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Archive for May, 2007

Charts on Fire: 05-31-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 31, 2007

Riding an assload of digital downloads in its first week available on iTunes, Rihanna and Jay-Z’s “Umbrella” (or as it will forever be known, “Umberellah, Eh Eh Eh”) catapults 40 spots to the top of the charts. Shooting up right behind it is Shop Boyz’s “Party Like a Rockstar,” up 49 from last week, now officially kicking Freak Nasty’s ass. Fergie (21-8) and Kelly Clarkson (17-9) are gunning for the top as well, and JT is up 9-6 this week, one of the most fluid top tens we’ve seen in some time now.

Two Idol debuts make up the hot shots this week, with Jordin Sparks’s “This is My Now” bowing at #15 and Blake Lewis’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” at #18. T.I.’s relatively solid “Big Shit Poppin’ (Do It)” bows at #30, and Lil’ Boosie’s awful “Wipe Me Down” moves up 28 to #42. We also have a top 50 noob providing perhaps 2007’s best artist and title combination thusfar, Down A.K.A. Kilo’s “Lean Like a Cholo” (wish I had listened to it in time to make a pithy comment about it–next week, promise). Pretty much nothing else of note goes on in the chart’s top half.

In the bottom half, Smashing Pumpkins get their highest chart entry in almost a decade with the #54 debut of “Tarantula” (also rockets to #6 on the MR charts this week, where Linkin Park is #1 for like the 28th week). I heard it on the radio the other day and I was sort of pleasantly surprised–they’ve always been a pretty solid singles band, though, even in the dirths of their Machina days. And Gwen Stefani has a new song, “4 in the Morning,” at #76–like a less interesting “Sweet Escape,” and by less interesting I mean with no “WOOOO-OOOOH, YEEEEE-OOOOH!!!”s. Meh.

Maroon 5 have a #1 album this week, which sells a fair amount of copies. Good for them.

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Eugoogly: Charles Nelson Reilly

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 30, 2007

Devoted husband, beloved Game Show panelist

If I had to make a Rob Gordon-style list of dream occupations, past and present, a surefire bet for my top five, if not my #1, would’ve been a panelist on the Match Game in the mid-late 70s. Preferably in the lower-right-hand slot, though I’d probably take bottom-left or top-left too. I watched a fairly distrubing number of hours of the show on GSN in high school, and it always looked like so much fun to be on (even though you would have to deal with Gene Rayburn, quite probably the creepiest game show host in history, which is really saying something). Panelists looked they were perpetually drunk, stoned, or just indifferent, and they spent twice as long bantering with Gene and each other than actually doing anything game show-related–something which the contestants really didn’t seem to mind so much.

And a lot of it had to do with a funny little man named Charles Nelson Reilly. Despite the show’s constantly rotating cast, Reilly, the perpetual top-right panelist for the majority of the show’s run, constantly outshone them all. Richard Dawson was more caustic, and Betty White had more game show prestige, but it was Reilly’s aloof charms, bone-dry wit and um, slightly outrageous wardrobe (my mental picture of CNR will always include at least the pipe and sailor’s hat) that really got the show’s chemistry going. Especially in his banter with similarly perpetual top-center panelist Brett Somers–the bickering between the two was the stuff of game show legend, and despite their bitchienss, the obvious closeness between the two was strangely touching as well.

And yeah, the guy was probablyy a gay icon of sorts as well. He didn’t actually come out until recently, but as he said himself, he never made too much of an effort to hide his homosexuality–it’s actually somewhat shocking to think today of how little fuss was made about his sexuality at the time, despite its slap-in-the-face obviousness (but then again, this was also the age that Elton John was arguably the country’s biggest pop star and Freddie Mercury possibly the biggest rock star–more innocent times, I suppose). In any event, Reilly was never half as obnoxious or grating as the time’s other super-fey game show regular, Paul Lynde. He was just a really likeable, hysterical guy, and in the 25 of years of mediocre game shows since his reign, I’ve never seen his equal.

He did some other stuff, too–most of which you can see detailed in this bizarrely overwrought tribute video set to “My Heart Will Go On”–but really, Reilly will always be synonymous with Match Game, and Match Game will always be synonymous with Reilly. He died last Friday from pneumonia complications, at the age of 76. I know I’ll be turning to GSN at least a few times this week in memoriam.

R.I.P. Charles Nelson Reilly, 1931-2007

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100 Years, 100 Songs: #88. Boards of Canada – “ROYGBIV”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 29, 2007

Hey

Ambient electronic artists aren’t exactly known for their brevity. The majority of the most famous ambient works–Brian Eno’s “1/1,” Oval’s “Do While,” just about any track on The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld–clock in at lengths that would be considered unthinkably ostentatious in most genres. Hell, even John Cage’s “4’33” lasts longer than your average pop song. And this average length makes sense, given the goals of most ambient music–the excessive running times give these songs a chance to lull the listener under their spell, to fade into their subconscious, and to act, like Eno has famously suggested, as pieces of furniture in a room as much as pieces of music.

And that’s what makes Boards of Canada’s “ROGBIV” so completely perverse. The song, from BOC’s Music Has the Right to Children, a landmark album in late-90s ambient electronic music, has a melody more beatuiful (and more insiduous) than any other on the album, and a groove more hypnotic than most of BOC’s forefathers could ever have hoped to pioneer. But despite being the album’s clear highlight, as well as its veritable centerpiece, the song lasts a scant 2:31–beginning to fade out just when you think it should be starting to really kick in. It’s an unusual tactic, to say the least.

But really, there’s not much that’s usual about Boards of Canada. Calling them ambient in the first place would probably be considered grossly inaccurate (and arguably even insulting) by many of the band’s fans, despite on the surface being an adequate description–since BOC (mostly) perform lengthy, looping insturmentals with minimal hooks and excessively chilled-out atmosphere. But really, they’re right–calling BOC ambient is like calling Nirvana grunge, or The Clash punk–superficially accurate, but still deeply insufficient. To say that their music functions like a piece of furniture would indeed be insulting.

BOC are one of those groups whose music occupies a unique emotional space, one thoroughly indescribable in music critspeak. The closest comparison of feeling I can think of is the music of Orbital (which I assure you is no minor compliment, as I will make exceedingly clear later in this countdown), but their music is much heavier, lacking the innocence and youthful excitement of BOC’s best stuff. It’s not music meant to be shuffled in the background, it’s music to make you feel actively alive, which is why the great majority of BOC fans don’t give a damn about Karlheinz Stockhausen, or even Tim Hecker–many of them might not even own another non-rock album in their entire collection. The music’s just too powerful to ignore.

Take this recent video of a couple dudes performing “ROYGBIV” entirely a capella. The idea at first sounds ridiculous, since the song is both electronic entirely instrumental (minus the occasional “Hey!” exclamation), but remarkably, the song is almost as intoxicating performed entirely through whistles, dum-dums and beatboxing. And more importantly, it displays the sense of enthusiasm provoked by listening to the song–who, of the people that’ve heard this song, hasn’t tried to sing along with it, despite the lack of words to sing along with? It’s just such an incredible and awe-inspiring song, that merely listening to it isn’t nearly enough.

And yet, just two minutes in, you can already start to feel it ending. It’s an extremely daring gambit on the part of BOC–most electronic outfits would kill for a song this good, and once they had it, you better believe they’d want to milk it for as long as humanly possible. But BOC didn’t even release “ROYGBIV” as a single, ensuring that not only would it never get extended remixes from a host of mediocre house DJs, but that the song would never be overplayed in the first place, making the 2:31 that the song lasts all the more precious.

Brilliant. But still totally sick.

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Hitting the TV Jackpot: Sopranos Season Three Marathon on A&E

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 28, 2007

You’re one in a million, you got to burn to shine

My brother and his girlfriend used to mock me for watching The Sopranos on A&E when I was living with them, since they owned all the seasons on DVD, obviously without commercials and without censoring (both of which A&E’s re-runs have in spades). But as any real TV fan knows, there’s a world of difference in watching something on DVD whenever you please and watching something as it airs on TV. When you actually choose to watch something that you could conceivably watch at any point in your life, there’s litlte excitement to it, but if you just happen to catch it on TV, the excitement of watching it without having had to select it yourself is infintiely more rewarding. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, trust me, you’re probably better off.

Anyway, for me, extended Holiday weekends are all about marathoning, and as I was finishing up the 2044 Essentials countdown on XM’s 80s alternative channel Fred (The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” narrowly beat out “London Calling” and “How Soon is Now?” for top honors, btx) I noticed that A&E was doing a run through the episodes of the third season of The Sopranos. They’ve been airing them twice a week for the last few months, and I’ve caught ’em when I could, but it’s still pretty nice to be able to watch a whole bunch of them in a row like this.

The Sopranos third season is sort of an interesting one. Unlike most of the show’s other seasons (with the all-too-large exception of the first half of season six), there’s really not that much that actually happens. The only through thread of importance that comes to a head in the season is the cautionary tale of Jackie Aprile, Jr., ne’er-do-well son of former Soprano boss Jackie and nephew to the recently deceased (by Janice’s hand, in what remains the series’ most stunning monet) Richie. His downward slide isn’t terribly gripping, though, and it’s not surprising at all–aside from season two’s idiotic duo of out-of-their-leaguers Sean and Matt, no character’s death was as obvious from the first moment he got ideas in his head than Jackie Jr.’s.
So without a really strong arc to anchor the season, what you get instead is a lot of wheel-spinning, character development and “what if?” scenarios. So Meadow experiences her first love and deals with a psycho roommate, A.J. attempts high school football, Christopher gets his button, Uncle Junior Tony deals with his mother’s death and gets a new goomah, and Dr. Melfi gets raped and toys with the morality of calling in Tony for revenge. It’s filled with episodes that don’t make as much of an impression as other seasons, but that makes them arguably more intresting to re-watch–I forgot that episode with Burt Young as Bobby’s cancer-ridden father going on one last hit even existed, for instance.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t any classic episodes in the season, either. “University,” which mainly focuses on the fruition and eventual dissipation of Meadow’s relationship with first boyfriend Noah and the story of Bing stripper Tracee, who ingratiates herself to Tony right before Ralphie (whose baby she’s pregnant with) beats her to death, is easily one of my favorites in the entire series. The scene where Ralphie kills her, after faking a seemingly sincere promise to take care of her and her baby, is still extremely harrowing, and the uncomfortability of the situation with Meadow and her roommate, whose freakouts drive a wedge between Meadow and Noah, will strike a chord with anyone who had a, um, difficult Freshman roommate situation (mine wasn’t quite so bad, but at least twice I heard him not-so-quietly sobbing about his ex while listening to Evanescene on his headphones).

Only problem with the marathon? Incessant, largely unfunny commercials for Ocean’s Thirteen. I’m strongly considering refusing to see the movie in theaters in protest, and I was even one of the handful of people on this planet to actually prefer Twelve to Eleven.

Posted in Hitting the TV Jackpot | 1 Comment »

Take Five: Shows to Look Forward to Next Year

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 27, 2007

It’s been what, a week since the last one already?

(Picture Not Accurate Representation of 2007 TV Schedule, Sorry All of Us fans)

The majors recently revealed their schedules for the upcoming TV season, giving primetime obsessives something to fantasize about while they grit their teeth through House reruns and the third season of So You Think You Can Dance. Most of the big guns are around for at least another year (including Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock, the only shows whose possible cancellation was a genuine threat), but as always, there’s a spate of new shows coming out as well. Some of them are sure to be horrific–nerds + hot chick comedy The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Private Practice and my personal favorite, law drama Dirty Sexy Money–but a couple look like they might be worth at least 22 (or 42, depending) minutes of your time. Unfortuantely, pretty much all of them are on Tuesdays. That said:

Cane

  • Channel: CBS
  • When: Tuesday, 10:00-11:00
  • The Pitch: “Cane, a drama about a wealthy Cuban-American family torn by fratricidal tensions as its sugar and rum businesses are passed down to the next generation, is part of the new fall schedule released by CBS on Wednesday. Set in Miami, the show has a powerhouse Latino cast—including Jimmy Smits, Rita Moreno, Hector Elizondo, Nestor Carbonell and Miami resident Paola Turbay—and executive producer Jonathan Prince promises scripts to match. ‘It’s like The Godfather if Vito Corleone had passed the family business to Michael, but Sonny and Fredo were still alive and pissed off about it,’ Prince told The Miami Herald.”
  • Why It’s Promising: Godfather comparisons? Emmy winners Smits, Moreno and Elizondo? A show on CBS without cops, nerds or Charlie Sheen? Genuine ambition in the TV medium? Yeah, just a little promising.
  • What Could Go Wrong: Admittedly my TV history is a little shaky here, but I don’t know if there’s precedent for a show about big family business and feuding that didn’t quickly fold into cheap Dallas or Dynasty-style melodrama.

Reaper
  • Channel: CW
  • When: Tuesday, 9:00-10:00
  • The Pitch: (From EW.com) “It’s about a young guy who finds out his parents sold his soul to the devil and has to pay back Mr. Satan by being a bounty hunter.”
  • Why It’s Promising: Reaper looks to be a quirky off-the-beaten-path comedy/drama in the style of previous CW/WB successes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, and is already attracting big buzz for the trailer to the pilot, directed by one Kevin Smith (who compares it to Shaun of the Dead). Plus, Ray Wise (Laura Palmer’s creepy Twin Peaks dad) as Satan–hard to go wrong with that.
  • What Could Go Wrong: Star Bret Harrison’s previous show The Loop didn’t make too many waves before getting axed from last year’s FOX schedule, and once Kevin Smith’s involvement with the show is complete, might be hard to maintain the hype.

Chuck
  • Channel: NBC
  • When: Tuesday, 9:00-10:00
  • The Pitch: (From NBC Site) “Chuck Bartowski is just your average computer-whiz-next-door. He spends his days working for Buy-More with his band of nerdy cohorts, longing to find a woman who can appreciate him. But when an old friend, who happens to be a CIA agent, sends Chuck a mysterious encoded email, the world’s greatest spy secrets are embedded into his brain. He never asked to become the government’s most powerful weapon, but the fate of the country suddenly lies in his unlikely hands. Hopefully, this won’t take away from his video game time! International terrorist plots, sexy spies and cold pizza – it’s all in a day’s work for our trusty hero…Chuck”
  • Why It’s Promising: No, it doesn’t actually star Chuck Norris, but it is executive produced by The O.C. masterminds Josh Schwartz and McG, who always seemed like they had more potential for doing action then they were able to demonstrate with Seth and Ryan. And here for the party is Full Metal Jacket and Firefly/Serenity tough guy Adam Baldwin, sure to lend some much-needed testosterone to the proceedings.
  • What Could Go Wrong: Accidental spy formulas may work for movies, but for TV they can get stretched pretty thin pretty quickly. And I don’t know anything about star Zachary Levi (If Less Than Perfect ran for a half decade, how come this is the first time I’ve even heard of it?) but his Wiki picture makes him look like kind of a tool.


Viva Laughlin

  • Channel: CBS
  • When: Sunday, 8:00-9:00
  • The Pitch: (From Zap2It.com) “Based on the BBC format “Viva Blackpool,” a man’s dream of opening a casino in Laughlin, Nevada is compromised by his family, his rivals and his involvement in a murder investigation. Musical numbers unexpectedly ensue.”
  • Why It’s Promising: Well, it looks different, to say the least. Not to mention the BBC series it’s based on was fairly well-acclaimed, and Wolverine / Tony-winner Hugh Jackman is on board as both executive producer and recurring guest star, joining TV vets Madchen Amick (Shelley Johnson on Twin Peaks) and DB Woodside (Wayne Palmer on 24) as well as some guy named Lloyd Owen.
  • What Could Go Wrong: Cop Rock, anyone?

Cavemen
  • Channel: ABC
  • When: Tuesday, 8:00-8:30
  • The Pitch: (From TV.com) “Cavemen revolves around Joel, his younger brother Jamie and best friend Nick. Joel is engaged to Kate. Even though he has some problems with her conservative parents accepting him, he is happy with his life and pursuing the American Dream. The pilot is based on the Geico commercials that claim their service is so easy, “Even a caveman can do it”.”
  • Why It’s Promising: Well…promising might not exactly be the best word for it. Despite being based on arguably the best (and almost certainly the most memorable) advertising campaign of the 21st century and being written by the same scribes as the commercials, it seems sort of unlikely that this spin-off is a good idea. Nonetheless, it’s sure to go down in pop culture history for the sheer weirdness of its inception. And I’m sure it’ll be funny for at least five seconds or so.
  • What Could Go Wrong: I’m just hoping it makes it to its premiere before someone at ABC has a “My God, what have I done?” epiphany.

Posted in Take Five | 2 Comments »

Geek Out: Fred’s 2044 Essentials Countdown

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 25, 2007

What do normal people do during the summer anyway?

Fred, Channel 44 on your XM dial, has always been one of my preferred satellite stations, but this Memorial Day weekend (or week, really) it’s gone above and beyond the call of duty. Fred is counting down the 2044 Fred Essentials–generally covering the best and brightest in pre-Nirvana alternative rock (roughly dating back to the punk era, but I heard Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain” and Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” already, so clearly there’s some leniency there). It started on Tuesday, and we’re currently in the low 1100s, meaning we probably still have at least until Monday until it raps up.

What criteria, if any, Fred is using in compiling this countdown is entirely unclear. Though I would consider each benchmark alt-rock tracks, I heard “Psycho Killer,” “Don’t You Want Me” and “Temptation” all in the 1400s, lower than forgotten album tracks by Oingo Boingo and the Hothouse Flowers. Maybe it’ll get clearer once it gets to the top, but for now I’m trying to just enjoy the countdown at face value–it’s really cool hearing all these 7th-tier songs from A-list alt-rock bands (I’ve heard three tracks from The Clash’s Sandinista!–two of them from the second disc!) and all these notable-at-the-time (maybe?) one-offs from bands that would go on to have no future whatsoever.

Anyway, give me a countdown longer than a hundred and I’ll drive myself crazy trying to hear as much of it as possible (and given that, like the History of Pop Music marathon XM runs once or twice a year, the list runs 24 hours a day, I’m pretty much guaranteed to only hear half of it at the very most). Here’s a semi-representative sample of what I’ve heard so far, taken from what’s been played in the last hour or so. As them Pixies might say, it’s educational.

#1173. The Tubes – “Talk to Ya Later Always liked this song more than their actual big hit, “She’s a Beauty.” I never really understood these guys, though–they’re supposed to prog or art-rock or something, right? Then why do all the songs I know of theirs sound like Rick Springfield?

#1172. Katrina & The Waves – “Walking on Sunshine How exactly this falls into the alt-rock bloodline is totally beyond me–did these guys actually have cred or something at one point? In any event, it’s shameful that this song should show up on any Memorial Day countdown I deem worth listening to. One of the ten or so most annoying songs ever written, easy. At least it’s not higher.

#1171. Alphaville – “Flame” This is the sort of song that’s provided the countdown’s bread and butter so far–raise your hand if you knew that Alphaville (of “Forever Young” fame) had more than one song? This one’s all right, I guess, but at this point I can’t help but thinking “this is higher than ‘Temptation’?” for just about every bizarro song I hear.

#1170. Depeche Mode – “Big Muff So awesome. Depeche Mode, along with The Cure, The Clash and Elvis Costello, has been the artist I’ve heard the most on this list so far, and it’s crazy to hear this weirdo instrumental from the group’s first album on the channel at all, much less this high on a countdown of “essentials”. Can’t imagine what gets this to rank higher than “Leave in Silence” (which I heard somewhere back in the 1700s I think, reminding me of its extreme underratedness), but whatever.

#1169. Cocteau Twins – “Carolyn’s Fingers Another good call. Definitely one of my favorite Cocteau Twins songs, though it makes me wonder why I haven’t heard much in the way of dreampop or shoegaze elsewhere on the list thusfar–surely they can make room for a couple MBV or ealry Jesus and Mary Chain songs, at least.

#1168. Morrissey – “Tomorrow There’s been a fair amount of solo Moz on the list thusfar, but to my surprise, it’s been some of his a-listers–“You’re the One for Me, Fatty,” “We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful” and “The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get” have all already passed. Maybe it’s an anti-90s prejudice, I’m sure “Suedehead” and “Everyday is Like Sunday” will be pretty high, at the least.

#1167. David Bowie – “Fashion Strange to see a new wave classic like this go so low (especially considering that the infinitely inferior “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” was only a couple hundred lower), but I think they might prefer weirdo Bowie to disco-y Bowie on a list like this. There’s definitely an anti-mainstream bias going on in this list, which I guess is only appropriate for such a station.

#1166. The Chameleons – “Soul in IsolationAlready the third track I’ve heard from The Chameleons’ classic 1986 album Strange Times, which is pretty fucking cool. Personally don’t like it as much as the already-fallen “Swamp Thing,” but I’m kinda surprised The Chameleons were deemed essential enough for any placement on this list, so I’ll take it.

#1165. The Cult – “Heart & Soul Along with Billy Idol, probably the closest thing Fred’s list will come to mainstream 80s metal (though yes, I am aware that neither is particularly close). I never really understood who provided the core audience for The Cult, college rock fans or hard rock fist-pumpers–probably the confusion which lead to their place in rock history being so uncertain. Regardless, song isn’t particularly impressive either way.

#1164. Bauhaus – “She’s in Parties Yeah, I should probably hear some more of these guys. Hope “Bela” is in the top 50.

Posted in Geek Out | 1 Comment »

Charts on Fire: 05-24-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 24, 2007

M5 flip with T-Pain back to #1 this week, its third week on top. Liking this song more and more, good to see it return to its ascension. Boring top ten otherwise, with some large gains from so whats Daughtry (13-5), Carrie Underwood (11-8, making “Before He Cheats” the single to take the longest to ever get to the top ten–38 weeks, not bad) and Justin Timberlake (14-9). Do we have anything even resembling a Summer Jam prospect yet? Not in this top ten, certainly.

Lower in the top 40, some movement from Fall Out Boy (24-14), Fergie (41-21), and Plain White T’s (37-27), as well as an album sales-assisted rebound for Linkin Park (23-12), who have the best numbers in years with a 600k or so first week for their third LP Minutes to Midnight. Some new ons to the low end of the top 50 this week with Tank’s “Please Don’t Go” (also sales assisted, 64-42), Freak Nasty’s “Do It Just Like a Rock Star” (was this really just a hit because people accidentally downloading it thinking it was some other song? And why can I find it nowhere? 56-45), and Big & Rich’s “Lost in This Moment” (63-49), as well as a Hot Shot debut from Enrique Iglesias’s “Do You Know? (The Ping Pong Song)” (I guess everyone else remembers it from the same thing I do, #33).

Only a pair of debuts (listed on the website, anyway) in the chart’s bottom 50. One is a re-entry from Amy Winehouse, whose “Rehab” reaches a new peak at #72–I gotta say, I would never have guessed this woman to reach mainstream popularity, but she looks well on her way to outdo the would be-crossovers of Lily Allen and Lady Sov. I guess people dig the tattoos. The other is from the Billboard-claimed “MySpace.com sensation” Colbie Caillat, “Bubbly” (sounds kinda nice actually–for one listen, anyway,. Sort of like a 00s Lisa Loeb, #91).

That’s about it. Smashing Pumpkins have a new song at #30 in the MR charts.

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Geek Out: Next Seven Tracks of GH: 80s, First 11 Tracks of GHIII Announced

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 23, 2007

I’m in the mood, the rhythm is right

It’s been an exciting week for GH freaks. The leaks are slow but steady with regards to the Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s (now only about two superfluous words away from Coheed & Cambria-style titling) tracklisting, but now in addition to the recently released game cover (see above), seven new songs have been added to the soon-to-be-rocked list, in addition to the seven songs already announced.

Two of the new songs–Faster Pussycat’s sleaze-metal pounder “Bathroom Wall” and The Police’s twisty stadium-shouter “Synchronicity II“–I am tremendously excited for (the latter was even on my original 80s wishlist, and the former would’ve been if I had thought for a couple seconds further). Two others, the hair metal standards “18 & Life” by Skid Row and “Nothin’ But a Good Time” by Poison, are mildly enticing though not particularly challenging seeming. And the other three–Extreme’s “Play With Me,” Eddie Money’s “Shakin’,” and Billy Squier’s “Lonely is the Night”–I’ve never heard, and I don’t like listening to GH songs for the first time before playing them. Less revelatory that way.

So far, though a ton of fun songs have been announced, the tracklisting seems kind of narrow–mostly confined to relatively simple mainstream metal, mixed with a couple new wave classics. What I’d like to see announced in the remaining 16 songs is some more alternative stuff–if not My Bloody Valentine and Big Black, then at least Sonic Youth and Black Flag–as well as some more challenging heroic-type stuff. Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, I’m looking in your direction.

But the really exciting shit announced recently wasn’t for Rocks the 80s–it was for Guitar Hero III, not due until Fall and now seeing an eternity away. Soon to be available on just about every major platform, the first 11 tracks to be available for the game have been announced, and are as follows:

* Paint It Black (by The Rolling Stones)
* Cherub Rock (by Smashing Pumpkins)
* Sabotage (by Beastie Boys)
* The Metal (by Tenacious D)
* My Name is Jonas (by Weezer)
* Knights of Cydonia (by Muse)
* Rock And Roll All Nite (as made famous by Kiss)
* School’s Out (as made famous by Alice Cooper)
* Slow Ride (as made famous by Foghat)
* Cult of Personality (by Living Colour)
* Barracuda (as made famous by Heart)

Really, it’s sort of inconceivable how shit-hot this tracklisting is so far. Of these 11, the only one I’m not aching to play is the Tenacious D one, and that’s just because I’ve never heard it. “Barracuda,” “Cult of Personality,” “Slow Ride,” “Cherub Rock“…I’ve been salivating to get my fingers around these each time I’ve heard them on the radio since I became a GH convert. A great mix of classic rock, 90s alternative, new stuffand left-field stuff…so far, so very, very fucking good.

And that whole “by” vs. “as made famous by” thing next to each of the tracks listed–the ones “by” the artists are all master tracks, meaning that SEVEN of the 11 tracks will be the artists’ original recordings and not shady Harmonix re-recordings. When compared to the grand total of two songs that were master tracks in II (and a whopping zero in I), it’s a damn good sign of things to come.

And with Rock Band details still to come? It’s gonna be a fun second half of the year.

Posted in Geek Out | 2 Comments »

100 Years, 100 Songs: #89. Guns n Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 22, 2007

“You know where you are?”

GnR was a band whose career was almost scripted from the beginning to be made into a movie. Once Chinese Democracy is inevitably released–or inevitably not released, it doesn’t really matter–and everyone can stop holding their breath for the band’s unlikely triumphant return, it’s only a matter of time before the biopic hits the big screen. Meteoric rise and self-destructive collapse, drugs, near-death experiences, high-profile romances, tragic flaws abound–plus, what young actor wouldn’t want the chance to play Axl (hell, what young actor wouldn’t want the chance to play fucking Slash?) And when it finally gets made, the song playing over the trailer, the tagline on the posters, and if the filmmakers have any sense whatsoever, the movie’s title will all be “Welcome to the Jungle.”

No track has ever been more introductory than “Welcome to the Jungle.” Not just because it’s the first track on Appetite for Destruction, GnR’s first album. Not just because the song’s video actually begins with Axl literally getting off the bus to L.A. (chewing on a piece of hay!) and ends the video a scummed-out metal dude. And not just because the song is called “Welcome to the Jungle.” The song is just the perfect summation of the first act of Guns n Roses’ existence–if it wasn’t so fucking cool, it’d even sort of sound like the big opening number to a grand-scale Broadway musical.

Not to mention that the song itself has one of the best intros in rock history. It’s like a metal “Where the Streets Have No Name,” with Slash’s monster opening riff echoing out to the backseats like the band knew that they’d soon be playing in the biggest stadiums in the world, built up to the opening kick that unleashes one of the dirtiest, grungiest metal grooves of the late 80s. The verses aren’t particularly sutble or clever, but they get the point across, and the way it’s set up is actually kind of nifty–how each verse and chorus starts off the same way but always shifts a little bit from one to the next. Axl was nothing if not a great dramatist, and structurally, “Welcome to the Jungle” is fairly sublime.

The best part of “Jungle,” though, has to be the bridge (or really, one of the song’s many bridges–surprisingly complex song). After a couple cobwell hits (seriously, what other late-80s metal band would ever even think to use a cowbell?), flailing guitar notes land around Duff McKagan’s suddenly extremely sinister bass line and Steven Adler’s creeping drum rolls. Then Axl lets loose the now legendary shriek–“YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE? YOU’RE IN THE JUNGLE, BABY! YOU’RE GONNA DIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEE!!!” It’s spine-chilling and unspeakably awesome, and even though everyone’s probably heard it a million times by now, it’s still invigorating.

By the way, did anyone ever notice that the “YOU’RE IN THE JUNGLE, BABY!” part is nearly identical to a line in Charlie Watts & the 103rd Street Band’s 1969 funk hit “Do Your Thing“? Coincidence? Or is Axl really just a closet 60s funk enthusiast? You be the judge.

Posted in 100 Years 100 Songs | 1 Comment »

Time of the Season: S4 of The Wire (2006)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 21, 2007

I do still know how to write other articles, sort of

Sometimes I think maybe there’s only room in my life for either The Sopranos or The Wire. When the second half of the sixth season of The Sopranos was letting me down pretty hardcore with its overreaching and heavy-handedness, The Wire was there for me with its relatively low-key ambitions and tight storytelling. But when The Sopranos started coming back into form in its grand drama (Christophuh!), starting the fourth season of The Wire was sort of disappointing. Now…it’s sort of hard to say.

Anyway, season four probably isn’t as good as season three–in fact it might ultimately be the least appealing of the four. But saying “The Worst Season of The Wire” is sort of like saying “The Worst Pixies Album” or “The Worst John Cazale Movie,” and indeed, it’s still one of the best things on TV. The focus of this season is the public education system, part of creator David Simon’s attempt to prove that all institutions are similarly corrupt and compromised, or some such business.

It takes a while to get into the new drama with the schoolkids–there are a lot of them and the roles of each are sort of confusing at first–but ultimately it’s the most heartfelt and least cynical of the seasons thusfar, even if it does end up being one of the most depressing. As Bunny Colvin (the Hamsterdam ingeneur of S3) tries to sequester the school’s bad kids in an attempt to teach them social niceties, and former officer Presbilewski tries to make a difference with the others, their efforts have the same sort of consequences as everyone in the last seasons’–some kids do learn, some kids revert to their old ways, and some kids could never be saved in the first place. The fact that it’s kids involved for once and not jaded authority figures means that the stakes are higher than ever. When they go bad, it’s heartbreaking, when genuine progress is made, it’s some of the most affecting stuff I’ve seen on TV.

Apparently the next season doesn’t start until 2008. It’s gonna be a miserable year of TV in the meantime.

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