Marginal Utility
Image: Marginal Utility
When shopping nirvana shrivels away like the mega mall growing incrementally smaller behind you at the end of a long day, and buyer's remorse begins gnawing at your nerves, and you begin to fret the futility of it all, Rob Horning's blog, "Marginal Utility", steps in to stimulate your woefully neglected neocortex. Read, laugh, weep, but above all: realize. You'll feel smarter again in no time.
More Recent Features

4 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Mya: Moodring

When I first heard Mya‘s 1998 self-titled debut, I hoped against hope that she would eclipse the princess of pop Satanism, Britney Spears. Granted, capping

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4 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Kid 606: Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You

Kid 606—Miguel Depedro’s musical pseudonym—is an oddity, a musical misfit that mangles every genre from power-noise to hip shaking dance music to drone-driven

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	Beth Hart: Leave the Light On

Beth Hart has been to hell and back and thus far has avoided the one-way trip back again. After getting a lot of well-deserved ink

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	Maynard Ferguson: Chameleon / Conquistador

Back in the mid-‘70s, in the midst of the first wave of jazz fusion, big bands staged a comeback of sorts. Touring big bands

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4 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

The Trilogy (2002)

That the 'virtual film' can never be grasped entirely is what makes it so intriguing.

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4 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Teknolust (2002)

Tilda Swinton is perfectly suited to Leeson's cyberfeminist project.

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4 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Who could have anticipated that Snoop would be the saving grace of a major studio buddy flick?"

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4 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Hidalgo (2004)

Hidalgo is the story of this horse and his man.

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Broken Lizard’s Club Dread (2004)

A hedonistic island vacation run by washed-up Coconut Pete sounds like a great place for any kind of mayhem, and some does ensue. Just not quite enough.

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3 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Various Artists: Read: Interpreting Björk

In all honesty, tribute albums are either extremely bad, or at the most, terminally uninteresting. In its favor, Read: Interpreting Björk isn’t so

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	Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez: The Trouble with Humans

Even if you don’t know Chip Taylor‘s name, you know his songs, especially FM staples like “Wild Thing” or “Angel of the Morning”.

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	Dirt Bike Annie: Show Us Your Demons

I requested to review the Dirt Bike Annie album solely on the basis of a recommendation of hip-hop jokester, MC Chris, who mentions them on

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3 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Delerium: Chimera

It must be weird when your obscure 10-year-old side project suddenly vaults over your main gig and into the international spotlight, but that’s pretty

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3 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Johnny Cash: The Original: Best Of

When great recording artists die, it’s as sure a bet as an increasing national debt that every record company with even the smallest slice

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3 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Patsy Cline: The Heart of a Legend

This latest reshuffling of Patsy Cline‘s work consists of 22 songs on two CDs (which would have fit on a single disc). The first disc

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3 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Air: Talkie Walkie

Air built its original success on a platform of familiar sounds, synths and scraps of nostalgia pasted together in an entirely unique way. Maybe pasted

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Henrietta is a pop star who has a powerful mutant power of empathy and channels it into her career.

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Red traces society's need to kill history. The present is not based upon truth, but built on a collective myth, romanticized by years of revisionism.

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Marshal Law is the literal anti-hero, not just a flawed hero, but a hero-hater. Marshal Law is the poor soul who was conned by the typical superhero and cheated into screwing up his life.

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Alan Moore, a master of meticulously structured plots of dizzying complexity, has produced what is arguably his simplest, most personal work.

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Judge Dredd has had a profound effect on US comics in the past two decades. More important however is how Dredd influenced the so-called 'grim and gritty' trend of superheroes.

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

The magic of music, once you’ve gotten past marveling at the confluence of lyrics, composition and skill, or in some cases the incredibly skill-less

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Soul Revival Long before R. Kelly, Ma$e, and even Marvin Gaye were struggling to walk the razor thin line that separates the sacred and

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

There’s not a lot you can accuse Funkstörung of. The two German lads comprising the group seem to come from a rather pure,

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3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

When you go to see a cult band from your college days, a band gone for ten years, it’s hard not to indulge in

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Air

3 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Photo Credit: Claude Gassian S E T    L I S T RadianAlpha Beta GagaVenusJ’ai Dormi Sous L’EauSurfing on a RocketPeople in

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Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

The novel sees Koontz damning the young person's world without taking the time to explore it from any angle other than that alluded to by school shootings and rap music.

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How to Breathe Underwater: Stories by Julie Orringer

Though we swear we have seen it all before, Orringer does deliver something new in her novel. It's a sense of female solidarity that she weaves between plots of mothers, daughters, aunts, cousins and friends.

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An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof

They congratulate themselves when they go ashore, thinking themselves more travelers than the tourists anchored around them, but one suspects that most of the other cruisers see themselves in precisely the same way.

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Almost Midnight: An American Story of Murder and Redemption by Michael W. Cuneo

Cuneo attempts to find some sort of redemptive resolution to the tale. Mease may have been one of Missouri's most feared killers in a generation, but in the end, he found God and was saved by a man of God.

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	The Six Parts Seven: Lost Notes from Forgotten Songs

Indie rock remixes have always been middling to terrible at best. Rarely does a remix of an indie rock song amount to anything more than

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	Martin Simpson: Righteousness & Humidity

There are guitar players and then there are guitar players—for every one you’ve heard of, there are five unknowns who deserve far more

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	Soiled Doves: Soiled Life

Last year, the Blood Brothers dropped Burn Piano Island, Burn a fiery, scorching beast of a record that made many year end top ten lists

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	The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-la-la Band with Choir: This Is Our Punk Rock

PopMatters offers a writer a generous amount of space in which to make a point—several actually—about a particular CD. That space would seem

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	Jeff Kelly: For the Swan in the Hallway

As the chief member of the neo-psych Green Pajamas and as a solo artist, Jeff Kelly has released dozens of albums over the last 20 years,

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2 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Norah Jones: Feels Like Home

For a sultry torch singer who releases her work on an old, smoky jazz label, Norah Jones has a surprising amount in common with the

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	Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander: Abaton

This two-CD set isn’t short on playing time, though I wonder whether there might not be a little too much on it—at least

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2 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Sex and the City

Carrie's romantic life, particularly, had come to resemble the dating equivalent of the Boston Red Sox.

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Straight Plan for the Gay Man

Jonathan wonders what it would be like to spend one day working in the blue-collar world and be as 'unfabulous' as possible (Why? I have no idea.)

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2 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Survivor All-Stars

Survivor dramatizes one of capitalism's core tenets: cooperation is a provisional strategy in the game of 'every man for himself.'

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2 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

A Perfect Husband

This film's weird dramatization and inappropriate timing are a betrayal of Laci Peterson's family, friends, and community.

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1 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Splitsville: Incorporated

It’s a matter of quality—with their fifth release, Incorporated, Splitsville has never been in a better space. Confident, assured and able to transcend

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1 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Audra Kubat: Million Year Old Sand

A million years ago, a glacier carved Lake Superior into the frozen Michigan landscape. Million Year Old Sand, the third album by folk singer Audra

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1 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Innocence Mission: Befriended

Forgotten but not gone—irrelevance is the damning curse of all aging musicians. In a culture that makes no distinction between style and substance, bands

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	The Bigger Lovers: This Affair Never Happened… And Here are Eleven Songs About It

When The Office‘s Ricky Gervais accepted his second award at the 2004 Golden Globes ceremony, he cleverly expressed the need for two trophies, so that

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	Arab on Radar: Queen Hygiene II / Rough Day at the Orifice

Being an artist or musician from Rhode Island must be a terrible burden. Home of the Rhode Island School of Design, and with a reputation

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	Joan Armatrading: Love and Affection: Joan Armatrading Classics (1975-1983)

Some of my favorite lines in popular music are penned by Joan Armatrading, who is nothing if not a brilliant lyricist. “It would help me

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1 Mar 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Ann Beretta: Three Chord Revolution

As far as Ann Beretta‘s sound is typical American punk, they demonstrate why I personally prefer typical old school British punk to typical American

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Even if we never cease to be captivated by dirt, we need also to focus on substantive matters.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Oprah's appearance on Primetime Live did put faces and stories behind the devastating realities of the African AIDS crisis.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

A hardcore advocate of free speech, Sawyer gives a close listen to hip-hop's homophobic spittin'.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

In a game, someone triumphs and somebody or something loses: we laugh with good reason at the absurdity of the Caucus-race in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when the Dodo concludes that, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'

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Politics and Culture/East and West -- The Iowa caucuses disenfranchise a person who, despite being politically active, would prefer to act -- that is 'vote'.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Press Gang: Series 1

Press Gang refused to treat its audience like children.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

MTV’s Wuthering Heights

You can almost hear the producers' pitch: 'It's Heathcliff and Catherine via Justin and Britney -- tragic love, but without all those heavy wool broadcloths.'

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Disinformation: The Complete Series

Disinformation is a lot like the Weekly World News as written by James Randi and the staff of The Skeptical Enquirer.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Tricheurs (1983)

For Schroeder, gambling becomes a metaphor for the allure of the unknown.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

The School of Rock (2003)

'I'm always going 10 miles too far over the top, and sometimes I have a tendency to go crazy ham and cheese,' says Jack Black.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Labyrinth (1986)

Sarah is the origin and end of the fiction, its cause and effect simultaneously.

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Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)

Far too vast to be linear or inclusive, the Godzilla story is actually a lot of stories, many of them contradictory.

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1 Mar 2004 // 1:00 AM

Annie (1982)

She may have been a multimedia moppet, skipping from comic strip to radio to Broadway, but Little Orphan Annie is no movie star.

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	Various Artists: The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco

As someone who, even now, wouldn’t guarantee he could, pulling names out of a hat, infallibly differentiate the song titles from artist names on

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	Various Artists: 270 Miles from Graceland: Live from Bonnaroo 2003 [DVD]

With the ideals of Woodstock thrown out the window, music festivals have become more about corporate synergy than politics.

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	Warren Zevon: VH1 (Inside) Out—Warren Zevon: Keep Me in Your Heart

The power of the film resides in Zevon's directness. He never seems to forget that he's dying, yet he keeps his life from taking on either a romantic sheen or a pitiful skin.

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	Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles

Jamie Stewart can sure leave a lasting impression on a listener. No one is better at feeling miserable, singing about feeling miserable, and making every

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	Wheat: Per Second, Per Second, Per Second… Every Second

For a band just now releasing their major label debut, Wheat already have quite a history. First, they released their debut album, Medeiros, on Sugarfree

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	Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle: One from the Heart: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Tom Waits‘s career can be divided into two halves. In the first half, he leaned heavily on his romantic, world-weary pseudo-beatnik mien and played

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29 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Anne McCue: Roll

Anne McCue responds to Delta blues like Liz Phair responded to the Rolling Stones or like Jane Jensen to comic books: as a touchstone in

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29 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Jay McShann: Goin’ to Kansas City

He’s 87 years old and still going strong. Jay McShann’s enjoyment and appreciation of what he does, which is cook up some great jazz

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29 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Flo Brown: Whateva Comes to Mind

Unless they have a schtick, angry black women with microphones tend to fade into obscurity. Lady of Rage, for example, had a lot of heart

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	Blue Man Group: The Complex Rock Tour Live [DVD]

It's a great concept: a rock concert that is layered in such a way as to act as a meta-commentary about rock concerts.

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26 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Various Artists: The Beat Generation

Sometimes perspective is a curse. “It’s true, I got caught in the world,” Allen Ginsberg says from his work, “Bengali Paraphrase” at the end

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	Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Brazilian Electronica

The modern history of Brazil has been one of great promise and sometimes equally great frustration. The 1950s and early 1960s saw a democratic regime

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26 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Sunshine: Necromance

California punk rock label, Gold Standard Laboratories have been digging in the vaults of late. Arab on Radar, Soiled Doves, and now Sunshine have all

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26 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Low Flying Owls: Elixir Vitae

A fuzzed-out three-note bass guitar riff swirls like a stumbling drunk. Whiskey-crazed guitars and primal drums smash against the rhythm like a half-empty bottle of

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Lambchop: Aw Cmon / No You Cmon

It took some guts, but Kurt Wagner’s confidence in his wealth of material has yielded two of Lambchop’s strongest albums to date, and the band has regained the form they showed in the late ‘90s and 2000.

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26 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Hurricane Lamps: Sing Me a Song

According to the The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, a hurricane lamp is a lamp with a candle, oiled wick, or

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26 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Tom House: That Dark Calling

Like Gillian Welch, Tom House mines the deep roots of country music, bypassing honky-tonk and all the various 20th century sub-genres, starting instead with the

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26 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Everyothers: self-titled

Sometimes you just need something loud and raw to rock your world. Thankfully (and contrary to popular belief), the true loud rock tradition lives on.

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	Darediablo: Feeding Frenzy

Instrumental rock hit its peak in the mid- to late ‘90s, ranging from the post-rock jazz of bands like Tortoise to the mind-bending guitar theatrics

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26 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

The reaction to these games [Ethnic Cleansing and White Law], while relatively silent within the popular media, has been relatively strong from liberal America. Shocked by the message and content, these games have been too easily dismissed as extremist venom that only reflects a small segment of the American population.

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26 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

Twisted (2004)

Jess identifies with her dead mother but also takes up her father's professional aggression, not so much to right wrongs as discover them.

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The Passion of the Christ (2004)

This problem of truth -- how it might be defined, known, or told -- underlies most all of Mel Gibson's film.

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26 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

Eurotrip (2004)

Eurotrip feels like a throwback to late '70s, early '80s films like Animal House, though it's not nearly so funny.

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Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

Suddenly, Katey's aware of a perspective other than hers and other Americans'.

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	Miguel Zenon: Ceremonial

Flier, notes, and the rest announce the remarkable gifts of Miguel Zenon, and speak of his association with David Sanchez. Sanchez is certainly something very

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	Luther Wright and the Wrongs: Guitar Pickin’ Martyrs

Luther Wright has got some serious heart problems. While the literal-minded might see the Sacred Heart aflame on the cover of his latest album, Guitar

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25 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Opus: Breathing Lessons

When critics talk about Chicago hip-hop, they invariably begin with the same retort: “Hip-hop . . . in Chicago?” As the third largest metropolis in the country, Chicago’

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	Jennyanykind: Peas and Collards

What’s in a name? With Jennyanykind, a latent possibility of moving in any of several musical directions. The band, whose core consists of identical

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25 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Hang Ups: self-titled

Thanks to the Hang Ups, the line between power pop and wuss rock has been forever blurred. Granted, wuss rock isn’t an actual genre

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25 Feb 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Ani Difranco: Educated Guess

Ani Difranco is a rare gem in the music industry. Impossible to replicate, immune to commercialization, she is one of the most prolific and innovative

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	Anathema: A Natural Disaster

Metal music, despite being praised by many obsessive fans as being one of the most creative forms of rock music out there, has actually always

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Low

25 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

Photo credit: K. Raschke For a concert whose early fuse sputtered damp as the surrounding Vancouver evening, with very early sound problems leading to a

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25 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

Ima Robot Unless you’re a new rock radio DJ, Ima Robot are better than you think. Yes, a good portion of what they do

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25 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

A third of the way into Adam Green’s set, an audience member who had been mimicking the performer’s Snoopy-on-roller skates dancing felt compelled

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Asylum Street Spankers When I entered the Parish, to my surprise, its open air rock club atmosphere had been altered with rows and rows of

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25 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

The Simpsons: Hit and Run

You won't find spectacularly original gameplay here, but in a game where you actually get to drive Homer's dream car, it's hard to complain.

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25 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

Riot Police

So many games these days feature the authorities often portrayed as the bad guys as much as the criminals are. And I suppose the same could be said for this title.

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25 Feb 2004 // 1:00 AM

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles

It's a little like each person holding a separate piece of a treasure map -- the best way to success is for everyone to let each other know what's going on.

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Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest

Character development in this kind of 'role-playing' game is not so much found in the skills and abilities of the characters, but largely occurs through looting and accruing more weapons and armor.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

Culture Belongs to the Alien in 'Spirits of Xanadu'

// Moving Pixels

"The symbols that the artifact in Spirits of Xanadu uses are esoteric -- at least for the average Western gamer. It is Chinese culture reflected back at us through the lens of alien understanding.

READ the article