Sunday, November 07, 2004

Not a high five to be seen ‘round here today. It’s been a rainy and rather depressing weekend, so let me briefly ramble on about a few good things which keep a man occupied on dreary days…

Firstly, there’s the new-ish UK film, Shaun Of The Dead. Whenever friends tell me I “have” to see a film and it’s “up my alley”, my attention turns elsewhere. This is not meant as a jibe against well-meaning friends, it’s just that I have pretty particular tastes with movies, and even certain films which, it seems, all my friends love (like Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, Donnie Darko), I fucking hate. And I mean it: they stank up the room and wasted hours of my life as I sat in audio-visual torture enduring the endless minutes of cinematic excrement that they were. But, and this is a big but, “they” were right in recommending Shaun of the Dead, a Limey zombie-comedy which avoids all the obvious pitfalls of the genre (if there is one… I guess Return of the Living Dead falls in there: another film I have a great fondness for) and stands as one of the funniest films I’ve seen in eons. And I mean funny as in tears in the eyes, snot running out the nose, the whole coolness-extracting nine yards of giddiness that a really funny film makes you feel. The ever-present “joke” of the pic – that the two main stoners of the movie are caught in such a permanent hangover state that they only realize the world is full of zombies when they come knocking on (or down) their front door – could have bombed in lesser hands. SOTD succeeds because the characterizations of the two main hopeless cases, and the portrayal of a pub/TV-obsessed culture, is so spot-on it had me guiltily looking at myself and asking, Am I really like those guys? (The answer is, Yes, more often than I’d care to admit). Like Dawn Of The Dead, its obvious influence (well, duh), in the 21st century the dead come back to haunt the places that were special in their lives, but this time it’s the local pub, not the mall. I rarely see a contemporary film which blows my mind with its cleverness – SOTD is smart, not smart-arse: there’s a difference – so let me be that hyperventilating “friend” urging you to see this movie…

Two discs getting the heavy airplay this weekend: Chris D.’s Time Stands Still LP and the Swell MapsInternational Rescue CD. Time Stands Still was D.’s first solo effort, and his first release after the break-up of the “original” Flesh Eaters. There’s three versions of this floating around: the original Upsetter/Enigma LP, the 1993 LP/CD reissue on Dogmeat and the new CD reissue (w/ bone-arse tracks) on Atavistic. Take yer pick. My version is the Dogmeat LP (which, if I must reiterate, I have never had any involvement in). It’s a mighty fine disc and an excellent listen for a beer-drenched porch sitting or a rainy afternoon on the couch. D. enlisted an all-star gang of his pals to join in (John Doe, Jeff Pierce, all the usual LA suspects) and belts out an LP worth of acoustic rockers, ballads and torch songs which I can only assume was influenced by a heavy diet of ‘68/’69-era ‘Stones LPs at the time. My advice is to head straight to the b-side and sit in awe at the first three songs: “Sanctuary” (later remade by Divine Horsemen on their scorching Snake Handler LP), “Heat From The Sun” (the LP’s highlight, augmented by some beautiful violin work which adds to the Beggars Banquet feel of the number) and “Little Sister”, an up-tempo jamboree that’ll get the hip shaking. No matter how many times this little pearl gets reissued it’ll probably never find much of an audience outside of the true believers, but that’s their loss. Don’t make it yours.

Swell Maps need no introduction and I ain’t the one to do it anyway. International Rescue is a CD put out by Alive/Bomp a few years back which collates a whole bunch of their singles and odds ‘n’ sods (much like every Swell Maps LP), and for my money remains the essential ‘Maps platter. Every single song could have made a killer 7”, and the fact that the bulk of this was recorded about 25 years ago stands testament to a band whose music has stood the test of time and continues to surpass 99% of contemporary bands attempting the lo-fi punk/new wave/kraut angle in the 21st century. Simply awe-inspiring punk rock mashed up with a dash of Can and T. Rex which strikes a perfect balance of thrashing guitars, pop hooks and experimental wank. Kids, stack this up next to your Interpol CDs in ten years time and weep at your wasted youth

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