Friday, 27 February 2009

Summer Fun in a Dimly Lit Room

Continuing with the theme of movies, I want to discuss this year's Summer Blockbuster Line-up.

At my current job I get to go see movies for free at the poor-people's theatres, a fact which I love to lord over all the other poor people in line with me.
Usually I flash my pass, and when the movie people say,
"Oh Mr. Hammell, it's good to see you again! Will you be enjoying the vampire movie or the gun fight film this evening?"

"Well my good man" I'll reply "I think I shall try the children's film tonight."

"Excellent choice Mr Hammell, go right on in."

Then I turn around and flash everyone else in line the finger.

This is how my Tuesday or Thursday nights are usually spent, sometimes I go and see a movie TWO times a week. But never two movies a week on the same night. That's just excessive. So with my newfound movie-going freedom I plan on catching as many summer movies as possible. Unfortunately though I can't get in for free at the rich people theater where tickets are like ten bucks. They laugh and throw bread crumbs at me when I try to get in there.

So I have to wait a week or two for the movies to change theatres, sometimes up to a month! But that's okay, where I grew up the new movies didn't get to the closest theatre until about two months after release, sometimes three. I remember one time the movie had come out on VHS before the film got to the theatre. Good times, Good times.

Anyway, here's the list of big movies I'm completely stoked to see followed by a list of ones that will be huge but that I won't see.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wolverine, by far the baddest of the X-Men badasses, now has his own prequel. I've heard some rumblings that maybe it won't be as good, but what-the-fuck-ever. Wolverine has always been a favourite X-Men of mine, and the X-Men movie series has been really good in my opinion. The first movie was a bit shakey, it's obvious it needed to break ground on the film series, and it did just that and still managed to make a completely enjoyable film. The next two movies were great! Yeah they screwed up some of the mutants stories and powers for the purpose of cinema adaptation, but for the most part you can tell they tried their best to make a movie that would work for everyone.

This particular movie is going to cover Wolverine's past, and his involvment with the secretive Weapon X program. It's going to rock, especially if they stick to the formula the previous two movies have developed. Also, it'll feature fan-boy favourite Deadpool played by Ryan Reynolds, who'll be perfect for the role.

Anticipation Level: Totally Stoked

Star Trek

I know, I know, I'm being a giant nerd here, but come on! Star Trek! The Star Trek series has sucked since Next Generation ended, and none of the movies were all that great. I mean, they were good, but no better than a decent episode of the TV Show. This movie hopes to change that. It's given old man William Shatner the boot (which is understandable, as much as I love the guy he's not fit & trim Captain Kirk anymore) and completely recast the crew of the Starship Enterprise. I question the decision to have Zachary Quinto (of Heroes fame) as Spock. I don't think he fits the role. He doesn't really resemble the Vulcans from Star Trek all that much, and I didn't realize it until one of my roommates pointed it out ot me, but he looks really creepy, all the time.
But for better or for worse, this is a movie I'm going to
have to see.

Anticipation Level: Tentavily Stoked

Terminator: Salvation

Yeah yeah, more geek stuff. Laugh it up. I haven't really been following the press on this one, but I have seen a few of the movie stills, and it looks great. If there's one thing that's sure to make Jake Hammell like a movie, it's time travel. I definitely dig the whole time travel paradox stuff, and this movie is rife with it. Secondly, it's a post-apocaliyptic film, and that shit is always cool. If nothing else this movie will be a special effects masterpice filled with explosions and gunfights.

Anticipation Level: Pretty Stoked

Inglorious Basterds

Setting: World War 2
Characters: Angry American Jews
Plot: Let's go screw up some Nazis in a fucked up fashion
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Need I say more?

Anticipation Level: Super Stoked

Now here's a list of movies I will not be seeing, and the reasons why.

Land of the Lost

I'm sorry Will Ferrel, I really am. But I think we have to break up. You were funny in Anchorman, I loved you in Step Brothers, and I thought you were funny in Talladega Nights. I even had a good laugh during Blades of Glory. But I don't want to see you in a kids movie. I own Elf, I don't know why, but I do. But this is too much. It's time for you to go back to and do comedy there, or do more suppourting roles rather than leads.

Unless it does turn out to be alright. I wouldn't mind some light-hearted Will Ferrel comedy to soothe my sorrowful soul.

Anticipation Level: Stoked less than a frozen steam locomotive

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I used to like the Transformers. A lot. My favourite Transformers movie: The animated 80s version where Optimus Prime dies in the first ten minutes. He gets shot to hell, and the rest of the movie has the Autobots barely surviving. In fact at the end they were lucky to end up ahead at all. Now that's a movie for kids to watch!
But kids shouldn't watch this crap with Shia LaBouef. I hate Shia. Hate Hate Hate him. And the last Transformers movie was awful. It said Transformers right in the title, but you barely saw the robots! I've said this before, but the title should seriously be called:

"Shia LaBouef's Big Day Out featuring The Transformers"

I want more robots, I want more robot violence, and I want Shia LaBouef to die a horrible death in the first ten minutes of the sequel. But he won't. So I'm glad I downloaded the first movie and didn't pay for it, and I'm not even going waste my time thinking anymore thoughts about Revenge of the Fallen. I'm not even going to see it to stare at Megan Fox.

You may all pick your jaws up from the floor now. I'm serious about not seeing this movie.

And yeah, I know I spelled Shia's last name wrong. Coming from a person whose last name gets misspelled all the time, I don't care, and he can go to hell.

Anticipation Level: If by Stoked I mean "Raging Angry" than yeah, I'm fucking stoked for this movie.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I've seen three of the five movies that have come out so far, this will make it a sixth. I love the books. They're a fun, easy read. The plot is decent, but nothing too phenomenal. It was the universe and style of of the books that kept me interested. The cast of the books is wide and varied, and they're all very intruiging characters with complicated back stories and have lots to say. The interaction between them in the books is great, and the narrative is really enjoyable. I really really like the books.

That said, I hate the movies. I will actually reduce the amount movies I've seen from three to 2.5 on account of how much time I've spent actually paying attention to the movies while watching them. The movies, for the sake of time, cut out everything I like from the books. The main story's there, but it's been pared down and shaved away so badly that all that's left is something similar to when you compare a grape to a raisin. I don't want raisins, I want grapes (figuratiely speaking). What's left when they condense the books into films isn't palatable in teh slightest. Lots of people like them and love them, but they're just not for me.

Anticipation Level: So UnStoked I'll punch anyone in the stomach that asks me to go this movie.

Dance Flick

Good god. Another parody movie? Besides stoners and 13 year old boys who are hoping for a boob shot, who keeps going to these? Shame on any of you reading this who aren't either a stoner or a thirteen year old boy for seeing these movies. Click on that image above and tell me that the poster doesn't scream "THIS MOVIE IS A STEAMING PILE OF CRAP." There's a dancing baby wearing comically oversized shades, an upside down guy who's landed on his head, some actor wearing a button saying "I Love White Chicks," and all that amongst other 'hilarious' crap. I'm willing to hedge bets that more than half of the jokes in the movie are alluded to in this poster. Jokes such as sets collapsing, racial tensions, teenage pregnancy, overweight girls dancing, and slipping while dancing. I should see this movie just to see if I'm right about my predictions.

Anticipation Level: I'm not stoked. Just more astonished at yet another parody movie coming out. Do they really expect to gross more than they spent making this movie? That must be the explanation for all the straight up B-List actors.

Overall, this summer is sure to be filled with tons of stinkers, but it'll still have lots of high grossing movies. I don't think there'll be many academy award winning nominations for acting or directing, but as per usual, expect lots of explosions, car chases, suspense, and sex on this year's movie screen.

The White Stripes - Hardest Button to Button

Monday, 23 February 2009

Oscars & The Grouch

For the first time in a couple years I sat down and watched the Oscars. Well, half of them. I was watching 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' with a couple of my roommates during the first half. That Matthew Mcconaughey is dreamy!

I got into them about halfway through the technical awards which were hosted by Will Smith for some reason. Another one of my various roommates who had been watching the show almost from the start on another one of our various TVs excitedly squealed and told me that Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor.
Yeah, whatever, like we didn't all see that one coming from a mile away. The weird thing though was that Philip Seymour Hoffman had been nominated as well. I don't know if you saw Doubt or not, but that was definitely not a suppourting actor role, it was a lead. And if he wasn't the lead actor, then who the hell was it?

In the case of best suppourting actress I saw all the films but the one that won. So I can't really say if Penelope Cruz deserved her award or not. Overall actually, all of the people nominated were great in their parts, but none of them really blew me away. Viola Davis in Doubt was pretty good. In fact, if you haven't seen Doubt, go and download it or something. It's definitely a good film.

For best actress, Kate Winslet in The Reader. Another one everyone knew she was going to get. This was her sixth time up for best actress. Not that makes her in any way more deserving. But last night was her night, everyone there knew it, even she did. Her speech was awesome, probably one of the better ones of the night, especially when she that nice father-daughter interaction moment.
I also like how her englishman father wore a dumpy looking hat to the awards. Had anyone else done that I think they would have been thrown out on the red carpet.

Best Actor was the biggest disappointment for me of the night. Sean Penn walked away with Mickey Rourke's award. Sean Penn knew it too, he even said hello to Rourke from on stage. I think it's a big FUCK YOU when in acceptance speeches winners say "I want to thank all the other nominees."
No you don't. You out-acted their ass, that's your award, not theirs. They know that, and you know that. Except in this case.
I just don't think Sean Penn did anything really phenomenal in Milk. It was a great role, he did a good job, but it was just Sean Penn playing a gay man. I just didn't buy it.
I also feel the academy gave Sean Penn the award for reasons besides being acting well.

Now on the subject of Best Picture. Of the movies that were nominated I saw Benjamin Button, Milk, and Frost/Nixon. I did not see Slumdog Millionaire or The Reader. So I can't give a fair opinion on why I didn't want Slumdog to win. But, of those movies that I did see, I think the best was Frost/Nixon. Do you know how hard it is to make a movie about interviewing someone interesting?
I don't either, but I bet it's tough! That movie was written beautifully, I've never seen anything else like it. And Frank Langella's protrayal of Nixon was awesome! He looked and sounded just like him! I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was as suspenseful as any boxing movie. I can't do the film justice in my description, but it was awesome.

But for all the people who won, you pretty knew that they were going to get it. I'm upset over the Oscars, but I knew I would be. There were no surprises, no upsets, and lots of snubbing. The Academy did it again. Way to go guys.

Oh and by the way, I want to give them big kudos on nominating two songs from Slumdog for the same category, Best Original Song, which by the way only had three nominees.
Yeah, that's right, 66% of the category belonged to Slumdog. That was a real nice choice of action there, and thanks for leaving out a certain person who should have won but didn't even get nominated. *cough* Bruce Springsteen *cough*
And what the hell was up with the performance before the award? As if you didn't know who was going win by all the Bollywood crap going on there. It would have been funny for Peter Gabriel to have won.
And if he would have brought his Keytar along too that would have been the highlight of the Oscars.

Everclear - Father of Mine

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Music Makes the Man

I listen to a lot of different types of music. Friends and coworkers have described my tastes as 'Eclectic.' I guess thats a good enough way to describe it. Some days I just want to listen to Meatloaf and REO Speedwagon, put on a leather jacket and perm my hair.
Other days I'll get down to some Grandmaster Flash and Sweatshop Union while wearing my pants around my knees and putting my hat on backwards.
Okay, so I don't actually own a hat, but the point is, I listen to it all. Every genre of music I touch upon in some way shape or form. But the question is, why?

To answer this, I have to travel far back in time to my earliest memories of listening to music, which would be with my dad. I don't think anyone has had a bigger musical influence on my life than my father.

The farthest back I can recall is driving with him somewhere (auction sales maybe?) in either our old station wagon or his 'brown truck.' My dad is about as old as the hills (fifty something), and liked to listen to the Winnipeg oldies station. I think it was 850 CHAB, perhaps you readers will remember better than me, and 880 CKLQ, Southwestern Manitoba's number one radio station, of which I was a proud DJ at for about year.

Because I listened to oldies rock and pop, and classic country (along with lots of country music from the 90s) I got an appreciation for music from days gone by. For musical styles that would be imitated, but never reproduced, and for the changing tides of music. Especially in country music you can hear how it's evolved over time to what it is now. Pop music has always been a very jolting transition. But that owes entirely to the fickle ears of youth, and the fact that the mainstream youth market completely changes about every 5 to 15 years.

The first time I remember getting hooked on a hit song was none other than Mister Bill Ray Cyrus' Achey Breaky Heart. I loved Achey Breaky Heart!
I. Loved. It.
I guess because it was really catchy and easy for a kid who was only four years old at the time to sing along with. Thankfully my music tastes have changed a little since then.

Now this one is really embarrassing. My first music purchase. Before I get to the bad part, let me give you some preamble. My older siblings got mail from Columbia House, which as I'm sure you all know, are the people who scam you into buying lots of DVDs and CDs through the mail. I don't know if they're still around, and frankly I don't care. When you can buy whatever you like through the mail and don't have a somebody to say "You don't want this" you can buy some pretty stupid crap.

So anyway, I scraped together the (probably) ten dollars to buy my very first cassette tape. It was..

Disco Dance Hits - 1976-1996

Why, oh why did my parents and older siblings ever let me buy this? They're lucky I didn't start wearing sparkly purple pants with diamond studded roller skates and start calling myself "Fabulicious Hammell."

In my defense though, I only think I listened to this like half a dozen times, and never from start to finish. As it turns out I wasn't that in to disco. Plus, by this point I had stolen my sister's copy of one my favourite albums of all time:

The Presidents of the United States of America

This was the Presidents first album, and self titled. The silly lyrics, which at the time didn't make a lot of sense but sounded good to my youthful ears, and cool sounds have had me hooked since I was six years old.

I didn't realize it until much later, but The Presidents were my first and greatest introduction into the world of pop music. But I was the only one in my class aside from my best friend who was listening to The Presidents. Everyone else on the other hand, and by everyone I mean the girls who always seemed to control the music box at lunch hours, were listening to...

The Spice Girls

Strangle me now. I didn't like them then, the only thing that was likable about them was the budding sense of sexuality a six year old is becoming aware of in the media. I always thought Victoria Spice was the hottest, but because my friends had already 'Called Dibs' on all the other ones, the only one I got to 'Call Dibs' on was Sporty Spice, who was universally recognized as the ugly one. What horrible trauma to have to experience as a child.

Luckily though they blew over pretty quick, and by the time I was in grade 5 they were a far distant memory. For some reason I hit my depressing, dress in black and be negative stage in grade 5 as well. I'm guessing it was a combination of my older brother being going through his eldest child rebellion stage, and the computer games I was playing at the time. Computer games have really screwed me up, but that's another blog for another time.

The next CD I bought at this time was a very odd choice. I think I had bought it more for the name on the cover than the actual music on the CD. It was the movie soundtrack to...


It was a bit...heavy for my tastes these days. It included Metallica, Korn, Slayer, Marilyn Manson and Silverchair, as well some elctronica stuff. Out of those bands the only ones I still listen to are older Metallica (the stuff that's in that soundtrack), Marilyn Manson from when he was shit-disturbing, and Silverchair. The rest of it stuff I can't really stand. Some Butthole Surfers are on there, but they were paired up with Moby who for the most part I don't like at all.

Grade 6 and 7 is when I finally figured out that I should get albums based on the songs I heard on the radio and liked. I found this out one summer at an aunt's place where she had CABLE!!! At my parent's house in Pierson, Manitoba they only had an antenna. We still got a pretty good spread of channels, and I never missed out on many of the major television events or series. But when you only get five different channels (eight if the weather was good), you still miss out on a lot. One of these things was Much Music. I really enjoy music videos, but things still being the mid to late nineties, the internet didn't offer this opportunity (I didn't get the net until 2004) and me not having any channels offering this, I didn't get to see many videos.

So having cable that one summer for two or three weeks was a real experience. I distinctly remember watching the videos for Wonderful, Inside Out, Kryptonite, and Heart Shaped Box. I know these all didn't come out at the same time, it just happened to be what I remember watching. I also recall seeing Lucky by Britney Spears, but that was just an unfortunate coincidence.

Songs From and American Movie Vol.1 was the first CD I can remember listening to and really connecting with the lyrics. It was from Everclear with the singles Wonderful and AM Radio. It's not their best CD, they had a couple earlier ones that are better. But for me, that CD was KING. When little preteens talk about being depressed and how much life sucks, that's what I was going through when I got that CD.
Now, by no means was life all that bad, except that I was being a little shit in my classes, I'm pretty much responsible for driving my French teacher in grade 7 out of town, I was failing pretty much everything, and I only got through grade 7 by one point. One point and I would have failed, been held back, would not have graduated in 06', would not have met any of the same people I know today, probably wouldn't even be in radio.
So after that near fail, I can recall listening to the CD and thinking "Wow, that kid's life sucks in the Wonderful. Mine isn't that bad. Better pick things up."
The only change I made was in being more positive. I didn't try any harder, but my grades got much better, and I had a much better time at school. So much so in fact that I can't really say I had any downsides in Highschool. I had a pretty good time actually.

My musical tastes finally started to evolve in to what they are now around Grade 10, which would have been 2004 when I finally entered the new millenium and got dial-up internet. All 56K gloriousness of it.

Before this I don't even remember what I listened to for music. Probably KX96 and Hot 101.1 in Brandon. The classic and new rock stations. Nowadays I can't do anything without some kind of noise or music on. Remember Mambo Number 5 and Livin' La Vida Loca? I really enjoyed those too. I have Ricky Martin to thank for my introduction to Latin music. I don't enjoy the mainstream Latin stuff at all, I like the older instrumental stuff.

Anyway, so I got the internet, and started playing The Kingdom Of Loathing (KOL). It's a lot bigger now than when I started. It's not important when I started playing though, all that matters is that I spent a lot of time on that game. The community was cool, and the game always had lots of interesting people to chat with. Eventually it started up its own Internet Radio station.

Yeah the logo is shitty, but believe me, if you played the game you'd get the joke

It was soooo cooooooool! Suddenly I was opened up to an entire world of music I didn't even know existed. I heard reggea, I heard rap, I hear country, I heard rock, I heard J-pop, I heard clips from hilarious comedians, it was all there, and it was wonderful. It was as close to being pirate radio as anything these days is going get. It had so many different DJs, all of them players of KOL. There were the DJs I thought were awesome and cool to listen to, like Jick and Mr.Skullhead, and SpaceMonkey, and KolMohDee. There a few I hated but I don't remember who they were.

What I took away though was that everyone has different musical tastes.You don't have to live with what mainstream radio is shoving down your throat. You don't have to care what other people think about your music, because it's YOUR music! Who gives two shits if you like Trooper, or if you like Fergie? If you genuinely like them, then by all means flaunt it. Maybe I won't dig you s much at first, but hey, just because I think you're not a fly cat, doensn't mean you won't find other friends. That's pretty much true for anyone actually. You can't judge music by the genre it falls under. Sometimes you can't even judge it by the artist. Not often, but sometimes.

In summary, give all music a fair chance. If your friend wants to put on the new Taylor Swift CD, give them a chance before you barf. I won't judge, you shouldn't either.

Unless that artist is Bjork. I'm just not into Bjork and never will be.

It's just too...weird.

Anyway, now that I've exposed my dark, deep music secrets, how bout' you? What was your first CD purchase, or a band that you loved as a child and still love now? One I forgot to mention was the Barenaked Ladies. They're probably my favourite band, and I have my friend Graham to thank for that one. Kudos to you G-String! Here's to eclectic music!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Dessert and Deserts

Before I begin, a brief interlude courtesy of Nicholas Gurewitch.

So, let's play make believe, you're stranded on a tropical island, something like the one from Lost , but not so big, and without all the crazy crap like smoke monsters and polar bears.

You're allowed to bring three things, and one celebrity along to help you survive.

Now, if this were me, I would bring a plane, a landing strip, fuel, and John Travolta. Because Travolta is a pilot, and all of those other things would allow me and him to fly away happily ever after. We'd probably sing some tunes from Grease to pass the time.

But I have to make some caveats for myself so I can't give any smartass answers.

First of all, I have to live on this island for four years, just like Tom Hanks in Castaway. Secondly, I can't bring along any items that will allow me to escape; Such as a canoe. I can however bring a hatchet and make a canoe to escape. That's a legal move. And third, I can't have anything that hasn't been invented yet.

So, what would I bring, and why?

1) A hatchet.

It's effective for use as a hammer, a cutting and hacking tool, 1/2 of a flint thing, a weapon, and it's a pretty sturdy piece of work. Plus having a hatchet worked out really well for that kid in that book by Gary Paulson. I think the book was called..."The Boy Whose Plane Crashed." I'm like %99 sure that's it.

2) A Big Metal Pan

Like a cast iron skillet. I can use it to cook and boil water with. Boiling water is the most important function it would provide. In a perfect world I'd have something like a Solvatten, but it's better to bring along something like a cast iron skillet which has multiple uses, versus the Solvatten, which while very handy, ultimately is a couple sheets of plastic. If it were to break there's nothing I could do with the leftover bits. Plastic can't really be recycled or reused if I were stuck on an island.

3) Rope.
If there's one thing I learned from Boondock Saints, it's that rope is a neccessity. I could use it to bind together my shelter, set traps for wildlife, stretch animal hides to make fine trousers out of, and I'm sure it has plenty of other uses. I would definitely bring rope.

4) My celebrity would be Evangeline Lilly.

I saw an interview with her on Leno once, and she kept talking about how tough and useful she was. So she would definitely come in handy on a desert island because I figure she wouldn't mind doing all the work for both of us.

Or if I wanted to be shallow, I'd bring along Megan Fox. Sooo hot!

Now to the readers, who and what would you bring along? Or better yet, the best part of this question is what celebrity would you bring?

The New Pornographers - Use It

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Marvelous Music

I know, I know. Two blog posts ago I said I would talk about music after talking about books. Instead I told you all about my good deed and heard about some of yours in return. One comment in particular got me reminiscing about that time the $3,000 crack whore came to my house (I really shouldn't have let her in). But that's another story for another blog.

This time, it's all about the...


I've bought and received more CDs over the past two months (December and January) than I've picked up in 2 years. I'm big on illegally downloading stuff.
Reason 1) I'm poor, and can't afford to buy all the music I want.
Reason 2) Because I'm poor and I can't afford to buy the music anyway, nobody actually loses out on any money.
Reason 3) I was born to be a pirate. But I had the misfortune of not being born in Somalia to sign up for with a crew on a shanty.

Before I get on to the topic of music though, I want to mention the pirates in Somalia. The reason nobody is taking them seriously is because they're getting called pirates. In the western world we all think of pirates as Johnny Depps and Yellowbeards.
I just pooped my pants a little.

What the pirates in Somalia need is a new name. I hate to say it but something like "Sea Terrorists" would probably do the trick. I don't like the use of the term Terrorist, but I think more than any radical Muslim that the US would villainize, the pirates in Somalia are true terrorists.

Okay, side note finished.

I'm going to cover four albums here. All of them are decent, but some more so than others.

Challengers by The New Pornographers (2007)

I picked this little ditty up in December right after Christmas. For some reason I had been watching The New Pornographer's music video for a song from this album (Myriad Harbour) and it was so good I had to buy the whole CD.

The New Pornographers have been around the Canadian Rock scene for more than a decade now, though when this CD came out they were just on the cusp of year ten. They're a Canadian Super-Band formed of members from lots of different bands, such as Limblifter, Destroyer, and Age of Electric, just to name a few. Lots of the members have had successful solo careers too.

So they've been doing their thing, being the indie-canadian rockers they are to great success.

This latest album of theirs is very good. A few of the songs come to mind, but overall the disc is dominated by their single "Myriad Harbour." I can't really describe it, you'll just have to hear it. The lyrics alone make the song worth hearing. The Pornographers brought in acclaimed song-writer (at least thats what all the cool people are saying on their hipster websites) Dan Bejar.
The music video, which I have gushed about before to anyone who'll listen to me, is sublime. It was directed by Mark Lomond, who is entirely new to me, but if the video is any indication, he's capable of mighty things.

But this is a review of the album Challengers, not the song Myriad Harbour. The disc falls a little flat sometimes. I personally think the album has a hard time finding a balance between being slow and depressing, and being slow and happy. Also sometimes I find the female vocalist (I don't know which one it is, I think there's two chick singers in the band) to be a little grating on the ears.

If you like pop/rock sounding stuff, This is definitely worth your time. This is something that I think someone who likes Joel Plaskett or Cold War Kids might enjoy. Go online and find a song sampler though, the days of shooting blindly at an album are over.

Second Album:

Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride by The Go (2007)

This is a killer album! So good! I don't think there are enough words to describe this album's excellence.

But I shall try.

First off though, some band history. This band's main folk are some boy's from Detroit who have been making music since 1998. Their band has underwent many member changes, and featured some notable guests. Jack White of The White Stripes actually helped form the band. But then, whose band wasn't formed by, or hasn't featured Jack White at some point?

Howl on the Haunted Beat is The Go's third album, and (according to Wikipedia) marks a departure from their usual sound. This is the only Go album I've heard, so if they keep up the good work I will definitely be buying their next disc.

Not only is the album good, but the CD case is great. It's been designed to look like a fold open record sleeve. I know some of you out there aren't as familiar with records as I am, but trust me, this a beautiful throwback to the days I never lived during when record sleeves were a real canvas for musicians.

The way the album plays actually feels like you're listening to a record. Not in that scratchy extraneous noise way, but the way the songs are arranged. It's like it has two separate halves. For the first six songs, if you're not paying attention you won't notice the transition between them. They all compliment each other so well that you may as well be hearing one long tune.

The second half only gets better, and departs from the first half's smooth continuity. This is where the band lets loose on a wide range of sounds and styles. Some of the songs sounded like odd tributes to The Who specifically and 60s to 70s brit-pop bands in general. In fact, unless I had read on the site where I bought the disc that these guys are from the states, I would have thought they were from England. I'm still a little dubious actually. These guys have a distinctively British sound.

Such a good CD.

I won't recommend this album to anyone who doesn't like brit-pop. This cd is also a little psychadelic. But even if you don't like those types of music, you'll want to find song samples of though just to check it out. If your world is feeling a little musically dry, The Go's 'Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride' could be the refreshing drop of rain you're looking for.

Album Number 3:

Trouble - Smoke and Mirrors Band

This is a very different album. Very good, but different.

I can't tell you much about this band other than they're from South Dakota and do some touring around the area. I can imagine this being a group that would be awesome to see live.

They have a folksy/rock/punk sound. It really changes from song to song. If I had to compare them to a band you've likely heard before, I'd say they're a lot like the Dropkick Murphys. But with more accordian.

On the subject of accordions, this band uses one quite a bit, and it blends really well for them. Sometimes I hear an accordion in songs and I'm like "What the futch were you thinking?"
This band replaces the bagpipes in the Dropkick Murphys with an accordion and it really works for them. Despite the Murphys being an American band, Smoke and Mirrors sounds far more American. The difference I think though comes from The Murphys trying very hard to sound Irish. They do a good job, sometimes they try a little to hard to escape their homeland though. But don't get me wrong, the Murphys are awesome.

This album starts off with a bang and ends with a bang. Their first and last songs are amazing. Very good candidates for a kickass music video that tells a story. Everything in between is just delicious gravy.

I didn't like this album off the hop. I
really didn't like it actually. Usually I listen to music while browsing the internet or playing a computer game so I don't really pay attention to the lyrics. Musically, they're an alright band. They do some cool stuff, but nothing that I haven't heard before, and nothing that I couldn't easily find elsewhere. Lyrically, they're amazing. While painting a picture this weekend I put it on and actually listened to what the CD had to say. Put the lyrics and the music together and you have a killer combo! This CD went from zero to hero in a flash.

Check this one out if you like Flogging Molly or The Dropkick Murphys. I'm giving it a 95% chance that you'll enjoy what you hear if you like either of those bands. Or if perhaps you're just in the mood for some rock music that tells a story, you won't go wrong with a little Smoke and Mirrors.

Now for the final album

The Hosts - self titled album (2008)

This album was the one I really wanted when I originally bought The Go previous two albums online. I did that mainly to beef up the order so I wouldn't have to pay shipping.

Despite how much I anticipated this CD, I've been seriously underwhelmed. I listened to a couple of their songs and was thoroughly impressed with the quality and style. But I guess when you put one foot forward you put the best one out there, because the rest of the CD is pretty much a flop.

Out of twelve songs, I think I only really enjoy about 3 of them. The rest are just a band who either passed their passed or probably won't reach it. This is their first and only CD so far. I'd call it 'formative.' I get the feeling that the band is proud of their first disc, and really tried hard at it, but they need some new material to work with.

They have a really interesting sound. The only word I can think to describe it is "Jangly." The album is very 'jangly.' Lyrically, it's pretty tame. A couple of the songs are very good, but rest...meh.

In the way that The Go did a callback to days gone by with their album and really rocked at it, The Hosts kind of sound like a band who has a lot of talent, but not enough imagination to throwback but still make a sound all their own. You know what I mean? It's like a band you know could be a killer cover band, but wants to play their own stuff, and when they do, while it's good, it's not good enough.

It's hard to explain what I mean, especially since music is so subjective. I think that's how you use that word.

I won't recommend this disc. It was good, but not something worth paying for. I think if I were about thirty years older and were interested in a referential style to sixties coastal rock, I'd enjoy this a lot more. But I'm not. I'd rather listen to my Flower Power Time Life Music Collection. Now that is a good CD set.

So, In summary:

The New Pornographers - Check it out
The Go - Definitely check it out
Smoke and Mirrors Band - Check it out
The Hosts - Don't bother until further notice

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

I Knew I Could be a Good Person!

So yesterday this asian guy comes to my front door trying to get me to sign up for some 'Save the Poor Children of the World' thing. I'd rather spend my monies on the 'Save the Poor Jake Hammells of the World' instead, so I declined.
Plus I want to go Europe and get drunk with some German girls at Oktoberfest, and that's expensive. I'm quite certain the poor and destitute children of Ethiopia would understand.

The guy was a poor salesman as well, his whole pitch was basically "Wanna donate to this cause? I only dropped its name once so you probably won't remember it later."
To which I replied "Na, I don't want to do that."
He said "Are you sure? It's cheap, and there's no commitment"
"Nope, sorry dude. You won't guilt me into saving children with five easy payments of my pocket change."
"Come on man. Save the children."
"What about my children?"
"You have kids?"
"Yeah." Then I raised my fists and said "Good old Barnes and Nobles here!"

And I beat him mercilessly.

Just kidding!

The Asian guy probably knew martial arts so I didn't screw around. In fact, this may be hard to believe, but I made up and dramatized most of that conversation. After I completely shot him and poor people down, I shook his hand and wished him luck. He spun around just before I closed the door and said,

"Hey man, do you have some gloves or something I could buy? My hands are freezing!"

They certainly were freezing. The things were purple! Now, I may not be good at saving starving kids in Africa, but I am good at dressing people for winter weather! So I said,

"Hoo-ey! Git' on in hurr boy!" and went to fetch him my spare pair of winter gloves. I know have a nice pair of leather ones somewhere (they're lost in my bedroom, work office, or car) so I didn't mind giving him my shitty ten dollar ones. I had already splooged all over them anyway so they were a little crusty.

Just kidding!

I didn't spunk on them, but I did give the poor fella some gloves. He was seriously underdressed for winter (even though it was only like -8, what a wuss). I was glowing inside for at least an hour, but then I remembered that I had lost my nice leather gloves and that's why I had my crappy ones close by. I know the leather ones are around, but I don't know where. And it's not springtime in Alberta anymore, so I actually needed those gloves.

I really should have taken money for ones I gave away instead of being a nice guy. Oh well, chances are I would lose those gloves before next winter anyway.
So I just wanted to share with all of you that I'm not such a horrible person after all. Every now and then I do nice things for people. Now I want all of you who read this to tell me about a good deed you've done recently for a stranger. Maybe we can start a pay it forward thing!

That includes stabbing Haley Joel Osment like at the end of Pay it Forward.

Some Postman -
The Presidents of the United States of America

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Reading Rainbow

I'm behind on my reviews of things. So for the next couple of posts I'll be covering a bunch of new books and CDs I bought among other things.

But this post is going to about books!

On the right hand side, if you've seen my reading list you'll have noticed it hadn't updated in a long time. That's because I'm lazy and felt like blogging about other things. But anyway, on to the reviews!

The first:

40 Watts from Nowhere by Sue Carpenter

This was a Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law. They're really good at recommending movies and books to me, so as a rule, I generally enjoy the things they give or lend to me. Sometimes I steal things from them too, but that's another story.

As was expected, this book rocked! It's the autobiography of Sue Carpenter and her time during the 90s running the most successful pirate radio station in Los Angeles. The book starts with a musically dissatisfied Sue who decides one day at her bore of a secretarial job that she'll start her own radio station. Upon discovering that radio stations and licenses cost millions of dollars and tons of paperwork she gets in contact with a pirate radio technician.
Starting during the early to mid 90s the FCC got mired up in a legal battle with Pirate Radio DJ Stephen Dunifer who argued in court that when the FCC cracked down and sued him they harshed on his right to free speech. The lawsuit dragged on in Justice-Limbo for several years, and during the time the FCC was busy in court, pirate radio boomed in the states.
So for $200 Sue buys her own transmitter, sets up shop out her own house, and thus KPBJ was born. Whats really cool is that she decided to be a dork name her call letters after a sammich. And nobody appreciates the finer points of a sammich than me.
From the humble beginnings of Sue Carpenter's pirate radio career to the conclusion of a legendary radio legacy, 40 Watts From Nowhere is a literary delight.

If you're into media stuff, you'll definitely enjoy this book. But it'll be a good read for anyone. Sue Carpenter's life story and take on things is great. She really has no idea what she's doing most of the time while running this station, and the attitude she takes towards the situation and her life is so human. Life isn't all sunshine and flowers, and in 40 Watts from Nowhere you'll find a story about a woman just doing her best to get by.

Overall, this books gets


Eight points for being a great book about radio, full of interesting characters, fantastic narration, and lots of humour.

Minus two points for getting a bit boring at some points. There were also a few parts in the book where I think Sue didn't elaborate or explain enough. She definitely talked about a lot of cool stuff, but there was even more cool stuff she kind of glossed over. But then lots of illegal stuff is going on in this book, so I can understand the reasoning. I'll give the book another half point for talking about illegal stuff.

Because breaking the law is cool.

Next book:

Flint the King by Mary Kirchoff & Douglas Niles
I know the picture looks like it's from Windows 95, bear with me

This one book of a series in the Dragonlance Saga. I'm a geek for things with dragons in them. So naturally I read Dragonlance books voraciously. In case you aren't aware, there are tons and tons of Dragonlance books. For the most part they're pretty good, and I'm not ashamed to say this, a certain Dragonlance book holds the title of being the only book to ever make me cry a little bit.

It wasn't this book, but this was an alright book nonetheless.

To fully explain what's going on this book would take too long because there are many many other novels that deal with the minor details of this book. So I'll quickly condense and concentrate Flint the King.

Flint Fireforge is a dwarf (the hairy ale-drinking axe-weilding type, not the ones from that show on TV) living in a town called Solace. He catches wind of trouble going on in his hometown (Named Hillhome) to which he hasn't been in twenty years.
He heads to Hillhome, some racism and prejudice is going on, one thing leads to another and Flint becomes the king of a group of retarded dwarves called "Gully Dwarves." They're not really actually retarded, more like Peter Griffin style stupid.

I know, my condensation sounds ridiculous. But thats to be expected when you haven't spent the last ten years of your life reading geeky books. But trust me, it's not that bad. The romance in the book was really awkward though. Some dwarves 'get it on' and that put some gross pictures in my mind.

So much hair. Everywhere. *shudder*

Anyway, I'm not actually going to recommend this book to the public at large. If you read Dragonlance, then definitely have look at this one. It's funny, sad, uplifting, and other fancy words. Plus it has Gully Dwarves! They're always good for a chuckle.
But if you haven't read Dragonlance, don't even bother unless this review has truly piqued your interest. If you have nothing else to read, you won't go wrong, but you probably won't understand a lot of the references and significance of the stuff that goes on.

Overall, I give this book

Good, but not great. I've read far better Dragonlance novels, and I was actually a little disappointed with this one. Flint is a cool character, one of my favourites from the series, so this one had lots of potential. But it failed to deliver. It also loses major points for the ending. The book climaxes within the last 4 or 5 pages, which left no room for a denouement of any sort. It felt tacked on, like an afterthought. This book was seriously in need of another chapter just to wind it down. It did have a good epilogue, but that doesn't count.

So that covers the reviews I needed to get off my chest. Next week: Music.

Why's Everybody Always Pickin On Me?
The Bloodhound Gang