Friday, November 29, 2013

Review -- ETERNAL WARRIOR #3

Eternal Warrior #3

(Greg Pak / Trevor Hairsine / Diego Bernard / Alejandro Sicat / Brian Reber / Guy Major / Dave Sharpe; Valiant Comics)
4.5 stars
So here's another comic I knew nothing about, heard nothing about, and thought nothing about until about 30 minutes ago. Now I totally regret my ignorance. What the hell, Greg Pak and Valiant comics, why didn't you tell me that Eternal Warrior was so freaking awesome? Are you that selfish? Or have I just been ignoring your advances all this time, afraid to commit, worried I might get hurt again?
Eternal Warrior #3
If you haven't read any Eternal Warrior, drop everything you are doing (unless it is feeding a baby sloth or flying a plane full of kittens) and rush to your LCS and buy it now. I'm serious. If you think I am being hyperbolic when I tell you this book may be the zenith of modern comic book entertainment you would only be slightly correct. While I am giddy with excitement over this book, baby sloths and planes full of kittens are more important to our world.
Probably.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review -- RED SONJA #5

Red Sonja #5

(Gail Simone / Walter Geovani / Adriano Lucas / Simon Bowland / Joseph Rybandt; Dynamite)
3.5 stars
It's been since the mid-'80s that I have read anything related to the Robert E. Howard universe and, even then, Red Sonja was a peripheral character in my consciousness. My vague sense of what she embodied had more to do with her chain mail bikini than any sort of character development or social-political heft. Apparently, in the interim, the character has grown along with her audience. Then again, given that Gail Simone is helming this title now, that should come as no surprise.
Red Sonja #5
Gone is the two-dimensional character with the three-dimensional figure. Red Sonja is a person, a powerful, committed heroic individual who just so happens to be female, not in spite of it. Simone has fleshed out this character by focusing less on the flesh and more on the character.
But you all probably know this already. I didn't. Now I do. It is nice to see that as I have matured, so have some of the comics I read as a kid.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review -- Noah Van Sciver's SAINT COLE Part One

Saint Cole Part One

(Noah Van Sciver)
4 stars
If comic books came with a scent, Noah Van Sciver's latest release through Kilgore Books, St. Cloud Part One, would smell like a wet Saint Bernard who has been vomiting up the leftovers from your newborn's Diaper Genie. It's that kind of story, a Van Sciver story, head tilts and all.
Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver
This is the story of an average fella, aptly named Joe, who has been building his life towards some sort of stability – he's bucking for a promotion at the restaurant where he works, and he's got a newborn son with his live-in girlfriend. It apparently only takes him one week to subsequently dismantle it completely through his own character flaws. Or maybe it's intentional. It's a Van Sciver story, head tilts and all.
Alcohol, infidelity, drug abuse, isolation, good intentions, bad results, missed opportunities, mildew, blowjobs, fantasy, reality, cum in a cup, vomit in the shower, and retards in the rain. It's a Van Sciver story, head tilts and all.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review -- MANIFEST DESTINY #1

Manifest Destiny #1

(Chris Dingess / Matthew Roberts / Owen Gieni / Pat Brosseau /Sean Mackiewicz; Image/Skybound)
4 stars
So, Manifest Destiny #1? More like Lewis and Clark, Monster Hunters, amirite? See, Dingess and Roberts are taking on a well worn tale of exploration from the American mythos and putting a supernatural spin on it. You know... for kids!
Manifest Destiny #1
But this isn't for kids, this is something else entirely. This is the journey/quest motif which has been ingrained in our consciousness, the patriotic monomyth on which we hang our tri-cornered hats. As Americans, it was our god given future, our Manifest Destiny, to stretch ourselves from sea to shining sea. And by golly, it was with moral imperative that we stomped on the faces of those who would get in our way.
Especially if we cast them first as monsters.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review -- BLINDSPOT #3 by Joseph Remnant

Blindspot #3

(Joseph Remnant)
4 stars
Don't you hate it when you can't decide if a piece of art is a seemingly endless slog through the miasma of gloom with no redeeming value other than an examination of the gloom itself, or whether it is life-affirming in a manner that requires some work on the part of the audience to understand this stance and thereby making it a more personal sort of experience, a connection of sorts between the artist and the art?
Blindspot #3
Joseph Remnant's latest collection, Blindspot #3, has put me in such a quandary, and I don't know whether to use my handkerchief to daub my eyes or to wave like a celebratory flag. The book contains four short tales that cloak themselves in darkness, covering either their stark nudity or their ill-fitting clown clothes. All I know is that I feel that I deserve an answer, so I keep reading this book over and over again.
The first story, "L.A. Coffee Shop" is a circular argument of smugness, where the narrator can't help judging others while others judge him. It's hipster cool warmed in an interior monologue that ponders the point of creative endeavors – but I am at a loss if it is ultimately meant to be smarmy self-confession, an ironic statement on self-importance, or an elaborate shaggy dog joke that's only funny because it's true.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews -- LOU REED: THE COVER ARTIST

I'm done looking at all of Lou Reed's solo studio albums. I just wanted to finish out the week and post one more piece on Lou before I put this to rest (in peace).


While so many musicians have covered Lou's music, Lou also covered other people's songs. I wanted to draw attention to some of my favorites.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 2000's ECSTASY

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

ECSTASY 

This is the last Lou Reed solo studio album I am going to review for this series, and, as far as I am concerned, this is his final solo studio album (let's never mention The Raven ever again). This also happens to be another one of my top five favorite Lou Reed albums.

Ecstasy is another album that features an exploration of relationships, but now the concept is seen from the Mature Lou Point Of View. All the old issues are present – infidelity, power games, devotion, insecurity, disappointment, and, of course, ecstasy – but Lou has come to some new understandings of his traditional themes and this album showcases his thoughts.

Lou's guitar playing is great on this album and his songwriting is as strong as when he was in his prime.

Knowing that Lou will never make another album, I think that Ecstasy is the perfect denouement to a legendary career.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1996's SET THE TWILIGHT REELING

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

SET THE TWILIGHT REELING 

I'm not sure what to make of this album. It's a typical Lou Reed release, with great songs buried within tripe.

Here's Lou is trying to connect with his childhood, declaring his love for Laurie Anderson, trying to be political, and trying to be a “poet".

There are a few moments of brilliance in this album, though. You just have to make your way through a certain amount of muck to find them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1992's MAGIC AND LOSS

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

MAGIC AND LOSS

Given the impetus for this series of reviews, this album takes on a greater significance than perhaps it warrants. Still, here it is, 1992's Magic and Loss, an album that takes as its reason for being Lou's meditation on death.

Lou had recently lost two people whom he considered close friends, the songwriter Doc Pomus and “Rita” (who, some say, is Rotten Rita from Warhol's Factory days). When I heard this album, I was confused by it. I kept it at arm's length initially and then, through some force of will, decided I was going to figure it out. It is an album that takes time and patience.

Lou has never been the best at expressing any emotions that didn't involve disappointment and/or derision in his music. If detachment is an emotion, well he was good at expressing that, too. But ruminating on mortality? Expressing pain at the loss of loved ones? Showing empathy and understanding? This was uncharted territory for Lou in his songs.

This album, I think, shows him honestly confronting feelings he didn't quite understand, trying to harness them into words, and stumbling over himself in the process. It's an artist producing art – and whether you think he succeeded or not, you have to at least respect him for trying. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1989's NEW YORK

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

NEW YORK 

After sinking to some rather extreme musical lows with his last two albums, Lou roared back into the public consciousness with this biting, angry condemnation of the state of the world at that time.

Lyrically, this one shows a more mature Lou who is finally able to look outside himself and see the world for what it is (not the world that he decides it is, or the world that is out to get him). While his song writing is at its height, his musicianship on this album sinks a bit.

Still, overall, this is a great album.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1986's MISTRIAL

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

MISTRIAL 

Oh gawd, this album. Mistrial is a mistake. It's probably the only Lou Reed album I will only listen to under extreme duress. In a way, it encompasses everything that went wrong in 1986 (even though so many things also went right) and I have no choice but to blame MTV for this hunk of crap, because I can, and so I do.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1984's NEW SENSATIONS

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions.

NEW SENSATIONS 

The mid-80's brought us a new Lou, clean and sober, who brought to the studio a sense of playfulness and mirth. The aptly titled New Sensations is more of a pop album than a rocker, and with this album good old grizzled Lou started on a multi-media blitz in order to cement his face on the Mount Rushmore of Rock.

New Sensations is easy to dismiss as insipid, light, and bereft of any real intellectual value, but then again, one could say this about a lot of the music in 1984. Throughout the album, Lou seems to be looking to you to bring him home, give him a sandwich, and allow him sit on your couch to watch the Grammys.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1983's LEGENDARY HEARTS

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

LEGENDARY HEARTS 

Lou's twelveth solo studio album, Legendary Hearts, is dedicated to his wife at the time, Sylvia Morales.

But this is not an album brimming with love songs, rather it explores the complexity that exists in being in a relationship with Lou – power games, jealousy, and abuse are all mixed together with traditional ideas of love.

Robert Quine is credited on guitars for this album, but the story goes that Lou went back into the studio before the album was released and re-mixed it to the point where you hardly hear any of Quine's contributions whatsoever.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1982's THE BLUE MASK

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions.

THE BLUE MASK


Here we go. Probably my favorite of Lou's solo studio albums, The Blue Mask is Lou back bringing the noise.

Having the good sense to find collaborators who could bring the best out of him, Lou teamed up with guitarist Robert Quine and this album highlights what that team-up was capable of. This is a guitar driven album, and the Quine/Reed sound pours out with intensity or sweetness or sweet intensity given the demands of the songs.

In typical Lou fashion, there are as many thickly bad songs here as there are some of his best work to date.

Also in typical Lou fashion, once people started saying as many nice things about Quine as they did about Lou, Lou cut him out of his life.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1980's GROWING UP IN PUBLIC

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

GROWING UP IN PUBLIC 

This is a pretty interesting album all told, filled with tales of Lou trying to kick his habit by drinking, stories of his relationship falling apart, and vitriol about his parents. Lou had an especially complex relationship with his Long Island Middle-Class Jewish upbringing – some real wild Oedipal stuff so I've heard, and he liked to be vicious in his songs about his folks.

This album is filled with the highs and lows that have begun to be the norm in a Lou Reed album. I'm especially fond of the album cover art for Growing Up In Public. Lou, in his v-neck sweater, looking all glum and serious and shit – it's like it was school portrait day and he was pissed mom made him wear his “nice sweater”.

Aw, Lou, you're cute as hell.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1979's THE BELLS

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

THE BELLS 

This is a hard album to take seriously. It is full of pompous missteps and grandiose failures, but it is quintessential Lou. For me, this album marks a turn in Lou's career as an artist.

From The Bells forward, his albums will suffer from a slew of such head-scratchingly bad songs (anchored between works of genius) that you have to wonder if he was doing it on purpose. Lou had puffed himself pretty far by this point, thinking he could do no wrong. But he was wrong, and many of the songs on this album were wrong too.

For some reason the critics loved The Bells. I often forget that it even exists. Lou perplexes. The Bells does too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1978's STREET HASSLE

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

 STREET HASSLE 

Now THIS is a Lou Reed album – or at least a Lou Reed album as I define the term. It's thick and viscous and grating and full of attitude. It also has some beautiful poetry and some incredible songs. Combining studio work with live recordings, Street Hassle is certainly in my top five of favorite Lou Reed solo studio albums – it's the Lou he wants you to remember.

When this album came out, Lou had already been christened the “Godfather of Punk” and Street Hassle lives up to that moniker. So many of the themes he had been working with in his body of work -- addiction, isolation, cruelty, disassociation, filth – found a mature voice here.

It's not a make-out album, it's not a dance album, it's not even a particularly good album to take on a road trip. What it is, though, is the quintessence of an artist, understanding his role as a creator.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1976's ROCK AND ROLL HEART

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

 ROCK AND ROLL HEART 

Lou's first album for Arista Records, and his seventh solo studio release, is a weird album. You get the sense that Lou has come into his own – well, his “own” is kinda the wrong word to use with a guy like Lou – let's just say that he's found a voice that works for him.

Lou says that he wrote most of this album in the studio. He supposedly took one month to record and mix it. It has that sort of sound.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1975's CONEY ISLAND BABY

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

CONEY ISLAND BABY 

After Metal Machine Music, it's pretty amazing RCA let Lou make another album -- but contracts are contracts and so was born Coney Island Baby.

Lou was still pretty heavy into his speed habit at the time, but this album brought him back to some pretty good songwriting. There's a nonchalance to his singing on Coney Island Baby that rambles between slurring and spitting. It's an album of detachment with a backbeat.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1975's METAL MACHINE MUSIC

For me, it has always been about the music. To this end, this series focuses on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

METAL MACHINE MUSIC 

Lou Reed and Amphetamines. Lou had a pretty heavy drug problem in the mid-70's; he was purportedly shooting up massive amounts of speed during this time.

He was also an asshole.

This combination led to the creation of Metal Machine Music – an album unlike anything he had put together prior or subsequently. This is an assault more than an album.

Lou was at the peak of his popularity at the time, with Sally Can't Dance and two live albums charting high and making RCA some money. This album was his drug-fueled, career-killing, fuck you response to his own success. It's a room clearer. It's a brain bender. It is what it is.

The liner notes for the album are the best thing about it:

Passion--REALISM--realism was the key. The records were letters. Real letters from me to certain other people. Who had and still have basically, no music, be it verbal or instrumental to listen to. One of the peripheral effects typically distorted was what was to be known as heavy metal rock. In Reality it was of course diffuse, obtuse, weak, boring and ultimately an embarrassment. This record is not for parties/dancing/background romance. This is what I meant by "real" rock, about "real" things. No one I know has listened to it all the way through including myself. It is not meant to be. Start any place you like. Symmetry, mathematical precision, obsessive and detailed accuracy and the vast advantage one has over "modern electronic composers." They, with neither sense of time, melody or emotion, manipulated or no. It's for a certain time and place of mind. It is the only recorded work I know of seriously done as well as possible as a gift, if one could call it that, from a part of certain head to a few others. Most of you won't like this and I don't blame you at all. It's not meant for you. At the very least I made it so I had something to listen to. Certainly Misunderstood: Power to Consume (how Bathetic): an idea done respectfully, intelligently, sympathetically and graciously, always with concentration on the first and foremost goal. For that matter, off the record, I love and adore it. I'm sorry, but not especially, if it turns you off.

One record for us and it. I'd harbored hope that the intelligence that once inhabited novels or films would ingest rock, I was, perhaps, wrong. This is the reason Sally Can't Dance—your Rock n Roll Animal. More than a decent try, but hard for us to do badly. Wrong media, unquestionably. This is not meant for the market. The agreement one makes with "speed". A specific acknowledgment. A, to say the least, very limited market. Rock n Roll Animal makes this possible, funnily enough. The misrepresentation succeeds to the point of making possible the appearance of the progenitor. For those for whom the needle is no more than a toothbrush. Professionals, no sniffers please, don't confuse superiority (no competition) with violence, power or the justifications. The Tacit speed agreement with Self. We did not start World War I, II or III. Or the Bay of Pigs, for that Matter. Whenever. As way of disclaimer. I am forced to say that, due to stimulation of various centers (remember OOOOHHHMMM, etc.), the possible negative contraindications must be pointed out. A record has to, of all things Anyway, hypertense people, etc. possibility of epilepsy (petite mal), psychic motor disorders, etc... etc... etc. My week beats your year. 

“My week beats your year” – yep.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1974's SALLY CAN'T DANCE

This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

SALLY CAN'T DANCE 

Lou's previous album Berlin was a commercial failure and by his fourth studio album, Lou had pretty much used up all his unreleased Velvet Underground material. RCA had Lou by the balls and demanded something from him they could sell.

Somehow he ended up releasing Sally Can't Dance. It's a relatively lifeless, creatively vapid, miasma of disregard. It was also one of his most commercially successful. Go figure.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1973's BERLIN

The day after the death of Lou Reed, one of my students who knew I was a fan, asked me what it was about Lou that I idolized so much. 

My response? THE MUSIC 


He subsequently asked me to recommend some songs. This was the inspiration for this series of posts (as well as an excuse to go through the entire Lou discography again). This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy
. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

BERLIN 

Having established himself as a relatively marketable commodity with Transformer, Lou then put out one of my favorite albums of all time. Berlin is a concept album all the way down. I remember I had just read F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story “Babylon Revisited” right before I first heard this album and, for me, the parallels between the two stories stuck.

This is a gloomy album – beautiful, decadent, and over-wrought at times – but in terms of an artistic achievement it takes the Rock Concept Album and pushes it up about seventeen pegs. Oh Lou, you cut right through me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1972's TRANSFORMER

The day after the death of Lou Reed, one of my students who knew I was a fan, asked me what it was about Lou that I idolized so much. 

My response? THE MUSIC 

He subsequently asked me to recommend some songs. This was the inspiration for this series of posts (as well as an excuse to go through the entire Lou discography again). This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 

TRANSFORMER 

After the wreck of his debut solo album, Lou was a bit awash. Luckily, there were some pretty smart and talented people out there who still believed in Lou. Two of these folks were David Bowie and, more importantly, Mick Ronson. They grabbed Lou, glammed him out, and brought him to London where they subsequently recorded Transformer and gave Lou his first taste of success as a solo artist.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews -- 1972's LOU REED

The day after the death of Lou Reed, one of my students who knew I was a fan, asked me what it was about Lou that I idolized so much. 

My response? THE MUSIC 

He subsequently asked me to recommend some songs. This was the inspiration for this series of posts (as well as an excuse to go through the entire Lou discography again). This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinion. 

LOU REED 

Two years after leaving The Velvet Underground, Lou settled down in 1972 for his first solo album for RCA. It's my impression that Lou was pretty unsure of himself at this point, as this album is pretty much comprised of unreleased VU songs. Unfortunately, Lou didn't have Cale or Morrison or Tucker or Yule backing him for this, so what came out was kind of a mess.