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Head Out On The Highway
3 Out Of 5 Stars

I'm one of the fans of Fountains of Wayne that grew into the band backwards, tricked into loving them by the fact that "Stacy's Mom" was such a ridiculous earworm that I had to have "Welcome Interstate Managers." Then I went to "Traffic and Weather," which I loved just about as much. Then it was time to go to the beginning and get albums one and two. Adam Schlesinger, Chris Collingwood and company have what almost every power pop wannanbe band in the world aspires to, and that is an uncanny ability to craft songs that sound recognizable on the first listen, even if you think it was by somebody else originally.

So why only three stars for "Utopia Parkway?" Well, despite the fact that the debut was classic almost from the first note, here FoW fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. You know the one where you have all your life to write the first album and 8 months to come up with the second? That's what "Utopia Parkway" sounds like to me. The influences are just a bit too obvious, the jokes a little too insider, and the songs just short of flawless. They still had more hooks that the proverbial tackle box, but there are themes on "Parkway" that they'd perfect in later albums. "Denise" sounds like it was the blueprint for "Traffic and Weather's" "Someone to Love," and "The Senator's Daughter" a warm-up for "Hackensack."

The band's penchant for checking off ironic references also doesn't make it past the obvious, like mentioning 38 Special in "Red Dragon Tattoo" or a certain contempt for the denizens of "The Valley Of Malls" (even with the killer guitar lick). I think this was the only time I listened to a Fountains Of Wayne album where I didn't instantly fall in love with everything there. Be that as it may, These guys love their pop conventions more than they sneer at them, which makes even the lesser of their records treats for power pop geeks like me. Even the mellow pop groove of "Sky Full Of Holes" 12 years later confirmed at just how brilliant Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood can be even when they coast. ("Sky Full Of Holes" was one of my favorite albums for 2011, I should add.) "Utopia Parkway" was just a minor pothole in a career that has seen more than its share of genius moments.

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Bedside Manner
4 Out Of 5 Stars

That 10cc started out as a houseband for a bubblegum production studio was obvious on their debut album, where each song was a parodic tribute to a style of pop that was produced so accurately that the thin line between satire and the real thing was all but invisible. By the time they got to their second album, 1974's "Sheet Music," they'd jumped the parody shark and landed on an entirely different animal. They weren't quite progressive rock, they weren't quite poptunes, and they still hadn't got the Monty Python out of their system. In other words, 10cc was a quintessentially British band with a wicked sense of humor mining their often brilliant songs.

Case in point are the album's opening salvos. "Wall Street Shuffle" came off as an album oriented rock song with a killer hook, big guitar riff and semi-serious lyric about the money hustling big shots. It's then followed by "The Worst Band In The World," which takes said band looking at itself from outside the fishbowl and unable to believe that they've conned the world into buying "a little piece of plastic with a whole." Or the faux reggae on "Hotel" that serves up an All-American Menu filled with "all American Men." Or the terrorist arms dealer at the end of the album during "Oh Effendi," who suddenly finds himself on the run when the goodies run out. As "Sheet Music" plays on, it's hard to decipher when the band is playing it straight or jamming their tongue into the collective cheek.

That's what makes 10cc so hard to pigeonhole here. Just when you start to tire of the jokes, you get struck by the beautiful "Old Wild Men" or the plane's-eye-view of an upcoming crash on "Clockwork Creep." (Which eventually grew up to become "I'm Mandy Fly Me" on "How Dare You.") Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme were still working as a unit (they would ultimately break into factions of Stewart/Gouldman and Godley/Creme), and they were willing to leave no stone unturned when it came to pop styles. "Sheet Music" may not be 10cc's best album, but it is far and away their most adventurous.


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The Love of Truth
4 Out Of 5 Stars

The new Pink album "The Truth About Love" is a funhouse of pure pop with a streak of sourness to it, Think Katy Perry's potty-mouthed sister, or maybe Joan Jett with considerably less attitude. Every song is a hookfilled manifesto that ruins its chance for mass appeal airplay without some serious re-work. Even the first single ("Blow Me One Last Kiss") had to get some substantial rerecording before it was ready for the radio. If you're adult enough to handle it, fine, but Mommy and Daddy might be disappointing if the kiddies get this version.

For the discerning pop ears, however, Pink still can't kick those pop-diva thrills. "Try" is a song of getting back up when life has you down, and the defiant "The Great Escape." The guests line up, like Lily Allen on the sarcastic "True Love" or Eminem on "Here Comes The Weekend." Best is the intimate duet with Nate Ruess of .Fun on "Just Give Me a Reason." Pink can hold her own with all the friends that came on board, but she's just as excitable on party tracks as "Slut Like You" or the deceptively perky cautionary tale "Walk Of Shame."

"The Truth About Love" is state of the art modern pop. Machine ready songwriting (on which Pink shares most of the credits) and sweet/sour disposition that reflects on modern relationships without getting too serious about it. Don't think too hard about it and you'll be rewarded. Over-think it and you'll miss the point; this is candyfloss with a sourball tucked in the middle. Let the sugar give you a buzz.


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Life A little Lesser on The Foodchain
3 Out Of 5 Stars

Tonio K had the familiar catch 22 of any artist who cuts a brilliant meisterwerk on the first try; where do we go from here? His second album (on a second label, Columibia dumped him after the incredible "Life In The Foodchain" and Arista picked him up for this) is in the same chaotic, angry but sardonic style of the debut but without the shock and awe that the debut brought forth.

After all, when you've written perhaps the greatest all time Eff-Off song ("H-A-T-R-E-D") to close your debut, the closest match you have is the one here called "Go Away," well, the new one seems almost polite by comparison. The punk-frantic "One Big Happy Family" tries to see the ties that un-bind (and it's darn good at it), but the title song of "Foodchain" said it better and with more of a boogie attitude. The real kicker here is the dour but rocking "Trouble," complete with a police siren guitar riff and apocalypic lyrics.

Which is not to say that "Amerika" is a poor album. By any other standards, it's a barn burner. The ultimate in teenaged death songs is here by route of "The Night Fast Rodney Went Crazy," sending all others into pretenderland. Then there's "Merzsuite," a three part Dada-ispired collision where, as the liner notes said, Tonio was doing a take on a play where on the stage was an entire liferunning its course; nothing happens but ultimately everything happens, and then culminates with the everyone chanting 'futt futt futt' as the band spatters cacophony all around each other.

"Amerika" may have been subtitled "Cars Guitars and Teenaged Violence," and it lives up to that moniker. (The original title, "Too Cool To Be A Chistian" is rumoured to be what got him the boot from CBS, but is just as likely a title as "Amerika" would be.) Yet let's not confuse the titles with the facts. Tonio had a mild sophomore slump with this platter, but for an album originally released in 1980, it's got plenty of bite for a 32 year old.

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Seas of Sleeveless T-Shirts
3 Out Of 5 Stars

Cheesy, Sleazy and Tongue in cheekily, The Darkness make their return with their third CD, "Hot Cakes." (No, not the Carly Simon album from 1974...). From the pseudo-seventies sexism of the cover art to the glammy Queen-sized vocals and AC/DC guitar chunks, they sounds like they've not missed a beat since "One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back." They're half hard rock tribute and half inside joke, with the terrific part that Justin Hawkins knows that they can rock as hard as they wannabe and that they're 100% cool with being in on the joke.

Take the opening track, "Every Inch of You." Telling a semi-autobiographical tale of a "English man with a very high voice" who discovers Led Zepplin who went from "loser" to the man for whom all audience members want to suck in a protruding body part...wailed in that very high voice. Then you get the total Queen ripoff, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us" and the Angus slamming guitars of "Everybody Have a Good Time." Derivative stuff all, and every inch of it pure fun. Even the hoary power ballads come off with a wink. The Darkness are smart enough to know that they possess about as much menace as a litter of puppies and subtlety of any given British Tabloid.

It's that they have this much obvious glee in doing what they do that makes them so likeable. "Hot Cakes" won't break any new ground, but don't let that stop you. I'd take the self-informed fun of The Darkness over the parodied self importance of a cookie-monster vocal-led rock band any day of the week.


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Maybe the best Musical Satire in History?
4 Out Of 5 Stars

In 1978, NBC foisted this special television event on America when they debuted "The Rutles' All You Need Is Cash" mockumentary. Parody documentaries were still in their infancy at the time, and The Rutles were the brainchild of one Python (Eric Idle) a Bonzo Dog (Neil Innes) and others not only spoofed the legacy of Beatles performances, they made impeccable variants on the Fab Four's music. There were inside jokes everywhere in the TV show, down to George Harrison playing a reporter, Mick Jagger and Paul Simon giving mock interviews, and assorted takes on the foibles the Beatles themsleves faced through their career.

But it's the music that matters on this CD. An expansion of the original LP (time constraints left some of the songs of the original album), every song here directly references multiple Beatles songs and the entire beat period (some of these could be lost Merseybeat singles from unknown bands, the quality is that high.) Some, like "Ouch's" take on "Help" or "Piggy In The Middle" copping "I Am The Walrus" are obvious, while others are just brilliant songs on their own, like the "Twist and Shout" contortion that becomes "Number One."

More to the point, Innes is a perfect Lennon imitator, while Rikki Fatar does Harrison's bits staggeringly well. Sometimes the bite is too deep ("Cheese and Onions" takes a poke at Yoko, while "Piggy In The Middle" has a potty joke that loses it's impact after repeated listenings), but all can be forgiving by the humor of "Ouch" or the impeccable takes on "Doubleback Alley" ("Penny lane/Strawberry Fields") and "Get Up And Go" ("Get Back"). Lorne Michaels oversaw the whole deal, and 30 plus years on, it can still elicit a smile. Bear in mind that it took another six years before anything even comparable entered the musical spoof world - aka Spinal Tap - and you get the idea just how effective Innes and Idle's Rutles work here was and remains.


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More Songs about Cars and Girls. And Meteorology
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Fountains of Wayne's Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger are big fans of flipping the big box of Pop Conventions and seeing what tumbles out, and with "Traffic And Weather," they go for those two big standards of pop-tunery, Cars and Girls. You'll find a prominent vehicle or woman in every one of these songs but one (and it happens to be the album's worst), often to great, humorous affect. Be it Seth and Beth is the punchy opener "Someone To Love" or the set of displaced goofballs playing a game of town-to-town hopscotch on "New Routine," it's all about the people and the motion.

If you're willing to extend the metaphor a bit and allow yourself to change "cars" for any form of transport, then the theme still applies. The wistful final song "Seatbacks and Traytables" is about the traveling musician losing track of where he is as the road wears on. While we're at it, there's the weather of the album's title. Just about every song here has some kind of storming moment, like the bucketing rain in "Hotel Majestic" or the country-pop of "Fire in The Canyon's" the rain on the plains. It's the title song itself that works absolutely the best, as the News Anchor finally caves in to his desire for his Co-Anchor and makes his move to a slinky funk track.

However, this is the first FoW album I've bothered skipping tacks on. "Michael and Heather At The Baggage Claim" is too forced of a song to hold up to repeated listening. It sounds like a throwaway from a band that has never done one before. Then there's the "Planet Of Weed." If you're writing a song that sounds like a couple of freshman stoners wrote if after partying too hard, there's a good chance you should leave it off your album. But there it sits, stinking up the CD like week old bong water. It sounds even worse when you compare it to the brilliant "New Routine" that comes right after, which opens with a rhyme of diner to Carl Reiner. Or the line in "I-95" about the fading radio station that now sounds like "a kick-drum filled with static."

That's why I'm willing to forgive "Traffic and Weather" its lone super-dud. Even more so because lazy-radio corporation bean counters couldn't risk giving "Stacy's Mom" the worthy chart follow-up of the title song or "Someone To Love." Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger waited another four years to let out the excellent "Sky Full Of Holes," which pulled back a bit but is just as delightful, and has their most emotional song ever on it, "Cemetery Guns." As an FoW fan, I recommend both.


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I got mentioned on! (Or at least my book does.)
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VIRGINIA BEACH (The Borowitz Report) – Evangelist Pat Robertson sparked controversy in today’s broadcast of his 700 Club program by saying that yesterday’s mild East Coast earthquake was God’s revenge on people “who act kind of gay. All across the Eastern seaboard, there are men who get manicures, wear designer eyewear and know about thread counts,” claims Rev. Robertson. “God finds this somewhat gay-like behavior confusing, and He responded by getting mildly peeved.”

The televangelist warned that if Americans persist in their “seemingly sort-of-gay behavior,” the country should brace itself for additional ambiguous acts of retaliation from the Almighty. “God will strike back at people who act sort of gay with all kinds of mild responses,” he said. “If you keep getting pedicures and facials, you can expect two to three inches of rain and some really hot humid days in your future.”

Rev. Robertson said that New Yorkers who reacted in an over-the-top way to yesterday’s temblor “run the risk of moderately annoying the Heavenly Father yet again.”

“God looks at people who get their panties in a twist after a little shaking, and He says to Himself, ‘Wow, that’s really kind of gay,’” he said.
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The Book of MormonI Can't Believe Jesus Just Called me a D**k!
5 Out of 5 Stars

 I recently saw an article that asked a hypothetical question: Given the choice between two new musicals, one written by two of the world's biggest rock stars about one of the most beloved Marvel Comic characters, and and the other a satirical look at religion as viewed through two dim-witted Mormons written by the creators of the potty-mouthed Comedy Central hit South Park, which would you have bet on to succeed? As history has proven, the U2 penned mega-bucks "Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark" is fighting for its life, while Trey Parker and Matt Stone with Andrew Lopez of "Avenue Q" fame, "The Book of Mormon" has emerged as the phenomenon.

A lot has to do with the gently and honestly affectionate take on musicals along with the hilarious, brutally honest and viscous pounding it gives to organized religion. There are nods and direct parodies of musicals from "The Lion King," "The Music Man," "Hair," "Rent" (a previous Parker/Stone target in "Team America") and Disney Movies. Once Elder Price (Andrew Rannells) and Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) find themselves cast off to Uganda, they soon find themselves over their heads with Warlords, a population ravaged in famine and AIDS, and a beautiful village woman (Tony winner Nikki M. James). It's crass, offensive, takes no prisoners and will likely offend everyone at least once during the course of the 16 songs.

Yet there are times when "The Book of Mormon" is sweetly fun (James' "Sal Tlay Ka Siti") or heroic "I Believe" (Rannels' show-stopping ballad) or even gut-bustingly hysterical ("Baptize Me"). While some say it is affectionate to religion, frankly, that is one thing I don't get from it. "The Book of Mormon" wastes no effort at hammering at religious hypocrisy, especially the climactic "Joseph Smith American Moses." On the other hand, where else could you hear Jesus, Yoda, Hobbits, Holy Frogs, Star Wars and The Lion King all boiled down to this kins of syrup? I predict that a million other parodic and scatological musicals will now attempt to launch, but none will be anywhere near as glorious as "The Book of Mormon."

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Catch Me If You Can Priscilla: Queen of the Desert Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark Wicked (2003 Original Broadway Cast) Avenue Q (2003 Original Broadway Cast)
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Alpocalypse (Deluxe Version) [+Video] [+Digital Booklet]Pa-Pa-Polkaface
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Whenever Weird Al manages to capture the current pop zeitgeist, he can be counted on to make a brilliant song or two per album. When he tackled Michael Jackson at his best, he created two of the most incredible parodies of the 80's with "Eat It" and "Fat." Then there was "White and Nerdy." And now, thanks to Lady Gaga, he's back in a big way. From the goof on gath of the cover to the ever-present pop-polka medley, "Alpocalypse" shows once more why Weird Al Yankovic has remained the the eminent musical comedian/parodist of the last three decades.

The hits to duds ratio is about equal, and the standouts are gutbusters. Most importantly is the tackling of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" into "Perform This Way," which not only parodies the song but the artist (something Al rarely does). The video also neatly ties Al's timelines together, skewering Madonna (another frequent Al target) and Gaga at the same time. At the same time, Al reimagines Jim Morrison as an upset user of "Craigslist" and Charles Nelson Reilly as the topic of a Racountours/Jack White guitar crusher. Technology also takes it on the chin, as "Ringtone" evokes "my wife to smash my I-Phone with a brick...but I hate to waste a $1.99" over his obnoxious cell tones.

Another eason why Al is a genius is how the man can write a parody of almost any genre. He ricochets from Bruno Mars to Miley Cyrus to The Doors to Queen. Often the originals take on all at once. Of the originals, my favorite is the finale, "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me," a tirade against stupid emails set to a gorgeous melody. Like one of those massively building Jim Steinman songs, Al begs and pleads...

I just can't believe you believe those urban legends.
But I have high hopes that someone will point you toward Snopes
And debunk that crazy junk you're spewing constantly.

On the smiley meter, 4 and a half teeth. This man deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.

The Essential 3.0 Weird Al Yankovic  Straight Outta Lynwood The Weird Al Show - The Complete Series Weird Al Yankovic - The Ultimate Video Collection Off the Deep End Dare to Be Stupid
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Swiped from [info]theoctothorpe

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Thanks BJ

Click through this, then click the squares.


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