Saturday, March 04, 2017

Where's the revolution?

It's been about 12 years since a new Depeche Mode single really grabbed me (the last was "Precious" with the sonar sound pulsating throughout), but it's happening now with "Where's the Revolution," a rather clear and rousing political statement for those dismayed by how the country has recently gone off the rails.

Where's the revolution 
Come on, people 
You're letting me down

Indeed. 

I especially like the bridge, with the repeated lines of "the train is coming" and "the engine is humming," as the music literally mimics the sound of a locomotive bolting down the tracks. I'm definitely on board. For a political playlist, I'll suggest "Policy of Truth" as the next track …

Ouija: Origin of Evil

The bar has sunk rather low for the horror genre when this mediocrity is sitting at 82 percent critical approval on Rotten Tomatoes, wouldn't you say? I'll grant you that it starts out promisingly, and I found myself thinking in the early going that it could end up being a rare gem. But oh, how the moods of the spirits do change. On the positive side, the '60s time setting is quaint, and watching the mother and her daughters perpetrate their innocent little ouija board scam has its charms. The ouija board scenes generate a few chills, and those bits when the youngest daughter, who falls under the spirit's influence, whispers evil nothings into her older sister's ear in the dead of night are downright creepy. It all goes awry, however, about half-way through when a character is found hanging from the rafters and the movie descends into typical horror movie claptrap, losing all the cleverness of the first half. Ouija says "no." // Verdict: 2.5 out of 5. Now available on disc and digital.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A few words about NBC's giant parabola

After about 1990, game shows seemed to move away from one of the common elements of many of the best ones — a giant, flashy set piece (think Press Your Luck, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune). But NBC's big-money spectacle The Wall, while stealing a simple game concept from another show, gets the set piece right in a big way. Not only is its prop the centerpiece of the game, it impressively serves as a massive TV screen where Rice-A-Roni would probably love to be plugged as a parting gift. The Q&A aspect of the show is certainly nothing special, and it seems a bit absurd to watch someone answer two out of six questions correctly and walk away with more than a million dollars. I could also do without the sappy husband-and-wife contestant stories. But, in the end, everybody loves a little Plinko.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Goldfrapp's new single

I really wanted to love the new Goldfrapp single, "Anymore," because it appears this album will be one of the more uptempo ones, and the last one left me cold (Head First, Supernature and Seventh Tree are my favorites). I gave "Thea" some streams but never even bought Tales of Us. "Anymore," if we compare it to the past material, sounds like it could fit on Black Cherry, which is neither particularly a good or a bad thing, but the melody is lacking for me. Here's hoping the album, Silver Eye, sounds better.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The songs that moved me in 2016

Based on my monitored music-playing activity from last.fm, my 11 most-played songs of the year, limited to those released in or not too far from 2016:

Burn ~ Pet Shop Boys // From this year's Stuart Price-produced Super album, it's one of their best-ever stompers and the best track to emerge from the Boys' new hardcore dance phase. Not that the single choices matter much at this stage, but how was this not a single?

Living Inside My Heart ~ ABC // What a year to be an ABC fan, with the incredible Lexicon of Love II preceded by two amazing appetizers — this one from Fly (Songs Inspired by the Film: Eddie the Eagle) and the incredible Radiohead cover from the 80's Re:Covered album.

Blue ~ Marina and the Diamonds // Cannot get it out of my head and don't want to.

Say It to Me ~ Pet Shop Boys

Love Will Keep Us Together ~ Kim Wilde // Another gem from 80's Re:Covered.

Mine ~ Third Eye Blind // A stunning, unexpected, deconstructing cover … and those are the best kind. Better, to my ears, than Beyonce's original.

Twenty-Something ~ Pet Shop Boys // One of the best lyrical efforts of their last few albums.

I Can Fly ~ Lana Del Rey // Not much from Del Rey has caught my attention prior to this stunner from the closing credits of the great film Big Eyes about the artist Margaret Keane.

In Bits ~ Pet Shop Boys // The B-sides of the last three albums have not lived up to their impeccable track record, but the dour "In Bits" is a notable exception.

The Dictator Decides ~ Pet Shop Boys

Viva Love ~ ABC // From Lexicon II, it sounds like a natural extension of their run of '80s hits.

A few factoids on my year in music:

• Most played "oldies" of the year: "Blue Eyes" by Elton John, a single from 1982, and "The NeverEnding Story" by Limahl from 1984, prompted by the Spotify commercial. Forty of my 100 are from the 1980s.


• A look at Billboard's top 100 songs of the year is, as usual, a reminder of how far removed my tastes are now from the mainstream. My top 100 played songs of the year has only two crossovers with Billboard: "Sorry" by Justin Bieber (me #27, Billboard #2) and "Cheap Thrills" by Sia (not the Sean Paul version, please) (me #40, Billboard #11). If I had discovered it earlier in the year, "Stressed Out" by twenty one pilots would probably have joined those two — it's certainly one of the most interesting tunes to get radio play this year.


• Prince had gone a bit underappreciated in my playlists in recent years, resulting in a gradual slide down to #57 on the artists chart at the time of his death. I've since spent a lot of time revisiting his vast discography, resulting in a huge rebound to #21.


Go here for last year's recap and links to prior years.

Monday, December 26, 2016

At last, Pet Shop Boys in Nashville



Nashville enjoyed a night out with the Pet Shop Boys in November, "at last," as Neil Tennant declared. I was thrilled to be there for my second PSB concert and not to have to make the much longer drive to Atlanta as we did in 2009 for the Yes tour. It was a fantastic show in Andrew Jackson Hall near the Tennessee Capitol, with the additional on-stage musicians bringing a little twist to the performance, which included spectacular visuals. It's always thrilling to hear the new mixes they bring to the live shows.

Setlist highlights: "Love Comes Quickly," "Domino Dancing" and "The Dictator Decides"

Setlist quibbles: 1) The exclusion of "Being Boring" 2) The inclusion of "New York City Boy" 3) The representation of Fundamental only by "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show;" I'd choose any other of the album's tracks over that one except "Numb."

A special note: To the person seated in row L, seat 30, who sat on top of your seat, everyone behind you thought you were a giant douchebag.

Sometimes the clothes do not make the man, or: RIP George Michael

I've often wished that George Michael had just let go of whatever demons there were and made the proper follow-up to Faith, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) pop albums of the '80s. Listen Without Prejudice was a really good album, even if the fun had gone out of it. But, while it arguably has his best composition in "Freedom 90," it didn't feel like the proper successor to Faith. As the years went by and albums like Older and Songs from the Last Century slowly emerged, another pop opus clearly wasn't going to happen. As deep and impressive as his legacy of songs is, it still seems to me there was untapped potential. If he had ridden that imperial phase skillfully, he'd be on the short list with the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Whitney. He currently sits at #37 on my most-played artists list.

The late-period single "White Light" seems rather poignant now.