Sunday, January 15, 2012

AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

If you would have asked me (before I looked it all up) what year I thought Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap came out, I would have been off by at least a decade. I don't know what it is about the album art and the songs themselves, but this album doesn't look or sound like it came out the same year High Voltage did (1976).

I don't want to knock Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, but it does have the look and feel of some of they 80s work, which many saw as a decline in quality. Just look at the album covers for AC/DC's 1970s albums. Let There Be Rock, Powerage, If You Want Blood, and Highway to Hell all feature either Angus or the entire band doing something that would only seem to strengthen the belief of concerned parents who really believed AC/DC stood for Anti-Christ Devil's Children or After Christ Devil Comes. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap features normal people with their eyes blacked out. It just seems more like a Fly on the Wall era album cover.

The music on Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap is still very good. The title track is one of the more famous and beloved AC/DC anthems, and one of my favorite AC/DC tunes is on the flipside: "Ride On." For some reason I remember hearing it in a movie soundtrack (not Maximum Overdrive, which I have never seen) and that's where I fell in love with it, but I can't remember what movie it was now. Oh, and "Big Balls" makes my inner 12-year-old giggle.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Allnighter: Susanna Hoffs and Precious Little Else

The Allnighter [PG-13] 1987 - Starring: Susanna Hoffs, Joan Cusack, Michelle Pfeiffer's Sister
Before you start hitting me with questions like, "Why would you sit through something like this?" may I please remind you that Susanna Hoffs is a great musician and that I love her music enough to sit through her underwhelming performance in a movie.

All the pieces were there for me to add The Allnighter to my repertoire of movies I like despite poor critical and popular reaction (see: Mystery Men, Evil Alien Conquerors, Midnight Madness etc). I tend to love high school and college movies, especially ones in which all problems are caused and solved by partying (classic example: Can't Hardly Wait. Also, I really love the song "Maybe Partying Will Help" by The Minutemen. I am a man of contrasts). Let's set the table for this by pointing out that I love this genre of movie and I love Susanna Hoffs. Everything was set up for me to like this movie.

Susanna Hoffs (whose mother wrote and directed this movie) stars as Molly, the non-romantically attached soon-to-be-graduating valedictorian of Pacifica College. She lives off campus with Joan Cusack and Michelle Pfeiffer's sister. I finished the movie 15 minutes ago and I could not tell you the names of their characters if my life depended on spewing cliches. Also, I don't remember seeing an actual college anywhere in this movie. I don't know if they couldn't get the rights to one or if they really just thought the movie would be better without it, but there is less college in this movie than any other college movie I have ever seen.

Joan Cusack is an aspiring filmmaker who is constantly taking horrible footage with a giant old school camcorder. She's like Winona Rider's character in Reality Bites only talentless and annoying. Michelle Pfeiffer's sister is engaged to a dorky blueblood who is begging for a come-uppance from the first time he appears on screen. Susanna Hoffs is in love with one of two surfer dudes who constantly keep barging into the girls' house. The surfer dude almost tells Susanna Hoffs that he loves her in the opening scene, so there's really no tension driving what should be the main love interest.

The main problem with The Allnighter (other than the fact that it doesn't even seem like an all-nighter in the classic sense of the word) is that every single one of the characters is flat and cliched. There is absolutely no on-screen chemistry between any of the characters, even the ones you know will end up together. Nothing jumps out at you and nothing begs you to care what happens to these characters. You know at one point that Joan Cusack and Michelle Pfeiffer's sister are going to be busted (wrongly) for prostitution, but it doesn't make you concerned at all. Even if this movie took a wild turn and became a slasher flick, you still wouldn't care who got stabbed because nobody even has the character depth of a horror movie victim. It's just a lifeless, bland concoction that slowly oozes off the screen. At no point in The Allnighter do you get the feeling that someone is carrying a single scene, let alone the entire movie.

Acting and character depth aside, Susanna Hoffs' mom did a bad job writing this movie. It relies too heavily on the viewer's assumptions of what college movies are all about and does too little in the way of actual storytelling. Take, for example, the fiesta. This is the party at which dramatic tension is supposed to build. Surfer dude goes off with random blonde girl instead of protagonist causing protagonist to chase after random alumni and apparent rock star who is only there to make sparks fly with protagonist's advisor. Michelle Pfeiffer's sister's fiancee acts like an idiot, causing Michelle Pfeiffer's sister (yes, I'm going to keep doing that) to question their relationship. The party is the most important part of a college/high school movie and Susanna Hoffs' mom botched it big time. Add to it the fact that Susanna and her surfer dude don't even kiss until the last 5 minutes of the movie and we're supposed to feel good about their relationship despite the fact that surfer dude is going to law school in Minnesota and we have no idea what Susanna Hoffs (who doesn't seem smart enough to be the valedictorian. Sorry) is going to do. And we're supposed to feel closure with this last-minute no future relationship?! I've seen enough college/high school movies to know the formula and this ain't it.

They even put the ball on the tee for Susanna Hoffs when she did the walk of shame to the podium just in time to give her valedictory address right after her dalliance with surfer dude. The scene was set up perfectly. Everyone was cheering. Joan Cusack and Michelle Pfeiffer's sister were beaming as if they knew she was going to knock her valedictory address out of the park, sum up all the important lessons they've learned in the movie, and give a glimpse of the future. That's how this scene is supposed to work. I've seen it a billion times before in coming-of-age movies that are actually good. Instead of wrapping everything up in her address, Susanna Hoffs says the following in a completely deadpan tone (and yes, I went back and transcribed it word for word from the movie): "Many things have happened. Some really great things. Anyway, how can we sum up four years at Pacifica in words? What I've come to realize is a nutshell...experience is really your best teacher. And um..the experiences we've had here together is the best we'll ever have. So the main thing I wanna say is...everyone here, all the graduating seniors of Pacifica, thanks. It's been great."  That's your big finale?! That's how you wrap it all up and put a bow on top?! Where's the catharsis? Where's the moral of the story? Where's the inspiration?

The Allnighter is not a good movie. I only recommend it to fans of Susanna Hoffs who want to remember how cute she was back when Prince was in love with her. Aside from that, this movie has no other redeeming qualities (except for one of my favorite Redd Kross songs that plays in the background for about 30 seconds. Seriously, that was a big highlight for me). More than anything this movie shows us why we have well-trod formulas for college and high school movies.

Friday, January 13, 2012

AC/DC - High Voltage

There are people who say that AC/DC has just been in the business of releasing the same album over and over again. There is some truth in this statement. Most AC/DC songs are about 1) Rocking really hard 2) Loose women, or 3) Causing trouble.

Be that as it may, if AC/DC is just releasing slightly altered versions of High Voltage (their first internationally available LP) I still say bravo, hooray, and good on ya. High Voltage is rock and roll concentrate. It's rock and roll extract. AC/DC struck upon the purest rock and roll musical structure and lyrical content on their very first try. If you strike gold on your first swing, there's no shame in mining the same vein until it runs out (it hasn't).

High Voltage  has some of my very favorite AC/DC tracks: "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)" "Live Wire" and the greatest AC/DC song of them all: "The Jack." This is the album that started it all, and AC/DC has changed precious little since it was released in 1976 (I still say Brian Johnson's voice is almost indistinguishable from Bon Scott's). You simply can't go wrong with this one.

The Shins - Nothing at All b/w Spilt Needles (alt. version)

This is a promo that I was given for free with my purchase of Wincing the Night Away. It features the non-album track "Nothing at All" and an alternate version of "Spilt Needles" (okay, is it "split" or "spilt?" The label on the record says "spilt" but CDDB seems to think it's "split." I'm going with "spilt" until I'm told otherwise. Was this a waste of words? You betcha.)

Here's the beauty of this 45 (other than the fact that I got it for free and can sell it on ebay for upwards of $5): both songs are fantastic and are not taken from the album they promote. "Spilt Needles" is on the album but not in the version on this record. Sometimes an alternate version of a track is so similar that its inclusion is redundant and unnecessary. That's not the case here. The album version of "Spilt Needles" is a brooding classic Shins song. The alternate version sounds like the same song if it were performed by The Police circa Ghost in the Machine. It's a night and day difference. "Nothing at All" seems good enough for the album to my ears. All told this is a delightful 45 whose value is only bolstered by the fact that I didn't have to pay for it.

Teenage Kicks - Call Me on the Phone b/w Right Behind You Baby

This 45 sat in the bin at Eastside Records for a long time before I picked it up. The only reason I bought it was because it is number 514 in a limited edition of 555. 45's are often limited to pressings of as few as 50, so this is by no means the rarest record I own. It's just numbered and it's near the end, so that's gotta be worth something, right?

The music on this 45 is pretty good. "Call Me on the Phone" is a Sonics style garage number. The saxophone in this band is a good call. It's a classic garage sound and yet very few modern garage bands go for it. The b-side "Right Behind You Baby" is a Cramps-ish rockabilly song. Both sides of this platter are worth a listen, but I'm still more interested in the sticker that says "Limited Edition #514 of 555."

The Shagwells - Scarface b/w Yeah! Yeah!

This is the second of two 45's I own by the enigmatic Japanese garage group, The Shagwells. This one is much more punkish and harder rocking than the other 45 I own. Once again there is no identification as for where this record came from. It only states that the recording was done by Fuzz Master (good luck on finding anything but the distortion pedal if you search for this one) and the jacket design by Go (also hard to search). There is a link to a dead website with a link to another dead website. Even if this is a self-produced record (which I assume it is), someone had to have pressed it. Maybe the band had their own vinyl press, cut two 45's, broke up, sold the press and called it a day. I guess I'll never know.

The Shagwells - Pretty Girl/She's a Mod b/w You're So Wonderful

Now this is garage rock just like I like it. Clear 1960s influences, jangling guitars, and a brisk pace. Here's the great thing about this record (and the other Shagwells 45 I own): there is no information about it online whatsoever. There is no information about who pressed this record or anything else. As a matter of fact, the record itself is clear vinyl with a polka dot label that has no text whatsoever. I bought this 45 because I ran out of I Don't Feel a Thing records to buy and the guy who runs the label told me this was a good record. It is a good record but if you wanted a copy there is absolutely no likelihood that you'll ever find one. I guess that's a perk of the garage rock world. You can be one of a very small handful of people who knows about a certain band or record. Anyway, this is a great 45 and highly recommended to anyone who can find it.

Chordvetts - EP

This is another gem from I Don't Feel a Thing Records. I wasn't kidding when I said I bought everything they had at the time. The only record they ever released that I regret not owning is the Neil Hamburger Remembers Richard Nixon record that was only available at the Phoenix Greyhound Park set that Neil Hamburger did way back when. I've seen a DVD of that performance, but I was not there so I missed out on the chance to own a super rare comedy record.

Anyway, the record at hand is the work of another Japanese girly garage group. What do they sound like? Just close your eyes and think about Japanese girls rocking out in their garage. The noise you hear in your brain is exactly what the Chordvetts sound like. The production value on this record seems thin and tinny, but that might be exactly what the Chordvetts were going for. Production values aside, they do a version of "I Fought the Law" that is awesome. This is not my favorite I Don't Feel a Thing release (That would be Tiger Shovel Nose) but it's still a good one. I once had a guy on a vinyl message board offer me way more than I paid for this record and I didn't sell. I don't know what that says about anything or anyone.

The Lottie Collins - Runaway to the Mexico f/w Pouvatel

Here's another odd duck from the boys over at I Don't Feel a Thing Records: The Lottie Collins. They are another garage band from Japan. That's not the odd part. This 45 is pretty much straightforward garage rock with no surprises whatsoever. It's even a little bit boring. That's not the odd part. The odd part is that both tracks listed on the jacket are on the a-side of the record. The b-side is blank but it doesn't look blank. Unlike the Tri-City Thundercats "Rapid Transit" single which is flat on the b-side, the b-side of The Lottie Collins has a groove. It has a spin-in groove leading into a track that is, according to my record player, about three minutes of silence, and then has a spin-out groove that will seat your needle when it's done. More than once I thought about bringing this record back to the shop and asking if it was a mistake, but I didn't want to look like a dummy if it was, in fact, a joke that I had missed. The copy of this record that I own has a lot of gunk around the edges because it wasn't trimmed precisely. I have often wondered if that was not the problem, but I can't imagine that it is. At any rate, this is a decent if not altogether befuddling record. It's also rare as is everything in the I Don't Feel a Thing stable.

Tiger Shovel Nose - Capuccino Twist b/w Stupid Stupid

When you wanna talk rare records, I have a few that I can toss into the mix courtesy of I Don't Feel a Thing Records. Like I said in the review of my Tri-City Thundercats 45, one of the guys who co-owns and operates I Don't Feel a Thing Records used to work at my favorite vinyl spot. He introduced me to garage rock and talked me into buying every release his label had out at the time. I'm not sure he made much money from me (or anyone for that matter. They make records for the love of it more than anything) but I own some very limited edition records like this Tiger Shovel Nose 45.

I was told that this is one of the bands The Tri-City Thundercats played with when they took their talents to Japan. I'm just throwing out things from conversations I had 7 years ago. I don't know if any of these details are correct. The long and the short of it is that someone who co-owned the label met some bands in Japan and made deals to press some 45's for them. This is one of them.

Tiger Shovel Nose is a cutesy garage rock band (think the 5678's mixed with Cub) that makes me feel happy inside. Both sides of this record are highly enjoyable. I just played it once and now I'm going to flip it over and play it again.

The Tri-City Thundercats - Rapid Transit f/w Simulacra

The Tri-City Thundercats are a band from the Tempe, Arizona area. At least one of the guys in this band used to work at Eastside Records and was instrumental in introducing me to garage rock. He was a part owner of the now defunct I Don't Feel a Thing Records. He and some buddies got their hands on a vinyl press and started cranking out 45's. I even talked to him about pressing a record for my band. It never happened, but we talked about it. He didn't seem enthusiastic.

This record is unique in that it has no b-side. It has two songs on the front side and absolutely nothing on the back (hence the f/w. Normally a 45 is b/w or backed with the b-side). Despite being from Arizona, these two tracks sound British. They have a britpop crossed with garage feel to them. I really like it despite the fact that one of the owners of Eastside Records once told me that he thought The Tri-City Thundercats (I love their name) sucked and that the guys in the band who worked the night and weekend shifts at the store were morons. He may have told me that when I bought this record. I probably wouldn't have said that if the store wasn't tragically closed now. Anyway, if you'd like to hear a garage-ish bunch of Arizonans sound like Brits, this is your 45.

The Wildebeests - One + One b/w Teenage Letter and Gorilla Got Me

When I think of The Wildebeests, the songs from "Up Yer Pipe With..." are normally the ones that come to mind. The a-side "One + One" is an original Wildebeests tune that is currently stuck in my mind despite the fact that I have listened to other songs since hearing it today.

In classic Wildebeests fashion, the b-sides on this record are both obscure covers. The first is "Teenage Letter" by the seminal freakbeat band The Sorrows. The second is "Gorilla Got Me" by the short-lived proto-punk band Gorillas (aka The Hammersmith Gorillas). I had never heard of either of these bands before looking them up. Maybe it's because I don't hail from the UK.

Either way, I love the a-side of this record and the b-side is no slouch. "Gorilla Got Me" shows just about as well as any other Wildebeests song that they are more technically proficient than they let on. They aren't garage rockers because they don't know how to play. They know how to play and they love garage rock. Long live the lairds of boss racket! Don't give me that "Who the hootin' whelk?" business. You know who.

The Wildebeests - I Feel Alright b/w Dinosaur

Presented in glorious mono, it's another Wildebeests 45. When I told you that I purchased every Wildebeests 7" in the bin, I was not lying to you. Now I am faced with the challenge of coming up with new words to describe what is essentially the same style of music.

The thing about garage rock is that you either understand it and love it or you think it's ridiculous to listen to music that is intentionally sloppy and lo-fi or you have never heard of it as a musical movement or genre or you just don't care about it. Those are the only ways you can feel about it. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Filler aside, this is another great Wildebeests record. I actually prefer the b-side "Dinosaur" to the a-side "I Feel Alright." I was just about to say that "Dinosaur" sounds like a Link Wray track and I decided to look into  it first. On the backside of the jacket, whose name should appear in the songwriting credit for "Dinosaur"? Link Wray. I'm glad I checked first. It would have been like the time when I told a bunch of guys that the guy from the movie Labyrinth looked like David Bowie. They laughed me to scorn. In my mind he just looked a lot like David Bowie because what would David Bowie ever be doing in a 1980s fantasy movie? What indeed.

The Wildebeests - Punk 45

This EP is comprised of 100% punk covers from some of the most classic punk bands in history. They are: "Public Image" by Public Image Ltd., "1 2 X U" by Wire, "I Wanna Be Loved" by Johnny Thunders, and "Garageland" by The Clash. All of these songs come from a time when punk was punk. It was dirty, rebellious, and raw. Fauxhawks need not apply.

The Wildebeests bring their trademark lo-fi treatment to all this classic punk and it sounds great. Every time I drop the needle on this one it sounds like The Wildebeests are rocking out in my basement, and I don't own a basement. I especially love "Garageland." If ever there were a theme song for these lairds of boss racket and their tank pock, this would be it.

Weezer - Keep Fishin' b/w Photograph (live version)

"Keep Fishin'" was a bit of an anomaly on Maladroit. The rest of the album sounded rough and unpolished (and some would say it sounded like an unholy mess. I know. I was on the Weezer web boards at the time and the universal trashing of Maladroit was the main reason I left) while "Keep Fishin'" had enough sheen to be a green album track. As the cover would indicate, this is the single Weezer did with The Muppets. It seemed an odd choice at the time, but not a bad one.

This single marked a big departure for Weezer in one respect, and not one that I am particularly happy with. Up until this point, Weezer b-sides were usually unreleased tracks. That's how we got songs like "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly," "Devotion," "Suzanne," "Sugar Booger" and many others. All the songs listed in the previous sentence are high quality Weezer tracks that didn't make the album for one reason or another. When Weezer recorded Maladroit, they started posting demos from their recording sessions on nearly a daily basis. There are dozens of tracks that appeared on the Weezer home page during this time but didn't make the cut for the album. They could have put a rough cut of a song like "Don't Pick on Me" or "Sandwiches Time" on the flipside, but they didn't. They put a live version of a song from a previous album on the b-side. I am not opposed to live albums or live EP's, but when you have a talent like Rivers Cuomo who cranks out hundreds and hundreds of songs, would it kill you to pick the best one that didn't make the cut and use it as a b-side? Ever since this single, Weezer has been doing all live versions as b-sides. In their defense they have also started putting more than the standard 10 tracks on their albums, but that doesn't mean I won't still be wanting more Weezer. The score I am about to give this single is more a reflection of my feelings on the b-side and the shift it represents than my feelings on the a-side which is a perfectly nice tune.

The Wildebeests - 4 Instrumental Hits

This is one of many Wildebeests 45's I picked up in my quest for perfect garage rock. This ain't it, but it's still good garage rock.

The Wildebeests have this great primitive sound that permeates everything they do. They call themselves the lairds of boss racket, and they are exactly that (whatever it is). Every record they put out could have been recorded in a garage in Minneapolis circa 1965. Why Minneapolis? Because I was trying to pick a place I've never been that seems unassuming. I could have gone with the Adam Carolla standard Battle Creek, Michigan but that would be a copycat move.

As the name of this EP would imply, there are no (well, practially no) words on this record. On the song "Commanche" (a Link Wray cover) they occasionally shout "Commanche." Other than that and some coughing in the background of "Woodbine" it's all instrumental. If you dig the likes of Link Wray, this little platter might be right up your alley.

American Soul Spiders - Anyway Anygirl b/w Now I'm Alone

Before they were known as Teengenerate, this Japanese garage punk outfit was known as American Soul Spiders (which is a vastly superior name if you ask me). The same group would eventually rename itself as Firestarter despite having basically the same personnel. It's the opposite of what we do in America. Somewhere in this country a band calling itself Foghat is touring and playing both of your favorite Foghat hits despite the fact that the only original member is the drummer. That's how we roll in America. Apparently in Japan you can trot out the same four dudes and be three or four different bands in a career. I like their system better.

Anyway, Japan has a history of cranking out the highest quality garage rock and American Soul Spiders (still lovin' that name, by the way) are no exception to that sweeping generalization. They have a biting edge in both the fuzzed out guitar work and the whining high-pitched vocals (a minus in any other genre, but it really flies in garage rock). They blaze through both tracks on this 45 like their guitars are plugged into a bomb and they'll die if they go under 300 BPM. Yes, I just made reference to a movie I have never seen. Is it too late to see Speed? I hear it's super good.

The Black Keys - The Moan b/w Have Love Will Travel

I remember that when this single came out, I wasn't expecting it at all (I'm usually pretty good at following releases by my favorite bands). I just wandered into my favorite vinyl spot and there it was on the new arrival rack. It was like finding 10 bucks in an old coat pocket. It was exactly like that because yesterday I seemed to be on a roll as far as writing decent reviews is concerned and now today I'm writing duds like this.

"The Moan" is good as is "Have Love Will Travel." The whole thing is really good. Now please excuse me as I try to go and see if I can scrounge up a little writing talent.

The Dippiest Hippies in Space

It's no secret that the quality of Star Trek took a dive toward the end of the series. The episodes got more predictable and poorly written. Spock would act like a jerk in one episode for no reason and then be back to his normal self the next. Kirk tended to have a new one and only true love in every single episode. Scotty couldn't decide whether or not to slick his hair back, causing frustration for my Wife who cares about such things. For an iconic series they really limped toward the finish line. Having watched "That Which Survives" with my Wife a few nights back I thought I had seen the worst that Star Trek's third season had to offer. Little did I know that the dippiest hippies in space would be nipping at the heels of "That Which Survives" for the title of...[fanfare] The Worst Star Trek Episode Ever!!

The hippies appear in the episode "The Way to Eden." It is filled with horrible acting, plot holes, and some of the worst music you are ever likely to hear. At the heart of the problem is Charles Napier. You may remember him as the square-jawed hard-nosed soldier or cop in just about every tv show and movie ever made. Google him. You've definitely seen him in something. Despite the fact that Charles Napier had a perfectly fine career aside from this episode, it must be pointed out that his character was so unwatchably/unlistenably awful that I cheered and forced my Wife to give me a high five when he died (she really didn't want to). He doesn't play the leader of the hippies, but he is the most vocal of all the hippies. Under that wig and those thigh-high forest green boots (yes, really) he's still the same guy who was always typecast as a military/police type. This means that as he delivers all his lines about how the man is holding him down he looks and sounds like the man. It's ridiculous. Let's call it flaw #1: the ridiculously unbelievable nature of the hippies.

Flaw #2: (I should've listed it first, but I needed to explain who Charles Napier was) the music. Make no mistake about it, even though Star Trek is set in the 2100's, the series was made in the 1960s therefore the aliens they take aboard in this episode are hippies. They have flowers painted all over themselves and talk in a really groovy way, man. Because they are hippies, they have their protest music. The music is supposed to be made up on the spot by Charles Napier's character (see the picture above. He's the one with the weird instrument). The only problem with their protest music is that it is unbearably awful. First of all, they are supposed to be playing these wild alien instruments and yet they all sound like acoustic guitars (in fairness one of them starts sounding like a harpsichord for no reason). None of the songs are well-written melodically or lyrically. I heard them all last night and couldn't possibly sing a single note back this morning. The main problem with the music is that it's strictly filler. It takes up time so the poorly-written story gets to take a breather (a similar tactic was used in Abbott and Costello's awful version of Jack and the Beanstalk). There are really only two legitimate reasons why you would ever have singing in the middle of your show (unless your show is a musical, in which case you should sing away at every chance you get): 1) You have a genius like the Gershwin brothers or Cole Porter writing music for you 2) You have a legit singing talent and he/she wants to show off. This would explain every movie Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra were ever in. If you are singing just to fill time and divert attention from the fact that you script is full of holes, you are making a poor choice and your audience will hate you. I know I did.

Flaw #3: gaping plot holes. This is by no means a complete list 1) The first hole in the plot comes out when the hippies are first beamed aboard. They all make the Oregon Ducks sign with their hands and just sit down on the transporter platform. They don't move or address anyone until Spock comes in, does their little hippie sign and says their little words. The problem with this is that they are a movement of exactly six people. Even though one of them is the son of a prominent man it doesn't mean that their hippie dippy ways are common knowledge, even to Spock. The world of Star Trek is concerned not just with international but interplanetary issues. The issues of six hippies are a droplet in that sea. It never makes sense that Spock would know anything about these dippy hippies, let alone their hand signals. 2) Where in the world are the Romulans? In every other episode in which the Enterprise even wanders into the neutral zone, they are met by Romulans. In "The Enterprise Incident" (also a third season episode) the Enterprise is met by several Romulan ships as soon as they cross into Romulan space. When the dippy hippies take over the Enterprise, they fly for a full three hours into Romulan space. After everything that happens on their precious hippie planet, the Enterprise flies back the same three hours and encounters exactly zero Romulans. This makes no sense when considering everything we know about the Romulan defenses of the neutral zone. If you are not going to abide by the conditions of the Star Trek universe, you have no business writing an episode (that is the nerdiest sentence I have ever written). 3) When the hippie dippy music is played over the intercom, everyone on the ship loves it to the point that they are distracted from their duties and allow the hippies to take over the ship. Let's assume (and this is going to be a doozy) that the crew of the Enterprise doesn't hate the music. They are still Starefleet officers and trained to do their duty in spite of distraction. Also, nobody seemed to enjoy the music during the first two-thirds of the episode. Why would they suddenly take a liking to it? 4) The whole Eden concept. The hippies are in search of a planet called Eden where they are going to build their dream society (never mind the fact that their leader is a carrier of a disease that will kill them all regardless of where they settle). They seem to know generally where it is because they are headed right into Romulan space when the episode begins. Spock offers to help them find Eden and apparently does find its exact location. Upon realizing that the planet they found is populated by vegetation with a high acidic content (and Charles Napier dies. It was so satisfying after all that annoying singing and hippie talk he did) they head back to the Enterprise. Spock tells them he hopes they will continue to search for Eden. The only problem with that is that the planet they found was Eden. Eden can't just be any beautiful uninhabited class M planet because they wouldn't have needed to venture into Romulan space. They could have found hundreds or thousands of planets that meet their needs in Federation space. If the planet they found wasn't Eden, this means Spock made an error in navigation, which seems highly unlikely. The whole thing is just dumb. 5) The hippies stole a space ship and are told that they won't be arrested and prosecuted for doing it. They then take over the Enterprise and are still told that they won't be prosecuted. The reason they aren't being punished is because one of the hippies has a prominent dad. The only problem with that is that there is no special treatment in the Star Trek universe. Everyone is responsible for their actions regardless of who they are. The theft of a space ship which was later destroyed due to the actions of the hippies and the unlwful commandeering of the Enterprise would both be punishable offenses regardless of who was who's daddy.

I think that's a good list of plot holes. I didn't even point out the obvious symbolism that they practically throw in your face (Charles Napier's character named Adam dies on Eden when he eats the native fruit. Ugh). This episode is a real mess. It had at least 9 real cringe-worthy parts, and I would consider it the worst Star Trek episode if it weren't for the fact that I cringed every time Spock opened his mouth during "That Which Survives." This episode is a real clunker. You have been warned.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Black Keys - Leavin' Trunk b/w She Said, She Said

This is the pride and joy of my entire collection. This limited edition 45 is hand numbered (mine is 262 of 1000), hand printed, and includes a photograph that is both artsy and fartsy.

The music is awesome. Both tracks are covers. "Leavin' Trunk" is a traditional blues number that has been performed by just about every blues musician since the inception of the blues. Inasmuch as The Black Keys have a serious appreciation of the blues, it makes sense that they would cover this song.

"She Said, She Said" is a less obvious choice. The Beatles' song in which the words of an acid tripping Peter Fonda are attributed to a woman doesn't seem near The Black Keys' alley at all, and yet they rock it out. Here's the important thing to note: I don't like Beatles covers. What can you possibly do to improve upon a Beatles song? Practically nothing. The list of approved Beatles covers are as follows: "She Said, She Said" by The Black Keys and "Let it Be" by Aretha Franklin. That's it so far. You can take your I Am Sam soundtrack or Across the Universe soundtrack and cram it.

The Black Keys - 10am Automatic b/w Summertime Blues

The Black Keys are one of my very favorite bands. They are exactly the sort of band you want to own on vinyl. I do own a couple Black Keys cd's, and I have all of their albums in digital formats, but the bulk of my Black Keys collection is on vinyl. The gritty take-no-prisoners blues of The Black Keys just feels right with the hiss of a needle digging into the groove of a record.

All that said, "10 A.M. Automatic" is my favorite song from Rubber Factory. Side note: Why did they call the album Rubber Factory when they recorded it in an abandoned power plant? Also, why did they call their latest album El Camino when it features pictures of vans? They are enigmatic for sure.

The b-side of this 45 is an interesting choice. They went with Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and they crank it up to 11. I am convinced that The Black Keys could sing the ABC's and still blow your mind.

Bon Jovi - You Give Love a Bad Name b/w Raise Your Hands

This is my jam right here. No matter how ridiculous Bon Jovi was in their heyday or how doubly ridiculous they are now that they're trying to pretend that they never were ridiculous, I love this song. It's kind of like my love for Neil Diamond. I know that there are people who are into it for ironic hipster points, but that's none of my concern. "You Give Love a Bad Name" is up there in the top tier of the hair metal hall of fame. Oh, and I'll forever be angry at my former roommate who had a dj friend who did a mashup of "You Give Love a Bad Name" with Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven on Earth." I love both songs, but I love them separately. I got my roommate back by inserting "Tony Danza" when singing "Tiny Dancer." I apologize to you if I just ruined that song for you and by extension that scene from Almost Famous.

The b-side on this 45 is "Raise Your Hands," which also appears on Slippery When Wet. It's a great song that reminds you to raise your hands. Put it together with "All Join Our Hands" by White Lion and you've got some sweet sweet hair metal mix magic.

Bouncing Souls - Neurotic

When I pulled this EP out I wondered to myself, "Aren't all these songs on Bouncing Souls studio albums?" A little research revealed that all four of the tracks are featured on the Bouncing Souls debut album The Good, The Bad, and the Argyle. Inasmuch as I have already reviewed that album and by extension all the songs on this EP, allow me to just state that Bouncing Souls is my all-time favorite name for a punk band. Oh, and I love the fact that they make continual references to 1980s teen movies, especially John Hughes movies. Add it all up and they're probably my favorite punk band. I've seen Bouncing Souls more than I've seen any other punk band (second place is Rancid).

Less Than Jake - Crash Course in Being an A**hole

I still remember the first time I saw Less Than Jake in concert. They had clowns in bondage masks (yes, terrifying) who were throwing stickers and other LTJ swag out into the crowd. That particular brand of silliness/weirdness plays out in just about everything Less Than Jake does.

This is a collection of three covers performed by Less Than Jake in their classic ska/punk style. The only odd thing about it is that they chose two songs from the 80s ("Your Love" by The Outfield and "Freeze Frame" by J. Geils band) and one from the 50s ("Teenager in Love" by Dion and the Belmonts).

Crash Course doesn't have the same slick punk sheen that Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covers do, but the covers are all still very good as punk covers go. My personal favorite is the odd track out, "Teenager in Love."

The Makers - Shout On!!

"Shout On!!" is a 9 track EP by The Makers. It features nearly an LP worth of blazing punkish garage rock in the classic Makers style.

I don't know what it is about the Pacific Northwest, but over the years they have put out more quality garage rock than the entire rest of the country put together. This dates back to the days of The Wailers (not the Bob Marley ones) and The Sonics. Estrus, Sympathy For the Record Industry, and Kill Rock Stars are all Washington based record labels (The Makers have singles and albums on all of those labels) that do almost nothing but garage rock.

Regional proclivities aside, The Makers have carved themselves out a nice little spot in the garage rock scene. Their sound is absolutely relentless, and their work ethic is admirable. I'm glad I don't have to review their albums right now because I honestly don't know what else to say about them if I want to keep from hyperbole and prevarication.

The Makers - Music to Suffer By

This was the first Makers record I ever bought, and it was good enough to inspire me to buy a lot more Makers paraphernalia. I even won an album of theirs in a contest they had on their Myspace page. I guess my Makers fandom all comes back to this record.

There are two blazing originals on this 45 ("It's Your World" and "She Should Be Crying") and one cover (The Animals' "Baby Let Me Take You Home"). It sounds like what the 60's would have sounded like if punk happened before The Beatles. All in all not a bad platter to own.