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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bonnie "Prince" Billy: Wolfroy Goes To Town(2011)

Reviewing a Will Oldham release is always a hard task for me. He is my favorite singer/songwriter of all time, and all of his records are treasure of some sort to me. Not many people have been attentive enough to keep up and follow the wildy prolific Mr. Oldham, since his debut in 1994, he has had over 50 releases. Many of these imagining his sound all over again. To me he is the embodiment of a "literary" musician, and many songs are like short stories from the best of the Southern Gothic authors(Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams). This release comes right on the heels of a new, more-rocking EP, called "The Mindeater". Wolfroy, is a sparse and beautiful record in the vein of past records, Arise Therefore, and Master & Everyone. He has Angel Olson, who has been touring with him for the past few years, on vocals with him, and their vocals complement each others perfectly. Reminding me of a Gram & Emmylou for the coal-mining set.Although all the songs are mostly acoustic, the record is anything but sedate, it builds moods so thick I can already call this one of his best records ever. "Cows" has a section of angelic vocals overlaying that sound like a hymn. Much like the aforementioned "Arise Therefore" record, this is a Winter record through and through. The track"There Will Be Spring" seems to acknowledge this fact altogether, as if Mr. Oldham knows that his songs can be like a warm blanket on the coldest of days. As prolific as he is, and despite all of the accolades, many people still haven't listened to his work, I hope that if you haven't, you will "Wolfroy" a listen. You will definitely find something that sounds nothing like any other songwriter working today. If you like,  he has a plethora of work to investigate.....loud and quiet, acoustic and electric, serene and raucous, but all beautiful as a tree in the fall.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The 5 Best Indie Rock Records Ever

If you were into music in the 90's, and had an ear to the underground, you were into Indie Rock. I always liked many genres and primarily Metal, but boy did I love me some Indie Rock. I checked out every band possible, and weeded out the bad from the good. I loved the homeade quality, and it felt like something anybody could do(but couldn't). It made me feel like I didn't have to be a guitar shredder to write a great song. There are many different opinions about what are the classics of this genre are, but here are the ones that are my favorite, the ones that I've worn out, but they still fit like my favorite sweater:

Yo La Tengo: Electr-o-Pura
YLT are comprised of Music Critics and music snobs, so usually you know that you are getting quality, no matter what record you choose. But never did they get the balance so right as it is on Electr-o-Pura. It has Krautrock workouts, Beach Boys harmonies, and country ballads. This record is an actual listening experience.

Sebadoh: III
when Lou Barlow was kicked out of Dinosaur Jr., he had already released a couple of records as Sebadoh. It was a home-spun outfit that record quirky songs on out of tune guitars in their bedroom on boom boxes. You either loved them or hated them. When they released III the indie world was shocked. It was a sprawling double record set, that seemed to be Dark Side Of The Moon for the "striped sweater" generation. You had Lou's acoustic songs, Jason's smogged out stoner classics, and Eric's spastic hardcore-influenced rants. It was perfect front to back, and definite classic.

Palace Brothers: There Is No One What Will Take Care Of You
Will Oldham, or as we know him now Bonnie "Prince" Billy, has gone under many different guises in his long career. He began this career in 1993 under the moniker The Palace Brothers, and this was his first record. Most people would argue that "I See A Darkness" or "Arise Therefore" are the pinnacles of his career, but my big love goes to this one! If any of the Southern Gothic writers such as Carson MCCullers or Ambrose Beirce, had made a record, I think it would sound like this. The songs sound like primitive hillbilly music that was about to fall apart at the seams. None of my friends shared my love for Will and complained about the cracking vocals, but I had just found my favorite songwriter of all time.

Royal Trux-Self Titled
Royal Trux were a husband/wife duo that made junkie blues for indie kids, but were the real deal. They had habits so bad, they often squandered their recording budget on the infamous "H" drug. Since most of their music consisted of pretty blatant "Exile On Main Street" worship, I ate it up by the shovel load. They definitely weren't a band for everyone, but you will know if this is for you. They actually broke the band up when they got sober , and divorced.......that's Hardcore!!

Smog: Burning Kingdom EP
Bill Callahan is Smog, and acoustic/electric troubadour that a was a 90's Bob Dylan if there ever were one. Much like the others he initially recorded his songs himself on a cheap 4-track, but with each record there were subsequent jumps in quality. This record was only an EP but it also is one of the most perfect records ever. Like the song 'The Desert" on this record, it was like crawling through a desert without water or love. This record made the Cure or Joy Division sound chipper. But when you are in the mood for that sort of thing nothing else will do.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good Music Alert: The Vaccines

I love to let everyone know when something new comes out that rocks my world. The Vaccines are a new British band that have just released their debut record, "What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?" on Columbia records. Let me just say if you are a fan of catchy, slightly-punky, fun, Pop Music, then look no further. If you loved The Ramones, The Libertines, Cheap Trick, and even the first Strokes record.....then this record is for you!! I have listened to it at least 20 times, and when it's over, you want to hear it again, it's that good. Do yourself a favor and at least listen on Youtube or something(I'm too lazy to provide links).

Sleepy Hollow High(2000)

     We all do it, it's like as if the massive amounts of Cheddar we are eating is not enough. We have to be sadistic and go for a bad horror film even though we know it's gonna suck! Well if you are a purveyor of filth like myself, you know that there is definitely a difference good "bad " films, and BAD "bad" films! Sadly Sleepy Hollow High falls into the latter category. I was definitely in the mood for something bad, but I was hoping for another "Memorial Valley Massacre" or "Splatter University". You would figure with the tag-line "Scream meets Dawson's Creek" that it would have to be great, right? WRONG!!
     Some miscreants from the titular school have to clean up the park for detention or not graduate. Why they would sentence even the most hardened student to do this since this is where numerous citizens have disappeared is beyond me? Someone taking the Sleepy Hollow/Headless Horsemen legend a bit too serious and starts killing off the students all in one afternoon. Shot almost entirely in the daylight, I suppose they could afford lighting since this cheapie was made for $16,000. Some great bad films have been made for less, so that's not an automatic reason for supreme suckage. The acting and dialogue and script and especially editing sucks!! Oh wait! The Headless Horsemen is really ridiculous. He wears pirate pants, and swings his sword around and around in the same rotation every time you see him. There is absolutely NO blood in the film other than some being thrown onto actors feigning screams. I would have to say there is absolutely no redeeming value to this stinker. Don't waste your time bad movie fans!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


       For some odd reason, John Frankenheimer's eco-terror monster film, has always been hated upon by most horror fiends. I remember seeing it as a 10 year old and being totally riveted and frightened at the same time. Of course, I have a penchant for horror films in woodland settings, hence my total devotion to the backwoods slasher film. I think part of the reason the film is often maligned is because of the PG rated that it secured back in 1979. Halloween had been the only really successful horror film of the late decade, and it is all but bloodless. If Prophecy was released today, it would definitely get an R rating, as there are several good gore scenes involved. The only other possible reason that I can think of is that the creature's costume is quite noticeable in a few scenes. That has never been enough for me to call spades on a fun little horror film like this one.
      Robert Foxworth and Talia Shire play a couple(Dr & Musician, respectively), who are called out to the wilds of Maine to help solve a problem going on there. It seems that the local Indians and a Lumber Company are butting heads over the rights to the forest. The Indians being indigenous, claim that it is their homeland, and the Lumber Co. says they own it. When Foxworth and group arrive they are greeted by reps from the Lumber Co, and are taken to the site. Before they arrive, they meet with protest from the Indians(led by Armand Assante), which ends in a chainsaw battle! Before long the Dr. finds out that the Indians are all getting sick, and their children are being born with serious birth defects. They meet the Chief of the tribe that tells them of a local legend about a huge monster that stalks the woods, and protects them. Well, it doesn't take a genius(just someone who has seen Humanoids From The Deep...LOL), to figure out the Lumber Co is responsible for the sickness. We get to see the monster up close several times, and lots of mutations, and even a decapitation, so don't worry about the PG rating.
        It's too bad that the Eco-Terror sub-genre didn't take off, because I really like those films. I can think of The Food Of The Gods, The Being, Piranha, and the aforementioned Humanoids. If I have any readers left, drop some comments if you remember any more Eco-Terror Horror Films.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Rainy Day Horror Movies.

I like to do these little poster art pieces from time to time. Nothing like seeing a old poster from your childhood to bring back the nostalgia of video stores and better times. This time, inspired by the weather outside, I am posting the art of some of my favorite Rainy Day Horror Movies and sleeper slashers:

Burzum: Fallen(2011)

Since Varg Vikernes was released from prison a little over a year ago, he hasn't wasted a bit of time. Fallen is his second full length record since that release. Last year's Belus was a pretty great record, but Fallen takes what he started on that epic, and expounds on it ten fold. The guitars are still the signature Burzum sound that we are all accustomed to. The vocals are the big surprise this time around. On Belus, he used a more deathly growl than his earlier records, this time he adds Viking/Clean vocals all over the place. I personally was really surprised at this new style, as I was hoping for the "banshee-screech" vocals that Varg used on his earlier work. Surprisingly, these viking style vocals blend perfectly with the sombre atmosphere that Varg paints with his guitar parts. The only thing that most people seem to complain about is Varg's drumming, but I have no such issues, and I think that his lack of drumming skill complements the music perfectly. This record could have been easily issued between the 2nd and 3rd record and no one would have complained. The return of old-school Norwegian Black Metal? I think it would be great if Varg's quality of releases urged the other bands of Norway to up the ante so the same. 9/10

White Dog(1982)

If there has been a more polarizing and controversial film that is not deserved of this reputation, I do not know it. Samuel Fuller, the director, had already been involved with several controversial films already.The Steel Helmet(1950) was attacked by the F.B.I and J. Edgar Hoover as "Unpatriotic".One of my favorite films, Shock Corridor, was also viciously attacked, and it seemed that Samuel Fuller couldn't make a film, without the law and the government glaring over his shoulder. It had been a while since he had made a film, and the script for White Dog, had already made stops with 3 different directors, including Roman Polanski. It had been adapted from the 1970 Romain Gary novel of the same name, and Paramount was beginning to give up on the project. Fuller was an excellent choice, because he had to read the novel and the script, and re-mold into a whole new script and have it ready in 10 days! He changed a lot of minor details to the story to make it more Hollywood friendly. The film had a 7 million dollar budget and was shot very quickly. There is a reason that most people still haven't seen this film. Upon showing the film to only a handful of critics, they decided that the film was too racist, and in no way would movie goers go for this kind of film. The film was shelved and never shown, outside of a few cable viewings here and there. In 1991, it had a limited theater release, but no one really saw it then either. Criterion has put the film out on DVD, and it looks gorgeous.

Kristy McNichol plays a young, struggling actress named Julie, on her way home one night when she hits a white dog with her car. The dog is near death, and she rushes it to the vet, where it mysteriously recovers. She takes the dog home with her and it takes an instant liking to her. She makes flyers and puts them up around town to try and find the rightful owners of the dog. Her boyfriend Roland(Jameson Parker) tries to convince her to keep the dog because it would be good protection for a single girl who lives alone in the hills. Nothing seems to be awry until an attacker breaks into Julie's house and attempts to rape her. White Dog(he is never given a name) attacks the assailant and kills him! The police tell Julie that she is lucky to have a dog that loves her so much. A few days later, White Dog escapes from the yard while chasing a rabbit, and ends up killing a black man that is driving a street sweeper. Soon after he attacks a black woman that Julie is making a movie with, but is stopped from killing her. When he kills a black man in a church, it becomes apparent that the dog has been trained to attack and kill black people.

Julie takes him to an animal specialist played by Burl Ives, who explains the origins of "White Dogs", and tells her that she needs to put the dog to sleep, that there is no helping it. By now, Julie really loves the dog, and she can't bear putting the dog to death, despite it's atrocities. After all, the dog was made that way by some subhuman trash, and it really isn't the animals fault. At the animal facility, she meets another trainer, who is black, and played masterfully by Paul Winfield. In an interesting element that was left out of the film, but was in the book, the Winfield character was actually a black Muslim. He tells Julie that he will need 5 weeks, but he will fix the dog. The dog escapes at one point and kills another black man, and somehow they still decide not to put the dog down. After all of the training, Julie goes to see the dog, and it acts like it is going to attack the Winfield character and then Julie herself, but in the end runs and kills the Burl Ives character in a crazy turn of events. It seems that the black animal trainer has now reconditioned the animal to attack and kill white men.

It is such a shame that this film, was dismissed so easily, and accused of actual racism, when it's obvious intention was to expose the horrible racism that was still going on, and still is to this day. In a scene late in the film, Julie actually meets the owner of the dog, the one that trained him to be a "White Dog". It's a very old, southern man, with his two very young granddaughters, and they try to come and claim the dog back. In Kristy's best scene in the film, she attacks the man with such vitriol, for being the racist and monster that he is. She warns the children to never listen to a word that the old man has to say! The scene gives you hope that there are actually good people left in the world. I have seen far more disgusting portrayals of racism, like American History X, or Higher Learning, and neither of those films were shelved or banned? If it sounds like something that would interest you, definitely pick up the Criterion DVD it's easily worth the 35 bones that they are asking for it!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Strangers(2008)

The Strangers is one of those films that horror films have hated on since it came out, and I cannot fathom why? It is very scary and creepy, compact, no needless dialogue, and a hell of a fun ride. Although the filmmakers have denied that the film is a remake of the 2006 French film They, anyone who has seen the film, no that it is exactly that. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact, it is one of the better Americanized versions of a foreign horror film.

The film is about a young couple(Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) who upon leaving a wedding/reception, go to an isolated country house for some relaxation. We notice from the beginning that there is some real tension between the two. We learn that James has just proposed to Kristen, and she has turned him down. The reason that she has given him of "not being ready", does not seem entirely true. The couple are getting into a deep discussion when there comes a knock at the door. The see a teenage girl at the door who is asking for Tamara. The couple explain that there is no such person at the residence and continue their discussion. Kristen sends James to the store for some cigarettes for herself, despite the fact that it is 4 a.m. As soon as he leaves, the knocks at the door begin again. Things are slammed against windows, and Kristen sees a hooded man outside the window. She calls James, and the phone dies inexplicably, she also notices that her cell phone has been stolen from the outlet in the wall. Concrete evidence that someone has been inside the house.

By the time that James arrives back, they see 3 different strangers lurking outside of the house, each in a different creepy mask. For the next few hours the two are attacked repeatedly, and are the victim of all kinds of mind games. There are several very well done scenes of extreme suspense, and there is very little gore in this film, it's not that kind of movie. Later in the film, James' brother shows up at the house but meets a grisly fate. The real fear in the film resides in the fact, that we do not know who the attackers are, or what their motives are either. The ending is slightly different in the two different version of the film. It is longer in the "extended" cut, but there is a hint of why Kristen wouldn't marry James in the theatrical version's ending. There is only a few seconds difference in the 2 versions of the film, so it doesn't really matter which one you watch.

If you are a fan of old school "suspense" horror, and not just "body count" films, I really think that you will enjoy this film. In fact, I felt a similar vibe in this film that reminded me of classics like "Wait Until Dark" and "The Spiral Staircase". If you want a creepy night at home with a nail-biter of a film, you could do a lot worse than The Strangers.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

ECM & Jazz

I have recently began to have an appreciation for Jazz music. I started working at a really cool record store, and they have an amazing selection of not only CD's, but vinyl as well. I have always been a music freak, but I have never liked Jazz. There are some really cool guys who work there who introduced to some cool Jazz sounds that I really like. We also can borrow from the massive library of used LP's, so it makes investigating new sounds much easier. You son't have to invest actual money until you already know that you like the record. Much like Punk or Indie-Rock, each Jazz label seems to have it's own sound. Through my studies I have found that I am obsessed with the sounds on the ECM label. Their artists are much minimal in their approach to not only the music, but the artwork and presentation as well. The artwork reminds me a lot of the Factory record label of the late 70's and early 80's. It lends to the mood of the record when artwork is really cool. The jazz that I am loving on this label is almost "ambient" in it's approach, and not "busy" Jazz at all. Not that there is anything wrong with artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane or anything, I just usually find myself in the mood for something more tranquil and peaceful. If you like Jazz, and more minimal music, and haven't explored any of the ECM records catalog, I can whole-heartedly recommend it you. Some of the artist that I love are Terje Rypdal, Ralph Towner, and Steve Tibbetts, very good stuff indeed!

Happy New Year From Vitamin Burger!

Wow! It's hard to believe that it is 2011 already! I am hoping for an amazing year for Vitamin Burger, and for film and music in general. It makes things a lot more easier when there are good records and films out there to review. I am hoping to do some more interviews this year, it's been a while since I have done one(Ray Raposa of Castanets). I have said it before, but I intend to start doing more posts, myself and my partner Jeff have had a horrible year with our health. Things are now looking up, so I need to get motivated, and start writing again! If you like a review, or article, or an interview, please take the time to leave me a comment. It's no fun, when it's feels like you are writing for no one. Also, if you have read the site a lot, and haven't added yourself as a follower, please do, it's good for the ego. Have a great year, and please come back to Vitamin Burger!