BY ERIC GARANT |
It’s been almost exactly a decade since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their stunning full-length debut, “Fever to Tell.” Starting out with a raucous, sexual energy before descending into moodiness and full-on despondency, “Fever to Tell” was an indictment of the fastness of modern life and love.
Ten years later, Karen O and company have given us “Mosquito.” Though not nearly as successful, the album in many ways mirrors “Fever.”
Excepting the title track (which is aptly named, because frankly, it sucks) and lead single, “Sacrilege,” “Mosquito” is an album of slow, delicate, and spooky-sounding songs. Karen O’s voice, frantic and overpowering on “Fever,” is mostly wispy, almost weightless.
The bulk of the album deals with themes of dissatisfaction, of a wistfulness for mistakes made and repeated, and of the weakness of the flesh. “Take me please, oh alien / I want to be an alien,” Karen O pouts in “Area 52,”.
But, like “Fever,” “Mosquito” hinges on its ending. Track 10 is the incredible “Despair,” which not only considers the condition, but addresses it directly. This is Karen O at her best: cutting herself open and lying for all to see, vulnerable and raw.
And “Despair” is not necessarily an unhappy song. Despair is not only suffered but also faced in this track, and as the refrain tells us, “Through the darkness and the light / some sun has got to rise.”
The album ends with “Wedding Song,” which O apparently sung at her own betrothing. It’s simple and even a bit goopy lyrically; it’s a song that depends on Karen O’s voice and its ability to convey her feelings. The song works because she does, because her voice doesn’t just create credulity, but empathy.
And that’s why the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are still worth listening to. When they want to, they can rock as well as anyone. But it’s Karen O who makes them uniquely fascinating and impossible to ignore – the way she combines the stage presence and overt sexuality of someone like Madonna or Lady Gaga with a true depth of feeling.
“Mosquito” isn’t nearly as good as “Fever to Tell,” or even 2006’s “Show Your Bones,” but it’s only marginally less interesting.
THEWILDMAGAZINE.COM COURTESY PHOTO
BY GEORGE O’DONOVAN |
After a long hiatus, Daft Punk has come back under a new light.
Although its new album “Random Access Memories,” hasn’t come out yet, the sound waves are electric with the new buzz. Certain well-thought-out methods of advertising have aided this new stir.
Interviews with the duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, or the “Robots,” shed new light on the creative direction. One issue that Bangalter points out in a Rolling Stone interview is that “… electronic music right now is in its comfort zone, and it’s not moving one inch.”
He added, “That’s not what artists are supposed to do.”
He has a point. Listeners of electronic dance music, or “EDM” for short, are in a loop that explains why the duo stepped away from the computers and into the studio.
But they didn’t go alone. Nile Rodgers of Chic, Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder, and Animal Collective’s Panda Bear are just a few who helped with the album.
Each one of these contributors gave their views on the album through “The Creators Project,” the album’s viral marketing campaign. Having their voices adds a rich background and is a great promotional piece.
With the release of the single “Get Lucky,” it shows what they have been working on since 2008. With vocals from Pharrell Williams and funky guitar licks from Nile Rodgers, it brings a new sound to Daft Punk’s story.
With this in mind, it is great to know that there are at least some artists giving a hard look at the music industry.
And this change in sound proves that Daft Punk, in all its musical endeavors, might actually be human after all.
Listeners will have to see when the album is released on May 20.
COLLIDER.COM COURTESY PHOTO
BY ADRIAN HEDDEN |
Blasting across screens at the speed of sound and taking viewers’ taste for action to gasping new altitudes, “Iron Man” is back to kick off the summer blockbuster season with renewed vigor and an ever-expanding list of weaponized special effects.
Continuing the decade-long streak of high-budget super-hero movies dominating Hollywood since 2000’s “X-Men,” “Iron Man 3” finds hero Robert Downey Jr. in the typical titular role surrounded by high-octane CGI, campy one-liners and a poorly developed cast of supporting characters.
Fans of the renowned comic series may gawk at the mind-melting effects, entranced in the animation and lost in the rapid plotline as it rushes through dialogue. Filmmakers seemed overly eager to display the latest IMAX-ready explosions and futuristically fictitious technology.
But cinemaphiles who look past the haze of Hollywood’s mindless ambition will find little else. A second sequel usually comes with little expectation for decent writing, but with infinite source material developed in comic-form for decades, director Shane Black has no excuse for the lack of substance.
Before being taken under the controlling wing of Jon Favreau, the director of the first two Iron Man flicks who is now found in the executive producer seat, Black had a penchant for inserting dynamic characters and dialogue as the scriptwriter for hunky action vehicles “Lethal Weapon” and “The Last Action Hero.”
His latest, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” in 2005 wove an interesting, unconventional crime drama relying on character relationships and personalities for its intriguing wit.
But by the end of “Iron Man 3” it is clear that Favreau and his corporate backers had simple instructions for Black’s talents. He was to lazily follow the form present in the last two features, with cheesy dialogue rarely coming to fruition amid the blur of stunts and effects.
Few new characters are introduced into the story; a cliché villain played by Oscar-nominee Guy Pearce restores little depth and Ben Kingsley’s odd-ball performance, the only thing unexpected about this film, does generate a chuckle here and there.
But from the legend that portrayed Ghandi in the 1982 epic biopic, Kingsley had been known to bring much more to a film than the occasional guffaw.
And even a clumsily fabricated political allegory couldn’t save this film from itself. Little time was allotted to develop potentially complicated themes as a phantasmagoria of action-packed slush nearly blinded fans, forcing a painful reminder that the summer is time for sunglasses, even in the dark of the cinema.
BY ADRIAN HEDDEN |
The godfather of punk has breathed new life into his aging band once again.
The Stooges have rekindled their nihilistic affront on high society, firing off an album of hard rock as informed by the wisdom of Iggy Pop’s eclectic solo career as it is biting with the aggression haunting them from the 1960s.
“Ready to Die” comprises the pop-sensible oddity of the band’s leader while eagerly gouging at listeners with the Stooges’ established hard-rock toughness. But the road they’ve taken has been wrought with tragedy and exhaustion.
The initially innovative, but distorted electric diatribes would form the blueprints of punk and heavy metal in decades after, but when the Stooges reformed after a more than 30-year hiatus with 2007’s “The Weirdness,” its anger seemed tired and repetitive, struggling to rekindle the band’s past power.
And with the tragic passing of founding guitarist Ron Asheton in 2009, Pop enlisted the viscosity of former-Stooge James Williamson, who played leads on 1973’s “Raw Power,” filling in when the band’s collective drug problems resulted in one of its many early ruptures.
But here in 2013, Williamson’s walls of distortion and guitar-driven song structures sound just as fresh as in `73. The tact and coordination worked into the heaviness of “Ready to Die’s” early tracks pose playfully energetic homages to the simplistic revolution committed by The Stooges’ early legacy.
And a droning-but-powerful saxophone played by Scott Mackay, who joined the group on the experimental follow-up to the Stooge’s self-titled debut in 1970’s “Fun House,” blends a cacophonic, danceable layer to the party-ready “Sex and Money” and the lyrical belligerence of “DDs.”
Pushing them to perform a broader range of rock music than ever before, Pop imparts his newfound wisdom onto the group in penning the contemplative but nostalgic ballad, “Unfriendly World” and the defiantly fearful folk charge of “The Departed.”
As his tearful emotions reveal his gnarled age, Pop’s attempts at sensitivity often ring awkward to fans of his violent wit. But the expansion of the Stooge’s lyrical repertoire is commendable after the speedy blandness of their initial reformation.
And the band does perform with a power that poses a challenge to both the force of its legendary early releases and the long-established expectations of its fans. As this cherished, inspirational group of rockers has dragged itself through hell and back, its nihilism has never been stronger than on “Ready to Die.”
BY BEN SOLIS |
For more than half a century, we have been told by government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry that smoking marijuana can destroy brain cells, impair judgment and make you socially comatose.
Yet after decades of tampered experiments and piss-poor propaganda, we may have found actual proof that marijuana may cause all of the defects mentioned above with Snoop Lion’s (nee Dogg) latest album, “Reincarnated.”
Snoop Dogg announced last year that he would be changing his name and would only play a format of club Reggae music – particularly the manic, break-beat-heavy dancehall subgenre.
Initially, people cringed while laughing off what was widely considered a small jest previewing Snoop’s return to form as one of the great hip-hop artists of our time, with, of course, the added bonus of new pot jokes to last us another decade.
Gravely, the Lion was stoned serious.
There is an old joke that says there isn’t enough weed in the world to make bad music sound decent. Miraculously, Snoop must have found an ancient strain of cannabis in the jungles of Jamaica because “Reincarnated” is an ounce of stepped on shake, at best.
To say that this album is a disappointment would be an insult to understatements. “Reincarnated” is an absolutely awful adventure, filled to the brim with hokey, nightclub friendly beats provided by bro-step wunderkind Diplo and his act Major Lazer, and a multitude of shameful cameos by the likes of Akon and Miley Cyrus.
Yes. You read that right. No, you are not losing your mind, but you should be – Miley Cyrus is on a Snoop Dogg album, which is much more unfortunate for Cyrus than it is for the Dogg.
“Reincarnated” is so off the mark that it will become a running joke to hip-hop historians for decades to come, much like the career of MC Hammer or the drunken incident that made Bushwhick Bill shoot his eye out.
The production is hand-tailored for your average radio-rocking moron who gets excited when four different stations play the same track in the same 10-minute period.
To make things worse, this album is basically a stoned-out Snoop crooning his way to Babylon with the aid of a less-than-obvious auto-tuner. While this may be a high point for the album, since so many in the industry use the wretched pitch-changing device so often and he has at least tried to cover his tracks, the automation is still noticeable.
Despite all of these failings, Snoop truly believes what he’s shelling out – that he is a reincarnated spiritual being sent by Emperor Haile Selassie himself to preach the good word of non-violence, peace on Earth, the virtues of gun control and the legalization of marijuana.
And while the album is probably one of the least exciting to come out this year, we can’t help but agree with him or his myriad causes – even if it’s physically painful to do so.
Snoop may have smoked himself silly, but this album will probably sell millions.
After all, who better to have his mind on his money and his money his mind than the Dogg?
BY KELLY BRACHA |
Nothing beats a cold theater, a dewy pop in hand with a bucket of crunchy, ever-so-slightly buttered popcorn, on a hot day.
Movie-going has been virtually tailored to be enjoyed during the intensely hot summer months. It’s no mystery why the biggest releases also happen at this time.
This year an abundance of highly-anticipated and somewhat nerdy films will be gracing the screens at theaters near you.
May 17–Star Trek Into Darkness
Those who have seen the 2009 resurrection of Star Trek, directed by J.J. Abrams, cannot deny the classic science fiction franchise has been brought back to life in a spectacular way. Fans and even casual movie-goers who were never diehard fans of the television series can’t help but anxiously await the premier of “Into Darkness.” In this film, Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an unstoppable force of terror. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is called to action to put a stop to Khan while protecting the crew of the Enterprise.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
May 24–Fast and Furious 6
A sixth installment. Yes, you read that right – and everyone is back. This time, Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who were fighting each other in the previous film, have teamed up to help bring a rival gang to justice. In exchange, Dom and his crew will have their records cleared. Joining the cast is notorious action star Jason Statham and reprising her role as Letty after being absent from the previous film is Michelle Rodriguez.
Director: Justin Lin
Genre: Action, Thriller
May 24–The Hangover Part III
In this movie there’s strangely no wedding and no bachelor party. But there is an intervention gone completely wrong. After Alan’s (Zach Galifianakis) father passes away, Alan develops mental health issues. The Wolf Pack decides to help Alan get treatment, and on the way to the hospital things get out of hand very quickly – in typical “Hangover” fashion. Having this being dubbed the finale, “Hangover” will undoubtedly attempt to outdo itself in every aspect. All bets are off with this one.
Director: Todd Phillips
May 31–After Earth
“After Earth” is set a thousand years after humanity has escaped from Earth after cataclysmic events left the planet unhabitable. Mankind has found a new home on Nova Prime. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) crash-lands on Earth with his son Kitai (Jaden Smith). Kitai must recover their rescue beacon to save his father’s life. This is not the first time Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith take the screen together, having worked previously on “The Pursuit of Happyness.” The film is directed by M. Night Shyamalan which leads speculation that audiences might be in for an odd plot and conclusion.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Action, Adventure
June 14–Man of Steel
In 2006, an attempted reboot of the Superman franchise came about with the film “Superman Returns.” The film wasn’t a big success. Now, seven years later, a second attempt is being made – and expectations are very high. “Man of Steel” begins with Clark Kent’s (Henry Cavill) coming of age story. The villainous General Zod (Michael Shannon) makes a return to the Superman universe in this film. Clark Kent must confront his heritage when Earth is invaded by Zod and his powerful forces.
Director: Zack Snyder
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
June 21–Monsters University
Set before Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) were an inseparable pair working together at the Monstropolis power company, the two were in college together, and not necessarily the best of buds. In this prequel, we see how Mike and Sully go from being adversaries to the friends we saw in the first film.
Not yet rated
Director: Dan Scanlon
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
June 21–World War Z
The title is based off a novel written by Max Brooks, but that is where the similarities end. “World War Z” is about a United Nations employee named Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) traveling the world to stop the zombie pandemic that is threatening humanity. The apocalyptic horror has rampant, fast-walking zombies, not the cliché slow, limping zombies, making them seem way more terrifying and deadly.
Director: Marc Forster
Genre: Action, Horror
July 12–Pacific Rim
Gargantuan robots fighting against equally gargantuan aliens; what more could you ask for? Earth is under attack by giant aliens and to fight them off, humanity must build giant mechanized warriors piloted by humans to counter them. The film is set in the near future where said aliens have mysteriously risen from the depths of the ocean.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
July 26–The Wolverine
Set in modern day Japan, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) encounters a
n enemy from his past. In an ultimate life-or-death battle, Wolverine is left forever changed and vulnerable for the first time. “The Wolverine” is the second of the stand-alone X-Men character films and focuses on the background and character of Logan, aka Wolverine.
Director: Gavin Hood
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
PARAMOUNT COURTESY PHOTO
BY NATHAN CLARK |
Holy alternate timeline, Batman! The heroes and villains of the DC universe are once again battling on the streets of Metropolis and Gotham, but this time they’re fighting their most powerful nemeses: themselves.
In the new fighting game “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” created by the makers of “Mortal Kombat,” several notable heroes and villains have been pulled into an alternate timeline within the “Multiverse” where Superman has gone mad with power after losing Metropolis to a devastating nuclear explosion and the love of his life, Louis Lane, to his own raging fists in a blur of deception and confusion initiated by The Joker.
“Injustice” has all the features and play modes a gamer would expect from a fighting game, such as story mode, classic battle, multiplayer and practice, plus a few extra features such as S.T.A.R. Labs, where players have to complete a certain task during a match in order to progress.
The story mode offers an interesting narrative similar to a DC Comics story arc an avid comic book reader would snatch off the shelf. But unfortunately, the fact that it is being told in a fighting game makes the story feel a little awkward at times.
Gamers have to use whatever character is in play during the story mode, but in any other mode, gamers can chose from a variety of classic DC heroes or villains to fight with, such as Batman, Superman, Nightwing, the Flash, the Joker, Lex Luther or Catwoman.
Skilled players can execute finite combos and attacks to win an online match, but newbies to fighting games can equally “button mash” their way to victory as well – if they choose the right character.
The character graphics are not as impressive as other games on the market, but then again, the character designs in “Injustice” are based off of comic book characters and not real human beings. With that in mind, the models are spot on when comparing them to the comics – except for Batman, who just looks bad.
The fighting environments are beautiful to look at, but feel painfully one-dimensional despite the intricate animations created for when one player throws another into a different area of the world.
The one truly impressive thing worth seeing in the game is the superpower animations for each character. Watching Superman punch an enemy into orbit, flying after him and punching him back down to Earth is just plain cool to watch every time.
“Injustice” can offer hours of fun for fans of fighting games; however, for gamers who are fans of DC comics but don’t particularly like fighting games, “Injustice” might be one to consider renting before buying.
SEAN CARTER PHOTOGRAPHY CURTESY PHOTO
BY ERIC GARANT |
Genius and obsession often seem to go hand-in-hand, and such is the case in Moises Kaufman’s “33 Variations.”
The play tells parallel stories in the past and present: one about the great composer, Ludwig van Beethoven (Richard McWilliams), toiling in his later years to perfect a waltz originally written by a lesser light; and one about a mother toiling in her later years to understand his motivations, and her daughter.
First, the past: the composer Anton Diabelli (Daniel Britt) has written a waltz and sent it to several composers to create variations. Beethoven finds some quality in it that sparks his imagination, and it compels him to create variation after variation (guess how many he finally ends up making), spanning over several years while his health and economic situation deteriorate.
In the present, Katherine Brandt (Michelle Mountain), a musicologist, becomes obsessed with the variations and Beethoven’s reasons for making them. Her dedication to the project, as well as some poor health of her own, deepens the complications in her already tenuous relationship with her daughter, Clara (Lauren Knox).
These complications grow still deeper when Clara begins dating Katherine’s nurse, Mike (Michael Brian Ogden). Their courtship is rapid and provides a bit of comic relief in the midst of all the tension, though it does seem like a bit of a contrivance.
Ah, but enough of the plot. What matters here are the feelings. Clara feels like her mother has never understood her, and now she’s spending her dying days doing research. And Beethoven faces pressure from Diabelli and from his creditors to finish the project already; nobody else can see what he can see in the waltz, hear what he can hear (while ironically going deaf).
The whole cast brings an energy to the play that keeps its momentum going, even during the few scenes that feel unnecessary. Richard McWilliams has a frightening intensity in the role of Beethoven. It’s hard to sell a line like, “I shall take fate by the throat and bend it to my will,” but McWilliams does it.
David Bendena, as Beethoven’s assistant Anton Schindler, is a steadying force who occasionally steals a scene. The interplay between Michelle Mountain and Lauren Knox, as mother and daughter, is affecting and forms the heart of the play.
There are some moments that smack of a sitcom, but they aren’t enough to hold the rest back. This is work of real entertainment, and real depth.
Photo courtesy of treknews.net
BY KELLY BRACHA |
Star Trek: The Next Generation might have had its final voyage on television in 1994, but the everlasting legacy the show has left behind still echoes with its devoted fans.
Theater 10 at Rave Motion Pictures in Ann Arbor was packed with Trekkies last Thursday night. This didn’t feel like the usual movie-going experience, but rather like being with a group of friends watching your favorite television show at home.
“Seeing the show is nothing new for me,” said avid Star Trek fan and 27-year-old Canton resident Robbie Nichols. “Seeing it on the big screen though, it’s pretty cool.”
Nichols has been a Trek fan since he can remember.
“It’s just nice to go see it in a crowd full of other fans,” said Nichols. “People who know how amazing the show is and what it means personally.”
The one-time screening was to promote the release of the third season on Blu-ray, which will include 26 re-mastered episodes and special bonus features.
“It’s just nostalgic seeing it again,” said Nichols. “I’ll always come out for a screening.”
The show’s infamous Borg-heavy episode, “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I,” and its conclusion, “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II,” were both featured during the special screening in its fully restored and 1080p HD quality. The two episodes were edited together into one feature-length presentation.
In this story, the Enterprise finds itself under the threat of the perplexing Borg, who are determined to enslave Earth and assimilate all human beings and species in the galaxy into the Borg hive-mind.
The Borg manage to capture the ship’s Captain, Jean-Luc Picard, legendarily played by Patrick Stewart, and bring him aboard the iconic Borg cube ship, where he is then assimilated and used as the Borg’s emissary to the Federation.
The storyline was one of the series’ most memorable moments and held the biggest cliffhanger.
“I remember when this first aired,” said Manish Singh, 45, from Ann Arbor. “I also remember having to wait two months to see the conclusion. It was torture.”
Singh has been to other special Star Trek screenings in the past.
“I love seeing the episodes on the big screen,” he said. “It’s a nice thing to take my kid to and show him why I was such a big fan of the show.”
BY BEN SOLIS |
It’s been a strange trip for Odd Future co-founder and Californian rapper Tyler, The Creator.
The outcast skater kid with a bent for spitting horror rhymes sold his debut album in 2011, “Goblin,” with gusto – despite receiving massive backlash for classically misogynistic and homophobic content, all of which the rapper adamantly denies. He’s collaborated on tracks with big names like Game and Wacka Flocka Flame, to name a few, and is dissed on by about as many as he’s shared verses with.
He brought up all of his little homies in OF, giving the spotlight to the talents of budding stars like Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis.
Big paydays, followed by world-wide recognition should have made the hardcore rhyme-sayer happy, if not temporarily fulfilled. Maybe a little extra cash in his pocket, a nice house and all the women he’d ever want would push him away from telling it like it is and go for a more subtle, mainstream and less-violent approach.
But that is not the case on his latest venture, “Wolf.” All is not well in the mind of The Creator.
In fact, the follow up to boorishly sadistic “Goblin” shows that Tyler is as sick as he’s ever been, jumping back and forth between multiple personalities and twisted fantasies like he was skipping rope with zombie students in a bombed-out schoolyard.
The entire focus on “Wolf” is a presentation of what it is like to be in therapy and not follow any doctor’s orders: “Stay away from harmful relationships, don’t get involved with people that could push you over the edge and keep a healthy, positive attitude.”
On this concept album of sorts, Tyler ignores each suggestion with nightmarish bravado and delusion, weaving schizophrenic tales into the throes of an average breakup, which is then vindicated through insane, gory action.
The characters in his story are clearly outlined and developed, but the coded delivery of their personifications confuses the listener, leaving them wondering if they all aren’t just another of Tyler’s elaborate and flawed coping mechanisms.
We know there’s a girlfriend, “that’s Salem,” as Tyler tells us in the same breath to “stay the (expletive) away from her.” There’s his omnipresent therapist, trying to compliment his way to a catharsis, his bike Slater who talks to him and Samuel, who is not to be trusted and is most likely Wolf’s – or Tyler’s – other half.
Despite the graphic depictions of violence against women that did him wrong, which bears more of a resemblance to Eminem than the likes of other horror rappers, “Wolf” is a surprisingly sentimental and laid-back album. Tyler doesn’t just talk about killing his girlfriend and her new man. He expounds on life as a young famous person, crazy fans, his family troubles and the pride forged from being able to take care of his mom.
The final track, “Lone,” is a lament about a family member who passed from a rapidly occurring illness. At its core, “Wolf” is more in line with Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” than it is with the raving “Goblin.”
And to the rapper’s credit, all of the beats except for one track were hand-crafted by the artist himself, which pair awkward, jagged beats with mellow jazz chords nestled over top.
Tyler may not be sane, or on any swift road to mental recovery, but if he keeps making albums like this, he’ll have more than enough fans buying his albums to pay for his in-patient therapy bills.