Friday, July 17, 2009

Weekly Roundup

I'm feeling a little verbose and opinionated today so that means it's time for some overdue house cleaning. I have some much awaited topics to cover along with some that nobody but me gives a damn about and I'll try to hit them all and see what I forgot later.

Leading off is my review of the "new" Spinal Tap album: Back From the Dead. As some of you may already know, it comes with some unique packaging. The case folds out into a diorama of a stage, and while this is kind of novel it presents 2 problems. First, I don't really want that taking up space on my desk, shelf, or anywhere else so it is a little pointless for me. Second, I believe that turning it into a stage leaves you without a place to store your discs, and when you leave it folded up, the discs are difficult to get in and out, particularly without scratching them or covering them with fingerprints.

As for the actual content, it features mostly 'reimagined' versions of their existing catalog and 5 new songs. Some of the retakes are better than others - (Funky) Sex Farm is amusing, but I think the world could probably have done without the reggae version of (Listen To The) Flower People. Not all of the new songs are new either, just available for the first time on CD. I downloaded Back From The Dead years ago from the short lived http://www.tapster.com/ (along with a Soundgarden cover of Big Bottom - there were some gems on that site), and I know I've heard Short and Sweet before (which for the record is neither short nor sweet). I do like Celtic Blues though, and Warmer Than Hell offers a rare bit of social commentary from Tap as they try to tackle global warming.

The real hook for me in this package though was the DVD with an hour of new material from Tap. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I found it a little flat. There were a few laughs, but the entire video consisted of them sitting on a couch discussing the album. Completely unscripted and for the most part uninspired. I had expected some live footage or music videos on the DVD too, but no luck. All in all, I'm a little down on this release, but for only $10 it's still worth it.

Next is my review of the new Dream Theater album: Black Clouds & Silver Linings. I splurged and went for the 3 disc special edition which includes a disc with instrumental version of all of the new songs and a disc featuring covers of not very well known songs. The 2 additional discs are a nice bonus but I'm going to focus on the primary disc. The new songs are new and different, but at the same time as familiar as old friends. Like their last several releases, most of the songs are quite long and self indulgent - only 2 of the 6 are under 10 minutes long. After a few listens though, I think it's their best work since 1999's epic Scenes From A Memory.

Whither, to me, is one of the most unusual songs, it is closest to a ballad and gives me the impression of listening to a hymn. It is the biggest departure from their usual. On the other end of the spectrum is The Shattered Fortress which I can only describe as a remix of their album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence: it takes the musical themes from that album and distills them down to about 13 minutes and alters they lyrics. It was a little off putting at first but has really grown on me. The Best of Times is probably the most accessible song with a more traditional song structure and catchy chorus but it is edged out by A Rite of Passage as the best song on the album.

DREAM THEATER - A Rite Of Passage


A Rite of Passage also marks their first foray into music videos in several years. Most, make that all, of their previous videos have been pretty dismal, and since Pull Me Under is the only one to get any airplay I've often wondered why they ever made any. This video, however is surprisingly good despite the fact that it is edited down about 3 minutes, a practice I disapprove of. It seems to be about secret societies, but I haven't quite nailed down all down. It makes mentions of laying the cornerstone and being 'beneath the watchful eye' which would lead me to believe it is about the Freemasons, however it also mentions the 'rose and cross', a reference to the Rosecrucians. So I'm not sure if it is about a particular secret society or more of a generalization of secret societies. Regardless, it is 100% awesome and I love this new album.

Next, while in one of my classical moods, I found this wonderful video of Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor.



While most people commented about Bach, or the beauty of this particular piece, or this particular rendition, FuocoID cut right to the heart of the video and left a comment that could only be found on youtube, "Now, that's one big motherfucking organ." I can't begin to tell you how funny this is to me. I suppose because it ignores all of the other pretentious discussion and says something inappropriate, and yet at the same time completely true - that's the biggest damn organ I've ever seen. Nice work there and thanks for the laugh.

Finally, I believe I may have inadvertenly discovered the plot of Transformers 3. I stumbled upon it after my friend, whose code name will be the hummingbird to protect her identity, emailed me links regarding the new military robot, code named EATR, which is powered by EATING CORPSES!!! As pointed out by the good folks at Wired, the scientists who developed EATR have apparently never seen a science fiction film. Inevitably the robot will run out of dead bodies to power itself and decide it's time to 'make' some more.

Anyway, I got to thinking that I too am in favor of alternative fuel vehicles and wouldn't mind too much running down a few pedestrians to avoid paying the current gas prices. That's when I put two and two together and realized the super secret plot of Transformers 3. The military will develop these 'alternative fuel' vehicles which will transform into killer robots in order to refuel and it will be up to the Autobots and Shia LeBeouf to stop them. And it will be up to the super sexy Megan Fox to distract the male population (and the lesbian/curious female population) from the terror and carnage. It turns out she's a tool of the government to distract the populace from the real issues.

That's all I've got for now. Have a good night.
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