Music

Magnapop: Mouthfeel

Jill LaBrack

Magnapop comes out of nowhere to quietly put out Mouthfeel, one of the better warm-weather pop records you may have come across in, say, a decade or so.


Magnapop

Mouthfeel

Label: Daemon
US Release Date: 2005-01-25
UK Release Date: Available as import
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And so we have the return of Magnapop. Nine years after their last studio record and seven years after an EP and tour were abruptly canceled (better known as 'broken up' to their fans), Magnapop comes out of nowhere to quietly put out Mouthfeel, one of the better warm-weather pop records you may have come across in, say, a decade or so. Even-handedly delivering 11 tight, exciting new songs without a dud in the midst, the band never forgets what it means to kick the hell back into a melody.

Magnapop, unfortunately, never got the attention they deserved the first time around, at least not in their home country. Caught in under-distributed overseas deals and domestic label messes, the band was forever just a bit shy of the break they deserved. Anyone who ever had the chance to see them play live, though, was instantly converted. Quite simply, they rocked. Linda Hopper would distractedly engage the audience, bouncing with her eyes on some unknown spot, smiling constantly, singing with her punkish, beguiling lilt. Shannon Mulvaney played bass until his fingers bled, a new tattoo on his body for every leg of their tour. David McNair looked the veteran behind the drum kit, calm and sweating, beating the hell out of his kit and occasionally appearing as if he might fall over from too many beers. Ruthie Morris, the co-focal point with Ms. Hopper, played guitar as if her very soul depended on it. It was hard to know who to look at. Everyone was just so good. Juliana Hatfield even wrote a song about Ruthie Morris being a great guitar player. Fans of this band were entranced. It was just always too bad that not enough people knew about them.

Mouthfeel should help to change that. Linda Hopper and Ruthie Morris, working with the updated personnel of Scott Rowe (bass) and Brian Fletcher (drums), have made an unabashedly sentimental and introspective pop record. The music falls a bit on the punk side of things for some songs, while others sound like an unholy but somehow blessed union of Guided By Voices and The Mamas and The Papas. This is a record informed by choices made, time gone by, and the realization that some faces will never be seen again. One can listen to it loudly on a hot summer's day, singing along with nothing in mind but the great choruses, or with a microscope to the lyrics, lamenting those "separate familiar faces left behind" ("Pilgrim's Prayer") or considering the non-apologetic philosophy of "These are my sympathies / These are my broken pieces / They are the parts of me / I will not be releasing" ("Pretend I'm There"). One of the great strengths of this band, and this record, is the mix of the everyday with the transcendent. "Stick With Me" sounds like the frustration of someone dealing with an addict. The narrator in the song doesn't seem to know which way to turn, whether to help or give up, both being a viable option. What brings the song to the listener are the details: "prescription drugs, Benzendrine and nicotine, Sudafed for the head, Easter eggs on Valentine's Day". It's that last odd detail that drives it all home. Linda Hopper has never been one to expound on her lyrics. The songs on Mouthfeel prove that she doesn't need to. The feeling is in the minutiae, and if you're paying attention it will hit you. If you're not, the rest of the band makes these songs so instantly cool that you're driven to listen to them anyway. "Satellite" proves that Magnapop could teach a bit to even the newly improved Green Day, "California" features guitar work reminiscent of Dean Wareham, and "Elliott" updates R.E.M.'s Reckoning without ever sounding contrived.

While the music world has moved forward since Magnapop's last appearance, that does not mean the band should pass under your radar again. In a time when the Wrens and Mission of Burma can stretch and raise their heads, and Kristin Hersh has never stopped touring, save for when she's pregnant or recording, Magnapop should be in your player or your iPod, alongside the DFA Compilation, Keith Jarrett, Bright Eyes and Joanna Newsom. This band is at the top of their game. Don't let them pass you by a second time.

8

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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