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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Must-see TV: "Flash Forward" and "Glee"

ABC has another sci-fi hit on its hands, and Fox has a new show based in Lima.

Yes, that Lima.

The fictional show "Glee" on Fox is a clever show about a group of high schoolers at William McKinley in Lima and their Glee Club director (Matthew Morrison). The show, which airs on Wednesdays, has all your typical high school stereotypes, but it's heartwarming, very creative and most important, plenty of fun.

It's unique for one reason: It's as much a musical as it is a comedy series. Renditions of popular songs "Don't Stop Believing" and "Push It" are extremely catchy. You won't be disappointed downloading them to your ipod.

It also dives head first into the issues many high schoolers deal with - homosexuality, teen pregnancy and self esteem - thus giving it an edgy feel.

Reviews of "Glee" have been mixed, but give it a shot. You have some catching up to do, as the series is already four episodes in. Trust me when I say it's a series unlike any other on TV.

ABC's "Flash Forward," based on the 1999 novel by Robert J. Sawyer, is equally must-see TV, but for different reasons. If you thought "Lost" was confusing and addictive, then wait until you get a load of "Flash Forward." The pilot aired last last Thursday to solid reviews, and for good reason.

The mystery surrounding the events of the pilot is riveting. To summarize: A mysterious global event causes everyone on earth to pass out at the same for 2 minutes, 17 seconds, during which most see what is believed to be a glimpse of their future - six months ahead.

A group of FBI agents led by Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) begins searching for answers, but no one has any. The pilot concludes with a hair-raising scene of a person in black on video tape walking through a baseball stadium in Detroit while everyone around the person is blacked out.

Who is this individual? Can't wait to find out. I'm hooked.

- Mark Podolski

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jay-Z: BP3

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

“Ten No. 1 albums in a row, who better than me?
Only The Beatles, nobody ahead of me
I crush Elvis and his Blue Suede Shoes
Made the Rolling Stones seem sweet as Kool-Aid too
‘96, ‘97, ‘98, ‘99
2000, 2001 and beyond
‘02, ‘03, ‘04, ‘05
‘06 and ‘07, ‘08, ‘09
Back-to-back, double plat’, I did what you won’t
Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t
Ain’t nothin changed for me except the year it is
I think I have to send you a reminder, here it is”

-Jay-Z on “Reminder”

It’s a sad day when my favorite song off an album is the album’s first single.

When I heard Jay-Z’s D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune) for the first time (which seemed like months ago) I was taken back.

It was such a laid back beat surrounded by a clarinet and an electric guitar with the rapper rhyming about the downfall of hip hop music thanks to so many artists using auto-tune (See: T-Pain.)

“This is anti auto-tune, death of the ringtone,
This ain’t for iTunes, this ain’t for sing alongs
This is Sinatra at the opera
...I know we facing a recession
But the music y’all making gonna make it the great depression
All y’all lack aggression”

I had anticipated The Blueprint 3 for months before hearing D.O.A., and once I heard it, it revved up my expectations.

Sadly I find BP3 vastly disappointing after listening to it front to back multiple times.

While he makes no secret about it, Jay-Z is going for a futuristic-type rap sound on this album, which is frustrating.

When you’re releasing your 11th album and are already considered a living legend, the *blueprint* of making an album should be simple.

At 39-years-old, I feel Jay-Z is too old (not in age terms, but musical terms) and far too successful to be doing any sort of this experimental rap that younger guys such as Kid Cudi and Drake are doing.

Speaking of which, Jay-Z is far too experienced and far too successful to be relying on guest appearances from the two aforementioned rappers on this album.

I would quote a line from Nas’ “Ether” when he talks about Jay-Z bringing in a trendy rapper to appear on his album, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for this blog. (Speaking of Nas, he reportedly turned down an offer to appear on “Empire State of Mind”)

There are some good songs on this album, but BP3 doesn’t even come close to meeting any sort of expectations I had for it. The beats are too futuristic for me and it’s far too experimental for my taste. Lyrically, I wouldn’t say the rapper is at the top of his game, but he still proves to be superior to 90 percent of the other rappers out there today.

What’s even more unsettling is, this album has been in production for more than a year, which normally exceeds the amount of time Jay-Z spends making his other albums that I find far better than this.

I’m not ready to shove Jay-Z out of the hip-hop door just yet and obviously neither are his fans as BP3 sold more than 400K in its first week — which is the rapper’s 11th straight no. 1 album putting him as the only solo artist in history to achieve that feat (Elvis had 10.)

But what’s more scary is, he told earlier this month that his next album will be his “most experimental ever.”

I don’t know how much more Jay-Z experiments I can take after BP3.

D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune)**LeBron James appears in the video at 3:45. Harvey Keitel also makes an appearance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze tribute

My No. 1 guilty pleasure movie is, without doubt, a Patrick Swayze classic.

"Dirty Dancing?" "Point Break?"

No and no.

It's none other than "Road House."

News of Swayze's death was sad, but his role as "Dalton" (we don't know if that's his first or last name) will always be remembered. Remembered that is as one of the cheesiest, testosterone-laced movies of the 1980s.

How cheesy? Before starring in "Road House," Swayze made a name for himself in the film "Dirty Dancing." Playing off that popular role, "Road House's" tagline was, "The dancing's over. Now it gets dirty."

You gotta love it. The movie centers around Swayze's character, the ultimate bouncer who's recruited to clean up a seedy bar, The Double Deuce. The performances by all are over-the-top cheesy, but that's why it's a cheeseball classic.

If you haven't seen it, check it out. The cable TV classic is so bad, it's good, if you know what I mean.

- Mark Podolski

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brand New: Daisy

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

“We as people in a band do not exist anymore and in essence the band does not exist anymore. It’s just over. If we never got through this record there wouldn’t even be an argument or discussion about it. I don’t need a name or record label to write a song, I thought I did when I was younger but no one needs that, no one needs any kind of validation to create something. I don’t need anyone telling me whether it’s good, bad or whatever else. There’s nothing really about us that is Brand New anymore. It makes me cringe just saying it."

-Brand New’s frontman Jesse Lacey, 31, speaking with Rock Sound Magazine.

What happens when Brand New doesn’t want to be Brand New anymore?

They admit they don’t like touring, they’ve done one interview with an American Media outlet in the past three years (and don’t plan on doing anymore) and they cringe when they hear their own band’s name.

The answer is: You get Daisy, which Brand New has threatened to be their “last physical release.”

And in typical Brand New fashion, forget everything you know about them.

Their fourth album — to be released on Sept. 22 — like all the others, doesn’t sound too much like any of their previous releases.

In fact, Lacey, the band’s main songwriter, took a back seat to the writing process as lead guitarist Vincent Accardi wrote the majority of the album.

The album’s opener, “Vices,” starts with an awkward recording and then the listener is, well, I guess I’ll say greeted, with a screaming Lacey, which is a brand new (pun intended) direction for the band, who is never known for screaming, in fact, quite the opposite as they’ve always gone the pop or mellow route.

The first song is actually a shock to me. I’ve been following the band for nearly 10 years and never heard this much hostility from Lacey’s lungs. This now makes the second album of Brand New’s where I had to do research to make sure it was the same band. Upon first listen of “Vices,” I was scared. After a few listens, I was hooked.

Lacey hallows out on the first track “Those days are dead, forgive me.” Nothing they do should be unexpected and everything they've done before Daisy shouldn’t hold them to a certain responsibility.

Fortunately, on the next two tracks, “Bed” and “At the Bottom” the band go back to their roots as the former track is one of the softer songs they’ve ever done and “At the Bottom” is Daisy’s solid first (and most likely only) single.

The fourth track, “Gasoline,” gets back to the all-of-a-sudden-heavy-side of Brand New, although nothing gets as heavy as the album’s lead track.

“You Stole,” is the fifth track, and is the album’s second longest song at six minutes. It makes a return to the softer side and is a beautiful track.

“Be Gone” is beyond weird. It’s the sixth track and is only 91 seconds where Lacey inaudibly sings and the record cuts out intentionally every couple of seconds. Unique I guess, but what’s the point?

Tracks 7, 8 and 10, “Sink,” “Bought a Bride” and “In a Jar,” respectively, all start off slow but end in the new heavier fashion. None, I would consider bad and after repeated listens, is quite catchy.

Possibly the album’s two best tracks, 9 and 11, “Daisy” and “Noro,” are saved for the end (well in “Daisy’s” case, the near end.)

“Daisy,” just like “Bed” and “You Stole,” is one of the albums softer songs and Noro, the album’s longest song at 6:27 is so far, my favorite song on the album where Lacey asks why no one he knows can ever sleep or find peace while yelling out “I’m on my way to hell, I’m on my way out” throughout the entire number.

As I said in an earlier blog, there are a few songs on here that sound extremely Nirvana influenced such as "Gasoline," "Bought a Bride," and "In a Jar." (Not sure if the flannel shirt Lacey always wears is a coincidence or not.)

Upon first listen of this album, which leaked three weeks before it’s official release date (Hence, the early review), I was disappointed. However, after I abandoned it for a few days, I couldn’t wait to listen to it again. After several listens it is just as lovable and catchy as their previous material.

This album takes some getting used to, it’s different, no doubt, but it’s the album Brand New wanted to make, not what their fans wanted to hear.

And that attitude, as of the past half decade, has made Brand New who they are today.

They frankly, don’t care what people think of them. Hence the limited to no touring, hence the limited interviews, if any, to any media outlet of any kind and hence the different sounds on each album.

They never take the direction people expect them to take. Which I can respect. This album is bold, it’s courageous and I honestly highly doubt Lacey, or any of his bandmates, care what you or I think of it. As I pointed out in the opening blurb from Lacey he “doesn’t need anyone telling (him) if something is good, bad or whatever.”

In an earlier blog, I mentioned how Taking Back Sunday and Brand New have been my two favorite bands throughout the past decade. They’ve both released albums this year (and always release albums within a year of each other), both of them — again, upon first listen — I found disappointing.

However, the difference between the two bands is, Taking Back Sunday went towards a more mainstream and traditional approach during their song writing, so the album came off as what it is, bland. They took the easy route.

Brand New took a huge risk with this album and once again tried to not duplicate anything they’ve ever done before, which is what music should be about. And After many listens of Daisy, I find it surprising, catchy, melodic, and quite frankly, beautiful.

"Noro" *Note the song is 6:27 but this is longest version released online.



"You Stole" *Note this song is 6:00 long, but this is longest released online.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blink postponed: It happens.

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

To read the full blog, click here

It brings me with great sadness to write that the concert I had been looking forward to since May 27 (the day I bought my tickets) has been postponed.

The show has been rescheduled for Sept. 30. As of this morning, Blink’s Web site says the show will remain the same (w/ openers Weezer, Taking Back Sunday and Chester French) however on Taking Back Sunday’s Web site, they say the show has been rescheduled but they aren’t sure if they are going to be playing yet. (*Note, Weezer and Taking Back Sunday, according to their tour dates on their Web sites, have no prior commitments on Sept. 30.)

I’ll leave at the bottom of this blog a video of Blink 182 performing “Down” off their 2003 self-titled record, which was in honor of DJ Am. In the video, it is pretty clear that these three men shouldn’t have been performing as bassist Mark Hoppus is clearly crying during the introduction and guitarist Tom Delonge can hardly sing his way through the song. It's still a touching tribute.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Disney buys Marvel; what's next?

Disney, which seems bound to own every pop culture property in our lifetime, has bought Marvel. That much we know.

What we don't know is what Disney has planned for the comic-book company. Or, at least in my mind, what it has planned for its movie franchises.

Followers of Marvel have known for some time the company's blockbuster plan to churn out movies until they reached the grand finale of super-hero movies - The Avengers.

The concept seemed very cool. Movies based on the Marvel characters Thor and Captain America were planned to follow the already released Ironman and Hulk movies. Shortly after the Captain America movie, the four characters were then expected to form Marvel's greatest super hero team, The Avengers.

Will this plan come to fruition? The guess here is probably not. The biggest stumbling block is the Thor movie, which Disney will likely analyze and say, "We can spend $150 million in a lot better places."

My hope is that at least the Captain America movie gets made. Cap is a underrated super hero and his story, based during World War II as he fights Nazis, has plenty of fascinating possibilities.

Don't hold your breath, though. Disney likes to make money and that will ultimately be the main reason why any of these super hero movies ever get made.

- Mark Podolski