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Teen Movie Hell

Teen Movie Hell

by Mike “McBeardo” McPadden

Bazillion Points

Generation X has long been searching for its cultural relevance. The thing we would be remembered for. The Baby Boomers got television and rock n roll. Gen X? Maybe we get to lay claim to VHS and cable TV, and the thing we watched and bonded over even more that slasher movies in our basements, family rooms, and bedrooms were teen sex comedies. Horror films were omnipresent, but not as universally consumed. Not every girl could sit through My Bloody Valentine, but Private Lessons? Sure. Although initially these movies were viewed in mall multiplexes or the final vestiges of drive-ins most made their way into our homes and hearts via repeated viewings on cable, partially scrambled cable or VHS tape. Risky Business, Private Lessons, Valley Girl and Porky’s became the stuff of legend in the hallways, locker rooms, and study halls of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Film and pop culture writer, and contributor to Gilbert Gottfried Amazing Colossal Podcast, Mike “McBeardo” McPadden has followed up his 2014 cult film bible Heavy Metal Movies with a look at the steamy side of 1980s adolescence subtly titled Teen Movie Hell: A Crucible of Coming-of-Age Comedies from Animal House to Zapped!. This is one of those books you will find yourself reading with a notepad or your Amazon app open to make note of titles you need to watch or rewatch. Did you know there were four Meatballs movies? Before long you will start to realize how many Teen Movie Hell titles are not readily available to watch on streaming or disc with some fetching kingly prices for ancient VHS tapes on eBay.

McBeardo gets the author’s credit but there are also great guest contributors to both film reviews and framing essays from genre critics Kat Ellinger, Samm Deighan, Kier-La Janisse, and even a memoir of being a teen movie nerd from the king of the movie nerds Eddie Deezen (Eugene from Grease & Grease 2, Wargames).

McPadden through his many capsule reviews in the book strikes some notable through lines that keep the book from becoming more than simply encyclopedic plot synopsis. One theme he keeps hitting is the dividing line in the style of these films that was created by the wealthy suburban oeuvre of John Hughes’ teen series. The films, especially The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, get a surprising and deserved smackdown. “…reinvent teen cinema in his own over privileged, suburban, conceited adolescent image” McPadden even envisions Ferris Bueller and the tagline cum mission statement “Leisure Rules” to the the mind controlling aliens in John Carpenter’s They Live and their message “Obey” Pre-Breakfast Club these movies were generally about the misfits, post-Breakfast Club teen movies focused more and more on the cool kids. Like if Animal House made the Omegas the the heroes. The 16 point take down of Sixteen Candles is in itself a work of art and that alone makes this book worthy of purchase. Another through line is how many of these films were oddly out of touch with their intended audience judged by the square music on the soundtracks and the sheer volume of nostalgic settings of the ’50s and ’60s. For a genre so rooted in the new wave ’80s the films are populated by staggering number of poodle skirts and pompadour not to mention the plots recycled from the movies.of that era to the point some of the films are Frankie and Annette beach party movies…with boobs. This trope was at its most obvious low water mark with a remake of the 1960 George Hamilton & Connie Francis spring break snoozer Where the Boys Are in 1984. It is also theorized that the vintage settings were an attempt to sanitize some of the sexual mores of the 1980s. Basically teachers having sex with students or rape as a prank was more palatable with a period setting and doo wop on the soundtrack. McPadden also deftly addresses the specter of today’s sensibilities when addressing the less than proud treatment of women in some of the titles presented. He does so without finger wagging and is able to put the films and attitudes expressed into proper historical and cultural context and praises the films that manage to have female characters full of sex appeal and agency.

The volume is not without controversy. Many will be taken aback by the criticism of John Hughes and there is also a shocking, considering its reputation, take down of Valley Girl by Christina Ward that views the film from the perspective that Randy twists his nice guy status (as opposed to Tommy’s terrible guy) into scorned jerk you stalks Julie, culminating in violence against her boyfriend in an attempt to win her back. McPadden shows great love for his subject matter even forcing re-evaluations of Little Darlings, Preppies and The Last American Virgin. The once legendary and nearly forgotten Jodie Foster girl pack flick Foxes gets some much deserved love. One missed opportunity is failing to recognize that the Tom Matheson-led dud Up the Creek is basically a raunchy college age remake of 1977’s Race for Your Life Charlie Brown.

McPadden and company manage to avoid some major pitfalls with Teen Movie Hell. The tone of the book is neither too fanish or too scholarly. The book never looks down on the films covered but treats them with the respect they deserve without resorting to lowest common denominator gimmicks like a babe meter or a rating system for each film (2.5 kegs for Hot Dog: The Movie). Never afraid to call out a bad film and willing to praise those that deserve a second look. Although everyone has a film that could have been added, there are no glaring omissions, nor is it padded with dubious titles. Teen Movie Hell is an obvious labor of love and deserves a well-thumbed place on the bookcase or back of the toilet of any self respecting fan of boobs and beer movies of the ’80s.

www.bazillionpoints.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Summer Aviation

Summer Aviation

Elevator EP

This little Seattle-produced EP takes me back to the AM radio power pop of the Beach Boys and all those Phil Spector bands.

“I Believe in Sunshine” takes a catchy hook and a bright, bubbly male vocal (Kevin Kelly) and threads them together to make the most positive happy hit single vibe of the season. “Magic Night” feels like your first trip to Disneyland and meeting the girl of your dreams all in one evening, right there in the line of “Small, Small World.” Lee Kelly leads off “Love So Fine,” opening with a smooth and slickly arranged early Sixties potpourri of violins, drums, and dancers in sequins and head feathers. “Trust” is a bit more rocking; a Lynyrd Skynyrd chord tries to escape but doesn’t get far, and we are bound and determined to keep this little collection centered on the London sound of the first British invasion.

A fine effort by some fine-sounding people.

Summer Aviation

Categories
Music Reviews

Loop

Loop

Heaven’s End/ Fade Out/ The World in Your Eyes/ A Gilded Eternity

Reactor/ Revolver

Deluxe remastered (from the original analog tapes, no less) editions, this quartet from a South London group best known on this side of the pond for supplying a guitarist to Godflesh absolutely deserves your close attention. And a reassessment of the band’s whole career.

• •

Heaven’s End

The fresh-faced trio of Robert Hampson, Bex, and Glen Ray that formed Loop (though lineups were fluid and flexible during these early times) in 1986 belied their youth and comparative chemical innocence with this first album, Heaven’s End. Clearly beholden to the Jesus and Mary Chain, Stooges, Suicide, MC5 and the more frazzled extremes of psychedelia, Loop still had enough brio and original ideas of their own to not just come off as another Spacemen 3 impersonator (though oddly, Spacemen 3 trashed them in the press whenever and wherever they could). Loop were too far adrift in the sonic aether to even notice. It’s weird though, Before dropping the needle, the uninitiated would be forgiven for expecting proto-shoegaze, but the sounds here are way tougher and more solid. Heaven’s End is fuzz-worshipping psych strafing from start to finish; echo, volume, and rhythm rule the day.

By the first notes of mantra-for-blurred-living, “Straight To Your Heart,” you can tell that a young Loop had its shit in order and knew pretty much where it wanted to be. The Suicide cover (“Rocket USA”) is a damn nice touch too, done with a VERY deft hand. Probably the best guitar-based cover of a Suicide number that I’ve EVER heard. And that’s coming from a Suicide OBSESSIVE.

• •

The World in Your Eyes

For the benefit of our younger readers, a little context. Unlike nowadays when a greedy record conglomerate will release EVERY SINGLE SONG off a, say, Lady Gaga album as a single, in Britain up until the late ’90s that was not at all the case. Sure, “the hits” would make their way onto album track listings, but groups were also expected to churn out several singles worth of new material for a full year, including b-sides, etc. So while it might seem odd to us in the here-and-now that Loop, in 1987 as a fairly new band, had only one album under its collective belt, they already had a stack of chemically induced 45s that I would put against any of the other headtrippers of that time. Including the Mary Chain.

“16 Dreams” is buoyed aloft by ghostly peals of guitar feedback incongruously paired to the most primal, dumb shake’n’shuffle rockbeat ever, and along with the yelled manifesto-soundbite vocals, it damn well works. “Head On” is sludgy, halfspeed cavestomp greatness. “Burning World” is a sprawling, smudged, trembling masterpiece, Velvets-y gentleness and pure phaser pedal bliss. And the wracked desperation and tension of “I’ll Take You There”…. And that’s just the beginning!

The bonus disc offers all manner of hitherto unknown pleasures: incredible covers of Can’s “Mother Sky” and Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” a multitude of different versions of “Artc-Lte,” and most pleasing of all, Loop’s cover of Godflesh’s immortal “Like Rats” from the Loopflesh 7″ that reveals the hidden spacerock layers to Godflesh’s unremitting heaviness foundation without sacrificing the grit and solid state torture sound. No mean feat. (And eerily enough, Hampson would soon join Godflesh to contribute to Pure and Slavestate.) You’d be hard pressed to pass this one up.

• •

Fade Out

The opaque riddle of a cover might suggest cloudy pastorals, but with Loop, things were never quite as they seemed. And with their second album proper (third if you count the aforementioned singles collection The World in Your Eyes), Loop, for lack of a better term, rocked. And I’m not talking about the vaguely fey way that Ride (whom I love) rocked. No, I’m talking full-on, burning amps, hip-thrusting, smell of car exhaust and leather, ROCKED. The influence of Hawkwind (shit, maybe Motorhead) and Neu’s rowdier tantrums looms large. Every song’s rhythm attack is basically a cruel stomp, sizzling lead guitar lines interlock and then explode into a million tiny pieces, the distortion pedals have an angry, raw, buzz, and even Hampson’s voice has hardened into a petulant snarl. Closer to Mudhoney than the Mary Chain.

Tracks are succinct and more impatient than elsewhere in their catalog, and the thuggish swagger of numbers like “This Is Where You End” and “Got to Get it Over” is a fucking revelation. This is like garage rock songbook canon.

• •

A Gilded Eternity

By the time of swansong album A Gilded Eternity (goddamn even the album titles are beautiful) in 1990, it’s pretty astonishing the musical progression (and personnel changes) over a mere trio of albums. Overt influences of, say MC5 or the Stooges are long gone. In their place is a multifaceted, ecstatic headrush of out-there sound that is fully the province of Hampson and co. One can hear forerunners of the oceanic shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine (“The Nails Will Burn”), but also there are forays into diamond-hard, gleaming metal (“Afterglow”), and even sample-heavy, industrial mantras like “Blood.” (Can see why Godflesh sought him out.) Elsewhere “Breathe into Me” has an almost Wire-esque brittleness and propulsion, and “From Centre to Wave” is just honeyed, Krautrock hymnals. B-sides like “Shot with a Diamond” and “Sunburst” frustratingly suggest intriguing sonic offroads never fully traveled. Not enough time! And fuck man, “Be Here Now” cooks!

The individual performances are assured and confident, the almost acid-jazz drumming alternating with the usual caveman chest-pounding, depth-charge bass, and innovative new directions in psych guitar — skronk, seduction, spaceways, silence, skullcrush — vocals ebb and flow from a whisper to a sneer to a howl. Remember them like this. A hell of a lot of other bands surely do.

Loop: heavensend.org

Categories
Music Reviews

Loop

Loop

Heaven’s End/ Fade Out/ The World in Your Eyes/ A Gilded Eternity

Reactor/ Revolver

Deluxe remastered (from the original analog tapes, no less) editions, this quartet from a South London group best known on this side of the pond for supplying a guitarist to Godflesh absolutely deserves your close attention. And a reassessment of the band’s whole career.

• •

Heaven’s End

The fresh-faced trio of Robert Hampson, Bex, and Glen Ray that formed Loop (though lineups were fluid and flexible during these early times) in 1986 belied their youth and comparative chemical innocence with this first album, Heaven’s End. Clearly beholden to the Jesus and Mary Chain, Stooges, Suicide, MC5 and the more frazzled extremes of psychedelia, Loop still had enough brio and original ideas of their own to not just come off as another Spacemen 3 impersonator (though oddly, Spacemen 3 trashed them in the press whenever and wherever they could). Loop were too far adrift in the sonic aether to even notice. It’s weird though, Before dropping the needle, the uninitiated would be forgiven for expecting proto-shoegaze, but the sounds here are way tougher and more solid. Heaven’s End is fuzz-worshipping psych strafing from start to finish; echo, volume, and rhythm rule the day.

By the first notes of mantra-for-blurred-living, “Straight To Your Heart,” you can tell that a young Loop had its shit in order and knew pretty much where it wanted to be. The Suicide cover (“Rocket USA”) is a damn nice touch too, done with a VERY deft hand. Probably the best guitar-based cover of a Suicide number that I’ve EVER heard. And that’s coming from a Suicide OBSESSIVE.

• •

The World in Your Eyes

For the benefit of our younger readers, a little context. Unlike nowadays when a greedy record conglomerate will release EVERY SINGLE SONG off a, say, Lady Gaga album as a single, in Britain up until the late ’90s that was not at all the case. Sure, “the hits” would make their way onto album track listings, but groups were also expected to churn out several singles worth of new material for a full year, including b-sides, etc. So while it might seem odd to us in the here-and-now that Loop, in 1987 as a fairly new band, had only one album under its collective belt, they already had a stack of chemically induced 45s that I would put against any of the other headtrippers of that time. Including the Mary Chain.

“16 Dreams” is buoyed aloft by ghostly peals of guitar feedback incongruously paired to the most primal, dumb shake’n’shuffle rockbeat ever, and along with the yelled manifesto-soundbite vocals, it damn well works. “Head On” is sludgy, halfspeed cavestomp greatness. “Burning World” is a sprawling, smudged, trembling masterpiece, Velvets-y gentleness and pure phaser pedal bliss. And the wracked desperation and tension of “I’ll Take You There”…. And that’s just the beginning!

The bonus disc offers all manner of hitherto unknown pleasures: incredible covers of Can’s “Mother Sky” and Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” a multitude of different versions of “Artc-Lte,” and most pleasing of all, Loop’s cover of Godflesh’s immortal “Like Rats” from the Loopflesh 7″ that reveals the hidden spacerock layers to Godflesh’s unremitting heaviness foundation without sacrificing the grit and solid state torture sound. No mean feat. (And eerily enough, Hampson would soon join Godflesh to contribute to Pure and Slavestate.) You’d be hard pressed to pass this one up.

• •

Fade Out

The opaque riddle of a cover might suggest cloudy pastorals, but with Loop, things were never quite as they seemed. And with their second album proper (third if you count the aforementioned singles collection The World in Your Eyes), Loop, for lack of a better term, rocked. And I’m not talking about the vaguely fey way that Ride (whom I love) rocked. No, I’m talking full-on, burning amps, hip-thrusting, smell of car exhaust and leather, ROCKED. The influence of Hawkwind (shit, maybe Motorhead) and Neu’s rowdier tantrums looms large. Every song’s rhythm attack is basically a cruel stomp, sizzling lead guitar lines interlock and then explode into a million tiny pieces, the distortion pedals have an angry, raw, buzz, and even Hampson’s voice has hardened into a petulant snarl. Closer to Mudhoney than the Mary Chain.

Tracks are succinct and more impatient than elsewhere in their catalog, and the thuggish swagger of numbers like “This Is Where You End” and “Got to Get it Over” is a fucking revelation. This is like garage rock songbook canon.

• •

A Gilded Eternity

By the time of swansong album A Gilded Eternity (goddamn even the album titles are beautiful) in 1990, it’s pretty astonishing the musical progression (and personnel changes) over a mere trio of albums. Overt influences of, say MC5 or the Stooges are long gone. In their place is a multifaceted, ecstatic headrush of out-there sound that is fully the province of Hampson and co. One can hear forerunners of the oceanic shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine (“The Nails Will Burn”), but also there are forays into diamond-hard, gleaming metal (“Afterglow”), and even sample-heavy, industrial mantras like “Blood.” (Can see why Godflesh sought him out.) Elsewhere “Breathe into Me” has an almost Wire-esque brittleness and propulsion, and “From Centre to Wave” is just honeyed, Krautrock hymnals. B-sides like “Shot with a Diamond” and “Sunburst” frustratingly suggest intriguing sonic offroads never fully traveled. Not enough time! And fuck man, “Be Here Now” cooks!

The individual performances are assured and confident, the almost acid-jazz drumming alternating with the usual caveman chest-pounding, depth-charge bass, and innovative new directions in psych guitar — skronk, seduction, spaceways, silence, skullcrush — vocals ebb and flow from a whisper to a sneer to a howl. Remember them like this. A hell of a lot of other bands surely do.

Loop: heavensend.org

Categories
Music Reviews

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine

m b v

It is impossible to speak of the new My Bloody Valentine release m b v without seeing the relation to that which came before, the band’s landmark 1991 release Loveless. New Musical Express regards it as the 11th greatest album of all time (Rolling Stone only gives it 221/550), but in any event, the record changed rock music forever. The making of it nearly bankrupted Creation Records, drove MBV leader Kevin Shields into an exhausted withdrawal from the public eye, and sent shoegazing wannabe bands to fits trying to replicate the album’s wall of guitar sound.

No one ever really did, and in the 21 years since its release the record has become a obsession among rabid listeners, many of whom were only five or so years old when it came out. Then in early February of 2013 the band hinted that the follow-up to Loveless was ready, and on the 2nd they released m b v, crashing their website in the process and setting off a world-wide frenzy of interest and delighted fans. Available only as a digital download currently (the band self-released the record), a listener can’t help but wonder if it is Loveless‘s equal.

Yes and no. Loveless is a large rock in the river of guitar-based music, forever altering what comes after. When you first heard it, you became entranced by its engulfing, claustrophobic sound and spent hours attempting to decipher the lyrics until you finally gave up and let the oceans of sound wash over you. That record had the shock of something new that further explorations along similar lines won’t have. m b v is a great record, no doubt, but like the second-born son, will never be thought of in the same light.

The nine-song album is split into three “states” for lack of a better word. The first three songs, “She Found Now,” “Only Tomorrow,” and “Who See You” are Loveless Part 2, with the swirling, treated guitars of Shields and Bilinda Butcher and massive drumming of Colm O Coisoig sounding familiar. The fourth song, “Is This and Yes,” with its washes of keyboards and Butcher’s ethereal vocals, sounds a bit like Stereolab, while “New You” chugs along with a dance-floor- ready pop sensibility that might have long-time fans wondering if they hadn’t put Wire’s Chairs Missing in the CD player. The final three songs end the record on a brutal, crushing note, with Shields hammering your ears with a relentless mixture of fucked-up guitar and drums on “In Another Way” that builds and builds the tension until the song falls apart in random electronic blips. The final cut, “Wonder 2” finds Shields singing atop what seems to be a jet airplane taking off.

My Bloody Valentine makes music that sounds unlike anyone else’s. Somehow they can find beauty in the most ugly of sounds, and while it’s music that isn’t emotionally inviting, it gets under your skin if you let it — ask all those fans of Loveless that have been holding their breath for 21 years waiting for a follow-up. No, m b v will never invoke the adoration of what came before, and it’s doubtful that in 20 years it’s fans will be as eager for a follow-up, if it comes to that. My Bloody Valentine has created something that will never be topped, even by themselves. Long live the king. Long live My Bloody Valentine.

My Bloody Valentine: mybloodyvalentine.org

Categories
Music Reviews

Dot Hacker

Dot Hacker

Dot Hacker (EP)

ORG Music

There’s a flood of indie bands out there today, and I suspect they all get together to coordinate hairstyles and political activities. Dot Hacker is a good example: with ties to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gnarls Barkley, they spin out a dreamy guitar-based pop sound. As of today, they don’t have much official material; it’s pretty much this digital-only EP with four promising songs. Lead vocalist Josh Klinghoffer is off plunking guitars for the RHCP tour but here he sings a breathy and urgent vocal track on “Inhibition.” Behind him is drummer Eric Gardner, who has done time with The Motels and Gnarls Barkley as well. There’s more certified talent here with Jonathan Hischke on bass (ex- Hella and Broken Bells) and Clint Walsh on Guitars (another Motels exile).

“Order Disorder” comes on with more intensity and distinct new wave sound — an itchy guitar string punctuates the vocals, and the arrangement feels very full and fluffy, like an ’80s hairdo. “Eye Opener” slows us down, it’s more a bluesy country feel, and I’m referring to the breathy, feminine country sound, not the alcoholic, bar-fighting, Hank Williams Sr. sound. And the last song, “Rewire” is a dope-slow downer with minor percussion, what sounds like a hand bell, and drumming that feels like it’s playing backwards. All of this makes an interesting sound, and the band is clearly qualified to play anything they want, just so long as the big name bands don’t pick off the members one by one to support their tours. Have them write a few more songs, get a full headlining set together, and these guys should be ready to visit your town.

Dot Hacker: www.myspace.com/dothackerband

Categories
Music Reviews

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Belong

Slumberland

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s self-titled 2009 debut was a fairly simply produced affair, full of hooks and melody, recalling the jangling sound of bands like The Pastels, The Wedding Present, and perhaps a touch of The Smiths. Their follow-up album, Belong, keeps the influences and catchy songs, but beefs up the production and guitars to good effect.

At times recalling Ride and My Bloody Valentine’s wall of guitars, at times betraying a Smashing Pumpkins influence, Belong‘s thicker sound results in an album full of the best of pop, with songs like the album’s opener, “Belong,” which has a nice mix of Kip Berman’s breathy vocals ending in an anthemic chorus, recalling such lesser-known British acts as Adorable and Kitchens of Distinction.

Throughout Belong, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have managed to update their sound in an organic way, with songs like “Heart in Your Heartbreak” taking the band’s jangly pop to a bouncy, energetic, and more rocking place. The more keyboard-driven songs like “The Body,” while not as rocking as the other songs, recall an updated version of The Cure and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and should get heavy dance floor rotation in your hipper establishments.

With their amped-up production married to their pop-writing skills, Belong reflects a natural progression, and one that should take The Pains of Being Pure at Heart to a wider audience while keeping older fans happy.

Sound Cloud: http://soundcloud.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Film School

Film School

Fission

hi-speedsoul

You’ve got to admire the durability of any band that sticks to its business through nearly two decades, numerous lineup changes, and a big move from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That said, Fission, the latest incarnation of Film School with Lorelei Plotczyk on bass trading vocal duties with longtime frontman Greg Bertens, gives me reason to think this early purveyor of shoegaze may be around a while longer yet.

They’re big on the “la las” and “ooh ooh” backing vocals serving as a backdrop to shimmering guitars, reverb-drenched synths, and pounding drum beats. Musically, it’s like staring at the ocean in the summer — glimmering surfaces covering the cool dark underneath.

Plotczyk at times sounds vaguely like Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo, and even some of the song arrangements veer into that venerated Hoboken band’s turf. But the polished production values keep Fission on a different level, as if they mashed the ’60s pop flavorings of YLT with the moodiness of My Bloody Valentine and the crunchy guitars of Big Country and the whooshing synths of Cocteau Twins.

The album starts off briskly enough with “Heartful of Pentagons” but holds a moody tone throughout, except when they rip into “When I’m Yours” and “Distant Life,” the most upbeat songs on this atmospheric album. Other standouts are “Still Might” and the irresistible “Sunny Day.” The song “Waited” has a distinctly YLT bass riff, and “Bones” seems like the most straight up indie-alt song, with Bertens’ voice sliding into the lower registers of his honeyed baritone as he sings about “broken bones.”

The most successful numbers on this consistently and meticulously produced album have hints of rawness and edge, but the real standouts are when Plotzyk brings her husky tenor front and center, as in the closing track, “Find You Out.”

This album is a late summer day at the beach reverie.

Hi-Speed Soul: www.hispeedsoul.com

Categories
Interviews

Mice Parade

Mice Parade

“I don’t think it took that long,” Adam Pierce says over the phone, referring to the making of an anagram that turned his name into the moniker for his band. Adam Pierce literally is Mice Parade. The polyglot band sprung from the nimble-limbed Pierce, who took on drumming duties, guitar, and other, more exotic tools (the band is famous for building meandering, propulsive song structures with instruments like the cheng, a Chinese harp) to craft polyrhythmic and poly-melodious instrumentals, weaving Eastern sounds and loose structures in a post-rock palette that came to fashion with bands like Tortoise. “Not my idea,” Pierce tosses off. “A crazy old friend of mine back in the day, when I was trying to figure out what to call [Mice Parade’s first] record, he said, ‘Make an anagram.’ Then we sat down and made an anagram.”

An overzealous writer can come to the conclusion that the innate complexities at work in the band name, album titles (that first album was called The True Meaning of Boodleybaye), and song structures are purposeful riddles and not at all accidental to the experience of making music. Yet, talking to Pierce, that all seems wrong.

Junko Otsubo

“Yeah, there’s no mission plan [laughs], or plan in action.” Prior to Mice Parade, Pierce was holding down the drum kit for the Dylan Group, a distillation of vibraphone-led post-jazz; fitting neatly beside music by bands intellectualizing highly percussive and divergent world musics like tropicalia, gamelan, and afrobeat. But Pierce’s Mice Parade is instinctual. While tons of influences co-mingle (a wash of My Bloody Valentine’s woozy distortion layered over fevered flamenco guitar) and rhythms overlap, Pierce finds his way by feel more than by force — particularly on the new record, What it Feels Like to Be Left-Handed. “The process of recording the album was trying to go back to the original process of the first Mice Parade record, which was not writing anything and just going in and doing stuff… improvising a bit as you go a long and just seeing what comes out… being surprised by it all.”

And there are a few surprises. The album opens with “Kupanga,” an upbeat track riding Pierce’s signature fidgety percussion. Into the mix comes a lively kora, and Swahili singer Somi puts a light yet urgent vocal on top. It’s familiar as Mice Parade, but with a slightly new twist. “The tune was actually started off with the idea of Rokia Traore [Malian singer and guitarist] singing on it, and we were in discussions about getting that to happen, and it looked like it was going down. Then she got held up in Mali and the scheduling didn’t work, so that was one of the last tunes done. An old jazz bass player I worked with at Bubble Core (Pierce’s old, self-run label) called Alex Blake, who did a record with Pharaoh Sanders, he plays with Randy Weston. Somi was a recommendation that came through [Weston].”

As much as Mice Parade grows out of Adam Pierce, collaboration is a vital part of the process. The band includes a revolving cast from an impressive constellation of bands: HiM, June of 44, Macha, The Swirlies, mum, The Dylan Group, Stereolab, Codeine, and Diamond Nights, among others. That’s mostly Doug Scharin (drums), Dan Lippel (guitar), Dylan Cristy (vibes), Caroline Lufkin (vocals), Rob Laasko (guitar), and Josh McKay (keys), with others like Laetitia Sadier and KristÃn Anna Valtýsdóttir both adding vocals to the mix over the years. “I always try to get as much from other people as possible. We had people come up here — like Somi and Abdou the kora player. Meredith [Godreau] from Gregory & the Hawk recorded her vocals live here. Doug played drums on one of the songs. He lives out in California, so he just recorded them and emailed them to us. Our main live singer, Caroline, also sings on several songs on the record. She lives in Japan these days, so she did the same thing. So, there’s a lot of sending parts around, but everybody in this band also has really busy schedules. There are a lot of parts I have to just go and get done myself when people aren’t around. To me, everything is all about collaboration or just people getting together — basically, the live experience.”

Mice Parade takes the show on the road at the end of the month. As a musician who feeds off of the audience and other musicians, it’s part of the fuel that drives his process. “Getting to hang out with our friends together as a band, our little family, that we don’t get to see each other very often… I love it to death. If we could do it more, we probably would. I have aspirations of reaching deeper back into our instrumental catalog and bringing along the Chinese harp, but I don’t think we’ll have time to learn it all because we have some new members. We might not have the time to re-learn everything. I don’t know what we’ll get to, but I have aspirations of knowing how to play over 20 songs in our catalog. A long time ago we brought two drum kits and I was on one of them, like, half the time. Then, over the last few years, we mostly did one drum kit gigs, and I might hop on it for a second, but I’d stay mostly on the guitar and the cajon [Latin percussion instrument]. And now, for this tour, we’re definitely bringing the two kits. I won’t be up there half the time, but I’m trying to get like three or four songs under my belt to make it at least worth bringing the kit. In the US, for the first ten days, it’ll be with Les Shelleys, which is a project that is basically Tom Brosseau and his friend Angie. Tom Brosseau has a new record on Fat Cat where they do these old public domain tunes, duets. Gorgeous stuff. We’re very honored to have Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab, she has a solo record coming out, and she’s going to support the Europe tour, as well as Silje Nes, who is another Fat Cat artist.”

Pierce now runs the US branch of Fat Cat Records (after running his own Bubble Core), and is as enthusiastic about the roster of artists as he is about his own music, if not more so. “It’s fun because it’s the music industry; you deal with and listen to music all the time. I consider it a noble cause to try to help musicians — not that it always does, but at least it’s a noble cause to try. I don’t mind the administrative part of the job. The drag is the pitfalls of the industry. It’s just knowing what sells a record and having to avoid thinking about that when dealing with your own shit. We have a lot of bands that sell a lot of records, we have some bands that don’t sell so many records, and I know exactly why. The people who don’t sell a lot of records, on our label, are just as fucking good as the people who sell a lot of records. It’s a really narrow fucking tunnel. It moves in waves, but the Williamsburg, Pitchfork era has a certain tempo, there’s a certain number of members in each band, there’s a certain look, it’s like, come on. It’s a great label. Hauschka, which is amazing stuff, has a record coming out. Gregory & the Hawk has a record coming out. Silje Nes has a record coming out. All these artists are great. David Karsten Daniels’ record just came out, you know? Nobody bought it; it’s an amazing record. We have a new We Were Promised Jet Packs album, which will be a big record for next year. They’re most likely going off to Iceland to record it in a few weeks. There’s a new Twilight Sad record as well, and the demos for that are amazing; different from what they’ve done before, which is exciting. So, it’s always exciting and I love the label, so it’s definitely good.”

Mice Parade: www.myspace.com/miceparadeband

Categories
Music Reviews

Wild Nothing

Wild Nothing

Gemini

Captured Tracks

Wild Nothing, on record at least, is one man: Jack Tatum. His debut under this moniker is one dreamy, fuzzy, often-times gorgeous trip into the colorful and swirly world of synth pop.

Like those that came before (My Bloody Valentine), or those that are currently playing a similar brand of nostalgic and pretty pop music (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), Gemini offers subtle vocals whose lyrics are less important that the vibe that emote, atop lovely little drum machine rhythms and danceable grooves. From the John Hughes film-ready “Drifter,” the hypnotically trancey “Bored Games,” and the Brit pop prettiness of “Our Composition Book,” most of these tracks would not sound out of place on ’80s night of your local dance club. This is not a criticism. I, for one, sorely miss the music of the days before cellphones, social networking sites, and more readily available free music that one could possibly hope to listen to in a lifetime.

The wonderfully reminiscent, playfully simple appeal of Gemini is worth a listen, no matter how overwhelmed your iTunes folder is at present.

Wild Nothing: www.myspace.com/wildnothing