Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

WORDS ABOUT MUSIC: BOB DYLAN.

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Music

 

Everybody’s talking about Bob Dylan today, so I figured I’d check to see if I’d ever written anything about his work, and hey look, here’s this thing from 2011:

 

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For Bob Dylan’s seventieth birthday this week, Rolling Stone put out a list of the 70 Greatest Dylan Songs.  I’m no authority, so I’m not about to quibble with the ordering. In fact, it says plenty about the uncanny depth of this essential artist’s discography that he has so many more than 70 great songs. (So many prominent musical artists stop with the greatness after just three or four.) But Bob Dylan means a lot of things to a lot of people, and I thought it would be fun to name the songs that mean the most to me (off the top of my head).

 

My mom loves Bob Dylan and he means maybe the most to her generation, who came up with Dylan in the 1960s. That’s how I first came to hear Bob Dylan, with his protest songs and folk tunes. “Blowin’ In The Wind” (Rolling Stone’s #20) and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” (RS #28) were big around my house. When I was in college, I had a friend who listened to literally nothing besides Bob Dylan, which at the time I thought was pretty pretentious but also at the time I knew and in retrospect I still believe, there’s no faulting that dude’s taste. If you listen to nothing but Bob Dylan, you’re still getting as diverse a catalogue as could possibly be imagined from just one artist who writes and performs all of his own songs. The guy who sang “Like A Rolling Stone” (RS #1, predictably) and the guy who sang “Lay, Lady, Lay” (RS #24) hardly even sound like the same guy, let alone the guy who recorded Love And Theft. That’s why Dylan has stayed so relevant for so long, because of that creative restlessness and constant evolution.  (And why Todd Haynes had the inspired, understandable notion to cast six different actors in the role of Dylan in his recent sort-of biopic I’m Not There.)

 

Anyway, like I said, I’m hardly an authority on Bob Dylan and his music, though the older I get the more I have learned to appreciate him. Quite honestly, he’s come to mean more to me through the legion of artists that he has influenced. Over the years, I’ve noticed a trend in some of my all-time favorite musical acts, from Bruce Springsteen to Jimi Hendrix to U2 to Cat Power to The Roots to motherfuckin’ Johnny Cash – they’ve all spent a significant amount of time not only talking about Bob Dylan, but performing his songs. At a certain point, your influences’ influences become important to you almost as much as your influences have, and so it has been with Bob Dylan.

 

So here are my top five songs, ranked in order of preference which is sure to change by tomorrow. These would be my top five if someone asked me TODAY.

 

 

  1. Series Of Dreams (not on Rolling Stone’s list)

 

This one came to me through seeing it in a Bruce Springsteen interview. Generally, when Springsteen says something, I listen, and when he recommends a song, ten to one I’m gonna check it out. I like the imagery of this song’s title, and I especially like the momentum of this song. Without getting too precious about it, this song sounds to me like the passage of time, and it sounds more optimistic than not (although as it happens, Dylan’s lyrics are a little more cautious here than the upbeat tune suggests).

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (RS #25)

 

 

 

You can tell a person’s age from how they came to certain Bob Dylan songs. I got into this one through Guns N’ Roses, so that’s the generation we’re dealing with. Dylan wrote this song as part of his soundtrack to Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (which he also appeared in), a forever-underrated Sam Peckinpah movie that has come to mean almost as much to me as the song does. This song has such an immediate and potent mythic quality that it’s easy to see why it’s such a strong entry-way for younger romance-minded dudes like me into the Dylan discography.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Not Dark Yet (RS #50)

 

A lot of Dylan songs can be inscrutable. It’s clear from most of the journalism I have ever read about the man that a lot of critics have a lot of fun trying to decipher his lyrics and deciphering how they may apply to his life story. I’m not that kind of a listener. Sometimes I like it best when I can tell what the song’s about, and when the melody fits the words so perfectly. The music here is a pretty simple and steady (but lovely) drone, almost a dirge, and if I had to guess, this song is about getting older, seeing the end coming and taking the moment to recollect before it gets here. Hopefully I’m not near that point in my life yet, but there’s something about that idea that has always been very profound to me. This is why people that know me best still struggle to decide whether I’m an old soul or an immature one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Shelter From The Storm (RS #66)

 

I put this song on a mixtape I made for my baby niece when she was first born. I know that there are several more valid interpretations of this song in many other contexts, but the great thing about music is its malleability of meaning to each listener, and to me, this song sounds like solace and safe harbor. And that’s what spending time with my niece means to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Boots Of Spanish Leather (not on Rolling Stone’s list)

 

One of Dylan’s earliest songs, this is just plain one of the better love songs ever written, to my ears anyway. Is there more I ought to say about it? Take a listen:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not that he will ever read this, but Happy Birthday Bob Dylan. You have affected a lot of lives in a deeply meaningful way with your art, which is art’s highest possible purpose in my dumb opinion.

 

 

 

Also…

 

 

 

 

 

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A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964)

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964)

Having come up in the generation of hip-hop in the cool shadow of the Bronx, The Beatles have never totally felt like music meant for me. They have always been, to me, the music of my parents’ generation. That said; what has always worked still works. I love The Beatles too — how could I not? It’s impossible to discount their importance, to avoid their influence, to escape their music, to fail to be amazed by their story. I don’t own a Beatles album because I don’t need to — A HARD DAY’S NIGHT alone features several songs I know by heart: The title track, and “She Loves You,” and “All My Loving,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “And I Love Her”… I can’t remember wedding toasts I’ve given, or the names of several failed first dates, but these songs I know backwards and forwards. And that doesn’t bother me a bit. Note how many of those song titles feature the same word — “Love” — that’s a nice message to spread around the world, isn’t it?

 

RUN

 

It amazes me that these four musicians all came from one town, it amazes me that they found each other, it amazes me that they could come up with so many indelible songs. It amazes me that they redefined pop music, it amazes me that they put together that many classic albums, it amazes me that they found a formula that worked and then became increasingly experimental when they could have just rode out their own tidal wave. It amazes me that they broke up the band after what was basically only ten years of unprecedented success. It amazes me that they went on to forge four separate solo careers, some of which yielded nearly as many classic tunes as their original partnership did. There is little doubt that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison could have been terrifically successful musical artists on their own — not to slight Ringo Starr — but the specific alchemy of the four of them combined to create a very literal legend.

 

WAY

 

There is nothing to compare to the Beatles. People love to debate the question “Beatles or Stones?” but the Rolling Stones, as phenomenal a band as they inarguably are, have a sound that owes more to their influences, and the arc of their artistic experimentation is nowhere near as astronomical. The Beatles were a supernova which both heightened and upended the pop vernacular of the day and then voluntarily disbanded mid-flight, whereas the Stones never stopped. The Stones soldier on, which is one of the many things that amaze about the Stones. But putting The Beatles against The Stones is a flawed comparison: It’s like comparing a great white shark to a grizzly bear. You don’t want to mess with either of them, but they ain’t the same species.

 

A Hard Day's Night

 

 

Likewise, it’s unfathomable to think of any act with as much initial teeny-bopper appeal as The Beatles did morphing into such an adventurous and sophisticated phenomenon which continues to resonate, more than forty years on. Can you name another boy band who entered a psychedelic phase? Can you name one that birthed as many major solo careers, one with that many musical virtuosos, one with such elementally excellent songwriting? The Beatles wrote pop songs at first that were brilliant but astonishingly simple. Later they added world music influences, orchestrations, literary inspiration, and the weight of life experience to fascinatingly complicate their sound. Today more than ever, there’s just no ready comparison to be made. The best I can come up with is The Beach Boys, but that argument will go too far off-topic.

 

TRAIN

 

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is an integral building block in the legend of The Beatles. Richard Lester, an American director in Britain, got the gig and worked off a soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated script from Alun Owen, with cinematography by Gilbert Taylor, now likely best known as the DP of STAR WARSA HARD DAY’S NIGHT is a mockumentary which details the supposed life of the Beatles at the height of “Beatlemania,” not two years since they exploded into international fame, dodging fans and getting into comical hijinks. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT has a documentary aesthetic which makes The Beatles engaging and relatable, while simultaneously managing to make them bigger than life, bigger than what’s-his-name.

 

FOUR THE HARD WAY

 

 

What A HARD DAY’S NIGHT did so smartly was to cement the personas of the four band members. It turned them into recognizable archetypes, almost cartoon characters; only all of them are the hero. They’re all Bugs Bunny. They’re all equally lovable, a four-man comedy troupe who can totally rock. John was the smart one, Paul was the cute one, George was the quiet one, and Ringo was the funny one. (Although here they all get a bit of a chance to be the funny one.)

 

 

In many ways, those delineated perceptions of the four endure to this day. Paul isn’t as cute as he used to be and Ringo definitely isn’t as funny (“Peace and love!“), and two of them (my favorite ones, unfortunately) aren’t even alive anymore but we still generally think of them that way. It’s little surprise that Richard Lester went on to direct THREE MUSKETEERS and SUPERMAN movies — he has a smart sense of iconography and in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT he turned a pop phenomenon into icons.

 

And also, you know, this movie has one of the greatest soundtracks of any movie ever made, obviously.

 

Jon Abrams.

 

 

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT runs through July 17th at Film Forum in New York City.

 

If you can’t make it, Criterion just released a beautiful new Blu-Ray package of the film. 

 

This piece originally appeared on Daily Grindhouse. 

 

 

 

PIANY

 

Considering as a whole of the soon-to-be thirty-eight films directed by Clint Eastwood, this latest could easily seem to be more of a departure than usual.

 

Jersey Boys (2014)

 

 

Just so we’re clear, there actually is a precedent for a Clint Eastwood musical.

 

CLINT V. LEE

 

 

One of the great ironies of movies is that two of the ultimate tough-guy actors in American film history, maybe THE two — Clint and Lee Marvin — only ever acted against each other in a musical, 1969’s PAINT YOUR WAGON. It isn’t one of the great spectacles of the genre, but it does provide the unlikely event of a Lee Marvin vocal solo, and then a Lee Marvin vs. Clint Eastwood duet, and hey, here’s Clint singing about nature:

 

 

Clint has always been a music enthusiast, as a pianist and jazz singer, and while he isn’t the most dynamic vocalist in the world, it’s a fun novelty when it does happen. For ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN, the second comedy Clint made with Clyde the orangutan, Clint got to team up with Ray Charles for the single:

 

 

More recently, he rasped the theme song to 2008’s GRAN TORINO, which I still think is charming and fun.

 


More importantly, music is a lesser-discussed leitmotif of Clint’s long career as a filmmaker. His first film as director, PLAY MISTY FOR ME, finds Clint in the role of a radio DJ in California. The title is a request he gets from a female admirer. “Misty” is a jazz standard, famously performed by Johnny Mathis, a favorite of Clint’s.

 

CLINT DJ

 

One of Clint’s greatest directorial triumphs, 1988’s BIRD, about legendary saxophone player Charlie Parker, was not only a well-made biopic, unfliching and meticulously performed and executed, but it was also Clint’s full-on love letter to jazz music.

 

 

BIRD

 

One of Clint’s most under-valued films as both actor and director was 1982’s HONKYTONK MAN, a small-scale period piece in which he plays a country-western singer on the trail to Nashville. One of the films closest to Clint’s heart, his son Kyle, now a respected jazz musician himself, plays the young boy in the story.

 

HONK

 

In 1984’s raucous CITY HEAT, Clint leaves his buddy Burt Reynolds in the middle of a huge brawl just so he can play the piano. He also plays piano onscreen in 1993’s IN THE LINE OF FIRE.

 

PIANO MAN

 

 

While it isn’t one of his better films, 1997’s MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL serves in part as an extended tribute to Savannah native and piano-playing jazzman Johnny Mercer, another Eastwood favorite. The movie is also a nice (and rare) acting showcase for his daughter Alison.

 

ALISON

 

In his role as composer, Clint’s scores for MYSTIC RIVER, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, CHANGELING, HEREAFTER, and J. EDGAR are highlights of those films, whatever else you think of them. (A couple are better than others, I will admit.)

 

jersey

 

All of that is to say that it’s not entirely crazy that Clint’s newest film as director is a film adaptation of the stage musical JERSEY BOYS.

But it is a little bit crazy. For one thing, Clint Eastwood has one of the richest and broadest filmographies, in the way of subject matter, of any major American director outside of maybe Hawks and Kubrick, but Broadway is decidedly not Eastwood turf. Dancing is not an Eastwood thing. I’m not sure if longtime Eastwood editor Joel Cox has even cut a full-on musical sequence. And Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, while certainly fine and pleasant, don’t seem like Clint’s type of band. Maybe I’m wrong, but I gotta ask: Is Clint’s heart really in this one?

Since I started writing about movies, I’ve written more about Clint’s movies than I have any other filmmaker’s. A while back, William Goldman claimed Clint’s career is the single best in all of movies, and I surely agree. Because, while you can debate the specific merits of each of his soon-to-be-thirty-eight films, you would be hard pressed to argue that this is not one of the most intellectually curious directors there has ever been. If he was just the mindless, expressionless acti0n star his critics once dismissed him to be, he could easily have made a long line of DIRTY HARRY knock-offs. Instead, his Westerns are more thoughtful than almost anybody else’s, his action films are more surprisingly personal than almost anybody else’s, and his dramas show an uncommon interest in people and perspectives unlike his own.

Is that why he’s doing a musical about a bunch of doo-wop singers with over-the-top falsettos? I hope so. I think the last few Eastwood efforts — INVICTUS, HEREAFTER, and J. EDGAR — show the same kind of intellectual curiosity and ability to surprise. Maybe it’s always bothered Clint that PAINT YOUR WAGON was so poorly received, and maybe this was his best shot at making a full-on musical, one of the few genres he’s never attacked as a director.

I can’t say for sure, obviously. I guess what troubles me, looking forward, is all the stuff that shouldn’t trouble me — the peripheral stuff, the uncharacteristic allowance of a reality show about his family, the TV commercial, the movie with Justin Timberlake, and the super-uncharacteristic chair incident. You don’t have to agree with everything an artist does to love their art, but some of that stuff is pretty out there. (The chair thing I can handle. The Timberlake movie… it’s still hard for me to talk about.)

Maybe I should shut up and trust in one of my artistic heroes, but if I’m being honest, I don’t really want to see a JERSEY BOYS movie — I’m just plain not at all a doo-wop enthusiast — and that’s the first time I’ve been disinterested ahead of a Clint Eastwood movie.

As of press time I still haven’t gone to see it, but I will be happy to have my reticence proven wrong. It’ll get a fair shot from me no matter what.

 

@jonnyabomb 

 

 
Bert & Janelle Monae

I started out 2013 with lofty proclamations about all the writing and drawing I was going to do all year. I did more of the former than the latter, with highlights being taking a more central role on Daily Grindhouse and getting a piece published in Paracinema — but still, I feel like I underachieved.

My resolution for 2014 was simply this: Follow through. Do all the things I said I was going to do last year. Finish up some ongoing ideas I’m excited about and continue with all the things that are already working for me. Be realistically ambitious — and then surprise myself.

Meanwhile, I want to post here more often, and one way I resolved to do that is to more frequently mention the things I enjoy. There’s plenty enough negativity and bad vibes elsewhere on the internet. When people come to my page, I want them to encounter positivity, enthusiasm, or at the very least, trustworthy, educated opinions when those first two elements are less possible.  If you see a post with the heading ALL GOOD THINGS periodically, that will be my eager recommendation of art, music, movies, Blu-Rays, books, comics, podcasts, or whatever. Things I enjoy. Things you might enjoy too. If you do, please let me know!

 

MOVIES

Heat (1995)

HEAT.

One of my favorite movies of all time, I got to see HEAT on the big screen in 35mm again for only the second occasion in my life. The first time was when I saw it during its initial theatrical release in the mid-1990s. Back then, it was such a memorable moviegoing experience that I wondered if I’d ever need to see it again. Could it ever be as complete an experience as it was at first? A couple dozen viewings later, I’m still entranced. To me, this is one of the truest movies.

Her (2013)

Everyone else has long since released their Best Of 2013 lists, but I didn’t feel I could honestly put one out until I saw this movie. Now I can. Stay tuned!

anchorman2

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES.

Loved the original; had a healthy fear of going back to the well. But I love what McKay and Ferrell do, Trojan-horsing some pretty emphatic politics into their broadly absurd epic comedies. ANCHORMAN 2 has a reason for being, a very definitive target that I think it hits. Plus, there’s great white shark humor and minotaur humor. That’s irresistible to me.

BOOKS

AVA GARDNER

I put this unusually-structured autobiography on my list of twelve great books from 2013 at Daily Grindhouse, but quite honestly I hadn’t finished it at the time. It’s great. Surprising, reverent, funny, and irreverent, it’s the record of the outspoken Ava Gardner, then in her mid-sixties, dictating her memoirs to the very British Peter Evans. She works hard to shock him and sometimes it works. Sometimes she only shocks the reader (and any of the family of her ex-husbands, most likely). When it was done, Ava didn’t want it published. She died in 1990. Peter Evans wrapped up the book, right before his own death, in 2012. Then, finally, this book appeared.

TAMPA

 

I’m reading TAMPA for my book club. It was my turn to choose, so I picked this pretty shocking (and topical) novel about a hot young teacher in Florida who pursues an adolescent boy. The writing is pretty unassailably terrific, I think; it’s the subject matter I expect to be a point of controversy. We’re recording our talk about it this weekend. Hopefully I can collect myself by then.

COMICS

Maximum Minimum Wage

 

Last week I picked up Maximum MINIMUM WAGE, the collection of the 1990s underground comic by Bob Fingerman. I haven’t dug into it yet but I can’t wait. Surely I’ll be mentioning it again here.

PODCASTS

WTF

The great WTF podcast doesn’t need any press from me, but the recent interview with Artie Lange was terrific. I’m a longtime fan of Artie and got to see him perform at the Comedy Cellar with Dave Attell in 2013. He’s promoting his latest book here, so a lot of this episode is painful personal stuff. That’s intense and brave, but I also like Artie when he’s speaking universal truths. One of my favorite insights he makes here, and I’m paraphrasing, is how you can’t count anyone out entirely. Everyone you meet in life, even if they’re an asshole, you can learn from. If they’re an asshole, discount their asshole side and look at what they do that’s successful. You can learn from everyone. He’s right about that, in my opinion. He just says it funnier.

 

Ice-T Final Level Podcast

Ice-T has a new podcast and it’s everything you’d want it to be. He talks about his love for Brad Pitt and the differences between men and women, and gives some behind-the-scenes description of Law & Order: SVU. I think his co-host Mick Benzo does a good job: He bounces off Ice-T well, giving him ammunition for rants, then steps out of the way when they come. Since I just started taking part in podcasts, I appreciate ones that are well done. I need to learn! So far there’s only been one episode of FINAL LEVEL but I’ll be subscribing.

 

DG LOGO

So this is a new development: I am currently the co-host, along with the much more eloquent Joe and Freeman, of the Daily Grindhouse podcast, for the time being at least. In our first episode as a team we talked about STREET WARS, which is hilarious and strange. Check out that conversation. They had me choose the next movie we discuss, so our next episode, which comes out tomorrow night, will be about VIGILANTE FORCE, which stars Kris Kristofferson, Bernadette Peters, and a bunch of explosions.

 

I’m planning to have a lot of fun in 2014, so please follow me here and on Twitter for updates!

 

 

@jonnyabomb

My Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2013.

Posted: December 28, 2013 in Boobs, Music

I wrote my ass off in 2013, which means I listened to a lot of music.  I also covered a lot of city miles, walking with the earbuds in, which means the same thing.  Now I’m not really in my element when it comes to writing about music:  To me it’s like describing emotions.  It’s not like movies with me, where I can talk about how much I love them while still speaking analytically, like a student, and also riffing off them like a bad comic.  Music is a singular experience for me; it’s straight to the heart, where movies hit my heart and my brain equally.

JANELLE-MONAE-ELECTRIC-LADY

I’m making this list of my favorite albums of 2013 — in no real order — in case anyone who feels simpatico with my taste in movies might find a recommendation here they haven’t checked out yet.  I made it albums over songs to keep it manageable.  If I made a list of favorite songs, it’d be pages long.  Hit me up in the comments; I’ll make you a mixtape.  But if I had to name my single favorite song of 2013, it would probably remain this one.

Autre Ne Veut

Some of the albums I bought this year include Atoms For Peace, Beyoncé, Burial, Daft Punk, Fitz & The Tantrums, Flume, Iggy & The Stooges, Joseph Arthur, Kavinsky, The National, Neko Case, Nine Inch Nails, RJD2, Run The Jewels, and Talib Kweli.  I also got that Jimi Hendrix album of unreleased songs.  I don’t think that can count, although I’m not sure there are any rules here. Anyway, here we go.

Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe is the closest thing we have right now to Prince, and I say that even though we still have the actual Prince.  There’s not another artist I can think of making such buoyant, eccentric, genre-hopping music.  As a live performer, she’s pure positive energy in human form.  I like how her artistic through-line is the movie METROPOLIS.  Mine is MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED.  Which is maybe why it’s good thing I don’t make albums and she does.   The song above is called “Primetime.”

Mark Lanegan: Imitations

Mark Lanegan: Imitations

Mark Lanegan fronted an alternative band in the 1990s and has in recent years become a go-to featured player for a variety of artists who are looking for his distinctive gravelly growl.  Lanegan writes and sings like a man who has stared into the dark heart of midnight.  It’s sometimes chilling and often profound to hear the cold rasp of his instrument.  I like his originals, but this is an album of covers, pf songs made famous by folks like Vern Gosdin, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and Nick Cave (more on him in a second.)  As usual, Lanegan’s approach to music very specifically captures both the fragility and the strength in heartache.   The song above is “I’m Not The Loving Kind.” It’s a John Cale cover.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Push The Sky Away

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Push The Sky Away

Even by the standards set by the inimitable Nick Cave, this album is spooky, ominous, and frigid.  His records often sound like dispatches from the edges of the world.  This one sounds like a looming apocalypse.  As ever, there are many moments of funereal swagger and jet-black humor, but by the time he gets around to mentioning Miley Cyrus floating in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake, without mentioning the specifics of her vital signs, it’s hard to escape the sense that Cave is reminding us how we’re all ultimately doomed as a species.  The song is “Higgs Boson Blues.”

Jean Grae: Gotham Down

Jean Grae: Gotham Down

Jean Grae is one of the most innovative, confident and nimble lyricists in hip-hop, an absolute thrill on every single verse she turns out.  In earliest 2013, she released Dust Ruffle, a collection of previously unreleased tracks, and didn’t slow down from there.  Gotham Down is an ambitious three-album cycle, released independently and telling a continuous story about a futuristic assassin.   You can get the whole thing here.   The song above is “Kill Screen.”

Ghost B.C.: Infestissumam

Ghost B.C.: Infestissumam

In 2013, the new Pope was named Time’s Person Of The Year.  In a possibly unrelated story, the lead singer of Swedish metal band Ghost B.C. calls himself Papa Emeritus.  While the rest of the band are hooded figures known as Nameless Ghouls, Papa Emeritus wears papal robes and a cardinal’s hat over his face, which is painted black and white like a skull.  The theatrics wouldn’t mean much if the music wasn’t awesome.  Surprisingly, this isn’t the heaviest metal you’ve ever heard.  To me, they sound more like Blue Öyster Cult than anything else.  That’s a lot funnier than if they were to sound like Slayer.  The costumes add to the showmanship but the tunes are solid apart from the visuals.  The song is “Secular Haze.”

Ghostface Killah Twelve Reasons To Die

Ghostface Killah: Twelve Reasons To Die

Another year, another Ghostface album on my list of favorites.  Probably the most consistent artist in all of hip-hop, Ghostface is a killer storyteller and this album as a whole is more of a story than most.  It tells the story of Ghostface’s character, a mob enforcer for the DeLuca family in 1960s Italy.  He falls in love with the capo’s daughter and gets gunned down, only to take his revenge.  What?  Is there a problem?  The melodies may sound like vintage soul samples, but they were produced by Adrian Younge, a composer who did the score to BLACK DYNAMITE, among other amazing things.   The story continues in an accompanying comic book series; hopefully another collaboration is upcoming soon.  The song is “Enemies All Around Me.”

Kanye West Yeezus

Kanye West: Yeezus

I love Kanye.  If Kanye himself can’t stop me from loving Kanye, then surely none of y’all can.  People dog Kanye for his public persona, his arrogance, but I don’t know… Is he wrong?  As long as his music is this creative, I don’t care how he talks in interviews.  I listen to the albums.  I’ve been listening to his stuff since he was a producer only; I bought his first album the day it came out, as I’ve done ever since.  A lot of people I know have trouble with Kanye because they had a vision of what they wanted him to be; a conscious rapper, in the mode of Black Star, or Common, or some of the other artists he worked with as a producer.  I admit I may have expected that too at first, but Kanye had a singular path in mind.  He’s certainly a provocateur, which rubs more superficial minds the wrong way, but I kinda think we need to be provoked, in an era of TV singing competitions and bubble-headed pop singers.  I don’t agree with everything Kanye is about, but I don’t have to.  His ambition is to art, and art rarely brings consensus.  You get to decide for yourself how you feel about it.   Currently, Kanye’s art seems to be addressing the topic of fame.  Is it a coincidence that Kanye hooked up with the Kardashians and made his angriest album yet?  I kinda don’t think so.  It’ll be interesting to see where he goes next.  You may not agree.  But you probably won’t be bored.

The song, as you most likely know already, is “Bound 2.”

Blue Sky Black Death Glaciers

Blue Sky Black Death: Glaciers

This is an intriguing case, a two-man team of producers who create music for hip-hop artists which is equally listenable as instrumental music.  They’ve worked with the aforementioned Jean Grae, as well as less famous rappers like Nacho Picasso and Deniro Farrar, and more famous rappers like Cam’Ron.  The Blue Sky Black Death sound is epic and colorful, and will no doubt score one hell of a movie scene one day, but it equally fits the heightened drama of hip-hop.  Glaciers is an instrumental album, one which makes Blue Sky Black Death the first hip-hop producers to evoke Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, or Vangelis.  This is the first hip-hop-based music I can name which sounds equally good working out or zoning out.  The song is “IV.”

Xander Harris The New Dark Age of Love

Xander Harris: The New Dark Age Of Love

My favorite discovery of the year, Xander Harris is as prolific as Blue Sky Black Death, which means there was a lot of music to dig up and enjoy all year.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans may recognize that name.  It indicates the intention.  This is an artist more influenced by Lovecraft and Carpenter than Dylan or Lennon, an electro-spin on spooky orchestration.  Check out Black Moon, the three-song EP Xander Harris put out at Halloween time.  And The New Dark Age Of Love is a spectral masterpiece.  If you’re like me and you like to listen to Goblin soundtracks from July to December, Xander Harris is the motherlode.  I’ve been inspired to come up with three or four movie ideas while listening to this music, and I couldn’t ask for anything more from an artist.  The song is “When Prophecy Fails.”

Demon Queen The Exorcise Tape

Demon Queen: The Exorcise Tape

Not really sure how to explain this one.  It’s a weirdo.  I don’t even remember how this album came to me.  I only know that I like its style.  Two beings, presumably humans, made it, and their names are Tobacco, from the band Black Moth Super Rainbow, and Zackey Force Funk.  I got that from Google, dude.  I don’t know what to do with the information, except to direct adventurous listeners to this album.  As the name implies, it sounds like angry aerobics for ghosts and goblins, or a porno score to a 1980s skin flick starring skeletons and zombies.  It’s louche-sounding electro-lounge music, really difficult to pigeonhole (which now sounds like a perverted term by proximity).  I like movies to show me things I’ve never seen before, and I like music to give me sounds I’ve never heard before.  This surely fits that bill.   The song is “Love Hour Zero.”  In the video, a disembodied boob goes on an adventure.

So that’s it.  Here’s to a musical 2014!

@jonnyabomb

Hardware (1990)

Richard Stanley is a drastically-underrated director and Sergio Leone enthusiast from South Africa whose work is ripe for rediscovery.  I’d seen his 1992 film DUST DEVIL before, but not his debut feature, HARDWARE, which I happened to finally get around to during the same weekend I saw the new DREDD movie.

Hardware (1990)

From where I’m sitting, there aren’t many movies as true to the post-punk 2000 AD aesthetic as these two movies, DREDD and HARDWARE, although my friends in the UK will definitely have more trustworthy opinions on the matter.  HARDWARE is based on a short strip from 2000 AD, the same series from whence Judge Dredd arrived.  It actually is derived from a Judge Dredd storyline!

Hardware (1990)

Hardware (1990)

This is the basic pitch:  A trenchcoat-rocking soldier named Moses (Dylan McDermott) purchases the wreckage of a robot found in a post-apocalyptic desert, and brings it back to his sculptor/artist girlfriend Jill (Stacy Travis). While Mo is out, the robot activates and attempts to murder Jill in her apartment.  It may visually call to mind the Terminator of 1984, but this guy’s got some even nastier moves than that cyber-Arnold had.

Hardware (1990)

The deceptively-cheap movie — it’s stylish and relentless and looks like plenty more than a million bucks — is almost entirely about this battle, although it makes time for awesomely bizarre and/or disturbing performances by John Lynch (BLACK DEATH), Mark Northover (WILLOW!), and most unshakably, William Hootkins (STAR WARS, BATMAN, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) as maybe the grossest movie pervert ever.  Iggy Pop and Lemmy also briefly contribute their talents, but with all that craziness surrounding, it all comes down to Jill and her fight to stay alive under attack by that freaky, ferocious robot.  It plays out, under Stanley’s direction, as an intensely tangible experience, despite springing out of a totally bonkers sci-fi set-up.

HARDWARE is available for purchase from Severin Films.

Hardware (1990)

This piece originally appeared on Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

@jonnyabomb

The Invisible Man (1933)

Island of Lost Souls (1933)

I’m never happier than when I’m writing about old horror movies.  Hopefully that’s true for you too, because as of today, you can read what I wrote about a pair of old horror movies over at Daily Grindhouse!

>>>READ IT HERE!!!<<<

And then follow me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb