Sunday, September 23, 2007


Carrie Akre,
...Last the Evening,
Loveless [10/30/07]

Nothing can keep Carrie Akre down. Back in the 1990s when the major labels were scooping up every act that
had anything to do with the Northwest, her bands Hammerbox and Goodness got swept
into the maelstrom. As with most other non-grunge acts—see
the Posies and Harvey Danger—those relationships weren't
built to last, but Akre soldiered on as a solo performer.

Now Seattle claims a number of self-assured female performers, like Sera Cahoone and Laura Veirs, but Akre got there first. I don't mean to suggest that she predates Heart, but Ann and Nancy Wilson were rockers before they turned the volume down for the Lovemongers (they also originated in Vancouver, not Seattle).

As ever, Akre resists trends. It's always been one of her biggest strengths—and weaknesses. She's a belter. Unless a woman is working in the idioms of blues or metal, there isn't much of a call for belters nowadays. The rock reign of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick ended decades ago.

...Last the Evening was produced by Steve Fisk and features Mark Pickerel on drums and Johnny Sangster on guitar, but there's no alt-country here. Throughout, Fisk keeps the focus on Akre's powerful pipes and generic lyrics like, "I believe that dreams will come true if we have faith." Akre's third solo outing, after Home (2000) and Invitation (2002), doesn't sound much different from the kind of thing So-Cal twentysomethings, like Sara Bareilles and Colbie Caillat, are doing. It isn't bad, but her mid-tempo pop-rock is too straightahead for my taste. Still, I admire her perseverence, and hope this record reaches more sympathetic ears.

The Bird and the Bee, Please Clap
Your Hands, Metro Blue/EMI [9/25/07]

I fell in love with the Bird and the Bee upon release of their debut. This EP represents the duo's dance-oriented side, but it's still dreamy pop. (By "dance," I mean go-go boot shimmying rather than robotic raving.) Whether it'll make new fans, I couldn't say, but I can't imagine that those already familiar will be disappointed. And I find it amusing that they titled the first track "Polite Dance Song." It almost plays like a response to The Bird
and the Bee's "Fucking Boyfriend," a rather impolite dance song.

The four originals are joined by an extraneous cover of "How
Deep Is Your Love" with backing vocals by Sia ("Breathe Me"). Personally, I wish they had selected something from earlier in the Bee Gees' career, like enchantingly fey 1960s tracks "Holiday" or "New York Mining Disaster 1941." That could've resulted in something more surprising and satisfying, since the Bird and the Bee don't have much new to bring to this disco-era ballad.

The Capstan Shafts, Environ
Maiden, Rainbow Quartz [10/16/07]

In contrast to the prog-rockers of old and their side-length
suites, Environ Maiden consists of 29 lo-fi miniatures with
a slight British accent. I can't be the first to compare the Cap-
stan Shafts to Guided by Voices. (As it turns out, I'm not.) Further, Vermont's Dean Wells, a professional woodworker,
claims to have been inspired by GBV's early gem Vampire on Titus.

Like GBV's Robert Pollard, Wells is a prolific fellow: 17 releases on a variety of labels since 1999. Other writers have compared him to early David Bowie, Destroyer, and the entire Elephant 6 collective (Olivia Tremor Control, Apples on Stereo, etc.). It's true, all true.

One of the best damn songs ever!

I also hear a smidgen of Wreckless Eric (see "Whole Wide World" above). Like Eric, his voice breaks at times, but it's never irritating, always appealing—and I'm not suggesting he does it on purpose (there's nothing calculated about this recording). As you can probably tell: I like Environ Maiden a lot, but it feels as if I've heard it before. No worries. It's a pleasant form of déjà vu.

Click here to stream the album.

Endnote: Masculin-Féminin image from French New Wave (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966; Jean-Pierre Léaud with pop singer Chantal Goya), Carrie Akre image from her official website, video from YouTube. For more information about the Bird
and the Bee, please click here. For the Capstan Shafts, here.

9/29 Update: Coincidentally enough, I received Nina Simone's Anthology for my birthday. On this two-disc set, Simone covers
"To Love Somebody." No, she doesn't turn into into a dusky blues
or an anguished operetta. On the contrary, she keeps things light—bouyant even. I pronounce it the best Brothers Gibb cover ever.

Friday, September 21, 2007

From Supermodels
to Skateboards

Every once in awhile two editors will unknowingly assign the same review to different writers. But, to
quote Highlander, there
can only be one, and I just noticed that the Amazon editorial review for the following was penned by another contributor.
Since I (also) took the time to cover it, my piece now lives here.

(Alex Steyermark, US, 2005, 93 mins.)

A comedy about terminal illness is bound to be a risky proposition. Thankfully, One Last Thing... skips past the
symptoms, the diagnosis, and the tears straight to the final
wish of pot-smoking 16-year-old Dylan (Michael Angarano,
also cast as a terminally ill teen in Lords of Dogtown). The
comedy, incidentally, isn't broad, while the marijuana is
medicinal (though healthy pals Ricky and Slap also partake).

When United Gift Givers offer to fulfill Dylan's deepest desire,
“The Wish Kid,” as he becomes known, requests a weekend with supermodel Nikki Sinclair (Sunny Mabrey). He doesn't mind the newfound fame, but it makes his widowed mother, Karen (Sex
and the City's Cynthia Nixon), uncomfortable (an un-credited Ethan Hawke portrays his father in flashbacks). She just wants
to spend some quality time with her son while she still can.

As for Nikki, she isn't the golden girl her image would indicate. Actually, the model has an attitude problem, so her agent, Arlene (Bound's Gina Gershon), insists Nikki meet the kid to generate some positive press. Her plan works, but Dylan was hoping for more than just a photo op. He travels to New York to try again.

Directed by Alex Steyermark (Prey for Rock & Roll with Gershon), One Last Thing... neatly dodges the "tasteless" tag, but the balance between comedy and drama is decidedly delicate. With Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell (Ragtime) as Dylan's doctor and Wyclef Jean (the Fugees) as a kindly cab driver.

Endnote: Click here for the Slog post that reminded me
about this film in the first place. As for Angarano, I like the
guy. You may know him best as Jack's son on Will & Grace.
Most recently, he starred in Black Irish, a domestic drama from this year's Seattle International Film Festival. Not a bad little picture, and it looks like it's just been picked up for distribution.

The best place to start with Angarano is probably Lords
of Dogtown
(2005), although Heath Ledger and Into the Wild's Emile Hirsch pretty much steal that particular show. I'm sorry
more people didn't give it a chance. It's one of the rare ultra-mas-
culine movies to be directed by a woman (Thirteen's Catherine Hardwicke). Here's to many more. Picture from Google Images.

10/1 Update: Speaking of Into the Wild, I just caught a
screening yesterday. Wow—it's easily one of the year's best.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lord, Have Mercy: Ridley Scott's Domino

Lord, Have Mercy

Oh oh Domino (it's all right)
Roll me over, Romeo,

There you go
Lord, have mercy
I said oh-oh, Domino.
-- Van Morrison, "Domino" (1970)

I meant to post this ages ago. Hey, better late than never.
At least, I save everything I think I can use, even if that
use gets pushed further into the future than intended.

So, here's the key portion from Ron Rosenbaum's appreciation
of Domino
, one of my favorite films of 2005. It's funny, but I'm
not even a Tony Scott fan, though I liked Déjà Vu well enough.

I prefer his brother, Ridley (Alien, Blade Runner), and can't wait
to see American Gangster, which stars Russell Crowe (Ridley's Gladiator) and Denzel Washington (Tony's Man on Fire).

Not that Domino neglects the racial subtext of everything American. There
is that weird—what degree
of reality is this?—realistic 'episode' of the
Jerry Springer Show in which one of the characters [Mo'Nique] goes

on with a 'flow chart' to show her different ways of naming the racial fissures, fractures, and fusions that have destabilized the notion of what’s 'American' in the first place. She wants to bestow official recognition on categories such as 'Blacktino,' 'Chinegro,' 'Japanic' to reflect the fracturing of unofficial identities. As if a 'flow chart' can capture the flow.

I love that scene. Bill, who forwarded the piece, adds, "Quentin Tarantino says that Domino is one of his five favorite films of 2005. His other four were The Devil's Rejects, Wolf Creek, Hustle & Flow, and Sin City." Also, note the similarity between the look of Domino and the look of Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 [above left]. Shocking, isn't it? (Christopher Doyle shot 2046, Daniel Mindel shot Domino.) The two films otherwise have nothing in common.

Domino, which has nothing in common with Morrison either—though I couldn't resist the reference—also features Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Christopher Walken, Lucy Liu, Delroy Lindo, Dabney Coleman, Jacqueline Bisset, Macy Gray, Mena Suvari, and 90210's Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green.
The screenplay was written by Donnie Darko's Richard Kelly.

And that's pretty much all you need to know. Except for the unnecessary limb removal scene—a Tony Scott specialty—
it's an unadulterated blast. Great hip-hop soundtrack, too.

Endnote: Keira Knightley who plays Domino, a character inspired by Laurence Harvey's bounty hunter daughter, stars
in Silk, which is currently playing at Seattle's Seven Gables.

She next appears in Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement, which garnered rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival. Wright previously directed her in Pride & Prejudice.
On my Top 30, Domino and Pride & Prejudice tied for #26.

American Gangster is set to be released on 11/2, Atonement
on 12/7. Images from Google Images, lyrics from Oldie Lyrics.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Generation

Cheater Pint,
Dark Side of the Pint,
Kinger Recordings

[L]ike the Go-Go's on massive steroids.
-- The Noise: Rock Around Boston

If I grow up would we still be friends?
-- Cheater Pint, "If I Grow Up"

I listened to this record once, and couldn't think of anything to say. So, I listened to it again. And again. Upon reflection, I think Cheater Pint's debut leaves me speechless partly because of personal taste, partly because of age—mine more than theirs.

First of all, Dark Side of the Pint is punk-pop. Nothing wrong with that. It's just that I've always perceived the genre as music made by twentysomethings for twentysomethings (or younger). Nothing wrong with that either. Except I'm too old for this stuff.

Like many music writers, I tend to think of myself as both
open-minded and discriminating—as much as those qualities
are often in opposition—but I left my 20's behind a long time
ago. (Though I'm frequently asked to review teen favorites,
like Ben Kweller, Fall Out Boy, and Gym Class Heroes.)

Further, I've never really
been a punk-pop fan. Even
in my 20's, it wasn't exactly my favorite genre. Was it considered a genre back then? I'm too old to remember—I think we just called it punk!

In sum: Cheater Pint is a Boston quartet, and singer/guitarist Lauren O'Neal is a boffo screamer, much like fellow Bostonian Kim Deal of the Pixies.

As for me, I dig plenty of artists in their 20's, like Lily Allen and Lady Sovereign, but they draw on influences closer to my heart, i.e. Madness, X-Ray Spex, etc. Consequently, I forget about age when I listen to their albums. That's how it should be. As for Cheater Pint, the kids are all right, but I'm not a kid anymore.

Endnote: In looking at the band, it occurs to me that they might actually be in their 30s. Still, their music has a youthful sound, and attracts, presumably, a youthful audience—not that
I consider 30 old! (Or 40, 50, or even 60.) For more information about Cheater Pint, please see their MySpace Page or their official website (from which I swiped these fine photographs).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Touching From a Distance

From MOJO's February issue:

In contrast to their dour press image,
they were friendly and sociable.

-- Jon Savage on Joy Division

He was quite different on the stage doing his jerky dancing and all that. Off-stage he was an ordinary bloke, there was no sense of foreboding and doom, not the weight
of the world on his shoulders, none of that. All the things that have been attributed to him later, he wasn't.
-- Pete Shelley (the Buzzcocks) on Ian Curtis

From the All Music Guide:

[N]one of the band's songs ever really ended; they
either fell apart or collapsed, as if to bring about
a proper end to something beyond their grasp.

-- Thom Jurek on Heart and Soul

Click here for reviews of Control and Joy Division.

And here's my 2001 review of The First Peel Session (1986):

Joy Division recorded their first Peel session in January
1979, the second in November. Their first full-length, Unknown
, would hit the streets between the two—around the same time Manchester's sewage system collapsed (at least the city had something to celebrate in their hometown band's brilliant debut).

The sessions were originally available as separate EPs; this one
includes the initial four tracks, the second the remaining four. Both were rendered somewhat redundant when combined into one release. Then it too was superseded by 1998's Heart and Soul boxed set and 2000's The Complete BBC Recordings. The latter includes all eight tracks, two additional live versions of "Transmission" and "She's Lost Control" recorded for BBC2 in September of the same year, and a short Radio One interview with Ian Curtis and drummer Stephen Morris.

"Exercise One" opens this set with a squeal of feedback and a primal
drumbeat. It ends abruptly, and bears a slight resemblance to the short sharp shocks of early Gang of Four. A high-pitched repeating keyboard pattern distinguishes "Insight," while "She's Lost Control"
is fairly straightforward, just less polished than the studio version.

Throughout, Curtis is as committed to the material as ever, particularly "Transmission" ("Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance..."). One year from his death, the singer sounds like he could go on forever, singing the same lyrics over and over. It's a hypnotic performance.

Endnote: Jon Savage penned the forward to the Deborah Curtis book (posted about here, here, and here). Savage, who lived in Manchester during the late-1970s, is Britain's punk laureate.
Click here for his review of This Is England. Image from eBay.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Lord God
Made Them All

Walk in silence,
Don't walk away, in silence.
See the danger,
Always danger,
Endless talking,
Life rebuilding,
Don't walk away.

-- "Atmosphere" (1979)

In preparation for photographer-turned-filmmaker Anton Corbijn's Control, here's his posthumous video for Joy Division's "Atmosphere." Click here for excerpts from Deborah Curtis's Touching From a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division.

And click here for a great interview with
the surviving members of Joy Division.

Endnote: The titles of these posts come from the lovely hymn: All things bright and beautiful / All creatures great and small / All things wise and wonderful / The Lord God made them all (also titles in British vet-turned-author James Herriot's book series).

My point was to present Ian Curtis, in advance of Corbijn's film and Grant Gee's documentary, as a multi-faceted individual. One of pop music's most famous depressives, Curtis was also a husband, a father, an animal lover, and, yes, a first-class prima donna—a man who could handle art like a pro, but was flummoxed by day-to-day life. In other words, he wasn't simply the prophet of doom and gloom he's often made out to be. Image from Google Images.

Click here for part five.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

All Things Wise
and Wonderful

Here are more excerpts from Deborah Curtis's Touching From a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division (1995). Click here for part two.

The experience of being Joy Division was really, really funny
and up, and the whole thing's been coloured by Ian. But we
weren't a deep, heavy band, which no one will ever see. No
records will show that; no films, videos, or anything will
ever show that. We used to have a right good laugh.

-- Bernard "Barney" Sumner, Joy Division/New Order

Barney and him [Ian] used to disappear and swan about like two
fucking fairies. I remember going up to Barney one night, getting
hold of him (the next band were on stage; he'd fucked off with Sue
for a drink somewhere) and saying, "You better go and get your
amp off stage." And he said, "Where is it?" The next fucking band
were on and I'd left his amp on stage. I said, "I'm not fucking lifting
your amp, you cunt, you can do it your fucking self."

To their credit, it doesn't really matter, neither of them had much
realism. I mean, Barney's really creative in the way that Ian was
and maybe that's the effect it has on you. I used to be a bit different,
a bit more realistic. There's a very fine line between being artistic
and being a dickead—it's like love and hate.

-- Peter "Hooky" Hook, Joy Division/New Order

Endnote: I've been trying to excavate revealing details unlikely to make it into Anton Corbijn's biopic—at least not in the literal sense—although Michael Winterbottom's surrealistic depiction of Curtis's death in 24-Hour Party People is surprisingly accurate. He really did watch Werner Herzog's Strozsek before taking his life.

Deborah describes it as a "film about a European living in America who kills himself rather than choose between two women." Ian was torn between his British wife and his Belgian mistress, Annik Honoré. Deborah adds, "The last line of the film talks of a dead man in the cable car and the chicken still dancing, which is why the run-offs to Still include 'The chicken won't stop,' 'The chicken stops here,' and chicken footprints walking between the grooves."

The last record Ian ever played? Iggy Pop's The Idiot,
which was still spinning when his body was recovered.
Band photo from Google Images. Click here for part four.

All Creatures
Great and Small

Here's another excerpt
from Deborah Curtis's Touching From a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division (1995). Click
here for part one (Deborah and Ian get a dog).
Sadly our dog had become a costly luxury. Owing to our lack of funds, even Candy wasn't getting proper food and her fur had begun to fall out. As Ian was away so much I was faced with the dilemma of needing to walk her at night-time and not wanting to leave Natalie alone in the house while I did this. Sometimes, my parents were able to help out, but eventually they offered to find somewhere else for Candy to live. Ian was very distressed at this suggestion, though it didn't persuade him to come home any more often. My discovery that he carried photographs of Candy around, rather than photographs of his wife and child, made me realize how foolish I had been to carry on running his home. I knew Ian would be upset to hear that Candy had gone, but thought it cruel to keep an animal we could no longer afford to feed. Ian had ceased to make any contribution to her care and did not want to discuss or understand the problems I was having. A place was found for her on a farm in Rochdale and my parents drove her there so that I would not have to say goodbye.

Endnote: Control opens in Seattle on 10/19. Deborah is played by Samantha Morton, Ian is played by Sam Riley (who portrayed Mark E. Smith in 24-Hour Party People). Image from The Guardian. Click the link for Peter Bradshaw's review. As he notes, "Corbijn's movie is shot in a stunning high-contrast monochrome, perversely turning Macclesfield's grimness into grandeur. It effortlessly revives a British cinematic style that you might call beautiful realism, reaching back to Christopher Petit's Radio On, and further back to Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and A Taste of Honey." Click here for part three.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Revenge of the Nerds

The following comes
from Jeanette Catsoulis's
review of Dedication

That weird exhalation you hear at the multiplex these days is the sound of female characters settling for less than they deserve. Following on the wildly successful antifeminist heels of Knocked
, Hollywood is falling over itself to introduce beautiful,
smart young women to useless, possibly brain-damaged
young men. Regular bathers need not apply.

And here's Joe Queenan's perspective on the phenomenon:

[T]he new genre of romantic comedies are not really
upbeat, coming-of-age motion pictures about young
male schmucks who are saved by the love of a good
woman, but heart-rending tragedies about beautiful
young women who are doomed to spend the rest of their
lives with juvenile, not especially good-looking dorks.

To Catsoulis I say: Sing it, sister!
Unlike Queenan, I didn't find Knocked Up to be misogynist—"If this offensive, misogynist nonsense is the future of cinema then we're in deep trouble"—but
I found the emasculated ending more dispiriting than inspiring. (As my friend Bill has noted, that incongruous aerial shot at the end suggests the couple is
on their way to the Overlook Hotel.)

Maybe "antifeminist" is a bit much, but Catsoulis has a point.
And I'm glad she made it, but Queenan's addition is crucial.
These women appear to be settling for less than they deserve,
but so many of these rom-coms—Dedication included—argue that the love of a good woman can turn a sadsack into a winner. It's a conclusion meant to please both genders. The lonely gal
finds a mate, the pathetic guy becomes an upstanding citizen.

Sure, people can change, but these movies make it look too simple, and change happens too fast—at least When Harry
Met Sally
spent a few years with its central duo. This new breed also suggests that women who can't transform their menfolk
are failures. Women already have enough to worry about.

Hence, I prefer movies about people—regardless of gender or sexual orientation—who find partners just as screwed up as themselves. Assuming they can't make things work, they extract themselves from the situation, learn from the experience, and eventually find someone more deserving. Or they grow into maturity together. Ah, but I guess that isn't quite so "funny."

Queenan has some more great quotes about Knocked Up:

This is a film for teenage
boys who dream of growing up to be teenage men.

The point it purports to
make is that men do not grow up until they have children, and maybe not even then.

Amazingly, neither party ever seriously considers the
highly attractive option of abortion, which may be a
sign that the anti-abortion movement is gathering strength
in Hollywood, or may simply result from a realisation
that abortion makes a poor subject for a comedy (puking
and watching women on the toilet is fine, though).

And finally:

I think women need to start their own
film industry: this one isn't working.

Sing it, brother!

Click here for part two

Endnote: Y'know, I kinda like Billy Crudup's performance
in Dedication, and I like Justin Theroux's direction, too.
David Bromberg's script also has some clever lines—it's the everything's-gonna-be-okay conclusion I don't buy (with a character as fucked up as Henry, things may never be "okay").

But I prefer it to Knocked Up. Not because it's a better movie—it's downright dour in comparison—but because the ending doesn't posit a complete transformation for its protagonist. Henry learns how to love, and that's great, but we don't know for certain that any he's less neurotic than before. Dedication opens in Seattle on 9/14. Video from YouTube, images from Google Images.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

September Song

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

Amazon DVDs: My Name Is Earl - Season 2 [four-disc set] (click here for my review of season one), Boston Legal - Season Three [seven-disc set], Upright Citizen's Brigade - The Complete Second Season [two-disc set], and A Few Days in September (John Turturro stalks Juliette Binoche). 

Amazon Theatricals: Dedication (Justin Theroux directs Billy Crudup and Mandy Moore), The Hottest State (Ethan Hawke adapts his novel), The Hunting Party (Richard Gere and Terrence Howard), and Fierce People (Griffin Dunne directs Donald Sutherland and Diane Lane). [September is turning out to be a busy month for actor/directors.] 

Resonance Books: Pascal Blanchet - White Rapids

Seatle Film Blog: Mala Noche (Gus Van Sant's debut), My Brother's Wedding (Charles Burnett's follow-up to Killer of Sheep), Hannah Takes the Stairs (Joe Swanberg's follow-up to LOL), and an updated version of Mutual Appreciation.  

Endnote: Several artists have released albums under the title September Song, including Chet Baker and Jimmy Durante. Image from Unfinished.
All Things Bright and Beautiful

I've been reading Deborah Curtis's Touching From a Distance:
Ian Curtis and Joy Division

(1995) in preparation for Anton Corbijn's adaptation Control.
Here's my favorite non-musical bit:

When Ian finished work that evening,
we drove up into the hills to Windyway Kennels, the local animal sanctuary. A litter of chubby Border collies
was just about ready to find new homes, and we chose a friendly but frisky female. Ian named her Candy, after the Velvet Underground song 'Candy Says,' and was so delighted with her that I wondered why we hadn’t thought of having a dog before. While I took it upon myself to housetrain Candy and teach her to sit, Ian readily volunteered for the walkies. He never made any attempt to persuade her to walk to heel.
I can still see them together—a lanky young man being pulled along,
arm outstretched, by a panting, over-excited dog.

Endnote: Walkies—gotta love it. (I named my cat after VU guitarist Sterling Morrison.) Control opens in Seattle on 10/26.
It was produced by Curtis and Tony Wilson. Image from Joy
Division Central
(photo by Philippe Carly). Click here for part two.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sunshine of Your Love

The Wildbirds,
Golden Daze, PRC/
Universal Republic

I want the world to adore me
I want the world for myself.
-- Wildbirds, "It's Alright Now"

Hailing from Appleton, WI, this former power-pop quartet serves up '70s rock in the vein of the Strokes and the Kings of Leon. It isn’t bad, but you've heard it before. You've seen it before, too: long hair, tight jeans, endless cigarettes. Then again, that sort of thing never goes out of style.

And just when you think you've got 'em sussed, the Wildbirds throw some mellotron into the mix. At first, I thought they were going for the Sunset Strip glam-garage of Faster Pussycat and friends (they recorded their first full-length in Hollywood), but "It's Alright Now" comes closer to Love or the Doors. They borrow tropes from both eras while bypassing the excesses. Golden Daze isn't metal or classic rock, but it isn't punk or alt-rock either.

So, they have something to offer everybody. Or nobody. Once upon
a time, people weren't sure how to classify the New York Dolls. They weren't glam, punk, or metal—they were all three. And they may be legends now, but they had a tough time making a living in the corporate rock '70s. Everything that could go wrong, did. Right music—wrong time.

The Wildbirds are hardly that original, but they're caught up in a similar conundrum—minus the wigs and the dresses—and the music world is more fractured than ever now, in terms of radio, press, etc., so I hesitate to predict whether they'll make it or not. Could go either way. Straight to the top...or down to the bottom.

Year Long Disaster, self-titled, Volcom Entertainment

What a burden: To be the son of Dave
Davies, co-founder of one of the greatest
rock bands of all time. I'm not sure I would wish that on my worst enemy.

At least Finn Andrews' father, Barry (XTC, Shriekback), isn't as famous.
And Elvis Perkins' father, Anthony (Psycho), is better known as an actor.

Naturally, Daniel Davies (guitar, vocals) fronts this Los Angeles power trio. And though he looks much like him, the American son sounds nothing like the British dad. No, think rougher around the edges: more Bon Scott than Bono.

As indicated by the butterfly-shaped "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" design on the front cover, Year Long Disaster's self-titled debut brings back the hard rock of the bellbottom days, and I don't mean the stadium stuff the Kinks were kicking out in the 1970s and '80s (Low Budget, Give the People What They Want, et al). If anything, this record is even more proto-metallic than Golden Daze.

For better or worse, YLD aren't the Kinks Jr.—more like Cream II. And like the Wildbirds, they're all right, but both groups pale beside that mighty Australian monolith known as Wolfmother, although I can easily imagine all three playing on the same bill.

If forced to choose, I'd opt for Wolfmother, because they take everything that much further: the sky-scraping afros, Frazetta-designed album cover (Flirting With Disaster!), etc. You could call it ironic, but I don't think they see it that way. I doubt Year Long Disaster do either.

And there you have it: The next generation in hard rock. Every iteration incrementally less original than the one before. If Year Long Disaster are in it for the long haul, they don't need to change—but to refine. To figure out a way to distinguish themselves from the pack. They've got the chops, but the tunes could be more memorable. What they need is an anthem. A "Smoke on the Water" as opposed to, say, a "Waterloo Sunset." Their future depends on it. Same for the lanky-haired lads above.

Endnote: You can visit Spin to download the Wildbirds' "421." For more information about Year Long Disaster, please click here. According to the press notes, the band is managed by Sebastian Robertson, son of Robbie Robertson, who gets a shout-out in the CD thank-yous (Daniel's father, Dave, is conspicuous by his absence). You can also catch them on tour with Turbonegro at Seattle's Showbox on 10/10. Images from PRC (Pat's Record Company), the Wildbirds MySpace Page (drummer Jon Jon Fries), ViewImages (Davies photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images), and Sugarbuzz Magazine (Michael Mullins credited).

Saturday, September 01, 2007

This Is England

(Lindsay Anderson,
UK, 1981, 116 mins.)

My film may not be perfect—maybe it has too many ideas—but it is not drily intellectual. It presents to some extent a threat. It is subversive.
-- A director reflects

The general consensus about Lindsay Anderson's Britannia
is that it's the weakest link in the Mick Travis trilogy

that began with If... (1968) and O Lucky Man! (1973).

The first film, recent recipient of the Criterion treatment, following
a well received re-release, is considered the jewel in the crown. But despite the positive attention it's been attracting as of late, little mention has been made about Travis's other adventures.

I fell in love with If... and O Lucky Man right from the start,
and I'm grateful I got to experience both on the big screen
(I own the latter on video; I've now watched it twice).

They're very different movies, but both are, by turns, charming, hilarious, profane, and pissed-off. It's an odd combination that only a true original like Lindsay Anderson—with an assist from writer David Sherwin and actor Malcolm McDowell—could pull off.

I don't know if the first film's schoolboy in disgrace was based on McDowell, but the coffee salesman in O Lucky Man! was inspired by the itinerant life he led before his acting career took off—that's right, according to the DVD's informative interview, that means
18 months driving around rural England hawking beans. Brit-
annia Hospital
marks a return to a more fictional scenario.

In this effort, considered a failure at the time, Travis has become
a reporter. By the end, he is no more. I picked up a copy in hopes
I would be pleasantly surprised, but I wasn't. This over-the-top satire is worth a look, but it's not what I would call a keeper.

For one thing, it has little to do with its predecessors. For
another, McDowell isn't the star; he's just one supporting player
among many, including Joan Plowright and Mark Hamill.

Britannia Hospital may lack a star, but it doesn't lack a
subject—Britain's broken healthcare system (and by ex-
tension, the entire Thatcher-led, royalty-obsessed country).

For that reason, it reminded me more of Cold Lazarus, The
, or The Barbarian Invasions than If... or O Lucky Man!

So, I found the movie interesting, entertaining, and even mildly
amusing, but that third-act descent into bloody Frankenstein-

style horror was a bit much. Anderson lost me there.

Fortunately, it wasn't his final film. That honor went to the Oscar-
nominated Whales of August (1987), which met with a more receptive audience, and I look forward to catching up with it.

In the meantime, I intend to add If... to my collection—and look forward to 10/23 when O Lucky Man! finally hits DVD. And don't forget about Alan Price's accompanying soundtrack. It's a pip!

Smile while you're makin' it
Laugh while you're takin' it
Even though you're fakin' it
Nobody's gonna know...
-- Alan Price, "Poor People"

Endnote: I apologize if you thought this review was going to be about the new Shane Meadows film. As it happens, I really enjoyed the ska-saturated This is England, which is set around the same time as Britannia Hospital (the early-1980s). Don't miss it. Opens at Seattle's Varsity Theater on 9/7. Click here and here for previews. Anderson portrait from Empty Mirror Films. Quote at the top comes from the same interview (© Guy Byrne 2002).