Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bushwhack CD Review

Written by General Jabbo

With their self-titled debut, Connecticut-based Bushwhack delivers an atmospheric blend of experimental prog-rock that conjures up thoughts of Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree while maintaining their own original sound. The band’s members, some of whom have known each other since the first grade, are all 18- to 19-years old and the band is a four-piece instrumental outfit.

That’s right – no singer. As of last July, the band had posted on their MySpace page that they were looking for a singer, but, as in other instances, have not yet added one. Keyboardist, Frank Sacramone maintains that while he can see some songs needing vocals, the band wouldn’t want to have to “sacrifice the good instrumental parts we bring to the table.”

The CD opens with “In Solitude,” a moody piece with eerie piano right out of a horror flick and electronic programming not unlike Nine Inch Nails, before launching into “The Greatest Wall,” a Dream Theater-sounding cut with Asian overtones invoking the Great Wall of China. “Guacamole” is Primus meets Rush, with its odd time signatures and funky bass lines, yet it veers into much heavier territory than those bands typically cover.

“Sea of Tranquility” was written about its namesake on the moon and starts with a mellow mix of acoustic guitars with pianos and synths before building to its dramatic crescendo of metal guitars. “Sea” is a standout track on the CD, as is “Introspection,” a song that lives up to its name with its intricate piano parts.

The musicianship on Bushwhack is top-notch, yet the players keep it restrained for most of the CD – surprising for this type of music. While most of the tracks function just fine without vocals, some of them could use them. It makes for a CD that is best listened to in the background while you are doing something else. It’s not a knock against the songs – it’s just harder for an instrumental album to hold a listener’s interest.

The band’s talent level at such a young age is astounding (One member is attending the Berklee College of Music) and they will only get better as they grow as musicians. In an age where many guitarists struggle to play three chords, Bushwhack is a refreshing change.

The album is available for purchase online at the band's website.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fight - War of Words: The Film with CD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Rob Halford stunned the metal world in 1992 when he announced he was leaving Judas Priest, the band he had fronted for many years. While fans pondered his next move, Halford didn’t keep them waiting long by releasing “Light Comes Out Of Black” on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack. The song featured an uncredited Pantera as his backing band and signaled the beginning of a new, heavier era for the metal god.

That same year, Halford began rehearsals in Arizona with his new band, Fight. The band combined the melodic aspects of Judas Priest with the aggression of Pantera and released two albums, the first of which, War of Words, is included in a remixed/remastered form as part of the War of Words: The Film DVD package.

The DVD includes an all-too-brief documentary about the formation of the band, including rehearsal footage as well as live clips and interviews. One would think a giant in the world of heavy metal such as Halford would merit a longer documentary about his life after Judas Priest, yet the film barely runs 20 minutes.

Part II of the DVD includes a Fight concert with footage culled from 22 different venues, all of them named onscreen during the first song. While the audio all comes from one source, having footage from that many venues – both professional and audience shot – can be a little distracting to a viewer, especially when Halford goes from no hat to hat to no hat again in the same song.

Still, the performance is intense and features every song from the band’s hard-hitting debut. Also included is bonus live footage from the Sony Music Studios from 1993, music videos for three of the band’s songs, and a trailer for the Halford Live at Rock in Rio III film.

As for the remixed/remastered War of Words CD, the difference is noticeable. The drums and Halford’s voice in particular seem more prominent in an attempt to make the record sound more current. Keen fans will notice that the bonus track from the original release is nowhere to be found on this reissue, but the overall sound quality of the CD is top notch.

Fight’s career was short-lived as Halford later formed Two, his ill-fated industrial project, and then went solo before rejoining Judas Priest. For fans of the singer who may only know him for “Living After Midnight” or “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” War of Words: The Film is a good place to start discovering the many sides of this metal god

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lil' Bush - Resident of the United States: Season One DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

President George W. Bush has been fodder for comedians since virtually his first day in office. It is therefore no surprise there is an animated series dedicated to him. That series is Comedy Central’s Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States.

In the show’s first season, entitled “The Invasion Begins,” we follow the exploits of Lil’ Bush and his friends, including: Lil’ Rummy, Lil’ Condi, and Lil’ Cheney. The characters are portrayed as elementary school kids yet look like miniature versions of their adult selves.

Lil’ Bush is portrayed as brash and stupid, but charming as well. Lil’ Rummy speaks fondly of the marks on his back from the different belt buckles he has gotten his father for Father’s Day, while Lil’ Condi is a sweet, innocent girl who is pining for Lil’ Bush, though he is completely oblivious to her feelings. It’s Lil’ Cheney that gets the most distorted treatment however. He speaks only in grunts, uttering only the occasional intelligible word. When he saw Lil’ Hillary Clinton for instance, he shouted, “rah, rah rah rah, pantsuit, rah rah.” He sustains himself by biting the heads off chickens and sucking out the insides, and Darth Vader is apparently his father. Bush’s father is President and is seen as weak and feeble, yet gentle while Barbara Bush wears the pants in the family. Lil’ Bush’s brother, Lil’ Jeb is borderline brain dead, but seemingly indestructible as he falls off mountains and gets his head caught in ice machines with no harm done to him.

The group’s exploits are equally absurd. From going to Baghdad to buy George H.W. Bush a Father’s Day gift because Baghdad has dad in its name, to dressing up as women to invade an Al-Qaeda camp (including making Lil’ Condi wear a wig in spite of the fact that she is indeed a woman – a point Lil’ Bush doesn’t seem to get) to a tryst Lil’ Cheney has with Barbara Bush where he ends up inside of her, forcing George H.W. Bush to order an abortion; no subject is taboo.

The Democrats get skewered as well. Lil’ Bill Clinton is always cheating on Lil’ Hillary, while she is seen as a humorless tyrant who may in fact be a lesbian. Lil’ Barack Obama is shown building a house for the poor because he believes it is the right thing to do, yet gets laughed at by Lil’s Bush’s crew as they burn the house down to get the insurance money to buy scooters. He is portrayed in the stereotype of tree-hugging liberal.

Every episode features a song by Lil’ Bush and his band, each time with the band dressed as a famous group such as Kiss or Guns ‘N Roses (with Lil’ Condi as Slash). The songs always focus on the themes of the episode and add a fun touch to the show. Season one also featured its share of guest stars, including: Iggy Pop, Anthony Kiedis, Frank Black, and Dave Grohl.

The DVD is uncensored, and includes an unreleased episode; audio commentary by Jerry Springer, Ralph Nader and Tucker Carlson; Lil’ Bush’s White House tour; and interviews with the cast and crew.

Lil' Bush certainly is not for everyone, especially those who are easily offended or not into political satire. For thicker-skinned viewers however, Lil’ Bush offers a humorous insight into the world of American politics.

No Country For Old Men DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

What would you do if you discovered $2 million in untraceable, unmarked bills – drug money no one would miss? That’s the question pondered in No Country For Old Men, the latest film from the Coen Brothers.

The winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem), No Country tells the story of Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin). While out hunting, Moss discovers the dead bodies of a number of Mexican drug runners caught in the crossfire of a drug deal gone bad. There’s a pickup truck filled with heroin and a suitcase with $2 million in cash. Leaving the drugs, Moss takes the suitcase and discovers one of the drug runners is still living. Leaving him for dead, Moss returns home to his trailer with the money only to have his conscience get the best of him. He returns to the crime scene with some water to help the wounded dealer and it is then he is discovered by some of the other dealers.

At this point, the dealers hire Anton Chigurh (played by Barden), a ruthless hit man who uses a captive bolt pistol used to stun cattle before slaughter as his murder weapon of choice, to find Moss. The dealers have placed a transponder inside the suitcase and gave Chigurh a receiver to track Moss.

What follows is a nerve-wracking chase through Texas and into Mexico. Meanwhile, Moss’ wife, Carla Jean (played by Kelly Macdonald) flees to Odessa where she is to meet up with her husband after he takes care of Chigurh. Knowing Moss is in over his head against Chigurh, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) tracks down Carla Jean in Odessa and vows to help Moss. Bell is near retirement and represents the old man in the movie title, who can’t understand the violent turn the world around him has taken.

No Country For Old Men features breathtaking cinematography and performances worthy of all its Oscar glory. While the middle of the film drags a bit, the beginning and ending are riveting and keep the viewer’s attention. The confrontations between Moss and Chigurh as well as Bell and Chigurh are as heart-stopping as any action scenes in recent memory and the film is definitely worth a look.

The DVD includes 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound and three featurettes: Working with the Coens, The Making of No Country For Old Men and Diary of a County Sheriff.