Forty-Four

Today I turn 44 years old. I don’t feel much different from 43. Some days I feel like I’m 26. Other days I feel like I should be retired and taking chondroitin with my prune juice and egg whites in the morning. Tomorrow I’ll probably feel feeble and in my 80s because I worked in the yard today.

So it goes.

I’ve got no complaints about aging another year. Maybe if it could slow down a bit, I’d like that. I’m getting grayer and more sore quicker than I like. My kids aren’t so small anymore, either. Nap time, trips to the Children’s Museum, and that crazed look of glee on Christmas Eve have faded to quiet indifference and sleeping past 9am on Christmas morning(I’m okay with that  part.) Time, it’s a fickle beast. Jane can’t stop this crazy thing we call life. It keeps moving whether you’re ready or not.

Every birthday makes that all the more clearer.

I remember as a kid on birthdays I’d have at least one set of grandparents show up for cake and awkward glances as I’d run around the house in Superman Underoos(c’mon grandpa, you’ve never seen a 16-year old boy run around the house in just his underwear. You were a free mason for God’s sake.) I remember my 7th birthday party and the neighbor girl came over with her mom and I hid behind my mom for the first hour. I guess that was my first taste of dealing with the opposite sex. Birthdays were a learning ground for so many things. My 12th birthday party was the best. Me and 4 of my best friends went to Pizza Hut and then came back to my house where they all spent the night. We stayed up watching lousy horror movies and playing with GI Joe figures and Transformers. I think three of us stayed up till close to 4am that night.

My 21st birthday I bought my first new vehicle, a 1994 Nissan pick-up. My parents and older brother drove me to Fort Wayne to pick it up. My brother drove home with me and afterwards we went to the Ye Old Pub in North Webster and ate fried fish and I had my first official “of age” beer, which was a Michelob on draft. Two years later I spent my 23rd birthday in our new home. We’d only been in the house for less than a week so it still had that “empty, we’re new to this homeowner thing” feel. I’d gotten the flu and spent the day between my bed newly minting the toilet.

I have lots of birthday memories. Most of them good. Maybe a couple not so good. But the one thru-line is that you better enjoy ’em as they come because one day you’re hiding behind your mom as she lights the candles on your Boba Fett birthday cake while a confused 8-year old girl looks on, and the next you’re sitting on the couch, newly minted a ripe old 44-years of age typing on the couch as your wife of 21 years and your 12-year old son are in the kitchen making you a pineapple upside down cake.

To another year of learning and loving. To another year of figuring out the difference between relief and joy. To another year of enjoying these days as they come. As they slap you right in the kisser.

 

Hell Raisin

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is one of those films that stands as a horror pillar in my early teen years. I remember reading all about it in Fangoria and seeing the pictures of those Cenobites. Those visuals were unlike anything my teen brain had ever come across. It felt foreign, alien, new, and disturbing in a way I’d never seen. What were these vile creatures in black leather with the chattering teeth, grotesque features, and nails sticking into their skulls? I wasn’t even 14 years old when Hellraiser was released, yet I knew I had to see this movie. Fortunately for me, my parents dug this kind of shit so they were cool with taking me and my best friend to see it on a Saturday afternoon.

Up to this point, my horror was of the more American-made kind. I was a Romero and Carpenter nerd and dug movies like Fright Night, Silver Bullet, The Howling, An American Werewolf In London, and of course those flicks where horny teens get slaughtered one by one by a hulking man-child with mommy issues. Hellraiser felt decidedly European to me. It felt very foreign and dirty. It was a weird one to see in the theater with Ma and Pa Hubner(as I’m sure it was weird for them as well.) But man, it was a hell of a flick. Very visceral and to the bone. I’d never seen a movie with such Gothic vibes before. Of course I’d later learn just how sexualized Barker’s work was in books like In The Flesh and The Damnation Game, but being a newbie to Barker in the theater on a Saturday afternoon in 1987 I sort of felt mentally violated. This was horror, but there was this dark sensuality I couldn’t quite compute with my 13-year old highly hormonal brain. The leather, the chains, the pain and pleasure,…the Cenobites were dominatrix’ for some netherworld sex club and I was invited to watch their purgatorial peep show. I thought this was supposed to be a horror film of blood-stained sights and terrifying worlds? What are these new “feelings” I was feeling? Are there any female cenobites looking for a date to the 8th Grade Formal? And isn’t that guy the same one who was in Dirty Harry? There was in fact a female cenobite, but she wouldn’t show up till Hellbound: Hellraiser 2(she was already going to the formal with “chattering teeth” cenobite), and that was indeed the Scorpio serial killer Andrew Robinson that played Larry Cotton. As for those weird feelings? What’s wrong with you, ya freak!?

Hellraiser was a one-of-a-kind movie experience, especially for an impressionable, greasy teen. It did open new doorways into art and cinema for me. The best pal I went to see it with got into graphic novels and bought up a bunch of Barker’s books that I would borrow often and read. That whole world led to stuff like Gaiman’s Sandman series, James O’Barr’s The Crow, and even into musical rabbit holes like The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and Cocteau Twins. It was very much a British pit of doom, gloom, and goth girls that you wanted to make smile with a stupid joke.

Thanks to the nostalgia bug I recently separated from $29 and in return came home with a copy of the Hellraiser S/T by Christopher Young. Lakeshore Records recently reissued it on a pretty sweet gooey red-colored vinyl. Until a few months ago I hadn’t seen Hellraiser in over 20 years. My son and I watched it one Friday night and I was really impressed by how well it held up. The look put me in mind of Bernard Rose’s excellent Paperhouse. It was another very British film with a weathered, Gothic feel that stuck with me for years. Rose would go on to direct the film adaptation of Barker’s Candyman, which I absolutely loved(and if you haven’t seen his Immortal Beloved with Gary Oldman as Beethoven, you ain’t livin’ Bub.) Back to the cenobites, one thing that really struck me was the score to Hellraiser. As a teen I didn’t really take note of it, but now it really stands out as a beautiful musical work. I’d read that Barker originally wanted Coil to do the soundtrack, but the movie company said they wanted something more traditional. I’d like to see a cut of the film with Coil’s music, but I’m glad that they went with Christopher Young. It’s nuanced, low key, but has just the right amount of melodrama to give the film an almost classic feel, as opposed to the darker, S&M feel of its themes. And apparently Young re-worked some of Coil’s music into orchestral pieces to go into the film. So there’s that.

So are you still bloated from yesterday’s Thanksgiving stomach bludgeoning? Are you contemplating grabbing that turkey leg from the fridge and eating it sans pants in your chair Henry the VIII-style? Well I’m not going to stop you. Hell, I’ll encourage you to do so. But instead of watching some holiday blech on the boob tube, why don’t you cue up some Hellraiser for old time’s sake? It’s okay, do it. Everyone’s out Black Friday shopping. You’ve got the house to yourself.

We have such sights to show you.

 

Tobe Hooper : 1943-2017

I was sad to wake up to the news that we lost yet another “Master of Horror”, Mr. Tobe Hooper. While he never quite had the career or accolades of guys like Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and George Romero, he still contributed to the genre in a big way.

His biggest and most prominent work was 1974s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For me, that film felt like watching a snuff film. It was jaunty, awkward, and seemed to be cinema verite for horror. The way Hooper shot the film it almost seemed like a found footage movie. The frankness in the deaths made my stomach churn. The Leatherface family was scarier to me than any boogeyman hiding in my closet. It truly seemed to be the  bloody, violent death knell of the peace and love crowd. It was like Hooper was saying “The grand experiment failed, so here’s what you get. Don’t choke on your own rib while you’re at it.” This was one of those movies that sat on the wall of the video store with a gnarly layer of dust on it, taunting me each time I’d come in. It was daring me to take it home and destroy my psyche with it. When I finally did, it did not disappoint. In the 80s he made the sequel and did something amazing. He turned a horrifying, gut-wrenching film into something more. He added gallows humor and made the Leatherface clan into joke-cracking psychopaths and created something as equally entertaining as the original. It was much maligned when it was released, it’s now considered a cult classic. It was also the start for Bill Moseley, a Rob Zombie regular.

Besides TCM, Hooper also made Poltergeist, Lifeforce, Spontaneous Combustion, and The Mangler. While he never reached the plateau of the Chainsaw films and Poltergeist, he always made entertaining bad films. I quite liked Lifeforce and Spontaneous Combustion. The 80s were a great time for decadent, sleazy horror. Hooper was a big part of that.

He also did some great television work, most notably on Amazing Stories, Freddy’s Nightmares, and Tales From The Crypt. But the greatest thing he ever created for television is easily Salem’s Lot. To this day I’ve never been more freaked out or scared than I was watching that two-part miniseries based on Stephen King’s vampire novel. I still get freaked out if I hear something that resembles someone scratching at my window. If all Tobe Hooper had done was Salem’s Lot, he could still feel solid in knowing he made that truly horrifying film.

Another horror master gone. RIP, Tobe. I think I’ll have some roadside BBQ in your honor today.

That Dracula’s A Bad Mutha….

Of all the video games I was a fan of, none of them were as fun for me as Super Castlevania. I was never much of a hardcore video game guy. I liked simple stuff, mostly. Mario, racing, fighting, and shooting games were where it was at for me. Even The Legend of Zelda was just too involved for me. Maybe there was a small bit of ADD going on, I don’t know. Side scrolling platform games were where it was at for me, and the Castelvania series of games from Nintendo were the most fun I ever had playing video games.

While I obsessed over that first game on the NES, it was Super Castlevania that was released for the Super Nintendo system that I truly spent many hours obsessing over. I’d played it so much that by the time my wife and I got our first place together I’d already beaten the game, but still would play it obsessively. She worked 2nd shift and I worked days, so in the evenings when the place was picked up I’d sit in our papasan with a terrible Bud Dry on the end table next to me and I’d run through Super Castlevania. I’d play it till I beat it, and usually with the sound turned down and music playing through the stereo. This was summer/fall of 1995, so I was probably listening to Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness or Filter’s Short Bus(It was the 90s, so don’t judge me.)

If you were to have told me 22 years ago that I’d be buying video game soundtracks on vinyl I would’ve told you you had the wrong guy. “Why in the hell would I be buying video game soundtracks on vinyl? That’s ridiculous. First of all, vinyl’s dead. MiniDiscs are the future. And second of all, I don’t even listen to the video games. I listen to the Pumpkins and Filter when I play video games.” Well, here we are 22 years later and I’m buying video game soundtracks on vinyl. It’s nostalgia, yes. Maybe it’s living in the past a bit, sure. But you know what? Nobody’s getting hurt here. There’s something about those 8-bit scores to pixelated video games that bring a smile to my face.

After collecting the first three Mondo releases of Castlevania soundtracks I’ve recently acquired what I’d call the “Holy Grail” of Castlevania scores: Super Castleavania.

Of course I share my love of these scores with my son, so that makes it a lot easier to drop $35 on one of these(maybe it even justifies the purchase in my head.) Spinning this after work the other day I was actually blown away by just how good it sounded. It really reminded me of a film score. I was reminded of Disasterpeace’s great work on Fez and Hyper Light Drifter. The tiny, dated sound of that first Castlevania game is gone and in its place is some seriously well-constructed music pieces. I know that sounds ridiculous as I’m talking about a damn video game, but it’s seriously good. It’s a double LP with some amazing cover art and inner gatefold art by Jeno Lab. It puts you in mind of those classic Ralph Bakshi cartoons of the 70s and 80s(think Wizards and his LOTR movies.) The Konami Kukeiha Club really outdid themselves on this game. This was still 1991, so the composition and arranging here is extremely impressive for the times.

I’m sure I’ll probably pick up the Symphony of the Night soundtrack when Mondo drops that as well, but I think that’ll be it for me as far as the nostalgic video game scores go. I may enjoy delving back in time a bit and reminiscing about the old days, but I’ve plugged into as much video game nostalgia as I think I’m going to.

Unless Kid Icarus is a possibility.

Judas Priest : Turbo 30(Remastered 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

I’m just going to come out and say it, Judas Priest’s Turbo was a damn good album. It was much maligned by the long-haired, leather-88875183271 Judas Priest Turbo 30 Vinyl Outer.inddwearing metal dudes that pumped fists to songs like “Breaking The Law”, “The Green Manalishi(with the two-pronged crown)”, “Livin’ After Midnight”, and “Electric Eye”, but that’s their problem, man. Turbo wasn’t the sell out album that all the heshers driving in souped-up Cutlass Supremes and Chevy Novas said it was. In fact Priest was doing what they always did, which was following the muse wherever she(or he) took them. Sure, it was this slick, futuristic Judas Priest that was playing heavily with the newfangled sounds of the 80s, mainly synth-ing up things a bit. But really, if there ever was a futuristic, forward-thinking metal band pushing boundaries and taking names wasn’t that band Judas freakin’ Priest? Turbo was following two standout albums like Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith, and feels like the next step. 30 years on even more so.

Turbo for me holds a special place in my heart. It’s the first Priest album I truly fell for. With nothing more than a dubbed copy from one of my dad’s friends from work and the highway-stained video for “Turbo Lover” I was hooked. I remember climbing up on my mom and dad’s roof, Walkman in tow, and listening to “Parental Guidance” with visions of destroying the PMRC ala Terminator-style. “Up yours, Tipper Gore! C’mon Halford, we’ve got some butts to kick!” I had an active imagination, guys. There was just this upbeat drive throughout the album. I had just begun to play guitar, so I’d also taken an interest in Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing’s impressive guitar work. They’d seemed to have jumped the fence from blues-based fretwork into something more progressive. Lot’s of wholly impressive guitar lines. “Rock You All Around The World” is a speed demon locomotive of a track with some of that previously mentioned impressive guitar work. My 12-year old brain was getting a workout.

As far as sing-a-long stadium anthems, Turbo had you covered. Like the aforementioned “Rock You All Around The World”, you had “Turbo Lover”, “Private Property”, “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days”, and of course “Parental Guidance” that were stadium and coliseum ready. Fists pumping and scantily clad girls in cut-off t-shirts hiked up on the shoulders of The Decline Of Western Civilization: The Metal Years rejects. These songs are classic Judas Priest, just in shiny new packaging. Then you’ve got tracks like “Hot For Love” and “Reckless” that bring back some of that 70s menace from albums like Rocka Rolla, Sad Wings Of Destiny, and Sin After Sin. 

This is primo Judas Priest, folks. This is Priest for the Reagan years.

Someone else felt the same way as I did so Turbo has been reissued in a shiny new remastered form. There’s a deluxe version that includes a live show recorded at Kemper Arena in Kansas City back in May of 1986. It’s a quality live recording that hits up all their eras up to that point. It’s a solid window into just how powerful Judas Priest were as a live band. And as far as I can tell no overdubs on this one, guys.

So I don’t know what your opinions were of this album back in 1986(or if you even had any opinions), but I’m telling you to put the negative memories off to the side, put on your leather jacket(and chaps if that’s your thing), and give Turbo another spin. This one has aged well, like a fine wine.

Or a well-worn studded leather wrist band.

8.5 out of 10

 

 

Ty Segall : Ty Segall

You pretty much know what to expect when jumping into Ty Segall’s musical world. You should, as he creates these worlds on a prettytysegall_dc658_minikylethomas_sq-516f76bee04332f3252324d8d782a2aa0ee5c2be-s900-c85 steady basis. Whether it’s his own albums or with projects he started with pals like Mikal Cronin and Charlie Moothart, Segall is in constant creative cycles. A year ago Segall dropped Emotional Mugger, a flat out bonkers rock album that was filled with both his signature guitar growls and a steady stream of arty weirdness. With his newest endeavor titled simply Ty Segall, Ty leaves the weirdness at the studio door and just writes some clear-eyed rock and roll goodness. This is classic Ty Segall.

I’m going to start with the third song in as it’s the anomaly this album cycle. “Warm Hands(Freedom Returned)” is a balls out grenade of a song, shooting guitar jabs and metal riffs like shrapnel. It’s over ten minutes of cow bell, time signature changes, and almost progressive rock moves that makes good use of fuzz boxes and an almost Stooges vibe with some doom-y metal overtones. Midway through the song gets some wurlitzer organ thrown in that makes you feel like you just walked into a Doors recording session circa 1969. Not too many people can jump the tracks as well as Ty Segall. He’s made an art out of “going for it”. He goes for it here. Does he get it? That’s up to you(he gets it, man. he gets it.)

So back to the beginning, “Break A Guitar” is full on fuzzy garage rock. Think Detroit, 1968. Think bleeding eardrums and split fingertips. Think glitter bombs and Orange amps on fire. You get the picture. “Freedom” is groovy fuzz bass, tribal beats, and an undercurrent of psychedelic groove that gets you right in your gut. “Talkin'” is a twangy barroom slow dance number. Shuffle beat, piano crawl, and some sweetly strummed acoustic. This is as Stones-y as Segall has gotten. It’s a hat that fits him quite well, and one he should wear more often. Who’s “Mr. K”? I don’t know, but Segall thanks him on the pedal to the metal barn burner “Thank You Mr. K”. It’s classic Segall weirdness mixed with some heavy melody punk rock. “Orange Color Queen” is an acoustic-driven track that flows beautifully, like T.Rex guesting on a White Album track. “Papers” is an oddly catchy song, pushed along by piano and some great vocal melodies. It’s an endearingly odd song. Maybe some Emotional Mugger ideas that got the revamp for the new album’s vibe? Possibly.

Ty Segall isn’t a grand statement like Manipulator, or the melt-your-face masterpiece that was Twins. It is, however, Ty Segall in master songwriter mode. He seems to have taken the complexity of his last two albums and combined them into a tight shot of grand fuzzed-out garage/pop rock, with some newer shades of vulnerability thrown in. Ty Segall will get you where you need to go, and then some.

8.1 out of 10

 

The Puppet’s Dream

A few months back I sat on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, ate some tacos, and watched this little indie horror film called We Are Still Here. A good friend told me I should watch it, so I figured why not? It was Sunday, gloomy, and there were tacos to be eaten. Turns out the film was pretty damn good. A creepy ghost story that was surprisingly moving. A story about parents in the throes of grief and depression over the death of their adult son who move far away from their home to a quaint little town in the middle of nowhere to an old farmhouse they found incredibly cheap. Of course there was a reason it was cheap. I’ll spare you the details as you should really seek this one out and watch for yourself. What struck me about it was that it had nothing to do with teens or 20-somethings partying and doing things their parents wouldn’t be proud of getting slaughtered in the usual grotesque manner. It was written with some maturity in mind. There was build-up and nuance. It was subtle horror that ends up in a massive hallucinatory moment of violence and gore. The end sends a chill down your spine.

I’m telling you, watch the movie.

The score was done by a composer named Wojciech Golczewski. It was subtle and nuanced like the film. Not overbearing, it worked to build those moments of surprise, melancholy and dread. Golczewski has been doing movie scores for sometime now, and a couple months ago he released his debut solo album called Reality Check. Of course when Mondo announced they were releasing it I had to drop the money for it and grab it. It was a wise decision as it’s a stunning piece of sci fi-inspired music.

reality-checkThere’s not much I can say about the album that the album can’t say for itself, really. There’s all the great synthesizer work you come to expect from a futuristic sounding album that sort of plays out like mini themes for film scenes. Tracks like “The Puppets Dream”, “Sid Vortex”, and “Solitude” are dense pieces of synth-inspired electronic music that pull you in to their world. The album cover, complete with disintegrating astronaut floating in space, elicits the casually doomed vibe you get as you make your way through Reality Check. But never do you get the feeling that Golczewski is heavy-handed in his approach to composing. It’s not weird whizzing and buzzing for the sake of making futuristic noises or doomed drone. You can tell he’s worked in film for awhile as each piece has a purpose. “Find Me” is reminiscent of Le Matos’ work on the Turbo Kid S/T; there’s a vastness in the track that also has an undertone of, strangely enough, hope. To me it sounds like a modern take of Le Parc-era Tangerine Dream. A populist take on the heady sci-fi sounds of the 70s. “Being Human” carries the weight of the title. It feels like the robot attempting to understand the meaning of mortality…or something like that. There’s elements of so many great electronic composers here, yet Wojciech Golczewski puts them all through his own unique creativity and point of view that it becomes something wholly original. “Reality Check” is barely two minutes, but within it he creates this almost hallucinogenic feeling, as if you’re listening as a black hole is devouring you.

Here’s the description of Reality Check, courtesy of Golczewski’s Bandcamp page:

Reality Check is a concept album compiled of material composed and inspired by Wojciechs various work for the motion pictures. It can be described as a horror sci fi soundtrack with influences from his previous demoscene and chiptune heritage together with more recent synthwave and electronica.

But don’t just listen to my blubbering, you should head over and check the album out for yourself. It’s another stunning piece of synthesizer/electronic work from someone you’ll be hearing more of. At least from me for sure(working on an interview with Mr. Golczewski himself. Look for it in the next few weeks.) While you’re over at his Bandcamp page, you should check out “Tonight She Comes”. It’s a 7″ he did for another indie horror film. Two great synth pieces. Missed out on that 7″. It sold out pretty fast. But it’s alive and well in digital form. Check it!

So yet another incredible instrumental album I’ve picked up this year. If this sort of thing tickles your fancy pick it up. And if you haven’t yet seen it, watch We Are Still Here. Well worth your time, friends.

reality-check