Muse: Under Review

Sexy Intellectual temporarily abandons mining rock’s storied past to put one of the biggest bands in the world under the microscope for their latest “Under Review” title, and goodness knows they picked a good subject. “Muse: Under Review” contains some raw early footage of a group of bored teenagers from Devon who had to travel to America to get the press in their own country to take notice, only to have their second album refused by their initial champions. (It has since been reissued.) The band’s former manager explains the initial business dealings involving the hiring of John Leckie to produce their debut Showbiz (with Leckie himself appearing to talk at length about the album), while writers and biographers break down the evolution of the band’s sound. Since this is an unauthorized biography, the band does not contribute except in the form of a couple interviews with a third party early in their career, so the piece is fleshed out with the help of music videos by the band and artists like the Strokes. It’s all perfectly nice, but you can only hear someone call someone “fantastic” so many times before it loses all meaning, and with a running time of 106 minutes, it tends to wear out its welcome right when they get to discussing the band’s biggest album, 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations. Still, this DVD contains some interesting stories about the band’s early years that even their biggest fans may not know. (Sexy Intellectual 2010)

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Rush: Working Men


RIYL: Throwing your money away

Word on the street is that Rush has parted ways with longtime label Atlantic to sign with Roadrunner, and with Working Men, Atlantic’s flogging of their slice of Rush’s catalog (the band signed with the label in 1989) has officially gone from ridiculous to hilarious. It’s a collection of tracks from the band’s live albums Rush in Rio, R30, and Snakes & Arrows Live, and since live albums are essentially a compilation of a band’s hits, that makes Working Men a one-CD compilation of two two-CD compilations and one three-CD compilation. In other words, this might be the most unnecessary album ever made, the Rush equivalent of those budget Super Hits compilations that clog the counters of the Gas ‘n Sips on the highway. There is one unreleased track, a version of “One Little Victory” from the R30 tour. But since “One Little Victory” appears on the Rush in Rio DVD and the R30 Blu-ray, the word “Unreleased” should come with an asterisk.

The performances of these songs, of course, are fantastic – though the audio on the DVD for the Rush in Rio and R30 tracks sounds positively awful – but chances are, if you’re a Rush fan, you own them already, and if you’re not, well, you’re not buying this album anyway. One of the more puzzling releases we’ve seen all year. (Anthem/Zoe/Rounder 2009)

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Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense

One of the best concert films of all time gets its hi-def due with this lovingly curated reissue “Stop Making Sense.” Directed by Jonathan Demme, “Sense” captures the Talking Heads at their squirrelly best, spasmodically jumping between new wave, funk, and arty Afro-pop with a crack band of ace sidemen that included Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir, and Lynn Mabry. The Talking Heads found their footing slowly, evolving from willfully experimental Rhode Island hipsters to a merry band of world music vagabonds, and Demme frames their journey with a stage setup that opens slowly; for the opening number, “Psycho Killer,” David Byrne comes out with nothing but his guitar and a boombox. He’s joined by bassist Tina Weymouth on the next number, they’re joined by Chris Frantz next, Jerry Harrison follows Frantz, and so on and so forth, until the whole entourage is under the lights, making the most joyously paranoid racket of the ‘80s.

The Blu-ray transfer doesn’t scrub every last scratch or speck of dust from the frame, but knowing the Talking Heads, that may very well have been intentional; in any case, it makes for fine viewing at 1080p, despite periodic minor problems with the picture, and the sound – presented here in a pair of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes that let the viewer choose between the equivalent of audience and soundboard recordings – more than makes up for any visual flaws. The special features include audio commentary from the band and director (everyone’s tracks separately recorded, natch), along with other bonus content ported over from the DVD version (bonus tracks, storyboards, a few minutes of Byrne interviewing himself), plus Blu-ray exclusive footage of the 1999 press conference that reunited the band for “Stop Making Sense’s” 15th anniversary screening. There’s a short list of concert films whose contents justify a $34.99 list price, regardless of format. This is one of them. (UMVD)

Click here to buy “Stop Making Sense”

  

The Moody Blues: Threshold of a Dream: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival

Ah, now that’s more like it. The CD that Eagle issued last year of the Moody Blues’ performance at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was nice, but seeing the band in action makes a world of difference. Even better, they have rounded up four-fifths of the band for present-day interviews (flautist Ray Thomas retired in 2002) to discuss the show, and keyboardist Mike Pinder dusts off the Mellotron he played at the Isle of Wight show and gives a demonstration. (To give you kids some perspective on the unpredictability of the Mellotron, it’s a keyboard that literally plays loops of tape. Using one in a live show was gutsy, to say the least.) The DVD does not contain the full set that appears on the CD, but the big hits (“Tuesday Afternoon,” “Question,” “Nights in White Satin”) are all here, along with a montage of dozens of performances of “Ride My See Saw,” both in concert and for various television specials. The most amusing aspect of watching the band play live is how restricted singer/guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge’s movements were by their gear; the cords that went from their guitars to the speakers were about five feet long. (Eagle Vision)

Click to buy The Moody Blues: Threshold of a Dream: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival

  

Rip! A Remix Manifesto

A movie about the art form of mash-ups that features mash-ups of the movie within the movie itself? We’re pretty sure we just heard the space/time continuum begin to rip at the prospect. Director Brett Gaylor attempts to make sense of the intellectual property laws that allow some musicians to steal riffs and make millions (Led Zeppelin, the Stones), while other, more cutting-edge musicians are branded as criminals (Girl Talk), and the end result is “Rip! A Remix Manifesto,” a wake-up call to Big Media that, whether they like or not, the rules have changed. Gaylor declares Walt Disney to be the first mash-up artist, and absolutely pummels publishing company Warner-Chappell for refusing to let “Happy Birthday” to enter the public domain (it’s true: if you sing that song, ever, you’re a thief), and for suing Radiohead fans for mash-ups once W-C acquired the rights to In Rainbows. Truth be told, the doc isn’t quite a five-star affair – we were frankly surprised that he didn’t mention when John Fogerty was sued for ripping off one of his own songs – but we’re giving it an extra star because “Rip!” addresses an issue that needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later. Indeed, one could argue that the music industry’s very survival depends on it. (Disinformation 2009)

Click to buy Rip! A Remix Manifesto

  

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