Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, October 03, 2009
      ( 10/03/2009 02:38:00 PM ) Bill S.  

WEEKEND PET PIC: We've got a guest visiting OakHaus 'til her human companion finds a place to live that'll allow pets: Bailey Cat, who I caught this morning giving me one of her patented "what the hell do you want?" looks.

THE USUAL NOTE: For more cool pics of companion animals, please check out Modulator's "Friday Ark."
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Friday, October 02, 2009
      ( 10/02/2009 06:06:00 AM ) Bill S.  
ALL THE WORLD IS POSSIBILITY: Yep Roc sent me this widget which allows you hear the trax from the new Apples in Stereo collection. Let's see if it works.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
      ( 9/30/2009 07:37:00 AM ) Bill S.  

TELLING YOU ALL THE ZOMBIE TROOF: Zombies as metaphor: we've seen it before, and we'll see it again -- but that doesn't mean it still can be done in surprising ways. In Shane White's orange-hued graphic novel, Things Undone (NBM/ComicsLit), artist Rick Watt undergoes the process of zombification as his fresh life in the Pacific Northwest just begins. Having moved across country to an unsatisfying job, followed by a girlfriend who probably should have stayed back in the Midwest, our hero starts to feel himself physically deteriorating. A shaving cut turns into a large gash; a bonk on the head pops out one of his eyes (which he promptly washes off and reinserts into its socket), a dog chomps off his foot (which he reattaches with duct tape) and so on.

It is real or commercial artist Rick's overactive imagination at work? When a demon figure pops out of a computer monitor to smash our hero's head against the keyboard -- and nobody else notices -- we can probably assume the latter, but maybe not. For Rick, his physical degeneration represents his unwillingness/inability to stand up and say nay to his unsatisfying lot in life. The only way he can turn things around is to do something extreme.

Zombie un-life as an existential crisis, in other words.

White's work has more of an indy comics feel than it does a Romero-esque series like The Walking Dead (though Dead scribe Robert Kirkman shows up with an intro to the book) with its twenty-something creative type wallowing in his own ineffectualness until he finally reaches that breaking point. S'all very angsty, though White keeps things from being too oppressive by telling his story in a agreeable big-headed cartoony style. Doesn't fully keep his hero's core whininess from becoming irritating, however.

I did like the moment when our hero bites the head off a yippy little shit dog. If the cartoonist had given us a few more such moments, becoming a zombie wouldn't have looked like such a bad deal, after all -- which I guess would've undercut his point.


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Sunday, September 27, 2009
      ( 9/27/2009 10:25:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"TURN OFF YOUR MIND AND DO YOURSELF A FAVOR." To fans and admirers of a cult band like Apples in Stereo, the arrival of a best-of set like #1 Hits Explosion (Yep Roc) is both superfluous and a reason to rejoice. It's the former because most fans'll already have this stuff from their original LP and EP releases, the latter because every new AiS release opens up the possibility that this great pop-rock band'll finally break big in the public consciousness.

Too, the sixteen track set also does us the favor of rescuing two cuts from the band's one dubious release, the Her Wallpaper Reverie EP: the Magical Mystery Touristy "Strawberry Fire" and straightly poppish "Ruby." These two tracks can arguably be held up as reflecting band meister Robert Schneider's prime sonic tactics: the slightly sideways psychedelic glance and the more straightforward Brian Wilson-esque pop thrust. If #1 Hits none too surprisingly favors the latter in its selection, there are plenty of sweetly weird moments ("Fire," "Tidal Wave," former Apples drummer Hilarie Sidney's "Winter Must Be Cold") to satisfy most lovers of the fun trick noisemaker approach.

To someone who has played most of his AiS CDs to the point of obsessive compulsive familiarity, there's always something a little disorienting about collections like this. Listening to a cut like "Same Old Drag" (from New Magnetic Wonder), for instance, I can't help mentally starting up the short follow-up cut, "Joanie Don't U Worry," because that's the way it went on the original album. It's one thing to have a Schneider track like "Sun Is Out" catch you off guard in a Dodge commercial ("Gee, I hope the guys're making good money off this," you think); something else when the cuts are removed from their original context and placed out of chronology. The latter prevents newcomers from getting a sense of the group's fifteen-year tone soul evolution -- which is a historical shame.

Still, occasionally, the removal from the original source can help you hear a song in a new way. I wasn't an admirer of "Signal in the Sky," the band's kid-friendly ode to the Powerpuff Girls, when it first appeared on the Let's Go! EP. Hearing it on this set, however, the track's subtly swirling background sonics place it more firmly within the group's discography. Too, listening to Schneider do the white boy soul thing on "The Bird That You Can't See" reminds me that the guy's Beach Boys passion didn't just extend to Bri Wilson SMILE-ing ; it also encompasses brother Carl's love of R-&-B.

And as an introduction to the band's range of addictive pop sounds, #1 Hits does its job beautifully. Like most fans, I'd quibble about some the set's exclusions (I miss "I Can't Believe," "Rainfall" and the very 70's extended "Beautiful Machine" tracks, which remind me of both the Beatles' "She's So Heavy" and an ELO album cut), but that just means that there's plenty more good stuff for the newcomer to discover once they venture past this anthology. (I'd recommend starting with the most recent album-as-album, New Magnetic Wonder.) Hardcore fans'll have to decide for themselves whether they need this set or not. Ah, who's kidding who? If you're a disc or vinyl-centered enthusiast, you'll want a copy of this puppy, too. And consider yourself happy to have it.


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      ( 9/27/2009 07:19:00 AM ) Bill S.  

WEEKEND PET PIC: Here's Ziggy Stardust (a.k.a. Dusty), the Australian shepherd/sheepdog mix, relaxing in the backyard:

THE USUAL NOTE: For more cool pics of companion animals, please check out Modulator's "Friday Ark."
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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