RATING MUSIC AS CHIPS AND
SALSA- a code key:
^^^^^ = Five chips Fresh
crunchy chips for homemade peach salsa with the freshest ingredients.
^^^^ = Four chips Not quite
as crunchy or fresh. But, then again, it's not microwaved burritos.
So there's some nutritional value, yes?
^^^ = Three chips Oh, come on! So a few of the chips are
a little limp and the salsa's been sitting in a bowl in the hot
kitchen. It's still peach salsa, man!
^^ = Two chips It physically resembles chips and salsa, but
it ain't quite it. Don't feel bad if you miss hearing this.
^ = One chip It seems to resemble a foodstuff, but who knows
what it is anymore? If you must, crane your neck briefly to take
notice of this, as you would a car wreck on the highway.
No chips It's actually a microwaved beef and bean burrito
with that nasty "green chile sauce" that actually seems to have
been made from tree bark moistened in tomato juice. Eeww. You're
not going to eat that, are you?
Porcupine Tree was a project that
began as a further permutation of the work of lead guitarist Steven
Wilson. At one point in time you could fairly state its' existence
in terms of an SAT analogy like so: Steven Wilson: Porcupine Tree:
Robert Fripp: King Crimson. Eventually, P-Tree grew from an inside
joke in 1987, to a recording entity, then to a full-blown band by
1993. That first band line-up (Wilson on guitars and vocals (and
as basic mastermind), with former Japan keyboardist Richard Barbieri,
and the rhythm section of Colin Edwin on bass and Chris Maitland
on drums) was to last until three years ago. At that time, Wilson
had begun working with progressive Swedish death-metal band Opeth
on the first of three collaborations as a co-producer. During this
time, Wilson helped re-shape the band's sound, helping them to bring
a more subtle and lyrical approach to their music. It was as if
Brian Eno had enthusiastically begun to produce Slayer. It also
seemed like Brian Eno had taken up jamming with Slayer, as a death
metal aesthetic of sorts had begun to enter his Porcupine Tree work.
Though Wilson and company seemed to come
from a definitively less commercial wing of progressive rock when
they first emerged (think Hawkwind, Gong or the Orb), they (in my
mind at least) now share a pseudo-commercial niche comparable with
Rush. That is, the band is now full of veterans of the scene, mature
musicians with nothing in particular to prove, and displaying willingness
to rock out without a hint of self-consciousness. It should be noted,
however, that Steven Wilson and his band rightfully eschew labels
like "prog-rock." It's merely convenient cultural shorthand for
we critic types, like calling William Hung "pop music" or Ashton
Kutcher "an actor."
They seem to now travel with enough "street-cred"
among that same prog fan base to get people talking in those relatively
small circles. Whether said fan base will gladly make the jump to
this most accessible of their incarnations is another matter There
are those who would question the aesthetic necessity of such a clash
of rock styles, death metal and prog rock. Thankfully, though, there
are those of us who can just appreciate good rock.
Wilson's latest P-Tree line-up has Gavin
Harrison replacing Maitland on drums (since 2002's "In Absentia,"
the tree's major label debut), making the rhythm section an incredibly
tight machine. Listen to the rhythmic muscle and variations that
Harrison brings to the whirlwind changes of "Deadwing" the title
track from the Tree's second major label release (^^^^, Lava). Harrison's
drumming style brings inevitable comparisons to Neil Peart, but
he attacks this material with an energy and enthusiasm that the
Rush drummer has not managed in a while. Lyrically on Deadwing,
Wilson explores somewhat familiar, (if no less urgent) thematic
territory. That territory would be religion and spiritual and personal
disconnection. Right on the cover we see a grasp for religious imagery:
the shadow of an angel with ragged wings barely visible and folded
contemplating a sunrise. Wilson here is concerned with the ownership
of the collective human soul.
For those who find such things pretentious,
however, let me frustrate your potential dislike for such a project
to tell you that the music making is weighed down not at all with
pretension. On "Lazarus," Wilson contemplates the passage to the
afterlife in a song which is as poppy and beautiful as any Coldplay
you might have heard (certainly that was the thought overseas, where
"Lazarus" has been the album's first single).
The single for American radio has been "Shallow,"
a little screed about anger and emotional distance, but not without
an appropriate sense of irony. As Wilson sneers: "Though millions
pain me/ it's easier to talk to my PC…" The tune is also, in its'
own rocking way, one of the most accessible joints on the new album.
If you're new to the tree, it's a rocking little welcome mat. "Halo"
continues the religious imagery, as Wilson vents at petty, narrow
minded motivations of attempts to define any conceivable almighty
ala John Lennon's "God" ("God is passion/ God is fame/ God gives
meaning/ God gives pain/ You know you're right like me/ With God
in a hole, you're a righteous soul…I'm not the same as you/ 'cause
I've seen the light/ And I'm gainin' height now…Hangin' a halo round
me…"). Wilson's lyrics, on the whole, are urgently post-romantic
plaintive poetry about dreams, romance, self-sacrifice and mortality.
So, you know, light poppy stuff…
The leavening of this lyrically heavy album,
what really makes this dough rise is Wilson and company's musicianship;
the unforgivably tight rhythm section, of Harrison and Edwin), blazing
guitar solos (Wilson) and the ability to craft hypnotically fascinating
ambient keyboard soundscapes (Barbieri). For his part, Wilson continues
with his many side projects (including "Continuum", a sub-project
of his Bass Communion solo efforts, with a just released album collaboration
with ambient musician Vidna Obmana; touring with Blackfield, his
collaboration with Israeli pop-star Aviv Geffen; mixing the new
album from John Wesley (second guitar of the Tree's touring lineup).
P-Tree themselves hit these shores on tour later
in this month of May, hitting a scheduled date in Washington DC
first, then coming to Boston, New York and Philadelphia later in
May. For more information on Porcupine Tree you can go to porcupinetree.com
Hey! Also keep your ears peeled for the
Raveonettes' new one, "Pretty in Black." And Beck's "Guero." Both
are sounding pretty good so far.
Listen to CALL IT THING on the Friday
Gothic Blimp Works, Fridays from midnight to 3am on U-H Radio! It's
your weekly load of guff!
THE WINNERS OF THE 2005 WWUH FILM
By Kevin O'Toole
So, once again, greater Hartford participated
in staggering numbers, in the great opinion experiment that was
the 2005 WWUHFfies, the Culture Dogs' yearly alternative awards
show! (Of course, you should keep in mind that I am often staggered
by numbers lower than twenty. But still… WHEW!) Here's the rundown
(not to be confused with the movie of the same name) of the big
winners: Fahrenheit 9/11 One of the least impressive things about
this year's Oscars was its' complete ignorance of Michael Moore's
most timely and important (and successful) documentary, due to the
Academy's arcane rules.
Moore's film won our BEST OF THE 2005 ISLAND
OF MISFIT FILMS (whose nominees were unjustly locked out of Oscar
and Globe nominations), THE BUMMER AWARD (for the fact that it was
a "big splash in theaters, but not big enough to get W out.") and
our FAVORITE NON-MUSIC DOCUMENTARY award.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
While Charlie Kaufman's excellent script scored Oscar for best original
screenplay, this film lost in all its' other categories for Globe
or Oscar. It wasn't even nominated for the Oscar's Best Picture
award, so, naturally, we had to rectify that omission. This classic
little story of romance, the persistence of memory and modern scientific
hubris won our BEST PICTURE AWARD, as well as THE DIRECTOR THE OSCARS
WILL REGRET OMITTING SOMEDAY AWARD for Michel Gondry, and BEST ACTOR
THE "BIG AWARDS" MISSED for Jim Carrey (who lost his Globes shot
to the steam train that was Jamie Foxx in Ray). Jim Carrey, incidentally,
also "won" for WORST HAIRDO for his Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket's
A Series of Unfortunate Events. Ray likewise won two awards. On
the plus side it won BEST MUSICAL OR MUSIC THEMED FILM (and deservedly
so). On the minus side, it won WORST AUDIENCE (for the "people commenting
on readily apparent things in the film which the late Ray Charles
would not have needed explained to him.").
Our BEST ACTRESS THE "BIG AWARDS" MISSED
was Uma Thurman, winning for "Kill Bill Volume 2," after her close
defeat to Lucy Liu for "Kill Bill Volume 1" in last year's WWUHFfies.
Our BEST ENSEMBLE CAST was the much-appreciated Garden State with
Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm and Method
Man. Sure makes up for "Soul Plane" and "My Baby's Daddy." And let's
toast Sideways for its' win for BEST COMEDY OR WRESTLING FILM. And,
brother, there will be some grappling if you ask Paul Giamatti to
drink any ***king merlot…
Bubba Ho-Tep won our ZÉ DO CAIXĂO
HORROR FILM OF THE YEAR AWARD, acknowledging the work of Bruce Campbell
(as Elvis) and the late great Ossie Davis (as JFK) as soul-sucking
mummy fighters in a Texas rest home. Spider-Man 2 was the BEST FILM
ADAPTED FROM A COMIC BOOK OR GRAPHIC NOVEL. The only serious competition
last year was "Hellboy." You knew "Catwoman" wasn't going to win,
didn't you? We had a tie in our BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY category
between Festival Express (the hippies) and Metallica: Some Kind
of Monster (the headbangers). It's like Woodstock 1999 all over
again, only no Pepsi and less property damage.
A Very Long Engagement won handily
in our BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM (EUROPEAN) THAT OPENED IN CONNECTICUT
category, proving that Audrey Tatou and Jean-Pierre Jeunet still
got it. Hero won for BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM (ASIAN (NON-BOLLYWOOD/
JAPAN)) THAT OPENED IN CONNECTICUT, after being looked over for
Oscar two years ago, and languishing in Miramax limbo for two years.
Boy. I wonder if they're now going to burn through the many other
Asian films they've been sitting on at Miramax now that Harvey and
Bob Weinstein are leaving… Jonathan Demme's version of The Manchurian
Candidate beat all comers for our BEST REMAKE award. The
Bourne Supremacy did likewise for our BEST SEQUEL OR PREQUEL
award. Jennifer Saunders won BEST SONG PERFORMANCE IN A FILM singing
"Holding Out for a Hero" in Shrek 2. It was a tie between Anaahat
(period drama from Amol Palekar) and Swades (from Ashutosh Gowariker
(Lagaan)) for COOLEST BOLLYWOOD ARRIVAL OF THE YEAR this year In
a carry-over from last year (due to local release peculiarities),
Shaolin Soccer won our MOST OVERLOOKED award (it, of course, won
last year's SHAOLIN SOCCER JUST KICKS TOO MUCH ASS AWARD). Pixar
is invincible. It won our 2005 ANIMATED FEATURE AWARD, too for The
Incredibles. Hideo Nikata wins back some prestige after this year's
disappointing "The Ring Two," with his classic Dark Water winning
our "WHAT? IT NEVER CAME OUT THEATRICALLY IN HARTFORD? WHY I OUGHTTA…!"
AWARD for 2005.
Big ups to Jersey! Kevin Smith (who we talked
to last fall on Culture Dogs) directed Jersey Girl, which
became this year's BEN AFFLECK FILM THAT STUNK LEAST. Andrew Lloyd
Webber's The Phantom of the Opera was the LEAST PLEASANT
SURPRISE of last year. No surprise there… The horrific Closer
won our MOST DEPRESSING FILM OF THE YEAR or THE HIDE THE RAZOR BLADES
AWARD. This award could honestly go to a good movie or a bad one.
This time, it's a bad one. As we move down to the bottom of the
list and the barrel, we find that there was actually a FOUR WAY
TIE for our WORST SEQUEL OR PREQUEL award, between Alien Vs.
Predator, Blade: Trinity, The Chronicles of Riddick and
The Same River Twice. The latter was a true puzzle, because
I didn't think enough people had seen the naked hippie movie. My
apologies to Real Art Ways for that last one, which was a documentary
sequel. The big losers at the WWUHFfies this year were two-time
losers: Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ won our MOST
DISTURBING ARRIVAL OF PARENTS AT A SCREENING WITH VERY YOUNG CHILDREN
IN TOW and MOST OVERRATED awards. He's probably crying all the way
to the bank. Fortunately, Frank Oz's awful The Stepford Wives hasn't
made nearly as much, and is now dishonored with our awards for WORST
COMEDY OR WRESTLING FILM and WORST REMAKE. Hopefully he can get
hopping with Yoda again this year. Of course, these results may
change once we recount Florida and Ohio…
Make sure and listen to Culture Dogs every
Sunday night, your weekly video and movie news and review program
from eight to nine on UH Radio for the latest on what's playing!
Oh, and Sam Hatch will also keep you abreast of the latest on video!
See you on the radio!
Copyright © WWUH: May/June Program