Re-Evaluated // Days In Europa

September 29th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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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.

Kiss Me Sunset

September 26th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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Montreal psych-kraut-rockers Kiss Me Sunset put out a pretty badass four-song EP last last month called Moonshine Bowling. Made nice use of the Wes Anderson font.

Mystic Triangle

September 25th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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One time I was at Vacation Records in LA looking at cassettes. I asked the guy what one was like and he said, “Oh, it’s kinda like dark, minimal, psyche, beats.”

“Oh, that’s cool, but do you anything maybe a little more poppy or something?”

So he picks up another one and says, “This one’s pretty good too.”

“Oh yeah? What’s this one like?” I asked him.

“It’s kinda like…dark, minimal, psyche, beats.”

“I see…”

They actually were pretty cool cassettes.

Toronto’s Mystic Triangle also has a cassette out called Pulses.

Evil Arrows

September 25th, 2014 | This Is New York | 0 Comments

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Back in 2006, my band at the time, The Fancy Claps, was named One Of The 25 Best Bands On Myspace by Rolling Stone. Another band on the same list was an old school style psychedelic-pop band called Bryan Scary and The Shredding Tears. Though my band brokeup less than a year later, Bryan Scary went on to get some more attention from the likes of Pitchfork and Spin. Now it seems that he’s ditched The Shredding Tears and started a new band based in Brooklyn called Evil Arrows. Him and his new crew are still doing the pyschedelic-pop thing, and they’re doing it well. Their next release, EP4, drops September 30th.

Shlock Appeal // Zardoz

September 24th, 2014 | Film | 0 Comments

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Apparently, after the success of his hillbilly thriller classic Deliverance, director John Boorman was given free reign to do whatever movie he wanted to next. His 1974 sci-fi mind-f*ck film Zardoz seems to suggest he took this freedom not so much as a privilege, but as a dare.

Set in the year 2293, the film starts off with some incredible images: a giant flying stone head that pukes out guns, and Sean Connery in an amazing article of red, underwear-like clothing(?). The legendary Scotsman’s character, Zed, is a hairy-chested ‘brutal exterminator’ who somehow gets whisked away on an insane adventure that takes him to a place with a bunch of asexual telekinetic immortals who are punished for things like ‘negative thoughts’ by being aged. Then things start to get weird.

If you actually care about the ridiculous plot, just read the wikipedia page. You might be better off ignoring it altogether because it’s insane. That being said, this movie is kind of amazing. The fact that it actually got made – and with fresh-from James Bond Sean f*cking Connery – is beyond my comprehension.

What is important is that it’s a head-trip to watch, filled with all the crazy colours, WTF costumes and special(-ed) effects you could ever ask for from one movie. Also it has a scene where they show Sean Connery porn to try and give him a boner…for science.

I can’t go on. Just see this movie.

Obscurity Points // Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

September 21st, 2014 | Features | 2 Comments

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There are many for whom this J-Pop sensation is the farthest thing from obscurity. Most of them, however, live in Japan. Or live in their own American-Otaku cultural bubble that resembles a cartoonish version of Japan. Otherwise, as we all know in North America, it’s not good unless it’s in English, right?

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a Japanese pop star, but more importantly, she’s exactly what North Americans would expect a Japanese pop star to be like: she looks and sounds like a highly sexualized 14-year-old; her songs are super poppy and high energy; her videos and lyrics are colorful and completely absurd in the way only the Japanese can be; and both her music and videos nod often at anime and video games. But it’s also all incredibly enjoyable. Her best songs seem to just explode with gorgeous pop hooks, and the production is big, beautiful and bright, but not in the soul-less way that American pop is. It also all sounds very tongue in cheek, like these writers and producers try each time to see how saccharine and wacky they can make a song and have it still be a hit.

So far, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has released three full albums. I haven’t heard her first, 2012′s Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, but her last two, 2013′s Nanda Collection (my favourite) and this year’s Pikapika Fantajin, are both fairly consistent collections of Japanese pop craziness. For the last two weeks they’ve dominated the soundtrack of my workouts.

Beyond Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, I don’t really know any J or K-Pop, but if any has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them. And if you haven’t heard any kind of pop preceded by the first letter of an Asian country, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is probably a great place to start.

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel

September 21st, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments

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Set in Brooklyn, Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel is Anya Ulinich‘s semi-autobiographical (it’s not clear where the line of fiction is drawn after protagonist’s name change) account of a woman diving into the modern world of dating at the tender age of 37. The work explores in-depth not only the classic conflicts of male-female relations, but also the cultural difficulties of the Russian-Jewish American immigrant experience.

With two young daughters to care for and two failed marriages in the rearview, Lena travels back to Russia for a government-sponsored literary tour. There she rekindles her old romance with Alik, an intellectual but odd man she loved when they were children. Upon returning to America though, she realizes that the cultural distance between them has grown too great – so she gets onto OkCupid. And for the first time in her life – having stumbled into one marriage and then another at a young age – she learns just how crazy, but fun and interesting, it is to be single; able to meet and sleep with all kinds of different characters every night. That is, until she meets one on a bus who really sparks her interest…

Reading the novel as a 24-year-old Jewish-Canadian guy, I found the character of Lena to be odd, but endearing. She kept dating – and often quite liking – the worst and weirdest guys (so much so that the book could serve as an advisory notice of why not to use OkCupid). At one point, puzzled, she tells an American female friend of hers about a guy she dated who called her ‘crazy’:

“How am I crazy?! I pay my parking tickets!… Plus, I was nice about the peeing pitbull! And I brought the beer! And I told him how much I liked him… what’s so funny?”

To which her friend responds, “It’s just that you already listed all the reasons he called you crazy!”

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Yeah, she’s still getting the hang of ‘the rules of the game’. And when she does stick with one guy, he’s one of the most puzzling characters yet. But I guess I already knew from reading Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot that Russian chicks be crazy. On that note however, I could relate to her particular Russian intellectualism, how she often interprets her own life through the works of authors like Chekov or Tolstoy.

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel deals with some fairly weighty issues, and yet everything feels so cordial. The novel is written with a wonderful humour and warmth. It’s very human, and touching, and in that combination of intellectual depth, humour and pathos, it felt much like the wonderful Jewish-North American experience books of Saul Bellow and Mordecai Richler. I’m glad ‘Lena’ tossed her ‘terrorist romance novel’ at the end. When real life is this interesting, who needs fiction?

Feuchtgebiete (Wetlands)

September 17th, 2014 | Film | 0 Comments

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The 2013 German film Feuchtgebiete (called Wetlands in English) has finally made its way over to North American shows and it’s a pretty disgusting movie (in a most German way) but with a good heart.

The film follows Helen, an 18-year-old girl obsessed with sex and all manner of gross bodily fluids. She also enjoys doing drugs. But, lest you think she’s a hopeless case, she also dearly loves her little brother and her parents, who got divorced several years ago much to Helen’s dismay.

One day while shaving, she accidentally slices an artery or something in her tush. After diligently going to school (in one of the funniest sequences of the film, as everyone in class stares at the copious amounts of blood dripping down her legs) she ends up in the hospital. There she befriends a handsome young male nurse named Robin, and hatches a plan to get her parents to come see her at the same time and presumably fall back in love upon seeing eachother again.

As disgusting and batshit crazy as Helen is, she is enormously entertaining and charming. I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with her in real life, but to watch her for an hour or two is undeniably fun.

Feuchtgebiete pulls off an admirable balancing act, never letting the emotional elements of the film get drowned out by the outrageous, and so never letting things devolve into a dumb gross-out fest. The pacing allows time for characters to interact and introspect, but keeps the overall energy of the film high, with a punk rock sensibility shoving everything forward. The ending of the film is, however, not at all believable. It’s no big twist – you can see it from a mile away – but I’ll refrain from giving it away here. In any case, it’s a minor dumb point in what is, for the most part, a very entertaining film about a very crazy girl.

Dream Police

September 17th, 2014 | This Is New York | 0 Comments

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I always thought Brooklyn’s The Men were cool, and when I saw them a couple weeks ago they played a very solid show, but I’ve never really gotten into them. But apparently two of main guys in The Men started this new side-project Dream Police and they’ve got an album called Hypnotized dropping November 11th (you can preorder it from the always-awesome Sacred Bones here) and I’m feeling the first (and title) track big time. It’s got this cool krauty chug to it, but it’s also scuzzily American. (via Pitchfork)

Blood Sister

September 17th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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Like Beiju, who I posted about the other week, San Francisco’s Blood Sister also emerges from the ashes of Night Manager. But whereas Beiju went the direction of late-night pop, Blood Sister retreats into the darkness of a very poppy kind of mid-fi post-punk.

Their eponymous debut EP drops September 30th on Bloodmoss Records.