Welcome to the Jungle 2 Jungle Boogie

The Jungle Book

I have no nostalgia for The Jungle Book. Until a few weeks ago, I’d never seen the original animated film. I hadn’t read any of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book stories either. I like to think this gave me a unique perspective. There wasn’t going to be any candy colored nostalgia glasses over my eyes. Though this isn’t to say I was completely unfamiliar with the material. I did explore some of the Jungle Book universe or “Balooverse”—as I like to call it—before seeing Jon Favreau take the helm, but otherwise I was a stranger in a strange land. I wonder if I’m the first person to reference Iron Maiden in a Jungle Book review?

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Obsessong: Purple Rain

I don’t know where you are in your Prince grieving process, but if you’re like me, you’ve probably accepted by now that we are indeed living in a Prince-less world.  Which is not a better world by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it’s one where we still have his music (though it’d be nice if his music was a little more available on streaming services and whatnot).  Luckily, I have a handful of his albums in my iTunes, and even a couple in physical format, and have been revisiting them while also trying to enjoy whatever other Prince I can get my hands on. 

But right now, I’d say I’m in my “appreciation phase” of mourning.  It’s a phase I similarly went through with the recent death of David Bowie, where after the initial heartbreak of this monumental loss, I found myself going back through his discography and being in awe of just how many great songs he wrote and recorded.  And while there have been a fair number of songs that have popped up for me as being gems I’d never given their due (“Controversy” is one I’ve been majorly into), it’s become pretty apparent that the song “Purple Rain” is almost certainly Prince’s masterpiece.

Song: “Purple Rain” by Prince And The Revolution
Album: Purple Rain
Year: 1984
Written By: Prince Continue reading

R.I.P. Prince

It was earlier this year, I found myself at a family gathering at my grandparents’ retirement home.  Now, I don’t think I’m unique in saying that family gatherings are not a place I typically want to be.  But my uncle and his family (who I hadn’t seen in over a decade) were visiting from Chicago, so I figured it was my obligation to be there.  Also, my grandparents are both in their 90s, and at this point who knows when they’re gonna go, so it was nice to be able to get all of my mom’s side of the family together, since who knows if this would ever happen again.  Anyways, over the course of the meal we were having, there was a bit of this underlying tension, since my other uncle on my mom’s side isn’t exactly a huge fan of the uncle who was visiting from Chicago.  Which is not surprising.  One of them is kind of out-there and a bit of a weirdo, while the other is an ultra-conservative former bodybuilder.  However, the two managed to be fairly polite with each other in conversation, while I nonetheless wanted to leave, but was more than aware of why it’d be incredibly rude if I did.

Fortunately, my inner music geek was called to attention late in the dinner, as my uncle from Chicago started recalling stories of his younger years when he was going to shows at First Avenue, Minneapolis’s legendary music venue.  Unsurprisingly, this led to him talking about the few encounters he had with a performer known the world over as Prince.  And being that I’ve been a Prince fan for a long time, as well as rock bands like Husker Du and The Replacements who around the same time played First Avenue’s Seventh Street Entrance (the venue’s smaller stage), I was more than intrigued by these stories.  But what I didn’t expect, was to hear my conservative uncle ask from across the table, “You’re a fan of Prince?”  To which my other uncle of course replied, “Yeah”.  And then my other uncle said something to the effect of, “I really like Prince.  He’s a really talented performer.”  And I felt it — a bond.  A bond between these two men that literally have nothing in common with each other besides their relation to my aunt.  And it was over Prince of all things.

With the announcement of Prince’s passing earlier today, I can’t help but think of this moment and why it is so emblematic of what made Prince such a special artist.  Prince was a guy who brought people together.  Whether you were black or white, straight or gay, or whether you could dance or not, it didn’t matter.  Once a song like “Let’s Go Crazy” or “1999” came on, if you weren’t shaking your ass, you were at least envisioning The Purple One shaking his ass all over some gigantic stage and wishing you were there in his glorious presence.  Which is why yes, it is incredibly sad that Prince is dead.  Much like David Bowie, he’s a guy who you’d think would live forever.  But at the same time, I’ve spent most of today listening to KEXP play nothing but non-stop Prince, and it’s impossible not to be put in a good mood by this music, or at least a better mood considering the circumstances.  He just had that power, and you could feel it no matter where you were coming from.

Stream Police Ep. 21: Fuller House

Whatever happened to predictability? It’s here on the latest episode of Stream Police! This week, Michael and John review the family-friendly/pathetic-nostalgia-cash-grab reboot Fuller House. Have those dudes still got it? Or have they in fact become rude? Listen to this week’s episode to find out! And please, have mercy.

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Sky’s The Limit

Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

I was not expecting to enjoy this new Bob Mould album as much as I am.  Because look, I love Bob Mould.  He’s one of the all-timers.  But if I’m being honest, when I went to the record store I was mainly looking to pick up the new Tacocat album, but since I always feel weird only buying one thing when I go to any store, I figured I’d spend some money on the new Bob Mould.  Because he’s certainly a guy who I’ll support in whatever ways I can, though I wasn’t necessarily that excited to hear his 12th solo album.  Still, Mould’s been on a bit of a late-career roll lately with 2012’s Silver Age and 2014’s Beauty & Ruin, which saw one of the architects of alternative rock returning to the loud/melodic sound that he made his name on, and I think you could say Patch The Sky completes a kind of trilogy with these other two albums, and is probably my favorite of the bunch.

So why is it my favorite of these three albums?  Well, as I confessed to in my previous review, I made it clear that I am a big fan of hooks (because who isn’t?), and this is probably the album where Bob Mould leans into melody more than loudness, which I am all for.  It’s an album that reminds me a lot of Copper Blue, the debut release from Mould’s ’90s band Sugar, which is probably the most commercial thing he ever released, and one of the definitive alternative rock albums of that era.  Granted, there aren’t any breakout songs here on the level of a “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” or “Hoover Dam”, but I suppose you can only capture that kind of lighting in a bottle once, though Patch The Sky does a pretty great job of capturing that sound while having some of that bittersweetness that has managed to seep it’s way into this recent Mould albums.

“The War” from Beauty & Ruin probably best summed up this latest incarnation of Bob Mould as a solo artist, as it saw the singer/songwriter reflecting on having made it through the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s as an artist with integrity, and having nothing to show for it but his voice.  Now, clearly he has much more to show for it than that, as he’s influenced so many bands that it’s a little mind-boggling.  But I think it did point out how amazing it is that he’s made it and survived and still remained fairly relevant when so many artists and bands of his generation have fallen by the wayside.  “Workmanlike” is a word I would’ve used to describe when I saw him live a couple years ago with bandmates Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy, since these are a bunch of guys who still know how to consistently throw everything they have into their music (despite all of them being 40+, they happen to rock really hard).  And when Bob Mould is still pushing himself to write really good songs the way he is on Patch The Sky, it’s just a pleasure to hear him and his bandmates work.

Favorite Tracks: “The End Of Things”, “Hold On”, “Black Confetti”

Taco + Time

Tacocat – Lost Time

I feel like I might have a hard time writing this review without feeling like a bit of a sexist pig, but here goes nuthin’.  Anyways, Tacocat is a band that represents a lot of things I happen to like.  This is evident most immediately in the band’s namesake, but also in the fact that they hail from my hometown of Seattle in a time when there aren’t a ton of nationally-known bands coming out of The Emerald City.  They also happen to embody my favorite kind of music, which is catchy rock songs propelled by loud, crunchy guitars.  And there also happens to be the fact that a big part of their aesthetic is an irreverent approach to feminism, which I find refreshing while also realizing that feminism usually isn’t this much fun for a reason (but it doesn’t hurt, right?)

It’s not surprising that Tacocat would lean a bit more into their snarkier, more feminist-leaning tendencies on Lost Time, since their last album, 2014’s NVM was one of those near-perfect guitar-pop albums for which the phrase “ear candy” was practically invented.  So instead songs like “Men Explain Things To Me” and “Plan A, Plan B” are a bit more acid-tinged in their taking down of dull white men (aka the scourge of the Earth).  Which is totally fine, and I have no problem getting behind the idea that it’s just fucking ridiculous that it’s 2016 and somehow there are still guys out there who think it’s ok to treat women like they’re slightly-more-developed children.  But at the same time, I really like hooks, and Tacocat are really good at crafting hooks, which seems to be less of the prerogative on Lost Time.

That said, there are still a couple of hook-filled ditties here that are pretty awesome.  “I Hate The Weekend” is a particularly irresistible track that calls out all the software dorks in Seattle that flock to Capitol Hill on the weekend “just to act like a fucking slob”.  Also, “I Love Seattle” is another track that I’m of course a sucker for just from the title alone, but also for its apocalyptic lyrics about how fucked we are if a tsunami ever hits the West Coast.  And even if the songs aren’t quite as catchy this time around, Emily Nokes lyrics are just as sly and funny and reference-laden as ever.  And the fact of the matter is, I have a hard time not rooting for a band this smart and weird and rockin’, so I will most certainly continue to root for Tacocat into the possibly bleak future.

Favorite Tracks: “I Love Seattle”, “I Hate The Weekend”, “You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit”

Hazed And Confused

Everybody Wants Some!!

To be honest, I was a little worried when I first saw the trailer for Everybody Wants Some.  I mean sure, writer/director Richard Linklater has rarely been one to disappoint, and expectations might have been insurmountably high for me personally, considering his last film, Boyhood is maybe my favorite film of the last decade or so.  But from what I saw in the trailer, this newest endeavor from a director who’s always shown a down-to-earth sensitivity for human beings, seemed to be about a bunch of jock bro’s just bein’ jock bro’s.  Which to be fair, is not an inaccurate description of this movie, and yet somehow there’s such a deep investment in these characters and their desire to just embrace all of the freedom and excess of your first year of college, that I somehow came away kind of loving it.

Everybody Wants Some has been labeled as a “spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s 1993 film Dazed And Confused (because I guess studios are just that afraid to release a movie unless it’s some kind of sequel), but in a way it feels like just as much of a sequel to Boyhood.  Much like one of the final images in Boyhood, this film starts with a young man on the open road headed towards his first week of college, though in this case it happens to be Jake (played by Blake Jenner), and the year happens to be 1980.  Jake quickly becomes acquainted with his college’s baseball house — basically a fraternity composed entirely of the school’s baseball team, and as these jacked-up knuckleheads await the start of class (which is three days away), hijinks overwhelmingly ensue.

It’s hard for me not to marvel at how much this movie made me care about a bunch of wise-cracking jocks and their quest for poon, but I suppose this feat that Linklater slyly pulls off can be attributed to a number of factors.  For one, I think he understands the mentality of the baseball player, who can be a bit more quirky than than, say, a block-headed football goon.  Glenn Powell’s character Finnegan may be the finest example of this, as he comes off as the house intellectual, when he’s really just a guy who’s good at talking, whether anything he says has any actual meaning or not.  And I really love the way the movie taps into that kind of blind confidence, as it’s a quality that I think a lot of athletes are always bound to have, and it’s really fun to see the idiotic lengths these guys are willing to go in pursuit of being the toppest of all the top dawgs.

But maybe more than anything else, it’s just the spirit of the thing, man.  Much like the blustery confidence of its main characters, Everybody Wants Some is a movie that has a kind of energy and freewheeling comradery that’s hard not to get caught up in, as these guys more or less go from party to party making fun of each other for two hours.  But at the same time, I think the movie’s smart enough to realize that these moments don’t last forever.  There’s this underlying idea throughout everything that these guys are not always going to be able to live this fantasy of being the best at what they do and being rewarded for it, as every athlete must eventually accept that he just might not be cut out for the pro’s.

There is also an almost insane adherence to the group mentality of this movie, as it feels as though the group of guys at the heart of it are practically never separated from each other.  Which makes sense, considering that these ballplayers are all learning how to coexist as a team.  However, I did appreciate when in the movie’s second half it does eventually pay its dues to the other types of weirdos living on campus.  The baseball guys eventually find themselves going to a punk show as well as an artsy theater-people party, as they all try to make themselves fit in with these crowds that they clearly wouldn’t have given a second thought to in high school.

These scenes drive home the fact that college is a time in which to find yourself, and they do a nice job of commenting on this sort of identity crisis that tends to happen at that age, but without losing sight of the fact that this type of identity crisis can be kind of fun to get lost in.  Also, it was nice to see some representation of the kinds of kids I went to college with, since I went to an art school that was big enough to have its own sports team, which weirdly enough made the jocks at our school seem like the outcasts.  But with Everybody Wants Some, Linklater clearly knows that these kinds of labels become obsolete as you make your way into adulthood, as it’s a film filled with plenty of empathy for young people of any stripe, and also happens to be a whole lot of god damn fun at the same time.