Album Review: Hand.Cannot.Erase by Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson Hand.Cannot.Erase Released March 3, 2015 Kscope Music

Steven Wilson
Hand.Cannot.Erase
Released March 3, 2015
Kscope Music

Joyce Carol Vincent died when she was 38. She died with the television and heat running in her London flat. Two years later, her body was discovered, the heat and the television still running. It would be easy to write-off Joyce as some recluse, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She had friends. She had family. Everyone just forgot her.

It is this sad story that Steven Wilson uses as his concept for Hand.Cannot.Erase, an album about loneliness, the fading of relationships, and the hope of getting together with family. While Wilson isn’t telling Joyce’s story, in the biographical sense, he is presenting the basics as little pieces of his protagonist’s life.

You can be someone’s child. You can be someone’s best friend. You can be someone’s sibling. And you can be forgotten. Maybe you want to reconnect with friends and family, but “the years pass by like trains.” That’s the message of Hand.Cannot.Erase.

It took me three weeks to find this album. Yes, I could have ordered it on Amazon, paid a few extra dollars for shipping, and had it in a few days. That’s not what I wanted though. I wanted to get that little thrill that comes from picking up something new and unknown, going home, and listening to it. I had to travel 20 miles to find and Björk’s new album Vulnicura.

The is a gorgeous sounding album. As a multi-instrumentalist, Wilson is amazing. Wilson boldly displays his influences, with 70s progressive rock taking center stage. While most of the music is very good, if not excellent, much of it also seems familiar. “3 Years Older” sounds like Wind and Wuthering era Genesis with a little Yes thrown into the mix. “Regret #9” features a Moog solo that sounds like something from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. “Home Invasion” sounds like King Crimson. I found myself doing these comparisons a lot throughout the album.

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Wilson’s voice is fine, but unspectacular. It doesn’t stand out like a Jon Anderson or John Wetton, but neither is it grating. Fortunately, the album features Ninet Tayeb’s lovely voice on “Routine,” and Katherine Jenkins does a great spoken word performance in “Perfect Life,” my favorite track on the album.

If it sounds like I didn’t care for Hand.Cannot.Erase, that’s not the case. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it. Rarely does musicianship of this level get a chance to shine. Wilson’s talented and, as a whole, this is a very good album. But I do think it is getting too much praise by reviewers. The songwriting is not always strong and many of the songs sound a little too much like Wison’s influences.

And I recommend it, especially if you enjoy ambitious music. Wilson isn’t making a pop album or a set of dance tunes. He’s presenting a concept album about a regular human being who died and was forgotten. In a musical era where it seems like we are in a race to the bottom, I have nothing but respect for what Steven Wilson is doing in Hand.Cannot.Erase, even when the end result is less than perfect.

Rating: 4 out of 5


©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Violently happy Icelandic pixie Björk is hurt, and she’s not afraid to sing about it

Björk Vulnicura Released:  March 24, 2015 Label:  One Little Indian

Björk
Vulnicura
Released: March 24, 2015
Label: One Little Indian

It might be time for Taylor Swift to shut up with the chest-beating, I’m-the-queen-of-the-break-up-song routine. Björk’s new album Vulnicura is about more than superficial heartbreak. Throughout the hour-long concept album, she tells a tale of unfulfilled emotional needs, hope that someone will change, and the pain, not only of breakup, but of the end of the family as a unit of love.

The first three songs are about the breakdown of a relationship. “Stonemilker,” the opening song, Björk presents a relationship nine months before the end. She want to be shown “emotional respect,” for her needs to be acknowledged and for her and her lover to “synchronize our feelings.” In “Lionsong,” she expresses hope that the relationship can be saved. Björk’s voice is full of vulnerability when she sings “maybe he will come out of this loving me/maybe he won’t.”


“Black Lake,” a ten-minute long song about the actual breakup, is heartbreaking.

“I am a glowing shiny rocket

returning home

as I enter the atmosphere

I burn off layer by layer

Jettison”

Our violently happy Icelandic pixie has been hurt. She’s not afraid to sing about it. More importantly, she’s not afraid to show you her wounds.

I haven’t heard anything with this level of emotional power in a long time. This is a mature set of songs about breakup and the consequences. In “Family,” she asks “Is there a place/where I can pay respects/for the death of my family.”

“There is the mother and the child

Then there is the father and the child

but no man and a woman

no triangle of love”

Sorry Taylor Swift, while it’s easy to sing that we should all “Shake It Off,” it isn’t that easy.

This is the cover once it is slid out of the acetate cover.

This is the cover once it is slid out of the acetate cover.

This is Björk’s best album in a long time. Her voice is full of complex emotions and beautiful, even when the emotions are harrowing. Her voice reflects her feelings in each song. The music is electronic beats and a powerful string section. This is progressive music and requires the listener to sit down and listen. It is not party music, or background music while people talk about their last visit to the Olive Garden.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More prog rock reviews: The Yes Album & Close to the Edge

yes roger dean logo

I always worry that I’m being a little too self-promotional by posting my YouTube videos. Then I realize, this is exactly what we do on the Internet.

Yes had a huge influence on my during my teen years, and I still love many of their albums. Some have held up beautifully. Others sound dated. So here’s my thoughts on two of their albums.

The Yes Album was Yes’ big breakthrough album. Steve Howe was introduced as their new guitarist. While it features some long tracks, they are much tighter than what the band would do later.


Close to the Edge (1972) shows the band at nearly the height of its ambitions. It’s a huge-sounding album that requires active listening.

I’m putting these on YouTube because I enjoy these albums and want to share some of that with the rest of the world. And I’m a bit bored.

Dude! It’s time to talk about the summer movie season

The Fantastic Four return in 2015 with a gritty, dark reboot. Courtesy Fox

The Fantastic Four return in 2015 with a gritty, dark reboot. Courtesy Fox

Since I was a kid, summer was about going to the movies. I blame Star Wars, really. I enjoyed movies before Star Wars, but, as an eight-year-old kid sitting in a theater, Star Wars was a religious experience.

Of course the summer movie season has grown since then, with the studios putting all their big-tent movies out during the season, hoping to rake in dump trucks full of money. And while it’s easy to shrug off summer films as ephemera, many of them have remained popular over the years. Yes, the summer movie is typically “the popcorn flick” in the minds of many. But what’s wrong with that? The Wizard of Oz is really a popcorn flick, and a damn great film.

I’m excited for this summer, although last year will be hard to beat. Marvel book-ended our 2014 summer with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, two great films that show just how well-oiled the Might Marvel Movie Machine is. We also got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Both are good movies based on what seemed like tired franchises.

So here’s a breakdown of some of 2015’s most anticipated summer films. I will generously rant about what’s wrong with humanity as the subject comes up. My expectations are based on the trailer and whatever general knowledge about the film is out there.

Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers age of ultron poster

Who the hell makes titles to movies these days? I miss the old days when Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home came out and, rather than waste time and brain cells saying and remembering that title, we just said “the one with the whales.”

And I like that they always put “Marvel” at the front. I thought the last Avengers film was a sequel to the Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman film.

When The Avengers came out a few years ago, I expected it to be the peak of the Mighty Marvel Movie Movement. We had gotten a great collection of films: Iron Man, Iron Man 2 (not the best, but still a watchable film), The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. Not only was it a fun film that used the characters and cast well, it whetted my appetite for more Marvel movies.

Again, I feel that maybe this year is the apex for Marvel. But I’m always wrong. It just seems like the property is getting so big, it is bound to crush itself.

What Marvel and Disney have done is unprecedented. They’ve created a cinematic universe. The move took balls and it paid off. They’ve developed a cinematic fabric that keeps getting larger and more complex.


I must say, Disney has become the master’s of building anticipation through teasers and trailers. The trailers to Age of Ultron tell us as little as possible about the film, yet instilling a desire to see the film. I thought Ultron was a terrible villain choice until I saw him move and heard James Spader’s voice.

Age of Ultron is the big movie this summer. My biggest concerns is some of the action scenes look exactly like the action scenes in the first film. There’s also an ever-so-slight feeling that the main cast is getting a little tired of these movies.

The Fast and the Furious 7

furious 7

Or Furious 7.

I’m not sure if the term “guilty pleasure” is a useful term or not. If you like a film, you like it. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Well, if your favorite film is Fifty Shades of Grey, you should feel guilty … and see a priest. Movies are highly subjective. While a general consensus has some value, I enjoy reading reviews to get other people’s perspectives, it all boils down to whether each individual liked it or not.

I really dig the Fast and Furious series. There are some serious missteps since there was never a plan to have a franchise. It was Fast Five that really pulled the series together. That film had everything I want in an action movie (although boobs would have been nice).  And Furious 6 followed that formula. I’ve grown to like these characters. And the films deliver a lot of bang for your buck.


F7 was originally intended to come out last year, but Paul Walker died. I’m still not sure how this will be handled in the film. The biggest challenge is going to be how do the filmmakers produce a film that’s fun and exciting without disrespecting the audience’s feelings about Walker. Tough situation. I hope it’s handled well.

Ant-Man

ant-man poster

When Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought it had gone off the deep end. I was familiar with the characters (neerrrd!), but could not image the general public accepting such an eccentric concept.

To its credit, the Massive Marvel Marketing Machine really sold the film to audiences.

Ant-Man is another quirky Marvel concept. The effort to get Ant-Man on the screen has been challenging. Edgar Wright, who made Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, one of my favorite comic book adaptation, was all set to direct. Eventually he left and Peyton Reed (Yes Man, Bring It On, and The Break-Up) got the job.


The teaser left me shrugging my shoulders. I hope it’s good. Really, I never want a movie to be bad. I don’t have time for bad movies. Paul Rudd seems a bit miscast, but Marvel’s been dead-on with its casting in these films.

And for the record, clever poster Marvel.

Fantastic Four

Fantastic_Four_2015_poster

Can we just stop it with the reboots?


I admit the teaser intrigues me. It is certainly a good-looking film. But the concept of  Dr. Doom being a blogger worries me greatly. This is a franchise that Fox has, so, while a Marvel property, has no relationship with the Mega Marvel Movieverse.

I know I'd pay $12 to see this brought to live action. Come on Fox, bring it!

I know I’d pay $12 to see this brought to live action. Come on Fox, bring it!

Doctor Doom being a blogger shows a lack of confidence in the source material. Have you seen Loki in The Avengers? Marvel and Tom Hiddleston own that shit! It just feels like Fox doesn’t get it.

I used to read Fantastic Four comics. They were fun, colorful, exciting, and, at times, silly. Give it a tone like Guardians of the Galaxy. Or, if you want to be daring Fox, make it a parody of the entire genre. It needs a good ribbing.

Pixels

hpxaytu_large

Wait! A movie not based on a comic book or long-running franchise. Could it be Hollywood wants to produce something original for our summer entertainment orgy?

To quote Nelson Muntz: “Ha ha.”

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

This is blatant knock-off of an episode of Futurama. Aliens attack, using classic video games as the blueprint for their invasion. If it were clever, I’d be cool with scrumping the concept.

And did I mention, Adam Sandler? I love his older films. They are stupid, and I mean STUPID, but I laughed a lot during Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. However, the guy hasn’t had an inspired moment in more than a decade. Based on the trailer, he’s just walking through this role. And honestly, if Adam Sandler doesn’t give a shit about his career, why should I?


My feeling is that this movie exists for two reasons: nostalgia and CGI. Wouldn’t it be great if all your favorite old-school video game characters invaded earth? Not really. Hey, with CGI we can make it look like a pixilated Donkey Kong is really attacking mankind. That’s cool, right? Um, we’ve really passed the point of CGI as just a visual gimmick.

Mad Max: Fury Road

mad-max-fury-road tom hardy

Originally I forgot to write anything about Mad Max: Fury Road. That’s a shame, because I’m excited about this one. I am not one to gripe about CGI in films. But it has been overused. While this film has some CGI, the majority of the action is practical. And by practical I mean cars and trucks smashing into each other.

I love the original films, especially The Road Warrior. Beyond Thunderdome is weak, partially because it is a watered-down, kid-friendly version of the first two films. But the first two, I swear stunt men died making those.

That’s insane! Tom Hardy looks like he’s going to do a great job taking over Mel’s role. And it’s great to see George Miller, the original director, returning to Max’s post-apocalyptic world. Visually, it looks creative, not derivative.

And it looks like the film’s earned an R rating, so kick those little kids out of the theater and let me enjoy the mayhem.

Terminator: Genisys

entertaiment weekly terminator genisys

For films, Terminator Genisys is like someone (an asshole by the way) took your grandmother’s amazing apple pie recipe and added kale.


Rather than reboot Terminator, still a bad idea, a bunch of people who didn’t have a goddamn thing to do with the classic films have decided to create a change in the timeline, rewriting the events of the original Terminator film.

I was going to use this image to show what I think Paramount is doing to a classic film. But then I realized that might be an insult to Don Martin's comic genius. Image: Mad Magazine.

I was going to use this image to show what I think Paramount is doing to a classic film. But then I realized that might be an insult to Don Martin’s comic genius. Image: Mad Magazine.

It’s copying the formula used in Star Trek (2009). However, the producers of this Terminator film less interested in finding a way to reboot the franchise in a way that allows an original story, and more interested in finding a way to re-hash the first film, while pretending to create something new. Looking at the trailer, I see nothing original or even a little clever.

I thought the remake of Robocop got a few things right. First, it was a remake. It took the basic concepts and tried to make its own story out of it. Second, as a remake, it understood that certain rules from the original have to be translated over to the new version.

Unlike Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator Genisys has no input from James Cameron, the man who created the first two films. Neither situation is a guarantee of quality, but it says something about the artistic vision behind the two films.

I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I love the first two Terminator films — and don’t hate the other two. He’s important to the franchise, but that’s only because no one seems to be interested in truly developing an original Terminator film.

The producers recast every character in the film, except Arnold. I would be happier if they just recast the Terminator instead of going with grandpa-terminator. However, the new cast seems a bit off to me. A lot is riding on audiences embracing the new cast.

And that leads me to …

A Little Originality, Please?

I don’t expect every film to be the most original film ever. Many great films have been based on books. Many of the Marvel films are great films with compelling plots, interesting characters, and clever dialogue.

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) was a remake of a film based on a short story. The film, however, is very much its own entity, full of creative visuals. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) was a remake of a film based on a short story. The film, however, is very much its own entity, full of creative visuals. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

But the current summer movie roster seems to lack any original ideas. If you look at 1982, a big summer movie season, studios released a large variety of films. Yes, many of them were franchise films (there was a Grease 2?). However, there was also E.T., Blade Runner, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

It is sad, at least for me, when Pixels seems like the most original idea out there. It’s not a very original idea, not at all.

It also bothers me that we, the audience, now use Hollywood business terminology for our films. Every film is intended to be a franchise. We don’t think of Avengers as a series of films, but as a product. Fox and Sony keep rebooting the Fantastic Four and Spider-man because they don’t want to lose the property.

Hey, let’s talk about progressive rock … wait … come back

In my efforts to do more multimedia, I am reviewing all of the albums by one of my favorite bands: Yes.

90125 was my introduction to Yes. Before that, it was all Duran Duran and Foreigner.

90125 was my introduction to Yes. Before that, it was all Duran Duran and Foreigner.

Are you still there? I know it’s common to knock progressive rock bands these days, but Yes produced some of the finest long-form active-listening music the 70s has to offer.

Rather than an album-by-album approach to these reviews, I am going with the albums in the order I heard them.


So enjoy my review of 90125. Next up: Fragile.

The Road Back to Reno

baruka theatre reno nevada

The Baruka Theatre, Reno, Nevada

Nearly one year ago, I announced that I was moving to Massachusetts, seeking work. After a year of minimum-wage jobs, thousands of résumés, and only one serious job interview, I have decided it is time to look at going back to Reno.

I will be returning to Reno on April 1, and that’s no April Fool’s joke — unless it’s on me and I am unaware of it.

The Reno Signal has remained on pause over the last year. I’ve made a few posts, but nothing substantial. I plan to change that when I return. In Massachusetts, I’ve lost my way as a writer. There’s no one and nothing that I can emotionally connect with here.


I’ve been writing, slowly, some short fiction. I am thinking of posting these stories on its own blog.

 

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.