Pizza and Complacency

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Review: Childish Gambino- Because the Internet

Uneven, inspired, awkward, moody. All words that can be used to describe Donald Glover and his rap persona, Childish Gambino. Glovers a very talented guy. And it’s been impressive to watch him have such success since I first came to know of him after watching his comedic film, little known, “Mystery Team.” Since then, Glover has had success in the public eye and behind the scenes. Writing for 30 Rock, starring in NBC’s Community, rapping, and doing stand-up, Glover is a guy whose career seems like it could go anywhere. And that in itself is what I like so much about Glover; his ambition to take his talent in so many directions.

His newest endeavor, Because the Internet, is a step of maturity in Gambino’s career. Glover takes on co-producing and writing the album with producer Göransson, immersing himself in the album fully to create a very artistic and straight-forward album. Stripping away the slew of celebrities and artists that were featured on his last mixtape Royalty, which ranged from Tina Fey to BECK, We see Gambino largely go it on his own. Sidelining featured artists such as jhene Aiko and Chance the Rapper to the hook of songs.

As usual, Gambino is able to hit with his metaphors that have you rewinding the song just to hear them again. On I. Crawl, Gambino jumps from putting down the family dog to referencing Clarissa Explains it all. It shows the old, comical side of Gambino. To me, Crawl may be his strongest song on the album. The beat hits in the right spots, giving the song a very dynamic, layered texture. Next comes The Worst Guys. An airy beat accompanies the cigarette stained raspy voice of Chance the Rapper on the hook. The coupling of Gambino and Chance gives the song the potential to be the second single off of the album. As we’ve already seen on the album, Gambino love 90’s references and this is shown again on The Worst Guys.  Referencing Tia and Tamara seems like a way for him to drench us more in the 90’s nostalgia movement as generation y (myself included) faces growing up. These references could just be clever word-play or they could have the deeper meaning of all of us 20-somethings looking back as we move forward. Gambino largely leave this open-ended for us to decide.  On the album’s first sing, V. 3005, we get a song we can all relate to; a song about insecurities and finding love. Again, an open-ended theme.

Some spots on the album are a stretch though. The clunky feeling, Shadows comes off as a Frank Ocean imitation. Gambino balances singing and rapping on Telegraph and Pink Toes as well. To me songs such as these run too long and give us a sense that Gambino has a lot to on his mind even if we don’t want to hear it all at once. On a side note, Jhene Aiko has a perfect voice for accompanying any rapper. We’ve seen her featured on Kendrick’s “OD” Mixtape and now here with Gambino. It’s such an airy, sweet style of singing that it plays well with the deep, monotone voice of Gambino on Pink Toes.

Sweatpants is very interesting. I really enjoy it. You can tell that this song is solely on the album to accompany the screenplay Glover developed to accompany the album. The beat on Sweatpants is on-point. Glover is showing his audience that he could easily pull off a cocky persona if that is who he truly was. In an interview Gambino said that he wishes he was as cocky as A$AP Rocky is all the time. And on this track we see a cocky side. But perhaps it’s actually an alter-ego of Gambino himself known as “The Boy.” Either way, it works.

The rest of the album continues this form of existential, experimentation and straight-forward verses that show Gambino coming into his own. You can tell that Gambino really put it all in this album. Balancing an arrogance of Kanye with insecurities of Drake. Because the Internet is expansive to say the least, a truly unique effort in rap. But it becomes too much at times. More than a few songs reach past the 4 and 5 minutes mark. Where Gambino falls behind on his wit, the production values of Community Composer Göransson pick him back up. In the end, the album is ambitious, and it’s always refreshing to see someone put this much effort into a project. I mean how many rappers write 76 page screen plays to accompany albums? None, unless your name is Donald Glover. Gambino is unique and has carved out a niche for himself in rap. Because the Internet shows this, for better or for worse.


Mad Men “The Doorway” Review

MADMEN Season 6, Episode 1&2: The Doorway

Mad Men has always been a show of themes. The theme of change as the 1960’s gives rise to the counter culture and the clash of old and new ideals, or the theme of one’s identity, who we are and where we’ve been. But this season and the latter parts of season five have largely focused on death. “The Doorway” starts with a screaming Megan Draper (much to the chagrin of some viewers) as we see a POV shot of a man (later to be known as the doorman of the building) needing CPR. Right away we are reintroduced to death, this notion of one’s mortality.

As the ever confident Don Draper would later pitch the slogan to his Hawaiian Hotel Client, Hawaii is “The Jumping off point” of this season. Don and Megan are on the beaches of Hawaii staying at the resort. Brilliantly, Matt Weiner has Don Draper say nothing for the first 10 or so minutes of the episode. His facial expressions speak for him (something Jon Hamm has crafted over the years). We can sense his morose nature, he feels withdrawn, not there. And he isn’t there. Or rather wishes not to be there. Only once Don is alone in the bar (like we left him at the end of the last season) does he talk. A soldier on leave from Vietnam moseys up to the bar where don is drinking alone and start inquiring about don. Instantly don is very short with the inebriated soldier, as we see don isn’t ready to divulge much about his past to a random kid.  The soldier ends up telling don that he needs someone to see him off on his wedding, and even though Don Draper doesn’t want to, he agrees to do it. Kid says one day I’ll be the soldier in paradise.

We meet up again with all the familiar faces of the series. Pete Campbell is as smug as ever and his hairline is still receding. Stan and Ginsburg have become hairier, Joan gorgeous as ever, and Betty is much of the same. She latches on to Sally’s friend Sandy. Like Betty always has done, she shows more attention to other children than her own kids (think Glenn).

Roger has gone from loveable one liner delivery man to someone who isn’t happy with anything in his life and feels he has nothing to show for it.  We find Roger in therapy where very nihilistically he exclaims “experiences are nothing, they’re just some pennies you pick up off the floor, you stick in your pocket, and you’re just going in a straight line to you know where.” Perhaps his LSD euphoria has finally worn off. Even when Roger attends his mother’s funeral his ex-wife tell him “Roger everyone always loves you” when Roger talks about having nothing to show for his life. John Slaterly really provided great acting when Roger began to sob uncontrollably as he was given the shoeshine box from the man who shined his shoes that had just passed recently. In this we see Roger become real, all the alcohol and womanizing can’t keep him from being overwhelmed with emotion when he realizes that this shoeshine box is all this man left behind and the man’s own family didn’t even care for it, but roger took it.

Peggy is Don Draper. Or at least she certainly is becoming him. We find her at her new job working as a creative director. She commands people. When an copy writer comes into her office to pitch a tag line for headphone she rips into him and tells him “if you wanted to give me something that sucked so you can go home keep trying” the writers must really have it easy when writing Peggy’s lines. It’s Don Draper in a dress. We can hear him echoing in every word of hers. Peggy really has come a long way as a character and the writers have been able to show this in the past 2 seasons. No longer a young naïve secretary, Peggy now demands respect. Elizabeth Moss really portrays this to a tee. I used to dislike Peggy as a character and Elizabeth moss as an actress. It seemed as if she was always the little kid yipping at the heels of stronger characters. But Moss’s transformation of Peggy in the last year or so really made me come around to her character and Moss as an actress.

Catching back up with Don….he and Megan have a quiet new year’s eve at their house with their new friends/tenants Arnold and Sylvia. Linda Cardelinni plays Sylvia; at first it was weird to be seeing Lindsay Weir in anything other than a green army jacket and angst. The scene of both happy couples looking at Don and Megan’s vacation photos is juxtaposed with infidelity. Arnold is a doctor and leaves in the middle of a snow storm to make a house call to a patient and then Don sneaks off to buy cigarettes. But just when we thought the episode would end on a dull note, we find Don tangled up in the sheets with Sylvia. Yep, a leopard doesn’t change its spots. Even if he does tell her he wants to “stop doing this” as his new year’s resolution. Don is a man who never finds himself truly happy with an ordinary life. Perhaps because he has lived two lives since he was in Korea or perhaps because he’s just a womanizer. Only time will tell.

Overall this episode was solid, slow paced as many episodes of Mad Men are. But still we got a lot more forward progression with characters this episode around compared to the season 5 premiere. It was more than a reintroduction; we got a real sense of how these characters have changed since season 5 ended. One thing remains true of Mad Men, Everyone’s unhappy and no one knows why.  

Mad Mean “Collaborators” Review

MADMENSEASON 6, EPISODE 3: The Collaborators

As the Vietnam War escalates, so does the war between the characters of “Mad Men.”

Don is continuing his affair right under Arnold and Megan’s noses. And as Megan confides in Sylvia about her recent miscarriage, Sylvia doesn’t know how to console her because she is racked with guilt. Don doesn’t seem to care about the possible repercussions from the affair as he tells Sylvia “I don’t think about it.” Don thrives off of seeing these awkward interactions between his mistress and his wife. Just as he says facetiously to Sylvia (about Megan and Arnold) “they’re good company.” Don is used to making people look foolish as he gets away with whatever he wants.

But does Don really care for this woman, or any woman for that matter? He never knew his mother and we find out that Don grew up in a whore house with his step-mother from a young age. Perhaps this is why he values marriage so little, seeing all these men come there every day to sleep with women for money. Love and sex have no real meaning to Don; it sheds some light on his cavalier attitude toward relationships and his lack of commitment to his marriages.

A dinner between Arnold, Sylvia, Don and Megan ironically turns into just a romantic dinner between Don and Sylvia when Megan is too sick to make it and Arnold has to leave on Doctor Business. Sylvia feels mad that that this dinner turned into a romantic meal between the two adulterers but Don quickly retorts that she only feels like a fool up until he takes her dress off. This dinner feels like Don is convincing a client to buy into his sales pitch, its brilliant writing as it shows how Don can go from romance to business as if they are one in the same.           

Speaking of business, we’re greeted with the presence of Herb from Jaguar, who turned Joan into a prostitute last season just so they could get his account. When he even tries to speak to Joan she quickly shuts him down just as Don shuts Herbs requests for more local radio and TV ads. Herb: 0, Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce: 2.

Raymond from Heinz beans shows up for a meeting with the head of Heinz ketchup. But Raymond tells Don not to take on Heinz ketchup account. It’s a jealous move by Raymond and Don swears loyalty to him but for how long? This news of Heinz ketchup being shopped around reaches Peggy Olson at her new firm thanks to a phone conversation with Stan and it’s looking like war over this account between the 2 firms since Heinz Ketchup is considered “the Coca-Cola of Condiments” in the advertising world.

We get our first glimpse into the faux perfect life of Pete and Trudy Campbell in this episode. Pride is something Pete Campbell and Trudy thrive on. This episode opens up with Pete and Trudy being very chummy and charming to their house guests, hosting a party for their new neighbors in their perfect suburban home; both of them flirting with their guests. But the Campbell’s know this is all part of the game. The game of keeping up with the joneses, a game they play as if it were chess and they’re Bobby Fischer.

As Pete and Trudy get into it, their fight is brilliantly juxtaposed with the radio buzzing in the background about the Vietnam War. Just as there is a war in Vietnam, these characters are having internal wars of their own.

And as long as they keep up these appearances, Trudy is happy. Trudy knows Pete cheats on her. She was the one who gave the go ahead for him to have an apartment in the city. But when she finds out that he cheated on her with the neighbor, that’s the last straw. The façade is over. The couple, who has been internally at war with each other for a few seasons, finally let their emotions out. Trudy (played by Allison Brie) finally lets out 6 seasons of pent up rage at Pete. Brie shows her acting skills when she exclaims at Pete “All I wanted was a little discretion!” it’s not that he cheated on her; it’s that he cheated on her and didn’t even bother to do it with someone other than their neighbor. Trudy goes on to scald Pete (and I say scald lightly)  that their marriage isn’t over because she refuses to accept failure as an option but that she will destroy Pete if he even thinks about sleeping around within a 50 mile radius.  Poor Pete, he just can’t seem to ever cheat on his devoted wife without problems arising.

Jon Hamm directed this episode and it shows. As strong as this episode was, it didn’t have the same feel as most other episodes of the series. The camera work was very simplistic, many straight forward shots of dinner conversations. Hamm didn’t do a bad job, but he didn’t direct the episode that is up to the caliber of previous episodes.

                Overall it’s too early to tell where this season is going. The story arc hasn’t been fully developed yet in these first 3 hours of season 6. A lot is happening yet it seems like nothing is happening at the same time, the same formula that his enraged and enthralled fans of the series for 5 seasons.

Poor Snoopy, he longs for days of smoking spliffs with woodhouse 

Poor Snoopy, he longs for days of smoking spliffs with woodhouse 

Review: Blink-182 “Dogs Eating Dogs” EP

I think it’s safe to say that the guys in Blink shocked us all when they announced they were releasing an EP. Even more shocking is the fact that they recorded it all in two months (Neighborhoods took about 2 years to complete). This EP shows a real step forward for a band on the verge of releasing their 7th studio album.

Dogs Eating Dogs really shows us that Mark, Tom, and Travis have found a groove again. This groove was largely missing on Neighborhoods as the album was recorded separately by each member. 

The first track “When I was young” begins with a 40 second intro that is akin to the sound of Angels and Airwaves. Travis then kick’s in with the fast tempo drums and Tom sings an adult ode to teenage angst singing “It’s the worst damn day of my life.” This song really is a great start to the EP as it showcases how Blink has been able to blend the side projects into their sound.

The title track “Dogs Eating Dogs” is a fast paced, +44 sounding track with Hoppus at the helm. When you listen to the track you can tell that it is very personal to Hoppus; as he sings “we always devour our closest friends.” a clever metaphor for Tom and Mark’s relationship? Or in reference to the EP’s title? I’ll let you decide.

"Disaster" is saturated with Delonge’s Angel’s and Airwaves days. It has that ambient, electronic feel and truly is reminiscent of "The War" or "The Adventure." Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does feel like we’ve been here before with this song.

Next is “Boxing Day” which for those of you that don’t know, is a holiday the day after Christmas in Great Britain (Knowledge is power). This isn’t exactly a Christmas song, but it does have that Christmas time feel to it with the acoustic guitar and light ringing of the bells in the bridge of the song. The song is as close as Blink gets to a ballad and you can really feel that sense of longing when Hoppus sings “You left me on the day after Christmas.” 

Finally, the most controversial song in the YouTube comments “Little Girl.” I say it is controversial because rapper Yelawolf is featured on the track. Which personally I dont think it hurts the song. It’s an interesting choice and hey, Barker was featured on Yelawolf’s last album so it’s not like this collaboration was completely random. Besides the controversy this song sparked, it has cute love song lyrics from Delonge and instrumentally Barker and Hoppus are on point. 

Overall if this EP is a sign of things to come, I think we are all in for an amazing album with their next LP. Well, as long as they can find time to be together in a studio again. 4/5