Like A Fine Wine (Willie Nelson, God’s Problem Child review)

You only get one shot at life, and sometimes the kid with the most problems ends up being the adult that saves the day, over and over again. Like a fine wine, it is only with age that they continue to become better versions of themselves.

 

Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child

released April 28, 2017
********* 9/10

Willie Hugh Nelson, better known as Willie Nelson, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, author, poet, actor, and activist. In other words, at eighty four years old, he’s done much more than most of us could ever hope to achieve. Interestingly enough though, he didn’t see accolades or critical success of any kind until the 1970s with Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger, and Stardust. Nelson was into his forties at this point, so something to consider if you haven’t made it yourself just yet.

As such, Nelson is one of the most celebrated country music artists of all time and a main contributor to the popularity of outlaw country in the 1970s and 1980s. If you aren’t familiar with it, outlaw country is a subgenre of country music that developed as a response to the conservative nature of music coming out of Nashville, Tennessee at the time.

Much has happened in the years following, with Nelson having acting in over thirty films, authored books, joined the supergroup The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, and paid off over thirty million dollars in debts owed to the IRS. And we haven’t even really touched upon his activism. But I don’t have the space for that in this post.

Today I’m going to talk about God’s Problem Child, both the album and the eponymous track tucked in the meat of this record.

God’s Problem Child, the album, is one tackling mortality and also have a sense of appreciation for a life well lived. Between David Bowies’ Black Star and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, this is another album on the subject of death from an artist well into the final stage of life. Nelson just happens to be sticking around a bit longer than those two gents, and for all we know, this might not even be his last offering.

Featuring a range of songs on the topic, from Little House on the Hill and Old Timer, to Your Memory Has a Mind of Its Own, to the hilarious Still Not Dead, and especially It Gets Easier, this album has all the grace and humour of Willie Nelson, with the first touch of reflection on a life well lived.

Little House on the Hill explores the afterlife and what Nelson’s eternal home will be like, and Old Timer shows the realities of geriatric heartache – a well oiled engine, but a rusting frame with bad suspension. True Love is a demonstration of unending compassion, and Delete and Fast Forward is a political number that reminds us we’ve messed up like this before Donald Trump came along.

Hell, even the song Butterfly is a metaphor for transformation and fleeting nature of life.

As for the track, God’s Problem Child, we see Nelson featuring the late Leon Russell (in one of his final recordings) and efforts from Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White on lead vocals.

This album might not win over legions of new fans, but it definitely has content there enough to win over some millennials here and there, while satisfying the die-hards and people who love classical fingering of the guitar. Trigger shows up in full force, with holes in the soundboard from decades of playing unseen.

And no, it’s not a game changer in the opus of Willie Nelson, but God’s Problem Child does remind us of his iconic status and continued relevance, well into his golden years.

theories Summarized

If you take away the IRS battle, marijuana activism, all of the americana and competition over the years, it’s still clear as day that Nelson can drum up new material with the best of them, creating music that sits with you and leaves a mark. The kind of work worthy of an outlaw. I can only theorize he continues to keep this pace and we get a few more years in the era of Willie Nelson.

Tim!

John McCrae (Remembrance Day)

Remembrance Day is an especially trying time for veterans and surviving families of war. They recall the good times and the bad, in particular those members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.

This day has been in place for almost a century now – It was established on November 11th in the majority of countries to honour individuals and recall the violence sieged during World War I and resolved with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28th 1919.

In case you didn’t already know, the poppy has become synonymous with Remembrance Day due to the poem In Flanders Fields. I read this poem, and about this poem when I was growing up. It was a pretty big deal in school because it was written by a Canadian physician by the name of John McCrae. McCrae was a Lieutenant-Colonel that served as a soldier in World War I and a surgeon during the second battle of Ypres in Belgium.

McCrae was an artist through and through. He was an author and a poet, but he didn’t make it through the end of the war unfortunately. He died of pneumonia near the end.

It’s a beautiful poem, and one which reminds us all of the urgency of the war, and the eternity that the dead moved into. It’s rather sobering, but I think worthwhile to read and remember. An exemplary instance of the power of art.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

As for the inspiration, it’s a rather touching story once you shed some light upon it. And though I don’t remember the exact moment I heard this poem for the first time, I do recall that it was during my secondary education, and that the concrete walls which shaped the school around my peers and I, was rather cold and old itself. It served as a great backdrop to learn that McCrae likely wrote In Flanders Fields shortly after the funeral of his close friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.

Helmer had been killed during the second battle of Ypres. The battlefield was home to countless poppy flowers which featured in great numbers and even in its cemeteries. Thus the poppy grew in popularity because of this poem.

Though it has been quite some time since this war broke out, there have been others since and many more brave men and women who’ve fought for peace and given their lives doing so. Whether you are a creative professional or not dear readers, I think you can recognize rather easily that art has a place in life, and that without art there is no heart. So please take some time tomorrow to honour those who died so that we might live. It’s important, it’s not just a theory.

Tim!

See The Math Of It (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dissociation review)

Saying goodbye is incredibly tough – Particularly if you don’t know if you’ll ever meet again. When all you have are memories from a painful departure, it numbs you to your core being.

You need to be thoughtful in your farewell messages, because once you do, there is no second chance. This week’s album review is an exercise is that experience. Someone leaves and the other stays behind.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
released October 14, 2016
******** 8/10

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The Dillinger Escape Plan are an American mathcore and heavy metal band which claimed their name from the bank robber John Dillinger. Founded in 1997 and born out of a hardcore punk group called Arcane, these guys have seen numerous roster changes over their 10 year tenure and 6 studio album showing.

Like the man, The Dillinger Escape Plan have successfully executed numerous projects which have given them creative control and an ability to dictate the course of their own trajectory despite numerous changes to the lineup, intentional and otherwise.

Dissociation marks the last time that TDEP will be performing together on tour. Initially thought to be an indefinite hiatus, lead singer Greg Puciato has since confirmed that the band will be breaking up once the tour ends in March 2017.

Let me start first by stating that I was disappointed to learn that TDEP would be breaking up after this record. As I immerse myself more fully in the music scene, especially in metal, I realize that there a number of fantastic groups that make metal music which I know absolutely nothing about. Dissociation feels like the right title knowing what we now know of the future. Whether the album is about the separation of it’s elements, literal or metaphorically, the foundations of the record are set up rather nicely with Limerent Death. A song that addresses the death of a romantic sentiment and the lingering frustrations therein. The follow up track Symptom of Terminal Illness is definitely more methodical and slow in it’s delivery.

Wanting Not So Much As To is one of my favourites on this album. I suspect it has something to do with the punk tones and howls featured throughout, plus it features melodic notes, spoken-word, and it all fits in together rather nicely in it’s instrumentation.

Fugue has great electronic influences, Low Feels Blvd is jazzy, while Surrogates and Honeysuckle feature prominent opening, middle, and closing sections.

Manufacturing Disconent is heavy. And in the past this would’ve been exactly the kind of song I stayed away from, but it’s considerably more interesting to consider it with the backup vocals and sampled audio. Taken as a whole, this song represents the creative ability of The Dillinger Escape Plan almost perfectly, and other critics have labelled it as a classic sound for them.

The final three tracks are all excellent in their own right – Apologies Not Included, Nothing to Forget, and title track Dissociation. It is the light at the end of tunnel. And as mentioned before whether literal or a metaphor, this song has a simple structure and even some hope of the future ahead. I blame the strings for that. They are beautifully included and introduce us to a very different side of The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but I suspect a great many replays of Dissociation in the years to come.

 

 

 

I’ve heard this idea that true friends don’t ever really say good-bye, they just take a sabbatical from each other, picking up the pieces easily upon reconnection. The Dillinger Escape Plan have had an excellent run, and while they may be leaving to pursue other opportunities, the memories they have made will last a lifetime, even better because we have a musical record. That could just be a theory though.

Tim!

Let It Go (Every Time I Die, Low Teens review)

I’m not the biggest fan of winter. Like at all. I should have a better taste for it as my ancestors are a variety of European types, but for whatever reason, I was a skinny kid with a fair complexion. So I hated winter. Like a lot.

It makes me want to scream into a microphone.

Thankfully, I found my winter jam just in time – So enjoy it along with me dear readers.

Every Time I Die – Low Teens
released September 23, 2016
******** 8/10

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Every Time I Die is an American metalcore group that have been around for almost 20 years. Known for their energetic shows and ability to infuse meaning with melody, Every Time I Die have been with Epitaph records since 2008, and were with Ferret Music before that.

I probably sound like a crotchety old man, but I fucking love most artists signed to Epitaph records, so vis a vis, I love Every Time I Die. Maybe that’s a juvenile or closed minded way to look at the subject, but come on people I’ve reviewed everything from pop, to hip hop, to metal, to jazz, and everything in between in the past year, which should tell you that I may have favourites, but I play a bit of everything to continuously expand my sonic ability.

Now let’s get down to business.

Low Teens was recorded in the midst of winter, but it has a surprising amount of heat behind it – these guys decided to focus their already biting sound and circle pit tendencies on a rather somber and enduring note of the frailty of life. For instance, frontman Keith Buckley almost lost his wife and daughter during pregnancy complications while the album was being recorded.

Which is awesome, given that these guys have never had a slump of quality in their long run, despite a few lineup changes over the years.

Let’s start with album opener Fear and Trembling which is a duel between Buckley and death itself, and he stands firm in the belief that he’ll follow death straight into the pit itself if he loses the battle for his loved ones. This is quickly followed up by the speed and precision of Glitches, one of the albums singles and a great way to keep us engaged.

C++ is yet another track that explores death and that pleading for another sweet moment with a woman on life support. Seriously haunting.

Track number four, Two Summers is somewhat divisive, as it deviates from the typical sound of the band somewhat, but damn it if it doesn’t have a great southern drawl, and I cannot seem to place my finger on what song it reminds me of, so hopefully one of you will help me out.

The adventure continues onward and upward with I Didn’t Want To Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway, It Remembers, and Petal. Only gaining in steam and energy. It’s not until we hear The Coin Has A Say, that we take pause and recall a time when ETID was a bit younger and less world weary. When we finally reach album closer Map Change, the audience is primed and the stage is set for a song that really addresses the cold of winter AKA hell.

As is so consistent with their track record, throughout the years, the track record on this album is one of both chaos and order. A challenge well met.

 

 

 

Everything is coming up roses Buckley screams in bonus track Skin WIthout Bones, and I have to agree with him. This album is reliable and also noteworthy. If you’ve been wavering on the fence about whether you should listen to Every Time I Die, now’s the time to give them a chance. They’re made of the right stuff.

Tim!

11 Ways People Die Before Death (Cross Talk Ep. 9)

Death is a difficult thing to write about, I think. After all, I’m still alive and so I have no life experience (death experience?) with this particular topic. Films have addressed death since their inception in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that more honest portrayals of death started to come to light. Much like sex, drugs, and rock n ‘roll, filmmakers have slowly opened up and arts and culture have become more accepting of these harder to digest themes.

For instance, one of my favourite movies about death is The Fault In Our Stars, which is full of love and beauty, but is also a very real in its depiction of the nearness to death that the two leads are experiencing.

But when we record an episode of Cross Talk, we want to present a nuanced view of whatever topic we set out sights on. So why would we treat death any differently. We wouldn’t, is the answer – because we think using our brains is important.

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With that made clear, we are going to explore a lot of great examples of the nature of death, in film on this episode nine of Cross Talk. You want to know more, dear readers? Well how about I lay it out for you?

We’re going to share an example of a character that can’t die, but not for an very obvious reason, associations of death and greed, an animated movie death that changed a franchise, whether we are really alive, dead or somewhere in between, if death is as unique as life is, and two movies that explore the idea of what we might do if knew we couldn’t die OR if we knew when we were going to die.

Just a quick disclaimer, Singh won’t be present for this episode, but we do give him a shout out, so please stay tuned for his next appearance; and as always, I’ve included a direct link to the full video for you here, but because we have the ability to embed vidoes you can click through here. After all, wouldn’t want you to waste any precious life overexerting yourself watching episode nine of Cross Talk!

I’m out of theories for now, but please check back tomorrow for an album review that is full of lemonade and bae. It’s a heart breaker for sure. Please comment, subscribe, and share this with friends. We want to hear your feedback!

Tim!