The Haxans

Going off the stage right now in Derry, New Hampshire it’s The Haxans! I don’t know who they are or where they’re from but I’m inspired. They’re a brother/sister group with talent and a pretty hot sound. They kept me entertained from start to finish. I want to check them out on Apple streaming to listen to them more. Rock n Roll has lost personality but these two still have it so I’m happy to follow, happy to promote, happy to post a picture or two. I took a video of a couple dedicated fans who are just nuts for this group. It’s really nice to see the passion. I wish I knew more about them and their original songs so I could write about it. Look them up. Visit

Publishing an update after a short visit to the merch stand. I saw a photo of the guitar player and said to the wild and hot looking attendant, “Hey wait! Isn’t that Piggy D?” Of course she said yes. I’m sad to say The Poor Critic has not been very inspired lately but thank goodness the wife and I took a chance on The Tupelo Music Hall to go see one of my favorites, John 5. And thank goodness Rob Zombie’s bass player now goes by Count D. Can’t wait to go see all three of them in New Jersey July 31st!

Tones and I: Welcome to the Madhouse (Deluxe)

iTunes $12.99 | Streaming LIVE X LIVE (Album of the Week 7/23/21) | 20 Tracks [73:17]

We often see that fresh and unique creates a formula for success. It happened with Sam Smith, Megan Thee Stallion, and Billie Eilish. They hit the scene and people went nuts. Grammy awards piled up. And they exploded all over the place. Now we have Toni Watson, aka ‘Tones and I’, and now she’s exploding everywhere too.

And she’s earned it! Dance Monkey was so popular, it went #1 in 30 countries, broke many long-standing records held by the likes of Bing Crosby, Whitney Houston, and Ed Sheeran, and was streamed billions of times. Even the video, which is terrible btw, has streamed over 1.5 billion times.

Where did this craziness come from? Australia of course! For some reason we’ve seen some amazing new stuff coming from Down Under (See Masked Wolf, likely another huge breakout soon).

Tones and I could have been a One Hit Wonder except for the fact that she has a deep well of talent for writing and singing, and a small but effective team. For the deluxe edition of ‘Madhouse’, the 6 tracks from her original EP, The Kids are Coming, were tacked onto the end of the new music. This makes Madhouse Deluxe a huge value because Dance Monkey and the title track of the EP are included. The Kids are Coming is a typical youth song, targeted at the previous generations. It’s been done but this time it’s a little ominous with the references to protests and how “the kids are comin’ for you”.

And now the new stuff!

The title track, Welcome to the Madhouse, is an instant addiction. It’s a bit of dark pop and Toni uses her unique voice to set the scene. It’s immediately eerie and sinister while being super catchy and fun. But there’s a serious message here. My interpretation is the first day of high school, but it could also be tied into government involvement somehow. I don’t know. I just love it. “But we’ll all love you, hate you and we’ll tell you everyday.” Brilliant! “And smile their all watching…” It’s seriously suspenseful and you’re on the edge of your seat hearing this, and then she starts the chorus. Go listen and tell me if you don’t agree.

Won’t Sleep is another great sound, and another typical sort of youth song. “But don’t go tell your mamma ‘cause she won’t sleep”. Presumably you’re not supposed to tell mom about all the crazy things you do. It’s hard to tell whether this is more about excessive alcohol consumption and hangovers or drugs, but certainly we’ve all experienced that promise we make ourselves the next morning to never do it again. But we still do!

I have no idea what Westside Lobby is or where it’s at. It’s obvious she’s been judged harshly and I doubt the music industry was kind at all (not a surprise) until after Dance Monkey was a huge hit. It’s about going where she can be herself and it has the best lyric on the album.

And I’m so over people saying I don’t look right

There’s no place for you in music’s all I hear

But my song went number one in over 30 fucking countries

And I’m sorry if that offends you, my dear

I love the swagger of this verse. After she’s been told she doesn’t fit in she throws it back in their face. Dance Monkey gave her the power to tell those who dismissed her to basically fuck off. The sarcasm of her apology is powerful, and she’s not apologizing at all.

Fly Away was released ahead of the full album release and showed great promise that Dance Monkey wasn’t going to be the only thing she ever did worth noticing. It also demonstrated she had a musical side that wasn’t just super pop. Fly Away opens with a gospel sound and then stays subtle, but with a soaring chorus. Yeah, that’s a pun. Sorry. But it fits. The song just takes off. Oops, I did it again (stole that from Brittney).

There are times when the songs are pretty. Sometimes others are more sinister and have an edge, like the title track. Some are good in the background while you work, and all are easy to listen to. I like that I have to think about where these lyrics come from and what they mean. All 20 of the songs are good and worth listening to. Some of the songs, like those I wrote of, are great! And a few are incredibly brilliant and will grab your attention away from whatever you’re doing because they command attention.

The SCORE on this Album is 8 out of 10. I saw that only 41% of Google users ‘Liked’ this album. I don’t get it honestly. There’s something for everyone on this album. It’s explicit without keeping it in your face. Production and engineering on the album are smooth and superior, which means you can listen on anything. I bring this up because Eilish’s Bad Guy can’t be listened to on car speakers. Seriously, go try it. I recommend purchasing the whole album. You won’t be disappointed. Especially because all of her early songs are included. Follow @poorcritic on Twitter to see when new reviews are posted. You can also enter your email address at and the same thing happens. Please share this with a friend or go make a comment on the blog. I’d love to talk about any of my reviews. Thank you!

J. Cole: The Off-Season

iTunes $9.99 | Streaming LIVE X LIVE (Album of the Week 5/14/21) | 12 Tracks [39:08]

As I continue to broaden my musical horizons, J. Cole is another new artist for me. There is great joy to be had by finding new music, even if it’s not 100% what a person would listen to most of the time. I can easily say though, that I like J. Cole. He’s had a very successful history, but I am content to pay attention in the future each time he releases something new.

The Off-Season is a nice collection of Hip-hop tracks. I know I sound seriously old and lame as I say that. I felt old and lame as I wrote it. In my defense I will say that the album is low-key, mature music. Nothing flashy. Just good music to loop in the Air Pods. There’s still plenty of swagger, attitude, and tough talk, as expected. But there are a few cases where the tone is warm and sincere.

I often like to highlight well-written lyrics with a nice turn of phrase, a sweet sentiment, or something powerful. That’s difficult in this case. Not because it doesn’t exist on this album, but frequent use of explicit and taboo words make quoting lyrics in this review impossible. I’m not shy about it, as evidenced by my appreciation for Megan Thee Stallion, but I don’t think I could put four lines together that wouldn’t get me in hot water over a double standard. I challenge myself to find something, though. Keep reading and see.

The Off-Season is strong work with some real gems. Other tracks seem like hot dog filler. You don’t know where it comes from and you don’t know why they put it in there. Let’s get through the tough stuff first.

‘hunger.on.hillside,’ the last song of the album, has a nice string intro. A piece of it loops throughout, but it turns into a 4-note repetition that stops abruptly at times. As the loop jolts to begin the next repetition it makes you think the producer made a poor edit or a bad decision, because he did. It sounds amateurish. Likely J. Cole himself is to blame as he produced and arranged most of the album. In the background are snippets of a sermon, which is popular these days. The first song of the album is ’95.south,’ so it’s also the next song if you are looping the whole album. Sadly, much of the melody is a 5-note loop that just gets old.

‘’ uses an overly repetitive chorus but has a great rap in between with lots of confidence. But try to say “100 mil’ and I’m still on the grind” 25 times, or hear it that many times, and it gets a little old. However, the messages in the lyrics are good. For example:

This game is like follow the leader,

if you looking closely enough, then you’ll see that I led

The moves that I made, the people I fed, the evil I ducked

They minds is too feeble, they lean on they crutch

I’m bleeding from fighting my demons head up

When I get defeated, believe I get up

I love that last line. We should all be like that.

‘’ and ‘interlude’ have a nice soul feel. Intros and background vocals make for nice ambience. The vocalizations help create a melody that’s missing in some songs. ‘’ features 21 Savage and Morray. It’s a great collaboration to hear and feel the different styles.

‘the.climb.back’ has a nice variable bass drum beat that gives an odd slow bounce feeling. I found myself focusing on the beat far more than the lyrics, which were about… I don’t know! It’s the longest song on the album at 5:03.

 ‘’ is deep and filled with the common problems of maturity and growing up. It’s the recognition that the carefree days of youth are gone, and that guilt becomes a part of life. J. Cole recognizes paternal conflict as his son is also growing up and he recognizes it’s his job to prepare him for the world. He also addresses the blown-up conflict with P Diddy at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. He doesn’t explain it or apologize. He just sort of acknowledges that some of the things we do are for the wrong reasons, like image and ego. This is a serious and sincere song worth contemplation.

‘’ is gentle and soothing, even though the tempo of music and the rap are very rapid at times. Maybe it’s the message. The title sort of explains it. Like ‘’ it’s a song about growing up and recognizing some of the dumb things we do when young.

 ‘punchin.the’clock’ has the spoken word of Damian Lillard with an interview style in the background. He says, “I think when you truly prepare yourself, and with training and conditioning, and things like that. When you cheat yourself, you fail in those moments.” That’s a powerful statement. I don’t know what he’s referring to but it’s true. If we put in a partial effort, we fail ourselves.

There are still a few more songs I haven’t talked about. But this is the longest review I’ve written so enough for now. Best song is ‘’. The SCORE on this Album is a 6 out of 10. I don’t feel right about scoring it though. I’m not the audience for the album.

Follow @poorcritic on Twitter to see when new reviews are posted. You can also enter your email address at and the same thing happens. Please share this with a friend or go make a comment on the blog. I’d love to talk about any of my reviews. Thank you!

Weezer: Van Weezer

iTunes $7.99 | Streaming LIVE X LIVE (Album of the Week 5/7/21) | 10 Tracks [30:53]

I’m feeling a little Weezer whiplash at the moment. We just got OK Human 2 months ago and now we will do it again for the long-awaited Van Weezer. Hold on a second while I adjust my neck, and my Air pods.

First, let me complain a little. I don’t like short movies if I’m buying a ticket and actually go to the theater. If I’m paying $18.99 for a ticket at AMC, then I expect at least a 2-hour movie. Same goes for albums. A short run time deserves a cheaper price. That’s exactly what iTunes did. They priced all 10 tracks of Van Weezer at $7.99. If you’re a Weezer fan then celebrate, pay the 8 bucks, and get all 10 songs. If you aren’t a big fan after dropping dough on OK Human, then just buy the two songs you really like.

‘1 More Hit’ is one of those songs that I would buy. It has a great rock guitar riff and sounds grungy and very tough. The concept of the album, which has been beaten like a dead horse for a year now, is 80’s Hair Band. For the most part I love this idea because I am a brilliant product of the 1980’s too. I still believe some of the best music of all time came from this era.

As a quick side note, I heard the live version of ‘Home Sweet Home’ by Motley Crue last night. It was streaming on my LIVE X LIVE App. It gave me chills. Even just thinking about it again just now gave me chills again. Go find it, buy it, and enjoy it forever.

More about the songs. ‘I Need Some of That’ is cool. I wish I could plug into a Marshall Stack too and play like lead guitarist Brian Bell. ‘The End of the Game’ has a nice start and contributes to the 80’s guitar style of the album. Many songs sound like the point of view of a moody teenage boy, like ‘All the Good Ones’ and ‘Sheila Can Do It.’ ‘She Needs Me’ is irritating in the same way. ‘Precious Metal Girl’ is fine, I guess (sigh). ‘Beginning of the end’ has a neat intro of electric interference and builds up suspense very nicely. Then Rivers Cuomo starts to sing and ruins it. He sings “My head is spinning. It’s the beginning of the end.” I suppose this song is about stage fright. I couldn’t figure out who or what was ending but I hoped for it to happen soon.  

Blue Dream’ sounds like a modified version of the intro to Crazy Train, by Ozzy and Randy Rhodes. Not much else to say. ‘The End of the Game’ was released way back in 2019, when the album was first announced. To me it sounds like Green Days’ version of ‘Working Class Hero’ by John Lennon (Did you know that?). The song received great reviews, but to me Weezer seems like Rock ‘n’ Stroll instead of righteous Rock ’n’ Roll that grips your heart. Critics! Comment below if you disagree but then go listen to Guns ‘n’ Roses.

‘I Need Some of That’ has a very entertaining clip at the end about filming a copyrighted face. Who does that? Should I? I don’t know who the reporter is in the clip, or if it’s some of the band members explaining the rule, but it’s one of the cool quirks of the album and I enjoy it each time I loop through the tracks.

The best song on the album is ‘Hero’, released the day before the album (yesterday as I write this). It’s the opener and the anchor of the production. Rolling Stone calls it an ‘outcast anthem’. Somehow it’s about the lead singer’s feelings of inadequacy. I’d say he’s inadequate as a strong lyricist but otherwise the song has some pop to it, along with good guitar, and it’s the highlight for sure. Some lyrics sound like Green Day again. He sings: “Well, everybody needs a hero, but I’m not everybody else. I walk alone, yeah, I walk alone, yeah, I walk alone, oh, yeah. You know, I tried to be a hero, but I was lying to myself.” You get the picture, but I like the song.

The album does have good music. The guitar work will win you over. The lyrics feel very high school and water the whole thing down. Buy your favorites and skip the rest. I give Van Weezer a SCORE of 6 out of 10, one higher than OK Human, because of the guitar player and the band work. If anyone wanted to buy me a concert ticket to see Weezer live, maybe they’re a great performance band. I’d love to see it and the home page makes it possible for this to happen. If not, subscribe to the blog, follow @poorcritic on Twitter, and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. And share this with other music lovers if you like my posts. Thanks.

Rob Zombie: The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy

iTunes $10.99 | 17 tracks [41:50]

I don’t know if Rob Zombie’s goal was to make an album we could sit around and ‘chill’ to, but ‘Lunar Injection…’ is good for exactly that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but the early teaser release of ‘The Triumph of King Freak’ had me believing we’d have a rockin’ good time with a heavy industrial sound and the sinister feel we’ve come to expect from RZ. Alas, that was not to be.

LIKAEC reached #1 on US Billboard Rock Albums and I am excited and proud for RZ to have achieved this. He deserves the recognition and his body of work is respectable. There are a few tracks and sound effects that will make the live show. The intro to the album is ‘Expanding the Head of Zed’, which is chilling with Gregorian style chant and the speech ending in the repeat of the word insanity. I’m sure it will find a place on his next tour even if it’s not something he sings.  It’s very cool.

‘The Triumph of the King Freak’ is next and it’s the anchor song of the album. It’s the most representative of what we expect from RZ. Loud, stern, heavy, and serious as he sings “King Freak carve an X into your head. King Freak dripping deeper in the red.” Let’s hope that isn’t happening to me the next time I’m in the audience.

The next few songs are ok. The opening statement of ‘The Ballad of Sleazy Rider’ is thought provoking. ‘Shadow of the Cemetery Man’ will be performed live. He sings, “Alright everybody, on the count of three. Gotta let it all hang out. One, two, three, GO.” I’d love to see the view from the stage. ‘18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks and a one-way ticket on the Ghost Train’ is a fun little hoe down with lots of references that can be picked out of the lyrics.

‘The Much Talked of Metamorphosis’ is a nice instrumental. ‘The Satanic Rites of Blacula’ makes me curious.  I don’t know who he is but “Goodbye, Picasso. Go paint the women. And the rats come on home to pick your bones. This ain’t the same old monster.”  Okey-dokey!

‘Shower of Stones’ sounds just like Primus and I didn’t like the Primus sound. Skip it! ‘Shake Your Ass-Smoke Your Grass’ is my second favorite song on the album followed by the best song on this collection. ‘Boom-Boom-Boom’ is a hypnotic and sinister rise and fall of a singing chant. It digs into your brain and the vibration of his voice when brought down an octave will possess you! This is exactly what you want from RZ.

 ‘Get Loose’ is good. ‘The Serenity of Witches is another good feeling instrumental. The album closes with ‘Crow Killer Blues.’ Which is respectable and speaks of the evils in the world. “Blood lust, thieves and reptiles rise. Punishment, damned under blackened eyes.” It’s a nice end.

I have a big complaint for RZ. If you have John 5 as your lead guitar, why wouldn’t you let that guy rip? Almost nowhere on the album can we really enjoy the talents of one of the coolest players to watch on stage.  If you get the chance to see John 5 and the Creepers, who sometimes do shows at smaller venues near the bigger RZ shows, DO IT! It’s an experience you won’t forget.

I give this album a score of 6.5. I own the album, but I recommend people just buy the 3 or 4 tracks that appeal to them most. Although there are 17 tracks, several are theatrics and a few more are instrumental. Skip ‘Shower of Stones’ but definitely get ‘Boom-Boom-Boom’. It’s a great song to loop. Can’t wait to see RZ live again though we are unlikely to see any Twins of Evil for a while. Get to a John 5 show as soon as you can!

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AJR: OK Orchestra, 2021

Streaming Live X Live (AOTW)| 13 Tracks [45:42]

AJR released their new album today, March 26, 2021 and Live X Live chose it for the Album of the Week.  I’m grateful for that because AJR is a group of brothers who make a great sound together and have potential to be a reasonably great touring band (post-COVID). They follow the Billie Eilish/Finneas model of recording at home, in their living room. Could be the other way around I suppose.  I get excited about stuff like that because big studio snobbery shouldn’t block great music from reaching the world.

OK Orchestra starts out on the silly side with an unusual old school instructional public announcement made perfectly for elementary school and samples many pieces of other songs on the album. If you loop all the tracks in the background, at work for example, you get a feeling the album repeats itself, but it still takes 45 minutes to get through.  I haven’t decided if I’m a fan of this yet.

Anyway, on to ‘Bummerland’, which is a straight up COVID song about 2020. “Bummerland, here I am. Better nix my summer plans.” Wickedly true.  ‘3 O’Clock Things’ has a little more of the 50’s PA voice and takes a sly view of the election and social issues while suffering insomnia at 3 AM.  Not a good combo if you want to be a sane contributor to society the next day.  There’s a funny reference to Trump and the Broadway hit Hamilton but go listen to the song on Live X Live.  It’s 100% free! Unlimited for 7 days.

‘My Play’ reminisces childhood.  ‘Joe’ is evidently about a kid one of the brothers knew back in 8th grade.  And by now the cleverness of 3 O’Clock has waned and I’m over some of the childishness that comes through the songs. ‘Adventure Is Out There’ is about lost socks and where in the world they might be? It’s ok, I guess.

But then we get hit with ‘Bang!’ Suddenly, the juvenile progression of the album is taking a turn.  Bang! was the last song played before midnight on NBC’s New Year’s Eve 2021 show.  It was a most excellent choice to finish the worst year in recent history.  The vibe starts mellow as they sing about growing up, which is a frequent theme on the album, as are the call backs to 8th grade.  They are making a difficult transition into becoming adults as they deal with taxes and the realities of the work environment.  Bang! Is very singable, yes, my word again.  There’s a nice swing into the chorus and the cadence of the Bang, Bang, Bang, is jammin’.  Super easy to learn the lyrics although the song runs a little on the short side at 2:51. Either way, Bang! grabs you by the ears and gets you pumped.

Next is ‘The Trick’ and they use some strange falsetto of a younger boy whose voice hasn’t dropped through most of the song but it’s depressing.  Using the trick, the character can be anything but it’s a dark twisted fantasy that doesn’t feel right if you’re in the back of some kid’s dad’s van.

‘Ordinaryish People’ opens with big band sound and returns to adulthood and how critical we all can be of each other. ‘World’s Smallest Violin’ is a play on not having sympathy for someone.  The singer is looking for an audience to complain to about feeling inferior. ‘Way Less Sad’ starts to show some hope and, unlike 2020, we see a brighter future ahead.  I think we are all less sad now {deep breath…repeat}.  This song also brings us back to adulthood and now we’ve advanced past 3 O’Clock and it’s 3:30 AM and the insomnia curse still haunts your mind.  Something we all relate to.

‘Christmas in June’ has reached a level of maturity because it’s the reality of disappointing the people we care about while pursuing our careers.  This song must derive from of one of the AJR brothers had their experience with a significant other as they became more successful.  They try to compromise by arranging alternate plans and they are torn between the relationship and the career.  They feel lucky that they have love and success, but they try to cover their bets and plan Christmas in June in case something else comes up, like being on tour, during Christmas. It’s about broken promises and sacrificing for your art.  It’s a great song to finish the story of this album because it mirrors life.  We all get older and must make choices that often come with sacrifices.  That’s adult reality nobody wants to face but the song does it well.

Best songs are Bang!, Christmas in June, Bummerland, and 3 O’Clock.  Worst is ‘The Trick’ because it comes off creepy.  The album is a pretty nice story arc from beginning to end with a climax in the middle. It’s probably a better album to purchase intact rather than cherry pick the good stuff.  I’m happy to give OK Orchestra a score of 6 of 10.  AJR is building (and maturing) and could be fun to see live because whatever they do on stage will be visual craziness, I’m sure.  They have several very respectable songs from their album The Click and I’m excited to see what comes next. 

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Taylor Swift: folklore, 2020

Streaming Live X Live (AOW) | Deluxe Edition | 17 Tracks [67:01]

Released in July of 2020, folklore is Taylor Swift’s 8th album. Although it is 8 months after release, folklore is Live X Live’s album of the week, which means I can listen to it unlimited times and discover if the music and lyrics find a way to penetrate my mind and have a effect.  I’m pleased to say folklore has created a lasting impression and it’s certainly worth a review.  This seems a little condescending considering it was Billboard’s #5 album in 2020. 

Reading other reviews of the album I see it has been given every quarantine/lockdown label and cliché possible after it was released.  It was called ‘quintessential’ by many, a tag I found irritating.  I’m an educated guy and I didn’t really know what that meant so I Googled it.  It means “representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class.” As in, “the quintessential lockdown album.” Sounds like BS to me but that has nothing to do with the album, just the writers.

Looking back, it doesn’t feel like a summertime album or a quarantine album. folklore is much better suited for a day like today as I am writing this review.  It’s cool in Boston right now.  The clouds weigh heavy today creating a peaceful quiet this city is not known for as rain drops gently strike the window.  When I look at the album cover and listen to the songs it’s easy to imagine sitting near a picture window, cozy with a blanket and a book, and listening to Taylor and her acoustic guitar.  The chaos of the whole planet dissipates in moments like this.  We need these peaceful moments sometimes.

Although there are several songs that blend together in the background, there are a few that make the listener pause for a moment and just absorb. ‘my tears ricochet’ melts into ‘mirrorball’ and moves on to ‘seven’.  The lowercase song titles are how they styled the album.  These tracks are followed by ‘august’, which tugs at the heart a little bit because everyone relates to how fast August slips away and bittersweet young love.  It’s a psychological thing.  The weather doesn’t change much but we all carry that feeling of the summer being over and knowing it is time to go back to school and leave the care-free days of romance behind.

Now things start to get more intense. ‘illicit affairs’ has a light touch at first.  But when you dig into it you begin to sense the hurt.  A condescending older man doesn’t understand the impact he has on someone impressionable.  This song feels nice and sounds nice but there’s a bite to it.  Reality is tough sometimes.  ‘mad woman’ starts to show some sharper edges.  A quick drop of the f-bomb makes the listener perk up.  ‘epiphany’ is another pretty song, but the lyrics appear to be referring to a wounded soldier and then what might be a reference to COVID and our inability to comfort the sick and injured during all the hospital restrictions.

By now folklore has your attention and maybe you aren’t just listening to it in the background anymore.  Maybe you are Googling the lyrics to really understand what this talented woman has to say.  You realize this is a serious album.  Then you hear ‘betty’.  The chorus is very singable (not a real word but I like it) and the concept is teenage drama with a very serious twist.  We are left to assume what happened between these two friends in the song, but you sense the need for forgiveness and the anxiety of not knowing if you will get it.

My favorite track is ‘exile’ with Bon Iver.  It’s my first exposure to him and I’m hooked.  The song is very complex, though the theme has been used many times.  Two people break up and one sees the other with someone else in public.  The duet starts with one person and switches to the other, then they have a lyrical interaction in the middle as if conversating.  It’s very effective.  In the end he recognizes the mistakes he made, and she reinforces them.  The sadness comes from knowing it’s too late.  Bon Iver with Taylor Swift took me back to another famous duet.  Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand. ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flower’s’ uses some of the same conversational interplay, as if singing to each other when not in their presence.  I can listen to these two duets on a continuous loop.  Very powerful.

Time to wrap up.  I could write something about almost every song and I realize I have not given Taylor Swift the respect she deserves.  I love country music but often criticize the artists because so few of them write their own songs.  There’s a writing machine in Nashville pumping out songs assigned to artists to record.  Then at the awards show the artist accepts an award for a song they didn’t even write.  It’s false.  But Taylor Swift is the real deal as a writer and performer across any genre.  I loved the beats and the attitude of Reputation but have otherwise ignored everything she ever recorded except “Highway Don’t Care” with Tim McGraw.  I know there’s plenty of haters out there, but I am not one of them.

Score is an 8.  Best song is ‘exile’ and then ‘betty’. Thanks for reading.  Tell a friend.

Weezer: OK Human, 2021

Streaming LIVE X LIVE | Explicit (Y) | 12 Tracks [30:32] 

Before I say more about the new Weezer album ‘OK Human’, let me explain a little about my process.  I review the Album of the Week on the LiveXLive App because I can loop the songs literally 20-30 times each.  I don’t always like a song or album the first time I hear it.  As an example, as a Parrot Head, I struggled to enjoy Jimmy Buffett’s album ‘Fruitcakes’ back in 1994.  I love Jimmy so I didn’t give up.  25 years later I still know almost every lyric and my daughter is named after the 12th track.

Fruitcakes had such an influence on me that I named my daughter Delaney almost 20 years after the album released.  On the other hand, I knew immediately that ‘Dance Monkey’, by Tones And I, was super catchy and made me want to dance before I had learned any of the lyrics (Delaney agrees, btw).  It’s brain chemistry and some reactions take time to complete.  Think of it as the difference between Crack and Oxycodone.  I was instantly hooked on Dance Monkey, but Fruitcakes took time to develop a serious addiction.

I spent several days looping OK Human and have a few things to say.  First, the album title is probably a tribute to the similar term OK Boomer, which is trite and dismissive (Note: I’m not a Boomer.  I’m from the 80’s so I do know everything).  It’s fortunate for Weezer that our music culture is now based on singles rather than albums, because I would be less likely to buy an album whose name insults my own species.

LiveXLive has made OK Human the Album of the Week but only 7 of the 12 songs were available.  Maybe there’s an unheard gem?  Wait, I was wrong.  All 12 songs are available lasting a grand total of 30 minutes.  But these songs have little impact or distinctive feature and sort of blend together in the background.  Here’s the lineup: 1.”All My Favorite Songs” 2. “Aloo Gobi” 3. “Grapes of Wrath” 4. “Numbers” 5. “Playing My Piano” 6. “Mirror Image” 7. “Screens” 8. “Bird with a Broken Wing” 9. “Dead Roses” 10. “Everything Happens for a Reason” 11. “Here Comes the Rain” 12. “La Brea Tar Pits”.

I do have to confess that the chorus of “Numbers” was in my head this morning, which prompted me to write this review…because I was mad!  The songs are just catchy enough to stick but otherwise the album is an exercise in relaxation.  If that’s the objective, then achieved!  Otherwise the theme of the song is not to let society categorize or judge someone by numbers.  We agree on that.

The 38-piece orchestra used on the album very successfully creates the mood.  “Grapes of Wrath”, which is about zoning out listening to old classics on Audible, best illustrates this.  Do bands get paid to write songs with product placement?  I don’t recommend it any more than I would recommend an 18-hour road trip to San Jose while listening to The Grapes of Wrath.  Steinbeck’s tragic tale will NOT keep you alert.  I would know.  I tried it in 2005.

“Screens” judges our fixation on our digital devices. “Aloo Gobi” doesn’t make sense to anyone besides Rivers Cuomo himself.  “La Brea Tarpits” sounds like depression, because it’s depressing.  Cuomo wrote 11 of 12 songs solo and co-wrote the 12th.  This explains why it all feels like one long 30-minute song.  He says. “All my favorite songs are slow and sad” and so is the whole album.  I didn’t find a favorite lyric.  Best thing I can say is it’s a pleasant orchestral alternative album with snappy little melodies and nice cello rhythms.  But that’s all.  SCORE is 5 out of 10. 

One last note.  The album cover pays homage to the 4 band members, every brass instrument, and a bunch of other sound production devices.  But not a single cello, violin, or viola. How do the dozen string musicians in the orchestra feel about this?

The White Tiger, 2021

Netflix | Rated R | 128 Minutes | Review

The White Tiger, released by Netflix on January 22, 2021 is a graphic story of a lower caste (lower class) young man in India struggling to break free from the station he was born into. The Iranian director, Ramin Bahrani, a professor at Columbia University, also produced and wrote the screenplay based on Aravind Adiga’s novel of the same name.

Adarsh Gourav, who plays the lead character Balram, is a difficult hero to like, probably because he acts the part so well.  The subservience exhibited feels so genuine, and shocking, from an American point of view.  And yet he portrays the difficult reality that so few of us are aware of.

The story of Balram starts when he is very young.  Although he shows promise as a bright student his grandmother takes him out of school and puts him to work to support the family.  All aspects of his youth are controlled, and his caste determines his very limited future.  Although Indian society’s caste system will never consider him higher than he was born, his intelligence and rejection of his status will place him on the journey to become a White Tiger.  A White Tiger is a very rare success story in India when the individual finds a path to great success that would likely have been impossible.

Balram eventually becomes a driver for the son of a regional criminal.  The youngest son, Ashok, and his wife Pinky have returned from New York.  The Americanized views of Ashok and Pinky make them very uneasy in the presence of Balram’s extreme subservience, and they make a half-hearted attempt to treat him as an equal.  But the class system is difficult to erase.  Meanwhile, Ashok begins to have a greater involvement in his corrupt family, becoming the bag man for the bribes being paid to the politicians to secure protection for their nefarious business dealings.

Celebrating Pinky’s birthday one-night Ashok and Pinky get very drunk.  Balram is replaced behind the wheel and a drunken joyride ends when they hit a child.  Balram encourages them to leave the scene and later minimalizes the whole event.  Ashok’s wealthy family treats Balram as a hero, and they lavish praise on him.  But they still consider him as less than human and manipulate him into signing a confession, which Balram feels he must do to serve.  Balram continues his journey to become a White Tiger.  How he does is it may leave you speechless.

Priyanka Chopra, as Pinky, was the standout performer in The White Tiger.  Although she spent several years on the ABC television series ‘Quantico’, she may not be well known.  However, she is a former Miss World 2000 pageant winner and has been an award-winning star in Bollywood since then.  She contributes to many of the humorous scenes in The White Tiger, and is the progressive, Americanized voice encouraging Balram to rise against the role his caste has placed him in.

The White Tiger feels like an accurate and convincing portrayal of life in India and the extreme inequality of the caste system.  The reality of a country with 1.3 billion people is stark, and shocking, and some of the images will stay with you.  A controversial ending sticks with you as well, but extremes are often needed to tell an engaging story.  The White Tiger is a window into a different world, and I score this movie a 7 out of 10.  Stories related to a rise from poverty are common, but the quality here comes from the locations and performances, and how the viewer reacts. For better understanding do a little research on the caste system and your eyes will be opened to some of what Balram explains.

Memories of the Ellen Theater (and any theater lately)

By JUDSON GILBERT 03/08/2021

This is a first for me. First website, first blog, first real attempt at Twitter, etc. (@poorcritic) I’ve always been a creative person (If I do say so…).  And I’ve always been the kind of person who, thanks to my mother, enjoyed going out to a show!  Movie theaters were the most common, but concerts were mixed in there too.  I have very fond memories of attending Gandhi as a 10-year-old in 1982 (skip the math).  I remember this film, starring Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, because it was soooooo long that it had an intermission.  Back in those days, a 3-hour movie was rare because the projector reels couldn’t fit that much film. Digital projectors have changed that forever, and not necessarily for the best.  Who wouldn’t like to stretch their legs and get another bucket?

Who remembers the summer movie series back in grade school?  At the end of school each year they would sell a 10 pack of tickets.  Each pack let you tear off the ticket at the perforation.  These were an absolute JOY!!!  Every Wednesday another film was shown.  I can remember only one of them well: Pippi Longstocking. But certainly, The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal, Six Pack, and The Secret of Nimh were mixed into some of those summers as well.  With great fondness I recently watched The Muppet Movie with my two youngest children.  Pure joy indeed as my daughter learned all the words to The Rainbow Connection.

But seriously, the closure of movie theaters is killing me.  The greatest wound that COVID inflicts upon me is the inability to get sweaty next to another superfan at a Rob Zombie show or hang out with a slightly boozy smelling fellow Parrothead at a Jimmy Buffett concert.  And I’m desperate to see Top Gun: Maverick, and James Bond in No Time to Die.  Sadly, with COVID, it really is no time to die.  What an awful way to go. Add the fact that winter is not over, and my soul is crying out for an escape from reality that movie theaters offer.  But most of them are still closed as some states remove mask restrictions.

My mother introduced me to James Bond films with Moonraker in 1979.  I was hooked.  In fact, this may even be the origin of my fascination with NASA and the Space Shuttle program.  She and I saw almost every Bond film together up through Quantum of Solace in 2008. It was like a Thanksgiving tradition.  She passed away in 2011, so my wife continued the tradition with Skyfall and Spectre.  We mark time and events around the entertainments in our lives, which means 2020 will hopefully be easy to forget.  Especially since it has become the year we did nothing.  There won’t be anything fun to associate the memories with.

But I believe we need movies more than ever for the escape they do provide.  Thankfully we have so many options for streaming so we can see so many great older movies, and so many new ones too.  Theaters need to figure things out though.  Hire the people, create the cleaning and distancing protocols, and start selling tickets.  Figure it out already!  If restaurants can do it so can theaters.  I think Hollywood can help with this.  RELEASE ALL THE GREAT MOVIES YOU ARE HOLDING!  If you release it the people will come and we will all figure out how to do it together, just like everything else this year. It’s time.