Give Me Some Sugar

Neil Young – Sugar Mountain – Live At Canterbury House 1968

Due to the ongoing winter storm around here, Cat Fancy hasn’t really had a lot of time for posts, but I thought I’d whip something up right here. So while I was Christmas shopping last friday Paul and I decided to do some shopping at Silver Platters. As I was buying gifts and what not I noticed a pile of free posters laid out (as Silver Platters usually does) and my attention was drawn to a poster of none other than Neil Young. It was for a live album that Neil apparently recorded live in 1968 and just recently released. Since I’d decided to take the free poster I figured I might as well check out the album, if I’m going to hang this on my wall. So I browsed the interweb, gave it a listen and found it to be a pleasant addition to this winter season.

Live at Canterbury is an intimate collection of Neil Young’s live, solo acoustic performances at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan from November 9-10 in 1968. A laid back experience, Neil grasps you with nothing more than the sound of his gentle voice and lush country flavored acoustic guitar. The set is for the most part a random collection of Neil’s early songs and his own personal musings. A few of these songs would end up on Neil’s first album such as; “The Loner” and “I’ve Been Waiting For You” while others are Buffalo Springfield numbers. The title track “Sugar Mountain” is actually a song that Neil wrote when he was 19 about his youth in Winnipeg, Manitoba and before this was only available on Neil’s 1978 live album Live Rust. Though some of these may not be all the great hits we know when we think of Neil, he still manages to make this material shine with his delicate approach.

Despite that there are about 23 tracks here, there’s probably just as many tracks of Neil speaking to the audience as there is of him playing songs. Sometimes live albums with that kind of organization kind of slow me down and make me lose interest, but Neil is a little different. He’s not going on about the philosophical aspects of song-writing or using this venue as an opportunity to showcase his beliefs about this and that or whatever. He just reminisces about certain songs and snippets of things from his past and today. He talks about his 1934 Bentley, being out of tune live, when he was fired from a bookstore, and a few introductions to some of the material he plays. It’s all just very casual and sometimes somewhat relatable. I think it helps with his connecting with the audience and gives this whole album a likable kind of personality to tag along with these often bittersweet acoustic numbers.

In the way of live albums it’s not one of the most thrilling but it’s definitely relaxing. The set isn’t the most desirable Young set, but as he continually says on the album, he’s just making this up as he goes along. Neil’s all about being spontaneous, and this unpredictable album is perfect representation of what the acoustic side of Neil Young is all about.

Favorite Tracks: “On The Way Home”, “Mr. Soul”, “Sugar Mountain”

T3: Holiday Things

In honor of John and I walking around Kirkland all day through the 8 feet of snow in this Deep Freeze 08 season, I thought I might a holiday themed list.

10. The MLB Winter Meetings
This is the pinnacle of the baseball off season and seeing how every year I stay glued to I thought I should put it on the list.

9. Pumpkin Pie
I don’t know if people usually have it for Christmas dinner, but between my Birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas I try to have it as many times as I possibly can.

8. Jingle All the Way
When we went through our Arnold phase a few years back, Jingle All the Way was definitely the favorite of Arnold’s comedy side. It’s an unbeatable combination of white people, black people, white people, black people.

7. Reesescruit
I have absolutely no clue if I am spelling that right, but every year at our big family Christmas we have this contest where there is this gross pudding thing that looks like cottage cheese but tastes like rotten oat meal and everyone gets a bowl and you start eating it and whoever has the nut in theirs gets a little dinky prize. Its OODLES of fun and my cousin Jeff seems to win every year…

6. People Getting Stuck in John’s Yard
I just learned this quirky fact today that whenever it snows people tend to crash into John’s front yard. And like clockwork there was a guy leaned halfway in a ditch in Johns yard today and it was hilarious.

5. Chex Mix
Even though none of the Cat Fancy crew seems to enjoy my father’s chex mix, I think it is one of the greatest snack foods on earth. It is way better than store brand and Colin can suck a phat one.

4. Kwanza
See here.

3. Snow Days
We don’t have them ever at Central which kind of sucks but just the fact that when you first see snow the first thing that comes to your brain is that you might be able to wiggle out of some sort of responsibility is a great feeling. And of course because rules are meant to be frozen.

2. Calvin and Hobbes Snowman Comics
By far my favorite part of Calvin and Hobbes, these graphic and often morbid portrayals of what it is really like to be a snowman never cease to make me hysterical.

1. Presents
Cause who the hell doesn’t like presents?

C.A.T: Lust for Life

Iggy Pop – Lust for Life (1977)
I’m really not trying to keep picking albums from 1977, that’s just how good of a year that was. Back in May, Colin wrote about the legendary Raw Power, the last album by The Stooges until last year. That’s all well and good, but I thought I’d give you a taste of Iggy Pop’s solo career.

Now Iggy released three albums in ’77. There was Kill City, which was a collaboration with Stooges guitarist James Williamson, and The Idiot and Lust for Life, both of which he worked on with David Bowie. I’ve decided to focus on Lust for Life because it has less of a David Bowie feel to it, and it has proved to be Iggy Pop’s most successful album yet.

The album kicks off with one of Iggy’s most popular tracks, the titular “Lust for Life.” You might recognize this song from Trainspotting, or those cruise line commercials. Or maybe it just sounds a little familiar to you, which might be because the song’s bass line was used by Jet in “Are You Gonna be My Girl” and Good Charlotte in “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Rolling Stone even named it the 147th best song ever, on that controversial list. Yeah, this song rocks. Just listen to those drums!

But we’re talking about a whole album here, not a single song. And it does not disappoint. Iggy follows up with a series of awesome tracks, “Sixteen,” “Some Weird Sin” and “The Passenger.” “The Passenger” is a really dark song, but damn if it isn’t good. Next comes “Tonight,” a song that just screams David Bowie, so it makes sense that Bowie would later perform it on 1984’s Tonight. The same goes for “Neighborhood Threat.” “Success,” is a catchy little tune, and the only single from the album. There are two six-plus minute tracks, “Turn Blue” and “Fall in Love with Me,” and I’m not really about them. They’re fine though.

The David Bowie influence is very apparent here, I mean you can hear the guy singing backup on a few tracks. Under Bowie’s guidance, Iggy Pop’s music does lose some of that tenacity that worked so well with The Stooges. This is not a “street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.” Some critics hold that against the album, but not I. Just look at that cover art. The man’s having a good time, damnit! Why should we take that away from him?

Honestly, if you only own one Iggy Pop album, this is probably it. Lust for Life is full of enjoyable tracks and has had a lasting influence on plenty of musicians. Plus, don’t you want to hear all those dirty lyrics that aren’t in the cruise line commercials?

Favorite Tracks: “Lust for Life,” “Some Weird Sin,” “The Passenger”

VGA Report Card

Did you know that Spike had its very own video game award show last night? That’s right, the generically named “Video Game Awards” or VGAs. They’ve had ’em for a few years now. Did you actually watch? Me neither. But apparently this was a good time for several long-awaited titles to debut trailers, proving once again that all award shows are really just marketing events.

My favorite trailer was for Brutal Legend, the upcoming platformer/action game from the guys who made the fantastic Psychonauts. This title is poised to followup that last game’s greatness, plus its got the starpower of Jack Black behind it. I hope it’ll be a hit. This trailer doesn’t reveal much about actual gameplay, but the nun bit was funny.

The Uncharted 2 trailer was interesting, I think I’d be a fan of that franchise if I had a PS3. I can’t say much for God of War III, Fight Night Round 4, Terminator Salvation or the new GTA IV DLC, they’re exactly as expected. I probably won’t download that GTA content, I mean, what’s the point?

This brings us to the one everybody’s talking about, Dante’s Inferno. Obviously an incredibly odd choice for a game, those Dead Space guys have a lot to prove with this one. I think most people are just scratching their heads right now. At least Watchmen has fighting in it, although I still think that’s a really bad idea for a video game.

Oh, right, the award show. Here are the winners:

Game of the Year: Grand Theft Auto IV

Best Xbox 360 Game: Gears of War 2
Best PS3 Game: LittleBigPlanet
Best PC Game: Left 4 Dead
Best Wii Game: Boom Blox
Best Handheld Game: Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Best Individual Sports Game: Shaun White Snowboarding
Best Fighting Game: Soul Calibur IV
Best RPG: Fallout 3
Best Shooter: Gears of War 2
Best Team Sports Game: NHL 09
Best Action Adventure Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Best Driving Game: Burnout Paradise
Best Music Game: Rock Band 2
Best Game Based on a Movie or TV Show: LEGO Indiana Jones

Studio of the Year: Media Molecule
Best Multi-Player Game: Left 4 Dead
Best Independent Game: World of Goo
Big Name in the Game (Female): Jenny McCarthy
Big Name in the Game (Male): Kiefer Sutherland
Best Performance by a Human (Female): Debbie Mae West
Best Performance by a Human (Male): Michael Hollick
Best Original Score: Metal Gear Solid 4
Best Soundtrack: Rock Band 2
Best Graphics: Metal Gear Solid 4

Obviously not my choices, but you’ll get those when we do 2008 week (three weeks from now). My biggest complaint is their choice for best fighting game. Soul Calibur 4? No one bought that shit. Smash Bros. Brawl hands down deserves that.

Home Alone

Rivers Cuomo – Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo

So another collection of Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo’s demos huh? First of all there are probably a few questions some people might have. One being “Didn’t he just release a collection of demos a year ago?” Well for those who may not know much about Rivers, you may surprised by the amount of unreleased material he’s recorded in his career. It’s estimated at about 800 songs at this point. Another question is probably “Is that actually him on the cover?” And yes is that is in fact Rivers Cuomo’s high school senior portrait. So with all that jazz out of the way, let’s talk about the tunes.

Normally demo collections don’t really thrill me too much. The idea of songs that perhaps weren’t up to the artists standards isn’t a very attractive product, but here I feel a little different. With almost a five year gap between Pinkerton and The Green Album I doubt a talented guy like Rivers was just recording complete crap. Plus he’s one of my favorite song-writers of the 90s and who knows, maybe there’s that chance of finding some treasure of song that has somehow been hiding away all these years. I got his last demo collection with a less than stellar reaction, but I just had to give it another go.

Fortunately this time around Rivers has put together a significantly more professional collection of songs. A lot of the tunes here are definitely better quality, though there is always that strange 50 second experiment here, but overall it’s enjoyable. As a matter of fact it’s a shame that some of these songs didn’t make the cut onto some of Weezer’s albums. I like “I Want to Take You Home Tonight” a lot more than a lot of other tracks on 2002’s Maladroit and if it were polished up it could of even of been a single. I’d say the same goes for “The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World” almost making it on The Green Album.

There’s a couple covers here as well. An acoustic rendition of Jermaine Dupri’s “I Can’t Stop Partying” is pretty good, I’m not familiar with the original but I like River’s rendition. Cuomo also covers The Beach Boys classic “Don’t Worry Baby” which although not the tightest rendition is respectable vocally and how can you not like that song?

Frankly a lot of material here is a lot of fun but there are a few problems. One is that a lot of these recordings are kind of sloppy due to the fact that, well they’re demos. Another problem is the amount of tracks on the album. This could probably be a pretty solid album if it were more around the neighborhood of 13 or 14 tracks but it’s 19 and there’s definitely some uninspired songs here. I’ve never liked anything from the Make Believe period (Talk about dullsville man) but that’s not my main problem. That would probably be that Rivers always has to include his dopey teenage experiments. Thankfully this had a lot less than his last demo collection, but who likes all that weird stuff? I’d never pay for this kind of compilation but it’s a nice little bonus if you’ve become burned out on all of Weezer’s other albums.

Favorite Tracks: “Can’t Stop Partying”, “I Want to Take You Home Tonight”, “I’ll Think About You”

The Day of Mild Thrills

The Day the Earth Stood Still

To crack into this re-imagining of a classic sci-fi movie let us delve into the original. In the 1951 sci-fi classic a humanoid being named Klaatu, along with his protective robot companion Gort, travelled to Earth on a mission of goodwill. Klaatu warns the humans that other planets are concerned Earth is gonna blow itself up. So they give them an ultimatum “fix this sh*t or we gonna blow you up.” (actual dialogue.)

The whole thing was a commentary on the Cold War. Additionally, the original film was an insightful, character-driven drama about people learning to work together. Seeing that the Cold War ended so many years ago this new film had to become something entirely different. Thus, what better issue to address than our world’s ever prevalent environmental woes?

This time around Klaatu is a considerably different character. His charming personality and role of peacemaker have been thrown out the window in favor of soulless, prophet of doom. Klaatu visits Earth this time to tell us “Hey, you guys have been destroying your planet so were gonna kill you.” (again actual dialogue.) All Klaatu is here to do this time is save all the animals on Earth with magic orbs. Kind of like the story of Noah except with robots. Klaatu in turn is injured by humans, escapes the humans, and becomes a fugitive alongside a scientist played by Jennifer Connelly and her son played by Jaden Smith.

The characters try to reason with Klaatu saying things like, “We can change there’s still time!” Meanwhile, the military is freaked out that Klaatu’s robot Gort might be a threat. The military responds by attempting to destroy Gort, but are shot down. So they take him into captivity. Eventually, Keanu and company meet up with Jennifer Conelly’s scientist mentor (played by a surprisingly low-key John Cleese) to try and convince Klaatu to spare Earth. John Cleese basically says to Klaatu “Why now? We’re not on the brink of destruction yet. Your society didn’t change their ways until they were on the brink of destruction.” (Klaatu mentioned this earlier).

I found this whole sequence amusing as this professor has torn apart all the little logic that held Klaatu’s plans together in what? Like two minutes? The whole movie is built around the fact that our times up when in fact, were far from it. If Klaatu’s race is so advanced then why couldn’t they look at this problem constructively?

Later in the film, the captured Gort turns into a big swarm of metallic bugs and destroys all man-made technology… Like trucks and football stadiums. As the world crumbles, Klaatu contemplates the professor’s words and decides to save the Earth after all. Wow, all it took was one reasonably intelligent person to convince him? Remember he’s the sole representative for all of space. Klaatu then uses his “orb powers” to stop the swarm and then everything stands still for a moment. I guess they still had to cash in on that title. As the credits I roll I find myself wondering “Why was this movie made?” The story is completely unrealized, the character’s relationships aren’t fleshed out, and it pays little respect to the original.

Klaatu uses his “orb powers” to stop the swarm and then everything stands still for a moment. I guess they still had to cash in on that title. As the credits I roll I find myself wondering “Why was this movie made?” The story is completely unrealized, the character’s relationships aren’t fleshed out, and it pays little respect to the original.
Apart from the logical nightmare that is the plot, there are some positive points. The visual effects, music, and cinematography are top notch. This is an aesthetically pleasing film as well. The acting is competent, especially Jaden Smith. Jennifer Connelly is fine and so is Jon Hamm, though his character serves no purpose. We basically learn nothing about Jon Hamm and then he gets killed and nobody cares. Kathy Bates also pops in as the pissed off Secretary of Defense and she’s fine.

I didn’t think this flick was unbearable immediately after, but it seems to get worse the more I think about it. Not the worst movie I’ve seen this year but not good. In the end, I think this movie more than anything will keep audiences standing still. Get it? Cause they’re bored!

The Wolf Damn

What thy hell?!? Apparently one of my most anticipated movies of 2009 has been moved yet again. I of course am referring to The Wolfman remake directed by Joe Johnston (Hidalgo, Honey I Shrunk the Kids and the upcoming Captain America movie) and starring Benicio De Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving. The film was originally set for release in February 13, 2009, then moved to April 3, 2009 and now November 6, 2009. Seriously I am beyond pissed but I guess life goes on.

So what’s in other news? Hugh Jackman is hosting the Oscars, what’s the deal with that? I thought it was a tradition to get comedians to do it… I guess that means no Ricky Gervais this year. 90s Brit Pop band Blur is reuniting for a show at Hyde Park (Their first show in nine years), the Boston Red Sox got new uniforms, legendary pinup model Bettie Page died, legendary horror collector. magazine editor Forrest J. Ackerman who coined the term “Sci-Fi” died recently. A lot of stuff going on but so little time. I should probably take a break from all these posts I’ve been writing lately, but as the world turns I feel it’s our duty to keep you updated, Otteni Out.