Host Chris Rock cracked wise on rappers acting in films. If anyone can fault a career that includes both “Anaconda” and “Three Kings” they have more discerning tastes than I.
The cameras consequently kept a close eye on several of the music stars in attendance. A joke about Beyonce, followed by a cut to Jay-Z shifting uncomfortably; then a joke about the Source awards, followed by a cut to P Diddy shifting uncomfortably. I guess Suge Knight wasn’t available.
Beyonce herself performed several of the pieces that were nominated for the Best Song category. Her French rendition of “Look to Your Path” from “The Chorus” reminded viewers how technically good her voice actually is and was one of the highlights of the night.
The Academy hasn’t lost its love for “Lose Yourself,” spreading it liberally through montage sequences. Someone should check and see if “Encore” syncs up with “The Wizard of Oz.”
As in every other public event of the last 14 months, Janet Jackson was referenced. Viral marketing, people.
Before presenting an award, Robbin Williams pulled a piece of tape from his mouth, in what was apparently a protest to strict network censoring that kept him from performing a song criticizing a conservative group that has said Spongebob Squarepants is gay. This may have been one of the few occasions where audiences appreciated the efforts of network censors.
Clint Eastwood (best picture, best director) and Jamie Foxx (best actor) were two of the biggest winners of the evening. Eastwood composes much of his own music for his films, while Foxx played the piano himself to better imitate Ray Charles.
Billed as a Nick Cave solo show GOD was bolstered by a bassist, drummer and violinist and played to a sold out Gateshead Sage (it looks like a giant shiny metal and glass shell on the banks of the renovated Tyne; incredible UK venue) last night. They played a solid but intimate set which flowed easily between intimacy (”Lucy” and “The Ship Song”) and intensity (”Christina the Astonishing”).
While the drummer went through several sets of sticks and Nick pounded the hell out of his piano, the Violinist (that Dirty Three bloke, I don’t recall his name) treated his instrument with total and utter abandon. Using it to play chords like a guitar, percussion, traditional violin lines and feedback / noise he played a blinding set. Anyone who felt they might miss Blixa’s free-jazz approach to aural damage and noise as melody, were shown the error of their ways by the first chorus.
An ugly “Henry Lee” and a fairly upbeat “God is in the House” kept the pace moving nicely, and considering the gig was an all seater, the room was full of energy and an epic “West Country Girl” and monolithic “Stagger Lee” were highlights amongst an amazing set. Cave took requests from the crowd in-between good-naturedly fending off calls for “Waltzing Matilda” and “Release the Bats” and being the only person in the building allowed to smoke (which he enjoyed even more as the smokers in the room eyed him jealously).
Even though the gig covered more of this new testament work rather than my personal favourite ‘eye for an eye’ era of Tender Prey he still managed an evil slower take of “The Mercy Seat” to keep us old tosspots happy.
This week has been, at least up in Guelph, Reading Week. I guess it’s called Spring Break down in the states, but as you can guess by the name it’s not nearly as fun up here. I’ve been spending the whole week reading and working (well, with just a little of Resident Evil 4 thrown in, and my music choices have been correspondingly out of the ordinary.
Susumu Yokota is someone I got into based purely on good reviews; on a trip to Toronto with more cash to spare than normal I splurged and picked up an import copy of Grinning Cat and a few trips later I caved and bought The Boy & The Tree. I haven’t had the cash to pick up Sakura yet, but it’s on my list.
Grinning Cat was first, and since it was practically all I listened to on a trip to Boston that year it’s still my favorite, although it’s not as pristinely ambient as the other two; tracks like “Card Nation” and “Lapis Lazuli” manage to incorporate beats that are far more central without ever veering near the sound of Yokota’s house output. And since my taste for ambient is pretty selective, the odd change of pace was a good introduction. But it’s The Boy & The Tree that’s been the real revelation this week; at work, at home, with the volume loud or soft, with background noise inhibiting it or on headphones; some ineffable quality in the music seeps through whatever circumstances I pitch it into and seemingly magically make the day seem calmer.
It’s been my subjective experience that ambient is one of the forms of music that’s easiest to (for lack of a better word) fake, so it’s not as if what appeals to me, what fascinates in Yokota’s music is that it’s vastly different than most of the genre (although his sounds do seem to me to be in and of themselves more beautiful); there’s just some mysterious x-factor about the way he puts them together.
Of course, given that for me Yokota’s work has that “special something”, I’d normally wonder how many others felt the same way; but he’s gotten enough praise that it’s not just me saying he’s on to something.
The music of computer games. From jaunty Dizzy ditties, chronicling notoriously egg-based tales of going from point A to point B and then back again, to the ear-piercing “OOOWEEEE OOOWOOOO, OOOWEEE OOOWOOO” signature riff of The Chaos Engine; these are the discordant sounds which shaped my early musical exposure–and maybe yours too.
Which is why I still believe the original Sensible Soccer theme to be a composition of certain majesty. In the real world, though, game soundtrack plaudits must surely go to some wisecracking, Latin American skeletons.
Let me explain …
Grim Fandango is one of those wave-your-mouse-around-and-combine-objects-with-stuff Lucasarts ‘adventure’ games, in pseudo-3d. With wisecracking, Latin American skeletons. Based (extremely) loosely on the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ festival, and rather more heavily on film noir, it’s all pretty weird and probably sold about three copies. This is a terrible shame, as it’s right up there with the Monkey Island series (also by those crazy kids at Lucasarts–before they became a turgid conveyor belt for shitty Star Wars games) in terms of HOT HOT FUN.
The guys who wrote it clearly loved games. And they loved the people who they envisaged playing their games. Indeed they loved those people so very, very much that they commissioned an exceptional soundtrack. I know precisely nothing about ’swing era bebop and jazz’ (for indeed, the majority of the record is thus), so perhaps it’s all frightfully derivative. Still sounds bloody brilliant though.
Unsurprisingly for a soundtrack from a game which is seven years old, the cd is nigh on impossible to track down. But thanks to some lovely internet obsessives, the whole thing is available to download. Huzzah!
Do yourself a favour and sample the surf-guitar-and-kazoo antics of “Bone Wagon”. At once.
Last week I was surprised by most of the night’s concert. I had gone primarily to see the Sadies, but I showed up in time to seeing the opening act Visqueen. Never having heard of them, I expected some sort of countryish group, but I walked into the sound of a loud dirty guitar and intense vocals (had I known then that their old bassist used to play with the Fastbacks, I’d have guessed exactly what was coming). The group was good, but not quite solid on their stage show yet, mainly lacking some presence. Their banter could use a bit of work, too.
Next up, the Sadies surprised me by how *good* they are. I liked the last disc, Favourite Colours, but I didn’t find it that technically impressive. Live, though, the boys turned in a show full of brilliant alternate picking and honky-tonk chops, and one of the guitarists (the shorter Good brother, I forget their first names) has a great ear for fitting his solos perfectly into the flow of the song; his sense of melody was very impressive.
Finally, Neko Case took the stage (with the Sadies as her backing band). I like her albums okay, but she never blew me away. Seeing her in person, though, I understood just how big her voice is. She also knows how to command a stage and draw in an audience, who offered one marriage proposal and one drunken baby-making offer (watch the hyphens), to which she replied, “I shan’t give you my baby, sir.”
I was also surprised that between sets the DJ kept playing the 2 or 3 same Bad Company songs over and over. When Neko and the Sadies came out for their encore, they went into an improved “Feel Like Making Love.”
Although it always ends up costing me time and money, I love it when an act (or, in this case, acts) can win me over with a live show.
Approaching genres for the first time can be a ridiculously exciting ritual. Although it seems goofy to think so now, I remember listening to the heavy anglophilia of Blur’s “The Great Escape” for the first time and thinking it was one of the most alien and edgy pop records I had ever heard. Such novel charms like this can only last for so long, as obessions quickly breed contempt and banality.
What I find more interesting these days is not the notion of looking back, but the idea of coming back to this music that was your introduction to a genre. It’s amazing how such a fixed medium like music or “the album” can be so amorpheus and evolving. Snow’s “Informer” was the first single I ever bought and played to death, but after recently hearing it for the first time in nearly a decade, it sounded completely different to me and brought up a completely new set of feelings.
This experience has convinced me to start an experiment where I gauge what the nebulous emotions of certains songs/albums are over the course of my life. I’ll get back to you with some results in a couple of decades.
“KORN has parted ways with guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch, who has chosen Jesus Christ as his savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end, KORN respects Brian’s wishes, and hopes he finds the happiness he’s searching for.”
Their recent musical output has been so bad I’m not surprised he sought unconditional love in god’s house (lucky he isn’t gay or an atheist isn’t it).
Eyehategod are from New Orleans. It sounds to me like it’s a different guy singing on Confederacy of Ruined Lives than on their other records, but whenever I look it up it says it’s the same person. Maybe he has two voices. “Serving Time” is in two movies. One of them is Gummo. The funniest scene in that is when they get “lost” looking for the cat. The other best scene was the guy punching the furniture. I bought the soundtrack before I saw the movie. The CD also has Bathory “Equimanthorn”, Brujeria “Matandos Gueros”, Sleep “Dragonaut”, Burzum “Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule der Singularitat” (an ambient instrumental, probably something he did in prison), and Bethlehem “Schuld Uns’res Knoch’rigen Faltpferd” - actually, everything on it is good. The other movie “Serving Time” is in is Without a Paddle. In that film, it’s playing on a poor-quality stereo in an outdoor marijuana growing operation run by two survivalist/biker ex-cons (whose attack dogs are named ‘Lynyrd’ and ‘Skynyrd’) for a corrupt rural sheriff. The heroes of the film are three young urban professionals who destroy the pot plantation (while getting high off the fumes from the burning plants themselves) and hand over the backwoods trio to the state authorities. Humor is made of the yokel sheriff’s dentures, and the city dude smashing a bottle into a creek where a Native American observes, “My children play there.” The Culture Club song in the “buddies united” scene also plays over the end credits.
At first I was peeved that DFA made Death From Above tack on the 1979. Now that I’ve finally heard LCD Soundsystem’s “Tired”, I understand it. ‘Cuz fairly good as You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine is, Mr. Murphy does it better, if a little differently.
Although it’s been overlooked for his more polished work with director Federico Fellini, in 1963 the ordinarily suave Marcello Mastroianni played unkempt labor activist Prof. Sinigaglia, a transient traversing the gradually industrializing villages and towns in southern Italy. Trading his customary braggadocio for abject poverty, Mastroianni settles into the everyday life of the factory workers, who have decided to confront management in the aftermath of yet another maiming at their plant. Undisciplined and angry, their initial attempt at shutting down operations fails, resulting in harsh punishments and fines. It’s not until Sinigaglia’s arrival that the townspeople begin to realize their value and develop a strategy to regain their dignity.
Mastroianni’s accomplishments as a fast talker are well utilized in this film, which more or less accurately represents the difficulties facing workers as they struggle first with collective decision making and the compromises that inhere in the process, and the ensuing strike. Director Mario Monicelli does well to avoid what would be perceived as a balanced portrayal, capturing the grim realities of life during a strike, bone-gnawing hunger foremost among them. Sinagaglia proves a man of ceaseless compassion for his fellow workers - and like any good organizer gets to know everyone personally. In gaining their trust, he assures them that they will win a better contract, but their victory will be nominal at best.
The Organizer, like Visconti’s La Terra Trema, shows Italy in its nationalistic chrysallis, with local interests prevailing over some unimaginable greater good, with demonstrations of solidarity from charitable organizations, local shopkeepers, and the local military who feed the striking workers from their ration of soup. As much as Sinigaglia would like to teach the liturgy of nonviolent civil disobedience, the workers find themselves fighting for their jobs and lives when management imports replacement workers by train, and when the battle on the tracks of the railyard results in the death of their elected representative, the workers recommit themselves to defeating management for the sake of their comrade’s sacrifice.
The Organizer’s message remains one of enduring value - that for progressive underdogs one must maintain optimism and courage in the face of a stronger, brutal opponent whose goal is to convince the poorest among us that their death would be for the greater good, and that they should happily die knowing that they contributed to the national interest. The Organizer demonstrates that the hardfought incremental gains are the stuff of progress, and that there are things bigger than oneself worth believing in and sacrificing for.
Thenk yew verrrry much! Dinosaur Jr are finally being remastered!! You’re Living All Over Me was one of the true casualties of early cd pressing. I want to hear that Feast of Sludge beneath the studio faults! Let’s hope it comes out anywhere near as well as Slanted and Enchanted.
If we all visualize together, maybe we can get the following remastered:
The Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique
Word is, this’ll never make the cut due to sample clearance and Capitol owning the master. I say it’s time for the people to rise up and demand label capitulation. It’s the least they can do after two decades of breaking their promises of better sounding, cheaper music. It would be a larger goodwill gesture than renting music online. Besides, Jacko’s probably distracted enough to give it up on all those Beatles swipes on “The Sounds of Science”. Scheisse, I might have to EQ a copy just to make it loud enough, but it’ll probably lose whatever semblance of crispness it has, as well as those super-bad transitions. The Japanese release tacked on the Love American Style ep, but I don’t think it was remastered, and it’s not very findable or affordable.
The Stone Roses Self-Titled and Turns Into Stone
These two alone can save any near-loser shelf, but it would be so nice if they blasted. Forget the Complete Stone Roses–sorry, but I pity the fool that trades the full length “Something’s Burning” (and to an extent, “One Love”) for 3 1/2 minute versions and the early singles. And editing Fool’s Gold is truly a fool’s errand. Oh, sob, amongst the vanished vinyl is the perfect heavy-ass UK 7″ for “She Bangs the Drums” (built in adapter and all!). Easily my least favorite of their classics, it was saved by “Standing Here”, one of the only nods to Hendrix that’s ever sounded fun and unlabored. Too bad it sounded nearly as good with a cheap Technics plugged in to a boom box as it now does on a stereo worth half of my cd collection. Indeed, that single presaged my whole SR experience. The debut was just so played, I nearly prefer the B-Sides.
The Pixies Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim
The world needs more whores, but c’mon guys (yeah, yeah, Kim’s a girl, but she’s one of the guys), take some pride in your profession! Quit giving us shite b-side compilations that aren’t complete. Don’t bother with an attempted one-disc overview. I pays my money, I want you to put out to the max. Let’s start with Albini Himself mastering and recombining these discs onto one monstrously good sounding comp that’s long enough for a fairly fulfilling lay. And let’s put the ep first. That way, it’s chronological, and “Let’s go, let’s sit, let’s talk, politics go so good with beer…and while we’re at it baby, why don’t you tell me some of your biggest fears” is part of the warm-up, rather than the wind-down. Plus, this time, it could get the track-listing to match the number of tunes, if that’s not too much to ask.
New Order Power, Corruption and Lies and Low Life
Oh, I guess there are lazier ho’s than the Pixies. Now I’m pissed. New Order do not get one more cent from me until they quit with the ludicrous boxes, and maybe even new recordings, and start fucking with Mother Nature herself, by which I mean two decade-defining albums which likely helped along as many adolescences as Prince, The Cure and The Smiths. The current (um, 20+ year old) issues sound tinny and flat, and also do one of the worst translations of album-to-cd art of their era. Additionally, the 12″ singles actually hold up, and would make thoroughly worthy bonus discs to the main features. Anyone remember Dub Vulture? (Um, no new Blue Mondays, thanks). Y’know, visualization is so over–scientific studies prove that cash is more effective. Anyone else willing to pony up $36 in a joint subscription to pre-pay for this? New Order, get your house in order. Until then, please just leave me alone.
I’d been going through my annual should-I-or-shouldn’t-I debate since the announcement of Coachella’s 2005 lineup. I mean, on the one hand, it’s awfully rare to find a collection of so many great artists sharing the same stage… er, the same four stages. But on the other hand, there’s, well, every other factor imaginable. The 2000 miles between myself and Indio, CA. The transportation and accommodation costs, in addition to the $150 two-day tickets. Not to mention the nagging suspicion that the entire experience wouldn’t be worth the time and money.
Okay, a quick breakdown of the Coachella performers I’m most interested in seeing looks something like this: Bloc Party, M83, Spoon, Immortal Technique, Gang of Four, The Arcade Fire, The Fiery Furnaces, Aesop Rock, M.I.A., and The Futureheads. The rest of the acts would just be gravy on top of those ten. Now, barring some sort of Buddy Holly-esque disaster, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to see each of these artists, with the possible exception of the recently reunited Gang of Four, on future tours; and those future shows will take place in venues where I won’t have to watch the band on a video screen or devise a ’stage plan’ to avoid missing their set altogether.
Admittedly, if you’re in it for headliners like Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, and Weezer, maybe this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Maybe it’s well worth it to stand amidst tens of thousands of wanna-be Woodstock revivalists. After all, some of these bands demand upwards of Coachella’s $75 per day rate for their individual shows. And, hey, you’d definitely have some stories to tell.
I’ve talked myself out of attending for yet another year though. Let me know how it goes, guys. The closest I’ll get this spring to experiencing Calfornia’s amalgamation of music’s hottest new artists will come Thursday nights at 8:00 on FOX. And I’m fine with that. I think.
I was reading a copy of the accursed SPIN in the Library the other day, and I was surprised to read a fan’s reaction to their Modest Mouse feature from a few months back.
Basically, she said: “Normally, when I read a piece on a band I like, it makes me think they’d be cool to hang out with. But after reading the piece on Modest Mouse, I don’t even want to live in the same neighbourhood as these guys.”
I was kinda surprised she’d admit to this, but it got me thinking: how much of Modest Mouse’s appeal is based on the fact that Isaac Brock and co. are “white trash?” After all, most of their fans sure aren’t. A musician like Eminem can sing about being white trash and know that a large chunk of his fanbase will either relate, or assume they can relate. I doubt the same can be said of the MM fanbase, especially prior to their mustachioed rise to fame. I think, on one level, the band played a role similar to that of most rappers, titilating their (upper)middle-class white fanbase with lurid depictions of life on the other side of Dick Cheney’s America.
This probably relates to the fact that, at least in my experience, a majority of Modest Mouse fans are female.
In other news…S-K have appealed to their fans not to circulate their new album. I, for one, will abide by their wishes. It’s one thing to steal music from, say, Jeff Tweedy. If anything, you’re not “enabling” him if you bootleg his shit. But stealing from good musicians like Sleater-Kinney is wrong, if they ask you nicely not to do it.
Beautiful and damned Asbury Park, New Jersey is at it again. Asbury Lanes, the birthday party stomping grounds of my youth, is now a punk rock venue. The syrupy soda water I used to love is now PBR. The alley bumper balloons have been cleared away so bands can play where I used to bowl.
In high school, the famous Stone Pony was similarly co-opted so that hardcore shows would displace the obligatory Southside Johnny concerts (I hope Bruce shows up tonight!). I loved the idea that the kids had recreated the Jersey Shore to make it relevant to my generation. It’s happening all over again, except this time it’s my memories that are being remodeled.
History repeats itself, Asbury takes on its 10th life, and I have a legitimate reason to return home.
—Why don’t you stop writing about writing about Husker Du and just write about them? – Sarah Jane Smith, South Jersey, NJ
—This is in regard to that excuse of an album reviewer, Gregg Turner… - Unsigned, Rochester, NY
—I am thoroughly disgusted with that completely stupid fool who calls himself Richard Riegel… - L.S., Dallas, TX
—Kordosh – not Howard Jones – should eat his words! Why should a writer put his own feelings into an article?… - Unsigned, Miami, FL
—I am writing to you in response to your article “I Am the Cheese – The Doors: Dance on Fire (MCA Home Video)” by Dave DiMartino. In the article, Mr. DiMartino said that Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, had “tragically perished in Paris in 1971”. Seeing as Jim Morrison’s disappearance is such a controversial subject, I don’t think it was right to print that comment. His death was never confirmed. I think that Jim Morrison is still alive and I think there are others who would agree with me. – D. Weiss, Brooklyn, NY
ROCK’N’ROLL NEWS (p 7)
—Maybe the ultimate super-session, sort of: Nationally syndicated radio host Richard Belzer “treated” his listeners to an impromptu live jam session not long ago. As the show was closing, the house band began playing “Johnny B. Goode”, and guests Kevin Cronin, of REO, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, of the Talking Heads, and Joe Lynn Turner, ex of Rainbow and the much more famous fandango, just couldn’t resist. Joe Lynn took the first verse and Kev the second, with the two Heads joining in on the chorus.
‘WE’LL MEAT AGAIN: DOING IT SMITHS-STYLE’
—“I musty be quite honest,” announces Morrisey of the Smiths. “I can understand that people can find me very irritating. And I accept that to an almost absurd degree, because I know that I’m not…I’m not…well, I’m not really a pop pushover. And they can irritate people, because they want their music to be quite simplistic, and they don’t really want any fuss and bother and any seriousness. And I know I’ll certainly never fit into that bill. But ultimately I feel that if people are saying no to the Smiths, they’re saying yes to Madonna. And I find that the biggest sin of all.”…
…The Smiths are putting to vinyl some of the finest songs in ages. Songs attuned to a consciousness that is uniquely tied to the ‘80s, but, as the saying goes, timeless. Songs that are brutal, open and honest – about sex, about love, about despair and about hope. About a lot of things that it is very easy to make fun of these past few years, because making fun is sometimes easier than making love. And if you can understand that, perhaps you can understand the Smiths as well…
…”I can’t really be hestitant about the opinions that I have of Sire because I do feel quite bitter about the way we’ve been treated. I feel we were signed originally as a gesture of hipdom on their part, and that was really it…they’ve made several marketing disasters which have really been quite crippling us in ways. For instance, the release of the last single “How Soon is Now” was released in an abhorrent sleeve – and the time and the dedication that we put into our sleeves and artwork, it was tearful when we finally saw the record. And they also released the album ‘Meat is Murder’ with the track “How Soon is Now” unlisted, without printing the lyrics. They released the cassette without the track “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”, which is absolutely central to our new stage performance.
And also we can discuss a video they made. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Smiths – but quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying ‘Why on earth did you make this foul video’? And of course it must be understand that Sire made that video, and we saw the video and we said to Sire, ‘You can’t possibly release this…this degrading video’. And they said ‘Well maybe you shouldn’t really be on our label’. It was quite disastrous – and it need hardly be mentioned that they also listed the video under the title “How Soon is Soon”, which…where does one begin, really?” – Dave DiMartino
‘JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP – WORKING CLASS HERO IN THE RUMBLESEAT’
—“…As of late, John has also been one of the most vocal opponents of the move by a group of bored Washington wives to put a rating system on rock LPs, and his name is frequently associated with the Musical Majority, though he claims the “organization” is really just a list of people who oppose censorship….he compares the ratings effort to how McCarthy blacklisting began in the 50s. “It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I don’t really like ‘Fuck Like a Beast’ – but if you look forward and backwards, you can see what’s coming. Before long, K-Mart’ll say we got too many X and R records, and then you’ll be lucky to get Olivia Newton-John because her clothes are too tight. We’ll be lucky if we end up with the Archies.”…
…”He says he’s “kinda disappointed” in “R.O.C.K. (In the U.S.A.) and “Justice and Independence ‘85” (“I don’t think people are getting the idea what the song’s about, so I must’ve not done a very good job”).” - Bill Holdship
—“’Rain Dogs’ compares well only sporadically with vintage Waits albums and it’s doubtful whether the producing hand – no matter how shaky – of Bones Howe has ever been more sorely missed. Caroming through no fewer than 19 songs (who does he think he is, Elvis Costello?), Waits doesn’t so much cajole and even implicate the listener, as he’s done in the past, as bombard him with an array of vocal impressions that may call the blatant impostures of a Leon Redbone, the very worst excesses of Robert Newton in a ‘Treasure Island’ movie or – who knows? – the supremely sublime dumbness of Lee Marvin growling his way through “Wand’rin Star”. But let’s not forget Lee had a number one single in Britain with that strained little record.” – Edouard Dauphin
—“…I don’t think this one’s as good as the first. Also, I have trouble with jazz-tinged pop – the effect always strikes me as craftily calculated to simulate sophistication. Why bother? And too often here [Prefab Sprout] crosses that fine line not only between easy listening and worth hearing music but also between lyrics that are subtly off-center and preciously sappy…Having voiced these major reservations, I must add that McAloon still comes up with a pithy aphorism now and then and has a pleasant enough soft-toned but intense vocal style, appropriately enough for his somewhat doomy love songs…now if they could just find a decent use for co-vocalist Wendy Smith, who is pretty much reduced here to background ‘oohs’ and subverting McAloon’s vocals with unnecessary sweetening.” – Richard C. Walls
—“On their ridiculously overblown debut, ‘The Lexicon of Love’, ABC got lucky twice. “The Look of Love” (not the Lesley Gore classic) and “Poison Arrow” overcame overwrought settings and snared you with some luscious hooks. On the luckless, hookless follow up, ‘Beauty Stab’, they fell flat on their silly faces and just laid there while millions shrugged their shoulders and walked on by. And now on ‘How to Be a Zillionaire’, they’ve returned after a sizeable hiatus with a revamped line-up and loads of new material to present us with what has to be one of the year’s biggest clinkers. How do they manage to maintain such a level of consistency?
It’s easy when you’ve got a crashing, hand-wringing bore like Martin Fry at the helm. Thanks to Fry’s stuffy, flatulent leadership, ABC is a wretched mix of Bowie at his most pretentious, Ferry at his most melodramatic, a dozen hackneyed techno-pop qroups with witless delusions of grandeur, and off-Broadway musicals that close on opening night.
The songs here are pathetically mundane. Combine that with Fry’s bargain basement emoting and a production that pushes everything to excess and you’re talking major disaster. All the beat box techniques, the flashy synth moves, the bloated brass arrangements (makes early Chicago look sedate!), the 101 vocal tracks – all this and more is thrown on in a desperate attempt to liven things up. If you listen carefully, you can hear ‘Zillionaire’ collapse under its own bloated weight.
A helf-decent number like the semi-subdued “Be Near Me” qualifies as a genuine respite from the bombast surrounding it (Fry does his best to sink it with an anemic reading). Fatalities are everywhere. “Fear of the World” and “Vanity Kills” go heavy on the whiplash percussion while unbelievably dumb horns buttress equally stupid disco femme vocals.
“’(How to Be A) Millionaire” employs Chic-like guitar, while ‘So Hip It Hurts’ employs ‘Shaft’-like guitar and goosed “whoo!’s” from more dopey babes. Neither one is worth a damn but both pale beside the Excedrin headache proportions of ’15 Storey Halo’ which sounds like the Manhattan Transfer tripping on some extremely bad acid.
Speaking of bummers, how could I forget the putrid Duranish fey-funk of ‘A to Z’? It serves as a half-assed way for the band to introduce themselves one by one, including the token female who I quote verbatim (Tipper Gore’s gonna love this): “Hi, I’m Eden. I want you…to kiss…my…snatch.
Well, Eden, I want you…and the rest of your gang…to consider early retirement. Because – confidentially – you stink.” – Craig Zeller
—“Oh joy, another Thompson Twins record. Yet another chance to have every rancid cliché about British-synthesizer-bands-with-silly-haircuts endorsed in full. Again on their fourth LP, the Twins display their uncanny talent for turning fair, openminded people (like yours truly) into raging Anglophobes, hell-bent on cracking every synthesizer on the planet over ever dumb coif in sight.
Actually, on the sheer dullness scale, the Thompsons have outdone themselves this time…Nile Rodgers’ production (which I’d hoped would add some punch) doesn’t do squat here…
…The idea of a band doing a song about how exotic Japan is in 1985 deserves a special cliché award. And speaking of cliches, can you believe all this “future days” stuff – in the LP title, song and the band’s management company? I mean, who could be naďve enough to think of the Thompson’s style of synth-fashion as futuristic or even honestly modern? Instead it’s just an ‘80s version of bland-out corporate rock – Foreigner in funny clothes.” – Jim Farber
—“The true genius of ‘Scarecrow’ is its raw, uncompromising sound…Aronoff’s drums build and build in ominous ferocity through the “Rain on the Scarecrow” opener, as Mellencamp’s vocals, John Cascella’s darkly Animalesque organ, and the other instruments chime in with equal anger. And even though the song is ‘about’ the problem of farm foreclosures, the total music is so powerful that it conveys universal existential rage. I’ve listened to “Rain on the Scarecrow” dozens of times already, each time it just knocks me down and flattens me out…’Scarecrow’ is full of great lines smashing in their something matters casualness….
…Even “Justice and Independence ‘85’”, which has already taken some critical flak as an awkwardly symbolic “fable”, works just fine for me. People out here in the Great Midwest really do have names like “Justice” and “Nation”, and the song’s actually as literal an everyday story as any Bob “Minnesota Bats” Dylan’s ever written. Feel free to read more into “Justice and Independence ‘85” if you like, though. For an unabashed anthem, try the rousing “You’ve Got to Stand For Somethin’”, which is not John playing coy, but putting his excruciating process of self-discovery on the line for us one more time. - Richard Riegel
—“In the first place, I hate dopes like Starship. In the second place, I hate them even more as they get older and their music gets so sterile that surgeons should wipe their hands on their dopey albums before they open the chest cavity. And in the third place, I hate them in the first place.
Knee deep in the hoopla? Sure they are. I think we can all accept that at face value. Why they don’t get around to mentioning that they’re over their heads in the sheer mundanity of being themselves is anyone’s guess. Well, maybe we’re supposed to figure it out for ourselves.
Consider “Sara”, a song, it’s safe to conclude, that was written to deliberately appeal to saps named Sara or sappy guys who have girlfriends named Sara. (It’s getting to be a popular name – look it up.) Anyway, you can just see some jerk in a lounge with “Sara” – they’re probably both drinking grasshoppers or whatever these morons drink – and the guy looks at her and says “Sara, storms are brewing in your eyes.” Or “no time is a good time for goodbyes”. Then the saps get hot for each other and go home and listen to this album, which features those very lyrics. Personally, I hope the slut gets pregnant during this song.” – J. Kordosh
—“…the Dream Academy are a lame derivative of what used to be progressive (ha!) rock…
Danger signs abound. Apart from the name of this British trio, which sounds stupid and means nothing to boot, note the producers: lead singer Nick Laird-Clowes (another idiotic moniker) and David Gilmour. Yes, Gilmour of Pink Floyd, the monumentally dull group…the clowns in Dream Academy bear the standard for another generation of charlatans, all puffed up like they’ve got heavy messages to impart. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course…most irritating, Dream Academy assume they’ve mastered a style simply by adapting its most superficial qualities…isn’t it pathetic when the best song reaches the heights of romantic movie shlock? Yes.” – Jon Young
—“…She was short, had long, real long blonde hair; was wearing an outrageously tight pair of 501s and an OFFICIAL MULTI-COLORED JUDAS PRIEST ‘SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE’ TOUR t-shirt that chummily highlighted her small breasts.
Calmly, cooly, he put his Busch into his back pocket, images of Matt Dillon in ‘Rumble Fish’ and the Priest’s “Love Bites” screaming through his head like some new, fantastic designer drug: collected all the gremlins of cool he’d invented earlier that day and siddled up to her like some scared pagan genuflecting to a stone idol. From the blaster the sound distracted him, if only for a moment. But what sounds he thought, they were without a doubt metal but they weren’t wishy washy, or wimped-out, they were cold, hard and hit the mind like the rush of amyl nitrate. He liked it like nothing he’d heard in quite some time. And he hadn’t the slightest idea of who it was and because he was COOL and he knew all the best jams it was beginning to really bug him.
After what seemed like an eternity the tape ended. The girl’s eyes snapped open were the deep green color of sin. His eyes still clouded from thinking spoke up, then so did he, “Cash jams, man!”
“Oh, yeah. Who’re you, dude?” she replied, her voice as soft and low as the purring of some great jungle cat padding its way through a silent, moist antidiluvian twilight.
“Uhhh…who’s the band…sounds pretty cash”, he replied, the courage of teenage surging through his veins with all the repressions of inadequacy and rage that were his young soul.
“Oh, uh, they’re called, Husker Du, this is their new record, it’s called ‘Flip Your Wig’…” – Joe (He Comes in Colors) Fernbacher
‘ON ROCK CRITICISM’ (‘Eleganza’ column)
—““Face it”, challenges Eleganzophobe John Leavy of Astoria, New York, “people who’ll say they like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ must lie about other things too.
“I’ll give you an example of why I hold your profession in contempt,” he writes, betraying a shocking misperception of Eleganza as rock, rather than social criticism. He goes on to note that in his New York Times review of the videotape ‘Asia in Asia’, Stephen Holden first wrongly identified the group’s singer as John Wetton (rather than the unmistakably tubbier Greg Lake), and then described the song “Don’t Cry” as one of the concert’s high points – even though the group never played it!
“You probably detest ‘corporate rock’, the Leav quite correctly presumes, “and don’t see the harm in what Holden did. You figure, ‘People who like Asia will ignore him. They always do.’ But in that case, why should readers listen to Holden when he raves about Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and all the other usual critics’ favorites? How do I know he really listened to R.E.M.’s latest record?”
Well, let me say at the outset that you’ve asked the right person. I’ve been writing about rock’n’roll longer, often to my limitless chagrin, than many of you have been alive, and much less long than others of you. I’ve seen it all and done most of it. I’ve been given a huge bag of primo shit backstage by Ike Turner. Greeted David Bowie, wearing a dress and makeup, at an international airport. Sipped java with Adam Ant. Been threatened from the stage of the Anaheim Convention Center by Led Zeppelin. Helped Ian Dury off a stage. Exploited the hospitality of Mr And Mrs Greil Marcus and taken potshots in print at Dave Marsh. Been humiliated at tennis by Pretenders producer Chris Thomas, and humiliated John Cale. Watched Robin Trower read an Agatha Christie mystery on an Ozark Airlines jetliner. Begrudged Iggy Pop a cigarette. Dropped names. Carried a torch for Capitol Records’ West Coast head of publicity. Munched chick peas and hobnobbed with homosexual tastemakers at Max’s Kansas City with Lisa Robinson. Been complimented on my attire by Jimi Hendrix.
I’ve performed in makeup and pink hot pants on local television. Been ignored by Foghat groupies and Billy Altman and ‘Spin’, ridiculed by David Lee Roth.Stolen cans of chilled beer from Alice Cooper’s dressing room in view of brawny roadies. Ridden in Pete Townshend’s chauffeured automobile years after deciding not to steal his unguarded gold sequin jacket from the Who’s Winterland dressing room. Giggled appreciatively while Ray Davies phoned Zippy the Chimp. Written a book about Ray Davies and other Kinks that he’s condemned in no uncertain terms. Affixed chewing gum, in a fit of pique, to the forehead of noted Doors co-biographer and poet Danny Sugarman. Caused Neil Young and ‘Rolling Stone’ to cease to be on speaking terms. Watched television with Mick Jagger, glimpsed a former member of Jethro Tull in his jockey shorts, and been sneered at, because of my long hair and American accent, by the Clash. Been mistaken for Freddie Mercury. Nearly had one of my songs covered by the Paley Bros., whoever they are. Harmonized, while drunk, with Al (“Year of the Cat”) Stewart, and regretted it later. I know whereof I speak.
Most rock criticism (like most movie criticism) is worse than worthless, has nothing to do with anything but its perpetrators’ yearning for easy money and attention, is written by parasites with neither a clue as to what they’re talking about nor the ability to talk about it in a way that’s fun to read.
Because music’s an emotional, rather than an intellectual, medium, rock criticism should be relied on no farther than you could throw Greg Lake if he were tied to John Wetton. You don’t need a rock critic to tell you if a record touches or excites you, or fails to. Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” makes me, who has seen it all and done most of it for longer than many of you’ve been alive, tingle. If it makes you yawn, is it because your tastes aren’t as sophisticated as mine, or because you’re not as knowledgeable? Who cares, when any emotional response is as legitimate as any other? Consider, that I’m entirely unashamed to admit that, the trillions of ecstatic reviews it’s received notwithstanding, Imyself continue to find the music of X, for example, unlistenable. I’m unashamed to never have been able to fathom Lou Reed’s appeal. I’ve always thought Tom Petty sounded as though he’d been made up by Stan Freberg, and unrepentantly.
The key notion here is that music criticism is fundamentally futile because it necessarily tries to discuss emotional responses in intellectual terms.
Let’s consider another example. I regard Greil Marcus’s chapter on punk Rock in ‘Rolling Stone’s Illustrated History of Rock and Roll’, specifically the part about the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”, as some of the best writing-about-rock I’ve ever encountered. It, in fact, makes me tingle. And yet, on my own list of fave Pistols hits, “Vacant” ranks well below many that presumably didn’t excite Greil at all. Is he at fault, or am I? Again, nobody’s at fault.
Similarly, I regard J.D. Considine as the most musically perceptive rock critic at work today, while I’ve long disdained the ‘Los Angeles Times’’ Robert Hilburn, to name but one member of what let’s call English Teacher School of rock criticism – that which virtually ignores music (or, at best, mumbles inanities about ‘textures’) and instead talks endlessly about lyrics. And yet, it wouldn’t perplex me in the slightest to learn that Bob and I both adored something that Considine loathed, or vice versa.
In my own perception, the best rock critics are those who write most entertainingly, content to be farted at. But most, like the ‘San Francisco Chronicle’’s Joel Selvin, whose stuff is both literarily inert and littered with such imbecilic pronouncements as that Phil Collins’ voice is “squeaky” or that Paul Kantner (clearly the worst songwriter in rock) is an estimable artist, make it on neither count.
For the record, I know I haven’t even addressed John Leavy’s question yet, let alone answered it. But before I continue to not do so, I’d like to offer a couple more observations. The first is that rock critics are almost invariably hostile to technique, that which lots of audiences find most exciting. That Toto, say, or better yet, Asia play their instruments extraordinarily skillfully serves only to antagonize the average rock critic, even while it thrills the average audience. (I admit to the same bias – acknowledging, as I do so, that it probably has as much to do with my own musical powers of conception having always far surpassed my powers of execution.) But where is it written in stone that Lou Reed, of the incompetently expressed idiosyncratic vision, is artistically (wince!) superior to Foreigner’s Mick Jones, of the flawlessly expressed, but utterly prosaic vision? Nowhere is where, and you have no reason to be ashamed for being made to tingle by “I Want to Know What Love Is”, to squirm by ‘The Blue Mask’. Your visceral responses are every bit as legitimate as Robert Christgau’s, Jay Cocks’s and Joe Fernbacher’s. Let no one tell you different.” – John Mendelssohn
‘THE AGONY AND THE ABC’ (P 37)
—“’Beauty Stab’ bit the big one commercially…the band’s record company hated it so much, they ignored it entirely. But now ABC’s new album has turned things around, already spawning a #1 dance hit with “Be Near Me”. The new ‘How to Be A Zillionaire’ comes closer to the original ‘Lexicon of Love’ mold with humongous hooks, big dance beats and enough glamour/romance themes to make Bryan Ferry a truly jealous guy. Suspicious, eh? “I don’t see ‘Zillionaire’ as a xerox of any of the records we’ve done before,” asserts Martin Fry. “In a funny sort of way I think it’s an amalgam of the first two…’Beauty Stab’ was our ‘Nebraska’”, he says in dead earnest. “It’s an unheralded masterpiece.” – Jim Farber
‘THOMPSON TWINS – CAN YOU SPOT THE REPLICANT?’ (P 42)
—“TOM: The thing that was really personal throughout [Live Aid] was that there was no major government involvement – just like there hasn’t been any in the whole Ethiopian problem, anyway. It’s a personal movement of the people, using, if you like, people like us to provide a context to get money. Which is fine. I see it as no coincidence that Reagan chose that day to have his operation.
CREEM: Reagan didn’t even send a pre-taped message.
TOM: No. And I’m pleased he did nothing. I’m pleased that there’s no involvement. I hope it’s really embarrassing to the government to be shown such a grand gesture, to know that people could do it without their help. You don’t have to wait another five years and vote before someone’s life can be saved. You can go ahead and do it right now.” – Edouard Dauphin
(Photograph of Madonna (p 47) that, while I have masturbated to it, isn’t as good as the one of her on p 23 of the May 1986 issue, which almost broke my dick )
‘ROCK CHRONICLES 1985 – THE YEAR THAT WAS!’ (p 47)
—““This is your Woodstock, and it’s long overdue”, said Joan Baez in introducing the American half of the much-ballyhooed Live Aid show. And she was right. Many of the artists were not only old enough to have played the legendary ’69 show, more than a few actually did.
Despite the reunions of such gramps as Black Sabath, the Who, CSN&Y and Led Zeppelin, Live Aid was singularly unexciting. Most commentators seized upon the Tina Turner/Mick Jagger duet in a good-willed attempt to describe the “electricity” of the event, but more sanguine critics will recall Bob Dylan’s amateur night effort with sidemen Keith Richards and Ron Wood. Or Paul McCartney’s inexplicable choice of “Let it Be” – in bold opposition to the very concept of Live Aid. Or U2, who still haven’t bothered to learn the lyrics of any Stones song they cover.
On a positive note, Live Aid did raise over $50 million for a very worthwhile cause. On an historical note, the 16-hour show was the biggest broadcast of all time, being watched by 1.6 billion people in 156 countries. On an aesthetic note, Prefab Sprout still haven’t toured America.” - J. Kordosh
—“I always find it most refreshing to begin a hefty year’s analysis by examining what really reeked about a given year. And make no mistake, many things reeked. Take X, for example. Their new album, ‘Ain’t Love Grand’, is certainly as good as any of their past efforts, true: unfortunately it, like all the others, is poorly played, poorly sung, poorly conceived and genuinely poor. Don’t you agree? Furthermore, let’s not forget related efforts by the Knitters and Danny and Dusty’s ‘The Lost Weekend’. Have you ever had the feeling that some group of people – be they record company A&R staffs or rock critics – is playing a tremendous practical joke of which you are the butt? You should…Incidentally, Green on Red stink…and as for Mr Bob Dylan, his ‘Empire Burlesque’ may well be his most unlistenable album since, I dunno, a bunch of his other ones. Bad stuff…Don’t ask me why, but I actually own a copy of Marilyn’s ‘Despite Straight Lines’ album. I figure if I rub the cover hard enough, the missing half of the title will show up. You know, the one that says ‘Despite Straight Lines of People Lined All the Way to the Bathroom, You Will Indeed Get Your Fair Chance to Vomit After Hearing This, So Don’t Worry’…
Would it be hipper if I told you that the new albums by the Blasters, the Bongos, the Pale Fountains, Translator, and Three O’Clock were new wave sludge? That the C.S. Angels were worse than ever? That Lloyd Cole and the Commotions made an album that sounds like someone reading a table of contents?…
Australian band to watch: The Triffids, ‘Raining Pleasure’ EP
Best pop album of the year: Strawberry Switchblade’s.
Second best album of 1985: The Smiths, ‘Meat is Murder’.
Best album of 1985, bar none, for now and all eternity: Prefab Sprout’s ‘Two Wheels Good’.” – Dave DiMartino
PRIME TIME - ‘SPANK ME SENATOR, FASTER, FASTER’
—…”’Cause that’s what struck me as most noteworthy about the proceedings, the attitudes of the various senators toward the witnesses pro and con, toward the music in question, toward the issues involved…in most cases there was that veneer of civility, but always just underneath and often flashing to the surface, one saw the ugly face of authority that perceives it is being challenged. Of course, after being primed by the notorious Parents’ Music Resource Center’s Jeff Ling and his misleading and manipulative (and hilarious) presentation of the issue, the senators had little choice – if one is relying on the PMRC as the sole source of information about rock music in 1985, then one can’t be entirely blamed for panicking. Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Washington) informed Zappa that his testimony was “boorish and insulting” (which pretty much sums up the senators’ perception of rock music in general – with the possible exception of Sen. Gore, a slippery fish I can’t pin down in the limited space I have here.) Gorton also told Zap that he didn’t “have the slightest understanding” of the First Amendment – a pointed reminder that who-has-what-rights is an arcane area that only senators are knowledgeable enough to see clearly.
So the parents had the kids in the den for a little heart-to-heart. And if that way of looking at it seems too fanciful for you, try this take: the vast majority of examples continually given of objectionable lyrics are by either black performers and/or heavy metal groups, suggesting that perhaps the perceived threat to authority is more class-based than generational.” – Richard C Walls
CREEM SHOWCASE (Scott K Fish & Billy Cioffi) p 65
—“STEVE SMITH: …made a bold move in releasing his two Vital Information albums. A lot of rock musicians give lip service to their jazz influences, but Smith has used part of his financial success with Journey to get Vital Information off the ground, and to give something back to the jazz world. His drumming with Vital Information is far removed from his work with Journey and covers the full spectrum of jazz styles.”
—“NEIL PEART: …Many of his fans are as taken by Peart’s lyrics as by his drumming. He has been given the misnomer ‘science fiction lyricist’; a person deeply influenced by writer Ayn Rand. This stemmed from Rush’s ‘2112’ album, in which Ayn Rand was acknowledged as having written a book with a similar story line. Peart has said that of the 13 or 14 albums he’s recorded, perhaps a total of two-and-a-half albums worth of songs deal with sci-fi topics. He termed the sci-fi label as a critical cop-out.”
—“ALEX VAN HALEN: Drums: Ludwig. Three bass drums (26” by 28”, 24” x 28” and 24” x 14”), five single-headed toms (12”, 13”, 14” and 18”), two Roto toms (Remo), and a snare drum (6 ˝” x 14”). Cymbals: Paiste. A 20” ride, a 24” ride, a 20” China, a 20” medium, a 20” heavy, an 18” rude, 15” hi-hats (top hi hat is a 2002, bottom hi-hat is a rude), and a gong. Electronic drums: Simmons, three pads.”
NEWBEATS (p 75)
—“Elvis Costello likes Paddy McAloon. Critics with English degrees like his like him, and people who like gorgeous songs, reminiscent of late-night jazz stations, passionate and cool – quirky-cool not hip-cool like him. Paddy’s in Prefab Sprout; he’s their songwriter, guitar player, lead singer and founding member…a sort of Marc Bolan spirit in Steely Dan’s body listening to Dylan and the Beach Boys while fasting for Lent….”There’s been some funny things written about us. How can you counteract this? It’s just that I try to be honest and write from a point of view that’s true to the things I’ve done, and I have been educated, so I can’t write as if I was educated on the streets, because I wasn’t…black love music is very good at using poverty-stricken English language and it doesn’t mean a damn, nobody’s ever bothered that they don’t use rich expressions – just workaday language. But I’m a white boy and I can’t go for that, as Daryl Hall would say…You’ve got to use different tools. I don’t think people my age anyway can use that. We don’t have the strength of that kind of voice. So my emphasis has to be lyrical, and the structure of the music…I always sound so bloody academic!”” – Sylvie Simmons
—“Today, Cabaret Voltaire’s live shows feature nonstop visuals that assault the senses with a chaotic barrage of unsettling images, no less effective for being low-budget. Next, they’d like to get into feature films. “We’ve just written a script,” says Kirk. “We’re just looking for funding.” What kind of movie is it? “A surrealistic thriller. I’m a big fan of Bunuel. Need I say more?”…As Kirk cheerfully explains, “We make the music we want to make, and say, ‘Fuck you’ to everyone else. If people don’t like it, they don’t buy it.” – Jon Young
As part of an ongoing effort to bring lesser known films to light, The Projector, in conjunction with The Dark of the Matinée, introduces a new feature entitled Being There.
Several films set in the aftermath of WWII feature the natural landscape as mise en scčne, an idea that has its foundation in Rosselini’s neorealist visions in Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero, their grainy portraiture depicting hopelessness and loss in tragic, human form, engendering sympathy for the innocent and vanquished, in much the same manner De Sica does with his neorealist classic The Bicycle Thief.
As equally complicated artistically are the films that capture the difficulty of international resistance, notably Joseph Losey’s Mr. Klein, in which Alain Delon plays an apolitical art merchant who finds himself betrayed in a case of mistaken identity. Identity figures centrally in other WWII dramas and mysteries, wherein primary characters believe themselves immune to the political drama unfolding around them, such as Orson Welles in Carol Reed’s The Third Man and William Holden in George Seaton’s The Counterfeit Traitor.
In these films, the central character finds himself torn between two selves, and its the duality that tests his will throughout the film, resulting in a dichotomous relationship between the physical and the metaphysical realm in which authority renders self-identification meaningless. For Delon and Welles, it means their roles are those of fugitives from themselves, whereas Holden as Eric Erickson is imprisoned by his position as a wealthy American expatriate, an industrialist who’s being manipulated by Allied intelligence to break Hitler’s oil supply. It’s Erickson who is pressed into service as an agent for trading oil with the Nazis; as a neutral Swede he is free to do so, but clearly not without consequences. Instead of allowing him an easy release from the blacklist, the Allied agents insist that he use his status and seeming Nazi sympathies to their advantage, providing them access to the highest echelons of the Nazi administration, including the location of refineries and infrastructure, as well as the research and development of weapons that could win the war for fascism.
Holden’s performance is one of tortured, quiet anguish. Unable to reveal his intentions to his closest friends and wife, he finds himself alone, a convention of the genre. Unlike Mr. Klein, who leads a life of denial and despair, or Harry Lime’s psychosis as a lesson on how to disappear completely, imperfectly estranged from his own lived reality, yet unable to assume a new identity, Holden is present to all those in his life and must find ways to vacillate between his agnosticism on free markets and morality and his determination to maintain his dogged loyalty to his German friends, who like him, find themselves complicit in the machinations of Realpolitik. Like the torturer in Kafka’s penal colony, Erickson’s epiphany costs him dearly, and understanding the horror of war requires risking everything to be human.
Since many cultural critics mark the end of World War II and the start of the nuclear era as the locus of the post modern turn, it’s interesting to find that the themes of these films are so quintessentially modern - found in the struggles of individuals against the political and economic imperatives that dictate their living conditions, regardless of their class position. In fact, it is that these films cast their protagonists as ciphers insulated by virtue of money and mobility, only to resort to their basest instincts in an effort to survive, to say nothing of any attempt to preserve their status. Stripped of those luxuries, they find themselves pitted against the classic modern struggle of man against man, and a test of their Being against the nihilistic Void.
For a major studio film, The Counterfeit Traitor has its subtle moments. As Erickson’s transformation from disinterested capitalist to encumbered fugitive is completed, the film trends toward themes of collective action, including a short-lived strike at a Polish labor camp to a Danish bicycle blockade in the Copenhagen streets. Finally, Erickson learns his fortune when a sickly Jewish refugee (played by Klaus Kinski) dies to spare the life of his fellow man. The poignancy and quiet dignity with which the film concludes is a virtuous display of humanism. As we find ourselves today in an era dominated by free market doctrine, genocide, and the conglomerate strength of the global power elite, one would hope that the liberal capitalists like Soros and others would make a similar sacrifice that extends beyond policy critique.
i’d like to say that i am overwhelmingly prepared to offer my meager thoughts for the blog today, but that would be a lie, a lie made evident not only by my expository revelation, but by this fluff itself. i have a stellar fever though, so forgive me.
a few shout outs, brief and simple:
fake jazz has an ad for halliburton. i’m not even suggesting some totally bratty moral conclusion, only that it seems hilariously incongruous. thank you money and advertising, for reminding us that the market can produce the coolest free-improv skronk around.
the cocteau twins! all these years they’ve been in my consciousness, hiding behind crap like enigma and enya. thank you, the cocteau twins, for growing like mold in my mind, only to become the ripest, most unusual, and highly enjoyable of cheeses.
An open letter to the uninitiated by Nick Southall.
I hate Kasabian for many reasons. Firstly, I hate the etymology of their name. Linda Kasabian is the name of Charles Manson’s getaway driver, or something. She was certainly a member of the “Manson Family”. Some might write that off as tasteless in the extreme, but tasteless has never bothered me particularly – I’m a Chris Morris fan. It’s rather the fact that this deliberate self-association with infamous murderers and the darker aspects of pop culture smacks of “keeping it real” in the most affected and unreal way possible (people DIED, that’s SO REAL); it’s not designed to shock in the sense that shock = realigning peoples perception of everyday life enabling them to better live that life. It’s about looking cool because your parents might take offence, which is never good.
I hate the way they dress with that faux rock aristocracy conceit, all scarves, choppy, highlighted feather cuts and vintage jackets from designer second-hand shops. I hate their shitty, over-considered facial hair. I hate their professional lad personas, the fact that they’re from Leicester and like football and drinking and swearing, the fact that they veil their song titles in vaguely drug-centric acronyms because, presumably, they think that doing so is cool. It’s the same with The Libertines and all the crack-chic that follows them around, the heroin-mystique; I thought thinking drugs were cool had become passé years ago.
But most of all I hate their fucking awful music. I hate their shitty beats and shouty choruses, their Beatles-aping, rockist-pleasing backwards fills, the whole fucking shitty lads-down-the-disco aesthetic. I hate the fact that they called a song “Processed Beats” when it doesn’t sound very processed and barely has a beat. I hate the fact that critics praise them by using phrases like “They’re a classic indie disco band”, as if that a; had any meaning or b; was a good thing in the slightest. I hate the fact that they were nominated for Brit Awards in the same year that the dance category was disbanded. Dizzee Rascal, Talvin Singh and Roni Size have both won the Mercury Prize in recent years. Dance music is not a scary, radical, leftfield concern anymore. It does not need watering down for the proles.
People keep saying they sound like Primal Scream, but I have never heard Primal Scream do anything as clunky and boring and lager-lout obnoxious as “LSF” or “Cut Off”. Is this the legacy of Screamadelica? Lest we forget, that album didn’t embrace dance culture by sticking a clumsy hip hop beat and some widdly effects over a three-chord indie strum+shout. Perhaps people mean latter-day Primal Scream, but I don’t know where they’d get that from. Vanishing Point is a dub record, XTRMNTR a discopunkwhitenoise leviathan which spawned The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, Evil Heat is basically electroclash-meets-krautrock. Perhaps they mean the much maligned Give Out But Don’t Give Up, a clumsy blues-funk album. Kasabian are closer to “Rocks” or “Jailbird” than anything else Primal Scream have done.
People keep saying Kasabian sound like The Stone Roses – which songs in The Stone Roses catalogue sound ANYTHING like Kasabian’s snarling masculinity? “Fools Gold”? With its intricate groove (the 10-beat kick-drum loop on that song is more intricate and inspired than anything I’ve heard from Kasabian), its bassline cribbed from Can, it’s ten-minute lope that still sounds strange and alien today? Or maybe “Begging You”? No, it’s still a hundred times more furious and exciting than anything Kasabian could come up with, the sequencing more radical, the beats less predictable, the lyrics more intriguing.
People keep saying Kasabian sound like Happy Mondays. I saw the video for “Wrote For Luck” for the first time in ages the other day. Kasabian sound nothing like that. New Order. !!!. Lo Fidelity Allstars. Daft Punk. Prodigy. LCD Soundsystem. Basment Jaxx. Even Black Grape, for heaven’s sake. All have mixed dance beats and textures and aesthetics with rock structures and sounds. Kasabian sound nothing like them. They’re derivative but not of an idea or a sound; they’re derivative of a poor description of an idea or a sound. “Indie music with dance beats.” Good fucking god it was tired fourteen years ago and it’s tired now. After 20 years of rhythmic evolution and invention in dance music, after house, drum n bass, UK garage, Asian underground, trance, dubstep and countless others, to hear someone do the same “funky drummer” fill that the fucking Mock Turtles used in 1991, and for people to praise that and think it’s something new or clever, is depressing and backwards. I cannot fathom people who would choose to listen to a bad, misremembered refraction of dance music, especially when those same people are generally also the types most likely dismiss actual dance music itself out of hand.
Why did Whale fail? Their brat/frat rock kicks nu-metal ass (see “Young Dumb ‘n’ Full of Cum); thier warm fuzzies make one’s ‘nad’s tingle (witness I can’t help it but I think you’re “Kickin’”) and their triple entendres rival prime Prince (check single “I’ll Do Ya”). They swapped vocals nearly as well as the Beasties, and just as literately. They wickied the wack over chords that would singe Durst’s pubes off. They had more heart and brains than most ’90’s acts, especially those who were nicheless:
Prozac bliss, is there a cure for being Swiss?
I can’t help that I wanna fumble Sarah Cracknell up the Channel Tunnel
Stonewashed denim, pony tail, Polish guys, they’re dressed to fail
Trash white riot, 18 karats, full-on whatever whatever…
Not bad, given Wurtzel had yet to reach paperback, and St. Etienne was still a one (years-old) hit wonder. Nothing I recall on MTV et. al. matched the wit of Mia slapping diapered butts with her archetypal red & white swirly-striped lollipop in the video for “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe”. If you think the lyric above sharp, I’ll leave “That’s Where it’s At” as your special surprise…
We Care was the unseen third of Tricky’s quadratic equation before his slide began. It beat Dummy out by two months, and is largely unknown compared to that album, and predecessors Protection and Maxinquaye, despite sharing as many beats and vocal lines as all of the above. The known triad defined trip-hop, but We Care dates better, indeed, sounds timeless. Thank goodness it’s on my classic iPod, because the newer ones don’t go as loud. It sounds equally good stomping around snowy Boston last week, or in springtime Venice. If you don’t know it, you should. It’s awfully cheap used, and the follow-up All Disco Dance Must End in Broken Bones is nearly as good, and even cheaper. Dig it!
In listening to Viktor Vaughn’s mis-maligned Venomous Villain on the way to work today, I realized it was the release, between MM Food and itself, that I would probably listen to the more often. In odd, distangled ways, it reminds me of the Fiery Furnaces’ EP as a tight, enthrallingly simplistic introductory point, not nearly as expansive and overwhelming but short and to the point. It’s the work I’d recommend as a jumping off point, and God knows I’ve been working over-time to turn my ole surburban cronies into fans of MF Doom for almost a year.
And, yet, for my money, not only is it more concise, it’s far more interesting than MM Food. Shorn of Doom’s over-reliance on short skits and wrinkled samples, his production work on the album is pop-tight, revolving around league-deep synth vamps and bottle-necked hip-hop beats. Much of Food just spreads itself across the void, stretching into times and spaces it has no right to inherit, and no real reason to attempt. The production work is limp and noodly at times, and much of the dead-soul sampling seems desperate. I thought it was a great disappointment when I first soulseeked it, and I have yet to come around. I’ll take the blunt pop simplicity of Venomous Villain any Wednesday morning traffic stop.
Half this group are dead. Robert Palmer wrote Sonic Youth’s best song. I think they liked the video. Tony Thompson is the drummer for Led Zeppelin. He was in a car crash right after Live Aid, their next album is called Presence. Taylor Dayne was in Neurotic Outsiders, and should’ve been in Velvet Revolver, if only to tell them how to make a video. He must’ve been nervous as fuck, playing in front of Bernard Edwards. Miami Taylor Van Zandt’s guitar solos combine the best parts of both Wang Chung and Bad English, adding further spikes to the Flowers of Romance in the Bush of Ghosts material. In one two-bar section in “Get it On”, notes-per-second increase with each scalar phrase!
The culmination of Palmer’s world-music odyssey, “Some Like It Hot” sounds especially great from speakers on top of a car hood in Equatorial Guinea. National Lampoon’s European Vacation used it to score a fantasy of old-world decadence (and used “Ca Plane Pour Moi” for the Louvre scene). Maybe the joke idea was Rusty Griswold thinking Europe was in eastern Cuba. You couldn’t get away with that in a movie now, jokes about Americans’ (or Australians’) bad geography knowledge. The first casualty of war may be innocence, but you could say that about a lot of things. The band name in German means “What’s next to the cherry moon?”