My Two Cents: February 2012

In my last installment of My Two Cents, I reviewed a handful of recent albums which caught my attention.  This time, I think I should mix it up a bit and share my thoughts on a few different media releases I’ve recently absorbed.  Let’s begin. 

CRAIG FERGUSON – American On Purpose: I’m very big on autobiographies.  Sometimes I even read them.  However, in this instance, I listened to the audiobook.  Why wouldn’t you?  I don’t think there is a story in existence which wouldn’t benefit from being delivered using Craig’s brilliant Scottish twang.  Plus, I prefer to hear the author tell their own story in their own voice; something to do with authenticity, in opinion.

I’ve been watching Craig on late night TV for a few years now and his blend of casual and raunchy humor never cease to leave me in hysterics.  I thought it was high time I heard his story.  Craig takes you on a fascinating journey through the peaks and pitfalls of his life, from his couch-hopping days as a punk rock drummer to his sobering road into rehab (see what I did there?).  He paints the picture of his life so candidly and with so much fondness for his experiences.  It’s amazing to hear what a kinship he had with America from his days as a young man, as well as how his distaste for authority at an early age informed his outlook on the rollercoaster known as show business.  His life has been a bona fide adventure which proves how dedication through failure can lead one to redemption and success.  Perhaps the most impressive part of the book is how affectionately Craig speaks about the women in his life, particularly his exes.  I don’t know many men who could speak so warmly about women who have left them broken-hearted, myself included.  Maybe that’s just something which comes from age as we gain more life perspective.  Maybe not.  Either way, this book is awesome and I highly recommend it, whether you listen to his seven-and-a-half hour audio rendition or quietly read it to yourself.

STEEL PANTHER – Balls Out: While living in Los Angeles between 2006 and 2008, I kept telling myself I should make the trip to the Key Club one Monday night to check out the 80’s hair band tribute act known as Metal Skool.  Granted, I was usually busy performing myself on Monday nights, so I never made it to any of their shows.  Thankfully, in the Fall of 2009, the band released a full length CD of original material under their immensely cool new name, Steel Panther.  I played that CD to death, sometimes to just enjoy the tunes, and other times as a student of 80’s rock carefully examining the songs to figure out which anthem the band bastardized in order to put their own stamp on the genre (most of the songs are pretty easy to connect the dots to).  This past November, the world was given the gist of Balls Out, their blisteringly incredible sophomore album.  I thought I couldn’t love anything more than their debut, Feel The Steel.  Luckily for me, the band raised the bar and made an album which builds on all the glory of their first one.  Songs like “Supersonic Sex Machine,” “If You Really, Really Love Me,” “Tomorrow Night,” and “That’s What Girls Are For” are still daily staples on my iPod nearly four months after the album dropped.  If you love all the naughty parts of 80’s hard rock and glam rock (and enjoy hearing some of the more egregious bands get mocked and parodied through clever musicianship), you will love the hell out of this album.  Steel Panther have put themselves in the same arena as all the best bands from the era.  Since most of those groups have either disbanded or lost any remote sense of “edge” they once had (hi, Mötley Crüe), Steel Panther soldiers on, bringing all the right elements of 80’s rock into the modern day entertainment world.  Balls out indeed!

THE BEAVER – I’ve been on a Mel Gibson kick for the last few months.  Remember how cool he was not so long ago?  It really seemed like there was never such big star who sustained their popularity for so long before Mel Gibson.  Alas, recent years have kept him somewhat out of work and reclusive.  Having gone through the immaculate Lethal Weapon series (twice…) and any other movies where he shot a gun, I somewhat reluctantly checked out Edge of Darkness, Mel’s supposed “return to form” action movie where he’s a badge-toting badass once more.  The movie had some cool moments (and Ray Winstone!), but ultimately seemed like a missed opportunity at putting him back in the action hero role.  The only other new film of his to check out was The Beaver.  You probably know the story already.  Walter Black is an incredibly depressed man who ends up reestablishing his connection with the world through a beaver puppet with a cockney accent.  In all honesty, this is the genius of Mel Gibson we’ve been waiting to see.  He delivers in every area of this movie, which is a well balanced mix of both comedy and drama.  My proverbial hat is off to Jodie Foster who put this film together with such humanity and care.  Naturally, there is more going on in the movie than just Walter’s story but I’ll leave that unexplained here so you all give this movie a chance.  It’s a shame most of its opportunity was squashed by the bad press surrounding his less-than-friendly phone calls to his trashy girlfriend, but the film itself is amazing and exceeded all my expectations by miles.  Take an hour and half and see for yourself.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of the Mel we miss when Get The Gringo is released later this year.  It looks to me like a very close relative of Payback, taking a lot of the most fun elements of that movie and distilling them into a new story.  Check out the trailer for that and see what I mean.

So it seems all the news was good with these reviews.  Don’t go thinking I’ve gone soft, though.  Chances are I’ll be back to bitching about something next week.