Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D

I was excited to see this, simply because I never got to see it on the big screen. And really wanted to! There was the apprehension that messing with it would ruin it. I don't understand the technology involved here, but I was willing to try it out.

This is, in my opinion, one of THE BEST MOVIES EVER MADE. It's perfect. It's stunning to look at, it's funny, it's dark and threatening, slightly gruesome, moving, and ultimately, a story of hope with a happy ending! The soundtrack for this musical is incredible. This is a movie that, in the theatre, had the audience applauding at the title, and again at the end. Viewers wore their Jack Skellington T shirts to the show.

So the 3D thing wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It's hard to get used to; the eyes need to adjust to it. In some places, it was difficult to follow the action across the screen; the Pumpking King's long spidery legs often turned into a blur. Often things just looked fuzzy. (Or maybe I'm getting old and my eyes are fading. My 12 year old tells me she had fuzzy eyes too so it can't be my elderly eyeballs.)

At its best, the 3D treatment worked well with scenes which were already layered. The ghosts, clouds, and fog turned out well. The amazing Ogie Bogie sequence looked pretty good.

I don't regret plunking down my hard earned money to see it. It was still awesome to get the big treatment...but I'll be just as happy to watch my disc at home on my 20" TV with my surround sound.

3D treatment: 2 out of 5 Tractors.

the movie itself? FIVE TRACTORS!!!!

What's this? WHAT'S THIS?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This album dropped months and months ago, but is really just picking up momentum since the summer here in Ontario.

This is the first album from Wolfmother, a trio from Australia. I really like this album. I'm going to take some flack for this, I know. Many rock snobs are spouting off about how derivative it is, how much of a Zeppelin rip off it is, how much of a Jack White rip off it is. Know what? I don't care. Let's just get this straight now- all rock music is a rip off. And it's great. Name any great rock band of the early 70s. They ripped off and are still being ripped off. Rock gets recycled. I love it all. Now, let's do this.

Wolfmother may sound like all your favourite rock bands, but they're no tribute act. It's like the gods of rock gathered all the great forerunners of metal, poured them into a giant mix mill with a Camaro, an eight track, an ipod, some crunchy old guitar cords, that rug in your basement rec room, sprinkled something over it that looked like parsley, and extruded one of my favourite records of the year.

It starts off with a throat shredding wail and goes straight into the march of "Another Dimension." This lead track should convince you that these guys have done their homework. I believe I heard a lyric referring to purple haze.

Not only have they obviously done some faithful listening, they've put their time in at the rehearsal space. This is a very capable trio. Drummer Myles Heskett has hard hitting chops that sound jazz-based (like Bonham, Ward, and Densmore); Andrew Stockdale is a guitar player capable of both big fat chords and skillful picking; he sings in a barely controlled chameleonic squeal appropriate to the genre; bass player Chris Ross is not only heavy but also plays keyboards. Kids, he's rocking the old Hammond B-3 on this record. Plus they've got their LOOK down perfectly. I believe them.

Heidi puts the record through its paces:

The Jethro Jetta test: "I think it sounds great. I wasn't upset when I heard it, which I am quite often when I listen to records."

"It does give me those Led Zeppelin warm fuzzies."
(He's not a big fan of the remasters. He says they took a perfectly good analog recording and ran it throught the ProTools Smash Machine or whatever the hell they do to make everything sound so harsh these days.)

The Dining room test: Yeah! Very appetite stimulating. We actually got this disc in time for the last days of picnic table back yard meals, with the little purple boom box aimed out the sliding screen door. Grilled burgers with the works sound amazingly good with the way Wolfmother tastes!

The Family Room Surround Sound test: I love this; I was rewarded for my listen by little things I didn't hear in the car or on the boombox. Strums, distant drum fills, and a little bit of panning from one side to another. Generally it's mixed with the drums and vocals at the front, and the guitars at the back, surrounding your head. Who doesn't love guitars surrounding your head? I know I love it.

Packaging: If you've been here before you'll know what a sucker I am for a beautiful packaging job. This a dark rock and roll fantasy complete with the mostly naked goddess, the roiling sky, the crashing waves and the sea serpents!!!! It's actually beautifully done. Take a minute to study the artwork; it's reproduced so that the texture of the canvas shows. There are lyrics included too! I would have liked to see the lettering a little larger in the credits, but I'm married to a studio geek so I'm biased that way.

This is the kind of music that can put you into a trance of fuzz, but just before things get hypnotic, (Colossal, Mind's Eye) they change it up (Pyramid). Overall I think the songs are in the right order. Notice that in a nod to vinyl, the listing on the back cover, there is a space where you'd have to get off your butt and go flip the record over.

Lyrically they've written with great rhythm and fairly loose rhyming structure. The content is perfectly Deep and Meaningless (my favourite kind) while not going off into cheesy territory. (Only Zeppelin could do Tolkien references, okay?)

Production wise, it's well done. It sounds great, the instruments are all given enough space, good performances were captured, and just enough grit was left in, like a little bit of amp buzz, to keep it interesting. Good Job, D. Sardy! Yes, there was ProTools involved in the editing, but the engineers didn't abuse it, and the mastering job didn't compress it into a blanket of noise. What a relief.

I like this record so much that I'm going to test out my new rating system on it. It's excellent. I'm tempted to give it a classic but really, how can you tell these things in the present? That's why I aim to invent my own system. Screw all the other systems. It's fun, it's well done, I have no complaints. I can dance to it in my living room and it feels good on the highway. My kids can listen to it uncensored. My husband doesn't cringe when it's on. It makes me feel groovy!

I give it a FIVE JOHN DEERE rating!

Friday, October 06, 2006

AUDIOSLAVE Revelations

With their third album since their 2002 debut, Audioslave are bent on proving that they’re in for the long haul. Revelations shows their evolution from four individuals making a record to a band with their own identity.
I rank these guys as one of my favourite bands, so expect a bias here. The level of talent and musical skill is rarely seen in the modern rock-radio digitally smashed glut of soundalikes. They haven’t ever gotten good reviews though. People can’t seem to figure out what to do with this band. When the first single emerged early this summer, a DJ at the Toronto edge-format station was a little wary. “Original Fire” with its clipped chords and quick groove just seemed way too up-tempo for his liking.

Here’s what’s going on: this is a tailgate-down, good-times-havin, head-bobbin, butt-shakin record.

And sometimes, kids, you just have to rawk.

It starts off with the title track, which features a chorus you’ll find surprisingly easy to sing along with. Immediately after that, you’ll be blasted with the funky and incredibly danceable “One And The Same.” I’m not joking. Just try to listen to that one and not move any part of your body. Good luck.

“Sound Of A Gun” has the big chunking chorus of bass and guitar that Audioslave is becoming known for, contrasting with tuneful verses.

Another highlight is “Until We Fall” which I hesitate to call a ballad because it is completely devoid of the sappiness that most ballads specialize in. Acoustic guitar and a solid bass line anchor this up-tempo song. It has some interesting chord changes and beautiful imagery. I think I heard a tympani in there too. Cool.

The album closes with a one-two-three kick of seriousness. “Wide Awake” is clearly aimed at the aftermath of the Hurricane in the Southern States of 2005. “Nothing Left To Say But Goodbye”, with its loyal dog/grateful man metaphor, takes an Axl Rose-type turn at the end into some ominous sounding chords. This leads into the haunting “Moth,” which sounds like a final word to the seductive hold of addiction. It’s a good choice for last track: it will stick with you afterwards.

The packaging is once again nicely done. They haven’t strayed from the black background and slick photography that graced the previous two albums. In keeping with the theme of elements (fire, water) the cover photo shows what appears to be a satellite shot of earth. (It’s actually planet Audioslave.) The lyrics are easy to read. However, I have to bring up a problem. There are a few typos and grammatical mistakes, which I assume is a verbatim copying from hastily scrawled handwritten notes. Far be it from me to criticize a poet in the heat of his art. As far as I’m concerned Chris Cornell can make as many spelling mistakes as he wants. I just want them to get it right on the liner notes. I’m available, guys. For you, I’ll work cheap. Just leave a comment, I’m there.

I couldn’t really tell you about this album without noting what really makes Audioslave special. It’s musicianship. These guys are good. Cornell with his raspy howl can sing it and scream it; Morello is one of, if not THE most innovative guitarists out there today; Commerford lays down the fattest, squattiest, heaviest bass lines; and Wilk is capable of throwing some serious funk into his rapid fire drumming. I have listened to this album concentrating on one at a time, and they’re each stunning.
I put this record through my usual battery of tests:

The Jethro test: “It’s harsh but not painful. That’s Brendan O’Brien- just punish it to tape, that’s his thing. Oh yeah, it was recorded on analog. Sure it was. For these guys you’d bust open the vault and get out the two-inch. They lay it down. No need to cut it up in ProTools for two months.”

the Jetta test:Damn if this doesn’t feel good zooming down the highway.

the dining roomtest: my kids LOVE this band. The girl loves the vocal melodies. My son is the biggest Audioslave fan I know, as well as the smallest! It’s the perfect length for a meal. Put it on while stirring things and setting the table. Linger over your meal and the Shape Of Things To Come. By the time you’re washing dishes you’ve had a good dose of tunes.

Family Room test- Yeah this is good in surround sound. There’s not much fancy studio trickery but it’s well done. I particularly like the way the bass buzzes around the back of my head.

We’ve been spinning this once since it dropped, which is about a month now. Still not sick of it. With three albums in four years, they’re obviously gelling as a band and are getting a lot of satisfaction out of writing music together. I hope they keep it up.

Revelations isn’t a perfect album, but it is excellent. There’s always room in my world for another solid album’s worth of tailgate down butt shakin head bangin music!