Horror 101: Mr. Mascaro

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Charles Band is someone who gets to do what he apparently loves and what he loves is cheap horror films, mostly about killer dolls. They are generally not good films, but at least they don’t take themselves seriously.

I don’t know when or why I watched Blood Dolls, but it wasn’t very engaging, and it had a very odd performance from lead Jack Maturin when suddenly Mr. Mascaro (William Paul Burns) showed up  as his henchman.

People are often afraid of clowns, and many films try to work this phobia, but Mr. Mascaro is different in that he isn’t the slightest bit jovial. He’s deadly serious, utterly intense. Where there is a temptation to ham this role up, he underplays it. If Richard Kuklinski wore clown makeup, he’d be Mr. Mascaro.

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After some cursory research, I found out that his character is related to another Band film, Demonic Toys, and that he is playing the live action version of the Jack in the Box. This character has appeared in nine (!) other films in the franchise, all of which I have not seen, and I do not intend to rectify that.

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But Mr. Mascaro is a standout. He is never actually used to his potential, and I don’t see this actor participating in a film again, which makes this another missed opportunity, but that’s what Horror 101 is for. As the gravel-voiced, calmly maniacal Mr. Mascaro, there is nothing funny about this clown.

Tom and Tom: Our Anniversary

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Believe it or not, this humble blog has lasted for exactly two years. We’ve put out an article roughly every three days, something that I’m particularly proud of. We’re not making fine art here, but they’re articles that I like, that make me laugh, and I’m glad they’re part of my FBI profile.

Lacking an ombudsman, I have to self-reflect on our work. A man I very much respect once told me that the biggest room in any house is the room for improvement. There are two things that bother me about how things have turned out.

I always wanted this to be a collaborative effort, and I wanted other people to get involved, especially women. I wanted to do more than pay lip service to diversity. That was a miserable failure. I cannot tell you the amount of women I approached to participate, even under anonymity, to no end, and so I’ve let it go. This site is going to reflect a male point of view and there’s not much I can do about it.

Our biggest failure is one I still don’t know how to address, which is that because of the title and look of our site, white people often don’t feel welcome.

Tom and Tom Black like You is a reference to an In Living Color skit, (which I suppose dates us) it was Tom’s idea, and I thought it was a hoot.

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But a lot of white people didn’t get the joke.

The moment they saw that, they thought it was a ‘black’ site and there was nothing to appeal to them. The idea that white people are excluded from what I’m talking about is preposterous, my wife is white, and I’ve written about rock guitar players and British teleplays. We are black, that is our identity, and we’re never going to pretend we’re not, but hopefully at least some of what we talk about can simply transcend race, and so far, we haven’t really communicated that, and I’m not sure how to tweak that yet.

On a lesser note, I know I did a terrible job of editing, something that I had to work on, and the tone of the site is all over the place, which I think is difficult for a couple of reasons. We’re both diverse guys, and the site was going to reflect that, but it’s a little more than that, I think.

The first reason was a change in my philosophy. We used to kind of check the cultural barometer and write about what was happening. After a while, I didn’t see the point in being the 200th website to write about Lady Gaga, as no one was going to see us anyway. So lately, I explored what I liked about the Internet in the first place.

When I first got the Internet (in 1997) it was a lot cruder, but a lot more fun. If you had the patience, you could go through search results for any topic and find the most obscure webpages imaginable. For somebody that loved minor subjects and actors with sparse filmography, it was a goldmine. Then search engines changed and no matter what, you mostly got the same websites for stuff, because they paid to be at the top. What you’re seeing right now is me trying to give you things that you’ve never heard about, or stuff that other sites don’t talk about. I want fun Internet.

The second thing is harder to talk about.

Some of this site was dedicated to satire, or at least social consciousness. I’m kind of burned out with that. That’s because of Trayvon Martin, which for me is one of the most mortifying social moments of my life.

My wife and I are talking about having children. I have a lot of anxiety about the idea of children and the responsibility of shaping a human life. I worried about the world this kid would have to live in. This did not help.

Imagine your child wants to go to the corner store. Like all teenagers, he’s a goofball, and right now he’s driving you nuts doing stupid stuff in school, but he’s a good kid. And he goes to the store and never comes back.

Some random guy in your neighborhood decided he was a threat. He stalked him with a gun, a gun that he wasn’t supposed to have, as part of a Neighborhood Watch duty that he wasn’t actually on. Your son ran, but eventually he decided he wasn’t going to run anymore. And he got shot in the street, fighting for his life.

Of course you don’t know that, because even though the police are on the scene, no one tells you about your son’s death. What they do is carefully remove the killer (who is the local magistrate’s son, and buddies with a lot of the guys on the force) from the scene. They don’t even put him in jail overnight, which you would get for outstanding parking tickets. They don’t interview witnesses. They let the scene go cold. The first officer on the scene, who is responsible for creating the crime scene is one of the most notorious fixers on the force. And the only reason they even bring charges after more than a month, is because of national uproar.

Your neighbors loudly support the killer.

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Your son died in clean khakis, designer sneakers and a hoodie because it was raining. They demonize him. They find old pictures of him, making faces, wearing a ‘gangster’ grill and they try to make him seem scary. They say that he shouldn’t have worn a hoodie and maybe he wouldn’t have looked suspicious. If you’re scary to some people its okay if you die.

He got suspended from school for smoking weed, a substance that America is rapidly legalizing, but in his case it just marks him as one of the ‘bad ones.’ You go to trial. It’s a joke. They tear one witness apart for her halting testimony, not realizing that English was not her first language. State law allows you extreme latitude to use your gun to defend yourself against any threat, but here the law does not protect your son, who had no lethal weapon, nor pursued anyone. There’s a Stand Your Ground Law, but in Florida, black people don’t have ground to stand on.

The killer gets off scot free.

The killer becomes a celebrity. He appears at gun shows where he is congratulated for gunning a teenager that he outweighed by a hundred pounds. The police give him his gun back. It’s the law after all. He goes on to terrorize his girlfriend and her family with his guns. He learned nothing from it all.

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They make targets shaped like your son so white people can pretend they’re shooting him. You couldn’t stop the production of them if you tried. It’s a free country after all.

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Elsewhere, Michael Dunn, a white, petulant, software developer fires ten shots into an SUV because he got into an argument with black teenagers over playing their music too loud. He kills 17 year old Jordan Davis with nine of those bullets. All of the teenagers were unarmed. The jury did not find Dunn guilty of murder on Davis. Not first, not second, not manslaughter. The charges he got convicted on were for the people he missed. Somehow he got convicted of attempted murder for the people he didn’t shoot, but got away with murder for the person he actually did kill.

Frankly, if you want to shoot a black person and get away with it, I’d head to the Sunshine State as soon as possible.

“He shouldn’t have worn a hoodie,” my father (the former Black Radical!) said.

My father.

Trayvon Martin stripped away everything else and exposed the ugliness in people that I didn’t want to see. Satire only exists when people are intelligent enough to understand the joke, when society has no perspective, then it simply becomes a form of autoeroticism.

I tried to work through it. But then I would see Trayvon Martin, lying on the ground, terrified, long-limbed and lanky like a faun, eyes wide open above the terrible rictus of his mouth.

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I just couldn’t write.

Then Mike Brown got shot in Ferguson. I didn’t want to write about that either. I’ve been stopped by the police more times than I can count. I nearly got shot to death by police in front of my home with a basket of laundry. It was the second time police had nearly gunned me down at that point. But no one cares, because in America, my life isn’t worth anything.

Honestly, a fair-minded person knows what happened to Mike Brown with just the bare minimum of facts. For any police work, the first officer on the scene is the most important one, and most of his work is done in the first twenty four hours. Few witnesses were interviewed. Police confiscated cell phones, in case there was video footage on them. That’s all you need to know right there.

But something marvelous happened. At first, protestors were attacked by police, but no one cares if police harass minorities, just look at the Broken Windows policy in New York.

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But then the media showed up. And the police unashamedly continued their knuckle dragging brutality.

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They tear gassed children, threatened and arrested reporters with impunity, while simultaneously spouting Goebbels-level propaganda through various media. They attacked the crowd, claiming that residents had thrown Molotov cocktails, when embedded reporters saw only a peaceful protest. They tear gassed and detained their own Senator. They claimed that Mike Brown attacked the police officer and tried to take his weapon when there were no close range powder burns on his body and he was shot on the top of his head and inner arms – indicating a surrender gesture.

The entire country can see poorly-trained, armored, aggressive para-military troops that don’t care about the Constitution, or your rights, or who you are. They don’t see race, the only color they protect is blue. And they really don’t care if you film them or complain, because no one is going to do anything about it. In the end, the union will show up and fight any real discipline and that is how it will end.

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And if those blurry videos with those shadowy figures pointing guns and screaming at you make you apprehensive about the people that are supposed to protect, if it makes you wonder where things went wrong, if it makes you feel like someone should do something before things get out of control – well now you know how I’ve felt my entire life.

See?

I told you we were all black now.

Return to The Island: Tom’s Desert Island Playlist (Intro)

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As I, like the rest of our adoring fans, read through and listened to Tom’s Desert Island Disc, my mind slowly drifted towards said island, and I imagined what it would be like if I had only a collection of amazing tunes to keep me company (as a volleyball with a bloody handprint might not be readily available).

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Just doesn’t quite have the same ring as Wilson, does it?

Picking the only CD you’ll ever hear for the indefinite future is a daunting task. It has to contain songs that you’ll never tire of hearing, but it also has to be upbeat enough to keep you from constructing a hanging noose from the old VHS tapes that washed up on shore a few days after you did. It should also keep you going while you forage around looking for the essentials:

Food and fresh water,

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firewood and kindling,

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a lifetime supply of booze in an underground cavern,

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and coconuts to make CB radios from.

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It seems most of my castaway survival knowledge comes from TV and movies. That might pose a problem later.

 

A surprising number of Tom’s selections were a good place to start. Some of the artists will most likely make my own list, but some of the selections were so depressing, they would make me wish I’d been marooned with a pistol containing a single shot. My own taste dictates a lot more uptempo pieces, but to each his own.

After much delay, I’ll be presenting my own version of the Desert Island playlist soon. In the meantime, I’m gonna study up on how to build a treehouse.

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This seems like a good place to start.

Desert Island Disc, Finale

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16. Freedom (Motherless Child) – Richie Havens

His trademark song, an intense experience that somehow combines Gospel with folk music, a nearly impossible hybrid. His wild strumming and percussive slapping fills the entire song, with his ragged voice, little other accompaniment is needed, in fact, it would be intrusive. It is my belief that he performed the song better over time as his voice entered a lower register.

The most unbelievable part is that his first performed the song at Woodstock and it was a pure improvisation, since most of the other artists were stuck in traffic and couldn’t get to the venue in time.

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17. Velvet Water – Stereolab

Sometimes I like really weird songs, just because they feel fresh.

Velvet Water starts out incomprehensible, and then after a minute and a half, comes in a jazzy off kilter keyboard riff, and then the vocals of Laetitia Sadier. The hook is a natural extension of the verse and by the time Mary Hansen’s backup vocals kick in, it starts to hit you how pretty this song really is.

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18. Zion Wolf – Jai Paul

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the music business and have to deal with Jai Paul. Since he’s been signed he’s only produced two singles, he’s a musician who doesn’t actually release any material. In 2013, there was a leak of his older material apparently. Mixed so poorly most of the lyrics are indecipherable, it is still jaw-droppingly brilliant.

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From the first second of his music, his melodies are incredibly addictive, and he seems to be able to appropriately insert more polyrhythms and world music flourishes then anyone I’ve ever seen. I cannot get this song (or any of them) out of my head.

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19. Airwaves – Thomas Dolby

Some of the best music I know comes from so-called ‘one hit wonders.’ Airwaves is one of those songs that I find extremely visual. In a logical sense, I don’t understand what the song is about, but it gives a me very distinct impression sort of like a Jack Kerouac poem and when that hook hits this song goes into overdrive.

Dolby’s music is dismissed as synth pop, but he had quite a bit of really impressive material. Like many of the people I like, he deserved better than he got.

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20. Moonraker – Shirley Bassey

I never saw Moonraker, as I refuse to see any more Bond films with Roger Moore in them, so I don’t know what a Moonraker actually is. What I do know is that Shirley Bassey killed this thing.

The human voice is supposed to exceed every other instrument. Moonraker proves it. I actually wince in the middle of the verse at the sheer power and range of her voice. A lot of us think that we can carry a tune, but this is a humbling vocal display.

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21. Chicago – Sufjan Stevens

Stevens is a genius. This list could quite easily be top twenty songs of Sufjan Stevens but then we would be on the island without any good fight songs and we’d be overrun by cannibals.

So then you’re forced to pick a song, and if you have to, it would be Chicago.

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22. Rebellion (Lies) – The Arcade Fire

Very few songs build this well, and very few songs have such strong call and response melodies that sort of bleed into each other. The moment you hear this, you won’t be able to not think about it.

Go ahead. Try not to hum it now.

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23. Heart of Hearts – !!!

A particularly infectious song, from a great band that infects their music with a very authentic joy. Even better live, so I’m linking to one of those versions, even though it doesn’t have that jaw dropping guitar solo/instrumental breakdown of the studio version.

I have like, another 10 songs. This was a terrible idea.

Desert Island Disc, Part 3

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11. Overkill – Motorhead

The other fight song on my list.

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“Filthy Animal” Taylor does a more bestial version of a Alex van Halen drumline. The underrated “Fast Eddie” Clarke does some devastating guitarwork, and Lemmy provides his usual vocals. The sort of song that rock doesn’t produce anymore, and hasn’t in decades.

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12. My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me – The Geto Boys

It’s a true classic, but I’m not going to make the statement that it’s the greatest hip-hop song ever. There are better lyricists, and smoother flows. It’s just the song I want to listen to.

There’s something melancholy about the Isaac Hayes sample used for the beat, and Scarface’s verse is so brutal you can understand why the man is a legend. The apparitions, the paranoia, all of the things described in the song, don’t have an explantion which is why they’re so potent, but plenty of rap songs are dark. The Geto Boys made a song that felt deeper somehow.

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13. Moorea – The Gipsy Kings

Moorea is a beautiful instrumental piece, done in a flamenco style. It’s a constantly moving, slithery composition with absurd work from guitarist Tonino Baliardo. It’s almost impossible to have a piece so vibrant occasionally veer into introspection, but Moorea somehow does it. I have a general prejudice towards vocal music, but honestly it wasn’t until I was writing the description that I realized that it was an instrumental.

This is one of those songs I think it would be impossible to dislike.

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14. Backdoor Man – T-Model Ford

Every Saturday night, T-Model Ford got drunk and did his best Howling Wolf imitation. That’s not a slam, either, you can make some pretty good music with Howling Wolf as your inspiration. Backdoor Man is a stripped down cover, with Ford and his drummer Spam producing magic on his best album in my opinion. By the time, this album had come out I had stopped playing blues, because I was bored with it, but the stripped down, raw sounds from Fat Possum Records brought me.

I can’t explain why I find this so charming. Its short, to the point, and it is juke joint blues in its purest form from the 50 Cent of the blues.

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15. Deeper Understanding – Kate Bush

People are often floored to find out that I am a huge Kate Bush fan. The woman had decades of phenomenal music, which, unlike many modern female artists, she wrote and produced herself. She had this ability to find the most incongruous elements and make them into fantastic music. On Deeper Understanding, she tells the story of a woman with an unnatural intimacy towards her computer. Being Kate Bush, there is a swirling chorus, backup vocals by a Bulgarian folk trio (seriously they were magically inserted through the entire album) and her impeccable sense of melody.

It is worth noting that a couple years ago, she went back to her studio and fooled with some of her classic tracks, including this one, in what was titled ‘The Director’s Cut.’ Avoid that version like the plague, but pretty much anything else in her catalogue is money.

Guardians of the Galaxy: A Humble Review (Spoilers!)

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There is a temptation to compare Guardians of the Galaxy to the more recent Marvel movies, like Avengers or Captain America: Winter Soldier, but that’s not fair. This film represents a major step forward for Marvel Studios as a whole, for multiple reasons.

No Marvel movie has started as strongly as Guardians of Galaxy or has been this entertaining this quickly. Most Marvel movies have been stuck establishing a backstory for characters that we already know while fighting terrible budget restrictions. (Oh, Spiderman got his powers from a radioactive spider bite! Well that was an hour well spent!)  Also, because Marvel has made a practice of hiring cheaper but talented writer/directors that are accustomed to much smaller productions, the action scenes have suffered at the expense of acting and plot. When is the last time you heard that?

While director James Gunn does occasionally struggle filming the combat scenes, Guardians has almost none of those problems. It accomplishes what few summer films have ever done.

It charms.

This entire movie is charismatic. It’s a comedy, but it’s not slight because Gunn is smart enough to know that you don’t tear down your characters to create the comedy. (Let me put it this way, once Freddy Krueger became a wise-cracker, you weren’t scared of him anymore and the movies didn’t mean as much.) The people in Guardians of the Galaxy are mostly humanoid and speak English, but most of this film’s humor is based on them miscommunicating with each other, because they are aliens, after all.

Guardians of the Galaxy is about Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a young boy whose mom dies of cancer the same night he is abducted by aliens. While they are supposed to take him to his father, (who is never revealed, but is not human) he is instead adopted by a band of pirates known as Ravagers led by the surprisingly lethal Yondu Udonta (the incomparable Henry Rooker).

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Decades later, he doublecrosses Youdu to deliver an unknown orb to The Broker. He runs afoul of men he doesn’t recognize, not knowing that they are agents of Ronan (Lee Pace, who should have had more screen time) a powerful alien terrorist, angry about a recently signed treaty. Ronan is working for Thanos (Josh Brolin) a villain with two ‘daughters’ Nebula (Karen Gillan showing some serious range) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) neither of whom are particularly faithful to him.

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Gamora is sent to find Quill and retrieve the orb. Quill is the subject of a bounty issued by Youdu, and so is the target of bounty hunters Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and man-tree Groot (Vin Diesel). They all meet at the same time and end up in jail where they meet the maniacal and hulking Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who wants revenge against Ronan for killing his family. And the good times start there. The Orb contains an Infinity Gem, a compressed piece of incalculable power from the begining of the universe that can be manipulated by especially hardy users and everybody wants it, and is willing to do anything to get it.

As a service to non-comic fans I need to provide context, possession of all six Infinity gems gives the user near omnipotence. Thanos eventually collects the gems, triggering a superhero war where he is attacked by every superhero at once in a battle to save the universe. As an event comic, it was spectacular and Marvel is building their movies to this point.

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Guardians of the Galaxy is genuinely funny, very clever, unexpectedly touching, and incredibly absorbing. Gunn’s genius centers on the Walkman that Chris Pratt treasures, loaded with a single cassette of his mother’s favorite music. Plenty of movies have given us weird aliens and cosmic scenery, but they couldn’t figure out how to make us care about them. Whenever things get too out there, Gunn has a familiar oldie playing, which has the effect of making the audience completely accept whatever it is that he is showing.

This is a movie with a talking raccoon that shoots guns, a mining colony inside a giant alien’s head, a foppish Collector character with a fur coat, seductive pink women and a giant tree-man, Glenn Close’s haircut and James Gunn gets the audience to go along with him, because he plays an old Bowie song. If you want to know why movies like John Carter or Battleship flopped, or if you have a summer movie coming up, this should be a tutorial in how to make it work.

I suppose its greed talking, but if this is the first movie, I can’t even fathom how good the sequel is going to be.

Desert Island Disc, Part Two

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6. Fall Back – Big L w/ Kool G Rap

I believe in conscious hip-hop, and I could listen to Talib Kweli , Common or Pharoah Monche for hours. But sometimes you eat food that you know is bad for you, and sometimes you listen to stuff that is less than enlightened. Big L was the pre-Jay-Z, and on any other song his verse would have been great, but Kool G Rap EXPLODES on this song. I don’t know if he didn’t take his medicine, if someone cut him off in traffic, I don’t know what happened, but this is verbal viciousness. If I was going to explain to someone what hip-hop was, this would be one of the songs I pick.

Side story, I’m playing this in the car with my wife who had never heard it before. She always gets quiet for a long time before she gives me a classic line. The song ends and it turns out she really likes it. I didn’t expect her to go for gangster rap, so I asked her why.

“The horns make the song sound happy,” she said. “I think this is a happy song.”

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  1. Everything is Free – the Holmes Brothers

Gillian Welch wrote this song as a quiet, introspective, almost sulky acoustic piece about file sharing. The Holmes Brothers somehow make the same song a celebration. They animate it, like they do everything else. Drummer Popsy Dixon has one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard, and here he is at his best. The last two minutes is a virtual clinic on vocal fills. But me saying that is a cop out. It’s a beautiful song, sung wonderfully.

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  1. House of Jealous Lovers – The Rapture

The first time I heard House of Jealous Lovers, I was listening to college radio, and I almost crashed my car. I’d never heard anything like it. Rock is a lot of things, but up to that point, I’d never thought of it as danceable. Echoes is a great album, with surprising versatility, but there is a rollicking section in the middle that few albums have matched, and House of Jealous Lovers is the best of the lot. At some point on the island, I figure there will be a party (mostly delirium from drinking poorly filtered salt water) and this song needs to be playing.

Sad footnote, for some reason, producers listened to this band and their propulsive rhythm section, and decided to minimize them in favor of Luke Jenner’s wailing vocals. The Rapture quickly went from exciting to irrelevant. It was a terrible miscalculation.

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  1. How Does it Feel? (Untitled) – D’Angelo

This is a really sexy song, but lots of songs are sexy. Untitled is bigger than that. It’s hard to listen to the radio and find any echoes of the rawness of the great soul singers like Otis Redding or Teddy Pendergrass. It’s not to say that there aren’t good singers out there, but with modern production, among other factors, what we have out there isn’t that gritty.

D’Angelo captured lightening in a bottle. The entire album is great, and it sounds like a living room jam. But Untitled is a masterpiece, a slow build until its exit when D’Angelo for the first time in his recorded career just lets loose with a primal scream, and the song ends with him absolutely giving everything he has, until it cuts off abruptly, almost embarrassed. I know the video was infamous at the time, but it was the song that was naked.

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10. Search and Destroy – Iggy and the Stooges

Sometimes stuff has to get punched. It’s an ugly truth. And you need music to punch stuff to. Like if we were on the island, and maybe on the other side of the island there was cannibals, or pirates or Ron Paul supporters and we had to defend against them, you play this song. And someone gets punched.

Insane Iggy vocals, one of the greatest codas in the history of anything, the raw guitar sound I haven’t heard on records since maybe the early 80’s, and an outro that’s so intense, that the silence after the track (and before ‘Penetration’) is almost a relief.

Desert Island Disc, Part One

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1. What Power Art Thou (Prelude While the Cold Genius Rises) – Henry Purcell

I would be lying if I said I was naturally exposed to Henry Purcell, I learned about him because he wrote a great deal of compositions for counter-tenors and when I was exposed to the mesmerizing Klaus Nomi, after a while I started to wonder whose songs he was always singing. With Purcell, I still find it amazing that someone who lived over 400 years ago made music that’s so stirring to me. Whether performed with a baritone or a falsetto, this is a concisely brilliant composition, but its at its best with a counter tenor, and no one did a better job than the late, great Klaus Nomi.

Every time this song reaches “let me freeze again,” I get the same chills. I could listen to it every day. (Two other compositions of Purcell nearly made the list, both from Dido and Aeneas. “When I am laid in Earth (Dido’s Lament)” is the obvious one, but I have an affinity for “Thanks to these lonesome vales.”

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  1. Let Down – Radiohead

OK Computer is the greatest album I’ve ever heard, but for me, Let Down is the crown jewel of the whole thing. It’s a chimey track that immediately makes me think of Roger McGuinn and the Byrds, with this superimposed oddly timed Fender Rhodes lick that nicely introduces dissonance to what could have been boring verses if done by a lesser artist. It combines beauty with intrigue, and by the time Thom Yorke warbles “You know, you know where you are,” I’ve realized that I’m singing along, whether I mean to or not. I could play this song on a loop and never get tired of it.

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3.  Isle of the Dead – Sergei Rachmaninoff

This is difficult to support, but to me Rachmaninoff suffers from several large assumptions. It’s hard to separate Russia from Communism and our idea of Communism is more Ivan Drago, than Alexander Solzhenitsyn. To think that the slender severe-looking man we see in photographs was capable of such a passionate work seems almost alarming in its contrast. Rachmaninoff was known for his large, impossibly flexible hands, making his compositions at times difficult to play, but that technical proficiency doesn’t mean that his work was cold and distant. Isle of the Dead, is his piece based on the Arnold Böcklin painting.

Isle of the Dead is roughly 22 minutes long if I remember correctly. It does not feel that long, pretty much every time I’ve ever played it, I was surprised at how quickly it seemed to end. An orchestral line in a 5/8 time signature signifies the rowing of the oars in the water as you approach the Isle of Dead starts the song, but it builds to an incredible intensity over the next eleven minutes. I’m sure if I was an expert there are better classical pieces, but I’m not, and to me this is tremendous.

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  1. Someday We’ll All Be Free – Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway is mostly forgotten in this country, internationally he has a higher profile. It’s a shame. Edward Howard wrote the lyrics for this song as encouragement to the depressed artist, and Hathaway cried when he finally recorded it. It relief was only temporary, as Hathaway eventually took his own life.

Honestly, if I was a more open person, I would cry every time I hear it too. It’s a deeply emotional song, with the idea that maybe someday the pain that we endure will stop, and somehow you can hear that it Hathaway’s voice. It has been covered many times, which is insane. No one will ever do it better.

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5. Cosmic Slop (live)- Funkadelic (Hardcore Jollies album)

As a former guitar player, I thought funk was the highest form of music. Its rhythms have the complex chording of jazz ( while rock players are often exceptional if they can avoid parallel movement, use power chords properly and occasionally use an inversion or two) some of the more abstract concepts from classical music (quartal harmonies come to mind), impossible poly-rhythms that evoke African and Latin styles, the feel of soul and blues and the aggression of rock. And the leads – you can really do anything.

Cosmic Slop does it all perfectly. The raw vocals of juke joint blues, a rhythm section that carries the sound, two dueling guitars that sound fresh over thirty years later, and a deceptively unorthodox song structure. Even if we’re on an island, at some point we have to party, right?

Desert Island Disc

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Its a dated idea now, I suppose, but it was always fun to imagine what records you would want with you on a desert island. Usually, you’d pick ten or so full albums. Now people have iPods and you’d have thousands of songs, but I’m doing something different.

On my island you can only have one CD, and it has roughly 20 tracks. Of course, instead of worrying about your survival or making a boat, you spend all your time arguing if one song is better than another one. Over the next week or so, I’m going to tell you what songs I would have on my island. At some point, Tom will list his own tracks, after mocking mine, of course.

Enjoy.

Horror 101: Joanne

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Joanne – The Appointment 1981
There are a few things that keep The Appointment from being a great film. It’s extremely British, the characters are extremely restrained, the pace is mostly sluggish, and it concerns itself with a great deal of daily minutia. It stars Edward Woodward, which is problematic, because the last time he did a horror film, it was the legendary Wicker Man, so his appearance creates an unfair expectation that this film cannot match. Also, in trying to be ambiguous, it comes off as a tad underwritten.
With all of that said, there is an awful lot going for this film as well.
Joanne is Ian’s daughter, an incredibly spoiled adolescent who is accustomed to being the sole figure of attention in her father’s life, even to the exclusion of his wife, Dianna. During the course of the film, she is the teenage girl everyone is afraid that they’re going to have.
Ian is going to her violin recital, the capstone of her entire schooling, when at the last second Ian finds out that he has to go on a business trip and cannot make it. Joanne begins a campaign of manipulation, petulance and outright defiance to get him to go, but she doesn’t realize that her mother is sick of her conduct and is applying equal pressure to Ian as well. Eventually, Ian holds firm. He is going on the business trip.

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But the Appointment is, after all, a horror film. Joanne has imaginary friends she talks to, friends that resemble the Black Dogs of British legend. They slip in at night to her. And if she wants someone dead (like the violinist that outshone her) they die mysteriously. At some point in the film, Joanne makes it clear to something that she wants her dad to die.
The Appointment is about the unshakeable feeling of disease, the idea that something is terribly wrong, even though everything seems normal around. Ian has a very typical business trip, at least for a while, but even he notices something imperceptible, but sinister. It becomes apparent that The Appointment is not a case if, but when, and behind it all is one very thoughtless, very selfish, very evil little girl.

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