Friday, October 29, 2010

Liz Phair Dazzles And Frazzles With Funstyle

Liz Phair"You were never supposed to hear these songs. These songs lost me my management, my record deal and a lot of nights of sleep." — Liz Phair

So begins the introduction from Liz Phair on her Facebook page before inviting people to love them or hate them. She doesn't care so much. They are all her. So did almost everything she has produced over the years. Sometimes it's better not to understand it, especially as that message is being pushed harder than the songs.

Like many people, I was first introduced to Phair's music via her two most brilliant works, Exile in Guyville and Whip-Smart. There was plenty to like on the offbeat Whitechocolatespaceegg too. Yet another album nearly cost her a contract, with previously supportive Matador Records rejecting the album as produced. It was nothing new.

"Liz Phair is Rickie Lee Jones (more talked about than heard, a persona completely unrooted in substance, and a fucking chore to listen to)..." — Steve Albini, Evanston, 1994, referring to Exile

She then went on to piss some people off with her self-titled album, Liz Phair, and Somebody's Miracle too. Capitol Records, which produced those Matrixized fanbase crushers (the stuff the media loved), was unwilling to release the self-titled album as submitted. So why should this year be any different? Capitol Records is gone. ATO is gone. Her management is gone.

Funstyle Is Polarizing And Paralyzing At The Same Time.

Phair wants to produce music. And she wants to produce music the way she wants to produce it. This time around, there are plenty of experimental tracks and not much to hold it together as an album.

And even before listening to anything, the person who introduced me to Liz Phair quipped, lately, she wants to like Liz Phair more than she likes Liz Phair. She's not alone. Many fans miss this...

You won't find any of it on Funstyle. In fact, you'd be better off digging up That Dog to hear the best music Phair never made. What you will find instead is a musical freeform self-styled solo orgasm, which makes it beautiful at moments and ugly at others. It's brazen, with no rules and the lights on.

The best of it includes superimposed melodies and conflicted arrangements on You Should Know Me; and the hints of where she came from tucked inside And He Slayed Me (maybe the best track). Those are followed up with the lo-fi Bang! Bang!, the metaphoric Oh, Bangladesh, and the possible Capitol Records dig, Satisfied.

That's it. But those five also work in a fashion that the last track, U Hate It, sums up nicely. U Hate It is the track that has most critics buzzing. They say it's about the industry (and quietly about them). You tell me. You don't have to listen to it; the dubs overpowering the music are written in full right here.

U Hate It is the fallback commentary because most seem lost in wanting to hate it, loving that they hate it, and being afraid to hate it. This is not so new from Phair; at least not to anyone who heard Batmobile.

For everything wrong with the five songs listed, there is also something cool about music for people quietly harboring angst and wanting to play against the grain. The rest? Well, Miss September is boring and the remainder rap-blues-reggae infused stylings can be chalked up to the ugliness I mentioned earlier. And understanding that, I don't love or hate it. I accept it.

Liz Phair Funstyle Plays On A 4.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Funstyle is what it is. It's a transparent transitional work from an artist who never cared much for people talking about how they "know" her based on the songs she belts out. It also seems to be likely why she says the album best represents her. There is more to Phair than a single stroke across the canvas of a career. She has stuff we might hate inside her. Don't we all.

Funstyle by Liz Phair is on iTunes. You can also find Funstyle on Amazon.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Black Order By James Rollins Crosses Genetics And Genres

Black Order By James RollinsIn a private preserve nestled against the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, a mythological beast is preying on the largest of protected wildlife. And it is this beast's first unseen appearance in the Black Order by James Rollins that is one of several unforgettable moments in the book when the author brushes his thriller against horror.

It happens as game warden Khamisi Taylor heads down a ravine with Dr. Marcia Fairfield to inspect the remains of a black rhino. Khamisi, a descendant of the proud Zulu people, makes note of the unusual silence under the canopy. Except for insects, there seems to be no noise. And the rhino, slain by an unknown predator larger than a lion, is mostly intact and untouched by carrion feeders.

There could be only one explanation. The predator must still be in the area. And their fears are confirmed with a feral scream.

It is shortly after the scream when Rollins shares a more disturbing thought. This predator, or perhaps predators, didn't kill the rhino for food. It killed for the sport of it.

Black Order Is A High-Powered Thriller Blending Science, Mythology, And Special Ops.

Never mind that the book belongs within the context of the SIGMA Force series written by James Rollins (aka James Clemens aka Jim Czajkowski), Black Order stands on its own. Most SIGMA Force books do, each offering a singular event for well-developed characters to endure.

The only backgrounder that might be helpful is understanding what SIGMA Force is: a fictional division of the U.S. DARPA program, best described as highly-skilled military operatives and expert scientists with personalities reminiscent of Indiana Jones. But even so, reviewing the finer details of the SIGMA Force only detracts from the plot of Black Order, which centers on the Die Glocke (The Bell), a top secret Nazi scientific project.

Speculation of the Die Glocke is all too real, with historic ties that link to antigravity, free energy, and (perhaps) quantum mechanics as it relates to evolution. Its primary historic reference comes from Polish researcher Igor Witkowski, who claimed the Nazis were close to inventing an anti-gravity machine. The experiment, and the scientists involved, were all erased as Russians advanced toward Berlin.

Rollins capitalizes on the mythos by conjuring up a fantastic scenario in which the Nazis do not destroy all the remnants of the project, but rather steal it away to the Himalayas. There, the descendants of the survivors live out their lives in obscurity, hiding not only to protect the power of Die Glocke but also its secondary side effects that can potentially produce a race of Aryan supermen or genetic disruptions that cause a "plague" at a nearby remote Himalayan monastery.

Quantum Mechanics Never Seemed More Applicable.

Like many authors in this genre, Rollins provides readers with several seemingly unrelated threads and then begins to meticulously tie them together. And in the vein of Dan Brown, he blends researchable fact with fiction, creating a sometimes fascinating, sometimes enlightening, and sometimes terrifying account.

In this case, Rollins deserves credit for exploring some concepts related to quantum mechanics. You don't have to have an interest in the field of study to enjoy the read. He delivers just enough to give quantum novices some understanding against the backdrop of an adventure thriller crossed with special operatives.

James RollinsOf course, for those with an interest in quantum mechanics, there is no shortage of groundwork as exploration points. However, recanting it all now detracts from the much more adventurous race against the clock. Except, there is not one race. There are three mysteries, playing out concurrently and each laying groundwork for the bigger story.

Interesting enough, the book also touches on the author's background in evolutionary biology. He is also an amateur spelunker and a certified scuba diver, skills he frequently taps for his other books. Prior to becoming a successful author, he opened a veterinary practice in Sacramento, California.

Black Order By James Rollins Rings With 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There is no mistake that Rollins can pen an intriguingly intelligent and action-oriented thriller. If there is any weakness in the writing, it can only be found in the relationships. Those tend to be confined to the surface, as most characters are painted to be immature and brutish. It's a slight, but noticeable, distraction.

Black Order by James Rollins is available at Amazon. The audio version of Black Order is on iTunes and read by Grover Gardner. The narrative seems abrasive at first, but smooths out as you're taken in by the story.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Steeple Sets A New Stage For Wolf People

Steeple by Wolf PeopleAlthough the band was formed just four years ago, it is safe to say Wolf People is firmly rooted in the past. Their entire album, Steeple, is reminiscent of a 1970s rock classic. But it wasn't recorded in the 70s. It was recorded this year.

Before Steeple, this British quartet had only released 7” singles and one limited edition EP called Tidings. Where Tidings only hinted at potential greatness, Steeple delivers. This is an album everyone would have bought back in the 70s, and it's smart to have it today.

Best described as genre shifting, but with firm roots in blues, electric English folk, progressive rock, and psychedelic rock, Wolf People is influenced by all the greats: Jimi Hendrix, Blind Faith, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Jeff Beck.

Some people say there is some Black Sabbath in the mix too. I don't know. Despite influences, Wolf People clearly blaze their own path with a massive sound. They emulate far less than many throwbacks, with the musicians strong enough to stand on their own.

Wolf People Gave Steeple Deeper Roots Than The 1970s.

Band members Joe Hollick, Dan Davies, Tom Watt and frontman Jack Sharp recorded Steeple in a converted chicken barn located on the grounds of a 17th century Welsh farm. And yeah, that in and of itself helps create some very poignant 70s rock.

The result is well worth the effort, especially with Watt’s unabashed driving percussion, roaring rhythm, blazing riffs, and Sharp’s solid voice. The latter sometimes takes criticism for getting lost in the mix or not being strong enough. I vehemently disagree, having grown up in an age when the vocals were part of the music. Sharp's voice is the icing on a heavily layered cake. Heavy, like Tiny Circle.

As for Steeple, there isn't a bad track in the mix. And, the purposeful vinyl scratch that can be heard here and there only adds to the allure.

Some standouts include Silbury Sands with its righteous kickass riffs, and Tiny Circle for some fearsome flute that pays homage to Ian Anderson. After that, it's a nice piece of twisty metal in One By One from Dorney Beach and a blistering solo tucked inside Painted Cross. The latter might be the masterpiece of the album.

Wolf People's Steeple Howls With A 7.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The easiest way to sum up Steeple is to call it what it is: timeless, consistent, and only slightly self-indulgent. That's by design. And it's also why indie label Jagjaguwar has a real find here.

You can find Steeple by the Wolf People on iTunes. On Amazon, look for Steeple [+Digital Booklet].

What you won't find is Wolf People on tour. We're hoping to see a schedule soon beyond an event booked at the O2 Academy Islington. And if we're very lucky, maybe they'll join fellow labelmates Black Mountain again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CharityBuzz Brings Good Will, Celebrities, And People Together

There is something innately right about celebrities wanting to do good. When they do, people take notice and are often willing to support a cause that is near and dear to the celebrity's heart.

New York-based CharityBuzz provides a vehicle for celebrities and organizations to do just that. They use mainstream and social media to build buzz around celebrity auctions that benefit any number of partnering nonprofit organizations.

The concept is quite simple. The celebrity or organization donates an item to be auctioned, with proceeds slated to benefit a favorite charity. Bidding begins eBay style, with a minimum bid, estimated value, and increments that depend on the item's value.

CharityBuzz Is Addictive For All The Right Reasons.

One look at the site and the bidding become addictive. You feel compelled to browse, tripping away time just to see what might be available. You might not even intend to bid, especially if you see some of the amounts.

The real draw, at first, is to take a look and see what is available. The sheer expansiveness of what’s up for auction is entertaining. The celebrities and the nonprofit organizations are creative in their approach.

You could bid on a meet and greet with Sheryl Crow, and take home a signed guitar to remember it. Proceeds (valued at $20,000, with bidding at $5,000) will benefit The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation. The connection is obvious. Crow is a cancer survivor and has been a gracious donor ever since.

Or maybe you prefer to work out with Hugh Jackman, who is prepping for his next X-Men flick. His donation benefits The Global Poverty Project. Or maybe you want to meet Naomi Watts on the set of her upcoming film. She is auctioning this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to benefit World Orphans Foundation.

Or maybe you're looking for a luxurious experience on your own. Perhaps you will bid on a seven-night stay at Sir Richard Branson’s private Necker Island. Valued at $32,000, this gift will support Gabrielle's Angel Foundation. Or maybe you'll settle for a secondhand item, like a Honda Fury motorcycle donated and handpainted by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda.

At $15,000, it seems like a deal to support the Japanese American National Museum and Music for Relief. So does the chance to play golf with Michelle Wie at Pebble Beach. Or an internship with Judith Ripka or Gotham Magazine. You get the idea.

How Does CharityBuzz Work And Are There Commissions?

Currently, CharityBuzz is managed by CEO and co-founder S. Coppy Holzman, a 25-year veteran with Internet and consumer products experience. He is credited with developing an upscale cause marketing fundraising niche, which is now gaining momentum. The Connecticut -based company recently moved to Manhattan.

There is no commission on the items and experiences. However, you will have to pay for shipping, handling, and processing. The minimum is $9.95, even on experiences. For items that need to be shipped, CharityBuzz includes a total estimate.

That is an admirable structure, especially because celebrities are able to raise more for their favorite charities. Beyond that, the site accepts corporate sponsorships. And some nonprofit organizations make arrangements for customized buttons and other materials.

Recently, Ralph Lauren’s Pink Pony Fund was added to the roster. Ralph Lauren is personally backing his support of programs for early diagnosis, research, education, and treatment of breast cancer.

You can bid on: a weekend at Lauren’s villa in Jamaica, Ralph Lauren dresses worn by supermodels such as Cindy Crawford, a tour of Lauren’s car collection, surfing lessons with Layne Beachley, artwork, jewelry, Ralph Lauren advertising props, and even the chance to have your dog star in a Ralph Lauren ad.

CharityBuzz Is A Liquid Hip Good Will Pick.

At least once a month, Liquid [Hip] highlights good will efforts undertaken by courageous people with big hearts. We don’t score them. That belongs to you.

If we did score it, I'd give high marks. For $125, I was the winning bidder for ballet shoes signed by New York City Ballet principal dancer Ashley Bouder.

Proceeds from this auction benefited the Columbus Citizens Foundation, a New York nonprofit that provides scholarships and grants to deserving Italian-American students. The foundation also organizes New York City’s annual Columbus Day Parade.

You can allow follow CharityBuzz on Facebook, but the auctions take place on the CharityBuzz site. It's innovative and has inspired some celebrities to be even more creative as they do good.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Care Bears On Fire Up With Girls Like It Loud

Care Bears On FireIs there such a thing as provocative pop punk? I never thought so until I dialed down the Brooklyn-based Care Bears on Fire. Their new album fills the gap between what some people expect kids to sing about and they want to sing about.

Formed when this trio of now now teenaged girls — Sophie (guitars and vocals), Izzy (drums and backing vocals), and Jena (bass and backing vocals) — hit fifth grade, they prove you can toss out all the stereotypes associated with the pop kid-core category.

There's more than a bit of New York attitude anti-pop culture sentiment from this trio. They keep it real.

They like their music loud. Hate friends who mooch. And think your little girl's iconic Barbie needs to eat something. So what if they appeared on Nickelodeon's True Jackson, VP, with Justin Bieber. There is something unmistakably anti-Bieber about them in that they are moving further away from the mass appeal and toward a more versatile niche.

"It's really important to be able to make your points and not feel scared to say what you think." — Sophie

Collaboration is also important to the trio, which has changed out bass players twice, first to become an all-girl band and then over creative differences. The newest member is Jena, who joined with their full-length album in 2009. The new EP, which this review covers, is decidedly more mature.

The EP, Girls Like It Loud, features four new songs, a cover, and three videos, including Barbie Eat A Sandwich and two versions of Everybody Else. The showcase songs are What I Could Be and ATM. They power through these tunes even with only one more year under their hemlines. Pass on the cover of Everybody Wants To Rule World. It's been done. And much better.

While the girls receive their fair share of criticism, they're maturing as a band with the promise to have fewer transitional pains as they mature. Sure, they are young and tackling the less taken path, but that is where many greats have come from over the years.

The music has an angry bent sometimes, but Care Bears On Fire try to deliver it all with a smile. In catching up on their early careers, I noted they don't always take the presentation seriously, but they take music and collaboration very seriously. They've learned a lot working with both Adam Schlesinger and Travis Clark in 2009.

Care Bears On Fire, Girls Like It Loud, Burns Brightly With A 4.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Twenty years from now, this will be the band that everybody will be reading about no matter where it goes or how it ends. One of these girls could easily be the next Joan Jett or Micki Steele, with the best possible endings. In the meantime, Sophie, Izzy, and Jena have a band that is already drawing in an older crowd.

Girls Like It Loud by the Care Bears On Fire is available on iTunes. On Amazon, you won't find Girls Like It Loud, but you might find a few notable tracks on Get Over It, including Barbie Eat A Sandwich.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On The Road With Jack Kerouac, Again

On The Road by Jack Kerouac"Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same person's name in each work." — Jack Kerouac

They are almost all gone now, except for the pages of a single book, once called "The Scroll" by author Jack Kerouac (because it was typed on a 120-foot piece of paper). And there it is. On the Road might have turned 50 years old (from the writing), but anyone who reads it today might note the resemblances. Not much has changed. At least, not as much as you think.

In the bleaker period before Americans found the promise of 1950s suburbia, the postwar Beat Generation was in full force. And among them, were some of the most interesting, complex, and conflicted characters who ever crossed the continent.

Yes, yes, Truman Capote might have quipped that Kerouac didn't write a novel but typed one, but Kerouac's unabashed authenticity captured the spirit of a generation. At its center and opposite Kerouac (Sal Paradise) is Neal Leon Cassady (Dean Moriarty) whose influences spanned well beyond his death in 1968.

He was written about by everybody from Hunter S. Thompson to Ken Kesey and immortalized in songs by the Grateful Dead and Tom Waits. But nobody knew him better than Kerouac.

On The Road Is Epically Charged And Unrestrained.

With as much as Kerouac managed to jam in his unsettled and frantic life, it is a wonder he ever had time to write. While he never mentions it in the book, he wrote the details down in small notebooks as he went.

It is packed with the frantic pace that he lived, clunked out details that shift from whatever is in front of him as the landscape rolled by to most of his favorite topics — jazz, promiscuity, drugs, poverty, innocence, innocence lost, and crossing America with virtually nothing. He traveled that way (and back) three times, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends, with the last trip descending deep in Mexico. He never minded.

Jack Kerouac"Isn't it true that you start your life a sweet child, believing in everything under your father's roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome, grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life." — Jack Kerouac

Tucked inside the ramblings of excited youth that often sound aged with experience, Kerouac leaves little bits of wisdom and advice that collectively have changed so many people's lives. One of my favorite parts places Dean and Sal in the back seat of a car, making fun of the people in the front seat.

For all their worries of when they will get someplace, and what will they do, and how they will eat, and where will they stay, and how do they make sure they waste no more time ... they seem remarkably silly wasting all that time on worries when everything they really need in life is right there next to them. There is no better time to think, reflect, talk, and dig each other, strengthening the connection between between two or more people who are right there, right then.

I cannot imagine what either would think today, as people miss half a meal to the importance of checking messages on the cell phone. But that's okay. It's the road we take. Or as Kerouac writes, "What's your road man?" --holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow." No matter where you are, you pick it.

Kerouac's road, given the life he led, was incredibly short or impossibly long if measured in the number of deep connections made. On The Road and many other of his books were all published late, frequently because they were too untamed for his time.

On The Road By Jack Kerouac Carries On With A 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

mapAlthough On The Road reads like a fiction, his autobiographical adventure is experimental, scandalous, and sympathetic in tone toward minorities. While many people consider it a search for revelation, there are times Kerouac convinced me he was trying to learn how to just be like the jazz greats of his time. But for him, on his road was the only place he could do it. It, for the kicks.

On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) is available on Amazon. But if you want to treat yourself to something equally memorable, consider the On The Road: 50th Anniversary Edition (Unabridged) on iTunes.

Will Patton delivers an impression few will ever follow in that it conveys what Hilary Holladay at at the University of Massachusetts said about Kerouac's work. "And if you read the book closely, you see that sense of loss and sorrow swelling on every page." With Patton, you can actually hear it. It makes me curious if Sam Riley will catch it for the silver screen. Coppola's American Zoetrope began production in August.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Get Lost After The Wreckage With Will Hoge

Will HogeWhen Will Hoge released an early EP of original music with his band Spoonful, nobody picked up the self-released Tales Begin To Spin and the band broke up. The disheartening start didn't derail the singer/songwriter. He went on to pursue his brand of blues-infused rock anyway.

Touring incessantly with former Georgia Satellites guitarist Dan Baird (who later left), Hoge slowly began to gain a loyal following. A few years after that, he finally made his mark as a blue collar rocker with Carousel. But his best work was still far off, several releases later with The Wreckage.

The theme? Hoge has always leaned toward life's sometimes cruel and dark turns. And he's no stranger to them. A near fatal accident made him give up music for some time while he relearned how to walk. Eight months later, he was back in the studio. The Wreckage features a seasoned songwriter whose voice is smokier than in his early work.

“It’s hard to explain, but I felt a certain serenity making [The Wreckage],” he said of the album. “It doesn’t come through in the songs, but the process has become easier, and I believe the songs flow with more confidence.”

Sometimes with Hoge, it's hard to say. Here he is in pre-Wreckage form, in an appearance at The Loft in Atlanta. He usually performs with Sigurdur Birkis (drums) and Adam Beard (bass and vocals).

The Acoustic Sessions Brings The Wreckage Up Close And Personal.

Although The Wreckage was released in 2009, I was reminded of it with the release of The Living Room Sessions, an acoustic EP that covers some songs again. It's a broody mixture that showcases the ruggedness only people who see him live really know about. It also captures how personal he comes across (and it's much more in tune with the video above).

“I like acoustic recordings that try to be different from the album versions,” says Hoge. “We just got together and camped out at my house for a couple of days… it’s not a home studio, no real fancy set-up or multi-tracking."

The result is a more relaxed Southern-infused version of his studio songs, with Even If It Breaks Your Heart the best of the bunch. The song is even stronger as an acoustic cut. His voice also sounds more pained and purposeful on the new cuts of Goodnight/Goodnight, Favorite Waste of Time, and Too Late, Too Soon.

Sure, for several years now, many bands and musicians have released acoustic sessions. Some hope to extend the shelf life of their albums. Not all of them work. But for Hoge, almost every revisit adds more than the original.

I say almost, only because the original Long Gone feels better with more energy behind it. As for the rest, however, The Living Room Sessions are as close to touching Hoge as it gets on an album. I like him better real, without any redubbing.

Will Hoge Shatters The Wreckage With The Living Room Sessions At 5.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Living Room Sessions are not an attempt to get more mileage out of the same. Hoge proves he has some power as a confessional rocker. The Living Room Sessions can be downloaded on iTunes.

But if you want to hear more from him, then compare some of the singles to The Wreckage. You'll also want to pick up Just Like Me from that album. It's best served with scotch and self-reflection. Will Hoge is touring around right now. Most of the dates are listed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Carolina Herrera Embraces Simplicity And Sophistication

Carolina Herrera"I love the idea of elegance and intricacy, but whether it is in a piece of clothing or a fragrance, the intricacy must appear as simplicity." — Carolina Herrera

There is nothing common (or inexpensive) about Carolina Herrera. Most of her line at Saks Fifth Avenue retails from $500 to $2,200. There is a reason for that, which is why she recently earned the "Mercedes-Benz Presents" designer title for her spring/summer collection. She infuses culture into every design, with her spring collection for 2011 tapping Korean and other Asian influences.

Sometimes they work, especially when Herrera sticks to her mantra of simplicity. When the look becomes extremely bold, it casts too much attention on the prints and patterns. But when she focuses her impeccable attention to fabrics, colors, and simple cuts, Herrera’s stuff works. That was the real appeal of her pre-fall collection.

How Carolina Herrera Found Her Own Timelessness.

While Herrera might have been born into traditional Latin American aristocracy and seemed to thrive in the jet set lifestyle, running in the same social circles as Princess Margaret, Annie Leibovitz, and Andy Warhol, her beginnings as a fashion designer were humble. She had to borrow a New York apartment to show off 20 dresses to friends and acquaintances 30 years ago.

She couldn't even afford to produce an entire line. And had Armando de Armas not agreed to back her, there may be no growing fashion empire today. So while I might be grounded, I can appreciate anyone with an eye for art no matter where they start. And Herrera, for certain, has an eye for art, fashion, and style.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in her fall line, where she emphasizes the ultra-luxe, opting for a lighter tone with brushstroke prints and floral embroideries but allowing okra and deep red colors to make a statement. There’s a lean, vintage feel to the look, complete with high-waisted pants and blouses with real volume. (Herrera is known as the queen of the puffy sleeves.)

Fragrances That Are Well Within Reach.

The designer makes an equally sophisticated statement with her signature line of fragrances, which are, not surprisingly, inspired by her clothing but with a more accessible feel. You don’t have to have a generous bank balance to wear her scents.

For her Carolina by Carolina Herrera for women, Herrera tapped master perfumier Olivier Cresp to develop the scent, which can be best defined as comfortable and classic. It’s a fresh, floral scent with a clean, woodsy note. I opted for the 1.7 oz. eau de toilette as a gift (3.4 oz. is also available), and it came packaged with eal elegance: embossed red leather box and red ribbon affixing the CH initials. Pretty sharp.

Herrera also makes fragrances for men. There’s 212 by Carolina Herrera and 212 Sexy. The former is the better choice. It’s more classic and seems to last longer than the latter, which fades pretty quickly.

Carolina by Carolina Herrera Earns A Classy 6.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The designer’s fragrances are priced right in line with comparable brands. You can find Carolina Herrera CH eau de toilette spray and Carolina Herrera 212 online.

But if you want to really experience the sophistication of Carolina Herrera, visit one of her boutiques. She opened her fifth free-standing store next to the new Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas, inside the amazing CityCenter. The 5,000-square-foot boutique features her collection as well has her bridal line, fragrances, and accessories. Recently, her store was showcased at The Stirling Club.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peter Case's Wig! Brings The Master Back

Peter CaseOpen heart surgery would put most people on the sidelines. And for awhile, it looked like it might for brilliant singer/songwriter Peter Case.

What started out as a routine test turned into an ER drama worthy of an episode of House. Case spent the next year recovering. He also had to worry about how he would pay for his six-figure medical bills. Like many artists, he had no health insurance.

Fortunately, Case did have some friends spanning his 25 years as a musician. Dave Alvin, Loudon Wainwright III, and Richard Thompson all performed benefit shows to help raise money for Case’s medical bills.

Meanwhile, Case stayed busy. Rather than sitting idle, he worked on some reissues of recordings by his former bands, namely The Nerves and The Plimsouls.

The Making of Wig! By Peter Case.

The reissues are largely the reason Case caught the bug again. He had the urge (and the stamina) to rock. So he invited drummer D.J. Bonebrake (X) and guitarist Ron Franklin (Gasoline Silver) to play a few shows to test the waters. The chemistry and sound were right and the three of them headed into the studio.

The resulting Wig! album is no-nonsense electric blues/rock. It's produced by Case himself, recorded live to analog over just a few days. Case added a few overdubs later, like some bass and amplified harmonica.

“It’s not just a way of life,” Case told his label, Yep Roc. "It's an explosive reaction against the tension of living in an insane century."

What makes Wig! listenable is its simplicity, assured sound, and dirty, swampy grooves. The songs feature a recurring theme of being down and out (like Case was when he was writing them).

Yet, there is a lighthearted thread that weaves it all together. Thirty Days In the Workhouse is gut-busting blues, House Rent Party is poignant, Dig What You’re Putting Down is blazing hot. The other tie that binds is Case's voice. He has been down and out, but now he's back. I think he might even sound better than ever.

Peter Case’s Wig! Swaggers In With An 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Wig! is a triumphant return by a well-respected belter. Even if you have never heard of The Nerves or The Plimsouls (the song A Million Miles Away is the big one), you probably have heard Case's work. His music is all over TV and film, including the show True Blood.

You can find Wig! by Peter Case on iTunes. Wig! is also on Amazon. Peter Case currently has dates set for Boston, Philly, Albany (N.Y.), and Hoboken (N.J.). He will finish in Morgantown, West. Va. He is definitely worth catching live if you’re lucky enough.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oatman Offers Kicks Along Route 66

Oatman Hotel Room by Rich BeckerDuring the late 1930s, the Oatman Hotel became a focal point for honeymooning California couples who would come across the border to marry in Arizona, avoiding the three-day wait for blood tests. — Arizona Office of Tourism, Kingman Daily Miner, 1979

Among the hottest of all Hollywood stars to have taken the famed Route 66 to Kingman are Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. The decision was rushed enough that they hadn't brought any groceries with them for the 10-hour desert drive.

Much more thought was put into being unrecognizable. Gable wore whipcord slacks, an old brown jacket, and a green hat; Lombard, a plain brown suit, hair tight up on her head, and no stitch of the makeup. (The Pittsburg Press, 1939).

They did make some stops, with Gable reportedly holding his hand over his head as if he had a headache. Of all the stops, the most famed (or perhaps infamous) was at the Oatman Hotel. In recent years, one Lombard fan had countered the claim, saying the rumor started in 1975.

But that is not entirely true. While we did not dig deep, we did find another mention dating back to 1969. The attribution belongs to Lloyd Moss, which the article described as an old sourdough who pined away for an era he wished would return. Oatman had turned into a near ghost town after Route 66 was rerouted in 1952.

The Oatman Hotel Is Weathered With History

Originally opened in 1902 as the the Drulin Hotel to meet the growing demand of miners after a gold strike, the Oatman Hotel offers nothing in terms of modern conveniences. For a donation of $35 to $55, you receive a room and bed. There is nothing else to offer, not even a front desk. They don't really take reservations, anyway. If there is a room to have, you can have it.

Oatman Hotel SignThere is no room service, air conditioning, or Internet service. Rooms do not have bathrooms or running water (the sinks are all disconnected). The one shower, tucked inside a hallway closest, is shared (and ice cold with little water pressure if you wake up after 6 a.m.). The walls are worn and thin enough to hear someone snoring or the occasional unexplained bump attributed to ghosts. There are no phones.

But what the Oatman Hotel lacks in amenities, it makes up for with convenience and charm. Convenience because you won't have to drive back to Laughlin, Nev. (17 miles), Needles, Calif. (23 miles), or Kingman, (28 miles) after the stores and restaurants close their doors. Charm because locals virtually adopt visitors who spend the night.

And while I'm not certain if the same holds true today, the Oatman Hotel was the "hot spot" for local entertainment after the hundreds of daily visitors and the wild burros that wander the town have long gone (some years ago). The residents entertain themselves, talking, dancing, drinking semi-flat beer poured from pitchers into water glasses, and karaoke.

Oatman Remains Out Of Time And Timeless.

"I came to Oatman traveling with a motorcycle gang during the river run and they left me here," one 20-something brunette had told me. "I could have gotten a ride out of town, but started waiting tables at the restaurant down the street and decided to stay put for awhile. Come on now, let's dance."

The townspeople are inclusive, cheering some of their least musical neighbors to sing specific songs, especially rockers that pay homage to highways and Route 66 specifically. Guests are not exempt. While there is no pressure, townsfolk pleasantly encourage guests to get up from the long tables and sing, dance, and become an Oatman resident for the night.

They remember you the next morning too. Overnight visitors are among the first to be first tapped for any number of activities, including bed races up main street or frying an egg on the hot pavement (in the summer). The town also hosts gunfights and wild burros still walk the streets, arriving just as the first stores open and visitors arrive, as if they too are on a time clock.

The Oatman Hotel Has Historic Charm For 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

As for the haunting, the most well-known ghost is Oatie, the spirit of William Ray Flour, an Irish miner who drank himself to death in 1930 after hearing the news that his wife and children had died trying to join him. But some noises are attributed to others, children and miners who had died there decades ago.

It's the convergence of history that makes every moment there memorable. Oatman has been everything from gold rush boomtown to a holdover for Hollywood stars in their Pierce Arrows and Dusenbergs. You won't be able to book a room with the Fare Buzz flight packages, but you could always stay in Laughlin for a little more comfort.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Los Angeles By X Hits 30 Years

There have only been three times in my life that I might say a band and the experience changed my life. The debut of Los Angeles by X was one of them. The other two were the debut of The Ramones and the first time I discovered the Carter Family.

For this one, it almost feels a bit sobering to think that this imperfectly brilliant debut would only earn the band a loyal following in and around Los Angeles. It never catapulted them to the big time. It's largely because they were ahead of their time.

It Took 30 Years For Everyone To Catch Up With X.

Most of the punk bands that performed when X released its debut are long gone. X is one of the few that endures. They still play with the same energy that they did then too.

The reason is who rounds out the band: poet/vocalist Exene Cervenka; vocalist/bassist John Doe; rockabilly guitarist Billy Zoom (with an awesome blond pompadour); and steady handed jazz drummer D. J. Bonebrake.

The tag team lyrics by Cervenka and Doe, along with peerless musicianship, put them on the map. It helped, I think, that Cervenka and Doe were boyfriend and girlfriend. Then, husband and wife. And today, friendly exes.

For the X novice, they covered the most ground with songs like Sugarlight, which explored heroin addiction, and Your Phone’s Off the Hook (But You’re Not), which was a not-so-classic breakup song. Both are about as melodic, poetic, and intelligent as punk would ever hope to get.

Inside Los Angeles, They Opened Doors.

Indeed. It helped that Los Angeles was produced by ex-Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. He had heard of the band and immediately took a liking to their new sound. They needed some help. He had to translate what they were doing on stage into the studio. He got it right.

He also helped them translate something else. When X covered Soul Kitchen by the Doors, they got it right. It's a rare gem, and Manzarek ought to be thanked outright.

Nowadays, Los Angeles appears on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time at number 286. It deserves better, but I might admit it wasn't the band's best. Wild Gift and Under the Big Black Sun are near perfect follow ups.

X’s Los Angeles Screams 9.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Los Angeles was reissued in 2001 with five bonus tracks, including a demo of I’m Coming Over. It also included a rough mix of Adult Books, which would later be cleaned up to make an appearance on the amazing Wild Gift album (circa 1981).

The legendary X is set to embark on a West Coast club tour later this year, starting on Dec. 15 in West Hollywood. They’ll be performing their best-loved songs and Christmas gems like Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and Jingle Bells. They'll also be screening the documentary X-The Unheard Music, already 25 years old.

You can find Los Angeles on iTunes. X (The Band) - The Unheard Music is available on Amazon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Call of Duty: Zombies Adds Halloween iPhone Fun

Call of Duty ZombiesMaybe it's all the buzz up over the upcoming series The Walking Dead (debuting on Halloween), but zombies have regained their place in contemporary culture. Clearly capitalizing on some of the overexposure, the iPhone app Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies (CoD Zombies) released its latest version and dropped its price from $9.99 to $4.99.

There has been some backlash over the price drop, especially from people who had to pay to play new maps. But as a first-person shooter video game for the iPhone, it can't be beat. Or, perhaps better said, the zombies can't be beat. What they lack in movement, they make up for in sheer numbers.

Still The Best First-Person Shooter For The iPhone.

When I had more time to hack around with computer games, I was a fairly avid first-person shooter player, especially early Medal of Honor (watch for the franchise reboot soon) and later Call of Duty. So, playing a first-person shooter on the iPhone always seemed like a nice prospect with less time commitment.

Except, most weren't well done. Either the graphics were weak or the programming lagged (both Brothers At Arms versions are good examples of such extremes.) CoD Zombies doesn't have either problem. Cramped maps are well-rendered with enough debris to create the illusion of an endless play area.

On the first map, Nacht der Untoten (Night of the Undead), the zombies have four access points that can be barricaded to buy you some time. You'll want more time. The natural tendency is to think you can keep one access point barricaded while pinning down the steady stream of zombies from a distance (that strategy doesn't work long term). However, letting zombies tear down barricades is always good for extra points, assuming you survive.

While I didn't purchase the original game, I did play test the game last year. I was surprised that even on the small screen you could feel a slight adrenaline rush when you hear barricades breaking down behind you while fending some off in front. For $4.99, there wasn't any hesitation to purchase the new version. Here is fan review from last year to give you a feel for it.

Some of the visuals are just graphic enough that the game does carry a 17+ age range. There is also a 4-player co-op for online play over a WiFi connection. And, surprisingly, the game works well across all iPhone operating systems (2nd generation or better for best performance).

If you did not purchase CoD Zombies before, the 1.5.0 version is well worth the investment. Basically, you get the entire game plus all the additional features for half the price of the original. Chances are Activision was trying to find a balance between what new CoD Zombie players ought to pay and how much was bearable for those who already owned the game.

New maps include Der Riese (Zombie Factory) and Shi No Numa (Zombie Swamp). If you have ever played the regular game, these maps are based largely on what has come before. The Ser Rise map is the largest and includes new features, such as teleporters that some people like. (I tend to be more of a purist so I could take them or leave them.)

Call of Duty Zombies Rises To A 7.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Sure, first-person shooters represent the best of mindless fun. And when any game includes zombies, mindlessness is to be expected. But it was very hard to pass up a zombie-infused iPhone app right before Halloween.

CoD: Zombies is available on iTunes. While this review only relates to the iPhone version, fans anxiously awaiting Call of Duty: Black Ops (early November) might be happy to know that zombies will eventually rise again on the newest Call of Duty addition.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eat More Cake Best Served Warm As They Climb The Ladder

Andrew Briggs, with Eat More CakeNot to be confused with the idiosyncratic alternative rockers from Sacramento (who have an album due out next January), Eat More Cake is a four-piece electronica band hailing all the way from Harrow, NW London. And like many bands releasing material today, they're hard to pin down on the first pass.

Depending on the track off Climb The Ladder, Live The Dream (out yesterday), you might catch an eclectic mix of dance, hip hop, pop, or down tempo rock beats. It's the latter that peaks and keeps our interest. As good as the single Red Sky, featuring Alexis Griffith, was, there was no way to really appreciate the diversity and density served up by Andrew Briggs (vocals, guitar) and Matt Pearn (keyboards) along with Alex Lane (drums) and Owen Charles (turntables, Ableton).

Eat More Cake Might Spark A Shift In Music.

When you listen to caustic lyrics and trippy beats tucked inside down tempo Ever So Gently, Glass Houses, and Has To Be Done you almost get the feeling that Eat More Cake wants to reintroduce a modern cut on the psychedelic rock scene from the 1960s. The latter song gives you a taste of what can be done.

It was released with three remixes, each bent on driving the composition in different directions. Lazybones picks up on the low tempo spacey and bassy beats. The Domino State creates an ethereal symphony underscored by whispers. Choking Dolphin changes it up into a strobing lose yourself beat. You can listen to the remixes off their Facebook page. Here's the original album version, which I like best.

The sound might be well off from my alt rock and pop punk roots, but after a couple of listens it seeps in slowly and becomes increasingly addictive. It's the freshness that makes the music riveting. They copy, slice, and steal riffs from no one.

That's not to say everything they do works or needs to be in your playlist. Music Box, despite smart lyrics, quickly becomes annoying and makes you wish someone else might cover it. Computer Apple wants to be more than it is, spoiled by the overproduced electronic beat and baby talk. The vocals on Story Of My Life are too restrained. That track works much better in Underwater with its near folksy straight-up presentation.

Eat More Cake's Climb The Ladder, Live The Dream Debuts At 6.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Eat More CakeToo harsh? (I've been getting some feedback than I can be.) Well, it is what it is. I can like a band without becoming infatuated with every track. Forever Dreaming, by the way, is brilliant in another way. Much like Red Sky, Eat More Cake soars when women front the progression whereas Briggs sounds best with his straight-up alternative rock voice. These guys are going places.

You can find everything Eat More Cake has put out on iTunes yesterday. The album is still sliced up into singles on Amazon. Start by downloading Underwater if you like. You might want to, because Eat More Cake is distinct enough that they will fire up some inspired clone bands. Some of the stuff is just that good.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fragile by Lisa Unger Is A Contemporary Thriller

Fragile by Lisa UngerFragile by Lisa Unger begins with a prologue: a man dumping something into a pit during a storm. He's a cop, a respected one who lives in a small suburban town 100 miles from New York City.

The officer, Jones Cooper, and his psychologist wife, Maggie, are struggling with a rebellious teen son who is trying to define who he is. The teen, Rick, seems like a good kid with excellent grades and a slew of college acceptance letters. But his girlfriend, Charlene, is dark, complicated, troubled.

When she disappears, it puts the Coopers into a tailspin.

Did she up and leave on her own, or did somebody take her? Did Rick have something to do with it? And why does this disappearance seem similar to that of another girl 20 years prior? Of course, that incident in the same small town did not end well.

Believe it or not, the plot line — a disappearance — is based on a true event from Unger’s teen years, when a girl she knew went missing. Later, the girl was found murdered. Fragile is not about the girl Unger knew, per se, but rather the fear and trauma that the girl’s murder caused.

The people of The Hollows are all struggling. Struggling with who they were, who they are, and who they want to be. The memories we carry with us from our formative years shape us, even when they’re hidden, and they make us who we are. That is the essence of Fragile, beyond the disappearance.

The Psychology Is Interesting, But The Suspense Is A Killer.

Lisa UngerThe book is edgy and suspenseful. But it is a bit of a departure from the thrillers Unger is better known for like Black Out (2008). Still, she pulls it off with strong effect. As the story unravels, it becomes clear that the man who had confessed and was convicted of the murder two decades ago may never have been the killer. He is guilty. But Unger convinces us that he is not guilty of murder. Or maybe he is.

As a thriller, the twists and turns keep the story alive. While some of them are predictable, most are not, which makes it a refreshing find compared to most modern suspense novels. Too many of them give it away, hoping to make the reader feel smart. In this case, you'll find yourself much more lost in what Unger does best.

Unger is skilled at developing damaged characters who keep the pace going. Fragile never lets up until the very last page.

Lisa Unger’s Fragile Scores A 5.8 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Like many authors, Unger writes about places she’s lived (New York City, New Jersey, Florida) and people she’s known. And this makes her work accessible and believable. I had never read any of her work until receiving the unedited proof, but I expect I will in the near future. I'm almost interested to see what is next for the New Haven native, raised in the Netherlands, England and New Jersey. If you like her enough, you might even pick up something by Lisa Miscione, her pen name.

Fragile: A Novel is available at Amazon. It has also been released for the Kindle. You can also get to know the author by reading her blog, Notes From The Margin.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Middle Class Rut Cuts Deeply With No Name No Color

Zack Lopez and Sean StockhamPost-punk duo Zack Lopez and Sean Stockham are pressing even harder to make No Name No Color a signature start for Middle Class Rut aka MC Rut. They press so hard, few people will really miss their band Leisure, which came to the end of its road in 2003. That makes sense, given it was the strength of the duo that alway pushed them forward.

"Although there were other people with us [in Leisure], we've always existed as a band within a band," the short-spoken Lopez told Spinner last February. "We've always been a duo, and it just took a long time to get rid of the dead weight."

With several years of touring together on their own, No Name No Color feels long overdue. Plenty of people have been waiting to put Middle Class Rut on playlists because Lopez and Stockham don't play music as much as they unleash it. Sure, the three EPs were a great introduction, but No Name No Color has more teeth than a bull shark.

No Name No Color Crushes Expectations Across The Entire Album.

Leading off with the well-known Busy Bein' Born, USA, New Low, Lifelong Dayshift, the first five tracks pummel audiences with aggression against the backdrop of a colossal driving sound. Are You On Your Way breaks up the blasters as a longer, mellower track, giving the band the chance to catch its breath before picking up the pace again.

While I wish more of their EP tracks were included in the deluxe edition (Dead Set and I Don't Really Know specifically), No Name No Color is a bonfire of hits from a team that started when Lopez and Stockham were only thirteen. Even their writing process is spontaneous and impatient. They write, record, and play it back immediately. Here's the result.

It's almost impossible to believe that they were forced to leave music in the aftermath of the Leisure breaking up. Initially, Lopez took a construction job and Stockham became a studio runner (if you can imagine). Thankfully, Sacramento natives are bred tougher than that. They were soon on tour, testing songs as the lead-in to powerhouses like Social Distortion, Them Crooked Vultures, and Alice In Chains. The secret to success?

“It takes everything this band does and puts it into one song,” Lopez says. “It’s hard to do that. We’re able to capture the heavier and mellower side of our music in one song.”

Mellow, by the definition for Middle Class Rut, means New Low and Are You On Your Way. The rest is all raw, scathing, and homegrown. It feels real because places like Sacramento don't have many outlets for being anything else than real.

In many ways, that is all Middle Class Rut needed to realize to be on the front door of becoming their own headliner. They needed to learn that they didn't need anyone else to round out their sound.

No Name No Color by MC Rut Cuts A 8.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Middle Class RutNo Name No Color features twelve tracks on iTunes, but it's the Deluxe Edition to consider for Free Lot alone. No Name No Color (Deluxe Edition) also includes the milder Critical Emotional (okay) and New Low music video that has caught so much attention.

Amazon also has No Name No Color, but the real find there is the 25 Years EP release (which you won't find on iTunes yet). It's worth picking up the extra track along with the full album. Everyone who has seen Lopez and Stockham live agree that these guys are the real deal.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Vintage Pool Balls Catch Another Break

Sometimes, repurposed things just work. And while sustainability seems like a good idea, the real appeal is that old things are given a second lease on life. Especially if the otherwise discarded item becomes something no one ever intended.

Like vintage pool ball bottle stoppers. These handcrafted stoppers come from Henry Road, a design studio and store. And what makes them so interesting is each is one of a kind, and you will never know which color or number you might get, solid or striped. (Unless you ask someone at Henry Road. They will look for you.)

Henry Road, A Collection Of Textiles.

Based in Los Angeles, Henry Road is the brainchild of Paula Smail and her vision to fashion a collection of fun and eclectic home goods and gifts. If you ask her about it, she might call it her scrapbook, album and travelogue all rolled into one.

Even the store name has been repurposed. One of her childhood homes was located on Henry Road in South Africa. But Smail, like her self-taught taste in design, is really a product of the world. She lived in London, Paris and New York before making Los Angeles her home.

She accepts work from dozens of interesting artists, recently adding the work of Brooke Fischer, who is inspired by anything and everything, ranging from hand-colored botanical prints from the early 1800s to the complexity with the simplicity of Andy Warhol.

Fischer isn't responsible for the pool ball stoppers. That find belongs to Smail, probably by way of Nashville, where a company called Knobstoppers repurposes dozens of interesting items. In this case, they affixed the vintage balls to stoppers made of reinforced cork to fit wine bottles, liquor bottles or, in my case, olive oil bottles. Turn them like a doorknob when you put them in and turn and pull to take them out. It's simple.

Vintage Pool Ball Stoppers Break A 3.4 on the Liquid HIp Richter Scale.

There are other places you can find vintage pool ball wine bottle stoppers, including Amazon. But Henry Road tends to be meticulous in its picks and polish.

Pool might have been around since the 15th century and isn't likely to disappear soon, but the mass appeal — everyone from royalty to and hustlers — coupled with creative repurposing, makes pool ball stoppers memorable. You can find them at Henry Road here and the manufacturer here (along with doorknobs, buttons, and fixtures).

Just be glad these vintage balls are made out resin. There was a brief period of time when they were made of celluloid, which wasn’t a good idea, given they could “explode” upon impact. I just think it's fun to uncork olive oil with a ball that might have been hit by the greats like Willie Mosconi (1913-1993) and rival Minnesota Fats (1913-1996).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A New Cut For The Creepshow With They All Fall Down

When The Creepshow first set out in 2005 to set themselves apart, they put all their energy into psychobilly punk. Their new album has more depth than the original genre, with its harder- hitting sound and strong vocals from Sarah "Sin" Blackwood.

Backed by Sean “Sick Boy” McNab (stand-up bass/vocals), Kristian "the Reverend McGinty" Rowles (sermons/organ/vocals) and Matt “Pomade” Gee (drums), the band has redefined rough, harsh, and energy-driven punk. They All Fall Down is a sprint from start to finish. Fans can expect some furious live performances, which might seem impossible given most critics had considered their obsessive-compulsive touring schedule amped up anyway.

They All Fall Down Is Nicely Pounded Punk.

In interviews, Blackwood isn't bashful to admit that the second album was okay by comparison as she had to prove that she could take over for her sister, Jen "Hellcat" Blackwood, who left the band in 2007. There is no second guessing the swap anymore. Sarah Blackwood clearly owns the album while breaking away from the restrictive horror-flick influence.

Some bands take ten months and some take ten years to figure out where they belong. The Creepshow seems like they've accomplished this impossible task in five years and three albums. That is not to say this is a complete departure. There are still some country-tinged notes, psycho moments, and veracious punk. They are also more grounded but no less ambitious or sympathetic.

Standouts are They All Fall Down (title track), Dusk 'Til Dawn, Keep Dreaming, and Going Down. Someday is solid into the chorus, even if it is probably the most underrated song on the album. Hellbound is a little less memorable with McNab and Rowles taking over vocals.

Last Chance and Sleep Tight will likely be enjoyed by longtime fans. Both songs keep the revised 1950s vibe alive. It's what helped the band become a viral sensation in 2006. For me, it's not that these songs lack as much as they struggle to stack up with the new sound. Either would have been good enough for previous albums, but They All Fall Down has a much higher bar.

They All Fall Down By The Creepshow Shakes Up A 7.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Don't bother with any reviews that claim the album is only an inch better than previous efforts. The frantic pace of the music moves the band well beyond where they started. The principal label, Stomp Records, has done the band justice by letting them cut loose with fun but vengeful lyrics set against rich melodies and gutter punk aggression.

They All Fall Down is available on iTunes via Hellcat Records in the U.S. You can also find They All Fall Down by The Creepshow on Amazon.

Check out The Creepshow on MySpace, but not Facebook (yet). If you have another minute, listen to the solo work by Sarah Blackwood. The stark contrast will leaving you wondering where the sin is, promise.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Historic Hotel Trades Up In West Hollywood

When Led Zeppelin played Los Angeles in the 70s, they often passed up more posh luxury resorts to have better access to clubs that dotted the infamous Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, including the legendary Whisky a Go Go and The Roxy Theater. Both clubs remain two of the hottest rock houses in the world.

The Hyatt hotel Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and The Who helped make world famous as "The Riot House" has erased some its history. Two years ago, Hyatt remade the hotel to share a European flare as part of its Andaz chain.

The Andaz West Hollywood Offers Sophistication On Sunset.

There is no front desk at the Andaz. Instead, hosts greet guests with a laptop and a smile. It makes sense. Rather than a hotel lobby, the Andaz created a cross between a comfortable living room and an ultra club, complete with a complimentary glass of wine, coffee, or juice.

Walking down the darkly modern, uncomplicated hallways, it's almost hard to imagine that drummer John Bonham once drove a motorcycle down one of them (unless you believe it was tour manager Richard Cole). Or, that the now glassed-in floors once housed balconies that Keith Richards and Keith Moon used for the short-lived sport of lofting television sets. Or, that sparsely decorated rooms were once crowded with 70s decor as seen in the movie Almost Famous.

And yet, for all the changes, the Andaz West Hollywood retains a vibe that's most luxurious but still reminiscent of an historic hotel. If the seventies were alive and well today, these legendary rockers would still stay here. And now and again, some bands still do, albeit in a much more relaxed fashion.

One of the many qualities about the Andaz West Hollywood that rekindles the old spirit is the effort it makes to provide guests a retreat where they might meet and mingle with each other between going out on the town. Every day, guests meet in the living room, share cocktails on the rooftop overlooking the Hollywood Hills, or take turns ordering rounds in the RH bar.

Music Clubs Surround The Andaz Comfort.

In addition to the two legendary clubs mentioned above, the Andaz is conveniently located a short drive from the Viper Room, Baked Potato, Jazz Bakery, Troubador, Knitting Factory, Cat Club, and Key Club. Other locales, like The Comedy Store and House of Blues, are a short walk. And, the Andaz is within close proximity to several museums.

After long days and longer nights in West Hollywood, it's easy to get lost in the comfort of modern casual. Instead of posh, the Andaz has large, wide open rooms adorned with clean-lined furnishings that are fresh and functional. Sensitive sleepers will also marvel at the comfort of hyper-allergenic rooms.

The beds are all custom Sealy Posturpedic bed sets and Pacific Coast down blankets. And while flat screen TVs and WiFi have become all but standard in most hotels, the Andaz also delivers a few added touches like iHome stereo systems with iPod docks.

The Andaz West Hollywood Sits Comfortably At 9.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

While I wouldn't consider the area particularly family friendly and The Andaz seems to appeal to the more romantically inclined, it recently offered guests an adjoining second room for children 12 and under for 50 percent less. Another nice touch is the 24-hour room service, even if the overnight menu is limited. We were too tired to try it after a movie screening and after-party that ticked along until 2 a.m.

Of all the Hyatt brands, The Andaz is one of the most refreshing. The very first of the five hotel chain opened in the heart of London on Liverpool Street. Other locations include two in New York and another in San Diego. The latter, the newest addition, is located right in the Gas Lamp District. To check for hotels and flights to Los Angeles, try the Fare Buzz flight packages.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Scenic Is All Splits With Bipolaroid

When indie pop rockers lose founding lead singers, most bands call it quits. And that might have been the end of the story for The Scenic.

But instead of giving up, Dan Wolf (guitar/vocals), Jake Sciscio (lead guitar), Frank Romantino (bass), and Shane Reynolds (drums) decided to hold auditions for a new frontman. And after what they collectively described as weeks of stressful decisions, they put their faith in Jeremy Menard, whose heavily Blink-influenced alternative rock band, Rory, had just broken up.

“We like to think it was a completely new band then when we wrote together for the first time,” Dan Wolf had said then. “We all realized we had something special."

Many fans, however, weren't all too convinced that Menard was the best match for the lighter fare of feel-good pop rock. Find Yourself Here seemed to underscore that point, with the sound skewing heavily toward the groundwork already laid. Even Menard said in a recent interview that they felt like they sucked.

Bipolaroid Isn't Perfect, But Shows Promise For Another Album.

The change up for The Scenic isn't just a sound change on Bipolaroid. It's a band change. Wolf was replaced by Zach Andersen during the last tour. Reynolds is being replaced by Jake "No Wheat" Beierschmitt for this tour. And Jay Tagg replaced Sciscio somewhere along the way, leaving Romantino as the last remaining founding member.

In fact, the changes have been so brisk, the label's marketing department has had a hard time keeping up (and some reviewers have too). Fans seem to be taking the "no explanation" changes in stride, with some noticing when even the newest member (Tagg) was missing from a band photo (he was taking the pictures).

In the end, no matter what the lineup, it all comes down to the album. Bipolaroid has several tracks worth listening to, especially those that move away from the first album, like Halo, which is more emotive than anything offered up before. It may take Halo some time to catch fire, however.

The label released Uh Oh as the initial single and produced curiously disturbing semi-cliche bipolar (more like psychotic) bunny suit segments. What is it with alternative rockers and bunny suits? (Well, better than a golf cart, I suppose.)

Uh Oh is a decent song, even if the demo version strikes the better chord. Other standouts on the album include Sunday Morning and The Lonely Side. Pharmapseudokool is solid, with its heavy, early Weezer-like arrangement. And So Cal So What? is hugely infused with early Third Eye Blind.

All of this really lends itself to what might happen next. The Scenic has a shot for a third album, but the need to focus more on songs like Halo, which has the more original sound. The rest is good enough, as noted, but it runs the risk of being a borderline cover band for an era not distant to revive.

Bipolaroid Moves The Scenic In The Right Direction With A 3.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

If you're unfamiliar with the scale, this places The Scenic somewhere between making fans happy and breaking into a bigger venue. There is no question that Menard has the chops to do it, and the new additions to the band have some talent to back him up. They're hip enough to want more.

The bottom line-- if you are feeling nostalgic for old Weezer and Third Eye Blind, listen to entire the release. But if you want something more original, pick up Halo and Uh Oh. You can find Bipolaroid on iTunes. Bipolaroid by The Scenic is also on Amazon.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Catcher In The Rye Closes Banned Books Week

The Catcher In The RyeThe Catcher In The Rye will celebrate its 60th anniversary in American literature next year. And few books have tallied as many admirable and dubious distinctions. It is almost a shame the reclusive J.D. Salinger will not see any celebration. He died earlier this year.

Not everyone understands the allure of The Catcher In The Rye. And not every review has been glowing. As late as 2004, Jonathan Yardley called the book a maladroit, mawkish novel. Such criticism is not uncommon. Wikipedia cites James Stern with the New York Times as being one of the first critics in 1951. But I don't see it.

Stern's review reads like a story about a girl, Helga, who reads everything he brings into the house. At the end of it, Stern retells how he was trying to draw a few similarities between Helga and Holden Caulfield, but his words are wasted.

"But old Hel," he wrote, "She was already reading this crazy 'Catcher' book all over again. That's always a good sign with Hel."

Holden Caulfield Is Conflicted, Just Like Everyone.

The authenticity of Caulfield is that he is just as conflicted as the rest of us. He lands somewhere between a sentimental softy and wannabe heroic rebel, pointing out the more obvious pitfalls of a crummy world.

But isn't that the calling card of being a teenager, with occasional bouts of confusion, angst, and alienation? And isn't that the reason, even today, some teenagers cling to the anti-hero as someone symbolic of their struggle against more superficial students and faculty at places not all that different from Pencey preparatory school?

There is significant pressure placed on teenagers as self-assigned role models tell them what they ought to be as opposed to who they might be. Even Caulfield finds himself caught between adopting an idealistic role as honest guardian of childhood or resigning from the game all together.

But just as his English teacher offers up later in the story, sometimes it is better to live humbly for a cause than it is to die nobly for it. Choices are seldom black or white, with meandering someplace in between.

It's a confusing place to coexist, shunning "phonies" while having pity for the innocent. And no one better than Caulfield seems to exemplify the context in that he is bold enough to strike out on his own but naive enough to think a prostitute might hold some secret meaning in life. He gets beat up for his trouble.

J.D. Salinger Opted To Drop Out As A Guardian.

For all that J.D. Salinger might have observed of the world, the mischaracterization and popularization of this book seemed to be his undoing. He chose to drop out rather than debate the finer and often flawed interpretations of his book. It's hard to blame him. The Catcher In The Rye is likely to be the only book to be the most censored and the second most taught in the same year.

While the story carries with it a somber lesson without a definitive character progression, it leaves the reader with nothing much more than quiet acceptance in knowing that what we think we know and what is rarely adds up to the same thing. Knowing this, it is even more of shame that so many misguided souls, ranging from Mark David Chapman to John Hinckley, Jr. would become forever associated with the book.

Likewise, it is always peculiar that this book would continue to be challenged for better than six decades, beginning with the firing of a teacher in 1960 for assigning the novel in class. The most common reason cited is Caulfield's decision to pay a prostitute, despite having no real intention to sleep with her. But other issues include the mention of suicide, language, and commonhood of smoking and drinking in the 1950s. We chose to include it to close Banned Books Week.

The Catcher In The Rye By J.D. Salinger Catches 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

It's hard to argue against anything but The Catcher In The Rye scoring high. It already has caused global change, though not for any of the reasons the author intended. Not that he ever intended. Ironically, it wasn't even the most lurid of his writings, a distinction that belongs to A Perfect Day for Bananafish.

The Catcher In The Rye has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. The Catcher in the Rye is available on Amazon. It is not readily available for e-readers nor is it available as an audiobook. No film adaptation has ever been approved, despite dozens of filmmakers and actors who pursued bringing it to the screen. Salinger refused them all.