Friday, March 27, 2015

Marching Out

Well, March is almost gone. (And leaving with more crappy weather - rain, snow tomorrow - wonderful!) I have not managed to get much done here this month - sad, isn't it? That is a habit I had better break in a hurry = April is a big month for Civil War and WWI anniversaries - I've been neglecting them, but I can't very well let the end of the Civil War or Lincoln's assassination, or Gallipoli go unmarked.

Also, too, baseball!

For now, though, it's just music - and another random 10:

1. Love - Always See Your Face
2. Gogol Bordello - Immigrant Punk
3. Bob Dylan - Gates of Eden
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Date with the Night
5. Dead Boys - Sonic Reducer
6. Asian Dub Foundation - Black White
7. Yoko Ono - where Do We Go From Here
8. Jimi Hendrix - Fire
9. Superchunk - Slack Motherfucker
10. Motorhead & Girlschool - Emergency

And video? How about some Immigrant Punk?

Jimi stands next to your fire, live n Sweden, in a heck of a hurry:

And Superchunk, very annoyingly edited live footage from 1993...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday the 20th

Friday is back - one of these weeks I'll get some content in here between Fridays, but not yet. For now, some music:

1. Creation - Bony Maronie
2. Led Zeppelin - Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind
3. Jack White - Entitlement
4. Destroyer - European Oils
5. Linda Ronstadt - Desperado
6. Fleetwood Mac - Rattlesnake Shake
7. Johnny & June Carter Cash - Far Banks of the Jordan
8. Deerhoof - Mario's Flaming Whiskers III
9. Liars - They Took It For the Rest of Our Lives
10. Sex Pistols - Problems

Video? Linda Ronstadt, out riding fences... with the Eagles!

And here's Johnny and company - Mr Rotten does not appear to want to be there:

And one more, a somewhat happier looking Peter Green, singing about something, I wouldn't care to speculate on what:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Broken Dreams and Alibis

The second Friday of the month is here, and two Friday 13ths in a row - what was I thinking? I should have used the chance to do something like Black Sabbath or Blue Oyster Cult for the Bands of the Month - a missed opportunity! But what's done is done, and I suppose desperate youth and bloodthirsty dames are pretty Friday 13th... I've been itching to get TV on the Radio up here - it is time.

I've kind of abandoned the organization I started with - roughly biographical, sort of chronological. Maybe you could fit it to the scheme, say that Sleater Kinney was pretty close to the defining band of the 90s for me; TV on the Radio is pretty much the definitive band of the last 10 years or so. But that's pushing the concept, even if the concept is more about developing taste and critical ideas that life events - I listened to a lot of music from 1995 to 2008 or so, and TV on the Radio was just one of the many bands that won me. They don't have a ton of biographical significance for me - they didn't really change my tastes, they were the culmination of what I was liking at the time, maybe. I will get to a few of bands that shaped me in this period in this series - Sleater Kinney and PJ Harvey were vital; discovering prog and krautrock and Japanese noise was a big part of it; so was rediscovering post-punk, old and new (Gang of Four; The Liars); Mercury Rev and the White Stripes were revelations when I started listening to them... Back in the early-mid 00s I was listening to a bunch of stuff - post-punk, prog/krautrock/avant garde (Scott Walker, David Sylvain, post-rock things like Earth and Mono and Godspeed You Black Emperor), psychedelic folk (Ghost, 6 Organs of Admittance, etc.) - all the places these things met (Melt Banana to Ruins to Mars Volta to Boris to Of Montreal) and so on. That's when TV on the Radio appeared - and I embraced them immediately. They are, after all, drawn out of a lot of those categories - plus pop and funk and jazz and plenty more. They quickly became one of my favorites, and stayed there. And even now - when I can go a month without listening to a record, even records by absolute favorites - they stay in rotation, I buy their records, and listen to them...

I suppose that's why I'm writing about them now - of all the records that came out last year, Seeds is the one that grabbed me the minute I put it on - it's the one I have been listening to for the last couple months, listening to now... It's got all their virtues - and some new ones: songs like Could You take them in very Beatlesque directions they haven't explored all that much before. (With its 12 string guitar, and central riff built around Harrison's "What Is Life".) It comes of as their prettiest record, I think - a hugely enjoyable record, that I had to write about...

That's not new: they were exciting the first time I heard them and still are - their spectacularly blended voices; the hard driving drones; the textures and sounds, guitars and horns and synths and rhythms; the words, perfectly turned phrases, social commentary, criticism in songs, and surprising cool lines and rhymes - their keep revealing things years later. They have an extremely durable sound, partly because it is so rich - they have so many elements working together, letting them push one thing than another, here the rhythms, here the guitars, there the horns, somewhere else the blend of voices. If I'm going to carp, it's that neither of the main singers seems to be a particularly good singer - it sometimes gets them in the ballads, where they can't quite do what they seem to be thinking they should do... But that hardly matters - Kyp and Tunde both have great voices, expressive and flexible, and they have a fine sense of what to do with their voices, how to fit them into the rest of the sounds. Singing in unison, in harmony, or counterpoint (as in Could You, creating a dialogue in the vocals) - they find so many ways to deliver a song. The same is true of the music - the band isn't exactly virtuosic, but their sound is very dense, nuanced, and the full effect is put together in very complex and satisfying, and infinitely varied ways... They have the quality too of constantly reminding me of other bands I love - which might range from Pere Ubu to Michael Jackson, to Radiohead or Mercury Rev, to Marvin Gaye or the Beatles or MF Doom... reminding me of all those bands, but always sounding like themselves. Mostly because of the qualities listed - they work in so many elements to their songs, they have an inexhaustible supply of possibilities. They can be abrasive - they can be pretty; they can make dance music, ballads, they can make guitar driven songs, horns, synths - take your choice. And they can write great riffs, great choruses - and either pound them home (like Could You or Second Song or Dancing Choose) or tease them (the flickering promise and hint of a riff you get in Halfway Home or Quartz) - everywhere in between.

They are fantastic.

And so songs:

1. Halfway Home
2. The Wrong Way
3. Could You
4. Province
5. Bomb Yourself
6. wear You Out
7. I Was a Lover
8. Second Song
9. Quatrz
10. Dancing Choose

And Video: first - here's a full set on Morning Becomes Electric, supporting Seeds:

And a very early performance of The Wrong Way - listen to those almost country rhythms anmd guitars - and the church preaching vocals - misses the horns from the record, but damn, this is good:

Could You - which really could be a long lost Beatles or Big Star song... poor Kyp get gets no respect - he's singing, he's playing the guitar solo, and the camera keeps going back to Tunde, or even Dave Sitek - what can you do? He is definitely staking a claim to the best beard in rock and roll.

Dancing Choose, live on Letterman:

Second Song, from Nine Types of Light, the one record I sort of undervalued when it came out, though it keeps growing on me:

I was a lover - pushing the avant garde vibe a long way. Looking back now, the shapes of their records are clearer - Return to Cookie Mountain is the most avant garde - reminds me sometimes of Mercury Rev - or Pere Ubu, even Art of Walking/Bailing Man Pere Ubu - something there...

Halfway Home at all tomorrow's parties, with great sounding guitars, growling along under Tunde's crooning - I'm sorry to day but the bad sound of the recording makes this even cooler - hard to say how miuch fo the glitchiness is the sound manipulation and how much is the camera - and I don't really care... the opening line is one of the great lyrics, too - the lazy way they turn your head into a rest stop for the dead...:

Friday, March 06, 2015

Marching In

Still winter out - bitter damn cold out today - but there is hope. Yes yes, hope. Though Sunday the clocks change, and that is annoying - the sun is rising by 6 - getting light that is - and that will be lost for a month or so. I like seeing the sun when I get up...

All right, enough. Time to go. Here is some music this AM:

1. Pink Floyd - Eclipse
2. Feelies - Raised Eyebrows
3. Isley Brothers - That Lady
4. Yo La Tengo - The Fireside
5. Merle Haggard - Silver Wings
6. PJ Harvey = Before Departure
7. Yardbirds - Heart Full of Soul
8. Butthole Surfers - Moving to Florida
9. Butthole Surfers - Rocky [hmm: iTunes in a Surfing mood, is it?]
10. Syd Barrett - Octopus

If iTunes wants the Buttholes so much, who can refuse? here they are in 2008, in church, with out much of a stage show, but doing justice to the song. 2 drummers and everything!

The YardBirds - what appears to be an actual live TV clip - hard to find from those days:

And the Isley brothers, live on Soul Train:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Stil Winter Friday 10

So February is running down. Still cold, though we haven't had a blizzard in a couple weeks. You can see spring coming, though - literally - see it: sun rising earlier every day, setting later, getting close to where you have full days... Light, I think, has more to do with your spirit than the cold - cold is a nuisance; darkness starts to gnaw at your brain.

That's enough wisdom literature for the day. Lessee - the Oscars? I have no complaints, I suppose - Birdman is a worthy winner. I wish Boyhood had won instead, or maybe even better, that Birdman, Boyhood and Grand Budapest Hotel had split up the major awards - picture, director, writer - so all had a win or two there, but it's not a travesty. Nice to se three films of that caliber, and type, nominated, and taken seriously. I doubt it portends anything though.

All right - on to music. Nothing fancy today, it's not likely to be a fancy day:

1. Dinosaur Jr. - Water
2. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Red Eyes and Tears
3. Bootsy Collins - Psychoticbumpschool
4. Dangerdoom - Crosshairs
5. Preston School of Industry - A Treasure @ Silver Bank
6. Motorhead - (We are) The Road Crew
7. Olivia Tremor Control - California Demise
8. Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues (wasn't yesterday his birthday?)
9. The Kills - Hook and Line
10. Husker Du - Games

The options are very good today. Mr. Cash starts us off:

Mr. Collins keeps things going:

And the Kills send us off:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Annual Not-About-Academy-Awards Best in Category Post

Well - Oscar inspired, but that's about all. Not even really against the OPscars - every year, there seems to be another Awards-Are-Bad-for-Art thumbsucker - this is not that. I don't care much about the Academy Awards, but the industry does, so who am I to complain about their enjoyment? No - it's just that the Oscars provide an excellent excuse to run through the various categories, and make my own lists. I like making lists. So here we go. With some comments on the Oscars as we go, but that is secondary.

Best Picture:

I managed to see 5 of the nominees. I should see American Sniper, and probably will eventually; I should never have seen Imitation Game, as it annoyed me. That's life. I don't know for sure what will win - there might have been a time when Selma would have won (a big, serious historical epic) - or American Sniper (which for good or ill seems to allow everyone to see what they want in it) - but neither seem right for this year. So I don't know. Boyhood might do it - of the nominees, it should win. Now - as for snubs - thinking just about films that are on the radar of the academy (I doubt Jim Jarmusch counts) - well: I'm not sure. There were lots of films that seem as good as the ones that got nominated, even in theory - and in fact, certainly, Mr. Turner or Love is Strange or The Immigrant seem like better films than some of what got nominated. Though 4 of the films I saw this year were obvious and proper choices - Boyhood, Birdland, Selma and Grand Budapest Hotel - even in a 5 film field, those would have been strong contenders. American Sniper might be there too. The rest seem to be throwbacks to the old days of nominating Oscar Bait films instead fo real films (the other 5 are real films, whatever you think of them - all of them would exist without any reference to the Oscars; I can't say that of the Imitation Game, say.) I don;t have any single disappointments here - I have some opinions on some of the other nominations though.

So - my choices - this is basically a top 5 for the year, though I tried to stick to films that were eligible. 2 of them did get nominated, which is nice:

1. Norte, The End of History [seeing it a second time moved it up from the #2 spot I had at the end of last year - this is a very fine movie.]
2. Boyhood
3. Only Lovers Left Alive
4. Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Her/Him
5. Grand Budapest Hotel


Last year this time, there was argument about how the expanded best picture nominations cut the number of total films nominated - with all the best director nominees coming from the same films. This year, they broke that once - Foxcatcher - which I didn't see... The others are good choices - 3 of mine got on their list. As for what will and should win - I half suspect that Boyhood and Birdman will split these.

My choices:

1. Linklater - Boyhood
2. Inarritu - Birdman
3. Anderson _ Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Diaz - Norte, the End of History
5. Anderson - Inherent Vice

Lead Actor:

I only saw two of these - the others might be worthy, but I barely care. Cumberbatch was very good, but the film was not, so I have to root for Mr. Keaton. Who was outstanding in a very good film... This is a category I think the academy could have improved - lots of performances that should have been here, somewhere - Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice, Spall in Mr Turner - Coltrane in Boyhood - Oyelowo in Selma! Inherent Vice should not have been shut out like this - there are a lot of places where it should have gotten something. This was a deep pool, and I'm not sure how 2 impersonations of famous Englishmen got there in place of anything else.

My choices:

1. Ralph Fiennes - Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Joaquin Phoenix - Inherent Vice
3. Timothy Spall - Mr. Turner
4. Guy Pearce - The Rover
5. Benecio De Toro - Jimmy P

Lead Actress:

I only saw two of these, too. I imagine this is Julianne Moore's to lose, and that's probably justified - she is always superb. I wish they'd put in some of the performances I liked - Cotillard in The Immigrant, or real long shots like Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive or Jessica Chastain in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (a film in general I wish had gotten more attention - I know it's 4 hours long; and maybe it wasn't actually eligible this year - but it was still something to see. Chastain was wonderful, as she usually is.) Overall, this is category with some very good work, that didn't get much acknowledgement. (And if the performances that were nominated that I didn't see are worthy, that just shows the depth.)


1. Swinton - Only Lovers Left Alive
2. Chastain - Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (even just for Her!)
3. Scarlett Johanson - Under the Skin
4. Hilary Swank - The Homesman
5. Cotillard - The Immigrant [being perverse - nothing wrong with her performance for the Dardennes; that's worthy]

Supporting Actor:

Everyone seems to think this will be JK Simmons - who is so good in everything he does that he probably will, and probably should. (I haven't seen it, but I'll take the academy's word for it.) Though I'd go with Norton, out of this bunch. Missing? yeah - lots of stuff missing, though the ones that are there might be fine.

1. Edward Norton Jr. - Birdman
2. Josh Brolin - Inherent Vice
3. Chris O'Dowd - Calvary
4. Ethan Hawke - Boyhood
5. Benecio Del Toro - Inherent Vice

Supporting Actress:

I would assume, and hope, this goes to Patricia Arquette - the rest? who knows.

1. Patricia Arquette - Boyhood
2. Carmen Ajogo - Selma
3. Emma Stone - Birdman
4. Tilda Swinton - Snowpiercer
5. Viola Davis - Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Original Screenplay:

This was a strong category, I think - I saw three of the nominations, and they were all deserving; the others maybe. I hope Wes Anderson wins - but no complaints for Birdman or Boyhood.

1. Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Boyhood
3. Only Lovers Left Alive
4. Listen Up, Philip
5. Force Majeure

Adapted Screenplay:

This one is harder - I didn't see most of them; not sure which scripts I did like were adapted. I am grateful that Inherent Vice got at least one nomination. No idea what will win, though.

1. Inherent Vice
2. Norte (if you consider it an adaptation of Dostoevsky, which might be a stretch)
3. Jimmy P
4. A Most Wanted Man
5. Love is Strange (probably cheating again - it might be a remake, but I don't know if it's adapted.)


Another category where I approve of the nominations - not always the case in cinematography, where sometimes dull beauty wins over innovation and service to the story. Birdman will probably win, but all are good choices.

1. Birdman
2. Ida
3. Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Under the Skin
5. Mr. Turner


How Birdman didn't get a nomination here is beyond me; editing is about deciding when and how to cut - not cutting is as much an editing decision as cutting, and pretending not to cut is even more so. Still - the way Boyhood was made makes me think it had to be created on the editing table, and what came out is a masterpiece, so - I hope it wins.

1. Boyhoood
2. Birdman
3. Babadook
4. Selma
5. Grand Budapest Hotel


Saw three of the nominated films - they make my top 5 too...

1. CitizenFour
2. Actress
3. 20,000 Years on Earth
4. Last Days in Vietnam
5. Finding Vivian Maier


This is Ida's to lose,right? A local theater had both Timbuktu and Leviathan playing this week, but were closed today, so they could clean off the roof - great.. Anyway. The nomination process for these is too strange for me to say much about...

1. Norte
2. Jealousy
3. The Dance of Reality
4. Ida
5. Like Father, Like Son

And I guess that will do it!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Music - Still Winter!

Another Friday, running late again, so this will be quick. Hope this weekend I'l manage to get up a post about the Oscars - not really about the Oscars, of course, more like my own private awards. We shall try!

Meanwhile, I must soon go out into the cold again - and I mean COLD. Winter has staked its claim this year, oh, it has. Looks like it might warm up a bit over the weekend - just enough to rain a bit, create a whole mess of slush and water to promptly freeze solid Monday. You wouldn't think it could get much worse around here, but that's one way: turn half that snow into ice and watch the fun!

Enough. let's hope music can serve as a comfort. Yep.

1. Blondie - Heart of Glass
2. Husker Du - Standing by the Sea
3. Cranberries - Dreams
4. Of Montreal - October is Eternal
5. fIREHOSE - Number Seven
6. Brave New World - Train Kept A-rollin'
7. Linda Ronstadt - Long, Long Time
8. Little Feat - Forty Four Blues/How many more years
9. Gentle Giant - Dog's Life
10. Ryan Adams - Sweet Black Magic

Not a bad bunch of songs there... Now some video? Blondie is a good place to start (complete with a political rap interlude!):

Cranberries video:

Which seems to require Faye Wong's version,with some help from Wong ar-wei and Christopher Doyle:

And we'll end with Linda Ronstadt, because we can, and how can you not?:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Rock the Little Babies with 1 2 3 4

We are into the 90s now, in my Band of the Month cavalcade - this month, partly because they have a new record out, it's Sleater-Kinney.

I was listening to rock again in the late 90s, quite a bit - catching up on older bands, looking for new bands - and picked up The Hot Rock for some reason. Probably something in the Phoenix, that made them sound very interesting - whatever the reason, I found that I liked it. They didn't quite sound like they were described - I was led to expect something noisier - then I got Dig Me Out, and realized that was what people were talking about. And so for a couple years in there, they were one of the contemporary bands that defined the age. Which isn't that far off.

For a while, at the end of the 90s, they were so good. I liked The Hot Rock - it was fascinating, full of good songs, maybe a little out of character from their earlier records, less frenetic, prettier. It also featured their most sustained sustained and systematic use of the double lead vocals, Brownstein and Tucker singing different lyrics in harmony. It's really lovely, and it set me up to expect more of the same. That isn't quite what you get - the earlier records are a good deal rawer, spikier, punkier, angular, noisy and tuneful - and just about as good as anything in the last 20 years. Call the Doctor is harsh and smart and very abrasive - Dig Me Out smooths things a bit, brings it under control, but doers it without losing the energy - really, the better focus makes the energy even more effective. That record is about as good as it gets: Carrie Brownstein, particularly, came into her own, finding that perfect, jagged, surf guitar sound she mastered - she's sharp and precise across the whole record, with a fantastic sound. Their signature tangle was there on the first two records, but really clarifies on Dig Me Out. Then The Hot Rock - which does take a lot of the edge off, but replaces it with a more intricate sound - the intertwined guitars and vocals, and not just vocals, lyrics - those three records together are as good a run as anyone has had in the era. Inventive, surprising, with a unique and powerful sound, that evolves from record to record, without losing what they do right. They wer on top of the world.

You could extend it to All Hands on the Bad One - but somehow, to me anyway, that didn't quite make it. Great songs still - neat guitar work, harmonies, everything you could ask. But it was less overwhelming, somehow, less exciting - less urgent, maybe. I don't know - I certainly listened to it enough when it came out, with great pleasure. Still do - some of the songs anyway - but I don't find that it surprises me anymore, and no matter how many times I've listened to the other three, they keep surprising me. It was not a big drop, or change - All Hands on ther Bad One didn't trigger a crisis of faith the way, oh, The Joshua Tree did - but it made me wonder.... And then, I started to change - so that by the time One Beat came out I was eye deep in prog rock, krautrock, Japanese noise - Sleater Kinney is a long way away from Can or The Boredoms or Acid Mother's Temple or The Soft Machine or Guru Guru - or Mars Volta for that matter. When One Beat came out, it didn't overwhelm me, and I sort of let it pass - didn't listen to it all that much, and didn't go back to it. (And I discovered when I started writing this, that I hadn't even loaded it into the computer - strange indeed! Looking back now - listening to it now - I think I made a serious mistake there. I don't know if it's as good as their best, but it sounds better than I remember it - interesting ideas, different tones and styles, some rhythmic variety that they usually didn't bother with. I think I missed the boat on that one.) By the time the Woods came out, though, I was back where I could appreciate them - deep in the throes of Post-punk (real and neo-post pounk: Gang of Four and the Pop Group; Liars and Bloc Party). Add the fact that The Woods was produced by Dave Fridman (whose band will get their month on this blog soon enough) - I expected to love it - I didn't. Again - it's okay - but they really don't translate well to the bigger guitar sounds on that record, the attempts at jamming - as if they were trying to appeal to that 2002 version of me by pretending to be the Mars Volta. It bugged me - Brownstein, in particular, had reached a point (I thought) where she was a genuinely outstanding guitarist, though in a particular style; trying to play solos and feedback like that just didn't work - I go back to U2 - it's like the Edge trying to be Hendrix on Bullet the Blue Sky - he can't do it; and you end up with something that's not as good as Hendrix and not as good as the Edge. Same here - she's not Omar Rodriguez, or even Ben Chasny - and now, she's not Carrie Brownstein either.

And so we get to the new record - plenty of anticipation there but - comeback records can be scary things. And this? Okay - but nothing more. Except for A New Wave - that measures up to their best - driving, great sound, their cool, lovely harmonies, smart words - it's totally addictive. It's like those songs on All Hands on the Bad On - tuneful, more rock than punk, infinitely hummable, and great sounding. Unfortunately, it's the only song on the record that really gets my attention. The rest - I dunno; what can you do? They seem flattened out - trying to fit their style to something more, I don't know, conventional or something. It puts me in mind of one of those late 80s Pere Ubu records - Cloudland or Story of My Life - though without the tunes, or the musicianship, or David Thomas. Which still - I mean - my opinion of Pere Ubu is no secret - saying they remind me of second rate Ubu is still pretty good. But at their best - they were first rate Sleater-Kinney.

Well, this hasn't gone quite the way it should. We are here to praise and all that. They aren't the only band I've loved that have slipped over the years - U2 and REM and The Replacements and Husker Du are all in that boat... if they stay at it, they are quite capable of returning to the heights, or finding a new height. And if not - well - they were, for a while, just about the best band in the world. And that is worth something. It's worth a hell of a lot, really.


1. The Drama You've Been Craving
2. You're No Rock and Roll Fun - and not just for stealing a Smokey Robinson riff...
3. Little Babies
4. Stay Where You Are
5. Hot Rock
6. Call the Doctor
7. A New Wave
8. I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
9. Jenny
10. Little Mouth

1996 live set, black and white, songs from Call the Doctor:

Good things and Little Mouth, in 1998:

And the Drama You've Been Craving, live in 1997:

Jenny, live - Carrie sounding perfectly majestic on this:

Hot Rock - though it could use better sound. The songs on that record, I imagine need better sound - you have to pick out the two voice and the two guitars... I wish they had done more of what they did there, having Carrie and Corinne sing separate lyrics, in harmony - their voices blend very well anyway, and using them this way, running separate sets of lyrics playing off each other, gave them so much room to expand on what a song could be... It's like someone trying to work out what a real, crafted, pop version of the Murder Mystery would sound like, and absolutely nailing it. I wish they did this more often.

Light Rail Coyote - I never quite gave One Beat the attention it deserved; I think that was a mistake. This is a very good song- it's better than the next two records, anyway.

A New Wave on Letterman - a nifty performance of a really good song - though I admit I'm distracted by the look. Corinne Tucker has turned into Belinda Carlisle, and Carrie Brownstein appears to be a mash up of Pete Townsend and PJ Harvey. Mixing Pete Townsend and PJ Harvey may indeed be the coolest thing on this or any other planet (Polly Jean and Pete themselves excepted), and Carrie makes a pretty fair bid to be just that:

Friday, February 06, 2015

February Friday Random Ten

Another Friday, nothing special - pretty awful week of work, and worse week to get around town in. Snow! Ancient infrastructure! some kind of disturbance in the streets midweek - here I am, trying to get to Starbucks, and all these people are out taking pictures of something in the street. Maybe this was a line to get on the Green Line shuttle busses, I don't know.

Anyway - just music - here goes:

1. Husker Du - Dead Set on Destruction [Like Boston's Olympic aspirations!]
2. Jimmy Dawkins - Triple Trebles
3. Jane's Addiction - Ocean Sized
4. Deerhoof - Running Thoughts
5. Staples Singers - Uncloudy Day
6. Motorhead - Ace of Spades
7. Minutemen - Tour Spiel
8. My Bloody Valentine - To Here Knows When
9. Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues
10. Pere Ubu - Texas Overtures

All right - iTunes is being very, very generous today. That's a nice bunch of songs. So video? Jane's Addiction - no talkin' man, all action:

And smething truly nostalgic - Pere Ubu performing live in a Borders bookstore - do they evenhave books anymore?

And finally - not that we've seen many of these - Uncloudy Day, Staples Singers:

Monday, February 02, 2015

January Film Report

I have to get back into this habit - and with another big snowstorm and the city (and my office) shut down, this looks like an excellent time to try it!

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - 11/15

Extremely stylish, black and white vampire film, in Farsi. The vampire is a girl, who dances alone to 80s records in her room, then wanders the empty night city in a chador, seeking whom she may devour. The plot, as such, revolves around a cool looking young man with a junkie father and evil dealer - when the vampire kills the dealer, the boy takes him money and drugs, dresses up like dracula and goes to a party - on the way home he meets the vampire girl, and ends up at her place in love. In the end, they hit the road, with his cat, like an origin story for the vampires in Only Lovers Get Out Alive. It is all very handsome, and rather witty, though a bit thin.

Princess Kaguya - 10/15

Film by Isao Takahata, adapting an old legend - a bamboo cutter finds a baby in a bamboo stalk, takes her home and raises her - she grows supernaturally fast, and when money appears in the bamboo, he concludes they are meant to move to Kyoto and make her a princess. They do, and everyone is miserable about it. In the end, she remembers she comes from the moon, and must go back, though she doesn't want to. This leads to a fair amount of hopeless nostalgia and regret, until Buddha and his court come down from the moon to take her away. It is all a very beautiful film, funny in places, and moving, and sad, and probably a bit too long.

Inherent Vice - 12/15

Now we hit some of the highly anticipated releases of the new year - holdovers from last year - Oscar Bait! Though this one seems to have been left out. PT Anderson directs Joaquin Phoenix in a Pynchon adaptation - a shaggy dog detective story, drawn from the tradition of the long goodbye, the rockford files, philip k dick, the big lebowski, chinatown, and miscellaneous other things that might occur to you. We have Doc Sportello, a stoner PI whose former old lady somes by with a story about a kidnapping scheme against her current sugar daddy a real estate mogul who has become an acid head; the next day Doc gets a case from a black ex con looking for an ayryan brother ex con who works for Wolfmann (the sugar daddy); Doc visits and gets whacked on the head and accused of a murder, and Wolfmann's kidnapping. After this he gets a case from a woman looking for her husband who was supposed to be dead but someone deposited a lot of money in her bank account. He visits Wolfmann's wife; he visits his DA girlfriend; he is questioned by the FBI. That sets it up - from there on, the film is a series of absurdist situations that seem like classic detective story set ups but don't quite come off. There's something called the golden fang, that might be a boat, might be a drug smuggling cartel, might be a group of dentists doing coke and fucking their receptionists and dodging taxes. People come and go, die, disappear and reappear and in the end, he engages in some not-quite-unbelievable heroics, and then does something selfless, and Shasta Fay comes back. There might be a complicated scheme in there involving the FBI and Las Vegas, but Anderson whips past that in a hurry. The whole is confusing as heck but consistently amusing and clever - it ends up feeling like finding some channel showing a whole season of some detective show with a lose overall plot, that you keep clicking back to during commercials of the red sox game, so you ed up seeing it in unconnected 5 minute chunks. It's a really good show, though - sometime, you should sit down and watch it straight through! (Actually - it felt a lot like the episode of the Rockford Files that was playing at a laundromat I was at a couple days before Christmas. Playing commercial free, but I was coming and going, and doing laundry, and couldn't hear over the machines, and was reading a book while I waited anyway. Stray bikers and ex-cons and rich guys and land deals and cars screeching around corners and attempted murder and cops and lawyers, all blended together coming and going and cracking wise. Probably, on balance, more satisfying this way that actually watching the whole episode straight through.)

Mr Turner - 12/15

Mike Leigh's film about the artist JMW Turner from age about 50 to 75; works through his troubles and triumphs - hi relationship with his father, with his housekeeper, with his fellow artists and occasionally with collectors and royalty. (Ruskin loves his work - Queen Victoria is not amused.) Somewhere in there, about the time his father dies, he befriends a woman who runs a boarding house, and then beds her, and carries on a long affair with her, to his death - a time and place where he seems to be quite happy, most of the time. In the rest of his life, he is a bit of a pill. It is interesting, the art is fantastic (Turner was a bit of a 20th century abstractionist, before the time) - he is something of a son of a bitch at times, but not always, and indeed, part of the point is to undo all the easy conclusions - art requires suffering? artists are bastards? artists are exalted souls? artists - are anything other than people who work hard and create beautiful things that move other people. The film itself of course is extraordinarily beautiful, as Leigh and Dick Pope work to see the world like Turner saw it, at least out of doors.

Two Days, One Night - 12/15

Another fine film from the Dardennes brothers, this time about a woman (played by Marion Cotillard) who, when she is about to go back to work after being out with Depression, learns that she has been laid off. Or will be laid off - the workers were given a choice of letting her go, or losing their bonuses - they voted for the bonuses, but under pressure from the bosses, so there will be another vote. She gets a weekend to try to convince people to save her job at the expense of their 1000 Euros. That's the plot. It's a handsome film, with their usual sense of propulsive drive - though starts to feel a bit like treading water. And the plot is particularly melodramatic this time, with the poor woman on the verge of another breakdown te whole time, and - well, there's a fistfight, aa suicide and a marital breakdown before the weekend ends. Of course, most of the Dardennes brothers' films are melodramas, disguised in their over the shoulder through the streets of Liege filmmaking style - but this one feels a little more contrived than usual. But still handsome and smart, and Cotillard is more than worth it.

Selma - 11/15

Good old fashioned political fiction about the Selma marches - centered on Martin Luther King mostly, though surrounded by people, doing their own thing. It is all very well done - solidly filmed and constructed, put together like an old fascioned war film, The Longest Day or something like that. Might (like those films) be a bit too slick, a bit too much of the Big History story for its own good - but it is still very good. It has engendered some controversy - mostly about LBJ - which might have some merit, though I'm not convinced. It might underplay his role a bit - but it isn't really his story. It's King's story, and the voting rights movement's story - LBJ provides the political obstacle they have to overcome, you might say to get the VRA moved to the top of the legislative pile. I dont know enough about the actual history to know if this is more unfair than it seems - in general the film seems more than reasonable. If it has a flaw, it's that it poses economic justice against political justice - from what I know of King and Johnson, both seem to have understood the importance of both, economic and political rights. You can't have one without the other. I suppose, though, drama requires arguments about strategy, not about tactics (and the choice of how to get to two necessities, is one more of tactics, maybe), so this has to seem like a starker choice.

Duke of Burgundy - 9/15

This is a very hard film to evaluate - gorgeous looking, clever, but rather empty. It's a deliberate throwback to a kind of 70s art-porn horror film - somewhere between Jess Franco and Robert Altman's Images (both of which live somewhere on that continuum) - though mostly short of the porn and horror. Plenty of art, though. There is a story, more or less - two women, Cynthia and Evelyn - Evelyn seems to be a maid, Cynthia a professor who bosses her around - though this is quickly revealed to be a Game - Evelyn is writing the scripts, Cynthia playing her part... They are lovers, more or less happy enough, living this rather excessive S&M role playing life - though cracks appear. Does Cynthia get tired of the dress up and fake cruelty? Is Evelyn doing chores for other people? is she doing more than chores for them? Can Cynthia get revenge by wearing comfortable PJs and dirty socks and ignoring the safe word? We shall see. There are also butterflies and other bugs pinned in their cases, and lectures on entomology, and recordings of insects at play. If this were the Brothers Quay or Jan Svankmajer, these might come to life - they do turn into a Brakhage film at one point.... Anyway - a bit underwhelming, but a handsome film, that gets its 70s style down - especially the credit sequence, which might be the best part of the film, really nailing the feel.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Random 10

Happy Friday. Lovely midweek snowstorm up here - lots of hype coming in, the result - well, we got the 2 feet they said... didn't feel like all that terrible a storm though. Light, powdery snow, no power outages, the city (state) shut down, so the streets were clean - not bad. The subway, on the other hand, has failed to function all week, even before the snow. So it's been interesting getting around town.

Anyway - I am starting this year like last year - managing one post a week... Hopefully we can move on from that, but who knows. Right now - let's keep it simple - 10 random songs it is:

1. Theoretical Girls - computer Dating
2. Deerhoof - News From a Bird
3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Where do We Go Now but Nowhere?
4. Minutemen - what is It?
5. Public Image Limited - This is PIL
6. George Harrison - Apple Scruffs
7. Gomez - Revolutionary Kind
8. Byrds - King Apathy III
9. Destroyer - European Oils
10. Junior Kimbrough - I Gotta Try You Girl

Video? Let's put up Junior Kimbrough - just music, but, such music:

and - another sound only, featuring Clarence White with the Byrds:

And - Gomez, live:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Music Stuff

Nothing too much to say today - running late - so here's a quick random dump. Almost forgot it was Friday, again - a sad state of affairs. But iTunes seems to have taken pity, cause it's a nice selection, huh?

1. Six Organs of Admittance - Saint Cloud
2. Camper Van Beethoven - Eye of Fatima
3. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - The Journey
4. Bloc Party - Mercury
5. Scott Walker - Rhymes of Goodbye
6. Mission of Burma - Trem Two
7. Billie Holiday - Trav'lin' Light
8. Deerhoof - Apple Bomb
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Good Son
10. Johnny Cash - Daddy Sang Bass

And video? Johnny of course:

And - here's a band I might have to write about one of these months - Mission of Burma, live, back at the end of their beginning:

And here's some very nice 80s video nostalgia - Camper Van!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Best Films of 2014

I have waited a couple weeks into the year to do this, for obvious reasons - Inherent Vice was released on the 9th - and I had to see it. It was a happy fact that Mr. Turner was also released last week, so I got to add 2 films fairly hight up the list.

What kind of year was 2014? for me as a filmgoer, my bad film watching habits continue. I am lazy in my dotage. I keep oping it will change, but it hasn't in the last few years, so probably not much hope of changing this year. As a blogger, it was terrible - I managed a couple posts for Wonders in the Dark's Romance countdown - a history post for Citizenfour - an Oscar post, of all things - and, I am relieved to discover, a post about the best film of 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis. (A strong contender for best of the decade, I think. Being one who counts decades alphabetically - the 10s start with the 1 in the 10s place - we are halfway through the decade already. That is a list I ought to contemplate as well. If I start now, I might get it posted before the 20s.) All in all - not much writing this year. I have to rectify that.

And for the films? Like a lot of years, there were stretches where there didn't seem to be anything around. (It would feel that way right now if I didn't have the option to keep seeing Inherent Vice every week, and go see Boyhood again.) I don't if that is justified - there are films put now that people seem to like... Looking back - it's not a bad year. Though maybe nothing quite overwhelming. I don't know. A very respectable year, rather than an exciting one.

All right - on with it: best 25 released (more or less) in Boston, in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Norte, the End of History
3. The Missing Picture
4. Only Lovers Left Alive
5. Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Her/Him
6. Grand Budapest Hotel
7. The Babadook
8. Ida
9. Inherent Vice
10. The Rover
11. Love is Strange
12. Mr Turner
13. Dance of Reality
14. Like Father Like Son
15. The Immigrant
16. Citizenfour
17. Jimmy P
18. Force Majeure
19. Nymphomaniac (Vol 1)
20. Cavalry
21. 20,000 Days on Earth
22. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
23. Abuse of Weakness
24. Ernest & Clestine
25. Listen Up Philip

Not a bad collection, really. And the 10 best films made and debuted in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Grand Budapest Hotel
3. The Babadook
4. Inherent Vice
5. The Rover
6. Love is Strange
7. Mr. Turner
8. Citizenfour
9. Force Majeure
10. Cavalry

And now to look back at 2013 - starting with what I posted at the beginning of this year:

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Computer Chess
5. Ain't them Bodies Saints
6. The Great Beauty
7. Upstream Color
8. Before Midnight
9. Enough Said
10. I Used to Be Darker

And now, what looks like the best of 2013, a year later:

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Norte, the End of History
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Blue is the Warmest Color
5. The Missing Picture
6. Only Lovers Left Alive
7. Disappearance fo Eleanor Rigby
8. A Touch of Sin
9. Jealousy
10. Ida
11. Dance of Reality
12. The Past
13. Computer Chess
14. Ain't them Bodies Saints
15. Like Father Like Son
16. The Immigrant
17. Jimmy P
18. Nymphomanac V 1
19. Abuse of Weakness
20. The Great Beauty
21. Her
22. American Hustle
23. Under the Skin
24. We're the Best
25. Upstream Color

Friday, January 16, 2015

Going Out to Frisco and Join a Psychedelic Band

Friday rolls around again. Music! Randomly selected, this week, for I am lazy!

I do hope things will start to perk up - Oscar Nominations are out - I don;t care too much about those, but the general end of the year film thing is always fun. I haven't posted a best of 2014 yet - I was waiting for Inherent Vice, to be plain - it will be up soon.

This will have to do for the moment though. Gonna have to go earn a dollar soon... sad. Makes me want to play my bongos in the dirt...

1. Tom Waits - Day after Tomorrow
2. X- We're Desperate
3. Times New Viking - No Time, No Hope
4. Pink Floyd - Flaming
5. Yo La Tengo - By Two's
6. Mission of Burma - Fame and Fortune
7. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - Flower punk
8. The Byrds - Mind Gardens
9. Neu! - Neuschnee
10. Six Organs of Admittance - OnReturning Home

Video? Here's Frank and the Mothers, and some old footage of hippies:

Here's The Pink Floyd, playing Flaming, live on TV, post Syd (just barely post-Syd.)

And some Vintage X - good for you on a Friday, no? get use to it!