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Archive for the ‘MST3K’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: VICENTE GARCÍA-Tiny Desk Concert #701 (February 2, 2018).

Singer-songwriter Vicente García plays a delicate acoustic guitar and has a pretty crooning voice.

The blurb says that he

is still relatively under the radar, but performances like the one he gave at the Tiny Desk are starting to turn some heads.

García’s music isn’t dominated by his native Dominican Republic, but you can hear it in every note. His poetic lyrics are like short stories, sung by a voice both plaintive and evocative, yet always distinct.

“San Rafael” is quite a pretty song echoing the beauty of San Rafael.

Before “A La Mar” (the title of second album which means ‘to the sea’) he introduces [unclear] Vasquez from Dominican Republic on percussion and Ricardo Muñoz from Bogota on the keys.  There’s a neat moment where he plays a harmonic on the guitar in a rather unusual way.  The delicate percussion really adds a lot, as does the bass line plays on the keys.

“Dulcito e Coco” opens with a lovely guitar melody and a close up of the fascinating percussion box that Vazquez is playing–a purple, strangely-shaped box that seems to get different sounds where you strike it.  The song stays quiet throughout although it does get a bit bigger by the end.

 

[READ: November 13, 2017] Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children

I was so excited to see Trace Beaulieu in person.  Ans even though this book is available everywhere, it was especially neat to buy it from the man himself and get him to autograph it.

It is subtitled A Yucky Big Book of Rainy Day Fun for Belligerent Children & Odd Adults with Nothing Better to Do.  The illustrations are by Len Peralta who apparently has not done anything else I’ve read even though his work looks so familiar and is really good.

So what is this?

Well the title is pretty accurate.  Trace has concocted snarky funny poems.  Most of them are pretty short (and in this format are often two or three lines per page) and accompanied by an illustration). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 24, 2017] The Mads Are Back! 

Just a few months after seeing MST3K Live, I found out that two more MST3K alum were also touring.  This time it was TVs Frank (Coniff) and Dr. Clayton Forrester or Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu).  I was so excited that they were coming to Bethlehem. I hoped to see both shows, but could only make one.

I didn’t realize that they had been riffing like this together since 2015.  They were clearly having fun and the show was a real treat–even if the movie was possibly the worst film I have ever seen.

Unlike the massive specatcle that was the MST3K tour, The Mads show was far more low-key.  In fact, Frank Coniff and Trace Beaulieu were sitting at the entrance greeting people (I was running late and basically got there just as they were packing up, rats).

We went into the theater (the theater at ArtsQuest is luxurious!), and after a few minutes of screen grabs like the one above, the two came out and stood before us. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 7, 2017] MST3K Live

I first discovered MST3K when I lived in Boston (on The Comedy Channel) in 1992 (just before it merged with Ha! and became Comedy Central).

Holy cow, did I love that show.  I eventually watched every episode and had every episode on tape.  I even made and sold (at break even price), audio tapes of all of the “songs” in the episodes.  It was a time-consuming labor of love (I wonder how hard it would be to convert them to CD), but I was a fanatic.

I could never choose between Joel or Mike because I liked them both for different reasons.  I admit that by the last few seasons I didn’t enjoy the scenes with the Mads as much, but the movie jokes never wavered.

And then the show was over in 1999.  And we all wept.

Well, 16 years later in December 2015, we were all blown away when we saw that Joel was going to try to resurrect the show.  Of course I pledged on Kickstarter (but still haven’t been able to watch any episodes for various reasons).  I was happy to be part of the new experience.

But I was even more excited when in May (after all of the new episodes had aired) it was announced that there would be a LIVE TOUR!  And that my location would get not only the announced show  ‘Eegah’ but also a “secret surprise film.”

Eegah! happens to be one of my all time favorite MST3K movies, so I was thrilled to hear that that was the movie they would do.  And I was even more thrilled to hear that they were making all new jokes (no mean feat).  But then to get a “Secret surprise film” never before seen by MST3K?  That was spectacular.

Some of the reason why I hadn’t watched the new episodes is because I didn’t want to ruin my awesome memories of the old episodes.  What if the new stuff wasn’t as good?  And who were all of these new people anyway?  Obviously I knew who Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day were, but I’d not heard of Jonah Ray or Hampton Yount (Crow) or Baron Vaughn (Tom Servo) or Rebecca Hanson (Gypsy).

I was a little nervous when I got to the theater–would it be good?  Would it be fun?  Would I actually enjoy watching this with other people?

Well, it was a blast. (more…)

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Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #577 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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peanuts-1995SOUNDTRACK: TINARIWEN-Tiny Desk Concert #184 (January 5, 2012).

tinariwenTinariwen are a band from northern Mali, whose members met in the training camps of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Much has been written about them and their story, which is pretty amazing.  I’m only going to talk about this Tint Desk Concert.

Typically, they play an interesting electric guitar kind of trance music.  But for this one they were all acoustic.  As Bob Boilen notes, they are his “favorite electric-guitar-based band on the planet.”  But he says he was:

“initially worried and disappointed when I learned that it was coming to play the Tiny Desk as a trio carrying acoustic guitars. My heart sank a bit more when the three Tuareg musicians from the Sahara arrived in jeans and polo shirts instead of the beautiful, flowing robes I’d seen them wear on stage so many times.

But they switched clothes and they do not disappoint on acoustic guitar.

I don’t know their music all that well, but it feels like the acoustic nature of this show is even more soothing and trance inducing.  The two acoustic guitars interweave–one playing lead (which is mostly hammered notes–not a “solo” per se) and the other strumming.  The percussion is the sound of two hands rubbing, clacking (with a cigarette lighter) and pounding (for bass drum) a large gourd.

The songs tend to be almost looping.  Like they could go on forever.  There’s no real verse chorus structure that I can tell.  It’s more of a meditative sound.

All of the vocals are in Tamashek and I have no idea what the songs are about.

On “Adounia” both guitarists sing and the voices sound very traditional, almost atonal. “Takkest Tamidaret” opens with a more conventional sounding guitar lick, but it’s all so quiet in the mix, that you can’t tell how much his fingers are moving.  The lyrics are a bit slower, but still in that droning style.  I love the way “Tenhert”  has a a cool riff from the lead guitar–one that probably sounds more intense on electric guitar.  He sing/speaks incredibly quickly.  “Tahlamoyt” is a much slower song with the lyrics pretty much all spoken word.

The “Mali sound” is pretty distinctive and Tinariwen are great proponents of it, spreading it around the world for all to hear.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1995-1996

I was under the impression that these last few volumes of books would show a serious drop in quality.  I had assumed that with the amount of product the Peanuts characters were sponsoring that these strips would be more cute.  But that is far from true.  I enjoyed this book as much if mot more than some of the other recent volumes.

I was also surprised to discover that I really enjoyed the Sunday cartoons more than the dailies.  In the past I haven’t really gotten big laughs form the Sundays–it seemed like the big stories and jokes were in the dailies and the Sundays were unrelated one offs with varying degrees of punch.  But I enjoyed a dozen or so in this book.

One of the major additions in this book is the inclusion of a slightly older Rerun.  He is now mobile and even heading to kindergarten (I love that he is aging while the others aren’t).  But rather than using Rerun for obvious cute child jokes (he’s no longer riding the back of his mom’s bike) Rerun is now making funny “outsider” observations about the world of Peanuts–he is constantly disenchanted with the way  things are going and with the belief that people are always lying to him.  There are also a ton of strips of him trying to shoot a basketball and failing miserably.  Schulz has always tended to take an idea and run and run and run with it, but this one is pretty good for the number that he uses it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: INVISIBLE GUY BLOG (2012).

Jonas from Invisible Guy contacted me about a project he’s working on.  I’m not quite the right fit for it, but I had to check out his site to see what he was all about.  As his About page explains; “This blog is generally a platform for unknown bands to get promoted and interviewed.”  That’s pretty awesome in itself.  But as I browsed the site, I saw that in his post Invisible Guy recommends: 80s Post-Punk – 1982 (Part II) he includes not only The Birthday Party but also The Virgin Prunes.  Much respect there (especially for someone who wasn’t alive when those records came out!).

But the bulk of his site is full of really obscure bands (lots of bands that I’ve never heard of).  He interviews band members (sometimes in Swedish!) and has quite an impressive list of publications that he’s worked for.

So head on over to Invsible Guy for a wonderful collection of punk and hardcore music as well as some iconic (and really obscure) new wave and post-punk tunes.  He’s also got some great stuff on death metal too.  Not bad for a site that’s only a few months old.  Invisible Guy has a lot of samples and videos as well as a bunch of streaming music from unreleased or just-released albums (like this demo from the Swedish band Regimen called Välkommen hem).

And here’s a video for the Swedish stoner metal band Skraeckoedlan.  The song is “Apple Trees” and no you can’t understsnad the words because they are in Swedish.  I love that.

It’s a great site.

[READ: June 15, 2012] “A Psychotronic Childhood”

The more I read Colson Whitehead, the more I like him, not just as a writer, but as a “person” (the person he presents to us anyhow.  Although I met him briefly at a convention and he was super friendly and very nice).  This essay shows that he and I occupied some of the same headspace when we were kids (we were born in the same year)—watching sci-fi and horror movies on Channel 7 & 11 after school and on the weekends.  Of course, I didn’t really get into horror movies until much later them him (his first time was when his parents took him to  a horror film in the theater at the age of 5).  FIVE!

These early horror movies really shaped his outlook.  He lists about 70 movies in this article, of which I have seen at least half (although more from MST3K than actually sitting through them unaccompanied) and his summaries about them (four or five parenthetical words) are apt and often hilarious:

  • Food of the Gods (giant chickens rain pecking doom on a small island)
  • Alien (an outbreak of tummy trouble among space miners)
  • Demon Seed (rom-com about a horny computer that wants to impregnate Julie Christie)
  • The Devil’s Run (A negligible and mind-numbing film, notable only for the utter ineptitude of its attempt to cash in on the brief occult-movie fad that followed Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.

The Devil’s Run is the first movie he saw, back in 1975, in the theater.  He says that there was something good in it, that it really captured the element of terror when your loved one turns on you.  And he tapped into this for his novel Zone One.

Then he reflects back on 1981, when his family bought a VCR and he and his brother would head to Crazy Eddie (remember Crazy Eddie?) to rent 5 movies for the weekend (I didn’t even know they rented movies!).  The movies were inevitably 4 horror movies and one mainstream film.  And the family would gather by the TV and watch together.  How wholesome!  Except when you read what they were watching (I can’t IMAGINE my family watching these together when I was a kid–even now, Sarah hates horror films).   This is getting into the era of Friday the 13ths and Halloweens as well as classics like Terror Train, Prom Night, Slumber Party Massacre, Silent Night, Evil Night, Mother’s Day and My Bloody Valentine (“not even the holidays, hallmark or otherwise were safe”). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOM WAITS-Small Change (1976).

Half-naked woman on the cover and all (Wikipedia say that this might be Elvira, before she was “Elvira”), this is what people thing of when they think Tom Waits: That gravelly voice is in full form here, with poetic rants and bluesy, drunken musings.

The opening track, “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four sheets to the wind in Copenhagen)” (I love that many of these titles have parenthetical additions) features the repeated chorus from “waltzing Matilda” which is kind of cheating, but which certainly makes this song potent and memorable.  “Step Right Up” is a skit and scat sales pitch for a miracle product.  It’s a wonderful piece of snark aimed at hucksters (this actually makes sense given that nearly 40 years later he still hates advertising (according to this interview on NPR)).

“Jitterbug Boy” is a mournful piano ballad.  It makes me think of William Kennedy’s Ironweed (of course, Waits was in the film of Ironweed, so maybe that’s got something to do with it).  “I Wish I was in New Orleans (In the Ninth Ward)” has a very Louis Armstrong feel to it (I never noticed how close this early style is to Armstrong until I started playing “What a Wonderful World” for my kids (no Tom for them yet). And of course, the Ninth Ward was really devastated by Hurricane Katrina, so maybe they should have used this as their anthem.

“The Piano’s Been Drinking” is forever etched in my mind from Mystery Science Theater 3000–Tom Servo does a wonderful Tom Waits impersonation.  Incidentally, Waits himself had been drinking, quite heavily at the time.  The track “Pasties and G String” is a scat-fueled description of the lady on the cover, more or less.  It’s accompanied by simply drums and a cymbal and is not too dissimilar from “Step Right Up.”  “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” begins and ends with the melody of “As Time Goes By” and ends with a confession to drinking too much.

A song like “The One That Got Away” is Waits rambling around with his poetry in his gravelly, slurry followed by a sultry saxophone.  It sets a mood faster than anything I know.  Of course, if you don’t want that mood, you won’t want this album.

Of his first four albums, this one is my favorite (just ahead of Closing Time).  I’m not a huge fan of his early work, and I don’t listen to it all that often, but it’s a perfect treat when the mood strikes.  Waits also was beginning to get into something of a rut.  Despite his varied styles per album, all of the albums were beginning to blend a little.   There are still some great songs coming, but it would take until Swordfishtrombones before he went really far afield from this comfort zone.

[READ: September 21 2011] “Dog Run Moon”

This is one of those stories that seems so pointless that you can’t stop reading.  The good thing is that it was so well-written and engaging that its pointlessness is part of its charm.

As the story opens, Sid is running stark naked through a desert landscape–his feet are bleeding, he is covered in the red dust from the ground and there is a white Spaniel running alongside him.

Essentially, the entire story is that Sid has stolen this dog from Montana Bob and his friend Charlie Chaplin.  They caught him and he ran away with the dog through the desert.  As I say, it’s kind of pointless because he’s running naked and barefoot and they are chasing him on ATVs–he’s obviously not going to escape.  But what makes the story worth reading is the way the plot is irrelevant (except that it tells you a lot about Sid), because it’s really the impetus for his actions that comprises the story. (more…)

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