Last year's Halloween Horror Marathon kind of fell apart. Longtime readers may have noted that it stopped after nine movies, less than halfway through the month. Long story, but it involved me having a mental collapse and quitting my job. ANYWAY. This year, we're doing it up properly. In addition to trying to tackle some of the classics -- Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell trilogy, Mario Bava's Bay of Blood, Dario Argento's Suspiria -- as well as some more recent classics like The Conjuring, You're Next, and House of the Devil. You may also notice that awesome poster. We'll be skipping movie reviews on Tuesdays because we'll be showing them instead! Every Tuesday at 7:00 and 9:00pm at Frank's North Star Tavern here in Lawrence, Kansas, we'll be doing free screenings of classic horror flicks. We're starting with Tom Atkins Rules! That features The Fog and Halloween III. Future installments will be announced soon. In the meantime, save your pennies for $2 tallboys. Big thanks to Zach Trover for making the poster.
movies on September 30th, 2014 by Nick – 3 Comments
books, indie, novelty / humor, reviews on September 24th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture, the new essay collection edited by Alex DiBlasi and Victoria Willis, succeeds on only one half of its title. It explores the geeky aspects of music, but as far as being a collection of essay about a rock subculture, it fails abjectly. The blurb on the book's back cover explains geek rock as "forms of popular music that celebrate all things campy, kitschy, and quirky," but the editors then present a procession of essays wherein the musical approach is geeky or the lyrical obsession is geeky -- it seems that the essay authors, despite the desire to make geek rock a thing and name-checking in the introduction artists like Weezer, Jonathan Coulton, and Frank Black, chose instead to reframe the discussion in a way that reflects their particular interests. Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were outsiders, and true creative geniuses, but in framing the geekiness of their art as its level of obsession, the essay authors seem to be twisting and pushing the limits of what "geek rock" is, in an effort to lionize these already-lionized subjects. It's well-known that these artists were obsessive to the most minute detail, but how that's geeky, I can't quite grasp. DiBlasi makes a very interesting and salient point in his essay on Zappa, entitled "Frank Zappa: Godfather of Geek Rock." In its first paragraph, he posits geek rock as music that "celebrates the mundane" and that it's "rife with references to comic books, science fiction, and other cultural artifacts that are also considered geeky." This is an excellent summation of geek rock, and it fails on two levels: firstly, very few essays will make references to musicians who actually perform songs in this vein. The Mountain Goats, Magnetic Fields, and Frank Zappa certainly do not. Secondly -- and, arguably, most importantly -- DiBlasi gives several examples of what this is in opposition to. He names the Who and the Rolling Stones, to which I can agree with his idea of them being hypermasculine and sexual. However, when you say that Led Zeppelin is an act to which geek rock is the opposite, I cannot believe you. Maybe on the sexuality front, but Robert Plant sang more about Tolkien-related subjects than Jimmy Page stole rigffs from old blues men. There's a reason why Dungeons and Dragons fans also frequently have ZOSO tattoos. All of this is within the first few pages of Geek Rock. It's difficult to even begin to point out the positives in the book. "Man [Seeking] Astro-Man?: Nouveau Surf Rock and Futuristic-Past Nostalgic" by Shannon Finck is my personal favorite, relating a kitsch obsession to sci-fi geekery in a wonderfully tight and on-point essau. However, even in the most straightforwardly geeky chapter of all, "'Now It's Time For a Little Braggadocio: Nerdcore Rap, Race, and the Politics of Appropriation," by Chris Russell, the topic of racial appropriation is well-addressed, but one wonders how the chapter might have fared otherwise with the addition of someone like MegaRan, an African-American nerdcore rapper, and what he brings to the table. It's all so much wasted potential -- a fucking shame, really, as these are all interesting approaches to the artists considered, but shoehorning this "geek rock" appelation on to them just makes for an awkward and frsutrating read. If you consider it as a selection about musical obsessives, you'll fare much better. geek Rock is out now from Rowman and Littlefield.
garage rock, reviews, vinyl on September 23rd, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Surf trio Aaron & the Burrs does an excellent job of keeping everything short and sweet on their "Release the Bats" single. With instrumentals, it's difficult to know where to stop, but both of these tracks had me repeatedly flipping the 45 to listen to it over and over. While absolutely standard in terms of genre, it's loaded with flourishes and detail that reveal a new delight with every repeated play. As I said, both cuts on this 45 aren't breaking any new ground. Aaron & the Burrs play sunny surf-rock, the same as has been purveyed since the '60s. This still sounds absolutely wonderful, though. The songs are short, catchy, and well-executed. The a-side, "Release the Bats," has a nice workout somewhere in the middle that really brings it to life, and ends with a fantastic bit of revved up guitar. "Oh No, More Bats" is the more sonically interesting. It changes up the tempo several times as it goes, and works a much more complex interplay between the guitar and bass, with the bass at times even doubling the guitar line for a much more full sound. For a three-piece, Aaron & the Burrs have a sonic fullness to them that hearkens back to the likes of Joe Meek-produced cuts like "Telstar." Producer Geza X is well-known for his work in giving punk rock far more musical depth and heft than is usually given it, and he's applied his talents just as well to these two tracks. If you get this as a physical product, it comes with a download code, and is housed in a screened 3/4 sleeve. The 45's on solid black vinyl. Ut Records and Feral Kid gave a simple single a very nice treatment. The Daniel Clowes-looking artwork is eye-catching, as well. Additionally, notice needs to be given for the fact that the songs are "Release the Bats" and "Oh No, More Bats," which gave me a solid chuckle. However, the lyric sheet, which reads simply, "NA," might be the real selling point of this single. Never underestimate the allure of cleverness, folks. You can buy Aaron & the Burrs' "Release the Bats" single from Ut records (who also have their first two cassettes) or Feral Kid.
podcast on September 22nd, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
My mood, as of late, has been horrendously mercurial. I've been an emotional wreck, prone to fits of raging anger and crippling sadness. Needless to say, the new podcast reflects both that and the Audio Reader benefit sale from the weekend before last. Podcast #117, "Sadder Slower" Patty Griffin, "Ohio" ("Ohio" single) Immigrant Union, "The End Has Come" (Anyway) Forgetters, "Hoop and Swan" (Forgetters) Sonny & the Sunsets, "Surfer Girl" ("Imagine" single) --- The Raspberries, "Go All the Way" (The Raspberries) U2, "I Will Follow" (Boy) The Walkmen, "Weight On My Shoulders" ("Weight On My Shoulders" single) Elliott Smith, "Between the Bars" (Either/Or) --- Pelican, "Parasite Colony" (Arktica) Cola Freaks, "Menneska Lim" (split with Digital Leather) Aaron & the Burrs, "Oh No, More Bats" ("Release the Bats" single) Girls, "Honey Bunny" (Father, Sun, Holy Ghost)
books, interview, upcoming events, upcoming release on September 10th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
For those who love music and books, there's nothing finer than Bloomsbury's critically acclaimed 33 1/3, which examines individual, seminal albums, in pocket books that pack a punch. The 33 1/3 series celebrates its 100th book, on Michael Jackson's Dangerous, on Thursday, September 11 and will be having a party for its 10th anniversary on Thursday, October 2, at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn. Ally Jane Grossan is a commissioning editor at Bloomsbury. She edits academic books in the realms of pop music and sound studies and is editor of the 33 1/3 series, taking over from founding editor David Barker in November 2012. She is also co-editor of the forthcoming textbook, How to Write About Music. We spoke with Grossan via e-mail about the series and its history. What was the impetus to start 33 1/3? Was there a particular book or piece of writing that was the inspiration? David Barker started the series in the early aughts. I know that he got the idea from another book series that the previous publisher, Continuum, had on contemporary novels. That series, Continuum Contemporaries, was comprised of short books about beloved contemporary novels like Disgrace, High Fidelity, and The Buddha of Suburbia, among many others. David was inspired to apply that same formula to beloved albums of music. How were you involved, and how have you stayed involved in the series over the last decade? I became involved with the series like any sensible college student terrified of unemployment -- as an intern. A college professor of mine had penned one of the early books in the series and he put me in touch with the series editor at Continuum. I had read a few of the titles in the series at that point and was elated to be involved. That first summer, I eagerly took on reading projects and if I remember correctly, the first 33 1/3 manuscript I got to read was Mark Richardson’s book on Zaireeka. That internship turned into a full-time job as an Editorial Assistant the following summer. I was promoted up through the ranks and eventually wound up as the music editor when Continuum was purchased by Bloomsbury. Now in addition to the 33 1/3 series, I edit academic titles in popular music, sound studies and political theory at Bloomsbury, the new home of the series. In addition to journalists and other writers, you've had musicians scribe installments. What do you find they bring? The books in the series by musicians have two audiences. Black Sabbath fans are sure to pick up the 33 1/3 on Master of Reality, but because of the fact that’s it’s penned by John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, we've got a whole different fan base interested in that book. I now have a deeper appreciation for the Mountain Goats song "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton" off All Hail West Texas. Master of Reality is one of my favorite books in the series and takes a radical approach to exploring an album: fictionalizing it. How has the series changed from its initial concept -- was fiction in the early planning, for instance? I think David Barker's original concept was to really get to "the heart of matter" of great albums. When the series began, he had solicited proposals from writers he admired, but by the time the tenth or eleventh book came out the proposals were flooding in. There were so many creative approaches: fiction, guidebooks, memoir, etc. that the scope was expanded. During the last open call in 2014, I received almost 40 pitches with a "creative" approach including novellas, screenplays, one-act plays and graphic novels. Which album proved most difficult to produce a book for? The Clash's London Calling. Three different writers have been under contract to write this book over the years and not one has been successful. Are there any books you're still crossing your fingers to see written? If so, what are they? Definitely. Look for a wish list during the 2015 open call on 333sound.com. Which book has proved to generate the most commentary (it's Let's Talk About Love, isn't it?)? Yes, it's Carl Wilson's Let’s Talk About Love. That tiny book spawned a whole new conversation about taste and snobbery. It's widely taught in college classrooms in freshman seminars, creative writing classes and by pretty much any cultural studies professor who comes into contact with it. I think it’s so successful because students react so strongly at first with, "Why the hell have we been assigned a book about Celine Dion?" But then after reading it, their concept of highbrow and lowbrow culture has completely warped. There were so many interesting reactions to the book that we brought out a separate new edition that includes essays by James Franco, Mary Gaitskill, Nick Hornby and countless others. What do you think of series such as Music On Film, which have applied the research / overview / pocket book concept to other genres? I haven’t read any of the Music on Film books but I just might have to pick up the Spinal Tap one. Is there one on Monty Python and the Holy Grail? There should be. I do like it when the 33 1/3 apparatus of a tiny, focused study is applied to other genres. Our media studies editor has just started a series on video game design with the first installment covering Shigeru Miyamoto. Coincidentally, I've just signed up a 33 1/3 on the soundtrack to Super Mario Bros. In academic publishing, we call that synergy (rolls eyes). Do you have any wild plans for the next ten years? Yes, we're going global! The possibilities for the series are infinite. As long as albums are being made, there are 33 1/3rds to be written. I receive so many brilliant pitches on Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Brazilian artists; the list goes on. So I'm teaming up with musicologists with various region-specific specialties to expand the 33 1/3 series to cover the greatest albums released all over the world. While our wide 33 1/3 audience may have never heard of artist like Yellow Magic Orchestra or Cui Jian, their influence in their respective countries is huge. Their albums deserve the microscopic 33 1/3 treatment and they'll get it soon! For more information on the 33 1/3 series, visit their website. You can RSVP to the 33 1/3 tenth anniversary party and find out more details at the Powerhouse website. Also -- for the entire month of September, Bloomsbury has all books in the series for $10 (33 1/3% off!). You can get them at Bloomsbury's store.
podcast on September 8th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Maybe it's due to a lengthy week, with a lot of mileage in it. Maybe it's due to the weather, which went from hot and humid to rainy to seasonally-appropriate. Maybe it's because I drank a can of FourLoko last night, got spectacularly drunk in a very short period of time, and then immediately crashed at 10:00pm. Who's to say? All I know is that there's a shorter set of tunes than usual, but they're absolutely rock-solid. Podcast #116, "Short and Frickin' Sweet" The Litigators, "Let Me Cross Over" ("Let Me Cross Over" single) Gas Huffer, "Bedtime For Freaky" (The Shrill Beeps of Shrimp) Zero Boys, "Put Some Lipstick On It" (Pro Dirt) --- The Wytches, "Grave Dweller" (Annabel Dream Reader) Black on Black, "I Dreamt I Died" (Firebrand) Mannequin Pussy, "Sheet City" (Gypsy Pervert) --- Ghoul, "Tomb After Tomb" (We Came For the Dead) Judas Priest, "Halls of Valhalla" (Redeemer of Souls) Iron Reagan, "I Won't Go" (The Tyranny of Will)
garage rock, interview, punk, streaming audio / video on August 21st, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
Indiana garage trio Apache Dropout just released their latest album, Heavy Window, via Magnetic South Recordings this Tuesday. The album's much darker than their last record, Bubblegum Graveyard which was released in 2012 on Chicago's Trouble In Mind. We've been enjoying the hell out of the LP, so we reached out to the band's Seth Mahern and Sonny Alexandre to ask them about how Heavy Window came together. The new album seems to be a lot darker than its predecessor. Is that intentional? Seth Mahern: Certainly. We were trying to create something both more heavy and tense. More along the lines of our self-titled record. Sonny Alexandre: Heavy Window was definitely a reaction to Bubblegum Graveyard -- that album was seen as our "pop record", even though it was macabre in its way, and contained a lotta gritty lo-fi heaviness. With the new album, I really wanted to make a straight ahead ripper, something more about resurrecting Ron Asheton than Archie and Jughead. The tunes for Heavy Window were never meant to be a syrupy jaunt beneath marshmallow skies, and what I ended up writing was actually a kind of exhibition of my darkside. The record is presented as a piece of occult paranoia, with its Saul Bass-style Psycho-vibes and glow-in-the-dark monster movie chic, but it's actually about my life. How dark is that? Was it sort of an outgrowth of the slightly more psychedelic folk songs on Bubblegumn Graveyard, like "Hey Valentine"? I mean, I was almost expecting this to be full on Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sonny: We tried to leave the folky stuff alone for this one. Only one song on the record has acoustic guitar, and it's more of a Keith Richards-style thing. We did try to make the record as psychedelic as possible, that's why we went stereo. Mono sounds better; stereo sounds headier. 100% of the songs on Heavy Window were written under the influence. Death to false psych! [embed]https://soundcloud.com/magnetic-south-recordings/apache-dropout-trash-is-treasure[/embed] In addition to being darker, it's a little heavier -- still bubblegum, but definitely a lot more low-end. What precipitated that? Seth: I think alot of that has to do with this being our first record that was mixed in stereo. Panning the guitars gave the bass a little more sonic space. Sonny: We recorded Bubblegum Graveyard so fast that we forgot to, like, jam on it, y'know? That record needed a lot more space, a lot more room for us to just play our guitars really loud. We took a long, frustrating time making this record, so we had a little more perspective on it. We thought, "Hey let's do what we do best and play our guitars really loud." Both Bubblegum Graveyard and Heavy Window have artwork that mirrors the lyrical content -- Graveyard looking like a twisted Archie-meets-EC comic, with Window reading like the back pages to the same book. How important is the design to Apache Dropout's records? Seth: Design is certainly really important to the band's over-all aesthetic. We're really keen on '50s and '60s commercial design. Equally important to your sound seems to be the audio design. It's very lo-fi, but not to the point where it distorts the hooks and lyrics. What's the recording process like for an Apache Dropout record? Seth: We've recorded almost everything we've ever released at the Magnetic South studio. Its all analog and alot of the process is based on late '50s and early '60s recording techniques. From where did you source all of the amazing audio samples on Heavy Window? Seth: We're all big record and VHS collectors. They came from our personal collections. What led you to release this on Magnetic South, after your last LP on Trouble In Mind? Seth: Magnetic South finally had enough money in the coffers to pay for the pressing. It looks like there are scattered dates to promote Heavy Window, but are there any plans for a tour, or does the label take up too much time? Seth: We're doing a month long US tour. Gonna see the Atlantic and the Pacific. We'll be in Lawrence on October 15. You can find all of the dates for Apache Dropout's upcoming tour at their Facebook page, and buy Heavy Window from Magnetic South Recordings.
books, indie, reviews on August 20th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Mark Allister's upcoming book for university of Minnesota Press, Chasing the Light: The Cloud Cult Story is as enthusiastic a band history and biography as one could ask for. That's where the trouble lies: it's so enthusiastic, it's so positive, it's so very cheerleader toward the band that one has difficulty seeing any sort of objectivity within its pages. Case in point: new members' reasons for joining are explained, but very rarely is explanation given as to why someone left. There are as many former members as there are current members of the Minnesota band, and with the exception of Sarah Young, the cellist who left in 2011 to raise a family, the other band members who've left aren't really explained at all. It's inspiring, certainly, to read the story of a band that rose, bringing its ethics and vision to bear on a world unready for unflinching honesty and environmental stewardship, but the overly-effusive nature of the book -- ably supplemented by the dozens of pages given over to fan testimonials -- makes this seem less a history of a band, and more like an extended and well-researched Tumblr page. Allister has been granted plenty of access to Cloud Cult and their history, and quite obviously has created a very intimate and detailed portrait of a band that inspires some very deep feelings. When one sorts through the praise and the adoration of the author, and gets to the honest aspects of the band and what they've gone through, the story is no less inspiring, but certainly far less twee. The final chapter, "Your Show Starts Now," cuts through the treacle and manages to combine heartfelt honesty with factual truth that demonstrates exactly how hard a band like Cloud Cult has had to work for and maintain their level of success. If nothing else, Chasing the Light's value can be seen in these pages, and is well worth reading for that. Mark Allister's Chasing the Light: The Cloud Cult Story is due out in October from the University of Minnesota Press, and is currently available for pre-order.
podcast on August 18th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Ah, yes -- the joys of recording a podcast while the washing machine sloshes above and the dehumidifer hums below. Apologies for any segments of the podcast where my voice is washed out. Recording in the basement on a Sunday morning isn't the quietest place to get things done. Podcast #115, "Laundry Day" Watery Love, "I'm A Skull" (Decorative Feeding) Big Iron, "We Will Fall" (We Will Fall) Rocket From the Crypt, "White Belt" (Group Sounds) Jawbreaker, "Driven" (Unfun) --- Apache Dropout, "Tired Old Story" (Heavy Window) Jaill, "How's the Grave" (That's How We Burn) Ash, "Jesus Says" (Nu-Clear Sounds) "Weird Al" Yankovic, "First World Problems" (Mandatory Fun) --- The Pinkerton Thugs, "Don't Tread On Me" ("The Times" single) The Nerves, "Paper Dolls" (One Way Ticket) Nude Beach, "For You" (77) Nick Lowe, "So It Goes" (16 All Time Lowes) --- Hedwig & the Angry Inch, "Exquisite Corpse" (Hedwig & the Angry Inch soundtrack) Dillinger Four, "Who Didn't Kill Bambi?" (Versus God) Punch, "Self Help" (They Don't Have To Believe) Pallbearer, "Watcher In the Dark" (Foundations of Burden)
books, punk, reviews on August 13th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
Ian Glasper's tenth anniversary edition of Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980-1984 (out now from PM Press) is an invaluable resource for anyone looking for first-person narratives of the second wave of UK punk. For those looking for an interesting read, that's another story. Burning Britain is like a very large 'zine. It's very rambling, with lots of interjections and asides, and quite a bit of editorializing on the part of the author. Glasper is prone to describe singles or songs as "crackling with an almost tangible passion and urgency," as he does in the case of the Underdogs' "East of Dachau" single. Connected to Glasper's tendency to be either hyperbolic or minimalist -- describing bands in basic one or two sentence summaries of the bands' sounds -- the fatal flaw in Burning Britain is an absolute need for the reader to be familiar with the acts in question. If you don't know much past their singles, you'll be lost, hoplessly adrift in a sea of anecdotes. There are so many stories without context. There are scads of "so there we was..." tales which I am absolutely sure were hilarious when being told, but seem hopelessly overlong in print. If nothing, it does humanize these musicians, and presents them as average punters, rather than rock stars with delusions of grandeur. I'm also trying to figure out why certain acts were left out. I understand the anarcho punks being saved for another book, but where the hell is Cock Sparrer? I get that they formed early, but their reformation and heyday was easily in the timeframe of this book. Angelic Upstarts were present during the first wave, and the Adicts formed pre-'77, so I don't see as to why they were excluded. Shame, that. Burning Britain is available now from PM Press, and can be purchased from their store.