Blogs > Tuned in to Pop Culture

They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer plans

Not much going on right now with most TV shows gearing up for next fall and a pretty weak slate of summer movies. Nonetheless, in terms of the pop-culture scene, here are a few options for everyone the next few months:

-Check out "Night at the Museum 2" - My wife and I stumbled upon this flick simply because our other options didn't fit into our busy schedule. (That's what happens with a 7-month-old son at home). Simply put, it's a lot of fun. You won't be dissapointed.

-Watch "Rescue Me" - The best show on TV right now and it's not because it's one of the few to air in the summer. Dennis Leary hasn't missed a beat this season as a troubled New York firefighter. If you missed Michal J. Fox's appearances in earlier episodes, be sure to check out the reruns on FX.

-Create a Facebook account - I've reconnected with a lot of people I haven't scene or heard from in a long, long time. Just be sure not to spend TOO much time on the social networking site.

-Listen to a podcast - It's a much better option then live radio and why wouldn't it be when you can listen to your selected program anytime you want? Some of my favorites podcasts are Adam Carolla, ESPN's Bill Simmons' BS Report, the Lost Podcasting Network and Stuck in the 80s, which (you guessed it) tributes everything from the 1980s.

-This last one is for myself - Go see "The Hangover." I've heard nothing but great things about the surprise hit of the summer.

-Mark Podolski

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Ten in the morning: Best Michael Jackson songs

Love him or hate him, you couldn't ignore Michael Jackson, nor his magical music.

In honor of the late and forever great Jackson, Ten in the Morning counts down his greatest hits:

10. "We are the World"

9. "Human Nature"

8. "The Way You Make Me Feel"

7. "Wanna Be Startin' Something"

6. "Thriller"

5. "Man in the Mirror"

4. "Bad"

3. "Billie Jean"

2. "Black or White"

1. "ABC"

- Mark Podolski

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

For many reasons, it has taken me a while to sit down and actually write a review for this album.

For one, it came out and was overshadowed in the same week as Eminem’s “Relapse,” and I still had fresh ears for Silverstein’s “A Shipwreck in the Sand,” which I had purchased a few days before “breakdown.”

Two, every time I started listening to “breakdown,” I would switch the disc right back to either “Relapse” or “shipwreck” which bodes well for the other two artists but for Green Day? Not so much.

It’s not that I don’t like “breakdown” or I think it’s a bad album, but it doesn’t have too many songs on it that make me want more.

There aren’t any songs that are truly bad but there are only a handful of songs that I’d categorize as great.

As I stated in one of my first blogs, “breakdown” was one of my most anticipated releases for 2009 but I questioned how they would follow-up their monumental release of 2004s “American Idiot” which not only put the band back on the map again, but put them on such a high pedestal that it put them in a position where it was nearly impossible to go anywhere but down again.

It’s kind of like dating an extremely hot girl for a few years, breaking up and then every other girl after that just seems kind of bland.

"Breakdown," to me, is that other girl.

“Breakdown” is another “concept” album. As I mentioned in my “Shipwreck” review, there are two types of concept albums.

One is when a band says they are making a concept album with a storyline and the album actually reflects that storyline throughout.

The other is when a band says they are making a concept album with a storyline and the album hardly resembles that storyline throughout, rather just personal lyrics told through other character’s perspectives.

“Shipwreck” is the former and “breakdown” is the latter. And by no means am I comparing a Silverstein album against a two-decade legendary punk rock group. I’m just saying, one album kept true to its concept, which shouldn’t make or break an album either way. I just wish bands would stop throwing the “this is our concept record” card.

“Breakdown” supposedly follows a couple named Christian and Gloria following the presidency of President Bush, dealing with the mess left behind. From there on out, it’s anyones guess of where the story goes.

Another issue I have with ‘breakdown” is it is a pretty long record with 18 songs running seconds short of 70 minutes.

If you cut it to “Idiot’s” length, which was just 13 songs and 57 minutes, we may be having a whole different outcome.

When you have 18 songs on an album and only a few are great, it’s hard to keep the listener choosing from other albums in the car.

It’s a tough album to review because if it weren’t for “idiot,” which I find is the band’s best work by far, this could have been reviewed more positively. But, my expectations simply weren’t met. It’s no one’s fault. Kudos to Green Day for making one of the better albums of the past decade (and I'm referring to "idiot").

Those aren’t easy to follow-up.

Listen to:

¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl)

Restless Heart Syndrome


Monday, June 22, 2009

Indy 5 "progressing"

The world's most famous archeologist is apparently ready for another adventure.

Whether or not Indiana Jones is the main character slated for the rumored next film is another matter.

Last week, Shia LaBeouf said in a published report Indy 5 is in the works. Then, film series producer Frank Marshall confirmed LaBouf's comments by posting on Twitter, "The Indy5 story is progressing. It is still in the research phase."

Rumors are rampant Harrison Ford will return as Indy, but only as a secondary character while LaBeouf will return as "Mutt Williams" and take on the lead role. If that's the case, that will be a major disappointment for this Indy fan.

Indy creator George Lucas recently said he has no problems with Ford's age, 65, and reprising his famous role. If that's the case, let Ford take on the lead role as Indy one final time.

Then, let another actor take the reins and continue the franchise. It would be time. Countless actors have played James Bond and the franchise hasn't missed a beat. If Lucas is concerned about moviegoers not buying into anyone but Ford playing Indy, he shouldn't.

Provide an exciting adventure with a clever storyline and put Indiana Jones in the title and people will go. Harrison Ford in "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was sentimental for all, considering it had been so long since he reprised the role. It was a lackluster performance by him, however, mostly because the story was weak. Putting LaBeouf in the starring role with Indy as a secondary character would be a huge mistake. Indiana Jones is in the title for a reason.

Then again, it's difficult to argue decisions that produced a movie - "Crystal Skull" - that made over $700 million, which is most likely the No. 1 reason Indy 5 will be made in the first place.

- Mark Podolski

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Play 'em off, Super Keyboard Cat Bros.

Like Super Mario Bros.? Like the Keyboard Cat? Then you'll love this!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Silverstein: A Shipwreck in the Sand

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

“...A man, a woman, and their child sleep in their home. The man awakes to the smell of smoke. He saves his family from a fire. As they struggle with the flawed insurance systems in place, and move to a hotel, everything starts to unravel. The promise of the American dream is gone. A hope for a life of luxury, money and wealth has dissolved. Adultery, addiction and enmity take its place. Passion once felt is no longer. Hatred grows. A union of trust once pledged is now questioned. This union was not about love. This union was not about the cause. This union was for the wrong reasons...
This is the story of A Shipwreck in the Sand.”


I don’t know why I am reviewing this album on the News-Herald Web site and I say this for a number of reasons.

One, I fully realize that no one who reads the News-Herald probably even knows who Silverstein is. Two, if you have heard Silverstein chances are, you wouldn’t like them anyway.

They are a rare breed and lead singer Shane Told describes his “post-hardcore” Canadian band as a mixture between the whiny pop-group The Get-Up Kids and the heavy metal band Slayer. It doesn’t make sense, but it works. For me, at least.

When they are soft they are soft, when they are hard they are hard and it mixes and matches all in the same song. I’m normally not a fan of heavier music, especially anything with some sort of screaming in it, but for some reason Silverstein mixes everything into a blender and the outcome tastes good.

Before we go any further, yes, the band did take their name from author Shel Silverstein.

I have been a fan of theirs since “When Broken is Easily Fixed,” their debut release in 2003.

It also doesn’t hurt that I met and hung out with all five members of the band when I was a 17-year-old at Pirates Cove in Cleveland. We hung out for nearly two hours before their performance. They bought me and my buddy Meatball chicken wings and some, well, I’ll just say beverages.

That is my only brush-in personally with “rock stars” and it has stuck with me for the past six years. (Although I once phone interviewed Hawthorne Heights, LostProphets and the street-legend, Obie Trice)

I felt compelled to review their new record “A Shipwreck in the Sand” because I find it, dare I say, brilliant.

It’s a concept album that actually has a concept. I hate when bands say they are releasing a concept album and then it’s just the same ole’ same ole.’ They write down personal lyrics and attach a “character” to them so it's as if they just recorded some monumental epic album because it’s “different.”

Told said he made “A Shipwreck in the Sand” to coincide with the current times. Where the economy is ripping apart businesses, wallets, relationships and in this album's case, marriages.

“A Shipwreck in the Sand” from one track to the other follows a husband and wife who have lost everything and because of it, are completely falling apart.

From the album's synopsis above which reads like a movie, they wake to a burning household only to survive and move into a hotel and thus, the drama and hardships ensue.

Because this is a record, and not a movie, I’ll spill some spoilers. Although it's suspected in some of the middle tracks, especially on the track "I am the Arsonist," we learn in the last song, the surprisingly acoustic “The End” — featuring a guest appearance from Valerie Poxleitner who tells her side of the story from the wive’s perspective — the husband set the house on fire planning to kill the family but at the last minute he admits, “I couldn’t just leave you there.”

With the downfall of today’s economy, we’ve seen so many instances across the country in the past year where husbands and wives have unfortunately either ended their lives or have done the unthinkable - killing their family - because of the irreversible debt they are in — often times facing prison sentences.

From the first lyrics on the opening song “A Great Fire” to the final lyrics on the closing song “The End,” the album stays true to its concept throughout.

“Burning Down, we can’t stop it we got to get out. Start again, our memories are gone forever. Don’t try to turn this around on me. I’m the one that saved you. This was my home. This was my life, it’s not always just about you.” -“A Great Fire”

“This union, a battle fought and lost. This union, was not about the cause. This union, was never about love.” (“this union,” referring to their marriage) -“The End” (these same lyrics are also found on the title track.)

This is Silverstein’s fourth release and by far their most creative and artistic work to date and is so far this year’s pleasant surprise release for me. Their first album was great but the quality of their music declined with each of their following releases “Discovering the Waterfront” in 2005 and “Arrivals and Departures” in 2007. The latter leading me to believe Silverstein wasn't going to make it too much longer.

“A Shipwreck in the Sand” was totally unexpected. I didn’t know they had it in them.

They’ve come along way since buying some mid-western under-agers, well, beverages, at a small town Cleveland bar.

Listen to the title track: “A Shipwreck in the Sand” a song that questions the value of marriage when the times are tough

“They pledged their allegiance to the captain, and vowed to be there no matter what, in sickness, health, and possible death. As time passed by, there was no new land to be found. As the days grew shorter, and the nights grew longer and colder, the crew became more and more skeptical about the captain’s vision. Originally passionate and committed, true and faithful, they now began to revolt.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ten in the Morning: Bad ideas bound to happen

It's safe to say we are engrossed in what I call, "The Golden Era of Remakes."

Which is to say, it's not a good era right now for movie making. Studios are reluctant to take on fresh, original ideas. The risk of losing millions is too great. Instead, they bank on the sure thing: Remakes. It's simple reasoning.

Remakes get people to their local cineplex because they're familiar with the product or the name.

This decade alone, we've seen countless remakes. Most are bad and would have been better off never made. More are on the way.

Until then, Ten in the Morning counts down the list of movies that should never be remade:

10. Poseidon Adventure: Oops, Hollywood already remade this one, starring Kurt Russell. A big-time trainwreck. See what I mean?

9. Raiders of the Lost Ark: No objections here to casting a new Indiana Jones in place of Harrison Ford, but leave this classic adventure locked away in a warehouse.

8. Goodfellas: Just leave it alone.

7. Planet of the Apes: Oops, they remade this classic as well. Getting the picture?

6. Apocalypse Now: They just don't make movies like this one anymore. It's so unique that if even the best director tries to tackle it, they would likely fail.

5. Back to the Future: A fun, fun movie, one that's difficult to NOT watch when it's on. I can see it now: Shia Labeouf in the role of Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly. (I'm shaking my head as I write this.)

4. The Breakfast Club: Another role awaits Labeuf for this 80s teenage classic.

3. Star Wars (The original): George Lucas will likely never let it happen (thank goodness), but you know someone, somewhere is dying to remake it.

2. The Godfather: Who could be possibly be cast in this era to fill Brando's and Pacino's shoes?

1. Jaws: If this movie is ever remade, it will be a sad, sad day.

- Mark Podolski

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pass on "Land of the Lost"

"Land of the Lost" is such a trainwreck of a movie I can't imagine anyone except diehard fans of Will Ferrell or the 1970s TV show enjoying it. Even that might be a stretch

So, you could imagine my shock when - at a preview screening - many in attendance clapped at the film's conclusion.

Makes you wonder how easy moviegoers have become these days. I'll be honest, there are plenty of films over the years many consider horrible I consider guilty pleasures.

"Land of the Lost" won't be one of them.

There were a few funny moments thanks to the efforts of Ferrell, and the film's best moment is when Ferrell sings the catchy theme song from the original TV series with a banjo. That's it.

Now the bad, and where do I start?

Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) is a scientist who, along with his assistant (Anna Friel) and a redneck (Danny McBride), is sucked into a time-travel vortex to an alternate universe with dinosaurs, sleestaks and a primate named Chaka, a familiar character from the old TV show.

Speaking of the old show, at least they got it right when one thinks of prehistoric times, namely a jungle setting. "Land of the Lost" is mostly set in a desert, which begs the questions: When did dinosaurs inhabit the desert? I know I'm nitpicking, so let's move on.

When you watch a Ferrell movie, you don't expect ... well much of anything except slapstick humor. Sadly, this one misses the mark big time. The Ferrell magic we all watched in "Old School" and "Anchorman" just isn't there this time.

Special-effect wise, there isn't much here either, and that's inexcusable, considering it's a dinosaur movie.

Again, with a Ferrell movie, the expectation level when it comes to acting isn't very high, but the efforts in this one are simply abysmal.

Nearly everything in "Land of the Lost" seemed rushed and the finished product is proof of that.

- Mark Podolski

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TBS: New Again

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

“I am, I’m ready to be new again. I’m ready to hear you say who I am is quite enough.”

Those are the words uttered by Taking Back Sunday front-man Adam Lazarra on the title track of their new album “New Again,” released today.

A new album, a new band member, a new sound, the band really is new again.

Easily my favorite band since 2002, TBS in the past seven years has evolved from an underground rugged and raw punk band into a successful mainstream rock/alternative band.

The band’s first three albums (“Tell All Your Friends,” “Where You Want To Be,” and “Louder Now”) have all sold at least 500,000 copies (which isn’t an easy feat when two of those were on independent record labels). Each of their last two albums debuted in top three spots on the billboard charts. They’ve toured with Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Jimmy Eat World and this summer they’ll tour with Blink-182 and Weezer (Sept. 2 at Blossom). They’ve made appearances on Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien. Their songs are set to appear on the next version of the popular video game “Guitar Hero.”

Despite all the success, it hasn’t been an easy road for TBS. Guitarist and back-up vocalist, John Nolan and guitarist Shaun Cooper left the group in 2003 as the band was on the rise to fame which led to nearly a year-long break-up. Nolan and Cooper went on to form the piano-rock band Straylight Run while TBS reformed in 2004. In 2007, Nolan’s replacement Fred Mascherino, bolted the band to create The Color Fred.

On top of the break-ups, they’ve also had some riffs with other bands, most notably Brand New (who is also a phenomenal band). Lazarra and Jesse Lacey, front-man of Brand New, have been trading blows at each other on many of their songs throughout all of their albums. What happened between the two isn’t fully known, It is also completely obvious through lyrics from both TBS and Straylight Run that Lazarra and Nolan/Cooper are no longer fond of each other as Lazarra sings “I had a better friend in my worst of plans than I ever had in either one of you.” referring to both Nolan and Cooper on “The Union” which can be heard on the 2004 album, “Where You Want To Be.” On the new record, Lazarra addresses the departure of Mascherino on “Capital M-E.”

“The nicest man I ever met/Was more malicious than malcontent/Yeah, he taught me how to hold my tongue/And wait to strike till their backs were turned/And you slither away like the snake that you are.”

Despite the issues, TBS is back with their first release in more than three years. It’s been a long wait. I’ve accepted the fact a long time ago they’ll never return to the sound of their 2002 debut album “Tell All Your Friends,” which piled in energy, pure raw emotion and some of the catchiest sing-alongs on 10 tracks that can be put on record.

Their new single, “Sink into Me,” which I immediately labeled one of the worst TBS songs I’ve ever heard upon first listen, has now been in my head for the past week and I can’t get it out.

“New Again” is definitely a new sound for the band, who have been traveling in a different direction musically throughout their past two releases. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it really doesn’t come close to “Tell All Your Friends” and it’s notches below “Where You Want To Be” and “Louder Now.”

My complaint is, and this may sound weird because he is the lead singer, there is actually too much Lazarra on this album. Although his voice sounds better on “New Again” than any of the others, the band is at its best when Lazarra is constantly trading vocals back and fourth with Nolan/Mascherino throughout each song. Matt Fazzi, who is the new Nolan/Mascherino — if you will — doesn’t provide much, if any, vocals on the album and the songs come off as more traditional rather than the creative song writing the band used to display in its earlier days.

Having that said, Lazarra is more personal on this album as the band’s past songs were pretty much open to interpretation. At least two songs (“Carpathia,” and “Everything Must Go”) are blatantly about his ex-fiance and on “Where My Mouth Is” he takes responsibility for breaking up the band in 2003 and comes the closest he probably will to apologizing to Nolan and Cooper.

“I lost not one but two friends/Yeah I had it all/Sitting on top of the world/But I threw it away/Just to prove that I could/I put my money where my mouth is.”

The album is produced by David Kahne, who has produced albums for Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Sublime, Stevie Nicks and Kelly Clarkson.

As I previously mentioned, “New Again” doesn’t top any of the work the band has accomplished on their three prior records, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of either.

I’m just glad I have new TBS music to listen to.

Hit: “Swing” "Where My Mouth Is" “Carpathia
Miss: “Lonely, Lonely”