Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: Rita Rudner: I STILL HAVE IT...I JUST CAN'T REMEMBER WHERE I PUT IT (2008); Dick Gregory: FROM THE BACK OF THE BUS (1965)

Rita Rudner's newest book has put me in the mind of all the books (or as they sometimes formerly were called, non-books) by comedians over the last fifty years or more...where you'd see the results of a stand-up comedian, well-trained in that focus, grappling with writing prose fiction or essays and even their memoirs, and not quite getting the hang of it, though credited well enough because they were often still funny, certainly usually to the audiences who were following them over to the books. For example, Woody Allen's vignettes and short stories (and what Steve Martin fiction I've read) are very much in this tradition, usually extended jokes that are relatively flat as fiction but are often at least as funny as his routines used to be; perhaps the most obvious example of memoirs that fall into this category in my early reading is Fred Allen's Treadmill to Oblivion, his relatively tired and bitter recounting of his radio and subsequent career (his other memoir, Much Ado About Me, was somewhat less bitter as it dealt mostly with his earlier career; Fred Allen's Letters is also very much worth seeking out), where much of the writing is still building to a punchline entirely too often.

So, too, I Still Have It..., though Rudner, one of the best comedians active, is both honest and witty enough to keep one reading this volume easily, even if it it simply a fleshed-out version of a number of her jokes (with single-page interlineations of some of the standalone jokes without elaboration). I'll suggest you take the "look inside" spin of the first link above rather than my pulling any particular bits out, but the book is very pleasant reading, actually touching in Rudner's memoir of her mother, and absolutely a very good (if not completely satisfying) reading experience.

One of the first books I read in this mode was Dick Gregory's From the Back of the Bus, which is basically also his routines with good, appropriate accompanying photos, mostly of Gregory in performance but some, like the cover shot, of him in comedically (and otherwise) charged poses. Another good book, if not quite the experience of reading his autobiography, Nigger, with its famous dedication to his late mother, suggesting that anytime anyone uttered the word in the future it would be an advertisement for his Lenny Bruce's How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, the Gregory autobio is full of interesting and a few wrenching details (comedians often do not have the happiest of marriages), and unlike even the Bruce (despite Bruce having the help, reportedly, of Harlan Ellison and other editors at Rogue magazine for the articles that his autobio is based on), Nigger is not a primarily jokey patter in print...but From the Back of the Bus is, and is still worth the look (even if much of the patter will be familiar to any fans of Gregory's early career). The Avon edition is very reasonably-priced on the seocndhand market still (I've had a copy of that edition since the very late '70s or earliest '80s).

For more Friday books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February's "Forgotten" Music: Jawbox, Trusty, Smart Went Crazy: bands in DC, late '80s/early '90s

I missed the Heroic Years of punk rock in Washington, DC, or harDCore...I moved to the DC suburbs in 1984, after failing to make ends meet and go to U. Hawaii at the same time. I rejoined my family, who had left Hawaii the year before (though one of the last things I did on Oahu was to help finance Kevin Donegan's Second Pacific Nu Musik Festival (sic) (I think my straightedge cred will be furthered by the probability that my contribution all went to buy the beerkegs) where such folks as the Sharx's Gardner "Fusuhara" and the late Lance Hahn got some early hanging-out in before moving to the continent and forming Cringer). A protopunk fan in the mid-'70s (my first record purchase for myself: a Brownsville Station 45; my second purchase: a Pickwick Beach Boys anthology disc, Surfer Girl; third, an AudioFidelity no-name orchestra recording of the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgski's Pictures at an Exhibition; fourth, the Count Basie Orchestra's Chairman of the Board, my fifth, David Steinberg's Disguised as a Normal Person--and I was off and consuming), I was ready for punk when it arrived, even if I wasn't going to play dress-up. By the time I started befriending people at my Honolulu high school, most of them were at least punk-congnizant, so I got to hear Flipper and the Slits and the Young Marble Giants along with the poppier groups making their way on the charts. A very glum day early in my new Northern Virginia life was brightened by first hearing Husker Du's version of "Eight Miles High."

But by arriving when I did, and not really immersing myself in the burgeoning DC punk scene, I missed the diverse likes of Bad Brains, White Boy, Marginal Man, Psychodrama and Minor Threat...not until I began accompanying my new womanfriend to shows in 1987 did I catch the last appearances of Government Issue and Scream (in their first go-round) and start to pick up on the bands that were continuing and forming in the established and rather adventurous local scene (by the latter '80s, while DC audiences were famously "cool," DC bands were seen as among the most open to experimentation with what "hardcore" punk could mean...Bad Brains, after all, had been credited with inventing the "harder, faster" form, and they were a mutant ex-jazz/rock fusion band (they gave up on Return to Forever-like music because, as Rastafarians, they hoped to reach a wider and younger audience...much as some of the core Return to Forever members had in the early '70s stopped playing free jazz, in bands such as Circle, and moved on to fusion so as to reach larger audiences and perhaps spread a little love for the Church of Scientology).

A lot of the bands were recording on Dischord Records, co-founded by members of Minor Threat, which soon established itself as the most influential, durable and popular punk-oriented label in the area (and one of the most so in the world), though hardly the only one...a lot of bands would self-release their work and use the floating "corporate pseudonym" De Soto Records (now an actual label run by ex-Jawboxers), and such labels as Simple Machines sprung up in Dischord's wake. While Dischord co-owner Ian MacKaye's new band Fugazi was growing enormously popular from jump (I was one of the band's few unenchanted auditors, finding its early investment in songs that built tension to no release counter-productive, if relatively novel; I prefered the songs where they cut loose), there was another local band which first came to my attention due to Maximum RocknRoll's 1989 new-artist compilation They Don't Get Paid, They Don't Get Laid, But Boy Do They Work Hard...Jawbox, with a song named for a John Cheever novel, "Bullet Park."

Smart, allusive lyrics, a propulsive beat; it stood out even in good company. The four-song EP on De Soto/Dischord came soon after, in 1990, and it was brilliant, particularly the final song, "Twister". They weren't holding anything back, and while the lyrics weren't always pellucid, they were always literate and humane...I had a favorite local band, particularly after some transcendent concerts by the trio. The Dischord full-length album Grippe featured the EP and a track, "Footbinder," that had appeared on a compilation album--Jawbox, like many a punk/postpunk band in the early '90s, were on a remarkable number of anthology albums, many of them thematic tributes to other bands, and released any number of split singles with peers such as Jawbreaker. Bassist Kim Coletta can be seen protruding her tongue on this album cover, whose not-quite-title track "Grip" is an example of the slower-tempo songs the first album favored:

...and "Consolation Prize" is an even better example of this more balladic approach. I championed the band in the pages of the free monthly tabloid Whack! (originally Crack DC, which proved too incorrect a title) and they were kind enough to invite Donna and me over to their house to chat...their next Dischord album, Novelty, featured some excellent songs, and debuted the new fourth member, guitarist and vocalist Bill Barbot to augment guitarist/singer J. Robbins, Coletta, and the soon-departing drummer Adam Wade (who found even my praise of the band kind of off-puttingly intellectualized); Zach Barocas replaced him.

In the wake of the grunge/punk explosion, Atlantic began looking hard at punk bands with pop sensibilities, and even though they made west-coasters Sweet Baby Jesus circumsize its name to Sweet Baby, they signed them...and Jawbox, the first Dischord band to move to a major label, to much fuss and hassle back home. For Your Own Special Sweetheart was a brilliant album, featuring a re-energized band now moving into a more "heavy" direction, much as their occasional tourmates Helmet were, as with the J.G. Ballard-inspired "Motorist" or the breathless "Breathe":

But Atlantic didn't really feel like supporting the bands that weren't turning out to be the new Green Day or even Chumbawamba in terms of sales, so their second album with the corporation, Jawbox (1996), was their last, and essentially their last album as well, with finely-crafted songs such as "Iodine" left for diehard fans to discover. The band broke up soon after.

So, this brings us to the album pictured above, My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents, collecting a BBC Radio John Peel Session, a number of anthology and tribute tracks (including the original "Bullet Park," which I prefer to the rerecording for Grippe), and such otherwise unavailable tracks as the slinky, funky "Apollo Amateur". As a survey of their career, I say it's excellent, even if it can't be fully represntative of their work as a whole. (There's a download being offered by someone of a second set of rare tracks, which might well be a bootleg...pity, because a legit release of their original demo, with "Consolation Prize" construed as "Consolation," would be welcome as well.)

Trusty were one of several bands which relocated to DC after establishing themselves elsewhere, in their case, Little Rock, Arkansas; like many of those, they also decided to return home eventually, but not before recording the impressive "Goodbye, Dr. Fate" (1995), a remarkably poppish, lovingly humane album that took off from the band's obsessions with geek culture such as comics and films such as Badlands (this album's "Honey Mustard," describing the color of the van the fleeing young criminals are using, remains the best song about serial killers I'm aware of)...about half the songs are love songs of a curiously domestic sort, some about young lovers coping with tough realities ("Joseph and Jennifer") or simply celebrating the joys of partnership ("A Modest Proposal"; "Wife"); "Kal-El" is a funny and touching lament by a "Clark Kent" who has seen his superpowers fade, while the title track is the most sympathetically chiding corrective to those who think they have complete control over their lives, or anyone else's, this side of Kurt Vonnegut...just as funny, and less bitter. They recorded a second album with Dischord before disbanding; there is no reason either album shouldn't've been all over college radio, at least.

Smart Went Crazy, conversely, were pure spite lyrically, as an album entitled Now We're Even might suggest; in terms of music, they were the closest of any of the Dischord bands to "classical" art-song; I can think of no other postpunk band to utilize cello quite as centrally, though my high-schoolmate Deb Fox's Virgin-Whore Complex and subsequent projects might prove to be comparable (Laurie Anderson is not quite in this race). Particularly witty, if viturperative, are the turns in such songs as "Domestic Tension," "Spy vs. Spy," "Sugar in Your Gas Tank" and "That Which is in the Way"...and set to such lovely, sinuous melodies, some sinister, some deceptively sweet. And about half the pieces are lyric-less, for those who'd just like to take in the beauty without what Avram Davidson called "laughter with a little bubble of blood in it" might be reminded, just a bit, of Kurt Weill...

Three albums that really should be heard. Actually, more than three, but certainly these three at bare minimum.

For more of this month's initial set of "Forgotten" Music, see Scott Parker's blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunday's "Forgotten" Soundtracks: 3rd Streamers John Lewis (ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW) and Dave Brubeck (MR. BROADWAY) for crime drama, David Amram's Beat

Jazz scores, or at least jazz-flavored scores, for crime drama were almost inevitable by the latter '50s, and some items, most obviously Mancini's "Peter Gunn Theme" but also (a little later) Duke Ellington's score for Anatomy of a Murder, were major hits. So, after John Lewis had taken charge of what had been the Milt Jackson Quartet, and remade into the Modern Jazz Quartet, losing Kenny Clarke as drummer but gaining the more sympatico Connie Kay by then, and while the MJQ was setting about to beat the world as the proudest carriers of the banner of Third Stream Music (the European classical tradition and jazz being streams one and two, which mingled in the third, suggested Gunther Schuller in a notable essay), Lewis continued to look for challenges...a large group including MJQ members under the direction of Lewis scored a UN-sponsored short film, Exposure; the MJQ scored a European film, No Sun in Venice, and Lewis was called upon to score a 1959 American dramatic film, based on a novel by Ziff-Davis veteran William P. McGivern and starring and produced by Harry Belafonte and directed by Robert Wise, Odds Against Tomorrow. A hell of a film, with the most over the top ending of any crime drama I've seen yet (even in the age of excess in such matters as we live in now), and featuring some compositions that would become chestnuts in the MJQ fact, the MJQ recorded their own interpretation album, issued at various times as Patterns and as Music from Odds Against Tomorrow and currently offered at an exorbitant price by Amazon for a CD-R they will burn for you, when not erasing books from your Kindle or refusing to sell you books by publishers whom they don't like. And, speaking of exorbitant, the prices being hung on copies of of the 1991 cd of the original soundtrack would pay for an excellent stereo component...sorry I missed that item, for at least two reasons. But, here is the contents of the cd:
1. Prelude To Odds Against Tomorrow (01:44)
2. A Cold Wind Is Blowing (01:20)
3. Five Figure People Crossing Paths (01:40)
4. How To Frame Pigeons (01:04)
5. Morning Trip To Melton (03:09)
6. Looking At The Caper (02:01)
7. Johnny Ingram´s Possessions (01:08)
8. The Carousel Incident (01:44)
9. Skating In Central Park (03:29)
10. No Happiness For Slater (03:56)
11. Main Theme Odds Against Tomorrow (03:24)
12. Games (02:17)
13. A Social Call (03:53)
14. The Impractical Man (03:00)
15. Advance On Melton (01:58)
16. Waiting Around The River (03:51)
17. Distractions (01:25)
18. The Caper Failure (01:23)
19. Postlude (00:45)
Total Duration: 00:43:11
Track listing contributed by Dick van Oosten
--and it's notable that the performances by Harry Belafonte are missing, as he interrupts Mae Barnes as she performs "All Men Are Evil" (and she walks off the bandstand accusing Belafonte's character of definitely being evil):

...though the cues that include the MJQ augmeted by the likes of guitarist Jim Hall and pianist Bill Evans are definitely collected here. Here's the scene with "A Social Call":

The Patterns album:
A1 Skating In Central Park 6:08
A2 No Happiness For Slater 5:20
A3 A Social Call 4:46
B1 Cue #9 5:05
B2 A Cold Wind Is Blowing 7:31
B3 Odds Against Tomorrow 3:32
--also features a track called "Cue #9," missing from the sountrack album, but audible in this scene (Odds the film is an early credit for Wayne Rogers and Zohra Lampert):

But perhaps the only recording I can find to snag from the MJQ album is this (and the sound quality isn't optimal, but it's worth hearing):

Well, if there was any band specializing in Third Steam music that was doing better financially than the MJQ, it was the Dave Brubeck Quartet, who in 1959 achieved the first "gold" album in jazz history, and whose pianist/leader was engaged to write the musical cues and themes for a 1964 return of Peter Gunn's Craig Stevens to network television, Mr. Broadway. The Brubeck Quartet also recorded an album of their interpretations of the cues, Jazz Impressions of New York (with one track from those sessions, "Toki's Theme," reslotted for the Jazz Impressions of Japan album instead). Here, among a charming array of mostly jazzy themes (including the McBain series 87th Precinct and the Roy Huggins/Anthony Boucher [Kraft] Suspense Theater), is "Mr. Broadway" with an organ dubbed in over Brubeck's piano part, but otherwise featuring the DBQ:

(and here's a quieter version, with a Lengthy coffin nails ad attached.) Here's the DBQ album version, a track that has had much more success than the one-season series. The New York album has one real dud of a recording, "Broadway Romance," but more of that quartet (Paul Desmond on alto sax, Gene Wright on bass, Joe Morello on drums) doing excellent work at the height of their popularity, such as this:

Coming, like Gunther Schuller, from the classical side of the Third Stream ferment, but with strong Beat movement connections (such as his friendship with Jack Kerouac that led to his participation in this film), David Amram would go on to have his greatest commercial success as a film-score composer with 1963's The Manchurian Candidate--but in 1959, was putting together the music for Pull My Daisy:

The second (and perhaps final) of a series of Interim "Forgotten" Soundtracks posts while Rick Robinson reorganizes his collection, causing temporary suspension of his regular Saturday Soundtracks feature.

Pennsylvania Leads the Way

With apologies to Bill Crider, the Commonwealth of Penn and Trees has been giving even Florida a run for the crazy-stakes of late, not least in official treatment of the Future, in the form of the younger generation. While the truism is that Penna is Kentucky bookended by Philly and Pittsburgh, the Philadephia 'burbs have been the latest to represent, with a lawsuit involving school administrators activating the webcams in the laptops assigned to students...for the purpose of spying on the kids in their homes (and, apparently, hoping to catch at least someone in the household in some degree of undress). This follows the recent kamikaze attack by Harrisburg, PA's own unfavored son on the Texas IRS offices, and various PA prosecutors leading the nation in the Mighty Battle to put away teens who are "sexting" (sending provocative phone-photos of themselves, usually) each other as child pornographers...yes...I'm wating for the first of these idiots to attempt to prosecute one of the kids as an adult for the crime of sending a swain a picture of her- or himself, which is a crime of course because she or he is a juvenile. And all this following last year's revelations of children being sentenced to private juvenile prisons, for posting critical comments on discussion boards and similar crimes against humanity, thanks to the fine jurists who were picking up a little cash on the side from those private prisons (a practice so ludicrously evil that when used as a story element in the fine CBS tv series The Good Wife, it was set up very gingerly so as to be believable).

It's quite a state we're in...and we really should be doing something about it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: Jorge Luis Borges, THE BOOK OF SAND; Italo Calvino, THE CASTLE OF CROSSED DESTINIES

The Book of Sand, as translated by Borges himself and Norman Thomas di Giovanni, was published in English by Dutton in 1977 and proved to be the last collection of fiction Borges was to assemble during his was also the first collection of his I was to read, and I was hooked for life.

The Other (El Otro)
Ulrikke (Ulrica)
The Congress (El Congreso)
"There Are More Things" ("There Are More Things")
The Sect of the Thirty (La Secta de los Treinta)
The Night of the Gifts (La noche de los dones)
The Mirror and the Mask (El espejo y la máscara)
Undr (Undr)
Utopia of a Tired Man (Utopía de un hombre que está cansado)
The Bribe (El soborno)
Avelino Arredondo (Avelino Arredondo)
The Disk (El disco)
The Book of Sand (El libro de arena)

Almost all of these stories were written after Borges's blindness had progressed to the point that he could no longer read for himself, and that perhaps contributed to the emphasis on memory in most of these, and perhaps some of the vivid imagery (not that that these elements were absent from the work of the younger Borges). "'There Are More Things'" was his slightly sardonic tribute to Lovecraft, thus nudging Borges into the elite class of Lovecraftians, however briefly (though their concerns with existential horror were not dissimilar, their approaches to the subject could hardly be more unalike: Borges is cool and offhanded where Lovecraft tends toward the perfervid). "The Book of Sand" itself is a masterful reapproach to the same concerns as drove "The Library of Babel," but more compactly...rather than an infinite library, the newer fiction offers an infinite book, or at least a book with an apparently infinite number of pages, and likewise containing all the possible combinations of characters. "The Night of the Gifts" was one of Borges's too-infrequent gaucho stories, Argentine westerns; "The Disk" another charming, if slight, peak at the same sort of fantastic visual device that was the McGuffin of "The Aleph"; "The Other" one of several encounters (like "Borges and Me" and "The Other Death") by twinned personas of Borges himself. "Utopia of a Tired Man" is a fine science-fictional encounter; "The Congress" a fine paranoid conspiracy tale...these are all pretty much examples of past mastery at play and work. It's a continuing shame that this edition is pointedly out of print because of the hassle between di Giovanni and the Borges estate.

I have less to say about the charming The Castle of Crossed Destinies, the 1977 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich edition translated by William Weaver, other than it was the first Calvino book I took on, and it might be the most Borgesian of his I've read so far (it was the also the only one I've attempted, with very modest progress, in the original Italian). A series of interlinked vignettes driven by tarot cards Calvino was fascinated by (a fascination shared, of course, by many other fantasy writers, including such students of tarot as Rachel Pollack and K. A. Laity), Calvino has always struck me as someone who was trying to bring the experience of the spoken tale to the page in a more immediate way than most writers, certainly than those who use frames such as having a tale told within their stories (contrast Borges, who was more interested in playing with the forms of literary genre itself, or Fritz Leiber, whose work I was reading as quickly as I could find it at the time I first read these books, who constantly threatens to, when he doesn't actually do so, break into actual playwriting in his prose fiction). At least this one's in print!

For more Friday books, please see Patti Abbott's blog

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Lawrence Sweeney Mix (BBC Radio 4 improvised comedy series)

The Lawrence Sweeney Mix is a fine project of Josie Lawrence (most visible in the States as a stalwart of the original Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and Jim Sweeney, and aside from being quite funny (by me), and unusually for Radio 4 on a "stripped" (Monday-Thursday) schedule rather than offered one can (at this hour) hear three of the four episodes they are going to do in this second "series" (or "season" for us in the States)...what's most unusual about it for those used to the "Chicago school" of improvised comedy and drama is that they flagrantly break the Yes And rule...Lawrence and Sweeney frequently say No, or completely undermine the reality the other is suggesting, but are deft enough to keep the game going.

Good audience participation as well. (And do check this out sooner rather than later, as Radio 4, at least, usually keeps items such as this up for only a week...though Radio 7 and the World Service might have it up for longer...).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday's "Forgotten" Soundtrack: BANDITS by (more or less) Bandits (1997)

If the Go-Go's were the Beach Boys of post/punk all-women rock bands of the early '80s, and the Bangs/Bangles were the Byrds, it took a while for the Monkees correspondent to come along...but they did, with Katja von Garnier's 1997 film Bandits (not to be confused with the later, somewhat less good Bruce Willis vehicle). A German film, ineptly promoted upon its 1999 US release despite a glowing New York Times review by Lawrence Van Gelder and apparently grossing something like $25,000 nationally here, it was a smash in Europe, where the soundtrack album reportedly became the bestselling in European history, ahead of the Beatles' albums, or anyone else's, in that market (the first-year figure is usually given as 750,000 copies). [Late seems that Bandits in the US suffered from an internal hassle at Stratosphere Entertainment, wherein moneyman Carl Icahn pushed his esthetic partner, the one who was buying films like Bandits, out the door.] The film involves a prison band, in a women's facility rife with casual brutality from some of the staff, while some (with some overlap) pride themselves on their progressive attitudes toward reform. The quartet, with a new drummer whose first days at the prison we follow, are trotted out to a Policeman's Ball as show ponies, but they are harassed beyond tolerance by the guards on the way over, and they manage to steal the police van before they are delivered to the ball. Meanwhile, Luna, the somewhat bullying primary songwriter and guitarist of the band (played by Jasmin Tabatabai, who here is almost a dead ringer for Selma Blair, perhaps a bit more muscular), has submitted demos of their songs to various record companies, and while they are on the lam, one of the companies releases their demo recordings as an album, which does very well with the attendant publicity. Von Garnier and Uwe Wilhelm's script resembles both Thelma and Louise and The Monkees' various productions (and, of course, the Beatles' before them) in being comic with both surreal and somewhat seriously desperate edges, and the songs the band performs, or can be heard having performed at various points in the film, reflect this admirably.

Tabatabai, who would go on to collaborate musically with von Garnier on her next project, HBO's English-language feminist historical drama Iron Jawed Angels, and star in such notable productions as Unveiled, was well established as both musician and actor before coming to Bandits, as were two of the other principals, Katja Riemann (who plays the taciturn, sharp-witted Emma) and Nicolette Krebitz (who plays the essentially sweet-natured, rather insecure Angel). All three women sing on the recordings of songs they in various combinations wrote (along with a number of cover versions), but only Tabatabai plays her instrument (rather as with guitarist Roger McGuinn on the earliest Byrds' releases, or the early Monkees releases) for the soundtrack recording. However, Riemann and Krebitz were competent enough on drums and bass respectively to tour in support of the soundtrack album as Bandits.

The film begins with the audience's introduction to the prison, with a cover of "All Along the Watchtower" (it's notable that aside from a German folksong they cover, all Bandits songs are in English, even if at times definitely English as a second language, or in Tabatabai's case her third at least [she is German-Persian, and was born in Iran], though Tabatabai is probably the most comfortable with idiomatic English lyric-writing). Tabatabai reportedly, in at least one interview, wanted to use a vocal take that was more energized, and I think she's right in this, but it's still a good performance with a nice arrangement of the song:

After their escape, and before much of the rest of the events of the film, the record exec who gets lucky with the demo can be seen enjoying a little nose candy while playing one of Tabatabai's nearly-solo performances, "Another Sad Song"--while the women are enjoying, however briefly, an idyll of freedom out in the German countryside (Jutta Hoffmann, a non-musician actress, plays the band's somewhat older keyboardist and harmonica-player in the film; her character is a bit daffy to the point of slight senile delusion, but generally the most emotionally grounded of the four--even also despite a suicidal tendency):

A somewhat more punkish Tabatabai song (I'm always happy when neo-garage features some harp-playing):

One of the two singles from the soundtrack, the delightfully slinky "Puppet" (Tabatabai again, with solid vocal support from the other two):

And here's the MTV-oriented promotional video they did for this single, from a Korean site. Mixed in among the video clips is apparently some club-date performance by the touring band.

The Thelma and Louise parallels aren't limited to their initially escaping from nasty men; rather cocky yet strangely sympathetic cops pursue them, even as their music starts to become a major sensation, as they attempt to formulate a plan to get out of the country and collect enough wherewithal (including their royalties if possible) to do so, and have various encounters along the way.

Including sexual (Krebitz's primary song on the soundtrack, and one which is quite engaging when seen in context):

And, rather in the same mode Tabatabai's makeout song, and an even more engaging scene, if a bit, um, muddier:

But sex on the run can have consequences, and these women have already been dealing with a fair amount of consequences...this being one of the two most overtly feminist songs in the film, and one employing the most rude language...the next one, which features all three women trading lead vocals in a quasi-rap, also has a bit, with justice, since the bleat, a sort-of coda, "I'm your sister, and your mother!" isn't a joke at all, nor the suppressed moan of rage that follows--the first song's name is "Blinded" but the Germanophone YT poster typoed that:

Somewhat lighter in tone, but similar in spirit, are two covers--Billie Holiday and that German folksong (the latter performed first acapella in an early Cool Hand Luke-reminiscent moment, then, as one fan notes, Riot Grrl style):

More lighthearted yet, giddy even, is the song of their early days of escape, their Beatles tribute too, I suspect, again trading lead vocals:

But the sadness that has dominated their lives is never too far away, whether wistful:

or rather more elegiac (and this is Riemann's primary solo showcase, as *MILD SPOILER FOR THE FILM*

her character mourns the loss of her fetus...she was imprisoned for murdering her paramour, who chose to beat her so badly she miscarried).

*END SPOILER (the song is not a spoiler, but is more meaningful as one learns of the spoiler fact):

And all resolves with the other single from the album, "Catch Me," Bandits' slightly reworked version of British band Saint Etienne's more ethereal and dirge-like "Hobart Paving," only with the faintly suicidal morosity of the original turned into something a bit more life-affirming, if not any less world-weary (and adding at least one more layer of meaning in the use of the phrase "Catch Me")--here's the promo video for the single:

Which takes us through nearly the whole soundtrack album, except for two more versions of "Puppet," the first an essentially acoustic version featuring only Tabatabai singing lead and playing guitar and Krebitz humming in accompaniment, the second the extended chase-sequence remix (including the dialog wherein they decide on their band name)...:

...and the extended mix of "Catch Me", as presented in the film, and not quite a spoiler:

In short, an excellent album and a film which actually improves upon repeat viewings, as one sees how well put-together it is, even in its excesses. The mockery of police and recording industry types is not overdone, and the flaws in the characters of the quartet aren't glossed over. The domestic release of the video, with really inept dvd box art but also the two videos included, is still barely available, but the soundtrack is only in print, unsurprisingly so, in its import editions for we Yanks.

Since I don't own a legit copy of the latter, I'll be picking one up soon. (For regular Saturday Soundtrack items, see Rick Robinson's The Broken Bullhorn, though this meme/feature is on a brief hiatus...George Kelley and Patti Abbott (see sidebar) have joined in a bit as well...

And, just for a fillip, a slightly horizontally-stretched upload of the US trailer (it's Not an "Upbeat Thelma and Louise"...but thanks for playing.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday's Frequently Overlooked: Our (Paper and Ink) Fiction Magazines

The three or seven people who look at this blog regularly already know that I'm a fool for fiction magazines. I've been reading them, at first spottily, for essentially all my literate life (my earliest reading memories include a DC comic and what was probably either an Ultimate Publications or Popular Library [the 1960s Wonder Stories or its successor] pulp-magazine-fiction reprint magazine, and scattered issues of Children's Digest, Humpty Dumpty and Hightlights followed soon after), and consistently since (finally) discovering where I could buy new issues of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in December, 1977 (having been tempted to invest the Whole Dollar in an issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in late 1975, when my comics still cost a quarter, and the quarters weren't that common [I did manage to scrape up a dollar for a National Lampoon about then, much to my mother's disapproval]).

So, in these days of circulation falling for all sorts of magazines, and the continuing collapse of the remaining decent newsstands (even in the big-box bookstore chains, themselves struggling to survive), giving the current crop a try is worth considering...there's a Real Good chance that a post here is only preaching to the converted, but in the off chance that any of this is useful and/or new information...and these are only the items that I believe to be still publishing and which are not solely webzines, or even webzines which are getting some best-of anthologies published in book form. Though of course all or nearly all of these have some web presence today...and some of the better magazines, such as Subterranean and Fantasy Magazine, have gone web-only after a run as paper-and-ink publications with at least some limited newsstand presence. And in each category below, my suggestions are not exhaustive (though in crime fiction they might well be close).

The Crime Fiction Magazines:
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine
The Strand Magazine
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
Out of the Gutter

Prose Humor (even if the first is much more widely-read online, and the second is largely, not completely, cartoon-oriented):
The Onion
Funny Times
Private Eye

Fantastic Fiction/Speculative Fiction Magazines (a very imcomplete list):
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Weird Tales
Cemetery Dance
Realms of Fantasy
Black Gate
Black Static
On Spec
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
Electric Velocipede
Asimov's Science Fiction
Analog Science Fact and Fiction
Albedo One
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
Space and Time
Dark Horizons

Eclectic/Contemporary Mimetic Fiction Magazines (a very, very, incomplete list, heavily weighted toward the ones I see and read most often):
Zoetrope All-Story
Black Clock
Tin House
Alaska Quarterly Review
A Public Space
Iowa Review
Southwest Review
The Antioch Review
PGS: Philippine Genre Stories
The Paris Review
Glimmer Train

Western and other historical fiction, and romance and erotica (and other sports!):
While there have been a number of western (most impressively Louis L'Amour's Western Magazine) and romance titles (Five Great Romances ran for about a decade) over the last thirty years (one newish romance title was publishing last year, but I haven't seen it since), and there have been even a couple of wider-ranging historical fiction and adventure-fiction magazines (Paradox recently became web-only), there are no non-virtual magazines of these stripes currently publishing that I'm aware of. Romance, particularly, is heavily invested in three-novella and other anthologies. Erotica, which had a number of non-virtual literary magazines going a decade or so ago (ranging from Yellow Silk to Paramour to Blue Blood to Libido) seems to have shrunken, in the cold bath of the current climate, to Penthouse Letters and perhaps a few straggling imitators which I never see. The most prominent sports fiction magazine, baseball review Elysian Fields Quarterly, has not returned from its planned and possibly permanent hiatus begun in 2009.

See Patti Abbott's blog for the roundup of Friday's Forgotten Books

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fridays "Forgotten" Books: Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto, editors: RAZORED SADDLES

from the Contento Indices:

Razored Saddles (with Patrick LoBrutto) (Avon 0-380-71168-0, Oct ’90 [Sep ’90], $3.95, 285pp, pb, cover by Lee MacLeod) Reprint (Dark Harvest 1989) original anthology of 17 Western horror and fantasy stories.

Razored Saddles ed. Joe R. Lansdale & Patrick LoBrutto (Dark Harvest 0-913165-49-2, Sep ’89 [Aug ’89], $19.95, 268pp, hc) Original anthology of 17 western horror and fantasy stories, illustrated by Rick Araluce. A slipcased deluxe limited edition of 600 copies signed by the editors and contributors ($59.00) is also available.

11 · Introduction: The Cowpunk Anthology · Joe R. Lansdale & Patrick LoBrutto · in
15 · Black Boots · Robert R. McCammon · ss *
29 · Thirteen Days of Glory · Scott A. Cupp · ss *
37 · Gold · Lewis Shiner · nv *
71 · The Tenth Toe · F. Paul Wilson · ss *
89 · Sedalia · David J. Schow · nv *
111 · Trapline · Ardath Mayhar · ss *
119 · Trail of the Chromium Bandits · Al Sarrantonio · ss *
129 · Dinker’s Pond · Richard Laymon · ss *
143 · Stampede · Melissa Mia Hall · ss *
161 · Razored Saddles · Robert Petitt · ss *
175 · Empty Places · Gary L. Raisor · ss *
183 · Tony Red Dog · Neal Barrett, Jr. · nv *
211 · The Passing of the Western · Howard Waldrop · ss *
225 · Eldon’s Penitente · Lenore Carroll · ss *
237 · The Job · Joe R. Lansdale · ss *
241 · I’m Always Here · Richard Christian Matheson · ss *
249 · “Yore Skin’s Jes’s Soft ’n Purty...” He Said. (Page 243) · Chet Williamson · ss *

-punk. Cyberpunk, splatterpunk, steampunk, Paul Di Filippo was hoping to stir up some ribofunk, but that didn't have the Right Extender. Joe Lansdale, rather an unwilling occasional resident of the splatterpunk drawer, actually the best of the writers who at least moved in that colloquial, at least sometimes extremely graphic, and irreverent direction, published his seonnd western anthology in a year, after the slightly more conventional The New Frontier (Doubleday), in collaboration with Doubleday editor LoBrutto...the first of what has since been at least a small handful of western/horror crossover original anthologies. The Avon paperback is actually tagged, on its spine, "cowpunk"...a term that hasn't ever fully caught on (at least in literary music, where "splatterpunk" also made some inroads, it gained greater currency).

And, of course, when one assembles an eclectic mix of writers for an inherently eclectic anthology concept, you get some diversity in results...and a large portion of these stories aren't supernatural horror, though many of those without fantasticated elements are suspense or at least crime stories. One of the most memorable, "Eldon's Penitente" by Lenore Carroll, isn't even quite that so much as psychological study of the protagonist, and the morose burden he carries. Lansdale's own "The Job" involves two pieces of what John D. MacDonald liked to refer to as Mean Furniture, one of them an Elvis impersonator, out on a hit...I have to wonder if this story was an ancestor of "Bubba Ho-Tep" when the Elvis as Action Man nudge wouldn't leave JRL alone. Neal Barrett, Jr's "Tony Red Dog" is a contemporary western crime story about the title character, rather sharper than Lansdale's killers, who needs to extricated himself from hit contract as the target, and is perhaps the best single story in the collection.

The worst is certainly the Chet Williamson, which, like Scott Cupp's mildly diverting piece, attempts to get Big Laffs out of homosexuality in the Old West...while the Cupp makes the Alamo into a haven for homosexual liberation arrayed against the repression of Santa Anna, the Williamson posits an illustrator who is an utterly incredibly self-deluding gay man as the target of horrible abuse by two hulking monsters. But, doncha know, them gay bo's is Different. Not That different...this story has been inexplicably praised in some quarters.

Howard Waldrop and David Schow are among those who provide the kind of story one might almost expect of them, as does Lewis Shiner with an historical peice with a pointed sociological agenda. I haven't revisted Al Sarrontonio's story, but recall it as less goofy than the usual run of his work, if as eager to please. Solid contributions from the rest of the assembled, and a book which really shouldn't be out of print, as with most or perhaps even almost all the entrants in this weekly roundup...and certainly one of the least "Forgotten" of the books I've highighted.

Joe Bob would definitely tell you to buy. Please see Patti Abbott's blog for the rest of this week's titles and links.