NICE GUYS DON’T WORK IN HOLLYWOOD: THE ADVENTURES OF AN AESTHETE IN THE MOVIE BUSINESS
Curtis Harrington’s autobiography is a strange example of the Hollywood insider genre: a tale of a gentlemanly sort weathering the slings and arrows of a directing career. Known mostly for cult horror classics such as Night Tide, Games and What’s The Matter With Helen?, Harrington also rode the slippery slope from the creation of feature films to the direction of episodes of television’s Dynasty, The Colbys and Charlie’s Angels and back. By all rights, he should have loads of stories to tell––but at nearly 200 pages, Nice Guys Don’t Work In Hollywood is a fairly restrained tale. There are anecdotes about various stars Harrington worked with throughout his career––a young Dennis Hopper, Debbie Reynolds, Shelley Winters, Kate Jackson––and other well-known names from the arts such as Kenneth Anger and Peggy Guggenheim, but Harrington speaks of them only from direct experience with their behavior and as an admirer of what they do. Countless stings from ham-handed producers, film and television higher-ups, and failures to effectively promote Harrington’s films must have hurt at the time they happened, but he glosses over them with the help of hindsight in Nice Guys. The overall feel of this work of Harrington’s does make readers want to check out his films, if only to see where his true passion lies. Because it certainly isn’t easily discernible between the covers of this autobiography. ––Leigh Checkman
TYSON CORNELL & MARC WEINGARTEN, ED.
YES IS THE ANSWER (AND OTHER PROG ROCK TALES)
(RARE BIRD BOOKS)
The business of it had grown much larger thanks to the artists of the ‘60s. Its artistic potential had been pioneered by The Beatles and The Beach Boys––among many others. So it seemed like a logical progression in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s for rock to become… well, progressive. More keyboards, songs that broke the three-minute barrier (and expanded to LP-length in some cases), instrumentals that incorporated classical and jazz, threatening to cancel out the rock that was ostensibly a part of its existence in the first place––all were hallmarks of prog, and I haven’t even mentioned the live shows. Much reviled and relegated to the category of “too big to succeed,” Yes Is The Answer acknowledges that tricky legacy and finds much within it that can be taken seriously. Though there are some essays that lean towards straight- up criticism (Jim DeRogatis on early Genesis) and artist appreciation (Larry Karazewski on Todd Rundgren), the rest are, in many cases, personal examinations of the effect of prog rock on the authors’ lives. Whether or not you’re partial to Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rush, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or many other prog exemplars, there’ll be something for you in here. Owning up to one’s own affinity for any prog rock after reading Yes Is The Answer (mine being Floyd’s Meddle) is up to you. ––Leigh Checkman
TALES OF WOE
If you like going to punk or metal shows in New Orleans, chances are you’ve seen these local thrashers. It’s their first release (that I know of) since Food for Rats came out years ago, and it comes with a bit of a personnel change. Alix has since departed the band, leaving the vocal duties to guitarist Scorilla. The “legendary” Bobby Paranoize has since joined them on bass and rounding out the three piece lineup is the awesome Billy Bones (one of the more excellent and consistent drummers this city has produced). This short four-song/ nine-minute teaser (hopefully a precursor to a full length) goes by really fast. No lyric sheet included, but with songs like “Crucify Him” and “I’ll Be Damned,” you can guess they’re not singing teeny bopper pop love songs. Heavy thrash riffs similar to D.R.I. and deep guttural vocals that remind me of Mike from Logical Nonsense. If this sounds up your alley, you can check out this release at ahanging504.bandcamp.com. ––Carl Elvers
ANDY AND HIS GRANDMOTHER
It’s entirely possible that had there been no Andy Kaufman, there would have been a major delay in the mainstreaming of sometimes uncomfortable humor about the everyday, like the kind Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David brought to Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm (respectively), Penn & Teller weave through their explain- it-all magic shows, and Lena Dunham has put on display in Girls. Andy And His Grandmother offers a glimpse via selected tape recordings of Kaufman’s mad methods. Some of them are baldly funny, as in “Andy Loves His Tape Recorder,” a series of objections to his taping of people’s conversations by the people themselves strung together in a rapid-fire progression, and “Andy Can Talk To Animals.” Some of them search for the absurdity in the way we speak and in the things we consider taboo subjects: “Why is it that nobody understands that… the kind of conversations that nobody wants me to tape are the kind of conversations that should be taped?” Kaufman exclaims in the middle of a frank discussion with a woman about sex, conception, abortion and relationships. There are some prime examples of classic Kaufman put-ons, evident in how he pits two women against each other in “(Honk) vs. (Dog) A & B,” and in “Sleep Comedy,” a bizarre take on hypnosis recordings. Though the bits on this album were not of Kaufman’s choosing, there’s enough on here to hold up to repeated listens and give a fuller picture of Kaufman’s particular comedic genius for collapsing the lines between real life and staged hilarity. ––Leigh Checkman
BALLZACK AND ODOMS
ACE N ERNIE
The premise of Ballzack and Odoms’ first album in years finds the two taking on the personas of junior high-aged kids Ace and Ernie, who embark on a partnership born in a school hallway, fused in “Hobgoblin Demon Drawing” (presumably scrawled in pen on a denim- clad binder, or on the back of a sleeveless denim jacket), and driven to do one thing: become Satanist heavy metal rock stars in a world more attuned to hip-hop hits. Having satirized regionalism in songs like “Rainbow In Marrero” and in the Avenue Q-puppetry of Lil Doogie, the duo turns to exploding metal’s clichés in AceNErnie with gusto, putting records on and playing them “Backwards” for their messages, referencing horror flicks, H.P. Lovecraft and pentagrams at every opportunity, and even creating some death bounce with “Bounce For The Blood.” This extended metal fantasy, as explored through rap, culminates in “The Dark Scary Woods,” in which the two metalheads are faced with a choice that can only end badly… or will it? More than a comedic romp, AceNErnie’s songs hold up well on their own musically, keeping the horrors and the beats going. The biggest problem with Ballzack and Odoms’ latest? It’s tough to play a downloadable album backwards. ––Leigh Checkman
The latest 45 from NOLA pysch-pop keeper of the flame Ben Glover is pure 60s worship, without hardly a corner cut in its faithful reproduction of that bygone era—though it’s hard to find any right angles on this record or Vikki Vaden’s loopy artwork. Glover claims Syd Barrett as his muse and if you played this record for anyone just crawling out of a bomb shelter, you might convince them the British Invasion is still in full swing. The title track is a blurry-eyed, early morning shuffle (possibly from being up all night), eased along by a few well-placed church bells and soft background cooing; and the video (on Get Hip’s website) makes excellent use of the 9th Ward’s “End of the World” stretch of levee. Side B’s “Beautiful (In the Morning)” is another studied track in the same vein and teases the forthcoming Twin Language LP (also on Get Hip), due in August. —Dan Fox
BOARDS OF CANADA
After an eight-year hiatus and a recent succession of cryptic clues and online videos, Boards of Canada have finally released Tomorrow’s Harvest in all of its long-awaited, gloomy glory. While fans of the Scottish IDM duo will immediately recognize ambient and analog themes exclusive to BoC, they will also notice those themes taking on a darker role. Still adhering to a simple song structure, the 17 tracks on Harvest play like an eerie backdrop to impending doom and the life that is to come after it. “Telepath” features groggy vocal sound bytes and feels like it was plucked straight out of a movie about intergalactic espionage, while “New Seeds” and “Sick Times” are suggestive in title alone, but provide some of the brighter moments of the entire album in tone. As weaving oscillators and choked-off beats continue to swirl out of their cache of handcrafted sounds, tracks like “Nothing is Real” and “Palace Posy” almost feel like a call back to their 1998 debut, Music Has the Right to Children. But now, given the context of implied demise, these tracks seem to carry a lot more weight than those on Children. Tomorrow’s Harvest is, by far, the darkest BoC album to date, but it is also the most ambitious and cohesive. —Kevin Comarda
Another New Orleans “super group” with an excellent line-up: Matt Muscle (ex-Mangina, Tirefire) on vocals, Paul Webb (multi-talented instrumentalist) on drums, Gary Mader (Hawgjaw, EHG, Headwoundz, etc.) on guitar and Grant Tom (Mountain of Wizard, ex-haarp, etc.) on bass (the first band I’ve seen him play bass for). I was lucky enough to get an unmastered CDr last year of these eleven songs, but this is now a proper demo cassette release with fancy artwork (hands cuffed giving the middle finger to society) and lyrics (yes!). Similar to Matt’s previous projects, it’s fast, loud, snotty and very pissed off: “my life’s a total wreck, fuck everyone I meet, I can’t stand anything I see” (from “Frustrated”) or “trapped in a world of shit, wander directionless, I see you’re dense, ain’t got no sense” (from “Corrupted”). This is the type of hardcore New Orleans has been waiting for! I suggest you bottle up all your aggression and take it out on everyone next time they play Siberia or Saturn Bar. This is music for the hateful. ––Carl Elvers
DIRTY BOURBON RIVER SHOW
The talented musicians that make up the Dirty Bourbon River Show occasionally make a bit too much of their affinity for the circus, be it in their takes on Julius Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators,” or their nods to three-ring theatricality via vocalist Charles Skinner’s operatic baritone in songs such as “Mama I’ve Been Abducted By Creatures Of An Unholy Sound.” They are far better when they lean back on their “19th century barrelhouse saloon by way of Otis Day and the Knights in Animal House” strengths as an ensemble, which are far more in evidence on Volume Four. Once they settle down and concentrate on the music, the fun truly begins. Noah Adams’ multi-instrumental arrangements and the saxophone work of Matt Thomas successfully overcome even the most inane of lyrics in “Jewish Girls Who Went To Art School Know All The Angles” (and, speaking as one of those girls, I say the groove the music throws down is far better than the lewd declaration of the lyrics) and hits in all its fury and humor upon the Gogol Bordello- esque “Stomp For Mr. Mustachio.” The River Show even takes some time to slow things down with the Skinner-crooned ballad “I Need Your Love,” an exhibition of their range that, in the wrong hands, could be mawkish and campy, but is played wonderfully earnestly. Despite its flaws, Volume Four is still a funky kick. ––Leigh Checkman
HALF HUMAN HALF SHRIMP
Another homemade package by these local legends, this time with multi-talented Bill Heintz on drums. Some people try too hard to analyze or understand this band; all I know is everytime I see them, I have a huge smile on my face. This is the type of music to listen to after a bad day at work because it’ll make you laugh and feel better without taking drugs. Similar to Captain Beefheart (eclectic musical pace) and vocals similar to Dave from Pere Ubu (high pitched and screechy), with song titles like “I’d Rather Have Sex With a Mule” and “I Really Don’t Like That Motherfucker,” you can’t take these songs too seriously (but don’t write them off as a joke band––they are serious about entertaining you). Mike Schadwell started this band as a solo project, but since enlisting Isidore Grisoli (from HiGH and ex-member to many great N.O. bands over the years) on bass, I feel they’ve really taken off. Six songs in six minutes, this passes you by if you’re not paying close attention. I’m not sure where you can get this from––I got my copy when they played at Dragon’s Den recently. Highly recommended! ––Carl Elvers
Realist, New Orleans-based duo Fuji-Pop’s first album, is a step in the right direction. Overall, the record is a halfway successful attempt at dark emo-pop that could be played at venues like Sibera. Brooding vocals intertwine with staccato guitar notes and quirky synths to create a sulky pop album that writhes with agitation and regret. On the album’s most solid track, “A World Before,” the vocals and looping instrumentation strike a balance and create a resentful mood. Like most debut albums, Realist is unrestrained. Just when Alexander and Uribe hit a clean stretch, they layer too many elements and overuse loops. Instead of creating a climax, this heavy-handedness creates chaos (listen to “Clouds,” which has a good intro but then devolves into noise at minute 1:00). The exaggerated loops spring to mind a quote from Keith Richards’ memoir Life, where the guitarist describes the Stones’ reaction to working with pre-recorded loops: “Ronnie Wood… moaned, ‘All that’s left is the ghost of Charlie’s left foot.’” Lyrically, Fuji-Pop prefers broad strokes to specifics, which comes across as too vague for the listener to emotionally connect with. For their next album, which is already underway, I’m looking forward to a more bare-bones approach that surprises the listener. ––Kate Russell
Pumpkin keeps it simple, stupid. While a lot of guitar bands around town seem to be trying to deconstruct everything that makes rock music good and sexy, these four songs (released posthumously) bang straight ahead with abandon, in exquisite 4/4 fury. The vocals are buried under reverb, delay and the non-stop drone of guitars, synths and a fuck-ton of drums, so you won’t exactly be able to sing along, but who cares? It’s all being “said” in this mad sprint to nowhere and with titles like “Voidman” it’s probably about space or pizza or video games; in fact, “Dennis” is like one huge sugar-fueled adolescent all-nighter. Their presser says the band has “quietly dissolved” but there’s nothing quiet about this release. What’s up fellas? You gonna play live again or what? —Dan Fox
With the exit of multi-instrumentalist and longtime collaborator Kjartan Sveinsson, the remaining members of Sigur Rós had an opportunity to make a bold move and create a new identity for this now trio. Kveikur is a challenge accepted and bested. Without sacrificing any of the emotion or beauty that built this band, their seventh studio album is trading a bit of subtlety for a lot of dirty and wastes no time hammering out an aggressive sound that may require a little less patience than previous works. “Brennenstein” starts the album with a bang and is a far cry from anything we’ve ever heard from these Icelandic shoegazers, including Valtari, released just one year ago. I’ve been a loyal fan for a long time and I have to admit, this is a side I’ve been waiting to hear from these guys. Even when tracks like “Ísjaki” end up sounding more like a Jónsi solo project than a Sigur Rós album, as a whole, Kveikur is where that blurry line disappears. The drums are bigger and the bass is now deeper and dirtier than ever. And just when you think they can’t go any bigger, the title track blows the top off of this monster creation. Consider yourself properly warned! —Kevin Comarda
STAR AND DAGGER
Don’t let this album’s artwork fool you: while it might suggest Star and Dagger are some kind of uber-stylish jazz trio (or on the back, stoned board game enthusiasts), in fact they are serious axe- wielding rockers, as if Alice in Chains actually had some Alices in it (and the explosion of opener “In My Blood” reminds me of the impact “Them Bones” had on Dirt). The rhythm section, held down ably by drummer Dustin Crops and bassist Sean Yseult, chugs along nice and deep but it’s Von Hesseling’s guitar tones that really shine through the rust on this album. Vocalist Dava She Wolf croons and swoons at full volume; and the track that sticks to my guts more than any other is “Selling My Things,” a slow, sludgy dirge about a garage sale gone straight to hell, where the seller’s meager belongings aren’t the only things strung out for everyone to see. The refrain “Do you feel good?” doesn’t feel good at all and it’s hard to imagine this person’s going to make it past go. A quirky album for sure, but definitely worth rolling the dice on. —Dan Fox
DRESSED, NO PICKLES
Those of you familiar with local funktronica favorites Gravity A will without a doubt also be acquainted with EJ Andrew Meehan, or as he is known by his friends and close constituents: Drew Meez. After solidifying his place in Gravity A in 2007, Meehan has continued to expand his musical palette with the GA offshoot PYMP, the Big Easy Bounce Band and most recently with his first solo effort, Dressed, No Pickles, a tongue- in-cheek nod to the jazz standard Straight, No Chaser by Thelonious Monk. Combining elements of funk, hip-hop, drum&bass, electro and just about any other genre you can think of, Dressed, No Pickles has a little something for everyone.
Meez got his start playing music with his brother right around third grade and since then has expanded his range of instruments from piano and keyboards to guitar, drums and melodica. The motivation to do the solo project was simple for Meez: “I really wanted to get my name out there a bit more and open myself up to a variety of styles. Gravity A is very focused on soloing and I wanted to have something a bit more cohesive with less open space.” Meez also states that one of the biggest differences is the fact that he alone composed the music, while GA is a group effort. He cites Marco Benevento, Roni Size, Joe Ashlar and Cash Money Records as major influences, and there are hints of all on the album.
The title track begins as a laid-back groove with smooth piano lines à la Massive Attack, before shifting into a double-time saxophone run similar to the sounds of late ‘90s drum&bass. “Ultimately, I wanted to keep things simple,” he states. “Most of the record is 4/4 and focuses on a party vibe. Even with the ups and downs of the tracklist, I essentially tried to make an album that provides a coherent story for the listener, even if they interpret things differently.” Meehan shows maturity and depth on “A Tear For Stone” of which he said, “I did five takes on that tune before I was happy with the end result.” Each track does a superb job of layering each element and instrument so that it lends itself to another. This theme shines on “Cause Celebre,” a housey throwback anthem with a 303 bassline and smooth guitar riffs reminiscent of late ‘90s house and techno.
Featuring the likes of Mike Dillon, M@ Peoples, Fou and Bru Bruiser from Gravity A, Chris Royal and a host of others, Dressed, No Pickles is a roller coaster ride of musical bliss that will get any party started off on the right foot. The one thing that shines through most about this album is the sound of New Orleans. From the classically “yeah brah” intro to the “Outro: Greatest Song Ever Created,” Meez captures the vibe of New Orleans on so many levels. The album is available at all good local record stores as well as drewmeez.bandcamp.com. When asked for shoutouts, Mr. Meez simply replied, “Plucka-plucka eyelash. Make-a-make-a wish. Teeth under my pillow. In the morning I’ll be rich.” —Graham Greenleaf