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