Where the Wild Things Are

Posted in Music, Nerd on October 25th, 2009 by Tom

wildthingsI told Ian when I walked in the door:
“My love affair with Spike Jonze continues.”

Which about sums up this film.

If my brief comments about the film ring of defense, it’s because they were cast after reading Robert Butler’s (of the KC Star) review, in which his only main complaint about the film was that the characters were ‘whiny’. While I can see how someone might take that away from this film, I really have to disagree with that being the overall final judgment of the work.

My main thesis, and what I tell everyone about ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, is that the film is about children, but not necessarily for them. That is to say, while the subject matter is kids, it’s not a kids movie. I think maybe people don’t like the film as much because the narrative is too wandering, or perhaps even absent at some parts. There is no clear purpose to a good deal of what happens on the island where Max finds the Wild Things. While this is somewhat true, I think it’s also the point of the work.

In the almost gut-wrenching opening of the movie, we see Max and his interactions with his mother and sister, as well as other children. He’s not a bad kid, just one that gets into a fair bit of trouble. Through a few select events, we learn a good deal about how alone Max feels, with his angst-ridden sister and her typically jerky friends, as well as with his mother who’s juggling work, her family, and trying to date Mark Ruffalo. With his orbit about these people being only every so loosely bound, it takes only a small push to send Max running from them as fast as he can, literally.

The remainder of the film takes place on the island of the creatures, and here is where it seems to ‘wander’. It feels this way because it seems to be the product of a type of thought experiment: What happens when Max is faced with beings as childish as himself? They act just like he does, responding to disagreement with tears, jealousy, and even rage. For the Wild Things though, all of these emotions are magnified, not just by the huge expressions on their enormous faces, but also by their outbursts which are so violent at times as to be almost terrifying.

On the island, Max is crowned king of the Wild Things after he bluffs them into believing he possesses terrible powers which they should fear. His reign consists of a small list of games and projects, none of which are seen through to fruition, and few of which do not end in an argument, tears, or a fist fight between the huge creatures. There seems to be mutiny stirring beneath the surface of Max’s happy-go-lucky little kingdom, and the more he tries to pull these creatures together, the harder they seem to push each other away.

In the end, after the goat outs Max for not being king, and instead “just a normal little guy,” Max comes to terms with the fact that these animals are really best left to their own devices, and the time’s come for him to go back to where he belongs. He speeds home on his boat, leaving Carol on the shore in tears, but understanding. I felt like that, more or less, at the end. The movie is really very sad: little is immediately resolved or fixed in the course of the film, leaving you feeling a little anxious and depressed about the whole thing, but you understand, and that helps. Everyone has felt like that at one point or another, and we all make it through.

With that in mind, I earnestly encourage anyone who doesn’t mind having their emotions knocked around a little bit in order to catch a glimpse of the human experience in the eyes of a Wild Thing to check this film out. It’s worth the time.

Additionally: ‘All Is Love is the song that’s played over the credits, and it’s really growing on me.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

Where The Wild Things Are – Karen O and the Kids


In This Light and On This Evening

Posted in Music on October 22nd, 2009 by Tom

inthislightEh… Man. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and even more than that, I hate to be mega-harsh on a band, but I’ve gotta say that I do not really get what the Editors were going for with this new record. I was SO excited for it; even more so when I found out it’d been delayed, and exponentially so after I heard the single, ‘Papillon‘. When I finally got the record geared up for a listen though… oh man. The opening/title track, ‘In This Light and On This Evening’, is a dragging dirge that seems to promise at every turn to explode into a crazy beat-driven song… and promptly never does. Contrast this with 2007’s An End Has A Start opener ‘Smokers Outside the Hospital Room’. That’s not to say I want the most approachable song first; that’s a formula I’m not terribly fond of. Just don’t put the creepiest, strangest one first either.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

As I write this, I’m giving the album it’s 5th listen. Admittedly, I have not spend a great deal of time with it, and while I am coming around on a good half of the tracks, I still can’t shake the notion that something here is off. ‘Bricks and Mortar’, as well as ‘You Don’t Know Love’ serve to anchor the top of the listing, supporting Papillon at either end, earnestly trying to convince you that the record is relevant to your interests, but next comes ‘The Big Exit’. I almost included it to listen to, as an example of what is easily the low point of the album, but it seemed stupid to post a track and say “don’t listen to this, it’s awful.” The timing is all off, with a rapid percussion backing a smeared and ethereal synth melody, your ear is left confused as to what the aim of such a juxtaposition, not to mention the unsettling feeling of hearing Tom Smith sing higher than mid-range…

[ mp3 ♫ ]

I can’t complain too much, though. ‘The Boxer‘ is a fine example of what the Editors are capable of when they really want to slow things down and get their brood on. The remaining songs, despite their bizarre names, make for a decent end. Perhaps maybe my problem was expectations. An End was my obsessive record of the spring, and I got fairly into In the Back Room this summer. I had high hopes that this record would really lock in the Editors as my best ‘find’ of the year. When it didn’t happen, I maybe gave the album too hard of a rap. It certainly did not meet expectations, but mine were so high that even though it falls far below the mark, In This Light still comes out to be a decent set of songs.

If you’re a big Depeche Mode fan, or into some related or similar sinister-synth type music, then the Editors have written an album just for you. For those of us waiting for a follow-up more in the vein of their earlier work, we’ll just have to grit our teeth and dance extra-hard to ‘Papillon’ to make up for the frowning the rest of the tracks are sure to induce.

The Editors – In This Light and On This Evening


These Four Walls

Posted in Music on October 19th, 2009 by Tom

jetpackI’ve been meaning to do a write-up on this album for a week or two now, and the draft has been sitting in limbo for even longer after that. At the onset of listening to this record, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. For some reason I was kinda thinking that perhaps Glasgow’s We Were Promised Jetpacks had exhausted their creative effort coming up with such a cool name. In spite of that, I sat down and gave it a shot. Right from the start, the band’s stripped down no-nonsense style was a welcome breath of fresh air from the synth-laden affairs that I so regularly frequent. Then there’s Adam Thompson’s unabashedly Scottish vocals; at first, I mistook it for a gimmick. How wrong was I! He commits to the accent, and embraces it, like any singer would otherwise do with their voice, and it works wonders.

The opening track, ‘It’s Thunder and Lightning’, sets the tone for the record and is fairly representative of the material that follows it. Where Jetpacks really shines is how they play with pace. Like I said earlier, the texture of each song is more or less uniform: the instruments have little to no effects, and Thompson alternates between whispering/mumbling to screaming until his throat must be raw. I guess that sounds pretty unappealing, when read, but please believe me when I say ‘it works’. The quiet/loud changeup typically is hitched to the fast/slow transition, and the two shifts at once really work wonders as far as giving slow songs some punch, or making the more frantic tracks seem to have a bit more heart.

Enough talking though, sample the goods: ‘Quiet Little Voices

[ mp3 ♫ ]

One of my favorite parts of this record is the small little things that are done to unify the work as an album. Right at the tail end of ‘Roll up your Sleeves’ the lyrics encourage the object of the song to “keep warm, keep warm.” This is perfectly dovetailed by the penultimate track, ‘Keeping Warm‘, which not only elaborates on the lyrical idea of warmth, but also contains the title of the record. It’s maybe my favorite song on the album, with its slow build and somewhat less strained vocals… and so I guess I really like it in spite of it not sounding like the rest of the songs (which are also good!):

“There’s nowhere to eat and / there’s nowhere to sleep / in these four walls.”

[ mp3 ♫ ]

So that’s that. I feel silly that I took so long to get this short little blip about We Were Promised Jetpacks together, but I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. This band is certainly worth a listen!

We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls


Buy The Sky, Sell The Sky

Posted in Music on October 4th, 2009 by Tom

remGreetings, everyone!
I wanted to drop a quick update inspired by my trip to the grocery store. I was idling around, waiting for a clerk to help me with something, and suddenly, over the store speakers, I heard the opening bars to ‘Fall On Me.’ I’ve since fallen out of my R.E.M. phase that reached its peak in early high school. Really, In Time was one of the huge motivating factors in me getting into music. It’s funny, I don’t think I ever realized, that record chronicles R.E.M.’s music from 1988-2003, which at the time of its release encompassed my entire life!

[ mp3 ♫ ]

The band’s older work will always hold a special place in my heart, and it was nice to get an unexpected reminder of that fact.

In Time – R.E.M.