Halloween Horror Marathon: Zombiethon

zombiethon header Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We sleep in on Sundays, then watch a zombie flick. We call it Resurrection Sundays. This week, we look at the compilation film Zombiethon What are the best parts of any horror film, for any teenager? The violence and the nudity. Here's a Wizard Video collection that functions as a highlight reel of any number of classic zombie flicks from the '70s and '80s. The films themselves, if you've actually seen them, are almost universally terrible. With the exception of Fulci's Zombie, all the movies presented here benefit greatly from being truncated and edited. Oasis of the Zombies actually seems interesting and fun (it is not), for example. I mean, if you reduce the absurdity of The Invisible Dead to a collection of scenes with naked Caroline Munro, it's obviously going to be something more intriguing than it actually is. The best part of the edited / reduced films is the way A Virgin Among the Living Dead is, essentially, just the added footage Jean Rollin shot for the film's re-release in 1981, meaning that this is literally nothing like the original picture in any way, shape, or form. zombiethon It all peters out at the end, with quite a short blasts from the oldest film here, Astro-Zombies. The flick's charmingly awful, but after a solid hour of breasts and blood, the cheesy cheapness of this "classic" feels anticlimactic. The interstitial wrap-around bits are quite fun, pretty funny, and even (in the case of the first one) shot fairly well. You could easily pull these bits and make your own highlight reel -- perhaps with stronger films. I'd love to see 10-minute cuts of Bud the Chud and Return of the Living Dead mixed up with Mutant and Messiah Evil. This is considerably more good-natured than the other Wizard compilation, Filmgore. Even the inclusion of wrap-around segments from Elvira can't keep that from seeming just a little bit nasty. This, though, is basically a perfect thing to throw on in the background of your Halloween party. Throw on some creepy film scores or funky disco -- either way, you can delight in the nakeys and zombies. You can snag this from Full Moon Features as a three-pack that also features Filmgore and Savage Island. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kVyEqHtS1s[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: It Follows

poster - it follows Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We go back to work on Mondays with a recent release. We call it New Movie Mondays. What nobody ever mentions about It Follows -- except, evidently, me when incessantly and effusively praising this movie after I finally saw it -- is the constant movement. Watching the film, I never felt scared, per se, but definitely felt a sense of tension. It Follows is a movie whose tautness is its real weapon, and it comes from that constant movement. Said movement could be the characters in a scene: either talking, fiddling with their hands, swimming, or otherwise involved in an activity. However, it could just as likely be the movement of the camera: zooming in, pulling back, panning, or following the characters as they sit. It's that incessant motion which gives It Follows the unyielding anxiety that makes it so very watchable. The Disasterpeace score places further strain upon the viewer, as well. It's the sort of music which has melody to hook you, only to disintegrate into digital noise at the end of each section. It's beautiful and haunting in its more lovely moments, but absolutely intimidating when it wants to menace. What's great about the motion of the camera or the characters onscreen is that it's entirely at odds with the pace of the plot itself. It unfolds at a relatively slow pace -- some would say glacial -- similar to the likes of '70s or early '80s films like Zombie Flesh Eaters or The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, wherein you spend time living with the characters in between moments of supreme violence. It's not rapid-fire hit, hit, hit in terms of violence. It builds and builds and builds between each instance. if_01 And, of course, the open interpretation of so much of It Follows is what really allows for repeated viewings. Are we going to consider the religious imagery this time, or possibly the mutable timeframe in which the movie takes place? Every instance adds a different perspective , and you could easily waste an entire afternoon reading the various think pieces. Add in the female lead of Jay, as portrayed by Maika Monroe, with demonstrable agency of her own, and you've a modern horror film that manages to still seem timeless. For sheer entertainment value, as well as repeated, multi-faceted perspectives, It Follows is definitely my favorite movie this year, and possibly in the last five. I can't think of another film which not only lived up to the hype which preceded it, but also surpassed it to such an extent. It Follows is available on Blu-ray and DVD, but I suggest getting the Blu, because goddamn, it looks amazing. We also suggest snagging Disasterpeace's score on vinyl, as released by Milan Records. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX38jXwnRAM[/embed]

Podcast #137, “Doomed to Repeat”

sisyphus In which your host tells of plans to come, and things which might change. In the meantime, electronic blips, dance-y bloops, and sludgey dirges. Podcast #137, "Doomed to Repeat" Mike Armstrong, "House of the Devil Opening Theme" (House of the Devil soundtrack) Magnetic System, "Escape" ("Godzilla" single) Gershon Kingsley, "Popcorn" (Music to Moog By) Carlo Maria Cordo, "M31" (Pieces soundtrack) --- Richard Denton And Martin Cook, "Tomorrow's World" (TV Sound and Image Volume 1) Gil Trythall, "Folsom Prison Blues" (Country Moog (Switched on Nashville)) Black Devil, "Follow Me" (Disco Club) Wolfmen of Mars, "All Those Terrible Times" (Gamisu) --- KISS, "God of Thunder" (Alive II) Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, "Death's Door" (Blood Lust) Minibosses, "Metroid" (Brass) Ebn-Ozn, "The Dawn" (Feeling Cavalier)

Witt’s “How Music Got Free” essential reading for music fans

how music got free header There are quite a few stories to be told in Stephen Witt's book, How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy, out not from Viking. You have the story of how the mp3 algorithm was created, you have how the music industry failed to meet the demands of a new digital age, and you have the story of how one man in North Carolina managed to leak many of the top albums of their day. It's fascinating, and though I came to it with many of the same touchstones as author Witt (we're the same age), there's a lot to this for everyone, not just those of us who hit college right as file-sharing, broadband, and big hard drives all converged. I mean, granted: if you're a mid-to-late '90s high school graduate who lived in a college dormitory during the tag end of the last century, there's a lot of obscure references in How Music Got Free that will open mental doors to which you'd long since lost the keys. But even for those who didn't look to RNS as a mark of quality or Oink as the the be-all, end-all of musical treasure-hunting, there's still so much here. If ever there were a textbook case of how a perfect storm came to wash away vast swatches of an industry, this is it. Witt's book answers every question you've ever had about piracy:
* Why the hell did they sue 11 year-ols and grandmas, but I still have 3000 albums on my hard drive to this day? * Why were CDs so goddamn expensive, even as the technology got cheaper? * What does it take to get your hands on an album that far in advance? * How did the labels repeatedly fail to get on the ball with digital music?
It's three stories, all interwoven, and it's brilliant. Like an epic episode of Frontline, but told with the wit and wink of This American Life, Witt's How Music Got Free documents the way piracy came to be a way of being. It's a cultural and technological history that will leave you enraptured. My only regret is that I've sat this long trying to figure out how best to sum it up. My recommendation: buy it, take two days off work, and get ready. You're not going to want to put this down once you start it. How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy is available to purchase from Amazon.

Terror Tuesdays presents a midnight screening of Night of the Comet

poster - Night of the Comet The second Terror Tuesdays goes down tonight at Frank's North Star in Lawrence, Kansas. This week, we're having to do switch things up a bit. No "Night Of The Night Ofs" tonight, because there's a Royal ACLS playoff game at 7:00pm. Given that this is the boys in blue's first set off playoff appearances in nearly 30 years, we're not even going to attempt to compete. So -- midnight screening of Night of the Comet following the game tonight. Tallboys will be $2, Andy Stowers is bartending, and I'll be there. Two out of three of those things are worth making it down to Frank's (508 Locust St, north of the river).

Night Birds, “Monster Surf” 7-inch

cover - night birds monster surfCan Night Birds succeed without Brian Gorsegner's snotty vocals, which are so integral to the band's sound? Is it possible to achieve that sense of horror and and b-movie grime without lyrics? Shit yeah, it is. Granted, Gorsegner has a hand in playing synths on the dystopic sci-fi cut, "Agent Zero," but the rest of the band handily rocks it pure surf style for the other three cuts on this EP. It's a nice chance to really focus on the fact that PJ Russo's guitar work is just lovely. The interplay between Russo's guitar and Joe Keller's bass is what really makes this EP. Granted, it doesn't get exceptionally complex at any point, but the songs are catchy. The same goes for drummer Ryan McHale, who -- while he isn't really called to do much more than standard timing -- hits the skins with enough heft to give these songs a tiki-torch nighttime dance party feel. It's really the lack of anything really outstanding in terms of sonic dynamics that keep this EP at "not bad," as opposed to "fuckin' good." While these songs are better than something like the early instrumental track, "Squad Car," only the opening cut, "Unavoidable Filth," really manages to achieve the dynamicism of something by the likes of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Knowing that Night Birds are capable of something like the Born to Die in Suburbia cut, "Silver Alert," just had me hoping for something more than simply good. Also, seriously -- that guitar run in "Agent Zero" is one note removed from "A Shot in the Dark." Any closer, and they'd owe the Mancini estate some coin. Nice work on the version of the Mel Brooks' Twelve Chairs cut, "Hope for the Best (Expect the Worst)," though. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/wallriderecords/night-birds-hope-for-the-best[/embed] It's a limited, one-time-only pressing of 1000 copies on big-hole 45s, and Wallride Records is already sold out. Keep an eye on the Night Birds merch site and other online distros to see if anything pops up.

Muuy Biien, “D.Y.I.” LP

cover - muuy biien dyiI'd never heard of Muuy Biien before I got an offer to have some records sent to me. They were kind of a secondary, last-minute throw in with another record for review. That other record will not get mentioned, because I didn't care for it at all, buuuuuuuut ... D.Y.I. is pretty frickin' great. The album title -- at least judging from the cover -- stands for "Do Yourself In," and the music is angular and bleak. "Cyclothymia I," which opens the album, is almost three minutes of droning, chiming guitars. It then goes into this sharp-edged garage rock. It's evocative of late-'90s indie rock, when everything was taking influence from electronic music, but reproducing it with live instrumentation. We're not talking electroclash, though. This is garage rock, dirty and dissonant, but it's rhythmically Krautrock. Kind of like if Jay Reatard had listened to more Warsaw and Neu. "Cyclothymia" repeats twice more, giving the listener a chance to slow down and take a breath after the frantic energy and insistently beating rhythm. Each one thrums more loudly than the one before, however, so the sense of intensity and nervous panic doesn't abate. If anything, the second side of D.Y.I. is even more tightly found than the first. Songs clock in under less than a minute, tightly-coiled pieces of twitchy killing you with every listen. Going from the back-to-back bursts of "Virus Evolves" to "Dust" into "Crispin Noir" makes that cut's running time -- which is still under 3 minutes -- seem like a ponderously-long epic. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/hhbtm-records/muuy-biien-white-ego[/embed] You can snag Muuy Biien's D.Y.I. from the HHBTM Records store. That artwork looks amazing on the LP cover -- it's one of those rare album covers I'd actually like to have signed, framed, and hanging somewhere in my house.

“B Is For Bad Cinema” operates outside of standard trash tropes

book cover - b is for bad cinemaState University of New York Press has a very excellent addition to film criticism with their new book, B Is For Bad Cinema, edited by Claire Perkins and Constantine Verevis. Rather than focusing as so many books about "b-movies" do, using the standard definition of the form -- cult, grindhouse, trash, et al -- it steps outside the expected. In some cases, we're talking major releases as much as we are low-budget features. Now, granted, in some cases there's a crossroad where bad meets big, and you end up with something like William Friedkin's Cruising, which -- while trashy (and it certainly is) -- also features what essay author R. Burton Palmer describes in "Redeeming Cruising" as "significant" imagery: namely, "the kind of sexual display previously seen only in gay stag films was suddenly at the representational center of a major Hollywood release." Essentially, B Is For Bad Cinema takes the likes of what defines "bad" movies, such as lurid displays or budgetary necessities, and frames them in such a way as to make them worth reconsidering. "Being In Two Places At the Same Time" reconsiders rear projection as a way of looking at films in a whole new way. Rather than considering a rear-projected backdrop as simply a budgetary aspect that makes it cheaper and easier than shooting a moving vehicle on location, it serves to further illustrate the artificiality of the situation, and re-contextualizes the depiction being presented. The fact that the essayists reconsider "bad cinema" from all angles allows for deeper focus on how we view a film can be changed. Production isn't the only aspect which is considered. In the chapter "B Grade Subtitles," author Tessa Dwyer provides deep focus on how a film can be changed purely through translation, making the very valid point that what you read might not be what the director or actor intended you to hear. However, the later chapters begin to fail as an overview of bad cinema as a whole. It's a complaint I've made in the past -- while it's a wonderful way to really dig deeply into a particular movie, the specificity of the subject matter makes for an essay that's so focused in its academic thrust that it's not as easily fit into the compilation as a whole. When particular films are used as a jumping-off point, as does "The EviL Dead DVD Commentaries," they work better than when specific movies are the focus of a given essay. If the reader isn't familiar with a particular film, then the point is lost in the specificity of the reference. You can read the first chapter of B Is For Bad Cinema here.

Podcast #105, “Short & Sweet”

short stack The podcast returns after an extended holiday hiatus, with a short twelve songs, covering the gamut from blues-influenced garage rock swagger to metal to ... weirdness. Yeah. It's been a bit, so you'd think this would be longer, but no. I'm a man of many words, but I'd rather quality of over quantity. Expect a new one in two weeks, since it's actually already recorded. We're gonna make this thing a regular occurrence this year, god willing and the creeks don't rise. Podcast #105, "Short & Sweet" Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "Bellbottoms" ("Bellbottoms" single) Ghoul, "Ghoul Hunter" (Maniaxe) Waxeater, "A Man Has To Have A Code" (Baltimore Record) Ruleta Rusa, "Aqui No Es" (Aqui No Es) --- The #1s, "Sharon Shouldn't" ("Sharon Shouldn't" single) Adam Widener, "Fluid Trails of Glitter Gore" (Vesuvio Nights) The Book-Burners, "Sidesteppers" (People's Songs) Run Forever, "Lost the Feeling" (Adventures / Run Forever split) --- The Max Levine Ensemble, "The Kids Are Fucking Awesome" (split with Operation Cliff Clavin) Like Like The The Death, "Hypnic Jerk" (Cave Jenny) Nox Boys, "Save Me" (Nox Boys) New Coke, "I Am Drunk, I Have A Gun, I Want Names" (Duct Tape Your Mouth EP)

The #1s, “Sharon Shouldn’t” 7-inch

cover - 1s sharonThe #1s -- in addition to being one of the hardest bands to find in our modern-day #hashtag culture -- have been making quite a name for themselves in the pop underground as of late. They've put out two singles in rapid succession, and finally have a proper United States release with their "Sharon Shouldn't" single on Sorry State and Alien Snatch. The title track is a masterful piece of power-pop, with a really crisp sound to it. If the sleeve didn't tip you off to their early-'80s sonic aesthetic, the opening seconds of the track will immediately clue you in. There's no fuzz on this cut -- everything is super-clean and high end, rocking out with just a little of that vocal effect that sounds like you're singing into a very quiet bullhorn. Lots of dropped-out bits -- dropping out all the instruments to let the vocals take hold; letting the drums and bass do a little chooglin', then slicing some razor-sharp guitar riffs through them -- make for some great dynamic moments. The b-sides, "Boy" and "Girl" are mirror images of one another, as well as of the a-side itself. "Boy" is a shambolic, sloppy mess of a song that has some charms, sadly obscured by the piss-take nature of the recording. Its opposite, "Girl," is far calmer, evoking memories of every single '60s slow-dance ode every recorded. They're both pretty garage-y -- lots of echo and reverb, a total 180 from the crisp, clean production of "Sharon."
It's available now from the Sorry State store on both black and red vinyl, although the red's limited to 92 copies and mailorder only -- so fucking hurry, already.