Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall TV Preview - Tuesday

Tuesday Night Preview
Best Returning Bet: Uh… there’s… and also…
Can I pick none? Seriously – this night is a vast wasteland of crap upon crap. Gone are the days of Tuesday nights packed with quality programming like Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls. In their place we get what? Cavemen? The Biggest Loser? Boston Legal? Ugh. Pass. If I had to pick one… shit… Nip/Tuck (10:00 – FX; starting 10/30) I guess. Even that show sucked vacuum-cleaner style last year and with that waste of food Rosie O’Donnell returning yet again for multiple episodes, it’s probably still going to suck. At least it’s not House, though. That’s something.

Most Promising New Show: Cane – 10:00 CBS (Starting 9/25)
Having been described as both a Latino version of The Sopranos and as Dallas if you substituted sugar-cane and rum for oil (side note: Is this the first time that a series has been compared to both The Sopranos and Dallas? Discuss amongst yourselves), and boasting a cast that includes Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Rita Moreno, Nestor Carbonell, and Polly Walker, Cane certainly has the ingredients for success. Backstabbings, betrayals, sex, money, power, murder… it’s all here. Unfortunately for its long-term prospects, however, Cane most definitely does not adhere to the CBS cookie-cutter crime procedural mold that has inexplicably been so successful for the network. It also bears striking similarities to the doomed Ray Liotta vehicle from last fall, Smith, which floundered in this exact timeslot and was summarily yanked after only three airings. Early rumors had CBS scheduling Cane after its CSI juggernaut on Thursday nights, but that never came to pass which could be a telling sign. Maybe you should try to catch this one while it’s still around.

Tuesday Trivialities:
• This is the shittiest night of TV, bar none. At least Fridays have Friday Night Lights and Saturdays have college football. The only two shows worth mentioning on Tuesdays are new offerings which could be gone within a matter of weeks. Don’t believe me? Read on.
• Who greenlit Cavemen (8:00 – ABC; starting 10/2)? Someone tell me because they deserve a swift kick in the bathing suit area for foisting this rancid pile of dogshit upon us. I’m prone to exaggeration – it’s what I do – but this seriously might be the single worst idea in the history of television. Take a series of unfunny ads – fucking INSURANCE COMPANY ads, no less – and turn them into a series. Fucking brilliant. And to make matters worse, ABC has paired Cavemen with the almost as horrible Carpoolers (8:30 – ABC; starting 10/2) to form possibly the stupidest hour of TV imaginable (non-reality division). If you watch either of these shows, you’re dead to me. I mean it. Dead.
• One of the only other shows with potential on Tuesday nights is The CW’s Reaper (9:00 – CW; starting 9/25). The concept, a slacker has his soul sold to Satan and in exchange must track down escapees from Hell, was done on FOX’s Brimstone in the late ‘90’s but it’s being played for laughs this time around. The combo of sci-fi and comedy could prove to be appealing and besides, what else are you going to do on Tuesdays at 9? Watch House? I didn’t think so.
House (9:00 – FOX; starting 9/25). Goddamn you and your undeserved popularity. I’m begging you to be original for once in your miserable fucking run. Begging you.
Boston Legal (10:00 – ABC; starting 9/25). And goddamn you, too for your undeserved accolades. How this show managed to get nominated for an Emmy is one of those mysteries of life. Kinda like the pyramids and how Britney Spears fucked her career up this badly. Really makes you think.
• Lastly, FX’s Nip/Tuck (10:00 – FX; starting 10/30) was given a 22-episode order for its fifth season. This really is worth mentioning considering that most cable series only get 13 installments per season, so Julian McMahon will get to show his ass almost twice as much this year. This unorthodox move could come back to bite FX in their own posterior since the show has been uneven at best for the past few years. And if you don’t believe me, I remind you that The Carver storyline ended up with a male rapist who was born without a dick. Born. Without. A. Dick. I really don’t need to say any more, do I?

What We’re Watching/Recording On Tuesdays:
Watching:
Cane
Recording:
Reaper
Nip/Tuck (mainly to see how much of a train-wreck it will be)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fall TV Preview - Monday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Fall is in the air, football season is here, and TV shows are returning from their summer hiatus. With so many new series and old favorites cluttering the networks, how will you know what to watch? Wonder no more as The Dirtywhirl has you covered with our Fall TV Preview. Over the next week, we’ll break it down night by night so you know exactly how you should spend your evenings. You're welcome.

Monday Night Preview
Best Returning Bet: Heroes – 9:00 NBC (Starting 9/24)
Without a doubt, THE watercooler show of last season was NBC’s freshman hit, Heroes. In case you’ve been living under a rock and avoiding all manners of media for the past year, Heroes is the sprawling tale of everyday people who come to realize that they have special “abilities” (flight, regeneration, mind-reading, telekinesis, etc.) and are ultimately tasked with nothing less than saving the world. Heroes rocked my ass the first time around, but to watch this show a second time on DVD is to realize the genius of its masterplan. There is no wasted motion as the producers obviously had their season’s endgame in sight as early as the first episode. It was also incredibly satisfying to see how the various pieces of the puzzle were meant to fit together by season’s end, as they were embodied by an incredibly talented ensemble (Adrian Pasdar, Masi Oka, and Jack Coleman were particular standouts) that gelled almost from the beginning of the series. And as if the cast wasn’t already strong enough, Kristen Bell of the late lamented (and genius) Veronica Mars will be joining the cast for at least half of the season. Heroes has been compared by many to Lost, a show that surely provided some inspiration to creator Tim Kring. There are definite similarities, but the major difference between the shows is that while Lost often falls into the trap of avoiding answering questions by raising more questions, Heroes, on the other hand, is much more satisfying because it answers the questions it asked, while raising new ones to keep viewers hooked. If you’ve avoided the show for any reason, now’s the time to jump in. A new story begins with new characters and new problems that, if they’re even half as thrilling as the first season, will prove to be some of the best (and most accessible) sci-fi on TV. One of the three best shows on network TV (along with Friday Night Lights and Supernatural).

Most Promising New Show: Chuck – 8:00 NBC (Starting 9/24)
Coming from Josh Schwartz, creator of The OC, Chuck is the unlikely tale of a lowly IT worker who ends up accidently downloading some of the CIA’s most classified information directly into his brain. OK – I realize how retarded that sounds but Chuck has been blessed with some of the best buzz of any new series not called Pushing Daisies or Bionic Woman, plus it comes from the mind of Schwartz, so you know that witty dialogue and snappy pop culture references are sure to follow. By all accounts, series star Zachary Levi has breakout star potential and the fish-out-of-water saga of a loser becoming one of the world’s most dangerous men will appeal to many. Chuck has the potential to become a modest hit for NBC as it will really only have the Dancing With The Stars juggernaut as serious competition in its timeslot and, serving as the lead-in for Heroes, could combine with that hit to prove to be a very appealing way to spend two hours on a Monday night.

Monday Musings:
Dancing With The Stars (8:00 – ABC; starting 9/24). Boasting such [cough] luminaries as Jane Seymour, Jennie Garth, and Wayne Newton, isn’t that title really a misnomer? Someone please explain to me how we’re defining the word “star.”
• So we’re at long last going to get to meet the titular mother on How I Met Your Mother (8:00 – CBS; starting 9/24) this season. Last year ended with Ted and Robin on the outs, making the timing perfect for Ted to finally (after two seasons) find the girl that he ultimately weds. For some reason, despite boasting one of TV’s funniest ensembles, no one’s watching this show as it just barely made it to a third year. HIMYM is in all actuality one of the best comedies currently on TV and is deserving of much more attention than it actually gets.
Prison Break (8:00 – FOX; started 9/17) gets back to its roots as Michael is forced to break out of a Panamanian prison that’s so unspeakable that it’s literally being run by the inmates. Prison Break is often one of the most ludicrous shows on TV as it requires a Herculean level of suspension of disbelief, but it’s often one of the most purely enjoyable as well. Still, we can’t shake the feeling that the show is limping along on its last legs at this point.
• The CW’s Aliens In America (8:30 – CW; starting 10/1) is getting some incredible press but it’s a comedy on The CW. A comedy. On The CW. How good could it possibly be?
• Based largely on his amazing work on The Shield, Anthony Anderson headlines K-Ville (9:00 – FOX; started 9/17), a cop series shot on location in post-Katrina New Orleans. Can this show use its intriguing concept to rise above cop show clich├ęs? Or will its hook merely prove to be a shameless way to draw viewers to a mediocre series?
• Does anyone besides me notice the striking similarities between NBC’s new Journeyman (10:00– NBC; starting 9/24) and the venerable classic, Quantum Leap? Sorry, but if there’s no Al or cheesy opening piano theme, it’s dead to me.

What We’re Watching/Recording On Mondays:
Watching:
How I Met Your Mother
Monday Night Football
Heroes
Monday Night Football
Recording:
Prison Break
Chuck
K-Ville

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Looking At The Dirtywhirl's Pick For August's Best In Music

Starting with August's music preview, The Dirtywhirl decided to pick one album each month that had the potential to shine brighter than any other release in that 28 to 31-day period, dubbed "The Dirtywhirl's Pick For The Best Of [Fill In The Month]. Creative, yeah? So, did August's pick live up to our hype or did it fall flatter than Keira Knightley's chest? Let's find out:

Rilo Kiley/ Under The Blacklight
Fleetwood Mac is one of the best rock bands of the past fifty years. Sure, some may scoff and say that they’re too lightweight to be granted such lofty status, but it’s true. Point to a band whose track record measures up to Fleetwood Mac and you’ll realize what kind of company that they actually keep. It’s for that reason that Rilo Kiley could do much worse than to follow the Mac template as they embark on their major label debut, Under The Blacklight. The parallels are striking. Much like the romantic entanglements within Fleetwood Mac, singer Jenny Lewis and guitarist Blake Sennett are exes who often work out their issues through their music. Both bands’ supposed masterpieces were their second albums (Rumours and The Execution Of All Things, respectively). Their third albums were departures from their previous work (Tusk and More Adventurous) that lead to their charismatic female singers (Stevie Nicks and Lewis) releasing solo albums (Bella Donna and Rabbit Fur Coat) before regrouping. Basically, Rilo Kiley stands where Fleetwood Mac did in 1982, and they’ve for sure delivered a much stronger album than Mirage. Whereas Lindsay Buckingham and Nicks were looking forward to solo careers at the expense of a cohesive collective album, Lewis and Sennett have galvanized the band into a completely new direction that’s both exciting and impressive at the same time. Under The Blacklight finds Rilo Kiley making over their sound from their early alt-country leanings to a more polished indie pop sound – almost like an updated version of the 1970’s California pop sound for the year 2007. It’s obvious that Lewis has sex on the brain as many of the tracks favor a libidinous viewpoint unseen in Rilo Kiley’s previous work. On “Close Call,” a darker track with Cure-esque guitars, Lewis warns, “Funny thing about money for sex/ You might get rich but you’ll die by it,” the down and dirty “The Moneymaker” follows much of the same viewpoint, and “Smoke Detector” finds Lewis stating rather matter-of-factly, “I took a man back to my room/ I was smoking him in bed.” Beyond the sex, the band also experiments with disco for the first time with the four-on-the-floor “Breakin’ Up” that’s as catchy as the clap was back in Studio 54’s heyday as well as on the Caribbean-influenced “Dejalo.” Even “Dreamworld,” Sennett’s lone lead vocal track, is very atmospheric and reminiscent of early ‘80’s pop. Many longtime fans have had a mixed reaction to Under The Blacklight and the reason for this is simple – they’re fucking idiots. Under The Blacklight is one of the most enjoyable records of the year thus far and if Rilo Kiley wants to follow in the footsteps of Fleetwood Mac, well, shit… they could have done much, much worse.

Dirty Rating: 94/100

Rilo Kiley On MySpace Music
Rilo Kiley's Official Site

Thursday, September 13, 2007

September DVD Preview

Better late then never, yeah? Giddyup:

9/4
30 Rock: Season 1 – Tracy Morgan, you are a comedic genius. C’mon – I dare you to resist Morgan running down a highway in his underwear yelling, “I am a Jedi!” Alec Baldwin, douchebag that he is, is brilliant here as well. Actually, he’s even funnier on the show than in real life on that voicemail where he’s calling his kid a “rude little pig.” And THAT’S hard to top.

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Third Season – PMS Power!! Catch it. Or don’t. Probably don’t.

Georgia Rule – Lindsay Lohan. Felicity Huffman. Jane Fonda. All in the same film. If you have any desire whatsoever to see this, I invite you to go locate your testicles. Go ahead. We’ll wait.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: Seasons 1&2 – Probably the meanest, most twisted show currently on television. And also one of my personal favorites. Imagine Seinfeld if every episode had the evil spirit of the poison envelopes story, multiplied by one thousand. That should just about do it.

The Office: Season Three – You say: “The third season was really uneven and wasn’t nearly as good as the second.” I say: “You’re probably right, but even so this is still one of the funniest shows on TV, so stop your whining you bitch.”

Prison Break: Season Two – If you can turn off your brain – I mean really, really turn off your brain – and enjoy some pure escapist entertainment, then Prison Break is where it’s at. Sure there are plot-holes the size of Cleveland, but when people are getting killed off left and right, you kinda don’t care.

9/11
Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Third Season – You know, even if you’re not a fan of the show, it would be interesting to skip halfway through the season to watch any scene between T.R. Knight and Isaiah Washington. I’m pretty sure that you can hear them each plotting ways to kill the other. Fun stuff.

THE DIRTYWHIRL'S PICK FOR THE BEST OF SEPTEMBER
Supernatural: The Complete Second Season – Since Smallville is a steaming pile of Super-shit, Supernatural is left to carry the flag for network TV sci-fi, and it does it so much better than you would think. The show was boosted in its sophomore season as its storytelling delved farther into its demon hunting mythology and as its production values left it feeling like a horror film each and every week. In all honesty, it’s shaping up to be a worthy heir to the Buffy/Angel throne. No higher praise has ever been spoken.

Two And A Half Men: The Complete First Season – What?! How did this get on here? Oh, yeah… padding the list. And also a chance to take a shot at the most sitcommy sitcom on TV. This is to entertainment what Michael Vick is to dogs. Woof.

9/18
Brothers And Sisters: The Complete First Season – Laugh all you want but by the end of its first season, Brothers & Sisters had become an eminently enjoyable soap that was boosted from the guilty pleasure category by its stellar cast. Hiring Greg Berlanti, the creative force behind the late, lamented Everwood, as showrunner and executive producer was a stroke of genius.

The Condemned – OK, so Vinnie Jones and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin are among a group of convicts dumped on an island as part of a reality show where the survivor (after presumably killing everyone else) gets a get out of jail free card? How did this movie not make $800 million dollars?

Grindhouse Presents: Death Proof – Extended And Unrated – Granted, it was the weaker of the two films in Grindhouse. It also feels like a bit of an ass-raping that the two films are being split into separate releases when you just know that there’s going to be some balls-out special edition that combines the two (as they were meant to be seen, damn it) in six months. That being said, it’s still a Tarantino film so add it to your Netflix list and save your money until the inevitable better edition drops.

Severance – Taking downsizing to the next level, Severance is literally cutthroat as it follows a group of office workers who embark on the corporate retreat from hell. Wanna kill your boss but can’t? Check this out instead.

Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season – Really, it’s mind-blowing how you can take a concept like the origin of Superman and fuck it up as badly as the producers of Smallville have. And then, to make it even worse, take into consideration that they’ve been fucking it up for going on SEVEN SEASONS now. This show is Kryptonite to good acting. And writing. And special effects. And brain cells.

We Are Marshall – Arriving on DVD just in time for the college football season, We Are Marshall looks at how a community rebounded from one of sports’ all-time greatest tragedies. Hopefully the subject matter was treated with the delicacy that it deserved but since it stars Matthew “I Like To Play Bongos Naked” McConaughey and was directed by the not-so-subtle McG, I’m guessing probably not.

9/25
The Bronx Is Burning – ESPN’s dramatic foray into the NYC Summer of ’77 that saw citizens terrorized by the Son Of Sam and enthralled by the Yankees’ chase for the pennant. Word was that this was a very strong miniseries that’s well worth checking out on DVD.

Bug – Director William Friedkin returns to horror in this harrowing (and gory) adaptation of an off-Broadway play.

Next – Exactly, Nicolas Cage. Exactly.

The TV Set – For a true TV nerd, The TV Set’s comedic examination of just how a show gets on the air amid network interference and idiotic “talent” is a more than appealing way to spend an hour and a half.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

September Music Preview

Fall is upon us, bringing with it a crazy busy month. Strap in and pay attention 'cause this is gonna be lengthy:

9/4
Nothing

9/11
50 Cent/ Curtis – Yeah, you’re real hard. Performing on ABC’s opening night of college football with a washed-up Perry Ferrell and perpetual second banana Kelly Rowland. Shit, nothing says street cred like that combo. Everyone hope really hard that Kanye West outsells him the first week out so that 50 follows up on his threat to go away.

50 Cent On MySpace Music

Animal Collective/ Strawberry Jam – Freak-folk release number one for the month. Their last effort, Feels, was listenable for the most part but their previous outing, Sung Tongs, was unbearable. Hopefully for my ears’ sake this falls somewhere closer to Feels.

Animal Collective On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Peacebone”

Film School/ Hideout – Their self-titled record was one of the quiet gems of 2006. This one has a chance to be really, really good. Jump on the bandwagon now before it fills up.

Film School On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Two Kinds”
“Dear Me”
“Lectric”’
“Sick Hipster Nursed By Suicide Girl”

Black Francis/ Bluefinger – Early word on this one (interestingly credited to the “Black Francis” moniker instead of “Frank Black”) is that it’s his best work since the original death of the Pixies. God knows it couldn’t be worse than Honeycomb.

No MySpace Available

Hot Hot Heat/ Happiness Ltd. – 14:54… 14:55… 14:56…

Hot Hot Heat On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
Entire Album Streaming As Of This Writing

Pinback/ Autumn Of The Seraphs – Rob Crow’s a busy guy. After releasing a solo record earlier this year, he’s back now with Pinback’s latest. It’s going to be hard to top Summer In Abaddon and considering the spotty nature of the solo record, Living Well, those concerns are justified.

Pinback On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“From Nothing To Nowhere”

Johnathan Rice/ Futher North – Johnathan Rice’s debut showed some promise but he really should stop mimicking John Mayer and spend some time developing his own sound. He’s been working with Rilo Kiley, among other acts, so the potential is there, but it’s all about the execution.

Johnathan Rice On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“We’re All Stuck Out In The Desert”
“Further North”
“End Of The Affair”
“The Middle Of The Road”
“THC”

Kanye West/ Graduation – Mr. West, as he’s now being billed (cough, pretension, cough) is back with a third record that supposedly takes hip-hop to a new level. That is, if you believe West’s bluster. Of course, he’ll also tell you that he invented the Internet and can walk on water, but you gotta love his confidence. Oh… and George Bush doesn’t care about this album, either.

Kanye West On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Good Life”
“Stronger”
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”

9/18
James Blunt/ All The Lost Souls – If there’s another “You’re Beautiful” on this record I will hunt you down and beat the piss out of you, you British wanker.

James Blunt On MySpace Music

Kevin Drew/ Spirit If… - The de facto leader of Canadian indie collective Broken Social Scene goes out on his own for the first time with this solo record. There’s some great stuff coming out of Canada that’s been hitting the States for the past few years so hopes are high for this one.

Kevin Drew On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Backed Out On The…”
“Tbtf”

Eve/ Here I Am – Hey, Eve – know where I am? Not at the store buying your record. Pass.

Eve On MySpace Music

LCD Soundsystem/ A Bunch Of Stuff [EP] – Hey… at least LCD Soundsystem believes in truth in advertising with this odds n’ ends collection. That said, their scraps are likely better than 64% of other bands’ regular output.

LCD Soundsystem On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
None Available

New Found Glory/ From The Screen To Your Stereo Part 2 – Oh… the bullshit. There’s really a need for a “Part 2” to a New Found Glory album? Yeah, no. Their… uh…. discerning audience has likely moved onto My Chemical Romance at this point. There are no winners here.

New Found Glory On MySpace Music

Rogue Wave/ Asleep At Heaven’s Gate – Another band with a relatively low profile but one that’s definitely worth checking out, especially when considering the absolute crap that they’re surrounded by this week.

Rogue Wave On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
Entire Album Streaming As Of This Writing

KT Tunstall/ Drastic Fantastic – See James Blunt and replace “You’re Beautiful” with “Black Horse And Cherry Tree” and “British” with “Scottish.”

KT Tunstall On MySpace Music

9/25
Devendra Banhart/ Smokey Runs Down Thunder Canyon – Freak-folk release number two for the month. Banhart’s last record, Cripple Crow, was passable but its ambition far outpaced its execution. Will that happen here as well?

Devendra Banhart On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Bad Girl”
“Carmencita”

Foo Fighters/ Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace – After hearing lead single “The Pretender” and taking into consideration the lackluster In Your Honor, I’m afraid that Dave Grohl might be over.

Foo Fighters On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“The Pretender”

matt pond PA/ Last Light – Between EPs and proper releases, this is actually matt pond PA’s 347th release. Expect more of the same top-shelf chamber pop.

matt pond PA On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Last Light”
“Sunlight”

Joni Mitchell/ Shine – What?! Some record company still has Joni Mitchell releasing records? What? Were Country Joe And The Fish busy?

Joni Mitchell On MySpace Music

Jose Gonzalez/ In Our Nature – Jose Gonzalez should be big. Real big, if there were any justice. There isn’t, but this record should still be great as Gonzalez continues his penchant for interesting covers, following up takes on The Knife’s “Heartbeats” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” with his version of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop.” This is not to be missed.

Jose Gonzalez On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Down The Line”
“Killing For Love”

THE DIRTYWHIRL'S PICK FOR THE BEST OF SEPTEMBER
Iron & Wine/ The Shepherd’s Dog – This is it. Of all of the many, many records coming out this month, this is the one that deserves your attention the most. Sam Beam (otherwise known as Iron & Wine) has improved in leaps and bounds from record to record, so to imagine an improvement over 2005’s phenomenal one-two punch of Woman King and In The Reins (the latter recorded with Calexico)… this should (and probably will) be mind-blowing. Mark your calendars now.

Iron & Wine On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Boy With A Coin”

Jill Scott/ The Real Thing – As one of the precious few R&B artists worth a damn (and as someone who has worked extensively with the world’s best hip-hop band, The Roots), Jill Scott deserves a mention for her new album.

Jill Scott On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“Hate On Me”
“My Love”
“Crown Royal”
“Whenever You’re Around”

Stars/ In Our Bedroom After The War – More stellar indie rock from our neighbors to the north as a band with ties to Broken Social Scene, Stars, are back with their latest. This one got a digital release back in July but the physical version is in stores on 9/25. First single “The Night Starts Here” is one of the best tracks of the past few months so here’s hoping that the entire album is just as good.

Stars On MySpace Music

New Tracks:
“The Night Starts Here”

Will.I.Am/ Songs About Girls – It’s bad enough that the Black Eyed Peas are popular. It’s even worse that Fergie has branched out to become a solo star. But… if I have to live in a world where more than one member of that fucking act (I refuse to call these fucktards a band) has a hit record on their own, I’m really gonna hurt someone. Badly.

Will.I.Am On MySpace Music

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Quick N' Dirty Reviews - Pop/Rock Edition

Maroon 5/ It Won’t Be Soon Before Long
You don’t ever really hear about a lot of unrefined pop. The types of music that are most likely to catch on with the general population are usually about as processed as Twinkies. Maroon 5’s latest, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, is no exception. This is an album that has been genetically engineered for pop superstardom. There are hooks to spare as every track on this record was bred to be a single. Gone is the almost organic sound of their debut, Songs About Jane, and in its place is a colder (yet funkier) feel that alternately is the best that the band has ever sounded and is one that wears its influences on its sleeve to an almost distracting level. A track like “Makes Me Wonder” combines a much tighter sound than their past work would suggest with singer Adam Levine’s biting kiss-off to an ex-lover, “And it really makes me wonder if I ever gave a fuck about you,” to become one of the year’s top singles, but it’s joined by a song in “Goodnight Goodnight” that’s a terrible combo of 3 Doors Down-level guitars and incredibly maudlin lyrics that must have been written using a Songwriting For Dummies instruction manual. The palpable influence of The Police is felt more than once, on both “Not Falling Apart” and “Won’t Go Home Without You.” The irresistible chorus of “Not Falling Apart” saves it from all-out larceny but the thievery of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” is so blatant on “Won’t Go Home Without You” that it drags the entire track down with it. Despite these missteps, somewhere along the way the influences begin to gel as even though Maroon 5 “borrow” from OutKast on “Little Of Your Time,” recycle a hook from Kanye West on “Nothing Lasts Forever,” and fuse Prince and Michael Jackson on “Kiwi,” the songs begin to work, most especially “Kiwi.” With its dirty lyrics (“Sweet Kiwi/ Your juice is dripping down my chin”) and bonafide Jackson vocals that evolve into a Prince-esque guitar freak-out in its coda, “Kiwi”’ demonstrates the direction that Maroon 5 should follow as Levine is developing into a fairly talented pop vocalist who’s backed by a band that’s improving in its own right. Even though Songs About Jane became an “overnight success story” two years after its release, it took Maroon 5 almost five years to craft a follow up. Based on the flashes of talent on It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, it would be a shame if it took another five years before hearing from Maroon 5 again.

Dirty Rating: 76/100

Maroon 5 On MySpace Music
Maroon 5's Official Site


Barenaked Ladies/ Barenaked Ladies Are Men
On the basis of the regrettable popularity of “One Week” back in 1998, Barenaked Ladies rose to pop/rock prominence in the US in support of that year’s album, Stunt. With the exception of the trite “One Week,” it was a fairly agreeable slice of ‘90’s pop and after banging around since early that decade and enjoying superstar success in their native Canada, BNL had finally broken the US. Unfortunately for them, “One Week” would serve as their supernova as their popularity has never shone as brightly since. After their moment in the sun ended, they began to settle into their new role as pop journeymen and their latest, Barenaked Ladies Are Men, is an embodiment of the exhaustion of the humor, wordplay, and fun of their earlier releases, and maybe even the exhaustion of the band itself. I really don’t even need to strain to write this review because BNL’s song titles do it for me. “Quality?” Uh… no. “Why Say Anything Nice?” Can’t, really. “Another Spin?” No thanks. “What A Letdown?” You said it. BNL started on this downward slope with 2003's Everything To Everyone, a record not without its moments but one whose moments were few and far between. That ratio is even greater on Barenaked Ladies Are Men. With the exception of “One And Only,” “Half A Heart,” and “Maybe Not” (the album’s one true hope for a hit single), all of which are sung by the band’s overlooked MVP, bassist/co-lead vocalist Ed Robertson, everything here is either tired and rehashed or just outright ill-advised. The band experiments with different sounds than in the past to little or no benefit. There’s the ironic (and not in a good way) anger of “Angry People,” in which co-lead vocalist Steven Page angrily rants about… uh... angry people; the vaudeville interlude of “Fun & Games” (side note – BNL should stick to their strengths and do songs about what they’d buy with one million dollars and avoid trying to tackle heavy stuff like the war in Iraq), and the new wavy “Down To Earth” that bounces along until its clunky chorus kicks in. Simply put, if Barenaked Ladies Are Men is the best that BNL has to offer at this stage of their career, perhaps it’s time to hang ‘em up and let Robertson get on with the solo career that he so richly deserves because at this point he’s the only member of the band with any spark left.

Dirty Rating: 44/100

Barenaked Ladies On MySpace Music
Barenaked Ladies' Official Site

Lifehouse/ Who We Are
OK – I admit it. I’m a closet Lifehouse fan. Feels good to get that off my chest. I’ll wait for a bit for you to stop laughing. Is it out of your system yet? Yes? Let’s move on, then. Lifehouse is one of those bands that puts out perfectly acceptable pop/rock records. Their fourth studio outing, Who We Are, is more of the same. What Who We Are is is the expected collection of mid-tempo ballads and rock songs that slowly build to loud choruses. No more, no less. If that’s not your bag, then move on. If it is, then you’ll probably dig tracks like “First Time,” which follows the template set forth in singles like “Hanging By A Moment” and “Spin” from their previous records. Sure, it’s familiar territory but damned if it isn’t catchy. For the ballad fans, “Broken's" sappy lyrics are much in the same vein as their monster hit from their last record, “You And Me,” but damn it… that song was huge so why not try it again? I admit it – it all comes down to personal preference here. If this were any other band I’d probably be tearing them a new asshole right now, but there’s something about this band that I like. I can’t quite put my finger on it and I really wish I didn’t like ‘em, but what are you going to do? They’ve been doing the same thing for four records now so you know not to expect any innovation, but if you’re listening to Lifehouse you’re not really looking for that in the first place. Sometimes it’s good to just turn your brain off and listen to some mindless music, so God bless Lifehouse for serving that purpose. Someone has to do it.

Dirty Rating: 70/100

Lifehouse On MySpace Music
Lifehouse's Official Site