Friday, December 28, 2007

David Lee Roth's Sonrisa Salvaje on AMG

This seldom-heard oddity in heavy metal singer David Lee Roth's catalogue is a Spanish-language version of his first post-Van Halen solo effort, Eat 'Em & Smile. The original release was a call to arms for the divided camps of Van Halen fans, and for those who felt that replacing Roth with Sammy Hagar was little more than a cruel joke, Eat 'Em & Smile validated their position with a strong band of crack players, equal amounts of humor and serious rock, and the best songwriting of Roth's entire career. The record is the perfect follow-up to 1984 that Van Halen couldn't deliver themselves, certainly closer to the spirit of the original band than anything recorded with Hagar. Sonrisa Salvaje (Wild Smile) saves all of the Eat 'Em & Smile artwork and backing tracks, with Roth overdubbing translated lyrics; unfortunately, the mix is not perfect and Roth's voice sounds disconnected from the music, floating in a sterile space above the band. Also, the Spanish words don't always fit seamlessly, sometimes hanging awkwardly over the edges of musical passages (particularly in "La Calle Del Tabaco," aka "Tobacco Road"), betraying the compositions' English language origins. Still, any fan of Diamond Dave will appreciate this novelty and the gung-ho spirit that fueled its conception. Roth ends Sonrisa Salvaje with a satisfied chuckle, suggesting that he's entirely pleased with himself, having laid down the gauntlet for bilingual metalheads worldwide. FRED BELDIN

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I'm rather exhausted. The Christmas Belles put on a strong weekend of shows, pushing many of us beyond our limits, but all three performances found everybody at their best. Cafe Racer proved that it was all going to work -- the Christmas in July in December luau was a frenzied peak -- and the Blue Moon was a relaxed but triumphant farewell. True to her word, Kate dismantled the official MySpace band site despite thousands of plays a day, because as she says, "It's much more hilarious that way."

At times the Belles reminded me of my tenure in another band where I relinquished responsibility and focused only on the bass, Apollo Nine -- not so much in style or tone, just another large group of jumbled perspectives that ought to clash but somehow don't. I was able to play exactly what I wanted at the volume I liked, whether it was appropriate or not (and I believe I was entirely appropriate the entire time), and I'm glad to report that I still have that sweet rhythm. CDs are available for cheap, like free, or MP3s can be cheerfully emailed if anyone wants to hear the fruit of our labors.

It all comes at a price, of course. The last few months have been among my darkest, and I'll never be quite sure whether the Belles exacerbated my troubles or provided a release valve. Probably both. But I could say the same about most of the things I'm proudest of in this life. And on top of everything else, I got to spend an early Sunday morning in the rain trying to pry a dead pig's mouth open. I really should not be complaining.

Stephanie and Jeannene provided the perfect foil to Kate's bossy my-way-or-the-highway management style, and I enjoyed the challenge of behaving like a perfect gentleman around them in their costumes (aside from a shameful change-dropping incident upon initially witnessing Jeannene's tiny skirt, I succeeded). Robert hadn't hauled his drums out of the basement in years when he showed up the first time, so I thought what the hell, but he pulled it together tightly when it counted, so every show we were in perfect swing.

The man with the most musical experience in the band would be guitarist/pianist Tim Franklin, a recent escapee from the East Coast ... followers of hardcore punk might remember him as the lead singer of the infamous Boston straight edge band Conformity Control, who terrorized the scene with vicious thuggery, particularly toward anyone foolhardy enough to bring alcohol, tobacco or drugs (even caffeine!) for consumption at one of their gigs. Although once notorious for a string of brutal attacks on inner-city crack addicts, Tim today is an entirely different man, gentle and peaceable and compassionate to all walks of life. He's even been known to hoist a cold one from time to time, although he's still pretty much a baby about it.

And of course, I was already in love with Tyson and Kate. Thanks for letting me be part of your thing.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Never trust anybody under thirty ... they'll bore you to tears and break your heart every time.

Witness the essence of my last few months.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My absolute favorite film review site, Bleeding Skull is not only back in action after a seemingly endless hiatus, but they've also supplied a helpful index of winter holiday-themed exploitation films on the right hand side of their welcome page. Silent Night Bloody Night, Elves, To All A Good Night ... lotsa gems if you have the guts. This year at our annual homeless open house we'll definitely be screening Don't Open Til Christmas, one of my new favorites. It's never gonna top Monte Hellman's seasonal classic Silent Night Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!, but it'll keep you warm on a cold night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In honor of the nervous breakdown I've been suffering throughout the month of December, I'd like to direct you to this Crucifucks MySpace fansite, where you can listen to a song that never fails to cheer me up -- "Suicide," off the otherwise lukewarm third and final Crucifucks disc L.D. Eye. The older I get, the more I understand Doc Dart. Since we once shared the same psychotherapist, I guess it isn't all that surprising ... Patricia must have had an effect on me, too.
Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny on WFMU

I just watched this one last night, and apparently the obsessives over at WFMU in New York were on my wavelength. Click on their blog above to catch a glimpse of this truly weird holiday offering ... Santa Claus gets his sleigh stuck in the sands of Florida while out scouting the earth for good little boys and girls. The weather is too hot for the reindeer to survive, so they fly back to the North Pole, leaving Santa in the lurch. Luckily, a troupe of local kids arrives to offer help, producing pigs, dogs, donkeys and cows to pull the sleigh out of the sand, but nothing works. Despite perspiring mightily in all that fur, velvet and whiskers, Santa takes a break to tell the kids a story -- cue the opening for an entirely different feature, a zero-budget musical retelling of Thumbelina that takes up most of the film's running time. I won't give away the ending, except to say that it involves The Ice Cream Bunny and a last-minute escape in a 1920s-vintage motorcar.

This is a beautiful piece of dimestore surrealism perfect for any season. As cynically slap-dash as the production might be, there's a charming childlike quality to the logic and dialogue. At one point, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer show up, hide in the bushes and discuss the proceedings -- "Hey, Huck, what do you think Santa and all those kids over there are up to?" "I don't know, Tom, maybe if we hide here and watch for a while we'll find out!" Then they do. And the songs, oh, the songs ... tuneless free verse warbling just like you hear out of the mouths of real children not yet accustomed to conventional meter. Saddle it up alongside the legendary 1959 Mexican kiddie matinee stalwart Santa Claus and the irresistible Santa Claus Conquers the Martians for the ideal X-mas triple feature ... or just come over to my apartment on X-mas day, where my Old Lady and I will be likely to be watching at least one of these features at some point (email for directions).

A more detailed exploration of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is available here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Angels on AMG
Angels is a tepid fantasy that attempts to take a basic philosophical conundrum (if God really loves us, why do we all have to die?) to farcical extremes by presenting God as a suave, cynical crime boss partial to cigars, practical jokes, and contract hits. When one of God's children doesn't make it to heaven at his/her appointed time, angels are dispatched to take out the offender with bloody car accidents and sniper fire. There's apparently no hell in this conception of the afterlife, or its definition is fuzzy, since two vicious gangsters find themselves at the pearly gates after expiring and are warmly welcomed by the Almighty, who immediately sends them back to Earth for an angelic assignment. If dwelled upon, it's a pretty bleak vision, but Angels isn't a film to be overly analyzed, since it fails at maintaining the integrity of this weird universe throughout its running time, and ultimately makes no sense and draws no laughs. It doesn't help that none of the characters are likeable, not even God, and certainly not the ostensible hero of the piece, a self-absorbed filmmaker obsessed with death who finds himself a target and never learns why. Even game performances from Mark Suben and Dan McCarthy as the gangster duo don't make up for unfunny jokes, interminable mime routines and satire that never knows where to aim. Is God the target? Is it religion in general? Arrogant artists or humanity itself? Writer/director Spencer Compton earns points for staging a lengthy chase scene on roller skates, and long-faced character actor Vincent Schiavelli is always welcome, but Angels isn't provocative enough to even rate as blasphemy. FRED BELDIN

Getting Into Heaven on AMG
Fans of the bodacious Uschi Digard won't need any excuse to watch her simulate fornication for 90 minutes, which means that concocting Getting Into Heaven's fragile slip of a plot was a waste of time. Digard plays Heaven (get it?), an aspiring starlet with a roommate named Sin (short for Cindy, get it?), and both are willing to do whatever it takes to get into the movies. The salacious Mr. Salacity is "considering" them for parts in his next film and makes no secret of his lecherous expectations, which steams Heaven's poindexter boyfriend. He wants Heaven to give up her dreams of stardom and marry him, but she bargains for one more chance to make it in show business. Will taking Mr. Salacity hostage and forcing him into a marathon sex session result in acting roles for Heaven and Sin? Getting Into Heaven is a genial, good-natured softcore sex romp filmed with big, bright colors and a goofy sensibility, but Edward L. Montoro isn't even a poor man's Russ Meyer. There's way too much exposition for such slight material (it could be cut down to half an hour without anyone noticing) and the jokes are tiresome. But who cares? Digard's charms will be enough to carry the weight for mammary fetishists, her female co-stars are equally zaftig, and the obligatory lesbian sequence is soaked with baby oil. Still, only the most nostalgic smut hounds will find Getting Into Heaven worth getting into. FRED BELDIN

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rock My Religion

Directed by Dan Graham, 1982-84, 55:27 min, b&w and color, sound

"Rock My Religion is a provocative thesis on the relation between religion and rock music in contemporary culture. Graham formulates a history that begins with the Shakers, an early religious community who practiced self-denial and ecstatic trance dances. With the "reeling and rocking" of religious revivals as his point of departure, Graham analyzes the emergence of rock music as religion with the teenage consumer in the isolated suburban milieu of the 1950s, locating rock's sexual and ideological context in post-World War II America. The music and philosophies of Patti Smith, who made explicit the trope that rock is religion, are his focus. This complex collage of text, film footage and performance forms a compelling theoretical essay on the ideological codes and historical contexts that inform the cultural phenomenon of rock `n' roll music." --

Found via WFMU. Recommended by me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The 100 Greatest Detroit Songs "Ever"

Lists are the lowest form of journalism.