Thursday, July 12, 2007

Broken English-A Film by Zoe Cassavetes





Broken English
Written and Directed by Zoe Cassavetes
Starring Parker Posey, Drea de Matteo, Gena Rowlands, Melvil Poupaud
Rated PG-13
3 Stars


Review

Zoe Cassavetes’s introspective romantic comedy “Broken English” will ring true for 30-something career women in large cities more than the designer-driven fairy tales of Sex and the City, or garden-variety romantic comedies. Indie darling Parker Posey, usually known for her ribald characters, plays sweetly neurotic Nora Wilder , a somewhat shy guest relations manager at a Manhattan boutique hotel. Serial dater Nora’s Mom (played by Cassavetes’s real-life Mom, Gena Rowlands) constantly reminds Nora that she’s still single, even setting her up on a disastrous blind date. Nora’s spunky best friend (The Sopranos Drea de Matteo) Audrey is guilty of the same set-ups as Nora’s Mom. Nora’s love life is further hampered by the fact that she plays “third wheel” to Audrey and her hubby Mark (Tim Guniee) a little too often.

Nora has a cushy job and a spacious apartment (without a roommate!) in Manhattan, but she doesn’t have any luck with men. A high maintainence actor (Justin Theroux) staying at the hotel where Nora works takes her to dinner, bores her with acting talk, and a couple of sakes later, they’re in bed. Nora’s new beau is later exposed as a cad on an Entertainment Tonight type show, and that’s another name marked off Nora’s potential husband list

Posey’s nuanced performance drives the film, and makes even simple details come alive. When Nora is getting ready for a party, waiting for her facial masque to dry while meditating, we can almost feel her quiet desperation. Likewise, the scene where Nora twirls her hair, disinterested, while a date describes himself, rings true to any woman who’ve been through the dating grind and back again.


Eschewing a trip to Miami with Audrey and her husband Mark, Nora reluctantly goes to a co-worker’s Fourth of July party and deals with the usual schlubs before being coerced to stay by Julien (Melvil Poupaud), a charming but eccentric Parisian. They hang out together, and Nora actually has fun with him (unlike her other dates) before any romantic interlude occurs.


The friendship between Audrey and Nora is fiber that holds Nora together during her most neurotic times. Feisty Audrey’s marriage to show biz exec Mark turns sour, and she accompanies Nora on a spur of the moment trip to Paris sans her wedding ring. Despite being charmed by a married Frenchman on her brief visit, Audrey decides to give her marriage another try.

Nora, the emotional opposite of self-assured Audrey, finally forces herself to take a stand and stay in Paris to find Julien on her own. A series of coincidences that seem a tad too convenient aid her search for him.

A charming indie chick-flick, Broken English avoids the sappiness and slapstick comedy of mainstream romances, and focuses on Nora’s insecurities and her desire to overcome them. Career women in their late 20s and 30s will identify with Nora and Audrey, and the slice of life Paris and New York scenery lend the film an air of authenticity. The cities are as much a part of the film as the characters, not included as a backdrop or travelogue.

A promising feature debut from Zoë Cassavetes, what Broken English lacks in originality it makes up for in spirit.




Saturday, May 12, 2007

Film Review-Downtown: A Street Tale

Downtown: A Street Tale
Directed By Rafal Zielinski
Starring: Joey Dedio, Genevieve Bujold, Chad Allen

Domencia Cameron-Scorsese, Flora Martinez
Rated R
Running Time: 103 Minutes
2 ½ Stars



Downtown: A Street Tale rehashes that old familiar chestnut-a bunch of down and out kids band together and try to make a life for themselves. Angelo (Joey Dedio, who also wrote the script) is a 27 year old former junkie trying to deal with his own demons. He is the ringleader of rag-tag bunch of street kids who live together in a Manhattan squat. It’s a very gritty street version of Party Of Five as we are introduced to Raquel (Mihaela Tudorof) a promiscuous Romanian girl with unsupportive parents, gay black hairdresser Lamont (Jeremy Alan Richards), Hunter (Chad Allen), the rich kid turned heroin addict, Maria (Flora Martinez), Hunter’s doomed girlfriend, RoseMary (Rachel Vasquez), a stripper with show biz aspirations and Tito (Johnny Sanchez), the sweet, mentally challenged Latino. Angelo later befriends 2 innocent young Texans he meets on the way home. Fledging rock star Billy (James Ransone ), and his girlfriend Cheri (Domencia Cameron Scorsese-yes, she’s Martin’s daughter) have just arrived in the big, bad city and have no place to stay. They join the gang, somewhat apprehensively.

The camaraderie between the bunch seems a little too "fairy tale" at first but the soap opera slowly develops. The kids’ stories are woven together through their meetings with Aimee, (veteran actress Genevieve Bujold) a stern but caring counselor at Haven House, a shelter for runaways. Bujold’s Aimee is the glue that holds the story together, as she tries to steer the motley group in the right direction. The kids confront their demons, meet a tragic end, or go back home by the end of the film. The stories all get resolved on Christmas Eve, no less.

While that bare bones kids gone wrong plot, Christmas Eve finale included, has the potential for disaster, the young actors manage to infuse their characters with empathy; they are not just central casting runaway-hooker cutouts going through the motions. And the gritty NYC background is appropriately nasty, as a collection of seedy motels, subways, playgrounds, and bridges are represented in all their grungy glory. Even Haven House itself is earthy and sullen. Far from a ray of light at the end of the tunnel, it seems more like an organic part of the kids’ world. Downtown: A Street Tale visits well-worn indie-film territory, but the earnest performances save it from becoming clichéd.



Sunday, April 22, 2007

How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter To The Greatest Teen Magazine Of All Time


How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter To The Greatest Teen Magazine Of All Time
By Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer
Faber And Faber, Inc.
Paperback, $18.00


The WWW was still a glow in computer geeks’ eyes, and Teen, YM and Seventeen were the mags of choice for American girls in the late 1980s.Long after the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution, even several years after Madonna had exposed her belly and bangles for girls to emulate, mags for young women still focused on diets, prom dresses, and recipes, not the reality of everyday teen life in America.

Enter Sassy. Sandra Yates founded the magazine as an Americanized version of the much raunchier Australian teen mag Dolly. Jane Pratt, a 24 year old North Carolina native, became Sassy’s first editor, and along with staff members like Christina Kelly, Margie Ingall and Catherine Gysin, created the most infamous and influential teen magazine ever. Writing in their own distinct, first-person voices, Sassy writers connected with their teen-age audience Staid journalism school reportage and glib PR exercises filled with exclamation points had no place in Sassy’s pages. The magazine featured articles and reader letters about subjects such as homosexuality, incest, safe sex and abortion, and dared to include models who weren’t corn-fed and squeaky-clean.

That might all seem run of the mill now, but consider this. Sassy debuted in 1988, the year in which clean-cut mall chicks Debbie Gibson and Tiffany shared the charts with brain dead, groupie-banging metalers like Poison and Motley Crue. Movies like Rain Man, Big, and Scrooged were box office hits, and underground artists and funky, creative high school kids endured hard times and ridicule, not instant Internet fame.


Authors Marisa Meltzer and Kara Jesella chronicle the rise and fall of Sassy in How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter To The Greatest Teen Magazine Of All Time.”
Meltzer and Jesella are among the young women who grew up with Sassy and revere the magazine to this very day. In this meticulous but not overwhelming history, they interview former staffers, readers and even some of the celebrities who graced the ground-breaking mag’s covers and articles. Despite their obvious admiration for “the greatest teen magazine of all time”, the authors cover the in-fighting and negative aspects of Sassy’s reign as well as the pajama party hijinx.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Sassy, along with Spy, exemplified the nascent trend of the snarky celebrity put-down that is lovingly taken to the extreme today by web sites like Gawker and Defamer. Even Pratt’s successive magazine, Jane, kowtows to the bland celebrities that Sassy dismissed. Christina Kelly was infamous for articles that pondered the appeal of “bands” like New Kids On The Block or exposed TV starlets like Tiffani Amber Thiessen as airheads. The latter interview prompted an angry letter from the actress’ publicist. Notice this 1989 quote from Christina:

“What is wrong with our society that we elevate sleazoids to celebrity status, take their opinions seriously, and make them rich?”

*Sigh.* Some trends are as all-consuming in 2007 as they were in 1989. Sassy’s well… sassy railing against dumb celebrities didn’t put it out of business, but mainstream pundits threatened to destroy the magazine. Right wing curmudgeons almost put the mag out of business by urging advertisers to boycott because of the magazine’s many sexually frank articles. Meltzer and Jesella explore the constant battles Sassy waged with the religious right, mainstream America, and even some of their own sales reps and publishers.

Meeting the fate of so many other magazines, Sassy was eventually sold by Lang Communications to Peterson Publishing, which proceeded to drive the mag into obscurity, and it folded in 1996. Some things aren’t meant to last. They are too unique, too indicative of a certain time and mind-set which is forever lost. Sassy was one of those things.

Luckily, we now have the Sassy-influenced Bust, Bitch and Venus Magazine to speak for independent, feisty girls and young women. More of today’s teen-age girls need to embrace these magazines the same way girls in the 80s and early 90s embraced Sassy. Many social stigmas have vaporized for young women since Sassy’s debut, but other pressures and barriers, like political correctness and the vapid Girls Gone Wild culture have replaced them.




Thursday, April 05, 2007

Son Volt-The Search



The Search
Son Volt
Transmit Sound/Legacy


While ex-Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jeff Tweedy has the upper hand on sorrow with Wilco, Jay Farrar is not far behind with the themes of lost love-and a lost society-on The Search. Son Volt’s first album since 2005’s Okemah and the Melody of Riot is no groundbreaker, but it has its moments.

Slow Hearse kicks off the melancholy spree with sparse cymbal crashes and equally sparse piano. This dirge is Abbey Road meets alt-country, as our protagonist is “driving around in a slow hearse.”

But don’t break out the razor blades just yet. On the upbeat, croaky Dylan meets Counting Crows vibe of The Picture follows, complete with optimistic, totally out of character Stax horn section.

Action is a jangly, almost danceable folk. Farrar’s voice pretty much stays in monotone mode, sometimes mumbly, sometimes clear and a tad more buoyant, but the music dictates the mood, not the vocals. The wispy demeanor of the haunting Underground Dream comes the closest to being the album’s “masterpiece.” Circadian Rhythm is full-on mumbling country grunge, with Farrar’s drawl morphing into sedate Neil Young mode after awhile.

The songs on The Search are not primarily concerned with drinking and lost love; Farrar addresses modern-day complacency, apathy and the Iraq War. In Beacon Soul, he asks "who the hell is Dow Jones anyway?" Adrenaline and Hearsay’s barren piano and Farrar’s plaintive voice are the dour opposite of the next song, Satellite, where Farrar proclaims “we’ll find a way. Automatic Society is a “you want fries with that?” indictment of today’s “nothing matters” society.

Son Volt is back in fine form after hiatus during Farrar’s solo stints. Bassist Andrew DuPlantis and drummer Dave Bryson supply the effective but sparse rhythm section, a perfect match for Farrar’s vocals. The slower tunes on The Search may sound redundant, but overall, it’s a triumph for alt country pioneer Farrar.




Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Film Review-Maxed Out

Maxed Out
Directed By James Spurlock
Truly Indie/Trueworks Production
Opens in Los Angeles March 9


James Scurlock’s documentary Maxed Out is an in-depth and much-needed look at  the rampant use and abuse of credit cards in America. The cast of characters in the film provides a shocking look at how segmented America has become. There are, for example, the poor and middle-class subjects and interviewees. This group includes the poor rural family whose mentally challenged son is coerced into signing a document for a mortgage by an overzealous financial consultant for a major bank. Then there are the college students and housewife who committed suicide due to harassment by bill collectors, and the farmer’s wife who has fought, unsuccessfully, for years to rectify a clerical error.

Conversely, there are well-to-do folks on the other side of the fence. The film begins by showing us a Las Vegas realtor with her Stepford wife home/family/prefab community and odd Enron-type financing methods. Moving on to the Midwest, we see a group of squeaky clean, young blonde bill collectors who cheerfully admit they call the neighbors of people who owe credit card bills to shame them into paying.

Maxed Out brings to the fore many issues not commonly touched upon in the media, including, but, not limited to shady banks and credit card companies. Perhaps the consumerism that runs rampant in American life is just as responsible for the financial bind many folks find themselves in. But with many Americans lacking medical insurance, a large of people now have no choice but to pay necessary expenses like medical bills via credit cards-and they find themselves unable to pay the credit card bills when they arrive. Ultimately, though, it’s the banks and credit card companies who tack on “mystery charges” and high interest fees that, ironically, hurt the working-class and middle class more than people who could easily pay the exorbitant charges.

The more hard-assed and logical among us would say, “Well, it’s their own damn fault, blah blah.” But say that to an alcoholic or drug addict surrounded by enablers. And, as Maxed Out shows, credit card companies are enablers. What’s the point of offering credit cards to college students who’ve never held a job? I suppose the companies think the kids have well-heeled parents who’ll pay the bills for them?

Most frustrating of all, the film reports, is the fact that when Congress held hearings on the credit card industry in 2005, the financial big-wigs didn’t have to answer any questions about their practices. As they say, money talks. Maxed Out poses more questions than it answers, but they are tough questions that affect the very fabric of American society.






Tuesday, March 06, 2007

False Alarm- Another L.A. Punk Rock Band You Should Know


Fuck Em All, We’ve All Ready (Now) Won!
False Alarm
False Alarm Records, 2006


False Alarm follow the path of so many other L.A.punk bands that first formed in the early ‘80s. On and off gigs , drugs, alcohol, disasters, the early death of one of the members. (False Alarm’s singer/guitarist, Dylan Maunder (D-Rock), passed away in 2005.) Now some of the band’s original songs are out on the new CD, Fuck Em All, We’ve All Ready (Now) Won!

False Alarm’s sound is part Social Distortion, part New York Dolls, with a dollop of Dead Boys added for that extra kick. The raw material is edgy, early 80s’ soundin' Cathay de Grande era punk, and the polished production of the ‘00s emphasizes songs and melody rather than attitude. Luckily, both are evident in the finished product. This effort, compiled and produced by bassist Brent Alden and guitarist Paul Kostabi, revives the band’s career with a 14 track CD on their own False Alarm label.

There are a few interesting notes about some of the present and former band members. Paul Kostabi, the band’s guitarist, is also a painter and brother of Mark Kostabi, Axl Rose’s favorite artist back in the day. (That’s Mark Kostabi’s painting on the cover of Use Your Illusion.) Fat Mike played guitar for False Alarm in 1983 before joining NOFX, and one of his live performances is included on False Alarm’s first CD. And one of Dee Dee Ramone’s paintings is the cover art.

On F ‘Em, most of the songs are written by Brent Alden and Dylan Maunder. From the opening guitar riff of Horrible Life to the ’77 garage punk sound of I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend, the frenetic pace never weakens. In addition to the songs that feature Maunder on lead vocals, there are 3 notable guest appearances - Rick Wilder (Maus Maus, Berlin Brats) sings the Dolls’ Vietnamese Baby, De De Troit of UXA performs In My Mind and Cheetah Chrome sings lead on High Tension Wire and plays guitar on several other songs. False Alarm is yet another hidden treasure in the ever expanding L.A. punk rock chronicle. Go to www.myspace.com/falsealarmrecords for more information.




Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heavy Metal And Its Culture: Interview With Deena Weinstein



Deena Weinstein, a professor of sociology at DePaul University in Chicago, is the author of Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture and Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology as well as numerous zine articles about the subject.


Weinstein first discovered heavy metal music in the 1980s and has been one of the most vocal metal music writers and experts since then, along with Fargo Rock City author Chuck Klosterman, Martin Popoff and Chuck Eddy. This is a reprint of an interview I conducted with Professor Weinstein on May 13, 2005.

JB-How did you come to write the book Heavy Metal and Its Culture?

DW-There were some idiots running around--politicians and politicians’ wives like Tipper Gore saying the most stupid things in the world. They didn’t know what they were talking about. I’d been to a whole number of concerts by then and I thought someone ought to set the record straight, and then I realized none of the metal people could do it. They were already demonized by these politicians and I thought I better do something.

JB- How did you conduct your research?

DW-I attended lot of concerts, and did a lot of interviewing, waiting on line for four hours in 13 degrees for a Slayer concert. That’s a great place to speak to metal fans so that they see you are in the same predicament as they are and you know about the music and care about the music, so they spoke to me at great length.

JB-Did you discover anything surprising about the music or the fans in your research?

DW-Now that I think of it. They were sweetest people in the world. From an outsider’s point of view, they looked rather menacing. but on the topic of metal they just melted to be the nicest most charming people in the universe. So I mean I got to be grand friends with loads of them.

JB-What bands or metal sub-genres do you enjoy?

Late 80s when I was doing all the research, thrash metal my very favorite, I like death and black. There's doom metal like Trouble that I still adore. There are examples of all of it that I really like.

JB-What about rap metal or nu metal?

DW-Good or bad it doesn’t do anything for me. Nu metal, especially things like Korn, had a lot more to do with grunge music than metal

JB-What was the first band could call heavy metal?


DW-Obviously, Sabbath put down a number of moves that others could improve upon. But the band that had all of the verbal and sonic elements of metal was Judas Priest’s second album. Their first album Rocka Rolla was not metal at all. Sad Wings Of Destiny had all of the moves that anyone could consider metal. What do you think? (the first metal album was)


JB- Some of the late ‘60s psychedelic bands had a pretty metal sound, like Vanilla Fudge when they did “You Keep Me Hangin On.” Is that more hard rock though?


DW- There’s no supreme court of metal. I had to explain to the guy who first used the term heavy metal in print that he was the first guy to use it in print. All the idiot writers say it was Lester and I went through all of Lester Bangs’ material and no, it wasn’t him. It was a guy named Mike Saunders. When I asked Mike years later where he got the term from, he said from Lester. But of course Lester and he and the batch of guys from Creem Magazine were all living together so Lester may have mentioned it in terms of discussion, but Mike was the first to use it in print. You pays your money, you take your chances.

But there were things like Montrose’s first album with Sammy Hagar singing that had lots of the elements, but if you look at Judas Priest’s Sad Wings it has not only all the sounds but also all the various themes and also the visual iconography.

JB- Why is Lemmy God?

DW-Number one because he came into music at a time when artists could do anything, before all genres became specialized. I mean when he was with Hawkwind, there was jazz going on there as well as hard rock and psychedelia going on in the same band. From about ‘68-‘73 in Britain and the United States, the audience for rock music wasn’t broken into tribes. And then in about ‘74 or so it started breaking down into tribes. He already did want he wanted to do he was sort of spoiled by the times and then when he was thrown out of Hawkwind, he just and he did what he wanted with his music, which in some real sense is not metal at all as he always claimed. It was really hard rock ‘n’ roll. Think of how unique AC/DC is-- who he admires greatly and always did.

He was there before metal became metal and he did things his way and the other thing he happens to be really well-read. I will put him up against any history professor on World War II and he’s pretty good on World War I also. He taught himself German and I’ve had discussions with him on Nietzsche. In some zine one time I wrote a piece on Nietzsche’s Favorite Metal Songs and Orgasmatron was number one. Lemmy’s smart and willful and there’s a lot going on there.

JB-Who are some of your other favorite metal personalities?

You know that’s the problem. One of the things I’ve found horrible about meeting people is that the quality of the music and the quality of the person are almost arbitrarily related. Some of the grandest music is made by biggest schmucks in the universe, and some of the sweetest people make some of the worst music. For years I just had to really get over that.

JB-You really have to separate the person and the music. They can be totally opposite.

DW-Name a band you like.

JB-The Ramones

The Ramones and Motorhead went on tour together. When you look at Ramones and Motorhead, they had elements of metal but neither one was really punk or metal.
(Joey and Johnny) I wouldn’t wanna know either of them and DeeDee (was) even worse, but the music was magnificent. So that’s an example. Who else do you like?

JB-Guns ‘N’ Roses-at least the first album.

The first album did nothing for me. But I love Slash’s guitar playing. I’m a guitar wonk. I could talk guitars endlessly. I must admit that I thought Axl was one of the world’s greatest frontman.

JB- Of course, Axl was a big question mark as a person.

DW-There is no doubt. Nobody in that band was a functional human being. The very, very drunken Slash was probably the most together guy in the band.

JB-One of my rock critic friends once said, “If I only listened to music by people I like or people who are nice, I’d never listen to anything!”

DW-He’s got a point there.

* DW's Comments About Some Other Metal Bands*

Slipknot/Macabre

I met the guitarist for Slipknot. They came out of death metal bands. They’re great musicians, but they’re also huge fans of music. There’s a wonderful death metal band that I love dearly called Macabre. They only do songs on serial killers. They had a whole album on Jefferey Dahmer. They’re genius musicians, and they’re hysterical. Corporate Death, the singer-guitarist, is verbally magnificent. The guy from Slipknot drove in an ice storm from Des Moines to Chicago just to catch their show.

Metallica

Kill ‘Em All was their best album and it went downhill from there. 80s Metallica vs 90s Metallica. I saw the Garage Days Revisited tour. Lars, after 4 songs, he can finally drum. The vocals in the '90s annoy me. Cliff kept Metallica’s vision in the same way Johnny kept the Ramones’ vision. He died, they changed.

JB- Even after all these years, heavy metal music gets a bad rap in the mainstream media.

I think its good, actually. It gives them an unwimpy rep. They kinda like that. So let the mainstream think whatever they want.

A book just came out called Bad Music. I did a chapter on why the critics need heavy metal. They sort of needed it til the last four or five years as their whipping boy for "what is bad music."

JB-I recently interviewed an English writer and was amazed at how seriously they take rock music there.

DW-In England (metal fans) radically live and breath subcultures that can’t exist in the U.S. for a series of reasons. You can’t be into it because we don’t have the same class system they have or the same lack of geographic mobility. When they get married so many of the metal guys hide their music because they’re supposed to be friends with their wives. I can’t understand the idea of marrying someone who does not like the same music you do. I just cannot understand that, but so many of them do it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Morrissey at the Pasadena Civic Center, Feb. 2, 2007.


Morrissey
Feb 2, 2007
Pasadena Civic Center


Earlier this month, Morrissey played three sold-out but barely advertised shows at the Pasadena Civic Center. Tickets were snapped up in record time by his loyal fans, per usual, with some fans attending all three nights. Well, I might be loyal, but I’m certainly not that rich (tickets were $75 a pop, plus Ticketmaster charges), so I opted for Friday night’s show.

The Pasadena Civic is a pretty classy place. If you were a character in the Mike Judge film Idiocracy, you’d say “This place is gheyer than an opera house.” Translation-it’s really nice. While waiting in line outside before the show, I met a few personable and highly dedicated Moz fans. I talked to a high school girl who had bought her pit ticket off eBay for a mere 200 bucks, and a recently engaged couple. The bridegroom to be was the Morrissey fan, and his fiancée had to adjust to this. “Do you love me as much as you love Morrissey?” she joked. “I love you more,” he said. Then they kissed. Say it with me now. “How sweet!!” All Moz fans have a backstory.

The security people were efficient and very nice. Not that you have to worry about Moz fans sneaking in illegal drugs, bacon, or switchblades. Maybe a few copies of Gertrude Stein, though. The neatly organized merchandise tables with Moz cuff links and T-shirts seemed more like a Saks Fifth Avenue counter than a cheap concert venue swag receptacle.

The auditorium was half-empty for opener Kristeen Young, a Bjork/Tori Amos hybrid without the focus. Accompanied by a drummer who looked like he had barely graduated from junior high, Young pounded on her keyboards and wailed like a soprano gone berserk. She honed her musical skills in St. Louis, then moved to New York City, where she met Tony Visconti, who produced her albums X and London Cry. (Visconti also produced Morrissey’s Ringleader of The Tormentors.) The sparse crowd heckled or ignored Young. This was unfortunate, since she was hand-picked by Morrissey to be on his Attack label and open his European tour and the Pasadena dates. You’d think his fans would be more appreciative of his choices.

Moz and band appeared after a series of 60’s Euro-pop videos played on the screen behind the stage. Moz looks just a bit older than in the M in Manchester video and was nattily attired in a brown Gucci shirt and brown pants. He walks onstage, and everyone in the crowd stands in rapt attention and stays that way for the remainder of the show. I think if someone sat down, lighting would have hit them. And I got a good view of those famous eyebrows even from the 23rd row. I have a thing for guys with EYEBROWS anyhow. (Don’t ask!)


A 2007 Moz concert bears no resemblance to riots of years past, and stage crashers are few and far between, at least at this particular show. A half dozen security guys descended on some poor bloke in a red shirt, then Moz and band left the stage, with guitarist Boz Boorer tsk-tsking someone in the audience (the guy in the red shirt, perhaps?) as they scurried backstage. The band returned for the encore, Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice. (“something got stuck in his throat” got changed to “someone got stuck in his throat”) Moz, you are a cheeky monkey!


Songs included Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, William, It Was Really Nothing, show-opener Panic, (otherwise known to the uninformed as Hang The DJ), Girlfriend In A Coma and How Soon Is Now. Moz also gave a shout-out to über-fan Julia Riley and mock introduced one of the songs as Get Off The Stage, a little-known B-side written when Moz was a youngin’. The song’s lyrics criticized then 45 year old Mick Jagger for strutting his stuff. Aaah, the irony of life. Moz is now 47, and he ripped off four-count em-4 Gucci shirts and tossed ‘em to the ravenous crowd at this show. Moz has a bit of a poufy stomach, but its’ kinda cute. The guys sitting behind me, who looked like they just stumbled in from the the sports bar across the street, spent most of the night screaming for the band to play Jack The Ripper. No such luck, fellas.

Of course, the bulk of the show featured songs from the lukewarm Ringleader of the Tormentors, and luckily, these songs, which sound overproduced and self-important on the CD, have balls live. Morrissey’s current band is a far cry from the excellent outfit he had on the Quarry tour, but they gave a much-needed kick to the songs from Ringleader. Life Is A Pigsty, melodramatic orchestrated piece on the disc, becomes a feisty rock song live.

Alain Whyte, Mikey Farrell, and Gary Day are gone, leaving longtime guitarist Boz Boorer and new guitarist Jesse Tobias as the only readily identifiable members of Morrissey’s band. As great as Moz is all by his lonesome, I miss Alain, Gary and Mikey. Maybe they’ll be back. Maybe not. And let’s not even talk about Johnny Marr. That’s one reunion that ain’t happening, baby. Moz is still here, and he still has it, regardless of his back-up band. A 40 city U.S. tour will be announced shortly.



Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pure Organic Junk-Peter Blast


Pure Organic Junk
Peter Blast
Poptown Records


Chicago’s Peter Blast has a colorful rock 'n' roll pedigree. He survived the first wave of ’77 punk as the guitarist/frontman for the vastly underappreciated Degeneration. After Degeneration ended, Blast hung out and played with such punk icons as Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, then returned to his hometown of Chicago, first touring with the Blast Factory under the name Peter Blastiosso, and formed Junebug with ex-members of D’Molls and Alice Cooper. More hard rock than retro punk, Pure Organic Junk showcases Blast’s versatile songwriting. Buoyed by Chip Z’nuff’s production, the CD showcases a variety of songs from Blast’s storied career, as well as a few new tracks.

From the relentless rock of Orange Sunshine to the 70s “big rock” feel of Heaven Only Knows, the raunchy, no-frills sound is a little like classic Stones or Aerosmith with a touch of Alice Cooper inspired vocals. The ballads really shine, too. Place The Blame On Me features crisp, melancholy acoustic guitar that perfectly embellishes this tale of regret and broken love. The Crossroads Hotel and It’s a Cruel, Cruel World have a country twang, while On An Angel’s Wings is delicate without being sappy. The bonus tracks include a cover of Pills, first popularized by Blast’s buddies, the New York Dolls.

Pure Organic Junk is an unpretentious, bare-bones album from one of punk rock’s lesser known trailblazers.




Monday, January 29, 2007

Return of The Golden Rhodes-The Baldwin Brothers



The Baldwin Brothers
Return of the Golden Rhodes
TVT


No, Alec, Stephen, William and Daniel have not followed the Bacon Brothers lead and formed a band. These Baldwin Brothers are not actors but two childhood friends/musicians from Indiana, Jason Hinkle and TJ Widner. They specialize in jazz/electronica or “junktronic” music. A hybrid of indie pop, funk and electronica that combines influences as divergent as 70s funk, Kraftwork, the Beastie Boys, and Herbie Hancock. Golden Rhodes is the follow-up to the Brothers’ acclaimed 2002 CD Cooking With Lasers.

On Return of the Golden Rhodes, this junktronic vibe is the hippest easy listening music you’ve ever heard. While this eclectic pop/ jazz hybrid may confuse some listeners used to a straightforward approach, the more adventurous are in for a treat. The building blocks of the Baldwin Brothers sound are bass, drums and synthesizers, with occasional turntables and trumpets for embellishment.

The space-age drum ‘n bass of Right On sets the album’s trippy vibe. The laconic under the strobe lights trance of Just Me (On The Dance Floor) has a generic dance club feel. This sound morphs into an early ‘90s hip-hop groove on A Matter Of Time, which features guest rapper Sarai. Other guest vocalists are Lisa Kekula (BellRays) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees). Kekula’s turn on Leave The Past Behind is an upbeat and near perfect example of “smooth jazz”. Mark Lanegan’s subdued, almost whispered vocals on the somber The Party’s Over close out the album.

At the very least, Golden Rhodes offers pleasurable and unobtrusive background music. It doesn’t provide beats you can really sink your teeth into, but it’s catchy and user-friendly. The Baldwin Brothers’ funky, light-hearted approach to indie electronica puts them in a league of their own, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their popularity expands out of the Mixer Mag crowd and into the mainstream.




Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Interview With Matt Tauber, Director of The Architect

Director Matt Tauber talks about his feature film debut, The Architect


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The Architect, starring Anthony LaPaglia (“Without A Trace”) and Viola Davis (“Far From Heaven” ) is now playing nationwide. The film concerns the struggles of a Chicago mother (Davis) and her attempts to get the inner city projects where she has endured a family tragedy torn down. LaPaglia, the architect who designed the ill-fated buildings, defends his creation while dealing with family turmoil of his own. The film also stars Isabella Rossellini, Hayden Panettiere, Sebastian Stan and Paul James. I recently spoke with the film's director, Matt Tauber, a seasoned theatre pro who choose The Architect as his first film project.

JB- You worked with 2 Tony award winners (Anthony LaPaglia and Viola Davis) and Isabella Rossellini on your first film. What was that like?

MT-We’d all had a lot of experience in theater. There’s sort of a camaraderie and fraternity among theatre actors and directors. They’ve all been through the same process, and there’s an immediate bond usually among people that have a background in the stage and I certainly felt that with Anthony and Viola. We had met a few time each to discuss the script and the roles as they were deciding whether to do the film or not. We developed a rapport rather quickly. I was very comfortable with them and it’s a credit to them to take a chance on risky material, and a first time director as well.

Isabella came to the project very, very late, less than a week before we started production. She, I think, particularly was very brave to kind of a challenging and in some ways underwritten part with so little preparation. We developed a rapport quickly because we had to.


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JB-How did this project originate? You first saw the play in Scotland.

MT- I had a play called American Divine which ran in rotating rep with The Architect. So while my play was going on I would go to the theatre next door and watch The Architect. After seeing it 3-4 times I grew to really fall in love with the language and I started reimagining it as an American story. Some of the political issues it touches on were very prescient at that time, especially in Chicago where I was living and working in the public schools and the juvenile detention center. It seemed like a natural fit and I was inspired by a lot of the poetry and ideas of the play and excited by the opportunity that I was coming upon in my work in Chicago.

JB-What did you encounter in Chicago that inspired you?

MT-Just this idea that an environment shapes its inhabitants, but also inhabitants shape their environment. And that you know our homes and where we live can become just as much of a physical prison as the emotional prisons of loneliness and grief and disconnection from family. And so I was interested in telling those stories, those very human stories about a father and son that are unable to connect, a mother and daughter that have never properly grieved the loss of their son and brother. And use the political and social backdrop of issue high rise public housing projects as metaphor and as a companion story.


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JB-What was most challenging about adapting the play to film?

MT- Juggling multiple storylines, something I was doggedly insistent of. Even though others may have embraced the protagonist driven play and let it be that, I wanted to tell a lot of these stories and I wanted to show the unlikely places where they met, both literally and thematically. So juggling those stories and trying to use that emotional zeitgeist as a connective tissue is really hard, especially editorially. That was the biggest struggle.

JB-What scene was most challenging to film?

MT-The toughest scene to shot was very simply the scence where Viola’s character comes to Anthony LaPaglia’s character’s home. There were a lot of plates spinning in that scene. You’ve got four very distinct responses to what happens. And the scene really sets each of the characters off in very different directions. It’s an inciting incident for all four characters. It’s such a talky scene. Anthony and Viola had so much to do as far as keeping it going take after take. And then editorially trying to keep all the characters involved in the scene and keep us connected to all the characters was a challenge.

JB-Do you have any new projects you’re working on?

MT-I’m very excited about my next film. It’s called Lives of the Saints. It’s a beautiful ensemble story of redemption, forgiveness and God’s grace. It stars Jeff Daniels. We’re just starting to cast right now and we hope to shoot it in the summer.