The Savage Animal 10.16.13: First Impression of Smith Westerns
Posted by Mikey MiGo on 10.16.2013
Sometimes you just miss out on a band and sometimes you get on board at the perfect time. 411's Mikey Migo listens to the discography of Smith Westerns and gives his first impressions!
"Top 7 Basketball Movies Ever": The NBA season officially starts on 10/29, but preseason is going strong and the season is ALMOST here. I'm a big fan of football and I can watch baseball when needed, but my favorite non-wrestling sport is EASILY basketball.
I was fortunate enough to grow up a Bulls fan during the Jordan dynasty. This meant I got to see all my little basketball dreams come true. I got to see my favorite players on my favorite team win SIX championships. That's an awesome feat. The crazy thing is that I'm greedy. I'm not going to be happy until D-Rose, Noah, and this current Bulls crew gets some well-earned jewelry.
Needless to say, your boy Mike is hyped up! I can't wait to start planning my life around the Bulls schedule. I think I'm just about mentally ready to commit myself to this ride of a season. I think one way to properly prepare is with some basketball related movies. There are plenty of gems, cult hits, and really bad ones. Let's take a look at my own definitive top 7 list of basketball movies…
First off, I'm going to list movies that ALMOST made the list so you know what I considered, but didn't make the cut. I didn't include "Hoosiers", "Teen Wolf", "The Sixth Man", "Like Mike", "Sunset Park", "Eddie", and then almost on the list was "Above the Rim" and "The Air Up There". I had a hard time not putting "BASEketball" on here too. There were some movies that I'm SURE most people would include in their top list. Not mine!
7.) JUWANNA MANN
I don't give a shit what anyone thinks. This movie is one of those films that pops up on Comedy Central and movie basic cable movie channels all the time. Hell, it pops up on the premium channels all the time. I've watched it so many times that I've just accepted it for what it is. And that is a really good basketball comedy. Miguel Nunez has been in a lot of movies and shows, but he's the star of this one. He plays Jamal Jeffries, a bad ass Denis Rodman-like player who gets kicked out of the NBA for basically being a dick. So without support from anyone and not being able to play basketball he resorts to madness. He gets into drag and then joins the WNBA. Hilarity then ensues. The performances of Vivica A. Fox, Kevin Pollack, Tommy Davidson, Kim Wayans, and others are all solid and help this silly movie move along nicely. It's not going to blow anyone's mind, but this is the type of easy comedy that's perfect for a Sunday morning while drinking coffee and reading the paper.
6.) HE GOT GAME
Some people give too much credit to "Hoosiers". Those are the same people who probably never even consider that "He Got Game" tells a better story. Denzel Washington plays a recently released from prison father whose son is on the verge of going into the NBA and getting out of the impoverished hood he's from. The player is Ray Allen, which worked out very nicely. It's a Spike Lee movie so it's a hit or miss. This one hit and it hit hard. The story is told, but this movie makes it real.
5.) SEMI PRO
Will Ferrell has made a lot of sport related movies, but this one really stands out to me. It's about the ABA and their lower budget games. Will is the owner, player, and coach of his own Flint Tropics of Michigan. The movie focuses on his struggle to keep his business, team, and life afloat. There are some HILARIOUS scenes in this movie. The "jive turkey" poker scene with Tim Meadows is one of the best scenes ever and then the bear? Awesome stuff! Along with Ferrell and Meadows, the movie also gives us Andre 3000, Maura Tierney, and the always great Woody Harrelson. This movie came out in 2008, but it already feels like a forgotten gem.
4.) BLUE CHIPS
This movie rocked my little kid world back in the day. We saw Shaq, Penny Hardway, and a white guy kick ass on the court as Nick Nolte plays the college coach trying to recruit them. This movie opened my young eyes to the corruption that goes on behind the scenes of college sports. Those recruitment scenes are among some of the coolest character intros. This is a really underrated sports movie.
3.) CELTIC PRIDE
Celtic Pride is an underrated gem. For some reason people seem to hate on this movie, but it was a really entertaining basketball comedy from the mid-90's. It's a movie about two sad super fans of the Boston Celtics, the awesome Dan Aykroyd and the awesome Daniel Stern, who kidnap the Utah Jazz's star player, the awesome Damon Wayans, in order to help their team win. It's such a silly comedy that if you get mad at it being too silly then you're missing the point. This is one of those scenarios that die-hard fans sit around and drunkenly fantasize about. This movie lives that out in a really fun way. People should reconsider this one.
2.) SPACE JAM
This is the best Bugs Bunny related movie of ALL TIME. Seriously. Think about that. I've been a fan of Warner Brothers for the duration of my life. I've watched the classics and I love me some Bugs, Daffey, Taz, Porky, and the whole gang. But who know who else rocks? Michael Jordan! Take the greatest basketball player of all time and put him in an animated game where he and the Warner Brother characters team up to go against the big monster bad guys, who I think were the real Miami Heat. This movie needs to be celebrated.
1.) WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP
I've thought good and hard about this one. My favorite basketball movie has to be this Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes classic. The same way old movies would have pool sharks and hustlers, this movie put that spin into basketball. These two unlikely characters are brought together because they're both good as basketball and are trying to get money. They hustle people and eventually go too far. There is a lot going on in this movie, the performances are great, the jokes are still funny, and there are plenty of things to nitpick, but the genuine appreciation for basketball… and Jimi Hendrix makes this movie awesome.
The fact that Woody Harrelson is on this list twice makes him the best movie basketball player of all time! That's right, of ALL TIME.
What is YOUR favorite basketball movie?
First Impression of Smith Westerns
Pretty Damn Good?! (hint: yes) Every few weeks I'll do one of these "First Impression of" columns. The general idea is that I listen to a band I've never listened to's entire studio discography. Sometimes it's a new band that people hype a lot or it's an iconic band that I just never crossed paths with. The goal is be open minded and give an honest first impression of a band in almost a real-time unabridged train of thought just being spewed out and shared. Sometimes I fall in love with a new band (new to me, dammit!) or it's painful for the duration. Regardless, I listen and form my own opinion.
Why Smith Westerns?
Why not Smith Westerns? I seriously don't know much about them. I've seen their name pop up on festival lists and things like that. Judging a book by it's association, I'm going to blindly assume they might be a quasy-hipster-indie type of band. Who knows? This could be fun. I'm genuinely hoping I enjoy this band and have new music to add to my musical lexicon. I'm optimistic, but three albums can be a long time if things get rough. Don't lemme down, Chicago…
The Smith Westerns
(2009 – 29 minutes) - The album kicks off with "Dreams". It's a muddy, noise rock with lots going on in the distance and through the grizzle. It's catchy, almost surf-punkish, but still poppy. It's hard to really put a finger on. It's like lo-fi Cheap Trick. I found myself literally snapping my fingers along to the song. The opening melody of "Boys are Fine" feels familiar, but the almost undistinguishable first impression of the vocals are something that would have stood out to me. The melody is sweet though. It's something that feels perfect for a Wes Anderson movie or a movie of equal artistic precision. Really cool song, the break down is on an Arcade Fire-level of big, which is of course a good thing. The more up tempo poppy-surf-punk comes back with "Gimme Some Time". I get a Stokes vibe from this one, but it's totally its own thing. It's catchy and makes you tap along with it. The guitar breakdown and base build up around a minute in is swell too. Dominating drums build up on "Girl in Love" as teases of guitar sprinkle in before getting into a pretty grooved out base-line. The strut of this song is rocktastic.
"We Stay Out" feels like it's a song being held under water. The vocals are gargled and there is a slight warp to everything. It has a pleasant melody, but it's not gripping enough compared to what I've gotten to hear so far. "Tonight" is muddy, it has a nice sloppy and catchy melody but its delivery almost feels like it's coming from a party full of drunken people turning their already-blown speakers up louder than they should. Don't think that was a complaint. "Be My Girl" is a great song. The melody sways you through something that feels like it's pulled from the history books of rock. The break down is great, but the song just takes you right through three very good minutes of appetizing audio. It's hard not to tap your foot along with "The Glam Goddess". It's barely two and half minutes, but it's a sweet and uplifting little piece of song. It has a familiarity in its bounce that makes it feel like a song you've heard your whole life, and have enjoyed. That kind of comfortability is hard to place, but they do it well.
The electric sass of "Diamond Boys" is almost intimidating, but it's still an inviting song. You can't help but nod your head along to it. The debut album wraps up with "My Heart". The song builds up with vigor and bounces right into a kick ass melody. The vocals come statically at us but the grizzled words add a great layer to a wonderful tune. I'm really impressed with this first album. I'd like to hear slightly cleaner vocals going forward, but I really like the song of what I'm hearing. There are song really good songs on here. Let's see how the sophomore album goes… Dye It Blonde
(2011 – 36 minutes) - The band's second album kicks off with "Weekend". There is a swanky melody that builds up. I automatically notice it sounds MUCH cleaner. The vocals are cleaner here than any track of the debut. I like it. The voice is very soothing. This song is pretty killer. It breaks into a great wall of sound and there are horns in there somewhere! There is a subdued drift to "Still New". It almost feels like a lullaby. I get a Pixies vibe from them on this track, but with an early 00's indie band twist. The music is outstanding. I didn't get a chance to hear the first two parts, but up next is "Imagine Pt. 3". This song makes me want to go outside and dance by the nearest colorful item of nature. It has a Beatles feel to it. The break down is almost trippy, but fully awesome. It's hard to not want to dance along to this music. At this point, I'm really into what's going into my ears. "All Die Young" starts off with church organs and slowly strums into an epic tip-toer of a track. By the end of the song you're singing along with the chorus. "Fallen in Love" is cool too. There is a grizzled aspect to the vocals here, but it's still clean and crisp somehow. The melody has a surf-drunk playfulness to it carried by a dominating base-line. The end has a crazy casio fade out. "End of the Night" doesn't mess around. It jumps right into it. The song has a great tempo, but the piano and vocal breakdown is potentially the coolest thing I've heard all day. That says a lot. This song really comes together. The best track on this album so far is hands down "Only One", it's all the retro-rock fun you'd want in a song and more. It feels so natural that it feels like they're covering someone. It's a full sound of wonderfully orchestrated music.
"Smile" is a great song too. It sounds so beautiful and sweet, but the vocals are pretty dark and a bit tongue-in-cheek. The guitar stomps you through this soulful skip down through the layers of fragile feeling music. It's almost religious. The spree of good tuneage goes on with "Dance Away". It's a more danceable and up tempo song. It still has that 1960's trippy-hippy surf-pop-rock thing going on. The album closes out with "Dye the World". Instantly I feel like I've heard the melody. It sounds like another track they have, but I dunno which one for sure. It's got a Beatle's-like drift to it, but the break of the verses is a more modern approach. Very nice wrap up. I'm not going to forget about this album anytime soon. Soft Will
(2013 – 40 minutes) - The bands most recent release slowly opens with "3 A.M. Spiritual". The vocals remind me a lot of the more harmonious vocals from "Hedwig and the Angry Inch". That's comparison this listener holds in highest regards. The song slowly builds up as the vocals delicately yank us where it wants us to go. I found myself spacing out during "Idol". It's got such an engaging melody that I feel like my headphones swallowed my head. It's nothing too amazing, but it's just really easy to get lost in. The same can be said for "Glossed", but it's a bit more captivating. There is more of a rollercoaster ride in this one. "XXIII" starts off and you almost feel like it's an interlude, but the rest of the music hits in and you realize this album sounds and feels a lot like a Pink Floyd album. The music comes together very nicely and it's a beautiful piece of music. Songs don't need to be anything more than that. If you listen with inviting ears you will be taken elsewhere. Vocals return in "Fool Proof", a danceable song that brings the tempo up to a higher level without harshing the mellow already established. Things slow down to the electrified echoes of crooning vocals with an acoustic guitar. The rest of the music joins in and the tempo just takes you on a floating smile ride. "White Oath" came and went without me really thinking too much about it. I just absorbed it and let it go in one ear and out the other. I know I liked it and appreciated it, but it wasn't enough to really grab my soul and shake it for attention. "Only Natural" pulls my attention back to life. The guitar work on it stands out and kind of rocks. The song "Best Friend" works on many levels. By the time you're half way in, you're thinking "this is great" and then a great guitar solo kicks in and cements all the positive you're feeling. "Cheer Up" is an uplifting song that almost drifts into a country area of melody. It just feels like something you'd hear being strummed while on a makeshift raft floating adrift through a sea of sleep. The band's third and most recent album closes out with "Varsity". It sounds a lot like the other songs on this album. This album had a few songs that sounded a little too similar, but it was still a really good album. I'm really interested in hearing how they progress moving forward. THE VERDICT (2009 – ) - This was one of the most enjoyable new music experienced I've had in a while. My mind is blown. It's hard to really describe this band. I've used a lot of adjectives and made a lot of comparisons for this band. I guess it's easy to just say they're rock and roll, but everyone needs a subgenre right?! I'm going with "grin rock" because that's what it makes me do. This is stuff that's right up my alley in terms of taste and potential. I'm thrilled to have this new music to listen to over and over again to take in, but I'm still a bit bummed it took so long. These dudes are from Chicago. I'm like 40 minutes from their home base and I'm JUST now getting exposed? This is a band I should have not only known about for years, not only enjoyed for years, but should have had at least one or two drinking occasions in their presence. I can't recommend these guys enough. You'll thank me that you at least got on board when you did.
What is YOUR favorite Smith Western album?
A cop chases a serial killer for a few years who kidnaps, murders, and does all the normal evil things. This chase comes to a boiling point when things get extra personal. If someone told me that was what the movie was about before watching it I'd probably not be that enthusiastic about it. I assure you, "The Factory" is not one of those run of the mill thrillers. Not in the least. I'm not over-hyping it, but there is way more good about this movie than bad. This movie had parts that felt like you were watching a color-by-numbers crime drama from television. If you watch "Law and Order" or "Criminal Minds", this kind of plot isn't that engaging. What draws you in is the great acting, the pacing, and storytelling. This movie isn't Shakespeare or anything. You won't see it on a lot of "Best of 2013" lists, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. It's almost an art house take on a tired cop thriller formula. It felt gritty and didn't really slow down. The movie kept you engaged the entire time. I give a lot of the credit to the look of the movie. It felt almost nightmare-like in its surreally real tone. The acting is the reason I watched this to begin with. I'm a big John Cusack fan. I like the movies he's in and I like what he does in those movies. I'm a fan of his old comedies, his new comedies, his dramas, his thrillers, and just about everything. I'm not a fan boy, but if I see his name in the credits of a movie I trust his judgment in movies and trust he'll deliver an inspired performance. The risks he takes while maintaining his own sensibility is a big reason why I'd be comfortable in saying he's probably my favorite actor. I'm also a fan of Jennifer Carpenter. She's great and so fucking underrated on Dexter. I've enjoyed seeing her in other things and I think she has tons of potential once she starts getting more roles to really showcase her evident chops. So you put my favorite actor and one of my favorite television actresses in a movie and I'll probably watch it. The rest of the cast is made up of Mae Whitman, Dallas Roberts, Michael Trevino, and other talented performers. I don't want to spotlight and specific performance in fear of spoiling it. The cast was solid to say the least and generally everyone did great. This was just a fun ride of a movie. Even after all the fanatical backstory and reasoning, it's just a good movie. You watch it, you become engaged, and it ends leaving you want more. It doesn't try to be anything it is. What more can you ask for? B+
"Worst Case Scenario" is a new take on the concept of "fantasy booking". For years professional wrestling fans would spend endless hours of thinking up the coolest things that could happen. Why waste the energy? This only leads to high expectations. "Worst Case Scenario" flips that. Instead of looking through rose colored glasses, let's take a bi-weekly look at the worst possible scenarios in professional wrestling. I'm not going to be malicious or anything too mean, but I will not refrain from letting my brain come up with the worst possible shit I can. Sadly, it seems the writers and producers of mainstream TV wrestling and the mainstream iPPV level indies are doing the same thing but charging us for it. And now…
"Wrestling With Weight Classes!"
For years boxing has had weight classes. This was mainly to make sure the fights aren't so one-sided and the "pick on somebody your own size" law was passed. The result was things like "featherweight", "middleweight", and "cruiserweight" becoming things. Fans of boxing just accepted it. The UFC would adopt weight classes as well, but for some reason wrestling never really grabbed onto it.
Wrestling has had "cruiserweight" divisions and other countries have tried, but the weight class format in wrestling just doesn't work. The idea of big vs. small, and any man vs. any man, is really part of the magic and mystique of wrestling. I'm sure they COULD go with weight classes, but how would that go?
For wrestling, let's go with "Featherweight" for dudes under 210, "Cruiserweight" for under 225, "Middleweight" for under 240, and "Heavyweight" for 240+. You can complain and say I got it wrong, but let's just pretend and be general here to get the point across.
CM Punk would never be Heavyweight champion again. Neither would Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, or a lot of the best guys today. The "Middleweight" title would be the hot commodity of the company as the Heavyweight title would be a boring strap for guys like Cena, Sheamus, and Kane.
Would it not encourage each division to try to be the best of the card? What happens when someone doesn't make weight and the next in-line gets their shot that night? Would this be a horrible thing?
Yeah, most likely….
Alexander Payne makes really good movies. He makes interesting movies that might not always get the attention, but he stays true to his story. He takes you on a journey and presents movies of genuine substance. This time out he's directing Bob Nelson's script about a grumpy old guy who thinks he won a million dollars from one of those scam sweepstakes things. He decides to go on a road trip to get his money and is joined by his reluctant son. The old guy is played by the awesome Bruce Dern and the son is played by SNL alumni Will Forte. That's a really interesting combination to say the least. We also get the likes of Stacy Keach and the scene-stealing pro Bob Odenkirk. This could fall under the radar or it could gain tons of attention and praise. Knowing Payne's track record this movie could make the career of Will Forte and add another revitalized moment to the awesome run that Bruce Dern has had so far. If it's loved or ignored, I just know I want to see it.
That's all for now! Smith Westerns ended up being a really pleasant surprise. I do honestly recommend checking them out. There's plenty to appreciate. Life is okay lately. Just incredibly busy. I'm in the process of putting together the rest of the Savage Animals of 2013. I'm ALMOST done at this point, but I am not going to lie. When I wrap up my last column for the year I'll enjoy the few "write-free" weeks before I go at the next batch. Oddly enough, I'll probably write my ass off during the few weeks off between writing columns as I'm hoping to write a screenplay I've been lingering on for a while. LOTS of craziness on top. I'm saying this casually here and only here, but in the next two week or so I'm going to bite off more than I can chew and REALLY push myself. Balls out, folks. Balls out! Next week could anything. I have a nice collection of fun topics coming up. Next week looks to be a Rock/Paper/Scissors column where I take a look at a few related items and say if they rock, look good on paper, or make me want to ram scissors into my ears. Until next time… Have a Great Week!