Sunday, April 29, 2012


(Sexy Intellectual)  (Guest review by Gary Pig Gold)  Although it's already spent well over two years here in the ol' sty, I'm hardly surprised to find I'm still discovering, hearing, and even seeing fresh goodies galore buried within that great big Neil Young Archives box of mine. Yet it is something else entirely which has me writing today about The Greatest Living Canucklehead This Side of Dr. Stompin' Tom Connors.
Now, while some may take offense a mere three-minutes-twelve into the show at the comment Toronto, Canada is, and I quote, "a city not noted for its musical invention" (plus, if you look real close, note photos of Buddy Holly and Sonny & Cher appearing later are actually of impersonators, NOT the real deals), Sexy Intellectual's Here We Are In The Years: Neil Young's Music Box does present quite the journey through the past. And, as The Man himself would approve, this is one documentary which seldom finds itself in the middle of the cinematic road; it does indeed prefer a somewhat rougher ride, and we sure do see more interesting people there as a result.
For example, young Neil's original drummist Ken Smyth of The Squires, who right off the bat drives clear home that all-important point of how Mr. Presley especially shook to its very foundation the hitherto genteel teenaged population of Winnipeg circa 1956 (and, putting our eyes where Ken's mouth is, we're treated to a vintage clip of Elvis, Scotty, DJ and Bill mauling Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" all across the Dorsey Brothers' televised Stage Show: One can't help but draw the obvious socio-musical connections with those Shocking Pinks to come …to say nothing of Live Rust). Similarly, footage of a live "Birds," complete with its "over, it's over"s, draw undeniable parallels with and to another unmistakable early influence: That "fucking opera singer with a backbeat" (as Neil once called him) Roy Orbison. 
Next up, no less an authority as George Tomsco of The Fireballs explains precisely how such torchy instrumental combos as his provided the foundation upon which those early Squires were built along with, need anyone add, The Shadows from Britain and their brilliant guitarist Hank Marvin. Luckily, our hero soon found his very own homegrown, hometown tutor of the electrified six strings in Randy Bachman, whose own baby bands were at this point already filling the Winnipeg community clubs with sounds until then only heard deep within Neil's head.
But as it did countless others across the universe in 1964, the "smart, interesting music" (as Anthony DeCurtis calls it in the Music Box) of those Beatles abruptly pointed Neil, the hitherto self-confessed guitar nerd, in a bold and new direction. Choosing the opening and closing numbers off Capitol Canada's brand new Beatlemania! album, "It Won't Be Long" and "Money," to make his vocal debut in Squires performances – and stubbornly ignoring catcalls from the audience to "stick to the instrumentals" – Neil the singer/songwriter was duly born (and a years-later clip of "When You Dance I Can Really Love" draws that fab line clear back to "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" by Neil's fave Beatle George).
"Mr. Soul" for starters was soon to demonstrate as well Neil's admiration for those anti-Beatles, the R. Stones (and their "Satisfaction" in particular). Plus, of course, we can all hear just how much "Lady Jane" still inhabits that admittedly "Borrowed Tune" of his too. Funny, then, how Neil's career would later straddle similarly opposing camps while doing time in both his own Beatles alongside Messrs. Crosby, Stills and Nash whilst simultaneously taking rougher rides atop that wholly Stone-headed Crazy Horse (…one guess as to which affiliation Neil preferred).
This musical duality is even more pronounced when in 1965 Neil returns to his birthplace Toronto, enthralled and active within that city's hard-knocking Yonge Street Strip as well as the burgeoning, comparatively refined Yorkville Avenue coffeehouse scene. All of which prepares him perfectly for a subsequent escape to Los Angeles and his first major successes with the one and only Buffalo Springfield. Here, finally, was a band which allowed Neil to vent the entire gamut of his myriad musical upbringings clear back to Elvis and the Big O via Beatles, Stones and Yorkville's resident Dylan disciples.
Many musicians, documentary makers and viewers alike would be happy to rest upon the many laurels and adventures 21-year-old Neil had already racked up so far. But as we all know, this story is far from over, and Here We Are In The Years enters the Seventies with Neil Young: Stories Behind the Songs author Nigel Williamson making quite the compelling case for Neil the pioneer, as opposed to mere practitioner of country-rock. Yet no sooner are we lulled into such Old Ways with a Willie Nelson duet than we're bolted into the midst of a much younger Pistol-poppin' "Pretty Vacant" clip as, oh dear, Neil the Punk rears its recently-shorn head. Warning: wonderful excerpts from the esteemed Bernard Shakey's 1982 epic Human Highway will only leave you hankering for more, so I hereby direct one and all immediately over to the nearest YouTube; keywords Devo + Hey Hey My My.
None other than Kraftwerk enter the Music Box at this critical juncture as well: I never realized just how well Trans worked on stage until I was reminded with the vocoder-drenched performance footage appearing right about here. Then, come the Nineties, Neil Young – or at least his wardrobe – finds itself in perfect sync with what the Seattle Weekly's Ned Raggett calls "lumberjacks in flannel playing huge heavy riffs." Or grunge, as Rolling Stone would too lately call it. But in case you forgot, Neil joined no less than Pearl Jam with a benedictorial "Rockin' In The Free World" at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. Enough said. At least until Neil's own Archives, Vol. 4 materializes, that is.
While we all wait on that one though, Here We Are In The Years provides a splendid audio/visual overview – at least as much as can be crammed into 117 minutes with a career as big and boxset(s)-worthy as Neil's. And, as its subtitle states, this is one production that clearly and completely focuses on the man's MUSIC …even to the point that the Bonus featurette "A Brief History of the Squires" explains in heartbreaking detail just how Neil's first bandmates doomed themselves forever to the Where Are They Now drawer by not showing up for a planned week-long gig many summers ago on Falcon Lake, Manitoba.
Such are the tall rock tales only good docs are made of. Here We Are In The Years: Neil Young's Music Box is one of them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

JOBRIATH A.D. dir. Kieran Turner (Florida Film Festival Orlando, FL)


So I'd never been to a “film festival” & was eager to soak up the whole experience. Getting in line with a few arty-looking folks with a feeling of doing something arty together, we headed into a drab movie multiplex that ended up being a little more than half-full (or half-empty?), as the lights dimmed & the tale of an obscure deranged Glam singer played. "I would say he was borderline schizophrenic," his manager, Jerry Brandt, sighs onscreen, as the credits roll & everyone is fascinated & has a million questions since he's here! Not a Satanic Svengali, as some were prepared to believe, but an old man in nondescript clothes moving along slowly as the director, also on hand, leads the way.

I was a strange attendee, perhaps, in having spent the last few years researching the same subject, and nearly three decades after his death, the first full-length treatments of the life of Jobriath, née Bruce Wayne Campbell, appeared within days of each other: this film, and my long Roctober #50 article on the late, great (?) Glam singer. Director Kieran Turner has amazing photos: the blond androgynous angel staring out with a pained intensity. A star of some kind? Even as he was falling. It was like meeting a long-lost twin who grew up in a wealthy family (Kieran self-financed the film) and is a bit spoiled. Much of the narrative is confused: chronology off, photos misidentified, chatter presented as fact, and the major find, a taped interview with Jobriath & Jerry, weirdly out of context.
It's not all his fault. The memories of key players are shot, especially Eddie Kramer, the engineer with whom Jobriath recorded three albums. "Jobriath is morphing into this creature," he says, describing the first Elektra album cover. I'm thinking he's referring to David Bowie's Diamond Dogs album cover, in which the British singer turns into a canine. When I interviewed him, Kramer had no recollection of the 1971-72 period in which he recorded Jobriath's first Creatures of the Street album. But Kieran should have known better than to maintain that Brandt presided over the album, which remains unreleased. They met when it failed commercially & Jobriath, in late 1972, was fully an alcoholic & occasional junkie, with an air of tragedy over him. We see him bouncing around in Hair, then meeting Brandt, yet the period in between may be the most important of his life. It's when he gave up on himself & created the character of a demon queen, mind beset by terrors & Christlike dreams. And that's who, or what, the world met as Jobriath.
As I watched I found myself picking apart everything, I'm afraid. A year in Hollywood in 1975, recovering from the Glam phase, in which he launched into a study of yoga & Tantra & work as a TV writer, is omitted, instead creating the fiction that Jobriath spent the time living with his mother, though when he did visit later that year en route to New York, he screamed at her ("You never gave a fuck about my talent!") and she kicked him out.
The early photos of Jobriath & his mother are fascinating, a glimpse into the mystery: each a version of each other, given to seizures of love & loathing. In 1971, he'd deny she was even his mother, as the period of gender oscillation which followed (the film has a photo of him in full drag) was the fallout. She was the female within him, however identifiable as Marlene Dietrich or other 'movie queens' he'd sing about. As her fourth son came on-screen talking about how pretty she was, I recalled a neighbor telling me, "She was a little masculine looking." But Bruce? "He was pretty."
Unfortunately, for the narrative of his youth, the film relies on a single, highly unreliable source: the half-brother who saw him infrequently, didn't like him, and is fiercely protective of their shared mother, creating fiction after fiction to conceal her. His first public comments, while she was still living, were biting ("even animals have better maternal instincts"), but there's a Willie for every occasion. Watching him onscreen, all peaceable, playing his piano, it all came back to me: amid rounds of disclosures from my research (some passed along in the film), that her second husband killed himself & she, a "nymphomaniac" with a violent side, went to work as a prostitute, Willie launched into a series of bitter attacks on me, attempting to poison relationships with all possible sources. The calmed down, sepia-toned version of history he tells now, of an emotionally restrained woman mostly beloved by her favored son, is cobbled together from dreaming & longing, and I suspect even he is bored by it.
But many speakers are restrained from times I'd interviewed them, omitting the colorful details, the life. Though it was work getting them there. The first rule of Jobriath research, as one discovers, is nobody is supposed to talk about Jobriath. In the Q& amp;A following the film, Kieran noted that the sources' stories we'd just seen were demure glosses over what they wouldn't say on camera. "Of course the minute the camera was turned off they would pull me to the side and say, 'Let me tell you what happened,'" he said. His strategy? To ignore these disclosures. "It felt like gossip after that and I didn't want to hear it," he says. There were stories of "suicide attempts" & "absolute mental breakdowns" never mentioned in the film, as they'd run counter, I suspect, to his overriding thesis that Jobriath was a victim of anti-homosexual discrimination. Thankfully, cartoons could pick up from where the evidence left off, and an animated Jobriath, in a series of fictional scenes interspersed throughout, becomes the sacred victim he appears to require.
But he "didn't want to be who he really was," as director Sarah Kernochan, the film's most articulate commentator, notes, in a moment that sits awkwardly with the rest. As Dick Christian, Jobriath's boyfriend in latter years, notes, "Everybody else was an audience." Kieran's stance requires him to ignore, as well, Jobriath's two major musicals of his post-Glam period, though each were thinly guised autobiographies, each love stories with women. He could be a 'sissy'; he could be straight; he could be a man or woman, in dizzying succession. His career in music was a series of studies of genres & performers: analyzing, assimilating them, in a series of open imitations the motivation for which is puzzling. Even as he longed to be a crashing, messianic star, famous as he was passive to a controlling manager? Like Elvis & the Colonel, or Streisand to Walter Pidgeon in Funny Girl. It's then he met the star of the film about him: Jerry Brandt.
It's useful to hear Jerry tell his story, as it is to keep in mind that he changes it as required. "I tried to break Jobriath in New York 'cause I was accepted there," he says. "Jerry Brandt is New York." The refutations streamed through my mind. In 1974, Brandt dismissed New York (his last major venture was in L.A.) & said the act would be launched in Paris, which reflects, he told Music Week (in their paraphrase), "the elegance and
glamour that is Jobriath's basic image." As he told Rolling Stone, "Paris is the best place to come from." Jobriath was surely giving all the cues.
In Blonde Venus, Marlene Dietrich re-invents herself as a glittering Parisian androgyne in a white tuxedo & ape suit, costumes he adopted as his own, as he had a profound identification with the Phantom of the Opera, hence the significance of the Paris Opera House where he was purportedly to debut. A theme song of his later Popstar musical is "Phantom of the Disco." Inside, he too was a brilliant but disfigured musician in hiding, sending out a female singer to be his public self. Jobriath.
The major find of Kieran's research team is a 1974 interview of Jerry & Jobriath on a couch being interviewed for the L.A. news in August 1974. "Asking me if I'm homosexual is like asking James Brown if he's black," Jobriath says. "There's a lot of people running around, putting make-up on and stuff, just because it's chic. I just want to say that I'm no pretender." Kieran presents this as characteristic of Jobriath's run at stardom, which isn't true. In late 1973, a year before, when he first started giving interviews, he was coy about his sexuality, calling himself a "fairy" — like Tinkerbell! — but only on stage. He calls himself "schizophrenic" instead, making him the first openly schizophrenic pop star? Never calling himself 'gay' or 'homosexual'. And did, it seems, only as his act was crashing & burning, in a clip that may never have aired. The poignancy is that Brandt will dump him within hours of the taping as it becomes evident the act is a flop. Drugged on angel dust & cocaine, skin & body in revolt, Jobriath was in a totally detached state, giving interviews in airy, delusional abstractions. His mannerisms are ripped from the Warhol queens, whom he'd studied up close, as he did everyone he'd try to imitate, as imitation was for him, I suspect, a form of mockery, most of all of himself. "Jobriath is little more than a homosexual impersonator," as the L.A. Times noted in a review of the L.A. show. There is nothing appealing about his corpse-like figure in eyeshadow, radiating death.
The tension with Jerry is pronounced, as the love between the two had turned to hatred. "They definitely did not have a sexual or a romantic relationship," Kieran said in London in a Q& amp;A after the film's premiere. He'd asked and Jerry answered. "I don't think he would lie about it." Standing next to him was Marc Almond, who added, "It was a strange, symbiotic love affair." In fact, Kieran had on hand a source, Jim Fouratt, who suggests with some acute insight that the two might've been involved physically, at least briefly, as Brandt certainly suggested they were. A few years ago, curiously, I noticed him advertising online for a roommate. Wanted: "young straight person…" But he remains, biographically, a sphinx, never to reveal his secrets, as whatever he says cannot be believed. I went up to him afterwards, hearing him say that after the Jobriath fiasco, "I had a nervous breakdown, I just couldn't handle it." Was that before or after Fanne Fox took him to court for ditching her in jail — in Orlando! I shook his hand (it was soft), and asked about the involvement in Jobriath's stage show of Donald Cammell, the director of Performance, who was living in Brandt's Malibu house when he brought Jobriath there in 1973. Brandt's face lit up with recognition of a name, it seemed, he hadn't heard in years. "Yeah, I supported him for awhile," he says. He's being pulled away for a TV news segment. Was Cammell involved with the Jobriath act? I asked. "No, no," Brandt says. "That was before Jobriath."
I know it was the same time, and left the theater, entering the beautiful night. Dismayed Kieran chose not to rebut the myth that Jobriath died alone, rotting in his room, etc., though he'd communicated to me he disbelieved the story, and allowed a source to relay it even though she'd told me she last saw or heard of Jobriath in 1974. Gossip, I guess. I was thinking about the program distributed at Jobriath's memorial service in 1983, briefly flashed onscreen, but I noted the hymn listed: "O Sacred Head Now Wounded." And remembered his girlfriend, Debbie, told me he'd done an arrangement of it in church as a teenager. In photo after photo, Jobriath the Glam singer is doing crucifixion poses, and other shots of Jesus-like imagery are not included. It was so often on his mind, as in the hymn, sung to a crucified Christ, which I sang to myself as walked away:
Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Smoke Signal

( This Brooklyn-based broadsheet can make a good case for being the best comix compilation in the Universe. Combining large doses of syndicated underground strips like Kaz's Underground and Tony Millionaire's Maakies with long and short absurd adventures from the ink pens of Michael DeForge, Sam Henderson, Jim Rugg, Michael Kupperman,Gary Lieb, John Porcelinno, Brian Ralph, and others, as well as gems from the archives of Bill Griffith, the late, great John Severin, and Alejandro Jodorowsky (!). What's most diggable about this righteous rag is that all the contributors manage to be underground, subversive, and avant-garde without sacrificing the "funny" in the funny pages. These are really enjoyable narratives and pseudo-narratives that may be all over the art map but all tap the joy vein dutifully.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rock ‘n’ Roll Monkey & the Robots “Spooky Kooky Attic Static"

Obviously by name alone this is the Roctober house band, which means I'm saving up so I can hire them to play in my house all the time. Usually the darker, heavier record is a band's second album, but since they waited til their fourth or fifth R&RM&tRs had to get super dark, singin' about crackheads, Satan, gravediggers, regrets, the Atari gaming system, and other such horrors. They have a song called "Static" that coulda been on "Static Age" (the only Misfits album with an all Italian lineup) and a song called "Too Fast" that channels the 13th Floor Elevators skitter psyche vibe. But despite the darkness, madness, and evil, these robotic monkeys (or simian robots, not sure) maintain a sense of bizarre whimsy, never losing the fun that got them to the party, as summed up in their immortal (or very mortal) lyric, "If rock is dead I'm a necrophiliac!"

Magnet #86

( If you're look for indie trends. always look to magnet. This month's revelation: 24 profiles - 14.5 beards! It would have been higher but they covered a coupla ladies, plus I don't think Andrew Bird can't grow full facial hair, so his stubble should probably count as a full beard, but I'm being conservative. BTW, though they fail to mention it in this issue, Bird plays the lead Muppet in the recent Muppet movie (not his speaking voice, rather his whistling voice). Awesome! Sadly, Walter the Muppet is not an actual Bird, which would have been mega-awesome!

Stolen Rhodes "Falling Off the Edge"

( Like Kings of Leon, this Philly phoursome has produced a debut that masterfully channels classic rock sounds, specifically the Southern strain of such. Unlike Kings of Leon, they don't suck. Channelling your Skynyrds and your Allmans ain't a small achievement. and these rockin' Rhodes are on the edge of awesome!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Van Halen, Kool & the Gang (live 4/1/12, Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL)

Thank god for David Lee Roth! And the Devil, of course.
First of all, I completely dig the concept of DLR wanting Kool & the Gang to's a fun idea, it's not boring, and it actually opens the possibility that perhaps the vetran act will shelve their Vegas schmaltz and do a 70s-style funk show, since the guitar-happy VH audience might dig that. No such luck. They open with 20 minutes of 80s awfulness, not just "Fresh" and "Too Hot" but even scraping as low as "Emergency." JT's replacement has a mediocre voice and the pandering band (doing summersaults and handstands and desperate banter) was just discomforting. The do a mini funk set in the middle ("Hollywood Swinging" and "Jungle Boogie") but it's kinda punchy and off-sounding, not in the pocket at all. Then they stretch out "Ladies' Night" and "Celebration" for the last 15 minutes, and that was actually better than you'd expect, with one acrobatic sax battle straight out of Louis Jordan-era clubs. Considering how many original members are still in the band I expected better, but I will say that the crowd was into it, which says something good about VH fans...Maiden fans wouldn't have dug this...even KISS fans mighta showed their ugly side at this.
As far as Van Halen, if anyone tells you David Lee Roth can't sing anymore, they may be technically accurate, but they are fucking crazy! As the show opened it was obvious the DLR does some croaking where he once did singing, and compensates with weird prasing and despite being able to occasionally demonstrate some smooth notes, high notes, and vocal power, he rarely can draw upon these skills exactly when he desires, and certainly can't simulate his 70s/80s prowess (which is extra apparent when contrasted with Eddie Van Halen, who can shred exactly like he did at any point, and at times improved on recordings). That said, fuck you if you don't realize how magical Roth is! Five minutes of ridiculous banter, roundhouse kicking, splits, mime, prop comedy, and stuck fighting into the show any vocal imperfections became obscured by a cloud of pure awesomeness. On their first trip through Chicago in February, one of the first shows this tour, Roth was reportedly not interacting with the crowd and not in the best mood. Here, other than at one point cursing at the building (not the staff) for turning on the air-conditioning, thus causing his froggy vocals (he called structural facility a "fucking moron"), he was delightful and seemingly delighted. He did lots of well constructed banter (a ridiculous, extensive L.A. cholo culture dance lesson; a joke about meaning to take an Advil with a glass of water but downing a handful of sleeping pills and four shots of Tequila by mistake; a treatise on competitive dog breeding, complete with Jumbotron PowerPoint) and he even went off the cuff a few times, reflecting on his Jewish immigrant mother settling in Chicago in the early 20th Century. And his glittery outfits, newsie cap, and perpetual runway strut would have made the cut on America's Top Model. Roth was the kind of beautiful as a young man that can go Cameron Diaz and Nick Lachay he had that type of stunning look that because of oversized featured and cheekbone angles could take a turn for the grotesque with just a minor tweak. While it would not be inaccurate to say Roth 2012 looks a bit like Wayland Flowers' Madame puppet, the fact that every deep line in his face works towards framing his perpetual ear-to-ear smile makes Father Time his partying buddy. And his kicks, splits, slides and jumps were genuinely impressive (so much so that on the mammoth screen behind the stage that was mostly showing close-ups of the live footage, they would do slow motion replays after every 7.5-or-higher athletic move he landed). Alex sounded pretty amazing, and I lost count of how many drum solos there were, but none were excessive. And even though you'd like to see a complete original lineup, husky, happy-looking Wolfgang on bass was pretty great in that he looks like a six year old compared to his bandmates, and more importantly, as is the case with most family vocal acts, the Van Halens voices sounded great together on the (now more important than ever) support vocals. And Eddie was pretty killer. I had pretty good seats and spent the first part of the concert trying to figure out if there was something weird about his face. Did he get work done? Was he bloated? Was that a slightly-off EVH lookalike? But I finally concluded that what made him look different may just have been that he never stopped smiling the entire 1:57 set, which is a good look for him...and for all of us in the arena.

Plack Blague "Heavy Leather'

( A black-hooded electro-leatherman making sinister grind music about cruising and semen...that's what Nebraska means to me!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

( Just a lovely, heartbreaking, beautifully drawn, engaging, fantastic comic about teen scenes at a prep/training/art school for magic mutants, where none of the action involves magic, mutations, or action. Rather, youthful cruelty, kindness, sensitivities, and obsessions provide more sublime drama than than those bizarre Xavier's, Hogwarts, or Pratt students ever experience.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Royal Headache

(What's Your Rupture?) Manic jangle rock so pleasantly intense it gave me a royal head-gasm!