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andee's world: October 2005

andee's world

Hello and welcome to my blog. This space will be devoted to opinions, observations, lists, articles and whatever else I feel like posting. Subjects will include music, human nature, politics, life in NYC, etc. If I paste someone else's writing up here, it is because the author said something way better than I ever could. By the way, I don't claim to be a particularly smart guy; I'm just a musician with some opinions. If you disagree with me, that's cool -- but then, you're probably wrong.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Your Halloween Multi-Media Start-Up Kit


The Misfits Collection I and II
If the movie Night of the Living Dead were a rock band it would sound like the Misfits. This is low-budget horror punk -- the recordings are beyond lo-fi and the performances are scrappy to say the least, but all of this only enhances the splattershow effect. Underneath the barely-together musicianship and tape saturation, of course, are Glenn Danzig's genius songs: "Vampira," "Where Eagles Dare," Skulls," "I Turned Into a Martian." The list goes on and on. Untouchable shit.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins Voodoo Jive -- The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Way back in the 50's, before Alice Cooper, before Rob Zombie, before King Diamond, there was the mad, loveable lunatic Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Using skulls, snakes and shrunken heads as stage props, Hawkins belted macabre and hilarious bastard r&b classics like "I Put a Spell on You, "Little Demon" and "Alligator Wine." Most probably the first artist to emerge from a coffin onstage. Don't you wish you could say that?

Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe
Like The Misfits before him, this man understands that Halloween isn't just another day on the calendar, it is a full time attitude, a way of life. "Demoniod Phenomenon," "Living Dead Girl," "Dragula" -- they're all classics!

Various Artists Halloween Hootenanny
Speaking of Mr. Zombie, the "Creepshow Baby" himself lovingly compiled this batch of horror surf and psychobilly gems by bands like Rocket From the Crypt, Los Straitjackets and Reverend Horton Heat. I bought this CD out of curiosity for my Halloween party in '98 and it has become a seasonal favorite. Super fun and very well done.

Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
One glance at the album cover will tell you that this is scary music. Put the record on, and it opens like a Hammer flick -- thunder, rain, and a distant, tolling bell. Then...that riff. A terrifying, monolithic three note figure that could easily serve as the theme music to Satan's own coronation.

Sabbath's classic first album, a stark, low-budget affair, introduces the band by way of a series of blunt, bastardized-blues riffs, plodding rhythms and haunted, howling vocals that know no subtlety; the music makes its point by bludgeoning you senseless. Keep the lights on for this one.

Slayer Reign In Blood
If The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were a rock band, it would sound like Slayer. This is 28 minutes of harrowing, relentless, terrifying death metal insanity. You will either worship this album or revile it. Me personally, I live for it.

Siouxsie and the Banshees Juju
The Banshees' fourth album is a roiling, shadowy masterpiece. "Spellbound," "Night Shift" and, of course, "Halloween" count among this album's many highlights. The closing "Voodoo Dolly," however, is about as intense as this band ever got. Chilling.

Type O Negative The Least Worst Of
If you hate Type O Negative then chances are you're not getting the joke. A sturdy sense of humor is essential to interpreting TON's ponderous goth metal (check the Addams Family quote in "Black No. 1"). Stay with them and you'll find that they're pretty great songwriters, too.

Mussorgsky A Night On Bald Mountain
This is on the flipside of Pictures at an Exhibition. I bought a vinyl copy of it on the street in Astor Place for a quarter back in the fall of '97. A Night on Bald Mountain was apparently inspired by Liszt's Todentanz (Dance of Death) and also by Nikolai Gogol's story "St. John's Eve." Mussorgsky himself describes the story: "...the witches used to gather on this mountain, gossip, play tricks and await their chief -- Satan. On his arrival they...formed a circle round the throne on which he sat in the form of a goat and sang his praise."

Love Like Blood Odyssee
I have talked about these Teutonic goth merchants in previous posts, but I should bring 'em up again. There could not be more appropriate music for this time of year -- lush, romantic, shadowy, autumnal. The white-faced Gotham undead are stirring in their crypts...hear them?

Alice Cooper Welcome to My nightmare

Bauhaus In the Flat Field

The Damned Machine Gun Etiquette

The Cramps Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits

Various Artists Just Can't Get Enough -- New Wave Halloween

Sisters of Mercy Some Girls Wander by Mistake


Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas Chainsaw Massacre stands alongside Night of the Living Dead as one of the pillars of modern, low-budget horror. This grainy, fetid, claustrophobic masterpiece is one of the fucked-est, most bizarre things you will ever sit through. Absolutely genius.

The Exorcist
I think this was the first horror movie to use a child as the the center and the source of its terror. What a brilliant idea -- take a sweet, innocent little girl and turn her into a foulmouthed fountain of pure evil. Yikes. Everything is done right in this movie -- the acting, the lighting, the music, the effects, and of course the directing. William Friedkin masterfully frames each shot for the absolute maximum impact. Could be the scariest film of all time.

The Omen
Also one of the top three or four scariest movies ever. The Omen was made on a very low budget (the picture was delivered at a little over 2 million dollars) but you can't tell. This film sells itself on a great story, powerful, totally credible acting and clever, imaginative photography. And of course, music. Jerry Goldsmith's spine-tingling score is absolutely unforgettable.

Blair Witch Project
I went to see this movie in the theater when it first came out and, much to my delight, I found it terrifying! It's got a clever premise but the reason why it works is because 95% of the horror is merely implied, rather than shown. Incredibly expensive special effects are not scary -- your imagination is.

Max Schreck, the very first movie vampire, is probably to this day still the creepiest one of all (jeez, he even has a scary name!). This silent horror classic contains some of the most haunting and indelible images in the history of film. If you get the dvd, be sure to watch without the corny musical accompaniment someone added recently.

Is this the first horror film to feature a bona fide heroine? It's the first one I can think of (to be followed by many others, including Alien). Another super-low budget classic that succeeds totally thanks to a resourceful director, strong cast and the credibility lent by a "name" actor (Donald Pleasance).

Salem's Lot
This well-done, TV movie adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name features an excellent James Mason as Straker and a creepily memorable, Nosferatu-esque lead vampire, the horrifying Count Barlow. Directed by Tobe Hooper, the man responsible for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the indoor shots of the Marsten House, replete with animal bones and old chicken feathers, is cheekily reminiscent of Leatherface's old abode). This is one of my favorite vampire movies. The DVD version pulls together the three-and-a-half-hours' worth of film that were used in the original television broadcast (which were split into two parts over two nights) while the VHS version edits the movie down to a tighter, more digestible length. I recommend the latter for first-time consumption. If you dig the movie enough, rent the long version next time around.

Night of the Living Dead
Ground-breaking, innovative, intelligent, stylish...George Romero's Night of the Living Dead created the template for modern horror. Made in the late sixties with a very small amount of money, this film singlehandedly reinvented the genre, and ushered in the golden era of horror, the 1970s. I've watched this movie a hundred times if I've watched it once.

28 Days Later
Very well told and well shot modern horror classic. Owing much to George Romero, this zombie pic makes effective use of a great, simple premise and characters you care about. And of course, loads of good scares.

The Shining
You know you're in the hands of a master horror director when every single scene of the movie -- including the ones that are not scary, per se -- makes you feel uneasy. Stanley Kubrick knows how to build tension with every shot. So many unforgettable images from this movie. Like I need to tell you -- I'm sure you've already seen it a hundred times yourself.

Evil Dead I and II
Splatstick! These movies take gore to such an over-the-top extreme, they're funny (intentionally so, of course). Both flicks are chock-full of beautifully lurid, garishly colorful images -- dismemberment, ghouls, eyes popping out, ridiculous fountains of arterial discharge. These things make me smile.

Dawn of the Dead (remake)
First-rate horror moviemaking. A modern classic, this outdoes the original with better acting, clever directing and wonderful special effects. Like most great horror movies, this was made on a shoestring budget by talented, resourceful people who cared about the project.

The Horror of Dracula
Christopher Lee is my favorite Dracula -- as far as I'm concerned, he owns the character. This is the first in a long series of Dracula flicks (courtesy of Hammer Studios) that starred Lee in the title role, alongside the equally archetypal Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.

Happy halloween, everybody.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Fedoras Off to Mike Ness and Social D.

So yesterday, late afternoon, I got a call from my good friend Brian Regnaert, who asks if I'm up for going to see Social Distortion; he had an extra ticket. I hadn't made any plans for the night yet and it had been months since I'd hung out with Brian so I said sure.

I am a casual fan of Social D. I only own their two most popular albums, Social Distortion and Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. But I really dig them. Mike Ness and company's brand of punk rock is heavy on the roots rock side of things, perhaps owing more to Elvis and Johnny Cash than to the Pistols or Dead Kennedys. I hear a pretty strong Ramones influence in Ness's "simplicity rules" songwriting ethic and penchant for simple, anthemic choruses. The songs are durable. It's honest music that sticks to your ribs.

I've always found Ness's super-earnest lyrics to be a bit clumsy and sometimes downright corny. But I embrace him all the same. After all, who am I to judge? -- here is a guy who has survived drug addiction, prison, various degrees of self-destruction, the death of friends, and all kinds of heartbreak. He's just writing about his life, and the believability factor more than makes up for the occasional lack of elegance in his verses. His heart-on-the-sleeve sincerity and conviction are endearing and, ultimately, inspiring.

So Brian and I did our usual pre-show tradition of throwing down Heinekens at his apartment on E. 27th street while listening to mix tapes, followed by a pitstop at the Rodeo Bar for a couple more rounds, then off to the gig in a cab. Last night's show was the first in (I believe) a four-night stand for Social D at this brand new music venue, the MTV-owned, unimaginitively named Nokia Theater, in lovely Times Square. We braced ourselves.

Predictably, the Nokia Theater was an obnoxious joint. As if the depressing recent trend of giant corporations naming rock venues after themselves weren't enough, the Nokia folks are taking things one unctuous step further: inside the venue, the walls are covered with shiny, glass showcases featuring dozens of attractively lit Nokia cellular phones. Ugh. That was nearly enough to kill the mood. But fuck it, we were there to have a good time and hear some rock n' roll. So we took out a small loan, bought a couple of Heinekens at the bar and headed into the performance space.

It was a nice enough room, both wide and deep, with wood floors and maybe a 1,500-person capacity. When we first walked in, some tepid opening band was onstage polluting the air with the kind of watered-down pop punk that you hear on K-Rock. It is no more compelling than wallpaper. I think they were called Mest. They were unendurable. Brian and I hastened back to the outer area to drink in peace until the coast was clear.

When it was nearly time for Social D to go on, and we descended into the recessed floor area, in front of the sound board. We had a good view of the stage. A steady stream of Ramones favorites poured out of the PA system, warming up the crowd and washing away the lingering bad taste of the previous band.

Finally the lights went down, and the members of Social Distortion -- sans Ness -- walked onstage, all tattoos and Brylcreem. A few beats later, Ness himself strolled out, sporting two full sleeves of ink, a fedora hat and smudged black eyeliner. Apparently he's not too "punk rock" to make a big showbiz entrance. That's cool. He looked a good deal thicker than I remembered, but no less authentic.

Ness strapped on his Les Paul and the band tore through a ballsy set of greased-up, rock and roll survivor anthems: "Mommy's Little Monster," "Prison Bound," "Sick Boys," "Bad Luck." They did some songs from their latest album, the charmingly titled Sex, Love and Rock n Roll. The new stuff sounded good. The old tunes sounded classic.

Meanwhile, I couldn't believe how much fun I was having; I couldn't stop dancing and smiling. You just can't help but get behind a guy like Ness -- his spirit is contagious. Toward the end of the set, he introduced "Story of My Life" with the kind of groan-inducing cliche you would expect from Jon Bon Jovi: "this next song is about a poor ole boy from Orange County who started out with nothin' but a beat-up guitar and a whole lotta dreams."

Ick!! Yeah, that's a sappy thing to say but Ness gets away with it somehow -- he's earned the right, hasn't he? I was certainly in the mood to let him slide last night. On the first downbeat of "Story," I was bouncing up and down, fist in the air, singing along: "naaa-na-naaa--na-na-naaa!" What a blast.

After the expected encore of their revved-up cover of Cash's "Ring of Fire," Social Distortion walked offstage and the crowd of rockabilly types, punks and old-school rockers filed out of the theater, pleasantly drained after a satisfying night of release, joy and good old rock and roll redemption.

Brian and I quickly evacuated Times Square, returned to Rodeo Bar and carried the celebration well into the small hours, tucking away far too many Heinekens and yapping about rock and roll like the goofy fanboys we are.