Cautious Chemists: Providing the Soundtrack to the Subconscious

The small snippet of their work that we’re given on their Myspace page makes it very clear that the Cautious Chemists are presenting us with the soundtrack to the subconscious. Their playlist yields four songs, and only one of them plays just over three minutes, leaving us with fragments of words and sound that are startlingly easy to piece together. They do so much with so little.

Brian Leak (vocals/bass) and Bryan Layne (guitar/vocals), or B² as I'm calling them in my head, bring an experimental sound that makes me feel as though I'm in a dream, or in that place between asleep and awake, listening to vague whispers in the next room. "Sailing", the longest song on the playlist, plays out the role of the ocean, late morning, on a calm day. I'm very much a visual listener, so I sat back in my chair and soaked up the overly-bright sun provided for me by the hypnotic strings of the guitar and the soft vocals of (I'm guessing) Brian. It's not so much a song as it is a quiet, unassuming experience.

This review is, unfortunately, short due to the lack of other songs and information about the band, but I hope it will encourage others to go take a listen. It won't take long, but it will definitely stay with you.


Tristan Clopet & The Juice: Best Upcoming Band in the History of Ever?

When I was first contacted by Tristan Clopet & The Juice, for some reason I thought, “This’d better not be another Christian rock group. How do these people find me?”

Luckily, they weren’t a Christian rock group. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Christian rock group.

After listening to “Concrete Dreams”, the first song on their debut album Duende, I was intrigued. Then “End of an Era” began and I was sold. Although they claim to be Alt/Funk/Ghettotech, I found so much more in their music. In a world full of poseurs and mediocrity, I was pleasantly surprised to hear such a unique sound. They transcend genres, world regions, and times, bringing Spanish-esque guitar riffs and 70’s funk together to create something that makes me long for the hot, rolling haze of summer. I tasted sex and caught the bitter-sweet smell of musk throughout the seductive “Your Love is a Drug”, a throwback to the sounds of Soul.

But there’s a startling emotional honesty about their music, a wisdom far beyond their years that really makes me wonder if this is really their first album. This kind of caliber of music-making is not what you’d expect to find among a group of newcomers. I went in expecting amateurs and instead came out wondering how the hell they were going to top this. Because this? This is quite literally amazing.

Tristan Clopet croons as lead vocalist, possessing a voice that will literally leave you shivering where you stand and wishing that the days of Blues and Soul were still with us. The Juice (comprised of Phil Mullerschoen - drums, Colin Veit - bass, Sean Skelton - that oh, so sexy guitar, and frequenter Rich Chwastiak - percussion) complement Clopet’s vocals beautifully, seamlessly flowing all around him like music ought to. There are far too many vocalists who are at war with their other band members, all vying to be heard; Clopet and Co. are not among them.

Tristan Clopet & The Juice dare to be innovative while paying homage to the giants that have come before them, making for a fantastic debut. I only hope that they’ll make their way up to ....Boston.... sometime in the future. With talent like this, touring can’t be too far away.

I give Duende (EP) 5 out of 5.

Recommended Downloads: “Your Love is a Drug”, “Let It Go”, “Oceans”


"Almost Like Being In Love": There's nothing 'almost' about it!

So, a professor told me (that's right. A PROFESSOR. As in, people in positions of authority read my expletive-laden blog) that I ought to do a post about my favorite book. Because, well, why not?

I tore through my small library, searching for the one book that touched me like no other. I could have chosen the Gaiman-Pratchett corroboration, "Good Omens", but it seemed to obvious. Or I could have picked my childhood love, "A Wind in the Door" by Madeleine L'Engle, but it didn't seem to fit the mindset of this post. But I thought of my Young Adult Literature class from last week where my professor told us about a book that listed the best 500 or so YA novels by category and genre. A fantastic idea, thought I, until my professor finished off with "But there was no LBGT category".

And that? That really steams my clams.

So today's post is going to be dedicated to one of the funniest and heart-warming books I've read in the last ten years. And yes, it's LBGT-themed. Don't like it? Well, Jesus will probably skip over you during the Second Coming for being a small-minded douche.

I'm not entirely sure how I came upon Almost Like Being In Love. I don't remember anyone recommending it to me, or hearing about it on any book lists. Hell, it was probably one of those times when I was browsing the Fiction section in Barnes and Noble and happened upon it by accident. By the novel's non-descript cover, one wouldn't assume too much about it.

By page 2, I was hooked. By page 7, I was laughing out loud. Seriously. Everyone says LOL, but no one actually is LOL'ing. I was. In fact, I was LMAO.

I'm hip.

Almost Like Being In Love is an epistolary novel (told in notes, letters, emails, etc) about a very unlikely pair, Craig the all-star jock and Travis the Broadway-obsessed nerd, who fall in love during high school, spend a summer together in New York City, then part ways when they go to separate colleges. Twenty years later, Travis is a nutjob professor who thinks Tom Sawyer and The Bill of Rights have something in common, and Craig is partner of law firm McKenna & Webb and happily settled down with his boyfriend of 14 years, Clayton. After a slew of disappointments, Travis wakes up and realizes that Craig was THE one and embarks on a cross-country journey to find him and win him back.

Still not convinced? Any book that has such winning lines as "Why didn't somebody tell me she was a gynecologist?! Do you know how it looked?! Nine pregnant women in the waiting room, and I'm up at reception holding my stomach and moaning! "What trimester are you in, sir?" Fuck you, lady!" deserves a closer look!

Steve Kluger's writing, as seen in his other novels ("Changing Pitches", "Last Days of Summer"), is smart, witty and unfailingly charming. His characters are three-dimensional, genuine, and HILARIOUS. I really, really wish I were friends with these people. Especially Gordo -- you guys will LOVE Gordo.

I can't say more without giving the story away, but Almost Like Being In Love is a fantastically funny and sweet story that will make you wonder if there might actually be something to all that "true love" business.

I give Almost Like Being In Love 5 out of 5.


Sex With Strangers: Giving Canada Sex Appeal Since 2006

I’m never entirely sure what my music preferences are, as they change on a nearly-constant basis. However, it takes a lot to really grab my attention beyond a fleeting fancy. That being said, Canadian band Sex With Strangers not only refuses to let my attention go, but they’re holding it for ransom. Since I’m a poor college student, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be free of them for a long time.

Sex With Strangers (myspace.com/sexwithstrangers) is hard to categorize. Are they pop? Are they rock? Are they pop-rock? Are they electronica? New wave? Are they my new favorite word, rocktronica? I, personally, have no idea. They claim to be “robot rock”. If that’s the case, the future’s looking pretty damn spectacular.

Their first full-length album, The Modern Seduction paints a vivid picture of a futuristic dystopia, all sharp angles and sheets of steel, in which the ruling class and the rebels clash. Or at least that’s what I got out of it. The album is fantastic – I couldn’t stop listening to it. I swayed my way through “The Modern Seduction”, I bounced through the endlessly fun “Dance Commander”, and rocked out to the loud and fabulous “Downtown Fever”. The album culminates with “New Persuader”, a tune that sounds like the lovechild of Eurythmics and Duran Duran and will leave you with your toe tapping and your mouth stretched into a huge grin.

For a pop/rock/pop-rock/electronic/new wave/rocktronic band, their lyrics are surprisingly insightful. After the 3rd time I listened to “Dance Commander”, by far their most peppy song on the album, I really started to listen to the words. You can’t go wrong with lyrics like ‘It’s a long way from high fashion / everyone waits while the formers take action / the silence is coming tonight’.

All in all, for a first full-length compilation, it’s phenomenal. My only complaint is that The Modern Seduction is so recent, which means I’m going to have to wait a while for their next one.

I give The Modern Seduction 5 out of 5.


Alternative Ulster: Salem State's Best Kept Secret

It's hard for someone like me to find new music. I hate most of the new music that comes out, and the radio stations I enjoy play only classic rock or oldies. When the Jonas Brothers made the cover of Rolling Stone, I was just about ready to give up altogether.

Fortunately, I took a rather drab class with a rather fantastic individual. Said person happens to DJ a radio show on Tuesdays, from 9-12pm, called "Radio Ulster". Dan Forest helms an amazing little gig, playing everything from my beloved classic rock to indie to folk to punk to hard rock, not to mention whatever his listeners request. Forest's tastes are so eclectic that every listener will walk away satisfied, and possibly a bit spoiled.

I've discovered more songs and bands than I can name within the last few weeks alone. Alternative Ulster has become the staple of my Tuesdays, and the music I glean from the program usually tends to get me through the week.

Forest, himself, is a decent host. His music knowledge is second-to-none, and during his speaking segments he will definitely educate those who need it. I've learned quite a lot about the singers and bands he plays, everything from their roots in the music industry to concert dates to fun little tidbits that somehow bring it all together. My only complaint is that Forest sometimes doesn't seem all that confident in his abilities as a DJ. However, I think he has some great potential to take his little show to new heights, should he choose to up his enthusiasm level. Maybe if he takes a shot of pure espresso before every show...?

Anyway, should you be in need of some good music, both old and new, Alternative Ulster is where you ought to tune in.

Listen to Dan Forest on Alternative Ulster 91.7FM on Tuesdays, 9-12pm.



Twilight: Coldly calculated to pander to *your* shrieking demographic


It was brought to my attention today in Classics II, during a discussion about why Teri Hatcher should be cast as Sin in any adaptation of Paradise Lost, that I should make a blog and rant about the ubiquitous "Twilight" series.

Ten steps ahead of you.

"Twilight" came to my attention in 2006, when the "Harry Potter" series was close to ending and I was looking for something to read that would satisfy my inner twelve-year old. Some friends of mine told me that they were reading this great book series about vampires and I should really check it out. So, forgetting that some of these people thought "X-Men 3" was cinematic gold, I went out and bought the first book. Because I am an idiot.

I got to page 60 before throwing it across the room. And promptly bringing it back to Barnes and Noble. Where the clerk on duty and I subsequently burned it behind the store. True story.

This series proves that publishing houses will do ANYTHING for a dollar, up to and including putting out a series that not only gives teenage girls the impression that guys are really like that, but also takes the English language and SETS IT ON FIRE.

Have all the other writers died? Is that what this is? There's no one left, so we have to publish the drivel that's still lying around?

"Twilight" is about an annoying girl named Bella (of course) and the teenage vampire with whom she falls in love. During the span of four books, we have a virgin vampire (which is an oxymoron, because all vamps are giant sluts) that can walk around IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, crazy vampire enemies, werewolves (because why the hell not?), love triangles, a hellspawn, and a white wedding.

Also during the four books, we have a main character who sets the Women's Movement back about 75 years, a vapid love interest I would stake in a heartbeat, another love interest whose presence I frankly can't understand, a plot so convoluted that I stopped reading and had to put my head between my knees and wait for the braincells to regenerate, and an author in need of an afternoon of electroshock.

For those of you playing the home game, Twilight is brought to you by Stephanie Meyer, crazy Mormon extraordinaire. Hell, that she's a Mormon is purely incidental in this case! But the fact that she's crazy remains a FACT. She's 27, still lives with her parents, and is the biggest child I've ever seen. Everything she says and does makes me seriously wonder if she's ever left the comfort of her mall-goth bedroom and gone outside.

** On one memorable occasion, a fan asked Ms. Meyer if Edward (the vapid virgin vamp) goes a bit stir-crazy whenever Bella gets her period. Because blood is the ONLY source of sustenance for a vampire, and Bella is his twu wuv. I, personally, think it's a very valid question. And Ms. Meyer's response?

"Eww! That is so gross! I can't believe you'd ask me that! You should probably leave."

What kind of CHILD shuts down a fan like that?**

And the fans of these books are INSANE. It pains me to admit that my sister is one of them, proving that I have not only failed in my duties as an older sister, but also as a future English teacher. Has anyone ever tried talking to a "Twilight" fan? My best friend's sister is a HUGE fan and every time she talks to me about Edward Cullen, all I can think is, "Fuck. I don't have enough breadcrumbs to get home."

And desecrating the written word wasn't enough, but they had to go and make a movie adaptation. My best friend saw it and said that if they'd muted the whole thing, it would've been good. And they got the most unpleasant, blank-eyed potheads to play the leading roles. Way to go, Goldcrest Pictures.

Unfortunately, as it has been made clear to me, I am in the minority when it comes to hating these books. Maybe 1 out of 10 people are rational individuals who understand where I'm coming from. The other 9 watch "Lord of the Rings" as if it were a documentary.

I'm not entirely sure how to end this rant, because trying to wrap my mind around the success of this series normally causes blood to shoot out my nose. But understand that I've been writing all of my life. I was a creative writing major for two years, studying under some of the best writing professors the country has to offer. I'm a semester away from doing my student-teaching in England, and I have a 3.8 GPA. I'd like to think I know what bad literature looks like.

And from here? It looks like "Twilight".



The "Revolutionary Road" review (or the one in which R.C. wants to KILL herself)

Every once in a while, two amazing actors will come together for what is purported to be the film of the year. So, naturally I nipped over to the theater, desperate to taste the fruition of 11 years. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, together again. There's no way you'd walk out disappointed. Or suicidal.

My ticket to Revolutionary Road should have come with a revolver.

I don't remember the last time I ever walked out of a movie so incredibly depressed. The audience filed out of the theater in complete silence to the soundtrack of the soft piano that played alongside the rolling credits. They called it Revolutionary Road. I called it A Nightmare on Elm Street, because I wanted to KILL MYSELF after watching it.

The film was based on Richard Yates's novel of the same title, and as far as I can tell stayed true to the source. According to those who have read it, the book was just as bleak as the movie. Even Yates agrees. In the October 1999 issue of the Boston Review, Yates was quoted on his central theme: "If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy."

Um, wow. Excuse me while I go HANG MYSELF from the light fixture.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am all for sad. Sad is great! Hell, I use it more than I ought to in my writing. But this? This was bleak. This was worse than bleak: this was hopelessly empty. THEY EVEN SAID IT IN THE MOVIE!! While I can appreciate a dressing down of the fluffy portrait that the 50's painted, I can't deal with films that claim to have a purpose. This film had no such thing. It was just one incredibly long piece of total and complete OSCARBATION. (Although I'm feeling a bit vindicated, as it was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film.)

However, Leo and Kate do not disappoint as Frank and April Wheeler, a pencil-pusher and a failed actress. Both are at the top of their game, and their relationship will put you through the wringer. The ending scenes will literally leave you broken, as shattered as one of Kate's shiny ceramic dishes. And you will never look at rubber tubing the same way again. There is a sense of extreme awkwardness that permeates their relationship, despite their best efforts.

The one character I really enjoyed was Michael Shannon's John Givings, a once-brilliant mathematician who is in and out of a mental institution. Having endured 37 electroshock treatments he's forgotten all his math. However, he is blunt and does not abide by the unspoken conduct rule of that time, asking explicit questions and revealing the ugly truths about marriage, and the Wheelers, themselves. His performance was amazing and he totally deserves his Oscar nom.

But the successes of the film do not outweigh the failures. It was long, it was draggy, it served no purpose, and its conclusion felt far too forced and abrupt. I realize that it was working off of the novel, so perhaps my issues lie with Yates.

Either way, I would suggest popping a couple of Zoloft before seeing this film. You'll need it.

I give Revolutionary Road 2.5 out of 5.

"Wow. I'm seeing my wrists in a whole new light."