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Movies for Mother's Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 10, 2015 08:02am | Post a Comment

Mary Cassatt's After the Bath (circa 1901)

The American Mother's Day was invented by Anna Jarvis in 1905, when her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Her mother's death proved the inspiration for a holiday and by 1908 others joined her in this macabre celebration.

After five years of dedication to her obsession, Mother's Day was first observed in West Virginia in 1910. Although writing "I love you" on a post-it note would be more meaningful, by the 1920s consumers dutifully purchased pre-made Mother's Day cards from the Hallmark corporation. Disgusted by this perversion of her crazy vision, Jarvis unsuccessfully tried to kill Mother's Day. 

Whatever you do this Mother's Day, please don't spend $17.95 on a Spring Multicolor Floral Infinity Scarf, $24.95 on a Bronze Metal Birdcage Lantern Wall Decoration, or $29.95 on a Coral-inspired Jewelry Tree. Instead, take her on a hike, go for a swim, eat a type of cuisine neither of you've ever had before, go to the ballet... or watch one of these films.
*****




Mother (마더, Bong Joon-ho, 2010)


Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)



Mildred Pierce
(Michael Curtiz, 1945)



Grey Gardens (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer, 1975)




Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim, 2008)



Be With You (いま、会いにゆきますNobuhiro Doi, 2004)



Mommie Dearest
(Frank Perry, 1981)




Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)


Precious (Lee Daniels, 2008)


Strait-Jacket
(William Castle, 2004)


Friday the 13th
(Sean S. Cunningham, 1980)



*****

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The Top 10 Shoegaze Bands of All Time, or, The Godlike Genius of Shoegaze

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 20, 2015 06:11pm | Post a Comment
I'm still buzzing from the Ride show at the Warfield. "Cool Your Boots" has been running through my head non-stop for a week (although there was a break, at least in my sleep, when I had a dream which involved listening to Cedric Im Brooks). Since the show I've been listening to a lot of shoegaze (and a little chimp rock -- anyone remember that?).

Long sleeves, stripes, and androgyny -- the alternative was San Diego Sizzler Chic

I've also met a couple of people since getting back from San Francisco with whom the subject of music arose. Two of them were on their way from Coachella to Brokechella and were talking about "soul" (in the sense that Maroon 5 are soul, I suppose) act, Fitz & the Tantrums. No one had heard of Ride or had the haziest notion of what shoegaze means. When I told them that Ride had played at Coachella they looked incredulous. 

I realize that twenty years ago is forever when you're in your twenties but if you'd mentioned Led Zeppelin, The Doors, or psychedelia to a college kid in the 1980s they would've been familiar with them at least as concepts. Maybe even if your favorite pretendie bands are all signed to the world's largest corporate music label you still might have have at least heard of Creation Records. Seriously, they were fine -- but I wouldn't at all be surprised if after I dropped these kids off in the Arts District if they immediately took to Twitter, stating "OMG idk wat is Ride and wat is shoo gays LOL?" 

Whether one is a fan of shoegaze or not, is that it was that last moment in rock's history when something happened that was both significantly different from what had come before but still recognizable rock music. Shoegazers pushed the boundaries of rock with ethereal ambiance and post-psychedelic noise; beyond those boundaries lay Metal Machine Music or Ambient 1: Music for Airports -- which whatever you think them have little to do musically with the rock 'n' roll of Jackie Brenston, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the like. 

Ride rolls into the Warfield -- and their thirteen most massive tunes

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 13, 2015 10:42am | Post a Comment
I'm currently down in San Francisco (well, Richmond actually) to see Ride play. Ride, for those keeping score, were the best of a crop of bands known way back in the early 1990s as shoegazers. Like most British bands that survived into those dark years of the mid-1990s, when a collective craze for slow motion guitar solos and untucked shirts overcome white Britannia, Ride too went horribly wrong (i.e. Britpop) in the end before calling it a day in 1996. They only released one bad album (and it was awful) but then Andy Bell formed Hurricane #1, a truly horrendous (way) sub-Seahorses audition for Oasis. Bell went on to play in Oasis and then that other Liam Gallagher band who can't have been all bad as they covered World of Twist's "Sons of the Stage." 





This is all a roundabout way of saying that the prospect of a Ride reunion made me, understandably I think, rather nervous. They released a clutch of fantastic EPs, three great albums, and only one steaming, stinker -- but it was their final album, and a direction Bell pursued with his following bands so would he insist that Tarantula haters like myself got it wrong and try to prove his point by subjecting audiences to "The Dawn Patrol" and "Starlight Motel" or worse, "Just Another Illusion"? All of my fears were put to rest when I listened to them play a short set on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," which included five songs from their brilliant debut, Nowhere, and its equally classic follow-up, Going Blank Again. They sounded great. I meant to dust off my old Ride T-shirt with the mud stains and holes but perhaps wisely forgot (it's really holey).

Shoegazers were sometimes criticized for hiding their lack of songs behind walls of feedback... but listening to "Morning Becomes Eclectic" for the first time in fifteen years as I waited for Ride to play I was treated to a barrage of forgettable, tuneless, garblers in Native American headdresses singing whoa-oh-oh-y car insurance jingles (or at least that's what it sounded like to me). You know, Coachellacore or the stuff that plays during Spotify ads when sensible users remove their earbuds. Ride, on the other hand, wrote some of the tightest (I'll never use that word again to describe music, I promise) melodies, sang the pretties harmonies, channeled The Byrds, Love, and Buffalo Springfield, and then added a healthy squall of guitar noise that make me wonder why all the "nu-gazers" are so bland and limp (...oh yeah, Slowdive). 
Ride played at Coachella the other night, apparently. They're playing at the Warfield tonight. They're playing in Pomona at the Fox Theater tomorrow. 


*****
Now allow me to get all listicle and give you the Top 13 Ride Songs:
“Vapour Trail” from Nowhere (1990) 


I first heard this on WMNF in 1990 when a DJ played the entire record. I later taped the video onto a VHS cassette when it was played on City Limits (Much Music) and it inspired my brother to go into graphic design.

“Taste”  — form the Fall EP (1990) 

 

Sounds like a poppier My Bloody Valentine, right? A pretty terrible video, though, although Mark's hair inspired me to grow out my bowl. Also, I did a sketch of him four our high school literary journal -- ha!


“All I Can See” — from the Ride EP (1989)

When the Smile compilation came out I played that record so much that it immediately conjures up the harsh winter of my freshman year in the dorm.

“Cool Your Boots” — from Going Blank Again (1992)


Going Blank Again was the first record I bought without having heard anything off of it. I was on a ski trip in Colorado and I didn't even know Ride had a new album out so I had to grab it before I returned to rural Iowa, where I'd be screwed. I was not disappointed. Bonus points for Withnail & I samples.

“Crown of Creation” — from Carnival of Light (1994)


I'd suspected from the beginning that Ride were Byrds fans. Carnival of Light would seem to be pretty strong evidence for that suspicion. This song title comes from a Jefferson Airplane album, the album also included a Creation cover, and a photo of Andy Bell showed him wearing a Buffalo Springfield shirt. Still, 1968 was a much more forward looking year than 1995 would turn out to be.


“Twisterella” — from Going Blank Again



“Only Now" — from Carnival of Light




“1000 Miles” — from Carnival of Light 




“Close My Eyes” — from the Ride EP


Bonus points for mentioning the band's name in the song.


“Dreams Burn Down” — from the Fall EP 



“Leave Them All Behind” — from Going Blank Again



“Like a Daydream” — from the Play EP (1990)


Long-sleeve T-shirts and early hints at Byrds love

“Sennen” -- from Today Forever EP (1991)


It sounds completely like Robert Plant's "I'm in the Mood," which is kind of amazing.

*****

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A San Fernando Valley Playlist

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 23, 2015 03:33pm | Post a Comment
So the bad news is that I missed out on CicLAvia — The Valley. Cream Soda (my bicycle) was in the shop (nothing serious) and I was dog-sitting on the Eastside. I thought about bringing and walking the dog there but they’re not allowed on Metro buses or trains and there were further complications too that I won’t get into... so I ended up having breakfast at Din Tai Fung and exploring the trails of Ascot Hills Park


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's water color and oil paint map of the Valley


I am glad that so many people went and enjoyed it (hopefully getting some use out of my guide to the event) and that so many people seem to have discovered that the Valley, like everywhere else, is much more enjoyable when not seen from behind the wheel of a car. I also decided to capitalize on Valley Fever by making a Valley playlist. 


Postcard of the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s

The songs on this playlist cover the 1940s to the 1980s, which are good bookends for the Valley's period when it was a largely Anglo collection of suburbs and Cold War industry. The Valley today is much more urban and much more (predominantly even) Latino. It's also diverse, with large populations of residents with ancestral origins in Armenia, China, El Salvador, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Palestine, Persia, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, and elsewhere. I welcome any suggestions but it would be especially great to have some that reflect the Valley identity of the last 25 years. Let me have them in the comments!


*****

Gordon Jenkins - “The San Fernando Valley”



Gordon Jenkins was from Webster Groves, Missouri but his first big hit was also the first big hit about the Valley, 1944's “The San Fernando Valley."  


Ritchie Valens - “Donna” 


Ritchie Valens was born in Pacoima in 1941. His song “Donna” was written about his real life girlfriend, Donna Ludwig (now Donna Fox), who along with Valens attended San Fernando Senior High School. It's languid love haze probably made it an ideal soundtrack for a cruise back when the streets were less congested. 


Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - “Frownland"


Captain Beefheart's definitive album, Trout Mask Replica, was composed and rehearsed in a communal house (or cult compound) in Woodland Hills from 1968 to 1969. I’m not sure what the subject of “Frownland” is but it strikes me as appropriate.


Jimmy Webb - "Campo de Encino"


Jimmy Webb's most famous nominally-Los Angeles related song is surely "Mac Arthur Park," which was a hit for Richard Harris in 1968. Although best known for writing most of Glenn Campbell's material, Jimmy Webb's solo recording career also began in 1968. "Campo de Encino" was a track on his fourth record, Letters (1972).



Frank & Moon Zappa - “Valley Girl” 


Although Frank Zappa is more associated with the Antelope Valley than the San Fernando, he and his daughter wrote this parody of early 1980s Valley Girl subculture. It was not included in Martha Coolidge’s film of the same name, released in 1983, which made the Valley Girl an archetype although one no longer much in evidence.



Joe "Bean" Esposito - “You're The Best" 



Karate Kid (1984) is the story of a troubled high schooler named Daniel LaRusso who moves from New Jersey to the Valley suburb of Reseda where he’s harassed by local karate abusers, Cobra Kai. Joe "Bean" Esposito's “You're The Best" perfectly captures the spirit of the film, 


Southside Johnny - “Tuff Turf” 



Tuff Turf (1985) is the story of a troubled high schooler named Morgan who moves from Connecticut to the Valley suburb of Reseda where he’s harassed by local automobile abusers who run over his bicycle. Southside Johnny's “Tuff Turf” perfectly captures the spirit of the film.



Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Free Fallin’ 




In 1989 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (a band name which had already been used by a late ‘40s rhythm & blues group from DC, a doo-wop group, a soul group, a Boyle Heights duo, Johnny Thunders's punk group, and a group from New Zealand) had a hit with “Free Fallin’,” which was inflused with about as much Valley specificity as you’d typically find in a Paul Thomas Anderson film. 


Total Chaos - "DUI"



Total Chaos is a hardcore band from Pomona, but the 2001 song "DUI" is all about spending the night in a "Van Nuys Jail." 


Los Abandoned - "Van Nuys (es Very Nice)"


Although Total Chaos's experience in Van Nuys was less-than-pleasant, for Los Abandoned, the largelyMexican (with substantial Armenian and Salvadoran minorities) neighborhood "es very nice," although the lyrics of the song, from 2004's Los Abandoned EP strike me as rather ironic.

Special thanks to 
Daniel Ortega, Glen CreasonEzra Horne, and Kim Cooper for their contributions.

*****


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15 American Pop Hits That Aren't in English

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 23, 2015 10:00pm | Post a Comment
In the United States there is no official language and in roughly 18% of American homes, one of hundreds of languages other than English is primarily spoken -- all of which, unless they're indigenousshould be considered "foreign languages." In Los Angeles, everyday you can hear pop songs on the radio in Cantonese, English, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, and Vietnamese and although I often find that pop music is better when the lyrics are unintelligible, only a handful of pop songs in a language other than English have made the journey onto the pop charts -- here are fifteen (or so).






Harry Choates's "Jole Blon" (1946, French



Domenico Modugno's "Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)"



Domenico Modugno's "Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)" (1958, Italian







Ritchie Valens's “La Bamba” (1959, Spanish)


上を向いて歩こう



Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki" -- originally  "上を向いて歩こう" or "I Look Up as I Walk" (1961, Japanese)






Soeur Sourire's "Dominique" (1963, French) 


Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin



Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin's “Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus” (1969, French)






Mocedades
“Eres Tu” (1973, Spanish)






Plastic Bertrand's “Ça Plane Pour Moi” (1977, French) 


Nena's "99 Luftballons"



Nena's "99 Luftballons" (1984, German






Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" (1987, German) 






Los Lobos' "La Bamba" (1987, Spanish)






Enigma's "Sadeness (Part I)" (1991, Latin and French) 






Deep Forest
's "Sweet Lullaby" (1992, Baeggu)






Los Del Rio's "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" (1996, Spanish) 


Shakira LA Tortura

 

Shakira with Alejandro Sanz's “La Tortura” (2005, Spanish)




 

Psy's "Gangnam Style" (2012, Korean)
*****
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