Friday, December 31, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Semi Precious Weapons "You Love You"

You Love YouI've decided to make my last post of the year one of my 2010 favorites.

"It's not my fault I look better in her party dress..." 
4 Out of 5 Stars

The second album (and major label debut) of Semi Precious Weapons lives up to their outrageous reputation. As someone who long back bought the original "We Love You" CD on indie Razor and Tie, the main difference between the two albums is bigger and meatier production. The calculated Eff-You attitude is still there in gallons of glitz, and charismatic lead sinner/singer gay/ambisexual Justin Tranter wails away like a cross between David Bowie and Bon Scott.

"Girl, go ahead and drink, cuz I can only be so many things. But when you leave, please leave your pretty to me," Tranter moans on the album's most epic cut, the ballad "Leave Your Pretty to Me." This is a band that knows that fans make bands onto the images that they want to see (posters, magazines, etc), and SPW exploit that fact like few have since Alice Cooper. They also understand that for many guitar wielding misfits, being a big star might be the only way out ("Rock and Roll Never Looked So Beautiful"). Then they set up "I Could Die," a glorious racket that sounds like David Bowie conjured up a New York Dolls glam bomb and dropped it on AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." Don't leave out the non-subtle innuendo of "Sticky With Champagne's" 'she don't swallow top shelf, she spits it out all over herself, sticky! sticky! Sticky!'

This is an album that scares church ladies. And get this; the band met while they were students at Boston's Berklee School of Music. That's right, the same prestigious home of noteworthy grads like Paula Cole, Bruce Cockburn, Gary Burton, Al DiMeola, Pat Methany and most of Aerosmith gave us an album whose first line is "I can't pay my rent but I'm F---ing gorgeous." Lady Gaga, no stranger to outrageous herself, is friends of the band and took them on tour as her opening act (she helped them secure their deal and is the executive producer, along with glam-godfather Tony Visconti). That's all why "You Love You" could be the most important CD you listen to this year. Tired of conformist pap and posing hipsters passing themselves off as dangerous? Then bring on Semi-Precious Weapons.

PS: Minor quibble. Three songs - "Magnetic Baby," "Semi Precious Weapons" and "Rock and Roll Never Locked So Beautiful" - are re-recordings of songs from "We Love You" and "Put A Diamond In It" shows up twice. Four of ten songs are retreads, and that is troubling. Of course if you missed "We Love You," then this is no problem at all.

We Love You  The Fame The Best of the New York Dolls: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection Road to Ruin (Dlx) Aladdin Sane

2010 Pop in 5 Minutes

Is This Technical Brilliance or 5 Minutes of Auto Tune Hell?


Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Wang Chung "The Best of Wang Chung"

The Best of Wang Chung - 20th Century Masters: Millennium CollectionCan You Tell Me What a Wang Chung Is?
4 Out Of 5 Stars

In their evolution from arty new-romantic band to pop-song duo, Wang Chung recorded a string of cool singles and some memorable MTV videos. While starting life as a four-piece and the name Huang Chung, the core pair of vocalist/guitarist Jack Hues and bassist Nick Feldman remained intact through five albums. The first album is left off this set (likely because of being on Arista records in the USA as opposed to Geffen, and either "Ti Na Na" or "Rising in The East" would have been nice to have), but when the band name took on a W and they released "Points of a Curve" in 1984, the hits began coming.

The breakout was "Dance Hall Days," whose video featured the walking suitcase that hatched from a mirror ball. "Don't Be My Enemy" and the other charting single, "Don't Let Go," make their appearance on this collection. The song "Wait" caught the attention of William Freidken, who used it for his thriller, "To Live and Die In LA." He also approached the band for more music and the band returned with the full movie soundtrack. The title song barely missed the top 40 and began to show the band moving towards more conventional (even if atmospheric) pop.

"Mosaic" jumped on board the pop train completely after "To Live And Die In LA." Now down to a duo of Hughes and Feldmen, "Mosaic" ditched new wave synths for dance-pop and scored the band's biggest hit with "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." Quite possibly one of the only times a band has reinvented their name as a verb, the insanely catchy song and its spazzy, stop motion video catapulted to number two and remains an unforgivable earworm. "Let's Go" also hit the Top 10 and "Hypnotize Me" made it as the theme to the Dennis Quaid/Martin Short comedy "Innerspace."

However, "The Warmer Side of Cool" was so homogenized that it pretty much vanished on release. The punchy "Praying to a New God" and the OK "What's So Bad About Feeling Good" made it to this set, and the ballad "Big World" should have. There's one more track from the Wang Chung's one off session in '97, "Space Junk." That fills up this set, which is pretty much as much Wang Chunging as you probably need to have on a casual basis.

20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection (Jewl) Greatest The Cure - Greatest Hits Freedom of Choice Deluxe Remastered Edition

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Kings of Leon "Come Around Sundown"

Come Around SundownRiding with The Kings  
4 Out Of 5 Stars

The Kings of Leon took the old fashioned route to stardom; they made consistent albums, toured relentlessly, ignored trends and waited for the world to catch up. Their fifth album, "Come Around Sundown," capitalizes on that steady as we go philosophy by keeping to the basics. Caleb Followill still sings like he's got honey in his mouth, the guitars are big and echoed, yet trace their roots to Southern Rock via U2's arena blast, and the songs themselves are rants and rolls about love, women and sex.

If you caught on to Kings Of Leon via "Only By The Night's" hits, that will probably suit you just fine. For those of us with the band since "Youth and Young Manhood," this will fee like a holding pattern. Granted, they are still messing with the formula (the dow-woppy "Mary" or the slide guitar country of "Back Down South"), for the most part, "Come Around Sundown" sounds pat.

That still isn't enough to wash them off just yet, as both "The End" and the hooky "Radioactive" hit the right spots. "Beach Side" could be the smoothest track they've done so far. The bass line in "Pony Up" makes me smile each time I hear it. Kings Of Leon have yet to disappoint me, and even though "Come Around Sundown" doesn't show the kind of exponential progressions that the first four albums did from each other, it's still a great rock album from a band at the top of their game.

Only by the Night  Because of the Times Aha Shake Heartbreak Youth & Young Manhood

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Holidays

The holdays were good to us, here in Springfield. Joel and I exchanged gifts (A gave him a framed Van Gogh print from our trip to Amsterdam 2 summers ago, he got me a lovely new computer monitor) and we had a big turkey. With a lot of leftovers. We took in Tron Legacy, which we both enjoyed. It is a huge homage to a batch of other classic films, and I loved seeing the "Black Hole" poster.

On Christmas Day, we had made plans to visit my family the next Sunday. Then the weather forecasts began to get increasingly nasty, and at 5 I called my Mother and said "We're coming, now..." I loaded Joel and the gift bags into the car and took off down the PA Turnpike at a relatively illegal rate of speed. We had an excellant visit with Mom, two of my Aunts, my neice and her boyfriend and one of my cousins. The gifts were largely ceremonial and non-serious, but the Charlie Brown Shirt was my favorite by a wide berth. There were also a huge amount of cookies to be had, even if only for a few hours. Oh yes, my Aunt Deb gave me the Keith Richards book, which I can't wait to dig into!
The warned of storm did arrive Sunday as forecast. I was supposed to be at work on Sunday at 11:30 PM and was concerned as to how this was going to occur. My final decision was to get some overtime and leave before the worst of the snow was to arrive. When I checked the Company Hotline at 6pm, the message was that all shifts would still be working. The drive was made very deliberately, and when I at last pulled into the parking lot, my cell phone rang. It was my supervisor, calling to let me know that shifts were cancelled.

Little Blue Mercury was turned around and back home I came. In the morning, there was about 8 inches of snow in the yard, which took me about 90 minutes to dispatch with blower and shovel. The wind is extreme right now, so getting to work will likely again be a painstaking episode. However, this minor weather issue did not keep me and Joel from having a good Christmas. I hope everyone else enjoyed themselves, as well.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Interpol "Interpol (2010)"

Interpol Bring The Darkness Back  
4 Out of 5 Stars

Well, someone must not have been happy with the Capitol/Interpol corporate merger. Just one album, the experimental "Our Love To Admire," and Interpol find themselves back with independent label Matador. This self titled album with the exploding gray Interpol logo with a black background sums the whole thing up; the music is dark and fractured. In short, a return to form.

This is both good and bad. While there is nothing here as mind blowing as "The Lighthouse" was on the previous album, Interpol's mixture of Joy Division/Psychedelic Furs malevolence and malaise pulses through the core of this album, with black growls like "Success" and the sad drone of "Always/The Man I Am" piercing through the murk. Alan Moulder did these mixes, which reflects his expertise in making bleakness sound alluring, with guitars sounding like they're blaring from the back of an auditorium and making things bass heavy.

That approach works even better on the uptempo "Barricade," building the song to its final punch. Overall, the knockouts are not as consistent as they were on "Our Love to Admire," but "Interpol" is more cohesive as an album. Interpol go back to basics on this album, and the payoff is worth the listen.

Turn on the Bright Lights  Our Love to Admire Antics: The Special Edition

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Amazon DVD Reviews: "Leslie Jordan: My Trip Down The Pink Carpet"

Leslie Jordan: My Trip Down The Pink CarpetGood Old Southern Boy Makes Good  
4 Out of 5 Stars

Leslie Jordan is probably best known for his role in the play, movie and TV series "Sordid Lives," but he's been making the rounds in Hollywood for over 30 years. "My Trip Down The Pink Carpet" is his one-man show where Jordan delivers anecdotal stories, jokes and zingers about his life. It's highly entertaining, funny, and towards the end, when Jordan goes into the details about his rehab and ongoing sobriety (and how he has found a way to give back), serious.

It's a great deal of fun to watch a man who tells the audience "I fell out of my mother's womb and right into her high heels" describe a life that is gay with a capital G, and makes no bones about it. Certainly, he is preaching to the choir here, but "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet" shows Jordan as a man who survived the Hollywood machine with his wit intact. The stories about Boy George, George Clooney and Marc Harmon are funny and some of his one liners are laugh out loud bulls-eyes. More to the point, the success of this self described "I'm the gayest man I know" is inspirational.

My Trip Down the Pink Carpet Sordid Lives Sordid Lives: The Series Daddy's Dyin'... Who's Got the Will?