Pop Life

Friday Free for All: Jimmy Eat World, William Shatner, Nick Greer, The Knife, etc.

The Friday Free For All relays albums, artists, videos and vibes the Houston Press Music staff has been grooving to over the past week.

There's that moment between when you find out your favorite band has released a new song and clicking on the play button to hear it that is unlike anything else, a mixture of unbridled excitement and ugly anxiety. We all know that no one bats 100 percent and eventually our heroes will falter, but you never know if a new release is going to be a return to form, another solid number in the catalog, a huge disappointment or any other number of descriptors. I'm happy to say that, judging by the two new songs they've recently released, "Get Right" and "Sure and Certain," the new Jimmy Eat World record is shaping up nicely.

"Get Right" is straight and to the point, a bit heavier than the normal JEW fare, but a solid rocker that should be fun live. "Sure and Certain," however, is an absolute gem of a track. It's a fun mixture of the two sides that make me a fan of the group: the part that isn't afraid to try something out of the ordinary (skipping the guitar solo for a bit of la-la chanting and buildup) and the part that writes killer, catchy hooks. "Lost and lurking/ Wonder 'til we're cold" would make a great regrettable tattoo. CORY GARCIA

Geekier readers no doubt know that this week marks the 50th anniversary of the little-seen ‘60s TV series that colonized the opinion pages of The New York Times a half-century later. “The scrappy, ennobling cult show I once knew is now all too often a special-effects-choked, bottom-line behemoth,” author Thomas Vinciguerra despaired on Thursday, 50 years to the day after the very first Star Trek episode aired. Weep all you want about the overcommercialization of the franchise, or how Comicon-spawned hordes of nerds continue storming pop culture's gates, but, if for no other reason, Star Trek is worth celebrating because it unleashed the quasi-musical stylings of William Shatner on an unsuspecting world. It began on Bill’s 1967 album The Transformed Man, as he applied his bespoke phrasings to the Beatles' “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” among others, but the above video represents Peak Shatner. Cutting-edge 1978 technology at the ready, splitting Shatner threefold at something called the Science Fiction Film Awards, he interprets Bernie Taupin's lyrics via a thousand community-theater Hamlets and "One For My Baby" Sinatra at the end of the bar. The performance has since prompted many to wonder, in the words of one YouTube analyst under the "Lucy" video, “What is he on.” (No question mark required.) At a certain point — not here, yet, but soon — Shatner fully crossed over into the more cunning self-parody of his later years, the Priceline ads and “Iron Man” and “Common People” covers. But at this moment, here he is, all three of him, letting it all hang out and leaving agape onlookers then and now wondering what could have possibly brought Captain Kirk to this point. His answer is Shatnerian in its profundity: “A rocket, man.” CHRIS GRAY

Local funkman Nick Greer has taken up residence as Prohibition's musical director. In his new role, he has produced a show called "The Bronze Gold Speakeasy," which Greer says previewed last week to a sold-out crowd. He calls it a big-band-era variety show that incorporates elements of the '40s but "with a modern twist." What does that mean exactly? I'm not sure, but Greer has always been one of the more interesting Houston artists. The show is scheduled for select Thursdays through December — the next one is coming up September 22 — and I'm excited to see it and talk to Greer in depth about what he's trying to do with it. MATTHEW KEEVER

I’ve been thinking about Kanye West a lot lately, for two reasons. One, I’m writing an article on him to advance his September 20 show at Toyota Center. Two, he recently popped back up at the VMAs to plug his “Fade” video, which I still don’t quite understand. Point being, I’ve been going through the Kanye archives listening to tracks new and old. I don’t like Kanye much anymore, but damn, in listening to his debut – The College Dropout – what a flawless hip-hop album. It sounded unlike anything else in the game upon its release more than a decade ago. You had straight club bangers like “Two Words,” poignant tracks like “All Falls Down” and “Jesus Walks,” not to mention some of the most personal stuff Kanye ever released, namely “Through the Wire” and “Family Business.” Kanye’s ego outkicked his talent a long time ago, but man, looking back, his prime was fun while it lasted. CLINT HALE

This schticky torch song about biding one’s time is perhaps atypical for The Knife, but it glows like a nightlight in the pearly reptilian tangle between my ears. It’s cram-jammed with details about modern life, some real, some ersatz. Allow yourself to imagine a special crossover TV episode wherein the cast of Seinfeld intrudes upon the realm of Star Trek: Next Generation? Now, listen. What’s more, the boogie-woogie piano track that comes in toward the last minute and a half recalls an incident from many years ago when my music group performed at the now-defunct blues bar Silky’s, which stood on the corner of Washington in what is now the party-bike district. Understand that we were wont to avail ourselves of a wider spectrum of sounds than are often found in the blues scale, mostly because we weren’t a blues band. But we did have a synthesizer of sorts, and it spoke loudly to one bar patron on that night. Moments after we’d finished our performance, he charged up to the stage and began excoriating us for our intentions toward music. Little clusters of rage foam sputtered from his mouth as he accused us of ridiculing music, belittling music, hating music and hating real musicians. Who knows if he was right or wrong about that? But then he took it further and began plunking away on the keys of our synthesizer, instructively, in a boogie-woogie style, never letting up with the glares and the monologue. When he was done with the lecture, E, whose instrument he’d been assaying, looked at him for a second and then smiled. “Oh yeah,” she said to him, “That’s how my grandmother plays when she’s at church.” TEX KERSCHEN
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
The Houston Press is a nationally award-winning, 34-year-old publication ruled by endless curiosity, a certain amount of irreverence, the desire to get to the truth and to point out the absurd as well as the glorious.
Contact: Houston Press