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.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let me tell you the story about the call that changed my destiny

About 5 p.m. Friday, I got an unexpected phone call.

"Do you want tickets to the Backstreet Boys concert?"

One guess as to what I said.

Two hours later, I found myself driving to the flats with a friend, getting lost on our way to Nautica (neither of us had ever been there). I will admit that I initially hesitated at the thought of attending the concert. I figured that their show couldn't be much more than a novelty act at this point. I couldn't imagine that they would play anything other than the most loved and popular hits from "Black & Blue," "Millennium," and, of course, their self-titled album. I envisioned an audience of 20-something girls reliving their teen years, still swooning as the slightly out of touch stars of a now-irrelevant 90s pop sensation tried to dance like they were still 20 (Nick is now 30, 32, Howie is 37, and Brian is 35; Kevin is 38 but no longer tours with the group).

This is obviously not great photography; I was far away
and armed with my cheap-o point-and-shoot.
I guess I wasn't that far off in guessing the demographics of those attending. 95 percent of the attendees at the concert were young women averaging, at my guess, between ages 18 to 28. 3 percent of the remaining fans were women probably old enough to be the mothers of the first 95 percent. Then there were a handful of guys--most with girlfriends, but a group of about four or five 20-something guys were sitting near us quite obviously flirting with girls (but very emphatically singing along. I am not judging them).

There was a DJ to provide a little bit of pre-show entertainment, mostly playing pop and dance charts. Eventually the crowd around us started a "B S B" chant, and the girl behind me was practically hyperventilating in excitement. Finally, a cute little boy came out to kind of introduce the band--I'm convinced it was Brian Littrell's son, but I have no way to confirm that aside from seeing the (former?) BSB heartthrob pick the kid up at the end, and noticing that the little boy had super cute redish curly hair. But that is not the point. For the duration of the concert, all of my hesitations were forgotten as I became a screaming preteen again, singing along loudly to "Backstreet's Back" with the rest of the crowd.

The show's entertainment level was still clearly derived from the novelty of seeing the group years after they were really popular. It was all nostalgia, from their music down to their costumes (matching glowing sneakers, hooded sweatshirts sporting a bedazzled "B" on the back).

I am clearly not a photographer.
That said, I was still impressed with the quality of their performance. While their singing was heavily drowned out during most of the older popular songs by singing fans, I could still hear the boys singing; they definitely haven't lost their chops. They got the crowd involved in some of the lesser known songs, such as "PDA" which I'll admit I had never heard before. While the dancing was toned down a bit, they still were able to rock the typical boy band performance style. There were even these amusing videos during costume changes featuring each of the remaining four boys superimposed into movie previews (A.J.'s "Fight Club", and Nick's "Matrix" were my favorites; Howie stared in a "Fast and the Furious" video and Brian did an "Enchanted" spoof).

All in all, the show was a success, at least from the perspective of a 24-year-old girl who enjoyed singing along with songs she's usually embarrassed to admit she ever enjoyed.

And since the current "This is Us" Tour has only one stop left (Florida in December), I guess it's time to really get pumped for the New Kids on the Block/BSB joint tour Cheryl mentioned.

--Danielle Capriato

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The Secret Ingredient and One-Liners, or, Why I Love the Internets

If you watch "Iron Chef America", you know that The Chairman uses ... interesting inflection each time he introduces the Secret Ingredient. And, luckily, someone has compiled several of them into one video:

It's kind of like the compilation of David Caruso's one-liners in "CSI: Miami":

These videos are just another example of why I love the Internets.

--Cheryl Sadler

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Terrible Things: Self-titled

By Nick Carrabine

Although I thought it very well could have been, the debut record from Terrible Things isn’t terrible.

Terrible Things — who were initially named Initials before changing to their current name earlier this year— is made up of former Taking Back Sunday guitarist Fred Mascherino, former Hot Rod Circuit guitarist and vocalist Andy Jackson and former Coheed and Cambria drummer Josh Eppard. Three guys who have already had some pretty decent success before joining together.

However, upon hearing about Terrible Things, I had low expectations. Why?

I liked Mascherino in TBS. He’s a good guitarist and an OK vocalist but after he left TBS, he released a solo album that was half-brilliant, half-boring to death. The first half was incredible but I don’t like a single song on the album’s second half, which makes it hard for me to take it off the shelf.

Although I have one Hot Rod Circuit CD and two Coheed and Cambria CDs, if someone pointed a gun to my head and demanded an answer as to whether or not I considered myself a fan of either band, I’d say no in a heartbeat. If I never heard one song from either one of those bands again, I wouldn’t lose a second of sleep.

I also didn’t know who was going to be considered the lead singer seeing as Mascherino was a back-up vocalist with TBS and Jackson was a lead singer with his former band. If it were the latter, I almost certainly wouldn’t be interested in Terrible Things.

Luckily, Mascherino sings lead on nine of the 12 tracks (nine of 11 really, seeing as the album’s first track is an instrumental).

So, yeah, back to the album.

The good news is Terrible Things aren’t trying to re-create any of their older work. It doesn’t sound anything like any of the member’s previous bands (with exception to a 15 second guitar riff on “Lullaby” that is exactly the same as Taking Back Sunday’s “Little Devotional,” which I assume is intentional)

With that said, the band isn’t exactly re-inventing the wheel either, which is fine. It stands as a nice, solid pop-rock record that isn’t trying to be too over the top or be anything it’s not.

If anything, Terrible Things sound like a poor man’s Foo Fighters, which I consider to be a compliment as the Foo have been one of the better bands of the past 15 years.

If you were a fan of Mascherino beforehand, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy Terrible Things. This album should also serve more successful as The Color Fred project as well as any Hot Rod Circuit album ever released as Terrible Things have found a major label and have already built quite a following during the past seven months in which it took to create this album.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

HBO’s Entourage coming to an end

By Nick Carrabine

(Spoilers below)

With only eight more episodes left in the series, HBO’s Entourage is gearing up for what looks to be a strong series finale.

Two more episodes remain this season and six more will be produced next summer to serve as the season’s eighth and final season (however there is talk of a motion picture following the series finale.)

First off, I don’t get into too many TV shows nowadays. What’s the point? Most either get canceled after a year or two or the ones people do enjoy end up “jumping the shark” and then fade to black after eight seasons (too soon Soprano fans?).

Lets face it, Entourage isn’t exactly a ground-breaking television show. Most people enjoy it because it’s short (between 22-28 minutes per episode), it’s a buddy-buddy comedy series and each episode is jam-packed with A-list celebrities. And who doesn’t love Jeremy Piven’s portrayal of a fast-talking, quick-witted and verbally abusive agent, Ari Gold.

Throughout the first six seasons, most episodes reflected each other. There were never any real problems that any of the main characters had to face head-on, most ended on a happy note and there never seemed to be any reality checks for main character, Vinny Chase, who the show revolves around as an A-list celebrity.

(There is a very funny, but explicit, 2-minute parody video which I will not post here that could be found on YouTube that pokes fun of how each week, Entourage seems the same)

Then came Season 7.

Entourage has been one of my favorite shows on TV for the past six years but even I, a few years ago, started saying that if this show doesn’t start addressing conflicts that real A-list celebrities living in Hollywood experience on a day-to-day basis, then I can’t label the show as anything other than an entertaining 25 minute getaway from reality every Sunday night.

Season 7 is finally showing the consequences of Ari’s mean spirited behavior for the past six seasons, Vince’s irresponsible actions catching up with him and perhaps a fall-out between Vince and his entourage (which include his older brother, and two best friends — one being his manager).

Yes, Vince’s life is spiraling out of control. He’s dating a porn star, showing up to meetings drunk and is now experiencing with harder drugs behind his friends’ back. Ari has been exposed as a foul-mouthed verbally abusive employer by ex-employees causing him to lose potential ownership in an NFL team, but more importantly to him, causing him to potentially lose his wife and children.

The show’s other characters E (Vince’s best friend and manager), Drama (Vince’s older brother) and Turtle (Vince’s other best friend) are starting to make moves without Vince, who they were once solely dependent on.

I’m not sure in which direction the show will go from here (I'm hoping for more darker material), but at least it’s becoming more interesting and the creators have certainly paved the way to endless possibilities as to how the show would conclude.

Vince has a drug overdose? Vince’s girlfriend ruins his career (he’s already demanded one producer to include her in his movie and also the reason he’s turned to harder drugs)? Ari’s wife forces him to choose between family and his agency? Vince’s friends turn their back on him?

Who knows? But it’s better than guessing that they’d all ride off in the sunset hand-in-hand happily ever after, which is what the show was looking like previous to this season.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

STP: Live in Cleveland

By Nick Carrabine

I can’t think of too many better feelings than someone calling you two hours before a concert that you’ve wanted to go to for the past four months and offering you free tickets.

Imagine how I felt pulling into the Wal-mart parking lot Sunday around 5 p.m. when I received a call from my friend telling me she had won six free tickets to see Stone Temple Pilots, who are among one of my all-time favorite bands.

I was going to buy tickets to the STP show back in May, but tickets were ridiculously overpriced and at the time, I had a prior obligation that would have made it difficult to go to the show.

I counted my losses a long time ago but when a second chance arose, I obviously couldn’t pass it up as I haven’t seen STP live since October of 2001 back when lead singer Scott Weiland was still on drugs, the band was in a down spiral and they were coming off their worst release of their career (Shangri-La Dee Da).

The band members of STP, now entering their mid-40s and 50s, took the Tower City Amphitheater stage at 9 p.m. Weiland was armed with his megaphone that he is famous for using during much of the set as he awkwardly danced across the stage throughout most of the night.

The band mostly played hits from Core, Purple and their new Self-Titled album. Thankfully, they completely abandoned every single song off Shangri-La Dee Da.

My only complaint, as with most shows, is that the set was far too short, especially for a band that is so established with an 18-year successful career.

They only played 19 songs over a two-hour set and it’s mind-boggling why they didn’t play “Creep,” one of their biggest hits and one of my favorite songs of all-time. They also only played a combined three songs off No. 4 and Tiny Music...Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, even though those albums garnered several hits each.

But hey, it was free.

And even though they left off some of my favorite songs from the set list, it was still a great show from one of my favorite bands of all-time.

Can’t beat that.

Crackerman (Core)
Wicked Garden (Core)
Vasoline (Purple)
Heaven and Hot Rods (No. 4)
Between The Lines (Self-Titled)
Hickory Dichotomy (Self-Titled)
Still Remains (Purple)
Cinnamon (Self-Titled)
Big Empty (Purple)
Dancing Days (Led Zeppelin cover)
Pretty Penny (Purple)
Silvergun Superman (Purple)
Plush (Core)
Interstate Love Song (Purple)
Huckleberry Crumble (Self-Titled)
Down (No. 4)
Sex Type Thing (Core)

Dead And Bloated (Core)
Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart (Tiny Music... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weezer tour rumors

By Nick Carrabine

If the rumors are true, I'll go ballistic.

Rivers Cuomo, lead singer of Weezer, told MTV News Thursday that the band is trying to go on a cross-country tour, and in each city, perform two straight nights.

The two-night stop at each city would include performing The Blue Album front to back on the first night, and performing Pinkerton front to back on the second night.

Anyone who knows anything about anything knows that these two albums are Weezer's masterpieces. The band has never even come close to duplicating either of these two albums ever since.

The Blue Album was ranked as the 297th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Readers of the magazine went 10 steps further and ranked it the 21st greatest album of all time (obviously a stretch.)

It created some of the most popular songs of the past 17 years and songs that are still staples today on radio stations everywhere across America such as "Buddy Holly," "Say it ain't So" and "Undone - The Sweater Song."

In 1996, when Pinkerton was released, it was initially slammed by critics and fans but years later became a cult classic, was re-reviewed by many critics including Rolling Stone Magazine, who eventually gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

It's become most Weezer fans' favorite album, and is by far one of my favorite albums of all time.

These two albums influenced a whole new wave of bands and while I hate to use the term "emo," many critics will argue that these two albums are what inspired that whole scene.

Bands today such as Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Yellowcard, The Used and dozens of others will be the first to say Weezer is one of the biggest bands to have an influence on their career thanks to these two albums.

Cuomo said the band is currently talking to promoters in different cities, and if fans are on board, it will happen.

I can't see any Weezer fans not dreaming of this.

Here is a link to the MTV article

And here is a look back at some moments from The Blue Album and Pinkerton:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

TBS: Live From Orensanz

By Nick Carrabine

Before I start this review, I apologize for anyone who had to suffer through co-worker/blogger Cheryl Sadler's blog about New Kids On The Block and Backstreet Boys going on tour together. Two "bands" who are influential in almost single-handedly ruining music. Don't tell her I said this.

With that said, I'll be there.

As the original members of Taking Back Sunday head to Los Angeles this week to start recording their fifth studio album — their first together in more than eight years — the band awkwardly released a live acoustic record Tuesday featuring the band’s previous line-up.

The album, which was recorded from a December 2009 performance, features the New Again line-up, which of course disbanded back in April in favor of the return of original guitarist/back-up vocalist John Nolan and original bassist Shaun Cooper.

As Brand New’s lead singer Jesse Lacey once said on the song “Mixtape:” “I know that you’re a sucker for anything acoustic.”

Ain’t that the truth?

I think every band should be required to release at least one acoustic record and on Live From Orensanz, TBS not only tones down their original songs, they practically rework the majority of them to fit pianos, cellos and violins into them.

One thing is very apparent on this record, which wasn’t on the band’s last album New Again. The now departed Matt Fazzi can sing pretty well.

His vocals were hardly used on New Again, which is why New Again is generally everyone’s least favorite TBS album because it doesn’t feature the dual vocals that are present between lead singer Adam Lazzara and whoever is the back-up vocalist at the time (Nolan, Fred Mascherino) of the band’s first three albums.

With the acoustic record, the band performs two songs from the Tell All Your Friends era (“Cute Without the E” and the B-side and one of my personal favorites, “Your Own Disaster”) three songs from the Where You Want To Be era (“A Decade Under The Influence,” “One-Eighty By Summer,” “Set Phasers to Stun”), two songs from the Louder Now era (“My Blue Heaven,” “MakeDamnSure”) and four songs from the New Again era (“New Again,” “Carpathia,” “Everything Must Go” and B-side “Didn’t See That Coming.”)

Fazzi’s voice shines on the older songs where the dual vocals are featured. Lazzara has never really had a great live voice as his voice, even on recorded studio albums, is raspy, shaky and unclean (He sounds God-awful on the track “New Again”).

However, too little too late for Fazzi as he has already been kicked out of the band. Fazzi has already created a new band called Happy Body Slow Brain. For those keeping score at home, former members of Taking Back Sunday have gone on to create Straylight Run (Nolan and Cooper), Destry (Cooper) The Color Fred (Mascherino) and Terrible Things (Masherino).

At 11 songs, Live From Orensanz is short for a live record, but for any Taking Back Sunday fan, this is a must have and for any fan of acoustic music in general, it’s worthy of at least checking out.

If anything, it’s enough to hold me over until the band’s new record, which will be released probably in the early portion/spring of 2011.

Below are clips of the DVD that is only available through the band's Web site. I have not purchased the DVD, but it looks incredible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The concert tour of all concert tours

I'm glad I got to share this news before Staff Writer Nick Carrabine (and frequent music blogger) got to it.

Are you ready for THE concert tour of all concert tours??!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!???!?!!?!?

I'm talking, of course, about the news that Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block are working to team up for a concert tour in 2011!!!!!

The 13-year-old me just fainted.

Next year is going to be quite a big year for 20something ladies, what with the release of Sweet Valley Confidential and now this tour. If Jonathon Taylor Thomas and Matthew Lawrence get together for a movie in 2011, we would have quite the trifecta of young girls' dreams come true (if only 10-15 years late).

(Should I be embarrassed to admit that I giggled at the idea of the above paragraph? And embarrassed to add that on Twitter tonight I said I wanted to see "Melissa & Joey"? I mean, come on, it's just like a 2010 version of "Who's the Boss?", right?)

The E! Online article linked above notes planners are looking for a third band and Boyz II Men is at the top of the list. I suppose if they want the tour to have three boy bands then that's the one to get, but I think the tour would kind of be perfect with just the two. At least, those are the two that I would most want to see in concert together.

Next major question: Who is the headliner in this act? My co-worker Danielle Capriato immediately says NKOTB. I can't decide which boy band would better end the show. It's even tough to say which one is considered bigger -- at the height of their popularity, at the present, or overall. Regardless, I have a feeling the concert will be amazing. It can't not be when you put together such powerhouse entertainers. I have a feeling the concert will be a lot like this June show at Radio City Music Hall, and I really hope I get to go:

Photos by The Associated Press

-- Cheryl Sadler

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stop-motion videos

A few years ago my brother-in-law long ago sent me "Tony vs. Paul," a stop-motion video of two men who are arguing and chasing each other around town:

I am super impressed at people who are creative and talented enough to showcase their skills at making stop-motion videos -- and thankful that they want to share them on YouTube.

I recently came across this video that utilized thousands of photos to tell the story of a man's life:

The suggestions on the YouTube page pointed me to what now may be my favorite stop-motion video, of solving a Rubick's Cube to the sounds of The Postal Service:

Other stop-motion videographers have put their ideas to popular music:

... or do their own interpretation of older music:

an explanation of how he did that and a more complicated piece:

I could sit here and watch this stuff for hours, but unfortunately I don't get paid to do that. Anyone have suggestions for what I should watch next?

-- Cheryl Sadler

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stallone Expendable? No way

It doesn't matter if you love Sylvester Stallone or hate him. You can't ignore him.

How many actors have been relevant for four decades? Not many, that's for sure.

Stallone, 64, is still relevant, whether you like him as an actor or not.

The reason why so many love him as an actor is the iconic roles he's brought to the big screen.

It doesn't get much more iconic than John Rambo and, of course, Rocky Balboa.

It's not over yet for Stallone. On Friday, his much-anticipated film, "The Expendables" hit screens everywhere. I can't wait to see it. The trailers for the film look fantastic and the ensemble of actors should have action-movie fans of all ages drooling.

Until then, chew on this Ten in the Morning list of my favorite Stallone movies of all-time:

10. Lock Up (1989): Sorry, but no prison in America hold Sly.

9. Cop Land (1997): Stallone's first true out-of-the-box role.

8. Cliffhanger (1993): Name of this flick says it all. Great action.

7. Rocky Balboa (2006): Don't know how, but Stallone brought the Italian Stallion back to life.

6. Nighthawks (1981): Stallone and Billy Dee Williams a great pair in this one.

5. First Blood (1982): The first is always the best.

4. Victory (1981): Sly, Michael Caine and Pele. Enough said.

3. Rocky II (1979): Best boxing match in history.

2. Rocky III (1982): Opening montage best in sports movie history.

1. Rocky (1976): Where it all began. A classic.

- Mark Podolski

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Quiznos Kittens Turbo Techno Jam!!!" Or, "Why I Love the Internets"

I and a couple of my co-workers love the new Quiznos commercial.

Then the Internet gave us this:

My abs will be sore from laughing for days.

-- Cheryl Sadler

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yet another band to reunite

Nick Carrabine

It’s 2010 and clearly the cool thing for bands to do these days is break-up and reunite.

Last year it was Blink-182, earlier this year it was Taking Back Sunday and the latest to do so this week is the band, Yellowcard.

Yellowcard, one of the only rock bands that I know of who has a violinist in it, is far from one of my favorite bands, but they have released some great material.

Ocean’s Avenue was their breakout record back in 2003, which sold almost 2 million copies and their follow-up release — Lights and Sounds — was listed as one of my top 35 records released last decade.

The albums previous to those two (One for the Kids) and following them (Paper Walls) were just OK, if not disappointing.

Nonetheless, I am partially excited that the group is reuniting.

Here is a press release that the band’s new record label released on Monday:

“After two-and-a-half years Yellowcard have put the break to rest with the announcement of a brand new record on a new label and tearing into life on the road again.

Returning to their pre-major label indie beginnings, Yellowcard have recently signed with Hopeless Records for their seventh studio album, the first since 2007s Paper Walls. For round seven (and after 3 million records sold), Ryan Key (vocals/guitar) and original members Sean Mackin (violin) and Longineu (“LP”) Parsons (drums) continuing with Ryan Mendez (guitar) will be joined by longtime friend of the band Sean O’Donnell (bass), whose addition has been described as a “natural fit” for the current mindset and progression of the group.

“Hopeless seemed to be the right place for us; they were really interested in working with the band, very proactive, and had a lot of great ideas for us,” says frontman/guitarist Ryan Key. “They’re giving us the opportunity to do exactly what we want with it, and we’re thankful to have an established fanbase that is already interested in what we have to put out.”

“We have all been big fans of Yellowcard since their early days” adds Hopeless Records President Louis Posen. “Our team is having a great time working with the band and we are thrilled that there is going to be a new Yellowcard album soon. We know the fans want new music and we are honored and humbled that we get to play a part in helping such a great band write the next chapter in their career.

Key said the writing process has been like picking up just where they left off, that they “feel like kids again, having fun and driving around listening to the music we just created, no words yet, just the music over and over again.” They will soon begin recording with their tried-and-true producer Neal Avron - “the sixth member of our band” - and are aiming for a spring release, enough time to take new material and the classic benchmarks out for a refresher.

“We’re talking about a ton of different ideas, and we’re itching to start as soon as possible,” Key said. “Ultimately, we want to make something the fans will love. What we love to do most, is look out from the stage and see people exploding with energy, and I think we keep that in mind while we are writing. We miss being out on the road playing for Yellowcard fans all around the world, and without their support we wouldn’t have a career.”

Here’s a look at Yellowcard’s previous material: