Monday, February 19, 2007

Classic Video: Max Tundra - "Ink Me"

This is one of my favourite videos. It encapsulates everything that's bonkers yet lovable about Ben Jacob's music. I'm really looking forward to hearing his new record, whenever he finally finishes it. Hurry up Max! it's been nearly five years already!

Aaron Eckhart to play Harvey Dent in "The Dark Knight"

It has been announced that Neil LaBute regular and devout Mormon Aaron Eckhart is to play Harvey Dent in the upcoming Batman sequel "The Dark Knight". Many an actor has been linked with the coveted role over the past few months including Ryan Phillipe, Liev Schreiber, Josh Lucas and Justin Timberlake! (seriously, I read this). Now, all Batman fans worth their salt know that Harvey Dent is the alter ego of the villainous Two-Face, but word has it that in this movie Dent will be a good guy, helping Batman bring his arch-nemesis The Joker, played by Heath Ledger, to justice before assuming primary bad guy status in the next sequel. I personally think this is inspired casting; Eckhart is a fantastic character actor and his square-jawed charisma is a good fit for the conflicted district attorney. Also rumoured to be joining the cast is Maggie Gyllenhaal who is set to replace Katie Holmes as assistant D.A Rachel Dawes, probably due to the fact that Holmes is now a weird scientologist who'll probably be too busy ridding herself of all those nasty body thetans, but then she was crap in the first movie anyway so it's probably for the best. Christopher Nolan has shown himself to be shrewd when it comes to casting choices in the past and despite my initial reservations about Heath Ledger playing The Joker, I remain convinced that "The Dark Knight" will be another resounding success for the British director. Filming begins in March with a tentative release date of May 2008.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Grind House" Trailer!

This is the new trailer from the forthcoming Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration "Grindhouse", which will be divided up into two 90 minutes features, "Planet Terror" which will helmed by Rodriguez, and "Death Proof" which will be directed by Tarantino. Pretty cool trailer.

New El-P - "I'll Sleep When You're Dead"

El-P (Jaime Meline) has been a long time coming with the follow up to his 2003 classic "Fantastic Damage", and when I heard his new lp "I'll Sleep When You're Dead" featured cameos aplenty from the likes of The Mars Volta (boo) and Cat Power I thought it was a sign he had succumbed to the hip-hop tradition of having guest stars on every track which would have been a shame for someone as unconventional as he. Luckily, this proved not to be the case, and in truth, the supporting players are barely noticeable and are incorporated seamlessly into the mix. When I heard the new record, although it was a promo copy and I had to endure hearing "this promo belongs to Matthew Snider" every few minutes, I was glad to hear that El-P hadn't deviated too far from his previous album; "Dead" has the same syrupy but dense and atmospheric production but is perhaps slightly more listener-friendly than before, which isn't a bad thing, as "Fantastic Damage", brilliant album though it is, took me a while to get in to. I've posted the tremendous opener "Tasmanian Pain Coaster", which bears all his usual hallmarks i.e. tinny lo-fi beats and lightning quick rhyming, and is one of the record's highlights, of which there are many.

Ron Howard to remake "Cache"

I read a truly bone-chilling rumour today on Variety. Apparently Brian Grazer has bought the rights to remake Michael Haneke's 2005 masterpiece "Cache" (Hidden) and if that wasn't bad enough, consider the news that Ron Howard is eyeing the directors chair. To me, this is unspeakable horror. Ron Howard is the absolute definition of mediocrity, in fact, I bet if I went out and looked up mediocre in the dictionary, it would have a picture of Howard's ugly ginger grin staring straight out at me. "Hidden" was a highly complex and profoundly disturbing picture which made incisive points about collective French guilt when it comes to the treatment of Algerian immigrants in their country. The idea that the director of "Backdraft" and "Far and Away" would have the gall to tackle this kind of material brings tears to my eyes. The article also said to "expect the suspense and consequences to be amped up", which basically means that they'll be taking the basic premise of the original, which is a middle class couple receiving threatening letters and videotapes from an anonymous source, and then Americanizing it, turning it into a formulaic cat and mouse thriller, thereby stripping the story of any intellectual content, much like the 1994 remake of The Vanishing. The dastards!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Plush - "Fed"

"My creation has drowned me", croons Liam Hayes on opening track "Whose Blues", and, bearing in mind the fascinating back story which surrounds the making of "Fed", it's not hard to discern what he's talking about. After the release of his debut single "Three Quarters Blind Eyes/Found a Little Baby" in 1994, Hayes didn't actually release his debut album until four years later; "More You Becomes You" was a spare though beautiful set of delicate piano ballads clearly heavily influenced by Burt Bacharach's more instropective moments, but as accomplished as that record was, it was rumoured that "More You Becomes You" was just a stopgap to buy the chicago native some time while he worked on his magnum opus. Hayes has always had a reputation for being an obsessive perfectionist, and this stubborness almost drove him to the brink of financial and personal ruin while overseeing the torturous recording process for "Fed"; he had actually written the songs which make up the album by the late 90's, but spent the next three years painstakingly recording and then repeatedly re-recording his songs with the help of engineer Steve Albini and a stellar assembly of renowned soul veterans including arranger Tom Tom MMLXXXIV and drummer Mason Jennings until he was satisfied with the results. Naturally, the cost of hiring these talents was hard on Hayes pocket; By the time "Fed" was released in 2002, he had incurred a debt of almost 100,000 dollars, and perhaps unsurprisingly, found that no label in the United States were willing to pay the licensing fees required to distribute the record, which left Hayes in limbo, considering he had borrowed money from his friends and family to realise his vision. Eventually Japanese label After Hours agreed to buy the rights but only on the condition that the album could never be released outside Japan, which must have been a particularly bitter blow for Hayes, to spend eight years crafting your defining statement only to discover that most people will likely never hear it. Hayes still remains five years after it's release a mostly unknown quantity, and this is a shame as this man's ambition, dedication to his craft and sheer talent puts most other singer-songwriters today in the shade. His style is unique in the modern music scene as he really doesn't sound like any contemporary artists. The songs on "Fed" evoke the likes of Todd Rundgren and Harry Nilsson without descending into imitation and he expertly fuses elements of R & B and blues into a powerful and distinctive whole. The complete opposite of his previous album which was simple and minimal, "Fed" is overloaded with horns, strings and brass, almost to the point where it seems like the songs are gonna burst at the seams due to sheer excess. The fact that it somehow works is a credit to Hayes and Albini who have created a lush and richly textured sound which I guess isn't surprising really considering the amount of time and money which was expended on the project. "Fed" is also unique in that the lyrics often document the making of the album, giving a window into Hayes's anguish during the process, and the overriding theme is that of a socially maladjusted man who is obsessively fixated on his goals to the detriment of his personal relationships. However, this is not to say that the record is bleak, far from it; in fact, the 14 tracks are positively overflowing with jauntiness and good vibes; Hayes does a nice line in self-deprecation - poking fun at his uncomprising nature on "Blown Away" with the line "somebody told me I was great/maybe it was my mother", and also on the brilliant pop moment "Greyhound Bus Station", which contains the gem "everyone said that I was too far gone/to sing this song". I have no doubt that "Fed" will come to be regarded as one of the great "lost" albums due to the fact that people love mythology when it comes to music, as Kevin Shields and Brian Wilson would no doubt testify, but above all else, what grants this album classic status in my opinion, is that fact that the likes of "I've Changed My Number" and "No Education" are loaded with memorable hooks and feature some of the most beautiful vocals you're likely to hear anywhere, courtesy of Hayes fragile but expressive voice, which squeezes every last ounce of emotion out of every note. I'm one of the dedicated few who plumped up the cash to buy a copy of the cd from Japan, and I've decided to post it in it's entirety on this blog, for the simple reason that I don't think people should be denied the chance to hear a release of this quality.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ricky Jay Card Trick

This is a clip from "Ricky Jay Plays Poker", where the great magician shows a card trick to some friends including the actor John C.Reilly.