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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #522 (Vol. 11, No. 13). This edition is for the week of March 22--28, 2010.

"How To Train Your Dragon"  by Mike Smith
FANEX Files: Samuel Z. Arkoff  by ED Tucker
Album of the Month: Jimi Hendrix-Valleys of Neptune  by Terence Nuzum
FANGRRL Goes To The 2010 Gasparilla International Film Festival  by Lisa Scherer
DVD Review: Cave of the Silken Web  by Jason Fetters
Lampin' Goes To Wild Splash 2010  by John Miller
Movie Notes .... Passing On .... Toy Story .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

Album of the Month: Jimi Hendrix-Valleys of Neptune

Album of the Month Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune.  

This album is number 4 on the Billboard Charts and every music mag has pretty much sung its praises or picked it as album of the month. But before you think I have jumped on the corporate bandwagon, just hear me out. It's really that good! The material on the album was made in between the release of Electric Ladyland and Hendrix's final album project Strate Ahead (later released as First Rays Of The New Rising Sun posthumously). So it includes work from the final days of the Experience to the beginnings of his collaboration with Billy Cox. The album starts off with a radically reworked version of "Stone Free". And I mean radically! Might as well forget the title and count it as a new song. Gone is the garage rock tone. It is replaced with a funky jam band feel that flat out betters the original. The much coveted (and rightly so) "Valleys of Neptune" is finally released here. It's a fluid milky way trip through a funk workout that quite simply is the chillest number Hendrix ever recorded. It's worth it for this track alone. It also shows where he was headed into more of a funk sound. A promise he fulfilled on the First Rays of the New Rising Sun album. The other masterpieces here are the blues epic "Hear My Train A Coming" which has one of his best ever guitar solos,"Ships Passing Through The Night" with its Latin jazz fusion feel, and believe it or not another reworked song "Red House" that even more so than "Stone Free" obliterates the original.
Sample of "Valleys of Neptune" by Jimi Hendrix
There also is of course the ceremonial cover song on a Hendrix album and this time it's Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" which shows that the old adage is true....Hendrix couldn't play the way Clapton did and vice versa. The greatest thing about this album is that there isn't a bad track or rather there isn't a track that isn't great. Also kudos to the producers for taking a compilation culled from various sessions and making it sound like a cohesive work that lives and breathes on its own next to the greats. The irony is that some 40 years on, a dead musician is still releasing albums that are better than musicians that are alive. So this isn't just for the diehard as there is much for new fans and old alike to play fucking loud!

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Beat The Devil's Tattoo - .  

All concert-going Tampanians that attended the Stone Temple Pilots concert in 2008 will never forget that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club saved the show. STP were no shows (due to poor attendance or Weiland overdosing) and BRMC played two whole sets. It was sweaty, fuzzed-out pure rock n roll. It's probably better that STP never showed, in fact. On their fourth album, BRMC combine the heavy buzz-saw guitars of their debut, the acoustic folk of their second album, Howl, the catchy as hell melodies from Baby 81, and the experimental production of the useless internet-only The Effects of 333 free album. From the druggy-haze of "Bad Blood", the greaser turned Bob Dylan of "Evil", to the scorching "Aya" this album is everything of the spit, the sweat, the angst of the night they saved the show. If it wasn't for Jimi they'd own this month.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: The Brutalist Bricks.  

Ted Leo is like the Ramones. He always sounds the same. Which like the Ramones means he sounds consistently good. Not one for experimentation he does do a little here. He dabbles in folk pop a la The Levelers and even a couple of cool reggae-type numbers. But he doesn't let us down and delivers his usual fuck-the-government, protest-pop punk. Like usual, great stuff.

Broken Bells: Broken Bells- This isn't what it could have been. The idea of James Mercer of The Shins backed by studio extraordinaire James Burton aka Danger Mouse sets the mind reeling with all sorts of possibilities. But instead of The Shins meets Gnarls Barkley we get simply what it is, James Mercer produced by Danger Mouse. Once that's out of the way you have a nice chill little record. Danger Mouse adds spacey pop instrumentation and beats to Mercer's already airy voice creating a hazy soundscape of aural pleasure. Not quite what it could have been but a lot more than what Gorillaz turned out to be. Sorry Damon, it's true.

The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights (DVD/CD)- The most telling problem with Emmet Malloy's red, black and white documentary of The White Stripes Canadian tour is that it's a surprisingly empty film about a multi-layered band. Basically you get live performances that are never played out till the end and interrupted with interviews of the band which give about as much insight as you already knew. Meg is still quiet and shy and Jack is still being mysterious. He still claims Meg is his sister when that was debunked ages ago and yet in the same interview claims the band doesn't do anything premeditated. The live CD is far more the valuable commodity of this set. If like me, you have been lucky enough to catch this band live you will know that even though its just Jack on guitar and Meg on drums that it is the loudest concert you have been to. The Stripes live is a tad different beast than on record. Where as on record there is pauses and space and rich textures, live the band sounds like psychobilly rockers The Cramps covering The White Stripes....only sped up! This CD, like their live shows comes into the room like a hurricane and leaves like a H-bomb. The film is for curiosity but the CD is essential.

Drive By Truckers: The Big To-Do- What we were promised was a return to the rock. What we got was more of the pop rock syrupy crunch of a Blessing and A Curse. That's not the worst thing in the world, of course, but it would be nice to hear the sloppy Skynyrd rawness of Southern Rock Opera. Patterson Hood lays the best songs down here and even experiments a little with the Modest Mouse like "The Wig He Made Her Wear" and the bouncy homicide tune "Drag The Lake Charlie". More disturbing is the lack of good material from the usually reliable Mike Cooley, my personal favorite songwriter in the band, and Shonna Tucker who after three promising tracks off the last album here sounds so out of place it's embarrassing. The album is an attempt to return to the southern gothic dramas of the Jason Isbell-era Truckers, but even that falls flat. Lines like "a family can't live on these fast food wages" sound rushed and beneath the band's best work. Of course, even though a mediocre album from DBT's is reason to crank up the stereo, it's still sad that the fact that last year's B-sides and rarities disc blew this out of the water. And those were leftovers.

March releases also worth checking out:

The Liars: Sister World
The Morning Benders: Big Echo

"The Audio Philes" is ©2010 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.