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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008
Unorthodox Daughter - No Lay

Granted, this was never part of “pop’s” past, but this No Lay song which I originally caught on a 2005 Grime compilation called Run the Road, I thought she would be the breakout superstar of the UK hip hop scene.  Of course, that hasn’t happened yet, though a new LP , No Comparisons could put her miles above far more modestly talented imports like Mike Skinner and Lady Sovereign.  Her flow is frenetically knifed out, flipping angles so fast that it takes a constant listening sprint to keep apace.  Of course, that level of aggression could prove problematic since Americans tend to prefer Fergie to Jean Grae and the image of slicing someone guts for garters is about as darkly evocative as Jean Grae’s line about taking Satan to a baptism in a flooded basement.  There’s also Grime’s antsy grooves, more ricochet than head bobbing, though the stuttering success of imports like Justice could soften the market for something a bit more jagged in the hip hop market. 


I also can’t help but love her total lack of guile.  If you can’t come up with some outrageous Bowie-esque persona why not just be yourself, hanging out with your friends, braiding some hair, and lounging around in your neighborhood.  Hip hop would do a far greater service to affirm people’s lives rather than indulge some of their most childish fantasies.  All hail No Lay!  Get on this bloggers so that she can be as heralded as already forgotten hip hop saviors like Uffie.


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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008
It's Wednesday, time for more cinematic dung. This time, Al Adamson turns a typical '60s heist flick into a series of hate crimes that could only happen in a pre-PC motion picture landscape.

A gang of goofball mobsters, led by the Van Dyke-sporting Vito, robs a jewelry exchange, but the gems accidentally end up in the back of a contractor’s truck. A simple commute home, and the heist is a complete bust. As the criminals regroup, our blissfully unaware builder, David Clarke, celebrates his child’s birthday by giving her the most politically incorrect toy ever to hit the market (and that includes the anatomically correct “Joey” from All in the Family).


This little symbol of insensitivity, decked out in blackface and singing the kind of racist minstrel music that made Al Jolson such a Roaring Twenties sensation, is loved by the incredibly gap toothed Nancy…so much so that she takes the pilfered baubles she discovered in the back of Daddy’s rig and stuffs them up the doll’s backside.


Since Vito wants the trinkets returned pronto, he puts Joe Cory and his life partner Curtis on the job. Unfortunately, Joe has a jones for homicide, and needs to get in a few pre-diamond-hunt killings before he goes bug butt. After ascertaining that contractor Dave is married to local lounge singer Linda, Joe heads over to the floorshow to do a little mopping up. But Linda has taken Nancy and her Dixie doll on a Greyhound bus tour of northern California.


While Vito and the rest of the motley crew that couldn’t steal straight take David hostage, lovebirds Curtis and Joe make for the Pacific Coast Highway to stop the chanteuse. Long stretches of stagnant, silent pursuit ensue. Everyone ends up on Grizzly Adams’s doorstep, trying to figure out how to get hold of the treasure while avoiding Joe and his tired Psycho a Go-Go shtick.



As it starts, Psycho a Go-Go has a lot of promise. The swinging nightclub setting, with swirling, gyrating dancers in their frilly fringe minis and knee-high boots. The throbbing back beat of a typical ‘60s bit of garage pop. Flashing, psychedelic lights and the air of civil debauchery (exploitation, here we come!). But then Tacey Robbins shows up like a bouffant Winnie-the-Pooh and starts to croon. As the haunting, hateful “My L.A.” drives a stake of shamelessness right into your cranium, the musical barrage just won’t stop. All hopes for something sordid and swinging die down.


The editing picks up and soon everything starts spiraling out of control. Your mind starts to free-associate on such ideas as suicide, self-abuse, and playing in traffic. The anonymous torsos that pass for dancers keep shouting, “We got it!” and images of the plague and pleurisy shuttle across your retinas. And still, Tacey tunes on, hoping to sell us on the notion that she is actually entertaining. But our hopes are already dashed, both the flesh and the spirit are weak, and we end up metaphysically drawn and quartered.


Then the real plot kicks in. Oy! What a narrative it is. Botched robberies, irritated construction workers, little girls with heinous dental issues, and a bald, bulky Jack Nicholson wannabe with his own cap-toothed traumas (Roy Morton, making his Joe Corey a mindless mental case) add up to one shape-shifting cinematic sludge pit. Mixing your motion picture metaphors is never easy for a low-budget film, but this stealing-meets-slasher-by-way-of-Desperate Hours doody is so chaotic the Sex Pistols are wishing it for the UK right now.


Dammit, certain elements here ought to work! They should push the puzzling, pedestrian storyline out of its sheer stupidity and over into surreal estate territory. After all, our child actress has a brown-painted doll called “Christie Minstrel” that constantly breaks into chipmunk-ish versions of such sour Southern sop as “Camptown Races” and “Swannee River”. The crime syndicate employs a hulky, mute handyman named Curtis who lusts after every man he sees like he’s ready for a Fire Island rendezvous. His homosexual love leanings are so obvious and overt that you expect Curtis to start singing Bronski Beat songs.


But no, instead we have the sullen, shrill Tacey Robbins and her ill-conceived musical numbers urping all over our eardrums. Unable to lip-sync convincingly, and with all the stage presence of a jar of spoiled mayonnaise, Robbins and her songs should add up to at least a few minutes of miscreant fun. After all, if Arch Hall Jr. can make atonal talentlessness terrific, why can’t she?


The answer is all Al Adamson. You can tell that he had no idea how to make all these divergent, disconcerting elements labor to his advantage. What could have been riotous and ridiculous is played straight, and as a result, comes across as dense. Adamson’s Psycho a Go-Go is an angry movie, filled with contempt for everything: the characters, the plot convolutions, and the audience. He doesn’t try to entertain you—he more or less brow beats you into cinematic submission, following the illogical premise that if he puts it on the screen, it will somehow magically transform into a movie. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, we get endless shots of Roy Morton / Joe Corey mindlessly groping Ms. Robbins, Curtis mentally undressing the male cast members, and a demonic race-baiting doll. Suddenly, Psycho a Go-Go turns a must-see into a no-no.


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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008
by Sarah Zupko and Karen Zarker
Pictures by Sarah Zupko / Words by Karen Zarker.

Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples’ sold out performance at Chicago’s Hideout last night brought the Civil Rights movement and all those souls who marched, sang and prayed during that critical time, to the crowded little room. A tiny venue for Staples’ big voice –- bigger than the legend herself, nearly as big as the History she sings for -– the Hideout was standing room only and filled with the reverential; some among them who lived through the ‘60s, as well.


Staples and her talented band opened with Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, and carried the spirit of fighting for justice through gorgeous renditions of “Eye on the Prize”, Down in Mississippi”, The Band’s “The Weight” –- to name but a few. The ghosts of the marchers stood among us, swaying, stamping, clapping.


For those who couldn’t be there in person (because you live in another city/country, or were just born too late), she was recording a live album for Anti- Records last night, and her tour schedule is going strong, strong as that fighting spirit that lives on.  Amen.


Click on image thumbnails below to view the rest of the photos.


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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008

From a Perfect Sound Forever reader: “ARE YOU GUYS SERIOUS WITH THE NEW ISSUE JUST READING A 96’ DELTA 5 INTERVIEW AND I SEE SOME WEIRD STUFF FLOATING AROUND ON YOUR FRONTPAGE HOPE ITS A JOKE ALWAYS THE BEST KEEP IT UP.”  And then a follow-up: “I guess respects need to be paid in some sense, but I thought the esoteric integrity seems shot (sublime, janet jackson, thurday).  All I am saying is, I love your guys articles, interviews, etc.. and I don’t want to be a jerk, but please, just don’t turn into Rolling Stone.”  From another PSF reader: “Worst issue ever!”  It’s probably the most controversy that Janet Jackson has seen since the Superbowl- her picture on the cover of a zine.  So, are they right and did I foul up the standing of my publication but giving virtual space to Ms. Jackson and other above-the-ground artists?


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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008

My expectations may have been all wrong for the Takashi Murakami show, (originally I mistakenly wrote Haruki) which is currently at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Murakami is perhaps most notorious for designing bags for Louis Vuitton and making a retail location for their sale an installation in his show, so I expected some investigation of consumer culture and branding as contemporary forms of art—a problematization (to use a good Foucauldian word) of the preeminence of branding in our culture. But instead it was “superflat” to use Murikami’s own term for his style—lifeless and at every turn unprovocative, blankly cheerful when embracing motifs derived from toys, unconvincing when aspiring to creepiness, with the lone exception of a video piece about a E.T. like robot-boy character who wants to be able to love like a real-life junior high school boy, presented as a series of fake commercials for a nonexistent TV series. That piece succeeded in messing with where we placed our empathy as viewers and made us reconsider what nostalgic fantasies of adolescence and sci-fi-themed escapes are about. Teen alienation is literalized, refigured in a way that makes that pain palpable and truly ridiculous at once—a far cry from the way teen angst is an empty, stylized trope in our culture at large, and definitely in a different league of artistic inquiry than the Super Mario World juvenilia, the McDonald’s Playland-like installations, the self-satisfied gestures toward commerciality in the rest of Murakami’s show.


Presumably we are supposed to be at a point where we are not expected to be outraged at the commercialization of art, and are instead being asked to appreciate the artistry in the creation of a brand campaign. But if that is so, the joke is still on us for going to see an inferior execution at a museum when much better campaigns are taking place all around us. We’d be better served going to the long awaited grand opening of the Ikea store in Brooklyn. That is branding, democratization of design, identity crafting through purchases meant to shape the field of everyday life on perhaps the largest scale in the world. At the Murakami show, I felt like the artist was trying to cajole me into granting him leeway for the shallowness of his creations, as though they weren’t exactly his fault and merely expressed the democratic spirit inherent in niche marketing: Everybody gets their products—Louis Vuitton bags for the rich, stuffed animals and sticker sets for the less rich. But that’s not an excuse for creating works with no frisson, with nothing that seems ingenious or provocative. Instead, there were hollow gestures—a statue of anime characters with big breasts squirting a milk lasso; a mushroom cloud landscape; a room wallpapered with cutesy eyeballs. Was it a comment on how surveillance infiltrates our lives under the guise of welcomed entertainment? How we mistake Big Brother for something cute and cuddly? It just didn’t seem like there was enough evidence to attribute such ideas to Murakami; I felt like I was going to my own bag of argumentative tropes to try to engage with what I was seeing, that I was reading it all against the grain rather than reveling in what was supposed to be, I think, a dazzling tour de force of sensual overload, of fun, flashy surfaces.


In the end I wasn’t convinced that pop art is anything other than a dual-edged mockery of actual pop culture and the kind of art consumers who’d rather engage with his work than other sorts of fine art that requires more cultural capital—more knowledge of artistic tradition, etc. The wall cards suggested that Murakami was modifying various Japanese aesthetic traditions, and maybe you need to be Japanese to appreciate the subtlety of his approach. But that ended up making me think Americans looking for an analogous experience should skip Murakami and instead go to DisneyWorld. Murakami seems to want to bring the spirit of childlike wonder and unreflective excitement typical of theme-park goers to the museum, but instead he made me feel like I now had to take the solemn spirit of museumgoing to the amusement parks. That’s the problem with trying to collapse that particular dichotomy—the dominant term (in this case high culture) wins out and corrupts the populist and potentially subversive pleasures to be found in the subordinate sphere. The inversion of values doesn’t stick; pop culture isn’t afforded new respect while remaining truly popular—the popular audience just ends up being alienated from what once seemed like simple pleasures made for all of us by the new audience ironizing and problematizing it all by force of habit.


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