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Archive for September, 2008

Hitting the TV Jackpot: Rush Hashannah

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 30, 2008

Daven or be cast out

Shana Tova, VH1 Classic. It’s hard to say exactly what was done to merit this occasion–aside from the fact that Rush is almost the same word as Rosh, and that VH1C seems to be unusually infatuated with the Jewish Holidays in general. But what they’ve done is to give us 24 hours of Rush (or to be more accurate, I suppose, six hours looped four times) to celebrate the New Year. Classic concerts, discussions with the band courtesy of house loser Eddie Trunk, and of course, plenty of Rush music videos. Now, if you’ve never seen Rush’s classic string of largely forgotten music videos, few thrills are greater–once you get past the relatively low key, mostly in-studio clips for “Limelight” and “Closer to the Heart,” there’s a cornucopia of gloriously cheesy and horrifically dated clips for their mostly forgotten mid-late 80s / early 90s clips. Here’s the three best that I saw:


“The Big Money” (1985)

An enormously gauche mixture of Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing,” Culture Club’s “It’s a Miracle” and the graphics of the original Sim City computer game, it’s fascinating to think that there was no doubt a time when this clip was considered positively cutting edge–like the “Californication” of 1985. Song’s kinda nifty too, in a surprisingly ornate, Trevor Horn-ish sort of way. Rushopoly looks sorta boring, though–the properties don’t even have names or anything.


“Time Stand Still” (1987)

Aimee Mann! I can’t imagine what Rush did to ingratiate themselves to the singer/sonngwriter/domestic abuse activist, but here she is in their one-time technical marvel of a video (presumably) for “Time Stand Still”. Look at the way they’re all sort of floating in the air! Magic, I tellz ya! Nonetheless, it’s one of the better post-classic period Rush songs–still got that sort of jangly power poppiness I love about “Limelight” and “Spirit of Radio,” and it’s nice to know that girls still technically exist in some part of the Rushverse.


“Roll the Bones” (1991)

Rush enter the 90s, and decide that the most graceful way to do it would be to keep the Horn horns, add a funkier, Faith No More bass line, and climax with a, uh…rap. Yes, for their 1991 title track about the nature of chance and the pointlessness of attempting to understand life (“Why are we here? / Because we’re here / Roll the bones”), Geddy, Alex and Neil decide that to get with the kids of today, you need a rap along the lines of Macaulay Culkin’s turn in “Black or White,” and what’s the only thing cooler than  three middle-aged Canadian dudes getting down? Why, if it’s being rapped by a CG skeleton, of course! Wicked!! Victor, if you’re reading this, I think you missed badly on this one in your last two cred-heavy rap mixes.

Posted in Hitting the TV Jackpot | 1 Comment »

It’s All About Me: The Unemployment / Playoff Beard (Pt. 2)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 29, 2008

And when you smile for the camera, I know I love you better

We’re getting on about two and a half weeks now on the Unemployment / Playoff beard–sorry I didn’t update at the two week marker exactly, but my roommate decided to be an asshole and actually asked me to stop holding onto his digital camera for no reason while he went back to DC for the week. It’s still pretty far from anything resembling a full beard, but it’s definitely hairier than I’ve seen myself in a while, and it’s up to the point where it clearly looks like I’m at least trying to grow a beard, instead of just having forgotten to shave for 36 hours. I’m sure some you legitimately hairy people out there are still scoffing, but what can I say? Baby steps.

At the very least, a couple of my relatives asked me who I was at Rosh Hashannah dinner tonight. Don’t know whether to consider that an insult or a compliment.

Anyone know of a good data entry position opening?

Posted in It's All About Me | 4 Comments »

Fall ’08 Season TV Blitz, Day 5: How I Met Your Mother & The Office

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 29, 2008

How I Met Your Mother
(Mondays, 8:30-9:00 PM, CBS)

New Cast: Sarah Chalke (Regular, at least for time being)

Where We’re At Now: Ted has successfully proposed to Stella (Chalke), the dermatologist who removed his tramp stamp and who he dated last season. Marshall points out that he has done this without really knowing anything about her, including whether or not she would like Star Wars, both’s favorite movie, which he is shocked to find out she has never seen. Meanwhile, Barney struggles with the realization that he is in love with Robin, enlisting Lily’s help to woo her. Robin is weirded out by Barney’s attempts to be gentlemanly to her, and misreads his advances.

Thoughts?: New season, same ratings doldrums for How I Met Your Mother–the season four premiere achieved yet another mediocre 5.9 rating, less than half the viewers that ABC’s Dancing With the Stars received (though thankfully, .2 more than historically terrible lead-in The Big Band Theory received). How this show has managed to be presumably everything anyone could want in a sitcom for three going on four seasons while continuing to steadily underperform in the Nielsens and not getting cancelled is going to go as one of the the great mysteries of early 21st century TV, like a Twilight Zone episode with a laugh track. At least you can’t fault the show for being inconsistent, I suppose.

Anwyay, the new How I Met Your Mother toys with two big changes to the show’s otherwise relatively same as it ever was forula-Ted getting married, and Barney renouncing his old-school womanizing ways. Both are somehwat inevitable changes for the show to at least tinker with at some point, though the latter would be disastrous if they ever went through with it–we want to see Barney trade in his skirt-chasing, catchphrase-spawning ways for a deep relationship with Robin as much as we want Dr. House to realize his sarcasm is just an immature defense mechanism and start treating his friends and employees with the respect they deserve. Luckily, the show’s creators appear to realize this, and even though they throw in a (fairly brilliant) fake out to deke audiences into thinking the transformation is official, they let it be known that ultimately, Barney as we know him is probably here to stay .

Ted and Stella’s future is a little more uncertain–they appear to be in it for the long haul, and given that Sarah Chalke rivals Alyson Hannigan for heart-wrenching adorability (both undoubtedly being first ballot Hall of Famers), it’d be hard to fault Ted for settling down. But is she really ready to become a permanent fixture on the Mothership? She’s still not listed in the show’s main cast, and she’s yet to be confirmed as the Mother in question on the show, so it seems like her future on the show is still far from permanent.
Nonetheless, her stay is welcome for the time being–I’m still too in love with her Scrubs character to not hope for her to start yelling “Frick!” every now and then, but since How I Met Your Mother is still relatively charming and vaguely fresh whle Scrubs has gotten grating and redundant, I can get my Chalke fix here for now.

(Side Question: Doesn’t it seem sort of unrealistic that Ted and Marshall’s favorite movie would be Star Wars? I mean, how many geeks do you know who think the first movie is the best of the trilogy? Sure, it came first, but unless you were of age at the time–and Ted and Marshall would’ve been about two in 1977–it seems like most people have come to prefer Empire or Jedi, no? Kind of lazy writing, in my opinion.

Side Question #2: Assuming this show goes on for, say, three-four more seasons, isn’t it going to be weird that the actors playing Ted’s kids will have grown from adolescents to young adults in the time it took him to tell his story? Or are they replacing the kids with new actors every season? Doubt I’d notice, to be honest)

Still Hot / Worth Watching?: Apparently not to the general public, though to be fair, they never really had the audience to begin with (unlike, say, Heroes, which I think we can now count as one of the biggest one-season wonders in recent TV). I still kinda dig it.


The Office
(Thursdays, 9:00-9:30 PM, NBC)

New Cast: Amy Ryan

Where We’re At Now: With Toby gone to Costa Rica, Michael has taken a much bigger liking to Holly (Ryan), the new HR rep at Dunder-Mifflin, though with a pregnant Jan (not by him) in tow, he fails to act on his feelings, prompting Holly to go on a date with a yoga instructor set up by Oscar. Dwight and Angela continue their affair after Angela has agreed to marry Andy, who she now finds annoying and makes planning their wedding deliberately difficult. Pam is gone to study graphic design at Pratt, while Jim wonders whether or not he should have proposed to her before she left. And Ryan, officially having bottomed out, returns to the company as the fill-in receptionist for Pam, much to Michael’s delight and Jim’s schadenfraude. And everyone’s trying to lose weight to win an branch-wide competition.

Thoughts?: I took an extended hiatus from The Office over the course of the fourth season–the hour long episodes to start the season were disastrous, and with Jim and Pam finally in sync, the show lost any sort of urgency it might have had the first three seasons. Perhaps more importantly, it just wasn’t very funny anymore. And truth told, I still probably won’t be sticking with The Office on a weekly basis like I once did. But by all estimations, this was a pretty fucking good premiere. Angela and Andy’s conversations, and the resulting booty calls to Dwight, were all fairly priceless. Kelly’s crash diet, and her much-savored rejections of a significantly humbled Ryan, were handled beautifully, as was Jim’s moment of triumph over his one-time saboteur. And the last scene, while somewhat predictable, was maybe the most emotionally arresting moment on the show since Pam’s Survivor speech, if not even longer.

But maybe the best recent development the show has gone under is in Ryan’s character. With Jan going off the deep end last season and Carol never having been at all fleshed out as a character, the show was wise to present Michael with a legitimate match for once. Holly strikes a nice balance of being a very Michael-like character, who would have believeable interest in him, without either just being a female carbon copy of him or being a complete idiot. A lot of it has to do with Ryan, who played the supremely loveable Beattie Russel on The Wire, and brings the same kind of general kindness, albeit in an expectedly lamer fashion, to her character here. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when/if Michael’s more self-centered, meaner side surfaces around Holly, but for now at least, it’s nice to just see these two sweet kids getting along famously.

Still Hot / Worth Sticking With?: The show appears to have regained its footing and momentum for the time being. Just quit while you’re ahead with the hour-longs, plelase.

Posted in Fall '08 TV Blitz | 6 Comments »

Red-Letter Day: Phil Thine Horn With Post-Season And Go

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 28, 2008

Shine a light

First off, a huge, towering, epic Fuck You to whoever programs FOX baseball in New York. All year I’ve had to miss Phillies games on Saturday afternoons because they would black out my MLB Extra Innings package and only show the Mets or Yankees on FOX. But I thought that with the Mets playing early afternoon today, and the Yankees game getting rained out, I might get what I was cruelly denied last year–the chance to actually watch my home team win their division and secure a post-season trip. But instead, FOX decided to show the Brewers-Cubs game, even as the Cubs were clearly pulling away in the ninth and the Phillies were 90 feet away from giving up a ninth-inning lead for the first time all season, with two long outs to go.

So here I am, staring at the ESPN GameCast on my computer screen, totally helpless as perfect-till-then closer Brad Lidge lets bloop single after walk after defender-splitting ground ball until the Phils’ lead dwindles down to its thinnest possible margin. And finally, I find out about the Phils making the post-season, via one of the most miraculous game-ending double plays I might ever witness, thanks to the following clumsy cut-away report, courtesy of the immortal Jeanne Zelasko:

…Roger Bernadinha scores, and now it’s 4-3, with the bases loaded, with two outs…and it looks like there’s three outs now…and the Phils win.”

Uh, what? I mean, great. Awesome. OH MY GOD. OH MY FUCKING GOD. It’s not exactly a memory I’ll be relating the magic of to my grandkids as they watch Jamie Moyer III throw a complete game shut-out of the Carson City Credenzas in September 2054, but as far as end results go, it’ll definitely do.

Even though I barely got to see any of it, it was still just about the best game I could have asked for to be the cap on the Phils’ 2008 regular season. Well, maybe not completely–it could’ve been against the Mets, or Tim Redding, or whoever the fucking pitcher was for the Pirates that game in August when Joe Blanton threw a one-hitter and they still lost (Blanton! ONE HIT!!!) But it was a tight, suspenseful game where every single player in the Phillies’ starting line-up contributed at least a little to the win–even Carlos Ruiz hit one of those sac flies in the 4th. But more than anything, today’s game was a testament to three of the Phils’ current greats, who might also be my three favorite players on the team–Jamie Moyer, Jimmy Rollins, and Brad Lidge.

There’s really not enough that can be said for what Jamie Moyer has meant to this team and their fanbase this season. Through the creamy middle months of the season, when Brett Myers was looking like a complete flop, Adam Eaton and his 5.80 ERA were still starting every five games, and the Phils seemed allergic to home plate whenever Cole Hamels took the mound, Moyer’s team-record string of consecutive quality starts is what kept Philly afloat. And frankly, even though Hamels is unquestionably the team’s ace, I just don’t know that I’d trust him to lock it down on the last game of the season–Cole still seems a little nervy, a little green when asked to come through in a big spot, and given his repeated statements about how relieved he is about not having to pitch tomorrow, looks like I wasn’t the only one that was worried. Not that I really hold it against the guy–he’s still only 24, after all. But that’s exactly what the Phils keep Moyer around for–he’s got 20 whole years more experience on the mound than Hamels, and really, there’s no one who I’d rather have on the hill with the season on the line.

Meanwhile, Rollins needed the redemption of September more than anyone else on the team. It’s almost hard to remember at this point that barely even a month ago, I was envisioning trade scenarios after it looked like his comments about the nature of Philly fandom was going to make his future in the city untenable. But a five-hit night in a season-highlight comeback victory against the Mets a few weeks later, and the boos disappeared, never to rematerialize. And now today, after two game-saving, Baseball Tonight-confirmed Web Gems (a Mays-style basket catch, colliding with Victorino to save the tying run in the 8th, and then a dive on a double play ball, flipped to Utley from his knees, which saved a run and ended the game), he could take a piss on the Liberty Bell while pouring out a case of Yuengling and ranting about how Rocky was a poor man’s Play It to the Bone and he’d still be the prince of Philadelphia. It’s good to have you back, J-Roll.

But if there’s anyone who turned in a truly season-defining performance tonight, it was Brad Lidge. If you only know about it from SI and ESPN, and you hear about how Brad Lidge is a perfect 41 for 41, you’d think that Philly fans could turn off the TV in the 8th inning, knowing a guaranteed suspense-free, 1-2-3 inning of total domination was on the way from Lidge. There might have been a couple of those, but I’d say no more than a half-dozen, and certainly none in this month. Lidge saves can be measured in levels of panic–maybe not the kind of panic you Brewer or Met fans feel when your closers (sic) enter, but panic nonetheless. Slightly worse than the all-too-rare three-up, three-down type is the kind where after getting two strikeouts, he gives a four-pitch walk to the team’s worst hitter, which gives you that Uh-oh what’s wrong here twinge when you were thinking everything was OK, before he settles down and closes out. Slightly worse than that is the kind where he has a two or three-run cushion, but instantly gives up a couple of singles, as if he wanted to spot the team a baserunner or two, to bring the tying run to the plate–giving you that hand-shaking, why can’t he ever just make this easy? anxiety before he sets down the side with relative ease. Slightly worse than that is the kind where he allows a couple of baserunners, but does so in 25-30 pitches, always getting ahead in the count, only to eventually fall to 3-2 and eventually let up a walk or freak single after what feels like a ten-minute at bat–giving you that pacing-around-the-room, is he finally going to collapse out there? terror, before he gets strike three swinging on the team’s best long-ball hitter for the third out.

But the worst one of all are the ones we’ve been lucky enough to only have three of all year–the Divine Intervention save. Those are the ones where, barring an act of God, there is no way that Lidge should be able to walk out with his streak unfettered–the ones where you’re watching with your head in your hands, thinking This is it. This is the one he doesn’t get himself out of. We had one in Atlanta, when Lidge, up two, allowed runners on second and third and let up a two-out single to Yunel Escobar, which scored one and should’ve scored a game-tying second run, except for Shane Victorino’s canon of an arm, which sailed perfectly into the glove of catcher Chris Coste, who applied the tag on runner Greg Norton a milli-second in time to get the out and win the game. We had another in St. Lous, when again up two, Lidge led off the inning by allowing a solo shot to Troy Glaus, then proceeded to load the bases while acquiring just one out. But then he got a couple of rookies swinging, and again, he was out of it.

Even remebering these instances, I was pretty sure today was going to be the end of it all. It was just too perfect–40 out of 40, comes into the game with a two-run lead facing the ass-end of the worst team in the league’s lineup, three outs between the Phils and the playoffs–if he had to blow one to confirm his rep as a choke artist, and give Mets fans something to shove in our faces for years to come, this’d be pretty hard to beat. And as the baserunners started to trickle in–base hit to Roger Bernadinha, walk to Ryan Langerhans (seriously?), bloop RBI single to Anderson Hernandez, bases-loading single to Christian Guzman–it felt like some sort of higher power had finally called in Lidge’s karmic tab. But then, ground ball up the middle, and some seriously praise worthy defense from your double play team, and somehow, he gets out of it. And no matter what kind of shit he’s put himself in all year–and he’s nearly always put himself in some kind of shit–the one consistent of Lidge’s performances is that he gets out of it. Killer instinct, baseball intuition, or just blind fucking luck–it’s kind of hard to argue against him as the team’s MVP regardless.

So now we play the waiting game, as the Brewers and Mets try to take care of business tomorrow night, to find out if the Phils face the Dodgers or the Brew Crew in next week’s NLDS (in all honesty, I’m actually rooting for the Mets here–not only because I’d rather face the Dodgers in the division series, but the prospect of a Mets-Phils NLCS would be hotter than an NC-17 rated Vicky Cristina Barcelona). And now that I can stop panicking about not getting into the regular season, it’s almost novel to think–hey, maybe we can actually win a couple post-season games this time? But even if the post-season brings nothing but sorrow, to have your favorite starting pitcher clinch the division over your much-hated rival on the last weekend of the season for the second year in a row…well, it’s still hard to ask for too much more.

Posted in Red Letter Day | 1 Comment »

OMGWTFLOL: “American Psycho”: The Musical

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 27, 2008

Don’t just stare at it, buy tickets for it

Psyche! Nope, it’s not a joke–Variety has officially reported that plans for a musical based on Brett Easton Ellis’s 1991 book American Psycho are in the works, though details are still fairly sketchy at the moment.  Most of us will of course recall Ellis’s work about the mass-murderous yuppie as filtered through the feminist directorial lens of Mary Harmon and the gloriously histrionic-laden lead performance of Christian Bale. The movie was not a particular critical or commercial success, but it followed a natural progression to cult status, eventually made one of the 21st century’s first great leading men out of Bale, and gave us at least a half-dozen quintessential O-Watchers in the process. And now, it’s giving us a brand new Broadway musical.

Now, the movie-turned-musical is not a particularly new phenomenon, and indeed, at least two of the biggest musical hits of the decade (The Producers and Spamalot) have come from cinematic source material. But those musicals seemed like far likelier fits for their film equivalents–for one thing, both Producers and Holy Grail already had musical numbers within the films, providing at least some sort of context for a musical adaptation to start with. And they were also comedies–loose, zany, fairly free-form comedies, ones that not only lent themselves to musical adaptation, but just to adaptation in general. American Psycho, on the other hand…well, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t funny, but certainly in a significantly darker, and much less transmutable way than these movies were.

My friend Lisa brought up perhaps the more appropriate example of the Evil Dead musical, which took a fairly gruesome source flick and turned its gore and horror into theater kitsch, replete with optional blood-spatter seating. But Evil Dead was already pretty kitschy to begin with (no horror movie with a tree-rape scene can ever be taken solely at face value), and especially with the increasing ridiculousness of the sequels, no one could possibly take offense at the movie not being taken seriously. American Psycho, on the other hand, while certainly far from being cheese-free (FEED ME STRAY CAT), does have a fair amount of satire and subtext to it that would be sort of hard to turn into song and dance, at least as it’s traditionally constituted.

Really, it’s kind of hard to imagine how songs get inserted into this at all. For one thing, who would possibly be given a song besides the Patrick Bateman character? Most of the best lines in the movie either come from Bateman’s thoughts or are taken from rants where Bateman is basically talking to himself. I mean, maybe the Willem Dafoe and Chloe Sevigny characters get a song each, but basically, this is a one-man show. And even if Bateman gets all the good numbers, how many Murder Ballads can you squeeze into one two-hour musical before getting somewhat redundant? Or do you just have lots of songs based on lines in the movie? “Murders & Executions”? “What Her Head Would Look Like On a Stick”? And of course, the big closing number, “I Have to Return Some Videotapes”?

Much room as there is for error here–and I was definitely not a fan of either Spamalot or The Producers–I am somewhat excited by this news. There’s something that’s just so inherently perverse, so incredibly wrong-seeming about the whole thing, that it can really only be a huge disaster or a huge success, both of which are wins in my book. More potential for an interesting evening out than Xanadu, at least. And probably as much nudity as Spring Awakening.

Posted in OMGWTFLOL | 2 Comments »

Clap Clap ClapClapClap: The Fightin’ Phils in Rounds 160-162

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 26, 2008

Ungh

Baseball hurts like no other sport. Not in literal ways like the one pictured above, obviously, but it didn’t take me long since getting back into sports to realize that there was something that made watching baseball different than other sports. In other sports, you root for your team to win. In baseball, you root for your team not to lose. it’s a subtle distinction, but one that changes your entire perception of the game. When my team wins, it feels good, no doubt–puts a little extra spring in my step, makes Dr. Pepper taste a little sweeter, lets me sleep a little easier and wake up a little happier. But when my team loses, it has a nasty tendency to straight up ruin my life for that night–virtually nothing gives me pleasure of any sort until they have a chance to redeem themselves the next night.

I think it mostly has to do with both the pace and structure of the game–for one thing, it’s the only major team sport where there’s no such thing as a turnover, and the only one where allowing a team to score doesn’t shift the possession at all, so when you’re on defense, you can’t really help yourselves, you can only allow yourself to get hurt less. And then there’s the length–not just a time limit-less nine-inning game, but a 162 game season (nearly twice as long as any other sport), so that a lead is barely ever really safe. And then there’s the fact that no team, no matter how good they are, is ever really guaranteed to beat another team, no matter how bad they are–it’s a sport where even the best teams will lose 60 games a year, and for whatever reason, those losses always hurt more than the wins will ever heal. And then there’s perhaps the biggest thing–the fact that by September, baseball becomes such a regular, everyday thing, that you come to rely on it for a sort of stability in your life, and when it becomes a source of stress and displeasure, it kind of shakes you to the core. (Yeah, maybe I really do need a job, huh?)

So with all this in mind, I can’t say in complete honesty that I’m really looking forward to the next three days of my life. Just two weeks ago, the Phillies seemed like a team that’d start planning their vacations for September 30th–they had dropped two of three to the Marlins, were three and a half back to the Mets in the East and four back to the Brewers in the Wild Card. “If they don’t sweep the Brewers [in their upcoming four-game series],” I said, “They’re done.” Then a remarkable thing–they swept the Brewers [in their upcoming four game series]. Then they took three from the Braves, and two of three from the Marlins. And the Mets started to lose a bunch. Suddenly, we’re at Monday with six games to go, and the Phils are up two and a half on the Mets and three and a half on the Brewers. In less than two weeks, the team went from playoff afterthougths to practical shoo-ins.

Of course, it’s never that easy. The Phils lost their last two, including a particularly embarrassing 10-4 loss against Atlanta’s horrific #5 starter JoJo Reyes (whose NFL equivalent would look something like the Eagles getting blown out by a Seneca Wallace-led Seahawks), while the Mets won a couple against the Cubs and the Brewers swept the Pirates. Now we’re three games removed from the playoffs, and the Phils hold a shaky one-game lead in both the division and the Wild Card. And naturally, rather than focusing on the fact that the Phils are still techncially in the lead, and still need not one but two teams to significantly outperform them over the next three days to be eliminated from contention, all I can think about is the myriad of ways it can go wrong.

Still, I’m trying my best to stay as positive as possible. Not only are the Phils facing maybe the worst team in the NL this season, they’re not even drawing a game against staff semi-ace Tim Redding, who would probably be a Cy Young candidate if he only faced the Phils all season. And while Phils fans will have to grit their teeth with a start from distinctly unreliable mid-season acquisition Joe Blanton tomorrow, they’ll get to end the season with staff rock Jamie Moyer and staff ace Cole Hamels–neither of which have exactly been unhittable lately, but both of which are pretty well guaranteed to at least give the offense a pretty good shot. With a rested Madson and Lidge prepped to make the game over by 7, a starting lineup at full health (and with a suddenly rejuvenated-looking Pat Burrell, no less), and a one-game cushion to play with…things could be a lot worse.

Meanwhile, the Brewers and Mets’ series are far from cakewalks. The Brewers will be playing NL Central bullies the Cubs, who for whatever reason–the integrity of the game, wanting to keep themselves sharp, or just not wanting to set a precedent of losing–still seem to care about winning games, despite having long since clinched not just the division but the best record in the NL. You have a feeling they’re not gonna just roll over for the Brewers–who, by the way, will be sending their two worst starters (Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan) to the hill, as well as staff ace CC Sabathia for the third time in nine games. Meanwhile, the Mets have to contend with the Marlins–not only a team so offensively powerful that no pitcher is a lock, but a team with a recent history of Mets playoff spoilage. And for one of those games, they gotta send little Danny Niese out there, a hurler whose one successful pro outing was against the Braves’ JV lineup, against the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco, who improbably enough, has become one of the best pitchers in the NL this season.

So really, all the Phils need to do is win two out of three against the dogs of the league and hope one of the other teams loses one against two teams that are pretty good. Seems like a pretty safe bet when you put it that way. But I know better than to expect anything but three days of complete agony–especially since now it looks like incliment weather might be as such that the season might not even be over by Sunday night. And while I really do owe baseball a great deal for giving my life certainty in a time in my life when a great deal was uncertain…I simply can not fucking wait for this regular season to be over. I don’t know if I can take the hurt for more than another couple days.

(Oh, and Philly sports blog The700Level did their list of the Phillies most likely to be the first off the bench in case of a brawl, inspired by Shane Victorino’s near run-in with Braves reliever Julian Tavarez last Wednesday. My top five:

1. J.C. Romero (Is there any doubt? Dude looks like he believes that if a batter dies as a result of a fastball to the head, he should be called out)
2. Chris Coste (A lead by example type, for the sake of team chemistry and to prove that he’s “still got it”)
3. Greg Dobbs (Look at the way the guy swings at sliders that are inches down in the dirt. He’d relish the opportunity to swing at a non-moving target for once)
4. Jayson Werth (Pent up rage from getting picked on in High School)
5. Brett Myers (Just ask his wife LOL)

My bottom five:

1. Pat Burrell (700 pegs Dobbs as the “Not the face” guy, but for me it’s Pat “Handsome As Paul Rudd But I Wasn’t In Clueless” Burrell)
2. Kyle Kendrick (If he didn’t beat the shit out of Brett Myers for one of the most cruelly elaborate practical jokes I’ve ever heard of, clearly nothing is getting under this kid’s skin enough to incite violence).
3. Ryan Howard (Despite being the team’s (and arguably all of baseball’s) prototypical power hitter, dude doesn’t look or sound like he’s gotten into a fight in his entire life. And then there are those commercials where he keeps insisting that he’s a teddy bear. I just don’t see him being much of a brawler)
4. Jamie Moyer (Dude has seven kids, several of which must be approaching college age by now. Think he’s risking his age 46 & 47 seasons on a bad punch?)
5. Brad Lidge (Why mess with perfection?)

Wild Cards: Chase Utley and Cole Hamels. I could see Utley sort of being like Billy Jack–generally a pacifist, but when pushed up against it, unleashes the fucking fury. And Hamels would probably hang back at first and shake his head disapporvingly, but if he sensed the team was losing the brawl, he’d probably do a “Do I have to take care of everything around here?” eye roll and charge in like there was no tomorrow)

Posted in Clap Clap ClapClapClap | 2 Comments »

Choose Your Destiny: Hard Rock’s Deepest Steps Backwards

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 25, 2008

Singin’ “Nothin’ But a Good Time” all summer long…

I feel for hard rock, I really do. What was the last even slightly exciting or interesting band to break into the Mainstream Rock charts? Do you have to go back to the days of System of a Down and Incubus? I mean sure, every now and then MTV2 will flirt with a Mastodon or Lamb of God video in semi-heavy rotation, but basically, the genre is subsiding on a steady diet of Disturbed, Papa Roach, Seether and Shinedown–bands that were certainly never much greater than mediocre, and certainly have since dropped well below the Mendoza Line. It’s a sad state of affairs, diminished only by the fact that  the alternative rock charts aren’t exactly a hot bed of burgeoning creativity either (#1 this week: The Offspring’s “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid”).

So what do you do when no one wants to move forwards? Why, move all the way backwards, of course! Even if you discount AC/DC’s presence with new song “Rock N Roll Train” (which, unsurprisingly, sounds exactly like an AC/DC song), the Mainstream Rock top 10 this week is full with three especially egregious cases of Rearview Mirror Rock–songs which make you wonder why rock music even bothered existing after the Bulletboys broke up. Decide for yourself which is the deepest step backwards:


Hinder – “Use Me”

Whither Bill Withers? We all no doubt remember Hinder from their much-beloved 2006 crossover smash “Lips of an Angel,” a #3 hit that was positively unavoidable for nearly half a year. We figured Hinder would do us the honor of disappearing shortly thereafter, and minus some minor reverberations from follow-up “Better Than Me,” they pretty much did. If you believed the video for “Use Me,” though, you’d think the boys were Motley Crue circa “Girls, Girls, Girls,” still so on top of the world that dozens of supermodel-level metal hotties are on call to show up at their mansion at any hour of the night, should a legendary party spontaneously break out. Plus, they get no less than Andrew Dice Clay to play the party’s bouncer, and clearly not just any Johnny Come Latelies are gonna be able to land a cameo from the Diceman.

The song itself I actually find somewhat amusing, and in not quite as much of a smug, patronizing way than you’d think. From the title, their previous hits, and the Withers connection, you might assume it’s a self-pitying ballad of an uneven romance, but rather than let all those boring emotions get in the way, Hinder make the song into a rip-roaring celebration of emotionless, expectationless screwing. It’s an appropriately guilt and thought-free sentiment from a band that really would be best served not letting their feelings get the best of them. Plus, “She’s kind of cold / But yet she’s hot on the outside” has gotta be one of the lyrics of the year.


Theory of a Deadman – “Bad Girlfriend”

When I first heard this song unleash its killer opening guitar riff, I just prayed that the lyrics weren’t going to be so soul-piercing that I could manage to pretend the song was some lost “She Sells Sanctuary”-era Cult classic. From the first line, though–“My girlfriend’s a dick magnet”–it was pretty clear that this was still a little too much to ask for. Lead Theorizer Tyler Connelly spends the song casting aspersions on the title character, alternately in frustration and awe, mostly about how she likes to get drunk and fuck anything that moves. As with the Hinder song, Connelly seems willing to accept the trade-off of having such a Bad Girlfriend, because “she’s coming back to [his] place tonight,” and on the Sunset Strip, that’s all that matters, right?

Well, maybe. In the song’s mush-mouthed denouement (definitely needed some help from Google on this one), Connelly decries BG as a gold digger who has spent all his money, and now refers to her as “the future ex-Miss Connelly.” Especially considering the fact that the song was inspired by Connelly’s own wife, this is a very confusing turn of events. But then again, this is a song where the main point of the chorus is “She’s a bad, bad, bad girlfriend!” and is nonetheless arguably meant as a compliment. I guess no one really faulted “Pour Some Sugar On Me” for having an inconsistent narrative, either.


Buckcherry – “Too Drunk…”

Ah, Buckcherry. You know, one more comeback, and we might actually have to consider you guys as having had a career. “Lit Up” sounded novel enough back in the late 90s, but “Crazy Bitch” and “Sorry” were far less welcome, and now here we are with “Too Drunk [To Fuck],” the band’s latest slice of decadence-fried L.A. sleaze-rock. It’s a song which asks the obvious question–in the hierarchy of Rock and Roll, which is more important, getting drunk or getting laid? Buckcherry casts their vote for the former, in joyous celebration of a lifestyle that apparently considers staying sober enough to avoid whiskeydick as being something too close to a job (“only gets in the way”) to be considered as an option. They even create a video to prove it, in which a fat dude loses the attention of the hot chick following him throughout the party because he gets drunk, throws up and passes out (and possibly dies, though I might be reading too much into that). It’s an interesting re-shuffling of hard rock priorities, if not a particularly interesting song.

So which song is making you the gladdest that you missed FUSE’s Mainstream Rock Video countdown this week?

Posted in Choose Your Destiny | 1 Comment »

Take Five: Pictures of Samantha Ronson Wearing a Stupid Hat and Flashing a Peace Sign

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 24, 2008

Does this look like a woman you’d flip your sexuality for?

Posted in Take Five | 14 Comments »

OMGWTFLOL: The Killers – “Human” (2008)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 23, 2008

C’mon baby dry your eyes

The Killers have to be one of the more intriguing popular rock bands of the last decade. They came up in modern rock at a time when the genre’s doors were more open to freak hits and alternative anomalies since bands like Spacehog, Primitive Radio Gods and the Butthole Surfers were breaking into the mainstream back in 1996. Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had three of 2004’s biggest rock hits, and even The Darkness achieved Rock Gods status for about seven and a half minutes. Nu-metal was almost completely stagnant, pop-punk was dying with Blink-182, and the reign of Fall Out Boy was still at least six months away. Meanwhile, out of Vegas comes The Killers, with synths, big pop hooks, and thanks to a trio of videos directed by Brett Simon, Sophie Muller and Anton Corbijn, unmistakable glamour–three qualities almost entirely absent from the entire post-grunge era in rock up until that point.

While the rest of their underground-approved brethren’s mainstream commercial fortunes unsurprisingly faded after their breakout hits, The Killers have done a fairly impressive job of hanging on and lingering in the public’s consciousness. They had the three megahits off Hot Fuss (“Somebody Told Me,” “Mr. Brightside” and “All These Things That I’ve Done”) whose extended play on TV (not just the video channels, but in primetime dramas and even a couple commercials) kept the band in the limelight almost until the release of Sam’s Town. It looked like the sophomore slump might’ve hit The Killers after “When You Were Young” peaked a little earlier than expected and follow-up “Bones” performed predictably miserably, but third single “Read My Mind” had the same slow-burn commercial effect as “All These Things,” and the band was right back in the thick of it–if by now firmly out of the running for Biggest Band in the World status.

This is all mostly notable because while the band arguably has the least raw talent of any of the bands previously mentioned (not counting the Primitive Radio Gods), they also easily have the greatest ambitions. And while it’s tempting to say that The Killers’ ambitions further exceed their grasp than any band since Jesus Jones, I think a more accurate statement would be to say that The Killers ambitions are simply the least in line with their abilities of any band at the moment. They love Bruce Springsteen, but they’re an abysmal live act and don’t understand the first thing about street poetry. They idolize David Bowie, but sound awkward and confused singing come-ons. They wanna be as important as U2, but don’t care about anything in particular. Basically, they sound big without in any way actually being big–which would be totally fine if The Killers were OK with being the next Duran Duran or Def Leppard, but for whatever reason, the band seems to crave credibility beyond those highly respectable, and far more appropriate, comparisons.

So it’s a little surprising to me to see the band return with “Human,” a song which all but sheds the band’s American Dream aspirations from Sam’s Town in favor of a dance sound much closer to the Pet Shop Boys. House fans and blog afficianados are unlikely to be completely blindsided by this, as they will no doubt recall Jacques Lu Cont’s deservedly acclaimed remix of “Mr. Brightside,” or PSB’s very own Stars are Blazing remix of “Read My Mind,” both of which showed the enormous pop potential of The Killers when removed from any sort of Rock Star trappings (not that all the ingredients weren’t there to begin with, but still). It’s a risky move, especially because singer Brandon Flowers still apparently feels burdened by the pressure of greatness (“Everything is at stake on this album,” he’s said), but since the entire album is produced by JLC himself, it’s likely that all his chips are being placed on house being the style to take the band to the next level.

And, well…ouch. 95% of the beefs people have with The Killers are in some way based around the band’s lyrics, and indeed, the band has always sort of sank or swam with their cringeworthiness. Usually, they can hobble together a mixture of enough rock catch-alls (“Destiny is calling me,” “We’re burning down the highway skyline”), aurally satisfying tongue twisters (“Never thought I’d let a rumor ruin my moonlight,” “You know, you know, no you don’t, you don’t”) non-sensically vivid imagery (“The stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out from the sun,” “Jealousy, turning saints into the sea”) and unbelievably catchy phrases that mean remarkably little (“He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus,” “I got soul but I’m not a soldier”) that you can sort of gloss over the songs’ general lack of comprehension or significance. But when they can’t, you get “Bones.” And “Human” makes “Bones” look like “Tangled Up in Blue.”

OK, I can’t write any more of this article without addressing this point right here and now–the main lyrical hook in “Human” is the following:

“Are we human? / Or are we dancer? / My sign is vital / My hands are cold.”

There are no typos in that second phrase. Oh, sure, the critics are already insising on it, and the album’s lyric sheet will no doubt back it up, but take it from me, the phrase is “Or are we dancer?” Listen to the song if you must, and if you can hear Brandon Flowers put an “s” sound at the end of “dancer,” congratulations, you’re even more self-delusional than I am. He even rhymes the phrase with the word “answer” in the song’s next line, when saying “answers” would’ve made just as much sense. No matter what anyone says in the song’s ensuing fallout, it’s a fucking fact: The Killers are banking their ever-huge commercial aspirations on the question “Are we human / Or are we dancer?

Not that “or are we dancers” would’ve made the song that much more bearable. Even with the correct grammar, it’d still be one of the bigger lyrical atrocities in a song where such gaffes pop up like marshmallows in a bowl of Lucky Charms. Couplets like “Pay my respectes to grace and virtue / Send my condolences to good.” Phrases like “The platform of surrender.” Apostrophes like “So long to devotion / You taught me everything I know.” Observations like “And sometimes I get nervous / when I see an open door.” But even if the verses were on the level of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” any hope the song had of flight would be firmly grounded by the ton of bricks that is the chorus, a clunker to end all lyrical clunkers.

In the Hot Fuss days, at least there’d be majesty enough in the music that you could usually look past the blunder of the lyrics–the insignificance of whatever “Open up my eager eyes / ‘Coz I’m Mr. Brightside” means is far outweighed by the significance of the way the song’s swooping bass line connects with the shimmering synths and cascading guitar line to conjure up memories of prime New Order (who, by the way, weren’t always 100% malady-free in their lyrics either). In “Human,” though, I’m not sure if it’s that the music isn’t catchy enough, or that it’s simply impossible to think about anything else once you get an enigma like “Are we human? / Or are we dancer?” stuck in your head, but three or four listens in and I still don’t have a clue how this song even goes. Maybe those ill-conceived rock star trappings were there for a reason after all.

Frankly, I suppose we should be thankful that The Killers stayed on the bearable side of cringeworthiness for as long as they did–five potential classics-to-be is almost enough to build a solid hits compilation around, which is all anyone should’ve asked out of the band in the first place. Still, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of regret that the band couldn’t ride it out a little while longer–Duran Duran and Def Leppard might not ever be mentioned on the same level as legitimate rock legends Bruce Springsteen or U2, but they’re first-tier, hall of fame pop bands without a doubt, and it would’ve been nice to have been able to include The Killers in their company. But unless the next single is “Hungry Like the Wolf” times “Photograph,” and with a better video than both…I think we’re pretty much done here.

Posted in OMGWTFLOL | 5 Comments »

Conversations With the Family: Christopher’s Intervention Scene

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 21, 2008

OH!

Maybe it’s just because of the 90210 re-runs I’ve been watching on SOAP recently, but I’ve recently regained an appreciation for the Very Special Episodes of The Sopranos. There aren’t too many of them, and they don’t usually look the way VSEs are supposed to, but they’re there–the one where Meadow’s friend attempts suicide after having an affair with the soccer team coach, the one where Dr. Melfi gets raped, or the one where office gossip ends up leading Chris to erroneously believe that Adriana cheated on him with Tony, for instance. They’re not done with the melodrama of your garden variety SVE, but they definitely have a different feel than other Sops episodes–a more self-contained, old-fashioned method of television that you’d probably think would clash with the show’s usually cinematic, grand-scale, and dramatically unpretentious manner.

It’s that clash, of course, that makes some of these scenes so unforgettable–no more so than in “The Strong, Silent Type,” when Tony and his family and friends decide to hold an intervnetion for the smack-laden Chrissy. The precursor to this scene, from “Whoever DId This,” is similarly remarkable–after Tony kills Ralphie in an impulsive rage because he believes Ralph burned his horse alive, he calls in Chris to help with the cleanup, and to keep the unsanctioned hit secret from the rest of his crew. While they’re disposing of his body, Tony brings up the subject of Chris’s burgeoning drug addiction and admonishes him for it. And you realize that for these two men, hacking away body parts and trying to make them disappear is probably the most likely time for genuine, emotional male bonding.

The intervention is even more striking. It starts the way you’d expect it to–with Chris acting insulted and beligerent at the insinuation that his drug problem is that serious. And then, of course, the tearful speeches start, with Adriana breaking down weeping while recounting Christopher’s drug-induced impotence (Chris: “Jesus, is this fuckin’ necessary??”) and how he suffocated their dog by sitting on it while high. Meanwhile, Tony and the other intervention members sit around and tut-tut at Christopher’s druggy misdeeds, some more violently than others. This is the stuff that after-school specials are made of, and it seems an unusually emotionally raw moment for a show that resorts to cheap shots as little as The Sopranos does.

The scene takes a much different turn, though, as Sil gets up to give his speech. Monologuing his own words like he just got called on to read through a scene of Death of a Salesman in a high school Language Arts class, he recounts the way Chris’s drug addiction has affected him personally: “When I came in to open up one morning, there you were with your head half in the toilet. Your hair was in the toilet water. Disgusting.” Chris pleads that he had the flu that week, which Tony reluctantly confirms to be true. When it becomes Paulie’s turn to talk, he is even more direct and somewhat less compassionate: “I don’t write nothin’ down, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. You’re weak. You’re out of control. And you’ve become an embarrassment to yourself and everybody else.

At this point, Chris can’t take it any more, and he stats to point out the hypocrisy of his being condemned for his lack of self-control by the similarly indulgent and occasionally irresponsible people in the room. When his mother finally speaks up, though, urging someone to “knock some sense into him,” he commits perhaps the cardinal sin of family culture by telling Ma “fuck you, you fuckin’ hoo-er.” Naturally, the rest of the guys don’t take this kindly, and start beating up Christopher amidst the pleas of the intervention leader (played by Elias Koteas, for some reason). Eventually, the beatdown gets so bad that Chris ends the scene in the hospital, which apparently has a sobering effect, as he breaks down to Tony and willfully agrees to check himself into rehab.

The scene’s a Sops classic for any number of reasons. First off, it’s fucking funny. It’s certainly one of Paulie’s all-time great moments, as the strictly old school greaseball has very basic conflicts of interest with the new age-y philosophies being espoused by Koteas (whose constant insistence on having the intervention take place in a “non-judgemental” atmosphere is routinely ignored), and Chris’s incredulous reaction to some of the less urgent complaints about his drug use (namely his unrelated vomiting and erectile dysfunction) are pretty chuckle-worthy. It’s also certainly an emotionally wrenching scene, especially when Carmella calmly but with great hurt recounts Chris obviously being stoned at Tony’s mother’s wake, and of course it’s far from pretty when Chris tells Ma to fuck off.

Mostly, though, I think it’s an interesting scene because it shows how the Soprano Family, for all their pretense of being a family first, operates in a system too full of hypocrisy to possibly ever do something like an intervention successfully. They can’t really look down on Chris for his drug use when their own self-indulgences (sex, greed, impulsive violence) are, while occasionally less obvious, certainly just as destructive as Chris’s drug use. They can’t really open up honestly to tell Chris how they really feel, since their business is still so full of potentially lethal secrets (not just from the outside world, but from each other, as demonstrated by Ralphie’s recent death). And they can’t really confront him an a sympathetic, non-judgemental way, because fact is, if they can’t clean him up, they’ll probably have to kill him. It’s hardly surprising that it ends up with everyone brawling–the entire thing was probably so emotionally confusing to these guys that they’d have to take their aggression out on something.

Kind of makes me wish the episode where Meadow and Hunter buy speed from Chris had ended up a little more dramatically.

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