Film

Horrifyingly Close to Reality

Western culture’s perspective of torture is complex and paradoxical; it's considered immoral, illegal, primitive, and indecent, yet it's shocking to see that torture methods continue to be used in the interrogation of prisoners of war.

The previous installment of Dread Reckoning argued that “torture porn” flicks such as Martyrs (2008) and Frontier(s) (2007) rightfully deserve critical attention (see Dread Reckoning: International d’Horreur). Furthermore, these films can very well be considered the pinnacle of the torture porn subgenre. And as such, Martyrs and Frontier(s) have the potential to become true landmarks of the horror genre. However, their substantial amounts of violence, gore, and brutality have earned them harsh comments not only from critics, but also from devoted fans of fright cinema. But then again, considering that horror is about breaking taboos, contravening norms, and transgressing borders, any controversy is a good sign that there is something interesting lurking in the shadows.

In particular, most films belonging to the contentious torture porn subgenre have been severely criticized not only because of their scenes of torture and mutilation, but also because of their transgressive treatment of women. Such a controversy demands a more meticulous look at these films, paying special attention to both their historical context and to the place they occupy on the history of cinema.

The term “torture porn” appears to be originally coined by the New York Times film critic David Edelstein in a short article that appeared in January, 2006 ("Now Playing at Your Local Multiplex: Torture Porn"). Edelstein expressed his complex fascination and bewilderment for the unquestionable popularity of films that feature numerous scenes of torture and sadism. Specifically, Edelstein uses Hostel (2005), The Devil Rejects (2005), Saw (2004), Wolf Creek (2005), and The Passion of the Christ (2004) to characterize this cinematic trend.

It is crucial to realize that all the films quoted by Edelstein were released in American theaters within a year and they enjoyed overwhelming success at the box office. Furthermore, the accounts of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq had been made public in the spring of 2004. As a consequence, one is inclined to believe that the rise of the torture porn subgenre insinuates an underlying cultural shift.

However, it is debatable to assert that the torture porn subgenre was born as a direct consequence of the public discontent and trauma for the Abu Ghraib incident. Even though it is indisputable that the new-millennial trend of vicious horror flicks can be seen as a cultural “return of the repressed” signifying the tribulations of the post 9/11 world, it is unlikely that relatively minor anxieties can produce such a significant cultural shift. Therefore, rather than a cause and effect process, perhaps the rise of the torture porn subgenre is simply the logical next step in the evolution of the hyperviolent film.

Indeed, even though the flicks quoted by Edelstein became popular at a particular point of time and within a specific cultural landscape, they are not the first ones to showcase scenes of torture. In this regard, it is worth to briefly explore the surprisingly long history of cinematic representations of torture and sadism. From fanatical witch hunters to demented Nazi doctors and idealistic cenobites, torture, sadism, and masochism appear to be ever present in the history of cinema.

Perhaps the first step in this task is to better understand what we mean by torture. According to the United Nations, for instance, torture implies acts in which severe and prolonged pain and suffering are inflicted on a person for purposes other than killing him. Thus, in principle, a violent and gruesome death should not be mistaken with a form of torture, does not matter how bloody or painful it may be.

As a consequence, in spite of all their viciousness and gory assaults, Friday the 13th (1980), Halloween (1978), and Predator (1987) do not appear to feature scenes of torture. But if you think about it, such a distinction is not crystal clear in other films. For example, one wouldn’t call Alien (1979) and Dawn of the Dead (1979) torture flicks, but serving as an incubator and being eaten alive could qualify as forms of torture.

Similarly, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is rarely described as a torture film, even though it features one of the most harrowing and extended sequences of psychological torture found in the annals of American cinema. And equally difficult to classify as a torture film, The Exorcist (1973) boils down to the story of an angry demon inflicting severe and prolonged pain and suffering to a young kid.

Therefore, because of our complex cultural intertextuality, it may be difficult to define the exact generic conventions of the torture porn subgenre. Nevertheless, it is possible to avoid sophisticated intertextual conundrums and identify a torture flick as one where acts of torture are the main visual and narrative drivers of the storyline.

Most likely, Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) was the first film to showcase a scene of torture. Arguably the best collaboration between horror legends Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, The Black Cat is loosely inspired by the literary works of Edgar Alan Poe. However, it manages to remain faithful to the eerie atmosphere that characterized Poe’s oeuvre. A required viewing for the enthusiastic fright film fan, The Black Cat is often considered as one of the best horror movies that emerged during the '30s and '40s.

A sinister and gloomy tale of human corruption and obsession, The Black Cat culminates with a character being skinned alive. Even though such an act of torture happens out of frame, it was enough to generate disapproval by critics. However, The Black Cat proved to be extremely popular with Depression-era audiences and the film quickly became the highest grossing release of the year.

Bringing to mind the ostensibly cathartic effect produced by the recent wave of torture porn flicks, The Black Cat appears to have brought some sort of solace and comfort to audiences preoccupied with the appalling cultural and economic problems of the period. However, The Black Cat did not initiate a trend. Indeed, The Black Cat is one of the few movies released during the '30s, '40s, and '50s that featured scenes of torture. The only two other examples that come to mind are The Raven (1935) and The Hands of Orlac (1935).

Even so, in these early films all the scenes of torture are veiled and off screen. However, by the early '60s the production code that regulated the sex and violence content of Hollywood productions weakened and eventually collapsed. As a consequence, during the '60s and '70s, a large number of horror films had more explicit scenes of torture, sadism, masochism, and humiliation.

The first clear trend of torture films that emerged during these years can be termed as the inquisition flick. As with The Black Cat, Poe’s work served as inspiration for a film about madness, corruption, and obsession. Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) takes place in 16th century Spain and the climax involves a young man trapped in the titular torture device. The torturer, played by the inimitable Vincent Price, is revealed to be the demented son of an inquisitor.

While the violence was kept to a reasonable level, the commercial and critical success of The Pit and the Pendulum is likely to have influenced a series of films that depicted a demented inquisitor torturing, mutilating, and humiliating innocent bystanders. Most of the time, their victim was a young virginal girl who refused the sexual advances of the inquisitor.

Not surprisingly, the amount of violence and sexual situations increased with each new entry in this subgenre. The most notorious flicks in this trend include The Witchfinder General (1968), The Bloody Judge (1970), Mark of the Devil (1970), and Mark of the Devil 2 (1973). Evidence of the cruelty and brutality of these films is the fact that most of them have been banned or censored at some point in time.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most bizarre, offensive, cruel, nasty, sadistic, demeaning, and brutal torture films are those that belong to the Nazisploitation cycle. As the name suggests, these films take place at the high of World War II and feature Nazis committing a variety of sexual atrocities to prisoners or innocent bystanders. Brutally explicit in terms of sex and gore, Nazisploitation films offer abundant scenes of torture and humiliation. Needless to say, these flicks are not easy to watch by the average moviegoer.

The first film in this notorious subgenre appears to be Love Camp 7 (1969). A truly unbelievable story, about two female agents infiltrating a Nazi sex slave camp to rescue a Jewish scientist, is a shameless excuse to portray numerous scenes of rape, torture, sadism, lesbian sex, and sexual degradation. Interestingly enough, Love Camp 7 not only was seminal in the gestation of the Nazisploitation film, but it also defined the narrative and visual structure of the Women in Prison films that were extremely popular during the '70s.

Following the success of Love Camp 7, a large number of Nazisploitation films were released during the '70s. Some of these films include: Ilsa, She Wolf from the SS (1974), SS Hell Camp (1977), SS Camp 5: Women’s Hell (1977), SS Experiment Love Camp (1976), SS Girls (1976), Nazi Love Camp 27 (1977), Salon Kitty (1976), Love Train for the SS (1977), Deported Women of the SS Special Section (1976), Bordel SS (1978), The Red Nights of the Gestapo (1978), and a contender for the best title in the history of motion pictures: Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler, aka The Gestapo Last Orgy (1977).

The staggering large number of Nazisploitation titles released in such a brief period of time is a clear indicator of the popularity that these films enjoyed. Furthermore, it is truly unbelievable that even respected directors contributed interesting films to this overlooked subgenre. Indeed, Liliana Cavani made The Night Porter (1974) and Pier Paolo Pasolini, the controversial Italian art film legend, directed Salò (1975).

One of the most controversial and disturbing films ever made, Salò is a loose adaptation of the Marquis De Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom. Pasolini cleverly adapted de Sade’s story to take place in the Fascist Italy of 1944. Featuring scenes of torture, degradation, and sexual humiliation, Salò nevertheless provides an incisive criticism to the complex political, social and moral tribulations that haunted the WWII years.

Not surprisingly, Salò was originally labeled by critics and audiences as disgusting, pornographic, repulsive, and immoral, decadent, and depraved. Therefore, it is perhaps ironic that a truly disturbing film like Salò has managed to become an icon of cinematic art. Today, rather than being considered as another demented entry in the Nazisploitation subgenre, Salò is appreciated for its many artistic merits.

In this regard, it is conceivably that Salò forces us to reconsider the case of Martyrs. Indeed, both films were repudiated and demonized because of their onscreen obscenities. In the case of Salò, for instance, it was a long time before critics and scholars were unable to see beyond the superficial decadence of the film. Thus, it is within the realm of the possibility that Martyrs may one day be rightfully recognized as a true landmark of horror cinema. For this to happen, of course, critics, scholars, and audiences need to get over their impulsive disgust and learn to appreciate the beauty that sometimes hides in the most repulsive scenes of violence and brutality.

In any event, even though Salò took cinematic violence to uncharted lands, certainly was not the last film to portray scenes of torture. A more recent example of torture films are those in the Hellraiser franchise. The brainchildren of Clive Barker, the Cenobites are demonic entities that explore the extreme limits of pain and pleasure. Each Cenobite is characterized by a specific type of self-mutilation and most of these films present a variety of brutal, gory, and original torture devices. Furthermore, as angels from the abyss, the Cenobites are in charge of torturing souls for eternity.

As such, it is perplexing that Hellraiser (1987), and it gory sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), never generated as much controversy as the recent wave of torture porn flicks. Arguably, the torture and brutality in the Hellraiser films appear to be perceived by audiences and critics as “safer”, making these movies far less repulsive than Martyrs or Hostel.

One reason for this reaction could be that the viciousness in the Hellraiser films has a strong supernatural undercurrent. As such, audiences could distance themselves from the onscreen horrors by simply taking a skeptical position. However, all the films quoted by Edelstein present torture inflicted to humans, by humans. As such, they feel more “real”.

Another reason could be that most of the central characters in Hellraiser appear to enjoy torture and self-mutilation. As such, the images of pinhead and chatterer do not feel gruesome, but they feel tantalizing, alluring, appealing, and fascinating. Furthermore, it has even been reported that Hellraiser motivated a number of people to look for exotic forms of self-mutilation and masochism.

However, these arguments entail sophisticated moral conundrums. For instance, both arguments suggest that most people have no problem with onscreen torture and mutilation, for as long as the victim is supernatural or happens to enjoy pain. In other words, it does not appear to be a problem with torture, for as long as the 'right person' gets tortured.

Such moral puzzle was further explored by the hit TV series 24 (2001-2009). Recent seasons of this show have delved into the issue of torture as a legit mean to interrogate nefarious terrorists. In episode after episode, torture is always portrayed to be the most efficient and effective method of obtaining information from the bad guys. Even though some critics have pointed out at the problematic subtext, most audiences appear to enjoy the show without remorse. But then again, 24 trivializes moral issues because all the villains are really evil and there is little doubt about their alliances and treacheries.

As evidenced by the Nazisploitation, Inquisition, and Hellraiser flicks, torture in films has a long, rich, and sophisticated history. And by no means was our exploration intended to be a complete and comprehensive treatment of the topic. In any event, those who claim that the modern torture porn subgenre is a brand new cultural product manufactured and consumed by a decadent postmillennial society should see a few Nazisploitation movies from the '70s. And those who think that Martyrs is the most depraved and obscene film in the history of motion pictures, should take a look at Salò.

In a sense, perhaps the main difference between the Nazisploitation films and the modern wave of torture porn movies is that the former where shown exclusively at grind-houses, drive-ins and midnight showings, while the later have been shown at family-friendly multiplexes and the DVDs are readily available at the local Walmart.

Therefore, the big questions remain unanswered: why are these films so popular? Is it because the audience identifies with the torturer in a cathartic process that safely vents frustrations and repressions? Or is it because the audience identifies with the victim taking a masochistic stand? To date, no clear evidence exists to suggest the exact process in which audiences become engaged to these films.

Regardless of the answers to these questions, torture porn is likely to remain a complex cultural phenomenon for the years to come. It already poses interesting academic challenges for critics and scholars. For instance, traditional theoretical frameworks such as Carol Clover’s gender cross-identification process, which was successful to explain the popularity of slasher films, breaks down in the modern torture porn subgenre because the “final girl” usually succumbs to her assailant.

In addition, Western culture’s perspective of torture is complex and paradoxical. On one hand, it is considered immoral, illegal, primitive, and indecent. On the other hand, it is shocking to see that torture methods continue to be used in the interrogation of prisoners of war. Furthermore, Christian religion delves around the adoration of a symbol which is an instrument of torture, and Catholic churches are ornamented with icons portraying a man brutally tortured to death.

Without a doubt, ignoring, condemning, censoring, or wishing away torture porn films will not further our understanding of the intricate cultural dynamics that shape our world. Torture porn movies may deal with immoral and depraved themes that are contrary to our social norms of conduct, but they remain complex cultural products that deserve serious academic attention and analysis.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

The Hall of Fame has been harshly criticized for some of its more inexplicable exclusions and for neglecting certain subgenres of music. Cynicism and negativity over the Hall's selection process and membership is fairly widespread. That said, despite the controversies and legitimate gripes, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still widely viewed as a career milestone. The Hall's stature feeds its surrounding controversies: after all, nobody would care to argue so vehemently about the merits of one artist over another if it wasn't important. Very rarely will a newly inducted artist miss the opportunity to appear at the star-studded ceremony to accept their honor.

The criteria for nomination is as follows: "Artists -- a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians -- become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock and roll." Specifically for performers, "This category honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn't limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills."

These standards allow the selection committee wide latitude with their choices, and generating a list that would create zero controversy is an obvious impossibility. As for those deserving artists yet to be included, their time will surely come. There has purportedly been an emphasis on increasing diversity among the nominating committee and voters in recent years, and the list of contenders for the class of 2018 reflects this.

Radiohead, as expected and deserved, are nominated in their first year of eligibility, and there is little doubt they will be inducted. Other nominees include Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Rage Against the Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies. It's a strong and varied group.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the list, however, is the British duo Eurythmics. Even though they've been eligible since 2006, this is their first nomination. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox certainly deserve recognition for their important contributions to the musical fabric of the last 40 years. While Eurythmics have always been generally respected, they've never been darlings with the critics like some of their contemporaries. It's puzzling as to why. Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting and creative audacity. Lennox is second to noone as a vocalist, not just in her lead parts but also in the creative, often rhythmic way she uses her voice as an instrument. This nomination could boost the stature and perception of Eurythmics' body of work immeasurably.

Although Eurythmics are often consigned strictly to the synthpop genre, that designation fits only a portion of their repertoire. Each of their nine studio albums has its own unique vibe while retaining the duo's core identity. Eurythmics never repeat themselves, often taking bold risks and swerving in unexpected directions. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Eurythmics didn't "sell out" or compromise by chasing after obvious Top 40 hits. Even their most popular singles aren't commercial in the traditional sense, and they've always sounded like nobody else on the radio.

Despite the sudden emergence of their 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" as an MTV staple and international smash, Eurythmics are far from an overnight success story. Their story begins in London, 1975, when Stewart fortuitously encountered Lennox at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The Scottish singer had recently dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, which she felt didn't suit her musical interests. Stewart and Lennox strongly connected over their love of music, and they quickly became a couple who were inseparable. Along with singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed a short-lived group the Catch. After one failed single, they added two members and renamed themselves the Tourists.

Coombes was the dominant creative force and primary songwriter behind the Tourists. Lennox and Coombes shared vocals on the band's dour and melancholy power-pop. The Tourists released three albums and managed a handful of chart appearances in the UK. Two of their singles, a peppy cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" and the hard-rocking "So Good T\to Be Back Home Again", made the UK Top 10. The band toured extensively, but their success was fleeting. The Tourists' third album, Luminous Basement (1980), tanked badly despite containing their strongest material yet, and the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

Lennox and Stewart also endured a painful ending to their sometimes tumultuous romance, but they recognized the power of their musical chemistry and decided to continue working together as a duo. They were a pair "who couldn't be together, and who could not be apart", as Lennox reflects many years later in the song "17 Again". History has shown that they made the right decision: Stewart and Lennox compliment each other intuitively through a shared passion for music, the thrill of experimentation, and the need for emotional release that songwriting and performing allows.

The name Eurythmics was derived from a technique used to teach music to children based on sensory and physical methods of learning rhythm. The newly-christened duo signed with RCA Records and in early 1981 headed to Germany to record their debut album with highly-respected krautrock producer Conny Plank.

Plank already had a long string of acclaimed albums to his credit, including collaborations with Neu!, Can, Ultravox, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno among others. The sessions for what would become Eurythmics' debut album, In the Garden, were held at Plank's studio in Cologne. He brought several of his regular collaborators into the proceedings, including bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit of avant-garde rockers Can, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and D.A.F. electronics whiz Robert Görl. Stewart has described the sessions as a learning experience that helped expand his perception of what pop music could be and how it could be created without following any rules, a perspective that served Eurythmics well.

Eurythmics' austere and hypnotic debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again" was released in May 1981. They filmed a low-budget video and landed a couple TV slots to promote the track, but the song's haunted nature did not translate to mainstream success: it barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK singles chart. A second single, the dreamy guitar-rocker "Belinda", followed in August but failed to chart.

In the Garden was finally released in October 1981, but without a hit to generate momentum it was barely noticed. Despite scant sales figures, the album's gloomy psychedelic guitar-pop makes for a rather strong debut. In the Garden exists in late summer shadows, densely atmospheric and shrouded in a veil of dread. Lennox's vocals are understated, subtle and lower in the mix than on subsequent albums. Sound effects, odd vocalizations and bits of sonic experimentation fade in and out like flashes of hazily repressed memory.

RCA wasn't eager to invest in a follow-up to In the Garden after its disappointing reception, so Stewart financed Eurythmics' second album largely through a personal bank loan. Faced with a minuscule budget, they worked in a London warehouse to avoid spending money on studio time. They were able to purchase cheap second-hand equipment for the sessions, including the basic TEAC 8-track on which most of the album was recorded. Adam Williams, former bassist for the ska band the Selectors, helped the duo learn the equipment while co-producing some of their earliest tracks.

The primitive set-up was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Since they were financing the sessions and self-producing, Eurythmics had the freedom to experiment with no oversight. As both Lennox and Stewart were enduring periods of deep personal strife at the time, the sessions evolved into an emotional and creative catharsis that helped shape the mercurial nature of the music. It was out of this environment that a classic was born.

Despite appearing only a few months after their debut album, the first single to emerge from the new sessions proved radically different than any of Eurythmics' prior work. Released in April 1982, "This Is the House" is a flamboyant, horn-driven spectacle on which Lennox belts out a vocal more confident and brash than any of her prior work. The song's odd mix of synthpop, R&B; and latin influences renders it completely unique, but despite its infectious ingenuity and beguiling loopiness (or perhaps because of it), "This Is the House" failed to chart.

The follow-up single that landed two months later is even better. Entrancing and soulful, "The Walk" exudes the anxiety, drama and innovation that became Eurythmics' hallmark. The vocal arrangement is ingenious, and Dick Cuthell (known for his work with Madness, the Specials, Fun Boy Three and others) lets rip a blistering trumpet solo. As in many of their songs, "The Walk" slowly ratchets up the tension through hypnotic repetition and the gradual addition of more layers of sound until it reaches a haywire frenzy. Although a brilliant recording, "The Walk" fared no better than its predecessor.

With the duo's second album Sweet Dreams (are made of this) completed, RCA began a strong promotional push, issuing the opening track "Love Is a Stranger" as a single in November 1982. Lennox's dazzling vocal ranges from icy cool to fiery passion over a relentless electric groove bracketed by sinuous lines of synth. "Love Is a Stranger" rose to #54 in the UK, their highest placement yet, and momentum was finally building for the duo thanks in part to the single's provocative video.

The first significant chapter in a series of visually arresting promotional clips that Eurythmics generated over the span of their career, "Love Is a Stranger" showcases Lennox's dramatic presence and her innate ability to command the viewer's attention. She plays multiple roles, ending the clip with her red hair slicked back and dressed androgynously in a man's suit. Image was quickly becoming an important part of the Eurythmics' equation, with Lennox always compelling no matter which character she inhabits, and Stewart often appearing as her sort of mad-scientist counterpart.

Sweet Dreams (are made of this) hit the shelves on 4 January 1983, along with its title-track, a single that continues to reverberate through pop music nearly 35 years after its release. Suddenly everything changed for Eurythmics. An obscure British duo, barely managing to survive in the music business, soared to the top with one of the more unconventional songs ever to scale those lofty heights.

"Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" has an unusual structure, with no real verses or chorus. Lennox has described it as a mantra, and indeed it is. The lyrics, which Lennox rattled off spontaneously in a matter of minutes, are a simple but profound statement about the human condition: "Everybody's looking for something," the search for meaning and fulfillment, the ephemeral "this" of which sweet dreams are made.

Lennox begins the song with a single line of vocal, then starting with "some of them want to use you" at the 0:24 point it doubles. From there the song gradually builds intensity, with the vocals increasingly layered. A masterful finalé combines all the sonic elements before fading to black, the mantra repeating endlessly, the "this" still stubbornly undefined. The booming minor-key bass riff and the epic string-motif solo starting at 1:31 are played by Lennox on a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer. The main riff (improvised by Lennox while listening to Stewart working on a drum-machine pattern), is a simple two-bar arpeggio that loops throughout most of the song. Two parts were recorded separately and panned on opposite sides of the sound spectrum, creating a richly resonant effect. "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" is no dated relic from the early days of MTV burdened by the limitations the time. Its massive waves of synth flood out of the speakers with enormous power, as inexorably as the tide.

The music video, which became wildly popular on MTV during its heyday, is forever entwined with the song in listeners' collective consciousness. The iconic image of Lennox in her masculine suit and flaming orange flat-top helps to define the new wave era. Her forceful demeanor, nervy confidence and the subtle nuances of her facial expressions amplify the song's inherent tension. She confronts the viewer directly by pointing right in our faces at the 0:24 mark. At 1:56, she offers a sly half-smile with, "some of them want to abuse you", and at 2:15 she pounds her fist just as the song reaches its dramatic apex. Stewart appears throughout the video stoically pecking away on the drum machine he used in the recording of the song, the Movement MCS Drum Computer MK1 (except for that part where he and the cow have, well, a moment… It's all in the eye contact).

After a slow climb up the US pop chart, "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" was finally able to derail the Police's "Every Breath You Take" from its seven-week reign at the top during the week of 3 September 1983. It would be Eurythmics' only chart-topping pop hit in America, and it reached #2 in the UK. In the wake of Eurythmics' new-found fame, "Love Is a Stranger" was re-released, this time becoming a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album's deep cuts are every bit as strange and fascinating as its better-known singles. The ghostly "Jennifer" is a narcotic reverie of keyboard swells and spectral atmospherics. "I've Got an Angel" and "Somebody Told Me" are serrated neurotic fits, swerving dangerously off-the-rails from anything that would normally be considered pop music. A long and mesmerizing exploration of urban isolation, "This City Never Sleeps" is a powerful finalé. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is an examination of the human psyche fraught with turmoil, a series of jagged recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks set to music that is soulful and experimental, melodic but eccentric, a stark electronic soundscape that bristles with horns and unexpected sonic jolts.

Next Page: Potent and Ferocious

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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