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by Cynthia Fuchs

12 Jan 2012

Have You Heard From Johannesburg

“Unity is strength,” says Albertina Sisulu of the African National Congress. “There is no way we can succeed as a single organization to fight his battle.” Describing the inception of the people’s movement in South Africa in the 1950s, she makes clear an overarching theme for Have You Heard From Johannesburg, namely, that this movement “has inspired every other people’s movement since,” including 2011’s Arab Spring and OWS. The history of the movement is chronicled in Connie Field’s sweeping documentary, featuring interviews with participants and an incredible collection of footage and photos. Premiering on PBS’ Independent Lens on 12 January to commemorate the centennial of the ANC, the film is reduced from its original seven parts to five (airing on 19 and 26 January as well).

Tonight’s chapters (“The Road to Resistance” and “The New Generation”) underline the ANC’s early understanding that the movement would need international support, following the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the decision to send Oliver Tambo to Europe to insure the movement would continue no matter what happened to organizers in South Africa, the decision (urged by Nelson Mandela and others) to embark on an armed struggle, and the crisis created when Mandela and seven others were sentenced to life in prison for bombing power lines. Interviews with international supporters of the movement—including Soviet officials who saw an opportunity to back an anti-imperialist struggle—reveal Tambo’s efforts to keep the movement alive despite such setbacks. The film also considers the US and Britain’s continued support of the apartheid government against the people’s movement, a decision premised on a global economic calculus. Sir Sonny Ramphal Vice President of the UN General Assembly, laments, “That really was a tragedy because apartheid was hostile to every Western value. It was the absence of democracy, it was a police state and tyranny, it was racism in its most blatant form. And yet, the West aligned itself with South Africa by refusing to condemn it.”

by Steve Jansen

11 Jan 2012

Heads up! Time to cup a lug around the long-awaited first hear—and single release—from the re-Roth’ed Van Halen: “Tattoo”. Up on the net today, this tease-of-a-track accompanies the obligatory news of a major tour of the United States. And while it would be easy to assume that any new material from a rock band now the best part of two-point-five decades past their prime time would be nothing more than cover for a hit & run soak up of serious dollars along the revival road…

Fair due – Tattoo is no “Jump”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” or “Jamie’s Cryin’”. Neither is it “Yankee Rose”, “Crazy From the Heat” or “Just Like Paradise”. It is, however, Diamond Dave, Eddie Van Halen; loud, gonzo – and about bloody time. They’re in one place—and despite not being straight up instant classic VH—neither is “Tattoo” some disgrace.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

11 Jan 2012

In anticipation of the new release, Port of Morrow, The Shins have released a track “Simple Song” featuring an expanded sonic landscape and revamped line up. Although when frontman James Mercer’s vocals enter in, there’s no mistaking the musical foundation that has been dormant since 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. Midway through, things drop out to provide a playful interlude complete with choral harmonies behind Mercer’s crooning. He sings how it’s a simple song to say what you’ve done. The poetry continues with the lyrics, You feel like an ocean made warm by the sun.

Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats appear on the song, along with “two former bandmates” according to the KEXP blog. Port of Morrow was recorded over the past year in Los Angeles and Portland, with Mercer securely at the helm, providing songwriting, vocals and most instruments throughout. A preorder is now available on iTunes, with an instant download of “Simple Song” and a B-side bonus track part of the package. As part of the newly announced Coachella line up, the band will also tour with additional dates in 2012. The touring band includes Yuuki Matthews of Crystal Skulls (bass), Jessica Dobson (guitar), Richard Swift (keyboards) and Joe Plummer (drums).

by Philip Majorins

11 Jan 2012

Dana Falconberry’s new EP Though I Didn’t Call It Came is quietly epic and ripe with wonder. This Austin based indie darling has been called on of the city’s “most promising singer-songwriters” and has starred in the documentary Echotone, a film focusing on the Austin music scene that has been awarded the a New York Times Critics’ Pick. The purity of her vocals and engaging presence make her live shows as captivating as a summer evening.

Though I Didn’t Call It Came was recorded in an old church and possesses the kind of space and calm reflection that perfectly accompany a morning cup of coffee or a late night afterglow. The rich orchestration and harmonies are just a taste to wet our appetite for a full-length release that was recorded during the same session and will be released later in 2012.

This track premiered as a stream earlier this week at MTV Hive and now as a free download here at PopMatters.

Download the track “Petoskey Stone” off of the new EP here:

by Cynthia Fuchs

10 Jan 2012

“I think he thinks, ‘Somewhere, I’m gonna get out of this.’” “He” is Billy the Kid, the legendary American criminal who is the subject of American Experience: Billy the Kid. Opening on a close-up of a noose hanging over a dusty (re-enacted) street, the show speculates repeatedly as to what the man born in New York City as William Henry McCarty might have been “thinking” at any given moment. He was “extremely intelligent,” says one expert. “Escaping was always on the agenda,” says another. Billy the Kid “came of age,” says narrator Michael Murphy, “at the moment the Wild West was forged, at a time when outlaws were made famous overnight in the pages of dime novels.” Because so little evidence remains (the only known tintype of Billy the Kid appear again and again here) and because much history is built on these fictions, it’s difficult now to piece together what did happen when. As Bill Richardson puts it, “He was made into a mythical character.” The show doesn’t question the myth so much as it presents it step by step, via historians and aficionados’’ testimonies, and , American Experience‘s familiar, richly mounted reenactments to fill in the gaps. Tight shots of boots and clinking spurs, shovels digging into dirt and rifles cocking, long shots of riders astride galloping horses and men shot dead, hitting the ground in slow motion. The imagined details can be evocative and even romantic (Billy is “blending into the darkness of the New Mexico night” or “framed by the moonlight”), as can the imagined motivations: he remained devoted to his girlfriend Paulita Maxwell, to the point of endangering his life. The natural and social environments were equally harsh, indicated by wind on the soundtrack and gavels banging. “The kid is a consistent rebel,” all the way,” say historian Paul Hutton. And such, he’s been absorbed into a national self-image.

Watch Billy the Kid preview on PBS. See more from American Experience.

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