TEXT: Since moving little Oliver into his big sister, Charlotte's room a couple of months back, my wife and I have been positively rapturous about having the master bedroom back to ourselves (and all that that entails). One much-missed joy that we're rediscovering is the ability to read before bed again. As such, my bedside table now plays host to a veritable tower of books waiting for my attention. I'm way behind on a few titles I picked up months ago. I've tried reading two books at once, but that just doesn't work for my feeble reading comprehension skills. In any case, I'm currently shin-deep in John Robb's "Punk Rock: An Oral History." Basically it's the long-awaited "answer" to "Please Kill Me" by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain, the deservedly much-feted oral history of the American incubation period of Punk Rock -- which, as we all know PRE-DATES the `Pistols, the Clash and the rest of the more-celebrated British Class of 1977. In any case, the British counterpart to the argument has long been served by Jon Savage's comparatively impenetrable and needlessly textbooky, "England's Dreaming." Now along comes Robb with a blunt, full-force tome to rival Legs' meisterwerk. I'm only in the opening stages of it, but so far it's fairly entertaining and informative. I'd also been looking to pick up Clinton Heylin's "Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge" (because, y'know, one can never have too many books about Punk). I picked up a weighty copy of Heylin's book at St.Mark's Books recently but put it back down in fairly short order. Any book that boasts such a title (which, by implication, I'm guessing means the musical spectrum that extends from the 70's through to the 90's) and doesn't even mention Killing Joke in its index if flatly not worthy of the paper it's printed on. I should point out at this stage that the `Joke are well represented in Robb's book. So, up yours, Heylin.
FILM: It's still exceptionally rare that I get to the movies these days (although I did manage to go see "300" the other night, more about that in a sec). That said, a friend of ours recently leant us a DVD copy of Scorsese's "The Departed" (it was an Academy consideration copy, or something). Lemme tell ya, if you enjoy seeing people getting pistol-whipped, hit really hard from behind and shot unexpectedly (and, really, who doesn't?) then THIS IS YOUR MOVIE! Hot damn! And while I've never forgiven him for that dreadful remake of my beloved "Planet of the Apes" (which, I suppose, was really director Tim Burton's fault), Marky Mark Wahlberg is outrageously entertaining in this film. Hell, even Leo DiCaprio hands in a fine performance. It also features Alec Baldwin (who simply just has to show up to completely steal a scene) and one of my faves, Ray Winstone (of "Sexy Beast", "Quadrophenia,' "Ladies & Gentleman...The Fabulous Stains" fame). From start to finish, this movie completely rocks. Peggy even loved it (although she watched most of it from behind a pillow). Even despite the fact that the story line has been beaten to death (from "Donny Brasco" through "State of Grace" through "Goodfellas"), it still completely delivers.
But let me just say, if it's violence you're after, look ye no further than "300." I'd been massively psyched up to see this film since first reading about it months ago, and was finally let off the leash last night to catch it on the big screen. So much has been written about this film already that it seems needless for me to attempt to encapsulate it here (but please check out my revered colleague, Kurt Loder's hilarious review of it by clicking here). Suffice it to say, "300" is every bit as over-the-top as has been described, and it makes the more ludicrously violent battle scenes in "Braveheart," "Gladiator," "Lord of the Rings," "Henry V" -- to say nothing of the big grandaddy of'em all, "Alexandr Nevski" -- seem like outtakes from "My Dinner With Andre". I honestly cannot express how much I enjoyed this film. It truly deserves to be witnessed on a great, big fuck-off screen, so DO NOT wait for the DVD.
DVD: As I lamented here, the very day that Peg and I signed up for Netflix, our favorite local video outlet closed for good, which is a damn shame. Adding insult to that injury, two of the first three films we've rented from Netflix so far have been hugely lame. "Little Miss Sunshine" was fine, but we then rented "Coffee And Cigarettes" by Jim Jarmusch. I should point out that I'm a massive fan of Jarmusch's. "Mystery Train" and "Dead Man" are two of my favorite films of all time, and even some of his less celebrated flicks like "Ghost Dog" and "Night On Earth" have some great moments in them. Enticed by the purported cameos from Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and The Whtie Stripes, I'd eagerly put the film in our "cue" and waited to be wowed. What a letdown. "Coffee & Cigarettes" is absolutely excruciating. Pointless, self-indulgent, plotless, rambling, masturbatory... I simply couldn't bear it. It broke my heart. Similarly, "For Your Consideration," the latest Christopher Guest venture (following in the tradition of "Waiting For Guffman," "Best in Show," etc.) finds his storied ensemble losing steam. We didn't even last through twenty-five minutes of it. Eject! We turned that off and ended up watching "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" on TBS, which -- while entirely hopeless and devoid of a point (it doesn't really advance the story from the first film at all) -- was still a thousand times more engrossing than "For Your Consideration."
WEBSITE: I have two to shout about. One that, here at the four year anniversary of the war with Iraq, is more appropriate than ever before. The other appeals the opposite side of the brain. One where nonsense seems to be the order of the day. Kinda like the White House. If you can figure it out, hats off to ya.
TELEVISION SHOW: I've spoken about it before, but the last show to really command my attention was the Sundance Channel's reality show, "Ladette to Lady," wherein a gaggle of boozey, sweary, libidinous party girls with indecipherable accents descend up on prim and insufferably stuffy British finishing school for the puruposes of transforming into proper debutantes. Sound ridiculous? It is, but lemme tell ya -- it's action packed. Nudity, violence, backstabbing, tears and lots and lots of cussin'. It's got everything. You will love it. Check it out.
MUSIC: I've picked up a couple of new discs recently. First up is the eponymous debut by Nick Cave's new "stripped down" band, Grinderman. Flanked by Bad Seeds bassist, Martyn Casey, Dirty Three violinist/noise-maker, Warren Ellis and No Wave percussive all-star and erstwhile Bad Seed, Jim Sclavunos, the dubiously mustachiod Cave is asserting that Grinderman is a proper band with its own identity, but I can't help feeling that it smacks of the Tin Machine syndrome (i.e. Midlife crisis rock from the greying old guard). While I applaud the notion of Cave moving away from the more mawkishly soppy balladry that has marked his work since No More Shall We Part (especially in the wake of the departure of Blixa Bargeld from the band's ranks), the harder approach here just feels a bit contrived. Lyrically, Cave's always been a master story-teller, but with Grinderman, he seems to be assuming a role more than ever before. It's not bad, though. Despite its churlishly juvenile title, "No Pussy Blues" is fantastic, and the guitar coda on the title track (evidently played by Cave himself) sort've echoes the fragmented guitar-bothering rife within Neil Young's score for "Dead Man" (and you know I love that). All in all, while it's not a return to the feral days of the Birthday Party, it is sort've a refreshing, bracing taste of Nick Cave that's been seemingly long dormant.
Next up is the full length long player by the Horrors. Yeah, I've spoken about them here before, and yes they're as derivative as the day is long, but damn if I'm not enjoying Strange House. A sloppy mix of the Birthday Party (again!), the Cramps, Nuggets-era garage Farfisa and even a wee bit of Alien Sex Fiend (vocalist, Farris Badwan is an [un]dead ringer for Nick Fiend), Strange House is a great, careening train wreck of hoary, hirsute fun.
I've picked up a few other discs lately, notably the new one from the Stooges, but I want to give that a full, proper spin before weighing in. So, stay tuned for that.