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14 June 2009 @ 08:03 pm
Le sigh. I have never been good at keeping journals, and that fact has always depressed me. I've wanted to be a writer for some time now, but being a writer entails daily writing. Or at least one would hope. The easiest manifestation of this is the diary: just jotting down thoughts in a structure that really doesn't even need to be, well, structured. For whatever reason, I can never seem to make it a daily ritual. Maybe its because I really don't think what gets said here does anyone much good. Maybe I am too lazy. Maybe I'm much too busy, which can be confused with lazy sometimes.

My three writing jobs are holding steady right now. It's a little unnerving, because I'm not 100% sure if it will get me through the entire summer and into the school year without needing a retail job, but for the time being it's much more preferable. The child in me is certainly happy. When I was younger, I was told many times by my parents just how bad it was for me to be in front of the computer. Now, I spend as much time as I want on the Internet, and get paid for writing too. As well, I'm performing this summer in a musical written by my best friend and his father. I don't believe I've mentioned it yet. It's called Spirit and is the story of a group of high school seniors at a Catholic school as they approach the sacrament of confirmation. I play Andrew, the theatre geek. You want to know why I'm good for the part? Because I spell it "theatre."

Anywho, Spirit will take place...sometime in late July? I'll get specific dates up here at some point. Again, not that it'll actually get anyone to come see it, but another post on here will just stroke my ego all the more. Performance location is St. Francis High School in Hamburg, NY.

Well, wasn't that something? Turns out Pittsburgh can win in Detroit. And talk about timing. I can't truly claim credit for it, but I did have a hunch that this year's Stanley Cup Final would be going to 7. Especially the way Pittsburgh came back in games 3 and 4. Detroit blew out Pittsburgh in Game 5 and I barely flinched. I maintained that, if Pittsburgh could just pull it together for one game in Detroit, they'd win the series. Losing at Pittsburgh wasn't even a thought that actually registered. And Maxime Talbot putting in the two goals that led to the victory. That's just another dimension of how hockey is just such a different, special sport: This game was won by the team's 6th best forward. That's like Roscoe Parrish grabbing 3 TDs in the Super Bowl. That's like Zydrunas Ilgauskas putting up 60 in the NBA Finals. Or like... someone from baseball... doing... something equivalent.

I don't know baseball players, or what they do.

In a very humorous sidenote, Detroit Red Wings' Marian Hossa was held without a goal in the series. That's like T.O. being like... well, Roscoe Parrish. Two Stanley Cup losing efforts, and the schadenfreude just keeps getting better.

And, wow, just wanted to throw this in here, because this musical is awesome. Next To Normal focuses on Diana Goodman (played here by Alice Ripley) and her family as they all try to cope with her bipolar disorder. Which she's had for years. J. Robert Spencer plays the husband (who's name I'm not really aware of), and Aaron Tveit plays the son who gets hallucinated by the mom. I had a friend of mine recommend the show to me, who ended up burning me a copy of his recording, and it's incredibly lively. The melodies fit together and soar through the roof, guided by the rock orchestrations. Alice Ripley has a bit of a warble to her voice that I can't really ignore. Then again, I'm really picky with my female voices. But, good Christ, does the music kick. Anyone who enjoys this clip would do well to check it out a bit further, as the show won this year's Tony Award for Best Score. And deserved it.

Current Location: Home
Current Mood: cynicalcynical
Current Music: NPR
02 June 2009 @ 04:49 pm

Repo! The Genetic Opera
dir. Darren Lynn Bousman
Lionsgate, 2008

Sometimes, a show just kicks. There are more balls in this 98 minute film than are in a Roman bathhouse. Its taboo decadence rivals that of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it will probably assume a similar cult status at some point.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is the story of Nathan Wallace. A cheery, level-headed type, Nathan is a widower who is in charge of his 17 year old daughter, Shilo. He needs to keep a close eye on her, as she has had a blood borne disease from birth that renders her unable to contact the outside world. He has raised her since birth without the help of Marni, Shilo's mother who died during childbirth of a mysterious complication. A doctor, Nathan blamed himself for his inability to save Marni, and spends his life devoting himself to his child.

Oh, yea, and he works as a repossessor of organs. And, yes, that means all of his clients now die.

Nathan Wallace works for GeneCo, which saved this futuristic Earth from annihilation by offering genetically enhanced organs when everyone's normal organs started failing for, oh, whatever reason. Everyone's in debt to GeneCo. And the ones who don't pay get their spines ripped out in glorious, bloodthirsty fashion.

It's not just the blood and gore that make this film. It's the blood, gore, and metal. The soundtrack is the most interesting musical composition I've heard for a piece of theatre. Ever. It uses industrial sound effects in concert with hard driving guitar, while implementing many facets of opera as well. It compels, and that's good; the cheese in the plotline might be noticeable if the music wasn't quite so badass.

The casting is perfect as well. No other director or story could incorporate Paris Hilton, Alexa Vega (Spy Kids), Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Sarah Brightman and Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy. And it happens here in a way that's totally believable. Well, as believable as it can be in a movie about a guy who repossesses organs.


This is a link to the movie's main website. I suggest checking out the Media section, which has clips from the film and interviews with Bousman, who also directed the Saw franchise, and the co-creators of the story. To get there, move your cursor to the bottom of the screen, click 'The Film,' then click 'Media' in the left margin.

Current Location: Home
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: NPR
31 May 2009 @ 03:21 pm
Still at my sister's place in Hamburg. Her and her husband got back from their honeymoon yesterday. She was a little too tired to drive me home, which was fine. She had to drive back from Burlington, VT, that day, and I didn't care as long as I got to watch the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals. I did. Go Pittsburgh.

My youngest sister, who's still four years older than I am, told us last night that she was pregnant. Awesomely weird. Awesome, cause now there will be one more young mind to play with. I love frustrating children. Weird, because... well, by the definition of it, technically there's a parasite in her body now. One she'll have to nurse for nine months and then poop out. It really is a beautiful process...

As far as Game 1 is concerned, Pittsburgh showed some fight. This rematch is going to go much differently than last year's matchup. Detroit is still the Empire, not necessarily evil in my book because, aside from the millions heaped on Marian Hossa, the entire Red Wings organization finds a way to compete year after year with a team that has grown up mostly inside their own organization. I admire any team that can turn 5th and 7th round draft picks into Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Detroit still has home field advantage, as they did last year. Won the first game, like they did last year. But, although I can't remember it precisely, I think Pittsburgh was way more competitive at the outset of this year's final series. It was really Chris Osgood that kept Pittsburgh out of the game, with some courageous saves that held Detroit's advantage.

Current Location: Hamburg, NY
Current Mood: workingworking
Current Music: None
28 May 2009 @ 01:26 am

On Acting
Laurence Olivier
Simon And Schuster, 1986

I never used to enjoy reading books on acting. My own style has been to try and be as organic as possible. Not exactly method, but not a ton of technique either. I figured that there wasn't too much I could glean from another actor's style. Then I actually began to study acting. That word, study, really makes a lot of difference. During high school you're just happy to go on and fuck around on stage. To be totally honest, I still look at it that way. But if you want people to pay you for it eventually, you have to take it a little seriously at times.

Laurence Olivier is widely considered to be a legend of the screen, stage and Shakespeare. In On Acting, a series of conversations on all three, Olivier's own perception of his legacy is persistent but not obnoxious. Early on, he discusses the four men he believes responsible for handing down Shakespearean acting to our time: Richard Burbage, David Garrick, Edmund Kean and Henry Irving. Olivier gushes over the contributions of each to the stage, offering anecdotes and accolades the entire time. He shows proper deference to the past, although one can feel that he considers himself the next in line for that legacy. Olivier was 79 when the book was published, and by then many wouldn't argue whether he belonged in that category. But it's to his credit that his desire to carry the torch doesn't read like peevish insistence.

What I found the most surprising about Olivier's ability to approach a specific role was his attention to makeup. He was a master of the fake nose and other similar facial machinery. Sometimes it's hard to grasp just what subtle yet concrete effect makeup has on defining a role. Olivier talks in detail about his manipulation of his own features, whether finding just the right shade of black for Othello or the molding the makeup of his Richard III after director Jed Harris. Olivier used the makeup to submerge himself into the character. This worked well with Jed Harris as Richard III; Olivier considered Harris "the most loathsome man I'd ever met."

Many are familiar with theatre directors and teachers who are only too happy to tear down. Students who experience too much of this should read this book. Olivier understands, with veritable sympathy, all the problems surrounding the theatre, be they stressful conditions, the search for personal ability, or what have you. The book's final chapter, "Letter to a Young Actress," is one of the best examples of criticism that is easily accessible as constructive. The fact that the letter was written to his at-the-time future wife, Joan Plowright, may have created some bias on Mr. Olivier's part. His decision to share it with the world in On Acting certainly makes it a love letter. Not to his wife; personal romance is discussed to an incredibly minute degree. But to the same people he dedicated the book: "To my children, the next generation of actors."

Fun Parallel: Olivier loves Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote in five acts with multiple scenes. On Acting has five parts with multiple chapters. Coincidence?

Current Location: Hamburg, NY
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: King of the Hill, other room
26 May 2009 @ 02:59 pm

The Last Waltz
dir. Martin Scorsese
MGM, 1978

It's important to establish the focus of a film early on, especially for documentaries. Documentaries are the newspaper articles of the film world, and suffer greater from a lack of focus than a traditional hack comedy that can rely on several old gags.

From the very first moment of The Last Waltz, the focus is clearly, and sharply, established. Before going into the movie, a screen reading "THIS MOVIE SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD!" pops up. This film is all about the music. Yea, it's a documentary about a band playing their last concert; it may seem redundant. But now the backstory takes a definite back seat, and we don't focus on the personalities so much. Just the everlasting appeal and musical ability of The Band as they hang on stage with some of the greatest names ever in rock 'n' roll.

Oh, and definitely take that advice, the movie needs to be loud. Not just because the music is entertaining, but because the interview scenes, which do add the perfect amount of color, are recorded at such a soft volume.

I've been a fan of The Band for over a year now. I had picked up their Greatest Hits album, which included the greats like "The Weight," "Up On Cripple Creek" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," along with the lesser known wonders "Ophelia," "It Makes No Difference" and "Acadian Driftwood." They had such an intriguing musical style, full of multi-instrumentalists and no set lead singer, and made everlasting melodies seem easy to concoct.

If you want a real concert experience, but can't afford tickets to see an international tour at a stadium, purchase and watch this movie. Scorsese's style of film accentuates the reality of the scene, right down to the sweat dribbling down Robbie Robertson's face. And unlike other musical acts that suffer from, well, musical ineptitude, The Last Waltz is a two hour study in how to invite the greatest rock personalities of all time, including Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, and not just support them but be able to hang with their style. I can't say for certain, but it seems like what The Band had wasn't a group of superstars that created gold record after gold record, but an inventive ability to create music that was absolutely tailored to whoever they were playing with or where they were playing.

It's obvious that this wasn't just The Band's profession; music was their love. How else do you come across people playing such a wide variety of different music? How else do you bring Neil Young, Neil Diamond and The Staples on stage and make the entire concert experience flow as well as they did? If you need more convincing, just look at Robbie Robertson's face near the end of the film, when everyone who has appeared comes back on stage for a "We Are The World"-style rendition of The Band's "I Shall Be Released." It's a face that totally says, "Holy crap, I'm singing into the same microphone as Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, and I'm loving every fucking second of it." I loved every second of that one.

Current Location: Hamburg, NY
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: TV in the other room playing Scrubs
25 May 2009 @ 04:23 pm
Daily posting may be a noble intention, but putting it into practice is much harder. Now if I can only make a similar revelation about something I don't already know.

I'm currently staying at my sister's home. She just got married Saturday (which is a hell of an excuse for inconsistent posting, I may point out), and things have been a whirlwind of ritual and celebration. Now that she and her husband are away on honeymoon, I get to watch the house and the Hounds from Hell: Jack, the beastly black Lab, and Tucker, a black Lab/pit bull mix that likes to nip at asses. Despite the nomenclature, they've been behaving rather well. I've learned two rules that appear to be vital when caring for a dog with any amount of pit bull in their heritage: 1. Try to remain as stoic and emotionless as possible (I'm German, so this is fine); 2. Always keep yourself between the dog and your ass.

Currently, I'm trying to rally some motivation together to get to work on my first assignment for my latest writing job. It's not coming easy. I'm extremely happy that it looks like I can work from my computer this entire summer, instead of resorting to the old tried and true summer jobs that everyone seems to need. Now I have to figure out how to make a routine of it. And with three writing jobs, plus a musical beginning rehearsals next week and another musical that I need to finish writing, having about 5-10% of it finished now, by the end of the summer. If there's no rest for the wicked, I must inhabit one of the lowest levels of Hell.

I spent some time today watching Utopia, or Atoll K as it's listed on IMDb, the 1950 film that would prove to be the final movie for the comedic duo Laurel & Hardy. I had gotten a 5 disc DVD set of Laurel & Hardy movies a while back on a whim; I had a gift card, and at the moment I wanted something that would seem slightly more enlightening than much of the existing popular cinema around.

For including such an esteemed comedic team, I found Utopia to be fairly depressing. Then again, I'm coming at it from a different perspective than most of their contemporaries. Escapism was the entertainment of choice during the 50s and the surrounding years, and those audiences could more easily access the schadenfreude of the comic mixups and frustrations facing both Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel. Possibly contributing to this depressing aura could be the obvious age of both actors; in 1950, both actors were nearing 60, and were considerably aged compared to their other performances I'd been able to see: Flying Deuces (1939) and March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934), both available in the collection. It was interesting to find out that March of the Wooden Soldiers is the original incarnation of Babes in Toyland, the 1986 made-for-TV movie version, which starred a young Drew Barrymore and boyish Keanu Reeves, having been a childhood favorite of mine.

It's interesting to watch older comedy, especially when you have a parent who keeps bemoaning the vulgarity of contemporary popular comedy ("Why do they always have to use the F word to get a laugh?"). It's a more delicate humor, one that I imagine would feel at home more on stage, owing mostly to the fact that both Laurel and Hardy spent their early years working the music halls that were popular near the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th. It takes some time to figure out what should be funny, but once you get used to the primitive physical comedy and scratchy soundtrack, you find yourself enjoying it a lot more. And I don't know whether or not comedy should aim to be wholesome, and although I've enjoyed this stint with Laurel and Hardy, I wouldn't give up Harold & Kumar for it, all I know is I've seen Stan Laurel in every single one of the stoner comedies that have become recently popular. The only difference is he doesn't smoke a pipe on stage. His ability to stay perfectly ignorant in every single situation, however, is priceless.

Current Location: Hamburg, NY
Current Mood: blahblah
Current Music: WBFO Online
20 May 2009 @ 02:12 pm
I'm going to try and change the momentum of this blog. To this point, it's been a showcase of various things, just things, and not even things that I find have a very personal impact. There's very little of myself in this blog, compared to what there could be and what a blog needs to be fueled by. Reading Portnoy's Complaint doesn't separate me from everyone; even reviewing it still lumps me with the few hundred people who have read and left their thoughts, both amateur and professionally, in the myriad of publications and websites begging for personal thoughts and critical analysis. Being Steven Brachmann, however, separates me from many more.

Cliche, yes, but all good campaigns find or co-opt their own. Just look at The Little Obama That Could. He thinks he can, he thinks he can...

I met a man today whose name was Clair. He stood with me outside the post office while we waited in the radiating warmth of early summer for the workers to end their lunch break. Not sure on the spelling, but the pronounciation is the same. It taught me two things. First, that gender confused appellations are not relegated to Generation X. Second, that postal workers need lunch breaks too.

I'm home from school now, and that means boredom. Which means being depressed. I'm the world's worst boss: I run a staff of one, and I still can't get him to wake up on time, work hard enough to be economically productive or even agree to any basic dress code.

Tonight, I have my first local government meeting to cover for The Buffalo News this summer. According to contract, I need to specify that I'm not an employee of the News, but I do contribute freelance work that they purchase; think independent contractor. I have to read the agenda yet, which I believe can be accessed online. An hour and a half of resolutions for more street lamps or refreshment licenses that have been awarded, then another hour and a half of making it sound interesting to a metropolitan audience.

Funny. I just considered Buffalo "metropolitan." Maybe if the state was able to keep from bleeding us dry to feed New York City. Gotta love the Albany Pipeline, the Sales Tax To Nowhere...

Just bought The Hazards of Love, the newest release from The Decemberists. Pretty good, a nice variety of sound that touches folk, alternative rock, metal and the baroque pop that The Decemberists have become known for. NPR's coverage of The Decemberists at 2009 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX, is pretty good. The following link contains audio of both an interview of Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, as well as the full SXSW concert by The Decemberists. They play through the entire Hazards of Love release, which listens like a rock opera of sorts. At points, more opera than rock.


For those with attention spans shorter than an hour and a half, the following review from Open Letters Monthly's Lianne Habinek is incredibly articulate, well put and contains access to two of the better songs off of the release.


Current Location: Home
Current Mood: blahblah
Current Music: NPR
15 March 2009 @ 04:22 pm

Dennis Lehane
HarperTorch, 1998

Dennis Lehane has slowly become my favorite contemporary author. I never thought I'd find reading paperback popular fiction so edifying.

The combination of Lehane's gritty style of writing, perfectly manifested in his mortifying descriptions of physical death, and the ease with which he incorporates Boston, his lifelong hometown as well as mine for 2 1/2 years, endears me to his work.

Sacred is the third novel in the Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro detective series set in the Boston area. Lehane, the pen behind the books that inspired both Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River movies, peels away at the veneer of casual life, using the pair of private investigators as his device, to see the soft, corrupt, evil underbelly of society. And, if Lehane is to be believed, it is everywhere and affects everyone.

It's difficult to review a mystery novel. You want to encourage the masses to read the literature you love, but you ruin it by opening too much of the plot. I find the introductions written for the classics of English literature by pedantic pedagogues enlightening if not entirely readable, but perusing them has caused much dismay by notifying of the book's climax and what it portends before I've ever seen the first page. But what can you say without talking about the plot? Critique style, use of imagery, and the like? I'm not sure myself. But I am sure that, even by mentioning who's involved in the book's highest moment of intrigue, the first half of the book is inexorably ruined.

This, however, is in and of itself one of Lehane's strongest points as an author. It's been a few years since reading A Drink Before the War, but in both Sacred and its immediate predecessor, Darkness, Take My Hand, the plotlines have been notable for starting in one direction and finishing with not only the truth but characterizations turned on their head. It's a well-known folly that you should never mistake the first bad guy in a mystery book with the ultimate bad guy, but it's a mistake that Lehane keeps allowing me to make.

Knowledge of the area of Boston is another reason why I relate well to Lehane's books. Lehane has made his hometown the setting for every story of his that I've read. I went to Northeastern University for two years, spent another half year in Boston, and tingle at mentions of the Avenue Louis Pasteur or the Wonderland T station. Lehane keeps his characters speeding down St. Botolph, finding a dead body in the Boston Commons, or tailing a suspect down Boylston. Familiarity will make you thrill to a writer, and the ability to know these streets firsthand makes Lehane's writing feel nostalgic and new at the same time.

I generally have an elitist cringe when I look at paperbacks with over-emphasized frontispieces and pompous quotes guaranteeing satisfaction as if it were oozing out of the print. But something in Lehane's work puts this to rest for me. Maybe in passing all this along, Lehane's tragic-yet-humanly-comical characters and stories can find a way to be worth your time.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: boredbored
20 January 2009 @ 04:53 pm

Western New York Heritage
WNY Heritage Press Inc.
Winter 1997 - present

I've always had something of a forlorn adoration for my hometown of Buffalo, NY. Having seen its heyday in the early 1900s diminish to the government ineptitude and the 2 miles of skeletal remains on Route 5 of the once-thriving Bethlehem Steel of today, Buffalonians have forged an underdog mentality in their psyche, which helps them deal with perennial sports heartaches and the insistence around the country that "Buffalo isn't a real city."

I lived in Boston, MA, for 2 1/2 years, and while I found the Patriots fans to be the most aggravating part (which made the inability of this year's Pats team to go to the playoffs all the more satisfying), the common reaction of Buffalo being such a laughable hometown was equally maddening. Even though they had a point; the economy's not dying in Buffalo, it's hooked up to life support with a faint beeping every minute or so. It certainly wasn't a choice reason would make, but I loved my hometown with all of its imperfections and disappointments and Skyway-like architectural eyesores and, again, our futility in sports. It felt a part of me, something that couldn't be divorced from my soul.

But why the hell did people live in Buffalo in the first place? The big joke around here right now is, with the current credit crisis in America, soon the country is going to come asking Buffalo for advice, because we've lived in a recession for years. And, in fact, I personally can't tell that there's a recession: the Western New York region doesn't thrive on the white-collar industry that has been hit, and though I'm sure foreclosures have gone up, nothing has hit close to home. Actually, if the fact that gas has gone down is a symptom of the poor economy, than this recession has done very well by me, cutting my personal gas bill in half. Shortsighted, to be sure, but I look at it as the poverty endemic to the Buffalo region that has provided a sort of buffer zone for this crisis. But not a healthy buffer.

I'd heard stories about Buffalo's past greatness before. That Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, Mark Twain and a smattering of other celebrities had called Buffalo home for a time in their lives. That millionaire mansions were de rigeur at the turn of the 20th centuries. That, without a man hailing from my personal tiny little hometown of Angola, NY, 30 minutes south of the city, the world may very well not know the comforts of air conditioning in summer (thank you, Willis Haviland Carrier).

These were stories past around by the elderly to whatever young person would listen, an oral tradition that people needed to repeat to themselves to remember in spite of the monotonous drone of nothing but parking lots constructed in Buffalo. But one magazine, undertaking what looks to be a yeoman effort in research and reporting, has been slapping the Western New York (we are NOT upstate, dammit) region in the face, hoping to wake it up to its past in order to negotiate a brighter future.

WNY Heritage, edited by John H. Conlin and supported by the herculean work of area historians, is a treasure trove of those facts about Buffalo's past that keeps its future possibilities bright. A quarterly magazine, each of the years four issues comes with about six articles on differing topics of Buffalo's past, replete with whatever pictoral references each historian, or the magazine itself, can find. For instance, in the issue pictured above, one can read about the Eagle Park 1912 disaster on Grand Island, the early aviation industry's tie to the Buffalo area, the story of the first woman to traverse the Niagara River en route through Buffalo to Detroit in 1702, and even the story of Wells-Fargo founder William G. Fargo, native to Central New York but whose business interests found him in Buffalo. There's even a photo album of Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo from the 1930s and 40s. I spent many afternoons traversing that road, being an alumnus of Canisius High School, and can hardly recognize today's street in these aged photographs.

For myself, it's the pictures that are most enticing. It's one thing to hear another's version of Buffalo's past, filtered as it is through one person's bias, but cold, calculating pictures do not lie (except for the abilities of Photoshop, but I'd like to think that there's nothing someone could gain from altering these pictures). Pictured above is the William G. Fargo estate, a mansion that once took up the entire city square created by Pennsylvania, Fargo, Jersey and West Streets. Such towering mammoths from the past of such a deprived present.

I've read about seven or eight of these magazines, and could honestly go for more. The writing is a little shoddy, but it's easier to accept when you realize that these people are first and foremost historians, writers second. The real prize is in finding another reason to be happy for the hometown that you live in, the ghosts flying around that made this place their home at one point and the promise that ingeniuity can once again make this region a metropolis.

Current Location: Home
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: NPR Inauguration Coverage
09 January 2009 @ 09:04 pm

Warner Bros., 2003

I had become disheartened over the past six months or so by music, wondering if I had been bombarding myself with so much of the stuff that the magic of hearing new music for the first time had deadened into an apathetic acceptance of a different sound. I had gone quite a while without finding a new song that could thrill me, and writing music reviews had opened me up to a lot of cynicism, cynicism that can really deflate the fun out of the sport.

In fact, one of the last times I can honestly remember having heard a song that blew my mind the first time I had heard it was "Stockholm Syndrome" by Muse, an alternative rock outfit out of Devon, England. I was driving through the streets of Boston, MA, at night, sitting in the passenger side of my roommate TJ's car, and being moved by the defiant-yet-emotive melodic rock sound of this group. I had heard "Knights of Cydonia" courtesy of the Guitar Hero III soundtrack, and was impressed by the technical difficulty of the song but wasn't what you would call piqued. "Stockholm Syndrome" allowed me a chance to hear lead singer Matthew Bellamy (Guitar Hero makes the guitar track louder than the rest of the song), whose soaring but strong timbre lacked the gruffness that typifies the grunge vogue of contemporary rock.

YouTube clips of this band really display their theatrical ability. To my knowledge, they haven't conducted a States-wide tour, which has led to their poor popularity on this side of the Atlantic. A quick search for "muse" and "glastonbury" uncovers a ton of clips from their live show at Glastonbury in 2004, shortly after the release of Absolution. Of particular note is the clip of "Stockholm Syndrome", which includes a five minute post-song jam session including Bellamy taking the off-stage amps, bringing them on-stage, flipping them on their backs, standing on them, pushing his microphone directly towards the speaker and completely distorting the sound of his guitar.

I realized I needed to get Absolution after hearing "Apocalypse Please" on Pandora radio (www.pandora.com), a heavy marching band track containing no guitar, awaiting Armaggedon: "It's time we saw a miracle/ Come on it's time for something biblical..." I was ready to marginalize Muse as a metal band before hearing this track; everything I was familiar to that point contained the same beat-driven, virtuoso intensity that I've associated with that genre. But tracks like "Apocalypse Please" take full advantage of Bellamy's piano ability, and the orchestrations that are "Blackout" and "Ruled By Secrecy" display the group's varieties in displaying their sound.

That sound is a progressive version of traditional emo given a healthy amount of testosterone. "Stockholm Syndrome", also on Absolution, is depressingly emotive, describing a strained and torn relationship: "This is the last time that I'll abandon you/ And this is/ The last time I'll forget you/ I wish I could." But listening to the menacing snarl of Bellamy's lead guitar, and the stoic beat of bassist Christopher Wolstenholme, you couldn't accuse Muse of being wimpy. You can really appreciate a band's ability to take emotively introspective songwriting and hooking people into the music, compared with today's competition.

"Hysteria" was also a standout. The guitar riff sounds like it was meant for a techno rave. An intriguing hard rock guitar riff can get me every time, and "Hysteria" takes full advantage of this. If you're unfamiliar with Muse, but like progressive rock and metal, you're going to want to pick Absolution up and check this band out even more
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "Hysteria", Muse