Monday, July 30, 2007

Surgeon General's Warning

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Well, That's That

Finished Deathly Hallows in approximately 1 week and 2 hours. Which is good, because now I can start on the dishes and chores that have been piling up.

Wow, it's like, you know how, with these long-running stories, you get to the end and you suddenly realize that the author totally misunderstood his own story (or, I guess, had a completely different idea of what it was about than you)? J.K. Rowling totally understands what Harry Potter is about. I'm so perfectly satisfied with this book. There's a couple things I was maybe thinking would go down a little differently (Neville getting revenge on Bellatrix, the big Lupin/Greyback wolf battle that never happened), but it's pretty much went where I was hoping it would go. Amazing how many details in each of the earlier books pay off in this one. And fucking action-packed, too. I don't know how they're going to cram all this into the movie, unless they just put some genius *cough*Cuaron*cough* in charge.

And now, to get on with my life...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What I've Been Listening To (And Other Stuff)

I'm on page 470. The current goal is to be done before I go to bed Sunday night. Bobbie and I were neck in neck, but last night she stayed up til 4 in the morning or something, and now she's about 100 pages ahead of me.

In a continuing effort to fill my ipod with good stuff, I've been going to the library and getting those two- and three-disc collections of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Big Joe Turner, Howlin' Wolf, Blind Willie Johnson, Louis Armstrong and so on to gorge on. But beyond that, here's a brief rundown of what I've been listening to...

Like a good fan, I went out and bought the Beastie Boys' new all-instrumental album, and unsurprisingly, it's not that great. Nothing really bad about it, just not anything to get worked up about (I think I actually prefer Olio i Aglio, the all-hardcore EP they put out around the time of Hello Nasty). BUT. I've been really enjoying listening to their live performances from Poland earlier this month. The mostly-hip hop set they did on 6/30 is great, but the mostly-instrumental set they did on 7/1 is the one I keep listening to. It just has such a nice, mellow vibe. In both cases, they're mixing it up more than ever, and the sets feel very spontaneous. I'm starting to regret not getting tickets.

Big Star is one of those bands I've known about for years, but never got around to listening to. They're a 70's pop band that's always cited as a big influence on REM, the Replacements and other jangly, 80's alternative bands. I got their first two albums from eMusic, and they became the major soundtrack of the first months of this summer. I can kinda see why they never quite made it--they play simple pop songs that were out of style in the mid-70's, when it was all about Led Zep and ELP, but a little too sophisticated to apeal to the bubblegum market (Bay City Rollers and such). The music has a nice, earthy tone that just screams early 70's. I guess their most famous song is "In the Street," which was used as the theme to That 70's Show. It's funny to discover that in the second verse, the part that goes "Not a thing to do/But talk to you" becomes "I wish we had/A joint so bad!" Subversive!

Another one of those bands you always hear about but never really hear is The Pretty Things. I got their 1970 album Parachute, which apparently (and quite surprisingly) was Rolling Stone's pick for album of the year that year. Lots of good stuff on it, but there's this one song that's really kicking my ass, "Sickle Clowns." I can't figure out what the lyrics are about, but I love the sinister, snearing sound.

I also got this Michael Hearst album, Songs for Ice Cream Trucks, which is exactly what it claims to be. It's brilliant! Seriously, the best music to drive around to during the hot summer months, especially in L.A., where even ice cream is trendy. I heard an NPR piece on it, had to get some. More on Ice Cream Truck music here, here and here (oh, and here). Find good ice cream in L.A. here. I was hoping I could finish up with a YouTube of Jonathan Richman's "Ice Cream Man," but there's not one out there, so take your pick: Van Halen or Capt. Beefheart.

Oh yeah, and I got the new They Might Be Giants album produced by the Dust Bros., which sounds like...a They Might Be Giants album produced by the Dust Bros. The funniest song, to me, is "Climbing the Walls," which sounds like a Nirvana parody. Which is kinda funny, because until I listened to it, it had never really occurred to me that Nirvana had such a distinctive sound, or Cobain such a recognizable guitar style. I had been thinking of them as, you know, "generic for indie rock," right?

Sigh...I guess I'll be going to this:

Fri & Sat, Sept 28 & 29 at Midnight at the Rialto Theatre!

Series creator Joss Whedon poured his heart and soul into "Once More, With Feeling," the surprisingly effective musical episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sixth season. He wrote and composed all the songs, each one catered to the cast and character's strengths, and even extended the length of the show in order to cram in more tunes. Buffy fans are invited to watch their favorite episode on the giant screen, surrounded by a theatre filled with singing, shouting and laughing friends. We turn on the subtitles and lead the audience in a sing-along with all the characters. And, in the tradition of Rocky Horror and other interactive fan favorites, we offer goodie bags filled with tools for participating in the show. Before the film, audience members are invited to participate in a Buffy-oke contest and show off their own acting skills, show off their knowledge of Buffy trivia, and have a chance to win cool Buffy prizes.

God, how embarassing. But I'll be there.

Oh yeah, and did you see this? Cate Blanchette as Bob Dylan! David Cross as Alan Ginsberg (not much of a stretch, really)! Tod Haynes directing another rock movie! I'm very excited.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

Seems like I've been waiting to see Inland Empire for a long time now. It debuted at the AFI Festival late last year, but that was just a one-night gala event with tickets going for $75 or some shit, that sold out immediately. Then it opened at the Nuart several months ago. The Nuart is clear over on the other side of town, and usually after a film debuts there, it ends up playing at one of the two multiplexes in Pasadena that show arthouse films, so I figured I'd just wait for it to come to Pasadena. But then it never did, and months went by, and finally it played last month at The New Beverly, and I was planning on going but then we got a new dog, and blah blah blah, so last week it played at the Aero theater in Santa Monica, over on the other side of town again. Which is a real hassle, but by this time I was just DETERMINED that I was gonna see the thing in the theater.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. I knew it was three hours long, that it was a dificult film even by Lynch's standards, and that even a lot of people who were heavy Lynch fans disliked it. But I just felt like it was something that you'd have to experience in the theater to get the full effect of, and I just needed to experience it. I'm still not sure what I think of it, but I do think it was the right decision. I'm pretty sure that if I had tried to watch this at home, I would never have made it to the end.

It's hard to figure out where to begin talking about this film. Like all David Lynch movies, it seems to be a direct view into Lynch's subconscious, but even moreso. It's at least partially an attempt to recreate the feeling of a dream. Or, I should say, a nightmare. It's absolutely a David Lynch film: there are red curtains, TV static, characters that take on multiple identities (like Bill Pullman in Lost Highway), sex, violence, surreal weirdness. There's...OK, my favorite scene in any David Lynch movie is the one in Fire Walk With Me, where Laura falls asleep staring at a painting of a doorway, and then she's dreaming of walking through this dark room towards the slightly opened doorway, and she's walking very slowly, like she's not sure what's behind the door, and it's just so fucking scary. It just hooks into some primal perception of childhood fear. Well, I'd say about an hour of this film's running time consists of pov shots of characters walking slowly down dark hallways with lots of corners and doorways. It's a recurring theme, just like when you have nightmares, you always dream the same scenarios, right? And it's especially scary in a David Lynch movie, because, just like in dreams, you have no idea what might be around the corner. It might be a killer with a knife, but it might be a family with bunny rabbit heads, and you're not sure which is scarier. And this movie is scary as shit sometimes.

The basic idea is that Laura Dern is this actress, who is making a movie called On High With Blue Tomorrows (which sounds like something out of a dream, doesn't it? Like, on those rare occasions when you're able to read something in a dream, like the title on a book or a script, it's always some weird bunch of words that don't really make sense), and she plays a woman married to a powerful, violent man but fooling around with this younger guy, while in real life the actress is married to a powerful, violent man and seems to be getting into a relationship with the actor playing the younger guy, and obviously this causes some confusion. Then it turns out that Blue Tomorrows is actually a remake of a Polish film that was never completed because the two lead actors were murdered, and it is based on a Polish folk tale which is believed to be cursed (there's "something in the story" that's cursed). As Dern's character goes through complete ego breakdown, she finds herself in several other identities. Sometimes she's in Poland, sometimes she's at a backyard BBQ with a bunch of polish people, sometimes she's in an upstairs room telling her story to a mysterious bureaucrat, speaking in what sounds like a parody of Quentin Tarantino dialogue. The structure reminds me of Finnegan's Wake: characters take on multiple identities and appear in different settings, and the structure is not so much of flashbacks and flashforwards, but more like everything is always happening: a woman is always being stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver, Laura Dern is always telling her story to the mysterious bureaucrat, she is always receiving a visit from a mysterious polish woman, but these things repeat in different variations.

The movie can be irritating. I'd estimate that, of the 3-hour running time, I was annoyed for at least an hour. But I'm glad I went through it, in the same way that acid heads never regret a bad trip. And especially in the theater, where it felt like we in the audience were all enduring this journey together. It was a strange experience. People laughed a good deal throughout the film, but it seemed as though no two people laughed at the same thing, found the same parts funny (well, one exception, when Dern tells the bureaucrat "I can't remember what happened first, and it's really laid a mind fuck on me." Everyone laughed at that, as if she was expressing what the audience was going through). In the line in the small bathroom afterward, I broke the silence by turning to the guy next to me and saying "that shit's gonna give me nightmares," which got a good chuckle out of just about everyone there.

But the thing is, although it was an intense experience, I'm not finding that many images are sticking with me. Well, there's one scary-as-fuck image involving clown makeup that I'm having a hard time shaking, but if you think about other David Lynch movies, how they have all these scenes that get stuck under your eyelids, I don't think there's much that's quite up to that. Understand that it's still a David Lynch movie, so it's like saying this is a minor Picasso or Rembrandt. It's still worthwhile, but I'd place it pretty low on the Lynch list.

One more thing I have to mention: Laura Dern. She's incredible. She's on screen through almost the entire running time, and she gives an amazing performance, a raw expression of horror, despair and confusion. Sometimes these emotions aren't clearly defined by the story. It's the emotional equivalent of physically acting with cgi dinosaurs that will be added in in post production.

It's interesting to compare this to Terry Gilliam's Tideland. Both films find the directors working in a looser style, and both have been mostly rejected by their audiences (not least, in each case, for lacking the visual beauty of their best respective works), but both may prove important turning points in their careers. In both cases, I'm hoping that they return to material that's closer to things they've done in the past, bringing some of the lessons they've learned on these films with them, but in both cases, this may never happen. Lynch has explicitly stated that he's never going back to shooting on film (Inland Empire is shot on cheap DV, you can look up just about any recent interview with him to hear him talk on the subject), which I can't help feeling is a real shame. But I guess that one of the things I like about Lynch is that he's a guy who does exactly what he wants to do.

This was the first time I went to the Aero, by the way, and while it's not as lavish as the Egyptian, it's a very nice, comfy old movie house. I have to think that being in this old theater, surrounded by red curtains (this is the the theater where Donnie Darko looks over and sees Frank the Bunny sitting next to him) added to the experience.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Boots Randolph (1923-2007)

Boots Randolph, the sax player best known for "Yaketty Sax" (the song used for those Benny Hill chase scenes) has passed away. I always thought he was also the guy on the Coasters' songs "Yaketty Yak" and "Charlie Brown," but apparently that was King Curtis. Anyway, let's have one last chase for ol' Boots.

You know, these Benny Hill routines are actually pretty funny. I don't think I've watched them since I was maybe 14.

Let's also note the passing of Playboy cartoonist Robert "Buck" Brown (best known for the naughty granny character), and 7th Voyage of Sinbad star Kerwin Mathews.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Weekend, Pt. 2: Harry Potter and Michael Moore

I'm pretty sure Order of the Phoenix is the best Harry Potter movie yet, both as a movie conveying a coherent and entertaining story and as an extension of the Potter world, with all those neat little details in the background like Mr. Weasley's fascination with muggle tech, and Luna Lovegood's obsession with...what were they called, nargles? I can't remember what explenation they went into of that in the book, but I liked it that they never wasted time explaining what they were in the film. One missed opportunity that both Bobbie and I independently noticed was with the thestrals, the flying horses that you can only see if you've witnessed a death. All it would have taken was a quick mention by Ron on the flight to the Minsitry ("I don't fancy riding something I can't see"), then you could have a great, heavy momemnt when all the kids emerge from the Ministry after the battle, and they can all see them. It just seems like such an easy opportunity to drive home the themes of the movie, and the importance of that turning point in the larger story.

Sicko is easily my favorite Michael Moore film since Roger & Me, and I might even like it better than that one. They've been steadily declining in quality in my opinion, but this one really hits the right notes. It's an important film, and as great a job as it does underlining the inadequecies of our healthcare system, Moore uses that as a springboard to take things even further. He frames a liberal worldview much more eloquently than any Democratic politician ever has. And it's a great elaboration on the theme of Bowling for Columbine, that we are unfortunately allowing so much of our national character to be defined by fear, and it's having extremely detrimental effects on our lives.

Tonight, Inland Empire. Tomorrow, The Deathly Hallows.

Monday, July 16, 2007

My Weekend, Pt. 1: Os Mutantes and Syd Barrett

When I lived in Athens, I went to see a lot of bands. I'd estimate that in the 7 years I spent there, I saw a band play live at least every other week. Then I moved out here, and I just stopped going to shows. I guess not knowing the clubs or feeling comfortable at them just put the momentum on the side of my laziness and agoraphobia. Because I love seeing bands, but I really hate standing around waiting for the band to come on, and I don't really have any friends out here who share my musical taste, so it's just easier to stay home or go to the movies. In the 10 years I've been out here, I've been to two shows - my friend Brian's band opening for the guy who used to be in Dramarama (they blew him off the stage), and the Beastie Boys last time around.

So I decided that I need to go see more shows, and I was gonna go out next friday to the Greek Theater to see Sonic Youth perform Daydream Nation and Redd Kross do Born Innocent, but you know what? I've seen SY twice, seen RK twice, and even though it's probably my only chance to here Redd Kross play "Kill Someone You Hate," I decided that it would just be cooler to see Os Mutantes.

Man, Os Mutantes were amazing. Just the energy coming off the stage was so great, so positive and joyful. I've never seen a band look so happy to just be on stage performing. And the guitarist was laying down some great psychedelic solos. Busdriver opened, and he was fun too, but I think his songs come off better on the albums than live (which I guess is true of most hip hop).

Bobbie had a rare weekend off, so we went to the movies on Saturday (Order of the Phoenix) and Sunday (Sicko). More on those in the next post. So Sunday night, I was kinda not into going to the movies again, but how often do you get the chance to see Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett? Oh, wait, am I getting ahead of myself?

The American Cinematheque's 8th annual Mods and Rockers Festival is underway. Traditionally, this festival has featured groovy 60's flicks like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and the various James Bond spoofs, but I guess after 7 years they started running out of that stuff, so they've shifted the focus this year to rock docs and concert films. So last night was a bill that included a 30-minute film of Pink Floyd from 1966, along with a 10-minute short Dollybirds and the 70-minute Tonight Let's All Make Love in London. So, even though I could think of a lot of things I could get done if I stayed home, I decided to go. I figured they'd be showing the shorter films first, so if it started at 8 or a little later, the Pink Floyd thing would be over by 9, I'd watch 15 minutes or so of Tonight just to get an idea of it, and be home by 10.

I got there just before 8, and there was a huge line of people waiting to get in. So I got my ticket, got in, and waited. Finally, getting close to 8:30, the currator gets up to introduce the film, and goes on for about 10 minutes. Then he announces that the Floyd film will be last. Fucker! (Although, to be honest, that's how I would have programmed it.)

Dollybirds and Tonight are both documentaries about the Swingin' London Scene c. 1966. Dollybirds was made for TV, but in the time between its completion and its airing, mod went out and hippy flower power came in, so it was never shown. It's pretty cheesy, but I did find out a couple interesting things about pirate radio stations (of which there were apparantly a few in the 60's, broadcasting from ships in international waters "in an attempt to break the BBC's monopoly) and Vidal Sassoon (not just a manufacturer of shampoos, but a hairdresser who invented the sharp, angular haircuts favored by mod girls). It also featured a song I've wondered about for years, a bubblegum tune called "With a Girl Like You" that I heard REM do (Mike Mills providing lead vocals) sometime in the 80's (I think I liked the REM version better. Still don't know who did the original, but at least I've heard it). Tonight is more impressive, with nude body art, music video editing, an interesting interview with Mick Jagger, footage of Dolly Reed serving drinks at The Playboy Club (in bunny outfit!), and "music by The Pink Floyd." There's some interesting footage from the days when leftists were a bit less agreeable (a Vietnam protestor carrying a sign that says "Arm the Viet Cong!" and Vanessa Redgrave singing a heartfelt tribute to Fidel Castro), and the Stones' manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, coming off as an intolerably pretentions jerkoff. The one frustrating aspect is some brief video footage Jimi Hendrix, which would have to have been filmed before he had any recordings out, but unfortunately was presented with no sound (other than the Pink Floyd soundtrack).

The Floyd film was footage of them recording the soundtrack to Tonight, along with some footage from an event called The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream (with Yoko doing performance art!). The audio is all from the studio footage, and consisted of two long, freeform jams that must have been incredibly radical in 1966. The first was an early version of "Interstellar Overdrive," the second an instrumental that sounded pretty much like what would later become "Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun." Roger Waters sporting a bowl cut and groovy mod glasses was more fun to watch than Syd, who mostly played in a sitting position. The whole night was a hassle, but for a music geek like me, definitely worth it.

The festival continues through July. Tuesday night their showing Brazzilintime, which looks pretty impressive, and Wednesday there's a big event for any Led Zep fans: Led Zeppelin live at the Royal Albert Hall, a 108-minute concert from 1970, on a 60-foot wide screen with 60 surround sound speakers! This is as close to seeing a Led Zeppelin concert anyone of my generation (or younger) will ever get! (Well, you've probably had a chance to see The Song Remains the Same, but they really sucked at that show.) Show up early, I wouldn't be surprised if this sells out, based on the crowds that showed up for 30 minutes of Pink Floyd last night.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More LIES From The British Military!

How naive do the British think we are? We all know they've been experimenting with badger-based weaponry for well over a decade! In a related story, Mexican police have been accused of using badgers to combat druglords. When pressed for you know where I'm going with this?...when pressed for comment, a representative of the Mexico City Police Dept. responded: "Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers!"

Sorry To Have To Do This, But...

Come on, is that the cutest thing ever or what?

I've pre-ordered the Harry Potter book. Two copies, in fact, so that we don't have to fight over it. I was going to write something about this, but then I opened up EW, and saw that Stephen King had stolen my whole premise, almost word for word:

After college, I worked in a hospital, and there were some teenagers working there. They were getting ready to graduate high school when the kids from Beverly Hills 90210 graduated, and they all said they cried. It must have been a surreal experience, but imagine how much more intense it must be for the Harry Potter generation.
The best links this week:
Trailers from Hell! A new website with filmmakers providing audio commentary to their favorite B-movie trailers. Edgar Wright on Danger: Diabolik!, Joe Dante on The Terror, John Landis on The TAMI Show (my favorite), and more!
On the WFMU blog, some cool old cartoons and superhero stuff (especially check out Legends of the Superheroes!) and a cornucopia of Thurl Ravenscroft mp3's--with a special bonus of the "Bottle of Beer" song (from the end of Drunken Hero!)
Going to see Os Mutantes and Busdriver tomorrow! Psyched!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

20 Years of Watching the Watchmen (and The Simpsons)

Well, the first issue came out in '86, but it's somewhere around the 20th anniversary of the final installment of Watchmen, or maybe of Watchmen being published in trade paperback, or...something, I'm sure. And I wrote a thing at The Fake Life about the imminent Watchmen movie. So go read it. And join the discussion. Unless you haven't read Watchmen, in which case, go read that first. I first read most of it in one sitting during the dead hours of an all-night shift, and damned if it wasn't one of the best reading experiences I've ever had.

2007 is also the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons. Yep, in 1987, the first Simpsons cartoons aired on The Tracey Ullman Show, one of the scattered programs that were populating the fledgeling Fox network. Could anyone have guessed at the time that they would go on to be the longest-running (and arguably the best) sitcom in TV history?

And 1987 was a signifigant year for me, as I went off to college, and even though it was a small, conservative school in the middle of nowhere, I was happy just to be out of the house, you know? So by now you may have figured out that this post will be another excuse for my OCD listmaking. And here it goes...

Favorite 1987 albums:

1. The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Uplift Mofo Party Plan. I like the first four RHCP albums, but UMPP is the only truly perfect one. Freaky Styley, a close second, feels a little too lethargic, perhaps due to George Clinton's production, and Mother's Milk is a bit too heavy handed, the young John Frusciante lacking the light touch of the late Hillel Slovak. The first album has some great songs on it ("Get Up and Jump"), but also some lousy ones ("Baby Appeal"). And yeah, I think they started sucking on Bloodsugar Sex Magick, but let's not get off point here.

Uplift Mofo just blazes from start to finish. It's the kind of album that it's hard to even pick a favorite song from. At first, my favorite was "Organic Anti-Beatbox Band," a bouncin' off the ceiling party out of bounds funky rock anthem, but after a while I gravitated more toward "Backwoods." I even remember hearing that song when I saw them live, a few weeks before the album dropped. It starts with this nasty metal riff, and you think it's going to go into a straightforward rock beat, but instead they kick in with this funky beat that totally threw me for a loop. It was like a splash of water in the face.

2. Camper Van Beethoven (s/t). One of the best pot smoking albums of all time. Great road music, too. This was their third album, and it feels like the first one where they really NAILED it. I like how it starts out as relatively normal deadhead rock, and slowly gets trippier as the album goes on.

3. Throwing Muses - The Fat Skier EP. My second-favorite jangly alternative pop band of the 80's, and this is easily their best (and weirdest) record.

4. Sonic Youth - Evol. Building on the sound of their previous masterpiece Bad Moon Rising, but beginning to flesh pop songs out of the chaos, most notably the amazing "Expressway to yr Skull" and "Shadow of a Doubt" (although there's still some nice abstract stuff like "Marilyn Moore" to balance it out).

5. Eric B. and Rakim - Paid in Full. My favorite of several records released in '87 that could be considered the "next step forward" for hip hop. The beats are a little funkier and more complex than, say, Run DMC's, especially on "I Know You Got Soul," and Rakim's rhymes are as tight as anything that had been heard up to that point, but with a cool understatement to them that swerved away from the booming style popular in that year.

6. Prince - Sign o' the Times. His double album masterpiece has a little of everything: spiritual ballads ("The Cross"), thumpin' party jams ("Housequake"), psychedelic pop ("Starfish and Coffee"), and great singles ("U Got the Look," "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"). And best of all, "Hot Thang," a sexy grinder that regularly battles it out with "Darling Nikki" for the title of my favorite Prince song.

7. Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician. Their noisiest, most experimental, and most difficult album, LAT doesn't really hold together as well as some of the others, but the high points are amazingly high. There's "Sweatloaf," which reworks Black Sabbath's love song to pot, "Sweetleaf," into a musical demolition derby, at the beginning. There's the hilariously disturbing "22 Going On 23" at the end. And there's "Kuntz," which overlays a Thai folk record with an overdose of echo effects that could turn any trip bad.

8. The Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me. Maybe not the best Replacements album (doesn't have the raw energy of Let It Be or Hootenany), but their best collection of songs.

9. Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded. "South Bronx! South South Bronx!" KRS-1 and company grab the mic and COMMAND attention.

10. The Cure - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. I didn't really think about the Cure much. Liked 'em better than The Smiths, not as much as REM. But at college, my friend Will was into this album, and it rubbed off on me. Starts with "The Kiss," a sort of anguished goth version of "Maggot Brain," and I'm sure they were thinking of Maggot Brain because it then segues into the gentle, catchy pop tune "Catch," much like "Maggot Brain" segueing into "Can You Get to That." There's a lot of hippy jams on the record ("If Only Tonight We Could Sleep," "The Snakepit"), some great singles (I'm sure you know them), and my favorite, an odd little tune called "Like Cockatoos."

Other stuff:
Public Enemy - Yo! Bumrush the Show! Their sound is still incomplete, and the record feels patched together, but the high points are classic: Chuck's first attempts at militant political lyrics on "Rightstarter (Message to a Black Man)" and "My Uzi Weighs a Ton," Flav's trash talking on the title track ("We'll stomp a mudhole in yo ass, BITCH!"), and my favorite, Chuck's rap about his car, "My 98 (You're Gonna Get Yours)."

REM - Document. I bought this a few days before heading to college. It was the first REM album I bought (most of my friends were bigger fans than I, so I always just taped theirs). So even though I would rank it as a middlin' REM album, it holds some meaning for me still.

Guns-n-Roses - Appetite For Destruction. This was THE big hit album for the entire four years I was at college. It was just everywhere. I'm sometimes puzzled by the continuing interest in this band, who never did anything very good after this, but I have to admit that Appetite rocks.

Metallica - Garage Days Revisited: The $5.98 EP. Master of Puppets is their best, but this is my favorite. Especially that version of "The Wait."

Janes Addiction (s/t). Not as solid as Nothing's Shocking, and I could do without the goth ballad "I Would For You" and the unnecessary covers of "Rock n Roll" and "Sympathy for the Devil" (although Navarro does lay down a pretty sweet psychedelic solo in the latter), but for "Chip Away," "1%" and the superior version of "Pigs in Zen," a great debut.

Redd Kross - Neurotica. Finally realizing their ambitions, Redd Kross deliver an album of awesome psychedelic glam rock.

Big Black - Songs About Fucking
Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me
Volcano Suns - Bumper Crop
. Three great, diverse indie rock albums, in case you forgot.

V/A - Less Than Zero OST. I hated the movie (maybe I owe it another viewing now that I'm older), but this is one of the best soundtracks ever assembled from new pop songs. From LL Cool J's "Goin' Back to Cali" (still one of the best slowride carjams I've ever heard) to The Bangles'stroke of genius adding a heavy metal riff to Simon and Garfunkle's "Hazy Shade of Winter," to Slayer's thrashing of "In A Gadda Da Vita," all great stuff, but of course the centerpiece is Public Enemy's "Bring tha Noize." It completely took hip hop to the next level, and sounded like nothing anyone had ever heard. SPIN dedicated an entire column to singing the praises of this one song (comparing it to "Satisfaction," "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Sex Machine" and "Anarchy in the UK"). I think they had already released "Rebel Without a Pause" as a single or something? Not sure, but that's where we segue into the next year of music.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

You Know How I Know You're Racist?

"In the 2004 election, gay marrieage was the issue the Republicans used to get the stupid people out to the voting booths. In 2008, it will be immigration. Brown is the new pink."

-Bill Maher, Friday night at the Ice House

As I said before, I think the immigration issue is a complex one. Illegal immigration does cause problems for America, and I don't assume that anyone calling for stronger border enforcement is necessarily a closet klansman, but you have to admit that there are a lot of racists who have latched onto this position. Pat Buchannan and Lou Dobbs barely conceal their racism as they go off on paranoid fantasies about immigrants bringing crime and leprosy to America, or an attempt by the Mexican government to repatriate the southwest. The biggest tip-off is when conservatives start talking about how immigration is "driving down the wages of America workers," or how congress has "sold out working people to corporate interests" that want a supply of cheap labor. Seriously, when have these people ever cared about driving down wages? They spend all their time complaining about unions and minimum wages, but when brown people are involved, suddenly they start talking like Noam Chomsky. And these libertarian conservatives, always quick to praise the invisible hand of the market, and to insist that there is absolutely nothing a government can do to control the market, think we can stop the flow of human traffic over the border between one of the world's richest countries and a very poor country? Yeah, no racism there.

Since I brought up the leprosy thing, I have to ask why Lou Dobbs isn't getting the same pariah treatment that Don Imus got. I don't have any particular sympathy for Imus, but I also don't really care what he says. He's a dumb shock jock. And here Dobbs is, making completely false statements, presenting them AS FACT, with the intention of stirring up racist hatred. Seems to me a much more important deal than the "nappy headed hos" comment.


Some genuine, vintage 80's Florida Punk Rock.

In 1984, I went to my first two punk shows. Both were locally organized and consisted entirely of bands from around Florida. The first one took place at the American Legion Hall in Jensen Beach. Foul Existence from Ft. Pierce opened the show. It was probably their first gig, and they weren't too good. Then there was some band from, I think, Cocoa Beach. They may have even been Air Force guys--they had that look to them. I can't remember their name, but they were playing DC style hardcore really well, and they were the band most of the kids were most impressed by. My favorite act of the night was Nat King Kong from Ft. Meyers. They were a bunch of hippie/metal heads, with this big, lanky, Joey Ramone-looking lead singer named Jesus Fish Superbeer. They stumbled onto stage drunk and stoned, announced they were gonna play a song from their favorite album, and started playing "Paranoid" (hey, that was my favorite album too at the time!) very badly. Halfway through they broke down completely, then Jesus Fish Superbeer pulled out a piece of paper and announced they were gonna play a song that they had written in the van on the way there, called "I Want Your Hot Cunt." Which were the only words, repeated over and over, but he kept reading them off the paper. That went about one verse, then broke down, and I believe they ended with "Louie Louie."

[EDIT: This flyer from the Jensen Beach show scanned from the book Going Underground: American Punk 1979-1992 by George Hurchalla. Apparantly, George went to my high school, but was about 4 years older than me.]

The next band was called something like Generic Death, and they played a long time. They were OK. I remember thinking they had a cool guitar sound, but that's about it. Then the first of the major bands of the night, Pagan Faith from Tampa. They were pretty damn great, Black Flag style hardcore, but the cops broke the show up after a couple songs. So we all ended up driving out to the causeway, Pagan Faith setting up again, playing a couple more songs (including a cover of The Dictators' "Faster and Louder," which they introduced as "a cool song, even though it's done by some shitty rock band"), and getting broken up by the cops again. The headliners were supposed to be Roach Motel, Rat Cafeteria and Disorderly Conduct, but none of them ever got to play.

[EDIT: some new information has come to light, man. Bob suggests that the mystery band from Cocoa Beach may have been American Waste, which I think is correct.]

You know what was really cool about that show? There was a keg of free beer available, nobody carding, just like if it were a party in the woods!

The next show was during the following school year--that's the only chronological reference I have for it, but I think it was still 1984. No Policy, from Stuart or Jensen Beach, opened the show. Again, I'm pretty sure it was their first gig, and they weren't that good yet, but hey, they were local boys, I support 'em. Then there was some band called Screamin' and the Fits, who started with a few covers (I remember "Six Pack" and "I Just Want Some Skank"), then played a bunch of shitty originals. Then Foul Existence again, who by this time were starting to sound pretty good. And next up was the F performance you see in the videos above and below.

[EDIT: Well, the above flyer, which Bob just sent me a copy of (Jason Emmett designed the background, the late Dave "Rat" Anderson finished it up) shows that the show took place in February, thus it's actually early 1985, and not 1984. Bob also swears that Pagan Faith played that night. Maybe I missed their set to make a run to the convenience store?]

F were great. They were cracking jokes, insulting the punks, and playing some really great hardcore, although what really won me over was the faithful covers of AC/DC's "Beatin' Around the Bush" and Cheap Trick's "Clock Strikes Ten" (they also started off with just the "Hey Ho Let's Go" part of "Blitzkrieg Bop" and ended with just the "Gabba Gabba Hey" section of "Pinhead"). There had been talk that Gay Cowboys in Bondage were going to play. They didn't, but Milo, the singer, got onstage with F (both the bassist and drummer were in both bands) to sing the GCIB song "More Bruises." F played the song, but for some reason, Milo chose to sing the lyrics to The Sex Pistols' "Bodies" to it.

[EDIT: I got a comment from none other than Milo on this subject. Milo says "But your account of St. Loucie is incorrect. I never sang on a stage with F at any show. And I never knew until you posted the flyer about the show at all. So you may want to remove that part. F never had me on a stage to sing with them." I'm not sure who I saw singing "Bodies" that night, or what I saw, but I guess if he says he wasn't there, he'd know better than I do.]

The above clip contains my favorite part of the show. The intro to "Attack" has the group chanting "Reagan Loves You." F were into Reagan (I thought at the time this was just to piss punks off, but apparantly they were big libertarian conservatives--Phil Blumel, the lead singer, sometimes went by the stage name John Galt [ugh!]), and the intention of that was probably to get a rise out of people, but punk is so built on sarcasm/irony/satire/whatever that it was impossible to convince someone you were sincerely into Reagan. So instead, all these punks were singing along and skanking to what they assumed to be another sarcastic anti-Reagan anthem.

F had a new record out, You Are an EP, and they were selling copies of it at the show which they had hand-decorated with magic markers. Several of my friends bought one that day, but I didn't have the money, so I picked one up at the record store the next week. Thus, my decorations are on the shrinkwrap, and slowly deteriorating. Great record, though.

Next was The Body Bags, a pretty good hardcore band, and then Disorderly Conduct from Ft. Pierce, who shared their guitarist with F. DC were great. They played a sort of metal-edged punk that was still far enough over to the punk end to not be speed metal. I ended up seeing them 3 or 4 times, and they rocked the house each time. Eventually, they put out a pretty good album called Amen, and now their lead singer, Casey Chaos, has a goth metal band called Amen, who I hear will be on the Henry Rollins show this week (possibly with F/Disorderly Conduct guitarist Ken Decter). Roach Motel were supposed to be on the bill, but they supposedly got arrested. So the headliner ended up being Nat King Kong! They started off with a 10-minute version of The Butthole Surfers' "The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave." Unbelievable. At the end, they went into "Paranoid," but I can't remember if they played the whole song. Definitely a night to remember.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

America: Why I Love Her

I ripped this record of John Wayne waxing rhapsodic about our country just before my turntable ate it, with the intention of posting it on The 4th. Unfortunately, when I was done, I realized that I had recorded it too loud and it ended up all distorted. So I'm just posting a couple of tracks. Well, since I already uploaded the album before I discovered the problems, if you want the whole thing it's here.

On this day I'm moved to reflect on the group of men we call "The Founding Fathers." They weren't a group with a single, uniting ideology. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Sam Adams, Thomas Payne and the others all had different ideas about what this country would be, what "liberty" and "democracy" meant, and those ideas somehow all fit together just right to make a working democracy (albeit one that is in need of constant improvement and revision over the course of it's history).

Then I think of the group of ghouls that got us in the mess we're in today. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove all had different agendas and ideologies, and somehow they all worked together to perfectly fuck this great country up. They're like the anti-founding fathers. But enough about them. Let's talk about The Good Things.