Oatmeal Reviews

Quaker “Cocoa and Sea Salt” Oatmeal – I am not sure what exactly Quaker was going for here, but this is Weirdo-Town. Water from the tea kettle immediately becomes brown, and the taste and smell recall watered-down vending machine hot chocolate and a soggy granola bar. D+

Quaker “Cinnamon and Spice” Oatmeal – As a kid this flavor of oatmeal was only available as part of a variety pack that included four apple cinnamon, four maple and brown sugar, and two cinnamon and spice. That variety back is still sold today! Maybe it was the relative scarcity or having to suffer through four bags of maple and brown sugar, but cinnamon and spice oatmeal was always something I thought of as a treat. Safeway (and apparently nowhere else) carries a box of just cinnamon and spice, and I do not know if my adult taste buds or changing formulations are to blame, but this does not taste like I recall cinnamon and spice tasting. This oatmeal is sweet and bland and is dominated by somewhat of a “pumpkin spice” like taste – nutmegs, cloves, that sort of thing. Egg nog without the eggs. I remember it tasting more like a spice cake or a snickerdoodle, like maybe there was cream of tartar or something. Like “apple cinnamon” without apples. Maybe it has been like this all along and we just have a funny way of romanticizing the past. Who knows? B-

Quaker “Apple Cinnamon” Oatmeal – This one, on the other hand, still tastes more or less the same as I remember. Delightful funny little square dried apple pieces with a nostalgic heaping of cinnamon. This has never been an exciting culinary experience, but with all the silly new flavors of Quaker oatmeal on the shelf, there is no compelling reason not to stick with the classic. A-

Music and Food Reviews In Brief – Brittany Howard, Mac DeMarco, BOSS, Quorn

Brittany Howard/Jaime – This album sits at that rare intersection where raw talent, creativity, and conviction meet. Sometimes that happens. I am embarrassingly unacquainted with Alabama Shakes, but Howard appears to be in the same league as Prince or Sly Stone. And she has excellent taste in guitars, playing a beautiful Pelham blue Gibson SG with three pickups which looks absolutely badass in her arms. This is not Dutch Bros. Coffee. When Pitchfork says “this is the eleventh best album of 2019,” if they are wrong about anything it would be albums one-through-ten. I could say the same thing about Queens of the Stone Age’s 2007 release Era Vulgaris, which is a real “kick in the face,” but I am also a fan of any record with a drum sound that dares to be different. It’s very . . . distant-mic’ed? Compressed? Who knows? I like it. A+

Mac DeMarco/Here Comes the Cowboy – Like Harry Nilsson, hard-partying knucklehead Mac DeMarco is devoted not to stadium-sized rock and roll riffage but the perfect sweet pop song. On this sleepy set of songs, like Todd Rundgren (and Nilsson), DeMarco’s straightforward voice transforms into something from outer space when he breaks into a falsetto. A

Excellent Boss BF-2 Flanger Vintage 1984 Electric Guitar Effects Pedal MIJ

BOSS “Green Label” BF-2 Flanger Guitar/Bass Effect Pedal (Made in Japan-1980s) – Speaking of Prince, Prince had one of these on his pedal board. Since the early 2000s BOSS has made a newer flanger, the BF-3. I like the BF-3, which is digital and offers many options the BF-2 lacks, including stereo input and output, tap tempo and a gate mode, but the analogue, monophonic BF-2 does a much better job at the classic “Barracuda” thing. Rather than describe the BF-2 as “warmer” or “more organic,” which are kind of cliches without much meaning, I will say the feedback (a.k.a. “res” knob) is more pronounced yet more musical. While the BF-3 has a pleasant sort of sheen with some subtlety and it excels at rotating speaker sounds, chorus, thanks to the odder-sounding feedback, the BF-2 has an endearing and addicting “sci-fi” sound to it. The “depth” and “range” of the BF-2 are also more limited than the BF-3. BOSS describes the “normal” mode on the BF-3 as being “the sound of the BF-2,” but I would say the BF-2 actually sounds a bit more like the BF-3’s “ultra” mode. The BF-2 also features some of the sturdiest-feeling knobs in the business. The BF-3’s knobs have more of a smooth, modern feel, the the BF-2 knobs (which are black – later made-in-Taiwan BF-2s have white knobs) put up a certain amount of pleasing resistance when turning that says “heavy duty.” By the way, like some older BOSS pedals, this one takes an “ACA” power supply rather than the 9-volt-center-negative-regulated “PSA” standard “BOSS-style” pedals are associated with today. If the pedal is to be used without a battery, the pedal . . . . hmm . . . . takes the usual nine volts but really twelve volts but really nine, which does not make any sense, but in the end it means that it must be used with either a twelve-volt adapter, a BOSS ACA adapter that claims to be 9 volts but is really 12, or, as I do, daisy-chained behind a regular nine volt pedal, which bypasses some weird wiring that made sense in the 80s. A+

Quorn Vegetarian “Fish” Sticks – Nothing says “fun” quite like fish sticks. These are less “fishy” tasting than Gardein’s “fillets,” but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Excellent texture, terrific with tartar and pickles as a side or on a sandwich. A

Review – Dutch Bros. Coffee

“OMG! My small town is getting a(n) [insert name of regional fast food chain that is expanding]!”

Dutch Bros. is apparently a chain of drive thru coffee shops serving “muffin tops” and Slurpee-like coffee-themed beverages in oversized cups with dome lids. Bremerton was very excited to be getting one. A couple weeks after it opened up, Bremerton still seems to be excited about it.

I tried to visit Dutch Bros. last week, but the parking lot was full, the drive thru line was absurdly long, and after being confused about how to leave the parking lot I made a probably dangerous exit through the entry lane back on to Wheaton Way.

The volume of customers was similarly long this week, but my family was able to find a parking spot. We weren’t sure how we would leave, but we parked and entered anyways.

With its ordering window, two TVs showing loops of Dutch Bros. advertising, and standing level tables with no seats, the music-less lobby clearly communicated a message of “Although we serve walk-in customers, we are not designed to be a ‘third place’ like Starbucks or your favorite local coffee house.”

The menu, featuring a small selection of the usual coffee shop staples along with a few Slushee drinks and Muffin Tops® at reasonable prices, is simple. Considering the drive-thru lines, simple is good. With most of its cafes featuring drive-thrus nowadays, Starbucks could learn a few things here.

Service was friendly. I ordered a “small” (twelve ounce) vanilla latte, my wife ordered a small soy mocha, and my son ordered a kids’ “not-too-hot” chocolate.

Most coffee in Bremerton is terrible. My latte, which tasted like Torani syrup, milk that had been steamed more than once, and a hint of coffee flavor, was not terrible. But it also wasn’t good or even “better than bad.” I will commend Dutch Bros. for not serving a Starbucks-style charry roast. The Dutch Bros. roast is more similar to Starbucks’s “blonde roast.”

My wife had a similar report of her soy latte. She also mentioned that she did not get much of any coffee buzz from it. I agree. Sugar buzz, yes, but not coffee buzz.

Paper coffee cups come in a few shapes. Dutch Bros. opts for the slightly “short and wide” variety. The lid is weird though, with the sippy cup opening being perfectly round and closer to the center of the lid than is customary. I get the impression it is designed with the assumption that the customer will be drinking with a straw. Drinking hot liquid through a plastic straw is not a good idea for the future of the planet or, you know, not getting cancer.

My five-year-old son’s hot chocolate was served in a ridiculous plastic cup with whipped cream covering the already-inserted straw. I would be concerned about the whole “hot liquid in plastic thing,” except it was truly lukewarm. Before finishing the drink my son, who suddenly became lethargic, told me he was feeling sick. When we arrived home he vomited. To be fair this may have had nothing to do with the hot chocolate. But it also might have had everything to do with the hot chocolate. In any event, he is recuperating while watching Paw Patrol at the moment.

During our entire visit a table full of young people were participating in a group interview. Having once been a man in my late teens and twenties, this is an experience I can relate to. I hope every one of the kiddos gets the job.

Which brings up an important point. Just about everyone making the Dutch Bros. motor run today amidst an absurd volume of drive-thru customers is a young person with zero previous industry experience, and nothing that I was unimpressed with was due to this. I know that my latte tasted the way it did because that was the way it was supposed to taste. The lattes in the advertising video loops looked bad, just like mine, with the kind of big bubbles and such that appear when you don’t steam the milk properly. This is coffee for “lovers of Torani syrup,” not people who enjoy the taste of coffee.

Eventually it became time to leave, and for the entire visit we were anxious about how we would actually be able to get out of the parking lot, with the only thoroughfare blocked by three drive-thru lines. I actually stepped out of the cafe to study how this probably worked. I believe what is intended to be a third “thru” line leading to a second part of the parking lot whose existence I was unaware of and the exit was instead being used as a third drive-thru lane with “runners” taking (and probably delivering) orders. The friendly staff explained that we could ask a runner to hold traffic for us so we could leave.

A white Jeep backed up so we could enter the third drive-thru line. After a while a runner came up to the window to take our order and we told him we were waiting to leave. We slowly rolled ahead and waited for every car ahead of us to be served until we could make it around to the other side of the building and squeeze past the other cars in the drive-thru line and make a right-turn onto Wheaton Way.

Even by fast food chain standards, between all the single use plastics, no commercial composting in our community, and idling vehicles, most of which are large, the environmental impact of Dutch Bros. has to be pretty bad.

I once came across a hilarious “Seattle” style coffee shop in Jamestown, ND that featured a fake Space Needle. Everything about today’s vanilla latte reminded me of the one I had there, including being asked if I wanted whipped cream on the drink. Considering that the whipped cream might have made my son sick, I am glad I said no. Who orders whipped cream on a latte? Yes, I did literally compare my drink to one I had in North Dakota. I could imagine Steve Buscemi pulling through a Dutch Bros. drive-thru in Fargo.

Be it Super Mario Bros. 3 or the Cosmic Crisp, sometimes highly-anticipated “releases” absolutely live up to the hype. This is not one of those times. This is one of those times where I am absolutely baffled by why people like the things they like and find myself doubting if popular opinion is ever a barometer I can rely on. Having never been to an In-and-Out Burger, what if everyone is wrong and In-and-Out Burger isn’t any good either?

D

Apple Review – Cosmic Crisp

When I was a courtesy clerk at QFC in high school the hot new apple was the Pink Lady. In the years since there have been many new varieties, many of them with silly names like SweeTango and SugaBee, and for some reason people have been going ga ga for the Honeycrisp, a gigantic apple with an excellent texture that tastes like nothing but sugar water. The latest apple sensation, WSU’s own Cosmic Crisp, which is a hybrid the unexciting Honeycrisp and the more exciting Enterprise, has been a hit, and it’s easy to see (and taste) why.

The Cosmic Crisp is a real people-pleaser. The dark red apple, which can last for a full year in cold storage and does not turn yellow, is beautiful, crunchy, juicy, and full of sweet-tart flavor. The Cosmic Crisp is not an earthy apple. Something like a Pink Lady has, in its sweet-tart crunchiness, an underlying “earthy” taste. Sometimes apple eaters may still opt for a Pinky, an Opal, a Jonagold, or plenty of others. This one tastes like apple candy, like an apple loaded with “double apple” flavor. It is very sweet and much tarter and tastier than its parent, the boring-tasting Honeycrisp. Initially, my one criticism is that the apple is much bigger than it needs to be, but since then I have discovered more medium-sized Cosmic Crisps as well.

I have tried this apple plain. I have also tried some kind of Langer’s Cosmic Crisp apple juice, which was also good. I would imagine it would be good in pies and other baked goods, although I would probably prefer a Granny Smith for those applications.

The only apple I compared this to side-by-side was a Cameo. The crunchy sweet Cameo, a hybrid of a Red Delicious and a Golden Delicious, is one of those children that is more attractive than either of its parents, and an apple that is normally very pleasant, seemed overall quite subdued compared to the much more intense-tasting Cosmic Crisp. But don’t throw away those Cameos just yet. Sometimes less overall intensity is a good thing. I can imagine the Cameo being a better fit with, say, peanut butter or cheese.

So far this apple tends to be on the expensive side, but I understand that apple growers are planting lots of these, so these will be reasonably priced in the future. With the Chinese not purchasing our glorious Washington state apples due to tariffs, the Cosmic Crisp is very good news for the apple industry. And you. Crunch.

Sweetness: high
Juiciness: high
Acidity: high
Earthiness: low
Texture: crispy, juicy
Color: dark red with bright spots, sometimes golden or brighter red blush
Size: usually XL

A+

Gabriel Alexander Revüe/Not a Second Time

I have always liked this song. With its sort of amped-up Everly Brothers vibe, “Not a Second Time” is a fine example of early Beatlemania.

Although it has been covered by Robert Palmer, the Pretenders, and others “Not a Second Time” has never reached the point of over-saturation.

I thought this one would be a fun one to cover. As per “the way I usually do it,” I sang all the tracks, played all the instruments, starting with drums, then layering on two tracks of amped Gibson SG, accordion, bass, tambourine, hand claps, and a couple brief guitar overdubs during the accordion solo.

Like Robert Palmer, I performed this in the original key. Yikes. I am an asthmatic baritone. Like Robert Palmer, I have to strain harder to hit the high notes than John Lennon, but I am not Robert Palmer.

Apple variety review – Juici

Image result for Juici apple

Move over, SweeTango. There’s a new apple in town with a stupid name.

I spotted a “Juici” at Winco last night. It was shiny and very heavy, which is always a good sign, so I put it in my basket, where it was soon joined by two frozen dairy deserts and a package of Gardein fishes filets.

The first thing I noticed after cutting the apple to share it with my son is that it yellowed quickly. For me that is a hint that we are looking at a not-very-sour apple. The apple did indeed look very juicy.

The apple was pleasantly crisp and juicy but tasted like nothing but perhaps sugar water. To be fair, I say the same thing about Honeycrisps, which are one of the most beloved apples out there today. This apple, in fact, tastes a lot like a honey crisp. If not for the fact that it was noticeably smaller and redder I could have mistaken it for a honey crisp.

This apple does indeed have a perfect texture, but I prefer a firmer handshake from my apple. I love Granny Smiths, of course, but something like a Jonagold or a Pink Lady also has a way of greeting the apple consumer with more of a statement. Even the Jazz is an apple to get jazzed about.

A few minutes ago when I was googling for an image of a Juici (I couldn’t use the picture of the one I purchased since it was already half in my belly) I learned, without even leaving google, that the Juici is a hybrid of a Honeycrisp (figures) and a Braeburn (a hybrid of a Granny Smith and some red apple that is sometimes good and sometimes mealy with no way to tell a good one apart from a bad one without eating it). I am surprised that this overly polite apple is 25 percent Granny Smith.

I asked my five year old son, who loves apples, if he finished his. “I didn’t,” he said, after pausing and continuing, “I didn’t like it.” C-

Review – Gardein Porkless Pockets

Remember when the ham bao had a baby with the sloppy Joe?

Me neither, but this is the vegan version of that, and it is pretty good. The texture of the “pork” is sort like that jackfruit “pulled pork” that is all the rage these days, and the sauce is sweet and smoky with a mild touch of heat.

Unlike jackfruit, whatever these are made of do have protein – 10 grams of it. They turned out nice (and piping hot) in the toaster oven.

I would buy another box. A

Review – Electro-Harmonix Hot Wax Guitar (or Bass) Overdrive Pedal

Electro-Harmonix Hot Wax Dual Overdrive Pedal

The Hot Wax combines two other Electro-Harmonix overdrive pedals (which I incidentally have never used) – the Crayon and the Hot Tubes – into one medium-sized pedal. Each pedal can be used independently, or they can be “stacked” with the Crayon doing its thing before the Hot Tubes does its thing.

The Crayon side is sort of like a Tube Screamer but with more tonal control due to separate bass and treble knobs, so it does not necessarily have to be midrangey. The tone can be quite “full range” or even “scooped.”

The Hot Tubes side is a bit like the Soul Food except more pleasant sounding (warmer) and with more gain on tap.

With drive set to twelve-o’clock, the Crayon is more distorted than the Hot Tubes, but at maximum level the Hot Tubes actually exceeds the Crayon in distortedness, as if the Hot Tubes, like a Tube Screamer, retains a bit of the clean signal at all settings. The character of the distortion on the two sides is pretty different too, with the Crayon being both smoother and more articulate and the Hot Tubes having more or a “torn speaker” effect. The Crayon is probably more compressed, which is especially apparent when playing arpeggios and stuff. There is some pretty hair around single notes on the Crayon side that isn’t there on the Hot Tubes side. The Crayon would really be useful for gigs with that Matthew Sweet cover band. Some of these tones would be right at home on a Foo Fighters record.

“Stacking” the two pedals can create all sorts of cool sounds, and trying out varying positions of the two pedals’ knobs can bring up many different tones, particularly when using the “blend” knob, which I will get to below.

This pedal is a bit different than having a separate Crayon and Hot Tubes on the board because the two pedals share a common master bass/treble EQ, and there is the useful “blend” knob for blending in clean guitar signal, which is probably great for bassists as well as guitarists on the hunt for certain “dirty yet articulate” tones. Unconventional sounds are available, including setting all the knobs at full blast for Metallica-style ridiculousness but only blending in a tiny bit of the “dirty” signal. I like a lot of the sounds available with a 50:50 blend.

The shared master EQ has to be the reason why the two sides stack well together. I am normally not a fan of “stacking” multiple dirt pedals, because each pedal tends to have its own sort of EQ profile and they often don’t play well together. Sharing the same EQ makes the two sides stack nicely. This also gives the Hot Tubes side, which would in the usual pedal form have just one tone knob, independent bass and treble controls.

Likely due to the shared EQ, unlike the “true bypass” Crayon and Hot Tubes, this pedal is buffered bypass, which can be an advantage when it comes to long cable runs.

Although seven knobs can be overwhelming, these additional features cause the Hot Wax to be greater than the sum of its parts. I look forward to using this pedal. A

Guitar pedal reviews – TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 (reverb), Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 (more reverb), Electro-Harmonix Soul Food (overdrive)

TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 – Considering how many features this pedal has I have very little to say about it.

TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 Reverb Pedal

50 years ago mankind went to the moon with probably less computing power than the DSP chip in this red box, yet this red box cannot realistically simulate the sound of one of those toy microphones with a spring inside.

When fiddling with any musical apparatus in one’s basement, I feel a good musical apparatus has an ability to “lift” the musician out of the basement to some kind of special place. Even a ubiquitous BOSS flanger can instantly transport me to “Barracuda-Land.”

This pedal from Danish electronic wizards TC Electronic doesn’t do that. Have the Danes never heard the sound of a room, a hall, or an old spring unit in an amp? Plenty of the pedal’s features are pretty silly. Like stereo input and output. Are stereo amps all the rage in Denmark? And the touch-sensitive “mash” switch seems like a fun concept until trying it out and realizing

  1. A touch-sensitive stomp switch is ergonomically and functionally pretty different than an expression pedal.
  2. Even if it did work well, when in a musical context would anyone say “You know, I want to hover my foot above this stomp box to change the reverb trail on just this one particular note or chord?”
  3. This worthless feature reminds me a lot of TC Electronic’s polyphonic PolyTune tuner. Maybe in Denmark people like to tune every string at the same time and tuning accuracy isn’t a big deal.

I sold this pedal after about two days after scoring a good deal on it since it was listed as a Hall of Fame One on eBay. In the time I had it I didn’t discover anything I liked about it. Remember those 90s bookshelf stereos with “hall,” “room,” and “arena” settings? This pedal is pretty much that for guitars. Most of the settings sound like variations of the same algorithm. Trying out the spring reverb is a particular disappointment. You’ll want to leave your surf board locked up in the garage, because there are no waves today and the water is full of sharks. Same goes for the downloadable tone prints.

The Hall of Fame 2 is the kind of uniquely bad pedal that has me scratching my head with questions like.

  1. Do I really like TC Electronic products at all? I thought I liked my Dark Matter distortion and Shaker vibrato, but now I’m not sure.
  2. Do I even like reverb?
  3. Do I even like playing guitar?
  4. Do I even like music?
  5. Do I even like sound?

And that’s not what anyone wants in a reverb pedal. D-

Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 – Do I have some sort of snobby golden ears that just can’t appreciate a digital reverb pedal or can the cigar-smoking hippies in New York City make a better ‘verb than the Danes?

Electro Harmonix CEO Mike Matthews

As it turns out, yes, those New Yorkers have indeed made a very good ‘verb in the Oceans 11.

“Wait a minute,” you must be saying, “but the picture above reveals just a single output, no mash switch, and no tone print, so clearly the Hall of Fame 2 has to be a better pedal!”

Except that all the sounds on this pedal are good, and the little “mode” button reveals a bunch of hidden features and parameters that are more useful than beaming different settings from a smartphone, as on the Hall of Fame.

P’twaaaang! The spring setting drips just like the real thing. If there are sharks in the water today we will jump them!

Plate! Like a Motown record.

Reverse! Plate with echo! Plate with adjustable tremolo! Crazy stuff too! Shimmers, infinite sustain reverb, flangeverb, and other sounds that transport me from my basement pedal board straight to the moon.

By default the pedal is even set so, after turning the stomp switch off, the reverb trail of whatever was playing before continues, so it is possible to build up a wash of long crazy reverb and then play clean guitar on top of it. That does mean that the pedal is not true bypass and that it digitizes every sound that comes through it even when it is off. Which is, in fact, not a big deal, especially for the hearing-impaired rock and roll guitarist.

If I had to criticize something here it would be what I generally criticize about Electro-Harmonix pedals. It can get very over-the-top very quickly. Depth and rate knobs on Electro-Harmonix apparatuses can be turned to such extremes that on certain settings nothing above 9-o’clock on the dial is really useful. With the spring setting there is also somewhat of a delicate balance between dialing in a heavy surfing sound and not having the dry signal completely overwhelmed by reverb.

By the way, unlike the Made-in-Thailand Hall of Fame 2, this puppy is made in New York City.

But with every conceivable turn of every knob this pedal has something to offer. I don’t know whether to reach for my surfboard or gaze down at my shoes. A

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Overdrive Pedal

Apparently there is a famous overdrive pedal from the 1980s called a Klon Centaur that sells for thousands of dollars on eBay. I had never heard of it until I read some Electro-Harmonix ad copy for this pedal, which is supposed to ape that sound at a reasonable price, several years ago.

I don’t have a dusty Klon Centaur to compare the Soul Food to, but I can say the Soul Food is decisively not great. If EHX released this pedal as the “Ice Pick” or “Small Speaker Simulator” it would have a more sensible name.

This pedal has the same three knobs as, say, a Tube Screamer, but what makes this pedal unique is that the “vol” knob has a lot more range than it needs to, providing gobs of clean gain, the “gain” knob doesn’t have much fuzzy gain at all, and the “treble” knob covers everywhere between “boxy” and “icepick.” The gallons of clean gain could conceivably make for a useful clean-ish boost for folks who like clean-ish boosts, except the overall sound of the pedal is so narrow-bandwidth and frequency-limited that it doesn’t work well as a clean boost either.

The style of gain is also what is called “touch-sensitive” gain, meaning it doesn’t distort or compress the sound all that much. Sensitive little licks will sound clean (albeit boxy and harsh) while aggressive moments will take on a furry “torn-speaker” sound.

There are a few sweet spots to be found, and I can see this being a useful “kick it on for extra zing during a solo” pedal for folks who solo, but overall this tends to be a harsh, unpleasant pedal.

Do I even like overdrive? Is rock and roll still relevant? Who knows?

I haven’t sold this puppy yet, but it’s likely I will soon. C

Reviews – PJ Masks/Heroes Forever, Digitech Ventura Vibe, Simply “High Pulp” Orange Juice

PJ Masks/Heroes Forever (2019) – Anyone who has a five year old child, teaches primary students, or have walked through the Target toy section recently is likely somewhat familiar with PJ Masks, the three school children who transform into crime-fighting superheroes at night. Before any of my peers say “What? They have an album?” I would like to take a second to remind them about TMNT’s Coming Out of their Shells tour and album.

Apparently the ten-minute-long ten-track Here We Come must have been a smash, because Heroes Forever is the second PJ Masks-themed album. This one has eight songs with slightly longer track lengths – in the ballpark of a minute and a half each. This appears to be a higher-budget affair than Here We Come, as it has much less of a midi-like quality and has much more of a live instruments/rock and roll thing going on. Lots of guitars. Real drums. Hand claps with reverb. Lots of organ for some reason.

The first four tracks – an intro and a song each for the heroes (Catboy, Gekko, and Owlette) – are not particularly good and are, despite better production values, a step down from Here We Come. But things pick up with a song each for the three main villains, Romeo (whose song is catchy albeit Smashmouth-esque), Luna Girl (whose song sounds sort of like, hmm, Save Ferris if Save Ferris had been fronted by a voice actor whose gig was to sing “with a mild Katy Perry vibe”), and Night Ninja. The album ends with sort of a blue eyed soul song reminiscent of Some Fantastic Place-era Squeeze, which is an odd way to describe a song from a children’s TV album.

In life, as on Heroes Forever, sometimes the villains have the best songs. Bobby Brown sold a lot more records than Ralph Tresvant. B

Digitech Ventura Vibe (Rotary/Vibrato/Univibe Guitar Effects Pedal) – A few years ago I bought and quickly sold a used BOSS Rotary Ensemble pedal, a pedal whose main function is to imitate the sound of a Leslie speaker, as heard on, say, “Black Hole Sun” or “Badge.” It was a full-featured and sturdy pedal but didn’t sound that great and, most importantly, despite a huge number of knobs and two footswitches, lacked a “depth” control.

But this isn’t a review of the BOSS pedal. Unlike the “double” size BOSS pedal, the Ventura Vibe, which I also bought used, is about the size of an MXR pedal and has most of the same features, including overdrive, stereo in and out (which is sort of a non-feature as stereo amps or matched mono amps aren’t really a thing in the guitar world), and does have a depth knob.

But all the features and sturdy build quality in the world wouldn’t be worth talking about because this pedal just plain doesn’t sound good. I do not insist on analogue. Plenty of companies like TC Electronic make digital pedals that sound great. Led Zeppelin used a digital delay way back in 1975! It isn’t that. I suppose this pedal does what it is supposed to in the vibrato mode, but the univibe mode is a poor digital facsimile of a real univibe, and the “rotary” mode sounds more like a different bad digital variation of a univibe than a rotating speaker. The range of the knobs seem funny. There is no sweet spot anywhere that sounds good. There is no “Black Hole Sun” or “Badge” to be found. That’s a shame. A rotary pedal should growl. It should emphasize certain frequencies in kind of a resonant-filter-like way and have kind of a tremolo thing going on. This may as well be “phaser with peak clipping.” That’s like a flanger pedal that can’t do “Barracuda.” The overdrive also sounds terrible. There is no “output” knob. The graphics look pretty silly. And what kind of name is Ventura Vibe? Digitech does include a rubber “setting locker” thing to keep the knobs in place for a favorite setting as well as a custom-cut piece of velcro for the back. I’m sure it’s as bad on keyboards as guitar.

Oh, well. Trying out pedals is fun. I just sold it on Reverb after not owning it long at all. I hope the new owner likes it more than I do. D+

Simply “High Pulp” Orange Juice – I like pulp, and this is better than Minute Maid, and it may be marginally better than Florida’s Natural, but it has a heavy “sealed-in-a-plastic-jug” taste beyond even Tropicana. Much better OJ is to be found at Costco or the organic offerings at Safeway and Fred Meyer. B-