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A Head Full Of Peach Salsa
with Moondog!

May/June 2005

RATING MUSIC AS CHIPS AND SALSA- a code key:
^^^^^ = Five chips Fresh crunchy chips for homemade peach salsa with the freshest ingredients. Mmm-MM!
^^^^ = 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 and/or deadwing.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!

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THE WINNERS OF THE 2005 WWUH FILM AWARDS
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 Guide, 2005

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