Bellingham’s Finest

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

Washington natives Death Cab for Cutie return on Narrow Stairs with somewhat of a more raw and darker sound, but it also has the same poppy melodies you’d come to expect from these indie rockers. Frontman Ben Gibbard has been quoted as saying that the band wasn’t concerned with making an album that is anything more than one that they’d enjoy, and it definitely shows. It seems like it’s already an album that is dividing Death Cab’s hardcore fans, although in my opinion it’s probably their strongest work to date. Basically I think Death Cab for Cutie does on this album what any young band in their position should do; they expand on their sound in a very interesting way, but not so much that they lose sight of their signature sound.

The album starts with the lone sound of Ben Gibbard’s innocent choirboy voice on “Bixby Canyon Bridge” and then builds to a dizzying flurry of distorted guitars. There is definitely a bit of a heavier, less polished sound on a quite a few songs thanks to guitarist/producer Chris Walla. The album version of “I Will Possess Your Heart”, which starts with a 4-minute wordless jam that slowly builds to a confession from the viewpoint of an obsessed stalker is the most noticeable step in a different direction. Though Gibbard’s lyrics are as dark as ever on this album, musically there’s an upbeat optimism to the songs like “No Sunlight” or “Long Division”. Another little gem on the album comes in the form of the Pets Sounds-like “You Can Do Better Than Me”.

The most unrestrained song on the album would probably be “Pity and Fear”, as the Eastern-sounding melody builds over a steady tabla beat to a wall of guitars and feedback until it abruptly explodes into silence. However, Narrow Stairs is not without its more subdued ballads such as “Talking Bird” or “Your New Twin Sized Bed”, which are enjoyable even if they’re not much of a departure from the songs of lost love and heartbreak of their last two albums. And though it’s hard to say whether Narrow Stairs will bring Death Cab for Cutie a larger following or not, I can say that I’ll be looking forward to whatever these guys do in the future.

Favorite Tracks: “Cath…”, “Long Division”, “I Will Possess Your Heart”

T3: The Ottman Prophecies

As has become Cat Fancy tradition, we celebrate the birth of our own John Otteni today with a T3. I had intended for this to be somewhat of a surprise but fear he probably saw it coming. John is 19 now, the boring age between the liberating 18th and terrifying 20th years of our lives. Let’s hear what some of John’s closest friends had to say:

  • “KANG OF THE DAY!” – Josh Setten/Mr. Dawson
  • “He looks like he’d bring a gun to school.” – Peter Olund
  • “I’ve never seen anyone so good at Virtual Bart.” – Paul Otteni
  • “The Lorax was great! It’s my favorite childhood tale.” – The Dunc (on MySpace)
  • “He enjoys cold drinks.” – Peter Williams
  • “When we first met, I thought he was gay.” – Jake Waluconis
  • “He’s really versatile when it comes to Rock Band, like a Rock Band Swiss Army knife.” – Sean Lemme
  • “The thing I like about John is that he’s somewhat of a cynic and yet he always seems to be in a good mood, and you can’t help but be in a good mood when you’re around him. I don’t know how he pulls it off.” – Colin Wessman
  • “He feels a mutual understanding for the film Thunderpants.” – Matt Carstens
  • “John is a very special person because he is a natural born rebel. Whenever I would suggest a brilliant idea like going to Dick’s, he would always say something like “that’s not a very good idea Kevin” or “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” It is good to always have someone that will hold you down, just like the man. Also, John has built a part of himself into me by teaching me the nudge. It is annoying to some but he and I know how great it is. Thanks John!” – Kevin Lemme

Enjoy your birthday, JDOg.

Lost in Liverpool

Ringo Starr – Liverpool 8

In honor of Liverpool being declared the European Capital of Culture for 2008 (whatever that means exactly) I thought I’d take a look at an album released earlier this year by Liverpool’s very own Ringo Starr. Now I have never really been a big fan of Ringo’s solo work, but I do believe he’s done a handful of songs in his career that are worth mentioning such as Ringo’s debut solo album Ringo which contained a handful of good tracks such as; “Photograph”, “It Don’t Come Easy” and “You’re Sixteen” and I even liked some of Ringo’s songs from the late 90s when I saw him an old episode of VH1 storytellers recently, but unfortunately this is not one of Mr. Starr’s better works.

Starting off my disappointment was hearing that when production of this album began back in 2007, Ringo had a falling out with his former producer and frequent collaborator Mark Hudson (Formerly of the Hudson Brothers back in the 70s) I enjoyed Ringo and Hudson’s chemistry together on a handful of tracks off of Starr’s 1998 album Vertical Man and thus was sad to see that partnership end. So cut to 2008 and Ringo has released Liverpool 8 (his return to the EMI record label) an album that is meant to be a nostalgic trip to 60s rock unfortunately falls flat and leaves for a highly forgettable experience.

You have to remember that this is coming from someone who really respects the Ring Man. Sure I’ve always loved his drumming and the personality he has when singing an upbeat tune, but he just doesn’t have that spark for song-writing (even with the help of about 3 other people) These bluesy rock oriented tunes aren’t anything that we haven’t already heard about a million times, and Ringo is basically just repeating himself here. I think the title track/single “Liverpool 8” is kind of cute (of course Ringo’s tribute to his hometown) but it isn’t a particularly creative arrangement, which I think can go for most of these songs. Though I also think that Dave Stewart (producer of the album and former member of “Eurythmics”) does give this a tight and polished sound despite the lack of ingenuity. So I’d definitely say that this is something you wouldn’t regret missing, it’s not absolutely terrible but it certainly has its problems.

C.A.T: The Cars

The Cars – The Cars (1978)

In honor of this album’s release in Rock Band, as well as it’s apparent 30th Anniversary (John says it is, all I could find on the release was “May 1978”), let’s take a look The Cars’ very first studio album.

The Cars has at least two songs that everyone has heard before; “Just What I Needed,” which is in like every Circuit City ad, and “Moving in Stereo,” famous for that often-parodied scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. These songs serve as nice examples of the dichotomy on this record: pop rock and more psychedelic rock.

Both aspects are present in the album, but I’m definitely more of a fan of their more pop songs. That is not to say that this album should be divided, however. What makes The Cars such a classic is the way they could blend those trippy, arty songs with more down-to-earth, sing-a-long rock and roll. What you get is an interesting blend that is very unusual compared to most albums, in a good way.

The album is a tribute to clever songwriting, production and musicianship. Whether your a fan of new age, hard rock or classic rock you’ll definitely find something you enjoy here. This album is well-deserving, at the very least, of a download in Rock Band.

Favorite Tracks: “Just What I Needed,” “Moving in Stereo,” “Good Times Roll”

Rock The Dragon

You may know already that the Dragonball movie really is going to happen. You may know that it’s being directed by James Wong, of Final Destination and The One fame.You may know that Tom Cruise’s son from War of the Worlds, Justin Chatwin, is playing Goku, and that Chow Yun Fat is playing the elderly, perverted Master Roshi. But I bet you never saw it. That changes now.

Go on, look at that link!

You’re back now? Good. I warn you, you cannot unsee what you have seen. Instead, you have to get used to it. We’ll be seeing these idiots more frequently as we approach the film’s 2009 release.

Honestly, who wants this movie made? Yes, seeing a live action person shoot a kamehameha with some nice special effects might look cool, but the Dragonball universe is so far detached from our world. It just makes for a cheesy, horrible movie. Which is what this film looks like it will become.

But let’s not dwell on such things.

Indy’s Last Stand

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Well, it’s been 19 years since the last Indiana Jones movie, and I’m not sure how any film could live up to the kind of expectations this movie has to live up to. And even though the latest Indy’s latest adventure, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull doesn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations, it’s still one hell of a ride.

It’s a genuine thrill to see Harrison Ford reprise what is probably his signiture role, he has the same one liners and sheer sense of mischief we’ve come to expect and Ford is complemented by a pretty solid cast. It’s fun to see Karen Allen reprising her role as Marion Ravenwood, even if there weren’t any other returning characters from the first three movies. Also, Cate Blanchett makes for a memorable villain, even if the role that was written for her is a little one-dimensional considering what a talented actress Blanchett is. Even though I wasn’t terribly excited at first when I heard Shia LaBeouf would be Indy’s sidekick, I thought he was pretty good in this, I thought him and Harrison Ford had an interesting chemistry together.

However, the characters seemed to take a back seat to the action sequences towards the second half of the film. I actually kind of would have liked to see Indy and Mutt (LaBeouf’s character) interact a little more. Still, most of the action sequences are very entertaining, even if the story is a little hard to follow and kind of ridiculous. I know the Indiana Jones movies have always had a certain amount of fantasy to them, but it felt like there were times that this installment bordered on campiness.

So in the end, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull sticks pretty closely to the Indy formula, and doesn’t offer all that much that we haven’t seen in this series already. Still, I think it offers enough thrills and excitement to keep fans satisfied and gives us a bittersweet farewell to one of the most beloved characters in American cinema.

T3: 10 reasons why you should see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It’s been a long road to the release of another Indiana Jones movie. Countless scripts and complications (a little place some call “Development Hell”) but now after 19 years we’re finally here! Some may have mixed feelings about Harrison Ford picking up that bullwhip for one last adventure. WHile others might be discouraged from the “mixed reviews,” but the way I see it, we should feel lucky that this film was even made. I really appreciate that this was something Spielberg wanted to make “Just for the fans” and so I have put together 10 reasons why the new Indy flick is worth seeing. Though I warn you this was surprisingly hard to write but anyways, let’s get cracking!

10. You’re about the music
This entry is about none other than the man behind the music of Indiana Jones, John Williams. Now, although Mr. Williams hasn’t been as productive this decade and he’s certainly been getting up there in his years (he turned 76 last February) he can still manage to whip up a fantastic score when a film calls for it. So seeing a movie with a John Williams score today is quite a treat. An Indiana Jones movie wouldn’t be the same without hearing that heroic and triumphant theme. He’s practically the greatest film composer of all time, so I’m sure he wont let us down in this latest adventure.

9. Because you’re “Made of Honor”
Since your still waiting for the crowds to die down for Made of Honor, you decided you’d kill some time seeing some other movie. Plus this one’s got that guy from Hollywood Homicide not Josh Harnett but the other one.

8. It’s back to basics
Though it’s pretty much impossible to get a blockbuster off the ground without the use of digital effects these days, it’s still nice to see that Indy’s latest outing will try and make use of more traditional “hands on” special effects. Sure there are still digital effects, but in keeping with the series they’ll try to cut back just a little. I even hear the original films were studied to try and get the same look down. Sounds to me like some good old-fashioned fun.

7. Word up
It’s hard to believe how many screenwriters have attempted to pen a new Indy flick. From Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption), to Chris Columbus (Goonies, Home Alone) to Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Fugitive) to Lucas himself. It’s a tough story to pin down, so now that someone has finally done the unthinkable he must of had some pretty good ideas. Looking at David Koepp’s resume’ (which includes films like Jurassic Park and Spider-Man) I think it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing. For the most part he’s written some pretty solid screenplays and he certainly knows action. Even if this new Indiana Jones movie isn’t great or anything, I at least believe it will be entertaining.

6. Some new blood
I know some may be displeased with the casting of “That guy from Even Stevens and Transformers” Shia Labeouf. It’s still exciting to see who’ll tag along with Indy this time around. and what the chemistry will be like? Will we fall head over heels for Ray Winstone? Strangely enough one thing Indiana Jones has never really had is a notable cast. Not to say that someone like Paul Freeman wasn’t memorable in his role as the villainous Belloq, but did you ever really here about that guy again? I appreciate that the series has often went for smaller character actors, but you have to admit it’s easier to be excited for a movie when it has some cast members you already know or like featured in it. Crystal Skull for one has a pretty strong cast. Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett as the villain and appearances from other talented actors such as Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and John Hurt. Why this is the most star-stutted Indiana Jones yet!

5. Familiar Faces
Steven Spielberg returning as director is probably the most assuring thing you could get for another Indy movie. Could you imagine if he hadn’t? It would still be exciting but with such a talented professional behind the scenes, it really gives you that extra sense of security. It’s Spielberg and Lucas’ baby so it’s a relief to see that this film is in their hands. Another exciting return is Karen Allen reprising the role of Marion Ravenwood. Easily being Indy’s best female companion (with little competition from that Nazi lady and Spielberg’s wife) the choice of her over perhaps say a young 20-something actress is a refreshing change of pace for an action movie. What will be the fate of her and Indy’s relationship?

4. The Mystery of the Crystal Skull?
Crystal Skulls? Huh? Must be pretty interesting if this is what’s gonna drive the new movie, but in what way? I haven’t bothered looking into Crystal Skulls before the movie (mostly because I want to be surprised) but through the all the various artifacts and legends considered over the years (Excalibur, Saucer Men, The Sons of Darkness, Immortal Peaches) you figure that this must be a pretty interesting subject matter. I can’t wait to see how the film revolves these skull things. According to some guy on a sci-fi channel documentary promo (about Crystal Skulls) “They can save humanity” and that sounds good to me.

3. The Memories
Now I know there’s a handful of fans (who weren’t around during the original run) who can’t exactly get the same nostalgic feel, but I think it’s safe to say that any fan of the series has their memories of when they saw it, at least I do. Hey, maybe even really old people can be like “Oh I remember 1957” (The setting for the film) so perhaps that has it’s perks. I guess this concerns older fans but it’s still an important factor for the “more mature” if you will. Relive the memories for one last hurrah and perhaps make some new memories?

2. Indy’s last ride
Seeing that it took 19 years to make a fourth Indiana Jones combined with the fact that Harrison Ford is 65 years old, I think it’s safe to say that this will probably be your last chance to see Indiana Jones on the big screen. So in a way, this a very important installment seeing Indy’s last adventure and how it will all go down in the end. This should as well, be special for people around my age (and younger) because for us, this is our first Indiana Jones theater-going experience… Awesome?

1. If you don’t, you’re basically saying you hate America
We’re talking about one of the most famous characters in American Cinema. Indy’s been parodied by thousands: from television shows, to cartoons, to movies, commercials and beyond. If you don’ t like Indiana Jones than you’re basically saying you hate freedom, like a swift kick to Uncle Sam’s balls. Indy’s an American icon, he’s timeless. I hear a lot of people criticizing the fact that Harrison Ford is too old but does that really matter? It makes sense for his character, he’s an archaeologist. Sure he gets into a lot more fights than probably a majority of people in his field, but it’s not like it’s a movie about 70-something Superhero flying around in purple spandex. Indy was never really that young anyways, being 38 in the first one so you got to support him. I mean, he’s basically our answer to James Bond (without all the class and charm) who doesn’t care if he has to get his hands dirty. He really has that “Average Joe” quality that’s made him so persevering in the first place. Simply put: the Indiana Jones character is a staple of American film, and the truest of American heroes.

I’d like to thank Sean for his additional input with this list. I guess all there is to do now is head to the theaters, off into the sunset, and never look back.