Friday, September 05, 2003

some Entertainment Weekly reviews

Taste the Secret
Ugly Duckling

This sunny underground rap trio from equally sunny Long Beach, Calif., thankfully has little use for the gangsta posturing of the mainstream or the pretense of the art-rap scene: One of the biggest beefs on their sophomore album is with a fictitious fast-food chain where everything's made of meat. That goofiness is served up in a bouncy old-school style, a refreshing cross between Slick Rick's cheeky narratives and A Tribe Called Quest's soothing lyricism. It's an unlikely rap recipe for these sober days, but their Secret sauce makes it work. Grade: B+


Their Wildest Dreams
Peter Abrahams

When struggling suspense novelist Nicholas Loeb visits a small police station near the Mexican border, he finds more inspiration than even his native Brooklyn could provide. A bizarre bank robbery pits Loeb as the amateur sleuth in his own thriller, stirring dreams of daytime talk-show appearances and implicating him in a bloody tangle of everyday desperados: a struggling single mom-cum-stripper and her castle-building ex-husband, a weathered police lieutenant, and an enterprising Russian robber-baron with Texas-size ambitions and the malapropisms of George W. Bush. Even though Dreams' suspense-laden plot meanders at times, Abrahams... Grade: B+


Hard Rain
By Barry Eisler
Thriller (Putnam, $24.95)

John Rain is a half-American, half-Japanese hitman (introduced in 2002's Rain Fall) who savors a smooth malt whiskey as much as turning some heavy's legs to sushi. This time out, Rain gets ensnared in a web of zealous cops, rogue CIA agents, fatally irresistible strippers, and one sumo-size mobster. While Eisler offers a convincing noir landscape and action scenes that could make John Woo drool, the too-complex plot is peopled by characters both sharp-tongued and hollow. Plus, Rain is given to hokey clenched-jaw quips. "The people who know me," he muses, "seem to be equally divided between wanting to kill me and wanting me to kill." At times, the reader might be inclined more toward the former. B --Alex Pasternack

Actually, The Spin Doctors didn't totally suck. Here's why...

WHO: Spin Doctors

THE CASE AGAINST: While their early-'90s hits ''Two Princes'' and ''Little Miss Can't Be Wrong'' were as addictive to frat boys as cheap beer, Spin Doctors lead singer Chris Barron's self-indulgent warble and rootsy lyricism lacked the flavor to lure listeners back for more. By the time the band's experimental second album came out, their tiresome pseudo-hippie image had played out on MTV, and no amount of spin could save them.

THE TRUTH: Guitarist Eric Schenkman's knack for combining blues-rock licks and contagious pop melodies proved the band could rise above tie-dyed corniness and watery jam-band fare. And their cheery singles were refreshing at a time when American rock was growing angrier. Even though they couldn't compete with the nihilism of Nirvana and the like, the band's optimism and fusion sensibility paved the way for Blues Traveler and Dave Matthews Band. But if you still want to call them two-hit wonders, just go ahead now.

LISTEN 2: The debut, ''Pocket Full of Kryptonite'' (1991), or, for a taste of their vigorous stage performance, ''Homebelly Groove...Live'' (1992).

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Dear Reader,
In an effort to improve (add to) the content of my sorry ass blog, I offer up random ideas and commentary on cultural produce. That's all my melting brain can come up with.
British Sea Power w/ Fiery Furnaces
Northsix, August 11, 2003

The opening Fiery Furnaces set, in which a demure sister and brother named Friedberger emitted vocals and guitar in a going-through-the-motions sort of way, made me sleepy and a bit wistful. What interesting lyrics she sings on their record were mostly drowned out by somewhat uninteresting music, dominated by older brother’s playful organ.
The British Sea Power’s show was also a bit unbalanced, but was nonetheless much more brilliant. Like dormant animals having just devoured colonialist seamen on a jungle island, the Power pranced around the bough-bedecked stage in quasi-military uniforms as they let loose their Echo and the Joy Division stylings. There was a look of nervous anticipation on the faces of the band’s playful and visibly anesthetized admirals, singer Hamilton and guitarist Noble, presumably to indicate either a) an oncoming tidal wave, b) an oncoming wave of acclaim and hype that will make them rock stars but might just destroy their lives, or c) both. It was probably the last: their raucous stage terrorism during the final 15 minute opus indicates both why they’ll be popular, and how they’ll navigate their rising, rocky tide: a mix of energetic, infectious self-indulgence and backstage narcotics. Their energy was highly appreciated, but next time, they might turn down the gimmick amp a bit. It probably will help fill out their sails/sales even more.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

about to write a paper I am dreaming of the feeling of airy unwashed sheets on my dry unwashed skin. that would be magical now, the suspension of reality by way of cotton and mattress spring fancy. I would run outside to reinvigorate myself in the rush of the river. But the river is guarded by a gate and, in this surprise rise of winter on his death bed, in this last frozen breath, the river itself is dozing off. towards a dark, momentary sea, where the waves are pillows. here my head is falling asleep on the horribly white computer screen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I just work up. woke up. tired, throat hurts. I thought it was 'desert throat', what those brave young people get in the rush of warring arabic sandstorms, which would fit in nicely with my dream--my city block was struck with an errant cruise missle, aiming perhaps for the turbaned donut seller. George bush woke me up with some much-applaused evangelical platitudes, and i wasn't sure if this just wasnt another nightmare.