Juan Hamilton

here's the song I just wrote and recorded in about an hour:

Some people write about music/Some people play it

So let's do it you guys!
You are just driving me crazy, crazy, crazy! You know I can't do this by myself.
I can't even get my hair washed on a regular schedule. I've got all these half written songs but I don't like any of them and I don't know how to strum more than maybe three different ways and I can't, can't, CANNOT do it by my lonesome. Not that I haven't tried. I did! I do!
I am terrible at teaching myself. I found this out a long time ago. This is why I'm still in high school and home schooling sucks for a lot of kids.
And I honestly I don't care about making CDs or playing shows or whatever else. I only started recording stuff so I could remember how to play it later. So no pressure!
I'm all itchy! (but in all fairness this could also be due to the shampooing situation.) and playing music by yourself is just no fun on top of all that.
don't you miss that feeling of togetherness? Of making something really cool with your friends? I do. I had that in dance too, in the corps. Now I gots nothing. and it's just no good. Also, I'm not blaming anyone for this lack of face to face music. Just wondering if anyone else feels the same way.

I started watching Catch 22 last night and then fell asleep. This not a bad reflection on the film, mind you. I do this a lot. It's a trend.
Take tonight pour example: Lord of the Rings: Rivendale! ASLEEP!
I ate a lot of food today.
and I walked a lot of adorable doggies.
and I listened to some pretty adorable songs by this chick. So that's what made me want to say all this. I was originally going to post another song but then I realized it's GARBAGE. So... yes. People need to start taking me up on my song writing/coffee drinking/dating/twilighting/getting drunk on cherry vodka invitations.
But maybe that's a story for another day.

Best Non-Album Songs of the Decade

The AV Club released their best albums of the decade list the other day and aside from my disagreeing with a lot of them (though we had some common ground) what I took issue with was the idea that some of the writers had clearly put aside personal preference in favor of a consensus. As if because they agreed on some of them, that made them the objective choice. That's wrong - these kinds of things are always going to be opinion-based and any ambition to the contrary is just wrong. Anyway, I'm gonna be doing some of my own year-end shit as Rolling Stone and Spin and everyone else unveils theirs (of course, no one will actually read mine, so, whatever...) just to point out that the internet makes all their asses totally goddamn irrelevant cause anyone's opinion can be found to counteract their big old goddamned consensus culture. Fuck that Christmasy Bullshit!

Best Non-Album/Strays/Compilation-Related Music Of The Decade.

Soundtrack Related Original Material:

Special Soundtrack Award to Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright has given us more single track contributions to soundtracks than perhaps anyone else in the last ten years. He's done covers of some really excellent songs and some super terrible ones, which he then made better. Anyway he gets an award. What's the award look like, you ask? Fuck you for being so materialistic! If you were nicer maybe you'd get a made-up award like Rufus Wainwright. I'm sorry....times are tough...this damned economy.... Specific Songs:

"I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise" - Rufus Wainwright - The Aviator

Martin Scorsese's The Aviator had a shit-ton of cool period specific stuff but Rufus Wainwright's performance was the best bit of pastiche they concocted. Wainwright does a winking/straight rendition of this excellent song at a party while Howard Hughes asks Johnny Weismuller and David O. Selznick if they want to have threeway sex....or something...the movie was a long time ago, the details are blurry.

"Malaguena" - Brian Setzer - Once Upon A Time In Mexico

Brian Setzer's rocking version of the old guitar piece is a touch like the movie it came from: it rocks at first, then gets dull, then Johnny Depp shoots some people even though his eyes have been cut out...you know I don't remember much about this movie, either, other than it sucked, but christmas what an awesome goddamned song!

"To Be Surprised" - Sondre Lerche - Dan In Real Life

Sondre Lerche scoring a romantic comedy made a lot of sense, actually. He does a sort Elvis Costello via Cole Porter impersonation on his less successful records, so to ask him to come up with a half-dozen playfully sad trumpet themes was like asking Damon Albarn to do something unexpected on his next album. Anyway, sandwiched in between some old tracks and a bunch of great snippets that don't amount to a great album was a really excellent pop song that could have been a single in any country if whoever handles Lerche had a goddamned brain in his head. Seriously, how is this guy not an international celebrity? Not that I probably wouldn't hate him if he got famous, but I feel like someone's dropping the ball in the Lerche camp....unless....are you staying unfamous for me...? Sondre....I'm....I'm touched, I don't know what to say....you truly are my hero! (Note: I love Sondre Lerche and would love to see him succeed but remain glad that no one knows him. I'm kind of impossible).

Various - New Moon Soundtrack

If I may be allowed to say how much I fucking take issue with the whole Twilight franchise. Fucking abstinence vampire bullshit! Ok, now that I've said my piece, let's talk about this unfairly excellent soundtrack for New Moon. None of these songs are in the movie (none of the good ones, anyway) but we have not only great songs from Thom Yorke, Bon Iver with St. Vincent, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Grizzly Bear with Victoria Legrand, but great songs from bands that I thought had used up all their good song karma. The Killers, Death Cab For Cutie, Ok Go, Editors, The Magic Numbers (bonus track), Band of Skulls all give great songs as well, and each one seems to harken back to a different era of great songwriting. It's not fair, I tells ya! Why do the goddamned vampire movies get such amazing soundtracks. They don't deserve them! But you really should hear the soundtrack, it's incredible.

Various - I'm Not There

There were a handful of songs on that I'm Not There soundtrack that were just amazing. I figured out a little while ago that Dylan's songwriting is great, it's just that his execution is totally unappealling to me. So an album full of people I like doing his songs sounded like an excellent proposition. The problem with it was that everyone wanted to sound just like him at the end of the 70s, so there was almost no diversity. Luckily Sufjan Stevens, The Swell Season and Sonic Youth were there and totally goddamned rocked the house. Sufjan Stevens should be on every compilation ever, far as I'm concerned; his "Ring Them Bells" is a standout for its wierdness, something the whole record could have done with more of. The Swell Season did a pretty straight run-through of their song so I can't really explain why it works for me the way it does. Finally Sonic Youth's version of the title track is...well, it's the song they were born to play. Cool and haunting and smoky and hip as two independent coffee places, "I'm Not There" came right when Sonic Youth were rediscovering how awesome they are. Then they did that Eternal record which rocks hard enough for three albums.

Weird B-Sides

"Daytona 500 (Iron Lung Remix)" - Ghostface

Ghostface & Radiohead....if you don't go find it you've no future as king/queen of the planet.

"Everything Hits At Once (For Discos)" - Spoon - Amos House Collection Vol. 2

Really the only thing different between the two versions of this song is that instead of keyboard, the disco version used for the Amos House Collection has a thumb piano. And yet, it kinda makes all the difference.

"Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House" - Belle & Sebastian - Help! A Day In The Life

This song was one of the few standouts from a record that boasted some of Britain's best bands Help! A Day In The Life (Radiohead's rather moody "I Want None of This" being the only thing that comes close. Elbow, Coldplay, Manic Street Preachers and everyone else had no excuse for being so bland...although Antony & Boy George did a pretty ok version of that Lennon tune). As is too often the case for charity records, the songs don't really do it for me, but I'll buy them cause I want to support the cause. This song is a creepy Post-Punk dub track and was the last great thing the band did as far as I can see. What was up with that God Help The Girl record?

"Dearest Foresaken (Live At KCRW)" - Iron & Wine - Passing Afternoon

Two songs do not a great EP make, but this one was so infectious that I let the relative suckage of the Passing Afternoon EP slide. Sam Beam's guitar playing is rarely so impressive and aggressive while never actually getting that loud. The riff in the middle is amazing.

"I Woke Up With This Song In My Head This Morning" - Bright Eyes - Lua

This song, the only thing to write home about on the Lua EP, is really about the happiest damn thing in the world. Lord knows where Conor Oberst got this burst of energy from because it was seated between his two most moody and anxious albums ever (not that I don't love the hell out of his two 2005 records). Anyway, from the chirpy mandolin riff to the scraped guitar solo in the middle, the song is all about embracing but tweaking conventions and it's a joy to hear on winter mornings.

"Satellite" - TV On The Radio - Young Liars

This girl I used to work with put on the Young Liars EP one day and then sort of had her own personal freak-out while the four songs soared through her head and into her blood. Since that day I've always loved "Satellite" and routinely freak out to it's searing guitar and hammering drum machine, not to mention the burning vocals.

"Modern Girls & Old Fashioned Men" - The Strokes with Regina Spektor - Reptilia

Back before teenage girls and the Narnia crowd fell in love with Regina Spektor, I fell in love with her. I showed her off to all my friends, listened manically to Soviet Kitsch and prayed that she'd remain undiscovered (The jokes on the masses, incidentally because her first record in the spotlight was her worst). Anyway, before all that she got herself 15 minutes of fame by appearing on the last great song The Strokes ever wrote (ok, the last one that they wrote that sounded like them). She makes a lovely foil for sleepy Julian Casablancas, wailing away like Dusty Springfield and just generally rocking the house. The music is insanely complicated and almost impossible to hum, which sort of adds to its mystique. The late 60s come back for the few minutes that this song lasts.

"Surf City Eastern Bloc"/"Broken Window" - Arcade Fire

The Arcade Fire are the best band of the last ten years. Disagree with me and we'll have words. Consequently I'm often torn as to which of their songs is the greatest. With B-sides the question is doubly hard because they're each a pretty profound statement. So I pussied out and chose two. Both are apocalyptically heavy, super catchy, driving, politically charged and flat-out awesome. Who the hell else plans a pop song with the National Men's Choir of Prague? These songs basically inspired me to write a 350 page war film that thankfully no one's ever read (good lord it's bad!) but these sons remain evocative and beautifully dark.

"Cuttooth" - Radiohead - Knives Out Single

Radiohead are so good even the songs they cannibalize make the best work of most other bands look like shit. Take "Cuttooth" as an example; fans know it as the song where the chorus of "Myxamatosis" originated. The rest of you will know it only as a truly amazing and beautiful song with an unforgettable piano riff and some of the band's best Brit-pop grooving. If I could ever hear this played in person, you could carry me out in a coffin.

"Everything I Try To Do, Nothing Seems To Turn Out Right" - The Decemberists - Billy Liar

You know, the more Colin Meloy tries to shy away from sounding like The Smiths, the more he sounds to me like The Smiths. Take this, the standout on the Billy Liar EP. There's nothing particularly Smithsy about it, yet I can't help but picture him staring at a Morrissey poster while writing and singing it. It's the ultimate rainy day bedroom song and articulates romantic malaise quite nicely. Colin Meloy doesn't speak frankly about much these days but sometimes when he puts down the book of Japanese folklore and simply lets us know how he's doing, his best work can sometimes come out. I love me some Decemberists, but I think I may have listened to this song more than anything else they've done.

"Tylenol" - Ben Kweller

I seem to like Ben Kweller less and less these days (it's not his fault, I got me a pretty good personal excuse) but one thing I'll always like is this, a stray freebie he put on the internet one day. It starts all strung out and detuned and warbly, then kicks your ass in the last verse. I could see him writing this getting more adament and then running screaming around his apartment with his SG in his arms breaking shit. It's great for driving, getting mad, or thinking about people you're mad at. It angries up the blood in the best way possible. BK ought to write some more rock songs.

"Secret Knives" - Wolf Parade - EP #1

Wolf Parade are one of my favorite bands but they can be hit or miss, their EPs most of all. The early versions of tunes on Apologies to the Queen Mary just make me glad Isaac Brock talked them out of sounding like Giorgio Moroder's evil twin. Those dirty-ass rock songs are pretty excellent, though. "Disco Sheets" and "Lousy Photographs" are eloquent rockers but "Secret Knives" is their best non-album song ever. With the simplest of riffs at the core and Spencer Krug and Hadji Bakara slithering all over the place with their keyboards and Dan Boeckner and Arlen Thompson absolutely murdering the chorus, it's a timeless, disheveled, hotel-destroying rock song.

"Country Gentleman" - Ambulance Ltd. - New English

I'm not that old, but there is now a period of time I can feel nostalgia for. There are bands who have classic line-ups that people will talk about in record stores later that I got to see live and whom I now miss terribly. Ambulance Ltd. is one such band. Between everyone getting quitting and...well, everyone quitting again, Marcus Congleton, Matt Dublin, Ben Lysaght and Darren Becket made one of the best pop records of all time and record a half-dozen great songs that wound up on EPs and in one case, a goddamned jeans website launch. Though "Helmsman' and both "New English" and "Straight 'A's" the two other standouts from the New English EP are all great, their best non-album song is "Country Gentleman" a song that seems to have fallen out of Johnny Marr's songbook. Starting with a super heavy riff on the opening to "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" Congleton croons sweetly, Lysaght's guitar creeps about in darkness and the whole misty affair is simply staggering. There were weeks when this song was all I would listen to. It's like an old pulp novel in a 3 minute pop song.

"The Specialist" - Interpol - Matador at 15

I'm seeing that disappointment and nostalgia kinda go hand in hand...sort of a theme today. Anyway before Interpol sort of lost their touch (though I still like them), they put out a few b-sides as pallet cleansers between Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics that wound being better than a few songs off their second and third albums. Notably "The Specialist" would have fit snugly on Bright Lights but I'm glad they put it aside because it's so epic and strange that it sort of needs to be its own entity. Some of Paul Banks best subway poetry gets put to use here "My love's a laboratory, I set all my pet's free, so baby you should sleep with me." Can't make heads or tails of that bit of logic but what a great, chilly song. Interpol's greatest strength is playing songs that make your breath condensate, even in the middle of the summer and this one may be the best song in their catalog for that particular purpose. Icy, moody and with all manner of tempo changes and strange moaning and razor-like guitar playing.

Wall of Ice - Radiohead

If you're a ravenous Radiohead fan, you knew about the Wall of Ice debacle. Somebody leaked conflicting news stories - that Radiohead would be putting out an EP before Christmas, and that the band would never record an album as long as they lived - at the same time. Naturally we all panicked and some people invented their own website to call us all assholes, which I thought was uncalled for. Ed O'Brien calmed us down a month or so later; they'll be doing records, in fact they're in the middle of one now. The two songs that they had released on the internet had nothing to do with that record, they were just gifts. I bet you guys feel bad about all that bogus website stuff now, don't you? All they were doing was giving your ungrateful asses a gift. And what a gift. "Harry Patch" is the most gorgeous thing I've ever heard and "These Are My Twisted Words" is like distilled Radiohead; their wierdness and coldness in a glass for you to drink like a shot. Total bliss, both of them, and free, too.

...and of course, Dark Was The Night

Yes, no tally of 2009 or it's encompassing decade would be quite complete with paying lip service to this most excellent compilation record. The names do in most cases speak for the record. The wonderfully murky tracks of the New Moon soundtrack are just an extension of the best work here. Sufjan Stevens, Feist, Grizzly Bear, The National (and their two guitarists, who catered the record), Iron & Wine, Stuart Murdoch, Sharon Jones, The Decemberists, Jose Gonzalez all turn in great songs, as do a handful of others. My Morning Jacket, Spoon and Cat Power kinda bring me down, but whatever. Anyway, it's pretty amazing and that all these guys could have phoned it in, but didn't (Spoon did) is a testament to their songwriting prowess. Sufjan Stevens gave one of the best songs he's ever written which showcases both sides of his songwriting. Simply stunning.

Best Stray Cover Songs

"Tower of Song"/"C'est Tujours La Meme Histoire" - Martha Wainwright

Martha Wainwright probably writes great songs, I just haven't heard any of them. What I have heard are her truly awesome cover songs. To turn Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song" into a soaring, hopeful, angelic tour-de-force is no small feet and she does it with effortless grace. You can hear it on that Cohen tribute album from the film they produced a few years ago, but for my money the version she did on Letterman takes the fucking cake. What a goddamned performance. Now that was already a big deal, but then I found out she was going to be doing a live album of Edith Piaf songs. This girl's got brass, I'll give her that. She came back on TV and played "C'est Tujours La Meme Histoire," and totally killed it. Not only did she sing it just like Piaf, she also had the motions and expressions down; she was channelling Piaf. It was a blast to watch and a pleasure to hear it. Now if that goddamned live record would ever materialize I could maybe hear it again.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" - The Frames - Live

Though it doesn't exist in record format, this must be heard. There are as many versions of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as there are days in a year but this is the definitive cover. Between the wistful violin taking over for the rather thin synth line of the original and Glen Hansard's dead-on Ian Curtis (but with a bit of warm Irish heart in place of Curtis' cold Manchester one) their version of "Love" really gets at why the song is so great in a way I never quite felt while listening to the remaining studio versions of the original. The Frames fill out the sound and give a fitting epic rendition of a classic song.

"Wonderful/Song For Children" - Rufus Wainwright - War Child

And speaking of that family of canadian songsmiths, Rufus Wainwright gave what is arguably the best performance on the War Child album (I do love TV On The Radio doing 'Heroes', but Wainwright's is a touch more audacious). Starting at first with just a guitar, he goes wild on the chorus and breaks out the...muted trumpet. It sounds better than it sounds. Anyway, he knocks his Brian Wilson impersonation out of the park and sort of proves that he's the Beach Boy's Heir Apparent. After you've heard it, you'll swear the arrangement was fuller because you're left so satisfied, so you keep going back for more.

Violent Femmes as played by Guster

MTV2 had some great ideas for a few years there but they also notoriously let none of them flourish and were soon showing pornographic anime and a shit-ton of commercials almost exclusively. Reviving Headbanger's Ball? Awesome. Allotting 20 minutes to indie music a week and the rest to Aeon Flux? Insulting. One of their best ideas, which they killed in infancy, was the show Album Covers. The premise: one band records a classic album by another band that they admire. As far as marquee value goes a 2004 Guster and Dashboard Confessional were not great choices (if you're asking me, and if you've read this far, you are, Dashboard is a horrible idea any year and most likely sank the project like a stone). I love Guster and they were at the tail-end of that period where they made no mistakes, so hearing them play all of The Violent Femmes first album was a fucking blast. I went out the next day and bought an acoustic bass, I was so enamored of their performance. To see melodic Newman/Simon disciples like Guster bringing the ruckus on these old songs was a blast but MTV2's invisibility and irrelevance tell me that the whole record is never going to see the light of day, which is a crime.

"Walking the Cow" - TV On The Radio/"King Kong" - Tom Waits - The Late, Great Daniel Johnston

In 2004, Daniel Johnston was still relatively underground. Some folks got together and recorded a whole album's worth of his songs, alongside the originals, and I think together with the movie The Devil & Daniel Johnston the mumbly schizophrenic's days in the dark are now over. Anyway, Johnston, it turns out, is not my cup of tea, but two of these songs stood out among everyone else's. TV On The Radio's version of "Walking the Cow" looks at Johnston under a brand new microscope, like scientists examining a fossilized mosquito; it's still weird but we now understand it. Plus their dead-pan delivery and vocal cluster bring out new depths from the tune. Tom Wait's take on "King Kong" is really a show-stopper. Five minutes of howling and jagged guitar, it was the perfect companion piece to the master's recently released album Real Gone. "King Kong" was a rare glimpse into Waits' record collection. Needless to say, I paid rapt attention and was not disappointed by his earth-rumbling performance.

"Mother Nature's Son" - Honeychurch - Save Siren Records

I await the next Honeychurch record in the same way I imagine girls in the mid-60s awaited the next time The Beatles would come to town. With every passing year since 2004's Honeychurch Makes Me Feel Better I feel more anticipation about the next record from the Doylestown whiskeyfolk revival band (Larissa and Shilough had a baby, so I of course understand why we don't have a new record to listen to). I got tiding over in the form of the Early Times compilation and their cover of "Mother Nature's Son" by the Beatles, recorded for a compilation to raise money to save Siren Records from going under. Now, The Beatles are like Dylan to me. I appreciate them and like their songs but only when other people play them. They gave us blank slates and it's up to future generations of songwriters to make truly great art out of them. The song is already nice but Honeychurch make it awesome. Shilough Hopwood's vocals on this track feel tailor made for the words and melody. This song is flooring, gorgeous, just amazing. I love Shilough's voice on a good day, but here it's just...man, oh man. Anyway, if you can find it somewhere, run don't walk. And in the meantime, I wait for a new record.

We should do the best records/films of the decade/year in the coming weeks here at Film Punk, so stay tuned.

my tablet works again! yay!

Education Forum Timey!!

I know that you guys aren't as interested in pedagogy as I am, but I thought that I might as well try.

Right now I am debating whether studying a subject in an advanced course is more worthwhile than studying it independently. Most courses of this kind require a great deal of reading/information absorption, and then you are expected to make some draw some kind of revolutionary conclusions from it.

For example, let's say that you are in a class on baking cookies. You read hundreds of recipes as an assignment (and bake a few, too). This would be the 'information absorption' part of the class. The 'conclusions' part of the class might be an assignment, perhaps to write your own successful cookie recipe.

Following this formula, we can represent the learning experience thus:
information absorption ➔ drawing conclusions
This is how I think that most classes are structured. However, it misses out on a key element that should act as a go-between, which is a development of understanding. Without understanding the information, any conclusions drawn will be faulty. So, the new flow would go something like:
information absorption ➔ developing understanding ➔ drawing conclusions
Ideally, we should develop understanding on our own, and discuss what we think during in-class discussions. I see at least two problems with this:
  1. Most students would rather do other things (like mingle, sleep, or play music) rather than develop and understanding of their schoolwork.
  2. In-class discussions designed to develop understanding do not often work out well, because of mixed skill levels. If some students are trying to build a remedial understanding, and others are trying to build understanding, the class will be dichotomised and a compensation (where nobody is completely satisfied) will result.
I think that by studying things independently of school, even at a higher skill level, we eliminate these two problems because:
  1. The student will be self-motivated to study
  2. The student will develop understanding at his or her own pace
What do you guys think? Is classroom understanding superior to independent study?

Best Songs of 2009

I'm gonna let you lovely people in on a secret, sometimes I'm totally out of my goddamned mind. The stuff I come up with to do just like for fun, who else in the world would find this nonsense interesting? Look at this big batch a crazy I'm about to unleash for example. One night I'm sitting in my room (I do alot of that) and I'm all, here's an exercise, write about songs in as long as it takes to write about them. And at first I'm like "Yeah, ok!" Italics is shorthand for sarcasm. But then the first song starts and I'm like "Oh, shit...." and then I'm doing it and I don't stop until I've done it for twenty one songs. What's wrong with me? Anyway, this is my way of paying tribute to twenty one of my favorite songs this year. Why? I don't know. I'll be twenty-one in June? I think my hand just hurt from typing. So the blurbs are only as long as I could manage them in the two to three minutes each song takes up, so some are longer, some are shorter. Also here are some other great songs I didn't write about cause I hadn't heard them yet or because they're too long. I only edited them so that they make a little sense, the rest was all in the moment. A little like Iggy Pop's writing at the mic, except not cool.

Do Make Say Think - "Do"
Gentleman Reg - "How We Exit"
Sufjan Stevens - "The Blood"
British Sea Power - "The South Sound"
Regina Spektor - "Eet"
Rain Machine - "Hold You Holy"
Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks" I call foul on this one cause I heard it first last year on the late show and it was great then but I don't like the version that wound up on Veckatimist as much.
The Decemberists - The whole first act of Hazards Of Love.
"Laundry Room" - The Avett Brothers, though I think that someone else is bound to do a better version of it cause again I don't really like the version that wound up on record.
Everything on that motherfucking New Moon soundtrack, much to my chagrin but mostly
"Slow Life" by Grizzly Bear and Victoria Legrand, "Hearing Damage" by Thom Yorke and "Rosyln" by St. Vincent and Bon Iver.

"Big Red Machine" by Justin Vernon & Bryce Dessner - Dark Was The Night

A song that can put you on a rainy street corner with no options even on the sunniest day of the year. Beautifully simple and evocative, the out-of-tune, perpetual ostenatto that carries the song is like broken glass that tortured heroes Justin Vernon and Bryce Dessner have to walk across to tell their stories of loss. "You're running and injured, just like you ought to be"sums up the feelings of a lover jilted and an outcast on the run and it's up to us to decide whether the rain-soaked hero is at the receiving end or if he's finally taken a stand against those who would see him miserable and lost.

"Die" - Iron & Wine - Dark Was The Night

Nary a minute long and it says all it needs to. "We're not afraid to die". Sam Beam has written a multitude of gorgeous songs but none that cut to the core of every human being quite so eloquently and really understands what we contemplate whenever we look for answers. His guitar carries us and his words are timeless.

"River" - Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free

Starting playfully in the middle of a percussive sound like Brian Eno used to make his subjects begin with. There are even comparisons between people and natural forces as in a Talking Heads tune. A sweet whistling choir, a playfully skittering guitar somewhere between David Byrne and Jim James, and a sweet nothing that bursts into the always-welcome chorus riff and that charmingly existential chorus following so much talk of fire and ambling candling, "you and I and a flame make three." This is a band triumphant through their darkest times, painting a picture of togetherness even as the only company they have is a candle. An ecstatic picture of intimacy painted with images of fire; the bodies are simply implicit.

"Soul Unwind" - Apostle of Hustle - Eats Darkness

A jogging build-up comprised of ominous bass tones, paranoid saxophone blasts, and a guitar lick driving in circles before the entrance of the kind of dueling choral line that Andrew Whiteman reached perfection with on songs like "Cheap Like Sebastian" from 2007's National Anthem of Nowhere. He shouts and riffs the delightfully cryptic "You got the soul unwind, soul unwind" imbuing each new enunciation with depth. When his guitar takes over, cutting like a mat knife across the rhythm, all the elements are in place, all that remains is for the volume and Whiteman's lyrical intensity to increase until the climax. Intriguingly, the only thing that goes off the rails is Whiteman's wailing vocals which he fights by singing through a distorted microphone so he can leave the ground without leaving the song. The music builds and just as it seems in danger of breaking its groove, a distorted loop rolls in like the wheels of a train and it's all over. The song has left town.

"Percussion Gun" - White Rabbits - It's Frightening

Those drums. Tribal, angry, repititive, gimmicky...whatever you want to call them, they are undeniably captivating. I know they're captiviating because the lyrics to this song are so cliched that they would appear to be some kind of post-modern comment about cliched lyrics, "I know which way to go". As I wasn't there when the song was written, all I have are the facts; broken piano, softly crooned bridge, jagged guitar, molasses-thick bass and of course those drums. Every instrument seems to have been detuned and treated to remind the listener of an old church filled with sound. Every instrument echoes and shines and their off-kilter sounds become all the more vital as the wordless chorus that finishes the song strikes like a match after the final verse.

"Breathe Our Iodine" - Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard - One Fast Move Or I'm Gone

All I needed was that bluesy lick, the glass harmonica and Jay Farrar's total cool delivery of the ballistically minimal line "grain of sand" and I was hooked. Who cares that the rest of their Keruoac inspired record doesn't match up to this song? The organ, spitting intermittently when it sees fit, the whole affair too confident and sweltering to do much more than deliver the slick and simple repitive line for Farrar to do a vocal performance that sums up the appeal of the beat poets: too cool to care, too good to dissapoint.

"To Save Me" - M. Ward with Jason Lytle - Hold Time

Jason Lytle's dancehall/basement keys and M. Ward's newly Elvis-ified voice make a pretty good team. Ward and Lytle here create a song that acts like a gust of wind through a dance floor. Lytle's wordless vocal support and keys put the song in rockabilly mode for the spacerock set and then Ward's antiquated production and new-found brevity and wink-laden heart-throb persona make this more than a pastiche performance; this is very nearly the real deal. The dizzying licks between the chorus and verse and the reverby quality of the whole thing turn it into a rolicking homage to falling in love with a rascal, "He can strike a match and your world goes up in flames"

"Reasons to Quit" - Phosphorescent - To Willie

Matthew Houck's voice is a national treasure and I'll fight anyone who disagrees with me. He turns a fairly ordinary Willie Nelson tune into the envy of every Brooklynite, achieving the stature and gravity of a barroom crooner whose been doing this for twice as many years as Houck's been alive. There is sadness and loss in his voice as his words shift from pragmatic to poetically tragic. "Reasons to quit don't outnumber all the reasons why". The guitars, electric and not, are merely window-dressing atop Houck and his occassional harmonies. He could carry the tune on his own (which he does anyway) and no one can sell somber quite so charmingly.

"This Tornado Loves You" - Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

The guitars, themselves like wind sweeping over fields and prairies. "Their souls dangling inside out from their mouths but it's never enough," and as much as Case claims this is about a real tornado trying to declare his love for a woman it is just as easy to picture a Tennessee Williams hero doing much the same as this tornado: "smashed every transformer with every trailer." The sticky sweet sadness of the words of longing are rendered simply breath-taking by Case's one-of-a-kind voice, at once innocent and confident, full of life and at the end of her rope. She is a damsel in distress singing the raucous exploits of a man pushed to violence, death even, for love. Finally the whole thing swirls about as if the climax to some film has been found and the lovers are embraced inside the gale force winds of the natural disaster, kissing in the eye of the storm.

"West Ryder Silver Bullet" - Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Kasabian never fused the smoky mod happenings of the 60s with their very modern sneering arrogance and proficiency better than on "West Ryder Silver Bullet". Like a duet between Mick Jagger and Dusty Springfield that never happened (how could it?) Tom Meghan and Rosario Dawson sweep each other up in between honeyed strings and irascible hooks. Their love could be projected on silk sheets in a harem as smoke wafts throughout landing on the idle fingers of bored women and boorish men. That both are meant to be inmates at a looney bin makes their dreams of love and longing all the more delightfully deranged. "Oh, how I want you far too much". As they take turns calling each other 'baby' (followed perhaps not coincidentally by the sound of wailing like that of an infant and of a childish piano theme) their love blends delusion and real longing. Do they want each other? Do they want out of their straight-jackets? The shark-like hungry smiles on each's lips are palpable as they devour each lyric and the song turns modern in its percussion for the close into mist once more.

"The Outsiders" - Doves - Kingdom of Rust

Synth sounds like alarm bells, windy kick drum, and then a guitar lick like the fleeting footsteps of a pulp hero and lastly a thick bassline penetrating the cool gossamer of the rhythm like gunfire. There's talk of 'two of us', on the run, Outsiders as the title suggests, leaping with the drums, avoiding the fire from Jez Williams' bass and Jimi Goodwin's increasingly biting guitar which turns rapid fire by the second verse. When William's bass falls down like a ceiling crashing in, the steps of the two are numbered. When Goodwin's guitar joins in, it is soon over.

"Radio Kaliningrad" - Handsome Furs - Face Control

Scratching keyboard sounds, feedback, a guitar tired from just having played through a whole record, in its death throes? No, just getting started in time for its swan song. The drum machine clicks us in and the guitar rises like a phoenix delivering heartfelt reverb-and-delay-ridden notes. "My home on the other side!" Dan Boeckner's voice, that Elvis-after-whiskey-and-coffee purr, comes in and the song stands at attention. The chorus is a rocket from the Kremlin, but that wordless bridge, Boeckner's guitar doing octave-treated loops in midair. His fingers as deft as his voice. "Radio Kaliningrad, static on a broken wire". He lets his guitar take a breathe as he does before the red velvet lick starts up again. The guitar in the chorus is like the sound of metal pounding against metal, powerful and industrial, yet there is an urgency to it that matches Boeckner's voice. This is a love song, after all, if one filled with mechanized eastern bloc imagery. That much is clear as the song ends in a hale of feedback and kraut-rock keyboard flair. Perhaps Boeckner and bandmate/wife Alexei Perry have retired for the night.

"Lisztomania" - Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Two muted notes, then a few more, then some punchy drums, then a warm blanket of bass notes and then a high voice dripping whisper-soft lyrics even as their pulled upwards into a sort of whine. The dripping continues as the keyboards articulate the simple sound of longing and then the chorus is given a leg to stand on in the guitars, the bass all given the volume and the fierceness of the bass. An acoustic guitar, as if to say "second verse, different from the verse". the acoustic guitar is a higher sound, the song now soaring freely. In freefall as we're told our narrator has "Lisztomania" then the wings are pulled in and a swooping over water, the roofs of houses, the deepest canyons, both metropolitan and those in the desert. The song builds, the screaming of guitars and voices isn't really a scream at all and when they leave, the freefall resumes and it is a thing of beauty. Sublimely waiting on the wings of keyboard notes, then the drums, then a drop, "not easily offended..." and the rest of the lyrics are lost in the fall, the sound of motion obscuring them.

"In The NA" - Hidden Cameras - Origin:Orphan

Those lovely antiquated keyboard sounds met by the scraping of a novelty violin and of a chorus of "Hey"s by a group of unseen men. Then those drums. Maybe it's that I know the drummer to be a lovely person but I never tire of those deft, shuffling percussive sounds, hitting all over the kit, almost anti-drumming, never showing off. Lex Vaughn is just unbelievable. "Wouldn't need a single NA, take each NA as my own." The nonsensical word that stands in for everything, just as "In The NA" is the PERFECT pop song, giving us non-stop hooks and a verse just as irresistible and cute and memorable as the chorus. "Take control in the Na-a-a-ah" Joel Gibb's voice exploring the depths and peaks of his register in a manner approaching flirtation and pantomime. Why not? This is pop and Joel Gibb is our tourguide through the annals of its many ups and downs. Hence the mixture between quite modern sampling technique and guitars, dated keys, Lex's timeless drumming, part vaudeville, part Buddy Rich, part post-punk. Those reverbed soaked guitars under Gibb's soothing voice as he deilvers that most lovely ode to popular music "staring at the ground, with my head in the clouds"

"Laughing With A Mouth of Blood" - St. Vincent - Actor

If there's something more welcoming than the sound of Annie Clark's guitar strumming accompanied by violins rising in their key, I've yet to hear it. The bass and the drums stomp around like angry kids wanting to join Clark in the upper reaches of her heavenly register "oh I can't see the future but I know it's got big plans for me" Indeed it does, because here's her guitar and the violins again, raising her from the verse to that chorus, sweet-as-honey yet somehow full of drive and force. There is a rhythm and determination to her guitar lines and her swooning voice which lays itself seductively over the violins. The woodwinds the sound of longing, as in a musical. They want the chorus as bad as the listener. "it gets much easier..." and then a preview, the violins rising, the guitar a whisper before it all comes over, like the sun rising on a dreary valley. Everyone basks in the warmth of the chorus and just when it feels ready to spiral out of control, it's done.

"Sick Muse" - Metric - Fantasies

James Shaw's guitar, razor sharp as ever, cutting across the melody of a processed acoustic guitar, moments later Emily Haines' impudent-yet-beautiful sneer of a voice does the same, as does Jules Scott-Keyes' drums and Josh Winstead's drums. Then they come together. "Everybody, everybody just wanna play the lead," A nice metaphor for each instrument coming in short bursts, each wanting to play top dog in the rhythm, each acuitous and tough-sounding, but none can match Haines. She starts hard, loses her toughness for the lead-in and then becomes angelic during the chorus. Suddenly the band is in unison with her paralyzing plea "everybody just wanna fall in love!" Then follows a sort of pop descent into a bridge that Metric don't often fall for, but its one of the better moments on Fantasies for my money, and then they meet everyone's demand for a final enunciation of the sweetest of Haines and Shaw's choruses to date. The keyboards dance, the guitars, bass and drums ease up while still driving because the real heart is in Haines' cry for help and for love and then they all mesh together for the final fall.

"Hysteric" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz

The delayed notes that start the song and then return for the chorus are just brilliant, no? What do you expect from A YYY's song? Nick Zinner's guitar, right? Well its in the backseat, the bass is in charge for now. Bass in a YYY's song? Oh wait, I see. Zinner's guitar and Karen O's voice are both quiet at first, then they take off. Zinner's notes bounce into infinity, one at a time as O's voice flows forth in a cherubic call to a lover (who hasn't thought what she voices in some form). "You suddenly complete me. You suddenly complete me." The verse is a flirtation, wondering if the feelings in O's words is for real, if she should submit to them, wondering how she got here but ulimtately its not how she got here it's that she's here now and 'suddenly' she's in love. Brian Chase's dancing rhythm and that wall of sound engineered by Zinner mocks the whooshing sensation of falling in love, or at least recognizing that swelling in your stomach as love for the first time. What follows? Who knows but O's narrator is "Hysterical"perhaps waiting for what comes next. If Stuart Bogie's saxophone is to to believed, something quite lovely is just around the bend

"Summertime Clothes" - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

For once that blinding keyboard sound is in the midrange and the rhythm is undeniable. A dance song, sure, but not anything directly radio-ready. It's too pulsing, too nervous, too unbalanced and zany. "Sweet summer night and I'm stripped to my sheets," The nervousness made all the more clear by the lyrics. Avey Tare is too hot for his own skin and can think of nothing to cure his heatstroke than "to walk around with you". Harmless enough...hardly the stuff of love songs. The kids and neighbors speak over his wordless verse filler. This is a city street and Tare is a few stories above it until, with help from Panda Bear's harmony vocal, he leaps down the stairs and finds his girl in the throng of playful kids and people living it up on the streets below. It's hot, why not play in the spray of a fire hydrant, the motion of which the repetitive bridge mocks and I suspect the sound of dripping water is meant to give us such a sensation as well. "It's easy to sing when it wets my brain"and at once all is clear and bottle rockets go off. He is not only cured of his discomfort, he might be in love, or at the very least he is loving the hell out of walking around with 'just you, just you, just you, just you' and to join him seems like the most exciting thing in the world.

"Chinese" - Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

At last a love song to match our times. Our laziness, our tivo-friendly households, our takeout crazed, cigarette-smoking selves in the modern age, sick to death of waiting in traffic. "I don't want anything more than to see your face when I walk in the door." It makes a beautiful kind of sense that Lily Allen, a modern, coquettish popstar who's spent her fair share of time in the limelight should desire privacy and the simple comforts of modern life as this age has also produced the paparazzi, press tours and gossip. So why shouldn't she want to simply enjoy "a nice cup of tea....I'll be exhausted so I'll probably sleep. Then we'll get a Chinese and watch TV." It's not that the song is simply irrefutably catchy (even with the screeching and bubbling keys and the pounding percussion) it's that Allen wears the crown of a pragmatic popstar. It isn't enough to claim to not want cars and jewels but to simply yearn for a specific kind of evening in is all the proof I could ask for. She is human and the song is quite lovely.

"The Major Lift" - Years - Years

Ohad Benchetrit's fingers, busy as ever, like in his Do Make Say Think capacity, but this time curious and playful and they're not alone. The bug-leg imitating electronic blips, live drums and guitars are charing but the tuba bursts in and all of a sudden a new ballgame. Tuba does not make a pop song or an electronic song, which makes Ohad Benchetrit a quirky and wholly welcome pioneer. The song plods along, guitar and keys eking out their existence while the horns come in like the authorities and put them in their place. It is an arrangement one can get used to. Then in the back, barely audible are the screaming guitars and the violins, the revolutionaries to the autarch horns and soon the instruments from the melody will rise in volume and meet the horns, fighting for a voice and volume, fighting to be heard, in the end they come together and after a moment of reflection join each other like brothers for that last wordless chorus and then like a gunshot, they are gone.

"What We Know" - Sonic Youth - The Eternal

That is a motherfucking bass line! That is rock music! The equally mean and knife-like guitar lines of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore meet overtop of Kim Gordon's bass and Steve Shelleys' drums - like a field of epic battle. The guitars lay it thick on the melody, they creep around the upper end of the fretboard, they cut across the chorus like razor blades, they cut everywhere they can. "heaven's not about your reputation" go the words and then the bridge where only the guitars are heard, each trying to cut the other down to the size, but both only get louder and more aggresive. They cut each other to ribbons like greasers with switchblades and no referee. The drums, alone. They take to their corners and size each other, the bass the sound of their fury mounting. Then their back to the fight, the fray with idle jabs and nicks here and there. They both dive in and then the ferociousness continues until the last line of the chorus and the guitars become percussive. Again, again, again, again, again, trying to finish each other and finally, they both give in.

Now if anyone could tell me what the hell's 'a matter with me, I'd appreciate it. In the meantime, find these songs, buy these records and have fun listening to them until you die.

shelly says that lowercase is hip. shift buttons take too much energy.

the return of ginny to film punk!!!!!!!111!!@!!

are you excited? i'm excited. like whoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaooaao excited!(: hehe. okay, because i have had zero contact with anyone on this planet in like a gazillion years i will brief you on my life. pretty much, it sucks. france is boring boring boring! all i do is stay at home and get callouses on my fingers and get sick and almost get hit by cars while crossing the insane amount of streets around this here place. also, school is really hard. it's like WHOAA. also my math teacher is a french woman so when she says my name she says "tee-oh-dora" and i don't realize she's talking to me because it's like high and quick and scary. i got yelled at for being st00pid. on the plus side, the market is only a few blocks away and i can conveniently drown my sorrows in orangina and eat alot of chocolate mousse/fluffy pudding. that pretty much makes up for it. shelly also wants me to inform you all that french boys are cuter. nuff said. uhmmm. people speak in french around me JUST so i don't understand them and they talk about that darn "rousse" or something like that, which means red head. XD and SOMETIMES ITS SO OBVIOUS 'cause they talk to me in english and then they're like "hahahahahhahahah -talks to friend at side in french-" "what did you say?" ".....nothing, something stuuupid." WHAT IS THIS EFFERY? i don't mind it too much here aside from the fact that it's really dirty though AND YOU GUYS AREN'T HERE. YOU KNOW WHAT'S REALLY FUNNY. french kids singing american music. LALALAL HAHAHAHAHA. it's so funny. i wish you could come watch them do these things avec moi. other good things. food. not the food at school. it's ten billion times worse than solebury. i don't eat it even though you have to pay 5.80 euros REGARDLESS. i'm afraid of getting sick. but everywhere else? SUPPERBBBB. uhm. let's see. i feel super colorful because everyone wears black and has brown hair. if i ever get to watching a movie, i'll tell you guys about it. the last thing i watched was "mr. and mrs. smith" a few days after i got here because it's the only thing that has been on in english. not the one with angelina jolie and brad pitt, though, the one from 1941. i actually liked it. i like old black and white movies haha. (: awhile ago i watched cat on a hot tin roof ("I FEEL ALL THE TIME LIKE A CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF." "THEN JUMP OFF THE ROOF, MAGGIE, JUMP OFF IT.") and OHHHH the other movie i watched in english here was "who's afraid of virginia woolf?" so. conclusion: french people like old american movies. they don't watch them probably, but i do now! ...all the time because i dont understand anything else. okay i'm good now. well i'll write tomorrow because all the kids are "en stage" or something and i cant go to school. LOTSSSAAA LOVE AND THOSE BISOUX THINGS THAT KIDS HERE CALL THE B'S, THEO/GINNY. :D POST-SCRIPT-PRE-POST-SCRIPT. PSPPS. MY GOSHH DANG PETITS MUFFINS WENT STALE.

ps. also if at any point sebastian sees this, he should know that i am very very very sorry i have not sent him a postcard yet. D: i'm a sick monstahh at the moment and have no postcards. >____<>

the purposes of education are relevance and social uprise

now i am going to be uploading songs here instead of doing work! oh no.

i'm actually sick and can barely speak coherently, so i am posting one song that i recorded a bit ago, and a song i recorded a few days ago which is ambient. i hope this is excusable. i have no idea how to sing the former, but this style seemed kinda-somewhat appropriate. maybe it's not, at all.


Sebastian's doin' good guys! I sawr it with my own eyes

This whole thing is very exciting!
I think this is the only one I have that I haven't shown anyone yet. It's still kind of in its rough stages but I think this is good because maybe you can like, give me feedback or something? I don't know. I'm not around any instruments right now. Unless you count my gourd flute. but that would be little hard to manage with the singing and all. Unless I did it as separate layers on Audacity or whatever. But that never seems to work. Anyway:


Love you guys,

I Gotta Lose This Skin: The Madness of Bronson

The facts of the case:

Bronson is a film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn starring Tom Hardy as Michael Peterson, a real man who's still alive, a criminal who had his name legally changed to Charles Bronson. He remains Britain’s most famous and most violent prisoner, so claims the script and I’m inclined to believe them. The film’s conceit is simple: an ultra stylish trip inside the mind and life of Bronson focusing on his stays in jail where he engages in fistfights as frequently as possible. A man beats people nearly to death in jail. Not a lot to hinge a film on, I think you’ll agree, yet I loved it. Does it say something about me? The films? England? I’m going to try to figure out how we get to Bronson and why I love it so much.

The 'Real' Charles Bronson

The ride to Bronson:

I’m an impressionable young man. Perhaps unimpressed with my own personality, I’ve always sought direction in charismatic leading men. Lucky for me, British Pop culture is full of them. They swagger, stagger, bristle and brim with love and confidence in themselves and their stories highlight lifestyles (bad, good, destructive…. mostly destructive) that I’d never be able to get away with. First of all, they terrify me to consider them, but that doesn’t stop me from emulating them in the little ways I can. This love of mine, searching for a path and a style to stand in awe of has led me to films, books and music that I would fight to assert their genius among others. Were it not the slurring and screaming likes of Ian McColluch, Joe Strummer or Shane McGowan, I doubt very much I’d have spent as much as I have on vinyl copies of the best records by Echo & The Bunnymen, The Clash or The Pogues. I wouldn’t go deaf listening to them either. But I do. If it weren’t for the singular charm of the hero of A Clockwork Orange (and I mean Anthony Burgess, the book’s relentless purveyor of fascinating prose more than Alex, the hero of the novel), I doubt very much I’d prize it above the hopelessly bourgeois and tame required reading of most literature courses. Something must come screaming out of the gate with two cocked fists, a mouth full of profance promises and what they lack in muscle they must make-up for in style in order to qualify as a hero – a métier, to steal a phrase, this time from Volker Schlöndorff and Torben Skjødt Jensen. I found these figures just as frequently in the directors of the films whose characters I so envied. Jean-Pierre Melville for instance, despite being married, was just as appealing an outcast as any character Alain Delon played for him. He looked like Hunter Thompson plus the 3 stone Tom Hardy put on to play Charlie Bronson, though mostly in paunch rather than muscle, he wore a suit and cowboy hat, made moody and beautiful films about violence and the cult of personality surrounding gangsters. He romanticized and improved a form that most people simply tried to present. But the one thing he didn’t do was make ordinary examples of the form. The best of his three war films, 1969’s Army of Shadows, shows a man deeply troubled by violence, paranoia and warfare. The film is exceptionally dark and is one of the first films, along with Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent to stare collaboration and the lie that is wartime heroism in the face and show you just how ugly and horrifying and glory-free it all is. Shepitko is another figure I much idolize, cut down in a car accident in the middle of directing her last film like the James Dean of auteurs. Her films are stunning, brutal and are largely about outsiders, dying and breaking the rules because they are compelled to do so; they have no choice. Their bodies push them forward even as they seem to know how dangerous and futile their decisions are. Not a one of hers or Melville’s films ends on a high note, though their implications are positive with regard to the temple-like figures of their heroes. Who cares that they died? It’s how they got there that interests us. It’s what they did with their final days. All of this logic is crucial in understanding Bronson, or anyway its fundamental appeal to me as scurrilous cineaste and as pacifist become vicariously violent through art and artists.

Bronson’s life starts most probably in 1971 with the film A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick must be commended for choosing Burgess’s novel as the basis of a film; it was dangerous, one of the myriad at one time deemed unfilmable by people who seem to have nothing better to do than talk about the cinematic quality of classic novels; incidentally even the earliest films were based on novels, so I think that’s enough of that talk. We’ve seen Catch-22, The 120 Days of Sodom and Trainspotting (on which more anon) not only turn into films but films that compliment their sources and have become classics in their own right and one of these days Gilliam is going to get Don Quixote right. Nothing is impossible (though Great Gatsby has proven difficult). But what Kubrick proved is that prose can become cinematic if given the proper amount of respect (that is to say, not too much) and if you allow your images to take the place of expository description and the like. It was also dangerous because it was so intoxicating; youths took to the streets in perhaps exaggerated sprees of criminal behavior and tellingly the rip-offs began hitting theatres the very next year. It does seem perfunctory to have to tell you to steer clear of Killer’s Moon and Murder in a Blue World, but I’m going to have to tell a brutal truth at this point. Bronson has been called “Kubrickian” in its notices, which is a polite way of saying it’s a lot like Clockwork Orange. So, yes, it shares a common gene with Kubrick. The differences however are important. First of all, Refn’s style is ten times as intoxicating as Kubrick’s. The thing that bothers me most about Kubrick is the static quality of so many of his images. Large portions of Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket and nearly all of Barry Lyndon just sit there; it’s as if Kubrick stumbled upon people modeling for an impressionistic paintings with his thoroughly non-discriminating camera. The frame is too big and the actors move through so languorously that I can’t help but be drawn out of the narrative and just imagine Kubrick sitting behind the camera. I don’t deny that Barry Lyndon has gorgeous photography or that Clockwork has some very arresting images but his choreographed action is so lackluster that I can’t really be drawn in. It appears as though after 2001’s critical and commercial success, he determined that what sells is slow, unmoving shots. He wasn’t wrong; Lyndon, Clockwork and Jacket are considered classics by everyone but myself and a few other insolent cinephiles I’ve met. The Shining is a much more mobile film and thus escapes my criticism; in fact I love The Shining. But in Clockwork the stuff that stays with me is the ingenious use of close-up and imposing claustrophobia. In fact if you were asked to remember what most stays with you about Clockwork I’d put money on it being the close-up on Alex’s eyes, first with one painted in the opening scenes and then when they’re pried open during therapy. I’d also venture to guess that the scenes of Alex and his friends wailing on the old fellow in the underpass as another memorable visual; this makes sense. The shadows of the boys, the roof over their heads and the roof they form over the old man all create limits and make the movement seem more deft. There are boundaries; a never-ending frame is the ending of narrative coherence and immediacy in Kubrick films. In Full Metal Jacket for example the corridors of the basic training camp give way to open skies as the men are put through the ringer. The feeling of endlessness is perpetual and it bores me terribly, nevermind that I find part one of Jacket a less effective retread of his thesis in Clockwork. And the other thing you’ll likely come away from Clockwork with fond memories of is Malcolm McDowell. Granted Kubrick was his director but McDowell’s charisma was not exactly in short supply; find Lindsay Anderson’s superior 1968 film If…. and one discovers that it isn’t so much that McDowell was perfect for Clockwork but that Clockwork was perfect for McDowell. Usually it is a confluence between the purest filtration of a director’s style and a film centered on a highly likable scoundrel that results in the ‘film that they’ll remember me for’. Kubrick’s filmography is loaded with them, as is Martin Scorsese’s, John Huston’s, Roman Polanski’s.... Bill Murray has made a career of making films for directors with very specific visions all the better for featuring his wizened face and much welcome cynicism. McDowell, for his part, is tremendous, I just think the film fails him, but no one notices because he is so fascinating a protagonist and he carries the film from the first reel to the last. We love the loner, the outsider, the hard man.

Tom Hardy as Bronson

And despite my complaints, Clockwork was hugely important and after all without it, we wouldn’t have Bronson at all. We can trace the film’s theme of violent boys being reformed and taught about life on through to last night when I watched it (illegally) for the first time. The 70s are loaded with people not unlike Alex from Clockwork – Sonny Wortzik & Travis Bickle foremost among them. People who lived by violence and whom by the end, we learn, hadn’t changed a wit. Why were these characters so compelling, Oscar-worthy, even? Because we cannot just blow our enemies away and as the films were wont to illustrate, innocent people could be caught in the line of fire. Kubrick saw this when mockwork crimes began plaguing English streets and he tried to have the film pulled from cinemas rather than cause anyone any harm. Though he was undeniably trying to do the right thing, he didn’t. Censorship will not solve problems and it was clear that he needed the public’s favour if he were ever to make films again. Even if it was some backwards way of scaring up more publicity (a banishment is golden in exploitation cinema, after all) Kubrick was not prepared to stand by his film’s vision of violence-as-salvation which says to me that he was not the man to direct it (my opinion of the film's quality notwithstanding). What people really did want to see was the story of a boy who finds solace in ‘the old ultra-violence’ and engages in it whenever he can. The torturous therapy that cures him is just as engaging and horrifying as his crimes so we let it slide. The film becomes neutered when its hero does too. No longer chock full of rage and the urge to maim, he and the film wanders between set-pieces until the film and Alex commit suicide and are reborn. We are finally given an ending that gives us all the film promises: two giant speakers, classical music and venerable violence. It’s a disgusting moral but its also one of the greatest moments in any Kubrick film. What does this say? That style can account for even the lewdest and lowest of morals. In fact if an artist's style can make-up for, even allow for violence and cruelty, then aren’t we in the presence of a true artist? I’m not saying violence is good (I was raised Quaker, not that it all stuck) but I’m saying when a director can sell you on the ‘idea’ of violence (read: anything difficult) he has proven himself (at this time I'd like to point out that gender distinctions are arbitrary in the utmost; a director is a director, male, female, black, white, straight, gay, human. I say him in this case because both Refn and Kubrick were men but in general my use of pronouns is arbitrary and unimportant. Himself is the same thing as saying actor as far as I'm concerned. An actor and an actress have the same job, so why put gender in the equation at all, why give them awards for having been born plus or minus a Y chromosome?). And who doesn’t crack that same smile as Alex when the film closes? Does that make you murderous, cruel, violent, sadistic? No, I should think not, otherwise wouldn’t the world resemble Burgess’s vision of a post-manners England over-run by Nadsat spewing punks who are just as committed to being aesthetes as they are rapists.

Violence and boys-behaving-badly mark a good many great films as well as a good many bad films, but it’s fairly easy to spot the good ones from the lousy ones. Ken Loach’s excellent Looks and Smiles gives us two youths brawling as they can’t find work or much else to do. Their fights, in traditional Loach wide-angle observation, are hypnotic, to be sure, and gain added power by their taking place in one instance just outside a rock club. And what is Punk and its younger brother Post-Punk if not the same kind of energy given purely aural form? The appeal of the Sex Pistols I would argue is much the same as the appeal of Clockwork, albeit for different ends. In fact, the whole notion of punk rock feeds the notion of the charismatic fighting man against the system. Charlie Bronson takes on the system in a very literal sense except he has no message he just has himself. Punk Rock out of context makes the struggle of the centuries most angry lyricists and fills the ears of kids who can’t really understand what it was like to live under Margaret Thatcher. And there is a power embedded in those songs to be sure. They bring you to life with their immediacy; you too can feel like Bronson, bursting with energy, looking to fight someone albeit for different ends. To quote Tymon Dogg in his collaboration with the Clash, “I gotta lose this skin I’m imprisoned in.” And if the fact that the skin on Bronson’s face seems ready to fall off following his final confrontation with the guards, he’s almost succeeded. His arrogance and his quest for fame in what is plainly a no-fame game, mirrors the opening to the first song on the first Echo & The Bunnymen album, Crocodiles. “Anybody watching my film?” asks Ian McColluch brashly yet coolly on “Going Up” another way of saying ‘straight to the top’ which is what Bronson wants to do himself and what we hope he achieves. Bronson, like McColluch, like this film that bears his name, is an actor in need of an audience.

Briefly, however, we can chart the rise of charismatic criminal from Long Good Friday (Bob Hoskins as pugnacious overlord of a violent empire, at his most sensitive just after cutting a man’s throat), on to minor scenes in Ken Loach’s oeuvre as in My Name is Joe and Raining Stones (in a rare moment of absolute sympathy, Loach shows the church granting absolution to a man who beat a loan shark with a tire iron and caused his fatal car crash; he even treats the accidentally-on-purpose murder as the grounds for a sort of miraculous turn of events), then onto Danny Boyle’s beloved (by me especially) Trainspotting wherein junkie’s and pub pugilists are just as infatuating as they are terrifying, David Fincher’s Fight Club (Fincher himself a graduate of the grimy British school; his debut Alien³ is incredibly English and features a cast of uniformly bald and often insane criminals known to fight each other, all precursors to Tom Hardy’s Bronson) which makes a temple out of Brad Pitt’s bleeding and muscular figure; Guy Ritchie attempted the same kind of stylistic coup but failed with his 2000 film Snatch. That Pitt’s admittedly engaging performance wasn’t given center-stage probably had a lot to do with why the film is nowhere near as good as it could have been; it’s too busy for its own good. Richie and the others were onto something, though: style + plus enthralling leading man = something….

The Appeal of Bronson:

Really, what we can say is that these films all hint at what makes Bronson so captivating to a certain audience. Fight Club, Trainspotting and Looks and Smiles all offer redemption to their heroes; Bronson doesn’t want your pity, your salvation or your narrative coherence (it's not hard to follow but miss the opening and you're in for a treat). Bronson is as effective as the director and star are to you. Nicolas Winding Refn meticulously crafts every disgusting interior, stages every lavish angle, picks every piece of music with the utmost care; the film is his style, his obsessions, given life. He wrote it, he directed it, and so everything but Tom Hardy is his. Tom Hardy is, like McDowell to Kubrick before him, playing Refn’s character, putting on the make-up chosen for him, saying the dialogue written for him, but there’s simply no way you can think of Bronson as anything other than Tom Hardy’s best performance to date. Hardy plays a hard man, a career criminal who doesn’t like the crime so much as he likes paying for it. He is a pillar, a statue, all gorgeous sinew and hilariously non-sexual eroticism (to a point). He delivers every line with just the right combination of awe, conviction and fury. He is simple yet undeniably complicated; what makes a man so violent? There’s nothing in his past that quite explains it, even if they do show you that it was clearly a problem from the start. But really the enigma of the character is welcome. Do we care how Alex got to be so violent? No, but do we want to see him run riot through wasted streets? Absolutely. Tom Hardy’s Bronson is the appeal and the horrors of violence, of having no filter between the id and reality. He wants to fight, has to fight and practically bursts out of his skin trying to get someone to fight ("Gotta lose this skin"). We, too, want him to fight; it’s the film’s fucking conceit, after all: a deranged man who looks like a cross between Zeus and Jan Hieronimko from Vampyr beating the hell out of everyone and anyone he pleases. And the success of such a spectacle, as anyone who’s seen the trailer for Bronson can tell you, is how stylistically it’s carried out. Of course watching a man fight another man is not necessarily cinematic. With Refn, known in Denmark as l’Enfant Sauvage, behind the camera however the spectator is allowed to beg for him to kidnap another guard and wait for a fight. There are a number of moments in the film that attest to the power of both Refn’s style (standing in for the style of our best directors) and Hardy’s performance and the spectacle of his many brawls. Think of it this way, Bronson the character, Tom Hardy the actor and Nic Refn the director represent the same urge in the viewer. The more we want to see Hardy act like a nut, the more we want to see Bronson fight people, the more we want to be overwhelmed by Refn’s crazed style, the more the film wins you over; the film’s powers are in essence three-fold but they are equal. We want the violence, we want Hardy to go off the rails, and we want Refn’s style to go unchecked. Refn proves as much with the few lulls in the three powers at work. The first when Bronson is sent to an insane asylum and drugged to drooling; Hardy can’t do much with the character, Refn’s scenes of the asylum are funny, to be sure, but they lose their appeal just around the time Bronson has his fill of the place and strangles a fellow inmate. The same can be said when Bronson is called ‘sane’ and let out, one of the film’s few diversions from fact. Hardy’s performance is allowed a touch of nuance and Refn shows us that the real world can be just as soul-crushing as the inside but what it does more than anything is remind us how much we, and Charlie, wish we were back in prison. The stint we all do on the outside could even be said to be a fantasy: someone like Bronson can’t make it on the outside and he knows it; Refn also can’t control every aspect of the production, either; we expect things on the outside that we don’t of solitary confinement in this or that prison. Suburban living (even the perverted kind that Bronson does) does not suit him. Here we get treated to a New Order song as if to remind us that things are just as bad as they were in Trainspotting; indeed Bronson has an addiction just as strong as Boyle’s junkies. He’s soon fighting dogs in dark halls and robbing jewelry stores (Robert Carlyle’s Begbie in Trainspotting does the same thing) before he’s finally back where we want him. It’s proof that someone like Bronson can’t and shouldn’t be let outdoors and there’s no proof in the story that what we’ve just seen isn’t just the flaws in even considering his release. After all, wouldn’t it just be like a lunatic to classify himself ‘sane’ to prove how insane he really is?

What’s more Refn’s film nicely dovetails with a kind of ‘American’ theme, the same thing that Boyle’s film was criticized for at the time of its release. It’s a rags-to-riches story, sort of. Bronson’s cooing that he’s going to “make a name for myself” is hardly news, but it’s simply the way he plans on doing it that really sets him apart. At his most ambitious, he wants to be an underground fighting sensation, but normally he just wants to get naked and beat the merciful shit out of everyone in the prison system. Really more of a rags-to-rags story isn’t it? And this makes a kind of sense as Refn is himself an outsider so his view of the English justice system and the way they punish criminals in films is at odds with the natives’. So instead of taking on the institutionalization of criminals in something resembling an orderly fashion (let’s not forget his hero is a criminally unbalanced psycho/sociopath who deserves every second of his sentence) he simply uses it as a springboard. To be fair, his portrayal of the prison system is no more or less incendiary than that in Steve McQueen’s perfect Hunger, about the hunger strikes in the Maze prison in the 1980s, except that instead of quelling a revolution, the guards in Bronson are stopping a one-man show. So, in essence, Bronson gets everyone, even his final no-nonsense warden, to play his game and listen just like the imaginary audience he tells his story to. And in the same way, Refn gets you to play his game, letting you soak up his style like a piece of bread in English stew.

To prove Refn’s capability as a stylician (my word) take the climactic stint in the art room. The plot comes nearly to a halt as Bronson holds his art teacher hostage in a cozy carpeted art room (the real Bronson is in actuality a fairly talented artist and has won awards, so his kinship with Strummer and McColluch and even Refn and Kubrick is a little more assured). He paints the face of his hapless hipster art teacher until he resembles a Magritte. It’s a nakedly show-offy gesture by both the character Bronson and Refn but unlike, say Quentin Tarentino, neither man relishes in their creation in the same way. If we compare this to Brad Pitt’s “This might be my masterpiece” line that closes Tarentino’s masturbatory (though fun) Inglourious Basterds, Refn emerges the more thoughtful and less arrogant auteur. Tarentino may not actually believe his movie is his finest achievement to date, but the implication is right there in the dialogue and I choose to believe he does. After all, the man hasn’t made a film that doesn’t feel like it was written with action figures in over ten years. Refn takes a slightly different tack. He concludes his most stylish film to date with his most stylish gesture to date and Bronson admits that the painting was simply one part of him, something he was encouraged to do by the art teacher whose face he paints. This isn’t all that Bronson has in him, like the film itself in relation to its creator, it was something that simply needed to be done. Is Bronson the best film Refn’s ever done? Well it certainly isn’t from a narrative standpoint, but this was not the point of Bronson, as I’ve illustrated. So just after we take a moment to see that this was an exercise, Hardy turns off the artistry, screams, “alright, he’s had enough,” and lets the guards rush him with batons and riot gear. 'He' is also us. Enough artistry for artistry’s sake (that is to say a gesture out of context, something that is brilliant, sure, but says nothing of the film's theme), let’s do what we do best. The guards swarm in; Bronson, dressed in black paint, waits at the bottom of a staircase (that great cinematic symbol of absolutely anything the filmmaker/critic wishes) and then 'the man' charges at him. He loses the fight, so does Refn; his film isn’t being hailed as anything other than a stylish Clockwork Orange disciple. The establishment, I feel fine saying, is wrong in this case. You cannot keep Bronson down, you cannot help but love Hardy’s performance and any punk with a head on his shoulders should be able to see what a gorgeous and truly awesome piece of art Bronson is; better, I feel, than Clockwork.

A final point. When the film premiered in the UK, Refn had recorded Charlie Bronson himself saying that he endorsed the film because it immortalized him; he was sorry, sure, but he got what he wanted so he wasn’t exactly repentant either. Refn’s recording of the voice of his inspiration (illegal in the UK as the man still sits in HMP Wakefield) points out that Refn believes in his work in a way that Kubrick did not. Take the final (ok, one's penultimate) scenes of each film. In Clockwork the speakers are rolled in and we get a fantasy of rape and violence in Alex’s mind, his urges restored. Refn has the speakers brought in by armed guards to show that Bronson is still a dangerous criminal and he hasn’t changed because he hasn’t needed to. Society cannot force him to be complacent and any attempt to do so is both futile and unjust. If his painted face and Lennon-like sunglasses are any indication, he is an artist of the violent, his body one glorious muscle, his final act in the film is to take the powers that be in hand and go down fighting. Alex cannot fight at the end of the film; he’s been rendered immobile and is a tool of the system, even if internally he’s won his own battle (the book’s ending is not in total harmony with the film’s ending). Refn’s style and his apocalyptic worldview cannot be contained in a hospital bed; they need to be put in a cage like Bronson in order to be stopped (not that I want that). So what does this mean? Well, despite the film’s similarities I don’t think of Bronson as imitation or even homage, I think of it as Clockwork the film done right. All the mistakes, every dull frame of Kubrick's film, have been corrected and the film does right by the hero and sticks to its guns (pun intended). Bronson feels like a schizophrenic diary read happily by its owner, Clockwork feels like someone not up to the task wheedling the truth out of someone it pities. In the end Bronson may be the more sadistic of the two but it also has the benefit of being released at a time when it has none of the power that Clockwork had. It has nothing or no one to fight with, which is a shame because I think Refn and Hardy could tackle the censorship board easy. I think Bronson won’t be seen as the superior or the more bold film but I believe it is both as it removes all but the faintest of morals from the script, leaving much more up to you to decipher rather than to have Bronson say “I learned my lesson well”. There’s no need for it. Clockwork was openly political but it got both its politics and its memorable dialogue from Burgess. Bronson speaks for itself eloquently and is the sort of gorgeous freakshow I live to see. Real horrorshow.

potential music blog

hey everyone!

i'm wondering if anyone would be interested in starting a blog:
where we could post songs we wrote/are writing, recodings, or (as cutie has been doing) videos of us playing.

maybe it could even just be for creative works? poetry/art/etc.. i don't know if film punk is meant for this. should we just use film punk?
the inspiration for this:
i have a playlist of songs that my friends have recorded, and right now it has 123 songs total. it's wonderful to have and to listen to your friends singing and writing. i think everyone would agree that it's wonderful to have around
and you're all so far away D: except for holly & twohair..

so, does anybody else favour this? post suggestions in the comment box.

thank you everyone