Reviews

Josie and the Pussycats: The Complete Series

Hanna- Barbera promises pussycats. What we get are the contents of an overused litter box.


Josie and the Pussycats

Distributor: Warner
Cast: Janet Waldo, Sherry Alberoni, Casey Kasem, Jackie Joseph, Jerry Dexter, Barbara Pariot, Don Messick.
Network: CBS
First date: 1970
Last date: 1992
Amazon

Although Josie and the Pussy Cats is based on an Archie Comics series, you’d never guess such prestigious animated roots from watching this annoying cartoon. Instead, viewing this Saturday morning cartoon will convince you that it is little more than a lazy Scooby-Doo knock-off, and a bad one at that.

Granted, Scooby-Doo is an extremely predictable program. Everybody laughs about how each Scooby-Doo episode revolves around a monster of some kind, yet there are never any real monsters. Even so, with all its predictability, the show makers at least got the format right. Josie and friends do not even have a likeable formula.

Comparing these two shows is valid because there are many similarities between Scooby-Doo and Josie and the Pussy Cats. Whereas Scooby-Doo has its conversational woofer, Scooby, Josie and the Pussy Cats has a cat named Sebastian. Also, the Casey Kasem voiced Alan character is almost exactly like Shaggy on Scooby-Doo albeit, he’s at least a little bit cooler here.

Josie and the Pussy Cats also deals with fighting crime, but in this case, the trials and tribulations of an all-girl rock band are entered into that equation. It’s worth noting that 1970 predates bands like The Go-Go’s and The Bangles, so while there were all-girl bands at the time of Josie and the Pussycats, few went toe-to-toe and riff-for-riff with the dudes. This meant there were minimal legitimate role models, animated or otherwise, and made this trio of feminine rockers stand out from the Saturday morning pack.

But TV shows with rock bands were all the rage then. Don’t forget The Monkees and The Partridge Family in prime time. Even Fat Albert featured songs with appropriate morals at the end of each episode. And while music was essential to the Josie series, it produced no bubble gum hit records. The Archies, on the other hand, had a smash with “Sugar Sugar”.

There is also a subtle feminist angle involved. These are not just female musicians, but also crime fighters in a male-dominated world. Furthermore, this is an interracial group of bad-guy-chasing musicians. Valerie, the group’s tambourine player, is black. Valerie is usually the voice of reason among the gang, and while she doesn’t have many lines, she usually comes off as smart and centered.

The band’s other members consist of Josie, the redheaded leader/guitarist, and Melody, the not-so-bright drummer. While Josie is bold and confident, the blond-haired Melody is the butt of many jokes. For example, when someone asks Melody what a gargoyle is, she wrongly describes it as what you do with mouthwash to freshen your breath. Along with the band, cast regulars include Josie’s boyfriend and band roadie, Alan, their manager Alexander, and Alexander’s sister, Alexandra, who tries at every turn to get into the band.

If only these cartoon episodes could live up to their titles. They make you wonder if more time was spent on these titles then the actual content. It’s hard not to laugh at “Plateau of the Apes Plot”, the homage to the popular Planet of of the Apes of the same era. There are also pop culture connections associated with “Strange Moon over Miami”, “The Great Pussycat Chase”, and “A Green thumb is not a Goldfinger”. Some of these titles are relatively witty all on their own, as is the case with “Never Mind a Master Mind”. In other cases, show names are corny, exemplified by “Chili Today and Hot Tamale”. As for the plots themselves, these shows usually begin with the band headed out for some exotic concert date. But the group eventually either gets diverted to a different destination altogether, or finds trouble in every place they go.

Kids today would never fall for this show’s simplistic and unrealistic portrayal of crime. Bad guys are rarely this obvious nowadays, and much of the time, even good guys can sometimes be somewhat bad. Also, this rock band with its leopard skin-outfitted musicians is little more than three animated sex objects. And really, is that necessary? The group makes me think of the Spice Girls without the girl power chants.

Josie and the Pussycats has historical value as a typical Hanna-Barbera product from the ‘70s. But it doesn’t hold up well under modern scrutiny.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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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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