ADA Gallery is having a garage sale (read: cheap) through the end of June.
Coming up at The National, The Smashing Pumpkins are still at it. The song is about Indie Rock and Corgan's perception thereof; it's a personal irony, because it's probably the last song / album they released as an indie band, seeing as how the song was nominated for a Grammy and skyrocketed the Pumpkins to their current, and apparently lasting fame.
Despite the near perfect record of Pixar Animation Studios, it was difficult not to have doubts about Toy Story 3. It is not just because it is the third part in a series, or that there was a staggering eleven year gap between parts 2 and 3. The main reason for doubts stem from the fact that Pixar was not originally keen to make this movie. As the story goes, when Pixar and Disney began having creative differences in 2004, it seemed the two companies were going to part ways. Fortunately for Disney, they own the rights to all the previous Pixar films and characters. They began work on a direct to DVD Toy Story sequel. However, when Disney and Pixar mended their relationship, Pixar agreed to make a full fledged Toy Story sequel on the condition that Disney scrap their cheap and dirty production. As difficult as it is to believe, the final product of all that drama is an absolutely outstanding follow up that recaptures all the heart and charm of the first two films in the series.
In this day and age, seeing comic book characters come to life in movies or television shows has become rather old hat. It’s probably difficult for the youth of today to understand that for those of us who once wore the Generation X label it was rare to see one of our heroes from the funny books taking part in a film or a television broadcast aside from the cartoons we so treasured. Yes, there were reruns of Adam West’s Batman, an absurd chapter in that character’s legacy that I still treasure, and sometimes Spider-Man made a guest appearance on The Electric Company, but what else was there? I would like to forget Reb Brown’s Captain America, but that lame take on the character seemed like a masterpiece in comparison to Nicholas Hammond’s Spider-Man. Both of those efforts aired sporadically, so sporadically in fact that many of my peers thought I was lying about the existence of both ill-advised ventures. For the purpose of this argument I’m giving Wonder Woman a pass because Lynda Carter was nice to look at no matter how bad that show was, and I don’t know if you could make a good program with invisible planes and lassos of truth with modern effects. For the most part, in the late 70s and early 80s the industry simply wasn’t prepared to utilize comic book characters in entertaining and competent presentations.
That changed with Kenneth Johnson’s development of The Incredible Hulk for CBS in 1977. Like many, I would race to the television set when I heard that show’s opening theme throughout its 5 season run, and I would watch every episode from start to finish even if I had already seen it ten times. Like many, I was continually surprised that the makers of this smash hit were able to interest me in David Banner (Johnson didn’t like the fact that Stan Lee liked characters whose first and last names begin with the same letter) and his unique exploits to such an extent that it didn’t matter if the Hulk only showed up for a few minutes at a time to toss stuntman around and roar and flex in slow-motion. It also didn’t matter that the show utilized Lou Ferrigno sprinkled with green dust and sporting a lousy wig as the Hulk, because as primitive as that approach may have been, the end result was rather admirable. I still think it might stand as the best representation of the character even after two recent motion pictures used CGI to generate the title character.
I tuned in week in and week out to watch David’s woeful journey through a television landscape that could best be described as TV America, a land populated by engaging characters in quaint little communities where it was never hard for David to find work or conflict. Each new town presented our hero with another nice job and several honest people to call friends, and each time he grew comfortable just in time for all hell to break loose, forcing him to become the hulk and save the day.
This endless cycle always led to the arrival of David’s nemesis, tabloid journalist Jack McGee, expertly played by Jack Colvin, who would show up, snoop around, and force our lonesome hero to move on after sacrificing his brief stint of peace for the good of those who showed him kindness. It was heartbreaking without that sad music, and if you liked the show even half as much as I did, you can probably hear it playing right now. It’s the sound of leaving, the sound of turning your back on what you want because you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s the sound of nobility giving way to tragedy.
Yes, I own the box set with every episode of this landmark series. Yes, I still watch it and enjoy it, and my daughter (who is 4, the same age I was when I met David) likes it almost as much as I do, so it still has some resonance even in this day and age. According to Wikipedia, the series still has a worldwide fan base and should be considered a true cult classic, a point I won’t argue. Since I love the show so much, it’s no wonder I found myself thinking about David Banner earlier today. In fact, I found myself wondering what exactly happened to that hero from my youth, the one legitimate success that emerged from the efforts to televise the exploits of a superhero for comic fans of a bygone era. David was a good guy, a hell of a man really, and the fact that he was played by a thespian like Bill Bixby never hurt matters. It was easy to like Bill, and he made it even easier to know and love David Banner. With that in mind, here are a few things I hope he found along the way:
The Body – All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood (Aum War Records)
While the vast majority of heavy music focuses on darkness in its various permutations, the most recent release by Providence’s The Body offers a more dualistic approach which is, if not exactly rainbow-hued, a more dynamic exploration of the grey areas between abrasion and consonance, and in the process have written what will very likely be the best album to be released this year.
Originally known for their minimalist approach – the band’s lineup on previous albums consisted of one guitarist and one drummer – The Body’s older albums consisted of a lo-fi dirge owing equally to the pummeling noise-rock of the Swans or Godflesh and the harsh, sharply-politicized content of the 90s DIY hardcore scene from which they were spawned. All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood does not lack any of the band’s characteristic doomy abrasion, but expands upon it, utilizing a cast of thirty guest musicians to broaden their musical palette without seeming like a cheap gimmick, eschewing minimalism without casting aside anything else of their sound. Saxophones pop up without seeming jazzy, sheets of white noise punctuate songs like “Empty Hearth” and “A Body” without threatening to turn the whole thing into a Merzbow record, and the fourteen-minute finale “Lathspell I Name You” features eight additional percussionists without devolving into onanistic drum-circle self-indulgence. Most prominent are the choral vocals, provided by the thirteen-member Assembly Of Light Choir. These steer far clear of the sort of quasi-orchestral elements many heavier bands attempt – there is no bombastic melodrama, and the vocalists are featured prominently rather than being used for slight embellishment. It’s beautiful in its rawness – sacred music for those whose only meaningful vision of divinity presented itself in the form of overamplified bands in crowded basements, trading their catharsis for a half tank of gas worth of door money and the opportunity to further spread their gospel of discontent.
And there is no shortage of discontent here. The lyrics – the album’s most consistent element, never veering far from intimations of the apocalypse - tread the fine line between jeremiad and malediction, falling somewhere between a secular John the Baptist and Shoko Asahara without the megalomania. There are songs which meditate on doom and desolation - “Ruiner” excoriates equally those who worship at the temples of God and science – and those, like “Song Of Sarin, The Brave,” which actively invite it. The songs suggest that whatever soul we may have is as scorched and barren as the planet will soon be, and the only elements suggesting otherwise are steeped in the language of retribution. “Repayment in kind I demand / A just finality I deserve” are the last lines sung on this album, and while The Body are probably not cooking up nerve gas at home (as one of their songs deals with pretty explicitly), they are lashing out against the world’s injustices and shortcomings with the weapon for which they are best known. Only this time, their expanded lineup presents more of a unified front – an army disguised as an orchestra, prophets in the wilderness, a faint light in the darkness.
Japanese Gum - Hey Folks! Nevermind, We Are All Galling Down!
This is a tough one to review. When an artist relies almost exclusively on borrowing from more established artists, even when they do it well and borrow from people who do the same, how much credit can they really be given? In the case of the Japanese Gum album, it’s hard to tell how much credit to give them. The first few M83 albums were an excellent mix of glitchy electronics and shoegazey guitar, but apparently these guys took those releases as their guiding light in all creative matters, attempting to pull off the same combination but rarely doing it with the same skill as the albums they aspire to.
Which isn’t to say that any of the songs on Hey Folks! Nevermind, We Are All Galling Down! are notably bad. Everything is in place – the effects-laden guitars, the rushes of synthesizer, the off-kilter drum machines, the breathy vocals – but the songs are such well-mannered tributes to those artists from whom they draw inspiration (and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt by making that plural – as stated earlier, any of these songs could conceivably be old M83 outtakes) that the whole affair is pleasant but not especially memorable. There are moments that show promise and are able to break up the album’s monotony – the heavier dissonance of “Chlorine Blue” or the backwards-masked vocals of “Mistake/Ghost” for instance – but these are unfortunately few and far between.
There is something to be said for egalitarianism in music. One of the most inspirational aspects of rock and roll is its decentralization of talent – with the right tools and the right motivation, anybody can do it. This type of music is case in point. With the right arsenal of guitar effects pedals, anyone can come up with a reasonable approximation of this sound. But this is no guarantee that it will be done well, just as there is no correlation between the ease with which something should be done and the necessity for it. Japanese Gum illustrate this idea well – their music is not challenging on any level, neither technically, aesthetically, nor emotionally, and tends to settle for pleasant, innocuous imitation. Not to belabor the point, but diehard M83 fans who desperately wish for more of that band’s earliest material might appreciate this, but it’s not strongly recommended for anybody else.
ed. note - Japanese Gum did the soundtrack for this. http://www.nike.com/nke6/partnersincrime
Richmond native and recent Radford grad, Mary Chiaramonte has been profiled in the newest issue of New American Paintings and is part of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Art After Hours series. She is currently taking commissions for portrait work.
More of her work can be found at www.merrysee.com
There is a common saying within certain punk rock circles that Ronald Reagan inspired more hardcore songs in his day than any actual band did, suggesting that any movement based on protest or righteous indignation needs a perceived injustice as a jumping-off point. One might think that the world would have seen the same explosion of socially conscious hardcore over the past decade, but with a few notable exceptions, that chorus of dissent never materialized. Faced with the evisceration of our civil rights, the worst economy the country has seen in generations, and an escalation in the exploitative attitude often held towards the environment and our fellow man (often justified most vocally by those who would posit themselves as Reagan’s ideological and spiritual successors), hardcore responded by preening about sneakers, by collecting myspace friends, and by doing its damndest to rehash the most superficial characteristics of ’82, ’88, or some other dead and gone era.
But not everybody fell into that trap. Since 2000, Austin, Texas’s World Burns To Death have thrown down the gauntlet with each successive release, offering listeners one relentless blast after another. Eschewing the pre-packaged sloganeering and readymade ideology of so many ostensibly political bands, World Burns To Death offer a nuanced analysis of the world’s ills – one withering jeremiad after another, each steeped in history and philosophy without tempering the sledgehammer bluntness or indulging in didactic preaching. I got a few questions in with Jack Control, the band’s imposing frontman.
TONIGHT at Hat Factory is a RVA Magazine podcast all-star lineup! Bobby LaBeat,, Reinhold, and guest all-star Michael Nighttime are all in the house. Wanna go? Make sure to RSVP with promo code RVA here to get in for $3 and show up EARLY as last week sold out before midnight!