Archives for November 2014

Axl Rose Ruined The Movies


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This weekend the third movie based on “The Hunger Games” book trilogy arrives in theaters: MOCKINGJAY PART 1. It’s “PART 1” because although the book it’s based upon, “Mockingjay,” isn’t any longer than “The Hunger Games” or “Catching Fire,” the books the first two movies were based on, someone decided it needed to be turned into two movies, the better to exploit the property and make more money, I guess. In a couple of weeks THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, the third movie in a trilogy based on a book half as long as any of the “Lord of the Rings” books that only required one movie each, hits theaters, and it was recently announced that Marvel’s third Avengers movie will also be two parts.

Where did it all start? Who decided that More Is More, always and no matter what? Was it when Quentin Tarantino decided that his 2003 kung fu B-movie tribute KILL BILL — a movie whose deepest thought was the idea that unlike Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, who had to put on disguises to fight crime, Superman’s true identity was Superman, and Clark Kent was the disguise — was such a work of genius that it had to be four-plus hours long and had to be broken into two movies (rather than just cutting out Daryl Hannah)? That was definitely an important step, but I think it goes back much farther.

I have identified Patient Zero of our current epidemic of Entertainment Bloat: Guns N’ Roses 1991 albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II.

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Why Is Everyone Mad At Dave Grohl?

screen-shot-2014-08-10-at-10-11-31-pmI am not what you’d call a fan of the Foo Fighters. (Are they THE Foo Fighters or just Foo Fighters? Are they fighting against Foo or under its banner? What is this Foo, anyway? If I was a fan I guess I wouldn’t have to ask these kind of questions.) I don’t actively dislike them, I don’t find them annoying, I’ve just never been compelled by the sound of their music to seek out more of their music. I like that one song about if everything could ever be this good forever, but that’s about as deep as my knowledge of their almost 20-year career goes.

Even so, I have really been enjoying their show, FOO FIGHTERS: SONIC HIGHWAYS, which has been airing Friday nights on HBO, and which (judging by my social media feeds) is inspiring a rather acidic backlash against its creator, Foo Fighters majordomo Dave Grohl.

Grohl’s filmmaking career began a couple years ago when he directed the documentary SOUND CITY, about the Los Angeles recording studio where his old band, Nirvana, recorded the “Nevermind” album, Fleetwood Mac recorded its first album after absorbing Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham (the one with “Rhiannon” and “Landslide”), and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded “Damn The Torpedoes.” The movie culminates in Grohl buying the iconic, one-of-a-kind Neve mixing desk from the studio as it permanently closes its doors, installing it in his house, and recording some new tracks with the Foo Fighters and some of the people featured in the film — Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Rick Springfield. The movie was very well received, particularly by music nerds like me.

Thus emboldened, Grohl created SONIC HIGHWAYS on the premise that (I’m paraphrasing) all music is influenced by the place where it’s recorded. One way or another, Grohl argues in voiceover, the history and the vibes of a place seep into the music that’s created there. So we watch each week as Grohl and the Foo Fighters set out to record each song for a new album (the just-released “Sonic Highways”) in a different city, and give a little music history lesson about that city along the way, complete with interviews with each city’s rock luminaries, with each episode ending with the Foo Fighters performing the song they recorded there.

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Stevie Wonder Isn’t Charging Enough

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This thing has been going on for the last several years, where a band does a concert performing one of their albums in its entirety. It’s a great idea and I am fully in favor of it; I saw Sonic Youth play all of “Daydream Nation” a few years back, and I saw the Melvins do “Houdini,” and they were both great shows.

But it was only a matter of time until someone took this idea and delivered something truly transcendent, and that’s what happened last week at Madison Square Garden when Stevie Wonder kicked off his “Songs In The Key Of Life” tour.

Even logging onto Ticketmaster at the exact moment tickets went on sale, the literal top row of the arena was the best I could do, for $99.50 a seat — $117 with service fees. This felt a little crazy. I had to confirm with the wife that we really wanted to spend this kind of money to just barely even be in the building, but that was a pretty easy decision. We saw him from the top row at MSG in 2007 and it was terrific — Stevie was in great voice, he had two great guest stars (Tony Bennett for a torch-song version of “For Once In My Life,” Prince on “Superstition”), the sound in the arena was surprisingly good, and he didn’t play anything he recorded after 1980. It was a great show all around, more than good enough to justify the price of these new tickets.

Not everyone saw it that way, though: a friend on the West Coast posted the tour announcement on his Facebook page and, noting the ticket price ($175 for floor seats), declared it a “Pass,” and a thread soon began poo-poohing the whole enterprise:

“I heard he has three keyboard players on stage with him (meaning he’s not the musician he used to be).”
“Good call. I saw Jordan when he was on the Wizards and felt dirty after.”
“Maybe if it was in a smaller place.”
“I’ve seen him and once was enough.”

I just want to take the opportunity to tell those skeptics that YOU COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE MORE WRONG.

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The United States of Obstruction

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Election Day came and went this week, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Your Facebook feed was probably full of reminders and admonishments to get out and vote, as well as forwarded articles about the dire consequences of allowing the Republicans to take control of the Senate (or, if you’re a member of my family not typing this piece, the dire consquences of allowing the Democrats to retain control of the Senate). My Twitter feed was also full of predictions that polling suggested the GOP would soon have full command of the Congress unless Democrats showed up and voted in higher-than-usual numbers.

I had no reason to doubt these predictions; advance polling is usually correct about these things, at least in the broad strokes. And I certainly don’t share the Republicans’ vision of what constitutes a good government.

I still didn’t vote, though.

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