Advocate of the snarling downtown scene and saxophonist extraordinaire Tim Berne has released many albums during his career. Some of them have vanished from stores completely (for those of you who still like to check out stores). But fear not, he and his team at Screwgun Records have been posting numerous collections on their website here for downloading. Not all of it is old and obscure, but what is here may surprise you. Of particular interest to yours truly was his collaboration with Bill Frisell, which has probably been out of print as long as most of PopMatters’ readers have been alive.
And for those of you who enjoyed mad guitarist David Torn’s album Prezens, on which Berne played, you can inexpensively purchase Slipped on a Bar; three pieces from the sessions that were left off the album. Don’t worry, they’re long.
Legendary British metal band Iron Maiden posted a link recently to download a “preview” track from their upcoming studio album The Final Frontier, slated for release in August. This will be the band’s 15th studio album, three decades after their self-titled debut. The preview song, titled “El Dorado”, will be the second track from the new album, and it clocks in at nearly seven minutes.
While initially excited about hearing a new song from one of my favorite bands, after an email discussion with a friend and fellow metal fan, I started to have some doubts. Iron Maiden has had an incredible career, but the last two releases have hardly had the same energy and depth of earlier work. Regardless, I downloaded the track from the band’s website.
Upon first listen, I thought about the positives first. The song has all of the trademarks of a good metal song: raw, heavy guitar riffs, a tight rhythm section, and lyrics full of mythical imagery. I found myself nodding my head or rapping my fingers along to the beat numerous times. Afterwards, however, I was left with one nagging question, and that question wiped out any of the positives I just named.
Why does it sound like American thrash metal?
This isn’t the Iron Maiden that I know. The band’s trademark sound—Bruce Dickinson’s inimitable vocals, intricate guitar work by Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers, all laid down over Steve Harris’ galloping bass lines and Nicko McBrain’s drums—only presents itself in a few brief instances on “El Dorado”. - As a Maiden fan, and a metal fan in general, I found myself wanting more. Perhaps that’s one of the pitfalls of being in a band like Iron Maiden. The bar is set so high that it’s hard for to match up to what’s been done in the past. I hardly expected another “Run to the Hills”, “Aces High”, or “Wasted Years”, but I expected something better than this. I will admit that after listening to “El Dorado” half a dozen times, it’s started to grow on me, and perhaps when I listen to the remainder of the album this song will sound better to me. For now, I’ll rate this one on the low end, with hopes that I’ll change my mind after hearing The Final Frontier in its entirety this summer.
The latest version of The Smashing Pumpkins—including new drummer Mike Byrne (who fills heavy shoes) and new bassist Nicole Fiorentino—have recently unveiled the first official track from its second EP, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Vol. 2: The Solstice Bare. “Freak” is available online and for download at no charge. Billy Corgan notes that the 11 EPs he and the band envision will indeed be part of a larger project, an ambitious box set that will entail some 44 songs.
Unlike the previous Teargarden EP, “Freak” largely explores and builds on the Smashing Pumpkins’ earlier, mid-1990s sound while also very subtly hinting at the newly pointed and cultish, lysergic musical atmosphere of, say, “Astral Planes”. In fact, the swirling, hypnotic guitar bit that accompanies the principal riff is nothing but reminiscent of “Astral Planes”. But mainly the song is a marked departure from the first EP in that it doesn’t evince any sort of Led Zeppelin-oriented influence, as did both “A Song for a Son” and “A Stitch in Time”. Instead, “Freak” is particularly indebted to the uncompromisingly grungy B-sides found on Pisces Iscariot (1994). The song “Plume”, for instance, may be a credible forerunner, save that its riff is rather slow and contained. Nirvana’s In Utero (1993) also is a noticeable influence.
Lyrically, Jim Morrison’s sense of the dramatic attracts Corgan. Doors’ songs “Not to Touch the Earth” and the 11-minute rant-theatre “When the Music’s Over” (“What have they done to the earth?”) are unmistakable and flat-out obvious influences, as both are provocative and negotiate with the same topic of “Freak”. Corgan’s verse also seems a bona fide diatribe against the “killing machine”, especially during the largest oil spill in U.S. history. All of this with the Beatlesque honey of “La da da da da da da la da da da da da da da da da”. Corgan partially occludes his distinctive vitriol with the melodic and infectious. That is, “Freak” parallels Mellon Collie’s “Zero” but that the emphatic mellifluousness reigns supreme relative to the latter’s overt anger and angst.
If I told you that Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Squarepants was the highest rated show amongst kids, you probably wouldn’t be surprised. If I added that a reasonable portion of its audience is college-age adults, you still probably wouldn’t be surprised. But if I were to tell you that it is the most loved TV show amongst pet parrots, then you might think I’m insane. However, I have proof.
Bird Talk magazine recently asked its readers, “What TV Shows does your bird love?” At the top of their list was SpongeBob. While many kids’ shows made the list, possibly due to their bright colors, the common thread amongst the other responses was theme songs. Not surprisingly, the article also mentioned The Andy Griffith Show and Pink Panther.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, ever the critic’s darling, takes a hand at directing in Jack Goes Boating. Unsurprisingly, he seems to be doing what he does best: telling stories of people with simple, relatable problems. The film follows two couples navigating the pitfalls of modern relationships. Hoffman stars as Jack, who is introduced to Connie (Amy Ryan), by way of his friend Clyde (John Ortiz). Jack, a New York limo driver with dreads an affinity for reggae, cautiously approaches his potential new romantic relationship with Connie. His learning to swim seems to be a major component of the process. Complementing Jack and Connie are Clyde and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), whose marriage is precariously close to falling apart. The film comes from writer Bob Glaudini, who adapted his play for the film’s screenplay.