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‘Cruelty Without Beauty’: Soft Cell’s criminally unknown 2002 reunion album
07:43 pm


Marc Almond
Soft Cell
David Ball
Bob Gaudio

Most of the time when a band reforms, the results are lackluster. A creative partnership that’s run its course isn’t easily resurrected for love nor money and usually it’s for the latter and not the former that most reunion albums and tours occur.

That’s the way that I normally feel, but when Marc Almond and David Ball decided to reform Soft Cell in 2001 I was very excited to see what they’d come up with after 18 years. They had worked together on a few thing in the years since Soft Cell split in 1984, so it wouldn’t be an issue of them looking backwards to the 80s or anything like that. The idea of a mature Soft Cell seemed vastly appealing.

The first thing they released was “God Shaped Hole,” a track that was a part of a 2001 Some Bizarre compilation album titled, I’d Rather Shout at a Returning Echo than Kid That Someone’s Listening. They went on to record their unfairly neglected Cruelty Without Beauty album, which came out in 2002 and toured the globe in support of it. Sadly ticket sales were poor and most of the US dates were cancelled. I was lucky enough to catch them at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles (which was packed) and they put on one hell of an amazing show that balanced the hits with the new material.

The lead single from Cruelty Without Beauty was “Monoculture,” an infectiously catchy, but sharply-pointed diatribe about the bland horror show that popular culture was becoming (and this is years before the Kardashians or Cupcake Wars...) The evil Ronald McDonald-type character seen in the video is Some Bizzare label boss and former Soft Cell manager Stevo Pearce.

More Soft Cell after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Our Father, who art in Mordor…’: Hilarious reviews of Tolkien-themed prayer ring
01:07 pm


J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ve been far too engrossed by the amusingly vitriolic negative reviews of protein supplement shakes on Amazon and almost missed the gloriously geeky reviews of one of the most absurd products of all time:  a men’s black ring with the text of the Lord’s Prayer written in Elvish script.
According to Wikipedia: “The Tengwar are an artificial script created by J. R. R. Tolkien. In his fictional universe of Eä, the tengwar were invented by the Elf Fëanor, and used first to write the angelic tongue Valarin and the Elven tongues Quenya and Telerin. Later a great number of languages of Middle-earth were written using the tengwar, including Sindarin.” 

Here are a few highlights:

Exactly what I wanted. Lovely ring. Well made. I’m only giving it a 4, because it is a little uncomfortable. But my plans for world domination are now coming along quite nicely. The included power to command the wraiths has been very convenient.

Stainless? I don’t think so. This ring is supposedly stainless steel, but the mark it left on my soul will never be healed. Beware, my friend, beware.

Simply precious! I love this beautiful ring. It’s my favorite thing in the whole wide world. Although, ever since I’ve started wearing it, I feel like someone is stalking me. He follows me constantly, staring at me from the shadows, mumbling and hissing. He wants to take the ring.

I bought this ring as a weight-loss aid. I’m giving it only three stars, because while it did help me lose weight, it left me feeling thin, and stretched, like butter spread over too much bread.

Special Care Instructions. I found this ring to be of fantastic quality and very durable - at one point my friend had hit it with an ax with no noticeable damage. However, I would suggest the following tips when caring for this ring:

1. Keep it secret
2. Keep it safe

I keep mine in an envelope and this works very well.

Didn’t last very long. Wanted as family heirloom to last several generations unfortunately they neglect to list that it’s Not lava proof, #thoroughly disappointed.

Via io9.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Billy Bob Thornton hates on ‘Cupcake Wars’
12:42 pm


Cupcake Wars
Billy Bob Thornton

I never thought in a million years that I’d ever be typing out a title that says, “Billy Bob Thornton hates on Cupcake Wars.” I wouldn’t even think Mr. Thornton would know about such a show! But he does.

And he doesn’t like it.

If you don’t know what Cupcake Wars is, it’s a mind-numbing reality-based competition TV show on the Food Network where people are judged by their cupcake-making abilities. Apparently there’s a rather large audience—who don’t even get to taste the cupcakes for crissakes—that watches this show. I’ve only ever seen it briefly at the gym (I know, Cupcake Wars on at the gym, right?) but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone would care about this stuff.

Anyway, Billy Bob sorta nails it with America’s (and perhaps the World’s) fascination with shitty reality television.

We don’t need one show about cupcakes, as far as I’m concerned. But you know what, if you’ve got one, okay, that’s fine, let’s have a show about cupcakes. But does it have to be a fucking competition? Do you have to have cupcake ‘wars’? And I’m sure people who have been in war kind of take offense to that. Because seriously, it’s not that goddamn dangerous to make a cupcake.

I’m not going to lie, tho… I do love me some cupcakes every now and then. I can’t take a side.

via D-listed

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘Privilege’: Peter Watkins powerful antidote to 1960s pop hysteria
12:34 pm


Peter Watkins
Jean Shrimpton
Paul Jones

Set sometime in a none too distant future, Peter Watkins’ debut feature Privilege from 1967 told the story of god-like pop superstar Steven Shorter, who is worshiped by millions and manipulated by a coalition government to keep the youth “off the streets and out of politics.”

Inspired by a story from sitcom writer Johnny Speight (creator of Till Death Us Do Part which was remade in America as All in the Family), Privilege was an antidote to Swinging Sixties’ pop naivety. While Speight may have had a more biting satirical tale in mind, screenwriter Norman Bogner together with director Watkins made the film a mix of “mockumentary” and political fable, which was a difficult balance to maintain over a full ninety minutes without falling into parody.
Though it has its faults, Watkins succeeded overall, and presented the viewer with a selection of set pieces that later influenced scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Lindsay Anderson’s O, Lucky Man! and Ken Russell’s Tommy.

Watkins also later noted how his film:

....was prescient of the way that Popular Culture and the media in the US commercialized the anti-war and counter-culture movement in that country as well. Privilege also ominously predicted what was to happen in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain of the 1980s - especially during the period of the Falkland Islands War.

Paul Jones and Jean Shrimpton have a “private” moment.
On its release, most of the press hated it as Privilege didn’t fit with their naive optimism that pop music would somehow free the workers from their chains and bring peace and love and drugs and fairies at the bottom of the garden, la-de-da-de-dah, no doubt.

In fact Privilege was at the vanguard of a series of similarly styled films (see above) that would come to define the best of British seventies cinema. The movie would also have its fair share of (unacknowledged) influence on pop artists like David Bowie and Pink Floyd, while Patti Smith covered the film’s opening song “Set Me Free.”
What’s also surprising is how the film’s lead, Paul Jones (then better known as lead singer of Manfred Mann) never became a star. As can be seen from his performance here as Steven Shorter, Jones could have made a good Mick Travis in If…, or Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

Jones went onto make the equally good The Committee but (shamefully) little work came thereafter apart from reading stories on children’s TV.

Ah, the fickle nature of fame, but perhaps he should have known that from playing Steven Shorter.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Gorgeous psychedelic handbills and posters from Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, circa 1967-68

Simply stunning vintage handbills for Detroit’s historic live music venue The Grande Ballroom. The majority of these trippy handbills and postcards were designed by Gary Grimshaw (who died in January of this year) and Carl Lundgren. Historically significant, yes, but from a design perspective, these are just jaw-droppingly, face-melting goodness, aren’t they?





More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Peter Sellers is sinister and pathetic in the divisive 1970 obscurity, ‘Hoffman’
11:41 am


Peter Sellers
cult movies
Sinéad Cusack

Hoffman is one of the most obscure films in the career of Peter Sellers, who hated the 1970 comedy-drama so much that he asked to buy up all of the prints and start over again from scratch. He needn’t have bothered, as the strange little movie was barely released in UK theatres at all and had its debut American screening in 1982 after he was already dead. I caught it on a low rent UHF channel that ran old B&W TV shows, wrestling, Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, Marx Brothers and WC Fields movies, Australian women in prison soap operas, and flop films like this one in the late 70s or I probably would never have heard of it myself. Hoffman is a cult film with a very small cult.

Some people say it’s Sellers’ “best” performance” but I think that’s a contrarian film snob taking it way too far. Having said that, it is, for sure, one of his most interesting roles and a fascinating film that is basically just two very, very fine actors at work. Most of the film takes place in the same rooms. (The somewhat play-like material had been done before on television by director Alvin Rakoff with Donald Pleasance.)

Sellers’ intense dislike of Hoffman apparently stemmed from what he regarded as this being the closest he got to his revealing his true self onscreen. When not hiding behind an accent or make-up, the actor often claimed that he had no identity whatsoever outside the roles that he played. If, in fact, the odd, manipulative, somewhat psycho aging businessman Sellers played in Hoffman is close to how he saw himself, well, that’s… well… it’s very interesting.

Dull, creepy—even sinister-seeming—Benjamin Hoffman has an unrequited crush on his pretty secretary, Miss Smith, played by a young Sinéad Cusack at the very beginning of her career. When he discovers that her fiance is involved in a criminal activity, he blackmails her into spending a week with him, with just three weeks to go before their wedding when he will lose her forever. She reluctantly agrees and Hoffman behaves cruelly, playing mindgames with her until revealing himself to be a very lonely and pathetic soul. If Sellers saw a too-close for comfort version of himself onscreen in Hoffman, it would speak volumes about his legendary pathologies! What must the man have been like in private if THIS performance disturbed him so much? Yikes! (It’s worth noting that Sellers’ former writing and performing partner Spike Milligan sent Britt Ekland a congratulatory telegram when her divorce from Sellers became final in 1968!)

I’ve read Hoffman described as an “offbeat” love story, but I don’t know how many would agree with that, especially women.

Hoffman‘s moody music was composed by Ron Grainer, he of the Doctor Who theme fame.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation’s futuristic machinery concept art
11:34 am



“Here Comes the Flying Bus,” 1946
You might remember my post from a while back on Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation’s anti-communist propaganda. As ominous/absurd as capitalist agitprop from the bossman may seem, Bohn was actually building on a prior artistic legacy, albeit one of a much less reactionary vision for manufacturing.

The images you see below are all from Arthur Radebaugh, who produced tons of gorgeous art deco future-looking concept art for Bohn. The sleek designs and seamless use of the airbrush technique are as distinctive as they are dated, and by the mid-50s his commercial appeal had waned as photography replaced illustration in visual advertising. However Radebaugh’s visions found new life in the wildly popular Sunday newspaper comic “Closer Than We Think!” The comics lack the depth of Radebaugh’s ad work, but they allowed him to crank out idea after idea to a future-hungry 1950’s audience.

Lawnmower, 1945

Firetruck, 1945

Cruise ship, 1946

Heavy machinery, 1947

Covered bridge, 1946
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Watch the first film adaptation of ‘The Hobbit,’ a 1966 animated short that takes… some liberties
08:01 am


The Hobbit
JRR Tolkien

Any film adaptation of a Tolkein epic is going to have to make some major edits if it clocks in at twelve minutes. The elaborate history of Middle Earth and the sagas that shape it are so painstakingly constructed, a totally faithful movie would just have been boring as hell—there’s the medium to consider. However, this version of The Hobbit, rendered as a 1966 cartoon fairy tale, barely even uses the book as a framework. The producer actually obtained film rights before The Hobbit became popular, and after his attempt to produce a feature-length movie fell through, he was left with a contract that still required him to create a “full-color film” to retain them.

Spotting a loophole, he realized no specific length of color film was mentioned, so he threw together what you see below. Avoiding legal breach with a twelve minute cartoon, he was then able to sell the rights for roughly $100,000—a pittance for what he could have made, of course, but nothing to sneeze at back then, either. Of course, this leaves us with a totally random film, with a hastily tacked on princess, a total deficit of dwarves, and an inexplicable series of name-changes—goblins are “groans” and “grablins,” Gollum is as “Goloom,” and Smaug is “Slag.”

Taken as an cartoon that has nothing save for the title to do with The Hobbit, the short actually does quite well for itself. The narration is compelling, the story is constructed well, and the classic Gene Deitch animation is great—distinctively Eastern European work from Czech illustrator Adolf Born is jagged and erratic one minute, ethereal and shimmering the next.

I’d say it’s a must for any Tolkien completist, but only if you can refrain from having a nerdfit with all the liberties taken.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Ant music for sex people’: Adam and the Ants live
07:40 am


Adam and the Ants

Like Genesis and Ministry, Adam and the Ants had two distinct phases, each with fan bases that don’t always quite overlap 100%. Pre-1980, they were a raw, spiky post-punk band with sharp, fetishy lyrics. Things changed quickly for them in 1980, when their manager, the infamous Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren, poached most of the band for a new project called Bow Wow Wow. But eviscerating the group proved not to be such a terrible idea. Singer Stuart “Adam Ant” Goddard continued with an entirely new band, and a major sound and image overhaul. On the presentation end, the band dove headlong into an embrace of the new romanticism, favoring an overwrought leather-pantsed-new-wave-pirate look which unaccountably struck people at the time as just absolutely dead sexy. Well, it actually DID look good on Ant. Most of the rest of the band just kinda looked goofy.


On the musical end, the Ants adopted a distinctive dual-drum attack inspired by the Royal Drummers of Burundi, and, just as critically, enlisted Siouxsie and the Banshees’ founding guitarist Marco Pirroni, who’d become Ant’s co-songwriter and a major influence on the band’s direction just as it started to find wide fame. This version of Adam and the Ants released Kings of the Wild Frontier and Prince Charming, both of which featured more sophisticated song craft than the band’s first iteration, and both of which ate the charts for breakfast. The single “Stand and Deliver,” for example, entered the UK charts at #1, and remained there for weeks.

The band broke up in 1982, and Ant embarked on a solo career, but it was an in-name-only breakup, really, as the creative nexus of Ant and Pirroni remained together. In fact, Pirroni has contributed to every Adam Ant solo album, all the way up to one that came out last year.

Live video of the first incarnation of Adam and the Ants is damnably difficult to find. The most widely available representation of that period is the album Dirk Wears White Sox, released in 1979 in the UK, 1983 in the US (A Jack Sparrow-lookin’ Ant recently reunited with band members of that era to play the album in its entirety), but the best video I could dig up is this delightful miming along with “Plastic Surgery” from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee:

Here’s one that features their early manager Jordan singing the song “Lou,” and Adam Ant backing her on vocals for “Puerto Rican.”

When I sought live footage of the far better-known second version of the band, holy shit, motherlode. Search for them on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. Their visual presentation made them a sought-after act for televised music shows—and of course, the band’s early ‘80s heyday coincided with the launch of MTV, who couldn’t play their videos enough—but among the best footage I’ve found is this late 1981 show taped in Tokyo (setlist). I had always wondered if the distinctive vocal harmonies that featured prominently on their LPs were pulled off well in a live setting. Answer: actually not bad.

And then there’s this heavy performance of “Dog Eat Dog” in Manchester, 1980:

When Kings of the Wild Frontier was released in America, Epic Records, probably sensing that they might have a HUGE new act on their hands—maybe even a teeny-bopper phenomenon—lowered the price of the album to just $3.99 at a time when most albums were in the $6.98 list price range. Between that, Solid Gold and MTV, Adam and the Ants soon became famous in the US as well. Here’s a contemporary documentary about the American Ants invasion that is tons of fun:

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Excited woman throws her artificial limb at Robbie Williams’ impersonator
05:22 am


Robbie Williams

Once it was undergarments that over-excited fans threw at their music idols, but at this year’s GuilFest, one woman was so thrilled by the performance of a Robbie Williams’ impersonator that she hurled her prosthetic leg at the ersatz chart-topper!

Heather Best lost her leg in “a stupid accident at work” in 2010, and until then, had enjoyed going to festivals.  On Saturday, Best, who is a major fan of Robbie Williams, attended her first festival since the accident to see tribute act “Blobbie Williams.” So moved was she by Blobbie’s singing (“He sings with a lovely voice,” she said), that Ms. Best removed her leg, waved it above her head, before throwing it “in his direction for him to then raise it in the air.”

“I’m here to have fun and to dance again,” she told Get Surrey.

“It’s good to dance even if I only have one leg.”

Heather suggested she might also give Sunday’s festival headliners a similar treat.

“I want to see the Human League,” she said. “I might even throw my leg at them if they are lucky.”

It’s certainly good publicity for Heather, who is currently setting up a rehab center for horses in Bletchingley.

“I still ride and do show jumping and stuff,” she said. “I’m building a premises now to help any horse with injuries. Leg injuries are my speciality.”

It is unknown whether The Human League were “lucky” enough to elicit a similar response.

Via Get Surrey, H/T Arbroath

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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