Reviews, January 2014


antigravityjan14_Page_27_Image_0004ERIN K. WILSON

The premise of the graphic novel Snowbird has all the makings of a disaster: a jane-come-lately do-gooder  drops in on New Orleans to literally  lecture everyone about the dangers of gentrification, all from her perch  behind a coffee shop counter and an apartment in the 9th Ward—in other words, a potential avalanche of clichés about New Orleans, punks, carpetbaggers, white guilt, etc. But guess what? This take is actually pretty brilliant, thanks to stellar artwork (like cute and comically exaggerated renditions of the Hi-Ho Lounge and the A.R.K. [RIP]), a command of comic narrative—stretches of wordless panels  tick by dramatically—and a protagonist who is actually sympathetic in her honesty and (near) naked breakdowns. During one of several emotionally charged, out-of-body arguments with herself, Wilson confesses, “The magnitude of my self-importance humbles me, even now.” My only real complaint is the pages of qualifiers at the end, where a final panel of Wilson drowning (in BP oil? love-sickness? anxiety?) would’ve been a dynamic  cliffhanger setup for book two. Instead, the add-ons—like a brief interview with Wilson, a statement about what should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve been in alternate versions, and a nod to her Kickstarter overlords—feel a little  superfluous. I’d much rather read that  stuff in a Snowbird omnibus one day and for now, like Wilson herself, be left hanging. —Dan Fox


antigravityjan14_Page_26_Image_0008GUNNAR HANSEN
When horror fans think of Gunnar  Hansen, they immediately equate  him with his most memorable role– Leatherface. The man behind the mask of other people’s flesh, the chainsaw-  wielding maniac amongst a family of redneck cannibals, Leatherface is easily the star of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 slasher classic, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. So it comes as some surprise to many of Hansen’s fans to learn that  he is actually a critically-acclaimed author; and he doesn’t write horror novels! Instead, he writes poetry, as well as books about history and travel. Chain Saw Confidential, penned and published in 2013, isn’t a horror novel, either. It’s a non-fiction account of the making of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the aftermath of its release. However, the book does not disappoint. CSC is witty and superbly well-written, compiling not only Hansen’s own memories of filming, but also those of crew members and his castmates. There are conversations with other bold figures from the horror film industry, such as directors John Landis and Stuart Gordon (Re- Animator), and fellow actor/author Doug Bradley (best known for playing Pinhead in the Hellraiser movies). While this book documents the independently-made, low-budget film that revolutionized horror, it could also serve as a handbook for indie filmmakers. There are several behind- the-scenes looks at different tricks the crew used to cheat cinematography, special effects, stunts, and lighting. Chain Saw Confidential reveals lots of unknown facts surrounding the controversial film, while also dispelling many rumors associated with it. You don’t have to be a Leatherface fan to find something enjoyable about this book. A great read, a fun story, and an excellent trivia guide for diehard fans of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre! —Jenn Attaway


antigravityjan14_Page_27_Image_0002JAY MAZZA

Sometimes, the greatest of scenes comes from the unlikeliest sources  converging in the most serendipitous of ways. Former Louisiana Weekly music reporter Jay Mazza looks back on the disparate elements that came together at what was once a little-  known neighborhood watering hole frequented by locals and sailors to create a bridge between the older jazz musicians and the newer ones carrying  those chops (infused with funk, rap, and hip-hop) into a new century. From 1993 on, Vaughan’s owner Cindy Wood and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins dodged city officials over entertainment permits (especially relevant in this time of new noise ordinances rearing  their heads); borrowed many PA systems; served up lots of red beans  and rice (and barbecue) along with the music and dancing; and all this while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere welcoming to local guest musicians, be they seasoned veterans or just starting out. Mazza makes a case for Vaughan’s Thursday nights playing a pivotal role in revitalizing the Bywater, but doesn’t dwell on it too much—there are too many stories to be told. His narrative loses some steam once Katrina hits, Kermit’s Live At Vaughan’s album comes out, and HBO’s Treme comes calling, but it succeeds in capturing a snapshot in prose of an unlikely scene in its heyday. —Leigh Checkman


antigravityjan14_Page_27_Image_0003CHRIS PRIK
There is much to be said for the freedom found within self-publishing. Prikart: Legacy is not just a coffee table art book; it is an autobiographical account of the darkness that lurks in the mind of the creative genius. Without the confinements of a publisher/editor peering over his shoulder, Chris Prik speaks freely about what happens when a paranoid psychotic goes off his meds and goes on a five-day meth binge. He openly discusses the man who swindled him out of tens of thousands of dollars and some one-of-a-kind pieces of art, and how he got linked to that man and his gallery in the first place. He prints pictures of some of his work, which is ripe with nudity and violence. All of these factors help the reader look away from a few misspellings and sentence structure faux pas, and just go along for the wild rollercoaster ride that  has been Prik’s life. The art itself is deliciously dark—“Dark Pop Art,” as he has dubbed it. There are heavy graffiti and anime influences; and though the colors are dark, the art is still very vivid and colorful. Prik even shows some of the New Orleans-themed, more commercial work he has done under his real name, Chris Schmid. Amidst a life riddled with prison time and drug addiction, Prik has tried to find his way through his passion for the visual arts, and doesn’t care if you pity him or loathe him for it. He offers no apologies and makes no effort to close with some inspirational tale of salvation, self-healing, or even triumph over his weaknesses. Yet he continues to create his own brand of art, and now also compiles and writes his own books to help pull you even further into his world. —Jenn Attaway



antigravityjan14_Page_26_Image_0002BLOOD ORANGE
If nothing else, 2013 was the year I learned to love the sweeter side of music. The smooth sounds of 1980s R&B permeated the atmosphere this year. Everything—from one of the year’s biggest releases (Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories) to a breakout band (Haim)—was indebted to retro soft rock, so one could be forgiven for ignoring a late release like Cupid Deluxe, which would have been a mistake. Blood Orange has made what turns out to be one of the best records I’ve heard all year. The album affixes upbeat ‘80s beats and Nile Rodgers-style guitar licks with minor key shifts that undercut the party vibe with sadness. Cupid Deluxe finds a thin shadow where even disco looks dark. The magnificent “Uncle Ace” rides a janky funk riff all the way into a multitracked wall of saxophone. The record is warm despite its somber  tone and the absolute bubblegum moments (like the neon pink chorus of “It Is What It Is”) bring such a rich dynamic to each song. The lush beauty  of “Always Let U Down” exists in perfect harmony with its Cheese-Whiz drum machine and pop hooks the same way Skepta’s guest vocals on “High Street” avoid the typical rap guest verse nonsense and instead weave together with the sparse, ghostly production until they’re inseparable and fit naturally with the rest of the record. By the time the familiar refrain of “Time Will Tell” brought the record to a grand conclusion in a crashing din of piano and voices, I was ready to play the entire thing over again. Blood Orange has found something here—a sweetly melancholic blend of ‘80s pop and the bad end of a long night. —Mike Rodgers


antigravityjan14_Page_26_Image_0004CONNAN MOCKASIN
It’s really not enough to just dredge your music in the snow-white flour that is old school soft rock—you’ve got to have the songs to back it up. And at times, Connan Mockasin’s lurchy, frustrating sophomore record finds that  sweet spot. The deliriously druggy lover man leer of “I’m The Man, That Will Find You” hooks up a narcotic drip to AM R&B before jumping right into the pillow soft groove of “Do I Make You Feel Shy?” You might think Connan Mockasin had a subverted masterwork going here, before the album’s bloated midsection takes over. “It’s Your Body” is broken down into five parts and what begins as a leaden version of the first half of the record devolves into bored psychedelic meandering. By part five, even the reemergence of the melody doesn’t have enough oomph  to put any fight back into the record.  Try as it might, even the syrupy “I Wanna Roll With You” can’t reclaim  the record’s lost momentum. The comparison to Ariel Pink is easy. Both tread in demo tape versions of soft rock homage, but Ariel Pink knows how to let the freakouts happen without derailing the record. This is a few cuts shy of a good E.P., or two ideas short of a good record. Ultimately, Caramel sits uncomfortably between art-pop homage and one-note novelty, its better moments overshadowed by its bumps and bruises. —Mike Rodgers


This was my most anticipated release  of 2013! Combining ex-members of local favorites haarp (Shaun Emmons and Keith Sierra, Jr.) and Omean (brothers Greg and Steve Bourgeois on guitars), you really can’t go wrong. Shaun’s vocals “from the depths of hell” and Keith’s “powermad” drumming are back; what’s different is the style. They’ve gone back to later period Rat in a Bucket: 5 songs in 15 minutes = more direct. You can call it “grindcore,” but the difference is the decipherable lyrics. This release is only available on Bandcamp (so far) so I don’t have a lyric sheet to study, but Shaun and Keith’s subject matter seems to be growing more thought-out and intelligent over time. “Etch and Burn,” “Embedded” and “Guilt Runs Red” rip through my speakers, demanding my attention and repeated listening. Through all the chaos and near-deafening volume is bassist John Miskimmim, keeping the sound together and grounded. These guys live in Covington, Abita Springs, and Chalmette, but I hope distance doesn’t limit their amount of local shows in New Orleans. I’m really looking forward to a legitimate vinyl or CD release—any labels interested? Check this out if you love HEAVY music.  —Carl Elvers


When the needle hits this record, it is pure fucking power! This LP starts off at 1,000 mph, immediately grabbing you by the throat; and it never lets up. This Portland band has been around in different forms since 2008, but they’ve finally graced their impatient public with a long player.  Krysta Martinez (also currently in Landmine Marathon) sounds like a possessed demon that you can’t turn away from. Bleak lyrics include: “…as the pickers pick, the birds peck at soggy shrapnel faceplates” from “Botton Feeder”; “…the more pain one endures, the more one will progress”  from “Sustain the Yoke”; and “…a rusty  bar had taught me the taste of teeth— teeth in flesh” from “Cataphora.” Transient was involved in a near-fatal van wreck while on tour a few years ago with all members suffering extreme injuries. The amount of pain a human can endure really shows in the subject matter of these songs. Insanely blistering! They are surely the shape of grind to come. —Carl Elvers


antigravityjan14_Page_26_Image_0007VARIOUS  ARTISTS
Billed as “the single most reprehensible soundtrack ever made,” this set of tunes—assembled by [AG Contributor] Bill Heintz to accompany the latest of New Orleans smut filmmaker  Jason Matherne’s oeuvre of grindhouse horror—is anything but reprehensible. Musically, it’s actually a comprehensive snapshot of many of the punk, electronica, thrash, metal, and surf bands flying under the radar  of accepted genres in this city today. Sure, the subject matter of some of the songs (among them the Saints of Helltown’s “Die You Trendy Fuck” and the Poots’ just-this-side-of-menacingly funny “I’m A Stain”) may not be for the faint of heart (the relentless, rocking oppression of Innsmouth’s “Leave Behind The Fools” is particularly impressive and climactic), but throw in some selections by the Unnaturals, Missing Monuments’ edgy, loving “Girl Of The Night,” the Split Lips’ aggressive “Vagina Dentata,” and much more and you’ll be hunting these bands down not to kill them, but to party with them. If it’s been a while since you’ve come across a soundtrack that is, quite possibly, better than the movie for which it was made, go find Grimewave and let it grab you. —Leigh Checkman