Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Night With Pounds

I've lived in Lovely Southern Connecticut for almost three years now, but that doesn't mean I'm familiar with public-access TV. I always thought that was a really good thing, though.

But with a cold forcing me to stay in my apartment night after night, I've been relegated to watching lots of television the last few evenings. Lucky for me, it seems like there's a "Law & Order" on at all times, on like three different channels.

But what happens when you've seen the episode not so long ago, it's 11 p.m., there's nothing even remotely watchable on and you can't listen to music because you're deaf in one ear because of sinuses? Well, you watch Pounds.

About six months ago, I was flipping through the channels and found some wacked-out show hosted by Beatnik 2000 regular Floatin' Fred. I had met the man a few times, but never knew he had some odd gig — flailing his baton around while local musicians dance. Well, last night I found "The Underground with Pounds." What a score.

Normally, I would just keep on flipping through the public-access stations, but this one caught my eye because it was a "Tonight Show"-like show and Pounds' guest was The Broken West, a California band that has a four-star disc hitting stores next month. You might remember that I gushed over these guys before their gig at Cafe Nine in late October, then when I went to see them again the next night in Boston.

Pounds is quite the guy. He may not have the best interview skills, but what he lacks in those, he makes up with in pure energy, and, of course, the skeleton costume that he wears. The self-proclaimed filmmaker/skateboarder, according to the credits, hosts the show, produces it, writes it, edits it and is the sound engineer. That's a whole lot of hats.

"The Underground with Pounds" also splices in numerous scenes from "Gremlins," over and over again, for no particular reason. I wonder if the studio gave Pounds credit to use the clips. Doesn't matter, though. The Broken West actually performed a couple songs on the show acoustically, and it sounded damn good.

Anyway, take it from me, if you can't leave your couch, try to find Pounds. Who cares if he wears a skeleton costume, seems a bit controlling and instead of asking questions merely mutters statements to comment on? He had The Broken West on his show months before the band's debut disc came out. That's good taste, and "The Underground with Pounds" is a great mixture of good TV and unintentional comedy. Good stuff.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Long Time No Speak

Well, hey everyone. Here's hoping you all had a nice holiday. Besides my ears feeling like they're going to explode at any moment due to congestion, I had a pretty good one, too.

As you know, since you check this site daily, like a drug addict needing a fix, it's been almost a week since I wrote something. It's tough this time of year. Besides days off, nothing really happens in the entertainment world (farewell James Brown), especially the music one. No CDs worth a mention have hit streets in the past couple weeks, no big shows are coming up and I haven't seen any great live music lately.

It all sounds so depressing, but it isn't. Once we get through this week, everything will get back to normal. We've got some good music coming up in January, some of which I just can't wait to hear. We've also got the football playoffs beginning in a little over a week, and that's certainly one of the year's highlights — and I'll definitely publish my (usually bad) predictions on here.

But in the meantime, Friday's Weekend is full of good stuff. Definitely pick it up to see my top-20 records of 2006, a local-music-of-2006 mixtape, Joe Amarante's best TV of the year and, of course, the second part of Todd Lyon's best restaurants of the last 12 months. That's a whole lot of best-of articles, and a whole lot of fun.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

O'Donnell Gets Trumped

Sometimes people say the darnedest things.

So I guess Rosie O'Donnell made some mean comments about Donald Trump on "The View" the other day, after the gazillionaire let my favorite Miss USA ever off the hook for boozing it up and kissing Miss Teen USA. Good ol' Rosie even questioned The Donald's finances.

Well, you can't play with the bull without getting the horns (is that the ridiculous expression?). "The Apprentice" star fired back with this statement, my favorite quote of the week:

"You can't make false statements. Rosie will rue the words she said. I'll most likely sue her for making those false statements — and it'll be fun. Rosie's a loser. A real loser. I look forward to taking lots of money from my nice fat little Rosie."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good for Yul

Yale Law grad Yul Kwon won Survivor last night. I watched.

I have to admit, it was a pretty good episode, suspenseful right down to the end. The whole season was good; it was one of the better ones.

One criticism is obvious: CBS forget to tell viewers who voted for who. Instead of letting us know which contestants voted for Yul and which voted for Ozzy, the network forgot and we were left with a 5-4 vote. Big mistake. It didn't ruin the episode, though.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Baby Blogging

As my colleague and fellow huge music fan Mike Foley points out in his Kid You Not blog, Mates of State now have a blog up on the "urban parenting" site Babble.

You remember earlier this year when the former East Havenites set out on their tour promoting the new disc? Well, you see, they did it with baby Magnolia in tow.

So the two (well, Kori, really) write about their experiences touring with a baby in the appropriately named Band On The Diaper Run.

Now, you might think that this may not be of much interest to us non-parents, but the blog is actually a good read and funny. Plus, big fans of the Mates get a little inside info.

Oh yeah, there's a reason we should care about this: The duo is a really great band. Check out Kori and Jason out at Toad's Place Jan. 13.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Eye of the Tiger

Never before in my entire life have I dealt with such a difficult question: Go to the press screening of "Rocky Balboa" or not?
I am looking forward to this movie more than any mature adult should be. I guess that means I may not be mature.
Whenever the trailer comes on TV, I get goosebumps and my heart races. So do I wait for Christmas and watch it with friends who will be just as excited as me, or do I run out to the press screening and get to see the Italian Stallion a little early?
Man, I need help. But just look at the photo. Look at Rocky beating that dude. It's so amazing. He's 95 years old! Who cares, though?
OK, I admit it: I'm just kidding about all of this. Or am I?
Is anyone out there excited? I mean, seriously, this is one of the toughest movies in recent memory to guess its box-office fate. One of my many useless talents is an almost-innate ability to predict box-office returns. "Rocky Balboa" could come in at anywhere between $8 million and $24 million for the first week. I can't decide where it'll fall.
Any guesses? Post them here. This could be fun.
If anyone can guess the film's first-week haul, I'll put a little prize in the mail, some swag that you'll totally like. So now begins the first Blog Like An Egyptian contest. Let's go.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Folkie Fugazi

Ian McKaye hates it when you mention his current project, The Evens, in the same sentence as his legendary post-punk band Fugazi. What can I say? Folks hate me for many a reason.

Anyway, The Evens play The Space tonight, so Fugazi/Minor Threat/McKaye disciples (and there are tons) take note: Ian will be in Hamden. Ian will be in Hamden.

But if you're looking for post-rock, you won't get it with The Evens, a duo (with Amy Farina of The Warmers) that's put out two very pleasant, atmospheric folk records. And I know this is sacrilegious, but I actually like some Evens stuff better than a lot of Fugazi. Wait a second while I wait for lightening to strike.

It didn't happen. I guess the Register building is impervious to bad weather. So for only $5, head over to The Space for the 8:30 p.m. show tonight. I'll make it if I'm not dead.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh, Grammy

I call my grandmother "grammy." Why do I bring that up? Because I love her. And because I think good ol' Grammy knows more about music than the 14-year-old teenybopper girls who vote for the Grammy awards.

Now I know there's no proof that Grammy voters are all young ladies, but the evidence is strong. How else could Connecticut's own John Mayer receive five nominations, including one for rock album of the year for his crappy blues CD?

In fact, you could say Mayer got 10 nominations since James Blunt also got five, and isn't he and Johnny the same dude? You know, the sensitive, dreamy white guy playing generic, Air Supply-like soft rock for young kids and older women? I'm swooning just writing this.

The one positive thing this year is that commerce and art came together. It happens once every five years, but sometimes great albums sell tons of copies and are heard all over the radio. Gnarls Barkley's "St. Elsewhere" is one of the best records of this year and it was nominated as such. Thank God.

Other fun tidbits include The Red Hot Chili Peppers "earning" six nominations for a disc that would be good if, no exaggeration, it was 60 minutes shorter. Sixty minutes! Mary J. Blige and the Dixie Chicks also got a bunch of nominations. And that's a good thing since both records are solid.

I know I sound like a broken record, but this is the saddest award show. People used to care; now nobody watches. It has no cred. Pardon me while I go cry now.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Music Tuesday

Here we go, another week and a few more releases. Man, it's slow come the holidays.

Nobody wants to put out a disc now. It'll be a little slow for the next month, but we do have some things. Look for full reviews of these three albums in Friday's Weekend. Here we go:

Gwen Stefani"The Sweet Escape"
one-and-a-half stars

Various artists"Eminem Presents the Re-Up"
three stars

Various artists"The O.C. Mix 6: Covering Our Tracks"
Warner Bros.
three stars

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Post for a Blogless few days

Occasionally I'm just a little too busy to update this blog. Well, hold on, let me be honest: I was too busy Thursday, and then I was too lazy this weekend. With all that said, I've got a few things on my mind, so we're going to do a notes column.
  • Why do people feel the need to write me angry e-mails about CD reviews? In last week's Gift Guide IV, I wrote a review of Hall & Oates' Christmas record. The disc stinks. It flat out brings nothing to the table, no good arrangements, half-hearted renditions ... I could go on. I've gotten about 25 e-mails, all nasty, about this review. Only one person wrote in to tell me how right I was. Of course, of those 25, only three admitted to owning the disc. But the point is this: If you like the CD, who cares what I think? I listen to plenty of music that I would not give a good review to. You don't need me to validate your musical choices.
  • Tonight's the Billboard Music Awards, one of the worst shows of the year. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears were set to host, now both have pulled out. I'm sure this is going to be fun. Look for my diary of the night in Friday's Weekend section.
  • Even though the Patriots keep winning, I'm not a believer yet. Tom Brady hasn't looked like himself all season and the offense is turning the ball over at an alarming rate. And speaking of sports, as a Red Sox fan, I'm not happy about JD Drew.
  • Two very good local discs will see the light of day this week. Make sure to check out Mike Lasala's "This Strange Place" and the new EP from Shadowgraphs. Both would make a great gift your favorite local scenester. And both will be talked about in Friday's Weekend.
  • Speaking of local scenes, last week's Weekend featured a Making a Mix on the "Towers of New London Volume IV." A lot of those bands will be appearing at The Oasis soon. The venue is a club now being booked by Sean Murray, a guy who knows good music and will bring the great Tim Easton to the New London bar this Friday.
  • Just got off the phone with a 72-year-old ex-DJ who wanted to know why there's no commercial radio station playing old-time country. I wonder myself. He can't stand new-school Nashville. Who can?
  • Haven't heard the entirety of the new Shins record yet, but let's just say that when the album hits stores in January, fans of the band will surely have their lives changed again. The "Garden State" rockers' new song, "Phantom Limb," is totally amazing, way better than ANYTHING they've done to date.
  • I'm about done now. Let's talk again, soon. OK?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Um, help?

With only Incubus putting out any album of note yesterday, there was no need for a Tuesday's releases blog. And since Incubus is, you know, a bad band and all, no need to rip them more than I do in Friday's Weekend.

But you know what there is a need to rip? The Arena at Harbor Yard. Let's not even talk about The Who show last night. I'm sure all that attended had a great time. But, I would venture to say that 50 percent of people missed The Pretenders totally or partially. You know why?

Because this venue is the absolute worst to attend for a crowded show. I've been to a ton of places, nothing even comes close.

The Arena at Harbor Yard is really a beautiful venue, a smaller arena with good sound, comfortable seats and very good sightlines. Unfortunately, the city of Bridgeport isn't ready to handle a venue of its size. When you get off I-95, you're greeted with ridiculous amounts of traffic. It took me 90 minutes yesterday to drive less than a half-mile. Re-read that sentence, please. Ninety minutes.

The traffic to get to a parking spot is excruciating. And last night, the city ran out of parking for the venue, forcing folks like me, who got off I-95 15 minutes before the show began, to find a spot somewhere in the city. One police officer was waving cars on ... to nowhere. That's right. After a garage closed, he just kept waving folks on ... right back onto 95.

And I want to talk about the cops. Look, I've got nothing against them; more than 50 percent of my family are police officers. But, I have no idea what they think they're doing whenever I go to the Arena. At least seven of them line the half-mile horseshoe that cars have to travel to get to the venue. They wave on cars, yet travelers also have to abide by the lights. So what's the point? It makes things so much worse.

The city chooses to close the street that would send cars right to the venue, more than likely for traffic purposes. But another real problem is that last night at least five folks were selling bootleg T-shirts in the middle of the streets, creating even more of a traffic jam. Cops were literally five feet away. What did they do? Nada. And I'm also not sure what the two on horses and one a Segway (really, a Segway, like Gob!) were doing, either.

All in all, my point is that if you're going to erect a complex the size of the nice one they got in Bridgeport, you must have the infrastructure to handle it. I'm sure the venue's great when it's only 2,500 people seeing a Sound Tigers game, but when more folks come, it's plain ridiculous.

Maybe I should have left my apartment at 5 p.m. to drive the 20 minutes to Bridgeport.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who's Coming? Oh yeah, The Who

Take a look in your wallet. If you can count out anywhere from $52 to $202 stuck in there, you can see The Who at The Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport tomorrow. If you'd rather wait till Friday, the legendary duo comes to the Mohegan Sun Arena for the tidy sum of $87-$202 a seat.

But if this sounds interesting, you better act quick. Though nothing officially sells out at Mohegan until the day of the show, tickets are no longer available online and will have to be purchased at the venue's box office. For tomorrow's show in Bridgeport, some seats remain, but they're going fast.

I'm not really sure what to think of this show. I saw The Who about five years ago and really enjoyed it. The band was much better than I expected, much better than the typical classic-rock band touring to line its pockets. On the other hand, this jaunt is promoting a new record, one that would be good if I could cut it in half. Because I can't, "Endless Wire" is a frustratingly long disc, one that has far too much filler overshadowing eight to 10 good tracks.

All that said, I'll be at the show reviewing. So if you see me on the way out, let me know what you think. Otherwise, get moving to buy those tickets. StubHub's lowest ticket currently tops $130. Get going and good luck.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Music Tuesday

Gobble, gobble, gobble says the turkey.

If you can't tell by that sentence, you're reading a blog entry from one fried writer. Let's just say cramming five (and really six) days of work into four has been taxing on my already little mind.

But you didn't come here to learn about how my brain is swimming in thoughts of turkey and football, already shut down for the long weekend. You came to this blog to learn about a pretty great week for CD releases. So here we go, as always rated on a one-to-four-star scale. We'll have full reviews in Friday's Weekend section, along with a holiday-movie preview, an article on Gov't Mule and so much more. Check it out.

The Beatles"Love"
three-and-a-half stars

Jay-Z"Kingdom Come"
three-and-a-half stars

Swan Lake"Beast Moans"
three-and-a-half stars

Paul Brill"Harpooner"
Scarlet Shame
three stars

Snoop Dogg"The Blue Carpet Treatment"
two stars

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Keep it Quiet

A quick note on this very fall-like Sunday: I went out to North Haven yesterday to peek my head on in on New London's Quiet Life, a quartet recording its debut record at Butterflies of Love multi-instrumentalist Scott Amore's studio.

Besides talking with the guys and seeing some of the recording process, I got to listen to the rough mixes of four or five songs. This is going to be one great record. While singer/guitarist Sean Spellman says the band was sort of going for a Neil Young-ish sound, I think the early tracks have a real Wilco "A Ghost Is Born" vibe, not in the arrangements or instrumentation, but rather sonically.

New London has a really vast and eclectic music scene, but it's great to know that a band like Quiet Life prefers coming down here to make its disc. Look for a lot guest spots from a bunch of Elm City players on the record, which should be out sometime early next year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weird Stuff

A harp on stage, seats on the floor, hipsters trying too hard, a performer who admitted to drinking a beer before the show for the first time and folks almost passing out ... let's just say that Wednesday night at Toad's Place was an unusual experience.

I know that the venue doesn't have the greatest reputation with checking IDs, what with it being forced to shut down for 90 days this summer and all. And I know that the owner is trying hard to correct that. But here's thing, when someone passes out at your venue, and someone alerts a security guard, that employee has to either get medical attention, or boot the concertgoer. You can't just bring him water and let him sit on the grimy floor for 30 minutes.

We all know the Dodge Music Center isn't the best at enforcing the 21+ liquor law either, but if they see anyone looking too inebriated, that person is immediately brought to the medic station. This kid in front of me basically just collapsed. It was not pretty. He should not have been allowed to continue watching the show so tanked. Who knows what could have happened?

Onto the musical portion of this entry. Toad's did the wise thing of putting seats in the venue (the first time I've seen this) for this Joanna Newsom show. Her restrained freak-folk, highlighted by her harp playing, is perfect for a small theater, which is the type of place she's performing at during the rest of this tour. I imagine the show would have been much better if I got there early enough to sit.

Coming on stage by herself, Newsom opened the gig solo, strumming two tunes from 2004's "The Milk-Eyed Wonder" and then a traditional Scottish hymn. After finishing, her five-piece backing band came on stage and the group performed the five-song, 55-minute "Ys" (which just came out Tuesday) in its entirety.

All in all, this was a good show, if slightly anticlimactic. Newsom's eclectic and nuanced arrangements along with her Romance-era poetic lyrics don't play too well in a rock club, where it's best to hear some loud crunchy guitars while sipping on an over-priced P.B.R. When you're hearing banjos, accordions and tamburas, all powered by a harp, you're liable to believe you're at Sprague Hall, not Toad's, where folks like The Rolling Stones have surprise shows and pure rock 'n' roll rules.

But Newsom's performance kept everyone's attention, and her stark and gentle adaptations of Van Dyke Park's gorgeous arrangements from the studio version of "Ys" sounded great. It's very possible that many fans in attendance who love "The Milk-Eyed Wonder" more than "Ys" thought this restrained performance of the new record was better than the album version.

Overall, even if you didn't like the show, all the weirdness made it worth it. The chairs, the harp, the guys with homemade T-shirts who are trying too hard to look like Bright Eyes, folks drunk at a harp concert!, and, of course, the performer all added an extra oomph to the night.

Good times.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tuesday Releases

Here we go again, another Tuesday with another batch of releases. And, like last week, we got a couple gems hitting stores.

Look for full reviews of most of these in Friday's Weekend section. But until then, here's a list, which, as always, includes my one-to-four-star rating for each record.

Yusuf Islam"An Other Cup"
three stars

... And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead"So Divided"
two stars

Joanna Newsom"Ys"
Drag City
four stars

The Game"Doctor's Advocate"
three stars

Tenacious D"The Pick of Destiny"
one-and-a-half stars

Neil Young & Crazy Horse"Crazy Horse at the Fillmore 1970"
four stars

Damien Rice"9"
Warner Bros.
one-and-a-half stars

Monday, November 13, 2006

He Must Have Seen 'The Big Chill' on TV Last Week

According to The Associated Press, former Procol Harum keyboard player Matthew Fisher wants a songwriting share on the band's smash "A Whiter Shade of Pale."

Of course, it's an odd time to be asking. You see, if you're familiar with the song, you know it came out way back in 1967. My guess is Fisher heard the tune on the radio this weekend, heard his organ line and said, "You know, this wouldn't be the same without my kicking organ part. I could use some money, too. Why don't I sue the songwriters for a cut."

I'll admit, the Hammond solo is certainly a major part of the tune, but if this dude felt strongly about his role in the writing, why not do it back then? Hell, why not do it when he left Procol in 1969? Clearly, he's had enough of his new job as a computer operator.

Besides the odd timing and this dude really thinking he has a chance, the funniest part of the story is about how in the courtroom during the first day of the hearing, the organ Fisher plays on the tune just sat near the judge.

Wouldn't it be priceless if Fisher went through his thought process. "You know, when I wrote these eight bars, I was eating a Snickers, high on some killer drugs and thinking about what would make this song gold. I took my last bite, took a puff and out came this. Here I go."

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Sometimes we all need to hear things twice. In last Friday's Weekend, I wrote about tonight's show at Cafe Nine featuring Amy Rigby and The Shellye Valauskas Experience (that's them in the picture, really!). Make sure not to miss it. And don't be late; the whole shebang begins at 8 p.m. ... for real.

Back in the mid 90s, Rigby released "Diary of a Mod Housewife," and it's one of those records that sticks with anyone listening. To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, Rigby will perform the disc in its entirety tonight. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good Ol' Joe Lieberman

I'll be upfront — I did not vote for Joe Lieberman yesterday. I don't like his stance on the war and I truly hate that he wants to be able to tell all of us what we can and can't listen to and watch. His views on censorship give me hives. But that's not what this about.

Did anyone else hear the song in the background when Joe took the stage to declare victory? It was Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising." The Boss has been an outspoken opponent of the war, and I seriously doubt he'd willingly let Lieberman use that song.

Remember 1984, when Bruce got all hot and bothered over Reagan trying to use "Born in The USA" for his campaign? Of course, this isn't quite the same thing, but I still found it interesting.

I've been trying to come up with a song Joe should have taken the stage to. Any ideas?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Surprise of the Year!

Who would have ever guessed this?

From the Associated Press:

Britney Spears is saying bye-bye K-Fed.

The pop princess filed for divorce Tuesday from her husband, former backup dancer and aspiring rapper Kevin Federline.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court filing cites "irreconcilable differences," said court spokeswoman Kathy Roberts.

Spears, 24, married rapper Kevin Federline, 28, in 2004. They have a 1-year-old son, Sean Preston, and an infant son who was born Sept. 12. The divorce papers identify the baby as Jayden James Federline.

I just wonder who K-Fed is going to have multiple children with next. Same goes for Spears, who is, at this point, nothing more than a huge, no-talent laughingstock who people used to think of as hot.

But alas, it's all sad. I thought this one would last.

The CMAs

I'm not saying all country music is bad because it's certainly not, but what I saw of the Country Music Awards last night made me want to vomit. Before we get into this, let me just say I like a lot of indie country, a lot of old-school country, too. But ...

If you actually like Rascal Flats or Sugarland, I really have absolutely no respect for your taste in anything. And Carrie Underwood, she's got a nice voice and she's pleasant to look at, but I wish Jesus would take the wheel of her career and drive it right into a tree. Brooks and Dunn, shave your mustaches because you just flat-out stink, too.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: Popular, mainstream country music has turned into a retread of '80s crappy pop metal. Thank you Shania and Faith. Folks who used to write bad songs for Bon Jovi now write bad songs for these country artists. Throw a fiddle in the mix and woo-hoo, you have a Nashville tune ripe to become a crossover hit. I'd venture that contemporary country's mainstream popularity has been helped by the same people who made bad bands like White Lion a hit in the '80s.

This is harsh, I know, but it saddens me that garbage has become so huge. There are always people that will listen to bad music (and I listen to a lot of it, too), but the sad fact that this genre keeps getting more popular is chilling. Lyrics full of cliches and pathetic patriotic pandering, music straight from the Desmond Child songbook and blond-tipped hair with cowboy hats on top is basically all that was on TV last night.

And don't even get me started on Sheryl "I'm the new Steven Tyler" Crow. Here's a talented artist whoring herself out for any bit of popularity she can maintain. Sheryl: I know your career is slowly going downhill, but that doesn't mean you have to beg for country fans.

With all this said, Kenny Chesney won entertainer of the year and he's pretty good. Keith Urban knows how to make music, and Vince Gill's been doing just that for a long time. The new Dixie Chicks record is very good. Dwight Yoakam would be a star in any era. So, if it wasn't for this new crop of wanna-be Bon Jovis, the CMAs might just be tolerable.

New Music Tuesday

With the holiday season just about upon us, look for an onslaught of greatest-hit discs and boxed sets to hit stores. But the end of the year also means some big artists looking to grab some of your holiday bucks. This week finds Keith Urban and Josh Groban, among others, trying to separate some cash from your wallet.

Here's this week's most significant releases. Look for full reviews in Friday's Weekend section, which will also include feature stories on Meat Loaf, Queensyrche and Rocky Votolato. We'll also have a talk with The Bluelights and peek in on Call It Arson. Should be fun.

Keith Urban"Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing"
two-and-a-half stars

Josh Groban"Awake"
two stars

Pavement"Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition"
four stars

Call It Arson"The Animal Strings Album"
Kill Normal Records
three-and-a-half stars

Isobel Campbell"Milk White Sheets"
three stars

Monday, November 06, 2006

Last Bite of String Cheese

When I was a kid, my friend Paul's house was always stocked with string cheese. It always tasted really good. Although I probably haven't had any in a good decade or so, I bet I still love the taste of string cheese.

Who wouldn't, really?

But what I don't like is the awful music of The String Cheese Incident. Well, guess what? The band annnounced Friday that it's breaking up. Here's what the press release sent to me had to say:

After summer 2007, Billy Nershi is leaving The String Cheese Incident to pursue other musical projects. There will be only a limited number of Incidents between now and then. Current plans include Thanksgiving in Atlanta, a New Years Eve blowout in San Francisco, Winter Carnival in Colorado, and a return to Red Rocks. Presently, there are no plans for The String Cheese Incident beyond summer of 2007.

The band would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our friends and fans for all your support.

My real question is this: Does anybody who doesn't partake in illegal substances really care about the SCI calling it a day?

It simply amazes me that bands like SCI can travel around the country with ease, packing clubs and entertaining fans with mind-numbingly long songs with absolutely no core melody.

I have a friend who once was forced to go to an Umphrey's McGee show by his then girlfriend. I remember he texted me something like this during the show: "This is my hell. I've never heard such a long solo in my life."

And this is what it would be like for me. I don't care if a band can solo for 20 minutes. Just a write a good song already. OK?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Check this out

My old college roommate, Pat Cohen, is an actor down in New York. He's made some action flicks where he kills a lot of zombies. Those are pretty cool. I rented one on Netflix.

Anyway, that's not the reason I'm writing. Cohen (yes, that's his Matinee Idol-like head to the left) sent me a link to download his new sort-of-sitcom, "We Need Girlfriends." It's pretty funny, and since Cohen's a Guilford native, I thought you guys would get a kick out of it. Actually, I'm lying: Even if Pat wasn't a Guilford native, I would have put this up.

Anyway, go here to download.

Wowee Zowee

There aren't many times I leave a concert and know I just saw greatness. I see hundreds of shows a year, and the feeling comes over me maybe 10 times.

With that said, Matt Pond PA at Toad's Place last night: Just perfect. I admit I have a soft spot for the band (I've put them in my top-20 records feature the last two years.), but just looking at the crowd, you could tell it was something special. So good.

I planned to hit Cafe Nine after and see Headlights, but that wouldn't have been fair to that good band, because I would have inevitably left disappointed. Plus, I had an offer to play Setback. Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Zombie On Halloween, Without The Costume

I was having such a great night Monday, right up until I got in my car, turned it on and saw the time was 1 a.m., and I was in Cambridge, Mass.

And that's not even getting into having a two-hour drive in front of me with my friend, Jay, having more gas in him than my little Civic.

But let's get away from this too-much-fiber stuff and talk about the music. If I can wake up and type something ...

I am not sure if I have ever seen the first and last show of a tour before checking out The Hold Steady last night. The band capped off the first leg of its "Boys And Girls In America" trip at The Middle East, after opening it last month in Hamden. These were two far different shows, but both equally brilliant.

Here in the Nutmeg State, the guys performed at a venue where alcohol wasn't available, and it was still three days before their brilliant record would hit streets. The set was incredibly tight and chock-full of songs. Last night, I saw the sloppiest set I've seen from a professional band in my life.

Singer Craig Finn fell over at least once, and most of the remaining members were sloshed enough to continually miss parts, go off-key and stumble around the stage. But it all worked. The set lasted the same length as the Hamden show, but the band performed six less songs — there was a whole lot of drunken rambling in between tunes.

I have now seen the group begin two different tours, once in the aforementioned Hamden, and once in New York about two years ago. I saw the guys close a different tour at BAR in New Haven sometime last winter, and now I've seen them close this jaunt.

The Hold Steady is a totally different band at the beginning and end of tours. If you want a traditional, focused rock show, see them at the beginning of a tour, but if you want a decadent, classic Replacements-like set, get to the end.

In other news, I found out The Broken West was performing at The Middle East Upstairs last night, just a day after playing Cafe Nine. The guys were opening this gig, so we figured we could catch them play and still have time to get downstairs and see the very good Sean Na Na. It worked.

Mark my words: Come January when its record hits stores, you're going to be hearing a lot from The Broken West. A good amount more from me, too. This is a such a good band.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Award Season

I thought I would share a proud moment in my life.

This is me winning the rock critic of the year award last weekend. Thanks for all the support.

Disclaimer: This is actually me holding a trophy presented to the Jack's Bar and Grill softball team, which I am not a part of. My friends and I just took turns holding the trophy.


Full moon inside Cafe Nine

I don't look up at the sky much, and sure don't remember a full moon last night. And according to my handy-dandy desk calendar, there wasn't one yesterday.

But, you wouldn't have known it if you were with me at Cafe Nine to see The Broken West and Dodo Bird.

I've been to the Nine well over 100 times, at least once a week for the last 2+ years. Never has anyone tried to dance with me. Last night, not one, but two times did someone grab my hand and forcibly try to engage me in something I don't do: dance.

First, some sloshed woman dressed up as a racquetball player attempted to pull me away from my beer — twice. Now, I play racquetball often (and I'm not sure if she could sense this), but I was at the venue with my friend Jay, who, unfortunately, has been beating me lately at the r-ball. Why not dance with him? Let me watch the band.

After avoiding her advances, some woman said she needed me for a second. I assumed she wanted to ask question. You know what happens when you assume? Well, she grabbed me and put me in the middle of dancing circle. It freaked me out. I thought I might have to go the bathroom. Once I escaped the circle, my heart rate went back to normal.

The point of this entry? You just never know when weird things will happen.

And that was my Sunday night. The Broken West sounded amazing. Definitely check the band out. On to tonight and The Hold Steady. See you in Boston ... if you're smart. And go Patriots.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Week of concerts

Now that the World Series is over, we can get down to some real business. As the second-worst team in my lifetime to win the series celebrates (behind, of course, the 1987 Twins), I'm getting back to five or six shows a week.

So let's take a quick look at some of the great things happening this week, and, if you want to, what to do to have yourself a "Pat Week," meaning, basically, do everything that I'm going to do. If you want to stalk me, here's the way to go about it.

OK, so yesterday I went up to The Space and caught my friend Rory's new band, Cher Ami. Too bad the group went on earlier than expected and I only caught the end of the last song. Sounded good, though.

Tonight, head over to Cafe Nine; The Broken West plays. The band's debut record, which comes out in January, is so good it would have made my top-20 list of this year, if, of course, it actually came out this year. The tune "Down in the Valley" is a perfect power-pop song, simply a catchy, keyboard-infused sing-along.

Tickets are sold out, but if you're a bit resourceful, I'm sure heading up to Boston on Monday night and catching The Hold Steady at The Middle East is not out of the question. This is a two-for-one for me: Seeing my current favorite band play at my favorite venue (for sentimental reasons). I can't wait.

Come Halloween, you have two choices: Go to The Space and catch These Arms Are Snakes and then head over to Cafe Nine to see Decibully and Titles. Or, you can head up to Northampton and see The Decemberists at the Calvin Theatre, even if the band's new record is subpar. These are both good options. Right now, I'm leaning toward the Decemberists, just so I can get some of Northampton Brewery's fine beverages.

On Wednesday, we have another one of those multiple-venue nights. First, head over to Toad's and see one of my all-time favorite bands, Matt Pond PA. After that fivesome plays its blend of chamber pop and emo, head over to Cafe Nine and see Headlights, another great little chamber-pop band.

On Thursday, I'm going to take a break from the music and hit up Yale Rep for press night of "The Mistakes Madeline Made," which, I'm assured, is a wickedly funny dark comedy.

Then the weekend starts and Weekend hits stands and, if you buy the paper, you'll know what's going on next week. But, for these next few days, follow my lead and I promise you'll have a great time ... and you might get to meet me. Wouldn't that be a highlight, too?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Let's update

Well, I must apologize for being lax updating this here blog. You see, I took half of Tuesday off to play in a charity poker tournament and the loss of those four hours has made this a miserable week for me.

But enough of that fun, let's talk about what's gone down since last week. One thing that didn't happen? No good CDs came out Tuesday.

Well, let me amend that: You won't ever catch me listening to My Chemical Romance on my own time, but, of course, I had to for work, and the band's new record, "The Black Parade," is a three-and-a-half-star album. It really is good. Let's just say it's not my kind of record, though.

One depressing thing announced this week is the liquidation of Tower Records. Now, I know Tower sold a bunch of overpriced CDs, but there was nothing like going into its huge stores and browsing through rack after rack of CDs. The Boston store was one of my favorite places as a kid. I used to look forward to taking the T in and looking around.

So no more Tower Records stores, for the most part. What does that mean? Well, it means CDs may actually be on the way out and that scares me. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to be melodramatic. There will always be music and kids and adults will always buy it. But what about the album as a whole, as a cohesive artistic statement? And let's not even talk about indie labels, that generate 5-6% of their sales from Tower.

I love my iPod, but as time goes by, with more and more people legally and illegally downloading music, we start moving toward a song-oriented world, not an album-driven one. I used to love having the liner notes out while listening to a disc, going over the lyrics and reading the thank-you section. A lot of new records won't have that luxury.

Sure, labels will still make CDs, but they'll probably get more expensive and harder to get, very similar to vinyl now. It all makes me sad.

On a happier note, go check out The Mountain Movers at Cafe Nine tonight. The local band releases its new CD, and let's just say it's pretty damn amazing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Weird career? I'd say so

You guys may have noticed that I didn't put up CD releases on Tuesday. Well, that's because nothing of any (and I mean ANY) interest came out. Unless, of course, you consider a new Aerosmith greatest-hits compilation a big deal. (Pick up Weekend tomorrow just to read me mock Aerosmith. Good times.)

But, I did receive Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster is Loose" in the mail yesterday, and will be participating in a teleconference with The Loaf at 4 p.m. today (Sarcasm alert: Woo-hoo!).

The disc hits stores on Halloween, and I think this is a good time to think about the amazing career of the man really known as Michael/Marvin Lee Aday.

In 1971, Meatloaf makes a record that never sees the light of day, at least until after he got famous for "Bat Out Of Hell." So let's talk about "Bat Out Of Hell," which was written by Jim Steinman and came out in 1977.

Here's a record that sold 22 million copies just in this country, a ton more worldwide. You'd think the artist would be riding a wave of success and that his follow-up record would sell significant amounts. But "Dead Ringer" was a huge flop, even if it did have one real hit ("Dead Ringer For Love"). Most of the songs on the record were written by Steinman, but not all.

Through the '80s, Meat releases three more flops, most with a song or two written by Steinman. Then 1993 comes around, and "Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell" hits stores, with all songs written by Steinman. The disc sounds similar in bombast to the first "Bat," and, again, sells a gazillion copies.

How this happened, I will never understand.

So now comes the true test. Since the release of "Bat II," Meat's put out two more relative flops. If "Bat III" becomes a big hit, I will be totally flabbergasted. I've heard the follow-up discs to "Bat II" and I've heard "Bat III." There's not much of a difference. "Bat III" even has songwriters not named Steinman, and a god-awful nu-metal tune.

Can the name "Bat Out Of Hell" be a franchise like "Mission Impossible" or something? A name that Loaf can slap on one record every 12 or so years and reap the success? Or do people just like bombast sung by fat man, but only if Jim Steinman's writing said bombast? These are the questions we all need answered.

Do you guys think there's any chance in hell "Bat III" becomes a mega-hit record?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Trip down the Swan Lake

Every so often there are those CDs that you're just a little too excited about. For me, Swan Lake has been one of them.

A supergroup of sorts, Swan Lake is a trio made up of Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade) and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes). The disc (which comes out Nov. 21) appeared in my mailbin this morning, and after a quick listen, let's just say it's pretty close to awesome.

Not really sounding like any of the members' main bands, the record ("Beast Moans") is most similar to Destroyer, but with a lot of the artsy tendencies of Frog Eyes. What's most surprising is how confidently the trio presents its material, with all three contributing songs. And not once does "Beast Moans" come across as three songwriters writing tunes for the same record, but rather the disc is a cohesive album.

And that's a good thing. Look for somewhat-coherent raves about the disc as we approach the release date.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Here we go. Every team is at least 25 percent through its schedule and we know a lot about each. I've been largely mediocre at picking the last two weeks, but this week will change that.

Why, you ask? Well, because we're going to rank the teams. And by doing this, we'll know which teams are better than others. So here we go.

Last week's picks: 8-6

Season total: 38-19

32. Raiders
Has anyone seen a worse team, ever? These guys could not win one game and nobody would be surprised. Art Shell and his merry band of former bed-and-breakfast owners can't coach, period. There's a reason he never got another head-coaching job after he got canned by the Raiders the first time. And there's a reason he won't get another one after he gets canned this time.

31. Titans
A couple different teams could go here, but we'll go with the Titans because they sure know how to stomp on their opponents, and the head coach rocks a stache and a mullet. That's hard to do. Vince Young will probably be a good QB some day, but he's not there yet and that's why I think this team deserves to be down here. That and they wear powder-blue uniforms.

30. Texans
David Carr is the greatest QB in NFL. Don't believe me? Check out the QB ratings. OK, OK, I know that if I went to a Texans game and sneezed violently that force alone would sack Davey, but, you know, that's OK. This team deserves to be down here. The NFL makes gazillions of dollars but this team refuses to pay Reggie Bush so it drafts Mario Williams? Yeah, that's what we call stupid.

29. Browns
Romeo, oh, Romeo, why does thou employ such an awful offensive coordinator? Romeo, oh Romeo, why does thou's defense stink even though you ran a great Pats defense? Romeo, oh Romeo, why doesn't thou just let Kellen dance?

28. Lions
This team lacks the discipline that its coach said he would bring. Let's remember Marinelli never was even a coordinator, so the whole thing on him was that he would bring discipline. Where's the whip? The offense looks OK even though Kitna is awful. And speaking of Kitna, he's someone who needs the eyeball test: His numbers don't look bad, but actually watch him play and you quickly realize he's best served as Carson Palmer's backup.

27. Cardinals
I ask you this: If you had to choose between two QBs, one who married a woman who looks like a guy and one who knocked up one hot woman and is also often linked to Paris Hilton, who do you choose? Kurt Warner, of course. He clearly cares about football, not the other stuff. Actually, Matty can hold on to the ball longer, so ...

26. Tampa Bay
Why does every QB that comes out of the MAC look thuggish? Actually, I shouldn't say every one. But Big Ben loves his weird facial hair and now we get Bruce Garbagarbagarbagoo who looks like he should be wrestling, not throwing around the ol' pigskin.

25. Packers
Brett Favre is a gunslinger. Too bad there's no gun powder left. Not only does Brett make awful decisions, but he's also going to kill his wide receivers. All his throws seem to lead the receivers right into defenders. But that's OK. Brett knows how to win. How come he doesn't win, though?

24. 49ers
Second-round talent Alex Smith looks like a decent quarterback and Frank Gore can run like the best of them, even though he occasionally likes to drop the ball. But that Antonio, he's one crazy cat. And you gotta love crazy.

23. Miami
How do you know you're bad? When you're benching your "star" QB for a guy the Detroit media dubbed Joey Blueskies. That's bad. Just playing a guy named Joey is bad. If Harrington wasn't an athlete, do you think he could get away with calling himself Joey, a 28-year-old man. If he wasn't a QB, we'd think he was a pedophile.

22. Steelers
I'm sick of people thinking these guys are just waiting to come on. Well, keep waiting. Big Ben has never been an above-average quarterback, just a mediocre player who could play from ahead. This is why folks are annoying: Peyton isn't a winner, but Big Ben can be absolute garbage in a Super Bowl and his team wins, so he's a winner?

21. Chiefs
A couple weeks ago, in one of his Monday Morning Quarterback columns, Peter King called Herm Edwards a good dresser, said he looked sharp. When Peter Blueskies looks for good things to say about you and settles on your style, and you're a football coach, you know there are some problems. Look up bad coach in the dictionary and, oh my, there's Herm.

20. Bills
Jim Kelly today is better than JP Losman, today.

19. Jets
I was tricked into thinking this team was average, until the Jags beat me over the head with this: Chad can't throw a ball more than five feet. Get the Jets down in a game and you can win easily. Talk about a soft team. You can only dink and dunk so much.

18. Ravens
Say it with me: Steve McNair stinks. He's garbage. Just because he led a game-winning drive against the BROWNS doesn't make him good. Say it again: He stinks. It doesn't matter how good the defense is; Kyle Boller is better than McNair.

17. Vikings
Does Brad Childress scare you? Wait, I know you're scared when you look at him. I mean, does he scare you as a coach? Didn't think so. And Brad Johnson doesn't scare anyone, either, except maybe his mailman.

16. Rams
They can change this ranking with a win today, but it says here that won't happen. There's really not much to say about this team. It's boring. Bring back Mad Mike.

15. Saints
Oh it's a good story and Drew Brees has a killer birthmark, but I just don't think this team should be mentioned as an elite team. Let's put it this way: They would be the worst team in the NFC East, by far.

14. Redskins
Joe Gibbs better start thinking about NASCAR again, because this team is going nowhere fast. All those Super Bowl aspirations. I can just see Skins' fans crying when they finally give up hope. When will that will happen? When someone catches Mark Brunell cashing his Social Security check ... next week.

13. Bengals
The media so wants this team to be good, but it's the epitome of a soft team. It can't stop the run. And, cover your ears if you don't want the truth: Carson looks very mediocre this year. This is the first team on this list that could surprise me and become really good, really quickly, though.

12. Giants
At first, this ranking seems a little low for the G-Men, but could they beat anybody above them on a neutral field? I say no. Unless they start pressuring the QB, this team will end up in third place in the NFC East, with a beautiful 8-8 record.

11. Falcons
This is the same story every year: Falcons look OK, but can't beat really good teams. Mike Vick couldn't hit a 10-yard pass to save his life. That's it.

10. Panthers
How Steve Smith isn't in the early MVP talk I have no idea. This is a totally different team with him. The kind of team that can mask Jake's mediocrity.

9. Seahawks
They might be better than this, but how can we know that when they refuse to play well? They killed the Giants, then got dismantled by the Bears. Check back in a couple weeks when we'll really know how good the Hawks are, when Alexander is back.

8. Cowboys
For all the hoopla around the Cowboys, if Drew Bledsoe doesn't have a couple awful moments, this team is 4-0. They were dominated by the Eagles, but only barely lost. They dominated the Jags, then barely lost. This is a good team that is just going to get better. And yes, I have a man-crush on Drew Bledsoe: He saved the Patriots, made them relevant ... and helped me sneak into an R-rated movie 13 years ago (true story).

7. Jaguars
This team isn't much different than it was last year. It has a great defense and it'll win 11 games. The media will talk about how good they are and then the playoffs will start and some team like the Patriots will absolutely kill them.

6. Eagles
You wonder how Donovan's team can be this low? Well, simple, they barely beat the Cowboys who played about as awful as a team can play, offensively. And, more importantly, they couldn't beat the teams ahead of them.

5. Colts
Until this team can stop the run, it'll be down here, even if it doesn't lose. They sorely miss Corey Simon's impressive girth. What they have proven is that they don't need Edge and his gold teeth.

4. Patriots
They've been this good and Tom Brady is throwing to receivers who might as well be me. Once they get into the groove a bit more, with Mauroney and Dillon, woo-weee, this team will be great again. Or they won't be.

3. Chargers
If Marty wasn't the coach, they would be number two. Nuff said.

2. Broncos
With a coach who looks so mean, how could they not be good? This defense looks good. If only Jake the Snake wasn't the QB.

1. Bears
Can't argue with this. And I can't wait for them to play the Pats. Can't wait.

Falcons 31-21
Cowboys 34-10
Lions 17-7
Seahawks 27-13
Eagles 28-13
Bucs 24-20
Redskins 28-0
Panthers 17-13
Dolphins 13-10
Chiefs 21-10
Chargers 31-10
Broncos 27-3
Bears 35-3

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Give it a rest

Right around this time each week, I start to formulate a list of all the movies coming to theaters for the next Friday, just so I can begin making sure I have photos and reviews coming.

The biggest flick opening Oct. 20 is Clint Eastwood's Ocsar hopeful "Flags of Our Fathers," a World War II-based drama about the men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, brilliantly depicted in Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's picture. I went to check out a couple details on the film and came across bulletin boards filled with people going on and on about Eastwood's political leanings and how they will affect the movie. Geesh.

This is a World War II flick, man. People will go and enjoy it, or they'll go and find it way too long or heavy-handed. And it'll have nothing to do with whether you're a democrat or a republican, whether you think George Bush is a total moron, or whether you're deluded into thinking he's an OK president.

The movies are the movies. Can you get any more pathetic than trolling the Internet and rambling about the political themes of a movie you haven't seen? Nope. You can't. These people need to get lives.

If "Flags" arrives in theaters and all the actors wear Hillary Clinton buttons, then maybe you can take some time out your day and post some crap.

Otherwise, watch the movie or don't. Clint Eastwood doesn't care what you think. And neither do 99.9 percent of people on the Internet. OK?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

KT Tunstall at Toad's

While hardly a big fan of KT Tunstall's hit debut "Eye of the Telescope," I find the record to be consistent and entertaining, a good, if trivial, listen from an artist who could become even better on subsequent discs.

But live at Toad's Place Tuesday night was a very different story. The show couldn't be called bad, just magnificently mediocre. The best part of the evening: A gaggle of late-twentysomethings who slow danced very sexually with each other throughout the whole show. It made me laugh hard. I'm still smiling thinking about it.

My review runs in tomorrow's paper, but here's the setlist:

"Another Place To Fall" / "Other Side Of The World" / "Miniature Disasters" / "Under The Weather" / "Universe & U" / "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" / "Ashes" / "Silent Sea" / "One Day" / "False Alarm" / "Heal Over" / "Stoppin' The Love" / "Suddenly I See"

Encore: "Jelly" / "Through The Dark"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nick's Picks

Mine are up, so like last round, I'm letting my little brother give you his opinion on these series. Little Nicholas did even worse than me last round, not predicting anything correctly. But we both start with a clean slate in round two, and, hey, it looks like he won't be angering Mets fans, at least.

Here they are:

Tigers vs. A's
This will definitely be a better series than the NLCS; both teams seem to be more evenly matched. But, I am just not sold on Detroit.

I do not think Bonderman and Verlander can repeat their performances from the ALDS. They were very tired coming down the stretch and might be spent from the ALDS. And I am almost POSITIVE that Kenny Rogers can and will not have a repeat performance. I am not sure if that was even him on the mound last Friday.

I like Zito as the best pitcher for either team in this series, and the A’s rotation seems to be deeper especially with a healthy Harden. Both teams have great bullpens, but I give a big edge at closer to the A’s. I have no faith or confidence in Todd Jones and if you’re a Tigers fan, neither should you. Actually, Detroit as an organization is completely moronic for not having Zumaya or, at least, Rodney close.

As a Yankee fan, my only rooting interest is just to watch good baseball. But, I will say hopefully that if the A’s win, we can stop hearing stories about how Jim Leyland is a great manager because he wears cleats. I am not to sure that his Mizuno cleats have much to do with Zumaya throwing 105 MPH or Verlander being ridiculously good for a rookie. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, I mean he does look kind of sexy wearing the cleats and smoking those Marlboro Reds.

Oh yeah, does anyone else think Pudge needs to eat a Big Mac or something? I don’t know, maybe just a chocolate shake?

Prediction: A's in 6

Cardinals vs. Mets
Am I the only one who finds it incredible that Jeff Weaver is pitching game one for a team in the NLCS? It just shows that besides Carpenter, who is great, the Cards really just don’t have any pitching.

Now I know their mediocre rotation and bullpen looked good against the Padres, but I am not buying it. I don’t see them performing as well against the Mets lineup, which was by far the best in the NL all year.

I mean the Padres actually had Josh Bard batting cleanup. JOSH BARD!! I give the Cards two games in this series because Carpenter is so much better than anything the Mets can throw out, the only pitcher on either team capable of shutting down a lineup.

Although if Willie continues to manage like the village idiot, well, then, all bets are off. He might want to let his starting pitcher actually throw more than four innings a game or his old, tired bullpen might fall apart.

You sure can tell he learned under Joe Torre. (Please see, Proctor, Farnsworth, Villone, or any Yankee reliever really.) But hey, they are awesome in those Subway commercials together, where Willie’s Apollo Creed mustache really looks yummy. Low fat you say?

Prediction: Mets in 6

MLB: Sizing Up Round Two

OK, so I'm aiming to do a little better on my predictions for round two of the baseball playoffs than I did on round one. I mean, how many anonymous e-mails from pathetic Mets fans swearing at me can I take?

Yep, The Mets won and I thought they'd lose. That meant Mets fans waited until they won and sent me mean-spirited e-mails. Why not do it right when I put my predictions out there? I'll tell you why: Mets fans thought they were done, too. I know a bunch and none felt safe. That said, the League Championship Series presents some new wrinkles.

I totally overestimated the NL West, a division that just can't hit, even off a tee. I forgot and apologize. Who could have ever guessed the Yankees would crumble and embarrass themselves like that? I do want to take credit for being one of the few to call that A's series: That team is too deep in pitching to lose to a squad like the Twinkies.

Anyway, it all gets started tonight, here are the picks:

Tigers vs. A's
I'm not sure if it will really go only five games, but I like the A's to win the series relatively easily, even though these teams are pretty even. Oakland has a huge advantage tonight with Zito vs. Robertson and that matchup will get repeated in game five.

You have to like the A's staff better than the Tigers' starters, but Detroit has an edge in bullpen, though not by much because Todd Jones in no good, period. What sets Oakland apart is its lineup, which is better than Detroit's nine. If the Tigers really want to win, they may want to make someone put a ton of food in Big Frank's locker, hope he eats it all and gets sick.

This is the matchup that made Fox executives poop themselves, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is a very, very low-rated series, but it should be fun. Too bad ESPN isn't calling the series: We'd get to hear Joe Morgan talk about how Billy Beane shouldn't have written "Moneyball" and that A's teams aren't built for playoff success.

Hopefully Fox doesn't use that guy who called the Yankees series last week, Josh Lewin or something. He was absolutely atrocious, using "Dodgeball" analogies and letting phrases like "BMOC" roll off his tongue. He made no sense and I wonder how he got the job, seriously. He knew nothing about baseball. I wanted to take his little head and cover it with tape. Alas, I was in New Haven and he was in Detroit, so I couldn't quite reach him. I did pray for Steve Lyons to muzzle him, but it didn't happen.

Anyway, if you watch the series on mute, I still think the A's pull this one off. Who thinks the Gambler can repeat his performance? Not this blogger, that's for sure.

Series: A's in 5

Cardinals vs. Mets
Like the Tigers, the Cards backed their way into the playoffs, losing a whole bunch. But then the team ran into the Padres, a squad that can hit about as well as West Haven High's team. The Mets, regardless of the team's weaknesses, can hit the crap out of the ball.

Lucky for New York, the Cards won't be throwing any lefties, since, of course, the Mets can't hit lefties for some odd reason. The team was second to worst in the majors at it this year.

I'm torn on this series. In a seven-game contest, you'd think the Mets' lackluster pitching would be exposed for what it is: truly awful. But on the other hand, the Cards will throw Jeff Weaver in game one. Yes, I just wrote Jeff Weaver. Maybe he can make up losing the 2003 World Series to Yankee fans by beating the Mets. I doubt it.

Seriously though, how can one team in the NLCS be throwing Glavine/Maine/Traschel/Perez and the other Weaver/Suppan/Reyes/Carpenter? These are easily the worst pitching staffs in a series like this in decades. Only one pitcher from each would even make the playoff roster for the AL teams. Seriously, only Carpenter and Glavine.

At the risk of getting nasty e-mails from more starving Mets fans, I think I have to go with the Cards, as much as I hate Tony LaRussa's dumb over-managing. The reason? St. Louis has the best pitcher in the series by far (Carpenter) and the best hitter in the series by far (Pujols). Gotta go with that. Either team gets killed in the World Series, though.

Prediction: Cards in 6

Tuesday Releases

Still recovering from last week's too-good-to-be-true collection of new releases? Still listening to The Hold Steady, unable to muster the courage to take it out and pop in one of those other very good CDs? Well, you better get to it because a few more good ones hit stores today.

Here's a list of the five most significant releases of the week, again all rated on a one-to-four-star scale. Basically, I've listened to some of these so you don't have to; look for full reviews of all of these in Friday's Weekend.

Sting"Songs from the Labyrinth"
Deutsche Grammophon
one-and-a-half stars

Jimmy Buffett"Take The Weather With You"
two-and-a-half stars

The Be Good Tanyas"Hello Love"
three stars

The Lovely Sparrows"Pulling Up Floors, Pouring On (New) Paint" EP
Abandoned Love Records
four stars

Rod Stewart"Still The Same: Great Rock Classics of Our Time"
J Records

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday Morning Quarterback

I didn't perform too well with picks last week, but I'm ready for another go round.

After Monday, all teams will at least be 25 percent through their schedules, so we'll take an in-depth look at all teams next week, ranking them and seeing the good and the bad about each, so far. Anyway, here's this week's picks:

Last week: 7-7

Overall: 30-13

Buffalo at Bears: Bears 35-3

St. Louis at Green Bay: Rams 24-20

Titans at Colts: Colts 28-10

Lions at Vikings: Lions 24-17

Miami at Pats: Pats 23-16

Tampa at Saints: Saints 17-10

Redskins at Giants: Skins 17-16

Browns at Panthers: Carolina 24-10

Chiefs at Cardinals: Cards 20-17

Raiders at 49ers: Raiders 16-10

Jets at Jags: Jets 20-7

Cowboys at Eagles: Dallas 31-24

Steelers at Chargers: San Diego 20-14

Ravens at Denver: Broncos 21-7

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Super What?

Earlier this week, the new single from Rock Star Supernova appeared in my mailbox. Let me be honest for a second: I never watched the show. I didn't want to feel sad for Gilby, just couldn't do it.

So I popped in "It's All Love" and let me just say, frankly, it's far from love, my friends, far from love. You've got Tommy Lee, Gilby Clarke and Jason Newsted, so you would think they'd come up with something less girlie than this tune. And, yeah, I just used the word "girlie" to describe a song featuring members of Motley Crue, Guns 'N Roses and Metallica.

It's not like the song is bad, just incredibly mediocre. I expected more, but, then again, this did come from what I can only assume was a supremely bad reality TV show. How can these former metalheads debut with a power ballad?

I've heard this type of music before and it included Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw. You get my drift?

Thoughts After Day 2

Well, day two of the MLB playoffs has passed and, I have to say, not too many interesting things have gone down. Let's take a quick look at each of the series.

A's vs. Twins
I don't want to say that the Twins are done because Oakland loves finding amazing ways to blow things, but, yeah, the Twinkies are toast. Minny will throw Brad "I can't throw 80 and my shoulder hurts, but I'm tough" Radke, Johan "I'm on three days rest, please don't ruin me" Santana and Boof "I legally changed my name to this why?" Bonser against Danny "I'm the best number 3 starter in the playoffs" Haren, Rich "I'm probably the third best pitcher in all the postseason if I'm healthy" Harden and Barry "I'm on regular rest and already beat you once" Zito. Sounds like the A's should get one of those to me.

Padres vs. Cardinals
The bastard stepchild of these playoffs, the series nobody cares about gets back going at 4 today. I picked the Pads in four, and I'm sticking with that. You had to figure Carpenter would win Tuesday, just because he's so good. But when you're throwing Jeff Weaver out there in Game 2, as the Cards are, you have big problems. And, memo to the Padres: Walk Albert Pujols!!! Bruce Bochy is an idiot, I repeat, idiot, if he lets a pitcher throw to him again unless the team is up a lot.

Yanks vs. Tigers
This should continue being a walk-over of a series for the Yanks. The team won Game 1, and that probably should have been the hardest. Now here's the one thing to worry about if you're a Yankee fan: today's game. If somehow the team comes out flat in a rescheduled day game and lets the Tigers tie the series, there could be big problems. Randy "I've sucked for two years" Johnson goes in Game 3 with his pained back and awful stache, and Jaret "Am I really getting a postseason start?" Wright goes in Game 4. Detroit counters with Kenny Rogers, who can never be trusted, and their ace, Jeremy Bonderman. Yanks need a win today; and I expect they'll get one.

Mets vs. Dodgers
Only one game done, and my prediction is sort of off, since I thought Lowe would win. I still think LA wins in 5, though. Randolph proved once again he can't manage yesterday, even though the Mets pulled it off. Maine has been the team's best starter in the second half, by far, and the manager pulls him after just about four innings, even thought he's only given up one run. This taxes the bullpen incredibly, and when you got three five-or-six-inning pitchers going the next few games, this could be a problem. And this doesn't even account for the fact that Randolph was playing for ONE RUN in the FIFTH INNING. He has the best lineup in the NL (or AAAA, which ever you'd like to call it); the only chance the Mets have to win is if they bash their way to the World Series, and then promptly get their butts kicked. His bullpen still gave up four more runs (and it could have been more); he just got lucky his offense, again, bailed him out. If they lose that game, we're all here wondering how you take Maine out after four, just to pitch Mota, who's been bounced around so much this year, for TWO full innings. And, of course, he gave up three runs. This will all catch up to the Mets.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Little Nicholas' Picks

OK, so I posted my thoughts on the divisional series. But, my boss, Rick Sandella, loves the sports predictions from my little brother, Nick.

Most of the time, Nick gets more right than me, which is impressive, don't you think? So I decided to give him a forum on these playoffs. Here it is:

Yanks vs. Tigers — Yankees in 3
The Tigers are a tailor-made matchup for the Yanks. They strikeout so much that it helps the Yankees in the two areas which they are most flawed: It allows the Yanks' old pitchers to go deeper into games and they don't have to worry as much about their awful defense. This doesn't even take into account the fact that the Tigers have been terrible the last 50 games of the season; all their young pitching is exhausted. Would you want to depend on Kenny Rogers in a big spot?

Padres vs. Cardinals — Padres in 4
I just don't like the Cards at all. If the season was a week longer, they wouldn't have even made the playoffs. They have no starting pitching besides Carpenter and no bullpen at all, with or without Izzy. Pujols should get walked every time he comes to the plate until someone else in that lineup proves they can hit. The Padres have enough solid pitching with Peavy, Young and Wells along with a solid pen to easily beat the Cards.

Twins vs. A's — Twins in 4
Santana can pitch twice, which is basically two guaranteed wins. I don't think Oakland's lineup is good enough to take advantage of the other starters the Twins will throw out there. Just pitch around Frank Thomas (terrible in previous playoffs) and who else scares you in that lineup? Minnesota has the best bullpen in the league, making it tough for the A's to score runs after the sixth inning. Oakland always plays terrible in the Metrodome.

Dodgers vs. Mets — Dodgers in 5
The Mets clearly have the best lineup in the NL, but their starting pitching is terrible. They don't have an ace-shutdown starter. El Duque is so overrated, and at 50-years-old, he will be lucky to pitch five innings. Glavine is decent, but not an ace; and who knows what you get with either Trachsel or Maine? L.A., I think, has enough starting pitching to shut down the Mets long enough for their lineup to put up a decent amount of runs.

MLB Divisional Series Predictions

So even though my beloved Red Sox are sitting at home right now, eating pizza and drinking beer, it's still an exciting day: The baseball playoffs are on.

OK, I admit it: Manny Ramirez is probably smiling and riding a carousel with Enrique Wilson, not at home eating pizza.

But, anyway, we do have three interesting series to watch, along with one that is a serious mismatch (Yanks/Tigers). Three of them begin today. Here are my predictions for the first round. Send me yours.

Yanks vs. Tigers — Yanks in 4
I have a lobster roll riding on tonight's game, so even though I think the Yanks sweep, I hope Detroit pulls out tonight. I think there's a chance Detroit wins, against all odds. Here's my rational: Wang couldn't strike me out, so the free-swinging ways of the Tigers won't hurt them as much. And Robertson's been pitching well lately. Other than tonight, the Tigers stand no chance.

Cardinals vs. Padres — Padres in 3
A rematch of last year which saw the Cards dominate the Padres. That won't happen again. St. Louis looks like crap right now and San Diego has Peavy, Young and Wells, three very good pitchers. Plus, the Pads have a very deep bullpen, thanks to the Red Sox. And they have my man-crush Josh Bard. How can the Cards win?

A's vs. Twins — A's in 5
I know the Twinkies are a fashionable pick, but Oakland can throw Zito today against Santana and then the A's have a huge advantage with the rest of its starters. Nobody has a deeper starting staff than the A's, which will certainly help them beat the Boofs of the world. Neither of these teams have great offenses, so even though the Twins might be a bit better with the bat, I don't think it will matter.

Mets vs. Dodgers — Dodgers in 5
Ah, the series that will depress so many people around here. Listening to the WFAN, you'd think the Mets were the best team that ever lived and that El Duque was still only 45. Unfortunately, the last time El Duque was any good was at the turn of the century, back before he was eligible to collect Social Security. The Mets lineup is still great, but the Dodgers are so much better on the mound. Derek Lowe will win two games in this series, and Mets fans will cry. As much I'll enjoy watching them lose, I have to admit I feel a connection to Mets fans. Why? Because I lived for many years with the same fear as Mets fans: As Pedro goes, so does the season. Without the greatest pitcher to ever pick up a glove, the team's got three 50-year-old starters and not much else.

Tuesday releases

Wow, it's finally here. Any music fan has been salivating over today.

It's on these weeks that it's just a bit depressing (I stress a bit) that I get these CDs weeks early. A decade ago, I would have gotten up incredibly early after not being able to sleep and zoomed over to the local Newbury Comics to pick up five or six new albums today.

So here's the top-seven releases of the week, with my star rating. If you pick up Weekend Friday, you can read full reviews of The Decemberists, The Hold Steady, The Killers, Beck and The Dears.

The Decemberists"The Crane Wife"
two-and-a-half stars

The Hold Steady"Boys And Girls In America"
four stars

The Killers"Sam's Town"
two stars

The Dears"Gang of Losers"
three stars

Beck"The Information"
three stars

Lindsey Buckingham"Under the Skin"
three-and-a-half stars

Evanescence"The Open Door"
one star

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hold Steady in Hamden

Tonight, the iconic Irving Plaza in New York, but on Saturday evening, The Hold Steady performed in front of a BINGO board and a half-dozen American flags at the Hamden Masonic Lodge.

With a couple hundred or so exuberant, sweaty, all-age fans in attendance, the quintet tore through a 17-song set heavy on the killer tunes off "Boys And Girls In America," the band's third record that will be released Tuesday. But the album's lack of availability didn't mean the entire audience wasn't singing along to each and every song, jumping up and down and fist-pumping the air.

Without a stage, lighting or roadies, The Hold Steady seemed to have a blast kicking off its long North American tour in a venue unlike anything it will see at any subsequent stop. Singer/guitarist Craig Finn barely touched his guitar and flubbed a lyric or two, but nobody cared. And how could they when the frontman rambled like a mad man around the "stage" area, slapping hands with fans and screaming his lungs out on crowd favorites like "Stevie Nix" and opener "Stuck Between Stations"?

After closing the show with a raucous rendition of "Southtown Girls," the band returned for an encore of "First Night" and "Massive Nights," the first of those tunes being the only rough spot of the evening, with the acoustic guitar tones from Tad Kubler's electric guitar sounding like static.

But after the two new songs, the crowd refused to do its part and leave, coaxing the quintet out for another encore by chanting for "Killer Parties" over and over again for at least four or five minutes.

And the guys did more than just that crowd favorite, opening the unplanned second encore with "Positive Jam," a rocker that equally excited fans. It was the end of a night that all in attendance won't soon forget. With "Boys And Girls" hitting stores Tuesday and an amazing amount of press recently, The Hold Steady is about to arrive, and there just won't be any more opportunities to see the band in a tiny lodge.

Set list: "Stuck Between Stations" / "The Swish" / "Party Pit" / "You Can Make Him Like You" / "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" / "Hot Soft Light" / "Same Kooks" / "Don't Let Me Explode" / "Stevie Nix" / "Chips Ahoy!" / "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night" / "Southtown Girls"

Encore 1: "First Night" / "Massive Nights" / "How a Resurrection Really Feels"

Encore 2: "Positive Jam" / "Killer Parties"

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Well guys, not much time this week, so you're just getting my picks, not so much commentary. Next week, I'll rank the teams and throw out some picks. So here's this week's choices:

Last week: 10-4
For the season: 23-7

Arizona at Atlanta: Falcons 17-13

49ers at Chiefs: 49ers 13-7

Colts at Jets: Colts 28-20

Saints at Panthers: Panthers 24-10

Chargers at Ravens: Chargers 21-10

Vikings at Bills: Vikings 16-7

Cowboys at Titans: Cowboys 24-3

Dolphins at Texans: Texans 19-10

Lions at Rams: Lions 21-17

Patriots at Bengals: Bengals 35-24

Browns at Raiders: Browns 13-3

Jags at Redskins: Redskins 24-17

Seahawks at Bears: Hawks 28-13

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hold it Steady right there

Sometimes when you're writing articles there's a great quote that you just can't use. In tomorrow's Weekend, the cover story is on a couple Manic Productions shows, including The Hold Steady.

The band plays Hamden Saturday and will have copies of its simply amazing record "Boys And Girls In America" for sale, a couple of days before the disc hits stores. Anyway, when asked why his lyrics always talk about Minneapolis as opposed to New York, considering he's lived in the Big Apple for six years, singer Craig Finn said this, and I think we all know someone like this:

"The people I hate the most are people who move here from the Midwest or something and make New York a huge part of their personality. I hate those people. It's like New York has become a huge piece of them even though they've barely lived here. I don't want to be that guy."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Way-back Wednesday

For this week's Way-Back Wednesday, we're going to time travel all the back to the dark days of Aug. 22, 2006. Yup, that long ago.

That was the day Cursive released its stellar "Happy Hollow," a disc I was unable to review that week because I was on a vacation. So, now's the time.

The album is singer/songwriter Tim Kasher's unbridled, unhinged and cathartic take on religion. And unlike the band's previous masterpiece, "The Ugly Organ," "Happy Hollow" finds Cursive sounding brighter, with warmer vocal lines, brass and the occasional strings, dissimilar to the minor-chord- and cello-heavy "Organ."

All 14 tracks exude a toughness, but yet a vulnerability. Each tune feels like it could break apart at any moment, yet the whole thematic album sticks together. Kasher's fractured voice, screaming and moaning about fear and disillusionment, yet never preaching, keeps it all going, never letting such a large IDEA get out of hand. It's a punk-heavy, emo song cycle that never whines, an impressive distinction.

This is, without a doubt, one of the best records of this year and you'll more likely find it somewhere in the teens on my annual year-end Top 20 Records of the Year story.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Yo La Tengo at Toad's

Indie trio Yo La Tengo played "Burnin' For You" during a stellar 90-minute set at Toad's Place last night.

This simple fact adds another to the list of ways you can tell a band is good: They know that "Burnin' For You" is the best BOC tune ever, no matter what anyone says.

Tuesday releases

Well, today is a good day for CD releases. It might not equal the bounty of great albums hitting stores next week, but, still, today should make most music fans happy.

Here are the six most significant coming out today, all rated on a one-to-four-star scale. In Friday's Weekend section, you'll find full reviews of The Lemonheads and The Byrds, plus some re-issues that are sure to bring a smile to the face of '80s music fans. Make sure you pick up the paper. Here we go:

Jay Bennett"The Magnificent Defeat"
three stars

The Lemonheads"The Lemonheads"
three-and-a-half stars

The Byrds"There Is A Season"
four stars

Scissor Sisters"Ta-Dah"
two-and-a-half stars

Alan Jackson"Like Red on a Rose"
two-and-half stars

Korn"See You On The Other Side"
one-and-a-half stars

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Due to many positive e-mails, we'll keep the NFL picks coming. Remember, I have a gift to get inside the heads of coaches, so here's an inside look at these teams. After listening to a lot of internal conversations, I'm able to make my educated picks. So, here we go.

Last week's record: 13-3

Jets at Bills

Coach Mangini: So what if Coach Bill doesn't me like anymore? All I wanted was my head-coaching job. Is that such a bad thing? Not only did he barely say a word to me during our handshake after the game, but he also squeezed really, really hard. It hurt oh so much. But it didn't hurt as much as having Chad get hurt. If he injures his barely together shoulder again, I'm done.

Coach Jauron: I got a defense that just loves getting to the ball. We're going to blitz Chad until he's so scared, he'll wish he was back at Marshall. There won't be any running room either, so much so that by the end, Barlow will be calling me Hitler. I wish I had a mustache. I wonder if my offense will score.

My pick: Bills 17-13

Green Bay at Detroit

Coach McCarthy: You see Favre throw the ball around last week? That's the QB I love. He's a gunslinger out there. He's just trying to get us a win, doing whatever he can. He's so old school, sometimes he likes to bang his head on the bench. He was so good when he took all those painkillers, I'm thinking about putting them in his drinks this week. I mean, he's a gunslinger, but he still couldn't beat the bad Saints.

Coach Marinelli: If we had more discipline, we would have won last week. I told Martz to instill more discipline in Roy Williams, make him stop with those guarantees. After the game last week, I spanked Roy 24 times, just so he has more discipline. This week I worked on Kitna. His numbers look OK, but he's been fumbling the ball every time someone breathes on him. I just kept hitting him with a stick this week, yelling, "have some discipline, you little girl." We'll see how it goes.

My pick: Lions 27-17

Jags at Colts

Coach Del Rio: Well, we were underrated going into the season, and now we're incredibly overrated. I'm going to look like a bad coach when we start losing, but I only have a mediocre QB, OK receivers, a fragile running back and a great defense. People forget we looked OK last year until the Patriots battered us until we cowered in the corner. Now we get Peyton? Those Colts were looking to score when they were up 30 last week. They show no mercy. I hope they don't batter us.

Coach Dungy: I wonder where we should eat after the game. I mean, my defense looks like it's getting better, but it won't have to be great against these guys. And then there's Peyton. He's so good. When I was in Tampa, I had Shawn King, man. Now I go to sleep with a smile on my face, thinking of beautiful Peyton, gyrating at the line of scrimmage and calling those oh-so-pretty plays. He's my hero.

My pick: Colts 27-6

Titans at Dolphins

Coach Fischer: That Billy Volek, he's ruining our season. He threw us right under that bus. I was driving along peacefully, and then that Volek got in front of my car, pulled me out of the window and then threw me under the short bus. I'm going to ride this excuse out. Man, oh man, we suck. But this year's all Billy's fault. Little Billy ruined my season. He's made Kerry Collins bad, made my running backs look awful.

Coach Saban: Oh, my god. What did I do to deserve this? Why oh why was I fooled by Daunte? He is so bad. I'm sick of all those people who say he's just recovering; he's just bad. Take away a great Randy Moss and Daunte is a pile of garbage on the football field. Maybe next week I'm going to take a wrench to his knee myself. I can't believe I think Joey Harrington would help me more right now.

My pick: Dolphins 17-10

Bears at Vikings

Coach Smith: If I actually have an offense, I am in some good shape. I know my defense is good, but you add an offense that can score even two touchdowns a week, I'm winning some coach of the year awards. And how about my man Desmond Clark? I found a top-five tight end. Who knows where? And even if Rex gets hurt -- which will probably happen -- I got Griese, who's good as long as he's not drinking again.

Coach Childress: My mustache looks even better when we're 2-0. I like to comb it with this little brush Brad Johnson gave me during the preseason. He gave it to me in this nice little box, with a cute red bow. And now my stache looks so thick and full. When I wear my purple hat, I swear the whole crowd thinks I'm Brad Pitt with a delicious, full stache, though. I wonder if I can distract the Bears' D with the facial hair.

My pick: Bears 24-10

Bengals at Steelers

Coach Lewis: Where you been Kimo? We've been waiting for you for so long. That coach of yours told you to hurt my Carson, my valuable, valuable Carson. We're coming for you Kimo. We're coming for you.

Coach Cowher: We're the champions. We're the champions. Remember that when people rightly question my conservative play-calling. Remember that when people rightly say Ben can't win games for us, just manage them, that he can only play from ahead. If he throws more than 30 times, we lose. Don't believe all the hype. I've gotta remember to tell Kimo to remember our little secret. Go get him Kimo.

My pick: Bengals 28-13

Panthers at Bucs

Coach Fox: I just got so sick of everyone saying we're going to win the Super Bowl. They say it every damn year. I want people to stop it, so I had to improvise. I threw that game last week, much to the delight of everyone but the Bears. I want our team to start in the hole; it'll make us more hungry. I don't get why everyone keeps saying it was such a stupid move. Don't they understand my genius? Everyone says I'm such a great coach. Well, trust me.

Coach Gruden: I am so mad. I didn't sleep at all last week. Every time my body wanted to shut down, I put another needle into my stomach. I hate losing. I'm getting more mad just thinking about this stuff. We're playing like poop, and I HATE poop. I'm going to get that Simms kid and beat him like the punk he is. I'm so mad. I just threw up.

My pick: Panthers 17-7

Redskins at Texans

Coach Gibbs: In NASCAR, I could just buy a better engine and the dog-gone car would purr all the way around the track. When I sneak into the trainer's room and try to give Brunell a new engine, he calls me bad names. Why doesn't Portis wear one of those costumes again? You know which one I want to him to wear? The "Clinton Portis of 2005" costume. I wish Brunell wore costumes, too.

Coach Kubiak: Everyone keeps saying David Carr looks OK. Are they watching what I'm watching? He drops back to pass, counts to 30 and then, if nobody's sacked him, he throws the ball to the open receiver. That's all well and good, but my daughter could sack him. No doubt about it.

My pick: Skins 21-17

Ravens at Browns

Coach Billick: I sure am a genius. But, I have to enjoy it now. This is the last week for celebration. All those TV personalities must be drinking the beer during games, especially Shannon Sharpe. They all keep saying how good of an offense we have all of a sudden. Yet a fourth-grader could watch our games and tell that our QB should have retired four years ago. He stinks, and any time anyone touches him, he fumbles the ball. We'll lose our next game, but for this week, people will think it's amazing that we were able to beat the awful Bucs, the more than pathetic Raiders and, now, the hapless Browns.

Coach Crennel: I don't know much about offense, but I guess I should make Kellen my offensive coordinator. He makes some good points. We have an awful team. Why are we not trying to win when we might get five wins this season, if we're lucky? Our QB is awful. Maybe we should let Kellen QB, and the we'll see him dance more. Oh, that sweet dancing.

My pick: Ravens 20-6

Rams at Cardinals

Coach Linehan: Just when I had everybody on the bandwagon, I had to go and lose to the 49ers. I would have been the next great coach if I could have just got a win last week. I would have grown a mustache, gained 80 pounds and been called "the next Andy Reid." Why oh why could that not have happened? All Bulger had to do was throw a couple TD passes. It should have been easy. Now we have to face an overrated Cardinals team to see who gets to go 8-8 and come in second in the division.

Coach Green: I thought Edge would be good away from the Colts. So far he's been OK, but not great. I wonder if it's because our offensive line is awful, or because Edge was overrated since he played in a passing offense that was so good, defenses made him beat them. Or maybe all those gold teeth are slowing him down. Never trust a man with gold teeth. But, Kurt assured me he's prayed a lot this week and that god loves him the most, more than he loves those Rams. I sleep easy knowing that.

My pick: Cardinals 34-21

Eagles at 49ers

Coach Reid: For a game and a half, broadcasters lusted after us and kept calling us a team to beat. That made me so mad, I had to remind everyone why we lost all those NFC championship games in a row: I play way too conservatively and have no real running back when I'm too afraid to throw the ball. All my little speedy backs can't run up the middle and that scares me. Does anybody have any cookies?

Coach Nolan: We know we ain't making the playoffs, but our goal is to ruin every parlay played. I think this week we'll almost beat the Eagles and keep it low scoring, ruining both the spread and the over. I love to mess with the gamblers. It makes me giddy.

My pick: Eagles 13-10

Giants at Seahawks

Coach Coughlin: So close to being 0-2, yet Eli throws up that awful, awful wounded duck and Plaxico comes up with it. We win, we win. Everyone says Eli shouldn't throw off his back foot, yet then they celebrate him for doing it when it works. Well, it only works half the time. I better call a meeting, and everyone better be 15 minutes early. I have to remind everyone that last year we had 458 false starts against Seattle and 43 missed field goals. I need a meeting.

Coach Holmgren: I'm giving our fans another game ball after this one. The Giants already commit tons of penalties, we'll make them have more. Last year they played us tough, but that's when they could get to the quarterback. That ain't happening now. The Giants will jump offside and Matt will beat his brother's team again while that woman from "The View" and "Survivor" cries on the sideline.

My pick: Hawks 31-17

Broncos at Patriots

Coach Shanahan: All these calls for Cutler, doesn't anybody realize I was playing conservative last week? Why try to score? We were facing Herm Edwards' team. If they score, he spanks them on the sidelines. He gets all mad and curses the world when his offense scores. Why do I need to try and score? Just win, baby. I learned that from Al Davis.

Coach Belichick: We don't care that we're not getting any respect. ESPN has us as 10th in its Power Rankings, after mediocre 1-1 teams like the Steelers and 2-0 teams who've beat nobody like the Ravens. Sports Illustrated put us as 12th in its, after 1-1 teams like the Giants and Steelers. I hate everyone. Nobody likes me, not even my team. But I don't care. It makes me happy.

My pick: Patriots 27-10

Falcons at Saints

Coach Mora: We've decided the hell with "normal." We don't need to throw the ball. We're gonna run the damn option and we're going to like it. Just try to stop us. Of course, we are doing it with tiny, tiny Vick and Dunn and one big hit will ruin everything, but who cares? We're done being normal. Who needs a QB that can actually throw when you can rush for 300 yards a week?

Coach Payton: We're going to win this for city. Sure, our D is bad, but people are underestimating us. Our QB is great despite that weird mole, both our running backs are very good, even if Deuce has never seen a cheeseburger he didn't want. Joe Horn used that cellphone a couple years back. Remember that? He's good. We're going to score in this game. I'll bet Brees' mole on it.

My pick: Saints 24-17