IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.1
J Church/Honey Bear Records -
There's a little bit of springtime in the back of my mind...

 

Long time no hear? Sorry about that. My girlfriend was out of town and we had just done a lot of touring at the end of last year. Plus work was giving me headaches. So I needed to take something of a metaphysical bender. I didn't leave the house when I didn't need to. I only ate what was around me. I didn't write or talk to hardly anyone. But I'm back and somewhat cleansed.

 

LET THE TRIBE INCREASE

In the midst of my madness, I did get back into writing my book. For those of you who don't recall, I've been working on a book for the past several years now documenting the British anarcho-punk bands of the late `70s and `80s. That means I'm writing about everyone from Crass to Thatcher on Acid. I've stopped kidding myself that I'm going to get every band. There were just too many. But I'm at least covering all of the main points and Sean ex-Rugger Bugger/ex-Wat Tyler is sorting out the complete discographies for me. In the mean time, Maximum Rock N Roll has been running the chapters as articles. At the beginning of this year, I polished off Antisect, Dominant Patri, Anarka and Poppy, Toxic Shock, The Apostles, Faction, Chimp Eats Banana and Amebix. I'm currently sorting out Stalag 17, Disrupters, Lost Cherrees and Chumbawamba. I'm still trying to track some folks down, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

SNUFFY SMILES TITLES

I've got three different CDs from Snuffy Smiles added to my mailorder catalogue. They're $10 ppd. each if you're interested. They're the latest from J Church, Minority Blues Band and I Excuse. It's all material exclusive to these releases. The two Japanese bands are the best thing happening in non-crust Japanese punk today. Our CD is half new material and half cover songs from The Fall, Wire, The Cars, Crucifix, Richard Hell, The Misfits and Snuff.

 

T-SHIRTS

I've still got some leftover shirts from the past couple of tours. Get in touch if you're interested. The European Tour shirt is especially nice with a photo the original graffiti from May '68 that "Society Is A Carnivorous Flower" is taken from.

 

JAPAN

We're heading back to Japan in a few weeks. It will be our last time with Yoichi as he's probably not going to be doing much with Snuffy Smiles anymore. It's sad. But we'll go out with a bang as part of the tour is with Hard Skin. Should make my head explode. Here are the dates.

MAY
26 Kanagawa, Yokohama ­ Club 24 West w/ Hard Skin
27 Tokyo ­ Red Cloth w/ Hard Skin
28 Sendai ­ Birdland w/ The Urchin, Deeds Not Words
29 Niigata ­ Nile Studio w/ The Urchin, Spraypaint
30 Kyoto ­ Kiyamachi East w/ The Urchin, I Excuse
31 Nagoya ­ Huck Finn w/ The Urchin, Navel
JUNE
1 Mie Ise ­ Question w/ The Urchin, The Because, Drift Age
2 Matsuyama ­ Jet w/ The Because, Drift Age
3 Tokushima ­ Crowbar w/ The Because, Drift Age
4 Osaka ­ Saomai w/ The Because, Drift Age, I Excuse
5 Tokyo ­ Match Vox w/ The Because, Drift Age, Blotto

 

2004 "SOCIETY IS A CARNIVOROUS FLOWER" TOUR DIARY

MARCH 29th ­ FT. WORTH (1919 Hempill)
These weird little spaces are everywhere nowadays. Downstairs is where the kids hang out and goof around and upstairs is where the bands play in a big open wooden room. I think people lived up there too. I haven't been to Ft. Worth in years and years. I think the last time I was here was on our first US tour. What happened to that hippie with the amazing homemade pita bread? Thought Riot opened tonight. I'd never heard of them. But they were cool. Really nice guys too. Friendly for a band that I later found out were sort of a big deal. It was our first night of tour so like normal we left very, very late. Chris drove like a maniac and we made it from Austin to Ft. Worth in something like two and a half hours.

MARCH 30th ­ OKLAHOMA CITY (Green Door)
Nobody came out tonight. In fact, we weren't in the ad in the paper. No flyers. Blah, blah, blah. Hey, I'm sick of hearing bands whine about poor promotion too. With nobody in the house except the born again Christian punks who must have been very confused, we turned it up to 11 and blasted through the Cars' song "Just What I Needed". Probably the only time we'll ever play that live.

APRIL 1st ­ KANSAS CITY (El Torreon)
This is a pretty nifty little venue. Too big for a band like us, but the guy running the place was really cool and on the level. J Church and Dysrhythmia is definitely a strange coupling. But it was cool and I sort of enjoyed their prog/metal. That might have been the context of being on tour and needing to hear something other than the two-dozen CDs you brought. Desperately trying to get some Mexican food as we sped out of town, we ran into the opening screamo band James Dean Trio. I just assumed they hated us and what we were doing. That was our experience playing with screamo bands last time we were in Boston. But they turned out to be pretty nice and stoked about the whole show.

APRIL 2nd ­ LAWRENCE
I don't remember the name of this little place. But we've been here before. It's mostly just a little bar with a ton of pinball machines. This is our first show with the amazing Riverboat Gamblers along with their touring partners The Wednesday. Everyone was in a rush, so there wasn't much time to hang out. There's a part of me that wishes we could conquer this part of the country. So we keep coming back to lukewarm welcomes at best. It's funny how we really are at the mercy of these towns. Any of the bands playing tonight could headline in Chicago or New York or San Francisco. But tonight, all three of us are playing to about 30 kids who don't seem to be having that good of a time. We just need to try harder.

APRIL 3rd ­ CHICAGO (Fireside Bowl)
Matinees are weird. I don't really like `em. I know that there is this whole mystique with all-ages, hardcore matinees. I just find them to be awkward and too well lit. I'm pretty self-conscious and need to hide in the dark. Plus, we're not a hardcore band and, as people keep reminding us, we're not really an all-ages band. I find it hard to believe that people under 21 can't like what we're doing. But I'm old. What do I know?

Met the Methadones for the first time. Thank God they're good. We're doing most of the rest of the tour with them and it would have been a bummer if they sucked.

APRIL 4th ­ MINNEAPOLIS (Triple Rock)
Everybody loves this place, so I don't need to tell you about it. Pigged out and felt like I was in no position to play. Tore through our set at lightening speed. You've gotta do something to plant your flag when up against Riverside Gamblers, The Wednesdays and the amazing Sweet J.A.P. Tonight was all about bands going crazy, breaking guitars, jumping off ledges. Afterwards, we all headed back to Paddy's Pad for drinks and a shit talking session.

APRIL 5th ­ DES MOINES (Vaudeville Mews)
The funniest, sloppiest opening band of all time tonight. I don't know what was going on, but they surely wanted to be raging against whatever machines they could. With their delivery I'm guessing small toasters and maybe a bed lamp. Got to finally meet the folks from Spank Zine. It was fun, but I don't really think we ever need to go back.

APRIL 6th ­ IOWA CITY (Gabe's Oasis)
Oasis from what? We had some time, as there really isn't much to do between Des Moines and Iowa City so we went and saw "Dawn Of The Dead". I like Sarah Polley a lot. She should be doing better things. After tonight's show, I was thinking the same about myself. Of the few kids that were there, two of them told us that they had a J Church cover band. When they played at this same venue there were ten times as many people. What the hell? Aren't we the ultimate J Church cover band?

APRIL 7th ­ MILWAUKEE (Mad Planet)
Another matinee and this time at some sort of goth club. At least this time the show was good. It's finally feeling like a tour and not so much like doing sociological research. A bunch of kids rocking. It's not packed. But it's enough. Great Methadones set tonight. What a great singer Dan is. Got to chill out with Karoline and Robert after the show. I can't remember the name of their bar, but the food kicks ass. Lovely house too. I'd almost want to move there.

APRIL 8th ­ CLEVELAND (Pirates Cove)
I used to love Cleveland. We used to have the best shows here. Everything has been downhill since the demise of Speak-in Tongues. This show was fine. There was a bunch of people. It's just not the same. It was just another club show for us. Back in the old days, it was such a cool city to hit that we would go out of our way to make it happen. I don't know if Ohio is interested in us anymore.

APRIL 9th ­ PITTSBURGH (Mr. Robotto)
Back to reality. This is our kind of venue with our kind of people. Rockin' show better than the last time we made it through here. Hit Me Back and Suburban Death Machine also rocked. I can't remember, but I think one of the bands was from Mexico or South America or something. Now I feel pretty ignorant. Maybe I am becoming a Texan? Mr. Robotto is the quintessential American DIY venue. I'm not sure how they survive. But they make touring the East Coast worthwhile. We tried out our Crucifix cover tonight to positive results.

APRIL 10th ­ WILKES BARRE (Metropolis)
I've never heard of this town. We spent a big part of the day driving around rural Pennsylvania with the wrong address looking at scary abandoned industrial buildings and even scarier white trash residential neighborhoods. Finally got to the venue that was next door to a burned out building. Turned out to be a pretty cool little all ages venue. I don't know what these kids were about. I wound up talking to one kid about Fernando Arrabal, which kinda blew my mind, as I don't even know much about the guy. I'm guessing there's some sort of university just out of sight that we're not noticing.

APRIL 11th ­ NEW YORK (Knitting Factory)
I really like New York and this is one of the only places I like playing. I know a lot of other people hate it here. The stage is too high as is the door price. But we've had so many bad experiences with this city, I don't know if there are any real alternatives for us. Maybe I'm just caught up in the mystique of it all. Anyway, it's Easter, which I don't really care about, so it's not really that crowded. The show was filmed for something. I don't remember what. It's just another thing that I agreed to that I'll never hear about again.

APRIL 12th ­ PROVIDENCE (The Living Room)
We're getting really good at getting lost. Spent most of the day driving around suburban Providence. I think this is a metaphor for this whole tour. We're just a little out of synch. Here we are out on tour promoting a record that isn't out yet. We are a little unsure of every step. I don't have any confidence in what is happening. We used to just be able to drive and know where the venue was, almost instinctively. Now we're getting lost every other day. The rain isn't
helping anything.

 

IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM

DANGER! 50,000 VOLTS! (dir. by Matt Gillbe and Mike Griffiths)

If you're like me, you've got a special place in your heart for Nick Frost. Aside from being a genuinely kind and friendly guy, he's got some of the funniest moments in "Spaced" and "Shaun of the Dead". Giving him his own show was just a matter of time and as host of a somewhat tongue-in-cheek series of safety documentaries, your fan-dom will know no bounds.

With actual experts as guests and properly researched facts, the show comes off somewhere between "Fishing With John" and, and I hate to use such an obvious Brit reference, the first few "Ali G" shows. The difference is, you feel that Nick is just being himself. You can't believe that any of it is scripted and he's genuinely interested in what his guests have to say. Nothing mean-spirited and condescending here.

Over this double disc set that covers the entire first season, he explains to the viewer how to survive everything from a kidnapping to hippo attack to bat wielding thugs. Interspersed are equally hilarious animated vignettes dubbed "Too Dangerous To Film" such as "Forest Fire!", "Avalanche!" and "Lightning". The flash style is funniest enough just for the artist renditions of Frost.

Two things make this a sure winner. First of all, he uses to determine what is the most fearsome arachnid is the funniest thing I've seen this year. Second, the DVD comes with the bonus feature "Danger! 50,000 Zombies!" where Frost re-teams with "Spaced"/"Shaun" co-star Simon Pegg in the only episode that's a complete spoof. Also, look for the Easter Egg with the blooper reel.
(Princess Productions)

 

BRIEF CROSSING (dir. by Catherine Breillat)
ANATOMY OF HELL (dir. by Catherine Breillat)

I've sung the praises of Catherine Breillat before with films like "Romance" and "Fat Girl". Her post-modern analysis of sex can be distilled into the basic idea that if all actions are political, then by default all sex is also political. With that theme, she has scrutinized sexuality and sexual relationships with a Marxist fervor often losing road weary observers along the way. Perhaps that is the reason why two of her most recent films have been so simplified in set and structure.

"Brief Crossing" tells the story of a thirty-something English woman who meets a teen French boy on a ferry ride across the Channel. Fraught with sexual tension, Breillat replaces natural flirtation with barbed and at times confrontational dialog. Like most of her films, you don't often hear what you expect or want to hear. This puts the focus on the awkwardness of seduction and in this particular case changes the roles of many of her early films. The woman is the seducer but using traditionally male modes.

Breillat has been banned time and time again for her graphic displays of sex and this film isn't much different. The lack of fanfare, shot on location with what feels like natural lighting (a huge part of that is the amazing cinematography from Eric Gautier of "Irma Vep" fame) doesn't have the voyeuristic feel of most Hollywood soft porn. It's almost hyper-voyeuristic as you feel like you're intruding. To further that feeling, the film captures young actor Gilles Guillain first real sexual encounter. The blushing on his chest and body are real.

"Anatomy Of Hell" isn't the, uh, light fare of "Brief Crossing". This time, sexuality and in particular, sexual parts are a metaphor for existential emptiness. Sartre was an artist and a Marxist and here Breillat bravely straddles that line.

A gay man saves a woman when he witnesses her slash her wrists in a nightclub. A challenging and complex conversation follows in what you can probably start to call Breillatian discourse. Breaking out of the introductory conversation, the woman drops to her knees giving the man a blow-job in public. His surprise and his orgasm is where the film really starts.

The two make a business deal. She will pay him to watch her at her most "unwatchable". This includes displaying for him her splayed genitalia and having him penetrate her with a finger while she's having her period. His describes her vagina at "the horror of Nothingness that is the imprescribable All." That's 21st Century Sartre much to De Beauvoir's chagrin.

Both films are shot like plays and inevitably could be categorized as mysteries. These aren't movies that simply ask questions without giving answers. But instead, it leaves you with many possible answers. The fact that her movies are constantly attacked and ridiculed by critics and filmgoers of the most banal taste says she's doing something right. I don't know that you can actually review films like this, as there really is no context. They're challenging and often very, very smart and otherwise personal. As a result, I'm completely drawn to these films without being able to honestly say I get it. How many Marxists can say they completely understand Das Kapital?

I used to complain that movies like Breillat's were wrongly compared to other recent French films of similar controversy like "Irreversible" or "Baise-Moi". But with "Anatomy of Hell" there is a real comparison to be made with the later. World famous porn star Rocco Siffredi stars in this film and is surprisingly excellent not unlike the late Karen Lancaume.
(Wellspring Media and Tla Entertainment)

 

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