THE BLUES BROTHERS
John Landis shaped a great deal of my childhood. He’s was definitely the first filmmaker I knew by name, having seen The Blues Brothers when I was seven years old. I knew every line of dialogue, and could perform every musical number – complete with choreography (which mom made my kid brother and me do at parties). I saw Animal House with my father when I was ten. That wasn’t awkward at all. My tiny mind was blown by American Werewolf not long after. I saw Three Amigos on opening day. I may be one of the only people alive to have seen Innocent Blood in a theater.
When I met Sam Raimi, we talked tech. When I met John Carpenter, I pitched him a film. When I met Edgar Wright, we cut up. These are the heroes.
When I met John Landis…it made the Chris Farley Show seem dignified. I smiled. I sweated. I mumbled. Color drained.
Say what you will about his misfires – a wise man once told me, “You only have to prove genius once.”
Universal drops a double shot of proof today. One is one of the most influential and important comedies ever made, and one is one of the most audacious examples of excess in cinematic history. Both are beyond classic.
DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT
Maybe it’s the fact that I adore Tiziano Sclavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore…maybe it’s because I dig Brandon Routh…could be because I wouldn’t mind a sequel to Constantine – whatever the case, I didn’t mind this film at all. It’s a breezy, noir-tinted monster flick – and some of the monsters are pretty neat. I’m not saying I’m gonna’ rush out and pick it up right after I take this live, but I will say it’s a charming diversion, and Routh is clearly having fun in the role.
Who didn’t love Moon? No one I want to know. Duncan Jones returns to us to answer the question, “What if Timecop had a brain in its head?” And ZOWIE – this movie is great. Source Code is a welcome bit of smart, sharp moviemaking.
SUPERNATURAL: THE ANIMATED SERIES
Exceedingly Japanese (read: fucked up) retellings of a few of the early Winchester adventures. The character designs seem to exist solely to fuel the crazy shut-in cat lady obeasts’ desperate desire to see Padalecki and Ackles fuck. Only thing missing are the tentacles.
WWE: GREATEST STARS OF THE NEW MILLENIUM
The WEE probably should have just called this CM PUNK, but, unfortunately, he’s not on it (because he’s clearly not one of the greatest stars of the New Millenium) – instead, you can thrill to the fluid-filled pecs of Jean Paul Levesque…wince in embarrassment as Brock Lesnar (who looks a lot like Mel Gibson knocked his metal helmet off) speaks into a microphone…and wince in, um – more embarrassment as noted racist hillbilly John Layfield also speaks into a microphone. Additionally, noted LGBT Advocate Shawn Michaels (actually, I don’t know for sure if he’s a LGBT supporter, but he calls himself a Christian and wears ass-less chaps a lot, so…it’s pretty safe to assume) and pill-popping party boy Jeff Hardy are here to thrill you.
It’s not completely awful – Chris Jericho is profiled, and we’re given a look back at Eddie Guerrero and the great Booker T – but Glen Jacobs and Mark Calloway have always been squared circle-Sominex, and they’re here too.
IT MEANS EVERYTHING: THE BLU RAY OF THE WEEK!
HIGH AND LOW
Voyager/Criterion drops a bit of Jean-Pierre and Jean-Paul this week with Léon Morin, Priest – but it’s this absolute classic from Akira Kurosawa that I’ll be racing to Barnes and Noble’s ongoing Criterion sale to pick up (might need to do Le Circle Rouge, as well). High and Low stars the indomitable Toshiro Mifune as a sharp executive forced to choose between his self-financed bid to take over the company he works for…or pay the ransom for an abducted child. Utilizing the amazing sense of pace he’s displayed time and again, Kurosawa manages to craft a film at turns deliberate and dizzying.
ALL IN – THIS WEEK’S BLU:
The Blues Brothers
Burn Notice: the fall of Sam Axe
Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
High and Low
Justice League: Season 2
The King of Fighters
Léon Morin, Priest
Life During Wartime
National Lampoon’s Animal House
S. Darko: A Donnie Darko TaleSource Code
Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series
Supernatural: The Anime Series
Winter in Wartime
WWE: Greatest Stars of the New Millennium
Yu Yu Hakusho: Season 2
AND NOW THE DVD STARTS:
MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED!
The people who brought you the Ozploitation doc Not Quite Hollywood go digging around in another cinematic treasure chest – the Philippines: Where Human Life is Cheap. I love so much of the goofy-cool that’s leaked out of there over the decades – especially the kind of post-apocalyptic insanity guys like Cirio Santiago churned out for Roger Corman – and since this stuff’s not as widely-known or as readily-available as say, the films of Brian Trenchard-Smith, it’ll be more fun to seek it out.
Alice: Season 1
American Metal: Classic Car Commercials
Angel Beats Complete Collection 1
The Art of Piano
The Art of Singing
Athens: The Mother of Western Civilization
Becoming a Billionaire
The Best of Color Honeymooners Collection
The Best of Here’s Lucy Collection
The Best of Honeymooners Lost Episodes
Big Box of Wood
Bodyguards & Assassins
Born to Ride
The Bretts: The Complete Collection
British Rail Journeys: Weymouth to Isle Of Wight
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe
Charlie Chaplin: Premium Collection Volume 1
The Clone Returns Home
Colosseum: Complete Reunion Concert
Conan the Adventurer: Season 1
Crack #11: Rap’s New Generation
Cuba: Island of Music
The Dead & the Damned
Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Colgate Comedy
Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill
The Death of Andy Kaufman
Dennis the Menace: Season Two
Do Dooni Chaar
The Dot and More Stories for Young Artists
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
Epitafios: Second Season
Fast Zombies with Guns
Fested: Journey to Fest 7
The Fish Child
Fist of the North Star Collection 3
Forbidden Knowledge of Lost Realms
Frontline: Wikisecret Julian Assange
Ghost from the Machine
Glorious Battle: Siege of Fort Erie
How to Club Dance 1
Hype: 4th Anniversary
Iran Darroudi: Painter of Ethereal Moments
Jackboots on Whitehall
Jared Diamond: Extraodinary Minds
Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler
Jennifer Kries: Energy Flow Beginner Vinyasa Yoga
Jennifer Kries: Balance Flow Intermediate Vinyasa Yoga
Jennifer Kries: Power Flow Advanced Vinyasa Yoga
Jersey Shore: Season Three
John Holt / Freddie McGregor: Living Legends
Johnny Winter: Live Rockpalast 1979
Kate Bush: Life of Surprises
King Arthur: Legend of the Holy Grail
The King of Fighters
Life During Wartime
Live Like a Cop, Die Like A Man
Machete Maidens Unleashed
Malevolent Creation: Death from Downunder
Mandrake: Seasons 1 & 2
Mao’s Last Dancer
Mark of Love
McMillan & Wife: Season 4
McMillan & Wife: Season 5
Michael Jackson: Collectors Box
Mick Jagger: Roaring ’20s
Middle Line Ambient Lazergraphics
My Dog Tulip
National Geographic: Civil Warriors
Nephew Tommy: Just My Thoughts
New York Grindhouse Superstars Triple Feature
Omnibus American Profiles
On The Other Side of Life
Once Upon a Warrior
One Piece: Collection 1
Pat Mills: Creator of 2,000 AD & Judge Dredd
Play of Light
Pointer Sisters: Live in Montana 2004
Popvich Brothers of South Chicago
Prayer to a Vengeful God
Psychopaths: Sex with Hostages
Puppet Monster Massacre
Rene Bond: Sleazy 70’s
Riverdance: Live from Beijing
Scream of the Banshee
The Sentiment of the Flesh
Sergeant Frog: Season 3, Part 1
Sesame Street: Best Pet in the World
Sesame Street: Big Bird Wishes the Adults Were Kids
Sex Psychedelia Collection 2
Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics
Shinchan: Season 3, Part 1
Snapped Killer Collection Complete Season 1
The Street: Season Two
Supernatural: The Anime Series
Teenage Twins Collection
Twisted Sister: Double Live
Two Faced Moon: Who Got There First
U.S. Open 2006: Federer vs. Roddick
Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 3
Vixens of Virtue, Vixens of Vice: Season 1
We Are What We Are
The Wedding Present: Drive
Will The Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?
Winter in Wartime
Wish Me Luck: Series 3
Women Do It Better
WWE: Greatest Superstars of the 21st Century
Yoruba Andado: Rumba En La Habana
Young Artists Collection
NOW THAT’S WHAT CHUD CALLS MUSIC – WITH JEB DELIA!
LITTLE DRAGON – RITUAL UNION
While all kinds of bands are copping to the 80’s these days, I rather admire the insanely tight focus that Little Dragon chooses to maintain: for the most part, their songs sound like the sorts of rhythm tracks that David Byrne or Prince might have laid down. Only rhythm tracks, though: what Little Dragon doesn’t seem interested in is building much in the way of tune atop that: and pop that doesn’t grab the ear needs more than just a bit of studio wanking and lyrical weirdness to put it across.
That’s not to say that singer Yukimi Nagano isn’t working the material: she warbles, growls eccentrically, goes robot here and there, but also lets loose with some surprisingly potent R & B on “Shuffle A Dream” and plays around with her sex-kitten image on “Seconds.” She’s seriously down on marriage, a theme which runs through the album, but apart from her memories of living through a difficult parents’ divorce, her ideas seem as incoherently formed as the band’s melodies.
There’s diversion to be found here and there on the album: the 60’s “talking guitar” effects that open the title song, the martial snap of “Little Man,” and the ominous rumbling that underlies “Brush the Heat.” But too few of the songs give back anything more than what’s on the surface, and they slip into the background just a bit too easily.
BoDEANS – INDIGO DREAMS
Indigo Dreams is the fourth BoDeans album since their extended recording hiatus (eight years passed between Blend and Resolution), and while the signature sound hasn’t changed much (at all?) over the years, there’s a vibrancy and looseness to this latest album that seems revitalized, compared to last year’s rather somber Mr Sad Clown. The challenge for this band has always been finding that middle ground between their rootsy tendencies and their pop instincts, and Indigo Dreams strikes the balance as well as any album they’ve done.
It kicks off with the irresistible soul guitars and handclaps of “Blowin’ My Mind,” a title that sets the tone for the album: much is recalled and invoked that is no longer fashionable, but relevant for all that: it’s probably been years (if ever) since anyone told you that something “blew their mind,” but it’s still a pithy, evocative phrase. The title song cotrasts its vivid cast of characters whose “indigo dreams” are slipping past, with the narrator’s recollection of days of tying on a superhero cape in the back yard, living his own golden dreams. “Sad Eyes” is an amusing, unblinking admission that even the drippiest sentimental song will stay with you for a lifetime if it happened to hit you at just the right time, “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” updates Dylan’s “Masters of War” with a catchy “doo-doo-doo-doo-doo” chorus, while “Mercy” closes the proceedings with the eerie sound of a Catholic confession set against dark guitar tremolo. As always, the album’s at its strongest when Neumman and Llamas are harmonizing, and tracks like “Mercy” and “How Can We” feature the kind of instinctive vocal interweaving we tend to associate with brothers like the Everlys or Avetts.
It’s probably not their best album; some of the tracks are musically undistinguished, and the ass-kicking arrangement of “Rock n Roll Overdrive” is wasted on a story of the band’s days as the “next big thing” that’s as trite as its title. If you don’t know the BoDeans, I highly recommend their live album Joe Dirt Car, which surpasses the studio versions in nearly every case; for those that do know them, it’s nice to report that they’re still on the job.
VANESSA CARLTON – RABBITS ON THE RUN
An interesting transitional album: on the one hand, Carlton seems to be stretching out, shedding her Lilith Fair support act persona, and crafting a new and richer instrumental sound. On the other hand, she’s fairly specific about the warm nostalgia of her new choice of direction: she’s back in 1974, spinning her favorite vinyl (the album title is pinched from Paul McCartney), and modeling herself on Rickie Lee Jones, Stevie Nicks, and Carole King, in tone and lyrical direction, at least. And it’s a good fit for her: a song like “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride” (“I don’t want to wear white / Oh, you know it’s too late for that“) benefits from the perspective of those role models: women old enough to look back on the trials of adolescence, but still young and perceptive enough to feel its pain, and recognize its through-line in their adult lives.
Musically, it’s Carlton’s most ambitious album yet, with just enough fancy production touches to keep things interesting: “Carousel” is piano-driven pop perfection, with the inescapable meoldy gliding on a bed of strings, sleigh bells and children’s choir; “Dear California” is a wry kiss-off (“Love me as I leave California“) that builds from a spare, droning guitar to chiming call-and-response chorus with Jagger-style maracas. And while I don’t know if I’ve ever heard her play guitar before, on tracks like “Get Good,” it seems to bring out even more of the strength in her singing voice. Not as insightful as Tracey Thorn (yet), not as winningly adventurous as Kate Bush (yet), but already more interesting than Tori Amos, KT Tunstall, and Jessica Lea Mayfield combined.
JIMMIE VAUGHAN – PLAYS MORE BLUES, BALLADS, & FAVORITES
2010 featured the Return Of The Old White Blues Dudes, and Vaughan’s Blues, Ballands & Favorites was somewhere in the middle of the pack: ahead of, say, Steve Miller or Eric Clapton, but well behind Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite. This year’s edition, though drawn from some of the same recording sessions, perks up a bit, and rises closer to the top of the class (though in 2011, that class so far pretty much consists of him and Gregg Allman).
Vaughan’s career path was more or less an anomaly for his generation of axemen, anyway: he came up in the rare blues-rock outfit whose focus wasn’t primarily on guitar pyrotechnics, and when the time came for him to step out front, he found himself completely overshadowed by a genuine original, who had a Hendrix-like vision of the possibilities of blues guitar… and who also happened to be Vaughan’s kid brother.
And despite the obvious mutual affection between the brothers, that sense of being overshadowed might be why Vaughan, these days, is at his best not with the easy braggadocio of the blues, but with the vulnerability that underlies even its toughest music, with women and booze just the most obvious of a man’s weaknesses (“Teardrop Blues,” “Hang My Head and Cry,” “Cried Like A Baby,” etc.). Most of the song choices here are, as blues covers go, obscure and/or unusual, and the arrangements are tight, while some tasty horn and sax work from ex-Roomful of Blues’ers Doug James and Greg Piccolo, puts the “jump” in “jump blues.” Vaughan’s tone has always tended toward the narrow and piercing, and where his rhythm playing brings instant toe-tapping, his solos on tracks like “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” and “I Hang My Head and Cry” are keening wails of pain.
Despite the presence of one-time Austin ingénue Lou Ann Barton on the cover, she’s only on three tracks this time (versus four last time out), and when she concludes the album by wrapping her road-hardened, wised-up sex kitten pipes around “Shake a Hand,” you feel that a full-scale partnership is overdue order for these two . Not an album to change your life, but ideal for those times when nothin’ but the blues will do.
OTHER NOTABLE 7/26 RELEASES:
Joss Stone, LP1. Well, she came out on top of a knock-down drag-out fight with her label, and managed to avoid being kidnapped; the question now is can she survive Adele usurping her audience; based on this album, my money’s on “no.” Stone’s powerful voice slogs through uninspired songs with indifferent arrangements, signaling her emotional intensity by singing louder. But, hey, points for truth in advertising: LP1 actually is available on vinyl.
Eric Church, Chief. He drinks hard, fucks hard, name-checks The Boss and wants Jesus to be cool with all this. He also rocks harder, and whines less, than most of his contemporary country brethren. If you enjoyed Kid Rock’s Americana move last year, this might be a natural followup.
America, Back Pages. Honestly, at first glance I assumed this was some kind of repackaging… couldn’t believe these goobers were still around. For what it’s worth, this is an album of covers whose principal distinction is that, along with songs from Dylan, Webb, Simon, etc., they cover a song from the upcoming Fountains of Wayne album. Guess that makes them cutting edge by definition.
Jon Anderson, Survival & Other Stories. Import CD of last month’s download release, and possibly the most interesting story of the week: a few years back, while recovering from a serious illness, Anderson added a request to his website for musicians from around the world to send him music to record, and he was flooded with responses. Given the diversity that should have offered, it’s kinda sad (though not unexpected) that this mostly sounds like half-baked Yes. . But at least he can’t be blamed for drivel like “Never before has living been so alive.”
From Bikes to Trains to VIDEO GAMES – WITH BRIAN CONDRY!
THE GAME OF THE WEEK:
CATHERINE (PS3, XBLA – retail)
Atlus makes cool, crazy games. And this is the folks who put together Persona 4, a really cool, crazy game. It looks insane and Japanese and sexy and cool…until you look at the gameplay, which is about pushing blocks around. Argh. But it’s different, that’s for sure – and that’s always welcome in this land of 3rd and 1st person shooters.
THE REST OF THE STORY:
FROM DUST (XBLA, PC)
A brand new, Populous-ass Populous game, or at least a spiritual successor. The graphics are quite gorgeous. Think Black & White but without the Molleneux Bullshit Factor. Personally, I’m looking at the PC version, the mouse controls look far superior to thumbstick.
HACKER EVOLUTION DUALITY (PC, MAC)
First, go buy Uplink. Okay, now – after that’s sucked away all your time – it’s time to check this bad boy out. Uplink 2.0 is what this looks like – and if that’s all it turns out to be, that A-OK in my book. I’m a hacker!
I don’t know. This Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions 3DS game? Looks ok, I guess. Just go buy the Pac-Man Championship game instead, it’s awesome.
ROCK BAND DLC:
Yes – Heart of the Sunrise
Yes – I’ve Seen All Good People*
Yes – Owner of a Lonely Heart*
Yes – South Side of the Sky
Yes – Starship Trooper
*means you can buy Pro Guitar and Pro Bass modes.
“Whoop” – or, should you prefer it, “whoot” – there it is. Thanks for reading. Share it/tweet it/Like it.