Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Psyche - “Unveiling The Secret” CD

Dark synth-pop masterpiece 

Edmonton electro duo Psyche’s sophomore album, this one originally from 1986, is a decided progression from their harsher horror-tinged debut. From the onset, the opening cut, “Thundershowers”, shows a slicker, more elegant electro-pop direction. Vocalist Darrin Huss’s melodic pipes are up front, while brother Stephen’s analogue keyboard programming fills the rest of the space admirably with a dark, filmic edge. 

“Caught In The Act” is a more mischievous, malevolent spirit. “The Darkside” showcases Stephen’s skill at cinematic instrumentals, before the legendary “Prisoner To Desire” reveals itself with a beautifully smooth yet melancholic dance-club angle. “The Saint Became A Lush” is another classic, with a foreboding horror edge, yet still remaining somehow stylish and classy. The whole album dates very well, and the remaster sounds great.

Extra tracks are plentiful here, too, making this the definitive version of this classic electro-pop album. Highlights include the dark, shadowy “The Crawler” and the electro-thrash of “Screaming’ Machine”. “Waiting For The Stranger” is another heavier electro-stomper with a bend towards Psyche’s earlier blood-and-guts horror sound. Listeners to this reissue also get extra remixes of “Unveiling The Secret” and “Unveiling The Secret”, both of which extend the tracks into clubland, plus some previously unreleased cuts. A superb release that deserves much attention to fans of both dark electro-pop and proto-industrial dance sounds. Psyche were there, and “Unveiling The Secret” is proof positive that they were ahead of the game even 30 years ago!

Psyche - “Insomnia Theatre” CD

Classic horror electro fix

This is the definitive version of the vastly under-appreciated 1985 debut from Edmonton electro duo Psyche. Fronted by the charismatic vox of Darrin Huss and backed by clear, cinematic synth soundtrack vibes by brother Stephen Huss, Psyche was equally as inspired by Suicide, Soft Cell, Fad Gadget, and John Carpenter’s soundtracks. In short, it’s a horror-shock electro vibe here, perfectly suited to fans of those artists or peers like early Skinny Puppy.

Beginning with the classic "The Brain Collapses", and continuing through greats like "Wink Of An Eye” and the midnight drive-in verses of "Maggots", this album, even after 30 years, brings some magnificent analogue electronic grooves.  "Eating Violins" is an instrumental track showing Stephen Huss's skill crafting film-quality electronica with an ear for both dark ambience and melody. It's a brilliant and memorable cut, for sure. The aggressive “Children Carry Knives” is another highlight, somehow reminding me of the group’s affinity for another Canadian horror great, David Cronenberg. The straightjacketed electro shock of "Wrench", the demo of the pop-leaning "Why Should I?", and the tongue in cheek late night horror of  "Mr Eyeball Ooze" also round out the disc’s lengthy set of memorable and unique electro.

This expanded remastered re-release includes the full original vinyl LP’s 8 cuts, plus 11 other tracks, including plenty of previously unreleased gems unearthed from the band’s vault. In short, it’s a treasure trove of classic electronics from a group that deserves much more notice.

“The Dicks From Texas” DVD (director: Cindy Marabito)

Love those Dicks

This 70-minute documentary examines the legendary Texan punk band, the Dicks, who remain woefully obscure today, despite influencing everyone from Ian MacKaye to Henry Rollins (both of whom appear here, by the way). Director Marabito includes interviews with nearly all members (even archived ones with members and associates since deceased), including the charismatic frontman Gary Floyd, whose sexually ambiguous and unashamedly homosexual persona were quite a 1-2 punch alongside his outspoken and confrontational political and social satire.

“The Dicks From Texas” isn’t a super-slick or necessarily clean film, with some footage being rough and VHS-based. But that’s forgivable, given that most of this stuff is from the early 80s. There are some great stories here, from a time when being “punk” or different often meant harassment from the mainstream. The Dicks live on today with the occasional reunion show, and this film is a loving tribute to one of the weirder (and that’s saying a lot) underground acts spawned in the lone star state.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

“A Dog Named Gucci” DVD (director: Gorman Bechard)

Dog who made a difference

Now, this is a moving, touching, and beautiful documentary. Initially based around the life of Gucci, a precocious 10-week old puppy who was intentionally set on fire in 1994, this film shows just how animal cruelty laws have been radically changed across the US by grass-roots efforts and those who care. Gucci lived to be 15 years old and received proper medical care and a loving forever home, and his plight inspired Alabama to enact new and stronger animal cruelty laws. 

The cases behind other maimed, tortured, or murdered dogs are also examined here, alongside interviews with their caretakers and animal rights activists. It’s a harrowing film, and not one for the ultra-squeamish, of course, but it does bring a positive message ultimately, as since the cases here have come to trial, every state in the US now considers animal cruelty to be a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. That’s a big win for those of us who cherish our animal friends and housemates. 

Director Berchard received the 2015 ASPCA Media Excellence Award, and rightfully so. “A Dog Named Gucci” shows that every individual who stands up for animal rights can indeed make a difference. And although there are still thousands of cases of animal abuse every year that go virtually unnoticed and unpunished, there are plenty of us who do stand up and fight for the rights of our Earthly brethren — canine, feline, or otherwise. 

Rigor Mortis - “Welcome To Your Funeral: The Story Of Rigor Mortis - Part 1” DVD (director: Bruce Corbitt)

R.I.P. Mike Scaccia

This documentary, produced with the direct involvement of the surviving Rigor Mortis members as a tribute to their fallen guitar legend Mike Scaccia (later famous for being Ministry’s mid-to-late period guitarist), covers the inception of this influential Texan speed metal outfit until 1987, when they signed to Capitol Records. It’s a solid and reverential collection of rare footage, both live and behind the scenes, with tons of interviews with friends and band members telling all sorts of sordid tales of the band’s legendary drunken brawls, parties, and hellbent live shows that fused brutal death and speed metal with a horror/gore slant.

Narrated by Philip H. Anselmo (yes, he of Pantera and Down fame and infamy), this is a thoroughly entertaining and intimate portrait of one of Texas’ best loved (and hated) bands. Speed and gore metal fans who are familiar with this band need to check this one out, and even those curious as to the genesis of a band who’ve since influenced a shit-ton of metal bands, would do well to see this one. It’s not overly slick or packed with digital graphics, but it’s a great document and a fitting tribute to a real-life guitar hero.

“The Nasty - Terrible T-KID 170 (Julius Cavero)” DVD (director: Carly Starr Brullo Niles)

Rough but informative doc on graffiti art legend

A quick (49-minute) documentary on the life and times of infamous NYC graffiti artist Cavero (aka Terrible T-KID 170), this rough and tumble collection of old, hand-shot footage and recent interviews (with Cavero himself, namely, alongside some of his peers and fans) isn’t much to look at, and may only be of limited interest, but it’s certainly a must-see for fans of renegade street art.

Friday, January 8, 2016

“Dog Years” DVD (director: Warren Sroka and Brent Willis)

Smart and emotive indie

This little indie film comes across with little fanfare or notice, but damned if it doesn’t deliver with an entertaining and complex storyline that I fell into right away. Featuring both directors (who are also the writers, commendably) in the lead acting roles, “Dog Years” is the tale of a pair of estranged American brothers who find themselves together in Tokyo (both for different reasons), and working to resolve their family issues in very different ways.

The pair don’t get along, being of completely different temperaments and attitudes. Elliiot’s dismissive attitude towards his brother Ben’s overbearing positivity is gradually eroded, until he starts to see a light at the tunnel during his business trip to Japan. Ben’s relationship with the culture also becomes strained, but the brothers come to terms with their predicaments in different ways. This is a story of human interaction and maturation, and it works pretty well.

Billed as a sort of comedy-drama, even on the packaging, I found “Dog Years” to be a bit more serious than that. It’s not perfect, but there’s solid acting and a great story here that make for a really enlightening and engrossing watch. No spoilers here, but suffice to say, this is a completely worthy little indie film with much to offer. Nice work, guys.