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Music Films

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I recently wrote about some records I listened to lately and I quite enjoyed that format: Going through a number of records quickly without feeling compelled to give a detailed review which would require a lot of time. I’ve had a similar file for films sitting on my Desktop for a while now and it just keeps growing. Beyond the size of a reasonable post. So I’ll just split it up. And I’ll start with a number of music-related films today:

Mogwai

There was a ‘making of’ DVD coming with Mogwai’s Mr Beast album. While considering it to be potentially interesting, I was also sceptical because often bands you like will disappoint you when starting to talk. So did Mogwai. And that wasn’t because of their Scottish accents which made me turn on the subtitles, so I didn’t need to fully concentrate all the time just to understand their gibberish. The whole film was a shaki- and blurrily filmed mess. Post modern, pre modern, whatever. It didn’t show us much, except that Mogwai seem to have their own studio now where most of them hang out most of the time using their Gameboy, iBook, Powerbook – i.e. electro toys you can fold up. In between they mentioned that recording an album is terribly boring and takes ages. Well done, guys.

And while I have the opportunity let me mention once more how crap DVDs and their user interfaces are. The remote control for a DVD player (and similarly of Apple’s software DVD player) has around a million buttons (estimate, actual numbers may vary). Of which about 80% just don’t do anything most of the time because it’s ‘forbidden’ in some way. For example, it remains a mystery how to quickly cue forward 15 minutes, say. The remote of our DVD player has four buttons which look like they could do this. One that’s ‘search forward’, one that’s ‘skip forward’ and the two others are the up and right arrows on a cross of arrows on the remote. The best I could get the damn thing to do is slightly faster playing of the DVD (maxing out at 16 times the actual speed). Just compare this to hitting top and fast forward on a video player. And the bitter irony on this is that it’s entirely a fault of the user interface. DVD should rock in this respect when compared to video. And it can do so. But apparently only when using ‘rogue’ players like VLC which give you the handy scrubbing bar we all know and love and which’ll even let you take screenshots which Apple’s broken DVD player can’t.

So what’s the name of the font they use for the menu items in that screen as well as in the CD booklet?

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

The Fearless Freaks

The Flaming Lips are a great band and thus – in anticipation of their upcoming/new album perhaps – it seemed a good idea to see their own documentary The Fearless Freaks with footage from many of the countless years of the band’s existence. The documentary starts off slowly and almost disappoints by focusing almost exclusively on Oklahoma City and Wayne Coyne’s many brothers – both topics which may be relevant for the topic but which I could easily care more about…

It’s also educational. We learn about what the band did in their early years when starting off with roughly and having the plan to make up for any lack of talent in sheer noise. They even had video captures of that and, well, it looked a bit rough. But they didn’t give up and eventually started to be more experimental and charming, doing their car park events and the Zaireeka album (of which I bought a copy at some stage but still couldn’t convince enough people to come over and perhaps bring along a stereo to enjoy it – I’ve only done that once so far during a social of the wonderful Offbeat society).

And then, of course, came The Soft Bulletin which is both quite accessible and incredibly cheerfully brilliant. It must be one of the best albums of the recent past. Things moved on on a high but not quite as perfect level to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – which is featured in the opening post of this site – and have been looking cheerful since.

An interesting film. And looking around their website because of it I saw that they’re not only having a new album now but also sell surround versions of both The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi. Which – judging from comments at amazon – are brilliant. Doesn’t help me of course with my proper stereo equipment but it’s about the first time I find myself thinking that the hassle of surround sound may be worth it.

And the Lips are touring. I’d quite fancy seeing them as that’s said to be brilliant. But they’ll only come to Hamburg and Köln at times which will be quite busy anyway. Let’s hope I can work something out for that.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Walk the Line

My parents don’t have many CDs. But one of them is a Johnny Cash CD. Which is probably the only audio CD that made it to my dad’s office and the first CD I ever played on a computer (using Apple’s nice CD player in System 7 and a CD drive with a caddy if you need to know). And that’s about as far back as my history with Johnny Cash goes. I thought it was too country-ish and my dad’s music so it couldn’t be cool anyway.

So I was surprised to find quite a cool cover version of U2’s One on some magazine CD many years later and realise that it has been done by Johnny Cash for his American Recordings III album. The IVth part of that series is even better and got me slightly hooked on the old man’s music without being overly enthusiastic. And thus I had a mild interest to see Walk the Line, particularly as everybody was saying that the film is worth seeing.

Unlike my own Johnny Cash exposure, the film deals with the young Johnny Cash, the beginning of his career and how he met and started fancying June. Thus I saw many things I didn’t know or particularly care about. But that wasn’t bad.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Haldern 2005

When standing in the rain at Haldern last year we got rather while seeing many great gigs. The only thing that was a bit annoying – apart from the weather – were the TV cameras there which meant that you had giant devices moving around at the front of the stage and some more of them further to the back. At the time I thought that this was a bit annoying and that operating such a camera must be incredibly boring. For some reason it appears that people filming music think their job can only be done while moving the camera. At least the cameras there were moving around in endless cycles of left-right-left-right.

But all that wondering and annoyance vanished when I could actually see the recordings (thanks Martin!) which were broadcast in WDR Rockpalast. Not only could I watch them in a dry and warm environment, compared to the crap you get to see on so-called music television these public-broadcaster recordings where nice and civilised. They have band names and info displayed along with the music as well as the song titles inserted as new songs started. And all that at exactly the time when you want to see the information rather than when it makes it more likely for you to stay on for the next ad break.

Great work. Very enjoyable. Not perfect, though, because they skipped the ‘less important’ bands who played early in the afternoon and thus missed Art Brut and The Coral – both of which I would’ve loved to have on that recording.

Bassists are Coolest!

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

In some downloading frenzy I discovered a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah gig that was taped on video by a fan. To be honest it’s not the greatest recording ever. In fact it has quite a few amusing scenes where the heads of the band are just cut off or you see irrelevant details only. But then again, it’s nice to see a video like that. And this one is going to stay as I used the opportunity to try iDVD for the first time… which was painfully slow and failed to correctly predict how much film I can fit on the DVD but did produce a DVD with a cool menu to play in the DVD player… so whenever TV is bad now I can just watch some CYHSY gig instead.

Panzerkreuzer Potemkim

Броненосец Потёмкин in Russian or Battleship Potemkin or rather The Armored Cruiser Potemkin in English just has a good sounding German name, so I used that for the title. The classic by Russian (Latvian?) director Sergei Eisenstein is a supposedly well-known silent-film classic that I had never seen. So it was great that the Pet Shop Boys had made a new soundtrack for it recently and it thus got some new attention and was actually shown.

I thought the film was quite impressive in many ways. Not only does it look like making films must have been much harder back in the 1920s where cameras just wouldn’t give constant images as they do today, it also made me feel like all the things we see in cinema these days and which seem new and original should really just be déjà-vus. It’s like everything is in there. From the close-ups on people, to the uniformed masses to the pram rolling down stairs. Amazing.

I’m not a big Pet Shop Boys fan. Well, I remember that our music teacher presented us ‘Go West’ which was in the charts at the time as an example for the usual harmonic pattern of pop music from Mozart to today’s charts. That’s probably the closest I ever got to the Pet Shop Boys. While they seemed to be cool in a strange way, their music always seemed to be both too electronic and too poppy for my taste. And their soundtrack for the film was all right. Luckily a bit more on the electronic / techno-y side which went really well with the black and white and the kind of robotic movements you tend to see in such old films.

The only thing which kept irritating me were the subtitled intertitles (correct word?). I also wish those had been slower, quite a few of the Cyrillic letters can be deciphered and some of their words are quite similar to ours, so I often tried to figure out the Russian titles… and of course then failed to completely read the translated version before it was gone. Hmmm.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

April 4, 2006, 1:27

Tagged as 2005, clap your hands say yeah, film, flaming lips fearless freaks, haldern, johnny cash, mogwai, mr beast, music, panzerkreuzer potemkin, sergei eisenstein, walk the line.

Comments

Comment by Richard Anderson: User icon

My wife bought a copy of Unearthed for me. Highly recommended.

April 7, 2006, 9:10

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