Firecracker and I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower last night. As many said, it was much better than I expected, especially from an MTV film. It confronts matters of abuse in a realistic manner that doesn’t use them for plot points. I’ve been in a kind of gut-twisted haze ever since watching it. It triggered something, either by capturing the crowded alienation of high school, or by depicting a survivor being hit with a PTSD episode so damn well.
It uses music to great effect. It’s set in the early ’90s, and I graduated in ’89, so the music was very familiar. And I was very glad that the director–who also wrote the book the movie is based on–didn’t harp on ’80s fashion to evoke the era. It’s all quite subtle, and realistic. Maybe it was a bit too much. I don’t know. The movie isn’t perfect, I never got a three-dimensional feel for Charlie, the narrator. We dive right into the first day of school. But perhaps that is the story’s power, that it left Charlie sketched-in just enough to be a person but also a shell that I could inhabit, and recognize so much of myself in.
Needless to say, I’ll be reading the book soon. I recommend the movie, just be ready for the ending. It is not graphic, it doesn’t have to be. The director affected me more with a simple hand on a knee than books full of detail could have.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Paperback)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Kindle)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (DVD)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Blu-Ray)
Filed under Movies, Music
I picked up the DRIVE soundtrack on pink vinyl a while back. Shipped from the UK. A bit pricey, but it’s a real beauty of an album. If vinyl ain’t your thing, the MP3 album and CD are better priced.
I enjoyed the hell out of Nicholas Winding Refn’s adaptation of James Sallis’s excellent novel DRIVE, and the music was a big part of it. The film looks like ’80s Michael Mann, with Refn’s long takes and close-ups. My one complaint, minor, was a rather silly chase with a Mustang GT and a Chrysler 300C that looked more like a car commercial than anything real; the opening chase and a later scene were much better. Ryan Gosling owns the part, the performances quite good, and it stays mostly true to the novel. Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman… a great cast. Some are only in it briefly, but they leave their mark.
The music is heavily ’80s influenced, immersive and almost ridiculous, meaningless pop by Kazinsky. “There’s something about you. That I can’t explain.” He gives it a thumping drive which distracts you from how close to parody the absurd lyrics really are.
College / Electric Youth does this number, “A Real Hero,” which distills the deep feel of pretentious, heartfelt music. “A real human being.” Listen to it enough and it might make sense. It’s that infectious.
“Under Your Spell” by Desire is another moody piece of electronic ’80s pop. “All I dream about is you…” These three songs on loop can bring you back to 1983, just like when Christopher Reeves surrounded himself with antiques in “Somewhere in Time.”
Filed under Movies, Music
I got into The Flaming Lips when this album exploded, oh ten years ago now. It still transports me to a bouncy castle drug world like the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine movie did. The Flaming Lips started as a kind of punk psychedelic band and melted into their own unique form of electronic fuzz and head music. They were recently almost ruined when Men’s Journal decided that going to one of their concerts was “a bucket list” experience and their sheep subscribers swarmed in droves, in search of a life-affirming event they could purchase on Ticketmaster.
Their concerts are a trip, they have fun with the audience and throw giant bouncy balloons, and singer Wayne Coyne crowdsurfs in a huge hamster ball. It’s a good show. I was sober, so I didn’t merge with the infinite or excrete enlightenment rainbows. I had a good time.
Their albums are beginning to sound alike, but they are engaging for me, and make great writing music. They are the musical equivalent of world-building, immersive like a good novel, video game, or movie experience. Yoshimi is probably the best introduction, but most of their albums from Clouds Taste Metallic onward will work for you. Transmissions from the Satellite Heart has their minor ’90s hit “She Don’t Like Jelly,” but they are probably best known for “Do You Realize?” now, which everyone wants played at their funeral:
Do You Realize – that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize – we’re floating in space -
Do You Realize – that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
So check out Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin before delving into headier stuff like At War with the Mystics and Zaireeka (4 discs meant to be played at once). Hit to Death in the Future Head is good too. If you require more of a rock sound, start there and with their earlier albums.
BBC World News reviewed the London stage show of The Book of Mormon this morning, and played the showcase song of the show. I saw it last year with Firecracker, and we loved it. I gave it a full review.
The song does pick on Mormon beliefs, but the show in total is essentially a comedic anthropological take on religion itself, as stories we tell to make tragedy bearable, and is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a long time.
I first heard Apollo 440′s remix of Ennio Morricone’s classic “Man with a Harmonica” over the end credits of a great Sopranos episode, “Whoever Did This,” when we begin to see Tony’s veneer of humanity begin to crack.
The original song is the theme to one of the best westerns ever made, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. I was thinking about it after reading Wayne Dundee’s excellent review of the film. It is Leone at the top of his form, and Harmonica is one of the great characters of cinema, and perhaps Charles Bronson’s greatest role. Frank, the evil sonofabitch played by Peter Fonda, may be one of Fonda’s best as well. It’s certainly the one that plays against type.
The film is over two hours long, but worth every second. Each time you hear this theme play, Leone teases us with a blurry memory of a young boy faced with pure evil. Seeing who this young man becomes, and how he finally puts an end to a lifetime of pain, is one of the great catharses in western storytelling.
And this song is stuck in my head this week. The mournful tone evokes an inner sadness at the red-claw brutality of life on this Earth, and our endless struggle to rise above it. It speaks of the sadness of a young boy who feels responsible for his older brother’s agonizing death, and his long road to vengeance.
All with a harmonica and a lungful of air.
This is “Electric Worry” by the prog rock band Clutch. They may chafe at the term progressive rock but they sing about Riddley Walker, Minotaurs and have a delightfully absurd sense of humor. I recommend their album “From Beale Street to Oblivion” without reservation. My sister introduced me to them, and their album “Strange Cousins from the West” is also a great listen.
Doctor or lawyer I’ll never be
Life of a drifter, the only life for me
You can have your riches, all the gold you saved
Ain’t but room for one thing in everybody’s grave
The song stuck in my head this week is “Precious Deal” by Tomoyasu Hotei. Most famous for the “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” theme from Kill Bill, he is a Japanese rock musician whose work spans many genres. Bombastic like O-ren Ishi’s theme song, more typical hard-edged rock like the song above, and my favorite cover of “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin (which he did before Trent Reznor essentially copied it for the opening credits of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remake).
Hotei is also an actor, and plays a role in one of my favorite revisionist samurai flicks, Samurai Fiction. Well worth a rental.
A great introduction to his music is the album Electric Samurai, a little play on Marc Bolan’s Electric Warrior album. It has the song from Kill Bill and Immigrant Song. Precious Deal, with its infectious riff, is on another album.
The Song Stuck In My Head This Week is… “Weekend Irish,” by Barleyjuice.
My grandfather came over on the boat from Bray, in County Wicklow. Other than inheriting his shillelagh, I regret not talking to him more about our heritage. By the time I was old enough, he was mostly in his cups, and we did little more than watch pro wrestling together.
Later, I got into the Pogues and I still like trad Irish music and Celtic rock. Barleyjuice is such a band from Philly, and this is one of their best songs. It gets stuck in my head quite often.
Their mp3 album The Barleyjuice Irish Collection is an incredible bargain, 32 songs for $8.99, and I quite enjoy it. Time to loop it and get this song out of my head.
The Verbs are a favorite local band. I heard “Burnt Out Star” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage a year or so ago, and bought their album Trip because I enjoyed it so much. I imagine Jay Desmarteaux cruising around to it after he maxed out of Rahway, in the Challenger he takes from one of the men he did time for.
You can listen to more of their songs on their website, but their Facebook page is better for getting news. I hope to see them play sometime soon.
I joked that I got so high that I imagined Bob Dylan had made a Christmas album last year. And he did, of course, but it seemed almost surreal to me. Not to comment on the quality of the album–I like Dylan’s music, but find his manufactured persona maddening–but doesn’t a “Bob Dylan Christmas album” sound like a bad parody on Saturday Night Live, perhaps aired during a writer’s strike?
My favorite album is A Christmas Gift for You, aka “the Phil Spector Christmas album,” with the Ronettes and the lush-voiced Darlene Love. My mother hunted this down on vinyl in NYC in the ’80s, and we played it so much that to me, it’s not Christmas without it. I have it on vinyl and CD, and my dear wife tolerates my overplaying it. (I’m sure she’s going to strangle me some Christmas Eve, shouting “If I hear ring a ding ding a ding dong ding one more ring ding damn time!!”)
There are plenty of other good Christmas albums out there. I picked up the Charlie Brown Christmas album by the Vince Guaraldi trip on green vinyl this year.
What’s your favorite?