Friday, February 27, 2015

The Second Coming of Janis

Alabama Shakes
Boys and Girls
ATO, 2012
produced by Andrija Tokic

Brittany Howard - vocals, guitar, piano
Zac Cockrell - bass, guitar
Heath Fogg - guitar
Steve Johnson - drums

  • Hold On
  • I ain't the Same
  • Hang Loose
This is probably the best record of 2012 that no one talks about. There is so much nostalgia concerning the music period between 1965 and 1975. Everyone loves the Beatles, and the Stones, and Led Zeppelin, and Hendrix.  I feel there isn't quite as much fanfare for a new contemporary band that plays in similar styles while keeping their sound fresh and distinct. This makes no sense.

Alabama Shakes debuted in 2012 with their hit song Hold On. They are from Alabama, but I won't hold that against them. Their soul/blues/rock fusion sound is a throwback to the era when Hendrix and James Brown were kings, and it seemed that every big rock band was influenced by the blues. They totally deserve more coverage than they receive, and certainly more recognition than just an award for album packaging (ridiculous).  

There is a renewed push for women's rights and healthy body image, and it surprises me that Brittany Howard, fronting Alabama Shakes, hasn't become beloved of feminists everywhere. Her voice is amazing, and she doesn't necessarily fit into the pop/diva ideal.  But who cares, she's awesome.  

The similarities between Howard and hippie icon Janis Joplin have been made before. However, I feel this comparison may not be the best, and might actually be a little insulting. Joplin was a great talent, but she borrowed her style from singers like Etta James, Big Mama Thornton (also from Alabama), and Bessie Smith. I'm not going to discuss race here, but you can arrive at your own conclusions. If we are going to compare Brittany Howard to Janis Joplin, it would only be fair to also include these other women first.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

As Surrealistic as a Pillow

Jefferson Airplane
Surrealistic Pillow
RCA Victor, 1967
produced by Rick Jarrard

Marty Balin - vocals, guitar
Grace Slick - vocals, piano, organ
Paul Kantner - rhythm guitar, vocals
Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar, vocals
Jack Cassidy - bass, rhythm guitar
Spencer Dryden - drums
Jerry Garcia - guitar

singles - 
  • Somebody to Love/ She has Funny Cars
  • White Rabbit/ Plastic Fantastic Lover
In 1967, The Jefferson Airplane replaced their original drummer and female singer with Spencer Dryden and the iconic Grace Slick. Grace Slick had been part of her first husband's group the Great Society. When she joined the Airplane, she brought two songs from her former group, both would become hit singles for her new band.

Jerry Garcia, of the Grateful Dead, is known to have been involved heavily on this record, although his actual involvement is debated by band members and producers. Depending on who you ask, Garcia's participation varies from absolutely nothing, to playing on several tracks, producing most of the album, and even rewriting a few songs. He is credited on the record as "spiritual advisor", and it's been said he named the album too, by stating the record was "as surrealistic as a pillow".

The Rolling Stone listed Surrealistic Pillow #146 out of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Don't Fly Around Your Fire Anymore

I think it's sort of odd that we tend to think of Butterflies as being beautiful and lucky, but moths, which are from the same order as butterflies, are seen as dirty pests.  I don't really get it, as both have a variety of species which can both be harmful and helpful, and plenty that look pretty darn cool.

The other day I found this fella, hanging out, I nearly sat on him, actually, but managed to save him from getting crushed.  This is a moth from the subfamily Catocalinae.  As far as I can tell, it is either the Sweetheart Underwing (Catocala Amatrix), the Penitent Underwing (Catocala Piatrix), or the Dark Red Underwing (Catocala Ultronia).  It is difficult for me to tell, they have similar coloring, and my pictures aren't clear enough to make any sort of intricate distinction.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The EP: singles edition

I've posted a few times about the EP (extended play) format.  Part one is here, and here is part two.  So, I guess this is part three, the vinyl edition.

Strangelands/Poppel Grave
Dirt records, 1995
Ben Aylward - Guitar, vocals
Nicola Schultz - Bass, vocals
David Lord - Drums

From Australia, this band broke up aparently forever in 2002.  You can place them in the shoegazer category with Ride, Lush, My Bloody Valentine, and Mazy Star.  This is more of a single than an EP, complete with a B-side like traditional singles.  The packaging, however, is more common for an EP.  Although the music is pretty good, I bought it for other reasons.  It's packaged in brown cardboard, with a few record label stickers, and a weird-ass art print.  Also... blue swirled vinyl!  


US Bombs
Tora! Tora! Tora!/ Yer Country
TKO, 2001
Duane Peters - Vocals
Kerry Martinez - Guitar
Wade Walston - Bass
Chip Hanna - Drums

The US Bombs is one of the best oi punk/street punk bands with a political bent, much like Anti-flag.  In true Punk fashion, this EP comes with the president with a Hitler mustach, on a cut-and-paste DIY style cover.  The song is about Nationalism as an excuse for violent revenge, which was a big deal following September 11, 2001.   Tora! Tora! Tora! is paired up with Yer Country as a B-side.  

1 of 500 pressings

Minor Threat
the first demo tape
Dischord, 2003
produced by Skip Groff
Ian McKaye - Vocals
Lyle Preslar - Guitar
Brian Baker - Bass
Jeff Nelson - Drums

So, this is a release of previously unreleased stuff recorded in 1981.  All of these tracks appear on other albums and releases like In My Eyes, Minor Threat, and Out of Step.  However, these are the demo versions of the songs, so, that's something.  Also, you get pictures of a young Henry Rollins rocking out and wearing a dress.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Things I Don't Understand: Hockey Edition

It used to be called the least of the four major American sports. Now with the advent and continued growth of Major League Soccer, hockey is now the second to last popular of the five major American sports. Congratulations!

Based on my posts about the Boston Celtics, I think it's safe to say I'm a Boston sports fan, for the most part. I like the Bruins too. But, my question today is not about the Bs or the Hub of Hockey. It's about one of the Canadian teams.

Ottawa received an expansion team in 1990, and was allowed to use the name The Senators when they began league play in 1992. Now... before we go further, it is important to understand that I used the word "allowed" for a reason, as the NHL owned the rights to the Senators name. There was an Ottawa Senators that was founded in 1883 and played until 1935 when they were purchased and folded by the NHL.

All of this information is easily looked up on Wikipedia. So, it really isn't a mystery, or a surprise. What I don't understand is why the league and the team don't claim any continuation between franchises. The original Senators won 11 Stanley Cups with 34 hall-of-famers. The titles alone would tie them for third most Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.

I do understand that a new franchise may not want to ally themselves undeservedly with legendary winning squads. But then, why choose the exact same mascot, with the exact same colors? If the team truly wanted a clean slate, they could have named themselves anything else and used any other color scheme. But they chose the Senators, probably to throw back to the great Ottawa hockey club of the past. Why then, would they not decide to go all the way and claim the entire legacy and history?

The other reason I can think of for this bizarre decision, would be ownership and licensing issues. There is a long history of teams moving cities and changing nicknames in all the five major sports.  For example, the Tennessee Titans are actually the Houston Oilers, and reserve the rights to the older team's colors and logos. The Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals are some other examples.

However, the Ottawa Senators don't suffer from that issue. The Ottawa Senators moved to St Louis for one season, but then were bought by the league and closed. The team didn't go any where else. There isn't another city/franchise/ownership that can claim the Senator's heritage. There doesn't seem to be a legal issue that would bar the team from claiming continuity, or team history. Even if there were more complicated relocation issues, the NFL and NBA have done stranger things with franchsise continuity recently with the Cleveland Browns and the Charlotte Hornets.

I couldn't find an answer to my question anywhere on the internet. Not on Wikipedia. Not on the Senators or NHL websites. Not on fan sites either. If anyone knows the answer, please share.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Quick as a Flash: TV Predictions

I think by now this blog has established that I, like many people recently now that comic books and their characters have become mainstream pop culture, am a huge nerd.

With the premier of Arrow on the CW, DC comics jumped into television to great success, and followed that show up with the Flash in a shared universe.  This makes far more sense to me then trying to make comics into movie franchises.

One of the biggest concerns with superhero films is the difficult task of building characters and putting them into interesting plots that have to resolve within 2 hours.  Blockbuster films are expensive, and are slow to create.  There have been years between Iron Man movies.  Meanwhile the comic book is continuously written and published at least once a month.

Television shows, however, debut once a week for several weeks in a row, and (as long as it doesn't get canceled by talentless studio execs) there are only months between seasons.  Television episodes, as in comic books, can have stand alone stories but also over-arching season long plots.  The serial nature of television meshes much better with the serial nature of comic books.

The first season of The Flash debuted in October.  I like this show.  Grant Gustin is a great Barry Allen, and the writers have surrounded our titular hero with a good group of supporting characters, much like Oliver Queen has in Arrow.  The first season is more than halfway done, and it's already been full of comic book Easter eggs, foreshadowing, and character reveals; plenty of stuff for nerdy fans to freak out over.  They even make some nods to the Flash tv show from 1990 by casting that show's Flash as Barry Allen's father.

A good example of the foreshadowing, is the slow reveal that the character Dr Harrison Wells is probably actually the character Eobard Thawne better known as Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash.  The Reverse Flash is one of Barry Allen's greatest foes.  He is Joker-level evil, and uses time travel through the Speed Force to extract revenge.  There is another character on the show, a detective named Eddie Thawne.  I'm betting Harrison Wells is Eddie Thawne's descendant from the future.  It is very possible that Eddie also becomes the Reverse Flash. After all, there are a few in the comics.

In addition to the ultimate Flash nemesis, there are many other villain characters to be introduced.  Captain Cold and his buddy Heat Wave already appeared in two episodes, and Captain Cold's sister was introduced, possibly revealing her to be Lisa Snart, the Golden Glider.  We also saw the Pied Piper appear twice, and the Weather Wizard, with the possibility of a second Weather Wizard appearing later.  Captain Boomerang was the antagonist of the Flash/Arrow crossover.  The Girder has already debuted in the show and killed off.  Blackout, the Mist, Plastique, and Multiplex have also starred in their own episodes.  Also, although he hasn't been officially introduced, Gorilla Grodd has been teased since the pilot episode.

However, it hasn't all been villains.  Ronnie Raymond is a character on the Flash, posthumously referred to as a member of the Star Labs team that perished in the accelerator explosion during the pilot episode.  However, as every good comicbook nerd knows, Ronnie Raymond is half of the superhero known as Firestorm.  Firestorm has since made an appearance, and recently it has been revealed that Martin Stein (the other half of Firestorm) also existed in this universe, and is probably fused to Ronnie Raymond.

Speaking of Ronnie Raymond...  Caitlin Snow, played by the very pretty Danielle Panabaker, was his girlfriend, and has been very distraught at losing him to the accelerator accident.  In the comics, Caitlin Snow is Killer Frost, a villain with the ability to naturally create and manipulate ice, and who craves heat in order to survive.

The Flash writers have already revealed that eventually Danielle Panabaker's character will become Killer Frost.  How this will happen, of course, is up for speculation.  I predict that Caitlin Snow will end up in a crossfire between the Flash, Firestorm, and Captain Cold and get shot with the cold gun.  Firestorm will attempt to save her with his abilities to rearrange atomic structures.  He saves her life, but at the same time changes her into Killer Frost, the heat vampire.  Of course, she has a mental break and blames both the Flash and Firestorm for making her into a monster.

Cisco Ramon is also from the comics.  The superhero Vibe debuted in 1984 as a member of the Justice League Detroit.  He was also a terrible Latino stereotype, and was the first JLA character ever to be killed off.  Vibe has sonic manipulation powers, similar to the Pied Piper.  My prediction:  like Caitlin Snow, Cisco is caught up in a battle between the Flash and the Pied Piper (already happened once) and somehow gets vibration manipulating powers as a consequence.  Only instead of becoming a villain, he becomes a hero.

Of course, only time will tell if I called all the shots, and spoiled several seasons of The Flash.  We haven't even seen Harrison Wells/Reverse Flash/Professor Zoom be fully revealed yet.  It's going to be awesome.

DC seems to be on their way to creating a shared television universe much like Marvel has done with their movies, only in a shorter amount of time.  DC has been able to introduce Green Arrow, the Flash, the Huntress, the Atom, The Black Canary, and Firestorm, and elude to Batman, Vibe and the Blue Beatle.  The future looks bright for DC fans.