Sunday, February 24, 2008

'The Belgariad' by David Eddings: The Short Version

If, for whatever reason, I happen to meet David Eddings, I will probably have to at some point resist the urge to punch him in the face.


Long version to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dengue Fever - 'Venus On Earth' (2008)

I'll admit it. At first I didn't care for this album.

This came as a shock to me, because I was riding a big high when this came out, due to the discovery two months prior of Dengue Fever's last album, 'Escape From Dragon House'. I was a quiver with anticipation for this album.

For those unfamiliar, please... get familiar! They hail from Los Angeles, and feature a lead singer of Cambodian birth. So basically, what you've got is an amazing amalgamation of Cambodian pop, American Rock-n-Roll and a healthy dose of psychedelia, the international language of "whoa." Even better, it's the poppy, Farfisa organ kind of psychedelia... not the "Let's noodle aimlessly on our guitars for 45 or so minutes" kind.

'Escape From Dragon House' was thrilling. It felt like being in a 1960's dubbed spy movie. Surf guitar, swirling horns and organ, and the amazing, exotic vocals of Chhom Nimol. 'Venus on Earth', however, has a decidedly more mellow vibe. After the thrill ride and almost pure ecstasy of 'Dragon House', I think you could see how fella could feel let down.

I didn't give up on this one, though. I am really, really glad I didn't. Even though I was disappointed, I cold tell that Dengue fever had grown. The musician ship was tighter, the melodies stronger. With more listens, I began to appreciate a lot of the strengths that this album was indeed showing off.

While not as wildly as exotic as previous efforts, tracks like the lead off 'Seeing Hands' still manage to conjure an almost pulp-magazine style atmosphere. Also, guitarist/vocalist Zac Holtzman has come into his own a bit. Not just as a musician, but as a vocalist. He manages to stay in the confines of his range, but he pushes those limits perfectly and his voice remains a wonderful foil to Nimol's. The two of them are heartbreaking and believable on 'Tiger Phone Card' and darkly comedic on 'Sober Driver'.

The rhythm section has become rock solid, and the horns are not distracting (ska bands, take notes)... Now what was it I didn't like about this album?

'Venus On Earth' is the definition of a creeper album. Before I knew it, I knew all the songs and even was choosing over Dragon House.

Added bonus - they're coming to my neck of the woods on leap year! I'm so there...

While the obvious joke here would be for me to suggest that you catch Dengue Fever (har har!), I'll just stick to telling you - download/buy/borrow this album! No disappointments. Take it from a man who was formerly disappointed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Girls In The Garage, Vol. 2 (1998)

There's just something about garage rock, y'know? Sure, there's all the standard lines like, "Punk before there was punk!", "Real Rebel Rock-n-Roll!", "The Original Punk Rock!" and "Manic Teenaged Frenzy Of Amped Up Angst!"

Okay, I made that last one up... But, it's easy to roll your eyes and just write off any garage CD as under-produced and over-hyped. And with the sheer volume of stuff trying to pass itself off as garage and/or punk these days, it would probably make life easier if you did. However, now and again you find a magic stone, a shining star... a "Nugget" if you will that lights up everything, and makes you glad you started excavating.

That, right there is the feeling I got from this CD. A measly $8 used, made me a very happy man, it has. While I wish I could find volume one just as easily, this second volume of the CD version of series is packed with gems.

Most of these ditties date back to the 60's, and cover the gamut of fairly standard girl group fare to politically charged folk. Each track is done with a certain style, a certain edge that sets it apart from the rest. Sometimes it's the oddness of the song, like "Jelly Belly" by Nai Bonet, which makes you feel like you're being reprimanded into belly dancing, or the sultry, insinuating but strangely nonsensical "Watermelon Man" by Karin Krough & The Public Enemies.

Other times it's the raw energy of tunes from the likes of Little Frankie ("I'm Not Gonna Do It"), Lindy Lane ("Low Grades & High Fever") or Pat Downey & The Vistas ("Real Live Lover"). No matter how you slice it, each track sets itself apart from the pack of it's more pop-friendly peers. A lot of these tracks would probably freak my mom out a bit. Co-workers who grew up in the 60's have mentioned how loud bands are nowadays when casually hearing this CD (I couldn't break it to them that these were their contemporaries...).

Even when the tune is a bit out of tune, flat or otherwise suffering from a technical defect, there's an earnestness there that just shines through (The Uncalled Four especially! Plus, it's a Go! Team sample!).

An amazing comp that never lets up or down. Highly recommended to anyone with a pulse.


Well, hello there stranger... I'm John, and...



Don't go.

You'll get used to the smell.


So, where were we? Ah, yes... just what the hell do I think I'm doing? Well, I'm writing reviews. I maybe doing it poorly, or even flat out wrong, but I'm doing it.

Why? Well, because if I didn't, in roughly 10 years I'll be committed to a loony bin. You see, I'm one of those poor deranged souls who craves media. Stimuli, stimuli, stimuli and more stimuli. If I'm not checking out the news on-line, I'm listening to a CD (how 90's), watching a movie, listening to radio, reading a book, writing poorly, playing video games, abusing parenthesis.... so yeah, I'm a lot like you.

I also tend to analyze and contextualize a lot of the stuff I consume. Why? Like the side bar says, we don't live in a vacuum. This stuff all has to fit together somehow.

So I'm going to throw it all up against the wall and see what pictures form. I'll also be dodging my biggest pet peeve about review sites: I won't just review new things.

Why not? Because none of us live that way. Sure, we may get stoked for the new Clutch album, or the latest Judd Apatow flick, but that's not all we exist on. We make discoveries, encounter artifacts. We need to put them into some sort of perspective. We need to share.

And, dad-gummit! That's what I'm going to do! Share my findings as I continue my shamble across this pop-culture void we call "Earth".

(I have it on good authority that "Earth" may consist of more than just scraps of media, but I'm waiting for the evidence to play out.)

So hopefully, you'll find something you like along the way and share your experiences to boot!

Talk to you soon,