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Ashes Divide: Band, or Solo Project?

April 24, 2008 Leave a comment

I have to admit, when I first heard that Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle was working on new music for a new band, I was excited. In fact, the idea is still exciting, considering the people he has working on his new album, Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright by Ashes Divide. Danny Lohner, Josh Freese, Devo Keenan, Alan Moulder, Paz Lenchantin… wait. Wait, wait, wait. This is another A Perfect Circle album, right?*

Well, yes and no.

At first listen it sounds much like Howerdel’s former band. But for most of the tracks on the album, the guitars are heavily subdued, and Maynard James Keenan’s darker vocals have been replaced by Billy’s own brilliantly keening tenor. For what it’s worth, the band sounds almost as much like 30 Seconds to Mars or Abandoned Pools (another Freese studio drumming project) as it does APC. While I appreciate the amazing musicianship on the album, and the production, and, well, everything but the songwriting, it can’t hold up with his better work.

The most disappointing part of the album is the frightening similarity all the songs have to each other. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the guitars are buried in the mix. Buried. The layers of reverb, delay, synth pads, and vocal processing gets in the way of the harmonic content of the songs, especially on the first half of the record. While Billy’s pitch-perfect vocals rise above and give the songs melodic flair, the entirety of the album seems so homogeneous that it’s difficult to tell one track from another. Therefore one has to wade through the washes of atmospherics to decipher the lyrics, because they’re really the only way to tell the songs apart.

The album does have some shining moments, though. I think that “A Wish” and “Ritual” are two of the best songs that have come out of Howerdel’s brain. And there’s the lead single, “The Stone,” which is easily the most single-like song on the album, and, unfortunately, one of the two remotely heavy songs on this outing. “The Prey” is the other, and sounds almost like Prong in the intro riff and structure. The album closer, “Sword,” is a good condensation of the album.

But, sadly, the lack of real variety on the album keeps it from being a truly great release. I’m hoping that the sales for it are high enough to allow Howerdel to keep churning out releases, though, because I like the direction he’s heading in, but not necessarily the execution. So I guess that’s a plea for you to go out and get Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright, if only to support a dude posing as a group so that maybe he can actually get the group together and get some outside input on his albums.

*So you don’t have to look those names up, they’re all people he’s worked with in A Perfect Circle.

The Effects of Loss of Internet

April 15, 2008 Leave a comment

So long about Thursday our cable company cut our internet service. So I had to spend the next 4 days with no internet. At all. This was a new experience for me. Luckily, I could cope by having “real” interaction with “real” people. But there were some parts of the weekend that I didn’t really have anything to do. So yesterday I did something that I wouldn’t necessarily call shameful, but it’s still kinda sad.

I watched every Britney Spears video I have on my computer. Of which there are many. But, in watching every one of the horribly slick, extremely exploitative piece of fluff, I realized something. What that is, I will get to. First, though, a short comment on Ms. Spears.

Hundreds of millions of words (I’m sure) have been written about how psychotic she is, or how fragile, or whatever, and that’s not what I want to talk about. Honestly, I could care less about her public image, or her mental state, or any of that shit that the “normal” press that keeps printing and broadcasting and posting. That’s not what I’m on about.

What I’m on about is that every single person in each one of her videos (aside from that shmoe in the “Oops… I Did It Again” video) is more talented at everything she tries to do than she is. The dancers, the choreographers, everyone. So what I have to assume is that she is an ENTIRE fabrication. How it works is like this:

  1. Find a moderately attractive girl who is okay with being shoved around her entire life.
  2. Find someone to write some treacly pop hits.
  3. Find a black woman to sing said hits for said girl to overdub over later.
  4. Find good publicist, makeup artist, costumer, and dozens of other support personnel.
  5. Rake in cash.

Notice the “have a meltdown and become a tramp” is not one of those steps.

So what, right?

It could be anyone. Britney Spears is just a girl that got an empire built around her because she was willing to do anything, but wasn’t prepared for the consequences. So prepare properly, and you, too, can be Britney Spears. It’s not that hard. They’ve been doing it for decades.

Hunter S. Thompson Strikes from Beyond the Grave (sort of)

April 9, 2008 Leave a comment

One of the actual books (i.e., not a graphic novel or comic book or textbook) on my April reading list is Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels. I am currently on page 58, or the start of Chapter Five. Chapter Four dealt with the declination of media coverage that the Angels were getting, and their attempts to cash in on said coverage while it was hot. Eventually it got to the passage,

“But the deal fell through when the Angels offered, at $100 apiece, to terrorize any town that the TV people selected.”

Now, after the second read, it is obvious that the “TV people” in question were the producers of some mysterious television show for an unnamed network. However, I misunderstood it on the first pass. Therefore, I read it to mean the TV viewers. This is a pretty impressive proposition, and, at least in my mind, the next logical step in the evolution of reality TV.

No longer is it necessary to wait for the results of some poor bastard to do something on their own to get themselves kicked off a show. No more do we have to listen to Simon Cowell verbally do something we’d rather do physically (you know, destroy a person’s existence.) No, all we, the armchair voyeurs we are, would have to do is text–at a moderate fee–our vote for the U.S. town to next be ravaged by a chain-wielding gang of motorcycle freaks. It’s proactive destruction from the comfort of your own home. You could know that you played a small part in the decimation of an entire U.S. city. No longer would you have yell at the screen to tell them what you would have done or said… you can just say it, quickly and decisively, with your cell phone and the proper mindset.

Think about it this way: we thrive on destruction, pain, and misery. The popularity of such esteem-destroying shows like American Idol, gross-out shows like Survivor or the like, or the sheer voyeurism of Big Brother could easily be compressed into this one show. Interviews (or “raps”) with each member of the gang could be intercut, like The Real World.

So then, what we have, is really a show that has it all. Really. It All. It appeals to those basest, sickest urges that we have, the desires to kill and devour and destroy and rape and pillage.

All from the safety of our own homes.

Advertisers would flock to it. People would never turn it off. It would be The Running Man, but you could control who died. Well, maybe not who, but where. And maybe not where, but in the general vicinity. Maybe regionally. But there is nothing more globally saliva-inducing than death, destruction, sex, filth, and the puerile entertainment afforded by said behaviors. It’s rubbernecking without the pain of turning your head. It’s like watching a boxing match without having money on the line: you don’t really care who wins, but you know someone’s going to get fucked up bad.

It’s the future of network television, I swear.

A Turning Point

April 6, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve decided that, rather than post to my old livejournal account, which I really have fallen out of love with, I will post over here, hoping to a) avoid the trolls, and b) post commentary that is actually relevant to things.

As such, welcome to the slightly new, slightly improved blog. Expect the content to still be “Rick-tinged”, but the content should be more varied than simple pop culture stuff. I don’t have any intentions of being regularly updated, but I’ll try to keep things up as much as I can.

That is all for now.

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