Saturday, October 25, 2014

Brad Pitt, Two Ferns

Firstly, given Galifiankis' weight loss, I'm going to miss all of the 'Zach is fat' jokes.  Also, Pitt morphed into Clark Gable so gradually none of us even realized it until now.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NBA Predictions

I'm picking the Spurs to win the title again since they're the best and most reliable team there is, though there are a few more uncertainties than usual in the generally-predictable NBA.  For instance, I had a legit few minutes earlier today when I thought that the Raptors were going to win the East.  It's not impossible…simply very improbable.  Put it this way, there's a better chance the Raptors will make the Finals than there is that they'll fall apart in classic Raptors style and miss the playoffs entirely.  That's progress! 

My predictions for this NBA season…

Western Conference
1. LA Clippers: They seemingly have everything going for them, except for the fact that they're the Clippers.  That's right, the Sterling Curse is still lingering around the building even though he's been thrown out of the NBA.
2. San Antonio: Biding their time, resting the veterans, no big deal that they're the #2 seed, rinse and repeat.
3. Houston: Get ready for a terrific, rockin' and rolling regular season that will get everyone in Houston thinking their team is a title contender!  (Punchline forthcoming)
4. Portland: They're the #4 seed by default, as they'll win the suddenly-awful Northwest Division.
5. Golden State: Steve Kerr in charge, not sure if he's a good coach or if he'll be able to get anything good defensively out of these guys.  Blazers/Warriors is a guaranteed seven-game series and it would be incredible to watch, so let's make this happen, world.
6. Dallas: Dirk's window is open for two more years, tops. 
7. Memphis: Talent-wise they're much better than this, yet I can't help but think all the offseason front office and coaching drama will hurt them.  Does Dave Joerger (won't lie, I had to look up his name) really want to be there?
8. Oklahoma City: Losing Kevin Durant for two months is THAT big a blow in a tough Western Conference.  Thunder still get the #8 seed, thus setting up a monster first-round series with L.A.
*******
9. New Orleans: Anthony Davis can't do it all himself…yet.
10. Phoenix: Regression time!
11. Denver: This team has nothing going for it.
12. Minnesota: Loveless.
13. LA Lakers: Kobe will be openly insulting his teammates by U.S. Thanksgiving.
14. Sacramento: Next spring, the city will be like, "On second thought, move to Seattle."
15. Utah: THIS team REALLY has nothing going for it.


Eastern Conference
1. Cleveland: It's going to take some time for all the parts to gel, but realistically, this team is the best in the East.
2. Chicago: If Derrick Rose is even 75% of his old self, they can win the title.  Less than that, and another first-round offensive flameout is a possibility.
3. Brooklyn: Yeah, I'm not sure losing Jason Kidd's soda-spillin' coaching skills is a negative.
4. Atlanta: Horford's healthy and this team will be a big surprise.  In fact, if you're willing to lend me $950 million, I want to buy them.
5. Toronto: I mean, sure?
6. Charlotte: Part of me wanted to go nuts and have them winning the Southeast, though I came to my senses.
7. Washington: Regression time, since everything went just a bit too smoothly for them last year.  I like Paul Pierce as a veteran mentor, and they're a midseason coach firing away from being an under-the-radar contender.
8. Miami: For old time's sake.
*******
9. Detroit: Van Gundy will help, though not yet.
10. New York: This team is still awful.
11. Indiana: So after having a dreadful second half to last season, now the Pacers have lost both Paul George and Lance Stephenson.  Nope.
12. Milwaukee: Handing your franchise over to a guy with one year of middling coaching experience, not to mention a guy who has shown that he'll screw a franchise over for a better opportunity elsewhere, is a GREAT idea.
13. Orlando: They're still in the league!
14. Boston: Kevin McHale was genuinely funny on 'Cheers.'
15. Philadelphia: They're tanking so hard they would be legitimately sad to be anywhere but dead last.


PLAYOFFS
*Cavaliers over Heat
*Bulls over Wizards
*Hornets over Nets
*Raptors over Hawks (I mean, sure?  I think Toronto might actually be good, and last year wasn't just a cosmic fluke thanks to a supremely weak conference.)
*Clippers over Thunder (I can't believe this is a first-round series.)
*Spurs over Grizzlies
*Mavericks over Rockets (oh yeah, that's right, I forgot Houston will never win a title with Howard, Harden and McHale.  They think they have a title window, it's actually Windows 94)
* Warriors over Trail Blazers (everyone needs a cigarette after)

* Cavaliers over Raptors
* Bulls over Hornets
* Clippers over Warriors (both teams will be exhausted from their seven-gamers in the first round)
* Spurs over Mavericks (this one will be a doozy)

* Bulls over Cavaliers (the LeBron/Love/Irving mix isn't quite settled yet, plus we don't actually know if David Blatt can coach)
* Spurs over Clippers

* Spurs over Bulls (Chicago at least does better than the Heat did last season and doesn't get embarrassed in three consecutive games.  Progress!)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Crystal Ballroom

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb....'Mercy,' 'Levitate,' and either version of the 'Fast Cars/Xanax & Wine' track were all left on the cutting room floor

No Line On The Horizon....'Winter,' 'North Star' and the early version of 'Every Breaking Wave' were all omitted from an album that really could've used some beefing up.  Either that, or else these songs were held back for the 'Songs Of Ascent' record that never ended up being released.

So that's twice that U2 has left some of the best songs from their recording sessions off the actual albums, and now we can extend that streak to three in a row.  And this is coming from a guy that LOVES Songs of Innocence and considers it a top-five or maybe even a top-four U2 record.  Just when I thought the album couldn't get any better, however, I picked up the physical copy with the secondary B-sides and acoustic mixes disc, and was exposed to "The Crystal Ballroom."  Good lord.


I mean, good lord!  What a song.  For years, U2 openly talked of wanting that fresh-sounding pop hit that would instantly fit in on any modern rock station yet still be representative of the band's classic sound.  Then, they write one like TCB and don't actually put it on the record.  I'm baffled.  Now, you could argue that they did indeed "release" the song since it's right there on the second disc of the physical edition.  Also, the idea of a B-side in this day and age is pretty antiquated, especially since we're talking about an album that was already entirely released on iTunes over a month ago.  In fact, maybe TCB's inclusion on the B-disc was intentional since U2 wanted to give the fans a strong reason to buy the actual record.

And yet still....I'm an old-school album guy!  Album tracks are album tracks and B-sides are B-sides!  There's nothing stopping U2 from playing this song at every live show or even releasing it as a single, and I can't quite feel that they missed an opportunity to make an already strong album even stronger.

Part of SOI's strength is its excellent track arrangement and flow, so 'Crystal Ballroom' cant be stuck in just anywhere.  The subject matter is about the old Dublin dance hall where Bono's parents met, so naturally it'd have to go a bit earlier in the record, definitely before 'Iris,' the track about Bono's mother's death.  Maybe you slot it second and remove 'Every Breaking Wave' in some alternate reality where U2 figured that song out six years ago and included it (or this gorgeous piano-based version) on No Line On The Horizon:


Realistically, you can still slot 'Crystal Ballroom' second after 'The Miracle' and then just bump EBW and everything else back to make it a 12-track album.  OR, since I love 'Invisible' too, maybe have that as the opening track, then go 'Miracle,' 'Every Breaking Wave,' 'Crystal Ballroom' and then everything else proceeds as usual.  Thirteen tunes on the record!  U2 has only cracked the 12-song barrier once, and that was because Rattle & Hum has a bunch of random covers and live tracks.

I'm not suddenly dissatisfied with Songs Of Innocence or anything, I just wish U2 had decided to put an obviously incredible, would've-been-top-three-on-the-record song onto the album proper.  It would've made things easier for me since as it stands, I'll have to change the discs whenever I'm listening to the album in my car.  If I do this while the car is still in motion, I could get distracted and run headlong into a bus.  So essentially, by failing to put 'The Crystal Ballroom' on a record, U2 is dooming me to my death.  Well that's just great.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rejected

If you saw and were baffled by that 'Simpsons in the future' couch gag from a few weeks ago, it came from the mind of acclaimed animator Don Hertzfeldt.  He's probably best known for his short "Rejected," which I somehow hadn't seen until a few months ago and man, it's one of the most bizarre things of all time.  Ever since watching it, I can't eat a banana without saying....well, you guessed it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

NHL Predictions

Heads for Blackhawks, tails for Kings….

*flips*

Congratulations to the 2014-15 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks!  They'll beat…oh, let's say the Penguins in the finals.  The Leafs obviously aren't making the playoffs, as they'll wait just long enough to fire Randy Carlyle that their inevitable hot streak after he's sent packing won't be enough to dig themselves out of the hole, leading to a summer of moronic "well, if they'd fired Carlyle a month sooner, they would've made the playoffs and won the Cup!" statements from Leafs Nation.  The asterisks indicate which teams earn the wild card spots, and GASP, the Red Wings' playoff streak will finally end.

METROPOLIAN DIVISION
Rangers, Penguins, Islanders, Capitals*, Blue Jackets*, Devils, Flyers, Hurricanes

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Bruins, Canadiens, Lightning, Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Panthers, Senators, Sabres

CENTRAL DIVISION
Blues, Blackhawks, Stars, Wild*, Jets*, Avalanche, Predators

PACIFIC DIVISION
Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Canucks, Coyotes, Flames, Oilers

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Ravi & Mark Vs. Songs Of Innocence

Consider the first chat Ravi and I had about "Songs Of Innocence" to just be the opening act.  Now we're diving into the album track-by-track!

Mark: The Miracle....I dig it a lot.

Ravi: It's clearly an arena opener, caters to the classic U2 fan, sets the stage for the whole "why does one join the circus?" motif

Mark: It's a song that's about how great it is to hear a great song.  Not a stretch to say that the feelings the guys felt about the Ramones is the way you, me and millions of others felt when they first heard U2.

Ravi: Yep. I like it - solid track to kickstart things

Mark: This is the high-energy rocker they like as a first single, and needless to say, it's way better than Get On Your Boots

Ravi: Yeah - in all respects: I know what it's about, the drum part is classic Mullen hammering away at 16th notes, and Edge actually plays his guitar (Adam presumably does something also)

Mark: According to the liner notes, Adam Clayton is U2's bass guitarist.  Fun fact!

Ravi: Haha poor Adam. Every time I hear him talk all I can think of is The Simpsons ("Can I come?" ... "No")

Mark: Apparently after that episode, Adam said he had tons of fans giving him spoons for his "collection," even though that was just a joke.

Ravi: Well, at least it provided him with some notoriety in his post sobriety incarnation

Mark: Bit of a step down from "the guy who's engaged to Naomi Campbell" to "the guy with the spoon collection"

Ravi: Or "the one guy who has ever missed a U2 gig"

Mark: That's how you know you're ultimately the fourth wheel.  Methinks the show wouldn't have gone on if Bono, Edge, or even Larry had been sidelined like that

Ravi: No kidding.  So once we get past track 1, I am pretty indifferent on Every Breaking Wave or California.  I mean, they're no absolutely horrendous - but there is nothing special about them

Mark: Oh, I beg to differ.  California is one of my favourite tracks on the album.  I love the lyrics, the chorus, the vocal bridge near the end of the song....everything about it is great.  Incredible song to listen to while driving.  EBW is also a good song.  I like how they beefed it up and made it a bit poppier, the original version from 360 was a bit too spare.  (Of course, this can also backfire, as the poppier version of Mercy was lousy.)

Ravi: I mean, I won't turn it off ... but I just see those songs as being in the template that 100s of bands could have produced.

Mark: You're not wrong.  One review described California as 'the best Killers song of all time,' which is fine since I like the Killers.  In a way, it's good to know that U2 can still deliver as good a pop/rock track as anyone without it sounding too cheesy or forced, i.e. not Get On Your Boots.

Ravi: Yeah. Like I said, they're fine songs but it's really in the back half of the album where I began to feel like "OK - this was worth a zillion year hiatus to put together"
(though in reality making the front half "poppier" likely led to some of the more recent delays).  In my view, it's the darker tracks that make this album worth the listen

Mark: True. btw, this seems like a good point to discuss that the production on this album is really good. Everything sounds tight, layered, with a lot of interesting musical stuff going on. Kudos to Tedder, Epworth, Danger Mouse, Gaffney and whomever else chipped in.  It wasn't disjointed, like the multiple producers on HTDAAB

Ravi: The back half, starting around Volcano onwards is where the album really interests me.

Mark: Let's get to Song For Someone first, which is nice but probably my least-favourite track on the album.

Ravi: Again, it's fine. Bono's voice sounds great ... but it almost sounds like U2 parodying a U2 song.  See 1:32 onwards: fabulous U2 parody.

Mark: That's pretty funny, the Roots are awesome.  The physical version of SOI has several acoustic tracks, including one of Song For Someone...I suspect the acoustic mix may bring this one to life

Ravi: You raise an interesting point.  Edge made a passing comment earlier this year how a song is no good if you can't play it on acoustic guitar. Adam has talked about the band putting on "2 different types of shows" ... Additionally, a lot of acoustic covers for SOI have appeared on YouTube and sound great. This all leads me to wonder whether we'll be seeing some acoustic style shows.

Mark: The Stones did a tour a few years ago where they played multiple shows at different venues in certain cities....a laid-back rarities setlist in small theatres, a bigger arena show and then the huge stadium show with all the hits.  U2 certainly has the ability to do something like that, it'd be crazy.  Imagine seeing U2 in a 1000-seat venue and they're busting out random songs like Promenade, or Rejoice, or So Cruel....that would blow my mind.

Ravi: People keep asking how to follow up 360 - seems like a way they could do so and make a splash. Also as we said certain songs work better acoustically. Even Breathe was better acoustically.

Mark: Would Adam or Larry even need to show up to an acoustic show?

Ravi: Larry would cuz it's "his band."  As with Jimmy Fallon, Adam would get a token guitar to hold and pretend to play.

Mark: Man, poor Adam is taking it on the chin here. For all we know, the guy came up with half the melodies on SOI and here we are just ripping him.

Ravi: Haha poor guy. Well, not 'poor' per se ...

Mark: Laughing all the way to the bank!  So, onto Iris, another pretty song that seems very Unforgettable Fire-era

Ravi: Yes - good track. Going back to his mom ... ten years or so after writing a track about his dad.

Mark: Iris, Lemon, Tomorrow, Mofo....U2 has a long tradition of quality songs about Bono's mom.

Ravi: About here the album starts to get interesting.  Til here the standard u2 blueprint is more or less followed ... with some added polish

Mark: While I like the first half a lot more than you, I generally agree....the back half of the album really takes off, whereas most U2 back halves really peter out (ATYCLB) or have just one solid track amidst the petering out (Breathe on No Line, Please on Pop, OOTS on Bomb)

Ravi: Yes I was just about to say the same thing. Normally they come out swinging but here as it goes on the songs get interesting ... for all their rock/pop ballads I think some of U2's finest work comes on their darker tracks, which to me the second half features.  First half is good to me ... just nothing on there that reaaaally wows me to the level of 'greatness' promised.

Mark: This being said, I'm not crazy about Volcano...it's an okay song, but seems a bit thin. I feel like Edge had to re-use the old 'Glastonbury' riff just to pad the thing out.  Put it this way....over the last month, every song on the record has gotten stuck in my head to the point where I find myself humming a track for almost an entire day. This has been true of every song except Volcano. It doesn't have as natural a melody as the other 10 tracks.  It's no "Volcano Girls" by Veruca Salt.......annnnnd, I'm showing my age now.

Ravi: Yeah they tried out a 'rock song you can dance to' ... and clearly the way 'Vol-ca-no" is sung it was made for arenas ... I think its legacy will be cemented based on how it is received live.  This raises an interesting point ... every track is capable of being played live, which is promising.

Mark: Indeed, unlike half of NLOTH, which you could tell just from the record that U2 would never bust a lot of these songs out

Ravi: And two different shows would allow them to play all the album's songs but over two shows .... thus giving fans the hits they expect at a u2 show as well

Mark: I don't think U2 has ever had an album where they've played literally every song live at some point.....SOI could be it

Ravi: Hmmm ... I don't think so either.  Even Joshua Tree I don't think they played "Trip Through Your Wires"

Mark: They played that one semi-regularly on tour, but for JT it was 'Red Hill Mining Town' that never got a live performance. Bono couldn't sing it without wrecking his voice.

Ravi: Yeah you're right.  Acrobat never got played live I believe

Mark: That was the only AB track never played live, which is weird since that song is awesome.

Ravi: We'll see - maybe I won't go crazy on this two show format theory, but it makes sense if they want to play the entirety of their album and do something to make their shows stand out ... they've literally done everything else (simple stage, huge arenas, Zoo TV/Popmart set ups etc)

Mark: Presuming 'Songs Of Experience' is out sometime within the next year (before the tour is over), the two-shows format also leads itself to a natural way to put those songs into the setlist. By that time, they can move some of the better-known SOI tracks into the 'classics' pile

Ravi: Yeah that adds another layer of intrigue

Mark: Anyway, speaking of the live experience, let's move onto a track that feels like it'll absolutely kill at a concert....Raised By Wolves

Ravi: Yes for sure.  THIS is what I have been waiting for.  Fire, passion, Bono screeching, Edge murdering the guitar ... even some noticeable bass!

Mark: Listening to it the first time, I literally said "Holy shit!" when Bono's screech for the chorus intro burst in.

Ravi: This is a track that will unquestionably work well live but also is great just in your apartment

Mark: Not that I've played it while singing and dancing around my apartment. Uh....

Ravi: The song is "different" but not in a clumsy sort of way you alluded that Volcano is "different."

Mark: Volcano sounded like U2 was consciously trying to replicate their Boy/October sound and it didn't quite work.  Raised By Wolves, however, nails that idea completely and feels much more natural

Ravi: Which is why I like this track, Cedarwood Road and SLBT - tracks that on first listen really struck me.  They took what U2 is good at and added some touches from Danger Mouse to take the songs to a new level

Mark: Great point. This is what we were all hoping for from the U2/Danger Mouse collaboration. 

Ravi: You can just see Raised By Wolves in the middle of U2's "political" part of its setlist ... mashed next to Sunday Bloody Sunday, or beforehand.

Mark: Or part of a "Peter Rowan's life" set next to Bad. 

Ravi: Cedarwood Road starts with a nice "The Fly" type feel before moving into the track which I really enjoy.

Mark: Cedarwood Road, great straight-ahead rock song in the tradition of Gone or (a much better) Crumbs From Your Table.  We touched on this during our last chat, but SOI is so greatly enhanced by having a clear narrative and story for the album. Every track is about a specific time in U2's early days....seeing the Ramones, Bono's mom's death, Bono's childhood home, etc.

Ravi: Likely a conscious decision. Their last album was so unfocused I think giving the album(s) a theme really enhanced the quality

Mark: Looking forward to the b-side "Spoons," which is about Adam beginning his collection.  But seriously, the lyrics are much more powerful when they're about these specific incidents rather than the basic universal lyrics about 'love' or 'soul' that have permeated the last several albums

Ravi: As the guys have alluded to - they have umpteen songs on those other topics ... giving the fans more focused tracks gives the album more intrigue.

Mark: There's also universality to be found within those specific topics. Like as we said about Miracle, it's really about the experience of hearing your favourite band no matter who it is, not just the Ramones.

Ravi: Have the boys ever done a track like Sleep Like A Baby? What a tune, and a very provocative topic for U2 - especially with how religious their background is

Mark: It's a great track, it gives you the chills.

Ravi: Also, Bono's voice seems to be in stellar form.  I wonder if he tries those high notes live.

Mark: This is the only one where I could see it *not* being played live because of the vocal demands and because it's such a show-stopper. What would you follow it up with?

Ravi: Unless you ended on this pre encore?

Mark: What a dark ending to the set. I guess you could go SLABT into Until The End Of The World or something.

Ravi: Or if they go real ballsy and END their shows with this song ... they do like their slow tracks to end a concert. But like you said - hella dark ending.  OR if you put this mid set list and follow up with an acoustic of a classic like Desire (to switch it up)

Mark: Wait, so you want to put a song about the church sexually abusing children next to a song called Desire? Um....

Ravi: Oops…perhaps a different song, then.  But yes, your point is very well taken. It's such a powerful tune I think it'd be a shame not to see it live.

Mark: Fun fact: our mutual friend Dave recently (and without prompting) mentioned how much he enjoyed the new album. This is where the iTunes release strategy works, as Dave would've never bought on the album on his own volition.  I bring it up since he particularly enjoyed This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now

Ravi: Yeah - the strategy certainly had its pluses. And yes, that is a solid track.  It's again impressive in that its the 2nd last track and effort appears to have been put into it.

Mark: Definitely. SOI is so deep from top to bottom, it's wonderful.  And then we have The Troubles, which is maybe my favourite song on the album and a kind of song that U2 has never tried to make before.

Ravi: What I loved is that they collaborated with someone whom a large segment of their audience I imagine has never heard of.

Mark: It's cool. Apparently the big pre-release rumour was that there was a duet with Adele (due to the Epworth connection) on the record.

Ravi: Maybe that's been saved for SOE.  U2 love to end with a slow track.

Mark: The Troubles also sounds like the natural concert closer, to boot

Ravi: For sure. And to boot, it won't be an absolute snoozer like Moment of Surrender.

Mark: Bite your tongue! I love that song!

Ravi: It's alright. I just think it failed as a closer ... at least in the 360 setting

Mark: There's nowhere else in the set to put it but at the end, so I guess you're right, U2 was kind of locked into it. Still, I thought it was a great closer...NLOTH didn't have a natural concert-opening track, that was the real issue.

Ravi: There's a very clear opener and closing track for concerts on this record, going back to the idea that this album was much much more focused than NLOTH.  Really?  Breathe to start a show?

Mark: I get the sense that Invisible was going to be one of the first 2-3 tracks but maybe they made it the single since it didn't quite fit the theme as organically as the other songs.....Invisible sounds a bit too polished and 'modern U2' whereas the other ones have a bit of the old 70's/80's sound

Ravi: I sometimes wonder if they had 4-5 Invisible type tunes that were scrapped after reaction to the song, while not terrible, wasn't exactly amazing.

Mark: 'Invisible' is a real grower. I find myself singing it all the time now, whereas initially I thought it was only okay.

Ravi: Apparently Invisible is a secret track at the end of the record if you wait awhile

Mark: A secret track! I love it! How 90's!

Ravi: It's ... invisible, if you will

Mark: *rim shot*

Ravi: Again, Invisible is clearly made for singing live ("There is no them, there's onnnnnly us").  Overall a solid record and good showing from the Boys.

Mark: What's your ranking of the songs?

Ravi: Sleep Like A Baby Tonight, Raised By Wolves, Cedarwood Road, The Troubles, Miracle, This Is Where…, Iris, Volcano, Song For Someone, California, Every Breaking Wave

Mark: Ooh, some interesting crossover and disagreements!  I'd go...

Instant classics: The Troubles, Raised By Wolves, California

Very good: The Miracle, Sleep Like A Baby Tonight, There Is Where…, Iris, Cedarwood Road, Every Breaking Wave

Okay but nothing special: Volcano, Song For Someone


Ravi: Yeah I can live with that - dunno if California is an instant classic but who knows

Mark: I think it'll be terrific live. Now, admittedly it's still early and we'll need more time to let the record sink in, but where does SOI rank amongst U2's other albums for you?

Ravi: I still wrestle with this - top half for sure of the 13, though exactly where remains to be seen.

Mark: At the moment, I'd go far as to say it's top-five. Behind Achtung Baby, Joshua Tree, War and Pop, and that's it. (And I'm one of the few who'd rank Pop that highly on the list.)
Ravi: ATCLB will always make my top 3 even though it fades significantly just because the first 6 tracks are sooooo good.  JT, AB, ATCLB, UF, War currently ... though SOI can sneak up.

Mark: The top-to-bottom depth of SOI really helps it in regards to albums like Rattle & Hum, Unforgettable Fire or ATYCLB, which have a lot of filler alongside the classics.

Ravi: Yeah but man the songs that are good are being played decades later.  They're THAT good.

Mark: That's a very fair point. I can stomach a 'New York' if it means another Beautiful Day.

Ravi: Yeah, "Elvis Presley" is awful, but Bad gives me chills and it was made THIRTY years ago.

Mark: Imagine behind all hyped up to attend a U2 acoustic show, and Bono says "Ok, to start things off tonight, here's 'Elvis Presley & America,' enjoy!"

Ravi: I'd be heading to the beer line ASAP

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Daily Simpsons Dialogue, Addendum #4

 We're back with yet another collection of Simpsons lines I use on a near-daily basis.  In case you're wondering how I could possibly quote enough dialogue from this show to fill one, two, three, four and now FIVE entire posts....well, it's a good show.  And my mind is easily distracted by bright and shiny objects.

"Yes.  I am in flavour country."
"I'm fired, aren't I?"
"Batman's a scientist."
"I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda."
"Marge, my friend…I haven't learned a thing."
"A pain I know all too well."
"So this is what it feels like…when doves cry!"
"In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"
"And you, I don't even know who you are, but I'm sure you're a jerk!"
"I don't recall saying 'good luck.' "
"Now this is just between me and you, smashed hat."
"Thank you, door!"
"Soon I'll be the queen of summertime!"
"The cosmic ballet….goes on."
"Not in Paraguay."
"You suck diddly-uck, Flanders!"
"By the end, I thought I was some sort of hummingbird."
"Duhh, stay outta Riverdale!"
"Such a mighty wallop…"
"A pain I know all too well."
"I've had just about enough of your Vasser-bashing, young lady!"
"Queen of the harpies!"
"It's just like the time I could have met Mr. T at the mall. The entire day, I kept saying, 'I'll go a little later, I'll go a little later...' And when I got there, they told me he just left. And when I asked the mall guy if he'll ever come back again, he said he didn't know."

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Gold Bulb

I mean, come on, if you're hiring Jeff Goldblum to promote a specialty light bulb, that's a no-brainer for the name, right?  "That's less than I tip the guy who tips people for me" is an A-plus line.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mark & Ravi's (New) Epic U2 Chat

Five months ago, my pal Ravi and I teamed up for a no-holds barred discussion of all things U2.  In the wake of the surprise release of "Songs Of Innocence," we clearly had to meet up again.  There may yet be a second part to this chat, which we'll just unleash on you something out of the Cloud.
 

Ravi: We may as well start off with a discussion of the "gift" as it appears to be the main headline generator

Mark: Ah yes, the infamous iTunes drop.  Now, am I crazy in thinking that people are a) stupid, or b) overly whiny in complaining about this?

Ravi: Well, I think U2 is kinda like the Yankees by this point. They have a strong following, but also a strong base who utterly hates them.  So this "gift" has given people who hate them a chance to shit all over U2.  It doesn't surprise me that there's been so much uproar as music snobbery is rampant these days and nothing is less cool to a hipster/music snob than a big band getting paid millions to drop albums into everyone's iTunes.

That said, talk about a first world problem...

Mark: No kidding.  If you don't want the album, take two seconds out of your life and delete it.  This isn't a big deal.  When Radiohead, Jay-Z, Beyonce, etc. drop surprise albums out of nowhere, it's been as genius or innovative.....when U2 goes even a step further, it's EW, A FREE ALBUM, NO THANKS

Ravi: It does seem a tad desperate. They do give off the vibe of the "old guys still trying to be the coolest/biggest."  Take Invisible…I liked the song, but the video/production of it was kinda corny.

I did find it interesting though...I remember at TIFF Bono gave an interview where he worried whether U2 was getting into the "small ears" of people (I am paraphrasing).  I guess this was a way they figured they could achieve that goal

Mark: But I don't get that logic.  Why SHOULDN'T they still be "trying" to be big?  Why society seem to put an arbitrary age limit on musicians, so they're either "on the way up or "distinguished veteran"?  U2 has openly been trying to be as big as possible for their entire careers, why stop now.  As you noted, U2 were particularly curious about how to stay relevant in 2014.  Mission accomplished....while there are a lot of haters, they still got their album out to a potential 500 million new listeners.  If even a couple million of that number listen to Songs Of Innocence and get hooked, that's a big win for U2

Ravi: Yeah but it's the fact that Bono talks about "staying relevant" so much now it's annoying even to fans like me. Release your music, promote it, and let the fans decide.  For me, time will tell how the promo worked - I believe 33 million have downloaded Songs of Innocence and 13 albums are on the iTunes top 100 downloaded.

Mark: That latter number is huge.  It means the band actually is picking up new listeners who are getting into the back catalogue and becoming fans.  Who would've thought that 'October' would crack an iTunes top 100 in 2014?

Ravi: Which is too bad, because the album actually is quite good.

Mark: October?  It's the weakest U2 album but still a solid 3/5.  I can only imagine this will lead to 'I Threw A Brick Through A Window' getting a massive radio revival.

Ravi: Ultimately I chalk up the hate to: 1) Yankees syndrome mixed with 2) Music being such a snobbish endeavor these days that many young fans repel anything "big."

Mark: Young fans simply aren't programmed to accept anything from an 'older' musician that MTV isn't hyping ad nauseum 24/7.  It's also some of the old "selling out" double standard attached to rock music but not other forms of music.  If Jay-Z does this, everyone hails him for being a genius businessman again....U2 does it, everyone rips them for being too corporate.

Ravi: So, give me your dish on the album

Mark: I love it.  It's still early, but this might be a top-5 U2 album for me

Ravi: The back half is excellent, it gets stronger as it goes on

Mark:  That's true, and a nice change from recent albums that started strong and then really tapered off (ATYCLB, No Line).  That said, I love the opening half as well.  They're 21st-century U2 rock songs, yet with great melodies, guitar hooks and they have a real spirit to them, unlike more generic "let's write a pop/rock hit" tunes like I'll Go Crazy If...

The only track that doesn't really stand out for me is Song For Someone.

Ravi: I can do without Every Breaking Wave as well.

Mark:  It's interesting how that was the only 'known' song that made the album cut.  I wonder if some of the other unreleased tracks from recent years (North Star, Soon, Stingray Guitar, etc.) will also be souped up and released on the next record.

Ravi:  Miracle is clearly made for a stadium opener.  I think they learned their lesson to go with something fast/a little more upbeat after starting the first half of 360 with Breathe - which is a bit of a clumsy tune to sing along to.

Mark: Very true.  NLOTH lacked a song that would be an ideal concert opener.....in hindsight, they maybe should've just led with Get On Your Boots.

Ravi: The album is interesting as their are songs clearly "structured to be hits" (Miracle, for example) and then songs that aren't "classical pop tunes/rock songs" that could become classic U2 songs, like Cedarwood Road or Sleep Like a baby tonight.  The collaboration on Troubles I quite liked as well

Mark: Oh man, The Troubles is probably my favourite song on the album.  What a great tune.  I'd never heard of anything from Lykke Li before but she has a great voice.  I wonder if she'll be an opening act on the tour, or if Edge can manage to do her vocal part live

Ravi: If you look at the album credits, Tedder/Epworth play a bigger role on the first 5-6 tracks, then its more Danger Mouse exclusively or with one of them in the back half.  I bet this album kicked ass with just Danger Mouse but had less traditional "pop hooks"/concert sing-along tunes, which likely scared the band and made them rework some tunes

Mark: Probably true.  In that way, they did a much better job of connecting the two 'halves' of this record and made it all flow together quite organically.  The pop hooky songs don't stick out like sore thumbs as they did on NLOTH.  It likely helped that they had a clear theme and inspiration for the album, i.e. looking back on their early days in Dublin

Ravi: Yeah I liked that, it helped make the record a lot easier to follow.  I guess with U2 being a "fundamentally live band" we don't know how the songs will do until they tour ... though I can envision far more of these songs working live.

Mark: Absolutely.  As you said, Miracle is specifically written as a great live song and a concert opener --- hell, it's literally about the experience of seeing your favourite band in a live show.

Ravi: So what d'you think their plan is in the intervening months between now and a tour? Will there be a Songs of Experience, or perhaps something else to keep U2 in the press (besides for the download promo).

Mark: We're kind of in uncharted territory here for U2, so who knows?  It's an exciting time to be a U2 fan....I remember in our last chat, we talked about ways for U2 to freshen up their album release/promotion methods, and now they've done that in spades.

I like to think that Songs Of Experience is just waiting to be released, though Bono has promised quick follow-up albums in the past that never saw the light of day.  In theory, however, SOE could (should?) be out in the next few months, so next year's tour would be promoting both records.
 

Ravi: Yeah. I imagine right now the U2 camp is plotting/wondering what to do in light of the mixed response to this release.  But you're right, they didn't resort to old tricks (i.e. five nights on Letterman) but instead did something innovative which I have to applaud.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Conan & Jordan Talk It Out

The latest entry in the Conan vs. Jordan Schlansky cold war.  Congrats to Jordan and Emma!  Nothing more romantic than a CVS.