Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2009

Supergroup Them Crooked Vultures comprise Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones. Nine years earlier, the coming together of a grunge outcast, a savior of stoner rock and the son of one of the greatest bassists ever could have meant great things for rock and roll. Today, it amounts to little else than a consistent rock and roll album. Their debut album, despite its southern fried anthems, a couple of solos that should have little straitjackets dangling by the guitar chord to contain their ferocity and one of the coolest album covers of 2009, humbles itself in front of the altar of the almighty groove.  While songs like the sleazy and sweaty Scumbag Blues or the decidedly indie Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up make me want to believe in Them Crooked Vultures, the rest just meanders, endlessly flirting with stoner rock and garage rock and roll. I’ll just wait for another Josh Homme Desert Sessions mixtape to whet my appetite for rock and roll’s eventual resurrection.

*****

Truth be told, Pearl Jam are the most successful emo band ever. We don’t like to admit it because of our tryst with their music. Don’t worry, my minions, we have all clutched our pillows, and drowned ourselves in tracks like Animal, Alive and Even Flow to escape the tedium of wading through post-pubescent tears. Still, go back and listen to your favourite Pearl Jam songs and listen real close. Sshhhhhh. Can you hear it? Hopelessly romantic lyrics, monotonous riffs, crispy clean guitar solos and socially-responsible drumming. Case in point, the weeping Black, one of those songs that I, along with my friends, have out-drank pirates, Vikings and Malayalees to. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the song ends with Eddie Vedder crying out “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life, I know you’ll be a sun in somebody else’s sky, but why whyyyyy, whyyyyyyyyy can’t it be, can’t it be mine?” followed by the rest of the band vocally harmonizing with a fading solo. If that’s not emo, I don’t know what the fuck is, man.

*****

My fondness for heavy metal went for a ride in a hearse three years ago. I haven’t heard from it since then. With my favourite metallers Sepultura and Pantera calling it quits, Machine Head discovering musical horizons that are quite frankly beyond their natural abilities, and Ozzy Osbourne becoming a parody of the parody he was a decade ago, Slayer is now the only metal band I still listen to. See, Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King and Dave Lombardo have been creating gnarly, blood-soaked metal for years; they just might be one of the most consistent metal bands out there right now. While God Hates Us All remains Slayer’s most impressive case study of this  evolved sound, their new album World Painted Blood finds them in supreme form, as they churn out skull-crushing anthems against a hateful world that has wronged them by offering all the intoxicants they could dream of, lucrative record deals, mainstream popularity, free guitars and respect from their friends and peers. No wonder they are so pissed off. Cynicism besides, Playing With Dolls is the best they have sounded since the wickedly groovy Bloodline from GHUA.

Watch

Them Crooked Vultures – Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up

Pearl Jam – Love Reign Over Me (The Who cover)

Slayer – Playing With Dolls

Buy

Them Crooked Vultures’ debut album

Sleepless In Seattle: Birth Of Grunge

Slayer’s World Painted Blood

Read Full Post »

Hating dance music is for wussies. Loving trance, I’m afraid, is far worse. The only clubbing I feel like doing, given today’s piss poor excuse for party music, is one that involves cracked skulls on the dancefloor and my friend’s baseball bat. I really thought Intelligent Dance Music would catch up in my country. I envisioned speakers throbbing to the beats of Justice, Hot Chip, LCD Soundsytem, Burial or sparkling new remixes by Massive Attack but noooooo, even now I hear people are shaking a leg to trance music. Zombie fodder for the masses. Like millions of tiny hammers, rhythmically knocking at the sides of our skulls, coaxing our brains to resist any form of intelligent movement. “Dhak dhak dhak dhak don’t think, dhak dhak dhak fuckers…just dhak fucking dhak dhak move dhak dhak”. Sigh. I suggest we let them be and take in as much of Happy Mondays and New Order as we possibly can. The Manchester club scene has given birth to some of the finest dance music for the last two decades. And it hardly ever gets better than Happy Mondays’ 24 Hour Party People and New Order’s Blue Monday. Tell me….how does it feel?

*****

Bay Area alternative rockers Mother Hips are one of those bands that got swept under the carpet during the mid-Nineties, thanks to the grunge explosion; unfairly too, considering their knack for spinning out wicked grooves. I really dig their smoky bar-room brand of whimsical alternative rock that still bears the fragrance of Sixties psychedelic pop. Eric Burdon and Donovan Phillips would be proud. Oh, and you don’t ever have to shed another tear for Blind Melon’s premature exit from the music scene. Mother Hips is still here and looking to satiate silly Gen-X children, looking for redemption, having sinned against the true Gods of grunge by once pledging allegiance to Cobain.

*****

Concept albums have been crapped out by the dozen lately; some vaguely intriguing while others assiduously pretentious. Last year Nigerian-American rapper Wale released The Mixtape About Nothing – a collection of tracks inspired by his love for the sitcom Seinfeld. There’s a running joke in Seinfeld about the frivolity of its characters’ lives and the purpose of the show itself. Wale lets his laidback hip hop vibes channel this emotion as he kicks back with easy rhythms, stirring clever wordplay with Seinfeld quotes and witty character references. “The Opening Title Sequence”, with its awesome sampling of the show’s theme song, and the schizophrenic vibes in “The Manipulation” are definitive highlights. Download the mixtape here, here or here.

*****

Here’s another reason why Mark Oliver Everett of The Eels is the Paul McCartney of our times. Thankfully, he has never penned anything as dastardly as Yesterday. And I doubt if Paul has written anything as simplistically beautiful as Ugly Love.

 

Watch

The Eels – Ugly Love

Happy Mondays – 24 Hour Party People

New Order – Blue Monday

Mother Hips – White Headphones

Wale – Opening Title Sequence

Wale – The Manipulation

Buy

Music that really matters at least

Read Full Post »

Director Roland Emmerich loves blowing things up. Stuff keeps going up in flames in his films all the time. He lets loose giant lizards (Godzilla), extraterrestrial beings (Independence Day) and bulging muscles (Van Damme in Universal Soldier) to wreak havoc on-screen. Truth be told, I’m glad he’s a Hollywood director. Lord knows the combination of working-class woes and homemade explosives could have landed this man in jail and a lot others in their graves. While thousands of lives have been saved by Emmerich’s foray into films, many minds have been left devastated by the sheer idiocy of his films. 2012, his latest film, is grandiosely idiotic; it is so preposterously aware of its absurdity that I almost wanted to applaud its progress into the abyss of bad filmmaking. Sort of like Lady Gaga; so kitschy and stupid that sometimes we can’t help but nod our heads to her music. Or perhaps like a T Rajendar YouTube clip that is so out of tune with physics that we obsessively replay it for shits and giggles.

The storyline in 2012 is so loathsomely drab and flimsy that I had to devote full attention to it till the end. I had to soak in every frame and bathe myself in its retarded sense of fatalism. Character development gets a sharp kick in the rear, as well. Firstly, we have Curtis (John Cusack) – a novelist – who has the personality of a soft, rotten fruit. His wife (Amanda Peet) and kids (Alexandre and Philippe) collectively could give Sigmund Freud one hell of a wet dream; so varied is their emotional response to explosions, earthquakes and personal tragedies. For instance, when his daughter sees a devastating earthquake destroy their house, her first reaction is to wonder what happened to her fucking doll. The step dad, played by Thomas McCarthy, makes up for the film’s lack of an African American misnomer. In fact, when he gets killed, his family so does not give a fuck that you almost wonder if he’s a black guy in a horror movie.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is close to being unwatchable as the annoying-as-hell, do-gooder scientist. At times, so unnatural was this character’s investment in matters of the heart and so lackadaisical his commitment towards science, one could have easily mistaken him for impersonating the bastard child of Nelson Mandela and Abdul Kalam. Danny Glover manages to outsuck Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford (and that’s saying something) as the President of the US. Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, that large Russian dude and his mistress are hilariously bad, as well. Woody Harrelson, who plays crazed radio jockey Charlie Frost, gets in a few obvious jokes and thankfully gets killed off before he could reach ‘Randy Quaid in Independence Day’ level of bad.

All said and done, I really wanted to like this film. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy watching the world deteriorate, right?  Yeah the eye-popping visuals got the adrenaline going mildly but everything else about 2012 was so awful that it didn’t matter. By the time the film reached its Utopian finale, I felt exhausted. Felt tired for enduring this shit two hours, dirty for having ever harbored good thoughts about this film and stupid for ever telling Jerry, “dude, we have got to check out 2012 in the theatre”. Like a bored Thai prostitute standing in the street corner, screaming “me so horny” at hairy, overweight tourists with an endless budget for self-indulgence.

Only difference is I won’t get paid for doing this.

Read Full Post »

Judd Apatow’s Funny People, a film about a comedian/celebrity George Simmons – confused me. As the end credits rolled, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not. I ended up on middle ground, which was really annoying, given my aversion towards the neutrality of things. Indifference is the ultimate insult a common man can assign to a work of art and since cinema (and the love I have for it) is something I hold near and dear, I hated feeling inadequate about either recommending it or shitting on the essence of its being. Here’s the problem first. Adam Sandler (who plays George Simmons) must have hoped Funny People would do for him what JCVD did for Jean Claude Van Damme. I guess it’s alright for celebrities to seek therapy through self-caricaturizing; at least it beats going down to some river to pray. It worked for the Belgian muscleman because the public had never before thought of him as a man who suffers, let alone muse eloquently over all those crappy films he starred in. After watching his insecurities come alive on-screen, no longer did people think Van Damme’s first reaction to anything would be to do a seriously gay version of the splits or position his limbs for a Judo crane kick. The self-loathing characterization in JCVD hit a nerve (in me, at least) because it made for a chilling catharsis of the actor. Even Bruce Campbell’s My Name Is Bruce sort of worked, with the cult legend more than willing to laugh uproariously at his delusions of grandeur while secretly grinning at how fame once pulled a fast one on him about his place in cinema.

Despite not knowing if the director Judd Apatow intended to caricaturize Adam Sandler, I can’t but help nurse suspicions about it. Going by this alone, his film fell a little flat. The only musing I have ever done about Adam Sandler was whether or not the man is truly retarded. The characters he played in films like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmour and Waterboy seemed to be an extension of his real self minus the extraordinary savantism. His stand-up comedy too is centered on funny accents, childish cussing and penile jokes, something I’m sure his mates back home would testify to as a weekend by the couch with a couple of beers activity. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d hate to think this didn’t affect my liking of this film. So, seeing his character supposedly bare his soul on the canvas didn’t do much for me.

Here’s what worked. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana and the ten or so brilliantly executed cameos. Rogen and Hill – who play standup comedians Ira Wright and Leo Koenig – are probably the most sought-after comedians in Hollywood right now. They’re pretty funny, if only they didn’t indulge in so much toilet humour (conveniently, George Simmons makes a mention of it). Here they are in form, especially Rogen with his man-child impersonations. Now I know that if Sarah Silverman and Will Ferrell ever had a child, it’d be really funny. Hollywood’s nerdiest prodigy Jonah Hill is going places with his obnoxious anti-frat boy comedy and he knows it; the arrogance is evident and well-deserved.

As for Jason Schwartzman (he plays Wright and Leo’s egomaniacal roommate), he has a little Bill Murray thing going for him. No matter how similar most of the characters he portrays seem to be, he still manages to make them engaging. In Funny People, the sympathy he shows for his roomies is subtly hilarious. There’s a scene in which he sits next to Rogen’s character and explains why he slept with his date…look at the expressions on Schwartzman’s face, I’m telling you, Mr Murray would be proud.

Leslie Mann’s character (Simmons’ love interest) was well crafted too. I really dug the confrontation scene, with the three men standing there, jaws open and fists raised, unsure of who to blame and for what. Eric Bana provides standard fare as the sweet and sour-tongued Aussie husband who has read too many self-help books. For me, the true highlights of Funny People were the cameos. The scene in which Marshall Mathers (Eminem) confronts Ray Romano (from Everybody Loves Raymond) is just about the funniest scene I have watched in a mainstream movie in a long time. Rap outfit Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, Andy Dick, James Taylor, Paul Reiser – all provide rib-tickling fastfood humour, with quick and to the point punchlines. The Sarah Silverman stand up bit about Kanye West and Obama also qualifies as a laugh out loud moment. (if you find it offensive, you’re a bigger jackass than Kanye).

I’ll say this too…Funny People could be the first step towards changing the public (for all those who care, at least) perception of Adam Sandler’s talent as an actor. Truth be told, it’s probably the most intense he has even been. Even in the vastly underrated Paul Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, the tragedy of his character’s life seemed more odd than actually moving.

In Funny People, George Simmons desperately tries to take a step back, lose the jokes and get a bit more serious about his place in the world. I guess, in 2009, Adam Sandler tried that too. To quote one of his classically retarded characters – Billy Madison – “Well, I made the duck blue because I’d never seen a blue duck before and I wanted to see one”.

Well, you decide if you want to see this blue duck (I’m aware that at some level, I’m making no sense whatsoever).

Read Full Post »

Inglourious Basterds: I don’t actively dislike Brad Pitt, the actor. He gets paid a lot for being mediocre and often, absolute shit. Also, to be fair, he has done a decent job in films such as Snatch and uhmmm yeah Snatch was a goooood film. Unfortunately, he is the only real bastard in Quentin Tarantino’s new film. While his character – Lt. Aldo Raine – plays an integral part of Inglourious Basterds, it just doesn’t feel right. The exaggerated southern drawl, the cartoonish anti-heroism, and the obsession with Nazi scalps – don’t get me wrong, cinema could use more scalping these days, but the way Brad Pitt struts around, leading his band of gloriously twisted soldiers and demanding “one hundred Nazi scalps” felt oddly contrived. It didn’t help that the director kept positioning the spotlight towards him at pivotal moments.

The rest of cast however totally brings it. Christoph Waltz, who plays Lt Hans Landa – the Jew Hunter will be remembered fondly as one of modern cinema’s most endearing villains. He has a knack for building up tension through tiny gestures and tinier insinuations; few actors can be gnarly through silence, fewer can do it with the panache of Mr Waltz. Mélanie Laurent’s character – Shosanna Dreyfus (most Jewish name ever) – is your regular Anne Frank with a penchant for pyromania and sweet revenge. Daniel Brühl, Michael Fassbender and a couple of others bring it, as well; their characters perfectly meshing with the film’s volatile twists.

Of course, what good would this review be if I didn’t mention Eli Roth’s (the Hostel director) over-the-top performance as Sgt Donny Donowitz a.ka The Bear Jew, the baseball -swinging Italian stallion (if the stallion had mad cow disease). The fun introduction of his character took me back to the glory days of Desperado but more importantly, it was the only reminder that this indeed was a Quentin Tarantino film. Truth be told, everything else felt weirdly Coen Brothers-ish, only with more blood.

Hills Run Red: This one tells a torturous tale about horror fans getting proper fucked for pursuing that which had mysteriously vanished for a bloody good reason. In this case, a hardly-ever-seen-before B-movie, directed by the JD Salinger of the torture porn genre. During their pursuit, they make all the mistakes we have to come to expect of American teenagers whenever stalked by serial killers or psychopaths. So basically, Hills Run Red is about four of the dumbest horror movie fans ever getting mutilated by the Babyface killer; sometimes hilariously pausing to briefly meditate about the genre itself! Is it fun? Not much, especially with the second half spewing tiresome twists and turns that annoyed me, given that 30 minutes into the film, my brain crawled out of my skull, lit up a cigarette and said, “later, bro” (yes, my brain is a surfer dude). William Sadler’s presence sort of helped. He’s a good actor and his chops brought a bit of credibility to Hills Run Red, as did the really cool opening segment. That Mockingbird song gives me the creeps.

Splinter: Splinter is one of those films that came highly recommended by you, the bat-shit crazy readers. I get the hype …this is one slick survivalist thriller, with tons of neat special effects and a healthy amount of blood and guts. Director Toby Wilkins keeps the storyline to traditional survival mode, with three people stuck in an isolated gas station, trying to stay alive amidst a surprisingly original (considering the genre) parasite infection that could easily make Evil Dead’s possessed limb cower in shame and call it “daddy dearest”. The shivers come in by the dozen, thanks mostly to the sound and special effects crew comprising Sandy Gendler, David Stevens, Ozzy Alvarez and Danielle Noe. If only the Academy could quit sodomizing its credibility and give props to the deserving. Golden Compass had the best visual effects in 2008, my foot.

Slither: James Gunn’s Slither feels like a remake of a Seventies cult film. Strangely, there is neither some piss-poor, lowly-produced blaxploitation version of it nor a really entertaining John Carpenter version. At best, Slither is a glossy tribute to David Cronenberg’s Shivers. Since the director Gunn comes nowhere close to channelling the brilliance of Cronenberg’s sexual undertones, he does the next best thing – he pokes fun at it. Some of the stuff in here is hilarious (not hilariously bad i.e. a Chuck Norris film). Mayor Jack MacReady, played by erstwhile blues musician Gregg Henry, walks away with the best punchlines. He cusses and spits, thoroughly pissed off that his town has been taken over by sex-crazed “outer-space fuckers”. The aliens are pretty funny too. One of them even gets in one of those “I’ve been around a million years…you think you can fuck with me?” lines. Defintely one of the funniest horror films of 2008.

The Final Destination: Final Destination 4 is so bad that I hear that some of the death scenes weren’t even a part of the original script. The actors simply killed themselves out of embarrassment. I would have too, if I hadn’t bought a pirated version of it.



Read Full Post »

Everything we pretend to hold sacred now will probably be forgotten over a loud sneeze or less than remarkable orgasm ten years from now. Still we have trouble letting go. Money, sex, career, religion, morals, perversions and other things that go don’t go quietly into the night. Sometimes, not giving a shit helps. Even then it is inevitable that one day we’ll wake  up, fully aware that it’s just another day to trick ourselves into believing that life has expectations we need to meet; little check points we need to cross in order to die peacefully, knowing that the life and love we once held didn’t go to waste after all.

Larry David

Boris Yellnikoff knows this and lets us know that he does. He whines about dumb kids who can’t move chess pieces properly, a failed marriage to what’s-her-name, his nemisis – the Nobel Prize, slow moving senior citizens and the lack of enlightened cynicism in today’s society. In Whatever Works, Larry David plays him to perfection. Much like the director of this film – Woody Allen – he takes his character’s gloomy perspective of life a little too seriously. It phsyically shows too. In fact, one of the most entertaining aspects of Whatever Works is the way Boris walks. Prose and poetry collide every time he drags himself to carry out inane chores. Boris’ disgruntled swaying of his three functional limbs (the third lived through a suicide attempt and barely survived to tell the tale) is the accurate and exact synonym of the word Swagger. I almost wanted to land a nasty kick on his good leg and tell him to lie down; only because I didn’t want Boris to suffer the ignominy of existence any more than he himself did .

whatever-works-woody-allen-and-larry-david

Living, for this man, is suffering.

Suffering, for me, is the stupid-ass, embarassingly convenient ending.

Everything else is a fucking ball of sunshine. Especially Larry David trying to educate Evan Rachel Wood about her flaws, Ed Begley‘s hilarious ramblings at the pub, Patricia Clarkson‘s shedding her Stepford suit to become an exaggerated bohemian cliche, and Woody Allen‘s sharpish dialogues.

It totally works, but whatever.



Read Full Post »

Thank you for the music

Tech9ne

Rapper Tech9ne (Aaron Dontez Yates) is hardcore. Backed by the incendiary beats provided by Strange Music label’s array of DJs, he rips into the mic, spitting vicious rhymes about street violence, social chaos and religion – the kind that is delicately referred to as “deep shit”. Even though his recent album King Of Darkness (K.O.D) album has Tech9ne waxing contemplative more than ever before, he still sounds more visceral than your average hardcore rapper. Show Me A God is my favourite of the lot, with it swayin between Jeru Damaja and Bizzy Bone’s finest moments. Take notes DMK, rhyming breed with bleed and barking like a dog isn’t scary (if it were, Nicholas Mastandrea’s Breed would not have sucked so much), trying to find a god in a beast or a broad…now that’s pretty friggin scary.

*****

temptations 10

People don’t realize how edgy the Motown artists once were. From Sly Stone and Otis Redding to Eddie Kendricks and Brenda Holloway, these unruly men and women of soul not only coaxed music to transcend colour, but also form and shape. The Temptations, Motown’s favorite family, have made a lot of great soulful and funky music throughout their five-decade old career and have gone through more band members than Spinal Tap would have bothered to count. Their 1969 album Cloud Nine sparked the birth of their psychedelic soul sound and also a rumour that the group was trying to adopt Sly Stone’s sinfully funky production style; the title track has them on the dancefloor, bleeding harmonies and sweating a nasty groove. Just remember kids, giving in to temptations can have wonderful repercussions; getting out it, however, sucks. A lot.

the stars_indie

*****

There’s this bloke I know from office who is tremendously fond of pop music. He gets drunk on conversations about popular pop rock bands that sucked during the Eighties. Journey, Boston, Firehouse, Simon and Garfunkel, Foreigner, Dire Straits and a couple of other bands I seriously despise. He claims that simplicity blows him away. Well, it blows something alright; of course, that’s not to say that sugary lyrics, gentle acoustic strumming and innocuous melodies don’t turn me on sometimes.  Stars, a Montreal-based, four-piece indie pop band, do just that. They make pretty music that even has  loathsomely wry users of Wikipedia terming it  as “lush instrumentation, nimble production and mixing, narrative lyrics, and soft but nuanced vocals.” Having only heard their Comeback EP, I don’t want to hype these little buggers too much, but for what it’s worth – simple, lovely songs like The Aspidistra Flies and Krush have made me seriously reconsider the pop styling of Simon and Garfunkel. Don’t worry, I’ll still hate Journey and Firehouse with every fiber in my body.

*****

enter_the_vaselines1

Ain’t it funny how almost every worthwhile Nirvana song (except Lithium and Dumb) is a cover song of some erstwhile alternative rock band that got lost during the MTV-sponsored grunge movement of the 1990s? Well, it’s funny because the man who couldn’t compose a single decent riff or pen a meaningful lyric was hailed as the savior of music only because he blew his head off despite being able to afford dental insurance for his wife, her mistress and their two cats. Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam is one of the songs he took and made a mess off. Indie poppers The Vaselines’ original version is awesome because it refused to be pigeonholed into any genre. It swiftly moves through roots music, folk, alternative rock and into that thin, metallic sound that can be found on Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde album. Just so you know, wearing Flannel ain’t grunge. Not giving a fuck that you’re wearing Flannel aint grunge either. Knowing that Mudhoney’s Mark Arm came up with the word “grunge” while Nirvana merely bastardized the genre and led it to its demise…well, that’s a start.

Watch

Tech9ne – Show Me A God

The Temptations – Cloud Nine

Stars – The Aspidistra Flies

The Vaselines – Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam

Meat Puppets – Lake Of Fire

Buy

Tech9ne’s K.O.D

The Temptations’ Anthology

Stars’ Comeback

The Vaselines’ Enter The Vaselines

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »