Film

'Cause Who Would Hear Me Scream? A Faith No More Mixtape for the Joker

Heath Ledger as The Joker

One could almost make the case that the four Faith No More albums produced during the Mike Patton era were written for the Joker.

“Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

-- Alfred (Michael Caine), The Dark Knight

“And it’s okay to laugh about it.”

-- Faith No More, “Ricochet” (King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime)

In a feat worthy of the Clown Prince of Crime, Faith No More somehow managed to encapsulate the fractured, subversive purpose of Heath Ledger’s Joker 16 years before Ledger’s Joker came into being. Consider this excerpt from “Midlife Crisis”, a single from 1992’s Angel Dust:

I’m a perfectionist

And perfect is a skinned knee

This notion struck me while I was listening to Faith No More on my iPod while doing the evening dishes. (I initially titled this column “Compiling Joker’s iTunes Playlist”, but a mixtape is more do-it-yourself and somehow anarchic; surely an iPod is too tidy for Joker.) I was also struck by the song’s chorus:

You’re perfect, yes, it’s true

But without me, you’re only you

Huh. Sounds like something Joker might say to Batman. Come to think of it, so does this lyric from “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies”, from Faith No More’s King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime: “Your day has finally come / So wear the hat and do the dance, and let the suit keep wearing you.”

Indeed, the more I thought about the Mike Patton era of Faith No More, the more it seemed that one could almost make the case that their four studio albums were written for the Joker. Here I speak not just of Heath Ledger’s portrayal, but indeed every incarnation of the Joker character since his first comic book appearance in 1940.

Surely Faith No More’s more abrasive tracks (“Caffeine”, for example, or “Smaller and Smaller”) would appeal to the character who described himself as “an agent of chaos” in 2008’s The Dark Knight. It seems equally certain that the Joker of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel, who raised unsettling but credible implications about Batman’s relationship with the young, tights-clad Robin, would endorse vocalist Mike Patton’s justification for the shockingly loyal direction the band took with their cover of Lionel Richie’s “Easy”; asked why the band opted to play it straight rather than add thrashed-out guitar work or what-have-you, Patton insisted (correctly), “It’s more Satanic this way.”

“It’s always funny until someone gets hurt

And then it’s just hilarious!”

-- Faith No More, “Ricochet” (King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime)

In Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, the Joker offers what might be his definitive statement from seven decades of appearances in print and on the small and large screens:

It’s all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for—it’s all a monstrous, demented gag!

The Joker who delivered that line would love the smash-cut from verse to chorus in Faith No More’s “Collision,” from 1997’s Album of the Year:

When the dawn breaks

With a handshake

Relaxed and feeling great

Screechin’!

Head-on! Head-on! Head-on!

I’m needin’

A head-on! Head-on! Head-on!

Collision

Arkham Asylum ends with Batman escaping from a truly lunatics-run asylum, only to have Joker bid him farewell by saying, “Enjoy yourself out there… in the asylum.” This corresponds to lyrics from Faith No More’s “Pristina”, the final song from 1997’s Album of the Year:

These walls won’t keep them out

They’ll keep you in

What a Joker thing to say; let’s not forget his choice of words in The Dark Knight when he repeatedly mocked Batman’s impotent efforts to intimidate him: “You have all these rules, and you think they’ll save you!”

“Rhymes and giggles muffle the dialogue”

-- Faith No More, “Kindergarten” (Angel Dust)

Then there is 1989’s The Real Thing, which is tame and mild compared to Faith No More’s later efforts, though it boasts more than a few hints of depravity and sedition sure to appeal to Joker. “From Out of Nowhere” sounds almost like a traditional love song, but it also happens to be the perfect From Joker To Batman ballad:

Obsession rules me

I’m yours from the start…

You come from out of nowhere

My glance turns to a stare

Don’t know if I’ll laugh or cry…

All becomes you

Skeptical? Recall Joker’s plea to Batman in The Dark Knight: “You complete me.” Ledger’s delivery of this line was arresting not because it was sarcastic, but because it was utterly earnest; I wouldn’t hesitate to deem his delivery more charged than Tom Cruise’s offering of the same line to Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire.

Joker’s sincerity simultaneously subverts and validates the corny Hallmark power of the original line, much in the same way that an errant hand on a steamy car window in a crass and miserable sex scene between Shep (David Harbour) and April (Kate Winslet) in Revolutionary Road made a subtle mockery of the more famous and audience-pleasing love scene between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.

“You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”

-- Joker (Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight

Or perhaps the unfortunately titled “Zombie Eaters” better summarizes Joker’s feelings for Batman. It seems on the surface to have been written from the perspective of a baby singing the praises of its mother, but Faith No More songs are seldom that straightforward. I’ve long believed that the narrator of “Zombie Eaters” and the pedophile character who narrates “Edge of the World” (both from The Real Thing) might be one and the same; perhaps the baby’s perspective is only utilized to reflect that the pedophile character is stunted.

Whatever the case, “Zombie Eaters” contains lyrics that could definitely apply to Joker’s relationship with Batman:

You’re everything, that’s why I cling to you…

I like to make a mess

I laugh at your distress

Mike Patton behaving rather Joker-esque

“Zombie Eaters” also features a cry of, “Nobody understands except the toys in my hands,” followed soon after with a demand of, “Give me! I need my toys!” These lines would never have struck me as relating to Joker a week ago, but once you start combing through Faith No More’s lyrics with Joker on the brain, everything seems to take on a new significance. (In “Digging the Grave”, Patton sings, “Let something in, throw something out / You left the door open wide,” while in The Dark Knight, Ledger tells Christian Bale’s Batman, “You changed things. Forever.”)

In the case of Patton singing “I need my toys,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jack Nicholson marveling aloud in 1989’s Batman, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

Also from “Zombie Eaters”:

If I smile, then you’ll smile

Then I’ll get mad for a while

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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