IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.92
J Church and Honey Bear Whatever - Fucking July
Multinational Corporation Genocide of the Starving Nation
HOME SWEAT HOME
We're back and it's fucking 100 degrees in Austin. Why is it always so
difficult here? Anyway, the other night we played with DaDa Swing at Emo's
and it was fun. They are a really amazing post-punk, post-riot grrrl,
post-whatever group from Italy that are a mish mash of the Au Pairs, the
Dog Faced Hermans and the first Raincoats album. Definitely go see them
if you have the chance. You never know if groups like this will ever tour
again. They're the kind of group that in five to ten years everyone will
think is really cool and you can say that you were one of the few people
that got to see them on their only US tour…
The night before was also here in Austin, but that was a very different
affair. The Marked Men, The Soviettes, Grabass Charlestons… It was
a big night.
The Pedestrians are here in town recording an album. I wish I could find
a way to sneak on that record somehow. They're recording with Stan next
to our practice space. Signal Lost just recorded there and it sounds amazing.
Maybe we will do our next album there. We're almost halfway ready and
with no more touring until November, we can make some real progress.
THE NEXT TOUR
It's gonna be another short one. If all goes as planned, we're gonna
be playing the Fest in Gainesville again. It looks like our pals in the
Urchin are gonna come over and do all the dates with us. They are Japan's
secret weapon. If you haven't heard them, get a clue. I've got copies
of their latest four-song CDEP for $5. It is well worth it. It's still
too early to know what the exact route will be. But hopefully it will
be something like Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Pensacola… it gets
a little hazy after that. It would be great to make it down to Tampa or
even Miami. Then we will either do Athens or Atlanta. Is anyone doing
cool shows in Alabama or Mississippi? I'll let you know when we know more.
TOP TEN AMERICAN DIRECTORS
This list is only partially in order. I love all of these people and
I really don't know how to prioritize, as they are all pretty different.
I was compelled to make this list because, after some contemplation on
the sad state of affairs American film culture was in, it's easy to find
it hard to believe that ANYTHING good ever came out of this country. So
here are some of the good people I relate to in American film history.
Oh, and just so you don't ask, I don't like David Lynch very much. I thought
I liked Eraserhead until I realized I was just
pretending I liked it. It's just my personal taste and not a diss on all
you Twin Peaks nerds.
John Cassavetes If you are reading this either A) you are well
aware of the importance of Cassavetes and it would be even more pompous
than usual for me to try to add anything or B) you don't know what I'm
talking about. If that's the case, stop reading this and go read Cassavetes
On Cassavetes and watch Shadows,
Faces, A Woman Under The Influence
and, my favorite, Love Streams. I'll just
add that back in the `80s, I was a fundraiser for SANE/Freeze and got
to do a lot of work in the Hollywood Hills. I hung out with Pierce Brosnan,
Bill Murray, Morgan Fairchild, etc. The coolest thing that ever happened
was when I had to go to meet Cassavetes to get him to renew his membership.
He was pretty ill at the time, so I didn't get to meet him. But Gena Rowlands
was very, very kind despite the circumstances. It was just so amazing
to come up on this house that you immediately recognize from his films.
Abel Ferrara I'm not saying I wanna go on a road trip with this
guy. But I love his movies. Since The Driller Killer
back in 1979, he has made complex and challenging films defying budget
limitations by making vivid use of context. If you can find a safe haven
and some version of sympathy in Bad Lieutenant
or King of New York then you will be able
to follow is deformed Chi that is the backbone of most of his films. An
experimental filmmaker, he takes chances that don't always work. There's
no point in making film experiments if they're all gonna be safe.
Stanley Kubrick Yeah, I went to Eyes Wide Shut
opening day, first showing (I used to do that a lot actually) and I hated
it. I was so sad that it would be his last film and I couldn't get behind
it in any way. The acting is appalling. The dialog… I dunno. But
everything he did from 1955 to 1987 is fucking flawless. That's a record
you can't fuck with. In my skewed and humble opinion, Lolita
and 2001 are both contenders for best film
of all time. Every movie is a perfect blending of style and substance
ultimately revealing a brilliant and compassionate mind at work. The contrasts
of alienation, confusion and structure are all complicated with humor
even in his most dry films.
Hal Ashby I go back and forth with this guy. Movies like Shampoo,
The Last Detail and Being There
are pretty unfuckwithable. The guys started off editing The
Loved One for fuck's sake! He's great. He was also a fuck
up. He drugged himself nearly to death, finally getting hospitalized in
the early `80s. Between that and his general unreliability, he basically
put himself out of work doing mostly crass TV shit at the end of his life.
So little is discussed about this guy compared to his peers that I don't
know whether the story is tragic or pathetic.
Ida Lupino After all this time, people still just think of her
as an actress. She did get her start acting back in the `30s (and she
was great in The Sea Wolf). But it was her
writing and directing that I think made her so important to American cinema.
In 1949, she got the chance to write and direct Not Wanted,
a sad, sad story of a woman desperate to escape her drab existence who
falls for a traveling musician who sees her as little more than a fling.
Things grow more complicated when she's finally left alone only to find
out she's pregnant. For the first time, these sort of pulp-ish ideas in
low to mid-budget films took on a profound edge as Lupino knew how to
express what the women might really be feeling and not just some caricature
as dictated by the men who dominate the industry. Her other films like
Never Fear, Outrage
and The Hitch-hiker are black and white existential
meditations where ennui is quickly replaced by total despair.
Sam Fuller Film Noir was kind of like Be Bop. It was revolutionary
and hyper-stylistic. But soon all the scales and modes were well defined.
Sam Fuller started directing in this age, and like Lupino, was able to
take a genre that was quickly becoming codified and convert it into something
deeper. So movies like Pickup On South Street
and House of Bamboo greatly benefited from
Fuller's touch and additional writing. The culmination of his work came
in two films. The first was Shock Corridor
that was avant-garde in it's hugely metaphorical approach and it's constant
unease of life in the mental institution. The addition of random footage
in a dream-type sequence precedes everyone from Chris Marker to Craig
Baldwin. The second was The Naked Kiss which
fits closer into the Noir mold while taking it to another area with sentimentality
so overplayed as to verge on ironic and a grim crime approached like an
Woody Allen Annie Hall might be my
favorite movie of all time and that absolves all cinematic crimes propagated
in the new millennium by Allen. Starting with Take The Money
And Run and ending with Sweet And Lowdown,
the only film of his that I don't love is Celebrity.
Everything else I can watch over and over again. The guy has never been
ashamed of the fact that he's smart. He may be modest in appearance. But
he writes smart dialog and especially in those years, he never dumbed
down for anyone. If anything, he was pushing people to expand what they
knew by making references to films and books outside of banal American
consciousness. He's more of a link to European cinema than even Scorsese.
Robert Altman The guy did fucking Nashville!
I've watched that movie more times than I can remember. He had Barbara
Harris before she went Disney. I wanna die whenever I hear Easy.
Yeah, I fucking hated Short Cuts like any
true Raymond Carver fan does. But I love most of his other films. I think
it's great that everyone talks over each other. It feels like a real conversation
happening even in the most absurd situations. Even some of his more current
films like Gosford Park and Kansas
City aren't too bad. He's sort of the Chabrol of the American
Billy Wilder The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes
is one of his most underrated films, but it's one of my favorites. Everyone
loves Sunset Blvd., Stalag
17 and The Apartment and for
good reason. But his 1970 look at a drug addicted Holmes is complex, surreal
and mysteriously incomplete. With a story that involved kidnapping, spies,
drugs and even the Loch Ness Monster, the three and a half hour film was
edited in half leaving an almost Burroughs-esque mystery that makes you
constantly have to pay deep attention to score the pay-offs along the
way. Christopher Lee as Mycroft is fucking brilliant.
George Cukor Friend of Hitchcock and Bunuel. Director of The
Philadelphia Story, Gaslight,
Adam's Rib and A Star Is Born.
I think this quote from him says it all: "...you direct a couple
of successful pictures with women stars, so you become a 'woman's director'...Direct
a sentimental little picture and all you get is sob stuff. I know I've
been in and out of those little compartments. Heaven knows everyone has
limitations. But why make them narrower than they are?"
IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM
BECAUSE, THE / DAUNTLESS ELITE - split EP
I mostly like these splits on Snuffy Smiles for the Japanese bands.
And I say that as someone from a band that's been on the other end of
that equation. The Because are fucking awesome live and they are surprisingly
well captured on this little vinyl document. Bright and raw guitars with
splashes of melody and chaos, it's like if Leatherface were playing on
a speedboat jetting across a dark, evening lake. The rhythm section is
powerful propelling the group with ten ton anchors of melody. It's like
taking the structure of pop and hopping it up on Yellow Jackets.
The Dauntless Elite are cool. Minimal post-emo pop punk. They are entirely
enjoyable and make a decent attempt to keep up with the Because.
MODERN MACHINES / ERGS!, THE - split EP
Holy shit! After hearing all the hype, I was sort of expecting some lo-tech,
drunk as fuck, loose pile of stinky punk. Instead I get the British Invasion
on 45 and it's fucking glorious. Modern Machines and the Ergs! might be
the best thing happening in the States at the moment. Everyone else seems
to think so. I'm not sure, but this record is pretty damned convincing.
Excellent power pop delivered at 100 mph by both bands, they seal the
deal by both producing excellent covers. The Modern Machines do an inspired
take on the Hollies Bus Stop while the Ergs!
have the balls to cover the Beatles Not A Second Time.
It's a lot of fun and the originals are just as enjoyable.
NAPALM DEATH - Scum LP
NAPALM DEATH - From Enslavement To Obliteration
With the exception of a few cool and very different early demos, this
is really the only Napalm Death I've ever felt I had to keep hold of.
When the hardcore of Brit bands like Icons of Filth and Conflict evolved
into the mid to late `80s thrash of bands like Heresy, Concrete Sox and
Electro Hippies, there were so many great bands that Napalm Death were
just one of a few names. In fact, Concrete Sox were the first to make
any sort of name for themselves when the first LP came out and was distributed
in the states. It was really exciting. Something new and mysterious was
coming out of punk and it wasn't full on metal and it was as ethical as
Crass. We were back to the days when you could write to a band and they
would write back.
I first came across Napalm Death via their singer, Lee who was doing
a half sized fanzine at the time. I remember the last letter I got from
him being about how his band was getting busy so he was going to have
to stop doing the zine. Next thing you know, Scum
is in the shelves with a sticker boasting "Debut album by the undisputed
World's Fastest Band." Holy shit! From the first moment that the
band kicks into overdrive on Instinct of Survival
I was hooked. I could look past the bad photo selections on the back and
even the more appalling collage on the inner sleeve. It didn't even bother
me that the bass player and guitarist pictured on the cover don't even
play on the first half of the album. Between the brutal vocals and the
seemingly unreal speeds, this is still one of the best records of that
The poor eight-track production of the debut was replaced second time
around by a much bigger drum and guitar sound. I don't really know if
that helped or hindered. The songs had evolved a bit but in no way did
they slow down for too long. By this point, journeyman bassist Jim had
left (he had previously been an important part of Ripcord) to be replaced
by Shane of Unseen Terror. While that band did have some regrettable songs
about Garfield and Odie, they also featured former members of Heresy and
did help produce Scum. In fact, at this point
Shane is the only member of the Enslavement
line-up still in Napalm. As good as the record was, the band carried on
their tradition of ridiculous poor choices in record covers as this one
is a gatefold sleeve that's only purpose seems to be an extended "thanks"
After that, Lee split the band. He had done a lot of good, though. After
some dates with Def Leppard of all people, he got half of the band to
go vegan. For a while, they also distributed anti-rape pamphlets and sort
of took on an almost feminist edge. I guess there's nothing wrong with
pouring some sugar on Joe Elliot assuming it wasn't filtered with gelatin!
NATURECORE - With Love... 12"
Tam was one of my first buddies when I moved to Hollywood. I remember
just hanging out at her house with a girl from Conflict, eating spaghetti
and just chatting for hours. In all that time, I think I only ever saw
Naturecore play once. Seems like they were always in some sort of weird
flux. They were great live. I remember her giving me a really great demo
tape early on and thinking that they were the most amazing band in California.
Now, I think this record is fine. I like the songs and I can respect
the sentiments. I just know that there is a better recording out there
somewhere. The vocals aren't as good as the tape I had and the mastering
is so totally thin, it sounds like it might have been mastered off of
a cassette tape. But I still dig it. The Box
is still a strong number and shows how far outside the norm the band were
reaching in contrast to other anarcho type bands in So Cal that were their
peers like A//Solution or Another Destructive System or even Final Conflict.
The fast tracks are tight if you want to you can imagine how powerful
this material was live in front of a churning audience of black clad freaks.
(No Master's Voice)
PEAR OF THE WEST - Stupid Game EP
One of the most interesting bands we've played with in Japan, the curiously
named Pear of the West are back with an great three song 7" catching
up from where there debut full length left off. Catchy as hell with awesome
female vocals, they head more in a Discount direction this time with moments
that actually remind me of the catchier stuff on the first Sleeper album.
Maybe not in content, but there are similarities in Mami's vocal style
with Louise. Great looking cover art too.
PEDESTRIANS - Why Kill What's Dead EP
After knowing these folks for years and hanging out with them every time
we go to Chicago, I've finally got a chance to hear their band. Thank
fucking God this is a great record. Nothing sucks more than when you meet
some really cool people and you become good friends with them only to
later find out that their band sucks ass. It's a huge relief that this
little 7" totally rocks.
Four songs in all, the band are raw punk that's actually more reminiscent
of some of the classic Bay Area `80s stuff than the more melodic poppier
stuff. In fact, this record is a lot like a much better produced version
of Sick Pleasure with much more serious lyrics. Jordan even has a bit
of that raw vocal rasp that isn't typically rock-n-roll but isn't the
hardcore drill sergeant either. Can't wait to hear the album they've just
recorded with Stan Signal Lost.
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