Monday, September 30, 2019

Top Ten Things: Wrestling Heel Turns

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at  You know the drill - a list of ten items, why I picked 'em, yadda yadda.

Today's topic is in a roundabout way related to Halloween, in that it involves the darker angels of our nature, as it were.  I'm talking about one of the great plot devices in the pro wrestling universe, The Heel Turn.  In the world of pretend fighting a character will suddenly decide he doesn't like one of his friends, or the fans, or the world, and go bad.  This generally reframes his whole persona and sets off a major feud or angle of some kind.

The best heel turns usually happen suddenly, so there's a feeling of shock and betrayal from the fans, but it's also important that the turn doesn't feel like a cheat or a contrivance.  It has to make sense within the context of the story being told.  There has to have been some kind of foreshadowing or tension between the betrayer and his victim(s), thus when the turn happens it's appalling but also satisfying.  You've invested in this ongoing story and here's a major inciting incident.  Also the subsequent heel run generally needs to last a while and have some kind of long-term impact on the overall product.  So often these days a wrestler will turn heel just so he can be repositioned to feud with whomever the writers want him to feud with.  And then three months later he's back to being a babyface (Big Show, I'm looking in your general direction).  When this kinda thing happens too often, not only does each character turn lose meaning, but the fans cease to invest in said wrestler because he changes his stripes constantly.  Sadly in recent years the effective heel turn has become something of a lost art, as today's wrestling bookers don't seem to have the discipline to properly execute it.

The other kind of heel turn that can be effective is the gradual variety, where a wrestler will start to show a mean streak but it's amplified over several months, and eventually before you know it, the guy's fighting babyfaces (see Punk, CM; Jericho, Chris; *surname omitted*, Edge).  I find those don't work as well, although gradual turns have produced some great heel characters (such as the aforementioned three).  That's not to say I don't like the gradual ones, I just find it more fun when a guy turns heel sort of all at once but it still makes perfect sense in context.

Here now are my ten favorite heel turns in wrestling history...

10. The Road Warriors (1988)

1988 was a year of multiple heel and babyface turns in the NWA, and one of the last ones to take place was when the almighty Road Warriors betrayed Sting during a six-man tag match.  Sting was a last-minute substitute for the Roadies' longtime partner Dusty Rhodes, and Hawk & Animal were none too pleased that a) Dusty wasn't present as scheduled, and b) the Johnny-come-lately Stinger was selected as a replacement.  This kicked off an uber-mean streak from the Legion of Doom that included a gruesome incident where they tried to poke Dusty's eye out with a shoulderpad spike.  As a 13-year-old fan I felt horribly wronged by my favorite badass team, and initially found them pretty scary as bad guys (Another hallmark of a great heel turn), but after a couple weeks I came back around and actually liked them even more with their newfound lust for brutality.  Sadly the Road Warriors' heel run was short-lived, since the fans never really wanted to boo them.  But this was a quite effective angle at the time.

9. Lex Luger (1989)

Another NWA mainstay who always seemed more comfortable wearing the black hat was Lex Luger.  Luger had made a name for himself as the "young lion" of the 1987 Four Horsemen lineup before tiring of their antics and turning babyface.  In mid 1989 though some tension began to build between Luger and the returning Ricky Steamboat, over the new Top Ten ratings system.  Being the former NWA World Champ, Steamboat was named the #1 Contender, even though traditionally the US Championship (which Luger held at the time) guaranteed its wearer the top spot.  At Clash of the Champions VII Steamboat defeated Terry Funk by DQ but was attacked by Funk's cohorts after the match.  Luger came to the rescue, chasing off Team Funk, and helped Steamboat to his feet, only to level the former Champ with a ferocious clothesline.  Luger vs. Steamboat was a brief feud due to Steamboat's departure from the promotion, but he spent the remainder of 1989 as a dominant heel US Champion, turning in some of his best in-ring work and seemingly poised to challenge the babyface Ric Flair for the Big Gold Belt.  Flair's heel turn and a sudden injury to Sting in early '90 left a top babyface void, and Luger was inexplicably made a good guy once again.  Early 1990 always struck me as a reset period in the NWA, but I did truly enjoy Luger's late-89 heel run.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Parents' Night In #21: A Hard Day's Night (1964) - Justin and Kelly Watch The Beatles and Scream Like Little Girls!

Set your Wayback Machine for 1964 and join Justin and Kelly at the height of BeatleMania for their first feature film, A Hard Day's Night

This Richard Lester-helmed "day in the life" comedy follows the Fab Four and their wildly hectic misadventures as the biggest pop group in the entire world, climaxing in a live television performance that has all the youngsters screaming their brains out with joy!

Kelly and Justin enjoy some wine and talk about our love of all things Beatles, our favorite Beatles albums, and our respective favorite member of the band!

Tune in, turn on and drop out (wait, that was a few years later) and join us for Parents' Night In!

Thanks for watching!  Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE to our channel, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, and Facebook!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Music Review: Jason Hawk Harris - Love & The Dark

by Mike Drinan

So, I’m in Vermont one weekend, sitting on the couch and drinking some of the best beer ever made (from the auspicious Hill Farmstead) and surfing through my Instagram feed when I stop at a video posted by Bloodshot Records. The video shows a young man with a guitar performing in front of a small group of people in what seems like some kind of small showcase. His band behind him is churning through a raucous Americana number and the young man is moving his leg emphatically with the beat. He sings at a level that demands your attention, with such fiery passion and urgency that a guy in the audience can’t stand still. The band fades a little while this man sings his verse before reigniting, the bass player has her back to the camera but shows her hand walking down the neck of her bass and the drummer just pounding away at his snare and hi-hat. The rhythm of the song is rollicking and infectious. I thought to myself, Who the hell is this?

The answer: Jason Hawk Harris.

I immediately downloaded his debut album Love & The Dark, released in August on Bloodshot Records, and was absolutely devastated by it. It was so fucking good. It’s country, its Americana, it's rock ‘n’ roll, it's punk and it's orchestral. His voice is smooth and poignant and the album has themes of death, love, the unknown, addiction and religion. Each track seems effortless, as if he came into the melody, rhythm, sound, timing and delivery of each song as cool and natural as walking into a room full of friends and family. He’s right where he wants to be.

The album kicks off with the stunning “The Smoke and The Stars”, a redeeming love song about a man struggling to fight off his demons until his love comes back to him, freeing him of the struggles he’s facing. The song builds slowly until he pleads “Let me live in those green eyes of yours”. It’s an emotionally crushing song with beautiful instrumentation and an arrangement that wonderfully sets the stage for the rest of the album.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Popeye

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I discuss, in much greater detail than interests anyone, a film with very mixed virtues and faults.  Today's subject is the 1980 Robert Altman-directed adaptation of the beloved cartoon/comic strip, Popeye!  

Starring Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall and Paul Smith, Popeye came about after Paramount and Columbia Pictures had a bidding war over the film rights to Annie.  When Paramount came up short, they mined for similar ideas and one executive came up with the idea for a feature film treatment of Popeye.  Originally the studio (now co-producing with Disney) wanted Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin as the two leads (Tomlin would've been swell, Hoffman probably not so much), but fortunately newly hired director Robert Altman opted for the perfectly-cast duo of Williams and Duvall.  An unconventional choice for a movie of this type, Altman lent his signature style of satirical humor, richly detailed settings and colorful supporting characters, to try and create a three-dimensional world around these two-dimensional characters.  Filming took place in Malta, on a lavishly constructed set, and the budget ballooned to a then-extravagant $20 million.  The studio panicked and ordered Altman to finish up and bring home what footage he had.  The film was released in December 1980 to mixed reviews and less-than-stellar box office receipts; although it grossed $60 million worldwide, it was not the smash hit the studios expected and has since garnered a reputation as one of the great box office bombs.

But Popeye has a lot going for it, and sadly a lot working against it.  Let's take a look at the pros and cons of this unusual comic strip adaptation....

The Awesome


Pretty much everyone in this movie is spot-on.  Robin Williams (making his feature film debut), while not exactly disappearing into the role, makes a splendid Popeye - likable, matter-of-fact, humble and downtrodden by nature but gallant and heroic when he needs to be.  I'm not sure anyone else in 1980 could've brought this character to life as effectively.  Ditto for Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, who does a note-perfect live action translation of the gangly damsel in distress.  Most of the film's funniest moments involve Duvall's stylized mannerisms, and as someone who's used to seeing her either in hysterics in The Shining, or as Steve Martin's straight-man best friend in Roxanne, it's refreshing to go back and see her in a subtly comedic turn.  She might be the best thing about this film, actually.  Paul Smith also makes a fantastic Bluto, looking exactly like you'd expect this character to appear as a flesh & blood person, terrifying as he glares about the room growling like an agitated lion.  Smith is a helluva lot better in this movie than in Dune, I'll tell ya that much.  Ray Walston is the other standout, as Popeye's long-lost father Poopdeck Pappy, AKA The Commodore, conveying a front of cold, dryly amusing gruffness toward his son, which later gives way to genuine pathos as he bonds with Swee'pea.  So if nothing else, this film has a strong ensemble cast that's fun to watch as they make believable characters out of these cartoon archetypes.

You Used to Be Soooooo Good: The Alien Franchise


Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Sooooo Good, where Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal) and I put on our crotchety old man hats and grumble about how much better stuff used to be before you damn millennials took over the world.  

Anywho, today's topic is the Alien franchise - a once mighty sci-fi/horror series that began with two amazing films and then somehow lost its way.  Dan, what's your take?

DAN: The first Alien movie is one that scared the ever-loving shit out of me. It may seem simplistic now to place a horror movie in space (In fact, most failing horror franchises just chuck their super-bad up into the stars to try to grab some box office gold), but at the time, this was a novel concept. Sure, there were tons of B-movies in space, but this was a big budget flick with some well-known actors in it. And it was scary as hell to me. I saw it on VHS around 1990 when I was 12. The set design, the gore, the monster itself, all nightmare fuel for little ol' me. And I watched it repeatedly. I loved it. Loved the monster, loved all the characters and loved the epic, scary silence of the space universe that director Ridley Scott created. And of course loved Ripley. Sigourney Weaver was known to me at the time as Dana Barrett from Ghostbusters so to see her in this flick, evading and eventually killing a rampaging monster of death was quite a shock. But nothing was as shocking as what this franchise would become with the second film in the series.

JUSTIN: I actually saw Aliens first, in 1986, at the age of eleven.  I'd obviously heard of the original Alien, heard that it was just about the scariest movie ever made, and knew of the now-iconic chestburster scene.  But going into Aliens I was so utterly terrified of what I was about to witness, and for about the first ten minutes of the movie I was on the verge of a panic attack, thinking to myself "I can't do this.......I can't do this...."  But once that initial fear settled down and I simply let the movie unfold in front of me, it was to this day one of my all-time favorite cinematic experiences.  That movie kicked my ass for 137 minutes, ratcheting up the intensity to an unfathomable level.  The final hour is almost non-stop action-horror, and the climactic battle with the alien queen (one of the greatest puppet effects in movie history) stuck with me for weeks.

Mind.  Fucking.  Blown.

It actually wasn't until a year or two later that I finally watched the first movie, and initially I was underwhelmed by it.  Considering the frenetic pace and unrelenting pitch of Aliens, the first movie seemed so simple and frankly quaint to me on the first viewing.  This was at an age when I didn't appreciate things like psychological dread or claustrophobia, which is what the experience of the first film is all about (not to mention a movie as visually rich as Alien loses a lot on pan-and-scan VHS).  The first film grew on me after repeated viewings, and of course now I fully grasp what an understated sci-fi/horror masterpiece it is.  I saw an interview with one of the producers, who rightly pointed out that Alien is the haunted house, while Aliens is the roller coaster.  And from a purely visual standpoint, Ridley Scott's film is superior to James Cameron's.  Alien is one of the most visually stunning films ever made, while Aliens is less about atmosphere and more about the story.  Regardless, the first two films of this franchise are like an all-time great double album.  Both are amazing achievements for very different reasons.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Top Ten Things: KoRn Albums, Ranked

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!  This edition has bonus entries because today we're ranking the albums of nu metal innovators KoRn!

With the release of their 13th album The Nothing, I figured it would be a good time to finally follow up the Top Ten KoRn Songs list with an album ranking.  As I said before, my journey to get to KoRn was an unusual one; I hated their music with a palpable passion for years before finally coming around, and then they immediately became one of my favorite groups.  Their unconventional focus on groove and grit over flash and precision was a very acquired taste, but once acquired I was insatiable.

So let's cut to the chase and count down the studio albums of KoRn!

For our Top Ten KoRn Songs list, click HERE...

14. See You On the Other Side

KoRn's seventh album for me is their weakest.  For a long time I considered Take a Look in the Mirror, their unnecessary "return to our roots" album, as the band's nadir, but the years have been pretty kind to that album, less so for this one.  While See You On the Other Side was a pretty logical next step from Untouchables, the band experimenting with gothic, industrial and electronica elements, the songs just didn't come together, and this album in hindsight feels like a dry run for Untitled.  Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch had left the band and the remaining four members decided to reinvent themselves on this album, with very mixed results.  I appreciated SYOTOS more than its predecessor at the time for the risks being taken, but they hadn't quite found the new formula yet.  

Key Tracks: Throw Me Away, Coming Undone, Souvenir

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Music Review: KoRn's The Nothing is a Return to FoRm

Nu metal pioneers KoRn are back with a new album, The Nothing, and since we did this for their last album, my colleague Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I are back to discuss its merits.  Maybe an argument will ensue, who knows?  

JustinThe Nothing is a moody record (as really all KoRn albums are), made more poignant by Jonathan Davis's lyrical focus on the loss of his ex-wife, who passed away last year.  This theme of despondency and loss permeates every song on the album and somewhat returns KoRn to the "music as therapy" vibe so prevalent on their early records.

Mike, what is your take on The Nothing?

Mike: Oh man, I really enjoyed this album. Knowing what happened with his ex-wife, I went into this album expecting it to be dark but I was a little caught off guard by just how dark it was, thematically speaking. Jonathan's weeping at the end of the first track really sets the tone for this project and I was ready for all of it. Everything I love about KoRn is on this album, even if there is a real prevalent late 90s nu-metal sound and feel to it, the band sounds fresh and invigorated. Ray Luzier's drumming is incredible, the riffs are really good, especially on "The Ringmaster," and Jonathan's vocals sound amazing from the deep, gutteral growl to the spiny, sing-songy style that has become his trademark over the years. Fieldy's bass adds muscle and provides the emotional punch to the music that ties the album's theme together. This album is a huge step up from their previous album, The Serenity of Suffering, and it's not even close for me.

Justin: Right off the bat, Luzier and Fieldy's presence are felt much more on this album than on Serenity.  Fieldy's trademark percussive bass attack is back, and Luzier's grooves are rock solid (I've said it before but Ray is miles ahead of Dave Silveria as a drummer).  As unfortunate as his thematic motivation on this album, Davis actually sounds like he means it this time, where TSOS sounded like a once angry guy going through the motions just so it would still be a KoRn record.  I do feel like he hasn't quite recaptured the visceral sandpaper screams of Life is Peachy, but maybe that time has passed.  Still his melodies are head and shoulders above those on TSOS, I love that he's rediscovered major keys, and the bridge of "This Loss," brief though might be, is probably my favorite stretch of music on the album.  It's the most soulful singing of Davis's career and I wish they'd built the entire song around that section.  Maybe that can be a blueprint for the next one.

I don't think I'd call any of the songs truly great, but The Nothing is a very easy album to listen to and its 44 minutes fly by.  Every song has at least something to bring you back for repeat listens and the bulk are very well-crafted.  Highlights for me include "Can You Hear Me" (a welcome Untouchables throwback; my only complaint about this song is it's so short), "The Darkness is Revealing," and "The Ringmaster," all three of which have very memorable chorus hooks.  With TSOS I was bored by the end.  That's not at all the case this time.

Geek Previews: The Witch (2016)

Welcome to a new feature here at, Geek Previews (like the ol' Sneak Previews but way nerdier), where Michael Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I discuss a film we've both recently watched.  Could be something new and topical or something we're just now getting around to seeing.  

Today's movie of choice is Robert Eggers' debut The Witch, a period folktale set in 17th century Puritan New England about a family of settlers who are met with misfortune and insanity at the hands of a demonic witch.


Mike, what's your take on this film?  Talk to me.....

Mike: Ok, as a movie I loved it. It's one of the best period pieces I've seen in a long time. I loved the dialogue and how they stuck to the Olde English even though at times it was a little tedious understanding them. The film looks beautiful, using natural light and giving it a kind of gloom that you expect in a film like this. The acting was great. Anya Taylor-Joy was really good playing Thomasin and Ralph Ineson as William, her father, was just fantastic. He was a no-bullshit guy but there was tenderness toward his children and wife that he exuded brilliantly.

I love A24, the production company of this film. Everything they seem to come out with I love or at least really like. Whether its Room, Ex Machina, Obvious Child, Locke or Under the Skin....they've all been awesome and this one just adds to that list.

Now here's what bummed me out about the film. Ever since it was released it was billed as a terrifying film. That's the only thing I heard about it, even the quotes in the trailer talked about how it will "make your blood run cold" and I got amped for it because I rarely come across a film that scares me and I love films that can do that. That's where this movie fell flat for me. The IMDB trivia said that Stephen King was terrified by this film. The only things I found a little unnerving were some of the shots of Black Phillip and the utilization of off-screen sounds, like twigs breaking or something. Other than that, it was a really good film about religion and satanism, or what I presumed was satanism.

Justin: I loved it as a strong piece of filmmaking as well.  The natural lighting, the diffused colors, the location and sets, everything contributed to the bleak atmosphere and the underlying sense of dread.  Anya Taylor-Joy announced herself as a future major star I think.  At 20 years old she already has a commanding onscreen presence, even in an unassuming role like this one.  Ralph Ineson felt totally authentic, conveying gruffness but also the air of a man who slowly realizes he isn't in control and can't care for his family like he thought.  I found Kate Dickie's performance very compelling as well, as her character goes from hysterical mourning to being resentful and domineering.

I tell ya - Room, Ex Machina, Locke, and now The Witch?  A24 already boasts one helluva filmography.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Girls' Night In #3: Pulp Fiction - Kelly's First Viewing in 25 Years

Our friend Shannon returns to the couch for another Girls' Night In episode, as we force Kelly to rewatch Quentin Tarantino's classic Pulp Fiction, a film she hasn't seen since she was 15!  Just in time for its 25th Anniversary!

We talk Tarantino's filmography and his ability to write relatable scumbags, John Travolta's 90s comeback, Samuel L. Jackson's awesomeness, Uma Thurman's amazing eyes, and how hot Bruce Willis is, plus Shannon gives her thoughts on May-December romances.  Check it out!

#QuentinTarantino #PulpFiction #OnceUponaTimeInHollywood

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Monday, September 16, 2019

WWE Clash of the Champions 2019: Well, I Didn't Hate It

Clash of Champions was one of those PPVs that I probably should've hated.  Most matches were too short, much of the booking made no sense, two hometown heroes were absolutely and needlessly buried, and the crowd was pretty indifferent to all of it.  But I didn't hate this show.  I'm sure it helped that I started it an hour late and was able to skip through all the garbage in between matches, but the show didn't drag for me like most WWE PPVs these days (It helped that the most important matches were saved for the end).  I even liked a few matches.

Before I get to the main card, I will say it was inexcusable that AJ vs. Cedric of all things got bumped to the pre-show, and after a few weeks of an underdog push, Vince decided out of the blue to just kill Cedric dead.  This is what happens when the company is at the whim of a 74-year-old with dementia.  AJ smashed Cedric in under five minutes and then the OC beat the crap out of him.  So what was the point of Cedric's push?  This match could've stolen the show but instead Vince opted to troll the hometown crowd (for the first of two times) to amuse himself.  Vince McMahon is a truly dysfunctional human being.

Anyway, the show opened with a RAW-quality Tag Title match, as Seth and Braun defended against another mongrel team, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode.  This was passable but pretty forgettable, and the company missed an opportunity to create more interest in Seth and Braun's main event match.  The finish saw Braun accidentally knock Roode into Seth, Ziggler low-bridged the ropes causing Braun to fall out of the ring, and Roode hit the Implant DDT to pin Seth and win the straps.  And then after the match, nothing.  No argument between Seth and Braun, no pull-apart brawl, nothing.  How do you not have Seth get pissed at Braun for costing them the belts?  Booking 101, guys.  Anyway, this was middling.  **

Next up was the worst match of the night, and the most disappointing.  Charlotte Flair and Bayley could also have had a show stealing match but again Vince decided to piss off the hometown crowd by having Charlotte lose in under four minutes.  The match-ending spot was somewhat clever and helped establish Bayley's new heel tendencies, but it was handled so awkwardly I missed what happened until after the fact.  While Charlotte was talking to the referee, Bayley serruptitiously removed the bottom turnbuckle pad, then rammed Charlotte's face into the exposed buckle and pinned her.  This finish could've been strong at the end of a ten-minute match but here it stopped the match dead and made Charlotte look very weak.  I don't know what they're thinking when they take a massive dump on the hometown favorite every single outing.  Bayley obviously needed to retain here, but not in four minutes.  *

The first pretty good match of the night was The New Day vs. The Revival, in a solid old-school tag match.  The Revival did what they do, backpedal during the early minutes, use underhanded tactics to gain the advantage, and then work over a body part.  The finish here went a long way to building up their characters, as they took Big E out with a Shatter Machine on the floor, wore down Xavier Woods and hit him with Shatter Machine in the ring, and then instead of just pinning him, they ripped off his knee brace, tore open his tights, and Scott Dawson locked in a reverse Figure Four to make him tap.  This was classic Ole & Arn Anderson stuff and was a great way for The Revival to win the belts (making them the first duo to win the NXT, RAW and Smackdown Tag Team Titles).  Solid effort.  ***

Friday, September 13, 2019

Parents' Night In #12: The Dark Knight, a Shakespearean Tragedy

Kelly & Justin celebrate the tenth anniversary of their favorite film, The Dark Knight, by loading up on chardonnay and discussing why Chris Nolan's superhero masterpiece still resonates a decade later.

It's the performances, the kinetic energy, the attention to detail, and unexpectedly the Harvey Dent arc that make this film so haunting.  And of course Heath Ledger's iconic final completed role.

Join us for a very special Parents' Night In!

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

NJPW Destruction 2019 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NJPW Predictions, here at!

This coming week we're getting the annual triumvirate of Destruction shows, as essentially one PPV's worth of matches is spread across three nights.  But hey, New Japan's selling out three buildings instead of one, so more power to 'em.  Anyway there's some pretty great-looking stuff on tap in the top bouts, and some of the filler tag team/Young Lion Cup matches could be fun too.  For the purposes of this column though I'll only focus on the top two matches on each show.  And they all look pretty great.

Let's get started....

Destruction in Beppu (9.15)

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi

GOD are, I believe, the longest-reigning current champions in New Japan, having regained the belts at ROH Honor Rising back in February.  Seven months for a tag title run is damn-near a dynasty by today's standards; they're also up to five successful defenses, the most since Anderson & Gallows in 2014.  Tama Tonga's decision to skip the G1 tournament and focus on tag team wrestling solidified his commitment to his championship tandem, and it seems he and his brother are being rewarded with a long reign.  I'm not sure if Ishii and Yoshi will get to dethrone them and get a new feud going, but it seems like GOD should keep the belts until the Dome, to make it a huge moment when the eventual World Tag League winners beat them.

Pick: GOD retains

RPW British Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

I was shocked that Tanahashi took the British Title from Zack, especially on British soil, but I'm guessing this was a quick thing to necessitate a rematch here.  These two are always great together and I expect more of the same.  Zack's been in a slump since the beginning of the G1, so maybe that will be snapped in Beppu with another title win.

Pick: ZSJ

Destruction in Kagoshima (9.16)

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo vs. Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles

I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but by all accounts the Super J Cup was something special, and Ospreay and Phantasmo are two of the big reasons why.  I wonder if there's ever been a feud over both the Jr. Title and the Jr. Tag Titles simultaneously; this seems very unusual but I like it.  Ospreay and Phantasmo will clash at King of Pro-Wrestling in what is sure to be another MOTY candidate, but first we'll see them with their respective partners going all-out for the tag straps.  This should be fantastic.  I gotta think Will and Robbie win here so Will is a double-champion going into KOPW, where Phantasmo will take away his singles title.

Pick: Ospreay & Eagles

Music Review: Avatar - Avatar Country (2018)

I first became aware of Swedish metal band Avatar around the time their 2016 album Feathers & Flesh was released.  Right away frontman Johannes Eckerstrom's outlandish appearance and wildly energetic charisma caught my eye, and the band's mix of melodic and death metal elements coupled with their general sense of humor hooked me in.  I'm generally not much of a death metal fan, but Eckerstrom's approach to that style of singing is uniquely visceral and he uses the technique to punctuate the vocal melodies as opposed to relying on it completely.  The band's quirky guitar riffs and harmonized double leads also set them apart from similar groups, giving Avatar a blend of thundering brutality and comical eccentricity.

Avatar's latest album Avatar Country runs a lean 43 minutes and contains a number of very good songs.  Unfortunately of the ten tracks only six feel like fully fleshed-out ideas.  The concept album about a fictional king (who is mentioned in every song title) opens with a sarcastically funny anthem of sorts, "Glory to Our King," which features layered vocal harmonies over symphonic backing tracks.  My ears perked up when I first heard the melodic strains, but at a mere 51 seconds the song ends before it can really get going.  I would've liked this idea to be further explored and run maybe two or three times as long.

The first real track is an 8-minute epic called "Legend of the King," which features Avatar's signature melodic metal sound, with a harmonized guitar riff serving as one of its main hooks, plus a lofty, operatic chorus.  This is probably the album's strongest song and feels like a band stretching its prog-metal legs.

Maybe the most instantly grabby tune is the AC/DC-esque title track, "The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country," a bouncy midtempo blues rocker on which vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom channels a bit of Brian Johnson while also providing some super catchy harmonies on the chorus.

The other two standouts are the European power metal-infused "Statue of the King," which has probably the strongest chorus on the album, and the de facto closing song "King After King," an uptempo tune with a bittersweet tone (Its lyrics deal with the king's death and remembrance).

The record finishes in anticlimactic fashion with a pair of rather forgettable instrumentals that seem like they were added to artificially extend the album to full-length.  Avatar Country is essentially a six-song EP stretched out to ten songs.

Overall despite its strong points, this record feels like a bit of a disappointment after the hugely satisfying Feathers & Flesh; with not enough meat on its bones and several promising ideas left partially unexplored.  It's fine as an interstitial release, a la Anthrax's Attack of the Killer B's, but it leaves me hoping Avatar gets back in the studio sooner rather than later.

I give the album *** out of *****.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

WWE Clash of Champions 2019 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another WWE Predictions extravaganza here at!  We've entered what is traditionally the dullest part of the WWE calendar year, but in 2019 that could all be out the window given the impending Wednesday Night War.  I'm sure the NXT brand will be pulling out all the stops over the next few months to get the edge over AEW.  But what about the main roster?

Well, aside from minor improvements and somewhat more watchable shows, the main roster is still suffering from a lack of week-to-week flow and some go-nowhere angles.  One in particular has been particularly baffling, more on that in a bit.  Regardless, the lineup for this Sunday looks fairly promising and features some fresh stuff.  You take what you can get.  As of now Clash of Champions has eleven matches (the Baron Corbin-Chad Gable King of the Ring final has been moved to Monday's RAW) and I'm sure at least one will get the pre-show bump.  Let's take a look...

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak vs. Humberto Carrillo vs. Lince Dorado

Yet another Cruiserweight Title match that will be technically fine but met with apathy.  I've been saying it for months, but 205 Live desperately needs a centerpiece star, otherwise it's just a buncha smaller guys the main roster has no use for.  Kushida made his debut this week, so maybe he's being groomed for that spot.  But given WWE's track record with non-English-speaking stars (or even stars with accents), I ain't holding my breath.

Pick: Drew will retain because I've barely heard of the other two

WWE Women's Tag Team Championship: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville

The company needs to shit or get off the pot with this title.  It's been worthless since WrestleMania and despite them putting Asuka and Kairi Sane together as a team tailor-made to have a dominant title run, they've chosen not to pull the trigger on them.  Because Vince sucks.  No, instead we have the "frenemy champions" deal, because that never gets old, right?  Call me when the Kabuki Warriors win these straps....

Pick: Alexa and Nikki retain

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: New Day vs. The Revival

Is this Dash & Dawson's first PPV match on the main roster?  No?  Feels like it anyway.  This should be fun if given time.  I'm still hoping The Revival heads for the exit next April, as AEW could do great things with them.  I wonder how much Vince'll offer them to stay.  Anyway, given their uncertain future in WWE I gotta pick the champs to retain here.

Pick: New Day retain

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Chris Cornell's "When I'm Down": An Acoustic Cover

Welcome to Song Garden, an acoustic tribute to Chris Cornell.  Our fourth official video, Chris's "When I'm Down" is below.  Recorded at Yebba Studios in Norwood, MA.

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Top Ten Things: KoRn Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I rattle off ten things I like.  Or don't like.  Or whatever you like.

Today I'll be talking about one of my favorite bands, that ragtag group of nu-metal pioneers, KoRn!  In short, I'll be counting down my ten favorite KoRn songs.

I came by my KoRn fandom rather unconventionally, which is to say I hated (HATED) this band for years before finally embracing them.  I first heard KoRn while working at Strawberries record store in the summer of 1995, when "Blind" was featured on the monthly disc of songs the company was pushing.  I didn't think much of the song and quickly dismissed this messy-sounding metal band as a passing trend.  Fast-forward a couple years and KoRn had become the biggest thing in heavy music, much to my chagrin at the time.  As a fan of traditional, intricate speed metal and the like, I couldn't wrap my brain around the detuned, deliberately ugly sound this band was peddling.  Songs like "Chi" and "Got the Life" actually made me physically angry to listen to, and not in a good way.  Then suddenly in 1999 they released Issues, a more melodic effort with dense vocal harmonies and textured guitar performances, and it all clicked into place for me.  I was able to get past my preconceived notions of what hard music "should" sound like and just enjoy this eccentric new approach.  Soon thereafter I relistened to their earlier albums, and within weeks I was a full-blown KoRn fanatic, and have been ever since.  The band may not get much mainstream attention these days, but I still rush out to buy every album.

But which songs are my favorite?  Well let's take a closer look.....

10. Spike in My Veins

The final single from their 2013 album The Paradigm Shift (notable for the return of Brian "Head" Welch on guitar), "Spike in My Veins" boasts a syncopated groove, complementary back-and-forth guitar overdubs, and a melodically simple but eminently hooky chorus.  The song instantly grabs you but also includes enough intricacies to warrant further listens, illustrating how much stronger the KoRn machine is with both of original guitarists in the fold.

9. Seed

This late-album track from Follow the Leader is seemingly about Davis's relationship with his son and his resultant longing for the simpler days of childhood.  The verse meanders at a slower tempo before shifting dramatically to a driving chorus, and the bridge section features two bizarre scat sections aided by a whammy pedal, giving Davis's voice an otherworldly, demonic sound.  "Seed" is one of the darkest-sounding songs on the album and for me a classic KoRn song.

8. Sing Sorrow

One of the bonus tracks from their untitled 2007 album, "Sing Sorrow" is unquestionably the best song from those sessions as far as I'm concerned.  This midtempo anthem deals with themes of society's values falling by the wayside, and the descending chord progression and elastic melody makes for one of the band's best-written hooks.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Movie Review: IT - Chapter Two (2019)

IT: Chapter Two is to its predecessor like Kill Bill vol. 2 was to vol. 1.  In both cases the first half is a visceral, thrilling exercise in style, while the second deals more with the consequences and the characters, lending added weight and profundity to the story as a whole.  It has its share of scary moments, but it's about something much more substantial than that.  I kinda loved this movie.

We pick up 27 years after the first film; an adult Mike Hanlon (the one Losers Club member who stayed in Derry, played by Isaiah Mustafa) summons the others back home because the evil entity Pennywise has returned.  Bill Denbrough (a somber, emotive James McAvoy) is now an accomplished author/screenwriter (who like Stephen King himself has developed a reputation for writing bad endings - meta-joke alert!); Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone looking like a grown-up dead ringer for Jack Dylan Grazer) is a Manhattan risk assessor, married to a woman much like his domineering mother (played by the same actress, in a nice touch); Richie Tozier (show stealer Bill Hader, in a breakout performance of biting sarcasm masking genuine melancholy) is a hotshot standup comedian; Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) is a wildly successful architect, now buff but lonely; Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) is an accountant, ever consumed by fear; and Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain, wonderfully sympathetic as always) is a successful fashion designer married to an abusive bastard.  The early scenes in which we catch up with these characters and see them reunite felt like visiting old friends again; their dinner reunion scene was note-perfect and I could've watched them interact for hours (maybe the only gripe I have with this film is that scenes like this didn't go on longer).

The adult actors are all brilliantly cast to match up with their childhood counterparts, and their touching performances and chemistry form the backbone of this film.  Yes, Pennywise and his scary clown antics are what sell the tickets, but for me Chapter Two was much more about these damaged adult children overcoming their respective childhood traumas (stuff like this is why IT 1 & 2 will become perennial viewings in my house).  I think that was always what Stephen King was getting at with this story, thus complaints of "Not as scary as Chapter One" seem to be missing the point.  This film is probably not as scary as the first; we go into this one already knowing what Pennywise is about and how he operates, thus the scares mostly play out as we expect.  But since the characters are so well-drawn and brought to life, we care about what happens to them and the horror elements work both from a technical and emotional standpoint.  I actually found myself tearing up one more than one occasion, a reaction I'm not sure any other horror film has brought out of me.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Music Review: Tool - Fear Inoculum (2019)

Tool's first album in thirteen years, Fear Inoculum, is finally here at long last.  If I were to sum up my swirling multitude of feelings about it in one sentence, it would be this: I like it quite well, but I was hoping I'd love it.

Fear Inoculum consists of ten tracks (three of them digital-exclusive transitional pieces) over a sprawling, patience-taxing 86 minutes.  Of the seven proper songs, one is a roughly five-minute Terry Bozzio-esque drum-showcasing instrumental, and the other six are all ten minutes or longer.  Those are some looooong songs, even by Tool standards.  So this is an album that, as Maynard James Keenan pointed out, requires a lot of aural stamina and several listens to fully absorb and appreciate.  I think I'm up to six rotations so far.

So here's what the album is lacking for me, and let me preface this by saying I like every song on here.  The transitional tracks are skippable (but then I've always felt that way about Tool's tone poem stuff), but I enjoy all seven full-length songs.  That said, I don't think I'd place any of them on my list of Greatest Tool Songs.  The album is missing an "Aenema," or a "Patient" or a "Vicarious," that one song (or more) I can't wait to hear every time I press play.  In listening to Fear Inoculum my excitement level is at a steady 7.5 or 8 out of 10 but doesn't ever spike from there.  Every song sounds like Tool; the intricate instrumental performances are first-rate, the production crisp, clean perfection, but the album is missing the emotional connection and dynamic songwriting of Tool's prior releases.  It doesn't have the nihilistic gloom of Aenima, the tranquil melancholy of Lateralus, or the mournful weight of 10,000 Days (Unpopular opinion: Undertow is my least-favorite Tool record).

I think much of that has to do with Keenan's vocal parts, which for me don't build to a peak like they have in the past.  His vocals are sparse to begin with, especially given the marathon length of each song, but he tends to hover around a surprisingly small melodic and emotive range on this album.  Was he not as emotionally connected to the music this time around?  Did the band's repeated compositional renovations over the last few years take him out of the zone once it was finally his turn to contribute?  I dunno, there's just something missing for me.

Top Ten Things: Second Albums

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  ***For my list of greatest debut albums, click HERE***

Today I'm thinkin' about second albums.  As in, the sophomore release of a given band or artist.  I have a fascination with second albums.  Where the first record is often either a prodigious, defining effort (a la Pearl Jam's Ten or GNR's Appetite for Destruction) or a near-miss where the band hasn't quite found itself (a la Motley Crue's Too Fast for Love), the second album can either confirm a band's inherent greatness, give them a chance to fully develop their sound, or reveal their first record as a fluke.  It's such an important step in the growth of an artist, hopefully on their way to even greater musical achievements.  But sometimes the second record stands as the yardstick, as with a few of the following examples.  For the purposes of this top ten I only included second albums I consider superior to their predecessors.  Before we get to that though, here are a few honorable mentions....

Honorable Mentions

Metallica - Ride the Lightning
Key Tracks: "Fade to Black," "Creeping Death," "The Call of Ktulu"

Pearl Jam - Vs.
Key Tracks: "Dissident," "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," "Indifference"

Ghost - Infestessumam
Key Tracks: "Secular Haze," "Zombie Queen," "Monstrance Clock"

Danzig II - Lucifuge
Key Tracks: "Long Way Back From Hell," "Blood and Tears," "Pain in the World"

Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion I & II
Key Tracks: "Coma," "Civil War," "Estranged"

10. Taproot - Welcome

Michigan-based nu-metal outfit Taproot is one of the most underrated bands out there.  A quartet whose music is a mix of heavy-as-fuck baritone guitar riffs and gorgeous, undulating vocal harmonies from frontman Stephen Richards, their first record was a fairly basic genre piece that only hinted at the band's songwriting potential.  But it was on their sophomore effort where Taproot truly found their voice.  The writing is incredibly intricate, boasting dissonant hard rock strains topped with some of the most complex vocal layering I've ever heard in any genre (the Beach Boys would be envious).  Perhaps never before had an album showcased such a successful melding of ugly and beautiful.  Welcome heavily influenced my own songwriting for years to come, and it still stands as Taproot's masterpiece.

Key Tracks: "Art," "Fault," "Sumtimes"

9. System of a Down - Toxicity

Another album from the same era, Toxicity took the bizarre metal antics this Armenian-American band displayed on their eponymous debut and added a bit more melody and musicianship.  Daron Malakian's thunderously peculiar guitar riffs are still front and center, but this album features a lot more vocal interplay between Daron and lead singer Serj Tankian, particularly on the album's first single "Chop Suey!" (which I still consider their best-ever song).  The band really pioneered their "violent mood swings" approach to songwriting on this album, with saccharine clean sections bordering brutally heavy ones, and also ramped up their Middle Eastern influence to further shape their unique metal sound.  This was my System of a Down gateway.

Key Tracks: "Chop Suey!" "Toxicity," "Aerials"

8. KoRn - Life is Peachy

Many consider KoRn's debut superior to its followup, but I'm not one of them.  For me Life is Peachy took what had been established on the first record and intensified the percussive brutality, delivering an even more raw-sounding backdrop for Jonathan Davis's primal scream therapy-esque vocals while also introducing a bit of their rap influence.  The production is minimalistic but punchier on this album; evoking what the mind of a murderer must sound like, and the songwriting is more direct and to the point than on the first album.  LIP is one of the most violent-sounding records I've ever heard.

Key Tracks: "Good God," "ADIDAS," "Kill You"

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Soundgarden's "Burden In My Hand": An Acoustic Cover

Welcome to Song Garden, an acoustic tribute to Chris Cornell.  Our third official video, Soundgarden's "Burden In My Hand" is below.  Recorded at Yebba Studios in Norwood, MA.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Music Review: Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won't Hold

by Mike Drinan

Sleater-Kinney has been one of my all time favorite bands since their 2002 album One Beat absolutely changed the way I listen to punk with raucous guitar licks, extremely unique and intricate drum patterns from the incomparable Janet Weiss, and the back and forth exchange between vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Then, in 2005 they released The Woods, an album that remains in my Top 5 albums of all time. The Olympia, Washington trio were unafraid and unwavering in their political and social commentary. They even took aim at the indie rock scene of the mid-2000s. To them, everyone and everything was fair game. On their ninth studio album, The Center Won’t Hold, while the political and social commentary is still a big topic, they also put themselves in the crosshairs.

The Center Won’t Hold stands in stark contrast to the rest of Sleater-Kinney’s catalog by shrugging off their style of punk and moving into the arena of art punk pop (I don’t know if that’s a thing but makes sense to me) with the help of St. Vincent, a brilliant songwriter in her own right. This new aesthetic is at times jarring as much as it is suspicious. Personally, I dislike this new sonic direction the band has taken, but that is based more on preference than anything. My first listen to this record was tough. I felt that this new art pop sound was drowning out the forcefulness of their voices, their presence. It was only with multiple listens that I started to come around.

In fact, some of the best tracks on this album are those in the art pop persuasion. “Bad Dance” is easily my favorite track. It has an infectious rhythm as it embraces the end of the world caused by a reckless leader, with lyrics as elegant and precise as they are politically frustrating, “My truth is slack and loose/My morals are unsound/But I'm amusing, I'm amazing, I'm impure/Dip your toes into the chaos/It'll feel just like a cure”. The sound and style is different, but the band remains the same.

Movie Review: It (2017)

If I may be permitted a small pun, holy sh-IT.

Andy Muschietti's new adaptation of Stephen King's horror epic is stylish, lovingly crafted (Lovecraft?), at times very moving, and at others exhilaratingly terrifying.  Muschietti and the screenwriters (Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman) have wisely stripped down King's sometimes disorganized, unwieldy narrative and presented the most effective components: a group of bullied, outcast children, a small town in Maine with a centuries-old curse, and an omniscient, wantonly evil entity that often takes the form of a demonic clown.  But this film excels in its presentation of the details, and especially in its performances.

Films populated with child characters generally stand or fall based on the quality of the acting, and fortunately It boasts a tremendous cast of juveniles with tangible, easy chemistry together.  Jaeden Lieberher brings a pervading sense of uncertainty and sadness as the leader of the kids' Losers Club, stutterer Bill Denbrough, whose younger brother Georgie was killed by It several months earlier.  Jeremy Ray Taylor as overweight new kid Ben Hanscomb is precocious and studious, obsessed with researching the history of Derry, Maine and its inordinate number of child disappearances.  Finn Wolfhard shows wonderfully natural comedic timing as the group's smartass Richie Tozier, who provides most of the film's laughs (Wolfhard's effortless sense of humor reminded me of a young Corey Feldman).  But the standout of the bunch is Sophia Lillis as the group's lone female member, Beverly Marsh.  Bev is the one member of the group who rises above the schoolyard bullying, displaying a defiant confidence and dignity that confounds her antagonists.  And it's with good reason - compared to her father's inappropriate advances at home, bullying at school is a cakewalk.

The character building of the protagonists yields numerous sequences of warmth and camaraderie (King's novels, no matter how frightening, generally include very relatable characters and a kind-hearted tone); we care about what happens to the kids because we genuinely like them.  Watching these kids interact I couldn't help being reminded of both The Goonies and another King-inspired film, Stand By Me.  These actors legitimately seemed like they'd been friends for years, and even without the horror trappings this would've made an engaging coming-of-age story.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

AEW All Out Review: Chris Jericho is Buddy Rogers

AEW turned in a very strong PPV showing this past weekend, with a lineup that included a few ****+ matches, one of which was a Match of the Year contender and a throwback to a more dangerous time in wrestling.  We saw the crowning of an inaugural champion, an old school face vs. heel story-based match, a violent car wreck triple threat, and above all the further building of a brand.  All Out had a little something for everyone, and while still not an instant classic show, there was plenty to like and plenty to be optimistic about.

The PPV kicked off with a very fun six-man tag, as So-Cal Uncensored faced the Jurassic Express.  The consummate veteran SCU team played the de facto heel role (though very few stars on this show got booed) against the excitingly wacky trio of Jungle Boy (screaming "future star" as always), freakishly tiny Marko Stunt, and the super-over Luchasaurus.  I'd have liked to see Jurassic Express take this win, but the match was more about establishing SCU's status as a premier trio while still showcasing the young guys.  After twelve minutes of fast-paced back-and-forth action, SCU hit the Best Meltzer Ever on both Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt, pinning Jungle Boy for the win.  A fine opener.  ***1/4

Bizarrely the second match was Kenny Omega vs. PAC - what is this, a WWE show??  As expected, this was an excellent bout, and both guys made the most of a tough last-minute situation (Jon Moxley of course was forced to miss the scheduled match with Omega due to a MRSA infection).  This match had great action and lots of big spots, PAC came off like a major star with a chip on his shoulder, and Kenny was his usual self.  PAC is yet another example of a guy WWE bafflingly missed the boat on, once again proving it's not the wrestlers, it's WWE's creative team that's the problem.  Throughout this match PAC had Kenny's big moves well-scouted and was able to counter them frequently.  Late in the match there was a somewhat botched Poison Rana, but aside from that everything here looked crisp.  PAC locked in a Brutalizer (more or less a Rings of Saturn with the victim in a standing position), and Kenny dropped to the mat and quickly passed out for the upset loss.  Kenny is now 1-2 in AEW singles matches, which seems kinda crazy to me.  I wonder how they'll have him rebound, as he seems the clear choice to be the top babyface star over the next year.  But PAC has now announced himself as an upper-tier badass, rounding out the title contenders.  This was pretty great.  ****1/4

The most violent match of the night was next as Jimmy Havoc, Darby Allin and Joey Janela tried to murder each other in a Cracker Barrel Clash hardcore bout.  Unlike most matches of this kind it wasn't all just sloppy brawling; all three guys punctuated the violence with innovative high spots and managed to get the barrels over as a new crowd-pleasing weapon.  At the beginning of the match Allin and Janela duct taped Havoc to a chair, forced thumbtacks into his mouth and taped it shut - Jeezus that's dangerous - and then Allin dove on top of him while he was taped up.  Other highlights included Havoc giving Janela paper cuts between his fingers and across the corners of his mouth, Janela hitting a Destroyer over the ropes and through a table, and Allin breaking out a skateboard covered with thumbtacks and hitting Janela with an ollie from the top rope, leaving a couple dozen tacks in his back.  At the end of the match Allin took himself out, missing a barrel-assisted Coffin Drop onto the steps, and Havoce finished Janela with a Rainmaker through a barrel.  You can't do these matches every night, but as a once-in-a-while car wreck this was tremendous.  I'd have given Allin the win here, as he has the most upside for me.  But this was one of the more entertaining garbage matches I've seen in years.  ****

Top Ten Things: Debut Albums

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at, where I count down a list of ten things.  Pretty obvious really.

Today it's the top ten debut albums of all time!  Now just to clarify, this list is in no way based on sales figures, it's simply the debut albums I feel are the strongest and/or most influential.

Generally a band's debut album rarely stands up as their best work, in my estimation.  For most bands it takes a good three or four records for them to truly find their voice, and with maturity and seasoning comes a much stronger, more confident output.  But every so often a band will emerge with a record that just blasts right out of the gate and changes the industry forever.  Even more rare is the debut album that remains the band's finest work.  There are a few of those in this list.  So without further blathering, let's get to it.  After each album I'll name my three favorite tracks.

But first a few honorable mentions:

Black Sabbath
Key Tracks: "Black Sabbath," "The Wizard," "NIB"

Weezer (The Blue Album)
Key Tracks: "Say It Ain't So," "My Name is Jonas," "Undone (The Sweater Song)"

The Beatles - Please Please Me
Key Tracks: "I Saw Her Standing There," "Twist & Shout," "Please Please Me"

Rage Against the Machine
Key Tracks: "Bombtrack," "Killing in the Name," "Know Your Enemy"

A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms
Key Tracks: "The Hollow," "3 Libras," "Sleeping Beauty"

Alice in Chains - Facelift
Key Tracks: "Man in the Box," "Confusion," "Sunshine"

Alright, now for the main event....

10. Stone Temple Pilots - Core

In the early 90s the hard rock scene was turned on its ear with the advent of the grunge movement.  Based primarily in Seattle, grunge was everything 80s hard rock was not.  Glamorous hairstyles, garish outfits and decadent party lifestyles gave way to flannel shirts, an unkempt look and a more introspective, moody sensibility.  Stone Temple Pilots hailed from San Diego as opposed to Seattle, and arrived on a scene a bit later than their northwestern counterparts, but their debut album Core fit right into the grunge pantheon.  Boasting clear influences from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, STP were initially decried by critics as cheap imitators, but they soon began exploring more varied musical styles and carved out a place for themselves quite separate from their grunge precursors.  For my money though Core was their best and most complete effort, featuring several classics still considered essential early 90s alt-rock fare.

Key Tracks: "Plush," "Creep," "Crackerman"

9. KoRn

Only a few years after grunge dominated the airwaves, another hard rock subgenre was birthed by this ragtag group of Bakersfield, California oddballs.  Detuned 7-string guitars, an ugly percussive bass tone, loose, syncopated drums, and anguished, gravelly vocals combined to make a uniquely disturbing musical form later dubbed "nu-metal."  Whatever its label, this type of music served as a form of psychotherapy for its architects, who used the raw emotional suffering of an abusive upbringing as their inspiration.  The cover depicts a young girl sitting terrified in the shadow of an adult abuser, and this illustrates perfectly the subject matter contained within.  Songs like "Clown" and "Faget" are angry responses to would-be bullies, while "Shoots & Ladders" and the heart-wrenching "Daddy" (which climaxes with singer Jonathan Davis breaking down in hysterical sobbing) address wanton childhood cruelty.  With this emotional, dissonant record, KoRn spawned countless nu-metal imitators and completely altered the hard rock genre for the better part of a decade.

Key Tracks: "Need To," "Clown," "Daddy"

Monday, September 2, 2019

Parents' Night In #22: A League of Their Own (1992)

We're back with a baseball-themed episode of Parents' Night In! Justin & Kelly enjoy some local beer and watch the 1992 classic A League of Their Own, starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O'Donnell!

We discuss the film's wonderful ensemble cast, women's sports, Garry Marshall's outrageous New York accent, and Justin's irrational disdain for Bill Pullman's acting.

Join us for some fun, here at Parents' Night In, and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!

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