Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cripple Wolf

Cripple Wolf - Jeff Burk 5/5
                                                             
   
      How do you describe Cripple Wolf? It's bizarro with hints of horror, and it's a book that would make a great introduction to classic bizarro. The kind of bizarro you just don't read anymore. As I read it I was reminded of how great this genre was and still can be. This short story collection starts off on a high note and just doesn't let up. There's not a bad story here and Burk is a great story teller that isn't so out there that you can't grasp the concept of the stories. Each story here is amusing, and well written. The lead off story Cripple Wolf feels like a classic B-rate horror film. It's got gore, and best of all a werewolf that happens to be in a wheelchair. For those with an aversion to the holidays there's even a twisted take on Frosty the Snowman that is quite disturbing.

     Of all the bizarro short story collections I've read, Wolf is one of my favorites. It's a classic collection that never fails to entertain and it has everything you would want in a book of weird fiction. Is it for those with an aversion to violence, or drugs, or elderly punk rockers? Nope, but you should read it anyway because it's a fun yet quick read that will no doubt become your gateway drug to the wonderful and brilliant genre that was bizarro fiction. Burk has created a classic short story collection that hits all the right notes and you won't be able to stop reading it once you've started.

Monday, November 21, 2016

All Dressed Up, Got Nowhere To Go

   Too Much, Too Soon: The Make-up & Break Up Of The New York Dolls - Nina Antonia 5/5

                                                             


     Let me just say thank Bob for Youtube so I can finally see old footage of the Dolls live because I wasn't lucky enough to have seen them during their initial run. I was born the same years the Dolls exploded on the scene looking like crazed transvestites. They were original at a time when rock music needed it and they gave rock fans something no one had ever seen before. You can see their influence all over popular music. Let's be honest and say that if it weren't for the Dolls those hairbands from the 80's would've never existed, and it's a known fact that KISS was hugely influenced by the band as well. With that being said, the book tells the Dolls story as it slowly unravels. The Dolls it seemed were poised to be the new face of rock 'n' roll, but instead they became a casualty.

      The books doesn't hold anything back and as far as bios go this one is really good because it doesn't try and lay blame on why The Dolls fell apart. You can see the cracks begin to form but no one was able, or even smart enough to stop it. If anything Too Much, Too Soon is a cautionary tale of what happens when the gimmick stops working. The Dolls were victims of a lot of things and at times the worst enemy of the band were themselves. It's informative, but at times I felt that there should have been more. More insight on the band, and maybe a few more pictures. Just having the story is good but what made the band so unique was their look. It's talked about in great length but the pictures that the author provide don't really do a casual fan any good.
                                                         

      While the Dolls were inventive and groundbreaking it's what also did them in. There were a lot of mistakes made, and you can feel a bit of sadness as you realize that The Dolls are falling apart. There would be no third record and the chemistry that the band had was all but destroyed and drugs and ego took hold. For anyone looking to read a book about the Dolls this is a decent read that gives you the history of the band and their slow tumble and eventual demise. I didn't know a lot about the band before reading the book and I'm glad that I read it. As a fan it gives me a better understanding of what made the band so good and what eventually caused their breakup. The band would reunite but it's just not the same. Most of the band is no longer with us, but we do have the records and the small amount of video footage to remind us just how great they were.

      The book is well researched so you get a fair and balanced read and there are interviews with each band member sprinkled throughout. This is their story after all and Nina clearly wanted to write a book that would appeal to fans as well as non fans. This is the story of the Dolls and their brief run in rock excess and into the history books. Now all we need is to get the band into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Shame where they belong.

                           

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hardwired.....

     Metallica - Hardwired...To Self Destruct 3/5
                                                                               





       I woke up with some wicked ass heartburn and couldn't sleep so I headed over to Metallica.com and downloaded my digital copy of the new Metallica record. There was a lot of temptation to listen to this before release day but I avoided the videos that were released every two hours and the leaked version that came out on Sunday. Let's check it out. Right off you get punched in the dick by the title track which could easily fit on one of the band's first three albums. James is in fine vocal form and Lars who seems to have lost his skills as a drummer seems to be able to flail away with reckless abandon. This was exactly why I pre-ordered the record. That in your face thrash makes you want to wreck your neck and form a mosh pit with your cats. Atlas, Rise starts off with a riff that sounds a little familiar. Yeah, some of this song is lifted from the Four Horseman and you know what? It fuckin' smokes. I have to admit that James' voice has really struggled over the last two records but he's finally returned to form and unlike Death Magnetic this has a way better mix. You can hear everything clearly and Atlas, Rise is a reminder of just how great Metallica once was. This is another song that takes elements of the classic Metallica and uses them to give the song the punch that's been lacking since ….And Justice For All.

     We've waited eight years for Hardwired and the thing that drew me to this record was the thrash elements that ran rampant through the first three singles, but alas it's quickly snatched from us in the oddly placed Now That We're Dead which is kind of a letdown after such amazing songs like the title track and Atlas. It's kind of a bastard child of the Black Album, and Load/Reload. If you're a fan of those records you'll dig this, but for me it just kind of falls flat after such a strong opening. Those albums were always a sore spot for me and hearing a return to that era isn't a happy memory for me. The problem is that it's kind of catchy so you can't really hate it, but I want more of the thrash featured on the opening tracks. It's not a bad song, but not what I was hoping for when I envisioned the new album. Moth Into The Flame is a scorcher that again serves as a reminder of how great Metallica was. It's technical and again makes you want to mosh with your cats. Hammet's guitar work here is amazing and Lars is once again flailing away as best as he can. You can almost see him making those weird faces and yelling; "Fuck!" After the final take. Moth is everything you  want in a Metallica song and yeah, it made me smile a little.

     Moth may have knocked your face off but Metallica glues it back on with a burner called Dream No More which is a damn fine song. Imagine for a second that The Thing That Should Not Be had a baby. That would be this song. It's not as good mind you but it feels like a Puppets outtake. James snarls through this one and you can't help but bob your head in time to the lumbering rhythm. After the semi clunker Dream No More this is a far better track and while not as heavy as I had hoped it's just heavy enough to remind you that once upon a time Metallica was one of the best thrash metal bands in existence. Last song of the first disc or if you're like me the end of side two we have Halo On Fire which is an odd sounding song that's a kind of ballad that takes elements from every single era of the band and makes a little Metallisandwhich. After such a strong track list Halo is one of those songs that we're going to hear a lot of. It's got that catchy heavy vibe and you can't hate it even if you wanted to. It's the slow/heavy style that Metallica perfected on songs like Welcome Home, and even Fade To Black. This song could easily fit on Ride The Lightning. Maybe not, but still it's a balance between those eras with the polish of The Black Album.

     Now we're into the 2nd disc and a bit of a weird beginning with Confusion which once again sounds like an outtake from the Load/Reload sessions. It's a little heavier but it's just an okay song. A simple chorus that won't really win anyone over due to how bland it is.  It's probably going to be a song that will be all over the radio soon due to it's simplicity. Kind of reminds me of Sad But True. I hated that song, and I hated that entire album. I wish this song was shorter. It just keeps limping along, and will not stop.  Why am I feeling all weepy all of a sudden? That intro to ManUnkind sounds like a nod to Cliff and I wonder what he would have said about this album? This is a bit of a Sabbath inspired number that again seems lifted from those pesky Load/Reload sessions. What the hell happened? I thought this was a step into a heavier direction? This is just another mediocre track that reminds you just how shitty Metallica has become. It does have a thrashy kind of middle section, but compared to the first disc this is just falling apart real quick. This isn't the return I had hoped for. I feel tricked by a band that I once admired. ManUnkind again suffers from its length. If it was shorter it would be a little better. So far we have two clunkers on a double disc set.

      Hey, this sounds familiar! Revenge gets the band back on track and once again takes elements of every single era of Metallica and makes a tasty little Metallicasandwich. It's a song that just smokes in it's simplicity and lumbering rhythm section. If you're looking for an album that it would fit on it would have to be the Black Album. This could even serve as a lead off track in place of Enter Sandman. I should hate this song but so far this would be one of my favorites for some reason. I like the lyrics.  What the hell happened to this album? Am I Savage is another weak track that gives me flash backs of The Black album. Another one that just won't end and seems to wear out its welcome real quick. This second disc is filled with some serious filler. Maybe a single disc would have worked better. This is spiraling out of control and everything that worked on the first disc isn't working here anymore. You can skip Am I Savage. Pure filler.

      Skip Murder One too. It's a tribute to Lemmy but again seems bloated and just won't end. Not a bad song but after such a strong showing on the first disc we have a serious case of why are all these songs so long? They really should be shorter. Dyers Eve is the final track, wait, fuck me, I'm sorry this would be Spit Out The Bone and yeah, this is the perfect end to a bloated record. This is how the entire album should have sounded. Wow, where's my cats? I need to mosh it up. This is Rob's favorite song on the record and I can see why. Jesus, this is awesome!! After such an uneven track listing the record is over. Jesus, that second disc really seems a bit unnecessary.

     Overall, Hardwired isn't a bad album. It's just too long. It suffers from bloat and there's quite a bit of filler mainly on the second disc. This is where the cracks begin to show and you realize that maybe if  they had kept their ego in check this could have been a classic Metallica album. Far better than Death Magnetic and while I hated the Black, Load/Reload albums that style actually balanced out the pummeling in your face thrash that got me to buy this album in the first place. If you're looking for a return to the classic era of Metallica you're going to be sad and a little pissed off. Death was heavier, but Hardwired is ambitious as hell and takes elements from each era of the band to try and create an album that appeals to all Metallica fans. That's part of the problem. If you stopped listening to Metallica after Justice this is going to be a huge bummer, but if you stuck around through all of the records you're going to piss your pants in excitement. It's a safe record that tries a bit too hard to be relevant and if you're Metallica that shouldn't be necessary. Hardwired wants to please all of the fans and that's just not possible. The fans that left after The Black Album won't find some of these songs all that great, and those that hated Load/Reload are going to hate even more of these. So what you have are maybe four or five songs that old school fans will love and will no doubt chuck the rest.


While I wanted to hated it, I just couldn't because this is the best that Metallica can do. It's an album that just works in spite of its flaws and lofty goals. The Metallica we have now will never be as good as Metallica circa 1988. I don't think the band is capable of creating a classic album like Puppets, or even Lightning so we just take what we're given and that's Hardwired. It's the best and worst of Metallica's history. James and the band have tried to create an album that reminds us exactly why they're considered the best band in the world and it almost works but if you grew up in the classic era of the band you already knew that. You could ignore the band's output after Justice and be okay with your decision. Hardwired brings those feelings of disappointment back and you almost want to stop listening to the record but in the end you stick around just to be polite. As I process the digital download I can honestly say that for Metallica circa 2016 it's a solid record that reminds us from time to time why we love Metallica so damned much. There's those classic elements that make you want to break shit and then you have that pesky 2nd disc full of fillers so it's by no means a perfect record but it's a little better lyrically and vocally than Death, but not nearly as good as the first four albums. In the scheme of things this is the best that Metallica can do and I guess it's better than nothing.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kali On A Rampage

Kali On A Rampage - R.D. Cervo 5/5
                                                               



     I received Kali On A Rampage in exchange for an honest review, but somehow it got lost on my Kindle. When I was transitioning over to my tablet I stumbled onto it and dove right in because it’s an interesting premise. As you read it you begin to see that these characters are connected. They’re like a line of dominoes sent tumbling forward with such force all you can do is watch and hope for the best. Cervo has clearly done a great deal of research on mental illness and has crafted these characters to be as realistic as possible. None of them have any redeeming qualities which adds a gritty realism to the book. It’s a dark, violent read that you don’t just read, it slowly filters into your mind. The point here is if you’re looking for a light fun book, this isn’t it. I love books like these not because they’re violent, but it offers up characters that broken, and often misunderstood. I like dark fiction and Rampage is pretty dark, but it’s a book that I couldn’t put down.

     What’s interesting here is that at its core it’s a book about greed, and how it can make you do things that you normally wouldn’t do. Cervo is a writer that paces his story well, he slowly unravels the tension until its shocking conclusion. There’s a great deal of violence here, but it’s a product of who these characters are, it’s essentially all they know. It’s one bad decision after another that sends these characters spiraling out of control. It’s that slow unraveling that holds it all together. It’s not a book to read if you want a happy ending or a world where everything makes sense. Most of my favorite books are pieces of darker fiction with flawed characters, but there’s a great story that you become addicted to. Kali On A Rampage is that kind of book. It’s not for those who hate violence or want something meaningful to read. You won’t find that here. Cervo has created something that fans of horror and dark fiction will flock too. You want to read a well written novel that explored the dark side of human nature you won’t find a better novel than Kali On A Rampage.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Amy Fisher!!

If I Knew Then..... - Amy Fisher  2/5
                                                           

     I think it's interesting how some books change your perception of people or events, but some don't for one reason or another. Take Amy Fisher's book for instance. I saw it in the true crime section of the library and thought, what the hell. I was pretty familiar with the case and the story itself was intriguing. The problem is that Amy Fisher is a vile human being and while she wants you to forget about what she did, and how she's made strides to finally put the past behind her it's just not true. A Google search will tell you that for awhile she tried to live out of the spot light and piece her life back together it just wasn't meant to be. She's made a porn tape, divorced her husband and even rekindled her romance with Joey. Would someone who is trying to forget the past do that?

    The book itself is interesting as it gives you a glimpse of Fisher's life in prison, and what it was like during the huge media frenzy, but the fact is that Amy is constantly blaming everyone else for what's happened to her. She was abused by her father, taken advantage of by Joey, and the list goes on. Amy takes no responsibility for anything and I swear the book should've been called Amy Fisher.....It wasn't my fault. While she may have had the best interests at heart you can smell the bullshit. It was a way for her to make a grab for cash under the pretext of wanting to help others so they don't turn out like her. After the Google search you should put the book back on the shelf and find a better role model for your kids.

     Amy is a decent writer that wants you to feel sorry for her and maybe some people will, but as I read her story I just couldn't handle anymore. I'll watch the porn tape or maybe one of three three television movies that were made based upon someone's take on the story. Amy's just not a likable person and in order to have a successful book you need to feel some kind of connection to the author, but for me I just wanted to see what Amy was up to after all these years and hearing her side of the story seemed interesting. Sadly, it wasn't. I came away from the book learning less about Fisher and more about much she's suffered because of other's. It starts to grow tiresome and I wanted to throw the book across the room in frustration. This is one for fans of sub par autobiographies or true-crime and nothing more. You're not going to like Amy Fisher which isn't what she was going for when she wrote this. Whatever you do, don't buy this. Borrow a copy from the library like I did and then after you read it just forget that it even exists.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo - Amy Schumer 3/5
                                                                 
     

      Hi, I'm Michael, and I'm a fan of Amy Schumer. I know, I know I hear what you're saying; "You're a fan of Carlin, Hicks, Kinison! You can't seriously find Amy Schumer funny!" I do, and yeah, it surprised me too, but when I heard about the book I wanted to read it because Amy's funny and the book should prove a little interesting. I ignored all the reviews because they all pretty much said the same thing. No help at all. If you're a fan, you'll like the book, and if you're not, well you won't. It's that simple. It's not even a biography just some essays, but they aren't bad. Quite a few of them are pretty damn funny. At times it did feel as if she were trying too hard to remind people that she's just like everyone else, but let's be honest and say that she's not, and hasn't been for quite some time.

     The book is exactly what you'd expect. We get to know a lot about Schumer and her problem with blacking out, we learn about her vagina, and yeah, if you're a guy try reading the part where you learn that she has an innie and she's not talking about her belly button. It's one of those moments where you stop reading and all you can think about is Amy Schumer's vag. She also talks about some more personal issues and then we get to go into her stuffed animal collection which you can pretty much skip. It's an entertaining book that will make laugh and cringe at the same time. It's not written to make you a fan or learn more about her as a person. It's just not that type of book. What we do get is actually a bit surprising.

      While it's nowhere perfect, it's not that bad either. She does tackle some serious issues, but then she's right back to being funny again which is exactly what she's paid to do. It's a novel written by a comedienne. You condense down the best bits into book form. Some can do it while others flail away helplessly as they lose momentum. Schumer has written a book that will make you laugh, and also cringe which you really don't expect in a book like this. I have actually read worse and probably will again. I also am proud of myself for not talking about how hot she is. Not once.


                                                         
     

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Last Days

    The Last Days Of Salton Academy - Jennifer Brozek
                                                         
 



      I received a copy of Last Days in exchange for an honest review, and to be honest I had no idea what it was about. All I had was a title and an idea of what it could be about. A school slowly dying. Had no idea that it was a zombie novel, not a clue. The thing is that this is not your typical zombie novel. It's way more than that. It's a character study of a school doing what they can to survive. There a lot of plot lines running through the novel and at times it's very distracting, but if you tried to streamline some of them the novel wouldn't work as well as it does. You have these survivors and their stories connect to the entire plot. It then becomes addicting to see what happens and where all of these threads lead.

     If you're not a fan of the zombie genre and who can blame you? You should still read this because it's a great piece of fiction. Brozek keeps the plot moving at a steady clip and I honestly couldn't stop reading it. I wanted to see where she was was taking us and there are tons of surprises in store for those that read this book. It's a dark book that really shows us what would happen in an event like this. Some of these characters are truly vile, but that's what makes them so interesting. A great story is only as great as your characters and Last Days we have some truly great characters.

     Is it brutal? At times but that's not a bad thing. You can have a great novel that's violent. The point is that this is the kind of novel that you simply don't read. It consumes you, it demands your attention just like a great novel should. If you're a fan of great fiction you should do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You'll thank me later I promise and I also think there may be a sequel in the works. If there is I cannot wait to see what Brozek has in store for us.