Eek! It seems like the conventional path of t-o-r-r-e-n-t-i-a-l blog posts to keep audiences/viewers engaged (which is promotion edict 101) has clearly eluded thee writer/editor in question. Inexcusable this wide berth in activity, I know. But, let’s just forgive and forget, shall we. I mean, you’re not the only one with things to attend to: work, life, finances, and other time-consuming hiccups along the way.
It’s all very casual and convenient to skim through just one blog post. But might I say, all the writing, researching, and illustrating is quite a task that takes weeks, if not months to prepare. ‘Waa waa waa‘ you say, as you facetiously stroke those invisible violin strings. We’ll go ahead then, BE that way. But hopefully yours truly will find, someway/somehow, to more efficiently deal with these issues. I mean, the one I publish that is.
It may be noted this months cover story about depression is not entirely alien to yours truly, and may explain the lapses in productivity in regards to the ‘zine in question. Hopefully it will be an eye-opening experience for those who think that mental illness is strictly the disfunction of certain classes or types of people. Sadly, depression has no discriminating, partial preference for whom it decides to inflict.
COVER NOTE: This months brilliant rendering has generously been cleared for use by the talented kooreum_, aka 95Block, whose other tantalizing and impressive works can be seen at: on Instagram, under the handle @kooreaum_, and redbubble.com/people/95Block. Cheers.
P E T E S H E L L E Y : Punk Pioneer Passes.
Pete Shelley, front-man and songwriter for the Buzzcocks had died at age 63. He was survived by brother Gary, and second wife Greta.
Shelley was among the first proponents in helping to construct what would become the origins in England’s first wave of punk. He co-founded the Buzzcocks with vocalist and songwriter Howard Devoto in late ’75/early ’76, and eventually opened for the Sex Pistols some time later.
They produced three LP’s (and a number of singles, including the classic Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) before disbanding in 1981. For the remainder of the decade, Shelley explored an interest in electronic music under his own name for a variety of singles and records. He notably re-united with co-founder Devoto in 2002 under the hybrid namesake ShelleyDevoto. The coyly, cheekily titled Buzzkunst was a new-wavey cocktail, that brought both parties proclivities for punk and electronic together under circumstances more amendable to advanced technology and tastes. The record was favorably received, but sadly a one-off.
The Buzzcocks however would be revived not shortly thereafter in both live and recorded iterations which saw a variety of festival appearances, and three additional LP’s added to their canon in ’04, ’06, and ’14, respectively. The mourned singer’s death was made public on social media, his cause of death reported as relating to heart failure.
V I N N I E P A U L : Drummer passes, aged 54.
Another sad, untimely death has occurred in the world of rock, this time taking Pantera co-founder/drummer Vinnie Paul. Specific details regarding the drummer’s death have since recently been revealed as resulting from Paul’s being in the severe throes of coronary artery disease.
Paul was one of the founding members of the popular and influential metal/alternative band Pantera, along with brother/lead guitarist Dimebag Darrell, formed in 1981. The group would not achieve renown artistically or creatively until the 90’s, with the advent of vocalist Phil Anselmo. Crucially, to coincide with the newer energy and direction, it was indeed Paul who made the suggestion the band expunge their then more hair-metal inspired attire for more ‘comfortable’ clothes.
Paul also co-founded Damageplan with brother Darrell, who was viciously slain during a performance in late 2004. It is reported the gun-clad perpetrator (who ultimately added a security guard, a night club employee, and an audience member attempting to revive Darrell to his body count) had intended Vinnie Paul himself as among his intended targets.
H E A T H E R L O C K L E A R : An Actress in Trouble.
2018 has proven to be an eventful, yet disconcerting year for the former Melrose Place star, and ex-Mrs. Tommy Lee and Sambora. The veteran 56 year old actress has been hitting the headlines after a series of outrageous incidents, that some are attributing to a progressively worsening alcohol addiction.
In February the Police where called to her residence to resolve a domestic dispute Locklear was having with her boyfriend, who was evidently on the receiving end of the star’s fury. Law enforcement’s arrival however precipitated further violence, this time directed at the Officers, three of whom she kicked, another female officer who she called a ‘c–t’, and almost all she threatened to shoot.
Most recently, a hugely inebriated Locklear again found herself facing legal reprimand, this time for assault on both an officer and a female paramedic, both responding to another domestic disturbance. For the latter assault, the actress could still be facing legal compensation from the complainant.
In terms of her career, the Golden Globe nominated star has seen a steady decline in popular, quality roles over the last decade (although she reportedly was offered Desperate Housewives but turned it down), but has still maintained a relatively active television career.
Which, she will likely be taking a indeterminate hiatus from, as prior to being detained, the star has done a variation of either rehab, or been assessed for mental health. Shortly after her most recent release, paramedics where once again alerted to her residence, after a family member’s suspicions of a potential overdose prompted a 911 phone call. Locklear was immediately admitted to hospital, where she was eventually stabilized.
As of press time, Locklear’s condition had not improved. In fact, it’s been reported she was re-admitted and placed on an extended psychiatric hold.
W E N D Y J A M E S : New LP.
Former Transvision Vamp lead singer Wendy James has been making an artistically flourishing late career comeback, in her own right. As singer/guitarist and songwriter, her records in the last decade has had even some of her most ardently dismissive critics making recantations in her favor.
She’s now in the recording phase of her follow-up to last year’s well-received The Price Of The Ticket with a new full-length Queen High Straight. Similar to Price… James will again be working with Bad Seeds drummer James Sclavunos, and further planned participation with the legendary Lenny Kaye. Along with a new bassist (ex-Dark Horses’ Harry Bohay-Nowell), James is tentatively planning the inclusion of some ‘groovy new guitarists’.
In other James related news, Transvision Vamp has recently been anthologized and re-issued on vinyl. I Want Your Love compiles all three of their full-length albums, including annotations from James and main-songwriter/guitarist Nick Sayer.
S E B A S T I A N B A C H : Brand New Come-bach!
Legendary Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach has been revealing and intimating what could amount to a new direction for the star. Bach, conversing on Detroit radio station WRIF 101.1 FM, discussed ending his contract with his previous Italian based record label, and that he’s already facilitating plans with a yet unnamed American company.
Bach also hinted that he may be disowning his previous suggestions of an acoustic based record, for what he described as a ‘heavy metal’ ‘career defining’ album.
Bach also surprised and delighted fans recently with a cover of Pantera’s Cemetery Gates during a solo concert in Canada. Bach, who formerly toured with the band in the early nineties, dedicated the performance to the recently deceased Vinnie Paul,drummerfor Pantera.
Hèroes del Silencio are a Spanish rock band from the early half of the nineties. They’re blessed with singer who sounds like Eddie Veddar, and looks like he nearly got beat out of being cast as ‘art-school’ heartthrob in Melrose Place. When they play it slow, they’re like a less gothic Mission, and when they play fast they’re like a biker bar Zepplin, as is gloriously evident in the slow-to-fast tempo change of La Herida. In other words: a band with heart and spine of pure gold.
Appears on: El Espíritu Del Vino (1993)
One of indie music’s greatest losses has to be Tabitha Zu never putting out a proper full-length record. The more you listen to Apart‘s simple, swelling chord structure take its protracted paces malevolently under the barbed, sunshine girlie voice of Melanie Garside, the more you wonder who calls the shots at these ‘record’ labels anyway. She did go on to put out a solo record a year later, but not with the same zest as this atmospheric masterpiece.
Appears on: The Apart EP (1994)
How absolutely criminal ex-Soft Cell vocalist Marc Almond, if recognized at all by the public at large, if for the dynamite hit Tainted Love, or, his duet with Gene Pitney. Not only was our Marc a prime mover with the misanthropist cognoscenti Of Nick Cave, Foetus, and Lydia Lunch. But, he was class act tragedienne on the mighty mic. The show-stopping What Makes A Man is an apropos cover as Almond plays effeminate protagonist in a alpha male’s hegemonic world.
Appears on: 12 Years Of Tears (1993)
When you hear someone complain how these ‘pop stars’ don’t write or compose their own material, make sure to counter that argument with the anomaly of England’s Bros. Even if they weren’t exactly Gershwin, the monozygotic twins were a wildly successful act (aided by their blonde, blue eyed features). Madly In Love is given an effervescent remix, which compliments singer Matt Goss, who whoops and hollers like a white soul version of Michael Jackson – and nails it.
Appears on: The Best of Bros (2004)
And speaking of Michael Jackson, do we all remember how great In The Closet was? Suspending the high concept razzle dazzle in both musical and visual concept, Jackson created this low-key wallop, in the form of an infectious loop slow-burning on a seductive rôtisserie. In terms of video, Jackson glows under the careful photography and direction of the late Herb Ritts, who also tags Naomi Campbell along. And Jackson spits out those come-hither lyrics with impeccable elan.
Appears on: Dangerous (1991)
Ever been to a Caveman Shoestore? Nope, me neither. Caveman is actually a Portland, Oregon trio from the early regions of the nineties. They sound like they should be playing with seething, ominous cool in the background of a noir-ish Gregg Araki film. Or maybe in an underground ‘edge-of-town’ club straight out of David Lynch. Pencil Sharpener is rough and evocative bedlam with a serenely edgy and angst-laden femme fatale vocalist.
Appears on: Master Cylinder (1992)
Now that so-called indie/alternative is, ‘cool’, it seems any other straight forward rock act will misguidedly be thrown to the bottom feeder for un-hipness. But, once in a while comes a band who, while lacking ‘minds-will-be-blown’ originality, have their skat together long enough to leave lesser mortals looking like amateurs. Romeo’s Daughter (a great name for a band, no?), have the gorgeously rich and controlled vocals of Leigh Matty, of which Treat Me Like A Lady is a prime highlight.
Appears on: Delectable (1993)
It was appropriate that the tremulous, powerhouse that was Mahalia Jackson would be the one to eulogize the assassinated Martin Luther King. But had he ever wanted to soundtrack his gloriously trail-blazing, butt kicking, and brazen revolution, he likely would’ve turned to Rosetta Tharpe, the blues rock dynamite to Jackson’s gospel fervor. She likely didn’t need to plug in her guitar, as the electricity she alone cooked up (as on Didn’t It Rain) would be enough to blow a Marshall through a window.
Only in the mid-nineties could a Dutch metal band abruptly introduce the exquisite, powerful, and enchanting voice of Anneke van Giersbergen, and actually surge upwards without missing a beat. But The Gathering‘s Giersbergen is no chest-beating vixen in spray-paint leather. She looks and sings like she just finished writing in her diary while listening to the Cocteau Twins and Babes in Toyland. Leaves is simply sublime, an oceanic storm undulating between crashing chords, and tides of soft ambiance.
Appears on: Mandylion (1995)
L.A.’s tween new-wave outfit Earth Dies Burning weren’t entirely popsmiths, but they weren’t anyone’s fools either. Wise beyond their years, but never relenting in their adolescent chutzpah, Another Six Year Old funnels all their aggro into pre-pubescent polemic. They sound like they grabbed whatever instrument they were forced to practice, and made a punk band. So bemusedly avant garde, their live appearance on New Wave Theater was excised from broadcast, and not shown until decades later.
Even if BTS were to pack it in within the next 24 hours (heaven forbid!), they’ve accomplished more in their 5 year existence than most pop acts can only dream to achieve a fraction of, in both mass appeal and artistic credibility. Their newest single Fake Love is a somber and glittering volley, that takes ethereal early Coldplay caliber guitar filigree, and marries it to a crushing, impassioned pop melody. BTS at their disarming, down-tempo best.
Available on: Love Yourself: Tear (2018)
It’s been only a couple years since BlackPink graced the market, which, in K-pop terms might as well be as long as it took G’N’R to release Chinese Democracy. But despite the head-scratching title, Ddu-Du Ddu-Du is a skittering piece of pseudo-cyber hip-pop, with rapid-fire raps, and beauteously belted pre-chorus’. Even a sleep-deprived parole officer’s attempt to resist would be rendered futile. It casts such a mighty spell, if this were the mid-17th century, they’d be burned as witches. Black magic!
Available On: Square Up (2018)
K-pop’s biggest contenders Monsta X are coming out fighting like the infallible troupers they are. Jealousy is as pure and divine as pop gets, everything it’s supposed to be , really (bolstered with arguably one of K-pops most commanding vocalists). But that backbeat/production goes from slinky/smooth, to House-y/new jack, itching with digital oomph. And X’s resident rappers Jooheon and I.M. come out like caged savages, who react with a bravura combination of both jubilation and ferocity.
Available On: The Connect: Dejavu (2018);
Another brethren of the K-cognoscenti is NCT 127. It seems they to are discontent to stand by, and be steam rolled over by competitors. Cherry Bomb (definitely not the Runaways version) rolls in on woozy synths, proceeded by a bruiting beat that’s like the musical equivalent of narcan. This dynamite single practically needs a flowchart to keep track of every gloriously braggadocious twist, held together with remarkable élan by this posse of fresh princes’. Seek the ‘performance version’.
Available On: Cherry Bomb – The 3rd Mini-Album (2017)
What a marvelously good-natured and sincere throwback Shinee‘s 1 Of 1 was. An authentic facsimile of 90’s Stock/Aitken/Waterman pop and swingbeat, that’s buoyant and addictive. It’s like NKOTB meets Eternal, gets teleported into the 21 century with better technology and class and style to burn. And those voices…
Available On: 1 Of 1 (2016)
She weren’t no riot girl, and she wasn’t no ‘angry female’ either. In fact, the wholly singular Royal Trux front-woman Jennifer Herrema took Keith Richards and Janis Joplin’s classic rock stance and slowed it to a bratty quaalude like crawl – without skimming any of the style.
In a wondrous class all her own, Herrema had a bourbon ‘n’ Marlboro clad croak, which nevertheless went down smooth ‘n’ easy thanks to her pulp-fiction like sex-appeal. But, as fashionista, you could say she was like a rock’n’roll/bohemian harbinger of what today, we call ‘street style’: 70’s shades, posterior hugging flares in ragamuffin disrepair, ratty tee thieved from the trailer park clothes line, and a shaggy plum of beehive hair, crowned with a tattered curtain of bangs.
And yet, not only is her distinctive person carried off with commanding authority, so intriguing a presence was she, Herrema graced adverts for Calvin Klein, and later partnered creatively with clothing line Volcom, who paid specific sartorial homage to Herrema’s gritty and distinctive apparel.
The impartial mental affliction Depression goes back decades. So why are we still unprepared, and why did Korea’s most promising talent became a casualty?
e often associate pop music and the performers themselves with joie de vivre, or rays of day-glo light in our grim-faced world. However, with an ever incremental frequency, the entertainment world is seeing the once enviable, happy lives of stars floundering, as the headlines betray that the rich, famous, and popular are not immune to the same debilitating, even fatal mental problems as their lesser mortals.
The recent disturbing passing of Shinee’s Kim Jonghyun has become the boiling-point of an issue that, has been much more malignant in the past few decades than we’ve been aware. Time flies, but the the writing has been on the wall-of-fame. We’ve just been too distracted to see it.
Only now are performers more articulate and vocal about their limitations and issues. But twenty years ago, when performers did not have the social media platform, nor existed in a era where the dialogue encouraged more empathy and education, stars treaded rather lightly.
One example was Melanie Chisholm, better know as Melanie C, or Sporty Spice. At their peek, the Spice Girls would sell 20 million records worldwide, and go on to have 9 number 1 singles. A perfect platform for media scrutiny, and amplified insecurity.
It was not until much later (she was diagnosed in 2000) Chisholm would talk more frankly about her depression (which she suffered from in tandem with an eating disorder). In a recent episode of Bryony Gordons Mad World podcast, She detailed how feelings of low self-worth, guilt, and insecurity, compounded by the pressures of stardom and UK media’s often ruthless commentary, amplified her quest for ‘perfection’ and to quantify her worth.
Before the fervor of Spiceworld, the original (and arguably best and most talented) pop-star bad boy was Brian Harvey, lead vocalist in East 17. Seen as edgier rivals to Take That (they ultimately didn’t surpass them domestically, but were said to be more popular over the whole of Europe), the band were still worth their weight in gold, with a hugely successful X-mas number one, among other singles.
A decade after the groups last genuine album, the former pop-star was officially diagnosed with depression, but his struggles with the disease were much more public, and proved almost fatal after reports he had literally ran over himself with his vehicle in a failed suicide attempt. At the time, this incident became a source of comic relief rather than seen as a serious plea for help. Further troubling, and confounding incidents became a source of tabloid entertainment. Harvey continues to be vocal about his mental struggles, and even confirmed some of the suicidal ideations he has grappled with.
With such an open dialogue about depression and anxiety, how did we get it so miserably, hopelessly wrong in the case of arguably it’s first tangible casualty…”
Interesting that East 17’s rivals Take That were seen as the better groomed, more polished counterpart. As, much around the the same time as Harvey’s troubling battle with depression unfolded, former Take That member Robbie Williams himself eventually would disclose his issues with severe depression.
Williams (who revealed his diagnosis on air in 2003, but who was already in the stages of the disease during his tenor in Take That) as of late has described it as “a disease that’s in my head that wants to kill me”. He has even explained how this disease has immobilized his ability to return to music and performing saying “This job is really bad for my health. It’s going to kill me, unless I view it in a different way.” He even claimed his anxiety was so extensive he once couldn’t bring himself to leave his hotel suite for over a month and a half.
As of recently, pop singers have become more ouvert about their struggles with anxiety and depression. Among the most prominent examples are Demi Lovato, whose has been open about her ongoing battle with depression and a clutch of other vices (including alcohol and cocaine). Lady Gaga, whose become a leader for the disaffected and outcast, herself can speak from experience, which, not surprisingly, led to a period of chronic depression. And former One Direction singer Zayn Malik has also taken on the intrepid task of outing himself as disposed to anxiety – a key reason for recently bowing out of a performance engagement.
But coming back full circle, with such an open dialogue about depression and anxiety, how did we get it so miserably, hopelessly wrong in the case of arguably it’s first tangible casualty, the radiant Jonghyun? What made the gifted vocalist and songwriter feel so isolated, alone, and unspeakably grim he felt no choice but to take his life?
I asked why they live. They just live, just live on. If you ask why I die I would answer I am exhausted. I have suffered and pondered. I never learned how to turn this exhausting pain into bliss.” – Kim Jonghyun
K-pop podcast K-pop Hot Pot, devoted an episode on the subject of his departure, and noted that Asian culture does not always ‘understand’ the severity of mental illness, if at all. Others have laid some of the blame at the rigorous pressures and demands of the genre itself as bringing many of it’s young stars to the breaking point. Or simply, the vulnerability that fame leaves it’s stars in, who must supply demand to a frantic fan base, but also weather the cutting, anonymous critiques ranging from their performances, to their appearance.
In what you could deduce as desperation, or a brave open letter, his own words articulate and crystallize the excruciating, immobilizing pain of driving through the emotional fire and hailstorm of mental illness. It would be appropriate to let the late artist have the final word, which incidentally, one hopes is may be the beginning of our collective awareness. It may save lives. Maybe could’ve saved his.
“I am broken from the inside. The depression that slowly gnawed away at me has finally swallowed me whole. And I could not defeat it. I detested myself. I grabbed my disjointed memories and yelled at them to pull themselves together but was met with no response.
“I asked why they live. They just live, just live on. If you ask why I die I would answer I am exhausted. I have suffered and pondered. I never learned how to turn this exhausting pain into bliss.”
“They told me to find out why I hurt. I know too well. I hurt because of me. It’s all my fault and all because I’m lacking. Doctor, is this what you wanted to hear?No.have done nothing wrong.
“What can I say. Just tell me I’ve done well. That this is good enough. That I’ve worked hard. Even if you can’t smile don’t fault me on my way. You did well, you worked hard. Goodbye.”
SOURCES: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/mind/melanie-c-battle-depression-desire-perfect-popstar-bryony/; https://www.nme.com/news/music/robbie-williams-mental-health-battle-2249671; https://metro.co.uk/2017/09/03/robbie-williams-says-his-return-to-fame-has-caused-problems-with-his-mental-health-6899687/; http://www.digitalspy.com/music/feature/a810549/17-popstars-talk-about-their-struggles-with-mental-illness/ :https://www.koreaboo.com/news/shinee-jonghyun-suicide-letter-surfaces-explaining-why-he-chose-to-end-his-life/; GIF courtesy of : https://imgarcade.com/jonghyun-everybody-gif.html
M I K E N E S S
For every casualty in the live fast/die young lane, there are almost as many survivors who’ve gone clean, but stay mean. Social Distortion’s Mike Ness is among it’s most vital statistic in favor of the latter, a true veteran having started as a scrappy Californian punk from the late seventies, to an accomplished and successful songwriter through out the nineties, and today. They’ve even been ‘sitting’ on material for a yet to be released full length, and what better time to turn our attention the mighty Mr. Ness.
In the nascent stages of his career as three chord punker with a quick ear for a good melody, Ness was a visual semblance of what the typical punk looked like in the eighties, with his own edgy twist: eye make-up, hair charged into orbit, and scrappy DIY clothes.
By the end of the decade, preceding his recovery from drug addiction, Social Distortion found audiences more willing to acclimate themselves to ‘alternative’ rock. Ness channeled his inner-rebel by reaching back into punk rock’s patrilineage – literally. He dropped the eye-liner and spikes, swapping it with a rockabilly styled pompadour, and the kind of 50’s greaser/rock ‘n’ roller stance that would’ve inflamed even a probation officer. And in his decade since debuting, his growing collection of tattoos further made for a visual, edgy about-face.
Garbo talks … in German!
Literally screens most mysterious and enigmatic actress as she was meant to be seen (and for the first time heard): in the unfiltered milieu of the European cinema. Anna Christie (1930), was, on paper even, a respectable choice as a sound or, talking film for Swedish immigrée Greta Garbo.
Up until then, Garbo had cast a pretty impregnable spell on cinema goers as an artisan caliber vamp fatale. But with sound looming, and not even American film stars in the clear as far as the voice test was concerned, the trepidation met by actors/actresses without the safety net of having English as a first language was thrice unnerving.
Garbo of course flowered in the still embryonic stages of film’s technical and cinematic gestation (she had deliberately post-poned her talking debut until the medium had been given time to at least make reasonable improvements). Anna Christie (a film translation partly penned by Frances Marion from a play by Eugene O’Neill) revolves around the titular character’s returning to her birth father, a skipper on a barge with an obvious substance abuse problem, to reconnect after many years. When she becomes romantically involved with a fellow sailor, her undisclosed life as a sex trade worker, she is faced with a moral dilemma as to whether to reveal all.
The American version was a successful debut reinforcing Garbo’s position on screen. Simultaneously, her studio (MGM) green-lighted a German version of her sound debut, with different supporting cast and director. But this was no ersatz version of the English version…
Every raw nerve Feyder leaves open, for once, gives Garbo an opportunity to really sink her teeth into something worthy of her art, and eclipse the artifice of her undeniable beauty.”
First, the German version has director Jacques Feyder. He takes a less overly sentimental, glossy approach to the play, and is less tentative in dealing with the new novelty of sound. He brings a refreshingly gritty realism to the picture, which gives it more gravitas and breath, and minimizes the theatricality or any potential of becoming disingenuous and melodramatic.
The players too (along with the remarkable director) bring all of the advancements and aura that was putting Teutonic cinema much further ahead on the creative food chain. The film does miss Marie Dressler’s priceless, ingenious performance, but her German speaking replacement Salka Viertel (who incidentally would become a close collaborator with Garbo screen writing some of her most accomplished films), is an arguably more subtle, scene-stealing substitute.
Garbo’s German leading man, Theo Shall, on the other hand brings much more warmth, personability, and dimension to his role than Charles Bickford. Bickford’s interpretation some could concede as terse, a bit abrasive, and strictly staid in quality. Which only threatens to drain the oxygen from Garbo’s spiritual aura with his mach 1 volts of hegemonic masculinity. Theo Shall also has better chemistry with Garbo, and is, to his credit, much more attractive and lively.
And then, there’s Garbo. Whether because she had already put the most arduous task of completing her first English language behind her (the English version was released in February, the German version however did not debut until much later in December of 1930). Or, maybe being amidst an almost all European cast and crew (for what would’ve been the first time in years) encouraged her comfort level, Garbo is ablaze. So much so, she effectively neutralizes her English performance to something comparable to a stale dry-run of the real thing.
Garbo is emboldened, disquieting, and every raw nerve Feyder leaves open, for once, gives Garbo a prime opportunity to sink her teeth into something worthy of her art, and eclipse the artifice of her undeniable beauty. She devours it with an exquisite passion.
The film as a whole is a profound improvement to it’s American predecessor. With a boost of Teutonic blood coursing through it’s veins, the film’s once stiff and (still) antiquated body becomes enlivened, with Feyder opening up the circulation, with fresh rather than stale air to breathe.
Audiences today are likely to take the film with a heavy dose of salt (especially with an all too tidy ending). Yet, the protagonist’s inner struggle to exorcise and quantify herself despite being corseted by a power deferential and sexual politics, remarkably, still has some grains of validity, even in age of #metoo. And even if that amounts to hubris, time is exhausted, immaterial in defraying the blindly obvious: Garbo is luminous and immortal in the totemic hands of European film. Which makes one wonder, if Hollywood ever got it quite right to begin with.
H A L F O R D
Made Of Metal (2010)
The annals of older rock star solo albums is, put even deferentially, a spotty affair. When even remotely successful, almost all that a mortal can attain to is to satiate audiences who, deep down, are rarely coaxed beyond satisfaction – and that’s, if it works.
Rob Halford (currently re-united with Priest), had spent a majority of the nineties wisely channeling his talents as singer for newer, more current metal trends in Fight (grunge) and Two (industrial), respectively.
Assuming the leadership role under his own namesake, Halford (both band and performer) set a whole new precedent, which, he/they continues with aplomb on the dynamic Made Of Metal.
Three songs in, it’s clear Halford didn’t pluck this LP title in mere conceit: He and his band really are made of metal, in sound and spirit. Their agenda is clear and simple: to breath life into the kind of solid, punchy rock numbers that are so dangerously close to becoming derelict, they may as well be a chord change away from coming of their coil.
Made of Metal is a record that quantifies the counter argument, that aging gracefully when you’re passed your supposed prime is elusive.”
But this, quite unexpectedly, is evidently a strategic move by Halford, who uses this to establish common ground before sojourning into trickier territory. The kind only lesser mortals with lesser class would toy with.
It’s surprising how the subtlest twist gives a seasoned talent like Halford a whole new platform to shine as a performer. Anyone scared or bidding that this record will sink into the typical ‘saddle-the-best-tunes-on-top’, will find themselves confronted with a full suite of twists and turns.
This isn’t ground-breaking or revolutionary, but then again, rock arguably isn’t strictly intended to be. What Made of Metal is, is a record that quantifies the counter argument, that aging gracefully and yet keeping things spontaneous and fresh when you’re passed your supposed prime is elusive.
Or, put simply, Halford has just come up with some really smashing tunes that work terrifically. There’s the unprecedented outlaw country twang of Till The Day I Die; pristinely cut rockers like swaggering Thunder and Lightening and We Own the Night, where a piano even manages to creep in; and arguably the highlight, the very personal Twenty Five Years chronicling his quest to maintain sobriety. None of it out of place or betraying pretension or gimmickry – clearly the man is made of more than metal.
“Halford shows that sometimes the old ways are the best ways with an album of what is essentially heavy metal comfort food, a biting sonic reminder of the glory days of the NWOBHM movement that takes that classic sound and adds enough new ingredients to make it feel fresh.” – Gregory Heaney, Allmusic.com
S P E C I M E N
It’s almost amusing how a genre (whose patrons where once seen skulking around with snake-eyed glares, heaving black eye-makeup, and swathed in funeral appropriate apparel), despite a specific and limited time frame, has remained extant despite it’s emphasis on morbid mortality.
‘Goth’ still has it’s torch bearers, even if critical consensus esteems it as little more than comic relief, or, as John Lydon put it, ‘[glam]… but gone very, Dracula‘. Specimen were a typically good goth band: white hot guitars drenched in scathing reverb, high potency bass, and a dramatic (or was it, traumatic?) vocalist, veering nervously from amphetamine withdrawal, to glowering drama queen.
While not as respected or popular as The Cure or Sisters Of Mercy, they pimped a perfectly playful glam-racket. The coyly titled Batastrophie is all you need to get the picture, aided by less sinister, almost gleeful rockers like The Beauty Of Poison. But the standout is the chugging, prowling B-movie camp of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with it’s teetering, cinematic synths sinking amidst a bubbling lava of bedlam, and a bass-line worth pawning pearls for. Definitely not a drac….
Y O U N G G O D S
T.V. Sky (1992)
Sometimes painted with the same brush as other Industrial acts, (Switzerland’s) Young Gods always heightened the more primal, extemporaneous elements of their material. And, despite some legitimate comparisons, their artistic ambitions and execution always engendered them a warm blooded interior, than a cold metal exterior.
T.V. Sky, isn’t even considered their best record, and it’s still an intoxicating long player that’s disquieting when it’s quiet, and composed even at it’s most combustible.
As if their Swans-purloined named isn’t indicative enough of both sonic heights and psychological depths, former Swans drummer Roli Mosimann produces this roaring LP. But, does so with an usually vibrant and detailed ear, that makes the pairing more collaborative, than indelicate interpretation.
For the cherry pickers, there’s the marvelous Skinflowers, which despite it’s gravelly ‘croon’ and foreboding bass lick, manages to slink through it’s rapidly toggling chord changes with a stride that’s seductive.
There’s also the frenzied, imploding grandeur of Night Dance. Surely an antidote to any myopic spell, rolling and bouncing off a riff with a fervor that’s almost hypnotic. Not to be upstaged, Gasoline Man has a rapturous, pyrotechnic swagger that recalls J.G. Thirwell at his most playful and dangerous. And the title track is a thrash-y, revolving Priest-like fist pumper that sounds like it landed on the maniacal switchboard of Reznor himself, only to be lightly toyed with out of mere reverence.
With major player fans like The Edge and David Bowie, T.V. Sky and it’s performers exceed themselves with a walloping and imaginative record. Music for the gods…
F O R A G A I N S T
In The Marshes (1990)
Originally a limited edition 10″ recorded at an earlier stage of their inception (but not released until ’90), In The Marshes is an invigorating, blooming mini-LP from the renowned, but less well known American band For Against.
They etched out a tense but sublime trajectory of post-punk rhythms bled through the wide berth of early dream-pop. This is an atmospheric and crisp sounding set of songs that, whether by intent or mere monetary imposition, creates tension, feeling, and wonder from the inside out.
Assisted by a well-executed and grime-y use of synths, For Against wisely redact the adolescent urge to flail around in mere sonic bedlam. Instead, early on their path is already defined without being worn-out and exhausted of spontaneity. They measure themselves out purposefully, with an exacting art that predates the slow-core sub-genre or style, but with-out narrowing the tempo.
An intelligent, invaluable release, now reissued with two bonus alternate tracks – out of the marshes, and onto the play-list.
S A I G O N K I C K
Saigon Kick (1991)
What a pitiable shame Florida’s Saigon Kick are most remembered for the slow-moving power ballad, Love Is On The Way. Rewind only a year earlier, and their self-titled debut extols a range of personality, exuberance, and adventure that the aforementioned ‘hit’ is surely a diminutive contrast of.
Some faulted Saigon Kick for their lack of brevity and wide-range proclivities, for better or worse. But as debut’s go, this is one confident, playful, sometimes multitudinous-in-personality record, that, at worst carries a spirited tune beneath it’s technicolor jacket.
As it turns out, the ends justify the means, with a clear definition of their identity slightly foggy, but still close and personal: A less pretentious Jane’s Addiction?; a strait-forward, straight shooting Faith No More?; a less rancorous Guns ‘N’ Roses?; a Los Angeles answer to Mother Love Bone?; a thinking man’s Skid Row? Options seem endless, but thankfully, the songs straddle brilliance, whether by virtue of impulse, good song craft, or purely by genuine energy.
The multiple personality and moods manifest themselves in the pristinely crafted pop-metal of What You Say, the punky shout along of What You Do, the hard rock kicks of Ugly and marvelous Down By The Ocean, the downbeat thrashiness of Month Of Sundays, the moving Come Take Me Know. Even the David Lee-Roth tom-foolery in My Life, almost works.
But one thing that is consistent is the band’s skillful playing: tight harmonies, stand-up guitar solos, et al. Lyrically too they give bite to the typical rock cliches with generous amounts of humor, poignancy, and topicality.
A colorful, catchy, artfully metallic hard rock debut, with a rare wit, good nature, spunk, and heart. It kicks… well, more than just Saigon.
Firstly we have UK pop act East 17’s 12″ maxi-single for Around The World (circa ’93). The original is a yearning, slightly above mid-tempo piece of ‘home-sweet-home’ razzle dazzle, that gets it’s new jack swing on with heart rested squarely on sleeve. All very nice, but it isn’t included here, so snap out if it.
If you thought they may have taken a bit too much of the usual edge off, they more than make up for it with some high-octane club remixes that are less torpid, more torpedo. Much of the exquisitely octave endowed Brain Harvey’s vocals are intact for remix one, courtesy of Development Corporation. And the plump, mega velocity synth chords actually buttress the track with an alternate weight.
The proceeding mixers called for the occasion aren’t going to be so easily outdone, thine listener. And Loveland almost vaporizes the original, with a moody, warbling undulation of keys, whoops, and few stray phrases from rapper Mortimer.
The ‘Global House’ mix also takes an irreverent approach, but is more light and upbeat in approach. Remixed by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand, the Easties barely get a word in, and the groovy track floats on pseudo-symbol patterns and snappy brass keys that’s a damn fine song in itself. Edenic.
After nearly eclipsing Ravi on the bombastic brilliance of Bomb, Korean rapper San E. isn’t a pin-up/big name… yet. But on the strength of these digital download singles, his spectrum of ideas is almost enough to contain such a distinct, animate, and breezy personality.
Do It For Fun is a darker, Urban-centric, alt-rock backed platform over which to drop his sharp, elastic delivery, with music sounding like it’s trying to crawl through a substance diminished brain. Somewhere in the middle the music alternates from bracing rock, to bass/piano heavy hip-hop before San E almost trails off like a twisted clown.
On the other opposite end of the labyrinth, is the sunshine-y, ember of feel-good pop of What If. A good-natured, funk-flavored stroll that showcases the more humorous and deft nuances in San E’s wordplay and timing, all buttressed with a sing-along chorus (both include instrumental versions).
Critics tracing their careers from promising post-punk, to weighty new-wave were claiming to have been short changed by the Psychedelic Furs ’86 LP Midnight To Midnight. Even singer Butler himself later admitted to a semi out-of-body experience, front stage, lacquered in bad leather, slicked in copious hair product, realizing what a full-blown cardboard cut-out thing-y he’d become.
But if there are any gems to salvage (along with the top 40 Heartbreak Beat), it should be this wonderful single, Shock. Originally produced by Chris Kimsey, here, it’s made even more enterprising with a glittering life-line it gets thrown by Shep Pettibone, later known for his work with Madonna…
…And, this promising pop songstress, Cathy Dennis, who had among her biggest hits as performer with (Touch Me) All Night Long. But little known fact is she’s actually the crafty mind behind Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out My Head. Not to mention having written for her sister Dannii, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, S Club 7’s Never Had A Dream Come True, Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl, AND Britney Spears Toxic.
On her own, Dennis was an attractive, pert pop presence, with a clear, unfussy vocal. Her self-penned pop material proved surprisingly versatile when stretched and refashioned for the dance floor, as this entertaining 12″ demonstrates. The starkest departures heard here are the fresh, minimal spin on the ‘Touch This’ mix, which pure drum pattern dance divinity. ‘Rhodesappella’ excises the drum track, leaving the warm, seductive keys and voices, for a more sensual twist.
On to some more genuinely rocking material, Five Thirty were an indie oasis before, wellll, Oasis. They had swinging tunes, and Supernova was a damn fine one. The 7″ is a knock-out, dear reader, A. Knock – Out.
The A side is pure English swag with echoes of Mersey Beat, but with both hands firmly on the now. But the B-side… well. It’s a breath-taking and atmospheric lament (if the title Still Life doesn’t poke at what’s indicative, then maybe leave the site now) that’s the soundtrack for any indie tragidienne within a mile. Run to the shops and DEMAND a copy.
Sir Elton. A legend. And deservedly so. He gave us Yellow Brick Road, Don’t Let The sun Go Down On Me, The One, and how many dozens more. He wrote some spectacular tunes for the Lion King. And then there was all that Diana business. But willing to suffer fools…? Let’s discuss.
Our Elton has always been a bit of Divo. But he does it with such acerbic flare, it would be a public disservice NOT to let him roast these lesser mortals.
And age? Ha! You think that’s mellowed him, do you? You think it will ‘soften’ him, have you? Well, kiddies, you’re mistaken. Sorry! Case in point, a trip to Taiwan turned heated and hostile as fast as Slim Shady can say mommie dearest, when Elton was met by his most antagonistic of nemesis: the paparazzi.
Far from calm-cool-collected, the outspoken Duke Bitch-up called hell itself down upon some especially ruthless photographers. ‘Rude vile pigs!’ was Elt’s three word summation to a phalanx of cameramen. It’s like the equivalent of Machine Gun Kelly’s song-length diss at Eminem, or something. ‘Git owt uv Taiwain!’ admonished one. ‘Yeah we’d love to get out of Taiwan, ‘cuz it’s [meant] full up people like you! Pig! Piiiig!’.
You see, todays pop ‘stars’, they’re a bit – frilly, aren’t they? They’re all courting they’re own ego whilst making disembodied side-swipes at each other via social media – and THIS is their idea of straight shooting. Even the punk rockers have one a bit courtly on us.
Thankfully there’s Elton who fearlessly draws the line. Whether it’s cussing out paparazzi, making Madonna cry (probably), or lambasting recalcitrant security guards on stage, the wrath if Elt, shall be felt! Don’t let the sun go down on me, he sang once (twice, actually). Best you don’t, for if you do… you get SHADE, my dear.