Friday, April 19, 2013

My Top 13 Albums

My very good friend Ivan, proprietor of The Rest Is Silence, occasionally does a feature called Sounda'Roundus (or some spelling variation thereof) where guest writers choose their top thirteen favorite albums.
This edition's featured writer is me! And you can read it here:
The Rest Is Silence, by the way, is an awesome blog and has made me far more interested in Swamp Thing than I ever thought possible. Go read around in there, it's good stuff!

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Adventures Of Elmo In Grouchland and Pippi Longstocking

There are two movies I've watched while babysitting my nieces that fall under the requirements of my writing a review (I'd never seen them before or saw them but don't remember them) but, even though I've ended up seeing them repeatedly I never did write reviews of them. So I'll do that now.
The Adventures Of Elmo In Grouchland is about Elmo's epic quest to get his blanket back from Grouchland, where it ended up after a series of wacky events. As soon as Elmo gets to Grouchland, though, a big-eyebrowed Mandy Patinkin (as Huxley) steals Elmo's blanket and Elmo has to trek to Huxley's castle to get it back. Huxley tries to stop him at every turn because Huxley is selfish, steals and hoards everything.
For a movie that isn't very long (about seventy minutes) it feels like it goes on for ages. It's not really a bad movie, I usually welcome it when Izzy requests it 'cause I like it better than some of the other stuff she watches. But it ... I don't know. There are only two songs in it that I like (Welcome To Grouchland and, of course, the villain's song, Mine) but neither of them get stuck in my head. My head prefers to latch onto my least favorite song in the movie, where Vanessa Williams sings about how even trash can be beautiful if you look at it from the right point of view.
My main problem with Elmo In Grouchland is that it's trying very hard to have a message about not being selfish (Huxley is the villain because he refuses to share) but the whole plot hinges on Elmo being selfish about his blanket. Sure, they establish at the beginning of the movie that the blanket is Elmo's best friend in an attempt to justify his possessiveness over the blanket (and don't read too much into that or it'll start seeming creepy) but that doesn't change the fact that, in this case, Elmo is fighting greed with greed.
Pippi Longstocking is very hard to watch because the plot is minimal and the dubbing is painful. The woman (and it's clearly an adult, not a kid) voicing Pippi either doesn't know how to read or barely speaks English. Every time I hear the line "Raw egg is good for the hair, that's what I've heard," I want to throw something at the TV and yell at it to hire better actors.
In spite of all of that, though, it has a charmingness to it and I do kind of enjoy it. I think I would have liked it a lot when I was a kid.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

For the most part, I have a real problem with found footage movies because they are boring and terrible. Not all of them, certainly. I like Cloverfield and plan on seeing Cannibal Holocaust one of these days, and I kind of remember enjoying Diary Of The Dead, too.
But then there's stuff like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity where, even if the premise is interesting (I got completely swept up in the Blair Witch phenomenon until I saw the movie and my appreciation dropped to zero), the execution never manages to be anything but brainmeltingly boring.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes found a great way around that: rather than just showing the audience the Poughkeepsie Tapes, which would have been probably just a huge bore, they present a documentary about the Poughkeepsie Tapes, which makes for a far more fascinating and harrowing movie.
We get to listen to FBI agents talk about their investigation trying to find the guy, they talk to family members of his victims, they talk about things he's done, how he's managed to evade capture and, in addition to all of that, they show segments from the Poughkeepsie Tapes.
The tapes are a record the killer keeps of everyone he kills. They were found by the FBI in an abandoned house. And they're horrible to watch.
Not that we see much of them; more the highlight reel, I guess. Again, which is better, because it skips the boring bits. The only downside is, it detracts a bit from the illusion that this is a real documentary about real video tapes of real murder and mutilation; if it were real, the filmmakers would not be so crass as to show some of the footage that we see in the movie (cutting up a body, slashed throats, that sort of thing).
That being said, though, it's a fascinating movie and a damn good one and I highly recommend it.
The problem is, it never saw an official release so you can only see it via Youtube or questionable download sites. Which, honestly, I think kind of plays into the movie's favor. A documentary that never got to see the light of day because it was too controversial or something like that. But I do think the last thing said in the movie was truly meant to be seen / heard in a movie theater; it could have been chilling but you just don't get the same effect watching it at home alone.

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Local H at The Satellite in Los Angeles, Wednesday April 10, 2013

I think I found out the show was happening about three hours before it started and I was absolutely determined to go.
I'm not really sure why I was so dead set on it. Local H has, for most of the time I've known of them, been one of those bands that I enjoy but never think about. I liked every song I'd heard by them but it never occured to me to really seek them out.
Until about a year and a half ago. I don't know why but something in my brain just decided "That's it, I love Local H now." Maybe it was having a bout of nostalgia for the 1990s and its music (which has been happening to me a lot lately), maybe it was just because I was reminded of a particularly cool song by them, I have no idea. But I went out and bought a few of their albums, listened to them a few times, picked out some songs I loved and then they kind of faded out of the picture again.
But when I saw that they were playing tonight, holy shit I had to go!
Missing Teens and Aeges were the opening bands and I liked them both very much. If I run across them again, I will most likely go to their shows.
Local H is a two person band, but they sound huge. Even with singer / guitarist Scott Lucas running on basically half a voice (he was choked and robbed in Russia recently and the assailant damaged his vocal chord) he still has a hell of a rock and roll scream. And he's grown his hair out long again, which is just fine with me. (I know I had a crush on him back in the video for Bound For The Floor. Watching that video now he looks like a child to me, but the long hair still suits him and he's aged very well indeed. ... It seems I develop crushes on people in every band I listen to. How teenagery of me.)
The point is, Local H fucking rocked! They were loud (my ears are still making that faint, hollow woosh sound that comes from being around too much noise) and they just ... they straight up rocked. There's no other word for what they do. They strike me as a very honest band; they don't seem to be trying to fit into a specific subgenre or do anything too off the wall. They just play music that's heavy on drums and guitar (...actually, it's nothing but drums and guitar) and screamy vocals.
About halfway through the show I was hit with the feeling that there aren't any other bands like Local H anymore. I didn't really get to go to concerts before the 2000s and I've always felt like I missed a lot of great shows by just straight up rock bands, but this concert made me feel like I was getting to witness something I had missed back then. There was a nostalgia to it. (Someone in the crowd described Local H as a grunge band. I don't know if they truly are or not (I'm terrible at categorizing music) but if they are, I think that explains about my strong nostalgic emotional reaction.)
I'm not badmouthing other bands who are off the wall or whatever; pretty much all my favorite bands are a little unusual in one way or another, fitting into specific subgenres or not remotely fitting into any genres at all. I tend to classify all the music I listen to as "rock music" because I don't know what else to call it.
But Local H truly are Rock Music and they're fucking good at it.
And any show that includes the singer duct taping a microphone to his face is always a good show in my book.
Afterward I bought a shirt and, because Scott Lucas runs the merch table himself, I got all tongue tied and froze up and probably said something stupid to him. I could tell my hands were trembling when I handed him the money. I'm certain, though, if I had been able to just walk up and say hi and buy a shirt, I would have been fine. Having to wait in line to do that, though, made me overthink the situation and get nervous. It was still cool to meet him and shake his hand, though, and I told him to take care of his voice. He smiled and said "I will." And it was cool that he smiled. 'Cause a lot of the time (in pictures and music videos, anyway) Scott Lucas looks like a surly dude. It's good to know he's not. (I guess if he were, he wouldn't run his own merchandise table. The line of people waiting to talk to him consisted of pretty much the entire audience. What a cool fucking guy, taking the time to sell them all shirts and CDs and say hello.)
On the way out I approached drummer Brian St. Clair and thanked him for the show and told him it was fantastic, and he was very smiley and appreciative, too.
So in addition to being one of the loudest bands I've seen in a while, they're also nice guys.
And, in case I didn't mention it before, they fucking rock! They played the five songs I was expecting (All The Kids Are Right, Bound For The Floor, California Songs, Eddie Vedder and High Fiving MF) as well as two of the five songs I would have requested if given the chance (Hands On The Bible and What Would You Have Me Do (my absolute favorite Local H song); the ones they didn't play were Fifth Avenue Crazy, Fine And Good and Mayonnaise And Malaise).
Basically what I'm saying is, I had a wonderful time. I danced like an idiot, the music was bitchin', I saw two dudes get in a fight (which was actually more distracting and annoying than cool) and if I have to complain, I'd say I would rather have heard Scott Lucas sing most of California Songs, rather than the audience, and I wish they had played all of What Would You Have Me Do, rather than just the ending bit as part of a medly.
But those complaints are minor and do not remotely tarnish my experience at the show.
If you get a chance to go see Local H, I highly recommend it. They're fantastic live, even with the singer nursing a wounded vocal chord.

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