October 31, 2006
I have my PowerBook's screen saver set to show constantly evolving rows of the album-cover artwork from my iTunes library. Today I looked up from doing basically nothing and saw that almost all the covers on the screen shuffle were some shade of blue. It's been an especially "blue" day, which you'll understand if you've read past postings about my relation to Halloween... so here's my visual tribute.
(Echo & the Bunnymen, Alpha, Bjork, Ride; Chakk, Scala, The Cars, Elbow; A Primary Industry, The Knife, Love and Rockets, Verve; Simple Minds, The Jazz Butcher, Pan American, Joni Mitchell; Chapterhouse, New Order, The Meeting Places, Breathless; Orbital, Virgin Prunes, Sigur Ros, Jon Hassell; Hula, Dead Can Dance, Trespassers William, Portishead; Revolver, Hugo Largo, Harold Budd, Clinic; The Emerald Down, Pink Floyd, The Associates, The Durutti Column; Seefeel, Flying Saucer Attack, The Smiths, XMal Deutschland; Kraftwerk, Bowery Electric, The Sundays, Skinny Puppy; 808 State, China Crisis, Chris and Cosey, Cocteau Twins.)
October 30, 2006
"I am the DJ, I am what I play..."
Short notice: I'm DJing at tonight's Four Stories event in Cambridge. Tonight's theme is "Crime and Punishment: Stories from the Big House," featuring writings about prison and prisoners, an event to honor the Freedom to Write Program that is sponsored by the wonderful PEN New England.
Readers will be Helen Elaine Lee, T. J. Parsell, Megan Sullivan, and Jean Trounstine. My DJ set will begin at 6pm, and the readings start at 7pm (with an intermission for more music and drinks). Hosted by the stunning Tracy Slater. The Enormous Room, 567 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge.
(First five songs in an alphabetical listing of those I'll play: "Age of Consent," New Order; "Amateur Hour," Sparks; "Apply Some Pressure," Maximo Park; "Ashes to Ashes," David Bowie; "Atomic," Blondie.)
October 27, 2006
Halloween's Coming, pt. 3: Val Lewton
I love the series of suspense films produced by Val Lewton in the early 1940s. Although he didn't direct the films listed below, he had a lot of creative power behind them; they're all really intelligent, especially by today's horror movie standards, and they each had a creepy, atmospheric, daydreamy aesthetic. The ones that Jacques Tourneur directed for Lewton, especially I Walked With a Zombie, are my personal favorites. Here are the posters from six of Lewton's early films.
I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Cat People (1942)
The Seventh Victim (1943); The Leopard Man (1943); and The Ghost Ship (1943)
The Curse of the Cat People (1944)
The Body Snatcher (1945)
October 22, 2006
Halloween's Coming, pt. 2: Slasher Movie Posters from the Early 80s
I was a junior-high / high-school horror freak, and I saw nearly all of these films when they first ran. My friend Lori's mom would drop us off at the Hutchinson, KS Flag Theatre or Fox Theatre, and in we'd go--who cared that we were underage and guardianless? Here are 32 from the first few years of the 80s:
Row #1, 1980: Friday the 13th; Mother's Day; He Knows You're Alone; Fade to Black.
Row #2, 1980: Don't Answer the Phone; Motel Hell; Prom Night; Maniac.
Row #3, 1980-1981: Terror Train; New Year's Evil; Schizoid; Eyes of a Stranger.
Row #4, 1981: The Burning; Happy Birthday to Me; Hell Night; Deadly Blessing.
Row #5, 1981: Final Exam; Friday the 13th, Part II; Dead and Buried; The Funhouse.
Row #6, 1981-1982: My Bloody Valentine; Blood Beach; Pieces; Visiting Hours.
Row #7, 1982: Pranks; Deadly Games; Don't Go In the Woods; Funeral Home.
Row #8, 1982-1983: Alone In the Dark; House On Sorority Row; Sleepaway Camp; Curtains.
October 20, 2006
Halloween's Coming, pt. 1: Hail, Satan!
Some favorite Satan-centric or Satan-worshiping films from the 70s (or very near the 70s):
(1) The Exorcist (1973). Obviously, this has to be #1 on the list.
(2) I Drink Your Blood (1970). When a band of acid-head, devil-loving hippies terrorize a farm family, the chubby blond grandson injects rabies from a dead German shepherd into the hippies' meat pies. Naturally, this turns them into lunatic killers.
(3) Alucarda, ie Sisters of Satan (1978). One of my personal favorites. Two teen girls (well, they're supposed to be teens--they really look about 30) at an ancient Mexican cave-like convent fall under the swoony possession of Satan, then begin to guzzle blood, participate in forest orgies, and terrorize their fat priest and mummylike, blood-sweating nuns. If you're a fan of the band My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, you're probably aware of this gem, since they nicked tons of their early audio samples from it.
(4) Lisa and the Devil, ie The House of Exorcism (1973). Mario Bava! Telly Savalas! Elke Sommer! Satanism!
(5) The Omen (1976). Sheer brilliance, even if only for a single scene: that nanny hanging. "Look at me, Damien! It's all for you!"
(6) Midnight (1982). Remember in high school, when there was always some trashy sex or horror novel being passed around, tattered and dogeared, read by everyone? Midnight, by John Russo (who'd also co-written Night of the Living Dead), was one of those novels from my high school pass-arounds. The book really, really scared me at the time (and I can still remember its silvery mirrored "skull with dripping candlewax" cover). I didn't see the film until much later. Plot: girl, abused by her creepy stepfather, runs away and hitchhikes, only to wind up caged and tortured by a freaky Satan-worshipping family.
(7) The Sentinel (1977). A model's Brooklyn apartment is quite possibly a portal straight into hell.
(8) Fear No Evil (1981). Kind of a version of Carrie with testosterone. Nerdy high schooler Andrew is tormented constantly, so revenge comes pretty easy when he discovers he's the Antichrist. Lead role is played by Stefan Arngrim, who in reality was the brother of Alison, who played evil Nellie Olsen on "Little House on the Prairie."
(9) Satan's School For Girls (1973). Originally made for TV. Really freaked me out when I first saw it at age 6, but probably doesn't hold up so well now. The title basically explains the entire plot. Notable because it starred two future Charlie's Angels actresses, Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd... but also because it starred Pamela Franklin, whom I previously blogged about in another "horror entry" a while back.
(10) The Devil's Rain (1975). This used to get shown on late-night TV constantly. Ernest Borgnine plays the leader of a devil cult. William Shatner and John Travolta are alonghand for overacting cast support.
(11) Beyond the Door (1974). (Couldn't find any decent stills from the film, so above is its original poster + the poster for its equally bad sequel.) Trashy Exorcist rip-off about a pregnant woman--played by then "Nanny and the Professor" star (and future "Passions" witch) Juliet Mills--getting possessed by the Prince of Darkness, thanks to her devil-worshiping ex-boyfriend. More intentionally funny than scary... but I sure remember the radio ads from my childhood.
(12) City of the Living Dead, ie The Gates of Hell (1980). My favorite Lucio Fulci film. Totally gory and disturbing. Saw it at the Hutchinson Drive-In Theater (Hutchinson, Kansas) on a quadruple bill with The Howling, Wolfen, and something else I don't remember. According to the logic of this film, if a priest commits suicide in your local cemetery, you'd better be careful, because the dead are soon going to rise from their graves, making you do things like weep blood and puke entrails.
(13) Rosemary's Baby (1968). Classic. "This is no dream.... This is really happening."
October 15, 2006
Merci bien, Cyann & Ben
New contender for "Favorite Album of 2006":
Part psychedelia, part space-rock, part Court & Spark, usually moodily quiet but often surprisingly grand and soaring and epic, bearing a little resemblance to Flying Saucer Attack, a little to Sigur Ros, a little to their French countrymen Bed, and more than a little to the (just mentioned in the previous blog entry) Talk Talk, and described by Pitchfork as a "holy fucking hurricane"--shouldn't all this make it obvious why I love this band?
Above: their previous albums, SPRING and HAPPY LIKE AN AUTUMN TREE. For more info, head over to their understated but excellent website. Or go to their myspace page. Or you can watch videos for the gorgeous "A Moment Nowhere" (from AUTUMN TREE) or the live version of "Sparks of Love."
October 11, 2006
Finally available on iTunes, in a great-sounding remastered edition, is one of the greatest albums ever recorded, Spirit of Eden by the phenomenal Talk Talk.
When I listen to this band, I sometimes worry that most folks only know them from their new-wave-y beginnings (ie the songs "Talk Talk" or "It's My Life"), or, worse yet, from the silly No Doubt cover from a couple of years ago. The band's first two records are pretty cool 80s artifacts, but it's really the final three albums--The Colour of Spring, this one, the equally brilliant finale Laughing Stock--where the band shows its utter genius.
(Above: the 1988 promo photo released with the album... Mark Hollis, Paul Webb, and Lee Harris.)
It's hard to imagine current "post-rock" or "trip-hop" bands existing without Spirit of Eden (for example, three of my favorite bands, Bark Psychosis, Hood, and Mogwai, have all cited Talk Talk and this album as a major influence on their music). Of the six tracks on this album, my #1 is the gorgeous, almost holy "I Believe In You" (which also happens to be my all-time #1 video).
"It simply sounds like no other record ever released." --BBC.com. For more information, you can read a wonderfully blissful Stylus Magazine article on the album, or discover some old reviews and interviews on this occasionally updated fanpage.
October 05, 2006
Five Favorites, pt. 2
(Note: for instructions, see previous entry, below.)
(1) "Ashes to Ashes"
(2) "Sound and Vision"
(3) "Life On Mars?"
(note: this one changes constantly)
(2) "Cherry-Coloured Funk"
(3) "Those Eyes, That Mouth"
(4) "Carolyn's Fingers"
My Bloody Valentine.
(1) "To Here Knows When"
(3) "I Only Said"
Siouxsie and the Banshees.
(2) "Into the Light"
(3) "Swimming Horses"
(4) "Arabian Knights"
(5) "The Sweetest Chill"
(1) "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us"
(2) "Hospitality on Parade"
(3) "Sextown U.S.A."
(4) "At Home, At Work, At Play"
(5) "When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way'"
(1) "Save a Prayer"
(2) "Last Chance On the Stairway"
(3) "New Religion"
(4) "Planet Earth"
(5) "Lonely In Your Nightmare"
Dead Can Dance.
(1) "In Power We Entrust the Love Advocated"
(3) "The Host of Seraphim"
(4) "A Passage In Time"
(1) "French Disko"
(2) "The Light That Will Cease to Fail"
(3) "Rainbo Conversation"
(4) "Jenny Ondioline"
(5) "Three-Dee Melodie"
(1) "All Tomorrow's Parties"
(2) "Sunday Morning"
(3) "I'll Be Your Mirror"
(4) "The Black Angel's Death Song"
(5) "Pale Blue Eyes"
(1) "Devil In My Car"
(2) "Deep Sleep"
(3) "Dirty Back Road"
(5) "52 Girls"
October 03, 2006
Here are ten (random, and mostly pretty well-known) bands I like,
and my five favorite songs by each. It's a dumb game I like to play
with friends. Please feel free to click "comments" and post your
own five favorites by each of these. Here are mine:
(1) "A Night Like This"
(2) "The Figurehead"
(3) "All Cats Are Grey"
(4) "The Drowning Man"
(1) "Dreams Burn Down"
(2) "Like a Daydream"
(4) "Polar Bear"
(1) "Age of Consent"
(2) "Your Silent Face"
(3) "Dreams Never End"
(4) "Leave Me Alone"
(5) "Everything's Gone Green"
(3) "Union City Blue"
(4) "Heart of Glass"
(1) "How Soon Is Now?"
(2) "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out"
(3) "Back to the Old House"
(4) "I Don't Owe You Anything"
(5) "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
(2) "Knowing Me, Knowing You"
(3) "Mamma Mia"
(4) "When I Kissed the Teacher"
(1) "Let Down"
(2) "Fake Plastic Trees"
(3) "Subterranean Homesick Alien"
(5) "How To Disappear Completely"
(2) "In the Flat Field"
(3) "Slice of Life"
(4) "Silent Hedges"
(5) "Kingdom's Coming"
(1) "And Dream of Sheep"
(2) "Night of the Swallow"
(3) "The Morning Fog"
(4) "Running Up That Hill"
(5) "Pull Out the Pin"
Echo & the Bunnymen.
(1) "Bring On the Dancing Horses"
(2) "The Killing Moon"
(5) "A Promise"