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Showing posts from June, 2017

An Appreciation: Patty Smyth and Scandal

History is littered with great bands and musicians that are left behind in the always charging stampede to move on to the next red-hot thing. Because of my age and musical proclivities, I'm thinking especially of acts from my youth like the Cars the Go-Gos, Boston, or the Bangles. Sure, their hits are still played religiously on classic rock radio, but it's doubtful any of them will be receiving serious critical reappraisals any time soon. It's almost as if they've been relegated to the dust bin of history now (which is what rock radio has become), dismissed as nothing more than catchy corporate rock from the era that defined catchy corporate rock. Maybe they'll never be hip, but bands like that left behind some great music.

Scandal—and especially their spark-plug firecracker of a lead singer, Patty Smyth—are one of those bands that I'd love to see receive a little more love. They had some hits, but two in particular that positively rocked my young life, "…

Blondie Unseen 1976-1980, by Roberta Bayley

Blondie holds a special place in rock music history, but also in my life. I've been under their sonic spell for as long as I can remember. Musically, Blondie blend elements of several different styles—new wave, punk, girl group, disco, reggae, rap, pop—into a sound truly their own. They were also one of the first visually memorable bands in my life—thanks in large part to lead singer and cultural icon Debbie Harry's amazing cheekbones and avant-garde style. They're unlike any other band before or since.

Harry enthusiastically embraces and playfully subverts the blonde bombshell archetype at every turn. Just listen to her subtle shifts in phrasing and delivery on songs like "Call Me", "One Way or Another", or "Hangin' on the Telephone." She smoothly segues from a sweet purr to a frisky growl in a heartbeat. Harry also understands the importance of visuals in rock music, and few performers have ever been more aesthetically stylish or cuttin…

Desperate for Divinyls: "Siren (Never Let You Go)"

This 1984 performance of "Siren (Never Let You Go)" by Divinyls is pure electricity, an audio-visual blast of kinetic energy straight to the heart. Play it loud and I bet it could revive the dead. Chrissy Amphlett is a dynamo here, stalking the stage, dumping a pitcher of water over her head, attacking the mic stand with a wild ferocity, shouting and spitting out the lyrics with frightening intensity. It's cliche to say this, but it fits: she's a force of nature, a tornado ripping across the stage and about to level the entire building. Pure charisma. Raw power.

The studio version of the song is itself enormously powerful, but in a live setting like this, it reaches even greater heights, providing one crescendo after another, until you're completely drained by song's end but loving every bit of that exhaustion. Chrissy and the band have absolutely pummeled you with their supersonic barrage, from the first note to the last.
While Bjarne Ohlin sings the openin…

Barely Making a Dent: June 2017 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.
If you think it's been a while since the last post in this series, you're correct. During that stretch, I finished Stephen King's It. I'm a longtime King lover, so I'm an easy mark for this one, yet so far I'm not ranking it in my top five King books. I'm fine with the excessive length (1,100 pages) if it's warranted, but at times it felt like needless meandering. Still, a terrific book, at times also terrifying and at others heartbreaking. And, um, that ending? I finished the book several weeks ago and I'm still not sure how to discuss it. You can read about the scene I'm referring to here. To say it yanked me right out of the book is an understatement. I'm no prude, but even I was disturbed by it. It's not only distasteful but also feels like a narrative leap that comes out of nowhere. It's l…

An Appreciation: Heather Langenkamp in Wes Craven's New Nightmare

"There was no movie...there was only...her life."

All Heather wanted was to raise her son in peace and work in television. Instead, she has to confront that sick bastard Freddy. Again. Only this time outside of the safe confines of playing Nancy on a film set, and instead in the all-too vivid Hellscapes of both her dream state and her waking life. Blame it all on Wes Craven. After all, he had to purge those new nightmares—featuring everyone's favorite burnt, razor-gloved serial killer—out on the page. Dude was right though: Heather/Nancy is the key. She's the constant. She's our hero, a fierce mamma bear battling Freddy tooth and nail every step of the way for her little cub's life. Throughout, she's battered, bruised, cut, sliced, repeatedly prank-called, widowed, leered at by a creep limo driver, demeaned by an arrogant doctor, hit by a car, and repeatedly accused of being an unfit mother. Rarely has an actress faced more unrelenting horror than Heathe…

Wonder Woman Week

With the new film is in theaters now, the internet has reached peak frenzy concerning all things Wonder Woman. And I kind of love it. I'm as giddy as Gal Gadot here in the GIF of the week.

Sequart has devoted this entire week's coverage to the character, with a series of articles exploring different facets of what makes her such an enduring icon. My contribution ran on Wednesday and can be read here. I tried to put into words why Diana represents hope for a countless number of fans; how she isn't defined by her powers or her skills in battle (although she's no slouch in either department), but instead by her endless capacity for compassion, kindness, empathy, and, ultimately, her ability to offer hope. My thesis was that she's a unique character within the world of superheroes in this regard. Honestly, I can't think of any other that comes close.

It's exciting to see the world celebrate Wonder Woman on the occasion of her first feature film. Please take som…