Friday, February 26, 2016

Wheels of Steel: The Explosive Early Years of the NWOBHM

Right when I think, "Somebody should write a book about x," Martin Popoff has gone and written it. My full review is at

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Musical Box, February 17 at the Commodore

I had a dream…I had a awesome dream…that I saw Genesis on the Selling England by the Pound tour.

Wait, that wasn’t a dream. That was last night at the Commodore. It might as well have been Genesis on stage. After seeing Quebec’s The Musical Box, I can’t really call them a tribute act. What they do goes beyond that. Their show is more like a historical re-enactment or (and this is the first and last time you’ll see this word in this blog) LARPing. It’s not “Hey, guys, you wanna get together and play some Genesis tunes?” it’s “Hey, guys, let’s BE Genesis.” The level of detail was astounding, from the lighting to the drum kit (I’d wager even the cymbals matched the specs on Collins’ early '70s setup) to the clothes (right down to the white denim overalls that “Phil” sported). An immense amount of research and devotion to this period of Genesis has obviously gone into this production.

Good thing I believed the advertised 8 PM start time, because although I didn’t get a floor seat—yes, there were rows of chairs on the dance floor—I did get a good spot to stand behind the last row. I was glad to not be the oldest old fart in the crowd for once. The place was packed with geezers, many of them sporting shirts from the last King Crimson show.

Musically, the performance was beyond criticism. I haven’t done my research, but I’m guessing this was the exact setlist from the Selling England by the Pound tour. Every nuance was captured; nothing was glossed over. Even Peter Gabriel’s between-song stories were recited word for surreal word. The material is part of my DNA by now, so there were no big surprises during the show, just little revelations here and there. For example, “The Battle of Epping Forest” really isn’t that great of a song. It earned the politest applause of the night. And I never knew that the whole last section of "The Cinema Show" was performed by just the core trio of Rutherford, Collins and Banks. This was actually the highlight of the night—a passage of pulverizing beauty. The crescendo moment was too much for one lady, who jumped up and ran up and down the aisle in an ecstatic frenzy. It was all I could do to not join her.

Overall, I rate this show 5 GIANT HOGWEEDS out of 5.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Recent Viewing

The last Cronenberg movie I watched prior to this was The Brood. Maps to the Stars contains 100 per cent less fetus licking, but is just as sick. Trust me. Hail to the master, and hail to Julianne Moore, one of the gutsiest actors of our times.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark—Organisation (Virgin/DinDisc 1980)

My 15-year-old self wouldn’t be impressed that I’m listening to OMD these days. To hell with that kid, though; he was no fun. I sometimes consider an alternate history for myself had my parents stayed in England. Maybe my teenage years wouldn’t have been so rockist; maybe my friend that had a job might have come home with a Wasp synth one day, and our basement band would have been based around that. Or maybe, because of genetic programming, I’d still have listened to nothing but Rush, Queen, and Iron Maiden.

I picked up Architecture and Morality a little while ago, and then found a copy of Dazzle Ships after that. What strikes me about OMD is that, for a synth-pop band, they sure revel in bleak, atmospheric sounds. Organisation, OMD’s second album, is quite meek compared to those two later LPs, and less prone to dark tangents. More conventionally organised, you might say. “Enola Gay” is the most famous track, of course, a chorus-free ditty whose simplicity only hints at later, more sophisticated hits like “Joan of Arc” and “Souvenir.”

My favourite tracks end side one and begin side two. “Statues" and “The Misunderstanding” evoke Joy Division and The Cure respectively, and paint the rest of the album in the deep gray that frames the cover photo.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Marc Maron—Attempting Normal (2013)

I’ve been a WTF Podcast fan for just over a year now—Maron’s interview with Paul Thomas Anderson was the one that hooked me—so I already know a lot about the guy. His past life is a constant hum in the background of every episode. However, opening this book at a couple random pages presented things I wasn’t expecting to see.

Agh! Marc’s having weird sex! Genital constriction is happening! Agh!

Quickly flip to another page…

10-year-old Marc is getting a rectal exam! Jesus!

Run away! I didn’t sign up for this.

Anyway, the book is great, if unpleasant at many points. He does lay it all out there, which is to be expected if you’re familiar with Maron’s show. The expected straight-up autobiographical narrative never really takes hold; eventually I realized the book is a series of wryly comic essays. The chapter describing his deployment of hummingbird feeders at his house cracked me up in particular.

He can construct a fine phrase. "This is what your heroes do for you—lift you victoriously above the dirty work of life and conjure a different way of being," he says about the Velvet Underground. That's a good way to put it.

You’ll recognize bits that he’s woven into his TV series, and whatever you think of the guy already, I can’t see this book changing your mind. You’ll just know more—a  lot more—about him.