A while ago, right here in this blogosphere, I shared a memorable, if somewhat goofy, moment I experienced in conversation with Blonde Redhead where it was determined that their signature sound is, seasonally speaking, " cold, like winter," punctuated by drummer Simone Pace's joking that they've been trying to score a "summer hit" all these years. True, there's nothing very ruddy or relaxing about the raw, malodorous roots they laid down in their hard-rocking early days, prompting fans to coin the multilingual heart-breakers as "art rock" darlings while some persnickety critics underrated them as Sonic Youth wannabes. Alas, that "certain damaged" sound that Guy Picciotto (of Fugazi and Rites of Spring fame) coaxed into the production Blonde Redhead's middle children albums (In An Expression of the Inexpressible, Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons and Misery is a Butterfly) is as gone as the no wave, DNA inspired D.I.Y. joie de vivre captured on the band's Steve Shelly (of, duh, Sonic Youth fame) produced self-titled debut as well as that of their self-produced, non-slump of a sophomore effort La Mia Vita Violenta and it's bewitching follow-up Fake Can Be Just As Good (sigh). However, I believe congratulations are in order as it seems that Blonde Redhead have, with Penny Sparkle --- their eighth full-length album in fifteen years, their third record for the 4AD label --- created the most lusciously polished, goth jewel of a make-out record since the Cure's Disintegration dropped in 1989.
When I was in fifth grade staying up late enough to catch Dave Letterman's Top Ten was a personal goal of mine every weeknight (on Saturday nights it was staying up late enough to make it through Saturday Night Live in its entirety, but I always conked out right about the time Dennis Miller wrapped up his Weekend Update). I like to think that I became a lover of lists and listing things because of that after-hours fixation of mine, but who cares? The fact is that I do love a list and this year's Halloween happenings were so fabulously choice that I've got to work it out herein, Late Night Top Ten style:
10: Students of San Francisco State University protesting budget cuts on Monday by turning the quad into a graveyard for courses felled by a lack of state education funds. The many headstones featured names of "dead" classes and mourners honored them dutifully in Dios de los Muertos style with candles, flowers and gorgeous little treats. A very clever and seasonally satisfying display of discontent!
9: Rammstein's timely release of their new album Liebe Ist Für Alle Da. Now, I count myself as an accidental Rammstein fan (and there's a good lengthy yarn I could spin about the who, what and why-fors about it), but a fan I am nonetheless ---especially as their machismo-soaked yet obviously Depeche Mode influenced electro-opera-industrial rock always seems to find a place on my annual Halloween mixtape! Not to mention that these German rockers consistently crank out quality music videos that remind us that there once was a time when the medium was viewed as an elevated art-form. Their video for the 1995 single Du Riechst So Gut is perhaps their most romantic (despite the fact that the imagery delves into bestiality, transvestitism and baroque dance routines) and very Halloween appropriate (despite the fact that nearly all their videos could be specified as "Halloween appropriate"). Oh Rammstein, why must thy art be so misunderstood? Maybe it's a European thing...
It seems we take music for granted in our current times, which is easy enough to do since we are so innundated with endless music from a seemingly endless stream of artists. With the way things are these days, it might be difficult to stop and imagine a time or a place where music could be much, much more scarce -- a place where music and the artists who create it are valued and treasured so much more than they are here and now. One of these long lost places has been captured in the great documentary on music fandom The Posters Came From The Walls, in which diehard Depeche Mode (DM) superfans look to their heroes for meaning in their lives. The documentary's subjects are primarily in second world nations, fans who bonded with the music of DM in the midst of political turbulence.
The feature length documentary about DM fans around the world was co-directed by Nick Abrahams and Jeremy Deller. In the documentary, the directors spend some time in the US and UK interviewing DM fans, but the flick is at its best when capturing DM fans in Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union, where DM's music has taken on a whole new meaning since the 1980's, when it was not only hard to find but illegal and only available via much coveted bootleg tapes. From that point DM's music became a sort of freedom soundtrack for many of these fans. DM's Dave Gahan’s birthday falls on May 9th, which is Russia’s National Day. In St. Petersburg DM fans celebrate the date as “Dave Day” every year.