video review : 10 Cloverfield Lane

video review : 10 Cloverfield Lane

Don’t be confused by the title. This is Cloverfield 2. It just looks and sounds a lot different than its predecessor. Think Blair Witch 2 if that sequel didn’t stink to high heaven. Not to say this sci fi thriller, which traps a woman (“girl”) named Michelle in an underground bunker with a crazy survivalist named Howard, isn’t a step down for the franchise.

There are moments of tension involving Michelle’s attempts to escape her virtual prison, which Howard and a fellow inmate named Emmett insist is actually a refuge against an apocalyptic chemical fallout happening outside, but the ending, in which the truth is finally revealed, is unrealistic, silly even, compared to everything that came before it.

my rating = 3 of 5

2016

audio review : In The Blue Light ( album ) … Paul Simon

audio review : In The Blue Light ( album ) ... Paul Simon

Someone tell Paul Simon he’s already made these songs. Alzheimer jokes aside, In The Blue Light shouldn’t exist; at least not in this form. A live video of the songs being performed as they are here, in the stripped-down style of chamber jazz, would be cool. Hearing them as a new studio album is disconcerting. I dislike the concept of cover songs in general. A whole album of a singer covering his own nears absurdity. Consider the fact that there are now two official versions of these songs. In order not to confuse yourself when putting one on your playlist, you now have to include its year in brackets.

The newest is from 2011. The oldest is from 1973. That means his first and last albums are overlooked along with several others, which would be understandable if not for the fact that one; You’re The One; is revisited. There are four songs from that album, which totally ruins the balance of the set. It’s presented as ten of Paul Simon’s favorite Paul Simon songs; René And Georgette is one of my favorites also; but he should’ve limited it to a favorite from each album. Nevermind the fact, or my opinion, that, with the exception of Darling Lorraine, the You’re The One selections are some of the worst here.

At least they’re on beat. It sounds like he can’t hear the music he’s singing to on Some Folks Lives. Every one of these new renditions are either worse than or about on par with their original counterparts. Not that it isn’t easy listening. The album is, to my ears, clearly better than Stranger To Stranger and So Beautiful Or So What, probably even Surprise. Paul Simon, one of my favorite song artists, has been making subpar music for a while. At 76 years old, perhaps it’s time he retires; not just from touring, which he has, but from making new albums of any kind. His shining legacy is starting to flicker.

my rating = 3 of 5

2018

audio review : Xodus ( album ) … X Clan

audio review : Xodus ( album ) ... X Clan

Professor X should rap more. The tribesman does so on only a few songs here; his flamboyant bars actually sound more like spoken-word poetry; but he’s a delight to listen to. Fire And Earth, on which him and lead MC Brother J go back and forth, is a standout. Other songs follow in the bootprints of the first album by relying on familiar soul samples to make funky their philosophical and religious lessons.

What’s interesting is what the Clan has to say. The Foreplay intro hints at intellectual hypocrisy, but this isn’t about hitting groupie skins. It’s all about The Blackwatch Movement, a race-based “spearhead” for the afrocentric “weapon” known as black nationalism. When they’re not rapping, Professor X, The Overseer, is still uplifting his race by giving “vanglorious” speeches and calling people sissies.

my rating = 3 of 5

1992

Publix Premium Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream

Publix Premium Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream

This is Hawaiian ice cream. The illustration on the carton is that of a girl dancing in a pink paradise with flowers and glitter. The taste doesn’t live up to the Hula hoopla, but it’s a sweet treat, perhaps a bit too sweet for some. The word “sugar” is on the ingredients list four times. The blend consists of brittled macadamias, which “grow in pretty boquets”, “whipped-cream clouds” and caramel from “Caramel Bay”.

my rating = 4 of 5

audio review : Kamikaze ( album ) … Eminem

audio review : Kamikaze ( album ) ... Eminem

When a new Eminem album gets too many negative reviews, his response is to rush out another one. It’s what he did with Recovery in response to the mediocre reception critics gave to Relapse, a personal favorite of mine, and what he does here. Revival, released barely nine months ago, was panned more than any other album of his. I don’t think it’s much worse than the two before it, but the general public; a sad amount of which are simply too stupid to classify music they don’t love/like as anything other than “trash”; apparently disagreed. Eminem first responded by releasing a Chloraseptic remix with a new verse addressing the matter. That should’ve been the end of it. Instead he drags it over to a whole new project.

I like the two skits. On the first one, Paul Rosenberg leaves Em a phone message strongly implying that he thinks the album concept is a bad idea. I don’t know whether or not he really feels that way, but I certainly do. Eminem, as renowned as he is, going after detractors who aren’t nearly on his level only tarnishes his own legacy. The best thing to do is ignore them and go on with his life. The second skit plays on that opinion with a funny reply to Paul’s message in which Em talks about reading a negative comment some “moron” posted about Revival and going to his house to fight him. These skits should come later in the set, perhaps joined as one, but they get it right. I just wish they were included on a better album.

Kamikaze, titled as it is because Eminem presumably knows he could be committing career suicide with its release, is actually worse than Revival. Not by much; none of his albums are trash to me; but damn. Where’s Dr Dre? These beats sound like Drake album rejects. Fall and Greatest are potential standouts ruined by sucky hooks. I’d add Stepping Stone to that list, but it’s just the bridge that’s sucky there. The song, for an interesting side note, also has a connection to my site in that it was my popularity as a member of the official D-12 message board that inspired me to start it. “It’s 2002,” Eminem says, “Everything was totally new.” Now it’s 2018 and, though D-12 is officially “over”, their bandleader is still at it, for better or worse.

The worst chorus is the one on Nice Guy. It’s dumb and annoying. But that’s not Skylar Grey singing. It’s another hack named Jessie Reyez. Nice Guy and Good Guy have two of the best beats though, albeit coming across as tacked-on demo tracks. Good Guy is the better of the two, but there’s only one good song; nevermind a Stan-level classic; in the lot. Venom; a theme from the movie, which makes it an odd way to end this album; is a banger, but it’s not enough. What happened to the Eminem that didn’t jump on political bandwagons; Donald Trump wisely ignores his attacks; or give a fuck if people got offended by the word “faggot”? Framed is the best song on Revival. Perhaps I should mail him a copy of Relapse to study.

Forget family relationship problems and near-death drug overdoses. Eminem’s biggest blunder, as far as this (“ex”?) fan is semi-seriously concerned, was following the pop crowd and downing his own album; one of his best albums; an album that, even with those silly accents, shits on not only everything here but everything he’s released since. He spends this whole Kamikaze project defending Revival; listen closely and you’ll notice that he never actually agrees with the people who trashed it; but backtracked on Relapse, which he apparently thought was good enough to release and even plan a part two for at the time. “I write songs for me,” he once rapped, “Fuck what you like.” Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

my rating = 3 of 5

2018

audio review : Numbers ( song ) … Booka Shade

The title refers to phone numbers presumably, which, even in a world of internet-based social media, remains the most efficient way to keep in contact with a stranger you meet one night at a dance club. People generally go to have fun, of course, but, with all those warm sweaty bodies gyrating about, there’s often sexual tension in the air; perhaps even romantic allure.

“I really want you,” her or his eyes say to him or her; the concept is inclusive to both straight and gay relationships, though the chorus consists of two male voices; “Make me forget I’m just like everybody else.” That last part is ambiguous, but the song peaks with kinetic bliss; a little too early for its total length; for about twenty seconds near the two-minute mark.

my rating = 4 of 5

2007

audio review : The Gift Of Gab ( album ) … E-40

audio review : The Gift Of Gab ( album ) ... E-40

E-40 does have, as the idiom goes, the gift of gab. He had it better in his younger days. Go back and listen to how he changed his vocal delivery and flow from song to song on the Element Of Surprise, Charlie Hustle and Loyalty/Betrayal albums. Even today, the rapper usually has something interesting to say. It’s his lack of skill when it comes to overall song-making that’s been his aesthetic downfall.

This album, reportedly the first in yet another set; this one having to do with defining the title of each entry with a mock dictionary site or app cover picture; is about as weak as his last several. That includes the B-Legit and Too Short collaboration albums. These Days, featuring Yhung TO, is a minor highlight, but most of the beats and especially the lazy (ass) hooks are notably inferior to the verses.

my rating = 2 of 5

2018

audio review : Stand For Love ( album ) … Peabo Bryson

audio review : Stand For Love ( album ) ... Peabo Bryson

This set starts with a banger. All She Wants To Do Is Me, it goes as Peabo Bryson sings over a grown and sexy dance beat. It’s an early peak, thanks mostly to the sophisticated music production of Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis. The album falters from there. Bryson has a nice voice; the women he coddles shamelessly will especially appreciate it; but these songs are far from lovable.

They’re mostly stodgy ballads riddled with bombastic declarations of “love”, the romantic kind pussy-whipped crooners like Bryson can’t seem to sing about anything other than. That includes an odd fanboy dedication to another popular soul singer, though him and Sade could make an interesting power couple. Odder is the ending concert medley of old hits with Chanté Moore.

my rating = 3 of 5

2018

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios

I’m tempted to say these would be better without the Chocolate; I think it’s ridiculous how rare it is to find peanut butter food products that aren’t interbred with that flavor; but I don’t know. Sometimes the combination tastes better and this might be one of those cases. It’s not the best kind of Cheerios, but it’s up there. The powdery coating is a nice touch.

my rating = 4 of 5

Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Cinnamon Toast Crunch

The best way to consume this cereal is to pour a small amount into a bowl, add a small amount of milk; not buttermilk, despite the pun; eat it quickly and repeat. That’s not so much to prevent sogginess but for taste. The “real” cinnamon and sugar loosely coating each square, which is supposed to represent a piece of toast, have a much sweeter pop before the milk has a chance to dilute them.

my rating = 4 of 5

audio review : Take A Look Around ( album ) … Masta Ace

audio review : Take A Look Around ( album ) ... Masta Ace

He’s just talking on the title cut, but Master Ace is a good rapper with a knack for composing clever rhymes and thinking-up interesting concepts. Me And The Biz, for example, is a mock duet with Biz Markie, while The Other Side Of Town has Ace coming from the perspective of a hungry bum. “I’ll never get ahead; my raps have a better chance,” his character laments, “I’m living on Wonder Bread with holes in my leather pants.”

The underlining message here seems to be a socially conscious one. What you’re supposed to Take A Look Around at is the state of affairs happening in the ghettos of New York. But Ace also brags about his skills and chases young ladies; Letter To The Better and Postin High, respectively. The beats are provided by Marley Marl and Mister Cee, who bring with them a crateful of funk/soul records from the 1960s and 1970s.

my rating = 4 of 5

1990

audio review : Don’t Judge Me ( song ) … Janelle Monáe

She means only God should judge her, not the man she “sin” lust with. They’re at a beach somewhere. If it’s not Paradise, it feels like it.

This slow jam, easily one of Janelle Monáe’s best grooves, conjures the vibes of 1970s soul music. Listen for sultry strings on the bridge.

my rating = 4 of 5

2018

audio review : Dirty Computer ( album ) … Janelle Monáe