Friday, May 27, 2022

Snoopy Presents: To Mom (And Dad), With Love

 

AIRDATE: 5/6/2022

Damn Apple, slow down! (Except don't, I can't get enough!)

STORY

Everyone's hyped for Mother's Day--except Peppermint Patty. She doesn't have a mom; in fact, she's never known what it's like to have a mom. So while the rest of the neighborhood races for the perfect present, she sulks and sneers. It's up to best friend Marcie to reassure and remind Patty that family is what you make it. 

MUSIC

Matches the myriad of moods with all the tinkles and toots associated with classic 'Nuts.

ANIMATION

Perhaps in keeping with the heavier subject matter, the shadows are more prevalent. Unprecedented in this universe, but not too distracting.

VOICES

Is this the best collection of Peanuts voice actors since the classic '60s run? I'd say so.

THE YUMMIES

Nothing breaks my heart like sad Peppermint Patty. Nothing warms my heart like happy Peppermint Patty.

The Snoopy and Woodstock slapstick side story is a by-now standard, but the shenanigans feel super-fresh. Terry McGurrin's Snoopy is more vocal and more physical than Bill Melendez's, which makes all the difference. 

Bitch-ass Thibault isn't in this special, because even his own mother hates him. 

THE YUCKIES


 

"Some kids have two moms."

That one line, spoken by Marcie, sent certain conservative Christians toward the ceiling. Accusations of Apple selling Charles Schulz's sweet li'l folks out to PC culture were rare, but there. I love to break it to those folks, but Charles Schulz based the character of Peppermint Patty on his cousin Patricia and his dear friend Billie Jean King, both of whom were gay. I love to break it to these folks, but openly lesbian cartoonist Paige Braddock trained under Schulz and was named Creative Director at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates in 1999. I love to break it to these folks, but Charles Schulz opposed prayer in schools. I love to break it to these folks, but Charles Schulz referred to himself as a "secular humanist" later in life and also stated, "The best theology is no theology."

Mind, the offending line is not expanded upon. Marcie simply states, "Some kids have two moms." And that's that. That's what upset people. Just one mention of the irrefutable fact that not everyone has the same idea of "family." 

Some adults have no hearts. 

 


9/10. That's three Peanuts specials in less than twelve months, each excellent, the latest the best. To say I'm amazed is selling it short.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Snoopy Presents: It's The Small Things, Charlie Brown

 

AIRDATE: 4/15/2022

Apple keeps the specials coming fast and furious! Just four months after Auld Lang Syne, here comes It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown Part II.

STORY

Charlie Brown is determined to outshine Peppermint Patty's squad on the baseball diamond, but his sister Sally is keener on protecting the dandelion sprouting from the pitcher's mound. A figurative tug o' war ensues, and the winner is...everybody! No, this isn't some "participation trophy" schtuff, it's the realization that through mutual respect, compromise and concerted effort, even the youngest among us can make a positive impact on the planet. 

MUSIC

In addition to Jeff Morrow's "NM VG," Small Things features a Sally-led original, named after the special and written by "piano punk" Ben Folds. Simple, catchy, and flows nicely over

ANIMATION

some lush 60s/70s-influenced animation, peaking with monochromatic character design against saturated backgrounds. 

VOICES

Every major kid stays the same, save for Charlie Brown, now voiced by Tyler Nathan. He's a bit smoother than his predecessor, but still quintessential Chuck. Hattie Kratgen's Sally is meant to be the star, and she is, sweet without coming off saccharine, kind without going on naive. 

Although we never hear from them, much love for the following appearances: 3, 4, Roy, Harold Angel, Naomi, Lila, Milo, Maynard, and--for the first time ever--Cormac and "Badcall" Benny.

LOTUS POWER


"The challenges to be faced in sports work marvelously as a caricature of the challenges that we face in the more serious aspects of our lives. And when Charlie Brown has tried to analyze his own difficulties in life, he has always been able to express them best in sports terms"--Charles Schulz, 1984

Beautify the ball field, blame the blockhead. Second straight special with a touching brother-sister moment near the conclusion.

ZULU'S PETALS

Bitch-ass Thibault. No one wants you here, Thibault. 

 

Bless the earth, and the earth shall bless you back. Girl power is world power. Feel-good and funny, It's The Small Things, Charlie Brown is a marvelous antidote to doom-scrolling.  

8/10

Monday, May 23, 2022

Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne

 

AIRDATE: 12/10/2021

The first Peanuts special for Apple TV+ (and first in over ten years) revisits the poignant point where one year gives way to the next year. 

STORY

You can't have celebration without anticipation. Lucy can't wait for her beloved grandma to arrive, Snoopy can't wait for his siblings to pop by, and Charlie Brown can't wait for success, no matter how small. Wrenches in the wash are no surprise, but Lucy's reaction to her particular setback is new territory for these shows. The young girl personalizes her grandmother's absence, and takes it as a rejection. Intent on proving her worthiness, she plans a New Year's Eve party that (thanks in no small part to pompousness and pushiness on part of the host) promptly sours. 

MUSIC

Apple's been using Jeff Morrow for its Peanuts output (including Snoopy In Space and The Snoopy Show) and his work is evocative of Vince Guaraldi. When someone does music for Peanuts, it need not be anything but "evocative of Vince Guaraldi."

ANIMATION

More than the music, more than the voices, nothing can ruin a cartoon like shoddy animation. The look of these new specials is different not only from the ones that came before, they're different from the aforementioned Apple programs. Clearly, these shows are meant to occupy a unique space in the updated Peanuts animated universe. Snoopy In Space is educational, The Snoopy Show is madcap-cute, but the 40-minute programs contain every element that, taken together, explain the phenomenon of a blockhead and his buddies better than any well-meaning tribute. 

The new look is absolutely incredible. Classic character design against richly-textured backgrounds, lucid lights and sensible shadows, it's updated and downright gorgeous.

VOICES

The list of voiced characters is, pardon me, nuts. The new creative team is so hot on inclusivity, Auld Lang Syne marks the animated debuts of Tapioca Pudding (comic strip lifespan of three months), Jose Peterson (thirty months) and Maynard (eight strips over nine days). The party is a great excuse; you'll also see Shermy, Floyd, 5, Violet, Patty, and most gloriously, bitch-ass Thibault. There is no character I love to hate more than bitch-ass Thibault. 

The proud tradition of kids voicing kids continues, successfully. Etienne Kellici nails Chuck's thriving melancholy, and Wyatt White reaches down deep for his inner insecure intellectual. Lexi Perri's Peppermint Patty is suitably rough 'n' tumble, and Holly Gorski's Marcie the perfect circumspect sidekick. 

The show belongs to Lucy, however, and it is Isabella Leo who shines truest of all. Vulnerability, crabbiness, sorrow, rage...much is asked, and she delivers. 

(About Terry McGurrin's Snoopy I can say he has taken the beagle to another level. More vocal than ever and more lovable than ever? It's true!)

LOSE WEIGHT, GAIN FRIENDS


A little self-reflection is a big deal for Lucy. Charlie Brown and Linus do enough introspection for the entire neighborhood, so the littlest fussbudget's inward turn is highly unexpected...and deeply affecting. "If my own grandma doesn't love me, how can I be sure if anyone loves me?" I would've cried, if Sertraline weren't staring over my shoulder the whole time.

The band's back together! Cuter than pie, sillier than picarones, okay okay I'll overlook taking the jug away from Olaf and replacing it with a tuba. 

LOSE FRIENDS, GAIN WEIGHT


 
Lucy looks so wrong with the blanket, but Linus looks right as spring rain in the role of Raghnall Doyle.

Third time "Charlie Brown" does not appear after the title. Not the last time. 

Love For Auld Lang Syne as I do, it doesn't quite stick the landing. Kinda how It's A Wonderful Life rings hollow because everybody just lets Uncle Billy hang around and sing instead of dragging him out into the front yard and beating him stupider, I think the dialogue leans a little too far into the rows of silk. So, 8 out of 10. 

 

Anxiety reigned in the fandom after news in late 2020 that Apple had acquired the rights to produce original Peanuts content. Despair bloomed with the announcement It's A Charlie Brown Christmas would appear exclusively on Apple TV. Eventual compromise proved even technological monoliths will listen to their subjects. It is worth noting that the Schulz family is directly involved in these shows, and thus far, the legacy is in fine shape.

 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Kim Gordon at the 9:30 Club, 3/15/2022

Sleater-Kinney played The Anthem in Washington D.C. two days after my 42nd birthday, with two months left in 2019. Once live concert fiends, Trick and I were reduced (largely by choice) to a couple shows a year, maybe, for most of the past decade. 2020 arrived, and reduction became the order of the day. While no one likes being told what to do, sometimes it's just best. Developing agoraphobia isn't best, nor is gaining weight, but staying home and upright and alive is. 

The concert experience seemed like a relic of a bygone era. The driving, the waiting, the babbling, the drinking, the sweating, the aching, the clapping, the yelling, the connection...something we used to do, like eating in a restaurant or attending a baseball game. Money and energy were treasures to be saved up for nights in crimson fleece. 

The night of 3/15/2022 passed the feel test. 

Because Kim G. is the hero. 

Because you can't spell "risking Covid" without "Kim G." (Just erase half of the m.)

***

My body showed no signs of future trouble as I slipped into faux leather leggings and fitted Snoopy tee, de-wrinkled for the occasion. Over the previous ten hours, I'd treated it well enough--coffee, water, homemade breakfast muffin. There was an inadvertent inhalation of perfume, but it's expected I'll always allow a baserunner or two. 

Twenty years after our first trip to the 9:30 Club, the changes along the route are gradual and abrupt in unequal measure. Boarded-up storefronts and litter-strewn sidewalks sit across from signs announcing the imminent construction of luxury condos. A ratty convenience store at one end of this block, a pristine Safeway at one end of that block. Gentrification hovers 'round Georgia Avenue like a heaving storm cloud taking up two-thirds of the sky. At least Wonder Chicken is still at the intersection of Georgia and Rittenhouse. Will I ever sample its wares? Likely not. Better to appreciate from afar, like a would-be lover betrothed to another. 

Pedestrian traffic at the six o'clock hour is steady and smart; vehicular traffic, not so much. 

The area around the 9:30 Club has undergone quite a bit of change in those twenty years, as well. The parking lot has moved a few blocks north, across from Banneker Recreation Center. There are folks in the bleachers, folks running the track, and one guy walking the track at a pace slower than that maintained by Trick and I as we head south to the club, past a yoga studio, past parking garages, past Howard Plaza Towers, on and on until the dingy comforts of cracked sidewalk and amateur graffiti signal our destination. 

We entered the venue mere minutes after doors opened at seven. The merch table offered a few shirts and vinyl of No Home Record, the masterpiece Kim Gordon was finally touring behind, three years after its release. A barrier separating spectator from stage beckoned moreso, especially the empty space just to right of center. The mask mandate in the District was lifted at the beginning of March, but all of the staff and at least half of the crowd wore some form of face covering. (Trick and I were the only ones rocking N95s that I saw.) 

I took my first chocolate-y, caramel-y, cereal-y sip of Murphy's Irish Stout at 7:15 and took my final sip at 10:30, right after the lights went up for good. Now tell me who the Sonic Nurse is?

We scanned the older-skewing crowd behind us and amused ourselves guessing a person's favorite Sonic Youth album based on the band shirt they wore. White VU and Nico tee? EVOL. Black VU and Nico tee? Sister. Pixies shirt, clearly Dirty. Korn? Rather Ripped.

Bill Nace took the stage at 8:30, seated six feet from a drum set placed to the far left of the stage (first time I've ever seen such). If you've ever wondered about the testimony of the Gods and Goddesses of Atari if ever called upon in the purely hypothetical case of Todd Rogers vs. The Gaming Universe...if you've even half-considered the audible reckoning of C-tier deities under oath...if you've ever craved the sensation of thunderous reprimand for shunning simple mathematics, overlooking obvious clues, and besmirching the good name of Wabbit, well, the Gods and Goddesses of Atari testified on Tuesday night. Through Bill Nace, who may or may not have ever played a video game, the Gods and Goddesses of Atari unleashed forty years of well-oiled wrath. Onlookers drooped and drooled, choked and staggered--and justice was done.

Kim and her three partners in crime took the stage--friendly, wary--at 9:30. A music stand blocked our view of the grand dame somewhat, meaning Trick would capture only clips and pics on his phone, rather than video of a full song. The set up was otherwise fantastic, with plenty of space between band members. Kim moved frequently and wisely. A month shy of 69, stunning in dress shirt, shorts and sensible shoes, her power stemmed from her essential vulnerability. She's fragile and dangerous in the manner of glass, although it's easy for the audience to just marvel at the illusion of tesserae. 

 Ten songs (the entirety of No Home Record, and the single "Grass Jeans") doesn't sound like much for a concert, but in this case it constituted the ideal set. Selecting highlights is like choosing a favorite child, or at least it would be if I had, or even liked, children. The run of "Air BNB," "Paprika Pony," and "Murdered Out" was pretty wham-bam-goddamn, and I'll now always associate the first of that three with Alex Ovechkin scoring his historic 767th career goal. The encore of "Hungry Baby" and "Grass Jeans" fed and clothed us in joyful noise. If insight seems anathema to the Kim Gordon creative mission (I read Girl In A Band with trembling hands, sure that at any second the book would vanish from my grasp before I finished the final page), onslaught fills the gap nicely. 

"That was Kim Gordon! That was Kim fucking Gordon!"

The young woman behind us spoke for me. She let out my every suppressed scream, my every quelled imprecation. The concert experience still means something to me. 

It always will.



Saturday, June 19, 2021

Measure Up

GIGATON 

3/27/2020

Album eleven, the first in seven years, how convenient. Ha! Since when, for whom, how come?

Global uncertainty is a given. How much it affects someone depends on how much of the evidence they are willing to witness and weigh. Hope floats? Hope erodes? Hope exists. Hope is a prerequisite for the very act of creation. Art made with trembling hands and wet eyes and a lump on the heart is ultimately hopeful. 

I hope this album is actually good. 57 minutes, their longest yet. The last time I thought this much about Pearl Jam was the 2016 World Series, when the Cubs were down 3-1 and my mind reeled with visions of Eddie Vedder, Bill Murray, John Cusack, Billy Corgan and maybe even Chris Chelios looking sad in their comped seats during Game 5 (heartbreaking nail-biter, heartbreaking ass-kicking, take yer pick).

"Who Ever Said"--Wow, this melts my thinking cap. (Ugh.) A meandering intro gives way, a muscular missile commander makes hay. I dug it, I dig it, I thought about even dancing a little.

"Superblood Wolfmoon"--Who's the she? I wanna trade gibberish with this chick. Stadium rock was then, sternum rock is now. 

"Dance Of The Clairvoyants"--As far as "first singles not indicative of the project's overall sound" go, this is tops. (There are keyboards throughout, however.) Bruce Springsteen and Tina Weymouth skip mirrored tiles across the river on this tech-heavy, funk-addled outlier. Misled fans are the best

"Quick Escape"--Blessed are the fence-makers. Guitarists are all right, too. Chorus singers are...okay? Fedora dogs and doomy Dudleys irritate me.

"Alright"--Yeah, thanks for the self-awareness. Next, teach me the point of fishing.

"Seven O'Clock"--Cool heads prevail for six minutes. Wherein we learn fire cools, amid other flexible truths. Dread is a choice. 

"Never Destination"--This is old PJ, begrudgingly pleasing glittery swelter-seekers. Real dogs bark and bite, but only the saddest cats bat the Bob Honey hive. 

"Take The Long Way"--Meagan Grandall makes history with her backing vox on this, a tribute to the endless beef jerky strip sustaining the boys since the Andrew Wood days.

"Buckle Up"--Daydreaming on a back porch. Ain't no party like a search party, 'cause a search party knows when to stop.

"Comes Then Goes"--Don't it though. "Wilder" doesn't always mean "better." Unless you're talking about Willy Wonka films.

"Retrograde"--The tumbling ninety-second echo at the conclusion is a sneak(ish) peek at a world sans resolve. Made for rock radio--not a complaint. 

"River Cross"--There's two types in this world: those who vilify addicts, and those who vilify addiction. Bodies of water exist for people freaked out by churches. I can never hang out by either for too long before catching a whiff of corpse.

Gigaton is pretty good, yeah I know, same here. Eddie Vedder sounds comfortable with how uncomfortable he sounds, and the sonics are succotash that can play the feature role on most dinner plates. 

For reasons best known by the unknown, hope sounds/feels a lot better than love to me these days.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Blank Stares and Broken Chairs

RAINIER FOG 

8/24/2018 

So Alice In Chains have now released as many full-length albums with vocalist William DuVall as with vocalist Layne Staley. And people still listen. Rainier Fog received a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album, an indicator of how moribund mainstream rock has become.

On August 20, four days before the album's release, the Seattle Mariners hosted "Alice In Chains Night" at Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park, probably Amazon: The Baseball Experience by 2032). Jerry Cantrell threw out the first pitch and lucky fans received a shirt and CD. The next night, the band played an acoustic set at the top of the Space Needle. 

If the Seattle Kraken organization isn't run entirely by imbeciles (and pre-expansion and entry drafts, no definitive opinion can yet be stated), they'll have "Tacocat Night." Free tacos, half-price felines, and a Zamboni ride raffle. The members of the band Tacocat may be present at the game, they may not. 

"The One You Know"--Basic, bendy, yeah no shit you're not the one I know. Flow black water, keep on flowin'. Aged aggression that makes up for in sonic honesty what it lacks in sonic artistry.

"Rainier Fog"--Layne's spirit is forever in the smoke tendrils wrapped around the vocals. Not just on this song, either. Terra firma sentiments, identity utterly lost.

"Red Giant"--Color's off on the TV; hence, sludge-foot's unique hue. Marvel at the volume, rage, and density. DC at the heart, soul, and beauty.

"Fly"--Blows bubbles through a window fan set on "low."

"Drone"--Kinda, but not enough. I'd love to hear a song called "Drone" that's like ninety seconds long. Here, six and a half minutes of a shadow-clad, sleep deprived figure robbing from the homeless. 

"Deaf Ears Blind Eyes"--Sitting in a room that's gradually being disassembled, licking my navel between mournful beer belches.

"Maybe"--All the leaves are orange, except for the ones that are yellow. Jerry Cantrell was born too late to make a career off 80s balladry, and clearly has not reconciled this fact. 

"So Far Under"--Set champions up as underdogs. Every individual in a band comprises a band all by themselves. Groove is in the taint. 

This is the first song wholly written by William DuVall, making it the first AIC song ever without Jerry Cantrell or Layne Staley somewhere in the songwriting credits. Black holes are a big focus on Rainier Fog. I've never been a big fan of the great universal death traps, despite my fascination with outer space. Maybe because I never looked at a planet, or a star, or a quasar, and thought Wow instant oblivion. 

This song wishes it were so devastating. 

"Never Fade"--Survivor's guilt turns every floor into a sticky one. Making it across is not impossible, just difficult as hell, and there's times when the reward outweighs the risk by at least a class. Left me dry-eyed and frog-lipped; might be different for others.

"All I Am"--Wow, the saddest maggot in the bag. Do you think Cantrell's ever had an agemate for a bedmate since the Columbia contract?

 Recommended for music fans with a fog fetish. Everyone else, prepare to feel like a contestant in a game where the winner is whomever vomits last.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Portland, Oregon Women Are Too Much, Not Enough

PATH OF WELLNESS  

6/11/2021

I'm so old, I remember when AIDS meant the ruination of sex. 

I'm so young, I remember when technology meant the ruination of music.

Sometimes I like to act as though I were just born yesterday.

Sometimes I like to act as though I've been here forever.

A new Sleater-Kinney record makes me happy as a horny hare. 

Lion and lamb, looking to curry favor from the main attraction. 

1-2-3, stop counting, not the point.  

"As-is" or "as-you-were." This ain't no Sheetz, this ain't no Chipotle, this ain't no life in the round.

 

"Path Of Wellness"--Wherein the "you" isn't up for debate. Thoughts (hopes, fears) that Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker would rush back to the tried and true are squashed, pretty quick. This isn't: what came before, nor is it what came before that. This is: cutting up dynamite sticks like boiled carrots.

"High In The Grass"--Queen Harvest time! 

"It's what we want to do."

Pointless joy is always in season. Corin's vocal game, like her hair game, never calls a timeout. Disappointed fans, do well by discovering the new ways the ladies play off one another in songs these days. 

"Makes no sense to you."

The intro is Homer bursting into Bart's bedroom with fresh brownies. 

"Worry With You"--First single. Stealthily creative. Pandemic life demands one new wonder for every new worry. Glue rocks together. Tear the fridge apart. Update your goddamn Goodreads.

"Method"--Carrie's more "me/I," Corin's more "we/us," and of course the line separating precious and pretentious wobbles with every note. 

"Shadow Town"--How could any S-K fan not fuck with "Shadow Town"? Hot Rock rendezvous with No Cities To Love, it's a quarter to midnight and Ray Bradbury is cobbling together the last few paragraphs of his latest killer story involved a supposedly-interred local legend. 

Run a 5K five days a week for five weeks, and lose both baby toenails in the process, that's what's happening here. The siren blare, the shadow of imminent impact, it's here, and it's at once.

"Favorite Neighbor"--Stone-throwers, your 9:35 is here. Another angle to exploit, doesn't it start to stink after awhile? Do yourself a solid, kill your idols and order a Ledo's sub. Or save money and OD on butter. Try and matter, you'd do no better.

"Tomorrow's Grave"--Reminds me of those mornings I can't decide what Snoopy shirt to wear 'cause they're all so awesome. So instead I throw on the armor of slain gods, one piece for each pound of flesh.

"No Knives"--You know, how kids eat. 

Initially the album intro, and essentially two women letting everyone know the "never let 'em see you sweat" credo is kinda bullshit. Another day of the kitchen. No paunch to pat here. Everybody happy? Bye bye, good night.

"Complex Favorite Characters"--Pitchfork's 6.8 review laments the lack of "bleary-eyed rage." Where oh where the songs that make us want to strike brick walls, and spit in stranger's faces? What's the appeal of a punch anyway? 

Suck it up and hold it in, 'cause letting it out is bad. Especially if women do the shit. (Why is it so irritating when we do the shit?) Ease up, please. Enough of women catching blame we don't deserve. Incels exist because women won't lower their standards? The entire human race exists only because women lower their standards! Sleater-Kinney don't sound angry enough anymore, the riffs are rollicking, the beats aren't organ-shifting, the screams aren't squirm-inducing...in other words, they aren't borrowing as much from the well marked "masculine moves," so they're suddenly lesser than. That's the gist, yes? Introspection, inhibition, these are bad things, or if not bad, inferior to the other options. 

Point being, for all her thesaurus-taunting self-dissection, Carrie lands upon the lyric of the land. 

"You can't escape my imagination." 

Oh no, it's true.

"Down The Line"--It's in all in my heart. Katie Harkin's all heart, hear her here. A minuscule pickle lost amid fat leafs of lettuce, daunting circles of fried onion and a tomato wheel. Placates my stomach, anyway.

"Bring Mercy"--Heartfelt, so you know it's Corin. She's the owl and the tree, wise as fuck. What falls, rises. What rages, rests. What lives, dies. Questions are only as valuable as the answers they inspire, and even the silliest query is less of a time-waster than weaponizing your entitlement. 


Twenty-six years in/on/of, old enough and still too young.