Monday, December 22, 2014

“Not Another Celebrity Movie” DVD (director: Emilio Ferrari)

Fun parody with star value (kind of...)

This low-brow comedy throws some really entertaining curves, even if the comedy itself falls a bit flat. Surely, the plot and story are secondary here, though, as Ferrari’s absurd and over-the-top collection of celebrity impersonators keeps this one pretty engrossing, especially as he parades out a virtually continuous array of them. In short, this is a fun and really 

Suffice to say, Charlie Sheen (alongside his many porn-star girlfriends) meets up with his “dealer”, Johnny Depp, and thus begins to plot a big “Oceans 11” style kidnapping of Justin Bieber. Along the way, Sheen (and cohorts including Brad Pitt and George Clooney) meet up with Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Donald Trump, Robert DeNiro, Usher, Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Daniel Craig, Ashton Kutcher, Oprah, and more. Sure, some of the impersonators are a wee bit “off”, but others are marvelously “spot-on”, making this one a real hoot.

Forget the silly dialogue, as you could do a lot worse with more “mainstream” comedies. “Not Another Celebrity Movie” is a fun and memorable film, and one worth seeking out if watching a full-length film of celebrity impersonators sounds like a good time. You may just be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Beer: NOLA Brewing

New Orleans Lager and Ale Brewing Company (NOLA) started up in 2008, surely to help jump-start the craft brew scene in Louisiana (which, in my opinion, was sort of lacking). Since then, they’ve established themselves as premier purveyors of quality brews, and although their distribution footprint is only in a few Southern states, I was able to sample some of their brews thanx to a friend visiting New Orleans. Here’s my rundown:


Appearance: Pours a semi-clear golden amber, with a nice head of off-white bubbles. Lace is negligible.

Aroma: Crisp citrus hops and a touch of caramel malts. Very nice.

Taste: Heavy-handed on the hops — citrus and tropical fruit come through here loud and clear, with a lingering bitterness. I do detect a pleasant malty backbone, but this is first and foremost about the hops. Call this one a session IPA and it would be a big hit. Solid!


Appearance: Semi-cloudy amber, with some slight sediment. Maybe an older can? Big, thick head of bone-white carbonation, and a solid tree-line of lace.

Aroma: Subtle floral and pine hops. Not bad.

Taste: Tangy, bitter, acidic hops. Very spiky and incisive on the palate, with more pine and bitter citrus grapefruit hops dominating the malt backbone.

Not a bad IPA, just not a great one.

BROWN ALE - 3.5/5

Appearance: Pours from the can a muddy, murky brownish amber, with a fair head of fine off-white bubbles. Lace seems spotty and light.

Aroma: Nose is a dirty, earthy mix of malts — a tad sweet with a tinge of citrus underneath. I get some roasty chocolate malts, and some sweetness. 

Taste: Light and almost lacking. I get a slight nuttiness and roasty element on the palate, but the light body is deceiving. There’s enough taste here to remain drinkable and sessionable. This one is faithful to the classic English brown ale style, and pretty decent.

BLONDE ALE - 3.5/5

Appearance: Pours from the can a cloudy golden with substantial head of off-white bubbles. Thin wisp of lace.

Aroma: A little caramel, a little toasty grain, and a hint of citrus hops falling behind. Pretty solid.

Taste: Mild and malty, but balanced nonetheless. A very engaging session ale here, though it certainly won’t impress hop-heads or most beer nerds. I can imagine this being quite refreshing on a hot summer day. Overall, not a complicated brew, but certainly an enjoyable one.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

“A Free Bird” DVD (director Gregg Russell)

Charming indie redneck comedy

Endorsed by Headline News vixen (and amateur country pop singer) Robin Meade, this indie comedy certainly has its perks. Down-and-out slackerly country boy J.T. gets fired from his steakhouse job, sees his car break down, and has a jealous common-law wife on his ass about, well, everything (his slutty side girlfriend notwithstanding). 

Anyway, J.T. meets up with his not-so-upstanding friends to plot a robbery of the same steak house he was once employed by. So after hundreds of steaks end up stolen, and the boys can't find a buyer for the stolen meat, things just go further South. Equal parts comedy and silly drama, “A Free Bird” is a charmingly well scripted and acted film, albeit not as “hilarious” as the packaging proclaims. Still, this was an enjoyable little film that won’t get much notice, but could end up a sort of cult indie hit, given the right exposure. Well-done

Saturday, November 29, 2014

“Arkham Sanitarium: Soul Eater” DVD (director: Julian Grant)

Bad, bad Cthulhu

Like a scripted “Ghost Adventures” or “Ghost Hunters”, this lame flash-lit, hand-cam stinker has virtually nothing to offer toward watchability or interest. The premise? A team of pretty abhorrent paranormal investigators (each less likable than the last) enter the famous Arkham Sanitarium to discover Lovecraftian Cthulhu monsters. Really? If that sounds like a bad idea, you’re right. It is.

First, it must be said that a viewer has to empathize with the protagonists. We’re led to hate them all. They are simply bad people, with no redeeming positive qualities. The hand-cam “genre” (possibly inspired by the classic “Blair Witch Project”) has been beaten to death, and this one only serves to eulogize the style. Effects are poor, script is poor, and I could barely sit through this one. You won’t get the gore, the suspense, or the breasts that a great z-grade horror film requires.

Avoid this one at all costs.

Beer: Redhook - Winter Hook #30

REDHOOK - WINTER HOOK #30 (Woodinville, WA) - 3.75/5 (good)

Redhook Brewery, based near Seattle, Washington, is, needless to say, a mainstay and innovator in the craft beer world. Having been around since 1981, Redhook has created many beers that have undoubtably inspired countless brewmasters to start their own breweries. In short Redhook is an institution in the craft beer world.

This year’s Winter Hook is Redhook’s 30th year producing this cold weather seasonal beer, and every year’s recipe has been different to some degree. In celebration of its “dirty thirty”, Redhook brewmaster Nick Crandall has revisited some of the best recipes of the past 3 decades and combined some of the ingredients. The result? A nicely warming brew that’s well-balanced for the cold months. Here’s the breakdown:

Appearance: Dark caramel-ruby, with a full-size head of light khaki bubbles. Lace is spoke-like, thick but not too frilly.

Aroma: Dark fruit, yeast, some citrus hops, some spice. Nice potpourri.

Taste: Spice and fruit up front of the palate, mild and easy. Finishes with a hoppy tone, bitter with some spice and heat. A complex and enjoyable winter warmer here, perfectly suited to cold weather.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Beer: Jolly Traveler Shandy

JOLLY TRAVELER SHANDY (Burlington, VT) - 3.75 (good)

Based in Vermont, and apparently tangentially affiiated with Magic Hat and Samuel Adams’ Boston Brewing, Traveler Brewing’s Shandy line has found great success with their lighter fruit-based beer and offerings. This is their new seasonal for Winter months, and it’s pretty tasty.

Appearance: Clear amber with nice off-white head of carbonation. Patchy, spotty lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Spices, sour fruit, pomegranate, orange. Not bad, and actually quite inviting.

Taste: Very Winter-spiced indeed! The spices (cinnamon, and maybe nutmeg) play well alongside the fruitiness. A tasty and enjoyable (and light at 4.4% ABV) alternative to the heavier, darker beers of the cold months.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rigor Mortis - “Slaves To The Grave” CD/DVD

Fitting epitaph for fallen thrash warrior

As a final statement after the untimely passing of founder and guitarist extraordinaire Mike Scaccia, this posthumous Rigor Mortis album, their first since 1991, shows a band who might have planned on so much more. The album’s opener, “Poltergeist”, even hints at a more spacious sound. But “Rain Of Ruin” dives into what Rigor Mortis were always known for — lightning speed thrash metal. Scaccia’s guitars are, if anything else, both swifter and cleaner, and vocalist Bruce Corbitt’s voice has gotten gruffer and thicker, if that makes any sense. The band themselves are tighter and more potent than ever before, making “Slaves To The Grave” a fitting return slash epitaph for this underrated Texas act.

Recorded at Ministry’s 13th Planet Studios (the home to many of Scaccia’s works with that band), the album is a clean and killer mix of fiery speed and scalding songwriting. “Flesh For Flies” is a blur, approaching grindcore, even, while “Fragrance Of Corpse” is a fun and bouncy tale of dead bodies, re-animating corpses, and everything gore-fixated that the band was known for. “Curse Of The Draugr” showcases Scaccia’s mighty riffs well, and this album serves as a final tribute to the man who was loved by many, and in some ways was the heart of Rigor Mortis. 

The bonus DVD, attached to the first pressing of this album, is a 20+ minute look into the studio recording of the album, with all four of the band present. It’s mostly in-studio discussion with some playing, and a couple of live cuts thrown on toward the end. Nothing essential, but a great collectors’ piece for fans. 

R.I.P. Mike, and thanks to the rest of the band for realizing this final release in his honor. Thrash on!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rigor Mortis - “Rigor Mortis” CD

Classic thrash

The legendary debut album from Texas’ infamous thrash metal innovators has been at last reissued, with an added bonus track for fans (the punk-tinged “Spivey”). Originally released way back in 1988, Rigor Mortis (whose members would later go on to further notoriety with bands like Gwar and Ministry) dared to fuse ultra-speedy thrash metal with their gore movie fascination. Tracks like “Wizard Of Gore” or “Re-Animator” hold their inspirations proudly on their sleeves, and they obviously had a lot of fun doing it. Kudos for not taking themselves too seriously.

Coming around at roughly the same time as Slayer, Rigor Mortis mined much the same territory, never receiving quite the acclaim as their Bay Area brothers, but producing at least as heavy a din. Production on “Rigor Mortis” is clean, thanks to Skinny Puppy producer Dave Ogilvie’s mix, but the real treat here is the band’s skill at lightning-fast, yet clean instrumentation. Vocalist Bruce Corbitt has a raspy growl, but it never gets to the point of going all “Cookie Monster”, and guitarist Mike Scaccia had some of the speediest guitar riffs I have ever heard. This is old-school thrash metal, pure and unadulterated, and one of the genre’s most beloved templates.

Unequivocally a big influence on many a death metal act, Rigor Mortis’ debut is a recording that may not get it’s full due, but certainly has a place in many a metalhead’s heart. 

Green Isac - “Passengers” CD

Smooth ethno-electronica

Norwegian duo Green Isac have been producing worldly, ethno-tinged electronica for some time, but “Passengers” is their first release in 10 years. It all begins with the Eno & Hassell-inspired “Ormen Lounge”, which is a subtle, mysterious piece with trumpet. That piece flows into “Particle Talk”, which is a pulsing ambient piece with sounds evoking a Middle Eastern radio transmission intercepted and placed atop a bed of smooth shuffling beats. Very nice, transformative, and evocative indeed!

The remainder of the album continues in this path — inspirations from around the world are woven seamlessly into Green Isac’s smooth electronic ambience. “CSA” even draws in some synth pop to their web, and it works well. “Zakopane” brings an air of futuristic mystery, manipulating more Middle Eastern sounds around a bed of subtle synthetics. “Na Tariko” could be a less angry Muslimgauze, whereas “1034” is a reflective, haunting slice of piano and electronics. 

All said, “Passengers” is a superb, warm, and invitingly subtle album that weaves together world influence into a modern sound travelogue.

Meatmen - “Savage Sagas From The Meatmen” CD

Ugly, dirty, and ultimately great return from Tesco and friends!

The immortal Tesco Vee and compatriots are back with their first Meatmen album in 5 years, an the first of all new material in over 20! “Savage Sagas” doesn’t tidy things up neatly for the kids, though. Nope, it’s as offensive, raucous, and out of control as ever before. With such family-friendly tunes as “Pissed Hot For Weed”, “The Ballad Of Stinky Penis”, “Big Bloody Booger On The Bathroom Wall”, or “Rock ’N Roll Enema”, you know it’s gonna be fast, hard, and ugly. And it is.

“Men O Meat” opens it all up with 55 seconds of speedy garage punk. “I’m Gonna Fuck You Up” is an anthem of only a minute and a half. Yikes! Tesco, Danny Dirtbag, Hindu Kush, and Bun Length are certainly firing on all cylinders. Production is perfect — raw but clear, and these 20 songs turn in at a quick and bouncy 48 minutes. “Shecky Presents…” is a bit of a comedic interlude, but fear not, kids, as “Speed Kills (But It Sho’ Feels Good)” is a thrashy, metallic punk monster. This one takes me back to the classic days of hardcore punk — with all the subversive nihilism and attitude. I will never tire of this sound. All hail the Meatmen! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Woodchuck Cider Tasting - 2014

So we here at Goatsden are sort of known for enjoying a good beer now and again (and again, some would dare say). But, in the interest of NOT being snobbish or in any way clique-ish, we thought it high time to review some other spirits. And what better way to celebrate the snowfall in Fall as to review some new ciders?

Woodchuck (based in Vermont, USA) is probably the best-known cidery on this side of the Atlantic. And for good reason. Their distribution is amazing, and their ciders are all solid and well-balanced, at least by Goatsden standards (say no more). This review is of three specialty Woodchuck ciders, either seasonals or new varietals. On with the tasting, shall we?

Hopsation - Hop Forward Cider

Hmm, this is a nice collision of tastes, and it works better than you’d expect. It pours a very pale complexion, with a pleasant floral aroma. The grassy, citrusy, piney Cascade hops blend well among the sweet apple. It’s a subtle mix here, not overwhelmingly hoppy, but with a distinctive flavor I've not had before. Mrs. Goatsden says this one tastes more “beer-like”, and she’s spot-on. It’s balanced, tasty, and one I’ll be seeking out again. 

Winter Chill - Oak Aged Apple

This one is a mellow blend, with the cider being aged in French and American oak. Winter Chill brings a subtle vanilla accent to the apple — but it’s subtle, and there isn’t a lot of the oak character otherwise to detect. Nonetheless, this one is among my favorites from Woodchuck’s fine line.

Fall Harvest - Just Like Apple Pie

Filled with plenty of Fall spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), this tasty and sweet cider has a hint of heat from the spices to accent the sweet apple character. I really liked this one, but can see why it will be a favorite among fans of apple pie or generally sweet drinks.

Beer: Gordon Biersch - Winter Bock

GORDON BIERSCH - WINTER BOCK (San Jose, CA) 4.0 (excellent)

San Jose-based brewery/restaurant chain Gordon Biersch isn’t distributed in Indiana, but I was able to score some samples for review thanks to Colin at Emblem PR. And what samples they are! Biersch brews exclusively classic German-styled beers, so for the cold season ahead, we at Goatsden were delighted to get some bottles of Gordon Biersch’s Winter Bock for tasting.

Pours a deep caramel amber with a heaping head of of-white carbonation. I get spoke-like, spiderwebby lace on my GB25 glassware. Great appearance!

Nose is caramel malts, some spice, and nice sweet roastiness. 

Taste is, again, very much a roasty, malty, semi-sweet melding of dark malts, with a chewy caramel or toffee character dominating. There’s also an element of nuttiness in the flavor, which is perfect for a chilly snow day. This is everything a solid doppelbock should be. The body seems a tad light, but the flavor does not suffer. A solid drinking bock, and at a strong 7.5%, this is a deceptively enjoyable brew. Bravo!

Beer: Hacker-Pschorr - Animator Doppelbock

HACKER-PSCHORR ANIMATOR DOPPELBOCK (Munich, Germany) - 4.25 (excellent)

The final brew in Hacker-Pschorr’s limited seasonal series of 2014, this is a classic doppelbock straight from Munich, and apparently is available for the first time in North America this year, albeit in very limited quantities. I’d recommend picking this one up if you do see it out and about.

Pours a cloudy, hearty amber with crimson highlights, and a thick head of fine off-white carbonation Virtually no lace here, though! 

Aroma is toasty malt grains, dried candied fruit, toffee, and fireside roasted nuts. Complexity? Yes!

Taste is rich, malty, and sweet, again with hints of toasted malts and dark, dried fruit and toffee. The thick malt profile gives way to a light, hoppy zing of bitterness at the finish, and I do detect a slight alcohol heat as well. Overall, a delightful and world-class doppelbock that’s packed with complexity and drinkability despite the high 8.1% ABV. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

“Freeload” DVD (director: Daniel Skaggs)

Harsh look at modern day hobos

A relatively brief (65 minutes) but startlingly honest documentary here dealing with something most of us consider little more than a romantic anachronism — railway hobos. It’s difficult to imagine, in modern times, people who hop trains and travel as a lifestyle. “Homeless” could also be used to describe these folks, but this designation sometimes misses the mark. Often, today’s train riders do so out of choice. They’re renegades who buck the modern system of menial labor and expectations, and often seek adventure and a “live free or die” attitude and lifestyle. 

Skaggs’ documentary focuses on several young vagabonds, most of whom, at least on the surface, ride trains by choice. Their “fuck everyone” attitudes come straight from a subcultural or punk rock playbook. Some are good people who just don’t fit in. Others seem to be troubled characters, with alcohol or drug problems that are only encouraged by what can be a lonely and frightening future. I was left fascinated by the characters and way of life, though “Freeload” certainly doesn’t romanticize the lifestyle. There are moments of refreshing freedom and joy nestled among other moments of depressing nihilism that I can’t help but feel are a harbinger of doom for some of these people. If anything, it’s a realistic portrait of an outsider viewpoint that some don’t even realize still exists. Well-done, but not something I’d ever want to see again.

“Looking For Johnny - The Legend Of Johnny Thunders” DVD (director: Danny Garcia)

Superb documentary on legendary rocker

For some, Johnny Thunders was a rock legend — never quite making a dent in the mainstream, but inspiring countless garage and punk guitarists through the years. His work with the seminal glam/punk band the New York Dolls, as well as his later work with the Heartbreakers and beyond influenced everyone from the Sex Pistols to Guns ’N Roses. Found dead of mysterious causes in New Orleans in 1991, at a young 38 years of age, Thunders’ legacy exists with the numerous recordings he left behind. Speculation of possible foul play are persistent, but with Thunders’ serious drug addictions (and his vaguely hidden advanced leukemia), the police in New Orleans are seemingly content to let the case cool.

Garcia’s documentary took him 18 months to assemble, and his efforts don’t go unrewarded. Most of Thunders’ former bandmates, family members, friends, and associates are all featured here, as well as tons of live and behind the scenes footage. It’s probably about as complete and comprehensive a documentary as can be done on the subject, and will easily stand as the hallmark of Thunders biographies. Not being all that familiar with Thunders’ work, this proved to be a great intro and a completely respectable look at the man who was plagued by several (likely fatal) vices, yet stood tall as a rock icon. A wonderful rock bio, and a fine film detailing a tragic rock star’s rise and fall.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

“My Name Is A By Anonymous” DVD (director: Shane Ryan)

Tragic, affecting, and harrowing indie

Now, this is one disturbing flick. It’s loosely based on the true story of teenage murderer Alyssa Bustamonte, who killed a friend just for kicks, and that whole nihilistic mindset is echoed here. Filmed on a handi-cam in parts for a hyper-realistic texture, “My Name Is A is not horror, per se, but simply horrific. It’s a tough to stomach film that absolutely nails the bottoming out of modern teens at the hands of abuse, bullying, and peer pressure. 

Following several girls who one by one unravel until they all converge upon a terrible fate, “My Name Is A” features all unknown actresses, all of whom do fantastic and believable work here (especially Alex Damiano, who is more than convincing in her role as abused teen with awful secrets). Realistic beyond arthouse, this film can't help but be affecting. I left shocked and almost sad. Sure, this one’s very much a low-budget indie, but don’t let that stop you — "My Name Is A" stands out from the pack with a very realistic punch to the gut.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

“Hugh Hefner - Tony Palmer’s 1973 Film About Hugh Hefner: Founder and Editor of Playboy” DVD

Rescued document of Playboy founder's lifestyle

Rescued from oblivion after over 40 years, this 54-minute documentary is a snapshot into a prime era for Playboy Magazine founder and cultural icon Hefner. With intimate looks into his fabled Playboy Mansion, and many interviews with “Hef” himself, as well as many of his “bunnies” and associates, this is a fascinating document of an era long past.

Director Palmer did a splendid job presenting Hefner’s swanky lifestyle in an honest and nonjudgmental fashion. Presumably made for British TV, this film pushed some buttons (and boundaries) in it’s era. The restoration here (by Steve Alexander) is also top-notch, making much of this look as good as new, rather than (as many films of this nature are) a simple convert from VHS sources.

Solid work here, and a perfect historical document of a prosperous era in American history, when casual behavior and leisure time (and excess income) sparked an interest in the finer things — indulgences in food, travel, women, sports, and drink that Hefner centered his “lifestyle” magazine around.

Needless to say, this is a far better portrayal of Hefner than “Girls Next Door”.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sex Pistols - “On TV - The TV Interviews Uncensored” DVD

Cool set of TV clips

So, you’d think after all this time that all the Sex Pistols TV appearances would’ve been released, officially or not. Maybe they have, but this 2+ hour collection performs reasonably well as a kind of historical document of the Pistols, from their inception to the reunions nearly 40 years later.

Far from being any kind of comprehensive set of Pistols TV spots (that would take a serious bootlegger years to assemble), “On TV” pairs some moldy oldie UK TV interviews and news bits (featuring Rotten, Jones, Matlock, Cook, Vicious, McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, and other punk icons like David Vanian and Pete Shelley) with plenty of live footage and brings it all together in chronological order, up to the 2006 reunions and beyond. 

As well, we get a wealth of always-entertaining interviews with Lydon, including some from the early Public Image years and newer ones that reveal that he has all of his trademark cunning insults and cynicism still firmly in place. Maybe there’s a little too much regarding McLaren himself, but as it stands, “On TV” still should please staunch Sex Pistols fans, and those interested in this band’s meteoric rise and fall, especially in relation to the fickle British media.

Cool release, and worth the dosh, ya git!

Devo - “The Men Who Make The Music (Plus Butch Devo & The Sundance Gig)” DVD

Seminal Devo weirdness

Re-releasing a seminal collection of early (1978-79) Devo video clips is a no-brainer. The “spud-boys” from Ohio were instrumental in the synthesis of punk, new wave, and avante-electronic sounds in this era, and the aftereffects are still being felt within the industrial and electro-rock genres, among many others. Those who label Devo a forgotten “eighties” band (solely because of their mega-hit “Whip It”) are sorely mistaken, and this video proves it.

The first half of this release, “The Men Who Make The Music”, stitches together early Devo promo videos (“Jocko Homo”, “Satisfaction”, and “Secret Agent Man”, most notably) with live clips and some interstitial nonsense that somehow ties it all together. It’s classic, lo-fi, and rough-shot overall, and the direct-from-VHS transfer doesn’t help. But that’s part of the charm here. Essential Devo, really.

The “filler” here is a complete show from the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, where Devo revisited some of their earliest songs, all the while dressed in 20s-style prison garb. There are some great songs here, particularly my favorite, “Beautiful World”, but with the semi-bootleg quality, this is one for the completists, namely.

Final words? Great stuff, and overall a must-see for fans of one of America’s smartest “pop” groups.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - “Live At Rockpalast 2009” DVD

Excellent and energetic document of Austin post-hardcorists 

Emerging out of the Austin, Texas post-hardcore/indie rock scene in 1995, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have jumped and co-mingled genres as well as any of their peers could ever hope to. I've always considered them to be an anomaly. On one hand, they're as able as anyone to write a clear, clean Beatles-esque pop song. But often, Trail Of Dead tempers that with traces if hardcore and post-rock textures. It's a compelling, if hit-and-miss mix.

This show is a multi-cam extravaganza recorded at the huge Rockpalast Festival in Germany in 2009, and features plenty of instrument-throttling, punchy walls of punk aggression, and lovely piano interludes. Yep, you heard that right. Schizophrenic, maybe, but this show leaves no doubts that Trail Of Dead are masters of their craft. There’s a ton of energy here, and with the superb recording quality, and wide cross-section of songs (including favorites like “Will You Smile Again” and The Giants Causeway”), this is a must for fans.

As well, there’s an extensive bonus section of live and backstage footage from 2005 and 2006, further upping the ante. Needless to say, for anyone interested in catching the raw energy of Trail Of Dead, this DVD is a must-see.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

“Frank Zappa - 1969-1973: Freak Jazz, Movie Madness, and Another Mothers” DVD

Superb and focused historical document of Zappa jazz

Despite Sexy Intellectual's releases being "unauthorized" biographies, their works are often labors of love, and quite well-researched. This exhaustive documentary is no exception, and holds up as one shining example of a comprehensive and well-done “fan-made” document.

Centering on Zappa's work from 1969 to 1973, this 2.5 hour film interviews Zappa's bandmates, associates, and session musicians (as well as the usual journalists and music historians). There are plenty of video and audio clips to illustrate the story and background behind the recording of seminal jazz/fusion albums like "Hot Rats" and “The Grand Wazoo”.

Any serious fan or student of Zappa’s intelligent and baffling proto-jazz experiments should make this an essential viewing. Very worthy!

Sexy Intellectual / Chrome Dreams

“Sexina” DVD (director: Erik Sharkey)

Mild and unimaginative b-film

Why films like this get made I really cannot explain nor understand. Lacking any unique angles or interesting characters (everyone here is a bad stereotype), this mild indie pseudo-trash film (I hate to say “B-movie”) offers no sex nor nudity, despite what is implied by the title.

Starring the fetching but unmemorable Lauren D’Avella as teen pop star / private investigator Sexina, this micro-budget indie comes across like a bad late-night TV movie, and fails to rise above. Hammy acting, a lame storyline, and deceptive packaging — Adam West does appear, but only in voice until the finale, and Davy Jones of the Monkees DID sing the theme song, but Annie Golden (of "Orange is the New Black") is only on a minor supporting role, rather than second billing as on the packaging. So points off for borderline false advertising on several counts.

In this miserable film, Sexina intervenes at a high school, undermining the cliques at a high school and championing an underdog, all the while fighting the “evil empire” of Glitz Records and manufactured boy bands.

This is a terrible movie, through and through.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beer: Hacker-Pschorr Festbier

HACKER-PSCHORR FESTBIER (Munich, Germany) - 4.0 (excellent)

Ah, another superb limited seasonal from this legend of German brewing. Festbier is a golden Oktoberfest lager, and is the first time the real Oktoberfest has been made available in the United States, believe it or not. The previous versions we saw over here were reformulations and variations. If you cherish a trip to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, search out a bottle of this and you’ll be getting that much closer.

Pours a clean golden, with a big frothy head of fine white carbonation. Beautiful spider web lacing, too.

Nose is caramel malts, brisk lager grains, and a touch of the Hallertau hops underneath. Nice.

Taste is definitely malt-based, and light in body — easy to drink and packed with flavor. This is a lager done the right way, and virtually an ideal template for the style. I could easily see downing a few of these anytime, even though it’s a deceptively big 6% ABV. A spot-on brew, and certainly showing (again) that the Germans have the history and know-how to make a world-class beer.

Beer: Red Hook - Out Of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter


Red Hook is a craft beer legend, beginning way back in 1981 -- long before the wonderful beer renaissance we're now blessed with. Having had visited the brewery in Woodinville, Washington many years ago, I can appreciate the history and quality of the brewery's offerings through the years.

In my opinion, there's always room for more pumpkin beers. And while most "Fall" short of perfection, it's always fun to try another warm, spiced ale made with what may be America's favorite squash.

Now, Red Hook has a nice twist on the usual pumpkin ale. Melding pumpkin and Fall spices with a dark and roasty porter (rather than a regular ale), Red Hook’s Pumpkin Porter also adds maple syrup for an added dimension. And at a relatively light 5.8% ABV, this is a drinkable and session-worthy seasonal.

My tasting begins with the pouring, and Out Of Your Gourd pours an opaque black with slight ruby highlights. I get a thick head of tan suds, giving way to cloudy tree-line lacing.

The aroma is definitely heavier Wintery spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice), with only a token touch of pumpkin on the palate. I would’ve liked a little more of the pureed pumpkin to show itself here.

Taste is rich and spiced, with, again, the pumpkin not being as prominent as I’d like. The maple syrup also seems a bit submerged, though I do get a nice roasted element from the porter underneath all the spices. Overall a solid Fall/pumpkin brew, but not one of the best.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ZestTea tastings...

Goatsden received a really nice box of samples from James at new Philadelphia-based tea company ZestTea. Boasting of triple the caffeine of normal tea, and with as much caffeine as coffee, this is clearly a new (high-energy!) marketing idea for the world's most consumed beverage.

I sampled the EARL GREY BLACK first, and upon infusing the whole-leaf pyramid tea bag into boiling water, I got a strong, rich English bergamot aroma. Touting 155 mg of caffeine per cup, this English breakfast tea (on steroids) tastes faithfully like it's classic tea counterpart. It's rich and full-bodied -- certainly not the lightweight "tea grounds" that are oftentimes the norm. The bergamot and fruity citrus notes impart a light bitterness that becomes more prominent when iced. Overall, this is a delicious and enjoyable beverage.

Next, I tried the BLUE LADY BLACK - a mix of Nilgiri Indian black tea, cornflower petals, hibiscus, orange, lemon, and passion fruit. Quite an impressive mix already! And immediately upon steeping, the fruity aromas come right out. Passionfruit presents itself foremost, with a hint of bitterness creeping in, before a citrus zing rounds out the palate. Really, this is a delicious fruit-infused tea, and one with undetectably mega-high amounts of caffeine.

Blending young Hysop green tea, pomegranate, mint, and lemon, the POMEGRANATE MOJITO GREEN steeps with a lush, fruity aroma. Hints of berry and pomegranate seem most up-front, rather the typical grassiness of average green tea. Tasting, I get a really great combination of the mint, lemon, and pomegranate. Again, this is a unique and palate-pleasing blend, even not considering the unusually high caffeine content. 

Finally, I tried the APPLE CINNAMON BLACK blend, and upon steeping this one, I got a mouthwatering amount of sharp, warm cinnamon. Taste is subtle, with more cinnamon than apple. Again, this is a very delicious tea blend. I wouldn't expect sweet apple fans to flock to this one, but the warming, spicy cinnamon content seems perfect for a cold Winter's morning. 

In short, Goatsden really enjoyed ZestTea, with every flavor style being unique and quite a tasty treat. As for the energizing caffeine content, I can report a subtle and balanced jolt of energy upon enjoying a cup. Highly recommended as an alternative to those nasty sugary energy drinks or for those who can't stomach coffee.

For more info on ZestTea and ordering:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Propaganda" DVD (director: Slavko Martinov)

Challenging and confrontational expose on Western culture

Now, this is a challenging film on several levels. Billing itself as a forbidden video, smuggled out of North Korea and disseminated on the internet, it's actually nothing of the sort. Clever marketing aside, it was revealed to be the work of New Zealander Slavko Martinov. "Propaganda" is a curious and highly critical look at the politics and propaganda of the West (particularly the United States and England), from an outsider's point of view.

Packed with literally thousands of slices of news footage and photos, this compelling documentary is about as scathing an attack on America's corrupt,  capitalist, sensationalist, corporate, and greed-driven ways as anything I've ever seen. And the bizarre aspect is, it's all fact. I don't disagree with this film, but it is tough to admit that we are all basically slaves to the rich corporate interests that fund and fuel our entire political system -- the same system that keeps us placated with awful television, toxic food, and a need to keep us from revolting and creating a new, more democratic society. Martinov doesn't dally around with subtlety, as this film is full of disturbing images that are certainly not for the timid or impressionable. "Propaganda" may be tough for most of us to stomach, but I don't doubt it should be mandatory viewing for most Americans who are content with thinking we are truly "free".

Conspiracy theorists will find much here to align themselves with, especially those who haven't chosen a particular "side" of politics. As far as Martinov is concerned, the Bush regime is the same as the Clinton or Obama regimes. Different faces for the same bloated and manipulative entities.

Saying I "enjoyed" "Propaganda" is only halfway true. Don't expect to be coddled here, it's a journey to be made only by those "ready" for such a confrontational look at ourselves in the so-called "democratic Western world".

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Strange Powers - Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields" DVD (director: Gail O'Hara)

Fascinating look at a fascinating personality

Having been recording for prominent indie labels for nearly 25 years now, Stephin Merritt has somehow fallen beneath my own radar. And that's a shame, as this documentary shows a conflicted by extremely talented artist who's capable of producing some world-class indie pop sounds without much regard for commercial potential. His primary project, The Magnetic Fields, has created an extensive back catalogue of post-punk, synth pop, and indie rock that has found favor with peers and a small but devoted fan base. That's not to mention his other projects like the 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, or the Gothic Archies.

In this feature-length documentary, director O'Hara was granted access to Merritt's personal life and includes many intimate moments, onstage and off. As well, his longtime musical partner Claudia Gonson is featured throughout, among other bandmates, outside musicians, and fans. It's more of a "behind the scenes" documentary, rather than a historical one, but that's just fine. Merritt may seem aloof and deadpan (even morose and disagreeable) at times, but it's his music that does the speaking, and Merritt's music is intelligent, emotive, and intensely personal, connecting with people around the world who may feel lost, heartbroken, or disaffected. 

For proven fans, "Strange Powers" will be a revelation. To the unfamiliar, it's a great lesson and entertaining film about an artist on the fringes who deserves more recognition.

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn (Capital Corn & Confections)


We received Capital Corn & Confections' delightful Cinnamon Bun popcorn as a nice promotional surprise this August. Housed in a 6.7 oz. clear plastic container, this gourmet popcorn was hastily opened to reveal a fluffy and sweet popcorn with a cinnamon-sugary glaze that did taste just as a good, warm cinnamon roll would.

I was particularly impressed with how the popcorn remained crispy and fresh-tasting, despite being coated with plenty of confectioners glaze, which would seemingly make the kernels go limp and soggy. Kudos to Capital Corn for making a sweet (and relatively healthy) treat that parents would feel more comfortable giving the kids. As one caveat, I'm not sure how natural or processed the sweet cinnamon glaze is, as there were no details on content or ingredients, unfortunately, so I have to hope that it's a wholesome and home-made mix.

Being as how it seems Capital Corn is a very small (and mostly local New Jersey, thus far) startup, it's refreshing to see them branching out, sending popcorn to faraway Indiana. With a little more word-of-mouth, I can easily see them making inroads with independent grocers, especially if they can verify or promote the natural ingredients contained within their delicious popcorn treats. From the website, I see they craft some other exotic (and undoubtably tasty) popcorn varieties. They do offer mail-order from their website, so give them a click and see for yourself!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Gilroy Was Good For Guinness" by David Hughes

"Gilroy Was Good For Guinness" by David Hughes (2013 Liberties Press Ireland, hardcover, 9"x 9", 256 pages)

More a biography and art portfolio than a beer book, per se, this fine text covers the 1930-60s output of commercial and fine artist John Gilroy, who worked extensively with building the international Guinness brand in the 20th century. Including hundreds of paintings, drawings, unused proofs, and mock-up illustrations (as well as plenty of finished works), Gilroy's iconic and idiosyncratic artworks certainly helped a great deal to build the Guinness brand that continues to define the classic Irish stout, even today.

Hughes examines the work, alongside Gilroy's own life both personally and professionally in these years. That said, this is first and foremost an art book, and offers the most extensive and exhaustive collection of Gilroy art to be assembled anywhere. There are his crazy collection of animal-centered art to promote Guinness, as well as the popular phrases "My Goodness My Guinness" and "Guinness For Strength", to promote the multitude of health benefits (!!?) of the roasty dark brew. As fascinating are the many Guinness ads Gilroy did for other countries, notably Germany (during the world wars, complete with Nazi iconography), as well as Russia, Greece, and the United States, where the familiar toucan flies high above the Golden Gate in San Francisco. 

"Gilroy Was Good For Guinness" is a wonderful and engrossing collection of John Gilroy's fantastic commercial works. Any serious and fan of historical beer memorabilia and Guinness's rich history would do well to seek this magnificent tome out.

Available thru Liberties Press at:

Or amazon at:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Beyond The Pale - The Story Of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co." by Ken Grossman

"Beyond The Pale - The Story Of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co." by Ken Grossman (2013 Wiley Publishing, hardcover, 6.25" x 9.25", 248 pages)

A true American success story, Sierra Nevada Brewing continues to set the pace among the exploding craft beer world. This is the "straight-from-the-horse's-mouth" story of founder Ken Grossman, who, in true American maverick style, began his business back in 1980 as little more than a hobby, literally out of garages and with makeshift supplies. 

Grossman, as it turns out, is nearly as good at writing as he is at brewing. Well, that one's debatable. Anyway, his humble beginnings are detailed here from his upbringing in California, as are the numerous business and personal hurdles he has faced to create his recognizable brand. Grossman's writing style is relaxed and focused, delivering a fairly straightforward presentation that is effective and to-the-point.

Keep in mind, in 1980 there WAS no such "craft beer" or any semblance of a scene or support for Grossman's intensely-hopped pale ales. Only industrial lagers and expensive imports littered the wastelands of America. Grossman's teenage home-brewing experiments and tinkering with production methods are amazingly inspiring, and this story is the definitive tale of Sierra Nevada's growing pains in the earlier, leaner years, as well as a twinkle in the eye towards the future.

Now, as unquestionably one of craft beer's most influential and respected brewing companies, Sierra Nevada continues to innovate and exemplify the brotherly (and sisterly) craft beer world, sourcing ingredients naturally and sustainably, and teaming up with like-minded breweries (like the recent Beer Camp Across America series of beers and festivals). "Beyond The Pale" is a book any serious craft beer fan should read. 

As a side-note that must be mentioned: It's also remarkable that even after 30+ years, Sierra Nevada's flagship Pale Ale is among the best out there. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Clockwork Orange County" DVD (director: Jonathan W.C. Wills)

Superb punk doc

This is a well-done documentary focused on the early rise of West Coast punk rock, dating back to the early 80s. Director Wills got in touch with the right people to interview, to be sure. Included here are conversations with members of T.S.O.L., the Adolescents, Social Distortion, Circle Jerks (Keith Morris), Dead Kennedys (Jello Biafra), Black Flag (Henry Rollins), and plenty of others. 

As it turns out, the SoCal punk scene was indebted to the small club owned by Jerry Roach called the Cuckoo's Nest, which supported most of these early punk bands in a time when punk was considered threatening and dangerous, and fights with "rednecks" and the police were commonplace. "Clockwork Orange County" features plenty of first-hand accounts of this era, when punk was new and idealistic. Wills even deemed it worthy to include some new bands to discuss this classic era with, all of whom admit a tremendous debt to these punk pioneers. It's a fascinating and well-presented documentary, and something any true fan of American punk should see.

Monday, July 7, 2014

"Peter Simon's Through The Lens - Celebrating 50 Years of Personalized Photojournalism" 2xDVD

Impressive set of photos from celebrated artist

This deluxe set of DVDs serves as both an intro to the extensive and impressive career of photojournalist Peter Simon, as well as a sort of travelogue of his 50 years covering America and the world. 

Hosted and narrated by Simon himself, this set details his childhood inspirations and follows his life through the tumultuous sixties (Simon was a part of the hippie community and even co-founded an impromptu commune back in the day). From there, his friendships with many artists, musicians, and other celebrities (Walter Cronkite and family were close friends, even) are highlighted, all with some amazing photography. Simon has had quite a colorful life, meeting people as gaining the trust of celebrities as diverse as Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, and Bob Marley, to name just a few. His coverage of Jamaican reggae culture is stunning and groundbreaking for it's era, and the photos featured here (there are hundreds presented in this set's 3+ hours) prove to be a lovely and inspirational journey from a man who's seen and done it all.

A perfect set for any aspiring photographer, "Peter Simon's Through The Lens" is a wonderful journey for anyone interested in the world around them. Peter Simon should be a household name, without question.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Beer: Hacker-Pschorr Sternweisse

HACKER PSCHORR - STERNWEISSE (Munich, Germany) - 4.25 (exceptional)

The second of four small-batch releases from this legendary German brewery, Hacker-Pschorr's Sternweisse is a dark wheat beer/hefeweizen that pours a cloudy, murky amber in my Hacker-Pschorr hefe glassware. I get a rich, frothy head of off-white carbonation and some minor lacing.

The aroma here is strong on the spices. I get wheat, caramel, coriander and some traces of clove. Very promising start, indeed!

The taste is sweet but well-balanced. It's a malt-based beer, of course, but the touch of spice adds some depth. I get some dark fruit underneath it all, too, before it finishes with a citrusy lemon spice hint. 

This is an exquisite, complex, and very very drinkable brew, light enough for Summer (or anytime) enjoyment.

"B.B. King - The Life Of Riley" DVD (director: Jon Brewer)

Definitive bio of blues legend

All hail the King! Here is what will unquestionably remain the most comprehensive and definitive documentary on the life and times of Riley B. King, aka B.B. King. Tracing his days as a poor child in Mississippi up to present day, "The Life Of Riley" fluidly combines some fantastic old footage and photos with recent interviews, and includes candid conversations with King himself, as well as relatives, bandmates, friends, and admirers. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film includes interviews with everyone from Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr to Bono (there he is again!), Bruce Willis (huh?), Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, Bill Wyman, Joe Walsh, and tons more. That alone tells you how much time, effort, and love went into the making of this. 

His story is a great one, beginning with a broken family life, hard times as a segregated orphan, and continuing his thirst for the blues through decades, and befriending everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones to U2. He may be a comfortable guy now, but he's had to fight hard to reach that point, and this tale is simply inspirational.

King himself is still active at 88 years old, and his presence on the music scene is a sign that not all is lost. He remains a true gentleman, and despite his profile (and the admiration of multitudes across all demographics), he stays humble and benevolent. B.B. King is an American treasure, and "The Life Of Riley" is a must-see for anyone interested in American music.

G.G. Allin - "(Un)Censored Live 1993" DVD

More bootleg nihilism and degradation

Does the world really need another G.G. Allin live bootleg? Probably not, and anything after the extraordinary and unforgettable documentary "Hated" seems to be nothing more than extraneous and excessive. 

Comprising 4 brief shows on Allin's "Terror In America 1993" tour, this 110-minute DVD includes all the staples of Allin's infamous live shows -- shitting (and shit-throwing, and shit-eating), pissing, masturbation, fighting, and self (and audience) abuse. Why these clubs even booked Allin and his band, the Murder Junkies, is beyond me. The low-rent primitive punk music itself was merely an afterthought, and a backdrop, to Allin's controversial and confrontational antics. Was he a rock legend? Possibly. But this is stuff only for hardened souls -- raw, unfiltered, and absolutely vile. Nihilistic misanthropes beware, as this is base-animal rock, as sick and dirty as it can be. Approach with caution.

GG Allin dot com

"My Boo" DVD (director: Erica Hayes)

Mediocre indie thriller

This indie film is the tale of a young lady (the lovely Ashlee McLemore) who is unwittingly drawn into the world of her old high school admirer who quietly moves in across the hall from her. The stalker, played creepily by Revon Yousif, uses video feeds he installs into her apartment to spy on her, and finds ways to keep boyfriends and acquaintances cum rivals at bay.

Reminding me often of a bad Lifetime TV movie, "My Boo" has some awful acting (though McLemore is solid in her role, thankfully), terrible audio (the quiet parts I couldn't hear, the louder conversations had to be turned down), and a pretty pedestrian plot. There's little here to recommend, no nudity, and just not enough to make this one more than a struggle to sit through. No, thanks.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Punk In Africa" DVD (directors: Keith Jones and Deon Maas)

Superb look at African subculture

This thought-provoking and enlightening documentary traces the evolution of the underground music movement in Africa, from the anti-apartheid rock acts of the early 70s through multiracial punk and hardcore acts of the 80s, and into the modern day.

Obviously a labor of love, "Punk In Africa" is a comprehensive look at the beginnings of "punk" idealism in South Africa and Zimbabwe, where political dissent often leads to police harassment or worse. Bands like Suck, Safari Suits, and Kalahari Surfers were progenitors of modern day African music, melding Western styles with African attitudes and issues. "Punk In Africa" is packed to the hilt with old video footage and tons of interviews with those involved in this scene. It's a beautiful and inspiring look at a punk scene that isn't given the credit it deserves.

I was particularly fascinated how the music itself had developed, with present-day acts like Evicted or Fruits and Veggies being amalgamations of traditional African sounds with Western rock. But beyond styles, it's refreshing to see how music and the arts are still challenging the status quo in Africa, and are continually confronting political issues in these troubled countries. 

A superb documentary, and one anyone remotely interested in underground music should see.