Archive | June 2013

Tinseltown Thursday Presents…Sore Losers (1997)

We at Culture Fusion are going to open up our doors and our interests a bit more fully. Music reviews are great and all but we also love movies and to show this off, I’m starting a new series called “Tinseltown Thursday.”

Every Thursday, I (or another writer) will explore a random A or B movie (although I’m sure to delve more deeply into the “D” aspect) trying to highlight the strange, the unusual, the unique, the fun and the fucking weird.

The first entry into this new series is “Sore Losers.”

Sore-Losers-poster

The 60’s-70’s explotation movie aping poster might just be the best damn thing about the movie.

I can hear you all now asking an understandable question: what the fuck is “Sore Losers”? It’s a movie I discovered about 10 years ago on a “Four Freaky Movies” (or something to the effect) compilation from a Sam Goody in Marquette, Michigan. I don’t think I’ve watched the other three movies (two of which are Witchcraft sequels).

In fact, I actually bought the box set because of the description FOR this movie…and the tag line in particular. “They wanted meat…so they ate the flower children!” It’s a movie so obscure I could barely find pictures for it.

Made in 1997 by writer and director John Michael McCarthy it stars nobody at all. There’s some dude that looks and dresses a lot like Prince as well as a girl who, I swear, is Divine’s son i.e. she looks like a fat guy in drag.

She’s the femme fatale of the movie.

The plot is elegant in its simplicity: an intergalactic serial killer named Blackie returns to Earth to complete his mission of killing 12 random people. He killed 10 people 42 years ago but was unable to finish his mission, earning the status of a “sore loser.” Somehow (it’s never explained why) he has a second chance. He busts out his buddy Mike (the Prince-look-alike) and hooks up with psychopathic Kerine (Divine Junior).

Blackie realizes that any kills done by his buddies counts towards his total. However, Kerine screws up and kills both her parents (when he only needed one more kill, after a strange magazine inflicted death of a store keeper) and he may be trapped on Earth.

However, this sore loser has the chance to “take back” the 13th death by killing somebody the elders choose. But they gotta bring Kerine’s loathed mother’s corpse along with them until they snag their last death…which turns out to be Mike’s love interest Goliatha who has no attention span but has the strength to lift a motorcycle over her head.

However! The Men in Black (guitar noise rock group Guitar Wolf) show up and take Goliatha and frame her for the sore losers crimes. Now, it’s a race against time to stop Goliatha’s execution and kill her (as Blackie must kill her himself).

YOU GOT ALL THAT?!

I only go into so much depth with this plot (something I probably won’t do again) to try to detail the insane and ridiculously intricate nature of this movie’s plot. I swear to Goliatha, I’ve tried to watch this movie a solid…10 times but I always lose track of what’s going on half way through and begin losing interest.

It’s usually when Guitar Wolf shows up and starts killing old farmers, who’s daughters turn into angels and banish the proud punk paranoid psychos.

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And Guitar Wolf as…themselves.

This movie is insanely ambitious and insanely low budgeted: there are scenes of severe “under dubbing” (as my friend Jeff “dubbed” it) wherein all sounds from the scene drop out while two characters talk. Film stock (they used film! My God!) suddenly becomes drastically, drastically poor.

Nobody can act. The dialogue is sub-Tarantino (if Tarantino was trying to write like Troy Duffy) and filled with dozens of fan service scenes of nudity.

I can’t even begin to explain half of the insane, pretentious shit that happens in this movie. I already mentioned the angel. Well, there’s another scene where Kerine and some random girl just start…having sex with each other. On top of Kerine’s mother’s corpse.

Intense close ups. Looped laughter. Lines like “I don’t do it for the money…I do it for the kicks!” as well as the worst hippie impersonation you’ve ever seen. Say hello to an immortal nurse from the 50’s with double D’s and punk rock tattoos and mascara! She is chocked to death for no good reason. The mother’s corpse screams random insanity and somehow causes the city to blow up at the end of the movie simply by screaming (SPOILER ALERT!).

So yeah, it’s stupid. Incredibly stupid. It’s technically inept, poorly scripted, ridiculously acted and a failure on all levels…but is it fun?

This is a tougher question to answer. The first…half of the movie is definitely a lot of fun. The whole opening scene which introduces Blackie with the worst CGI this side of “Feeders” features a hilarious monologue that describes the basic plot and ends with the line “get away with murder!” echoed a dozen times.

Blackie walks into the shittiest gas station ever, where a weird old man strums an acoustic guitar and sings a sad folk song. Blackie kills the gas station owner by shoving a magazine in his mouth (ostensibly because he had no “Tales from the Crypt” comics). The old man playing guitar just keeps on playing.

Suddenly, Goliatha is sitting on the counter but she “don’t remember nothing” as her attention span is shot. That’s a plot point, by the way. In fact, just about every other half mumbled non-sequitor in this movie somehow becomes a plot point.

Blackie and Kerine fall in love after almost running each other off the road and taking pot shots at each other.

Guitar Wolf attacks by shooting lens flares at everybody. Blackie receives regular visits from “An Elder” (Florida exploitation God David Friedman) who smokes a cigar, cackles and tries to explain the plot some more.

Everybody goes to a carnival where Blackie explains to Mike that they gotta kill Goliatha. Mike doesn’t like that so they run away but Guitar Wolf takes her and…fakes her death? And then frames her for it?!

On Goliatha’s execution day, Kerine seems to simply waltz into her execution chamber (in a leather bondage suit for no reason) and gets into a fist fight with her. While the execution is taking place. Both die, as the governor frantically pleads over the phone to stop the execution.

Somewhere off screen, a heroin dealer ties off the director’s arm and gives him his daily dose of “inspiration.” Hell, the director probably paid him back by putting him in the movie (my guess is that that’s him underneath the horrendous “old lady” make up on Kerine’s mother).

If it sounds fun that’s only because it is but only in fits and spurts. There are a few amazing D-movie level scenes (such as the scene where Goliatha picks up her motorbike in front of a green screen THAT HAS NO IMAGE PROJECTED ON IT!) but there are also too many slow moments and way too much explaining.

Sore-Losers-The_39

Yes that’s a green screen. No nothing is projected onto it. Think this scene looks sexy? Wait till you see how awkward it truly is…

That’s the essential problem with this movie: they wanted to make a trashy, fun, exploitation flick but they delve into too many moments of intensely pretentious insanity. The plot is way too convoluted and confusing to work (my plot description only touched a portion of what happened in this movie) and having characters stop and talk about it for 10 minutes at a time only makes things worth.

After all, you can’t watch Guitar Wolf shoot lasers out of their eyes (or admire the rather sexy Goliatha) if you fall asleep listening to Blackie and Mike babble on about blood transfusions and the Lo-Fi Frequency or how certain kills don’t “count” for weird and not previously established reasons.

But I can honestly say I’ve never seen a movie like this in my life (it’s way too weird to be counted in among the usual “post-Tarantino” waste bin) and I’m definitely glad I own it…I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to finish the damn thing.

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“Calling All Stations” by Genesis… an Entry in the Inexplicable Album Series

Edwin is focused on his site for the day and didn’t want to rush anything so he won’t be posting today. Good thing I had a few articles in the backlog, including this look at what I’ve always considered a rather great example of an Inexplicable Album as it’s shockingly and irredeemably awful…read on to find out why, kiddies!

DARK! And mysterious…ooooh! Calling all angsty teenagers!

After listening to thousands of albums in my life, I’ve discovered a listening event I call the “Good Album First” effect.

This occurs when you listen to a band’s best albums first and then move on to their “other” stuff. The “other” stuff usually ends up being a huge disappointment, even if its high quality in and of itself.

For example, I listened to the Cars debut album and I couldn’t get enough. It was diverse, well written, engagingly arranged and surprisingly lyrically apt.

Then I listened to “Candy O.” And “Shake It Up.” And “Heartbeat City.” They were hugely disappointing to me at first. Although I’ve learned to enjoy just about every album by the Cars, I’ve never listened to one I enjoy as much as their first.

I mention this effect because many fans often call out other listeners that they believe are suffering under this “delusion.”

“If you wouldn’t have heard ‘Pet Sounds’ first, you’d think ‘Carl and the Passions-So Tough’ was amazing!” they might say, or “Come on yeah sure, compared to ‘Sgt. Pepper’ it might be weak, but ‘Help!’ is still a kicking album!”

I have made very similar arguments from time to time and I understand the draw of such a simplistic and  impossible to dispute (logically) argument.

But here’s what makes that particular argument so insidious: by claiming somebody doesn’t appreciate something because it doesn’t meet their expectations, you are , in essence, arguing that they are closed minded. And how can you disprove being closed minded? By getting angry and defensive and looking like the asshole while the TRUE asshole gets all the girls for defending shitty albums.

Why do I bring up this contentious argument? Because it’s an argument I’ve often run into from certain (rather delusional) Genesis fans regarding their last (and likely to stay that way) album “Calling All Stations.”

“Come on man! You just heard ‘Foxtrot’ first so you think it’s the best thing ever. If this album was by another band, you’d love it. It’s dark, moody, mysterious and oh so ‘arty’ after all the pop crap of the Phil Collins era!”

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell all “Calling All Shit-Stains” defenders to “fuck off” for that argument: this album, objectively (from my point of view) and in fact quite subjectively (almost mathematically) is not only the worst album produced by Genesis but may be one of the worst albums ever made.

Short, short Genesis history: weird prog band with Peter Gabriel loses Peter Gabriel and makes synth pop music to make it big. Phil Collins was their drummer and singer for the pop period and he had his own crappy solo career.

Collins left in 1996 after the simultaneous success of the “We Can’t Dance” Genesis album and his “But Seriously…” solo album in and around 1991.

Do you get the humor of Phil’s timing fully? I mean, the guy left the band to “further his solo career” right when it was at the point of complete implosion and just moments before the guy became a decades long running joke. But hey, even if Phil did make crappy Disney soundtracks…he never made this album. So he still comes out smelling like roses in the metaphorical pile of shit.

A hot new alternative rock band? Or a past their prime pop band desperately posing with an annoying scab?

All right that’s enough stalling: let’s get started.

Here’s a fascinating yet true fact: one second into the album is all it takes for you to know it’s going to second. Seriously. One second into the opening title track is all it takes.  Don’t believe me?

Calling All Stations!

I was right wasn’t I? The second that stupid dive bomb heavy metal guitar riff comes in your toes curled a little didn’t they? And then the stupid, unimaginative and plodding drum beat started giving you bad flashbacks to early Van Halen moments before Tony Bank’s cheese ball keyboards jumped in to remind you of his…mixed history of success with picking tasteful, non-shitty keyboard tones.

And then the ringer…I’m sorry, I mean SINGER…Ray Wilson starts bleating in and you simultaneously feel intense anger and pity for Genesis.

You see, before the release of this album, they billed Wilson as a second coming of Peter Gabriel. There’s…a very, very small grain of truth to that. Basically, Wilson is rather raspy. Or “smokey” or perhaps even “dramatic.” Kinda like Gabriel.

That “kinda” is the smallest and least honest “kinda” you’ve ever heard in your life.  Kinda like the “kinda” you whisper when your mom asks you if you’re smoking pot again.

Wilson gets only minor blame for this album:  all the music on the album is written by Banks and Rutherford. Wilson doesn’t even write the lyrics as the album was written and partially recorded before he joined. The band planned on integrating his creative input on a second album that never came to be due to the mass of either outright indifference or rage at this album. Thank heavens.

But then again, pity kicks in because you know part of them probably really believed that Wilson was something like a return to Gabriel. Sure, he lacks Gabriel’s sense of humor, raw power, songwriting talent, stage presence, charisma, sense of theatricality, enunciation, diversity, and…well…

Okay he’s nothing like Peter Gabriel. They were fools for trying to pull that one off.

Tea time…

Everything on the album is just DRAINING. Everything’s mid tempo…all the guitar tones are HEAVY (or blandly acoustic)…the drum beats are leaden and boring (there are two drummers on this album and you can’t tell them apart)…Ray whines out high school poetry level lyrics…the phrase “take me to the Congo, I’m free to leave” is crooned…and the album is long, I swear to fuck, it feels longer than listening to “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” (a double disc album)  two times in a row.

The band seemingly went out of its way to alienate fans. They do everything wrong on this album. They wrote awful music and dressed it up in preposterous “dark” tones to make it “arty” in a misguided attempt to get back to their roots. They hired some bland dude and proclaimed him Gabriel. They eliminated all senses of pop sensibility, something present on EVERY Genesis album up to this point, including their darkest prog nightmares, to politely alienate all their pop fans.

They even refused to let Chester Thompson, their long standing live drummer, participate. I want to reiterate that: Thompson, excited about the possibility of being the band’s studio drummer and participating in songwriting and arranging, was turned down by the band.

Chester. Fucking. Thompson. Do you know that Chester Thompson used to drum with Frank Zappa during his most musically complex period? Or that Thompson played drums for (in)famous fusion band “Weather Report”? Or that he dedicated nearly 20 years of his life touring with a band that ultimately asked him to play little more than crude 4/4 beats to mimic Collins’ pop drumming style?

And they turned him down. They wanted a “fresh new start.” A “fresh new aneurysm” is more like it. I respect Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford a lot. They wrote a ton of great music for Genesis (in fact, they ultimately ended up writing more music for Genesis than anybody else) and helped steer the band through rocky periods of musical and personal changes to become one of the biggest bands in the world.

But when you turn down Chester Thompson (who actually would have been wasted on material this mundane) for two no-name hacks, I lose a little bit of respect. Not a lot. But enough.

I realize I didn’t talk about very many songs. In fact, I only talked about one. That’s enough. Seriously…one second…and you know you’re in trouble.

“Space Ritual” by Hawkwind

Okay, so here’s an update on the “Savage Hippie” situation: I know I promised that I would have some Hawkwind reviews from Edwin for Thursday but Edwin wrote such a HUGE volume of reviews that it didn’t seem right for me to hoard them for my site. I encouraged him to start his own blog, which you can find here. He will still contribute on Wednesdays but his main focus will be on his own site.

YES!

I mention this to avoid any confusion you may have felt over a lack of reviews and to also apologize to Edwin: I’m somewhat stepping on his toes here by reviewing a Hawkwind album.

But it’s only one album and its the one Hawkwind album I know well as its the only Hawkwind album I own: their first (double) live album and perennial fan favorite “Space Ritual.”

Hawkwind is a band that revels in complete and utter b-level cheesiness: they’re a lot like watching a Roger Corman movie. It’s cheaply made, goofily written and presented and absolutely hilarious.

But, like Corman at his best, there is actual love for the art and actual care taken into the presentation to make it as entertaining and sometimes as “deep” and “artistic” as possible.

To extend the Corman metaphor to its fullest, “Space Ritual” is Hawkwind’s “Fall of the House of Usher.” It’s the band’s peak album that shows off their full potential in a way that they could never possibly top, not even with lame sequels.

Hawkwind’s first three albums were definitely not bad: their first was kind of a hippie jam band thing while the second and third coalesced around the idea of repetitive cosmic metal. However, somewhat crude production values and the occasional acoustic guitar sapped some of the albums of their power.

Don’t get me wrong: I love acoustic guitar. I think it’s a great instrument that is somewhat under utilized or utilized poorly. And Dave Brock (guitar player for Hawkwind) is a solid enough guitar player and songwriter that his could pull off a slower, more ballad oriented song.

But Dave is endlessly more fascinating on distorted, electric guitar. And Hawkwind is at their best bashing out simple but catchy riffs while throwing endless bloops, bleeps, saxophone wails and wild bass from Lemmy.

Ah, Lemmy. What more can you say about the man? I am not the biggest Motorhead fan but I adore the man as an image and as a human being and songwriter. He seems completely down to Earth and normal in a way you don’t get from a lot of heavy metal superstars. And his bass playing gives this album a rock solid beat  from beginning to end.

The most important aspect of this album is its conceptual nature: it’s supposed to represent some sort of trip through space or a…space ritual, if you will, and as such it is to represent a whole sum of the space travel experience.

Did I mention Hawkwind had an over six foot tall exotic dancer who performed with them, often completely nude and painted with wild symbols, interpreting their music through dancer? This was the cleanest image of her I could find.

To that end, they chuck on a lot of weird sonic collages, monologues, weird poems and endless levels of personal insanity from Robert Calvert, part time singer and lyricist and complete lunatic.

I won’t go into great detail on Calvert but he is a complete believer of his sci-fi gibberish and he delivers it with so much conviction it’s kinda scary.

Yes, these monologues and lyrics are sometimes completely inane “in the fifth second of forever…this is what to do during a SONIC ATTACK” etc but they don’t strike me as banal as Graeme Edge’s poems from the Moody Blues albums.

They’re not examples of great poetry. There’s not even examples of “good” poetry. Hell, they’re not even examples of good “rock” poetry. But they’re delivered with such firm seriousness that you start to fall for their charm in spite of their lunacy.

Most importantly, these interludes tear the album from the reigns of a typical live album and create an atmosphere that the band never really replicated on any other album. The album truly FEELS like a space ritual (whatever that means) and it wouldn’t really have that feel without the insanity of Calvert.

The songs on the album are a mix of old and new. The band smartly arranges the old songs with the new in a way that feels natural and helps the album feel more conceptual. Starting with the old chestnut “Born to Go” was a great idea: it feels like the perfect song to launch a space flight. Brock and Lemmy lock into a tight, distorted groove as the drummer bashes about and the “extra” players layer on the sonic “extras” that give Hawkwind a little extra “spark.”

This album contains the first Hawkwind song I ever heard, “Orgone Accumulator” and it remains, for me, the definitive Hawkwind experience. It mixes everything that’s great and goofy about the band in nearly equal measure and is simply a lot of fun.

The track starts out with some sort of synthesizer/oscillator noise that sounds completely dirty and odd, as if it was farting or burping. Awesome. Brock starts playing a simple three chord riff while Lemmy jumps in line behind him. The drums kick in and instantly create a trance-atmosphere.

Calvert then starts singing…and its glorious.

“I got an orgone accumulator…and it makes me feel greater…I’ll see you sometime later…when I’m through with my accumulator…it’s no social integrator…it’s a one man isolator…it’s a back brain stimulator…it’s a cerebral vibrator…”

By the way, an “orgone accumulator” is a device that allegedly collected “orgone energy” from the atmosphere and gathered it in your brain. You wore a kind of hat connected to wires. It was supposed to bring you a new sense of focus, new positive energy and was the invention of a new age nut job.

So yes. It’s obviously a “cerebral vibrator.” And yes, a “back brain stimulator.”

An orgone accumulator. Does it look like he’s feeling greater?

Which is awesome, but not as awesome as the series of saxophone, guitar, bass, and synthesizer solos that follow Calvert’s awesomely catchy vocal renditions of the lyrics. Brock is no pro: he throws on tons of distortion and special effects to match his somewhat limited technique. But somehow his endless wah-wah solos transcend his limitations to become trance enducing.

I don’t know how he does it. I also don’t know how Lemmy gets such an amazing bass sound and I don’t understand how a drummer playing the same simple beat and simple fills could sound so perfect for 10 minutes.

But he does. The only drummer who can play one beat for an entire song and make it a thrilling masterpiece of drumming economy is,  Can’s Jaki Liebezeit but Hawkwind’s drummer…I was going to say “comes close” but no. He doesn’t.

Look: Hawkwind is obviously a second and perhaps even third tier band as far as social import, impact and pure songwriting goes. But there’s just something about what they do that works in spite of the simplicity of it. Nobody is a super pro on their instrument (though Lemmy continues to show great chops) and the whole atmosphere reeks of cheap thrills, bubblegum and buttery popcorn.

But do we always have to be so serious? Yes, most of the time, you’ll want pure poetry (Bob Dylan) psychological thrills (Peter Gabriel) or even pure, incoherent rage (PJ Harvey at her best) in your lyrics.

Sometimes, however, you just need to watch “Godzilla Vs. Biolante” while chugging seven or eight beers and laughing your ass off. Sometimes, you need a bunch of drug addled lunatics trying to take you on a diverse, mind blowing space journey without once changing the time signature.

That’s where Hawkwind come in and why “Space Ritual” is perhaps the greatest musical b-movie style thrill ride you’ll ever experience.

Dispatches from Chaos: Cage the Elephant Discography Review

A Cage the Elephant “Discography” review

Written exclusively for the Culture Fusion Review Blog

by Sean M. Hebner

3 ½ whosawhatsits of 5

Cage the WHAT?!

So think of two genera’s that don’t really mix; for example, Post-Punk and Psychedelic rock. Then now that you’ve mixed them …put them is the SAME song. Am I referring to some obscure underground 70’s band or 80’s band? Nope. Now take the same band, and write a slide guitar driven pop rock song with folk/rap like delivery. Are you getting warmer? Believe it or not that song I just described you’ve heard if you listen to college radio. OHHH! I hear you say out loud! That SONG that was also in that hit videogame! What the HELL is the name of that band!?! Elephant…something? Sure is! Cage the Elephant is a rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky and they cross pop genera’s as often as Queen would have; provided that Queen was primarily influenced by The Pixies and being locked in some cabins in the hills of Kentucky.

So if you go and look for what to even call this band as far as genera’s are concerned, you will find the internet hard pressed to find a consistent definition of their music. Let us state for the record that I consider them “indie-rock” and will leave it with that. The reason for this is that an indie-rock band can look like “The Lumineers” or “Muse” so the definition can even be stretched to “Slayer” if you squint a little. Especially when we touch on their second effort, it sounds quite different from their first and this is not a bad thing.

So let’s look at this first album. If Dr. Who were to be translated into music, First it would be the obvious “Caught somewhere in time” by Iron Maiden (my personal favorite maiden album for anyone who cares) second (to represent is SECOND HEART HAHAHAAHAH …ok) would be Cage the Elephant’s self-titled. They are in a constant state of temporal flux. Bouncing from one dead genera to another; sometimes in the same song.

http://www.blastr.com/sites/blastr/files/styles/content_panes_media/public/images/ChristopherEccleston9thDoctor123.jpg?itok=W8UNEPVw

*caught SOME WERE IN TIIIIMMMEEE! While there ain’t no rest for the wicked*

 They seriously will sound like The Pixies one minute then T rex the next; it’s both awesome and thought provoking at the same time.

I must say that I heard “Ain’t no rest for the wicked” on Borderlands and fell in love with the song. I find it funny how much that song fits the game with as tongue-in-cheek seriousness of the song. The game is far from serious but the tone of the song gives a great vibe with which to play the game.

I started on their second album so I was taken a back with how “normal” compared to the second this one is. But it’s by no means normal. Like I’ve been saying this whole review, it’s all over the map. But unlike its successor (which I’ll review next) is much more diverse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUo9GI0b2lM

(Here chew on this track)

Seriously listen to that…from post-punk to psychedelic!! This is a good solid album and I’d give it a higher arbitrary designation but it’s too accessible. Wow, I just realized they are following a similar arch to Mr. Bungle. I just hope they don’t fizzle out at three albums (which they are recording as of this review). There is a lot to love about this album. It starts off like a slow fused stick of dynamite and explodes. Ironically the first track “in one ear” addresses my complaints about the album and how little they care about reviews and complaints about their album.

Cage the Elephant’s self titled is NSFW so if you like this, AND YOU SHOULD LIKE THIS, you can’t play just anywhere. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews. Lyrics don’t make or break an album for me. I am a “practicing” Atheist and the lyrics to Cage the Elephant’s songs tend to have a Christian/ religious undertones. Those lyrics will give points with some and remove points from others. DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE! Cage the Elephant is TOO FUCKING GOOD to let a little thing like GOD get in the way. Not to mention that the references to faith are fairly well hidden unless you actually pay attention you won’t notice.

I wouldn’t really praise the lyrics of Cage the Elephant as clever so much as blunt. Going back to “in one ear” every lyric is a blunt stab at Haters. That trend continues well into the second album. My wife pointed out that “ain’t no rest for the wicked” was all clichés and some of lyrics to other songs are straight up stereo types. Effective is the best word I can think of to describe the lyrics of Cage the Elephant. Other than the previously mentioned GOD thing, the band probably doesn’t WANT to hide its meanings very much. In a generation of Ironic music, this is a legitimate breath of fresh air.

So over all, as far as first efforts go I’ll say this one is a winner. Every complaint I have about it is minor and overlookable based on the quality of the music and musicianship. I’m left with an overall good feeling and an entertained sense of being. Overall I recommend that you go out and buy this album. Unless your taste in music doesn’t allow for a chance at Cage the Elephant. Then in self-title’s case you aren’t missing THAT much. More on that next review.

Songs you should look up: James brown, Ain’t no rest for the wicked, the whole album