Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

 

Latest Posts

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Oct 20, 2008

“If they had wanted to, they could have found plenty of double meanings in our early work. How about ‘I’ll Keep You Satisfied’ or ‘Please Please Me’? Everything has a double meaning if you look for it long enough.”
—Paul McCartney



It’s amusing to consider the harmless sources of inspiration behind “Please Please Me”. As John Lennon was writing what would become the Beatles’ second single, he was working off a Bing Crosby tune from the early 1930s and imagining soulful crooner Roy Orbison on vocals. As a result, “Please Please Me” was a more downcast and sonically tempered song in its earliest forms. Not ideal material for the follow-up to “Love Me Do”. George Martin was pushing for the Beatles’ cover of “How Do You Do It”, written by Mitch Murray, to claim that designation. But to their credit, the young foursome wanted their own songs to be released. Martin later relented and, after treating it to a dramatic studio revamp, which included a harmonica section, beefed-up vocals, and a faster tempo, the Beatles issued “Please Please Me” as their second single. Far from John’s formerly heartsick, bluesy conception, it emerged as an invigorating and sexually charged rush of a pop song.


I haven’t read anywhere that John greatly adjusted the lyric of “Please Please Me” between its initial and final versions. This is noteworthy because it’s hard to imagine that the song could come off as so subversively salacious (by 1963 standards, anyway) in its early Orbison-styled form. Without the fleet pace and bracing harmonica parts, what would have created the brisk energy that vigorously animates the song’s sexual subtext? Without the call-and-response “come ons” and their tone of escalating frustration, how might John have sounded so desperate for fleshy satisfaction? Overall, the studio changes would seem to have transformed “Please Please Me” into a song whose needs were urgently of the moment.


The lyric of course remains the primary reason that, for instance, Robert Christgau once described “Please Please Me” as about oral sex. The chorus speaks for itself: “Please please me oh yeah/ Like I please you”. To “please” someone strongly suggests an action taking place. In this case, an action has been performed and the performer is seeking reciprocation. The same is true of “You don’t need me to show the way love” or “I do all the pleasin’ with you”. These lines again indicate physical activity much more than any sort of non-carnal exchange of affection. The rousing “come ons”, echoed back and forth between John and the supporting vocals of Paul and George, also factor in heavily. They prompt the question: would John really be shouting “come on” in an effort to elicit greater emotional attention from his significant other? It sounds strange to ask “Oh, come on, why won’t you love me more?” The pettiness implied in that phrase better suits a request for a sexual favor. And, finally, it doesn’t require much gutter imagination to interpret the line “Why do you make me blue?” in a bawdy manner.


In the end, “Please Please Me” is entertaining as a call for equality between-the-sheets but more gratifying as a pure pop pleasure. It’s just over two minutes of impassioned vocals, meaty guitarwork, shifty percussion, and snappy momentum, with a bit of scandal to boot.


Tagged as: the beatles
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Sunday, Oct 19, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-10-20...
Eternal Sonata on the PS3

Eternal Sonata on the PS3


The more you look at this week’s group of releases, the more a sense of déjà vu takes over.  So many of the big new releases this week are either sequels or rehashes that you really have to look deep—no, like seriously deep—to find anything resembling a new idea.


This is not necessarily a bad thing.  PlayStation 3 owners are finally getting a chance to play a couple of games that Xbox 360 owners have been enjoying for a while, and each with some bonus stuff to make the experience unique enough to keep PS3 owners from being slighted.  Eternal Sonata has received the biggest makeover, with new characters, outfits, and events enhancing one of the best current generation RPGs out there.  Bioshock, for its part, is basically the same game as the one on the Xbox, but with interactive loading screens and a few new challenge rooms (not to mention the Bioshock 2 trailer that’s recently hit the web).  A re-release of Portal is showing up on the Xbox 360, for those who’ve been waiting for a version of the game to be released without the rest of The Orange Box (for whatever reason), and new releases in the Spyro and Spider-Man franchises are all over the various platforms.


Guitar Hero World Tour

Guitar Hero World Tour


The one retread that simply can’t be ignored or underestimated, however, is Guitar Hero World Tour.  Out on Sunday, it’s a rehash in two separate ways: one, it’s obviously a sequel to the other three Guitar Hero games out there, and two, it’s Activision’s acknowledgement of the game-changing Rock Band, in that its approach to the rhythm game genre is almost exactly that of Rock Band‘s.  Guitar, drums, bass, and vocals—they’re all here, and they’re going to present a serious challenge to Rock Band 2‘s popularity given the sheer recognizability of the name.  Despite the fact that so much of the new iteration of Guitar Hero is simply the following of Rock Band‘s lead, the mere fact that the new Guitar Hero totally revamps the franchise while the new Rock Band simply continues it may lead people in the direction of Activision/Neversoft’s version of the band setup for the holiday stretch.


Me, I’m looking forward to playing the Death Magnetic tracks I’ve been toying with on the guitar for the last two weeks on all of those other instruments.  Hetfield’s vocals on “All Nightmare Long” should be an especially good time.  I haven’t had a good grunting ‘n growling session in a while.


Wii Music

Wii Music


The running theme for the Wii and the DS is kids’ games.  All manner of branded whatnot is showing up this week, from various Nickelodeon and Disney brands to less recognizable IPs like Ener GBuild-a-Bear is here, High School Musical is here, and even Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? gets a couple of releases.  Of course, the sore thumb here is Wii Music, a release that’s had to endure some awfully loud mocking in the gaming community since its reveal at this year’s E3.  The thing is, it can hardly be evaluated as a game.  It is a toy.  Not only that, but it’s largely a toy for kids, with very loose definitions of success via gameplay.  I can also say that, having been able to share it with my family, it absolutely is one of those magical little games that can bring the family together for an hour of light entertainment, no matter the ages of those involved.  Heck, I had my 1-year-old wailing away on drums for a couple of minutes after she got a load of the rest of us.  I don’t think it’s a classic in the making, but it certainly shouldn’t be disparaged the way it has been over the last couple of months.


All right, having jumped off of my tiny little soapbox, and acknowledging that there are about a billion things being released this week, I must ask: What are you playing?  Are you going to spring for Midnight Club, or is Barbie Horse Adventures more your speed?  Pore over the list—and a Guitar Hero World Tour vid that never fails to fascinate me—after the jump.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Sunday, Oct 19, 2008

Has another filmmaker had the same amazing meteoric rise from novice to name as Peter Jackson? A mere 21 years ago he was an unknown Kiwi geek who had spent four years making his own monster movie. A quick sale at Cannes and his alien cannibal comedy was a glorified cult smash. But consider where he was in 1999. With only six feature films under his belt, and limited commercial cache to show for it, New Line named him the guide for their all important Lord of the Rings franchise. Three epics, billions of dollars, and a trio of Oscars later, Jackson is now a monumental moviemaking figure, an example of talent trumping the standard studio thinking. Looking back at 1987’s Bad Taste now, it’s clear that this was a director worth watching. But it’s also clear that, within his limited budgetary purview, there was more ambition than ability. 


The entire town of Kaihoro, New Zealand is missing, and its up to the Astro Investigation and Defence Service to figure out why. While Derek determines the extent of the damage, Barry explores the deserted city. He is attacked by a zombie and barely escapes with his life. Frank and Ozzy phone in, explaining they will be delayed in providing backup. In the meantime, Derek watches over a captured creature, hoping to determine their extraterrestrial flesh eating motives. An accident puts the mission in jeopardy, and when a charitable collector named Giles comes to town, he is kidnapped by the fiends. Turns out, aliens have indeed landed, and they intend to use Earth for some nefarious culinary aims. It is up to our foursome to put a stop to the plot, to save Giles, and keep the rest of the universe from experiencing the Bad Taste of Crumb’s Crunchy (Human) Delights.



Revisiting this film after almost two decades reveals something very interesting - not only about what Jackson managed to accomplish, but with regards to that other rarified element, selective cinematic memory. Fans fondly remember Bad Taste as being an over the top splatter fest loaded with blood, bile, and body parts. In the windmills of one’s ever mottled mind, it was an action packed farce, denim clothed zombies carving up the community while oddball government agents pass ironic judgment on the entire proceedings. With a last act that loses sight of the sluice and a gonzo gross out sense of humor, it was the first real film dork delight…


…except, none of this is really true. Like most myths, the legend of Bad Taste has been expanded (and exploited) to fit the gore lovers revisionist nostalgic needs. Compared to Jackson’s brilliant Braindead (known to most as Dead Alive), this first film is relatively sedate. The arterial spray is evident, but slyly spaced out over the longish 90 minute running time. Similarly, the Kiwi genius has been funnier. Bad Taste is not as clever or cutting as Meet the Feebles, and lacks the consistency of his lauded later works. Finally, the film is not as frightening as one recalls. The final fifteen minutes is taken up with an extended gun battle which grows redundant after a while. Indeed, much of the movie plays exactly like what it is/was - a weekend workout among a bunch of schlock supporting fanatics.


It’s a situation that stands repeating - Bad Taste is not a classic. It’s not even the best example of this kind of cracked carnage. Instead, like most first efforts, it’s the foundation for a filmic type, the natural extension of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead dementia filtered through a legitimate horror fan’s fancy. Jackson is a noted student of the scary, able to wax wonderfully about everything from early Universal frights to the most obscure foreign fear factors. Bad Taste relishes that referencing. Rumor has it that Jackson fashioned it as a tribute to Tom Savini and you can see other noted homages throughout. Again, this doesn’t make the movie a milestone, just a smart, sometimes special experience.



It’s fun to watch Jackson in the unusual mode of actor, and a clean shaven one at that. As Derek, the head of Astro Investigation and Defense Service, he is almost unrecognizable. Talking in a high pitched accent that gives his entire demeanor a wimpified gloss, he’s hilarious and hopeless at the same time. When he puts on the familiar facial hair to play tongue tied alien Robert, it’s back to the human hobbit we know and love. The rest of the cast, made up of mates, chums, and other local well wishers, offer nothing more than glorified line readings, if that. Only a couple went on to pursue a career in film after Bad Taste. So this is clearly a homemade effort, a combination of desire and unbridled gumption given over to frequent fits of brilliance and, sadly, boredom. Viewed within the confined of contemporary splatter, Jackson’s jaunt is almost inert.


In fact it’s hard to champion long sequences of walking and worrying, the amazing New Zealand landscape providing the only real interest. Even more frustrating is the lack of continuous action. We don’t expect a film from 1987 to be Shoot ‘Em Up, but the lack of unbroken energy does undermine things. Once we get into the alien stronghold, things pick up immensely, and there’s no denying the effectiveness of Jackson’s handcrafted F/X (he even baked his monster masks in this mother’s oven). But then the guns come out and Bad Taste shifts into creative cruise control. Watching extras flail wildly as they are riddled with squibs is one thing. Seeing it for several similar minutes feels like padding.


As a way of looking at Peter Jackson Version 1.0, the man who would later evolve into a myth, Bad Taste is a telling template. It offers up many of the things he would later explore in his creative canon, while suggesting that something happened along the way to significantly amplify his game. Watching any number of his recent films - from Heavenly Creatures to Return of the King - argues for Taste‘s treatment as a fluke. It’s as if Chris Seaver went from making Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker to The Dark Knight in the span of a decade. When legend slams head on into the truth, the pile up is never pretty. Luckily, Bad Taste is better than such a collision suggests. It’s also rather underwhelming.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Sunday, Oct 19, 2008

Stuart Gordon’s career as one of the post-modern masters of the macabre happened quite by accident. As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in the ‘60s, the self-described radical spearheaded controversial productions with his notorious company The Screw Theater (whose main objective was to stage shows that would force the audience to leave). He would later go on to form Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, and seemed content to pursue combustible live performance. In fact, when it was suggested that the H.P. Lovecraft tale “Herbert West, Re-Animator”, would be an interesting project to pursue, the lifelong fan originally thought about doing it live. When that idea was scrapped, a TV script found its way to an interested producer. Reimagined as a film, and the rest, as they say, is splatter comedy history.


Yet Gordon is more than just body parts and black comedy. While many of his films have stayed within the blood and gore genre, he’s dabbled in sensationally schlocky science fiction (Robot Jox, Space Truckers), fantasy (The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit), and intense urban drama (his adaptation of David Mamet’s Edmond). Horror is just one of the many caps this creator wears. Now comes the delightfully disgusting thriller Stuck (new to DVD from Image Entertainment). Based ‘loosely’ on an infamous real life case in which a young woman ran down a homeless man with her car and left him to die positioned in her windshield, Gordon finds yet another opportunity to take a typical genre and thwart its conventions. In this case, he takes a nail-biting thriller and turns it into a sly, substantive social commentary.


Brandi Boski is a collection of contradictions. As a nurse’s assistant in an old folks home, she loves her patients and cares for them with a sincerity and devotion. It doesn’t go unnoticed by her stickler boss. But when the working day is done, this girl just wants to have fun - ecstasy-fueled, rap music-inspired, club and bed hopping fun. With her African American drug dealer boyfriend Rashid by her side, it’s a headlong hop into full blown hedonism. On the day she learns she may be up for a big promotion, Brandi really ties one on. That night, her DUI driving meets Thomas Bardo, a recently evicted, at the end of his rope ex-professional. He flies into her windshield, getting stuck in the process. Instead of dying, however, he is badly, badly injured. In a blind panic, Brandi simply drives home and puts her damaged car in the garage. She can’t let a little thing like a mangled human ruin her chance at career advancement - or personal gratification.


Stuck is the kind of film you’d expect from Stuart Gordon. It defies convention as it finds unusual ways to make its many captivating and insightful points. For those familiar with his blood and guts grandstanding only, there is ample accident-based arterial spray, and there is a darkly humorous cloud covering everything that Brandi, her beau Rashid, and a desperate Bardo does. Sure, the first fifteen minutes of the film finds actor Stephen Rea putting on a nerdy drawl as his life systematically crumbles around him. The upwardly mobile Brandi meeting the downwardly spiraling Bardo is the perfect cinematic set-up. It provides both players with a reason to react, and a motivation for their eventual actions. Where Gordon decides to take everything next is why he’s considered one of the medium’s most outside and outrageous thinkers.


At first, the symbolism in Stuck is rather sketchy. Mena Suvari, her hair braided in some dated ‘wigger’ cornrows, plays Brandi like a beat-happy culture-robbing lightweight. She just wants a paycheck, a partner, and to party. Bardo is a typical post-modern white male - unimportant, powerless, and disposable. Rashid is the balance between the two - successful but for sketchy reasons, a bad-ass who turns tail whenever trouble rears its lifestyle stealing head. As a threesome, we see contemporary populism captured in all its pale perfection. Our heroine turns out to be cutthroat and ruthless, wanting nothing to interfere with or steal her status. In her mind, it’s all Bardo’s fault. Her man talks a good game, but literally can’t deliver the death blow. And caught between the two is the victim, the former paternalistic heart of our once structured society, now left to rot in the windshield of a vehicle like so much meaningless road kill.


But Gordon doesn’t stop there. While Bardo is trying to make an escape, there are neighbors who discover (or almost redirect) his predicament. One is a self-absorbed homosexual who is so concerned about the blood on his shirt (thanks to his pet Pomeranian who accidentally discovered the garage crime scene) that he ignores the more obvious question - where did such grue come from? The other is an immigrant family who, after discovering Bardo’s dilemma, fails to act because of their own illegal status. The iconography is obvious - here is the white man, once powerful, now unable to escape the grips of women and the strong minority men who now intrigue them. He’s figuratively fractured her well placed glass ceiling, and she responds like a serial killer. Sadly, the only fringe elements that could or would help have their own majority made issues that keep them distant and insular.


It would be nice to hear if Gordon purposely sought this approach, or if it was an organic result of the careful casting. Sadly, Image’s DVD offers little in the way of added context. Aside from a standard trailer, there’s nothing else. For a movie like Stuck, it seems a commentary would be mandatory. Gordon does a good job with these full length feature narratives, and one imagines he would fill in the blanks that some of the script purposefully leaves out. Granted, a lot of what he wants to say here is fairly self-evident. Suvari’s hairstyle, Rea’s unrealistic voice, the opening sequence where Brandi must clean up after a soiled and filthy old man (a WHITE man), and the constant hammering of the decency along the fringes (Bardo is initially befriended by a fellow homeless man in the park, much to his surprise), makes Stuck more than suspense.


Oddly enough, the dread ends up being the least important element in the entire film. We get the typical cat and mouse, Bardo finding ways to improve his lot (a cell phone, random tool-based weaponry) while Brandi and Rasheed plot and argue. We never feel the film will do something completely unexpected and fail to wrap things up in an action packed denouement. It’s just a matter of who will win and who will pay for what they’ve done to the other. If you’re coming to Stuck hoping for another dizzying dose of Stuart Gordon splatter, gore mixed with a goofball sense of humor, you may be disappointed. This is not From Beyond retrofitted to a modern suburban setting. Instead, this maverick moviemaker has decided to discuss the current state of society circa the new millennium, and in that regard, Stuck is very special indeed. If you get the message, you’ll respect the movie. Even if you don’t, you still have to admire the man. Stuart Gordon will always be an enigma. Something like Stuck suggests he’ll never change. 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Sunday, Oct 19, 2008

According to a recent L.A. times article, Howard Stern has lost most of his audience.  Even if you’re not a fan of him (like me), it’s still significant ‘cause if the self-proclaimed ‘king of all media’ can’t make it on satellite, what kinda hope is there for the other shows out there?  Granted, he still has a relatively big audience but it’s still a fraction of what he had on traditional radio.  Verdict: satellite still ain’t a standard yet and has a ways to go.  Even the merger between Sirius and XM might not seal that deal.


Next up is a Guardian article that says politics and music can be a mismatch, citing the most obvious example of Reagan (mis)using Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” for his campaign.  It also made me think of poor ol’ John McCain who’s been slapped around by a number of artists who don’t want their songs used by his campaign- the list now includes Heart, Jackson Browne, Foo Fighters and Van Halen.  Didn’t it occur to his handlers to ask before they did this and then get embarrassed? Did they just figure that they’d get turned down anyway?  And if so, did they think the bands would just shut up and not say anything?  Add this to the long list of blunders that have plagued McCain’s campaign and yet another cautionary example that it provides.


And finally, there’s yet another study linking music loss to MP3 players.  I know, I know… we’ve heard this before but it bears repeating because we’re gonna have several generations with tinnitus soon ‘cause they don’t know better than to turn their players down.  Eventually, you’ll see public service announcements about this, warning iPod owners to cool it but why wait?  We should have Apple sponsoring these commercials NOW, with artists participating to drive home the point.  I’ll even write the damn spot for you “Hi, this is…. and I want you to hear my music and keep hearing it so please don’t blast your ears out.  All you have to do is turn it down a little and you’ll keep hearing my songs for years to come.  Hearing damage is a serious problem that can lead to hearing loss.  So play it smart.”  How’s that?  I’ll even waive my writer’s fee on that, OK?


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.