Posts Tagged ‘Beatles’

Review: “That Thing You Do! ”

April 19, 2010

So, I know I haven’t been focusing in solely on music lately, but hopefully you can recognize the musical value of some of the items I’ve been writing about, in particular my movie reviews, all of which feature music as a central theme.  With that said…

Released in 1996 and set during the 1960s, “That Thing You Do!  “   is Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, and a fine debut at that.  The story of a garage rock band who rises to stardom on the success of their one big hit song, “That Thing You Do!  “   this movie hits all the right notes, so to speak, and seamlessly pulls off a fun, playful atmosphere that echoes the carefree days of a bygone era.  After losing their drummer to a broken arm, a local Erie, Pennsylvania band suddenly finds themselves in need of a replacement, quickly turning to beatnik jazz drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) to fill in for a gig at a college talent show.  However, after Guy speeds up the tempo of the eponymous song, turning this slow ballad into an upbeat rocker, the group is soon presented with an unexpected wealth of fame, especially after being signed to Playtone Records by a suave A&R representative named Mr.  White (Tom Hanks) and settling on band name The Wonders.  Despite the usual lousy shows and technical on-stage problems any band goes through, they’re eventually added to a nationwide Playtone artist tour that takes them to a variety of state fairs, all the while enjoying the continued rise of, “That Thing You Do!  “   up the charts and the benefits this entails, such as appearances on TV and in a major motion picture.

As is the case with any film, this one features a fair amount of drama and relationship issues, including those between lead singer/guitarist Jimmy Mattingly (Johnathon Schaech) and his girlfriend Faye (Liv Tyler), for whom drummer Guy secretly longs.  We also see as Jimmy becomes consumed with his own visions for the band, and his desire to take the band in that direction, even if that means less a focus on performing live and a greater emphasis on recording.  Guitarist/vocalist Lenny Haise is portrayed as a silly, skirt-chasing buffoon, a role which Steve Zahn performs admirably.  And it’s great to see Guy’s starry-eyed reactions to all the amazing things that happen to him and the band, all the while harboring his continued love for jazz and, especially, the music of his favorite jazz musician Del Paxton, a love that pays off in a big way for Guy as the film nears its conclusion.

Any film that turns its focus towards music, bands, or anything along those lines is already a winner in my book, and this one is a perfect example of all those things.  As mentioned, Hanks does a wonderful job of bringing the audience into the halcyon days of the 60s, when Beatlemania was at its peak and a band not unlike the Fab Four attempted to make a name for themselves.  Comparisons to The Beatles can be found everywhere, from the uptempo snappiness (to quote Mr.  White) of the band’s music, to their nicknames eventually assigned to the band members, all the way down to the drummer swap, which recalls the substitution of original Beatles drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr.  The cast does an excellent job, rounding out their roles to a, “T, “ and making us believe they’re an actual band (in reality, external musicians including Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesigner composed much of the movie’s music).

I tip my hat to, “That Thing You Do!  “  for again giving those musicians who’ve cut their teeth in bands at one point or another something to watch with fondness, and making us believe that, maybe, being a one-hit wonder is all you really need.

Random song post, Volume 4

March 2, 2010

Songs I’d forgotten about, or overlooked, but now can’t stop listening to:

Oasis – “The Shock Of The Lightning” (Dig Out Your Soul, Big Brother/Sony BMG/Reprise, 2008): British Beatles clones Oasis have certainly seen better days lately, what with the recent departure of principal songwriter and founding member Noel Gallagher, however it’s refreshing to know that, even in the time leading up to their implosion, they were still able to churn out songs like, “The Shock Of The Lightning, “ off 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul. The song is every bit Oasis-a nice mix of their classic Beatles-meets Rolling Stones sound, with Liam Gallagher’s voice seamlessly mixing in with lyrics like, “A magical mystery. “ In particular, the lyrics are a plethora of back-and-forth phrases such as, “I feel cold, but I’m back in the fire, “ and, “Outta control but I’m tied up tight, “ adding to the song’s charm. The fantastic drum solo and organ swells build up into an explosive climax, by which point the song has completely taken off-and it never comes back down.

Cute Is What We Aim For – “Doctor” (Rotation, Fueled By Ramen, 2008): Say what you must about the high drama and unstable lineup of this emo group, they still did manage to produce some solid music, such as, “Doctor, “ off their second (and, thus far, final) full-length Rotation. The intro is a cornucopia of producer John Feldmann’s (The Used, Story Of The Year) bizarre background noise, eventually kicking into a pop/punk drum beat that continues all the way to the end. Frontman Shaant Hacikyan’s voice has never sounded better, and the guitars are gritty and loud, perfectly blending into the song. It all leads up to the outro, when the drums break down to half-time and the guitars & vocals follow suit. A great example of what could’ve been-had CIWWAF released more material like this, it’s no question they could’ve easily followed in the footsteps of scene giants such as Fall Out Boy.

Good Old War – “Coney Island” (Only Way To Be Alone, Sargent House, 2008): These guys may still be fairly new to the scene, having previously spent time in groups like the progressive/indie band Days Away, but feature a sound that is nearly as old as rock ‘n roll itself. “Coney Island, “ owes more to groups like Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young than blink182 and Green Day, but is still incredibly appealing and a joy to listen. The vocal harmonies are particularly reminiscent of the bands of old, and the minimalistic backing instruments (which appear to be limited solely to acoustic guitar, an electric guitar solo, and percussive handclaps) keep the pleasant vibe alive & moving forward.

Hey Mercedes – “Quality Revenge At Last” (Loses Control, Vagrant, 2003): On Loses Control, their second (and final) full-length, Chicago quartet Hey Mercedes turned up the production level a notch or two from previous releases while still retaining their signature sound, best demonstrated on, “Quality Revenge At Last, “ the one and only single/video from the album. It’s ripe with all the trademarks Hey Mercedes had come to be known for, from the time signature change into the verses, to Damon Atkinson’s creative, tight drumming, to frontman Bob Nanna’s cutting voice and clever lyrics (most noteworthy being the chorus line, “And in the madness of it all there’s a phone call coming from a ragged romeo in Joliet”). The guitars also stand out, showcasing a bit of a 90s style, rounding out an all-around killer Hey Mercedes song.

New Found Glory – “Dig My Own Grave” (Tip Of The Iceberg, Bridge 9, 2008): It sounds like something New Found Glory has done time and time again, what with the gang vocals and the get-out-of-your-seat-and-jump intro & choruses, but that doesn’t make it any less catchy. Cyrus Bolooki’s double kick drums in the verses particularly add a flair that has rarely been touched in previous New Found Glory songs. Who else but these guys, undoubtedly the purveyors of pop/punk/hardcore, could pull off a song like this, time and time again?

Anberlin – “Disappear” (New Surrender, Universal Republic, 2008): After years of playing the independent record label circuit, Florida rock group Anberlin finally inked a deal with Universal Republic in 2007, paving the way for their 2008 release New Surrender. With production by Neal Avron an a hit single in, “The Feel Good Drag, “ the album became a large success for the group, bolstered by other fantastic songs like, “Disappear, “ which was actually the first song to be leaked online from the record. Opening with an aggressive synthesizer line and exploding into the intro, the song rarely lets up-frontman Stephen Christian gives it his all, especially during the chorus, while drummer Nate Young attacks the drums like they owe him money throughout. The half-time breakdown in the bridge and synthesizer reprise pave the way for that final chorus, by which point the song has already gone down as an Anberlin highlight.

Alkaline Trio – “Help Me” (Agony & Irony, Epic/V2, 2008): Alkaline Trio may have missed the target a bit with 2008’s Agony & Irony, their one and only major label release to date, but on, “Help Me, “ the album’s major single and video (with its Wild Wild West-esque steampunk flair), the band nailed it with a song that serves as a reminder of classic Alkaline Trio, especially frontman Matt Skiba’s voice, which is flush with the diverse vocal ranges he’s known for. The music itself is flawless, especially Derek Grant’s drums, and a touch of piano throughout the course of this tune make for a great experience from start to finish.

Carolina – “If You Catch Me”: Although I will start devoting more time to local musicians (and the Milwaukee scene in general) in the foreseeable future, I had to say something about this fun little rocker from Milwaukee band Carolina, who have since broken up, leaving behind a wealth of pop/rock songs that shouldn’t be missed. On, “If You Catch Me, “ frontman Bob Simonsen’s voice carries the song, along with the guitars, which are as Milwaukee as the Miller Brewing Company and cover bands. Biju Zimmerman’s tight snare drum adds to the excitement, making for an all-around perfect entry into the local music scene, and the world of pop/rock in general.