Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Album Review: Buckethead’s ‘Slaughterhouse on the Prairie’

“Crouching Stump Hidden Limb”- that’s just one example of the unique and macabre song titles guitar shredder Buckethead devises.

On his 25th studio album, Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, Buckethead has references to basketball players and the chicken meat industry, among other things. Buckethead is quite simply a workaholic. He produces his solo albums like nobody else.

Hardly ever is there a period of production quietness from this unique fellow. Constantly teaming up with new collaborators and releasing solo album upon solo album, Buckethead is the type of artist a fan loves. Slaughterhouse has that typical Buckethead sound. Attitude towards another Buckethead album of escalating guitar solos entirely depends on one’s favorite flavor of Buckethead.

Albums of his range from straightforward shred heavy thrash inspired albums like this one to metal themed albums like Somewhere Over the Slaughterhouse (yes he loves slaughterhouses) to experimental concept albums such as Bucketheadland, which gives the listener a tour of his fantasy amusement park.

The album kicks off with not one, but two tracks in honor of NBA star LeBron James. The first track, simply titled “LeBron” is an absolute stunner of an opener for an album. I’ve always been captivated by Buckethead’s ability to capture the sound that one would expect from his instrumental track’s titles.

The song that follows the opener, “LeBron’s Hammer”, does just this. It’s as if Buckethead was watching a highlight reel of LeBron when creating this track.

Buckethead’s music is almost indescribable to someone who has never had the pleasure of actually listening to him before. A few words do come to mind when listening to this latest album. Pulsing, energetic, soaring and obliterating are the first few that roll off my tongue.

My words don’t do justice for the masked man who wears a bucket on his head. Slaughterhouse is yet another musical success for Buckethead, after all, 25 albums is a lot. The magical thing is that each of these 25 albums, while sometimes displaying the same side of Buckethead, never sound redundant.

To keep a sound so fresh over that many years and that many albums is an amazing feat. I look forward to Buckethead’s 26th album which should be out in, oh, a few months.

 

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment

Album Review: Dan Auerbach’s ‘Keep It Hid’

Dan Auerbach, best known for being one half of one of indie rock’s most invigorating duos, the Black Keys, has made a career out of his thick guitar riffs and blues swagger.

On his first solo release, Keep It Hid, Auerbach tones down the riffage and instead displays a knack for a mixture of melody and country-tinged sleaze that he’d only shown hints of with the ‘Keys.

Of course, without drummer Patrick Carney slamming away at the set and the stomp-heavy garage-blues structure of his main gig, Auerbach’s music loses some of its blunt force. Keep it Hid more than makes up for it in a subtlety not typically found on a Black Keys album.

The title track, for example, displays not only Auerbach’s better-than-expected vocal range, but also a swagger that doesn’t necessarily come from his usual brute style, employing instead a slower beat and sparse guitar.

The album also presents a more varied Auerbach, having him jump from his niche of blues-rock to country-melancholia (“Trouble Weighs a Ton”), barroom pop (“Whispered Words”), and even soft-acoustics (“When the Night Comes”).

Those expecting another Black Keys album will likely be a bit thrown off at first, but Keep It Hid holds a bevy of good whiskeysoaked tunes and some welcome deviation.

Nonesuch Records

 

-P.J. Decoteau, Staff Writer

Black-Eyed Sally’s Presents Perfect Atmosphere for Jazz

Black-Eyed Sally’s walls are covered from front to back with blues and rock legends like Buddy Guy, Hendrix, Elvis and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but every Monday night the lights are dimmed down, the candles are lit and the smooth sounds of jazz fill the air.

On Monday, Feb. 9, the Kris Jensen Quartet was swinging away as couples were sprinkled through the dining area enjoyed the house’s barbeque and whatever else looked tasty on the menu. The people at the bar, who greatly outnumbered the diners, sat and watched Jensen and his quartet breeze though songs like “Body and Soul” and Freddy Hubbard’s “Birdlike”.

The atmosphere was comfortable and the bar seemed decent, but it was obvious that almost everyone was there to see the band. Peter Greenfogel, a personal friend of Jensen and the rest of the quartet consisting of Steve Porter, Craig Hartley and Ben Bilello, said there weren’t too many places he knew of to hear America’s greatest contribution to music.

“I’m only here for the jazz,” said Steve Nebbia, who is a regular at jazz nights, and added that he didn’t even Black-Eyed Sally’s Presents Perfect Atmosphere for Jazz bother looking for any other venues since every Monday night at Sally’s was always a guaranteed solid performance.

There is no cover at the door, so the experience won’t even cost a dime. The patrons are friendly if newcomers are in the mood for conversation.

“I’m still trying to get the kinks out, you know, getting over these winter doldrums,” said Jensen, on the tenor sax, in between songs. Ironically, by the sound of the band, it didn’t seem like they had many cobwebs to dust off.

The stage appearances from week to week, depending on who decides to play. Sometimes a musician will decide to play a couple of weeks in row, such as the night’s piano player Craig Hartley does. It is rare that these musicians disappoint.

Sally’s is an easy-to-reach place and a laid-back venue apart from the insurance company-laden streets of downtown Hartford.

These are seasoned veterans coming out to perform, so if you’re attracted to Sally’s for the jazz, which you should be, expect some of Connecticut’s best.

Black-Eyed Sally’s BBQ and Blues. 350 Asylum Street. Hartford, Conn. 06103

 

-Charles Desrochers, Staff Writer

College Humor Better Off Staying Home

Everyone’s favorite waste of time, CollegeHumor.com, has now made the jump to cable television.

A site more known for it’s collection of internet memes and video captured calamities, College Humor is now branching out with a show on MTV. The show itself is in the style of the Web site’s prominently featured Hardly Working series.

The characters are all exaggerated versions of their real life counterparts. What will make show successful is its experience and its timing. The actors on the show have been doing roughly the same thing for the Web site for a couple of years now. They might not be as polished as some other comedy troupes, but they’ve had time to grow into their style.

The fact that the College Humor staff has been producing content almost every day for that last three or four years gives them an edge just for the sheer quantity of work. Other troupes like Britanick and Those Aren’t Muskets, while having more satisfying, higher quality material, only put out videos every month at most. I can’t imagine any better practice for a television show than that kind of repetition.

Rooted in the Internet, the writers have realized that quick works. The timing in each sketch is key because one of the things that seems to plague sketch comedy is its inability to know when to quit. SNL sketches seem to always be two minutes longer than they need to be and MADtv should have never started in the first place.

College Humor is like the fast food of comedy because of this: it doesn’t require too much thinking, too much time or too much commitment. Everything is presented in less than five minutes, not leaving enough time for the scene to fall apart. The viewer never needs to commit to a character on any level other than, “He’s nerdy, I like him”. The show is literally just like the Web site.

Now before watching, it seems obvious that the Web site has something going for it that the show may not. Like I said before, people like College Humor because of its collection of stupid videos ready to be beamed to your laptop at a moment’s notice. A TV show, on the other hand, is every Sunday at 9:30.

With this, it’s no longer College Humor working around your schedule, but your schedule working around College Humor. If you are dead set on not watching MTV though, on the chance that you may witness the collapse of civilization, you can still watch the episodes in their entirety online.

I have to commend the producers of the show for this because they realized their audience is a bunch of lazy bastards who spend more time on their computer than their television.

Then again, if you’re a Web site that makes a TV show that will most likely be viewed more online, where you already have a ton of content in the same style, then why bother making a TV show instead of a Web series?

The College Humor Show is a waste of time – not that that’s a bad thing. It is what’s made them popular.

 

-Charles Desrochers, Staff Writer

‘Friday the 13th’ Reboot Results in Uninspired Bore

Remake, reboot, reimagining, whatever you want to call it, they’ve all gotten tired. Nearly 30 years after the original Friday the 13th studio execs at New Line Cinema have decided to rework the campy slasher classic and its first three sequels the same way they put their greasy hands all over the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The new film, which is the first on screen appearance of Jason Voorhees since 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, reboots the series in a way so viewers are first met with scenes from 1980, the year the original film was made. Flash forward to present day where a group of young adults are camping in the woods. Flash forward again and you have the brother of one of the now missing girls searching for his sister, Whitney. Enter Voorhees, and you have your plot.

Friday the 13th has almost all the fixings of your typical slasher film. Blood, gore, laughs, sex, nudity, drag the kids into the woods and kill them plot device and so on and so forth. The problem with this film is that it doesn’t do anything new for the tried and true genre of slasher films.

These films have been around in different forms for years now. To separate your film from the other mass amount of formulaic and generic films that clog up the horror genre you have to be different.

Take, for example, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. This 2006 slasher gave a different perspective of your not-so-average serial killer. The film was a mockumentary of sorts that had the viewer on the side of the killer rather than the side of the victims. It showed how Vernon, the killer, picked his victims and planned everything out. This is the kind of freshness that is not found in any of these remakes or reboots, including this one.

It’s no secret that I have absolute distaste for Hollywood’s constant usage of past ideas and brilliance to make a quick buck. That’s a whole different story for a whole different time. That said, this money-maker wasn’t all bland. If the film separated itself from the dreaded remake stigma there’d be more chance of having a fresh feel.

Director Marcus Nispel is one of these reasons. He’s already shown that he has potential for directing genre films as he helped the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre succeed. The film is well composed and shot. Derek Mears stands out as Voorhees. He’s bulky yet athletic, creating a fearsome opponent for the victims. One look at Mears and he appears to be the modern day Michael Berryman.

The main problem was the people Mears was stalking. How many uninteresting, stupid and bland characters can you fit into one film? Ask screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, because they know the answer. There’s your token black guy, your funny Asian, a few dumb blondes and oh, yeah, your absolute key college frat boys.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely satisfying to watch these annoying characters get killed off one by one. I’m not asking for character development that’s off the charts either. I’m just looking for a few memorable, fresh and unique characters. This partners up with the film not being able to separate itself from the rest of the bunch to make for a charmless, formulaic, sometimes boring and all too serious horror film of the slasher variety.

I’m trying hard to be kind to this film. I noticed the effort. The writers paid some nice tributes to the original series of films that are to be appreciated. This film is certainly better than other films in the series and other recent remakes in general.

The question for me is, was it necessary? Probably not. Why can’t these obviously somewhat talented screenwriters and director team up to create something new, something fresh? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the energy? Create your own slasher icon. Wouldn’t that be more fun? I guess it wouldn’t be fun for the men in suits sitting high in their offices as they’d fear that the film wouldn’t bank for sure at the box office.

The new Friday the 13th is the uninspired film we’ve all seen before. These films have lost their charm and as long as the media conglomerates run things it will never change.

Long gone are the days of Mario Bava’s twisting macabre tales set to slasher formula. Ah well, at least I got to see the wife of US Olympic hockey player Mike Modano get hit by a boat.

 

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment