Categories
Quick Spins

Pet Shop Boys /Hotspot

Pet Shop Boys

Hotspot (X2 Recordings Ltd.)

Petshopboys.co.uk

While casual pop fans will relegate Pet Shop Boys into the one-hit-wonder bin, the truth is, they’ve been releasing music since their 1980’s heyday, maturing and expanding their sound with each new release. Indeed, “Bolshy” and “Thursday,” from 2013’s Electric made that release a career high-water mark.

Frontman Neil Tenant and synth genius Chris Lowe have another stunner on their hands. These ten tracks are among their best. “Will-o-the-wisp” is a thumping club groove, albeit with cheeky bleeps and blips giving way to a dark, minor-key chorus. Driving and relentless, it sets up the rest of the record impeccably.

“Dreamland” and “Monkey Business,” catch my ear in particular, as they fill the roll of throwbacks. I’m a sucker for anything that sounds like it could’ve been recorded in 1984 and Pet Shop Boys have a sly knack for doing this without sounding silly or pandering. I’m betting most synth-pop fans will feel the same and be entertained.

D.P.

Categories
Video of The Day

Shine On Harvest Moon

Spreading joy in whatever they did, Laurel & Hardy.

Categories
Quick Spins

Diana Panton /A Cheerful Little Earful

Diana Panton

A Cheerful Little Earful (Hamilton)

http://www.dianapanton.com

I’m always appreciative when I come across an album recorded for children that doesn’t aim down at them. Children have absorbent minds, capable of much more than most adults give them credit for, and jazz is something that they absolutely can appreciate and enjoy.

Canadian singer Diana Panton has assembled a collection of standards that will please ears of every age. Her vocal style reminds me of Madeleine Peyroux, an obvious thru-line to Billie Holliday. “Red Red Robin” sounds playful and happy, as does Ira Gershwin’s “Cheerful Little Earful.” Panton’s secret weapon is Don Thompson, a first-rate acoustic bassist doubling melody lines on piano and vibes.

I suspect that even jaded, diehard jazz enthusiasts will enjoy every second of this. It’s a really nice example of a great singer picking the perfect songs to fit her voice and accompanying players.

D.P.

Categories
Comics

Just Say Uncle

Categories
Eats

The Impossible Whopper

The latest trend among burger joints is The Impossible Burger. It’s a burger that isn’t really a burger at all, but a plant-based concoction that isn’t all that bad. Hang on, sporto, it ain’t all that good, either.

Burger King’s version does look like a Whopper, but its taste is something else altogether. Whereas the regular Whopper does have somewhat of a flame-broiled taste to it, The Impossible Whopper tastes more like the liquid smoke that crockpot barbecuers use.

The secondary taste is that of a high school cafeteria hamburger, which is probably 80% soy. If that sounds even remotely pleasant to you, then you might find this to your liking. 

As for me, I just kept wishing the faux burger was the real thing. 

Short of some sort of weird, fast-food, apocalyptic scenario, I doubt that I’d ever have another.*

Van Dyke Brown

*My editor insists that I will “have another.” Damn.

Categories
Uncategorized Video of The Day

Shovel Some Kindness

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had two neighbors with snowblowers that almost always helped me out when the white stuff got deep, here in Wisconsin. I always appreciated the helping hand.

With lighter snowfalls, my family & I often shoveled their walks in return. Though they might not have ever realized that it was us, I still feel good knowing that we were able to return the favor a little.

D.P.

Categories
Quick Spins

Marshall Crenshaw Miracle Of Science

Marshall Crenshaw

Miracle of Science (Shiny-Tone)

http://www.marshallcrenshaw.com

With the release of 1996’s Miracle of Science, alt-pop favorite Marshall Crenshaw had a bit of a career renaissance. Comparisons were immediately drawn between this new record and his stellar 1982 self-titled debut. Much to the delight of guitar-pop fans everywhere, he seemed to have rediscovered his muse, and in a big way.

Here, Miracle of Science gets the reissue treatment from Crenshaw’s own Shiny-Tone Records label. In edition, Shiny-Tone will give another go ‘round to 1996’s #447, 2003’s What’s In The Bag? And 1998’s The 9 Volt Years. All will be welcome to this writer.

“What Do You Dream Of” and “Who Stole The Train” are two of Crenshaw’s best, indeed, he almost sings them with the energy he had in ’82. “Twenty-Five Forty-One” is a great warning song about the downside of getting a place with your girl. The cover of Billy Page’s “The “In” Crowd” is peppy and fun, as is the imaginary TV theme song, “Theme From Flaregun.”

For Crenshaw’s collecting fans, Shiny-Tone adds three additional unreleased tracks; “Rouh Na Selim Nevers (Seven Miles An Hour backwards)”, and demos of “What The Hell I Got” and “Misty Dreamer.” Even without the extra added tracks, Miracle of Science is one of his absolute best, and well worth another listen.

D.P.

Categories
Comics

Just Say Uncle

Categories
YouTubers

Rob Paravonian, Comedian

It’s probably no coincidence that comedian Rob Paravonian comes from the same place as another famous everyman, Jack Benny, Waukegan, Illinois.

Paravonian deftly wonders at the fly in the ointment, while Benny himself actually was the fly. His hilarious “Baby In A Bar” is a prime example. Taking note of the strange hipster phenomenon of bringing their babies to taverns, the song is less of an indictment and more a general curiosity.

When he’s not hosting and performing at showcases in his current climes, Brooklyn, NY, Paravonian can be found doing everything from touring the country to entertaining families on Disney cruises.

One of his greatest skills, however, is his ability to craft music videos for his satirical songs. “Pachelbel Rant,” his anthem for frustrated cellists everywhere, became an internet sensation a few years ago, garnering over 15 million YouTube views.

Other standout videos include the “Driving With Grandpa” and “The Other Property Brothers.” Also of note is his series “52 sellout,” featuring a year’s worth of commercial parodies guaranteed to produce far more than 52 laughs. You can connect with Rob on YouTube, or at https://robprocks.com/ .

Categories
Comics

Father of The Brood