Blog Archives

January 17, 2008

CD Review: Tragedy Comic

Tragedy Comic by Screaming Mimes

©2007 Screaming Mimes, All Rights Reserved. 873 Four Mile Road Cincinnati Ohio 45230
Music & Lyrics by David O. Storm ©2007 Bozelmax Music (ASCAP)

http://www.screamingmimes.com/tragedycomic.htm

Tragedy Comic Cover ArtJust two short years after the release of their debut album Live My Life, the Screaming Mimes put forth their sophomore offering in Tragedy Comic. This lyrically driven album is smart and frisky and fun without being too childish, like using your old Legos to build something badass for your home office, like a pen holder or a functioning stapler. Production values are way up (and they weren’t bad to begin with) making this a very polished, professional piece of work.

Regular Screaming Mimes concert goers will be familiar with many of the tracks on this album. Twister is an upbeat number discussing many of the various twists that you can encounter in your life. It’s singable and totally fun to dance to when no one is looking. See if you can find the place in the song when I sing, over the lyrics, “Order me a gin and tonic…twist!”

# Title
1 Twister
2 Sleeping With the Emily
3 Superdave
4 Only Love
5 More Than Ever
6 She’s Waiting
7 Everything To Me
8 Suddenly
9 SHE
10 Happening
11 Pretty Soon Now

A variety of influences make Tragedy Comic a musically interesting work. The Crack Technical Staff and I make a hobby of pointing out parts that remind us of other groups we like: a little Beatles here, a touch of Gin Blossoms over there. And what’s this? Perhaps a touch of Madness? The overall sound has a distinctive Barenaked Ladies flavor, with less of a “I hate everything about my life, including you, but at least I sound happy about it” tint. If anything, the music is a little on the lovey-dovey side, but with just a little sardonic edge.

Superdave, the clear star track, is supposed to be available in video form soon, which we will definitely feature here on Red Hot Mama to the furthest extent of the law. In the meantime, you could probably get a sneak peek at the Mimes’ CD release party tomorrow, January 18 at 8 p.m. If you’re in the greater Cincinnati area, come by the Southgate House across from Newport On The Levee.

Otherwise, you can get your copy from CD Baby.com.

January 14, 2007

Book Review: Florida Spring Training

Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League, 3rd Edition by Alan Byrd
Intrepid Traveler
ISBN: 978-1-887140-68-3
$14.95
www.TheOtherOrlando.com

Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit LeagueFlorida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League is a guidebook to the spring training experience in Florida. It talks about things like whether it's difficult to get tickets, where you should sit in the stadium if you want to get some shade, the best food on the menu, and the best best places to get autographs.

The objective details in this book are complete and helpful, especially before your first visit to a park. The opinions in this book, on the other hand, are often inconsistent, irrelevant, and annoying. For example, consider this paragraph from the intro to the chapter on the Reds' spring training site, Ed Smith Stadium:

There's little to like about Ed Smith Stadium. While it comes close in size to some of the League's intimate older parks, it's missing the things that would make it quaint. For instance, there's little to say “Wow!” about. Well, aside from the “Big Red Smokey” and the rib tips, there's nothing to say “Wow” about. And the lack of the Wow-factor hits you as you walk into the stadium and notice that there is no roof over the main concourse. Do not go to Ed Smith Stadium if there is a chance of rain. You will get wet.

This paragraph drives me crazy, for no fewer than three reasons:

  • It's wrong: there's a lot to like about Ed Smith stadium. There's ample parking, Siesta Key nearby, and our favorite team plays there.
  • The word “Wow” is used differently three times, demonstrating the need for a thesaurus and a copy editor. While that doesn't affect the usefulness of the book, it does make it difficult for me to read.
  • The paragraph starts out about how there's nothing to like about the stadium, and ends up being about getting wet in the rain. The chapter goes on to complain about the color of the seats and lack of activities between innings. The subjective evaluations are just all over the place.

But now that I've got my complaining out of the way, I'll tell you that none of that stuff really matters. This is a reference book, after all, and is best used for its facts. Those seem to be complete, and the ones I can verify myself are accurate.

The first time spring training goer will find a lot that's helpful in this book. For example, in the chapter on the Washington Nationals, you find this note:

There is a parking lot next to the stadium. It is reserved for employees and handicapped parking. However, it does not say that anywhere. you won't find out until you drive in and get turned away.

Nice thing to know in advance.

The multi-team spring training goer will also find a lot that's helpful in this book. Chapter 20 is completely dedicated to itineraries for spring-training trips, with recommendations for which parks to see in which order. If your spring training trip isn't focused around a single team, this book will save you a lot of energy in searching out details from disparate web pages. However, if you need to find more details, it does provide addresses for those disparate web pages for your convenience.

The spring training autograph seeker absolutely must have this book. There is a heavy emphasis on autographs: it tells you when to go, where to stand, and what to do. Personally, I don't give a flying flip about autographs, so I mostly skipped over those parts. Maybe for future editions they'll consider listing the local watering holes frequented by the players: now there's a detail I'd be interested in.

Florida Spring Training is available at bookstores nationwide, through online bookstores, and at www.TheOtherOrlando.com.

August 20, 2006

Shawn Reviews ‘Little League Big Dreams’

Shawn's got a lovely review of Little League, Big Dreams by Charles Euchner. I wanted very much to review this book, but I didn't feel right requesting the review copy when I still haven't made it through The Last Nine Innings, so instead, I'll send you over to see what Shawn has to say about it.

The book examines the super-hot spotlight recently put on the Little League World Series. Per the press release:

Little League baseball has become a multi-billion dollar national and global phenomenon. But is that a good thing? … Commercialism, exploitation, corporate interest, and national media pressure are stark realities in the NFL, NBA and MLB…should they be realities in Little League baseball too?

While I'm all for building character in today's youth, putting kids into these highly competitive situations always gives me an ookie feeling. It's like beauty pageants or the national spelling bee: nothing good ever seems to come of it.

Little League, Big Dreams is on sale now for $22.50.

June 12, 2006

CD Review: Cincinnati Clutch Hits

Cincinnati Clutch Hits
Buddy Roger's Music
To benefit the Reds Community Fund
Available online at the Reds Community Fund Online Shop for $15.

Cincinnati Clutch HitsCincinnati Clutch Hits is a collection of musical tributes to baseball in general and the Reds specifically by Cincinnati-area musical artists as well as nationally known names. Clutch Hits runs the gamut of musical stylings which often defy description, but the variety does provide a little something for everyone.

Marty Brennaman starts the album by introducing each performer or group as if they were in a defensive line-up. It's cutsie and something you'll probably skip over after the first dozen listens or so. My favorite part is that he has Raquel Aurilia coming out of the bullpen. Maybe the Reds should consider it.

And Andy performs Wire to Wire, an upbeat little number about a guy finding his dream girl on the Reds' jumbo-tron. It makes use of tons of references to Reds' pop culture that you're sure to appreciate.

Freekbass contributes Reds Fan. From the website, it looks like Freekbass would be called funk, but we're well outside of my realm of musical experience with this piece. I liked it well enough. Crack technical staff can't stand it.

Under the Lights is a guitar-led country-style ballad by Noah Hunt about becoming a Reds' fan. The experience of a four-year-old spending time with his father at the stadium is a story many fans will identify with.

Screaming Mimes, with their college band name, had me thinking I'd be hearing some harsh, ranty tunes, but I couldn't have been more off-base. Think Barenaked Ladies meets an entire history of the Reds organization from 1869 for Three Cheers, Cincinnati. They reprise their cheerful sound later in the album with The Big Show. In both cases, these are the most likely songs to be stuck in my head for hours after listening.

Score by Jen Hillard has an innocent-sounding beat that belies the incredibly suggestive lyrics. Seriously, enough to make the Red Hot Mama blush. (“It might be a sin, but I keep thinking about first base with him.”) You've got to have an appreciation for a song that can do that.

Blessid Union of Souls provides Play Ball and Me, Marty, Joe, Ted & Louise, a couple tunes you'll probably recognize. I believe they were released on a previous album, but I was unable to maneuver their web site to confirm that. In any event, they're solid tracks.

Jake Speed and the Freddies contribute Old Man Joe, a folk piece about the career of Joe Nuxhall. It's awesome and I love every bit of it. In their photo in the liner notes, there's a banjo, an accordian, a fiddle--the only things missing are the wash board and the jug with XXX on the side.

Heart of a Hero is an original piece by one of our favorites here at RHM, Raquel Aurilia. It took me a few days to figure out what this song was reminiscent of. It's kind of dark and severe. In fact, it was the Crack Technical Staff that finally came through with the info: The Stroke by Billy Squier. Message of this song is much different, of course.

Ryan Adcock, in The Cul-de-sac League, gives a startlingly acute trip down memory lane with his description of playing baseball in the street as a kid. When he mentions the ghost man on third, you just want to double-over with the poignantness of it all.

psychodots give us Gimmetheball, a song that repeats its own title several dozen times with some very interesting progressions. I'm a little concerned about what it says about my mental state that I like this song so well.

Hall of Fame by Greg Mahan is entirely over my head. It seems to tell a story of a pitcher, but I must not be solid enough in my baseball knowledge to get it. Still, it's got interesting and unusual rhythms and a cool overall sound.

Chalkie features Blessid Union on the song Lost in the Lights, perhaps the only slapstick song I'm familiar with. It's a light rockish piece about an outfielder getting an easy fly ball that will win his team the World Series, but losing it in the lights. It's OK, though, because after he falls down, the ball lands between his legs for an out. That one, if it actually happened, would be sure to appear on Sportscenter for all of eternity.

Kinsey Rose gives us Daddy's Glove, a sentimental acoustic tune about realizing what's important in life while looking at her father's old baseball glove. Super-sweet bordering on schmaltzy: this song will be your mother's absolute favorite. You should buy her the album just for this track.

Peter Frampton wraps up the album with his talkbox rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. I just don't like the song. I've never liked the talkbox effect, he messes up the lyrics a couple times, and he doesn't say “Redlegs” instead of “home team.” Sorry, Mr. Frampton. I give you full props for being involved with the project, though, and for lending the power of your name to the album.

Reds Community Fund Concert June 15
Don't forget that two of the artists featured on Clutch Hits will be performing live and in person this Thursday, June 15 at the Madison Theatre in Covington.

March 31, 2006

CD Review: Covering the Bases

Covering the Bases by Bronson Arroyo
Bronson Arroyo Productions, LLC/ Manufactured and distributed by Asylum Records
http://www.bronsonarroyo.com/

So we had Bronson Arroyo on the payroll for, what, 12 hours before Doc Scott at Reds & Blues felt the need to make some demeaning comment insinuating that Red Hot Mama has nothing better to do than to review players' music CDs?

Dammit, I wish I'd said it first. It's so much cooler to be self-effacing than to be effaced by someone else.

Bronson Arroyo's Covering the Bases is a collection of covers of 12 of his favorite songs from the 90s. Now, I was almost ready to forgive him for that until I saw this among his thank yous in the liner notes:

To my sister, Serenity, for never getting me into music in the eighties and ruining my musical taste.

What a punk. Doesn't he know it takes a real man to cover Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go?

But I digress. Arroyo is an above-average singer. You know how when you hear someone singing badly, you just want to cringe in embarrassment on their behalf? I never even once wanted to do that while listening to this CD. Occasionally he slips into impersonating the original singers instead of giving his own original rendition of the hits, but that's not really bad.

And if Mr. Arroyo had to cover 90s music, he at least chose some of the more palatable tunes from that era. Tracks include:

  • Slide by the Goo Goo Dolls
  • Down in the Hole by Alice in Chains
  • The Freshmen by The Verve Pipe
  • Everlong by The Foo Fighters with additional spoken-word lyrics by Stephen King. No word on whether the proceeds went toward the continuing fight against foo.
  • Black by Pearl Jam
  • Pardon Me by Incubus
  • Something's Always Wrong by Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Plush by Stone Temple Pilots. This version is loads better than Jeff Conine's on Oh Say Can You Sing?.
  • Shimmer by Fuel
  • Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog
  • Best I've Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning) by Vertical Horizon
  • Dirty Water by The Standells

That last one is an interesting one. Whereas the rest of the tracks are pretty standard fare Seattle alternative, Dirty Water is a bunch of New England jingoism that features several of Arroyo's then-teammates singing about what they like best about Boston. It's a stylistic departure from the rest of the album, and the comment about it in the liner notes is distinctly sparser than for the rest of the tracks. Despite its theme, it seems like an utterly replaceable track. I think that in future releases, he ought to slip in a cover of This One Belongs to the Reds instead.

In summary, Covering the Bases is a solid piece of music work and a nice addition to musical collection of any grunge and post-grunge era baseball fan. Those of us hoping for an album of covers of Wham! songs will just have to wait until Jim Edmonds comes out with an album.