Off To The Slaughterhouse (Chase Rice, Lambs & Lions review)

I’ve been humbled once again. I bought a record on a whim, made some initial judgments based on the cover art and what I heard as I listened for the first time to a lean thirty seven minutes of modern country music, except that’s not what this is, at all.

It’s an escape plan marked all over with pencil and featuring focal points that are highlighted atop the map with black felt tip circles.

But is it a success?

 

 

Chase Rice – Lambs & Lions

released November 17, 2017
****** 6/10

Chase Rice is an American singer-songwriter that got his start in country music, and benefited heavily from the party anthems that have permeated this decade. Do you remember Florida Georgia Line’s song Cruise? Rice co-wrote it. Ever listen to the hit album, Ignite The Night? Rice is the artist behind the party anthems about drinking, pickup trucks, and young women. Ever watch Survivor? Rice was the runner-up on the Nicaragua season.

He is something of a relic at this time in music – Ironic, given that we have three more years before the twenties start up. Bro-country is finally on it’s way out, and artists like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Jake Owen have already felt the pressure of a dismissive public.

This is part of the reason why Rice decided to break from Columbia records and sign with Broken Bow Records for his fourth album, Lambs & Lions. The other reason being, that wanted to make a more emotionally honest and truly authentic record, when authenticity in country music should have meant sticking to the well-worn tracks established.

Lions kicks off the album, and Rice establishes early on that this is his break from his past, it has the same energy as his previous albums, but the tone is shifting towards rock, metal, power pop, and even some R&B. It’s especially evident that this album is stripped of a lot of the production that his previous music had when Unforgettable, Eyes On You, and Saved Me show up.

Three Chords & The Truth is the first single on the record, and trending on the music charts right now, but despite this popularity, it really is an interesting song with some subtle nods to the genre of country music, and funnily enough, while on a soul search, he has managed to connected with many other people looking for answers in country music too.

In the end, this is a collection of songs about someone who is letting go of an identity that they wore for a long time, self-imposed or no, and what shows up underneath is pretty interesting. It’s not my favourite record of the year by any means, but the hope it delivers is more important in some ways.

Pros: You can see throughout Lambs & Lions that Rice is putting more of himself into his music, and a personal favourite of mine is Amen, which is an ode to his father, revealing a lot of Rice’s personal code.

Cons: I wish that there was even more exploration on this album. It still feels a little bit safe reliant on what preceded. It might have been difficult for Chase Rice to break completely from his bro-country roots, but including Jack Daniel’s Showed Up is so unnecessary.

Runtime: 37 minutes

Points of Interest: The album debuted at No. 42 on the Billboard 200, and No. 6 on the Top Country Albums. Rice has said that the album is heavily influenced by rock artist Douglas Docker.

Changing your identity is a challenge, even moreso when there is a perception of you attached to it. Chase Rice has made some excellent strides into a new and exciting direction, with music that features more of his own ideas and less concern with sounding a specific way. And I like it.

theories Summarized

I’m not sure that you absolutely have to pick this up. But if you like your country music with a little rock n’ roll, you are sick of bro-country or you simply like to see progression in your artists, give this album a listen, you might just be inspired to show your fleece, while bearing your teeth. That’s my theory anyway.

Tim!

Blue? Boycott The Red Carpet and White Folk? (88th Annual Academy Awards Night)

Anyone familiar with apologetics? It’s this concept that reasoned communication in support of a theory, belief or doctrine (usually spiritual) will help win people over to that belief, and the idea behind it is that this method of discussion is actually more useful than the typical debate format.

Now don’t get too far ahead of yourself dear readers. I suspect some of you may already be thinking to yourselves… Here we go, we know the topic is the Academy Awards, and the title is referencing the decision-making process behind it. Oh timotheories, you small, silly, social savant, you are about to tell us why the Academy Awards are really actually quite good and that we shouldn’t scrutinize an American institution which is biased “white washing” and ignoring people of minorities.

And you wouldn’t be wrong to say that I am going to address this, because quite frankly it’s out there, and it seems like my Facebook feed and half the articles I’ve seen on other social media are discussing this topic. So let’s get topical, because it’s important.

The Oscars are almost 100 years old, and they are run by mostly American filmmakers. I cannot stress the importance of that word enough. American. Look at what Wikipedia has to say about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) –

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is a professional honorary organization with the stated goal of advancing the arts and sciences of motion pictures. The Academy’s corporate management and general policies are overseen by a Board of Governors, which includes representatives from each of the craft branches.

The roster of the Academy’s approximately 6,000 motion picture professionals is a “closely guarded secret.”[2] While the great majority of its members are based in the United States, membership is open to qualified filmmakers around the world.

The problem is inherent. You ask someone to rate something and they will do the best they can given their knowledge and experience. And that’s in a vacuum. But when you make that rating system important, segmented, and secret, it creates inbreeding of the worst kind. The authors of these votes are hidden, they cultivate a look and feel for their event, and they want to keep it that way.

After all, that’s what we’ve come to expect.

Someone might say to you, don’t blame the Academy members, they are only voting based on what they know. And I would agree that it’s true that the Academy is working to maintain it’s position whether it’s consciously destructive or not. But that root issue is whether the institution should be allowed to continue to operate the way it does or whether it needs competition and possibly a replacement. Obviously it’s more complex than just wanting one of those outcomes, but change needs to start somewhere.

Because even if we were to overlook the fact that this is an American organization that puts on an award show for films (mostly American films), the United States is made up of more than just Caucasian males, so American movies should be awarded based on a representation of the American population. On the other side of the coin, if you have supported the institution you can’t get mad at it because it’s been defined by it’s public support over the last 87 years.

Think about that for a minute. People watch the show.

Millions of people around the world tune in to watch an American film awards ceremony and complain that it’s flawed. No shit, really? Well we live in a time when democracy, free will, and striving for equality are on everyone’s lips. Subversion and evolution is slow-going, unless enough change happens quickly and at the same time to force a shift in priorities, this won’t change, and we’ll continue to complain about it for decades.

So we have to decide something as individuals. Do we boycott the Oscars? Do we complain about the Oscars on social media and traditional media, through petition? Do we fund organizations that support diversity and quality of film rather than very specific criteria based on opinions dictated by a hidden membership?

Well, shit. I guess you’ve made it this far, so you must want to know what timotheories really thinks about it. We support the rights of representation by population. Organizations should exist to support the majority. Which means that Canadian films should be supported at Canadian awards shows, American films at American ones, and so on, and so forth. What we all should be supporting at the end of February every year is a global award show that showcases the best in film internationally.

So long story short, I think you should watch the Academy Awards, so that you can understand what is wrong with it, and then speak out about it and know what a film awards ceremony should look like. Please also support organizations which are young, so that older institutions like AMPAS have to evolve or die. That’s the only way to see real change.

For you Edmontonians, one way to enjoy this experience is by heading over to Garneau Theatre and joining Metro Cinema as they guest host the event from the comfort of your local independent movie theatre. Metro Cinema is an amazing organization which supports diversity of film and grass roots change is really the best place to start. As I’m sure you already know, dear readers, this event called the Oscars usually takes more than 2-3 hours to complete, so the organizers at the theatre have prepared something special for you to get yourself in the mood and on par with the festivities. Check it out, you just might see me there.

But what do you think? Am I off my rocker? Too much of an idealist, not enough realist? Am I cynical? A white male moron? Please leave some comments and subscribe. I wanna get better.

Those are all of the theories I’ve got for today dear readers, I’ll see you on Sunday with something stimulating!

Tim!

Where The Art Is (The Google Cultural Institute)

You ever watch those movie trailers, posters or commericials which start off by saying “since the dawn of time…”? I find them cheesy too, dear readers. But I want to try it out one time okay?

Since the dawn of time, mankind has created artwork and stored it in precious places. In other words, for what seems like forever.

What’s forever, precious?

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You know, FOR-EV-ER? Eternity? Infinity? Time without end? Even you can comprehend THAT Gollum.

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You don’t believe me, well that’s fine. I love pulling out my art history cap every now and again. Just give me a minute here to get down to business and find some images and links to get this party started.

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This image was one of the first cave painting images I ever saw when I was doing my undergrad, at the time it was considered to be one of the oldest images ever made (approx. 32,000BC – 30,000BC).

According to this article, a new theory has cropped up. Humans having been making art for about 42,000 years, which when taken along with the theory of evolution, means that humans have been making art for even longer than we’ve been thinking about things. Which is amazing to me, because I’ve always considered art to be a language in and of itself.

That means that we need art more then we need literature and speech, it’s something that we all can understand and relate to, no matter what the oral or sign language we subscribe to. And it’s foundational to who we are. That’s right, sign language is not universal to all creeds and ethnicities.

So visual language is something we can all experience and relate to, and one which is not interpreted differently in other communication styles. It’s fascinating, really.

Also, while I haven’t read this academic paper on comics, linguistics and visual language, just yet – I did find an interesting point made pretty much at the start of the paper which helps with my argument.

Many authors of comics have metaphorically compared their writing process to that of language. Jack “King” Kirby, celebrated as one of the most influential artists of mainstream American comics, once commented, “I’ve been writing all along and I’ve been doing it in pictures” (Kirby, 1999). Similarly, Japan’s “God of Comics” Osamu Tezuka stated, “I don’t consider them pictures …In reality I’m not drawing. I’m writing a story with a unique type of symbol” (Schodt, 1983). Recently, in his introduction to McSweeny’s (Issue 13), modern comic artist Chris Ware stated overtly that, “Comics are not a genre, but a developing language.” Furthermore, several comic authors writing about their medium have described the properties of comics like a language. Will Eisner (1985) compared gestures and graphic symbols to a visual vocabulary, a sentiment echoed by Scott McCloud (1993), who also described the properties governing the sequence of panels as its “grammar.” Meanwhile, Mort Walker (1980), the artist of Beetle Bailey, has catalogued the graphic emblems and symbols used in comics in his facetious dictionary, The Lexicon of Comicana.

You see, we need visual art just as much as we need other languages and the fact that so many people discard this skill for themselves, their children, their students, and the younger generation is frightening to me.

I’m generalizing here, which I hate to do, but so often I hear stories from people that made art when they were young, and then gave it up. We cannot seem to find value in learning the right skills needed to draw accurately, and attribute it to an ability which only some humans can possess. That is false and limiting behaviour.

But today’s Wisdom Wednesday resource is going to get you back to your roots, so to speak.

Alright, I have a secret to share with you fine folks today. Well, I wish it was a secret, because this is one of those resources anyone with an internet connection has had access to since 2011 and which I cannot believe hasn’t shown up more often in Facebook newsfeeds, on blog posts, and in cultural events.

The Google Cultural Institute is an amazing achievement in digital curation and one which features artwork from around the world, archival exhibitions, and three-dimensional recreations of world heritage sites.

You can navigate this content through Art Project, Historic Moments, and World Wonders, all from your main navigation menu. What I find especially cool is that you can take virtual tours of over 40 different museums, whenever you want.

The search terms are incredible as well – collection, medium, event, place, person, media type, date. And did I mention the Discover feature? It lets you explore related topics at the push of a button. And of course can share your findings with friends too.

But that’s not the best part. As an artist, this gets me the most excited. You can save your favourite items and create your own gallery.

Now tell me that that is not cool. Ha, I don’t believe you! Tell me what you really think! Leave some comments, share some thoughts, and I’ll catch you tomorrow for something timely.

Tim!