August 2011

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P. Lovecraft (7/10)

Sometime during my late teens I started reading a bunch of H. P. Lovecraft books. His style never fully caught on with me. He always seems to be describing horrors by simply saying they are indescribable. I decided to reread this short novel in hopes that my passing years would have made me more accepting of his work and, for the most part, I liked it. He has the horror elements down, but he doesn't seem to know how to create suspense. About one-third the way through you'll have it all figured out and it's just a matter of waiting for the dim-witted characters to catch up.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (6/10)

Catching up on a classic I missed in high school. I thought it was okay, but not the sort of plot-driven narrative I enjoy.

Hot Space by Queen (6/10)

Format: CD

Growing up, this record (along with the Flash Gordon soundtrack) was what Queen sounded like. I had no idea that their best, most creative days were far behind them. In retrospect this is indeed a very cheesy album. The heavy handed anti-gun politics of "Put Out the Fire" don't help the cause. Since when do Brits get to complain about the second amendment? "Body Language" reeks of leg-warmer coated jazzercise routines. However, the record makes amends for all this cheese by closing with "Under Pressure"—quite possibly one of the best singles of the entire decade of the 1980s.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (7/10)

This film is a pre Dawn of the Dead zombie flick that takes place in the idyllic English countryside. The first half of the film is awful. The story is boring, no one, especially the cops, behaves like a normal person would in the same situation and the main characters are mid-seventies hippy-types trying to be cool, man, but they just come off as unlikable jerks. However, once the zombie action kicked-in the movie drew me in. There are some genuine moments of tension and a sprinkling of over-the-top gore.

The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity by Russell Roberts (8/10)

This book is really an economics lesson presented in layman's terms. The plot and characters are merely a device to get you from one lesson to the next. However, the lessons about prices and markets (usually given in the form of a conversation between characters with differing viewpoints) are so interesting that I didn't really care too deeply about where the story was going. All in all a quick, intelligent read.

The Bible of Unspeakable Truths by Greg Gutfeld (7/10)

I think I would have liked this book better if I had listened to the audiobook version instead. As it is, it's an enjoyable read, but my inner reading voice has absolutely horrible comic timing. I feel the Gutfeld's stream of consciousness asides would work better if delivered by the man himself.

9 by Public Image Ltd. (8/10)

Format: CD

9 is more or less a continuation of what Public Image Ltd. was doing on Happy? If anything, I think I like a few of these songs ("Disappointed" & "Happy" to be specific) a bit more than my favorites from the previous record. In the summer of 1989, while they were promoting this album, I saw P.I.L. perform in Chicago with New Order and Sugarcubes. Ah, the olden days. A few years after this record P.I.L. followed it up with a greatest hit compilation which included the horrible song "Don't Ask Me." That song was the bane of 120 Minutes.

Happy? by Public Image Ltd. (8/10)

Format: CD

This is the point in the Public Image Ltd. timeline where John Lydon decided either a) to completely forgo his punk rock roots and succumb to the temptations of pop radio, pushing his musical pallette into new and exciting places b) chorus pedals are really friggin' cool. The end result can be a mixed bag. There are a couple great songs like "Seattle" and "The Body," but there are also a few not-so-great ones. Granted, there's nothing as bad as, say, A Flock of Seagulls' pop aspirations on Dreams Come True, but, then again, can anything truly be worse than that?

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin (9/10)

I was late to the whole A Game of Thrones thang (but, for the record, I was like totally in to this waaayy before the TV series), so I didn't have to wait nearly as long between books as most nerds did. Was it worth the wait? I think so. This volume is definitely better than the Iron Islands-centric A Feast for Crows mostly because the plot focuses on Jon Snow and Daenerys, who I feel are the core of the entire A Song of Fire and Ice. Add to that a healthy, noseless dose of Tyrion and it's enough to keep me excited about this excellent series of books.

The Decent: Part 2 (5/10)

A completely unnecessary sequel that really has to defy all logic in order to get the cast members from the first film a little screen time. Lots of stupid new characters and not enough claustrophobia.

Compact Disc by Public Image Ltd. (10/10)

Format: CD

Sometime between The Flowers of Romance and this record P.I.L. imploded. P.I.L. had finally shedded the noise and experimentation and took a turn for the pop. I guess it's understandable if fans of the original line-up ditched the band at this point, but, despite its radio-friendly aspirations, this album seriously rocks. Sure the abondance of raging solos aligns this record the band's hair metal counterparts, but Lydon's vocal style and the overall arrangements keep the punk rock vibe alive.

The Flowers of Romance by Public Image Ltd. (10/10)

Format: CD

As if annoying music couldn't possibly get more annoying (and by annoying I mean awesome) P.I.L. followed up Metal Box (a.k.a. Second Edition) with The Flowers of Romance. While the former relied on ambiance and nearly-danceable bass grooves, this record is sparse and tribal. Tribal is my code word for "has lots of pounding drums." Martin Atkins's signature drumming on this record is legendary.

Second Edition by Public Image Ltd. (9/10)

Format: CD

I always liked P.I.L. much, much more than The Sex Pistols. I'll concede that most of this record is just self-indulgent noise making, but it works for me. I love the driving bass lines which, to me, are very reminiscent of dub reggae. The guitar is all over the place and noodley but, in the end, it just creates a nice layer of ambient noise over which Lydon can scream, chant and holler. This disc is the one to put on if you want to annoy your square neighbors... or any neighbor for that matter.