bucolic [2021)

It starts just like Charlotte Gainsbourg.

5:55.

Air.

Nigel Godrich.

But there is something different.

A shruti box?

A little distorto guitar.

Ah, yes.

Chuchotements.

Françoise Hardy.

A little Yo La Tengo.

Built to Spill.

Guitar carries it for a second.

Good lyrics.

All mood.

And then into an Amon Düül II warble.

Like Marc Bolan.

Jim Carrey.

Most annoying sound in the world.

Into Pink Floyd.

David Gilmour.

Circa The Wall.

Strange sadness.

Almost a premonition of impending doom.

Calm before the storm.

J. Spaceman telephony.

Floating with no highs and no lows.

All mids.

Strong opening track.

Very slow-moving.

Luxurious.

Immediate Delgados shift.

Paul Savage.

Pauly Deathwish.

Glasgow effect.

Great counterpoint for a pop musician.

But if you check this bloke’s CV…

You’ll know he went through Fux.

Gonna have to say Elliott Smith.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

Megan Childs violin.

Around the warm fire.

Welsh.

Expansive.

Strings open up.

Hate.

More Fridmann.

Pointillism.

Schoenberg.

Timbre.

Richard James.

GZM.

Beethoven.

Another Welshman.

John Cale.

Orchestral bass that Lou loved.

This guy’s a bastard.

Jaded.

Hurt.

Is this a breakup album?

I thought the last one was a breakup album?

Ahhh…

Into Gorwel Owen.

1968.

Floyd.

Atom.

Mad cow.

The last GZM album.

Rockfield.

Bohemian.

String band.

Money never runs out.

Cheap air organ.

Tubes?

Fan.

A very apropos album title.

Woody.

Tobacco.

Spring water Scotch.

And then the Great Reset arrives.

Like a fucking spaceship.

Dark shit.

What is this glitch business?

Thom Yorke blasts upon the scene.

Drums James Brown.

Good groove.

Savvy.

Whoa!

Marching band.

Drumline.

Snares.

Caught by Lee “Scratch”.

Guitar all mangled.

Melodies solid.

Mogwai?

Bert Jansch out of fucking nowhere.

Definitely Lips.

Pet Sounds.

Track rejected by Bond franchise.

Convincing.

Acoustic to electric.

Now it’s Serge.

Requiem.

Stereolab.

Break beat.

Absolutely boffo.

BOF.

More Brian Wilson.

Van Dyke Parks.

Phil Spector.

High Llamas.

Still a sadness.

That the old world is passing away.

FUCK!!!

Right into some Leonard Cohen shit!

Scott Walker.

How the FUCK was this recorded?

Sounds like 2″ tape.

Question:

how has this Pauly Deathwish released three albums in two months?

I can’t even keep up with this guy.

Mercury Rev.

Deserter’s Songs.

Levon Helm.

Chamberlin.

Mellotron?

Like a Christmas album.

See You on the Other Side.

David Fricke.

A review in the liner notes.

“Everlasting Arm”.

Definite vibe.

Record pillaging wizard.

Baritone.

Lots of fucking glockenspiel on this record.

But it’s nice.

Like Ennio Morricone.

Cinema Paradiso.

Mandolins.

Jackie Gleason.

Dean Martin.

Herb Alpert.

Tchaikovsky.

Again with sugar plum.

Slick!

Very light.

Chiaroscuro.

Fresher than the sweetness in water.

Hearing Dungen.

IV Thieves.

Makes sense.

“Frenchie” Smith.

Dig CV.

Light, British, airy.

Good hook.

Hooky.

Is this the single?

A little neo-psych Hendrix moment.

It’s definitely GZM.

Repetition until transcend.

Stereolab first album.

Not looped.

Manuel.

Carpenters.

Messiaen.

Definitely some breakup here.

Sonic Youth.

Sister.

Experimental.

Thurston.

Lots of drum machine.

Drum and bass.

Panning.

Definitely holds up with Radiohead.

How the fuck was this made?

PD tells us that it was all made on an iPhone with only a Telecaster.

That is some serious trickery.

Ear fooling.

This is COMPLEX music.

Mixes sound polished.

Clarity.

Some Chinese stuff.

Noise floor fucked for the first time ever.

Bacon?

Rollerskate Skinny.

It’s THAT good.

Shoulder Voices.

How was this made?

This heralds a new talent.

But this bloke is 44.

Tour sponsored by Ensure.

Not hearing a sophomore slump here.

Two albums in two months.

Review third forthcoming.

This dude is emo as fuck.

I dig it.

This guy is a mystery.

What is his deal?

This sounds more like a cohesive album that Introversion.

Introversion sounds like a debut album…in all the best ways.

Songs saved up.

A greatest hits.

Go big or go home.

This album deals much more in subtlety.

Not every song here is a home run.

This album breathes.

Ambiance.

Negative space.

More Beach Boys vibes.

70s.

Sad.

Bathrobe.

But mentally sharp.

A spark of genius.

A little bluegrass.

Bill Monroe.

Dock Boggs.

The old world is passing away.

Jonny Greenwood.

Georges Bizet.

Live forever.

Nonesuch.

Elektra.

Hoyt Ming.

Incredible String Band.

Wales, Scotland.

Back and forth.

And across to Ireland.

Oh, no.

There’s the single.

“Makes Me Wanna Stay in Bed”.

Emma Pollock.

Hate is all you need.

Coming in from the cold.

New Radicals.

Delayed bass from The Wall.

Pavement.

Spoon.

Good fucking song!

Eisteddfod.

All Is Dream.

Hard following up.

Unenviable.

Emma Pollock solo.

With Alun Woodward singing.

The Great Eastern.

New Spiritualized.

Banjo.

Let It Come Down.

Abbey Road.

Coldplay.

A Rush of Blood to the Head.

This bloke is serious as fuck.

Sad eyes.

I’m sensing a Jandek promotional strategy.

Final track Richter.

Ravel.

Emperor.

Philip Glass.

Conlon Nancarrow.

City/country dichotomy.

Urban/rural.

Urban encroaching.

Something felt.

Big symphony night.

Excitement of New York Phil.

The fucking french horns!

Automation.

A story in dynamics.

Lesson.

A folk album.

bucolic.

Pauly Deathwish.

iTunes.

Spotify.

-PD

Introversion [2021)

Teenage Fanclub.

That glow in The World’s End.

But a sadness.

THE sadness.

Emily Dickinson.

Unrequited.

Unattainable.

My Bloody Valentine.

Sloshy grunge hats.

Edge echo.

Chris Bell.

I Am the Cosmos.

Yerself Is Steam.

Slowdive.

Rutti.

Brian Eno.

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Tom Petty.

You don’t know how it feels.

J. Spaceman.

Abbey Road.

Air.

George Martin.

Beck.

Badfinger suicides.

Loser.

Spiritualized.

Royal Albert.

I can only give you everything.

Rick Danko.

Loping.

The Delgados.

Dave Fridmann.

Black magic warded off by honesty.

Good timing.

Divine.

Sigur Rós.

Nigel Godrich.

Pocket symphonies.

Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Serge on the way.

Lenny Bruce, even.

Hit to Death in the Future Head.

Wait at least until track three to break it down.

Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.

Gorecki.

Arvo Pärt.

Deserter’s Songs.

Absolutely.

The confusion of ridiculous counterpoint.

Aaron Copland.

Tonal, yet dissonant.

Thick Billy Corgan.

Siamese Dream.

Definitely a sadness here.

Dawn Upshaw.

Tabula rasa.

Death.

Immense Mellotron.

Tchaikovsky.

Abrupt modulation.

Sugar plum.

Lou Reed.

Ennio Morricone.

Cinema Paradiso.

All you need is hate.

Upstate.

Chaliapin.

Basso profundo.

Jussi Björling.

Dvořák.

Memorial day.

The Inflated Tear.

Columbus, Ohio with duct tape.

Debussy.

Posing with a bass clarinet.

Primal Scream.

Get Duffy.

Rock ferry.

Smokey Robinson.

Sad clown.

Dead clown.

Kinks.

Grasshopper.

Suzanne.

Woodwind quintet.

Did I ever write one?

Yes, I did.

César Franck.

Saint-Saëns.

Organ symphony.

Or is it contrabassoon?

Nadia Boulanger can tell you.

My teacher’s teacher (twice over).

The Left Banke.

LSD.

Herb Alpert?

Hummel.

Handel.

Strawberry fields.

Stereolab.

Unequivocally.

Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements.

A little lo-fi.

Vocal doubled.

Vox continental.

Great hook.

Changes that pull at your heartstrings.

More melancholy.

A fucking marimba solo?!?

Are you kidding me???

Makes sense.

Pauly Deathwish collaboration with Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes.

Lost Bayou Ramblers.

Gordon knew him as Death.

I have become death.

96 Tears.

Farfisa.

Partials.

Tim Gane tone.

Faust IV.

Doogie Howser?

Scary.

Impending.

Suspense.

Rock bass.

Ozzy.

Black Sabbath.

Amazing Grace.

Pete Townshend.

Front.

Back to J. Spaceman.

Dirty ass rock and roll with pristine horns.

Expensive drugs.

Sophisticated changes.

Éminence grise?

Is this the artist we’ve been waiting for?

Rodriguez?

R. Stevie Moore?

Wesley Willis?

Sounds like Jack Nitzsche.

Major Velvet vibes.

Suck-ceed twice.

Dylan with P-bass.

Mick Taylor.

Too much attitude.

Keith Richards.

Let it Come Down.

Shakespeare.

Fucker kicked the bucket.

First to be vaxxed.

Maricopa.

First Suicide album.

Bossa nova.

The Soft Bulletin.

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.

Gimme some lovin’?

Steve Winwood?

How old?

La Monte Young.

Slow changes.

First rehearsal tapes.

Alan Vega.

Martin Rev.

New York City heroin.

Warhol Factory torn down.

Across from YMCA.

Trump dances.

Great throwaway lyrics.

George Harrison.

Sound of universe.

Spacemen 3.

Savage tone.

Revolution.

Direct into mixing console.

Fried signal.

White album.

Sonic Youth.

Derek Bailey.

Lou ecstacy.

Late Lou.

European son.

Blood pressure rising.

Brutal.

Frankie Teardrop.

I think I’m in love.

Dub bass.

Will the circle remain unbroken?

When I had dinner with Roky.

13th Floor.

First Velvets album.

Heroin.

Drug rush.

Invincible.

But you gotta buy it.

Dirty Baltimore.

Cop shoot cop.

Cheree.

On the jukebox.

Eat at the gas station.

On tour.

First time in Texas.

American Supreme.

Iceland.

13 Angels.

It’s definitely Bowie.

New career.

Same town.

New old.

Old is new again.

Mercury Rev.

Savvy programming.

Dynamics.

Break beat.

A fuck ton of flutes.

Flute loops literally.

Bowie sax.

Little fluffy clouds.

Every drop.

Gay glam chorus.

Tony Visconti.

Don’t underestimate.

Pere Ubu.

First album.

Méliès.

Boys peel out.

Boces.

Inspector Clouseau.

Phone.

French ambulance.

Pants.

Gives me pants.

Videogames.

Cutting hole.

Pink Panther.

Herbert Lom.

A Shot in the Dark.

Grandaddy.

Under the Western Freeway.

Weeping willow.

Under that.

With Sean Mackowiak.

Square waves.

WarGames.

Tympani.

Rollerskate Skinny.

Dublin.

Kevin Shields.

Comes back loud.

One song mastered soft.

Definitely Low.

The main influence of Pauly Deathwish’s debut album.

Honegger.

Pacific 231.

Chariots of fire.

Vangelis.

Such a groove.

Nancarrow.

Polyrhythm.

Immense sadness.

By the side of a freeway.

Under an underpass.

Not like RHCP.

Much darker.

Like Godspeed.

Philip Glass.

Eno.

Blackstar.

How did a Trump supporter make this album?!?

I thought all Trump supporters were redneck morons???

This is way fucking better than Ariel Pink’s dabblings.

This sounds like a debut album.

Songs saved up.

Like The Strokes.

Cinematic as fuck.

Glitch Radiohead.

Trail of Dead.

Makes sense.

Because Pauly wrote the string arrangement on IX.

Dark.

Killers.

Disco compression.

Distressed.

These lyrics!

Johnny Rotten.

Trump 2021.

Snot on the crowd.

Arcade Fire.

Makes sense.

Lost Bayou Ramblers lost sessions.

Montreal studio.

This was all made on an iPhone?!?

Guy Debord.

Aladdin Sane.

Time.

Rick Wakeman?

Olivier Messiaen.

Major 7ths in uppermost range of piano.

Almost indistinguishable from octaves.

Eerie.

Slight.

Only for the sensuous ear.

The Wall.

Waters delayed bass.

No nonsense drums.

Humble Pie reference?!?

Ha!

Great lyrics!!

Predating new Bob Dylan album.

Check SoundCloud timestamp.

This is definitely the QAnon anthem.

This hook should be on a million conspiracy videos.

“10 Days of Darkness”.

Tell ’em Large Marge sent ya!

My end is my beginning is my end.

Grinderman.

No pussy.

Early-’90s.

Nirvana’s wake.

Finnegans Wake.

Great debut album (if I do say so myself).

Usual suspects.

Spotify.

iTunes.

Pauly Deathwish.

-PD

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy [2004)

The world is fucked up.

This is probably the craziest year most of us have ever lived through.

When has the world, in its entirety, faced such chaos in recent memory?

9/11 brought us terror on a horrific, spectacular* level.

Guy Debord predicted this in 1967 with his seminal book La société du spectacle.

No, he did not pull a Nostradamus (who happens to share my birthday).

He did not predict the three towers (including the 47-story WTC7) falling into their own footprints.

But he predicted something much more useful, or at least applicable, to our present times.

The “locus of illusion” that Debord talked about remains (though it be besieged on all sides) television.

For our purposes, we shall call it “video”.

Moving pictures.

Debord also predicted our current age of social-media dominance.

Though he could not name it then, he described it perfectly as, “a social relationship between people…mediated by images.”

What does the word “Facebook” evoke when you hear it?

Does it sound a bit like a dating site?

What role do memes (manipulated images) play in our social discourse?

“The spectacle”, Debord told us, “…turns reality on its head.”

How much of what you hear “on the news” (whether that be television, radio, Internet, social media) do you trust?

Because you are smart, dear reader, you consider the source.

And so do I.

Debord wanted to say something about fakes.

The epigrammatic beginning to the first chapter of The Society of the Spectacle gets right to this point.

It was the philosopher Feuerbach who said that in, “…the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to essence…illusion only is sacred, truth profane.”

Ludwig Feuerbach wrote those words in the 1800s.

But the Irish rock band U2 would come to a similar epiphany in their song “Even Better Than the Real Thing”.

Debord wanted to talk about fake-ness.

But he also wanted to qualify his description of “the spectacle”.

For Debord, “reality erupts within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real”.

To translate (from French to English to philosophy to layman’s terms), there are some aspects of our image-driven information culture that are real (though a good deal of fake news exists).  But owing to the lack of a competing narrative to the overwhelming chorus of voices in agreement (corporate news), “the spectacle” (whatever the talking heads tell you) is, de facto, real.  Never mind that it might all be rubbish.  The sheer repetition of certain truths–day after day, hour after hour (from all the many “options” [ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post])–renders those “truths” the currency of “factual” discourse.  Without an independent, competing narrative from alternative news sources (which currently lack the scale and reach to pose a symmetric threat to “legacy media”), whatever the aforementioned “usual suspects” (ABCBSNBC…) tell you is TRUE becomes “truth” the moment they report it.  The national news coverage of American current events is indistinguishable whether one has ABC, CBS, or NBC dialed up on the tele.

But the times, they are a-changin’.

Donald Trump’s 3+ years in office have been “a moment of falsehood”, which is to say, truth.

As Debord wrote, “In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.”

Debord seemed to be describing the “legacy media” when he wrote of an entity “out of reach and beyond all dispute”.

Of particular concern in this current situation (which already existed in Debord’s day) is the role that vision plays in our mediated understanding of the world.

As Debord wrote, “…it is inevitable that it should elevate the human sense of sight to the special place once occupied by touch…”.

He goes on to describe “sight” as, “…the most abstract of the senses, and the most easily deceived…”.

Think about a painting by Monet.

Waterlilies.

What are you seeing?

You are seeing the work of someone [Monet] whose eyesight was impaired.  Literally.  But though it be impaired, he still painted wonderful, huge canvases which EVOKED the atmosphere of a pond with waterlilies.

You are seeing blurry images.

Your brain has to fill in the details.

You are not seeing a high-definition photograph.

Furthermore, you are seeing oil paints which have been applied to a cloth canvas.

You are seeing a depiction.

This takes us all the way back to Plato’s “cave”, but I digress…

What happens when the big three TV networks in the U.S. get something wrong?

What about the New York Times and Washington Post (to just name the two most widely-distributed offenders)?

Do any of these entities make a concerted, SINCERE effort arising from true integrity to correct their previous, faulty coverage on events?

Debord could answer before the question was asked…because he knew the nature of these organizations (even in his native France).

He wrote, “The spectacle is by definition immune from human activity, inaccessible to any projected review or correction.  It is the opposite of dialogue.”

Social media changed this briefly.

But now, Twitter is acting like the generalissimo of a banana republic by banning accounts which “promote” the “conspiracy theory” known as QAnon.

This is just one example–from one social media platform–where the fleeting dialogue which threatened (?) “the spectacle” has been shut down.

Google, working closely with the communist Chinese government, is all too happy to facilitate similar totalitarian censorship in China…all for a buck (or yuan).

So let’s talk about vision/sight for a moment.

Did George Floyd die under the knee of Derek Chauvin?

All of the “usual suspects” (ABCBSNBC) tell me he did.

And there’s video!

Video never lies, does it?

I mean…movies are all true, right?

Is the video that Darnella Frazier ostensibly shot on her cell phone “documentary” footage?

It may be more than one thing.

It is possible to honestly document fake-ness (without knowing you are filming a pageant).

Have you ever seen an actress cry on command?

I have.

It is quite an astounding thing.

I have a friend who is a major motion-picture actress.

She once burst out in tears…right next to me.

I started to offer my condolences.

I was generally concerned.

I almost started crying.

Then she abruptly jumped out of character with a smile…to let me know she was just pranking me.

It was VERY convincing.

She had never done that to me before.

It was novel.

I had no experience against which to measure her crying fit.

I thought of her as a friend first and as an actress second.

I forgot, temporarily, that she was unequivocally a professional faker.

But Guy Debord saw more to “the spectacle” than just a stream of fake-ness.

Debord seemed to also sense an approaching hour when human relations would become totally stifled.

To hear Debord tell it, “Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle.”

Both its goal and its essence.

While mass media seems to bring us together (shared touchstones, talismans…), in actuality, it separates us more from one another.

We are always obliged to mention what “the news” says about a certain topic.

It is rare (almost impossible) that two people have a conversation where they each give their opinion of a recent event and “the spectacle” (a mass, homogenized media) is not invoked (in deferential terms) at some stage as a reference point.

Debord describes the “weapons of that system” as ranging “from cars to television”:  all meant to “reinforce the isolation of ‘the lonely crowd'”.

But Guy Debord was not merely taking aim at television and mass media.  He saw further.  He seems to have, though writing in 1967, seen the inevitably of the Internet.

As he describes it, “The spectacle is a map of this new world–a map drawn to the scale of the territory itself.”

While this is indeed a reference to a story by Borges (the world=the map), Debord’s insight in applying this to mass communication and information dissemination is extraordinarily prescient.

Guy Debord, it must be said, was not without fault.

Most importantly, he was an avowed Marxist.

So his perspicacity ended where mass media stops and economics begins.

Which brings us to the film Anchorman…

Will Ferrell is awkward here.

And gloriously so!

We get gender division.

1970s.

As today we continue to get race divisions.

Who is driving this?

Cui bono?

The British were quite good at “divide and conquer”.

In the Indian subcontinent, Hindus and Muslims had lived relatively peaceably together…until the British decided to stoke this latent division for cynical ends.

“If the Hindus and Muslims are fighting each other, they can’t pose a unitary threat to us.”

That is what I can imagine British military strategists saying at the time when India was under their occupation.

And it worked.

It was brilliant.

Evil, but brilliant.

Ask yourself a question:  who benefits (cui bono) from blacks and whites and Hispanics and Asians and police and civilians in America being divided and at each other’s throats?

What series of events led to the isolation (frustration) needed to create the current powder keg that went up in smoke with the George Floyd event?

Ron Burgundy will read anything that is put in front of him on a Tele-Promp-Ter.

…as evidenced by his most unfortunate sign-off, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego!”

Which brings us to Joe Biden.

FDR managed to keep it a secret that he was stricken with polio.

He was carted around in a wheelchair during his Presidency.

He had the Resolute desk in the Oval Office modified so that a panel on the front obscured the prying eyes of news cameras.

You could not see his legs fastened to his wheelchair.

And the press obliged.

They loved FDR.

Good old liberal, Democrat FDR.

Elected to the Presidency FOUR times (an American record).

In the White House for over 12 (!) years.

Our Constitution was amended to make this impossible from there on out.

Now the limit is eight years (two terms).

All that notwithstanding, FDR never lost his mental faculties to any significant degree.

He had a physical disability which prevented him from ambulating fully.

Joe Biden can walk fairly well.

Sadly, there is no desk panel that can hide his mental deterioration.

It is there.  It will be there.  And it will get worse.

Which makes Joe Biden a FAR MORE RIDICULOUS candidate than Donald Trump.

And again, “the spectacle” is running defense for Biden.

Making excuses.

Tossing softball questions (if any at all).

The best thing that vicious, Marxist Democrats in the United States can come up with is a dud missile named Joe Biden.

He is harmless (to extend the missile metaphor), and in that he is very harmful.

He is, as regards the responsibilities of the Chief of the Executive Branch, useless.

Which gives us just one more example of how fakes are being foisted upon us.

Never has there been such a poor candidate for the American Presidency as Joe Biden.

It is becoming apparent to all that, if elected, he would not run his own government.

What a sham!

Why didn’t the Democrats have the foresight to nominate Cory Booker or Kamala Harris?

It couldn’t be because they are RACIST, could it?

Remember, Donald Trump is such a horrible misogynist.

How was it that the Democrats failed to nominate Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar?

Democrats REALLY care about Latinos in the U.S.

That’s why they failed to nominate a guy named Castro.

Democrats are so diverse!

That’s why they passed on nominating a guy named Yang.

And what did the Democrats end up with?

A halfwit, old, white man named Joe Biden.

Halfwit is really too kind a descriptor here.

The mobs wanted Ron Burgundy’s head.

Because he told them to “go fuck themselves”.

But it was a false-flag.

Did Ron Burgundy write the line, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego!” on the Tele-Promp-Ter?

No.

Veronica Corningstone did.

Did the truth about who REALLY wrote it come out?

No.

Not even from a news organization.

Burgundy was summarily fired and his life went to shit.

He ended up wandering the streets like a cross between fat Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer-influenced) and Brian Wilson.

Bathrobe and cheeseburgers.

Nilsson Schmilsson.

Drinking milk in the…hot sun!

But what goes around comes around.

Ms. Corningstone is pushed into a bear pit at the zoo.

An unenviable position, that.

And it takes a little dog to diffuse the situation.

A mob of bears.

A proud species.

Wronged by this intrusion into their hibernation.

But Baxter, the little dog, has a message.

“These are not the droids you are looking for.”

The bears consider the source.

They will not take Ron Burgundy’s word for it.

They will not take Veronica Corningstone’s word for it.

But they will listen to a fellow creature from the animal kingdom.

“I know your cousin,” Baxter says (and I paraphrase).

Baxter’s message rings true.

The bears reconsider.

They are able to retreat gracefully.

Baxter has just acted as crisis negotiator.

A feel-good movie ends with former enemies expressing respect for one another.

Respect.

Not total reconciliation.

But a cessation of the mad chaos.

Brick Tamland (played brilliantly by Steve Carell) ends up (we are told) becoming a “top political advisor” to the Bush administration.

Mass media.

The spectacle.

Hollywood could not help taking a pot shot at a Republican President (even in a light-hearted comedy [and even though the bastard Bush deserved it]).

Why?

Because Bush was a (shitty) Republican (and a war criminal).

But for the eight years of Obama’s Presidency (and the eight years of Bill Clinton’s Presidency), you never saw Hollywood comment (on film) about the merits of these two Democrats.

Why?

Because the Democrat Party is inseparable from the mass media in the United States.

So let me ask you one final question:

do you think you are getting the truth about President Trump, coronavirus, George Floyd, or anything else from this tight-knit cabal of fakers?

Stay classy!

 

-PD

Frank [2014)

My dear friends, it is so good to be alive 🙂

But very difficult to be sick.

I must admit, it took me two days to watch this film.

This one hit a little too close to home.

But that’s ok.

Yes, I am finally feeling better on the allergy front.

Now I am struggling with that old nemesis of mine:  nicotine.

Yep, that’s right.

Trying to kick that habit.

Whoa (woozy feeling)…

Maybe did that a little too fast 🙂

But most of all, you know, every day I struggle with anxiety.

I don’t usually address it in such naked terms.

But it is fair here to talk about this biggest of all struggles for me.

Because Frank is a film about mental illness.

You know, if you apply for a job, you might get a “questionnaire” enquiring about your health.

America is very “democratic” and “fair” in hiring processes, but still these questionnaires persist.

And I suppose the last round of jobs I applied for (merely two) opened my eyes to the reality of my situation a bit.

Looking down the list of “conditions”, I realized I must (to be honest) check two boxes.

[Though the questionnaire was “voluntary”]

So I have “anxiety disorder” (big time!) and asthma (not so bad, but it can pop up).

So wow…I thought…man, these are listed as “disabilities” (if I remember correctly).

While some people might celebrate a disability condition, for me it’s not really cause for cheering.

But then I thought, “Wait…are these really disabilities?”

Well, I’m not going to give a medical/legal ruling on that (because, frankly [no pun intended] I don’t know).

But I know one thing:  anxiety can be totally debilitating.

I’ve had a really hard time readjusting to “life” after two and a half years of intense graduate studies.

I graduated about a month ago.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum…

My body just kinda shut down…gradually…in different ways.

That momentum which had carried me across the finish line evaporated.

And so life hasn’t been a bowl of cherries.

Anxiety is a bitch!

When I have nothing to realistically worry about, I find something.

If there is something from which worry can be derived, I will find it.

And it will drive me nuts.

At a certain point, one has to laugh at the ridiculousness of such an impulse.

[It’s not something I can very well control, you understand.]

And that brings us to our film Frank.

Frank is a fucked up guy.

Imagine the Jack in the Box guy from the commercials with the big fake head.

And then have that guy lead a rock band.

Yeah…

This film really defies all description.

So we have to dig a bit to really delineate what is going on in this masterful film.

First of all, this film has caused me to create a new category in my global survey of cinema for a country which I love (for a multitude of reasons):  Ireland.

Yes, Frank is an Irish film.

Funny enough, no one in the film has an Irish accent.

[Which begs the question, “Is it really an Irish film?”]

But I’m calling it an Irish film because I really admire the balls it took Lenny Abrahamson to make this picture.

Our director, Mr. Abrahamson, was born in Dublin in 1966.

Ok, it’s Irish (at least as far as “auteur theory” goes).

So what?

There’s something about Ireland which I get from the eccentrics.

James Joyce was the master of them all.

I will read Finnegans Wake till my dying day and still glory in the fact that I have no REAL idea what it’s truly about 🙂

But this film, Frank, takes us to a place I know very well:  rock and roll.

And more specifically:  indie rock.

It is a “genre” which attracts the most far-out individuals in the world.

And I must say, there were several times in this film where I could feel the spirit of one of my favorite bands of all time.

An Irish group.

Rollerskate Skinny.

Our director is 50.  I’m 40.

Maybe our frames of reference are different.

Youngsters might think Animal Collective or even the arduous process which produced Arcade Fire’s tortured Reflektor.

But Frank makes me think of that early-90s noise-pop wave which was spearheaded by bands like (my favorite group ever) Mercury Rev and Rollerskate Skinny.

When I see Frank, I see David Baker.

But I know my history.

I’ve studied weirdos all my life.

So I also see David Thomas of Pere Ubu.

And of course Don van Vliet (a.k.a. Captain Beefheart).

Frank is certainly a film which the “Pitchfork generation” should be able to get behind.

I’ve had dinner with Roky Erickson.

I’ve seen what Frank is groping for.

Yes, it’s that madness which made Syd Barrett great.

But such madness comes with a price.

We can listen to that first Pink Floyd album (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)…songs like “Lucifer Sam” where Barrett is brilliant.

And we can trace that brilliance to his solo album The Madcap Laughs…songs like “No Good Trying”.

But to be SO fucked up…to be SO far out…it ain’t fun.

I’ve heard about Roky Erickson’s time at the Rusk State Hospital for the criminally insane.

It’s not a pretty picture.

But let’s talk about this damn film 🙂

It had me hooked once I caught faint traces of those first two Mercury Rev albums (Yerself is Steam and Boces) in the sounds I was hearing emanating from Soronprfbs.

Yes, Soronprfbs.

The perfect name to describe the obtuse band at the center of our story.

Here’s a band so weird, they don’t even know how to pronounce their own name (when they show up at SXSW).

[But I’m getting ahead of myself]

First, I was wrong about Irish accents.

Indeed, Frank is such a bizarre film that one soon forgets that Domhnall Gleeson is speaking in one for the entirety 🙂

Gleeson is in the right place at the right time.

It’s happened to me.

I once got a MySpace message (remember those days?) and spent the next four years in a Cajun punk rock band.

It can happen.

Those were the best years of my life.

But it’s HARD!

Taking a van back and forth (and back and forth) across the country.

Flying (I hate flying) to awesome, bizarre locales.

For someone with bad anxiety, these aren’t easy tasks.

And we see that in the character of Frank.

As I said, Frank has problems.

Somehow, Gleeson joins Frank’s band Soronprfbs.

And the rest is a whipsaw of insanity.

No, Frank is not a relaxing watch, but it is hilarious!

And very meaningful!!

Soronprfbs, as a band, is a shambles.

[not to be confused with Babyshambles]

There were several times when I caught glimpses of the weirdness that is another of my most favorite bands:  The Homosexuals.

But, this film can hardly be reviewed properly without talking about The Residents.

Soronprfbs are mythic (if only in their own minds).

Their fame, however, grows.

And with fame, stage fright.

It happens to even the most grounded individuals (like Robbie Robertson).

But nothing fits the bill quite like Mercury Rev.

Soronprfbs are apt to have fights on stage.

Perhaps one member tries to gouge another’s eye out on a transatlantic flight.

That kind of stuff.

Sure, Oasis have had mid-air spats about blueberry scones.

And maybe The Sex Pistols only played to twelve people (or whatever) at their first show.

But Soronprfbs, for me, is that band which would hang electric guitars from the ceiling and let them feed back for the entirety of a show.

Which is to say, Mercury Rev.

But let me pull in the younger folks.

Think, for example, The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Fights onstage.

Obvious mental problems.

Or is it just a put-on?

And let’s go back…

The Doors.

Jim Morrison being totally whacked out of his gourd onstage.

But no, Soronprfbs is weirder…and far more obscure.

Think, for instance, Alan Vega leading Suicide in a performance at CBGB’s.

The writers of our film (Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan) will probably know everything I’m talking about [were they to ever read this].

Because they (or at least one of them…Ronson?) know the mechanism which attracts so many of us to BANDS.

[“those funny little plans/that never work quite right”]

That mechanism is mystery.

But in this case, it is the mystery of reclusive eccentricity.

Put simply, madness.

[not to be confused with the band Madness]

So Ronson and Straughan even include the perfect musical instrument to act as a talisman for their tale:  the theremin.

And they even get the character’s name right:  Clara.

[after theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore]

The theremin has a long history in eccentric rock and roll.

Indeed, late in Frank when we see our dejected main character sleeping in his bathrobe at the French Quarter Inn (a fleabag motel), his sartorial sense evokes Brian Wilson’s rough years.

Yes, the theremin goes back to at least “Good Vibrations” and the zaniness which was The Beach Boys’ album Smile.

But the theremin has come to embody the obtuse and pretentious in rock and roll.

And so it is no wonder that bands such as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion picked up on this wooziest of all instruments.

Which brings us finally to a salient point.

Frank includes at least one star:

Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal plays stone-cold bitch Clara:  Frank’s girlfriend.

[remember, Frank is the guy with the papier-mâché head…and he never takes it off…ever]

Gyllenhaal’s character is unlikable in just about every way imaginable.

And it makes me appreciate her acting.

Indeed, God bless Ms. Gyllenhaal for taking this film role.

It’s a lot like Charlotte Gainsbourg’s role in Misunderstood (2014) and makes me appreciate the dramatic tension of Gainsbourg’s role more than I initially did.

Which is to say, Gyllenhaal is very much the villain of Frank.

A bit like a dominatrix version of June Chadwick in This Is Spinal Tap.

Which is to further say, Gyllenhaal is playing off her typecast from Secretary of being one bad bitch.

And she pulls it off.

But Gyllenhaal is the least important element of Frank.

It would ruin things to tell you just how Michael Fassbender figures into this film, but let’s just say he’s indispensable.

[Fassbender, by the way, is half-Irish (his mother being born in County Antrim)]

A lot of our action happens in what could pass for Tarbox Road Studios.

Indeed, there is a lot of Wayne Coyne in the character of Frank as well.

But the sounds are closer to those which Mercury Rev conjured at SUNY-Buffalo for their debut album.

Likewise, the seclusion which goes into making the great Soronprfbs album reminds me of the ramshackle (yet bucolic) process which led to my favorite album of all time:  Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs.

As alluded to earlier, Soronprfbs eventually make their way to my old stomping grounds:  the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

I was a bit wistful seeing the Ritz Theater (now an Alamo Drafthouse) on 6th Street in one shot.

Indeed, I remember playing an “unplugged”, solo gig there back when it was still a cavernous, multilevel, piece-of-shit music venue (pool hall).

Funny enough, a lot of the tension in Frank revolves around that old chestnut of a band “selling out”.

Perhaps the funniest scene in the movie is when Frank presents his “most likable music ever” in the motel room.

Which is to say, this movie may not appeal to everyone.

But if you’re a rock musician (especially a weirdo like me), you’ve gotta see this.

There are a couple of scenes which make the whole thing worthwhile.

It’s funny that Soronprfbs bassist François Civil bears a striking resemblance to Dave Fridmann circa-1991.

[just another detail which cemented the genius of this film for me]

But there are other seeming references in this film.

A bit of Stereolab (with all the Moogy wonder).

The stilted “artfulness” of Blonde Redhead.

And even the bollocks, pulseless blech of Low.

Yes, Soronprfbs and their “side projects” seem to catch just about every hue in the indie rock kaleidoscope.

Director Abrahamson (and writers Ronson and Straughan) do a nice job of converting Domhnall Gleeson’s internal monologue into a social media thread which runs through this movie.

Gleeson is on Twitter, YouTube, a blog, etc.

But the funniest is the beginning…and it is the hook which reeled me in.

To hear Gleeson’s musical mind attempt to craft quirky pop songs out of mundane details of his Irish town is a real knee-slapper.

Because, as they say, IT’S SO TRUE!

So if you’ve ever written songs, witness in the first five minutes of this film the real torture it is to make lemonade out of a lemon life.

Be forewarned (or enticed):  Frank is WAY OUT THERE!

Some elements of this film are so non sequitur that they were a bit hard for my weakened, nicotine-craving immune system to handle.

In the end, this is a sad story.

But with joy, pain.

There is great joy in Frank.

Sometimes we realize we’re not in Kansas anymore…

and it’s a rough patch.

The Technicolor of life can be too much to handle.

But take courage, dear friends…

Like Gong’s great song “Rational Anthem”…from that hard-to-find Magick Brother…their debut.

[Get on that, Spotify]

Miracles can happen.

And, to quote Albert Ayler, “music is the healing force of the universe”.

-PD

Burn After Reading [2008)

This film just goes to show that intelligence work might best be described in the terms of humor.

A very dark humor.

Half of U.S. intelligence agencies fall under the purview of the Department of Defense:

-Twenty-Fifth Air Force (25 AF) [Air Force intelligence]

-Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) [Army intelligence]

-Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)

-Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA)

-Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

-National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

-National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)

and

-National Security Agency (NSA)/Central Security Service (CSS)

Then there are those executive departments which oversee two intel services apiece:

-Department of Homeland Security (Coast Guard Intelligence [CGI] and Office of Intelligence and Analysis [I&A])

and

-Department of Justice (Intelligence Branch [IB] of the Federal Bureau of Investigations [FBI] and Office of National Security Intelligence of the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA])

In addition to these 12 agencies, there are four “peacocks”:

-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA [an independent entity])

-Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (OICI [of the Department of Energy])

-Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR [of the Department of State])

and finally George Clooney’s armory in Burn After Reading:

-Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) [of the Department of Treasury]).

But we must remember that the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) was, until 2003, also part of the Department of Treasury.  Clooney’s character Harry Pfarrar speaks of his previous work protecting diplomats as a “PP”.  Personal protection?  Personnel protection?

Nevertheless, we learn something of which even the other D.C. “natives” in our film seem unaware:  that certain Treasury Department employees carry guns.

This, of course, ends up being a big detail in Burn After Reading.

And so the main thing is to understand the CIA analyst played adeptly here by John Malkovich.

The Balkans Desk.

-Joint Base San Antonio, Texas

-Fort Belvoir, Virginia

-Suitland, Maryland

-Suitland, Maryland?  Or Quantico, Virginia?

-Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.

-Fort Belvoir, Virginia

-Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face, Virginia (oh baby that’s 9/11!)

-and Fort Meade, Maryland

[continuing]

-Anacostia? [D.C.]

-DHS Nebraska Avenue Complex, Washington, D.C.

-J. Edgar Hoover Building [D.C.]

-Arlington County, Virginia? [DEA]

-Langley, Virginia

-James V. Forrestal Building (D.C.) [DoE]

-Foggy Bottom (Harry S. Truman Building) [D.C.]

and

-1500 [sic] Pennsylvania Avenue (USA)

All of this is to say that Osbourne Cox (Malkovich) is “a damned good analyst”.

But forget the “PP”.

Georege Clooney is a U.S. Marshal.  And thus under the Department of Justice umbrella.

Right?

All of this makes me sympathize with the witless Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt).

But the funniest part is the repartee between David Rasche and J.K. Simmons over at Langley.

The implication is that a couple of athletic trainers and an alcoholic former analyst (plus a U.S. Marshal) have spun a web of inexplicable disaster even more boneheaded than the Bay of Pigs invasion.

And so it is priceless to hear these two gentlemen speak in tones of which Leo G. Carroll would no doubt have approved.

“We do nothing.”

When in doubt.

Ah, but Zugzwang?

Nein.

Nichts.

Nothing is scarier than a know-nothing.

Completely transparent.

Like water.

The most terrifying mask.

Princeton pulls the trigger in full-on mental illness.

And with a healthy buzz.

Maybe a bathrobe.

Can’t recall.

But felt very Harry Nilsson (if not Brian Wilson) sartorially speaking.

But the best thing is the CIA in the plastic surgery/philanthropy business.

Slushing the funds.  A little churn.

If only.

The absurdity of it all (for the CIA) most accurately can be explained by the Situationism of Guy Debord.

Like snowflakes.  Overlaid onto life views courtesy NRO.

Photo interpretation.

NGA.  Or even an NGO.

Who knows?

Clap on, clap off, the Clapper.  X X

 

-PD

 

Johnny English Reborn [2011)

With film reviews, a critic either reviews the film or reviews themselves.  Selves?  Self.

Continuing…  There are two major modes of writing about art.

If I tell you that film was designated the seventh art by Ricciotto Canudo, am I telling you more about film or more about myself?

I would argue that I am trying to flaunt my intellect.

Every once in awhile my brain serves me well.  At other times I am painfully aware of my shortcomings.

And so, Johnny English…not exactly King Lear by Godard.

Nay…  ,,but a near piss-perfect spy spoof.

Piss-perfect?

Now there’s an odd turn of phrase.  Can’t say I’ve thought of that one in awhile.

Really, it makes little sense…unless…drug test?

Who knows…

It’s certainly not timoxeline barbebutenol.  No.  I’m assured by my ever faithful companion Wikipedia that that (2) is a fictional drug.

It does, however, share a molecular formula with two actual drugs:  amobarbital and pentobarbital (respectively).

C11H18N2O3

Yes…

Now<>  If I followed this particular tangent I would be indirectly commenting on the film at hand.

The ostensible “meaning” would be that this film is so devoid of substance that I had been reduced to concocting literary small talk in its absence.

But that is not the case.

And so in the great literary tradition of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, I shall forego the pharmacological flourish and focus on what’s really important.

Johnny English Reborn, while not a masterpiece in the Palme d’Or sense, smashes both the first two Austin Powers films (and indeed its own predecessor) to infinitesimal bits.

[If I allowed myself the indulgence of an aside involving quantum computing and its version of bits (qubits) I would really be showing my arse.]

Because I don’t know quantum computing from linear regressions.  [Figuratively speaking.]

And so I will be plain as day ->  I identify with this film

I know.  It’s sad in a certain way…

“The Great Pretender”…I sometimes think.  I think of Richard Manuel crooning that song with such pain in his heart.

Yes, Levon Helm was right:  the moments that Richard took the spotlight for ballads…those were the real highlights.

“Georgia On My Mind”…

A guy with a great big beard.  As weird and wistful as Brian Wilson in a giant sandbox.

Uhhh…yes.  Where were we?

Johnny English.

Reborn no less…

Indeed, a few things are different here.

First we must thank director Oliver Parker.

This film really holds together.

Lucky for him he had Rowan Atkinson in top form as the title character.

But there are two supporting players who deserve special mention.

The first is Daniel Kaluuya.

Mr. Kaluuya, himself of Ugandan ancestry, fills some very big shoes left vacant by his predecessor Ben Miller.

I really did Miller a disservice by failing to mention his fine performance in the first Johnny English film.

But Kaluuya takes a somewhat different tack.

I may be imagining things, but I get the feeling that Kaluuya was playing this role for all it’s worth (like an athlete or musician with a make-or-break chance).

Sure…films employ multiple takes.  Drop a line?  No problem.  Let’s take it again.

And yet, Kaluuya adds a gentle urgency to this farce by way of truly accomplished thespian abilities.

I certainly hope someone in the film world was paying attention as his filmography does not reflect an appreciation for his immense talents.

And finally, I must mention the redemption of Rosamund Pike (reborn, if you will).

I last left her on my site as a rather tragic villain figure in the actual Bond film Die Another Day.  Mercifully, she does not exit this film with a volume of Sun Tzu shishkababbed flush to bosom.  [What?]

Quite the contrary…for here she is the good guy (girl)…and her acting is as impeccable as her true beauty.

But poor Johnny…poor Rowan Atkinson.

I’ve hardly mentioned him at all.

Must I tell you again what a genius this fellow is?

Perhaps so.

I haven’t been effusive enough regarding a man whose talents are of the most rare kind.

True, born-to-yuck talents.  Born-to-ham.  I would only put him in a race with Roberto Benigni.

Those two.

They are of another era.

Like Peter Sellers.

Like Jacques Tati.

And, of course, back to the fondateur Charlie Chaplin.

The modern world does not embrace this visual sort of humor.

Every once in awhile it reappears.  Benigni wins Best Actor.

And then it’s gone again.

Atkinson, dear boy, if you’re out there on the brainwave wavelengths…

You’ve still got it, old chap!

-PD

Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse [2008)

Ah…to be with all the pretty people.

Julian Schnabel.

I once had someone correct me on the pronunciation of his name.

Just goes to show how wrong you can be.

This was Lou’s moment.

Lou Reed.  Inventor of modern rock and roll.

The granddaddy.  The godfather.

This was Lou in Brooklyn with a crackerjack band.  Strings, horns, woodwinds, a choir…

This was really the way to do it right.

First time I saw this concert film, I didn’t think much of it.

Just goes to show how wrong you can be.

They nailed it.  Lou.  Julian.  Bob Ezrin.

But what really makes this the best concert film I’ve ever seen?

Lola Schnabel.

Lola Montes Schnabel.

Julian’s daughter shot some priceless footage of Emmanuelle Seigner.  Seigner, for her part, is marvelous as Caroline.

To take Lou Reed’s greatest album and give it this treatment is really an honor to Lou (who’s no longer with us).

We hear those Sturm-und-Drang harmonies on the New Year’s Eve piano played by Rupert Christie.  Motherfucker needs a Wikipedia page.  And what exactly is he playing?  The licks of another bloke who needs a Wikipedia page (apparently):  Allan Macmillan.  But you know who needs a page most of all?  The sensuous ear who transcribed Macmillan’s harmonies.  Was it Christie?  I don’t know, but that’s no easy job.

And such is the quality of this representation all throughout.  Like Brian Wilson’s Smile album brought to the stage through the journeyman efforts of Darian Sahanaja.

Yes, we musicians take note.  [buh-doomp, ching!]

So what happens here?

Lou really starts nailing it around “Oh, Jim”…

Only Lou Reed could write that song.  Only Lou Reed could sing that song.

By the time “Caroline Says II” rolls around, we are immersed in this Greek tragedy.

There was a reason Lou never did this album live for 30 years.

This is some heavy shit.  Heavy syrup.  Heavy cream.

And then Steve Hunter launches into that movable D major chord of “The Kids” and we are in the eye of the storm.

Try bringing THAT Bob Ezrin masterpiece to the stage!  And they did!!

Tony “Thunder” Smith needs a Wikipedia page, but his drumming is spot-on throughout this emotional ride.

For much of the night, Smith was faithfully playing the licks of Aynsley Dunbar.

We’re talking about bringing an album (Berlin, 1973) to the stage that featured Jack Bruce on bass.  Cream’s bass player?  Yeah, no big deal.  Piece of cake…  No pressure.

And from the perfectly-directed, Titanic wreck of “The Kids” we go right into “The Bed”…  Bleak, bleak, black songwriting…

And this is where the choir really shines.  This is where Julian shines as a director.  Not only does it work, it’s goddamned genius.

And “The Bed” ends with a watery ghost choir…and maybe someone patched in an Eventide H3000…and maybe Lou called György Ligeti or Giacinto Scelsi or Mauricio Kagel.  This is the kid (Lou) who made that stuff accessible (even more than Kubrick)…from “Sister Ray” to Metal Machine Music and beyond.

If you don’t shed a tear here, you won’t at all.

And then [voila!] the gloom lifts…with the woodwinds of “Sad Song”…

It ain’t over till you hear Antony Hegarty do Doug Yule.  Perfect match of singer and song (says Candy).

-PD