C.A.T.: 69 Love Songs

The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs (1999)

Figured I might as well do this album for a CAT considering it’s been taking up a big chunk of the music I’ve been listening to lately. So move over All Things Must Pass, you’re no longer the lone triple album that’s been inducted into the hallowed halls of CAT

Basically this album is exactly what it proclaims itself to be: 69 love songs spread out over three volumes, clocking in just short of three hours. Now you’d think such a long album would be fairly daunting, but the songs on here really aren’t that hard to get into, and take on a familiar quality after just a few listens. I’d have to say this is indebted to The Magnetic Fields’ lead singer/songwriter Stephen Merritt, whose ear for indelible melodies is second to none.
Merritt has said that he conceived 69 Love Songs as “not an album about love, but an album about love songs, which are very far from anything to do with love.” And that sums up the nature of the album pretty well, as Merritt explores a whole slew of different genres, while there’s an overarching interest in the idea of the love song in American culture. The lyrics often display plenty of irony or surreal humor, sometimes to an overly cheeky extent. But even considering the playful insincerity apparent throughout the album, it’s hard to not fall in love with a lot of these songs.
It’s kind of hard to really pick out any stand-out tracks in the massive sea of music that is 69 Love Songs, but I definitely have an affinity for the more bare-bones acoustic numbers like “Book Of Love” or “I Think I Need A New Heart”. Really, this is about as solid a mass of music as you could ask for in a triple album, and I’m sure I’ll keep listening to 69 Love Songs in the weeks to come as I keep discovering all the charming little moments on it.
Favorite Tracks: “Book Of Love”, “I Think I Need A New Heart”, “Papa Was A Rodeo”

Trapped in the Canyon

127 Hours


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the year of the “claustrophobia film.” You had the elevator thriller Devil, the indie horror flick set in a coffin Buried, and now the harrowing true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco) and his experience between a rock and a hard place. Yes it’s 127 Hours, (or 95 minutes) of a man who after being trapped by a boulder, had to amputate his own lower right arm. How can you set an entire movie within a cramped, crevice, of a canyon you might ask? Danny Boyle is your answer.

Coming off of the Oscar smash Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle could of literally taken on any project he desired, but he decided to do something smaller… Smaller in a big way that is. Boyle uses his unique skills as visual storyteller to attack all senses with beautiful images portrayed in increasingly clever ways. No scene is ever approached in a conventional way and Boyle uses all sorts of tricks to keep us on edge. We see Aron’s vivid memories shown like swirling dreams, POV’s from the inside of a bag of urine, a human arm and everything in between. It can be frenetic, it can be serene, it can be emotional, this is a film that looks like no another and tells an amazing story.

Though what would the whole experience be if it wasn’t for it’s star? The man who were literally going to have to watch for every passing minute of this all out fight for survival, he’ll have to be good right? Luckily, that man is James Franco who brilliantly captures every aspect of a man in distress. The moments of anguish, delirium, and finally joy, as Aron cuts himself loose in the film’s gripping finale.

You would think a story like this would be difficult to portray in hour and a half movie, mostly in regards to pacing. Though leave it to a talented director like Danny Boyle, some of his usual collaborators (Like writer Simon Beaufoy) and a talent in James Franco, and you have yourself a completely original and emotional film. Looks to be another Oscar contender for Boyle and company come early next year.

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen

What a shocker huh? I mean Leslie Nielsen had been working so long and all the way up his passing if I might add. It’s bizarre in that I was just watching Naked Gun 2 on TV yesterday, what a tragedy to lose “The Olivier of Spoofs” as Roger Ebert once called him. It didn’t even matter if he was starring in an awful movie, Leslie always gave 100% and was always a pleasure to watch.

Getting his big break with the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956), Leslie started off his career as your typical straightforward leading man. He followed this with a series of roles for MGM studios (Ransom! (1956), The Opposite Sex (1956) and Hot Summer Night (1957) and various appearances on television. In 1972 he played the captain in the popular disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure, but it was until 1980 that he truly found his calling… Airplane. One of the greatest comedies of all time with one of the greatest comedy roles of all time. Dr. Rumack arguably has some of the best lines and Leslie plays it masterfully with stone faced demeanor. Thus from there on he would come to be known as not just a good actor, but a great comedic talent.

Leslie would of course go on to do the classic Naked Gun series playing the serious yet always oblivious Lt. Frank Drebin. This would build a lifelong working relationship with the Zucker brothers and only further Leslie’s status as the go-to actor for spoof/parody films. Though most of these were fairly hit or MISS, Leslie seemed to enjoy his work and that enthusiasm always rubbed off on viewers.

Leslie passed away from pneumonia today at hospital near his Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84 years old and will be greatly missed.

Be Thankful for Free Music

Girl Talk – All Day

I can’t say I knew who Girl Talk was before last week, but when I heard this new All Day album was being given away for free on the Internet, well, let’s just say you’d have to be a real asshole to turn that down. So I checked it out, and you know what? It’s pretty good.

The premise here is that Girl Talk takes a bunch of music (mostly new-ish, some classics) and mixes it together into one glorious 71-minute song (or 12 lesser song segments, if you prefer, which I do, in theory). It’s clearly meant to be listened to in one go, since if I wasn’t looking I never would have known where one track ended and the next began.

None of the music here, is original, except for all of it. What I mean is that every song is comprised of nothing but samples from popular music, but the results are more powerful than the original musicians could have ever possibly imagined. All Day is joyous and fun, and it is frequently a delight when you hear a familiar loop used in a dynamic new way. It’s cool beans.

It’s all a kind of nonsensical fun. If you like, you know, music, might as well give All Day a shot. After all, it’s free.

Favorite Tracks: “All Day”

C.A.T: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Fatboy Slim – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (1998)

It seems there’s been a trend “Classic Album Tuesday” posts lately, with the focus on more “indie” driven albums, ya know “less mainstream.” I couldn’t think of anything quite in that vein so I opted for the better known, but no less innovative sophomore release from Norman Cook aka “Fatboy Slim.”

Some albums feel so “of an era” for me, even if they are made up of snippets of other songs. Somehow these big beat mashups send me right back to a late 90s sock hop. I mean F.B.’s beats and catchy hooks are as the young people say “Off the mo’fucking chain.” The results are that of an energetic and exciting chain of toe tapping experiments, featuring some of his most infectious hits. “Right Here Right Now” still gets me pumped, even when played before a Mike Sweeney pop up. Hearing “The Rockafeller Skank” makes me want to play a snowboarding video game and “Praise You” what a joyous number that is.

The bulk of the album is mostly defined as “Big Beat” which I guess is basically what it sounds like. Big beats, some synths, and loops coming out the wahzoo are what make up this unpredictable sub genre. That’s what I love about Fatboy Slim what the hell is he up to? What will this next song be like? You can never tell, it’s suspsenful. Though I think he’s best when he finds that one “hook” to drive a song. Whether it’s that guy in “Rockafeller Skank” going “Right about now, the funk soul brother.” or the masterful use of the string sample from the James Gang’s “Ashes, the Rain and I”, those are his best moments.

I like that F.B. has never been shy about borrowing and sampling other artists work. Rather he celebrates it and always credits other artists for whatever he used. This is more or less his most popular and successful work and definitely my favorite F.B. work. Makes me appreciate the finer things in life, like playing Coolboarders and eating 3D Doritos.

P.S. Oh yeah all his videos, those are pretty great too.

Favorite Tracks: “Praise You”, “Right Here Right Now”, “The Rockafeller Skank”


Call of Duty: Black Ops

It’s been a rough year for the Call of Duty franchise. Certainly not financially, as last year’s Modern Warfare 2 made a ridiculous amount of money and Blops here seems to be on its way to surpass it. No, Call of Duty had a hard time because series developer Infinity Ward basically imploded after some nasty firings. Treyarch, the guys responsible for “off year” Call of Duty games, is now stuck being the series’ veteran developer, with what remains of Infinity Ward being left an odd mystery. Is Blops a step in the right direction, or does it just continue the fall from grace?

Set during the Cold War, you mainly play as Alex Mason, an Australian-American soldier who played a crucial role in some of the most important conflicts of that era. How crucial? The first mission of the game has you (seemingly) succeed in killing Fidel Castro. Mason has been captured and is interrogated in a dark TV-filled room by an ominous Saw voice about these mysterious numbers. Mason reflects on the last few years of his life, taking us back to Russia, Vietnam and some other places that I probably shouldn’t mention here.

The story allows for some fun set pieces, although the writing is pretty macho and predictable; certainly the biggest twists in the plot are fun to play out, but you will see them coming. Some moments are accented by chunky guitars and there’s even some rap in this business. The Vietnam stuff actually tries to seriously use “Fortunate Son,” which is pretty played out if you ask me. It’s that kind of game. Mason is played by Sam Worthington and is not actually supposed to sound Australian, Worthington just can’t help it. Poor fella, being all rich and famous. Ed Harris plays a CIA bad ass, frequently called the “ice cube,” despite the fact that another character is actually played by Ice Cube. Gary Oldman returns as Reznov, a character from the last Treyarch game, Call of Duty: World at War, I guess he’s their Captain Price.

Gone is Spec Ops, the amazing co-op mode that was easily the best part of Modern Warfare 2. Instead, Treyarch went back to zombies, putting out a survival mode that is just a pain in the ass. Sure, there’s some campy fun in the concept, especially the second map you unlock when you beat the campaign that features JFK, Castro, Nixon and Secretary McNamara defending the White House from Nazi zombies. But the mode did not do it for me, especially after multiple playthroughs.

The classic Call of Duty multiplayer sweet is present, of course. Treyarch changed leveling, now you earn CoD points which you can spend to upgrade what you want, really streamlining the experience so you can play how you want relatively quickly. You can also gamble those points in wager matches, where if you don’t place in the top three you’ll lose whatever you wagered. It’s all perfectly fine, if this is your thing, then by all means, enjoy.

Black Ops is a good game with an enjoyable single player and the same multiplayer that made Call of Duty 4 a hit. That’s fine, for now. But if the Call of Duty series doesn’t do something new and exciting next year, Infinity Ward’s year, then the franchise is in trouble. It’s already getting kind of stale.

The Beginning of the End of the End of the Beginning: Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1


It’s been an interesting trip rediscovering the Harry Potter franchise lately. Initially I only followed the first few books and movies, but now I can say I’ve at least seen all the movies, don’t think I’ll ever make the time to read another 800 page book about magic though. In my reassessment of the film series, I’ve come to find that although there really isn’t anything that separates Harry Potter from any other fantasy series, the film’s are still marvelously crafted. The sets and visual effects are always eye popping, the cast and performances are usually solid and it’s all soaking in that unique magical charm. It’s obsessive popularity and fantasy subject matter are what probably drove me away initially, but I’ve given it a second chance and put aside my stubbornness to find that all in all, it’s an entertaining franchise and the latest installment continues that trend.

Filling in the plot details here would be pointless, as that would be far too much ground to cover. Something about destroying horcruxes and how the villainous Lord Voldermort still wants to kill Harry. Don’t tell me that you could fully understand every little detail without reading the books because that’s bullshit. Luckily, this installment was fairly easy to follow as it relies more on action and suspense to propel the story. This is easily the darkest entry in the series, I mean it’s got “death” in the title and this film works it’s PG-13 rating like yo mamma, with all sorts of fights, scary moments, and even a ‘lil blood. This is the Harry Potter where shit gets real and it’s a compelling departure that definitely keeps you on edge.

With Hogwarts as a thing of the past Deathly Hallows also saw our beloved trio traversing across all sorts of new dark and deadly terrain. Like for every string of dialogue they had some new exotic location, stunning eye candy I must say. I can only imagine how much this monster of a movie must of cost, but this is a blockbuster that really gives you the all the bang for your buck. The effects and CGI seem to be improving with every sequel as well. Re-watching the first one I couldn’t believe how dated some of the CGI is, now it’s practically seamless in creating the colorful creatures of this world.

I’m still no big fan of the franchise, but I think I’ve at least risen to the rank of “casual fan”. Meaning I enjoy the action and effects, but don’t care to look any deeper into the story or extreme details. If there’s something I don’t fully understand, I work my way around it, as long as I get the gist of it. So all in all I had a good time and look forward to the conclusion. Therefore it’s only a matter of a time before one of the most beloved fantasy franchises, will finally come to an end. I’m glad I could reconnect with and keep with what’s relevant in the world.