The spate of post-mortem Johnny Cash product shows no sign of abating, but unlike much of what’s come out in the last four years, The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show is worthwhile to both the casual Cash fan and anyone interested in American popular music. For more than four hours, we’re treated not only to Cash’s many hits—“Ring of Fire”, “I Walk the Line”, “A Boy Named Sue” and others are given the expected airings—but also to a bevy of tunes that formed the foundation of Cash’s music: his wonderful reading of Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues”, several old Carter Family songs, a holy heap of gospel numbers, and much, much more. There’s a lot of great stuff on this collection, and the guest list for Cash’s show was eclectic and impressive: Stevie Wonder, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, James Taylor, Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, among many more.
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If you loved Casino Royal and thought this hard-edged yet flippant character—without the tongue-in-cheek that usually accompanies a 007 film—is exactly what the spy genre needs, go back to the beginning. Before Sean Connery became James Bond in 1962, Patrick McGoohan was finding danger as John Drake as early as 1960. No, he wasn’t the first in the spy genre, nor did he popularize it, but he was one of the coolest to covertly defend the free world this side of Golgo 13. Danger Man, better known as the “Secret Agent” to US viewers, had his own show from 1960 to 1966 and every episode can be found on the Complete Collection from A&E home video, further cementing the channel’s love affair with classic British programming. In each adventure, Drake must use his wits to find a way to route out his enemies. Sometimes this is nothing more than overpowering a strongman or wrestling a gun from a sharpshooter, but more often than not it means going deep undercover as a swinging disc jockey, a savvy technician, or an unassuming salesman. The series doesn’t have the same ‘60s vibe of Mission: Impossible, but it does capture the optimism of the era after the Red Scare of the ‘50s and before the gritty reality of the Vietnam War set in.
The Nintendo DS, to this point, is best known for light, fluffy fare, games like Brain Age and WarioWare: Touched that can be played and enjoyed in a matter of minutes. Developer Renegade Kid and publisher Gamecock are looking to shift that reputation (or, at least, fly in the face of it) with this year’s Halloween release of Dementium: The Ward. Not since the DS iteration of Resident Evil has a DS game so thoroughly sought to creep us out, but Dementium, through its effective use of music and surprisingly immersive atmosphere, does just that. Renegade Kid works effectively within the parameters defined by the DS to present a control scheme worth using and a story worth telling. Dementium is the perfect gift for the surly high schooler who complains that the DS you got him for his birthday only plays baby games.
The ideologies may change, but the implements of the shock (“elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations, and skeletal social spending”) don’t ever seem to change, nor does the ever-yawning gulf between the wealthy few and the poor and powerless many. Klein convincingly argues in this crushingly pessimistic but magisterial work that the future could well be a “cruel and ruthlessly divided” place where “money and race buy survival”.
System of a Down: Right Here in Hollywood
by Ben Myers
Heirs apparent to Rage Against the Machine’s abdicated rap-metal throne, fellow Los Angelinos System of a Down exploded onto the national scene right around the time (a) those willfully monotonous agit-proppers parted ways and (b) terrorists crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, lending the lyrics “self-righteous suicide” an eerie prescience. System radiate a political, social, and cultural disgust as intense as that of their forebears, but there are a few key differences: System’s conception of metal is both dizzyingly psychotic and pan-global, reflecting the activism-friendly quartet’s varied musical interests, shared Armenian-American heritage, and appreciation of the value of rock spectacle through a cracked prism. With hit singles like pop-thrash, mock anthem “B.Y.O.B.” (from 2005’s Mesmerize) or the alternately lush and abrasive “Chop Suey!” (from 2001’s Toxicity), System had their cake and scarfed it, too, on a level most artists pray to hit—delivering surreally subversive steaks under dazzling sizzle and making the charts. While Right Here in Hollywood certainly won’t be the last word on the group, it serves as a handy repository of media reports to date, many of which U.K. author Ben Myers penned for Kerrang!. Scholarly, this ain’t: there’s an unnecessarily nasty, partisan edge to the walls of cultural exposition Myers builds while relating System to the general cultural climate of the late 1990s that leaves a bad aftertaste; a shame, since the windows opened into band members’ individual lives reveal a lot. Who would have thought that pre-System, inventively histrionic lead singer Serj Tankian founded and ran a business customizing “accounting software systems for the jewelry industry in California”? Or that System, early on, were known as Soil? Or that these four go cuckoo the chronic? Answer: anybody with a day to kill and access to Google. But Myers’ deserves credit for compiling all these separate strands and interview pieces into a compelling narrative—and this is important—really exploring the nuts, bolts, emotions, influences, and impacts of System recordings and related side-project output, something super-fan’s biogs like this one usually can’t be bothered with.