A Slice of Fried Gold

Slices of Fried Gold - Extended Edition

Monday, October 27, 2008

So I generally don't like doing this, but as I said in my previous Slices post, I've been going through too much stuff lately and a lot of it has been very, very good. That just makes me want to share, because honestly, what's fun about finding cool things and not sharing with everyone? Very good question. So onwards and upwards.

Movies: In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Directed and written by Alex Holdridge)

Hannah and I once again attended Art House Monday's at Bear Tooth, and were once again treated to a most excellent film. This week was a very small black and white indie film by Alex Holdridge (probably most famous for writing and directing the 30th Miss America Pageant - nice), and from the first scene it was very funny and incredibly real. Of course, being that it was a black and white indie about regular people in America and was full of sharp wit, it's easy to compare it with Clerks.

That would be too easy.

But doesn't mean it isn't the right comparison, except with a lot more innocence and less dependence on pop culture for laughs. It tells the tale of a normal guy, three months off a bad breakup and down on his luck in L.A., as he turns to Craig's List at the insistence of his best friend to find a date for New Year's Eve. It really captures what it's like on New Year's Eve, both for the couple looking to make a big transition and for the single folk out there.

Kiss is a very funny movie with occasional crude language, but overall doesn't use it as a crutch but as a tool to add to the realism of being a twenty something in Los Angeles. It relies on situation and conversations to bring entertainment to the audience, and the charm of the two leads to take you through the whole movie. And charming they are, even with the female lead (Sara Simmonds) being a fairly frustrating character at first.

Unknown Scoot McNairy is a very appealing lead, who really progressed throughout the movie from a two dimensional sad sack into a fully realized and engaging lead. Without him, the movie wouldn't have been nearly the success that it was, but thankfully he carried the film with ease. Definitely recommend this and suggest it for the more adventurous of viewers who are okay with films based entirely in conversation.

Music: Razia's Shadow: A Musical by Forgive Durden

Forgive Durden is a band I found a few years back as someone who really stood out in the sea of technical rock bands that came out of the Seattle area over the last decade. They appealed to me more than others because of their impression of scene titans Gatsby's American Dream wasn't overwhelming and had enough of their own personality and wit to stand on their own too feet. Plus, Thomas Hunter could shred and Thomas Dutton could write a catchy as hell melody.

Enter the band essentially breaking up this year, with everyone but Dutton leaving the band. Dutton was at a crossroads, but instead of quitting entirely, he rethought his musical approach and came out with Razia's Shadow, a musical (yes, like Moulin Rouge! or a Broadway play) supported by his brother Paul, Gatsby's drummer Rudy Gajadhar, and a who's who of the pop-punk and emo scene. Who appears on the album? See below for highlights:

  • Casey Crescenzo (the Dear Hunter)
  • John Gourley (Portugal. the Man)
  • Nic Newsham (Gatsby's American Dream)
  • Brandon Urie (Panic at the Disco)
  • Greta Salpeter (the Hush Sound)
  • Max Bemis (Say Anything)
  • Aaron Weiss (mewithoutyou)

So yeah, there are enough guest stars on there to get every thirteen year old girl in America to pick up this album.

However, does it manage to succeed where Bemis' own, guest star heavy album In Defense of the Genre mostly failed?

I'm going to go with mostly yes.

Overall, the album is quite the journey. Dutton himself describes it as this: "the first half is the creation and ultimate division of the world. The second half is the story of destined love and the world being reunited as one." Sounds about right. The music itself is full of orchestral elements arranged by Dutton himself that really add to the overall magnitude of tracks, especially on show stopper "Life is Looking Up," featuring solely Dutton and narrator Aaron Weiss.

One worry from hearing early tracks without the connection the full album provides was whether or not a level of pretentiousness would overshadow the things that Dutton does well, and while it does suffer from the weight of the task he has put upon himself, overall Dutton succeeds in creating a world that feels real and not overly dramatic for the sake of drama.

This of course leads into the problem of the fact that no track really works incredibly well by itself, but that is the nature of the situation. For Dutton to succeed in creating this album the way he wanted (which he mostly did), he needed to ignore pure pop sensibilities and the almighty radio dollar. The album as a whole is all the better for it, but this is not something you can just pick up midway through and appreciate fully (somewhat akin to your average book or Arrested Development).

Overall, the vocals are stellar. Dutton and Weiss provide steadying focuses throughout the album as the primary characters and narrator of the story (Weiss was a perfect choice as the narrator), while Bemis, Gourley, Newsham, and Lizzie Huffman really stand out amongst the guest stars. They don't all work however, as Shawn Harris (of the Matches fame) provides a really bizarre and distracting vocal performance on penultimate track "Doctor, Doctor," and Chris Conley doesn't feel as if he fits the role correctly in "Toba and Tura."

So overall, even though the hype of the album was really starting to bother me and the early cuts concerned me, I have to admit, I really dig it. I've listened to it nearly five times today (which is a hell of a thing considering it's a ridiculously long album, clocking in at over 80 minutes long) and it's went from decent to good to mostly great. It's still not flawless, as some tracks fall flat, lyrics can be quite cheesy, and the story doesn't connect outright. But it is a very good album, and quite the achievement by a man who didn't even have a band until recently.

Good for you Mr. Dutton.


Bobbie said...

I will have to borrow from Tyler and check it out.

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