Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
Part 10 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Bands I Adore, From Afar
Four guys from Alvin, TX (an Houston suburb) have been making spazzy, Rodan and Pitchblende meets Hella punk-metal for the past few years, and I'm pretty partial to their collective effort, entitled By The End Of Tonight. I'm a sucker for high-octane, instrumental guitar music, with the big Bugs Bunny beat, and their albums/EPs are like late-night Adult Swim shows, only faster and more intense. This is music to jump turnstiles to, with extra transit cop chasing at the end.
James Templeton (Bass), Jeff Wilson (Drums), Josh Smith (Guitar), and Stefan Mach (Guitar) have special finger and arm powers that can make splendid mini-albums like [A Tribute To Tigers], which serve to invigorate as well as confuse. How can the timing be that odd, or the percussion so explosive? Well, it really does sound like the evolution of a lot of semi-obscure indie bands from the 90's, but since I liked such music then, I still can dig the new version.
Perhaps you like to dig, too? If you desire large, rocky holes, then download [It's Christmas Time Again] by following this link here (SXSW, MP3). Intensity!
Part 9 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Bands I Adore, From Afar
I come from a Pop background. Meaning, I grew up with the standard hits from the 40s onward, as piped over AM radio. Eventually my tastes expanded exponentially, but I'm still a sucker for well-constructed, fairly-feel-good songs. Palomar are three women and a man from Brooklyn, New York, and since around 1999 they've been making pop that snaps and crackles just for the heck of it. Female vocaled, jangle-guitared, and intelligently lyrical, their third album [Palomar III: Revenge Of Palomar] is one of my favorite releases from 2004, that I only discovered during SXSW 2005.
Sarah Brockett (Bass, Vocals), Dale W. Miller (Drums, Vocals), Christina Prostano (Guitar, Vocals), and Rachel Warren (Guitar, Vocals) sound almost exactly like Jale, with a touch of Velocity Girl. That's to say they sound very Sub Pop, with touches of my all-time fave Up Records, and I can make such comparisons freely because I've seen their sound-alikes live, at the same awesome show in 1994. Ten years later, and that sharp yet sweet sound is back, for all of our enjoyment. I'm quite enamored by perfect songs like [Not Earned], which are akin to classical popular indie rock, much like Spent or other secrets of the 90s. It's my job now to track down their first two albums, not to mention their latest EP, and fully swim in this brilliance.
Simply put, you'd be well served by listening to [The Planeiac] by following this link here (SXSW, MP3). If that suits your fancy, then dig deep to come up with jewels.
Part 8 in a Series: SXSW 2005 Bands I Adore, From Afar
About 10 years ago, I was quite enamored by Sixteen Deluxe, a spunky band that picked up where My Bloody Valentine and a bunch of indie rockers left off. I loved their 3 albums, but lost track as their jaunt to a major label didn't bring the well-deserved stardom. Now, Carrie Clark from Sixteen Deluxe has joined bassist Matt Hovis and drummer Kevin Whitley in The Pretty Please, a kick-ass, fuzzy-buzzy, female vocaled rock slide that I'm really getting a kick out of.
Their first 4 song EP, [Demonstration], captures their Austin, TX sound perfectly, from the super-catchy lead track, [The Rock Star Guide to Falling Apart], to equally swell sounds in [Falling Star], [The Artificial Hearts] and [Hit Parade], which come off as Sixteen Deluxe meets Cake Like and The Breeders.
At this point, I know you're itching to have some of The Pretty Please, so why not listen to [The Rock Star Guide to Falling Apart] by following this link here (SXSW, MP3). Or, hear [Hit Parade] from their web site.
Well, you might not break down in tears, but [Howl's Moving Castle] still is a fine Hayao Miyazaki anime production. Do I need to explain who he is? From [Lupin], through [Nausicaa], and then into super stardom with tons of movies from his Ghibli studios, Miyazaki-san is an institution. Heck, this year he was profiled in the [The New Yorker] magazine, so you know he's at least appreciated by the upper-middle class.
Of course, the rest of us have been into his work for decades, liberating it from adoring hands in Japan into translated form. I myself have been a fan since High School (the late 80s), so I do come at this from experience. On Saturday I was able to see his latest release (from 2004) in a local theater, in its pure, subtitled form, which is the only way to go. Don't let Disney and other interested parties fool you - fancy star voices from Hollywood are next to crap when compared to the original Japanese vocal masters. You have been warned - if you must see the dubbed production (which I'm sure will still be great), then also rent the upcoming DVD down the road so you can experience the real, subtitled presentation.
As for the plot and all that, you know that I hate to spoil movies by recounting the story. Sufficed to say that you can find hundreds of mostly glowing reviews via a simple click.
Did you know that there's a new Batman movie out? Seriously, I haven't seen any advertisements, magazine articles, actor appearances on talkshows, toys, tie-in comic books, novelizations, cellphone campaigns, nothing. I just walked up to my nearest theater last night, and there it was: [Batman Begins]. Sounded good, so I took my seat and went along for the ride.
Actually, I has a little more foreknowledge than that. I've been a comic book reader since I could read, and while Batman isn't my most favorite character ever, I definitely know his mythos inside and out. I've been eagerly anticipating this particular revamp of the Batman franchise, because it promised to have a darker tone, more true to the source material. At Wondercon a few months ago in San Francisco, I even saw Christian Bale speak for about an hour about his role, and the force of his conviction in the power of this classic American icon warmed the cockles of all fanboys and fangirls present.
So, of course I was there right after work on the first night, and even with my jaded, Bat-experienced eye, it was a remarkable achievement. Save for Katie Holmes, who never really does anything for me, the whole affair was action packed yet philosophical, mythical yet realistic. Taking the stories and art from various Batman creators and shifting them slightly, to better suit a new millennial movie audience, the end result was much better than any previous Batman movie, and placed solid foundations for sequels I actually would love to see.
If you want more convincing than that, then go to your favorite movie review source and have a ball. Sufficed to say that this was an origin story cut from the same cloth as the [Spider-Man] series, and while a bit too dark for the little ones, I predict a similar success.
I like airplane crashes that lead to tropical island adventures, and thus was particularly receptive to [Lost], which is literally the only TV show I watch regularly. I'm looking forward to to the DVD release of Season 1 on 9.6.05, to study the few parts I missed, and to marvel at the relatively amazing quality of it all. I'll spare you from long-winded analysis, because there's enough of that on the net and in magazines already. Sufficed to say that it's a pretty entertaining show with touches of SF, fantasy, [Gilligan's Island], [Land of the Lost], and all sorts of other stuff.
The DVD set is timed perfectly with the start of Season 2, and if you want a sneak peak into that, then head on over to www.oceanic-air.com. Whois says that it was created on 4.20.05, and might have gone live as little as a few weeks ago (I'm not certain). In any case, it's the site for the fictional airline that carried the members of [Lost] to their island doom. It's played perfectly straight, but if you click around here and there you'll get extra video clips and biographical detail from the series.
For those needing a hint (and those like me who don't keep a pen and paper near the TV set), the series goes on and on about the following string of numbers: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Those are the unlucky lottery numbers of Hurley, one planewrecked guy, and they figure into many other island plot points. All you need are these numbers, and the fact that the plane was flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, to get into a "restricted" area, where you can use those numbers again to pull up video clips. Mess around a bit and you'll be set up, although the teaser trailer is more tease than trail, so to speak. Have fun, see the reruns, and tune in to new adventures when the time is right.
P.S.: Also check out www.driveshaftband.com, which is another [Lost]-mythology related site.
I'm fairly interested in new movie and music releases from Japan. "Fairly" in the sense that I'm insanely interested, but only have a fair amount of money. Thus, I usually stick with what I already know, picking up the latest from artists covered by my Japanese Pop section. I pre-order what my budget can take, a few months in advance, and then it usually takes a few weeks for the coveted items to get to me.
Jude released a 90 minute concert DVD entitled [Dracula Soda] on 5.11.05 (VKBJ-32), and I got it a few days ago. Surprisingly, it's a region free DVD, which means you can play it in any NTSC-loving country, like the USA. That's pretty rare for Japanese releases, so Kenichi Asai fans out there should make sure to take advantage. Sure, it's 5000 yen for a 15 song DVD and nice little photo book, but seeing Jude live, along with little entertaining and information bio bits (no subtitles), is worth the effort.
Also in my last shipment was the latest Promotional Video collection by our pals Puffy (AmiYumi). This time, they have 34 minutes of musical cuteness, 9 songs collectively know [Funclips Funclub], which pretty much says it all. Well, actually there's 7 live songs as a bonus (adding another 20 minutes or so), that says a little bit more than your usual all.
According to [Entertainment Weekly] magazine, many young boys and girls in the US think that Puffy are entirely fictional, due to their Cartoon Network show, and thus need to be schooled that they actually exist as 30-something individuals. This DVD is the perfect avenue for that, save for the fact that it's a region 2 DVD, and thus not playable on PS2s or Xboxes in the very land of their new-found fame. Oh well, it's quite suitable for my excessive collection, 2940 yen, 5.11.05, (KSBL-5809)
Finally, I would be totally stingy if I didn't remind you that Salyu has her first official album coming out on 6.15.05. [Landmark], said album, has a huge amount of great singles collected on it, plus new songs I just can't stand waiting for. Yeah, she's the voice of Lily Chou-Chou, so we all have to represent. Thus, I expect you to check this out in any and all ways possible, or at least go to her website for a few minutes, just because.
What else am I looking out for? Well, I have a large amount of preorders, but here is my list in brief (yes, brief - I'm holding some stuff back):
1) [FLCL No.3], Pillows, 6.8.05, KICA-695, 1,905yen
2) [Electric Rainbow], Jude, 6.22.05, VKCJ-33, 2,857yen
3) [Omoide In My Head 2 - Kioku Series 1] and [Omoide In My Head 2 - Kioku Series 2], Number Girl, 6.22.05, TOCT-25687, TOCT-25691, 4,000yen each
4) [Hajimari no Uta / Nice Body], Puffy, 7.13.05, KSCL-841, 1,165yen
5) [Ready?], Tommy Heavenly6, 7.20.05, DFCL-1192, 1,165yen
6) [Life is Jinsei], Thmlues, 7.21.2005, KICM-1142, 952yen
8) [Coelacanth Is Android], Polysics, 8.17.05, KSCL-877, 1,165yen
Everything listed is exciting, but I'm perhaps most psyched by the Tommy Heavenly6 single - I'm still holding out for an actual album, to make up for the excessive synth-pop of her Tommy Februrary6 alter ego. Oh yeah - new Sheena Ringo DVDs (Tokyo Jihen) never, ever hurt.
In 1995 I was a struggling zinester who spent what money he could each week on indie rock. One Tuesday I walked into Mod Lang in Berkeley and my record clerk friend said "Hey, this just came out today. You must buy this." The "this" in question was the self-titled Sleater-Kinney album, and it took me exactly one night to fall in love. I knew of Corin Tucker from Heavens to Betsy (brilliant), and Carrie Brownstein from Excuse 17 (equally shiny), but like peanut butter cups, they were two great artists that exploded with flavor upon contact.
That weekend, circumstance provided Sleater-Kinney as the headlining act at 924 Gilman, the largely-teenage punk club hangout in Berkeley, CA. I took the bus to attend, and the club was largely empty - apparently no one knew what to expect of this "Women in Punk" night. The Donnas (then still school age) played an average set, while I talked to Corin at the merchandise table - "Your album is so great, I love it!". Which it was, and she politely told me about their band, but made sure to turn my attention to their drummer, Laura MacFarlane (a.k.a. Lora Macfarlane). I eagerly bought her then latest CD, [Jelly], full of music from her various projects in Australia. I realized that I had been sitting next to genius Laura all night on the floor - thus was the laid back atmosphere.
Soon enough, Sleater-Kinney took the stage, and blew everyone away, even me as I sang along to every song. It was like the moment that you turn on the brightest light bulb ever, only in slow motion - you could see the future fame shoot out of their mouths, guitars and drums. I was fully converted that night, and went to Lacey and Olympia, WA in 1996, to check out their birthplace. "Sleater-Kinney" is a busy road in Lacey, and so I made sure to go stand on it, and pat myself on the head for knowing about something so great, that barely anyone else was aware of.
Of course, it only took a few months for that to change, from all the reviews in zines ([Junk Magnet] included), not to mention the newly awakened WWW. They followed that album with more releases on Chainsaw and Kill Rock Stars, each one more brilliant than the last. Soon enough critics tagged them as one of the best bands out there (true enough), but for whatever reason their fame was unfortunately limited, partially due to their main strength - three talented women who make uncompromising rock. Apparently, the US mainstream isn't quite prepared to accept fully feminine rock, which was a shame because they blow apart most any other band out there.
Over the years I only saw them live once more, in Portland, OR, their new home, soon after Janet Weiss of Quasi joined as drummer. I adore Quasi, who I discovered at a Portland show in 1994, and so I was officially in heaven, with a fully fledged super group to adore (now part of a large crowd of fans).
I kept buying their work, and reading interviews, but didn't catch them in person again until last Saturday, when they hit the Warfield in San Francisco. Out promoting [The Woods], released 5.24.05 on Sub Pop, it was yet another bolt from the blue, partially because the rawness of their new songs reaches back and improves upon their very first album. Most people, including the band, cite how [The Woods] borrows from the dominant rock groups they enjoyed growing up, the over-masculinized big guitar roar that you can hear on "classic rock" radio. This is largely due to the presence of Dave Fridmann as producer, who intentionally led them away from their usual sound. Some people hate this new turn, but I think it's quite grand, and a great evolution for the band.
All of that said, you'd be wonderfully served to buy their latest release, especially the limited edition that comes with a DVD of 4 songs performed live (act fast if you want that). Or, reach back to the first 2 albums, while Laura was still around on drums, and know the feeling that inspired me to write Antizine - pretty much the whole scenario spun out of that very first show.
In short, Sleater-Kinney will always be one of my top 5 bands - the perfect sound for my tumultuous post collegic decade. Your mileage may vary, but at least drive them around the block a few times before you decide. Oh, and make sure to check out Laura in Ninetynine, too - doesn't get much better than that.
While I visited Tokyo in April of 2004, I happened to spend a day at Odaiba, specifically the Aqua City commercial complex. The Sega Joyopolis amusement center was right there, a multistory indoor amusement park, with lots of video games, motion simulators, and live-action attractions.
One of the attractions I visited was for [Sky High], the 2003 movie by Ryuhei Kitamura, well known for [Versus]. I didn't know much about the movie at that point, only that it was recently on DVD in Japan, and that there was a TV series associated with it. So, the attendant spent some time explaining things in both Japanese and English, so I would be sure to understand the expensive 5 minutes to come.
As I entered the darkened "house", all I really knew is that I was supposed to see horrific things, and at some point I would be give a three-pronged choice - already dead, I could path through the "Gate Of Rage" to 1) Heaven and reincarnation, 2) to the eternal life of a ghost on Earth, or to 3) revenge, followed by Hell. So, I passed through bloody bedrooms and moaning telephones to the point of my choice, at which time a real live woman with long hair and a tattered dress jumped out, like something out of [Ringu], and so I ran the hell out there through the first available door (I think I chose ghosthood).
That brief moment was actually terribly frightening, because I didn't expect someone to jump out and come after me (albeit slowly). If I had more of my wits about me, I would have stopped and tried to talk to her, above and beyond the Japanese phrase we were supposed to yell, as part of the "simulation". Movies don't scare me because of the separation of seat and screen, but this sort of Joyopolis immersion was quite effective.
I'm still not certain if the woman that jumped out at me at Joyopolis was supposed to be the guardian of the Gate, ushering me to my destiny, or if it was a spirit that I was supposed to help, or perhaps even my killer. To the right, you can see the point that freaked me out - note the bloody corpse handing from the ceiling, and the ghost woman entering stage right. Woooo! In any case, I recommend that attraction, but I think it was a short-term thing. They also had a [Terminator 3] one which was supremely cheesy (the terminator was played by a Japanese man in a generic "space alien" halloween mask), but I didn't complain, since I was at Joyopolis in Tokyo - not an everyday event for me.
All of the above is to set up my review of [Sky High], which has been out in the US for a few months from Media Blasters. It's actually quite inventive, even charming, as one follows the recently murdered bride Mina (Yumiko Shaku, also of the great [Princess Blade]) as she confronts her ultimate destiny in the afterlife, found by trying to track her (serial) killer. The cinematography is great, the characters fairly dimensional, and the story is of the semi-Biblically apocalyptic type, but with lots more beautiful women spirits and swords than usual.
The main problem I have with it is conceptual - it posits the aforementioned Gate Of Rage, protected by a long line of female spirits, through which Heaven, Hell, or Earth can be reached, for everyone that's ever existed (actually, everyone who's been murdered, or accidentally killed). That said, since it's a Japanese movie, no spirits save for a few Japanese folk are seen to approach the Gate, and I assume that there's not a gate for each race of people, or each geographical location. Also, all of the guardians of the Gate are young Japanese women, which is far from explained. No matter - if one starts to logically deconstruct the movie then it quickly falls apart, but if you use its own internal theorems about how the universe works (all which are tied into selective mythologies), then [Sky High] works quite well.
So, if you like manga-based, sword-heavy, ripped-out-hearts, eternal-love stories with lots of attractive females saving the day, then this is the puzzle piece you've been looking for. It's not a perfect concoction, but it's more entertaining than most similar imports out there.
[BAMBi] by Kaneko Atsushi. I've been enjoying that manga for years, and eagerly awaiting its translation into English. Well, the wait is almost over, since [BAMBi And Her Pink Gun] is due to hit the US next month, thanks to Digital Manga Publishing.
To celebrate, I'm planning on giving away two copies of that US release, out of the kindness of my pocketbook. Go to the BAMBi Contest page and find out more - entries are limited to US residents this time.
Even if you don't want to enter, you should check out my thorough Kaneko Atsushi shrine right this instant.
One of the most violent movies I've ever seen is [Ichi The Killer] by Takashi Miike. In it, scores of yakuza are dismembered in the most gruesome way possible, with dismemberments, decapitations, disembowelments, plus more. It's still a beautiful film in its own way, but it's a bitch to watch at times.
[Elfen Lied] is an anime series based on manga by Lynn Okamoto (serialized in [Weekly Young Jump] magazine) that is [Ichi The Killer] for the [Happy Lesson] set (with touches of [Chobits]), with minutes upon minutes of blood and breasts, not necessarily in different scenes. See, a mysterious young girl breaks out of a secret facility, killing everything in sight with terrifying, detached efficiency. She has problems, of the multiple-personality type, and her non-killer self is cute, child-like, and helpless, to the point that all she can say is "Nyu".
I won't belabor the plot further, except you have a college age boy in a big house with at least 3 other females of varying eccentricity and/or propensities to violence. Thus, there's romantic tension (boy wants to take care of sexy Nyu without violating her innocence), familiar tension (girl has a thing for her male cousin) and just plain tension (the killer in Nyu, "Lucy", comes out at the worse times, only witnessed by a homeless girl, and not our protagonists).
I enjoyed the first DVD volume, but with qualifications. It definitely took the violence much further than necessary, and the juxtaposition between the domestic sweetness and the gory attempts at getting Nyu back in captivity makes for a weird combination. It's geared towards males, what with excesses of mayhem, female (non-pubic) nudity and "romance" (having to deal with the attentions of multiple girls), but it still manages to make something new and not quite disposable.
It's clear that future episodes will delve deeper into the mystery of Nyu and her kind, and that's what I'm looking forward to, rather than "cool" scenes of scattered body parts. If you can stand romance splatter horror, then this should be exactly for you.
One of the first bands covered by this site was Triceratops, oh so many years ago (umm...5?). Since them I've kept up with their work, but neglected to update their page, until today.
Why today, other than the fact that they're a fine band that deserve your attention? Well, when their latest album came out a few months ago, I eagerly pre-ordered a copy, and received it shortly thereafter. However, before I received it, but after I ordered it, I saw a copy elsewhere and bought it, not remembering the order. Long story short, I have an extra copy of [The 7th Voyage Of Triceratops], just itching to be yours.
Want it? Then simply visit the Triceratops Contest page for details. You have until 6.30.05 to enter.
Don't worry - non-fans of excellent J-Rock should have other contests to choose from later this month.
contests: [enter here]
po box 11501