Friday, September 27, 2013

Snake Plissken: The Video Game

Sweet baby Jesus...I am depressed that this never came out.

How much would I pay to play as S.D. "Snake" Plissken?

$60, easy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Retro Review: Queen + Paul Rogers: Return of the Champions

I recently found a used copy of this 2-disk set, Return of the Champions, and picked it up. I'd always wanted a copy, but even digital it was fairly pricey. For five bucks, I couldn't pass it up.

Replacing band members is this sort of weird thing. Sometimes, it heralds a change in tone and direction that reinvigorates a band (look at the 2500 versions of Deep Purple that have existed). Sometimes, nobody notices (Anthrax gets a new lead guitarist quite regularly, in the grand scheme). Then there's the times when you really can't imagine how anybody could think that a band member could ever be replaced. When their personality is so central to the chemistry of the group, you just can't see how it can go on.

Such was Freddie Mercury and Queen.

Now, what really sucks about this is, often the remaining members would like to, y'know, continue their careers, and don't want to take the Joy Division-into-New Order route of starting a new band. I get that. Brian May and Roger Taylor wrote those songs, too. They played all those shows, and the thing that was "Queen" was just as much theirs as it was Freddie's.

It's just that Freddie was such a HUGE personality.

So, when I heard they were going to go on tour with Paul Rodgers, I was a little perplexed, but then I saw a bit of genius in it. Now, look, I personally think Paul Rodgers is, give or take, the best voice in rock and roll. His voice is pretty much what I love in a frontman, a full, powerful, bluesy kind of sound. When I sing, I wish I could sound like Paul Rodgers.

But that's nothing like the soaring, cabaret vibe of Freddie Mercury. Which is honestly why I dig this album, and, to an extent, the studio disk they put out in 2008. First, they don't pretend it's "Queen," it's "Queen + Paul Rodgers," and, while of course there's a musical connection, because it's the same guitarist and drummer, they let Paul be Paul.

Which is why I can accept this pairing, and yet I feel like the shows they did with Adam Lambert were just painful, sellout moves. Why? It's clear that May and Taylor drooled over Lambert because he was a flamboyant, gay rock singer...that whole escapade REEKED of desperation and lack of imagination. A desire to simply try to re-create what they had before.

Paul Rodgers, on the other hand, was established. They were peers deciding to try to work together. It was new and different, and, to my ears, exciting. It felt like moving on, and moving forward. Did Rodgers sing The Show Must Go On like Freddie? No, he sang it like Paul Rodgers, and taken as's pretty goddamn awesome.

I an say that about a number of tracks here, Tie Your Mother Down, I Want to Break Free, Fat Bottomed Girls. Yeah, they keep Rodgers to more of the rocking end of the Queen catalog, but that makes a lot of sense. May and Taylor also take lead vocals on a number of Freddie's songs. The bottom line is that it works because Rodgers simply isn't having anything to do with A) pretending to be Freddie, or B) worrying about not being Freddie. Frankly, with his career, he has every right to that.

My only real complaint is that, of all the numbers they do from Rodger's career, they don't pull out Radioactive by The Firm, which I think May and Taylor could've KILLED on.

Freddie Mercury was the only lead singer for Queen, but Queen + Paul Rodgers was it's own animal, and it worked pretty damn well.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I will still give it a few episodes before pulling the eject lever, don't get me wrong. I think it's weak sauce out of the gate, however.

My friend Linus Lee made a few comments that crystallized a lot of my feelings about what I think just doesn't work. They don't explain exactly why this special team is being created very well, or set it up very well as a "mystery," if that's the idea, in contrast to this HUGE S.H.I.E.L.D. organization we've seen an understand from the films (not to mention that that context makes the show feel REALLY rinky-dinky - which I absolutely acknowledge as unfair, TV budgets, etc, but the impression is there). The Coulson thing? They basically dropped a "Life Model Decoy" road sign right in the middle of the first act, so...I'm simply waiting for that shoe to drop.

I don't understand why this show exists, why this story needs to be told, in the context of the "Marvel Cinematic Universe." Outside of that context, on a corporate level, to exploit the brand? I get it.

"Next Wave," you say? Fine, but the context of that is horribly muddled "psudeo-Kitty Pryde" is connected to them, but not? They're trying to make superheroes? Wasn't that a subplot of about half of the movies so far? "Everybody wants a super-soldier!" Got it, check, can we move on? They're not defined, and not immediately interesting enough to pose much of a mystery aspect.

I also dislike most of the characters. Let's be honest, that's where a show like this will live or die. I find they fall into REALLY obvious "Joss Whedon" tropes, and the cast seems unable (talent regardless - they're at sea) to breathe real life into those tropes. There are exceptions, the great Clark Gregg manages to at least spit out some truly awful "jokes" (the "dark corner" gag is truly one of the most clunky things I've ever had to watch an actor struggle with, and fail). Ming Na was also great, but the character's arc was blindingly obvious and telegraphed, not to mention that what we do learn about her personality is about as generic as it comes. (I've heard her character called "bad ass" in a couple of conversations....Really? She beat up one guy. That's "bad ass" now?) The rest of the cast become pretty much forgettable, even Whedon's beloved "Kitty Pryde stand-in" character. "Agent Handsomeface" (kudos to Linus on that one) would actually be more memorable if his name was actually Handsomeface.

I honestly don't think I had very high expectations. I should point out that the only Whedon show I actually can stand to watch is Firefly (half of you have now discredited my entire opinion, fine), and that's because the cast absolutely crushes the dialogue. The AOS cast simply doesn't seem to have the facility with it. To that, I found it all pretty contrived and stilted, and groaned at pretty much every "easter egg" joke.

"Join us on our JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY." Really? GROAAAANN....

Also, Joss? What happened on the directing front? It made me INSANE that the direction was just flat as a pancake. Here's Joss, makes a couple of really well-done, exciting features, comes back to TV, and it's just muddled. Run over here, do something, talk fast, witty comment, run over there, rinse, repeat. There were no clearly defined stakes, unless you've seen Iron Man 3. I felt no narrative connective tissue, just a series of events. The social commentary was just lame. In that, I got it when I saw the guy was out of work, there was no need to spell it out, and, literally, beat somebody over the head with it.

I this even really a "Joss Whedon" show, or is it a corporate synergy move? It's certainly about as "work for hire" as the man's ever gotten. Joss is not the showrunner, or apparently even going to be very hands-on, at all (he's got Age of Ultron to make, and apparently doing script fixes on everything else Marvel does, I don't see how he can be). The show feels cobbled together out of Marvel's desire to move into TV, having Clark Gregg be available, and Joss gave them a framework for someone else to try to flesh out.

Could it get better? Of course. It's just a pilot, and all pilots are usually very different from the series proper. (Look at Encounter at Farpoint - a solid pick for the WORST Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, ever). That's why I'm sticking around for at least a few more episodes. That said, I think we, as a fanbase, have a duty to be critical and honestly say that something feels amiss (without going overboard into ultra-hateful "Prequel territory"). Hopefully the team has already figured all of this out, and is making adjustments.

The stinger for upcoming episodes didn't give me much hope, however. I quote, "you won't want to miss the end OF EVERY EPISODE!!!"

So, what? There's a big twist at the end of every episode? Major game-changers? No? (Really, how could there be?) So, you're just spouting ultra-generic marketing doublespeak, instead of selling what the show is, and why I might want to tune in.

That doesn't make me all that confident. In act, it makes me feel like somebody in a suit thinks slapping "Marvel's" on almost anything will make fanboys tune in, no matter the quality.

Sad thing is, they're probably right.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stuck In My Head: Already Dead

Already Dead
by Walking Papers

with friends like this
who needs enemies?
it just all happened
our adventures are over
tonight stars will burn out

it's too late to cooperate
i should've seen it coming
i've burned all my bridges
i'm not looking back

i'm already dead
i just don't know it
i know what i said
i swear i did't mean it
i'm a lot like you
tonight the stars will burn out

i'm a casualty
of who i used to be
i'm without direction
i can't stand my reflection
'cos i don't like what i see

i'm just like you
i'm only passing through
i'm coming and going
never quite know it
what i'm trying to prove

and i'm already dead
i just don't know it
i know what i said
i swear i did't mean it
i'm a lot like you
tonight the stars will burn out

tonight the stars will burn out!

i'm already dead
i just don't know it
i know what i said
i swear i did't mean it
i'm a lot like you
tonight the stars will burn out

Monday, September 23, 2013

Check Out This Album: Walking Papers

When I FINALLY dived into the digital music realm, I found myself discovering a lot of new stuff. I'll concede that, with physical record stores all but a thing of the past, and those that do exist not really catering to an old hessian like myself, it's nice to hear about a band like, say, Kadaver, and be able to just quickly download an album.

Of course, this damn digital "revolution," the the devaluation of music attached to it, is why there's a fraction of the record stores around from when I was a kid. That, however, is another rant.

Last week, I was surfing the web, and came across a interview with Duff McKagan, of Guns 'N Roses fame, taking about a new project called Walking Papers. A project sprung from McKagan's Seattle roots, featuring former Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin, Jeff Angell (guitars and vocals) and Benjamin Anderson (keys), both from The Missionary Position (a band I confess I've never heard of). Mike McCreedy from Pearl Jam also guests on a couple of tracks for lead guitar work. I was curious simply because I've been interested in McKagan, and his various projects, since reading his autobiography.

So, out of curiosity, I listened to the album a bit on Spotify Friday at work. I couldn't blast it, being in a work environment (far, far from it), but I was struck by the rhythmic choices, and the snippets of lyrics I caught. It was basically underscore to my day's activities, but I found my toe tapping quite often. So, Saturday morning I downloaded the deluxe edition of the album (with 3 live tracks), and listened to it most of the weekend. It's catchy, and rocking without being "in your face" guitars and drums. The tone shifts from a Seattle grunge feel, to a very Rolling Stones sort of vibe, to tracks I would've sworn were Tom Waits covers.

It's simply one of those records that treads a lot of ground, sonically. I get excited with almost every track. There's just a ton of balls here, and this albums has quickly risen to one of my favorites, if not THE favorite record of the year. It's not often that I think everyone should check out a band...I mean, I really love The Sword and Mastodon, but their appeal is very much in the "metal" mode. Walking Papers is definitely rock, but I think with a very wide appeal.

This is great rock and roll. Take my advice and check it out.

Favorite Tracks:

- Two Tickets and a Room *(Favorite)*
- The Whole World's Watching
- Your Secret's Safe With Me
- The Butcher
- Capital T

Happy Birthday, Boss!!

Happy Birthday to a man I consider the world's greatest living songwriter, and an personal hero.

An artist who embodies self-reliance and actualization while never forgetting our duty to our fellow man.

A man who, in the face of a tough, cynical world, writes songs and stories of transcendence and heart-on-your-sleeve earnestness, that really inspires me. Inspires me in the sense that I can rarely drum up that myself.

You show us the way, Boss. Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Must See This Film

Sometimes you hear about a film that you just can't imagine actually exists. Escape From Tomorrow is such a film. A "horror" movie shot guerrilla-style inside Disneyland and Disney World. The internet has been swirling about it, and if Disney would ever let it actually be released, since it premiered at Sundance.

well, now we have a trailer. The first actual footage I've seen.

Just fascinating.

Monday, September 9, 2013

One For Krog

I can't help it, the imagery of this card, handed out at the Iron Maiden show in Kansas City, is cracking my ass up.


To be clear, the song is about a nightmare of Revelations, inspired by watching one of the Omen movies. It was written by Iron Maiden bass player Steve Harris, who explained: "Basically, this song is about a dream. It's not about devil worship."

The Number of the Beast
by Iron Maiden

"Woe to you, Oh Earth and Sea, for the Devil sends the
beast with wrath, because he knows the time is short...
Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the
beast for it is a human number, its number is Six hundred and
sixty six."


I left alone my mind was blank
I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind


What did I see can I believe that what I saw
that night was real and not just fantasy


Just what I saw in my old dreams were they
reflections of my warped mind staring back at me


'Cos in my dream it's always there the evil face that twists my mind
and brings me to despair


The night was black was no use holding back
'Cos I just had to see was someone watching me 

In the mist dark figures move and twist
Was this all for real or some kind of hell
666 the number of the beast
Hell and fire was spawned to be released


Torches blazed and sacred chants were praised
As they start to cry hands held to the sky
In the night the fires burning bright
The ritual has begun Satan's work is done
666 the number of the beast
Sacrifice is going on tonight


This can't go on I must inform the law
Can this still be real or just some crazy dream
But I feel drawn towards the evil chanting hordes
They seem to mesmerise me ... can't avoid their eyes
666 the number of the beast
666 the one for you and me


I'm coming back I will return
And I'll possess your body and I'll make you burn
I have the fire I have the force
I have the power to make my evil take it's course


Five Seconds of Greatness

Just take it...take it like a man!