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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Way-back Wednesday

In my column in Friday's weekend, I write about The Flaming Lips, who perform in New York Sunday and Monday. I talk with bassist Michael Ivins, which was a pleasant surprise since each time I've talked to a Lips member it's been Wayne Coyne. It was kind of cool to the speak with the most silent guy in the band.

So in preparation for that column, I thought we'd make this week's Way-back Wednesday about the Lips' "Hit to Death in the Future Head," the band's 1992 major-label debut. There's no doubt the group's masterpiece is 1999's "The Soft Bulletin," a record I consider one of, if not the best of that decade. And I also believe that the trio's last three discs, beginning with "Bulletin," are clearly its creative peak, but "Future Head" has a special place in my heart.

Most critics consider 1990's "In a Priest Driven Ambulance" the best disc made by the Lips during its noise-rock period, meaning pre "Transmissions From the Satellite Heart." They consider "Future Head" just a step sideways from "Priest," and although I agree that it doesn't do much sonically different than "Priest," "Future Head" features better songwriting.

From the apocalyptic "Frogs" to the Jonathan Donahue-penned "Gingerale Afternoon," the record is incredibly tight, with not a bit of filler. "Future Head" also finds Coyne and the boys experimenting with some of the pysch-heavy, acoustic-based pop of future albums on tunes like "You Have to Be Joking," which could be an outtake from "Transmissions" or "Clouds Taste Metallic."

Overall, this is just one of the discs that rewards upon repeated listens. When judging the Lips, so many use advancement as a benchmark. People won't give records that don't represent a large step forward a fair shake, and that's the problem with "Future Head": It doesn't deviate enough sonically from "Priest."

But I don't care. It's my favorite pre-"Bulletin" record and I'm sticking to that. Go take a listen and judge for yourself.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Just be quiet

These people need to get a life. Man, oh man.

There's nothing worse than dumb baseball fans.

Tuesday releases

Well, today brings another one of those very slow weeks for CD releases. Things will pick up in the next couple, when several biggies put out new discs. 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 Clay Aiken and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, plus a couple discs that slipped through the cracks recently. Make sure you pick up the paper. Here we go:

Ben Kweller"Ben Kweller"
Red Ink
two stars

Clay Aiken"A Thousand Different Ways"
half star

Bonnie "Prince" Billy"The Letting Go"
Drag City
three stars

Fergie"The Dutchess"
two-and-a-half stars

one-and-a-half stars

Joseph Arthur"Nuclear Daydream"
Mega Force
three stars

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sunday Morning Quarterback

I've decided it's time to share. Why should I get so much insight into the NFL, much more so than anyone else? I can't think of a reason.

Because of a psychic gift, I am able to hear what the coaches are saying about their teams before each weekly games. These head coaches aren't even saying this stuff to other coaches or to the players, but just to themselves. I can hear it, though. This allows me to make great picks each week.

It sounds unbelievable, I know. And it sounds too good to be true, right? But I actually hear all coaches, and there's nothing good about having to hear the inner thoughts of a WNBA coach, believe me.

Anyway, here's the first of a maybe-weekly series I'll appropriately -- and so cleverly -- call Sunday Morning Quarterback. E-mail me or leave a comment and tell me if you want the series to be weekly. The rundown of this week's games:

Bills at Dolphis

Coach Jauron: JP Losman is my quarterback and the 736-year-old Marv Levy is picking my players. How am I supposed to win? When London Fletcher scored that TD on Tom Brady's fumble last week, I almost weeped I was so happy.

Coach Saban: I'm a good coach and all, but I feel so stupid for starting to believe all the media hype about Daunte Culpepper actually being an above-average quarterback. It slipped my mind how awful he was without Randy Moss.

My pick: Dolphins 24-13

Panthers at Vikings

Coach Fox: No more game-planning, I need to go massage Steve Smith's hammy. A little bit of Icy/Hot might do the trick. I wonder if teams will realize how average Jake Delhomme is if Stevie's out much longer. Forget about that, I must go massage.

Coach Childress: I wonder if Andy Reid would be upset if I finally shaved my ridiculous mustache. I'm going to have Brad hand it to Chester even more this week; I hope he holds up. How was I stupid enough to leave a beer near Koren? I'm gonna miss that fast little alcoholic.

My pick: Vikings 21-17

Browns at Bengals

Coach Crennel: I'm a great defensive coach; I don't know much about offense. You can't blame me for only handing off to my 1,200-yard back 11 times, even though I start one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. Don't matter, though. Did you see Kellen dance? He sure looks good.

Coach Lewis: I need to congratulate myself. We beat a decent team badly, and my all-world quartback didn't even play well. Plus, my defense looks damn good all of a sudden. Last year we got lots of turnovers, but gave up a whole lot of yards. We look good, now. We're a good team.

My pick: Bengals 28-10

Lions at Bears

Coach Marinelli: Once we get more discipline, we're going to be good. I had to spank Martz a couple times; he needs discipline, too. They all need discipline. Once we get that, we'll win. If Kitna doesn't learn some discipline soon, I might even play that UConn kid. Oooh, weee, we're going to be a good team once we get some discipline.

Coach Smith: If I played my defense on offense, they might score even more. Rex looks OK, but we have to remember that we scored once on a busted play, once on a fumble recovery and then on a ton of field goals. Detroit's D looked good last week. I hope we can score more this week. I hear that Marinelli instills a lot of discipline, not much more though.

My pick: Chicago 16-10

Texans at Colts

Coach Kubiak: No matter how much we chop block, Dayne ain't gaining any yards. No matter how mediocre the Carr drove last week, we ain't scoring points. Oh, god, we have no chance of winning this game.

Coach Dungy: After the game, maybe I'll take Peyton out for a beer, one of the ones he does commercials for. Does he do commercials for beer? He does so many, I forget. A nice steak would make a great Sunday meal. The quicker we kill them, the quicker that steak and beer will come.

My pick: Colts 34-10

Saints at Packers

Coach Payton: Reggie and Deuce are a pretty good couple. I hear Reggie's even sharing some of the loot he got illegally with Deuce, making him more OK with sharing carries. We looked better than I thought last week, although we did play Channing. Why can't we face him every week?

Coach McCarthy: I'm a bad coach, but I got hired. That's quite amazing. Good stuff. I might not have taken the job if I knew Brett wasn't retiring, though. Man he can throw up those picks. I wish that when the media made excuses for him, they'd do the same for me. You know, I'm a gunslinger coach, just trying to win. I wish I could.

My pick: Saints 24-20

Giants at Eagles

Coach Coughlin: How come LaVar's so bad? I thought we were getting a decent player, didn't think all those blown-coverage and missed-assignment rumors were true. If Eli plays like he did last week, we should win this game, I think. But how come all my teams, always, have so many penalties? Why, oh, why? I make them come to meetings early.

Coach Reid: I don't need TO. Did you see Donte last week? Man, I know he disappeared for games at a time in New Orleans, but I'm starting to think that was because Aaron Brooks is so bad. If my little running backs stay healthy, we can win. Now, let me go groom my stache.

My pick: Eagles 21-20

Raiders at Ravens

Coach Shell: I used to be a great offensive lineman, but it's not my fault I have the worst O-line in football. Right? Why blame me for not giving Randy the ball for first 20 or so minutes of the game? We looked like the worst team in the history of football Monday; we looked totally unorganized and flat-out stupid. Not my fault; I'm only the head coach.

Coach Billick: Damn, I'm a good coach. Did you see my team last week. We shut those pirates out. I had a good gameplan. I'm so good. And now the NFL just wants me to beat the Raiders? The worst defense can make Aaron Brooks look like a Pop Warner quarterback. Look at my defense. And I'm a great coach.

My pick: Ravens 20-3

Bucs at Falcons

Coach Gruden: I was so mad last week. How could we look so bad. I wanted to get madder. I didn't sleep at all this week. I'm going to sick Chris Hovan on Vick. Remember that Domino's commercial? He ran after that pizza like it was his job. I don't care if he ain't that good. I'm going to put a Domino's sticker on Vick's back. That should do it.

Coach Mora: No more telling Michael what to do. I don't care if connects on 10 percent of his passes. I just don't. Let's hope he runs around some more this week. Nobody told me Lelie was this bad. Didn't Denver waste a first-round pick on him? Ah, doesn't matter. Michael couldn't get the ball to him without one bounce, anyway.

My pick: Falcons 20-13

Steelers at Jags

Coach Cowher: I still don't know how to take a risk or use up the clock, but I'm a good coach. We beat those Fins last week, but this could be tougher. Didn't the Jags beat us last year? Hopefully Big Ben plays.

Coach Del Rio: Stop the run, we win the game. Stop the run, we win the game. Stop the run, we win the game. Stop the run, we win the game. Stop the run, we win the game.

My pick: Jags 21-17

Cardinals at Seahawks

Coach Green: We can sure throw the ball around with anybody. We just can't let the defenders get close to Kurt. He needs time to drop three steps, say a prayer and then throw the ball. If he can't pray and the linebacker gets to him first, he'll surely drop the ball. My defense is awful, so let's score.

Coach Holmgren: Man, how did we only score nine points last week? We're supposed to be the best offense in football. Too bad Branch ain't playing. I need a hot dog.

My pick: Seahwaks 35-21

Rams at 49ers

Coach Linehan: I gotta remember to give my kicker a big kiss. We're going to ride his beautiful right leg all the way into the playoffs. It doesn't matter that we can't put the ball into the end zone when we have a kicker booting 12 field goals a week. I love me my kicker.

Coach Nolan: We scored a good amount last week! I thought we'd get 24 all year. Even my quarterback looked OK. I hope it wasn't just because that Cardinals D is so bad. I bet it was though. We did beat the Rams twice last year, though.

My pick: Rams 24-17

Chiefs at Broncos

Coach Edwards: Why are all these people talking about me running a conservative offense? I don't run any offense. People hire me to ruin their offenses. They know Herman hates scoring points. They know Herman can't coach a team to save his life. But I sure do look passionate and scary at press conferences.

Coach Shanahan: I could sign Liberty Bell and make him a 1,000-yard rusher. Bring on Raja Bell and I'll have my blockers doing illegal things and making huge holes. I want all the Bells, that'll prove how much of a genius I am. I do think I have to fire my Plummer, though.

My pick: Broncos 31-10

Patriots at Jets

Coach Belichick: Tom is so beautiful; I could play wide receiver and he'd hit me. Why do I need to spend any money on people to catch the ball? I have Tom. That's all I need.

Coach Mangini: I'm going to teach Bill a lesson: I know his plays; I know his defense; I know how to beat Tom Brady. I'm not his little student. I'm going to prove to the world I'm old enough to be a head coach. Oh yeah, my team isn't that good, though. Can we play the Titans every week?

My pick: Pats 17-3

Titans at Chargers

Coach Fisher: Poop. I thought my team could be OK. I didn't think starting a QB who was sitting by his pool two weeks ago would make a difference. Let me call Vince.

Coach Schottenheimer: I don't need to pass. Why all those people say I'm too conservative? Don't they look at my post-season record? Oh, yeah, it sucks. Doesn't matter. It's not my fault I called 87 running plays in a row last Monday. We won.

My pick: Chargers 20-10

Redskins at Cowboys

Coach Gibbs: I've got a guy named Cooley. Need I say more?

Coach Parcells: Why are people getting all nervous about Drew? He has one of these games every year, actually he has three of these games. He'll be good today. Washington blitzes, but I'm thinking they aren't that good this year. At least that's's what I'm praying.

My pick: Cowboys 17-10.

Oh, my: New TV shows

I have seen the worst new TV show of 2006. I cannot imagine anything more boring, poorly acted or absurdly written.

You see, Register TV and Radio Editor Joe Amarante's been passing along some of the pilots for the new TV season after he's done watching them. Almost all the Fox shows I've caught (especially "Vanished") have been good. CBS fare like "Shark" and "Smith" seem OK, but that's when we get to the monstrosity that is Lina.

Who's Lina you ask? She is the most annoying television character I have ever seen, even more than Megan Mullally's idiotic, one-note Karen from "Will & Grace," and that says a ton.

Actress Heather Goldenhersh plays Lina in "The Class," which premieres at 8 p.m. Monday on CBS.

Goldenhersh thinks she's Lucille Ball or something, acting so over-the-top and ridiculous it made me want to bang my head up against the wall ... over and over again. And she's just the worst of the bunch.

This show is so bad; it was honestly like a train wreck, so I had to keep watching. None of the actors, including star Jason Ritter, should ever be in a sitcom. They can't do comedy to save their lives. They have no timing, no delivery, but overcompensate with ridiculous attempts at physical comedy. It was sad.

But this all goes back to Goldenhersh, who is awful, simply atroicious. "The Class" won't last long, thank god. Nobody with any kind of brain will think it's interesting.

One thing of note about the shows I watched: The very conservative CBS shows nipple for a brief second in the Ray Liotta action show "Smith." With the help of my trusty DVD player, which can slow things down way slower than most, I saw it. Believe me, the "Smith" pilot's got some nip slip in it. Wow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

'Yacht Rock'

I probably should have posted this one the day I started blogging.

You know how sometimes you'll just find something on the Internet that is too funny? Well, "Yacht Rock" is that thing for me. My friend Jay turned me on to these funny Web TV shows about six months ago. If you're a fan of '80s rock, this is for you.

If you've ever wondered how Michael McDonald became so smooth, or how Kenny Loggins wrote so many damn good songs, you'll find out here. If Jim Messina's current whereabouts haunt you, take a look. If the thought of Steve Perry brings a smile to your face, well, yeah, take a gander at this silly five-minute episodes.

Here's the site for all the "Yacht Rock" episodes made. Enjoy it. I know I do.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Way-back Wednesday

As I sit at my desk listening to the new self-titled Lemonheads record (which will hit stores Sept. 26), I can't help but think about the Evan Dando-led band's first major-label disc, "Lovey."

I have to say the upcoming record is the band's best since that 16-year-old disc. Who would have thought that Dando had it in him to write a good record when he wasn't smoking crack every hour or so? But that's just what he's done. And the funny thing about "Lovey" is that it was made before Dando starting messing with the rock, too.

Enough drug talk though; "Lovey" hit stores in the summer of 1990, before the grunge boom and before Dando was a Teen Beat idol when the band's cover of "Mrs. Robinson" became a minor hit. The Lemonheads never quite made the leap to full-fledged pop stars, probably because of a constantly rotating lineup and Dando's bad addictions. But, the group came close when "Into Your Arms" from 1993's "Come On Feel The Lemonheads" sniffed the pop charts.

When "Lovey" first arrived, Dando had just wrestled control of the band by basically ousting former high school friend and co-singer/songwriter Ben Deily. The record is a mash-up of all the things that make the band good: pop, punk, a love of Gram Parsons-like country (the record even includes a cover of the artist's "Brass Buttons") and Dando's emotive and assured voice.

And even though other discs have sold better, "Lovey" remains the band's best, a raw and messy trip that never disappoints or goes off track. Dando has never again written a song as good and catchy as "Year of the Cat," although "Pittsburgh" on this new disc comes close.

'Real' success

You know, sometimes pop culture writers and talking heads don't give people their due. While editing a review of the comedy "Last Kiss" that will appear in tomorrow's Register, I realized something:

All those gossipy, crap-tastic shows like "Inside Edition," "The Insider," "Entertainment Tonight" or anything on the E! channel can't wait to bash reality stars. Hell, even VH1 and Bravo run specials basically mocking the stars of reality, making them seem stupid for thinking they can have a career after "Survivor" or "The Real World."

Don't get me wrong, most of these idiots couldn't add two plus two, and probably couldn't turn on the cameras filming them daily, but there are exceptions.

Success for a reality star is not unprecedented. Let's take the case of Jacinda Barrett, a former model best known in reality circles as the good-looking young lady who let her puppy poop all over the London "Real World" house. Since the crap hit the fan and that season of the MTV show went off the air in 1995, the 34-year-old Jacinda's starred in countless TV shows (including one with Zack Morris!) and big-time films including "The Human Stain," "Ladder 49," the second, awful "Bridget Jones" flick, "Poseidon" and now "Last Kiss."

And you know what? In the things I've seen her in, she's not bad. My guess is the reason she's been able to snag so many roles is that nobody watched the London "Real World." I mean that cast all got along. Who wants to see that? We want fights and hot-tub liasons.

All I can remember from the London season is Jacinda's dog having the runs, the German DJ who was too cool and the English punk rocker getting his tongue bitten off when he tried to kiss some other dude. That's all I've got.

This cast doesn't even turn up in all those MTV "Real World/Road Rules" specials that seem to keep past casts employed well into their 40s. It's like the lost "Real World," the one that never made syndication and MTV has disowned for being too "real."

I don't know. At least Jacinda lives on. She's fetching, you know.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday releases

We've got a pretty strong week for CD releases. A lot of big-name artists and good discs hit store shelves today. Here's a look at the five most significant.

In Friday's Weekend section, you'll find full reviews of all five of these albums. Yes, you read that right: I'll review all five this week. Make sure you pick up the paper. Here we go:

John Mayer"Continuum"
one star

Justin Timberlake"FutureSex/LoveSounds"
two stars

Yo La Tengo"I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass"
three-and-a-half stars

"Diamond Times"
three-and-a-half stars

Catfish Haven"Tell Me"
Secretly Canadian
two-and-a-half stars

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cutters baseball

Our sports department here at the Register does a great job of telling readers about how the New Haven County Cutters are performing. Right now, the team is the playoffs, and so far, so good.

Chip Malafronte recapped the action last night, with the Cutters pulling out a game filled with offense against the Brockton Rox and taking a one-game lead in the best-of-five series.

But there's something missing from 99 percent of previews for tonight's game.

Yes, like a gift from the gods, the Cutters made the playoffs and have a home game on a Thursday. You know what that means? That's right; it's THIRSTY THURSDAY tonight.

Go support your local pro baseball team and enjoy $1 beers. It's almost too good to be true: cheap beer and baseball.

And you know what else? It's a beautiful day outside. And you'll also probably be home in time to catch most of the NFL opener, or James Blake losing to Roger Federer (although we can hope otherwise).

I can't wait. I thought Thirsty Thursdays were over for the year. See you at Yale Field, and go Cutters.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Way-back Wednesday

Before the Hold Steady made indie-rock fans drool with witty lyrics and dirty garage rock, Ike Reilly put out "Salesmen & Racists" in 2001.

A longtime resident of a smaller town in Illinois, just outside of Chicago, Reilly had been in a few underground local bands in the ’80s and ’90s, but retired from music and started working odd jobs by the middle of last decade.

Thank goodness, though, a demo tape ended up in the right hands and an offshoot of Universal put out "Salesmen & Racists."

Long out of print but available used and cheap on Amazon and other e-tailers, the record is chock full of thick chords and Dylan/Springsteen-esque prose. Reilly’s unique and gritty voice carry these tunes, especially standouts like "Last Time," "Hip Hop Thighs #17" and "Put A Little Love In It."

Blending punk, rock, indie and hip hop, Reilly came a little before his time. If released today — after the onslaught of garage bands and harder music becoming cool again with indie fans — "Salesmen & Racists" would be a much bigger hit, not a disc unavailable after only five years.
Reilly’s still making music, though, so maybe he’ll breakout. But, he doesn't have a radio face and, so far, the singer/songwriter’s never come close to equaling the brilliance of this disc.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tuesday releases

Here are the five most significant releases of the week, a very slow Tuesday for good CDs hitting stores. These are rated on a one-to-four-star scale. Friday, you'll find full reviews of Audioslave, Michael Bolton and What Made Milwaukee Famous CDs in Weekend.

two-and-a-half stars (look for a full review in Friday's Weekend)

Michael Bolton"The Essential Michael Bolton"
two stars (look for a full review in Friday's Weekend)

Virginia Coalition"Live At The 9:30 Club"
three stars

Iron Maiden"A Matter Of Life And Death"
Sanctuary Records
three-and-a-half stars

Alice Donut"Fuzz"
three-and-a-half stars

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday Sports

Since the best part of Sunday papers is the notes columns in the sports sections, I thought I would write my own for this blog.

When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait for Sunday mornings to eagerly flip to Will McDonough and Peter Gammons’ columns in the Boston Globe. I still love getting the Globe and checking out what Gordon Edes and Ron Borges have to say. And, of course, I always read what big Swaggerts fan and Register columnist Dave Solomon writes.

But enough about them, so here’s what I’ve been thinking …

All those people who keep saying Jason Varitek is the Red Sox MVP have been forgetting how he was the one calling all those home-run pitches from Beckett and Schilling all year. You can actually trace the team’s horrific times back to Tim Wakefield’s injury. When you don’t have a fifth starter, and then your number two goes down, problems start occurring. Varitek is going to end up one of Theo Epstein's worst signings. You don't re-up 33-year-old catchers. You just don't.

Ryan Howard and Johnny Damon sure look like MVPs to me.

Is there any reason to watch the men’s draw at the U.S. Open now that Andre Agassi is done? Nobody’s beating Roger Federer.

Serena Williams has looked pretty good this week, especially for someone who clearly puts tennis second nowadays.

The Mets are in for a world of hurt if Pedro Martinez is not completely healthy. Tom Glavine has a career 5.15 ERA in League Division Series, El Duque couldn’t strike me out any more, Steve Trachsel takes hours between pitches because he’s afraid of what’s going to happen and John Maine is a good number-four starter.

For all the talk about how bad Alex Rodriguez has been and how good David Wright is, their numbers look pretty identical to me.

As bad as Register Editor Jack Kramer’s World Series pick of the Dodgers looked in April, there might not be a better trio of starting pitchers than Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux heading into the playoffs.

After taking a look at the team’s schedule, the New York Giants and their fans may be in for a disappointing season. I see an 8-8 in the Giants’ future. Although that’s much better than the 4-12 in store for the Jets.

Speaking of 8-8 seasons, Dante Culpepper has looked like a pretty ordinary quarterback when Randy Moss isn’t lining up next to him. Don’t forget he was awful in 2005 before he got injured.

Although Tom Brady could quarterback the West Haven High football team to the playoffs, I can’t see the Patriots doing any better than they did last year.

Anyone who has watched international basketball in the last decade shouldn’t be the least bit surprised by the United States only taking the bronze medal in the WBC. The Greek team ran 6 million pick-and-roll plays in a row, and not once could the U.S. stop it.

Coach K. should take a little heat for his handling of the team. The U.S. had real problems rebounding, yet Elton Brand and Dwight Howard spent most of the game on the bench.

I can’t wait for football to start Thursday. Just can’t wait.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

First time for everything

I guess I've seen everything now.

Last night, after checking out a show, I was at Jack's Bar and Grille, my normal place to be. Friday happens to be karaoke night, which is never a pretty thing.

Anyway, I was sitting there trying to tune out the mostly bad singing when my buddy Harris pointed something out to me.

Yup, someone was singing Elton John's "The One" with sheet music in front of them. Sad.