Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sometimes I sit here, on the verge of typing something out, pondering what on earth I should write about in this blog, when I wonder to myself: what bleedingly obvious artist or band have I not written about? And when I say bleedingly obvious, I mean in the sense of bleedingly obvious to me: someone or something I've enthused about for many years, but never right here. Hearing Richard Thompson on the radio this afternoon, amongst others such as Amon Duul 2, Led Zep and Captain Beefheart - yep, we do have some good radio down here - the obvious struck me. If you haven't cottoned onto what I'm about to write about by this point, you're probably reading the wrong blog.
I first got into the music of Richard Thompson in 1994 via a cheap, secondhand copy of a Best Of Fairport Convention 2LP. In the second last issue of Forced Exposure, from 1991 (the one w/ MX-80 on the cover), Eddy Flowers wrote a list of "inspirational artists": Can, Sun Ra, Beefheart, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Hawkwind, MC5, etc. For a few years there, I used that as my guide to buying, even though I've still never owned an Allmann Brothers disc. Fairport were listed, and I'd recently been tuned into the possibilities presented by the music of Richard Thompson via Peter Laughner's a-fucking-mazing cover of "Calvary Cross" on the now out-of-print Take The Guitar Player For A Ride 2LP on Tim/Kerr, released at the time. Actually, I still rate Laughner's cover as better than the original, but that's another story. Some of the Best Of 2LP set concentrated on the post-Thompson work from the band - music which pales in comparison to their earlier work - though there was definitely a solid LP in there of killer material.
Richard & Linda Thompson's I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight was the next logical move, since even in the pre-internet world, when researching such a topic usually meant having to go to a library and check out a Record Guide Book or somesuch, it was easy to figure out that this 1974 effort was likely his high point. It is, though I'd also hate to ignore records like Fairport Convention's What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking and Liege & Leaf - three of the most defining records which bridged British psychedelia and folk-rock - as well as Thompson's efforts such as Henry The Human Fly, his debut solo album from 1972, Pour Down Like Silver, Shoot Out The Lights and Smalltown Romance - some of these recorded w/ Linda, some of them not. Pour Down Like Silver was recorded and released just when he and his wife were getting heavily involved in the esoteric branch of Islam, Sufism. He and his wife even lived in a Sufi commune from the years 1975-'78. Smalltown Romance, which may or may not still be available, is taken from a live radio broadcast from 1982 and later released on Rykodisc. It's Richard solo doing many of his well-known songs from years past, a greatest hits package, and it may well be his best recording. And Shoot Out The Lights? That was the last record Richard & Linda recorded together before their split; it is, as has been noted, their divorce record, and for my money is the best articulation of this anguish outside of Dylan's Blood On The Tracks. It also contains the only song I know featuring the word "renege" in the title.
And whilst I'm rambling, I shouldn't forget the compilation Island released in 1976 - a period when he was essentially AWOL whilst soaking up the spiritual vibes at the retreat - Guitar/Vocal. It's a collection of live stuff and outtakes from his Fairport and solo period up to then, and again, it's essential if you're going to dig deep into his catalogue. It's also has a killer live version of "Calvary Cross", which I can only assume was the template for Laughner's rendition. "Calvary Cross" was originally released on I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, and good as the studio version is, the live one is where Richard's unique, spikey guitar solos come to the fore.
Some have listed I Want To See... as being an album which firmly fits within the proto-punk canon, and whilst I'd agree that its bitter, almost nihilistic sentiments fall within the framework, the music is much more in that classic early-'70s Island "sound", alongside other favourites (of mine, at least) as John Cale, John Martyn and Nick Drake: a depressing, colourless and distinctly English sound (and I'm aware of the Scottish/Welsh blood present, thanks) which was the perfect antidote for the times. Thompson was also a vocal champion of punk, acknowledging that it was a logical and correct reaction to the boredom and bad music which had set in as the '70s progressed. I saw him play live 10 years ago, and he was in excellent form. I've not made much of an effort to hear any of his post-1982 works, as the tracks I have heard seem to be marred by overly slick production (much like John Martyn's), though in a stripped-down live setting, it was obvious the songwriting was still very much intact.
Other than Neil Young, whose catalogue is possibly too eclectic to be categorised as such, Richard Thompson was the first singer/songwriter whose music really hit home w/ me. His best records from the '60s/'70s/'80s still sound remarkably contemporary, undiminished in their lyrical and musical power by the passing years, and contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a middle-aged MOJO reader to dig his ouvre (though that doesn't hurt). Particularly during the supposed "lost years" of rock music - which I guess many would say was 1970-'75 (though I'd rate this era as anything but "lost"), his music was a shining light. Dig it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's a good day when two records by two different contemporary outfits land on your doorstep and don't leave you wishing the youth of today would stop picking up musical instruments. Cynical? Yes, much so. When I was but a wee lad, I used to hold nothing but contempt for old geezers whose music taste froze in time like a preserved moose, their minds not open to new sounds. I can say w/ a straight face that that is not me - I am constantly discovering all sorts of interesting sounds from years past, even some modern ones, too - but when it comes to the realm of modern-day underground/independent stabs at this thing we could vaguely stamp as "rock music", my mind remains mostly shut. The reason is simple: I am constantly repulsed by its protagonists and the sounds they create in the 21st century. However, I'm also aware of the fact that this predicament says far more about me than the music in question, and since this third-rate psychotherapy/naval-gazing is starting to bore even me, let's skip to the releases in question.
Both released on the US label, Kranky, co-helmed by ex-Your Flesh contributor Bruce Adams, the label originally established itself via releases by the likes of Labradford and Stars Of The Lid in the mid '90s and is still kranking (urgh...) out titles at a semi-alarming rate. The label is mostly not on my radar of interest in this day and age, though I procured a handful of things from the label (I didn't go begging), and two have hit home as winners worthy of repeat plays: Black Earth by Implodes and Common Era by Belong. The former is a quartet from Chicago featuring a couple of guys w/ beards and glasses, and their music is something which belongs firmly within the stable of sound found on Kranky, which means it that it borrows elements from both Eno's ambient works from 1970s, and the shoegaze guitar fuzz of Loveless-period My Bloody Valentine. But before you start thinking this is merely an excercise in Kranky genericism, I should add that some of it reminds me of the electro-garage scuzz of 1st-album Cabaret Voltaire or the guitar heroics of early '90s Helios Creed. Surely that couldn't be a bad thing? OK, now that I've thrown lots of referential names around, I should also add that the given mix of these elements contains a nice balance of all of the above. Got me? This won't change your life, but if you're expecting an album in 2011 to do that, you may be asking for too much. So far as pastiches of days gone by, Black Earth does it well.

Even better is this disc by New Orleans duo, Belong. They feature two fellows known for their work in some other bands I've never heard of. This is far more Angloid-damaged than Implodes, some of it alluding to scenes, bands and sounds which I've been known to deride heavily to those who care (and even those who don't). That is, there's a heavy Joy Division/Factory vibe on display, as well as a gothy, 4AD thing going on. In fact, had I heard this back in the 1980s, when I was of the belief that anyone who found anything of worth in these sonics needed their head examined for evidence of a rational thought process, I would've thrown this very disc into a never-to-be-played-again pile. But all of this is just reference, and I'm beginning to bore even myself in discussing all of this. As w/ Implodes, there's a wall of Kevin Shields-style fuzz throughout, though underneath the noise is the thin, bloodless pulse of Great Britain ca. 1985. Black Earth possesses a gated, Martin Hannett 4/4 drum sound, buried vocals and descending bass chords that have a good deal of it duplicating a lo-fi take on Unknown Pleasures, and whilst you may be correct in thinking that such a description doesn't sound like my usual ticket to ride, the overall ambience of its 40-minute duration is something which has stuck in my craw the past couple of weeks. What Belong are trying to create seems obvious - Common Era is like listening to Joy Division in a wind tunnel - but the melodic invention of the songs raise it above its station. This entire review has been an excercise in grammatical circumlocution, so I'll state in plainly simple language that I happen to like it a whole lot. Both Belong and Implodes are in the here and now and I'm perfectly happy with that.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Here's a pointless story from the past.


20 years of your life sure can go by fast. Two decades ago, I was a gormless second-year student at university, religiously buying issues of Maximum Rock & Roll, Flipside, Your Flesh, B-Side, Forced Exposure and pretty much any fanzine I could grab my hands on; buying records from money saved via crappy temp jobs on a weekly basis from the likes of Missing Link and Au-go-go (RIP to the latter; to the former, we shall bid farewell in the near future) - and if my memory serves me correctly, at 19 I was obsessively into the Boredoms, Die Kreuzen, Chrome/Helios Creed, various SST cronies, Fugazi and just about anyone who'd recorded for the Shimmy-Disc label. I liked to drink cheap booze to the point of oblivion w/ a crew of similar misfits I'd managed to track down via my studies and gig attendances (and I'm still good buddies w/ all of them), and I saw a whole lot of music at venues such as the Great Britain Hotel, The Tote, Punter's Club, Evelyn, Richmond Club, etc. I was, in essence a walking cliche of the times and likely remain one today. But I was having a blast and was finally finding my own feet after the suffocating years of high school.
Prior to the advent of the internet, I was also quite actively involved in networking w/ people from all around the world w/ similar interests, notably fanzine- and tape-trading. These were the days when you'd put pen to paper, spend hours making compilation tapes for people in far-flung corners of the globe and be thrilled when you'd find a letter on your doorstep (these days they're inevitably bills). You felt like you were part of something secret and special, something the rest of the world would never fully get. Obsessive stamp collectors and Civil War fanatics possibly feel the same way.
In 1991 - and I'm guessing it was around September/October of that year when the weather was getting a little warmer and lighter at night - Fugazi toured Australia for the very first time. It was a big deal for myself and my friends, and I went to both of their Melbourne shows. A friend of mine followed them around the country, attending every show they played. At this stage I was in contact w/ Richard Loveday, who was publishing Marcy fanzine from Perth. A tape-trading pal of mine, Kelvin Craig, had sent me a copy of the first issue and it blew my socks off. Loveday was a completely obnoxious and insufferably opinionated smartarse who not only seemed to review just about every independent record from the previous 12 months - it made me wonder where he got his money from; I found out soon that it was from a cushy public-service job and an insatiable quest to buy just about everything from various indie mailorder outlets from overseas (something I very rarely did until I started using Ajax in late 1992) - but also interviewed bands I dug at the time: Die Kreuzen, Beat Happening, Antiseen, et al.
I wrote to him and said that I would like to contribute to future issues in some manner. He gave me the go-ahead, taped about 10 hours of his favourite music for me on half-a-dozen cassettes, some of which was insanely rare and annotated w/ market-value notes next to the song/album titles ("from Necros' Sex Drive EP, est. price $250"; "Deep Wound EP, paid $50, est. price $150+"), and I decided to write some reviews. Some of those are in the second issue of Marcy, which came out in January 1992. I spent a day lugging those issues around the indie record stores via foot and public transport. My good buddy, Richard Stanley - whom I just paid a visit to an hour ago - also contacted Richard Loveday after having been sent a copy via Kelvin Craig (where is he now?, I wonder), and he soon contacted me: relationships born from these circumstances, in some cases, last a lifetime.
Issue #2 of Marcy had my reviews printed, though I was slightly peeved by Loveday's rewording of some of what I'd written (I recall him thinking I was being too negative at times) and vowed that one day I would do my own fanzine where I could say and print exactly as I pleased. That didn't eventuate until February 1993, when issue #1 of Year Zero hit the shelves.
Going back a little, I promised Richard Loveday that I'd interview Ian MacKaye when Fugazi hit town. He agreed that it was a fine idea and encouraged me to go for it. The week prior to Fugazi playing, I saw Spiderbait play one of their late-afternoon shows at the Zig-Zag club in Carlton. Zig-Zag used to host "Rock Against Work" shows on a Tuesday afternoon, w/ bands usually kicking off at about 4 PM. Entry was either free or minimal, beer was dangerously cheap and pizza could be bought by the slice. The end result would often be pizza-caked vomit piles out the front of the venue by the end of the night's proceedings, though a good time was had by all. Folks would skip university classes or leave work early to make attendance, and you could stagger out of the venue at the reasonable hour of 10:30 w/ a belly full of booze and pizza and a couple of local bands just witnessed. Later on, Spiderbait became famous and sold a lot of records, both here and abroad (I've heard they're big in Canada), but at the time they were just local schleps w/ a 7" out. I liked 'em just fine and saw them plenty of times, as I did The Meanies, Fridge, Bored!, Throwaways and others. At that age, and at that time, they were simply the bands you saw on a regular basis.
The evening Spiderbait played, I was particularly tanked. I'd hit the $1 beers w/ a vengeance and I was in the mood to party. At one point, Kram from Spiderbait asked if anyone wanted to join the band on vocals as they played a punked-up cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids In America". Without hesitation, I stormed the stage, grabbed the mic and decided to bumrush the gig w/ my presence. My friends in attendance proceeded to laugh their collective arse off. The band looked hesitant, but nonetheless ripped into the song. I was so wasted I didn't know what I was doing. When the chorus hit, I started screaming into the microphone, "We're the kids in Australia, wo-o-oah!!" Second time around, I completely lost it. When the chorus hit again, I simply barked out nonsense cookie monster vocals a la the grindcore of the day and then fell over and crawled all over the stage on my back whilst screaming like a drunken idiot possessed (I was). The band stopped playing and Kram said something along the lines of, "Will somebody please get this fucking idiot off the stage". My friends continued to cheer; I don't think anyone else present was thrilled by my performance. I protested and yelled at the band to let me sing one more song. They looked pissed off at my presence but probably didn't feel like getting into a confrontation over it (and from memory, Zig-Zag never had bouncers), so they started on the next song. I didn't recognise it and concluded that my minutes in the limelight were over. The stage was raised about two feet from the floor, so I took a running leap into the crowd as a final moment of glory. The crowd parted like the sea and I landed like a ton of bricks, somehow escaping serious injury. I suspected I had just made a major twit of myself and had a head full of hungover regret the next day, but that's what being a young & stupid asshole is all about.
Spiderbait were supporting Fugazi the next week at one of their Melbourne Uni shows. I brought along my Dad's mini-cassette recorder and told my friends I was going to go for the scoop. Before the show started, I managed to blag my way backstage, telling one of the security guys that I was from a fanzine who'd organised an interview w/ the members of Fugazi. On the way, I passed Kram. He shot me a look as if to say, You're that fucking idiot who wouldn't get his arse off my stage last week, aren't you? I tried to avoid eye contact and shuffled through to see Ian MacKaye relaxing on a couch. I nervously approached him and told him I was from a local fanzine and would like to interview him. You see, regardless of what you think of Fugazi, that was one of the great things about the band: they were selling a lot of records at this stage and everyone wanted a slice of them - Rolling Stone, Spin, you name it. The band refused such interviews, but were only too glad to help a clueless bumpkin such as myself in my budding journalistic efforts. Ian told me I was welcome to see him after the show and indicated as such to the security guy. I was in.
After the show - a rollicking affair loved by all - I made my way backstage. Ian was towelling himself off after an exhaustive performance and indicated for me to sit down on the couch next to him. I pulled out the tape recorder and proceeded to hit him w/ a few braindead questions I'd managed to scrape together (one was "What do you think of GG Allin?"... urgh). He'd answered two or three questions when some drunken dickhead approached him wanting to do high fives and bore him regarding how much he kicked ass. Ian told me to wait a minute whilst he politely brushed him off. I hit "pause" on the tape recorder. A minute later, I could tell it was going to take somewhat longer than a minute to get rid of this guy, so I hit "stop" instead. The backstage area was dark, but I figured that pressing it would take the "pause" button off, too. It didn't. When the interview resumed and I hit the "play/record" buttons, it didn't take it off "pause". I taped nothing. When the interview had finished - and believe me, it wasn't the type to win any kind of Pulitzer, but it was OK for what it was, and Ian was courteous, friendly and informative all the way through - I left and met up w/ my friends outside. They were excited that I'd scored an interview w/ someone who was, at that stage, a larger-than-life gen-u-ine punk rock hero of ours (again, we were young and this was before the internet levelled the playing field of "celebrity" to an almost flat line), and they wanted to hear the tape. I rewound to the start and began to play the recording. The first couple of minutes was just fine, and then it hit a sudden silence, which lasted for what seemed an eternity. I rewound again, fast-forwarded, messed w/ the volume and various other pointless activities. It struck me what had happened. My friend Nick still jokes to me about the experience, saying it's the closest he'd seen me to crying.
I tried to salvage what I'd recorded and told Richard Loveday that the promised Fugazi interview wasn't going to happen. He thought I might be able to make something of what was recorded and write a piece from it, though I informed him that the result would only be the crappest Fugazi article ever put to print.
Twenty fucking years ago. Excuse whilst I get wistful...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The presence of this Ran Blake CD in my midst, released by the New York-based label Tompkins Square in 2009, recently had me madly scurrying for information on the guy. After all, how could a jazz veteran with 50 years of recordings behind him, including a 1966 LP on ESP-Disk' and collaborations w/ Anthony Braxton and Steve Lacy, have totally escaped my radar, even if it's only just name-recognition, until now? Obviously such a feat is easy and I should stop over-estimating myself. Born and bred in Boston, and ensconsed in the world of music academia for the past 40 years, he's released more than three-dozen albums since 1962, yet his name is almost entirely unknown. A pianist, and one who prefers to play either solo or in trios, his music is a blend of form and composition and heady improvisations. At times he can sound like a young Bill Evans or even the cinematic, ambient tones of Harold Budd, and at others he abruptly bangs the ivories like Cecil Taylor. Stylistically, I'd put him in the same basket as Charles Mingus, Anthony Braxton and Andrew Hill, three players whose sounds have always bordered the worlds of jazz tradition and the avant-garde. Driftwoods sees him covering some familiar standards from an eclectic listing of songs and performers: Billie Holiday ("Strange Fruit"), Mingus, George & Ira Gershwin ("I Loves You, Porgy"), Mahalia Jackson and Hank Williams. The version of "Lonesome Highway", completely reworked into a stunning and sparse piano rendition, is what first turned my ears towards the man known as Ran Blake. I can't speak for his other recordings, but sooner or later you know I will.

I reviewed David Sylvian's Manafon CD from 2009 here early last year. I think I explained myself adequately. Prior to my recent conversion, I had the man pegged as a standard-bearer for what I considered to be the canon of Boring English Music. Mincing avant-garde nonsense from a former New Waver only of interest to those who thought The Wire magazine to be the gospel of truth. Again, I was wrong. His recent output is so much more than that, and for me Manafon remains a musical highlight of the last couple of years, a near reworking of sound as we know it, one which is so sparse and at first so alienating to the listener - it borders on a capella - that most people on planet earth would find it remarkable that anyone would want to listen to it once, let alone repeatedly. At first, I was one such listener (I'm repeating myself: read that original review I linked to). Died In The Wool, again released on Sylvian's Samadhi Sound label) reworks 5 songs from Manafon, as well as adding 6 new tracks and a bonus disc of material (actually, it's one 20-minute track by Sylvian's sidekick here, Dai Fujikura). The "reworkings" are, what sounds to me, the original vocal tracks by Sylvian augmented by slightly more instrumentation: a string quartet, electronics and clarinet to accompany Sylvian's pithy musings. This works quite seamlessly when put together w/ the new material, and if you're not of the opinion that Sylvian is pretentious enough for you, there's also two Emily Dickinson poems read by the man, again w/ sparse instrumental accompaniment by Fujikura and co. That might do the trick. I'm not criticising Sylvian by any means; for me, he's on the right musical path. This is fringe music which is way out on the margins, one which bears little resemblance to many from years past (both Eno's ambient works from the '70s and Scott Walker ca. Tilt are the only two I can think of), and one which has few contemporaries. For myself, Manafon remains his definitive statement and to make it slightly more palatable via these reworkings possibly negates what made it so brilliant in the first place, but I can't fault him for his efforts. If Manafon made you want to climb the walls in frustration, then Died In The Wool might do half the job. Totally swish mini-box/digipak/fold-out packaging, too, for those still interested in objects one can hold.

This CD, Groovy by Charles Brown, has been one of my most heavily rotated in the past 12 months. Released via Rev-Ola Bandstand (a subsidiary of the great UK Rev-Ola label dedicated to reissuing old jump-blues, R & B and rockabilly), it puts together 30 tracks ca. 1945 - 1956 of Charles Brown tracks, both solo and w/ Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, the three-piece cool-blues outfit he sang w/ but split from in 1947 to go solo. He scored big hits at the time w/ "Drifting Blues" and "Merry Christmas Baby" - both tracks you may know - though they're not included here; instead this comp' details his lesser known but more rockin' material. Johnny Moore's Three Blazers based their entire schtick on the Nat King Cole Trio. Prior to his pop fame and conversion to the white market, Nat King Cole was all the rage in the LA blues clubs w/ his own brand of sophisticated, bar-room/cocktail-styled cool blues which would prove to be of great influence on subsequent performers of note (not just Brown, but Percy Mayfield, Amos Milburn and especially Ray Charles). Brown took the piano/bass/guitar/vocals set-up of Cole and defined it better than his mentor (not to knock NKC: his early trio stuff is great), but he also cut a whole bunch of killer cuts on labels such as Aladdin and Modern which demonstrated his proto-rock & roll chops. His approach was way more mannered than the lewd 'n' crude stylings of, say, Wynonie Harris - man whose mighty wail and filthy, entendre-laden lyrics virtually defined rock & roll as we know it - and his lyrical concerns more, shall we say, sensitive to the needs of the ladies than Wynonie's bang-'em-and-brag methods, but it doesn't make it any the lesser. Like I said: this is sophisticated. Perhaps you could argue that if there's one thing on this earth that R & B/rock & roll should never be is sophisticated, but Charles Brown punctures that argument. He was one handsome fuck and was one of the few who survived the white rock boom of the '50s w/ a second career in the blues clubs of the '60s and '70s, apparently still making great albums well into the '80s (according to Nick Tosches, at least) before passing away in 1999. Something about the music he created stirs my head and loins, combining the right levels of abandon and restraint in the idiom he was working in - post-war big-city blues - and this comp', which gets wilder as it progresses, is one of the best on the market.

The above clip is taken from the new(ish) cable TV series, Portlandia. I can't vouch for it as a show per se, but if it's as good as this clip (and others on Youtube), then it's worth a viewing. Its co-creator is none other than Carrie Brownstein from defunct '90s indie-rockers, Sleater-Kinney. That band was essentially out of my bounds of interest at the time, and still is today, though I do recall being converted to the virtues of one of their albums whilst being dealt a heavy-rotation blow of its wares in the Shock Records warehouse back in the '90s. In some cases, conversion via osmosis can truly work. But anyway, the show itself appears to be a mockery of not only contemporary hipster culture, but the nostalgia some feel for the heady days of Grunge-Era America. I was there, too. It was a fun time, but life is like that when you're young, if you're at all lucky. I was born in 1972, and I can vouch for having had a blast throughout most of that decade. Actually, I thought the entire grunge phenomenon was a complete joke at the time, an opportunistic grab by the corporate culture industry trying to hedge its bets on some sort of faux counter-culture in the hope of a quick buck, and... I'm starting to sound like myself ca. 1993. Nowadays I find it a joke I can actually laugh about. It's easy, as you get older, to get misty-eyed about life when it wasn't so complicated, burdened by responsibilities and life's options seemed endless, so have a laugh at yourself.

Speaking of laughing, William Friedkin's To Live And Die In LA is always good for a hoot. Director Friedkin made his name w/ great films in the early '70s such as The French Connection and The Exorcist. He then destroyed his career by remaking the Francophile classic, Wages Of Fear, as Sorcerer in 1977. I've never seen it, but apparently everyone who did hated it and he never made another hit again. His personality, grating and harsh enough to peel paint, probably didn'thelp either when it came to trying to get projects off the ground. In 1990 he made the schlock-horror, The Guardian. I skipped a class at uni to see it. My greatest memory of the experience remains the fact that I sat through the screening seated next to Nick Cave. It was that good. There was Cruising in 1980, but that was more controversial than successful (or liked, for that matter), and in my book is probably only notable because of the number of Germs songs especially recorded for the soundtrack. If the history books are to be believed, Freidkin dug the band and turned up to the Jack Nitzche-helmed recordings to pogo in the studio. 5 years later he requested none other than Wang Chung to score To Live And Die In LA. The '80s were rough for a lot of people. Despite Wang Chung's negligible contributions to the world of sound in general, their music suits the film well. It's a bombastic synth monstrosity which perfectly mirrors the morally bankrupt landscape of the film. It stars William Peterson as the main protagonist - you may know him from CSI commercials - and the oft-watchable Willem Dafoe as his arch nemesis. Peterson is a can't-live-by-the-rules Secret Service agent (and full-time insufferable asshole) dead set on avenging the death of his partner, a death caused by the bad-assed and shamelessly pretentious counterfeiter played by Dafoe. To catch Dafoe in an unauthorised sting, Peterson has to raise some cash in an attempt to lure Dafoe to the bait. To do this, Peterson rips off what he believes is a crook involved in jewel smuggling and has him accidentally killed, only to discover that the victim was in fact an undercover FBI man who was being tailed by his fellow agents. Mayhem and car chases ensue. Freidkin was a man of allegedly hyper-heterosexual impulses in his heyday, so I can't figure out why some of his films are so blatantly homoerotic. Pederson swaggers around (and dresses) like he just staggered out of a gay bar throughout, and the butt-slapping comraderie displayed throughout the film emits belly laughter from friends of mine. I'm not saying the film isn't ridiculous, low-rent or indeed flat-out fucking terrible in certain scenes, but it's still a fast-paced and gripping piece of '80s cheese, and the car chases above are some of the best ever filmed.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

I'll be back in a jiffy; real life is taking its toll on my ability to blog as much as I'd like to. I do these flashbacks every once in a while, so below there's one for you. Ignore it at will. Above is a clip by Niger musician, Bombino. He's pretty killer. He released an album entitled Agadez a few months back which has been spinning on my player a whole damn lot. Essentially he's picked up the mantle which was held by the great Ali Farka Toure for umpteen years - THE great North African desert bluesman - and injected a heavier dose of Hendrixian guitar heroics into the mix. He's on his way to becoming a star, and I hope it doesn't spoil him. The energy and feel he's got right this minute suits him perfectly. Know what I mean?