Monday, July 14, 2008

Real Time Review - Modern Guilt

Welcome to my second official Real-Time Review. Basically, I sit and listen to an album all the way through and review what I hear in real-time. (It's named after what it is!) All of my comments will be time-stamped for the song I am currently listening to. I have included a little music player at the top of the review that has the whole album, so that you can listen along as you read my incisive and important commentary. After the review I will identify three highlights of the album, indicate whether the album, as a whole, belongs in my CD collection in general, is worthy of my 30 Gig Ipod, or even better, if it merits inclusion on my 2 Gig Sansa. I will then close up shop by summarizing general thoughts that did not make it into the review due to lack of typing prowess, my lethargic thought process, or just sheer laziness.
For my second review, I am doing Modern Guilt by Beck. It should be stated here that I am already an admitted Beck freak, so my opinions will either be enhanced or tainted by my preexisting devotion to his artistry. The album came out a week ago, and I have been holding off on listening to it so that I could do a proper, pristine, unadulterated first-time review...and waiting that week was no small task.
Here we go.

Get your own playlist at!

:27 – love the beat…anyone who has heard Danger Mouse’s stuff will recognize his signature low-fi gritty drums here.
:44 – Beck can layer his voice as many times as he wants as far as I’m concerned, though here he only layers two tracks of himself…he must be depressed again.
1:09 – the song has quickly made itself into one I feel like I have been listening to for years. Instant mixtape fodder.
1:50 – shades of Wilco in the bridge.

Gamma Ray

:06 – beat takes you to the beach, on a flowered blanket with Annette Funicello.
:32 – “…ice caps melting down,” my dad stops listening here, believing that Beck is another cog in the Democrat Death Machine trying to sell us “the hoax” of global warming.
1:00 – my brains aren’t that bored.
2:13 – gotta hear this tweaky little breakdown on your headphones, because there is too much going on that you might miss.
2:40 – Gamma Ray evokes countless mortals rendered superheroes by accidental doses of radiation, but Beck has something else in mind here. Here, we are all so obsessed with our technology that we don’t see that we are actually killing ourselves. “Your brains are bored, like a refugee from a house that’s burning.”

:07 – Pet Sounds anyone? I don’t see Brian Wilson’s name in the credits.
:41 – there went Pet Sounds.
1:02 – Danger with his crazy fast drum rolls…wait a minute, credits say that Danger isn’t on this track. His influence runs deep on this album, even when he steps out.
3:02 – not my favorite so far…a bit too wispy and echoey for me. Lyrically, it’s another anti-global warming moan, with a dose of anger, musically.

Modern Guilt
:25 – Beck feels things?
:56 – more cool surf guitar sparsely decorating the background, kind of reminds me of Honest Bob and the Factory to Dealer Incentives (yes, I only know them because of Guitar Hero.)
1:59 – He went from feeling uptight in the beginning to feeling afraid, and I can’t figure out what caused it…probably global warming again.
3:03 – you love the beat the more you hear it.

:10 - bass-heavy riff.
:56 – coolest echo effect yet, Beck singing to himself across the Grand Canyon…about something most of us don’t understand.
1:18 – line of the album so far: “need a teleprompter for my life, need a pipeline to the night.”
1:59 – you keep waiting for the song to pick up and find it’s natural beat, and it never does, it keeps on with the trotting, halting rhythm that sort of leans you forward for the whole song.

:29 – AABB rhyme scheme feels a little bit elementary.
1:10 – the drums sound like they’re being played by a big band from the 1930s in some huge dance hall, which is a good thing.
2:06 – pretty short song, bonus lyrics at the end not listed in the booklet, “You wearing all of the years on your face, until your tombstone’s running the place, and your heart only speaks with a murmer, but your words frame your nachos like murder.” (red=likely wrong.)

:12 – ummm, messy stuff here. All dissonance and atonality.
:44 – vocals bleed into themselves, so much that I forgot to look at my liner notes to find out what he is saying, I think I forgot he was saying anything at all.
1:19 – “and when this replica begins to look cheap, I’d throw it out but it’s home to me.” Our lives are a hollow shell of what they used to be, but we are too comfortable in our misery to trade it out for anything.
1:48 – “build it up, build it up.” We try to drown out our dissatisfaction by getting more things. Materialism alienates us from ourselves, “it’s so unreal, it’s all I need.” Which explains why I have an Xbox 360, a PS3 and a Wii.
3:23 – outstanding symphonic outtro, probably so pleasing because it brings dissonance and beauty to an otherwise industrial and unattractive song. Did he do that on purpose? Is he trying to get me to sell my 360? No deal.

Soul of a Man

:10 - gritty beefy bass riff, reminds me of The Doors.
:53 – knee, clap, knee, clap chorus beat feels like a Queen stadium anthem…or maybe it’s Pour Some Sugar on Me.
1:09 – tiny bass guitar solo has me visualizing those freaky red muppet guys from The Labyrinth who took their heads off and threw them around with David Bowie. Plus Jennifer Connelly was hot.
2:34 – last couple of bars made me think of some plodding Joan Jett bar brawl beat, but with more sonic meddlings in the background.

Profanity Prayers
:36 – excellent beat, excellent rhymes, and I know it has a sound that nobody I am close to would ever want to listen to. It’s the kind of song that will invariably incite my wife to abruptly turn off the radio in the car, because “it’s stressing her out.”
:50 – he has gotten back to his “Satan Gave Me a Taco” roots by spouting out incomprehensible lyrics like, “with your lingo coined from the sacrament of a casino, on a government loan with a guillotine in your libido.” Awesome. “no wait,
1:42 – these drums would be a nightmare on Rock Band. My right calf would be balled up behind my knee before the song was over.
2:50 – cool acoustic accent for the outtro.
3:41 – and…a nice matrix voice modulation for good measure.

:24 – great, plodding beat, sort of like “Where It’s At” and “Go It Alone.”
1:15 – “I’m tired of evil, and all that it feeds, but I don’t know.” I know I don’t like things that are bad, but I can’t tell what’s bad anymore. True, true.
2:17 – spooky ghost chorus oohing in the background adds to the atmosphere of brooding and mystery.
2:55 – note to self: if you ever write a song, be sure to cut out the music completely, at least for a couple of seconds, because it always sounds important and mature.
3:48 – “I don’t know where I’ve been, but I know where I’m going, to that volcano. I don’t want to fall in though, just want to warm my bones, on that fire a while.” I don’t really want to die, but I really want to think about death, because it reminds me that I am still alive. Nice ending.

In Conclusion:
Worthiness quotient: Immediately Sansa-worthy, based solely on the name of the artist. I suspect it will stand the test of time, however, and firmly implant itself in my rotation for months to come.
Highlights: Orphans, Gamma Ray, Modern Guilt, Walls
Final Thoughts: I love Beck, so reviewing this album was almost a technicality for me. He has gone through so many styles and changes in his career, it is impossible to predict what his next effort will be like. This one manages to blend his quirky lyrical style with DJ Danger Mouse's decidedly grainy brand of hip hop. They definitely feel at home together, though I think I like his collaborations with the Dust Brothers and Nigel Godrich. Overall, Modern Guilt fits snugly somewhere between Odelay and Guero on the Beck quality spectrum, a scale on which the vast majority of today's bands would not fall stiffly at the bottom. He excels at creating catchy, quirky, thought provoking music, and this album, though a tad bit preachy, is no exception.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hellboy II Trailer

Here is the first trailer for Hellboy II, due to be released July 11, 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Arrested Development

If you have not yet, watch the pilot, then go buy the DVDs, because it is maybe the funniest show in television history.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Culmination wife and I have come to learn over the years that everyone has a superpower. No matter how mundane or uninteresting, each person possesses one gift that they can utilize for the good of mankind. My gift has always been the ability to order the right dish when we are eating out at a restaurant. Well, this week, my powers followed me back home for once, and we enjoyed the best ice cream sundae we have ever experienced together. We both agreed it deserved such a lofty title, and dubbed it "The Culmination," as in...the culmination of my superpower. So, here is what it was.
2 Scoops - Edy's (east coast version of Dreyer's) Vanilla Bean ice cream
2 Scoops - Edy's Loaded Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream
1/2 Butterfinger Candy Bar, crushed
1/2 Banana, sliced
Whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and caramel sauce to taste.
I know it's cliche, but this sundae is definitely better than the sum of it's parts. The next morning, the first thing Britney said to me when she woke up was, "That was the best ice cream I have ever had."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Dylan's Big News

Click the video to start!

Real-Time Review: The Black Parade

Welcome to my inaugural Real-Time Review. Basically, I sit and listen to an album all the way through and review what I hear in real-time. (It's named after what it is!) All of my comments will be time-stamped for the song I am currently listening to. I have included a little music player on the top right of the blog that has the whole album, so that you can listen along as you read my incisive and important commentary. After the review I will identify three highlights of the album, indicate whether the album, as a whole, belongs in my CD collection in general, is worthy of my 30 Gig Ipod, or even better, if it merits inclusion on my 2 Gig Sansa. I will then close up shop by summarizing general thoughts that did not make it into the review due to lack of typing prowess, my lethargic thought process, or just sheer laziness.
For my first review I chose to listen to The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. I have no prior exposure to this album, outside of hearing "Welcome to the Black Parade" and "Teenagers" on the radio, and playing "Dead" on Guitar Hero II. I do have an unnatural affinity for American Idiot by Green Day, so I must admit to some bias when it comes to listening to this album. Hopefully my first reactions will prove accurate upon further listening.
Please give me feedback as you see fit, and feel free to give suggestions for what I should review next.
Here we go.

The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance

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The End
:05 – Starting with the end, clever.
:15 – I like the contrast of the hopeful, melodic music with the dark, bleak lyrics.
1:02 – clearly trying to sound anthemic, and mostly succeeding. Seems to be pandering a bit too heavily to the emo teenage crowd.

:04 – Flat-lining heart monitor in the background is the only intro to a rather abrupt transition into a much heavier song than the last.
:15 – I recognize this one from Guitar Hero II, so I blissfully play air-guitar-hero, which might be the most pathetic thing I have ever done.
:58 – I can’t quite make out all the lyrics, but dead is rather well pronounced every time.
1:20 – the loudness of the music is flattering to the lead singer, because I find myself pretty annoyed by his weird accent, which bends and twists his R’s as if he is trying too hard.
1:54 – trumpets are fun, sort of makes it feel like a Gwen Stefani remix.
2:25 – there’s that solo I can’t nail on Guitar Hero.
2:46 – Remembering that I can play this song on my bass guitar, and I can’t play bass guitar.

This is How I Disappear
1:02 – Pretty frenetic song, chord progression suggests some urgency, somewhat brooding.
1:30 – I like the layered guitars here.
2:04 – I find myself listening to the different guitar parts more intently than the lyrics, which I don’t usually do. They really pile it on pretty thick, and it’s good.
2:55 – Not too fired up about the bridge, but it doesn’t last long.
3:38 – Good “whoa-ing” going on in the background, concurrent with the guitar strains.

The Sharpest Lives
:10 – Whispering and singing at the same time, fun stuff.
:32 – Fun with the lead singer harmonizing with himself.
1:02 – I think this is available as a bonus track pack for the 360 version of Guitar Hero II, which makes me want to get it, now.
2:00 – Good little sparse machine-gun guitar moment.
2:28 – I bet this would be a fun song in concert, depending on how good these guys are live.

Welcome to the Black Parade
:02 – Oh so familiar notes on the piano heralding the biggest commercial hit of the album, and the reason I wanted to hear the whole thing in the first place.
1:05 – This is a pretty blatant American Idiot ripoff anthem, but I don’t care. Kinda wish there were more of them if they’re all this good.
2:05 – wish they would port this to Guitar Hero, but I get that the piano part in the beginning is just too long. Perhaps for some future iteration of Rock Band with a keyboard.
3:14 – I’m beginning to think that this album is all about death. I must be a genius.
3:50 – “I’m just a man, I’m not a hero.”
4:35 – While it is a great American Idiot ripoff, it just doesn’t sound as big and important as American Idiot. Something about the production, maybe the songwriting, but it’s not quite the same.

I Don’t Love You
:21 – Different chord progression, but rhythmically identical to Yellow by Coldplay.
1:32 – Chorus is kind of everywhere, I can’t catch onto it.
2:00 – I like the intensity of the guitar and drums as it picks up halfway through the chorus.
3:00 – Long, lazy guitar solo.
3:17 – Beck lent them his “Where It’s At” organ, and they put it to good use here. Wish there was more of it.

House of Wolves
:19 – Heavy handed rock intro here.
:47 – I can see this playing over some kind of vampire car chase in a Samuel Jackson movie.
1:29 – “Ashes to Ashes we all fall down/we got innocence for days.” Not sure how I feel about that one.
1:55 – Good little acapella moments in the breakdown.
2:54 – End it like you started it.

:15 – Faith No More piano moment.
:32 – Lead singer’s voice is like guy from Rush mixed with, umm, maybe the dude from Sum 41?
1:40 – Some cello and other strings in the background give the song an almost Beatles (Anthology Era) vibe.

:27 – So far, this one reminds me of Manu Chao, weird little alternative Spanish language band. I have a feeling this won’t last.
:39 – It didn’t.
1:04 – Fun enough song, playful in the verses, hard in the chorus’.
1:36 – More death talk, this time accompanied, apparently, by Beetlejuice on backup vocals. This must be what the Black Parade itself would sound like.
3:12 – Ending sounds pretty out of place, too hard for the rest of the song.
3:35 – Somebody taught Celia Cruz how to sing in English, and they took away her meds, cause she sounds depressed! On second thought, it was Liza Minelli.
4:01 – Bringing back the “we all carry on” chorus from Welcome to the Black Parade. Way to tie it all together.
4:30 – I approve of the accordion outtro.

:15 – Wonder what that sound clip is from.
:50 – This one vaults from a whiny guitar intro into a pleasantly melodic first verse.
1:37 – Not impressed with the chorus…They could have cut the guitar strumming in half, and it would have been enough.
1:45 – On the bright side, the lackluster chorus makes you appreciate the verses that much more.
2:52 – Piano, once again, reminds me of Anthology era Beatles, specifically “Real Love.” I have no problems with that.
3:50 – Maybe they were shooting for another stark juxtaposition here, but nothing about this song makes me think of sleep. Death metaphor again??? I think so.

:19 – Rhythm and style hearkens back to 50’s rock and roll pioneers.
1:25 – “They could care less, as long as someone will bleed.” Meh.
2:16 – “So darken your clothes, or strike a violent pose.” Hopefully they are ironically striking back at their legions of borderline self-effacing adolescent fans, but something tells me they aren’t.

:33 – Obligatory acoustic ballad intro.
:45 – Quickly evolved into power ballad. Might have liked it better if it hadn’t.
1:31 – Nope, I’m glad they beefed it up, turns out to be a strong ballad.
2:15 - If I knew more about music theory, I would probably deride this as formulaic and predictable, but thankfully I don’t, so I love it.
3:03 – Ooh, I like the chord progression in the bridge, sounded like a key change, but it wasn’t.
4:36 – Chiasmatic song structure, ending like it started like it ended.

Famous Last Words
:13 – “But where’s your heart.” I cannot stand his R’s! It might be too much to for me to look past in this song.
1:16 – “I am not afraid to keep on living!” Refreshingly optimistic defiance, in stark contrast to the rest of the self-hating sentiment from the first 12 songs.
2:45 – For a couple of seconds here it sounds a bit like that U2 song from the Batman movie, touch me thrill me kiss me kill me, or something like that.
4:35 – Lying on the irony pretty thick, song title is Famous Last Words, and yet it’s the only song on the album that doesn’t celebrate (or at least predict) death.

Blood [Hidden Track]
1:06 – Silence. Everybody wants to be Nirvana with their hidden tracks. They were the first to do it right? The first in my collection, anyways.
1:45 – Whoa, back to Vaudeville with you, Nosferatu.
2:22 – What’s with the censoring?
2:47 – “I’m the kind of human wreckage that you love.” Nice ending.

In Conclusion:
Worthiness quotient: Sansa-worthy, for a few weeks at least.
Highlights: The End, Dead, and Disenchanted.
Final Thoughts: I think that I am unfairly critical of this album due to some preconceived ideas about the band itself. I have, for some time now, worked with adolescents dealing with depression, bipolar, cutting, and other such challenges. I have noticed that a disproportionate number of these kids love My Chemical Romance, and other bands of it's ilk. I see too much of their personal dysfunction in the lyrics to be totally at peace with the message, because I know how harmful some of the thinking can be to these kids. On the other hand, I am a fiend for good music, and there is a lot of that here. This will have to be one of those albums, like so many of my Eminem records, where the music and atmosphere supersede a message with which I fundamentally disagree. Long live willful suspension of personal politics in the name of music!