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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Victory Records Anti-Piracy Ad

Victory Records has recorded and released an anti-piracy ad featuring Gilbert Godfried.

Gilbert Godfried? Seriously? Nothing against the guy, but why would you have him in an ad like this? An anti-movie piracy ad, sure. But this ad is specifically about music, why would you use a washed-up comedian, especially one that's mainly known for how irritating his voice is?

Also, and this should NOT be viewed as an endorsement of piracy, his example of McDonald's is ridiculous. It kinda reminds me of Jack Valenti's cognac glasses example regarding DVD back-ups. Music piracy is not theft in the traditional sense (note: "in the traditional sense," not "is not theft at all"). If you go into a McDonald's and demand free food, McDonald's would then be losing the food they paid for. There is a physical loss of product. If I download the new A Hero A Fake album (which, rest assured, is not going to happen), no record store has lost a physical product they paid for. There is no physical loss. Have you seen the ads the movie studios put out regarding piracy? The "you wouldn't steal a car" ads? Ridiculous. Labels and studios for some reason continue to insist that it's the exact same crime, but digital piracy is a different kind of theft from walking into a store and stealing a CD. And they aren't going to make much progress in stopping piracy until they realize that and adjust their tactics accordingly.

And that part at the end of the video? "Support The Artist, Support The Music?" Made me laugh. Most record labels, Victory included, don't exist to support the artists, they exist to support the wallets of the people that own or run them. I can think of a handful of labels that actually support their artists (Fat Wreck Chords, Plan-It-X/No Idea, and of course my digital friends Quote Unquote and Death To False Hopes), but for most labels it's nothing more than business. Victory has helped launch the careers of a few lucky bands (such as Hawthorne Heights), but they've also had their fare share of issues with bands that feel they've been treated unfairly (such as Hawthorne Heights, as well as Streetlight Manifesto). Piracy doesn't support artists, that part is true. But buying the CD from or Walmart or FYE or even the label doesn't do that much for them either. Honestly, in terms of supporting the band, you'd be doing more for them by buying a ticket to the show and buying a shirt or CD there.

Seriously? Gilbert Godfried?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Album Review - Sweet Saint Me

Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me (Suburban Home Records 2010)

The following review is the hardest I've ever written. It took me a couple weeks after hearing the album to write it, because I just loved the album so much that I felt nothing I could write would properly describe the quality of the music. The album is amazing, I just hope my review adequately reflects that:

If there were any real justice in the realm of music, a hard working, honest band like Two Cow Garage would be at the level Lady Gaga is at, or at least Ke$ha. But there isn't, and there are a lot of people who will probably never hear Two Cow Garage or their upcoming fifth album, Sweet Saint Me. Which is a shame, because it's one of the best albums I've heard all year*.

Sweet Saint Me finds the band with the same working class aesthetic that I loved in my first exposure to them, 2007's III. The band have gotten even better two albums later, honing their songwriting and musicianship. The album drips with blue collar Americana, making comparisons to early Springsteen inevitable. Several songs sound like they easily could have been on the Boss's first couple albums if you swap the voices. "Wanted To Be" in particular sounds like an unused track from Born To Run, and the band even reference the title track from that album on "Jackson, Don't You Worry." The Springsteen comparisons are obvious, but that doesn't mean Two Cow Garage are some rip-off act. Like Gaslight Anthem, TCG take Springsteen influence (as well as other Americana influence, such as Woody Guthrie, who is named-checked in "My Great Gatsby") and punk rock values and create something all new and unique.

Sweet Saint Me is an amazing album overall, an excellant example of great songwriting, both in lyrics and music. The guitar/piano opening to "Lydia," leads into some great opening lyrics ("I wanna be loved like an old soul song, I wanna feel like the second verse of 'Let's Get It On'"), which leads into a great chorus ("Lydia, you're much too young to have your teeth on the tip of my tongue, if just your lips were a little older"). The semi-a capella ending of "Jackson, Don't You Worry" just might be the most emotionally gripping 40-something seconds in underground music of the past several years. The excellent ballad-rocker "Angeline" leads to "My Great Gatsby," with an opening that is the hardest few seconds on the album to that point before settling into frontman Micah Schnabel longing for the return of Woody Guthrie and the troubadours, then leads to Micah screaming "This is not an alibi, this is who I am!" "Lucy And The Butcher Knife" comes even heavier than the opening of "My Great Gatsby," with driving drums that just won't quit backing chugging guitars and Micah and bassist Shane Sweeney trading vocal duties. And considering all the songs preceding it, I can't imagine a better song than "Brothers In Arms" to close out the album.

The album sat in my car for several days before I finally put it in my CD player. Suburban Home Records had hyped the album so much that I was afraid to listen to it, certain there was no way it could live up the expectations the label gave me. It then stayed in my CD player for over a week, and I listened to it several times. I just couldn't get over how great it was. It's one of few albums that I would honestly recommend to anyone, regardless of musical tastes. The album will definitely find its main audience among fans of Drag The River, Lucero and Gaslight Anthem, but I think it's universal and has the widest potential appeal of any of the albums I've reviewed on this blog.

Favorite tracks: "Lydia," "Jackson, Don't You Worry," "My Great Gatsby," "Soundtrack To My Summer"

*And that's quite a feat, considering this year also saw the release of Gaslight Anthem's American Slang, Guster's Easy Wonderful, Fake Problems' Real Ghosts Caught On Tapeand The Sweet Revenge's Creatures of Routine.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Album Review - TV/EP

Less Than Jake - TV/EP (Sleep It Off 2010)

Out tomorrow on the band's own Sleep It Off label, TV/EP is a collection of covers by my favorite ska-punk band, Less Than Jake. An EP of covers is nothing new, bands record those all the time (Atreyu is currently working on one of their own). Never content to go with the flow, LTJ took a bit of a different route with this release. All the covers are from TV, including sitcom themes, songs from cartoons, commercial jingles, etc. With some TV static noises and soundbites, listening to the album has the effect of flipping through channels, which according to interviews is what the band was trying to do. Mission accomplished.

Since this is a collection of covers, I can't really comment on the songwriting. There is a good amount of variation in the song choices. Some of the songs are newer, such as the themes to iCarly (a choice I could have lived without) and That 70's Show (which is expanded a bit from the version standardly shown on TV) and one of the songs from those commercials. There are also quite a few older songs, including commercial jingles (such as McDonald's and Hungry Hungry Hippos) and the themes for Diff'rent Strokes and Laverne and Shirley. The band shows a fondness for animation (hardly surprising, as one of their most loved songs is about Johnny Quest thinking the band is a bunch of sellouts), with the themes from Spongebob Squarepants, Animaniacs, and Scooby-Doo being some of the best songs on the EP.

The songs are well-performed, often outshining the original (at least for a ska-punk fan like me). The variation in content is appreciated (aside from iCarly). The artwork is a nice touch, reminiscent of classic cartoons, especially Looney Tunes. With 16 songs in under 12 minutes, they do achieve their goal of sounding like channel surfing, but I kinda wish they had gone longer. Maybe 40 songs in under 30 minutes. But I guess that would be too complicated with all the licensing fees. Maybe they'll do another one, but for now I'll just look forward to their next full length.

If you want to listen to the album now, go to where there is a video posted with footage corresponding to the songs, as well as some footage of the bands. It was still there at the time of this posting, but it is on Youtube if it gets taken down.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Running Zombies

I've decided I'm not going to do the Friday news summary posts I've been doing anymore. I don't really see a point to it since anyone that would care about the news items has probably already heard it. So since it's now October, the month of Halloween, I decided to write on a topic that seemed more fitting: Running Zombies.

Zombies that can run, easily climb fences, agile fighters, etc, are a growing trend in movies. I used to be absolutely against the trend, but I've grown to accept it in general.

The idea of zombies began in voodoo folklore as a dead person who was raised from the dead and controlled by a bokor. Anthropologists later discovered what they believed to be a combination of neurotoxins and psychoactive drugs given to people to make them appear dead and later "rise from the dead" without full brain functions. But zombies didn't really enter into mainstream consciousness until they became associated with the flesh-eating ghouls of George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. That film and most of Romero's subsequent Dead films didn't use the term zombie, though his portrayal of dead bodies coming back to life to eat the living became the modern idea of zombies.

Though suggested in Night that a bite from a zombie would "infect" a living person, it was later established in the movie that anyone that died from any causes that left the brain intact would come back (assumed in the movie to have been caused by radiation from a meteor). (Romero himself ruined this his Dead reboots, but that's a rant for another day.)  Later on, a different sort of zombie starting showing up: Viral Zombies. That is, zombies that become zombies through a virus. 28 Days Later, Zombieland, the video game series Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead and Max Brooks' books The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z are all examples of this sort of zombie (Zombie Survival Guide actually discusses the history of the virus and how it effects the body). In these cases, zombies are often shown running, hopping fences, and other things that Romero's zombies were never capable of. I eventually accepted this, because my initial anger was over the fact that a reanimated dead body wouldn't have the motor skills anymore for things like that. With viral zombies, however, the body doesn't need to fully die to turn into a zombie, so I tolerate them as long as they aren't being portrayed as Romero-style zombies but still run (like in the awful, AWFUL Dawn Of The Dead remake).

But here's my real problem with running zombies and why they'll never be on the same level as Romero zombies in my mind: the ability to run, fight, etc makes them scary. Zombies have long been my favorite horror movie creature because of the essential element that one zombie or even a handful of zombies doesn't pose much threat. One vampire can cause a large amount of terror. One werewolf, one Frankenstein's monster, one alien beast, etc can cause a large amount of terror. But anyone with a gun or a blunt object can stop one zombie (remove the head, or destroy the brain). Their real terror comes from the ease in which more are made. One zombie left unchecked can easily become a thousand. Think of the trailer for The Walking Dead, a new show coming to AMC based on the comic books. The scariest looking moment in the trailer isn't when he's dealing with a couple of zombies. It's when he's on the horse surrounded by an ocean of zombies (for me at, least). If zombies can run, etc., then they're scary alone, which makes them less appealing to me.

For anyone interested in seeing the origin of modern zombies, Night Of The Living Dead can be watched at the Internet Archive. Due to a loophole in copyright laws of the time, it's open to the public domain, so  there are other places you can watch it online, I'm sure.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Album Review - Easy Wonderful

Guster - Easy Wonderful (Aware Records 2010)

Easy Wonderful, the sixth album from Guster, is a polished pop gem that I can't stop listening to. Well, I am actually physically capable of stopping, I just don't want to. Guster expertly blend folk, rock and pop on the self-produced album, and co-vocalists Adam Gardner and Ryan Miller trade off on some great lyrics.

Before Easy Wonderful, my only familiarity with Guster was what two of my friends played in their cars on road trips. Two songs always stuck out to me, "Satellite" (from 2006's Ganging Up On The Sun) and "Rocketship" (from 1997's Goldfly). Easy Wonderful demonstrates just the right mount of progression from both of those eras. Different enough that they aren't rerecording the same album over and over, but not so different that they've completely changed styles. More poppy than "Satellite," more upbeat than "Rocketship."

The interplay between acoustic and electric guitars is excellent. The bass is subtle but effective. It can heard behind the guitars, but is never thrust so far into the foreground that it's distracting, as I've often noticed in bands like Guster. The drums could be better, mainly because it sounds like percussionist Brian Rosenworcel was playing regular drums on all but a few songs instead of the hand drums he built his reputation on.

Guster have never been afraid of experimenting with non-traditional rock sounds, that that trend continues on Easy Wonderful. The keyboard intro, harmonica and what sounds like a mandolin on "This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart" are well executed. "Stay With Me Jesus" as a folksy, Wide Awake-era Bright Eyes kinda vibe, but backed by an oddly distorted keyboard. There are some great horns backing "That's No Way To Get To Heaven," which is also one of the only songs I hear hand drums on. The band also employs the use of gang vocals, my favorite example being the chorus on "This Could All Be Yours."

All in all, a great album. A true pop gem that hopefully will cut through all the crap on radio to get some mainstream recognitions. Highly recommended. Favorite tracks include "Architects And Engineers," "This Could All Be Yours," and "This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart."


Monday, October 4, 2010

Movie Review: The Social Network

I want to write more movie reviews, but I'm being cautious of stepping on the toes of my friends at Nerdmic Strain A and Strain D and Blog of Dennis.  But I decided that if I review a movie one of them has already reviewed, I would just try a different take on the review and link to them. Here is Nerdemic Strain A's review of this movie. Enjoy.

The Social Network (Columbia Pictures 2010)
directed by David Fincher

The Social Network is, simply, an amazing movie.

I was among the first wave of users to join Facebook after it was opened to anyone with a college e-mail address. I've always been proud of that, especially since I was late to the game with Myspace and LiveJournal and later Twitter. The site has been under a lot of fire lately for questionable practices, especially regarding privacy issues. So when I originally heard about Facebook's somewhat shady origins, I was far from surprised. And when I heard that Hollywood was working on a movie based on it, I was immediately interested.

The movie was written by Aaron Sorken based on Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires. Wired had an interesting story recently about the movie that talked a bit about the origin of the book. Mezrich worked closely with Facebook's co-founder and original CFO, Eduardo Saverin, to write the story of Mark Zuckerberg's creation or theft (depending on your viewpoint) of Facebook. Sorken and Mezrich actually worked pretty closely with each other as they worked on their respective projects, while taking different turns. From what I've heard, the book sides with Saverin and vilifies Zuckerberg, while the movie definitely took a more balance approach, which I'll talk about soon.

All around, the movie was excellently made. Sorken's script turned out great, full of snappy jokes, vicious one-liners and the sort of clever dialogue I'd like to see more of in movies (one of my favorite lines is said by one of Zuckerberg's lawyers: "You're not an a--hole, Mark. You're just trying so hard to be one"). David Fincher did a great job with direction, bringing the best out of the script and the actors and using some amazing camera work that captures the emotion of the scene without being distracting.

The score fits the movie perfectly. Even after hearing the 5 song sampler, I was a bit skeptical of Trent Reznor's participation in the movie. I love Reznor's work with Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels, and I had no doubt he could write excellent instrumentals (like he did on Ghosts, NIN's second-to-last album). But would it fit with the sort of drama that The Social Network seemed to be promising? A horror movie, sure. A gritty war movie, sure. A post-apocalyptic movie like The Book Of Eli, sure. But after watching the movie, any doubt was laid to rest. Much like Citizen Kane (which nearly every major reviewer has been making comparisons to), the score fits like a glove. Not only does it help underscore and reinforce the drama of several scenes, at times the movie changes the tone of the scene all together, and the end result is that an amazing movie was made even more amazing.

And the actors...well they were just incredible. Andrew Garfield is in a breakout role as Saverin, deftly portraying him as a business student that thinks he's a top-level businessman. Jesse Eisenberg takes on Zuckerberg, alternating between an awkward computer nerd and a vicious programmer who will cut throats to get what he wants. Armie Hammer pulls double duty as the twin brothers suing Zuckerberg, working with special effects to do a great job acting heated arguments with himself. And Justin Timberlake is a scene-stealer as Napster founder Sean Parker, whose sudden and grandiose appearance amongst the Facebook crew throughs a monkey wrench in Saverin and Zuckerberg's already strained relationship.

I mentioned earlier the balance of vilification. That is, in my opinion, the best strength the movie has to offer. There is no real clear-cut villain. Every one of the main characters has their hands dirty is some way. From what I knew of the history of Facebook, I had expected Zuckerberg to be the villain. And in a way, he is. He betrayed his best and arguable only friend for his own gain, and screwed over the brothers that hired him (it can be argued that he didn't "steal" the idea, but he did screw them over). But as he is portrayed in the movie, he is also a man who feels he has been wronged, and sets out to fix his own life. He is a man who is just trying to do the best he can in life with what he has. I can't forgive the betrayal, but I also can't fault him for the latter part. The closest thing the movie has to a villain is Parker. But he's just a slacker who's good with computers whose early success lead him to think he's entitled to more success. He parties like a rock star parody and just wants the party to keep going. Not the greatest guy in the world, but hardly Iago or Michael Meyers or Gordon Gecko or Agent Smith. And the closest the movie comes to a "good guy" is Saverin. The betrayed student who trusted his friend and was stabbed in the back the first time it was convenient for Zuckerberg to do so. But he also tried to force Facebook into fitting what he thought it should be instead of letting it become itself or whatever Zuckerberg wanted. Also, he never really gave me the vibe that he wanted Facebook to be a success, only that he wanted himself to be a success. I could go on, but it would be best to watch it yourself, as there are layers and layers of complexity to the relationships between characters to other characters and the site itself.

Overall, a great movie, a must watch, and when it comes out on DVD I will be buying it on the first day.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Books Week

A series of different factors have unfortunately have prevented me from making many posts this week. My biggest regret is that I have yet to write about Banned Books Week. After all, this is the Library Punk, and what better embodies the meeting of Libraries and Punk Rock more than celebrating the books that have been banned or challenged? So I decided to write about that instead of my usual Friday post.

Banned Books Week was started in the 1980s as a response to the growing number of book banning attempts. There are any number of reasons books are banned or challenged, but the most common reasons seem to be sexuality, drug use, rebellious youth (youth shown to be acting contrarily to what the elders in power want) and actions or themes running contrary to the dominant religion of the area where the books are banned or challenged.

The Library Punk holds the opinion that intellectual freedom, including being allowed to read what we want, is a key factor in any society's ability to function. The opinion varies slightly when youth are involved: Parents have the right and responsibility to protect their children, and so it is up to the parents to distinguish between quality literature and trash (cough cough Twilight cough). But the responsibility ends there. No parent has the right to decide what other children should be allowed to read. In other words, the Library Punk opposes banning literature.

I haven't read as many banned books as I would have liked to have. Here is a list of banned and challenged books I have read, in alphabetical order:

(This list is based on Wikipedia's list of the most commonly challenged books in the US.)
The Anarchist Cookbook (only parts of it, and I wouldn't recommend it. Waste of time for anarchists), William Powel
Annie On My Mind, Nancy Garden
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
The Call Of The Wild, Jack London
Catcher In The Rye, J. D. Salinger
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier
The Giver, Lois Lowry
Goosebumps (about 40-50 books of the original series), R. L. Stine
The Great Gatsby (actually, I faked my way through it for school), F. Scott Fitzgerald
Harry Potter (the entire series, though I only bought the last book), J. K. Rowling
Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
How To Eat Fried Worms (one of my favorite books when I was younger, I can't believe it was challenged), Thomas Rockwell
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
My Brother Sam Is Dead, Christopher and James Lincoln Collier
Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (as well as the two sequels), Alvin Schwartz
Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut

I don't get many comments on the blog, so if you read this feel free to comment with banned or challenged books that you've read.