Did things just get weirder? I think things just got weirder...
Thursday, November 28, 2013
No Comic Review today, just a wine bottle turkey. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and if you are in the Northeast, drive safe.
If you want your very own painted wine bottle of a turkey (or anything else for that matter) just let me know.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
What can I say, I’m a masochist when it comes to music. I like to have complete catalogues when it comes to my favorite musicians. Sometimes this is a good thing (Alice Cooper, AC/DC) but oftentimes it’s not. Not only that, but I used to fall into the trap of hearing one or two great songs and purchasing a whole album because of it, which sometimes produced a diamond, but usually only coal. During this series, we will dwell on some of the albums I have in my collection that are downright terrible. I will re-listen to them all and give you my impression of them.
Now this is only my opinion, so don’t take it as gospel. If you like a particular album in this series, let me know, we’ll open up a discussion about it. I’m always open to discussing the merits of any particular album, and if you have any suggestions (and especially if you have the album itself and are willing to share your views) then let me know and I’d be happy to add it to the list.
Album Name: Unmasked
Release Date: 1980
Why you bought it: I’ve been a KISS fan for the majority of my life. When it came to some of the KISS albums that were not so well received, I generally decided that I wanted to make up my own mind. Now this only went for the original albums, as I swore off the albums that didn’t feature the “original four” until I was in college (though at the time I was unaware how little involvement Peter or Ace had in Unmasked or Dynasty). With that in mind, I purchased Unmasked despite all of the negative things that I heard about it. If I was going to have all of the original KISS albums, than I would have to buckle down and purchase this one as well.
First impressions: Holy crap were the reviews right on about this one. I love the rawness of the old KISS albums, but eventually that was replaced with first a disco sound (1979’s Dynasty) and eventually with the ultra-poppy Unmasked. How could a band that produced hits like “Strutter” and “Love Gun” now be falling so deep down the path of pop purgatory? I listened to it, listened to it again, trying to find some kind of silver lining to this album, but I eventually shelved it and put Alive back in. I just couldn’t do it. Remember, this was before I was even aware of the 80s metal KISS albums (which actually combined pop with killer guitar solos thanks to Bruce Kulick and Mark St. John) so I wasn’t incredibly receptive to the idea of a full pop album from KISS. There would always be a song or two that was more pop-based on their earlier albums, but they would be offset by “Deuce” or “God of Thunder”.
Impressions upon listening to it recently: It’s more white noise now than a real solid album should be. Nothing really stuck out, save maybe “Torpedo Girl” which is super poppy, but Ace’s voice always has a way of sticking out on KISS songs. I still don’t like it though.
Any saving grace?: It’s a short album at least.
Was it worth the purchase?: Nope. This one is bad all around. It’s better to skip to the 80s.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Friday, November 22, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
When last we left our intrepid heroes, they had just received a distress signal from Firelord, everyone’s favorite flame-tressed former herald of Galactus. He’s apparently come across a force (not the Force, just a force) that he can’t handle on his own. We are treated to this first hand because as issue twelve opens Firelord is getting his ass handed to him by Overkill, who used to be Taserface. Obviously this guy is just never going to have a name that doesn’t scream 90s comic books regardless of how many times he is reincarnated.
First things first, the Guardians have to deal with a stowaway on their ship. It’s Replica! Remember her? The girl that from the Mutant world that can change her shape? Apparently she changed into a bug and snuck on the ship, only to be found by Yondu (who took time away from self-pity apparently). She wants to be a member of the team because, well, her home was blown up and devoured by the Phoenix force and she probably doesn’t want to live on a computer world run by the Vision from the Avengers. While everyone else seems okay with it, at least on a trial basis, Nikki, flips her shit. It must be a girl thing, but she doesn’t trust her. This looks to be another one of those slow burns that Valentino is so good at cultivating. Let’s hope this one pays off.
Back to Firelord, who is still getting his ass kicked while the rest of the Stark watch from a cloaked ship (some kind of strange fight club/snuff film fetish thing going on with these gross purple aliens apparently). The Guardians show up, minus Replica, who is left on the ship (much to the chagrin of Nikki who has gone into full on passive aggressive pissy teenager mode). Overkill seems to like the idea that the Guardians are coming to rescue Firelord, obviously to get them back for the indignity of knocking him out with one punch every appearance that he makes in the book. Well Taserface is back and better than ever in the guise of Overkill and he ‘s not messing around anymore apparently, as is evidenced by the fact that he handles the Guardians pretty easily. Seriously, every attack that they throw at him is rebuffed.
Out of nowhere Starhawk, the living embodiment of Deus Ex Machina, shows up and grabs the downed Firelord, flying him into the nearest star. Nikki, being apparently the dumbest member of the Guardians, thinks that this will kill him, because he’s not made of fire or anything like that. Nikki is quickly devolving into the worst character in the book. We cut to a planet in the solar system in which the Guardians are visiting and see a news report about the solar flare (from Firelord entering the star) and then see that that this planet is made up of members of the Universal Church of Truth (a major player in Jim Starlin’s Warlock books). This is just another setup, we’ll get back to them in a minute. Right now we have to get back to Replica and the Guardians’ ship, where one of the Stark has snuck onboard to plant a bomb. Replica changes into a monster and attacks the Stark, but not before the bomb has been planted. The Stark teleports out of there and we get back to Firelord who has not died (duh) and is actually fully replenished in terms of his power (naturally). Everyone surrounds Overkill ad is ready to take him out (and presumably send him to Image Comics, where his name belongs) but the Stark teleports their strongest warrior out of harm’s way. Apparently it was all a big ruse to get a bomb on board the Guardians’ ship (which seems a little far-sighted for the likes of the Stark, but okay).
We cut back to the Guardians and Firelord is called away by Eon to come do his bidding so he must say goodbye to Nikki, which sends her into even more of a whiny teenager mode until Charlie gives her a fire-flower (not the kind from Mario Brothers) and tells her it’s from Firelord (it’s not) to get her to chill the fuck out (she’s the worst).
Next issue, it’s Ghost Rider…because Overkill wasn’t 90s enough.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Some bands lose their way. They try too hard to change with the times, to be relevant. When these bands return to the kind of music that got them their fame and notoriety in the first place they are hailed as “returning champions” and everyone tells them that it’s good to have them back doing what they do best. There are then bands that unapologetically go about their business day after day, year after year, consistently making albums with similar, if not the same sound. Motorhead falls into that second group. The band has been in existence for a long time, and aside from technological advancements, you could line up tracks from Ace of Spades, Snake Bite Love and their newest offering Aftershock and there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t be able to nail down a time period in which the songs were released.
This approach by Motorhead, a basic “fuck you” to record execs that probably wanted something a bit more hair-metally in the 80s and more Grunge-tastic in the 90s is one of the most endearing traits of the band. They are going to make Motorhead music and they don’t really care what you or anyone else has to say about it. This is what we get with Aftershock, another unapologetic Motorhead album. The fact that it basically sounds like any other Motorhead album from the last fifteen years is both a blessing and a curse.
This album is very consistent throughout, there are no real peaks and valleys in terms of the content (something you would hope would be the case with seasoned veterans like Lemmy and company) but the fact that it is such a baseline album, makes it kind of boring for lack of a better term. I may be a little jaded still by the fact that I was duped into buying the live albums The World is Ours volumes one and two (which turn out to be basically the same album because the concert setlists vary only a little from show to show) thinking that I would be getting a definitive Motorhead live experience. I was disappointed by that and to say that hasn’t colored my judgment even a little bit would be a lie. The songs on the record are all well done as expected, and there is something to be said for a band at this late stage in their careers consistently putting out new music every two or three years. However, at this point I could put in any of their more recent albums and hear pretty much the same thing. It’s almost as if Motorhead went into the recording studio ten years ago and banged out a couple dozen tracks that they have just been putting together into different albums every two years or so. You will often see little variations from album to album when it comes to most artists, with Motorhead though; consistency is the main focus, whether it’s on their studio releases or the banter in their concerts. They wrote the script long ago and they aren’t straying from it. They are formulaic to a fault.
This is a good album to have in a Motorhead-playlist but it doesn’t really distinguish itself from any of its predecessors. I’m not asking for a Motorhead Christmas album or something that drastic, but save for two or three songs tops, the album sounds way too similar to me. It’s not a bad album by any means, and if you are going to listen to a modern Motorhead album, this one is as good as any, but after hearing stellar new offerings from Pearl Jam and Black Sabbath this year, I expected more.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
This issue starts with Starhawk basically recapping the last two issues in the most succinct way possible: the Guardians were really bad at their job and would have probably lost and got everyone on the planet killed, so Starhawk had no choice but to unleash the most destructive for in the entire Marvel Universe – The Phoenix. He immediately tries to reign Giraud (the host for the Phoenix force) in so that he doesn’t let the power consume him. Giraud agrees to chill out a bit, but you never know how that’s going to go when it comes to an all-powerful being.
We then check on Charlie-27, who, if you remember, was blasted by multiple guns and mutants in the last issue. He’s okay, apparently just a little beat up. He gets up in time not to be trampled by the humans that are scurrying from the might of the Phoenix force coming their way. They obviously don’t know what the Phoenix is, nor do they know of its intent to free them from their oppressors. The mutants don’t know either, but they don’t care as they try and shoot it out of the sky with their mini Death Star. This does nothing but piss off Phoenix, who waves his hand and blows up the Death Star (somewhere Obi-Wan is dancing) much to the chagrin of batwing, who keeps getting bent out of shape every time a mutant dies. He’s about to have an even worse day then as Charlie-27 shoots the mutant named Rhodney out of the sky. This sends Batwing over the edge and there’s a moment where you kind of think that there may have been something going on between Batwing and Rhodney. Nothing is confirmed or denied, but holy cow does Batwing seem bent out of shape over this particular death, even more so than the others.
Wait, quick interlude to check on Force. All we really see is Brahl being a creep and admitting to turning intangible so he can peep on the female members of Force. An odd exchange that doesn’t do a whole lot to move the story along.
Back on Haven, the Guardians are still fighting the remaining mutants until Sidestep teleports them all away, just not before Nikki can shoot Blockade in the eyes and be seemingly crushed by his fists. The causes Vance to expound upon his love for his fallen teammate and get all sappy, until he realizes that she is fine. Phoenix comes crashing through the windows causing the Guardians to check it out where he and Starhawk tell them that they need to vacate the planet as it is going to blow up. This is something that the Guardians don’t want to do because that would mean leaving everyone on the planet susceptible to the blast. Starhawk isn’t having any of that rational thinking and pushes everyone’s teleportation button (no lie) and they all teleport back to the ship. This begs the question, why can’t the Guardians do this whenever they get in trouble, just regroup back on the ship and come back fighting instead of getting captured or beaten in every adventure they undertake?
Anyway, they get out of the way of the exploding planet because, really, there’s nothing more they can actually do to help. As the planet explodes, the Phoenix force consumes all of the energy that is produced and then flies off. The Guardians then get a call from deep space. It’s Starhawk, who is reassuring them that the inhabitants of Haven are fine as they were all teleported to Mainframe’s homeworld (Mainframe is the moniker that former Avenger the Vision took when he became a huge sentient computer). With the help of Phoenix and Mainframe, Starhawk was able to teleport everyone off the planet before it blew up. What happened to the mutants is anyone’s guess though. Before the Guardians can catch their breath after this adventure, they get a distress call from everyone’s favorite flame-trussed protector of the universe: Firelord.
After kind of winning this battle and receiving a distress call from someone more powerful than they are, are the Guardians finally turning a corner as a competent super team? Find out next time!
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
What do you get when you take a rock industry legend, the greatest blues guitarist of his generation and one of the most highly regarded, and well-traveled blues keyboard players in music history and put them all together? You come up with The Rides, and Can’t Get Enough. This is, by far, one of the better albums I have heard all year. I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be considering hearing Kenny Wayne Shephard without Noah Hunt (his vocalist and longtime collaborator) would be a little odd, and I’m not completely sold on Shephard the vocalist anyway.
What I got instead was a true, honest-to-goodness blues record by three guys that obviously know what they’re doing. The musicians are all at the tops of their games here (as you would expect) and the album is something that can be played on continuous rotation, it's just that good. While Kenny Wayne Shephard as a vocalist is not something that I am really too enthused about (and never have been) he does a great job here of working with the music and not trying to do too much. His higher pitch provides adequate vocal work that is a decent contradiction to the older, scratchier voices of his contemporaries as well. The best parts of the album are the new songs that were written for the album (especially “Don’t Want Lies” which has a strained vocal that actually adds to the desperation of the song and singer himself and completely avoids making it sound silly – and you get this in both acoustic and electric form if you buy the Best Buy exclusive pack). Where those originals excel far beyond where I even expected them to, the covers of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and Iggy and the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” fall a little flat. They were inspired choices that just didn’t carry through on the promise of quality. With the rest of the album so heavily influenced by the blues and embracing that influence wholeheartedly, those two tracks in particular just feel out of place.
That being said, when the band actually gets the bat on the ball, so to speak, they hit it out of the park. This is probably one of the best blues albums I have heard since Kenny Wayne Shephard’s last release a few years ago and it is, by far, near the top of the list for best rock albums of the year. Though I doubt this partnership between these three will last beyond this one album as they all have their own projects to get to, it was a welcome divergence on all their parts and one that they should absolutely consider making again.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Friday, November 8, 2013
Thursday, November 7, 2013
When last we left the Guardians, shit had got real. Half the team had been taken captive by the lady-Wolverine lookalike named Rancor, and the other half of the team was fugitives on a planet they were trying to help. Plus Starhawk was off being Starhawk (which is never annoying, I’m sure). Welcome to “World of Mutants” part two!
First things first, we meet Replica, a mutant shapeshifter that is working on the side of the resistance. She joins the Guardians to help fight Rancor, which begins with planting the seeds of revolution within the townspeople. They all gather in a giant town square and rally around the Captain America shield that Vance possesses. As they are doing this, Replica volunteers to go spy on Rancor and her mutant lieutenants. We learn that Nikki neither likes nor trusts her, but reasons for this are never given, so we are left to wonder why.
Hold on, it wouldn’t be a Guardians comic without the obligatory check in with The Stark. They actually have something for us this time though as the evil queen has transformed Taserface into Overkill. She traveled back in time to Rob Liefeld’s heyday in order to steal a name and design that came straight from his wet dreams. Apparently things are about to get interesting for the Guardians once they finish this whole revolution thing they started.
Okay, back to Haven, where the mutants have unleashed their “Battle Sphere” which is basically a miniature version of the Death Star. It starts shooting anyone and everyone in the town square, women, children, it doesn’t matter. This is a very interesting way to highlight even more the fact that the mutants are the villains. Charlie-27 decides that the best course of action is to shoot it out of the sky with his giant gun. Seriously, this thing would make Cable blush. Inside the sphere, it’s stated that even though they received a direct hit from the giant gun, the damage is minimal, yet they don’t want to sustain too many more hits like that. I think Valentino may have mixed up his phrasing here but don’t know for sure. Either way, Charlie-27 plants his feet firmly in the ground and keeps shooting. Some of the flying mutants emerge to take out the guns from below, but all that does is get the creatively-named Blaster shot by Giraud. Batwing, who is apparently incredibly empathetic to his fellow mutants but is a giant douche to everyone else, goes about trying to avenge Blaster’s death by shooting Giraud. Before he can complete that act though, Starhawk grabs Giraud and takes him out to one of the many active volcanoes on the planet.
Back in the action, Batwing is apparently not too tore up about missing out on Giraud, because he, and every other mutant focuses their attack on Charlie-27 at the same time.
In the fortress of the Mutants, we see the resistance, led by Vance and Nikki has entered the fortress. We also see that Replica has found where the rest of the Guardians are being held captive. She frees them from their bondage in the strategically placed and never-overused power dampeners. Just as they are about to escape, Rancor shows up. Is it just me or is her mutant power the ability to grow her fingernails? They are a different length in damn near every panel. If that’s the case, great, it’s just never established. It also leads to questions of her lineage, with the possibility of a Wolverine/Lady Deathstrike bedroom combo in there somewhere.
Out at the volcano, Giraud has come face to face with the Phoenix force, which is basically offering him unlimited power as long as he kills himself. But it’s okay because Giraud would be killing himself for the resistance. That’s right Phoenix force, just like any good salesman, always be closing.
Back in the fortress, the mutant named Blockade, who lives up to his moniker as the “living wall” is in the way of the advancing Guardians. Here is one thing that I don’t understand though. Blockade is huge, yet whenever he grows, it has no visible effect on the surrounding environment. Not only that, but apparently the laws of perspective and proportion have no place in Blockade’s world as his legs frequently disappear the bigger he gets. The Guardians fight him anyway because, well, what else are they going to do and we cut between scenes of this fight and the other Guardians fighting Rancor until there is a blight flash of light and everyone sees the giant firebird symbol of the Phoenix rising from the distant volcano.
Who will win the fight in the final part of the “World of Mutants” storyline? Will it be the Mutants, the Guardians, or will the Phoenix just say screw it and kill them all? Tune in next time to find out.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
I really think my talents should be used to think up creative breakfast cereals. Those of you that have been following The Masked Shrimp since his inception (1997) probably already know that, and have seen the pattern of highly logical and delicious sounding breakfast cereals as I try to include them whenever the moment calls for it. Seriously, who wouldn't want a big bowl of Orphan Pops or Cheese Wheels in the morning?
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Dream Theater has been around a long time, and with longevity sometimes comes complacency. That is what we are facing here with Dream Theater’s newest, self-titled release. It’s a decent album, but I have listened to it nearly ten times now since purchasing it and I can’t recall anything really standing out. In the past, there has always been a song, or maybe two, that really separate themselves in my mind from the rest of the album. With this new release, it is all technically superior, as all Dream Theater albums are, but nothing really pushes to the front in terms of a standout track.
It’s amazing how after two-plus decades, vocalist James LaBrie can still retain the same voice that he had back in the day. To be able to hit the high notes, something that I have seen deteriorate with age from many artists from Paul Stanley to Joe Elliott, etc., and yet not effect LaBrie at all is impressive. His voice hasn’t aged a day, and if it wasn’t for the composition of the music, would be the standout on any Dream Theater album.
The music, however, is grand in the grandest sense of the term. Seriously, it’s like the band is trying to create more than just a song or a group of songs, they are creating a soundtrack. The cohesion of the music itself is more than just what you would find in a concept album, it feels as if this is one big song (something that is not unfamiliar to Dream Theater at all), an album-wide track that fits together perfectly. It could be that cohesion that creates a lack of a standout song. There is no instance here where we see a focus on making a “single” or some kind of promotional track. In fact, hearing these songs out of order would probably be a disservice to the music itself. Everything was carefully crafted by the band to be listened to in this order and at their pace. The trip that they take you on is of their own design, not that of a record company or producer. I have to give the band credit for that at the very least. This feels like an effort by the band to create a definitive record, one that we can all look to when we talk fondly of Dream Theater. It is not a collection of songs, it’s a full album. Unfortunately, without any standout tracks, that “full album” isn’t something that can stand up to previous efforts like Images and Words and Awake.
This is not a bad album, by any means, but it is something that I would expect would only appeal to die hard Dream Theater fans. If you really want to get into the band, I would suggest going back to the beginning and working your way to the present.