The Savage Animal 1.23.13 First Impression of OK Go
I’ve always given my predictions, but this year I’m going to try to keep a “record” so to speak to see how “unpredictable” WWE is. Two predictions are easy. Alberto Del Rio is going to retain his title against the Big Show, The Rhodes Scholars will finally get the Tag Team Titles against Team Hell No. Alberto is just coming into his own and I don’t think he’ll drop it just yet despite the Last Man Standing gimmick. If they want to establish him as a new face they need to get him a big win. Team Hell No has done just about all they can with this “odd ball” pairing and should be split up. That and if the Rhodes Scholars lose any more they might have a problem regaining their pushed credibility.
The CM Punk title reign has been a long one. They keep pushing how long it’s been going on and it’s for a reason. The Rock does not need the “I ended Punk’s reign” feather in his hat, but I wouldn’t be too shocked if it happened. I think by hook or crook Punk wins this and keeps his belt. So, CM Punk retains and keeps it going into WrestleMania. The Royal Rumble should be fun and exciting. There is a lot of buzz about some surprise entrants and some comebacks. I always hope for the underdog and the surprise winner. When Sheamus won it was pretty cool and helped move him up the card. In a perfect world Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, of even Kofi Kingston would win this and go on to have an amazing match at WrestleMania with the likes of a CM Punk. Instead I feel the WWE will for sure have an established guy win it this year. I get woozy with disgust that could mean Cena wins this, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the The Undertaker shows up and wins it.
This leads to Taker and Punk at Mania, “Streak vs. Reign”. The Rumble itself is what people care most about. 30 men enter and 1 man wins. It’s a fun concept. I hope I’m wrong. I hope everything I expect to happen is turned on his ear and I’m left shocked and awe-struck. The count down, the surprises, the tension, and the whole energy of the Rumble is probably the coolest interactive moment for a WWE fan. I fondly remember counting down to the next entrant with rooms full of people over the years. No matter how poor the WWE product can be, the Rumble is at least good for that “vibe”. It may very well be the closest I get to getting that child-like awe and excitement of watching it as a kid. I am not huge on the WWE stories right now and it’s dreadful to sit though. That doesn’t matter. I’m still excited, but expectations often get the best of me. This is still the WWE. The John Cena possibility is always there.
No Videos… Only Music? If this is your first impression of the “First Impression” series then I’ll explain it. Every month or so I’ll listen to the studio discography of a band I’ve never checked out. No matter how much someone loves music you just can’t hear everything. This gives me a chance to correct that. I’ll listen to a band I’m not too familiar with that has three to six studio albums. I’ll take them all in and then give my honest first impression. Sometimes I’ll love it, sometimes I’ll hate it. I never go into it wanting it to suck, but sadly its part of the gamble.
Why OK Go?
I’ve heard the name “OK Go” a lot over the years. They’re a Chicago band so they’ve gotten a lot of love on the local radio. I know for sure I’ve heard their music. I’m sure I’ve heard at least two or so songs, but I couldn’t really tell what they were. I know they had success in the past with that music video with the treadmills. I’m shocked that I’m as unknowledgeable about this band as I am, but that’s what columns like this are for. I’ve heard a lot of good things so I’m going into this with some optimism…
(2002 – 40 minutes) – OK Go’s debut self-titled album starts off with a song I definitely know. The contagious thuds of “Get Over It” start and I know what’s up. I remember this song getting tons of play back when it came out. It’s a good and catchy song. I thought it was “poppier” than it was. It’s better than I remembered for sure. Good stuff. The next track “Don’t Ask Me” is a fun one too. I guess it was a single, but I don’t think I ever heard it before. It’s an uptempo pop rock song, but still with plenty of substance. I was hoping this would continue, but “You’re So Damn Hot” is a pretty paint-by-number power pop song. It sounds like something you’d hear in one of those sequels to Van Wilder. “What to Do” starts off with some “electric oomph” and it turns out to be a pretty interesting song. It’s not what I’d expect from this band. It has a laid back and chill vibe in the chorus, but there is still a full electric sound to it. There is a balance in making a song like this that many don’t get right. OK Go gets it on this one. “1000 Miles per Hour” is a down tempo ballad. It has a nice drifting pace to it and makes you sway with it. The subtle organ work and the vocals stand out a lot on this one. I’m a fan of “Get Over It” because I’ve heard it a million times, but this might be the best song on the album so far. “Shortly Before the End” stumbles into a really beautiful tune. This is definitely not what I imagined I’d be listening to. There is something slightly trippy and soaring about this song. The way the vocals are deliberately paced compliments the music nicely. “Return” has an acoustic vibe to it, but it’s not really. It’s just stripped down in its tone and sensibility, but not its elements or craftsmanship. Listening with headphones clearly proves there are some very complimentary layers that give the song a spacey feel. We get some funky drums and a super funky bass line to start off “There’s a Fire”. There is a certain bluesy slap beat to the music and the vocals remind me a little bit of “Cake”. It’s a fun song and is different from everything else on the album so far. It’s good, but just that fact makes it worth checking out. You almost have to expect a fun song when one is titled “C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips”. This one has a retro groove and then breaks into a weird power pop tune with obvious metaphors. It’s a really weird song, but interesting nonetheless. “The Fix Is In” has a bouncy swagger, but is one of the most conventional sounding rock songs on the album. It’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t stand out as much as the other stuff. “Hello, My Treacherous Friends” starts off with what sounds like a lullaby or children’s toy. It warps and blends into a heavy bass line and rapidly spoken word lyrics. The music is off-key just enough to sound “off”, but it’s held together. It’s a pretty dark tune and is pretty bad ass. The album closes with a strong power pop song in “Bye Bye Baby”. It’s not my favorite song on the album, but it’s not horrible or anything. I’d have probably enjoyed the closing of “Hello, My Treacherous Friends” as the fade out, but I’m not too bummed out. This was a really impressive album. I always dug “Get Over It”, but I foolishly expected every song to sound to that kind of commercial power-pop stuff. Then I listen to “Get Over It” and realize it’s much edgier and ballsier. There is some stuff on the album that didn’t float my boat, but overall I was really impressed. They have many more sides to them than I imagined and some stuff on this album is downright awesome. This album will be listened to again in the near future.
(2005 – 42 minutes) – The band’s sophomore album begins with studio preparation and feedback. This all morphs into “Invincible”. It’s a harder edged rock song. It still has the danceable groove of the poppier stuff, but has some swanky and dirty guitars. Solid start. At the start of “Do What You Want” I don’t know what it is, but by the chorus I realize I’ve heard it plenty of times. I had no idea this song was OK Go. It’s more of a bluesy garage rock song than anything. Actually listening to it is interesting because I never paid much attention to it in the past. It’s a really good song. The song that most people know is “Here It Goes Again”. Of course I know it. I own a television and heard it used in tons of places. When I thought of OK Go before today I’d think of this song and “Get Over It”. The bar rocker “A Good Idea at the Time” starts off with such gusto that you think it’s a cover of a song that you heard and loved since you can remember. “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet” starts off slowly and builds into a sultry almost R&B rock song. It’s not like anything else I’ve heard on here, but doesn’t clash. It works well and fits right in. This is another song you can’t help but sway to. “It’s a Disaster” is just a cool rock song. The guitar in it is what does it for me. It’s got enough static in the slight feedback to give it a gritty vibe, but the song is flawlessly presented. It’s easily one of the coolest songs so far on this album, which says a lot considering the impressive quality. The bass line on “A Million Ways” is rocktastic. This song is seriously too cool for school. It’s a song that you’d want to see someone in a leisure suit dance to. Hell, give ME the leisure suit. The unhinged blues rock intro “No Sign of Life” goes into a rock song full of attitude. The vocals are almost taunted loudly until the song breaks down into a nice mid-tempo groove and back again. The contrast is cool. “Let It Rain” is a more stripped down ballad-type of rock song. The vocals soar through the airy music but you can still easily find enough of a hook to latch onto and dance with. “Crash the Party” is more like their singles in style, but more of a filthy drunken party anthem. I’m surprised this didn’t get a singles release. Hard drumming and frantic guitar opens up “Television, Television”. The song turns out to pretty much be a punk song more than anything. I think this song made me hang bag the hardest of any of their music so far. Another feather in their cap. The quiet plucking of “Maybe, This Time” is almost unsettling, but it’s hard not to get into it. It pulls you in and the whispery vocals only make it more of a “carnival funhouse mirror” type of vibe. It’s like the happiest Elliot Smith song never. The second album wraps up with “The House Wins”. A melody is formed and disfigured by feedback and static. It warps into a song with a really cool tempo. They absolutely kill it with the layers of noise in this song. It sounds like a throwback, but all its own at the same time. The end finds the song stammering out and slow fading very nicely. I’ve run into a problem before where I’ll listen to a new band and love their first album, but their follow up is the sign of bad and boring things to come. That’s not the case here at all. I found this album to be just as good as their debut album, but it expands on what they started there and takes things in different directions. There is some really good stuff on this album. Will the third album continue this streak of bad-ass-ness?
Of the Blue Colour of the Sky
(2010 – 51 minutes) – OK Go’s most recent album starts off with “WTF?” It’s an dirty electro-funk jam that at first does make you go “what the fuck?”, but not too long after you’re caught up in the groove. The vocals are crazy. It’s somewhere in the area of Prince meets Robert Plant. That’s a great place to be “somewhere in the area of”. “This Too Shall Pass” is really easy to tap a foot to. It’s an uplifting pop-rock song that doesn’t make you feel embarrassed to smile for no reason in front of no one. “All Is Not Lost” is a good song, but nothing about it grabs me and makes me want to remember it. Things sound a little muddy and grunge-like in “Needing/Getting”. The wailing guitars are addicting once you swim through the fog of bass. It’s a really cool song. It breaks down and goes into a trippy and soothing place. It’s a “shroom mix” caliber song for sure. “Skyscrapers” is a slow brooding crooner that crawls through all the right places. The vocals are sung almost in a half empty heart soulful matter that makes you wonder if you’re still listening to the same band. The music is smooth as fuck too. I feel like a song like this should only be heard in a cloud of sweet smoke. “White Knuckles” is bad ass. It sounds like a song that Prince couldn’t make in 2012 if he wanted, but at the same time it has a sense of irony and fun like you’d hear in a Devo track. There are tons going on here. The electronic break down is intense. The drums make you think you’re in for an attitude-filled rock out, but instead “I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe” takes us on a quiet ballad of sexual desperation. “End Love” starts off and makes you think you’re being transported back into the cool part of the 80’s. The synth is crazy and lyrics of “no one is going to find ya” are a little creepy. I like the music a lot, but I can’t help but think of neon lights and boogie dancing. That’s not necessarily bad. “Before the Earth Was Round” takes a creative approach on the vocoder. The robotic vocals are weird, but it makes the song that much more interesting. Somehow the weird vocals still come off as beautiful. I like how they pulled that off. Cool tune. Things get stripped down and acoustic on “Last Leaf”. At this point we’ve been dished so much electronic stuff that it’s almost jarring to hear a “simple”, good but “simple”, song. The start of “Back from Kathmandu” is full of big thuds and it blends into a really dreamy and trippy rock song. You just need to listen to it and let yourself float away. Good stuff. You’d think they were “trippy-d” out, but no. “While You Were Asleep” is trippy, in fact trippy-ier. It’s a slow and distance sounding moody song with quietly sung vocals. It’s not as “produced” as some of the other songs. By that I mean it doesn’t have a super amount of layers coming at you. The song “While You Were Asleep” is a perfect name because it makes you want to rest your head and go into la-la land. Not because it’s boring, because it’s soothing as hell. The six minute closer “In the Glass” is pretty epic. The piano is tight, but the big sound of groove and depth is hard not to love. This was an interesting album. I’m not sure if I enjoyed it as much as the first two, but I did for sure enjoy it. They took a lot more different directions on top of the different directions they took on the last album. You don’t know what style or genre is going to pop up next and I like it because it all feels genuine and inspired. I’m normally more of an electronic, synth, industrial fan so this album should probably be my favorite. I’ll listen to it again and go from there, but as of now I dug it a lot.
(2002 – ????) – Being in the Chicagoland area I would have thought I would have had better exposure to OK Go. I heard “Get Over It”, “Here We Go Again”, and saw the awesome videos. They always seemed decent enough, but the pop rock stuff their singles sounded like stuff I wouldn’t necessarily seek out. It just blows my mind a little. The singles are cool for what they are, but there is plenty more depth and substance to their discography. If I had to compare them to other bands to explain their sound to a friend I’d say in the area of Queens of the Stone Age, Flaming Lips, and about ten other cool bands. They do have some stuff that’s pop rock, but they own it. They make their pop music fun, the way it should be. The rest is a healthy buffet of soul, rock, synth, blues, new wave, and about ten other cool genres. Needless to say, OK Go is NOT the band I thought it was. Not even close. Sometimes you just miss the boat with a band completely. That’s what happened here. I not only want to listen to these albums over again but I’m going to have to check them out at a Chicago show sometime. If you’re already aware of everything I’ve discovered during this listening session then you’ve been enjoying them for a while. Congrats. Sadly, I think there are more people out there like me than not. I know they had viral success with their videos and bigger singles, but I think it doesn’t fully represent the band’s work as a whole. I recommend checking out all three of their albums. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Check them out!
I recently took on the task of watching the entire “Dark Knight” trilogy. Christopher Nolan put out the best series of superhero movies of all time. I don’t think there is anything in their right mind that can argue this. There are plenty of great hero movies out there, but none come close to this level of greatness. I don’t even exaggerate. These movies are modern greatness. They’re not my personal favorites, but to deny that these are some of best movies to come out in the past twenty or so years is just dumb. I’ve said enough about the trilogy and my fan boy love of it. Today I want to take a look at the first and often most overlooked movie of the trilogy, “Batman Begins”. Before Heath Ledger was “The Joker” and before Tom Hardy was “Bane” we got to see Bruce Wayne become Batman. The movie covers the origins in a great way. We see a young Wayne become afraid of bats, lose his parents, and then lose his mind and self. He channeled his focus to basically become a ninja and learn how to fight against crime. One he manned up he went back home to Gotham and slowly and surely pieced together the Batman mythos that we’ve all known and loved forever. The plot of a Batman movie is always “a conflicted rich guy dresses up like a Bat to save his ever-troubled town from over the top bad guys” and there’s nothing wrong with that. The difference here is the story telling, the direction, and the fact that Christian Bale kills it. People seem to be quick to dismiss Bale’s Batman performance. They’ll nag on “the Batman voice”, but that’s all anyone can say. He makes Bruce Wayne an obsessed monster and Batman a deep human. That contrasting conflict is what makes his work so engaging and interesting. The bad guys are more over the top so it’s what people seem to have gotten excited about. What made this movie was Bale’s work. It didn’t hurt that Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman were also in this movie. That’s enough to make any movie cool, but a Batman movie with a great lead actor and amazing director? How could this not be great? One thing I noticed was a little blond boy who actually turned out to be “Prince Joffrey” from “Game of Thrones”. That was surely something I didn’t pick up on before. That’s the cool thing about revisiting older movies. You’ll pick up on the little things like that. I think I’ve seen this movie a few dozen times by now, even more than “The Dark Knight”, but it’s hard to get bored. The thing I think I like most about this movie is the pacing. It’s an action packed movie with tons of cool information and side stories. Some of the stories pan out in the first movie, some in the second, and even some in the third. Regardless, everything that happens starts with this movie. If you’ve seen “The Dark Knight” or “The Dark Knight Rises” and not this movie then you’re doing it all wrong. I totally recommend revisiting it and reabsorbing it knowing what’s to come and how it sets up the best film trilogy since “Back to the Future”. Don’t sleep on this movie. A
“OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL”
Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, this is NOT a remake. Repeat, this is NOT a remake. This is an adapted film based on the prequel to the classic 1939 Wizard of Oz movie. That itself is kind of awesome. James Franco stars as the man who would later become “The Wizard”. We cover his early days as a small-time circus magician and his whole journey of meeting the witches. They’re not buying him as being as great as it’s said. He has to use his magic and skill to sway them and to lay the foundation for the ‘Land of Oz’. It’s a cool idea and I’m really surprised no one stepped up to do this yet. I saw the weird sequel from the 80s and I still like it, but this is a gold mine. Sam Rami stepped to the plate and has made this beast. The cast is awesome. James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Michelle Williams as Glinda, Rachel Weisz as Evanora, Zach Braff is in there, Abigail Spencer, and of course Bruce Campbell has a role. The visuals look great and I’m genuinely excited to see this movie once it hits IMAX 3D. Sadly, this is also one of those movies that could oversaturate on-the-fence customers. We’ll have to avoid a lot of evil Disney promo to not be sick of this before March. I still want to see it.