R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: Me? E36: A buncha weeks back I put my friend onto this show, who is a big R.E.M. fan. He came back to me quite frustrated. “They take forever to talk about the band!” Yes and, that’s the point. Each week hosts Scott Aukerman (aka Scott) and Adam Scott (also Scott) deconstruct aim to review a R.E.M. record but mainly goof off and get into various tangents. This is even more so the case this past week with Scott and Scott “Slowing It Down”, chatting about anything they want to. In the first half, Scott reads a bunch of bad reviews from iTunes from angry R.E.M. fans and laugh themselves silly to a fan-made remix of the comeback song they’ve written for the band – How Does It Feel? (To Be In R.E.M (Good)). In the second half, David Wain joins the boys to talk his high school R.E.M tribute band, play four-track versions of R.E.M songs to work out what Michael Stri& is actually singing, and go down a crazy rabbit hole involving a 1800 number and a Denny’s. To be blunt, R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: Me? is a show that shouldn’t work but does due to the sheer charisma of it’s hosts. And most importantly, they know both the band’s names and a lot about Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.
Behind the Bastards E01: Did you know that Saddam Hussein’s mother wanted to abort him? Or that Saddam’s son Uday ran around the family home picking up hand grenades and bringing them to daddy? If these are the questions keeping you up at night, you might find a friend in Behind the Bastards. Each episode reporter Robert Evans is joined by a guest (in this case, The Bechdel Cast’s Jamie Loftus) to talk about some of the history’s greatest villains – this week’s focus is Saddam Hussein. Like other shows on the Stuff Network (eg Stuff You Missed From History Class) the focus is on getting the factual information correct more so than using it for comedy, so if anything this show is more a tell story-then-react-cast then a show with a whole lot of riffing. Despite it’s matters of subject, I found Behind The Bastards an interesting listen with smart choices being made in terms of tone and focus.
Troll Play E04: If I’ve learned anything about podcasts, it’s that there’s no niche small enough not to cover, no nook obscure enough to dig into. Australian Broadcasting Commission podcast Troll Play takes an approachable area (the internet! human interactions!) and zooms in on something more specific (internet trolls! weird Twitter!). Or at least this is what is claimed from host Alice Frasier up front. Instead, Fraiser and co-hosts Cal Wilson and Sami Shah turn things insular. Shah reads e-mails he’s received that call him a “Muslim rapist dog,” Wilson receives death threats from Lady Gaga fans over a joke made on TV, and Fraiser reads a somewhat bizarre exchange that personally blames her for controlling the new media’s reputation for “aura of negativity”. When the hosts move on from themselves, we’re treated to transcriptions of Facebook comments and newspaper articles. Troll Play‘s premise is to “turn the manure of the Internet into flowers of joy”, but instead the listener is given three comedians talking about their lives. What a wasted opportunity.
The Dave Chang Show E03: Chef and restaurant-er Dave Chang does a long of things – from ramen bars to small plates, TV shows to magazines (R.I.P Lucky Peach). His latest project is a podcast on Bill Simmons’ Ringer Podcast Network where he can talk about whatever he sees fit. Right now that is his new restaurant MajorDomo, with a series of episodes focused on the behind the scenes work done to get the restaurant open. Empowered by Simmons questions, Chang goes into developing a value system in terms of finding the right staff, the different ways “this is delicious” is expressed and how useful that is for putting test dishes on a menu, the joy and agony of trying things out in a kitchen, and working out menu options for diners of different price points. As it is a Ringer podcast, you can safely expect a lot of relating food world to sports world; and there is a ramblely intro that really needed a re-record, but this series of episodes is a great look inside the creative process of a man who uses food as self expression.
Pod News: Season 3 of Serial is in the works, to be released in the fall. Season 3 of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History is back Thursday, May 17. Sports podcasts are making their publishers buco dolores. American Airlines use podcasts as a way to explain internal changes to staff and customers. The nominees for the British Podcast Awards. The winners for the Australian Podcast Awards.
The Final Question: When it is time to unsubscribe? In writing this column I’m finding myself adding more shows to Pocket Casts and realizing there’s a whole bunch of shows I haven’t listened to for a while. Sorry Chapo Trap House, too many unplayed episodes, it’s time to go. How do you do?