Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Confessions From The Grassy Knoll" DVD / "I Shot JFK: The Shocking Truth" DVD / "Spooks, Hoods, & JFK: The Shocking Truth" DVD

Trio of conspiracy theory documentaries

The whole labyrinth of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 is a thick and mysteriously impenetrable one. I don't profess to knowing much, and it would take a lifetime of research to even gather a serious, well-educated opinion on just what happened that fateful day. Covert involvement by organized crime and the US government itself (perhaps with the participation of the mob) have been implicated for decades, but there's yet to be any 100% verifiable and accurate resolution, and I doubt there ever will be.

Nonetheless, these three independent documentaries all strive to present a different side to the story, with mixed results. Most well-rounded is "Confessions From A Grassy Knoll", which covers the widest scope, and features the most input from supposed insiders and sources. It's also the most entertaining and professionally-produced, with plenty of newsreel footage, photos, and interviews.

"I Shot JFK" is based around an intense prison interview with James Earl Files, who, before his death, confessed to the murder -- immediately throwing into question the truth behind the accused murderer Lee Harvey Oswald's role in the whole plot (if there was one). Files was a charismatic fellow, for sure, and many of his claims were seemingly very accurate despite the FBI's assertion that he wasn't "credible". At the least, this is an entertaining and inspiring interview, and it makes an ideal second part to the previously-mentioned "Confessions From The Grassy Knoll" release.

"Spooks, Hoods, & JFK" takes a different side, and is based around an in-depth interview with CIA operative and mob associate Chauncey Holt, who died a week following this interview. He brings a series of experiences and associations to the forefront in his version, and encompasses world powers, the US government, and more mafia connections. A lively film, this one feels like an old instructional film, with dry narration. It's an intriguing look at some other possibilities, but, as with any films of this ilk, it's all down to what you want to believe.

Overall, these are some fascinating documentaries, perhaps to be taken with a grain of salt, so to speak, but interesting nonetheless.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Beer: New Belgium - Hoppy Bock Lager

NEW BELGIUM - HOPPY BOCK LAGER (Fort Collins, CO) - 4.0 (excellent)

So, Fort Collins' premier craft brewery, New Belgium, has started a seasonal series of experimental hop-forward beers, delivered every few months in 22 oz. bombers for an enticingly low price. Under the aegis of "Hop Kitchen", this is the first in the series. I picked this gem up for only $4.19 at a local specialty shop, and I'm glad I did.

Pours a pale, clean golden with a rich and thick head of white carbonation.  Beautiful, detailed lace. Nose is toasty grains and grass, with a touch of floral hops somewhere in there. Promising start! Taste is sweet lager malts up front, with a bitter citrus hops finish. Drinks very lightly and easily, despite the 6.9% ABV. 

I really liked this one. Well-done, and I managed to pick up another before they were gone.

Headcount - "Lullabies For Dogs" CD

Post-punk aggro rockers return

Existing on the fringes of alternative rock, metal, and post-punk since 2002, English punks Headcount have released their 4th studio album, and it's a welcome change from metallic poses and hipster indie rock. Featuring legendary Adam & The Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni, "Lullabies For Dogs" is a heavy and smart  assault on the senses.

Opening with an atmospheric intro, "Liar" begins things with a near industrial backbeat alongside a chugging rock bass and guitar thunk. They've been compared to Therapy?, and that comparison does hold some weight. Lead single "News Corpse" follows, and it's a solid post-punk stormer that reminds me of Killing Joke or Prong almost. But this isn't a case of Headcount aping those bands, mind you. I needn't say that they have serious ties with the KJ boys going back some years, working with Paul Raven and recording for Mike Coles' Malicious Damage Records. Anyhow, the following tracks also exhibit a fiery, intense predilection for taut bass and drums, punk-tinged vocals, and moody but aggressive post-punk guitars. A strong, sturdy album of hard rock grooves for a more forward-thinking audience.

The Vibrators - "Greatest Punk Hits" CD

Classic UK punk greatness

As an original English punk band from the heyday of 1976, I expected a more...punk sound than this somehow. Regardless, this compilation of tracks from their early days to 2010 hits some high notes. I get less spikiness, and more power-pop from these guys on cuts like "London Girls", "Whips And Furs", or "Baby Baby". "Sweet Sweet Heart" is another winner, with, well, a sweet sweet chorus.

If this material were new (it has aged exceptionally well), I'd call this pure indie pop with an oh-so-slight sneer and snarl. That is to say, "Greatest Punk Hits" is far more tuneful than your average modern-day punk act. "Amphetamine Blue" is the Clash meets Cheap Trick, maybe. "The Kid's A Mess" is a driving classic punk tune with both ferocity and a great melodic sense. And the rest of these cuts (which date from 1976 to modern times) are equally as strong. Classic punk fans, this is a must, especially if you aren't already familiar with this great act. They're actually still active, even, and touring in late 2013, so check their site (linked below) for dates.

"In Heaven There Is No Beer" DVD (director: Dave Palomaro)

Kiss Or Kill in Los Angeles

As a loving tribute and look back at the 2002-2007 Los Angeles "Kiss Or Kill" scene, this feature-length documentary examines the hows, why, and whos behind it all. Sure, the bands all remain obscure to outsiders (Bang Sugar Bang, The Dollyrots, or the Randies never crossed my path here in the Midwestern US), but the devotion of their local fans seems to remain unwaning.

As an upstart reaction to the Los Angeles "pay-to-play" era, and the cut-throat behavior between bands and clubs, a group of individuals began to organize shows as acts of solidarity between bands, bringing cheap tickets, cheap beer, and a sense of punk rock community to the Sunset Strip. Dubbed inexplicably "Kiss Or Kill", an array of diverse indie rock and punk bands joined forces, and, together with a legion of faithful fans and clubs, supported their own scene for 5 years. Intervention from labels and jealousy eventually got the better of it all, and "Kiss Or Kill" split. This documentary interviews all the scene's major players and fans, giving their own insights into the inevitable rise and fall. In the spirit of true "DIY", this was a scene with it's heart in the right place.

A fine documentary, and a great "souvenir", I'm sure, for those who were there.