Music

The Warlocks: The Mirror Explodes

Harry Burson

The Los Angeles group continues aimless drifting through the world of shoegaze.


The Warlocks

The Mirror Explodes

Label: Teepee
US Release Date: 2009-05-19
UK Release Date: 2009-05-18
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Yes, the band shares a name with early incarnations of the Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground and – let us not forget -- ZZ Top. And its sound does aggressively recall critical darlings My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Plus, would-be mastermind Bobby Hecksher has played with both the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Beck. But the Warlocks fail to live up to its impressive pedigree on its fifth proper album, The Mirror Explodes, a dim facsimile of its heroes' brilliance.

Since forming in Los Angeles in 1999, the Warlocks have persisted long enough to see the success of several bands doing the same dreamy, fuzz-rock shtick (most notably the Black Angels and the Raveonettes) without finding much success. Perhaps Bobby Hecksher and co. didn't deserve to lose its contract with Mute after the commercial failure of the 2005 album Surgery, but the acute listlessness of the its subsequent output has done little to bolster regard for Tee Pee Records, former home of the band's old buddies Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Since signing to Tee Pee, the Warlocks have altered its sound slightly, abandoning the straight side two of White Light/White Heat homage that characterized its early material in favor of a lateral move into shoegaze. The Mirror Explodes finds Bobby Hecksher fronting an entirely new cast of sidemen through a wholly monochromatic set of eight fuzzy, reverb-drenched and indistinguishable tunes.

Like Kevin Shields, Hecksher keeps his vocals soft and distant, just another instrument meant to mesh with the white noise of the Warlocks' three-guitar assault. The lyrics are mostly indistinguishable, save a fleeting reference to a hospital on "Red Camera" and oblique statements of alienation and misery on "There is a Formula to Your Despair", all in keeping with the group's druggy persona and the oppressively dreary soundscapes.

The songs have no peaks or valleys, just a constant drone that eventually yields to the next track without fanfare. Everything is at the same dirge-like tempo, making the record seem to be one extended, formless jam. When the vocals drop out completely for an instrumental showcase on "Frequency Meltdown", the band neglects to alter its formula, stubbornly soldiering on with the same pointless meandering. Thankfully, the band refrains from the extended jams that showed up on their previous albums, never making any cut last much over six minutes, arbitrarily ending most around the five-minute mark.

Such apparently amorphous monotony would be forgivable if repeated listens revealed some sort of intention or structure or if Hecksher imbued his music with any sort of meaning. No amount of time with the disc, however, will make The Mirror Explodes any less impenetrable. Apparently, Hecksher just likes his music noisy, druggy and slow. And that doesn't make for a listening experience any more compelling than it sounds.

4

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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