One Star Hotel: Good Morning, West Gordon

Dominic Umile

One Star Hotel

Good Morning, West Gordon

Label: Stereo Field Recordings
US Release Date: 2004-11-22
UK Release Date: Available as import

Just as they guiltlessly plundered organ riffs from the Band and made them their own last year, One Star Hotel again walks the fine line between honest singalong radio and indie pop stardom on their second full-length release. The glue on Good Morning, West Gordon is wedged between the band's eagerness to carry forth the starry-eyed simplicity that distinguished the first record, and the ease with which they've polished this simplicity: by way of ever-thickening keys, percussion, pedal steel, and oh yes, the harmonies.

Good Morning, West Gordon is a welcoming portrait of Steve Yutzy-Burkey's songbook, loaded with the four-star numbers that he pens for One Star Hotel. Yutzy-Burkey is the band's songsmith, also commandeering the guitar, vocal, and organ duties. Lending an almost ubiquitous hand to Philadelphia's pop sound, Bitter Bitter Brian McTear governs the production end of the foursome's second album. He does so with the same warming results that admirers have come to expect, as found in the recent Bigger Lovers outing, Mazarin, Matt Pond PA, and others. One Star Hotel has opted for an even louder brand of rock this time around, and in some spots, these layers of sound elevate Yutzy-Burkey's wanton, heartfelt lyrics to heights even nobler in stature.

In "Starlight", Yutzy-Burkey's words read like an AMC Matinee film script. The piece opens with the formula that One Star has mastered on this record: the piling-on of elements so dense that each instrument can be clearly identified, but for only a second as jubilance enters stages left and right with startling velocity. "Starlight"'s opening sentiment calls to mind Jeff Tweedy's m.o. in the era of A.M.: "They know you tend to live out loud, you stay up all night, and try to work things out / But in the arms of another, you'll soon find yourself in freshly made-up mind / 'I am controlled by the tide,' you said, underneath the haze of city lights". The verse's melody here is far too significant to be quarantined off, so they borrow it for the chorus too. But before the chorus, guest Cornel Rempel whistles alongside a single note guitar solo with his saw, and Mr. Rempel's tool shed interjection makes the orchestrated outro section all the more noteworthy.

The band ventures out into the backyard for the album's title track, as Good Morning, West Gordon boasts songbird and street sound accompaniment behind its opening mellotron loop. Again, it's not long before the whole neighborhood is involved in some kind of baptism barbeque celebration. Skyward harmonies abound, and One Star Hotel leaves no one behind for this plentiful hymn. Remarkably, an airplane can be heard overhead when the instruments die down, as if it had been beckoned by the scrambling alt-country congregation below. Yutzy-Burkey doesn't miss a beat; beginning the subsequent and final vocal line with "In the spring, when the planes take to the sky…" Coincidence? That would be creepy. The final chapter draws on One Star's ability to draft works for come-down time. It's still huge and baked, but they bring the tempo down and allow room for the post-party celebration to take hold.

Good Morning, West Gordon is louder than the band's first recording, at times rattling windows like they were taking a stab at their own Vets Stadium implosion. The moments spent on a softer approach here are followed closely behind by an extended, lush arrangement that adds a jolt to an already improved One Star Hotel. They've marched forward in deceptively simple-sounding melodies, matching their desperate undertones with weighty instrumentation and an earnest lyric notebook.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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