Of Masks and Men

It has been way too long I know. I have been woefully negligent with posting anything but this is mainly because of a combination of going back to work and tackling this crazy series of articles I have due for a magazine.

The articles are fairly intensive with talking to sources, researching and editing. But the tricky bit is that both big assignments are back to back and due on the same day.

Add Zoom calls, my other job and some decluttering and my time has rapidly been filling up. It has been kind of annoying to be so busy during a time when folks are still on lockdown.

Another thing that has kept me frazzled is the way people are casting aside sage advice in favor of listening to morons. Somewhere out there, in the weirdest parts of America, Carol and Stanley Idiot are just hanging around, selfishly refusing to wear a mask, social distance or show any sense of compassion for their fellow man.

Carol and Stanley Idiot are the dumbest form of sheep. Inconvenienced by wearing a mask to help flatten the curve but exuberantly happy to wear a hunting mask when they out to kill some squirrel or whatever it is they eat. For all I know it could be possum. Sadly they are part of the new normal.

But the point being is that when John Steinbeck created a really interesting character named Lennie Small he had no idea that over eight decades there would be thousands of people walking the planet who were just as mentally challenged. Unlike Lennie though, their mental challenges are self-inflicted and their big hearts are nonexistent.

I also have had a pileup of stuff to transcribe and edit and fiddle with and it is time consuming. I also have been interviewing folks for the KDHX website which has been fun. So far I have interviewed Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, John Doe of X, Hazel English, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. All of that has kept me busy.

Both Valentine and Frantz have books out which is why I talked to them. Remain in Love is Frantz’s new book. It covers a lot of ground and is a great oral history of New York in the 1970s, a time when so much was happening. There’s a lot of ground covered, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, The Ramones, the Bowery etc..

But the really interesting stuff is about David Byrne and his relationship with the rest of Talking Heads. It was not rosy.

It is not pretty. I won’t ruin anything but as someone who is a fan of his music it put me in a weird spot emotionally. He was kind of a jerk back then and I sincerely hope he has mellowed with age.

Frantz also has managed to have an amazing love affair with Tina Weymouth and the book goes into that as well. It is very heartwarming in these crappy times.

Here is a link to my interview with Tim Burgess. his Twitter listening parties have been a great time occupier during all of this.

https://kdhx.org/articles/music-news/2051-telling-stories-with-tim-burgess

After talking to Burgess, which I might add was pretty cool, I got his first book. Going into the interview I was expecting him to be aloof and kind of distant. instead he was jovial, although serious, and very nice. He’s lived a real rock star life and his band is still under appreciated in the States in my opinion.

The first time I heard The Only One I Know was in 1990. My friend Jennifer took me to Wax Trax Records in Chicago and I was scouring the imports bin. The guy at the counter threw the 12″ single on and it began to play. I was in a different row from her but we could see each other. There we were, her with wildly black disheveled hair and I with a short mop, both decked out in leather jackets trying to just not stick out.

The record started and we both did that cool head bob thing you do when you her a record that hits like a delicacy on the tongue or good whiskey. it was pretty cool. I somehow managed to get one of the last codes of the damn thing and spent the rest of the day grasping it like a nun with a rosary.

From that point on I have checked in on them now and then. I think they are a great singles band with a few great albums smattered in-between. Burgess knows how to take his influences and pour them back into his music which is harder to do than it may appear.

As for his book, Telling Stories is pretty straightforward. It is a quick read and Burgess does indeed have stories that are informative, funny and insightful. Burgess has a new book, One Two Another coming out over here soon. it is a collection of lyrics accompanied by lyrics and annotations.

Now onto The Wants. They are from Brooklyn. they have a new record out called Container that is rad. They have this Interpol/Gang of Four thing going on and it totally works. They are grimy and dark and murky and they have great chords.

Their new ‘single’ is The Motor.

Fear My Society is also really good.

Beneath the surface is a serious sense for pop sensibility that also plugs into a minimal techno vibe in a few places. These guys sound like all the dark underbelly of New York places that I used to go to when New York still had such things. If you want more info on these guys check them out on social media or here: https://thewantsnyc.bandcamp.com

IDLES have a new record coming out called Ultra Mono. I love IDLES. they make great musical hissyfits and Joe Talbot has a distinctive voice. I also love that they are mostly angry. Grounds is their latest single and it does not disappoint. It flails uncontrollably in a wash of snarls and abrasive guitars.

IDLES are the perfect band for the disenfranchised minority. In this case that minority are people who appreciate the awesomeness of loud, angry post-punk and want to punch Nickelback in the face. Their songs are intense, crunchy and filled with lyrics that are clever and sly. They are the real deal.

I started watching The Mandalorian which has been a nice break from the hell we are living in. I am that guy too, the one guy that thinks there is too much Baby Yoda. But it is not that big of a deal. Beyond that there is some real character development going on. And I love that it is a Western.

I also started watching Derry Girls which has been fun. I have not needed subtitles. I have heard some Americans “don’t understand” the accents. If you are American and cannot understand an Irish accent by now I can’t help you. Just saying.

Schitt’s Creek is still great and I never want it to end.

I have taken the plunge and started watching The Expanse. There is a lot going on and they just throw you in feet first.

Nonetheless, it is just gritty enough to keep me curious. It isn’t shiny or cute either which is good. At first I thought the premise was a bit hokey but it grew on me.

Edward Hopper has kept me sane during the pandemic. So many of his paintings feature figures that are in isolation despite being in a large city. His elegant landscapes of urban areas are beautiful but desolate.

As this thing goes on I find myself looking at his work and finding comfort. If there are people in his paintings they look burdened or miserable or just tired. People can relate to that. If they are landscapes or houses or gas stations they are appear desolate and abandoned. the tis another thing that resonates today. They drip of melancholy and that makes me oddly calm.

Appliance news for this month……

There is a spiffy new rotating fan that has really helped cut down on running the AC. We also got some new hospital grade air filters. Hopefully that will help keep germs and viruses at bay, or at least slow things down.

Not quite an appliance but there is a new kitchen table. It has opened up some space in way too small kitchen which is fantastic. It is nice to have the extra space.

There has been workmen outside the apartment playing terrible classic rock for the better part of two weeks now. It is like an obstacle course trying to get around them because they are of the ilk that doesn’t social distance, even outside. They are nice but….

  • 1. They have crap taste in music
  • 2. I do not know what form of English they speak
  • 3. They love to litter
  • 4. They don’t clean up after themselves
  • 5. See social distancing complaint above.

Anyway, the poor bastards have bene out in the heat taking down hornets nest and walking on roofs so I can cut them some slack. They have a cherry picker that has been out in front for a while and they love it. They go up and down all day like giddy school kids.

Randomness…

I need to see that damn comet.

They should not be playing sports.

Selfish & stupid people are going to be the end of us.

On some mornings I find myself watching old timey steam trains in North Wales. They are on webcam and you can see them as they come and go. Everyone is socially distant and wearing masks. They run mostly from Porthmadog and Tan y Bwlch.

You can see the mountains of Snowdonia in the background too which is also calming. My dad worked for a railroad and I remember when he took me to the roundhouse and it was pretty cool.

Link: https://www.festrail.co.uk

I miss being able to travel. I still have no desire to eat inside a restaurant or go bowling. I wish I could say this is all going away, but nope it is not.

I just want one day where it does;t feel like 2020 is piling on. Just one. Ok, maybe a few. Like the rest of the year.

Me and Ennio Down By the Schoolyard

The Great Ennio Morricone has passed. I first heard the Maestro when I was in high school. It happened pretty simply. I generally spent my lunch breaks on the bleachers listening to music away from the world. With Morricone, I had a cassette soundtrack from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly that I got from the library. I was pretty hooked early on and became obsessed. His work was a nice break from the other cassettes I was listening to at the time. His music also served as a gateway to listening to film soundtracks.

Like most kids lunchtime kind of sucked. I kept to myself, read and listened to music. It was an hour to not have to be around jocks, burnouts, preppies or spoiled rich kids.

Using his most famous score as a gateway, I immediately set out to find his other stuff. Soon that quest broadened and I began to watch the movies that his scores came from. So now, Morricone was responsible for expanding both my musical palette and my love of movies. His Sergio Leone films fit snugly into my punk aesthetic at the time and I loved his work from The Mission and The Thing. I also loved his score for The Sicilian Clan and The Untouchables.

I probably would not have happened upon Cinema Paradiso without him. I remember seeing the restored print of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly a few years ago and seeing it on a massive screen was amazing. It was pretty incredible. Despite my general dislike for Clint Eastwood his music made the entire movie fit together.

As an aside, Eli Wallach was pretty damn great in that movie. Also, I saw a lot of dudes that looked an awful lot like Lee Van Cleef at K-mart growing up. It was weird.

There is an emotion to his music hats transcends the films. He also has a way of orchestrating that blends in trumpets, guitars and other instruments so seamlessly.

As I got older and started to go more and more indie, I never stopped liking Morricone. I knew I was on to something when I heard his music sampled on records I liked. Hearing his influence on bands like Massive Attack, Portishead and Thievery Corporation also made me quite happy. One of the reasons why It Couldn’t Happen Here by Pet Shop Boys is so terrific is because his fingerprints are all over it.

When I lived in New York I picked up a few DJ gigs here and there. I do remember one late night I threw on Erasure’s version of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and the place went kind of wild.Over the years I have ended many, many late night sets with The Ecstasy of Gold, which really resonates late at night to drunk people.

I need to see Once Upon A Time In The West again. Once Upon A Time In America is a terrific film that encapsulates the Italian immigrant experience. Also, I still love The Untouchables.

So, I guess if you take nothing away from my blog this week, listen to some Maurine. I dare you to not be moved.

The new Johnny Depp ads for Sauvage are stupid. It is from Dior and is probably crazy expensive. How the mighty have fallen.

I mean this guy cannot do a good movie anymore. It is kind of sad really.

Is it me or do guys who worry about cologne tend to be really annoying?The world is so grim right now that I have to ask if we really need to this right now?

The hot days of summer are here. It is humid. It is not great mask wearing weather but this is what the next few years will look like so I will deal with it.

The folks in 1918 were tough as Hell. I wish we were now.

Those folks were really grinding it out. It was absolutely horrible. When I read about it I had no idea I would be living through it.

While I have been home I have spent the last few weeks making different forms of gyros and Greek food. I found some pita and some terrific olives. The olives have really been nice to have. I also add lettuce, tomatoes, feta and taziki sauce. I also can mix it up with tahini sauce too.

In the midst of all this fun my favorite pair of readers decided to give out. So I braved it and went into a store and got new ones. They are nowhere as cool looking but who cares about how things look right now.

I have been catching up on Documentary Now! It has provided many great laughs. I also have started to rewatch Black Adder. Man it is still funny!

Seeing Hamilton on Disney was pretty cool. I was able to see facial expressions and it really added a lot to enjoying it.

Jonathan Groff is quite the spitter. I bet that guy is sitting at home, social distancing and counting his money. Between Hamilton and Frozen he is probably doing pretty okay.

The other thing I am intrigued about with about Hamilton is how they move the sets around. there’s a lot of moving parts going on with the show and it is pretty interesting to see how the actors interact with that.

TCM has been running The Falcon movies with Tom Conway. Each one runs at about an hour and fifteen minutes and they pack a lot of stuff into each one. They are pretty much a product of their times. but they remain interesting and fun to see. Conway made ten films in the series and they are pretty silly really.

Despite being a series of B mystery films these are kind of great in that they use all the tropes of the time over and over again. The films are pretty cheesy but that is what makes them gloriously fun!

Not much else is happening this week as I anxiously prep for returning to work on Monday. I am not going to any of the movie houses or restaurants that have reopened. I am still generally trying to be as careful as I can which is why I have learned to detest the stupid so much.

Sports used to be my distraction from watching the news. However I really think they need to not have any pro sports at all. it sucks I know but the risk is not worth it. Especially since these guys are all doing it to line someone else’s pockets more than anything else.

There is no real appliance news this time. the new fine is pretty great. it runs quiet too! I also hope to get new furnace filters soon and I have a new kitchen table and chairs to assemble.

Exciting news in daunting times.