Monday, June 30, 2008
Long and short of it, I just couldn’t turn my mind off, which typically is a good thing when referring to a film… Normally, after watching a documentary, or even well made historical fiction, I find myself wanting to learn more about the subject matter… In the case of this steaming pile, I really, REALLY just wanted to make the bad men stop…
As with any time anger, hatred, and a touch of fear start creeping into my soul, the quickest and most effective way to stamp out the invading horrors that my mind cooks up is through 80’s interpretive Vampire narrative. In this case, 1983’s Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon’s Sapphic blood-fest, The Hunger…
In all honesty, I’ve never considered myself a vampire film fan. I tend to enjoy them on some ‘that-was-better-than-a-kick-in-the-crotch’ level, and I can’t think of a vampire flick that I absolutely hated, though I think that would change if I took the time to watch Queen Of The Damned, in the long run though, if given a chance to watch a vampire flick or a slasher flick, I go butcher knife over pointy teeth every single time. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, the term ‘Vampire’ is never once uttered in The Hunger, and there’s nary a pointed tooth to be found… These aren’t your grandfather’s Oldsmobile driving vampires, these are ankh-knife wielding, goth-rock listening, fabulous-80’s-fashion wearing blood drinking freaks who just plain don’t age… But DON’T call them vampires… OK, OK, we’re not stupid… They’re vampires and we all know it, so let’s just accept it and move on.
Miriam Blaylock (Deneuve) and her husband John (Bowie) are the type of hip swinging couple that enjoys a night on the town. A little drinking, a little dancing, a cameo performance by goth pioneers Bauhaus, and a raucous after hours party that swings like CBS network programming do… Miriam and John pick up a young couple who seem down for a little bit of the old swappin’ action, and they all get down to business forthwith. Miriam’s making the moves in the oh-so-80’s living room. This is thy type of place you’d expect to see Max Headroom chatting up the Master Control Program about the most effective way to avoid the Noid… Of course, it WAS 1983, so I guess I could cut them some slack. Suffice it to say that we’re beaten over the head by the fact this is a MODERN and HIP couple of cool cats, not some old fuddy duddies…
While Miriam’s suckin’ some face and getting ready to make herself a crimson cocktail, John’s getting’ it on, AND bangin’ a gong in the equally stylish and stark kitchen. Ann Magnusen, who went on to a pretty successful career as a character actress kindly displays her assets for an appreciative audience in the role of ‘Young Woman From The Disco’, Bowie cops a feel, gets down with the makin’ out, and then quickly grows tired of these all too human of pleasures and gets with the hack and slash. One point of note abut the kill scenes in The Hunger… It seems that a modern day vampire on the go can’t manage to extract the blade end from his or her ankh necklace without forcefully pulling the entire chain off their necks.. All in all, this makes for a great dramatic begin to a kill scene, but what do these vampires DO for a living that they can afford to be replacing perfectly good gold necklaces 3 or 4 times a week each time they slice another unsuspecting victim? It’s just not practical, and for those of us living through these trying environment times, it’s also pretty wasteful… You need to reduce, recycle, and reuse Cat and Dave, no go a around breaking and tossing gold chains like they’re popsicle sticks… Not that I condone throwing away popsicle sticks either… There’s both Arts AND Crafts you can accomplish with those sticks… What happens the next time you need to build a scale model of The Alamo? You’re going to be pretty peeved that you tossed those popsicle sticks then AREN’T YOU?
So whilst Bowie’s drinking from the tap so to speak out in the kitchen, Cat D has also loosed the flow of dyed corn syrup… ERRR… blood from her unwitting victim. Young Man From Disco is portrayed ably by John Stephen Hill, who unlike his cohort in club going and vampire bangin’ DIDN’T go on to much of a career, although he was featured in a flick called Bloodbath at the House of Death, which could not POSSIBLY be as good as it’s title. A moment of silence for these crazy young kids in love… We didn’t know their names, but they shall live on in our hearts, and in the veins of their vampire slayers… Alas, poor Yoric... you’re like, dead or something…
I believe the audience reaction is supposed to be somewhere along the lines of ‘DAMN! These folks is KILLERS!’ So long as we’ve established that vital plot point, we can move along.
To be more specific, pissed off monkeys… To be even MORE specific, pissed off monkeys,. And the scientists who love them… One monkey gets all ‘roid raged up, and rips out another monkey’s throat. It’s not cool, but it’s nature in action. What can you do… Hold on just a second… It’s NOT nature. These monkeys have all been poked and prodded and injected with god knows what to try and reverse the aging process. We know this, because one of the monkey lovin’ scientists, Dr. Sarah Roberts (Sarandon), tells us so while on a generic film version of Good Morning Whatever City You’re Living In, complete with comfy armchairs angled in toward each other, a small round coffee table between them, an innocuous vase of flows, and mugs most likely containing coffee. If you’ve ever seen a movie, or watched television, or been to a home show and seen a staged living room, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, get off this devil box Jebodiah! You’ve got a barn to raise…
Just in cased you missed it, this was plot point #2. SS works with monkeys to try and stop the aging process… Cat D and Dave seem to have stopped the aging process through drinking blood… Could these crazy kids make a love connection? But wait! There’s a twist!
When we last left Cat and Dave’s playhouse of carnage, Davey was a young man. He partied, he sucked vein, he wore skinny jeans and tiny round sunglasses, he was everything one would expect a fun loving night dwelled to be in the mid 80’s… But now, he’s beginning to lose his hair, beginning to get wrinkly, and has a much more gaunt appearance… It’s as though 1983 David Bowie just turned into 2008 David Bowie over the course of one evening, without ever making that horrible Tin Machine mistake… Had 1983 David Bowie known then what 2008 David Bowie knows now, he may not have protested…
So getting’ old Dave decides to confront still young and hot Cat D and say, I’m paraphrasing here, but it was roughly ‘What the hell lady? You told me, like 1,000 years ago, that I’d never get old… NEVER… what’s the deal woman?’ so Cat says something like ‘Them’s the breaks my little chickadee, what do you want to do about it now? You’ll be dust in a week, but don’t worry, you’re not going to die, you’ll just live for all eternity a wrinkled old mummified prune dude, never leaving your casket… Hell, it’s worked just fine for Hugh Heffner…’ Bowie’s hip to the scientific advancements of the day, so he says ‘Give it a rest, vamp-chick… I’M going to see that monkey Dr. and she’ll give me the juice she gives the monkeys to keep them from getting all old and gross. YOU SAID FOREVER!!’ After his Jan Brady tirade is over, he heads for Monkey Lab, home of Dr. Sarandon and her monkey pals. Since he now looks like he’s in his early fifties, he dresses the part, kind of like an extra on a BBC Sherlock Holmes special… Tweed suit, Rex Harrison hat, the whole nine… Davey’s looking to impress these monkeys…
So Suzie’s on the scene, looking all haggard and worn out from her hectic scientist cum rock star schedule when Bowie corners her in the hall, and gives her the old ‘I’m one of the young dudes, I carry the news… but look at me! I look so old!! Ya gotta HELP me doc!.’ So Suzie says ‘Hold on there crackpot, gimmie 15 minutes to rap with my peeps about the monkey junk, and I’ll be right back to run some tests.’ Davey cops a squat in the waiting room whilst Suzie goes back on her merry way, pausing long enough to call her receptionist. “Yeah, there’s a looney tune in the lobby. Make him feel at home, give him some 6 month old magazines to read, and eventually he’ll get tired and go away.’
Poor older by the minute Davey sits and waits, and over the course of the next few hours goes from salt and pepper hairs distinguished older man to 140 year old too old to run for congress creep show… Suzie finally comes back, figuring the coast is clear and that Loopy has moved on to accost a statue in the park or something, but no… Not THIS nut bar, he’s still camping out, but he’s gotten so crusty she doesn’t even recognize him. Davey strolls on up to Suzie’s side and says ‘What the HELL? You’re all like It’ll be 15 minutes and I’m all like OK, just make sure it’s no longer than that, and you’re all like No Problemo, and I’m all like, I’ll wait and read this copy of Highlights and that was like TWO HOURS AGO! You suck lady… Now I’m stuck here, looking like Regis Philbin when just last night I was pulling hot bit part actress tail… You know what, screw you… I don’t need your monkey shots anyway!’ and he leaves.
Suzie’s feeling all 12 kinds of guilty for thinking Davey was just another cuckoo who flew over the nest and she tries to stop him, but Davey’s like ‘Too late Luthor… TOO LATE’ and takes his too old to renew his driver’s license ass on home to rot away, and that’s just what he does. He goes home say’s ‘Damn Cat D, I’m sorry I yelled at you. If it wasn’t for you I’d have been dead like 950 years ago, and I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to nail and drain all those young bit part actresses… You’re the best Cat D… Hold me until I can no longer function and then lock me in a pine box please…’ So that’s what Cat does. She holds him until he can no longer function, and then carries him to the attic to lock him in a pine box with all the other lovers she’s taken over the millennia… ‘Here you go Davey… Rot next to these other old pine boxes… They contain the shattered husks of good people. It’ll be fun!’
Since poor Suzie’s been all dick-in-the-dirt since blowing off the dude who went from 2008 David Bowie to 2008 Ted Turner in a matter of 2 hours, she decides she’ll pull his info and make a house call. She heads on up to Cat’s place, and asks for the man of the house. Cat says ‘Dude skedaddled to Switzerland for some experimental treatment that worked wonders for Dick Clark. He’ll be back sometime, but how about you come in for some wine. I need a new concubine… ERRRR… I’m sure I have his info around here somewhere…’ so Suzie’s like, ‘No problem, I’m not wearing a bra, and it’s totally apparent. Can I have that wine now? I need to spill it on my supple breasts so I have an excuse to take off my top and get down to some naughty lovin.’
So The Hunger was entertaining up to this point, but the next few minutes obviously rules in a complete and total way… All sorts of famous actress parts all over the place, lots of soft focus cheesy camera work, a whole bunch of wind blown sheer sheets subtly draping unclothedness, and when the whole thing is said and done, Cat and Suzie are both fully spent, oh, and Suzie’s a vampire… So Suzie takes off and heads to meet her husband for dinner. She’s not hungry, but still orders a rare steak. Odd, the idea of blood just sounds tasty all of a sudden… Why could THAT be? She spends the next few days not feeling hungry but so totally wanting to suck some vein. She’s not sure why, so she has the monkey lab run some tests on her… Turns out all the blood she’s got in her veins isn’t hers, and this other blood is like vampire HGH or something because it’s making her stay young, and healthy, and vibrant, and MAN I could go for some vein right now…
Anyhoo, Suzie heads on over to Cat’s place, and says ‘What the HELL! I’m all about touching naughty parts, but putting your blood in me? That’s just full on creepy lady…’ and Cat’s like ‘Oh yeah, well, shut up! I like so totally OWN you now… But before you get all pissed and stuff, you’re never going to get old, so THAT doesn’t suck…’ Suzie’s all like ‘Oh yeah? Well, that’s messed up, but I’ll still make out with you…’ So they start with the face sucking, and while Cat is distracted by trying to massage Suzie’s tonsils with her tongue, Suzie reaches up and pulls off the Ankh necklace Cat gave her as a gift… Up, there goes another gold chain… Damn wasteful vampires… Suzie gives a little shiv to queen vampy and sucks her dry…
From here, one of two things happen… Either shit starts to get convoluted, or I dozed off because it was quarter to two in the morning. Either way, to the best of my knowledge, Suzie is now the vampire queen and has a really awesome balcony overlooking the ocean or something… Cat’s got her own very special pine box right next to Davey’s in the attic, and we’re primed for The Hunger TWO! Regis’ Revenge!! I’m absolutely shocked that Susan Sarandon decided such a film wouldn’t be a good career move… In her defense, there was more challenging work on the horizon, like ridin’ Kevin Costner in Bull Durham, bonin’ James Spader in White Palace, and slippin’ it to Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise… Oh, wait… That only happened in the version in my head…
There was a short lived The Hunger TV show which I have never seen but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it probably wasn’t very entertaining… If by entertaining you mean lesbian erotica, and really, who doesn’t? You usually don’t see to much of that on TV, unless you pay for the premium cable channels… No matter, for the well used blood flow, the different twist on the old vampire tale, and for a heaping helping of girl-on-girl goodness, you could do worse than The Hunger… I highly suggest it as a hangover remedy the next time you find yourself drunk on delusional wanna-be-rocker losers…
By the way, David Bowie, for the treatment you received at the hands of that lying Cat D, and unsympathetic Suzie Sarandon you’re forgiven for any repressed memories I may still be clinging to from your inappropriate costuming in Labyrinth. No, that DOESN’T mean I want to hear ‘Magic Dance’, it just means I won’t be filing charges. Stick to roles that require full on pants there Ziggy Stardust. It’s better for all of us…
I leave you with this parting thought… If there is a literary term for someone who suffers from excessive use of the ellipsis, I certainly suffer from it…
Friday, June 27, 2008
I just finished watching another Rock-Doc, this one made in 2004 and entitled Kill Your Idols. First off, the film is scattered, aimless, and comes to no ultimate conclusion whatsoever. I can live with that, since it's kind of the same idea as the music they're profiling.
The focal point of the film starts with the early New York pre-punk movement of 1970/1971, specifically focusing on Suicide. Suicide was featured in the first five minutes or so of the film. I liked the sound, sort of reminiscent of The Stooges, or Television a little later on, which is cool. Seems like a band I'll look up and enjoy. That's just great!
Then, shit gets sour, they burn through 8 years of great influential music that changed the world, regardless what the opinions of the soon-to-be-featured artists are, and all of a sudden it's 1979. That's fine I guess. I'm cool with ignoring punk rock if that's not what you want to focus on... I'm over it...
So here we are in 1979, and who are we focusing on? Former groupie turned human noise machine Lydia Lunch... I've got a few Lydia Lunch tracks in my collection, specifically her version of Gloomy Sunday off the Blair Witch soundtrack album, and a track of her reading Jack Kerouac's Bowery Blues. The fact she was involved in the Kerouac project, in my opinion, gave her a pass for having no real talent and being ridiculously self important... I can forgive pretty much anything somebody does so long as they dig Kerouac... Unfortunately, this film could not have changed my opinion more...
Lydia Lunch, in addition to pretty much everybody else who felt making feedback noises and lurching into a microphone was 'new music' needs to give it a rest... I'm totally cool with their idea of 'pushing the envelope', doing something totally different, and bucking convention to be themselves. The fact of the matter is though, if you put yourself in a movie, and spend 90 minutes shitting all over every single artist who ISN'T YOU, you've lost all credibility in my book.
There are some exceptions from the 'no wave' bands. The segments with Arto Lindsay of DNA for example, show a performer who was fully aware of who he was, and where he fits in. In some ways, it was pretty easy to see that he wasn't sure why this film was even being made, and I've got to tell you, I'm right there with him. Why does this flick exist? Let's run down the 'plot points'
- 1971- Suicide starts performing live shows in New York, sounding pretty much like The Stooges before them, but different enough that they're tapped as the beginning of this movement of non-conformism
- 1979 through 1982- A bunch of people with roughly the same musical talent as say, ME, decide they're tired of more talented, more able people getting all the on stage gig time and start pawing at guitars like wild animals and howling into mics. Like I said, I'm cool if that's who you want to be, but I don't buy that it's in any way 'important' and the makers of this film didn't do a very good part of selling that point.
- Mid 80's to Early 90's- This is when we're led to believe Sonic Youth is the embodiment of everything that is great and holy. Personally, I think Thurston Moore is an engaging personality, and if you're a music obsessive like myself, you should totally read the book Mix Tape in which he's a featured artist discussing the influence of music on his life. He really seems like a cool guy. That being said, IMO, his music is for shit. The only Sonic Youth I can get any kind of enjoyment out of are the Kim Gordon sung tracks, and only if I manage to distract myself from the music behind the vocals.To Moore's credit, as well as fellow Youther Lee Ranaldo, they did not come off as nearly as self important as the film maker tried to make them. I'm pretty sure they are the only artist featured that the director had actually heard of before. At this time, we're also introduced to The Swans, and I'm sure some other bands that I managed to already block out... Oh thank God, the blogging is helping...
- 2002- All of a sudden it's 2002, and we're introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Personally, I've always associated them more with The Pretenders than Sonic Youth, but what the hell do I know, I'm not the one sticking a camera in their faces... The YYY's and Gogol Bordello are really the only redeeming quality about the modern section of this film, which is the lion's share of the running time. All the other performers featured during these segments seem way more interested in getting drunk, getting laid, and being 'different' than they do about making music. Much like the 'no wave' crowd, if that's what they're looking for, more power to them... Just a quick FYI though kids... Your NOT important, and I don't mean that in the bitter and elitist way that Lydia Lunch says you're not important, I mean it in the same way that I mean SHE'S not important... There are kids out their with instruments, and voices, and actual songs to sing, stop taking a dump on their stages and get the hell out of the way, or at least stop pretending any of your crap matters.
Just one last point I NEED to make before I can consider this a fully cathartic cleansing of my anger. There is nothing charming, elegant, necessary, entertaining, informative, or even remotely useful about listening to a bunch of aged former musicians complain about how 'today's generation just doesn't get it.' You know what? NEITHER DO YOU! Your time is passed and no one listened. Time to go away now... OK? Bye bye...
Ultimately, I can't blame the No Wave artists for being callous and bitter about their stations in life, the blame rests squarely on film maker Scott Crary who obviously decided to make a film about a subject he knew little about, cared less about, and discovered mid way through apparently wasn't the story he wanted to tell... Also, a message for the jag-offs who are A.R.E. Weapons... It's 4 years since the release of this flick, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have put out multiple nation wide hits and made a crapload of money... I hope you're still getting groupie tail in your Brooklyn hell-hole dives...
Oh, and Lydia, I just listened to your reading of Bowery Blues again, and you're off the hook... I can't stay mad at you...
I typically return freed from whatever cash I had planned to lose, but no more than that, and once in a rare while, I come back with some cash left over, which usually ends up at the outlet mall at State Line... Regardless, a splendid time is guaranteed for all, and this year, CSD Julie and I will be following the trip with a follow up respite in the beautiful Santa Barbara wine country, because a proper Vegas vacation requires a 2nd vacation to recover...
Alas, more on that in the coming weeks. For the time being, I have here-and-now excitement to discuss. I just downloaded some new tunes for the iPod! Granted, this is far more exciting for me than it is for anyone else, but I'm jazzed, and really that's all that matters... Below is a breakdown of the new editions... Alas, there is no New Edition to be found...
- The Cure- The 2004 self titled release from Robert Smith and the boys. I have yet to give it much of a listen, but from what I can tell it holds on to some of the darkness of Bloodflowers without being nearly as ethereal and, I hate to say it, boring... I was not a fan of the prior release, and was concerned when they followed it up with a new Greatest Hits, and then B-Sides collection, that we had heard the last new Cure releases, at least for a good long while. That explains why it's taken me almost 4 years to give this one a shot. Ultimately though, I'm optimistic that this will be a return to some of the great dark quiet albums of the past like Disintegration and The Head on the Door.
- Gyrate- The 1980 release by Athens, GA band Pylon. I did a write up on Athens GA Inside/Out a few days back, and discovered that there were some releases that I was woefully ignorant of. This one coming well before the film was made, is chock full of rocking dance tunes reminiscent of Patti Smith or early Joan Jett... At least, that's what it reminds me of after a cursory listen. Once I've fully digested this one, I'll probably head over the Pylon website and pick up Gyrate Plus! Their 2007 release.
- Little Creatures- This well known Talking Heads album is not one I just purchased. I've actually had it for the better part of a year, and embarrassingly enough, kind of forgot I bought it... I got it right around the same time I got She's Like The Weather by The Himalayans, Adam Durtiz's pre-Counting Crows band, and I've been wearing that CD out, so impressed that anything else I picked up in the same time frame just kind of faded into the background. Anyhow, I've decided that while I'm not ready to remove The Himalayans from my playlist, I should give the Heads a chance to be heard...
- Marquee Moon- Another forgotten purchase of the same week as Little Creatures, Television's Marquee Moon is an album I'd been wanting to buy and listen to for a long time, but kept forgetting about... That makes it all the more sad and shameful that once I did finally buy it, I STILL forgot about it, relegating it to my iTunes playlist, but never dropping it on the the Pod... I've listened to the title track a few times, and really dig the way it seems to melt 80's pop rock with 70's epic prog styling.. A song with a catchy chorus that ALSO runs 11 minutes long? Sign me up!! I guess it's about time to give the rest of the album a shot.
- Runaway Boys: A Retrospective- This 25 track Stray Cats hits collection is the equivalent of a great thriller novel... I know it's not the most 'intellectual' piece out there, but it's enjoyable, it's easy to listen to, and it doesn't require my complete attention. Not to say that Setzer and the boys aren't talented musicians with a story to tell, but the Cats just have a style that works so much better as peppy pop gap fillers than 'sit and listen' music. There's far from anything wrong with that... It's a GOOD thing...
- Shine On- Yesterday's post in which I discuss my horrible addiction to all things both music, and trivia related touched upon a weak spot in my music library. I have been listening to and enjoying Jet's Get Born for a few years now, but had not delved deeper into their catalog. As I mentioned in my comments section, I would have to rectify this concern by giving Shine On a shot. From what I've heard so far, it's not quite as hard edged as a lot of the stuff on Get Born is, although maybe I just haven't caught those tracks yet, I'm shuffling back and forth between about 20 different albums, but the softer songs that have played have definitely held my attention and still had a 'rock song' feel, even with their less-than-pulse-pounding tempo. At this rate I'm going to have to pick up their Dirty Sweet EP that started their career, and wait patiently for their 3rd long play being released some time between now and mid next year...
I'm also still digesting the new Elvis Costello, Momofuku, The Counting Crows Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, REM's Accelerate, Josh Ritter's The Historical Conquest of Josh Ritter, and right this second I'm listening to perhaps one of the greatest piece of poetry and music ever committed to tape, William Shatner's take on Pulp's 'Common People'. Not only is 'The Shat' driving home the spoken-word power of a rage-against-the-aristocracy anthem, but it also contains the hard edged return of 80's under-rated Brit singer-songwriter Joe Jackson playing a mean axe and adding some vocal harmony to Shat's harshly real deadpan. I know I sound like I'm mocking, but seriously, this track rules... There's an SNL live performance on YouTube that's well worth a watch...
That does it for me. I'll be back Monday with tales of suspense and intrigue from the weekend...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
For the most part, Athens GA.- Inside/Out was a pretty standard indie doc film. Writer & Director Tony Gayton and his crew were obviously passionate about their subject matter, and did a good job to intertwine the stories of the up and coming artists in the area, the established careers of REM & B-52’s, and how they started, and the people and places that make Athens GA what it is. Had this film been made in the last 2 or 3 years, I likely would have followed up my watching by checking the web for info on the relatively unknown artists profiled, Love Tractor, Time Toy, Flat Duo Jets, the Bar-B-Q Killers, Kilkenny Kats, Dreams So Real, Limbo District, Pylon, and Squalls. Some although admittedly not all, seemed committed to their craft, and had the chops to at least make a moderately successful record.
The thing is, the film was made in 1987, and aside from the already existent careers of REM and B-52’s, none of the other featured bands seemed to grab on to the success they were so deeply striving for. Looking around this morning, I see a few artists did get albums made from their MTV exposure due to this doc flick, but even with the jump start, fate and conflict intervened in rock greatness for these performers. It’s a shame, but it also adds a wholly different feel to the film. Instead of the timbre of hope and potential that the doc subjects express when discussing their plans for world rock domination, it becomes a bittersweet portrait of the failure found so commonly in the recording industry. I found myself really feeling for these performers as they spoke on the doors opened for them by The B-52’s and REM, discussing how perhaps being a rock star isn’t just a ‘pipe dream’ for artists from Athens. Unfortunately, as an audience 21 years in the future, we’re in on a joke that the films subjects cannot understand, which personally turned my feelings of remorse for their failures to a strange guilt, as if I was mocking their dreams by watching their hope only to know it would fade into the wind.
To quell my own guilty feelings, and to give some insight on the bands featured for those who may choose to watch this film (if you have a Netflix account you can watch it as a direct download, skipping that pesky mailman’s involvement). Honestly, if you’re a fan of mid 80’s alt-rock and it’s historical roots, it’s worth the hour and a half of your life. I’ll skip REM and B-52’s, since we all know what happened to them, and even in the film they are presented more as a reason for the making, rather than a subject of it.
Love Tractor- From their Wikipedia entry: Love Tractor is an alternative rock band from Athens, Georgia. The band was formed in 1980 by guitarists Mark Cline and Mike Richmond. The band played their first few gigs with no bassist and a drum machine, but bassist/multi-instrumentalist/artist Armistead Wellford and drummer Kit Schwartz were added early on. Along with The B-52's, Pylon and R.E.M., Love Tractor is considered one of the founding members of the Athens alternative rock scene. Love Tractor originally performed only instrumental material. The band first signed to DB Records. Later, the original lineup (with several different drummers replacing Schwartz) recorded for RCA and Razor and Tie Records. After a breakup that lasted several years, the band re-formed in 2001 and recorded the CD 'The Sky at Night' for Razor and Tie. Their Myspace music page shows more info and has songs available for download.
Time Toy- Time Toy has also jumped on the internet band wagon and sells their tracks through a myspace music page. Maybe all these bands haven’t faded as far into obscurity as I anticipated… They do not have much in the way of bio info on their page, and they do not have a Wikipedia entry. If I wasn’t so damn lazy, I’d look further, of course, if I was going to put out tremendous effort, I’d expect to get paid… Rock has met hard-place…
Flat Duo Jets- Flat Duo Jets went on to record a virtually unsuccessful album that took 2 years to actually find it’s way into local music stores. Their 1990 self titled album earned them a spot on Letterman, and mild exposure, but for the most part, they could not catch the lightening in a bottle required to go from local fringe act to known Rock Stars. In 1998 they released a second album Lucky Eye which was also poorly received. In 2006 film maker Tony Gayton returned to the Athens well and made a 2nd rock doc about The Flat Duo Jets, Two Headed Cow. This spawned a soundtrack album, which equally has fallen on deaf ears, but just the fact they have managed to prolong their fringe fame makes their segments of the film a little less melancholy. Personally, they were my favorite of the under known performers featured with a great hard-edged early rock sound.
The Bar-B-Q Killers- So far as I can tell, the Bar-B-Q Killers broke up in 1989. You can catch a 1986 concert video of them on YouTube. The Bar-B-Q Killers’ drummer, Arthur Johnson joined with Kilkenny Cats bassist Sean O’Brien and joined the Boston Mass. Blues rock band Come, but both left the band in 1995 after recording a few albums to no real acclaim or sales. BBQK Lead single Laura Carter went on to record with another Athens band, Jack-O-Nuts, scoring minor to non-existent success, but touring more widely, and making some records. Laura passed in her sleep on December 2nd, 2002 while living in the US Virgan Islands. She had struggled with her health for a number of years, but seemed to be turning it around. http://flagpole.com/News/2001/2002-12-18 offers a pretty fair send-off to a one of a kind vocalist.
Kilkenny Cats- The Cats split not long after the release of Inside/Out and none resurfaced until O’Brien’s foray into Boston Blues-Rock with Come. If you are willing to dig, they did put uot a single in 1984 called ‘Attractive Figure’, a full length LP 2 years later ‘Hands Down’ and their swan song, was release in 1987 an EP called ‘Hammer’. I can give no impressions of the music as I have not taken the time to track any of it down. All I know of them is what I have seen in the film, and I did not find my self forming much of an impression one way or another.
Dreams So Real- Much like Love Tractor, Dreams So real can be tracked through Wikipedia and MySpace Music. From Wikipedia: The trio consisted of chief songwriter Barry Marler on lead vocals and guitar, Trent Allen on backing vocals and bass, and Drew Worsham on drums. Forming in 1983 when its members met in an Athens record store, their debut single, "Everywhere Girl", came out in 1985 and was produced by Peter Buck of R.E.M.. Buck also produced their first full-length album, 1986's Father's House. The band gained a bit more exposure by performing their song "Golden" (called "Steps" in the movie's end notes) in Athens, GA. Inside/Out , a rock documentary on their hometown music scene. With the success of R.E.M., the Athens scene, and other college radio-friendly bands, Dreams So Real was signed to Arista Records and released Rough Night in Jericho in 1988. The title track earned some success, reaching #28 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and receiving some MTV airplay. A follow-up single, "Bearing Witness" also cracked Billboard's Rock Chart. The album would reach the Billboard Hot 200, peaking at #150.[The 1990 follow-up album, Gloryline, met with less success both critically and commercially. Soon after, Arista dropped the band and Dreams So Real soon drifted apart. As a kind of parting gift, the band released a collection of outtakes, rarities and B-sides titled Nocturnal Omissions, made available through their fan-club mailing list. Marler and Allen have both left the music scene after a short detour with the band Ether in the late 1990’s. Worsham, despite being shot in the head in 2003 continues on in music, and works as a computer technician. Their myspace music page is managed by a fan with the band’s blessing and tracks are available for download.
Limbo District- The most avant garde of the bands featured in the film, Limbo District had faded into obscurity, even at the time of the film’s making, with the only references being old video footage and comments from B-52’s and some of the other interviewed acts. It’s a shame, as they seemed to be one of the more interesting and unique artists mentioned throughout the movie.
Pylon- Mentioned by REM, B-52’s and virtually all other Athens music fans as the ‘best of the best’ in the Athens scene, Pylon never planned on being rock stars, and had disbanded by the time the film was made. Offered a spot opening for U2 on a national tour, the band turned down the offer, and at the time of the film were all working odd jobs in and around the Athens area. Ultimately however, the band decided to re-join and accept their place as influential artists for the most successful Athens acts, REM and the B-52’s. Pylon officiall reunited in 1989, opening for REM on the final leg of the Green tour. Once again however, they could not stick together and broke up in 1991. In 2004 they reunited yet again, and in October of 2007 released the album Gyrate Plus, their first in 17 years. http://wearepylon.com/ is the band’s official website for more info on their current comings and goings.
The Squalls- Made up of the Athen’s music scenes ‘elders’, my personal opinion of The Squalls was that they ranged somewhere from a jam band to a club circuit ensemble wishing for so much more. Within the band there seemed to be tension over the direction, if not of the music, then of the desire to sign a deal, make a record, go on a tour, and hopefully, make some money in the process. The Squalls music is available online for download, but the band is no longer available to play gigs. Lead Singer & Guitarist Bob Hay, lead guitar Ken Starratt, and keyboardist, percussionist, & singer Diana Torell are now playing as Bob Hay & The Jolly Beggars. Bob also went on to marry Pylon lead singer Vanessa Briscoe.
All in all, there was some level of success from the Inside/Out artists, though none on the level that the film’s subjects seem to wish they would achieve. There are happy stories here, and sad stories, but all in all, there are rock stories, and a whole lot of reasons for me to update my music collection accordingly… If you are interested, I highly suggest you work your Google and dig up some tracks and info on your own about these bands. While the music may not be for everybody, their stories are the quintessential American Rock & Roll experience, and even those of us who can’t play a note can respect that.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I am now thoroughly convinced the rose tinted glasses of childhood obscure memory in a way even the most powerful hallucinogenic drugs cannot. I am also reminded that all eight year-olds, including myself at the time, will watch just about anything with a dancing Muppet in it, and enjoy it with such a fanatic devotion no rational media experience can match the blinding moment of joy experienced when said dancing Muppet begins riding around on the back of a dog… I must give quick credit to the commenters over at Retro Junk, because they seem to hold on to a fondness for this film that has extended well past childhood. If you feel the same way, I implore you, DO NOT purchase a copy of this film and watch it now. If you value your childhood memories and wish to keep Labyrinth tucked away in a small corner of your heart, whatever you do, do not re-watch the film… As a matter of fact, you should probably stop reading this too, because it’s not likely to get any kinder…
It RULED cause it was on Sunday...
Beyond children’s programming, it seems that even prime time television was far more questionable than our memories allow us to believe. If you do not believe me, watch 3 random minutes of any episode of The Cosby Show… If you make it to a 4th minute, more power to you… True, our airwaves were not sullied by the specter of reality television the way they are now, but the difference is modern society KNOWS what they are watching is mindless crap. We all thought we were learning how to be a better family each week by seeing what colorful sweater Dr. Huxtable was wearing, and would deeply covet the moments of togetherness created by a family group lip synch, complete with the adorable scamp Rudi mocking a bluesy baritone… Man, we WERE stupid…
Back to the specific point I was working toward before realizing that my entire young life was a lie, Labyrinth is, in a word, notsogood… That being said, I’m sure because of my past enjoyment I can come up with SOME redeeming factors so as to not sink further into this mind numbing depression. I know what always helps, lists! I’ll list my pros, and cons of the film’s merits... I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats to see which list is longer… Personally, I’m on the edge of MY seat, looking to see how I’m going to polish this turd an come up with ANY sort of ‘pro’ list… Well, I guess if I can draft exciting meeting notes, and come up with a myriad of colorful ways to tell people they have no budget, I should be able to BS my way through this too…
- Jennifer Connolly is introduced to the world as a sassy up and coming film star who does an excellent job capturing the incredibly annoying, selfish, hateful, intolerable nature of her character, Sarah. She really makes you want to ring her neck just a few minutes in!
- David Bowie’s screen time as the Goblin King, Jareth, is at least somewhat limited by the need to throw in more random Muppets doing things that puppets of previous generations could not do. In addition, the use of Muppet ‘technology’(?) is redeeming, provided you have never, ever, seen another film with a Muppet before this or since… No matter, if it means less of Bowie’s feathered hair and uncomfortably tight leggings, then all the better…
- The set design of the Labyrinth itself doesn’t look like it was built by a local kindergarten class… They had their hands full with the special effects…
4. Shelley Thompson gives a stirring performance in the role of Stepmother, rivaling her greatest work in the prior year’s critically acclaimed smash, ‘Morons from Outer Space’ where she played the equally challenging role of Nurse Perse. Apologies to Ms. Thompson for my heartless mockery… I had to pick one of the random characters who was on screen for less than a minute, and she’s the one I decided to rip into, besides, you don’t do a flick like ‘Morons from Outer Space’ without anticipating some good natured ribbing.
- The aforementioned ‘special effects’ honestly looked like they had been thrown together by a group of toddlers with development issues… At least what they lacked in any sort of realism, they made up for by having virtually no point whatsoever… I’m referring specifically to a scene where a little gremlin Muppet thing is bouncing around the screen during one of the all-too-frequent Bowie musical montages… Personally I’ve always been under the impression that if you can’t convincingly make a Muppet jump around the screen for no reason, just don’t do it at all… We ALL see the haloed glow being created by the blue screen effect… Nobody’s fooled… Quickly, before I get hammered for having heightened expectations for the era, I refer to Ghostbusters… Two years earlier, light years ahead in the effects department… Of course, they don’t have Muppets doing human things, now DO they??
- David Bowie’s screen time is not nearly limited ENOUGH. No offense to the man’s acting chops, but this is a BAD role, with bad costuming, bad hair, bad musical numbers, bad dialog, and I DON’T WANT TO LOOK AT YOUR JUNK ANY MORE! If fully grown adult males are going to wander around in a film wearing tights, ESPECIALLY a KID’S film, they should have the decency to wear a shirt long enough to at least obscure the package region… Instead, our eyes are drawn to singing and dancing Muppets, positioned right next to Bowie’s tell tale bulge. This is not OK, and leads me to wonder if I actually have childhood trauma issues to discuss with a professional as a result of repeated viewings… I was just a child David Bowie… I certainly hope you at least have to inform your neighbors whenever you take up new residence…
- The infant Toby, complete with red striped pajamas. The pajamas are ridiculous. Give me a break… Seriously… It may be nitpicking, but it’s distracting I tell you… Honestly, who dresses their child like a barber’s pole? Between this, and the disturbingly hateful older sister, I don’t give this kid much of a chance even if he DOES escape the clutches of the Goblin King…
- The Bog of Eternal Stench. First and foremost, a funny enough idea, a big murky pit that smells bad, kids will dig that… Not a bad story telling devise… Something to fear, yucky and bad without being overly scary to the youths, oh so close to hitting the Pros list rather than the Cons. Then they go and ruin it… It’s not nearly enough to just tell us that the bog reeks like an un-showered carnie after a long night manning the tilt-a-whirl and nursing a 40 of Olde English, no, on top of the constant “It smells around here” and the fact the place is called the bog of eternal STENCH, the film makers felt we would not truly understand the horrors of the region if the bog itself didn’t make farting noises, repeatedly and often. HAHA! The bog farts… Moving on…
- I can’t say enough about the retched song and dance numbers throughout. What’s worse is they’re as catchy as they are annoying, so I’ve been living with ‘Magic Dance’ stuck in my head for the last three days. If my office wasn’t on the ground floor, I may have jumped out a window already. That’s right, Labyrinth doesn’t just ruin childhoods, it can also lead to suicide… Why is there no warning label on the box!!
I could go on, but I’ve already out-listed my pros, so now it’s just an exercise in whining. Once again, I really did enjoy this movie at one point in time, and if you have children, I’m not against allowing them to see it, while they’re children. By the time they get to be 12 or 13 though, you should destroy your copy and advise them to never, ever seek one out for themselves, the enjoyment of a future weekend decades away could hang in the balance…
That’s not totally fair. Labyrinth didn’t ruin my entire weekend, just Friday evening. By Saturday I had moved on enough to give cinema the benefit of the doubt, and was rewarded with a highly entertaining British horror romp Asylum. I’ll skip the write up in lieu of posting this link. There’s nothing to say about this flick that hasn’t been said here, except that to truly experience how menacing butcher-wrapped body parts can be, you’ll have to see it for yourself… I also feel that the segment ‘weird tailor’ doesn’t get the credit it deserves for inspiring the work of Michael Gottlieb and Edward Rugoff and their magnum opus, Mannequin… Otto the tailor’s sizing dummy certainly didn’t possess the same come hither gaze that Kim Cattrall sported in the 80’s, but he did harness the power to drive a man to madness!!!!
I re-acquainted myself with the 70’s cinema classic ‘Dirty Harry’ late Saturday night/Sunday morning, always a murderously good time in the form of a gritty cop procedural, and attempted to find some redeeming value in the cult indie epic ‘Townies’ on Sunday during the day. If nothing else, it contains infinitely more Kung Fu action than Labyrinth, and it’s not every day a film culminates with one of the town freaks wizzing on a captive, so there’s THAT I suppose… I may very well do a write up on one, or both of these movies at some point in the future, but I may not, and you can’t make me… Unless you threaten me with 70’s glam stars in unitards warbling cheesy songs of love and morality. Just so you can truly understand the pain I’m going through, even now days later, I leave you with the lyrics to Dance Magic, Dance…
You remind me of the babe
What babe? the babe with the power
What power? power of voodoo
Who do? you do
Do what? remind me of the babe
I saw my baby, crying hard as babe could cry
What could I do?
My baby's love had gone
And left my baby blue
What kind of magic spell to use?
Slime and snails
Or puppy dogs' tails
Thunder or lightning
Then baby said
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Put that baby spell on me
Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)
Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)
Put that magic jump on me
Slap that baby, make him free
I saw my baby, trying hard as babe could try
What could I do?
My baby's fun had gone
And left my baby blue
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance) (x4)
Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump) (x2)
Put that baby spell on me (ooh)
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Sometimes my Yin needs to be Yanged...
I love Harold Ramis. Whether writing, acting or directing, the man makes me laugh and ponder the facts of life, all at once. Ghostbusters is one of those movies that also stands the test of time. I love this movie -- I won't lie -- and could watch it once a week if I had the time to devote to it. Funny lines like, "I collect molds, spores and fungus." and "Back-off man. I'm a scientist." and "So be good for goodness sake, wo-ah, somebody's comin'." and the whole bit with Ray and Winston pondering Revelations just hits home no matter how many hundreds of times I've seen the movie. The ultimate story of good prevailing over evil and sacrificing your life to save the lives of many resonates with most people, as do the love stories between Dana and Peter and Egon and Janine (no matter how hokey). Fear often holds us back in life, but we relate to these characters that conquer fear and find each other in the end. Plus the movie's damn funny.
Second, I watch Groundhog Day whenever I have a chance. Perhaps its my belief in reincarnation that draws me to it. The idea that you can perfect your life over time by reliving it over and over again. But here Ramis simplifies the idea even more -- what if you were doomed to relive the same day forever? In Groundhog Day Phil Connors is a flawed human being and isn't ready for love with Andy McDowell's character (btw, I hate Andy McDowell, but I love this movie so much I forgive her mediocrity). Phil is stuck on the same day, Groundhog Day, for approximately 10 years, according to Ramis. So, Phil essentially goes through the stages of grief. He's in denial, he's angry, he tries to trick or bargain his way out, he goes through depression, and then finally he accepts his fate. In acceptance he reworks himself into a better person and stops using the girl as his motivation to live. Simplified: Phil betters himself for him and only then, as a result, he gets the girl. This is a paradigm by which we all should live. I know we've often heard it -- don't do this or that because you think it'll get you what you want, but do it for you. I think I love Groundhog Day because it reminds me that we all should be the best people we can be with no other motivation than to do it for ourselves -- not for recognition, wealth, power, or love, but for our own well-being. Naive? Maybe. But if nothing else, it's also a damn funny movie.
I must make an honorable mention to another Harold Ramis movie that is often forgotten. Stealing Home stars Mark Harmon, Harold Ramis and Jodi Foster. Harmon is facing the end of his baseball career and Ramis is his best friend. Jodi Foster embodies his past in that she was once his best friend and love and he finds out she has committed suicide and he is charged with scattering her ashes. This movie is Harmon's character's rumination on his life, not just with Foster, but overall and helps him re-allign himself and get back on track. Ramis' character also goes through points of reflection and philosophizing and he is excellent in his supporting role. More a drama than a comedy, this movie makes the viewer reflect on what's important in life. That's probably why I like it. Plus it has Ramis in it, so it can't be bad!
Other movies that I recommend that have that all-important Ramis factor: He acted in Stripes, Orange County (it's fluff, but funny fluff)and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story; He wrote the screenplays for Animal House, Caddyshack, Armed & Dangerous, Back to School, Analyze This and Bedazzled (a guilty pleasure): Lastly he Directed National Lampoon's Vacation.
Look for my next post soon, Bill Murray: An Under-rated, Broken Man
Friday, June 20, 2008
Grammy Winner: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill- Lauryn Hill
Grammy Deserver: Version 2.0- Garbage
I can’t bash the Grammys choice on this one. Lauryn Hill isn’t my particular brand of smoke, but I applaud the choice of a younger artist who sold a lot of albums and had a lot of fans. At the same time, they did miss out on selecting one of the most technically sound rock albums ever released.
Garbage’s Version 2.0 from a production standpoint, is about as close to perfect as you can get, and while I have found myself getting a little tired of the tracks of late from so many listenings, the album is like classic cinema. You need to put it away for a while, and come back to it maybe one or twice a year to truly recognize the mastery of the recording. I enjoy this album so much I have purchased it, loaned it out, not gotten it back, and re-purchased it three times since it’s release… Thanks to the MP3 age, I no longer need to hold on to my hard copy if anyone else needs to borrow it and never give it back…
While the total number of good albums was pretty lacking, there’s some great selections in there that would have been potential nominees had Garbage not perfected the art of rock recording… Tori turned in another great work with Choirgirl, the formation of Liquid Tension Experiment was a Prog-Rock-Geek dream come true and thrashes more than any album without words aught to, Dave Matthews turned in what is in my opinion his only listenable album from front to back with Before These Crowded Streets, and the Bare Naked Ladies managed some long overdue chart success with Stunt. Quality trumps quantity, so 1998 isn’t nearly as mediocre a year as 1996 was… That’s still no excuse for picking Celine though… Grammy Bastards…
Other releases of note: Do or Die- Dropkick Murphys; All The Pain Money Can Buy- Fastball; Liquid Tension Experiment- Liquid Tension Experiment; Space Heater- Reverend Horton Heat; Darkest Days- Stabbing Westward; Better Than Raw- Helloween; Mezzanine- Massive Attack; Before These Crowded Streets- Dave Matthews Band; From The Choirgirl Hotel- Tori Amos; No Substance- Bad Religion; Munki- The Jesus and Mary Chain; Stunt- Bare Naked Ladies; Hello Nasty- Beastie Boys; Whitechocolatespaceegg- Liz Phair; Follow the Leader- Korn; Hellbilly Deluxe- Rob Zombie; Frank Black & The Catholics- Frank Black; Mechanical Animals- Marilyn Manson; Painted From Memory- Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach; Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie- Alanis Morissette; Americana- Offspring
1999: I hate you 1999. You ruined EVERYTHING!!
Grammy Winner: Supernatural- Santana
Grammy Deserver: The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner- Ben Folds Five
Have I mentioned before how angry it makes me when artists are given awards based more on their total body of work rather than the piece they’re being recognized for? Way too many times? Man, it’s a good thing this is the last year of the decade then… Just go back and read everything I said about every other over-the-hill act that one an award it didn’t deserve and apply it all to Santana and we’ll call it a day shall we?
Everything bad about 1999 culminated on January 12th when Brittney Spears appeared on the scene… Now I’ve managed to avoid bashing bubblegum bullshit up to this point, mostly because I don’t want to sound like either a typical Interblog-Rant-Bag, or like an old foagie not down with the youngun’s hip music choices, but I can keep quiet no longer… 1999, you ruined a decade that was so close to being over, and for that I can never forgive you… Stop clicking your tongue at Brittney, Lou Bega, you’re part of this mess too… Thank God before the year was over I was old enough to buy liquor…
Is the Mambo #5 the one where I get to put my foot up your ass?
Not everything about 1999 was horrid, but like 70’s porn, the good is far outweighed by the bad… Tori Amos and Nine Inch Nails both put out new albums, but both were comparatively lacking in spite of the fact that Tori’s Glory of the 80’s off To Venus and Back is one of my favorites of hers. Counting Crows returned with another good album that not enough people bought, and Joe Strummer’s work with The Mescaleros on X-Ray Style is so reminiscent of Mick Jones’ with Big Audio Dynamite that we’re left wondering why The Clash broke up in the first place…
On to the should-have-been honoree… Another thing 1999 ruined was this fine, fine recording, because TUBORM seems like a ‘best of the worst’ selection because of all the crap being slung around it, but in actuality, there was many a year in this decade that this album could have won, and would have garnered serious consideration in all of them, even 1993, the granddaddy of the decade… I admit, it helps that I’m a sucker for story albums, and this one definitely fits the mold… Each track blends seamlessly into the next and with the possible exception of ‘Army’ and ‘Your Redneck Past’ the songs are greatly improved by listening to them in the context of the album rather than on their own… At the end of the day, if you give yourself a chance to sit and listen to the work, you’ll probably feel like I do, that there’s a little bit of Reinhold Messner in each of us… Excuse me while I go grab an app for that job opening at the Chik-Fil-A…
I draw the line at growing a mullet...
Other releases of note: Clarity- Jimmy Eat World; The Hot Rock- Sleater-Kinney; Pistolero- Frank Black; Enema of the State- Blink 182; Play- Moby; Californication- Red Hot Chili Peppers; LTE2- Liquid Tension Experiment; The White Stripes- The White Stripes; To Venus & Back- Tori Amos; The Sweetest Punch- Elvis Costello & Bill Frisell; The Fragile- Nine Inch Nails; Temperamental- Everything But The Girl; Reload- Tom Jones; Brand New Day- Sting; Hooray for Boobies- The Bloodhound Gang; The Distance To Here- Live; Modified- Save Ferris; Rock Art and the X-Ray Style- Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros; No. 4- Stone Temple Pilots; This Desert Life- Counting Crows; When The Pawn…-Fiona Apple
Ah… Glad that’s done with… Next, non-Grammy related content and less ranting!!
Wow, what a great time killer... I feel better now, and closer to quittin' time... See you all right back here tonight when I wrap up the 90's Grammy-tastic failures...
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Grammy Winner: Falling Into You- Celine Dion
Grammy Deserver: Nobody, but I’ll pick Fashion Nugget- Cake
If all recording devices were declared spontaneously inert, if music as we know it was replaced by the sound of machine shop tools cutting across blackboards with a retched pop squeal reminiscent of the screaming demons of hell’s deepest circle, if the earth itself was hurtling toward the sun and only French-Canadian power ballads could put us back on course, I still would not abide by the selection of Celine Dion. Do I over dramatize? Occasionally, but not this time… Really, I don’t. You’ll just have to trust me on that point.
Yeah... I'm still not cool with Celine...
This was a tough year for music, and honestly, my two favorite albums of the year were by artists I’ve already picked in prior posts, and I didn’t want to bore the huddled masses by returning to the Tori or Counting Crows wells… If you do find yourself looking for some good 90’s transitional tunes, showing the direction music was going in 1996 as opposed to where it had come from, and DON’T want to listen to Celine of course, give Tori’s Boys For Pele, or CC’s Recovering The Satellites a listen. Instead, I kind of pulled a ‘Grammys’ and went with an album that while the best single effort, is really deserving of the honor because of the band’s cumulative works.
Cake, like the previously honored Belly, is a band that I call attention to not because of their influence on music, or even their influence on the year in question, but because they are bands more people should be aware of. I’m doing what I can so the six or seven people who see this, most of which already own this album, can say ‘Hell Yes!’ and very little will actually change. Alas, if you’re not tilting at windmills, what else is there to tilt at?
If you enjoyed the alt radio hit The Distance, and their monotone cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco anthem I Will Survive, both of them are here, and you will also likely enjoy the other tunes on the album with their acerbic wit and straight faced delivery. Cake is definitely a band for the thinking listener, which is likely why their success has never eclipsed the level of ‘mild to moderate’ the general public tends to like their music more syrupy sweet and French-Canadian… More Celine-like if you will… If you’re more like me, and less like most people, enjoy some Cake!
Other releases of note, though not many:
Boys for Pele- Tori Amos; Gravity Kills- Gravity Kills; Born on a Pirate Ship- Bare Naked Ladies; Call The Doctor- Sleater-Kinney; Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop- Stone Temple Pilots; Milk and Kisses- Cocteau Twins; Crash- Dave Matthews Band; Bringing Down The Horse- The Wallflowers; Odelay- Beck; High/Low- Nada Surf; Rocket- Primitive Radio Gods; Wax Ecstatic- Sponge; Tidal- Fiona Apple; Sublime- Sublime; Better Living Through Chemistry- Fatboy Slim; Pinkerton- Weezer; Antichrist Superstar- Marilyn Manson; Recovering The Satellites- Counting Crows; Fever In Fever Out- Luscious Jackson
1997: Music is back! So are old people!
Grammy Winner: Time Out Of Mind- Bob Dylan
Grammy Deserver: It Means Everything- Save Ferris
Time Out Of Mind isn’t a horrible choice, and practically a given considering the Grammy track record. I bet Fleetwood Mac was pretty pissed that Dylan stole all their ‘over the hill’ cred though… Long and short of it, if I’m not going to side with them on Alanis, I’m not going to give them a pass on Bob Dylan either. This was full on a ‘Lifetime’ pick, and there were more richly deserving artists out there.
I could have given Green Day the pop they deserved for Dookie by calling it for Nimrod, but their best was still yet to come, and besides, if I did that, someone might agree with me… So, keeping with the tradition of picking fringe-artists and waving my own flag of musical taste, I went with Save Ferris, a punk-ska-pop-chick hybrid in the same vein as No Doubt, who, in my opinion, burned hotter, though shorter than their more famous counterpart.
It Means Everything is really only about 1 thing, and that’s having a good time. Everything about this album is fun. It’s not insightful, it’s not artistic, it’s not revolutionary, and there’s not thing one wrong with that, so long as you’re aware that you’re producing fun, not philosophy. Save Ferris gave us a nod and a wink that they knew just what they were doing by dedicating an entire track to Spam… And they’re not even Hawaiian! This is a crazy, wacky, good-time ride and is a perfect choice for a Saturday night out with the friends car recording. Surprisingly, those are harder to find then you might think lest you make the mix yourself, so for that alone I think Save Ferris’ It Means Everything deserves some credit. Unfortunately they never produced anything near this level again, and disbanded after just one more studio album… I guess it beats hanging on for 40 years like Bob Dylan… then all you’ll have to show for your effort is… well… a Grammy…
Other releases of note:
Earthling- David Bowie; Ixnay on the Hombre- Offspring; Secret Samadhi- Live; Marcy Playground- Marcy Playground; Pop- U2; Let’s Face It- The Mighty Mighty Bosstones; Elegantly Wasted- INXS; Dig Your Own Hole- The Chemical Brothers; Dig Me Out- Sleater-Kinney; Ultra- Depeche Mode; Cowboy- Erasure; Terror & Magnificence- John Harle & Elvis Costello; The Colour and Shape- Foo Fighters; OK Computer- Radiohead; Dude Ranch- Blink 182; Love Among the Ruins- 10,000 Maniacs; Zoot Suit Riot- Cherry Poppin’ Daddies; The Fat of the Land- Prodigy; Fush Yu Mang- Smashmouth; Surfacing- Sarah McLachlan; The Dance- Fleetwood Mac; Love Scenes- Diana Krall; Calling All Stations- Genesis; Vegas- The Crystal Method; It Means Everything- Save Ferris; Portishead- Portishead; Nimrod- Green Day; FLAvour of the Week- Front Line Assembly
Ah, cheer up... You're a lock for the 2045 Grammys...
Just one more post left and I can call it a decade. Not that I’m not enjoying this, but I’m just about ready to wax nostalgic in a different direction… See you at the Friday Finale!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Support your indie artists!
Grammy Winner: MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett
Grammy Deserver: Smash- Offspring
Damn you Grammys… Damn you to HELL! For so many years you have picked the old, tired, ‘lifetime achievement’ style picks over the music that was really fueling the hearts and minds of the nation. Because of this, I couldn’t be LESS surprised at the pick of Tony Bennett’s unplugged over say, Nirvana’s unplugged effort (which would have been a suitable ‘the artist is dead’ pick) or even some Tupac… It’s not my bag, but throw the kids a bone will you! No, instead you not only make the safe choice, but in doing so, you ruined Tony Bennett for me… I never saw Bennett on the same level as any of the Rat Pack, but at least before your decision to inflate his ego, he was a charming side act… From the spring of 1995 to about the end of 1996, throw a stick and you’d hit Tony Bennett… The guy was EVERYWHERE… That’s on you Grammys… Sadly, I know you won’t learn from your mistake… By the way, if you’re thinking to yourself, well, the Grammys has a series of rock categories, I’m SURE they made up for this travesty there, throwing some much deserved hardware to the younger set, well, you’d be wrong… Sure, Green Day got props for Dookie in relatively new ‘Alternative’ category, and Soundgarden got props for best ‘Hard Rock’ and ‘Metal’ songs with ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Spoonman’ (which is decidedly NOT metal) respectively, but the other rock awards went to the likes of Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, The Allman Brothers (YES, in 1994), and The Rolling Stones… Anyway, on to things that matter…
Yup, I'm Old
If you listen very quietly, you can hear the last ragged breaths of Grunge Rock just after the plug was pulled… Two things killed Grunge Rock. The first and most obvious was Kurt Cobain’s suicide at the begging of April 1994, but almost as important was Pearl Jam’s release of Vitalogy in December of the same year complete with coast to coast media blitz, simultaneous full-album on air radio broadcasts, and a release timed perfectly for Christmas shoppers. The obvious studio marketing machine was such the antithesis to everything Grunge was it was hard not to label Eddie and the boys sell outs. Personally, that doesn’t bother me in the least. Talented artists deserve to get showered with fame and fortune, provided they put out a good product, and Vitalogy was not a good product.
No worries though, the California neo-punk wave had finally crested over the rest of the nation with hit albums from Green Day, Offspring, NOFX, and Blink 182. Was punk the new Grunge, or was industrial? Nine Inch Nails released The Downward Spiral to massive audiences, prompting MTV to dig deep in their vaults and dust off the Head Like a Hole video from their first release Pretty Hate Machine (Which was technically released in 1989, so I didn’t miss it in the 1990 run down…), giving it far more airplay that it had received at the time of release 5 years previous. Other hard edged club bands also hit the scene as NIN vaulted to commercial respectability with first timers Marilyn Manson and The Prodigy giving the teen angst set a whole new set of music with which to piss off their parents.
That's one pissed off duck...
Punk and Industrial were not the only flavors of rock in ’94. Women were still rocking with Tori releasing her second album Under The Pink, Liz Phair also giving a go at a second record with Whip-Smart, Veruca Salt putting out a very good album American Thighs, and Portishead scoring an underground hit with Dummy. The most obvious trend in rock music across 1994 was a harder edge. While many of 1993’s hit albums were more introspective and lyric driven, the best way to sell an album in 1994 was by finding anything that would make loud noises, and committing it to tape.
This brings us to the 1994 Grammy deserver, a band that scores extra points in MY book because they represent my homeland, Orange County, California. Prior to the release of Smash, not too many people outside of the Huntington Beach club scene had ever heard of The Offspring. They had put out a national release the prior year, but did not see much in the way of sales. Luckily, when their 1994 release rolled around, MTV took pity on them and threw some videos on the air. If the music industry from 1980 through 1995 taught us anything, it’s that MTV dictates what sells, and The Offspring finally received the support their work deserved. Hard rocking power chords, simple lyric sets, plenty of anger driven rock anthems, and just enough political edge to keep them from sounding trite, Offspring (who dropped the ‘The’ sometime between this album and the next) were a cornerstone of the new punk rock scene. A quick note on Green Day’s hugely successful release Dookie. This was also a big, big album in the formation of the new punk movement, and Green Day were certainly the poster boys of this trend in music. Personally however, I feel this is only their 3rd or 4th best release, and honestly, so much of it was crammed down my throat for so long I just can’t listen to most of the releases off the record anymore without being angry that pop radio ruined the tunes for me by overplaying them. It’s a petty and weak excuse, but I never claimed to be strong willed…
Other releases of note:
Under The Pink- Tori Amos; Jar of Flies- Alice in Chains; Too High to Die- Meat Puppets; Dookie- Green Day; Motorcade of Generosity- Cake; Cheshire Cat- Blink 182; Mellow Gold- Beck; The Downward Spiral- Nine Inch Nails; Superunknown- Soundgarden; Vauxhall and I- Morrissey; Naveed- Our Lady Peace; The Crow Soundtrack- Various Artists; The Division Bell- Pink Floyd; The Divine Comedy- Milla Jovovich; Smash- Offspring; Live Through This- Hole; Parklife- Blur; Throwing Copper- Live; Weezer (Blue Album)- Weezer; Ill Communication- The Beastie Boys; Purple (12 Gracious Melodies)- Stone Temple Pilots; Music for the Jilted Generation- The Prodigy; Portrait of an American Family- Marilyn Manson; Punk in Drublic- NOFX; Maybe You Should Drive- Bare Naked Ladies; Stranger Than Fiction- Bad Religion; Definitely Maybe- Oasis; Four- Blues Traveler; Whip-Smart- Liz Phair; Under The Table and Dreaming- Dave Mathews Band; Monster- REM; American Thighs- Veruca Salt; Pulp Fiction Soundtrack- Various Artists; Korn- Korn; No Quarter- Jimmy Page & Robert Plant; The Return of the Space Cowboy- Jamiroquai; Dummy- Portishead; MTV Unplugged: Nirvana- Nirvana; Sixteen Stone- Bush; Vitalogy- Pearl Jam
1995: Who Hijacked the Grammys? Am I going to have to delete this entire post series? They FINALLY made a good choice!!
Grammy Winner: Jagged Little Pill- Alanis Morrisette
Grammy Deserver: (No offense to Alanis) King- Belly
It’s feeling awfully warm and fuzzy in here… Congrats Grammys on giving me a reason not to hate you… Unfortunately I’m blessed with the benefit of knowing what NEXT years Album Of The Year will be, and here’s a spoiler… It’s NOT good… Alanis’ Jagged Little Pill deserves every bit of praise and adoration heaped upon it. I can’t say enough about how great this album is, but I won’t, because if I start agreeing with The Grammys, this is going to be a very short post, and if this website has taught you ANYTHING, it’s that I don’t like short posts…
For that reason, and the fact I hate to agree with people, I’ll go against Grammy wisdom, even in the one year where they got it right. For purely selfish reasons, and because I think the world would be a better place if everyone owned this album, I’m going to go with King by Belly as my Grammy deserver for 1995. Belly had previously released the album Star, which was actually a pretty big success. They scored radio hits with Slow Dog, Feed The Tree, and Gepetto, but then they made the fatal mistake of foregoing pop sensibilities, instead giving the people some substance in the place of catchy choruses. That being said, from front to back King is a highly listenable album, not just a lesson in making art. It’s more than the sum of it’s parts, yet each and every song holds up in it’s own right not just as fun music to groove to, but as individual artistic works unto themselves. The genius of Tanya Donelly shines through on each and every track. Unfortunately, critical acclaim aside, the album was a commercial failure, prompting the band to break up after it’s release. If you’re looking for a great piece of music that you probably haven’t heard before, you couldn’t do much better than this one. It’s recordings like this that the term ‘Under Rated’ was meant for.
1995 was certainly the Year of the Woman in rock music. The landscape was riddled with great female performances ranging from the harder edged punk/ska hybrid seen on No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom, to the more cerebral poetic vocals of Jewel on pieces of you. 1995 celebrated women in a way pop and rock music never had before, and it was well deserved. The volume of great albums in 1995 was not quite as high as in ’94 or ’93, but the substance or the recordings is unrivaled… Man… all this nostalgia is making me want to build a 90’s playlist… I’m sure it wouldn’t be any longer than six or seven thousand songs…
Other releases of note:
No Protection- Massive Attack; Pieces of You- Jewel; The Bends- Radiohead; Elastica- Elastica; Above- Mad Season; 100% Fun- Matthew Sweet; Brainbloodvolume- Ned’s Atomic Dustbin; Frogstomp- Silver Chair; Nihil- KMFDM; Astro Creep:2000- White Zombie; Short Bus- Filter; Sparkle and Fade- Everclear; Post- Bjork; Tigerlily- Natalie Merchant; Sleater-Kinney- Sleater-Kinney; Foo Fighters- Foo Fighters; Use Your Fingers- The Bloodhound Gang; Adios Amigos- The Ramones; 311-311; Garbage- Garbage; …And Out Come the Wolves- Rancid; One Hot Minute- Red Hot Chili Peppers; A Change of Seasons- Dream Theater; Outside- David Bowie; Tails- Lisa Loeb; Tragic Kingdom- No Doubt; Hello- Poe; Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness- Smashing Pumpkins; Saturday Morning (Cartoon’s Greatest Hits)- Various Artists
Next time, 1996 & 1997... See how this works? The years go in order, and I write things about them two at a time!