Music

Darkthrone - The Hardship of the Scots (2019) by Joel Goodman

Darkthrone has been making music for almost as long as I’ve been alive, and they’ve dabbled in all kinds of heavy and extreme genres from Death Metal to Crust and of course, Black Metal. The records that Darkthrone released during their black metal era are maybe the most influential of any the genre has ever seen, and provided the soundtrack to the lives of nerds the world over.

Many years ago, back when I had free time (pre-college and pre-fatherhood), I would play board games twice a week in friends living rooms, and A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Under a Funeral Moon, Transilvanian Hunger, and Panzerfaust were permanent fixtures on the turntable while we were playing Descent, Mage Knight, Power Grid, or any other overpriced chunk of cardboard. Those records don’t see much action anymore, but they defined that period of my life.

Darkthrone have churned out a new slab of wax every two or three years since their first album in 1991, and whenever one comes out I make a point to find it and give it a serious listen. This time around, the boys have combined the fruits of their previous experiments in Heavy Metal, Crust, and Black Metal, and the results are very impressive. The album is called Old Star and it’s my favorite of theirs since Transilvanian Hunger. There are zero low points; all killer, no filler. I’ve posted this for your enjoyment. Do yourself a favor if you love heavy music and buy this record.

Movies! The Green Inferno, Under the Silver Lake, and The Inventor by Joel Goodman


The Green Inferno (2014)

2.40/10.0

 
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Eli Roth has a problem. He, like Quentin Tarantino, grew up on grindhouse cinema and was inspired to emulate midnight movies in his own career. But unlike Tarantino, Roth doesn't do anything to elevate exploitation films. He instead takes the worst qualities in those movies and accentuates them while leaving out any nuance or charm, until the only thing left is an ugly emulation of what people who don't know a lot about movies think of when they hear the word "Grindhouse".

In the case of The Green Inferno, he has taken the worst movies of the 70's and 80's (Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and all of their ilk) and reproduced all of their hallmark ugliness without making an attempt to do anything new and without putting an artistic spin on it. His attempts at humor fall completely flat (specifically the spider scene and the "munchies" scene), so what we have here is a joyless piece of trash. This is the worst horror film I've seen in recent years. I could not wait for it to end. I wish that Eli Roth, who is obviously cinematically literate, would put more thought and effort into his homages to vintage B movies.


Under The Silver Lake (2019)

8.45/10.0

Really interesting film about the sinister and unseen side of Hollywood. Also features subplots about secret codes and hidden meaning in pop culture, and also a plot thread about a dog killer that is almost certainly the main character. This film feels like David Lynch doing Hitchcock, like a psychedelic neo noir. This is one of the most unique and well executed films I've seen in a long time, but I was surprised to find that only half the people who have seen the movie agree with me. The other half seems to have loathed it. Go figure. The film careens from one weird set piece to the next in such a dizzying fashion that the gripes that critics had with this film are almost understandable, but they still miss the point. This movie deserved a wide release but was apparently so divisive that A24, which is normally much better at this kind of stuff, decided to just release it on VOD instead of putting it in art houses where it belonged. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing score that makes this feel even more like a Hitchcock movie.

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The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

6.20/10.0

Entertaining documentary about a vapid grifter that somehow managed to liberate countless Silicon Valley VCs of their hard earned cash with promises of a product based on impossible science. Recently Elizabeth Holmes has been the subject of numerous books, podcasts, documentaries, and news magazine segments. This doc hits most of the points that all the other media concerning this woman does, and it's well made but feels like it lingers too much on some aspects of the story while leaving out some of the more important/interesting bits, such as Sonny's hostility towards dissent and Holmes' clearly fake-as-all-hell baritone affect. Worth watching if you have HBO.


Chromatics - Kill For Love (2012) by Joel Goodman

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been seven years since this record came out, but here we are. What’s most surprising about that is that this LP has aged extremely well for such a stylized product. There a timelessness to Chromatics that Johnny Jewel’s other projects doesn’t have going on, maybe because of the up-front presence of the guitar and drums, or the ethereal, instantly appealing vocals of Ruth Radlet. Chromatics are equally at home being played in your bedroom or living room as they are at a club, which is more than I can say for some other neo-italo disco groups.

This LP is still the group’s best work. The lone miss on this record is the needless, puzzling inclusion of a cover of Neil Young’s Into The Black. They choose to open the record with it, which is just weird. But that shouldn’t deter you from sticking it out, because the rest of Kill For Love is an amazing, cinematic experience that should be listened to from front to back, in one sitting, as loudly as possible.

Released by Jewel’s Italians Do It Better imprint, this is currently out of print in all physical formats, but the vinyl can be had for somewhat reasonable prices on Discogs.

The Yellow Balloon - Yellow Balloon (1967) by Joel Goodman

The Yellow Balloon was a prefabricated sunshine pop band put together in 1967 by producer and songwriter Gary Zekley. This band is perhaps most famous for employing the drumming capabilities of Don Grady, better known for starring alongside Fred McMurray in My Three Sons. Determined to make it as a musician on his own merits, Grady went by aliases and donned wigs and dark glasses in an attempt to conceal his identity.

Perhaps the added notoriety could would’ve been a good thing, because The Yellow Balloon released just one record in their short life, an insanely catchy self-titled LP that quickly went out of print but was reissued by Sundazed in 1996. It looks like the vinyl isn’t offered anymore, but if you’re keen on CDs they still have ‘em. Otherwise, you can buy digital.

Interesting note: according to Wikipedia, Daryl Dragon from Captain and Tennille (and brother of Surf Punk Dennis Dragon) was also in this band at some point, presumably playing keys.

FILMMAKER - Crepuscular (2018) by Joel Goodman

Pretty cool atmospheric post-punky electro from Colombia of all places. Filmmaker throws analog drum machines and synths, delay-drenched guitar, and 8-bit sounds all into a blender and what comes out is pretty fucking tasty. They have 7 releases to date, and they’re all available for a pittance on their bandcamp. Honestly, I would have felt good about posting any of their records (they’re all good) but I picked this one because the cover art (which I assume is done by the band themselves) reminds me of the NES game Shadowgate.

Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens (2018) by Joel Goodman

This is a full stream of the Hot Snakes latest offering, courtesy of Sub Pop itself. There was quite a lot of excitement leading up to the release of this album and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. Hot Snakes’ records have gotten progressively better and better since releasing their first album Automatic Midnight in 2000, and with Jericho Sirens they have matched, if not improved upon their previous record (2004’s Audit in Progress.)

Standout tracks include Six Wave Hold Down, Psychoactive, and my favorite track (and maybe my favorite Hot Snakes song, period) Death Camp Fantasy.

MIttageisen - Neues China (1983) by Joel Goodman

This track opens the eighth volume of A Tribute to FlexiPop, which was a series of compilations released on CDr in the 2000’s that paid tribute to the 80s magazine that bundled each issue with a flexi disc loaded with awesome new wave and electro music. These tribute comps somehow made their way to record stores in Portland, where I was living at the time. I recall eagerly snatching up any volume I could find. My physical copies are lost to time but most of what was on them is easy to find on YouTube. I recently tried to track some of these discs down on Discogs, but they’re blocked for sale for some reason. It would be amazing to see a vinyl release of this stuff. In the mean time, YouTube will have to do.

The Lavender Flu - My Time (2016) and Vacuum Creature (2016) by Joel Goodman

Those of us lucky enough to have been in Portland in the early 2000’s have a lot to be grateful for. We had something of a renaissance going on there for a minute, with amazing bands like Fireballs of Freedom, The Exploding Hearts, Junior’s Gang, and The Hunches playing what seemed like every night at one of the many smoky and sticky-floored bars and clubs that made up Portland’s punk rock circuit. We had a little of everything from the punk and punk-adjacent spectrum of genres, from power pop to garage rock to New Wave and literally everything in between. And the best part was that is was all good. Every band seemed to be musically literate to a ridiculous degree, and capable of and willing to break new creative ground and take chances.

Perhaps no other band embodied that trail blazing spirit more than The Hunches, who put out three flawless LPs and a handful of 7”s in their all-too-brief tenure. The Hunches were always the best band on the bill, no matter who was playing. To me, the best memories of first five years of the new millennium will always include watching The Hunches play Dance Alone on the second floor of Billy Ray’s on a Friday night. After they split up, the four members of the Hunches spent the following years starting bands such as Phantom Lights, Sleeping Beauties, and the subject of this post, The Lavender Flu.

The Lavender Flu is the brainchild of guitarist and vacuum cleaner player Chris Gunn. It’s as interesting and listenable as you’d expect from the guy that wrote The Hunches music, and maybe even more varied than you’d think going in. Gunn covers all sorts of ground with his new band, from indie rock to kraut-rockish psychedelia, and somehow manages to make it all sound fairly cohesive. The debut double LP from this band was released in 2016, and I’m posting two songs off that here. The first is a Bo & The Weevils cover and the second is an experimental, spacey original that sounds like two different Eno songs played simultaneously.

Norma Fraser - The First Cut is the Deepest (1967) by Joel Goodman

The best version of this Cat Stevens-penned song wasn’t Rod Stewart’s, and it definitely wasn’t Sheryl Crow’s. That honor belongs to Norma Fraser, who recorded it for the legendary Studio One label (AKA the Motown of Jamaica) in 1967. This has made it to a whole heap of compilations through the years, most notably the Studio One Soul comp issued by Soul Jazz Records. Soul Jazz was cool enough to upload a playlist of most of the tracks on that record, so don’t stop with this tune.

Futurisk - Army Now (1982) by Joel Goodman

Synth punk will now and forever be one of my favorite sub-genres of music, and I think this is one of the better examples of it. It’s not one of the best known examples, which is a shame. Futurisk was a short lived but very good band whose only LP saw a reissue a few years ago. Copies of Player Piano go for about $45.00 on Discogs, and it’s worth every penny in my opinion. If that’s too rich for your blood, you can get it on iTunes as well. This jam is my favorite of theirs (my three week old son seems to like it too), but you should do yourself a favor and give a listen to everything these Floridians did, because it’s all good.