Zombie Politics

I drank your milkshake.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Leaked Shit

A bunch of high profile albums leaked this weekend. Still, two of the year’s most anticipated (by me, at least) records, Clipse’s “Hell Hath No Fury” and Gwen’s “The Sweet Escape” remain, sadly, aloof. But I’m not here to talk about what DIDN’T permeate the ether but what DID. Lil’ reviews of two of those albums follow (I was going to review the new Deerhoof but it would have problem just been the words “fucking weird” over and over and over again). DISCLAIMER: The new All Saints album is better than anything mentioned in this column.



Jay Z, “Kingdom Come”

Y’all are now tuned into the motherfuckin’ greatest… Or at least how the lyric went three years ago. The question remains: after a high-profile exit and equally high-profile reentry, does Hova still have what it takes? The answer is yes, to at least a certain extent. The production duties have been doled out to all the big-time players, except for whoever did “Hollywood,” and the results are typically grandiose: big synths, expensive samples, the usual. Although I feel like he’s lost a lot of his edge, Rick Rubin’s “99 Problems” on “The Black Album” was a highlight. And the question remains: where the balls was Timbaland? The two of them make such beautiful music together. I mean, let’s look at the track record: “Big Pimpin’,” “Dirt of Your Shoulders,” “The Bounce.” Even on sub-par albums, they bring the fucking heat (like “What They Gonna Do” on “Blueprint 2”). Still, Timbo’s nowhere to be found. It’s a borderline tragedy. Luckily for us, Timbaland has a bangin’ new single out with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, his 2006 all stars, that serves as our first slice from his solo project.

Anyway…

I still think it’s a solid record, just not the Album of the Year we were hoping for (hell, it’s not even the Rap Album of the Year – that distinction’d go to Lupe Fiasco’s brilliant “Food & Liquor” with Pitbull’s “El Mariel” following closely behind).

The Dr. Dre productions more or less steal the show, with the contemplative “Lost Ones,” the controversial “Minority Report” and the club-bangin’ “Trouble” equally powerful (in different ways). The Neptunes song is alright, although those tinny beats are starting to wear thin, and Kanye West’s joint is nice enough but lacks the gee-whiz mastery of his song on The Game’s new album; the rest are stock, B-tier rap songs… UNTIL the Chris Martin song. He’s attempted entry to the hip hop game on numerous occasions, most notably his failed stabs at entry onto albums by Jamelia, Nelly Furtado, and The Streets (his record label vetoed his vocal involvement each time, even though he retained songwriting credit). Here, he’s finally able to do it. And he does it spectacularly. As an end to an album, “Beach Chair” beautiful; as a song on Jay Z’s much lauded comeback album, it’s genuinely awe-worthy. It’s also the most perfect song on a decidedly imperfect album.



Bloc Party, “A Weekend in the City”

People talk about the sophomore slump but how about the sophomore bore?

GOD DAMN THIS ALBUM IS DISAPPOINTING.

Things start off well enough, with swelling atmospherics, big-ass drums and robo-voices galore. But then, towards the end of the first half, you realize that you haven’t gotten a hook, chorus, or riff even remotely as catchy or memorable as anything off of “Silent Alarm.” Then you think about “Two Years Off,” the in-between single that now rests in the netherworld of the one-off, and how comparably catchy and hooky THAT was (and the remixes by The Streets and MSTRKRFT… So fucking good…) And at about this moment that you realize how vacant the first half has been, well, the second half seeps in and things become really slow and emotional and, yes, boring. A wide-screen ender, “SXRT,” does little to lift our spirits (and works in a kind of opposite way that “Beach Chair” did): instead it shows us what the album could have been but wasn’t. In my estimation, it’s a complete and utter failure.

I think one of the big reasons is that they switched producers. Instead of relying on the expert knob twiddling of Paul Epworth, who helped make the new Rapture album so magical, they turned to Jacknife Lee, who produced U2’s “Elevation” and can be held responsible for letting Bono say “1, 2, 3, 14” in Spanish. Typical of anyone even remotely associated with U2, the results are uninspired.

After citing influences like Isolee and Amerie’s “1 Thing” (both of which are way more exciting and haven’t informed anything on the album as far as I can tell), lead singer Kele Okereke told Pitchfork: I think Paul's a great guy, a great producer, but it probably wouldn't have done us any favors working with the same producer two albums in a row," Okereke said. "We're trying to work with different people, it gives you different aspects of your sound, which is really crucial."

No, no favors; just would have made an album you’d actually enjoy listening to. Which brings up my point: WHEN IN DOUBT, WORK WITH PAUL EPWORTH.

There have been some pretty great second albums of late (Scissor Sisters, Ratatat, The Magic Numbers) and these have been able to expand their original sound while staying true but also evolving. A good example of this, particularly in this genre, was Franz Ferdinand’s “You Could Have Had it So Much Better.” That’s a great fucking album. And not a lot changed from the first one. They were a little more beat-heavy (and Beatles-inspired) but fairly true to themselves, having fun - - and it was released within 18 months of the first one! Now that’s a fucking feat.

On a positive note, I really like the album art.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Where I WON'T Be This Weekend

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vapors ("Lost" Recap)




Episode: "The Cost of Living"
Flashback: Eko
Original Airdate: 11.01.06

This week’s episode posted an interesting question: does the murder on Mystery Island carry with it certain moral applications? All signs point to yes: Boone was taken from us because Locke went too far into Crazytown (even though, posthumously, he admitted that the island needed a sacrifice, which oddly vindicated Locke), Libby and Ana Lucia were capped because of Michael’s corruption by the Others (although he got away – we assume – with little penalty) and in this week’s episode, Eko seems to have been killed because he was a huge bastard. (The one wild card in this line of thinking is the murder of Shannon, who was relatively innocent.)

In vividly portrayed flashbacks, we saw Eko, after the death of his brother, jumping right back into the evil doing. His attempt to sell pharmaceuticals that the locals badly needed (while violently offing a rival gang) is what set him apart. Unlike Sawyer, who we saw actually caring in last week’s episode, Eko seems to have been bad, through and through. And it’s this unredeemable mark that sets him apart from the other survivors (even though a majority of them are liars, cheats, thieves or murders). I always wondered what the litmus test would be for these characters – what was too much. It seems to be fucking over third world churchgoers. Do that, and you’ve got a date with the big black smoky column of death.

Which brings us to Smoky the Killer Cloud.

There have been numerous explanations for what the fuck this crazy guilt beast is, from Locke’s “eye of the island” routine to Rousseu’s pat “security system” line, without much convincing. I am still leaning towards something more magical (it’s just the way I roll) and while tonight’s episode didn’t give us any definitive answer, it did shed some light onto another of Mystery Island’s, well, mysteries.

I speak of course of the ‘visions.’ These have come in the form of deceased daddies (Jack’s father’s reappearance), mental patient comrades (Hurley’s buddy Dave) or power animals (Kate’s horse, Sawyer’s boar). The assumption was that these were either visions and didn’t exist at all, or that they were somehow ‘conjured’ forth by the island’s unlimited craziness. Tonight, Smoky entered in a third conceit and much more plausible one: the smoke can ‘see’ you and manifest people from your past in your physical reality. In that super-scary moment when Eko was pleading with his brother Yemi, and the beast asked “Is that who you think I am?” or whatever (my notes were a little dodgy this week) – everything snapped into focus.

We’ve never seen Smoky kill anyone else, or even pay as much attention to anyone as it did to Eko (it could be surmised that the other monster-related deaths could have been from Pinkerton the Giant Mutant Polar Bear from last week’s episode or some as-yet-unseen behemoth). Last season we saw it get all up in his grill and flash the faces of people he’d fucked over. This week we saw it manifest itself as not only Yemi, but the mutilated corpses of the rival gang in Africa.

Several people have complained about the abundance of weird freak-outs this season (so far), and I’d have to completely disagree. Not only is weirdness an inherent part of this series (if you haven’t realized that yet, it may be hopeless) but this week’s freak out was justifiable and snapped nicely into the plot (and subplots).

The downfall to Eko’s downfall is that we don’t get more of him. He was pretty fucking badass, after all. And I wanted to see him beat the bejeezus out of more of the Others. Also, it was never made entirely clear what he was doing in Australian and how he and his brother came to crash land on the same smoke monster and giant polar bear infested island. Something tells me that there aren’t going to be any Eko appearances in the future, considering the actor that plays him is supposed to be a HUGE ASSHOLE and no one in the production wants anything to do with him. Also: being shirtless and having that weird belly wasn’t doing anyone any favors. But I digress…

Oh, right.

So Locke returned to the Pearl Station, which is wear he lost his faith last season with the realization that their entire experience on the island could have been some grandiose psychological experiment. This is still entirely viable, although a lot less likely (I suspect something far more sinister and way more complicated). It’s interesting that he would go there, just a few feet away from where his faith was first tested (with Boone’s demise) to regain his mojo. He brought along Sayid and the newly precognitive Desmond but also, for some reason, Nikki and Paulo, our two new hot young castmembers (who are also completely worthless – they addressed that themselves). We now know that they’re dating. Anything else will have to wait until after the winter hiatus (I know how we are all desperately itching to learn the exciting backstory behind Nikki’s short shorts!)

The Pearl is also where they found the glass eye. Tonight it looks like they found its owner – a grizzled, scary dude who tampered with the Dharma camera just as our heroes were staring at the monitor (funny how that happened). Maybe he could see them? Who knows. My memory is straining to recall what ultimately happened within the Pearl, but nothing too extraordinary because they didn’t obtain any new information about the captives on the other side of the island (or on Mystery Alcatraz).

[Which reminds me – if Sayid is back, where the balls are Sun & Jin?]

Speaking of those pesky captives, Jack finally got to do some acting after being walled up in his little underwater terrarium for so long. He got to flirt with Sarah. He got to wear a culty little robe to Collen’s funeral. He got to go mano-y-mano with Head Other Ben Linus (in which he briefly described the process of ‘breaking him down,’ now no longer an option). He also got that interesting interlude with Sarah wherein she was signaling to him, INXS-style, that they wanted to overthrown the old regime of Othertown and that he could be instrumental in accomplishing that (by letting Evil Ben die on the operating table). Something tells me that Jack killing Ben would be too easy, and after Jack has trudged through his fair share of moral ambiguity, he may look to Ben’s surgery as salvation in some way.

We’ll probably find out in next week’s Nathan Fillion-starring, Kate-flashbacking episode “I Do.”

Then there’s the huge-ass motherfucking break (it’s so long that the marketing gods over at ABC have touted Tuesday’s episode as a ‘winter finale’ or something... classy).

When we get back, with February 7th’s “Not in Portland,” we’ll get treated to the first ever Other-centered flashback! The entire episode will be built around the defiant, adorable, Stephen King-loving Juliet. My prediction: it will rock balls. And could completely redefine what the show is (AGAIN). But typing in its airdate just now almost made me hurl. I can’t believe we’ll be away from Mystery Island for that long. But maybe “Daybreak” will be great.

Yeah, I don’t think so either.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Knife @ Webster Hall 11.01.06



If it’s one thing that can be said about Swedish brother-sister electro duo The Knife, it’s that they’re really fucking weird. It’s not even their music, which is admittedly odd but not outrageously so (one song [covered] was in a television commercial, after all). It more has to do with their whole aura; stuff like how they won’t be photographed without masks (lately they’ve been photographed with long, phallic wooden beaks). You know, stuff like that. So it was with a mixture of extreme, extreme excitement and extreme, extreme trepidation (I’ve got to admit that I was worried it would resemble some awful art school thesis project or maybe the Tobias Funke-approved Blue Man Group) that I made my way to Webster Hall last night.

Turns out that it was really, truly amazing. It was pretty darn weird, but not in an alienating, “uhhhhhh what the fuck is this?” way. To be honest, I think it was the best possible way they could have adapted their slinky, sinister electro-funk; hailed largely as an ‘audio-visual experience,’ it was just that.

The basic setup was a thin, invisible scrim at the front of the stage, with the duo somewhere in between wearing either face makeup or ski masks with parts of their face (eyes, nose, mouth, ears) exposed but covered with stuff that glowed in the crazy lights. It was arguably the darkest setup I’ve ever seen – you only saw what you wanted them to see. Even their equipment was darkened to the point of being shapeless masses either in front or beside the performers. Behind them was another sheet, although this one was more visible. Sometimes the moving images on both screens correlated, sometimes they were completely separate, always they were striking.

The brother, who handled most of the electronic wizardry (I’m assuming), had two long (glowing) sticks that he would smack around to affect their signature ‘electronic steel drum’ sound (at one point mimicking the bong-bong from the “Top Gun” song “Take My Breath Away”). The sister, who did most of the vocals, screamed, squelched, and sang, with the electronic modulation hard to detect. This led me to one conclusion: she was part robot.

A shout-out goes to the second lamest-assed crowd I’ve had the misfortune of being stuck with in recent memory (the first goes out to the folks at the Beck show at MSG – never forget). The line for this show was around the fucking block (literally), there were two Cardigans in the audience, and during the encore animated words jumped up and down on the screen behind them (a clear indication of what the AUDIENCE SHOULD BE DOING) but most were content to merely sway, nod, and play with their cell phones. A kid next to me was telling his friend how he saw Julian Casablancas riding his bike on Broadway. Did they not see that there was a crazy Scandinavian horror show laser light dance party going on in front of them? Clearly not.

Bastards.

The set was EXACTLY an hour long (those Swedes – you can set your watch by the length of their sets) and not a moment was wasted. Between the three-dimensional video heads that dotted the stage (sometimes they were monsters, sometimes mutants, sometimes skeletons) and the seemingly three-dimensional sound of the theater (it was like being in sense-surround-sound) and the leftover Halloween decorations, it was like being in a crazy futuristic haunted house that was also an EPCOT pavilion (The Horrors of Normality, maybe). Actually, I think someone once called the “Silent Shout” album ‘haunted house music.’ Maybe it was Pitchfork. Or possibly Max. Whatever. The show cemented the album’s standing as the year’s best record (something I’ve been saying since ten seconds after hearing it for the first time) and this was, most assuredly, one of the greatest shows I’ve seen all year. If I can’t have Daft Punk, this probably ranks a close second in the silly-brilliant possible-robot category. And that's saying A LOT.

Setlist:

"Pass This On"
"The Captain"
"We Share Our Mother’s Health"
"You Make Me Like Charity"
"Marble House"http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
"Forest Families"
"Kino"
"Heartbeats"
"Silent Shout"
"From Off To On"

Encore

"Like a Pen"

Photo courtesy of Chokedamp (our professional photographer forgot his camera).

Setlist courtesy of Stereogum, who also noted the “Take My Breath Away”-style bong-ing (nice).