Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reelin' in the Years

Photographs of me from the beginning until the present.

Me and Mom in Hartford.

This is me at six, the year my mother, stepfather, and I arriv-
ed in Anchorage from Hartford by way of Boulder. If I'm not
mistaken, the photo was taken the day we got in. And in case
you're wondering, we drove the whole way (from Colorado).

Me and Onyx in the apartment on Garfield Street.

Here I am 10 years later with Marina Reisinger upon our grad-
uation from West Anchorage High School. That's me on the right.
I ditched that red dress shortly thereafter. Cue the Police: "Rox-
anne, you don't have to put on the red light / Those days are ov-
er / You don't have to sell your body to the night / Roxanne, you don't have to wear that dress tonight / Walk the streets for mon-
ey / You don't care if it's wrong or if it's right." (I associate that song—and "Don't Stand So Close to Me"—with high school.) Fun-
ny, but I remember the dress, rather than the light, as red. Eith-
er way, who's to say she doesn't care "if it's wrong or if it's right"?

Lilette Mahon, fellow Alaskan Jeff Hartlieb, me, and a wom-
an who's name I can no longer remember at the Lyman Hall
holiday party during the first semester of my freshman year.

Me and Robert Henderson. This picture reminds
me of the Undertones song "My Perfect Cousin," ex-
cept Robert wasn't really "in love with himself." Tak-
en in Dublin, shortly after the death of Phil Lynott.

More to come (the 1990s-00s)...

Endnote: The title of this post comes from a track by Steely
Dan (from 1972's Can't Buy a Thrill). I'm neither a fan nor a
hater. Growing up on FM radio, though, I heard their songs
so often I've memorized more than a few lyrics, like "Are you
reelin' in the years / Stowin' away the time / Are you gather-
in' up the tears / Have you had enough of mine." Guess I am.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm in Love with [the] Radio On

Click here for author/screen-
writer Rudy Wurlitzer's appre-
ciation of Christopher Petit's

Radio On. Here's an excerpt:

Radio On represents a melancholy requiem from another time, another place. It slides into view with a mut-
ed and yet precise focus, a film exist-
ing within its own definitions, mining its own seam as it
ponders its own mysteries. Despite or rather because of
the film’s relentless and rigorous fluidity, the journey goes
nowhere in particular, at least not in terms of geography
as it circles endlessly around itself, arriving at questions
and emotional roadblocks that, one slowly realizes, will
never be answered. Inside its relentless alienation the bleak
compositions of its ruined and soulless landscapes become
isolating and yet strangely elegiac; a hypnotic and intimate
embrace relating image to language to sound, with no one
expression upstaging the other. The film becomes a circular
spiral turning in on itself, a rhythm that transcends the whole
notion of what it means to go anywhere in particular.

Wurlitzer penned the screenplays
for Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Black-
(1971) and Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973).

The former is now available in a Crit-
erion Collection DVD
(including a testi-
monial by Tom Waits and commentary by Wurlitzer, Hellman, and others). The latter, an excellent companion piece to Todd Haynes's fractured Bob Dylan fan-
tasia I'm Not There, plays Seattle on 3/12 at the Metro Cinemas
as part of their Metro Classics series. The cast includes Dylan, James Coburn, and I'm Not There narrator Kris Kristofferson.

Here's more info about the series from Metroblogging Seattle:

The second theme for the series is "Three Westerns with
Scores by Folk Rock Musicians". [Robert Altman's] McCabe
& Mrs. Miller
with its Leonard Cohen score plays on March
5. The following week, on the 12th, it's the Bob Dylan-scored
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, followed on March 19 by [Jim Jarmusch's] Dead Man, featuring the music of Neil Young.

Endnote: Click here for my review of Radio On. I de-
scribe critic-turned director Petit's 1979 debut as "a mon-
ochromatic road movie that captures a time of Bowie in Ber-
lin, Kraftwerk on cassette, Wreckless Eric on the jukebox
and Police-era Sting as an Eddie Cochrane-obsessed gas
station attendant." Images from Plexifilm and DVD Toile.

7/17 Update: Great interview with Wurlitzer at this site.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Up for the Down Stroke

Various Artists, Broth-
ers on the Slide: The
Story of UK Funk, Dis-

To paraphrase the Pointer
Sisters, by way of Lee Dorsey,
"I know they can make it / I
know that they can / I know darn well / They can work it out." Yes! Everyone knows Britain digs the funk, but the Queen's citizens can dish it up, too. Or some
could between 1971-76, the years covered by this compilation.

Truth be told, I was unfamiliar with most of the acts on this 2005 release, other than the Equals (featuring Eddie "Electric Ave-
nue" Grant), Labi Siffre, Joe Cocker, and the Average White Band.

As for poet/activist Siffre—represented by the bass-heavy "Vul-
ture"—I hadn't heard of the man until a few years ago, but was
intrigued by what I read. Click here for more information about
1975's Remember My Song from whence "The Vulture" originates.

That leaves Cocker—not usually thought of as a funk mer-
chant—and the AWB—not usually thought of as a UK act. On
"Woman to Woman," Cocker alternates between an eerie fal-
setto and his more familiar blues-based croon. The results sug-
gest Mick Jagger on "Miss You." Not as successful, but pretty
good as stylistic experiments go. The AWB's "Person to Person,"
on the other hand, barely passes muster. Instrumentals, like
"Pick Up the Pieces," were the Scots' forté, and they should
have excised the generic lover man vocals from this demo.

There's a fine line between funk and disco, and I pref-
er material that's heavier
on the bass (and drums) than
the brass (and strings). Carol Grimes's "Uphill Peace of
Mind," for instance, combines
Afro-Carribean rhythms with female backing vocals and
David Sanborn-style sax playing. The combination is almost
too slick. The saving grace: Grimes's gritty post-punk voice.

Kokomo's take on Bobby Womack's "I Can Understand It" al-
so makes use of backing vocals, but the tempo is slower and
the vocalist—possibly leader Tony O'Malley—has a more com-
mercial style. Same for Rita Wright's "Pillow Talk" ringer "Touch
Me, Take Me." The Chic guitar-playing on the latter works well,
but for the most part, when disco meets jazz—my interest flags.

The standouts are the groups that step up the pace and keep
their eyes focused on the dancefloor (as opposed to the bedroom).
Not that there isn't a time and place for Donna Summer's "Love to
Love You, Baby" or the Andrea True Connection's "More, More,
More." But that place isn't here. If a singer's gonna get sexed up
in the studio, they might as well go all the way. No half steppin'.

Highlights include Cy-
mande's Curtis Mayfield-
inspired title track, the
Equals's fast-paced "Funky
Like a Train" (Jeff Young re-
edit), Jabba's previously
unreleased James Brown
cover ("Super Bad"), Madeline
Bell's John Paul Jones-prod-
uced "Comin' Atcha," the Fela Kuti-esque selections from the Funkees ("Ole") and Matata ("Wanna Do My Thing"), Doris Troy's
Isaac Hayes-meets-Marvin Gaye jam "Stretchin' Out," and Black
Velvet's organ-dominated "African Velvet," which sounds like
Toots & the Maytals gettin' busy with trumpter Hugh Masekela.

That leaves Gonzalez's "No Way," Funky Bands Inc.'s "FBI," Lin-
da Lewis's reggae-fied "Sideway Shuffle," and Brian Auger & Ob-
livion Express's passable version of Gaye's "Inner City Blues."

So, it's a mixed bag—no one here is giving Funkadelic or the
Ohio Players a run for their money—but the songs that suc-
ceed encourage further inquiry into the musicians behind
them. After all, "The Vulture" inspired me to find out more
about Siffre. Given my druthers, though, I'd drop the soul
and the disco, and add more funk from folks like the Equals.

That said, it's nice to see so many women in the mix. They may
constitute a minority, but they're far from invisible. That isn't
the case with most other funk collections. Hats off to compiler
Bluey, who also provides the liner notes. Brothers on the Slide
concludes with an essay from Lloyd Bradley, "In the Clubs - UK
Soul: An Underground Affair," and information on all 14 acts.

Endnote: Things I learned from the tiny-typeface liner notes:
EPMD and De La Soul have sampled "Brothers on the Slide"
(Erick and Parrish also took on "Woman to Woman"), Grimes and
Jabba were "keen supporters" of Rock Against Racism, and Carl
"Kung Fu Fighting" Douglas sprung from Gonzalez (the band
would go on to back Stealer's Wheel, Slade, and Suzi Quatro).
Images from Aquarium Drunkard (click for two Equals mp3s),
the BBC (Carol Grimes), and The Funky 16 Corners (Cymande).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

to the New
New Wave

"You Are
My Girl"

Click for mp3s of "You Are My Girl" and "Shut the Door on the World"

Atrocious cover art—and band name—aside, this EP is better than
expected. On "You Are My Girl," Teedo gives glam-era Bolan and
Bowie an '00s update. Theodore Bilecky handles the falsetto stuff
with finesse, while his band mates crank out the space-age disco.

Dominated by Saeko Terano's synth work, "Shut the Door on the
World" has more of a new wave vibe. This four-track release—three
originals and one radio edit—serves as a taster for the Brooklyn
quintet's second full-length, set to be released later this year.

Cross-posted at Fuzz.com.

Vendetta Valentine, There's Nothing Safe, self-released [3/4/08]

We take our inspiration from art and literature and films.
V for Vendetta is a big influence on our songwriting. So
are books like 1984, Brave New World, and Fight Club; the paintings of Odd Nerdrum, Francis Bacon, [and] Bosche.
We want to turn people on to ideas. Our music is hope-
fully a gateway drug to more experience.
-- Vendetta Valentine (2008)

Click here for mp3s and videos

Vendetta Valentine keeps
the spirit of new wave alive
on their debut. It's a mixed blessing. Of the subgenres to emerge from the 1980s, post-punk has proven to have more staying power than new wave. While the Santa Ana, CA trio does-

n't sound exactly like Missing Persons, the B-52s, or Devo, I'd imagine they're familiar with those creatively-coiffured figures.
The keyboard playing of Anna Judd, in particular, recalls
the extravagant "Walking in LA" fivesome [pictured above].

Despite the synth-oriented sound,
frontman/guitarist Thomas Mon-
roe opts not to duplicate the quir-
ky singing styles of his forerunners,
which brings the band up to date
(bass/drum machine programmer
Daniel Powell completes the line-up).

On the slower numbers, Monroe evokes
Daniel Ash of Love & Rockets. On the
more upbeat ones, Bill Carter of the Screaming Blue Messiahs (see "Wide Blue Yonder"). Like
many musicians who dominated MTV in the '80s—regard-
less of origin—he also reveals the trace of a British accent.

In other words, There's Nothing Safe qualifies more as
new new wave than new wave revival. It's like the difference
between the garage-oriented Black Lips and the Beatle-banged,
paisley-shirted characters who look as if they just dropped
in from the 1960s (to see what condition their condition is in).

That said, if a Back to the Future time machine sent Ven-
detta Valentine to the '80s, some savvy music supervisor
would surely secure their services for one of John Hughes's
teen angst opuses, like Some Kind of Wonderful or Pretty in Pink.

Cross-posted at Fuzz.com.

Endnote: For more information about Teedo, please click
here or here. For Vendetta Valentine, try here or here.
Images from the All Music Guide (Missing Persons as seen
by Helmut Newton), Planetary Group, and Wallpaperbase.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

When the Shillelagh Meets the Hood: Part Eight

When the Shillelagh
Meets the Hood
Part Eight: From

Ireland With Love

Thin Lizzy,
Thin Lizzy,
Deram/Decca (1971)

Me mother is Irish and me father is from Rio. I haven't
seen him since I was four. He's a real lover. He loved them
and left them. I think that's the only thing I learned from
him. Being a black in Dublin wasn't a problem. The Irish

never showed me any prejudice. Besides, I'm a big lad
and I'd deck anybody who said anything nasty to me.
-- Phil Lynott (from John Tracy's liner notes)

Click here for part seven

Ah, but what if Lynott hadn't been a "big lad"? If Micks gave him a hard time, and he couldn't give as good as he got, Lynott might've left the country, or tried his hand at a different trade. Ireland's music history wouldn't be the same. Since 1970, Thin Lizzy has reined as the biggest hard-rock band to emerge from the Emerald Isle, a status unchanged for almost four decades.

Often described as "folk-oriented," Lizzy's first full-length is still a rock record—no qualifiers necessary. I'm not sure how anyone could confuse this 14-track set for a folk-rock enterprise. In fact, the Eric Bell-penned "Ray-Gun" more closely resembles funk-rock. (According to the liner notes, the Northern Ireland-born guitarist once played with Van Morrison's Them.)

Since Lizzy used to cover Hendrix's "If Six Were Nine" and "Fire" in concert, it seems likely they were familiar with his later Band of Gypsys repertoire, like the similarly titled "Machine Gun." In fact, the guitar-saturated "Return of the Farmer's Son" could almost be a Hendrix cover—except for the story-like lyrics, which are 100% Lynott (and he almost played Hendrix in a biopic).

As for the rest, "The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle" and "Old Moon Madness" begin like 1973's "Vagabonds of the Western World" with spoken-word introductions—and what a lovely speaking voice Lynott had! These tunes, Celtic fantasia "Eire," and acoustic reveries "Dublin" and "Saga of the Ageing Orphan" conjure up a cross between mellow-mood Zep and Moondance-era Morrison.

On "Clontarf Castle," Lynott even does a little Morrison-style mumbling. Then, on "Saga," he engages in some Robert Plant-like phrasing, making him sound more British than Irish.

As a singer, Lynott was still finding his voice, though he's far from bad. He also pushes too hard on the ravers. Chances are the band had limited studio time—they recorded in London—and Lynott may not have gotten the number of takes he wanted. On the epic "Diddy Levine," in particular, it sounds like he could use a break for a hot toddy (whiskey and lemon, Ireland's cure-all).

This CD reissue includes the rare "New Day" EP, resulting in a total of 14 tracks, or 53:45 minutes of music. If Thin Lizzy doesn't have the immediate impact of the underrated Vagabonds of the Western World or the mega-platinum Jailbreak, it proves the Irish outfit, including Lynott's Dublin mate Brian
Downey on drums, established their basic template from the start.

The three experienced players didn't have to grow into their sound, but rather to harness it to more radio-ready material. There are no embarrassing lapses or false steps, but nor is there a battle cry like "The Boys Are Back in Town." Listen closely, though, to "Look What the Wind Blew In" and "Things Ain't Working Out Down at the Farm," and you can hear it coming.

Endnote: Images from Norman Hood Cartoons and The His-
tory of Phil Lynott
. The first pic features the original Lizzy line-
up, the second features Lynott's early band the Black Eagles.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Colossal Search Results

Every few months, I check Google to see where my re-
views (and other pieces) are ending up. Here are some of
the more interesting results.

Allen Moyle:
Amazon review of
New Waterford Girl

AOL Music:
AMG review of Joy Division - The First Peel Session

Awesome 80s:
Amazon review of Who's the Boss?

[They also feature my Golden Girls review.]

The Cirque Tribune:
Amazon review of Cirque du Soleil - Solstrom

Amazon review of Underground

About the film, this kind gentleman adds:
I'm in agreement with the great Kathleen C. Fennessy when I say

that Underground isn't for the faint of heart. It's loud, it's long and
it's sad. I might also add that it will wear on you and leave you feel-
ing tired and depleted. It's an exercise for the mind and a test of your
mettle. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to go take a nap afterwards.

The High Hat:
Siffblog review of
Colossal Youth

Kono Tiki Island:
AMG review of the
Scientists - Weird Love

[Note that the above authors take a couple of statements to
task. They're fairly respectful, so I've got no problem with it.
Dissent only bothers me when a writer is rude or dismissive.]

Amazon review of Lois & Clark - The Complete Third Season

AMG review of Various Artists - Deep Six

And lastly:
Mention in Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America

[Last year, I was also interviewed by music writer Greg Prato for his upcoming oral history of grunge, and last week, I was asked to con-
tribute to a Spanish book about independent rock and the cinema.]

Endnote: For some reason, GreenCine's David Hudson has-
n't linked to any of my reviews for awhile now, but here's a shout-
out from a few months ago: "Nowadays, some consider Baby Doll
a classic, others a disappointment or even an embarrassment,"
writes Kathy Fennesy at the Siffblog. "To me, it's none of those
things. Rather, it plays more like parody—self-parody (specif-
ically of Kazan's previous Williams adaptation, A Streetcar
Named Desire
), Tennessee Williams in general (his first
script combines two one-act plays), the Actors Studio
(from which the core trio originates), and the
Deep South (though the cast denies it)."

And here are a couple of citations at Hot Splice: "Long? Maybe.
But boring? Only if your heart is cold,"
and "Kathy Fennessy at
Siffblog gives a little preview of this weekend's Skin, Skin screen-
ing in our Sisu Cinema: Nine from The Finnish New Wave series."

If it weren't for these sorts of mentions, few people would
even know Siffblog exists, so thanks to Hudson and the fine
folks at the NWFF for bringing some new readers our way.

Images: Pedro shirt pic from the archives (a similar one
graces the cover of Cinema Scope, issue #27). "Costa Cab-
al" photo taken by E. Steven Fried. Pictured: director Rob-
inson Devor, writer Charles Mudede, Cinema Scope editor
Mark Peranson, and NWFF executive director Michael Sei-
werath (those are my fingers in the lower left-hand corner).

Friday, February 01, 2008

Monsieur Valentine

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

Amazon CDs: After almost six months off, I should be covering CDs again soon...

Amazon DVDs: Beauty
and the Beast - The Final Season
[three-disc set] (post-Linda Hamilton), Family Ties - The Third Season [four-disc set], Curb
Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Sixth Season
[two-disc set]
(I also reviewed the first three seasons), The Last Emperor - Criterion Collection [four-disc set], Miss Julie - Criterion Collection, National Geographic - 6 Degrees That Could
Change the World
, and American Meth (narrated by Val
Kilmer, who played a meth addict in The Salton Sea).

Amazon Theatricals: Caramel (Beirut beauty salon melo-
drama), City of Men (follow-up to City of God), Penelope (mod-
ern-day fable with Christina Ricci), Chicago 10 (from the mak-
ers of The Kid Stays in the Picture), and Charlie Bartlett (Anton
Yelchin alert).
[If you don't know who Yelchin is, click here, here, or here.]

Still Playing: Teeth, The Counterfeiters, Grace Is Gone, and U2 3D.

Idolator: My 2007 ballot plus commentary lives here.

Northwest Film Forum:
Participant in "Filmmaker's
Saloon: Critics Critiqued,"
panel discussion and socializ-
ing event for the local film com-
munity (Tues., 2/19, at 8pm).

Resonance: Click here to download the current issue (#55). Unless the 14-year-old magazine is able to relaunch as a web-
zine in '09, this is the end...my friend. No more print copies ev-
er. My (semi-) final reviews include Baby Elephant - Turn My
Teeth Up!, Pascal Blanchet - White Rapids, Young Marble Gi-
ants - Colossal Youth, Paul Drummond - Eye Mind: The Saga
of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Pioneers
of Psychedelic Sound, and Cinema 16 - European Short Films.

Seattle Sound: My interview with Zoo producer Alexis Ferris appears in the current issue. Click here for the digital edition.

Siffblog: Sisu Cinema: Nine from the Finnish New Wave
(a look at Mikko Niskanen's Skin, Skin and Eight Deadly Shots)
a revamped version of Amos Gitai's Free Zone (new images, etc.).

Endnote: "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine" appears on Spoon's Gimme Fiction. Images from Amazon and Matador.