Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On the Other Hand...

A demolition of an unfunny comedian can be great fun if it's done with skill, preferably by a FUNNY comedian:


It's probably never a good idea to heckle a professional comedian with a microphone and command of a large room.

Most Movie Fanatics are Dicks, Example #374

I'm not the biggest fan of Kevin Smith's recent movies (Clerks is one of my favorites, though), but I have to commend him for this:

Nothing more annoying than a movie fanatic that will go out of his way to trash a talented director to his face. I have a hard time imagining a true cinephile like Truffaut acting like this Blockbuster-employed douchebag.

Holy Goddamn Shit

Speaking of Westerns...

How psyched is everybody about the Coen Brothers' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Russell Crowe still the fucking man

Just saw 3:10 to Yuma and felt like typing a short burst of enthusiasm. It's an excellent movie, thrilling and absorbing and exceptionally well-written and well-acted for a Hollywood movie circa 2007. I do admit to a fondness for the Western genre (John Ford's epics, Howard Hawks' perfectly-cut gems, Sam Peckinpah's bloodbaths and romances, Sergio Leone's gothic spaghettis, Tombstone, Deadwood, and on the literary front Cormac McCarthy's bloody awesome and bloody bloody Blood Meridian) but I'm also fairly alert to its potential for cliche, bombast, and sentimentality. This film doesn't strike a single false note; the action is the opposite of pornographic and the characterization and the screenplay are rooted in the great Western tradition but mercifully free of cliche.

Russell Crowe's diabolically charming rogue is well, diabolically charming. Just great fun to watch, that man. He continues to be one of the most entrancing screen presences alive: rugged and masculine (I'm swooning) as well as poetic and soulful. In short, he can make a perfect sketch of a bird or a naked woman, quote Shakespeare and the King James Bible, draw his pistol faster than any other sonufabitch from here to Dodge City, and chuck a man over the edge of a cliff for not reading more books.

I feel guilt getting so swept up in the Russell Crowe charm-maelstrom, because Christian Bale is just as excellent. Intense, brooding, dark, but with a disarming integrity and earnestness; he seems to specialize in those types of characters. The supporting cast is made up of several impressive character actors, all of them inhabiting their roles with exuberant relish. Luke Wilson makes a brief but memorable appearance at a railroad blasting sight, and Ben Foster (whose acting as a recurring character on Six Feet Under I'd always admired) is genuinely frightening as an uber-sadistic murderer in a Confederate jacket.

The script, based on a story by Elmore Leonard (the greatest crime novelist of our time, and one of the finest Western-writers, loved and celebrated by Saul Bellow and Martin Amis), is full of laconic, deadpan one-liners nearly as good as the ones in Tombstone. The story is damn compelling, the cinematography captures the brisk air of the Arizona deserts in winter in a way that makes me want to go out West, and there are Apaches, Chinese railroad workers, gunslingers, crooked marshals, shady Southern Pacific businessmen, and Russell Crowe as a notorious outlaw!!!

In short, see it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Liars

Speaking of autumnal music, you can do worse than pick up the excellent new record by the Liars. I've always liked this odd Brooklyn-LA trio for some time, though I've never been as familiar with their music as Monsieur Catalogues. Their fourth album, titled The Liars, is a beautiful and bizarre wash of choral tones, Yeatsian lyrics, and guitars and keyboards that alternately evoke blue plateglass and fire-coloured leaves in the fall breeze.

The music swims back and forth between a relatively cold, distant vibe (possibly augmented by the fact that frontman Angus Andrews' vocals are nearly always obscured by effects of some sort) and warm, crackling immediacy. I can't quite decide whether this music is polished noise or baroque, ornamental lo-fi. One of the things that makes the Liars so appealing is that the band is inventive in an instrumental sense; the guitars, synths, drums, and vocals on this album simply don't sound like anything else. Certainly not anything else right now. I suppose it could be compared to the Animal Collective, but that would make the Liars the dark smokey blues bar to Animal Collective's rollicking pastoral wonderland. The Liars are Edward Hopper to Animal Collective's Matisse, I suppose you could say.

Another thing that makes this album so goddamned fascinating is the diversity of the songs. The Liars have a certain sound, no doubt about it, and that sound encapsulates this entire album, but I think I can say with some accuracy that the individual songs here vary quite a lot in tone and structure and atmosphere. "Sailing to Byzantium" is dreamlike, warm, and hynoptic; listening to it I felt like I was, well, sailing to Byzantium (an essay could be written comparing the Liars and Yeats, surely). A song like "Clear Island," on the other hand, is cerebral and cold. Both are superb.

Every song is worthy of some serious attention, though. This is a challenging album, and one that will reward you with more aural joys and wonders than most this year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Scott Lucas is a cultivated man.

Yes he is. My recent rediscovery of Local H sent me poking around on their website, and I found singer-guitarist-bassist-songwriter-ideas man Soctt Lucas' Top Ten list of last year. Not just Top Ten in music, but Top Ten Everything: TV and cinema as well as singles and albums. I don't know why I assumed that the man's taste runs mostly to Nirvana, the Replacements, and Led Zeppelin; I mean, his lyrics are among the most clever and witty ever penned by an American with a guitar and a fuzz pedal. It turns out that you shouldn't judge a man by the style of his band's music: he likes Justice, Spank Rock, and Simian Mobile Disco!

And HBO's bloody brilliant drama The Wire. His comments on that show and on Ryan Gosling's harrowing performance in Half-Nelson are dead on. I have to say I disagree with his take on the Klaxons though.

You can read the list by following the links here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Following up on that Local H thing

Is it wrong that I love this?

Bat for Lashes

Okay then, a word or two about Bat for Lashes' much-praised Fur and Gold.

This album will inevitably be compared to the likes of Kate Bush, Bjork, Tori Amos, and the PJ Harvey of To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire? It is true that Bat for Lashes (the nom-de-musique of one Natasha Khan, an Anglo-Pakistani singer, songwriter, and poly-talented musician from festive seaside town Brighton, England) bears some traces of all those great precursors: her music has the dreaminess and Druidic sexuality of Kate Bush, the dark fairy tale enchantmentand strange lyrics of Bjork, the emotional intensity of Amos, and the theatrical flair and shape-shifting multi-persona narratives of PJ Harvey. But somehow Khan's music is strikingly original, and it would sell her quite short to just hear her as a retread of Kate Bush, Bjork, etc.

Fur and Gold is an atmospheric blend of harpsichord melodies, orchestral swells, low and sexy rhythms, and Khan's marvelous voice, which is somehow delicate and fierce at the same time. The lyrics are full of dream figures and folkloric characters (in many songs Khan seems to be singing from the point of view of a bat), and it's impossible to tell which songs are"autobiographical" and which are pure (or mostly) fiction. The album is glorious, a lovely strangeness compressed into short pop songs and ballads.

Khan’s voices haunts the music and assumes manyguises: in one song her tone is that of an enraptured lover, inanother she's an impetuous ice queen with a Diana Rigg accent, in
others she\'s a forlorn orphan or a startled visionary. Personalfavorites like "Trophy" and "Sarah" combine all of her best elements into one darkly glittering whole.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"You heard that we were great..."

Okay, I know, shame on me for not posting AT ALL during the summer. It was a fairly chaotic one, too busy and confusing to spend much time writing for this blog. But now that the Shelleyan west wind is upon us and autumn is again stoking the creative fires (which is really autumn's point, despite or perhaps because it's the season of beautiful decay) I'm rarin' to ma-fuckin' go.

Monsieur Catalogues has done a fine job of describing the exceptional new albums from Animal Collective and Atlanta's own Black Lips. Good Bad Not Evil is possibly the most FUN album to come along since Is This It? or Elephant or Up the Bracket, and Strawberry Jam is stunning enough to hold its own alongside Panda Bear's astonishing Person Pitch. Both albums will be in my end-of-the-year Top Ten for sure. As will the Black Lips.

I'm not ready to comment on Kanye's long-awaited Graduation, but I think I'm more excited by it than Monsieur Catalogues. I figure it will contain at least SOME interesting music; I mean, it's Kanye West for God's sake.

Lately I've been spending my musical energies seeking out American indie bands from the mid and late 90's that I neglected at the time (I was busy listening to the sounds of Seattle, as well as the Clash and the Pixies). The Make-Up, Unrest, and Jonathan Fire Eater among them. Most of these bands have been neglected by the independent music press as well, pathetically enough. I want to write full pieces on the likes of Unrest and the Make-Up, but that will have to wait until I've given both bands proper and thorough listens. Right now I'm only an infatuated amateur, not familiar enough to write at any length.

On the other hand, I spent much of this summer rediscovering Fugazi, and I look forward to classics like The Argument and Repeater--hell, pretty much everything they've done--supplying my autumn with a suitably Fugazish soundtrack. Another band that I loved when I was in my late teens but have neglected quite a lot in recent years is Local H. I stopped listening to them when Here Comes the Zoo came out; I simply found the album to be a humilating, crushing letdown after the splendor of Pack Up the Cats (an album that was criminally betrayed by both the record label and the music press; it's really one of the finest rock records of the last 20 years, if you axe me). But I've been listening to that masterpiece and to the almost-as-great As Good as Dead the past few nights and loving every minute. Fall is always a good time to listen to stalwarts and favorites like Radiohead, DJ Shadow, 90's U2, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Strokes (God rest their souls), Interpol (ditto), Nick Cave, the Walkmen, the Arcade Fire, Blur, and the Auteurs. I think my fall this year will also include a lot of music I've just discovered, like Unrest and the Make-Up and Jonathan Fire Eater. I'll also be listening to rediscovered favorites like Fugazi and Local H with a renewed vigor and love.

Oh, and just for fun. I've had the damn thing stuck in my head! Autumn is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as Keats reminds us, but it's also the season of angsty indie pop and noirish high school movies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Atlanta to Tel Aviv

Black Lips, meet Ha'aretz.

Ha'aretz, meet the Black Lips.

When does Amos Oz write his first essay about Atlanta's finest?


So, today is September 11th, a very important day.......The Black Lips, Animal Collective, Kanye West, and The GO! Team all come out. Oh boy oh boy. Are you just in mourning? No no, yes yes, sad sad day, but what a better way to get happy again than buy 4 albums from some of the most creative and exciting artists out there. I have not heard the new Kanye yet, but I'm sure he comes through even though it is the least exciting of the releases. No, the two big ones are the Black Lips and Animal Collective.

I've had both of the albums for a while now, and they are both amazing. I fell in love with The Black Lips newest immediatly and thought it was the shit. I mean it really is. You can't help but feel cool when listening to them. See, living in Atlanta, we have been prolific obviously with Hip Hop from Outkast to Danger Mouse to T.I. Yet, I guess in the indie rock world we haven't had a band that brought us together as a whole. The Black Lips do that. They are almost bringing back to a state of mind that I haven't had since the days when Pete and Carl were in their red coats. The Black Lips are a great rock band, but they are more than that. They are a lifestyle. They bring people from all different crowds into one. There are the one thing we can all agree on just like how we could all agree Outkast were and might come back to being amazing. Good Bad Not Evil is an album to be very proud of from the sampled "Vedi Vidi Vici" to the indian tale in "Navajo" to the deadly swagger of "Lock and Key" (all three being my highlights). Sure they can make you laugh and are crazy, but they are mine and all the other kids of Atlanta. Sure their getting steam in the indie world, but before anything else, they are Atlanta's and nobody else's, and we are damn proud to call them our own.

Now, let's travel to another city that I am obsessed with, Baltimore: Bmore Club, The Wire, Animal Collective, Spank Rock. The boys in Animal Collective just don't stop. To me, they are in the great tier of American music that is kicking everyone else's ass. Them, The Black Lips, The White Stripes, and LCD Soundsystem are the most important American groups and all bring something different to the table. Animal Collective's Stawberry Jam is a much more excited and upbeat work. It seems like on multiple occasions I have found myself boucing around to "Peacebone." Panda Bear said in an interview that the name of the album came from when he was on an airplane and the sun was rising and he had some strawberry jam in his hand, and he wanted the music to sound like that moment. I have exactly the idea what he is getting at, but I am not sure the album converys that image, I would honestly find Person Pitch to fit that moment better, but please don't think that means the album is anything less than stellar. The album didn't register with me as quickly as Person Pitch did when I first heard it. It isn't reverbed or super delayed out like previous works. I really dug that sound. This is in a way "spacier." The best parts on the album have that efffect of chopping tremelos which is awesome. The part where the album peaks and this is most prevelant is "For Reverand Green" and "Fireworks." The vocals on this album are more distinct than any other Animal Collective album I've heard before. This is just another great leap for the group, and prove themselve to be bona fide geniuses.

Those two albums are must must owns. So please do yourself a great favor and buy them. The new Go! Team is pretty damn wicked as well. I urge you to get that as well. Actually it's really damn good. So please just go do it all.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


This summer has been dominated by a few acts: Fela Kuti, Black Lips, Panda Bear, Lee Hazelwood, and Matthew Dear. Matthew Dear's Asa Breed is easily one of my favorite albums of this year. It is a pop album, but Dear takes his Detroit Techno roots and puts it with it. Dear is established as a producer in all forms of Techno. On his other name, Audion, he makes more direct harder sounding Techno. I feel like under his own name he feels like he can branch out and not stick within the boundries of just straight up Techno. That's the thing about electronic music, for a being such a forward thinking music, it can also be very conservative. People might get upset that a certain song doesn't fit within the characteristics of a genre. Dear is that person. There is a mix of great pop songs, dancier songs, and even dark American Gothic music. Asa Breed is an album that shows people that there is so much more to what makes a pop album. It is more than the conventional sounds and instruments. I just think he deserves as much credit as he can get.