REVIEW: Chicken & The Chick Flicks – “Too Bad About The Sun”

Chicken and The Chick Flicks’ Too Bad About The Sun, out now on Shinkoyo, is exhilarating for reasons that most records simply aren’t. A microtonal-poetry reading for a demented albeit low-key dream, the record pairs Thax Douglas – he of the live concert reading; check the resume here – with Skeletons b(r)and leader Matt Mehlan, and the results are pretty thrilling, though a little unbalanced.

If press materials are to be believed, Douglas and Mehlan, way back in 2006, just jammed on the material contained herein at the Silent Barn in NYC until it jelled and one can hear the ambiguity of each piece kind of wrap its fingers around the grooves of your brain. (Mehlan recently discovered the recordings and prepared them for release.)

Mehlan’s noodling, drummer-less, vaguely post-rockish instrumentals are the perfect background for Douglas’ sometimes-raspy, often-emotion-parched microtonal readings and, though sometimes the music is more a thorn than a bud (“Frozing”), the subtle variations on scales and measures add a kind of emphasized break to Douglas’ readings, a way of turning stanzas into verses and choruses, if you will. Much of the record recalls the lo-fi vocal mannerisms of a Daniel Johnston or Jad Fair, but its title track and parts of the fretless guitar-scraping “Welcome To My World” elicit more parallels with Partch’s invented ensembles. The closing “Food For The Restless” and the space-cadet-armed “Goodbye To Candy” are mind-benders. And, for a record this bizarre, that’s saying a lot.

Let it be read into the record: this is not a record for most. Too Bad About The Sun seems to almost go out of its way to be confrontational in presentation and vaguely amusical, if I can coin such a term. But, for a person looking for a unique spoken word recording, or a Mehlan enthusiast seeking his work outside of Skeletons and Uumans, Too Bad About The Sun isn’t too bad at all.

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Film Review: “The Lovers”

Debra Winger — hugely popular in the ‘80s — kind of throttled back working as a film actress around 1995. And while she’s worked in the industry on and off since then, it was kind of a surprise to see her name attached to a new movie in 2017.  But let me be frank and say that I don’t think I’m the only person to think: “Debra Winger is still acting?”  However, she is and she does a fantastic job of it in “The Lovers” — written and directed by Azazel Jacobs.

Unfortunately for Winger and co-star Tracy Letts, the script of “The Lovers” languishes in laconic pacing for the first half. That’s a shame because great acting can only do so much to elevate a film that is trying to say something about long a term marriage where the relationship has fizzled into inertia. The fact that so few films examine these kinds of things (mostly because the subject is kind of depressing) means that Jacobs has the advantage of not having to compete with films that center on the early parts of falling in love and keeping a relationship going. And while “The Lovers” doesn’t completely fail in telling its tale, it does take a certain amount of patience from the audience for the story to really kick in.

Winger and Letts play Mary and Michael, a couple who just kind of sleepwalk through life at home and work. Both are are having affairs in an attempt to feel something again, but it seems that spark isn’t quite there with their lovers Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Lucy (Melora Walters). Robert is madly in love with Mary, and Lucy clearly loves Michael. But late middle age does something to the soul of a relationship. Michael and Mary have been married for a long time, and while the passion for each other is but a distant memory, they can’t quite commit to their lovers because…well, because their son is coming home from college and it’s just not a good time. However, even that excuse masks deeper reasons they stall in ending their marriage. This is where the movie gets interesting. After watching these rather dead souls for half the movie, the story takes a bit of a twist as Mary and Michael rediscover their desire for each other. Lest you think it’s all a ruse just to spice up their marriage, you’d only be half right. Read one way, Michael and Mary’s motives are purely carnal. They like the excitement of rediscovering sex with each other. Read another way, Michael and Mary’s motives are about the joy of not living with a ghost anymore; about finding that spark of attraction that led to a long life together.

However, all that changes when their son Joel (Tyler Ross) and his girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula) come home for a visit. Joel already has a lot of emotional baggage regarding his father. He knows he’s a lying, cheating, asshole, and he’s prepared Erin not to fall for Michael’s bullshit. But Erin is not a judgemental person, so she’s gives Michael the benefit of the doubt and teases out bits and pieces of Michael’s past and finds him rather interesting. Joel, on the other hand, is very judgemental, and doesn’t trust his dad and wonders why his mom is still with him. As the film enters its denouement, we see that Joel’s visit was a catalyst for the life changes the characters were ready to make. They just needed a push from their son.

While “The Lovers” is not a great film, it does tackle long term marriage, affairs, and what people want to make them happy life — and does so in ways that isn’t didactic, but neither is it entirely well executed. Yes, Debra Winger and Tracy Letts save the film from sinking in the first half, and their skilled acting elevates the second half with better writing and story. However, things like Mandy Hoffman’s violin based score and Azazel Jacobs screenplay tend to mute or bury some of the more compelling elements of the story that reveal themselves later in the film. Overall, you may walk away from “The Lovers” perplexed by the motives of the central characters, but also understanding that their quirks and flaws are what make them so wholly suited to each other.

What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?: Psychedelic Furs, “Pretty in Pink”

She turns herself round and she smiles and she says, “This is it, that’s the end of the joke.” What’s THAT supposed to mean?

Some songs are ambiguous. Some songs go a step farther. They can present contrasting ideas, not in conflict with each other but both equally valid.

That’s the case with this pugnacious yet delicate Psychedelic Furs classic. It’s rough but pretty. Caustic but compassionate. Snide but sympathetic.

Peruse the usual sites dissecting lyrics, and you’ll get a few fanciful interpretations. Maybe Caroline is transgender. Maybe it’s about a woman who died in a car accident, and all her past lovers wore pink in tribute.

That’s overthinking it and failing to see how brilliantly this song tells a simpler story. Caroline sleeps around. Period. Singer/lyricist Richard Butler, typically conveying his thoughts in a world-weary voice that’s simultaneously pleasing and abrasive, sees the good and bad in her situation, presenting a complex portrait of a simple situation.

Such nuances apparently did not make it to the John Hughes film that took its name from the song, as Butler explains in an interview that clearly states what was on his mind:

The idea of the song was, ‘Pretty In Pink’ as a metaphor for being naked. The song, to me, was actually about a girl who sleeps around a lot and thinks that she’s wanted and in demand and clever and beautiful, but people are talking about her behind her back. That was the idea of the song. And John Hughes, bless his late heart, took it completely literally and completely overrode the metaphor altogether! I still like the song.

That interview also shows a few reasons why, intentionally or accidentally, Butler and the Furs crafted a song that captures Caroline’s duality.

Let’s start by dismissing the idea that this is simply a laundry list of slut-shaming insults. Here’s Butler on the criticism that this album, Talk Talk Talk, was sexist:

That was a little surprising. I didn’t find there were any attitudes on there written as a male that couldn’t also be felt as a female. If I were to posit the idea that I didn’t want to have a romance with somebody, I just wanted to sleep with them, I was accused of sexism? I think that’s a fairly commonplace way of thinking for males and females. Not every time a girl has sex does she want to get married and have babies with the person – you know? It seemed a curiously old-fashioned way of looking at it all, and in a way, reverse sexism.

And Butler sees a bit of sadness in Caroline’s life choices. The second verse is all about the guys who pass through her life so quickly:

All of her lovers all
Talk of her notes and the
Flowers that they never sent
And wasn’t she easy, and
Isn’t she pretty in pink?

The one who insists he was the
First in the line is the
Last to remember her name

There’s also a hint that Caroline has been sucked into a conformist world, simply going along with what she thinks a woman is supposed to be. “Caroline laughs, and it’s raining all day / She loves to be one of the girls.”

But the third verse puts Caroline in control. One interpretation at SongMeanings even suggests that Caroline finally decides to say goodbye to this lifestyle.

Beyond the lyrics on the printed page, the song is riddled with duality — which the re-recorded version for the John Hughes film destroys. Here’s Tim Butler, Richard’s brother and the Furs’ bass player, from the same interview linked above: “It was a popular song before the movie, and I think it is a classic song. We re-recorded it for the film because they said there was some slightly out of tune guitar work on the original. I could never figure it out, but that was the reasoning.”

I also don’t hear anything out of tune. But the original has two clashing guitar lines. In the background, we hear jangly chords, as if Michael Stipe is about to lay down one of his more upbeat portraits of Southern life circa 1983. The lead guitar is distorted. Rougher. There’s something pretty about Caroline, but there’s also something raw and primal.

And Richard Butler had a seat-of-the-pants approach to writing lyrics, as the brothers explain:

RB: Yeah, I’ve always been a really bad procrastinator in everything, and pressure of that kind works to my benefit.

TB: Richard always used to be writing stuff down on pieces of paper – whether he was in a bar or a dressing room or sitting at home. He’d suddenly pick up a piece of paper and write something down. He’d have notebooks with bits of napkins in it, etc. Sometimes he’d just be hit by a lyric.

So parts of Pretty In Pink feel unfinished. In the second verse, Butler stretches out the word “eaaaaaaaasy” over 10 beats, then simply restates “Isn’t she pretty in pink?” We don’t know if Butler simply decided that was the best approach — emphasizing the point that Caroline isn’t particularly picky — or just ran out of words. In the context of the recording, that second verse gives the impression that Butler is actually struggling to come up with the right words.

Accidentally or not, it’s a brilliant narrative device. Too much polish would have ruined this song — the re-recorded version for the film is a pale imitation. Butler’s portrait is conflicted, with scattered bits of eloquence that don’t lend themselves to a coherent judgment of the protagonist — because there IS no coherent judgment of that protagonist.

The most memorable line of the song — “She lives in the place in the side of our lives / Where nothing is ever put straight” — says more about Caroline’s lovers than it does about Caroline. Her lovers treat her the same way they treat old memorabilia tucked in a drawer — perhaps one day earning a prominent place in the household, perhaps not.

Caroline’s lovers may treat her as a joke. Butler doesn’t. He sees that she’s letting herself be a disposable part of these men’s lives. Some interpretations suggest she has a bit of delusion that this is more meaningful, saying “I love you” and “too much.” But Butler sees beauty here as well.

Caroline’s going to be all right. At least this all happened before Craigslist and Tinder.

 

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Twelve

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode Twelve…  dozen beats eleven!

The dynamic team of Jon Grayson and Rob Ross once again deliver with a deeply intense conversation about Big Star, including the upcoming biography of Chris Bell; a quick shoutout to Robert DeStefano of The Blood Rush Hour and a teaser for the upcoming review of the band’s latest album; the out-of-control psycho circus of Washington D.C.; the new albums from Matt North and Hite; Jon’s breakdown on the return of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in concert with Peter Chianca’s recent Popdose piece, which turned into a discussion on the lack of the younger generation’s point of reference; Rob’s take on “La La Land”, the highly popular “In Our Heads” segment and more!

Listen in and join the fun – and let them know what you think – maybe they’ll talk about it on the next show…

Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross:  Episode 12


 

The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

 

Album Review: Various Artists, “Songs, Bond Songs – The Music Of 007”

By no stretch of the imagination was the James Bond film series the first to understand the marketing power of popular music. You’d have to go back as far as silent movies, where a score was played live for the audience, to see how the two mediums — movies and music — first got tangled together. But it is safe to say that few film franchises have become as well-known for its theme songs as the Bond series has.

After all, what’s the conversation like whenever a new entry is announced? Who will be the Bond Girl(s)? What will the Bond gadgets be? Who is doing the Bond title song this time? Just as one can expect anticipation for the song, one can also expect that there will be debates about it, and who does it. (Are you pro-Sam Smith or pro-Radiohead?) But for a few exceptions, each entry arrives as a new composition with a new celebrity performer behind it.

There are some things that remain consistent. Primarily — and I don’t mean this to sound derogatory, but I’m guessing it will — most Bond themes sound like they’re written by pubescent males. Over the top lyrics typically illustrate big ego, big drama, big sex, and big paranoia, and in order to complete the task successfully, the performer needs to play this game straight. You can take liberties with a Bond song, but you cannot have “fun” with it. This is life or death stuff, after all.

Songs, Bond Songs – The Music Of 007 is the fourth release from Andrew Curry’s label Curry Cuts, and the third which features unique versions of well-known tracks (the previous material being ’70s Lite Rock and ’80s Brit Rock and Pop). By and large, Curry has scored another winner but, as you can guess, the remit must have been the most difficult of all.

It comes down to the conviction of the performances and how far you’re willing to go. The most successful reinterpretations are willing to rewrite the parameters, but not the rules. Freedy Johnson’s take on “For Your Eyes Only” as an acoustic ballad strips away the soft pop enlargement of Sheena Easton’s original, and the intimacy works perfectly. Lisa Mychols’ version of “The Man With The Golden Gun” brings all the pow and zap of the late-’60s and early-’70s, arguably the era where James Bond held the greatest sway with pop culture, without reducing the song to a parody.

That’s a tough job. No one on the compilation had a more difficult assignment than Jaret Reddick (Bowling For Soup), but by all accounts, he personally signed up to do the theme for “Thunderball.” The original is an overwrought piece of nonsense that came as a last resort. Other songs had been commissioned. Dionne Warwick recorded one, the equally absurd “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” But producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli disputed the value of having a theme that doesn’t directly namedrop the movie title (subsequently selling said movie on pop radio stations). “Thunderball” was written. Tom Jones was enlisted to sing it, and he did with all the conviction of a man fighting off the armies of SPECTRE with one hand and holding three bleach-blondes with the other. Like I said, the songs readily and unabashedly courted adolescent fantasy and machismo. 

The tracks that do not work best — and I suppose this is strictly a case of personal opinion rather than an empirical determination — either play too loose with the ground rules or are way too beholden to the originals. The former neglects the narrow parameters of what a Bond song is and, therefore, misses the target entirely. The latter…well, you might as well go back and listen to the originals instead, right? As with any Various Artists compilation, tastes run the range, and the aspects that don’t suit me might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Of the tunes that do it for me, multi-instrumentalist Joe Seiders, drummer for The New Pornographers and heard here as Big-Box Store, takes one of the least-effective latter day Bond themes, “Die Another Day,” and gives it new life. Jeff Litman and Andi Rae Healy layer “You Only Live Twice” with a gauzy, hypnotic frost, providing unexpected and much-needed weight to lyrics that weren’t very complex from the start. The combination of these with John Barry’s descending chords — a progression he’d revisit for the “Theme from Midnight Cowboy” — make a great impression.

At a total of 26 tracks, the odds are in your favor that you’ll find a lot to love about Songs, Bond Songs – The Music Of 007. Andrew Curry’s winning streak appears to be unbroken, and the only question now is, what can he possibly do to top himself?

More information about Songs Bond Songs – The Music Of 007 is available here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/444321026/songs-bond-songs-the-music-of-007

Popdose Premiere: Mike Errico, “Here’s to the End of the World”

Anticipating the release of his new album, Minor Fits, Mike Errico is teasing out songs from his eighth release. Popdose is thrilled to share one of them — “Here’s to the End of the World” — with you, but in typical fashion, we’re given an inch and grabbing a mile. Seeing an opportunity to find out more about the song and project, we backed Errico into a corner and threw the light on him. “Tell us more about this, Errico, or else things could get…you know…complicated.”

I don’t think he minded, to be honest.

“Here’s to the End of the World” is scheduled for release on Thursday, May 25. Thanks for letting Popdose be a part of the rollout for the tracks from Minor Fits. It’s striking that this track is so topical, and yet you suggest that’s a fortunate occurrence of unfortunate circumstances?

“Here’s to the End of the World” is noteworthy in a few ways: First, It’s a singalong drinking song about the apocalypse, and though it was written well before 2016, it’s feeling weirdly topical. It owes debts to the Pogues, the Beatles and my ample time spent singing at bars.

Clearly we are living in those accursed “interesting times” someone once wrote about. So tell me about the process when you did write it and, perhaps, if you had the foresight then to see where we are now in 2017, what would you have changed about it?

I wrote it long ago – it must be a decade or more. I never released it, but it stayed with me all these years, as if it were waiting for the properly apocalyptic moment. I thought it was weird to go so far back like that to retrieve a song, but I was inspired by Radiohead, who put out the 20-year-old “True Love Waits” on A Moon-Shaped Pool just last year. If a song works, I guess it doesn’t matter when it was written. But I wouldn’t change anything about it. I think the fact that it doesn’t mention a specific news peg works to its advantage. And the song’s overall message of camaraderie makes it a universal drinking song that’s versatile enough to plug into whatever apocalypse you might be going through. That’s about all you can ask out of a song, really.

You are a songwriting professor who’s taught at Yale, Wesleyan, and NYU’s Clive Davis Institute. As a songwriting professor, you have a different view of construction and structure than others might have. I’m sure it helps in many ways, but could you articulate how that knowledge might have helped you create this song and the album in full?

Well, in the big picture, teaching has sharpened my ability to focus on what, exactly, a song wants to say. The biggest issues I see in my classes is that students are either unclear about that, or they’re trying to tell two stories at the same time, negating either one.

I start the semester with a piece of wisdom I lifted from author George Saunders: Art is kind of like a box, and the job of the artist is to have people to walk into that box, and walk out having experienced something that is both “undeniable” and “nontrivial.” Song form – where the chorus goes, what a bridge is for, etc. – ultimately has to pass that smell test. From there, the debate is how to balance one’s imagination with the writer’s tools that put that imagination in appropriate lighting. If that sounds both vague, yet pretty specific, then you get what I mean.

At the same time, were there moments during writing and/or recording where you needed to suspend the analytical side, that perhaps the process was getting in the way?

For sure. And I did my best to keep my own balance, though I consciously decided that, if I was going to err on a side, it was going to be that things don’t go off on enough tangents and “jams” that some people love. But honestly, I didn’t worry about it, because the songs came very quickly, so the unconsciousness is, to me, baked in to the writing itself. They’re taut, but they also flow. Live, I open the solos up, and let things breathe a little more, but then, live performance is a completely different medium.

What comes first typically: the lyrics or the music, or are they interchangeable according to the feeling of the moment?

I take whatever comes, whenever it comes, with hands outstretched and tears of gratitude. Sometimes the music arrives, but doesn’t want to hang out with words: I make those instrumentals, and save them, or use them for TV and film work. Sometimes the words can’t be bothered with music, and I make those short stories, essays, lectures, or rants that live in a notebook and sit on a shelf until they’re ready to play nice.

The future of music — versus, I suppose, the future of the industry is a topic that fascinates me. Personally, I believe there will always be major labels and they will always dominate the business…but at the same time, that’s becoming an entirely separate business (or business entity) than what we once knew as “the music biz.” I’d like to get your read on these…

It’s so funny, because I was initially inspired, on all levels, by Ani DiFranco’s DIY ethic, so the concept of “major label” doesn’t ring to me the way it does to some artists. There will always be a version of major labels, I guess, but I don’t assume that I, or my students, require one. There are so many definitions of success, now.

A friend gave me a great piece of advice in putting this record out. He said, “Consider your audience, however big it is, and think about what would be fun for them to be on the other side of.” I mean, what else is there? I’ve been releasing singles, videos, stories, and I have a Pledge Music campaign that has all kinds of interesting offerings that orbit music, but are not necessarily musical. It’s about making conversation more than making a killing. And I’m cool with that.

Getting back to “Here’s to the End of the World,” there’s another special aspect to the song that ties both your recording and teaching worlds together.

The “gang vocalists” that sing along with me at the end are friends and students of my classes. (Through) teaching, I’ve come in contact with many noteworthy individuals who are now alums of my classes: Maggie Rogers; Overcoats; Michael Blume; Mree; Tor Miller; Jil; Sarah Solovay; and more. I keep in touch with all former students through an online community called, “The Hang,” and a group of them came to the studio to help me out. I think I’m building a special community, there.

Minor Fits is currently a part of a Pledge Music campaign. You can find out more about it and about Mike Errico at: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/mikeerrico

ALBUM REVIEW: THE BAYONETS, “Crash Boom Bang!”

Once upon a time, you had a thing called “rock and roll”.  Happy to say, it’s still alive and well and thriving in the sounds of The Bayonets.  Put together all the best elements – a little Stones, a little Ramones and a little garage thrust to make the motor go – and you have The Bayonets.  Fronted by Paul McCartney’s guitarist and bassist (for the last 15 years!), Mr. Brian Ray, along with his drumming cohort, Mr. Oliver Leiber (three guesses who his father was) have been making this glorious and melodic racket for the last few years and now, their first release on Jem Records, Crash Boom Bang! will be exploding out of your headphones on May 17th. Rounding out this rollicking musical aggregate is Lucrecia Lopez Sanz and they make a glorious racket.

With the mid-’60’s garage/rave-up “Like She Does” kicking things off, you know you’re in for a swinging, good time – crisp production; upbeat and catchy and instantly memorable; “I Feel Love” is a full, organ-driven piece with a damned melodic chorus and easy to sing along with and stomp your foot in time to and “So Easy Rider” has a great, dense sound with a build up from the verses to the chorus, which makes this one of the absolute standouts.  “Voodoo Doll” has some delicious slide guitars to give it a slightly sinister, swamp feel and choogles along nicely; “Vagabond Soul” which, with its horn section and gentle, opening guitar figures, harkens back to Stax, circa ’66, ’67 and features Aerosmith legend Steven Tyler (!) and is easily my personal favorite; “Whatcha Got” is another guitar twang/riff fest and picks up steam with Ms. Lopez Sanz’ vocals on the bridge and “Last Man Standing” closes out the collection back in the garage; Ms. Lopez Sanz delivers convincing emotion on the verses.

You’re left slightly breathless by the time this album concludes, which is a good thing.  It’s a 100-miles-an-hour joyride.  Pure, classic rock & roll joy.  This band has got it right on all levels, so it wouldn’t be off the mark to say it’s time to let your musical senses be pierced by The Bayonets.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Crash Boom Bang! will be released on Friday, May 19th, 2017

http://www.thebayonets.com/index.php/home

POPDOSE PREMIERE: Chantal Monté, “Everything”

At the risk of sounding totally trite, it is Monday, and we’re all still in need of some major weekend vibes to get us through the start of another week. Wherever you are, even if you’re sat behind a desk, take a second to relax, unwind, and spend a few minutes with Chantal Monté.

A product of post-‘1960s San Fran, Monté translates the power of meditation, sexuality, and transcendence through her music. Her new single, “Everything,” from her upcoming EP Syrup, embodies the kind of cool, sensual sound that lures listeners into a peaceful place. Combining her soft, mantra-like vocals with a bare-bones arrangement from collaborator Nuno Meneses, Monté pairs the studio-created background track with her words — recorded from her own bed.

Here, in its Popdose premiere, take a listen to Chantal Monté’s “Everything,” the ideal track for yoga, meditation, or, ya know, other things. And be sure to visit her website to learn more about her music.

Beat – Cloud & Music Player App Review

Beat – Cloud & Music Player App Review


A really cool cloud & folder music player nifty little app especially if your device is running low on storage give it a try.

heres the link to the app

like and subscribe!!! 🙂