I am not sure what is more surprising, that there have been 6 Fast & Furious movies or that the last one, Fast Five, was really good. In fact, I’m pretty sure this next installment will be pretty great too.

Returning to the caper are cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez (whose character, Letty, was presumed dead), joined by newbies Gina Carano and singer Rita Ora (ugh).

Fast & Furious 6 sees fugitive Dominic Toretta (Diesel) team up with security agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) to take down a mercenary organization.

Fast 6 opens in the United States May 24th and in Australia June 6th.

 

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12 years after the release of Monsters Inc., the film’s much anticipated follow-up (a prequel in this case) is set to hit cinemas later this year. Monsters University sets the audience back before Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) become professional scarers to the time they first met; at Monsters University. Pixar hijinks ensue.

The original was a box office smash, earning in excess of $550million, and time will tell if this fun-looking prequel has the fur and the scare to do the same. Monsters University is set for release June 21st.

 

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The first trailer for the upcoming Thor sequel The Dark World has now hit the web. Following on the events of The Avengers, the mighty locks of Thor battles an evil older than the universe, in hopes of saving the Nine Realms.

The film stars Chris Hemsworth in the title role alongside Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellen Skarsgard and Idris Elba.  The Dark World is directed by Alan Taylor (taking over from Kenneth Branagh) and is set for release this November.

 

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The final trailer for JJ Abrams‘ much anticipated sci-fi sequel Star Trek Into Darkness has hit the web. The trailer continues the themes of peril the crew faces in light of a new evil, played by Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch.

Shall we begin? Looks a little like the end. Star Trek Into Darkness hits cinemas in May.

 

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Pop rockers the Goo Goo Dolls have unveiled the video for the single “Rebel Beat“. The song is the first from their upcoming album Magnetic, now due in June after being postponed from the original April release date.

Not enough Goo on the radio these days.

 

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Jimmy Eat World have debuted the first track from their upcoming new album Damage. The track, “I Will Steal You Back”, is the first taste of new music from the band since 2010’s Invented.

The band will embark on a home state tour of Arizona in May before heading to Europe for select dates in June.

Damage is the band’s first album for new label RCA and will be out June 11th. “I Will Steal You Back” will be available digitally April 16th. You can pre-order the new album on vinyl here.

 

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Album Reviews, Music

Review: Face to Face – Three Chords And a Half Truth

It’s been a pretty fascinating ride for Victorville punk rockers Face to Face. The band’s trademark melodic punk rock took them from the small California town to the then heights of endless KROQ rotation and MTV’s Jon Stewart Show. They rode their ability to turn melodic punk into a near art form, and unlike their predecessors Bad Religion and their kind, Trever Keith’s song writing leaned more on his emotive lyricism than say political anarchy. His heart was firmly on his sleeve and through songs like “I Want”, “Don’t Turn Away” and “Disconnected”, Face to Face became the preeminent force behind emotionally charged melodic punk that managed to sway clear of the trappings of what eventuated into “emo”. Yet, while they remained on the forefront of this genre, they’ve never really had the stability that comes with finding a long term recording home. Face to Face has been through more record labels than the number of albums they’ve released. They’ve had the goods to break into the mainstream (1996’s Face to Face was as big of a rock album as you were ever going to get without them sounding like Green Day) but have never really quite reached the levels they seemingly wanted to achieve. But through it all, the one thing that has remained consistent is the band’s ability to write great songs in whatever variation of punk/rock they’ve conceived.

Their latest, Three Chords and a Half Truth, finds the band on Rise Records (their 9th), deviating away from the breakneck melodic punk rock their pedigree was built on for a more rockabilly, rock n’ roll twist. And while their post-hiatus album (2011’s Laugh Now, Laugh Later) was a more by-the-numbers affair, Three Chords… breaks away from them into Social Distortion territory with touches of The Clash. It’s clear then, that Keith and company aren’t interested in writing another Don’t Turn Away and instead, ease into an album that could have easily been the follow up to How To Ruin Everything. There are more mid tempo pieces, more blues influences, and more foot-tapping melodies than anything they’ve written before. From the stomping opening of “123 Drop” to the horn-section (yes) infused “Welcome Back to Nothing”, Three Chords… will surely polarize fans expecting something familiar.

They have of course, done something like this before. After releasing their A&M Records debut in 1996, they went and released Ignorance is Bliss, a polarizing record if there were ever one. Three Chords probably isn’t as divisive as Ignorance, but songs like the 50’s swing influenced “Marked Man” and the rockabilly tinged “First Step, Misstep” are actually more contrasting (musically) to “Disconnected” than, say, “Burden” or “Everyone Hates a Know-it-all”. They do delve back into the old playbook once or twice, “Smokestacks and Skyscrapers  is a fantastic melody-driven song that could easily fit next to anything on Big Choice. While singles “Right As Rain” and “Bright Lights Go Down” owe more to their earlier material or at the very least, music from their Vagrant-era.

The most telling aspect of Three Chords is how comfortable they sound with their new material. There was a certain awkwardness to Ignorance Is Bliss (for the record, I do really like that album), and their please-the-fans follow-up Reactionary was even worse. But here, they sound complete; like natural progression. So perhaps the band, having long mastered the style in which they became synonymous for, have found the next logical evolution of their craft. It isn’t as raw as a Social Distortion record, not so whiskey-soaked and down trodden, but there is a real belief here. And while older fans will probably be a little disappointed by its lack of pace, the album is a definite step forward. (Rise Records)

 

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Sight & Sound

Fall Out Boy saves rock and roll?

As absurd as it sounds, Fall Out Boy’s new album is called Save Rock And Roll. But perhaps, Pete Wentz and company are much smarter than we give them credit for. Perhaps they too know the absurdity of “saving rock and roll”, but know a clever marketing plan if they saw one. Their new album, featuring guest spots from Courtney Love, Elton John and Big Sean is everything you’d expect from Fall Out Boy; loud guitars, radio friendly melodies and Patrick Stump’s signature falsetto. Who said rock and roll needed saving?

Stream the entire album below and decide for yourself.

 

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In a great step for Australian hip hop, Melbourne MC Seth Sentry became the first of his genre to perform on a US-based talk show. Sentry, already a big name on home soil thanks to festival, radio and Channel [V] exposure, performed the song “Dear Science” on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

While his performance was a first, it hopefully won’t be the last from the burgeoning talent pool of Australian hip hop. So many great artists and such limited opportunities at times, it’s great to see Sentry become the first to make waves in the US. Let’s hope we’ll see more local hip hop talent cross borders and make it on to more big stages.

 

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Album Reviews, Featured, Music

Review: Brad Paisley – Wheelhouse

There is an unspoken idea that country music artists can’t be relevant or aware in music’s often self-indulgent meta-isms of today. That someone wearing cowboy boots or a stetson is somehow unqualified to talk about pop culture and the ‘in and now’ the way someone in shades and a designer leather jacket is. Somewhere along the line, our trust in understanding the world through music shifted from the endless plains to urban hooliganism and hipster clubs. While some country music can be hokey, the bad kind is not any less irrelevant than “musicians” who use computer programs instead of guitars.

Brad Paisley, now on his ninth studio album, is as relevant and eloquent as any musician who uses their music to express the world’s trials and tribulations through notes and lyrics. Wheelhouse, 17 tracks in all, is a lesson on how country music can be as smartly written and urgent as anything written from the underbelly of London or New York. While strongly rooted in Southern traditions, the album makes it a priority to stretch far past the borders of Nashville. The album’s first single “Southern Comfort Zone”, sets this tone early on, making the earnest concern that country stereotypes are just as poorly formed as any other. It waxes lyrical about how you don’t have to be country to be country, set to the backdrop of uptempo guitar-driven country rock and easy-to-digest lines; “Not everybody goes to church or watches every NASCAR race / Not everybody knows the words to “Ring Of Fire” or “Amazing Grace””. It’s perfect for the radio- any radio- replete with just the right amount of melodic resonance. The song’s message is something that permeates through the rest of the album too, that a good ol’ Southern country boy can be as worldly as just about anyone else.

In “Pressing On A Bruise”, Paisley shares the song with singer/songwriter Mat Kearney, resulting in the album’s most alterna-ready tune. Kearney’s vocal imposition and contrasting beat leaves the song somewhere between Paisley’s more traditional numbers and Third Eye Blind. The song’s accessible nature isn’t far from opening credit music for everything that was on the old WB channel (ie. Teen dramas and young adult shows).

The distinctly country-heavy tunes of the album, “Harvey Bodine” and “Outstanding in the Field”, bounce with enough country fervor but avoid the hokey Billy Ray Cyrus-ness trap. Interestingly, some of the album’s most memorable songs are when Paisley slows down the tempo- like the quietly somber “I Can’t Change The World”. In it, Paisley’s melancholic tone is a little defeatist, surrendering to the idea that we cannot affect change on a grand scale, but when it comes to the matters of the heart, we are in fact in control of that destiny; “I can’t change the world / maybe that’s for sure / but if you let me girl / I can change yours”.

He tightropes blasphemy (in the piano-clad “Those Crazy Christians”) with humor and aplomb, while doing the old-fashioned romance with style (“Beat This Summer”), but the one time Wheelhouse stumbles, is in the LL Cool J featuring “Accidental Racist”. It’s a well meaning song, about Paisley’s awareness of the sometimes ugly side of being Southern, but the LL rap verse/bridge come off as clunky. It’s not that LL can’t do his thing, it’s just that on here, he comes across as “rap for mainstream country folk” (LL actually uses the lines “I wish you understood what the world is like livin’ in the hood / just because my pants are saggin’ it doesn’t mean I’m up to no good”).

The album however, ends on a terrific note. The closer, “Officially Alive”, is everything great about Wheelhouse. Guitar soaked, upbeat and uptempo, it is a song about feeling alive while being aware that you’re alive- spreading the gospel of being happy, being in love, and being aware of impending mortality. It’s all parts Southern soul coated with the shine of radio friendly country rock and good time vibes.

It is unfortunate that country, great country especially, isn’t perceived to be as culturally relevant and/or powerful as something written by Jay-Z or Thom Yorke or whatever it is that is being pushed as the new wave of significance. The truth is, like his country contemporaries, Paisley is as in-tune with the world around him as he is the world in which he calls home. It just seems that the majority of country artists aren’t always concerned with reminding us constantly. Tastemakers are quick to push country aside, away from the lens of indie trends, flashy hip hop and schizophrenic dance music. It’s too bad because Wheelhouse is modern reflection with great conviction; clarity amongst the distortion and noise found in our current surrounds. (Arista Nashville)

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