Album Titles Are Stupid, Vol. 2

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Review by on September 27, 2016 with No Comments
Wilco – Schmilco

I think at this point I might be the king of the 3 1/2 star Wilco album review.  This can be attributed to the fact that I am a pretty big Wilco fan, even though I realize they’re not really the sexiest band to admit to being a big fan of.  Also, my Wilco fandom has blossomed mostly during the latter years of Wilco’s run as one of the more ubiquitous American indie rock bands.  Which means I still like them enough to write about them, it’s just that the Mildly Pleased era of Wilco hasn’t been the most exciting phase in their career.

That said, it doesn’t mean this hasn’t been a rewarding part of their career for longtime fans of the band. In retrospect, 2011’s The Whole Love I’d say is more of a 4-star album (if that means anything), as it saw the band recapturing the glitchy noodling that marked their best work in the late ’90s/early ’00s, and even last year’s lazily named Star Wars had more than its share of moments, even if it felt sort of half-finished.  Of course, we can see that it was kind of half-finished now that the band has released its follow up Schmilco, which not only might be even more lazily named, but also serves as a nicer, softer counterpoint to Star Wars. And in the process, it creates a pair of albums that both distinctly embody what I referred to in my Star Wars review as “weird Wilco” and “pretty/pleasant Wilco”.

Now, if I’m being honest, I’m usually a bigger fan of the weirder, more rocking Wilco numbers than the “pretty/pleasant” ones, but maybe that’s because a lot of the time there can be such a stark contrast between the two.  Like as much as I’m a fan of The Whole Love, the album does have a kind of weird rhythm to it, since the tracklisting feels like every other song falls into either one or the other of the two categories I’ve been talking about.  And since the weirder songs on that album were also super catchy, the ballads tended to feel like somewhat of a burden. So I do almost appreciate the cohesiveness of an album like Schmilco, where every song fits the kind of laid-back reflectiveness you hope to find in a Wilco ballad.

I’m sure if you’re just a casual Wilco fan (which I assume most people with a passing interest in indie rock are), this album probably sounds like it might be a bit boring if you’re not a Wilco die-hard.  But what do you expect?  At this point, Wilco’s most recent run of albums have been marked by their consistency, now that the band’s current line-up has been rock solid for many years, while Jeff Tweedy has clearly been writing songs for long enough and is a smart enough guy to know where his (and his band’s) strengths lay.  And sure, that consistency may not be terribly sexy, but it should be good enough to keep me listening, and it should be good enough to keep me writing even more 3 1/2 star reviews for years to come.

Favorite Tracks: “If I Ever Was A Child”, “Cry All Day”, “Someone To Lose”

Freaky Fridays: Friday Night Lights

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Review by on September 10, 2016 with Comments Off on Freaky Fridays: Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights (2004)

Can you smell it? The aroma of beer foam, hot wings and sweaty American pride? Yes, football season is back, and what better way to bring in the season then with my take on one of the best football stories ever told. Not only because it shows the bonding power of sports, but because it’s true…. all of it.

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Freaky Fridays: Silver Streak

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Review by on September 6, 2016 with Comments Off on Freaky Fridays: Silver Streak
Silver Streak (1976)

Thank god it’s Friday! Um, er, I mean Tuesday. Sorry, with Labor Day Weekend I was away from the site for a bit, though I did start working on a post last Thursday. Seems like a shame to let it go to waste, so here it is.

It’s rare that an actor can be so beloved for multiple roles. Some people will remember Gene Wilder as cynical chocolatier Willy Wonka, others—such as myself—as Mel Brook’s most treasured madcap pawn. Yet Gene had a third on-screen life as one half of cinema’s most underrated comedy team. I’m not sure who decided to pair the sweet Gene Wilder with Richard Pryor, one of the edgiest comics who will ever walk this Earth, but it worked, particularly in Arthur Hiller’s 1976 classic Silver Streak.

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Give A Little Glimpse

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Review by on August 31, 2016 with Comments Off on Give A Little Glimpse
Dinosaur Jr. – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

There are times when I think that writing for this blog has really fucked with my ability to be a fan of anything.  Because yes, I consider myself a music fan first and foremost.  And yet because we’ve had this ongoing conversation about pop culture on this blog that has forced us to think about things much in the way that professional critics do, it tends to make me (and I’m assuming Sean and John) a little more hesitant to enjoy things that I most certainly should enjoy without reservation.

Case in point, this newest Dinosaur Jr. record.  It’s been out for almost a month now, and I think its taken me until now to accept that this is not just a really good Dinosaur Jr. record, but a really good record in general.  And why is that so hard to accept?  I like Dinosaur Jr.!  I’ve liked Dinosaur Jr. for a long time! And yet while thinking about this album, the dumb music critic in the back of my head has to sit there going, “Well, I mean this band peaked in the late ’80s and probably haven’t been truly relevant since 1993’s Where You Been“.

But I guess I have to ask how “relevant” an opinion like that is nowadays.  If something sounds good, that probably means it is good, right? And Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not most certainly sounds good.  Sure, it by no means sees this band reinventing themselves, but I think this is a band that realizes it doesn’t need to.  Or maybe it doesn’t, since J. Mascis doesn’t strike me as a guy who thoroughly maps out every single one of his career decisions, but rather goes by his gut.  That’s definitely the vibe I got from him when I saw the mighty Dinosaur live a few years ago, as Mascis’s cascading guitar solos seemed to go on as long as his gut told him, while Lou Barlow and Murph were there to steer the sludgy ship wherever it needed to go.

That said, the interlocking nature of these three musicians has always felt like a bit of a combative one, but with these past few Dinosaur Jr. albums (Give A Glimpse is the fourth since the band re-united in 2005), it seems like they’ve grown more harmonious, but without ever sacrificing their sublime loudness. This seems most apparent on songs like “Be A Part” or “Lost All Day”, which I guess technically count as Dinosaur Jr. ballads, yet still manage to have that kind of monolithic power that this band naturally possesses, while also embodying the reflectiveness and vulnerability that comes with growing older.  It makes for an album that’s easy to put on and enjoy on a lot of different levels, which has certainly helped give me the strength to tell my inner music critic to go suck on it.

Favorite Tracks: “Going Down”, “Tiny”, “Lost All Day”

Freaky Fridays: The Keep

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Review by on August 26, 2016 with Comments Off on Freaky Fridays: The Keep
The Keep (1983)

R.I.P VHS

If you haven’t heard this month, Funai Electric, the last major manufacturer of VCR’s will close its production lines forever. This isn’t much of a surprise considering the last major film released on VHS came out eleven years ago—it was A History of Violence, btw. To most people, this won’t mean much. DVDs and Blu-Rays look and sound better. They also have special features, don’t need rewinding, and don’t require you to ride your finger on that goddamn tracking dial every five minutes. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.

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Rokk Talk Ep. 04: Can’t Buy A Thrill

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Podcast by on August 25, 2016 with Comments Off on Rokk Talk Ep. 04: Can’t Buy A Thrill

Buying music. It used to be the only way of aquiring music, and now it’s something you’d have to pay most people to do against their will.  On this episode, Colin and John take a look back at their earliest music-buying memories, as well as their takes on the way music consumption has changed as we make our way through the era of streaming.  It’s an episode that very easily could’ve been called “An Ode To Silver Platters”.

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The Hunt For A Better Summer Movie

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Review by on August 21, 2016 with Comments Off on The Hunt For A Better Summer Movie
Hunt For The Wilderpeople

At this point, it seems as if most critics have written off this summer movie season as a bit of a loss.  But to be fair, I feel like most summer movie seasons aren’t a great time for people with actual decent taste in movies, considering it’s a time of year rife with box office dominance by slap-dash junk like Suicide Squad and blandly inoffensive animated features like The Secret Life Of Pets to keep the kids entertained until school starts up again.  Still, looking back, it is a bit telling that this summer movie season’s most pleasant surprises where sequels like Finding Dory or Star Trek Beyond, which were fine, but far from being movies we haven’t already seen before.

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