Friday, February 17, 2012

The Twilight Sad - "No One Can Ever Know" CD

Being a big fan of these Scottish lads' previous work, I was shocked to find this new one doing a complete 180 on me. Their third studio album is a marked change, and it's not necessarily a good one. Whereas their past work was dynamic "sad bastard" rock with elements of post-rock and shoegaze, this new incarnation adds synthesizers and a glacial New Order/Joy Division vibe. Cool on it's own, but when it comes at the cost of the band's proven strengths, it's downright disappointing.

Vocalist James Graham's thick and distinctive Scottish accent is still present, but the music on "No One Can Ever Know" seems like an entirely different band. "Not Sleeping" seems to drone on, going nowhere in particular. "Another Bed" is shimmery synthpop with a wall of keyboards that drown out the vocals. The single, "Sick", is the best, reminding me of Radiohead a bit.

I'd like to think that this album is a one-off experiment for the boys, as their anthemic rock hooks and emotional connection seem to have been detached here. (Fat Cat)

Twilight Sad site

Tindersticks - "The Something Rain" CD

The English gentlemen of Tindersticks have been quietly producing their distinctive and stylish blend of narrative and theatrical rock-slash-sound poetry for 20 years now. "The Something Rain" is their first vocal-based "pop" album after several film soundtracks. It all begins with "Chocolate", a cinematic bit of storytelling courtesy of frontman Stuart Staples.

With similarities to Scott Walker, Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, or Leonard Cohen, the Tindersticks' classy, literate music is mellow, mature, and moody, drawing inspiration from European traditions, as well as vintage soul ("Show Me Everything") and noir soundtracks. For example, "Medicine" is a slyly romantic slice of melancholy, and "Frozen" is like a classic nocturnal spy-thriller in audio form. No, Tindersticks don't "rock", but they do possess a great skill at subtlety with sound, and in a tangent rock format. Well-done! (Constellation)

Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters - "Bikers Welcome, Ladies Drink Free" album

Al Jourgensen, headmaster for industrial metal kings Ministry, has become a self-parody in recent years, and has all but alienated most of his past co-conspirators. But damned if this new project isn't the best stuff he's done in some time.

As his long-promised country and western band, Buck Satan is a rollicking good-time joyride, full of songs about drinkin', fightin', and general rabble-rousin'. Forget the powder-puff, pretty-boy country icons of today, Al and company are channeling the spirits of Hank Sr., Buck Owens, and the like. This isn't parody, but sincere homage.

"Medication Nation" proves that Al can still pen a catchy tune. "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man" is a Gram Parsons cover, and is as silly as it sounds. Buck Satan's songs are hard-luck, tough-living anthems for a generation that has lost touch with it's country roots. My sole complaint is that the drum programming seems out of place. Nonetheless, a "Bikers Welcome" is a surprisingly fun record. (13th Planet)

Crucifuge - "Vestri Animus est Mei" CD

This debut from Evansville, Indiana metal act Crucifuge opens with the propulsive "Souls Of Darkness" and continues with the raging thrash/death metal of "The Noose" (which is only sullied by a dry production). Musically, the band brings (chiefly) classic thrash elements to the table, with a dual assault of gurgling death vocals and shrill screams. "Insanity Overdose" shows off Jesse Izsak's more melodic vocal style (reminding me a bit of Burton Bell of Fear Factory). Other tracks showcase elements of power metal, gothic metal, and even grindcore. In fact, these guys change it up so much that I'm left a bit confused as to their true identity. It's a strong first showing, but Crucifuge aren't fully there yet. (self-released)

Crucifuge site

Various Artists - "The Jettisoundz Promo Years" DVD

This collection of 50 clips from 1983 onwards presents 'Fifty of the top names from the independents', according to the packaging. My take is that this is a fine representation of the UK indie scene from the 80s-90s, with plenty of performance videos and some genuinely amateur promo clips that bring to mind the grand old days of watching weird new bands on "SNUB TV" or "Night Flight" on cable TV.

We get plenty of obscurities here, from classic punk (Exploited's ham-fisted "Sexual Favours"), hardcore (Crumbsuckers), garage rock, death-rock (the Birthday Party rip-offs Inca Babies), indie folk (Michelle Shocked or Robyn Hitchcock), Sunset Strip-style glam (Tygers Of Pan Tang), space rock (Hawkwind), psychobilly (The Meteors), blues (Turnpike Cruisers), exotic pop (Sheila Chandra), and cut-up electro from 2-Kut, featuring future KMFDM/Pig frontman Raymond Watts and Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld.

The crowns here, from my point of view, are the inimitable Alien Sex Fiend, who's classic acid-electro-rock of "Buggin' Me" and "Ignore The Machine" are underrated slabs of weirdo proto-industrial rock, and Psychic TV, who get 3 solid post-acid house videos in "JOY", "R.U. Xperienced (with Caresse P-Orridge), and "I.C. Water", their loving tribute to Ian Curtis.

Sure, there's a lot of naff stuff here to slog through, but with a few true gems, this one can be a nice part of the collection. (Screen Edge via MVD Visual)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Zombie Allegiance" DVD (director: Tony Nunes)

Hmm. Another forgettable entry into the zombie sweepstakes. Like a shoestring "Walking Dead", this one tries to be more than it is. Like, we get a love story somewhere amidst the bloody gore and necrophilia. But beyond that, there is little here to warrant closer examination.

The storyline, acting, and characters are pedestrian (even unlikable), and "Zombie Allegiance" covers no ground we've not already seen ten times over. None but the staunchest zombie fans should apply here. I say, avoid. (Independent Entertainment)

"Sexually Deranged" DVD (director: Oliver Hunt)

This atrocious, ridiculous, repugnant, and heinous torture porn micro-indie is laughable from the get-go. The believability is sacrificed immediately, as an attractive and heavily-tattooed girl is brutally tortured in a religious zealot's basement. But rather than the victim sobbing and screaming as she's being "violated", this girl seems to be giggling. Seriously.

It doesn't get any better from there. Like a softcore gone horribly awry, "Sexually Deranged" has little going for it, aside from plenty of jiggling breasts and a constant barrage of tasteless simulated sex scenes. Honestly, the only things brutalized here are those who willingly watch this one. Nay. (Independent Entertainment)

"Stiffed" DVD (director: Billy Garberina)

Like a budget mash-up between "Reservoir Dogs" and "Shaun Of The Dead", this micro-indie summons a clever idea, and works it admirably. First, the premise is good fun...a trio of bumbling robbers die in an auto accident, only to be re-animated by a black magic-worshipping stripper to do her bidding. There's a wicked mess of gooey gore (well-done), and a little sex to spice things up, too.

Overall, "Stiffed" is alright, though not a classic by any means. Some of the acting is, puns aside, stiff, as is the dialogue. Thus, I can't fully recommend this one, though I did notice some fine ideas and well-done cinematography. (Independent Entertainment)