Next: Fantastic Four? Don’t get ahead of yourself.
On this, the eve of 2013, Paul and I begin to look back at some of our favorite things of 2012. First up, our ten favorite TV series.
Also, let’s give a slow clap to Paul, who struggled through severe illness just to get these words to you, dear reader. A speedy recovery to you, sir!
PAUL: 10. PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC)
Season 5 gets out of the office a little bit, with Ben and April in Washington D.C. (with an evil robot congressman). Ron gets a new love interest (the always lovely Lucy Lawless). Tom starts a new business. And Andy finds a new career.
AJ: 10. GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
What Game of Thrones did in its first season was nothing short of exceptional, a 10-episode narrative that goes down as one of the finest accomplishments the medium has seen thus far. And while the second season struggled at times to recapture that majesty, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The scope and breadth of George R.R. Martin’s world remains impressive; the cast, especially Peter Dinklage as the kind of noble imp Tyrion Lannister, continues to knock out high fantasy material that would crush lesser actors; and thrilling hours like “Blackwater” remind us that this is the closest thing we have to a Lord of the Rings on TV. And it’s a whole lot nastier and sexier, too.
I’ve often wondered about tribute acts. What’s it like to devote your life to recreating the sounds of another band? Don’t you ever want to play your own material? The tribute groups I’d seen before were Beatles acts, and though some of them were very impressive (I’ve seen Rain twice, and I’d like to see them again), they attempted to slavishly recreate everything about the band, which included adopting fake Liverpudlian accents and calling each other “John” or “Ringo.” Inevitably, a little something was lost in translation. As Lez Zeppelin took the stage at Musica here in Akron, Ohio, this past Saturday, I was curious to see how they would attempt to recreate the sound and fury of Led Zeppelin, especially since their gimmick is that–as their name implies–they’re an all-girl band.
Turns out, their gimmick isn’t so much a gimmick. From the moment they launched into a ferocious “Immigrant Song,” all of my questions seemed suddenly irrelevant. Lez Zeppelin rocks so hard that you don’t want to think about why they would perform the music of a decades-gone band; you just want to revel in the how. And how, indeed. Musica is a pretty small place, one that would seem more suited to opening act Thom Chacon, a Dylanesque singer-songwriter. Yet those close quarters played to the band’s strengths. I’m sure they can kick up quite a ruckus in a larger venue, but at Musica, the audience simply found itself dwarfed by sheer, glorious noise.
Paul and I rambled on and on about our favorites of 2011 in our second season finale, but that isn’t gonna stop us from rambling some more. This is the first in a series of top 10s that will be spread out over the next couple weeks; the rest will concern television, albums, and comic books.
But first, a word about lists. Paul has described my obsession with list-making as a “sickness,” and that’s probably close to the truth. However, even one such as I, beholden to rating and ranking everything known to man, know that these kinds of things are imperfect, to put it lightly. For one, no matter how all-inclusive you try to be, there’s always going to be a movie (or show, or comic, etc.) that you somehow missed; for example, as of this writing, neither Paul nor I have seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Shame, or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, just to name a few. And more importantly, lists are always subject to how their makers feel at the moment they’re making them. Each of our top 10s represent the movies we love right now, and with the exception of our #1 choices, their order could be fluid, changing from day to day, mood to mood.
Right now, though? These are the films we adore, and which we feel exemplify 2011.
PAUL: 10. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (dir. Rupert Wyatt)
The summer blockbuster that was better than any of us had any right to expect. Not only a remarkably capable relaunch/reboot of a beloved but dated franchise, but also just a damned good popcorn flick in its own right. Andy Serkis brings heart and humanity (pun intended) to the “inhuman” protagonist. It’s Pinocchio and Moses and Che Guevara.
AJ: 10. GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (dir. Martin Scorsese)
It has been lazy shorthand for decades to refer to George Harrison as the “quiet Beatle,” and though that might have a kernel of truth to it, the man himself was far more complex. Publicly, he was quiet because he desperately hated fame; professionally, he was quiet during the Beatle years because John and Paul vetoed his material, and later, because he was content with tending to his family and to his garden. Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home definitively captured that 60s icon’s brilliance and enigma, and while Living in the Material World doesn’t quite do the same for this 60s icon, it comes close enough. In the first part of this two-part doc, the entire life cycle of The Beatles is rehashed yet again, though considering it’s Scorsese at the helm, it remains of interest. It’s in the second part, however, when things truly come alive. By telling of his unsung career as a film producer, enticing candid stories from a number of those closest to him, and showing private home movies, Scorsese paints a portrait of Harrison as a man perpetually struggling to reconcile his spirituality with his materialism, caught between divinity and mortality.
Gobbledygeek episode 46, “Tights of Spandex, Flights of Fantasy, Slices of Life,” is available for listening or download right here. Endeavoring to enlighten the non-comics-reading portion of their audience, Paul and AJ offer up a sort of Comics 101 class: twenty-seven recommendations for beginners in five different categories. From superhero fare like Batman: Year One to webcomics like The Perry Bible Fellowship; from the engrossing autobiography Blankets to the fantasy epic Fables; from the zombie opus The Walking Dead to the boy-and-his-tiger opus Calvin and Hobbes; we’ve attempted to cover most of the bases. In addition to all o’ that, you’ve also got your news; your upcoming DVD releases; Paul’s takes on the first issues of new comics Xombi, Venom, Sigil, and Ruse; and AJ’s thoughts on the films Unstoppable, Due Date, and LennonNYC.
Next: we’ll discuss fictional worlds we’d want to live in.
This weekend’s Gobbledygeek, “When the Wolfbane Blooms,” is available for listening right here. We wolf out about films such as An American Werewolf in London, The Wolf Man, Dog Soldiers, Brotherhood of the Wolf, and Blood and Chocolate, among others, as we discuss the werewolf in all its furry glory. (And Paul is, as he is about many things, very particular about his werewolves.) In the bonus hour, we’ve got just a couple upcoming DVD releases, a brief celebration of John Lennon by yours truly in honor of what would have been his 70th birthday, and then we talk about Let Me In, The Town, and The Social Network.
Next week: ghosts.
Late post today, but the twenty-eighth episode of Gobbledygeek airs live tonight at 10:30 PM EST right here. Our second Halloween-related episode in this, the month of All Hallows Something-or-Other, concerns itself with werewolves, those fuzzy, cuddly, indiscriminate killers. If they weren’t such an insurance liability, I’d totally keep one as a pet! (Also, it would be human for like 97% of the month, so…kinky.) In any case, we’ve got an array of werewolf movies, books, and TV shows to discuss, as well as our overarching thoughts on the werewolf mythology itself. In the bonus hour, expect DVD releases, movie talk (more Social Network!), and of course I’ll have to talk about a certain Liverpudlian tonight.
We had a show on Paul McCartney’s birthday, but no dice for Ringo; as always, the man gets no respect. But wait! Today is Ringo Starr’s 70th birthday, and I am determined to honor him! He is a wonderful drummer; his technique during his time with the Beatles went from the simple, pleasurable backbeat of Please Please Me to the complex, sophisticated drumming of Abbey Road. Like fellow Beatles John, Paul, and George, the growth he experienced over six or seven years was remarkable. And for 40 years now, ever since the band broke up, he has quietly released a steady stream of solo albums. Some are pleasant, a couple–Ringo, Liverpool 8–have been excellent, and though most are mediocre, the fact that he’s had a recording career for close to half-a-century is a terrific accomplishment. (Plus he’s never released anything as ear-bleedingly awful as John’s Life with the Lions or Paul’s Liverpool Oratorio, so props for that, Rings. Can I call you Rings?)
So in celebration, I present to you Ringo’s Top 5 Beatles Songs!
I could probably take a broader view and determine Ringo’s best Beatles songs by taking into account his actual drumming (in which case, I’m thinking “Rain,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” or “Tomorrow Never Knows” would likely be contenders for the top spot), but I’m only going to count the songs he sang. There were only 12, but all are worthy additions to the Beatles catalogue.
5. “What Goes On,” Rubber Soul (1965)
I met you in the morning, waiting for the tides of time. But now the tide is turning, I can see that I was blind.
Rubber Soul is an album fraught with girl troubles, and even the usually happy-go-lucky Ringo finds himself at odds with a lying, cheating girl. As with many Ringo songs, “What Goes On” has a country-and-western flair, though I doubt many C&W songs sport anything as lovely as John and Paul’s background harmony. Paul’s stabbing bass provides a nice counterpoint to George’s clean guitar lines, nicely capturing the song’s mood.
Hey, Mr. AJ is a new column in which I plan on writing some things about the new music I hear. They’ll be brief reviews, divided into sections: MAXIMUM GOBBLING for the masterpieces; GOBBLE IT for the merely great; WORTH GOBBLING for other good releases; GOBBLE? for those albums which aren’t really good or bad, just sort of okay; DO NOT GOBBLE for the shitty; and RUN, DON’T GOBBLE! for the awful. Got it? Now, don’t ask me again.
by Tame Impala
I’m a Beatlemaniac, so I see the Beatles everywhere. Bear with me. On their debut album Innerspeaker, Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala manage to do what the Olivia Tremor Control did on 1996’s masterful Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle; without compromising their creativity or their own unique vision, they capture the spirit of the post-Sgt. Pepper, pre-Abbey Road Beatles. Specifically, both albums remind me of the more freewheeling psychedelic cuts on Yellow Submarine, like George Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much.” Indeed, lead singer Kevin Parker’s voice reminds me of Harrison’s in that soaring, nasally way, which also makes it at times resemble John Lennon’s. But as I said, this is no rip-off, and Tame Impala sound like their own band, embracing the hazier realms of psychedelia that the Fab Four rarely did. It’s misty, delightful music that lulls you into another world with its spiraling distorted guitars, insistent drums, and far out yet pleasingly retro production techniques. Innerspeaker hasn’t made its way to the States yet, but whenever you get the chance, take a listen. You’ll be glad you did.
Originally published on April 28, 2010
(“The Songs We Were Singing” is a new column in which I plan on discussing some of my favorite albums. )
“After all is really said and done, the two of us are really one.”
It is impossible to separate Double Fantasy from the events that came after. As the world knows, on December 8, 1980, less than a month after Double Fantasy‘s release, John Lennon was murdered outside of his New York home, the Dakota. This record only had three weeks to work on its own merits before being imbued with another, permanent layer of poignancy. And though from the bottom of my heart I wish this hadn’t been John’s final finished work, it is nevertheless the perfect closing chapter in a life filled with so much love, anger, triumph, and disillusionment.