Written by the master of ceremonies of the famous Pinchbottom burlesque troupe - and the unofficially titled Burlesque Mayor of New York City - Porkpie has crafted a twisted, sexy and hilarious tale of murder and mystery. Written in first-person, Porkpie, as a slightly-fictionalized version of himself, is on the case after the show stopper is stopped dead after the show when a prop bottle of poison is replaced by the real deal. Modern with the nourish flare, Corpse strikes the perfect tone for a pulp novel and Porkpie fits in nicely with his Hard Case Crime brethren.
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Bringing together the soulful folk of Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver project and the systematic, Steve Reich-like patters of fellow Wisconsin natives Colonies Collection of Bees, Volcano Choir’s “Island, IS” represents an inevitable (but perfect) distillation of electro-folk. Vernon’s layered vocals float atop dense, alternating melodic lines that are warped by samplers. Driven by tapping, but tense percussion, the song’s structure propels Vernon’s wail to a crescendo unlike what we’ve heard from Bon Iver. The song’s finale is perhaps one of the finest minute-and-a-halves of music to be heard this year.
Kevin Smith is the Richard Pryor of lo-fi independent cinema. No one in modern moviemaking works better “blue”. Smith is also one of the original “geeks”, standing alongside the Tarantinos and the Andersons of the craft in a desire to take film back for the true film fan. From the movies he’s made to the proposed projects that never really got off the ground, he represents the best of the genre’s original defining DIY spirit. While others merely grab their camcorder and create, Smith does something even better - he let’s his words, and by them his ideas, do the incessant talking.
This three-movie set includes Clerks: 15th Anniversary Edition, Chasing Amy and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, all in Blu-ray. Smith and several in his cast and crew offer alternate narrative overviews of the productions. Each disc comes with these definitive conversations, chances to hear the true dirt behind the frequently filthy get-togethers. Smith can be self-deprecating to fault and he tends to point out things we’d otherwise ignore, but he is such an exceptional storyteller, so swollen with the gift of gab that he can’t help but be enchanting.
With the sizzling and joyous track “Surprise Hotel”, the debut album of Los Angeles afro-pop collective Fool’s Gold erupts with an exotic mix of African rhythms, percolating rock melodies, and purring synths. You can’t just listen. You must dance. The fantastic fusion of music and lyrics (sung mostly in Hebrew) sends you on an ancient journey that’s majestic, yet intimate—and more unique than most contemporary afro-pop attempts. Never letting up, the song celebrates the communal and spiritual ferocity of Fela Kuti.
“Welcome to Paradise” first surfaced on Green Day’s second album, the 1992 Lookout! Records release Kerplunk. Re-recorded for Dookie, the 1994 version packs a much more effective punch than the original. As the composition is unaltered, the Dookie incarnation demonstrates what wonders better production and an extra two years of practice can do for a song. Here, the guitar tone is less brittle, the drums hit with a greater wallop, and Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals have more conviction and less of a warbling quality compared to the performance on Kerplunk. Reprising this song for Dookie (where it fits in naturally, despite having been written for another album) almost note for note was the best piece of evidence Green Day could produce to shut up holier-than-thou punks who criticized the group for “selling out” by signing to a major label.
In both forms, “Welcome to Paradise” is an exhilarating listen, a sheer roller coaster of musical momentum that knows how to deliver at the right spots. Opening with a verse riff that vaguely recalls The Clash’s “Complete Control”, the band then launches into a sharp drop at the start of the chorus, rising up and down as the chords change, and ultimately screeching to a halt for a brief instrumental pause (during which Billie Joe Armstrong sarcastically utters the title phrase) before setting out for another go-round. As usual, Armstrong carries the song’s melody with his vocals; this allows him to twist simple lines like “It makes me wonder why I’m still here” into indelible hooks that burrow into the listener’s head. The highlight of “Welcome to Paradise” is the interlude section, a demented surf/punk breakdown centered on chromatic chord progression that builds up in intensity until all three musicians in the band are blazing away on their instruments at full charge. That section alone made “Welcome to Paradise” my favorite song on the album for years.
Lyrically, the song was inspired by Armstrong’s crash pad experiences in the rougher areas of Oakland, California. The song’s verse structure relies on a basic framework where key lines are repeated throughout, while certain words are swapped out for others over the course of the composition for effect. For example, in the first verse Armstrong is singing “Dear Mother can you hear me whining”, but by the last verse the line has become “Dear Mother can you hear me laughing”, which highlights his gradual acceptable of “a wasteland I like to call my home”. This approach may give the impression is that Armstrong is playing lyrical Mad Libs, but the end result is more accomplished than that implies. He isn’t hindered by the framework he has set up, and he’s always willing to swap his patterns for evocative lines like “A gunshot rings out at the station / Another urchin snaps and left dead on his own” when necessary. Using these techniques, what Armstrong is ultimately able to convey is his gradual acceptance of living away from his parent’s place, going from trepidation to exhilaration in the process.
“Welcome to Paradise” is one of the highlights of Dookie, but it remains its most underappreciated single. This probably has to do most with the lack of a music video. The band refused to let Reprise do a huge promotional push behind the track, in spite of receptive rock radio airplay (it peaked at number seven on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, and reached number 20 over in the United Kingdom). For Armstrong, the song reflected a certain period of his life and that was that; he didn’t care if there wasn’t a music video to help make the song a monster hit like “Longview” and “Basket Case” had been. Despite its lower profile compared to the album’s other hits, “Welcome to Paradise” is an excellent track that proved that Green Day lost none of its spark by leaving its indie label roots behind.