Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lost and Found

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

Blazing Blades:
Ice Network preview of Pop Star on Ice

Film Fanatic:
Siffblog review

Harsh on Your Mellow:
Siffblog interview with Barry Jenkins

Amazon review of Fela - Music Is the Weapon

Larry's Corner:
Amazon review of Shivaree - Who's Got Trouble

Amazon review of Ben Folds - Supersunnyspeedgraphic

Nashville Scene:
Amazon review of The Sidney Poitier Collection

Rock Paper Scissors:
AndMoreAgain reviews of Melvin Gibbs' Elevated
Entity - Ancients Speak and Burnt Sugar the Ark-
estra Chamber - Making Love to the Dark Ages

Seattle Fine Arts Examiner:
Siffblog report on Lynn Shelton's Humpday

Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys:
AndMoreAgain review of Casualty Menagerie

[They refer to me as an "eminent music blogger."]

Endnote: In addition, a Seattle Sound quote appears
in the press kit for D+'s What Is Doubt For: "These 15
tracks may qualify as 'shambling'—an irresistibly over-
used term when it comes to indie rock—but there's e-
nough charm, sincerity, and insight throughout On
Purpose to smooth over the rough patches." I'm
also name-checked at Steady Diet of Film and
Women in Film and in the following Wikipe-
Johnny Weir image from

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Movie of the Month: Part Six

I recently reviewed the following film for Video Lib-
and thought the results were worth sharing.


In Philippe Garrel, Artiste, the made-for-TV profile that
accompanies this set, the writer/director describes cine-
ma as "a way to survive." Until the release of 2005's Reg-
ular Lovers, starring his son Louis, Garrel was one of
France's best kept secrets. This double-disc collection
offers two key titles from his intimate filmography.

In 1991's I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar, Garrel provid-
es an impressionistic overview of his 10-year affair with Velvet
Underground vocalist Nico, who appears in several of his early
films. Influenced by life, literature, and dreams, Garrel purpose-
fully blurs the timeline, initially depicting a romantic Positano
idyll between Gérard (Benoît Régent, Three Colors: Blue) and
Marianne (Johanna ter Steege, The Vanishing) until her jealou-
sy and heroin addiction become too much to take, though Gér-
ard's friendship with fellow Parisian Martin (Yann Colette,
who is blind in one eye) helps to ease the burden.

Made two years before, Emergency Kisses ups the ante
through the inclusion of the extended Garrel clan. The decision of
filmmaker Mathieu (Garrel) to cast Minouchette (Anémone) in a
film instead of wife Jeanne (real-life spouse Brigitte Sy) threatens
to tear their union asunder. Whereas a friend provides the sup-
port in Guitar, Garrel's father, Maurice, assumes that role in Kiss-
es, while a blond Louis plays his rambunctious six-year-old son.

Other supplements include an essay from The New Yorker's
Richard Brody, the French trailer for Regular Lovers, lobby
cards, and press-book excerpts, including testimony from Jean-
Luc Godard, who proclaims Garrel's work "eternal." A strong re-
commendation, especially for fans of Godard and John Cassavetes.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part Five: Careful

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Incidentally,
Garrel's full quote reads: cinema is "a way to survive if you think
you're different...when you're young." But is he really that funda-
mentally different from anyone else? I mean, he's an artist, he's
from an artistic family, but he's still just a human being. After
watching these two films, I'm still not sure exactly what he means,
but I will say that he doesn't go easy on his doppelgängers, though
Gérard in Guitar does grow up a bit by the end, and I would as-
sume Garrel considers that a positive development. Also, he de-
scribes Godard as "the master I've chosen." Image from WNYC.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CD Reviews: Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in
the Dark

EP, self-

The new wave re-
vival continues with Future Future, teen sibs Jordan (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass) and Jamie Lawlor (drums, percussion).

The problem lies not with the quality of the material—though I could do without the squealing guitar on Owsley tribute "Dr. Al-
bert"—but that too many musicians born around the same time are doing the same thing. These six tracks pirouette along the edges of goth and electro-pop, employing outsized drums and minor chords. While I hardly think Springsteen was predicting
the Jersey lads, the phrase "Dancing in the Dark" comes to mind.

Jeff Who?, self-titled, Bad Taste Records

This Reykjavik quintet rolls from the hard to the soft. Sometimes they sound like ELO, sometimes like the missing link between disco and hair metal. Suffice to say they have no fear of the cheese, and will do whatever it takes to make a song work, hence the un-ironic use of cowbell on "The Great Escape" (and if you're gonna use Will Ferrell's favorite instrument, by all means: do like he does, and set the smirk aside). I often take unoriginal and unmemorable acts to task, and after two listens, I'm not so sure Jeff Who? dodges those fates as successfully as they could, but their second disc guarantees a good time, and that's far easier said than done.

Bob Harp, Collecting Dust, self-released [7/21/09]

On the follow-up to Good Misery, this San Francisco trou-
badour sings, strums, and plays the harmonica like Bob Dy-
lan, circa The Basement Tapes (he even borrows the frog-
in-his-throat from "Lay Lady Lay"). That doesn't mean
Collecting Dust sounds like a carbon copy, though the
man's influence is keenly felt, right down to the high-pit-
ched "Hurricane" violin on "One Last Night in Califor-
nia." I like Dylan, but I don't love him, and I feel the
same way about Harp. He needs to emerge from
Zimmy's long shadow into his own light.

Honor by August, Found, self-released [5/26/09]

"Distinctive, inviting vocals and anthemic, reverb-drenched guitars."

Michael Pearsall sings lyrics like "We hope and pray that love will
find a way" with a straight face, probably because he really means
it, but these painfully earnest piano-rockers aren't doing anything
the Fray hasn't already done. They also thank stage-sharers Bon
Jovi and Third Eye Blind in the liner notes and borrow the Edge's
waterfall-guitar trick. The DC quartet's second self-released ef-
fort serves as a handy reminder that "indie" is just a word.

J.A.C.K., Deletist, Yabyum Records [6/16/09]

"A thunderous mountain of sound."
-- Deli Magazine

Ignore the name and the occasionally dunderheaded lyrics—"the
whole world is controlled by assholes"—and enjoy the screaming.
Whether it's more a matter of skill or luck, a good scream can be a
beautiful thing. Too high, and a man risks sounding like a castrato;
too low and the cookie monster effect kicks in. Scott Holland's got
the balance right. Since J.A.C.K.'s moniker recalls the idiotic
radio format, I expected little from Deletist, but these New
Yorkers have got it going on. Recommended to fans of Sub
Pop-era Soundgarden and the Laughing Hyenas.

Various Artists, Creative Belfast Presents Sound of the City, Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission [promo]

Unlike the last N.I.M.I.C. compilation, which I review-
ed in 2008, this one leaves bigger names like Snow Patrol, Neil Hannon, and David Holmes behind, but Sounds of the City still aims to promote Northern Ireland's music scene, and there's something for most listeners here, like the driving electro-pop of Skibunny's "Up
Down" and the gentle country of Anthony Toner's "Sailortown," which references Van Morrison ("brown eyed girl") and Thin Liz-
("whiskey in the jar"). If none of the 14 tracks set my ears on fire, nor did I encounter anything likely to embarrass the folks from the North and those of us rooting for their success.

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

Endnote: For more information about Creative
Belfast, please click here; for Future Future, here;
for Bob Harp, here or here; for J.A.C.K., here; for
Skibunny, here; and for Anthony Toner, here.
Images from the Jeff Who? MySpace Page
(photo by Ari Magg) and Planetary Group.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


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

DVDs: A Village Affair (with Sophie Ward, Kerry Fox, and Claire Bloom), The Dana Carvey Show [two-disc set] (with Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Robert Smigel), and Friday Night Lights - The Third Season [four-disc set]. I've already seen every episode, but watched 'em all over again. Yep, it's that good.

Amazon Theatricals: Food, Inc. (with Eric Schlosser
and Michael Pollan) and Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas
directs Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche, and Jérémie Renier).

Still playing: Confessions of a Shopaholic, He's Just Not That into
, Lemon Tree, Sin Nombre, State of Play, and Sunshine Cleaning.

Ice Network: Coverage of the Pop Star on Ice world premiere,
including quotes from directors David Barba and James Pellerito.

Siffblog: SIFF-related coverage begins, starting with a few of
my film persona photos
and a look at actors who wear eyeliner.

And now that I've wrapped up my interview with Tia Lessin,
I've been posting excerpts from my chat with Barry Jenkins.

Still playing: Gran Torino.

Video Librarian: Boxers, The Bracelet of Bordeaux,
Crips and Bloods - Made in America, Philippe Garrel -
I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar/Emergency Kisses
Gooby, Home, H2 Worker, Jesus Politics, Llik Your
Idols, Made in China, Road to the Big Leagues,
Stranded - I've Come from a Plane that
on the Mountains,* Tribute to
Heath Ledger - The Unauthorized Story,
and You - Inner and Outer Beauty.

* Retitled Stranded - The Andes Plane Crash Survivors for the DVD release.

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

Endnote: Stranded - The Andes Plane Crash Survivors
premieres on Seattle's KCTS 9 on Tues., 5/19, at 10pm as part
of Independent Lens (repeating on Sun., 5/24, at 2am). Don't
miss it. Barry Jenkins image from my personal collection.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Get Spiritualized: an Introduction to Jason Pierce
Interview by Rex Ritter, story by Kathleen C. Fennessy

Click here for part one

"Feel So Sad" is another Spiritualized single, an original this time, that doesn't show up on Lazer Guided Melodies. The first
version debuted on Recurring, the final Spacemen album. Their extension of that Simon and Garfunkel-on-downers-as-recorded-in-a-gothic-cathedral epic clocks in at over 13 minutes. I can understand why he didn't include it, however, as Pierce has opted
to emphasize fairly concise pop structures over the free-floating,
sometimes-drummerless jams for which the 3 were best known.

From 1990-91, Spiritualized released several other seven-in-
ches in the UK: "I Want You," "Smiles," and "Sway," all of which
found a place on the new release. Not exactly drone-fests, they're
still more abstract and less instantly accessible than the rest.

According to Pierce, it was

"more constructed" than the
other tracks. "It was made out
of five or six different riffs and
very minimal stuff that creat-
es something that sounds
more complicated than it
actually is. That was one on
the album that was very de-
finitely orchestrated in the
same way as 'Feel So Sad'."

[I'm assuming the "it" refers to "Sway," but a few words appear to
have disappeared from the original text, so it's hard to say for sure.]

Pierce notes that many songs date back to his Spacemen days,
but that he approached them differently from the ones he wrote
for that band. "I didn't try to chase a finished sound; I didn't ev-
en want to know how they were going to turn out. In the Space-
men, it was more like I knew what it should sound like, and tried 
to get that down onto tape, which ended—not disappointingly—
but they never matched the sound in my head. With the stuff now,
I didn't want to chase any finished thing, so everybody basically
had free reign to do whatever they wanted. Now, we're not even
starting with a song basis. We're just doing what we want, and
everybody's in tune with what sounds cool anyway. The new
stuff usually starts as a more free-form thing, like the live
set. We're continuing to write that way at the moment."

Regarding the live show, he explains that, "The album is more
like the spine of what we're doing. I don't think we'll reach a stage
where the album will become old material or we're gonna prog-
ress on from that, because it's been made to be the backbone of
what we work on now. So when we play live we don't try to rep-
licate the album, we use it as a springboard to work on other
stuff. We plan to start touring around September, and we'll
probably come to the States around that time. Five members
[will come], and I think we'll be able to bring a horn section."

Another important distinction between Spiritualized and

Spacemen 3: horns (trumpets and saxophone), woodwinds
(flute), and strings (cello and violin) all play a bigger part in
the new project than they did in the parent band, which is
to say: hardly at all. Incidentally, Spiritualized's tour is-
n't likely to include Seattle, according to the folks at RCA.

As far as additional future plans, Jason says, "We've recorded

another single called 'Medication,' which will be released in En-
gland in about a month's time with a Peel Session we did." Also,
"Dean's band, Luna*, are going to do some stuff with Spiritua-
lized, and rather than me just guesting on his album, we're
gonna get the two bands to play on one song. We may do it like
we'd do one and send it to [them to] complete and vice versa."

Aside from the Troggs, VU, J.J. Cale, the Beach Boys, and Sui-
cide, Pierce likes to relax in Rugby to the sounds of the Remains
and the Silver Apples, "a pretty cool band who pre-date Suicide.
They were doing the same kind of stuff as a lot of the experimen-
tal electronic bands, but they were doing it in the '60s. One guy
playing keyboards and one guy who drums and sings." And aside
from MBV and Galaxie 500/Luna, more contemporary favorit-
es include Yo La Tengo, whom he describes as "something else,"
adding, "their last record is great," and Mercury Rev, who've
"just done some shows in England that are probably the best
shows I've seen for years. Really, really something else."

Ritter interviewed Pierce by phone while he was in New York
doing press and publicity for Lazer Guided Melodies in ear-
ly June. Pierce and Sonic Boom recently joined Luna on stage
during a jaunt to the UK, so maybe those two are at least on
speaking terms again. For Spacemen 3 completists, Sonic's new
Spectrum release, Soul Kiss, has just been released by Britain's
Silvertone in a limited edition translucent "jelly pack," much like
the infamous Slayer "blood pack." RCA will be issuing it Stateside
in September without the special packaging. Having already heard
the import, I can safely that it's not too hard to figure out who was
the spaciest of the Spacemen 3. Hint: It wasn't Jason Pierce.

Endnote: Images from Pitchfork and TheTones360.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Get Spiritualized: an Introduction to Jason Pierce
Interview by Rex Ritter, story by Kathleen C. Fennessy

As a follow-up to my 1991 interview with Sonic Boom, here's a newly revised version of a piece about Pierce, Sonic's ex-partner in crime.

Originally subtitled "An Interview with," I've changed it to "An
Introduction to," since there isn't a whole lot of interview here.

It worked like this: I came up with a list of questions, Ritter put them to
Pierce, and I penned the resulting article, which appeared in Hype in '92.

A founding member of Jessamine and Fontanelle, singer/songwriter/
guitarist Ritter would go on to collaborate with Sonic's Spectrum.

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

"Live they kinda use volume as a drug."
--Jason Pierce on My Bloody Valentine

Chances are, if you were a Spacemen 3 fan, you already
know about Spiritualized. If not: Jason "Spaceman" Pier-
ce formed the latter while the former was in the midst

of its death throes, owing to major personality clash-
es between Pierce and Dave "Sonic Boom" Kember.

Chances are also good that if you liked the mothership outfit, you'll feel the same way about Pierce's more streamlined, but not radically different "melody thing" (as opposed to the 3's drone thing).

If you weren't hip to the group and their four full-length releases of prime psychedelic ooze, please allow me to introduce you to Mr. Pierce. If you dig his stuff, you just might dig it, too, ya dig?

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

Lazer Guided Melodies is the title of Spiritualized's debut, available on Dedicated Records in the United Kingdom and
RCA in the United States. It's already met with a flurry of posi-
tive critical acclaim and high indie chart numbers in Britain.

In America, it's been doing quite well on the college charts, but
somehow I doubt it's gonna rocket into the commercial strato-
sphere of our fine land, seeing as how they eschew paisley out-
fits, puddin'-bowl haircuts, shuffling dance beats, heavy-duty
wah-wah guitar leads, or any of the other gimmicks neo-psych-
edelic acts have employed to attract attention in recent years.

Nope! Spiritualized offer up some pretty un-trendy
sounds, much as the 'men did in their heyday. Although
you could compare them to other UK shoegaze acts like
the Jesus & Mary Chain, MBV, and Slowdive, they really
do have their own thing going on, despite the fact that they
also fail to shout and leap about on stage. Their music isn't
as heavily Sonic Youth-influenced as the aforemention-
ed trio; they simply aren't as atonal or experimental.

The quartet's first sonic blast was the "Anyway That You
Want Me" single, released while the Spacemen were still a happening concern. As with the Fluid's "Our Love Will Still
Be There," it's another excellent example of a fine Troggs' tune made transcendentally better. (See also: Alex Chilton's "With a Girl Like You." Damn! Reg and the boys wrote some stunners.)

For some reason, this amaz-
ing track doesn't appear on
the new album. However, the
powers that be at RCA say
that it'll make an appearance
later this year as a B-side.

Another notable cover which fails to materialize on the
long-player is their take on the early and obscure Lou Reed composition "Why Don't You Smile Now," which wasn't record-
ed, at the time, by the Rock 'n' Roll Animal himself (you can find the rather goofy, highly-dated original version on the pre-Peel Slowly and See VU box set—and good luck finding that!).

Pierce's sweet and fuzzy interpretation of J.J. Cale's "They Call Me the Breeze," re-titled "Run," represents one non-original that does appear on Lazer (Cale gets a co-writing credit). In a different time and place, the rollicking drum-driven ditty would've become a hit.

Click here for part two

Endnote: I'm saddened that my glow-in-the-dark "Lazer" t-
shirt went missing somewhere over the years, although I've still
got the subway-sized poster tucked away in the recesses of my
closet. Images from NRK Lydverket, Spacelab, and