Michael Myers and Trent Reznor

It’s Friday The 13th, so I should be talking about Jason Vorhees. But you know what, I don’t care. Michael Myers has always held a special, darkly-lit place in my heart. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Halloween growing up. It was on TV at least once a year(edited, of course) and I’d always watch it. Even prior to seeing the unedited version on videocassette, it was a very scary, visceral experience for me. The initial murder of Vorhees’ sister, the escape from the institution, stalking of Laurie Strode, and the murders at the end of the film all filled me with such dread that even the most goriest of films can’t come close to that angst I felt lying under a blanket on my parent’s couch in the living room as a sticky little kid.

Even years later that iconic theme music would stick with me, showing up in various forms(Halloween toys, plunking out the theme drunkenly on my best friend’s piano, and various viewings over the years), that I never thought someone covering this theme would affect me as much as the version I just heard today did. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made a version of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme and released it today, on Friday the 13th, 2017.

It’s actually pretty amazing.

They take their time with it. They savor the nuances and tease the theme generously before going full Carpenter, with some generous Reznor/Ross vibes. They toy with the main theme with lots of distortion and chaos lurking in the background for a good 5 minutes before close to the end when a Reznor-approved beat comes crashing in to make Carpenter’s iconic theme become some sort of dark and sultry remix. It’s really rather stunning.

They haven’t rebuilt the Halloween theme more than they’ve reimagined it into something modern and dystopian. I think it’s genius. You may think it’s shite. That’s okay. Give it a shot and see what happens. I’m fanboying right now. I think Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are two of the most exciting film composers working today. The NIN stuff is still good to my ears as well(we can’t keep recreating the past now, can we dear?), but their film work is absolutely stunning. If John Carpenter decides to not score the new Halloween, I know two guys perfect for the job.

Happy Friday The 13th, lovelies.

Favorite Albums of 2017(so far) : Maine’s ‘V’

There’s been a gradual shift in my brain over the last few years to music that doesn’t necessarily tell a story through words more than through mood. Listen, I grew up devouring the Beatles, Rush, the Kinks, Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Wilco, and the list goes on. I was a song guy. I was moved by stories and words and grand musical statements in the classic songwriting tradition. I still love the songwriting tradition and even do it myself when time allows, but over the last three to four years I’ve found myself drawn to instrumental music. In-particular, heavy synth music. There’s something about synth music that feels ingrained into my DNA that I hadn’t known was there till about four years ago when I bought Walter Rizatti’s score for House By The Cemetery. The last time I’d heard that music was when I was probably 14 years old when I first watched Fulci’s trashy classic. Hearing it again at the ripe middle age of 39 I felt there was something that I’d unlocked in my head that had been stuck up there since that balmy summer night all those years ago. That music instantly connected with me. There was no warming up period. It just instantly hit me.

From that point on I began grabbing as many of those Italian horror scores as I could, and expanded into newer artists that had a kinship with the synth and all things eerie and Gothic. I’m always looking for someone who can move me with a turn of a melody, hypnotic repetition, and who can create a sonic world where I’m quite comfortable spending time in. One person new on my musical radar that can do all of those in spades is Michel Dupay, aka MAINE. While a lot of synth music is a synthetic creation, built on circuits, wires, tubes, and buzzing waves of noise, Dupay takes a much  more organic approach to his heavy synth sound. According to his Bandcamp page, MAINE’s music is “Fiercely analogue, pre-midi musique from Montmartre, Paris.” A lot of electronic music uses midi to help create and build songs. It’s a process by which an artist can connect and sync several pieces of electronic tools and gadgets allowing a pristine connection of different musical pieces. Dupay is creating music the old fashioned way, by performing these songs as a band without the safety net of midi and syncing.

“He makes music the old fashioned way. He performs it.” – John Houseman.

I’d seen Burning Witches Records talking MAINE’s new album V up quite a bit over the summer. A couple months ago I finally got around to checking it out and I was absolutely blown away by the record. It hits every dark, melancholy tone just right. It’s a slow burn LP, too. It allows you to work your way into the album gradually as to savor the bits and pieces without overindulging. You find new things to love each time you drop the needle. There’s something very European about the sound. It’s quietly alluring and subtly dance floor-ready. Something like the vinyl-only “Black Cloud” feels like a slow cloud rolling in over the Parisian sun. “La Pluie” evokes visions of cobblestone streets, centuries-old villages, and seaside walks. “Cadence” has a very early-80s vibe. Something that might have accompanied the opening credits to a “Satanic Panic” occult film. “Below The Landslide(featuring Nina)” is an exquisite piece of synth music. With the addition of vocals it becomes something far more emotional and engaging. “The World Without” is pure desolate beauty, like a slow crawl through some dystopian landscape. “I Never Wanted to Write These Words down for You” gives you the feeling of waking from some long, ancient rest. Tremolo-effected electric piano gives the track an almost pop sensibility. It’s like the moment when the clouds break and there’s shards of light hitting the earth once again.

This record is so sonically rich. It has the production value of an early 70s Alan Parsons production. There’s an aged refinement that permeates the record I can’t get enough of. It’s dark, but there’s a warmth in the songs. Like early OMD obsessed with Vangelis. The production and engineering is almost like another instrument altogether.

V is an hypnotic listening experience. There are not overwrought explosions of sound. It’s all very cool and calculated. Some tracks feel as if they feed right into the next, giving you the experience of one long, musical piece rather than individual shots of songs. The album’s organic nature only adds to the feeling that these songs sprung up from the earth. Dupay masterfully weaves these songs together like a Gothic tapestry for us to wrap ourselves in and embrace whatever journey they’re going to take us on. I cannot recommend V enough. It’s a masterpiece of restraint and storied beauty.

Buy the album right here.

 

Friday Thoughts

Some Friday thoughts:

May your coffee stay hot, but your demeanor cool

May your boss keep a liberal distance

May the phone not ring, and the breakroom not stink

May the copier not offer any resistance

Here’s to another, week under the belt

And at 5PM the traffic not vociferous

For there’s beer in the fridge, or soda or tea

If there’s anything better I can’t think of it

The week’s been a shit, this much I know

There’s no other words I can say

But the garage door is up, the wife’s filled me cup

Christ, thank God it’s Friday – J. “Hub” McHenry

I’m pretty much out of words today. It’s been a pretty terrible week all around. People arguing about guns, people mourning yet another large group of innocent lives taken by the hand of a lunatic, and we lost an American treasure in Tom Petty. I woke up this morning feeling like shit. Achy, stomach sour, and just a general feeling of malaise. But goddammit, it’s Friday and I’m not going to let a little ick in the gut ruin that. My oldest is coming home for the weekend and I took Monday off so I’m happy about that. I’ve also got lots of music to indulge in over the weekend(which you’ll hear about I’m sure.)

So despite the shit storm yet another week in 2017 has brought us I’m going to try and appreciate what I’ve got and who I’ve got to enjoy it with. Time is limited on this rock. How limited? Well, we don’t really know. We’ve just gotta enjoy each one like it could end tomorrow. Let ’em know you love ’em. Take care of yourself. Savor that cup of coffee. Indulge in a piece of cheesecake. Get outside and breathe in that fresh air. Throw the ball with your kids. Watch a movie someone wants to watch, even though you may not want to. Take time to read that book you’ve been meaning to read. Make yourself as well-rounded of a human being as you can. Shove as much knowledge into your head as you can before your skull blows open. Even then, keep shoveling it in. You don’t have to love your neighbor, but at least wave at ’em when you cross paths, you jerk.

And most of all my lovelies, Happy F*****g Friday.

 

The Lions, The Switch, and A Guy Getting Old

I guess I’m getting older, dammit.

I find myself looking back at little moments that at the time seemed to be difficult and time consuming, but now I think of them and long for those moments. Little things like putting the kids in a stroller and walking the neighborhood in the fall. Bedtime stories, either out of a book or made up by me, told in the confines of a blanket fort. Bike rides in the summer complete with Spiderman and Barbie helmets. That inevitable walk down the toy aisle at Walmart or Meijer before we leave with groceries knowing there would probably be a Lego set, superhero action figure, or Barbie doll leaving with us as well.

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the afterschool pick up at Lincoln Elementary. The last three years I’ve been the main pick up parent. When my wife started taking school photos for a living I was the one given the task of picking up the two youngest. Sure, they could ride the bus but it was an hour of their lives stuck on a hot bus with stinky, noisy kids every afternoon. If I picked them up they’d be home almost a whole 30 minutes sooner. More time for homework and unwinding, so I really didn’t mind. Sure, if I went home I would’ve had a whole hour and a half of wind down time myself. Time to get dinner going, have a cup of coffee, workout, or just space out in my favorite chair with a new record spinning. Instead of doing that, I’d hit the gym and work out before heading to the pick up line and waiting for the kids to be excused from the gym. It was time I could be doing something for myself, but I grew to enjoy the time sitting in the car and winding down from the day at work and the workout. And if I didn’t go workout on a certain day I’d hit the local bakery and grab a donut and coffee and indulge a bit as I listened to public radio in the car while various mini-vans, pick up trucks, and SUVs lined up behind me.

It was an annoyance that turned into habit. A habit I learned to enjoy.

Now, the kids are all too old for Lincoln Elementary(go Lincoln Lions!) The last one to attend Lincoln was my son who graduated 6th grade last year. He’s now in Lakeview Middle School, while my 14 year old is a Freshman and my 17 year old is a senior two hours away at a private high school for smart kids(she gets it from my wife.) The old Lincoln Elementary was torn down last year and replaced with a new school that has no pizzazz or character. The pick up line is gone. No more classic brick building with its reader board and flag poles in front, nor the sidewalk that laid in front of the school for 50 years. The open, grassy field where my wife conducted the Race For Education Walk-A-Thon for five years in a row(2011-2015) is filled with a new, bland school and a parking lot. Those memories can’t be triggered by seeing that field anymore, as the field is only in memories and pictures. I suppose this is progress, but progress doesn’t take memories into account. History. Emotions.

At least not mine, anyways.

It is what it is, I suppose. Time moves forward, kids grow up, buildings fall, men go balder by the year, and some memories and moments remain like ghosts in your brain to haunt you when you least expect it. I find myself driving by the school and trying to find those feelings and moments once in a while. It’s just not the same. The street remains, but a street with a gaping hole where something that meant a lot to me once used to stand. A place where my kids grew up, parent/teacher conferences occurred, school carnivals transpired, school musicals went on too long, and kids walked in a field while I played top 40 hits to entertain them(and the teachers) on sunny Friday afternoons in October. It was a place I used to sit in my car every day between 3:00 and 3:40 listening to Fresh Air on NPR, drinking a coffee and waiting patiently for my little ones to jump in the car and tell me how their day went.

Those days are gone, and I guess I’ve gotta deal with that.

The Lions Den, gutted and fading

Saturday, Harry, and Beaches

We’ve gone from an incredibly mild beginning of the month to slowly making our way back to some summer heat. Hell, we had a high of 65 degrees just a few days ago and are back to mid-80s and balmy(thanks Obama!) After I ran to the bank(and the comic book shop and Karma Records) I took to the yard for a serious round of mowing. Despite the cooler temps the grass still felt it necessary to grow way out of hand. I put on the latest Marc Maron podcast and proceeded to sweat like an atheist at a church social. Even after a good two hours, a spinach, strawberry, pineapple, wheat germ and almond milk smoothie and some Greek yogurt and a relaxing shower I’m still sweating(am I dying?) It’s okay, I’ve got some new tunes spinning. I’m sure I’ll survive.

Before I even had my first cup of dark roast I started seeing folks posting pictures of Harry Dean Stanton and got a bad feeling in my gut. Sure enough, one of the greatest character actors to grace a screen had passed away. I was pretty bummed about this. I was thinking to myself “Man, he was probably in his late 70s or early 80s by now.” Turns out I was wrong. Stanton was 91. 91?! I think maybe because of the fact that he’s looked to be in his mid-60s for the last 40 years I just assumed he was in his 70s. He was always this thin, skeleton of a man wrapped in secondhand clothes in the films he was in. He always looked like a guy that had seen far more in his life and had experienced even more than that than everyone in the room combined, yet never felt compelled to share too much. Quiet, unassuming, and someone happy to share a longneck(or two) and a pack of Reds at the local watering hole with anyone willing to buy a around or two.

He could’ve been any number of guys I’d see when I was a little kid and my grandma would take me to the Moose Lodge for lunch. She worked there as a waitress and bartender when she and my grandpa lived on Lake Manitou back in the 70s and 80s. We’d go over there when my mom and I would visit during summer. We’d sit in a booth and I’d eat a hamburger with fries and a Coke while a cavalcade of regulars would come by to say hi to my grandma. Maybe Harry was one of them, I don’t know.

First time I remember seeing Harry Dean Stanton in a movie was Alien. He was the unfortunate soul that tried getting the cat and was bit in the face by the Xenomorph for his troubles. Then in the mid-80s we rented Repo Man and I think it was that movie that made me think, “You know, I kind of like this guy.” Repo Man was an insane, head trip of a film that put me onto both Alex Cox and punk rock. It was also one of Emilio Estevez’ finest films. Stanton was the crusty old timer showing the young punk the ropes and trade of repossessing vehicles. It’s a classic. Then in the early 90s when I worked at a video store I started bringing old Betamax tapes home(because nobody rented them anymore and I had our newly repaired Toshiba at home.) There were lots of movies that they never replaced with VHS copies and only had the Betamax left. There was literally a giant box filled with old Betamax tapes in the back that I could take whenever I wanted. One of those was Wim Wender’s beautiful Paris, Texas. It was this European arthouse film that was shot in the heart of Texas with grizzled American actors. It was this tome on loneliness, the open road, regrets, and how insignificant we are in the scheme of things. For me, that film defined the lonely soul that Stanton could play so well. He was also featured in several David Lynch films and was even in The Avengers as a security guard that finds a naked Bruce Banner in an abandoned factory.

So long, Harry. 91 years. You had a hell of a good run.

What am I listening to, you ask? The new Beaches album Second of Spring. It’s a double LP of dreamy psych rock from this all female rock outfit from Australia. I absolutely loved their 2013 album She Beats. It had a lo-fi vibe to it, yet never came across as amateurish. It felt like a well-aged rock record you might find in some collection sitting and collecting dust. One of those rare treats of an album that had a special appearance by none other than NEU!s Michael Rother.

Second of Spring is a double album clocking at over 75 minutes of psych, dream, shoegaze, and grungy garage rock. These ladies lay on the hazy guitar vibes beautifully this time around. It’s been four years, but Second of Spring was worth the wait.

That’s all I got. There’s some PBRs in the fridge with my name on ’em. The boy and I plan on marathoning the Alien collection tonight. We watched Prometheus and Alien: Covenant a couple weekends ago and are doing the original Scott film, along with Cameron’s Aliens, tonight. If we’re so inclined, maybe we’ll finish up Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, too. If we’re feeling crazy or something.

A little “my two cents”, in regards to Scott’s newest Alien films. I think they’re great. It seems that there’s either the “we loved it” or “we hated it” camps. I don’t get all the jeers for these films. They looked great and had great acting. The effects were amazing and the story, though a little dense, starts to make sense after my second viewing of Prometheus. Plus, Michael Fassbender was fucking brilliant. So there’s that.

Alright, enjoy your weekend my lovelies. Grab a beer and watch Paris, Texas.

 

Discogs Memories

I don’t know what it is about putting my vinyl purchases into Discogs that makes me tingle all over. Could be the OCD side of me. Or the anal retentive that likes things in order, collected, and neat and tidy. I love having a place to go to that gives me instant information about my obsession(addiction.) Seeing all of my vinyl acquisitions over the last 9 years listed neatly for me to browse at my heart’s content satisfies something in me that I can’t describe.

I’ve always been this way. Even as a kid I loved having cases to put my “things” into. First I had a couple carrying cases for Hot Wheels. One in the shape of a wheel and the other more like the size of a lunch box. Within those I could easily access several muscle cars, Chrysler vans, European sports cars, and even my favorite, a blue van with Marvel’s “The Thing” on the side of it. I quickly moved from Hot Wheels to Star Wars action figures and then GI Joe figures. Each obsession had its own special case to carry them in. This allowed for easy access and also a way to display my collections of various Kenner, Hasbro, and Mattel toys.

By middle school the toys turned to cassettes which turned into cassette cases in my room. Swanky faux wood-looking things that pulled out awkwardly to reveal various guitar shredders, glam rockers, and Rush’ entire discography by 10th grade. When my wife(then girlfriend) and I moved out on our own we bought a Sauder CD tower which housed three years worth of CD purchases. It was heavy as hell and awkward in general, but was way cool in that it gave me plenty of room to grow a collection of shiny discs and wasted clear plastic with color inserts in them.

In 2008 I began my vinyl journey. After years of contemplating whether I should start a hobby of collecting a near dead means of listening to music I said the hell with it and bought a couple vinyl records at the Jazz Record Mart on a Chicago trip with my wife(before I’d even purchased a player to listen to them on.) A month later my Audio Technica was purchased and the rest, as they say, is history. The collection was slow going, but I was determined to fill my house with a clunky form of music consumption. No one would get in my way, dammit.

I didn’t start cataloging my albums till the spring of 2013. I had maybe 100 albums by then. I’d heard stories about a place online where you could catalog your record collection for free(as well as buy albums, too.) One weekend, after I built my first vinyl cabinet, I decided the hell with it and opened an account and began cataloging my records on Discogs. I remember staying up till 2 am that first Friday night. By noon the next day I was fully cataloged and ready to roll. I haven’t looked back since(well maybe a couple times over my shoulder to make sure my wife didn’t see me ordering vinyl.)

I was inputting some recent purchases when I decided to go back to the first entries. Seeing them put me into that weekend. Sitting at the kitchen table typing in bands and selecting the right pressing and color variant. Not really getting why this was so important to me, but I knew it was. My kids were so much younger then. I wasn’t as beat up and sore as I am now. Looking back things seemed simpler. My biggest project was sitting in a dark dining room typing in band names into a dated website and adding their records into my collection. That was important? That was relevant?

Yes it was. And yes it is.

Maybe it’s an OCD thing like I said. Maybe I just like things orderly and easily accessed. There’s some comfort for me in knowing I have a digital “Dewey Decimal System” of sorts available to access whenever I want to look up my collection. There’s really a right brain/left brain thing going on here. The methodical and the pure pleasure. I had a pretty big week of record buying and loaded up quite a few records this week. I happily opened a beer and sat down to do some inputting.

It felt good. It felt like home.

Happy Birthmark!

There aren’t too many artists that influenced and affected me quite like Adrian Belew. He had a four album run from 1989 to 1994 that pretty much defined for me what it is to be a songwriter. With those records, Mr. Music Head, Young Lions, Inner Revolution, and Here, I’d felt that I had my own Beatles or Kinks. Of course I had the Beatles and Kinks, but Belew was in my universe, creating at that moment. He was making pure power pop bliss with a flair for the experimental. When I was 17 I was merely interested in the pop aspect of Belew’s playing. I wasn’t even considering the groundbreaking guitar work he was doing(both as a solo artist and with King Crimson), or the pioneering studio work he had already done by then with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and the Talking Heads(just to name a few.)

I was enamored with Mr. Belew so much that in 1995 I actually sent a typed(yes, with an electric typewriter kids) letter to Adrian Belew’s management company Umbrella Management in Cincinnati, OH. I told them of how much Adrian Belew’s music had affected me and influenced me in my fledgling songwriting adventures. I hem hawed around until I got the courage to ask if they would be willing to check out a tape of some songs I’d recorded on my 4-track. I got a letter back from them a couple weeks later saying they would share my letter with Mr. Belew, and that they would be honored to check out my tape. “We’ll give it both ears” is what Mr. Stan Hertzman responded with. Of course I talked myself out of the whole thing, but it was nice to actually hear from a human.

Now at 43 I’ve gone back and dug into all that studio work. I think what he did with the Talking Heads was some of the most important stuff put to tape. I really do. Remain In Light is this anomaly in pop music. A totally out there, experimental approach to making music that redefined what you could do in the studio. Belew’s work on that album and the tour that followed still blows my mind. His later work as a solo artist was heavily influenced by David Byrne, Brian Eno, and David Bowie; but it was also influenced by Lennon and McCartney and Ray Davies. The latter influences are what hit me first, but the former are what I think have made Adrian Belew an artist of the highest order.

Inner Revolution was the record that turned me inside out, and Young Lions was my first experience with Belew. But Mr. Music Head was a revelatory moment for me. With just one song, it felt like that album knocked my head open to allow the world to soak in. And it all seemingly started with Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder.

It was December of 1990 and one of my good friends and I met up with a few other friends from school at the Lake Theater and saw Jacob’s Ladder. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a dark and disturbing film about a guy that feels he’s losing his grip on reality. He thinks he’s seeing demons and dark conspiracies surrounding him and trying to take his life. It’s one of those movies that seems like one thing and at the end it’s something completely different. Honestly, it moved me. It was one of the first films I saw that had me thinking about it for hours afterwards. We all went and got fries and drinks afterwards and my good friend and I were attempting to explain what happened to our other friends. I won’t get into the details of the film. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. Tim Robbins, Danny Aiello, and Elizabeth Pena were all amazing in it. Bruce Joel Rubin wrote a film both haunting, disturbing, and heartbreaking. See it.

Anyways, so after we got back to my friend’s house we’re still contemplating the movie when he gives me a cassette. It was Adrian Belew’s Mr. Music Head. He found a used copy and told me happy birthday. This is the friend that got me into Belew. He’d bought Young Lions earlier in the year and after a summer of constant listening I was hooked. Mr. Music Head was the album that preceded Young Lions and I was excited to hear it. As we discussed the film, the tape played and impressed me at every turn.

“Oh Daddy” was a top ten hit. It was a song Belew recorded with his 12 year old daughter(who sang.) It’s a sweet tune about a little girl asking her dad if he’d finally made the big time. “House Of Cards” shows Belew’s knack for writing spot-on pop songs while still being experimental and adventurous. “One Of Those Days” sounds like a lost Harry Nilsson track with its upbeat shuffle and piano melody. Belew talks about summertime picnics and barbecues all the while referencing God going back to sleep for a while longer behind the sun(referencing Daoism I believe.) “Bad Days” is another incredible piano led pop track, more melanchoy. A song about a troubled relationship that might’ve been about Belew and his first wife. “Motor Bungalow”, “Bumpity Bump”, and “Bird In A Box” all were these jangly pop songs that impressed a couple of 17-year old dorks. Then we came to “1967”. That song stopped us both in mid conversation. It was this acoustic-driven number that sounded like Lennon/McCartney turned inside out to reveal the inner workings of genius. It was just as much an impressionistic work of art as it was a harmonious pop song. There are moments of pure beauty and of this existential drifting where you feel as if you stumbled into someone’s dark psyche. Each time the song twists and turns into these wormholes of psychic dread Belew pulls us out with power pop harmonies and his jaunty acoustic guitar. From the first line(“Last night/I took a walk into the back of my mind/Through the trash and the warning signs”) to the last (“If you’ll excuse me I should say goodbye/I gotta go now”) I was floored. Me talking about it doesn’t do it justice.

Loose tooth three of a perfect paradiced onions cheese
And beans from another planeteri gargoyle change
Every two thousand smiled at
Linda Evans called again singing happy birthmark

Over the years Adrian Belew has remained a constant in my musical wanderings. He’s always been a significant influence and inspiration. As I got older I started going back to his studio work and my mind was blown yet again by his work on Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. But I’ve never strayed too far away from those four albums that started it all for me. I recently acquired a promotional copy of Mr. Music Head for the low, low price of $5.50. The sleeve is beat up a little, but the album is clean. I spun it this past Friday night and it was like reliving that Friday night in 1990 all over again. This time though, I had the pleasure of sharing it with my 12 year old son. In two weeks I’ll be taking him to his first rock concert. We’ll be seeing Adrian Belew on September 8th.

God had his great snooze
And through the trees a sleepy breeze blew
It was one of those days