Hello everyone! I’m getting later and later with these, aren’t I? I’m really sorry…

This weeks SPECIAL ED is brought to you by DayQuil Cold & Flu…and by – Mucinex. Ask your doctor if Mucinex is right for you.

And by…Speed Stick deodorant –

– byyyy MEN-NEN.

BASKET CASE


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Oh, Basket Case. I was probably around eleven when I first saw the film, a demented – and actually kinda’ sad – tale of Siamese twins who, despite a successful separation, simply couldn’t live apart. As a kid, the flick felt like everything I wasn’t supposed to be watching rolled into a squishy ball on a dirty floor (despite the fact that my dad was incredibly liberal in terms of what I was allowed to watch and read – I’ve probably mentioned that the first movie I ever saw on video was a Betamax copy of Apocalypse Now. I was six).

We first meet Kevin VanHetenryck’s Duane as he arrives in the Big Apple. He’s a freak among freaks – but we don’t get a sense of that just yet. He checks into a shitty flophouse with a peculiar piece of luggage – the basket that contains his blobby twin brother Belial. The twins are in town to hunt down the doctors responsible for the most traumatic incident of their lives – the operation that separated them as children. But a funny (genuinely) thing happens on their mission of vengeance – Duane finds that he’s not so fucking weird after all. In fact – he might just have a shot at a normal life. But how will that sit with his sinister psychic sibling?

NYC Auteur Frank Henenlotter’s demented family comedy really helped me find my way. It shaped my viewing habits, my social sympathies, and my understanding of the world around me. Everything I knew about New York City was a mélange of Carpenter’s first Escape, and the collected works of Larry Cohen and Frank Henenlotter. But Frank’s influence spread (or leaked) into my own early short films. One of the first stop-motion camera tests I ever did was the manipulation of my friend’s life-sized Belial sculpture.

Come to think of it, Henenlotter’s entire oeuvre was pretty ripe for rip-off. My friends and I made a short called Look at the Dirty Sock I Found, which began as an existential musing on how and why a lone article of footwear – sock or shoe – can so often be found in the middle of the road without its counterpart, but blossomed into a tale of a sentient sock creature that rewarded the man who found it by getting him high – if only he would kill for it. I don’t know why I felt compelled to write a Brain Damage riff featuring a sock puppet (and I don’t know why the film’s finale was a rooftop machete fight) – but it’s a testament to the power of our friend Frank.

Oh – and there’s even a Henenlotter film on the “Movies That Got Jason Play” list – the giant-boxed VHS release of Frankenhooker (that said “Wanna’ Date?!” when you squeezed it in the right spot) was “the best Christmas gift ever” for a girl I used to date. She quoted the flick incessantly – and made that face a lot.

BEN HUR


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You know – Chuck Heston gets a bad rap, but the guy knew what he was doing. This movie is proof. Special Edition Blu Ray. Let’s hope it looks great.

THE BLOOD TRILOGY


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Herschell Gordon Lewis says “all up in them guts” meant something different in his day! Thankyouverymuch!

CARLOS (Criterion)


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I hate Olivier Assayas.

Okay…I’ll admit it – my hatred is really just jealousy. He’s a great, great filmmaker – and he was married to Maggie Cheung. He has the life I can only dream of. Maggie Cheung…will you marry me?

Anyway – Criterion delivers Assayas’ epic about the life and times of the terrorist they call “The Jackal” at its original miniseries length (all five and a half hours – not the two and change it was cut down to for theatrical release).

INSIDE OUT


DONT BUY IT FROM AMAZON – BUY THIS!

As an actor, WWE grappler Paul “Preparation H” Levesque is no Hulk Hogan. He doesn’t have as many moves in his repertoire, and he’s not nearly as nimble. As an actor – Levesque is just about Hulk Hogan – though Hogan’s capable of a bit more subtlety. And I understand what the producers thought they they were doing when they positioned “HHH” opposite talented thesps like Parker Posey, Dick Ritchie and Bruce Dern – but it really only serves to reinforce how wooden, awful, and devoid of charisma Levesque is. I like that WWE produces its own film projects starring its own often fun personalities – but Paul Levesque has always been the antithesis of fun. And personality.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE & A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS


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I really don’t like these double features, but at least the films don’t share a disc. I adore Elm Street 3. Really my favorite of the franchise. It balances all of the elements that make the thing work (when it does) – the surreal fantasy visuals, the scary sexuality, the slasher destruction (and deconstruction), and the humor (here more a result of the can’t-give-a-fuck black comedy of the institutionalized teens than Freddy himself).

I can’t imagine for a moment that the films in this set look remotely decent. I’d imagine they were mastered from the same transfers created for the old DVD box set, but I’ll let you know…

IT MEANS EVERYTHING: THE BLU RAY OF THE WEEK!

MIMIC


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I’ve said it before and a thousand times more – Guillermo Del Toro has never made a bad film. When sparring with those who know film, a common response to this statement has been, “Yeah – what about Mimic?”

My buddy Rutt and I – after reading pieces about Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish-language shocker Cronos in Fango and the like – knew it was our kind of flick, and so we excitedly staked out Zak’s Music and Movies – the weird-ass (and weirdly overpriced) indie video/record store in our town – in the hopes we’d get to see it on its first day of release. We were absolutely blown away by the film, of course – and we knew we were Del Toro fans for life. So when Mimic was announced…my team was excited. Not only was Del Toro making his English-language debut, he was doing it with a super-cool actress (Mira Sorvino) and an organization with a real reputation for respecting the filmmaker. The Weinsteins were going to help Guillermo make our dreams come true.

Have you ever guys ever read Peter Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures?

I’d love for that to be a rhetorical question, but for those who aren’t aware – Guillermo was fired from Mimic. In what I felt to be one of the most harrowing portions of Peter Biskind’s book, Producer B.J. Rack and Quentin Tarantino share their remembrances of Mimic’s insanely troubled production – and Del Toro’s mistreatment at the hands of a couple of asswipes. Rack (via Biskind) recalled:

“Bob told [Del Toro], ‘You’re just not cuttin’ it, and we have to let you go. I’m sorry I trusted you…you’re not the right guy.’

Del Toro was crushed. He said, ‘Maybe we’re making two different movies.’

Bob replied, ‘No, you’re not making a good movie. You’re going home tonight…we’re gonna’ pick up the pieces tomorrow with someone else.’”

When Sorvino learned of this, she did something that makes me want to kiss the soles of her feet (probably something she’s used to – having dated Quentin Tarantino). Biskind wrote:

“According to Rack, Sorvino, who had a lot to lose by antagonizing the Weinsteins, threw a spectacular tantrum, screamed at Bob, “You motherfucker, you’re not doing this to him, you’re not doing this to me, this is not the way you make movies, I’m not coming to the set tomorrow without Guillermo directing the movie. I won’t work for anyone else. I’ll split.”

So “kisses for Mira Sorvino” and “fuck you Bob Weinstein” is basically how I feel about that.

Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber basically sat on Guillermo for the entire shoot, forced second unit shooting for added boo-scare boosit, and – of course – changed his ending.

Now that the Potatoheads are off crashing another company, there are other interests stepping in to evaluate their back catalog – and Guillermo has seized the opportunity to climb back into the editing bay to assemble a cut of Mimic that is closer to his own vision.

Despite the fact that the film streets today, I found a single copy of it on the shelf at Best Buy two weeks ago, and excitedly snatched it up, and I’ve gotta’ say that – while I remember walking out of Mimic feeling like it was an effective little scary movie – I was somewhat saddened by what I felt was a lack of Del Toro’s Cronos style. With this Director’s Cut – problem solved.

Del Toro’s cut is only a few minutes longer – but it feels infinitely shorter somehow, despite the fact that there is far less cutting overall. Shots are allowed to linger to the point where they become seriously uncomfortable. There is an painfully elegiac tone to the film now, as the notion that the disease that Sorvino’s mutant insects were created to stop killed so many children is brought to the fore, positioning the character of the autistically-touched boy Chuy as something of a wartime child (which brings the film in line with Del Toro’s masterpiece, The Devil’s Backbone). The typical scientific race-against-time vibe so prevalent in these sorts of films has been restructured here to feel less like a countdown clock and more like mounting Lovecraftian dread.

All of the same story beats are present. The film unfolds much as it did in 1997 (many of the battles Del Toro lost were on-set, so some of what he had in mind was never shot), but this assemblage demonstrates what a true artist can bring to a concept that, on paper, might seem very conventional.

The image itself has undergone a wonderful restoration. It looks astounding – for such a dark movie, it’s great to see that nothing gets lost in the blacks. The colors never feel artificial, and it’s great to see the film presented in anamorphic widescreen (FINALLY).

Lionsgate never fouls up in the audio department, and the 7.1 mix is sweet but never artificial, and it makes great use of what I’ve always felt to be Marco Beltrami’s best work (his cues here alternate between old-Hollywood B-movie bombast and effectively mournful – like that fucking Broom Funeral cue from the first Hellboy. Betrami, you sanofabitch – you slay me every time with that one).

Guillermo offers a far-more-contrite-than-necessary intro to the film, where he acknowledges Mimic’s supposed faults while still expressing pride in the final product, and he takes us on another brilliant journey via commentary (seriously, I want Guillermo Del Toro to do commentaries on other people’s films – listening to him speak is such a fucking joy) – all in all, this is a great package for a film that can now proudly take its place among the films of a visionary. This is a disc I’m so happy to finally own – and you need to pick it up, my friends.

Guillermo Del Toro has never made a bad film.

ALL IN – THIS WEEK’S BLU:

Basket Case
Battling Butler/Go West
Ben-Hur
The Blood Trilogy
Carlos (Criterion)
Dead Cert
Dragon Crusaders
Escape of the Birdmen
Footloose
Gamera Trilogy
Gamera: Revenge of the Iris
Good Neighbors
Groupie / Detention
The Hagstone Demon
Heathers
The Hour
How to Make It in America: The Complete First Season
Hung: The Complete Second Season
Iggy & Stooges: Raw Power Live in the Hands of the Fans
Inside Out
The Ledge
Mimic
Mysteries of the Deep: Coral Reef & Undersea Treasures
Mysteries of the Deep: Habitat of the Great Oceans
Mysteries of the Deep: Lost Ships
Mysteries of the Deep: Unique Ocean Creatures
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3
Ocean’s Twelve / Ocean’s Thirteen
The Phantom Carriage (Criterion)
The Stool Pigeon
Torso
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Urmana / Scandiuzzi / Botha / Zajick: Verdi: Aida
Various Artists: Puccini Turandot
Without Men

AND NOW THE DVD STARTS!

ADVENTURE TIME: MY TWO FAVORITE PEOPLE


MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BUY IT AT AMAZON…?

I only just discovered this show through a friend, and I love it. I really love it. You probably already love it, so I don’t have to sell it to you. It sells itself – but BEWARE – it’s not selling itself as the ENTIRE FIRST SEASON. It’s only a collection of episodes. If you buy this now – you may wind up have to buy these eps again when the full season hits.

3 by Theo: The Theo Van Gogh Collection
Accidental Icon: The Real Gidget Story
Act of Vengeance
Adventure Time: My Two Favorite People
The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson Volume 1
The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson Volume 2
All She Can
All Star Jazz Show: Live From the Ed Sullivan Theater
American Bully
American Loser
American Mystic
Angel of Evil
Around the World in Eighty Days
Art of the Western World
Baby Jane
Ballet Favorites: Newly Revised Version
Basement
Basket Case
Battling Butler / Go West
Bear With Me
Beijing Taxi
Ben-Hur
Blast & Whisper
The Blood Trilogy
Blue Eyes
The Boxer and the Bombshell
Bright Angel
Bruce Springsteen Collection
The Burning Hills
The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman
C.H.U.D.
Call Me Fitz: The Complete First Season
Carlos (Criterion)
Chevy Muscle Cars
Chloe’s Closet: Chloe’s Winter Wonderland
The Christine Jorgensen Story
Christmas Lights 2: Bigger Dazzling Displays
Christmas Wishes in Fairyland
City on a Hunt
The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season Two
Cloud-Capped Star
Cool
Cool Cars of the 50s
Corpse Princess: The Complete Series
The Cost of Love
Country Mouse/City Mouse Adventures On Orient Express
Country Mouse/City Mouse Pharoah’s Tomb
Cruise: Alaska
Cruise: Caribbean East
Cruise: Caribbean West
CSI Miami: Seasons 1-9
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Eleventh Season
CSI: Miami – The Ninth Season
CSI: New York – The Seventh Season
CSI: New York Seasons 1-7
CSI: Seasons 1-11
The Dalton Girls
Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Series
Dead Cert
Degrassi: Season 10, Part 2
Di Di Hollywood
Dirty Dingus Magee
Dragon Crusaders
Dum Maaro Dum
The Dybbuk
Eban & Charley
The Echo Game
Eco Walk
Einstein: The Man behind The Genius
The End Times
Escape of the Birdmen
Eye of the Future
The First of May
Fischer Wild Man: Derailroaded
Five Guns to Tombstone
Ford Muscle Cars
Forged
Gaither: Tent Revival Homecoming
Gaither: The Old Rugged Cross
Gamera Trilogy
Gamera: Revenge of the Iris
Gates of Jerusalem
Gavin & Stacey: Season Two
Gavin & Stacey: The Christmas Special & Season 3
Gavin & Stacey: The Complete Collection
Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Go For It!
The Godfather of Gore: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Good Neighbors
Great Cars: Corvette
Great Cars: Mustang
Great Cars: Volkswagen
Groupie/Detention
The Hagstone Demon
Heathers
Heaven Our Eternal Home
Help Me Help You
The Hide
Holly’s World: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2
The Hour
How I Met Your Mother: Season Six
How to Make It in America: The Complete First Season
Hung: The Complete Second Season
iCrime
Iggy & Stooges: Raw Power Live In the Hands Of The Fans
Inside Out
International Jazz Hall of Fame: 1996 Awards Cermonies
Jackie Mason: One Angry Man
Jake & The Never Land Pirates: Season 1, Volume 1
Japanese Okinawan Budo Masters Of The Martial Arts
Jonny Quest vs The Cyber Insects
Jungle Book
Just Ines
Keith Lowell Jensen: Cats Made of Rabbits
The Killer Priest
Kojak: Season Two
L’Amour Fou
Laura Pausini: Gira Mundial 2009 Live
Law & Order Special Victims Unit: Year 12
The Ledge
The Legend of Tilamook’s Gold
The Living Ghost
A Long Winter’s Nap
Looney Tunes Fun Collection
The Looney Tunes Show: Season 1 Volume 1
Los Campeones De La Lucha Libre
Lost Empires
The Lost Future
Love, Cheat & Steal
A Man for all Seasons

Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem: Mardi Gras Massacre
Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem: Scream/Barn of Naked Dead

Former WWE Diva Maria Kanellis is playing Horror Hostess? Yes I will watch a movie with you, Maria. Yes I will…

Married… With Children: The Complete Series
Mastering Tae Kwon Do: Kicks
Mastering Tae Kwon Do: Self Defense
Mexican Gangster
Mexico vs the Border Patrol
The Middle: Season Two
Mimic: Director’s Cut
Miracle in the Woods
The Miracle of the Spring
Miss Nobody
The Monkees: The Complete First Season
The Monkees: The Complete Second Season
Mopar Muscle Cars
The Music Lovers
Mysteries of the Deep: Coral Reef & Undersea Treasures
Mysteries of the Deep: Habitat of the Great Oceans
Mysteries of the Deep: Lost Ships
Mysteries of the Deep: Unique Ocean Creatures
Nature
New Tricks: Season Five
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3
Nirvana: Live at Paramount
Not In Our Town: Light In The Darkness
Old School Hip Hop: Run DMC & Flava Flav
Olds Pontiac: Buick Muscle Cars
One Piece: Collection 2
Open
Paloma Herrera: Here & Now About Prima Ballerina
Paul Cezanne: World In An Apple Gallery Of The Masters
The Phantom Carriage (Criterion)
The Photographer: Inside the Mind of a Psycho
Picturing Mary
Prisoner of Her Past
Psalms and Passion
The Puck Hogs
Punish Me
Punkin Chunkin 2010
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: Volumes 1-4
Queer As Folk: The Complete U.K. Collection
Ready, Set, Bag!
Real Show
Red Sox: Fenway Park Fall Classics
Red, White and Zero
Refreshed By Fire
The Riddle Of The Sands
A River Made To Drown In
Scared Shrekless / Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins
Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc. Volume 3
The Sex Merchants
Shinchan: Season 3, Part 2
Sign of the Beaver
Sister Wives 2
Slain Icons of Rap: Biggie & Tupac
Slaughtered
Snack Bar Budapest
Snuff Film: Death on Camera
Some Dogs Bite
Sordid Things
Squid Girl TV Series Part 1
The Stool Pigeon
The Story of Silent Night
Sugar Hill
Torso
Touring America’s Natural Parks
The Tower of London
Treasure Island
Treasure Seekers
Treasures 5: The West 1898-1938
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Trooper Hook
Unexplained Explained: Ghostly Paranormal Activity
Valerie
Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection
Various Artists: Puccini Turandot
Vatos Locos
Viva Riva!
War Paint
Where the Road Meets the Sun
Whole New Thing
The Whore’s Son
William Turner: Visions of Color & Light Gallery of the Mast
Windrunner
The Winter Stallion
Without Men
Women on Margins: Cinema of Jean-Claude Brisseau
The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn
Wordworld: New Happy Holiday Word Friends
The World of Sholom Aleichem
Yu Yu Hakusho Season 3
ZhuZhu Pets: Quest for Zhu

NOW THAT’S WHAT CHUD CALLS MUSIC – WITH JEB DELIA!

WILCO – THE WHOLE LOVE

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The truncation of the term “rock and roll” into just “rock” came in the wake of the 60’s triumvirate of Beatles/Dylan/Wilson, with the idea that working in the form carried with it the expectation of growth, development, change-ideas that had previously been associated more with jazz than with pop music. No band working today seems to take that more seriously than Wilco; you can argue whether the move from their alt-country roots into studio psychedelia, MOR pop, the occasional touch of prog-lite, and back again, actually constitutes anything resembling growth or development, but change it certainly is. And no matter which version of Wilco is your favorite, you’ll find at least a touch of it here.

The Whole Love is a particularly good choice for those leaning toward the longer, somewhat meandering aspect of the band. “Art of Almost” sets the tone right from the start with churning, pulsating layers of effects before giving way to some choice Nels Cline shredding, and the album concludes, forty minutes later, with the 12-minute” One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” a stark meditation on the eternal struggle of fathers and sons, and the choice between difficult acceptance and bitter regret.  “I Might” and “Born Alone” reaffirm Tweedy’s knack for the pop hook, and “Open Mind” reminds us that he can skew familiar country tropes like few of his peers: “I could base my whole existence / Upon the cherry strings of your gold hair / I would ask, almost insist / Upon treating you kind and fair / Oh I could only dream of the dreams we’d have / Our hearts would be entwined / If you would let me be the one / To open up your mind.”

As much as anything else, this is John Stirratt’s album: his bass anchors the disparate musical styles and motifs, never letting even the most discursive track venture too far from the point. I sort of doubt this will be anyone’s favorite Wilco album-they’re just trying to touch too many bases at once for that-but no one with a love of the band will want to miss it, either.

MATTHEW SWEET – MODERN ART

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Memories never stand the test of time,” Sweet sings on “Oldendaze,” whose valedictory tone and slow, reflective beat would normally find placement at the end of an album, rather than as the leadoff track to Sweet’s first collection of new songs since 2008. Instead of opening with the chiming guitars and bracing harmonies that made Girlfriend among the most influential albums of the 90’s, Modern Art launches itself with the introspection of maturity, rather than brash adolescence. That’s followed by the growling samba of “Ivory Tower,” and for much of its brief running time, Modern Art takes its title to heart, with sonic experimentation stretching the (admittedly narrow) confines of Sweet’s previous work: the sound is more Big Star than Badfinger. “She Walks the Night” blasts out with the familiar Byrdsian jangle, but its bridge devolves into a swirl of White Album psychedelia, the main melody finally fighting its way back before drawing to a murmuring close. “Ladyfingers” is a T. Rex-ian blues stomper, while “A Little Death” dances around chattering guitar figures looking for a hook that is always just out of reach. “Late Nights With the Power Pop” crunches out a tale of romance on the road, abruptly shifting time signatures with the narrator’s perspective.

The only real miss is “My Ass is Grass”: it’s the sort of goof that doesn’t exactly grow with repeated listening, and would be better off as a B-side, not ten percent of the album’s running time. Apart from that, if Modern Art has a drawback, it’s the studio insularity: save some bass by Velvet Crush’s Rick Menck, Sweet plays all the instruments himself; not a first, but the interplay he used to have with guitarists like Richard Lloyd and the late Robert Quine is missed. I understand that Sweet is planning a 20th Anniversary (good god) tour for Girlfriend this fall, and assuming that he finds time for some of these songs, as well, I look forward to hearing them with the expanded sound of a full band.

DUM DUM GIRLS – ONLY IN DREAMS

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Seems odd that this is only the Dum Dum Girls’ second album: their constant stream of EP’s, singles, tribute contributions and one-offs has kept them in the public eye and ear pretty consistently for the past year, which makes for fascinating comparative listening as the proto-Sleater-Kinney of their first sessions gives way to the current version, which resembles nothing so much as Ronnie Spector fronting Portishead, driven by thrumming bass lines borrowed from Peter Hook.

The biggest leap seems to come in Dee Dee Gundred’s singing: she’s reaching for vocal effects that stretch her instrument this time, and hitting them so often that even when her reach exceeds her grasp (“Heartbeat,” “Wasted Away”), she gets over on will and sheer enthusiasm.”Always Looking” kicks things off with a rush, with a great stop-time chorus. Gundred and Bambi combine for sleek and sultry harmonies on “Bedroom Eyes;” “Just A Creep” is a sharp and sneering kiss-off, propelled by chiming guitar and  a lithe, skipping drumbeat.  The six-minute “Coming Down” does a surprisingly good job of sustaining its length, building and reverberating, and only finally releasing its climax as it gives way to the “oh-oh-oh’s” of the Pretenders-like “Wasted Away,” the brisk quaver that glides over the top of “Teardops On My Pillow,” and wrapping up in the Phil Spector drumbeat and dreamy ache of “Hold Your Hand,” Dee Dee’s latest remembrance of her late mother. No sophomore album slump here.

BILL FRISELL – ALL WE ARE SAYING


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Frisell’s a busy guy: this is the fourth new release of his I’ve heard over the past year or so, and it might be the most inspired of the lot: as much as John Lennon’s loss still leaves a hole for a lot of music fans, his death provoked a particular sense of vulnerability and identification with a lot of his professional peers, and while last year’s “70th birthday” Lennon celebration produced a rush of tie-in product, none was any more heartfelt or affecting than collection of Lennon tunes arranged for jazz quintet: a year “late,” perhaps, but powerfully moving.
Following on from Lennon memorial concerts performed with violinist Jenny Scheinman and steel guitarist Greg Leisz a few years ago in Paris, Frisell has tinkered with the material, adding bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen to flesh out the sound to something more rock-oriented.

Frisell’s choices are true to our familiar vision of Lennon: “Across the Universe” and “In My Life” are the kind of heart-on-the-sleeve expressions that call up the cracked honesty of John’s singing voice, while “Revolution” and “Come Together” evoke the restless musical exploration that drove him. There’s more than just simple transcription going on, too: “Imagine” pares down the lush orchestration to a clear, precise trio; Wollensen drives a ployrhythmic “Give Peace a Chance” to the building swirl of Frisell and Leisz’ guitars, and “Please Please Me” jumps and brims with the wild enthusiasm of those early Fab Four days. For all the technical perfection of Frisell’s other recent releases, any of them would have benefitted from some of the spirit and spark that his memories of Lennon evoke here.

OTHER NOTABLE 9/27 RELEASES:

Blink 182 – Neighborhoods I did my due diligence, asked around, looked for a free stream or otherwise legal preview, didn’t find one. So I haven’t heard this yet. I guess I’m sorry about that…

Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot III  Hagar may be as generic as they come, but no one buys a Satriani album for the singer.

J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story  Also unavailable for preview (I’m starting to feel like the movie reviewers at EW), but this is the first full-length from Jay-Z’s protégé, with guest appearances from Trey Songz, Drake, Missy Elliott and (whaddya know)  Jay-Z.

Johnny Winter – Roots Seems like Winter was doing comeback albums before some of this set’s guest stars were even born. The song selection isn’t exactly insipired (“T-Bone Shuffle,” “Got My Mojo Workin'”, “Dust My Broom,” etc.), but with Winter you get what you pay for, and hey-Sonny Landreth!

Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart – Don’t Explain  Jesus, and I thought Frisell was busy… this is at least the sixth Bonamassa release I’ve heard since I started this gig around eighteen months ago. As a player, I prefer Winter, but Hart out-sings anyone on Roots, Bonamassa is a tad less fussy than usual, and “Chocloate Jesus” is an unusually inspired choice.

Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning  The ex-Porcupine Tree dude releases his second solo album, and I swear this isn’t snark: both times I listened to it, by the time it was over, I had forgotten it was even on. Self-recommending to prog fans, problematic for the rest of us.

Drive, Original Soundtrack  As I mentioned in a review of Drive, the music in this film is aesthetically dead-on, even if it doesn’t do a lot for me as music. If you’re looking for a faux- 80’s fix, though…

LeAnn Rimes – Lady & Gentlemen First of all, I’m not sure it’s exactly a conceptual leap to have a woman recording an album of country songs all written and sung by men: I mean, most of ‘em are. That said, the recording is straightforward, teetering on the edge of dull, and Rimes is in good voice. Gotta say, though, there’s something about hearing this former teen queen adopting the persona of a broken-down drunk that’s marginally creepy.

Daryl Hall – Laughing Down Crying   He’s still got the voice and the hooks, and the recorded sound snaps and pops just fine: if there were such a thing as radio anymore (Fuck you, Clear Channel), most of these would sound great on it.

The Bangles – Sweetheart of the Sun In case you missed their 2003 “comeback” album, you will (I hope) be pleased to know that this is less “Eternal Flame,” more “Manic Monday.” Producer Matthew Sweet keeps the guitars crisp, the sound punchy, the harmonies full, and the sass in place: “If brains were clothes, you’d have nothing to wear.”

Mastodon – The Hunter  These guys seem to think that the world is pretty fucking doomed, and I’m not sure they’re wrong: they certainly know more about “Blasteriods” and “Stargasms” than I do.

Phonte – Charity Starts at Home  Haven’t heard this yet, but if it’s anywhere near as good as Leave It All Behind or Authenticity, I’m in.

Kasabian – Velociraptor  I saw these guys open for Oasis once, and thought it was a joke: like the Gallaghers had decided to come out as their own opening band. Then a few months ago I was watching a recent broadcast from Glastonbury or someplace, and I thought “Oh, look, it’s Beady Eye”-wrong. Kasabian again; they need a new schtick. Imagine Oasis without hooks… which were the only thing that made Oasis bearable.

Harold Budd – In the Mist   The winner of this week’s “Truth in Packaging” award: gentle, ruminative solo piano pieces in reverberant, slightly opaque recorded sound. If you didn’t’ already know that Budd has recorded with Brian Eno, you certainly wouldn’t have any trouble believing it.

Maria Muldaur – Steady Love  And Darryl Hall thinks he’s still got it? Muldaur’s grown into her voice; it’s now a throaty growl that can make a trope like “Blues Go Walking” feel like a new idea, and drag gospel through the dirt on “I’ve Done Made Up My Mind” and “As An Eagle Stirreth in Her Nest.”

John Scofield – A Moment’s Peace   A tad on the “late-night lite jazz guitar side,” but I’d rank it slightly more successful than Pat Metheny’s recent stab at that: at least Scofield stopped short of covering The Carpenters.

Southern Culture On The Skids – Zombified  Out of print for too long, resissued with four bonus tracks. Its  spooky-horror-movie focus damps down some of the band’s cheerfully trashy personality, and while their instrumental cover of Creedence’s “Sinister Purpose” is all well and good, I wish they’d also included the version where legendary horror host Zacherle camps it up on vocals.

Seth MacFarlane – Music Is Better Than Words  Yes, THAT Seth MacFarlane, and he’s clearly cheating here, since he actually does employ words. The big-band arrangements are a little on the Jackie Gleason side, and his voice is fine, but it doesn’t have a ton of personality on its own, so the blandness of things like “Two Sleepy People” and “You’re The Cream In My Coffee” dangerously approach Bill Murray-level parody; but when he digs into a lyric that forces him to think about what he’s singing, like “The Sadder But Wiser Girl” or the title song, he delivers perfectly acceptable muzak.

Chick Corea & Stefano Bollani – Orvieto   Haven’t heard it yet, but a summit meeting of two of the greatest jazz pianists, recorded live with only the vaguest of set lists, and inprovised virtually all in single takes, with little to no rehearsal. For some artists, that would spell disaster; I’m expecting genius.

Dan Zanes & Friends – Little Nut Tree  Yes, the erstwhile Del Fuego is singin’ and playin’ for the kiddies again. But he’s introducing unsuspecting young listeners (and their families) to (among others) Sharon Jones, Tareq Abboushi, Andrew Bird, and the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, so more power to him.

Everclear – Return To Santa Monica  Re-recordings of old songs, covers of Tom Petty, Steve Miller, and Van Morrison. Oh, and “Every Breath You Take,” which deserves everything they give it.

BOX SETS AND REISSUES:

With the holiday shopping season gearing up, we’re going to get a flood of expensive box sets and deluxe editions. As a general rule, I don’t get to hear these in advance, but I’ll try to at least give a rundown of the more interesting ones.

Elvis Presley – Young Man With the Big Beat   The reason I’m not in the Sony/Legacy marketing department is that I couldn’t keep coming up with new ideas for Elvis Presley box sets. This one is all early RCA stuff, with some previously unreleased outtakes and live recordings (including a complete concert from 1956), interviews and radio ads, a big colorful book, and “Elvis Presley Enterprises artifacts and documents.” I leave the particulars to your imagination.

Pink Floyd – The Discovery Studio Album Box Set  It’s kind of amusing that this “Discovery” album series is described as “an introduction to the artist,” since all the fancy packaging and booklets are clearly aimed at collectors. Anyway, here’s all 14 original Floyd studio albums, digitally remastered byThe Wall co-producer  James Guthrie. The albums are also being released as individual CD’s.

Nirvana – Nevermind 20th Anniversary  2-CD Deluxe Edition with a remastered version of the album,  B-sides, the Smart Studio sessions, boombox rehearsals and BBC sessions. There is also a 4-LP vinyl edition featuring the same 40 tracks as the Deluxe Edition, a remastered CD of the original album, and digital versions of the standard and deluxe editions.

TONY’S ON VIDEO GAMES!

ICO/SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS COLLECTION (PS3)


Team Ico’s two PS2 masterpieces get beautiful upgrades. I can’t recommend this collection enough. These two games represent some of the most unique expressions the medium offers. Even though a lot of recent games (Limbo, Braid, Flower) have been matching and in some cases exceeding the blend of aesthetic, story, and mechanics that made the games so revolutionary, the unique experiences are just as affecting today as ten years ago. Playing these games is the interactive equivalent to putting on a Smiths album. The games are a slow, sad journey with extremely simple and primal aspirations. It’s kind of hard to have a good day after you beat Shadow, but it is still refreshing today to be rewarded emotionally by a game with something other than a vague feeling of accomplishment.

X-MEN DESTINY (PS3;360)


What the fuck is this?

FIFA 12 (Everything)


Biggest game of the year for anyone who isn’t American.

CABELA’S BIG GAME HUNTER (Everything)

Biggest game of the year for Americans.

THINGS NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO GOOGLE COVER SHOTS:

Pro Evo 2012 is stupidly going directly against FIFA, probably hoping hipsters are buying soccer games again this year. Pro Evo hasn’t been good since Winning Eleven 7. Heavy Air ruined the franchise. Child of Eden finally comes to PS3. It’s Rez, but with FMV.  The Splinter Cell Collection might finally, possibly, really come out. But they took out the multiplayer. So no one cares. Resident Evil: Code Veronica X drops on PSN and XBLA, if you are craving even worse tank controls after last weeks re-release of 4.

And so there you go. Maybe I’ll get this thing back on schedule next week? Thanks for reading. Please comment and like and tweet like tweeting birrrrds.

FIN.