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by AJ Ramirez

11 Dec 2009

“Welcome to Paradise” first surfaced on Green Day’s second album, the 1992 Lookout! Records release Kerplunk. Re-recorded for Dookie, the 1994 version packs a much more effective punch than the original. As the composition is unaltered, the Dookie incarnation demonstrates what wonders better production and an extra two years of practice can do for a song. Here, the guitar tone is less brittle, the drums hit with a greater wallop, and Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals have more conviction and less of a warbling quality compared to the performance on Kerplunk. Reprising this song for Dookie (where it fits in naturally, despite having been written for another album) almost note for note was the best piece of evidence Green Day could produce to shut up holier-than-thou punks who criticized the group for “selling out” by signing to a major label.

In both forms, “Welcome to Paradise” is an exhilarating listen, a sheer roller coaster of musical momentum that knows how to deliver at the right spots. Opening with a verse riff that vaguely recalls The Clash’s “Complete Control”, the band then launches into a sharp drop at the start of the chorus, rising up and down as the chords change, and ultimately screeching to a halt for a brief instrumental pause (during which Billie Joe Armstrong sarcastically utters the title phrase) before setting out for another go-round. As usual, Armstrong carries the song’s melody with his vocals; this allows him to twist simple lines like “It makes me wonder why I’m still here” into indelible hooks that burrow into the listener’s head. The highlight of “Welcome to Paradise” is the interlude section, a demented surf/punk breakdown centered on chromatic chord progression that builds up in intensity until all three musicians in the band are blazing away on their instruments at full charge. That section alone made “Welcome to Paradise” my favorite song on the album for years.

Lyrically, the song was inspired by Armstrong’s crash pad experiences in the rougher areas of Oakland, California. The song’s verse structure relies on a basic framework where key lines are repeated throughout, while certain words are swapped out for others over the course of the composition for effect. For example, in the first verse Armstrong is singing “Dear Mother can you hear me whining”, but by the last verse the line has become “Dear Mother can you hear me laughing”, which highlights his gradual acceptable of “a wasteland I like to call my home”. This approach may give the impression is that Armstrong is playing lyrical Mad Libs, but the end result is more accomplished than that implies. He isn’t hindered by the framework he has set up, and he’s always willing to swap his patterns for evocative lines like “A gunshot rings out at the station / Another urchin snaps and left dead on his own” when necessary. Using these techniques, what Armstrong is ultimately able to convey is his gradual acceptance of living away from his parent’s place, going from trepidation to exhilaration in the process.

“Welcome to Paradise” is one of the highlights of Dookie, but it remains its most underappreciated single. This probably has to do most with the lack of a music video. The band refused to let Reprise do a huge promotional push behind the track, in spite of receptive rock radio airplay (it peaked at number seven on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, and reached number 20 over in the United Kingdom). For Armstrong, the song reflected a certain period of his life and that was that; he didn’t care if there wasn’t a music video to help make the song a monster hit like “Longview” and “Basket Case” had been. Despite its lower profile compared to the album’s other hits, “Welcome to Paradise” is an excellent track that proved that Green Day lost none of its spark by leaving its indie label roots behind.

by Michael Keefe

11 Dec 2009

In the song “Paint a Vulgar Picture”, Smiths singer Morrissey once sang: “Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package! / Re-evaluate the songs / Double-pack with a photograph / Extra Track (and a tacky badge).” This was his depiction of the garish and ghoulish treatment inflicted by record labels upon artists whose time has passed. Two decades later, and the Mozzer is re-packaging himself on The Sound of the Smiths. Well, he is getting a little help from Rhino Records and his former collaborator extraordinaire, guitar Johnny Marr. In their first act of cooperation since 1987, they selected the track listing. Going their separate ways once again, that droll wordsmith Morrissey provided the title (while brushing his teeth, one presumes), and the golden-eared Marr supervised the compilation’s mastering. The sound on all of the material is superb. Along with a welcome boost in volume, Marr’s mastering sparkles and yields much greater separation between the instruments. The extra and substitute tracks here are all perfectly chosen, as well. The standard version of The Sound of the Smiths takes over as the definitive single-disc sampling of the band. A few true rarities and a generally strong selection of album tracks and b-sides on disc two probably makes the deluxe edition worth the extra seven to ten bucks, too. Either way, one of the very best bands of the 1980s is brought to a new generation of listeners, and is wonderfully refurbished (and, yes, re-packaged) for established fans.

by Nick Dinicola

11 Dec 2009

It may have sold terribly during its first month, but Dead Space: Extraction has nonetheless accomplished something few games have: the revitalization of a stale genre. In a rail-shooter, players can’t control their character’s direction, but this non-interactive movement allows the developers to set a suspenseful pace that rivals the best horror movies. Combined with the creative use of its first-person perspective and a surprisingly complex combat system, the game creates the unique feel of an interactive movie. The story is classic horror, a group of survivors band together to flee from horrible monsters, but instead of being clichéd, the interactivity makes the game truly terrifying at times. This is a must play for the adult Wii owner.

by Aaron Sagers

11 Dec 2009

The director of Clerks, Mallrats and the more-recent Zak and Miri Make a Porno is a well-documented fanboy, so he’s a natural fit for writing duties on this Batman vs. Joker comic. Although the storyline involves Onomatopoeia, a super hero serial killer who only speaks in sounds, it’s really an excuse for Smith to explore the relationship between Bats and his big bad. The dialogue is clearly Smithian and spiked with sarcasm and pop-culture references—although the Caped Crusader is chattier than normal. The story reads like Smith had a great time writing it, and the final scene between the two main characters makes the whole book worth the price of admission.

by Katharine Wray

11 Dec 2009

The life and times of rich people is not a new phenomenon born of the blogging age. The ruling class have been making sagas out of their personal life for ages. In The Secret Wife, Buckley explores the life and influence of Francoise d’Aubigne, the Sun God’s second and secret wife. Get this book for any addict of US Weekly, OK! Magazine, and other of their kilt. Hopefully, they’ll become hooked on gossip of history rather than yellow journalism. For this secret wife was steady and true; she helped her husband as much as she aided her country.

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