Bryan Lee O’Malley follows his now-classic Scott Pilgrim series with the whimsical Seconds, a graphic novel about a woman whose life becomes a little complicated after finding some mushrooms and a notepad that allow her to alter the her recent past.
Katie is 29 years old and works as a chef at a popular restaurant called Seconds. She recently acquired a property and is working on turning it into her own new restaurant to be called Katie’s. She encounters a mysterious hipster-y looking girl in her room one day and then finds a little box in a drawer with a mushroom, a notepad, and instructions to eat the mushroom and rewrite the past in the notepad the way she would have liked it to be. She starts doing this innocently, changing little things, but as she continues, the changes and the new worlds she creates with each revision become a bit much for her to handle. Not to mention that creepy hipster house spirit adding to her difficulties…
I bought Seconds, like most people probably did, because I truly, truly loved the Scott Pilgrim series (as well as the movie) and was anxious to see what its creator would come up with next. Seconds, however, is not the book for people like this, i.e. those looking for something resembling Scott Pilgrim. It does feature the same basic art and a similar writing style and sense of humour, but it’s a completely different kind of book, with none of the geeky reference points and unabashed romance that made Scott Pilgrim resonate with so many readers, myself included.
Seconds is cute. It’s a well-written and composed story with a kind of ‘meh’ premise and likeable but not particularly interesting characters. Perhaps it was simply the cute, little story O’Malley wanted to tell, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, unfortunately, Seconds is nothing particularly special.
Though in recent years my tastes and posts on this blog have moved into weirder and more experimental territory, I’m still a sucker for power-pop and a damn good melody. Long Island-based artist Jonathan Foster, working under the pseudonym Red Cabin, sent over his new album, Right This Way, and though a bit cutesy, it’s got the hooks to make the books (or the blogs, I guess). Comparisons to Blue Album-era Weezer and A.C. Newman‘s solo work are quick to come to mind, though Right This Way‘s homespun cleanliness really stations it in the same conversation as Paul McCartney‘s RAM.
I had wanted to read Brian Wood‘s The Massive for a long time, and I finally managed to grab the first graphic novel volume of it at New York Comic Con this weekend.
Set after a massive ecological catastrophe called ‘the crash’ that essentially fucked up the entire planet, the story centres on environmental group Ninth Wave aboard their ship The Kapital as they try and locate their other ship, The Massive, which went missing some time ago.
The crew aboard The Kapital is an interesting mix of ex-mercenaries, environmentalists, engineers, etc. trying to keep shit together in the wake of ‘the crash’. They debate just how pacifist they should remain, as the world has gotten a whole lot rougher what with the scarcity of water and other vital supplies. They try to get along and understand each other despite their radically different backgrounds. Sometimes things get difficult.
Though it started off a little slow, towards the end I started getting into the comic and relating to the characters more. Wood’s imagining of the vast and incredible the changes that occur to the Earth in ‘the ‘crash’ is also exciting and terrifying. Additionally, the artwork by Kristian Donaldson and Garry Brown manages a great job of capturing the grittiness of the comic’s brave new post-’crash’ world.
I look forward to picking up the next volume soon.
p.s. for those who don’t know Brian Wood, his first work, Channel Zero, is also really, really cool and political.
Borgman is a Dutch thriller that came out in 2013, but has in recent months been making its way around the independent theatre circuit in North America. It is now available on DVD and On Demand. I picked it up at my favourite local bar/screening room/video rental place, Brooklyn’s excellent Videology.
Directed by Alex Van Warmerdam, Borgman is a strange, unnerving film about a group of human-like beings (they’re not exactly human because they have certain special powers) who subtly invade a family’s home and life. The film and its villains are creepy in the way classic European folk tales (like that of that erlking) can be, but the film is not a retelling of an old story, nor is it clear if the film’s villains are anything we’re familiar with, like vampires. Some parts of the film (as well as online commentators) suggest that they’re angels or demons or something. In any case, we never find out. We kind of just have to go with it.
The narrative starts rolling when Camiel Borgman (pictured on the poster above) knocks on the door of a nice house and asks the man who answers if he can take a shower, as he’s a traveler and hasn’t been able to clean himself in some time. The man, understandably weirded out, tells him no, but Borgman says he knows the man’s wife, in a feeble lie that quickly becomes obvious. Regardless, he makes the man very upset to the point that he loses his patience with the stranger, beating him to the ground until the wife manages restrain her husband. Feeling guilty for her husband’s behaviour, she later lets the man temporarily stay in their shed and takes care of him. And so it begins. Soon Borgman manages to ingratiate himself and his friends with every member of the family, including the kids. As he does so, he insidiously turns the wife against her husband, in part by manipulating her dreams at night as he crouches, naked, on top of her asleep in bed.
What’s interesting about Borgman is how mysterious it is. Some viewers might be infuriated by the lack of answers the film offers, but others will be drawn in by the often incomprehensible actions of whatever it is these nefarious persons working with Borgman are. Personally, I would’ve liked some answers by the end. Where did the idea for these things even come from? Is the film a morality tale? A modern retelling of the story of Adam and Eve? Or is Alex Van Warmerdam just laughing somewhere at how confounded everyone writing about this film is? I don’t know. But maybe for some the mystery is simply better off without a big reveal at the end.
Toronto’s Dilly Dally have been around for a while, making a catchy little racket. Those of us in Toronto (or who used to be in Toronto) have been feeling it for a while. Glad to see everyone else (i.e. Pitchfork) catching on. They’ve got a 7″ dropping this week on Fat Possum.
(Btw, for those keeping track, this was also recorded with Josh Korody and his studio partner Leon Taheny.)
Melbourne shoegazers Cochlear Kill add some electronic and suuuper 80s elements into the melodic, heavily My Bloody Valentine-indebted mix to produce a winning combo on “Insomi-Stations”, off their upcoming EP, Colour Me Radd.
Also thought I’d post their older but still pretty solid track “To Anywhere But Here”, which, even down to its title, is a My Bloody Valentine rewrite, albeit a good one.
Fort Worth, Texas-based dream pop crew Fou join Julia Brown in making really beautiful, intimate, heartfelt tunes for a new generation of heartbreak. That’s not to say the two bands really sound alike (also, Fou‘s recordings aren’t really lo-fi) but there’s a similar sentiment.
Strange what grows in odd places.
Oakland-based Ashan makes electronic music inspired by nature. It’s got a bit of a new age vibe to it. He probably does yoga.
So much amazing stuff happening in Toronto these days that sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision to leave. That being said, there’s probably still more amazing stuff happening in New York and Brooklyn. But Toronto really does seem to just be getting cooler and better with time.
Wish is the project of Kyle Connoly, and in my mind ‘one of Josh Korody‘s bands’, since that guy seems to have a hand in just so much cool shit these days either as a producer or bandmember or something. Most of the stuff he’s involved with (Beliefs, Breeze, he produced the incredible Elsa EP, recorded the last Cousins album…) has this great rough, underground dream-pop or shoegaze thing going on, and Wish is no exception to that. The album they just put out on Hand Drawn Dracula is an awesome collection of garagey-shoegazey stuff; basically what the kid with the badass record collection would be expected to put out. And a lot of incredible albums like this have been coming out of Toronto, in particular from Hand Drawn Dracula, Buzz Records and One Big Silence.
Skids were a Scottish punk band in the late 70s/early 80s who had a little success but nothing too crazy. I’ve heard their first two albums, their 1979 debut Scared To Dance, and the album of their’s that really interests me, their second, also released that year, Days In Europa.
To give one a sense of context, Scared To Dance sounds like a standard UK poppy punk album of its time. It sounds like it kept the record company happy and the average punks satisfied. Days In Europa, on the other hand, sounds like a totally different band. It’s weird, zany, peppered with a rainbow of synth sounds, and political, with song titles like “Dolce Et Decorum Est (Pro Patria Mori)” (a quote in latin from Horace‘s Odes: “It’s sweet and honorable to die for one’s country”) and “Working For The Yankee Dollar”. The original cover (pictured above) looks like Nazi propaganda.
The fact that the album was remixed and rereleased with a different cover and tracklist leads one to imagine that the label was not so crazy about the band’s newfound audacity. But of course, all this made for a really great album. Musically and vocally this is still the same average late 70s/early 80s punk band as the one on Scared To Dance, but the songs and production are not so much a huge step up as simply way more interesting. And about 30 years later Days In Europa is still interesting, though perhaps in our age of extreme and widespread experimentalism what once sounded weird now just sounds cool.
The last track, “Peaceful Times”, is both the most innovative and the best track on the album. It’s a weird dirge with backwards vocals and drums (or at least cymbals or something) and spoken word verses. It’s at once catchy, cut-up and uplifting in the way a lot of Remain In Light is, though unfortunately Skids didn’t have Brian Eno producing. I can’t imagine the ruffians at the time replaying it much, but by virtue of its fearlessness, it’s really the most punk track on the album.