Archive for July, 2011

Album reviews: Incubus, 311

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Album Reviews

Incubus, If Not Now, When: The seventh album from alt-rock veterans Incubus is unlike any other in its catalogue.
For the most part, the guitars are turned down, revealing the band’s softer side on the album’s title track and single “Promises, Promises.”
There’s the left-field experimentalism of “In the Company of Wolves,” the album’s longest track at over 7 1/2 minutes. There’s the beautiful acoustic balladry of “Defiance” and the philosophical closer “Tomorrow’s Food.”
The album doesn’t rock like previous releases, but there are a few moments where things get heavy, particularly on “Switchblade” which sounds somewhat similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers with singer Brandon Boyd’s rapid-fire lyrics and heavy bassline. The guitars are again turned up during the instrumental break in “Adolescents,” one of the best tracks on the album.
Although I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the album at first, it has grown on me with each listen. What it lacks in power, it makes up in finesse and melody. A worthwhile purchase for any fan of the band. Sod rating: ****

311, Universal Pulse: The reggae/rock band 311 has been around now for 20 years, and while they no longer churn out crossover hit singles, they remain a top draw on the summer concert scene every year, as they’re always on the road and have a loyal fan base.
That fan base is rewarded with the release of Universal Pulse, a quick eight-song, 29-minute tour de force of everything the band does well. They return to the rap/rock sounds of their early days on tracks like “Time Bomb” and particularly “Rock On” which despite its cheesy title, certainly does rock.
It seems this album is almost a love letter to its fans, rewarding them for sticking with the band so long. All eight tracks are catchy, especially lead single “Sunset in July,” and as with any good 311 album, the vibes are festive and readymade for summertime with the top-down style cruising. Nothing earth-shattering here, just good fun. Sod rating: *** 1/2


Happy trails, Mr. Beltran

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Mets

Today was a bittersweet day to be a Mets fan, as Carlos Beltran was dealt to the San Francisco Giants for big-time pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
I remember when the Mets signed Beltran prior to the 2005 season. Along with the signing of Pedro Martinez, it seemed the Mets were back as a franchise. They made it to the NLCS in 2006, Beltran’s finest season with the team, but that turned out to be the only playoff appearance during the 6 1/2 years Beltran spent in New York.
Carlos was always the consummate pro, driving in more than 100 runs for three straight years (2006-2008) before injuries struck during 2009 (when Beltran was on his way to perhaps his best season with the Mets). He rehabbed his knee to get back into shape for this season, and he put together a fine run with the Mets, hitting .289 with 15 homers, 66 RBIs and a league-leading 30 doubles. He also served as a mentor to the Mets’ young players.
He will always be one of my favorite Mets and perhaps a bit unappreciated by most Met fans due to one failed AB against Adam Wainwright with the bases loaded to end the 2006 NLCS. He’s clearly the best Mets centerfielder of all time and other than Darryl Strawberry, there hasn’t been a finer outfielder in general with the club.
Still, I give a big kudos to Sandy Alderson for getting this deal done. Most of the so-called experts (including Phillie lover Jayson Stark) said Alderson wouldn’t get a top prospect for Beltran. They all said he was asking for way too much in aiming for guys like Wheeler, Brandon Belt and Gary Brown from the Giants, Domonic Brown or Jarred Cossart from the Phillies, or Mike Minor from the Braves.
All it took was for one GM to blink, and Giants GM Brian Sabean knew his team had to have more offense. After all, can they really expect the great Cody Ross to go off again in the playoffs? Losing Wheeler was probably a necessary step for the Giants, who still have good pitching depth. Alderson stood his ground on what he wanted, and he ended up with what most feel will be a top of the rotation starter if he reaches his potential (always a big if for prospects).
I love the deal and will be rooting whole-heartedly for Beltran and the Giants in the playoffs.

Adios, K-Rod

Posted: July 13, 2011 in Mets

As the Mets get ready to begin the second half of the season, they’ll do so without Francisco Rodriguez, traded late Tuesday night to the Milwaukee Brewers for a pair of players to be named later.
The Mets also sent cash in the deal, but the key point to be extracted from the trade is the Mets are no longer on the hook to pay K-Rod’s ridiculous player option, which vests if he finishes 55 games this year (he was well on the pace to exceed that mark). If he got there with the Mets, the team would have paid him $17 million next season, an astronomical amount to pay a closer and a figure that would have tied down the payroll.
Getting rid of K-Rod gives the Mets more financial flexibility going forward, meaning more money to throw at Jose Reyes, which is fine by me. It also could allow them to sign a few of their later draft picks overslot, another plus. I also have faith in Sandy Alderson to snag a pair of diamonds in the rough as the players to be named later, or at least one diamond in the rough.
Now, the focus shifts to Carlos Beltran. The Mets (46-45) keep saying they’re not necessarily going to deal Beltran and will wait to see how they play immediately after the all-star break, but let’s face it – this team isn’t sniffing the playoffs. They’ve far exceeded my expectations, especially given all the injuries, and have truly been fun to watch this year, but they’re 7 1/2 games out of playoff contention and unless they tear off a 12-2 run (almost impossible given the Phils and Cards are the first two teams they play), the Mets will go into full sell-mode. Hopefully Beltran will fetch a top prospect, as he will be the best bat on the market.