The Curmudgeon

Man oh man has it been a great month or so for new music. I cannot believe how much stuff I have heard in such a short amount of time that has completely kicked my ass. I haven’t seen a boon in music that was this great in almost a decade. No matter what your taste there is an awful lot out there. Seriously, it is an amazing time for new records. I have widdled down my crazy long list to just a few.

STUFF I LIKE:

Sonic Youth: Rather Ripped – This is kick ass SY with heart, thought and acute insight. They still remain relevant after twenty-five years.

Mission of Burma: The Obliterati – This is hard rock fun form Boston’s MOB. Songs like “Nancy Reagan’s Head” and “1001 Pleasant Dreams” are shredders that remain catchy enough to keep everyone happy.

Black Angels: Passover – Anyone who likes old Echo & the Bunnymen or Joy Division will love the band’s sprawling melodies and droning guitars. This is great.

Asobi Seksu: Citrus – This NYC outfit combines stargazer pop with delicate lyrics to make some amazingly emotional music.

Justice: Waters of Nazareth (EP) – Justice is from France and kick ass in that way that French electro pop doesn’t. They are loud, crunchy and bang the hell out a beat.

Regina Spektor: Begin To Hope – What are you waiting for? She is going to be huge. Spektor takes the kookiness out of piano pop and replaces it with irony, well conceived lyrics, clever concepts and brilliant imagery.

The Futureheads: News & Tributes – This is no sophomore slump. The Futureheads turn up the amps here and make some spirited rock & roll. They are feisty and raucous and definitely a fresh new voice in UK pop.

One of the great things about being a music nerd is that once in awhile record labels and artists will reissue an artist’s albums with extra cool stuff and better sound. This has been the case for recent reissues from The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that The Jesus & Mary Chain back catalog was getting reissued. Anyway, to make a long story short, the reissues suck. They don’t have extra tracks, only a few videos each. Plus they didn’t do anything cool with the liner notes. To make matters worse, the new batch of reissues from Wire and Depeche Mode disappoint as well. The DM discs features mixes and tracks that have previously been released elsewhere and don’t really offer anything new. The Wire reissues offer somewhat crisper sound, but no extras. What all this bitching and a hollering means is this, caveot emptor when it comes to new reissues. After all, all I really want is extra stuff that isn’t anywhere else. An example of how to do it right is the new Regina Spektor CD. It comes with an extra disc of material that has been hard to get recently but are still kind of cool to have for fans. My point is this, labels and bands need to give the music fan out there more for their money with reissues. In this day of downloading it becomes even more important for them to appease the whims of their music hungry public no matter how bad their anal or completist tendencies may be.

Daft Punk

Daft Punk are set to release their first ever film, Daft Punk’s Electroma later this year.

It has indeed been over a decade since we last heard form Kurt Cobain’s favorite band, The Meat Puppets. But fear not dear reader, the band recently announced they have reformed and are recording new material.

Another one of Cobain’s favorite bands, The Slits, have also gotten back together. They have a new album due this fall with Tackhead’s Adrian Sherwood producing.

Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright and some band called U2 are featured in I’m Your Man, a film from Lian Lunson about singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. The film features extensive footage from 2005’s Come So Far for Beauty Cohen tribute concert which was held in Sydney.

Frank Black will mount an acoustic solo tour for most of the next two months in support of his has release, Fast Man Raider Man.

Let’s Rock Again, the ill-fated 2004 documentary about Joe Strummer has finally come out on DVD.

Just when you thought it was safe to be camp again, The Scissor Sisters have returned. Their new album, Ta-dah, is due out on September 18th.

David Bowie, Sir Ian McKellan, Dianna Rigg and Orlando Bloom are just a few of the faces that will be seen in the upcoming series of Ricky GervaisExtras.

The Decemberists have signed with Capitol Records. Their new album, The Crane Wife, is due this October.

Richard Ashcroft“Words Just Get In the Way.”

Air

Air has begun work on a new album for a midyear 2007 release.

Fans of Level 42, and there are millions of them, are eagerly awaiting Level 42: The Definitive Collection which is coming out this fall.

Portishead recently announced that they have actually completed songs for their much anticipated third album.

Bassist and founding member Andy Nicholson has left The Arctic Monkeys.

It has been too long, but DJ Shadow is just about ready to drop some new beats on the world. His new album, The Outsider, should be out by summer’s end.

The Klaxons, currently one of the most hyped bands in the UK has released a new single, “Atlantis to Interzone.” They are gonna be massive.

Another new it band form the UK, The Long Blondes, who are on the verge of big things, have a new single coming out, “Weekend Without Makeup.”

The Ramones seem like an odd choice for a musical, but alas it is true. Gabba Gabba Hey (aka Ramones: The Musical) is now being performed in London with Hugh Cornwall of The Stranglers, Tony James of Sigue Sigue Sputnik/Generation X fame and Tommy Ramone (the one who isn’t dead yet) in the lead roles. Billed as the first punk rock musical the production looks to go to Broadway in the next year. This isn’t too much of a surprise considering musicals about Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Frankie Valli have already been staged. It is though kind of sad and scary.

Also scary is ex-NKOTB punk Joey McIntyre, who is currently playing Fonzie in the Happy Days musical which is playing in LA.

The genocide in Darfur is tragic and horrible, but not as horrible as the meteoric rise of that talentless mannequin of pop music badness that is Kelly Clarkson. Man she is bad. I rather get a root canal, or hear an entire album of reggae songs sung by Screech from Saved by the Bell then hear that drek she passes off to an unsuspecting public.

Maybe I missed something, but when exactly did Nelly Furtado start dressing like a skanky chick trying to sell records?

Superman Returns really would have been better without the kid and with another actress as Lois Lane. But I did like the effects and how they made him use all of his super powers in a somewhat convincing way. I didn’t expect any real acting from Superman to begin with so I wasn’t off put by Brandon Routh’s performance. Although I can’t help but pity poor James Marsden it is really hard to suck in four superhero movies. But he shouldn’t worry; there is always the convention circuit.

The latest season of Doctor Who was okay, but I think it didn’t really flow as well as the previous season. I didn’t mind Tennant so much but the stories weren’t as solid or intriguing. I am glad to see Piper leave and hope they take the show in some different directions with the next companion.

The Lake House is everything I hate about Hollywood films. It’s schmaltzy crap with bad acting and no redeeming intellectual value.

I thought that Cars was pretty clever and fun. I must admit though that I am one of those weirdos who really like most of what Pixar does. Still, I think the film had some really great creative moments and generally was paced pretty well.

STUFF I’M READING:

Daft Punk

The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. Although Beevor has tapped into this subject before, here he manages to broaden the scope and examine the causes of the conflict and its effect on Europe. Beevor is one of the most readable historians around. His use of narrative is excellent.

The Italian Boy by Sarah Wise. You would not expect a book about body snatching in 1830s London to be so riveting. But it is. Besides chronicling the famous case of a missing boy whose cadaver changed British law, this book is also a really good study in the culture of pre-Victorian London.

Finally, make it a point to listen to some new music and read something interesting. Also, in this ghastly obscene summer of humidity and heat, please make it a point to stay hydrated and look in on your elderly neighbors. I say this because as I write this it is like 200 degrees in the Curmudgeon bunker. So drink more water goddammit!

The Curmudgeon

Spring is a time of renewal they say. Therefore I can think of no better renewal than by clearing out some crap that pisses me off. So, as requested by my three readers we’ll start with the ranting…

George Romero

As we get closer to DragonCon I have to ask, who’s got the keys and how do we get them back? They score points for getting George Romero but lose all of them with a negative balance for turning this into a cast reunion for Happy Days. I for one and tired of really crappy programming and lackluster guests who are just there for the Walk of Shame. I mean, what the hell is going on here? People should be really pissed about this and voice their complaints. Plus, they continually just don’t get it.

The same could be said for the over spacious and over hyped Comic-Con. It is almost too big now and almost devoid of any soul. Oh yeah, the comics bit is almost gone as well. It has been hijacked by guys in suits who see us as sheep.

It’s sad that it has come to this. It really is, because most of us just want to have a nice weekend and commiserate.

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Tsotsi (2005) – Movie Review

Written by Gavin Hood, based on the novel by Athol Fugard
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Israel Makoe, Percy Matsemela, Jerry Mofokeng

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Lately, Hollywood has made scores of films made about murderers, robbers and reprobates who find redemption and salvation. However none of these blockbusters measure up to Tsotsi–a moving independent film from South Africa. Winner of an Academy Award and several film festivals, the film is both deeply upsetting and uplifting. It’s one of those grimy films, much like 2002’s City of God, that relies on the power of the visual image to tell story.

Set over a period of six days, it’s an emotionally transforming story of a tough-as-nails Soweto gang leader on the lamb after killing a man on a crowded bus and then beating up a repentant gang member in a sweaty, dank and dark Soweto club. While on the run, he commandeers a car and shoots the female driver. After the carjacking he looks in the back seat and discovers the woman’s child in the backseat, thus embroiling him in the most difficult of positions for a gangster.

In order to avoid detection, Tsotsi must look after the child in secrecy. His initial attempts at child-rearing are meet with comical and tragic results. Consumed with panic, Tsotsi turns to Miriam, a widowed mother for help. Over the next several days Miriam and Tsotsi form a bond that leads Tsotsi into strange new emotional territory. If that were not enough, he must also fend off Sergeant Zuma, a brutally obsessively cop who will stop at nothing to reel Tsotsi in. It is these two conflicts–the conflict with the law and the conflict within him–that leads Tsotsi down the difficult road of self-discovery and redemption.

Presley Chweneyagae is astonishing in his breakout performance as Tsotsi. From the outset, Tsotsi is a man filled with rage, dashed hopes and a bleak future, a fact prolifically underscored by Chweneyagae’s anguished facial emotions and quiet angry stares. Chweneyagae is the emotional and physical powerhouse that propels the film.

Terry Pheto plays Miriam, the Soweto mother who helps Tsotsi nurture the baby while injecting common sense into his thick skull. Since Miriam is one of the catalysts for Tsotsi’s redemption, a great deal of the film’s emotional resonance lies in the hands of Pheto. Fortunately she does a terrific job of making her character shine like a diamond beneath the grit of Soweto’s rough streets.

Like any good film, Tsotsi’s success lay in the vision of its director. Writer/director Hood takes the crime-filled ghettos of a post-Apartheid Johannesburg and transforms them into townships of hope and salvation. His brilliant direction and tight script helped the film garner the 2005 Academy Award for best foreign film.

Tsotsi is well acted, crisply directed and visually stunning triumph of cinema. This rough and ready tale of rage and redemption is just one of the reasons why South Africa has recently been touted as the new “hot spot” of world cinema.

Buy the DVD from Amazon.
Buy the soundtrack from Amazon.
Buy the novel from Amazon.

The Curmudgeon

While the rest of world pays attention to college basketball and that terrible Wachowski Brothers film, I’ve spent most of the last month hiding in my bunker listening to loads of new music. This is the best time of year, loads of new bands are releasing music and lots of bands are on tour. What this means for music junkies are that we get to OD on soundage for awhile.

One of the newest bands out there is Tapes n’ Tapes. They have a new album called The Loon that is just smashing.

It has been ages but The Flaming Lips are finally rolling out At War With the Mystics, their latest record. The album’s lead single, “The Wand,” is getting some play on bad commercial alternative radio stations now. Look for them to launch a new touring extravaganza soon.

Gary Numan has released Jagged, his first new album in five years.

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The Curmudgeon for February 2006

Happy New Year and all of that!

Now that the holidays are over, we can all get back to our miserable lives and consume mass quantities of popular culture.

David Tennant as Doctor Who

It is an exciting time to be a Doctor Who fan. The small taste of the Tennant era given to us with The Christmas Invasion has whetted our appetites for even more of the new series. All signs indicate that the upcoming season will prove to be just as exciting as the last.

A few thoughts on the new season, I am excited to see K-9 and Sarah Jane coming back. However, I am cautiously optimistic about the return of the Cybermen, my all time favorite Doctor Who baddies. Obviously I want them done right. So you can imagine that I was worried when I saw the new “C” on their chest and the sort of clunky Iron Man outfits they’ve made for them. I do think though that Mr. Davies will do something interesting and develop them in an interesting way that will quickly ease my nerves.

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