Lords of Acid: Farstucker

Patrick Schabe

Lords of Acid


Label: Antler Subway
US Release Date: 2001-02-27

Ever since their inception and the release of the single "I Sit on Acid" in 1988, the Lords of Acid have staked their claim in the techno/dance/rock world by bringing a deliberate, campy hedonism to beat hungry partiers. Almost 15 years later, the Lords are something of a cult band of international standing. And that's all in spite of the fact that they continually put out mediocre albums.

Lust, their 1990 debut full-length, gave the world such dance floor favorites as "I Must Increase My Bust"," "Let's Get High", and "The Most Wonderful Girl". The music and the samples/vocals of drug use and over-the-top sexuality were a good fit for the club, but as stand-alone discs they weren't the best of techno by far. It was the release of 1994's Voodoo U that really found the Lords hitting their stride for a moment of unlikely success. Sporting a memorably sexy album cover by "devil girl" cartoon artist Coop and an album's worth of tracks that were not only danceable but listenable, including "The Crablouse", "Young Boys", "Marijuana in Your Brain", and "Blowing Up Your Mind". Ever since, the Lords have been trying to reach that crossover mix of rock and techno, with the heavy helping of sex and drugs, that made Voodoo U a minor classic.

Unfortunately, Praga Khan and crew haven't exactly been full of ideas or innovation since 1994. 1997's Our Little Secret was packaged and marketed as the best yet from the Lords, but actually revealed that the camp had become formula. The songs were generally just bites and permutations of other songs, the lyrical quality stopped being naughty and verged on the ridiculous, and only a few songs ("LSD=Truth" and "Deep Sexy Space") stood out on the album as being worthwhile, or even worthy of the already kitschy Lords of Acid. Yet, despite the lackluster performance on this disc, the cult of the Lords grew, largely as a result of their always fun and twisted live performances. Alternative lifestyles and even porn have increasingly crawled out of the closet and into mainstream consciousness, and with them the Lords have followed, providing a soundtrack to debauchery.

With Farstucker, the Lords of Acid don't deviate far from their norm of providing club music for strippers. Yet they also show Praga Khan, the musical force behind the Lords, branching out into some less-formulaic territory and Farstucker is all the better for it. While not quite as consistent as Voodoo U, this album definitely puts the Lords back on track. The first three tracks ("Scrood By U", "Lover Boy/Lover Girl", and "Rover Take Over") are familiar territory for the Lords and might inspire the dread that Farstucker will be yet another Our Little Secret. But then the looped beats and guitars take a break and give way to surprisingly soulful piano, interspersed with recorded sounds from a lesbian domination scene, on "Pain & Pleasure Concerto". Not music to radicalize the Lords sound by any means, but it's something different, and this is necessary to the continued value of this band. This experimentation continues on the all-jazz instrumental "Take Off" and is revisited later on "Dark Lover Rising" and "Lick My Chakra". Even "I Like It", which could be an outtake from Our Little Secret for all its corny cross-dressing lyrics, is actually surprisingly good because the Lords go for -- gasp! -- a straight Europop treatment! Beginning with a tinny, scratchy chorus that sounds like the theme for a seventies kids show, the sound buttresses its tale of a woman's cross-dressing boyfriend with sunny, bubbly pop music.

These kinds of jolts keep the album alive and not running into the ground of repetition that their last effort trailed into. But don't despair; if you're an old fan of the Lords, you won't be disappointed with other tracks on this record. "Lucy's Fucking Sky" and "Feed My Hungry Soul" are the best dance tracks the band has put out since 1994. Instead of telling camp sex tales from the backs of a cheap porno rag, these songs concentrate on precision beats and heavy synths to great effect. And for those of you who like a little goth with your dance, the combined vampire effect of "Dark Lover Rising" bleeding into "Kiss Eternal" might satisfy your horror movie urges (dig those Nightmare on Elm Street Casio tones!).

If there's a problem with this album, from either the dance floor angle or that of the happy-go-slappy Lords fan, it's that this album is literally all over the place. It doesn't get boring, but it's also ambivalent about any one mood. The churning guitars that Praga Khan has favored since Voodoo U and the Lords' association with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult are even put into Limp Bizkit effect on "Get Up, Get High". But if there are moments of weakness, there are also moments of surprise, showing that Praga Khan hasn't entirely run out of ideas. And, really, we're not looking for the next classic album that is indispensable to your collection. When it comes to the Lords, we're looking for fun and fantasy, which this album has aplenty. So pull on that rubber dress, grab your strap-on, smoke or drop it if ya' got it, and get ready to boogie.

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

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Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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