Hinder "Take It To The Limit" Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on November 17th, 2008.

The Oklahoma music scene has a lot to be proud of, but sadly, it’s most popular current act, Hinder, isn’t one of them. In fact, Oklahomans should be downright ashamed that Hinder calls Oklahoma home.

The Oklahoma City band just released their sophomore album, “Take it to the Limit,” and with it, the only thing they “take to the limit” is sleaze, stupidity and complete insincerity.

Hinder seems to desperately want to be the new Motley Crue, even going so far as to have Crue guitarist Mick Mars play on the title track, but the band clearly lacks the talent and ambition to create anything close to memorable.

It would be hard to talk about “Take it to the Limit” without mentioning its horrendous album cover. It features the band smugly leaning against exotic sports cars parked in front of a glamorous Beverly Hills mansion, a little too Hollywood for a band who just five years ago played at OKC’s awful “Bluenote” venue. The only things missing are the stacks of cash and terrible grills. This thing makes most bad, cliché hip hop covers look like works of art.

It seems the band has put far more effort into being edgy than their songwriting. Nearly every track is chock full of tired references to cheap sex, drugs, alcohol and general partying, but none of it comes across as sincere. Instead, it just seems to be trying way too hard to appeal to brainless teenage boys who still find such things cool.

The album also has its fair share of cheesy power ballads. On “Without You,” the band is blatantly trying to recreate the success of 2006’s “Lips of an Angel.” At least this time the tune is an actual love song.

Hinder is not only an embarrassment to Oklahoma music, but to popular music in general. Avoid “Take it to the Limit” at all costs.

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on November 10th, 2008.

Norman has a tight-knit music scene in which many bands and musicians collaborate and work together. A new addition to said music scene is indie pop band The Nghiems (pronounced “Nims”).

Formed late last year, The Nghiems consist of brothers David and James Nghiem. The duo has recently been joined live by Sethy McCarroll (Student Film, Umbrellas), Ben King (Cheyenne) and Becky Carman.

The group just released its debut EP, “The Traveling Coat.” The EP was recorded with Ben King and Ryan Lindsey (Starlight Mints) at Blackwatch Studios in Norman.

The title track, “The Traveling Coat,” is a light-hearted, upbeat song anchored by a pounding rhythm section and echoey guitars. The slow paced “Nothing to Fear” is next. David Nghiem’s soft piano is the main focus here.

David Nghiem doesn’t exactly have the strongest voice, but his songwriting and the general vibe of the songs more than make up for what his voice lacks. The album’s catchiest track is the incredibly fun “Dancing Shoes.” This song serves as the highlight of most Nghiem live shows.

The EP finishes with two bonus tracks, cassette demos of the songs “So Long” and “Nothing to Fear” recorded late last year at their home. The sound quality is poor on these songs, but their charm still easily shines through. It’s also interesting to compare the two versions of “Nothing to Fear.”

Considering the short length of time The Nghiems have been together, “The Traveling Coat EP” is a very solid release, but it really just serves as a teaser for the group’s debut full-length, due out sometime next year.

AC/DC "Black Ice" Album Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on October 31st, 2008.

Ah, Wal-Mart ... Where the only thing lower than their prices is the quality; where the shelves are stocked with clothes, electronics, groceries and despair, and now, where you can exclusively get the AC/DC album, “Black Ice.”

AC/DC’s move to have their first album in eight years be a Wal-Mart exclusive says a lot about the album and where the band is in their career.

They seem to have completely abandoned any sense of creating music for artistic or creative expression, and are doing so now for only financial reasons.

AC/DC has been a corporate rock band for a long time, but the Wal-Mart deal puts an even bigger emphasis on the corporate part.

AC/DC’s always been known for repeating themselves. They even changed lead singers and managed to retain their same exact sound. But the repetition featured on “Black Ice” is far more obvious and lazy than it’s ever been before.

The album, just like every other AC/DC album, is filled with big blues riffs, chugging verses, pointless solos and an endless barrage of lyrics about partying, sex and the importance rock ‘n’ roll. The word “rock” appears in not one song title, not two, not even three but four song titles.

The song structure is bland and boring, with each song following the exact same song structure as the one before it. Something is seriously wrong when a 55-minute album feels like an hour and half.

AC/DC claims that they are still an “album band,” which they say is the main reason they made the Wal-Mart deal; people would have to buy the album in its entirety. But if they really were an album band the new album wouldn’t consist of so much filler.

Bishop Allen Interview

Originally published in Boyd Street Magazine on October 21st, 2008.

Indie rock band Bishop Allen may be from Brooklyn, but they still have a large Norman connection. They play at the Opolis quite often, they’ve recorded at Blackwatch Studios and have even toured with local favorites the Starlight Mints.

“I really like Norman, we know a lot of people there and we always have really great and fun shows there.” said singer/guitarist Justin Rice. “When we were recording down there, we were there for like three weeks, and it was freezing cold and there was this huge ice storm. We were pretty much just stranded in the studio. I always picture Norman coated in like a hockey rink of ice.”

The band is currently putting the finishing touches on their as-yet-untitled new album, which is due out on Dead Oceans Records early next year. Rice said the new album will be quite different from last year’s The Broken String and be more along the lines of their debut full-length, Charm School.

“We just felt like making songs that were upbeat, energetic, had a sense of humor, and that were fun. It’s got pep. It’s kind of like “Charm School,” but I think it’s much better,” said Rice. “I think we wanted to get away from anything that felt heavy-handed or melodramatic, and just get back to songs that had a sort of vivacity, but were also kind of understated.”

The band has spent most of 2008 recording and working on other projects and has barely toured at all. Rice said that they are quite excited to be getting back out on tour.

“We toured a lot last year, and there is certain point at the end of a tour when you feel you’ve just played your songs to death. So we were really excited to get off the road and write new songs, and now that we have them, we’re just excited to get out and play them. It’s really fun when something’s fresh,” said Rice. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to play somewhere between half and all these new songs.”

Fans can currently see Bishop Allen make an appearance in the recent Michael Cera film “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Rice said that they got involved in the project back when it was still in development.

“Apparently the film’s director, Peter Sollett, wanted a bunch of New York bands to be in the movie, so he was going to shows to check things out. He saw us, liked us, and got us involved very early on,” said Rice. “At that point we didn’t even know Michael Cera was involved, we just knew that Peter Sollett directed Raising Victor Vargus, which is an amazing film.”

Rice said that filming the movie was an incredibly fun and out of the ordinary experience for the band.

“We treated it just like a normal show. We just brought our equipment and played, except there were a ton of extras and this huge movie crew,” said Rice. “We wound up hanging out with the cast, and even played Tiger Woods golf with Michael Cera in his trailer.”

Rice has also been involved in quite a number of other film projects, including starring roles in Andrew Bujalski’s critically acclaimed films Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. He completed three films earlier this year, including one with director Bob Byington, that are set to hit the film festival circuit early next year.

To many, Bishop Allen is considered a sort of “blog band,” as they receive a ton of coverage on the various indie rock blogs. Rice thinks that those blogs have had an overwhelmingly positive effect on the band.

“There is definitely a large contingent of people out there that read those blogs, and I think it’s pretty cool that those things still exist as like an alternative to the kind of codified, mainstream media. There is something very anarchic about them,” said Rice. “Any kid can start a blog. I met a lot of the people who run those blogs back when they were just like a kid with a computer, and now it’s grown into something else.”

Bishop Allen will be performing at the Opolis with An Horse and Electric Owls on November 5th.
Originally published in Boyd Street Magazine on October 21st, 2008.

It’s been nearly three years since we’ve last heard a proper album from Ben Folds, but his new album, Way to Normal, was certainly worth the wait.

Way to Normal finds the perfect balance between the more humorous material on Rockin’ the Suburbs and his somber side on Saving Silverman while still managing to come across as a completely honest and natural progression of his solo career. The album is heavy on relationship songs, from the purposefully misogynistic “Bitch Went Nuts” to the he said/she said dynamic of his duo with Regina Spektor, “You Don’t Know Me,” but they never delve into the cliché and are done in the sincere yet ironic way one would expect from Folds.

The opening track “Hiroshima” tells the story of when Folds hit his head and suffered a concussion while on stage in Japan and is chock full of the self-deprecating humor and wit that makes Folds so likable. It’s on this song that Folds sings “They’re watching me fall,” and while that may be true in the literal sense within the story, it couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to his career and the quality of his material.
Originally published in Boyd Street Magazine on October 21st, 2008.

Terrible band name pun aside, Dear and the Headlights released an under-heard folk rock gem last year in Small Steps, Heavy Hooves. Their followup, Drunk Like Bible Times, seems like a retread of their debut, albeit with cleaner production and a tighter sound.

On the first track, “I’m Not Crying, You’re Not Crying, Are You?” the band slowly builds through the verses only to explode during the chorus, which sets the template for how most of the songs on the album operate. Right away the folksy guitar tones and riffs from Heavy Hooves are very much present here too, as are the stomping keys and vocal melodies. It’s all just a bit too familiar. It’s not until the closing song, “I Know,” that the band really mixes it up. The tune starts off slow and somber but by it’s end it’s almost party-like with it’s hand-claps and gang vocals.

Drunk Like Bible Times
features strong songwriting and musicianship in catchy, memorable songs, it’s just a shame that the band didn’t try to deviate from their debut a bit more.

Originally published in Boyd Street Magazine on October 21st, 2008.

With the current political climate and upcoming election, it’s no surprise that many musicians are looking towards the news to gain inspiration. After witnessing the violence at the Republican National Convention last month, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists sprung to action by quickly recording and releasing the 4-song digital EP, “Rapid Response.” All the proceeds from the EP go directly to the charity groups Democracy Now! and Food Not Bombs.

“Rapid Response” really downplays Leo’s indie-pop side in favor of a more lo-fi, old-school protest punk sound. It starts with the incredibly catchy “Paranoia (Never Enough),” which features a “Born to be Wild”- like guitar riff that works perfectly within the context of the song. This track is certainly the highlight of the EP. The slow-burning “Mourning in America” comes next, which discusses race as a campaign issue. The EP is rounded out by two cover songs, Cock Sparrer’s “I Got Your Number” and Amebix’s “Nobody’s Driving.” Both covers fit perfectly with the theme of the release.

This release doesn’t quite live up to the past few Ted Leo releases, but given the circumstances of the release and cause, it’s still well worth picking up.

"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on October 3rd, 2008.


Michael Cera was undoubtedly great in “Arrested Development.” He also was great in “Superbad” and “Juno,” but it’s safe to say he played essentially the same shy, aloof character in all three projects. In “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” Cera once again plays that same character, only this time it’s in a mediocre movie.

If the title didn’t make it completely apparent, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” focuses on two teenagers. Nick is an aspiring indie rocker who can’t quite get over his ex, and Norah is a lonely rich girl who is constantly being ridiculed and taken advantage of by her friends.

The entire film takes place in one New York City night, and tells the story of Nick and Norah’s crazy adventure in finding Norah’s best friend. Along they way they are all trying to find the location of their favorite band’s secret performance. During the course of the night, they run into Norah’s pseudo boyfriend, see Brooklyn band Bishop Allen and even check out a drag queen show.

The filmmakers seem to be aiming for a sort of “After Hours” for modern teens, but director Peter Sollett is no Martin Scorsese and the film falls way short. It is littered with terrible romantic-comedy clichés, bad gay jokes and tasteless gross-out humor.

Indie rock is a prominent part of the film, but it never really feels authentic. It’s doubtful the filmmakers really care about the music they are featuring. Instead, they seem to just be using it for the sake of marketing. The indie rock angle helps obscure the fact that this is really just another bland teen comedy.

If you, like most of the film’s targeted teen demographic, aren’t expecting any sort of originality and are OK with the obvious homogenization of indie rock, you’ll probably enjoy the film. But for everyone else, it’s a no-go.

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on October 3rd, 2008.


If their name didn’t make it completely apparent, color is an important factor to Stillwater band Colourmusic.

Lead singer Roy Biv claims to be a descendent of Isaac Newton and writes songs based on Newton’s Theory of Color. Biv also claims to have a rare disorder called sythenasia in which he sees music visually in the form of colors. Whether any of that is true is irrelevant, as it has clearly had a huge impact on the band’s identity.

A great deal of hype has been built up around the band as of late, thanks in no small part to the band’s involvement with the Flaming Lips’ management company, World’s Fair.

That involvement has not only gotten the band opening slots for the Flaming Lips, but also for other World’s Fair bands like British Sea Power. World’s Fair and Great Society Records have just released Colourmusic’s debut full-length recording, “f, monday, orange, february, lunatic, 1 or 13.”

The album is filled with chant-like choruses and a strong Brit-pop vibe. It’s all very light-hearted, catchy and fun. But it’s also quite repetitive. Many of the songs sound alike, and after a few listens, the album’s shallowness is apparent.

Those familiar with the band will already know a number of these songs. The majority of the songs featured on the album have been released on their previous “Red” and “Yellow” EPs. Though these songs have been re-recorded, they still sound much the same.

“F, monday, orange, february, lunatic, 1 or 13” is a fun ride while it lasts, but it doesn’t really give the listener much reason to revisit it.

2008 Emmys Fall Flat

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on September 26th, 2008.


On a night when television’s entire purpose is to celebrate itself and its shining stars, one would think they would try to make the program as flawless as possible, but after watching the 2008 Emmys, one can’t be too sure.

The broadcast was packed with technical difficulties and countless moments that just fell flat. But that’s not to say that the winners weren’t deserving. Any award show that recognizes “Mad Men” as the best television drama must be doing something right. It was everything that led up to each award that was atrocious.

The broadcast began with the show’s five reality show star-hosts bantering endlessly in an incredibly boring and unfunny fashion. Having people who represent the worst in television host something that supposedly celebrates its best just doesn’t make sense. It would be like if Uwe Boll hosted the Oscars.

But the real low point was when crooner Josh Groban sang a medley of famous TV theme songs, and butchered nearly all of them. The world never needed to hear the theme song from “Baywatch” ever again, let alone be reminded it had words, and the addition of dancing show girls during “M.A.S.H’s” theme “Suicide Is Painless” just seemed tasteless.

But the Emmys are not the only award show to have had problems like this. Glaring flaws constantly bring down nearly every major one. And it’s all made worse by the fact that results appear online almost immediately, giving audiences almost no reason to watch.

Award show producers need to think long and hard about the way they do things and make some serious changes. The point of award shows is to showcase and celebrate excellence, yet producers seem intent on doing so with complete mediocrity.

If award shows continue this downhill slide, we’ll all just be turning to Google the next morning in lieu of watching the broadcast.

"Bury the Gold, Eli" Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on September 19th, 2008.

When the person responsible for writing and directing a movie openly admits he isn’t a filmmaker and had no idea what he was doing when making his film, it usually isn’t a good sign. But in the case of local filmmaker Mickey Reece and his second film, “Bury the Gold, Eli,” it didn’t wind-up mattering in the slightest, even if it was obviously true.

Audiences may be familiar with Reece from his one-man band El Paso Hot Button.

“Bury the Gold, Eli” can’t really be called a good film, but it’s certainly entertaining. It’s poorly shot, poorly acted and the story is as thin and cliché as possible, but it never ceases to be enjoyable.

The film begins with a short trailer for the fake film “The Michael J. Fox Story,” in which Reece and company humorously and mildly offensively show what it would be like if Michael J. Fox tried to make “Back to the Future 4” while dealing with Parkinson’s.

“Bury the Gold, Eli” is a western that tells the story of a man, Eli, seeking to avenge his father’s death by killing his father’s murderer, the infamous Jesse James, and find his father’s buried treasure. Along the way Eli befriends a talkative Mexican who adds a lot of humor to the film.

Most of the film looks to have been shot in pastures and farms outside of Oklahoma City, but some viewers may recognize the film’s saloon as local concert venue The Conservatory.

The film ends on a cliffhanger and sets up Reece’s next film, “Get That Mexican.”

Both “Bury the Gold, Eli” and Reece’s first film, “Le Corndog Du Desespoir,” can be seen as part of the Vacant Era Film Festival from Oct. 2 through 5 at the Sooner Theater in Norman

Mitch Hedberg "Do You Believe In Gosh?" Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on September 12th, 2008.

It’s not often that a comedy album can make listeners both laugh and cry, but it’s very possible that comedian Mitch Hedberg’s posthumous release will have that effect.

“Do You Believe in Gosh?” was recorded in January of 2005 in Ontario, Canada. A mere two months later, Hedberg died of a heroin overdose. He was only 37.

Since his death, Hedberg has become an icon in the comedy world. Despite his relatively short career, he is sure to be remembered among comedy greats like Carlin, Hicks and Pryor.

Thankfully, the drugs that took Hedberg’s life had no effect on this set. It’s clear that Hedberg is in the middle of refining and perfecting this material. While still hilarious, this isn’t the well-oiled machine that was featured on Hedberg’s first two albums. At times, he struggles to find his rhythm and the jokes suffer.

Those familiar with the material on Hedberg’s previous two albums will feel right at home with the jokes on “Do You Believe In Gosh?” It’s more of the same absurd one-liners and hypothetical questions that Hedberg is known for.

Texas toast, eating cantaloupe, Smucker’s jellyfish and kids in Venice having “canal-smarts” are just a few of the many topics covered on the album.

At one point, Hedberg explains that he didn’t get into comedy because he was funny, but because he was just “really good at holding ice cream cones.” He later says that comedy is part of his “get-rich-really-slow scheme” and that it’s working well.

Though none of these jokes appear on either of his previous albums, much of the material may not be completely new to Hedberg devotees. A lot of it was featured on the “Live in Chicago” bootleg that has been circulating around the Internet and was performed on Hedberg’s last Letter-man appearance.

It’s almost impossible to listen to the album and not be reminded of Hedberg’s untimely death. With every bit of laughter comes a little sadness that he’s gone.

According to Hedberg’s widow, Lynn Shawcroft, this album contains the last of Hedberg’s material to be released.

“Do You Believe In Gosh?” is not only a hilarious album, but it also gives listeners a deeper look into Hedberg’s joke-writing process and where his act was right before his death.

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on September 12th, 2008.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma City band The Uglysuit was signed to Touch and Go Records’ imprint, Quarterstick. Since then, their single “Chicago” has littered music blogs and a significant amount of hype has been built up around the band. While on the surface this appears to be great news for the Oklahoma music scene, but it seems the band’s success is mostly undeserved.

If there is one word that describes The Uglysuit’s self-titled debut, it’s boring. Painfully so, as the album’s nine tracks all blend together to form an unremarkable, uninteresting and forgettable mess.

The reverb-heavy ambient pop leans far too much towards the ambient side of things and winds up droning on aimlessly. The single, “Chicago,” is catchy enough on its own, but when placed within the context of the album, it loses much of its steam.

The band is clearly able to write a solid pop song, but they just don’t seem to be focused on doing so. Instead, they seem to be focused on long, meandering instrumental passages that never go anywhere.

For much of the album, lead vocalist Israel Hind-man seems half-asleep, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it were the band’s music that put him in that state.

As uninteresting as most of these songs are, the band members themselves sound just as uninterested to be playing them. They seem to carry a very nonchalant “yup, these are our songs, but we don’t really care” attitude through most of the disc’s runtime.

It’s not until the second to last song, “Happy Yellow Rainbow,” that the band achieves anything noteworthy. The second half of this track is noisy, epic and stands out as the best moment on the record. It’s a shame that the band did not spend more time working out that side of their sound.

If you’re looking for a solid example of Oklahoma music success, skip The Ugly-suit’s debut and check out Evangelical’s “The Evening Descends” instead.

Portugal. The Man "Censored Colors" Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on August 30th, 2008.

Alaska isn’t exactly known as a musical goldmine. Apparently, the state’s frozen woods and arctic tundra aren’t quite apt for great bands — except for experimental rock band Portugal. The Man.

The band’s third album, “Censored Colors,” is decidedly more low-key than the band’s previous work. Its slow pace meanders through the album’s 15 tracks.

But even with the new direction, the band manages to keep its signature sounds intact. The quirky approach and diverse instrumentation the band is known for are all here in spades.

Even the simpler, more acoustic-based songs are densely layered with strings, piano, rich vocal harmonies and a variety of other elements.

The band touches on a variety of musical styles on the album. The opener, “Lay Me Back Down,” is spacey and very much prog rock, while “Hard Times” brings to mind stoner rock bands like Black Mountain or Kyuss.

The album’s centerpiece, “New Orleans,” is a jazzy number that wouldn’t be out of place in some Bourbon Street club.

That song also continues the trend set by “Chicago” on the band’s debut “Waiter: You Vultures” in which the best song on the album is named after a city.

The album closes with the reggae style gang vocals of “Our Way,” which leaves the listener on a very positive, upbeat note.

The album was released on the band’s own record label, Approaching AIRball-oons, and is distributed by Equal Visions Records.

Fans who only liked the heavier, high-energy material on Portugal’s previous albums may be disappointed in “Censored Colors,” but for everyone else, it’s an exceptional piece of work that is a strong contender for album of the year.

Doug Benson "Professional Humoredian" Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on August 18th, 2008.

Comedian Doug Benson has recently beaten the stereotype of the lazy pot smoker.

He appears weekly on the VH1 show “Best Week Ever,” co-wrote and stars in the off-Broadway show “The Marijuana-logues,” starred in his own documentary “Super High Me,” and released his debut album “Professional Humoredian.” He’s a self-proclaimed “multi-tasking pot smoker.”

“Professional Humore-dian” was recorded at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles on April 20, and was recently released on A Special Thing Records, which also released records by Paul F. Tompkins, the Sklar Brothers and Jen Kirkman.

The album begins with Benson explaining how audiences may know him. He says they may recognize him from “Best Week Ever” where he says things like “Did you hear Britney Spears got back together?”

The album is decidedly silly. Benson discusses everything from his sexual habits to his favorite movies using silly voices and weird sayings. Some of the biggest laughs on album don’t come from the actual punch lines but from the small little things he says between jokes.

Benson is mostly known for being a pot-comic and much of the material on “Professional Humoredian” lives up to that. He discusses anti-pot ads, the best things to eat when high, medical marijuana and his experience filming “Super High Me.”

The whole album has a very casual vibe and it’s clear that Benson is completely comfortable in his material and his stage persona. Benson just seems incredibly likable throughout; so much so that’s it’s easy to forgive a few of the bits that don’t quite work.

The audience also adds to the casualness of the album. It sounds as though Benson is simply performing for his friends; in fact, comedian Jimmy Dore’s loud, unique laugh can be heard at various moments.

Overall, “Professional Humoredian” is a silly and hilarious comedy record released at a time when few comedy albums make it to market.

“Professional Humoredian” is available at www.aspecialthing.com or from iTunes.

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on August 18th, 2008.

When a band is as completely insane on stage as Monotonix, albums simply can’t live up to the live show.

It’s impossible for an album to capture flaming cymbals and trash cans on heads, and they certainly can’t spray you with beer and various bodily fluids; all of which are commonplace at a Monotonix live show.

The band, which hails from Tel Aviv, Israel, first caught many people’s attention at this year’s SXSW music festival. They were simply the craziest band in Austin this year, even if their actual music was rarely discussed.

The “Body Language” EP, the band’s first American release, does a serviceable job of capturing the band’s energy.

The six relentless songs pound the senses with screaming guitars, driving drums and singer hell-bent on being the living definition of rock ‘n’ roll.

The band is a combination of post-punk, metal, classic rock and garage rock and is clearly influenced by bands such as The Stooges, Blue Cheer and MC-5.

The songs are simple, straightforward and to the point. It’s difficult not to headbang or pump your fists while listening, especially during the title track.

But rocking out is really all it’s good for. At the end of the day, it’s just too shallow and not memorable enough.

If you are looking for a solid album that rocks from start to finish, than “Body Language” may be just what you want. But it’s still no replacement for seeing the band live.

Monotonix will be performing at the Conservatory in Oklahoma City on Oct. 8.

Jim Gaffigan Live Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on July 21st, 2008.

It’s not often that the Oklahoma City area gets to see a good, nationally renowned comedian. We simply aren’t a big enough market for most club or theater comics to come here.

But comic Jim Gaffigan made an exception last weekend when he did not one, but two shows in Midwest City.

Both the early and late shows at the Rose State College Performing Arts Center were completely sold out.

Gaffigan is touring to prepare for another Comedy Central special, so most of the material performed was brand new.

Even though the material was new, it seemed somewhat familiar. Most of it covered the same topics that Gaffigan has been riffing on for years, namely food and laziness.

A good chunk of Gaffigan’s set was simply about bacon. He seems to have completely exhausted any possible joke about the pork product.

These bits were funny, but one can’t help but want more from the comedian. He’s been going over the same ground for quite some time.

It was actually when Gaffigan strayed from his typical food and laziness jokes that he really shined. He had one bit about Ticketmaster that was particularly hilarious.

Gaffigan closed the show out with his famed “Hot Pocket” bit, which garnered a huge crowd reaction.

It seemed strange for a comedian to pull out his old bits much like a band would their greatest hits, but the audience ate it up.

Jim Gaffigan is one of the few current comedians who has achieved mainstream success while still appealing to the hardcore, alternative comedy fans.

He currently stars on the TBS hit “My Boys” and recently appeared in the Mike Myers vehicle “The Love Guru.”

Gaffigan’s “Beyond the Pale” Comedy Central special is one of the most popular in the channel’s history.

That special brought viewers his “Hot Pocket” bit that he has become known for.

Perhaps Gaffigan’s two sold out Oklahoma shows will show promoters that comedy can be a draw here and we’ll begin to see more and more comedians come through. But Gaffigan’s performance should tide fans over for quite some time before that happens.

Originally published on Decoymusic.com.

In the year 1997, Titanic ruled the the box office, the first Harry Potter novel was published, we lost Princess Diana and Biggie Smalls, a sheep was cloned, and the songs on On The Run probably would have seemed fresh and original. But, sadly, it’s 2008 and nearly everything on Nineteen Ninety Seven’s sophomore album seems generic and overwrought.

The Chicago band went through some major lineup changes following the release of their debut, A Better View of the Rising Moon, last year. That change clearly has had a huge effect on the band’s sound, as they’ve toned down the pop-punk sound present on their debut in favor of more mature indie rock. One can’t help but think that this change was a bit unnatural and contrived, as they’ve essentially made their sound more in tune with current trends.

The album begins with “One Track Mind, Four Track Heart,” which is as awful as its terrible pun of a title lets on and sets up the album to be nothing but mediocre. The way vocalists Kevin Thomas and Alida Marroni play opposing roles in a relationship is interesting at first, and does spices things up a bit, but the novelty of it wears off fairly quickly. On the Run is chock full of bland relationship songs that we’ve heard dozens of times over. Everything is over-sentimental, overdone, and often cringe-inducing. Lyrics like, “Why is it so hard to fall in love? / You turn it on / You turn it off / My broken heart just keeps on breaking,” on “Zechariah’s Song” can’t possibly inspire anything but eye rolls.

If nothing else, the album is quite ambitious. The band incorporates a wide variety of instruments and is obviously aiming for a large sound. The production is also top notch, with everything sounding crisp, clear, and huge. None of that, however, winds up mattering because the songs simply aren’t there.
Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on July 14th, 2008.

One has to wonder why fruits and vegetables have not been incorporated into more band names. With the plethora of animal related band names, you’d think someone would take note of what those animals were eating.

Obviously Cincinnati band Pomegranates were wise to this line of thinking when they formed in late 2006.

Despite a relatively short year and a half of existence, Pomegranates already have two releases under their belt.

The most recent, “Everything Is Alive,” shows what the band is capable of. They manage to be fun but never cutesy, smart but never smug, and familiar yet completely fresh.

Clocking in at barely 30 minutes, “Everything is Alive” is ridiculously short, and its breezy vibe makes it feel even shorter, leaving the listener wanting more after it ends.

“Everything Is Alive” begins with a short, atmospheric intro and then launches into the infectious “Who/Whom.” It’s crunchy, catchy, and above all else, fun. The song’s breezy attitude continues throughout the rest of the record without any sort of lapse.

The album’s highlight is “Late Night Television,” in which vocalist Joey Cook sings of waiting up late at night, wondering what his supposed girlfriend is doing.

It’s a simple relationship song, but one with a completely fresh take.

“Thunder Island” is another superb track. Its tropical drum breakdown makes it stand out on an album of standout tracks.

Though Cook handles the majority of vocal duties, guitarist Isaac Kerns can also be heard quite often. Cook has a more feminine, poppy voice, while Kerns uses a more traditional rock sound.

The vocalists never trade off of each other, but instead each have their own song segments, which allow them to stretch out and create their own unique sound.

The album has a grittiness about it not often found in records of this sort. Small imperfections pop up throughout, but they give the record character.

Much of this is probably because that the album was recorded and mixed in the span of six days.

There’s an urgency present that would have been lacking had the band used the luxury of more time in the studio.

The claim could be made that Pomegranates are simply grabbing a hold of the current indie rock trend led by bands such as Modest Mouse and Vampire Weekend, but their strong songwriting and fresh vibe gives the band their own ground to stand on.

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on July 14th, 2008.

Whenever anyone talks about The Hold Steady, the words “bar band” are almost always mentioned. And while it’s a bit unfair to limit such a great band to such a simple description, it certainly applies.

The songs on the Minneapolis band’s fourth album, “Stay Positive,” rely on classic rock archetypes and a punk rock sensibility to create energetic bar songs.

The album brings to mind Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Thin Lizzy and The Clash all at once.

One of The Hold Steady’s biggest strengths has always been Craig Finn’s lyrics. His songs are full of intricate stories that are both immensely interesting and instantly relatable.

Though this album doesn’t follow one cohesive storyline like previous Hold Steady albums, it’s still incredibly thematically rich.

The album’s title, “Stay Positive,” definitely represents the album. For the most part, it’s an incredibly hopeful and optimistic record.

“Constructive Summer” begins the album with it’s fast pace, talk of drinking on water towers and claim that “St. Joe Strummer” was their “only decent teacher.”

“Sequestered in Memphis” tells the story of a one-night stand gone wrong. The song’s catchy chorus, keyboard flourishes and driving riffs make it clear why this song was chosen as the album’s single.

The albums title track is another highlight. The gang vocals present throughout the track are especially great.

On “Constructive Summer,” Finn sings “Our psalms are sing-a-long songs,” and with “Stay Positive,” it’s clear that they really are.

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on July 7th, 2008.

In this digital age, artists, such as Girl Talk, don’t even have to play any instruments to create great music. Some simply use their laptop and a hard drive full of mp3s.

Girl Talk is a mashup artist who uses only samples to create his songs, changing and tweaking them to create a cohesive whole.

With the release of his new album, “Feed the Animals,” Girl Talk is pushing the boundaries of what a mashup record can be.

The mashup genre is generally considered a simple novelty, but “Feed the Animals” goes a long way to change that.

Current hits, hip-hop, 80’s pop, 90’s alternative, 70’s dance, and classic rock are all represented here in some form or another.

One of Girl Talk’s biggest strengths is how he has the ability to grab the attention of the listener with nostalgia and familiarity. Even if the listener is hearing Girl Talk for the first time, they have undoubtedly heard many of the songs Girl Talk pulls from. The album is at its strongest when it combines rough rap verses with a slower, more subdued backing.

Huey’s “Pop, Lock, & Drop It,” works perfectly with Journey’s “Faithfully,” and it’s strange how well Girl Talk meshes Lil’ Wayne’s current smash “Lollipop” with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge.”

Though the album is split into tracks, it’s clear it was meant as one long party mix.

Girl Talk is really flaunting copyright law on this album. There are more than 300 samples used, and their copyright holders have cleared none of them. No one has yet come after Girl Talk for copyright infringement, but with his status and popularity rising, it’s only a matter of time.

Girl Talks use of the Radiohead method of releasing “Feed The Animals,” in which fans can go to his website www.ill egalart.com and pay what they want for the record.

So far only established artists such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have attempted this strategy, and it will be interesting to see how it works for a lesser-known artist such Girl Talk.

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on June 30th, 2008

The world forever lost one of the last true legends of comedy, George Carlin, June 22.

He was one of the few comedians to become successful without ever compromising who he was.

He was a rare case of someone who became hugely popular because he stayed true to himself, and there will never be anyone like him.

Carlin had long hair, a beard and earrings and dressed casually at a time when comedians were only clean-cut and well-dressed.

He pushed the boundaries of what topics comedians could cover and he fought against obscenity laws.

His “Seven words you can’t say on television” routine was especially controversial and ground-breaking.

Carlin’s foul-mouthed routines were somehow smart and clever enough to appeal to even the most straight-laced of listeners.

Even his biting religious criticisms could be appreciated by the religious community.

Regardless if the audience agreed with him or not, they had to respect because he was simply so funny and smart.

He might be one of the few comedians to have developed a massive fanbase outside of the comedy community without the help of a movie or television career.

Carlin stayed active in comedy until the end of his life.

His HBO special “It’s Bad For Ya!” premiered in March, and he toured regularly. He was in a class all his own when it came to consistency and longevity.

Carlin belongs to a short list of comedians who have mastered the craft. Richard Pryor may be the only other comedian to have had such a powerful effect on not only the world of comedy, but on society as a whole.

To really see how great Carlin was, simply compare his material to that of today’s most popular comedians.

Stand-ups like Larry the Cable Guy and Carlos Mencia perform cliché, trite material dumbed down to the absolute lowest common denominator, whereas Carlin valued originality and expected intelligence from his audience.

Carlin was a counter-culture icon who will forever be missed.

'Christmas on Mars' Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer.

It’s not exactly a new idea for a rock band to get involved in film making. The Who had “Tommy,” Led Zeppelin made “The Song Remains the Same,” Pink Floyd created “The Wall” and now the Flaming Lips have released “Christmas on Mars.” But the Lips haven’t created any sort of rock opera, instead they’re first feature film is an almost David Lynch-like space epic that has nothing to do with their actual music.

Overall, “Christmas on Mars” is exactly what one would expect a Flaming Lips movie to be. It’s weird, funny, crazy and a bit disturbing, but it’s all capped off with intense emotion and poignancy.

“Christmas on Mars” tells the story of an isolated human colony on Mars and it’s inhabitant’s varying degrees of mental degradation. The group is dealing with the first human baby to be born on Mars as well as the arrival of a strange alien lifeform.

As interesting as the story is, it’s never really the main focus of the film. It often takes a back seat to strange vibe and atmosphere created. The film less about telling a cohesive story and more about letting the audience interpret the often bizarre images shown on screen for themselves.

The film was mostly shot in grainy black and white, with flashes of color used for effect. It was filmed mostly in warehouses in and around Oklahoma City, and the sets were clearly homemade.

The space station seems to have been made up of Styrofoam, PVC pipe and various other household objects.

The cheap, do-it-yourself feel of the film would be laughable in most sci-fi films, but here it just adds the charm and overall mood of the film.

The film begins with a brief interview with Coyne. He explains why he wanted to create such a film and why it took so long to produce.

The interview is followed by a short list of instructions for the audience that includes things like “applaud,” “laugh,” “have sex,” and “smoke pot.” The Flaming Lips’ charm is in full effect during both of these segments.

The cast is a mix of Lips band members, friends and professional actors. The lead is played by Lips’ drummer Steven Drozd, who does a solid job considering he’s never acted before. Front man Wayne Coyne plays the alien, and creates an instantly likable and endearing character.

Actors include Adam Goldberg and “Saturday Night Live” alum Fred Armisen, who give the film a certain sense of credibility. Goldberg’s scene in particular is one of the more memorable moments in the film.

The rest of the cast range from okay to terrible, but never really affect the film as whole. Bad acting is somehow excusable when it comes to a project like this. The band first began work on “Christmas on Mars” 2001, filming bits and pieces between tours and recording sessions. During the film’s seven year production, fans often wondered if the film would ever see a release.

“Christmas on Mars” made it’s official premiere at the Sasquatch Music Festival last month. The band will be taking the film to various other music and film festivals throughout the summer.

The Oklahoma City premiere of the film took place June 13 as part of the DEADcenter Film Festival.

The film was screened inside of a massive circus tent, instead of a typical movie theater. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have made much of a difference while watching the movie, but the massive storms that night made the screening a unique event.

Thunder was heard, lightning could be seen though gaps in the tent, and rain soaked through ground turning everything inside into a muddy mess. And one couldn’t help but worry about the massive metal poles holding the tent in place getting struck by lightning.

The Lips were present to oversee the proceedings. Before the start of the film, Coyne announced to the crowd they may have to stop the film if the storm got too bad.

Murder By Death "Red of Tooth and Claw" Review

When one hears the band name Murder By Death, one might assume they are a death metal band hailing from Eastern Europe and covered in ridiculous black face paint; or maybe they are some lame screamo band in tight black jeans and guy-liner. But few would think the band, which got their name from the 1976 Peter Sellers comedy, would play stripped down, whiskey soaked alt-country.

It’s fitting that the band took their name from a film, as everything about them feels very dramatic and theatrical. Their songs tell stories that are typically told on the silver screen not rock albums. Zombies, pirates, bar fights, prison breaks, and, of course, the devil made up the band’s previous albums, and Red of Tooth and Claw follows suit with it’s tales of murder, lust, revenge, and, of course, the devil. According to singer/guitarist Adam Turla the album is a “Homer’s Odyssey of revenge, only without an honorable character at the center.”

The album begins with the slow-burning “Comin’ Home.” The song is a strong showcase for Adam Turla’s increasingly deep vocals. On 2006’s In Bocca Al Lupo, Turla drew comparisons to the late, great Johnny Cash, but on this new record, he goes even deeper and lower than the Man in Black. Next up is “Ball & Chain,” which in any other band’s hands would have been a simple relationship song, but instead is a sprawling, driving epic that straddles the line between love and lust.

One thing that separates Murder by Death from their peers is cellist Sarah Belliet. Her cello adds depth and moodiness to even the simplest of songs. She also adds to the cinematic feel of the band, as her strings often bring to mind western film scores, especially on the album’s centerpiece “Theme (for Ennio Morricone).” This is no coincidence, as Ennio Morricone is a famed film composer mostly known for his work on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon A Time in the West.

The album closes with the almost doo-wop “Spring Break 1899,” which tells the story of a murderous scoundrel headed south for Mexico in search of salvation. Musically and lyrically the song perfect wraps up the album, and ends it just as epically as it began.

Perhaps next time you are in the mood to watch a film, you should close your eyes and listen to Red of Tooth and Claw instead. You’ll find the experiences much the same.

Vampire Weekend "Vampire Weekend" Review

Originally on Sophiezine.com on February 15th, 2007.

Ahhh… Internet hype. How many times do you have a read glowing reviews of a band on various music blogs only to find the band actually sucks? Too many. And unless you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t read online music publications), you have no doubt seen such reviews of Vampire Weekend. Thankfully, these guys don’t suck.

Much of their hype was due to their phenomenal online demo they put up last year. That hype got them signed to XL Recordings, earned them opening slots for some indie rock giants, and even a performance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

The band's self-titled debut is almost identical to that demo that made their name, only with one extra song and fuller arrangements; not that that’s a bad thing. The record is tight and cohesive, fun and catchy, and a plethora of other positive adjectives.

The band’s afropop/new wave/preppy indie rock sounds undeniably fresh. There isn’t a single band that comes to mind that sounds even remotely like Vampire Weekend. But that’s not to say they are too strange or weird for the casual listener. Everything is simple, straightforward, and instantly likable. The opener “Mansard Roof” sets an upbeat atmosphere that carries on throughout the disc’s run time. The collegiate “Oxford Comma” comes next, and is undoubtedly the best song on the record. The lyrics are not only easily relatable, but also perfectly capture what the band seems to be about. The rest of the record goes by in a flash, and without any weak tracks or filler.

Despite how good this debut is, it’s not without its faults. The album is short, ridiculously so. Coming in at only 34 minutes, it almost could have been an EP. And during those 34 minutes, there is very little variety. Every track sounds similar to the last, and few tracks have much to distinguish themselves. The band figured out what they do best, and stuck with it, which in its own way could be admired.

Vampire Weekend seems to have lived up to much of their internet hype, and in many cases, exceeded it. Their self-titled debut is sure to propel them far beyond pretentious indie rock blogs.

Originally on Sophiezine.com on February 12th, 2007.

Evangelicals’ frontman Josh Jones is not a normal person. His strangeness is apparent from the moment you first see him, talk to him, and especially when you hear his music. If you were to see him on the street, you might assume he is homeless. Bassist Kyle Davis is by no means normal either. His lanky frame and hipster-to-the-extreme fashion sense certainly makes him stand out in a crowd, and he seems to have been put on this earth to do nothing but to be a rock star. But perhaps the strangest part of Evangelicals is drummer Austin Stephen’s apparent normalcy. He just seems like a regular dude and doesn’t really fit in with the band in the slightest, yet at the same time, he fits in perfectly.

The Norman natives released their debut album, So Gone, back in 2006 on Misra Records. But last year, when Misra manager Phil Waldorf was hired by Jagjaguwar to head up their new imprint, Dead Oceans, he brought Evangelicals with him; thus thrusting the band into the indie-rock big leagues.

The Evening Descends, the band’s first release on Dead Oceans, improves upon So Gone in almost every way imaginable. The songwriting is significantly better and more varied; the production is cleaner and crisper; and the overall sound of the band has simply been refined.

The album begins with the schizophrenic title track that jumps from orchestral pop to stripped down pyschedelia to a funky dance number in a scant three minutes. As the album progresses, sounds zoom in and out, up and down, and everywhere in between. At first, everything seems too dense and nonsensical, but with time the melody reveals itself and the album’s catchiness shines through. By the end of the 43 minute run time, it’s difficult not to sing along with Jones’ every word.

Samples are used throughout the record and provide even more depth to an already deep musical landscape. Most of the samples blend in perfectly, but the “splat” sound in “How Do You Sleep” is one of the most unexpected and unexplainable things I’ve ever heard on an album, not that’s it’s necessarily a bad thing.

The band pulls from a wide variety of influences and wears them on its sleeve, yet manages to create a sound uniquely their own. The synthesizers of “Party Crashin” bring to mind 80’s new wave, while “Here in the Deadlights” is reminiscent of post-Waters Pink Floyd. Comparisons to British shoegazing band Slowdive can also easily be made.

On “Bellawood,” Jones repeats the phrase “Strange things keep happening.” If he’s talking about listening to The Evening Descends and the band in general, truer words have never been spoken.

  1. No Country For Old Men
  2. There Will Be Blood
  3. Hot Fuzz
  4. The Bourne Ultimatum
  5. Knocked Up
  6. The Darjeeling Limited
  7. Zodiac
  8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
  9. Eastern Promises
  10. I’m Not There
  11. Ratatouille
  12. Superbad
  13. The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  14. 3:10 To Yuma
  15. Charlie Wilson's War
  16. Juno
  17. Sunshine
  18. Grindhouse
  19. Reign Over Me
  20. Margot at the Wedding

1. Bishop Allen - The Broken String
2. Minus The Bear - Planet of Ice
3. Portugal. The Man - Church Mouth
4. Student Film - Sleeping Giant
5. Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops
6. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
7. Coconut Records - Nighttiming
8. Nurses - Hangin' Nothin' But Our Hands Down
9. El Paso Hot Button - When I Needed Sympathy
10.Band of Horses - Cease To Begin
11. David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
12. Blonde Redhead - 23
13. The National - Boxer
14. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
15. Vampire Weekend - Blue CD-R
16. The Neighborhood - Our Voices Choked With Fireworks
17. Cave Singers - Invitation Songs
18. Aqueduct - Or Give Me Death
19. Cheyenne - The Whale
20. Fall of Troy - Manipulator
Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on December 7th, 2007.

There is no question 2007 has been a great year for Oklahoma music. Though powerhouses like the Flaming Lips and the Starlight Mints didn’t release albums this year, many lesser-known bands put out exceptional efforts.

5) Subatomic Pieces
“Hold Out For Science”
Little Mafia Records

The 90s vibe of “Hold Out For Science” is certainly nothing revolutionary but the songs are so well-crafted and catchy that it doesn’t matter the slightest. Chris Harris’ deep vocals anchor the album and are reinforced by multi-layered harmonies, fuzzy guitars and simple, yet charming, lyrics.

4) Aqueduct
“Or Give Me Death”
Barsuk Records

“Or Give Me Death” manages to sound both happy and melancholy, sarcastic and sincere and poppy and experimental at the same time. It’s a strange little piano-based record anchored by frontman David Terry’s wit and strong songwriting. Plus the album includes a song referencing “The Princess Bride.”

3) The Neighborhood
“Our Voices Choked With Fireworks”

The Neighborhood have been together only three years but their self-released debut album evokes a mature sound that would imply decades of music playing. “Our Voices Choked With Fireworks” covers the spectrum of accessible indie rock and seems to work from a wide variety of influences. It’s hard to keep from bouncing your feet when listening to the record’s strong, driving rhythm. If Radiohead decided to make a more straightforward pop record, it would probably sound like The Neighborhood’s debut album.

2) El Paso Hot Button
“When I Needed Sympathy”
Little Mafia Records

One-man-bands are typically too much of a gimmick to ever be taken seriously. This was mostly the case with El Paso Hot Button’s (real name Mickey Reece) first two records. They were fun, but really only existed to help you learn the songs before experiencing Reece’s awesome live show. This is not the case with his newest full-length, “When I Needed Sympathy.” It is simply a great record, and if you didn’t know otherwise, you’d think it was a full band.

1) Student Film
“Sleeping Giant”
Little Mafia Records

In recent years, Oklahoma has become known for its indie pop so it’s no surprise the best Oklahoma release of the year falls into this category. That’s not to say Student Film sounds like their indie pop peers. Instead, it has taken a more rhythmic approach that is dark and moody, but fun. Nearly every song begs to be sung along with at high volumes.

As great as 2007 was for Oklahoma music, 2008 seems to be shaping up to be even better with new releases on the horizon by the Evangelicals, Student Film, Colourmusic, Klipspringer, Red City Radio and Stardeath and the White Dwarves. For now, stay tuned and let these records from this past year feed your addiction.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on December 7th, 2007.

Rock music isn’t really known for being the most literate and intelligent of activities. After all, it’s “sex, drugs and rock & roll,” not “poetry, politics and rock & roll.” But that’s not the case for rock band Strata’s frontman Eric Victorino. In addition to the band, Victorino has also put out a book of poetry. But tonight he focuses on his musical side when Strata performs with Team Sleep (led by Deftones frontman Chino Moreno), Sonny Moore (formerly of post-hardcore outfit From First to Last) and Monster in the Machine at the Conservatory in Oklahoma City.

“This tour might be my favorite tour that we have ever done, just with the bands we are with and the kids that are showing up,” Victorino said. “A lot of kids are showing up for us, but more importantly, Team Sleep’s audience seems to be really appreciative of what we are doing as well.”

Strata recently released its second full-length record, “The End of the World,” after a three-year gap. Victorino said the band had a lot to work out during that time.

“It was an interesting process of us trying to find ourselves again,” Victorino said. “We hadn’t put out a record in a while, and we spent all our time touring without really worrying about what the next step would be until we got home.”

It took the band about a year to work things out and determine its next musical step. Luckily, its record label, Wind-up Records, was on board to follow the band’s decision.

According to Victorino, Strata placed more emphasis on lyrics on “The End of the World” than they ever had before. This is particularly true on the overtly political song “The New National Anthem.”

“It was exciting the day that song was formed,” Victorino said. “We wanted to take a step to having some sort of a stand and be more coherent... At the end of the three and a half minutes, if you don’t know what our songs are about, then we are doing something wrong.”

It was during the creation of “The End of the World” that Victorino started his poetry book, “Coma Therapy.”

“During the time we were making the record, I was kind of freaking out and needing to do something on my own,” Victorino said. “I wanted something that didn’t have anything to do with music or record deals or touring or anything. But it still needed to be art, and I am a crappy painter, so I started writing.”

Despite the fact that Victorino originally wrote “Coma Therapy” to get away from music, parallels can be made from the book to “The End of the World.”

“I think it kind of became a companion piece to the record.” Victorino said. “I think if you know the songs really well, you can read the book and know what stories they came from.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 26th, 2007.

Back in the summer of 1995, three Australian 15-year-olds had a massive hit in the U.S. with “Tomorrow.” The song became the most played track of the year on U.S. modern rock radio, and their album “Frogstomp” sold over 2.5 million copies.

Since then, Silverchair — comprised of frontman and guitarist Daniel Johns, bassist Chris Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies — has put out four records, all achieving massive success everywhere around the world, except the U.S. The band is especially popular in their home country of Australia.

“You can’t base all your success on one country,” Joannou said. “The world is a pretty big place. The U.S. is one of those places that you could tour all year, and we just can’t do that. It’s frustrating because you want as many people as possible to hear your music, but the U.S. is not the be-all and end-all.”

The band’s latest release, “Young Modern,” was recorded late last year, and has become one of its most critically acclaimed records.

“Recording ‘Young Modern’ was probably the most enjoyable recording experience we’ve ever had,” Joannou said. “We started out in Australia in a little house in the country. We just sat around playing music all day and at night we’d have little campfire dinners. It was almost like a boys’ club out in the bush.”

Prior to the recording of “Young Modern,” the band’s future was up in the air, Joannou said.

“We hadn’t played together as a band for a couple of years, and then we did this tsunami benefit concert called Wave Aid,” Joannou said. “Before Wave Aid we hadn’t even talked about doing another record. Then after playing that gig, we all were just so excited about playing music together again.”

The hiatus gave band members time to pursue things outside of Silverchair. Gillies formed the band Tambalane, Joannou did some producing and Daniel Johns formed The Disassociatives with noted Australian electronica artist Paul Mac.

“I think having all that time off to go do things outside of Silverchair and give ourselves a break from it all was a really good thing to do,” Joannou said. “It was good to just step out of what is Silverchair.”

The band is currently in the middle of its first full-scale U.S. tour in nearly seven years.

“It’s great that we are getting out to places we haven’t played in ages,” Joannou said. “It’s been really exciting to see that people are coming out and haven’t actually forgotten about us. We’ve even seen some familiar faces from quite a few years ago. It’s been a good six or seven years since we’ve been out to some of these towns.”

The band will make a stop at the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City tonight.

“I honestly can’t remember the last time we played in Oklahoma,” Joannou said. “The last time we were out that way was probably 1999, but I am not even sure we played there then.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 20th, 2007.

The fifth annual Wizard World Texas took place this weekend in Arlington. Wizard World Texas is the biggest comic book and pop culture convention in the southwest. It brings together many of the biggest names in comics and allows fans to meet many of the creators.

The convention was divided into three parts: the convention floor where retailers sold comics and comic-related merchandise; Artist Alley, where the writers and artists have booths; and discussion panels.

Friday’s biggest panel was the DC Nation Q&A with DC executive editor Dan Didio and DC vice president Bob Wayne. The two answered questions about everything DC, including what’s happening in upcoming comics and “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Justice League” movies. The panel was casual and jokes were made throughout. Bob Wayne had some fun with a young boy sitting in the front who was wearing a Spiderman shirt. Wayne gave the boy his card and told him he would send him some proper clothes. Didio and Wayne not only discussed DC Comics, but also the comic industry in general, including what effect the WGA strike might have on the industry.

“Good writers are good writers, and if they want to come work for us, we would be more than happy to have them,” Didio said. “But the idea that we’ll have a flood of TV and movie writers rushing in to do comics probably isn’t that true.”

On Saturday legendary cover artist Joe Jusko hosted a seminar, giving fans a step-by-step look into how he paints his covers. Jusko had some problems with his laptop, but a fan in the audience was kind enough to lend Jusko his to finish the speech.

“People have asked me for years how I worked and how I get the effects that I achieve,” Jusko said. “And so when I was working one day, I decided to shoot my process step-by-step. I put it online originally to see how it would go over, and got great feedback. So Wizard asked me what I wanted to do, I decided to do that.”

Sunday, the convention’s guest of honor, “Smallville’s” Supergirl, Lauren Vandervoot, hosted a Q&A.

Although Wizard World Texas is the largest convention in the area, it’s still small compared many others.

“This is a smaller-scale show, but the people here are very supportive,” said Mathew Mohammed, writer and creator of the “Black Bastard” comic. “It may not be the biggest show, but the fans are great. That’s why I’ll keep coming back.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 11th, 2007.

Since ancient times many cultures have used the four classical elements to explain patterns in nature. These elements have been frequently used in film, television, games and music. Most recently, post-hardcore band Thrice used them as inspiration for its new record, “The Alchemy Index,” a set of four EPs each representing one of the four elements.

Initially hardcore, the band composed of Dustin Krensue, Teppei Teranishi, Eddie Breckenridge and Riley Breckenridge got its start back in 2000. As time progressed, Thrice began experimenting and incorporating a wide variety of sounds into its music, which led to the creation of the extremely experimental “The Alchemy Index.”

“The element concept was something Dustin came up with,” Riley Breckenridge said. “He told us that he woke up in the middle of the night and had this idea that we could do a concept album based on the four elements. It seemed like an interesting challenge and a new way for us to approach the writing and recording of a record. We are always trying to make every album we make a unique experience.”

“The Alchemy Index” was split up into two halves: “Volume One: Fire & Water,” which is in stores now, and “Volume Two: Earth & Air,” which will be released early next year.

“We decided to split it up for a couple reasons. I just think to get anyone to sit down with 24 songs is a lot to ask for,” Breckenridge said. “It just gives people more time to digest it all I think.”

Prior to the release of “The Alchemy Index,” the band split with its label, Island Records. They made the jump from a major label back to an indie, Vagrant Records.

“I think it just boiled down to a difference in opinion on where the band was headed and [what] we wanted to do and what the label wanted us to do,” Breckenridge said. “I think they were holding out for a radio hit, and that was never a priority of ours. We are more concerned with being career musicians, touring and making the records that we want to make. We just didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. We decided instead of butting heads about the direction we were taking, it would be better to just part ways.”

Thrice is currently on a nationwide tour with Brand New and mewithoutYou.

“We are out with bands we really like and who are really good people,” Breckenridge said. “It’s kind of different than some other tours we’ve been on in that it’s like a touring family. Everyone gets along, everyone’s working together to make sure that all three bands are putting on the best show possible and everyone is as comfortable as possible. There are no egos or posturing. It’s just about making sure that all three bands are having a good time and having good shows.”

Thrice, Brand New and mewithoutYou will perform tonight at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 9th, 2007.

The Opolis is usually the place for Normanites to see great indie rock, but tonight it will feature a group of local comics.

The comics — James Nghiem, Leah Kayajanian, Antony Cavazos, Nathan Anderson and Wampus — are all veterans of either Othello’s Open Mic Comedy Night or the Loony Bin Comedy Club in Oklahoma City. Given their normal venues, performing in an indie rock club will be a change of pace for the comics.

“At a comedy club, you’ll get a random grouping of people who came in off the street, all with different jobs, values, different senses of humor,” Kayajanian said. “If they don’t agree with you, or don’t like the way you look, or don’t want to hear anything beyond poop jokes, you’re going to bomb.”

“People who frequent indie clubs tend to be more open to things that are outside the norm,” Cavazos said. “They can appreciate absurdist humor as well as the more common observational humor.”

This will be the second local comedy night at the Opolis and also the second to be recorded for a CD to be released in January.

The five comics performing tonight all have different types of acts and will appeal to a wide variety of people.

“I like to think of myself as absurd, but I know I started out as sort of a shock comic,” Kayajanian said. “I get compared to Sarah Silverman a lot, which is a compliment because I like her. But I don’t want to be like her. I want to develop my own voice.”

“It’s hard to be a Mexican American comic without someone expecting a slew of racist jokes,” Cavazos said. “I don’t have any jokes about being in [a] gang because I was never in one. I don’t have jokes about low riders because, well, because lowriders are very serious things. You don’t make fun of those.”

Comic Kevin Costello was slated to perform tonight, but cancelled due to his relocation to Los Angeles. His replacement is Wampus, the owner of local grocery store Forward Foods, who opened for nationally-known comic Todd Barry at the Opolis earlier this year.

Anderson performed an impromptu set at the last comedy night, but this will be his first official set at the Opolis. Anderson was featured on Comedy Central’s Open Mic Fight earlier this year.

With stand up performances at both Othello’s and the Opolis, a comedy scene is starting to take hold in Norman, Kayajanian said.

“The talent is there and the venues are coming along,” Kayajanian said. “A lot of the Norman comics go to OKC to do open mic at the Loony Bin, and a lot of the touring professionals have noted how good we are. I am trying to be modest about this scene, but there really is something special going on here.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 8th, 2007.

It’s no surprise that record labels operate differently now than they did in the past. Thirty years ago, bands were given the chance to grow and find success at their own pace. Now, bands are dropped if their debut isn’t a massive hit. If Florida band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had emerged in today’s climate, they probably would never had made it, because it wasn’t until their third album, “Damn the Torpedoes,” that they found success.

The album followed a long legal dispute between Petty and MCA Records. MCA had purchased Petty’s label, ABC Records, and Petty refused to be transferred to a new label without any say. After nine months of negotiations and Petty delclaring bankruptcy, “Damn the Torpedoes” was finally released on MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records.

The main focus of the album is Petty’s superb songwriting, and his frustration and anguish from his legal difficulties seems to have affected the songs. There is a sense of melancholy felt throughout the album, even on the more upbeat, seemingly happy songs.

The album’s strongest track is the opener, “Refugee.” The driving rock song showcases all that was great about the band. Petty’s southern, Dylan-esque vocals are anchored by a simple but solid rhythm section, memorable guitar riff, and hints of piano. During the more intense, emotional moments of the song, Petty’s voice cracks and waivers, which seems to make him even more charming.

Most of the vocals on “There Goes My Girl,” are simply Petty talking. Often spoken-word passages just seem silly, but here they work perfectly when coupled with the song’s soft, melodic chorus. “Don’t Do Me Like That” brings to mind a 50’s doo-wop feel without seeming retro or gimmicky. “Century City” is the one weak track on the album. It’s not that it’s a bad song — it just doesn’t live up to the greatness of the rest of the album. It’s just a typical late-70’s arena rock track.

Though the album is nearly thirty years old, it never feels dated, and is undoubtedly just as strong now as the day it was released. At only nine tracks the album is brief, but it never loses steam and there isn’t the slightest bit of filler. It’s one of the standouts in the album-centric era of classic rock.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 30th, 2007.

Avenged Sevenfold and its self-titled new release seem custom-made for Hot Topic. The band’s ill-advised fashion sense, pseudo-gothic imagery, flair for the overdramatic and general aim for rebellion all seem to appeal to the trendy goth/emo store’s target demographic.

The album opens with a gothic-sounding organ on “Critical Acclaim,” immediately reinforcing the clichés of the band’s image. The organ gives way to a heavy breakdown and shrill screams, which are probably meant to prove that the band hasn’t strayed too far from its hardcore roots, even though it obviously has. The song features lengthy patriotic/pro-war spoken word parts. Regardless what political message he may be spitting, it’s simply impossible to take lead singer M. Shadows seriously. His awful stage name and massive grill render any serious message a joke.

By the time the record reaches the halfway mark, it’s clear the band’s only goal is to conquer mainstream radio. The band follows the verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/solo/chorus song structure on almost every track, and everything just feels phoned in.

It’s only on “A Little Piece of Heaven” that the band seems to try anything legitimately new. This nine-minute epic seems straight out of a Danny Elfman score. It’s very “Nightmare Before Christmas”-ish (and definitely keeps with the misunderstood-youth theme). At first the song is quite enjoyable and provides a breath of fresh air, but after a few minutes Shadow’s obnoxious shtick takes over, and it just becomes annoying.

As awful as this record is, however, it will be huge — guaranteed. In spite of everything else, Avenged Sevenfold knows its fanbase, and seems to cater to them perfectly.