Sunday, January 31, 2010

Musical
Summits

Past
Lives,
Tapestry
of Webs,
Suicide
Squeeze

A post-
punk vibe
permeates Tapestry of Webs: chicken-scratch guitar, dubby
bass, tribal drums, atmospheric saxophone, and Jordan Blilie's
alternating whispers and shouts (the press notes smartly praise
the local quartet's "roiling, skewering rhythmic sensibilities").

It helps to have producer Steve Fisk (the Screaming Trees, Pell
Mell, Pigeonhed) on board to add texture and unpredictability.

I wouldn't say Past Lives don't have their own thing going on,
but at times they remind me of Gang of Four, Shriekback, and
the Clash (in their quieter, spookier moments). Consider their
debut a musical summit between Seattle, London, and Leeds.

Click here to download "Hex Takes Hold."




Judgement Day, Peacocks/Pink
Monsters, self-released [4/13/10]

There are no guitars on this record.
-- Judgement Day


Peacocks/Pink Monsters arrives in one of the more elaborate
packages I've ever seen. The entire case is a CD-sized book (the
disc resides inside). The liner notes, which detail the making of the
record and the collaborative painting on the cover, are printed on
card stock. It looks cool, but doesn't seem completely...necessary.

As for the music, this Bay Area trio (Bright Eyes violinist Anton
Patzner, cellist Lewis Patzner, and drummer Jon Bush) issues
the kind of improvised music-school noodling on their second
record, after 2004's Dark Opus, that tends to leave me cold—
they call it string metal—but those with a taste for dramatic,
Pelican-like prog-jazz instrumentals may feel otherwise.

Click here to watch "Cobra Strike."



The Strange Boys, Be Brave, In the Red

On their second album, Austin's Strange Boys layer strain-
ed and strangled vocals over a lo-fi country-garage stomp.
Be Brave reminds me a bit of the Black Lips...after sever-
al years, a bunch of smokes, and a boatload of whiskey.

Off-putting at first, this one's a grower. To quote my pal, Na-
than, "I liked the first record well enough, but once I saw them
live, they won me over. I mean, who else in music has a girl on
stage simply keeping time with an umbrella? That tops the
tambourine guy in the Brian Jonestown Massacre!"

The Strange Boys play Seattle's Comet Tavern on 3/31/11.



Venus Bogardus, Spitting at the Glass, Five03 Records

Now based in New Mexico, Britain's Venus Bogardus
(James Reich, Hannah Levbarg, and Luke Carr) combine
cabaret, glam-rock, and post-punk, resulting in a control-
led, yet theatrical sound. Listen closely, and you can hear
echoes of David Bowie, the Doors, and Sonic Youth, par-
ticular on conversational centerpiece selection "Brett
Smiley Pile-Up," which clocks in at 18 minutes.

Click here to download "Judy Davis Lips."



Endnote: For more information about Judge-
ment
Day, please click here; for Venus Bogar-
dus, here or here. Image from This Is Book's Music.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Smooth and Wavery


Vaus,
The
Float-
ing
Cele-

bra-
tion,
Night
World


Denmark-born, Washington DC-based Lyn Vaus sings in a way
that comes across as smooth and wavery at the same time, while
the depth of his baritone recalls Dinosaur Jr.'s Mike Johnson.

Joined by a trio of talented players, his Floating Celebration
sounds like it could've emerged at the same time as the Bevis
Frond and the Screaming Trees. I could do without some of the
'60s flashback lyrics, such as "I'm the rock in her roll," and
"Sunshine laughing in her mind" ("Slipping Crown"), but
hey, he's got an Omnichord—and he knows how to use it!

Click here to download "Teraphim."


Vaus - "San Francisco" (directed by Brad Anderson)



The Organ Beats, Sleep When We Are Dead, self-released

The phrase modern rock was invented for outfits like this Boston
trio. I wouldn't describe their music as hard or alternative rock,
but more like an amalgam of the two, kind of like Joan Jett by way
of Garbage. Perfectly listenable, but not especially memorable.



Philip Stevenson, Starless, Night World [3/23/10]

"His songs make me want to dress
in black, smoke picayune shorts,
and drink Irish whiskey."
-- Jim Dickinson

I'm not completely surprised that Philip Stevenson would meet
with Mississippi producer/musician Dickinson's approval. There's
a sort of swampy vibe that runs through Starless, particularly
"Deuteronomy," my favorite track. For the most part, I like what
I hear. Unfortunately, my player doesn't feel the same way about
this disc, which makes it hard to evaluate in any depth (skips and
stutters all the way through). Suffice to say, this DC denizen has a
dreamy voice, kind of like Lloyd Cole, but he can testify as needed.



Endnote: A compatriot of Boston
director Brad Anderson, Lyn Vaus
played the lead in his 1996 film The
Darien Gap, which Cultcine.com de-
scribes as "a deeply personal, richly
entertaining account of one man’s
search for true love…and giant sloths"
(Vaus also appears in Anderson's Next
Stop Wonderland and Happy Acci-
dents). For more information about
the actor/musician, please click here; for the Organ Beats, here; for Philip Stevenson, here. Sad-
ly, Stevenson admirer Jim Dickinson passed away in 2009. Click here for a review of Indian Giver, his '08 collaboration with Sonic Boom's Spectrum. Vaus portrait from Planetary Group.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Boat That I Roe

I'd never even heard of Tom-
my Roe
until I saw 1999's Je-
sus' Son
, which gives pride of
place to "Sweet Pea." I was
vaguely familiar with "Dizzy,"
but his name didn't ring any
bells. It was just one of those
tunes that turned up on the ra-
dio from time to time. And al-
ways sounded good. For some reason, it got stuck in my head
this weekend, so I dropped by YouTube to see if I could find
any videos, and discovered this duo (there are several others).


Those Dr. Suess-like balloon clusters make this clip complete.


The men don't know, but the little girls understand.

Roe had a few hits in his day, but he's lost the name recognition of
the Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Co., and most of the usual bubblegum
suspects. I couldn't say why. He added funk beats to his sweet mel-
odies that made them as perfect for the dance floor as the transis-
tor. "Sweet Pea," for instance, sounds like the Troggs' "Any Way
That You Want Me"
combined with James Brown's "Funky
Drummer." It is, in other words, the perfect pop song.



Endnote: Check out that cheesy cover. Such poor marketing
is doing Roe's rep no favors. As for the post header, it referen-
ces another '60s song, Neil Diamond's "The Boat That I Row."
Love his version and Lulu's lively cover. Image from Jango.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Notes
from
Under
(the)
Ground:
Part Two

Click here for part one

I don't usually take notes at press screenings, because I
find it easier to watch the screen—especially when subtitl-
es are involved—than to watch, listen, and/or read while
trying to guide my pen across paper in the dark (and I'm
not about to use a lighted implement and irritate everyone
around me). That said, I make an exception every once in
awhile, and I've always found these chicken stratches al-
most as amusing as enlightening. Here are a few examples.

MADE IN USA
(Northwest Film Forum, 6/09)

Words and pictures.

"To Nick and Samuel, who raised me to respect image and
sound"..."The Moroccan war made you a bit mean"..."Now fic-
tion overtakes reality"..."I feel like I'm in a Disney movie"...frog-
gy-voiced little men, folk-singing babes in bathtubs...the magnifi-
cent reds of La Chinoise, Pierrot le Fou, and the Technicolor mu-
sicals of Vincente Minnelli..."In 22 years, I'll be 26"...Marianne
Faithfull, "As Tears Go By"...tomato-red blood and no points of
entry; better yet, the blood matches the socks...Paula, Richard,
Typhus, and Doris Mizoguchi...jet airliner whooshes and loud
telephone rings...Paul Widmark...Jean-Pierre Léaud as Donald
[Siegel]..."Fascism must pass like miniskirts and rock & roll...
Frank Sinatra, Serge Gainsbourg, and [indistinguishable].

Click here for full review.



A TOWN CALLED PANIC
(Seven Gables, 1/10)


Imagery and comparisons.

Animated opening...birth-
day...Gumby and Pokey,
Mr. Bill, Bob the Builder...
Farmer Steven...bricks, 50
million bricks...stolen walls...
inflatable [furniture]...reckless...cell phones...
travel through the Earth's Core to the other side...
enslaved by scientists...giant food...barracudas, sea
creatures, pearl fountain, swordfish saws...one year later.

Click here for full review. Opens at the Varsity on 1/22.



SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS
(Seven Gables, 1/10)

"Dante's Inferno" goes to Vegas.

Hue Rhodes [director]...Stanley Tucci and Spike Lee
[producers]...New Mexico...convenience store framing
device...John (Steve Buscemi, character actor par excel-
lence)...slicked-back hair, long sideburns...down on his luck...
filing claims at an insurance company...Peter Dinklage, boss...
Virgil (Romany Malco), co-worker, world's worst travel com-
panion...fraud...Jill (Sarah Silverman), smiley faces...Danny
Trejo..."When a cross-dressing skinhead don't rape you,
just take your smokes. Don't ask why"...Tasty Delight,
stripper...Tim Blake Nelson, nudist militia...Hell is Ve-
gas...disorienting, surrealistic..."I think I lost my eye-
brows, but that was the best smoke I ever had."

Opens in Seattle on 2/19 at the Metro.



THE GHOST WRITER
(Pacific Place, 2/10)

Polanski goes Hitchcock.

Accident or suicide...busy, robust soundtrack [Alexandre Des-
plat]
...Timothy Hutton, Jim Belushi...Adam Lang [Pierce Bros-
nan]
...secret torture...flight...modernist house, looks like a pri-
son...Ruth (Olivia Williams), Kim Cattrall as assistant..."Bril-
liant in a horrible sort of way...all the words are there, but
in the wrong order"...Brits in the U.S...wind...sweeping
leaves..."Got into politics out of love"...Yale or Cam-
bridge..."This place is Shangri-La in reverse."



Click here for the full review.

Endnote: Images from Port and The Auteurs.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I Smell Bubblegum

Times New Viking, Born
Again Revisited, Matador

Let's move to California. I hear
you'll have a better time.
-- Times New Viking,
"Move to California"

Hey, they provided that header. This Cleveland trio wraps their sweet, sticky hooks in
layers of loud, crunchy feedback. It's the same trick Pavement
pulled off on 1990's Perfect Sound Forever, after which they add-
ed clarity to their arsenal, and yet Times New Viking never
really evokes the Cali quintet. I've been listening for a few weeks
now, and I still can't figure out who they resemble most. That can
only be a good thing. No band exists in isolation from all others,
but it's that rare outfit who doesn't bring one prior act to mind.

I could try to compare Born
Again Revisited to their
other recordings, except this
is the only one with which I'm
familiar. Prior to 2009, I'd
never even heard of the
group. After one listen,
though, I found a place for
them on my top 10. As with
the Vivian Girls '08 debut,
my only complaint is that the
album is too short (30:54 minutes). In that sense, they're stealing a page from the Guided by Voices playbook, except their com-
positions are more tightly-constructed, at least in comparison
with '80s-era GBV when (fabulous) song fragments ruled.

Times New Viking also has the boy-girl vocal thing going on,
further distinguishing them from all of the above. So, their fourth
full-length is like bubblegum for a new millenium, but with more
gravitas than that description suggests. I'm not just referring to
the distortion, but to a subtle sense of melancholy that pervades
the proceedings. It comes out in the dark-tinged instrumentation
more than the spirited vocals. At times, they almost sound like
Joy Division at their poppiest—or New Order at their grittiest. The
intro to "No Time, No Hope," for instance, recalls "Love Will Tear
Us Part," but louder, faster, happier (if you can imagine that).

Born Again Revisited is
the product of three indivi-
duals: Beth Murphy (vocals,
keyboards, drums, guitar,
violin), Adam Elliot (vocals,
drums, keyboards), and Jar-
-ed Phillips (drums, bass).
I'm not sure where they hid
that violin, but the rickety, farfisa-sounding keys lend the album a dreamy circus vibe, like music half-heard while riding a rollercoaster or merry-go-round. Tim Sendra, in his review of Rip It Off, also cites this "blurry" ef-
fect, noting the "pushed-to-distortion vocals that sound painful when played loud, and like a far-off hum when played quietly."

At times while listening to these 15 tracks, I thought about 1947's
Tyrone Power noir Nightmare Alley, not because there's any-
thing especially terrifying about this disc, but because the stran-
ge, unsettling, carnival-set character study seems like some-
thing these characters would appreciate. Maybe you will, too.









Endnote: If Times New Viking's music doen't float your boat,
you've got to at least credit them with some creative song titles,
i.e. "Imagine Dead John Lennon," "Teenagelust!," "Allegory Gets
Me Hot," "Devo and Wine" (recall that they hail from Ohio), and
"Times New Viking vs. Yo La Tengo," a reference to their for-
mer tour mates. Images from the AMG and FilmFanatic.org.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Movie
of the
Month:
Part 14

I recent-
ly review-
ed the fol-
lowing
film for
Video
Librarian
, and thought the results were worth sharing.

TRUCKER [***]
(James Mottern, US, 2008, 90 mins.)

A big rig driver changes her approach to life when her domestic
situation undergoes a dramatic shift in James Mottern's debut,
Trucker. Seemingly foot loose and fancy free, Diane Ford (Mi-
chelle Monaghan, Gone Baby Gone) lives in San Diego and lik-
es to go out drinking and dancing with her best friend, Run-
ner (Nathan Fillion, always good value), when she isn't work-
ing, sleeping, or picking up strangers for one-night stands.

After her ex-husband, Len
(Benjamin Bratt), checks in-
to the hospital for cancer
treatment, his wife, Jenny
(Joey Lauren Adams), who
has family matters with which to contend, drops Diane's 11-year-old son, Peter (Jimmy Bennett,
Star Trek's junior Kirk), off at her doorstep for a few weeks. Feisty
and foul-mouthed like his Mom, they spend most of the movie circ-
ling each other warily, wolves in human form. It doesn't help that
she hasn’t seen him for 10 years, but then she takes him on a run
to New Mexico, enrolls him in school, and a fragile bond ensues.

Trucker is the kind of film that fails to explain why Runner
doesn't get a divorce when his marriage brings him no joy—
clearly, he would rather be with Diane—but Mottern, former
producer of the Slamdance Film Festival, knows when to let
the audience fill in those sorts of blanks for themselves. His
screenplay brings to mind other films about independent-
minded single mothers, like Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn't
Live Here Anymore, but he reveals a sure hand as a direc-
tor, and Monaghan, who has often wasted her talents on in-
ferior fare, such as The Heartbreak Kid and Made of Hon-
or, gives her best performance to date. Recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 13: The Merry Gentleman



Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Im-
ages from The Portland Mercury and Awards Daily.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Songs for
Swingin'
Cineastes:
2009
Edition


Click here
for Movies
for Music
Lovers


The Tops:
1. Sylvester & the Hot Band - The
Blue Thumb Collection
(Hip-O Select)
2. Thee Oh Sees - Help (In the Red)
3. Death - ...For All the World to See (Drag City)
4. Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People...
Lazers Do
(Mad Decent/Downtown/Atlantic)
5. Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us (Graveface)
6. Broadcast & the Focus Group -
Investigate the Radio Witch Cults (Warp)
7. The Inner Space - Agilok & Blubbo (Wah Wah Records) [reissue]
8. Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics -
Inspiration Information (Stone's Throw)*
9. Vivian Girls - Everything Goes Wrong (In the Red)
10. Times New Viking - Born Again Revisited (Matador)

* See also Mulatu Astatke - New York Addis Lon-
don: The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965 to 1975 (Strut)









Note: The links lead to my CD reviews. I'm not listing The
Blue Thumb Collection as a reissue, because it consists of
two albums plus bonus tracks, i.e. the material was never
released in this form before. Similarly, 1974's...For All the
World to See never received a proper release until 2009.

Runners-up:
1. King Midas Sound - Waiting for You (Hyperdub)
2. Starless and Bible Black - Shape of the Shape (Locust Music)
3. Various Artists - Dark Is the Night (Matador)
4. Atlas Sound - Logos (Kranky)
5. Sleepy Sun - Embrace (ATP)
6. The Lovetones - Dimensions (Planting Seeds Records)
7. Curious Mystery - Rotting Slowly (K Records)
8. 39 Clocks - Zoned (Bureau B)
9. White Rabbits - It's Frightening (TBD Records)
10. The Bird and the Bee - Ray Guns Are
Not Just the Future
(Blue Note/EMI)

Still need to hear (in their en-
tirety): Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
(Domino), Benjamin Biolay - La Su-
perbe (Naïve), Future of the Left - Travels with Myself and Another (4-
AD Records), Mos Def - The Ecstatic (Downtown/Atlantic), Q-Tip - Renais-
sance (Universal Motown), Shabazz Palaces - self-titled (Templar Label Group), Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy (Matador), Various Artists - Daptone Gold (Daptone), Various Artists - Forge Your Own Chains, Vol. 1: Psychedelic Ballads and Dirges 1968-1974 (Now Again), and Var-
ious Artists – Saint Etienne Present Songs for The Dog & Duck (Ace).

Note: Had I but world enough, and time...and money...
and space! But I mostly write about film these days.

Top Reissues:
1.
Serge Gainsbourg - Melody Nelson (Light in the Attic)
2. The Monks - Black Monk Time (Light in the Attic)
3. Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle:
30th Anniversary Issue (Beggar's Banquet)
4. Blo - Chapters and Phases (RPM)
5. The Raincoats - The Raincoats (We Three/Kill Rock Stars)
6. Sweet - Action: The Sweet Anthology (Shout Factory!)
7. Bill Fox - Shelter from the Smoke (Scat)
8. 39 Clocks - Pain It Black (Bureau B)
9. 13th Chime - Complete Discography (Sacred Bones)
10. 24 Carat Black - Gone: The Prom-
ises of Yesterday (Numero Group)*

* Thanks to Riz for the tip.





In my dreams: 13th Floor Elevators - Sign of the 3 Eyed
Men [10-disc set] (International Artists Records/Charly Ac-
quisitions Limited), Big Star - Keep an Eye on the Sky [four-
disc set] (Rhino), Rolling Stones - Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out! [three-
CD/one-DVD set] (Abkco), and Various Artists - Where the Ac-
tion Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968 [four-disc set] (Rhino).

Top Rediscoveries: Queen - self-titled debut and the Who - Who's Next. Not completely new to these ears, but I played them over and over again, and found the experience more than a little rewarding. And I continue to take inspiration from Arthur Lee, Phil Lynott, Nina Simone, and every other artist who didn't do what was expected of them, regardless as to race, gender, or sexual orientation—and did it better.

Click here for the 2008 edition



Endnote: Thee Oh Sees play the Funhouse
on 2/19. Images from Buddyhead and XLR8R.

Friday, January 01, 2010

January Reviews

These are
the reviews
and other
pieces I'm
working on
this month.



Amazon DVDs: Anna Karenina (with Sean Connery and Claire Bloom), The Old Curiosity Shop (with Derek Jacobi and Toby Jones), 50 Dead Men Walking (with Jim Sturgess and Ben King-
sley), Soul Power (with an electrifying James Brown), Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Seventh Season [multi-disc set], and 10 Things I Hate About You - Volume One [two-disc set].

Amazon Theatricals: Crazy Heart (with Jeff
Bridges, Colin Farrell, and Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Still playing (or yet to open): Broken Embraces, Brothers, Coco before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Invictus, Law Abiding Citizen, Me and Orson Welles, Where the Wild Things Are, and Youth in Revolt.

KCTS 9: Mister Rogers Sweater Drive , North Cascades -
People, Places and Stories
, and Face to Face with Roberta.

Siffblog: A Town Called Panic and
Movies for Music Lovers: Short Version.

Video Librarian: Legend of the Seeker - Season One [five-disc
set], Show Me Yours - The Complete Series [two-disc set], Tears
to Tiara - Collection One [two-disc set], According to Dom, As We
Forgive, The Beaches of Agnès, Humble Beauty - Skid Row Ar-
tists, El Sistema - Music to Change Life, Speaking in Tongues, Un-
der Our Skin, Alter Bridge - Live from Amsterdam, Jim Brickman -
Beautiful World
, Creed Live, Bill Frisell - Blue Dream: Live, Gotta
Dance
, Taylor Hicks - Whomp at the Warfield, and Jake's Corner.



Endnote: Images from the Internet-
Movie Database
and Movie Cultists.