October 30, 2015

David O’Russell is a director who makes one amazing movie, then one or two that make me wish he never took a screen writing class. “Silver Linings Playbook” was a domestic violence enabling, mental illness patronizing piece of crap that I have yet to forgive him for. “American Hustle” was brilliant, an evocation of the ‘70’s, the fall of Atlantic City and the joys of ABSCAM. Great characters, pacing… you get the picture.

The OST is equally up-there. It capture the odd moment of the stillborn ‘70’s… when culture started to slide backwards into nostalgia, disco wasn’t more than an excuse to dance badly, and rock hadn’t given birth to punk, new wave and everything new. It’s not there wasn’t good music.. things were kind of stagnating. Or, the culture was a blister about to burst. The soundtrack catches that nicely.

Let’s check out this ELO homage to the Beatles: ‘10538 Overture.’

Moving on, don’t leave before trying Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes’ ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way.’ Skip through the add, and watch these guys have a blast singing the song they started, which everyone has covered. Not just plot appropriate, but also evocative of the strange cultural mix of the time. Disco? Rock? Past? Future? WHO KNOWS?!?!

Why isn’t five stars then? Well, while there are a lot of good songs, even some great ones, the kitsch/stagnation factor kind of hurts it. Compare it to a similarly ’70’s-tastic OST- ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy- Mix Tape Vol.’ Even though GOTG is more of a greatest hits compilation, it has a bubblyness that pulls you along.

Buy this album? Absolutely. Interesting, deep cuts, good choices, nice flow. Only warning- this is a gateway drug to more Electric Light Orchestra. Be warned.

This album is a good 3 drinks on the Grand Tour Drinking Game. Take your time, sip and enjoy. And occasionally sputter at the choices.

Artist: Original Soundtrack
Album: American Hustle
Year: 2013
Date Listened in Tour: 2/4/14
Rating: ****
Best Songs: ‘10538 Overture,’’Don’t Leave Me This Way.’

Grand Tour Drinking Game Score: Soundtrack (1) + Foreign Language Cover of ‘White Rabbit’ (2) =3

What’s The Hi-Lo on American Hi-Fi?

October 19, 2015

If you were watching MTV in 2001, you likely caught a very particular video, set in the ’80s. It was an homage to the cult classic film ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot.’ And it caught your attention. The lyrics featured a self-pitying nice guy making a good point about why the girl of his dream was with the biggest douche ever.

The band.. was American Hi-Fi, one of a raft of a guitar pop bands coming out at the turn of the century. Post grunge, owing a nod to Weezer, not quite  sounding like the New York New Wave of The Strokes. I grabbed their CD at low price of $9.99 at the Best Buy, and barely listened to it .

Dipping back in, I can see why I didn’t follow take up the cause.

This is an ok alubum, with some good songs, but doesn’t really stand out. Each song on the disc sounds a little like a song from another bigger band, as opposed to building to a stand out album from one stand out band.

If you have this disc, listen to it again. See what it does for you. If you don’t, I wouldn’t stress over it. But you could do worse.

I’m including the strings heavy, Beatles/Oasis-ish “Another Perfect Day” because Patton Oswalt plays a down on his luck corn dog.

See? I didn’t make that up.

Artist: American Hi-Fi

Album: Radioactive
Year: 2001
Date Listened in Tour: 7/26/08
Rating: ***
Best Songs: “Flavor Of The Weak,” “A Bigger Mood”

This Is No “Amateur” Production.

September 12, 2015

There was a time when Hal Hartley was the king of the indie film world. Coming straight out of Long Island and SUNY Purchase, he laid the ground work for Wes Anderson and mumble core, but not as occasionally precious or inaudible. I found him via “Trust” on the BBC during my JYA in London. His films introduced me to two of my favorite actors- Robert John Burke and Martin Donovan. I lost track of him after 1997’s great “Henry Fool”, but I’m definitely taking the time to catch up on his stuff, and I hope you do.

Ironically enough, an actress in the program I was in in London appeared in this movie.. “Amateur.”

Essentially, “Amateur” is the story of several people tied up in a mix of sex and violence- an amnesiac pornographer, a nymphomaniac nun- and while not particularly violent or explicitly sexual, it’s a great study of characters. Parker Posey, back when she was a blossoming Indy Queen makes an appearance, as does French actress Isabelle Huppert as said nun. Oh, and look out Adria Tennor- who plays a very upset, young boy. She was the acquaintance from London. You’ve seen her in stuff. Glad she’s done well.

See the movie. No more plot points here.

As for the, OST.. oh god, so good. Great indy tracks by bands like Yo La Tengo, Bettie Serveert and My Bloody Valentine ( I’M DOWN WITH MBV, YEAH YOU KNOW ME!!!.) Plus, the instrumental cues by Jeffery Taylor & Ned Rifle are great in and of them selves. Further review made clear, FIVE STARS ALL THE WAY!! You absolutely need this in your collection. It works as a great OST, a great snippet of music in the mid-90’s, and a reminder of Hal Hartley’s place in indie culture’s rise.

Picking best songs are also really hard. The trailer features P.J. Harvey’s ‘Water,’ but I’m posting a video for My Bloody Valentine’s “Only Shallow.” My Bloody Valentine, like Hartley, are a band of such impact and influence, yet not as big a name as they should be.

I’m also including “Tom Boy” because I dare you not to close your eyes and lose your self in Bettie Serveert’s cool guitar pop.

Artist: Various

Album: Amateur
Year: 1995
Date Listened in Tour: 7/28/08
Rating: *****
Best Songs: “Only Shallow”, “Tom Boy”
Grand Tour Drinking Game Score: 1 – OST. Although have a nice whiskey or sipping drink at hand to drink throughout the whole cd or watching the movie.

AM Radio? I thought AM was for racist talkshows…

September 12, 2015

One of the great joy of a GrandTour of your music collection is finding the albums that fall through the cracks. One of them.. is “Radioactive” by AM Radio. I was introduced to them by the “Smallville” OST, through their song “I Just Wanna Be Loved.”

Nice, emo-ey, good tune. I clearly got their cd at some point, equally clearly lost it, gave it away. I don’t quite get why. Sure, the band isn’t amazeballs. Listening to them again, they clearly got some nice Weezer vibes – unsurprising since according to Wikipedia, they toured with Weezer and Rivers Cuomo managed them for a bit. Some songs, you get a touch of the 311.

Similar bands include American Hi-Fi and All American Rejects. Hmm… lots of ‘A’s and ‘M’s there….

Ponder that and get back to me.

I can’t comment on their other work, but “Radioactive” is a decent album. I don’t really feel the need to explore the band further, but you could make worse life choices.

Also- I’m adding the GrandTour Drinking Game count to the stats. I’ll re-post the rules again later. Remember, don’t GrandTour Drinking Game and drive!!

Artist: AM Radio
Album: Radioactive
Year: 2003
Date Listened in Tour: 9/9/15
Rating: ***
Best Songs: “I Just Wanna Be Loved”, “Oh Oh Oh”
Grand Tour Drinking Game Score: 1. “I Just Wanna Be Loved” does appear on an OST, and well, new feature. SO DRINK!!!

ALTERNO-DAZED and Moderately Confused

September 10, 2015

Compilations that aren’t ‘greatest hits/best of’s’ or soundtracks come in all stripes and varieties. Some, a mess of songs that have no rhyme or reason. Well, as a compilation. The songs better have rhyme and reason. They are SONGS, godammit. Others are finely tuned, pieced together mosaics or collages that speak to a specific theme or sound. While great material for future mixes of your own, ideally they hold together as albums in their own right. You can listen to them from beginning to end, have a good flow, and feel an album as opposed to a playlist.

The Alterno-Daze discs that I have aren’t brilliant examples of the ideal compilation. But they are pretty darn good. The 3 out of 5 stars say it all. The lax chronology hurts a bit, plus some slight biases- do we need repeat Joe Jackson entries? – stand out. But, these are good. Do you ABSOLUTELY NEED THEM?

Nah. While a mix. these discs go for the bigger hits then the obscurities. If you want them, or want some more random tunes to plug you into an era, they don’t hurt.

I am including one video pick from the second disc, because it’s one of my top karaoke songs and one of the best songs ever. Modern English, “I Melt With You.” Because I don’t own a Modern English cd.

Because it’s the internet. And I can.

Artist: Alterno-Daze (Various)

Album: Origin Of The Species (2000 B.C to ?)
Year: 1995
Date Listened in Tour: 7/30/08
Rating: ***
Best Songs: “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) – Squeeze, “Broken English” – Marianne Faithful
Album: Survival Of The Fittest (80;s)
Year: 1995
Date Listened in Tour: 7/30/08
Rating: ***
Best Songs: “I Melt With You” – Modern English, “Change” – Tears For Fears


September 7, 2015


One of the joys of early MTV were all the great New Wave bands they stuffed their early airtime with. Many of these bands briefly broke in the US, before everyone in America caught up on the concept of music videos and bad hair metal drove New Wave into the ‘120 Minutes.’ Some of these bands were here and gone in the US, regardless of their success abroad.

One of the early ones was Altered Images, from Scotland.

A New Wave Pixie Dream Girl singer, catchy guitar jangle pop… and a catchy video or two were more than enough to lodge them into your memory. Besides MTV, they could be heard on New Wave radio like the long lost WLIR. They didn’t make much of an impact in the US, but did much better at home. The band also shot off at least two members towards different fame of their own.  Claire Grogan, said lead singer and Pixie Dream Gril, branched out into acting, tv presenting and writing while still singing, both in and out of different versions of Altered Images. The bassist, Johnny McElhone, went onto another New Wave band – Hipsway- before founding Texas in 1988. Ironically, Texas has been huge in the UK and Europe, but like Altered Images, not so much in the US. We’ll hit them later in the Tour.

Want more? Happy to help. Here’s the band in their video taped and green screened glory.

I’m adding one last video, just to give you a better sense of their range. Plus, the hair man. THE HAIR!!!

The fact, or at least my opinion stated as fact, is that Altered Images were a fun if not ground breaking band. They fit in well with their contemporaries like Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cocteau Twins. Their stand out singles, “Happy Birthday” and “I Could Be Happy” really catch them at their best.. poppy, quirky, and energetic. Their music is very much of the 80’s. Do you need their individual albums in your collection? To be honest, I’m happy with the compilation. For a complete New Wave or 80’s section, you want the Best Of in your collection. And hey, if you dig the albums, go forth.

As for the facts, check out ( as a starting point.

Artist: Altered Images

Album: I Could Be Happy- The Best Of Altered Images
Year: 1997
Date Listened in Tour: 5/19/14
Rating: ***
Best Songs: “Happy Birthday”, “I Could Be Happy”. “Love To Stay”

10 Things You Hate About Me? BUT I LIKE YOU!!!!

September 1, 2015

’10 Things I Hate About You’ was a1999 teencom, most simply described as Shakespeare’s ‘Taming Of The Shrew’ in a high school. Among the many young stars, you had Julia Stiles at just about her peak fame, Heath Ledger breaking out in the US, Gabrielle Union before cheerleading roles, Joseph Gordon Levitt before he took over the world, and Andrew Keegan before he became a cult leader.

So many more actors who went onto great careers and not leading cults.

It hit a sweet spot as teen movies moved into the 21st century… catching the odd mix of grunge, nostalgia, and a time before the omnipresence of the internet. Cell phones barely play into this movie… matching the timelessness of the source material. See it. It’s good. It’s fun.

The soundtrack… has some pretty good moments, and falters in others. In a move copied by other movies… the less successful ‘Sky High’ in particular… then current groups recorded covers, mixed with originals. Letters To Cleo recorded two covers, their ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ a particular favorite of mine. The nicely accentuated female voices in the soundtrack matched the fact that the women in this movie were not prizes, but people themselves.

Sure, it’s a fan made clip video, but hey, it works.

I mean, picking Joan Armatrading’s 1981 “The Weakness In Me” for a late ‘90’s teen flick? You could argue they just said WWCCD – “What Would Cameron Crowe Do?” – but even so, it was nice out the blue choice and a great song to boot.

And while some songs hit flat- Jessica Riddle’s ‘When Angels Fall’ comes across a touch saccharine, Leroy’s ‘New World’ is just a vague bit of not quite ‘90’s funk, this is a decent soundtrack that works as a good mix cd. Long commute? Road trip? Work out?

Slap this on. Skip the ending instrumental. Enjoy. 4 out of 5 starts for some great originals, covers, and classics.

Artists: Various
Album: 10 Things I Hate About You
Year: 1999
Date Listened in Tour: 4/11/14
Rating: ****
Best Songs: “Cruel To Kind”- Letters To Cleo “The Weakness In Me”

Dope Taste In Music- The Initial Grand Tour Is Officially COMPLETE!

September 1, 2015

So my next  ppost was going to be about the Eurovision 2015 Finale. A while back, I was excited about it, all ready to watch the extravaganza in excruciating detail. But, guess what?

Sweden won.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes

Fucking Sweden won. Look, I love Sweden. I love the people, the music, the art and at least some of the food. BUT I HATE THE BLAND AVICCI WANNA BE TUNE THAT WON EUROVISION!!! Look, the Eurovision Song Contest is all about disappointment and mediocrity. But, sometimes, good songs win. It’s all about politics and compromise. But, sometimes, good songs win.


I will do that damn review. I will not do that damn review today.

Today, I am glad to say the initial reconnaissance of my music collection, The Grand Tour has been completed.

2008 CD’s.


Classical CD’s not in my main collection and CMJ/New Music Magazine discs were excluded. The classical since I rarely listen to them, the CMJ’s because while great grind for the mix mill, are not particularly coherent in and of themselves. New CD’s will be added as acquired. But the slog is done.

Some pointless stats, because stats are fun!

Earliest Album In Collection:1954
Latest: 2015

Look, if I have albums actually from the future, not just tunes from Futurama, you think I’m telling you? I’m not a musical John Titor here. By which I mean I am not a fraudulent Christian-themed time traveler.

First Album Officially Listened: Angels And Airwaves “Angles And Airwaves”, 12/5/06.
Last Album Officially Listened: Zvuki Mu “Zvuki Mu”, 8/5/15

The Grand Tour officially began in July, 2007. Due to the joy of syncing errors, some discs actual dates got lost in the mix. That’s why ‘Angels…” is listed before the project ever happened. To be fair, I also hated it so much I almost deleted it. I intend to listen to it one more time before trying to forget that the damn band ever existed.

Average Year Of Album Release:1999
Years With Least Albums: 1954, 1960, 1962, 1966, 1971 each had 1

Why these years? I’m mostly a modern rock man, so while I’m filling in my collection of earlier years, they just aren’t represented.

Years With Most Albums:

2003            100
2002            99
2001            98
1993            96
2005            95

Why these years? ’93 was in part being right out of college, and working for a job that streamed CD’s into my vein like a fuel into a turbo engine.’01-’03 & ’05 were peak New Music Magazine and being by my damn self years. Buying too much music… better than drugs and the high lasts longer.

Let’s see how the ratings were distributed:

*              – 15
**             – 115
***            – 530
****           – 867
*****          – 458

You could argue I’m a little kind in my rankings. More albums should have, lower ranks. Maybe I am too kind. Maybe I just have dope taste in music and grab dope albums. So if you happen to buy and own more crappy discs, not my fault.

Back to the album & video blogging. ONWARDS!


May 23, 2015

A little close to the finals, but hey, life happens. And now, onto a look at the 2nd Semifinals. Of my picks:

Ireland (IRELAND!), Portugal and the Czech Republic were sent home.

Lithuania, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Slovenia made it.

I turned my benevolent gaze away from Poland,  Sweden, Norway, and Montenegro. Yet they progressed?

Six of mine made it through. WUZ IRELAND ROBBED?

Yup. Good song, real performers, Molly was a charming colleen, the fuck? Mad you can’t vote England off earlier, targeted their nearest neighbor? YE BASTARDS KNOW THE FIRES AWAIT FOR YE YE FECKING FECKS!!!!
I feel, better. Now. Let’s look at my winners:

Cyprus – John Karayiannis with One Thing I Should Have Done

Still digging it. Sure, mellow, no back up impressionistic dancers. Good song, good job, son.

Azerbaijan – Elnur Huseynov with Hour of the Wolf

Ok… I loved the simplicity of the original video, still love the song. BUT TEH FUCK WITH THE WEREWOLVE BALLET DANCERS? Honestly, besides loving the song, the best part was when he pushed away the Baku Lycanthrope Dance Troupe and the crowd went wild. Kick ass, Elnur, but please, go to a simpler performance. You don’t need the goth glitz.

Latvia – Aminata with Love Injected

Good job. Good balance of the fierce and the fromage. Definitely needs to be bought by the CW channel for their next vampire love triangle show.

Israel – Nadav Guedj with Golden Boy

Love that Nadav got the New Kids On The Block to be his back up dancers. Fun song, has some chutzpah about the time limit, and golden sneakers made of the Ark of the Covenant. GO FOR THE GOLD, BOYCHIK!!

Lithuania – Monika Linkyte & Vaidas Baumila with This Time

Respect for the straight, gay and lesbian kissing. Monika, girl, you fine. The song is a nightmare one night stand of ‘Glee,’ ‘Nashville’ and the Mumford and Sons coming to kill the parents who abandoned it for the wolves to eat… ONLY IT ATE THE WOLVES AND CAME FOR VENGEANCE.
Plus Baidas looks like a serial killer. Sorry, Monkia. Run while you can. I can’t support this Branson worthy cheesefest any longer.

Slovenia – Maraaya with Here For You

Not perfect, but poppy and catchy.Yeah.. the air musicians are kinda strange. As are the ear phones. BUT GO YOU STRANGE PEOPLE!!!

Here’s the ones the rest of Europe picked:

Poland – Monika Kuszynska with In the Name of Love

God.This.Song.Sucks. The staging is bland, and you cover the wheel chair with a wedding dress? Why? Plus enough cherry blossom imagery to make even the most dedicated kotaku have an allergic reaction.

Sweden – Mans Zelmerlow with Heroes

Ok. So Mans is the the Swedish manly version of the Dazzler, making really crappy music into solid light projections and holograms while he dances awkwardly and smiles about demons in his brain. SWEDEN, YOU CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER!!!

Norway – Morland and Debrah Scarlett with A Monster Like Me

Uhm… this song live is so much better than the video. No, really. They dropped the weird food fight and stiff performances, and SANG THE HELL OUT OF IT. You won me back, land of Ibsen.

Montenegro – Knez with Adio

They liked the angry back up singers? Knez has a world fan base us Americans don’t get? No clue.

So, of the  Second Semi’s, I’m backing Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Slovenia, with Norway kicking Lithuania to the curb. From the first semi’s I’m picking Estonia, Romania, Belgium and Serbia. Estonia is my overall favorite. From the guaranteed countries and the guest- UK, Austria and Australia.

Estonia remains my pick. UK doesn’t have a chance in hell, but I hope they do well. Getting into the top 15 would be amazing for them. BEST OF LUCK, NEIGHBORS!

So, tune in Sunday night, and we’ll see what happens!!


May 20, 2015

So, today, it began. Cheese, politics and yes TALENT coalesced in Vienna for the first of the three nights of Eurovision, 2015. I of course, was at work, so I followed along with the live stream from the Daily Mirror. Say what you well, but they’ve been good for this.

Oh, and I finally remembered how to properly embed video. Push the button.


I did pretty darn good on my picks. Of the final 10, 5 out of my 6 picks made it in. Only Macedonia didn’t make it. Shame… ‘Autumn Leaves’ was a good song. Energetic performance, slightly out of sync poc backing trio… different feel from the video. Hell with it. YOU WUZ ROBBED!

Honorable mention for Denmark. Anti Social Media, you tried, lads. The early 1960’s waves fondly and wishes you well.

Dishonorable mention for Moldova. I still don’t think it was a good song, but… fuck it. You went for it you mad juvenile delinquent sexhibitionist! And your performance was backed by the Super Troopers! RESPECT WITH MY SCORN AND DERISION!

Conchita was a fabulous and gracious host, btw. Ok,  let’s look at who made it to the next round.

My picks that made it-

Albania – Elhaida Dani with ‘I’m Alive’ –

Ok. Points for the simple performance, but it was rough. I’m glad she made the finals, but she needs to get some tea, honey and oomph. fast.

Hungary – Boggie with ‘Wars for Nothing’

Still a lovely little ditty, but the cocktail dresses and take away from the performance a bit. Plus, it just feels flat.

Estonia – Elina Born & Stig Rasta with ‘Goodbye to Yesterday’

THERE YA GO! Simple choreography, dramatic lighting, CHEMISTRY,

Georgia – Nina Sublatti with ‘Warrior’

OHMYGOD THE FUCKING MORRIGAN IS BEING SWALLOWED BY HER LIGHTS AND FOG!  Fierce! But, not really compelling. Glad it made the semi’s, but not the winner. Unless she goes with blood magic. MORRIGAN! BEHAVE!

Serbia – Bojana Stamenov with Beauty Never Lies

Struggling with earpieces? Bizarre and simultaneously over explanatory choreography? STRIP TEASE AND DISCO? you go to the finals, girl!

Finalists I didn’t pick-

Belgium – Loic Nottet with Rhythm Inside

The song is a massive earworm, plus Loic is just less creepy, more charismatic live. I think Belgium has a better chance than I thought before the live performance.

Armenia – Genealogy with Face the Shadow

Ok. Softened the imagery, but the lyrics made clear this is one of the happiest/self-helpy “FUCK YOU’S!’ ever,. Minus that, the song was still five songs at once, and overly dramatic. Crowd loved it, me less so.

Russia – Polina Gagarina with A Million Voices

Girl, that dress is selling what you don’t got. Just saying. Supposedly, this is the front runner. Screw that. Bland, fake dramatics, and THIS IS FROM PUTIN’S RUSSIA. Nope

Romania -Voltaj with All Over Again

Decent live performance, nice message. You won me back guys. Glad you made it.

Greece – Maria-Elena

Snoooorrreeeee. Wait, did I miss something? Sorry. I support Greece in their economic struggles and trying to right their government after a dip into right wing lunacy, but the song sucks.

So, we got some swaps here. From the finals, I’m picking with my #1 pick: Estonia, adding Romania and Belgium. I’m keeping Serbia, because they just went for it.
See you late Thursday, early Friday for more


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.