Friday, September 23, 2016

Cassette Review: Jake Tobin "Sorta Upset!" (Haord Records)

[$5 //]

The first time I heard Jake Tobin it was because of Chill Mega Chill.   I'm in some cassette groups on Facebook and so someone posted a photo of this cassette and said it was one of the best of 2016 thus far, so seeing as how I enjoyed the previous music I had heard by Jake Tobin I decided to give it a go and went to buy the cassette from the label because apparently my typing words about cassettes and calling them "reviews" doesn't matter as much as someone just posting a single photo and calling it cassette of the year.    But, whatever.   Not everyone goes to buy music the same way and so perhaps my reviews are still appreciated.

The overall sound on "Sorta Upset" is one of video game music, but it also dives into this feeling of a television theme song, perhaps something from the 1990's era of Nickelodeon animation (As it could be a mashed up version of something like "Rocko's Modern Life" with a sped up "Rugrats")   1980's synth, some Primus and even vocals coming through at times leave way for a sort of lullaby of dings for the children to end out the first side.

Side B is just as chaotic.   It's the A.D.D. of music really.   If a label once really asked Gatsbys American Dream where the chorus was in their songs I'd be interested to hear what they have to say about the songs of Jake Tobin here.   With elements of pop punk rock and even drum machines getting tightly wound up, this is one of the most sporadic yet constant cassettes I've heard in a while and I do enjoy it quite a bit.

I had this plan once and it involved making music in small intervals.  I wanted to just create little songs instead of trying to craft a three or four minute song.   It came from the idea when I would get maybe two or three lines for a song in my head and then just sit down and record that instead of trying to write an entire song based around it.   I don't want to say that now it feels like I was stealing Jake Tobin's idea because I didn't know about it at the time- obviously- but I'm just glad that someone else is on the same page as me musically.   And even more so now that I hear this cassette I will likely keep recording my tiny songs but I'm less likely to ever release them to the public.

Cassette Review: Leonard Las Vegas "Jagmoor Appendix" (Blackjack Illuminist Records)

[€4 // Edition of 10 //]

As I've previously reviewed the Leonard Las Vegas cassette "Jagmoor Cynewulf", I see this, as an appendix, as being in the sense that it is something you would want to get as a companion piece to the previous cassette.   While it can certainly stand on its own, I think it limits itself in the sense that if you're going to own "Jagmoor Appendix" you should own "Jagmoor Cynewulf" as well, and in that sense if you don't have "Cynewulf" you shouldn't really have "Appendix"-- at least not as cassettes.   You can always download both of them and make one giant playlist.   (And, as always, kick in the money for the download because they deserve it)

While I do hear elements of The Beatles in this Leonard Las Vegas cassette again, I also can hear what is a cross between something such as Ben Kweller and a post-punk band.   I think it'd be kind of like if the members of Joy Division got together with someone like Kweller as their frontman-- it would have a similar effect of being poppy yet dark.  There is this raw, wildness to it, yet at the same time it could be somewhere between Weezer and something from the "Breakfast Club" soundtrack.

As the songs can also take on this classic psych rock feel, I'm reminded of the Stone Temple Pilots sound of "Lady Picture Show" and that sort of span of songs-- which I will always enjoy hearing pulled as references some twenty years later though it feels like yesterday still.  And overall this is just one of those things where the music is similar enough to "Cynewulf" that you know it's Leonard Las Vegas and it's still great, but you're not sitting there thinking "more of the same" which is a thought I do get from a lot of artists, sadly.

It is also worth noting- whether it is a coincidence or not- that during my first review, and listening to "Cynewulf" still, I feel like there is this sense that can best be described as "simple yet effective" (which I better explain in the review itself) and so it's funny to me that there is a line in one of the songs "So simple, I didn't see it coming".    While it is likely not in reference to the music for me it very well could be.    Everything about this cassette breaks down into that line because it really is quite obvious: If you own "Cynewulf", you need to own this one.  If you don't own "Cynewulf" and don't feel like having both cassettes for whatever reason, then download them both and make your ears happy.

Cassette Review: Fletcher Pratt "Dub Sessions, Volume 3" (Crash Symbols)

[$6 // Edition of 100 //]

When I see the name "Dub Sessions, Volume 3" I think of the Long Beach Dub All-Stars, which is essentially what became of Sublime after Bradley died and before they got that guy Rome in their band.    While I expected this cassette to sound somewhat like that, I also remember that "dubbing" is the cassette term for duplicating and so I imagine Fletcher Pratt sitting in his house, recording from one cassette to the next to send out cassettes to various people in what we call "shopping around a demo"-- which probably doesn't happen any more, so I think it's more about the copies being made to give out to friends and fellow music people.

What begins with electronic loops finds synth and talking in a way which reminds me of Peter Frampton and little else, which is always a good thing.    While it can become somewhat video game in its nature, it also takes this turn into what could be considered dub as it has this reggae feel complete with the steel drums and all.   It slows down to a certain level of chill before ending Side A and I'm left wondering whether or not I just heard an accordion.

On the flip side we have this Indian feel and what I can only describe as heavy breathing.   It goes into this dark underwater place to end the first song on Side B.   There are some elements of Nirvana now, yet it also has this sense of drama as heavy and serious tones come out.    Laser shots are fired as background strings leave us ending not only this particular side but the cassette as a whole in a much darker place.

The thing about this cassette is that it has electronics even to the point of being video game at one point and yet it still dissolves into the darkness.    There are such a thing as dark video game sounds- which would be like the Super Mario Bros. theme played in a slower and deeper pitch, but that's not how this one sounds and I like to think of most video game music as being upbeat even if it get serious and feels like you're about to lose another life.    The fact that is can start in such a place and end in such a place is truly remarkable.

When reviewing music it is easy to make comparisons with a few artists who generally tend to stay within the same genre on the whole.   You have a rock band with some sort of pop elements and you start naming bands like Weezer and Smoking Popes.   You get what the press people like to refer to as "RIYL".   But with Fletcher Pratt, you could take that "RIYL" idea and apply it to a section of this cassette.   And yet, it doesn't sound like a compilation- as it flows perhaps better than any other cassette I've ever heard- but it has that number of artists and even genres which can be heard within it.

Cassette Review: BICIKL "Chertamy | Ryazamy" (The Centipede Farm)

[$6 // Edition of 100 //]

Cassettes like this one make me glad we have the internet at our disposal because if not I wouldn't have been able to read much less type the words on this artwork for you to give you an artist name and title.   Luckily, I can associate the pictures like I'm in Kindergarten and then take such key ideas from the Centipede Farm Bandcamp page.   But, on the other hand I think about things like what would it be like if the internet did not exist, or at least not in this capacity?   Could you imagine me trying to put this in my 'zine somehow?   I'd likely just put in a photo and say how I have no idea what to call this and nothing about it is a language that I know.

Wind chimes ring but it might be bells and there are these sort of vocals off in the distance to start things off.   Beats come out and then those steel drums make their appearance as well.   It's tribal, like a snake-charmer perhaps, and then it somehow turns into these western guitars as if we're going to go into "Rango" or a more serious movie of that nature (such as one of the movies which it parodies).    We then take a turn into a distinct television soundtrack, like one of those shows from the 1980's or 1990's.   I want to say "The A Team" but I'm really thinking more along the lines of "Thunder In Paradise"-- remember when Hulk Hogan had hair and drove a boat a lot for some reason?

The television idea though can also resemble "Doctor Who" before we turn into this Blue October feel where it's kind of mellow with strings, yet also kind of dark like it's a place you don't want to often go but when you're there you don't mind staying.   This somehow takes on this 90210 type of 1990's guitar work before that crazy sax comes out and makes me wish more people embraced the 1990's/1980's sax style of album titles where the word "sex" is replaced by "sax".    Locust type whirrs come through next and then these sort of vocals come out as well, only there are electronics and the vocals are kind of chopped up.   It just continues to grow wild, intensify and build until it just sort of seems to explode to end Side A.

After checking with the Bandcamp page I found that Side B of this cassette picks up at the fifth song.   Percussion takes us into this Indian sort of vibe and I'm not sure why but all I can think of is that marketplace in the Indiana Jones movie where the guy does fancy sword-work and Indy just shoots him.   It just has that sort of feeling to me, but what can I say, I'm a white boy who has never been outside of the United States.   Someone should pay for me to travel the world so I can use more specific references to other places.    In any case, there are words like a conversation coming through as well.

The saxophone takes on a different tone now and the music is still banging before it descends into these acoustic guitar melodies.     The notes take us into the end and what I like most about this cassette is the complexity of it although it feels like it could all take place in the same destination.   It's one of those situations where I feel like you could listen to it a thousand times and create a thousand different stories in your mind each time.   Which is why I kind of feel like what I'm writing might be pointless because what I hear might not be what you hear even though my point is this is still that trip you should take.

Cassette Review: Sex Funeral "It Takes a Village to Raise an Imbecile" (5cm Recordings)

[$5 // Edition of 50 //]

When I woke up this morning the world was still in a perpetual state of shit.   It is 2016 and the presidential candidates remain in a position where you have to ask yourself whether you would like to drown or be burned alive.    People will say you have choices and that you need to pick the lesser of two evils and all of that, but I feel like in this particular election, in this particular year, the "lesser of two evils" is still pretty fucking evil.   And so we have this cassette by Sex Funeral which has a title that references a book by one of these candidates and it's a book I won't ever read but that's just because of my ever-growing disdain for politics.

As of right now I have luckily been through the whole review process with Sex Funeral before so I don't have to ramble on about their name.    This cassette begins with the sounds of chaotic horns (though it might be just one saxophone) and then it turns into full on thrash rock n roll.   It's hard to describe because I've never heard anything quite like it before.   The Lot Six comes to mind for the raw power of it, but that intensity of having the sax there... It's not like Folly at all, but it does remind me somehow of the first time I really listened to "skacore"-- though again I must stress not to call this "skacore".   Ever.

I'm not sure why and it is probably just a situational thing right now, but as I listen to this cassette as well I can hear the notes blast out in starts and stops and it reminds me of the theme song for No Way Jose in NXT, though he starts with those notes and then turns into a dance party like a Miami night club and Sex Funeral takes a turn into something I could see making a mosh pit.  (Do kids even mosh anymore?  Do they pogo?  Can that be the subject of someone's future album somewhere??)

At the end of Side A there is applause and at the start of Side B you can hear the crowd as well, as we are asked whether or not we are having a good time and we are informed that we are going to have a bad time while also being made to feel feelings.    If not for these pieces I would not know that either of these sides was recorded live and it makes each one seem not like a singular song but rather like a constantly flowing conscious set of music which just adds to that overall level of how amazing it is.     You might have heard Sex Funeral before because I've written about them, but trust me, you have not yet heard them like this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Toy Review: WWE Battle Packs 40 Enzo Amore & Big Cass (Mattel) [# 137 & # 138]

When this Battle Pack was first announced I knew I needed it.   I kept searching Google for photos of the prototypes, to the point where I found this weird looking action figure, tweeted Enzo Amore about it and he actually replied to me!  (True story)  Then, the drama came.   This Battle Pack began selling for three times its mass retail price and more on secondary markets.    I kept going to various Walmarts and saw the other two sets in this series- Bushwhackers and Vince/Austin- but never this one.   I'd at one time saw no less than five of each of those two other sets and yet no Enzo and Cass.

Then I walked into the Bristol Walmart, convinced I'd have to wait until this series hit Target to find it, and found these two fellas staring back at me.   I searched through the pegs and found three different sets of Enzo & Cass so I picked the one which looked best, as this one had no odd markings on it.   The first one I grabbed seemed all right- just a dot of paint missing on Cass' beard- but the other one they had was pretty messed up so I was glad I had three to choose from and didn't have to settle for the one which suffered from poor quality control.   (Pictures of that one have also been included in this review)

At SDCC photos were shown for a new Enzo & Cass Battle Pack which I thought might be a Basic singles release for them but even with Enzo & Cass being released again in a few more series of Battle Packs I still wanted this set and that set as well.   Enzo & Cass- as with most NXT talent- are just two of those guys that I'd actually buy as Elites as well and I don't really like to buy tag teams as Elites in case I can only find one and not the other.

Enzo Amore himself just has so many different looks I don't think I will ever tire of buying his various figures and one day hope to have a collection of no less than fifty of him in different fashion statements.    But, as with most of these figures I've been reviewing lately, it's less about "You should buy this" and closer to "If you can find it".    Since it goes for closer to $20 at mass retail, if you could find it online for $30 I'd buy it.    (It's actually sold out on Ringside Collectibles and Amazon is overpriced so I don't know where to tell you to look)   Oddly enough we also got this for $17.97 at Walmart, which was less than we paid for the Elite Tyler Breeze.   Just think about that.

Toy Review: WWE Elite Series 40 Sami Zayn (Mattel) [Figure # 145]

When Elite Series 40 first came to stores, we saw a few of them at Walgreens (like Umaga) and they even had a handful at this Walmart but not Sami Zayn.   We went back recently- and this has been months later now- and it looked as if Walmart had just put out a fresh case of Elite 40, which was odd to me but since Sami Zayn was there we got him.   They actually had two Sami Zayns and neither one had the NXT Title stolen (Which I've read has been a rather large problem) but when we went back a short time later the second one had also been bought, so he's pretty much flying off of pegs I suppose.

The selling point for this figure- for me- had always been the NXT Championship belt and why not.   It's the first time anyone has come with it and it's just such a great title.    I originally was going to put the title with Demon Balor but he has since lost it and we have since purchased an Elite Samoa Joe so it kind of worked out in that way as well.   I knew that there would be an Elite Kevin Owens coming out after this figure which was my backup plan for getting the NXT Title, but that Kevin Owens Elite is a lot like the Basic figure we have of him so I'll gladly pass on it since we got the title with Sami Zayn.

I remember Walmart did a reset- I think for Summerslam, oddly enough since that's what time of year it is right now- and they put out a bunch of Sami Zayn, Adam Rose and Summer Rae as their "first time in the line" Basic figures.   At the time, Sami Zayn was really the first person from NXT to be featured in action figure form and given the NXT logo on his packaging.   At the time I assumed that an Elite Sami Zayn (or an Elite version of anyone in NXT) wasn't possible and when they came to the main roster then they'd get an Elite.   Even though I'm not the biggest fan of Sami Zayn, I was excited for his first figure, which was a Basic.

And that first Basic was pretty, um, basic.   It had little details on the tights.   It just felt so simple.   This Elite Sami Zayn has the articulation needed to perform some of Sami's moves you otherwise cannot (Though for me Sami's moves mostly consist of going through tables) and he has much more detail on the tights and chest hair.    It is kind of strange to me though that he didn't come with a shirt or even hat (Since they could have just re-used that hat from Bluetista) and that his only accessory and really only selling point is the NXT Title.

I keep saying and feeling like we're going to collect only certain Elite figures which will go on display on shelves while Quentin plays with the Basic versions of them.   This works with this Sami Zayn figure, though as of right now we have an Elite Samoa Joe and no Basic of him (And I won't buy the one that is coming out soon) and likewise we have the Basic Hideo Itami but no Elite of him.    Still, imagine a shelf one day with Elite versions of Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, Demon Balor, Hideo Itami, Tyler Breeze, Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Austin Aries, Kevin Owens and then possibly even guys from the CWC (like Ibushi and Gran Metalik, who have been signed by WWE) and it just makes me so happy.   So, right now, yes, this figure might be the start of something great as well.