MUSIC REVIEW | The Old 97’s – Too Far to Care (1997)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “There’s ups, there’s downs, there’s snarky country, there’s unashamed emotion.  But most importantly, there’s some plenty of amazing, country infused, punk rock.”

I heard a single Old 97’s song about seven or eight years ago.  It was in an episode of Veronica Mars.  I loved it, and have had it my head ever since.  But for some reason, I never really sought that song, or the band, out any more than that in the years since.  But there’s something about that one song’s refusal to leave my head after all these years that gave me pretty high hopes as I pressed play on Too Far to Care.

Celtic drum beats at a break neck speed…  Rocking, riffing guitars blasting away from the get go…  Angsty lyrics kicking off with, “I got a time bomb, in my mind mom.  I hear it ticking but I don’t know why.”  Congratulations Old 97’s, you’ve cracked the code and figured out exactly how to make me love a band and album within five seconds. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | True Stories (1986)

“Who do you think lives there? Four-car garage. Hope, fear, excitement, satisfaction.”

David Byrne is one of those dudes who if I ever gave their career the attention it clearly deserves, I feel like I’d respect him more than I like him.  I have the first Talking Heads album, and I like it fine enough.  And I know their big hits because they still get played on commercial radio regularly today.  But there’s always been something a little too arty, a little too deliberately intellectual about David Byrne and Talking Heads for me to really dive in.  Weirdly enough, while that’s what turns me off when it comes to his music, they’re the exact same reasons I wanted to see what happens when David Byrne writes and directs a movie.  You get True Stories, that’s what happens.

A Narrator (Byrne) drives around a small Texas town in his bright red convertible as citizens prepare for the 150th anniversary celebrations of said town.  A boom is underway as more and more money is generated by the local microchip manufacturing plant.  And while the town is growing, it’s not growing in the best ways.  Miles and miles of desert are turned into miles and miles of suburbs.  Identical steel sheds cover the industrial landscape as things like efficiency and practicality outweigh beauty and tradition. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac (1997)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “This is straight up country music balladry and heartbreak.”

I’m not sure when the genre of Alt-Country became a thing, but I know I first became aware of it in around the turn of the millennium, thanks to Ryan Adams.  He was an alternative radio favourite and every time I would hear one of his solo songs on the wireless, the jock would feel compelled to mention his old band, Whiskeytown.  I always liked Ryan Adams singles when I heard them, but never felt compelled to seek out entire albums until the last year or so.  And even then, my consumption has been casual at best.  But through bands and artists like Wilco, Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell, my appreciation for country, alt and traditional, has exploded over the last few years, which is why now felt like the perfect time to finally get into some Whiskeytown, with Strangers Almanac.

There’s nothing alt about the country of album opener Inn Town. This is straight up country music balladry and heartbreak.  Acoustic guitars, a mournful fiddle and vocal harmonies full of road worn sadness, it’s a great start, that leads into the perfectly juxtaposed up beat country optimism of the amazingly titled Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music (2000)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “When the song craft is at this kind of level, no one needs to reinvent the wheel.”
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Alt country is a genre of music I find myself liking, more often loving, every time I listen to a band or performer who falls under that heading.  Wilco, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell (although, he tends to fall under the Americana umbrella these days), and his former band Drive-By Truckers (a combo of alt country and heavy southern rock).  When someone recently recommended I listen to The Jayhawks, it was the first I’d heard of them.  But now that I see they’ve been around since the mid 80s, and now that I’ve heard The Jayhawks with Rainy Day Music, I’m stoked to all of a sudden have 30 years of music to catch up on from some alt country pioneers.

The jangled guitars and slay bell infused hi-hat starts things in a great, vintage, 60s feel on Stumbling Through the Dar.k.  The light, sweetness of the vocal melody, reaching the occasional, impressive falsetto ads to that vibe.  It’s a great way to ease into an album, and the perfect setup for the alt-country, harmony filled Tailspin. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Road to Rio (1947)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Crosby and Hope are so good at delivering gags, just the cadence alone is enough to make them funny.  A little context only makes them better.”

“Who wants to work? We’re musicians!”

Last year, we got a seventh Fast and Furious movie, a seventh Rocky movie, and the Marvel universe branched out to be over a dozen movies strong.  But even with these standouts, and every movie studio looking for ways to create their own extended universes, franchises of this size are still more of an exception than the rule.  But, they’re nothing new.  From 1937 to 1958, Mickey Rooney made 16 movies built around his Andy Hardy character, a series I really want to write about if I could track down enough of its entries.  But for me, the other most prominent franchise of that era, is the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope lead ‘Road To’ movies.  And I was stoked to recently stumble across one with Road to Rio.

After running into girl trouble from one side of America to the other and being chased out of town by angry fathers, vaudevillians Scat Sweeney (Crosby) and Hot Lips Barton (Hope) end up in Louisiana were they hop a ship bound for Rio.  Stowing away by hiding in a life raft, they manage to go undetected until they meet Lucia Maria (Dorothy Lamour).  Scat is obviously smitten, but Hot Lips is determined to stop his friend from getting them both in the hot water that inevitably comes when they meet women. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces (2014)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I only liked it more and more as each of it 40 minutes of simple but effective rock kicked and punched its way through my headphones.”

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The band; Hard Girls.  The album; A Thousand Surfaces.  My prior knowledge of who they are and what they do before listing; None.

A simple, driving riff that can be repeated ad nauseam is a great way to kick things off, and that’s exactly what Hard Girls deliver with The Quark.  Even better, when the vocals arrive, they deliver that same kind of simple, driving attitude.  It’s rock and roll at its most basic and most effective.  Things get a little more indie and angular on Sign of the Dune, but the chorus betrays just as much stripped back rock at the song’s core, for one minute and 43 seconds of unrelenting cool.

Slowing things down, the tempo is the only thing reduced on Die Slow.  There’s still just as much oomph and impact here, while not being quite as in your face as the opening quartet.  Onto Plan and Flying Dream, and A Thousand Surfaces is delivering a real Japandoids vibe.  These dudes know when they’re instruments and voices have done enough to get the job done, and they never layer anything superfluous crap on top to show how tricky they can be.  Hard Girls are kind of the anti-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, or anti-Radiohead. (more…)