Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comet Gain Bring Us A Free MP3 From The New Album

You know, I hate to admit this but I avoided listening to Comet Gain in the mid-1990s mainly because of certain hipsters I knew who listened to them. Fearing the band another group of twee tossers, I cautiously picked up a CD from Comet Gain in England in 1999 and loved it.

They ain't twee! Frankly, this new cut sounds a bit like mid-period Go-Betweens!

So it's with delight that I bring you a free Comet Gain MP3 from their upcoming album Howl Of The Lonely Crowd, out in the US on 4 October on What's Your Rupture?. The album features production by Edwyn Collins, Ryan Jarman of The Cribs, and Alasdair Maclean of The Clientele, among others. In addition to leader David Feck, Comet Gain contains Jon Slade, once of Huggy Bear.

Follow Comet Gain on MySpace:
http://www.myspace.com/thecometgain

Download "An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls" here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Noel Gallagher Releases First Solo Video


Noel Gallagher finally debuted his solo single today, via a video clip. "The Death of You and Me" sounds quite a bit like "The Importance of Being Idle" by Oasis, but it also sounds a lot like Jon Brion! Dig that brass! And that organ (?).

Quite a bit better than I expected. And while I miss the Liam snarl on a Noel composition, this sort of world weary, slow burn single is quite nice too.

You can play "The Death of You and Me" below or at NoelGallager.com

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds will be out on 8 November.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010) Arrives On DVD!


(My review copy was the Australian All Region/PAL DVD edition. Machete Maidens Unleashed will be available on DVD in America on 26 July. Check your local or online retailers!!!)

Ever since I read some anecdotes from Allan Arkush and Joe Dante in a book about Roger Corman from Starlog magazine writer Ed Naha, I've been fascinated by the work of these sorts of filmmakers in the 1970s.

The stories in that book detail a sort of 'all bets are off'-style of making a picture, as well as a good deal of exploitative know-how from Roger Corman. The guy's trailer editors exhibited a lot of wit and creative license when trying to market a B-film shot in the Philippines to audiences in American drive-in theaters.




Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010), from director Mark Hartley and producer Veronica Fury, is 84 minutes of pure joy for lovers of cheap (and fun) cinema. The film also fleshes out those Corman anecdotes into a full-length tale about the mix of Filipino and American B-movie talents during the glory days of grindhouse cinema.




The film wisely divides its time between pioneers of the Filipino B-movie industry, like Eddie Romero, and the Americans, like Roger Corman, who saw the Philippines in the 1970s as a cheap place to make a film. That said, I'd still like to see more about Eddie Romero and star John Ashley as I think there's a lot of stories probably left to tell about their low budget exploits.




What makes Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010) such a joy to watch is that the documentary displays a lot of fondness for this era, no matter how limited the talents of some of the individuals involved. The documentary walks a fine line which never quite turns into outright derision, no matter how ridiculous the film involved.

What's always missing in a lot Tarantino's work is that he manages to name-check all of the right things -- his taste is great, obviously -- but he misses a lot of the joy; Inglourious Basterds (2009) is surely never as much fun to watch as the original Fred Williamson film it's ripping-off/referencing.




Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010) reminds a viewer of an era of exploitation glory, where a film about women being tortured in a jungle prison camp was somehow not the stuff of horror but of empowerment.





Featuring interviews with action heroines like Pam Grier, Gloria Hendry, and Rosanne Katon, the film also serves as a sort of feminist take on blaxsploitation; instead of the macho male black hero, these flicks were sometimes lead by Pam, or another African-American actress, and they ended up being tales of not only racial empowerment, but sexual as well. As Pam leads a group of battered women out of a jungle prison, the viewer is witnessing both a cheap-but-fun actioneer but also one of the only venues where a black woman could dominate a motion picture in the 1970s.



Jeanne Bell, seen here in plenty of clips but not in any interview segments, was another African-American B-movie queen but she always looked a little softer than Pam Grier, maybe not quite as believable when playing a hard-and-fast action heroine.




Bond girl Gloria Hendry (1973's Live And Let Die) is here, as well as Jayne Kennedy (star of 1976's The Muthers, on disc 2 of this DVD edition), but it's Playboy Playmate -- Miss September of 1978 -- Rosanne Katon who still captivates. Ms. Katon clearly gets the appeal of these films. Without taking herself too seriously, she understands why these films were so popular. With her girl-next-door looks, Ms. Katon managed to look so wholesome and fresh-faced even when kung fu-ing her way out of a jungle in the Philippines.





The coverage of Apocalypse Now (1979) is de rigueur, I suppose, given that Coppola shot his epic in the Philippines. That coverage also manages to link up the political turmoil in the country with the American filmmakers using the place as a locale for so many tales of escaping from oppression; the irony of a fascist ruler imposing martial law while Americans were making films about women breaking out of work-camps is the sort of thing I never considered until seeing Machete Maidens Unleashes (2010).

Director John Landis is also quite funny in his interview segments, though he might seem a bit too cynical; yes, the films under review here were largely exploitative but they were still enjoyable and tawdry bits of fun.



I don't want to reveal all of the pleasures of this documentary but Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010) is essential viewing for fans of exploitation cinema. There's a lot of love for these genre pictures here and I as a viewer very much appreciated that.

Just seeing recent interviews with legends like Jack Hill, Pam Grier, and Sig Haig was a great thing.




There are also segments on the Cleopatra Wong pictures which I have yet to see, though I've read about them.




The bonus features on this Australia DVD are numerous, including 55-minutes of additional interview segments, and more than an hour of exploitation trailers for most of the films covered in the documentary. Unfortunately, the trailers are included in one long DVD chapter!

Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010) is on DVD now at all the usual online retailers!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Captain America Arrives (And I'm Happy!!)



As I've written before, while Superman: The Movie (1978) may have provided an emotional punch that Star Wars (1977) did not, I wanted it to be a Marvel comics hero's story instead. I wanted it to be a film about Captain America.

I can remember thinking as an 11-year-old that Captain America was the hero that mattered to me, not the too-perfect Kal-El.

And I know that some will say that Steve Rogers/Captain America is also too perfect -- too much of a Boy Scout and all that -- but the character still appeals to me. There's something poignant about his plight as a World War 2 hero trapped in a modern world. And that situation also spotlights the duel between idealism and actuality, between old fashioned virtue and cold reality.

Captain America stories, especially those in a modern setting, remain ones about the battle between morality and cynicism. Steve Rogers, as star Chris Evans noted in an interview, always does the right thing -- that's his nature -- so we feel his struggle as he tries to maintain his moral purity in a world that is constantly seeking to destroy it, or diminish it.

In a world of gray nuance, he's a walking flag.



In the 1970s, as a shy and somewhat sarcastic kid, I gravitated to Ben Grimm and Captain America; The Thing had a personality like my own -- caustic, cynical, but good-hearted -- while Captain America represented the person I wanted to be.

Even after Vietnam and Watergate, Captain America still fought for the same ideals he had in World War 2 and I admired that.

Whatever problems exist in this country, whatever horrible things we've done in the world, the ideals of America still inspire, still matter, and Captain America was a character who could remind us of that.

Is it any wonder that the guy has been embraced by both big liberals like me as well as right wingers?



Now that I've seen the film -- at a midnight showing in Bowie, in the same theater where I saw the first X-Men at midnight back in May (?) of 2000 -- I can say that Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) succeeds on many, many levels.

Firstly, Chris Evans removes all doubts within moments that he was the right casting choice. Whether a scrawny Army reject, or a hulky hero, Steve Rogers seems like the same guy all along and for that Evans' deft touch deserves a lot of praise. Recalling Christopher Reeve in the first Superman flick in many scenes, Chris Evans actually makes Steve Rogers a touch more nuanced than he was in many of those Jack Kirby comics I read in the 1970s.

All of the supporting players are uniformly good, especially Stanley Tucci who seems to be underplaying what could have been a broad, farcical role.

The negatives are that -- clearly -- the film feels like one long introduction to The Avengers (2012); not for nothing did the audience erupt in cheers and applause after that post-credits sequence and not at any of the obvious moments in the film.

And, on that note of being a set-up for another flick, Hugo Weaving is quite good as the Red Skull but his plans never get fully explained despite his character having a fair amount of screen time. While I was happy to not have to waste a lot of time on a backstory for a comic book villain, I felt like that lack of backstory was diminishing the gravitas of the world domination plans being thwarted by Cap and his commandos.

The other negative is the pacing which seems a bit flat.

That said, Iron Man (2008) didn't strike me as exceptionally well-paced. But, like that film, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) succeeds during all of the character moments that matter, as well as in the period details.

The highlights of each film were character bits, not any action set-piece. Director Joe Johnston here seems to wisely be erring on the side of restraint and I appreciated that.



Steve Rogers' relationship with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) seems believable and -- as others have noted -- mature; like Pepper Potts and Tony Stark, there's a dramatic plot-centered need for the guy-and-gal to be together. And their banter seems less the device of a witty screenwriter and more the well-scripted remarks of two romantically inclined adults.

Given the way that the Captain America film must end to get Cap into the modern age and leader of Whedon's Avengers, there's also a great deal of pathos here as Cap becomes that man-out-of-time figure I loved so much as a child.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) is not perfect but it's a very enjoyable film and one that is fun without being too complicated. With no reason to make Captain America into a dark-and-brooding Batman figure, director Joe Johnston has discovered the complexity of Steve Rogers.

The very lack of brooding -- the consistency of the guy and his morality -- is what ultimately makes the character as compelling as Bruce Wayne. As he navigates the world like a bulked up Clark Kent, Steve Rogers/Captain America bears the burden of his own ideals and those of his country.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Made The Mistake Of Watching The John Carter Trailer


As soon as they went with the generic title -- John Carter (2012) -- I should have taken the hint and ignored the new trailer for the upcoming Edgar Rice Burroughs adaption.

I'm guessing that Hollywood producers -- constantly on the lookout for a new franchise to kick-start -- did a sort of taste-test of audiences, found some basic recognition of the John Carter name, and went forward with this crap.

The trailer has as much to do with Edgar Rice Burroughs' vision as Tarzan, The Ape Man (1981) with Bo Derek did.

When I was about 14 to 15, I was still a voracious reader of comic books -- which is where I first stumbled upon John Carter in the Marvel-published title in 1977 or so -- but I somehow got hooked on Edgar Rice Burroughs and managed to read, in the space of two years, all of the Tarzan novels, all of the Pellucidar books, and the 11 John Carter of Mars titles.

The novels are largely disposable in some ways but there's a lot of imagination at work in the Mars books, more than in the Tarzan stuff. Burroughs created a world and a backstory every bit as rich and detailed as anything Tolkien dreamed up. Burroughs, though, was largely concerned with entertainment and not moralizing.

While I may not remember the specific plots of those 11 books, I do remember the feeling I had when reading them. And that feeling of wonder and excitement is nowhere to be found in that trailer.

I'm not asking for much, Hollywood, am I? A bit of wit and a sense of adventure, maybe? Just take those Frank Frazetta covers for two of the 11 John Carter titles and make those into films.

Of course, that will never happen.

Some things are better read and left to the imagination than halfheartedly brought to CGI life.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Noel Gallagher Confirms Solo Album Details


Following last week's press conference, there's now confirmation of the track listing for Noel Gallagher's first post-Oasis solo album, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, out 8 November in the US on Sour Mash/Mercury Records.

Tracks are:

1. "Everybody's On The Run"

2. "Dream On"

3. "If I Had A Gun..."

4. "The Death Of You And Me"

5. "(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine"

6. "AKA... What A Life!"

7. "Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks"

8. "AKA...Broken Arrow"

9. "(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach"

10. "Stop The Clocks"


Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds will be touring in support of the Dave Sardy-produced album. And yes, he will be playing Oasis songs during the concerts.

Follow Noel Gallagher on his solo website.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Picturebox (ex-Derrero) - Free Tunes!


Hailing from the Canterbury area, Picturebox are an inventive UK indie-pop group I was alerted to today via e-mail.

Following my quick overview of the output of Derrero, I was told that bassist David Hirst is now in this band.

From what I've played so far, I'm already a fan! A track like "Tennis Girls" recalls the best Godley and Creme; "Xylosong" reminds me a tiny bit of a Brit version of East River Pipe; and "I Got The Pox" charms with both its "Monty Python's Flying Circus" sample and its gently surging silliness -- I dig those drums too!

Here are a few cuts for you to play and download.

There's more on Soundcloud and you can get news of the band on their Facebook group page.

Xylosong by Picturebox

Tennis Girls by Picturebox

I Got The Pox by Picturebox

Oh My! - Kicking and Screaming Remix - Free Download Here!


Last week I brought you the original track in all its glory and now I bring you the remix of "Kicking and Screaming" from Oh My! and it's a free download too!

Oh My! release a Mike Delinquent remix of new single "Kicking and Screaming" and you can play it and download it here on this blog.

Dig it and download it here!

Oh My! - Kicking and Screaming [Mike Delinquent Remix] by PurplePR

2 Free Tracks From Dublin's Little Green Cars


Okay, I don't know very much about Dublin's Little Green Cars yet but I do quite like these two tracks, especially "Witching Hour" -- those vocals are quite beautiful.

Follow Little Green Cars:
http://www.myspace.com/littlegreencars


Find more Little Green Cars tracks on the Young And Lost Club site:
Youngandlostclub.com

You can play and download "Witching Hour" below:
Little Green Cars - Witching Hour by Anorak London

You can play "The John Wayne" below:
The John Wayne (Radio Edit) by Little Green Cars by Young & Lost Club

Beady Eye Announce More North American Tour Dates



Finally! Beady Eye announced more North American tour dates for this fall, including one stop in D.C. at the 9:30 Club! Tickets for that gig go on sale tomorrow.

More details at BeadyEyeMusic.com

"The Beat Goes On" is out now.

November 29, Vancouver, BC at the Commodore Ballroom
November 30, Seattle, WA at the Showbox Market
December 2, San Francisco, CA at The Warfield
December 3, Los Angeles, CA at the Wiltern Theatre
December 5, Minneapolis, MN at First Avenue
December 6, Milwaukee, WI at The Rave Ballroom

December 8 Washington, DC at the 9:30 Club, On Sale Friday, July 15th at 10:00 am at Ticketfly.com, 9:30 Club box office, Merriweather Post Pavilion box office, or charge by phone (877-435-9849)

December 9 New York, NY at Terminal 5

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

As Always, Morrissey Is Right


It's been that kind of week.

But, I have, as I have at other low(er) points in my life, sought solace in a line from Morrissey and The Smiths.

From "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Know" (1984):

"Why do I give valuable time to people who don't care if I live or die?"

[Photo: credit to the original photographer/scanner/poster.]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blonde Redhead - Free Becoming Real Remix of Here Sometimes


Here is a free remix of "Here Sometimes" by Becoming Real. The original track is from Blonde Redhead and it's off of their 2010 album Penny Sparkle on 4AD.

You can download more free remixes on the Blonde Redhead page on 4AD here.

Follow Blonde Redhead on their official website.

Blonde Redhead - Here Sometimes (Becoming Real Remix) by Anorak London

Monday, July 11, 2011

Revisiting The Derrero Discography (UPDATED)

Following my review of Small Thoughts back in June, I decided to revisit the work of Ashley Cooke's pre-Pulco band, Derrero.

I recall hearing at least one Peel session from Derrero quite a few years ago -- they did four of them -- and I did enjoy what I had heard from the band but wouldn't have considered myself a big fan mainly due to not owning that much of their stuff; I think during one of our CD buying sprees in London in 2000, my best friend may have grabbed some Derrero CDs.

In 1999 to 2001, there seemed to be a bunch of Welsh bands getting a bit of attention -- I was partial to Melys, Big Leaves, Topper, and that early Murry The Hump single -- and Derrero may have come along slightly too late to ride that wave to any enormous success.

That said, they produced a fine body of work that still holds up quite well even a decade or so later...and some if it is available now on Bandcamp)!


Derrero (1997)

In 1997, Big Noise put out the first Derrero album. Still rough around the edges, the band brings a great deal of enthusiasm to these songs. Compared to a similarly raucous band from that era -- like Yatsura -- Derrero seem to be erring on the side of melody over noise. Tracks like "Chevy Chase" and "Tiny Shoes" rocket along, guitars crashing and crunching underneath, but with strong melody lines still very apparent.

The highlight of the album is a song that the band would revisit: "Guppy". Sounding like a lost classic from The Boo Radleys -- from the underrated C'Mon Kids (1996) -- "Guppy" is gentle while the rest of the album is downright loud.

"Guppy" is a beautiful ode to escape, possibly, and it's a worthy peer to "Demons" by Super Furry Animals. And it would also sound great paired up on a mix next to "Submarine Song" from Scotland's The Supernaturals.

Small Pocket Machine EP (1997)

"Guppy" is back along with 2 other great songs on this 1997 E.P. on Big Noise records. The first of 3 E.P.'s that the band would release on Big Noise, Small Pocket Machine finds the band sharpening their sound. Suddenly things begin to come together and "Captain's Log" charms with its tunefulness, at odds with some of those earlier tracks.

Radar Intruder EP (1998)

This 1998 E.P. brought the band a lot of attention thanks to title track "Radar Intruder" which ended up being a big favorite of DJ John Peel.

Thirteen years later, "Radar Intruder" sounds a bit like Pavement's "Range Life"being pleasantly mauled by Silver Sun -- those harmonies are ace!

If Derrero were not the first band to achieve a sound like this in that era, they were one of the best at perfecting and polishing it as "Radar Intruder" remains remarkably hummable and catchy -- downright insistent, actually.

Unstraightforwardtune EP (1999)

This 1999 release -- (Available now on Bandcamp) -- seems to be where the band started to sound quite a bit like fellow Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals -- at least on this record. I'm not sure what I would pin that down to, but the title cut here, and "Ice" have the sort of Beach Boys-meet-Sonic Youth-vibe that I found so appealing on an early SFA release like the Moog Droog (1995) E.P., for example.

"Parasol" brings things to a melodic close with a gentle vibe that foreshadows what Ashely Cooke would later do with Pulco.

Fixation With Long Journeys (2000)

Some earlier cuts like "Radar Intruder" and "Unstraightforwardtune" are back, but there are also some moments of risk-taking here: "Mudskipper" is a somewhat noisy affair, like Silver Sun riffing on early Queen; "Zephyr" is a great showcase for Andy Fung's work on the drums and the mix of crunchy riffs and sharp harmonies reminds me of what I was looking for in Scotland's Yatsura: I wanted them to sound like this! (But they never did...)

Stylistically, there's a lot of variety on Fixation With Long Journeys, and amid the loud-quiet duels, a big highlight for me is "Out To Lunch" which rockets along like "Chupacabra" by Super Furry Animals.

Comb The Breaks (2002)

With help from John Lawrence from Gorky's Zygotic Mynci on pedal steel guitar, 2002's Comb The Breaks -- (Available now on Bandcamp) -- is a fairly polished affair. I don't mean that in a negative way but that the band seemed to have hit their stride here even if it was to be shortlived.

Released on Sylem, the label run by Melys, songs like "Horizon" and "Old Grey Skies" are lovely and melodic and self-assured. While the band was touring with acts like Sebadoh and Grandaddy, they were making their own variations on the mellow indie formulas of those US bands.

What I'm getting at is that it is harder to hear the influences here on Comb The Breaks than on earlier Derrero records; "Ripple of Strength" charms with a High Llamas-esque keyboard figure, and a less manic take on the kind of Welsh folk-pop that the Gorkys guys were putting out. Yet it remains an original mix of influences here.

It's the sound of the US West Coast filtered through a bunch of indie musicians in Wales. Stylistically closer to Granddaddy and the High Llamas than many of their Welsh peers at this time, tracks on this record still sound just fantastic.

The slight country-edge given to "Zero Return" puts one in mind of Beck for a second. "Sandbar" sounds like Elliott Smith singing with Grandaddy -- I saw those two acts do George Harrison's "I Me Mine" in D.C. some years ago and I can say that that's a good mix of talents.

Album closer "Telescopic Sights" is lyrical and easygoing, recalling -- again -- Gorky's but with more gentleness and less weirdness, for lack of a better term; it's like a Robyn Hitchcock song covered by R.E.M., you know what I mean?



Derrero were Andy Fung on drums, vocals, and guitar, Ashley Cooke on vocals and guitar, Mary Wycherley on keyboards and vocals, and David Hirst on bass guitar.

And they made some great music for a few short years in an era when the British Isles produced a lot of fine indie rock.

Listening to a lot of this material for the first time, I feel like my Welsh indie rock obsession of quite a few years back wasn't a mistake; Wales did produce quite a few great bands from the mid-1990s to the early part of this century.

As someone who is only a few generations -- maybe 4, at most? -- removed from Wales, I'm happy that for at least a brief spell, Wales was a hub of creative rock glory.

For more on Derrero, check out this biography.

David Hirst is now in a band called Picturebox and you can find their music here.

For Ashley Cooke's work with Pulco, follow the links below.

Pulco on Folkwit records:
http://folkwit.com/artists/pulco

Pulco's blog:
http://pulco.wordpress.com/

For song samples and downloads from Small Thoughts, check out Pulco's bandcamp.com page:
http://pulco.bandcamp.com/