Friday, April 30, 2010

The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II

In my mind heavy metal has always been for dads. Well, not for mine… but you see one wading through every crowd; Kiss tank top and stonewash denim, probably wishing they were cruising along to their Driving Anthems CD, mullet a-buffeting in the wind instead of it being picked at by the kid on their shoulders. My interest in this documentary then, was unexpected. Penelope Spheeris takes her cameras to Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip to follow the late-80s heavy metal scenesters and she asks them all the right questions. ''So what do you have to say to people who think your music maybe isn't all that original?'' she asks. ''Would you go out with a girl if she pays for some food if you didn't like her? Isn't that prostitution?'' and, ''Are you in it for the money?''. It’s hard to say where the trashy begins and the products of the time (be they mousse or hairspray) end but, after a while, the hairstyles start to steal the show. At first they are simply amusing. Then you feel the urge to run your fingers through them. And towards the end the faces are forgotten and the hairstyles start to take on their own personas, like little wispy creatures - which is a welcome distraction from the stupid and deluded answers the chauvinist dicks are giving underneath.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Got To Be "Real"

Harlem, 1987: the golden age of hip hop, the D.A.I.S.Y. age. I picture myself living on Sesame Street; kids play hopscotch and dance in formation on brownstone steps; gents tip their caps politely to ladies, who hang out of windows like old nylons. I wear a hi-top fade, high top Reeboks and a Starter jacket (except on Saturdays, when I wear roller skates). On balmy nights, folk take their parties to the streets; Native Tongues and Bambaataa reign supreme over boom boxes everywhere and whiskey flows all night from brown paper bags. Under fire-escapes and flashing neon signs, there are bodies spinning on asphalt and feet dancing on beer cans; there are heads swinging and legs pushing at the moon until day breaks.

An accurate pastiche or not, the vision through my cazals is most definitely rose-tinted. In the late 80s wake of Reagan's masculine wisdom, Harlemites weren't as all-embracing towards "otherness" as Elmo and Co. You could have been the kid from next door, invited to all the block parties and greeted affectionately by all in your neighbourhood as you were growing up; but come out of that closet and everything must change. Now, because of your sexual orientation and/or your gender identification you are an outcast, rejected by society. But, sister, there is nothing to lose by being outside a society that offers you only sufferance and subjugation. If the world doesn't accept you, create a new one.

Paris is Burning, a 1990 documentary by Jennie Livingston, captures the lives of Harlem men who did just so. Cast aside by their biological families, these inner-city homosexual men, predominately African-American or Latino, abandoned their daily struggle and strife to create an extravagant and heady subculture for themselves. In a rundown dance-hall, they incarnated their secret, glamorous selves and participated in elaborately structured Ball competitions. Music sets the scene; light piano plays for high-tone performances, disco and Aretha blear for the sequinned showgirl drag. Raucous spectators surround the performance space or hang over balconies like snipers, shooting snappy invectives at the competitors. An MC presides over this underground kingdom, ruling with a soft glove and an acid tongue, his words and wit as sharp as the moves on the floor.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sibylle Baier

Sibylle Baier - "Tonight"

Sibylle Baier - "Colour Green"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Petrona Martinez

Petrona Martinez - "La Vida Vale La Pena"


The Shaggs

Perhaps it's my instant endearment to any failed attempt at seriousness, perhaps it's my recurring support for an underdog, who knows, but there is something about The Shaggs that I find oddly appealing (I'm just not entirely sure it's their music). The same schadenfreude sensibilities that usually lead me to give Pick Me Up! a furtive browse while waiting at check-outs recently gave way to an intense, albeit passing, immersion in the band. And, just like the tales of exploding breasts and furry babies in those 'real-life' magazines, the story of The Shaggs is just as curious.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Monte Carlo

Diane Cluck - "Monte Carlo"

Guitar Boy

Follow the moves wherever possible and learn some High-Life hops...

Hippie Acid Freak Drag Queens

Picture a cross between a young Brad Pitt and Jesus Christ, wearing lipstick and a crotchless frock, perched camply in a tree and singing '30s show-tunes. Now drop acid and you will be close to visualizing Hibiscus, the etherial, messianic founder of notorious drag-and-drugs troupe The Cockettes.

When the hippie San Francisco of the '60s was paving way for the gay San Francisco of the '70s, The Cockettes documentary captures the precise moment when hallucinogenics, gay liberation, hippie communism and transgressive art collided. The Cockette House was just one of the three hundred communes in the city during the late '60s, but whilst most other communes were working together, trying to mutually sustain their utopian vision of life outside the economy, The Cockettes were living at the end of their chemically enhanced imaginations on ATD payouts (Aid to the Totally Disabled) and food stamps. Though most of their money (and time) was largely spent on acid and rummaging through third hand shops, they also used it productively to stage free 'theatre' for the hedonistic Haights-Ashbury community, even though most of them were tone deaf and/or couldn't dance.

Jazzbo & Whoosh

Jah Whoosh - "Yesterday Version"

Prince Jazzbo - "Natty Ting A Ling"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Gospel According to Andrew

Andrew Wartts & The Gospel Storytellers - "Peter & John Rap"

Mansions of Rastafari

Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus - "Keep Cool Babylon"

Streetwise (1984)

Antsy ennui drives every suburban teen itch to run away. Pent-up in your bedroom, a montage of rebellious liberation plays out in your mind's eye like a Bruce Springsteen song. You can picture the magic of summer nights spent roaming downtown; leaning on parking meters, a little drunk on Bud, running through the back alleys with your gang or joy-riding down the boulevard. You can feel the cardiac fanfare when you finally talk to that beauty, the street Venus, who looks so good that your vision turns tunnel and you see only her. Martin Bell captures the exhilaration and carefree abandon of this slipping through Seattle's system; the roller-blading around abandoned hotels, the high-diving off of bridges and the jumping on freight trains. But Streetwise drops on you like a cartoon anvil. For these kids, surviving on the streets is eating out of dumpsters, selling their blood and blowing old men. Its unwanted babies and drug addictions at 14. It's pimping their street Venus'. A beautifully shot documentary with some unforgettable imagery and poetic voiceovers so melancholy that they wouldn't be out of place in a Terence Malick film, this is My Own Private Idaho for real.

Música da Lagoa

Once upon a time, deep in a São Paulo rainforest, Hermeto Pascoal y O Grupa created a dreamy, chirpy melody with nothing but water, a flute and some bottles. This pulpy albino is one of Brasil's most beloved musicians, and once composed a song every day for a year so that everybody would have one for their birthday.