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by PopMatters Staff

20 Oct 2008

The real Sarah Palin appeared on Saturday Night Live this week and confused the hell out of Alec Baldwin.

Here’s a little extra web fun too.

Gov. Palin Cold Open
Gov. Palin pays a visit to the show

Update: Palin Rap
Amy steps in for Gov. Palin

by Kirstie Shanley

20 Oct 2008

It’s hard to believe that Deerhoof, the four-piece band out of San Francisco, California, just released its 13th album and has been a band for 12 years. Touring to support their latest full-length, Offend Maggie, the band has definitely refined their unique sound during these years, yet they still maintain the energy, excitement, and cutting edge quality of newer bands. In other words, Deerhoof carry no baggage but instead sound as fresh and inviting as ever.

This excitement really shone through at their packed show in Chicago. Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki not only demonstrated an awesome chemistry with her band members—play fighting and jumping on amps—but she also interacted with the audience, spreading around bags of tortilla chips and loaves of bread. She possessed an ease and sense of happiness that projected well across the audience and made the evening infinitely more enjoyable.

The band concentrated on their most recent albums, but the flow of the overall set had an unexpected quality considering the jarring transitions between some of the individual song’s verses and choruses. Despite the idiosyncratic rhythm patterns and other aspects of their sound, Deerhoof always come off as really tight live and stay essentially true to their recordings.

This show was definitely no exception with band members willing to start and stop on a dime. Matsuzaki’s vocals – in English and Japanese—filled up these songs with an enchanting feminine and repetitive element that fit well with the musical accompaniment. It’s true that Deerhoof manages to create something truly original, which is quite something in this day and age. However, the true talent of its four members lies perhaps in their ability to take their eccentric chord changes, rhythms, timing, and vocals and somehow transform them into interesting pop songs.

by Barry Lenser

20 Oct 2008

“If they had wanted to, they could have found plenty of double meanings in our early work. How about ‘I’ll Keep You Satisfied’ or ‘Please Please Me’? Everything has a double meaning if you look for it long enough.”
—Paul McCartney

It’s amusing to consider the harmless sources of inspiration behind “Please Please Me”. As John Lennon was writing what would become the Beatles’ second single, he was working off a Bing Crosby tune from the early 1930s and imagining soulful crooner Roy Orbison on vocals. As a result, “Please Please Me” was a more downcast and sonically tempered song in its earliest forms. Not ideal material for the follow-up to “Love Me Do”. George Martin was pushing for the Beatles’ cover of “How Do You Do It”, written by Mitch Murray, to claim that designation. But to their credit, the young foursome wanted their own songs to be released. Martin later relented and, after treating it to a dramatic studio revamp, which included a harmonica section, beefed-up vocals, and a faster tempo, the Beatles issued “Please Please Me” as their second single. Far from John’s formerly heartsick, bluesy conception, it emerged as an invigorating and sexually charged rush of a pop song.

I haven’t read anywhere that John greatly adjusted the lyric of “Please Please Me” between its initial and final versions. This is noteworthy because it’s hard to imagine that the song could come off as so subversively salacious (by 1963 standards, anyway) in its early Orbison-styled form. Without the fleet pace and bracing harmonica parts, what would have created the brisk energy that vigorously animates the song’s sexual subtext? Without the call-and-response “come ons” and their tone of escalating frustration, how might John have sounded so desperate for fleshy satisfaction? Overall, the studio changes would seem to have transformed “Please Please Me” into a song whose needs were urgently of the moment.

The lyric of course remains the primary reason that, for instance, Robert Christgau once described “Please Please Me” as about oral sex. The chorus speaks for itself: “Please please me oh yeah/ Like I please you”. To “please” someone strongly suggests an action taking place. In this case, an action has been performed and the performer is seeking reciprocation. The same is true of “You don’t need me to show the way love” or “I do all the pleasin’ with you”. These lines again indicate physical activity much more than any sort of non-carnal exchange of affection. The rousing “come ons”, echoed back and forth between John and the supporting vocals of Paul and George, also factor in heavily. They prompt the question: would John really be shouting “come on” in an effort to elicit greater emotional attention from his significant other? It sounds strange to ask “Oh, come on, why won’t you love me more?” The pettiness implied in that phrase better suits a request for a sexual favor. And, finally, it doesn’t require much gutter imagination to interpret the line “Why do you make me blue?” in a bawdy manner.

In the end, “Please Please Me” is entertaining as a call for equality between-the-sheets but more gratifying as a pure pop pleasure. It’s just over two minutes of impassioned vocals, meaty guitarwork, shifty percussion, and snappy momentum, with a bit of scandal to boot.

by Mike Schiller

19 Oct 2008

Eternal Sonata on the PS3

Eternal Sonata on the PS3

The more you look at this week’s group of releases, the more a sense of déjà vu takes over.  So many of the big new releases this week are either sequels or rehashes that you really have to look deep—no, like seriously deep—to find anything resembling a new idea.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.  PlayStation 3 owners are finally getting a chance to play a couple of games that Xbox 360 owners have been enjoying for a while, and each with some bonus stuff to make the experience unique enough to keep PS3 owners from being slighted.  Eternal Sonata has received the biggest makeover, with new characters, outfits, and events enhancing one of the best current generation RPGs out there.  Bioshock, for its part, is basically the same game as the one on the Xbox, but with interactive loading screens and a few new challenge rooms (not to mention the Bioshock 2 trailer that’s recently hit the web).  A re-release of Portal is showing up on the Xbox 360, for those who’ve been waiting for a version of the game to be released without the rest of The Orange Box (for whatever reason), and new releases in the Spyro and Spider-Man franchises are all over the various platforms.

Guitar Hero World Tour

Guitar Hero World Tour

The one retread that simply can’t be ignored or underestimated, however, is Guitar Hero World Tour.  Out on Sunday, it’s a rehash in two separate ways: one, it’s obviously a sequel to the other three Guitar Hero games out there, and two, it’s Activision’s acknowledgement of the game-changing Rock Band, in that its approach to the rhythm game genre is almost exactly that of Rock Band‘s.  Guitar, drums, bass, and vocals—they’re all here, and they’re going to present a serious challenge to Rock Band 2‘s popularity given the sheer recognizability of the name.  Despite the fact that so much of the new iteration of Guitar Hero is simply the following of Rock Band‘s lead, the mere fact that the new Guitar Hero totally revamps the franchise while the new Rock Band simply continues it may lead people in the direction of Activision/Neversoft’s version of the band setup for the holiday stretch.

Me, I’m looking forward to playing the Death Magnetic tracks I’ve been toying with on the guitar for the last two weeks on all of those other instruments.  Hetfield’s vocals on “All Nightmare Long” should be an especially good time.  I haven’t had a good grunting ‘n growling session in a while.

Wii Music

Wii Music

The running theme for the Wii and the DS is kids’ games.  All manner of branded whatnot is showing up this week, from various Nickelodeon and Disney brands to less recognizable IPs like Ener GBuild-a-Bear is here, High School Musical is here, and even Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? gets a couple of releases.  Of course, the sore thumb here is Wii Music, a release that’s had to endure some awfully loud mocking in the gaming community since its reveal at this year’s E3.  The thing is, it can hardly be evaluated as a game.  It is a toy.  Not only that, but it’s largely a toy for kids, with very loose definitions of success via gameplay.  I can also say that, having been able to share it with my family, it absolutely is one of those magical little games that can bring the family together for an hour of light entertainment, no matter the ages of those involved.  Heck, I had my 1-year-old wailing away on drums for a couple of minutes after she got a load of the rest of us.  I don’t think it’s a classic in the making, but it certainly shouldn’t be disparaged the way it has been over the last couple of months.

All right, having jumped off of my tiny little soapbox, and acknowledging that there are about a billion things being released this week, I must ask: What are you playing?  Are you going to spring for Midnight Club, or is Barbie Horse Adventures more your speed?  Pore over the list—and a Guitar Hero World Tour vid that never fails to fascinate me—after the jump.

by Bill Gibron

19 Oct 2008

Has another filmmaker had the same amazing meteoric rise from novice to name as Peter Jackson? A mere 21 years ago he was an unknown Kiwi geek who had spent four years making his own monster movie. A quick sale at Cannes and his alien cannibal comedy was a glorified cult smash. But consider where he was in 1999. With only six feature films under his belt, and limited commercial cache to show for it, New Line named him the guide for their all important Lord of the Rings franchise. Three epics, billions of dollars, and a trio of Oscars later, Jackson is now a monumental moviemaking figure, an example of talent trumping the standard studio thinking. Looking back at 1987’s Bad Taste now, it’s clear that this was a director worth watching. But it’s also clear that, within his limited budgetary purview, there was more ambition than ability. 

The entire town of Kaihoro, New Zealand is missing, and its up to the Astro Investigation and Defence Service to figure out why. While Derek determines the extent of the damage, Barry explores the deserted city. He is attacked by a zombie and barely escapes with his life. Frank and Ozzy phone in, explaining they will be delayed in providing backup. In the meantime, Derek watches over a captured creature, hoping to determine their extraterrestrial flesh eating motives. An accident puts the mission in jeopardy, and when a charitable collector named Giles comes to town, he is kidnapped by the fiends. Turns out, aliens have indeed landed, and they intend to use Earth for some nefarious culinary aims. It is up to our foursome to put a stop to the plot, to save Giles, and keep the rest of the universe from experiencing the Bad Taste of Crumb’s Crunchy (Human) Delights.

Revisiting this film after almost two decades reveals something very interesting - not only about what Jackson managed to accomplish, but with regards to that other rarified element, selective cinematic memory. Fans fondly remember Bad Taste as being an over the top splatter fest loaded with blood, bile, and body parts. In the windmills of one’s ever mottled mind, it was an action packed farce, denim clothed zombies carving up the community while oddball government agents pass ironic judgment on the entire proceedings. With a last act that loses sight of the sluice and a gonzo gross out sense of humor, it was the first real film dork delight…

…except, none of this is really true. Like most myths, the legend of Bad Taste has been expanded (and exploited) to fit the gore lovers revisionist nostalgic needs. Compared to Jackson’s brilliant Braindead (known to most as Dead Alive), this first film is relatively sedate. The arterial spray is evident, but slyly spaced out over the longish 90 minute running time. Similarly, the Kiwi genius has been funnier. Bad Taste is not as clever or cutting as Meet the Feebles, and lacks the consistency of his lauded later works. Finally, the film is not as frightening as one recalls. The final fifteen minutes is taken up with an extended gun battle which grows redundant after a while. Indeed, much of the movie plays exactly like what it is/was - a weekend workout among a bunch of schlock supporting fanatics.

It’s a situation that stands repeating - Bad Taste is not a classic. It’s not even the best example of this kind of cracked carnage. Instead, like most first efforts, it’s the foundation for a filmic type, the natural extension of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead dementia filtered through a legitimate horror fan’s fancy. Jackson is a noted student of the scary, able to wax wonderfully about everything from early Universal frights to the most obscure foreign fear factors. Bad Taste relishes that referencing. Rumor has it that Jackson fashioned it as a tribute to Tom Savini and you can see other noted homages throughout. Again, this doesn’t make the movie a milestone, just a smart, sometimes special experience.

It’s fun to watch Jackson in the unusual mode of actor, and a clean shaven one at that. As Derek, the head of Astro Investigation and Defense Service, he is almost unrecognizable. Talking in a high pitched accent that gives his entire demeanor a wimpified gloss, he’s hilarious and hopeless at the same time. When he puts on the familiar facial hair to play tongue tied alien Robert, it’s back to the human hobbit we know and love. The rest of the cast, made up of mates, chums, and other local well wishers, offer nothing more than glorified line readings, if that. Only a couple went on to pursue a career in film after Bad Taste. So this is clearly a homemade effort, a combination of desire and unbridled gumption given over to frequent fits of brilliance and, sadly, boredom. Viewed within the confined of contemporary splatter, Jackson’s jaunt is almost inert.

In fact it’s hard to champion long sequences of walking and worrying, the amazing New Zealand landscape providing the only real interest. Even more frustrating is the lack of continuous action. We don’t expect a film from 1987 to be Shoot ‘Em Up, but the lack of unbroken energy does undermine things. Once we get into the alien stronghold, things pick up immensely, and there’s no denying the effectiveness of Jackson’s handcrafted F/X (he even baked his monster masks in this mother’s oven). But then the guns come out and Bad Taste shifts into creative cruise control. Watching extras flail wildly as they are riddled with squibs is one thing. Seeing it for several similar minutes feels like padding.

As a way of looking at Peter Jackson Version 1.0, the man who would later evolve into a myth, Bad Taste is a telling template. It offers up many of the things he would later explore in his creative canon, while suggesting that something happened along the way to significantly amplify his game. Watching any number of his recent films - from Heavenly Creatures to Return of the King - argues for Taste‘s treatment as a fluke. It’s as if Chris Seaver went from making Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker to The Dark Knight in the span of a decade. When legend slams head on into the truth, the pile up is never pretty. Luckily, Bad Taste is better than such a collision suggests. It’s also rather underwhelming.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

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