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127 used & new from $0.01

26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not their best but excellent, May 26, 2000
This review is from: Metallica (Audio CD)
Regardless of their commercial intent, Metallica had to make The Black Album. Their previous album "And Justice For All" had many brilliant moments, but it also edged toward excess. It's important to keep in mind that many of Metallica's influences wrote punchy 3-4 minute songs with a killer riff and solo. And their Garage Revisted album demonstrated their love to do something like that. But, they hadn't really done that since their early days, and they had gotten so far away from that by the time of "And Justice For All." As a result, The Black Album was an artistic, as well as commercial, commitment. Keep it simple; keep it memorable; keep it real.

No doubt, the craft paid off; Metallica's singles (Enter Sandman, Wherever I May Roam, Sad But True, Nothing Else Matters, Unforgiven) have become hard rock classics. Each song has killer hooks; they groove even, and the latter ballad is as powerful and moving as any song they've ever done. Sure, Bob Rock's production is a bit too smooth, but listen to the demos and realize that The Black Album is still thrash. Dismiss its difficult, then, consider that similar efforts by thrash outfits like Megadeth, Testament, and Anthrax were much, much less successful.

If there's any substantial flaw to The Black Album, it's that it reveals what true metal aficionados already know -- Metallica is an average thrash band with world-class compositions, The Beatles of the long-form composition. When you compare The Black Album with Pantera's "Vulgar Display Of Power." Where The Black Album waters down thrash's edge (relentlessly midtempo, simpler rhythms, production), "Vulgar Display of Power" distills it, retaining the creativity, craft, yet making it even more vicious. And compare it to Metallica's older work, and you miss out on the richness, dynamics and depth.

As a whole, though, The Black Album is a great kick-a** album. As close to the perfect mainstream heavy metal album anybody has ever gotten to. It also suggested that if Metallica could combine The Black Album's discipline with their 80s richness, their best work would lay in the future. Boy were we wrong . . .

The Man Who
The Man Who
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4.0 out of 5 stars Derivative but damn good, May 26, 2000
This review is from: The Man Who (Audio CD)
This record reminds me a great deal of Stone Temple Pilots' early 90s record "Purple." They don't sound anything alike, but just as "Purple" ripped off the Seattle mother lode while "The Man Who" steals sound and voice from Radiohead. And just like Stone Temple Pilots, its derivativeness (Travis steals certain musical parts) makes The Man Who hard to listen to without thinking of its much deeper, superior source.

But, who cares? The Man Who (again much like that STP record), in spite of its lack of originality, is exceptionally-crafted, a collection of sentimental, melancholy love ballads. The borrowed sonics give this album a swooning loveliness (Driftwood, Why Does It Always Rain On Me?) that'll win you over. In fact, its very charm lies in its accessibility, making The Man Who a terrific listen for rainy days, pensive nights, slow dances, and reflective beer drinking.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed effort, May 22, 2000
This review is from: Demonic (Audio CD)
As a bid to reclaim underground cred, Demonic spares little to chance. This is easily Testament's heaviest album of their career, adopting grindcore and extreme metal effectively. Frontmen Chuck Billy almost exclusively uses a death throat, rather his trademark singing, and it's an effective throat indeed. Moreover, the playing is extremely tight, especially with the intensely rhythmic riffs. In every way, Demonic is heavy.

And yet, it's surprisingly dull. Underneath the clothing and you still have a 80s thrash band, which is fine except that the combination doesn't completely gel. That grindcore sound works best with extremely fast tempos or slower dirges that groove the riff home; but here it accentuates a creative drought. The riffs, save for different rhythms, sound the same due to the production. Besides that, the songs are relentessly mid-tempo; except for the drum rolls, there's rarely an explosive moment. The lead parts are cheesy and monotonous. The songs tend to blend into each other.

However, these problems aren't readily apparent until a few consecutive songs. Taken in small doses, Demonic works as well as average death-metal does -- heavy, brutal, but monotonous. If you want to hear it done right, check out Testament's The Gathering.

10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You
DVD ~ Julia Stiles
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty funny (3.5), December 30, 1999
This review is from: 10 Things I Hate About You (DVD)
Third Rock from the Sun? It's kinda wierd to see the couple in this movie and on the TV show. OH well . . .

"10 Things", like the better teen flicks out there, is loosely based on classic stories. "Clueless" is based on Jane Austen's Emna. "She's All That" is based on (sort of) My Fair Lady/Pygmalion.

It's not to say that "10 Things" or those other films derive even 1/10th of the original's inspired creativity. That's not the point. The fact is Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew", like the other stories, gives at least a base for entertaining characters and great sitcomy situations.

And "10 Things" works well with that. It's not deep. It's not that clever. And the direct Shakespeare references are sorta weak. But, it has some pretty well-done funny, and sitcom-romantic moments with contrasting characters and a complete story. You're always having a good time with the flick, you'll be totally rooting for the guy, and "10 Things" definitely hits it off with how sisters can be. How many teen flicks have that nowadays?

And oh yeah -- the lead female actress rocks.

The Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely New Reviews: Every Essential Album, Every Essential Artist
The Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely New Reviews: Every Essential Album, Every Essential Artist
by James Henke
Edition: Paperback
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific introduction, December 30, 1999
Many have mentioned that the RS guide is outdated. However, the fact that edition comes out every 10 years gives a timely perspective of an era. For example, The Doors enjoyed a big revival in the 80s. The older edition of the RS guide slams the Doors; the newer one praises them.

Rather than showing a lack of integrity or consistency, this and other changes reflect that each decade shapes a new musical, critical perspective. And because RS has been there since the beginning, what better guide to give that perspective than Rolling Stone?

The guide's strongest with the standard rock heroes of the 60s and 70s. Why wouldn't it -- Rolling Stone chronicled them. You'll get a solid foundation of the roots and demimonde of rock and roll -- Muddy Waters, Little Richard, Presley, Beatles, Dylan, et al. It's good with the 80s in a "pre-alternative" mindset.

While RS is a bit weak (and superficial) on indie heroes and hip-hop, well consider that it was written in '91-92, just when alternative rock hit mainstream.

Many may consider this a fault, and it is. RS is not the ONLY guide out there nor is it necesarilly the best. But, before you go to the Trouser Press, this is the one to start with. Before one can enthuse about the latest, greatest Flaming Lips record, an appreciation of the Beach Boys would help. And as a capsule of how rock was like before the 90s really broke, it's great.

No Angel
No Angel
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising full-length debut (3.5 stars), December 16, 1999
This review is from: No Angel (Audio CD)
Dido's voice will remind you of alot of artists -- McLachlan, O'Connor, Orton, Thorn, among others. But, her style is her own singer -- understated yet warm as if she was singing privately to you.

Like many "trip-pop" albums, "No Angel" mines the same folk-pop + electronica territory that Everything But The Girl created with "Walking Wounded." While not particularly original, the production of her brother Rollo (of house superstars Faithless) nicely punctutates her delicate McLachlan-esque songs without overwhelming it. Moreover, he gives her voice all of the space and body for her winsome charm.

The lyrics aren't particularly strong. But, in the best songs, te production is lush Dido rises to the occasion with ache and charm. "Here With Me" is a great trip-pop power ballad. Dido echoes the sweet sendiments of "Thank You" without being cloying. She hangs on every "her" in the cool diss of "Don't Think Of Me." And, "My Life" (with its Faithless mix of house beats and disco strings) is Dido as full-on diva.

If "No Angel" is not exception, it is still a great-sounding debut featuring amiable songs and a highly talent singer. If Dido's lyrics or songcraft improves, she will no doubt become a female artist in the big league.

Wuthering Heights [VHS]
Wuthering Heights [VHS]
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best adaptation, December 1, 1999
This review is from: Wuthering Heights [VHS] (VHS Tape)
It's a great adaptation, particularly because Cavannah plays Heathcliff as a man and not a beast. His accent also fits well with his upbringing. The actress who plays Catherine is not as good, but WH is all about Heathcliff. He's hard and brutal because his life has been and that's how Cavannah plays it. Heathcliff's malovolence and tortured love is done with proper justice.

Sure, there's plenty of flaws. It would have been nice had this movie been given "real movie" production values like the 1992 version. Perhaps, a better heroine could have been found. But, because this adaptation stays truer to the spirit and storyline, it's 10 times more compelling and powerful than the other WH movies. This is the one to see.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Second Edition
Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Second Edition
by Harold Abelson
Edition: Hardcover
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120 of 138 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misguided intro, but great theory, December 1, 1999
Frankly, I'm appalled at the elitists comments made by many of the 5-star reviewers. It's that very superior attitude which prevents the comp-sci field from creating more scientists rather than code monkeys and justifies poor pedagogy and technical writing for the sake of "scientific integrity."

SICP is neither masterpiece nor pariah. No other introduction to computer science has a truer grasp of the "soul" of computer science. Not only that, but there is ALOT of useful theory in here, if you have the patience to look.

But, the book suffers for dreadful writing and advocacy of a language that can be really quite a horror for beginning programmers. On one hand, the authors took an approach that should have been brilliantly successful. On the other, they did a terrible job explaining fairly simple ideas (or, rather, ideas that should have been simple.)

But, the truth is SICP has SO MUCH to offer. Unfortunatedly, the book is only as educational as the CS professor who teaches it. It turns out that the Berkeley professor who said that SICP is "the greatest CS book ever written" is the finest CS teacher at Berkeley. Unfortunatedly, most CS professors are not even 1/10th as good as he is and therefore help make SICP a tortorous excursion.

As a EECS major at Berkeley, I've come to realize just how important theory is in the field of CS. And to that end, I think it is as easily critical that theory should be taught with the utmost respect, not only for the field but the students. SICP is a brilliant master, but often a contemptuous teacher.
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The Fragile
The Fragile
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, but extremely difficult, September 24, 1999
This review is from: The Fragile (Audio CD)
It would be easy to say that "The Fragile" is merely a leap or a progression from "The Downward Spiral", but it simply isn't.

"The Fragile" is as different a beast from TDS and TDS was from "Pretty Hate Machine." And it's a PROFOUNDLY challenging piece of music, perhaps the most avante garde work done by a mainstream, major artist since Pink Floyd's "The Wall."

Industrial stuff is still in the mix, but the essential sonic instrument on "The Fragile" is not drum machines and synths, but electric guitar. I haven't heard such spectacular, original sonic treatments of the guitar. Orchestrated walls, hyperdistorted bursts, riffs twisted into weird shapes. In that sense, "The Fragile", as My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless" before it, may become a defining reference point for rock music for the 21st century.

Coupled that with the piano work and you have one of the richest pieces of rock of the 1990s. All Trent has done before merely suggested this scope and complexity.

This is a difficult album because few of the songs themselves give an easy direction for the listener. There's few expression of rage as simple as the stuff on The Downward Spiral. It's murky; it's despairing; it's opaque; it's truer to the actual darkness of our souls than The Downward Spiral.

It's been 5 years. And in that time, I just guessed that Trent would do a updated version of The Downward Spiral. After all, how many more tricks did Trent have up his sleeve? Didn't he do all he could do within his brand of music. Boy, was I wrong. He has not done such. By refusing to cater to the mainstream, by refusing to merely satiate the appetities of his fans, by refusing to rest on his previous achievements, by refusing to make an album that didn't scream out for its existence, he has made with The Fragile an album that is every piece as original and bold as anything in popular rock today and one that has no precedence in his work or of others. Not progression, not evolution. A masterwork.

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed progression, September 20, 1999
The "angry grrrl" image never really quite fit with Alanis. Sure, "You Oughta Know" is a vengeful ditty, but that's about it. The rest of the songs were autobiographical takes on relationships and life.

It's not just enough to say, though, that "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" is merely a more mature version of "Jagged Little People." Glen Ballad really, really expands the stylings on this albums indulging his producer gig in prog-rockish arrangements. Moreover, Alanis goes for a sustained stream-of-consciousness, using the songs as vignettes of her spiritual growth in the years since Jagged Little People. This is clearly an emotionally diverse, introspective album.

But, I think her choice to essentially place journal entries into song makes the songs hard to take in. Dense but lacking real wit or power, her writings seem more like "straight-from-the-tape" couch rants than really insightful verse. With the amazing verbiage, there's barely enough here for a proper verse-chorus-verse song. It seems at times that the songs seem stretched out just for her not-very-good lyrics. It goes beyond confessional to being merely self-indulgenet and a rather bombastic, lazy attempt at "meaningful" lyrics.

So, ironically considering her obvious growth as an artist, the best songs here are the ones most like those on Jagged Little People. Simpler, less produced, and to the point.

The best way to listen to this album, like listening to a person go on and on about their lives, is sorta tune out and catch the gist of their saying. In that sense, Alanis has made good mood music. But, perhaps, not something you would have the patience to listen through with your best attention.

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