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Album of the Day: Hot Snakes, “Jericho Sirens”

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Throughout the 30 minutes of Jericho Sirens, Hot Snakes’ first full-length release in 14 years, the San Diego quintet sound as if they’re pushed to their limits. Hot Snakes have always been a loud and abrasive band, but there’s a manic energy at work on their fourth album that feels unexpectedly urgent for a band who have spent the better part of the past decade-and-a-half offstage and out of the studio. On the 78-second standout “Why Don’t It Sink In?”, John Reis’s guitar sounds lethal in its barbed-wire scrape, and vocalist Rick Froberg screeches out the song’s title. A song this brief, noisy, and unrelenting doesn’t offer the listener much of a chance to let anything sink in—you just endure and survive it.

Much like their short, explosive songs, the first wave of Hot Snakes’ career was also brief and concentrated: three albums in five years and an unceremonious (if temporary) end, brought about by grown-up responsibilities like fatherhood. Within six years, the band slowly made their way back to festival stages, eventually followed by the unlikely reunion of Froberg and Reis’s other band, Drive Like Jehu, before Hot Snakes finally made it to the studio six years into their comeback. And it’s hard not to hear that band’s complex post-hardcore sensibility seething through the twisted time signatures and discordance of tracks like “Candid Cameras.”

At its core, Jericho Sirens bears all of the elements that made up Hot Snakes’ excellent first trio of albums: a sharp clash of guitars, pummeling punk-rock rhythms, and Froberg’s frantic, strained bark. Yet there’s even more tension and agitation than usual, even for a band whose discography is founded on that very agitation. On “Psychoactive,” the band’s wall of guitars is dense and imposing, while the churning title track evokes the nickname of German propaganda symbol in an ominous metaphor for Trump’s America: “Started as a whisper / Now it’s a campaign.” Only closing track “Death of a Sportsman” allows much space in, an ominous organ riff reminiscent of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” rumbling under the feedback and reverb. But even that comes roaring back seemingly more potent than how it began. It’s a fitting metaphor for the band itself, who prove that which burns brightest can still be reignited.

-Jeff Terich
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Weekend Box Office: Not Even ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ Can Stop A ‘Black Panther’

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Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle In Time opened this weekend with a softer than anticipated $33 million. The film, which has been heavily hyped for months, may have been set back by mixed reviews (42 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but it should be able to rebound somewhat with an A- Cinemascore among those 25 and under (a B overall). The 25 and under demo is important here because A Wrinkle in Time is geared toward younger kids and should be able to capitalize on spring-break week in much of the country and the upcoming Easter holiday, in addition to the fact that a lot of theaters will be getting in kids by the school-bus loads in the coming weeks (my son, in fact, is seeing it with his school tomorrow).

On a $103 million budget, the opening of A Wrinkle In Time is somewhat disappointing, but Disney can’t be that bummed about it, because it got beaten by another one of their properties, Black Panther, which continues to dominate the box office, putting up another $41 million to bring its total to $562 million. It has also officially crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide. What records has it broken in its fourth-frame? It’s now the biggest non-sequel superhero movie of all time; it’s the second biggest superhero movie ever and is catching up to The Avengers $623 million. It also has the third-best fourth weekend ever behind only Avatar and A Force Awakens. Disney staked out the top two spots this weekend with a combined $74 million, so it’s not going to be crying over the opening of A Wrinkle In Time.

Meanwhile, in at number three is the sort-of sequel to the horror film The Strangers, Strangers: Prey at Night. It did OK, opening with $10 million, or about half of the original movie’s $20 million opening. It fared much better than the other two movies that opened this weekend. Hurricane Heist could not capitalize on moviegoers coming out to watch it ironically despite being the Mad Max: Fury Road of alliterative, weather-themed heist movies. It opened at number 9 with only around $3 million. Meanwhile, Gringo, starring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, and Thandie Newton bombed this weekend despite that stellar cast, opening outside of the top 10 with a lowly $2.6 million.

The rest of this weekend’s entries were all holdovers. At number four, Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow collected $8 million to bring its ten-day total to a disappointing $31 million. Game Night in its third weekend made $7.8 million and now it has earned a modest $45 million. Peter Rabbit continues to hang in there with $6.8 million and is now making a run at $100 million; it sits at $93 million at the moment. In its second weekend, Death Wish added $6.6 million to bring its total to $23 million, and Annihilation rings in $3.15 million to bring its three-week total to $26 million.

Next weekend, another big film, Tomb Raider, will make a run at Black Panther. I Can Only Imagine, Love, Simon, and 7 Days in Entebbe will open as well.

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Razer Blade Pro FHD review: The screen is its best and worst trick

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Enlarge / The Razer Blade Pro FHD, complete with a week’s worth of fingerprints on its black-aluminum frame. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

For all of the years we’ve talked about the gaming-hardware company Razer and its range of expensive and (sometimes) remarkably thin gaming laptops, we’ve rarely put those “Blade” machines through extensive testing. The Razer Blade line debuted in 2011 with a flashy multitouch panel that had a screen inside of it—which, at the time, was the most Pimp My Ride tweak we’d ever seen in a laptop. (“Yo dogg, I heard you like screens, so we put a screen… in your trackpad!”)

But we passed that one up, along with most other Razer laptops, except for its 2016 not-quite-gaming entry, the Razer Stealth. As the company has settled into a steadier track record, we wanted to take an opportunity to see where Razer’s purest gaming laptop line has come now that its Blade Pro variant—which has a 17″ screen, but a body that’s still reasonably thin—has a model just a hair shy of $2,000. If you want Razer laptop features like a side-aligned trackpad and a customizable, color-mapped keyboard on your gaming-ready, 17″ laptop, this means you no longer have to pay for Razer’s whopping $3,999 version of the same model.

Our verdict? For a 17″ gaming laptop, the Blade Pro FHD model is totally fine, and if you want that size in an impressively slim body at a $2,000 price point, this one comes with reasonable compromises. But unlike its insanely priced sibling, this Blade Pro UHD model struggles to excite us enough to recommend it—and its price tag—over cheaper and similarly powered gaming laptops.

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