Category: Reviews

Reviews of albums, movies, books &c.  

Review: The Great Dictator

The Criterion Collection edition of The Great Dictator.
The Criterion Collection edition of The Great Dictator.

If you want, you can picture an image of the Pokémon Slowpoke with the words “Hey, The Great Dictator is a great movie!” around him.  After all, the movie came out in 1940, and was a critical and commercial success.  So you know, duh.  But sometimes obvious things need to be said, so… Hey, The Great Dictator is a great movie!  But more than that, it’s a surprisingly brave movie, showing the brutality of Hitler’s reign while  coming out before the United States got involved in World War II.  (It’s Chaplin, so it’s also funny.) Continue reading

Review: The Plague & Beekeeping

Cassette Fighter - The Plague & Beekeeping
Cassette Fighter – The Plague & Beekeeping

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I’m friends with one-half of Cassette Fighter. (I’m a well-wisher of the other half… we just haven’t talked a whole lot or anything.  It’s not a drama thing or anything.  Sorry for being boring!)  That said, everything I say is true and what I’d say if I didn’t know any members of the band at all.  Also, a very close friend did the cover art.  So there’s that too.

I’ve been really digging The Plague & Beekeeping, the debut EP from Cassette Fighter.  I’m a sucker for synth-based music anyway, so I’m kind of predisposed to like this.  There’s a little bit of a Kumquat vibe here on the opening track, “The Big Hate” with its use of sampling to create a vocal track for a wonderfully dreamy track.   Continue reading

Review: Tolerance

Incan Abraham - Tolerance
Incan Abraham – Tolerance

Incan Abraham’s new album Tolerance comes out today on White Iris Records.  It’s a nice slice of indie pop, ranging from the kind of dreamy, drifting kind of sound, mingling of synthesizers and traditional instruments seamlessly.  Especially in the percussion, there’s a bit of the world music influence you can hear in bands like Vampire Weekend — but without the really weird production on the Vampire Weekend stuff that makes it sound like it was recorded in a warehouse.  Seriously, what’s with that? Continue reading

Review: Two Magpies

10003843_807088345987845_704564460_oQuimper has a new EP out today (free from their Bandcamp page), Two Magpies out on Soft Bodies Records, who also put out the outstanding Utility Music by Gyratory System. The two records aren’t very similar in sound, but they both are very similar in feel.  Both would be at home on Ralph Records, but where Gyratory System took the more experimental path, Quimper are a bit poppier.  Think perhaps Renaldo & The Loaf versus early Yello — both Ralph bands, but different paths in the same park. Continue reading

Review: Evil Roy Slade

cover of Evil Roy Slade
Evil Roy Slade

It’s interesting to me how sometimes if a film is too good, you can’t say much about it.  For example, this weekend, I watched two films — Fantastic Mr. Fox and Evil Roy Slade.  Of these two movies, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the superior one.  Wes Anderson is a brilliant director, and the film was exquisitely made.  But I can’t really figure out what I’d fill up a review with other than adding about 300 “really”s to “It was really really really good”. Evil Roy Slade, on the other hand, is quite good, but has some pacing issues, and has a couple of casting flaws, but — there’s more for me to say about it. Continue reading

Review: Battle Angel Alita – Last Order, Volume 18

Cover of Last Order Vol. 18
Cover of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order Vol. 18

Since the return of Alita, the titular Battle Angel, and her eclectic group of friends, we’ve been treated to a series with a few interesting ideas and a large number of lumbering, slow-moving expanses of non-story overstuffed with oddball characters and fighting so excessive it actually ground the plot to a complete halt several times. The overlong fighting tournament that literally conquered the series and even left out the main character for entire volumes at a time made Last Order considerably less enjoyable and, at times, actually something of a chore to wade through. Usually it was interrupted by either equally overlong flashbacks focusing on characters we the audience were not terribly invested in, or by long, rambling monologues or strings of dialogue that didn’t really seem to be going anywhere. It wasn’t like the original Battle Angel Alita series that had pulled so many of us in back in the day. Continue reading

Review: Sirens

Sirens cover art
Sirens cover art

I like albums that sneak up on a listener.  Sirens, the fourth record by Christopher Bell is like that.  Bell uses his looped vocals to create textures along with his cello.  The result is a record that sounds like some sort of mix between Björk’s Medulla, Todd Rundgren’s A Capella, the work of Zoë Keating and some of Sean Altman’s stuff — Bell’s pop hooks is the world of Rundgren and Altman, where the artiness and interesting arrangements are similar to Björk and Keating.  But the mix is all Bell’s own.  Sirens isn’t going to take the place of any of these records, nor could any of these records replace Sirens.  They’re all good but different, even if there is some DNA shared.  So, unless you think kids are just lame rip-offs of their parents, it is an unfair slight to call Sirens derivative by any means.   Continue reading

Review: You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me

Cover of "You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me"
Cover of You Don’t Know Me, But You Don’t Like Me

I always have enjoyed Nathan Rabin’s writing — first at the AV Club and now at The Dissolve.  His memoir The Big Rewind was outstanding, as was his book on Weird Al.  (And, of course, his My Year Of Flops project for the AV Club and turned into a book itself.)  One thing that does make me sad about him writing at The Dissolve is that site is devoted to film — and while a brilliant film writer, Rabin’s wonderful at all types of pop culture.  I’d been excited for his most recent book, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me since he teased it in some of his articles for the AV Club about Insane Clown Posse and the Gathering of the Juggalos.  Honestly, it was right up my alley — I love Rabin and I find the Juggalos fascinating.  (And, though I’m not a fan of ICP, I think the Juggalos tend to get a bit of undeserved shit.) Continue reading

Review: DEVO – The Complete Truth about De-Evolution

Cover of "The Complete Truth About De-Evolution"
Cover of “The Complete Truth About De-Evolution

Sometimes, I find it odd that there were not more comprehensive collections of music videos by bands released during the Golden Age of DVD. Plenty were released, though they were largely cash-in budget titles, with little regard to quality, curation, or historical context. The music video collection occupies a space akin to the Greatest Hits album, with the extra requirement of demanding your eyes, as well as your ears. In this post-MTV era, the music video is best suited for YouTube over disc. Continue reading

Review: Apparition

Apparition Cover
The cover to “Apparition”.

Edward Ka-Spel‘s brilliance with The Legendary Pink Dots is to introduce us to isolated characters and then immerse us in their world-view through expansive and mysterious soundscapes. He begins with the most restricted, infinitesimal point of consciousness and then slowly expands it outward towards a state of ‘cosmic consciousness’ (to use the phrase of 1960s psychonauts). Musically, he often follows this template of expansion, with simple melody lines repeating and layering in increased complexity of texture. Much of the LPD’s music is an undertaking to help the listener (and perhaps composer) escape his/her own head. Lyrical phrases, musical motifs, album titles and themes recur across decades, but tonal shifts between albums are slow and subtle.  Hopefully, The Legendary Dots Project, like the Residents and Sparks projects before, will provide the keen reader and listener with a giddy entry-point into the Legendary Pink Dots’ musical world. Fulfil the prophecy! Continue reading