Monday, July 14, 2014

C.R.A.Z.Y. Movie Review by Christine Albrecht

Movie Review: C.R.A.Z.Y  10/10 

One of my all time favourite Canadian movies is the 2005 film, C.R.A.Z.Y. co-written and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. I have seen this French-Canadian flick approximately 12 times and still get excited when I see it listed in the television guide. The title comes from the Patsy Cline album of the same name - an album the main character, Zach Beaulieu’s, father buys as an expensive import and treasures until Zach inadvertently breaks the vinyl.  (Zach is superbly played by Marc-André Grondin.)

The movie is a coming-of-age story that follows the sturm und drang of Zach’s adolescence into a adulthood. Given Zach’s staunch Catholic upbringing, one immediately senses that all is not well when Zach begins exhibiting homosexual tendencies. Soon after requesting a baby carriage as a gift, as well as being caught dressing up in his mother’s clothes, Zach experiences his father, Gervais Beaulieu, (played by Michael Coté) pulling away from their formerly close relationship, furthermore withdrawing his affections. Zach is clearly confused by Gervais’ withdrawal and attempts to determine what he’s done wrong. Meanwhile, Gervais (also confused) blames Zach’s mother for his effeminate behaviour citing the mother’s coddling, as well as her indulgence of Zach’s nurturing side. Zach also has an extremely volatile relationship with his second eldest brother, Raymond (played by Pierre-Luc Brillant). Raymond is confused by Gervais’ special treatment of Zach as Raymond discovers his usually calm father goes off the deep end whenever Zach is called a ‘fag’. Many fist fights erupt as a result of this word being thrown at Zach.

Everyone seems to have their specific triggers and rather than openly address things like relationships, drug addiction, sexual orientation, lying, religion, etc., they tip-toe around each other, trying to avoid any trigger discussions. Familial love is shown during the men’s’ fierce defense of each other, usually behind each others’ backs. Often these physical scraps erupt over misinterpretations of alleged insults, or miscommunications. Too much damage results from their actions so they are unable to undo these mistakes.

Along with being preoccupied with his sexual identity, Zach has to endure being 'special' as he is declared to have “special healing powers” for burns, cuts etc. The household phone is often ringing with family and neighbors calling to ask Zach to recite his special prayers for their injury-of-the-moment. Of course, they telephone again to inform him the injury is healing. Zach comes to realize that the injuries inevitably get better whether he thinks of the person or not, but his mother cannot bear to believe he is ordinary as she has always felt Zach was different due to his birthday being on Christmas day, and having died - then lived - during birth. He was also born with a white streak in his hair and this lack of pigmentation was further proof of his specialness.

The film studies the brothers’, Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zachary, and Yvan, different personalities and interactions. Zach both despises and idolizes Raymond for his wild, tough-guy image. While maturing, Zach notices subtle attractions towards certain males and the occasional female. These brief glimpses cause Zach to ponder the possibility of being gay, causing him to pray fervently to God and Jesus to make him anything BUT gay. My heart breaks for this attractive young man as he is fighting so hard against everything that comes naturally to him. Again I identify with Zach because, in his desperation to be straight, he is making all sorts of side-deals with God. As well, he is setting up mini feats that - if he is successful in completing them - will pronounce him as heterosexual.  How many times, when I was desperate for a specific outcome, did I make little agreements with God to ensure positive results? I never did explain to my mother I was merely fulfilling my end of a deal with God, when I was attending my friends’ church functions every Friday night for several weeks.

Even the English subtitles do not take away from the film’s humor, as well as its forays into self-discovery and loss. I identify closely with the main character’s pain of adolescence despite not having anything in common with him or with the general theme of the movie. Perhaps it’s the musical timeline that makes me feel so connected to this film. I especially empathize when the main character – while obliviously lip-syncing to Davie Bowe’s “Space Oddity” - is abruptly shut down by his brother, to the cheering of the entire neighborhood. How many times was I spared the humiliation of being caught lip synching to my favourite band?

A lot of the film’s humor, as well as tragedy, is derived from the lack of communication and the hypersensitivity between the characters. A couple of times Zach’s innocent actions are incorrectly identified as homosexual intimacy by over-sensitive brothers and father. The father is further conflicted between his love for his children and his refusal to accept homosexuality as anything but a choice. Even Raymond’s drug addiction is accepted before Zach’s hedonistic sexual identity. The movie deftly shadows Zach’s search for his identity and his need to belong: during his sessions with a psychiatrist, during his live-in romance and experimentation with a woman, and finally during his escape to Jerusalem where he accepts that he is, indeed, gay.

The movie ends with several bittersweet moments, the most ironic being when Zach is able to finally replace his father’s Patsy Cline album, Crazy (although it took him a trip to Jerusalem to find it). No sooner had Zach’s father happily accepted this gift from him – thus opening the door for other reconciliations - when Zach’s brother Yvan, drops and breaks the record album, mirroring Zach’s incident over a decade prior. This is when Zach disbelievingly connects Patsy Cline’s title to the first initials of the boys’ names: Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zachary, and Yvan = CRAZY.

I would love to read others' reviews of this movie. I consider it one of Canada's finest offerings.

Friday, April 04, 2014

# 5 Ian Albrecht’s Favourite Albums to Date… 5 - La Dispute

My Favourite Albums To Date:
#5 by: Ian Albrecht

Artist- La Dispute
Album- Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair

Genre- Post-Hardcore/Spoken Word/Hardcore Punk/Experimental Rock

Lyrics 97/100, Vocals 90/100, Instrumental 94/100

This album was released in November, 2008, and is an absolute masterpiece. There is so much substance to this album, and to the band, it is ridiculous. I have never encountered a band such as La Dispute before.

When I first heard them (unlike many other people I know) I was intrigued by Jordan Dreyer's weird vocal style and I found myself wanting more and more.  

I started digging more into the band’s lyrics and that's when I hit La Dispute’s gold mine. This band writes better than any other band I have heard in my entire life. Each sentence contains meaning rather than just song placement, and the meanings are both literal and metaphorical. Prior to La Dispute, singer Jordan Dreyer used to write poetry and short fiction and his talent is apparent. 

A big shout out and thank you to Brynna Thorlakson (and her avid ear for amazing music) for introducing me to these talented guys.

This album revolves around the usual feelings of love, betrayal, hatred, pain, rage, anger, and dealing with loss. But La Dispute approaches these themes with more lyrical depth than the average band. I honestly cannot think of any better tracks the band has, that should have been included or replaced on this album. The songs appear to be ordered strategically, as each song’s meaning flows into the next and all the tracks are where they should be.

The first song up for evaluation is actually two songs which complement each other: "Such Small Hands” and “Nobody, Not Even The Rain". These two songs are like the ‘bow’ you unwrap before you get to the ‘gift’ of the entire album. "Such Small Hands" is the introduction track and "Nobody, Not Even The Rain" is the CD’s finale.

Holy s%@&! Are these two songs ever powerful, even though the duration is only 2:34 minutes when placed together. With lyrics like:
"I thought I heard the door open, oh no. Thought I heard the door open, but I only heard it close.
I thought I heard a plane crashing, but now I think it was your passion snapping"

They had me, right away. Another amazing line from this song is:
"I know that even with the seams stitched, darling, scars will remain.
I say we scrape them from each other, darling, and let them wash off in the rain."

The next song I need to highlight is "Bury Your Flame". Another powerful song, that speaks to me. I could easily write a thousand word essay on the impact of this song, so it is really tough for me to find one set of lyrics to share. However:

"You came back and you brought floods wearing a necklace made of hearts that you'd dragged through the mud. And I guess I wasn't quite sure what to say to you. But then I saw mine, almost reached out to grab it. Said, ‘Darling, you're the only one on earth I want to have it.’ But now I'm not so sure that was true, after the hell you put it through."

I get chills when I hear Jordan’s raw anguish as he screams through those lines. It feels as though he had to relive the experience over and over in order to lay it down, to share with us.

As I have mentioned throughout this review, this album is perfect in every single way possible - lyrically. I cannot say anything bad about Jordan's writing style. La Dispute’s vocals are hard for most people to sit and listen to because they are very rough, raw and gravelly.  But I implore you to also listen to Jordan’s spoken word songs because they present an entirely different genre – yet on the same album. 

The band’s instrumentals are on point throughout the album – every note belongs where it is, and reflects the mood and lyrics. 

Both Chad and Kevin, La Dispute’s two guitarists, deserve recognition for their ability to play perfectly to the mood. As well, they provide some amazing riffing throughout the album, and Adam's distorted bass additions add further depth. Clearly La Dispute is a cohesive group.

Songs To Check Out: Bury Your Flame, The Last Lost Continent, Damaged Goods, Sad Prayers For Guilty Bodies.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

#6 Ian Albrecht's Favorite Albums to Date - #6 Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

My Favourite Albums To Date: #6
Artist- Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Album- Don't You Fake It
Genre- Post-Hardcore/Alternative Rock
Lyrics 92/100, Vocals 93/100, Instrumental 94/100

This is easily one of my favourite albums, beginning to end. The songs on this album are so consistent that there really isn't a single track that I would consider better than the others, unlike most of the albums on my top-twenty list.
This album was initially released in 2006, then re-released in 2007 with two bonus songs… and holy were those bonus songs amazing, but I will discuss them later.

So right out of the gate, this album’s first track’s impact is fast paced, in your face, heavy, and let’s-start-a-fight. Combine Ronnie Winter’s awesome screams an overall amazing instrumental, and "In Fate's Hand" is the perfect introductory song to this album.

The first song worthy of serious discussion is also the most popularly known song on the album, "Face Down". This song is profound. Honestly, I cannot think of a way to make this song any stronger than it is! Just the raw emotion of Ronnie's voice paints the perfect image of a victimized girl in an abusive relationship with some dirt-bag ‘boyfriend’. The track’s chorus contains the best lyrical part of the whole song.

With lines like "Do you feel like a man when you push her around? Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground? Well, I'll tell you my friend, one day this world's gonna end. As your lies crumble down, a new life she has found"

The words clearly reflect the deep affection the song’s author had for this girl. The underlining feeling of the whole album is that the guy who wrote it, truly loved this girl in every way possible, but she never figured it out. Sadly, at the end of the original release of this album we learn that she had died before she even got to hear all of this.  Like a love letter never received.

The song "Grim Goodbye" might be the most heart-wrenching song I have heard in ages. The song begins strictly instrumental then Ronnie’s pure agony comes through as crying/ screaming/and singing. It literally has brought tears to my eyes. Not enough to cry but it has caused me many bleary-eyed moments. This part of the song always gets to me:

 "But wait, now that I've found you, situations from dark now change to gray. Disregarding my absence of memories, it's perpetually blinding me of sanity, and just when I'm giving in, as I try to scale these walls Jericho falls around me and I feel that I've strayed too long. And darkness is fading in, and darkness is real." Yes, the chills this album brings me are damn real.

Now in the re-released album, they included an acoustic version of "Face Down" and the result is a much sadder, less angry output. So for an average guy, I suggest the original and for an average girl, I suggest the acoustic version.

This whole album just flows together so amazingly. From Ronnie's incredible voice (be it singing or screaming) to Duke and Elias' guitar riffs intertwining and complementing throughout the whole album. It’s a complete, consistent, and consummate effort. For songs about women, the lyrics are some of the best I have heard – pretty impressive considering 90% of songs seem to be written about love and women.

Songs To Check Out: Face Down (Both Versions), Grim Goodbye, False Pretense, Seventeen Ain't So Sweet, Cat And Mouse

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Freemasonry Album Review by Ian Albrecht

Album Review by Ian Albrecht
Freemasonry- Sparrin’ With The Varmint

The opening song is called “Lick Clean Method” and is a short (1:32 m) segue way to a quick paced CD. The vocals in the opening song aren’t anything special. It sounds as if they are trying too hard for the punk edge over a rock organization. The general sound of the band appears like “The Misfits” with a style of yelling the vocals over a very repetitive instrumental.

I am into the third song “Kitty Come Home” and so far all of the songs have sounded the same, vocally. The only difference has been the drumming, which seems to be consistent and at this point in the album, it’s the strongest component of the band. 

One thing that has been very noticeable throughout the album is the odd fact that the singer’s voice appears to always be overwhelmed up by the instrumental, which either means the studio’s sound mixers doesn’t know what they’re doing, e.g. they wanted to go for a more distorted sound or they were trying to cover up his voice because it just isn’t up to standard.

The eighth track (of fifteen) on this album is called “Mystical Union” and the first 1:44 of the song is the same, repetitive instrumental. At this point, the album has become increasingly hard to listen to with all of the songs, sounding the same. Now some bands can get away with this style, because they change things up just a little bit, like with their tempo or use of breakdowns and bridges. A band to do this successfully would be “As I Lay Dying” but the Metalcore genre is a lot more basic with how different the bands can sound. There is only so much variation one can apply.

If I were to choose a “favourite” song, which is difficult given almost all of these songs are weak; I would choose “If It Isn’t One Thing”. However, the biggest problem with this band is their drawn out, boring, repetitive intros!

Overall Rating: 3.2/10