Monday, July 20, 2015

The Leather Nun - “Whatever” CD

Superb return from Swedish legends

Returning to the scene after a 20+ year absence, Sweden’s Leather Nun have created a stunning and powerful return to form with “Whatever”. Known mostly in the 80s for their association with Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records (who released their debut EP in 1979) and their flirtation with stateside success with their darkly catchy “I Can Smell Your Thoughts" single in 1987, Leather Nun’s sound falls somewhere alongside Iggy Pop’s artier experiments (in and out of the Stooges) with a trace of Velvet Underground and a touch of industrial around the edges. 

This album of mostly new material opens with the lovely and introspective “All Those Crazy Dreams”. “Outside My Window” is a rumbling rock song with an ominous air, before the tongue-in-cheek interlude “Dancing In The Rain (I’m In Love)”. “Red Hot Gwen” begins with a late night piano before erupting into a sleazy big blues sound, albeit with Jonas Almqvist’s trademark Swedish-accented English. It’s a mix that’s distinctive and unique. The revved-up electro-blues of “Godtherapy” takes its name from the Jonas-led post-Leather Nun band of the same name, and fits well alongside the other cuts here.

Other standouts include the anthemic “Star (Yes You Are!)”, the haunting “I’m Not Afraid”, the swaggering “Mainstream”, the touchingly sensitive piano remake of “For The Love Of Your Eyes”, and the atmospheric “Another Rainy Day”. Yes, the whole album is top-tier.

“Whatever” is anything but negligible or passive. This is a complete return to form for a band on the verge of being forgotten (at least in America), and is the perfect continuation from the band’s past. Any fan of the Leather Nun’s “old days” will be delighted by this collection of melodic-yet-often heavy, sleazy-yet-romantic, and well-produced rock sounds that snarl darkly alongside a cheeky wink or two. A great album, period.




Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pearl Jam - “Long Strange Road - 25 Years At The Edge” 2xDVD

Repackaged retro

This unauthorized extended documentary combines the previously-released “Under Review” DVD with another previously-released DVD, “In Their Own Words”. So serious fans should scrutinize this accordingly if it’s worth their time. Sure, the gatefold packaging is nice and all, but this isn’t clearly marked as a “re-packaged” set, so the intent is to unscrupulously sell this to the uninformed. Beware!

That said, for the Pearl Jam novice, this set is a massive (170 minutes total) collection of biographical info (DVD 1), with the usual journalists and music writers chiming in their opinions over photos and films. DVD 2 is a load of haphazardly-arranged interviews with the band from TV over the years. Supposedly, most of these are already available online for free viewing, so again, this set is only recommended to the most fervent Pearl Jam fans.

Casual fans need only see Cameron Crowe’s superb official documentary, “Twenty”, rather than this amateurish collection.

Pride/Sexy Intellectual


Nirvana - “In Utero - 20th Anniversary Tribute” 2xDVD

Repackaged retro

This repackaged set of 2 full-length “unauthorised” DVDs from Pride DVD (aka Sexy Intellectual) is a pretty solid wealth of info for serious Nirvana fans. Disc 1 is simply “In Utero: A Classic Album Under Review” from a few years prior, which of course examines the band’s rise and fall with a focus on their final studio album. Plenty of journalists and biographers are interviewed here, as well as several people who were close to the band. There’s nothing here that will shake the ground for Nirvana fans or solve the supposed mystery/conspiracy theory of Kurt’s suicide, but expect plenty of obscure anecdotes and stories from some folks who were supposedly there for the band’s rise.

Disc 2 is a lengthy (90 minute) collection of extended interviews from the first disc, including deep conversations with Cobain’s grandfather and former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing. Again, there’s a load of collection trivia represented here, and proves a fascinating (if exhausting) watch.

Serious Nirvana fans, this may be a must-see. Casual fans like me? Take it or leave it.

Pride/Sexy Intellectual

D.O.A. - “To Hell N’ Back” DVD+CD

Bounty of live footage of Canadian punk legends

Ah, the inimitable Joe “Shithead” Keithley and DOA still bring it, being Vancouver’s far-and-away godfathers of punk. This 90-minute selection of live footage covers some of their gigs from 2011 to 2013, and it’s a fine showing of blitzkrieg punk in the classic vein like few others can do. Quality here is decent to good, and certainly better than bootlegs, so fans (you know who you are) need to grab this one pronto.

Plenty of the greats are here, from “Police Brutality” to “Class War” to “Fucked Up Ronnie”, with around 27 others to pummel and educate you, and that’s not even including the bonus footage.

And to further sweeten the deal, there’s a free CD attached, as well, that being the band’s 2012 album “We Come In Peace”, which you can believe is packed with essential punk-ass madness like only Joey Shithead can conjure. You get guest vocals from Jello Biafra on a remake of the band’s classic “General Strike”, and several other less-notable guests to add color to DOA’s already diverse sound. 

DOA’s political side is more than evident as always, as are their odes to marijuana and beer, but that’s not telling you anything you don’t already know. DOA basically wrote the book on punk in Canada, so here’s a toast to one of the greats. Hail DOA!


Monday, July 13, 2015

“The Point” DVD (director: Fred Wolf)

Charming kids fable with classic folkie Nilsson

This beloved children’s cartoon from 1971 is as charming as it gets, really. Featuring some old school pen and ink animation, and based on (and featuring) songs by the great Harry Nilsson, this is a timeless fable that’s suited for pretty much any age.

It’s the tale of Oblio — a boy born into the Land of Point, where everyone and everything has a “point” on their head. Oblio is round-headed. Suffice to say, Oblio gets into trouble when a mean-spirited pointy boy picks on him and gets him (and his trusty dog Arrow) banished from their society. Oblio goes on an adventure and learns many lessons on his travels in the Pointless Forest.

Cute and educational without being too preachy or heavy-handed, “The Point” includes the voice talents of Mike Lookinland (aka Bobby Brady) and Ringo Starr (the narrator). And Nilsson’s beloved folk songs throughout give this one a homespun and human element that much of today’s animated features lack.

A wonderful film for kids or adults alike.

“Every Everything: The Music, Life And Times Of Grant Hart” DVD (director: Gorman Berchard)

Husker Du alumnus deserves a look

Having not been much of a fan of Minneapolis’ most inspirational punk/post-punk band Husker Du, I’ve never truly explored much of either Bob Mould or Grant Hart’s careers over the past 20+ years. Well, a shame that is, as this excellent documentary proves.

Looking at the life of drummer/singer/songwriter Hart from his own viewpoint (Hart is interviewed extensively here), his art is examined beginning pre-Husker Du and progresses through that band’s highs and lows, as well as his forays into solo rock and pop with bands like Nova Mob, his relationships with William S. Burroughs, Patti Smith, Bob Mould, Black Flag and the SST label, and even his visual art. Hart himself “hosts” this film, so it’s a very personal and honest portrayal of the events in his life.

Director Berchard has done a masterful job in collecting rare photos and films, and Hart’s well-spoken and charismatic personality more than provides a great intro to his world.

A wonderful film about a great artist who deserves more notice. Fans both casual and hardcore need to check this one out.




Saturday, July 4, 2015

“Freestyle - The Art Of Rhyme” DVD (director: DJ Organic)

Hip hop culture historical

This documentary dates back to an original theatrical release in 2004, but that doesn’t tarnish the impact and importance of its message. Taking a deep and historical look at the early days of hip hop and the art of improvisational rap, “Freestyle” traces the lineage from Jamaican toasting to gospel preaching to modern street hip hop, all the while illustrating it with interviews and rare footage from early proponents and important figures like Mos Def, the Last Poets, and Aesop Rock, to name just a few.

From a historical standpoint, “Freestyle” is pretty well a definitive lesson in itself of the culture, eschewing most commercial angles and pop culture icons and focusing on the reasoning and skills of the early street MCs themselves, some obscure and forgotten but all very skilled and worthy.

This is a fine documentary and should be a must-see for anyone who professes to live or respect hip hop culture. Superb!