Thursday, February 26, 2009


Nothing here I'd recommend at all, and unless the remake of Friday The 13th defies all predictions and is the mother of all slasher movies, there's not really much else on the horizon either. Oh, and not that it matters whatsoever, but what utter nonsense the Oscars were awarded to this year.

The Reader (**)
notwithstanding the chance to savour Kate Winslet pulling on her nylons (here's a welcome return to the erotic in mainstream movies), I confess I don't enjoy this kind of manipulative morality tale, one I see as essentially a fraudulent mechanism to hypothetically question one's own choices, and one's own feelings, in difficult or impossible circumstances; furthermore, the 'Allo 'Allo-style accents remove all potential seriousness from the otherwise deeply solemn plot

Redemption: A Mile from Hell (*)
dodge this low-budget trash and come and let me show you true redemption instead

Bye Bye Blackbird (**)
despite a mediocre cast and wooden script, Bye Bye Blackbird has beautiful set-pieces, costumes, and backdrops, plus bearded ladies, dwarves, and pretty circus girls, yet all that goodness can't disguise that the film is a victim of its own ambition: to realise the surreal Kafka story of a trapeze artist who won't come down from his perch - the final 30 minutes begin to unveil the true weirdness of the plot, however the first hour is treated far too conventionally to make the whole feel congruent

What Just Happened? (*)
dreary comedy to avoid (like one should with any De Niro film these days)

Role Models (***)
there is one reason, and one reason alone, for watching this otherwise cringeworthy formulaic comedy fluff: Jane Lynch - her role and performance is one of the funniest things you'll ever see (my 3 precious stars are all for her)

High School Musical (*)
nowhere near the dizzy heights of HSM3, but (in the context) has a smidgen of curiosity value

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


When you examine the full head mask of Iwa Geda, the first thing you ask yourself is how it fits on your own head. Naturally, to put it on is something that fills you with a sudden spasm of shivering, just as wearing the cardigan of a killer would, which is a stark indicator of how superstitious you are. That said, there are these people all around you, expecting as one, and once you do understand that you're no longer to be held responsible for your forthcoming actions, you no longer need to maintain your illusion of identity, your 'personality'. I've sometimes been asked how to make a person go into a trance state, that I can't be hypnotised - to which, I ask the more relevant question how are you going to manage to stay out of a hypnotic state, this state of trance? It's so hard to try. It's so much easier to put the mask on, now gently.

At first, the sensory deprivation is acute, hearing is muffled, and the tiny eye-holes greatly restrict vision, and you quickly begin to feel the presence of another personality, of Iwa Geda. In another way, it's like being a new-born baby that has to learn how to walk and move and communicate as the illusion of your previous identity has disappeared, but slowly and surely movement does begin and it's now that you feel the full possession taking place.

You no longer have a gender, Iwa Geda. Your clothes no longer have meaning. You no longer have sexual preference. You are crude, vulgar. You know everything there is to know. You are the cadaver of the first person to ever die and the last person anyone else will ever see. The Alpha and The Omega.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


At around the age of 18 until my early 20s, I used to be excruciatingly purist about music. Most everything would be summarily rejected as rubbish, save for a tiny handul of records that I deemed - in my insufferable arrogance - as all you needed for a 'real' collection, to the extent that, at one stage, this was whittled down to a mere three vinyls. The following LP on the legendary ESP label (also home to recordings by Albert Ayler, Charles Manson and family, and innumerable other wonderful weird gems) was one of that still highly valued triumvirate.

Cro-Magnon : Orgasm (1969)

Despite its tragically shoddy sleeve and label art, Cro-Magnon's Orgasm is,
in my opinion, quite simply the most important experimental (for want of a better term) record of all time.

In its day, it was mostly dismissed as an
oddball exercise in psychedelia - yet, in truth, it's about as far removed from disposable crap like 13th Floor Elevators, Love, and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd as it's possible to go. There are eight eclectic tracks that each boast more original new ideas than nearly all other bands achieve in a lifetime - and despite this wide diversity, they all work perfectly well as a whole, in their chosen sequence, and combine to provide an adventure that's unpredictable, exhilarating, startling, and at times unnervingly absurd.

Revisiting Orgasm in 2009, one is immediately struck by how many subsequent bands and genres echoed these ideas: Nurse With Wound, Faust, The Residents (who some allege were involved with the Cro-Magnon project, though it seems that Cro-Magnon's Austin Grasmere and Brian Elliot were in fact bubblegum pop songwriters), neofolk, drone, avant-garde, noise, guitar improv freakery, and more. And of course, my own music too: this album was unquestionably a huge inspiration, not only musically, but also in the sense of artistically opening a mind to a truly radical imperative.

It's difficult even to appreciate what Cro-Magnon were thinking at the time, or how they were inspired to make these mysterious sounds in the first place. Robert Ashley, perhaps? It's like it almost dropped out of the sky from another galaxy. And I can think of no greater compliment than that with regard to its uncompromising originality.

I just noticed this year's forthcoming Instal Festival's rather dodgy corporate-style branding and self-given 'Brave New Music' epithet, in addition to an uncomfortably self-conscious view of what avant-garde music represents along with its expected audience. If you're not familiar with Orgasm, then do make a point of finding it (there are vinyl and CD reissues out there); experience for yourself what open-minded and brave, and new and innovative, can genuinely represent. It's that good.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


italoBLACK : Disco Caligula : Saturday 21st February

Italo Disco has never been this decadent! Rimini's favourite son DJ Benetti cordially invites you to celebrate italoBlack's first Saturday at Sneaky Pete’s (Cowgate, Edinburgh) with a party of epic Roman proportions - a celebration fit for the Emperor Caligula himself...

P.S. Benetti will also be doing a set at Bloc Weekend 2009 on 15th March!

Friday, February 06, 2009


This would be an easy film to miss in the belief that you weren't part of the target demographic - and I'm glad I now didn't (twice...!), since my curiosity got the better of me to see what the fuss was about.

High School Musical 3 is as exhilarating a couple of hours as I've had watching a movie for a long time - and although it appears to have a fairly standard high school romance comedy plot of obvious appeal to young teenage girls, there's an extraordinary dual reality taking place: this is about the most blatant and deliberate gay allegory ever made in recent Hollywood - and by Disney of all producers, who've clearly put a massive amount of resources into its making.

All the explicit stuff about career and study choices after graduating is a total smokescreen that I imagine the young HSM fan couldn't care less about; and the film's seeming chasteness neatly offsets any conflicts with the subtext of the boy-girl sexual chemistry. It certainly isn't an old-fashioned warning against teenage sexual precocity, as over-optimistically suggested in some conservative circles. On the contrary, it's only about sex.

Nearly all the male protagonists (apart from perhaps the geeky token hetero 'Rocket Man' character) are questioning their sexuality to one degree or another - and, as in the long history of film musicals, the stories' subtexts are all told in an obvious code through the songs (via the lyrics and the language of the elaborate dance routines) and the overall plot development, with theatre and basketball being the most obvious symbols of homo- and hetero- sexuality.

Sharpay Evans, the mandatory resident evil bitch who swings her hips in the sexiest killer pink lace boots and leather skirt combination you've ever seen, functions as comedic foil for all the tensions; while Gabriella Montez (cleverly chosen as having Hispanic origins), ostensibly the main love interest, senses that her offer of a place at Stanford will mean more to her than any fledgling high school crush; her concerns are far more to do with her peers' potential resentment towards her academic success. Yet although the girl roles have due prominence, really the movie is very much about beautiful boy Troy Bolton, as played by the excellent Zac Efron, who expertly hits all the spots of both his target audiences - in particular, the brilliant high-voltage junkyard sequence The Boys Are Back (think a heavy metal N'Sync circa Pop) and the steamy, erotically charged Scream (check out the truly outrageous double meanings in the lyrics). A film for kids? The little girls understand.

Despite its great songs and fun routines, there are clearly a lot of people that will get nothing out of the movie - yet, especially for those it's directly aimed at, High School Musical 3 is, that notwithstanding, a truly subversive masterpiece.


Have received all kinds of wonderful emails, great links, book suggestions, and more regarding STN. I shall add any other related musings and further reading - in the meantime, provided by those lovely people at the San Diego Visual Artists Guild, the best resource I've yet seen on Congo, Cheeta, Betsy and other chimps' art.


For anyone that might have an interest, Richo Johnson has just posted an extended interview we did late last year up at the Adverse Effect blog.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Those lovable Somali pirates, having counted and divvied up their $3.2m in cash, will probably be making sure they don't do anything silly like drowning this time. There are extra layers of irony. A watching US Navy, whilst allowing them to make off with the loot, is ensuring the pirates don't snaffle any of the military hardware on board the Ukrainian arms ship, whose purported destination is Sudan! Try working that one out.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Just back from a great and much-needed fortnight's vacation in Las Vegas - already looking forward to going back soon. I regretted not seeing Tom Jones at Caesars Palace in 1984, so his amazingly dynamic and flawless performance at the MGM Grand was a very special treat. TJ did all the classics, some cool new standards, and importantly, no 'trendy' nonsense like Nirvana cover versions. Other exceptional shows included Cirque du Soleil's Ka, and their spellbinding production O - the latter taking place at Bellagio's specially designed (at astronomical cost) aquatic theatre; it was only after seeing it that I learned about some of the behind-the-scenes magic; beautiful transparent concessions, if ever there were. Neither shall I ever forget the view from the West Rim of the Grand Canyon - more than 200 miles of beautifully clear sunny winter visibility.

I could easily write for hours on the subject of this most fascinating of cities, but here wanted to make just one other observation. On rare occasions you see small children in the revitalised downtown Fremont area or around the major theme casinos along the Strip, along with their parents, brought either in the mistaken belief that Vegas is a family-friendly city, or because there's no-one else to look after them back home. In a society and culture where children are customarily treated with such deference, and have such powerful status and protection, it's remarkable to see the invariable look of haunted bewilderment, powerlessness, and isolation on these kids' faces - it almost makes you feel sorry for them.