Saturday, February 28, 2009

and Angst

Up, self-

On their
long ges-
tating de-
but, this Kansas City trio cooks up
a propulsive funk-pop concoction. The press note allusions to Gnarls Barkley and Jamiroquai make perfect sense since they in-
vest their fast-paced, high-energy dance tunes with soul (to that list, I would add Michael Jackson, circa Off the Wall). When white boys overdo that kind of thing, they can end up sounding pastier than ever, but these crafty gentlemen, who formed their outfit seven years ago, know where to draw the line. Like the band's name, Antennas Up is silly at times, but always enjoyable.

Lucky Fonz III, Life Is Short, My Street Is Mine Records

With Life Is Short, Holland's
Lucky Fonz III (née Otto
Wichers) joins the ranks of
sensitive Northern European
singer/songwriters, like Swe-
den's Nicolai Dunger and
Norway's Sondre Lerche.

Because of his cutesy nom de music and goofy CD cover, I
wasn't expecting much, but his first record is almost Beatl-
esque in its delicately baroque approach to folk—the instrum-
entation includes harmonium, metallophone, french horn, doub-
le bass, and grand piano—and quite appealing for all that (and
also recalls sophisticated Yanks like Leonard Cohen and Harry
). Time will tell if Fonz'll outlast Dunger and Lerche
in the longevity sweepstakes, but he's off to a good start.

On Ensemble, Ume in the Middle, Turtlefield Music [5/5/09]

Instead of worldbeat, often a combination of different cultures,
you might call On Ensemble's unique club music taiko beat.
On Ume in the Middle, the Silverlake quartet fuses Japanese drumming with electronic loops and effects. The multi-ethnic outfit also incorporates throat singing, koto, and shinobue into their Eastern-tinged melange, resulting in melodies designed as much for meditation as for moving, i.e. the tempo is never slow enough for sleeping, nor so fast that dancing is the only option.

The Kokoon, We Didn't Go EP, New Average Records

Formed in 2000, Berlin duo Danyx Simone and Dirk Henry follow-up two full-lengths with a five-song release full of new wave-meets-disco anthems, kind of like a cross between Curve and "Peek-a-Boo"-era Siouxsie. Not bad, but too synthetic for my tastes.

Propagandhi, Supporting Caste, Small-
man/G7 Welcoming Committee Records

Pulled off his head/and made a spreadable head cheese.
-- "Human(e) Meat (The Flensing of Sandor Katz)"

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a quirky disc from Winnipeg's Hot
Panda (Volcano...Bloody Volcano). Somehow, I doubt they've
shared many bills with the super-powered Propagandhi. Nor do
I believe that dreamy-eyed Winnipeg director Guy Maddin will
be tapping either outfit to contribute their angsty sounds to any of his upcoming projects. Throughout their fifth full-length, these Canucks scream and pound with gusto. (Reminds me of Jonathan Richman's "I Eat with Gusto, Damn! You Bet.") Hardcore/prog-punk—Bad Religion and Voivod come to mind—isn't my bag,
but there's no doubt that these fellows bring the noise.

Aaron Thomas, Follow the Elephants, Everlasting Records

From the lead-off track, it seemed as if Aaron Thomas was
trying to fill the late Jeff Buckley's oversized shoes, but as Fol-
low the Elephants continues, he tends to conjure up the more
ornate, but less tortured tunes of Andrew Bird and Beirut's Zach
Condon, without ever ripping off any of those restless gents (and
swearing more than all of 'em put together). Born in Tasmania and
raised in Sydney, the Australian has lived in Los Angeles and Kiev
and now calls Madrid home. Throughout his debut, Thomas's vib-
rato-laden falsetto dances in and around sinuous sounds, land-
ing comfortably between folk-pop and alt-rock. Good stuff.

Tiny Animals, Sweet Sweetness, North Street Records [5/12/09]

Their publicist mentions this New York three-piece in the same breath as Weezer, and they're not off-base, but Tiny Animals offer a more layer-
ed sound. While harmony
vocals soften the edges of
Chris Howerton's adenoidal
pipes, bassist Anton Kreisl
and drummer Rita Maye How-
erton keep things moving.

As influences, the group cites the Foo Fighters and Radio-
head, and I can't say I hear either act on their first long-play-
er, but Sweet Sweetness goes down easy enough, and the
violin on "Avalanche" is an appealing touch. Bonus points for a
surprisingly good cover of "Freedom of Choice." Adenoids and
Devo are two not-so-bad tastes that taste pretty good together.

Endnote: For more information about Antennas Up,
please click here; for Lucky Fonz III, here or here; for
Kokoon, here or here; for On Ensemble, here; for Prop-
agandhi, here or here; for Aaron Thomas, here; and for
Tiny Animals, here or here. Images from Planetary Group.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where in the World Is...

Every few months, I check Google to see where my reviews are
ending up. Here are some of the more interesting results.

Bach Movies:
Amazon review of The Anniversary Party

[My first Amazon theatrical review.]

Belinda Carlisle:
Amazon review of Voilà

Doomed to Be Stoned in a Sludge Swamp:
AMG review of the Screaming Trees - Buzz Factory

Eschatone Records:
AndMoreAgain review of Brian Dewan - Words of Wisdom
Amazon review of Crónicas

Amazon review of Style Wars

[This review is all over the net, which thrills me, as it means a
lot of people are discovering and re-discovering this b-boy gem.]
AMG biography of Benjamin Biolay

Memphis Music:
AMG review of Monsieur Jeffrey Evans - I've Lived a Rich Life

MSN Music:
AMG review of Love - Love Live

Queer Theory:
Amazon review of A&E Biography - Sal Mineo

Scott Walker - 30 Century Man:
Link to my Resonance interview with Stephen Kijak

The Seattle Times:
Article about Microsft's queue announcer program

[My job from 1992-98; I also recorded all phone support messages.]
Amazon review of The Honeymoon Killers
AndMoreAgain review of Jesse Dee - Bittersweet Batch

[They refer to me as an "internet pop culture blogger." Hey! I'll take it.]
AMG review of Mike Johnson - What Would You Do?

[They also feature my Buzz Factory review, among others.]

Endnote: In addition, in the months before David Hudson
left GreenCine—he's now at—he linked to the follow-
ing reviews, interviews, and other ephemera: Duplass Brothers interview, 2008 film list, Day of Wrath, A Colt Is My Passport,
i.e. "Billed as a noir, the film feels more like a thriller with Left
Bank overtones; more Albert Camus than Jean-Luc Godard,"
and Matt Wolf's debut, i.e. "There's nothing overtly strange about
[Arthur Russell's] music, except it's ethereal without entering the
more recognizable realms of psychedelia or new age (and intimate
without qualifying as conventional singer/songwriter fare). It's
accessible, in other words, but not commercial. And there you
have it: the kiss of death. You also have the makings of a cult
artist, and that's where Wild Combination begins..."

I'm also name-checked in the following thread at The Stran-
ger's Line Out. It's weird when you're reading a blog and all of
a sudden you stumble across your own name. Happily, no one
said anything unkind. Sadly, some of the chatter is inaccurate,
i.e. a couple of people seem to think I'm a regular contribut-
or to The Seattle Weekly. I'm not. Image from Fatlace.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Malibu Stories: Movie of the Month, Part Three

I recently reviewed the following for Video
Librarian, and thought it was worth sharing.

(Tina Mascara and Guido Santi, US, 2008)

While in description, a documentary focusing on the ex-
periences of one pair of lovers might sound hermetic,
Chris & Don comes across as remarkably expansive.
-- Michael Koresky, indieWIRE

It's tempting to describe Chris & Don as a full-service doc-
umentary, because it covers a surprising amount of ground
in a brisk 90 minutes. The film doesn't just depict author Chris-
topher Isherwood's relationship with artist Don Bachardy, a
man 30 years his junior, but directors Tina Mascara and
Guido Santi, a couple themselves, give equal time to the
writer's lesser known, but equally engaging paramour.

If the British-born Isherwood (Berlin Stories) was initially at-
tracted to the Malibu-based Bachardy's youthful good looks, the length and quality of their three-decade relationship, which last-
ed until Isherwood's death in 1986, belies the superficiality that description suggests. Further, the men lived openly as a gay couple, and didn't suffer any substantial consequences for doing so, even though they first met in the famously closeted 1950s.

dy didn't
feel like
an equal
in the ey-
es of Isher-
wood's fam-
ous frien-
ong them,
Joan Crawford, and Montgomery Clift—his partner gave him the encouragement to pursue his own passions (Bachardy tried his hand at acting before hitting his stride when he turned to painting and drawing). Towards the end of Isherwood's life, Bachardy was sketching him exclusively; the author had become the subject.

Featuring readings by Michael York, who starred in Bob Fosse's
Isherwood-inspired Cabaret, and accentuated with animated line-
drawings, Mascara and Santi's affectionate portrait takes in litera-
ture, cinema, fine art, same-sex attraction, and mortality. Extra
features include the couple's home movies, extended interviews
with director John Boorman, actresses Leslie Caron and Gloria
Stuart, and Bachardy, who shares his thoughts about gay mar-
riage and the California art scene. Highly recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part Two: Wild Combination

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Fosse's Sally
Bowles, Liza Minnelli, also appears in the documentary. Sadly,
Isherwood didn't much like her portrayal—he thought she was too
good (Bowles was more of an amateur)—but he loved York. Im-
ages from indieWIRE (Zeitgeist Films) and Corbis (Bettman, 1972).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Sons
of Davy

and the
The Rom-
antic Lead, Omnirox Entertainment

What hath David Bowie wrought? Though he didn't exactly emerge from out of thin air—his influences include Anthony
Newley, Jacques Brel, and Scott Walker—countless artists
have attempted to walk in his customized shoes, and actor-
singer Gene Dante is the latest in a long, glittering line.

Dante has even starred in The Rocky Horror Show, so if you
can imagine a cross between Bowie, Marc Bolan (arguably Bow-
ie's finest protégé), and Rocky Horror scribe Richard "Riff Raff"
O'Brien, you can imagine The Romantic Lead with its theat-
rical vocals, glam guitar work, and lyrics like "I am alive/ and
I am real/like the pain we share/and the love for you I feel"
and "Intentional, exquisite and obscene." I adore the for-
mer Davy Jones, but, well...there can only be one.

Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, Making
Love to the Dark Ages, LiveWired Music [3/17/09]

Making Love to the Dark Ages
features only five tracks, and

the first, "Chains and Water," clocks in at 26 minutes, divided in-
to three sections. As such, you might be expecting an instrumen-
tal release, but four of the pieces feature vocals (seven different
singers show up in the credits). Experimental, yet easy on the ears,
the disc brings to mind free-jazz classics like John Coltrane's A
Love Supreme, Archie Shepp's The Creator Has a Master Plan,
and Sun Ra's Space Is the Place. Granted, there's more of a
soul/R&B influence to Greg Tate's Burnt Sugar the Arkestra
Chamber, but you get the—mind and ear-expanding—idea.

Melvin Gibbs' Elevated Entity, An-
cients Speak, LiveWired Music [3/17/09]

"When the ancients speak, descendents listen."
-- "Ancients Speak"

Throughout Ancients Speak, programmer/bassist Melvin Gibbs (Defunkt, Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society) combines funk, hip-hop, Afrobeat, and other sympathetic sounds.

On "Canto por Odudua," he ev-
en throws a little psychedelia in-
to the mix. Gibbs' multi-talented
collaborators include DNA's Arto
Lindsay (co-producer), Medeski,
Martin and Wood's John Med-
eski (keyboards), and P-Funk's Blackbyrd McKnight (guitar).

In his openness to a variety of African-oriented genres, Gibbs'
fabulous confabulation—27 musicians altogether—recalls Bill
Laswell's ever-evolving Material supergroup. Though I didn't
like "Macumba" at first, even that growly, beat-heavy num-
ber eventually won me over. For open-minded groove ad-
dicts: he offers the perfect prescription for your condition.

Peelander-Z, P-Pop High School, Eat Rice Records [4/14/09]

"We are not Japanese. We are not American.
We are not human beings. We are Peelander-Z."
-- Peelander-Yellow (guitarist/vocalist Kengo Hioki)

If you've ever wanted to know what the Ramones would sound
like reborn as a Japanese-American trio, Peelander-Z provides
your answer—the title, P-Pop-High School, even suggests Rock
'N' Roll High School, the cult classic in which Da Bruddas appeared.

On their fifth full-length, the Peelanders rock and roll with
speed, humor, volume, and attitude. To me, it's sound and
fury signifying very little, but your mileage may vary.

Endnote: For more information about Gene Dante,
please click here or here; and for Peelander-Z, here or
here. Images from The Ephemeric and All About Jazz.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

25 CDs About Me

25 CDs
About Me

Cross-posted at Facebook

on Face-
book pos-
ting "25
or varia-
tions on that theme—most of which are fascinating, if far from random, I decided to try something different; something less confessional, but not really if you read between the lines...

The CDs piled on top of my boombox and my dresser reveal all anyone needs to know about my taste in music—and by exten-
sion, my personality. Some people are what they eat; I am the music I consume...and the films I watch and the books I read.

Yes, I've run out of shelf space, but these aren't just overflow
CDs. They're the ones I listen to the most because: 1) they're the
latest arrivals, 2) I enjoy them the best, or 3) I haven't quite fig-
ured them out yet, i.e. I keep listening because my impression
changes every time (others sound the same; day in, day out).

So, here they are in alphabetical order sans commentary, al-
though I did review a third of them for Amazon, Fuzz, Reson-
ance, Tablet, etc. Also, I've left off the CDs from my best of 20-
08 list, so as not to repeat other notes or blog entries. Thanks
to the folks, whether friends or publicists—or publicist frien-
ds!—who set me up with or turned me on to these discs.

1. Black Lips - Good
Bad Not Evil

2. Vashti Bunyan - Some
Things Just Stick in Your
Mind (DiCristina)

3. Captain Beefheart &
His Magic Band - Trout
Mask Replica (CD-R)
4. CSS - Cansei de
Ser Sexy (Sub Pop)
5. Robert Evans - The Kid Stays in the Picture (New Millenium) [audio CD]
6. Girlschool - The Very Best of...Girlschool (Castle/Sanctuary)
7. Grizzly Bear - Friend EP (Warp)
8. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasur-
es: Collector's Edition (Factory/Rhino)
9. Laughing Clowns - Cruel, But Fair: The
Complete Clowns Recordings (Hot) [import]
10. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (DFA)
11. Phil Lynott - Solo in Soho (Vertigo/Phonogram)
12. Curtis Mayfield - Superfly: Original Mo-
tion Picture Soundtrack (Curtom/Rhino)
13. Nellie McKay - Pretty Little Head (Hungry Mouse/Sony)
14. Lee Morgan - The Sidewinder (Blue Note)
15. Nouvelle Vague - Nouvelle Vague (Luaka Bop)
16. The Oh Sees - Sucks Blood (Castle Face)

17. Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information (Luaka Bop)
18. Prince - Sign of the Times (Paisley Park/Warner Bros.)
19. Soft Boys - Underwat-
er Moonlight (Matador)
20. Spoon - Ga Ga
Ga Ga (Merge)

21. Stiff Little Fingers - Inflammable Material (EMI/Rykodisc)
22. Thin Lizzy - Thin Lizzy (Deram/Decca)
23. Thin Lizzy - Vagabonds of the
Western World (Deram/Decca)
24. Various Artists - Jean-Luc God-
ard: Histoire(s) de Musique (CD-R)
25. Various Artists - Two Dozen Little Gems from
the Golden Age of Italian Film Music (CD-R)*

* Compiled by Bob Cumbow, author of The
Films of Sergio Leone. Plus liner notes!

Endnote: It's true: the CD remains my primary music deliv-
ery system. I still have plenty of records, tapes, singles, and
such, but I always come back to CDs. Incidentally, I compil-
ed this list while listening to Vagabonds of the Western
World. Local writer/publicist Chris Estey once asked me
what record I'd write about if I were to tackle a 33-1/3
tome. My answer: Vagabonds! I just don't think I'm
the person to do it, but I salute those who've follow-
ed up on similar impulses. Phil Lynott image from
The Music's Over. All others from the archives.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

February Reviews

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

Amazon DVDs: The Sidney Poitier Collec- tion (Edge of the City,
A Patch of Blue, Some-
thing of Value, and A
Warm December) [four-disc set], The Guitar (with Saffron Burrows), Magnificent Obsession - Criterion Collection, and 60 Minutes Presents - Obama: All Access.

Amazon Theatricals: Gomorrah (Italian mob master-
piece), Two Lovers (James Gray directs Gwyneth Paltrow
and Joaquin Phoenix), He's Just Not That into You (with
Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, etc.),

GreenCine: I'll be liveblogging the Oscars—and I'm psyched. 

Seattle Film Blog: The second part of my Wendy and Lucy review,
an interview with Medicine for Melancholy director Barry Jen-

Still playing: Frozen River, Gran Torino, and Wendy and Lucy. 

Video Librarian: Chris & Don - A Love Story, Freddie
Hubbard - One of a Kind, Public Enemy - Revolverlution
Tour: Australia 2003 [click here for my reviews of It Takes a Nation: London Invasion 1987 and Live from the House of Blues], Elvis - Return to Tupelo, The Breast Cancer Diaries,
Lioness, Pregnant in America, and We Want Roses Too.

Please click here for my interview with Oscar nominee Courtney Hunt.

Martine Carol image from the Seattle International Film Festival. Lola Montès plays SIFF Cinema (321 Mercer St.) from Feb. 20-26. For more information, please click the link or call 206-633-7151. Incidentally, I didn't name my cat Lola after Carol, Marlene Dietrich's showgirl in The Blue Angel, or any other celluloid Lola, but after the Kinks song about the cross-dresser.