Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...

Football season has started, there’s a crispness in the Pennsylvania air, and fall television season is back. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. The season officially kicks off tonight and begins with a trickle before the full flood of shows hits the week of September 20. Debuting this week are two FX dramas, one returning (Sons Of Anarchy) and one new (Terriers) and both have the potential for badassery and awesomeness. Now entering its third season, Sons Of Anarchy saw a quantum leap in quality with its sophomore set in 2009 and became, in many ways, the new Shield for FX which isn’t surprising seeing as series creator Kurt Sutter was on the writing staff of the late cop gem. The show is brutal and isn’t for everyone (the fulcrum of the second season was the gang rape of a lead character by a group of Nazi skinheads) but if you can stomach it there isn’t a pulpier and more badass show on the air. Sons Of Anarchy returns tonight at 10 on FX. 


Speaking of The Shield, one of two new shows (the other being Fox’s Ride Along) from that series’ creator, Shawn Ryan, hits the air tomorrow night in Terriers (Wednesday, 10PM) on FX and it’s been garnering some of the best reviews of the fall. Starring Donal Logue (Grounded For Life) and Michael Raymond-James (True Blood) the series is set in San Diego, CA and follows two unlicensed PIs. The trailer looks amazing and gives the show a strong cinematic feel. 


Along with the opening of the NFL season, Thursday brings two CW dramas in the return of The Vampire Diaries (our top TV guilty pleasure -- don't judge us) and the debut of the promising La Femme Nikita reboot, Nikita, starring the kinda hot Maggie Q (Mission: Impossible 3). The shows may be few but kickoff week looks to be quality packed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: Band Of Horses | Infinite Arms

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably) 

Now... onto the review:


Band Of Horses | Infinite Arms

A bit of initial full disclosure: Band Of Horses is one of my favorite bands to emerge in the past five years. There really isn’t anything about them that I dislike and I count both of their previous records among any “favorite albums of all time” list that I could compile. Thus, this might play a little less like review and a little more like a rant. Indulge me, if you will. With that being said, I’m having a difficult time understanding why it’s suddenly become trendy to hate on them. “Bland Of Horses”? Really? And what’s more frustrating than that is that their third record, Infinite Arms, feels like a natural extension of the sounds that they’d explored on their previous albums but for some reason they’re being ripped left and right by almost everyone with a laptop. I don’t get it. Lead vocalist/guitarist Ben Bridwell has been quoted as saying that this is the first true Band Of Horses album and, in many ways, he’s not far off the mark. There’s a confidence to this record that’s born of the unity that Bridwell feels with this incarnation of the band. Evolving from a de facto solo project (albeit with help from former Carissa’s Wierd bandmate Mat Brooke) on Everything All The Time, to the more band-oriented Cease To Begin, to now the totally collaborative Infinite Arms shows just how fully realized the band has become (Bridwell even cedes lead vocal duties to Ryan Monroe on “Older”). They’ve opened up and expanded their sound more than ever before on Infinite Arms, creating a cinematic landscape on much of the record. It also has a strong autumnal vibe like much of their previous work did and, I’ll admit, I am a sucker for that kind of atmosphere. Right off the bat, “Factory” employs strings and Bridwell’s familiar golden voice to instantly create the standard Band Of Horses atmospherics very well. “Laredo” (the sound of summer 2010 to my ears) is one of the band’s strongest singles to date as Bridwell laments, “Oh, my love/ You don’t even call/ Oh, my love/ Is that you on the phone?” over rollicking guitars from Monroe and Tyler Ramsey. Another absurd criticism lobbed at the band is that they’re stagnating but where lazy critics see stagnation, I see expansion. There are richer textures of sounds on Infinite Arms than anywhere else in their catalog. To that end, look no further than the title track. Any record that features waves of warm beauty heard on a track like “Infinite Arms” (which could be the sonic sibling to Cease To Begin’s breathtakingly beautiful “Detlef Schrempf”) should not have its relevance called into question. Admittedly, the record does take on a dad-rockish feel at times but that shouldn’t always be a pejorative. Why should tracks as moving as the Brian Wilson-influenced “Blue Beard” (“I used to see the night so anxious/ But now I know/ The only thing it ever taught me was a grand illusion that comes and goes/ The city blanketed in snow”) or the gorgeous “For Annabelle” be dumped on simply for appealing to a mature audience? I suppose that, in many ways, they are this generation’s Eagles. While some hated the Eagles (and some people REALLY hated them), they stand as a classic band in the rock ‘n roll pantheon. Time will tell whether Band Of Horses will eventually take their place there as well but after their first three albums it’s easy to envision a time when they will.

Standout Tracks: “Laredo;” “Infinite Arms;” “Blue Beard;” “Factory;” “For Annabelle”

Dirty Rating: 93/100

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dirty Review: UFC 118 | Edgar vs. Penn 2

Admittedly, review of a mixed martial arts event like UFC 118: Edgar vs. Penn 2 is outside the wheelhouse of what usually gets covered on The Dirtywhirl but here’s the deal… we like MMA and we write about what we like, thus we’re writing about a UFC event. Indulge us, if you will. Onto the review.

Unfortunately, the UFC’s streak of hot events ended with a thud with last night’s debut Boston show, UFC 118: Edgar vs. Penn 2. While there were entertaining moments (boxing loudmouths being put in their place by Captain America AKA Randy Couture, Joe Lauzon’s destruction of douchebag Gabe Reudiger) too many contests went to the judges’ scorecards and the styles of some of the fighters were, to be kind, less than entertaining with no fight (other than the prelim battle between Lauzon and Reudiger) garnering more than a three and a half out of five rating. Let’s go match by match with the main card:

MAIN EVENT: LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Frankie Edgar (12-1; #1 Lightweight) (Champion) vs. BJ Penn (15-6-1, #2 Lightweight)
Our Prefight Pick: Penn
Result: Edgar | Unanimous Decision, Round 5
In a five round title fight, champion Frankie Edgar dominated BJ Penn like no one has dominated Penn in his MMA career by winning all five rounds en route to defending his title for the first time. Edgar seemed on a mission to prove that his victory over Penn at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi back in April was no fluke. It started out as a chess match (much like their first fight) before Edgar just completely took over, taking Penn down more than anyone else ever has in his career and seemingly doing it at will. The frustration was all over Penn’s face throughout the fight as this seemed to be the type of matchup that signified one fighter just completely having the other’s number. It wasn’t pretty but it was impressive and, after taking back-to-back fights against Penn (maybe the best lightweight ever to compete in the Octagon), Edgar solidified his standing as the best 155-pounder in the world and set up a match with another UFC 118 winner, Gray Maynard, who just so happens to be the man responsible for Edgar’s lone loss. Color us intrigued, albeit slightly.
Our Match Rating: 3.5/5

HEAVYWEIGHT: Randy Couture (18-10) vs. James Toney (0-0)
Our Prefight Pick: Couture
Result: Couture | Submission, Round 1
This was the sideshow portion of the event as years of hearing boxers claim that they could take MMA fighters out with one punch if they were so inclined went by the wayside as UFC Hall Of Famer Randy Couture (47 year old Randy Couture, that is) took out five-time boxing champ James Toney without hardly breaking a sweat. Toney didn’t even have a chance to throw hands as Couture took him down with ease early in the opening round, pounded him on the ground for a  bit before sinking in an arm-triangle choke and putting Toney to sleep. There was a loud “UFC” chant from the Boston crowd during the fight and Couture was gracious (as always) in putting the boxing vs. MMA war to bed in his post-fight interview. Also, according to UFC president Dana White, Toney is done in the UFC following this performance. Fun for what it was, but not anywhere near Couture’s top matches.
Our Match Rating: 3/5

LIGHTWEIGHT: Kenny Florian (13-4, #5 Lightweight) vs. Gray Maynard (9-0, #8 Lightweight)
Our Prefight Pick: Florian
Result: Maynard | Unanimous Decision, Round 3
Gray Maynard lived up to his moniker of “The Bully” as he bullied Kenny Florian around (in Florian’s own hometown, no less) for three rounds, in the process earning himself a shot at Frankie Edgar’s lightweight title. After a long feeling-out process to start the fight, Maynard began to take over due to his superior wrestling ability and Florian’s seeming lack of urgency. Florian has long been a top contender in the 155 weight class but has a history of choking when there’s a lot riding on a fight (see his title fights against Penn and Sean Sherk) and with a lightweight title shot on the line in this one, his gag reflex once again became apparent. Maynard has a victory over Edgar in his career but neither fighter’s style is that dynamic so that title fight has the potential to be a snoozer.
Our Match Rating: 3/5

WELTERWEIGHT: Nate Diaz (12-5) vs. Marcus Davis (17-6)
Our Prefight Pick: Diaz
Result: Diaz | Submission, Round 3
Nate Diaz came out and played his familiar role as villain against Marcus Davis (another New England native fighting on the card) and Diaz’s usual taunting and Davis’s hometown boy standing lead to a rather loud “Diaz sucks” chant early on but those chants quickly turned to cheers as both men seemed more than willing to swing away in what was largely a standup war. Diaz eventually began picking Davis apart with strikes, opening up a NASTY cut on Davis’s right eye that required medical attention throughout the fight. Diaz got a takedown late in the final round, took Davis’s back, and sunk in a guillotine choke to take the victory.
Our Match Rating: 3.5/5

MIDDLEWEIGHT: Damian Maia (12-2, #5 Middleweight) vs. Mario Miranda (10-1)
Our Prefight Pick: Maia
Result: Maia | Unanimous Decision, Round 3
Coming off an incredibly lackluster showing against middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 112 that tarnished the standing of both men, Damian Maia seemingly had a lot to prove against Mario Miranda but the fight was the equivalent of watching paint dry as neither man seemed to want to do much. Maia eventually did just enough to secure the judges’ decision but it’s possible that after the Silva debacle and now this, his days of fighting on the main card may be coming to an end.
Our Match Rating: 2/5

Other than the prelim fight where Lauzon absolutely destroyed Reudiger (which was admittedly more entertaining for longtime Ultimate Fighter viewers to see a dickhole like Reudiger get put in his place more than anything else) there were no signature fights that stood out on the card. Sure, Edgar solidified his stature in the lightweight division but the fight wasn’t really what you’d call entertaining and yes, Couture’s victory over Toney will garner some mainstream press but it wasn’t really anything more than a curiosity. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by Silva/Sonnen, Leben/Akiyama, and Lesnar/Carwin over the last few events but UFC 118 really was a disappointment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: The Hold Steady | Heaven Is Whenever

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably)

Now... onto the review:

The Hold Steady | Heaven Is Whenever

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. The Hold Steady are a grossly overhyped band. Their entire catalog has been decent but nowhere near deserving of the love it’s gotten from critics and fans. Craig Finn’s half speak/half sing vocal affectation is really annoying. They’re not a very deep band. They’re too fixated on Springsteen. Ultimately, they’re the indie rock equivalent of Hootie And The Blowfish (and I say that as an unabashed Hootie fan). They’re a bar band (albeit a hyper-literate one) who hit a nerve and probably grew a larger profile than their talents warranted. With all of that said, you’d think that their latest effort, Heaven is Whenever, wouldn’t be worth the time that it would take to listen to it but surprisingly it’s their best album to date and, more than that, it’s a very enjoyable listen. It’s somewhat ironic that this is the first Hold Steady release to receive lukewarm critical response yet to my ears it’s their most accessible and listenable album yet. It opens with the country-tinged slide guitar of “The Sweet Part Of The City,” where Finn actually SINGS (as he does on a majority of the record – I know, right?) and eventually leads into “The Weekenders,” their best song to date and their most likely shot at a crossover. It’s a very strong track with an incredibly catchy hook as Finn sings, “So if it has to be a secret/ Then I guess that I can deal with it/ You and I both know it’s a negative thing/ In the end, only girls know the whole truth.” Did they write the track hoping for mainstream success? Maybe, but if they did the calculation doesn’t matter because it’s a great track that starts on a mellow and subdued note before building to a cathartic release. Another standout, the catchy and anthemic “Hurricane J,” possesses a hook that’s very similar to “The Weekenders,” which is probably why it's as good as it is. To boil it down to its simplest terms, many of Heaven Is Whenever’s tracks are a variation on the same theme – an examination of problems with girls or with life backed by some very solid guitars. In fact, much of the guitar work on this record is stronger than I remember them displaying on past albums. For example, “Soft In The Center” finds the fortune cookie sentiment of “You won’t get every girl/ You’ll love the ones you get the best” supported by an almost Slash-esque guitar flourish. On a similar note, even the goopy emotions of “We Can Get Together” (“Heaven is whenever/ We can get together”) make the track work in spite of its earnestness. It also shouldn’t go unnoted that their Springsteen fixation is as present as ever but that they’ve integrated it into their own sound to much better effect than on past records and they use it to craft a strong autumnal atmosphere. It’s not without its mistakes (it is a Hold Steady album, after all) but if I’m ever going to feel the urge to listen to a Hold Steady album (rare as that urge may be) Heaven Is Whenever is the record that’s going to be playing on my iPod. This is not an album that I went in expecting or even wanting to like. Damned if I don’t though.

Standout Tracks: “The Weekenders;” “Hurricane J;” “The Sweet Part Of The City”

Dirty Rating: 78/100

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: Lightspeed Champion | Life Is Sweet... Nice To Meet You

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably)

Now... onto the review:

Lightspeed Champion | Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You

Lightspeed Champion’s second record, Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You, comes as a pleasant surprise because there was absolutely nothing in singer/guitarist/do-everything member Devonte Hynes’s past work that suggested he had any idea what he was doing. His post-punk revival band, Test Icicles (yes, Test Icicles… really) was as awful as that ridiculous name suggests and his first album under the Lightspeed Champion moniker was so forgettable that I can’t even remember what it was called. Something Lavender Bridge Something, I think. With Life Is Sweet…. however, Hynes has reinvented himself as something of a curator of British sounds spanning the past thirty years. You like Queen? Try “The Big Guns Of Highsmith.” Fan of glam? Listen to “Faculty Of Fears.” Blur-influenced Britpop? That would be “Middle Of The Dark.” While the record does feel lengthy at 15 tracks, lead single “Marlene” erases many concerns and ends up almost carrying the record by itself. With its infectious chorus and winding guitar line, “Marlene” is one of the year’s best tracks and is the type of song that can inflate the opinion of an entire record on its own as it stands far and away above anything else on Life Is Sweet… This isn’t to say that the entire rest of the album pales in comparison. The beautiful, strings-supported “I Don’t Want To Wake Up Alone” and the hooky “Madame Van Damme” also deserve mention and add to the feeling that Life Is Sweet… is a record that slowly reveals itself upon multiple listens. It’s also the sound of Hynes finding his voice and becoming someone to keep an eye on.

Standout Tracks: “Marlene;” “Madame Van Damme;” “I Don’t Want To Wake Up Alone”

Dirty Rating: 69/100

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yeasayer + Kristen Bell = We Like

As if we didn't already like Yeasayer's latest, Odd Blood, enough already (really... see here and here for proof) they went ahead and cast Kristen Bell (our not so super secret future celebrity wife) in the video for the third single off of the record, "Madder Red." Watch below:


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: Quick Hitters

Taking a brief look at some recent releases that weren’t really deserving of a full review. Rating scale is as usual.

Sleigh Bells | Treats
Not without its charm at points but, not to sound like a septuagenarian, but it actually hurts to listen to at times due to the ear-piercing nature of the production on some tracks (seriously – they put the “noise” in noise pop). That said, “Tell ‘Em” really is as good as everyone says it is and “Rill Rill” is insanely catchy as well. I really expected to like this one more than I did but such is life.
Dirty Rating: 75/100

Jack Johnson | To The Sea
If you’ve ever heard a Jack Johnson record before, you’ve heard To The Sea. It’s all nice and inoffensive and has songs about the beach and recycling and everything but Jesus, Jack… would it kill you to stretch a little bit? For once?
Dirty Rating: 51/100

New Young Pony Club | The Optimist
Gone is much of the fun of their debut, Fantastic Playroom, in favor of a darker edged sound. Normally this would be a welcome switch but here it just falls… flat. First single "Chaos" is pretty decent but there's not much beyond that.
Dirty Rating: 71/100

Nada Surf | If I Had A Hi-Fi
A surprisingly limp covers album from one of the best indie pop acts in the genre, If I Had A Hi-Fi finds Nada Surf struggling on a set of covers ranging from well-known bands like Depeche Mode to more obscure ones like The Silly Pillows. “Electrocution,” as its title would suggest, crackles and their cover of Spoon’s “The Agony Of Lafitte” also stands out but too much is forgettable and of a throwaway nature. This one had potential but can’t deliver.
Dirty Rating: 57/100

Tom Petty | Mojo
On “Into The Great Wide Open” Tom Petty sang, “The A&R man said ‘I don’t hear a single.’” Tom, buddy, I don’t hear a single on Mojo and while that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, when the rest of the record is boring and lifeless so maybe a single or two would have been a good idea. If we're being honest, Petty hasn’t really released a good record since Echo in 1998. His output in the years since have been mediocre at best (Highway Companion) and downright bad at worst (The Last DJ). Mojo probably falls somewhere in between but I’m afraid that Petty’s career might rapidly be approaching its expiration date – that is, if it hasn’t already reached it.
Dirty Rating: 51/100

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: True Blood

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:


100-95 - Classic Show; (In best Bill O'Reilly voice) "WE'LL DO IT LIVE!!"
94-85 - Upper Echelon Show; You Should DVR This And Watch It The Same Night
84-75 - Very, Very Good; You Should Make An Effort To Watch This Within A Few Days Of Airing
74-65 - Not Bad At All; Let These Shows Pile Up On Your DVR But Watch 'Em Eventually
64-55 - Fold The Laundry While You Watch These
54-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably) 

Now... onto the review:





True Blood | Season 3

 “Conscience off. Dick on.” Andy Bellefleur to Jason Stackhouse

Oh, True Blood, you almost had me at Nazi werewolves. Actually, no, not really. HBO’s breakout hit vampire drama, True Blood, has returned for its third season and after the first half of its 2010 run of episodes I’m left wondering why I’m still bothering to watch it. Following last season’s incredibly weak season-long arc about Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), the Maenad (explanation here) that took over and possessed the town by forcing them into orgies by shaking her body or some such shit, I’d hoped that the series would return to something more closely resembling the somewhat tight plotting of season one’s whodunit serial killer angle but those hopes have been dashed in very short order, while greatly exposing some of the major flaws that have existed since the show’s debut season.

More than anything else, it’s becoming clear that series creator Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) doesn’t care much for character development. There’s literally no investment in any of the characters’ well-being which makes it impossible to care about anything that’s happening on screen. Do I care that central couple Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) have been separated, pawns in a power grab by newcomer Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare, Milk), the Vampire King of Mississippi? Nope. Am I interested by heartthrob Eric Northman’s (Alexander Skarsgard) mysterious quest for revenge that leads him to play both sides of the struggle between Edgington and Evan Rachel Wood’s Sophie-Anne Leclerq? Not particularly. How about Tara Thornton’s (Rutina Wesley) decent into a disturbing relationship with creepy vampire Franklin Mott (James Frain, The Tudors)? Nuh-uh. All of this is because, frankly, we haven’t been given any reason to care about these characters in the slightest. All of the storylines ring incredibly hollow. Even new characters like werewolf Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello, How I Met Your Mother) and mysterious Crystal Norris (Lindsay Pulsipher, The Beast) were introduced in intriguing fashion only to fall flat in subsequent appearances. And I haven’t even mentioned what could realistically be described as the series’ nadir, bar owner Sam Merlotte’s (Sam Trammell) discovery of his shape-shifting, white trash birth family who use their shifting abilities to compete on the dogfighting circuit. You can’t make this shit up. Really, I wish I had made it up. It would make it easier to swallow.

It’s also frustrating that the series has largely abandoned the intriguing allegorical look at vampires as a stand-in for gay culture in mainstream America that initially gave the series more than a little promise. Unfortunately, that promise went unrealized as True Blood has morphed (much like its resident shapeshifters and werewolves) into a complete trash series that piles on its most prurient elements of blood and sex to exponentially high levels. Now, before I’m labeled a prude, understand that I don’t have any problems with the boobs and blood approach per se. Boobies make almost everything better. It’s only when that’s all the depth that there seems to be on True Blood (after seeming to set the bar higher) that I have to take a step back and wonder whether this is a show that’s still worth my time. There’s a place for trash TV but when a series like True Blood bows with as much potential as it showed in its first year and then largely abandons that approach for a lowest common denominator appeal, you have to wonder whether with all of the choices available to viewers these days if it’s still worthwhile viewing.

True Blood can’t even get out of its own way when it comes to the things that it does right. In one of the more promising storylines, town idiot Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwantan), after shooting someone in the head (somewhat in self defense) has had a revelatory moment and has decided to become a lawman. Really. It’s just as dumb as it sounds, but it’s played for laughs and is at least somewhat successful in that regard as the dumb cop/dumber cop pairing of Jason and Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) does have potential even as it’s entirely unbelievable. The series also grossly underutilizes two of its best talents, Debra Ann Woll as Jessica Hambly, a newbie vampire struggling to deal with her new lifestyle, and Nelsan Ellis’s Lafayette Reynolds, the flamboyant drug dealer who in many ways is the series’ conscience. Funny that the writing staff has abandoned the previously mentioned allegory yet gives Ellis such strong material to play as an actual gay character. Ellis completely nails what he’s given, even if both he (and Woll, for that matter) are not given nearly enough to do.

Frankly, the fact that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the Emmys nominating body) has deemed True Blood as one of the five best dramas on television (over much more deserving shows like Friday Night Lights, Justified, Sons Of Anarchy, and Treme, just to name a few) by giving it a Best Drama nod this year would be infuriating if the Emmys themselves weren’t already a joke. Lack of character development and pandering to the basest of instincts does not a Best Drama make. I suppose if True Blood draws eyeballs to HBO and thereby introduces audiences to better fare like Treme, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Ricky Gervais Show, Boardwalk Empire, or Luck then I guess it’s served its purpose but really, there isn’t any more redeeming value in the show than that anymore. And that’s a shame because it coulda been a contenda. So, I’m pretty sure I’m out. Yeah… I think I’m out.

Dirty Rating: 48/100

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What We've Been Listening To

Not that anyone asked, but here's a playlist of what we've been listening to lately at The Dirtywhirl's home offices:


The Roots, "Right On", How I Got Over
Suckers, "Before Your Birthday Ends", Wild Smile
Paramore, "When It Rains", Riot
Active Child, "I'm In Your Church At Night", Curtis Lane (EP)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, "Hot Body Rub", Before Today
Def Leppard, "Hysteria", Hysteria (*)
Def Leppard, "Love Bites", Hysteria (*)
Skid Row, "I Remember You", Skid Row (*)
Pierce The Veil, "Bulletproof Love", Selfish Machines
The Bird And The Bee, "She's Gone", Interpreting The Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John Oates
Pierce The Veil, "Caraphernelia", Selfish Machines
We Have Band, "Divisive", WHB
Active Child, "When Your Love Is Safe", Curtis Lane (EP)
Pierce The Veil, "Stay Away From My Friends", Selfish Machines
Pierce The Veil, "The Boy Who Could Fly", Selfish Machines


*What? We were in an 80s pop metal mood. It happens.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: The National | High Violet

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably) 


Now... onto the review:



The National | High Violet

Crafting one of the best albums of the past twenty years is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the feeling of creating an indelible work of art that will stand as a musical high water mark must be indescribable. The National did that with their 2007 breakthrough record, Boxer. The other side of that sword, though, is that you’re going to create impossibly high expectations for a follow up which is unfortunately the case with the band's latest, High Violet. From any other act an album like this would be revelatory. The problem is that The National have proven that they’re capable of better. Sonically, the Dessner brothers have created a similar aural texture as heard on past records so where does the fault lie, then? Why does High Violet fall slightly short of the band's potential? Sadly, it’s with singer Matt Berninger’s lyrics. Berninger has never been the most straightforward lyricist in music but he’s even more obtuse than usual on more than a few of High Violet’s tracks and frankly, that’s to their detriment. I’m not one to need to have things spelled out lyrically but when the imagery that’s presented is extremely abstract at best and silly at worst, it takes power away from the music. “We’ll play nuns versus priests until somebody wins,” (“A Little Faith); “I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees/ I never married, but Ohio don’t remember me,” (“Bloodbuzz, Ohio”); and perhaps the worst offense, “Vanderlyle crybaby cry/ Man, it’s all been forgiven, swans are a-swimmin’/ I’ll explain everything to the geeks;” (“Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks) are just a few of the inscrutable sobriquets tossed by Berninger on the record. Many times, as on “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” (not only the record’s worst track but one of their worst overall – it's just ridiculous on so many levels), “Sorrow,” and “Lemon World,” the lyrics just kill dead any chance that the tracks would have had. Others, including “Conversation 16” (with its great textural instrumentation), “Runaway” (a track that feels tossed off but not necessarily in a bad way), and even the aforementioned “Bloodbuzz, Ohio” are able to overcome their clunky lyrics to affect something approaching respectability, while the opening “Terrible Love,” “Anyone’s Ghost,” and “Afraid Of Everyone” (the album’s best track that features Sufjan Stevens making a guest appearance for the second consecutive record and sees Berninger wailing “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out” and “In a way she’s swallowing my soul, soul, soul, soul”) are just straight triumphs. The album does close rather weakly and this could be a contributing factor in how it plays overall, but all of this is more than a little nitpicky because High Violet really is better than almost 80% of what’s been released so far this year. It’s the fucking National, fer chrissakes. It’s dark... it’s brooding... it’s what we want out of the band. While its faults are magnified due to the fact that this is a record by one of rock’s best bands, High Violet is still a very, very strong album and that speaks to the talent of The National in that they can overcome the obstacles presented in particular by the record’s lyrics to deliver such a solid (yet not spectacular) effort.

Standout Tracks: “Afraid Of Everyone;” “Terrible Love;” “Anyone’s Ghost;” “Bloodbuzz, Ohio;” “Conversation 16”

Dirty Rating: 84/100


Monday, July 26, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: Gigi | Maintenant

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably) 


Now... onto the review:


Gigi | Maintenant

There’s comfort in examining the past. We get so caught up in the latest gadgets and in the newest advances that make our lives easier while simultaneously creating more problems for ourselves that it’s often comforting to think of a simpler time, even if you yourself never personally experienced that actual era. Speaking as a thirtysomething who grew up during the transition from Gen X to Gen Y, I wasn’t alive during the 60s but I’ll admit that I have at times wondered what my life would have been like had I lived during that decade. Gigi’s debut record, Maintenant, thoroughly re-creates the sound what I imagine this bygone era to be with stunning precision. Unlike many of the other notable releases of the retro-60s pop genre (Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, Duffy’s Rockferry, Adele’s 19) that were solely sung from the ladies' perspective, Maintenant mixes both male and female voices, giving it a fresh take on the re-examination of classic pop. The nature of a 40-member (really… 40 MEMBER!) project likely leads to the disparity of sounds found on the record. The Brill Building sound of the first single, “No, My Heart Will Go On” stands next to the bossa nova of Parenthetical Girls leader Zac Pennington’s “Dreams Of Romance,” which shares space with the airy French pop of Katie Eastburn’s “The Marquee.” Maintenant runs the gamut of 60s pop styles yet manages to feel fresh. True, there’s nothing that can really be considered “new” on the record but the sound is pitch perfect for what Gigi was targeting. Maintenant creates atmosphere more than anything else – it’s easy to imagine any one of these songs playing over Mad Men’s closing credits, for example – but the lyrics are just as noteworthy for how they create a striking visual palette. You can almost feel the orange shag carpet under your feet and see the art deco walls as Pennington laments, “I showed up early to your costume party/ Dressed up like a pharaoh/ I really should have come as Robin Hood/ And done myself in with the arrow,” over skittering bossa nova on “Dreams Of Romance.” “Some Second Best” conjures an image of a trio of girls in poodle skirts cooing outside an ice cream shop while the lonely nature of “I’m Not Coming Out Tonight” and “Alone At The Pier” also shine. Maintenant is the sound of a band not really attempting to challenge its listeners per se, but instead providing them with a thoroughly accurate means for a comfortable escape to a simpler time.

Standout Tracks: “No, My Heart Will Go On;” “I’m Not Coming Out Tonight;” “Won’t Someone Tell Me?” “Alone At The Pier;” “The Marquee"

Dirty Rating: 88/100

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: Deftones | Diamond Eyes

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably) 


Now... onto the review:




Deftones | Diamond Eyes

There’s no way to sugarcoat it – the Deftones’ Saturday Night Wrist was a bad album. Like, really bad. Like girls talking about poo and um... other things bad (seriously, listen closely to “Pink Cellphone”… or better yet don’t). Not only was it bad but it was the kind of record that calls a band’s right to exist into question. Should the Deftones even bother continuing if an effort like that was the best they could muster? This is why it’s heartening to see Chino & Co. headed back in the right direction with their latest record and first in four years, Diamond Eyes. The Deftones have always been smarter than your average meathead hard rock band and that’s long been their calling card. Their willingness to take risks and challenge the norm has always worked to their benefit, but that ethos failed them on their last go-round. Whereas the risks didn’t necessarily pay off on Saturday Night Wrist, it’s a return to basics on Diamond Eyes that has them balanced back on their axis. “Diamond Eyes” is immediately stronger than anything on the last record with its catchier chorus and self-titled record feel. Not far behind is “Rocket Skates” which is so heavy and so good as vocalist Chino Moreno screams, “Guns, razors, knives/ Fuck with me” over granite strength guitars. It’s four minutes of raw and naked emotion and energy and it’s an impressive thing that they have a track like this in them over twenty years into their careers. To anyone who’s hoping that the Deftones might be stashing White Pony II somewhere in the back of their collective subconscious, it’s probably time to give up that dream and just embrace what the Deftones have become – simply put, one of the most solid hard rock bands in the music business. That’s not to say flashes of White Pony brilliance aren’t still present. Albeit less experimental than their high water mark, “Beauty School” shares elements in common with “Passenger” or “Digital Bath” as Moreno howls, “You’re shooting stars/ From the barrel of your eyes/ And it drives me crazy/ Just drives me wild.” Another standout is “Sextape,” the record’s prettiest track (and yes, it’s more than a little strange describing a Deftones track that way) that piles layers of atmosphere on a steady build to a great chorus. Really, it’s easy to make a case that Moreno himself had become a metaphor for the band. He’d allowed himself to bloat (I mean, Jesus… dude was effing fat during the videos off of Saturday Night Wrist) but now he’s leaner and meaner, much like the band as a whole on Diamond Eyes. After hearing the band drop the fat and put out likely their hardest record since Around The Fur, clearly the Deftones should consider sticking around for at least another few records. And that’s a great thing. A really great thing.

Standout Tracks: “Rocket Skates;” “Sextape;” “Diamond Eyes;” “Beauty School”

Dirty Rating: 77/100

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quick 'N Dirty Review: Broken Social Scene | Forgiveness Rock Record

Before we start, here's a quick look at the rating system that we use here at The Dirtywhirl:

100 - Classic Album; One Of The Best Of All Time
99-90 - Exceptional Work; Rush Out And Get This
89-80 - Very, Very Good; You Should Still Go Out And Get This
79-70 - Not Bad At All; Might Actually Be Worth Your Time
69-60 - Has Its Moments But On The Whole... Meh
59-50 - Won't Make Your Ears Bleed; Won't Make You Dance, Either
49-0 - Don't Waste Your Time; You're Smarter Than This (Probably) 


Now... onto the review:

Broken Social Scene | Forgiveness Rock Record

No band in Canadian indie rock has a bigger profile than Broken Social Scene and I mean that both figuratively and literally (the band has included up to 19 members at various points). Due to the collective nature of the group, almost anyone who’s been involved in the Canadian indie scene has at least some tenuous connection to BSS over the years. After releasing a number of records by members of the band in the past few years that were de facto BSS records (including Kevin Drew’s Spirit Is, Brendan Canning’s Something For All Of Us) not to mention records by other members of the collective (Feist, Stars, Amy Millan, k-os, Jason Collett), Forgiveness Rock Record is the first one in five years to actually be a labeled as a proper BSS record. Was it worth the wait? Results are mixed. At this point in their career it’s becoming painfully obvious that the career heights of You Forgot It In People will never again be scaled by the band. And that can be fine, so long as the band is still producing quality tracks at a high level. And true, there are highs on Forgiveness Rock Record, but not enough to sustain the album. “World Sickis a strong opening salvo from the record that speaks to the collective nature of the band as Drew sings; “We got a minefield of crippled affection/ All for the borrowed mirror connection/ That’s why I’m leaving this spoken protection/ I’m a romance addict so I can confess that” before what feels like the entirety of the 19 person membership chiming in for the chorus. “Texico Bitches” is very upbeat and lively and is definitely one of the stronger efforts here while the moody “Sweetest Kill” and the Eastern influenced “Ungrateful Little Father” also stand a cut above. However, it’s never a good sign when you’re constantly checking the tracklist to see how far into the record you are and I did that more than once through the record’s one hour running time. “Chase Scene” is appropriately titled as it sounds like it could be backing a 70s cop show chase scene and the track’s OK but it feels oddly lifeless, and that’s not the worst of it. “Art House Director” is too cutesy by half, “Forced To Love” feels like a limp rehash of Canning’s “Hit The Wall,” and “Meet Me In The Basement” and “Romance To The Grave” are just straight boring. Maybe everyone in BSS is so preoccupied with their own shit that, even though this is the first group record in a half decade, they don’t care as much about the band as a whole anymore. It wouldn’t be the first time that a band, even one as talented as BSS, fell prey to this kind of trap. But still, with the collective talent involved, it’s hard to call Forgiveness Rock Record anything other than a mild to medium disappointment.

Standout Tracks: “Sweetest Kill;” “World Sick;” “Texico Bitches;” “Ungrateful Little Father”

Dirty Rating: 74/100

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend News Dump



It's the Weekend News Dump. Because it's the weekend. And we're dumping news. The Weekend News Dump.


  • In surprising yet highly welcome news, Daniel Tosh has officially become the most-watched host on Comedy Central as the ratings for the summer season of Tosh.0 have eclipsed those of both Jon Stewart's Daily Show and Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report. Clearly the reason is that Tosh.0 features more puke. Never doubt the ratings power of puke. Oh, and also because it's damn funny. That's probably part of it, too.
  • HBO has ordered Luck to series, which seemed to be a mere formality given the Milch/Mann/Hoffman/Nolte core of the show. Alan Sepinwall raises a good point, however. What will the show's shelf life be once the notoriously overprepared Dustin Hoffman begins receiving new pages of dialogue from series creator David Milch in the midst of shooting a scene, a stunt that Milch is legendary for pulling on a regular basis? Maybe we should enjoy the first season while we can when it premieres in early 2011.
  • My fifteen-year-old self loves this. MTV has announced that Mike Judge is at work on new episodes of Beavis And Butt-head that will air on the cable outlet sometime in the near future. The structure will stay the same as the show's 90s heyday -- scripted episodes that also include the characters commenting on contemporary music videos. The biggest news here, surprisingly, isn't the resurrection of the series but that, shit, MTV IS GOING TO BE PLAYING VIDEOS AGAIN. Kinda.
  • Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch attracted a whopping 8.5 million viewers (without question a record for the network) for its season premiere on Tuesday night which dealt with the death of Captain Phil Harris. Not to be crass but we'd venture to guess that those numbers will stay as a series high seeing as the show's star is, to put it delicately, an ex-human.
  • Community is the latest series to get into the Betty White business. And by latest we mean the 268th.
  • Sharktopus. Just saying.