Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Review: 'Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas: Beyond Halloween Town'

Unlike a lot of Generation X'ers with similar sensibilities to my own, I was never overly enthralled with Nightmare Before Christmas because I don't think there's much of a story there. Jack Skellington's biggest problem is he's sick of Halloween? Sorry, but I cannot relate.

However, I think that a lot of the members of the massive Nightmare Before Christmas cult are mostly enthralled by the movie's images, and that is something to which I can relate. It's a friggin' great-looking movie, with delightful character designs brought to life with marvelously organic stop-motion animation. While I tend to zone out half-way through the movie (which I rewatch more than I would if I didn't have a kid), it's impossible to be a total Nightmare Scrooge because of its style, visuals, and technique.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Review: 'Collecting The Simpsons'

As soon as The Simpsons went from being the thing that made people watch The Tracy Ullman Show to its own weekly entity in early 1990, the merchandising began. After all, no one new how long the bugged-eyed, yellow-faced dysfunctional family would last, so might as well strike while the inanimate carbon rod was still aglow. 

Five billion years later, The Simpsons is still on television, running half-assed Disco Stu cameos into the ground for the remaining cockroaches and a landfill full of plastic Bart Simpsons. 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Review: 'Hardcore: The Cinematic World of Pulp'

Pulp had been at it for close to two decades when they finally joined the upper echelon of contemporary British pop with Different Class in 1995. For a band as erudite and self-aware, that kind of success doesn't go down easily, and their next album was an expression of that hard comedown.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Review: Vinyl Reissue of Tommy Flanagan's 'The Cats'

With a quartet or his own simple, appealing tunes and one Gershwin classic propped on his piano, Tommy Flanagan led the session that produced his second album on April 18, 1957. However, he ceded credit to the one-off ensemble he put together for the occasion, which is probably what ones does when playing with such luminaries as Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane. Yet The Cats often is very much Flanagan's show. His searching, autumnal keys receive soft support from drummer Louis Hayes and bassist Doug Watkins on Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On" while the rest sit it out. When the whole band joins in, which they do for the rest of these sides, they most definitely play as a very organized ensemble, Coltrane's melodic, tonally complex harmonies with trumpeter Idrees Sulieman providing much of the tangy flavor. 

Friday, December 8, 2023

Review: Nirvana's 'In Utero' 30th Anniversary Box Set

After what seemed like an interminable wait, Nirvana finally released their follow up to Nevermind--the album that almost single-handedly plopped the pre-fab term "Alternative Rock" into the mainstream--in autumn of 1993. The band's purported goal was to shake off all the meat-heady fans they'd acquired since putting out a slick disc of metal-ish sounding drums and guitars and big sing-along choruses. Did it work? Well, although In Utero only sold half of Nevermind's figures, that's still pretty damn good, especially for an album so challenging and, despite some mixed notices, rewarding. Nevermind is a great record, but it lacks the personal atmosphere and unsanitized urgency of the record released just six months before the band's main voice took his own life. And that isn't just romanticizing a tragedy. Even before Kurt Cobain died, In Utero stood out for its perfect mix of classic melodiousness ("All Apologies", "Heart Shaped Box", "Scentless Aprrentice", "Dumb") and terrifying abrasiveness ("Scentless Apprentice", "Milk It", "Tourettes"), Steve Albini's massive and filthily organic production, and the tendrils of sadness twining through Cobain's grisly surrealism. 
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