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Archive for June, 2009

Ogden NashThe Collected Works Of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash

Have you ever wondered if it would be possible to write something funny without delving into the realms of satirical social commentaries, absurdist views of cultural flaws, vitriolic trashing of populist beliefs and just plain mean criticism of art? Is it just possible to say something funny for the sake of humour and not an opinionated comment? A tickler: The firefly’s flame is something for which science has no name, I can think of nothing eerier than flying around with an unidentified glow on a person’s posterior. Let me introduce to the deliciously wacky world of Ogden Nash. A sprawling madhouse where rhymes meet nonsense halfway in the corridor and giggle incorrigibly at everything else. Another tickler: Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long. While Ogden Nash also dabbled in writing for Broadway musicals, his passion, time and patience were saved for “humorous poetry”. One more tickler: The cow is of bovine ilk; one end is moo, the other is milk. Decorated with some of his finest one-liners and limericks, The Collected Works Of Ogden Nash is a perfect companion during those lonely train journeys. Even when the humour takes a breather and the rhymes get all Hemmingway-ish on us, it still makes for pleasantly introspective digestion. Last tickler: How pleasant the salt anesthetic…we vegetate, calm and aesthetic, on the beach, on the sand, in the sun.

Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

patrick mccabeFor almost an entire year when I frequented British Council library at Anna Salai, I got myself hooked on to Irish literature. Iain Banks’ Wasp Factory put this thought in my head that Irish writers, much like Korean film directors, were a messed-up lot who suck the light out of day and save the rest for the night. Ultra-talented writers who craft barbaric forms of art only to lull unsuspecting readers towards fear and insecurity. Despite the flimsy basis on which these notions were formed, I desperately kept an eye out for such novels. My sense of delirium also had a role in my fortunate ‘stumbling upon’ of Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy, the harrowing tale of Francis ‘Francie’ Brady. With the troubles of a broken home working overtime on young Francie’s mind, he often retreats to his “violent fantasy world” where pigs go beyond bacons and sausages; matter of fact, they give the Iain Banks’ wasps a good run for their money in terms of being truly fucked up living, breathing literary metaphors. The scene involving the killing of a piglet at the abattoir is somewhat of a personal landmark. I flinched for the first time while reading a novel. Read The Butcher Boy only if you like being disturbed (if don’t. you could watch Neil Jordan’s film adaptation).

The Crystal World by JG Ballard

jg ballardI grabbed this book from the counter at Blossoms (Bangalore) only because a little voice told me that it probably inspired Jim Morrison to write my favourite Doors’ composition – Crystal Ship. Before you slip into unconsciousness, allow me to talk a bit about JG Ballard, the writer. His vision, as evidenced by the new wave, sort of science fiction-ish stories he writes about, is apocalyptic and dreamlike at once. There is also a hint of discomfort in most of his novels; something that he uses against the readers and quite naturally, for the readers. Whether it was the sexual fetishism in Crash (no not that shitty Oscar-winner), the scathing brevity of The Atrocity Exhibition or the sheer weightage of psychoanalysis in The Drowned World, something has always crept up in JG Ballard novels to cause a slight disorientation of our senses. In The Crystal World, he weaves a story around an English doctor (Edward Sanders) who lands in Port Matarre (Africa) to meet his friends at a secluded leprosy treatment center. To do that he must cross the treacherous jungle in Gabon, which for some apparent reason is slowly crystallizing itself and the inhabitants. I must warn you, this is not a page-turner; it moves slowly like a mythical beast, as Ballard describes in detail the process of crystallization and the pop science that governs it. Thankfully, more of the latter than the former. I later found out that Jim Morrison wrote Crystal Ship for his first love, Mary Werbelo. I can’t seem to find an intelligent connection between the song and the book to summarize this review, so I will tell you this …you should totally give Ballard a try if you share equal fondness for science fiction and the English language.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Keseykesey_ken1_med

Fewer movies have done greater injustice to literature than Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Not in an aesthetical sense since it was a decent movie; I mean, it was a relatively fresh breath of cinema in 1975 and also kudos to Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif for tuning in average to sort of great performances during the course of the movie. Unfortunately, having read the book and imagined the scenes that took place within the walls of the Oregon State Hospital in Salem from the brooding Chief Bromden’s point of view, I was disappointed with the way the director told the story from the perspective of rebellious loudmouth Patrick McMurphy. Wait a second, this is not a film review. Ahem. My train of thought has wrecked itself beyond redemption, I’m going to let someone else take the reigns and opine about this fantastic novel.

iCE cUBEUhmmmm thank you, Mr Ice Cube…but I think I was talking about The Brothers’ Judd review of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Read it here

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Don’t hold More Than Words against Extreme. No…honestly, they don’t play pop rock. Listen to their masterpiece of a concept album – III Sides To Every Story – and fill that void that stems from the fact that The Alan Parsons Project never got pissed off during the Seventies.

****

the_dissociativesLately, Silverchair has apparently gone insane for our pleasure. Diorama and Young Modern hardly rock, and roll even less; instead they mesmerize with erstwhile nods to Porcupine Tree and Nineties’ indie rock. Lead singer Daniel Johns has done one better. Along with the Sydney-based disco punks The Presets, he has formed the terribly addictive indie-pop-rock-trip-whatnot hoppers The Dissociatives.

****

The Black CrowesSouthern Harmony And Musical Companion made them immensely popular on the radio. Their next album Amorica made the radio drink cheap whiskey and cause havoc. Singer Chris Robinson’s inner devil kicked the shit out his inner preacher and gave his brother’s guitar a reason to swagger without a care in this world. One of the finest collection of southern-fried rock gems, if you ask me. Cursed Diamond shines the brightest.

****

john_lennonStop making fun of The Beatles. They sound preposterously good when John Lennon and George Harrison snarl and gnarl their precious hearts out. Mr Mean Mustard and Glass Onion really should have acquitted them of the sugar-stained sins perpetuated by that McCartney fellow.

****

I don’t recommend any Indian rock band because my dad was nice to me during those post-college years. He gave me enough spending money and a nice bike to boot. I say this because it seems impossible to like Indian rock/metal without harboring any irrational ill will towards one’s parents, peers, pet dogs and gasp society. Most of what I have heard so far has been rather juvenile in progression and almost diabetic in its loathsome admiration for Iron Maiden and Metallica. However this is not the harsh truth; it is merely a harsh opinion. I don’t get out much and I don’t remember when I last attended an Indian rock concert. It also doesn’t help that I hate Iron Maiden. I will tell you that I once had much love for four local bands – Acquired Funk Syndrome, Killer Tomatoes, Menwhopause and Bombay Black.

****

The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter pales in comparison to Merry Clayton’s blues-tinged version. In other news, Merry Clayton friggin rules. Listen to When The World Turns Blue or I Got Life and have your soul swept under the carpet. She has also sung backup for Ray Charles, Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Who and Tori Amos.

****Saxophonist-LeRoi-Moore-dies

The passionate intensity with which The Dave Matthews Band have crafted the latest  Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King album can sadly be attributed to the loss of one of their fallen band members/friends – saxophonist LeRoi Moore. Once again the connection between the listener and the musician is consecrated by common denominators – sadness and anger. When Dave Matthews screams, “Baby when I get home, I wanna believe in Jesus” on the blistering Time Bomb, even the nihilist in me shakes his head and says, “Yeah man, me too.”

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A lot of great music has come and gone recently. In between writing those darn movie reviews and dealing with my Attention Deficit Disorder kicking into top gear, I have been finding it hard to pick out one track or one artist to showcase. So, here goes…a medley of tunes that I have accidentally stumbled upon for the past two weeks.

the-rootsThe Roots (featuring Jack Davey) – Atonement

Few rap outfits can make music with such polished elegance and yet remain comfortably perched outside the vicious wasteland of drunken stupour that is the mainstream hip hop scene. Backed by a lovely Radiohead sample (You And Whose Army), the Philadelphia-based crew drop a great beat that bring back placid memories of cloudy summers. The immensely talented Black Thought spits, “feelin the steam from the cauldron, with tension runnin deep as the ocean. many are called, but so few are chosen, as I go through the motions, of medication uppin my dosage,” as Jack Davey’s ethereal vocals leads the chorus into one of those battles that musicians wage to lull the listener into quiet slumber.

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch – Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse is just one of those albums that dares you to seduce the night with sadness. The plodding title track sung by David Lynch caresses her in a way that might make the stars blush. It’s simple enough; a single piano-driven melody backed by ghostly vocals that mumble, “shadows of the dark night, daaaark night of the soulllll”. I expected Lynch to sound like a subdued C-grade Brett Michaels (don’t ask me why), but I’m glad he sounds like a poor man’s Cee Lo on sedatives.

the decemberistsThe Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves

I have been wanting (self hi-fi in progress) to write about these indie blokes from Portland for quite some time now. In case you didn’t already know, The Decemberists have been tearing it up in the underground scene for a few years. They have been so critically-acclaimed that some say that their drummer craps star ratings after Sunday lunch. I think they sort of deserve it; I mean, very few indie rock bands can indulge in such stylistic grandeur without sounding pretentious. In the magnificently titled “The Wanting Comes In Waves”, they grab the natural progression of a folk song and throttle it until the choruses swear that Indie rock is their daddy. Suffocating and wondrous.

Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – Come On Over

Kobayashi’s Shasta is no longer the greatest James Bond theme song that never was; this is! With the sound of violins gently crashing them, Mark Lanegan’s whiskey-coated vocals writhe all over Isobel Campbell’s totally sexy whisper as they sing in unison, “like a thief crawling through the night, like a drunk brawling in a fight…come on over, turn me on” If that wasn’t alluring enough, Come On Over frantically ups the pace by the end of the second verse by threatening to blossom into a full-blown Seventies psychedelic freak-out. Hell, Mark Lanegan would make for a groovy James Bond. He’ll save all those pretty women, their guitars and their souls.

dengue feverDengue Fever – Ethanopium

Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever have been known to fuse psychedelic rock with Cambodian pop and Khmer folk. Hmpf go figure. Organist extraordinaire Ethan Holtzman and his guitarist brother Zac Holtzman pay tribute to legendary Cambodian rock scene of the Seventies that briefly flourished before falling prey to Pol Pot’s infamous slaughtering of people and culture. The track Ethanopium is a fantastic cover of Ethiopian jazz guru Mulatu Astatke’s Yegelle Tezeta that reaches a glorious level once Ethan’s Farfisa organ starts to seductively growl. Turn off the air-conditioning please, you need to sweat while listening to this.

The Roots (featuring Jack Davey) – Atonement

Few rap outfits can make music with such polished elegance and yet remain comfortably perched outside the vicious wasteland of drunken stupour that is the mainstream hip hop scene. Backed by a lovely Radiohead sample (You And Whose Army), the Philadelphia-based crew drop a great beat that bring back placid memories of cloudy summers. The immensely talented Black Thought spits, “feelin the steam from the cauldron, with tension runnin deep as the ocean. many are called, but so few are chosen, as I go through the motions, of medication uppin my dosage,” as Jack Davey’s ethereal vocals leads the chorus into one of those battles that musicians wage to lull the listener into quiet slumber. Thank you, The Roots.

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch – Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse is just one of those albums that dares you to seduce the night with sadness. The plodding title track sung by David Lynch caresses her in a way that might make the stars blush. It’s simple enough; a single piano-driven melody backed by ghostly vocals that mumble, “shadows of the dark night, daaaark night of the soulllll”. I expected Lynch to sound like a subdued C-grade Brett Michaels (don’t ask me why), but I’m glad he sounds like a poor man’s Cee Lo on sedatives.

The Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves

I have been wanting (self hi-fi in progress) to write about these indie blokes from Portland for quite some time now. In case you didn’t already know, The Decemberists have been tearing it up in the underground scene for a few years. They have been so critically-acclaimed that some say that their drummer craps star ratings after Sunday lunch. I think they sort of deserve it; I mean, very few indie rock bands can indulge in such stylistic grandeur without sounding pretentious. In the magnificently titled “The Wanting Comes In Waves”, they grab the natural progression of a folk song and throttle it until the choruses swear that Indie rock is their daddy. Suffocating and wondrous.

Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – Come On Over

Kobayashi’s Shasta is no longer the greatest James Bond theme song that never was; this is! With the sound of violins gently crashing them, Mark Lanegan’s whiskey-coated vocals writhe all over Isobel Campbell’s totally sexy whisper as they sing in unison, “like a thief crawling through the night, like a drunk brawling in a fight…come on over, turn me on” If that wasn’t alluring enough, Come On Over frantically ups the pace by the end of the second verse by threatening to blossom into a full-blown Seventies psychedelic freak-out. Hell, Mark Lanegan would make for a groovy James Bond. He’ll save all those pretty women, their guitars and their souls.

Dengue Fever – Ethanopium

Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever have been known to fuse psychedelic rock with Cambodian pop and Khmer folk. Hmpf go figure. Organist extraordinaire Ethan Holtzman and his guitarist brother Zac Holtzman pay tribute to legendary Cambodian rock scene of the Seventies that briefly flourished before falling prey to Pol Pot’s infamous slaughtering of people and culture. The track Ethanopium is a fantastic cover of Ethiopian jazz guru Mulatu Astatke’s Yegelle Tezeta that reaches a glorious level once Ethan’s Farfisa organ starts to seductively growl. Turn off the air-conditioning please, you need to sweat while listening to this.

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Jim JarmuschTo be honest, never once have I wondered how awesome it would be to stumble upon a Jim Jarmusch collection. You see, a blinding light shone through the weirdly well-lit corridors of Parsons Complex when my eyes caught sight of the Herzog collection. There were fairies and elves prancing everywhere, tossing chocolate-flavoured gummy bears and brightly coloured yo-yos around. In comparison, the Jim Jarmusch DVD was met with a less enthusiastic response. Not that it takes away anything from my regard for the man’s brilliance. Jarmusch certainly rivals Wes Anderson when it comes to infusing films with gloriously offbeat, warm ambience. It should also be said that both the casting and the music in his films are zimbly amazing (most of my friends are mals, it was bound to happen sometime). Hence it is with much delay and delirious coffee-stained nights that I give you the collected works of Jim Jarmusch.

Permanent Vacation: Shot on 16 MM film, Jarmusch’s debut is a weird little feature that follows the trail of Aloysius ‘Allie’ Parker as he walks around Manhattan to find something warm stumble upon anything vaguely comforting. We find out precious little about Allie and the city, which has decisively decided to alienate him. He’s free between the ears (not vacuous), reads French novels, smokes cigarettes, listens to jazz and drifts along without too much fuss. As for Manhattan, well, we discover that she’s into jazz but we already know that from those countless Woody Allen films, don’t we? We meet a few of Permanent Vacation’s characters, as well…gentle, sullen characters who’d sooner light up a cigarette than romance a moment. No surprise it is that nearly a quarter of a century later, he would write an entire film around Bill Murray.

stranger in paradiseStranger Than Paradise: With his 1984 sophomore film, Jarmusch had clearly started believing that musicians would make fine actors; a belief that would yield wonderful results a few years later. In Stranger Than Paradise, musicians John Lurie and Richard Edson are focal characters in all three parts of the film. Lurie, a jazz composer for Lounge Lizards, plays a nonchalant New York hipster (Willie) who is a paid a brief visit by his sixteen-year-old cousin (Eva) from Hungary. And there’s Edson, ex-drummer of alternative gurus Sonic Youth, who plays Willie’s sweet-natured friend (Eddie). Digressive fact: Edson also played Turturro’s brother in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. After a hilariously dramatic note of transition, the film takes us on Eddie and Willies’ journey to meet Eva in Cleveland and then on a heartbreaking road trip to Florida. I must say, the characters have been crafted with such fragility that the adventures they go through seem less tolerant towards them. If you’ve never watched a Jarmusch film, start with this.

down by lawDown By Law: Despite Bill Murray’s greatness that elevated Broken Flowers to level of cinema that would humble most people, Down By Law smugly remains as my favourite film of the collection thus far. In this charmingly twisted tale that takes place in New Orleans, three goofballs – Tom Waits (Zack), Roberto Benigni (Roberto), and John Lurie (Jack) – inadvertently start a prison break, flee into the nightmarish bayou and then wad through the damp Louisiana marshes to escape a lifetime of confinement. Mr Waits is seven shades of awesome as a local radio DJ whose love for booze lands him severe trouble. He looks like a crazed version of Lyle Lovett and talks with the same gnarly lisp that drove some of his finest music (Alice, Rain Dogs). Roberto Benigni is the Italian arty version of Jack Black. He does the one thing that he can do really well – act goofy and silly.

I wasn’t entirely convinced about Lurie’s character but there was too much love that got in the way of such cynicism. For instance, the cinematography and the music are some of the finest I have ever seen in an indie film. Haunting black-and-white shots of the swamp and New Orleans’ weeping nights set to the tunes of dirty jazz and gnarly, whiskey-soaked ballads? Why, thank you, kind sir.

Mystery Train: Jarmusch’s maiden tryst with colour is a typically wisecracking tale involving foreign tourists in the state Tennessee, looking for their very own Elvis Presley experience in some crappy hotel. The tourists – a teenaged couple from Japan, an Italian widow and a British criminal – all get more than they bargained for, but thanks to Jim Jarmusch’s daft strokes, we somehow feel that they were better off prior to spending the night in Memphis. Don’t ask me how; it’s just one of those things that you suspect the director of. Mystery Train marked the first time (a suspicion, once again) that the director riddled his films with stellar cameos performances to egg the story further into the fantasy territory. Funk and soul legend Rufus Thomas, the ungodly cool Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, vice chancellor of punk Joe Strummer, Steve friggin Buscemi make memorable appearances as Mystery Train’s most delightful characters.Night On Earth

Night On Earth: Like Wikipedia says, it “is a collection of five vignettes concerning the temporary bond formed between taxi driver and passenger in five different cities: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki.” The thing is I liked only one out of five vignettes. The mildly passable Winona Ryder and Cassavettes’ muse Gena Rowlands sink the LA episode into the sort of dozy conversational piece that I’d expect from some dude called Leyfu Pierre who thinks that a master’s degree in advanced cinema would immediately make his short film infinitely more intelligent than it actually is. The Roberto Benigniridden Rome episode sucks too; gone is the charm that briefly engulfed him in Down By Law. I think it’s high time that Benigni remade Adam Sandler’s Waterboy. The nocturnal anecdotes from New York and Paris hardly pass for a silver lining with its momentary glimpses of sadness and humour. Thank heavens for the Helsinki episode in which the greatness that is Matti Pellonpää (from the fantastic film Leningrad Cowboys Go America) elevates Night On Earth to what it was originally intended to be. Mildly discomforting and thoroughly enjoyable.

Dead Man: Already reviewed here.

Year Of The Horse: Listen, I love me some Neil Young and the Crazy Horse Band. I mean, Rust Never Sleeps is one of my all-time favourite live albums. I have high regards for Jarmsuch too; his only mistake till date (1997) was casting Winona Ryder in a short film. Having said all that, I must question the wisdom of men, mice, horses, musicians and one Jarmusch himself for having released this documentary about the band’s 1996 tour. The audio is really, really bad and the video quality – all 16 MM of it – is unsuitable for capturing the live ambience of explosive bands such as the Crazy Horse. Call me whatever, but I also expected the godfather of grunge to be more insightful.

Ghost Dog, The Way of the Samurai: Already reviewed here.

coffee and cigarettesCoffee And Cigarettes: I’ll admit that I bought this film (or whatever it is) a couple of years ago on the weight of all the talent (actors, comedians and musicians) featuring in it. Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Jack and Meg White, Bill Murray, RZA, GZA, Steve Buscemi, Steven Wright and a few magnificent others star in this series of black and white vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes as common themes. While some of the vignettes in Coffee And Cigarettes tread dangerously close to the arty farty territory, a majority of them have enough off-kilter, almost nonsensical humour in them to make this an engaging 90 minutes. The inane conversations between Benigni (I don’t know what to do with this bloke) and Stephen Wright, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, Bill Murray and Wu Tang Clan’s finest are perfect examples of Jarmusch’s brilliant pseudo-insider, deadpan comedy. Sort of like a Jerry Lewis film; with the physical humour being replaced by absurdist dialogues. I’m talking about a really, really good Jerry Lewis film.

Broken FlowersBroken Flowers: Oh crazy old Bill Murray, how I choose to admire the expressionless ennui with which you play all those wonderful characters that directors like Jarmusch and Wes Anderson craft for you. It’s no secret that Bill Murray is my favourite actor like ohmygod ever. In Broken Flowers, he plays Don Johnston, loner and self-loather extraordinaire. A spectacularly detached man who once made a busload of money through computers and then lived without ever owning one. As quaintly funny as that sounds, it’s not what the film is about. As fate would have it, Don gets a pink letter out of the blue that informs him about a son that he never knew he had. Don gives it a serious thought for a few fleeting seconds and then almost reconciles that it would take nothing less than being hit by a tsunami wave littered with ninja piranhas to disturb him from his disenchanted slumber (ok he doesn’t actually say that). Thanks to his hilariously intrusive neighbour Winston (a wonderful performance by Jeffrey Wright), an immigrant from Ethiopian who obsesses about detective stories, Don is forced to go on this road trip to discover his son and his elusive mother. I must reiterate that Jeffrey Wright kills it; in fact Ebert brilliantly describes the character as a “go-getter from Ethiopia who supports a wife and five kids with three jobs, and still has time to surf the net as an amateur detective.”

There is about a million other things that I want to appreciate in this film (stunning Ethiopian jazz, daft one-liners, great performances by the actresses, a Tilda Swanton sighting, and so on), but I fear that I might not have the space to further elaborate on why Bill Murray is the man. In the final scene when the camera pans 360 degrees around Murray’s face, I realized that for the first time in the film, Don Johnston is going through a specific emotion; for those few seconds, I stared at his weary eyes only to realize something far more important. When life gives you lemonades, ask Billy Murray to make rum cocktails.

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If I could pick one band that had the most impact on my post-college motley crew of friends and fiends, it would have to be Alice In Chains. We have all been willfully crushed under the alluring mass of white-hot pain that was the music given to us by Layne, Cantrell, Inez and Kinney. Too many friends have passed out near my balcony door to the sounds of ‘Down In A Hole’ and ‘Stay Away’ for me to consider any other band. Even now, I hear them talk about how very, very pissed off they are that AIC is being foolishly resurrected, no thanks to the second worst metal band ever (no one’s worse than Norwegian metal band #86).

Chris CornellDespite all that love we have had for Alice In Chains, we always secretly knew that Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell was a better singer than Layne Staley. Hell, I think Cornell was the greatest grunge vocalist ever. Not anymore though, considering that the James Bond nonsense sounded weaker than the precepts of Scientology and that his 2009 Scream album had half-beat all-beast Timbaland twiddling with the knobs at the recording studio. But during the early Nineties, when he was surrounded by the scornful magnificence that is the Seattle sound unleashed by Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd, Cornell tore into the our flannel-coated hearts with brilliant psychedelic pop sensibilities and an affinity for the almighty groove.

Until yesterday, I had presumed that I have heard the best of Cornell. I honestly didn’t think he could do better than Fourth Of July and Limo Wreck from the Superunknown album or Slaves And Bulldozers (Badmotorfinger).

SoundgardenLittle did I know that a beast has been quietly lurking in Soundgarden’s first full-length release – Ultramega OK. A smoldering heap of frightening Seventies hard rock that even caters to those appreciative of the badass riffs and mournful wailings that once made NWBHNM wave a necessary evil (but shit went astray thanks to Norwegian metal bands from #12 to #1,788).

The track begins ominously enough with Cornell cautioning us, “Far beyond the road, between your house and home, there is a churning storm of hailing, burning bones.” A full-blown minute later, he screams, “Mother, who ’s your man? Is he doing what he can to make a proper home,” as Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron’s insidious rhythm patterns drill themselves into your head.

So there you go, one of the greatest lost grunge tracks of the Nineties.

Watch

Soundgarden – Beyond The Wheel (Live)

Buy

Stuff, only if makes you feel better

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Where the Green Ants DreamWo Die Grünen Ameisen Träumen (Where the Green Ants Dream): Sounds like a Philip Dick novel doesn’t it? (self high-five for 3,456th pop culture reference). Anyway, Wo Die Grünen Ameisen Träumen gives us the impression that it is based on an ancient, deep-rooted local folklore. The film takes us through an age-old confrontation between Australian aborigines and mining companies over land proprietorship. The companies want to drill through it whereas the Aborigines warn them about a potential threat to humanity. The greens ants can no longer dream if you disturb the land, they mumble to the head geologist (who is put through a satirical asskicking by Herzog) of the mining company. After a bit a research, I discovered that there is no such thing as the myth of the green ants. Herzog made that shit up for our pleasure. I bet he also instructed cinematographer Jörg Reitwein to paint the Australian desert with love and madness; breathtaking images, I tell you. Come on, good people…I know you’ve seen Wayne’s World, you know the drill…”We are not worthy, we are not worthy”.

cobra verdeCobra Verde: Let me get this out of the way. Cobra Verde is probably the most intense film of the entire collection. This 1987 grandiose adaptation of a Bruce Chatwin novel also marked the final time that Herzog and Kinski ever worked together. The novel (The Viceroy of Ouidah) is sort of based on the real-life exploits of Francisco Felix de Sousa, an African-Brazilian slave trader a.k.a “the greatest Portuguese slave trader”. In the film, Kinski plays a Brazilian rancher, Francisco Manoel Da Silva, who murders his boss, passes through a slave plantation, causes ridiculous amounts of carnage and ends up as a vicious bandit. Apart from the stunning visuals and the frighteningly surreal costumes, there is also a lush, provocative sensuality in the women who appear in Cobra Verde that somehow calms the madness around them. Try catching it when (if) you ever watch this. Useless Fact: There’s a neo-glam rock band from Cleveland who call themselves Cobra Verde.

Lektionen in Finsternis (Lessons of Darkness): Already reviewed here.

scream of stoneSchrei Aus Stein (Scream of Stone): The presence of this 1991 film in the collection made me feel better about the untimely exclusion of The Dark Glow of the Mountains. Surely, I needed to see what Herzog could do the already haunting and beautiful Patagonian landscape. Unfortunately it was all rather under whelming. Chronicling the story of a two mountaineers (Vittorio Mezzogiorno and Stefan Glowacz) who attempt to scale the unconquered Cerro Torre, Schrei Aus Stein is probably the least engaging of all Herzog films. Oh well, at least we got another weird glimpse of Brad Dourif’s a.k.a Billy Bibbit’s curious talent.

Tod Für Fünf Stimmen (Death for Five Voices): Herzog made this film for ZDF, a public service German television channel (first Heineken, now this…zee bastards). Following the life and times of Carlo Gesualdo, an 15 th century Italian music composer who invented vocal music compositions in chromatic language (read about this), something that was unheard of until the nineteenth century. In addition to that, he was also a Prince, a Count and a notorious murderer who killed his wife (his first cousin) and her lover and left their mutilated bodies outside the palace for everyone to see. Herzog is like a child at a candy shop as he explores nuances of Carlos’ character both as a musician and a murderer and he does so with typical creative aplomb. Forewarning: Fans of Renaissance music (yes, all three of you) won’t take kindly to the avant-garde styling of the music featured.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly: Already reviewed here.

My Best Fiend – Klaus Kinski (Mein Liebster Feind): Dam thing didn’t work. Thankfully, tai chi and herbal tea have calmed me down. I will review it when I steal a bittorrent version.

Sturz In Den Dschungel (Wings Of Hope): In 1971, LANSA Flight 508 craWings_of_hopeshed in the South American jungle leaving over 91 passengers dead and a single survivor. Sturz In Den Dschungel is about that survivor – Juliane Köpcke. Much like how he led Dieter Denegler back to the Vietnam, he leads Juliane back to the jungles of Pucallpa where the plane had crashed. What follows next is harrowing; not to watch, but rather to ponder about. Needles to say, Herzog’s re-telling gives the haunting tale an hallucinatory vibe that lingers long after the end credits have rolled. You know what else is eerie? Herzog was supposed to take that very flight during the shooting of Wrath of God on the same day it crashed.

Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet: This is one heck of a collection of short films. Sadly, I have to take the coward’s way out and tell you that I am saving this one for a full-blown movie review post. Just to give you a taste of the sheer awesomeness, the collection also features Victor Erice, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, and Aki Kaurismaki.

The White Diamond: Already reviewed here.

The Wild Blue Yonder: Already reviewed here.

Grizzly Man: The 2005 documentary follows the tragic and adventurous life of Timothy Treadwell whose love for Grizzly Bears ironically far surpassed his interest in life. Treadwell is not an easy man to understood. He’s dramatic, funny (hear him rant about the rain), introspective, fucking bonkers and insecure all at once. Needles to say, it makes for a captivating character study of someone real. But the documentary is not utterly perfect…I could have done without the melodrama in Grizzly Man. No really, grizzly manthe coroner, the ecologist, the hippie and actor/friend were all really annoying. Thankfully they don’t take up much screen time (except Marnie Gaede). The rest of the documentary looks sufficiently breathtaking. See, Herzog had access to hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage that Treadwell had shot during a period of thirteen lonely summers that he had spent in the company of the monstrous Grizzly Bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska. Leave it the man for handpicking some of the most exquisite scenes that I have seen this side of National Geography. The scenes involving the bee, the fox and the bear corpse are so magnificent that I am almost amazed that the director didn’t think of it. No, my friends, not at all. Life and tragedy had conjured that shit up for the sake of Treadwell and the legend that he was meant to leave behind.

Rescue Dawn: Already reviewed here.

Encounters at the End of the World: Already reviewed here.

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stroszekStroszek: In 1977, Werner Herzog wrote Stroszek in four days just to accommodate the maniacal talent of German actor Bruno Schleinstein (who, by the way, had no training in acting whatsoever). The brevity is quite startling considering how brilliantly Herzog has structured the story. Talk all you want about artistic impulse, but it takes more than a genius to pen something this wistfully tragic in four friggin days. As for Bruno, the main character of Stroszek, he really, really nails it. I dare you to find a character sent further astray by the crushing malevolence of life and I double dare you to find an actor who could re-do that final Thanksgiving scene with just as much brilliant absurdity. Based on a Berlin street singer’s painful pursuit of the American dream in Wisconsin, the film has him dodging the crevices of life along with a prostitute and two other friends. Also, there is a bank robbery scene that will have you in splits…and you know what won’t? When I tell you, “Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the band Joy Division, reportedly committed suicide a few hours after watching the film on BBC on May 18, 1980.”

nosferatuNosferatu: Based on the 1922 adaptation of Dracula by German director Friedrich Murnau of the same title, Nosferatu marked the second time that the two brutal forces of cinema – Herzog and Kinski – worked together. Herzog’s mind catapults the classic from its comfortable Expressionism perch into German New Wave-inspired surrealism. The nuances of change in the characters are also what make this film, in my opinion, darker than the original. For instance, in Murnau’s film, the Count (Max Schreck) is both righteously evil and charming; in Herzog’s version, Klaus Kinski is made to play the monster with vulnerability and confusion, as is hinted initially by the lack of a sexual identity in the earlier part of the film. I could even see a bit of insecurity that made us sympathize with the hunchbacked Quasimodo. I assure you, it is not without ample proof that I tell you that Mr Kinski is the fucking man.

Woyzeck: Woyzeck is an adaptation of a play by German dramatist Georg Büchner. Shot within 18 days, the film follows the life of Frank (Klaus Kinski), a soldier who tries holding on to his sanity despite being down and out. The poor man is put through medical experiments by the army just to make a bit of money for his mistress and illegitimate child. Then love puts him through something worse. Herzog does what he does best and that is to chronicle the tale of a man slowly going insane. Seriously, 18 days? I swear, Jimmy Page’s fingers and a Gibson guitar have had less artistic chemistry than these two wonderfully twisted legends of cinema.

god's angry manGlaube Und Währung (God’s Angry Man): In most of Herzog’s documentaries, the protagonist seems like he/she jumped right out off a Tom Robbins novel. They are almost always larger than life, holier than thou, and crazier than a mad cow. In Glaube Und Währung, controversial and popular televangelist Gene Scott is in focus. See, during the Seventies, pastor Scott got into trouble with the Federal Communications Commission over allegations of illegal fund raising. Of course, he rubbishes such claims and tries convincing Herzog that the government was just not cool with how much power he had over the (viewers) followers. Running for a little over 43 minutes, this bizarre documentary reaches another level of intensity when we realize how financially committed the man really is towards faith. I have never seen a man more tormented while asking for a mere favour.

fitzcarraldo klaus kinskiFitzcarraldo: Loosely based on the life of the slightly mad Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, a Peruvian rubber baron, this 1982 film has been dubiously known for the way it was directed (and also for a little matter concerning a 300-ton steamship). Herzog and Kinski reportedly had some of those most disturbing showdowns on the set. Thanks to the little kindness that irony sometimes bestows upon cinema, the simmering tension also made for many of Fitzcarraldo’s fantastically ad-libbed moments. And the expressions. Oh I tell you, the expressions on Kinski’s face as he orders his men around the frighteningly alien landscape of the Brazilian wild. Ladies and gentlemen, after much thought, I would like to reinforce the fact that Klaus Kinski is indeed the fucking man.

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wernerIt has been quite the pleasure devouring Werner Herzog’s filmography in high-definition. Unlike most other DVD box sets, never once did this collection seem even a trifle overwhelming in content. Whilst it would have made me a happier person if the TV specials – Herdsmen Of The Sun, The Transformation Of The World Into Music and a few others – had been included, I still can’t honesty complain considering that some of these films have made me feel incorrigibly wonderful for ever having stumbled upon this melancholic German fellow. Over the past weeks, the elation has reached such dizzying heights that I am almost at a slight loss for words. The reviews are shorter than usual to accommodate such delightful handicaps.

Letzte Worte (Last Words): Shot in 1968, this one’s an experimental short film about a strange man brought back to civilization from an isolated leper colony. Letzte Worte showed traces of the narrative style of filmmaking that Herzog later proved to be a master of. The humour is omnipresent and goes well with redundancies in dialogue a.k.a Iranian belch cinema.

LebenszeichenLebenszeichen (Signs Of Life): Later that year, Herzog released his debut full-length film about a German paratrooper going insane while patrolling the Greek island of Kos during WW II. For movie geeks out there, legend has it that this supposedly inspired Stephen King to pen The Shining, which of course gave the world the gift that was Jack Nicholson’s psychotic side. In Lebenszeichen, actor Peter Brogle holds it back so much during the initial moments that during when he eventually goes cuckoo, the audience is left breathless; not at the brutality of his actions, but rather at the extent of his change. Oh it is based on a short story called Der Tolle Invalide Auf Dem Fort Ratonneau by German writer Achim von Arnim.

Even Dwafs Started SmallAuch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen (Even Dwarves Started Small): His sophomore film was about a group of dwarfs rebelling against the guards and the director himself on the remote Canary Islands. It doesn’t take long for one to realize that David Lynch could probably be America’s answer to Werner Herzog in about ten years (with more maturity and less misogyny). Of course, by then, Herzog would be Germany’s answer to God. Engineered food fights, a pig killing, floral pyromania, a monkey crucifiction and a bunch of other epically surreal scenes had me asking myself, Then how come great directors don’t start small?

Fata Morgana: Herzog once described the 1971 film as “a documentary shot by extraterrestrials from the Andromeda Nebula, and left behind.” Who else thinks he should review films? He’d so sound like Ebert on downers. Based on the Mayan creation myth of Creation, Paradise and The Golden Age, Fata Morgana was shot on the southern Sahara region of Africa. Needles to say, the cinematography is breathtaking, as is the soundtrack comprising mostly Leonard Cohen’s ballads, Blind Faith and classical interludes. It should be said that Herzog has tried his best to keep Fata Morgana out of the sci fi category and despite the fact that it’s about aliens landing in the Sahara desert, he has succeeded. I’d sooner categorize this into ‘pleasant nightmares’.

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguire, Wrath Of God): Not since words failed me a few hours after watching Clockwork Orange (they still do), have I felt this ill-equipped to review a film. I could try and probably pull off something vaguely funny and philosophical, but I’d be doing everyone injustice. I’ll lead you to the mind of Roger Ebert for a great review of my favourite Herzog film of all time.

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver SteinerDie Große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner (The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner): Werner Herzog’s lifelong fascination with ski-jumpers comes alive in this 1974 short film that is based on the story of Swiss ski-jumping champion and erstwhile woodcarver Walter Steiner. Apart from filming the breathtaking ski-jump scenes that seem like the illegitimate children of Video Zonkers and Jacques Cousteau, Herzog also gives you glimpses of Steiner’s painful shyness, which moves you just as much. Popol Vuh’s haunting music only adds to the intensity.

The Enigma of Kaspar HauserJeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle (The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser): Based on the legend of Kaspar Hauser – “a mysterious foundling in 19th century Germany famous for his claim to have grown up in the total isolation of a darkened cell” – this 1974 film won Herzog a nice grand jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. On a personal note, I’d like to say that this is my second-favourite film of the collection. With the Kaspar myth already drenched in mystery, Herzog adds to the mystique by casting German actor Bruno Schleinstein as the lead.

For those who don’t already know, Bruno had a fucked up life that made Drew Barrymore’s look like a Walt Disney animated feature with talking animals. Born “as the illegitimate son of a prostitute, he was often beaten as a child, and spent much of his youth in mental institutions.” Fantastically, much like Kaspar Hauser himself, Bruno too had a great ear for music. People say that he was quite proficient in the piano, accordion and glockenspiel. Come to think of it, this is the only Herzog film, in which the actor upstages him as a performer.

Mit Mir Will Keiner Spielen (No One Will Play With Me): It was only a matter of time before the director had something to say about innocence lost. This obscure (hahahaha) 1976 short film is apparently based on the stories, which he had once heard from the children themselves. It’s depressing, yes it is. Sort of like Children of Heaven, but without the miracles. Life, as Werner Herzog might tell you, is already a frightening miracle. Why want more?

heart_of_glass12Herz aus Glas (Heart Of Glass): I wish I had some sort of technical acumen when it comes to interpreting cinematography. Maybe then I could tell you in length just how friggin beautiful this film looks and feels. For now, deal with fanboy amateurism. Heart Of Glass is set in an 18th century Bavarian town known for a factory that produces red ruby glasses. When a veteran glass blower dies, so does the legend of the blood-soaked glasses. What it results in is not very pretty to think of but leave it to the director to squeeze every ounce of beauty from it. Why cinematographers don’t give free foot massages to Herzog, I’ll never know.

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misawa

Legendary Japanse wrestler Mitsuharu Misawa passes away

Enthusiasts never debate on the seriousness of pro-wrestling as a legitimate display of athleticism. There’s just too much fun to be had for us to bother about such frivilities. Of course, there is a lot of legitimacy in death and it is with an overbearing sense of attachment that I mourn the passing of a personal hero of mine…Mitsuharu Misawa

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Legend has it that Jim Morrison’s performance in 1967 at the University of Michigan made one hell of an impression on a young-ish Iggy Pop. Fittingly, he looked more like a Lizard King than Morrison at his most malnourished ever did. While he reinvented punk rock with The Stooges, I am of the opinion that Iggy never sounded better than he did on his solo albums. Ever his debut The Idiot in 1977, Iggy Pop has consistently released solo albums that have defied the artistic consciousness of their respective generations.

Iggy-PopFor instance, as the rock fraternity celebrated the Glam and Synth wave during the early Eighties, he dropped a bucketload of mid-tempo garage noise anthems through Party, Zombie Birdhouse and Blah Blah Blah – three albums that quietly refused to conform to the tune that everyone else were dancing to. During the early to mid Nineties when everyone and their mothers were listening to radio-friendly alternative rock and squeaky-clean polished grunge, the Godfather of Punk released the frenzied and crude throwback to Seventies – American Caesar and subsequently, Naughty Little Doggie.

I am not entirely sure what genre of music the current generation is salivating over, but I sure as hell know that it has nothing to do with jazz or bossanova. Needles to say, Iggy Pop’s 15th solo album – Préliminaires – is a collection of just that. Inspired by the French novel The Possibility Of An Island (Michel Houellebecq), Préliminaires, I hear, has Iggy in a jazz-like trance with a sea of delicate Dixieland-flavoured rhythm sections for him to drown himself into. Also included is a fantastic cover (hearsay) of the 1940s French classic Les Feuilles Mortes.

IggyKing Of The Dogs” is fucking splendid. One of his finest tracks, I think. It starts off with a swinging-as-Tarzan-on-crack cabaret beat that leads to Iggy telling us, “I’ve got a smelly rear, I’ve got a dirty nose, I don’t want no shoes, and I don’t want no clothes…I’m living like a king of the dogs”. I swear, if Frank Sinatra was cryogenically frozen and then unleashed at a Tom Waits concert, he’d sound just like this.

So that’s Iggy Pop for you. The deranged disco remix of what one would expect of an elder statesman of popular culture. The antithesis of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Conformist. The shaman of artistic hedonism. A crazy, lean, old man who won’t stop till the audience can conceptualize just how crazy he really is.

Watch

Iggy Pop – King Of The Dogs

Iggy Pop – I Wanna Be Your Dog (Live)

Buy

Iggy Pop – Préliminaires

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