Archive for April, 2010

05
Apr
10

George Lucas to bring laughter back into the lives of remaining Star Wars fans

A Star Wars sitcom? Yeeeeeeeeessssssssssssss!!!!!!!

Being a Star Wars fan over the last decade or so has become something of an ever-escalating exercise in masochism, and dear old Mr. Lucas is doling out the feel-bads on par with Ichi the Killer. In news that is both surprising for its inherent absurdity, and therefore not the least bit surprising at all, Lucasfilm is reportedly in talks to produce a Star Wars comedy series.

Evidently unhappy with the fact that people associated Star Wars with memorable characters and action/adventure after the original trilogy, Lucas is  endeavoring to add fart jokes and bad puns to the stilted dialogue, boring characters, nonsensical plot points, and overblown CGI spectacle that we now expect from a Star Wars project.

And really we have no one to blame but ourselves, clearly everyone’s been clamoring for fresh comedic content out of the Star Wars universe, Lucas is just giving us all what we so desperately craved. I mean, remember the Star Wars Christmas Special and how hilarious that was?! No. Of course you fucking don’t, because that shit was absolutely retarded.

The creator-fan dynamic here is beginning to feel very much akin to that episode of South Park where the cops break into George Lucas’ house and find him raping a Storm Trooper. And just so we’re all clear: in this scenario, you– the Star Wars fan and consumer– are the Storm Trooper, so good luck with that.

"You can plan this shit, George, but you can't put in on TV."

And for those of you holding out a hope that the show might somehow– by wink and by prayer– wind up being remotely good, I’m sorry, but you’re stupid and you’re wrong (but I love you!), because Lucasfilm is teaming with the ‘people’ (for lack of a better word, wait…’chuds?’) responsible for Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken for this project. That may come as great news to many (Robot Chicken does do well in the ratings; so does Two and a Half Men by the way), but it’s cringe-inducing news for those that still enjoy Star Wars and/or comedy, as this is the kind of jocund hi-jinks the Robot Chicken tandem have already inflicted on the Star Wars faithful:

Wacky!

As if the dry wit of the Robot Chicken gentlemen wasn’t enough, one of the writers from the exemplary Frank TV is also on board (sample this classic bit, remember it’s supposed to incite laughter, not murderous rage towards Frank Caliendo)! This idea couldn’t possibly get any better! Please tell us more, close-personal-friend-of-Wilmer-Valderama, Seth Green:

“The ‘Star Wars’ universe is so dense and rich; it’s crazy to think that there aren’t normal, mundane everyday problems in a world so well-defined. And it’s even crazier to think of what those problems might be, since it’s all set in a galaxy far, far away. What do these characters do when they’re not overthrowing Empires?”

Brilliant! Who the hell wants to see Han Solo frag Greedo in some seedy bar when you can watch them sip espressos together in a Death Star cafe and complain about their respective dates from the night before? I smell an Emmy! Exclamation Point!

For now let’s all just pray that this idea fizzles out in the development phase, or, barring that, that George Lucas doesn’t attain the rights to The Legend of Zelda and continue his quest to relieve himself all over my most cherished childhood memories.

There might be more at The Hollywood Reporter if you actually care about this shit. I’m gonna go put on my Millenium Falcon-themed onesy and weep gently into a tall glass of rye whiskey.


04
Apr
10

sam amidon, “i see the sign”

The music world is replete with cross-genre cover songs and, as with most songs, some will work well, and most others will fall firmly flat. It’s even become a rather common practice in mainstream hip hop to cull from popular ’70’s and ’80’s rock or pop ballads. Typically this will involve a sample and a re-purposing of the original chorus for the new song’s hook (take Jay-Z’s recent “Young Forever,” a lousy song but a good example nonetheless).

And a number of acts have also covered hip hop songs. But whereas the hip hop artist keeps only the chorus and adds their own lyrics, the alternative artist will typically strip away all but the lyrics. This is where the hipster’s old reliable friend ‘irony’ comes into play. A track like Dynamite Hack‘s cover of Eazy-E’s “Boyz-N-Tha-Hood” transposes the raw lyrics of ghetto life by singing them softly over a few gentle guitar chords.

Here’s the problem: This is not a musical reinterpretation. They are not adding any of their own thoughts or ideas. This is not a commentary on the rapidly widening disconnect between white suburbia and inner-city slum life. It’s a comedy track. A joke. A shitty one at that; and one that straddles the line between cooky “hey-let’s-cover-a-rap-song” shenanigans and subversive racial insensitivity via a white rock band downplaying the plight of impoverished inner-city blacks by parodying a song which depicts said poverty.

Now clearly that wasn’t what Dynamite Hack was going for, they were just having a laugh and probably never expected the song to be a hit (and I realize that was a rather massive digression and certainly a round about way of opening a review for a folk album). But it’s a good example of the possible pitfalls facing Sam Amidon. His new album, I See the Sign, is composed primarily of covers of traditional folk songs, but also contains a number of soul and spiritual songs, and even an R. Kelly cover.

This is a dangerous thing, rarely is a cross-genre cover greeted in earnest– even if it isn’t meant as a comic reinterpretation (remember Alien Ant Farm’s take on “Smooth Criminal?”). But far from a silly remake, “Relief,” is an album highlight. Amidon takes to the song with the same genuine affection and respect that he brings to all his songs– not with tongue in cheek, but hat in hand. He reshapes it expertly, transforming R. Kelly’s bouncy, optimistic R&B into quiet, yet baroque, folk complete with banjo pickings, piano twinkles, fiddle twangs, cello swathes, just-audible horns, and flighty flute lilts– all accompanying Amidon’s smooth voice singing a slightly-modified version of Kelly’s original– removing a few verses (and allusions to God), and creating his own reverie on life and death and God by adding his own lyrics:

“I’m a long time traveling away from home,

I’m a long time traveling here below,

I’m a long time traveling to lay this body down.”

It’s a gorgeously crafted, and beautifully melancholic, take on the original, and certainly one of the year’s best songs.

The remainder of the album can never quite reach the same lofty heights, but comes close on a number of occasions. Opener “How Come That Blood,” with an equally elaborate arrangement and traditional Americana lyrics, is reminiscent of Bill Callahan’s recent work. And on “Way Go, Lily,” another marvelous cross-genre re-imagining (this time of a Spiritual), Amidon affects Nick Drake to a remarkable, and downright arresting, degree.

Far from making light of the songs he covers on I See the Sign, Amidon plays them with reverential aplomb– breathing new life into old standards and making each his own with the kind of dignity and love that few cover songs are afforded. Let’s just hope he fights the urge to try his hand at “Bump N’ Grind.”

I See The Sign is out now via Bedroom Community. Buy it here. Or produce a three-act play with a cast of hamsters.

03
Apr
10

new yeasayer video, “o.n.e”

It’s hard to imagine just one music video really encapsulating the experience of listening to a Yeasayer album, but the new video for “O.N.E.,” the second single off of Odd Blood, comes pretty damn close. Featuring crazy multi-colored early-‘9o’s-ish fashions, lasers, shape-shifting aliens and/or robots, dudes in fish tanks, some kind of space-age strategy game with triangles, choreographed Vanilla Ice-like dance routines, and a lip-synced performance from behind a chain-link fence courtesy of the band’s guitarist. It’s exactly the kind of weird/awesome thing that make Yeasayer so great and Odd Blood one of the year’s best albums.

Odd Blood is out now via Secretly Canadian. You should buy it here.  Or learn more about the great nation of Macedonia.

03
Apr
10

erykah badu goes back to basics with “new amerykah part 2”

Way waaay back in the good old days of 2008 (when the world was still blissfully ignorant of the evil forces of Glee and Justin Bieber) a friend of mine referred to Erykah Badu’s  recently-released, New Amerykah Part One (Fourth World War), as being (and this is a direct quote) “on some ‘ol next shit.” As a white person, I had little idea what this meant, but interpreted it to mean “progressive but weird as fuck.” After purchasing the album myself, I concluded that to be a fairly accurate assessment.

Featuring a four minute ’70’s exploitation film-style intro, New Amerykah Pt. One was a bit out there, even by Badu’s standards (“My People,” for instance, features the lyrics “Hold on, my people” on a loop for three and a half minutes), featuring sparse, hip-hop infused beats and politically-charged lyrics, the album strayed farther from the more traditional neo-soul and R&B of Baduism and Mama’s Gun.

Badu’s latest release, New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh), eschews the ‘next shit’ feel and features a much more retro, old-school Erykah Badu vibe. The album opens on a much more subdued note than it’s predecessor, with the quiet keyboard arrangement, slow pace, and mild heartbreak that comprise “20 Feet Tall.” The first lyrics of the song, “my love,” hint at the thematic change of direction that Badu is taking from Part 1.

This is an R&B album, pure and simple, and as such the primary focus is on love– whether it be absence from the one we love (“20 Feet Tall, “Window Seat,” “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long), unrequited love (“You Loving Me (Session)”), or a reverie on love and the way it affects us (“Umm Hmm,” “Love”).

There’s a flow here, an almost effortless quality– a feeling that was largely absent from Part 1 (with the exception of album standout “Honey“), an album that was, while forward-thinking and often brilliant, often too capricious and eclectic for its own good. And, to a certain extent, it feels like Badu is having more fun this time around: there’s the catchy and humorous interludes “Agitation” and “You Loving Me (Session),” and album standout “Turn Me Away (Get Munny),” a funky gold-digger-love song complete with sweet-voiced hoochie girl croon and lyrics like “Tickle tickle before stroke, I love your solid golds” and “I’ll be your robot girl, Come into me my world.”

My friend, by the way, loves the new album. “But you loved the lost album, this one’s completely different,” I told him. “Who cares? Shit is smooooth.” No question.

New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) is out now via Universal Motown. Buy it here. Or wash a neighbor’s dog for fun!




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