IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.92
J Church and Honey Bear Whatever - Fucking July
Multinational Corporation Genocide of the Starving Nation

 

HOME SWEAT HOME

We're back and it's fucking 100 degrees in Austin. Why is it always so difficult here? Anyway, the other night we played with DaDa Swing at Emo's and it was fun. They are a really amazing post-punk, post-riot grrrl, post-whatever group from Italy that are a mish mash of the Au Pairs, the Dog Faced Hermans and the first Raincoats album. Definitely go see them if you have the chance. You never know if groups like this will ever tour again. They're the kind of group that in five to ten years everyone will think is really cool and you can say that you were one of the few people that got to see them on their only US tour…

The night before was also here in Austin, but that was a very different affair. The Marked Men, The Soviettes, Grabass Charlestons… It was a big night.

The Pedestrians are here in town recording an album. I wish I could find a way to sneak on that record somehow. They're recording with Stan next to our practice space. Signal Lost just recorded there and it sounds amazing. Maybe we will do our next album there. We're almost halfway ready and with no more touring until November, we can make some real progress.

 

THE NEXT TOUR

It's gonna be another short one. If all goes as planned, we're gonna be playing the Fest in Gainesville again. It looks like our pals in the Urchin are gonna come over and do all the dates with us. They are Japan's secret weapon. If you haven't heard them, get a clue. I've got copies of their latest four-song CDEP for $5. It is well worth it. It's still too early to know what the exact route will be. But hopefully it will be something like Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Pensacola… it gets a little hazy after that. It would be great to make it down to Tampa or even Miami. Then we will either do Athens or Atlanta. Is anyone doing cool shows in Alabama or Mississippi? I'll let you know when we know more.

 

TOP TEN AMERICAN DIRECTORS

This list is only partially in order. I love all of these people and I really don't know how to prioritize, as they are all pretty different. I was compelled to make this list because, after some contemplation on the sad state of affairs American film culture was in, it's easy to find it hard to believe that ANYTHING good ever came out of this country. So here are some of the good people I relate to in American film history. Oh, and just so you don't ask, I don't like David Lynch very much. I thought I liked Eraserhead until I realized I was just pretending I liked it. It's just my personal taste and not a diss on all you Twin Peaks nerds.

John Cassavetes ­ If you are reading this either A) you are well aware of the importance of Cassavetes and it would be even more pompous than usual for me to try to add anything or B) you don't know what I'm talking about. If that's the case, stop reading this and go read Cassavetes On Cassavetes and watch Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under The Influence and, my favorite, Love Streams. I'll just add that back in the `80s, I was a fundraiser for SANE/Freeze and got to do a lot of work in the Hollywood Hills. I hung out with Pierce Brosnan, Bill Murray, Morgan Fairchild, etc. The coolest thing that ever happened was when I had to go to meet Cassavetes to get him to renew his membership. He was pretty ill at the time, so I didn't get to meet him. But Gena Rowlands was very, very kind despite the circumstances. It was just so amazing to come up on this house that you immediately recognize from his films.

Abel Ferrara ­ I'm not saying I wanna go on a road trip with this guy. But I love his movies. Since The Driller Killer back in 1979, he has made complex and challenging films defying budget limitations by making vivid use of context. If you can find a safe haven and some version of sympathy in Bad Lieutenant or King of New York then you will be able to follow is deformed Chi that is the backbone of most of his films. An experimental filmmaker, he takes chances that don't always work. There's no point in making film experiments if they're all gonna be safe.

Stanley Kubrick ­ Yeah, I went to Eyes Wide Shut opening day, first showing (I used to do that a lot actually) and I hated it. I was so sad that it would be his last film and I couldn't get behind it in any way. The acting is appalling. The dialog… I dunno. But everything he did from 1955 to 1987 is fucking flawless. That's a record you can't fuck with. In my skewed and humble opinion, Lolita and 2001 are both contenders for best film of all time. Every movie is a perfect blending of style and substance ultimately revealing a brilliant and compassionate mind at work. The contrasts of alienation, confusion and structure are all complicated with humor even in his most dry films.

Hal Ashby ­ I go back and forth with this guy. Movies like Shampoo, The Last Detail and Being There are pretty unfuckwithable. The guys started off editing The Loved One for fuck's sake! He's great. He was also a fuck up. He drugged himself nearly to death, finally getting hospitalized in the early `80s. Between that and his general unreliability, he basically put himself out of work doing mostly crass TV shit at the end of his life. So little is discussed about this guy compared to his peers that I don't know whether the story is tragic or pathetic.

Ida Lupino ­ After all this time, people still just think of her as an actress. She did get her start acting back in the `30s (and she was great in The Sea Wolf). But it was her writing and directing that I think made her so important to American cinema. In 1949, she got the chance to write and direct Not Wanted, a sad, sad story of a woman desperate to escape her drab existence who falls for a traveling musician who sees her as little more than a fling. Things grow more complicated when she's finally left alone only to find out she's pregnant. For the first time, these sort of pulp-ish ideas in low to mid-budget films took on a profound edge as Lupino knew how to express what the women might really be feeling and not just some caricature as dictated by the men who dominate the industry. Her other films like Never Fear, Outrage and The Hitch-hiker are black and white existential meditations where ennui is quickly replaced by total despair.

Sam Fuller ­ Film Noir was kind of like Be Bop. It was revolutionary and hyper-stylistic. But soon all the scales and modes were well defined. Sam Fuller started directing in this age, and like Lupino, was able to take a genre that was quickly becoming codified and convert it into something deeper. So movies like Pickup On South Street and House of Bamboo greatly benefited from Fuller's touch and additional writing. The culmination of his work came in two films. The first was Shock Corridor that was avant-garde in it's hugely metaphorical approach and it's constant unease of life in the mental institution. The addition of random footage in a dream-type sequence precedes everyone from Chris Marker to Craig Baldwin. The second was The Naked Kiss which fits closer into the Noir mold while taking it to another area with sentimentality so overplayed as to verge on ironic and a grim crime approached like an Italian giallo.

Woody Allen ­ Annie Hall might be my favorite movie of all time and that absolves all cinematic crimes propagated in the new millennium by Allen. Starting with Take The Money And Run and ending with Sweet And Lowdown, the only film of his that I don't love is Celebrity. Everything else I can watch over and over again. The guy has never been ashamed of the fact that he's smart. He may be modest in appearance. But he writes smart dialog and especially in those years, he never dumbed down for anyone. If anything, he was pushing people to expand what they knew by making references to films and books outside of banal American consciousness. He's more of a link to European cinema than even Scorsese.

Robert Altman ­ The guy did fucking Nashville! I've watched that movie more times than I can remember. He had Barbara Harris before she went Disney. I wanna die whenever I hear Easy. Yeah, I fucking hated Short Cuts like any true Raymond Carver fan does. But I love most of his other films. I think it's great that everyone talks over each other. It feels like a real conversation happening even in the most absurd situations. Even some of his more current films like Gosford Park and Kansas City aren't too bad. He's sort of the Chabrol of the American new wave.

Billy Wilder ­ The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes is one of his most underrated films, but it's one of my favorites. Everyone loves Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17 and The Apartment and for good reason. But his 1970 look at a drug addicted Holmes is complex, surreal and mysteriously incomplete. With a story that involved kidnapping, spies, drugs and even the Loch Ness Monster, the three and a half hour film was edited in half leaving an almost Burroughs-esque mystery that makes you constantly have to pay deep attention to score the pay-offs along the way. Christopher Lee as Mycroft is fucking brilliant.

George Cukor ­ Friend of Hitchcock and Bunuel. Director of The Philadelphia Story, Gaslight, Adam's Rib and A Star Is Born. I think this quote from him says it all: "...you direct a couple of successful pictures with women stars, so you become a 'woman's director'...Direct a sentimental little picture and all you get is sob stuff. I know I've been in and out of those little compartments. Heaven knows everyone has limitations. But why make them narrower than they are?"

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

BECAUSE, THE / DAUNTLESS ELITE - split EP

I mostly like these splits on Snuffy Smiles for the Japanese bands. And I say that as someone from a band that's been on the other end of that equation. The Because are fucking awesome live and they are surprisingly well captured on this little vinyl document. Bright and raw guitars with splashes of melody and chaos, it's like if Leatherface were playing on a speedboat jetting across a dark, evening lake. The rhythm section is powerful propelling the group with ten ton anchors of melody. It's like taking the structure of pop and hopping it up on Yellow Jackets.

The Dauntless Elite are cool. Minimal post-emo pop punk. They are entirely enjoyable and make a decent attempt to keep up with the Because.
(Snuffy Smiles)

 

MODERN MACHINES / ERGS!, THE - split EP

Holy shit! After hearing all the hype, I was sort of expecting some lo-tech, drunk as fuck, loose pile of stinky punk. Instead I get the British Invasion on 45 and it's fucking glorious. Modern Machines and the Ergs! might be the best thing happening in the States at the moment. Everyone else seems to think so. I'm not sure, but this record is pretty damned convincing.

Excellent power pop delivered at 100 mph by both bands, they seal the deal by both producing excellent covers. The Modern Machines do an inspired take on the Hollies Bus Stop while the Ergs! have the balls to cover the Beatles Not A Second Time. It's a lot of fun and the originals are just as enjoyable.
(grateful…)

 

NAPALM DEATH - Scum LP
NAPALM DEATH - From Enslavement To Obliteration LP

With the exception of a few cool and very different early demos, this is really the only Napalm Death I've ever felt I had to keep hold of. When the hardcore of Brit bands like Icons of Filth and Conflict evolved into the mid to late `80s thrash of bands like Heresy, Concrete Sox and Electro Hippies, there were so many great bands that Napalm Death were just one of a few names. In fact, Concrete Sox were the first to make any sort of name for themselves when the first LP came out and was distributed in the states. It was really exciting. Something new and mysterious was coming out of punk and it wasn't full on metal and it was as ethical as Crass. We were back to the days when you could write to a band and they would write back.

I first came across Napalm Death via their singer, Lee who was doing a half sized fanzine at the time. I remember the last letter I got from him being about how his band was getting busy so he was going to have to stop doing the zine. Next thing you know, Scum is in the shelves with a sticker boasting "Debut album by the undisputed World's Fastest Band." Holy shit! From the first moment that the band kicks into overdrive on Instinct of Survival I was hooked. I could look past the bad photo selections on the back and even the more appalling collage on the inner sleeve. It didn't even bother me that the bass player and guitarist pictured on the cover don't even play on the first half of the album. Between the brutal vocals and the seemingly unreal speeds, this is still one of the best records of that era.

The poor eight-track production of the debut was replaced second time around by a much bigger drum and guitar sound. I don't really know if that helped or hindered. The songs had evolved a bit but in no way did they slow down for too long. By this point, journeyman bassist Jim had left (he had previously been an important part of Ripcord) to be replaced by Shane of Unseen Terror. While that band did have some regrettable songs about Garfield and Odie, they also featured former members of Heresy and did help produce Scum. In fact, at this point Shane is the only member of the Enslavement line-up still in Napalm. As good as the record was, the band carried on their tradition of ridiculous poor choices in record covers as this one is a gatefold sleeve that's only purpose seems to be an extended "thanks" list.

After that, Lee split the band. He had done a lot of good, though. After some dates with Def Leppard of all people, he got half of the band to go vegan. For a while, they also distributed anti-rape pamphlets and sort of took on an almost feminist edge. I guess there's nothing wrong with pouring some sugar on Joe Elliot assuming it wasn't filtered with gelatin!
(Earache Records)

 

NATURECORE - With Love... 12"

Tam was one of my first buddies when I moved to Hollywood. I remember just hanging out at her house with a girl from Conflict, eating spaghetti and just chatting for hours. In all that time, I think I only ever saw Naturecore play once. Seems like they were always in some sort of weird flux. They were great live. I remember her giving me a really great demo tape early on and thinking that they were the most amazing band in California.

Now, I think this record is fine. I like the songs and I can respect the sentiments. I just know that there is a better recording out there somewhere. The vocals aren't as good as the tape I had and the mastering is so totally thin, it sounds like it might have been mastered off of a cassette tape. But I still dig it. The Box is still a strong number and shows how far outside the norm the band were reaching in contrast to other anarcho type bands in So Cal that were their peers like A//Solution or Another Destructive System or even Final Conflict. The fast tracks are tight if you want to you can imagine how powerful this material was live in front of a churning audience of black clad freaks.
(No Master's Voice)

 

PEAR OF THE WEST - Stupid Game EP

One of the most interesting bands we've played with in Japan, the curiously named Pear of the West are back with an great three song 7" catching up from where there debut full length left off. Catchy as hell with awesome female vocals, they head more in a Discount direction this time with moments that actually remind me of the catchier stuff on the first Sleeper album. Maybe not in content, but there are similarities in Mami's vocal style with Louise. Great looking cover art too.
(Snuffy Smiles)

 

PEDESTRIANS - Why Kill What's Dead EP

After knowing these folks for years and hanging out with them every time we go to Chicago, I've finally got a chance to hear their band. Thank fucking God this is a great record. Nothing sucks more than when you meet some really cool people and you become good friends with them only to later find out that their band sucks ass. It's a huge relief that this little 7" totally rocks.

Four songs in all, the band are raw punk that's actually more reminiscent of some of the classic Bay Area `80s stuff than the more melodic poppier stuff. In fact, this record is a lot like a much better produced version of Sick Pleasure with much more serious lyrics. Jordan even has a bit of that raw vocal rasp that isn't typically rock-n-roll but isn't the hardcore drill sergeant either. Can't wait to hear the album they've just recorded with Stan Signal Lost.
(SouthKore Records)

 

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