C.A.T: Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983)
I was just thinking about V.F. recently–No, not Seattle auto insurance company, Vern Fonk–Wisconsin’s favorite acoustic folk/punk trio Violent Femmes. Gaining a cult following around college campuses in the early 80s, the Femmes utilized a unique style of teen angst to propel this underground favorite, going on to inspire many.

Formed by Vocalist/Guitarist Gordon Gano, Bassist/Backup Vocalist Brian Ritchie and Percussionist/Backup Vocalist Victor DeLorenzo. Violent Femmes were discovered playing on a street corner by James Honeyman-Scott of The Pretenders. Honeyman-Scott asked if they wanted to open for them and so it began.

Signed to Slash Records, the Femmes recorded their debut album in 1982. Filled with primarily acoustic numbers about feelings of awkward love and anger, the debut would prove to be the band’s defining album. Notable for popular radio staples such as; “Add it Up,” “Gone Daddy Gone,” and the group’s most memorable tune “Blister in the Sun,” the album was cheap and sloppy but instantly infectious.

Gano pens all the songs here but as talented as a songwriter as he is, he isn’t much of a singer or guitarist (again, part of his charm) and DeLorenzo’s percussion (which is mostly snare drum) is basic, but Brian Ritchie’s bass work is excellent. I’ve never heard such intricate acoustic bass and the way he plays it is more reminiscent of lead guitar. The bass really ties the music together.

Though they never achieved significant mainstream success, aside from the occasional song in a commercial or appearance on TV’s Sabrina, the group still plays from time to time to a loving cult audience. Founding drummer Victor DeLorenzo left in 1993, but Gano and Ritchie still play together and the album will live on forever.

Favorite Tracks: “Blister in the Sun,” “Please Do Not Go,” “Prove My Love”

Beyond Here Lies… Something

I don’t know how I just found about this today, but legendary rock poet Bob Dylan will be releasing his 33rd studio album Together Through Life on April 28th and from today March 30th through midnight March 31st, you can download the new song “Beyond Here Lies Nothin” on Dylan’s official site. I enjoyed Dylan’s last album Modern Times and look forward to his latest venture after hearing the Santana-esque blues/rock of this new single.

Also on the topic of free downloads, Alternative Rock band Kasabian will have a free single download on their website starting March 31st. I’m pumped for their upcoming album this June and the leadoff single is called “Vlad the Impaler”. I love all this free music and hopefully they’ll be more surprises like this as this year in music continues.

Kicks And Giggles

1990s – Kicks

1990s’ debut album, Cookies, was one of my favorite albums if not my favorite album of 2007.  It featured songs that were filled with incredibly catchy melodies as well as some clever tongue-in-cheek lyrics.  Their sophomore effort, Kicks, sees this Scottish indie trio offering for the most part the same kind of instantly enjoyable material.

While their first album featured lots of fast, choppy guitar work, this time around there are a number of songs like “Vondelpark” and “59” that show the band exploring a little bit more polished, pop oriented sound.  Also in addition to lead singer/guitarist Jackie McKeown, new bass player Dino Bardot contributes to the songwriting output as well as sings the slightly psychedelic “Local Science”.  But for the most part, songs like “I Don’t Even Know What That Is” and “The Box” see 1990s producing the same kind of enjoyable alternative pop that was featured on their first album, and I don’t have any problem with that.
Really the only problem I have with Kicks is that the lyrics aren’t nearly as unique or clever as they were on the 1990s’ first album.  But besides that, Kicks offers plenty of energetic pop songs  that’ll get stuck in your head, and stay there for quite some time.
Favorite Tracks: “59”, “Everybody Please Relax”, “The Kids”

Always the Week After I Leave

Those guys at Harmonix always seem to release an interesting set of Rock Band DLC the week after I leave, and it looks like next week will be no exception. In fact, this might be the most interesting week of DLC yet. Because they are adding SpongeBob Squarepants.

That’s right, in the wake of Guitar Hero releasing an entire Metallica game, Harmonix is hitting up Nickelodeon. No, not just some free song like Miranda Cosgrove. The SpongeBob Squarepants Pack 01 will include three songs, “I Can’t Keep My Eyes Off of You,” “The Best Day Ever,” and “Where’s Gary?” I can’t say I know these songs off hand (the only song I can think of from that show is the one where they like played the Super Bowl or something. I wish it was that song), but who knows how this will turn out? Maybe these will be the latest definitive party songs.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, also dropping next week are some long-awaited tracks. First up is the legendary “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Yeah. Also, everyone’s favorite “C’mon C’mon” by the Von Blondies, which I eagerly look forward too. Then there’s “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar. Finally, “Geraldine” by Glasvegas, which is a band I’ve never heard of.

So it should be a pretty interesting week, and since I have to come back next weekend, at least I’ll get to check them out before the long weeks of the second half of the semester wear me down. I know you guys don’t like these Rock Band posts but I thought it was interesting and I haven’t posted in a while anyway. I’m sorry.

WBC Wrap-Up

Now that I’ve had a couple days to reflect on the World Baseball Classic, I think overall it was a success. Sure the USA team treated the tournament more like spring training than a world championship, but for the most part it was a thrilling experience. You could tell that most of the countries took an enormous amount of pride in wearing their counties colors.

The first round entailed me waking up at 1:30 in the morning to watch the Asian countries play and that was quite a treat. The style of Asian baseball is really quite different than the American and Latino style and was extremely noticeable. Hardly any one is over 200 pounds with the exception of the Korean team and the emphasis is put on defense and small ball. They literally have three Ichiro’s in the outfield and in the rare opportunity that they do not catch the ball, someone’s ass is gonna get thrown out.

The Asian pitching is also much different. With the exception of the elite, not that many people throw blazing heat. For that matter curve balls and sliders are not as predominant as they are in America. It’s all about change ups and fork balls. Every pitcher throws a fork ball or a splitter and they are usually pretty nasty. I found a Kenji quote that sums it up pretty good.

“Japan’s greatest asset is its pitching,” he said. “Can they throw harder than America’s pitchers? No. But when you consider how they react to a bunt situation, the running game, the quality of their slide step, they’re first class. They’re able to compete with subtleties like adjusting their timing with runners on base, executing superb control, throwing pitches with sharp breaks, and so on. The catcher’s got to step it up so he doesn’t kill their game. The American game is more of a power game. They’re [American pitchers] not likely to throw a breaking pitch at 2-0. Japanese pitchers can throw their breaking pitches for strikes.”

Which brings me to the point of all this. Which style is right? Is the Japanese style better? If you are going off the WBC it seems like it. Japan clobbered the US in the semi final 9-4. I think the sample size is a bit small to make any drastic conclusions in that department, but here is what I think.

There was a situation in the Final of the WBC in the 7th inning that had my dad and I in a mass debate.

Top of the 7th, the teams are tied at 1 a piece. A runner is on first and Ichiro is up to bat with no outs. Ichiro takes a couple pitches which clears the way for the base runner to steal second which he does with ease. Then Ichiro lays down which might have been the most beautiful bunt I have ever seen leaving the Korean defense to do nothing but trip over themselves foolishly. Now the situation is first and third with nobody out. The next batter Hiroyuki Nakajima consicely hits a single to left field driving in the go ahead run and moving Ichiro to second base.

Now here is where the argument comes in. My Dad thinks of the situation this way:

You have a runner in scoring position and up to bat is one of if not the greatest hitter of all time. With no outs, the American thing to do is let him swing away. With the base runners speed he could easily score on an outfield single.

My position:

You may have one of the greatest hitters of all time up to bat, but even the greatest fail 7 out of 10 times. You have to let Ichiro take control of the situation. That bunt that we witnessed is why Ichiro is the Michael Jordan of Japan. He excecutes fundemental baseball to the utmost perfection. The chances that he can successfully lay down a bunt single, moving the runner over to third, and reaching first safely himself are much greater than him pushing a ball to the outfield. Now you have more base runners on with the heart of your lineup coming up and still no outs. Even if the next batter strikes out you have your 3rd and 4th hitters coming up. And with the infield in he has a greater chance to push the ball to the outfield like he did.

As much as I make my argument seem better because I am writing it, this is the beautiful thing about baseball. It is so intellectual. It is a game of strategy, it is a game of tactics and much like chess there are multiple correct moves. There are definately wrong moves that will expose your team and leave you hanging out to dry, but there is more than one way to become victorious.

Neither way is right and when I hear the local papers saying that Ichiro does not play the game “the right way” it is very unfair to Ichiro and all other players that have grown up in a different style of the game. Having a narrow dogmatic view of baseball is not good for anybody and I think what the World Baseball Classic does for us as fans, writers, and people inside the game, is open our minds. You can’t convince me that the American way is better if they lost to the Japanese. But you can’t convince me the Japanese way is better because one game in baseball does not mean anything. That’s why they play 162 games. But there are more options and there are more than one way to play this great game.

C.A.T.: Louder Than Bombs

The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs (1987)

Though I kind of feel like I’m cheating using this album since it’s a compilation album, Louder Than Bombs was originaly released in the U.S. only, made up of singles and B-sides that hadn’t yet been released in America on any albums or singles, as well as a few other tracks that were added.  However, out of all The Smiths’ albums this is without a doubt the one I’ve come back to most frequently.  
Louder Than Bombs for the most part displays The Smiths’ at their most pop-friendly with catchy numbers such as “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby”.  And even though it features some of The Smiths’ most easily accessible material, Morrissey’s signature lyrics are just as gloomy as on any Smiths record, but the melodies are nonetheless infectious.  And even though many people criticize Morrissey’s lyrics for being altogether depressing, I think many of the songs on this album show Morrisey displaying a wide range of subjects and themes lyrically.  You’ve also got plenty of layers of Johnny Marr’s jangly guitars that have always been at the heart of The Smiths’ sound, and I’d say he gives many of the songs a much warmer sound on this album.
Although overall Louder Than Bombs features what is probably among The Smiths’ poppiest material, they still cover a wide range of song styles on the albums lengthy 72 minute running time.  Songs like “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” and “London” show a much more aggressive approach, while songs like “Half A Person” and “Ask” are hopelessly romantic ballads.
Though I don’t think I’ve ever actually listened to all 24 of the tracks on Louder Than Bombs in one sitting, there really isn’t any filler on this album, and displays Johnny Marr and Morrissey’s songwriting prowess from start to finish.  You’d be hard pressed to find a single UK alternative band that haven’t been at least somewhat influenced by The Smiths, and Louder Than Bombs is a shining example of why.
Favorite Tracks: “William, It Was Really Nothing”, “Ask”, “The Night Has Opened My Eyes”


I Love You, Man

It seems apparent that Paul Rudd is slowly but surely carving out an adequate comedy resume as a leading man. Former Freaks and Geeks cast member Jason Segel has as well been making his mark and here he and Rudd make a likable pairing in the simplistic but easily enjoyable I Love You, Man.

Following the setup of a guy who just got engaged, but with no one to fill his best mane role, I Love You, Man is more or less an opportunity to showcase the off-the-wall humor of it’s mixed cast of characters. The gags here are far from brilliant but it’s a fun, broad kind of humor. Giving the film an “R” rating absolutely works in it’s favor and it’s always nice touch to include some puking from time to time.

There may not be a big draw here celebrity wise, which may be the reason it came in second last weekend at the box office, but if you ask me all the bizarre side characters were key in making this movie. Lou Ferrigno, Jon Favreau, Joe Lo Trugio, that guy from Reno 911 and many more all have their moments in the sun. I’m especially pulling for Jason Segel’s acting career to continue gaining momentum as I’m a definite fan of his work.

Though something that stuck out in my mind was this film’s lack of conflict. I never feel like the characters ever hit a true low point or even learn that much from their experience. So maybe some of the gags could of been cut back for the sake of a better story, though it could of been much worse when you consider the guy who co-wrote/directed this also wrote and directed Along Came Polly. Fortunately enough this is an entertaining light hearted film. I feel like people associated with the “Apatow Gang” have set the bar for comedy much higher these days so I’m always keeping my eye out for the next big thing, but until than these smaller productions will suffice.

P.S. So the popular band worth mention in Role Models was Kiss, this one had Rush.. I wonder what’s next in this line of Paul Rudd comedy flicks?… Journey?