Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Amityville Horror (1979)

USA, 117 minutes
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Writers: Sandor Stern, Jay Anson, George Lutz, Kathy Lutz
Photography: Fred J. Koenekamp
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Editor: Robert Brown
Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, Murray Hamilton, Amy Wright, Michael Sacks, Helen Shaver, Val Avery, James Dukas

As it happens, I came to The Amityville Horror very late—actually well after the 2005 remake (which I have not seen). At a garage sale in 2007 I found a box set with the original and first two sequels, plus a couple of documentary episodes from the History Channel on the house in Amityville, George and Kathy Lutz, Jay Anson, and related matters. The woman at the garage sale told me the TV documentaries were more scary and creepy than any of the movies. Because I am slow about everything, it was another couple years before I actually got around to looking at the flagship production, so let's say 30 years after the fact.

The Amityville Horror was about what I expected, except somehow it did get under my skin. On a conscious level, sitting on my couch in the dark of a fall evening, I kept remarking to myself what an extremely annoying movie it was, but when the phone rang and I jumped I realized—the movie had scared me. Director Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, The Pope of Greenwich Village) and crew do it the old-fashioned big-money Exorcist way, which is very much its model: by dynamics. Slow down the action to a crawl. Then speed it up. Show a tender moment. Interrupt it with mortal peril. Make everything very quiet. Then loud. Mix and match with provocative elements: People standing with their backs to dark windows. Blood. Swinging axes. Insects and other vermin. The dog interested in something in the basement. A woo-woo friend trying to be helpful. Children in danger. A kitchen sink. Religious iconography, ceremonies, and belief systems (or fragments thereof) as needed—Roman Catholic, of course.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brian Eno & David Byrne, "America Is Waiting" (1981)

(listen)

I liked the idea of this early solo collaboration between Brian Eno and David Byrne: taking random snippets of audio from AM radio broadcasts and matching them with ambient in-studio musical accompaniment heavy on the African influence. The two disparate elements somehow (not always) meld into songs, sometimes even with recognizable verse-chorus-verse movement, and work on each other in interesting ways, obscuring, highlighting, changing—and/or, ultimately, failing to change—the churning forces at play. I think it works best of all on this opener for the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and then gradually declined across the space of the album; the '06 rerelease, which added seven more tracks, only repeated that experience. But what an undeniable idea, as crystallized in "America Is Waiting," with such ingenuity of repurposing, belittling yet still bearing the chilling raw power of the original broadcasts. The album can claim a historic position for its use of sampling, a notion still in its infancy at that point though already in the arsenal of hip-hop artists in New York, which likely explains how these skilled musical voyeurs picked up on it. "America is waiting for a message of some sort or another," says San Francisco talk jock Ray Taliaferro in a broadcast of April 1980, according to Wikipedia, which statement in hindsight appears prescient—I'm not even sure Taliaferro, let alone Eno and Byrne, knew what they had there, so close to the historical political fault lines themselves. But sure, I'll call it prescience. And maybe it's projection on my part, but I hear great roiling mounds of anxiety in the musical trappings too, with contributions from Bill Laswell, David Van Tieghem, and Tim Wright, which appear to be attempting to encircle this potent gibbering with magic rituals of some sort or another. The result is like few things before or since.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shake Some Action (1976)

(Save time! Reader's Digest condensed versions here and here.)

I see that Shake Some Action is presently in some sort of commercial limbo, available digitally but otherwise only in expensive import CD or retro vinyl editions. For what it's worth I loved it most as a vinyl album because both sides, in different ways, offer such wonderful 20-minute sets start to finish. But everything for me is digital nowadays so same difference. I should mention that the band has a lengthy and complicated history, with partisans for other stages of it, which you can look up because I won't be going into it much. Suffice to say I believe I'm in the minority on this, which is approximately their fourth of some eight albums and miscellaneous other releases to date, with multiple significant lineup changes along the way. It's the only album by the Flamin' Groovies I care for much, though I care for it very much. But fair warning, caveats, all that: It's less connected to their earlier harder-edged Bay Area swamp-rock incarnation and more connected to a disconnected fantasy about British Invasion style and what rock 'n' roll feels like. As such, all they did was create one of the greatest rock 'n' roll albums I know.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Hell of a Woman (1954)

I tried to write about this one before, but it was awhile ago so here's another go. If not Jim Thompson's best, A Hell of a Woman is at least on the short list of his best. By nicknaming his main character here "Dolly"—otherwise a bill collector named Frank Dillon—I think Thompson makes clear that no one, least of all himself, is immune to the impulses of perversion, at the right time and place. Our hero Dolly breathes and swims in an effluvia of rot and corruption that is distinctly American—money and sex are what you get by swindling and manipulating, and a good day's work by a smart operator should net plenty of both. The reward, at the long day's end of work, is drinking and oblivion. Dolly doesn't want to be here anyway, he's just too cowardly to kill himself. The last chapter is his way of saying goodbye. The "self-destructive tendency" finally brings Dolly to its inevitable deserts. Along the way he thinks he has found the ideal woman—a hell of a woman, deeply victimized and passive. A case study in learned helplessness. But decidedly innocent, and even pure, if defiled. But of course Dolly can't even hang on to that—among other reasons, for his own stupidity, and the sin of vanity, believing himself to be the smartest person in town and on the planet too. As his dreams slip away and his doom is realized he cracks apart into strands of narrative resolution and implodes in front of our eyes. It's crudely Joycean at that point but works. Even more so as a dime novel paperback original. What in the world did people think? Printer error, I suspect. A couple of chapters are framed up as chapters from a memoir ... or something ... but it is otherwise straightforward lurid steamy pulp. A bill collector is cheating everybody in sight and getting away with nothing. A mysterious girl and her elderly aunt are conducting a prostitution operation out of their house. Couples bicker and fight and get drunk, and then the fights get worse. Why would anyone want to read such things in the first place? The horror of finding a calculating, intelligent mind and persuasive worldview behind it is almost impossible to overstate. A Hell of a Woman is one of the most chilling things I've ever encountered.

In case it's not at the library.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Modern Times (1936)

USA, 87 minutes
Director/writer/music: Charles Chaplin
Photography: Ira H. Morgan, Roland Totheroh
Editors: Charles Chaplin, Willard Nico
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford, Chester Conklin

I will lay it out straight here, because I may as well and no sense wasting time. Modern Times is such a longstanding favorite for me, with so many personal attachment points, that honestly I have little judgment or perspective on it. I just love it, every bit of it. For me, no Chaplin picture looks better. It is quintessentially "modern" in a way analogous to how we are all now "post-modern"; its heroic conceptions of architecture, design, and labor management (about which it is rightly dubious) feel like an entirely different time now. Yet Chaplin's iron backbone sunny-side views, unafraid to touch the treacle, balance the stark and formal geometries with warmth and humanity. Among other things it is a feel-good movie after all.

It is "modern" in many different ways. The music, by Chaplin again, is often shrill, staccato, and angular. The picture opens on an extreme close-up of a clock face with a sweeping second hand. It is an old-fashioned clock face, with Roman numerals, but the close-up is so tight it effectively transforms time itself into an abstraction. Modern Times is also acutely aware of the strikes, unemployment, class conflicts, and labor unrest ripping into the fabric of the culture and economy at the time of its release, deep into the Depression. Explicit cocaine use is not only acknowledged but played as a joke, and a good one. Chaplin's mincing about, and his use of characters such as a prison inmate working on a needlepoint project, imply layers of hidden farcical sexuality. And when the vagabond couple is left alone in a department store overnight the first thing they do is go to the toys section and start playing. Or is that "post-modern" to treat the human condition and/or enterprise as one conducted essentially by immature children?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sonics, "Boss Hoss" (1965)

(listen)

So many choices when it comes to the classics of Pacific Northwest rock 'n' roll it's ridiculous, like choosing a favorite snowy peak from all the Cascade Range. Shasta? Rainier? Hood? First I had to settle on the Sonics over the Wailers, Kingsmen, Raiders, and others, and then I had to settle on "Boss Hoss" over "Strychnine," "The Witch," "Psycho," and others. You have to start somewhere; it might as well be here. It's two and a half minutes, a notably pure example of raunchy powerhouse, music made by boys that sounds like men fighting in bars. It rumbles in and moves with the grace and mass of a flashy big car made for cruising and racing. As it happens, that's what the song is about. The singer saved his money and bought these wheels, this boss hoss, for the express purpose of beating everyone and getting the chicks. Now he's bragging. That's what the song is. You hear it in the way his singing veers toward a species of jeering. Maybe, on that level, my favoring it is something to do with the specter of Big Daddy Ed Roth, which hovers around the edges of anything from the '60s to do with cherry rides and monster vibes, maybe even a little more so on "Boss Hoss." Maybe it's that chattering sax solo that erupts like a volcano out of the middle of it. Or maybe I couldn't make a choice after all and "Boss Hoss" is just a placeholder, sitting in for dozens more songs and bands behind it. Listen up. This is the kind of thing you pulled out of a cereal box and your life changed forever.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lady Killer (1958)

I've been reading randomly from the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter, which was not his real name either) lately, hopscotching the decades, out of order, which affords some interesting perspective. The consistency of the characters—beyond the rote physical and/or biographical detail (which nonetheless serve as good cues)—is impressive and they are an interesting bunch of people too, some of whom see quite a bit of development over the years. McBain plainly knew them well. I have had obsessive infatuations with these books, so it was nice to find most of them still pretty good, sometimes remarkably so. Reading out of sequence also provides a glimpse of the broad scope, occupying six distinct decades, from 1956 until 2005. McBain is better later at constructing more intricate interconnecting plot threads, but he is plainly working through the fundamentals of police procedurals and other points of his craft in these early shorties, which are often very good. From 1956 to 1960, he was turning them out at the rate of two or three a year. In a 1994 preface, McBain relates how he wrote Lady Killer in a matter of days in the summer of 1958, bringing it in right at the minimum "180 pages." It focuses on a case involving a message that arrives at police headquarters from someone announcing, via words and letters torn from printed material, that he will kill "The Lady" at 8 p.m. that night. It thus becomes a profile of a precinct mobilized on a single effort, told basically tick-tock fashion. It starts in the morning of one day and concludes that same evening, some 12 or 14 hours total. As always, the "police routine is based on established investigatory technique," with detectives Cotton Hawes and Steve Carella foregrounded for this one. Bert Kling wanders in seemingly from another book (and indeed perhaps so) and is enlisted. Meyer Meyer has some scenes. There is time aplenty, as always in this series (which ultimately ran to more than 50 books), for personal digressions, tedium, distractions, joking around, and frustration as the larger points are pursued. Another strength of McBain is his ability to evoke a creepy vibe seemingly at will. That's here with a curious prostitute operating as "The Lady." Apparently she has a specialty that involves crying, and she switches in and out of character at the drop of a dime. I could do with less of the action scenes—they dominate in the smaller confines of this very short novel, and they're dull. I could also perhaps complain about how conveniently some of the clues turn up. It's still a heck of a good romp, McBain style, the masterful raconteur spinning out his threads and reeling them back in. It's hard to stop reading. It's just another one of those.

In case it's not at the library.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Another Year (2010)

UK, 129 minutes
Director/writer: Mike Leigh
Photography: Dick Pope
Music: Gary Yershon
Editor: Jon Gregory
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Oliver Maltman, Peter Wight, David Bradley, Karina Fernandez, Imelda Staunton, Michele Austin, Martin Savage

Another Year is deceptively soft, playing at gentility, filled with amiable middle-aged conversation and activities: urban gardens, golf, getting around London, having drinks with friends, cooking, visits, reminiscing. At its center are Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a comfortable married middle-class couple—he is an engineer, she is a therapist at a public clinic, their son Joe (Oliver Maltman) is 30 and established in a career.

It is their friends and extended family who tell the tale. In a strange twist, the bottomless compassion and patience that Tom and Gerri bear for these unfortunates come to seem a version of Oscar Wilde's painting of Dorian Gray, as if by some devilish deal their equanimities have been drawn from those around them in exchange for naked insecurities and neurosis. For that reason, the real stars, the full freak show, of Another Year are not the front-billed Broadbent and Sheen, but more like David Bradley, Martin Savage, Peter Wight, and especially Lesley Manville, who bring so much credibility and blinking force to the wretches they play.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cream, "I'm So Glad" (1966)

(listen)

I don't hear much about Cream these days. Maybe I'm traveling in the wrong circles. As a key prototype for the super-session super-group at least, it seems they might come up more often. Maybe people want to forget that. Not to mention authors of "White Room" and some other nice '60s moods. Not to mention "Eric Clapton is God"—that idea came and went fast. "I'm So Glad" is from the debut album Fresh Cream, which I got to almost last. It's a good tuneful album, before they started stretching out and making rote long live tracks a big part of the albums. The "Cream" trio had a big reputation to live up to, after all, but I'm more indifferent to the playing now, as the nine-minute live version of "I'm So Glad" from Goodbye quickly reminded me (and yes, it also makes me mostly indifferent to Cream too). What I like most about "I'm So Glad" are things like Jack Bruce's vocal, which was always a little underrated, the long-face, ringing harmonies they reach in the climax, with all the rest dropping out, and the loopy way they play off the lyric. Written and recorded originally by Skip James in 1931, Cream treats the song less as a blues and more as a music hall entertainment, with little instrumental gestures and flourishes. Bruce's carnival barking of the title, the basic lyric, does indeed sound glad in its monotonous way but also mocking, turning the song in a funny direction. I always think of it as a short pop song, but it is nearly four minutes, stretched out by the break and a typically lyrical guitar solo taken by Eric Clapton midway, which routes it back into the Cream mainline momentarily. Something for everyone.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Vast Conspiracy (2000)

I guess I can start this by noting I don't care much for Jeffrey Toobin's incarnation as a TV beltway pundit, at least not since the coming of Bush/Cheney. He was a little better in the Clinton era, but has always displayed too much of that "going along to get along" ethos that so pervades DC media culture. I know, you have to do what you have to do, and if Toobin didn't do it he wouldn't be there at all to annoy me. There's the rub when it comes to cable news. All that said, however, I think this is basically a solid job of journalism and thus a more or less essential primer on the whole Whitewater contretemps, which eventually became the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which led to the impeachment of a sitting president, prosecuted by handfuls of serial adulterers. The impeachment of Bill Clinton at a historical moment when the unregulated economy had begun to metastasize and terrorists abroad had declared war on us struck me even then, without benefit of such perspective, as the most irresponsible instance of governance I had seen in my life. Then came Bush v. Gore, 9/11, Iraq War II, Katrina, and finally the economic collapse of 2008, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. I suppose you can make a case that other political crimes are worse, but the foolish recklessness of Republicans in attempting to take down a president who was too inconveniently popular (and who was all the while implementing their favorite policies) nonetheless happens to mark my own political reawakening, such as it is. This was bad stuff that was going on, acts of political depravity that don't fall far short of treason, to evoke one of their favorite terms. Certainly it shows continuing lack of faith in the country's most sacred document by definition, the Constitution. Toobin does a good job of laying out the whole story here, one I found myself reliving painfully as I read. It made me sad and it made me angry, and even though my personal inclination for sympathy toward Bill Clinton has fallen away in the years since, it comes back any time I review the facts of this excruciating episode. It was wrong what happened here, and there's no evidence that the long national nightmare it arguably started (with the Newt Gingrich class of '94 House) is even close to being finished yet. Chris Christie, for example, is still no idle threat (though hopeful about latest scandal, too soon to tell).

In case it's not at the library.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nashville (1975)

USA, 159 minutes
Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Joan Tewkesbury
Photography: Paul Lohmann
Music: Arlene Barnett, Jonnie Barnett, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Gary Busey, Keith Carradine, Juan Grizzle, Henry Gibson, Allan F. Nicholls, Dave Peel, Joe Raposo
Editors: Dennis M. Hill, Sidney Levin
Cast: Ronee Blakley, Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, Henry Gibson, Keenan Wynn, Geraldine Chaplin, Gwen Welles, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, David Hayward, Shelly Duvall, Jeff Goldblum, Thomas Hal Phillips, Barbara Harris, Richard Baskin, David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Elliott Gould, Julie Christie, Howard K. Smith, Steve Earle

Nashville has always seemed to me much larger and more generous than its rather narrow view of country music—a movie with ambitions of the white whale and designs on America (and/or "America") itself. Which only makes sense given its timing, made in the immediate aftermath of Vietnam 'n' Watergate, a time when cynicism naturally felt like sincerity. Straight ahead, a host of chambers of commerce were looking to the 1976 American Bicentennial for balm and healing, but no one else was. Nashville is here to explain some of the reasons why.

As a self-conscious Bicentennial checkpoint for director Robert Altman (and writer Joan Tewkesbury, and members of the very large cast, who improvised much of their dialogue and in many cases wrote their own country songs to sing), it tilted decidedly toward one side of today's stark national divide. It's full of mocking derision for the South, smug movie stars making cameos, elitist to its core, with adultery, casual sex, drugs, corruption, and celebrity culture. It was long, it was different, it was Important (with its famous sound design use of overlapping dialogue). It was suitably decorated with Oscar nominations and suitably denied most of the wins. Pauline Kael wrote a review for The New Yorker that was nearly as famous as the movie. It was emblem, fleeting icon, and prize in its time of what we've come to call Blue America. But over the years since it has become something else, or easier to see it for what it is.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Echo & the Bunnymen, "The Cutter" (1983)

(listen)

As with many of the non-charting songs I have picked to write about these last couple years (though it turned out a few actually had crossed the rubicon into the top 40, d'oh!), "The Cutter" is here mostly representing the album it comes from, in this case the third Echo & the Bunnymen album Porcupine, which is fine. In fact, all of their first four albums start at worthwhile and move toward essential. The general appeal is most often characterized as shades of neo-psychedelia in a postpunk frame. Wikipedia, for example, is quick to drag in the obligatory Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles on the matter of the thickly textured strings in this song. Fair enough, but I also want to call attention to Ian McCulloch's vocal, which had always displayed enough twitchy anxiety to get over on New Wave terms. For me, I had to hear the Bunnymen covers of Doors and Velvet Underground songs found on the box set to clarify just how good (and how ambitious) McCulloch always was. There is also the deceptively easy and unpretentious way the band has of packing in so much drama to so many of their songs. The stakes always feel high and so it is with "The Cutter." It thrums with a bottom vibrating at deepest levels even as the keyboard hooks elegantly stair-step across scales at the song's highest pitch, holding in place for its greatest effects. It's dread and atmosphere and yet light and frolicsome even, and always propulsive. It starts on a high note and builds to a glorious crescendo, like death and then heaven. I'm not even sure what it is exactly, let alone what it is about. And I don't know who or what "the cutter" is supposed to be but I don't think I want any part of it either.

Monday, January 06, 2014

seenery

Movies/TV I saw last month...

American Hustle (2013)—I like Goodfellas and Boogie Nights too, so happy for the reverberations encountered here, plus the script has some nifty turns and twists. But I thought this one basically lived and died by its performances, which were uneven to say the least. Amy Adams is the best, just naturally working the role and the narrative. Christian Bale is doing one of those showy "stretch" roles but he's good. Bradley Cooper—was he still playing Silver Linings Playbook? Did he not know it was another movie? Jennifer Lawrence induced cringes constantly, though in fairness the role was conceived and written too poorly for anyone to salvage it probably. A disappointment though not without its pleasures. By definition, any movie with a disco scene and "I Feel Love" can't be all bad.
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)—I understand there are legitimate problems here as the director of this three-hour French film about adolescents and lesbians, Abdellatif Kechiche, is a man, and the woman who wrote the graphic novel on which it's based, Julie March, is complaining that he got it wrong. More: The title is not so much misleading as it is beside the point—the original, The Life of Adele - Chapters 1 & 2, is better and has the merit of being accurate and straightforward. I don't care about the production design (though it's very handsome and blue). It is also too long and the places to cut it are obvious (rhymes with "hex scenes"). But the performance by Adele Exarchopoulos as Adele is undeniable—she goes places here I did not know it was possible to go, and everybody else is pretty well keeping up. Flawed, but definitely worth seeing.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)—The most amazing part of this movie may be that it never looks old or feels stale, or hasn't yet. And it always finds a way to be devastating. This time the last conversation between Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), and Bonnie's mother (Mabel Cavitt) really hit me. Her mother's loathing is palpable. Plus Gene Wilder!
Captain Phillips (2013)—Largely empty and unsatisfying exercise that somehow manages to not have its cake and not eat it too. Tom Hanks is fine in the title role. It's a decent script. Director Paul Greengrass (United 93, the second and third Bourne movies) is efficient and plainly in his comfort zone. The problem is basically the usual mess around "based on true events" pictures, where the excesses are pinned on either "it's true!" or "it's fictionalized!," where everybody knows what's going to happen because they already know what did happen, kind of, and where the occasion is ripe for hagiography. Thus, by the numbers, our humanized captain of the boat, our not entirely humanized Middle Eastern terrorist pirates, and our brutally efficient military. It's not hard to pick out the cues for good guys and bad guys, but it's not always easy to understand them.
Charade (1963)—Maybe a little on the slight side but fun to see. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn are pros as much as anything else, and they are ably supported by the likes of James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Walter Matthau, plus it's a pretty neat pseudo-Hitchcock story of intrigue and double-dealing with a Paris setting. Directed by Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain, The Pajama Game). Good date movie.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Sign ☮' the Times (1987)

Out of curiosity, I wonder what the consensus presently is on best Prince album? I know a lot of people were very high on Sign for some time, but I have a feeling most of the affection has settled on Purple Rain (or, in some circles, Dirty Mind). I have always admired and respected Sign but never exactly loved it. Let me try to explain. It often feels a little like work to take it on, and not only for its generous double-LP 80-minute dimensions. There are other reasons. For example, the worst song here is the first one encountered, and the title song no less. A fetching aural landscape (as also was "When Doves Cry," remember) but more of a novelty and/or inert art object, and ultimately tiresome I think. No need to go into the belabored attempt to be topical, I hope. I don't doubt Prince wanted peace on this earth in 1987, still does, and always has, but he's a little fatuous about it, don't you think? There's a downside to spending your life locked into a studio. Then there are what I think of as The Lessons in Funk—"Housequake," or "Hot Thing." This is great stuff, but is it my imagination or is there something a little clinical here? I guess there's a downside to putting on a clinic too. He studied his James Brown, George Clinton, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, and Little Richard well. Prince Rogers Nelson is the Tiger Woods of funk and soul and rock 'n' roll and always has been. He knew where to fix his gaze and absorb, and he's loaded with talent. And it is indeed brilliant music to be found here, absolutely ... stop to listen close ... sure enough, hands in the air like I just don't care. So why don't I get to it more often? Partly I think there are actually a good many lesser lights besides the title song. I don't like "Starfish and Coffee" or "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker," and "The Cross" is the kind of business I don't want to be involved in (wonderful grinding bottom or no). In other cases the songs themselves are patchy: "Play in the Sunshine" and "It" have very nice moments but can be lackluster about getting there. "Slow Love" is a good one, the kind of torchy sex song he does on a regular basis and often pulls off (which also means it isn't necessarily indispensable). "If I Was Your Girlfriend" is weird in a good way and charming. "U Got the Look" works pretty well too, and "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" is about as big as the 9:02 allows. My favorite on the recent visits was "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" and its soaring hook, which sounds to me like it could have played on Purple Rain, although maybe (or maybe not) I could do without the proggy break (thus making it another patchy song, though at 6:29 it has the room to breathe too). I have to admit, I tend to favor the next album over this, Lovesexy, which I thought better achieved the seamless suite of everything he is going for (see also, names above), sans huffed-up topicality, which feels more like making it mighty real to me. But I expect Sign O' the Times (with or without embedded peace symbol) is pretty far up the Rolling Stone Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ladder, yes?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year memo

Happy new year, everyone! Hope you are all well and doing fine. I had a lot of distractions this past year—good ones as well as not so good—and so the productivity on this blog was off some. Not sure it will get any better this year but hoping it won't get worse. For better or worse it's starting to become a habit.

The ongoing features / themes / whatnot of the Can't Explain blog (as always, stamina allowing):
  • Great Albums: I've been hopping around the list but trying to stay near the top lately, and a little more focused on getting to them all. Last Tuesday of the month generally.
  • Movie of the year: I took the past couple of months off, but I'm picking up with 1975 next and going monthly, still moving backwards in time. Movies on Fridays.
  • Books on Sundays: Working through James Cain, Ian Frazier, Jim Thompson, and other things. Hoping for most Sundays this year.
  • New! Exciting! Horror movies on Thursdays: Revisiting movies that scared me very badly. The plan is for monthly, last Thursdays.
  • Songs on Wednesdays
  • Other albums on Saturdays
Fun with numbers: Because my 10 most viewed pages has hardly budged since last year (the only change being that the recent Rust Never Sleeps review has bolted to #9 overall), I offer instead a list of the years for which I have written the most blog entries. I seem to have an unsurprising sweet spot between the years 1966 and 1982 but you will also see that 1979 and 1977 positively dominate. At one time, back in the early days, 1970 was neck and neck with 1977 for #1. My analysis: Most peculiar, mama.

Top 10 years I have written about
1.  1979 (40)
2.  1977 (36)
3.  1970 (29)
4.  1966 (28)
    1969 (28)
    1973 (28)
7.  1972 (27)
  1980 (27)
9.  1982 (25)
10.  1971 (24)
  1974 (24)