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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans ('Threesome, Vol. 3,' David Spade, 'Red Rocket')

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EP TIP

Threesome Vol. 3

The Lickerish Quartet

Remember when "Jeopardy" arranged for a competition between their champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter and an IBM supercomputer called Watson? And Watson pretty much effortlessly roughed the humans up? It seems a similar idea — a pop songwriting contest, this time — has just been scrapped. A computer nicknamed Mozart, relying on melodic algorithms from a half-century of pop hooks and chord structures, was set to go up against the contemporary trio The Lickerish Quartet, comprised of ex-Jellfish members Tim Smith, Eric Dover and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. The Lickerish Quartet was going to submit the four songs on their latest EP, "Threesome Vol. 3," and Mozart would respond with instantly generated tunes in reaction. The only problem? The IBM brain trust listened to "Threesome Vol. 3" — then they listened again. And AGAIN. They heard the otherworldly masterful harmonies, flowing melodies, sublime instrumentation and overall pop majesty — and they called the whole thing off. "No computer and no analytics program can hope to do anything as fine as 'Threesome Vol. 3,'" an IBM press release said. The EP is officially out Friday. You can already hear the two magnificent lead singles, "Hopelessly" and "New Days." (Question for Manning, Jr: In "New Days," do I hear a sly melodic vocal homage to the hook in "The Turnstyle at Heaven's Hate"? Brilliant!)  

— Rick Koster

STREAMING TIP

David Spade: Nothing Personal

Netflix

David Spade is funny. No doubt. But he seems subdued onstage for this concert special, as if he were running through a rehearsal before the big show. (He bristles with more sharp energy when he’s on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”) Be aware of that. His material, though, remains snarkily amusing. Spade is an expert at poking fun at himself and, well, a lot of other things in the world. I laughed out loud as he recounted how crabs invaded the place he was staying while hosting “Bachelor in Paradise.” But he rambles among all sorts of topics, from finding himself going down internet rabbit holes to his post-COVID disdain for people who insist “I’m a hugger” to some R-rated material about iPhone photos to toss-away Adam Sandler references. Even if “Nothing Personal” doesn’t capture Spade at his best, it’s still entertaining viewing.

— Kristina Dorsey 

FILM TIP

Red Rocket

This surprisingly successful indie film has a comically compelling premise: A washed-up male porn star — Mikey Saber, played with smarmy cunning but undeniable charm by Simon Rex — returns to the depressing small East Texas oil town where he grew up. Broke and literally beaten, he weasels his way into temporary lodging at the broken down blue collar home inhabited by his ex-wife Lexi and mother-in-law Lil (the tough but vulnerable, chain-smoking Bree Elrod and Brenda Deiss, respectively). Turns out Mikey and Lexi had sought porn stardom together until she got hooked on heroin and the industry spat her out. Now, her stability and sobriety are fragile propositions probably not improved by Mikey's arrival. Unable to find even the most mundane work, Mikey reignited an old drug dealing relationship and is at least able to pay rent and buy groceries. But when he by chance meets and falls for a 17-year-old donut shop clerk named Strawberry (Suzanna Son, whose high-school-seductress skills are disturbingly calculated), the dark but theretofore amusing story turns too creepy. Hints that Mikey has visions of taking Strawberry west to reinvigorate his porn career reek of indie indulgence.

— Rick Koster

 

 

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