Saturday, July 31, 2021

Frida Kahlo Timeless exhibit/catalogue

(CCMA 2021) This exhibit, held kind of insanely at the College of Dupage's art museum, has been criticized because the town did a bunch of Frida Fever weird things, and because possibly the auxiliary parts of the exhibit (including the children's area, complete with a docent in Frida drag and one of those things where your stick your faces into Frida and Diego's cutout picture) seem weird. While I actually think the curatorship and even the family activities at the museum seem pretty deftly executed, and have no comment on the Frida-fying of an affluent suburb, the actual art on display here is incredible and eye opening. The exhibit opens with an historical context section that walks you through Kahlo's life and career with recreations of her outfits and her bed in which she was confined so often and some actual artifacts and archival magazines in which she appeared, and the most eye opening parts of this were examples of Mexican popular art that really informs and contextualizes some of her work. But the heart of the exhibit, the paintings and drawings, are so wild and varied and special that it is revelatory even to super fans. There is one with a spider web rendered so magnificently that it is hard not to be floored. There are sketches and studies of women that capture magnificent beauty with profoundly lusty appreciation. There is a painting of a dead child that can be stared at for eternity. There is genuine surreal insanity. I loved seeing this, and anyone who reduces Kahlo to the greatest purveyor of pain or to a fashion genius will have their opinions expanded. If you can't make it the catalogue does a great job presenting the works.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Deception by Selena Montgomery

(Avon, 2009) Stacy Abrams saved America and might have to do it again and the least we can do is read her books. But it ain't easy. I read some detective books, which appaently are not that different than romance books, except the cold, objectifying, cringey sex scenes in most detective books still seems more romantic than the few dirty parts of this romance book, and there are descriptions of kissing here that make me never want to kiss again. Still, this is corny and fun and wild and campy in so many ways and she saved you, so read it!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Aretha Franklin "Oh Me Oh My: Aretha in Philly, 1972 Live"

(Atlantic/Rhino, 2009, 2021) I guess this was a CD a while back but I'm a vinyl goon so I never considered listening to it, and that's on my dumb ass. This performance at the National Association of TV and Radio Announcers convention, a Black broadcasters organization, is a pristine, flawless performance. The big, fancy band definitely had some ideas (or went along with Franklins') about making these hits almost jarringly uptempo (though always soulful, just speedily so). And obviously in 1972 her voice could not be better. And you really hear that he most on the closing gospel number which is astounding. Obviously, we should all listen to Aretha sing at any opportunity we have so please listen to this.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Karen O & Willie Nelson "Under Pressure"

(BMG, 2021) Willie Nelson's voice imbuing Queen lyrics with more weight and humanity than you can imagine, and Karen O thrown in for greatness, means this overpriced one-sided single was worth the overprice!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Fruity Cereal Kit Kat

(Hershey) An absolute triumph in that I did not realize fruity cereal was so distinct a flavor and I did not know it could be captured so well and who thought it would work perfectly as a crispy candy bar? And I cannot think of any reason I would want to eat another one of these again. But it's a winner!

Monday, July 26, 2021

STYX "Crash of the Crown"

(Universal, 2021) I have been a loud, proud proponent advocating for the greatness of contemporary STYX, as the veteran members seem to be a full power and the replacement members are fabulous (or scab-ulous, depending on your Dennis loyalty). And theor last space-themed album was really strong, and even the recent EP of live classics and odds and ends hinted at top quality. So I am sorry to say that new album is, to my ears, a bore and a chore. To be fair, it is executed well and sounds exactly how they want it to sound and there are going to be many fans of kind of dry, technically proficient semi-prog that will be thrilled with this, but to me it had no life and wasdifficult to get through. I would still go see this powerful band in a heartbeat, but in the year of new White Sox glory, this is one South Side institution that did not bring it.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Champignon Mushroom Snack


(Trader Joe's) I believe in the past I have referred to Trader Joe's as purveyors of snack porn, but I think it woould be more accurate to say that they positioned themselves to be the headquarters of stoned shoppers in the age of legalized weed, with scores upon scores of snacks meticulously crafted to appeal to munchies/altered mind sensibilities. Around these parts mushroom consumption seems on the uptick, and I feel these genuinely delicious treats may be a declaration that TJs is ready to take on a whole new headspace of snackers!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Dark Chocolate Drizzled Plantain Chips


(Trader Joe's) That's just too much going on.

Willie Nelson: American Outlaw All Star Concert Celebration

(Blackbird, 2020) This is a Willie tribute/85th birthday party concert, with Don Was leading the music. For some folks this entire thing must be magical, but I don't have huge investments in MargoPrice, Chris Stapleton, Avett Bros, Tedeschi and/or Trucks,  but still appreciate how much they appreciate Willie. Everyone does fine on this thing (even Dave Matthews...even Jack Johnson singing a song he write about Willie) but the real treat is around a dozen tracks with Willie on them. Is there anything I want to hear more than Willie and George Strait sing "Good Hearted Woman?" Not really, and it was decent, if not thrilling. Willie and Emmylou have great chemistry, and Willie and Jimmy Buffett singing Jimmy Cliff is probably almost as good as Willie and Jimmie Cliff singing Jimmy Buffet (we will have to wait for 90th B-day for that one). With Willie songs you can't lose, and with his seasoned voice and the tangible sense of camaraderie he brings to all collaborations this is obviously worth a listen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Love "Everybody's Gotta Live" EP

(High Moon, 2021) This is a small batch of bluesy outtakes, alternate takes, and one track from the 1974 "Reel to Real" LP, which is not a particularly known, coveted, or beloved release, but these Arthur Lee grooves made me go back and take another enjoyable listen. Damn, it's bluesy in here!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Beastie Boys "Aglio E Olio"

 (Grand Royal/Universal, 1995/2021) This Record Store Day reissue of this 1995 7" blpown up to an expensive 12" by adding 5 mkinutes of incongruous bonus tracks is still OK. Mid-90s hardcore not as funny as their 80s hardcore which was not good enough for them to remain hardcore is fun but not essential, and adding the Cibo Matto lady's pretty Doors cover just confises matters, which is not a bad flex.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Guayaki Organic Yerba Mate Revel Berry

 ( I am not even sure what this is. When there are a lot of words in some new drink's name and it's not obviously an energy drink that looks like drinkable Axe Body Spray and there's some health phrases thrown in I assume it's some nasty tasting kombucha. But this, upon drinking and still being confused, seems to be some nasty tasting tea of some sort. It tastes nasty.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Friday, July 16, 2021

Sha Na Na "From the Streets of New York"

(Kama Sutra, 1973)  I have a music fan buddy who is a tireless SNN advocate (no, not Hot Dog the surfer) and while "Hot Sox" floats my boat I am hard pressed to find much in most of their nostalgic grooves to convince me. But this album does have an audience participation dance contest teased throughout the whole album, and it makes less sense on vinyl than you can imagine. But Bowser's crowd work is pretty primo. If they unearth an all dance contest album by them I'll be on board.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Boat Trip

 (MPCA, 2002) This movie features Cuba Gooding Jr. and Horatio Sanz as buddies who plan to go on one of those cruises where broke, fat losers get to have lots of sex with beautiful young women (you know, those cruises) but by pissing off (spoiler) gay lovers Will Farrell (slumming in a picture blow his standards) and Artie Lange (slumming in a picture BELOW HIS STANDARDS!) they end up on a gay cruise, because gays love to punish straights by making them ruin the experiences of gay vacationers. It is vaguely surprising that something so bizarrely homophobic and unfunny in its gay jokes is less than 20 years old, but also weird that this 21st Century flick features 1980s bare boob jokes (a rescued-at-sea Swedish bikini team does topless jumping jacks). TBH, the topless DVD menu is the best-produced part of this painful viewing experience. This movie genuinely makes I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry seem like Moonlight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Prince "Partyman" b/w "Cool"

(Prince Estate, 2021) I don't know exactly what this is, but they say it's a collaboration between the Prince people and a French soccer team, somehow someway. So basically it is a reissue of "Partyman" back w/ a 3rdeyeblind-era live-in-Paris version of a Time song that fucking kills. So if they want to put out more 45s where, for example, some volleyball team sponsors "Bat Dance" b/w an unreleased live Vanity 6 cover, or whatever, keep it coming! I, personally, am going to now listen to this and party like no other can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

It's Life As I See It: Black Cartoonists in Chicago 1940-1980, edited by Dan Nadel


(NYRC/MCA, 2021) The exhibit/survey/celebration of Chicagocomics currently taking place at the MCA and Chicago Cultural Center (with Dan Nadel, Chris Ware, & Tim Samuelson doing most of the heavy curatorial lifting) is tremendous and (along with parallel exhibits at smaller spots featuring contemporary artists left out of these exhibits, and even a huge retrospective of Bill Maudlin running down the block from these) will profoundly influence local artists, guaranteeing Chicago will continue to be a magical place for comics making. There is not a big exhibit catalogue for the whole shebang (a docent told me she heard it was so the artists in the MCA's 1960s-today portion could sell a lot of individual works at the museum store), but what they did produce was incredible. The only pre-1960s work at the MCA is early work by Black artists at the Chicago Defender newspaper, particularly Jackie Ormes gorgeous satirical work about a little girl's perspective of 1940s urban life. Ormes work is, if not the heart of this collection, an important part of the soul of It's Life As I See It, a volume reprinting significant portions of work by nine Black comics artists that worked in Chicago in the 20th Century. Some of it is as mainstream as is  possible for a marginalized community, with two other Defender artists being presented with extremely significant works. The craziest thing here is a run of Jay Jackson's turn on the long-running, and ever changing, Bungleton Green comic. In this 1944 version we see a sci-fi story where in the future Whites are the minority and prejudice may or may not plague society in the same ways. Decades later the Defender would showcase Morrie Turner's Dinky Fellas, a multi-ethnic, stereotype exploring take on Peanuts which would become the mainstream comic/cartoon Wee Pals. But underground comix are well represented here, with a passionate and relatively clean piece by Indiana neighbor Grass Green, who was a thrilling voice both in the 70s undergrounds and also in the fandom movement where a network of zine makers traded their takes on standard superhero stories. Seitu Hayden and Turtel Onli, both Hyde Parkers who we are excited to have worked with in Roctober, and will always be important for their work with Pedro Bell in the Funkadelic realm, both are included. Hayden's slick and very funny humor strips make it hard to attribute his lack of comics stardom to anything but closed doors. Onli's (as well as the complimentary work of Yaounde Olu) proved so radical and afro-futuristic that it was carving out definitions of success the mainstream could not comprehend. Tom Floyd's gag cartoons about being a token Black during post-Mad Men-era office life are hilarious and heartbreaking. And the most exciting stuff in the book are the comics and essay by Charles Johnson, a fascinating author, artist, TV star, and visionary who created a book of radical 70s humor gags that was published by Johnson (Ebony/Jet) in the 1970s. I sought that book out when I saw a copy of it a different MCA art exhibit, where Theaster Gates explored the Johnson office space where it was on a bookshelf. But the copy of Black Humor I got from the library was different than the work here, as Johnson actually re-drew some of his panels to improve upon them (in his opinion). His work, in the museum and in the pages of this fantastic collection, is painfully funny. With cover art by the greatest living contemporary painter, Kerry James Marshall, this is a comics collection EVERYONE should own.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books by Ken Quattro

(Yoe books, 2020) Quattro is doing God's work with this book, exhaustively researching the lives of mostly very obscure artists from the golden age of comics, an era in a field where there was little respect or documentation for even the bigger artists, and these ain't the bigger artists. Telling the tales of the Black men (dudes only this go 'round) who toiled at the bottom of the ladder of an industry where the ladder only went up the 2nd rung is fascinating, and the elbow grease to find out anything about these cats (even that they existed) is impressive. The exception to the obscurity is Matt Baker, who while the general readership did not know his race, was a successful artist due to the amazing sexiness of his Phantom Lady, which was as close to onlyfans as youngsters got those days. Also relatively well known is the team behind 1947's short-lived All Negro Comics, which might have lasted longer than the few seconds if it did not face the sadly inevitable discrimination (they could not get paper to print issue two). Invisible Men features the stories of figures whose comics careers could have been lost to history, like Alvin Carl Hollingsworth who did a few great horror comics in the early 50s before becoming a magnificent illustrator in the late 50s through the 70s. Calvin Massey also had a revered art career, but only after having toiled in the pages of 4th rate horror  comics in the 1950s.  Alfonso Greene, who went to school with Alex Toth and did some nice work before getting arrested in an armed gang kidnapping something or another, would likely be lost if not for this fine tome. The best part of the book is that full stories are reprinted by each artist, and while few actually feature Black characters (there is a Lena Horne biographical comic, and Baker's Voodah was a brown skinned Tarzan for a little while, til they started coloring him lighter) all feature spectacular Black talent.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Black Kirby presents: In Search of...The Motherboxx Connection by John Jennings and Stacey Robinson


(Urban Kreep Enterprises, 2013) I saw a modest exhibition of the work in this catalogue back in the day and was very impressed but seeing so much of it here I am just enthralled. Jennings and Robinson pay tribute to Jack Kirby's legacy of explosive graphic power and creativity by basically making hundreds of visual and verbal puns to relate his vast array of characters and concepts and stylistic quirks to make bold, loud declarations about Black culture, Afrofuturism, and America's core problems. Some are obvious (Black Panther = Black Panthers), some are deeper cuts (OMAC as Marcus Garvey, which can read about 2001 different ways), some are just profound adaptations ("The Unkillable Buck"). But the love and knowledge of Kirby's work and the graphic magnificence of the execution and the timeless boldness of the appropriation and the righteous politics of these statements are all as powerful as a Wakandan science fair.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Prince "Chaos & Disorder"

(Warner Brothers 1996/Prince Estate 2021) There was some kind of formula I read once that explained how the last critically-deemed "good" Rolling Stones album kept creeping up into the late 70s, then 80s. With Prince it seems his passing and our Prince-deprived ears did something more radical. Not only did we start moving forward in assessing what was good, EVERYTHING now seems good. This album was originally released as CD only and was generally agreed upon to be scrap vault material Prince was throwing out there to complete his Warners contract obligations. The only thing I recalled on it was the grooving "I Dig You Better Dead." Listening again, now that (hopefully) everything he ever released is getting a vinyl reissue, I can't believe I didn't listen to this funky, lively, wild album more often over the last quarter century. Bad graphics and Prince's disavowal of Warners didn't help, but damn this is a tough, great collection of music for dancing and fighting and revolting. Give it another spin if you haven't already.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Club 57: Film Performance and Art in the East VIllage 1978-1983 by Ron Magliozzi & Sophie Cavoulacos

 (MoMA, 2017) I did not see this exhibit, which documented the brief but packed life of the performance space/screening room/flash art gallery Club 57, in which Ann Magnuson, Klaus Nomi, Kenny Scharf, the Fleshtones, and others created an intimate, exciting monster movie come to life environment, with much of the aesthetic coming out of the legendary New Age Vaudeville performances that made the underground in New York so much more interesting for so long. This book captures the stories really well (Magnuson's essay especially) and documents the films and exhibits with meticulous detail. But what I love best is just getting the feel for the character, reality, challenges, and triumphs of a place, not a person. Clubs and scenes and happenings are bigger than the characters and artists and spectators filling the space, and this book is a great document of a place that should not be forgotten.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Gordon Thomas "Spanish Americas" EP

(Sam Hot, 1988) While not as classic as his "Brown Baby" album, outside trombonist Thomas, along with Jim Roberts playing keys that transcend the odd original material, produces some pleasantly strange sounds on this surprisingly non-rare artifact.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Switch "Reaching For Tomorrow"

(Motown, 1980) I contend that when you consider songwriting ability between the Jacksons and the DeBarges, the family that came about their light complexions without surgical intervention may have been the most talented Motown brood. Which is brought to mind hearing the opening track of this album, "Power to Dance," which was clearly crafted upon receiving a directive to copy the Jacksons post-Motown sound (they even got Married-to-the-Motown non-defector Jermaine to play on the record). And it's great! If the whole ablum had been like that it would have seemed much more desperate and mighta been much more successful, but DeBarges have too much musical juice to just copy eight times, so there's all kindsa different greatness on this platter that matters. That said, the recently unearthed Jermaine-heavy Bonus Track, "Tahiti Hut," is a pleasant Jackson/DeBarge marriage (unlike the actual Jackson/DeBarge marriage, the less spoken about the better).

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Uneeda Comix by Robert Crumb

(Fine Print, 1970) Certainly this falls into the Golden Age of undergrounds, and Crumb's drawings and joke telling and story telling and weirdness and characters (Mr. Natural, Bo Bo Bolinski, Honeybunch, and pro Junior included) are all kinda great. But boy there is a lot of graphic child sex!

Monday, July 5, 2021

Hall and Oates "Our Kind of Soul"

(U-Watch, 2004) Other than cover graphics that would be unacceptable on a thermal-printed lowrider CD-R insert, there is nothing wrong with this record of 70s and 80s soul covers, except I couldn't remember which songs I'd listened to it while still listening to it because it is so forgettable and unnecessary. These dudes made great R&B covers in the past, created remarkable original soul songs (a few OK ones are on this double LP), and sing and play fine on this, but it's so meh it makes their "Live at the Apollo" LP (with Kendricks and Ruffin) sound like James Brown's "Live at the Apollo."

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Other 1980s: Reframing Comics' Crucial Decade edited by Brannon Costello & Brian Cremins

 (LSU Press, 2021) The 1980s saw thrilling action taking place on the pages of American comic books. Developments in retail, exposure to overseas comics, and a robust economy briefly gave the illusion of a level playing field, where independent publishers shared shelf space with Marvel and DC, giving bold voices a platform, and inspiring innovation at every level of the industry. The Other 1980s celebrates stars and also-rans of indie comics, renegade innovators pushing the mainstream’s boundaries, and a few notable turtles, horses, and elves. Costello and Cremins are the ideal scholars to curate this collection, both unashamed to show fan-ish enthusiasm, while never brushing away the era’s blind spots and terrible takes concerning issues of race, gender, sexuality, and toy tie-ins. This book will make you take a serious look at the abjectly ridiculous, will send you on deep dives into quarter bins (trade reprints omit letters columns, ads, and paper dolls. . . .the best parts), and will become uncollectibly dog-eared after multiple re-readings. It is the first academic collection I’ve read that made me wish the essays were longer. 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Tenacious D "Don't Blow It Kage"

(Third Man, 2019) The always interesting Blue series (Third Man's Dr Demento/Ripley's Believe It Or Not alcove) presents a perfect D tune: blazing acoustic guitar, lotsa profanity, interpersonal drama, and a (Jack White-enhanced) bit! Do blow it, it being $5, on this awesome single.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Kent State by Derf Backderf

 (Abrams ComicsArts, 2020) This book is ridiculously good. While it doesn't have the jawdropping personal insight to go along with the research of Derf "Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club - Charter Member" Backderf's Dahmer book, the artwork and design is so elevated that it kore than makes up for it. This is a complicated, multifaceted, terrible, inevitable story and to a profound, fantastic way to tell it is in comics form, utilizing the medium's strengths to give voice and humanity to multiple fascinating figures. Again, the drawings, especially depicting the moments before and during the violent climax, are SO good. This was my favorite GN of 2020 by far.

Thursday, July 1, 2021