Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Written by Fumo Verde

A few months ago, I thought I put in for a request to see a DVD on Tupac Shakur. I received the conformation from the contact that "the book will be sent to you as soon as the publisher gets it out." Huh?! I wouldn't mind spending 60 or 70 minutes watching a documentary about Tupac, but to read another book, whoa. Babies, I'm reading three books now, but I had already accepted the assignment to do the review. Then, a very large package arrived. I recognized the area of origin, and thought "Shit, is this that Tupac book or frackin' War and Peace?"

Katz and Kittenz, let me tell you, when I opened this package up, well the phrase "blown away" is an understatement. To start off, I really can't say I am a Tupac fan. I don't have any of his music, but I know his voice when I hear it coming through the speakers. I always liked what I heard, but just never got into him and I don't really know why.

Sliding the hardbound book out of the case, the first thing you see is a full cover of Tupac dressed in white on a soft-colored background made my mind race. "Wow, this is going to be sweet!" and babies, it is. This book isn't just another bio about the untimely death of an American icon, but a pictorial history of a man, who, through all his triumphs and tragedies never forgot where he came from or what the words “respect” and “family” mean. There are over 60 pages filled with pictures of Tupac, his family and friends, and copies of poems, song lyrics and other ideas that filled the mind of such an interesting young man.

There are photos of Tupac at school, in the streets with his buddies, hanging out with his mom, and working in the studios. There's even one with him and Janet Jackson on the set of Poetic Justice. But that isn't all, kiddies. There are pullouts reminiscent of Nick Bantock’s Griffin & Sabine trilogy. Let me explain, throughout the book, there are pages inside of the pages. Some are slid into a slit cut into the page itself, which can be easily pulled out, such as Tupac's letter to Interscope Records naming Suge Knight as his manager and David Kenner as his lawyer. Other pullouts are paper envelopes that contain items such as Tupac's inmate I.D. card from New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility. Although they are obviously not the authentic items, both have been recreated to look and feel like the real deal.

This book is full of surprises on every page. Like, I didn't know that his mom was Afeni Shakur, the Black Panther Activist. She gives a foreword and if you do get this book, please read what this amazing woman has to say concerning her son and his life, and one can see where Tupac gained his incredible knowledge and insight about the world.

Author Jamal Joseph also has a note on the foreword page. He explains how he is related to Tupac and how he watched him grow up. The story he relates to the reader throughout the book is about his close friend and how he watched this young boy turn into such a great and talented man. Joseph ends his author's note with, "It is what I miss the most. Those eyes that could see the past, present and future at the same time, and that smile that could re-arrange time and space into endless possibilities."

With a beginning that ends like that, get ready to not only read the story of Tupac Shakur, but to see it in images that the mainstream media couldn't even touch. He was not only a talented rapper, but also a political activist, entrepreneur, artist, chef and so much more. Tupac once said, "I'm not saying I'm going to change the world. But I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world," and if he hasn't yet, this book just might be the spark that starts that flame.

This is a great book, and one hell of a collector’s item. For those of you how are fans, you will be overjoyed by what this book contains. For anyone who likes the history of music and the people who make it, put this book out on the coffee table. It needs to be in place where it can be appreciated, like the man who it’s about. Better than any Behind The Music episode could explain and with no commercials, Tupac Shakur Legacy brings to light the soul of an artist, a friend, and a man.

This is Fumo Verde, keeping it real.

P.S. I was going to let this be a surprise, but it’s hard to keep this mouth shut. Behind the front cover, taped inside, is a DVD, with over 60 minutes of interviews with Tupac and more.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The White Stripes: Rhinoceros

Written by Fantasma el Rey

The White Stripes, as we all know, are bad to the candy-striped bone; not even a Seven Nation Army could hold them back. And I might not hold back on picking up Rhinoceros, if I found it for a very low price.

The DVD has no real interviews with The White Stripes yet does have early footage of Jack and Meg. It’s not much; maybe a total of five minutes but it’s better than the Cure documentary put out by this same company. (Support a Snob and check out my review for The Cure: Lost In The Labyrinth. While you’re looking around our site, buy some merchandise too. We have many cool and hip things to choose from. Jack White wears Snob merch. It’s true! I have fake photos to prove it!). There are interviews with people who actually know The Stripes: club owners, producers, friends and a few members of the Detroit bands that Jack played with. These people were there before the levee broke and The Stripes began their conquest of the known world. The documentary, actually titled Candy Coloured Blues, is informative and sheds some light on their early years and formation, although this disk “contains no original music by The White Stripes”.

John Anthony Gillis was dubbed “Jack” after joining the country/rock band Goober And The Peas as drummer, and it was during this time that he met and would eventually marry Meg White, adopting her surname and becoming Jack White. Shortly thereafter The Peas broke up. Jack then taught Meg to play drums and The White Stripes were born. Though dedicated to The Stripes, Jack would still play in two other bands, the alt. country-sounding Tabernacle and solid rockers The Go, even appearing on the latter’s debut single. Jack would fade from these bands as The Stripes began to hit and as he turned his thoughts to recording their first album, The White Stripes.

Some time after that they began to tour the U.S. with bands Pavement and Sleater-Kinney as well as recording their second album De Stijl, which led to more success and tours of Japan and Australia. Yet it wasn’t until their third release, White Blood Cells, that the world at large began to know their name. Rhinoceros then quickly stumbles into and glosses over Elephant and ends about there as well. The closing chapter on the disk is about the “future” of The White Stripes and where the people interviewed think the band will go?

On the whole, Rhinoceros is an all right disk for the casual fan; it does contain good information about their early years, though it’s not very entertaining. On the other hand, the visual gimmicks on this disk can be annoying. The split/striped screens and red tint in every other shot, which makes the titles a bit hard to see, gives these not so fresh eyes a hard time and a mild headache to boot. The production quality is not as bad the previously mentioned Cure documentary, but at least there is footage rather than close-ups of still photographs and actual music used in the background between segments instead of muzak. If you know all this information already, then this disk is not for you. If you must own everything White Stripes, then you’ll get it anyway.

Where does Fantasma think The White Stripes will go? The White Stripes will have a big hit on their next effort, something to do with a flower, perhaps an oddly colored orchid? Things get a little hazy here, but Jack’s love for country music will shine and I see him climbing a cold mountain. The Stripes will bring a new band on tour, real greenhorns and from them Jack will pick two to be in his new project, their name will be…the excellent tellers of anecdotes. And they too will score big hits and tour the nation and beyond.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Written by Hombre Divertido

Though it has much Prestige, it is still extremely unsatisfying.

I cannot think of another occasion where seeing one film had made me wish I had reviewed another, but that is the case here. Seeing The Prestige made me wish I had not been too wrapped up in other projects, and thus unable to find the time to write up a review after seeing The Illusionist. We were graced with two period pieces on the subject of magicians this movie going season, and The Illusionist was much better than The Prestige.

In the Prestige, we are introduced to Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), both aspiring magicians. They, along with Angier's love Julia (Piper Perabo), are working for a professional magician while learning the craft. An accident occurs, Julia is killed, and Angier blames Borden. Borden and Angier become professional magicians respectively, and a war ensues not only as one attempts to better the other, but also as Angier seeks retribution for the death of Julia.

Ah, if the story had been told that simply. Instead the story jumps from one time period and location to another in an editing job worthy of Jason Voorhies. Even more disappointing is the payoff at the end, where our questions are answered in not only a disappointing fashion but with ridiculous explanations as well.

The Prestige has great qualities. The sets are wonderful, costumes excellent, effects leave you thinking that you’ve seen a magic trick, and not camera or computer magic, and the performances are top notch. Scarlett Johansson as Olivia Wenscombe, the new assistant of Angier and eventual center of a lover triangle, is mesmerizing, and David Bowie gives a stoic performance as Tesla, the scientist from whom Angier seeks true magic. Michael Caine seems a bit confused in his role as the voice of reason, though it had more to do with the script than his performance.

It is the editing and direction that let us down here as the choice was made to tell the story in a way that leaves the audience to wonder if they missed a reel of the film somewhere in the 130 minutes that they did see.

Like an elaborate trick by a magician with great showmanship, most will like what they see here, but find themselves waiting for the payoff, or to use magician vernacular, the prestige, and be disappointed when it’s over as all they saw was a lot of misdirection and flair, but little substance.

Recommendation: Wait for both The Illusionist and The Prestige to come out on DVD and…well, you don’t need to be a magician to figure out which is the recommended rental.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Written by Fumo Verde

Bart Everly examines one of Congress’ shining stars, Representative Barney Frank, Democrat from Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district since 1981. The documentary follows him through the halls of Congress and details why he was the "go-to guy" when it came to the House deciding someone's fate during the impeachment proceedings of President Bill Clinton.

In 1990, Frank received a reprimand from the House for fixing 33 parking tickets for Steve Gobie, a male prostitute who he hired through a personal ad. Gobie ran a prostitution ring out of Frank’s apartment, but the House Ethics Committee found no proof of Frank’s involvement. Eight years later, Frank was thrust into the spotlight of a sex-crazed media whose only thoughts were about how deep did the cigar go. He brought rationalization, humor, and a sense of what the American public was really concerned about: privacy.

By having unlimited accesses to Frank for 24 months, Everly gives us an inside view to not only Frank and his life, but how D.C. looks from the other side of the TV. Everly doesn't start this out like one of those VH1’s Behind The Music segments; he drops us right into the firestorm of the Clinton impeachment hearings. At first, that's what I thought this whole thing was going to be about, but Everly and his editors made some clever cuts, bringing up the past to show not only what, but why things were going the way they were, which helped weave the story that was being told.

Frank came out of the closet in 1987 at the suggestion of then House Speaker Tip O'Neil. Not just for himself, but also to assist "Every gay Representative to come out of the room," as O'Neil said. Frank replied, "That's closet, Mr. Speaker." A funny little anecdote that lends credit to the old proverb, the truth will set you free. In coming out of the closet, O'Neil explained, the other side wouldn't be able to use that against you.

But the film is not all about Frank being gay. Like I said, Clinton’s impeachment is in the air, and the Republicans smell blood. Frank’s quick wit and sense of good politics (opposite of the fear politics that has been going on as of late) and his dealings with sex and lies made him the linchpin in the defense of the President.

Most of this documentary revolves around the 1998 hearings and how Frank made valid points, along with Maxine Waters, and basically showed not only the media, but also the American public that the case the Republicans were chasing down was not only unjust, but also unimportant in the minds of almost every American. I remember this all to well, I thought, “He got a blowjob from a fat chick. Who fucking cares? This is how Frank explained it, but with more eloquence and dignity.

More up-to-date concerns are in there too, like gay marriage. Here again, Frank throws down a fantastic speech. "How is it an attack on your marriage if I love another man? Is your marriage going to fall apart? Are you going to get a divorce? Does it make you love your wife less?" Barney asks these questions to other members of the House, and as they respond, "No, my marriage will not be affected," Frank gives a rational yet witty explanation on why there shouldn't be any amendments that refuse rights to certain citizens just because of their sexual orientation.

Barney Frank is frank and he doesn't mince words. He’s an extremely intelligent man, whose sharpness is only matched by his humor and is one of those rare lawmakers that we as Americans only get to see every once in a while. This documentary provides a testimony for a man who stands up for the true American values: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Even though Let’s Get Frank came out a few weeks before the next election, it won't change anybody’s minds on who or how to vote, but it will give you a good look at a man who should run for president. Barney Frank is a Representative who is trying to represent all the people, not just the gay people, not just minorities, but also all the people. He has gained the respect of men and women from both sides of the aisle, and as long as he keeps being himself, that respect should never wane.

This is Fumo, saying " Vote; it’s the only right we have left. Don't lose it."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box

Written by Fantasma el Rey

It was a dark and stormy Friday the thirteenth. What better time to listen to selections from Rhino’s A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box? Sorry, we’re not talking about not Ostro- or Visi- or the fall of Rome here. We’re talking music; music that us creepy sorts drew funny looks for listening to from other kids in high school. What most people fail to realize is that the Gothic sound is more than just slow gloom, doom, Edger Allen Poe, and sexual perversions. Many Goth bands have a jump to them while carrying dark overtones, and yes, sex plays a large part as well. The vocals have a dark passion to them. Emotions run high, which only adds to the mystique of the dark poetry and twisted tales of loss and love. This darkness combined with the lyrics that make you wonder “what the hell was the inspiration behind that?” is what draws people to the music and also what brings the music together under the Gothic banner.

The set itself is dressed in a black leather corset and comes with a nifty book filled with photos and artist’s commentaries; three CDs and a DVD contain videos from some of the bands represented in the boxed set. Making my desire to own the full set that much stronger, for you see, ghoulies, I received only a sample disk, but that’s all right because some of my favorite bands are present. The Cure being one. They show up here with the wonderful “Charlotte Sometimes” and the disk moves very smoothly into Bauhaus’ “She’s In Parties”; two tunes that capture the gloom and darkness of the scene perfectly. Both bands bring their dark poetry to life through their distinct sound, though Bauhaus, as the name reflects, is more art-driven sound, which comes through in lead singer Peter Murphy’s stage presence as well. See them live; I highly recommend it.

The Sisters Of Mercy’s “Temple Of Love” kicks things up a few notches and illustrates the fact that Gothic music is not all slow; in fact, some of it is very much the opposite, rhythmic and danceable. At Goth clubs, the atmosphere is dark and often dreary, but as with all other clubs, you go to dance and move. Hell, what could be more seductive than a raven-haired, vampire vixen in thigh-high boots swaying and grooving to the thundering sounds of the queen of them all, Siouxsie Sue and the Banshees, as she belts out “Spellbound”? Another song that makes its way to the set and one that simply drives me mad. I dig the tumbling drum effect, as if someone is falling, after Siouxsie sings the line, “throw them down the stairs.” I love her voice and that song. Many more danceable tunes fill The Gothic Box, from bands such as Lords Of The New Church, The March Violets and Specimen, who bring their funky bass lines.

The track and artist that stands out the most on the entire box is “The Weeping Song” by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. It is actually a duet with Bad Seeds guitarist Blixa Bargeld, whose primary band, Einsturzende Neubauten, also appears on the box. By far the most poetic storyteller on the entire scene, Cave paints picture with his lyrics that are concerned with religion, violence and the overall darkness of people in general. The music on this track is awesome. He uses big bass drums, steady brushes, fluttering handclaps, and a ghostly xylophone to bring his tale home and set his sound apart. Cave was also part of The Birthday Party, another band heard on The Gothic Box.

On the other end of the Gothic spectrum from Cave is the highly influential Ministry, who punch in with “So What,” an insane, fire-driven trip past Hell’s gates. Their impact can be felt when listening to artist and bands such as Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. The intense, screaming vocals, synth samples, heavy guitars, and bass mixed with the sometimes explicit lyrics involving politics, dark fantasies, and more sex is what separates them from the other bands here. These are the guys who weren’t afraid to push and experiment to fashion a unique sound.

A Life Less Lived is packed with the best that Gothic music has to offer: Echo And The Bunnymen, The Cult, The Creatures, Christian Death, Joy Division, The Damned and Love and Rockets to name just a few; there are also appearances by some of the members of these bands in solo outings.

My only complaint is that Rhino approaches this project as a novelty thing. Supposedly included in the book is a section on how to dance Gothic. The set is promoted as “5 hours of mood-lowering music” and even the title, A Life Less Lived, seems to be a knock. As for “Mood-lowering”, at times some songs are, but many are danceable and upbeat, which make it hard to sustain a bad mood. And as far as a life less lived, I’d say that the Gothic lifestyle, for those that truly live it, is anything but. The scene is involving, the clubs jump, all the darkness attached screams nightlife, and there’s an intense interest in the unseen things that go bump in it.

With that said, I did enjoy my sample disk and look forward to experiencing the rest of the boxed set and I do thank Rhino for putting it out. I would also like to thank my best friend and musical brother, Eric, whose insight and thoughts always help to make listening more enjoyable. And thanks to El Bicho himself for bending a kid’s ear to the sound and excitement that is Bauhaus!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Essential Alice In Chains

Written by Fumo Verde

The first time I heard Alice In Chains I thought, “Whoa, finally a band out of Seattle where you can actually understand the lyrics, and the music and melodies are fantastic.” The song I heard on the radio was "Man In The Box"; it blew me away. "I'm the man in the box/ Buried in my shit." Man, I could relate to that, and so did most of us who are labeled Generation X or whatever.

For me, the sound coming out of the Seattle in the early ‘90s was hard, raw, and passion-driven. It had to be to scrub out the ‘80s glam-pop still echoing on the radio. Alice In Chains was one of those bands that quietly exploded on to the scene as compared to Nirvana or Soundgarden, but everybody was listening. AIC blends their well-polished playing with deep passionate lyrics that reflect the pain, the frustration, and the ever-present dissatisfaction with life.

The first disc has 16 tracks that cover the albums of Facelift, Dirt, and the EP SAP. Track # 1 is "We Die Young", which has a heavy metal tone with its charging guitar and steady rock beat. “Man In The Box” follows it. Other tracks go deeper into the minds of Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley, such as "Rain When I Die." The song starts out with an ominous vibe from Mike Starr's thumping bass riffs. Cantrell stretches and twists the notes crying out from his guitar. Both combine with Staley's voice and Sean Kinney's driving drumbeats into pain and loss. Also included on this disc are "Angry Chair," "Brother," "Dirt," and concluding with "Rooster," one of AIC's most notable songs.

Disc two contains 12 tracks from the albums of Jar of Flies, Alice In Chains, and two tracks recorded for MTV’s Unplugged. Starting out with "No Excuses", which became a radio favorite when it was released, AIC was coming into their own and their music was just getting better. Jar of Flies" still sits close to my CD player and gets played at least once a month.

"I Stay Away" comes next and this song proves what Steffan Chirazi said in the liner notes about these men not just being simply musicians or artists, but they are craftsmen, who don't come up with a bunch of throwaway shit and keep what works. They nurture and develop a song, improving on it and always fine tuning it until it is perfected. The song is a prime example of how the band blends the harmonies of bass (then being played by Mike Inez), guitar, drums, and vocals into an almost symphonic sound that resonates throughout the complete works of the band.

Although AIC has a very distinct sound, no songs sound alike due to the band’s eclectic sense for music in general. “Would?” finishes out the second disc; another signature song that even today gets radio play on the rock channels around the country. Even though they have suffered the untimely death of Staley via drug overdose, and long periods in between new recordings, AIC still has a strong following and are just recently resumed touring. This 2-CD set is an essential collection even if you just like them a little. If you lend an ear to this set, I'm sure you'll become a fan for life.

This is Fumo saying, take care babies.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gliss: Love the Virgins

Written by Fumo Verde

The first time I heard Gliss was on KCRW out of Santa Monica, CA. Driving guitar licks, a thumping bass line, and thrashing drum jams is the signature sound of this three-person band. A twist for Gliss that sets them apart is that all three; Martin, Victoria, and David can, and do, swap instruments. What I'm saying is that Victoria plays drums, guitar, and bass and this goes for Martin and David also. So Gliss has the talent, but do they have the sound to match?

The first track off Love The Virgins is a song called "I Want You". This track has an ominous tone to it, with its synthesizer intro that gently brings in the guitar and bass chords. As the drums pick up the beat, the song comes alive with either Martin or David's voice. The liner notes don't let you know who’s on first here, so I can't be to sure who is singing and who's on what instrument. The voices of both men are different, and you can tell right off the bat. The voice in the second track, "Huh, What?" has a higher pitch to it, but blends well with this type of song. The bass and drums are banging hard as the guitar rips through the beat and connects the singer to the song. "You gotta grab that oar/ you gotta settle the score" is sung over a rapping sound of the snare drum, giving this song the fuel that lifts it off the ground and sends it on a roaring trip.

Although the sound feels like it’s coming in from a different orbit, the root all 12 tracks have is a rock and roll rhythm that keeps each note on the right beat. Beneath that raw rock sound, lay the pedigree of a down-to-earth rock band. "Blue Sky" displays this concept fairly well. It has a steady beat with the bass and guitar jamming along, never straying far from the rhythm. Drum rolls bridge the gap between the melody and the chorus with winding string chords following the same path.

"Falling to Pieces" brings out the darker side of these three talented individuals. The beat is almost waltz-like, as the guitar plays out more like a crying violin, and though the song’s tempo is somewhat melancholy, the soul of the vocals gives this tune its pain as stated in the title. A pain everyone has felt at one time or another. "Kissing The Boulevard" also has that dark love lost feel to it. Its beat is more up-tempo than the previous track, yet the vocals really bring out the sadness. "Life means nothing when you're talking to her you can't understand/ life means nothing when you just can't find it/ love."

From what I understand, this is their first full length CD, if so, wow! Hearing them briefly on the radio got me interested, but this CD has made me a fan. If one were to mix Sonic Youth with Love and Rockets, that would be very close to the music that Gliss brings. I hate doing that, comparing or whatever, but those are two of my favorite bands, and Gliss is starting to become another.

Love The Virgins is a great album and it definitely deserves a listen to, by anyone with an ear for a fresh vibe. Gliss brings us into their world, one of contrasting sounds of hard and soft, all within the perimeters of rock and roll. I can't wait for their next one.

This is Fumo, saying.... Love the virgins...as many as you can.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Kooks: Inside In/Inside Out

Written by Fantasma el Rey

“The Kooks are out in the street”, where you should be, spreading the word about this fresh new band from the U.K. and their inspired debut album, Inside In/Inside Out. These young men (Luke Pritchard vocals, Hugh Harris guitar, Max Rafferty bass and Paul Garred on drums) are driven and well versed in the power of rock. While drawing from many influences ranging from soul, punk, reggae, and good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, these Kats give off an early Beatles/Kinks vibe. The album and songs are short, just over 44 minutes, yet they leave their mark, and leave you wanting more.

The CD opens with the acoustic “Seaside”, which sets the tone for the lyrical content, the ins and outs of relationships. Here we get a good taste of Pritchard’s voice and his awesomely thick English accent. From there, The Kooks kick the door open wide on “See The World” and let us into theirs, filled with thick bass lines, thundering drums, and heavy guitars with amps turned up to eleven. The vocals jump up as Pritchard shows that he can rock with the best of them.

“Eddie’s Gun” is the first single and a pop/rock masterpiece; it contains nearly everything a good tune should. The drums roll and the guitar works you into frenzy; in less than a heartbeat you’re hooked and moving with the beat they are putting down. The chorus and background vocals get you singing along and you almost forget that poor Eddie’s gun doesn’t work properly. The guitar solo is to the point and in no way overdrawn. Before you know it two minutes have past and it’s over, forcing you to play the thing at least one more time. The CD also has an enhanced portion that contains the video to “Eddie’s Gun”, so don’t forget to check that out as well. Cut from this mold, “You Don’t Love Me” is another track that will drive you mad with its heavy drums and fuzzed-out guitar.

“Ooh La” and “She Moves In Her Own Way” are where The Kooks slow down a bit, while still maintaining all of their drive and pop sensibility. The lyrical flow and chorus are what work best on “Ooh La”. The music bounces along behind the vocals. “She Moves In Her Own Way” starts out calm and picks up a little, keeping the mood bouncy and light. Dig the background handclaps on this track.

The lyrics to “Matchbox” are in step with the band’s other jump tunes and the chorus again has that sing-a-long quality to it, and yes, I am singing along as I type them: “All of us/ we're going out tonight/ gonna walk all over your cars/ The Kooks are out/ in the street/ oh they're gonna steal your skies”. “I Want You” is their “dark” number. It is complete with a heartbreak beat from the rhythm section and is surrounded by shadows and shades of The Cure. The music stays lightly funky but carries a vibe of gloom to go with lyrics, “Take me back to the place where I/ loved this girl for all time.” There is even a muffled, creepy sounding organ at the close of this track. The band closes out the album by drawing from more of their influences on the bluesy “Got No Love” and the country/rock of “Do You Still Love Me?”, which is a song similar to one of my favorite bands, The Black Crowes.

So there you have it, folks. The Kooks’ Inside In/Inside Out is a masterful rock album debut that flows well and keeps its forward drive. So does that mean the short, catchy tunes, cutting guitar, steady funk-dripping bass lines. and solid drum thumps have this one passing Fantasma’s test of a truly great album? Can I play this disk over and over again without skipping from track to track? Yes, yes I can, and will, as should you, so hit the street and pick up a copy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Get The Message: The Best of Electronic

Written by Tío Esqueleto

When word first surfaced back in 1988 that New Order frontman Bernard Sumner and The Smiths guitarist/all-around Manchester-darling Johnny Marr were to collaborate on a side project, the UK music scene was all ears. Could it get any better than one part Joy Division/New Order and one part The Smiths? Having worked together briefly in 1983 for fellow Factory mates Quando Quango, longtime friends and mutual fans of each other Sumner and Marr met up in the summer of 1987 and decided to hit the studio with the hopes of adding something new to the scene they had both helped to create: the amalgamation of music, drugs, fashion, and technology that was the Manchester music scene.

With Electronic, both Marr and Sumner saw this as a chance to take a break from their current mainstays (Sumner having just finished recording and touring New Order’s Technique, and Marr rounding out a stint both on record and on tour for The The’s seminal Mind Bomb album), and to further the marriage of Manchester indie guitar-pop with a growing dance music scene. They also saw it as a catalyst to collaborate with people they’d always wanted to work with, starting quite simply with each other. In 1989, Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe entered the fold and what resulted was something not quite New Order, The Smiths, or Pet Shop Boys, but rather something very unique and most importantly, very Manchester.

Get The Message: The Best of Electronic is the first hits compilation from this UK super duo, now legends in there own right. The 15-track disc spans three albums over nine years; represented here are various choice cuts from 1991’s Electronic, 1992’s stand-alone single, “Disappointed”, 1996’s Raise The Pressure, and 2000’s Twisted Tenderness.

It opens with “Forbidden City”, the opening track from Raise the Pressure. Out of all the tracks penned by Sumner/Marr, none scream The Smiths/New Order more so than this, the perfect trumpeting of their ‘96 return. Marr’s guitar jangles and wails behind Sumner’s sweetly melancholic vocals. One has to wonder if this isn’t what the beginnings of an unrealized Smiths album would have sounded like had Morrissey lent his signature croon back in 1996, or the same side of the opposite coin had Peter Hook lent one of his signature bass lines to the mix.

“Getting Away With It” is the song that started it all. It reached #11 on the UK charts, hit the Top 40 here in the states, and still holds its own nearly 16 years later. Co-written by Tennant, who also sings the chorus, it is “the” Electronic song to those who never heard more than this first single and have since distorted and wondered all these years “whatever happened to that one New Order song with the guy from the Pet Shop Boys?”. Unlike “Forbidden City”, “Getting Away With It” is a sound all its own, the sound of Electronic.

From the same vein we get the bouncy singles “Get the Message” and “Feel Every Beat”. Both are very much a Sumner/Marr product and both scream Manchester, not unlike early Stone Roses or Happy Mondays of that period. Sadly, these are the only three songs represented from that first album. The one glaring omission being “Patience Of A Saint”, another track co-penned and sung by Tenant.

Track five is the single mix to 1992’s “Disappointed”, the highly anticipated follow-up to the debut album. Again, co-written and this time sung entirely by Tenant, “Disappointed” is a piano-heavy, Euro-House track that falls a hair short of expectation. It is aptly titled, but I must say it sounds better to me today than it ever did then.

What follows is a mixed bag of singles and prime cuts from the remaining two Electronic albums, Raise The Pressure and Twisted Tenderness. The former finds Marr and Sumner working with former Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos, a legend both Marr and Sumner had longed to work with since their humblest beginnings. “Second Nature”, “For You”, and “Imitation Of Life” are all worthy selections, the latter being the B-side to the already mentioned “Forbidden City”. Again, there are glaring omissions form the source material. Foremost is “Dark Angel”, a driving song that is representative of the dance music revolution of the mid 1990’s. A tad dated, probably, but its absence is certainly noticed in a collection of hits.

Twisted Tenderness saw a return to the rock roots of both Marr and Sumner’s prospective pasts. Not nearly as fun and accessible as prior Electronic releases (it actually serves more as foreshadowing for what would be Sumner’s next New Order release, Get Ready), it did however provide “Out Of My League”, another classic Electronic song.

Get The Message is an unexpected surprise. Not that it’s surprisingly good, quite the contrary. It’s great! The surprise is that it was ever conceived of in the first place. A Greatest Hits from a band (a side project, no less) scarcely heard of by those outside “the know”. One would think that anyone interested in a Greatest Hits, from a band like this, would already own all of the source material. Sure, but to that I say here they are, all in one place, abridged, and with only a few minor omissions/complaints. The packaging is pretty nifty too! A-

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Why The Hell Not?....Songs of Kinky Friedman

Written by Fumo Verde

Although I'm not a big fan of country music, I do enjoy a few who transcend the genre: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and of course, Kinky Friedman and his Texas Jewboys. This CD is a special tribute by some of country music’s top performers to an American icon. Stars such as Dwight Yoakam, Charlie Robison, and Asleep At The Wheel strip away the sarcasm and fun-loving wit that is Kinky Friedman. These singers put their own twist to the music of a man they admire.

Kevin Fowler starts off the set with "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven" which is Kinky's take on the whole women’s liberation movement, or at least it’s what Kinky is telling his old lady. Fowler with his rough gravelly voice gives the song a deep southern fried sound that comes from heartland of the U.S.A. Lyle Lovett croons one of Kinky’s greatest tunes, “Sold American”. It’s the story of how the American economy and public have been sold off to the highest bidder; our capitalist ways cause us to sell ourselves out to the rest of the world. If you offer an American the right price, they'll sell it. Lovett's haunting voice turns the tune into a song of sorrow, and of warning.

My two favorite songs by Kinky are included. The first, sung by Todd Snider, is "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore", which tells the sad tale of a redneck getting his ass kicked by our favorite Texas Jewboy. Snider nails it as he rumbles us through one of Kinky's more explosive adventures. It's also the most politically charged of all the tracks on this disk. Since Kinky is running for Governor of Texas, I can guess Snider will be voting for Kinky. That is if he lives in Texas.

My other favorite song on this CD is "Ride Em' Jewboy" sung by none other than the aforementioned Willie Nelson. With Willie's voice and that slide guitar, Western Swing is here to stay. Willie's style, along with the small band feel, gives you that sense of being in one of those lone truck stops out along the Texas desert, drinkin' bad coffee and bummin' cigarettes from Flo the waitress.

All the tracks on this disk provide what Kinky's America looks like. Seen through the eyes of other stars, such as Delbert McClinton, who sings "Autograph", and Jason Boland & The Stragglers, who lend their talents to "The Gospel According to John", it’s obvious these singers, at some point in their lives or careers, have been touched by Kinky and his music.

This tribute album to Kinky does the man justice. These songs, refreshed by these talented people, still provide an insightful view of a man who loves this country and the people who make it their home. With fun-loving cynicism and an artful way to bring about real American feelings, Why The Hell Not?... is a testament to the character and stature of who Kinky Friedman is.

This is Fumo Verde urging all in Texas to Vote for Kinky. WHY THE HELL NOT KINKY?!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Written by Hombre Divertido

This Man of the Year doesn’t deserve your vote.

So much for truth in advertising as this film fails to be the comedy that it is billed as, but instead, a combination of Dave and The Net, where the worst of both films are brought together.

The philosophy of keeping it simple seems to have escaped writer/director Barry Levinson, who apparently felt that a comedic talk-show host being elected president was not enough fodder to fill 115 minutes, and thus felt the need to include a conspiracy that is as ridiculous in its conception as it is embarrassing in its execution.

Of course, the plot might have been better appreciated, had it not been given away in the first 15 minutes of the film. So, the audience is left to laugh at the few moments of humor generated by Williams who seems restrained by the script and direction of the usually competent Levinson. Other than that, the most you will hear from the audience at this film is: “What were they thinking?”

Christopher Walken is his usual enjoyable self as the manager of Williams, but the rest of the supporting cast borders on annoying. Laura Linney, in what would be the Sandra Bullock Net role, handles her assignment with the subtleness of a D-actress being chased by Jason in a Friday the 13th film. Perhaps that is why the release date was chosen?

The actors can only be saddled with so much responsibility here other than they should have impeached Levinson, as this failure resides primarily on his shoulders. He had Robin Williams playing a comedian/ talk show host, in the mold of Bill Maher or Jon Stewart, who runs for and gets elected president. He had Christopher Walken playing the manager. How could that not be a hit?

How? Easy. Never let the story go where we all want it to, and where you are lead to believe it will by the commercials. Of course you certainly can’t blame the marketing department. No one would go see this convoluted mess if they tried to sell it any other way. This film is a huge disappointment, and exemplifies the often-heard statement: “They showed the best parts in the commercials”

Recommendation: If you are expecting a comedy about an unlikely character being president, this is not it. Go rent Dave. If you are looking for a good collaboration of Levinson and Williams with a story that delivers, this is not it. Go rent Good Morning, Vietnam. If you are looking for a solid Levinson take on the political machine, this is not it. Go rent Wag the Dog.

SPOILER WARNING: The following run-on sentence contains key story points that you won’t figure out until 15 minutes into the film.

If you are looking for a film where Robin Williams appears lost, rarely gets to display his talent, and is trying to make the best of a script that has him playing president elect Tom Dobbs, who meets Eleanor Green (Linney) under the most contrived circumstances, and tries to help her as she is being stalked by her former employers, who want to silence the fact that their advanced computer polling software was unable to count accurately, and thus fraudulently placed Dobbs in the presidency, then wait for this mess to come to television as the edited version may not be better, but it will be shorter..

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Miles Davis: Workin’ & Eric Dolphy: Outward Bound

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Prestige has been re-releasing a series of albums under the label Rudy Van Gelder Remasters, named after the legendary jazz engineer. Two of the entries are solid platters that come from two of the best leaders of anytime, backed by their talented, handpicked professionals. Both quintets have a solid rhythm section that stand on their own and can carry a number as good as any trio put together.

Workin’... is the third in a series of quintet albums, recorded to recapture the vibe that this group projected while playing at the Café Bohemia in 1956-57, the same period as these sessions; the mood is mellow while losing none of its jump or flow. Miles Davis and John Coltrane on the same recording is awesome enough, throw in Red Garland’s piano prowess, Paul Chambers’ bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums and you’ve got more than just something to work with. For a better backstory on those two jazz legends, see my pal and fellow Snob, Fumo Verde’s review on Davis’ Walkin’ and Coltrane’s Soultrane. He does a fine job in summing up their beginnings.

This set opens with the beautiful “It Never Entered My Mind”. Red’s piano starts us off, followed by Miles’ plaintive trumpet. With the low bass plucks sprinkled in, it makes me thirst for gin and can’t help thinking of the fact that liquor sometimes eases pain and sorrow.

Then Philly Joe kicks me awake with his machine gun intro to “Four”, while Miles and Trane fly right in, reminding me that jazz, like life, can jump and spring up like fire. This tune, as well “Trane’s Blues” and “Ahmad’s Blues” represents this unit’s creative drive and ability to move, keep you boppin’. The highlight to “Ahmad’s” is the bowed bass solo by Chambers, no boundaries, baby. “Trane’s Blues” is where we get to see Coltrane work some of his magic on one of his own compositions, a mellow swinger that sees him soar yet stay smooth.

“Half Nelson” sends this disc someplace else; taking you on a wild ride that seems out of control, yet you know that these men are in full possession of the wheel, total control. It shows on their solos as they soar and narrowly avoid crashing into walls, leaving the room filled with smoke from the inferno they’ve begun in your ears.

In an all-too-short career, before his early death due to complications from diabetes, Los Angeles-born Eric Dolphy had learned from and played with many jazz greats, including Charlie Mingus, Buddy Collette and Red Callender. Moving East in 1958 with the Chico Hamilton Quintet got this multi-talented instrumentalist going, and it is during this time that he began to step forward and truly shine on his own. Outward Bound is Dolphy’s debut as leader. A masterful album that jumps from the get-go, Dolphy’s group pours their heart out and sends you towards the jazz heavens.

“G.W.” starts off with drummer Roy Haynes and his Tommy gun attack. From there Dolphy, on alto sax, and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard begin the upward- and outward-bound ascent, while the remainder of the group bop in to let us know they're here too: Jaki Byard on the 88 keys and George Tucker on bass. Each having his turn to take the reins and drive the sound further out, as they will do again with force on the rollicking “Les”, which spins out of this world and leaves a blazing trail towards its end.

“On Green Dolphin Street” and “Miss Toni” are showcases for Dolphy’s bass clarinet, an instrument that adds an air of playful fun to the mix of solid jazz that the boys drive home around him. “Glad To Be Unhappy” is the only ballad on this album and a tune that brings Dolphy’s flute to the fore. Listen closely and you can hear him breathe, which for me only adds to the mystic. Halfway through the song, he takes it a few notches higher and sends the flute, and us, soaring into the open expanse of the jazz universe.

The flute makes a return for the bonus track “April Fool”, a peppy number that fits with the playful side of this CD and takes absolutely nothing away from the drive of the album as a whole. The two other bonus tracks are extended versions of the jammin’ “G.W.” and the bluesy “245”, Dolphy’s street number in Brooklyn. On “G.W.” the solos are longer, giving the musicians a bit more time to wax creative.

So there you have it, bop kats. Here springing from 1956 to 1960 are gathered masters thrown together to help spread the word that jazz is boundless, especially in the hands of such as these. Many would follow the trail that they blazed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Joshua Radin: We Were Here

Written by Cara De Pescado

Joshua Radin is one of the artists that should be glad he’s a friend of Zach Braff. Zach Braff likes music, as can be seen by putting together the soundtrack for films like Garden State and The Last Kiss as well as his TV show Scrubs. I’m not sure if Scrubs or Zach Braff’s blog is what tipped me off on Joshua Radin first, but I am glad it did. Even then, Joshua Radin would have been able to find his way to the limelight without a leg up.

We Were Here was initially available exclusively on iTunes where it easily because the Number 1 bestselling folk album and was in the Top 30 overall. Not bad considering it is Joshua Radin’s first full-length CD; 2004’s EP First Between 3rd & 4th contained only six songs.

Radin wrote ten of the eleven songs on We Were Here, with Vince Clarke’s “Only You” being the only cover. Yaz or Enrique Iglesias fans will recognize “Only You,” no it isn’t the song John Lennon and Elvis sing of the same name. I’d never heard it sung without a thick accent and it really is a gem when Radin sings it.

Which is really the point of the whole CD, Radin is truly a diamond in the rough. His voice is unique, almost a whisper, making it seem more intimate. The breathiness to his voice is the perfect match to the airy songs he writes. Centering on love, both new and lost, his voice contains a sort of romanticism that seduces you to join his journey.

Not only is his voice exquisite, but Radin really does have a talent for songwriting. The Singer-Songwriter genre is full of people who can’t sing, can’t write, or both. But he is the light in the distance, the beacon for which the others must strive. With a few words he can entice you, inciting emotions so strong you would think they were your own instead of his. Add moving cello arrangements on top of the beautiful words and you have the recipe for a great CD.

The opening track, “Sundrenched World,” beautifully explains insecurities in love. Yet his vulnerability lacks the in-your face heart-on-your-sleeve feeling of the likes of James Blunt. Although hailed as the new Elliot Smith, Joshua Radin maintains his individuality.

“Star Mile” has a more ditty-like feel to it with more obvious rhyming but it isn’t so sing-songy as to beat you over the head with it. The song also beautifully showcases how well Priscilla Hartranft and Radin harmonize. “These Photographs” is more upbeat and demonstrates the intelligence behind his songs. I mean, how many artists mention Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir, Nina Simone, and Mary Cassat in one song? And what fitting people to connect to the images he keeps in his mind of his loved one.

While “Only You” is great for being recognizable, “Winter” is my favorite song on the album. With lyrics like “your voice is the splinter inside me,” how can you not feel the pain and longing Joshua Radin is singing about?

The airiness to his voice makes ballads a great match for Joshua Radin. Personally, I love the ballads. However, I can understand where some would find it repetitive and wish for some variety. Either way, Joshua Radin’s music speaks to that place in your heart where you know you are home and everything is at peace.

And if you can’t tell, I really like Joshua Radin's CD.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

All That Remains: The Fall Of Ideals

Written by Fumo Verde

The first thing I thought when I heard this was, “Great. Another ‘I can scream louder than you’ metal CD.” The kind of music that I have no idea what the fuck is being said. Initially, I had a headache when I started my listening session with The Fall Of Ideals, so after the second song, I turned the thing off. A few days later, and a fresh new bag sitting on my lap, I once again attempted to listen to this crazy style of metal that I never seemed to get a grasp on.

I sat through all eleven tracks, starting with “This Calling”. The scream starts off the ditty, like the sound of a German Stukka dive-bomber charging to the deck below. As it levels out, that lead-in howl of a voice, the rocket burst of the drums force of the guitars and bass to join together into a pulsating chorus. When the guitars do have solo time, their sounds twist and echo with a scream sweeter than the grunting, chanting, hard gravel voice that barks out the lyrics like a drill instructor on Parris Island. At this moment I grabbed the liner notes. Thank the Gods, these katz put in the lyrics. Major A+ on the Fumo-rating chart.

Now I was armed with the power to hear what was being grunted. It’s amazing how accessible the song becomes when you can understand what is being said. For example, on “We Stand”, the lyrics read, "Walk a darkened road and we will be our own light/ Our foundation our core is strong/ Stand for what's right”. These guys are giving you parts of themselves, who they are. What I thought was violence, is actually passion with fury. It still sounded like angry music to me, but now I understood why.

“We Stand” and “It Dwells In Me” had some of the most charging guitar riffs I had heard in a long time. I was not thinking of these guys as just a bunch of head bangers who only know so many chords that they strike them real fast. This band is a group of very talented musicians. The structure and the rhythm aren’t extremely complex, but the timing and the power are totally detailed. This group knows what it's doing.

“Six” which is track seven, reminded me of my all-time favorite heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. The guitars start off with what sounded like the beginning of “Aces High”, and then in came the banshee cry. Te jam lit up and exploded into a chase between the drums, the guitars, and the voice of the singer/shouter, whatever you're more comfortable with. The song takes you on a hell of a ride, and then halfway in, like being on the inside of a deep tube, silence. Guitars, gently drift in, until the green room is about to close, and boom! The chainsaw guitar work, along with the jackhammer drilling of the drums tossed you up on shore for the final end of the song.

As The Fall of Ideals came to a close, my mind had changed about this band, and the sound it was pumping out. On “Empty Inside", the lyrics are, “Don't want to lose everything/ Just want to feel again...." You can feel the pain of wanting someone back, and by now, you can see why one might be shouting it until one’s throat was soar. At first, like I said, I’m not much into bands that have a sound that reminds me of the dog barking out jingle bells on the radio, but All That Remains have more than just a bark to them, and if you listen closely, it has a bite to it as well. Will I go see these guys in concert? It depends on if I feel I have the energy to keep up with them or not.

Remember when Metallica had that raw edge to them? I think these guys have that. Watch out for them.