Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Review: 'Now Is the Time to Invent! Reports from the Indie-Rock Revolution, 1986-2000'

A big part of running Psychobabble involves trawling the Internet in search of cool-looking upcoming books to review. One that interested me when I came across its pre-order page on Amazon was Now Is the Time to Invent! Reports from the Indie-Rock Revolution, 1986-2000, and I immediately put in a review-copy request with Verse Chorus Press. That was October 2012. For whatever reason, the book didn’t come out that year or the year after that or the year after that. It just kept getting put off, but my interest never waned, because I could never find much retrospective coverage of eighties/nineties indie-rock. In fact, I often feel like that whole scene was some weird dream that only I dreamt, a dream that left behind fab recordings by nocturnal phantasms such as Throwing Muses, Pavement, The Breeders, and Belle and Sebastian. While there’s never been a shortage of nostalgia for all things fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, the only thing from the nineties anyone seems to remember is Friends, and Friends sucked.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review: 'Limelight: Rush in the ’80s'

The first volume in Martin Popoff’s biographical series on Rush ends just as the band is on the precipice of world domination… or at least, serious popularity outside of Canada. The second volume, Limelight: Rush in the ’80s, continues the story Neil Peart-style (that means it doesn’t miss a beat). We know we’re in superstar territory when the book begins with a discussion of Permanent Waves, Rush’s first album to go top-ten in the UK and US. The hardships and struggles of the previous decade are a distant memory, and the trio hits their artistic stride with the three most unimpeachable albums in their catalog.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: 'Jimi Hendrix: The Stories Behind the Songs'

Jimi Hendrix is one of Rock & Roll’s definitive artists, and quite likely its most original and innovative musician. However, his recording career as leader of the Experience and solo artist lasted less than four years. During that time he put out just four albums, but his unreleased recordings became a cottage industry starting with 1971’s The Cry of Love. There is enough of that material in circulation that David Stubbs was able to put together a whole book called Jimi Hendrix: The Stories Behind the Songs in 2003. The book critiqued and analyzed every available Hendrix recording, while placing it all in historical context.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Farewell, Diana Rigg

We Americans had Batman and Batgirl. The British had John Steed and Mrs. Emma Peel. I won't argue over who was cooler, but both dynamic duos brought groovy-mod style, flash action, and buckets of irony to mid-sixties TV. Mrs. Peel was not Steed's first partner, but she's the one Avengers fans tend to remember most fondly, largely because of Diana Rigg's unforgettably bemused performance.

A discussion of Diana Rigg's career will likely begin with the pop-art ka-pow that first made her household name, but her career hardly hinged on The Avengers. She was Vincent Price's mustachioed co-conspirator in Theatre of Blood. She was the only woman to marry James Bond (if ever so briefly) in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. She was memorably miscast as plain-Jane Helena in the boffo 1968 adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. She starred Paddy Chayefsky's bizarro medical-drama/monster movie The Hospital, cameoed in The Great Muppet Caper, hosted PBS's Mystery!, and proved she was still unimaginably cool when she played Lady Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones.

No matter the role, Diana Rigg always imbued it with her innate charm and the gravitas of a first-rate actor. Sadly, she died today of cancer at the age of 82. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Review: 3 Martin Denny Reissues

After New York-born pianist Martin Denny relocated to Honolulu, he became so enamored with the local sounds that he cooked up a new hybrid of laid-back jazz and Polynesian music that is now credited as a cornerstone influence of so-called “Tiki Culture”. The origins and execution of Denny’s music funk it up with a strong whiff of kitsch. He let percussionist August Colon loose to babble a wacky stream of birdcalls over the tunes. The covers of his albums pose white model Sandy Warner in tableaux and wigs intended to sell her as Polynesian or Asian. Song titles such as “Jungle Madness”, “Sake Rock”, and “Pagan Love Song”, as well as Denny’s signature term “exotica,” are sure to give modern audiences pause. Any song with a title referencing China or Japan inevitably begins with the bang of a gong. Yet, the beauty, innovation, and magnetic retro-appeal of Denny’s music are undeniable and on full display in a new vinyl reissue series from Jackpot Records.
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