Author - Rob Levy

Depeche Mode: Monument – Book Review

By Dennis Burmeister & Sascha Lange
Akashic Books

Depeche Mode: MonumentGenerally coffee tables are often a monstrous pain. They are clunky, cumbersome and often leave the owner feeling somewhat lacking because there is inevitably too much or too little content.

This brings us to Monument, a massive examination of all things Depeche Mode compiled by German uber-fan and designer Burmeister along with Lange, a fellow fan and historian of youth culture. Together the tandem skillfully walks the tightrope of creating a visual representation of Depeche Mode’s work meshed with informative facts and anecdotes about their history while simultaneously giving passionate fans something special.

More than a scrapbook, it features a concise narrative beginning with their formation in Basildon to the present. Promo photos, album and singles art, press releases and concert posters are nestled alongside a straightforward profile of Depeche Mode, including their creative process for each album, concert video and tour. It also chronicles the departure of band members Vincent Clarke and Alan Wilder within the context of how it affected the band and their development. If that was not enough it also dives into their respective side projects, from Martin Gore’s solo work to Dave Gahan’s involvement in Soul Savers, Wilder’s Recoil and the old school techno collaboration of Clarke and Gore as VCMG.

Originally released in Germany, Monument is equal parts collection, recollection and affection as it chronicles the band’s origins in synth pop to their evolution as post-punk groovesters whose grimy rock driven beats have signified multiple shifts in sound and aesthetic.

Throughout their prolific career Depeche Mode has garnered a rabid fanbase eager to learn as much as they can about them. To that end the book also documents the relationship between the band and their fans via a presentation of nearly every aspect of their catalogue (albums, singles, remixes and promos).

Overall, Burmeister and Lange get the balance right with a stuffed book that goes above and beyond in pleasing both casual fans and serious collectors.

Set the Boy Free – Book Review

Set the Boy Free by Johnny Marr

Written by Johnny Marr
Published by Dey Books

Initially known as the other creative half of The Smiths, Johnny Marr has had a pretty great run as his own guy. He’s spent most of his adult life making some of the best melodies of the last forty years via his cofounding Electronic with Bernard Sumner of New Order and signing on for stints as a member of The The, The Cribs and Modest Mouse.

Now an established solo artist he’s strummed his stuff on several soundtracks (most notably Inception) and been a collaborator with Beck, Kirsty MacColl, Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, The Pretenders and Bryan Ferry.

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David Bowie Is… Invades The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

David Bowie Is

Widge’s Note: It was one year ago today that we lost David Bowie–not the first casualty of The Year Which Must Not Be Named but just the first wave of the onslaught. But it was a bitter pill for everyone to swallow. Bowie was the Swiss Army Knife of musicians, trying on new personas like somebody whose dad owned a persona factory. One of the testaments to Bowie’s chameleon-like nature was and is the David Bowie Is exhibition, currently in Tokyo and will be headed for Barcelona, opening May 25th. If there’s any way in hell you can go, then go. Music Minister Rob Levy filed this report regarding his visit to the exhibition while it was based in Chicago. And we’re reposting it today because it’s One Year After.

Once in a while, a museum exhibition comes along that simply wows you with a sense of “I must see this!” glee and excitement! Like a Van Gogh retrospective or the Tut Exhibition from back in the day, the MCA’s David Bowie Is was such an experience.

Created by London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, this exhibition is the first to examine Bowie as a powerful figure in music, art design, theatre and film. It also emphasizes his impact on contemporary culture through the lens of his creative process and multiple collaborations. The exhibition, which opened on September 23, 2014 and closed on January 4, 2015 was a pretty big deal. The MCA Chicago was the only American venue for David Bowie Is, making it the epicenter for music freaks, artists and pop culture junkies.

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Doctor Who Season 9: A Primer

The Doctor and Clara

The good news is that there is a new season of Doctor Who coming. It has some great guest stars, familiar faces and a core of writers and directors who have never worked on the show before. Maybe an injection of new blood can tighten things up a bit this year. The bad news is that there will be no new Who for 2016, as Steven Moffat will be erstwhile-detained working on Sherlock. There has been no word of any specials or one of episodes for the coming year.

Some things that are different from last season include continued development of The Doctor by Peter Capaldi. His Doctor will still be mysterious and reckless but he’ll have more whimsy built in this year. He’s also going to have some fancy new jackets and pants as the season goes on. As with the Matt Smith Doctor before, we see a changing fashion style percolating into the lead character.

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Orphan Black: Season Three – DVD Review

Orphan Black Season 3 Blu-Ray

It seems like that every season of Orphan Black just gets bigger and bigger in terms of boldness and innovative storytelling. At a time when many shows begin to peter out, Orphan Black instead picks up the tempo, creating a pitch perfect blend of suspense, comedy and modern science that all seamlessly morph into a compelling and well-acted production.

Recently renewed for a Fourth Season, BBC America has just released Season Three as a three-disc DVD and two-disc Blu Ray set. In addition to the episodes, the collection offers a nice chunk of extras.

BBC America Synopsis:

After neutralizing the threat by the DYAD Institute and the ruthless clone Rachel (Maslany), Project Leda clones Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena, (Maslany) are finally all united in their journey towards the truth of who and what they are. But new discoveries that include Helena’s kidnapping, a book that could contain the answers to their existence, and the most shocking discovery of them all –- a set of treacherous militaristic male clones (Ari Millen) with an unknown agenda — will test how tight their new bonds are.

From the start of “The Weight of This Combination” through the finale, “History Yet To Be Written,” viewers are taken on an emotional whirlwind, which sees the Clone Club fighting Cantor on all fronts. There’s even an interesting jaunt to London and a great three-episode guest turn from James Frain as Ferdinand, a very dangerous cleaner.

With the success of Season Three, I think we can finally stop calling Orphan Black a cult TV show. The popularity stems from a few factors. First, there is real character development at work here. Second, the stories defy any single genre classification. There’s a lot of stuff in the stew, including some wonderful dark humor. This oftentimes features a quirky twist or cruel act of fate that only enhances the drama.

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The Sound Board: The Difficult 39th Episode

Your Text Here: Black Diamond Mountain Sign

This episode was delayed by a computer crash, a dead hard drive rescue, a lot of reconstructive audio surgery (so forgive the weird echoes and such) and other such fun. Apologies for the delays.

This podcast generally covers music and other transgressions. This month’s episode is helmed by Dr. Rob Levy with Prof Tuffley riding shotgun and Widgett Walls in the glovebox.

This episode’s central topic is getting back to whatever the hell we were doing before the hiatus happened, plus the usual bitching and such about the Grammy and the Rock and Roll Hall Fame, as well as a look back at 2014 and a look forward into whatever this year we’re in is called. Also, the Beck/Kanye debacle as well as the Sam Smith/Tom Petty debacle. And more.

The BBC Radio 6 shows we discuss are: Gilles Peterson, DJ Edu, Craig Charles, 6 Music Recommends, Iggy Pop and Don Letts.

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Sound Board DragonCon Special Edition: Brit Pop 2014

Union Jack Headphones

Rob Levy and Tuffley drive the panel getaway car with Widge mostly passed out in the back seat as The Sound Board makes its annual DragonCon appearance to discuss British music, give updates on what’s coming and throw a slew of recommendations out to the masses. This was a Sunday morning panel. Be kind.


Special thanks to Hyperbubble for our lead-in music. Show them love and buy their stuff.
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A Conversation With Dan Starkey, AKA Strax

Dan Starkey in the TARDIS

With the return of Doctor Who this weekend there is a whirlwind of excitement about the debut of Peter Capaldi and the return of the Paternoster Gang of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax.

Strax, a different sort of Sontaran, played by Dan Starkey, has become a fan favorite due in large part to his comedic antics and uncanny ability to misread every situation. Debuting in Season Six’s “A Good Man Goes To War,” Starkey’s lovable Sontaran “nurse” became one of the highlights of the Matt Smith era. Subsequent appearances as Vastra and Jenny’s “butler” in “The Crimson Horror,” “The Snowmen” and “The Name of The Doctor” were brilliant and then brilliant again.

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The Sound Board #36: The Analog Edition

DIY Cassette Tape USB Drive

This podcast generally covers music and other transgressions. This month’s episode is manned by Dr. Rob Levy with Prof. Tuffley manning the turret and Widgett Walls huddled in the sidecar.

This episode’s central topic is: mix tapes and curating music. Is it a lost art? Is it the same thing now to create a Spotify playlist? And what about mix CDs? Also, a round-up of summer stuff we liked, we remember Murray Gershenz and Ray Dolby, we look back on twenty years of In Utero and fifty years of cassette tapes, we discuss Miley Cyrus under protest and more.

Also, this is very late going up and you can blame Widge. [Editor’s note: Widge did actually type that bit.]


Special thanks to Hyperbubble for our lead-in music. Show them love and buy their stuff.
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To Have Or Have Not: Breaking Down the Missing Episodes of Doctor Who

Patrick Troughton from Doctor Who

For the last few months there have been persistent rumors of a “major” discovery of missing Doctor Who episodes. These rumors went into overdrive over the weekend thanks to articles in The Mirror and The Radio Times claiming that an announcement was imminent.

It appears as though the Beeb wanted to keep this thing under wraps for a while longer, but the cat is out of the bag now and they had to act. Thus we arrive at today, a time when all of the classic Doctor Who fans are waiting like a groom at the altar for a bride they know is probably beautiful…but they’d like to see for themselves.

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