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All reviews - Movies (1007) - TV Shows (89) - Books (1) - Music (140)

The B-52's

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 29 January 2009 06:09 (A review of The B-52's)

The B-52’s self-titled debut is one strange and colorful record, which should be fairly obvious by the Warhol-ish early-60s cover design and color palette. I imagine at the time songs about made-up dances and boogie dancing undersea life were very confusing, especially since exceedingly long, extremely pretentious rockers were hogging all of the airwaves. In fact, even given a New Wave context…these songs are still weird. Yes, the New Wave was all about merging dance, punk, and making a fashionable statement all at the same time, but none of them came out swinging with 50s sci-fi obsessions, b-movie story lines, and kewpie doll vocals. And a lot of the New Wavers were ironists. Blondie, ever the ironists, wanted to combine a punk aesthetic with 60s pop. But they could also perform a straight-up rocker when they wanted to. The B-52’s, closely related to Blondie but still vastly different, couldn’t keep their tongues out of their cheeks if their lives depended on it. But, let’s be honest, these songs are just fun. There isn’t a dull one in the bunch, and while, yes, they are exceedingly strange, it’s kitsch. Don’t over think it. Just play it loud and dance around. Even if it premiered in today’s context, of which we are ironic kitsch lovers, The B-52’s would still be one weird little dance album. And isn’t that why we love them? DOWNLOAD: “Dance This Mess Around”

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In the Studio

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 29 January 2009 05:30 (A review of In the Studio)

The Specials were always a band that was deeply laced in political issues, and In the Studio is no different. At least on the lyrical scope it’s not different. With Terry Hall and Neville Staples having left the band to form Fun Boy Three, the last of the Specials albums (pre-reunion) is missing a lot of the spark, energy, sarcasm and fun of the first two discs. Also continuing on from the previous albums is the integration of new musical styles into their ska/punk world. However, the more into new wave territory that The Specials get on this disc, the less they sound like themselves. Jerry Dammers, the main lyrical force behind the band, used to incorporate a more complicated, inclusive theory of racial themes and issues. Not here. The more creative freedom he was given, the starker and angrier his lyrics got. As much as I love the Specials, this album gets the least amount of replays from me. Hearing the lead singer from Bodysnatchers singing over Specials songs just feels and sounds wrong. While the Specials always might have looked like a gang, they at least acted like a rowdy bunch of good-time-seeking-party-boys, while delivering political messages and talking about social issues. Funny how it all got so strangely, painfully serious after a while. If you don't stop being a racist, they'll beat you up. DOWNLOAD: “Girlfriend”

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Never Say Never

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 27 January 2009 07:57 (A review of Never Say Never)

A four song EP that was mostly made to showcase the title song, but you couldn’t blame them. “Never Say Never” is a dance-punk-jazz song from the underrated San Francisco group, and, deservedly, became a New Wave classic. Debora Iyall was a poet and performance artist before becoming a musician, and her lyrics reflect that.

They’re witty, ironic, detached, cynical, and complicated. If their record label and MTV had had the balls to promote them back in the day, maybe we would be talking about Romeo Void in the same breath as Blondie, the Pretenders, and the B-52’s, the torchbearers of girl-fronted New Wave/punk groups. But, alas, Iyall was pudgy, and not “commercial” enough of a look. Sucks for them, they missed out on giving a tremendously gifted singer/songwriter a chance to shine.

Besides, I want you to name all of the Native American punk/New Wavers. That's what I thought. Introduce yourself to Romeo Void with this four song EP, and see why Iyall is one of my favorite women in music.
DOWNLOAD: “Never Say Never”

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The Confessions Tour

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 27 January 2009 07:47 (A review of The Confessions Tour - Live from London (CD+DVD))

Much like I’m Going to Tell You a Secret, the accompanying album to The Confessions Tour gives listeners selected highlights from the tour, but not the complete picture. And, inexplicably, two of the highlights are just segues between the sections of her concerts. No one pays attention to those Madge. Those are typically the “break time” for the fans. So, instead of including live highlights like “Ray of Light,” “La Isla Bonita,” or “Paradise (Not For Me)” we have “Confessions” and the remix of “Sorry.” For shame!

Luckily, the remixed old songs in the set are consistent highlights and everything from “Let It Will Be” on is just fantastic. “Lucky Star” is now a long-lost ABBA song, complete with the “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” sample at the end as it segues into “Hung Up” effortlessly. Even some of the new songs get the remix treatment as Madonna makes “Future Lovers” a medley with the glaringly obvious song it samples, “I Feel Love,” and creates a seven minute long intro to her concert that pumps and pumps and pumps until Madonna is finally ready to let her audience get off.

But while there are several highlights, the overall concert tour, and therefore this selection of songs, was plagued with a sense of cold detachment which betrayed the exuberant nature of Confessions on a Dancefloor. Ah well, Madonna came out in dominatrix gear with her backup dancers in riding gear for a reason. DOWNLOAD: “Future Lovers/I Feel Love”

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I'm Going to Tell You a Secret

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 27 January 2009 07:36 (A review of I'm Going to Tell You a Secret)

Like anything great that Madonna does, I’m Going to Tell You a Secret has a more provocative title then what is presented. That is to say, the title will make you talk and peek your interest regardless of what quality the material is. Since I can only review the album and not the documentary in this section, I stand by that opening salvo.

While the documentary might be revealing and exposing, the accompanying music is just selected highlights from the Re-Invention Tour, possibly her best-named and best–overall tour. Without the accompanying costumes, choreography, and video footage, these live versions are only half-way presented. That doesn’t stop them from being, generally, smart and interesting reinterpretations of her material.

“Holiday” is now a jungle beat that slowly builds until finally exploding in an orgy of Euro-disco, “Vogue” gets an even deeper house groove, while “Into the Groove” gets an everything and the bagpipe player treatment. Missy Elliott cameo included. The inclusion of “Imagine” into her setlist, and on this album seem slightly unnecessary. She’s been singing the same credo for the past 25 years. Only with a disco beat. Watch the doc's footage of the performances for the full story. DOWNLOAD: “Susan MacLeod/Into the Groove”

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Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 26 January 2009 10:57 (A review of Anthology)

To say that Oingo Boingo is an eclectic and strange band is to say the same thing of Devo, except that Oingo Boingo might just take the weird cake and do unspeakable things to it. Anthology is two-disc’s worth of twitchy, nervy ska/New Wave music as envisioned by Danny Elfman. It is the complete picture, with every album represented, and every variation given a full display. The first disc opens with a sing-songy invitation to join them in the graveyard, if that isn’t a big enough warning of the weirdness to come, we must be very good friends. By the time we get to “Little Girls,” you realize you’re listening to a nervy danceable punk song that only Humbert Humbert could love (and understand). The second disc sags a little in the middle when Oingo Boingo decided that they wanted to be called just Boingo and went for a mid-90s alternative rock sound, dropping the amazing horn section in the process. The live cuts which round out the second disc bring back the horn section and are from one of the band’s well-known Halloween concerts, which makes perfect sense by the time you’ve gotten through both discs. Oh, and it features a live version of a song about insects infesting your head. Which is really just another day in the Oingo Boingo world. DOWNLOAD: “Little Girls,” “Only a Lad,” “Insects (live),” “Dead Man's Party”

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Ultimate Hits Collection

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 25 January 2009 11:02 (A review of Ultimate Hits Collection)

Rhino’s Ultimate Hits Collection presents the full breath and vivid personality of “The Genius,” Ray Charles. Every song is restored and sounds as gorgeous, if not better, than what the original mono sound could have offered. But the true reason to seek out, nay, to buy this nearly impossible to find set, is to hear the growth and maturation of Charles’ voice and his work. From the early rock & rollers to the R&B/country mutations, Charles’ voice can be a tool of rabblerousing hound-dog come-on’s or of a sweet melancholy in its evocations of heartbreak. It all depends on what the song demands. However, if the reasons that I have already mentioned for buying this set hasn’t made you want to go out and buy it, know that this set is better than most, and possibly the best of the bunch, because it includes lesser-known, but no less astounding, selections like “Mess Around” and “Hide ‘Nor Hair.” (The Birth of Soul boxset withstanding, of course.) The booklet is filled with great photos, nicely detailed and lengthy liner notes, two jewel cases for each disc, and the packaging has a wonderful cover. It might be hard to find, and a fairly large package, but it is worth seeking out because everyone should own at least one album by Brother Ray. DOWNLOAD: “Georgia On My Mind,” “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” “What’d I Say,” “Hit the Road Jack”

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