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Through the Panama
Through the Panama
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Toxic sludge you can dance to!, December 6, 2007
This review is from: Through the Panama (Audio CD)
Previous releases by this Brooklyn noise-rock band (try Arrived in Gold if you dare) mixed sonic primitivism with digital tomfoolery. Vocals, when there were any, were grunted or moaned beneath a veritable lava landslide of feedback and effects. One release might move in a direction of Throbbing Gristle-esque minimalism, only to be followed by something akin to the cavemen in "2001" making war on the monolith in their midst. Now, with occasional rock star and noise enthusiast Andrew W.K. manning the boards, Sightings unleash their best produced and, dare I say, most "accesible" album to date. Now, when I say "accesible," that doesn't mean these guys are destined for enshrinement in any Billboard chart, unless they have one for "Eardrum Shredding Tracks." What's different this time out is the spaces between the noise eruption, which reveal something almost like actual song structure, but again that's a relative term. Then there's vocalist/guitarist Mark Morgan, who can be clearly heard chanting actual lyrics, most of which can be identified as being in English. Of course, don't get the idea that melodies are employed, as even a cover of the Walker Brothers' 60s nugget "The Electrician" is pretty seriously mangled. It's almost unrecognizable, but not completely, which for Sightings is a definite sign of progression. Mostly, though, with Richard Hoffman's paranoia-inducing bass, John Lockie's coldly mechanical, almost danceable digital drumming and Morgan's guitar fading in and out like a diseased, malevolent poltergeist, "Through The Panama" is perhaps a kindred spirit with industrial heavyweights like Einsturzende Neubauten (think Kollaps) or the noisier extremes of Skinny Puppy (Last Rights in particular). When you consider that this makes the album their most "commercial" effort ever, you can almost tell how subtereanean they were before. At this rate, they might even be almost radio friendly in about, oh, 5 albums or so. In any event, "Through The Panama" is the most forward-thinking and oddly hypnotic album of the year. Should you buy it? Hell, you should LIVE for it, even as it causes your hearing to die.
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Nirvana: MTV Unplugged in New York
Nirvana: MTV Unplugged in New York
DVD ~ Nirvana
Offered by MUSICROCKSUSA
Price: $12.38
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129 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, and not just for fans, December 3, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Thanks to the legal hijinks that dragged on long after Kurt Cobain's death, anything Nirvana-related was put on hold. After the legal resolution a couple of years ago, a 3-cd set of unreleased recordings saw the light of day (With The Lights Out), not to mention the obligatory "best of" (Nirvana). Now finally comes the somewhat legendary "MTV Unplugged" show. This set still draws some mixed reactions, even if most fans agree it's brilliant. Taped just months before Cobain's suicide, it's both startingly raw and disturbingly planned, with the band playing amongst candles and flowers (stargazer lilies, to be precise)--more than a few people noted it seemed like a funeral, and indeed that's the way Cobain intended it. Other details that stand out include the fact that while most of the band sit propped on wooden stools, Cobain sits in what appears to be a standard swiveling office chair ("I have very bad posture," indeed!) and the presence of ex-Germ (and future Foo Fighter) Pat Smear, who backs Cobain up as a second guitarist. Anyway, for all its emblamatic status, "Unplugged" also gave a somewhat false impression of the band, and Cobain in particular. Instead of the decidedly plugged in punk the band was known for, Cobain was transformed into a pained-looking, cardigan sweater wearing ghost warbling about how Jesus didn't want him for a sunbeam. Another MTV broadcast, taped just a few months before "Unplugged" the suitably-named "Live and Loud" show, could restore the balance somewhat, but of course it hasn't been officially released on DVD yet. Nevertheless, "Unplugged" retains an almost atavistic hold on the viewer, and is still one of the most intense musical performances ever broadcast on television.

Instead of a basic acoustic run-through of their hits, the band used the opportunity to put a new spin on some of their album tracks. The songs "Polly" and "Dumb" were pretty much unplugged before, but in the context of this show became brillianty-etched character studies. The main character, however, was always Cobain, and his songs constant references to death and alienation became all the more chilling here. "Unplugged" is, therefore, something of an audiovisual suicide note. No suicide note has been as exhilerating as this one, though. If you never believed in the concept of catharsis, this might chance your mind.

The band also used the show to highlight some of their own favorite music, and five of the songs here are covers, all of them given new life by their inclusion here. David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" now seems like Cobain speaking from his grave, even if he wasn't dead yet. The tradional ballad "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" was performed by one of Cobain's favorite bands, The Vaselines, but this version was both tribute and personal statement. Three songs from Meat Puppets II, with Chris and Kurt Kirkwood from that band joining in, also seemed handpicked for their metaphorical content, most notably the damnation-themed "Lake of Fire."

What makes this DVD more than just a keepsake is the fact that the entire performance, complete with between song banter and mistakes, are included, as well as the original broadcast version. The uncut "Unplugged" also has 14 songs, compared with the broadcast version's 12. Of course, all the songs can be found on the CD version (MTV Unplugged in New York), but now it's available in full 5.1 glory (and done remarkably well, I might add). The long version also includes a very brief, abortive version of "Sweet Home Alabama," done as "the Brothers Meat" (as Cobain says) were setting up. While the retrospective documentary also included here is disapointinly light on information, it does include a short clip of Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo, who was at the taping. So while this is pretty much essential for fans, even the curious will want to check this out. Hopefully, some of Nirvana's electric performances will be released soon, but this is still a unique performance that easily transcends the era when it was done.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2014 2:04 PM PST


Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking the Declaration of Independence
Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking the Declaration of Independence
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.72
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Though he misses the forest for the trees, this is still a fascinating nature walk, December 2, 2007
Alan Dershowitz, celebrity lawyer and frequent cable news talking head, has in "Blasphemy" used his estimable legal skills to create a necessary answer to the Christian right (the so-called "religious right" in this country is almost entirely Christian, and Protestant at that), who have lately taken to claiming one of the nation's founding documents to be implicitly, if not overtly, Christian in nature. This, of course, is the legal front of their overall "wedge" strategy to finally make fundamentalism the law of the land. Needless to say, this would endanger the liberties (and maybe even the lives) of the vast majority of Americans, no matter their belief system, or lack thereof. Although in length (less than 200 pages) and often in tone, Mr. Dershowitz clearly intended this book as a broadside, he also wants to ask broader legal questions and examine the "morality" that should be inherent in a secular nation. In the end, he may be misinterpreting the overall strategy of his opponents, but this is still a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

In the first section, he examines the history and creation of the Declaration of Independence, gathering in impressive yet concise detail, the evidence that the Founding Fathers, in particular Thomas Jefferson, clearly intended a radical break from British law, to the extent that America would refuse to establish itself as Church-based. They were Deists, who while perhaps believing in some sort of deity, didn't accept the Christian version at all. The wording of the Declaration, with its references to a "Creator" or "Nature's God," was in fact a way to avoid using specifically Christian iconography. This was eventually crystalized in the Constitution, which acknowleged no divine authority at all.

In the second section, Dershowitz examines the words and actions of the Christian right itself. In his view, they intend to re-establish America as a kind of democratic theocracy, where minority faiths are technically allowed, but effectively voiceless. Unfortunately, he focuses too much on Alan Keyes, who although a persistent advocate of faith-based government, is essentially not a major threat in terms of power or influece. Important players in the movement, such as James Dobson, Tim LaHaye and Paul Weyrich are barely even mentioned, much less examined. Although Mr. Dershowitz has a clear grasp of many of their legal arguments, this oversight is a troubling harbinger of his overall understanding of the movement itself (for a more comprehensive journalistic approach, read Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism).

It's in the final section of the book where Mr. Dershowitz attempts to contribute his own ideas to the debate. He looks at the language of the Declaration from a legal standpoint and asks critical questions about phrases like "Nature's God" and "Natural," as opposed to "Positive" law. He even goes so far as to critcize the founders themselves for not realizing the full implications of their words. He also goes back to a newspaper column he wrote in 1984 called "The Ten Commandments for Politicians," which laid out some suggestions for how candidates should address issues of faith. Many of these seem eerily prescient, considering the tone of the current campaign for president: "Do not publicly proclaim your religious devotion, affiliation or practices, or attack those of your opponents;" "Do not surround your political campaign with religious trappings or symbols;" "Do not seek the support of religious leaders who impose religious obligations on members of their faith to support or oppose particular candidates." Here, Dershowitz could be talking to or about anyone from Barack Obama to John McCain; Hillary Clinton to Rudolph Giuliani.

The problem I have with the book is that for all his legal acumen, Dershowitz finally fails to realize that the Christian Right doesn't actually care about the Declaration; they certainly have no interest in the "godless" Constitution. They just want to re-format their ideas to make them stand in court, whether they be local districts to possibly the Supreme Court itself (Justice Scalia can certainly be counted as one of their friends, even if he is Catholic). Frankly, it's almost comforting that they wish to stage only a legal coup, as opposed to something more physically demonstrative. Dershowitz's comeback, therefore, is designed with the courts in mind. Any counter-tactic he can offer will only be legal as well. The root question of how a pluralistic democracy can deal with anti-democratic fundamentalist ideologies is somewhat foreign to him, and his book suffers as a result. Nevertheless, this is still worth your time, given its size and considered within its scope.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2012 1:32 PM PST


Trees Outside the Academy
Trees Outside the Academy
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Academy Fight Songs, September 18, 2007
("Trees Outside the Academy" by Thurston Moore)

Although Sonic Youth's eternally mopheaded guitar hero has been involved in numerous solo and collaborative projects since his last "major" solo effort, 1995's Psychic Hearts, much of that output hasn't been easy to come by, and usually involving torrents of free guitar noise. This is what some casual listeners would expect, but even many fans would be surprised by Thurston's latest effort, "Trees Outside the Academy," which is anchored by torrents of tightly composed acoustic guitar playing, often resulting in some of the most lovely songs he's ever composed.

Working from longtime friend J. Mascis' (of Dinosaur Jr.) home studio, and featuring a small group of collaborators including Mascis, SY's Steve Shelley on drums and violinist/solo artist Samara Lubelski, this certainly isn't the Thurston solo effort fans would hope for, but it's the one we get, and we should love it as such. "Psychic Hearts" was a spotty effort, featuring one of Thurston's best ever songs (the title track), and a lot of half baked efforts that grew out of the kind of songs the mothership band were doing at the time. The new album, therefore, will appeal to fans of recent SY albums such as Rather Ripped: that is, song-based rather than jammy, with strong melodies. Here Thurston is mainly playing acoustic guitar, but the songwriting is still clearly his, right down to the time changes. On a number of songs, J. Mascis does step in with his usual fiery electric guitar playing, so noise hasn't been abandoned altogether. There are moments here as bracing as anything in SY's cataologue, but they're balanced against moments of equal beauty and delicacy. The instrumental "Off Work" is case in point--Thurston plays the melody lines on acoustic, Mascis plays noisy counterpoint on electric, while Lubelski's violin adds in plenty of color. Much of the rest of the album, in particular the soft, straightforward "Never Day," establish Thurston as a singer-songwriter trapped in an indie rocker's body. This is again balanced with occasional outbursts of white noise, such as the 37-second "Free Noise Among Friends," and the closing instrumental of the title track, which uses the full band dynamic to build into a compressed (despite a 6 minute running time) head of steam. It should also be noted that Shelley's drumming on the album differs a bit from his SY work--an often motorik method cleary taken from so-called Krautrock bands like Can. The end result of the album is thrilling--even if one were to ignore Moore's long resume, this would still be one of the best of the year.

The closer, allegedly "hidden" track, "Thurston @ 13," is an old tape recovered from his parent's house featuring a young Thurston (though his voice had obviously changed by this point) playing around with various sounds--"What you are about to hear is me dropping a quarter on the table...there." What should be a somewhat embarrassing bit of juvenalia is, in the context of the album and Thurston's career in general, a curious and playful sxploration of sound itself. "Trees,,," shows him at the current summit of his exploring, and proves that he's far from finished yet.


Liars
Liars
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Antisocial Security Blanket, August 28, 2007
This review is from: Liars (Audio CD)
("Liars" by Liars)

Liars are one restless rock band. After the noisy, fractured dance punk of their debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, leader Angus Andrew replaced the rhythm section and came back with the even noisier and in no way danceable They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. As if that didn't alienate many of their fans, for album #3 they took another sharp left turn with the impressionistic Krautrock of Drum's Not Dead (CD + DVD). The only clear direction they were on was more art, less rock. Now here we are at the self-titled album #4, and while their artsy impulses are anything but gone, they've reasserted the R-O-C-K for their most accessible work since the debut.

Keep in mind when I say "accessible," for this band that's a relative term. While this album, with its primitivist punk rhythms, bent psych rock guitars and digital screwing around, can possibly be enjoyed by more or less "normal" folks, this is still music that speaks, sings, chants, screams, stutters and mutters to the freak in all of us. In many ways, this is music for people who have no friends, and don't really want any. The monomanical pounding of "Plaster Casts of Everything" may inspire some fist-pumping and head-banging, but its falsetto vocals and general atmosphere of scuzz make it seem unlikely. "Houseclouds" brings in a bit of off kilter funk and keyboards that make it sound like a diseased Radiohead song. Meanwhile, "Leather Prowler" has a rhythm partly composed of what sounds like an (obscure reference alert!) exploding new building and "Freak Out" has already inspired many comparisons to Psychocandy-era Jesus & Mary Chain, with its bouncy melody and feedback-drenched guitars. Those with the fortitude to stick with the rest of the album are then rewarded with "Protection," which is (gasp!) an actual song, with a chorus and everything! Of course, the whole album is also swathed in all kinds of echo and murk--picture a rabid demon dog coming at you from out of a dense fog--so it's not exactly recommended for fans of what passes for most indie rock these days. Clocking in at a brisk 43 minutes, "Liars" may not be a long trip, but it's certainly strange.

If, however, you're one of those rare people who nest in noise and are soothed by pychosis, you need look no further. This album is the hard stuff, ladies, gents and those undetermined, and like the climax of Tod Browning's immortal Freaks, it may even be transformative.
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Kala
Kala
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 21st Century World Music, August 21, 2007
This review is from: Kala (Audio CD)
("Kala" by M.I.A.)

So what's a talented hip-hop artist to do after her debut draws raves from critics and an inexplicable fan base of jaded indie rockers? Record a follow-up disc with mega producer Timbaland, of course! Now that she had the cult, she might as well go for the gold (or platinum, or diamond...). Unfortunately, Uncle Sam couldn't care less about the pop charts, and M.I.A.'s resulting visa problems prevented her from spending real quality time with Timbaland. This could have sunk a lesser artist, but Maya Arulpragasm has a truly adventurous spirit and a true "vision thing" (as a certain former president might say), so she jets off around the globe to work with kindred spirits in Jamaica, Trinidad, Australia and eventually even the good old U.S. of A, and it's easy to guess that the resulting album, "Kala," is crazier and riskier than the debut, Arular. What isn't as easy, however, is that it's deeper, and in many ways better.

Starting off with three high energy dance numbers that recall her previous work, it soon becomes apparent that there are indeed major differences. The rhythms are far more complex and M.I.A.'s vocals are more confident. While she was never shy about injecting some politics into the mix (her shout-out to the PLO caused some minor controversy last time out), on the Bollywood/disco number "Jimmy" there are these sure to be discussed lyrics: "Take me on ya genocide tour/Take me on a truck to Darfur." Considering "Jimmy" is easily the most accessible track on the album, it comes off as more than a little sardonic and dark-humored.

Other highlights include "Bird Flu," with it's tribal drumming and chicken squawk sample; "20 Dollar" samples gunshot sounds and New Order's "Blue Monday" and has a lush psychedelic quality to it; "Mango Pickle Down" features some aboriginal boys called the The Willcania Mob and "Hussel" has some guest rapping by Afrikan Boy. As a whole, "Kala" is truly 21st century world music, where cutting edge production helps create a global party vibe. Instead of some embarrassing Kumbaya sing-alongs, though, M.I.A. unites the first and third worlds without ignoring the problems inherent in the proposition. Instead of coming off as some rich pop star seemingly exploiting others for a bit of knee-jerk exoticism, she allows her collaborators a full voice and meshes it perfectly with her own sensibility. Instead of becoming just another hit maker (okay, so the CD offers a free--yikes--ring tone), she'd rather have the artistic credibility of someone like Bjork.

Ironically, the weakest track here is the Timbaland produced (and guest-starring) closer, "Come Around," which is really a scrap from his recent solo album. The result is that "Kala" ends with a whimper instead of a bang. When compared with the rest of the album, a listener can only say "who needs Timbaland, anyway?" Frankly, the "global village" needs M.I.A. more than M.I.A. needs cheap pop hits.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2007 1:53 PM PDT


Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life
Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life
by John Sellers
Edition: Hardcover
55 used & new from $0.01

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guided by Indie Rock, August 20, 2007
John Sellers is a music/pop culture writer who's gotten the opportunity to transform his blog (google "Angry John Sellers") into a book that's a kind of musical autobiography--that is, he charts his musical maturation over the years, from young Duran Duran fan to modern day indie rock obsessive. Consider this, then, a non-fiction version of Nick Hornby's seminal High Fidelity: A Novel. One important difference is that where HF's protagonist views his music in terms of his love life, for Sellers the music IS his love life. Sure, he's had relationships with women, but his chief interest in them lies in their ability to turn him on to new bands. Therefore, hie relationships with his favorite bands is what drives this book, and it helps to enjoy it if you share his passions, mainly regular-guy alt rockers such as the Pixies, Pavement and Built To Spill (whose album Perfect From Now On had an obvious influence). He will endlessly listen to and mull over the career of Joy Division/New Order and the lyrics of The Smiths. In fact, he'll even travel to Manchester for a New Order reuniion show and impromptu pilgramage. Far less time-consuming are the numerous lists (you can't be a true music obsessive without them) the lengthy appendix to the book: everything from "My Top Ten Favorite Albums" (#1: The Queen is Dead by The Smiths) to "Top Five musical things I hope happen now that the original lineups of the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. have reunited" (#5: "Radiohead stops listening to Pink Floyd and starts listening to Black Sabbath"). Meanwhile, the main body of the book is frequently interrupted by long, digressive footnotes, some going on for as long as ten pages (Sellers admits he got the idea from Nicholson Baker, but he could just as easily been channeling David Foster Wallace).

The last few chapters, however, are devoted mainly to one subject: Guided By Voices. This Ohio band has gathered a freakishly obsessive cult following, and Sellers has clearly not only drunk the Kool Aid (or Miller High Life, as the case may be), but mixed it as well. He describes how his addiction grew from just being a fan to finally spinning in their orbit. His status as hanger-on might have helped get him the book deal, but it also garnered him brief ignominy on GBV message boards. Naturally, he covers this incident at length, and in fact continues to apologize for any misunderstanding. Therefore, his fawning over GBV frontman Robert Pollard gets pretty grating after awhile, especially if you don't share Sellers' love of the band (I myself could have written a book about my devotion to Sonic Youth, but of course I digress). Actually, you'll find the whole book annoying if you cna't connect your own obsesseions (be they sports, shoes or heroin) with the author's, and even then it helps greatly to know a bit about what he's talking about. Still, Sellers' writing style is self aware (in that uniquely Gen-X way), witty and often flat out hilarious. Taken for what it is, this is definitely a worthwhile read for music fans, even if, alas, it won't save your life.


The Atheist's Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts
The Atheist's Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts
by Joan Konner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.82
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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "Good Book" for the rest of us!, August 14, 2007
"The Atheist's Bible," edited by Joan Konner, aims to be a Bartlett's Familiar Quotations of unbelief. The entire contents are quotes, usually from atheists or agnostics, but also from critics of organized religion, no matter what their belief system. Therefore, while you'll find many of the "usual suspects" of modern atheism represented here (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens), you'll also come across vintage sayings by Deists like Benjamin Franlin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. To stretch the "Bible" conceit a little, Konner arranges the quotes into various chapters with religious-sounding titles: "The Word," "The Gospel," "Our Forefathers Who Art in Heaven," etc. Many speakers are given several quotes, and some particularly quotable religious critics, such as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll and, ahem, Woody Allen have whole chapters devoted to them. There's even four quotes from the fictional luminary Homer Simpson (p. 53: "God bless those pagans")! Some fictional characters, such as god and Jesus Christ, don't make the cut, which is strange. I personally can't think of a better path to atheism than the actual Bible itself, and hotel managers the world over seem to agree with me. Anyway, here are some words of wisdom, chosen pretty much at random:

"The Christian religion was not only at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one." (David Hume, page 32)

"Praying is like a rocking chair--it'll give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere." (Gypsy Rose Lee, page 78)

"Faith is the great cop-out; the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." (Richard Dawkins, Page 47)

That should give you a pretty good idea of what you'll find throughout. For an atheist, this is definitely a "good book" to keep handy, or at the very least offer excellent bathroom reading. In any case, it's certainly not essential reading, unless you have a good memory and frequently get into arguments with Jehovah's Witnesses. As for the intentions or opinions of Ms. Konner herself, currently Professor Emeritus and Dean Emeritus of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, little is given. The short introduction includes one short quote of herself: "The reason there are so many opinions is that no one knows the Truth." (FYI: a Google search turned up nothing useful, but then I get discouraged pretty easily)


The Darwin Awards
The Darwin Awards
DVD ~ Joseph Fiennes
Price: $8.17
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "award" worthy, but better than you think, August 2, 2007
This review is from: The Darwin Awards (DVD)
"The Darwin Awards" is not a defense of evolutionary biology, but a tongue-in-cheek honor given to those whose foolish bravado and dumb choices do a service to the gene pool--by removing themselves from it. The yuppie who attempts to demonstrate the supposedely bulletproof windows in his high-rise apartment by running right into them. The guy who goes ice fishing using dynamite. The freeloader whose attempt to steal from a vending machine results in his being crushed by it. These and other such stories have done wonders for our collective sense of schadenfreude and have spawned numerous websites (the most popular bearing the name "darwinawards"), books and now this movie. While it's far less silly than some of the characters who populate it, "The Darwin Awards" is a generally funny, though not entirely successful, attempt to bring this brand of dark humor to the masses.

Joseph Fiennes plays a forensic detective whose risk-averse nature and hemataphobia (he faints at the sight of blood) has caused his departure from the force. However, his skills convince an insurance company to go cross-country investigating strange cases, which could save them untold millions if the claims turn out to be the result of foolish choices and downright stupidity. He is teamed with a free-spirited insurance investator played by Winona Ryder (her first major role in a number of years) and, needless to say, zaniness ensues. The cases they encounter on their travels are drawn from real life, or at least real urban legends, which are shown in flashback using an inspired cast of recognizable actors including David Arquette, Juliana Marguiles and the late Chris Penn (his last movie role) as well as cameos by the hosts of the TV show "Mythbusters" and heavy metal stalwarts Metallica.

These vignettes are often hilarious, even if you're already familiar with them from the web site or books, and the performances from the leads are just quirky enough to be interesting, even if the attempted romantic pairing never really works. It's particularly nice to see Ryder back in action again, and in fine form as well (her involvement also allows her to name check Wilco, one of her favorite bands, and give a cameo to beat legend and family friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti). Writer/director Finn Taylor keeps things moving at a good clip and does a good job balancing the "main" story of the investigators with the backstories of the characters they encounter. What doesn't work is the sub-plot of a documentary film maker who tags along, suppodedely doing a profile of Fiennes' character. It's only point seems to be to implicate the viewer for taking enjoyment in the mishaps and death of others, and it comes off as distracting and even a bit insulting. It's also unnecessary, since Taylor manages to simultaneously mock and celebrate the Darwin cases. he sees them as beautiful losers and misguided dreamers, so we see how anyone, even us, can meet an embarrassing end. Also, by movie's end it plays almost as the pilot for some strange television show--maybe a cross between "The X-Files," "Moonlighting" and "Jackass." Therefore, as a movie, it seems incomplete.

The disc extras are, you would expect, rather sparse. The usual info-mercial for the film is joined by short interview clips of the cast. I would have preferred to see more of Ryder (okay, I admit it, I'm a fan--BTW, Winona, if you're reading this, please marry me!) and given the circumstances, Chris Penn's segment is far too brief. Still, if you long for movies in the spirit of Heathers, and you don't set your expectations too high, "The Darwin Awards" is worth the prize of your attention.


Hope for Men
Hope for Men
Price: $14.18
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like their name, you'll love their music..., July 26, 2007
This review is from: Hope for Men (Audio CD)
If you've been bemoaning the general state of rock music lately, in particular the neutered whining that gets labeled as "punk," then have I got the band for you. The delightfully named Pissed Jeans hail from Allentown, Pennsylvania (that's right, like the Billy Joel song) and the ennui/alienation of working-class life in a depressed economy comes through in their music like pus from an infected wound. Instead of the classic rock stylings of Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp, this band gravitates more toward brutal, soul-dead noise rock, the kind that hasn't been around for a long time. While many of today's underground noise-heads (Wolf Eyes, Sightings, Lightning Bolt) keep at least one cloven foot in the avant-free-improv scene, Pissed Jeans stick to the doctrine of more rock, less art. There was a bygone era, the late 80s to early 90s, when indie labels like Amphetamine Reptile were famed soley for this kind of stuff (if you liked one AmRep release, you'd like them all), and bands like Cows, Hammerhead and Janitor Joe had cult followings among a certain brand of hipster. It was assumed the alt.rock explosion, and implosion, had killed off this sort of thing, but Pissed Jeans, not to mention the English band Part Chimp, are here to prove that theory wrong. Even longtime vets Unsane are back with a new disc (Visqueen), so maybe a noise-rock resurrection is afoot. Pissed Jeans are even signed to Sub Pop--their original roster of bands like Tad and Mudhoney probably influenced them. While their plodding, pounding and feedback bleeding exertions aren't exactly a new thing, in fact it's really kind of retro, this is the kind of mad-at-the-world-but-too-screwed-up-to-do-anything-about-it racket that, oddly enough, acts as a balm when you feel trapped in Bush-occupied-America.
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