Reviews

Twisted Sister: Twisted Sister: The Video Years [DVD]

We might be 20 years older, but we still wanna rock.


Twisted Sister

The Video Years

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: Rhino
UK Release Date: 2007-07-16
US Release Date: 2007-06-26
Artist website
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The career trajectory of Twisted Sister was akin to that old rollercoaster comparison: the long, slow climb, the exhilarating ride, and the sudden halt. They toiled for a decade in the rock clubs of New York and New Jersey, they skyrocketed to fame, and before they knew it, it was all over, but for a fleeting period between the summer of 1984 and the summer of 1985, that bunch of skuzzy, poodle-headed New Yorkers in the clown makeup and the spandex were the biggest thing during the mainstream heavy metal explosion at the time, and we loved 'em for it.

Currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance following the shocking success of the even more shockingly enjoyable Christmas album A Twisted Christmas, you can't blame the boys for milking the renewed interest for all it's worth, and their brand-new DVD Twisted Sister: The Video Years is tailor made for those of us who spent junior high listening to Stay Hungry our ghetto blasters and watching the classic video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" on TV repeatedly, reciting the dialogue word for word ("I carried an M16 and you carried that (gasp) that (gasp) that (gasp)...guitar"). With well over two hours of live footage, interviews, and of course, those videos, not only does the DVD boast a bevy of material for the fans, but it also allows the band members to look back on Twisted Sister's rise and fall with refreshing frankness and good humor.

The centerpiece of the disc is the seven videos from 1983 to 1987, most notably, the clips for "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock", which brilliantly tapped into the collective consciousness of teenagers everywhere with their incessant hooks, slapstick humor, and most importantly, the performances of actor Mark Metcalf. A take-off on his infamous role as Neidermeyer in the film Animal House Metcalf plays the verbally abusive father and schoolteacher, chewing the scenery with his hilariously over-the-top monologues, (literally) spitting each line like venom, eyes bulging, veins popping, his questions of, "Whadda you wanna do with your life?" answered with three simple words (come on, you know them). Which in turn cues the entry of the band to save the day, liberating the son and the high school from the clutches of the tyrant, whose Wile E. Coyote-like attempts at revenge backfire at every turn. Such a simple concept, but so groundbreaking at the time; lead singer Dee Snider says the head of MTV was convinced the seven minute clip would flop, dismissing it as nothing more than "method acting". How wrong he would be. One crucial error is made, though, as "We're Not Gonna Take It" is inexplicably edited on the DVD, the opening dinner table scene and the majority of Metcalf's dialogue going missing.

After the success of the two videos, in the opinion of bassist Mark Mendoza, the band had painted itself into a corner, with a public seeing them as nothing more than clowns, expecting laughs instead of quality music, and we can see that happen the further we go into the band's videography. Underrated power ballad "The Price" is actually a good clip, showing a make-up free, street clothed Twisted Sister at a soundcheck, but while it effectively emphasizes song over image, the MTV kids cooled on it, as did Atlantic Records, who stopped pushing the album. The band was at a crossroads by the time the hugely anticipated follow-up Come Out and Play was released in the fall of 1985, and the band unanimously agrees that they took the worst possible direction imaginable, first with a horrible choice for lead single (an awkward cover of "Leader of the Pack"), a desperately comedic video, and a lavish, expensive zombie-themed video for "Be Chrool to Your Sceul" which was summarily banned from MTV. It was a spectacular crash and burn, the final nail in the coffin being the 1987 clip for "Hot Love", in which both video and song shamelessly hopped on the exploding "hair metal" fad.

While Twisted Sister continues to be categorized as a hair metal band by people ("Those bands were good looking," says French, "We looked like grandmothers"), at their best, they were much more old school, drawing heavily from glam rock, shock rock, and most crucially, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Like fellow New Yorkers Manowar, they found a strong audience in the metal-friendly UK first, and we get a very cool glimpse of the band on a raucous 1982 TV performance, playing a cover of "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)" with Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister and Brian Robertson. Interestingly, it would be that very performance which would lead to their signing to Atlantic Records (much to the dismay of the chairman, who had rejected the band on several occasions prior!).

The real treat, though, is the original Stay Hungry Tour concert, which first aired as an MTV special and was subsequently released on videocassette the same year. Filmed in a San Bernardino airplane hangar in front of a ravenous crowd , the quintet shows just how potent a live act they were in their heyday. Annoyingly, MTV crassly interrupts the show with a pair of videos in place of the live renditions (oddly, this is where we can see a longer version of "We're Not Gonna Take It"), but that's actually a good thing, as we get to hear some scorching versions of more underrated songs like "Burn in Hell", "Under the Blade", and "Stay Hungry". The band, all of whom were considerably older than the majority of the metal phenoms at the time, sound tight and professional, the perfect support for Snider, who puts in a dominating performance, displaying fantastic vocal range, and of course, the ability to make an audience of thousands go nuts (although Snider's prodigious use of profanity has been sadly cut from this version). Appropriately, this videotaped concert concludes the DVD, giving us a snapshot of a band that was getting tantalizingly close to the top of that first climb, unaware of the insanity that would ensue soon after.

7

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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