Monday, September 30, 2019

Review: Tyrnaround's 'Colour Your Mind: Expanded Mind Edition'

As eighties pop got more and more synthetic, certain bands started bucking the trend to embrace an archaically organic aesthetic. Some of these artists took the retro move even further than Paisley Underground groups like The Three O’Clock and The Dream Syndicate, who borrowed sounds from the sixties without pretending to actually hail from the trippiest decade. The Damned and XTC both devised faux persona as Naz Nomad and the Nightmares and Dukes of Stratosphear, respectively, to fool record collectors into believing they were long-lost psych bands of two decades earlier.

Perhaps Australia’s Tyrnaround didn’t go quite that far, but they certainly left no detail of their music and persona un-colored by their favorite era. They dressed and wore their hair like The Byrds. Like Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, they played loopy fuzz rock and layered on the backward tapes while celebrating eccentric individuals and the joys of tripping. Like both of those bands, Tyrnaround was very groovy.

Now Guerssen Records is placing that grooviness back in the grooves with an expanded vinyl reissue of Tyrnaround’s 1986 E.P. Colour Your Mind. The “Expanded Mind Edition” of that disc jumbles its original four tracks with five bonus tracks that include both sides of their “Want a Rhyme” b/w “Hello or Goodbye” and “Uncle Sydney” b/w “Uncle Jack” singles, as well as the magnificent compilation track “Paragon-Smythe” (complete with a warped advert for a Who Sell Out-esque coda). Audio and packaging are both superb. A download card affords an additional half-dozen bonuses of demos and live tracks. These include covers of “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, “Astronomy Domine”, and “Theme from Dr. Who”, placing as bold a line under Tyrnaround’s modus operandi as that photo of them posing with Beatles, Monkees, and Cream discs on the back cover of Colour Your Mind: Expanded Mind Edition.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Review: 'Polyester' Blu-ray

Poor Francine Fishpaw. Her husband owns a porno theater. Her son is a foot fetishist who gets off on stomping the shoes of unsuspecting women. Her daughter suffers from some sort of wiggling syndrome. Francine’s grim existence encapsulates the worst of being a twentieth century housewife. Could salvation from that existence be the possibility of romance with dashing Todd Tomorrow? Or does disappointment and madness await Francine?

John Waters’s Polyester is both a parody of Douglas Sirk’s classically overwrought melodramas of the fifties and an awkward bridge between Waters’s early gross out movies and the relatively mainstream likes of Hairspray and Serial Mom. It is awkward because Waters has trouble striking the right tone for this comic-tragedy. It is at its best when going for straight comedy in the director’s usual over-the-top vein. No one nails that tone better than Mary Garlington as incessantly squirming daughter Lu-Lu. Strangely, it’s Waters mainstay Divine who seems to have the most trouble acclimating. Tasked with playing the only normal character for once, Divine bounces between moments of somewhat-sincere soap opera acting and grotesque over-acting to portray Francine’s ugly decent into madness. I prefer to see Divine throwing Cha-Cha heels tantrums to sobbing into a hankie, thank you very much.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Farewell, Sid Haig

The stars may get the asses in the theater seats, but it's often the weird character actors and actresses who make watching movies fun. Few character actors were weirder or more fun to watch than Sid Haig. 

After starting his entertainment career drumming with The T-Birds ("Full House", a tune that suggests Angelo Badalamenti found more than a little inspiration from it when he wrote the opening jitterbug for Mulholland Dr.), Haig settled into a long-run as a small and big screen fixture, and he has a special place in we Psychobabblers' hearts for his multitudinous roles in culty and horrory TV and films. The cat found a place in Batman as one of the few henchmen almost as colorful as the villain for whom he henched (the hilarious King Tut), Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the amazing Spider Baby, C.C. & Company, THX 1138, The Big Doll House, Coffy, The Six Million Dollar Man, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, Jason of Star Command (in which he starred as Jason's arch nemesis Dragos), Fantasy Island, Jackie Brown, a bunch of Rob Zombie movies, and well over 130 other things. 

While he was known for his over-the-top strangeness in these parts, Haig always came off as gracious, kind, and humble when discussing his lengthy career. Sadly, Sid Haig died of a lung infection this past Saturday. He was 80.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Review: The Beatles' 'Abbey Road Anniversary Edition' on Vinyl

Perhaps The Beatles didn’t intend Abbey Road to be their final album, but that’s the way things turned out, and it’s difficult to listen to the album and not take its finality as a conscious statement from the band that rearranged the face of pop. The Beatles were still rearranging it at the end with the ingenious medley that salvaged several of Lennon and McCartney song scraps.

More significantly, the songs point to where each Beatle would head during his solo career. Lennon exorcised his demons Plastic Ono Band-style with “I Want You [(She’s So Heavy)” and played the dreamer Imagine-style with “Because”. McCartney served up a neat pastiche with “Oh! Darling” and the kind of fluff that would cause critics to pile on him—often unfairly—throughout the seventies with “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. With “Octopus’s Garden”, Ringo delivered the good-natured tunefulness apparent in the band’s most surprising solo success. George also showed he had the stuff to make what could be the seventies’ greatest album—All Things Must Pass—with his first-rate contributions “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Review: Debbie Harry's 'Face It'

The apparent irony of Debbie Harry’s career is that despite being in her thirties by the time she became a star, despite her classically fine voice, despite Blondie’s radio-ready pop songs, she and her band got lumped in with the punks. Look, no one is going to mistake “The Tide Is High” for “Blitzkrieg Bop”, but Harry’s story is actually pretty punk. She survived in the heart of infamous mid-seventies NYC when rats and violence were in equal abundance, she survived drug addition and sexual assault and now speaks of both nonchalantly, she survived a turbulent career at odds with her consistently massive fame, she survived getting ripped off by music-business weasels, she survived the severe illness of boyfriend and band mate Chris Stein. Don’t get taken in by how Sid Vicious’s tragic trajectory is glamorized—surviving is punker than dying.

Harry lived through it all to tell her story in Face It. Through 350 pages, she burns through uncountable harrowing experiences without ever seeming excessively bothered or bitter about the hard times or overly impressed with the triumphs. Debbie Harry is nothing if not cool.

Along with discussing her musical career in satisfying detail, she discusses her troubled personal background and attempts to reconnect with her biological family, her strange pre-fame encounters with Buddy Rich and Timothy Leary, her relationship with Chris Stein (though she’s still mum about the specifics of their break up), her less celebrated couplings with thPenn Jillette and Harry Dean Stanton, her film work with David Cronenberg and John Waters, her odd projects (stand out: attempting to remake Godard’s Alphaville with a starring role for Robert Fripp), her infatuations with pro wrestling and some weird shit she calls sprang-a-langs, her sexual, chemical, musical, and fashion preferences, and her own iconic status.

Face It is also a fabulously designed book. Photos are often embellished with cheeky cartoons and there are several multi-page sections devoted to fan art. It’s a gas to see that Harry’s style-consciousness is even at work in her autobiography.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Farewell, Ric Ocasek

At a time when The Cure and Devo were still a wee too weird for audiences of cheerleaders and jocks, The Cars were tuneful and non-threatening enough to drag the New Wave into the mainstream. This does not mean they skimped on the oddness. Mixed amongst irresistible pop confections such as "My Best Friend's Girl", "Good Times Roll", "Just What I Needed", and "Let's Go" were quirky numbers like "Shoo Be Doo", "Moving in Stereo", "Candy-O", and "All Mixed Up". Plus, you had Ric Ocasek's disaffected hiccups leading even the catchiest Cars tunes. The guy exuded cool with his shades on a beanpole image, and his knack for writing perfect pop songs makes that first Cars album sound like a proper Greatest Hits comp. 

Ocasek was also an outstanding producer, helming works by an impressive array of artists that include Suicide, Romeo Void, Bad Brains, Weezer (he's behind their career-defining "Blue" album), Bad Religion, Jonathan Richman, and Le Tigre. And I for one will forever insist that he did not help Guided by Voices create a too-slick career misstep when he produced 1999's Do the Collapse; he helped the band make the best album of the 1990s.

Sadly, Ric Ocasek was found dead yesterday in his apartment in NYC. No specific cause of death has been revealed yet. By most accounts, he was 75.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Beatles Expert Reveals Band's Plans for an LP after 'Abbey Road'

As we near the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road, there will no doubt be a lot of talk about how it was the final album The Beatles' recorded. However, according to Beatles-historian Mark Lewisohn, the album that literally ends with "The End" was not intended to be the end. The author of the ongoing, exhaustive, three-volume biography The Beatles: All These Years, told the Guardian that there is a tape of John, Paul, and George discussing the format for a post-Abbey Road album (Ringo was in the hospital with gut issues). The tape was recorded on September 8, 1969, just 18 days before the release of Abbey Road.

Lewisohn reports that John wanted separate credits for the non-collaborative Lennon and McCartney songs included on the disc, which he also wanted to be more democratic, with four songs apiece by those at the meeting and two by Ringo. Things get snippy when Paul complains about the quality of George's pre-Abbey Road material and George defends himself while John takes a swipe at the quality of Paul's own "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," which his bandmates famously loathed. Nevertheless, Lewisohn insists that the vibes were generally good and that a lead-off single was even being planned for X-Mas 1969. Read more in the profile of Mark Lewisohn over at the Guardian here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Review: 'Kak'

If the lackadaisical rhythms and aimless noodling of too many late-sixties San Fran bands implies an overindulgence in acid, then their frenetic pace, vicious guitars, and rhythmic chaos suggests that amphetamines were Kak’s drug of choice. The band’s self-titled debut and sole LP is an invigorating artyfact of acid rock’s least interesting scene. By the time the guys get around to the more typically laid back, west coast sound of “I’ve Got Time” and the Donovan-esque “Flowing By”, we can all agree they’ve earned a respite after sweating through “Everything’s Changing” with its incongruous marriage of hippie-sloganeering and punk attack, the stunning “Electric Sailor”, and “Disbelievin’”. Flip Kak over, and find the group reinvigorated for the hellfire blues of “Bryte ‘n’ Clear Day”. The token epic “Trieulogy” lacks the verve and tunefulness of what preceded it, but by that point, Kak have earned enough good-faith points to be forgiven an indulgence that is still livelier than the jams most of their peers were producing in ’68. Hell, if The Grateful Dead had one-tenth of Kak’s energy and nerve, they might have actually earned their cult.

Guerssen Records is now reissuing Kak on vinyl with no detail overlooked. The vinyl is super quiet, the audio is super powerful, and the cover is heavy stock. This lovely package includes a booklet with a band member interview, a nice-quality obi and a collectable card depicting the band’s logo.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Review: 'Supreme Glamour'

The Supremes were the top American group of the sixties, having more number-one hits than any other group aside from The Beatles. They were also similar to their British rivals in the impact they made on the fashion world. Just as the Fabs’ mop tops, collarless jackets, and Cuban-heeled boots would loom large in their legend, The Supremes are unimaginable without their bouffants and slinky, sequined gowns.

Mary Wilson— the only Supreme to stay with the group throughout all their incarnations— held onto a lot of the stage wear her group donned throughout their career, and she displays them in Supreme Glamour. The groovy thing about her and Mark Begos new book is that it does double-duty as a pocket autobiography of Wilson’s Supreme years and a luxuriant display of the fabulous garments in which she, Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Cindy Birdsong, and Jean Terrell sang and shimmied.

Designed by the likes of Bob Mackie, Michael Travis, and LaVetta of Beverly Hills, these outfits represent some of the most flat-out artistic work of what I believe to be fashion’s finest era. Close ups of intricate bead and sequin designs hint at just how much work went into The Supremes’ incredible stage act.

Too bad that photos of the women in these spectacular creations aren’t spotlighted quite as much as images of the dresses on headless mannequins, but there are still a lot of pictures of Wilson and her cohorts in costume, particularly in the two-part autobiographical portions of Supreme Glamour. While this obviously isn’t as in-depth as Mary Wilson two proper autobiographies, Dreamgirl and Supreme Faith, it’s still satisfying and unafraid to deal with the group’s grimmer experience of which there are many. Yet Wilson does not betray an iota of bitterness, and her good-natured tone remains light enough to accompany a vibrant portfolio of gowns as sure to make you smile as a spin of “Where Did Our Love Go” or “Love Is Like an Itching In My Heart”.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Review: 'Stephen King at the Movies: A Complete History of the Film and Television Adaptations from the Master of Horror'

Early in Stephen King at the Movies: A Complete History of the Film and Television Adaptations from the Master of Horror, Ian Nathan drops some stunning statistics. Apparently, the Master has written or inspired some 65 movies, 30 TV programs, and 7 episodes of TV anthology series. That must be some sort of record, and it certainly justifies the existence of a book like Nathan’s. Fortunately, the author knew just what to do with this overdue project.

Stephen King at the Movies is part photo book, sneering with nasty full-color images culled from the many King screen works, as well as some neat behind-the-scenes looks at these films and shows’ creations. Nathan does not allow the photos to do all the heavy lifting though. He supplies satisfying making-of accounts and critiques of each of the numerous pictures he discusses in an entertaining tone appropriate to his subject matter and with the critical distance to acknowledge that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is great despite what King says and that the King-approved mini-series version is thoroughly mediocre.

For the most part, Nathan allows a couple of pages to pore over each film, but for the cream of this creepy crop—Carrie, The Shining, Misery, Stand by Me, etc.—he devotes as many as eight pages. Along the way, there’s some interesting trivia, such as a nuggets about how Warner Bros. offered Stanley Kubrick The Exorcist and Warren Beatty almost played the James Caan role in Misery. Visual and textual fun, Stephen King at the Movies should keep fans occupied as they suffer the always brief wait for another King project to splatter across the screen.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Review: 'It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Music from the Original Soundtrack' on Vinyl

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip was special because of its willingness to acknowledge the failures of childhood. Its TV-special incarnation built on that specialness with the refreshing move to cast actual child actors in the roles of Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, and the rest of the gang, and Vince Guaraldi’s sophisticated yet whimsical jazz score. The elliptical arpeggios of “Lucy and Linus” can still launch a million memories for anyone who grew up watching Charlie Brown choose the scrawniest X-Mas tree on the lot or Snoopy battle the Red Baron.

Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas was released in conjunction with that TV special in December of 1965. Our fellow Peanuts have had to wait a lot longer for the release of the soundtrack to the second most popular Peanuts special. Last year, Craft Recordings put out a CD soundtrack for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Because original tapes of Guaraldi’s score were apparently unavailable, the disc consists of music pulled straight from the special’s soundtrack. That means audio fidelity is a bit weak and non-musical sound effects are often audible. Sometimes this enhances the mood, as when spooky groans and giggles intrude on the mysterious “Graveyard Theme” or Snoopy weeps along with Schroeder’s rendition of “Roses of Picardy”. Other times, incongruous plops and crinkles invade the music to baffle anyone who cannot remember the accompanying visuals well. Because many of these pieces are mere passing cues, they often fade out as soon as they fade in, and there is a great deal of repetition. Versions of “Lucy and Linus”, “The Great Pumpkin Waltz”, “Charlie Brown Theme”, and “Trick or Treat” each appear three times, making for some pretty repetitious listening over the soundtrack’s skimpy twenty minutes.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Music from the Original Soundtrack is now making its vinyl debut just in time for Halloween season. Because it is so brief, all seventeen short tracks are lumped on one side of the record. Side B is devoted to one of those vinyl etchings that are becoming increasingly common, much to the frustration of audiophiles who’d probably prefer that the music be spread over both sides so that the disc could spin at 45 rpms instead of 33 1/3. Of course, considering the lo-fi nature of this soundtrack, increasing its speed probably wouldn’t make much sonic difference.

Nevertheless, Guaraldi’s music remains an evocative, magically autumnal time machine to some of our happiest Halloween memories, so Craft’s soundtrack album is still a nice souvenir…though it’s no substitute for sitting down with the kids to actually watch Linus waste his Halloween sitting in a pumpkin patch like the blockhead he is.

All written content of is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.