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by Chris Barsanti

21 Aug 2009

It’s often said about ambitiously failed works of art that they have greatness in them. That but for the grace of the muses – a better edit here, a dialogue tweak there – the work in question would have been able to vault that shadowy and indistinct line that separate those things which ultimately worked and those that didn’t. This isn’t much help to the filmmakers, of course, because such statements are often left vague and fuzzy, the speaker trailing off into an indecipherable musing on what exactly it was that left them so nonplussed.

In the case of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, the film doesn’t just have greatness in it, there’s mighty rivers of greatness simply leaking out of the thing. Its multi-lingual dialogue sings and trills with dangerously poetic abandon. The spine-shivering soundtrack is heaped high with deeply wonderful slabs of tweaked Morricone and Schifrin, not to mention an excitingly repurposed David Bowie track from his “Let’s Dance” period. There’s at least two Oscar-worthy performances in here, and that reckoning doesn’t even take into account watching Brad Pitt – as a flinty Appalachian officer leading his titular band of Jewish-American soldiers around the Western Front scalping Nazis – having more fun than he’s been witnessed experiencing on-screen since the early 1990s.

by Tommy Marx

21 Aug 2009

Dancing with the Stars has recently released the names of the contestants for the new season, and questionable celebrity status aside, two of them are one-hit wonders (and one is an almost).

Macy Gray reached national prominence after “I Try”, the second release from her debut album, spent half a year on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at #5. The single won her a Grammy Award for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” in 2001.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a featured role on the Black Eyed Peas’ “Request Line” (which stalled at #63), none of Macy’s subsequent singles have cracked the Hot 100. She has remained busy, however, acting in movies including Training Day and Lackawanna Blues in between recording albums. She has also guest starred on That’s So Raven, American Dreams, and other television series from time to time.

by Thomas Hauner

20 Aug 2009

by Bill Gibron

20 Aug 2009

The purists are already up in arms. Less than 24 hours since it was announced that Robert Zemeckis was helming a motion capture 3D remake of the Beatles classic bit of animated psychedelia, Yellow Submarine, and you’d swear the State of New York was paroling Mark David Chapman (don’t recognize the name? Go read something else!). Everyone, from film fans to protectors of the Fab Four sonic flame are arguing over the implied heresy of such an idea, complaining that technology and a “fresh” approach can’t contribute anything to what is already a classic.

And for the most part, they are right. The original project, completed without the pop phenomenon’s direct input (voices were impersonators, songs were leftovers along with some past classics), has remained a fixture of the artform, a post-modern Fantasia finding depth and meaning in the Lennon/McCartney songbook classicism. Dealing with the faraway kingdom of Pepperland and Old Fred’s battle against the bad vibe aggression of the memorable Blue Meanies, there was something very twee, and quite terrific, about George Dunning’s Peter Max-inspired effort. Now comes the threat of a Tinseltown treatment, the work of late ‘60s artisans sacrificed for a few gigs of RAM and a more photorealistic look.

by Jennifer Cooke

20 Aug 2009

For some acts, even the title of “One Hit Wonder” is too extravagant an honor. For self-proclaimed “scabby witches from Glasgow”, Strawberry Switchblade, OHW status can only be claimed in Europe and Japan—in the US, they didn’t even rate as a blip on the radar screen, unless you were a moody teenager who subscribed to Smash Hits and bought creepers and Communards 12” dance singles at import shops with names like the Berlin Wall.

To such a teenager, however, the heady mix was unbeatable: morose but danceable electronic pop about certifiable anxiety disorders and unrequited love, sung by the Scottish love children of Siouxsie Sioux and Frida Kahlo after an explosion at the squaredance costume factory. Rose MacDowell and Jill Bryson wore getups and hairstyles so massive, so elaborate, it was a wonder they could even stand up, much less strum guitars or shake maracas. They covered songs by the Velvet Underground and Dolly Parton! Their record label (Korova) was named after a reference from A Clockwork Orange! I couldn’t have found a more perfect duo to worship if I had constructed it from whole cloth myself. My favorite subjects were depression, polka dots, dolls, strawberries, fishnet stockings and obscure British pop music. What were the odds of finding such a tailor-made treasure?

Strawberry Switchblade scored a #5 hit in England in 1985 with “Since Yesterday”, but by 1986, collapsing under the weight of all those ribbons, silk flowers and pancake makeup, they were history. Their eponymous album remains one of my favorite of that decade, and one that bears surprisingly frequent listens today. So even if your adolescent fantasy wasn’t to look like Blueberry Muffin working behind the MAC counter… give Strawberry Switchblade a try. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts it was their version of “Jolene” and not Dolly’s that first inspired Jack White to cover it.

“Since Yesterday”

“Jolene”

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