity of Rugrats. In fact, Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi has apparently stated that of Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy and Doug, Nickelodeon thought Doug would be the big hit. The show followed Doug (full name Douglas Yancy Funnie), who, in the first episode, has just moved with his family to Bluffington. The show also regularly featured Doug's best friend Skeeter Valentine, his crush Patti Mayonnaise, school bully Roger Klotz, dimwitted next door neighbor Bud Dink (who constantly bought new gadgets and device that were "very expensive) and Doug's family (father Phil, mother Theda, theater-obsessed sister Judy and dog Porkchop). The show also often featured the music of a fictional band, The Beets. The show only ran for  a few seasons on Nickelodeon, but was later picked up by Disney to run on Saturday mornings on ABC. The later seasons were not very good.

Rocko's Modern Life - By this point I've realized that for my generation, most Nicktoons were well-known, and this one was no exception. Rocko followed a wallaby named Rocko as he interacted with his sog Spunky and his friends friends Heffer (a steer that was adopted by a family of wolves) and Filburt (a turtle that later married a cat). Other regular characters included Ed and Bev Bighead (frogs that lived next door to Rocko, Ed was ill-tempered toward Rocko and his friends and Bev was ill-tempered toward Ed), Gladys (a hippo that usually ended up angry when interacting with Rocko), Chuck and Leon (chameleon brothers) and Mr. Dupette (Ed's boss and Rocko's former boss). The show was aimed at children like all other Nicktoons, but there quite a few double entendres (for example, the show featured a fast food restaurant called Chokey Chicken.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters - If Rugrats is one of the most well-known cartoons from Nick, Real Monsters is one of the least well-known. And even among those that remember it, most seem to have not liked it. I can't understand why, because I loved this show. The show followed a trio of monsters that attended a school to learn how to scare children. The main focus was on Ickis, a red, rabbit-like monster (who was, in fact, often mistaken for a rabbit) who's special ability was to grow super-huge. Ickis was nervous and often messed up his scaring assignments, but at times found the courage to save himself and his friends, and once pulled all the monsters together to protect their existence. He lived in the dorm with his two roommates, Oblina (a shape-shifter who could also pull her internal organs out through her mouth to scare) and Krumm (who scared using his eyes, which he carried in his hands, and his overpowering stench). The three were taught by The Gromble, and when necessary were disciplined by The Snorch. I was very excited to find out that the entire series is streamable on Netflix.

This is getting longer than I meant for it, so I'll save the rest for tomorrow. Thanks for reading.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Country Punk is awesome!

Country punk. Cow punk. Alt-Country. Alt-American. Y'all-ternative. Call it what you want, but in recent years the idea of blending the musical ideals of punk and alternative rock with those of country and Americana has become more common. The idea is nothing new, going back well over a decade, but there seem to be more of these bands now than ever before. I feel like this is a weak intro, so I'll just jump into the meat of this post, some of my favorite bands of this genre:

Tim Barry - The first alt-Americana artist I ever heard, thanks to his track "Idle Idylist" being featured on the Protect compilation. Tim was the front man of a punk band called Avail, but when that band took a break he picked up his acoustic guitar and started recording heartfelt folk songs that still maintained his punk rock spirit. He also jumps freight trains and until recently lived in a shed with no plumbing and only a little electricity, which makes him way more country than Toby Keith.

Two Cow Garage - The first full band I ever heard that was described as cow-punk. Also one of the first three albums I got from Suburban Home Records was their album III (the other two being Tim Barry, which is the album I originally intended to buy, and Josh Small). Originally a three-piece band, but I think they have a fourth member now. A perfect blend of country and alternative rock, they define the genre better than Wilco's predecessor Uncle Tupelo, who are more well-known but not as good.

Tarkio/Happy Cactus - Long before he formed the hyper-literate prog rock (Stephen Colbert's description) The Decemberists, indie rock icon Colin Meloy made alt-Americana. First as part of the Montana based Happy Cactus (their only album, Cricket, can be downloaded here), then later with the relatively more well-known Tarkio. Happy Cactus ain't so great, they are mentioned here mainly because they were a precursor to Tarkio and Meloy's later work. Tarkio, on the other hand, are excellent. Acoustic guitars, banjos, slide guitars, etc, back up some great lyrics that sound fittingly like if The Decemeberists recorded a concept album about working on a farm in Montana.

Lucero - I'm wearing my Lucero shirt right now. It might be why I decided to write this post, or it might just be coincidence. I first heard about Lucero last year when I was going through a pretty heavy Jawbreaker phase (the band, not the candy or the Rose MacGowan movie). I heard that Lucero had released a cover of Jawbreaker's "Kiss The Bottle" on their b-sides and rarities collection The Attic Tapes and I decided to give it a listen. They quickly became one of my favorite bands (their newest album, 1372 Overton Park, just barely missed being in my top 10 albums posts, cut only because it's so new). Like Two Cow Garage, a perfect blend of country and punk, but with a fuller band sound (the two bands' singers even have the same rough quality). Frontman Ben Nichols can pull off heartbreaking like nobody's business (check out Overton's "Can't Feel A Thing," especially the line "nothing short of dying's gonna bring me any peace, but I ain't really worried cuz I can't feel a thing").

Chuck Ragan - Former/current co-singer/co-guitarist of Hot Water Music. When that band went on hiatus a few years ago, Chuck went back to construction. Feeling the itch to make music, he picked up an acoustic guitar and harmonica and started playing open mics. This eventually led to a live album, Los Feliz, which led to a studio album, Feast Or Famine, which led to other albums, including a collaboration with fellow punker-turned-folker Austin Lucas. Despite one of my two favorite HWM tracks being sung by the other gutiarist/singer Chris Wollard ("Trusty Chords" from 2002's Caution), Chuck was always my favorite element of HWM. HWM are back together again, but Chuck keeps playing solo on the side.

Drag The River - The ultimate semi-obscure underground country-punk band. Drag The River formed from the ashes of the pop-punk band Armchair Martian. After several fan-acclaimed albums, the band called went on hiatus not too long ago, and I'm not sure of their current status. The co-founders Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price have released solo albums (Visitor's Band and Smile Sweet Face, respectively). With a revolving-door membership, other members have included punk scene favorites J.J. Nobody and Karl Alvarez.

The Revival Tour - This is not an artist, more a very loose collection of artists that tour together. Chuck Ragan (who I believe started the tour), Tim Barry, Austin Lucas and Ben Nichols are all regulars. The tour has also featured Jon Snodgrass, Chris Wollard, Tom Gabel of Against Me! and Kevin Seconds of 7Seconds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tattoo Ideas

Honestly, at this point I don't think I'll ever get a tattoo, and I'm ok with that. I have thought a lot about what I would want, though. Here are some of the more serious tattoo considerations I've had in recent years.

"Sing Along Forever" - The title of a Bouncing Souls song. I considered getting it across my shoulder blades (look at the cover of Sublime's self-titled album to get an idea of what I meant).

"To Thine Own Self Be True" - Spoken by Polonius to Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet. I would have gotten it across my chest, just under the collarbone from shoulder to shoulder. It probably would have been in the same font as the one above, but maybe not. Doesn't really matter since I'll never do it.

"True Believers" - Another Bouncing Souls reference. This one would have been somehow involved music notes or a snippet of sheet music.

Peace Love Unity - This one is a reference to Anti-Flag. Specifically, their lead singer, Justin Sane, who often ends his writings with the phrase. I wouldn't have gotten words, I would have used symbols to represent them. A peace sign for Peace, a heart for Love, and I never figured out one simple symbol to use for Unity.

Buddha - An image of Gautama Buddha. Probably on the back of one of my calves. Out of respect for him and his message, not out of any Buddhist beliefs.

Sanskrit chant - Don't know which chant or why, and never picked a specific spot for it.

various hardcore references - Over the years there have been lyrics in songs by hardcore punk bands, song titles, album titles, band logos, or abstract ideas associated with hardcore that I thought would make a good tattoo. But none of them ever developed enough in my mind to be a real idea, just random thoughts.

Nataraja - A depiction of Shiva as the cosmic dancer. His dance is meant to destroy our universe so Brahma can recreate it. I just thought it would make an awesome tattoo. Probably all across my back, so if I ever went through with plans I would have to find a way to compromise with the Sing Along Forever tattoo. Possibly on an upper arm instead.

Logo battle - This started as a joke with friends but I think I would actually like to see it as a tattoo. Not on me, but on someone. A battle scene with the logos of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc, fighting to the death. Awesome.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nickelodeon Nostalgia, Part 4

At least one more of these posts before cartoons. There's so much to say about the cartoons that I'm trying to think of how I can make an adequate post that isn't extremely long. So for now, the odds and ends. The things that aren't cartoons, sitcoms or game shows, just random shows or features.

The Adventures of Pete & Pete - I know I wrote about the sitcom back in the first Nick Nostalgia post, but it didn't originate as a sitcom. It was originally short bits shown during commercial breaks. Some of them were released as a bonus feature on the Season 1 DVD. Not sure about Season 2, I don't have that DVD set yet.  A full list of the shorts can be found here.

What Would You Do? - Hosted by Marc Summers, this show is listed on Wikipedia as a game show, but from my memory it didn't really fit that description. Maybe it's just been too long and I'm not remembering right. There are some clips on Youtube that might explain it better than I can.

SNICK - SNICK (Saturday Night Nick) wasn't a show or feature, it was a programming block that lasted for two hours every Saturday night starting in the early 90s, featuring the Big Orange Couch. The line ups varied (the line ups can be viewed here), but most of the shows I remember from my youth were featured at some point. I stopped watching shortly after it became Snick House, because I couldn't stand Nick Cannon. I tried watching once when it became TEENick, but I was obviously too old to enjoy what they were showing by that point.

Nick in the Afternoon - This was a programming block that aired weekday afternoons for a few years during the summer. The block was hosted by Stick Stickly, a popsicle stick with goggly eyes. It had features like U-Pick where viewers picked what show would air next. Another feature involved Stick being dipped into concoctions suggested by viewers, he then had to guess what he was in. Stick Stickly was my first lesson in how jingles effect viewers. Even today I can remember the address to send letters to Stick ("Write to me, Stick Stickly, PO Box 963, New York City, New York State, 10108," typed completely from memory). Now that I think about it, Nick in the Afternoon might be why I remember You Can't Do That On Television, since that show originally aired so long ago that I shouldn't really remember it, but they used to show the older shows sometimes.

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

So the reason there was no post yesterday was a sudden change in plans to go see Scott Pilgirm vs The World. My friends and I had planned on seeing it in the evening, so I woke up, ran some errands, and decided to eat lunch then write the post. But plans changed, and we ended up seeing it earlier, so I didn't have time to write. So here's my first entry for today. Apologies to my friend at Nerdemic if it seems like I'm stepping on the toes of his own review of the film.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Let me start this review by saying that I haven't read the comics. This review is not to point out differences between the film and the comics, nor is it to compare the two. I will be talking about the film on its own merits as much as possible.

The first thing I noticed was the Universal Pictures logo at the very beginning of the film. The first few minutes of any movie are important because they set the tone for the rest of the movie. Usually, the distributing studio interferes by shoving their logo in. In rare cases, the studio allows their logo to be altered to fit the tone. In the case of Scott Pilgrim, the logo is pixelated to resemble a classic video game, the usual music replaced by an 8-bit version. The second I saw it, I knew I was in for a good movie.

The film very much resembles a video game, a trait that I'm told comes from the comic books and I'm glad writer/director/Edgar Wright kept it. 1-ups, coins from defeated enemies, boss-level style music shifts and a one-time-only "pee bar" make it almost feel like you're watching a friend play a video game, a unique vibe that I've never seen in a movie. The film balances this with a comic book vibe, as well. Animated lightning bolts, sound waves, narrative or descriptive blocks of text and onomatopoeic sound effect words (think Adam West Batman, but less intrusive) keep the the comic book vibe constant.

Through the comic book and video game vibe, the film displays the Edgar Wright touch. Repeated dialogue, slightly altered repeated dialogue and new dialogue that feels repeated create the perfect atmosphere early in the film. By "feels repeated," I mean the actors recite the dialogue in a way that feels as though the characters have said the same things before in previous conversations. I noticed a similar trait in Wright's earlier film, Shaun Of The Dead, and also to a lesser degree in his Hot Fuzz. Like I said, I didn't read the comics, so I don't know how much of the repeated dialogue is Wright's and how much is from Bryan Lee O'Malley, who wrote the comics. But either way, it has been noticed as a staple of Wright's work, so perhaps he just found the perfect source material for himself.  Another Wright staple that shows up is rapid cuts, especially in the first half hour or so of the film. There's one scene in particular in which one rapid cut after another keep the tone consistant but the topic of conversation changing. The changes are so quick that it took me a second or two to realize it was a different scenario. It reminded me of a cene from Shaun Of The Dead near the beginning, but without a handy copy of the DVD I can't recall what scene specifically.

Well-written dialogue, excellent editing, great acting. The strongest thing Scott Pilgrim has going for it, though, is the music. Several established musicians worked with Wright on the music. Beck wrote and performed original songs for Scott Pilgrim's band, Sex Bo-Bomb. The songs performed by rival band Crash And The Boys were written by members of Broken Social Scene. And Metric (who are from Toronto, where the movie takes place) provided the song performed by The Clash At Demonhead, as well as providing inspiration for the style of their singer, Envy. Bek also wrote a song that Scott writes for his girlfriend, Ramona, and performs in on the soundtrack.

A lot of thought was put into how the music would be used in the film, and it shows. I don't think I've ever seen a movie where the music played such an important part in a film. Even music-centric films don't incorporate the music to the degree that Scott Pilgrim does. Two battles against Evil Ex's heavily involve music, including a "bass battle," during which several minutes of the score are composed entirely  of two bass guitars. Scott's band and their struggle to win a battle of the bands and get an album deal are intricately tied into the story. The score and the chosen songs were written and chosen with care, and in the end that effort makes the movie so much more amazing than it possibly could have been without it.

It should also be noted that the choreography is also amazing. It's a perfect balance of epic action and humor, without the silliness of martial arts parody movies.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No real post today

There won't be a real post today. Something came up suddenly and I don't have time to write something longer than this. I'm planning two posts tomorrow to make up for it. Sorry to all 3 of my regular readers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Album Review - Pin Points & Gin Joints

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Pin Points and Gin Joints (Big Rig, 2009)

There's not much new ground covered on Pin Points and Gin Joints, the eight studio album by Boston MA's The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. But The 'Tones perfected their style years ago, so why mess with perfection. I don't mean to say that the album is a boring retread of previous albums. Quite the opposite. Pin Points is an exciting, upbeat get-out-of-your-seat kind of album, While not straying from previous styles they've played, there is enough variation that they aren't playing the same thing over and over. The band went on hiatus shortly after their last album, 2002's A Jackknife To A Swan. This is their first studio release since getting back together (though a b-sides collection, Medium Rare, was released in 2007) and the band are as great as they've ever been. The horns are tight and the drums are consistently rocking. There's an interesting interplay between the reggae and ska oriented guitar parts and the distorted, alt-rock guitar parts. Joe Gittleman bounced back from the hiatus of his other band, Avoid One Thing, and is still rocking out on bass (listen to the interlude in the song You Left Right?). And of course, Dicky Barrett still has one of the most distinct voices in ska.

The entire album is great, but there are some highlight tracks (in my opinion): 
"Graffiti Worth Reading," with its insistance that "graffiti worth reading is rarely written on walls that are worth writing on."
"Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah" with it's easily singable chorus (the title line, which for any other band would be, well, kinda lame, but The 'Tones makes it awesome.
"The Route That I Took," in which the narrator examines the choices he's made. Touching but with an upbeat yet easygoing rhythm. My favorite song to listen to from this album.
"I Wrote It." It seems to me to be a kinda abstract examination of which is more important, the creative act or the end creation.
"Death Valley Vipers." Just fun to listen to. And one of the more unique songs on the album.

The only real problem I have with this album is the original release. It has nothing to do with the sound, the artwork, the band, or anything else, just the timing. This album came out in December and I bought it and listened to it in the middle of horrible snow. It was playing in my car as I fought to stay on the road in a Western New York winter. It just wasn't the right environment for the album. To me, The 'Tones have always been a band that just feels right when the sun is shining. I decided to review this album when I listened to it while I was driving on a sunny summer day. The band sound awesome any time, but they just have a summer feel to them (for me at least) and I can't help but feel like this album would have made a bigger impact on me at first listen if it hadn't been below zero. Overall, though, a great album by an amazing band, and I can't wait to hear their next one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Favorite Webcomics

Do you read webcomics? You should, they're awesome. Here are some I read:

A library-themed webcomic? Indeed it is! The main character, a young adult librarian named Dewey, was one of my main inspirations for going to library school. Set in the Mallville Public Library, the strip also features computer-hating old-school librarian Colleen, by-the-book library manager Mel, super-friendly vegan children's librarian Tamara, troubled library page Buddy the Book Beaver, scheming adolescent Merv and Ned the naked lawyer.

Questionable Content
A comedic, indie rock oriented soap opera in (usually) four-panel form. One of only a handful of strips I read everyday. I would recommend starting at the very beginning and working your way to the beginning.

Nothing Nice To Say
Written and drawn by the amazing Mitch Clem, NN2S was the self-proclaimed first punk rock webcomic. The strip followed roommates Blake and Fletcher as they listened to punk rock, played in their band and interacted with a number of other subculture characters. Mitch has been busy doing album art (including every release in Vinyl Collective's Under The Influence series), comics for zines (specifically Razorcake, which he also writes for sometimes) and who knows what else, so NN2S hasn't updated in quite a long time, but every once in a while I reread the archives.

Multiplex, Theater Hopper
Two seperate webcomics by two different authors, but I put them together to keep the post from getting too long. Both of these are movie based. Multiplex takes the long-form story format, kinda like Questionable Content. The strip takes place in a movie theater and deals with the day-to-day drama of the employees, who often talk about movie news. Parodies of and references to specific movies are common. Theater Hopper used to have movie-related story arcs, but due to the increasingly busy personal life of its creator it has been cut down to one update a week and most strips are now standalone stories.

Cyanide & Happiness, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Again, two seperate comics made by different people. However, both are daily strips that don't have storylines (though C&H occasionally has a few days with a common theme). C&H is made with simple stick figure drawings (though later strips are relatively more complex than the earlier strips) and is drawn a a couple different people. The humor is dark and it's probably the least family-friendly strip I read. SMBC is often compared to The Far Side. Each strip is self-contained and is usually composed of one panel and a caption, though it often breaks this format. The humor is bizarre and occasionally crude. It is probably the most nerd-friendly strip I read, as the content often involves math jokes, physics jokes, classic literature, comic book references and philosophy.

My Stupid LifeSan Antonia Rock City
Both of these are/were autobiographical webcomics by Mitch Clem. SARC was about him and his then-girlfriend after their move to San Antonio. After they broke up, Mitch officially retired the comic. My Stupid Life is about Mitch and his fiancee, fellow webcomic artist Nation of Amanda. MSL hasn't updated in over a year due to other projects Mitch is working on.

Other webcomics I either don't read anymore or only read occasionally:
Rob And Elliot
Joe And Monkey
21 Dead Monkeys (apparently updating again, I might have to make it a daily read again)
Beaver And Steve
Cat And Girl
The Perry Bible Fellowship

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Album Review: The Mighty Regis - 21

The Mighty Regis - 21 (self-released, 2010)

Celtcore is a hard genre to be in if you don’t like being compared to other bands. No matter what a band sounds like, it will inevitably be compared to the Dropkick Murphys (if the band is on the punkier side), the Pogues (if it’s on the folkier side) or Flogging Molly (if it’s somewhere in between). A reviewer with more diverse tastes might even compare to the Tossers (for the folkier side) or the Real McKenzies (for bands that sway more Scottish than Irish). I’d be against these constant comparisons if most Celtcore bands didn’t fit so neatly into them.

Then I heard the Mighty Regis playing the Kevin Says stage at Warped Tour. If ordered at gunpoint to make a comparison, I would have to say they’re closest to Flogging Molly (with whom the Mighty Regis are friends, and in fact started at Molly Malone’s, the LA pub where Flogging Molly also got their start and their name). However, the Mighty Regis manage to cut a unique sound from the now widespread blending of Irish and Scottish folk with punk. I can’t quite explain what makes them so unique (I guess it’s an x-factor kinda thing), but you can hear it for yourself on the band’s latest release, 21.

The band doesn’t go for the diehard street punk vibe of Dropkick Murphys, staying more mellow and fun. The result is that this is a full-on party album instead of, well, whatever feeling the Murphys give people (for me, they just make me want to run around punching stuff). And unlike most albums by the Murphys or every album by their brethren Flogging Molly, there isn’t a single ballad on the album. The band never breaks down to just acoustic guitar and vocals with maybe some slight accordion or tin whistle. The closest the band gets is on the mid-tempo “Those That Gone Before” (to be fair, the song is just very light instrumentation and vocals for the first 45  seconds before the rest of the band kicks in) or the mostly instrumental closer “Jeni’s Whiskey.”

In only 3 albums, the band seem to have mastered the delicate blend of instruments involved in Celtcore faster than other bands of the genre. Dropkick Murphys are set apart from other punk bands by the non-traditional use of folk elements. Flogging Molly modernize Irish folk by adding electric guitars. The Real McKenzies started as a punk band and added bagpipes as revenge to their heritage loving parents that dressed them in kilts in their youth. By contrast, the Mighty Regis make acoustic guitars and mandolins sound perfectly natural next to electric guitars. For good examples, see “Paddy Don’t Live In Hollywood,” “Celtic Storm,” and “The Junkyard Dog And The Parlor Cat” (on that last one, I didn’t even notice the mandolin the first time through).

Overall, I think 21 straddles a fine line. Any previous fan of Celtcore should love the album, or at least fall on the more positive side of toleration. And I think most of my friends that don’t like Celtcore would be able to listen to it without wincing. Who knows, might even convert some of them to fans.

Just for fun, here’s a video of the band playing Flogging Molly’s “The Worse Day Since Yesterday” with Molly’s own Matt Hensley on accordion.

Side note: I didn’t mean to imply in that first paragraph that I don’t like Celtcore, but I feel like I came across as critical of the genre. I love Celtcore. I own several albums by the bands mentioned. I own both volumes of Shite & Onions and subscribe to the PaddyRock podcast. So I really do like Celtcore, I just feel like there’s not a lot of unique bands.

Side note 2: I do see the oddness of starting the post complaining about comparisons and then spending the rest of the post comparing. What I meant in the first paragraph was comparisons composed of “they sound like...” Later on, I mentioned the other bands to show the relative differences of the Mighty Regis. That may not be any better, but at least I didn’t just say “the Mighty Regis sound like Flogging Molly.”

This is the digital download version, for the physical CD click here: 21

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Creative Commons

Today's post is dedicated to Creative Commons licenses and the non-profit corporation that created them, something I care very much about.

For those who don't know, Creative Commons licenses are rights licenses that fill in the grey area between copyright and public domain. If the creator of a work releases that work to the public domain, they no longer have full control. Anyone is free to use the work in any way they want. By contrast, copyright means the creator still has full control over how other people are able to use the work. Creative Commons fills in the space between. Certain rights are still owned by the creator while others are released.

How the rights are set up is decided by the creator. Creative Commons licenses have different conditions that can be applied in any combination: Attribution (by), Share Alike (sa), Non-Commercial (nc), and No Derivative Works (nd). For more information about what these mean, and about the different ways they can be combined, I encourage you to read the page about licenses on the Creative Commons website.

Creative Commons (the company) are currently involved in a bit of a struggle with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the main group in the US for protecting copyrights of its members and collecting licensing fees on their behalf). The president of ASCAP recently sent out a fundraising letter (I was unable to find the letter itself, though I have seen it, so here are two Twitpic posts of part 1 and part 2 of the letter) to ASCAP members claiming, among other things, that money was needed to fight groups like Creative Commons that want to undermine copyright and "spread the word that [their] music should be free." When Creative Commons attempted to rebuke the claims, ASCAP claimed that Creative Commons were attempting to silence them.

The problem with ASCAP's claims is that Creative Commons is merely a relatively relaxed alternative to full copyright. As they themselves argue, Creative Commons simply would not work without copyright. If copyright didn't exist, there would be no way to enforce the Creative Commons licenses. The other main argument against ASCAP's claims is that there is nothing forced about Creative Commons. It is a completely voluntary thing. Creators CHOOSE to use a Creative Commons license because it's less restrictive than a full copyright. Many creators who use Creative Commons also use traditional copyright, including several members of ASCAP.

I first heard about Creative Commons through a folk-punk band called Defiance, Ohio. All or nearly all of their work is available for free through Creative Commons. They use the CC by-nc-sa license, which means that anyone can use their music in anyway as long as the original work is attributed to them, the use is non-commercial, and any works created with their music (covers, remixes, music videos, etc) is made available under the same license. I thought that was really neat and it gave me a greater appreciation of the band and what they were trying to do.

Two notable users of Creative Commons licenses are Wikipedia (scroll down to the bottom of any entry, you'll see the CC claim) and Quote Unquote Records (who also use the CC by-nc-sa license). Quote Unquote (founded by Bomb The Music Industry! frontman Jeff Rosenstock) is a donation-based record label that gives all of their music away for free or a donation decided by the purchaser. I hope to write a full entry about them someday, as they are a rising force in the punk industry (what a terrible phrase) and just might be indicative of the future of the music industry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Album Review - White Crosses

Now that my list of my top 10 favorite albums ever is done, I figured the time had come to start writing about other things. So I decided to post my first album review today. I wanted to start with Sundowner's new album, We Chase The Waves. But it only came out today and even though I've already listened to it (and loved it!) I haven't had time yet to really explore it. So instead I decided to start with an album that I've had a bit more time to absorb, as it came out back in June.

Against Me! - White Crosses (Sire, 2010)

White Crosses, the newest album from Gainesville punk experimentalists Against Me!, continues the evolution of their sound that began with 2005's Searching For A Former Clarity (in which the band exchange their acoustic-based folk-punk for a more traditional punk sound) and continued with 2007's New Wave (in which they exchanged the punk for Former Clarity for arena rock that alienated a significant portion of what remained of their earlier fan base). White Crosses is the band's most mature album yet, pushing their sounds to all new boundaries. Yet the album is also something of a step back, recalling the spirit of their earlier work much more than the previous two albums.

White Crosses is an album of unified diversity, by which I mean each song is unique and sounds unlike any other song on the album, but all the songs work together to create one solid artwork. The album kicks off with the mid-paced but high energy title track, a punk song with a sing-a-long chorus about wanting to smash white crosses on the lawn of a church. From there, it goes to the toe-tapping "I Was A Teenage Anarchist," which finds frontman Tom Gabel reconciling the band's earlier political stances with where they stand now, and to me seems reminiscent of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages." Whatever fan slashed the band's tires for signing to Fat Wreck Chords years ago would probably be angered again over the use of piano in the next track, the driving "Because Of The Shame" (in which Gabel describes numbing himself emotionally, "because of the shame [he] associate[s] with vulnerability"). A brief return to acoustic guitars (albiet accompanied by electric) comes in the form of "Ache With Me" (I don't know what's up with the "chk-ka-ah," but the rest of the song is beautiful and touching). Album closer "Rapid Decompression" reminds me of something their Gainesville compatriots Hot Water Music might have written. The Deluxe Edition bonus track "Bob Dylan's Dream" involves an easy-going rhythm (which is nothing new for the band, who have done this many times in the past) and harmonicas (which as far as I know IS new for the band).

I won't go through every song, I just wanted to demonstrate the diversity of the album. It's a fairly short album (10 tracks that clock in at just under 36 minutes), but the band makes the most of the time they use. Not a single track is filler, and any song could have been a single, though the only single so far is "Teenage Anarchist" (but the band released a video for "Rapid Decompression." Long story short, I think this is a great album. Any bad feelings I had left from the disappointing New Wave has been erased and I can't wait to see where they go next. I think that while this album is more complex and diverse than anything they've done before, there's enough of the spirit of old Against Me! that older fans should be able to appreciated it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Nickelodeon Nostalgia, Part 3

Two posts about live-action shows and I still haven't mentioned You Can't Do That On Television. What a shame. Great sketch show, featured a young Alanis Morissette in later years, and introduced green slime, which became a long-running feature of Nickelodeon.

Anyways, for part 3 of my Nickelodeon nostalgia, I chose to write about game shows. I'm still holding off on cartoons, since that seems to be what everyone wants to see so I'll save the best for last.

Throughout it's years, Nickelodeon featured a unique variety of game shows. Here are a few of the shows I enjoyed in my childhood:

Double Dare - Nickelodeon's most remembered game show. Teams would answer trivia questions or dare each other to answer them. After being "double dared" to answer, teams could chose instead to perform the "physical challenge." The team with the highest score at the end had to run the obstacle course for additional money. The show had a number of spinoffs and retooled formats, including Family Double Dare, Super Sloppy Double Dare, and Double Dare 2000.

Nick Arcade - The opposite of Double Dare, in that it's the least remembered show on this list. Very few people I talk to seem to remember this show. Combining trivia, puzzles, and video games, the show consisted of teams of 2 competing to get to the Video Zone. Using blue screen technology, the team had to get through a video game world to defeat one of 3 villains. If you never saw the show, here's a video showing some teams competing in the Video Zone.

Legends Of The Hidden Temple - 6 teams (Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, and Silver Snakes, I couldn't remember them all so I checked Wikipedia) were whittled down to 1 through games (crossing the Moat, trivia at the Steps of Knowledge, and the Temple Games), most of which were somehow connected to a myth or legend told in the episode. The remaining team then had to get through the temple within a time limit to find an artifact connected to the story without getting caught by the temple guards.

Figure It Out - A panel of three judges (all cast members from Nickelodeon shows) tried to guess the secret talent of the contestant. Two contestants played on each show, and each contestant got three rounds. The goal of each round was to guess a word and all 3 words were then used to guess the talent. What I remember the most about this show (other than my crush on the host, Summer Sanders) was that Danny Tamberelli, best known as the younger Pete on The Adventures Of Pete & Pete, was a panelist on what seemed like almost every episode.

GUTS - I watched this show often, but I found it the least interesting of the shows on this list. Young athletes competed in various events (a list of all the events can be found on the show's Wikipedia entry). The events changed from show to show, but the last event was always the Aggro Crag, a mini-mountain that the contestants had to climb. Most of the show wasn't that interesting to me, but I loved the Crag portion.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Top 10 Albums, #1 - Good Mourning

#1 Alkaline Trio - Good Mourning (Vagrant, 2003)

I bought this album in the summer of 2003. I had just graduated from high school and was getting ready to start my first year of college. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but the first song by them I heard was either “Jaked On Green Beer,” “Crawl,” or “Queen Of Pain,” all of which I heard on cheap punk compilations I used to buy all the time. I was at a store and saw Good Mourning. Having enjoyed those first few songs, I decided to buy it. I listened to it over and over, learning every word to every song. I collected their other albums and enjoyed them all, but none of them hit me in quite the same way as Good Mourning.

Good Mourning is a pop punk masterpiece. From the opening track, "This Could Be Love," to the penultimate "If We Never Go Inside," the album is full of energy. Guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano trade vocal duties as they bang out poppy 3-chord punk while new-comer Derek Grant more than adequately takes over drumming duties from former Smoking Popes drummer Mike Felumlee, who filled when previous drummer Glenn Porter left the band. There is obvious influence from The Misfits throughout the album, not limited to the line "I'd say we've had enough, put Walk Among Us on and turn it up" from "We've Had Enough." The album continues Alkaline Trio's love of using pop punk melodies to support some dark lyrics on several songs ("Step one, slit my throat, step two play in my blood," "you told me that you missed me but you meant with the grill and hood, you'd kill me if you could," "I wanted you to know, it's you that were thinking of as we quietly died in the snow"). Not ever song is dark, though, it's just one of the things they do very well. Better than any other band I listen to, I think. The album closes with the beautifully acoustic "Blue In The Face."

I stopped listening to Alkaline Trio for a while. But then when I saw their live set at this summer’s Warped Tour, I remembered why I had loved them in the first place. I pulled out my old copy of Good Mourning and relived that summer. I was a teenager, struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. I bought the album at a store where I had just had my first real job interview and I was nervous and terrified and the album helped me deal with that. Now, 7 years later, the album still brings back all the emotional highs and lows of that time of my life.

When I originally began crafting this list, Good Mourning was one of the first two to be listed, along with the #2 album, Gaslight Anthem’s The ‘59 Sound. That album was meant to be in the #1 spot, but as I listened to Good Mourning more and more, I realized that my life would be more or less the same if I had never heard The ‘59 Sound. By contrast, I doubt my life would be the same if I had never picked up Good Mourning.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Top 10 Albums, #2 - The '59 Sound

#2 - The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound (SideOneDummy, 2008)

The Gaslight Anthem have the distinction of being the youngest band on this list, having formed only a few years ago and releasing their first album, Sink Or Swim, in 2007. I bought that album after reading about them in Alternative Press and listening to some tracks they had on Myspace. I instantly loved the album. I had grown bored with the music I was listening to and Sink Or Swim provided exactly the jolt I needed to be interested in punk rock again.

In 2008, after a decent EP (Senor And The Queen), they returned with a new full length, The ‘59 Sound. I initially hated it. It was simply a disappointment after Sink Or Swim. Having already paid for it, however, I gave it another chance. It slowly grew on me as I picked up the nuances, started feeling the various influences and began picking out lines that were some of the most intriguing lyrics I had ever heard. Eventually, I accepted The ‘59 Sound as what it is, a truly amazing album that balances modern punk sounds with classic rock and roll and 1950’s soul and blues, filled with references to Bruce Springsteen, Miles Davis, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Sam Cooke, and even Casablanca and Charles Dickens.

The ‘59 Sound is one of very few albums that I can listen to from start to finish (including the iTunes bonus track, a cover of “Once Upon A Time” by Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise) without skipping a track. It’s also one of very few albums I can listen to no matter where I am, what kind of mood I’m in, what the weather is like, etc. It is about as close to my perfect album that a band can get. In fact, when this list was originally being created, it was automatically put in the #1 spot (I’ll explain in the next entry why it was pushed back).

Favorite tracks: "The '59 Sound," "Old White Lincoln," "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues," "Here's Looking At You, Kid"

Make sure to come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to my Top 10 Albums Ever.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top 10 Albums, #3 - E. Von Dahl

#3 The Matches - E Von Dahl Killed The Locals (self-released 2003/Epitaph 2004)

The Matches will always have a special place in my heard because they played at the first real concert I went to. I had seen some local bands around town and supposedly when I was very young I saw Raffi, but this was my first real concert. It was the summer between high school and college. A friend had invited me to go with her to Thursday At The Square to see Reel Big Fish (for anyone reading this who isn't from the WNY area, TATS is a free summer concert series in Buffalo).  For RBF, the concert was a stop on the Fish Head III tour, and The Matches (a pop-punk band relatively unknown outside of their native Oakland, CA) were the opening act, so they were the first band I ever saw in concert. (For anyone interested, Gob and Zebrahead were the supporting acts.) I bought the self-released version of the album at the show, and later bought the reissue tracks on iTunes.

E Von Dahl Killed The Locals is unmistakably a pop-punk album, but with an experimental side that transcends the usual limits of the genre.  I've read reviews that attack the album as being bland and generic, but I honestly don't see it. I think the problem may be that the reviewers tend to be in their late 20's/30's and grew up with bands like The Descendents. It may very well be that this album hit me at just the right time of my life. Despite how much I love this album, I think it's safe to say that of all the albums on this list, this is the least likely to be enjoyed by the average listener.

The big picture is that the songs are fun and catchy. If you like that, then give the album a listen, but this is probably the only list where it would be placed alongside Deja Entendu, Nimrod, or Good News For People Who Love Bad News.

Favorite tracks: "Chain Me Free," "Superman" (only on the self-released version), "Jack Slap Cheer," "Sick Little Suicide"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nickelodeon Nostalgia, Part 2

Since I wrote last week about old-school live-action Nickelodeon shows, friends have brought to my attention individual shows that I somehow forgot to mention. I was just going to let it go, but when I realized how many shows there were I decided to do a second post to remedy my error. So, here’s more live-action Nickelodeon nostalgia:

All That! - The other sketch comedy show I watched on Nickelodeon (in addition to Roundhouse). I watched this from the original pilot (to my knowledge, only aired once) up to the beginning of the second era, which was just awful. The show produced a number of spin-offs, such as the sitcom Keenan & Kel, the film Good Burger, and the multi-format animation KaBlam! It also launched the spin-offs The Nick Cannon Show, The Amanda Show and Zoey 101 and led to Drake & Josh and iCarly, but I think All That! can be forgiven for those.

Keenan & Kel - A sitcom staring Keenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell as two best friends who lived next door to each other. Keenan was a schemer who worked at a small grocery store, and Kel was dimwitted and clumsy and usually went along with Keenan’s schemes. He also loved orange soda. The show was the first spin-off from All That! and the only live-action television spin-off that I actually enjoyed.

Clarissa Explains It All - Melissa Joan Hart (who later played Sabrina on Sabrina The Teenage Witch) stars as Clarissa Darling. The show was about her day to day life and how she dealt with it. She also had an annoying younger brother named Ferguson, a best friend named Sam who always climbed in through the window, and, for a short time, a pet alligator that she kept in a wading pool. I don’t remember much beyond that.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark - I’m upset with myself for forgetting the rest of the shows on this list, but I’m really kicking myself about this one. I loved this show. The premise was simple. A group of teens (“The Midnight Society”) gathered around a a campfire to tell scary stories. Each week, a different member would tell the story, with the whole episode consisting of the story and the bookend segments around the campfire. Several stories involved the recurring character Sardo (every time he was involved, someone would call him “Mr. Sardo,” prompting him to repeat his memorable line, “That’s SarDO, no Mr, accent on the DO”). Each episode began with some talking between the group members, then one would throw some kinda power substance on the fire to introduce the story. At the end, the leader of the group would declare the meeting over and dump a bucket of water on the fire. If my memory serves me right, the first episode, “The Tale Of The Twisted Claw,” (which can be viewed on Youtube, or at least it was there when I watched it back in October) was shown as the pilot around Halloween, then the show didn’t start again for another year or two.

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo - An Asian-American girl named Shelby Woo solved mysteries. Pat “Mr. Miyagi” Morita co-starred. I don’t remember much beyond that, but seriously, that should be enough to let you know it was a great show.

Nickelodeon also showed modernized or Americanized versions of two shows, both of which I watched a lot:

Land Of The Lost - Sid and Marty Kroft’s remake of their own earlier show, Land Of The Lost followed a man and his two kids after they fall through a time portal and end up in the age of the dinosaurs, where they befriend a baby dinosaur, some kind of sentient monkey thing, and a girl named Christa who fell through earlier.

The Tomorrow People - Forget what I said about Alex Mack, this might have actually been the first sci-fi I watched. An Americanized version of a British show from the 70’s, The Tomorrow People followed a group of teens who discover they are part of the next stage of human evolution, Homo superior, also known as “Tomorrow People.” Using their psychic abilities (specifically, telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation) they attempt to hide from the authorities that are looking for them. What I remember most from the show (it aired before I was even 10, I sadly don’t remember much other than how awesome it was) is that in the opening story arc, an Australian character named Adam does this cool “Now you see me, now you do” thing with the teleportation while explaining what’s going on to another character.