Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eclectic
Affair

What
Laura
Says,
Bloom
Cheek
,
Terp-
sikh-
ore

[6/8/10]

It isn't hard to identify the artists this Phoenix five-piece
enjoys the most. I hear echoes of Harry Nilsson and 10CC
on some selections, Air, Grizzly Bear, and Devendra Ban-
hart on others. Of course, it could always be coinciden-
tal; they may simply share similar musical influences.

I find the combination of styles appealing, the multi-layered
harmonies, the atmospheric organ work, and the T. Rex-like
rhythms. On the whole, their second disc is a pretty eclectic
affairat times, they even sound like an old funk-rock band.
Except for a misguided attempt at reggae stylings and a few
awkward lyrical passages, I rate Bloom Cheek a success.

Click here for "Training" and here for "I Suppose."



Too Late for Roses, Debut, Launchpad [6/1/10]

This Cali trio serves up modern rock with a heavy back beat. If anything, the rhythm section, Wyatt Lund (drums) and Jordan Martin (bass), is the best thing about Too Late for Roses.

Kark von Kries has a full-throated style, but he evokes too many other arena-rock guys, from Bono to Scott Stapp (he also handles flute and percussion). If the band is angling for a major label deal, that could be to their advantage, but I prefer more distinction.

Debut, however, offers a few surprises, like the ambient "Winter Tide," which features lapping waves and seagull criesand clocks in at 19 minutesand the experimental "Soundtrack from 'Masks'." But I still like the rock stuff best, semi-generic vocals and all.



Endnote: For more information about What
Laura Says
, please click here or here; for Too
Late for Roses
, here. Image from Planetary Group.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

White Noise: Part Four













I have two bookshelves. Both are so overstuffed, I've taken to
storing books in the kitchen and in the hallway. This shot includ-
es reference books (A Biographical Dictionary of Film, Film Noir
Reader, Placing Movies
), books I haven't started (I Put a Spell
on You, King Suckerman
, Union Dues), and book I haven't fin-
ished (The Collected Stories of John Cheever, Sirk on Sirk).














This shot includes books I've read (Cruel Shoes, Gone with the
Wind, How the Irish Became White
, In the Cut, Monty, Neon
Angel: The Cherie Currie Story
, Mystery Train, Please Kill
Me
, The Ice Storm, and White Noise). Plus, an assort-
ment of nail polish and fragrances. I don't keep every
book I read, so these are all titles that made some
sort of an impression. Those that don't, go away
(I sell or pass them on). The spine is hard
to read, but the oldest is by A. A. Mil-
ne: The House at Pooh Corner.

Click here for Part Three: The
Complete Book Club List


***** ***** ***** *****

Endnote: Images courtesy
Kodak one-time use camera.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

White Noise: The
Complete Book Club
List, Part Three

Here are the titles book club has tackled since 2007. For a history of the club, please click here. For part one of the list (2000-04), click here; for part two (2005-06), click here.*

* The third link is currently inoperable; I'm hoping to find a way to retrieve it.

2007 2007 2007 2007 2007 2007 2007 2007 2007

02/07: Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
[Winner of the Man Booker Prize]
05/07: Martin Amis - Money: A Suicide Note
07/07: Mike Davis - Dead Cities
[I swear I'll finish this...someday]
09/07: Cormac McCarthy - The Road
[Nice lead-in to No Country for Old Men]
11/07: John Nathan - Mish-
ima
and/or Legs McNeil & Jennifer Osborne - The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry
[I read both]

2008 2008 2008 2008

02/08: Jonathan Lethem - The Fortress of Solitude
05/08: Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker
07/08: Max Brooks - World War Z:

An Oral History of the Zombie War*
09/08: Rose McCauley - The Towers of Trebizond
11/08: Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections

* Soon to be a major motion picture.

2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009

1/09: Herman Melville - Billy Budd and Other Stories
5/09: Jack Black - You Can't Win [I loved this]
7/09: Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith - Pride and Prejudice
and Zombies and George MacDonald Fraser - Flashman: A Novel
11/09: Willa Cather - The Song of the
Lark and Amitav Ghosh - Sea of Poppies
12/09: Jean-Dominique Bauby - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

2010 2010 2010 2010 2010 2010 2010 2010

3/10: Zachary Lazar - Sway
4/10: Lord Auch (Georges Bataille) - Story of the Eye
and the Invisible Committee - The Coming Insurrection
7/10: Joshua Gamson - The Fabulous Sylvester: the
Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco
9/10: Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood
12/10: Charles Burns - Black Hole

2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011

5/11: Jennifer Egan - A Visit from the Good Squad
7/11: Kate Buford - Burt Lancaster: An American Life
10/11: John Fowles - The French Lieutenant's Woman
12/11: Samuel R. Delany - Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand



More to come...and suggestions are always welcome.

Endnote: Images from The Voice (Jonathan Lethem)
and the BBC (Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Beware the CD Reviews of March



Wet-
dog,
"Frau-
haus!,"
Cap-
tur-
ed



From "Lower Leg" [see below] the first song off their second
album, you might think Britain's Wetdog are trying to pick
up where Switzerland's Kleenex/LiLiPUT left off in 1983.

On that track, in which tribal rhythms meet call-and-response
vocals, you can also hear the Slits and the Raincoats (and on their
MySpace Page, I spotted a picture of head Slit Ari Up, indicating
that they're either fans, former bill-mates, or both). As compel-
ling as those reference points may be, you could always listen
to the original artists to scratch the same post-punk itch.



Fortunately, Wetdog reveals their own unique personality
as this tinny 14-track disc continues to spin
not that "Low-
er Leg" isn't a completely persuasive song (it is!). The more
you listen, the harder their rickety ruckus becomes to de-
scribe. On some numbers, they make a noirish noise; on
others, they're all sunshine and sweet harmonies. On
"Snapper," they come on like a lounge band in space.

Short on years, long on ideas, the trio appears to be trying
things out; seeing what sticks and what doesn't, which means
that "Frauhaus!" isn't as cohesive as the Vivian Girls debut,
another reference point, but it's just as appealing for those
who like their girl group sounds with some extra kick.



All Leather, When I Grow Up, I
Wanna Fuck Like a Girl
, Dim Mak


More irony, more distortion, more annoying tones.
-- band press notes


From the title, you'd expect loud and irritating. On their fol-
low-up to
Hung like a Horseyes, that was fun to type
All Leather
delivers volume and attitude, but it's hard to
tell what they're going on about. Songs include "I Do it with
My Prick Out" and "Babe, Does This Band Make My Butt
Look Big," but as in the works of Locust and early Minis-
try, the noise rolls right over the vocals. It does little for
me, but your mileage may vary. If anything, they're
less irritating than expected...for what that's worth.




The River Raid, In a Forest,
Sunset/Above the Sky
[4/6/10]

On the successor to their self-titled debut, this three-guitar Bra-
zilian quartet offers generic modern rock that's virtually indis-
tinguishable from the UK/US variant (especially Oasis). That
doesn't make it bad—but I've heard it before. So have you.

Click here to play "Alright."



Endnote: For more information about Wetdog, who play
South by Southwest on 3/18, please click here or here; for
All Leather, here or here (the River Raid also play this
year's fest). Wetdog image from batteryinmycamera.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Proper
Procedure



Gil Scott-
Heron's
I'm
New Here

comes with
the follow-
ing advice.
I've done
my best
to repro-
duce the original formatting, except for the white text-on-black background (it's the first thing you see when you open the CD).



***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****


There is a proper procedure for taking advantage of any investment.

Music, for example. Buying music is an investment.
To get the maximum you must


LISTEN TO IT FOR THE FIRST TIME UNDER OPTIMUM CONDITIONS.


Not in your car or on a portable player through a headset.
Take it home.
Get rid of all distractions (even her or him).
Turn off your cell phone.
Turn off everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles.
Make yourself comfortable.
Play your CD.
LISTEN all the way through.
Think about what you got.
Think about who would appreciate this investment.
Decide if there is someone to share this with.
Turn it on again.
Enjoy yourself.


Gil Scott-Heron


***** ***** *****

Click here for my review of I'm New Here.



Endnote: Image from Elbows Music Blog Aggregator.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Movie of
the Month:

Part 16


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

THE BEACHES OF AGNES [***1/2]
(Agnès Varda, France, 2009, 110 mins.)

To love cinema is to love Jacques
Demy, painting, family, and puzzles.
--
Agnès Varda, The Beaches of Agnès

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

As French New Wave veteran Agnès Varda (Cléo from
5 to 7
, The Gleaners and I) explains in her enchanting doc-
umentary, she's spent a lifetime filming other people, be-
cause "It's others I'm interested in, others I like to film."


The Beaches of Agnès
, on the other hand, allows the
self-described "pleasantly plump and talkative" 80-year-
old artist to turn the camera on herself for a change.


Because she has fond memories of trips to the beach as a child
(dubbing it "my favorite landscape"), that's where she speaks
about her life, surrounded by mirrors, photographs, and re-
created scenes from her past. Actors, like Jane Birkin and

Séraphine
's Yolande Moreau, appear in these memories.



Some of these images, Varda says, "have haunted me for a long
time." To this material, filmed in
France and California, she adds
visits to significant locations with clips from her filmography,
putting her movies into more of a personal context (suffice to
say, there's no separation between the woman and the work).


In chronological order, Varda moves from her childhood in
Brussels to her adolescence in Paris to her years as a photo-
grapher to her relationship with Jacques Demy (
The Um-
brellas of Cherbourg, Donkey Skin
), who became her hus-
band (their children would also join the family business).


In looking back at her career, Varda honors other artists with
whom she's collaborated, like helmer Alain Resnais, actor Phil-
ippe Noiret (star of her first film), and avant garde essayist Chris
Marker, who interviews her disguised as his feline alter ego, Guil-
laume. For a movie about times gone by,
The Beaches of Ag-
nès
is far more playful than regretful. Highly recommended.



Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 15: Passing Strange

Endnote: As part of this year's P.O.V. Series on PBS, The
Beaches of
Agnès airs on 6/29 (check local listings). Slight-
ly revised from the original text. Image from
Film Forum.

Monday, March 01, 2010

March Reviews

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

Amazon DVDs: Scarecrow and Mrs. King - The Complete First Season (with Kate
Jackson and Bruce
Boxleitner) [five-disc
set]
,
Breaking Bad -
The Complete Second Season
[four-disc set]
(click here for my re-
view of season one),
and 44 Inch Chest (with Ray Winstone and John Hurt).

Amazon Theatricals: Alice in Wonderland (with John-
ny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter), The Runaways (with
Kristen Stewart
and Dakota Fanning), Remember Me
(with Emilie de Ravin and
Stewart's Twilight co-star, Rob-
ert Pattinson
)
, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (from the book by
Jeff Kinney), and Please Give (with Catherine Keener).

Still playing: Crazy Heart, The Ghost Writer, The Imaginarium
of Doctor Parnassus
, Invictus, A Prophet, and Youth in Revolt.

SIFF: Three blurbs for the 2010 program guide (more to
come). This marks my eighth year working on the guide.

Siffblog: Still Bill (review delayed till DVD release).

Still playing:
For the Love
of Movies - The Story of Am-
erican Film Criticism
and
The Red Riding Trilogy.

Video Librarian:
Brain Injury Dialogues, The Duke
of Bachata
, The Glass House,
Green
, Heart of Stone, At Home in Utopia, My White Baby, Spice
and Wolf - The Complete First Season
[two-disc set], Maria Hol-
ic - Complete Collection
[two-disc set], North Face, Mommo,
Bad Company - Hard Rock Live
, Oscar Peterson - The Life
of a Legend
, The Missing Person,
Afghan Star, Bar-
bie in a Mermaid Tale
,
Free Willy - Escape from
Pirate's Cov
e, iCarly - iFight Shelby
Marx
, and Hachi - A Dog's Tale.



Endnote: Michael Shannon, star of The Missing Person,
plays Kim Fowley in The Runaways. Image from Apparition.