Archive for September, 2008

Judd Apatow: The Greatest Thing to Happen to Comedy Since Ever

September 28th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

(Note: this is an old article I wrote for my school paper, the Lawrence Park Panther Print. I’m posting it just because if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be available for your reading enjoyment anywhere else…and that would be too terrible…)

Judd Apatow? Ummm…who is he again? Oh right, he’s the auteur who directed The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, produced Superbad, Anchorman, Talladega Nights and executive produced the cult classic TV shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. What’s so special about him? The answer is simple: everything.

Judd Apatow and his loyal gang of misfits are changing American comedy in an awe-inspiring way. For the last couple decades people did not expect much from comedy. The 90’s were ruled by Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler movies. While they were undoubtedly funny, they were largely brainless fair that were conventional and conservative in retrospect. It didn’t look like much was going to change until Apatow’s 40 Year Old Virgin was released. While the movie’s cartoonish, clueless main character and outrageous situations were nothing revolutionary, the movie’s honesty, subtle wisdom and pitch-perfect characters were. That honesty and purity is Apatow’s trademark. Few other comedic filmmakers (let alone filmmakers in general) can inject it so perfectly into their work.

This summer’s Knocked Up allowed Apatow to continue to evolve as a filmmaker and writer. “Virgin” was about the discovery and excitement of sex, dating, flirting and relationships. Knocked Up is about growing up, responsibility, commitment, trust and change. It was a natural progression for Apatow and it couldn’t have been pulled off better. The direction was tighter, creating a more well-constructed film that was at times funnier and more outrageous than “Virgin…”. The story was filled with issues far more pressing than in “Virgin…” such as the difficulties of marriage , the inability to cope with responsibility and the pressures of relationships and dependency. Steve Carrell’s relationship with Catherine Keener’s character in “Virgin…” was pretty smooth despite the lovely innocent awkwardness of it all. In Knocked Up, Seth Rogen’s relationship with Katherine Heigl seems doomed from the start. It was clear that these two are two very different people and that many painful sacrifices would to have to be made to make the situation work-if it ever even could. I’m glad that it still had a happy ending – that may change in Apatow’s future.

It should be noted that Apatow’s actors adore him. Seth Rogen has been in everything “Apatow” since they met while working on Freaks and Geeks more than 7 years ago. Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Martin Star, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel are all also part of his entourage, having worked with him in various movies and TV shows. In interviews they will often attest to his brilliance. The characters they play in Apatow’s movies are always oddballs, losers, stoners and just general outsiders. Generally the type of characters people most easily relate to and remember. The actors sometimes say that the amount of “acting” they do is very minimal.

By combining brilliant characters, serious issues, honest dialogue and enough lewd humor to fill ten “Animal House”s and “Road Trip”s combined, Apatow is truly changing comedy. His films are now instant hits before their trailers are even on TV. Just several weeks ago I remember how nobody had any doubts that Superbad was going to be brilliant simply because it was well known that it was an Apatow comedy. If I had seen the trailer without the knowledge he was behind it, I wouldn’t have expected anything more than a dumb teensploitation movie. Studios will have to catch on that his brand of brilliant, honest and truly well-crafted filmmaking sells and rethink their game-plan. I’m very excited about this. To know that in the next decade there’ll be more Knocked Ups and Superbads and hopefully no more American Pie sequels is a very exciting concept. Already, Apatow and crew are getting the funding to make all the crazy stories they’ve dreamt of over the last couple of years. Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are all booking up their schedules, now that their respective films have made them instantly recognizable by appearance, if not by name. The 40 Year Old Virgin ended with a completely random rendition of The Age of Aquarious. Perhaps the song should have been changed to The Age of Apatow.

Morgan Geist: Double Night Time

September 27th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Morgan Geist
Double Night Time
[Environ; 2008]
7.8/10.0

Morgan Geist is no amateur DJ. The man released his first 12’’ in 1994, set up his own label in 1995, has remixed scores of other artists and released plenty of his own work over the last decade. His new album, Double Night Time, sounds like the work of the schooled professional that Geist clearly is, while still sounding fresh and alive.

The album’s title “Double Night Time,” is appropriate, as the album’s style and lyrical themes conjure images of neon lights, dance clubs, girls in high heels and infinite possibilities. Every instrument seems florescent. Each bass beat burbles as luminous synth lines pulsate overhead. Even Geist’s vocals seem to have some kind of backlight to them while the lyrics describe what happens before, during and after the right honey’s been found and brought home.

As a producer, Geist is a marvel. Classy, yet innovative beats act as the vehicle for a brilliant display of bleeps, bloops and other brilliant sounds. Everything flows together beautifully and nothing feels out of place. Geist’s only shortcoming is his lack of personality, particularly in a dance-rock playing field dominated by characteristic frontmen like the brilliant James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) and the jokesters in Hot Chip. In comparison to the aforementioned, Geist is an unnecessary presence in his music. His singing, though workable, lacks any kind of pull, as does his tame subject matter, which he treats with little emotion or insight.

Though his personality adds nothing to the music, it doesn’t take anything away from it either; and the music is pretty damn good. Geist knows how to construct a killer dance track with tight beats and catchy melodies. Each song on the album displays this, resulting in an exciting and original dance album experience perfect for any Saturday night on [insert main club-district street here].

www.myspace.com/morgangeist

More M.Z.G. Music

September 26th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Here’s my EP from my tenure with The Fancy Claps. Enjoy.

The Fancy Claps – So How Do I Put This On? EP

Xiu Xiu

September 26th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This week’s band of the week is an experimental Brooklyn outfit that creates a disturbing, almost-dystopian sound, mainly with the use of heavily treated electronic and computer-based sounds. This week’s band of the week is:

XIU XIU!!!

Led by Jamie Stewart, Xiu Xiu have been making different, difficult music for years. The band’s albums have consistently been critically acclaimed and publications such as Pitchfork.com hold special regard for them. In addition to this, the band’s music has been showing more and more crossover potential (check out the catchy chorus on “No Friend Oh!” off Women As Lovers). They could, in a few years, end up not unlike another edgy, artistic indie outfit: Modest Mouse.

The band’s music, as I’ve said before, could be described as disturbing. Like Katie Stelmanis’s music, it’s sort of the audio equivalent of the terminator when parts of the flesh are burned away, revealing the machine inside covered in blood and guts. It’s a gruesome melding of machine and human innards and it’s just gorgeous in it’s own terrible, gory way. So yeah, imagine that, but like, musically. What makes it all work is that over all the churning, crunching, bleeping and buzzing cacophony, Stewart’s melodies are often beautiful and affecting and his lyrics are nothing if not emotionally charged.

Xiu Xiu is not a band for everyone. In fact, they’ll likely downright annoy or sicken many people who prefer their music tame and easy on the ears. For those who like it rough though, Xiu Xiu will definitely make things interesting.

http://www.myspace.com/xiuxiuforlife

M.Z.G. Albums

September 22nd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Inspired by Bradford Cox, I’ve decided to allow people to download my shitty (his are good though) little albums should they want to. Links below:

Marc Z. Grub – Apatow (2007)

Marc Z. Grub – Hearts On Overdrive (2008)

Noisebox – Where The Fuck Is Thornhill? EP (2008)

Brian Wilson

September 16th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

“At 25 I turned out the light/ cuz I couldn’t handle the glare in my tired eyes/ but now I’m back/ drawing shades of kind blue skies.” These lyrics seem to sum up this week’s artist of the week’s situation. He’s an artist widely considered a genius, who’s composed countless classic songs and influenced thousands of songwriters, singers and producers from all over the world. Bands ranging from Kraftwerk to Miracle Fortress to Animal Collective all display a dept to him and his incredible body of work. This week’s artist of the week is…

BRIAN WILSON!!!

So much has been written about this man’s incredible past that I’m sure many find it refreshing to see things being written about his present. The Beach Boys’ resident genius recently released the album Lucky Old Sun and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it all week. The album reunites Wilson with notable lyricist and arranger Van Dyke Parks (with whom he worked with on SMiLE) and the result is a wonderfully organized album that showcases Wilson writing and producing some of the most vibrant, beautiful pop songs of his career. No small feat for the man who wrote “G-d Only Knows,” “Good Vibrations,” “I Get Around,” and “California Girls”.

The album works as an intriguing song-suite which seems to build upon the foundations of SMiLE in terms of it’s strangely coherent, almost-classical organization. Much of this is accomplished with repeated themes and melodic motifs, as well as several hit-and-miss spoken-word interludes. The album has it’s share of flaws, but overall it’s a refreshing, interesting and accomplished work absolutely deserving of attention.

Not surprisingly, Lucky Old Sun is at times shamelessly nostalgic, with songs like “Forever My Surfer Girl” (a reference to one of Wilson’s earlier classics) and the title track, a childhood favorite of Wilson’s. On the other hand, at times it’s view of the past can be achingly painful. When Wilson sings, “I cried a million tears/ I wasted a lot of years,” or “swept away in breaking storm/chapters missing, pages torn,” we’re reminded that it’s been a long, hard journey for the man out of time. G-d only knows indeed. The album seems to alternate between songs like the aforementioned of unconvincing innocence (“Morning Beat”, “Good Kind of Love”) and hard-learned wisdom (“Midnight’s Another Day”, “Southern California”).

In many ways this has always been the incredible draw of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. They entered the world’s eyes as squeaky clean, good ol’ California boys, with no worries or cares other than surfing and pretty girls. Lurking beneath that speckless surface though, there always was some kind of distant sadness. As the Beach Boys evolved, more of that sadness came to surface. The album that best exemplifies this balance is The Beach Boys Today!, with it’s A side of happy pop songs like “Good to My Baby” while on the flip side beautiful, pain-smeared gems like “In The Back Of My Mind,” clued the world on to Wilson’s ability to write and produce songs with a grandeur seldom seen anywhere else in the pop world.

In many ways Wilson’s breakdown during the original recording of SMiLE was quite foreseeable. Pet Sounds displayed a man coming to terms with all the pain and beauty of the world, whereas the absurdity of SMiLE displayed a man trying to escape all that. Did anyone not see a song about vegetables as sign of oncoming mental illness?

As the story goes, Wilson broke down and became a childlike hermit, turning out brilliant gems every now and then, though essentially a shadow of his former self. At some point in the last couple years though, Wilson found himself again and his completion of SMiLE and now Lucky Old Sun reaffirm that this old master might still have a couple tricks left up his sleeve. Lookout world, Brian Wilson is back in action.

http://www.myspace.com/officialbrianwilson

Yellow Submarine: Possibly the Greatest Movie Ever

September 13th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

A couple nights ago, I ran for some kind of movie-related position here at King’s. The winner would get to pick which movies to show in relation to the texts we’re reading in our program. All the candidates were asked what their favorite movie was (though we were not asked to explain why it was our favorite). Among choices such as Pulp Fiction, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fountain and Fight Club (all of which were made in the last 15 years), my pick for my favorite movie was Yellow Submarine. Yes, the Beatles’ animated 1968 acid trip is, I believe, one of the greatest movies ever made, if not the greatest. Why? Close your eyes (or don’t unless you can read with your eyes closed), relax and float downstream while I explain…

Though the film was made for no reason other than to fulfill a contractual obligation for the Beatles without them having to do any work (they didn’t even do their own voices), those who made the film decided that they were going to do a kick-ass job with it anyways. They crafted a brilliantly whimsical storyline in which the Beatles travel across the seven seas (the sea of time, the sea of holes, etc.) to save Pepperland from “blue meanies”. Though on the surface it sounds ludicrous, the movie’s seemingly childish simplicity begs for interpretation. In fact, many believe that the movie is so crazy that it MUST have some kind of “secret meaning” just as many believe the same about Beatles songs like “Come Together” and “I Am the Walrus”. While the movie actually was not created with a deeper meaning (as far as I know), the individual meanings people give to the movie and it’s plot already make it something special.

You’d think that the persons who wrote this entire thing would be too cracked out to write a decent script, right? Wrong again. The script written by Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal, is chock full of brilliant little puns (“don’t touch that lever”, “can’t help it, I’m a born lever-puller” -aha, aha) and surreal spins on language and reality. For instance, in one scene Ringo finds that there’s a hole in his pocket. He then takes it out and steps through it, which then leads him into the next sea, the sea of green (!?!?!?!??!). The humor is so twisted and un-comedic by contemporary North American standards that many people watching it might not even find anything funny, while others will never get tired of it.

Of course, no triptastic odyssey would be complete without a couple crazy characters, right? There’s Jeremy, a short, weird little pseudo-intellectual creature that speaks in rhymes; there’s the leader of the blue meanies, a sort of blueberry-man wearing pilot-goggles who hates music, happiness and wants to make everything blue for some reason; there’s the flying glove of the blue meanies which is…a flying glove; and there’s Fred, the bumbling captain of the yellow submarine who travels to London to find help and comes back with The Beatles, who then impersonate Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club band.

The most lasting impression Yellow Submarine has made on pop-culture would likely be it’s animation style which has been parodied for decades in everything ranging from Clone High to Walk Hard. Over the course of the movie, the animators stretch and experiment with the possibilities of animation, including not only hand drawn elements but cutouts of photographs and multi-layered backgrounds as well. They experiment with art (not animation) styles ranging from impressionism to pop art and pay tribute to artists such as Chagall and Warhol in various scenes. The way that many of the film’s scenes each have their own unique artistic style makes this movie a kind of trip through an art gallery in addition to the many other ways in which it is a trip.

Lastly there’s the music, which is of course outstanding. The film contains insanely great musical segments for classics like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Nowhere Man,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “All You Need is Love” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The movie’s exclusive songs like “Only A Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much,” and “Hey Bulldog” are up to par with everything the Beatles ever wrote and their musical sequences are awesome as well (particularly the mind-melting one for “Only A Northern Song”).

The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Casablanca and 8 & 1/2 are all incredible movies that mine the depths of the human soul while being at the same time aesthetically and technically incredible, but Yellow Submarine has to take the cake. Why? It’s got a completely original storyline (seriously, I have no idea where these guys got the ideas for this), a great script, amazing and innovative animation and possibly the greatest soundtrack in the history of film. In George Harrison’s “It’s All Too much,” he wrote “the more I go inside, the more there is to see”; I would say exactly that about Yellow Submarine.

Parenthetical Girls

September 9th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Trying

Something different

for something different

a band

that inverts expectation

and subverts convention

the band of the week is:

 

PARENTHETICAL GIRLS!!!

 

Led by Zac Pennington

a dove emerging from the wreckage

voice thin and shaky

determined to defy all

and burst forth

with pain and beauty

mingled like fire and ice

out of the wreckage

lovely melodies, innocent and cherubic

amongst cacophony and chaos

the two mingled

like fire and ice

other-worldly electronics

and orchestral flourish

ranging from classical to vaudeville

all forged into a holy, terrifying, magnificent creature

such is the music of Parenthetical Girls

like fire and ice

like fire and ice

like fire and ice

a beautiful wreckage


http://www.myspace.com/141086815

Invasions: Magic EP

September 9th, 2008 | Features | 4 Comments

Invasions

Magic EP

(Independent; 2008)

8.6/10.0

Tired of New York City, Richard Hell decides that he’s going to go live a quiet life in Toronto. He lived his glory days in decadent 1970’s NYC as a rock star in not one, but three legendary bands. First he was in Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers, then Television and then in his own legendary outfit, The Voidoids. He was a young man then though, and now he just wants to live in quiet obscurity, writing poetry and editorial pieces here and there. He finds a house around Bathurst and College that’s not too big, not too small. It’s a nice area with art-house theatres, cool record and book stores and various clubs close by. Hell thinks that for the rest of his days he’ll be able to relax and live happily here, so him and his family pack up and head on up to Canada.

One day, Hell’s walking along College and he drops into Soundscapes, his favorite record store in the city. He walks in and says hello to Becky, his favorite clerk in the store.

“Hello Mr. Hell,” she says in her low, cheerful voice, smiling coyly at him.

“Ah, hello Becky, what’s the word today?” says Hell in his gruff old voice.

“We’ve got a new release from Teenanger, Torontoindie.com’s review said that it’s even better than the first. It’s on the back wall, I’ll show you where.” Becky leads the way in her striped AA shirt, bouncing with every step as Hell slowly follows her, walking with all the weight of his legend. Every week he comes to the store and buys something on that wall and every week he finds some new obscure band that scraped their pennies together to find some way to record their crazy songs. He loves to listen to these kids. They remind him of his youth in NYC, when all the punks were doing their own thing. Sometimes when listening to these kids, he feels a sharp tinge of nostalgia for those decadent days gone by.

“Here it is Mr. Hell!” says Becky, making fun of his name with a cute little grin.

“Thanks darling,” he says, returning the grin. “Oh, if I wasn’t married and still a young man…” Hell thinks as Becky bounces back to the counter to charge him for the album. She hands him the cassette (“no bag please, trying to save the planet, y’know”), looking up at him without moving her head, the epitome of sexy. Hell just grins again and heads out the door.

The next morning he wakes up and he’s got this tune in his head. He heads downstairs to his loft and he begins writing. As the words flow out to this tune, he notices that he’s writing as if he were young again, about girls and sex and the whole mess of it all. Suddenly he decides that he will not go quietly into that good night, no. He will not surrender to the dying of the light. Richard Hell is going to rock again!

He starts going to concerts and checking out young bands. Most of them he dismisses as pathetic youngsters, trying to imitate what they hear on classic rock, emo or metal stations. One night however, he walks into Third Floor Reilly’s on Young St. and he sees a bunch of kids rocking out with all the gusto and abandon of those punk bands from back in the day, except what they’re playing sounds contemporary, not derivative. It has the feel of those garage rockers from the 60’s and 70’s but the sensibilities of the 00’s. The only problem is that they don’t have a lead singer, and all the members just try and sing along with the music, no-one ever really taking center stage and captivating the audiences. Hell knows that he’s walking down destiny street right now and as soon as the band finishes their set he approaches them, tells them who he is and proposes that they let him join the band as lead singer. They can write the music, he’ll write the lyrics and together they’ll start a musical revolution the likes of which have never been seen, and they’ll call themselves…INVASIONS!

They begin practicing and writing regularly in Hell’s basement. Each week their sound improves by leaps and bounds. Hell loves the songs they’ve been writing. He loves the “Like a Rolling Stone”-esque organ bit Lyle Power comes up with on the beautiful-yet-rocking “Out of Touch”. He loves the sound and the fury of the dark “Rat Bastard” and the romp of “Day By Day”. Most of all, he loves the anthemic touch his band infuses the lovely “Shell Let Yu Know” with. His punks back home could never comprehend anything like that. He realizes that this band might be the best backing band he’s ever had.

Hell buys some gear and sets up a little home studio and the band soon record their debut EP, Magic. They produce it so it sounds raw, but clean and organized at the same time. The guitars still have that thin, frustrated clamor that Hell’s guitarists in the Voidoids did. Once it’s done, they get invited to play the Montreal Pop festival by a promoter they impressed at one of their shows.

“See?” Hell says to his band, “it’s all getting started.”

The day before the band is set to go play in Montreal, Hell invites guitarist Alex R. to head over with him to Soundscapes. The two enter the store to see Becky standing at the counter.

“Hello Mr. Hell,” she says with her usual coy little grin.

“Hello Becky, my dear. Have you met my guitarist, Alex?”

“No, I haven’t, I didn’t even realize you played in a band anymore. I thought being a grandpa would take up too much of you time now,” she slyly pokes at him.

“Ha-ha, very funny Becky”

Becky grins at Hell, shaking her head from side to side.

Alex then buds in,

“We just finished our debut EP, Magic. Here, I’ve actually got a copy,” he says as he hands her one.

“Awesome, thanks. What do I owe you for this?”

“Oh, nothing, it’s cool,” he says, smiling sheepishly.

“Well, here,” she says, handing him a piece of paper with her number on it, “I’m sure we can work something out sometime.”

“Sounds good,” Alex says, smiling, trying not to look at Hell.

“We need to be going now actually,” says Hell, “we’re playing the Montreal Pop Festival tomorrow. See you later, Becky.”

“Goodbye MR. HELL!” she says as she bursts out laughing.

“Bye Alex,” she makes sure to add, a little quieter, as he waves and leaves the store.

As soon as they’re out of earshot, Hell mutters to Alex, “you little shit…”

Alex just laughs, slipping the number into his phone as he heads back home to get some rest. He knows he’s gonna need it.

http://www.myspace.com/invasionsmusic

Post Human Era: S/T

September 1st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Post Human Era
S/T
(Strikethrough Records; 2008)
6.0/10

Post Human Era’s collection of songs on their website (which I have chosen to review as a self-titled album) are clearly the result of diligent and skillful work by a group of talented young individuals. That being said, it’s not necessarily all that great when judged on the same plateau as their predecessors The Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie. And that being said: I kind of hate both of those bands.

PHE doesn’t work on the same budget as those acts nor do they have the experience that those players do under their belts yet, and it shows. However, it’s very reasonable to think that Ben Gibbard’s earlier work (I haven’t heard it, nor do I really care to) was of the same quality, if not lesser. PHE clearly have a solid grasp of the craft of electronic indie-pop and they don’t skimp on melodies or lyrics either. What the group lacks isn’t substance, but style.

In today’s pop-universe, this is rarely the problem, with most acts suffering from a lack of substance and an excess of style. What many underestimate however, is the importance of style. The argument I always bring up when engaging in this discussion is Ron Sexsmith vs. Miracle Fortress. Odd comparison, but just hear me out.

Ron Sexsmith is a great tunesmith in the same class as masters like Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello. The man however, is lacking when it comes to style. His producers try and create something for him from album to album but the man just has no (or a kind of lacking) inherent style and despite how solid his tunes are, he can just be boring at times.

Miracle Fortress released the album The Five Roses in 2007, whereupon it was greeted with many great reviews in addition to being nominated for Canada’s prestigious Polaris prize. Though a couple songs on the album are beautifully written, others lack substance but make up for it with an abundance of style. From start to finish, even when the songwriting’s lacking, the production is consistently gorgeous and intriguing. At the end of the day, Miracle Fortress ends up being the superior listen.

PHE is not bland in the same sense as Sexsmith, as their sound and production always have a lot of interesting parts to it. Still, there’s nothing imposing about their style like that found in Death Cab for Cutie’s music. Sure, DCFC have a style I don’t like much, but it’s still a very definitive style to grab on to.

Is PHE’s album enjoyable? Absolutely. If your friend handed you the album and said “here’s some stuff me and my band have done recently”, you’d listen to it and tell him it was awesome the next time you saw him. Each song’s a beautiful melding of drum machines, bloops and bleeps, guitars, bells and whistles and easy-on-the-ears vocals. At their best, they sound like Bright Eyes on the underrated Digital Ash in a Digital Urn…minus Bright Eyes’ paranoid poetry and emotional delivery.

Fronted by a captivating personality, PHE’s music would gain the fullness it deserves. Lacking that captivation, it ends up sort of being the student who gets the highest grades in the class, even though no one paid much attention to his presentation.

http://www.myspace.com/posthumanera