IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.8
J Church and Honey Bear - Fucking June - It's a good fist if it wins...
I forgot to mention that while I was away, I had another article printed
in the latest Giant Robot. I was originally going to be writing a follow-up
to the restaurant reviews that Liberty and I did for San Francisco. But
they've been running this series called "My Perfect Day" where
people like Jon Moritsugu talk about what their perfect day entails. So
I re-tooled my article around a perfect day in Austin. I think it's pretty
funny and they really only cut out a couple of things. You can get the
latest issue was well as tons of other really cool stuff at www.giantrobot.com.
TOP TEN HONG KONG ACTION FLICKS
I've been a long time fan of Hong Kong action movies. I remember when
I was a kid and I would visit my Dad on weekends. He would basically let
me see whatever movies I felt like. We saw loads of horror movies like
The Conqueror Worm or The Demon Seed.
We would see all the great blaxploitation films like Bare Knuckles
and TNT Jackson. We saw anything from Toho. We didn't
know what was good or what was cool. We just knew what we wanted to see
and we would check out a double feature every weekend. Sometimes we would
watch three or four movies. I love doing that to this day. At some stage
we got into martial arts movies. In the wake of my obsession with Bruce
Lee (every boy my age was), I was blown away by Five Fingers of
Death. From there on, I needed to see ANYTHING Shaw Brothers
or Golden Harvest. I hold all of these movies close to my heart. As I
got older, the martial arts movies are the only ones that I closely kept
up with through the bleak `80s and `90s. Here's my totally arbitrary Top
Ten Hong Kong Action Flicks…
Fists of Legend - I know it may seem like blasphemy
to pick this over Chinese Connection (which this is something
of a remake of) as my all time fave, but I have to be honest. I love this
movie. It's by far the best Jet Li movie in terms of action. Taking a
contemporary look at Japan's racist overtures in China in the `30s, Jet
Li is a student studying in Japan dealing with violence and ridicule like
a scholarly Jackie Robinson. Hearing of his master's death, he returns
back to his home to find that they are in a rivalry with a Japanese martial
arts school. From their the ass kicking begins with what might be my favorite
fight scene of all time with Jet Li taking on several dozen of the Japanese
students. Unlike Chinese Connection, racism is dealt
with on both sides showing the political nuances that affect and are affected
by it. A pivotal point here is when he needs to defend his Japanese girlfriend
played by the amazing Shinobu Nakayama. She also stars in a couple of
the amazing `90s Gamera movies.
Hard-Boiled - I used to love John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat.
I still think Brother Chow is cool. But Woo has made some real stinkers
since moving to America. Hollywood really fucked him up. But when he was
good, he was amazing and this is his peak. You know how everyone is quick
to parody and copy the Hong Kong style with double fisted handguns and
body counts as quick as they are high? This is the epitome of how that
style can be done right. Chow is amazing as a hardened cop trying to take
down a powerful Triad sect. Tony Leung Chiu Wai is an undercover cop who
crosses paths with Chow and is forced to become his partner. The acrimonious
relationship becomes their bond as the second half of the film is the
two taking down the bad guys in a hospital that doubles as a Triad front.
Enter The Dragon - It's hard to choose one Bruce Lee
movie as the best. I love them all. I have real deep connections with
Fists of Fury and Chinese Connection
and even Return of the Dragon. But this is the most consistent
film of them all. I don't need to say much as this is the one on the list
you are most likely to have seen. But if you haven't seen it lately, see
the new re-mastered version. It's amazing.
Five Fingers of Death - This film is so simple in structure.
There's a good martial arts school and a bad one. They both spend time
getting their best pupil trained for a prestigious tournament. But all
hell breaks loose along the way. I love this movie. It's totally low budget,
but still manages to steal just enough to work. The music is stolen from
Ironside. The effects are the kind of thing you could
do on a home movie. But it is so exciting and it doesn't look like anything
else. I don't think enough is ever mentioned about film aesthetic and
Shaw Brothers flicks. It's a beautiful thing.
36th Chamber of Shaolin - This movie is sort of the
template for every Shoalin martial arts flick that involved any sort of
rigorous training sequence. But it deserves all the praise it gets as
it's the starting point for anyone interested in the Gordon Liu era of
action movies. Driven by revenge (a noble cause in these films) San Te
goes through a rigorous training at the Shaolin Temple before getting
kicked out for wanted to share the secrets with the people. From there
he builds up a crew to help him exact his revenge. No computers, of course,
and often done in just one take, this film is daring in more ways than
Naked Killer - Hey, back in the `90s everybody loved
Madonna and Claire Danes and Winona Ryder and whatever. I don't actually
even know because at some point I started to tune out Hollywood. I still
mostly tune out American cinema `cos there's just so much more garbage,
even with the underground and cult stuff. So my favorites were always
people like Chingmy Yao. I love her comedies like Blind Romance
and Saint of Gamblers a lot. But this crazy action movie
is where I first got into her. A duo of rapist-killing, lesbian assassins
for hire have to fight off a former pupil. It's super stylized and captures
all of the best elements of what people like about Category III flicks.
Police Story 3 - This is by far, my favorite Jackie
Chan movie. Some people mostly like his really early work with Sammo Hung
and that crew. But I like this mid-career stuff. He had the budget to
do some really crazy stunts and he had the know how to make if into a
really fluid film. There are some great moments, but I actually think
it's Michelle Yeoh who steals the show in this flick. Aside from riding
a motorcycle onto a moving train, she does some of the most athletic martial
arts you'll ever see. It's quite graceful and beautiful and the one flick
where you can obviously see how her ballet background paid off.
Heroic Trio, The - Speaking of Michelle Yeoh, this movie
is a total nutso idea that could only happen at the height of Hong Kong
cinemas prosperity. Yeoh is teamed up with fellow superstars, Maggie Cheung
and the late Anita Mui to form a post-apocalyptic group of superheroines.
All made famous through their work in Jackie Chan films, Heroic
Trio has a lot of humor in it. But if the premise isn't absurd
enough, they are out to find an evil Eunuch who's been stealing babies.
Untold Story, The - Anthony Wong has made some seriously
fucked up movies. Underground Banker, Ebola Syndrome,
Daughter of Darkness... If he's not doing something gross,
he's right nearby. But that's why we love him. He's nuts. This one is
the one. This is the most fucked up movie he's made and it's one of the
most fucked movies in the history of Hong Kong cinema. Allegedly based
on a true story, a guy murders a family, grinds up their bodies, and sells
them as bao - the steamed buns you get at Dim Sum. That's the premise
and how he gets more meat is the story. This is definitely not for everyone.
Dr. Lamb - Since we're talking about the disgusting
side of violent movies, we can't avoid Dr. Lamb. Also
based on a true story, this one is about a cab driver that doubles as
a psychotic killer and necrophiliac. Simon Yam is brilliant as usual.
It's strange that a guy like him, who is basically a huge sex symbol,
would take on such a crazy role. It would be like a movie with Orlando
Bloom fucking dead bodies and surgically removing breasts and tossing
them around. The whole film is shot like Argento with almost psychedelic
IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM
NAVEL - Depend CD
Navel took a several year break between albums. But they're back with
achingly beautiful guitar-pop that would make everyone from Teenage Fanclub
to the Hard-Ons jealous. In fact, I think there is really something in
their sound that is like the more melodic elements of the Hard-Ons with
early Snuff and the best parts of the Fastbacks. It's really pure and
the guitar sound is that impeccable tone that can only come from a Gordon
Smith (Snuff to Leatherface to the Pastels to Teenage Fanclub).
There are even some thrashing hardcore breaks here and there. But it's
the super pop of miracle songs like Wish and Movie
And Moonlight that really make this record a keeper. The bands
doing this kind of music at this caliber in this day and age are few and
far between. You would be making a huge mistake to miss out on Navel.
(Snuffy Smile, 4-1-16-201 Daita Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155-0033 Japan)
ORCHIDS, THE - s/t LP
With the success of the Runaways, official Hollywood creepy guy Kim Fowley
decided to put together a new group of teen girls to package and market
to America. With the beginnings of punk and new wave starting to make
their mark in the States, Fowley decided to take advantage of the media
fascination by starting the very, very fake punks Venus and the Razorblades
and the fake new wave (and I know that seems like a contradiction in terms)
group the Orchids.
Vaguely modeled after Blondie and Pat Benatar, the band isn't even that
bad. They've got the same problems the Runaways had. You know what they
are mimicking. But they really never make it all the way. They never really
get to where they're heading. The same is true here. But for this kind
of band, a catchy pop song can make up for lack of conviction. Hard rock
done even a little lackluster sucks ass. Most of it sucks ass anyway.
But you can get away with more if you have a good pop song despite some
less than confident playing. Girls, Bad Guys
and The Boy Can't Dance are pretty tuneful and most of
the 10 songs have at least one really good hook. I would even say that
Radio Dream is a respectable homage to the Shangri-Las.
The funniest thing about this record is that it really is just a simple
pop rock record trying to be something that it isn't. The photo of the
band on the cover, dressed up in Hollywood's idea of new wave, is really
funny (jumpsuits and all). I love when they try to include punk imagery
with lyrics like "Skinhead bootboys mambo with bread and water fools".
What the fuck is that? You can tell a lot from the desperate "thanks"
list where they thank Jimmy Pursey and Sham 69, Rodney Bingenheimer and
Herman Brood. What's that all about?
PARTISANS, THE - s/t LP
PARTISANS, THE - The Time Was Right! LP
Here's another band that I came across during my love affair with the
second wave of UK punk. I don't care anymore about the implications or
who said what. I love a lot of those early Oi comps my favorite being
Carry On Oi!. The Partisans track was one of my favorites
to say nothing of instantly having a teen crush on bass player Louise
(reportedly a nanny these days for David Beckham and Posh).
When you really break down the first album, it's pretty generic punk.
It's really basic and not the best production meaning it's not big and
it's not as raw as you would hope. It's like there was an effort to polish
up the band's sound. But it's still a great record largely because of
the sloppy and weird performances and the great, rough vocals, unmistakably
British. Great songs like No Time hold up just as much
as the hits 17 Years Of Hell and Arms Race.
I wonder why Police Story was left off of the album?
A few years and a few bass players later, the band moved to London and
regrouped with a power pop sound. The studio tracks on The Time
Was Right! have had a bit of controversy around them as somehow
the rough mixes made it to the album and the real version were lost. But
the mistake meant a bigger guitar sound and a huge leap in sophistication
for the band. The second side of the LP was recorded at a huge anarcho
gig at the Brixton Ace with Conflict, Anthrax and more as the band were
becoming more interested in the anarcho scene. The board recording is
suprisingly full and gives an idea of what the first LP would have sounded
like if the band hadn't been rushed. Incidentally, the Conflict set was
also recorded and used as the second side of their sophmore LP Increase
The Pressure. The record ends with what is probably the band's
best song, Blind Ambition which appeared on an interim
7" between the two albums.
(No Future and Link Records)
PHOTOS, THE - s/t 2xLP
I loved Blondie from the first moment I saw them on the Midnight Special.
I loved every moment of Parallel Lines when it came out.
I thought they were so smart. I remember needing to find out what "petite
ingenue" and La Dolce Vita meant. They were so great.
I think Johnny Ramone is the only person in the world that didn't love
them. The problem was, they only put out one album a year. What do you
do for the other 11 months?
That's where bands like The Photos came in. No, they weren't as good
as Blondie. But they were definitely good enough. Now, with our much lowered
standards and confused history of music, they seem like a pretty great
female fronted power pop group. In fact, the simple melodies and fairly
unthreatening guitars are a lot like the K-type pop stuff of the `90s
like the Crabs or Small Factory. With song titles like Barbarellas
and She's Artistic you know what their trajectory was.
If you're gonna bother to track this one off album down, you might as
well keep looking until you get the version that comes with the bonus
Blackmail Tapes LP. This is some sort of pretty good
sounding demo that has a couple of originals and a lot of cover versions
from the Beatles, the Stones, etc.
ZERO FAST - Fifth Street / Some Little Hope CDEP
Is there really a Fifth Street anywhere in Yokohama? I don't know. I
don't even know if there is a Go Street. It's a cute lyrical idea that
works for this cute little pop song. Ferocious live, the band is nicely
restrained on this record putting the melody forward. Japanese do pop
punk better than anyone else in the world. The first track is a sweet
almost Pixies like pop tune. The second one has its roots more in '77
punk with its classic Stiff Little Fingers influenced guitar progression.
There's a bit of the Business as well. But from I know about Japan today
that probably has as much to do with Hard Skin as any old school Oi!
(Anti-New Waves Records)
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