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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #536 (Vol. 11, No. 27). This edition is for the week of June 28--July 4, 2010.

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"  by Phillip Smith
June Album of the Month: Alejandro Escovedo-Street Songs Of Love  by Terence Nuzum
Happy Anniversary Video Watchdog!  by ED Tucker
Book Review: The Flamingo Rising by Larry Baker  by Lisa Scherer
Kamikaze Girls (2005)  by Jason Fetters
Staring Down "the Last Airbender" .... Passing On .... Another Thing I Hate .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

June Album of the Month: Alejandro Escovedo-Street Songs Of Love

Album of the Month Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs Of Love.  
Escovedo is a damn badass. He was in various punk bands in the 70s and 80s, in the 90's he conquered alt-country and roots rock with a string of awesome and emotional albums that can't be beat (OK, so Neil and Dylan can, but hey), he almost died from Hepatitis C in 2003, and he's Coke Escovedo's brother for christsake! Esco has in his long career of 9 albums only really made one clunker so far, 2006's Boxing Mirror, but even that didn't entirely suck. His last album Real Animal was supposedly a return to his punk roots but it really didn't have the bite of his old Buick Mackane side project. And the American roots rock that he is the master of weren't all that hot. Nevertheless, the album was decent even if it was marred by some sappy love songs that he would have had the good taste to add some darker-themed music to back in his 90s heyday. So when I saw the title of the new album I kinda was worried. And there on the cover was Esco looking like a Mexican lounge singer. What was I to think. But my worries were unfounded. Whatever Real Animal had claimed to be, this actually is. There are a couple of ballads here but they are actually good and up to his old roots rock standards and fit nicely alongside the rockers (kinda like a Bob Seger album sequencing). The rockers are great.
Sample of "This Bed Is Getting Crowded" by Alejandro Escovedo
Pure 70's pub punk that only someone who was there at the time can create. Escovedo's voice is always the tie that binds all this. Almost no one in current popular music has his vocal vulnerability. He can sing forcefully and yet there is always that tinge of defeat in it. Like Dylan or Neil Young he knows how to harness that power and not let it slide too much either way. Though I have said it for years, I wont stop saying it, he is the only one who can be and should be considered Dylan or Neil Young's heir to the singer songwriter/roots rock crown. But as his albums always prove, he is something beyond even those typical critics' darling comparisons. He, like all great musicians, plays in the moment and for the music, and unlike most modern musicians, he understands that greatness comes from being a slave to the music and not the other way around.

How To Destroy Angels: self-titled EP.  

So this then is what Trent dissolved Nine Inch Nails to do. Was it worth it? For sure. Simply because it doesn't dissapoint. But those of you expecting Trent with his new-found freedom and NIN shackles removed to go down some different highways will be disappointed. It's basically Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts album with female vocals (supplied by Reznor's wife). But it also reaffirms what, in the wake of Nine Inch Nails' household name image of heavy rock a lot of people forgot, and that is that Trent was and always has been a major player in industrial and electronic music from way back in the 80'(the bands name is also the title of a Coil song). Don't believe me then look up his history. Just one listen to Pretty Hate Machine, Downward Spiral, or Year Zero will remind you that he was always more than just heavy guitars. Mariqueen Maandig is not only the vocalist but she is also Reznor's wife so it's no surprise she can croon/whisper her vocals exactly like her angst-ridden hubby. Unfortunately, she doesn't leave her own stamp on the vocals which is really this EP's only negative. If she is just gonna sing like Trent, then why not just have Trent do it! Is this the real direction of his new band or just a rushed beginning consisted of Nine Inch Nails leftovers? We won't know till the follow up when I'm sure Trent will dazzle us once again.

Against Me!: White Crosses.  

Gainesville's Against Me! have gone through some changes through the years. From indie label to major, from punk to indie rock. This new album is no exception. Losing a lot of the punk rawness that was on the last album, New Wave, the band instead delivers a well-crafted, indie-rock dose of power-pop ballads. Though frontman Tom Gabel says it was inspired by driving around Gainesville at night listening to Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever, the influence is not heard musically here. "Teenage Anarchist" soars like the breakthrough anthem that Social Distortion always had too much intergrity to deliver, while "Suffaction" is the mature punk that Green Day strive so hard to make these past years but can't pull off the honesty of, and "Spanish Moss" is the pop song that Weezer no longer have the ability to write. The spitfire "Rapid Decompression" and the title track are the only time the band really returns to any kind of punk angst with a surging chorus and in-your-face imagery of "white crosses on church lawns/ I wanna smash them all". Starting the album with "White Crosses", a blast of the old more punk, Against Me! leaves the rest of the album not a culture shock but a pleasent revelation that this band is not being held down creatively and that hopefully in the years to come will be more than just a good punk band and become just a plain good band.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Mojo

Its been awhile since Tom Petty has teamed with the Heartbreakers and given us a really good album (though his recent solo stuff and side project Mudcrutch has been great). Mojo changes all that. It's being billed as a blues album in the vein of The Allman Brothers jams but that is almost false advertising. The Heartbreakers don't have it in them to play that long or good but who does. The emphasis on blues is also overstated. This is actually somewhat of a good thing. Because I feared it would be nothing more than some old guys who have given up the muse to redo old blues standards. Thankfully, that's not the case. It is, with the exception of a few blues-based numbers, a classic Heartbreakers sound. While it contains no hits, it will remind you of the first two albums when both Petty and the band had no other aspirations or expectations to live up to other than to play some good old rock n' roll.

Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

I usually confound people. I own most every 1970s punk band's albums and yet I can, do, love to listen to Bruce Springsteen. Apparently, a lot of indie rockers do too. From The Hold Steady, to The Killers, to Marah there are many Boss influenced bands. A lot of them like Marah come too close to apeing his sound than trying to attack it at a different angle (though The Hold Steady have done a brilliant job of it). Gaslight Anthem is the sound of punk and greaser punk meeting the Boss on a park bench in the winter. They capture that proto-emo heartland rock but amp it all up and in effect makes you realize that they are actually doing this sort of thing better than the Springsteen has in years. Take notes old man.

Devo: Something for Everybody

So Devo is back and it's not some kid's album like last time. This is the real deal. 12 prepackaged songs from everyones favorite devolutionists. It rocks, it bops, it's disco, it's new wave. Buy it. Consume it. You will love it. No joke I promise. All kidding aside this is really a great album that, while I wished had them return less to the "Whip It" sound and more to the first album's frentic guitar noise, holds up right next to their 80's stuff at least, and betters most of the 80's dance punk and electroclash retro bands out there right now. After a Disney album, who thought they had it in them. Soon to be your favorite new lyric, "feedin' and breedin' and pumpin' gas/cheeseburger, cheeseburger, do it again!".

The Roots: How I Got Over

Lyrically not The Roots best hour. Musically, it grooves like Isaac Hayes and The Meters sipping lemonade on the hot sidewalk. The Roots are still the most sound rap group in the business. How can a Kanye or a Drake compare to a rap group that has live instruments and that when they want to sample something they record it new with an artist instead of ripping off their old record collection. If all rappers took notes they too could transcend the weak and musically restricting genre they are in like The Roots have. The problem here is they have too many guest vocalists (most of them indie rockers. The Roots, unlike mainstream rappers, have the taste to look in the right places) and even though they don't overpower the songs, it's not something that benefits them, either. It seems that because they have an indie star-studded powerhouse of guests, The Roots think they can slack on lyrics. Musically, though, this album is awesome. Questlove, as always, turns in some amazing drumming, and Captain Kirk Douglas evokes Curtis Mayfield. I wish the album was as epic as past releases and I wonder if being house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon has made them turn in a rush job. Or maybe it's just what it sounds like, a laid back summer groove album. Since 2008's Rising Down was supposed to be their swan song, maybe I should just shut up and be glad I can still enjoy the greatest rap group in America.

Danzig: Deth Red Saboath

Yes! Glenn's back! And not with that shitty, techno-industrial crap he was slopping out to us. It looks like his last album Circle of Snakes was no one-sound wonder. He has hopefully, for good, returned to what he does best, doomy blues metal. Deth Red Saboath does Circle of Snakes one better. Danzig sounds fully on here, delivering his best tracks in years. "Hammer of the Gods" blasts the album out of the pit with pummeling guitar and thundering bass. "Ju Ju Bone" is the 70s blues metal song Jim Morrisson never lived to write. Like a Ramones album, there isn't much you can say about a Danzig album that you haven't said a hundred times before. So Danzig is back...I'll just leave it at that.

Other June releases of note:
Stars: The Five Ghosts

"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.