Author Archives: Joe Froemming

I’m a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. Previously, I worked for the Worthington Daily Globe as a copy editor and before that, I had a brief stint as the Fine Arts Columnist for the St. Cloud Times. I was born and raised in St. Cloud, a graduate of St. Cloud State University and worked in record stores for 10 years before wandering into the world of journalism. I live in Bemidji with my wife Gina and our cat, Mac. All the papers and towns mentioned above are located in Minnesota.

‘Twin Peaks’ Will Air On Showtime; Companion Book In The Works

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Two weeks ago, David Lynch and Mark Frost, the Lennon-McCartney of creepy cult television, announced they are returning “Twin Peaks” after a 25-year hiatus.

“Twin Peaks” was a show that centered around the murder of a small town high school girl, Laura Palmer. While that worked as the hook, it was the idiosyncratic characters of this fictional small town in Washington state that really kept the viewers in.
It combined satirizing the TV soap operas of the late ’80s and early ’90s, a criminal investigation show and horror-inspired surrealism. Because it wouldn’t be a David Lynch project without that.  

That surrealism included a place called The Black Lodge that operated as both heaven and hell where a backward talking dwarf would dance erratically and the personification of pure evil in the form of a long haired man who brutally murdered people while possessing other people’s bodies and stealing their souls resided.

You knew when it was him possessing bodies, because when his host body looked into a mirror, it was the demon-hippie man looking back.

And at the ripe old age of nine-years-old, my dad would have me watch this show with him. I’d be lying if I said this show didn’t mess me up a little bit in the long run.

The show didn’t live past two seasons. Lynch made an even creepier prequel/sequel a year after it was canceled with “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” That film was mostly a miss for a lot of fans.

Over the years, “Twin Peaks” has inspired many shows. “X-Files,” “Lost,” “Fringe” and others were able to exist because “Twin Peaks” made it OK for a drama to tap into the strange and supernatural.

And now it’s coming back. Twenty-five years after Laura Palmer’s soul told FBI Agent Dale Cooper in that Black Lodge she would see him again after the afore mentioned quarter of a century time lapse.
It will be a nine-episode run, written by Frost and Lynch, with each episode directed by Lynch.

When I heard that, I realized that in 2016, when this is due to air, I might have to end my near decade long absence from cable TV. Because I really want to see this.

Also, a book detailing what happened to the characters between the series finale and the return is in the works. Written by Frost, this book should explain what happened to these characters since we last saw them.
I will be buying that too, when it comes out next year. It will allow them to not have to tread backward too much explaining why some characters are not there (a few of the actors have died over the years).

Having loved the series most of my life, I’m pretty stoked that this is happening. David Lynch’s films are very interesting, but “Twin Peaks” is my favorite of his work. I think having Mark Frost ground him a little from going overboard on the weird stuff is what made this show great for the most part (a lot of season two was garbage).

So, yes, more “Twin Peaks” is great news to me.

A ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot?

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This week it was announced the “Ghostbusters” franchise will be getting a new chapter, though not the “Ghostbusters 3″ chapter some of us had wanted, then didn’t after the passing of Harold (Egon) Ramis. After Ramis passed, director Ivan Reitman even left the project.

You can’t have “Ghostbusters” without Egon.

Enter Paul Feig and Katie Dippold, who independent of each other gave us great episodes of “Arrested Development,” “Parks And Recreation” and Feig himself created the brilliant “Freaks And Geeks.”

Together they gave us “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat.” Neither of which I could sit through and finish because it’s not my type of humor, but other people seem to enjoy for some reason.

And now they are making a “Ghostbusters” movie without Egon. A “Ghostbusters” movie where Egon never existed.

They are rebooting the franchise. With a female cast. That will have nothing to do with the first two films.

And the Internet exploded with an avalanche of not-so-hidden sexism. Even Ernie (Winston) Hudson stuck his foot in his mouth with a baffling interview about him not into to the idea of women busting ghosts.

I don’t really care if it is a new cast of men busting ghosts or women busting ghosts. That’s moot to me. Because I’m of the opinion that the franchise should be left alone. Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Hudson were the “Ghostbusters” I grew up with. If this project had happened before Ramis passed, and it was a passing of the torch thing, then maybe I would be more into it.

With reboots, it is a tricky thing. When it comes to things like Batman and Spider Man, that’s different. Comics have multiple story arcs and alternate realities that make that easy. “Ghostbusters” has been associated to the actors and their characters for 30 years now. Even the cartoon series somewhat stayed true to those characters. A reboot, while probably the only acceptable reality in making a new film in the series because of Ramis’ passing, still sounds like a horrible idea.

Who knows? It might be good, it probably won’t. I won’t state that I will not see it, because I’m not clairvoyant, but chances are I will more than likely pass on seeing it.

 

UPDATE: We Are Getting More ‘Twin Peaks’

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UPDATE: This morning, it was announced that Mark Frost and David Lynch are, indeed, bringing back the series for a nine-episode mini-series for Showtime. A YouTube video was released, teasing the return. It will take place 25 years after the events of the series finale in 1991 and all nine episodes will be written by Frost and Lynch. Lynch himself will be directing all nine episodes. Actor Kyle MacLachlan also tweeted out a hint he might be returning as Agent Cooper. That is great news for people like me who have wondered what happened with the characters after the cliffhanger ending of the series finale.

On Friday, David Lynch and Mark Frost, the guys who gave the world “Twin Peaks,” a brilliant show that really messed me up as a kid (if a backward talking dwarf dancing creepily to jazz music; a psychopathic demon-man who possesses people’s bodies and looks like a lost member of the Manson family; and a red curtained, zig zag floored alternate world that represents both heaven and hell is not disturbing to a 10-year-old, that kid has more problems than I care to think about).

Both Frost and Lynch, at exactly 11:30 a.m. (the same time Agent Cooper in the series arrives in Twin Peaks) tweeted: “Dear Twitter Friends: That gum you like is going to come back in style! .” A reference to what the Man From Another Place tells Agent Cooper in the Black Lodge.

This can also be seen as a reference to what Agent Cooper says in the show: “When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention.”  So that seems to fit in with the way the tweets were delivered.

In an age where cult TV shows are getting new lives via streaming services online (“Arrested Development” and “Community” come to mind) it is not unrealistic. Premium services like HBO or Showtime could also be interested in reviving the series.

The streaming route and premium would probably interest Lynch, who probably had felt restrained by the regular TV format back when the show came out. Having to cut shots and scenes short to accommodate commercials seemed to have rubbed him the wrong way, as did the network pressuring him and Frost to reveal who killed Laura Palmer during the second season.

Lynch never intended  for that to be revealed. And in fact, after the show ended that mystery, its rating began to sink and the storylines became cringe worthy (especially that James-and-the-mistress thing). By the time the show began to find its footing again (the really, really good Windom Earle story arc), the show was sent to pasture.

Making things worse, Lynch attempted to save the show by ending it on cliffhanger. At the time, that seemed like a horrible idea. Then he followed up with the film, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” that confused and angered a lot of the fans by making it a semi-prequel (linear timeline in a Lynch project is not an issue to him), so that any real answers about that cliffhanger were kind of answered , but not really. Also, almost none of the show’s cast were in the final product, even though Lynch had filmed scenes with them. These can now be seen on the Blu-ray “Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery “ that contains the two seasons of the show and the movie.

So, could that cliffhanger finally be dealt with (seeing as Lynch never seems interested in resolution, so I won’t say “resolved”) by bringing the show back? Laura Palmer did tell Cooper in the Black Lodge she will see him again in 25 years, which would be very soon.

Album Revisit: Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’

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This is an installment of a series of blogs where I revisit some classic albums that I  love, used to love or has made an impact on pop culture whether I am familiar with it or not. You can also make suggestions on a classic album, and I may give a whirl and review it. 
When Weezer came out of left-field in 1994, they hit a music world filled with angst, greasy hair and flannel with what a lot of people called “nerd-rock.” The “Blue Album” was a breath of fresh air from grunge, which itself had been a breath of fresh air from the hair metal of the ’80s.
And it was fantastic. It wasn’t polar-opposite of grunge, it was just different. It was poppy, yet it rocked. The lyrics where insightful, but not painfully too self-deprecating like Kurt Cobain. It felt like a band for those of us whole liked hard rock and punk rock, Star Wars and reading, but not a long-winded prog rock band like Rush.
It was a hit, especially with the success of “(Undone) Sweater Song” and the Spike Jonze-directed video for the catchy “Buddy Holly.”
The band was riding high. Then in 1996, they released the highly anticipated follow-up, “Pinkerton.”
And people hated it.
Yes, it’s hard to think that Weezer’s now most regarded album (in a lot of circles) was basically a flop when it came out. 
Why?
To start, it is an incredibly raw venture compared to the slickly produced predecessor (produced by Cars front man, Ric Ocasek). Also, it was much more abrasive lyric-wise. No more songs about rocking out in your garage, now they were singing about break-ups, bad relationships and other darker themes. It was way more introspective than what people had heard before from them.
Also, the music was heavier, at times sounding punk and metal. A lot of distortion. It was quite the change. But it was cool they broke the mold.
To cap it off, there was nothing resembling a hit song at all. It got little radio play and was buried in video rotation in that weird era when MTV actually played enough videos to bury one.
Fans hated it; it was a flop.
Then Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo put the band on hiatus. Not too long after that, their popular bassist, Matt Sharp, left to pursue his side band at the time, The Rentals (fantastic band by the way). So fans now had a band indefinitely on hiatus and the loss of a popular member.
Fast forward. A lot of the popular band (ranging from pop-punk to indie bands, singer songwriters and so forth) claim “Pinkerton” as a major influence sonically and lyrically. When you listen to bands like Modest Mouse, The Strokes and so forth, “Pinkerton’s” influence is there.
This album has created a acceptance among fans over the years, who  allowed the album to grow on them, a lot of them claiming it superior to “Blue Album,” myself included. “The Good Life” is better than anything on “Blue.” “Across the Sea” and “El Scorcho” claim that as well.
It’s a much more deep and interesting album than “Blue.” It’s such an awesome record.  If anything, I enjoy this album even more as I get older.
Yes, Weezer has put out some good albums since, and some pretty bad ones as well (I’m looking at you, “Raditude”!), but for me, and I’m sure a lot of others, “Pinkerton” will be the definitive album of theirs.

Review: ‘Gotham’ Pilot Episode

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This week, the premiere of the “Batman show that doesn’t have Batman” debuted. The prequel show, “Gotham” takes us on the origin of everyone seemingly related to Batman. It focuses on a young Jim Gordon, who has risen up to the rank of detective in the crime-ridden city known as Gotham. Hence the name of the show.

Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) is faced with a moral dilemma in the Series Premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 22 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Also pictured: Robin Lord Taylor. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

The opening scene shows us a young Selina Kyle (Catwoman in the future) prowling over buildings in a cat-like fashion, performing petty crime when she stumbles across the now told for the umpteenth time murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Which many have remembered from the Tim Burton vehicle in the 80s, and done once again in Chris Nolan’s “Batman Begins.” Though this time, the assassin will seem to have a bigger role in the Batman world than Joe Cool did in “Batman Begins.” Also, I hope it’s not a young Joker thing that made Burton’s “Batman” kind of lame.

We follow Gordon as he’s being schooled on the unspoken rules the police force deal with in seedy Gotham City by Detective Harvey Bullock. Especially when dealing with Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney. Here, Gordon quickly learns the unspoken rules can make or break a detective.

While I did enjoy the pilot (I’m a huge Batman fan) there were issues that really bothered me. Just the not-so subtle moments like when Oswald Cobblepot gets made fun of for looking like a penguin. “Don’t CALL me penguin!” the future super-criminal The Penguin screams. Also, Edward Nygma with the riddles was hammed up too much. It seems introducing future criminals needs no subtlety, since we see a young red haired girl named Ivy (which would have been enough for most people) being surrounded by plants.Though it was kind of done right with the comedian in Mooney’s establishment. Because it alludes to The Joker, but from what I read, they plan on sprinkling that kind of thing throughout with different actors so we the viewer, much like the Joker character himself in the books, are not quite sure who really is the young Clown Prince of Crime.

It wasn’t the greatest pilot, but I see a lot of potential with this. I am interested in seeing where this will be heading.

Observations:

* Selina Kyle doesn’t say one word in the whole episode.

* Oswald Cobblepot right out of the gate is a homicidal maniac. Also, he is Mooney’s punching bag.

* While I love the Nolan trilogy, it was nice seeing Gotham not looking like Chicago.

* I’m glad this utilized Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One” most interesting character, the city itself.

Here is a supercut of Bruce Wayne’s parents meeting their grisly end.

The New Aphex Twin Album Is Really Good

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Usually, writing about an album is very easy. It’s easy to critique lyrics, musicianship and production. That’s where this gets sort of difficult. Reviewing an Aphex Twin (or any other electronic music album) gets tricky. Because you pretty much have pure production to talk about. And that can be a pretty boring and/or difficult thing to do.


But rest assure, “Syro” is really good. Granted, if you enjoy electronic music.

It is an interesting album, fairly laid back, but it has a lot going on. The beats are funky, the sounds burp and bubble out seamlessly at times, jarring at others, and it’s sonically interesting to hear different things going on beyond the bass and beats. At times, it sounds like an old 8-bit NES or Atari is breaking down and pushing sounds out of a broken TV.

What “Syro” does is create a world with sounds. A beautiful world at that. This is not music you would want to hear in a club, or casually in your car. “Syro” demands your time to pay attention. And it is worth it.

I will not even attempt to do a track-by-track analysis, because that would not really make sense here and typing out titles would be a nightmare.

Here is the track list:

1. “minipops 67 [120.2]” (source field mix) 4:47

2. “XMAS_EVET10 [120]” (thanaton3 mix) 10:31
3. “produk 29 [101]” 5:03
4. “4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]” 4:28
5. “180db_ [130]” 3:11
6. “CIRCLONT6A [141.98]” (syrobonkus mix) 6:00
7. “fz pseudotimestretch+e+3 [138.85]” 0:58
8. “CIRCLONT14 [152.97]” (shrymoming mix) 7:21
9. “syro u473t8+e [141.98]” (piezoluminescence mix) 6:32
10. “PAPAT4 [155]” (pineal mix) 4:18
11. “s950tx16wasr10 [163.97]” (earth portal mix) 6:01
12. “aisatsana [102]”

Yeah, that would not be fun to do.

But the album plays like what EDM would sound like if Frank Zappa made it. Awesome.

And the vocal samples sprinkled through out feel like something straight out a David Lynch movie, warped and creepy.

The tracks bleed into one another, creating a seamless musical narrative that certainly shouldn’t feel seamless. The texture is rich and I think I will have to give it quite a few more listens. The best way I can explain it is that it is a complicated and calming (and at times, no so calming) record to my ears.

Some College Is Offering A ‘Breaking Bad’ Course

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Earlier this week, a college announced it’s intentions to capitalize on people’s addiction to “Breaking Bad” by cleverly seducing them with a college course (which may or may not have a 96.2 percent purity) focusing on the classic AMC show.

Mercyhurst University, located in Erie, Penn. will figuratively don a college credit hazmat suit and cook up a syllabus to convince people that paying money to discuss a TV show in a classroom setting will feed their “Breaking Bad” addiction.

According to Mercyhurst’s website: “When it comes to audacious, complex, badass characters, Shakespeare reigns supreme. Or does he? Kenneth Schiff, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Mercyhurst, used to think so. Mercutio, Lady Macbeth, Richard III, Henry V – they were a gnarly bunch. But along came Walter White, who took badass to a whole new level….” a college website states, even bringing their inner Gustavo Fring by using the term “badass” to prove they mean business and are professionals.

It continues: “Certainly Schiff, who watched all 62 episodes, didn’t expect to be so ‘blown away’ by this television genre, which is why when the opportunity arose to share his enthusiasm in the Mercyhurst classroom, he jumped. He joins associate professor of criminal justice, Tina Fryling, J.D., and chemistry/biochemistry department chair Clint Jones, Ph.D., in teaching what arguably is the hottest course on the Mercyhurst campus this fall: an interdisciplinary offering called ‘Breaking Down Breaking Bad.’ And it’s just for freshmen – 75 in all.”

It goes on the describe how the operation is set up, divvying up the market into three different turfs: “Schiff examines the Emmy Award-winning series as a work of narrative art; Fryling dissects the criminal justice thread throughout; and Jones teaches the science piece. They take turns doing lectures and then each takes a group for weekly break-out sessions.”

So there you go. Mercyhurst is finally going to break bad.

Kanye West Keeps It Awkward

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Kanye West is many things. A rapper. Producer. An expert at uncomfortable interviews with Jimmy Kimmel. Now he can add to his resume of crazy that he is a person who stops a concert to make sure the people who are not standing for one of his songs, because they have a condition that physically does not allow them to stand, are truly unable to stand. (Warning, he uses some adult language).

That story was truly weird, and I got an awkward chuckle out of it. Mistakes happen, even to someone like Kanye who feels when he makes mistakes, it’s other people’s fault.

And that began his next incident. On Monday, he gave a pretty bizarre speech in regard to his weird mistake. Once again, this was not Kanye’s mistake according to Kanye, but everyone’s favorite punching bag, the media. 

“What I want you to do is I want you to run the video everyone’s talkin’ about where I so-called screamed at somebody and everything,” Kanye told his audience in what I like to imagine was in a hushed tone, but probably was not. “I want you to run that, right, since this is such big media-press-news and everything that obviously they trying to demonize me for. It’s like, ‘Welcome to today’s news, ladies and gentlemen.’ We’ve got Americans getting killed on TV, kids getting killed every weekend in Chicago, unarmed people getting killed by police officers…”

To which I would agree, if I was reading about him questioning someone in a wheelchair about their ability to stand, and sending a bodyguard to make sure, on normal news outlets. But I was reading about it on Pitchfork, AV Club and HuffPost Entertainment, which last time I checked, were media outlets focusing on entertainment and not, you know, hard news.

Even his wife/reality TV “celebrity” Kim Kardashian weighed in, oblivious to why people were poking fun at her husband.

“What an amazing Australian tour! Its frustrating that something so awesome could be clouded by lies in the media. Kanye never asked anyone in a wheel chair to stand up & the audience videos show that. He asked for everyone to stand up & dance UNLESS they were in a wheel chair.” Kardashian wrote, unbeknownst that the issue was the concert was stopped to make sure the alleged disabled people were, in fact, unable to stand and how incredibly weird that is.

Also, I find it pretty obnoxious that any performer would hold a show hostage in an attempt to force people to stand during one of their songs. I stand at shows when I feel like it. I paid my money, so it should be my choice whether I should stand.

Either way, this marks another incredible chapter in Kanye West keeping it awkward.

Stay Out Of My Music Library, U2

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This week Apple gave the world a preview of some of their flashy, expensive doo-hickeys. They also, much to the surprise of many, placed U2′s new album in some iTunes subscribers’ library. Whether they wanted it or not. Depending how their account is set up.

Now, I’m not against a band and a company giving away new music for free. But the way Apple and U2 went about giving it away has left a bad taste in my mouth. Because I don’t want anyone besides myself adding music to my library. Granted, I haven’t checked my iTunes account in about 6 years (I prefer not listening to mp3s). But when I open it up, I do not want a U2 album suddenly in my collection

Maybe it’s because I have a strong dislike of U2, most of that aimed at Bono. He’s pretty smug for a person who makes mediocre music. It’s not right. In fact, their popularity has puzzled me most of my life. They are not very good. Never have been. I find the band pretty bland. Henry Rollins hit the nail on the head when he said The Edge has basically milked the same guitar riff for decades now. And when someone whose known for singing/screaming along with three-chord punk rock songs in his underwear with Black Flag thinks your repetitive, then you should branch out a little more.

So, when a band I already do not like weasels their way into my music collection, I have a problem. It’s pretty rude and presumptuous to assume people want your record, let alone have it sneak into their collection unbeknownst.

It should just have been an option to download for free. That, I would not have had a problem with. People should not have to adjust their accounts in the off chance Bono wants to push an album on them. Apple also should not decide for the consumer what music they should have in their library. That is just obnoxious.

Album Revisit: Replacements’ ‘Tim’

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This is an installment of a series of blogs where I revisit some classic albums that I  love, used to love or has made an impact on pop culture whether I am familiar with it or not. You can also make suggestions on a classic album, and I may give a whirl and review it. 

This week marked the first time in about 28 years that the legendary Minneapolis punk band, The Replacements, performed on NBC. The last time they performed, obviously a little inebriated , “Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels banned them from performing again on his show.  Why? Because they did what a lot of they were known for back then, getting drunk and putting shows. People who I’ve spoken to who have seen these shows often claim they were amazing, but a quick Youtube check on these shows tell me otherwise. But, to each their own. 

Well, even though Michaels is part of Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” it looks like his ban was lifted Tuesday night when the Mats (the fans’ nickname for the group) performed on the show, a much more sober Mats than the ones from the 80s.

That got me thinking about my favorite Mats album, “Tim.” It was the second in the trilogy of great Mats albums, beginning with “Let It Be” and ending with “Pleased To Meet Me.” This was the era when they were growing out of the garage punk age and before Paul Westerberg just began making solo albums and calling them Replacements albums (I’m looking at you “All Shook Down”).

The Replacements were one of those bands who, if they had come out a decade later, would have been up there with Nirvana and Peal Jam. But The Replacements, in my opinion, laid out the blue print for what would become 90s grunge. You can especially hear their influence in Nirvana’s material.

“Tim” is really they’re most solid album. I know a lot of people stand by “Let It Be,” which is really close in terms of song quality and performances. I mean, “Unsatisfied” is one of my all time favorite songs. But I still think “Tim” has that album beat.

Produced by the late Tommy Ramone, whose production actually was just awful, “Tim” is an album with a really strong songlist that suffers mostly from its production quality. It was also their first major label release. The drums sound like wet cardboard and it sounds flat. Not that the production makes it unlistenable, but it certainly doesn’t help the songs in any way.

What “Tim” accomplishes is combining the punk angst with melodic songs all mixed together. The first two tracks, “Hold My Life” and “I’ll Buy” is a great example of this. Then you get to “Waitress In The Sky” which is basically nice little pop song with nice tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

That is followed by the incredibly depressing but beautiful “Swinging Party” and  the song that sums up my love of the Mats, “Bastards Of Young.” The latter was the song they performed on SNL that got them banned.

The album closes with what can only be considered the perfect depressing dive bar song, “Here Comes A Regular.” It’s not a very optimistic song, but then again, I can’t think of any optimistic songs from the Mats.

This would also be the last album with original guitarist Bob Stinson. His drinking and clashing with singer and songwriter Paul Westerberg would cause him to be let go. He passed away in 1995.

But the Mats are back (minus Slim Dunlap, who replaced Bob Stinson, and Chris Mars). Based on their performance on the “Tonight Show” and from what I’ve seen of their live shows since reuniting in 2012, they seems to be in much better shape than all those years ago.

“Tim” remains my favorite of their albums. Just a really great collection of songs and performances. I enjoy it as much as when I first heard it.