Saturday, September 23, 2006

Musings From the Back 9: Music Edition II

Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked Ladies Are Me

The Barenaked Ladies were always a band I was a little weary of because my sister always liked them and she really wasn’t a go to person for music with her library of Christian and country music. But those crazy Canadians won me over with their heavy dose of geek rock. The Ladies seemed to lose some steam in recent years but are now back releasing their music independently with the release of Barenaked Ladies Are Me.

The sound on the album is much more mature than previous outings as they have morphed into a folksy band with no pseudo-rapping in site. Even the more humorous song, Bank Job, is a laid back ditty. But that doesn’t mean the ladies haven’t given up rocking as heard on the closing track Wind it Up which also features the band’s best lyric since name dropping the Smoking Man with, “I was a baby when I learned to suck, but you have raised it to an art form.” Ouch. Unfortunately that intensity is lost on the rest of the album asides from the enjoyable tale from Bank Job.

Barenaked Ladies Are Me gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Ray LaMontagne - Till the Sun Turns Black

It may not be the best idea to get music suggestions from Kelly Clarkson, but after hearing her perform Shelter, I just had to find out more Ray LaMontagne, the guy who wrote the song. Then throw in his contribution to Zach Braff’s latest mixtape aka the soundtrack to The Last Kiss, just made me even more intrigued. So there were high hopes going into his sophomore album Till the Sun Turns Black. The album doesn’t have anything to instantly attach to like Shelter or Hold You in Your Arms, but the earthy songs on the set are each enduring in their own ways. For most of the album, it sounds as if Cat Stevens had grown up in the American wilderness giving him more of a raspy voice and Ray knows just when the right time to add some strings or horns for the best effect.

The album starts off with the sparse and airy Be Here Now where Ray barely lifts his voice above a whisper the whole song. Empty picks things up, but just a little as the acoustic guitar drives the song more. The funk starts with Three More Days as you can feel through the speakers just how much Ray wants to get back to his lady. You Can Bring Me Flowers continues along that line but with the bass guitar as the star of the song making more dirty than all the other songs here. Gone Away From Me feels like an old folk song that could have fit in with anything Pete Seeger did. The combination of the title track bleeding into Without Out is a great epilogue to the album with the latter having the simple lyrics of, “War is not the answer, the answer is within you.”

Till the Sun Turns Black gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Gov’t Mule - High and Mighty

Warren Haynes may be best know as a replacement guitarist for southern rock legends The Allman Brothers Band, but when he’s not cashing in on the old timer circuit or jumping onstage with the Dave Matthews Band, he has a little side project that is pumping out music as good and sometimes better than his day job did in their heyday. His other band Gov’t Mule has pumping out straight ahead rock for over a decade and continued to do so even after the death of original bassist Allen Woody. Their new album High & Mighty is more of the same, but the guitar solos, riffs, and extended songs seem crisper then ever and can only be enhanced under the stars and the band stretches the songs even longer. The album is highlighted by the first track, Mr. High & Mighty which is the best straight ahead rock song in a long time.

High & Mighty gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

First Impressions: Jericho

JerichoIn a measure of full disclosure, I have to say that I went into Jericho not wanting to like it on account that I came up with a small town after a nuclear war a while ago. Granted my concept was different as it is much funnier as I don’t expect the show to feature ’s Christmas at Ground Zero during its holiday special. Then another reason not to like the show going into it: seriously, who names there show after a professional wrestler/karaoke singer? But I went ahead and watched it anyways even though CBS didn’t bother to send me an advanced screener (not that I’m bitter or anything).

Jericho was pretty much as advertise with a small town being shut off from the outside world after a nuclear bomb hits down in Denver (as well as Atlanta). And of course in a time of crisis, most of the townspeople panic especially after the power goes out and it seems everyone heads down to the local gas station to stock up. All the while, a bus full of schoolchildren hasn’t made it back from a field trip.

Skeet UlrichThe premiere centered on the returning , who mad a living last decade taking roles in movies where producers couldn’t get to sign on. Dude seems somewhat shady as when everyone asked him where he’s been the last five years he has a different answer for them, army, navy, minor-league baseball. The only one who calls him on it is former girlfriend, I think, who should go back to the dark hair continues to look like a stripper with the blonde hair. Yeah it suited her well when she played a stripper in Walking Tall, but it just looks tacky when she’s actually wearing clothes.

To add to the shadiness of Ulrich, it turns out the only reason he came home after the long absence was to collect his trust fund from his grandfather, but his dad, who still controls it, still won’t turn it over to him prompting Ulrich to leave as fast as he arrived. Granted that all changes when the bomb is dropped. And Ulrich isn’t the shady character that arrives in town the same day of the bomb as there is a mysterious black dude who seems to know a little too much about disaster relief. And I know the residents of the town may be preoccupied, but how doesn’t anyone wonder what a black dude is doing in a small town in Kansas?

Ashley ScottIt was a little disappointing that the show didn’t have that many interesting characters aside from the UFO fearing-shotgun carrying dude as that is what makes most small town dramas interesting. In fact there was no comic relief in the first episode. There were a couple of good twists like with the second bomb in Atlanta. I think it’s safe to assume that if there are attacks in Denver and Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and others were targeted too. Also, I didn’t see a second bus full of prisoners being found coming and should add to the drama. Plus the show had a great soundtrack with the episode opening up with All These Things that I’ve Done and closing with ’s Run. Although I wonder why they had the Christmas song, Better Days, in the middle of the episode. But in the end Jericho looks like it may suffer from the same thing that brought down in that it moves way to slow.

Verdict: As long as it doesn’t fall into Invasion type tedium (I quit the show after about a month), it may be worth watching. Granted even if that happened, since the show is available on the day after the new episode airs, I may stay around longer given I could watch it whenever I want. Oh, and the concept of my show is totally better.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

First Impressions: America’s Next Top Model Cycle 7

The CWThe start of the has bit a little auspicious. First the very first show the network ever airs is a repeat of a 7th Heaven episode. Then in its first two days on the air, it shows the same launch special twice. Then for its very first original program it picks of all thing America’s Next Top Model. Granted does anyone know what was the first show NBC ever aired, or WB for that matter? And my sources are correct I don’t believe the next new episode (or should I say fresh, is the CW doing that too?) won’t air until next week.

As for that first original programming for the CW, I have to admit that I watched the show more for the band new way to commercials that was hyped at the network launch. And to much to my surprise, when the first commercial break came they showed… commercials. Um, okay. Apparently the “pods” they were referring to will only be happening once per episode and in-between the shows. When the pods, apparently referred to as CWhat’s as in “C-What’s” not “CW-hat’s” (I think), they were basically two minute infomercials for Herbal Essences hosted by Rachel Perry of VH1 fame. There was also an appearance by some dude named Perez Hilton who sadly admits that he named himself after (dudes who name themselves after movies are much cool). But I have to admit, even though the whole fashion week theme didn’t really interest me, the CWhat’s were much more entertaining than your standard thirty second ads. I just hope that Tuesday Girls Night doesn’t have tampon themed CWhat’s.

America's Next Top Model Cycle 7As for the show in-between the CWhat’s, it was your standard first episode of a reality show including a way too long thirty minute elimination sequence. But first was they had to select the final thirteen. I was going to complain how they already announced the finalist thus ruining the first hour but to be honest, except for the twins, none of the other finalist stood out from the press release.

The big news from the first hour was the first photo shoot would be a nude one. This didn’t really sit well with the resident conservative, a very Lilly Kane looking Ginger (I always thought Mary Ann was the prude), who didn’t want to compromise her morals for a television show. And I would have to agree with her because with a camera on the set, you never know where an unedited version would come out whether leaked to the internet or hyped for a future DVD. Plus as a wise man once said, “We don't have to take our clothes off to have a good time.” Then Mr. Jay went short of saying she would get the ax for refusing to strip. And here’s my problem, liberals attack conservatives all the time for not being accepting of other people, but much like Dani from last cycle, they rip apart the conservatives for their values, and cut them from the show what seems to be solely on their moral. How accepting. Okay, off my soap box.

Once the actual show starts, they have what Mr. Jay calls the most controversial photo shoot ever. It only turned out to be model stereotypes. Although some were not actual stereotypes as Naomi Campbell did hit her assistant with her cell phone, and another one is on the record saying that she wouldn’t get out of bed unless she was getting paid five digits. But I’m just nitpicking. And did anyone else find the irony in Mr. Jay ripping someone for bad acting after Tyra Bank’s little “tirade.” Her diva mode made her fake-fainting from last season look like something out of Citizen Kane. In the end some random chick got cut. Here are some predictions for this season:

Winner: A.J.
Backup Choice: Anchal
Next to Go: The Ugly Twin
Contestant I’d Most Like to Have Dirty, Dirty Sex With: CariDee

Verdict: Hopefully the makeovers will be dramatic because none of the girls are all that attractive. I may catch the repeats on Sundays not that there is much on Wednesdays at 8:00 although I’ll be checking out Jericho on later because no one bothered to send me a sneak peek of the show (not that I’m bitter or anything).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

First Impressions: The Class

The ClassRemember last year when and came along making us believe that we may be witnessing of a new renaissance of the sitcom. Even How I Met Your Mother was watchable. But then there was also The War at Home and the laugh-less midseason replacements like Four Kings and Emily’s Reasons Why Not. Unfortunately that trend looks to continue with this year’s crop of sitcoms starting with The Class.

The show does have a decent pedigree as it comes from the guys who created and . The plot is you usual absurd sitcom fair with a guy, (John’s son), decides to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the first day he met his girlfriend which happened on the first day of third grade by gathering the other classmates for a surprise party despite not talking to any of them for a long time. And for some reason some of the people showed up, but none of the black classmates showed up of course as this was a show from the creator of Friends.

Lizzy Caplan has black hair again, she must be the moody chick againBut the weakest part of the show is the cast. Ritter tries too hard as the overzealous party planner. is just re-hashing her Mean Girls character. You can tell this because she's back to the black hair which means she's moody. Then she has a presumably twin sister (they are in the same class) that is somehow the exact opposite even though they have lived w\hat looks like their whole life together. Then there are those that make no sense to why they would even show up like the local newscaster who explains the only reason she wants to go is to confront her prom date who turns out to be gay. The supposed joke here is that, in a sitcom context, her ex-boyfriend would be Will (of Grace fame) while her husband is Jack. Less plausible is the football player’s wife played by someone who was on so I don’t expect you to know who she is. And if wondering why she showed up in the first place, what she does at the end of the episode is even less conceivable.

There are some redeemable aspects of the show. Jon Bernthal plays the resident jock that made nothing of his life and lives in his mother’s basement had some funny lines especially when he goes at it with his mom. Then there was the loveable loser portrayed by Jesse Tyler Ferguson who provides some humorously funny lines with his dire outlook. Oddly enough, nowhere in the first episode did anyone decided that meeting up with each other should become a regular occasion, but there were connections made between individuals that will most likely continue. It may be interesting to see where the show is going if it would incorporate more funny situations, and better actors to deliver the lines.

Verdict: Normally I would bail on a show like this, but since each new episode will be available for streaming the day after it airs on CBS’s broadband channel (if you missed the show and want to see it for yourself hop over there) with limit ads, giving me a chance to watch it when ever I want, I may give it a couple more chances.

Also available on Innertube is the second season premiere of the previously mentioned How I Met Your Mother. At the end of last season I thought that Ted and Robin hooking up was a potential Jump the Shark moment and this episode only strengthened that assumption. At least Barney had some classic lines.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Toss Up: Clay Aiken vs Fergie

It’s not a good sign when the two biggest releases of the week are from and . Both suck in their own special way, Fergie had to join an already established group to make after her all girl group Wild Orchid failed miserably, while Aiken had to resort to reality television to get a record contract. Except he lost. He lost to a guy who eventually fell into obscurity. Now neither albums deserve their own reviews, so instead I’ll stage an old fashioned Toss-Up to determine which one sucked the least. Hey, it’s how I choose whom I voted for president the last two elections, so why wouldn’t it work for work music?

Clay Aiken - A Thouand Different WaysGot Their Start Karaoking On
Aiken: American Idol
Fergie: Kids Incorporated
Winner: Fergie

Still in the Shadow of Fellow Karaokers
Aiken: , , the dude he lost to and ever subsequence winner
Fergie: , Scott Wolf, A. C. Slater,

Winner: Aiken

Aiken: Bored housewives thought he was robbed of the American Idol title.
Fergie: Self proclaimed hip-hop purists thought she ruined the Black Eyed Peas.
Winner: Fergie

Makeover to Make Themselves Look Trendy
Aiken: Spiked up his hair
Fergie: Got her eyebrow pierced
Winner: Aiken

Should Be Sued by For Ripping Off Their Style
Winner: Aiken

Should be Sued by For Destroying Their Song
Aiken: - Right Here Waiting
Fergie: - Get Ready (and yes this is the CW theme song)
Winner: Fergie

Album Title
Aiken: A Thousand Different Ways
Fergie: The Duchess
Winner: Fergie

Fergie - DuchessRuntime
Aiken: 55:34
Fergie: 69:21
Winner: Aiken

Aiken: Some dude named Jaymes Foster
Winner: Fergie

Written By
Aiken: Majority are established hits, but did co-write (with three other people) Lonely No More
Fergie: Wrote majority of the songs
Winner: Aiken

Lead Single
Aiken: A karaoke version Without You made famous by (and later )
Fergie: The stick a pencil in your ear inducing London Bridge
Winner: Aiken

Guest Appearance
Aiken: duets with (also a karaoke loser from Karaoke Star: INXS) on ’s I Want to Know What Love Is
Fergie: plays piano on Finally
Winner: Fergie

Funniest Moment
Aiken: His version of Because You Loved Me (not to be confused with ’s version)
Fergie: Ludacris’ sorry guest appearance on Gamorous (not to be confused with Slim Thug’s sorry guest appearance on Stefani’s Luxurious)
Winner: Aiken

Best Song
Aiken: Umm… Well…
Fergie: Let Me rephrase that

Song that Sucked the Least
Aiken: Without You
Fergie: Finally
Winner Aiken

So there you have it, if you like horrible music but only have money to buy one album this week, make it Clay Aiken’s A Thousand Different Ways. And for those wondering what other songs Aiken destroys before you pick the album up that weren’t mentioned above, they include: When I See You Smile (Bad English), Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (Elton John), Everytime You Go Away (Paul Young), Everything I Do (I Do for You) (Bryan Adams), Here You Come Again (Dolly Parton) and Broken Wings (Mr. Mister). Now if you excuse me, I have to go to the doctor to remove the pencils from my ears.

A Thousand Different Ways gets a Terror Alert Level: Low [GREEN] on my Terror Alert Scale.

The Duchess gets a Terror Alert Level: Low [GREEN] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, September 18, 2006

You Feel It, I Feel It, Let's Not Pretend

Coming Home - Lionel Richie

There is no bigger crime against humanity in years then being relegated to being called “Nicole’s dad.” Here’s a guy who brought us Endless Love, Sail On, wrote Lady for , taught us how to dance on the ceiling and taught us the proper proportions of the fairer sex (36-24-36, although Sir Mix-A-Lot had to clarify that’s only if she’s 5’3’’ years later). If fact many of you reading this may have Lionel to thank for being conceived, hey even I may have Lionel to thank for that. Mmm, now I have to get that thought out of my mind. But anyways. Thankfully Madison Avenue still holds him in high esteem featuring Hello and All Night Long in commercials recently by Starburst and Mountain Dew, respectively.

In all fairness, it is somewhat easy to forget about Richie since it’s been twenty years since his last hit album, Dancing on the Ceiling. And maybe for most of the time in between he was fine with resting on his laurels as his records were album to rack in more money than even his spoiled brat of a daughter could spend. But maybe his daughters new found fame and being called “Nicole’s dad” lit a spark under him because Lionel’s back with songs that stands up with some of his best work that show up on his new album .

Unfortunately, in a cheap attempt to connect to a younger audience Lionel Richie brought it some big name producers to help craft a few songs, and “big name” doesn’t necessarily mean good ones. First there’s Jermaine Dupri, best know for his work with thirteen year olds, who helped out on What You Are which is fairly boring. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand with Up All Night because it sounds exactly like ever , a group that Dupri discovered, song I’ve ever heard. Then there’s Dallas Austin, most know with his work with , who helmed the ill-conceived Stand Down, a politically charged reggae song. The one marquee producer that manages to properly catch the Richie vibe is Raphael Saadiq of fame on Sweet Vacation where he also provides style backing vocals. Well there is also the Swedish production team that crafted the first single, I Call it Love. What with the Swedes and their mastery of American pop music?

But where Richie shines is with his own material as there a bunch of songs that have that classic feel to them. The breezy I’m Coming Home could fit easily in Richie’s early catalogue and the same goes for Out of My Head. Both songs hearken back to the good old days of R&B when the singers didn’t need rappers to gain mass exposure. The soft beginning to Reason to Believe that conjures up thought of to Sail On. Then there’s I Love You with its haunting vocals is very reminiscent of Hello, but I doubt it will inspire anyone to make a bust of Lionel’s head. But not of Lionel’s own songs are comeback worthy, All Around the World sound like an update of All Night Long, but fall flat compared to the earlier song. Coming Home may not save Lionel from being called “Nicole’s dad,” but at least it reminds those of us who grew up with him in the eighties what made him great back then.

Song to Download - Reason to Believe

Coming Home gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

First Impressions: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

The cast of Studio 60 on the Sunset StripIt’s not really a good sign when the fourth network in now a five team race decides to have not one, but two shows on it’s fall lineup based a show that everyone hasn’t been funny in a while (I’ll go with circa the Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Mike Myers era). But that’s what NBC has done, one a drama, which seems to be topping every critics best list (as well as my preseason pick) the other being a sitcom that looks to be on a few first to be canceled list, 30 Rock. But it was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip that I got a sneak peak at.

The show is the mastermind Aaron Sokin, creator of the great, but sadly short lived depicting the backstage at a Sportcenter type show. My sources tell me that he ran another show that had modest success, but apparently I missed that one. Oh well. The pacing of the first episode was a little slow at times and the oversized cast as well as other bit players left me throughout the show wondering who was who and what relation they were to their co-workers at the fake network, NBS (NBC and ABC were both referenced during the show so presumable NBS is another network in the real world). There were even cue scenes that tell you who people are as they introduce them, but I still haven’t figured out who the “Big Three” are in context of the show.

Is this the Big Three?The show centers around an on air breakdown of the current show runner, guest (Dear John), of Studio 60 who was not too fond when the studio’s Standards and Practices decided to pull a religious based sketch just seconds before the show starts. Apparently the scene mirrors that of one in the movie that every critic, and the show for that matter, has brought up, but the movie is older than me, so I really didn’t make the connection. Not really the first day new president, (Saving Silverman), had envisioned. To deflect from the negative publicity, Peet decides to bring back two people who were around the last time the show was worth wild in (Almost Heroes) and (the Sokin show I didn’t watch). The only problem with bringing them back in is that they have gone onto bigger and better things as well as the guy who unceremoniously pushed them out the door, (Wings) is still around.

D.L. Hughley as the token black guy once againSince we really don’t spend much time with the fake show except for the actual meltdown, we really don’t get to meet the cast of the fake show as they only pop up periodically during the first episode. Sarah Paulson (nothing worth mentioning) looks like will have the biggest storyline in future weeks as she hooked up with Perry during his first stint, but things went sour afterwards as the reason they broke up is about as funny as the reason Perry tells everyone. Then there is (Soul Plane) who plays the token black guy not only on the real show, but the fake show as well. Newcomer Nathan Corddry also pops up but doesn’t have much here in the first episode. I guess it’s possible that this was the Big Three previously mentioned, but I wouldn’t bet the bank on it.

The first episode was a little disappointing, even though it is a drama, being based on the backstage of something that is funny, there should have been more laughs. But like most pilots, they are too busy setting up the premise of the show, sometimes things gets too crammed so hopefully the show hits its stride in the next couple episodes. With the episode filled with a bunch of network suits who haven’t laughed since high school, Peet is a breath a fresh air as she is the one who isn’t taking things too seriously even though she should be the most concerned as it is her first day on the job. Since the show is based on Saturday Night Live, it looks like there will be a slew of guest “host” as , who also starred in Sports Night, pops up in the pilot and my sources tell me will make an appearance later this season in that role.

Verdict: Not as good as expected and had some pacing issues as it was too fast in some places but too slow in others, but there are definitely signs of greatness and should get much better after everything is ironed out. But if this is the best new show of the season, that isn’t a very good sign of what’s to come. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip premieres Monday at 10:00. If you can’t wait, you can watch the pilot in its entirety, commercial free, at .

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