Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Inclination

I know I tried to declare a holiday a few posts back - but then friends of mine were involved with shows and other things popped up that I felt I needed to write about. That may happen again, so don't hold me to this - but for the moment, I have absolutely no desire to be on this site: nothing to say, no energy to spare, no sense that it's in the slightest important. The VIFF is around the corner and I'll be doing previews for that, most likely, and I might have the odd thing in the Georgia Straight, but otherwise... consider me absent.

By the way, I might need to change dayjobs in the next few months, if anyone is hiring. Guess it can't hurt to put that out there.

...oh, and someone told me Scratch Records is movin' and havin' a big sale... For those who care...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

RIP Bruno S.

...also known as Bruno Schleinstein, he was the self-taught musician and outsider artist at the center of Herzog's Stroszek and Every Man For Himself and God Against All. He died this week at age 78.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

John Lurie's stalker situation in The New Yorker

When I last interviewed John Lurie, by email, he informed me that he was then in hiding because he was being stalked. It didn't actually make the piece that appeared on my blog - the worms in the can opened were too large and too unruly to fit into the proposed piece of writing, so I simply dodged them. In the August 16th issue of the New Yorker, however, there is an article by Tad Friend, "Sleeping With Weapons," that gives at least some of the background of the story, discussing the falling out between Lurie and a guy named John Perry, for whom Lurie can be seen sitting for a portrait, here. There's a bit of a preview of the article on another blog, here.

A piece of writing on Lurie is probably brewing - I've been informally trying to find a gallery in Vancouver interested in showing some of his work - but I have a few other commitments to deal with, so in the meantime, you might want to grab the next New Yorker. I'm not sure how Lurie feels about Friend's article, but it seems like a must-read...

A brief rant in support of Omar Khadr

Just for the record: there are lots of things that sicken and anger me about the Canadian government - from the environmental devestation of the tar sands, to the ideologically-driven lust to privatize everything that isn't nailed down or our two-faced stance on marijuana reform and our willingness to ship Canadian citizens off to serve jail time in the US for things that are completely tolerated here - but nothing sickens and angers me more, at present, than our government's gutless stance on Omar Khadr. Sorry, Marc - you don't even compare.

Omar Khadr was a child soldier, aged 15, when Afghanistan was invaded by the United States. Right from the bat, it should be patently obvious that to count ANYTHING he may have done as a "war crime" is absurd. He was a CHILD, for fucksake! His father was Al Qaeda, tight with bin Laden; Omar, at 15, was subject not only to his parents radical politics but their fanatic take on Islam, and hardly capable of making an informed, adult decision about ANYTHING when that invasion happened. In the heat of the US attack, he MAY have fought back - against a fucking INVADING ARMY, note; however righteous the US felt themselves to be, HIS COUNTRY WAS BEING INVADED BY FOREIGNERS, and allow me to say that if foreigners invade MY country, I will most likely fight them, too, regardless of how morally justified these foreigners imagine themselves to be. But did he throw a grenade that killed an American soldier who was attacking his family's compound? Maybe - but even if we stretch things and hold him to be a responsible, rational adult in doing so, and don't grant him the right to resist an invading force, couldn't that particular action be construed as an act of, uh, self-defense?

Not sure about that, actually, but I'll tell you what it sure as hell ain't - IT AIN'T A FUCKING WAR CRIME. George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq? THAT was a war crime. Waterboarding prisoners, attacking them with dogs, using sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, assaulting their religious beliefs, or flat out beating them to death in the course of Gitmo-ized interrogations? THOSE are war crimes. Rendering prisoners to countries where they will be waterboarded or otherwise subjected to these "enhanced interrogation" techniques - or whatever the fucking euphemism is? THAT's a war crime. Setting up a secret military prison off Cuba, bagging people from various nations, disappearing them, and holding them without due process for years at a time, probably torturing them periodically? THAT's a fucking war crime. Holding CHILDREN like Khadr in those facilities, without legal recourse, for YEARS - eight, now, innit? - while possibly subjecting them to torture, as Khadr says he has been - until they can be tried as adults in front of a kangaroo court which is almost certain to convict them? That seems suspiciously like a war crime; it sure as fuck is a miscarriage of justice. Barack Obama, despite campaign promises to close down Guantanamo Bay, continuing to play ball with that system - maintaining troops in Iraq, keeping Gitmo open - is also complicit in war crimes (to say nothing of his willingness to allow the war criminals from the previous administration to go unpunished; will Bush and Cheney and co NEVER see the inside of a prison? Or does Mr. Obama figure getting a couple of shoes thrown at you in public is punishment enough?). I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but in my conception of "war crimes," they are simply NEVER things done by 15 year olds to defend their family or country from violence, period; it's an insult to the concept of war crimes to accuse Omar Khadr of such a thing. The Canadian government's willingness to play along with the US through the process of Khadr's detention and now his pending trial is an embarrassment which can only serve to legitimize "the enemy's" hatred of liberal democracy and give the monsters behind 9-11 a reason to include Canada on their list of future targets. It's a list I'd rather not we not be on, thanks. Aside from that, it's simply morally wrong. Oh, and by the way - it also makes the Canadian government complicit in war crimes. Real ones. Serious ones.

Not that that seems to be anything to be afraid of, these days.

I hope young Mr. Khadr continues to resist cooperating with his trial. In a strange way, I'm kind of proud of the guy for having the sense and the guts to do so. I can't see what good cooperating would do, especially when the injustices against this kid are so fucking massive. I hope someone in the Canadian government will read this and take note. Omar Khadr, at the time of his arrest, was a child soldier who needed to be REHABILITATED, not incarcerated illegally, pending a patently unfair trial (because how could a trial predicated by so much blatant criminality and injustice in any way be fair?). Now, he's the victim of a lengthy serious of criminal actions by the Bush regime, and while he is perhaps beyond rehabilitation, he is also beyond reproach. If we really want to be HONEST about the situation, he has been the VICTIM of war crimes, which we have been COMPLICIT in; he is NOT a fucking war criminal, and never was.

If I might briefly beg the Canadian government to get it right, it would kind of be an important issue to do something about. History is watching, and will judge us. Can we please get on the right side of it - the side that values, say, human rights, due process and the rule of law?

Because for SOME Canadians, these are still important ideas...

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Comforts of

What a strange dude I am.

On some level - the public level - I'm all for social responsibility in the arts. It's a shtick I've plied many times as a music journalist, for instance probing Lemmy's fascination for war and his collection of Nazi memorabilia (some of the best stuff I got from him only ran in Germany, by the way - like the stuff about how Lemmy owns some of Hitler's cutlery...). When talking with Bison BC, I've made a point of delving into the social subtexts of their songs, with the band obligingly helping me show how socially responsible they are - talking about the Wendigo as a model for addiction and powerlessness in the face of inward compulsion, for instance. I've decried albums by Fear, the Bad Brains, and the Descendents for their homophobia, called Antiseen on their racism, and on this blog, I've publicly criticized films like 28 Weeks Later or the recent remake of King Kong for their unacceptable, politically backwards aspects (constructing an argument in defense of collateral damage, in the first case, and toying with a very strange kind of racism in the second). I even found myself at least partially convinced by Robin Wood's rather famous attack on the films of David Cronenberg, in the OOP The Shape Of Rage, in which he argued that many of Cronenberg's films must be cited as sexist, homophobic, and reactionary. I am generally happy to wrap myself, as a writer, in the flag of liberal righteousness and condemn that which offends me...

...yet at no time do I do justice to the fact that I *love* Lemmy's war songs, that I positively revel in Bison BC's tales of backwoods Canadian cannibalism and possession, that I still sometimes listen to Fear, the Descendents, the Bad Brains, and even Antiseen... or indeed that I still own DVDs of 28 Weeks Later and King Kong (and several films by David Cronenberg, including Shivers, high on Wood's hit list). I do have limits, but I have to confess - I'm attracted to violent art. I crave the strong stimulation it affords and the provocative questions it raises (like, "geez, I enjoy this, but... is it okay?" Or perhaps, "Is this morally acceptable, and where can I get more of it?").

Liberal hypocrite that I am, then, now that I've returned to listening to metal, it makes sense that I would eventually find my way to the music of Cannibal Corpse.

Before we proceed, if you're unfamiliar with Cannibal Corpse, you really do need to check out a few of their lyrics. Take, for instance, "Necropedophile" ("Violated after death/ Virgin hole I infest/ Anal pore spewing cess/ The sacred juice I injest/ Your dead child I defile/ Necropedophile"). Kind of clever how lyricist Chris Barnes "softens" any objection to his writing about pedophilia by emphasizing that the kids were dead to begin with - because fucking dead children is a whole different matter if you didn't kill them first; but he goes there, too, for instance in "Gutted," off their very popular second album, Butchered At Birth, with its references to a "little torso ready to be cooked... just another gutted infant/ To satisfy his hunger." "His" hunger? Not "my" hunger? Well...

...But if children just aren't your thing, though, how about some violence against women? Try "Fucked With A Knife" or "Stripped, Raped and Strangled," say - or maybe "She Was Asking For It," all three songs off the same album, The Bleeding - their last with original vocalist and primary lyricist Chris Barnes. After Barnes left/ was ejected, we entered the marginally less revolting George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher period, where I don't think any children get killed; but there are still all sorts of extreme and politically unacceptable images in their songs - check out the video for "Decency Defied," say, about a serial killer with a fetish for skinning tattooed women. Still, violence against women in Cannibal Corpse 2.0 is tempered with more songs about men being mutilated and killed, and sometimes the band even gets cute about it all (as in "Headless," where a man who plans to decapitate a woman ends up finding himself "ironically" decapitated instead). They even start to have a few arguably politically progressive moments, as with "Rotted Body Landslide," a close-up depiction of the horrors of genocide, and write some songs that are actually kinda funny - as with "Dismembered and Molested," which almost has a singsong quality to it that makes it hard to take the band quite so seriously ("Sever the limbs/ Decapitate/ Yank out the teeth/ Then masturbate/ Pounding the face/ Ejaculate/ My darkest needs/ I satiate..."). Most of the lyrics are sung in a buffalo-throated, "death vomit" voice, as goes with the territory of death metal, so you can only pick out the odd word - less so when Barnes was the singer - but it doesn't matter, really: there's not really any point in asking whether the words to Cannibal Corpse songs are "okay," from a liberal point of view. If they were, the band would be doing something wrong.

Anyhow, if I'm going to hold bands like Cannibal Corpse accountable from a liberal standpoint, surely *I* also should be held accountable for owning eight of their albums (because since I stumbled onto Gallery Of Suicide in a used CD shop last month, I've acquired more and more of them, picking up Butchered At Birth, Tomb Of The Mutilated, Vile, Gore Obsessed, Worm Infested, The Wretched Spawn, and Evisceration Plague. It's about all I want to listen to, these days, actually. I even grabbed the dizzyingly complex Alex Webster math-rock side project, Blotted Science, and the Cannibal Corpse 3-DVD history, Centuries Of Torment, watching all the interview footage the first two nights of my owning it). Nothing cheers me up on my long commutes like listening to their grunted, bellowed vocals about mutilation and death. I can't flinch from it - I really, really enjoy Cannibal Corpse, even at their most repulsive. Can I possibly defend my fondness for this band?

I'm going to attempt to.

1. Men, more than anyone, are filled with pent up energies that cannot be released or expressed in normal life, being expected to master themselves so that they can function responsibly in the workplace or as adults. I don't know about y'all ladies, but from the moment I leave my apartment, whatever my drives and urges might be, I'm constantly required to reign myself in and to express myself in a social responsible manner. I have to watch where I put my feet to not crowd anyone sitting in my compartment of the train. Lest I make anyone uncomfortable, I have to be sure my eyes don't wander too obviously to check out the female flesh around me (which can sometimes be difficult, if, say, someone sits across from me in a short skirt, her thighs showing; there are strong desires to NOT do the socially conscionable thing, which I must repress). I must keep an eye out for the elderly, for children, for the infirm or challenged or what-have-you, to offer my seat if need be or assist them. Some part of me feels I am expected to intervene in the problems of people around me, to be a responsible, socially-minded male, so I have to maintain a certain degree of vigilance at all time - in case someone needs a hand with heavy lefting, say (or at least someone female, elderly, youthful, infirm - anyone but another able-bodied man; fuck him, he's a guy, he doesn't need help!). Or maybe there's an altercation or failure to communicate that I feel I have to intervene in; sometimes, as a responsible male, if shit is going down - and there's no one else around in authority - you find yourself in that position, suddenly drafted to act as cop, soldier, authority figure, even if you're shit-scared and want no part of it...
Hell, I may even have to engage in polite chatter with people, if they catch me before I can get my headphones on and start the Cannibal Corpse playing; God knows I don't WANT to chat with most of my fellow commuters, but they sometimes want to chat with me, and I must treat them civilly in such cases. Between the train station and work, I have to dodge panhandlers - restraining my pity, guilt, rage and revulsion - and the varied stresses and insanities of city street life to make it on time to my workplace, where the expectations on me amp up even more: I have to spend hours of my day considering the feelings and needs of coworkers, managers, students, and so forth, until I get to commute back home. If someone, God help me, manages to piss me off during the course of my day, being an adult male means having to process my emotional responses and choose judiciously among them. I cannot afford to unleash myself, normally. Any irritations that I do encounter are often borne home at the end of the day, sometimes continuing to nag at me. And just as anger or any violent urges must be suppressed during the course of the day, so, generally speaking, must any sexual thoughts and/or "taboo" impulses should they flicker through my brain. (Hell, sometimes it's a challenge to even fart freely).

2. Unfortunately, once I'm home, responsibilities don't cease. Many men have to look out for their families, their wives, their children, what-have-you; I have to look out for my Mom - to make sure we have a plan for dinner, to make sure she has the groceries she needs, to keep her company, and occasionally do paperwork and read her mail to her. Once again, mastery of self is required; since she is a sensitive woman who, on some level, feels guilty that I am devoting so much time to her, I cannot even begin to allow myself to show signs of frustration or impatience when I'm with her. It's not really that difficult - somehow, since my father's death and the pain in its wake, I do a much better job of being a loving, caring son - but sometimes I do get irritated, for example, when she has ignored her doctors' advice and worn restrictive stockings, which are very bad for her circulation, or has "forgotten" her diabetes and stocked up on chocolate bars... I have to watch myself at those times. And sometimes I do still miss my life in the city, regretting the remove I am at from friends, shows, my job... To some extent, any such feelings I have are irrelevant, however, only interfering in my being who I must be, as dictated by my responsibilities; I might be allowed to indulge them freely on my own, but when I'm with my Mom, I have another role to play, and must devote myself to it.

3. And my responsibilities don't end with work and family - they continue into my sex life, too. I was raised under the umbrella of 1980's feminism, which, in its most extreme manifestations, seemed to hold that men are fundamentally all rapists or potential rapists, to be regarded with great mistrust, and on some level, I'm probably still compensating for the male-bashing sentiments I was exposed to, trying to be a "sensitive," socially responsible guy when I get together with a woman. Even if all I want is to fuck & run, I don't want to be like the sleazy, weak men I've seen who manipulate their way into women's beds, use them, and then slink away; and I certainly don't want to be some thuggish brute who abuses his lover and thinks only of his own pleasure. In particular, those latter stereotypes of male behaviour - aggressive, phallocentric, dominant, unconcerned for female pleasure - were pounded into me through my formative years, even though most men I know - exposed to the same stereotypes - try TOO hard to take care of women, do TOO much for them, are TOO devoted, TOO kind, TOO subordinate, TOO concerned with being "sensitive" and "caring," sometimes getting walked all over - or taken utterly for granted - as a result. I think its fair to say that in terms of sex and relationships, at the moment, culturally the balance of power is definitely with the women. The man generally has to do all the work to attract the attention of the female, is still often expected to pay for her and be chivalrous, is expected to take care of her emotions and be attentive to her needs while still seeming masculine and potentially attractive - not always an easy shtick to pull off. But while men are being encouraged culturally to be and do all these things, women are being encouraged to be ruthless, aggressive, "you-go-girl" pirhanas, told to assert themselves, to demand the best for themselves, to think primarily of themselves, their pleasure, their careers, and so forth, and to feel no guilt over treating men badly. I've been with more than one woman who ran over me with no concern at all for my feelings or needs, and there are lots of women I pass on the street these days who just seem like vain, cold, self-involved bitches. It's no easy thing to try to find someone I want to be with, given the options... It's not a great time to be a man...
4. ...And with exposure to a certain amount of identity politics, the need to be a responsible human being extends itself even into my consumption of art and entertainment - or into my very inner life. As I mention above, there is a lot of art that I do enjoy that I feel politically conflicted about - another case in point would be Gaspar Noe. I found both Irreversible and I Stand Alone fascinating, exciting film experiences, but the violence against women in both films, and the somewhat poorly buried homophobia in Irreversible, made them just too politically uncomfortable for me to want to experience them again. I feel compelled to police my viewing, my thoughts, my feelings: are they politically acceptable? Socially responsible? Mature? "Good for me?" This seems to be happening more and more, with identity politics and the requirement to speak and act responsibly all the time finding their way into the world of music, film, comedy, cartoons... Especially if you're a white male - the symbol of the oppression of non-whites and non-females, the face of the "master race" of yore, however disempowered you may personally feel yourself to be - you have to watch what you do, say, think, feel, and are, pretty much all the time...
...and frankly, all of this gets fucking exhausting. The end result of my manifold feelings of responsibility to basically everyone around me and for the political implications of everything I feel and want - even what you EAT is politicized, these days - is that at the end of every day, there's a swirling cesspool of tension in my mind, heart, and gut, stemming from whatever unpoliced desires that arose from my id during the day, whatever unsatisfied emotional needs, unidentified frustrations, and various stresses that I have not had the time or energy to process as I leap from one responsibility to the next... There's so much in me that I haven't been able to let out or even properly feel that I feel kind of numb, alien to myself, unalive, a beaten, emasculated function of the needs of others - a function of society. It's a hell of a way to be - self-mastery as self-castration, a would-be wolf held accountable to the standards and norms of sheep...
Cannibal Corpse is phenomenally useful as a remedy for this condition. They don't just stimulate and excite, with their fast, techincally complex, often aggressive music; with their art and their lyrics, they dig into the id, into the gut, into the taboo and the debased and the dangerous, and create a space where no desire, however horrifying, however violent, however socially repugnant, is inexpressible, where "responsibility" is a meaningless term and freedom of desire and expression reign supreme. Ripping out guts, smashing in faces, defiling corpses, revelling in gore - its the antithesis of my daily life, the absolute mirror image of the kind of adult I have become, and somehow, being allowed to embrace and express and even revel in the saturnalia, at least in my daily listening, is a profound relief, stimulating, liberating, relaxing and strangely healing. It allows me to maintain my inward sense of identity, to assert my difference, to voice a small roar of protest as I go about my day that no one else can hear or be troubled by: because otherwise, I would be just another blank-faced commuter, another soul-dead jobbo, a middleclass, middlebrow mediocrity taking care of everyone but himself. ...And who takes care of me? Cannibal Corpse. I think their music is, in fact, socially useful, making it easy for men in my position to lance this swollen boil of tension and let the pus out, the better to maintain our responsible social roles the next day, knowing that at the very least, in our souls we are free; intuitively - even as I try to hide the cover art and song titles from my fellow commuters as I read along with the song lyrics, lest I disturb someone - I think its very, very good medicine for me.

.... unless I end up going on a kill crazy rampage, crushing people's heads with a hammer and playing with their brains, say. Were I to end up there, I think it would be safe to say that Cannibal Corpse were a bad influence. I guess we'll have to wait and see...!

David M.'s Lilith For Dudes, August 10th at the Railway

David M. is explaining to me that "the first rule of Lilith For Dudes is you do not talk about Lilith For Dudes" - or at least that's what's on one of the gig posters. If his band, No Fun, are "the Beatles of Surrey" - as someone, maybe David himself, once famously said of them - then Lilith For Dudes, happening August 10th at the Railway, is "the Fight Club of Folk Festivals" - tho' how folky it could be with Jim "I, Braineater" Cummins on the bill, last seen leaping about with Iggylike energy at the Ron Reyes b-day bash with Randy Rampage on bass, remains to be seen.

We're standing in the magazine department of Chapters on Robson, where the No Fun founder, singer/songwriter, and wry observer of contemporary life works. It's also where he has been playing free Saturday shows once a month for eight and a half years, sometimes - as I documented in a past Skinny article - to audiences no bigger than this writer himself (but I'm pretty big, so...). His sets, including No Fun classics like "Paisley Brainbolts of the Mind," David M.'s Ironic Acronym tunes like "Leonard Cohen Says Love," Elvis and Beatles medleys, Gorgo ads - still! - and covers of everything from The Cure to Rick Springfield, are always fun and funny, and I've long-enjoyed his asides about music history and his anecdotes about performing on the Vancouver scene since the 1970's. (I should get his Iggy Pop story on tape sometime). It looks like store renovations will be bringing an end to his Saturday shows - Chapters have asked him to do a three-month hiatus, in any case - so Lilith For Dudes, Tuesday at the Railway, may be your only chance to see David do his thing for quite some time.

David M. doing a solo version of No Fun At Christmas at the Railway Club, 2008; photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

With various Chapters staffers passing by, glancing curiously at my tape recorder (and the humble computer mike sticking out of it), I commence to interview Mr. M.

David: This is one of the posters (David hands me a gig poster, similar to the one below). Or - one of the posters is like this, but it doesn't say 'penises,' because I realized - with the kid it looked like... y'know... (he trails off). But that's an actual photo of me looking at M Magazine.

(Lilith For Dudes poster without the penises).

Allan: And it's got Jim Cummins, Ed Hurrell, Pete Campbell, "and their penises." I see. Ed Hurrell is from what bands?

David: Stab'em In the Abdomen and The Stoolies. The Stoolies is his current band. Pete Campbell was in the Wardells, and he still plays around town. Jim Cummins, of course, is Bumeater.

Allan: Okay. So. You're gonna all be performing together or separately?

David: It's the same as the Christmas show I do there - like, I do some stuff, and they come up and do things unique to the show. So it'll be... They can do whatever they want. With me, or by themselves, and with me... so its whatever happens.

Allan: When you say it's the same as the Christmas show, are we to expect No Fun songs modified to bring out a masculine theme?

David: They're all pretty masculine. Well, "Cream For Free" is one of the songs. "Entering Bikini Area." We're very masculine, anyways. It's for men. And the women who love them.

Allan: Anything else I should be telling people?

David: Well. Okay. Shut that thing off.

Allan: Okay, shutting it off.

(David pops into the backroom and finds some papers on his desk, as I peer around the corner, whereupon he changes his mind about the recorder and instructs me to turn it back on).

Allan: Okay, I'm turning it back on. David is going to read something here. This is a Lilith For Dudes manifesto?

David: Well, kinda. Okay. (Reads): "Bigger is better. Celebrate the sounds of the skin flute with David M. and his meaty friends Jim Cummins, Ed Hurrell, and Pete Campbell. These prominent penis Canadian artists will emerge from the Lilith for Dudes birthing tent to prove that men don't just make great French chefs, they make great music... Our no-gurls-allowed lineup is subject to sex change. Opposite sex music festival: sit your fat asses down, the 'original sex' music festival is coming! PS, as legally mandated by a recent Human Rights Tribunal Ruling, David M's Lilith For Dudes must conclude with a rendition of Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi.' PPS, a more recent Human Rights Tribunal ruling prohibits the use of the word, 'Mandated.'" ...That's all.

Allan: This is your press release?

David: No.

Allan: (Giggling).

David (hands me a paper with his handwriting - recognizable from No Fun cassettes of yore - on it): You can just read this, this is pretty much as it will go out.

Allan: This is the press release?

David: Well, it's a statement from a vagina doing a monologue. Are you reading it to yourself?

Allan: (Believing he has GIVEN me this document): Well, I don't need to read it into the tape recorder. I... then I would just have to transcribe it again.

David: Well, you'll get one of these in your email. I've got this new printer that won't scan. I just got it. So I could print the posters, but... I don't know. Computers. So I can't just send the poster from the poster thing, I have to scan it. But take a look at it.

Allan: I can take this? You're giving this to me?

David: No.

Allan: Oh, okay. (Reads into microphone): "Dark, mysterious and slightly moist, David M. will discharge enough hugely engorging music to deeply satisfy anyone who opens up and lets it in. There won't be a dry G-spot in the house as everyone squirms in their seats to such clit-tickling tunes as 'Cream For Free,' 'Leonard Cohen Says Love,' and 'Entering Bikini Area.'" ...I see.

David: That's exactly the voice I imagined it [being read in.]

For some reason, I turn off the tape at this point, perhaps fearing that a Chapters higher up might swoop down at any minute and accuse me of distracting David from his job. When, determining that the coast was clear, I start the tape again, David is talking about a blurb in, I believe, the Georgia Straight Time Out listings.

David: ...It said "musician/ comedian" - "comedian" is in there. Which I think is just entirely based on the posters and press releases and stuff usually being funny, not because they've seen the shows. I mean, they're not like comedy shows. There's funny stuff, usually, but they're music shows. So.

Allan: And some of your songs are actually depressing.

David: Well, it's meant to be cathartic.

Allan: Yeah.

David: You know: you get older, you get depressed.

Allan: Yeah! (Giggles).

David: Things get depressing. If you have any sense at all. So yeah.

(At this point, believing I have enough for a piece of writing, I turn off the tape again, but leave the play button running, resulting in several minutes of silence. When I hit "record" again, David is talking about opening for Alex Chilton at the Town Pump).

David: It was in the late 80's/ early 90's. He had sort of straightened out, but he was doing more R&B in his show than people really wanted. But anyways, we were playing, and we worked up a Gorgo ad based on "The Letter."

Allan: "My baby, she sent me a Gorgo?"

David (thinks): "My baby, she something me a Gorgo."

Allan: Gave me? Bought me?

David: "Give me a ticket for an air-o-plane/ I've got something sweet on my brain..." Anyways - just short, but right when were doing it - I didn't know this, but John Armstrong told me after, he was interviewing him I guess for the Sun. They're sitting in the upstairs room? And they're talking, and all of a sudden he stops, and goes - "They're doing my song!" And - John told me this - he explained, "Well, this is like a tribute, almost, kinda, because it's an ad for this product..." But that was his reaction.

Allan: Did he have a sense of humour about it?

David: Well, yeah - it was explained to his satisfaction. He seemed like a nice guy, actually.

Allan: I've heard more "he seemed like a cranky bastard" stories...

David: Well, we met him after he'd played. But they don't always seem like nice guys. Like, John Cale was a super-nice guy when he was all doped-up, the first couple times we played with him, but when he straightened up, then he was not very pleasant.

Allan: I liked John Cale better when he was all doped up, too, but just in terms of his musical output. I never met the man.

David: Yeah. His music was better, then. But whatever - I'm glad he straightened up, and he certainly doesn't have to please me. Some of his later stuff's pretty good.

Allan: I haven't really followed it. Sabotage is the one, for me...

David: Yeah. That's a great album. And there's the 2-CD set that has the three Island albums? And then the extra songs, the B-sides and singles. That's pretty hard to beat, as an entertainment package.

Allan (fondly): "Barracuda." "The ocean will have us all." You know, "Barracuda" would be a good song for you to cover? (Among my past contributions to Vancouver music culture: I convinced David to do versions of Neil Young's "Powderfinger" and Larry Norman's "Six Sixty Six" as part of his Chapters shows. I have also held his Gorgo, which is getting very old and green and even-scarier-looking.)

David: Well, yeah. And when he's yelling, it's always good.

Allan: I like it when he yelled. Okay, well - here's hoping that Tuesday goes well.

David: Yeah. It won't end too late - people can make their buses.

Allan: That's an issue for me.

David: And I'll say one more thing. It's going to be optional for me to do, but it's something I might do at the end which I've never done before, and people who like the original No Fun - the old No Fun - like, "Mindless Aggression" No Fun, because that stuff is so popular now - that classic Vancouver punk rock, 70's punk rock? - if I think people would like it, I'm going to do something that I've never done before, having to do with the original... the sound of the original No Fun, the original trio that did the EPs...

Allan: You're going to bring out a third member?

David: I didn't say that. Something. I can't really explain it.

(A brief pause).

David: Okay, I'll just tell you what it is (laughs). You've heard the EPs, right, with "Paisley Brainbolts of the Mind" and "Fall For Cliche?" ...All that stuff was recorded over a couple of years - a couple of albums worth of material and a double album worth of material, so it's like four albums worth of material. Mostly that's where the two EPs and "Mindless Aggression" (on the Vancouver Complication comp) come from. That's the original trio. Originally it was me and another guy and then I added a guitar player...

(A loud Chapters in-store announcement obliterates David's next sentence).

David: ...but I have all the four-tracks, and its kind of like, it occured to me that because people like that stuff, they might get a kick out of - I've dubbed off the four tracks everything but the lead vocals, so I can do my lead vocals fresh over the backing tracks that sound like No Fun, for people who know the EP's or "Mindless Aggression."

Allan: You could even invite people from the audience to do No Fun karaoke.

David: I'm going to be in the crowd while this is happening, so - climbing on tables - so yeah, that will happen. And there's one song that I don't believe that anyone has ever heard, which was the final song on our double album that we recorded. The song is called "Music By Humans," and this was recorded in like, 1977 - and already, what the song is about is that music by living people is better than... like, even back then, it was seeming like things were going to get a little too technically bent. The way we recorded it, on purpose - because we were super into building tracks and lots and lots of overdubs and stuff - was, each of the four tracks, one had drums, one had bass, and one had guitar, and one had the singing. And that's it. And this is the song, and it's a good song, but I've never been in a version of No Fun that would play it, because it was so deliberately... even the bass part was deliberately Mel Schacher from Grand Funk Railroad. The bass part that Jim the bass player played was a tribute to his incredibly dull bass parts. I remember reading a review of I guess their live album at the time that said that Mel Schacher's bass part "cuts straight from the heart of boredom." When you listen to the bass, it's almost all one note, no variation! He was a great bass player (laughing). Like, he could play whatever he wanted, but him playing that... So people will actually hear the pure, unadulterated, 'classic No Fun' trio sound on that song.

Allan: Wow.

David: Anyways, I've said too much, because if I don't feel like doing it, I'm not going to. But, like. If there's a whole bunch of people who are super into it. Like, I'd rather you didn't tell anyone... "Lilith For Dudes" is a big enough concept.

Allan: Yeah. And I'll try to fit the word "penis" in.

David: You have one. (Points at my pants): I can kind of see it there.

Allan: No, no you can't, David! Goodbye!

Keep an eye out for the upcoming album by David M's Ironic Acronym, Now Is Not The Time. Release date TBA, unless the title is some meta-level joke (since he first told me about it almost a year ago).

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Surveillance: A DVD Review

Another remarkable PV-bin DVD watched today - scored on a 2-for-1 sale with a pricetag of $3.99 at Rogers: Surveillance, the newest film by Jennifer Lynch. Wasn't much interested in Boxing Helena, which I only ever saw theatrically during its initial run; I thought it rather unfairly savaged by critics, but it wasn't much to my taste at the time, and I barely remember it now. I didn't know until reading her Wikipedia entry just now that she'd also, around the same time, directed a New Model Army video (I also didn't know that Justin went through a bearded phase, as seen in this clip). Other than that, there's not much else to report about her past career - she has taken a 15 year vacation from cinema, which is a shame, because she's clearly a gifted filmmaker with interesting ideas to impart. Surveillance garnered mixed reviews from the sort of journalistic jobbos who think Christopher Nolan is an important filmmaker, but has also won accolades in places that matter and the praises of a few heavy hitters (Richard Corliss of Time describes it as "Rashomon meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in Twin Peaks," which is a fairly nice - and reasonably descriptive - way to plug the film). Allow me to suggest that for cinephiles with discriminating tastes, its well worth seeking out.

Five observations about Surveillance:

1. Prior to viewing it, steer clear of any plot descriptions you encounter (tho' the trailer, linked under the title of the film, above, is relatively spoiler-free, if you need that sort of thing). Allow this film to surprise you - even confuse you; you will watch it with a more attentive eye, thus - and rest assured, it all will eventually make sense (perhaps in a slightly psychotic way, but there is a great deal of sense in psychosis - it's just bent).

2. If you want a thematic teaser to intigue you, consider this: there are various "levels of unreliability" in the film - including scenes where witnesses to a crime offer completely fraudulent and self-serving versions of events, viewed on videotape by investigators, whom we in turn watch - a nice little metacinematic fractal. These scenes are what prompted these aforementioned comparisons to Rashomon; unlike Rashomon, tho' - which faithfully represents the stories that the characters tell, so that there is no way, ultimately, to the truth of things, only the conflicting and biased human versions - Lynch undercuts the mendacity of her characters by showing us the "real" events unfolding, complete with the unreliable voice-overs of those testifying, often at great remove from what we are seeing onscreen. The film becomes a sort of investigation of the lies we tell in contemporary life, offering an unvarnished, deranged, blackly funny, and definitely anti-authoritarian parable about America. It is at times a bit far fetched, but parables can be like that.

3. Lynch really does need to crawl out of her father's shadow, to find a way to make films that are "Jennifer Lynchian," not "David Lynchian." No easy task, given her father's highly distinctive cinema and his role as executive producer of this film - and taking fifteen year breaks from filmmaking is probably not the best way to find your own voice; but the moments in Surveillance that remind one most of her father's films stick out and confuse, making her look less original and less confident than she otherwise would and limiting the credit she receives. Here's hoping she decides to stick around for awhile, and that she eventually makes films that are as fresh visually as they are in terms of their ideas.

4. And lest I seem to overpraise it, it is true that there are things other than the "Lynchian" moments that don't always work in this film - there is a busy-ness to certain of her cinematic choices that needs to be refined, and she tends to err on the side of excess, rather than restraint (which might also be said of her father - I mean, look at Wild At Heart, ferchrissake!); but overall, this is a detail-rich, highly cinematic, and thought-provoking film, a horror movie about life in America today. Fans of fairly fucked-up cinema like The Reflecting Skin will probably revel in it - there's some sort of kinship between the two films that I can't quite elucidate (see comments section below for more).

5. Finally, for those of you inclined to watch films in altered states, I think this one would be an interesting experience.

'nuff said. Bill Pullman, Julia Ormond star, small roles for Michael Ironside and Hugh Dillon. If you're resourceful enough, you can probably buy this in a Rogers or Blockbuster bin for less than the cost of a rental. Here's hoping it attracts a cult following - it deserves one.