Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I had to throw my basil plant away. Ants had made a nest in it, and were using it as an outpost to conquer my kitchen. I'm very sad.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Fiery Furnaces - EP

If I can offer one sentence of explanation for my seemingly illogical musical taste, it is that I'm more attracted to sounds than to songs. This is why, for instance, I find myself more interested in Jimi Hendrix and James Brown than The Beatles or Bob Dylan. It's why Sonic Youth and The Butthole Surfers are more interesting to me than Husker Du or The Replacements. Hearing a sound I've never heard before grabs me immediately and causes me to run out to the record store with money in hand. Well-crafted pop songs, on the other hand, generally take time to burrow under my skin. Sometimes a friend will make me a mixtape with a bunch of indie pop bands on it. They're the same kinds of songs that I hear all the time on college radio stations without even noticing them. Sometimes, I know that they are in fact songs I've heard on college radio stations without even noticing them. But as I listen to the tape over the course of a few weeks, they get to me, one by one, and I begin to realize their genius. (Of course, when I talk about pop songs here, I'm talking about the more sophisticated kind. Something like "We Got The Beat," or "I'm A Believer" will grab me on the first listen.)

All this is relevant to my experiencing The Fiery Furnaces EP, which I recently bought after having downloaded half the CD months ago. The songs that first grabbed me were the ones from the weird, prog-y, second half. A song like "Sullivan's Social Slub" has elements that immediately appeal to me: the dissonant piano chords, the bizarre, alliterative lyrics. But now, able to listen to the disc in it's entirety, it is the poppier first half, where the weird arrangements are applied to catchy tunes, that I'm finding myself falling for. Part of this is that the 5 songs on "side one" work together as a unit, each one strengthening the next, and in fact the first three songs are segued together into a medley.

"Single Again," the least intriguing song on the first side, is either a cover of a centuries-old folk song, or else written to sound as if it were a cover of a centuries-old folk song. It starts out with a retro-moog arrangement, then builds layers upon it as it gains in intensity. This segues into "Here Comes Summer," which sounds alot like Low/Heroes-era Bowie, and has a more winter-y feel than its title implies. The generous melody is supported by a weird, talking guitar, a perfect marriage of sound and song. This in turn segues into the incredible song "Evergreen," which I think is probably what Coldplay sounds like to people that like Coldplay.

"Sing For Me" is the trickiest song. It's the type of song that could so easily come off as obnoxious if overplayed, but they manage to approach it with a light enough touch to not overpower the listener, while still conveying the emotional power of the vague lyrics. But the last song, "Tropical Iceland," is the masterpiece, where all the band's strengths come together to form a perfect pop hit. The baroque arrangement is now careening downhill like a runaway train, and as more and more happens in the background (rococo piano, swooshing sound effects), the song seems to gain speed and threaten to fall apart. It reminds me a little of the Velvet Underground's "Ferryboat Bill." The energy is enough to make you dizzy, and the chorus is bolstered by a beat that's as pogo-able as "I Wanna Be Sedated." It's the kind of song that, when it's over, you just want to rewind and listen to again.

Paradoxically, the songs on the second half seem to suffer from being grouped together. You keep waiting for a pleasing pop hook to spring up, but it never happens. Individually, these are some great pieces of music, but back to back the approach gets old.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

80's Punk Nostalgia Cinema!

The end of this month begins the Egyptian's 6th Annual Festival of Fantasy, Horror & Science Fiction. Number One Must-See:

20th Anniversary Cast & Crew Reunion:
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, 1985, Columbia, 90 min. "They’re Back … They’re Hungry … And They’re NOT Vegetarian!!" Director/writer Dan O’Bannon’s gory, gleeful, punk-rock classic is the godfather to such revisionist zombie flicks as the recent SHAUN OF THE DEAD. RETURN is an unofficial "sequel" to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, where leaking gas canisters at a medical supply warehouse inadvertently rain down on the nearby cemetery and mortuary. Much skull-splitting, brain-eating hilarity ensues … along with punked-out Linnea Quigley’s unforgettable erotic cemetery dance! Discussion following with cast and crew including: director & screenwriter Dan O'Bannon, actors James Karen, Don Calfa, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Miguel Nunez Jr. and Brian Peck, and art director William Stout.

No mention of Quigley making an appearance, but one can hold out hope. At any rate, I will be there. Nothing else I'm that interested in playing. Well, I might check out the Spaghetti Western double feature on August 21. But, also...

Image hosted by

Chicken and Rice

OK, first of all this song rules!

Trader Joe's has kosher chicken, and I swear it's so much better than any other chicken. I don't know what is different about it, but I assume the exacting standards of kosher require better care for the chickens both before and after their deaths. I BBQ'd some Sunday, and it was even more delicous than my usual BBQ chicken (which is pretty awesome in itself). I also made chicken and rice with it not long ago. This is a favorite recipe of the family. I like to make it on Sunday nights, because it takes a little while. Better for cold weather, but just for fun, here's the recipe:

Take a whole, cut up chicken. Peel the skin off, and any excess fat. Put the chicken in a big pot with 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. garlic powder, and aboooooooout 3/4 tsp. salt (a whole tsp. seems to just be too much). Cover it with water, bring to a low boil, and let it boil for an hour. Then remove the chicken, let it cool for 10 or 15 minutes. Shred the meat off the bone and dump into the broth. Add a can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup. Bring to a boil. Add 6 cups of rice (I use minute rice, just so I don't have to cook the stuff any further) and cook. It's like a more solid version of chicken soup.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Got That Attitude

IFC is running this history of punk documentary called Punk: Attitude. At 90 minutes, it's able to cover more territory than the punk chapters of either the PBS/BBC History of Rock, or the other one that ran on A&E or TLC or something, or for that matter the 25 Years of Punk thing that ran on MTV a while back. The Dictators got some love (Yay!), but Jonathan Richman got the shaft (as usual!). X were barely mentioned. But I guess you can't cover everything. I would have liked it if they'd spent some time on the Riot Grrrl movement, or the indie zines and labels of the '80s. And too much Agnostic Front for my taste, but I guess they are a good representative of what the mid-80's hardcore scene was like. Some choice quotes:

A lot of the early punk bands, and early new wave bands, were made up of kids who were the only Stooges fan in their town, the only Velvet Underground fan in their town. Then they went off to college, or moved to the big city, and met each other, and said "Hey, let's start a band."
-Jello Biafra

The first time I saw The Ramones, I HATED them. I hated them so much that I was mad. I was so mad at my friend for bringing me to see this crap. All I could think about was how mad I was for the next 24 hours. Then I went back the next night.
-guy from The Bush Tetras

Then Johnny Rotten left the Sex Pistols and started Public Image Ltd., who I thought were 1,000 times more interesting than the Sex Pistols.
-Henry Rollins

I thought, what if I took the horror of Alice Cooper, but made it about real life? And instead of writing about vampires, I could write horror songs about cops.
-Jello Biafra

Then we entered a period where, if you did anything different, if you took a guitar solo, or if a song lasted more than a minute and a half, everyone would be like "What is this shit, Freebird?" And we'd say, "Come on, guys, can't you give us a LITTLE space?" "NO!"
-Henry Rollins

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Land of the Dead and other stuff

My idea of the perfect movie? A week ago, I'm not sure what I would have said, but now: Zombies eating Republicans. Such a simple concept. Bobbie declared it her favorite zombie movie ever. I wouldn't go that far, but it is a fantastically satisfying flick, and I really think Romero's dead series has to stand among the most successful franchises in the history of movies. More detailed insights possibly coming later in the week, but right now, I'm so happy that I saw a new Godzilla movie and a new Romero Dead movie on the big screen within a week, and both were much more satisfying than the new Star Wars movie.

In other new, Jamba Juice is incredibly good. They've opened a branch in our neighborhood, and I just can't get enough. If they put rum in these things, there'd be no stopping them.

I went nuts at the Brand Library. They had so much new stuff I was interested in. Currently checked out:

Prince: The Hits 2 (which has a lot of Controversy and Dirty Mind stuff)
Prince: LoveSexy (not a great album, but it's got at least 3 great songs)
Prince: 1999
Annette Funicello: The Best of Annette
Dizzee Rascal: Boy in da Corner
Rolling Stones: Her Satanic Majesty Requests (CD is in bad shape)
Santana: Caravanserai (4th album, more mellow/jazz-y/instrumental stuff than previous. Some of it sucks, some of it's good)
Frank Zappa: Cheap Thrills
Sleater-Kinney: The Hot Rock
Kid Creole: Kid Creole Redux (excellent!)
Raymond Scott Orchestrette: Pushbutton Parfait
The Roots: Things Fall Apart
Kriss Kross: Totally Krossed Out
Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick (Deluxe Edition)
Ray Charles: The Very Best of Ray Charles

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Godzilla: Final Wars

The crowd was live like Dave Clarke Five, cheering every time Godzilla appeared, or was even mentioned. In fact, it was one of the most packed shows I've ever been to at the Egyptian, and the crowd obviously consisted largely of rabid Godzilla fans. And this was the early show!

Godzilla: Final Wars is not nearly as good as Godzilla Mothra King Ghidora: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, but it's got its moments. Whereas GMK was an effort to make a more adult kaiju movie, director Ryuhei Kitamura sets the goal of putting Godzilla in a balls-0ut giant monster action flick. Sometimes it works, but mostly it suffers from the same problem as Kitamura's eariler film Versus: the movie throws so much shit at the audience that, by the time we've gotten to the end, we've simply stopped caring. Kitamura impresses me as a Japanese version of Robert Rodriguez: he can come up with a great list of things that would be cool to see in a movie, but he can't write an interesting story.

Final Wars begins with a prologue that takes place several years before the main action of the film, with an Earth Defense Force spaceship imprisoning Godzilla under the arctic ice. From there, it brings us to a plot similar to Destroy All Monsters or Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. An alien race ("Our name is difficult for you to pronounce. You may call us "Xilians") attacks the earth by controlling 10 monsters and unleashing them on the cities of the world. There's also a race of super-mutants who have appeared on earth like the X-Men, and who share some DNA with the monsters, and also come under the control of the aliens, except for our protagonist, because...well, it's never really explained very well, but who cares? Very quickly, we end up with a rag tag team going off to save what's left of the world. There's the mutant Earth Defense Force officer, the hot biologist he's been teamed with, the gruff, American pilot who imprisoned Godzilla all those years ago, and...a couple others we don't care about. The American (played, I am told by the Japanese guy that accompanied us, by a popular kick boxer) looks like Sgt. Rock and speaks entirely in Stallonian one-liners. "There's two things you don't know about Earth," he tells the bad guy. "One of them is me, and the Godzilla." (insane cheers from the crowd follow) They quickly hatch a so-crazy-it-just-might-work plan to free Godzilla from his icey tomb, let him destroy the monsters, and worry about dealing with him later.

The worst thing about this movie is that it's so FUCKING xXx-TREME!!! It's just unrelenting, short-attention-oriented, way too loud, and has a mostly-awful techno-rock score (although there were a couple snippets of the score that sounded really cool). Unlike GMK, the monsters occupy a secondary plot, with the main focus on the human characters (This is always a difficult thing for kaiju movies to work out. The early 90's series seemed to handle it the best), giving it a sort of Power Rangers feel. But Power Rangers as filtered through The Matrix. In fact, there are several shots that are directly lifted from Matrix: Reloaded, and dozens of other films are pilfered here as well. Although the American Godzilla is appropriately ragged upon (American Godzilla is one of the monsters the aliens send, and he quickly gets his ass stomped by the real thing, followed by the alien leader exclaiming "I knew that tuna-eating beast was useless," to great applause), there are unmistakeable ripoffs from Devlin/Emmerich's Independence Day. Even stranger, the 80's version of Flash Gordon seems to be a major source for this film, with not only several direct visual references, but some very Queen-like moments in the score.

Having said all that, there is a lot to like about the film. Kitamura may be making movies for ritalin-deprived children, but that doesn't mean he's not talented. Mostly, the best parts deal with the monsters. Kitamura has a great idea of how to properly use CGI to enhance the rubber suit, even moreso than Kaneko. He brings the monsters to life in a way that noone has before. Early on, there is a succession of views of the monsters destroying cities, and to see a CGI-aided Rodan laying waste to NYC is pure joy for anyone raised on Japanese monster movies. Anguirus' "bowling bowl" attack style is much more believable. Varan, the giant snake/dragon monster, looks like a classic Chinese Dragon flying through space in its battle with the space ship. The monster fights are pretty spiffy. Godzilla actually BEHEADS other monsters! And Godzilla himself seems to have more personality than he has in any past film. You can see the grizzled old warrior in his eyes. Mothra gets the most rowsing, heroic treatment she's ever had, and although Minya (Baby Godzilla) is as annoyingly cute as ever, he's at least put to some good use.

I also love the main bad guy. I'm trying to look the guy up in IMDB, but I can't figure out which character he was. The actor looked very familiar--I at first thought it was the same guy who played the evil glam-rock kidnapper in Suicide Club, but no. The guy has a great "cartoon bad guy" look, and spends much of the movie either arching his eyebrows while proclaiming that humans are nothing but cattle, or shaking his fists as his monsters are defeated by Godzilla. You keep expecting him to say "curses!"

Overall, not my favorite Godzilla movie by a long shot, but a fun flick nonetheless. Like Rodriguez, I think Kitamura has potential, if he'd work with a decent screenwriter, but I'm not holding my breath. I get the impression he's entirely in love with his own epileptic aesthetic.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Bobbie: Chris is making me watch some musical about the Declaration of Independence.
Sally: How gaytriotic.