BRAIN #2 zine
off, I'm just happy that someone sent me a zine instead of
another IDM and/or free improv and/or indie rock CDR. It seems
like whenever I go to a record store anymore all I buy is
magazines and zines anyway. It's not that I like reading about
music better than listening to it, it's just that I've already
got about 2000 records and the record stores in Chicago are
so picked-over and/or overpriced that it's no fun to shop
for music anyway. I've always loved zines -- even bad zines
are a lot more rewarding than bad records. Not that Haizman's
Brain #2 is bad, but it is a real personal slice by this older
punker lady who loves music and lives in Franklin, PA and
rambles on even more than I do. Her attitude and energy are
right on, though, and it looks great -- typewriter paste-up
layout interspersed with xeroxed comics and art and stolen
images (isn't that Regan MacNeal on the cover?) -- and the
subjects are almost all excellent (Rocket From The Tombs,
Destroy All Monsters, Buttholes, Melvins, Coil, Rudolph Grey,
I Spit On Your Grave, other psychotronic films, The Germs)
and, like I said, I just love picking up a zine and getting
someone's intense personal take on anything. "If you
want one'a these, send 2 bucks to: HAIZMAN'S BRAIN, 372 Grant
Street, Franklin, PA 16323."
MY GRITS! zine
the only other zine I've ever been sent besides Haizman's
Brain. Please people, send more zines! This came with a package
I got sent by the Atlanta-based Old Gold label, so I have
it in my mind that it's a sort of 'house organ' for the label.
That might not be true, but it doesn't really say otherwise.
Basically, this is a playful, thrown together 'collage style'
zine. Not much in the way of traditional 'essayistic' writing,
but each issue seems to have a special theme that unifies
the fragmentary approach. I got two issues, one celebrating
the Dirty South (with place names, maps, a Dirty South hip
hop quiz, a hooched-out centerfold model, recipes, more),
and the other one a 'lists' issue. For example, there's a
two-page list of what seems to be every live performance the
author has ever been to, in which you can trace his trajectory
from musicals with his parents, to hair metal with his friends,
to the Pixies, to more indie rock, to free jazz/noise shows
and Table of the Elements festivals, which probably sounds
familiar to a good 90% of the guys I see shopping at Reckless
these days. And that's just a mere two pages of the issue!
Alright, zinesters, keep the personality comin'!
RULES! MAGAZINE #16
one I bought. Okay, so we all know that 98% of the magazines
about rock music that you can find on any newstand (even the
'underground' newstands) these days are just recycled press
kits. The zines are pretty much just as guilty. Chunklet is
of course an exception, but the more you read it the more
you realize that despite all the humor, it is ultimately pretty
press-kit, and its 'shit lists' stand more as a negative image
than a different picture. If you want to read music-writing
with a sense of humor that pats NO ONE on the back, including
itself, you have to go to Cimarron Weekend, but they don't
publish anymore, so fuck it, just read metal zines. I mean,
after trying to struggle through The Wire review section,
it's just so great to pick up a zine where every review is
just three or four lines like, "Fuck, dude, this is totally
just hard melodic metal. Buy this." It's like listening
to nothing but 80s hardcore comps for the rest of your life.
Each unit is exactly the same and it creates a drone more
beautiful than 100 Richard Youngs albums playing simultaneously.
The interviews in here are a blast to read too, because of
founder/writer/editor/publisher Jeff Rappaport's totally cazh/dude
interview style. I saw on the cover that the ish had an interview
with Jason Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob fame, and even though
Kevin Smith films drive me bonkers, I knew it would be worth
buying just to read these two Jersey hessians talk to each
other for 5 pages. I was right: they ponder shit like "Does
that make you gay if a girl's fucking you in the ass with
a dildo?", and when Rappaport tells Mewes that he has
interviewed King Diamond, Mewes asks, "Does he really
fucking worship evil??" And then, after four pages like
that, Rappaport turns around and gets Mewes to very soberly
and candidly talk about his problems with, get ready . . .
heroin! (It was a surprise to me too.) There's also an interview
with Jason Newsted, another total dude, who talks very honestly
and fairly about how Metallica got lame, and also drops gems
like this: "Q: What kinds of things do you like doing
with kids?" "A: Introduce them to animals. That's
the best thing you can do for a kid. The best thing. If a
child can learn life and death through animals rather than
the TV and the newspapers and the street and all that kind
of shit they're going to do something. They're going to be
alright. But if they only learn it from the TV and the video
games and all that shit then there's less of a chance of knowing
what's real and right from wrong." Damn, that's why I
love zines. You're not going to get all this in the P.R. sheets.
Now that I'm over improvised music I thought maybe I'd be
over Terrascope too, because I haven't bought one of 'em in
about three years, but today I bought this one because it
had an interview with Cary Loren, the unexpurgated version
of which mentions this here magazine right here (BLASTITUDE,
dude), and I try to own EVERYTHING that mentions ME in any
way, because I LOVE MYSELF. Well, they edited out any mention
of the 'tude (competition, y'know), but I am still not disappointed
in any way by this purchase. Why not? Because this magazine
is beautiful, and even if you find things like twee trolls
frolicking in merrye woodlands repugnant, you'd probably still
agree. I mean the cover is always beautiful -- sure it's a
nude maiden sitting in a glen playing a goddamn HARP, but
just look at that orange and silver color scheme
-- and there's just something about the content itself, even
when they're writing about something or interviewing someone
you just plain WOULDN'T LISTEN TO, you devour it anyway because
of that Terrascope touch. The Cary Loren interview is a great
read, and so is Byron Coley interviewing Mark Boston, aka
Rockette Morton, aka the bass player on practically all the
great Beefheart albums. He seems like a humble and laid-back
dude, and relates a few choice anecdotes. One of my favorites
is how Zappa multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood had to quit
the Magic Band after a short stint as guitarist because learning
the songs was giving him MIGRAINES. There's other articles/interviews
on bands like The Sand Pebbles, The Land of Nod, and Dora
Flood -- no, I hadn't heard of 'em either but I had no problem
reading the pieces. There's also a piece on The Golden Dawn,
a late Sixties Texas band who were on International Artists,
so that's newsworthy. The accompanying CD has some great shit
on it too: all the aforementioned bands, plus a track by Comets
on Fire that sounds even more shocking than usual in the rather
mellow Terrascopic context. Also worth noting: in the review
section editor-in-chief Phil McMullen does mention Blastitude,
indirectly, by calling our own contributing reviewer Chris
Moon (see just below) an "uninformed twit"! Be careful,
Phil sure does get defensive when people criticize Terrastock.
I mean, sheez, not everybody's gonna like everything, you
should see the letters I get at Blastitude!
PRINT NOTES: Well, I certainly still have trouble
even finishing a single record review in The Wire,
even though they're only a couple paragraphs long, but man,
that design....the fucking thing looks GREAT, every time a
new issue comes out I want to buy it just for the typesetting
and layouts. And it's not like they never write about anyone
good, they DO, of course, so I always have to thumb through
it at the newsstand . . . another always impeccably designed
magazine is Sound Collector, and they also
feature tons of great stuff, but there is a dubious 'new indie
singer/songwriter-with-a-laptop' thing lurking in their content,
which becomes especially apparent on the accompanying CDs,
which have gone from mostly pretty good to kind of annoying
over the last few issues (for me, anyway, you know -- I think
the new "handsome indie singer/songwriter-probably-with-a-laptop"
genre is a little hard to take -- hardly any of the songs
stand out -- McMonigal seemed to have found almost all the
stand-outs and put 'em on the first issue of Yeti
comp) . . . and speaking of Yeti, they just
put out another mindblowing print issue (especially that article
about motorcycle racing down the Baja peninsula, and the comics
by Brian Chippendale) coupled with a various artists CD that,
the one time I listened to it, sounded like it might as well
have been by Dan Fogelberg (his comeback album, produced by
Fennesz) . . . Roctober always rules . .
. check out the latest issue, with a cover story and free
CD on the music and films of Sid Laverents???? Where does
Jake Austen find these people? . . . They're not my typical
reads, but lately I've been getting into Chicago mags Venus
and Stop Smiling for throwing together this
glossy full-color view of that Wicker Park (/Ukrainian Village/Logan
Square/Humboldt Park) lifestyle. Even if you hate it, you
gotta admit you live IN it, and it's fun just to see all the
same Illinoisians that you see when you go out, glorifying
themselves here on full color glossy pages, and doing it surprisingly
well . . . In other news, have you noticed the new trend where
porn stars show up on the covers of underground/indie rock
magazines? Today, on a single trip to the underground newsstand,
I saw porn stars on four different magazine covers . . . Jenna
Jameson, Tera Patrick, oh wait, I guess Liz Phair DOESN'T
count . . .
Eien no houga saki ni te o dashitanosa 1978 CD (PSF)
It might have seemed that Fushitsusha had taken its
affairs as far as they could possibly go. Although Origin's
Hesitation marked a new direction (one I found very interesting
live, but quite dull on the actual album), I was left wondering
if we'd ever again see releases as jaw dropping as double
live volumes 1 & 2 or the amazing live release, Gold
Blood. Well, if the future isn't shocking enough, there's
always the past -- and that's just what we have here with
Eien no houga saki ni te o dashitanosa.
Recorded in 1978, the
album could have been recorded only yesterday. It is no less
relevant than the equally surprising Snyder and Thompson Daily
Dance release (1973) -- far too early a date for free
noise. In this sense, Eien is an artifact that doesn't
entirely make sense. Part free noise, part jazz, part rock
and roll but all Fushitsusha, Eien leaves no room
for the dreadful 80's drought when Psych, Industrial, Jazz,
Prog, and even Punk had all been more or less declared dead.
There's simply no excuse when listening to Eien that
Trapdoor Fucking Exit (or the equivalent) didn't
appear in 1982. Even This Heat couldn't keep the great musical
cesspool of the 80's at bay -- I can only guess that's why
Haino went on sabbatical. All in all, it's rather depressing
hearing how far ahead this album was.
Damn, if only I could
have had this rolling out of my car windows when I was in
high school. Not that it would have made me any more popular,
but Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin wouldn't have stood a chance.
Parents would have had something a lot more terrifying than
the fucking pentagram on the front of 2112 to be
afraid of. Jesus! That big all black Fushitsusha cover (and
it would have been on vinyl too!) with three kanji symbols
and the biggest, soul-destroying sound any Westerner had ever
heard coming from the stereo! I think parents of the 70's
and early 80's got off lucky! Bible beaters would have given
up on rock as the tool of the devil and focused with new zeal
upon Japanese noise. Haha! None of my music is popular enough
to get declared satanic.
Well, getting down to
the album, it's as indescribable as you'd imagine. Speaking
thus in relative terms, 1978 saw Fushitsusha a little more
fuzzed out, a little more jazz and a little more rock. There's
definitely some active freak-out going on here and I like
it. There's actually only two tracks on this beast, one of
which is 35 minutes long, and the whole damn thing is a steaming
mass of improv noise that I can't help compare to the best
moments of Dead C, Borbetomagus, Blue Humans, etc. If Opprobrium
was still about they'd have already declared this the album
of year (and in that Opprobrium vein, it probably is). In
short, this is really, really good shit.
And Haino sings the same
way he sings now. I can't even imagine the guy getting old
since he's apparently been doing this since the '60s and if
you look across these decades, you'll hear the same ferocity.
Maybe he's found a new ways to accomplish his ends, but the
ends remain the same. Maybe with the 1978 release you can
more clearly hear the connections to other genres, but it
is still Fushitsusha -- and that is a bit startling. Realistically,
this album is probably closer to the pure Fushitsusha sound
than my beloved double live volume 1.
I have no clue how history
treated this album. It should have launched a free noise scene
10 years earlier than it actually happened. It should have
blown people's minds and completely changed how music developed
through the course of the 80s no less dramatically than VU
changed the course of music 10 years earlier. So while Eien
may be one of the best things you'll purchase this year, expect
to feel a bit of frustration -- or maybe, the excitement of
hearing one of the earliest recordings of whatever kind of
music Fushitsusha is!
Vivre Avec La Bete LP (ECLIPSE)
saw this duo live in Providence at a small book store (Atlas
Bower). I don't know whether people just haven't caught on
to Scorces or the population of Providence is just too dense,
but by the time Christina and Heather were playing, I was
the only one left along with Jeffrey and Miriam from The Iditarod.
I've come to love Providence, but sometimes it shows a glaring
ignorance toward anything that doesn't sound like Lightning
Bolt. Case in point, Scorces performance that night (pretty
well represented by the record put out by Eclipse) was probably
one of the best things I've seen while out here on the east
coast. That's really saying something since I've seen some
fantastic shit -- Fursaxa, The Iditarod, Six Organs of Admittance,
Bardo Pond, Acid Mothers Temple, Fushitsusha, etc., etc. What
Scorces has been doing though is hard to put down in words
which is why I'm not jumping right into a proper review of
I need to tell you about a recent trip to Nantucket. I'd never
been to the island before and thought it would make for an
interesting diversion. Altogether the trip was relatively
disappointing -- I had come too early in the year and much
of the things I might have done there were closed for the
season. With several hours to kill before the boat ride back,
I ended up on a desolate sandy beach shore. OK, I live --
relatively -- close to the sea, but the whole thing doesn't
hit you until you have your very own empty beach and the sea
lapping up around your feet. The sea is utterly mind-altering;
you can't really resist it. I'm sure Melville wrote about
this. I won't go on and on, but listening to the Scorces record
now I am reminded both of their visit to Providence and my
visit to the sea, because in both cases, I found that I had
little control over the mood and feelings that were created
by the two events. Let explain just a little more--I have
another Scorces album and for a long time I listened to it
only rarely because it was a pretty massive undertaking. There
is casual, entertaining listening. There is even not-so-casual
yet still entertaining listening. When you listen to this
music, you do not commit a part of yourself. Nothing is actually
asked of you other than listening. In all my experience when
listening to Scorces however, this listening experience has
demanded everything of me. There are other bands that have
accomplished similar things, verging on sacred, ritual type
musics. I'm not sure Scorces reminds me of those, but it does
remind me of the Nantucket shore where I was caught up in
a blissful ocean-mind-state.
you are a poor soulless creature, I think you'll find yourself
completely wrapped up in whatever it is that Scorces is doing.
I highly recommend Eclipse's LP which I would rate above the
CD out on Wholly Other. This is a more mature and disturbingly
beautiful sound that you should only play when you can commit
yourself entirely to it.
MOTHERS TEMPLE: Pataphysical Freak Out MU! 2LP (ECLIPSE)
is a rather belated review, and also a short one. I've reviewed
this album in other publications when it was first released
on CD by PSF records and made extensive commentary on it during
the course of other AMT reviews. So why bother mentioning
this reissue at all? Hmmm, two records, 180 gram vinyl, beautiful
gatefold sleeve and an extra side of material...that indeed
So to start with, this
is an incredible, collector's worthy reissue on 'heavy-as-shit'
vinyl. For those who wanted a chance to get one of AMT's best
in said format, this is it! Eclipse has done a fantastic job
at reissuing some of Kawabata's better projects and apparently
now has exclusive rights to future Kawabata vinyl releases
in the US. Looking at MU! one can see immediately why. Beyond
the vinyl itself, the gatefold sleeve is quite substantial
(up to par with the Actuel reissues) and artfully put together
with some new AMT photos and an interior design in the tradition
of Cosmic Jokers.
But what really needs
mentioning is the fourth 'mystery' side. I was very excited
to learn that side D was 'Blue Velvet Blues Coda', an extension
of Bllue Velvet Blues which comprises all of side C. Blue
Velvet Blues is perhaps one of AMT's best recorded moments
(along with Pink Lady Lemonade and La Novia), so an extra
20 minutes or so was perhaps the best thing I could have imagined
stuffing on to a reissue of Pataphysical Freakout MU! Unfortunately
that's where this reissue suffers. Coda is indeed the last
half of the track, but it is also where things fall apart
into haze and fuzz. All the beauty of Blue Velvet Blues dissapates,
turning into a rather generic dronish hum. It isn't bad, but
it really isn't enough to justify the extra side or a second
purchase if you already own the PSF release.
The final take on this
reissue is it makes for a nice collector's item or a first
purchase if you didn't import the album from PSF. It's a beautiful
reissue and definitely superior to the CD but I'd save your
money for some of the other Eclipse releases (La Novia,
In C, etc.) if you've already got this one.
37: Frantic Search for Zero CDR (SELF-RELEASED)
is a bootleggish quality to Frantic Search not unlike
the legendary if not infamous Cosmic Jokers sessions. Not
every note comes off just right (read 'improvised'), and the
sound quality is occasionally less than fair. Thank god for
that! I've heard the more publicized side of ST 37, like their
new one out on Emperor Jones, 'Down on us', and while often
outstanding, nothing hints toward the nonsense on Frantic
Search. Yes, save the best stuff for CD-R. You know albums
with inkjet covers will be monsters. The only way to rock
these days is to do it yourself, and here is ST 37's second
mammoth offering of trash-psych-freak out limited to 100 copies.
Hell, the copy I received came with the jewel case half smashed.
No doubt, Frantic Search is a LEGEND...
in around 74 minutes, Frantic Search isn't quite
what the new one by Spacious Minds is -- a 74 minute single
track of bliss out. Actually I had problems finding the bliss
out. I did find a lot of ROCK though. Not your pansy 90's
alternative rock, or your 80's punk (not rock) or new wave
(also not rock), but big glistening piles of chunky late 60's/early
70's rawwk, ala Humble Pie and Mountain dosed with enough
LSD to turn your average frat house into the next generation
of cosmonauts. Of course, when they aren't rocking, they are
pushing every other button. Early on, one track sinks into
caveman theatre of eternal music, strings replaced by Neanderthal
bass riff. By track seven R.U. Kaiser has clearly taken over,
guest appearances by Amon Duul 2 and Timothy Leary. The very
next track is hijacked by rednecks, so there is plenty of
diversity here -- fun for all!
more do you want me to say? What the hell is wrong with Texas?
I think per capita it makes more fucked up music than any
other state in the union. At Terrastock, Fleece and ST37 had
tables right next to each other (perhaps too much of a good
thing?)--where I learned that the Mike Gunn had never really
gone away but rather, had transformed into Dunlavy. It is
a state of dinosaurs and madmen, a state still caught in the
drunken, loaded haze of the mesozoic. Amen.
YOKO: ??? LP + CDR (PLANKTONE)
This will have to be a short review and a strange
one at that. Planktone is another one of those extremely obscure
Japanese labels that none but a handful of Westerners have
ever heard of. As far as I know, the only thing anyone might
have ever heard of is their release of the first Shuji Inaba
album. Huh? Whhhaaaa? Exactly.
Ayami Yoko (whoever or
whatever that is) has crafted a fantastic album in the vein
of Che-Shizu, Shizuka, Minokoto or even Fushitsusha's double
live volume 1, which is to say the record is a series of lush
dreamy psychedelic ballads, drenched with acid fuzzed out
guitar, while the lead guitar is constantly wobbly and strange.
This is the romantic psych sound done to perfection, though
it is perhaps too dreamy for its own good. Too often the guitars
and percussion (is there any?) could come in more aggressively,
totally blowing the mind of the listener, but Ayami seems
content to just float on and on and on.
The exception comes on
the brief but amazing cd-r where Ayami does seem to rock a
bit more (if you can call this rock). It's another great entry
in an all-too-small scene, but given that I can't even determine
the name of the album and I'm sure there are no plans for
US distribution, we'll probably miss this one altogether.
and doing a quick web search, it does seem that the 'always
20 years ahead of everyone else' Bryan Day has already released
an Ayami Yoko album -- surprise! Perhaps curious Americans
should start there! (http://sinkhole.net/pehome/)
"Plague Soundscapes" CD
been a fan of The Locust since their inception as I followed
its bandmembers' previous projects. I remember hearing their
first 7" on GSL and thinking how it was exactly what
I wanted to hear at that given time. Ah, nostalgia. Well,
I have followed them since, bought all their records and seen
them live a number of times. They have stretched their life
expectancy as a band to that of a dozen "hardcore"
bands- which may or may not be a good thing. They have totally
influenced the "hardcore" movement both musically
and aesthetically. And now they have released a record on
Anti which is really just Epitaph. Conspiracy? Ploy to dominate
the record industry with the ultimate plan of annihilation?
Doubtful, though it is interesting to see a band that was
spawned out of a culture that shits on such affiliation sign
on the dotted line.
who don't know, The Locust is a "hardcore" (""
used out of confusion) band that plays fast, fast, loud, loud
music that utilizes guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and all
four members screaming at the top of their lungs. They are
credited in a lot of people's minds as being the band that
started the two current camps of hardcore: screamo and this
pseudo new-wave re-hash thing that falls under the category
of hardcore. They are really a combination of the two. Dozen's
have used the "Devo on speed"
description so I guess I will as well. "Plague Soundscapes"
minutes long and consists of 23 songs with the longest track
falling under a minute and a half. Blink and you'll miss it.
The average song length is 54.8 seconds long. Math.
a dichotomy of optimistic anticipation and skepticism before
this record came out. On one hand, I was genuinely excited
to see and hear what The Locust was going to do with a bigger
budget and more studio time then they had ever had previously.
On the other hand, this same scenario has ruined band upon
band in the past. The Locust existed, and to a certain extent
still does, I suppose, in a culture that not only utilizes
but preaches the virtues of DIY. Epitaph ain't to DIY. The
same said culture also goes out of its way to avoid any correlation
with anything corporate or anything that is in bed with corporate
America. Again, Epitaph… I also was beginning to wonder
what The Locust had left to offer that warranted another record.
They have a previous full length, a handful of 7"s,a
split 10" and a re-mix record all under their belt. Their
output has evolved but not swayed to much from their initial
"Soundscapes" is more technical then anything they
have previously done. It's also more cohesive. Perhaps this
is the budget and studio trickery at work…but it works.
The band uses more start/stop on a dime chop chop choppy songwriting
skills to pay the bills here as well as more odd time signatures
and sudden tempo changes. I suppose in a 45 second song, any
change is sudden. They all still scream though you can actually
decipher one from the other on "Soundscapes" just
by voice tone and frequency. Again, perhaps this is a result
of using a better studio
with better mics or maybe it was a conscious decision. Previous
releases had all voices throwing 5 year old tantrums -- one
was not too different from another. Lyrically, you can draw
your own conclusions. Think connect the dots with no numbers.
I prefer it that way. If you want definition, you'll get more
from the song titles themselves like "Pssst! Is That
A Halfie In Your Pants?" and "Who Wants A Dose Of
The Clap?" Maybe not. Sonically, Alex Newport has produced
a slick sounding record. Every instrument and voice can easily
be picked out of the mix. However, if you are the type who
wants your recordings to be as close to the live presentation
as possible, look elsewhere. Live, The Locust sounds like
a fucking semi with no tires going down the hghway. It is
impossible to pick out anything the way you can on the album.
I guess you could say the record is more "listenable."
Aesthetically, the record is horrible. The cover art is rediculous
and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was meant that way.
end, the record is a success in terms of not being ruined
by too much money. The Locust has taken the next logical step
in stretching their limited parameter. I just have no clue
where they can go from here without making the exact same
record. I suppose that planning for future releases really
has nothing to do with what they are doing as its all pretty
here and now. Its difficult though to listen to this in the
context in which it exists, which is different then any previous
release. The Locust after all are a "hardcore" band
and that has certain connotations. An appealing aspect of
being involved in "hardcore" is that it isn't for
everyone. By design, it should never have mass appeal. That
said, having a
"hardcore" band on Epitaph seems like contradiction
in terms. Perhaps The Locust don't consider themselves "hardcore"
or perhaps my definition of the term is skewed. Or maybe hardcore
has evolved into something where small DIY labels are a thing
of the past, but I doubt it. Maybe none of this matters one
fucking bit. If that’s the case, I really like the record
for what it is in terms of a collection of twenty-three short,
fast, tongue in cheek songs. I am convinced that the majority
of people who needed no advertising, or this review for that
matter to know that this record was released will see it in
a completely different context. Connect the dots.
GJERSTAD & DEREK BAILEY
"Nearly a D" CD
music is like making that farting noise by cupping your hand
under your armpit. Few people want to do it, fewer do, and
even fewer do it well. Huh? Frode Gjerstad and Derek Bailey
have one recording together that was a live concert played
ten years ago and released a couple of years ago on Emanem
as "Hello, Goodbye" with John Stevens also present.
"Nearly a D" reduces the "Hello" scenario
to a duo with Bailey playing his usual acoustic and electric
guitars and Gjerstad on alto saxophone and clarinets. Improvised
music is also all about chemistry, probably more so than any
other form of music. I think the chemistry exemplified in
improvised music is best displayed and appreciated when done
by a duo of musicians. Lucky for me "Nearly a D"
is a duo recording.
is little need for me to go into the endless list of complimentary
facts regarding Mr. Bailey. He is the Godfather, the master,
the slowly swaying, true to his craft genius who wrote the
book on modern guitar improvisation. I guess there was a need.
Anyone who knew him before will know him now, and will love
every second of it. Though Bailey's evolution is SLOW, it
is still there. With his playing, there is always, always
an overwhelming familiarity that comes off new and refreshing
all at the same time. Sounds like I'm advertising soda. He
stays true to what he has been doing for so, so long. Listening
to his stuff as it comes out begs to be heard not in terms
of change or progression but more in terms of…. It's
like he is building a house and each new release is a new
brick in that house. Cheesy I realize. However, I get the
sense that he is building up to some final statement that
already has ten times more credibility then 99% of other musicians,
improvisers or otherwise.
a lesser-known name, has been playing improvisation for over
two decades and has a credible list of recordings with other
musicians like William Parker and Peter Brotzmann. He also
heads up the Circulasione Totale Orchestra and the Frode Gjerstad
Trio as well as running his own label, Circulasione Totale.
a D" starts off, like so many other Bailey related projects,
with a muted harmonic acoustic guitar ringing. Gjerstad is
slowly creeping in behind him, which sets the pace for "Bell,"
the first and longest track on the album. What becomes apparent
throughout the "Bell" is the fundamental stylistic
differences in how the two approach what they are doing. Bailey
does what he does best: muted, a-tonal, softly jagged strums
and progressions. Gjerstad, on the other hand is coming from
a more traditional jazz camp. He does his fair share of skronking
and skreeching but nothing in comparison to the minimal beeps
and scratching honks on "Hello." On "Nearly"
he never seems to be at a loss of ideas or direction and the
same can be said for Bailey. Throughout the album, Gjerstad
and Bailey are able to seamlessly weave in and out of ideas
and tempos as if it had been rehearsed. The two are clearly
listening to each other every step of the way, know when to
get out of the way, and have enough confidence to know when
to get in the way. It’s all about the chemistry that
I was talking about before, that Gjerstad and Bailey have
mastered. It is further quite interesting to hear the two
change instruments, but especially when Gjerstad opts for
his clarinet over saxophone. It adds a new dimension and texture
to the album as a whole as does Bailey's switching between
electric and acoustic guitar but to a somewhat smaller degree.
is a little over 52 minutes long which is just right. It is
a digital recording that I usually have qualms with as I do
here. The recording is clear in that digital sort of way but
it lacks air and a sense of space. I assume by what I hear
on the recording that both instruments were mic'd really closely
so as to achieve the absolute clarity and definition a la
modern rock recordings. I also assume that the majority of
people whom hear and/or acquire this recording will find the
situation completely acceptable. I, on the other hand, think
that improvised music is all about the moment and the chemistry
of the players with each other and with the space they are
in. I want to hear that in the recording -- the ambience and
the realistic space between the instruments. I don't want
to hear an artificial mixed version of space, though the mixing
job here is better then usual. This is a hard concept to explain
and harder to sell to those who haven't heard a good recording
that captures the nuance of the space in which it was recorded.
In the end, it’s about the music present but if time
could rewind, I wish the same recording could have been made
in a more acoustical setting or at least not have the instruments
mic'd so closely.
My only other major
complaint is that of the aesthetics of the packaging. It’s
a matter of personal taste and I'm by no means a visual art
critic so I'll leave it alone. I just think the packaging
I always want my
art to leave me wanting more instead of thanking God that
its over. "Nearly" leaves me wanting more. Lately,
I have been listening to a lot of dub and reggae so given
the context of where my mind is musically at the moment, it
seems sort of odd that this particular recording would shine
the way it does. Or maybe it means that I should stop listening
to so much reggae and dub.
I Own and Why
By Justin Firestone
been February 12th 1999, my 24th birthday, when I got my DVD
player. It was a Toshiba model that cost just over $300. It
doesn’t do anything special. It just plays the DVDs.
It’s not like that $57.99 Mintek model you can get at
Best Buy that plays .mp3s and displays .mpgs and .jpgs straight
from a CD-R.
My decision marked the growing end of the Laserdisc players,
which everyone says have better video and audio. But I like
the size of DVDs, and I’m not an audiophile, so I went
along with the DVD trend.
What was the first movie
I bought? I don’t think I even remember. I know I wanted
to buy “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”. I
never bought it, though. I’ve been at Best Buy at least
ten times and had the DVD in my hand, ready to purchase. I
still don’t own it. No, instead, I think I bought “Amadeus”
It’s hard to justify buying a DVD sometimes, you know.
I don’t watch any of them anymore because I’m
too busy. They’re nice to have when people come over
and you want to show them a specific scene, not having to
fast-forward or rewind a tape. But I don’t remember
the last time I sat down to watch a DVD in its entirety. Maybe
I’ll quit buying them.
And who buys all these
recent releases like “The Bourne Identity”? Does
the average American household actually contain such dreck?
Do people actually watch bad movies all the time? My theory
is that the DVDs you buy (and this is true of music and books)
must be the best of all time. And to state the obvious, they
must also be worth owning.
So, my arrogance is as
follows: the DVDs I own are DVDs everyone should own. Yes,
a few of them are guilty pleasures, so to speak, but I can
safely say my DVD collection has only great movies that will
stand the test of time. What are they?
I remember as a 9-year-old thinking to myself, who in the
hell would watch a movie about Mozart? I was into top-40 radio
and was so afraid of compounding my computer nerdiness by
also listening to Classical music that the mere thought of
seeing the movie would banish me into a social nonentity until
college. But then I took up playing an instrument, and I learned
I loved Classical music. And I loved Mozart. And so I happened
to catch “Amadeus” one night on TV, edited horribly
down for commercials, not letterboxed, and in two parts (consecutive
nights). Even with all these technical drawbacks, it was still
the best movie, hands-down, of 1984.
The costumes and sets
need no more praise than others have showered. F. Murray Abraham,
perfectly, shows us the ultimate paradox of most artists:
they have desire, but not talent. Most of us are mediocre,
and we don’t realize it until we are faced with true
talent. Salieri dies knowing no one will ever remember any
of his music. He still believes in God, there is no doubt.
But he believes God is a cruel entity, putting him on Earth
with the solitary desire of writing music honoring God, only
to be beaten by a young punk.
This message seems to be repeated in “Confessions of
a Dangerous Mind” in the final scene, where Chuck Barris
realizes that he’s spent his life pursuing his desires,
but ultimately is left with a feeling of nothingness. It is
worthy to note that both Barris and Salieri are portrayed
as being successful in their fields. Barris was a top producer
and Salieri was court composer. Yet they were both unhappy,
and we don’t know what would make them happy. This is
their ultimate tragic quality. They don’t even know
what would make them happy. They only know what doesn’t
make them happy.
This movie must be watched beginning to end, with much attention.
It has great moments that you might want to skip to or watch
again and again, but the overall mood can only be felt from
a continuous viewing. This can be said of almost all movies,
of course, but it’s especially true of “Patton”.
fear, much like Salieri, is that he will fail to achieve his
birthright, and in Patton’s case, it’s to miss
out on the invasion of Europe because he believes he is the
best commander and deserves to lead the U.S. Army into the
heart of Berlin (and he also wanted to march to Stalingrad,
too, and I believe he would’ve made it with full Allied
support). But unlike Salieri, Patton does achieve his goals.
What separates Patton from Salieri is that Patton has desire
fused with talent. One can’t help but wonder if he,
as he believed would happen, is reincarnated on our planet
now valiantly fighting again.
My personal favorite movie of all time. I’ve sang “Candy
Colored Clown They Call the Sandman” (“In Dreams”)
at live Shithook karaoke like Dean Stockwell does. I quote
the movie all the time. I drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, and I say
“Heineken” when I piss in a urinal. Warm beer
has made me fuckin’ puke.
What few people realize
is that “Blue Velvet” is a love story, not a mystery
or Lynchian mind-fuck festival. It’s a straightforward
movie. It’s easy to follow, and in that respect, I declare
it to be an anomaly to the Lynch pantheon.
Dennis Hopper won nearly
every other acting award that year yet wasn’t even nominated
for an Oscar. (Paul Newman won for the “The Color of
Money”.) Sometimes, Oscar is wrong.
A crappy 80’s synthesized soundtrack can’t ruin
Al Pacino. When was the last time you saw a movie with Al
Pacino and thought he was a bad actor? He makes bad movies,
but he’s always on his game, meng. “Scarface”
long held the record for most uses of “fuck” at
206, but research indicates that “Goodfellas”
surpassed it with 246, and “Pulp Fiction” went
a little better with 257.
While known for its violence, I think it pales in comparison
to any of the shit Jerry Bruckheimer produces. And while Bruckheimer
gives us no life lessons in any of his movies, several exist
in “Scarface”. Some of them: don’t do cocaine;
don’t piss off a Colombian drug lord; it’s no
fun to watch your friends get gutted by chainsaws.
And Robert Loggia is a
fine actor. I would drink my orange juice if he told me to.
Scorsese’s best movie. Best mob movie. Best use of popular
music in a movie. Like Tony Montana of “Scarface”,
Henry Hill is a rags-to-riches story. They grew up poor, in
poor conditions, yet each attained power and money by undying
allegiance to those above them. Each fell because of cocaine.
What makes us like Henry
Hill and his friends is that we believe them when they say
they are good fellas. Does this glorify and glamorize organized
crime? You betcha. They are above the law, and lead a free
life. Sometimes things get hairy, but that’s nothing
a big knife and a shovel can’t fix.
My favorite scene is when
they visit Tommy’s mother (Scorsese’s mom) late
at night to find a shovel to bury Billy Batts. She insists
on serving them food. They act like they’re on their
way home from hunting, and she acts like she believes them.
But the whole time, you must be of the theory that she knows
exactly what’s going on. She raised a gangster, and
she’s not stupid. His friends are gangsters, too. She’s
just glad to see her son, since he doesn’t visit very
often. She loves him, even if he’s a gangster.
By the way, “Casino” is a different movie, and
I’m always shocked when people say it’s just “Goodfellas”
Keeping up with the gangster theme, “Heat” is
a movie a lot of people thought just didn’t cut the
mustard. People have criticized that Pacino and DeNiro’s
scene together drinking coffee and talking about apple pies
and barbecues is a “let down.”
I disagree strongly. Two
of the finest actors of all time sitting down for coffee is
a fantastic moment in cinema. They respect each other, but
they are on opposite sides of the law. Pacino can’t
arrest DeNiro until he catches him red-handed, even though
he knows DeNiro and his crew are responsible for several heists,
and the heist at the beginning resulted in several murders.
DeNiro knows Pacino knows. And need I say that Pacino knows
that DeNiro knows Pacino knows?
Also of note is Jon Voight
as a fantastic “father figure” to DeNiro, who
helps him discover good jobs to take and helps him with other
necessities like getting fake documents and travel arrangements.
And the machine-gun battle in downtown L.A. deserves praise
for its realism.
Pacino and DeNiro play
characters who love what they do for a living, but deep down
inside, they are empty because they are defined by their jobs.
They let their personal lives fall apart for the chance to
succeed career-wise. I think I’m starting to see a nebulous
theme to the DVD’s I own.
Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
I’m no apologist for the crap that are the other Star
Trek movies. The only other one even worth watching is VI,
because Christopher Plummer makes a great villain.
What makes “Khan”
the best Star Trek movie, and one of the greatest movies of
all time, is the purely over-the-top acting that is at the
same time believable because we don’t know any better
since the storyline is so great. Its bombastic intertwining
of the themes of Moby Dick make you feel like you’re
sitting at the Globe Theatre way back when, and Shakespeare
himself is patting your head and buying you popcorn while
you watch the drama cascade into your brain.
The movie is quotable,
and Ricardo Montalban has a prosthetic chest to make him look
stronger. This movie is what movies are supposed to be like:
explosions, grandstanding, struggle of good vs. evil, and
a Mutara Nebula.
Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
The third and best installment of the “Man with No Name”
Eastwood collaboration with Sergio Leone. Whoever has seen
this on DVD, with the lights turned out, and the music up
real loud (Ennio Morricone), will never forget the great moment
when Eli Wallach stumbles onto a tombstone and realizes they’ve
finally found the graveyard where the gold is. He runs around
for almost five minutes looking for the right grave as the
music swells and swells, and you think it can’t get
But it does. Lee Van Cleef
shows up just in time so they can have a THREE-WAY showdown.
I don’t know about you, but I get goose bumps when I
watch them jockey for position while the music swells, the
close-ups get closer, and then all you see is their eyes.
Oh, and the first two
hours of the movie are damn fine, too. Makes me want to go
back in time, buy a revolver, and play poker while I get shitfaced
on whiskey. I suppose I could still do that, huh?
the Dragon (1973)
I know there are a lot of Kung-fu buffs out there.
This is the only Kung-fu movie I’ve seen that really
does it for me. The aficionados will tell you the Hong Kong
shit is the best, but I don’t care. Watch this movie
closely if you haven’t lately, and try to figure out
all the ways it’s referenced in subsequent pop culture.
The most recent would be the beginning of “Aqua Teen
Hunger Force” episodes when Dr. Weird introduces his
latest invention to his lab assistant by belting out “GENTLEMEN...”
The evil Han eats up the
scenery with his fantastic little monologues. It’s unlikely
that anyone could ever own a private island and rule it with
a claw fist as he does, but if anyone does, you know it’s
exactly like Han’s island.
I’m realizing that
I own a lot of violent guy movies. Oh, what a breakthrough.
Travis Bickle takes Betsy to a porno on their first date.
By the end of the movie, he’s almost killed a senator,
has killed a pimp and a couple of other shady characters,
and grown a mohawk. But she still likes him.
And I do, too. DeNiro
makes this Vietnam veteran absolutely terrifying but lovable
at the same time. I’d like him on my side when Helter
Skelter goes down, that’s for sure. The sax solos were
written by the great Bernard Herrmann, just before his death
I can’t forgive
Scorsese, however, for painfully injecting himself into the
movie as a jilted lover riding in the back of the cab. He
is almost worse than Quentin Tarantino.
Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the
George C. Scott gives us a comical Patton six years
early, and Peter Sellers gives us a reason to encourage cloning.
I don’t think we’ve had a better comedic actor
since his death. Bill Murray comes to mind, but he doesn’t
have the pure talent that Sellers had.
Considering the year 1964,
it’s hard to believe that everyone involved with the
movie wasn’t labeled a Communist and expelled from the
country. I suppose the saving grace is that the Russians look
bad by the end of the film, too.
I could sit and watch
Sterling Hayden puff his cigar and warn us about the fluoridation
of water all night and still giggle. But this movie is not
perfect. The “special effects” are lame. I am
not amused by watching Slim Pickens fall. And what is up with
that slapstick comedy with the Coke machine squirting pop?
I wish Kubrick were still alive to do a director’s cut
to eliminate that pop machine scene completely.
Ben-Hur is largely a response of the old studio system to
the emerging threat of television. Studios were afraid people
would quit seeing movies because television was just so damn
good. (Keep in mind that was back when there was only one
channel and it was black and white, and the TV’s were
3” tall and the only show was two dudes fishing to the
musical stylings of Guy Lombardo.) So it’s supposed
to be a grandiose epic that you have to see at a theater to
It’s pretty good
on DVD when you’re sitting at home with some nice speakers
and a nice TV, however. The chariot race is still the best
action sequence ever filmed, and nothing like it will ever
be filmed again. Sure, they might try, but the horses won’t
be real. And the attempted homage to Ben-Hur that George Lucas
tried to effect with the Pod Race in The Phantom Menace was
about one-tenth as exciting.
If you haven’t seen
it, it’s long. It’s religious. It’s about
Jesus dying and cleansing us. If you’re Gore Vidal,
who wrote the screenplay but didn’t get credit, you’ll
believe it’s about unrequited hot gay sex. But most
of all, it’s a big, damn, epic movie that knocks you
on your ass. Just remember to have some refreshments handy.
This, like Ben-Hur, is a Roman epic. I’m a little biased
for these Roman epics; I majored in Latin, and I love Roman
history. This version of Spartacus’ revolt is slightly
Hollywood, of course. There’s no evidence he had a lover,
and no evidence he was crucified. But there sure is evidence
he scared the shit out of the fat-cats on Palatine Hill!
This is Kubrick #2 on
the list. I think I can see a pattern of greatness. Kubrick,
Scorcese, Coppola, DeNiro, Pacino. These are the names I love
the most in cinema. I think 2001: A Space Odyssey is worth
owning, but I don’t think I’d ever watch it again.
It’s a great movie, of course. It’s just not the
kind of thing you “pop-in” and watch for the hell
But back to Spartacus.
It has a great love theme, a simple 3-note strain that Alex
North patterned after the leitmotifs of Wagner, etc., and
which John Williams achieves so well in his Star Wars scores.
The battle scenes are cool. They set huge toasted wheats on
fire and send them down the hill into the Roman armies. They
win. The slaves win. They’re better trained, and they
are fighting for more than a paycheck. They’re fighting
for their lives, civil rights, socialism, the right to party,
Who of us hasn’t
felt a little Spartacus in us?
I don’t own the redux version. I haven’t even
seen it. I heard it’s neat-o. But I don’t care.
The movie as released in 1979 needed nothing extra.
I’ve been to the
Niebaum-Coppola vineyard in Napa valley, and I’ve seen
the bamboo cage that Martin Sheen was in. I’ve seen
Captain Kilgore’s surfboard. I’ve seen the Godfather’s
But what about the movie? It’s the best Vietnam movie,
even though I hate to call it a Vietnam movie (Platoon is
a boring piece of trash). This movie is a movie, not a war
movie, not a Vietnam War movie, not really an action movie,
or anything easily fitting into a category. It’s about
a man who’s gone insane and about a man who’s
going to kill him.
It was the last time Brando
felt like acting. I once remember a movie reviewer calling
his Dr. Moreau performance as a Thanksgiving Day float in
a parade. It’s a shame. He was a national treasure at
one point. Watch this movie to remember him how he was. He
was a brilliant actor. (Recent stories about The Score (2001)
indicate he wouldn’t listen to Frank Oz, the director,
and wouldn’t wear pants.) Sadly, the thing I’ll
remember him the most for is his Larry King Live interview
where he told Larry King, Jewiest of Jews, that the Jews controlled
Hollywood. That may well be true, but don’t say that
on live national TV. You’re bound to burn some bridges.
And Martin Sheen is no
slouch, either. This is the movie that made me think he was
my favorite actor. Then he did Spawn. Oh, well.
Sometimes, Oscar gets it right.
Kevin Spacey does some
amazing stuff, then he does trash, like K-Pax, Pay It Forward,
and The Life of David Gale. I guess Al Pacino did Godfather:
Part III, so we’ll forgive them both.
I know that America, as
a whole, is not like the America depicted in American Beauty.
But it does address some very common problems of white suburban
cities. Not every military man is a repressed homosexual who
beats his sons. Not every married man wants to bone 16-year-old
I guess this movie contrasts
my other favorites in that it’s not a huge epic. It’s
a plain drama, well done, and we need no explosions. Good
story, good dialogue, good acting. That’s what makes
a good movie. If you lack any of those elements, blow something
The saddest part of the
movie for me is when Kevin Spacey tries to seduce his wife,
after an unknown period of lack of intimacy. He’s been
bought out at his job, and she comes home frustrated at her
job. He remembers what he loved so much about her, and she
remembers what she loved so much about him. But their near
sex ends when she realizes he might spill wine on their expensive
Can another scene say
better what is wrong with America?
Making Sense (1984)
This is not a concert movie. If it is, it’s the best
concert movie yet made. It was directed by a upcoming Jonathan
Demme, and it’s a movie. A movie-movie.
This movie of the Talking
Heads tells a story, although I can’t tell you exactly
what that story is. The story starts with David Byrne wanting
to play us a song about a killer on his jambox. By the end,
15 musicians are begging us to take them to the river. I can
sure do without Tina Weymouth’s side project, the Tom-Tom
Club and their Genius of Love song.
A great bonus section
features Byrne interviewing Byrne. Once again, I’m a
little biased, since David Byrne is one of my personal idols.
But who else in modern pop culture gave us such a wonderful
selection of smart, pithy, and intelligent music?
I don’t own True
Stories on DVD yet, but I think I’m going to buy it
I own that aren’t movies
Show Seasons 1 and 2 (1995-1996)
If you like comedy, then you must love Mr. Show. It’s
Saturday Night Live with thought. Bob and David are my current
personal comedic idols. I think George Carlin has lost a bit
in his old age and his desires to spew his political agenda.
Mr. Show definitely has some politicking to it, but it’s
so well disguised that you don’t really feel it until
I can’t wait for
seasons three and four to appear on DVD, because those are
the best. But seasons one and two have their juicy nuggets.
My favorite skit is Bob as Van Hammersly, who can teach you
to get your G.E.D. by playing billiards.
I saw them live last September
at the Congress Theater, and it was fantastic. I was laughing
nonstop, and I only had a few beers. These guys are our Laurel
and Hardy. They are not getting the respect they deserve.
the Vampire Slayer Seasons 1 and 3 (1997, 1999)
I don’t own Season two yet. The people who dis on Buffy
are the people who haven’t even seen the show, or sat
down to watch a few episodes. This is one of the funniest,
most engaging shows on network TV. And the people are all
I honestly must admit
that this show is the most intelligent on TV right now, and
is unfortunately coming to an end. I generally can’t
stand hour-long dramas, but this show counters so many tropes
of TV that it is refreshing every week.
These DVDs have made me
laugh out loud. That’s something that doesn’t
happen that often. The writers are witty, sharp, and hip.
They’re the establishment and anti-establishment at
the same time. That’s exactly where I hope to be someday.
And that’s it. I don’t know if I’ve convinced
anyone to buy these DVDs I own, but I do know that they are
worth owning. If you are poor, drop me a line, and maybe we
can watch them together some night. I’ll make some drinks,
and talk your ear off for the whole movie.