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Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

Havoc
I’m the Boss [MP3]
     


Be There [MP3]
     


Mobb Deep MC and producer, Havoc, released his debut solo album, The Kush [18 Sept: Nature Sounds] this week. The album was produced in full by Havoc, and features appearances by Havoc’s Mobb Deep partner Prodigy (“Set Me Free”), along with 40 Glocc (“By My Side”), Nyce (“Set Me Free” and “Ride Out”), Un Pachino (“Ballin Out” and “Hit Me Up”), and Nitti (“Class By Myself”).


Doveman
Sunrise(Medley) [MP3]
     


With My Left Hand I Raise the Dead‘s [9 Oct: Brassland Records] 16 tracks alternate between melancholic chamber pop, sleepy folk music, and interludes which have more to do with lush, modern classical and experimental music. The songwriting and execution is that of a master craftsman, with meticulous attention paid to every detail. However it’s the voice of Thomas Bartlett—a heartbreaking, barely there sound—that gives the compositions their heft. With My Left Hand is a dense, experiential affair; a challenging yet engaging record that will truly reward repeat listening.


Dragons of Zynth
Get Off [MP3]
     


Coronation Thieves [25 Sept: Gigantic Music] (co-produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek) captures the same raw energy of a Dragons of Zynth show. The release follows a buzz-laden year in which the band saw themselves in a series of high profile concerts such as David Bowie’s Highline Festival, a Central Park Summerstage show with seminal punk band Television, and a date with indie royalty Modest Mouse.


Dragons of Zynth - Labor Day Lung


Emma Pollock
Adrenaline [MP3]
     


Galactic
What You Need [MP3]
     



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Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

Newspaper or Viewspaper? Advertising or Editorial? The blurring of categories.

Maira Kalman. From Times Select.

Maira Kalman. From Times Select.


THE ONLINE REVENUE HUNT CONTINUES


Today I feel the kind of pain and indignation that early adopters of the i-Phone must have felt. After about a year of paying $US7 a month to read the thin and tentative Times Select service to extract a few gems—guest columns by Maira Kalman, Steven Johnson and Michael Pollan and access to the archive without having to pay about $US4 to retrieve a story—I received an e-mail this morning informing me that Times Select was discontinued today. Why the change?


Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.


We welcome all online readers to enjoy the popular and powerful voices that have defined Times commentary – Maureen Dowd, Thomas L. Friedman, Frank Rich, Gail Collins, Paul Krugman, David Brooks, Bob Herbert, Nicholas D. Kristof and Roger Cohen. And we invite them to become acquainted with our exclusive online journalism – columns by Stanley Fish, Maira Kalman, Dick Cavett and Judith Warner; the Opinionator blog; and guest forums by scientists, musicians and soldiers on the frontlines in Iraq. All this will now reach a broader audience in the United States and around the world.


The salve or booby prize being offered is limited access to another service that seems as tenuous as TimesSelect, the Times Reader which apes the appearance of the physical newspaper. “It is normally offered for $169 annually, and is free to Home Delivery subscribers. (Please note that Times Reader is available for Windows only, though a version for Macintosh is planned.) For the duration of this complimentary offer (through Dec. 31, 2007), you also have access to our Premium Crosswords as well as the full online Archive, back to 1851 (100 articles per month).” I have the feeling of having been sucker-punched. And due to a “database upgrade” I can’t, for the moment, even access the stories I used to have to pay to read. And the crossword requires additional software in order to run on my computer. 


In a story in The New York Times, the failure of Times Select has been attributed to the fact that many readers came in behind the firewall, through permalinks within blogs and from feeds, rather than from the paper’s home page. “These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue. “What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” said Vivian L. Schiller, the site’s manager.” A Reuters report quotes Rupert Murdoch as having similar thoughts about removing the $US99 per year subscription fee for The Wall Street Journal’s website.


Online is a savage world. A couple of months ago the Simon Kelner, the Editor-in-Chief of English newspaper The Independent told the UK Press Gazette that the website must come second. “Kelner also said the economics of newspapers were ‘fundamentally flawed’ and that he didn’t see the advertising market improving. “If you have an exclusive story at five o’clock to go in the following day’s newspaper, the idea that you would put it on the website for nothing strikes me as complete madness. Our relationship with our own website is one where the paper is first and foremost, and the website comes second. Until there is a model for making money out of a newspaper website, we’re not going to plough millions of pounds into it.” “


Simon Kelner created a more “compact” tabloid edition of The Indepent to save on newsprint costs, and has strong concepts for raising revenue and making newspapers more relevant. In an interview with Evening Standard journalist David Rowan he talked about raising the cover price of newspapers (although he doesn’t want to be the first one to do this). “We sell our product far too cheaply, and cover prices have got to go up. A daily paper should be a pound, a Saturday and a Sunday quality paper should be heading up to £2.That’s when the economics change, and you can put more investment in the journalism and be less at the mercy of the vagaries of the advertising market.”


 


 


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Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

You go away for a few days…


I’ve been without my beloved Internet for going on a week now, which means I’ve heard precious little in the way of news. I heard second and third hand about the Chasers awesome arrest, I had to text five different people to find out who got booted from Idol on Monday night as I missed the eviction show, and I hit the IMDb in haste today to see how Ricky Gervais went at the Emmys. Pointless entertainment news is why the Internet was invented, right?


While it’s good I finally get to see the Britney video everyone’s talking about (this week has really demonstrated to me how quickly hot news becomes old news), I did not enjoy booting up today to find out authors Madeleine L’Engle and Robert Jordan had passed. While not especially fond of the works of either, I know how much they’ve given to my best friend, who will be as shocked when I relay the news to her (she has no Internet at all—and sometimes I envy her).


The BBC reports on Jordan’s death.


The New York Times has a piece on Ms. L’Engle.


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Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, is currently playing on select dates around the country. The next screening will take place on 21 September, 2007 at the Loft Cinema in Tuscon, AZ. More information can be found by clicking here Troma titan Lloyd Kaufman will be there, in person, and there’s a chance to “Win a Date” with the noted director (along with actress Elske McCain. Addition rules of the contest can be seen by clicking


It really is a shame that the once mighty Troma trademark has been tarnished as of late. Thanks to DVD, which brought film’s tempting technological reach to the greater unwashed, wannabe Toxic Avengers have tried their hand at mimicking the blood and guts mastery of Lloyd Kaufman and the gang. Usually unable to emulate the craven cartoon qualities and joyful junkiness of the indie icon, they go for the gross and the easy arterial spray. Missing is the message, the satiric overtones, the clear love of cinema, and the devotion to art that comes from the company. In its place is a subpar substitute that has out of touch critics referencing all horror comedy by a slanderous descriptive slam. Somewhere along the line, Troma has been turned into a tag for all that is dumb, dopey, schlocky, and stupid.


Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth – or perhaps a better way of saying it is that there is more to these Manhattan movie mavericks than gore and naked girlies. Perfect proof of this maxim arrives in the soon to be released fast food freak out Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. Unlike their camcorder imitators, this is a real celluloid find, a middle finger kiss off to an industry undermining its public with questionable hygiene practices and ever more suspect health concerns. Created by company honcho Lloyd Kaufman after witnessing, first hand, the rat infested foulness of a noted neighborhood franchise, there is as much politics as pus in this whacked out working stiff spectacle. Using a combination of tried and true gruesomeness, a buttload (literally) of toilet humor, a collection of clever songs, and an acerbic insight into the raging corporate machine, he makes a sensational silk purse out of a skidmarked sow’s rear. Toss in some lesbian T&A and you’ve got an exercise in excess that’s a true crude classic.


Our sorted saga begins when Arbie and Wendy, two horny high school graduates, have sex in a local cemetery. They are interrupted by the restless spirits of a disgraced Native American tribe, and afterwards, vow to remain close even as life pulls them apart. Fast forward a few months and the American Chicken Bunker, run by recovering KKK member General Roy Lee, has set up a restaurant right on top of the Indian’s burial base camp. Even worse, the company’s noted livestock atrocities have members of C.L.A.M. (College Lesbians Against Mega-Conglomerates) up in arms. While Denny and the rest of the staff – Carl Jr., Humus, and Paco Bell – try to keep things under control for the grand opening, Arbie learns that Wendy has gone girl, hooking up with angry activist Micki. Joining the General’s team in hopes of winning back his babe, our hero comes face to beak with a collection of undead fouls, and the reanimated resolve of some pretty pissed off pullets.



Outrageous, insane, and borderline brilliant, Poultrygeist is one of the best things to come out of Troma since Kaufman gave birth to the Make Your Own Damn Movie parody Terror Firmer. It’s bloodier, ballsier, and bluerer than anything the company has ever done, and it is its first ever zombie flick. This is the kind of crackpot genre gem that gets its kicks out of wallowing in feces, tweaking Islamic terrorists, exploiting same sexiness, and undermining standard cinematic expectations. It’s a tasty throwback to the days when physical effects ruled repugnance, where gore-based gags were just as important as CGI spiked spurting. In the grand realm of grade-Z grooving, where bile and body parts match boobs and buttocks for cinematic sleazoid perfection, director Kaufman and his amiable cast of unknowns deliver on every sophomoric swipe, while drop kicking Colonel Sanders and Ray Kroc in the process. It also makes one thing crystal clear – once you’ve seen how the originators get it done, the imitators seem pretty pathetic, indeed.


No one really champions Troma’s take on terror, and that’s a shame. Certainly, it’s broad based and jocular, trying for as many snickers as scares, but there is something deeply satisfying about the way Kaufman and crew approach their projects. The scripts, usually collaborations between many motivated film geeks, tend to cut to the chase and amplify the anarchy. Smartly written and loaded with all kinds of cracks – puns, lampoons, and the proudly profane – they become the blueprints for the creation of an unmistakable horror hybrid. Poultrygeist definitely benefits the most from this brazen business model, since it has four decades to draw on. The results are like a glorified greatest hits package, an omnibus offering of everything that makes the Troma name terrific.



Some, however, have questioned the decision to include songs in this film, since the notion of a monster musical where characters constantly interrupt the flow of the fun to rev up and vocalize does have its questionable rewards. But Poultrygeist does a wonderful job of making the tunes feel like an effortless extension of the storyline. When Arbie and Wendy try to re-establish their romance during the evocative ballad “Fast Food Love”, Kaufman counterbalances the “Moon/June” sentiments with a full blown lesbian ho-down. As our paramours plead in 2/4 time, the sisters of Sappho go gonzo. Similarly, a fabulous duet between Arbie and his future self (played by a spectacularly goofy Kaufman) has the added amusement of seeing the Troma chief traipsing around in a too short skirt. Granted, many of the actors are tonally challenged, and a few of the lyrics are more wobbly than witty, but the combination really works. It’s reminiscent of another Kaufman supported entity – the brilliant Trey Parker/Matt Stone extravaganza Cannibal: The Musical.


Poultrygeist is indeed on par with the aforementioned farce, since it handles its consistently contradictory facets with fearlessness and finesse. In a mainstream dynamic that can’t conceive of how to technically go for broke, this amazing movie does so time and time again. Gorehounds, unable to get their daily recommended dose of disgusting via conservative Tinsel Town tripe, will practically plotz at the level of outstanding offal here. There are sluice soaked gags so innovative and memorable (the head omelet, death by diarrhea, implant evisceration) that they’re destined to go down in the annals of onscreen splatter. There’s hasn’t been this ludicrous level of Technicolor yawning in quite a while. Combined with the blatant bad taste witticism, the propagandized agenda, and Kaufman’s clear creative vision (mock him all your want – the man knows his audience and what makes them merry), you end up with the motion picture equivalent of punk rock – raw, dirty, and damn proud.



Of course, none of this would be possible without the dozens of volunteers and underpaid performers who give up their regular grind to provide Kaufman with a concrete talent pool. As our leads, Jason Yachanin and Wendy Graham turn Arbie and Wendy into a classic cornball couple, the kind of kids you root for as the entrails and body parts fly. Though he’s absent from the action most of the time, Joshua Olatunde’s Bunker manager Denny is a smart aleck delight. Every line he delivers sounds imported from Samuel L. Jackson’s high school resume. As with any latter day Troma movie, recognizing the occasional cameo is half the fun. One of the best here comes from porn pro Ron Jeremy. Not only is his mandatory “you’re all gonna die” diatribe a hoot, but the punchline provides a nice acknowledgement of the meat man’s late in life battle of the bulge. 


All of this makes Troma’s current crisis of confidence all the more confusing. Kaufman will claim blacklisting, and without another cogent reason for his company’s exclusion within the otherwise omnivorous media, his point is well taken. Troma can apparently be copied, referenced, and blatantly stolen from, and yet a film like Poultrygeist has to scramble for any booking it can get. Instead of being a monster hit alongside similarly styled overhyped movie macabre, this incredibly effective circus has to take a backseat to PG-13 rated retardation. As the old song says, we frequently don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone. While he’s still around, capable of making movies as wonderfully weird and wholly entertaining as this, it’s time to give Lloyd Kaufman his due. He’s a filmmaker, not a fool, and this Night of the Chicken Dead is proof of his, and Troma’s lasting legacy. It’s simply amazing.



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Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007



Andy Warhol, perhaps the first person to be famous for being famous, is credited with the idea that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”


We are not yet at that point. (Yet). But the way that the world is evolving—unflaggingly plugged in, exponentially commercialized, stimulatory kinetic, endlessly poly-tasking, audio-visually peripatetic, increasingly standardless, intellectually uncritical, morally undiscerning—we are likely to get there. And maybe even faster than in 15 minutes!


In fact, looking at the way that celebrity operates of late, it is likely that Warhol’s 15 will become transformed into something less. Less than minutes.


Possibly seconds—though perhaps even nano-moments. Whatever those are (but coined here to capture the light-speed evanescence of contemporary renown).


It is less inevitable, I would reckon, than rational. Seeing as how we have such limited attention spans. 15 seconds is probably longer than can hold most of us in place. Besides, there are simply too many of us now. And for more and more of the many of us, we now seem to crave more attention from a world that:


  1. has more outlets for expression;
  2. more means for attention-securing; and
  3. less concern about the types of attention it is willing to accord us.

Call it the O.J. phenomenon . . .


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