Friday, March 31, 2017

A Quick One: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)

Considering I've recently sat down to try to read the entire existence of the X-Men from the beginning, and I'm known to have an opinion or two about comic book superhero movies, it shouldn't be surprising that when I finally (BLTN) sat down to watch X-Men: Apocalypse, last year's big screen x-adventure, I would have at least a thought or two. But life's too short to spill 2000 words about this ultimately minor blockbuster film so let's just get to the bullet points:

  • Superhero movies are constantly getting bigger, obviously. The Avengers made it hard to go back to small movies, 30 or so superheroes and villains were on deck for Civil War, and ts to ape that with their Justice League.
  • The X-movies were unwieldy to begin with, having to introduce these characters from the ground up and only given about 2 hours to define them in any way. They usually have more plot than they can handle.
  • X-Men: First Class is the best X-Men team movie because it knows it's a movie about Professor X and Magneto, uses Beast and Mystique in strong supporting roles, and gives not hardly a damn about the rest of the crew they've assembled to fill out the team.
  • In any case, as befits the X-franchise, these movies tend to be overly full of crazy stuff but lately they've been pretty lucid too, and that has made them a really enjoyable alternative to the move rigidly quality-controlled Marvel films.
  • The trilogy that has been birthed by that movie has been oddly coherent in its character arcs, as long as you can buy into the rubber-band status quo of Mystique starting as a loner and Magneto being a villain, then both joining back up with Charles, only to leave again. There is almost no way to reconcile that with the first three X-movies but I guess thanks to Days of Future Past, we don't have to.
  • Apocalypse is better than Days of Future Past.
  • Apocalypse is a bit of an underachiever - it doesn't quite do enough to fill its 144-minute runtime, but what's there is fine. It's fun to watch Professor X and Jean Grey team up to mind-punch a 5000-year-old ancient mutant God, sure.
  • With lots and lots of characters, including new versions of Jean, Scott, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Angel, the movie doesn't work too hard to get in a lot of stuff about them, which is oddly just right even as it reiterates the Xavier-Magneto-Mystique-Moira business.
  • But! With a school full of hot superpowered teens I'm dismayed that the X-Men, in neither the movies nor the comics, has quite harnessed the Hunger Games/Divergent/Maze Runner energy yet. Such wasted crossover potential.
  • This is probably only the third best, maybe less, Oscar Isaac movie you could be watching on Netflix tonight, behind Inside Llewyn Davis and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and maybe Drive, which he has a smaller role in. He didn't need to be Apocalypse, under all that makeup and voice modulation, but someone had to do it, sure.
  • Apocalypse is a better villain when he's already won, as in the "Age of Apocalypse" or the future Cable comes from. His powers are so nebulous and weird, his philosophies so heady, that the whole affair seems very silly if he's not already in power. Oddly this led to me hoping - naively, I guess - they might actually imply that there was a whole mini Age of Apocalypse in the 1980's. With all the other historical/time travel nonsense in the X-Men's second trilogy, why the eff not? (Well, the answer to that is that they already did a dystopian future in DoFP and it was bleak and I'll never wanna revisit that again thanks.)
  • I'm not saying it's a better movie from a technical or structural standpoint, but I would honestly rather watch X-Men Apocalypse again than Captain America: Civil War, which everyone but me loved?
  • After 16 years of retrofitting the X-Men into leather jumpsuit uniforms and Psylocke is the one whose look they keep true to the comics? With her purple ninja cheesecake swimsuit? Ok, ok.
Thanks, and please do read Uncanny X-Cerpts. It's a lot of fun for me and may be a little bit of fun for you.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The New Jam: Hollerado, "Born Yesterday"

Hollerado's new single, "Born Yesterday" sounds like the work of a younger, fresher band - maybe even one from a decade or more ago. Compared to singles like "Juliette," "Americanarama," "Got To Lose" "Pick Me Up," "So It Goes" and "Fireflies," which intermittently blend their garagey DIY power pop with funk, bluegrass, and a whole bunch of other neat tricks there aren't really words for, "Born Yesterday" sounds a bit primordial - a callback to the early-2000's pop-punk boom, a three-chord throwback to the Ramones played at blistering speed and big enough to fill an arena. It's the same sound that Weezer has been trying to recapture for the back half of their career (occasionally with great success, don't take that as a dig, Rivers.)

And yet, they still sound utterly like themselves. If the song is simplistic, it's still pure Hollerado: powerful, fun, joyful and inescapably catchy - before it's even over it feels like it's been one of your favourite songs for years. The anthemic chorus, "You make me feel / Like I was born yesterday / Like I've never been broken" - is pure Hollerado, and the verses carry that characteristic eloquence, wit and heart. It shows that pure joy in making music and that strangely studied knowledge of the craft that it takes to make the call todo something so stripped down and not have it come out sounding halfway-there. This song fits together like clockwork. They have done more ambitious things, but they don't need to reinvent the wheel every time out to prove they know how to drive. I could go for a whole disc in this vein, easily, although knowing this band's restless experimentation it's likely just a piece of their next sonic puzzle.

I've been cheerleading for this band for years, and I'll be cursed if they're not still one of the best things going in this sodden world.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Better Late Than Never Thoughts: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

Well! That certainly was a big movie.

I'm not exactly sure what I was supposed to be feeling after watching Captain America: Civil War. Happy that Steve was proven right? Sad that his friendship with Tony had to get wrecked? Relieved that all the punching was over? I definitely got that last one.

I suppose I could nitpick about the internal logic of the movie like some internet dork (as if everyone isn't on the internet these days - all being dorks all the time) the whys and wherefores of the hero-fight premise, but it's a means to an end: just as in the comics event that shares half of the movie's name, the heroes have a big disagreement that leads to them having a fight, or series of fights, because since the beginning of time - seriously - it's more interesting to watch good guys hit each other than bad guys. That's why Marvel vs. DC put Batman against Captain America in a fistfight and not Magneto. Because there's no suspense in seeing a good guy beat a bad guy, compared to wondering who would win between two good guys given equal time... even if they normally put their differences aside in the end and realize there is a truer evil at work. Usually.

The big disagreement is over whether superheroes should have bosses. Call me crazy but I seem to recall the Avengers having a boss. His name was Nick Fury. He had bosses too, the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures from Clone High. They wanted to blow up New York with a nuclear missile because it had aliens in it and they didn't have a single better idea. You know what, this is coming up in favour of "no bosses."

Tony, who steered said nuke into a hole in space that allowed him to enact genocide on mindless (we think?) robot alien soldiers, thinks having a boss again would be a good idea, because since not having a boss, they fought a killer robot James Spader, that he designed, who wanted to drop a city from space and wipe out mankind (in Avengers: Age of Ultron) but thanks to the Avengers only fell from a few thousand feet up and wiped out a small eastern European city-state. If he doesn't have a boss, who is going to keep him from doing things like that?

Tony's motivation in this movie is actually characteristically impetuous, dating all the way back to his decision in the first movie to stop making weapons because he saw one get used. It takes only one person upset with what he has done to convince him that an extreme course must be taken. If I have learned anything about billionaires this year it's that they are disproportionately concerned with the opinions of individuals and prone to changing whims. Tony is confronted with the face of the person whose death he is responsible for and decides this can never be allowed to happen again. Or, he needs to ask the authorities for permission if he is going to let it happen again, so that it is their fault, not his.

How come the good guy in the movie is never the one preaching oversight and transparency? Do I feel this way because my girlfriend works in HR and I've absorbed much of her line of thinking? Well, America loves Cowboy Cops. They love the concept in movies and, horrifyingly, in real life. This is an uncomfortable thought that occurred to me when I realized where Captain America's "we don't need no stinking badges" line of thinking ends for some people. Steve, the career soldier, is worried that superiors won't be able to distinguish between Avengers-level threats and petty international grudges.

As it happens, Steve is morally in the right when a bomb goes off and everyone blames his friend Bucky (a trained covert operative who was not caught for many years despite rocking a cool metal arm and Kurt Cobain hair.) He finds Bucky first and protects him because he knows he is innocent. Well, he doesn't know-know, but he knows in the sense that you know your friend will offer you the last slice of pizza before taking it for himself. Because you're friends. Anyway, he seems pretty sure that Buck is innocent. And in doing so, goes rogue.

Then War Came.

Iron Man gets the bulk of the Avengers on his side because his position makes a certain amount of sense. You can't just go traipsing onto foreign soil and declare yourself The Law just because you have superpowers ("Enhancements" as the movie calls them.) Unless, I reckon, Loki or Thanos comes to town with an army of mindless (I hope?) robot alien drones. Then anything you could do to help would probably be welcomed.

So there's Iron Man, who didn't want to sell the government the plans to his Iron Man suit a few years ago because he lives a capitalist teenage dream - again, that whole impetuous whim thing. He gets War Machine, the lifelong military man, of course, and Vision, the pacifist robot messiah, and Black Widow, who reasons that "it's better to have one hand on the wheel than none." In Steve's corner is the Falcon, who has a history of operating outside the law with Steve, and Scarlet Witch by default, because she started this mess by saving Steve from a bomb. Steve also gets Bucky on his side, of course, and Hawkeye for reasons that are never made clear, and also Ant-Man, who has a grudge against Tony Stark because Michael Douglas had one against his dad. But Iron Man gets to draft Black Panther, who has a suit made from the same material as Cap's shield, and who is mad at Bucky because he thinks he blew up his dad, the king of Wakanda (Panther's dad, not Bucky's.) Iron Man also recruits Spider-Man, because Marvel paid for the rights to Spider-Man back and they weren't going to waste any time using him.

I was about to say that this version of Spider-Man felt very true to the character's nature, given how he was so youthful and impressed by all the heroes he was meeting, but honestly, the version of Spider-Man I'm most familiar with has been a super hero for about 50 years of (maybe a decade of comic book time) and has met everyone and done everything and been married except it was erased from history. Even my favourite interpretation of Spider-Man, from the 1990's animated series (hey it has to be someone's) has him in college and going steady with Mary Jane (I mean his girlfriend, not that he's a huge pothead.) This Peter was still enjoyably youthful, but TBH I've never had a problem with any of the actors portraying Spider-Man, just the various movies they were in... and even then I think they sometimes get a bad rap.

As for Ant-Man, I'm not sure he belongs either, since Paul Rudd, bless his heart, has a way of making it seem like he's just in an SNL skit about superhero movies, not in a real actual one. I loved Ant-Man because of him, but context is important. But both he and Spidey were responsible for some pretty enjoyable moments during the big hero fight.

Obviously, Bucky isn't actually guilty, and so he and Cap are ostensibly absolved, and there is a bad guy at work here, if not engineering the downfall of the Avengers then at least taking advantage of the situation for personal revenge. Black Panther has some choice words at the end about the destructive cycle of vengeance, which Iron Man can't hear because he's in the middle of a knock-down drag out fight with Cap and Bucky because he wants revenge. Iron Man does not come off great in this movie despite coming from a position that starts out pretty reasonable. Someday, superhero movies will broach topics besides "is it right to kill someone because he killed your parents?" (Um, spoiler I guess?) But I guess if it was good enough for Hamlet, it is good enough for 15 to 30 superhero movies.

Incidentally, I wish there was room for more John Slattery as Howard Stark and CGI young Robert Downey Jr as Teen Tony. Excellent casting there.

In the end, what we have here is a 2.5-hour movie designed to showcase the heroes fighting each other in a variety of settings, over something not as flimsy as a misunderstanding but not so dramatic as to make you actually hate one of them. To that point, it's a pretty agreeable movie, directed with great skill by the Russo Brothers. The action is good and it's a shade less lightweight than either of the Joss Whedon Marvel's The Avengers movies. It is stronger on the plot, with all the contrivances needed to make the setpieces and fights happen being easy enough to digest, and the characters are handled better too. Perhaps that's the semantic difference between a "Marvel's The Avengers" movie and a "Captain America" movie. In the former, all the characters need equal time, so the plot develops "tall poppy" syndrome. In the latter, particular attention is paid to Captain America and his problems, and the characters are served the closer they are in orbit to that. (Iron Man and Bucky plenty, Hawkeye not so much.) There's even time for a juicy subtle love connection between Vision and Scarlet Witch that feels less tacked-on than the Black Widow/Hulk ship that cropped up in Marvel's The Avengers The Age of Ultron. (Which, for the record, I was for, since Mark Ruffalo has chemistry with everybody.) And let's never forget that Captain America and Iron Man's cinematic friendship consists of about ten minutes of screen time each at the end of the first Avengers and the beginning of the second, prior to Tony creating Ultron, after which they're mostly at odds. By and large, the two characters, and their problems, feel more substantial in their own previous movies. (I'm particularly partial to Iron Man 3, which gave us the best version of Tony to date.)

What it comes down to is the question at the heart of most superhero literature: to uphold the letter or the spirit of the law? This was also at the heart of about half the episodes of Drop Dead Diva. I find that most people are comfortable with "spirit" as the answer, feeling they have the proper judgment to know right from wrong (they don't, that's why we have laws, to tell you what you did wrong and how you are going to be punished.) Superheroes, and lawyer Jane Bingum, get special dispensation on that one, though.

Perhaps the movie would have benefitted from seeing Cap try it Tony's way and realizing the flaws in practice instead of making it about abstract ideals, but that would have added another 15-30 minutes onto this movie's gargantuan running time, and we've got Spider-Man to get to. The movie never comes out and says whether having a boss is good or bad, and most would agree that most organizations benefit from some level of management, although my experience has always been that there's such a thing as too much. I think the premise of superheroics is supposed to be that if you're really super you're probably a good enough person that you don't need a boss. But you also should know better than to resort to punching your friends? And that's the climax of the movie, one being punched hard and left for dead, with the villain basically successful? Am I expecting too much from my superheroes?

That's probably why the superhero movie I'm most looking forward to at this point is The Lego Batman Movie, which promises to leave the "real" behind, as its protagonist is both a Lego minifig and an animated character, so for some reason we have different standards for him and the world he inhabits. If the movie feels the need to address the tropes of the superhero genre and wonder what it's all for, it will probably do so with enough self-awareness so to make it all part of the show, as the Lego Movie did. The Lego Movie was great. Captain America: Civil War was only okay.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Aerospotting: Selections from Get Your Wings (1974)

There are a few bands whose music I not only love to listen to, but think about for how great it is. Believe it or not, Aerosmith is my favourite. In this column, I will occasionally be taking a look at significant tracks throughout their career and trying to suss out exactly what makes them so special - to me at least.

Get Your Wings: biker slang for a rite of passage (wherein oral sex is performed on a menstruating partner,) in short, to earn respect.

The difference between album one and album two for this band can be summed up by one word: darkness. There's something "dark" about this record, not just the shadowy album cover compared to the blue sky and clouds motif of their debut. Album one was mostly about hoping to "Make It," the story of a hungry rock and roll band, with some "woman done me wrong" Rolling Stones 3rd-generation blues tunes, and Steen Tyler's latent hippie psychedelia distinguishing the affair. Album two takes more inspiration from "the dark side" - sex, drugs, booze, violence. Boozy sex, druggy violence, violent sex... all rendered through the refracted lyrics of Steven Tyler. The words on this album seem to have a certain logic pointing somewhere in that general direction. "Same Old Song and Dance" may be about a drug dealer on trial. "Lord of the Thighs" may be about a pimp. "SOS (Too Bad)" could very well be a retelling of "House of the Rising Sun." Part of the brilliance is that lack of obviousness. Aerosmith in the 70's does indulge in a lot of rock and roll clich├ęs, and yet because Tyler's way of doing lyrics is so inimitably weird, it never succumbs to them. It ends up elevating them. Oh, and what a riff on this one.

This is not the only quality that recommends the album, though, because the band plays like hot fire all over the record. Here, Joey Kramer develops the prototype for the broken-down funk groove that will later power "Walk This Way." Joe Perry and Brad Whitford develop this ominous, pulsing rhythm of a guitar riff before Tyler's piano rolls in, introducing that sleazy, menacing delivery, lyrics like an alchemical incantation.

Nobody with anything to say about the subject would ever classify Get Your Wings as Aerosmith's best album - it doesn't have the highest highs of their career - but it happens to be the one I like listening to from beginning to end best, which marks it as their most consistent effort. It just strikes that gritty, dense tone so well and doesn't manage to wear it out. That encompasses the dense sci-fi psychodrama of "Spaced" (a song about interstellar travel that manages to not be pretentious, sitting next to those drug dealer tunes? Wow) and the frothy psychedelic pop of "Woman of the World." "WOTW" is the workhorse of the album. It's not considered an exceptional cut by any means, and definitely not one that the band uses to identify itself even at that time, but I feel like there were any number of working man's bands in the mid-70's that would have loved to have a tune like that in their setlist. Here it's just considered filler, surrounded by more outrageous, provocative cuts. Turn the album over and you are greeted with the rabid garbage punk of "SOS (Too Bad.)" Incidentally, while the band would never be identified as punk today, critics at the time were using the word to mean anything new that was hard, fast and nasty. Tyler always denied the connection because in New York City, "punk" is someone lazy, and this is a band that always tried very hard. That's true, but at their best they were also very good at covering their tracks.

The album reaches its steamy climax with "Train Kept a Rollin'," a resurrection of an ancient blues song as an epic workout, slowly gathering steam from a measured stomper to a roaring inferno of lust. I've had a bit of a problem with this song ever since I learned it was studio musicians who first recorded the track's legendary faux-live solo, but I've heard them do it live so I guess they must have eventually picked it up. And in the afterglow, it transforms via some artificial crowd noise, into "Seasons of Wither." And if "Lord of the Thighs" is alchemy, this is pure witchcraft, a summoning of evil spirits, of loneliness and regret. Beauty, sadness and cold. That lyrics, "Love for the devil brought her to me" is everything, and it's just the beginning. Prior to that, the album's tone had relished its sins, and only now do we start to see the true cost of an evil good time. And yet, a morality play like this was not meant to save souls: only to say, "buyer beware."

And then there's a little cabaret clarinet cleanse the palate before the album returns to fun sexy sex.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Better Late Than Never Thoughts: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

I was never against the existence of a new Ghostbusters movie at the outset - at least not on the basis that they had re-cast the Ghostbusters as women. That twist, at least, seemed a better excuse to make the movie in the first place than if they had done four male actors in the role. After all, it feels the vast majority of movies that get made lately are remakes or adaptations, so at least when they remake something I like that already exists as a very good movie, that original movie still exists. And I don't care what anyone says, making a crummy remake would only increase the profile of the original, because it makes you appreciate it better.

(I figure it's worse when something you like in another medium gets its one and only chance to be a movie and it stinks.)

I mean, besides not really being a fan of Melissa McCarthy, I couldn't really see any problem with the people who made Bridesmaids bringing that same sensibility to the premise of a quartet of women hunting and trapping ghosts. I feel like that's at least a rich enough premise to sustain at least one more variation.

This Ghostbusters movie is different from the past one in a very significant way, down to the core, and your opinion of that change probably informs your opinion of it (if you're able to go in with an open mind, at least.) The first is actually kind of a weirdly serious movie, starring famous comedians. The ghosts aren't played for laughs, and neither is the version of New York that the Busters inhabit. They themselves are comedic characters: Earnest Ray, detached intellectual Egon, and of course deadpan Bill Murray as Peter Venkman. The main vein of comedy in Ghostbusters (1984) comes from Bill Murray's character being face to face with the existence of an impressive paranormal power and reacting the same way you would if you were bored at lunch and messing with your waiter.

Ghostbusters (2016) takes place more in a world of comedy. Characters who perform otherwise perfunctory roles are given comedic dialogue, whether it's the line about "anti-Irish fences" at the Victorian estate being toured at the beginning, or the constant issues with Chinese soup delivery experienced by the McCarthy character. The movie is more made up of "bits," probably because Paul Feig has conceived of it as you would a comedy movie, constructing "bits" with each moment, and Dan Aykroyd, while a noted comedian, also really cares a super-lot about the paranormal and takes it pretty seriously. It's only in a movie with the tone of Feig's that you're going to get cameos from original castmembers.

But just because it is markedly different (in one way) does not mean it is not also very, very good.

My main concern was that the movie would go too far over the top: too many gross-out gags, goofy ghosts, pratfalls, and winking references. And there were a lot of all those, but oddly enough they a) work for half the audience, and b) don't detract from the rest of the movie. So when there's the inevitable "testing new equipment" scene that ends with a character being hoisted about like a wild firehose, it's a bit of an eyeroll but it doesn't drag the movie down too much. Mostly it's defined by clever back-and-forth and really well-disciplined comedy. And a disproportionately great line about the world's tiniest bowtie. The "comedy world" approach enables the filmmakers to play around a bit more with the ghosts themselves, the way of fighting them, as well as side-characters like Chris Hemsworth's (possibly synesthetic) Kevin.

Paradoxically, the emotional lives of the Ghostbusters in their 2016 iteration is also richer, establishing the background of Abby and Erin's friendship and interest in the paranormal. That alone feels like enough of a raison d'etre for the movie, beyond better VFX" and "increase the wacky." (That increased wacky, the manic mood of the movie, has its hits and misses - there's a lot of great bits in there, and a few moments that feel off, like trying too hard to be funny for the sake of funny.) The climactic battle and rope rescue scene were top notch, though - I loved seeing NYC swarming with ghosts in a way that was simply not possible in 1984.

The plot of the movie mostly tracks with the first one, which is a value-neutral statement: it's both the easy way out and a soothing familiarity. It's the same thing that happened with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and your mileage may vary on whether you were into it in that case or this one.

For me, it was fine, a good enough clothesline to hang the new gags on. I felt like Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones could have been better done-by (although mostly great, McKinnon's dance to DeBarge was a miss for me, one of those "wacky for wacky's sake" gags with no real context or point.) Jones in particular gets a lot more development and more to do than Ernie Hudson got in the first one. Complaints about Chris Hemsworth's character are completely unfounded, as he is one of the most consistent sources of laughs in the movie.

This was a good movie, guys, and if they get to make a second one it could get even better from there. I just hope that, per the tease at the end (spoiler alert?) they don't do Zuul again. They just remade the Zuul story with a new coat of paint with this one, so why bother?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Gravitys Pull 2: Selections from R.E.M.'s Reckoning (1984)

There are a few bands whose music I not only love to listen to, but also think about. R.E.M.'s discography provides room for endless speculation as to the meaning and source of its magic, but also just for endless remarking on its sheer quality. In this occasional column I intend to examine a few key tracks from each album and muse about what exactly makes them so significant.

Reckoning: to seek (or find) oneself, or to deliver justice.

The year following R.E.M's full-length debut, Murmur, saw them return with an album that bore many of the same characteristics: obscure lyrics delivered by Michael Stipe's low rumble, matched by Mike Mills' elegant counterpointing backup vox, propelled by Bill Berry's drums and given liftoff by Peter Buck's jangling guitars. Effectively, album two is a more polished version of album one. If Reckoning isn't exactly a reinvention of the band - certainly not on the order they would later achieve from disc to disc - it was a clear progression from what they started with. A fuller, more vibrant sound with a few more moving parts, a little more finely tuned. With more get-up-and-go. That statement is immediately made by the spellbinding back-and-forth-and-inside-out vocals of "Harborcoat" and the bright, shining riff of "& Chinese Bros.," an ideal Buck effort. Stipe's lyrics in that one, which apparently tell the story of a torrid love triangle of sorts invoking the folktale of the Chinese Brothers are a real highlight, as is...

The masterpiece of this album is the mournful "So. Central Rain," which also seems to have a narrative about lovers (or acquaintances at any rate) separated by a disastrous flood in Georgia. As the peppy piano and 12-string guitar plinks a sprightly tone, the guitars make room for Stipe's chasmic "sorries." The music, like rain, cannot be abated though, as the rhythm continues. The funerary "Camera" is another bright spot, moving from a low key verse to a soaring chorus - again, I would signify Buck as the hero of this song, as every movement of the guitar feels beautifully pained, staggering stuff.

All over this album, the band tries on folksy, country and westernish personae, but there's never any bid for legitimacy in that arena. It's not parody per se, but observation of some musical tropes. They're not making fun, and not imitating, but trying to play a musical character, express things in a way that can only be done with a certain type of music. That's why, I think, to a non-country-loving person like myself, the Very Much Country "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" is such a powerful, effective, enjoyable song. Rather than being a country band just doing what comes naturally, they put in the work to become one, just for a few songs on this album. Of course it doesn't hurt that they used to cover Roger Miller's "King Of The Road." That this rustic tune shares album space with the sweaty rockclub gem of "Pretty Persuasion" is a testament to the scope of this band's abilities and sense of identity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Today's Jam: Ben E. King, "Stand By Me"

Inevitably, when I hear this song, I start to hum or sing along, and I never can get through the whole thing without choking up. It's one of those most perfect pop songs. That quiet, minimal, delicate shuffling backing track broken through by King's tear-cracked voice invokes the feeling of loneliness and isolation, of helplessness and hopelessness, but also the repudiation of it, the sharing of sorrow and comfort between two knowing, caring souls. Then in comes that note-perfect string break to relieve the fear. It is vulnerable and raw and yet resolute and polished. It is a testimony to strength in hard times, and it doesn't need to be romantic.

Anyway. I feel like it sums up the day pretty well for me.