Monday, August 08, 2011

psychedelic furs. 8.5.2011. tanner park.

set included (not in order): dumb waiters [first song, i missed it, booo], pretty in pink, into you like a train, sister europe, heartbreak beat, heartbeat, love my way, i wanna sleep with you, president gas, mr jones, heaven, highwire days [and a few other songs i didn't know].

clicky on photos to make bigger.

notable songs not played: house + until she comes [they never play these!], here come cowboys, goodbye, sleep comes down, ghost in you, all that money wants.

Monday, July 11, 2011

movies left for dead

The House of the Devil (2009) There are two common opinions of this beautiful-looking horror film set in the mid 1980s. It's either too slow, with a dissapointing ending, or, it is busting with suspense and.....also has a dissapointing ending. A few recent horror films have pulled this off successfully. Hostel and Wolf Creek for example (The House of the Devil is much less violent than those). But if you're going to keep us in Hitchcock-style suspense for an hour, with something catastrophic expected to eventually transpire, at least have it make sense!

As you can probably guess, Devil falls into the occult/demonic/supernatural category. This is all fine and good, but the reason for the director setting it in the mid-80s doesn't sit right. In an interview he notes that devil worship and satanic cults were a hot topic in the 80s and then says "people aren't afraid of the devil anymore." Really? Okay...this is news to ME! Also, the tagline on the movie poster makes no sense for the film: "talk on the phone. Do your homework. Watch TV. Die." That's the best they could do? Must be tongue-in-cheek.

Nonetheless, Devil is artistic about it's setting and doesn't poke fun at the 80s (you know what i'm talking about). The opening credits and music (which sounds like a variation of the Cars' "Moving in Stereo"), make it clear that it wants that feel of the era and wants to be so good at it that you will take 80s culture more seriously (which we should!). Aside from vintage music by Thomas Dolby and the Fixx, there are also visual and plot hints of classics Rosemary's Baby and the little known Alison's Birthday, and possibly the more recent Skeleton Key. Also, there's a brief appearance of an actress that will look familiar if you've seen early 80s werewolf classic the Howling.

The story centers on a girl who agrees to stay in a big scary isolated house, in which we assume something suspicious is going on. Eventually, the climax does arrive, with 15 minutes left in the movie. In that 15 minutes she does something odd while not choosing the more obviously action. And somehow she impossibly survives! Earlier, when she's nervous and scared, she does something else that makes no sense. The pizza delivery guy (who is actually one of the "bad" people) drops off a pizza. She open the door, grabs the pizza and closes the door immediately, not asking his help. In a parallel universe (a subject scientists are trying to prove with goofy examples) this could have made for a worthwhile path. While the idea of an innocent girl getting mixed up with the devil's followers is realistic enough, the place that Devil leads to is a construction area without a caution sign. [rating: $5] -Kenyon

Saturday, May 28, 2011

movies left for dead.

Body Shop (aka Doctor Gore, 1973) Even though it's only 75 minutes, the truly terrible Body Shop could easily be edited down to 15. Every scene and every motion drags at a lumbering pace, which doesn't help when half the plot is unclear. This seems to be the case though--a woman dies and her lover, a mad scientist, reforms her from body parts of other women. That's where the body shopping and chopping comes in, and admittedly for the early 70s, this is gory stuff. However, even that slicing off of legs, etc, moves super slowly. These operations are assisted by a mute hunchback weirdo whose job is to dispose the unused body parts in acid. After the girl is assembled, she and her creator spend at least 15 minutes in the film getting "acquainted". Plans for the doctor, however, go sour and before you know it the doctor is in a jail cell while his girl is out roaming the world meeting new people. Something like that. [rating: $1] -Kenyon

Sunday, May 08, 2011

I've Got a Secret and I Can't Explain
The Secret History
Interview by Kenyon Hopkin
Long delayed, especially since I first met The Secret History's frontman, Michael Grace, Jr, in the mid-90s, here finally is the interview with the native Long Islander, former My Favorite vocalist and romantic writer. After ten years of indie pop with My Favorite--highlights of which included rabid fans in Sweden and opening for Belle & Sebastian--Grace and most of the other members re-grouped with a slightly altered sound, while adding a few more people. This includes vocalist Lisa Ronson, daughter of 1970s glam rocket Mick Ronson. Other members are guitarist Darren Amadio, keyboardist Kurt Brondo, drummer Todd Karasik, bassist Gil Abad and singer Jaime Kozyra. In this latest incarnation, currently backed by indie label Le Grand Magistery, the band shifts its analysis of the 1980s to the entire century (scroll down for their latest video). Now, Grace reveals his views on My Favorite's end, life in Europe, life in New York City, and what is killing music.

Advance Copy: Aside from the line-up change, what are the differences between the Secret History and My Favorite?
Grace: Well when we started My Favorite in the 90s as teenagers, we were mourning the loss of a 1980s we really never experienced, something we gleaned from records and fanzines. So that whole group was really like an incantation trying to astral project our reality somewhere else. A failure on a metaphysical level, but an interesting group for trying I think. The Secret History is more about trying to untangle the 20th century into something that makes sense in our current slum of an age. So it's like a drifting AM radio signal lost in space. Sometimes a bit of the Shirelles tunes in, sometimes the New York Dolls, or Felt. It's forever now. We are the "constant."

AC: Why did My Favorite end?
Grace: Well it's amazing we made it a decade as a small, cult indie band with a name which sounds like a bad Situationist joke. I mean peoples' recent nostalgia for the first wave of American indie pop is somewhat charming, but it was a wilderness then. In the end, you know, a lot of the texture of that group came from the specific dynamic which singer Andrea Vaughn and I had creatively, so when that dynamic changed, it was time to put that book on the shelf, so to speak.

AC: So I know your influences are as much from writers, philosophers, literature, etc. What would some of those recent ones be that inspire your songwriting and style?
Grace: There is really no way to answer that without most people reading this beginning to projectile vomit. l like art and books and records. I'm interested in how the art we make helps us sort out the time in which we live. It wasn't so much a stigma in decades past, to feel this way, in fact it was encouraged. But I mean we are in a period of forced aesthetic re-education, so now it just seems quaint to care about art. I was re-reading "Day of The Locust," and Brett Easton Ellis's sequel to "Less Than Zero" when we were touring out on the West coast.

AC: Is there any literature you ever read and you were like, "this is just crap"?
Grace: Oh sure, but I mean I at least respect someone for going the distance and writing a book. I've been trying to do it recently and it's not easy. Shitty novelists still make above average dinner guests. I'm usually more demoralized by music. It's just too easy to make shitty music, and too many people are doing it and you are at risk of being sent to an internment camp if you dare to say so. So as a result, we all have to just keep lowering our standards and drinking more and more to make certain bands seem passable. We make concessions and tell ourselves some pastiche of a pop group is just fantastic and then herd ourselves into the [New York City venue] Bowery Ballroom. The names just blur together, but the disappointment lingers. In the past music journalists were critics, who were able to put art into context, and usually had strong ideas about where they wanted music to go and respected strong artists for making their jobs easier. Now, a lot of music journalists are bloggers who see themselves as "tastemakers" and that is an offensive perspective. If you want to influence what sneakers someone buys, that's fine. But music should be sacred. It shouldn't be just seasons of disposal separates. Hipsterism is killing music.

AC: Lisa Ronson's dad was buddies with Dylan, Bowie, Lou Reed, Morrissey. How exciting was that? Or is it like no big deal. I mean you must have been psyched.
Grace: I mean it could have went either way. She could have been some spoiled rock royalty dilettante with no real passion. I've seen enough of them on reality television. But instead she was this really gritty individual with a lot churning about inside, wanting to come out. Her dad was a genius, but he didn't make a fortune in the music business, so Lisa grew up in small seaside town on Long Island. Ironically, the same as most of us did. I mean it has been really great to meet Ian Hunter and Mick Rock, but mainly Lisa has been great because she is a talented singer, and a really cool girl. However if Morrissey wanted to come round for a show that would be splendid.

AC: You've been to Europe a few times. What are your favorite countries and spots and locations? What in Europe do you HATE?
Grace: As a band, My Favorite only played in Sweden, Norway and London. As a person, I've also been to Italy and France. Not to sound too much like a clove smoking beatnik, but there isn't much about Europe I don't like. The passion and intelligence of the Swedish pop fan will never cease to inspire me. Paris is just an amazingly atmospheric place to kick around. Italy is a mystical and emotional place for me. London is well London. Home of the brash, outrageous and free. And thus concludes my Lonely Planet Guide blurb. As far as things I hate, well Europeans don't understand politics quite as well as they think they do, and considering how protective they are of their "nationality" in regard to immigrants, I sometimes find their critiques of the U.S. a little vexing. Having said that, I find the reality of the U.S. profoundly more vexing. So its relative.

AC: You had a band prior to the internet thingy, and now less kids read actual books and magazines and look down while walking, texting someone that's two minutes away. And they don’t spell too good. What's your tragic romantic view of the deteriorating social skills of people resulting from overload of cell phones/internet/ipods/droids/xbox?
Grace: Oh I know I should say the kids and the world etc are going to hell in a breadbasket. And clearly they are. But I find the way the world decays and devolves fascinating. Not to say we shouldn't resist, we should. I'd love if people still wrote me letters full of drawings and such, but they don't. They comment on facebook. So life goes on. I think the most important thing is what people think and feel and do with their lives. The medium of their communication is less important. Having said that though, I think the latter is affecting the prior.

AC: What do you think about the collapse of print news media?
Grace: I think it is very sad if it comes to fruition. I read three newspapers a day, from a trashy tabloid to as much of the New York Times as I can get through. I love glossy magazines. I love fanzines and self publishing. I like paper. I don't like turning pages by breezing my finger across the screen of an iPad and then giving the universe a smug grin.

AC: How's life in Brooklyn? Do you miss Long Island at all? What do you hate about Brooklyn and Manhattan?
Grace: Ironically I'm living in Long Island City, Queens, though most of my band mates are in Brooklyn. I do miss Long Island a lot actually, though I always have to make sure I'm not missing a certain memory of place and time more than the place itself. I think lonesome, desperate, beautiful places are better for artists than cities like New York or L.A. or London. I came to understand alienation and isolation on Long Island in a way that will always manifest itself in my work. I miss the small secret beaches and WUSB, the record stores that don't exist anymore. Driving and driving with nowhere to go. I love New York City, but I'm essentially always just A Kid From Long Island Who Read The NME. Deep inside I think that is still how I see myself. A hopeless Mod going to Stony Brook. If I hate anything about Brooklyn/New York it's just how self-conscious and insecure people are. They flock like sheep around colorful piles of crap and it's slightly disheartening. People are not as audacious and outrageous anymore in NYC as generations past, and if they're going to think they are cooler than everyone, they need to at least be entertaining. Instead, most people are deeply tiresome.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

movies left for dead.

Alien Contamination (1980) Hundreds of watermelon-size egg-like things have appeared in New York City. The authorities are on it, and they find out that they explode onto people and then two seconds later the victim's guts explode out in a gory manner, which is fairly impressive for this type of early 80s, lower budget film. The eggs are very important to the people that have a plan for them. And they are so important, these eggs, that men will sacrifice themselves to keep it covered. In one scene some dudes get caught in a warehouse with the eggs, so they shoot the eggs in front of themselves and die instantly. Later, in a flashback, it's shown that the strange eggs originated from Mars and one of two astronauts took back a "seed" to grow a cyclops. Yes, a cyclops. This sorta comes out of nowhere near the end, but it's very entertaining. It's an alien creature, the size of a large tree--and kinda shaped that way--that is in the basement of the facility housing the eggs. It is controlling minds and making its servants harvest the eggs, which apparently have no other purpose than to explode and release toxic substances. Anyway, the other astronaut saves the day, although one of the other hero lead characters is unexpectedly eaten by the cyclops. Wooops! [rating: $3] -Kenyon