Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Music Review //
Rusty Reid
"The United States of Selfishness"


https://rustyreid.bandcamp.com/track/the-united-states-of-selfishness //


One of the reasons why I don't like discussing politics is because it can be frustrating and upsetting, but also I feel like once I start going on this rant it simply goes on for too long.   Right now, as I type this, while listening to "The United States of Selfishness" all I can think of is how many people are out of work because of COVID-19.   People who lost their jobs not by their choice.   And come the end of the year, twelve million people on unemployment will lose their benefits and have zero income instead of the small amount they might currently be getting.  On top of that, the rent freeze is set to expire potentially making even more people homeless in the coming months.

It's a lot to think about and how it has an effect on the economy (some people just care about it because of the stock market) but also it's human lives that the government is playing with.   And regardless of what side you're on in terms of the "R" or "D", the fact is both politicians are well paid and living better than most of us.  So instead of helping out people that they put into this situation, the politicians go off and sleep comfortable at night.   It's such a classic case of "us vs them" only it shouldn't be blue vs red right now but rather the politicians versus the American People because our country has just become so far from what it should be.

There is an entire lyric dedicated to people being "reduced to servants for the scam".  Isn't it funny how there are people out there making millions (and billions) while those doing the work underneath them are living paycheck to paycheck?  This entire song just really reinforces my ideas (which have been more in my mind lately for obvious reasons) that this entire country needs a power overhaul and more people should be paid what they're worth.   Isn't it funny how fast food stayed open during the pandemic, yet they are still making minimum wage while the CEO's live comfortably?   Seems kind of wrong that the people really putting their lives on the line at the forefront are not being equally compensated.

There is a folk way about this song, a winding country which reminds me of Neil Young.   It just has that "This is my land, this land is your land" anthem way about it where I feel like everyone should be not only listening to and singing along with "The United States of Selfishness" but also just really thinking about the words and what they mean-- the impact that they can have on your life and the lives of others.   If nothing else the lines "Don't hide behind tradition/We're long past due for something new" can leave us with a sense of hope.   Hope in knowing that we are not alone in thinking that this country needs a drastic change from the ground up.

Once again Rusty Reid is putting to song what I wish to say but couldn't do as effectively.   And if you don't understand why "The United States of Selfishness is a nation built of sand" then I suggest once the weather allows it you go to the beach and build a sandcastle and then think about that as being the USA.   How strong is that?  How sturdy and secure?   We need to be built better.  Perhaps everything shutting down during the pandemic is a good opportunity for us to start anew when things begin to open back up.   I'm not sure if anyone will have learned that lesson but hopefully if they hear this song then real change can come.  


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Music Review //
All-In Moment
"All-In Moment"

https://open.spotify.com/album/7LpyqssUOQrkdylcLb2FtH?si=BPiSs2_4SlyJNp8ymxFqPg //


Listening to All-In Moment makes me think back to when Victory Records had bands such as Dead to Fall, Between the Buried and Me, Scars of Tomorrow and even BoySetsFire.   In some ways, All-In Moment reminds me of these bands.   But in other ways, it feels like All-In Moment would have fit in well with that early '00's Victory Records scene because they don't sound quite exactly like any of those bands.    They feel similar enough to be on the label, to play shows with the other bands, but different enough to stand on their own sound.

In the late '00's I stopped listening to a lot of new heavy music because I felt like it all followed the same formula of singing and screaming.   I longed for the days of bands who were just straight up brutal and didn't have to sing through the chorus.  I felt like that melodic hardcore became a staple at Hot Topic and I needed out.   So, perhaps, it is best for All-In Moment to not have been on Victory Records in the early '00's so they wouldn't have had to go through that whole experience.

The key difference between All-In Moment and a band which I don't like is that All-In Moment has these hardcore/metal sounds with melody but the melody is blended right into it all.  It feels like Atreyu in that way.   It doesn't feel like the songs are going from heavy to melody within the verses and chorus as if they were flipping a switch, which some artists do and I don't like that.   All-In Moment makes the melody just flow so naturally and if you're going to have that within your heavy sound I do feel as if this is the best way to do it.

Through big metal riffs, breakdowns and guitar chords that become crunchy, All-In Moment just demonstrates how to rock when you're all about going big or going home.   The urgency on their songs can remind me of System of a Down while a song which feels more like a ballad, "For You", makes me think of Finger Eleven.   I hear elements of POD and there is also some of that hard rock/hair metal type of sound which I always relate with the Chris Jericho band Fozzy for whatever reason.

These songs definitely rock and will even have you singing along, but then the question becomes what will you be singing about?   The first song seems to be about the government and has the line: "If life's a game then we are losing", which I don't disagree with.  Then "From Chaos Comes Clarity" and "Not That Far Away" seem to be more about philosophy in their overall message.   Music can serve as an escape from reality but I do enjoy the idea that these songs have that overall theme of not giving up and making it through the hard times because the better times are just up ahead.

When I listen to heavier music now, I tend to try and find music which just feels like it's ripping your face off (Daughters, for example)  I've never felt like I didn't listen to heavy music with melody because I didn't like it, I always just felt like I wasn't into certain artists which a lot of people seem to be simply because I didn't like how they created the music.  But if you're going to create music in the way which All-In Moment does (and I'm told they're creating new music as I type this) then I'm always down to blast it out of my speakers.  


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Music Review //
Orava
"Behind the Wave"

https://www.oravamusic.com/


Orava has a style of music which seems to either be full of many influences all at once or without compare, depending upon the song and which part of the song you're in.    When "Behind the Wave" starts I think of it as being layered pop rock.  It has the elements of Panic! At The Disco (but the newer stuff) and The Killers but it's missing one a certain dance aspect of those artists-- it feels like a more stripped down version of them.   The first song has these layered vocals too with synth, which would be at the bridge, and it just sounds great together, in harmony, as we are given the mantra of "Try your best".

Acoustic plucks make me think of folk music as spiritual, uplifting vocals take us into "Until Rain Stops".   The titular track comes up third and has a pop acoustic sound to it, being light and just full of energy makes it fun.  "Don't wanna stay stuck behind the wave" becomes the mantra not just for this song but for the entire album really.   As we get into "Trapped" I begin to think of an artist like Blue October who has a similar sense of combining elements of rock music with other genres and just creating something which has its own sound, much like Orava has done here with "Behind the Wave".

About halfway through this album we hit the song "Now I Know" which is the single for me.   When it comes to album placement for a single I feel like I've heard it all before: sometimes they're the first song, sometimes they're the last and often times they're in between.   For this specific album though "Now I Know" just fits so perfectly exactly where it is.   "Do You Care" hits in an electronic and scrambled at times way while "Don't" opens up more like "Unforgiven" by Metallica and then finds its way into distorted waves before the end.    

That particular pairing of songs also seems to go well together and really those are two of my favorites on this album because I feel I can personally relate with them.  The lyrics have this idea of loss and regret and though the first is titled "Do You Care", the song "Don't" actually seems to ask the question of whether or not the other person even ever cared about you.   It's powerful stuff.    As much as I feel like at times this music feels lighter and fun, the lyrics can still just make it overall feel that much more intense and serious.

"Quest For Hope" has a dance synth way about it to start, which is a slight departure from the two previous songs but still works within the general vision of this album.   It ends with some funky synths too, like a cop movie.   The ninth song is an interlude which has pianos and strings on it, which is just fun to hear no matter what you're doing it has that classical appeal.   This takes us into "Going Backwards" which is perhaps the most important song on this album as it somewhat seems to sum up what's wrong but also keeping in mind the mantra of being "Behind the Wave" is how you go about fixing it.

With sad pianos and desolate guitars, "Going Backwards" is a song about regrets.  You know, when you get older you look back at your life a lot and no matter who you are or what you've done I can bet you feel like you've wasted it to some extent.  When you get into your thirties, you think "I wish I had done this in my twenties instead" and it just builds like that, the older you get.   Through the build of choppy waves there is a lot of melody and truth to wanting to go back in time and try again but as the album ultimately makes the point of: we are who we are because of what we've done and not what we'd like to do.


Music Review //
Rusty Reid
"American Villain"

https://rustyreid.bandcamp.com/track/american-villain


For a long while, I felt like you could listen to music by an artist regardless of their political beliefs and choose to like them for their sound rather than what they might do off stage.   This was, in fact, the plot of an episode of "Growing Pains" which had Brad Pitt as a special guest rock star.  But there is a difference between being a jerk (like that Brad Pitt character was) and being racist.   So, over time, I got to the point where I realized it is important to be political in some aspect even if you feel like you're just a musician or just someone who happens to write about music.

More so to the point, I feel like people ignoring the beliefs of the music which they listen to is why so many right wing idiots dance around to Rage Against the Machine (they sing the songs but they know not what they mean)   Once you begin listening to "American Villain", you can pretty much assume who it is about.  I don't know when the last time the United States had such a huge villain as this.   Then when you get to the lines: "A cheat, a creep, a crook, a thief/Traitorous commander-in-chief" you can be assured this song is about the one and only Donald Trump and his reign of terror over the United States.

There is a lot which can be said about Donald Trump.   There are likely people writing books about it.  But one line I did think was interesting in here was: "The history books will warn/Of conservative plague" and I hope they do because history books tend to have a way of forgetting a lot of the bad things which happened in history and paint it in a way which seems to benefit someone else.   So, if nothing else, if you have kids or plan on having kids when you're older, when they're old enough, let them listen to this song as a history lesson and way to have an open conversation about the "American Villain".

Through these words Rusty Reid does more justice than I could typing up paragraph after paragraph.  One of the differences between this song and me trying to type up how I feel as well is that Rusty Reid makes it sound good.   This is a dreamy rock n roll, which reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots to some extent but also a theme song from James Bond.   How I wish time aligned so that Scott Weiland could have done one 007 song.    But having the music of Rusty Reid might in fact be better.  He's the voice of a generation which everyone might not agree with but he's right and he's got loads of talent.  


Music Review //
LovelyOcean
"Depression on Tour"

https://open.spotify.com/album/2vELTUCIRBLqygEni0SzKL?highlight=spotify:track:5TFIuGLpySTS2c9tFCc7Zm


Seeing the song title "Depression on Tour" made me think right away that this would be a song about mental health- which it is- but I was not prepared when listening to it for it to be delivered as a hip hop anthem and the lyrics are just point blank and honest.   As we're eight months now into the country lockdown in the United States due to COVID-19 and the holidays approach, songs about depression can be a tricky subject.   Whether or not you think the country will be in a better place in a few months or even this time next year depends upon whether or not you're an optimist or pessimist.  

The way LovelyOcean creates hip hop which sounds like Salt-N-Pepa (who really don't get enough credit for their non-radio songs), Linqua Franqa, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul just make me feel good about the song even though the lyrics are about depression.   On one hand, I feel like if you're going to write a song about depression and it sounds like doom and gloom then you're going to make something which people might not want to listen to or perhaps even shouldn't listen to as it might influence them if they have mental illness.

At the same time, I feel like the serious content of these lyrics paired with the rather upbeat and just lighter feeling of the music (that hip hop you found on cassettes with a slight hint of R&B) represents how a lot of depressed people are: smiling on the outside while suffering on the inside.   So, for me, the balance between the music and its lyrics is a line which you have to tread carefully but LovelyOcean does it perfectly.  

For me, part of living with mental illness that has helped me cope has just been knowing that there are others out there who are going through the same thing.   So when you approach a song the proper way, which LovelyOcean has done, it really can bring people together to know that we aren't alone and we can sing this song together.   It also will hopefully bring more light to a subject those without mental illness might not know exactly how to broach.   And as important as I feel that these lyrics are, I'd still listen to a full of cassette of songs by LovelyOcean because the music itself is that damn good.  


Wrestling Review //
MLW Fusion #110
"The Restart"
(YouTube)


 

This has been one of my most anticipated comebacks in professional wrestling.   I have been faithfully watching MLW Fusion on YouTube for some time now because of wrestlers like Brian Pillman Jr., Tom Lawlor and Mance Warner being involved.  It is also a show which you can watch on YouTube for free so that helps.   This episode opened with a video detailing the history of MLW which seemed not only beneficial to those who might be watching MLW for the first time but it was just a friendly reminder of what some of us may have already seen and it isn't bad to see it all again.

The first match on the show was a squash match by Alex Hammerstone, who is really just one of the top wrestlers in all of professional wrestling right now.   The guy is built like a brickhouse but he can move like he's smaller.   When you have that agility and power, you're going to become dangerous.   After the match, Hammerstone says what we're all thinking: he's been dominating MLW so when is his title shot against Jacob Fatu?  For my money, if you're going to book a promotion around someone, Hammerstone has to be one of your top choices.

I see a lot of names in wrestling get thrown around a lot.  I'm not going to name them, but just go on Twitter or find a place where you can post and talk about wrestling and you'll see a lot of the same names as big names now and ones to watch.  I truly believe that Myron Reed doesn't get the credit he deserves though- he's easily one of the top wrestlers in the world right now but for whatever reason his name just doesn't appear as much as I think it should.   He defends his World Middleweight Championship in the second match against Brian Pillman Jr.

Myron Reed and Brian Pillman Jr have history and a video package shows this.  Myron Reed says that he is looking to the future while Brian Pillman Jr is focused on the past.   This was a good basis for this feud, really, and I enjoyed this match as well.   Brian Pillman Jr held his own but at the end of the day, Myron Reed won with the Cap'n Crunch.   Who doesn't love a finisher named after cereal?  You and the Cap'n make it happen.   Post match Myron Reed calls out Lio Rush and that would be such a huge match you have no idea.

We get a promo about the main event and then a promo for the Opera Cup, which has some really interesting names in it such as TJP (isn't he in Impact?) and the alternates.  The main event is for the title and it has a big fight feel to it.   How do you describe Jacob Fatu to someone who has never seen him before?  The guy is big but just flows so smoothly in the ring he makes it all seem so effortless.   I said Hammerstone is someone to build a promotion around but Jacob Fatu has been running this promotion for long enough that if you're going to take his spot, you better be worthy.    Many promotions out there have champions representing them that I wouldn't put at the top but that's just me.

Speaking of wrestlers to build a company around, Calvin Tankman arrives next week.  Richard Holliday is cutting a promo about being Carlito and how he's going to return eventually and spit apples at people.  I don't know.  Maybe not.  I kind of tuned him out.   The Von Erichs are also part of MLW and if you're looking to have a solid tag team division, this is a team to have as part of it.   MLW shows us the former World Heavyweight Champions and that really makes you feel like the title could change hands here.

I love that MLW has this second generation wrestling feel to it.   You have Davey Boy Smith Jr, son of the British Bulldog.   You have Brian Pillman Jr carrying on his father's legacy.   Jacob Fatu is part of the Anoa'i Family.   You have the Von Erichs.   But then also you have guys like Hammerstone, Myron Reed, Lio Rush, ACH, Violence Is Forever and Calvin Tankman, who all just feel so much like the future happening right now.   I really feel like MLW has something for everyone and even though Davey Boy Smith Jr didn't win the title from Jacob Fatu he is still someone you could build a promotion around.  

There are two things which I really love about MLW that I feel are areas where other companies tend to drop the ball.   For one thing, MLW had two men on commentary who talked about not just the wrestlers within the matches that they were calling but also the match itself.   How often does a commentator trail off and start talking about who knows what when someone else has to pull him back into the match?  Having the commentary team focusing on the matches makes the matches feel more important.  I know it might seem simple but I've heard some really bad commentary in my time that made me wonder if those calling the matches didn't care then why should I.

The second aspect of MLW which I feel makes it a must watch show is that they truly utilize every second of their hour long broadcast.  At some point in time, wrestling decided that it was a good idea to have something happen and then within the same broadcast show it ten more times.  "Here's what happened last hour in case you missed it".   This was not a good idea.  This, much like my commentary point, took away the importance of what you were watching.  And let's be fair here- I'll call it like it is.   You could go for an entire year without watching anything related to WWE and then tune into a random PPV and feel like you hadn't missed anything because of how much footage they'll show you before the match.

To me, a lot of what happens in wrestling is overkill.   How many times do I have to see the same clip?  Yes, there are a time and place for replays and I'm not saying it should never be done.   MLW has replays and has shown clips from their past during their show.   But it's about how much you do it that matters because eventually you lose opportunities to create new content when you're just showing replays.   There is a balance.   MLW has found that balance because I don't feel like the replays ever over stay their welcome. They show enough to keep you informed but not so much as to make you roll your eyes.

It seems scary to think about but we're almost a month away from being in 2021.   Professional wrestling took a hit in 2020 with the pandemic, as did everything, but you have to go into 2021 with hope.   MLW bringing back Fusion makes me hopeful.   Not just hopeful for MLW but for all of wrestling.   There is a lot of wrestling out there, that is a fact, and it's not always easy to decide what to watch and what not to watch.   But you should definitely spend an hour every week watching MLW Fusion.   To me, MLW is that promotion to watch in 2021.   And hopefully maybe they can also work out a deal for action figures (please?)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

CD Review //
Cosmic Convoy
"Together Again for the First Time"
(C-Side Records)


https://cosmicconvoyatx.bandcamp.com/album/together-again-for-the-first-time

https://c-siderecords.com/store/

Of the three recent releases on C-Side Records, Cosmic Convoy is the most country out of them all.   Now, the word "country" can mean different things to different people.  I've always been into those which are called the outlaw country musicians but then you have the names like Garth Brooks and Randy Travis who I'm just not into (and there are obviously more modern versions of these as well, I just try to remain oblivious to them)  I don't know what it is exactly that I don't like about certain country artists but whatever it is, Cosmic Convoy isn't doing it.

When I first listened to "Together Again for the First Time" I made it to the third song, "Until I See An Empty Cup", which made me think about how it had those guitars like Johnny Cash.   It was that visual of Johnny Cash going with his band into a small recording studio and the people in there just being blown away.  (A studio which, for the record, I have visited before)  But then when I went through and listened to this album another time, right away I heard the Johnny Cash come out in "Rosanna".   

It's funny how music can hide things until you realize they're there and then they all open up for you like magic.    In that way, this album can also be somewhat philosophical, with lyrics about life and death.   Though some of the lyrics are a bit more light-hearted even if you have to pay close attention to hear lines like "And it was my displeasure to have known her for a while" in "Rosanna" (which makes it feel more like an anti-love song and I do enjoy that)  "Up For Grabs" has a slower, alt country way about it and I do enjoy songs of this nature.

From the deep and dark guitar riffs on "Anodyne" to the way "Fall And Fly Away" makes me think about John Denver, there is just a certain mood which these songs create, a certain scene which they set.   I imagine Cosmic Convoy playing in a bar with cowboys in it- you know, everyone in cowboy hats and cowboy boots (which is not how everyone in Texas actually looks)- and everyone is drinking Shiner while singing along with "Bound" and it's just such a good time.   And I suppose that I've always thought of country music as being sad, and even if these songs do feel sad they are just delivered in a way which makes them feel like so much fun.