Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CD Review: Teenage Bottlerocket - Warning Device

Honestly, a friend introduced me to Teenage Bottlerocket, which disappoints me because I can’t even claim discovery; any music fan knows that laying claim to band discovery is not far removed from the thrill of getting your driver’s license or kissing the hottest girl in school when you know she shouldn’t be kissing you.

Warning Device (2008) marks Teenage Bottlerocket’s third release, following Total (2005) and Another Way (2003). Seems like the band likes to release albums too few and far between—lazy ass punk kids. What Teenage Bottlerocket and Red Scare records has in Warning Device, however, is a pop-punk record that’s rife with teenage angst, love’s promise, and senseless fun. You’ve heard all that crap applied to other similar albums and bands, so I’m going to tell you the truth: because Warning Device is a kick-ass album, it’ll cause you to involuntarily tap you toes, sing along, and make you believe that you can actually play drums (or want to buy a snare, high-hat, and a kick drum). If you’re not careful you’ll end up twitching like a kid with Tourette’s.

Pop-punk is more about venting, moving, and having fun than it is about complex chord progressions, incendiary solos, or lyrics with highbrow sensibilities or philanthropic messages. That’s why it bothers me when I read criticism that Warning Device sounds a tad too similar to Teenage Bottlerocket’s influences, namely the Ramones (though you could also count the Mr. T Experience, The Dickies, Screeching Weasel, and the Groovie Ghoulies among them). It’s true, however, that when “Gave You My Heart” starts off I can’t stop waiting for the Ramones’ “Pinhead” to kick in.

Still, if we’re going to expect Teenage Bottlerocket to write completely original songs, then we should expect the same from do-no-wrong, established pop-punkers Green Day. To get a better sense of what I mean, take another listen to “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Give Me Novacaine” from American Idiot (2004) and then take a another listen to “On With The Show” by Motley Crue and “Bullet the Blue Sky” by U2.

With dual vocals provided by Ray Carlisle and Kody Templeman, there are a number of killer tracks on Teenage Bottlerocket’s Warning Device; keep an ear to the ground for “Bottlerocket,” “In the Basement,” “She’s Not the One,” “Crawling Back To You,” and “Pacemaker.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Salon des vins et spiritueux de Montreal

How do you sum up utter surprise and total enjoyment? I think that wow! will suffice.

What am I so excited about? Well, on Friday, March 28, 2008, my office, which belongs to a prominent Internet men’s lifestyle magazine, sent me and a few colleagues to the Salon des vins et spiritueux de Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This was essentially a wine show, not unlike a trade show with tons of free alcohol for those fortunate enough to have press passes – like us.

The only condition for the pleasure of going to the wine show was to accept an assignment, which entailed writing a brief review on a wine varietal of our Editor-in-Chief’s choosing. I have to say that I was somewhat discouraged upon receiving my task since I had never (I may be showing my ignorance here) heard of Gewürztraminer. After doing a bit of digging, I found that it’s largely produced in Alsace. This suited me fine since I’m a big fan of Riesling. Gasp! You can’t compare Riesling to Gewürztraminer. Well, I just did. And while I’ll agree with any enophile that the two wines are very different, you can’t deny the fact that if someone likes Riesling, they’ll likely enjoy a glass of Gewürztraminer.

Though I had just been acquainted with Gewürztraminer, I found that I had a preference for those that came from Alsace. Germany also makes a good one, and the grape is grown in other parts of the world as well, such as Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Israel. From what I can tell, and from the information that was given to me, the Gewürztraminer from Alsace is sweet and when the wine comes from Germany it is a little dryer. In general, however, Gewürz is a medium-dry wine that typically presents a bouquet of lychees, roses, passion fruit, and floral notes. It’s also perfect for fatty seafood.

A couple of my favorite labels were: Pfaffenheim Steingold, 2006; Ruhlmann Grand Cru Frankstein, 2003; and Riefle, Bonheur Exceptionnel, 2006.

So, what else did I come away with after attending the wine show? I now know what tannins are, I learned that something as simple as the soil (when all other conditions are identical) can completely change the taste of a wine, producers sometimes try to cover a bad wine with lots of oak flavors, barrels can cost about $1,000 and they’re usually good for a single use, and wine shows are a lot of fun.

Some other wines that I had the opportunity to try include:
  • Francis Ford Coppola Zinfandel, 2005
  • Francis Ford Coppola Merlot
  • Leon Beyer Gewürztraminer, 2003
  • Pfaffenheim Riesling Steinert, 2004
  • Ruhlmann Riesling Vieille Vigne – Coteau du Blettig, 2003
  • Ruhlmann Riesling Grand Cru Frankstein, 2003
  • Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, 2005