Battles: The Greatest Band on the Planet

It’s a tough time to be a rock band right now. The whole garage revival thing that was all the rage around 2000 has pretty much died down as more and more musicians realize there’s more to it than putting a plural noun after the word “The” and calling yourself a band. The Internet has made it so any Joe Schmo with a computer and a cord can record an album and sell it to the world on iTunes, but there’s so much of it out there, it’s damn near impossible to sort out what’s really the best (unless Apple does it for you in a TV commercial). Oh, and Battles is around, so every other band in the world has to live up to their new standard. Because Battles is the greatest band on the planet.

Are the members of Battles the world’s most technically skilled musicians? Probably not. Does Battles make the best music on Earth? I love their tunes, but I couldn’t argue that their songwriting itself is the absolute BEST, nope. But as a band, a group, a collective, four individuals musically congealed into a single, breathing, siamise-like thinking unit, they are THE greatest, the #1, with very little doubt. In fact, no doubt. Battles is the greatest band on the planet.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you haven’t even heard of them (which is likely, and I recognize and respect that.. “Best instrumental math-rock group” isn’t exactly its own Grammy category yet), Battles is something of an indie / prog supergroup, a quartet consisting of members of other moderately well-known (but no less super) groups called Don Caballero, Lynx and, perhaps most notably, Helmet. (Remember “Unsung”??? You would if you heard it, trust me. Youtube that shit.) On the surface, their music is a mixture of complex rhythms, wacky time signatures, machinery-like sounds, strange but impressive unison riffs, something that I guess you could classify as “abstract vocals”… and more… all held together by eight good ears, a brilliant sense of structure, and, sometimes, believe it or not, a hook!

Those are a lot of adjectives, and nouns I turned into adjectives, but I think what it all means, basically, is you have to hear/see it to understand. Listen to 2007’s “Mirrored” (best album of last year) and you might have a better understanding.

Better, yes, but not complete. For the techies out there, it gets even better. One look at the album art from the aforementioned disc and you’ll see that Battles take quite a bit of pride in their gear — all their guitars, keyboards, amps, pedals and other fun stuff — most likely because it’s so fundamental to the sound they create. But unlike some of these other literally “electronic” artists with cool gear out there, Battles create everything live, with some nasty tricks up their sleeves. A few strums on some strings, a few pushes of some buttons, and they’ve crafted a perfectly timed, perfectly looped guitar riff; seconds later, that one simple loop has turned into another, and then suddenly it has become loops upon loops, a sonic casserole of rhythmic layers and, lo and behold, an entire song. Add some quirky melodies over that, some computer-like drum beats, some wacked out, modified singing, and you have the Battles sound, robot music created by four real guys on the spot. It’s electronic, no doubt, but it is real. It is human.

So what, specifically, would I say qualifies them for the honor of GBOTP?

  • No one else could recreate their music. Even with all the same amount of practice, the same exact gear, and an obsessive knowledge of their songs, it would be really, really freaking impossible to make it sound exactly like a true Battles recording and/or show. I have a pretty decent comprehension of music, technology, pedals, etc., and I gotta say, I can only explain to you what it is that Battles does… maybe, MAYBE 60 percent of the time. That is true individuality. Not just anyone can create that.
  • They DO IT LIVE!!! (to use the Bill O’Reilly terminology), and they pull it off. It would be too easy for Battles to drown in a diluted sea of “laptop DJs” that use software and a few mouse clicks to pull up stored sound at the same tempos and create “live” songs from saved samples. Battles is the greatest BAND on the planet because, in spite of the fact that their songs often come off sounding like some kind of processed, heavily produced, 64-track MIDI recording, they create it all live on the spot, as individuals, with strings, keys, skins, and one really tall crash cymbal (no really, look up some pictures). No pre-saved samples. Each member has specific parts, and he just nails them all. And it’s all created right then and there.
  • What they play is borderline impossible to accomplish. This is kind of a mix of those first two points. I’ve tried basic looping on a small scale. It’s tough to keep it going for more than 8 measures before it sounds like a garbled mess of 6-year-olds at their first music lesson. Battles can make it sound perfect and deliberate for entire songs. Hell, entire SHOWS. You need to have absolutely pristine and precise tempo control to lock together like they do. That’s tough for one person. Very difficult for two people. Near impossible for three. Four? Well, Battles can, can you? No.
  • It’s the future, now. It has to be. In the same way that Radiohead recently invented a whole new genre of music that can really only be described as “sounds like Radiohead,” so might it go with Battles over the next few years . Because anyone who goes and sees them will eagerly want to return home, plug in a Gibson Echoplex loop pedal, and create the next year’s greatest album. It’s fun, it’s impressive, and it sounds great.

Look, there’s lots of good stuff out there. Plenty of awesome rock groups are drawing thousands of fans every night, making great music in cities across the globe. But Battles are doing something so totally different, so totally advanced, and so totally untouchable, it would be tough to argue that any other band on the scene is as tightly “banded” together as they are. See comments above about Battles being the future of music, and consider how good of an idea it would be to see them now, before they blow up and the only venue you can see them in is a multi-thousand capacity outdoor lunatheater on the Moon (where they will still be the greatest band on the planet).

– Paul


The Only Director Batting 1000: Christopher Nolan

This man really has had an illustrious career. Before his ultimate masterpiece graces all of our brainsicles this weekend lets take a quick look back at the only director to, quite impressively, not direct a single disappointing movie in his entire career. I’m thinking the chronological breakdown would be the most appropriate.

The Following – 1998

Chris not only directed his first official feature, but he wrote it as well. This under-seen gem portrays a man who likes to follow strangers around London with harmless intentions, until he breaks his own rules and follows a subject more than once, intertangling himself in a web of lies and murder. Despite being shot in black in white, this film won’t be remembered as a classic, but it is an incredibly impressive debut from a young director and should be checked out by all those Nolan enthusiasts who never had the pleasure.

Memento – 2000

I can vividly remember seeing Memento in theaters for the first time. It changed the way I thought about films and is largely responsible for the media whore I’ve become today. With twisted non-linear plotlines (the pieces shot in color are going backwards and the pieces shot in black and white are going forward) this thriller cemented Chris Nolan in my mind as the director to watch for in the new millennium. Memento follows Lenny, a man with no short-term memory trying to pick up the pieces of the puzzle to find the man who killed his wife. Nolan puts the viewer right in Lenny’s shoes experiencing scenes with no preface except the notes written down in Lenny’s pockets or tattooed to his body. When the black and white scenes fade into color and the two stories meet to reveal a horrifying truth, Memento’s ending ties up every loose end and satisfies like few films manage to do. When watched a second (third, fourth and fifth) time, Nolan’s genius can truly be appreciated as you can follow each intricacy of this backwards tale. Nolan penned this script based on his brother Jonathan’s short story, and it truly is a masterpiece in every sense.

Insomnia – 2002

After all the praise Nolan received for Memento the big wigs gave him some serious heavy hitters for Insomnia. Starring Hilary Swank (only one Oscar at this point), Al Pacino (Scarface, enough said) and Robin Williams sitting in as the villain, Insomnia took us on a little journey to a small Alaskan town where the sun don’t go down and murder is afoot. Despite being my least favorite of Nolan’s outings, although I’m not surprised since neither Chris nor his brother had anything to do with the script, Insomnia is a great film worthy of at least one viewing.

Batman Begins – 2005

After Joel Schumacher completely destroyed Batman with George Clooney and his pointy nipples my boy Chris Nolan came in and did the unthinkable. He completely reinvented one of the most iconic characters in movie history utilizing Christian Bale and directed / co-wrote the best comic book movie ever made: Batman Begins. If you haven’t seen it yet then you are out of your mind and running out of time. The Joker is coming to Gotham City in a week and you best not be caught in the sequel asking the person next to you who Morgan Freeman’s character is, or you might end up getting punched in the nuts.

The Prestige – 2006

The Prestige is most definitely my favorite Nolan family film from the whole catalogue and will always remain one of my favorite movies of all time. Penned by the Nolan brothers and starring Hugh Jackman and Batman (Christian Bale) as rival magicians, this film takes the high points of every previous Nolan film and bundles them all into a perfect package. Like Memento, the story is nonlinear darting between the present, where Batman is to be hanged for murder, to different pieces of the past sewn together by two rivals reading each other’s diaries. While the supernatural does come into play before the end credits roll the answer you were looking for is in fact quite simple and has been paraded right in front of your face the entire film. The movie opens with Bale’s character asking, “Are you watching closely?” Despite watching incredibly closely the twist eluded me until the final moments of the film when it was spelled out explicitly. When seeing this movie for a second time (*SPOILER ALERT*) with the knowledge that Bale’s character is actually two twin brothers, I could tell in each and every scene which brother was sitting in the room. Bale’s acting job here is simply amazing. To be able to play two characters and make them seem like one persona on a first viewing, yet clearly separable as two distinct personalities on a second viewing, is a feat I’ve never seen accomplished in a film. If you’ve only seen The Prestige once I really suggest sitting down for round two, only in multiple viewings can it all be taken in.

The Dark Knight – 2008

Appropriately taking the title of the best of the Batman comics “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller, Nolan’s sequel will no doubt match its namesake’s quality despite sporting an entirely different plot that has been kept under wraps locked up in a basement in a secret location in Maleriabekestan. Unlike Begins, the Nolan brothers wrote Knight so I’d expect a non-linear plot line filled with thought provoking bumps along the way. Much of the talk of the town is about Ledger’s Joker, which I’m sure will be haunting, but the idea for this twisted version of a psychopath sprung out of the heads of the Nolan brothers and is as much their child as it is Heath’s. I expect great things, and apparently I’m not alone. Despite theaters adding 3:00 and 6:00 AM showings on Thursday night many are still sold out. It seems that The Dark Knight could shatter all records to become the biggest opening of all time. I’m glad the Nolan brothers are finally getting the respect they deserve, because I think they are both brilliant and the best filmmakers in the industry.

– Rich

Meller’s Mid-Summer Movie Thoughts: Wanted, The Happening, Shotgun Stories & More

So we’re already at the end of June, halfway through the movie season and it’s time for a mid-game thought dump. There have been a few good movies (Iron Man, Indy) and more than a few shitty ones (Speed Racer, The Love Guru, Zohan), but there are some particular points that I want to hit on about what has passed and what is upcoming.

First – Last weekend was the opening of Wanted, and all I can do is say “Fuck yeah.” I read the original comic books when they came out a few years ago and absolutely ate up its dark humor and pure badassery as only Mark Millar could deliver. The movie, though it changed the story to make it more audience friendly, seems poised to be just as sweet. The main reason that I’m pumped for this movie has little to do with any of the actors, but instead the director. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Timur Bekmambetov rules. Learn to say that name, because he’s going to be the best action director for years to come and Wanted serves as his introduction to the American market. Welcome Timur, welcome.

On a more depressing note, I didn’t heed the warnings of critics and ventured to see Shymalan’s latest misstep – The Happening. Wow, that movie ate some serious dick. On its knees in the middle of the group of dudes, moving like a circus seal. If you haven’t seen it yet, DON’T. It boiled down to be an utterly offensive experience. Really Shymalan, you call that piece of trash a movie? Death Sentence was better. Hell, Norbit was probably better than that trash. I’d rather watch the Number 23 on repeat for the rest of my life than sit through the happening again. Bad M. Night, bad.

The beginning of July marks a day that I’ve been awaiting for months. Shotgun Stories comes out on DVD. What is Shotgun Stories? you ask. Besides the best movie I’ve seen all year, Shotgun Stories is an independent film directed and written by Jeff Nichols that is Shakespearean in scope. The plot revolves around a trio of brothers whose drunk of a father abandoned them and later got his shit together and started a new life with a new family. He was such a bad father that he named his first three children Son, Kid and Boy. At his funeral, the two families see each other, Son spits on the casket and a feud ignites. It sounds simple, but it’s not to be missed. Catch this on DVD July 1st. Do it.

I’m fairly optimistic for the rest of the big summer movies coming out. My personal pumped list for the remainder of the summer is as follows: Wanted, Wall-E, The Wackness, Hellboy 2, Dark Knight, Pineapple Express, Hell Ride and Tropic Thunder. I’m pretty sure that all of these movies will be the highlights of what’s to come and won’t disappoint. Anyone else got any movies they’re excited for that I missed?

– Meller

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Part V: The Limey

When it comes to things that could be added to make movies better, I have a tough time thinking of something to top the addition of an English gangster. I really don’t know why, but it seems their funny accents and ruthless attitudes give a fresh and bad-ass spin on things. So when a movie is centered on an English mobster, it’s destined to be one of my favorites. Not long ago I discovered an English gangster movie that somehow slipped under my radar, and once I saw it – Sweet Jesus – it blew my mind. That movie is The Limey.

The titular limey is portrayed by Terrance Stamp (Superman I & II, Red Planet), one of the most singularly frightening men on the planet. Throughout his career, Stamp has made other English tough-guys like Malcolm McDowell look like Travolta. Compared to the man who told the world to “Kneel before Zod,” we are all women. Here he plays Wilson, a recently paroled convict who must come to the United States to investigate the death of his daughter. The papers say it’s an accidental death, but of course Wilson doesn’t buy that.

Wilson travels to Los Angeles and meets up with his daughter’s friends played by Luis Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren. The friends caution him to let it go, they buy the accident even if Wilson doesn’t. When the violence starts to unfold, it’s almost with a casual brutality. Wilson kills as naturally as he breathes. There’s not an iota of nerves in the man.

What really makes The Limey great is the fact that as the movie proceeds, everything occurs very naturally in relation to the characters. The story is ultimately a requiem for Wilson’s daughter; the tale of a man who pushed his family away by living a life of crime. Most crime movies feature stoic characters going through the paces of a caper or mystery but are cold at the core. The Limey is an exception; it has an emotional tug not often seen.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11,12,13, Out of Sight, Traffic) and written by Lem Dobbs (Dark City, The Score) the movie sports a slightly-too-stylized look that maybe could have been toned down to make the movie grittier. At first, the style kind of trips over itself, but by the time the action picks up the movie is firing on all cylinders. The Limey is one of Soderbergh’s movies that slipped between the cracks of Out of Sight and Erin Brokovitch. That’s too bad, because really this movie is a gem that shouldn’t be missed.

– Meller

Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Meller’s Thoughts

So after 19 years, the fourth Indiana Jones movie has been released, and despite the gap, I’m happy to report that it is a worthy entrant into the series. Sure, there was too much CGI, but George Lucas has spent the past 15 years sleeping on a bed of money thanks to ILM so there’s no reason to think he’ll stop abusing that position of power anytime soon.

I read in an interview with Spielberg that like the first three movies captured the spirit of the time they were in, that of the pulp adventure hero, he wanted to capture the spirit of the 1950’s with this movie. While I personally prefer the 1930’s present in the first three movies, Spielberg does accomplish his goal. The 1950’s sci-fi craze definitely shows its influences.

The one way that the 19 year gap helped Indy IV was in the casting department. The movie benefited from becoming synonymous with awesomeness and so naturally every movie star wanted to be in it. Besides Harrison Ford and Karen Allen returning, the movie features solid performances from Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, Shia Lebeouf, and John Hurt. After transformers, I was not a believer in Shia, but with Indy and his upcoming Eagle Eye, I’ve been converted. Ray Winstone is spectacular in everything, and for my money, there’s no one who plays a crazy old man better than John Hurt.

I don’t want to give away too much for those who haven’t seen it yet, but trust me, you should. There are talks to make another Indy if the movie does well enough, and I’m sure that it will and we may even see another trilogy. There are approximately 10-20 scripts for unfilmed Indiana Jones movies circulating around Hollywood and the internet, so there’s definitely a wealth of material to work with. In fact, make it 11-21.

George Lucas, I know you’re reading this, so here’s my offer. I’ll sell you my script Indiana Jones and the Sacred Shroud for a whopping $1 as long as you make the movie. A buck! Seriously, do you want a double cheeseburger, or a movie? The cheeseburger? Yeah, I guess I don’t blame you. They’re tasty.

The biggest surprise for me when I saw Indy actually came before the movie even started. We were shown a preview for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a movie I’ve been following for more than a few years now as it went through the development cycle. The trailer looked absolutely phenomenal and seems to be director David Fincher’s epic-to-be. Mark my words, come Christmas everyone will be talking about Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button.

– Meller

It’s Almost Time, Start Getting Pumped for Indy IV, & Other Summer Movie Thoughts

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Raiders of the Lost Ark is the reason that movies were invented. Movies are primarily there to entertain us, and nothing does that better than Indiana Jones movies. Say what you will about the artistic beauty and emotional depth present in movies such as American Beauty, but for the masses the movies serve as a means of escape and enjoyment. Raiders is a thrill from start to finish, eternally fun and enjoyable.

Now, after 19 years, we see another installment in the saga of the man who single-handedly made archaeologist synonymous with bad-ass. The initial reviews of the movie have been good, but they point out that what I knew was going to happen, an over-reliance on CGI.

George Lucas is one of those filmmakers who shows exactly how CGI can be detrimental to movies. The man practically invented special effects, but now he’s using them to kill movies instead of make them. Remember how awesome the new Bond movie was? That’s because it was all stuntmen instead of CGI. I’m all for that, and the fact that the new Indiana Jones relies heavily on computers instead of human beings to produce some of the pulse pounding moments is disappointing.

Want to see how to properly use special effects? See Wanted this July, and watch as Russian director Timur Bekmambetov uses CGI to create some astounding visuals. If you don’t want to wait, check out the first two parts of his Russian fantasy trilogy Night Watch & Day Watch. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. He’s the real deal.

Another example of poor CGI unfortunately seems to be The Incredible Hulk. It won’t look quite as poor as the previous iteration of the character, but it still doesn’t look quite good enough. I honestly don’t think that CGI will ever create a really good version of the Hulk – it just looks too fake. It’s hard to care about a character if he’s gigantic, green and fake looking, even if Ed Norton is supposedly in there somewhere. I remain reserved in my expectations for the Hulk, but I’m hoping to be surprised.

So Indy IV releases nationwide on Thursday, and you can bet I’ll be there – shitty CGI or not. I’d suggest you do the same and enjoy what is sure to be one of the most enjoyable movies of the summer. Check back on Friday for my impressions on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

– Meller

Iron Man: This Post Was Written By My Super Smart Robot

Iron man is all the rage this weekend, and while I liked it, all I heard leaving the theater were glowing reviews. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend doing so, but only so you can see how dead on the following observations / complaints about it are. I’m not usually a hater, but for all the praise I’ve heard, there is a serious need for a rebuttal. First, some overall background.

Tony Stark is an unparalleled genius, the heir to a weapons manufacturing company and a womanizer with no equal. Throughout the movie he becomes Iron Man, basically a souped up, more custom fitted version of those walking mech suits at the end of the 3rd matrix. But don’t worry, those old matrix suits do make an appearance as the “final boss”, if you will.

The movie has a TON of flash, and Robert Downey Jr. is really good in the title role. But, the more and more I think about it, this movie alternatively didn’t make much sense or was completely formulaic.

In the first scene of Iron Man, Stark is yukking it up with some soldiers, drinking a scotch, and talking about how many Maxim cover models he’s bedded, when the convoy of humvees he is riding in gets attacked. As he watches soldiers around him one by one leave the humvee, and one by one get mercilessly gunned down, he decides…to also leave the humvee! Interesting strategic choice. Considering they were in the middle of the desert, there was only one way to escape – keep driving the bulletproof humvee and hope you get away. He gets out and starts running! After he reaches his goal of hiding behind a rock 20 feet away, a missile lands and messes up his shit anyway. He wakes up in a cave full of evil terrorists. Here, he meets a nice doctor who keeps him alive while helping him build his first Iron Man suit (Think of a cross between the Pillsbury Doughboy and C3P0 after being dismantled). The doctor also changes his personality by talking about his dead family. I would have to say the scene with the doctor “creating a decoy” is one of the top 10 jokes of a scene I have ever witnessed. It’s one thing to shoot your gun in the air to draw attention…but he starts shooting right at the entrance to the “iron man suit lab”. Why wouldn’t that send even more guys right there? Then, there is the part where he is running behind 3 enemies in a narrow tunnel. The doctor is still shooting his gun into the air, yelling. Why he doesn’t actually shoot the terrorists, who killed his family and imprisoned him, is beyond me. He eventually dies, and his death is supposed to lead to some sort of personal transformation of Stark, who humanely and maturely no longer thinks about banging really hot chicks. So, he retreats to his lab, where 2 ultra-smart, completely voice controlled robots that can pretty much do anything are his main lab buddies. The combination of Stark interacting with the robots over and over, and their ability to do anything possible with any voice command quickly got boring. It was like someone said “how quickly and easily can we get him to make this suit, so he can start flying around in it ASAP.” Throughout the movie, this ultra-smart, ubiquitous computer helps Stark every step of the way. This is true until the end sequence, when he has to fight Iron Monger, as listed in the credits, or The Dude, as everyone in the theater was thinking.

The ending sequence was really what scaled back any kind of excitement/respect I had for this movie. After this, I quickly slapped the “standard super hero movie” label on this guy, and never looked back. I guess we can start at the beginning of it, where Stane (villain’s real name) is standing around in his lab. Oh no, a knock at the door. I don’t know which was less realistic – Stane hopping into an enormous mech suit in 10 seconds that Iron Man needs his two genius robots to help him put on, or Gwen Paltrow’s brisk jog to safety while a fireball chases her down. This was the 2nd time that she “escaped” due to the weakest of scenarios. In the first, Pepper (Gwen’s character) is at Stark’s office computer when Stane walks in. She already knows hes the bad guy, so discreetly finishes her download of the incriminating files, then suavely puts the screen saver up just as Stane walks over. After she leaves, Stane removes the screen saver to see “download complete.” “NO!”, he exclaims in a kind of sigh / whine / tantrum combo. What will he do now? Oh wait…SHE IS 10 FEET OUTSIDE YOUR OFFICE, WALKING IN HIGH HEELS. Stane has a plan though. Instead of wasting time shutting up that pesky Pepper, who quickly alerts the entire military, he breaks into Stark’s house and waits for him. Here, we see for the 2nd time the “super ear weapon”, which after being used next to a person’s ear will make the veins in their face pop out, and will paralyze them for 15 minutes. Unless you are the terrorist he first uses it on, then it kills you. So, he paralyzes Stark, takes out his crucial power source for the suit, and leaves. Yes, he leaves the hero sitting on his couch, unmoving. This kind of negligence towards the powerful hero hasn’t been seen since the Bond days, unless you count the spoofing of it in Austin Powers. So…Stane can kill him while wearing huge mech suits, but can’t kill him while he’s sitting motionless on his couch?

As for the final fight itself, obviously much can be explained away with the easy cover of “technology”. Like when Stark gets thrown into a bus, then a missile is launched from 15 feet away into the same bus. I’ll believe that the suit prevented his body from reaching temperatures that would turn him into a puddle of goop, just like I’ll believe that in the first suit scene, not a single one of those bullets finds their way through one of the enormous eye holes in his mask. Oh wait, what am I thinking. Obviously the Arab terrorists aren’t smart enough to think of shooting at his potential weak points. Wild screams and panicked, inaccurate gunfire is all they can come up with. Speaking of those terrorists, the head guy reveals his master plan to Stane just before dying – to make 8 Iron Man suits and take over all of Asia!! Of course, how did I not see it before.


Flight of the Conchords & Giving Up The Ghost Get The Trifecta Bump

Welcome to another Trifecta musical update. It’s time to break out the booty wax, its Wednesday night.

The new Conchords album hit the street this week and I’ve listened to it quite a few times since I downloaded it from itunes at 11:01 pm central time Monday night. Despite being a “new” album, there are no new songs to be heard here, instead there are nice studio versions of the songs we die hard Conchords fans have come to know and love. About half of the songs on the album won’t sound too different at all from their HBO show counterparts, but the other half sound significantly better with Inner City Pressure, Robots, Most Beautiful Girl in the Room and Bowie leading the pack. And let me tell you, Motha’uckas brings the funk like never before. This is without a doubt the definitive Flight of the Conchords audio collection to date, and I’ll enjoy it immensely, but I’m about ready for some new material from my favorite New Zealand two man novelty band. You can listen to the album in its entirety here. Apparently there’s a new season of the HBO show coming in January 2009, not too far away.

You may or may not have heard of my new favorite old soul singer / song writer but I’m here to let you know that his newest album, Giving up the Ghost, certainly deserves your attention. On October 2nd 2007 I attended a Phil Lesh & Friends show expecting to see Warren Haynes or Jimmy Herring on the right of Phil but was instead surprised to see a very young, but clearly talented musician sitting in with the older crew. About 30 minutes into the show I had made up my mind that this was Phil Lesh’s teenage son, and decided to voice my opinion but was quickly corrected by the hippy to my left who informed us that this was the one and only Jackie Greene. He has toured with the likes of B.B. King, Huey Lewis, Susan Tedeschi, Buddy Guy, and is now a permanent touring member of Phil Lesh and Friends, and get this, he’s only 27 years old. The concert left Jackie’s song Gone Wanderin’ embedded in my head on repeat so I bought his album The Dig Years, a collection of his best from 2001 to 2005. While the Dig Years is a little too country for me to give the ubiquitous Trifecta stamp to, his newest studio effort should be greatly enjoyed by all The Trifecta faithful. Jackie certainly has a sound all his own, singing with grit and grunge that I would expect from a man twice his age. Giving up the Ghost infuses jazz, blues, rock and country into an album that sounds familiar yet fresh at the same time. For all you out there who respond to the question “What kind of music do you listen to?” with the stock answer of “Everything but country,” Jackie Greene might make you think twice before you pull out that crap again. You can listen to some tracks on Jackie’s website here. Enjoy the tunes.

– Rich

I Hope No One Thought 88 Minutes was Gonna be Good… But Atleast Uwe Boll Didn’t Direct It

I hope no one thought 88 Minutes was gonna be good. Unlike previously horribly shitty movies whoever made this 88 minute film made the mistake of screening it for critics. On Metacritic, a summation of every respected critic all over the country, you’ll see a 12 next to the name 88 Minutes followed by the quote “Extreme dislike or disgust.” This weekend will truly be a test to see how much of a baller Al Pacino is. How many people out there would like to see the worst movie Al Pacino has ever made? He is Al Pacino; we’ll find out on Sunday night. With the internet bringing reviews of movies to Yahoo and Google home pages, highlighting monumentally bad ones, Sony might have missed out on the wily move of not allowing any critics to see it. You may or may not be aware of this move that studios make every now and again. If they know that the movie they’re putting out will be completely panned by critics, they simply don’t screen it for them. Some movies you might remember seeing trailers for but not actually seeing that have utilized this tactic in the past are Ultraviolet, Date Movie, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, and the infamous Uwe Boll’s Bloodrayne. My guess is Sony might have made more chedder had they added 88 minutes to that proud list of fine films, and lord knows they need it with the Wii kicking ass and taking names. This guy Uwe Boll actually has quite a funny little story going on right now.

Uwe Boll is the director of a bunch of infamously bad films that include such gems as BloodRayne, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and last but not least BloodRayne II: Deliverance. A few months back there was an online petition that stated:

“We, the undersigned, respectfully ask that Uwe Boll give proper weight to the wishes of the video game community, the horror community, and the film going community in general and stop directing, producing, or taking any part in the creation of feature films. His distasteful handling of the subject matter and lack of acknowledgement of his failures simply cannot be abided any longer.

Mr. Boll has repeatedly shown a complete lack of comprehension regarding the videogames he has dragged, kicking and screaming, to the silver screen and his ham-fisted approach to horror has soiled future possibilities for anyone else who may attempt to bring videogames to film.

“Sincerely the Undersigned”

This petition has over two hundred thousand signatures and has been growing daily. Taking this as a serious personal attack good old Boll posted this video of himself on the internet.

And then this equally ridiculous one…

And then this completely over the top unbelievably ridiculous one, talking about taking a shit at Starbucks…

To date the Long Live Uwe Boll petition has 4,402 signatures. That’s 0.022 % of the people who signed the original petition. Uwe has said that with 1 million signatures he will quite the film business forever, so, similarly to the upcoming presidential election, I urge you all to do your part and vote!

– Rich

The Most HD Channels

You’ve all seen them. The outrageous claims. The random AD character sightings (“I’ve used one word to describe myself” and “You stole his eyebrows? They make me look dressier” will be the chosen quotes to describe them.) It all boils down to one common theme: “we have the most HD channels.” But who’s telling the truth? The blond guy, a modern day commercial luminary at a fake news desk? Wayne Jarvis and Stan Sitwell? Or a chick with bug eyes and a 60 second timer in the bottom corner of the screen?

What I’m about to tell you is very important. HD only matters for sports games, nature shows, and movies. I’ll be generous and say thats 25 HD channels that are useful. Just think about the rest of the hundreds of channels on your TV and what they show during the day, and how useless it would be in HD. Thats the most ridiculous part of this escalating ad war. Someone says they have 100 HD channels, then someone else says they have twice that amount as that guy, then this chick says she has 60 seconds to warn me about one of the other two. Where is that chick from anyway, dish network or something? If you think I don’t change the channel for a full minute whenever I see that commercial come on, you’re kidding yourself.

While the battle of who can claim to have the most HD channels rages on, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another commercial regarding HD TV. In my opinion its one of the most counterintuitive commercials I’ve ever seen. The commercial says this: “If you buy an HD Television, you won’t get HD programming unless you have an HD cable box.” Considering you are currently logged on to the internet and reading this blog, you most likely already know this. Considering that someone ran that ad, I’m sure there are people who had no clue. In fact, the cable company that ran the ad isn’t even important. The question is why. Here is the message you just gave potential HD TV buyers: “That huge flat screen that you already barely can afford is just the beginning of your expenses when switching to HD TV! You will also have to switch cable boxes, which will certainly involve calling the cable company AND waiting for a technician to come out (I wouldn’t even wish that on Jeremy Shockey) while also paying more per month for cable service.” How is this not guaranteed to sell less HD TVs? If you already know, the commercial is insulting to your intelligence. And if you didn’t, now you know. Why not wait until someone has bought the TV, plugged it in, wondered why they weren’t getting HD channels, and called up the company hoping they can fix it? They could even charge five times as much for an HD cable upgrade and it would still look dirt cheap next to the price of the TV itself. When people hear things they already know, they tune out. Here are two things I already know: 1. You need an HD cable box to get HD channels. 2. Everyone thinks they have the most HD channels. So much for that commercial.

At the current rate, DirecTV will strike a huge blow to the industry in a year or two, locking up Nick Gas HD to be its 350th HD channel. A few short years later the FIOS network will be available in enough homes, internet video will be good enough, and the years of the worst customer service since the days of the infamous Muffin Man will all combine to make the cable companies the new radio stations – enjoyed by some, but only when that person can’t currently enjoy one of their many other much better options.

But, as tempting as it is to look to the future of the quickly improving TV industry, we still have a key issue at hand. WHO HAS THE MOST HD CHANNELS?!!?? Instead of both Comcast and DirecTV continuing to run ads during every single commercial break, I will instead solve this problem right now. Someone with DirecTV, hit that guide button and see how many HD channels you get. Someone with Comcast do it too. If you have some other shit, like Time Warner or Cablevision, get on it. I will list the results while taking full credit for all work done. And remember, the next time you turn on ESPN2HD for a champions league game, only to see the game in regular definition, even though you KNOW its being broadcast in HD in England, just remind yourself that somewhere, someone is enjoying some H&GTV HD that Comcast just had to have to stay competitive.

– Warsh