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‘Punk Nursery Rhymes’: The entertaining 1981 novelty album and the mystery band behind it
01.11.2019
09:27 am
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Album cover
 
I recently came across a novelty record called Punk Nursery Rhymes. Expecting unlistenable junk, I instead found it highly enjoyable. It was certainly better than it needed to be. Released in 1981, the record was attributed to a band called the Rotten Eggs, but that’s about all that could be immediately discerned. There are no credits included with the album, and it’s the only LP by the Rotten Eggs. I couldn’t help but wonder: who was behind this LP?

Punk Nursery Rhymes was issued by the Golden Editions label in 1981. Golden Editions was a part of Music World, a record company that could be described as Australasia’s version of K-Tel Records. Music World and their sub-labels specialized in budget compilations and novelty records, and like K-Tel, marketed their products through infomercials. You can see, above, that the “As Seen on T.V.” logo was worked into the album art, which features a rendering of Humpty Dumpty after his great fall. The “Humpty Dumpty” track was my introduction to Punk Nursery Rhymes. The song is brilliantly ridiculous—a nursery rhyme executed with the energy and attitude of punk. The song collapses at its conclusion, which is a perfect ending, as it works as both a parody of the ramshackle nature of early British punk, but also represents Humpty Dumpty’s tumble off the wall.
 

 
So, who were the Rotten Eggs? Blair Parkes a member of the Christchurch, New Zealand band, All Fall Down, has shed some major light on the mystery. Parkes has shared his memories of the All Fall Down days on his website, and in one section, wrote about their mid ‘80s visit to Tandem Studios in Christchurch. In it, he reveals who was behind Punk Nursery Rhymes:

I’d been up to Tandem Studios about five years earlier, as a member of the Newz fanclub. The band [the Newz] was briefly back from Melbourne and were recording Punk Nursery Rhymes as “The Rotten Eggs” for Music World. They were making the songs up as they went along. I’d not known you could do that. Eric Johns engineered both the Rotten Eggs sessions and ours. Eric was a very cool African-American guy married to a New Zealander. He had been in Heatwave who had struck it big with “Boogie Nights” and another couple of disco-era hits.

The Newz were a new wave act around for a spell in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. Also from Christchurch, the Newz released one album, Heard the Newz, which came out in 1980. Like Punk Nursery Rhymes, it was produced by Eric Johns and recorded at Tandem Studios. The LP was put out by Music World, with the Newz said to have been the only “proper” group on the label, at the time. It’s unclear how Punk Nursery Rhymes came to be, but my guess is that it was commissioned by Music World, and the Newz and Eric Johns did it to make a few extra bucks. It was all anonymous, so why not?
 
The Newz
The Newz

When I first found a stream of the full LP online, I figured I’d never get through all 18 songs, but Punk Nursery Rhymes is surprisingly entertaining. Punk parodies rarely capture the spirit of the genre accurately, but the Newz and Eric Johns not only did just that, they successfully paired punk with nursery rhymes—! The project may have come together quickly, but nothing about it seems haphazard. There’s even some post-punk weirdness worked into the mix, which was above and beyond the call of duty. The Newz are good players, and genuinely sound inspired. It’s all very infectious and splendidly absurd.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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01.11.2019
09:27 am
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Orson Welles’ ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth on film
01.10.2019
08:55 am
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Poster for the ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth on tour in Indianapolis (WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Library of Congress)

A theater company in St. Petersburg, Florida recently mounted a revival of Orson Welles’ “Voodoo” Macbeth, which transposed the medieval violence and witchcraft of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play” into 19th century Haiti. The show and the stir it caused had much to do with the Welles legend. When it opened at Harlem’s Lafayette Theatre on April 14, 1936, some 10,000 people surrounded the venue, blocking traffic on Seventh Avenue; when the show toured the country after a three-month run in Harlem, the playbill boasted that the original engagement played to 150,000 people. 

The original production was financed by the New Deal. During the second half of the thirties, the Federal Theatre Project funded performances to feed starving actors and keep stages open. One of these was the Negro Theatre Unit’s Macbeth, directed by a 20-year-old Orson Welles. Despite his youth, Welles was not timid around the Bard, having published a three-volume set of Shakespeare plays “edited for reading and arranged for staging” during his teens. Among other revisions and inventions (such as the unmistakably Wellesian costumes and sets), Welles’ audacious staging of Macbeth replaced the three witches with a troupe of Voodoo drummers and dancers.
 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
There is a wonderful story about the theater critic Percy Hammond, who panned the show in the New York Herald Tribune and died shortly thereafter. The tale exists in many versions; here’s how John Houseman, Welles’ friend and mentor, who was in charge of the Negro Theatre Unit and brought Welles on board, tells it in Voices from the Federal Theatre:

When we did the Voodoo Macbeth, it was very successful, and we got very nice reviews except from a few die-hard Republican papers. Percy Hammond wrote a perfectly awful review saying this was a disgrace that money was being spent on these people who couldn’t even speak English and didn’t know how to do anything. It was a dreadful review but purely a political review.

We had in the cast of Macbeth about twelve voodoo drummers and one magic man, a medicine man who used to have convulsions on the stage every night. They decided that this was a very evil act by Mr. Hammond, and they came to Orson and me and showed the review. They say, “This is bad man.” And we said, “Yeah, a helluva bad man. Sure, he’s a bad man.”

The next day when Orson and I came to the theatre, the theatre manager said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but there were some very strange goings-on last night. After the show they stayed in the theatre, and there was drumming and chanting and stuff.” We said, “Oh, really?” What made it interesting was the fact that we’d just read the afternoon papers. Percy Hammond had just been taken to the hospital with an acute attack of something from which he died a few days later. We always were convinced that we had unwittingly killed him.

 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
Jean Cocteau, who was then reenacting Phileas Fogg’s circumnavigation of the planet, caught the “Voodoo” Macbeth in Harlem. Welles’ biographer Simon Callow reports that Cocteau, though put off at first by the startling changes in lighting, came to appreciate its “Wagnerian” effect, which heightened the play’s violence. In Cocteau’s account of his travels, Mon Premier Voyage, after recording a few criticisms of Welles’ choices, he expresses his admiration for the show:

But these are details. At the La Fayette theatre that sublime drama is played as nowhere else, and in its black fires the final scene is transmuted into a gorgeous ballet of catastrophe and death.

 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
Thanks to another New Deal program, the Works Progress Administration, some film of the original “Voodoo” Macbeth survives. We Work Again, the WPA’s documentary on African American unemployment, culminates in this footage of the production, touted by the narrator in the old-fashioned American rhetorical style:

The Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project produced a highly successful version of Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy Macbeth, which far exceeded its scheduled run in New York and was later sent on a tour of the country. The scene was changed from Scotland to Haiti, but the spirit of Macbeth and every line in the play has remained intact. In this contribution to the American theatre, and in other projects under the Works program, we have set our feet on the road to a brighter future.

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.10.2019
08:55 am
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Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey
01.10.2019
08:15 am
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Cultural critic Mark Dery, whose erudite essays have appeared in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post, Village Voice and his own collections, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, returns with his remarkable biography of the comically sinister author and illustrator Edward Gorey. This delightful combination of biographer and subject has been praised in the New York Times, the New Yorker, at NPR Vogue and other prestige outlets. We’re pleased to present a short excerpt from Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown) at Dangerous Minds.

In the following excerpt from my just-published biography, Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown), I explore Gorey’s role, alongside Seuss and Sendak, in the postwar revolution in children’s books, a gleeful insurrection that killed off those insufferable, simpering Goody-Goodies, Dick and Jane, for good. In so doing, Gorey and other writer-illustrators reshaped American notions of kids lit and even childhood itself, making way for a more honest acceptance of the facts of life: divorce, death, racial tensions, queer desire. As well, the new wave slyly satirized not only the mainstream culture of the ‘50s and ‘60s but the conventions of children’s literature itself, many of which dated back to the cautionary tales and nursery-rhyme sermonizing of the Victorian era, when the children’s book as we know it was born. Whether Gorey’s work really was kiddie fare or arsenical treats for adults ironically disguised as picture books is still up for debate. Regardless, his influence is stronger than ever, identifiable at a glance in the YA novels of Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), the twee-goth movies of Tim Burton, and somber memoirs of “the miseries of childhood,” as Gorey put it, such as Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home.

— Mark Dery

Nineteen-sixty saw the publication of Edward Gorey’s sixth book, The Fatal Lozenge, by the New York publisher Ivan Obolensky. Subtitled An Alphabet, The Fatal Lozenge was his first foray into the ABC genre. He would go on to perform variations on the abecedarium theme in six books, one of which, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, would become his best-known title. [They are, in chronological order, The Fatal Lozenge, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Utter Zoo, The Chinese Obelisks, The Glorious Nosebleed, and The Eclectic Abecedarium.]

The alphabet book is one of the oldest forms of children’s literature. Rhyming couplets, illustrated by woodcuts, aided memorization. Early examples wedded ABCs and Calvinist catechism. The New England Primer, ubiquitous in late-seventeenth-century America, is typical of the genre:

A In Adam’s Fall We sinnèd all.
B Heaven to find; The Bible Mind.
C Christ crucify’d For sinners dy’d.
D The Deluge drown’d The Earth around.

Gorey’s interest in the alphabet book was undoubtedly a byproduct of his interest in Edward Lear, well known for loopy abecedaria like “Nonsense Alphabet” (1845) (“P was a pig, / Who was not very big; / But his tail was too curly, / And that made him surly”). His library reveals a longstanding fascination with the form, with a predictable focus on the nineteenth century. On Gorey’s bookshelves, we find A Moral Alphabet (1899) by Hilaire Belloc, A Comic Alphabet (1836) by George Cruikshank, a Dover facsimile of The Adventures of A, Apple Pie, Who Was Cut to Pieces and Eaten by Twenty Six Young Ladies and Gentlemen with Whom All Little People Ought to Be Acquainted (circa 1835), and of course Lear in abundance. 

At the same time, he couldn’t have been oblivious, as an illustrator working in commercial book publishing, to the waves Dr. Seuss was making in kid lit. Alphabet books were playing an important part in reshaping American ideas about childhood. Consider Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra! (1955), whose boy narrator dreams up a new alphabet for kids who think outside the Little Golden box (“In the places I go there are things that I see / That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z”). Or Maurice Sendak’s Alligators All Around (1962), in which “shockingly spoiled” reptilian protagonists throw tantrums and juggle jelly beans with abandon. These and other unconventional abecedaria celebrate Romper Room radicals who flout the rules. Seen in their cultural and historical context, they look like premonitions of the hippie era, with its worship of nonconformity and its elevation of the child to a cultural icon, not to mention its stoner humor and acid-soaked song lyrics.

Though he seemed barely to notice the counterculture of the ’60s, beyond the Beatles, Gorey was in his own quietly perverse way more iconoclastic than Seuss or Sendak. In The Fatal Lozenge, as in The Listing Attic, his earlier book of macabre limericks, his combination of a children’s genre (in this case, the ABC book) with dark subject matter and black comedy is both mordantly funny and unsettling, especially when he crosses the line, as he occasionally does, into the “sick humor” of contemporaries such as the cartoonist Gahan Wilson. When an interviewer mentioned to Sendak that the grisly drawing of an infant skewered on the point of a Zouave’s sword in The Fatal Lozenge was the moment when Gorey went “down the road of no return as far as publishers were concerned,” Sendak quipped, “That’s why he was so loved. There’s never enough dead babies for us.”
 

 
The literary theorist George R. Bodmer places Gorey’s ironic, sardonic ABCs in the context of a postwar pushback, among children’s authors such as Seuss and Sendak, “against the limits of imagination, or the limits the outside world would impose on imagination . . .” In his essay “The Post-Modern Alphabet: Extending the Limits of the Contemporary Alphabet Book, from Seuss to Gorey,” Bodmer calls Gorey’s “anti-alphabets” a “sarcastic rebellion against a view of childhood that is sunny, idyllic, and instructive.” Gorey’s mock-moralistic tone satirizes received wisdom about the benignity of parents and other authority figures: a magnate waiting for his limousine “ponders further child-enslavement / And other projects still more mean”; two little children quail in terror at the sight of their towering, bearded uncle, for they “know that at his leisure / He plans to have them come to harm.” Yet Gorey also punctures the myth that children are little angels: a baby, “lying meek and quiet” on a bearskin rug, “Has dreams about rampage and riot / And will grow up to be a thug.” (The rug’s enormous, snarling head, with its bared fangs, is an omen of mayhem to come.)

Talking about The Fatal Lozenge in 1977, Gorey said, “This was a very early book and at that date I was not above trying to shock everyone a bit.” In that sense, his sixth book is so similar to his second that it might as well be called Son of Listing Attic. A good part of the book consists of the usual droll riffing on stock characters and situations borrowed from gothic novels, penny dreadfuls, Conan Doyle, and Dickens.

But just as clearly, there’s more going on in The Fatal Lozenge than enfant terrible-ism (“trying to shock everyone a bit”) or the larger trends identified by Bodmer: the bohemian backlash against the suffocating normalcy of the Eisenhower era and the growing resistance, led by Drs. Spock and Seuss, to outdated, repressive ideas about childhood and parenting. The recurrence of themes closer to home—the beastliness of babies, the depravity of the clergy (a nun is “fearfully bedevilled”), the furtiveness and shamefulness of homosexual desire, here associated with child molestation and even more monstrous perversions (“The Proctor buys a pupil ices, / And hopes the boy will not resist / When he attempts to practice vices / Few people even know exist”)—makes us feel, at times, as if we’re eavesdropping on a psychotherapy session. That these disconcerting images come to us in the reassuring wrappings of a children’s book makes The Fatal Lozenge even more disquieting.

It’s precisely that insinuating knowingness that Sendak loved about Gorey’s little books. “They all had what appealed to me so much—aside from the graphics and the writing—[which] was the wicked sexual ambiguity that ran through all of it.” Even Gorey’s artlessly brilliant covers for Anchor Books, Doubleday’s tasteful paperback line, exhibited an arch wit, Sendal thought. “I remember a jacket he did for…a novel by Melville, Redburn. And the jacket summed up completely the kind of confused homosexuality of that novel….So erotic and yet so simple. You can look at it any way you like. . . . [H]e buried a lot of information about himself in the art.”
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.10.2019
08:15 am
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Listen to Siouxsie Sioux’s glorious isolated vocal for ‘The Killing Jar’
01.09.2019
08:57 am
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01siouxsiekj.jpg
 
The second single off Siouxsie and the Banshees’ ninth studio album Peepshow was “The Killing Jar.” The dark song centered around the process that entomologists use to kill hard shelled insects “quickly and with minimum damage” by gassing them in a glass container.  It brings to mind the warped entomologist in John Fowles’ twisted novel The Collector, in which one Ferdinand Clegg moves from bugs to humans when he kidnaps a young art student Miranda Grey, as a specimen to be kept and examined in his cellar. The song reiterates a theme apparent throughout most of the Banshees work that adults are not to be trusted as they can never behave responsibly.

This was a harsh fact Siouxsie Sioux learnt early. When she was nine years old, she and a friend were sexually assaulted by a man. When she told her parents, they did not believe her. It became an unspoken secret in the family, leaving Siouxsie (aka Susan Ballion) isolated as she told Word magazine in 2005:

I grew up having no faith in adults as responsible people. And being the youngest in the family I was isolated – I had no-one to confide in. So I invented my own world, my own reality. It was my own way of defending myself – protecting myself from the outside world. The only way I could deal with how to survive was to get some strong armour.

Siouxsie’s old man was a drunk who died when she was fourteen. This caused more trauma that led to her being hospitalized with ulcerative colitis. Against this, Siouxsie dreamt of a different life. There were hints of what this could be—like seeing Bowie perform on Top of the Pops, or listening to Roxy Music—but it all came together when she saw the Sex Pistols perform with her friend Steven Severin (aka Steven Bailey) in 1976. Not long after, the pair formed Siouxsie and the Banshees.
 
02siouxsiekj.jpg
 
Released in September 1988, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ album Peepshow is one of the best in their catalog. Described at the time of release as the band’s “finest hour” which showcased “a brightly unexpected mixture of black steel and pop disturbance.” The single “The Killing Jar” was written by Severin, Siouxsie, and Budgie (aka Peter Edward Clarke) and featured Jon Klein on guitar and Martin McCarrick on keyboard and accordion. Released the same month as the album, “The Killing Jar” hit #2 in the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Much has been written about the vocal range of artists like Freddie Mercury but not so much on the equally brilliant Siouxsie Sioux, who developed from spiky, punky vocals to rich, powerful, and glorious textured tones in her later albums. She can hit the high notes and bring an unnerving warmth and menace to her lower range. Take a listen to this isolated track of Siouxsie singing “The Killing Jar” and you’ll hear just how good she is.

Hear Siouxsie’s isolated vocal for ‘The Killing Jar,’ after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.09.2019
08:57 am
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‘You didn’t want to support that guy!’ R. Crumb turns down Mick Jagger
01.08.2019
10:07 am
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Born in 1943, Robert Dennis Crumb is likely the most renowned underground comics artist and arguably the most adept comix practitioner of all time. As hyperbolic a figure as the Boomer generation ever produced, Crumb famously emerged out of a family full of nut cases to become a figure out of time, clinging to his beloved jazz records from the World War I era while loudly disdaining much of modern life and spontaneously projecting his wiry frame onto the lap of whatever healthy-buttocked woman is in the vicinity.

Crumb’s singular cover for Big Brother and the Holding Company represents something of an exception to Crumb’s distaste for the most beloved artifacts of his own generation. It was inarguably Crumb’s most successful foray into the rock milieu, but what is rather less known as that the Rolling Stones also wanted Crumb to do a cover for them, but he turned them down flat. 
 

 
In an amusing interview conducted by Larry Jaffee sometime during the George W. Bush administration, Crumb amusingly discourses on the commission to do the artwork for Cheap Thrills. He didn’t dig the music, but he did the cover because he liked Janis Joplin as a person, and she asked him to do it. He earned a cool six hundred bucks for the art.

When Mick Jagger came a-callin’, though, Crumb said no way. In the Jaffee interview, he says that he didn’t want to “endorse” the music of the Stones, because he found all of the guys in the band “irritating.” Crumb even candidly cops to a little jealousy with respect to Jagger’s sexual appeal. “All the girls liked it, girls didn’t like cartoonists, they liked Mick Jagger.... You didn’t want to support that guy!”

And then, of course, comes Crumb’s trademark chuckle.
 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
R. Crumb’s lowly years cranking out cards for American Greetings
Robert Crumb and friends flush Donald Trump down the toilet, 1989

Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.08.2019
10:07 am
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Frank Zappa’s nude harem: Racy photos of The Runaways, ABBA & more from Swedish mag ‘POSTER’
01.07.2019
08:54 am
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The Runaways in Swedish magazine POSTER.
 
If you were a kid during the late 70s and early 80s, I’m gonna hedge a hefty bet you probably owned a few too many posters which covered your bedroom walls. As it pertains to the youthful pastime of murdering your parent’s wallpaper, POSTER magazine founder Hans Hatwig was once quoted saying his magazine “papered the walls of a whole generation.” Hatwig actually took many of the photos himself during the magazine’s six-year run in Sweden, and Hatwig seemed to have no difficulty convincing acts from The Runaways, to KISS, Frank Zappa, and Alice Cooper to strike a pose for POSTER.

Hatwig’s affable nature led him to develop friendships with some of the musical luminaries he photographed. According to his bio, he hooked up with Angus Young early on while the band was in Stockholm in July of 1976. Hatwig and Young headed out to the Red Light District where he photographed Angus “pretending” to purchase condoms from a Durex dispenser, with other shots taken in front of the local sex shops and adult movie theaters. In all, Hatwig took about 40 images of Angus “on the loose” in Stockholm, and they are all fantastically candid, while remaining certifiably rock and fucking roll.

Earlier in 1976, Hatwig would photograph the ethereal Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA with a giant red and white lollipop clad in a barely-there white satin top and matching knee-high boots while surrounded by a gang of look-alike baby dolls. The instantly infamous images still burn retinas (in the best possible way) to this day. Just like the shot of Frank Zappa (though it appears not to be one of Hatwig’s photographs) wearing an animal print banana hammock taken in 1976 along with eight women—six of them topless—in a studio made to look like an exotic jungle scene. You can never unsee this image of Zappa and his nipply friends—life is beautiful that way sometimes.

Posters from POSTER and vintage issues of the magazine often fetch over a hundred bucks online. Thankfully, in 2008, authors Fabian H. Bernstone & Mathias Brink published the book POSTER: Nordens största poptidning 1974-1980—a 256 volume of images from POSTER, some of which never made it off of the cutting room floor. Images from POSTER follow, some are NSFW.
 

A shot of ABBA rocking matching tinfoil outfits from POSTER magazine.
 

 

Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA and her lookalike doll army. Photo by Hans Hatwig.
 

AC/DC.
 

Alice Cooper.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.07.2019
08:54 am
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‘American Supreme’: Suicide regurgitate hip-hop clichés on brilliant post 9/11 concept album
01.04.2019
08:11 am
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I don’t recall much of what I was doing when Suicide’s American Supreme came out in late 2002, but it definitely wasn’t listening to that particular album. Don’t get me wrong, being a big Suicide fanboy, I duly bought it, but it only made it into the CD player one time until a few weeks ago. I was not initially impressed and I just filed it away… for sixteen years. The opening number “Televised Executions” begins with scratching, a repetitive slap bass-style riff that sounded like a discarded Red Hot Chili Peppers jam and a fairly commonplace hip-hop sample (“The Champ” by the Mohawks). The hoary turntablisms and primitive drum machine beats would not have been out of place on a Schoolly D rap from 1986. What was this? I guess you could say that I didn’t understand it. 

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Critics were decidedly mixed about American Supreme. Q magazine wrote: “They’ve unfortunately discovered dance music several years too late.” Pop Matters said: “American Supreme accomplishes little more than tarnishing their chrome-plated punk and sending it on a winding downward spiral.”

At AllMusic.com, Andy Keller wrote:

Is American Supreme—the first Suicide album in a decade—an update, a return to form? Yes and no. Those who hang on Alan Vega’s every streetwise grunt and growl will doubtlessly be pleased as punch with the results, as will anyone who hasn’t heard any music that has been recorded since 1990. Perhaps the strangest twist about this record is how much of it sounds more crude and antiquated than the duo’s first two albums, which were released over 20 years prior to this one. Those two albums did what few groups had done prior, and this one recycles hip-hop and dance beats that were recycled many times over by the mid-‘90s. The opening “Television Executions” is the worst culprit, using turntable scratches and a bounding late-‘80s funk groove that the Red Hot Chili Peppers would scoff at. It would be expecting far too much for Vega and Martin Rev to deliver something as revolutionary as those first two albums. A more realistic hope would be for this album to not be an embarrassment. Thankfully, due to Vega’s sharp-as-ever observations (he still sounds ornery and underfed), they narrowly escape that pitfall.

I can see why he felt that way. It’s a not unreasonable first reaction to American Supreme and is it similar to my own. But neither one of us got it.

For whatever reason (loyalty?) I never traded in American Supreme at the record store, even as I neglected to play it even one time during the intervening years. A few weeks ago, wanting something “new” to listen to in the car, I grabbed the CD and took it with me. Listening to “Televised Executions” again, I immediately recalled why I didn’t like it the first time. It was annoying, but I let it play. By the end of the song, I had started warming up to it. It was not only annoying on purpose, it was annoying with a purpose, something I’d failed to grasp.

As the next few songs played, what Martin Rev and Alan Vega were trying to do began to dawn on me. Lyrically the album is a reaction to 9/11 and the World Trade Center going down in Alan Vega’s own backyard (he was a longtime resident of lower Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood). His words reference sulphurous skies burning forever and being obliterated by a flash of blinding white light. It’s still the patented stream of consciousness ranting we expect from Alan Vega, but in the aftermath of the Al Qaeda attack his imagery became understandably even more violent and apocalyptic.
 

 
But then I got to track six, “Wrong Decisions” and at that point finally realized that it was my own powers of critical assessment that had fallen short of the music and not the other way around. Yes, my first reaction to hearing this album back in 2002 had been one of “they’re over the hill” after being confronted with the hackneyed hip-hop samples instead of the expected power drones (Martin Rev was about my current age when it was recorded I should probably inform the reader). How wrong I was. Listening to American Supreme in 2018, my ears had at last caught up to what they doing.

“Wrong Decisions” is, perhaps, now my #1 favorite Suicide number. What? Is it even better than “Ghost Rider” you ask? Than “Frankie Teardrop”? Than “Rocket USA”? “Mr. Ray”? I’d have to think about that, for a very long time, but it’s certainly up there with those classics. However it’s “Wrong Decisions” that I would DJ with. I mean, I can’t imagine DJ’ing, ever again, without being armed with this track. This is the heavy artillery.

But before you play the embedded sound clip of “Wrong Decisions” below, please play a couple songs that inspired it first.
 

“Different Strokes” by Syl Johnson.

Syl Johnson’s 1968 raver “Different Strokes” has been sampled by a lot of people. J Dilla, Mantronix, KRS-One, Michael Jackson, Wu Tang Clan, De La Soul, NWA, EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, Kanye West, Jay-Z and countless others. It’s been, if anything, oversampled and should probably be given a rest, if not a proper burial. But here, in the hands of Martin Rev, “Different Strokes” becomes something else entirely, a flabby, pulsating, gurgling—but still funkier than neckbone—backing track for one of Vega’s wildest lyrics. The ULTRA LOW frequency sampled bass line turned my car into a bouncing lowrider and the speakers strained to keep up with it. Who the hell released a song with this much bottom end in 2002? Who had the subwoofer big enough to accommodate such a sound back then?
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.04.2019
08:11 am
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Nirvana covering an aria from an 1875 opera
01.04.2019
08:04 am
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Nirvana 1
 
Wait, Nirvana covered an aria from an opera?! That was my reaction when I learned that it indeed happened, and on more than one occasion. Often unrecognized and misidentified on circulating recordings, since fans of Nirvana—and I include myself in this group—generally aren’t into 19th century classical works. But apparently the band was.

“L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” or simply “Habanera,” is an aria in Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera, Carmen. The piece comes in act 1, and functions as an introduction to the Carmen character. The English translation of “L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” is “Love is a Rebellious Bird,” and the lyrics address the wild, untamed nature of love.

An interpretation by legendary vocalist Maria Callas recently gained some attention, as it was featured during a scene in the popular biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.
 

 
Nirvana played “L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” now and then, with a just a handful of identified airings (no studio recording exists, as far as we know). It was something they’d jam on, usually acting as a kind of informal show opener. And, no, Kurt Cobain didn’t get his Pavarotti on—it was performed instrumentally.

Carmen is one of the most popular operas, but it’s unclear how the song came into the band’s orbit, exactly.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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01.04.2019
08:04 am
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‘Qaeda, Quality, Question, Quickly, Quickly, Quiet’: Learning the alphabet with George W. Bush
01.03.2019
08:33 am
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I remember watching George W. Bush deliver the State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, on the TV of a tiny barroom in the East Bay. No cocktail was strong enough. This was the speech that denounced the “axis of evil,” a coinage of Bush speechwriter David Frum, who has lately been rehabilitated as a true friend of democracy and stalwart defender of the realm. Perhaps when the professional eulogists are finished carving the likenesses of Poppy and W. into Mount Rushmore, they can squeeze in this august son of Canada, who believes the problem with the Iraq War was the people of Iraq.

With every patriot face now awash in tears for these old-fashioned Republicans, the kind who could, when the occasion demanded it, speak in complete sentences, let us remember “Qaeda, Quality, Question, Quickly, Quickly, Quiet,” the artist Lenka Clayton‘s alphabetized cut of the address, which blasted those sentences to rubble and sifted the bits. Marc Campbell posted this vid on DM many moons ago, but it’s worth revisiting now. On one hand, it is a cognition-destroying mindhammer that smashes illusions about the stimulus-response theory of government. On the other, even alphabetically reordered and condensed to 18 minutes, W.‘s oratory sounds like Pericles next to the barnyard squawks and grunts that will comprise the phonemic index of the 2019 State of the Union address, which I understand will be subtitled “A Case Study in Lycanthropy.”
 

Detail from the soundtrack LP cover

If you like the movie, you’ll love the soundtrack LP (side one: “A - My,” side two: “Nation - Zero”) and accompanying flip-book.
 

via Reddit

Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.03.2019
08:33 am
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Gods and Monsters: The haunting artwork of Shiki Taira
01.02.2019
07:16 am
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Room #3110 of the Park Hotel, Tokyo, has a large plate glass window with an impressive view of Mount Fuji. The view is one of the reasons for booking the room. The other, more important reason, is room #3110 has been designed and painted by artist Shiki Taira. It is room #30 in the hotel’s series of apartments designed by different Japanese artists. The hotel management’s intent is to offer guests a “fresh look at art”

To touch the beauty of the soul, surely a hotel which refreshes mind and body, and where more time is available for relaxation than in art museums, is an ideal venue for such an experience.

Taira’s room #3110 features a variety of Japanese gods flying across the walls, which when night falls, their reflection makes it appear as if these gods are flying over Mount Fuji. Taira adds:

I wanted to create a room where guests will be surrounded by auspicious Japanese motifs…They are lucky Japanese motifs such as the Fujin (Wind God), Raijin (Thunder God), Shichifukujin (Seven Lucky Gods) and Ichimoku-sama (One-Eyed God)...

 
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Part of room #3110 designed and painted by Shiki Taira.
 
Born in Tokyo in 1990, Taira studied at the Department of Design, Tokyo University of Arts, where she graduated in Fine Art from the Department of Drawing and Decorative Art in 2013. Taira first exhibited her work at the 0+Ten Gallery, Tokyo, with further shows quickly following at the Sato Museum of Art, the ShinPA 10th, Gallery Art Morimoto, and the Seizan Gallery. She has been described as “a cutting edge artist” who is known for “her unique yōkai world that unfolds on silk with excellent brush works.”

Taira’s paintings incorporate traditional yōkai—the gods, ghosts, shape-shifters, and monsters from Japanese mythology who live in the half-light, the twilight area between between known and unknown, who prey on the unwitting and the lost—and reimagines them in a contemporary setting. Taira has said of her work that she likes to deform an individual’s distinctive features which then allows her to bring out images of the phantoms underneath. In Japan, she says:

We have an idea the gods dwell in various creatures and nature traditionally in Japan. Phantom is a part of these ideas and painted and printed in subject of Ukiyo-e in Edo-period by Hokusai Katsushika and others.

Her work suggests our lives are haunted by strange obsessions and superstitions which can sometimes shape our actions.
 
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More beautiful, ghostly artworks after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.02.2019
07:16 am
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