Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The "comments" feature now active...

It was brought to my attention that the comments feature was not working so I've enabled it. All comments will be screened by me before being posted and can only be added for posts after this one due to Blogger restrictions.
Feel free to comment on any of the first batch of reviews in this post and I look forward to your feedback.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nickelback – Dark Horse [music review]

* Released in November 2008

Nickelback’s last album (2005’s All The Right Reasons) sold eight million copies, an extremely impressive figure in this day and age...even for four years ago. For me (and I would imagine a healthy percentage of those album buyers) they’re a guilty pleasure. They write some great, heavy melodic tunes with a specialty in providing continuing fuel to the Bic lighter that represents the ongoing tradition of the power ballad. Actually, lighters these days at concerts are almost obsolete. Switch that fuel part to a battery recharger and the metaphorical lighter to a cell phone. Not as eloquent, I grant you, but more timely.

Anyway, so where does the guilt part factor in then? That’d be the lyrics. I’ve heard things come out of lead vocalist Chad Kroeger’s mouth over the course of Nickelback’s career that I couldn’t believe I was hearing. I mean things that range from creepy to disgusting to downright sociopathological. Example 1 (from All The Right Reasons’ “Follow You Home”): Well you can stick me in a hole/And you can pray all day for rain/You can shoot me in the leg/Just to try to make me beg/And you can leave me there for days/And I’ll stay alive/Just to follow you home. Example 2 (from “Next Contestant” from the same album): Is that your hand on my girlfriend?/Is that your hand?/I wish you’d do it again/I’ll watch you leave here limping/I wish you’d do it again/There goes the next contestant. Now, I’m all for defending the honour of your woman but there’s such an air of testosterone-fuelled meatheadedness throughout this song (and plenty of other Nickelback songs) that it’s impossible not to cringe. And that’s just two examples among many…I never even mentioned the one that features lines about “dirt on your knees” and the “white stains on your dress”. Subtle, Chad…very subtle. Perhaps the most succinct and amusing (albeit in obviously very bad taste) critical rebuke I’ve read about the group came from Toronto uber-trendy arts weekly publication Now, which labeled Dark Horse as a soundtrack for date rapists.

Of course, Nickelback have hardly ever aspired to be critical darlings or artistes. They’re all about good ‘ol boy rawk, with a sensitive side for the ladies and a hint of social awareness that I must admit I’ve always found somewhat insincere and almost obligatory, as if they were straining to add another layer of depth and dimension to what constitutes a unit that has so far been only coming at us in full 2-D.

The album starts with a pretty kickass groove on “Something In Your Mouth”, but here we are, back at the lyrics issue. It’d be redundant to inform you that the song title is a play on words. Some of the other sex-fuelled high energy tunes that tread the same ground are “Next Go Round” and, appropriately, “S.E.X.”. From the former, here’s a selection of the fine word craft being weaved by Mr. Kroeger: “I wanna go so long your parents think you died/They’re gonna call the cops, the CIA and then the FBI” and “I wanna cover you with Jell-O in the tub/We can roll around for hours without ever coming up/I want you naked with your favourite heels on/Start John Deere across my ass and ride me up and down the lawn”. And from the chorus to the latter: “S is for the simple need/E is for the ecstasy/X is just to mark the spot because that's the one you really want/Yes!/Sex is always the answer, it's never a question/Cause the answer's yes, oh the answers yes/Not just a suggestion, if you ask the question/Then it's always yes - yeah!”. I wish I was making this crap up.

Despite my inability to look past the shameless lyrics I can’t say Dark Horse is a terrible album. As mentioned, it rocks pretty good in a number of places and there’s some excellent catchy songs with first single “Gotta Be Somebody” and the acoustic-driven second single “If Today Was Your Last Day”. The last track, “This Afternoon” is decent enough but feels like an obvious attempt to follow-up the mega-successful “Rock Star” from the previous album. And lest you consider me a prude that is above not being open to a song about doin’ it, let me state that I grew up on and still listen to plenty of 80’s hard rock, which buttered it’s bread with lyrics that specialized in that area. But that was a genre that emerged over 20 years ago and while songs about sex have been around since forever and will always be around there’s something about the sleazy style with which Nickelback chooses to cover that territory that, for me, holds them back from being a better band. And maybe it’s just me getting older and looking for a little more in what I choose to listen to. Regardless, somewhere in the world at whatever moment you’re reading this there is guaranteed to both be someone buying a Nickelback album and a stripper dancing to a Nickelback song so who am I to argue with success?
Rating: 5/10

Keith Urban – Defying Gravity [music review]

* Released in March

As an avid music consumer it’s very rare nowadays that I discover an established musical artist that I suddenly wake up to and turn into a huge fan of. Since I was a kid I’ve kept my ears pretty close to the ground about what’s going on in music and there has been precious little in the way of new artists from the last ten to fifteen years that have really moved me. But between those few that have as well as a steady stream of new music from veteran artists whose careers I’ve followed for some time, well, most of the time that’s been more than satisfying in terms of feeding my musical appetite. So when I recently began to listen to and really, really enjoy the music of country artist Keith Urban, who’s been around since his first album in 1991, I was amazed, confused and excited that I’d tapped once again into that rare feeling that certain musicians can deliver to me as a music junkie.

Why “amazed” and “confused”, you ask? Until recent years I’ve never been a country fan and when I did start giving it more of a listen and appreciating what it had to offer I just never heard anything from a male country artist that I would even consider buying. All the country music I’ve purchased has been by female artists – Shania Twain, Deena Carter, Dixie Chicks and Sugarland (who have a female vocalist). Another thing this bunch has in common is that they tread mostly equal ground between a pop and country sound, which is what hooked me. I can even say that Sugarland’s Love On The Inside release from last year was the best album I heard (and I buy and download a ton of music every year) until September when Metallica’s Death Magnetic masterpiece came along. Even still, Love On The Inside finished a very strong number two in terms of my favourite albums of the year. There are plenty of male country artists who also mix elements of pop and country but as mentioned, none of it ever interested me.

The little that I knew about Keith Urban was that he was Australian (which certainly makes him a standout in this normally Americanized genre), he was married to Nicole Kidman, he’s huge in North America and that he was supposedly a great guitar player. I’d heard a song or two over the years but never gave him a second thought, aside from his name coming up occasionally through knowing a couple of people who were big fans. Then earlier this year I came across a copy of his new album (Defying Gravity) online that had leaked a little less than a week before it's release and I decided to download and burn it for a friend at work who I knew would love to hear it a little early.

Since the album was just sitting there on my computer after burning the CD I decided I’d give it a listen to see what the fuss was about. Upon first listen I thought it was decent enough…at least worthy of a second looking at. After a few more times through it I became more and more impressed with his voice, songwriting and guitar abilities. I went out and bought my own copy of the CD and with my interest piqued I borrowed a couple of live Urban DVD’s off my work friend and was even more impressed by the man’s live show. Urban is a dynamic performer and the live setting really lets him show off his guitar chops, which are considerable. I was unfamiliar with nearly all the songs but after I finished watching both performances I was inspired enough to go back through his catalog and pick up some of his previous work which proved to be at the same quality level as Defying Gravity.

One of the lingering impressions after just a couple of listens of Defying Gravity was the abundance of love songs on the album. The lyrics for all 11 tracks deal either mostly or completely about being in love, seeking love or some mix of the two yet somehow the album manages to transcend the apparent one-dimensionality of the subject matter to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. Great musicianship, top-notch production and some huge hooks definitely help. A further examination of Urban’s other work reveals a similar affinity for songs dealing with matters of the heart and while I must say that although a little more range as far as topics would be welcome he does work extremely well within that area and has written and recorded many great romantic songs that the ladies just eat up (and guys like myself who aren’t too proud to admit they love a good, sappy love song can certainly appreciate).

Urban’s guitar pyrotechnics are held in check on the album…actually, he’s surprisingly restrained as far as the guitar solos go and I greatly respect musicians who aren’t overeager to shove their musical abilities in the listener’s face, just because they can. The songs come first and there’s a nice balance of ballads (“Only You Can Love Me This Way”, “Til Summer Comes Around”), mid-tempo numbers (“Kiss A Girl”, “If Ever I Could Love”) and higher energy songs (“I’m In”, “Hit The Ground Running”). The final song on the album, “Thank You”, is a straight-up love letter to his wife and the sentiments are so heartfelt that it just feels wrong to wrinkle up your nose because it maybe feels a little too over the top. It’s one of the better songs on an album that barely takes a mis-step…if there is one it might be the track “Why’s It Feel So Long”, a laid back acoustic-driven song that feels like a Jimmy Buffet reject. Otherwise, it’s pretty much wall-to-wall quality, highlighted by the opening four songs “Kiss A Girl”, “If Ever I Could Love”, “Sweet Thing” and “Til Summer Comes Around”, with the latter doing a great job of conveying the melancholy feel of the end of summer coupled with the heartbreak of lost love (and shaded with some beautiful guitar work).

Now I understand what all the hype is about with Urban and I look forward to experiencing his live show in person this October. It’s also nice to be reminded that there’s always going to be some band or singer out there who one day, for whatever reason the musical gods who conspire to dictate likes and dislikes decide, will suddenly make sense to me and I’ll wonder how I functioned without their music in my life. I’m still waiting for my Dylan phase to kick in and though I suspect it’ll never take hold, it’s probably wise to never say never…

Rating: 8.5/10

Chris Cornell - Scream [music review]

* Released in March

“Stunningly bad” is the best way I can sum up Chris Cornell’s latest effort. The huge voice from the mighty Soundgarden has reduced himself to slumming with the (s)hit factory that is producer (and wannabe singer) Timbaland. Cornell’s career since Soundgarden’s heyday has been a sad, slow progression of diminishing artistic returns and one can’t help but ask if Scream will mark a low point from which he never returns.
Following Soundgarden’s demise, there was his very average 1999 solo release Euphoria Morning. 2002 brought the formation of Audioslave with Cornell fronting 3/4 of Rage Against The Machine. Considering the pedigree of both camps, it was a pretty safe bet that what would result from the pairing would be something monstrous and memorable, yet the three releases they put out during their five year tenure were anything but. In 2007 the slide continued with Carry On, Cornell’s second solo set.
Perhaps Cornell was all too conscious of his own mediocrity and decided to go in a completely different musical direction in an effort to shake things up and challenge himself. Most definitely, his fans will be more than challenged by Scream. I know many people have diverse tastes, but one has to think that there is a very limited audience of Soundgarden and Audioslave fans who will appreciate Cornell’s latest work. When I first heard of his collaboration with Timbaland I was, naturally, shocked because it’s such an odd pairing. The final results shocked me even more, as my expectations of it being a rock record with Timbaland's r & b and production-heavy touches shading it were completely off the mark - Cornell’s identity on Scream is virtually absent. There’s some signature big vocal stretches here and there, but this may as well be the kind of music that Timbaland came up with for his previous no-talent clients like The Pussycat Dolls or Justin Timberlake.
Scream’s cover shows Cornell in mid-air and just about to smash a guitar - let that be an unsubtle warning to fans that there is precious little guitar on this album. Some heavy distorted electrics kick in at the end of “Get Up” and are sprinkled throughout “Never Far Away”, but really don’t do anything to improve the soggy soundscape populated by auto-tuned vocals and limp computer generated hip hop percussion that run throughout the entire album. And as if the songs weren’t bad enough on their own, the tracks are sequenced so that they all run into one another with no gaps, unfolding as an hour-long, non-stop insult to the ears.
Artists going in different directions and experimenting is obviously a vital piece of the creative process for most. U2, The Beatles, and David Bowie have done so with great success, while acts such as The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and Aerosmith pretty much stick to the same formula, which has served them well for most of their careers. Musical experimentation is always a risky path in regard to how the fans will receive the results, but then complacency and playing it safe equals creative death for many musicians. A Cornell quote before the album’s release about his hope that his fan base would appreciate his need to try new things and follow him down a new musical path falls right in line with the expectations and sentiments other artists in the same situation have expressed throughout time. One can’t fault Cornell for that, just for the decision to challenge them this much with such a misguided collection of music.
Rating: 1/10

Breaking Bad [television review]

* Season one now available on DVD; season two's DVD release date TBA

When the glowing reviews for AMC's Breaking Bad came in during its first season, I viewed the critical praise with cautious optimism. Other recent amazingly reviewed series such as Mad Men, Carnivale, Grey’s Anatomy and House completely left me scratching my head as to what the fuss was about. Usually I’ll allow myself three or four episodes of a new show to find something that will keep me watching and Breaking Bad had me hooked after just one.

The storyline revolves around a dull high school chemistry teacher who suddenly finds himself facing his own mortality and sets out on an unconventional path of cooking crystal meth to provide a financial safety net for his family when he’s not around any more. A terrific cast is highlighted by Bryan Cranston (Malcolm In The Middle) as central figure Walter White, Anna Gunn as his wife and Aaron Paul as Walter’s drug partner-in-crime.

Cranston completely inhabits the lacklustre soul of a man who is 50-ish and leads a safe, unadventurous life, albeit with a loving wife and son to show for it. There’s such a restrained, mannered, uptight air about Walter that it’s unsettling. He’s not an unlikeable character, though, more one that the viewer just feels pity for. A much-needed kick in the ass for him arrives via the aforementioned circumstances and it’s fun to see Walter come alive and live on the edge, even as he struggles with how much time he has left to walk that tightrope. Paul, as Walt’s former student Jesse, is an entertaining foil in the unlikely duo.

Season two recently ended and it only improved on the excellence of the first season. Bob Odenkirk joins the cast with a recurring role as the epitome of a sleazy lawyer and it’s one of the better supporting performances I’ve seen on the small screen in recent memory. Breaking Bad certainly lives up to the hype (season one brought multiple Emmy wins and the show is nominated in five categories this year) and I couldn’t recommend it any more highly more as the next TV series you need to catch up on.

Rating: 8/10

Gran Torino [movie review]

* Released theatrically in December 2008; now on DVD

Gran Torino is a full-on Clint Eastwood Project, considering he directs, produces, stars and wrote music for the film. His character of Walt Kowalski is basically a retread of previous Eastwood roles (Dirty Harry comes to mind first)…the gruff and grizzled man’s man who always has an air of sadness and emptiness surrounding him. But that’s okay – he reliably plays that role well and though he’s up there in years now (78) he still brings a consistent vigour to his work.

The movie is set in Detroit and deals with Kowalski’s struggle to understand and inhabit the changing world around him. His old neighborhood has devolved (in his eyes) from a once idyllic and proud American community into a rundown, crime-ridden suburb infested with immigrants. The screenplay originally was set in Minneapolis but the Michigan setting probably works better, as no other city in America right now speaks more to the urban decay and social alienation of a once thriving metropolis than Detroit. But it’s not just his neighbours that curdle Walt’s milk – he also shares a similar (if less vitriolic) relationship with both his family and a priest that checks up on his well-being.

Kowalkski is that ultimate in contradictions – an old-school patriot who fought in the Korean War who believes in honour, hard work and principles yet carries with him the biases and prejudices of the past that he’s never been able to eradicate. His next door neighbours are Hmong (from Southeast Asia) and Walt doesn’t understand them or like them, simply for the reason they’re different. Incidents involving an Asian gang trying to intimidate the neighbour’s son that spills over onto Walt’s property and then an attempted theft of Walt’s titular car (a mint condition ’72) by that same kid only reinforce the hate Walt feels. Hilariously, during the first dispute that also brings other members of the family out of the house he brandishes a shotgun and actually growls at them “get off my lawn”. I couldn’t decide whether this was a sly wink at a line that has come to embody the cariacture of the grumpy old man or just unintentional comedy. Other points in the film have Walt literally “grrrrrr”-ing to express his displeasure at a situation and these just don’t ring true.

The movie is thoroughly entertaining but occasionally over-reaching in its attempts to soften Walt’s hard heart. Eastwood has said that this will be his last acting role and if he sticks to his word then Gran Torino is a more than respectable performance from which to bow out gracefully from a fine career in front of the camera.

Rating: 7/10

Rachel Getting Married [movie review]

* Released theatrically in October 2008; now on DVD

Not surprisingly, if you’re not a fan of weddings and the accompanying activities that surround them (inevitably resulting in plenty of stress) then this movie is not for you. Rachel Getting Married felt like I was stuck for two long hours with a group of people I (mostly) didn’t like preparing for an event I could have cared less about.

The star of the film is Anne Hathaway (as Kym), playing a temporarily out of rehab young woman home for the wedding of her sister, Rachel (Rosemary Dewitt). Kym’s appearance resurrects old demons for the family which mix like oil and water with the already hectic environment of the wedding planning. Normally, dysfunctional family dynamics provide for excellent entertainment, but here things just never get off the ground.

Debra Winger makes a rare movie appearance and her role garnered a lot of praise, but to me it was an unremarkable performance. Hathaway was actually nominated for an Oscar for her role, which totally mystified me. She does a decent enough job with the material she has to work with, but Oscar-nominated calibre work? Really? The only bright spot in the movie came from Dewitt, who is always reliable in anything I’ve seen her in. She’s not a big name yet and probably won’t ever be…she’s your consumate character actor who’s name you may not recognize, but when you see them you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, I know that face”. Dewitt is part of an outstanding ensemble cast on the TV series The United States Of Tara, which you really owe yourself to check out.
Rating: 3/10

It Might Get Loud [movie review]

* Gala Premiere at Ryerson Theatre, Toronto International Film Festival, September 5th, 2008

* Limited North American theatrical release in August 2009, DVD release date TBA
(I wrote the following review for my brother's blog in September '08)
It Might Get Loud was conceived by producer Thomas Tull (An Inconvenient Truth) as a different take on the music documentary, with a focus on the guitar itself via three conduits of its possibilities: Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs). If you’re saying to yourself “one of these names is not like the others” you’d be in line with my way of thinking pre-screening. Although I’ve always found him an interesting personality and original talent, I’ve never latched onto White’s music – probably because his voice grates on me. Still, I acknowledge him as a good guitar player but really…in the company of The Edge and Page? This was one reason I was even more compelled to see the film and ultimately, his inclusion is an inspired “casting” choice. Page and The Edge are certainly the most influencial and significant players of their generations and White proves a worthy representative for this generation’s guitarists, in addition to steering the tone away from something that could have wilted into shallow rock-God idolatry.
The movie is framed around a one day summit of the three filmed in January of this year where they meet, exchange ideas, jam and recount their influences. Most of these moments are quite compelling, particularly when they pick up the instruments and jam on some of the artists’ signature songs (U2’s “I Will Follow”, Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying” and “Whole Lotta Love”). The latter song provided my favourite moment: as Page starts the riff you see The Edge get a little closer to him and the look of joy on the U2 guitarist’s face is unmistakeable. It’s nice to know that even living legends can get swept up in fanboy moments like the rest of us humans. The trio’s rough take on The Band’s “The Weight” (which concludes the movie) falls a little flat, though.
Interspersed around these summit segments are old performance clips and separate fascinating interviews at the subject’s homes, studios and historical sites from their careers. Page takes us on a brief tour of Headley Grange in England, the house where some of Led Zeppelin’s best work was created and recorded and also delights in going through some of his large record collection at his home. He puts on Link Wray’s “Rumble” and proceeds to comment on the minutiae of how much tremolo effect is used at a certain point in the song while playing air guitar like a little kid in his bedroom. The Edge is shown recording new U2 tracks, digging through an old box with rough four-track demos of classics like “Where The Streets Have No Name” and also visiting the Mount Temple high school in Dublin where the band formed. A rare tour of the school’s hallways stops at points of interest like the exact bulletin board where drummer Larry Mullen Jr. posted an ad in 1976 looking for musicians to form a band (that would turn into U2), as well as a small classroom the group rehearsed in on a regular basis (after moving all of the desks to one side of the room).
Visually, the movie is beautifully shot by director and producer Davis Guggenheim (who directed An Inconvenient Truth). One of the best segments is the short opening scene where Jack White is seen in a farmyard silently constructing a crude guitar out of some old wood, rusty wire, nails and a few other odds and ends before bringing the frankenstein instrument to life while using an old Coke bottle for a slide. “Who says you need to buy a guitar?”, he asks. The audience at Ryerson Theatre erupts with laughter and applause. Overall, the movie did a good job at highlighting the differences in style among the players. Page and White’s musical base is in the blues while The Edge obviously paints on his palette with many guitar effects that have carved out a unique sound and identity. Occasionally, the film tends to lose focus in terms of what information or interviews are presented at certain points, but there’s a lot of ground to cover in a little over an hour and a half so that’s forgivable. The bottom line is it certainly never gets dull. There’s also a minor narrative concept involving a boy playing “Little Jack” White that doesn’t quite work.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until the day after seeing the movie that I realized the names Bono and Robert Plant virtually never came up (although they were represented during the performance clips). It’s pretty telling about what the movie is about that two of the most talented, charismatic frontmen in rock history are barely even a footnote here and they’re not even missed. With subjects this interesting, frankly, it’d be an artistic crime if the director hadn’t come up with something this watchable. Guggenheim has created a powerful endorsement for the guitar that offers a unique insight by some of it’s most prolific ambassadors which says more in it’s 97 minute running time than 100 hours of playing Guitar Hero on your PS3 can about what the instrument is all about. It even inspired this “lapsed” guitar player to pick up the old axe for a couple of hours after returning home from the movie.
(I allowed myself a few days of breathing space after viewing the film to write a review since my immediate thoughts were likely distorted by the fact that two of its principals, Page and The Edge, were sitting literally three rows directly in front of me during the world premiere screening, which my brother Jay scored us tickets to.)
Rating: 9/10

Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy [music review]

* Released in November 2008
(I wrote the following review for my brother's blog,, in December 2008)
Almost 15 years in the making and at a reported cost of $13 million, Chinese Democracy couldn't possibly carry the weight of expectations which accompanied the album's release last month, self-imposed as they were by singer Axl Rose's reluctance to stop tinkering with and tweaking this collection of songs. The man has always been an incredibly talented musician and fascinating personality, which has earned him a significant amount of patience and leeway from fans and critics over the years for his erratic behaviour, probably more than he deserved. Chinese Democracy finally seeing the light of day marks the end of what surely must be the longest and strangest conception-through-birth arc a music release has ever taken in our time.
With all of the other original GNR members long since departed (and plenty of acrimony between the two camps still lingering), the group now is pretty much the Axl Rose Project. An apt equivalent is that Rose is to GNR what Trent Reznor is to Nine Inch Nails - all aspects of the sound and vision of the band begin and end with one man. This must certainly suit Rose's narcissistic personality. Interestingly, Rose has been a Reznor fan for years (there are definite NIN influences all over Chinese Democracy) and it's almost as if the evolution of GNR into an autocratic dictatorship (and no longer a, ahem, democracy) became a self-fulfilling prophecy as soon as the "classic" GNR lineup began to fracture in the early 90's.
A number of these songs have been played live by the current GNR incarnation for several years now. Combine that with the fact that earlier this year a much-publicized online leak of seemingly finished studio versions surfaced and the element of surprise has definitely been diminished. Throw out all the hype and rumours, though, and give the album a proper beginning-to-end listen and what you're left with is this: a tremendous artistic achievement that evokes many strong reactions, not least of which is how much of a shame it is that someone this gifted can deprive the music world of his talent for so long.
Initial attempts at getting the album proved frustrating, although in an amusing way. A couple of weeks before the official release date the "final retail" version started showing up on file sharing sites. I was going to buy the CD, but my curiosity got the better of me. The first few attempts at downloading the album resulted in mp3's where the first track played fine and followed with the rest of them "Rickrolling" me about 20 seconds in to each track. Wonderful.
After getting hold of a fully listenable version it quickly became clear as to some of the reasons for the album's delays. There are so many nuances and layers to each song that one can envision Axl-the-perfectionist agonizing over the most minute of details. There's a lot going on here sonically - some might (and already have) call it over-production. To fully grasp the complete scope one needs to strap on a good pair of headphones, where the jigsaw arrangements of multi-layered guitars and orchestral flourishes work on most levels. Nearly everything has an epic feel to it. Yes, it's excessive (would we expect anything less from Rose?)...but it's brilliant.
The album is bookended by the two strongest songs. The opening title track is probably the most straightforward rock tune, anchored by a buzzsaw guitar riff and Rose's unique vocal style (including cool double layered vocals sung at different octaves). The closing song ("Prostitute") kicks along on a hip-hop drumbeat and follows a quiet-loud dynamic that eventually dissolves into the last 90 seconds of the track, a beautiful instrumental section that brings the album to a fitting conclusion. It may be the best thing Rose has ever recorded.
Other standout tracks include "Better", "Madagascar", and "Catcher In The Rye". "Scraped", "Shackler's Revenge", and "Riad N' The Bedouins" showcase Guns at their most aggressive and possibly best illustrates the stylistic differences between the old and new GNR. Techno and industrial elements share space with heavily processed guitar sounds that former guitarist Slash would never have gone anywhere near. "Street Of Dreams" and "This I Love" follow in the tradition of grand, piano-driven GNR ballads like "November Rain", with Axl's Elton John and Freddie Mercury influences on full display. Overall, there isn't one truly bad song in the bunch, which wasn't too much to ask considering how long it took to release this. A curious oddity: Rose gives possibly the strangest delivery of a song line I've ever heard at the 37 second mark of the song "Sorry", where he affects a foreign accent for some reason.
Chinese Democracy was not worth waiting almost 15 years for (no album is), but it's probably the next best thing. Just as the polished Use Your Illusion albums were a step forward from the gritty Appetite For Destruction, so too does this feel like the next logical step in the evolution of the band's sound. To paraphrase Kool & The Gang, the music sounds fresh, exciting, and anything but dated.
Rating: 9/10

Battle At Kruger

Battle At Kruger is the title of a short, eight minute clip that gained massive popularity through viral video, YouTube, extensive media coverage and was just turned into a National Geographic Channel documentary. It captures amateur footage of one of the most jaw-dropping displays of wildlife I’ve ever witnessed. Shot on a safari in Kruger Park, South Africa, what it lacks in audio-video quality it definitely makes up for in fascinating content.

I won’t give too much away but I’ll just say it involves a pride of lions, a herd of water buffalo and some crocodiles all co-mingling (to put it mildly) in the same small area and putting to the ultimate test the “survival of the fittest” philosophy. If you're squeamish about seeing animals in pain (as I am) then I still encourage you to keep watching until the end of the video.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Yeah, yeah, I know...everyone and their mother has a blog and this is just one more. I decided to start MediaboyMusings as a creative writing outlet for my thoughts, opinions and reviews of things from the world of pop culture and entertainment.
The "musings" part of the blog name is self-explanatory and the "mediaboy" comes from a comment made by my friend Mark years ago because I've always surrounded myself and been consumed by television, movies, radio, magazines, newspapers, books, the Internet, and (first and foremost) music.
Bear with me as I navigate Blogger's frustrating posting and editing template in an effort to make these pages as visually pleasant as possible. I'll do my best to keep this blog updated with new content that hopefully provides an entertaining read.