Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Track of the Week: Steve Miller Band - The Joker

You know this song.  Even if you’d prefer not to admit it, you LOVE this song.  The Joker has held up for decades as a staple of classic rock radio as well as a counterculture anthem thanks to its not-so-subtle drug references, slinky bassline, slackerish lyrics, and hazy slide guitar solo.  Hell, how many songs could lay claim to the very invention of a word!? (Pompatus of love…your guess is as good as mine)

Steve Miller (who is originally from Milwaukee and attended UW-Madison) started his “Steve Miller Blues Band” upon moving to San Francisco in the late-60s.  Musically he was influenced by several very different genres; from doo-wop to old school blues to British Invasion- but had a knack for combining all of them through his own personal style instead of subscribing to any one in particular.  Add in his laid back and fun-loving approach to songwriting and it isn’t hard to see the Steve Miller Band fitting right in with today’s recklessly genuine garage rock scene.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

King Tuff Premiers Raucous New Video for "Madness"

In anticipation of their upcoming US/Canada tour, King Tuff has released a brand new video for "Madness"- one of many standout tracks from last years glammed-out album Black Moon Spell.  The video admirably encompasses everything that King Tuff is about- which is to say it involves gleefully trashy rock n' roll, riotous live footage, batshit crazy fans, cheap beer flowing indiscriminately, and plenty of far-out camera angles and cartoonish visual effects.  Oh, and gorillas.  Lots of gorillas.

King Tuff will be taking their incomparably fun brand of garage/glam rock on the road throughout the US (plus Toronto) from late-March to mid-June.  Tour dates include back-to-back SOLD OUT shows at Chicago's Vic Theatre and First Ave in Minneapolis on April 3rd and 4th, respectively.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The World is Gonna Roll Me: A Review of Neil Cicierega's Mouth Sounds

It has been a while - far too long - since I’ve made a post on here, much less an album review.  To put things simply, I got myself caught in some kind of musical funk and hadn’t found anything that truly grabbed me with inspiration.  That is, until I stumbled upon this somewhat viral video of a bizarre karaoke performance:

Intrigued, I looked up this guy Neil Cicierega to listen to the original mashup.  Now, I was in a state of mind at the time that lends itself well to this type of thing…and my mind, frankly, was blown.  I immediately began playing his mashup album Mouth Sounds from the beginning, and for all intents and purposes spent the next hour or two mentally stumbling through the 90s on acid.  Even after I emerged, I proceeded to spend the ensuing weeks with Neil C’s music on repeat.  I was unable to find (or even fathom) anything to listen to that is as creative and continuously satisfying.

There are plenty of mashup artists that have been around longer and have achieved a much higher profile than Neil Cicierega.  While acts like Girl Talk and The Hood Internet are great at what they do, Neil takes a different approach.  A comedian and video artist by trade, with original music under the name Lemon Demon, he blends together not only different songs, but radio broadcasts, news snippets, samples from tv shows and jingles, and whatever else he can get his hands on into a surreal collage of pop culture.  In order to make everything fit into place, many of the samples themselves are and manipulated, oftentimes with jarring effect. 

If this isn't the face of a madman, I don't know what is

Mouth Sounds begins with the first words of Smash Mouth’s All Star manipulated into a number of MIDI samples and presented as an entirely new melody.  As the album unfolds like a fever dream, All Star, and Smash Mouth in general, become recurring motifs.  Cicierega manages to blend All Star with Modest Mouse’s hit Float On without any noticeable alterations to either song through both of their entireties, and later he blasphemously does the same with John Lennon’s Imagine- as heard in the near-viral karaoke video. 

Alongside the more straightforward mashups are several entirely new songs made up of handfuls of existing ones.  The surrealism comes in when C incorporates samples from movies and TV shows.  Through most of D'oh there are three or four different songs playing simultaneously- in addition to the voices of Homer Simpson, Austin Powers, and the theme song from the 90s cartoon Doug.  As we trudge arm in arm with Steve Harwell though the twisted pile of nostalgic sludge we are joined by the likes of Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis, Rob Thomas, and the Men in Black; among others- all in rapid-fire succession.  Meanwhile there are extended noisy interludes scattered throughout, one of which flowing into a dramatic rendition of the original viral joke Chocolate Rain (crossed with the “Tears in the Rain” speech from the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner).  At one point Mouth Sounds drops everything to play a sequence of seven or eight intro jingles from film production companies (Nickelodeon, 20th Century Fox, etc), for no apparent reason other than to further twist and skew our expectations of familiar sounds.  

All throughout the madness the album’s tracks refer back to each other, such as when the Full House theme song bursts in on You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette, a wink to the failed real-life relationship between Alanis and Dave Coulier (aka Uncle Joey) which inspired the song.  It’s this type of self-referential humor that gives the album a sense of cohesion and momentum beyond just being a bunch of bizarre concoctions.  

That said, abrasiveness is not something that Cicierega shies away from on Mouth Sounds.  Although in the end it is held up on the strength of it's execution and surprising catchiness, this is an album that gleefully offends and oftentimes revels in its own tastelessness.  You don't cross the undeniable artistic expression of Imagine with the comparatively vapid All Star without having a certain rogue sense of humor.   The genius lies in the way Cicierega finds to simply make it all work.  His fearless deconstruction of such classic works results in an entirely new creation- and dare I say an entirely new artistic statement?  

Take a listen below, or download the album for free via Neil's Website

Mouth Sounds Tracklist

01.  Promenade (Satellite Pictures at an Exhibition)
02.  Modest Mouth
03.  D'oh
04.  Vivid Memories Turn to Fantasies
05.  Bills Like Jean Spirit
06.  Full Mouth
07.  Alanis
08.  Imagine All Star People
09.  Imma Let it Be
10.  Daft Mouth
11.  Like Tears in Chocolate Rain
12.  No Credit Card
13.  Bega Interlude
14.  Melt Everyone
15.  The Sharpest Tool
16.  Mullet with Butterfly Wings
17.  Smooth Flow 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Matt's Favorite Horror Flicks; Part I

In a peculiar kind of way, the horror genre is sort of like the punk-rock of the movie world.  It began vaguely, on the outside edge of the medium, before crystalizing itself in the late 1970s.  Since then it has become an ever-growing umbrella genre, with a seemingly infinite amount of available methods of execution and niches to satisfy (or exploit).  It is a genre where anything goes.  There are no rules, and sometimes the more recklessly made, potentially offensive, and against-the-grain; the better a resulting product is.  There is an inherent aura of danger involved, and that is what makes them so damn much fun to experience.  

On that note, I decided to make this year's "Noisepaper Halloween Special" a series on my favorite films of the horror genre.  Not a particularly original concept, I know; but every movie included will be one that I hold strong feelings about that I have been dying (horror-themed pun unintended) to put into writing one way or another.  

This first installment features a trio of relatively old gems that seem to be lesser known among todays audience.  They have all aged incredibly well however, perhaps even reaching "timeless" status.  While not usually mentioned among the classics, as far as I'm concerned they are important landmarks in horror cinema.    


Re-Animator is a film based on an H.P. Lovecraft story originally written as a parody of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  If that doesn't set the stage for this gruesomely entertaining thrill-ride, the satirical take on Psycho's theme music that plays over the opening credits will. 

As noted by Robert Ebert, the film seems to thrive on the balance between director Stuart Gordon's desire to make a good film, and his simultaneous acknowledgement that a film about a mad scientist bringing back the dead is unlikely to be considered "good".  As the film builds momentum off of this tension, it finds its stylistic groove in comic book-esque, out-of-control sci-fi weirdness.  I like to describe this movie as either the scariest funny movie ever made, or the funniest scary movie ever made.  Although it maintains its horror spirt throughout- propelled by perpetually building intensity and gore, the whole story is shaded with a psychotically morbid, pitch-black sense of humor.  

Jacob's Ladder

I'm a sucker for movies dealing with dreams and delusions; where the story and images are presented through an unreliable lens in such a way that anything can happen and the viewer is left questioning whether anything is "real" or just imagined.  I have found very few films that succeed in creating such a palpable atmosphere of unease the way that Jacob's Ladder does.  

Jacob's Ladder places its protagonist (and in turn its audience) in a world shrouded in perpetual fog, where normal characters act vaguely "off" and fleeting glimpses of demonic creatures are made.  The plot navigates a disorienting network of flashbacks as our hero tries to make sense of it all, before all hell (quite literally) inevitably breaks loose.  For much of its runtime we are kept right at the brink of sanity, just as overcome by the unpredictable mystery as our main character is.  There are a few well-placed jump scares thrown in to keep the momentum, but the real terror lies in the constant feeling that something unspeakably scary is just about to happen.  When it finally does boil over with the infamous "hospital scene", the result is one of the most undeniably brilliant sequences in all of horror, and some of the most indelible nightmare fuel to be be found anywhere.  


In the post-fascist Italy of the late 1970s, a subgenre of horror emerged that has come to be known as Giallo-Horror.  Such films traditionally focus on an outsider protagonist becoming witness to some type of gruesome crime, and as a result finding themselves involved in a story of delusion, diabolical authority figures, Hitchcockian suspense, and violent bloodletting.  Among the most highly regarded of such films is Dario Argento's 1977 classic Suspiria.

Much like Jacob's LadderSuspiria creates a surreal atmospheric setting; in this case experienced from the perspective of a young American ballerina attending a mysterious dance academy in Germany.  Unlike Jacob's Ladder, Suspiria relies not on shadows and glimpses of disturbing imagery, but bright, gory, in-your-face terror.  The death scenes play out like works of art, the disembowelment of the ballet students choreographed like a ballet itself, with the surrealistically vibrant blood serving as the main set piece.  Despite a lacking storyline, the film maintains tension not only via graphic kills, but the bizarre intricacies of the setting itself, and the disorienting camera angles in which it is seen.  Add in the terrifying soundtrack by Italian progressive rock band Goblin, and this film is a work of art unlike any other. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Movie HYPE: Jersey Boys

For the first time since 1988's Bird, Clint Eastwood is at the helm of a blockbuster music-themed biopic.  This time the subject is the legendary pop group Four Seasons, and their inimitable frontman Frankie Valli.  Set in 1960s New Jersey and New York, the film looks to put just as much focus on the birth of the famed "Jersey Sound", as well as the mob activity that impacted it.  The first trailer for Jersey Boys was released last week, and it is definitely something worth keeping an eye one.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Noisepaper Approved Movie: Beach Balls (1988)

Beach Balls is a classic 1960's "beach party" film, via unmistakable late 80's excess. That is to say that it is chock full of scattershot plot, cartoonish characters, gratuitous nudity and profanity, and above all just plain fun in the sun. Not to mention the hair-metal soundtrack courtesy of fictional band 'Severed Head in a Bag'. This is the last movie you would use as the subject of a film analysis essay, but it certainly is an exhibition of camp done right- consistently entertaining with the perfect level of self-awareness. Beach Balls is tough to beat if you're looking for some mindless, lighthearted, good times.

Beach Balls is available on Netflix NOW

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Album of the Week: Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause

Kid Rock has since done a great job of creating and capitalizing on a caricature of himself-  but a decade before becoming everyone's favorite sellout rappin' redneck he burst onto the scene with an album that was undeniably groundbreaking.  For children of the 90s, this album simultaneously provided the most accessible initiation to heavy rock music as well as rap.  Perhaps it has since been filed into the "guilty pleasure" category; but upon revisitation, its better moments hold up surprisingly well.  

Devil Without a Cause was Kid Rock's last album to be labeled as hip-hop, but at its heart this thing is straight-up rock.  Courtesy of his backing 'Twisted Brown Trucker Band', Devil was a pioneering record in the late 90s rap/rock consolidation, and to this day stands out over its counterparts as a bright spot on the doomed genre.  The guitars here grind and squeal with the intensity of classic grunge and stoner metal, while the old-school drum sound makes for a unique yet fitting backbeat for the rapped verses.  

Which brings us to our centerpiece- Kid Rock's white-trash anthems, delivered aggressively with shameless self-awareness.  On this album he is still classifiable as a rapper, but makes no secrets of his country-fried values.  With Cowboy he predates many modern acts by seamlessly incorporating rap and hard rock into the now-familiar country music lyrical formula.  Even as he goes hard on the title track and I Am the Bullgod there is never any doubt that this guy is a proud redneck spitting strip-club ready jams with no fucks to be given.  Throughout the album you get the sense that he is on a collision course with fame, and he knows it.   Later in the album Only God Knows Why brings his country side to the forefront.  The unfortunate overuse of auto-tune has aged poorly to say the least, but beneath the dated production is a daring change of pace and hint of things to come; not to mention a great tune in general to bolster the album's lackluster second half.  

Kid Rock has, for better or worse, come a long way since this breakthrough album.  Like him or not, it is a testament to his talent as a musician that he has found ways to evolve and outlive his rap/rock and nu-metal counterparts.  Regardless of the act he has become, one can't deny that he has a knack for upbeat backcountry rock music, on display in its purest form on Devil Without a Cause.

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