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Retarded picks for best albums of 2016

Posted: December 31, 2016 by The Social Retard in Music

Wow. Has it been a while since any posts have been made on here, huh? This year was rough for music when it comes to our fallen heroes. We lost David Bowie, Sharon Jones, and Prince, for Pete’s sake. But we soldier on and praise those still capable of making us smile with their talent. That said here our my top 25 albums of 2016, complete with handy dandy videos for your convenience.

25. Russian Circles – Guidance (Sargent House)

Starting this list off with some local flavor. These guys have been making elite post-metal for some time and this is yet another solid entry in their catalog.

24. Charles Bradley – Changes (Daptone)

I first heard Mr. Bradley in Luke Cage and found out that he shared a label with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. He’s a lot different in his singing style but very effective.

23. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista)

I was not nearly as enamored with this album as most critics were. It was the best Iggy solo album in quite some time, so it had that going for it. There were definitely some great songs, however.

22. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Third World Pyramid (‘a’)

When Lollapalooza came back in 2005, I was foolish and passed up on seeing the band that I thought had the coolest name. This record is a bit under the radar and can be a bit wearying at times, but definitely worth your time.

21. Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (Blackened)

This is a record that definitely benefitted from a second listen. This is definitely the best thing these guys have put out in 25 years. Faint praise, I guess.

20. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky (Merge)

Since good ol’ Bob signed on with Merge, he has done the most exciting work in his solo career. This is the least amazing of the bunch but that is saying something.

19. Pixies – Head Carrier (Pixiesmusic)

After their reunion album, the fact that this is as good as it turned out is an astonishing acheivement.

18. S U R V I V E – RR7349 (Relapse)

My obsession with Stranger Things didn’t stop with the show itself, oh no. The guys behind the soundtrack also gave us this.

17. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years (Sinderlyn)

These guys just don’t make bad records. They soften their hard edges but the songs are still damned solid.

16. The Joy Formidable – Hitch (Caroline)

Coming off of a bit of a misstep with their last album, the band appears to be a force once again.

15. Beyoncé – Lemonade (Parkwood)

Full disclosure: I still haven’t gotten around to watch the HBO movie or special or whatever on this. I’ll get to it eventually. Even without that, though, this is the best thing Bey has done since Sasha Fierce.

14. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow (Relapse)

The second entry from Relapse Records is some shoegaze metal. My lists tend to be littered with My Bloody Valentine-type things but this one balances the pretty and brutal.

13. DIIV – Is the Is Are (Captured Tracks)

Speaking of pretty shoegaze, this is the only one on the list. This is the band’s sophomore effort and it is even more ambitious than their debut. Hopefully, the drug problems are a thing of the past because I want to hear these guys for a long time to come.

12. Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar)

Just when it seems like J. Mascis and company have run their course together, they give us a rejuvenated effort on par or better than their first two reunion albums. They have never sounded better, honestly.

11. Savages – Adore Life (Matador)

In a little bit of a down year for Matador Records, they give us this minimalist post-punk gem. Adore Life is even more enjoyable than their first album. If Patti Smith (not Patty Smyth) was in Sleater-Kinney, this is what it would sound like.

10. Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream (Memphis Industries)

I first became aware of Bonar from her side project, Gramma’s Boyfriend. Their last album, PERM, was my very favorite thing from last year. Now, this is not quite as good but still excellent.

9. Mind Spiders – Prosthesis (Dirtnap)

Another entry from another band that is incapable of making a less than stellar effort. Despite their status as a “side project”, I dig them much more than the “main band”, the Marked Men. They are likely the closest that we’re going to get to Jay Reatard again.

8. Psychic Teens – Nerve (SRA)

Not to be confused with Psychic Twins (that happened to me a lot with this), these guys feel as though they are transmitting from the beyond. This was probably the most pleasant surprise of the year and a I badly now need to go through their discography.

7. Honeyblood – Babes Never Day (FatCat)

Admittedly, I took this one from the list of Chicago music critic Jim DeRogatis. I had never heard of them but DeRo was right, as he is more often than not. More straightforward punk and less stark than Savages, with a bubblegum twist.

6. The Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum (Jagjaguwar)

Despite so many entries from Jagjaguwar (with one to go), that was not intentional. These guys are the first band I knew of from that label and this record is a step back in the right direction. This is my preferred band to accompany hallucinogenic drug-taking. Just say “yes”, kids. You’ll be fine.

 5. Preoccupations – Preoccupations (Jagjaguwar)

Not sure what the effect of changing their name from Viet Cong was but it seems to be serving them well.

 4. Dark Blue – Start of the World (12XU)

Somehow, John Sharkey is making better records than he did with Clockcleaner or Puerto Rico Flowers. Those were all fantastic so, needless to say, so is this.

 3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd.)

An album that is as sorrowful as David Bowie’s farewell, Blackstar, but (I really am sorry) far more listenable. Cave will break your heart in these songs but you’ll beg him to do it over and over again.

 2. Kristin Kontrol – X-Communicate (Sub Pop)

The Dum Dum Girls are no second rate act but this side project eclipses all of their work. Not the most innovative but the most irresistible pop record of the year.

 1. Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)

This woman just never ceases to amaze me. She continues to evolve and up her game. It’s scary to think that she may not have reached the peak of her powers yet. Just a phenomenal talent. She even directs her own music videos, which are tremendous.

There you have it. Hopefully, I have helped you find your new favorite artist in here somewhere (no matter what you’re into). That’s what I’m here for, folks, to spread the love.

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I don’t want to be an angel (in German)

Posted: July 2, 2016 by The Social Retard in Music, Uncategorized
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Rammstein might not be a top five or ten fave band of all-time, maybe not even top 50. Four years later, though, I still consider this show a top 1o all-time show.
Rammstein - Made In Germany Tour
Rammstein at the United Center BlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstar (5/5/12)
Let me start by apologizing for the lack of pictures. I had camera issues. It is especially regretful due to the fact that this show assaulted all senses. I’ll do my best to paint a picture (with words). The stage itself was a mixture of steampunk and Joss Whedon’s Firefly. It was very, well, industrial looking – which makes sense. There was also a smaller platform in the middle of the stage where the band congregated while awaiting a walkway to lower from the ceiling. Once the walkway had fully descended, bassist Ollie Riedel (while carrying a torch) began the procession, leading each Rammstein member one by one toward the main stage, mimicking men entering battle. One carrying a Rammstein flag, another carrying an Illinois flag (didn’t know there was such a thing). With all of what would follow, this is quite apropos. Upon reaching the stage, Riedel lights a fire pit on each side. This is only the beginning of the pyrotechnics display, and a relatively tame beginning at that.

As this the “Made In Germany: 1995-2011” career retrospective tour, the setlist selections were stellar. The band launches into “Sonne,” from the amazing Mutter album. Six of the songs performed came from that record which was certainly pleasing. Each song had not only its own unique pyro, lighting, smoke, and explosive cues, but effects. No particular effect was used twice, at least not in the same place. There were moveable flame rigs, fans, and lights.

As a friend remarked, “If this was the toned down American show, what do they do in Europe?”. My guess would be actually set the band on fire. They came damn closed to doing it all night. It was obviously well choreographed and then it hit me. This isn’t just some metal concert. This is theater and these Germans suffer for their art. Frontman Till Lindemann and keyboardist Christian Lorenz carry a great deal of the load when it comes to the dramatic elements. Lorenz, for most of the night, wore a sparkly, silver sequined jumpsuit and walked on a treadmill behind the keyboards. He came down during “Mein Teil,” in a large smoking pot, playing his keyboard while sitting inside. He was greeted by a bloody butcher-looking Lindemann and a little friend – a freaking flamethrower!

Lindemann himself hardly gets off scot-free. Toward the end of “Wollte Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen”, flames shot up through stage surrounding him. Sparks rain down heavy on him and he dodges several explosions and handles many large pieces of fire shooting apparatus. As if the sheer volume of the music weren’t enough, explosions went off periodically through the night. None of the senses went unscathed. Ears and eyes already stinging, you could feel the often towering infernos on your face, smelling and tasting the burning chemicals. It was glorious olfactory overload. Flaming mic stands, raining sparks, face rigs shooting flames, and finally a rocket launcher toward the end of “Du Hast,”. “Haifisch,” finished up round 1 at the main stage.

Lead guitarist Richard Kruspe manned a keyboard on the platform that the band made their entrance from. The rest of the band crossed the once again lowered bridge from the main stage in S&M gear complete with gags. They were being whipped by drummer Christoph Schneider. They all piled onto this smaller platform for raucous performances of “Bück Dich” and “Mann Gegan Mann,”. The crowd got into the pyro act a bit as the lighters came out during “Ohne Dich,”.

After a brief reprieve, Rammstein returned to the stage and roared through “Mein Herz Brennt,”. That was followed up by the red, white, and blue confetti decorated “Amerika,”. Another short break followed and then the band was back out for one more round. Lindemann emerges from below the drum kit wearing large, retractable metal angel wings that, guess what? Shoot fire and sparks! The result is a truly memorable rendition of “Engel,”.

I can honestly say that I have never seen anything quite like this and may never again. But I’m sure as heck going to try. An all-time great show. I, and the Allstate Arena, will never be the same.

Setlist:
Sonne
Wollte Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen
Keine Lust
Sehnsucht
Asche Zu Asche
Feuer Frei!
Mutter
Mein Teil
Links 234
Du Hast
Haifisch
Bück Dich
Mann Gegan Mann
Ohne Dich

First Encore:
Mein Herz Brennt
Amerika

Second Encore:
Ich Will
Engel
Pussy

Slowly fading all away, but still Reatarded

Posted: July 2, 2016 by The Social Retard in Movies, Music
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Even though this was written a year before, consider it an addendum to the earlier post about Jay Reatard. This is my review of the documentary of the aforementioned prolific artist.

Jay

Better Than Something BlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstar1/2 (4/12/12)

A raucous performance (as if there was any other kind) of “Oh It’s Such A Shame,” by Jay Reatard and band in France opens Better Than Something with a bang. This is followed by excerpts and remembrances from the 2010 South By Southwest tribute show. The format of the documentary is a bit off putting as footage of Jay in 2009 is juxtaposed with comments from fellow musicians and friends recorded less than a year later, after his death. There’s also plenty of archival footage of performances with the Lost Sounds, Angry Angles, and the Reatards. While Jay obviously didn’t enjoy doing press, the footage of him at his home show the notorious perfectionist and cantankerous personality in a relaxed and affable light. He oozes enthusiasm whether talking about record collecting or even recalling a horrific childhood tale that inspired the Lost Sounds’ “1620 Echols St.”.

Though mostly reflective, Jay makes his views of music and the lifestyle a career music demands. He speaks candidly about his self-destructive impulses, needing to “destroy my whole life just to build it back up”. Particularly amusing is Jay’s constant music evolution as a means to avoid complacency. He compares punk rock to wrestling and his embarrassment that he was nearly thirty and still referred to as a Reatard. He didn’t want to end up like 1980’s pro wrestlers Jake “The Snake” Roberts* or Koko B. Ware ending up “smoking crack in a Ramada”.

There are plenty of interesting tidbits revealed in the doc. He had planned to one day release a country album under his real name. Jay was buried next to Isaac Hayes, thereby making that cemetery the coolest ever. He made music because he was “afraid of everything else”.

This isn’t The Decline Of Western Civilization. It’s not a cautionary tale. It’s not Sid & Nancy, a glamorization of punk lifestyle and drugs. Better Than Something is a unique celebration of this prolific and truly gifted artist. What makes this film special is the rare opportunity to chronicle an emerging punk rock artist on his ride to stardom only for him to fall and never live to see his legendary potential. We see him at the beginning of his creative apex in almost real time. Then again, each subsequent Jay Reatard release sounded more and more special; it’s hard to argue that there wasn’t even more amazing music to come. Filmmakers Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz were certainly in right place at the right time. And while we can all agree that we wish the narrative had different ending, they did a great job of adjusting to the circumstances. They documented Jay Reatard’s music as his music documented his life.

*=2016 footnote: You should also check out the Jake “the Snake” documentary: The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.

The unlimited potential that is Angel Olsen

Posted: July 2, 2016 by The Social Retard in Music, Uncategorized
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So, listen. I had been writing for a website on and off for five years for little to no compensation. I just received word that they are ceasing to be and I don’t wish to see all of my writings disappear. Therefore, I will be dispersing the pieces all willy nilly across WordPress. The first entry is a series of reviews I have written about indie singer-songwriter Angel Olsen.

Strange Cacti EP BlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstar (4/7/11)

Strange Cacti opens like the beginning of a dream. Local folk artist Angel Olsen‘s voice joins the harp-like finger-picking and it is haunting and arresting. It pierces the din of the reverb-heavy recording with captivating precision. Her heart is clearly on her sleeve and slipping down to the floor. With each track, we are allowed a glimpse into a world of heartbreak and honesty, confessions from a journal set to music and shared with whoever dares to hear them. Each song is stripped down to the barest essentials: a woman, her guitar, and her soul. Her voice quivers on occasion, succumbing to the emotion and showing her vulnerability. The first five songs tell the tale of a woman wronged but with the closer, “Creator, Destroyer”, at last imbues our protagonist with the strength to seek answers for why she was so easily cast aside and confess her hurt to the one responsible. Anyone that has ever been dealt betrayal at the cold hand of a loved one will find a part of themselves in this EP that maybe they aren’t so eager to revisit. Olsen has captured that uncomfortable feeling beautifully in wax and it sends shivers down the listener’s spine. Allow yourself to get lost in the moment and marvel at Olsen’s craftsmanship.

Half Way Home BlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstar1/2 (8/8/12)

Coming off of her phenomenal debut EP, Strange Cacti, Angel Olsen’s first LP has some lofty expectations to live up to. The album, titled Half Way Home, is a far more diverse effort than the EP, which is to be expected when extending out to a full-length. If the record is any indication of the woman, Olsen is an old soul. At the very least, her songs are informed from an era long before her time. A track that has been circulation on the web a while is “The Waiting”, a reasonable request for some effort from the other half of the relationship, all the while realizing that could be the proverbial long wait for a train that never comes. Sometimes a lady needs to be wooed a bit and for the man “to be the one to call”. “Lonely Universe” is a poignant seven-plus minute cautionary tale of how one’s existence can be full of regret when they don’t make the first step toward going after what/who they want, to not just dream but visualize and achieve.

Another familiar track, “Always Half Strange”, keeps its original simple but effective approach with Olsen’s trademark yodel in full throat. “You Are Song” keeps things stripped down and lovely. “Miranda Rights Revisited” is a country parable with storytelling reminiscent of Johnny Cash, a tale of love versus duty and Olsen’s voice lends the conflict its proper gravitas. As a counter-point to the rest of her work thus far, “Free” is the album’s most soaring and wonderful declaration of, and belief in, love. Olsen’s strength has generally been keeping things uncomplicated in arrangement, creating the necessary intimacy needed for the listener to focus on every somber syllable. But with “Free” and its sixties pop arrangement, she actually heightens the emotional tether and reaches a goosebump-inducing fever pitch. To put a final eclectic stamp on the album, Half Way Home closes with an R&B ballad, “Tiniest Seed”, complete with Cropper-esque guitars. With this debut album, Angel Olsen cements a reputation as a skilled and soulful siren with heartstring-tugging songs.

Live at Lincoln Hall BlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstar (8/16/13)

Angel Olsen is magic. Her performances are spellbinding and her onstage banter is bewitching, if not awkward and entirely preoccupied with Twix. Having spent the last few years in Chicago, Olsen has gained popularity swiftly. This year, she scored a coveted slot at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Alas, her time in the Windy City is coming to a close as she embarks on the next stage of her rapidly ascending career.

The first stop on her current tour was essentially her farewell to the city at Lincoln Hall. As she and her band took stage, you could tell that she was amongst friends in the intimate setting of the extremely clear sounding venue. The set began with, perhaps, the best track off of her one and only LP, last year’s Half Way Home. “Free” is just one example of how she has grown as a songwriter since her absolute heartbreaker of a debut EP, Strange Cacti. Those releases, from Bathetic Records, are vastly different. The EP is extremely spartan as the performances contain nothing more than Olsen’s voice and finger-picked guitar played in what sounded like an abandoned church. The LP explored some blues aspects and had a much improved fidelity.

In addition to her charmingly uncomfortable anecdotes about Neil Young’s On the Beach and a couple in the park “devouring tacos”, she is an adept storyteller as is evidenced on “Miranda”. The concert finished up with Olsen sans backing band. Admittedly “killing time” between songs, you could tell that some people didn’t quite understand what was going on as she occasionally went into hysterics, struggling to compose herself. When she did, she gave the crowd what they wanted, “Creator, Destroyer” but had to finish with a different number because she didn’t want to go out on that note. The song itself is amazing but the tone of it being the finale would have severely undercut the overall performance.

The show consisted largely of new songs that have been recorded and due to be released on Jagjaguwar, to whom she has recently signed, as well as the A-side to her most rocking release to date, “Sleepwalker”. The earlier songs were sad and sometimes angry whereas there is an immense effulgence to the new batch. Her talent knows no limits and no genre can contain her. The one thing in common with all of her songs is that her heart stays adorned on her sleeve with a Twix hanging out of the jacket pocket. Olsen may have outgrown our fair city but she is certainly welcome back whenever she likes.

Burn Your Fire for No Witness BlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstar (1/28/14)

After writing three complementary reviews, superlatives about songstress Angel Olsen are running short. Not that they aren’t deserving but the constant gushing about how talented Olsen is probably doesn’t come across as terribly interesting. Well, sorry, but she’s done it again. With already a stunning EP and outstanding full-length to her credit, Olsen manages to outdo herself. With her first release, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, on new label Jagjaguwar, Olsen serves up her most diverse work to-date.

Familiar folk territory is where Olsen has made her bones and is still a big part of the record. But it’s the translation of her folk sensibilities to a more rock milieu that prove to be even more remarkable.”Forgiven/Forgotten” is elevated garage rock tinged with sweetness. “Stars” packs a pair of powerful crescendos where her band swells and Olsen sings in self-harmony. The first peak at the 1:12 mark is goosebump-inducing.

Not that Olsen has suddenly become a garage punk. The softer side rears its beautiful head all over the album. Tracks like the evocative “White Fire” and “Unfucktheworld” carry the acoustic torch. “Lights Out” and “Dance Slow Decades” are empirically entrancing tracks that remind favorably of Marianne Faithfull. Remember the goosebumps from earlier? They recur at the first hint of Olsen’s voice on the record’s denouement, “Windows”. A more gorgeous song simply doesn’t exist. The music puts a figurative spotlight on its creator. Her voice comes across gentle and yet powerful, a beam of luminescence that answers the track’s pressing question, “What so wrong with the light?”. Not a damned thing.

There it is, the first entry. Hope you enjoyed.

Turds hiding in my Fruit Loops: Cluttering my collection

Posted: March 20, 2015 by The Social Retard in Uncategorized

Thank you, G, for the idea for posting about the terrible anomalies in one’s record collection. Thankfully, strictly where vinyl is concerned, I didn’t start collecting until I was 18. Even then, my collection consisted of a Def Leppard 7″ and the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed LP. Both have since been lost in a flood. It wasn’t until my friend and I started an online record store over eight years ago that my collection began in earnest. So, being as my tastes were (more or less) fully developed, I don’t have much that I’m ashamed of. That being said, here are a few questionable pieces.

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Def Leppard – Make Love Like a Man b/w Miss You in a Heartbeat, bought 12/20/10 for $3. Over four years ago, but I can’t really defend this. No matter where you fall on Def Leppard as a band, one thing is certain. This song is just fucking terrible. I wrote a lengthy piece about just how terrible a while back. My only rationale for buying it has to be that I was collecting Lep b-sides, trying to get as much of their catalog as possible. “Miss You in a Heartbeat” is just not a good enough song to justify owning the awfulness that is “Make Love Like a Man”.

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Europe – The Final Countdown b/w On Broken Wings, bought in 2009 as part of a 3 7″ for a dollar special. Why do I have this? Beside the sale that also netted me Run DMC’s rendition of “Ghostbusters” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” (which could also be on here but won’t be because…Rocky III, that’s why! Also, this fucking guy.

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The Firm – The Firm, bought 2010 for $5. Wow, was this someone else? That I paid actual money for this is unbelievable. That I paid more than a penny is unthinkable. Five dollars!?! That is unfathomable. But it happened and I have no excuse. Here’s the thing. I don’t own any Led Zeppelin records. None. Why? Because I have heard every song to death that I don’t need to own any. Their etched in my brain so deeply that when Alzheimer’s has robbed me of the recognition of all I hold dear, I will still remember the lyrics to “D’yer Mak’er”. All of this is why I have zero idea as to what could have possessed me to hand over cash for a different Jimmy Page band with Paul Rodgers singing. Hadn’t I heard Coverdale/Page? Fuck me.

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Elf – Trying to Burn the Sun, bought 6/10/10 for $5. See that label in the corner? This is how buyer’s remorse begins. Ronnie James Dio might be the greatest singer in the history of heavy metal. His contributions to Black Sabbath and Rainbow are astounding. Even his namesake band, Dio, had some gems. Elf is what Dio was doing before Rainbow. Still a great singer but singing generic blues rock. This one hurts.

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Digital Underground – The Humpty Dance, bought 7/6/10 for unknown price. You know what? I don’t need to explain this one at all.

When great bands write stupid songs: Make Love Like a Man

Posted: June 26, 2014 by The Social Retard in Music
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R-2867671-1304776599I have mentioned here before of my love of Def Leppard. I may have moved on,  mostly, from hair bands and cock rock but this band has given me a lot of great memories. That being said, what the fuck is this song?

I am secure in my sexuality but back in 1992 (and now), this made me question singer Joe Elliott’s. The very first lines of this song also comprise the chorus. It goes as follows:

“Make love like a man/I’m a man/That’s what I am”

This is like Popeye trying to get Bluto to fuck him. “Make love like a man. I’m a man and that’s all that I am. I’m Popeye the butt pirate man”. I don’t actually care if this is some gay declaration but for a band that wanted everyone to believe they were a pack of pussy hounds, this certainly sodded that right up.

“All you girls ’round the world /Lookin’ for a guy who’s a real go-getter”

What? OK, yes, women tend to find successful men more attractive. This is a solid premise.

“Every guy grab a girl/Love her like a man, make her feel a lot better”

Not sure if this is misogynistic or weird role play. Am I to love her as if she were a man? Because that could get awkward.

“Don’t call me Gigolo/Don’t call me Casanova
Just call me on the phone/And baby come on over”

This reminds me of the 1989 movie, Loverboy, starring Patrick Dempsey. McQueesy is, at this point, a scrawny kid who is a pizza boy that somehow sexes up every cougar in town except his own mother.

Loverboy_Film_Poster_1989

This is a terrible movie but one of those that I have improbably seen hundreds of time because of its early 90’s frequency on cable. If this is what the song is based on, I almost have to forgive it. It’s like they were trying to squeeze a lump of coal into a diamond only to realize they were squeezing hardened dog shit. No diamonds in there.

We soon get to the full-fledged chorus:

“Make love like a man/I’m a man/That’s what I am, yeah
Make love like a man/Your kinda man/That’s what I am”

Maybe he isn’t asking his man for love. Maybe he’s only just realized that he himself is a man, and now he’s all excited. So, Elliott is going to make love like “your” kinda man because he doesn’t have his own style. He’s just going to plop himself down and wait for instructions. “Casanova”, I think not.

“Every day, every night/Take her little heart ’til it beats like a hammer
Do it good, do it right/Crazy little girl gonna stutter ‘n’ stammer”

Classy now he’s looking for a girl with a cardiopulmonary condition and a speech impediment. He definitely knows what he likes. Is he lowering his standards so this girl will be extra appreciative and not particularly discerning?

Then comes a bridge that seems shoe-horned in like a left-over or outtake that they could never figure out what to do with:

“Gimme some rock ‘n’ roll/Little bit of rock ‘n’ roll
It’s gotta be rock ‘n’ roll/Little bit of rock ‘n’ roll”

What in the hell does this have to do with anything? You guys are a rock ‘n’ roll fucking band! Make it yourself.

“A little bit of love goes a long, long way/Gotta get it on if you really wanna get her
Never ever wait it’s a little to late/Love her like a man, make her feel a lot better”

Angina Lispnagle also needs to overlook a tiny dick. But, quick, stick it in her before she knows what hit her. Which isn’t much.

The song mercifully comes to a close amid a multi-tracked chorus hodgepodge reinforcing the general mission statement of the song Read into it what you will. I don’t understand it. But we are left with these isolated words of wisdom:

“You love her like a man/She’s gonna feel a lot better”

Wait for it…

“And that’s a fact”

Followed immediately with a bent mini riff that sounds like a boner popping up.

For all of the pomp and shine on Def Leppard’s discography, I never felt totally devolved listening to their music until this song. I was 13 when this came out and I knew it was shit then. Here’s the sad part. I own this 7″. I bought it 12/20/10 at Remember When in Westmont for $3. If this is such a crime against music, why did I buy it? Because the b-side “Miss You in a Heartbeat” is a good song if you’re a big sap, which I am on occasion. It is the only known occurrence of the song being released on wax and a collector collects. Make purchases like a collector. I’m a collector. That’s what I am, yeah.

 

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I’m not going to front on you guys. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that, when I was 15, I knew everything there was to know about hardcore punk. I didn’t know shit. The first album from SST that I heard was the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime. Good start, for sure, but Black Flag was still just an insect repellant to me. The summer of 1994, Henry Rollins’s mug was everywhere. He may have been a punk rock pioneer but to me and my friends, he was the “Liar” guy.

That video and song were fucking awesome. I bought Weight on CD and the album version of “Liar” was even longer. There are other great moments too, like “Civilized” with its little funky interlude about guns. It’s a great album to just start yelling phrases that don’t necessarily go together. I still relate to “Disconnect” as people sicken me. It’s even more poignant now as technology has made the world so much smaller. “Liar” is still the crown jewel though. This would only be the beginning, though.

Henry showed up in the awesomely awful movie The Chase with Charlie Sheen and O.B. (Original Buffy) Kristy Swanson. I know this movie sucks but it entertains me to no end. If it was on now, I’d watch it. Not just for Henry, admittedly, as Swanson was way hot and Carlos Estevez had yet to go all Tiger Blood on us. I then started watching any movie that Rollins was in. Most of the time, this was a mistake but I blame Keanu Reeves for Johnny Mneumonic.

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Along the way, I kept buying Rollins Band CDs and they were decent. I bought his Black Flag stuff but, like most, I prefer the Keith Morris stuff. Henry’s finest musical moment is his collection of two solo EPs: Hot Animal Machine and Drive By Shooting (credited to Henrietta Collins & the Wifebeating Childhaters). Some really great tracks on those but none top the superior-to-the-original cover of Wire’s “Ex-Lion Tamer”. The original version is fine but Henry’s take is, obviously, more aggressive and it suits the song. I, sacrilegiously, like the vocals themselves better. I’m also pretty sure he screwed up the lyrics to the track’s benefit.

See, that’s another reason why Henry Rollins is so great. He’s chiefly important because he is the gateway to a lot of cool music. He was the first introduction to Bad Brains after he sang a cover of the MC5’s classic “Kick Out the Jams” with them. Shit, that was the first exposure to the MC5 too. He’s such an abashed fan that any band he became involved with or talked about was worth a listen.

When he had his talk show on IFC, that was the first time I had seen Slayer perform. I always felt wrong for listening to them because of all of the pentagram stuff. I had written them off in my mind even though I had mostly shed all that baggage by that point. They played “Cult” from their then-latest album Christ Illusion. In a serendipitous moment, this happened to be their best album in 12 years and, here, I was lucky to catch them at that time. I hadn’t seen anything such a powerful performance by any band on television.

With no new music from Henry, I still try to catch what he does. I’ve gotten a few of his books and have loved some of his spoken-word albums, especially Provoked. The last time I bought anything by him was a couple of years ago at the Chicagoland Record Show at the Hillside Holiday Inn, site of the Atomizer showdown with hipster douchebag. As soon as you walk in, there’s a vendor in the corner on the left who has a shit ton of 90’s vinyl. The 90’s bands loved vinyl but record companies didn’t, so runs were really limited. I managed to score Weight for $12. It has a little bit of a skip in it but not during “Liar”, so no big deal. Anyone know where I can find the Drive By Shooting EP on wax?

 

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Like the rest of the world, I was introduced to the Paul Thomas Anderson films through his second effort, Boogie Nights. I thought it was absolutely atrocious. What about these horrible irredeemable characters am I supposed to find fascinating or entertaining. Aside from topless Heather Graham (something I’d waited around ten years to see at that point, since License To Drive. Maybe not that long as I was only 9 when LTD came out and the concept of tits as eye magnets had not quite germinated), this movie held no intrigue.

I was 18 when Boogie was released and probably not in the proper or mature headspace to deal with the concepts introduced. I most certainly did not want to see Marky Mark’s dick either. My hatred of Mark Wahlberg stems from this movie (likely even further back to his awful music days). It also established PTA as a director I had zero interest in following. He was part of an indie filmmaker movement, following right behind the Kevin Smiths and Robert Rodriguezes of the world. I lumped him in with the Todd Solondzes (one sick little fuck) and Wes Andersons (yes, I really hate Wes Anderson) rather than the Darren Aronofskys.

Despite all the touting of Magnolia by a friend of mine, I stuck to my guns and refused to watch another PTA flick. It had Tom Cruise in it, along with that same pudgy creepy fucker from Boogie Nights. Fuck that. It just looked awful, no offense. Then again, this same friend said that she would watch the Firefly pilot if I watched The Royal Tenenbaums. She also tried to get me to watch I Heart Huckabees (from the then completely insufferable David O. Russell, more on him at another time maybe), which I actually just walked out on after 20 minutes. This was at least 7 years ago and I have no assurance that she has seen one minute of Firefly. This is a scenario where we both lose.

Do I even need to give a reason why I didn’t want to see Punch Drunk Love? I know that he of the Technicolor Shirt and Nightmare Beard loves it but he’s usually wrong, about everything.

With all this in mind, then, why did I bother to see There Will Be Blood. Other than the title, I couldn’t think of a reason initially. I have always been an admirer of those in film that are just good at their craft. I like to see them at the height of their powers. For all of his awards and acclaim, I had no real interest in the work of Daniel Day-Lewis. He made long, boring period pieces. Only Gangs Of New York really interested me and it was awesome. TWBB fell right into that oeuvre. I had been reading about his process of acting and the reviews all called this DD-L’s finest performance to-date. I threw my own misgivings out the window and gave it a shot.

What I saw was a mesmerizing achievement. Every moment carefully molded by a master craftsman. Granted, when you get the greatest acting performance in the history of film from DD-L, you’re starting from a position of strength. Add in a nearly equal effort from Paul Dano and all you really have to do is turn on the camera and sit back. That’s not what happens though. The whole world of the film is visceral, bleeding with life. The camera is every bit of a character, allowing us to bear witness to the magic. I’m not sure where TWBB falls in my all-time favorite movies list but if I were voting on best all-time films, I would be hard pressed to pick something else.

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All PTA had to do now was follow that up. Which he did, five years later, with The Master. With the weight of that enormous victory threatening to crash down on him, he managed to take the same approach with vastly different material. Every moment, every movement thoughtfully planned and executed. He once again gets the most out of his performers as Joaquin Phoenix and even the pudgy creepy fucker from Boogie Nights (who will now be referred to as the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) give the performances of their careers. The same cannot be said for Amy Adams, as she always so amazing that it’s impossible to quantify what her standout and subpar work actually look like.

I get the feeling while watching these two movies that this must have been how people watching Orson Welles movies in the 1940’s. There Will Be Blood and The Master are two perfect films when compared to others of their time, just as Citizen Kane was likely considered the greatest of its era as the least of its superlatives. Me, I think Citizen Kane is boring. But I’m also a child of the eighties and nineties. Just as I don’t expect people of two generations after me to feel that PTA’s films to be timeless. The fact is that in this time, with this technology, and this age of public awareness and accessibility. There is simply more stimuli to occupy the attention of people everywhere that a three hour epic about an oil tycoon or a cult leader aren’t on top of people’s to-do lists. In the forties, something like Citizen Kane was new and all the more majestic. Seventy years later, there’s just more competition. This is what makes these films all the more special. In an age of instant gratification, Anderson took the time to be meticulous and dare to reach perfection, uncompromising and fearless.

Talk about delayed gratification. It took 10 years for me to find the value in PTA’s work and now I don’t want a Hollywood where someone with his vision is written off by pigheaded fools like me. These movies are some of the greatest examples of how happy one can be to be wrong. I don’t think I’m mistaken about the other films but it was wrong to dismiss PTA as a filmmaker when he was only scratching the surface of his capability. When even a hack like David O. Russell can pull out a Silver Linings Playbook or The Fighter (sorry to say but American Hustle was just alright, though Amy Adams left me gobsmacked, and Flirting With Disaster is utter shite), maybe it’s fair to wonder what Todd Solondz has been up to. His last movie was 2011’s Dark Horse. The female lead is Selma Blair? Fuck that. That’s a hurdle to climb another time.

Scream for me, Long Beach!

Posted: November 6, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music
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Generally, I don’t think very much of live albums. Usually, I only buy live albums from bands that don’t regularly put out great albums. I’m looking at you, AC/DC. The simply titled AC/DC Live is freaking awesome, though. Sorry, Queen. You had three greatest hits collections but no more than two great albums. Your Live At Wembley ’86 release, however, is the greatest live album of all time. A charismatic frontman like Freddie Mercury can only be fully appreciated in a live setting.

This brings me to the exception. Iron Maiden has made no less than six classic albums, They have also put out 11 (!) live albums, at least one in between their studio albums since Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith re-joined the band. Back in 1985, before they were obsessed with recording every concert they played, they had just finished their run of five albums in five years (three with Dickinson following two with Paul Di’Anno). 1985 was the first year of the 80’s that did not see an Iron Maiden studio release. To sate fans until Somewhere In Time, the band came out with Live After Death, their first (and best) live album.

I first became aware of Iron Maiden in junior high school. I had seen one of their videos from Fear Of the Dark (I think it was “From Here To Eternity”) and thought it looked cool, but the music was ridiculous. This kid Jim that was the resident metalhead in my honors classes wore torn jeans and he had a FOtD hoodie. I remember mocking it, making high pitched screaming “Fear of the DARK!” noises, emphasizing the last word as high as my voice would allow in a fashion that in no way mimicked the song itself. Ignorant little bastard, I was. You right about them, Jim. Also, it would be remiss to not mention the time you superkicked Chris Bergstrom in the face. You didn’t even have to back up or get into position. From a standing position, you just put sneaker to fucking chin. That was the best thing I had seen in junior high.

It wasn’t until high school when I met my excellent friend Joe in the best/worst English class ever. Dude was fucking awesome. As we got to know each other, we found that we were on opposite ends of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I liked Def Leppard, he was into Maiden. We eventually got each other into our respective bands, even though I definitely got more out of that than he did.

As for the record itself, you are greeted by “Churchill’s Speech”. If you’re British, maybe that fires you up, I don’t know. Right after that, you instantly hear something you don’t hear in subsequent Maiden live albums (aside from the recently poorly transferred Maiden England): Bruce Dickinson’s voice at the height of its power. “Aces High” would never sound this good again. The band was in the midst of their creative apex, which began in 1982 and would end in 1988 with the departure of Smith’s crafty guitar, something they sorely missed with the terribly uninteresting Janick Gers. There’s a roughness to their sound here, a bit of danger.

There are plenty of classics that have been regularly part of their sets for decades like “2 Minutes To Midnight”, “The Trooper”, “Number Of the Beast”, and “Run To the Hills”. They also had the balls to play the 13 minute-long “Rime Of the Ancient Mariner”, which isn’t exactly a slow plodder. It’s not a marathon, but a long ass sprint. But it’s the criminally underrated “Revelations”, “Children Of the Damned”, and “Die With Your Boots On” that make this double record for me. “Revelations” offers the first “get your lighters out moment” with Bruce’s pretty soliloquy before the band goes back to pummeling you.

Up until today, I hadn’t owned any Iron Maiden vinyl. How, you might ask? That I have not purchased any wax by this mighty monolith? Simple, it’s fucking expensive. You can’t find any Maiden vinyl in any kind of playable condition for under $30. Today was no exception. I went to the gym and then took a bunch of books I got from publishers (that I didn’t really want to keep because they weren’t all that good) to Half Price Books in Naperville. For those, I got $35. Better than I thought, I thought. I also had a 40% off coupon for any one item. I thought about the Godfather collection on Blu-Ray that was $35. I saw the Walking Dead omnibus that was $48, down from $65. I could have gotten the additional discount on that, which would have easily been the best value.

Then, I walked over to the vinyl section. I though that I had seen a Mark Lanegan album the last time I was there. It wasn’t Bubblegum or any of his really great ones but Lanegan is Lanegan. Ss I looked along the top of the rack, I saw a trio of Iron Maiden albums. They had the debut album, Number Of the Beast, and Live After Death. The debut was $30 but that was never really into consideration. It was Bruce or bust. NOtB was only $20, while LAD was $30. This was heartbreaking since I had told myself that I would not spend a single cent over what I got from my trade-ins. I decided to go with the higher dollar item since that also meant the greater discount. It was also two discs instead of one and in better condition. I even went back over to the Blu-Ray section and grabbed the first Godfather by itself for $10. It’s, by far, my favorite in the trilogy anyway.

This isn’t over as there is still a 50% coupon for Sunday. I can only hope Number Of the Beast is still there and someone is willing to pick it up for me, as I have to work all day. Collecting would be so much easier if I didn’t have to earn the money to support it.

Rose Tint My World Already

Posted: October 31, 2013 by The Social Retard in Movies, Music
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pation. Yeah. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sometimes, you have to experience things at a certain time in your life. You’re not always ready or receptive to what something can offer. No, I’m not coming out. It was the same way with the Pixies. It took me years to like them (as silly as that seems now). I was, like most heteros, resistant to the idea of this movie because most boys tend to grow up homophobic or just act like anything that can be construed as “gay” is abhorrent in order to fit in.

My first job was at Home Run Inn Pizza. Sadly, it goes down in my personal annals (that sounds weird) as only my second worst job (lookin’ at you, Fucktarded Party Boy Outlet). I was a food runner before graduating to bus boy or, more accurately, bitch. I met a young lady who was also a food runner and she was obsessed with the movie. She went to the midnight show of it almost every weekend, often in costume. I didn’t get it. What is with this movie that inspires such weird loyalty?

It wasn’t until Halloween the following year, when Comedy Central was airing it at some absurd hour of night, that I finally gave it a chance. I tuned in at the end with “the floor show”. I had no idea what in the hell I was seeing. Did it challenge my then-narrow views of male and female archetypes? To say the least. It was a bit confusing and uncomfortable but there was something else bubbling up beneath everything else. It was fun. I was grateful, for the first time, that CC had a penchant for airing the same program back-to-back on occasion because I knew that this was something I needed to see from the beginning.

Tim Curry’s performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter was spellbinding. He had such a commanding presence. He was a grease-painted charismatic genius with a great voice. He was a singing, cross-dressing Willy Wonka. Not since Gene Wilder had I seen a performance quite like this. Amidst the nonsense of the content, Curry and Wilder are so completely immersed in their characters that nothing appears out of the ordinary. They make you buy into their whimsical worlds. Granted, it is easier to believe in a man with a large confectionery plant run by orange dwarves than omni-sexual aliens creating buff dudes while manipulating space and time.

Apart from that were the songs. Of course, the songs. From the initial ivory tickling of “Science Fiction Double Feature” to its ending reprise, the film is bursting with a strange array of rock tunes. Richard O’Brien, who plays Riff Raff and wrote the original play, sings in a nasally whisper about an assortment of B-movie themes, actors, and titles. It sets the tone for what you’re in for: the ultimate B-movie. There’s science fiction (of the double feature variety), horror (not like Rocky), gender dysphoria, and singing!

If you haven’t seen it, you either live under a rock or are very narrow-minded. Even if you are a conservative coward, the songs could still be something for you. You’ve got 50’s style rock “Hot Patootie”, awkward love songs “Dammit Janet”, and Stooges-like punk rock with “Sweet Transvestite”. Well, maybe that last one isn’t for you. “The Time Warp” is so widely accepted now that it’s played at freaking weddings, and it’s soaked in sexual innuendo. Pelvic thrust, anyone?

I have owned the movie and the soundtrack on five different formats. After watching the movie the first time, I knew that I wanted these songs. It took forever to find a store that had the CD of the soundtrack but I eventually found it at the Sam Goody at Yorktown mall. It was expensive too, $16 or $17. And this was in 1997! And the record business wonders why people started illegally downloading. Next, I needed the movie. I found that cheaper…on VHS. It’s hard to believe but, at one time, my movie collection consisted of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Jurassic Park, and Rocky Horror. Pretty stellar, huh? That was it, all on VHS. The advent of DVD happened right when I was first employed and so my frivolity began.

Naturally, I had to own Rocky Horror on DVD and did. Despite my assertion that the soundtrack was flawed due to its omissions of “Sword of Damocles” and “Planet Schmanet, Janet”, I still bought the vinyl from Music Masters in downtown Downers Grove. This place has some interesting import options in such a small store. I managed to grab RHPS, INXS’ Listen Like Thieves, and a 45 of Michael Jackson’s “Rockin’ Robin” for cheap. Quite a strange haul, but a good one. When the 35th Anniversary blu-ray came out, that was an absolute must-have. It is inconveniently too tall for any of my blu-ray towers but it is forgiven due to its everlasting fantasticality (fantasticness?). Is this too much to spend on some old ass movie? Maybe to you, but aren’t you willing to spend for something you love?

You know what? Fuck it. Why am I defending this movie? People across the globe are still watching it weekly after 38 years. That is the very definition of lasting appeal. [Strange aside: I don’t like the crowd participation experience. I don’t enjoy people standing up and shouting in the middle of a theater, during a movie I actually love watching. I prefer to watch it at home and sing along. Is that wrong?] Nobody’s going to be watching fucking Avatar that far down the line. Calling it a cult classic doesn’t even do it justice. Maybe at one time that was accurate but as the world’s opinions have diversified, Rocky Horror has become more and more mainstream. Too much so, perhaps. While I think Glee is a horrid television program, I applaud them for having an entire Rocky Horror episode. That’s millions of people who are likely being introduced to the flick for the first time. Give yourself over…One of us! One of us! Whew…let’s never talk about Tod Browning movies. Even I have my limits.