Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Kanye's world, we just live in it.


I usually wait until mid-December before beginning posting poorly constructed opinions and biased reviews of the year's best records, movies, books etc. This allows me sufficient opportunity to arrogate obscure albums, independently released movies and stand-up comedy 'discoveries,' reviewed by other people, as my own.  

Completely my own.  

Absolutely me.

- Here's a record by someone I like -

Following on from the splendidly splendid 2012 release 'Gigantic Vol 1,' Jamil 'Small Professor' Marshall finds himself collaborating with Detroit's Byron 'Guilty' Simpson - Stones Throw Records' alumnus and J Dilla favourite (the reader of this blog will be familiar with how much we love and adore STR and its roster...)  Although not as on fire as the former record it's a sweet release reminiscent of the earlier sonic finery of MF Doom, King Geedorah and Madvillain (war and peace be eternally upon them.)

Kanye West.

DJ Rashad's phenomenally phenomenal 'Double Cup' signals a new high for both the Hyperdub record label and for the still pretty new electronic sub-genre of footwork.  It's an old fashioned record in a way but it has power, precision and a panther-like poise which marks it out as one of the records of the year.  I don't want this whole piece to focus either entirely or exclusively on Electronica or Hip-Hop but, in truth, as in 2012, they have been the dominant, the speediest and the most evocative genres of 2013.

Of course, we don't like genres so fuck that shit.


More past and future noiseniks?, more new/reissued records by these c****: Julia Holter, Tim Hecker, Big Inner, William Onyeabor, Omar Souleyman, Drexciya (again), David Bowie, Josephine Foster, Felix Kubin (and Karl Bartos!) Parquet Courts, King Khan and the Shrines, Daughn Gibson, Elvis Presley, Sonny Smith.  

Grouper 'Living Room'

The Urinals 'I'm a Bug'

Patty Griffin 'Go wherever you want to go'

And The Fall.

'Live at the Witch Trials,' was reissued...(we know...)

Although not covering any new ground Savages' 'Silence Yourself,' was that increasingly rare thing - a bloody good pop record with tunes.  Haim, Bleached and Iceage - remember them from their marvellous 2010 release, 'New Brigade' (copyright 'Down with the kids' kids) delivered an excess of really nice and good but both lacked crucial hormones when it mattered.  Savages, by contrast, had the bat, the ball and the court all to themselves. 

'Disco-vered' by Brain Eno busking in a New York park in 1979, Edward Larry Gordon is still an unknown.  You hear so much of what he was doing in so much of what so many others are striving to do today - the new Boards of Canada/Oneohtrix Point Never albums are basically homages to the L.  The collected 'Celestial Music 1978-2011' is a monumental work full of beautiful, timeless vistas of sound.  It is hugely influential and hugely important - a catalysing force for so much of what we know today as electronica or electronic music.  Available from All Saints Records. Ask Santa for one.

More records: the mighty Dot Wiggin Band, Yo La Tengo, Amor de Dias, Deafheaven, Fat White Family, Glenn Jones, Happy Jawbone Family Band, Locust, reissues from The Mountain Goats, Sid Hemphill, Goodiepal, Karen Dalton, the entire output of the Light in the Attic label, Bear Family's incredible 'Street Corner Symphonies - A History of Doo Wop, Wolf Eyes, Henry Flynt, Jack White's increasingly increasing Revenant label, Warp's BOC vinyl represses....

Laurel Halo 'Chance of Rain'

Palmer Rockey 'Feelings of Love'

William Tyler 'Cadillac Desert'

Speaking of Warp...

And, finally, more speaking, we will always be more speaking, about the maverick, the madness, the fragile and the strong, the sometimes silliness, the never, never, never boring or dull, the one, the only, Kanye West - the overarching genius of our time delivers the album of the year easy-queasy-peasy.  Forget all about Tyler and Lamar and all the best of the rest and the rest.  KW is the realest of deals, super arrogant, super talented, flawed tae fuck and (f)lawless.  He's our flavour of the year.  What beautiful music he mistakes.  

Until when...

For John.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Elvis and Stax: a match made in Heaven.

For many Elvis fans, the 1973 June and December Stax Sessions represent a high watermark in his illustrious recording career.  The set contains myriad versions of all six of the singles the label issued from 1973-1975: and there's not anything approaching a dud amongst them.  

Personal favourites include his marvellous rendition of Chuck Berry's 'Promised land,' a stalwart of his live shows at the time, and 'There's a Honky Tonk Angel (who will take me back in,) co-written by countrypolitin troubadour Troy Seals and covered by the likes of Mr Conway Twitty as well as the Elv.

The recordings exude a passion and intensity that was missing from much of Elvis's output of the time - even the country, and countrified versions of many of the songs are electrifying: you can tell that Elvis, freed from the considerable shackles of an increasingly constricting and hierarchical RCA label, and his ensemble cast of musicians, flown in for the sessions, were enjoying every God damn minute of every God damn minute.....

What, more than anything, that emerges from these fun packed, gloriously musical sessions, is a totally fearless Elvis - more than ever before willing to embrace different musics and musical idioms with a ferocity that both the 1968 performances and the American Sound Studio Sessions a year later alluded to, an Elvis Presley, shorn of the malign influences that deadlocked and stifled his talent for nigh on ten years, reborn.

Buy it now.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We All Hail West Texas (We All Hail...)

John Darnielle has been recording music for over 20 years - and nobody ever told him.  Gloriously lo-fi, Darnielle's music has much in common with fellow long-term barbists Bob Pollard and Mark Davies in that it gloriously grates against much of today's over-produced hype-shite.

Merge Records have recently reissued The Mountain Goats magnificent 'All Hail West Texas,' surely 2002's 18th best LP.  Full of songs about love and death, hospitalisation and the fatalistic attractions of hot metal music, it's an album to hold to your heart and, secretly, to your pants.  

And, to not, to never, let go..

Touring - Glasgow at The Arches on the 10th of October.  You should go.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Marcia, my dear...


When I worked in music shops - many years ago - it was not uncommon practice to source some records and tapes from 'non-traditional suppliers:' in some cases, literally, off the back of a tatty, smelly van that had almost certainly, like much of the stock they carried, recently failed its MOT.  Many an hour was spent gently idling in these vehicles - pouring over some long deleted Magma LP, caressing the spines of remaindered Jetstar compilation albums and fingering the holes of some long forgotten cut-out.

Sex was always an option...

On one such occasion however, I found, to my surprise and no small astonishment, an album that has, even to this day, continued to beguile and bewitch.  Six copies of the album, to be exact.  I took them all - at a dealer price of less than £3 - and boxed them up, tenderly, lovingly, placing them next to an oddly juxtaposed admixture of Psychedelia, Easy-Listening and Jazz records (it was that kind of a shop.)

I never did sell any of the albums - well, reader, I sold one.  But I'll certainly never forget the feelings of exhilaration and transcendent joy when I took 'Sweet Bitter Love' home, placed the needle over track one, side one and listened to Marcia Griffiths sing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mondo Franco...


Despite what many might think, Jesus 'Jess' Franco was much more than just a trashy latter day purveyor of tits and ass (liberally covered in bright red stuff.)  Franco, who died earlier this month, was a ghoulish gourmand of gore who slathered his beautiful women and similarly adorned hunk-a-men with blood and guts and brains and more blood.  

Always, more blood.

Except that wasn't the whole picture.  Franco, in many ways, was the unlikely progenitor of much of the great Spanish horror that is current today.  Sure, his style may have been a bit workmanlike, lacking in the cinematographic niceties and technical brio of some of his more revered contemporaries, but central to all of his films, and this is why his movies will continue to captivate, thrill and be watched, is a consuming love and passionate intensity for the art of film-making - irrespective of the genre, the budget, the stars or, often, conspicuous lack of them.

Director, writer, musician, artist - Franco could do it all.  And, thankfully, for over 50 years, as the clip below of perhaps his most celebrated film, 1971's 'Vampyros Lesbos' shows, he never tired of making films the uniquely Franco way...

Hell, we can even forgive him 'Mondo Cannibale...'



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Louie CK Louie CK...

Sometimes, I feel this way..

Louis Szekely has been a stand-up for over twenty years, performing and writing for, amongst others, David Letterman and Chris Rock.  It's only now, how and ever, with the relatively recent broadcast in the UK of his *stand/sit show on post-terrestrial TV, that's he's gained recognition. 

And, pleasantly surprisingly, popularity.

Like all trenchantly funny things, his comedy will not appeal to everyone.  However, if you're a fan of the slightly surreal - and we'll deal with the greatly surreal later - then you might just like Louie CK.

Cue, the greatly surreal:


*stand/sit - a show which features a combination of 'stand-up' comedy and 'situation' comedy. (copyright, S. Lee)

As an adjunct to the above, the Glasgow Comedy Festival starts today. 

Spread over a number of venues, the vast majority of which are conveniently located in the centre of the city, there's something for everyone, whether you're a fan of Jerry Sadowitz or not (and if you're not, why are you reading this blog?)  

Anyway, here's David Kay, the undoubted star of Stewart Lee's 'Alternative Comedy Experience.'  


Friday, March 1, 2013

Oscars - What Oscars?

Of course, The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards, and the vast majority of the films that contest them, are a slavering, hyperbole fuelled nonsense... 

Or are they?

The picture above, one of the great films, featuring a supremely talented ensemble cast and two magnificent central performances, puts the above contention into highly entertaining perspective.  

Judy Garland, a shoe-in for the 1954 best actress Oscar in Cukor's remake of 'A Star is Born,' lost out to, an albeit fine performance from Grace Kelly in 'The Country Girl,' in what Groucho Marx - who knew a thing or two about celebrity and its malign influences - called 'the biggest robbery since Brinks.'

The conservative nature of The American Academy tacitly enshrines and ensures that a certain kind of film nearly always wins the big prizes - it's nothing new when a John Sayles film fails to win anything.

Some of the greatest movies, actors and directors have never won an award, any award.  And, as in the famous example indicated above, great actors, great performances - often genre defying and defining - are routinely passed over in favour of what undoubtedly are/are perceived to be, both at the time and retrospectively, lesser works.

I've always preferred films that either poke fun/ignore the self satisfied smugness of awards, and the often ludicrous ceremonies that accompany them, or which celebrate the craft of writing, performing and direction above all else.  

It doesn't matter who wins, it's the not taking part that counts....




Sunday, February 17, 2013

Glasgow Film Festival 14-24 February

The Glasgow Film Festival has been going for nearly 10 years now - almost - and it's showing no signs of getting wearisome. This year's festival has a number of delights to tease, torment and tantalise including, for this moviegoer, a retrospective of the movies of James Cagney, the sweetly sado-masochistic showing of Spielberg's 'Jaws' at the Tall Ship and a welcome showing of Mario Bava's marvellous 'Black Sabbath;' newly restored and all the more sexy and scary for it. 


The veritable and venerable Monorail film club have chosen 'Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me,' as one of their picks of the festival. For those of you unfamiliar with one of Memphis' finest, this is a fabulous introduction - including interviews with both Andy Hummell and Jody Stephens. It promises to be something special.  

A highlight for this writer, is the showing of Carl Theodor Dreyer's 'The Passion of Joan of Arc,' at Glasgow Cathedral.  Dreyer's film is one of the most evocative ever made, and has stood, more than any of its contemporaries, the screen test of time.  With a live musical and vocal accompaniment, it promises to be a crowning highlight of the festival.

So, whether it's David Hayman playing the parts (sic) of Sawney, Jake Schreier's wryly delivered comedy of human and robotic manners, 'Robot & Frank,' or Billy Wilder's supremely gothic melodrama, 'Sunset Boulevard,' there's something for just about everyone in this year's festival.  

You really should go.

To finish, two trailers for films I really want to see...