Sunday, October 29, 2006

Technicolour Dream Cats: In Praise of Love and Rockets

A friend introduced me to Love and Rockets (the band, not the comic) in 1985. I was well aware of Bauhaus. I knew they'd broken up two years before, but didn't know that three-quarters had spun off into this psych-rock outfit. It was love at first listen. On The Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, Daniel Ash's Brit-inflected vocals and Mick Ronson strumming merge with Joy Division keyboard-playing (for which all receive credit) and the majestic drumming of Kevin Haskins, who pounds out a rolling, thundering, but never overpowering beat.

Back in the mid-1980s, I purchased most music on cassette. I didn't pick up this recording on CD until a few days ago. It sounds as good as I remember, although I prefer the original blue artwork (especially since albums two and three were red and white). Aside from the original nine tracks, there are four singles and two remixes. The former includes their 12-inch version of "Ball of Confusion" (the Temptations), the first L&R release. I love the trio's glam-tastic take on the track, but it's quite different from the rest of the disc, which sounds more like Echo and the Bunnymen covering the Moody Blues (the group has also name-checked Roxy Music and the Jesus and Mary Chain, analogies that hold up).

In picking up the 2000 remaster, I came across bass player/vocalist David J's liner notes (he is, incidentally, Kevin's brother), which describe the band better than I ever could, so I reproduce a portion here. Some might dub his prose "purple." Maybe so, but he perfectly captures L&R's exotic-yet-accessible early essence through his colorful turn of phrase.

1985 and a change of style. New clothes, different hats and, embroidered on our sleeves, all the influences previously locked up in a box marked "unshared treasure."

As our former co-provocateur, one Mr. Murphy, was not complicit in our cult of rabid enthusiasm for all things psychedelic, that particular potent genie was kept bottled up and only occasionally made manifest in spectral wisps of green vapour within the sepulchral locale of the castle Bauhaus. Once that dark entity had called it a night however, then the technicolour dream cat was free to burst from the bag. Consequently, we three found ourselves delighting in the exploration of the flora and fauna of a strange chimera
haunted jungle, resplendent with night blooming flowers dripping with opiated sound.

At the heart of this midsummer night's dream, a Puck in the form of that fragile visionary, Syd Barrett. A shooting star, we followed in the wake of his dazzling flare. With Bolan as our Oberon and the psychedelic Beatles our Titania, casting spells
to call home, we wake to dream.

Anchor to this heady flight, a world weary sardonic attitude
(see "The Game" and "The Dog-end of a Day Gone By").
Here the acid drenched brew is cut with humour of
the desert-dry and arch variety.

Though the group kept going for 14 more years--outlasting the mothership by almost a decade--I lost interest long before. I was living in England in 1986, when L&R released Express, which I loved. (I also got to see them live and, separately, Peter Murphy solo.) Their mainstream breakthrough arrived with the 1987 single "No New Tale to Tell," which I quite liked (the surrealistic video, too), but Earth, Sun, Moon seemed like a step back, and 1989's more rock-oriented Love and Rockets was the nail in the coffin. Time to call it a day, boys. Ironically, "So Alive" turned out to be their biggest hit and was followed by three more albums.

I give up on a lot of artists around the time of their third long-player, but that's when many lose momentum. The record in question may make for a pleasant enough listen, but if it isn't as strong as the previous two, that's often a warning sign (mediocrity ahead!). Still, two great albums is better than one. A few naff lyrics aside ("Throw the world off your shoulder tonight, Mr. Smith"), The Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven is a great album.

Endnote: Image from the AMG, video from YouTube. (You know it doesn't hurt that Ash is kind of sexy in that video; it isn't just about knowing how to sing or play, it's about knowing how to move.) And while I'm at it: Long live the Bubblemen!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reason #486 to Love Gnarls Barkley

I'm listening to the record as I type. I didn't plan it that way, but it's the most addictive concoction of the year. Come to think of it, I should probably stop singing its praises. Like me, you may have a hard time extracting it from your player, so as to give something else a chance. Or maybe not. Maybe Danger and Cee-Lo, as Wayne and Garth [right], already have enough fans. After all, they pulled "Crazy" from the UK after they figured it had sufficiently penetrated the British psyche. When's the last time a band made a move designed to curtail sales? It doesn't happen, and it's not as if the song was controversial. Just overplayed. And it isn't even the strongest track on St. Elsewhere. So, what is? I dunno. My opinion changes daily. For now, it's "Who Cares"...

Note: Image from the Gnarls Barkley MySpace Page, video from YouTube. Props to Mario Van Peebles, who could've camped his way through this Blaxploitation-tinged Hammer Horror, but instead invests his Vamp with a little--dare I say it--humanity.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bees, Ducks, and Other (Cinematic) Delights

I realize it makes me the world's biggest geek, but I write down every film I see. And I've been doing so for years. Otherwise, I won't remember, and I need all the help I can get as I participate in an annual countdown. I also compile a personal top 30--the Axman's party only requires 10 titles--so it helps to have a master list from which to work.

This weekend, I hit the big 250, so it seems like a good time to bring my favorites to light. I've arranged them in chronological order, since I won't be doing any actual organizing until late-December/early-January. Also, I still haven't seen some of the year's most critically acclaimed movies, like Babel and Inland Empire. Nonetheless, I've used bold to indicate the 20 entries, including re-releases, most likely to make it onto my top 30.

To save space, I present the following with only the occasional editorial comment, although I've provided links when available.


A Good Woman, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The Intruder, Sophie Scholl : The Final Days (should've won the Oscar for best foreign film over Tsotsi), Dave Chappelle's Block Party (y'all slept on this one--for shame!), Thank You for Smoking, Duck Season (see Dave Chapelle comment), Inside Man (Spike's biggest box office opening ever!), The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Friends With Money (I preferred it to Lovely and Amazing...guess I'm in the minority), Spirit of the Beehive, Mouchette, Innocence (for the final sequence alone), Classes Tous Risques, Sketches of Frank Gehry (some dismissed this as a puff piece; they might want to take another look), Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands (for Mads Mikkelson alone), I:I, C.R.A.Z.Y., Art School Confidential (see Dave Chappelle comment), Quinceañera, The House of Sand (watched it twice; it holds up), Who Killed the Electric Car? (see previous comment), The Proposition (yes!!!), The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Old Joy, We Go Way Back, Sa-Kwa (for Moon So-ri alone), Lunacy, Wristcutters - A Love Story (please ignore the crappy title), 13/Tzameti, Brothers of the Head, Starfish Hotel, 49 Up, Linda Linda Linda (yes yes yes), Heading South, Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?, Backstage, The Science of Sleep, Gravehopping, Time to Leave, Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple, Russian Dolls, The Devil Wears Prada (because I'm nuts!), Superman Returns (see previous comment), A Scanner Darkly, Lemming, Army of Shadows, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (for Cohen, natch), Half Nelson, Idlewild (see Dave Chappelle comment), Burn to Shine: Portland, The Queen, and last but far from least, The Departed (Scorsese's back--as with Spike, his best opening ever).

Endnote: And there you have it. Note that Michael Mann and Clint Eastwood didn't make the cut. Miami Vice and Flags of Our Fathers have their charms, but failed to move me as much as Collateral or Million Dollar Baby. Then again, I'm still tossing Flags around in my mind; it may well be a grower. Images from my photo gallery: Spirit of the Beehive, Romain Duris (Russian Dolls), Dave Chappelle's Block Party, and Half Nelson.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Been Caught Stealing

Stefy, The Orange Album, Wind-up/Sony

I put off playing this CD for the longest time because the packaging is so slick and anonymous. Well, I kind of like it--but for all the wrong reasons. First of all, the music is just as slick as the cover art (see below). To quote the Digable Planets, "It's slicker than grease." What I like is that it brings me back to my high school days. Not to the music I was actually listening to at the time, like the Talking Heads and the Police, but to the music I couldn't quite get away from, like Pet Benatar, Missing Persons, and Berlin.

In other words, Stefy Rae Eustace--how's that for a name--has a powerful set of pipes. She's a petite dark-haired beauty with an ever-present groan in her voice, as if every note is a strain. Benatar and Berlin's Terri Nunn share this quality. It's like a cross between a sexual come-on and a severe case of constipation. And it's exactly why I prefer Joan Jett. She just belts it out.

If you take this formula into a higher register and add some Betty Boop sound effects, you get former Playboy Bunny Dale Bozzio of LA's Missing Persons and Christina Amphlett of Australia's the Divinyls, who even dressed like a Catholic school girl--in the band's early days--and is best known to American audiences for 1991's "I Touch Myself." Everyone repeat after me: Ugh.

Well, Stefy's lyrics aren't quite that cringe-inducing, but it's pretty clichéd stuff. In "Orange County," the strongest track, Eustace references Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, TiVo, and "prepaid AT&T." It's as if she wants to remind us--maybe even herself--that it's the 2000s, but those Thomas Dolby keyboards say otherwise. And to open the album by quoting the synth line from "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This"? That says it all. Incidentally, Greg Kurstin (the Bird and the Bee, Lily Allen) co-wrote "Cover Up" and "Chelsea." Other name contributors include Tom Lord-Alge, who mixed the disc, and Graeme Revell, who arranged the strings on "Lucky Girl."

So, I tried to hate this record, and Stefy gave me every reason to follow through on my intentions, but The Orange Album inspires images of leg warmers, big hair, Top Gun, John Hughes movies, and cheesy MTV videos. I don't necessarily miss the 1980s, but whenever I'm reminded of that era's silliest by-products, I can't resist a smile. In other words: Not guilty by reason of insanity. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether I mean myself or the band.

Note: Images from the official Stefy website.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If You're Feeling Sinister

Stars of Track and Field, Centuries Before Love and War, Sidecho/Wind-up

If you're feeling sinister, you've
come to the wrong place. If, on the other hand, you're experiencing a
rush of blood to the head...

With a name like Stars of Track and Field, I was expecting Belle and Sebastian-like indie pop. Well, the Low-meets-Keane sound this Portland combo conjures up isn't a world away, but there's more feedback and electronic effects than their moniker would indicate.

I use the word pleasant too much, but it's the first one that springs to mind. Centuries Before Love and War is competent and tuneful. Augmented by producer Tony Lash (Elliot Smith) on guitar and keys, the trio sounds like they know what they're doing, and there's nothing obviously "wrong" with this disc. But while it's too dynamic to qualify as bland, it isn't that exciting either.

Centuries, their full-length debut, follows 2005 EP You Came Here for Sunset Last Year (these cats dig wordy titles). It's a perfectly respectable effort. There's nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about--either as band member or listener--but that's part of the problem. There's no apparent risk going on either.

This recording is too safe, too smooth, and too indistinct for me to recommend in good conscience. I wouldn't count the threesome out, though. I passed on the Fray, too, and look at them now. It's too soon to say whether "Say Hello" will go the way of Grey's Anatomy anthem "How to Save a Life," but KEXP has been giving the dream-pop bauble plenty of play, so you never know.

Endnote: In case you've ever wondered, I review every album that comes my way--as long as I don't actively hate it. This includes CDs sent from out of the blue, like the one above, as well as titles purchased for myself, like Tales of the Forgotten Melodies. Initially, I only covered records about which I was enthusiastic, but from time to time, I'll continue to review those that don't make as much of an impact. By the way, I love If You're Feeling Sinister. And I have a soft spot for A Rush of Blood to the Head--much as it pains me to admit it. Image from the AMG.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Doors of Perception: On Evanescence's The Open Door

Evanescence, The Open Door, Wind-up/Sony

This is probably the first and last time I'll write about a #1 record on this site. I've always been more interested in music that's off the beaten path. I doubt that will ever change. Long story short, I was asked to review The Open Door, then the offer was rescinded. Since Wind-up Records was kind enough to send me the CD, even after I let them know it was no longer necessary, I figure the least I can do is listen.

Over the years, Evanescence has been labeled both Christian and Gothic. Joy Division and Bauhaus aside, I'm a fan of neither genre, but I'm not so sure it matters. I hear more hard rock--hard piano rock, that is--on the follow-up to major label debut Fallen than anything else (that album went platinum six times over, sold 14 million copies, and garnered two Grammys). It's kind of like Sarah MacLachlan gone metal, if that makes any sense.

In the liner notes, the quartet gives shout-outs to the late Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott (Pantera), so I don't think the metal thing is all in my head. Ben Sisario, in The New York Times, describes Evanescence as a "vaguely gothic, vaguely metal band led by the elaborately coutured Amy Lee." And John LeCompt, bringer of the heavy riffs, thanks "Pastor Perry and Family Church" and "My Saviour Jesus Christ."

That's about as Christian as The Open Door gets. It doesn't mean the foursome isn't religious, but their music sounds secular. I scanned the beautifully designed lyric booklet and found more Gothic than Christian imagery, although I suppose that's a matter of perspective. In "Sweet Sacrifice," for instance, Lee sings of "burning ashes" that "blacken the day." Then in "Lithium," she reveals a desire to "stay in love with my sorrow." There's even--shades of Siouxsie--a song called "Lacrymosa." Somehow I doubt Amy Grant will be covering it anytime soon.

As I suspected, Evanescence isn't for me. Granted, I haven't heard Fallen or Origin, the demo that got the Arkansas group signed, but I doubt they'd change my mind (the line-up has altered since 1998, but I understand the basic sound has not). That said, I now have a little insight into their popularity. The Open Door has all the crunch of metal and the darkness of Goth combined with the melody and introspection of folk-pop. If that's what "the people" want, I can't really blame them. But nor can I join them.

Endnote: Programming provided by DJ Lethal...of the House of Pain. Lee thanks him for giving the record "spooky, sexy thump!" Lethal was the one non-Irish member of the LA rap trio, but he did his bit to make Gaelic hip-hop a reality. For that, he has my respect. Images from the official Evanescence website.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No Waxy Buildup

Wax Tailor, Tales
of the Forgotten
Melodies, Decon

JC Le Saoût (La Formule) is a French DJ with a jones for vintage jazz and film noir, so I was expecting something akin to St. Germain. On his 2005 debut Tales of the Forgotten Melodies, issued Stateside earlier this year, that's what I got. Although the former hip-hop producer is less enamored with house and acid jazz than Germain's Ludovic Navarre, both downtempo denizens have much love for the flute (I share their affection). Granted, Le Saoût opts for movie/television samples over blues/R&B samples, but the neon-lit nightclub-meets-designer boutique vibe is similar.

As with DJ Shadow, circa Entroducing, or sartorial soul brother Moby, circa Play, these English clips make up the bulk of the vocals, although there are a few guests, like Charlotte Savary and the Others. To my ears, Savary sounds a lot like Beth Gibbons (and Le Saoût doesn't deny a debt to Portishead's cinematic sounds).

"Hypnosis Theme" (R-rated video alert!)

Sampled artists, meanwhile, include Doris Day, Woody Allen, Nina Simone, Keye Luke, and Q-Tip. The latter appears on "Between Fellows," in which Le Saoût strings together excerpts from dozens of rap recordings. As his biography puts it, the Kubrick aficianado "uses samples in his music as film directors use actors." Of course, Le Saoût isn't really directing these performances as much as he's editing them, but I can appreciate the analogy.

On the basis of Tales of the Forgotten Melodies, Le Saoût hasn't found his voice yet--there's a lot going on here--but he's filled his first long-player with so many strangely soothing sounds, I just can't deny it. Recommended to fans of the Avalanches and Alfred Hitchcock...and how many records can you say that about?

Endnote: Instead of commissioning a new score, Coline Serreau retrofitted St. Germain's Tourist for the soundtrack to Chaos, one of my favorite films of 2003 (for those who admired Michael Hanecke's Caché, Serreau takes a more female-centric approach to similar material). Tourist's propulsive rhythms elevate the entire scenario, especially the bravura opening sequence--a slow-motion car crash--which sets the complex story in motion.

For more information about Wax Tailor, please see his official website. Among his influences, Le Saoût cites composers Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, and Serge Gainsbourg. Image from Listening Pearls, video from YouTube.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The View From Google

Every few months, I search Google using my name, in its dual permutations (Kathy vs. Kathleen), to see where my reviews
are ending up. Here are some of the more interesting results.


Bloodshot Records:
AndMoreAgain review of Paul Burch - East to West

Reference to my Amazon review of the Kills - No Wow:

The film's soundtrack [The Beat That My Heart Skipped] also bears
a mixed sense of quietude and tension. The baroque melodies Tom [Romain Duris] is trying to master become abrasive in his impatient hands. But it's the song "Monkey 23," performed by the punk-blues duo the Kills (my favorite band of the moment), that is perhaps most fitting. The song appears twice; first, during a scene in which Tom drives through Paris at night, and, again, during the closing credits. As with Tom, and the film itself, an emotional volatility lies just beneath the surface of "Monkey 23". That's symptomatic of all of The Kills' music; indebted to P. J. Harvey and The Velvet Underground, The Kills employ a minimalist, gritty aesthetic, accessible melodies, and emotionally open lyrics. Or, as Kathleen Fennessy wrote in an Amazon editorial review of the band's second album, "The Kills come on like a post-punk version of Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter--with 'hate' tattooed on one hand, 'love' on the other."

Democratic Underground:
Amazon review of Baghdad ER

Links to my Siffblog in-
terviews with Keith Fulton,
Lynn Shelton (including my
original We Go Way Back review), and Michel Gondry.

[I love you, GreenCine.]

AMG Review of Consonant - Love and Affliction

Jazziz Radio:
Amazon review of Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself

The Jim Henson Company:
Amazon review of Fraggle Rock - The Complete Second Season

[I think Gondry would dig Fraggle Rock--and the
Henson Company did produce a French version...]

Little Radio Blogzine:
Amazon review of the Fiery Furnaces - EP

AMG bio of Keren Ann

The Treadaway Brothers:
AndMoreAgain interview with Keith Fulton

[Harry and Luke Treadaway, AKA the Bang-Bang, above left.]

Velvet Monkeys MySpace Page:
AMG bio of the band

Endnote: Movie stills (Eternal Sunshine and Brothers of the Head) from previous posts, Kills Polaroids from their official website. Thanks to Bill for bringing the GreenCine Daily references to my attention. It proves that there are at least three people reading Siffblog: me, Bill, and GreenCine's David Hudson.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Early Review:
Love at First Sight

The Bird and the Bee,
The Bird and the Bee, Metro Blue/Blue Note

Some records need time to grow on you, others are instantly appealing. I don't think one kind is superior to the other. The Bird and the Bee, first full-length from LA duo Inara George and Greg Kurstin, falls into the latter category. It's the kind of dreamy retro-pop I just can't resist. It's too soon to say whether this album has staying power, i.e. whether I'll find the 20th spin as enchanting as the first, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. For now, I proclaim it one of the year's most enjoyable debuts.
First, it should be noted that Inara is the daughter of Little Feat's Lowell George. That out of the way, best to move on. I dig the Feat, but Inara's got a brand new bag, so it seems misleading to make too big a deal out of her parentage. I mean, it's worth acknowledging, as George was a major figure, but I don't hear his influence on her music. (Incidentally, the AMG review of Inara's solo effort, All Rise, describes her father as a cult figure. Seems to me the late singer/guitarist was more significant than that.)

So, here are some of the artists I do hear on this disc: Free Design, Deee-lite, Death by Chocolate, and labelmate Keren Ann. George has the kind of airy voice that dances around the melody, never buried by Kurstin's inventive arrangements, but softer than that of your average singer/songwriter, where it's all about the VOICE and the LYRICS. Frankly, I suspect that a few lines were after-thoughts--lots of references to tangerines and such--but I'm not complaining. I own several Stereolab recordings, yet couldn't quote a single lyric. That isn't to suggest that Laetitia Sadier doesn't put any thought into her words--which are mostly sung in French--just that they aren't what I like best about her band.

George sings mostly about relationships, but she isn't above throwing a few la-la-la's and ba-ba-ba's into the mix. In this sense, she reminds me of Juana Molina, but there's more of a poppy 1960s vibe to The Bird and the Bee. I hear a lot of Eno in Molina's atmospheric sounds; I don't hear anything quite so esoteric here. The appeal, then, is mostly about the overall sound, the way George's gentle voice mingles with Kurstin's catchy melodies.

The one exception is "Fucking Boyfriend." I don't have a problem with profanity, and the contrast between George's tranquil tone and her angry words generates an interesting tension, but I prefer the songs about chocolate. The effect is similar to Lily Allen's more risqué material, but Allen pulls off this kind of thing better (interestingly, Kurstin is one of the producers behind Alright, Still, which is also set to be released in the US this January).

Still, I'm glad the song is on here. The Bird and the Bee is, otherwise, almost too nice, too pretty...too good to be true. It's like discovering that the most popular girl in school has a dirty secret--say, her father's an ex-con. It humanizes her, brings her back down to Earth. So it goes with "Fucking Boyfriend." It's a reminder that, for all the good vibes this duo is dishing out, they're still living in the prickly present, rather than a hippie-dippy past.

Inara, did that guy in "Boyfriend"
ever become your boyfriend?
Inara: No. He never became my fucking boyfriend.
Greg: That's why we keep singing it.
Inara: Because if he became my boyfriend,
the song would just fall flat.
Greg: She gets that boyfriend, the band'll just be over.
Inara: Boys like that don't ever become boyfriends.
They die old and alone.
-- Greg Burk, LA Weekly (11/3/06)

Endnote: For more information, please see the band's MySpace Page, where you can listen to "Again and Again," "Fucking Boyfriend," and other tunes. Under Sounds like, they state, "A futuristic 1960's American film set in Brazil..." Bingo! All images from the Official Inara George Website. I'll add pics of Kurstin some other time. At the moment, I can't get anything to stick.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sleepy Science With Michel Gondry

Part Four: On New Projects
and Old Favorites

Mos Def [left], who appears in Dave Chappelle's Block Party, reunites with Gondry for Be Kind Rewind


In this section, Michel Gondry talks about his next two films. (This was a joint interview with a fellow named Tyler.) To read parts one through three, please click here. Caveat: Certain passages were hard to make out. I've done my best to transcribe them as accurately as possible, but I'm sure I got a word or two wrong. Gondry's English is excellent, but he's soft spoken and his accent is strong. The result was lively conversation, difficult transcription.


Tyler: Do you think Be Kind Rewind is gonna be more like this one [The Science of Sleep] or more like Eternal Sunshine?

Gondry: I don't know. I'm gonna try to shoot larger format, like anamorphic. It'll be a contrast to the way we shoot the films [within the film], which is video and completely crappy, and the way the film will look, which is gonna be a little more slick. I [will] put myself in a different situation. Like the last two films I did, it was all...hand-held. On this one I think I will put the camera on some equipment, like a tripod or steadicam or crane.

Fennessy: Have you seen that remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Because supposedly Daniel Clowes [self-portrait to the right] is making a movie about the making of the remake.

Gondry: Yeah, I know. I was working with Dan Clowes on a project when he told me that, and I was a little bummed out--or do you say bummed down?

Fennessy: Bummed out, yes.

Gondry: Because it was so sincere, but I's different. I know they're doing that, but maybe it's in the air. JB [Jack Black] came to me because you have all those remakes that are made with way more money than the original film, and they turn out to be not as good, and I thought why don't we take a big movie and do a very cheap remake. And that's how I got this idea. I find a way to force two kids--two guys--to have to do all those movies, and then I got the idea of this guy working in a video store with this other [guy] and, because he becomes magnetized by a power plant, he erases all the tape. And then to save the day, they do one movie, just to save time. And then people like it, and then they have to do more and more, and then they become like stars.

[For Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, a group of teenagers recreated everything Spielberg did in the original blockbuster.]

Tyler: Did they offer you The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Because I thought I read that.

Gondry: I don't know. I think Spike [Jonze] had it for awhile. I don't remember. I think I was probably working.

Tyler: If you weren't working, would you have made it?

Gondry: I don't know, maybe. I'm trying to do science fiction. I'm working on Rudy Rucker's book [Master of Space and Time] with Dan Clowes, but it's complicated, because we like all the quirkiness of the book, and the producers try to make it more mainstream to be able to raise the money. So it's complicated, science fiction. And I think it's why, except maybe for--like Phillip K. Dick has been very hard to adapt, because [indistinguishable]. You need a lot of money to make a science fiction movie, because you have to reconstitute the whole world, so I don't know how to make a science fiction movie that excites me... It would not be like Ridley Scott. I think Blade Runner is a masterpiece,'s been an influence for too many years now, and I don't know where movies can go. I think [Paul] Verhoeven has done new stuff with science fiction, like Robocop and Starship Troopers, which are really great movies... And sometimes, like with Starship Troopers or movies of that type--a truly great science fiction movie--they are not so accepted by the audience, because they are too edgy.

Tyler: You've said you like Back to the Future, which is a different kind of science fiction.

Gondry: It's quirky, there's some darkness to it, but it's not slick.

Tyler: Well, it's not like a space movie. People think space movie when they hear science fiction.

Gondry: I think in a space movie you can do something quirky. I mean, I guess Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was like that, but there was something--I don't know what it is--it didn't click.

Fennessy: Did you see Art School Confidential, and did that remind you of your art school experience?

Gondry: Yeah, in some ways.

Fennessy: It reminded me of mine.

Gondry: I liked it very much. I like Daniel Clowes--and Terry Zwigoff, too. I mean, Ghost World was amazing, and the documentary on Crumb--the best movie I've seen.

Fennessy: In your [Directors Series] booklet, you mention a film called Yuri Norstein's Hedgehog in the Fog [1975]. Is this something you own? Is it something other people can see or is it rare?

[I think it may have influenced his "Human Behavior" video.]

Gondry: You can find it in a collection of four DVDs--or two maybe, you would have to check--on the Russian animator [The Complete Works of Yuri Norstein]. I would recommend them. He did the Tale of Tales [1979]. As well, Heron and Crane [1974]. Some animal tales. And it's brilliant. If you can't find it in America, you can order it from France... I keep giving them to my friends, and I'm never home to watch them.

Fennessy: Your description makes it sound great.

Gondry: It's magical.

Fennessy: Have you been at all influenced by--these are really your contemporaries--the Quay Brothers or Jan Svankmajer, who's been working even longer?

Gondry: It's funny, I get those comparisons...but I would have to say no, because it's too dark for me.

Fennessy: It is a lot darker. [Both also work with stop-motion.]

Gondry: I don't like necessarily those films. They're skilled, but they...depict a world that's tortured. I am, I guess, a tortured person, but I don't want to use tortuous imagery--it's too much.

Endnote: The Science of Sleep continues at the Egyptian Theatre (801 E Pine). For more information, please click here or call 206-781-5755. For my money, Dave Chappelle's Block Party and Art School Confidential are two of the most underrated films of the year. Incidentally, at some point, Siffblog will transition to, but the old URL will continue to work. The domain names and will also do the trick. Images from Metroactive, Wikipedia, and No Free List.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Really Getting It On with Standing on the Verge of Getting It On

Really Getting It On

Funkadelic, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, Westbound [Reissue]

Several years ago, I loaned my copy of this groovy disc to a co-worker at a certain internet retailer and never got it back (shortly afterwards, we were re-org'ed, then made redundant). I wonder if he was friends with the other wage slave who absconded with my Chambers Brothers cassette back in the 1980s...? Birds of a feather and all that.

So, a few months ago, I added it to my wish list and just received a copy for my birthday (thanks, Mom!). Though I still prefer the harder funk of side one to the more expansive funk of side two, the whole damn thing is essential if you're down with the Mothership.

Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (1974) isn't Funkadelic's best album, nor is it their worst, but it's certainly one of their sexiest ("Red Hot Momma," "Alice in My Fantasies, " etc.). The main reason I mention it is because I started looking through the CD booklet and instantly remembered how fun their crazy credits and Pedro Bell's intricate magic marker-drawn artwork always were--an integral part of the P-Funk package--so I've decided to reproduce my favorite bits.

Front cover: There's a naked ochre-colored fellow in the lower left hand corner holding a sign that reads, "United Streaker Front." His head, which is inordinately large, has a lightning bolt design on it. Also, he's wearing purple roller skates (with blue wings).

Back cover: An African-American guy in the center, wearing an Ancient Rome-meets-Star Trek outfit (breastplate, spiked armbands, etc.), exclaims, "There's nothing harder to stop than a idea whose time has come to pass! Funkadelic is wot time it is!"

Then you open up the booklet. Below the song credits, it reads:

Protect your loved ones from Grand Fraud Railroad.
Tell your local radio station to play FUNKADELIC MUSIC! So Be It!

The band members are listed as follows:


Bernard (Bernie) Worrell: Spaced Viking; keyboards & vocals
Calvin Simon: tenor vocals, congas and suave personality
Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins: a prototype werewolf;
berserker octave vocals
C. "Boogie" Mosson: World's only black Leprechaun;
bass & vocals
Eddie "Smedley Smorganoff" Hazel: Maggoteer lead/solo guitar & vocals
Gary Shider: rhythm/lead guitar, doowop vocals, sinister grin
George Clinton: Supreme Maggot Minister of Funkadelia; vocals, maniac froth and spit; behavior illegal in several States
R. "Tiki" Fulwood: percussion & vocals;
equipped with stero armpits
Ron Bykowski: rhythm/lead guitar; polyester
soul-powered token white devil
"Shady" Grady Thomas: Registered and licensed genie; vocals
Ray (Stingray) Davis: Subterranean bass vocals,
supercool and stinky fingers


Endnote: Man, that is all you need to know about this album. Fuck reviews, fuck liner notes. No, not really. It just felt good to say that. My favorite part: The description of Boogie Mossun as "World's only black Leprechaun"--take that, Michael Jackson! Oh, and George Clinton, AKA Supreme Maggot Minister of Funkadelia, just appeared on the second season premiere of CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Will wonders never cease? I meant to tune in, but forgot...I'll be keeping my eye out for the repeat.

I should add that I've been listening to the new Decemberists CD, The Crane Wife, all weekend. Though the only funk in the band is string player Chris Funk, they put just as much care into their packaging. Credit Colin Meloy's companion, Carson Ellis, for another wonderful set of period-perfect illustrations. The LP artwork tradition lives on in the CD era--and in the most unlikely of places, no less. Let's hear it for a P-Funk/Decemberists joint tour! Images from The Mothership of All P-Funk Photo Galleries.