black and tan eyes

Monday, July 30, 2007

RIP Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Evan, MA (Hons)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tramwaj (Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1966) (soundtrack by Skalpel)

This charming short was Polish master Krzysztof Kieślowski's first fiction film. Originally silent, here it is set to the trip-hop/jazz track "So Far" by Polish outfit Skalpel, which makes for a tasteful accompaniment.

What's notable about this early film is that in it one can already perceive themes - loneliness, obessession, voyeurism - that find their way into Kieślowski's later works, especially his remarkable 10-film cycle, Dekalog. He is a fascinating director, whose films deserve to be seen and cherished.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tom Waits Orphans

Tom Waits has characterised the 56 songs on his new three-disc anthology Orphans as “songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner”. Comprising outtakes from album sessions, songs that Waits and wife Kathleen Brennan wrote for film soundtracks and stage productions, cover versions and experiments that didn’t really fit anywhere else, Orphans is by turns a stomping, heartfelt, frightening set of tunes that should keep the ardent Waits admirer happy for a while. If a new album from this maverick musician and master songwriter is an event, a triple album should be the occasion for a parade of some sort. Anyway…

The first disc Brawlers reveals the rockier, bluesier side of Waits we last heard on his 1999 album Mule Variations. On this relatively uniform set of songs, Waits still manages to dabble in a variety of styles, ranging from rockabilly to mambo, rocksteady to backporch blues. The sound is characterised by grinding guitars, wheezing horns and railway-yard percussion, with Waits yowling, growling, crooning and rasping his way through all sixteen tracks. Highlights include the deranged Elvis stylings of “Lie to Me”, the down ’n’ dirty groove of “2:19”, the maniacal boast of a prisoner served with “Fish in the Jailhouse”, and the raw folk-blues “Buzz Fledderjohn” – a tale of suburban myth and mystery that sounds a hundred years old. Another noteworthy track is "Road To Peace", a bitter commentary on the grim stalemate that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Waits’ most explicit political song to date.

Waits is one of the great American balladeers and Orphans’ second disc includes Bawlers from both of his two rough categories: a) piano-based jazz croons, lullabies and torch songs, and b) sepia-toned slices of Americana, evocative of long and lonely highways, dusty backstreets and abandoned roadhouses and populated by lost souls, repentant crooks, small-time hustlers and itinerant workers unable to leave the road. Of the first category we have here a new stunner “You Can Never Hold Back Spring” (which could well pass for a 1920s gramophone waltz number), the winsome “Bend Down The Branches” and the languid, reflective “World Keeps Turning”. One man’s wistful plea to a former love (“Tell It To Me”), a rueful caution against taking the wrong path in life (“Fannin Street”) and a heartrending tale of tragedy in a backwoods town (“The Fall of Troy”) are among the best of the second lot. Of course, there are also those tracks not so easily pigeonholed: "Widow’s Grove" is in the style of a French chanson, “Never Let Go” is a stirring hymn to fidelity, while “Take Care Of All Of My Children” sounds like an Irving Berlin ditty from the War years. For me, Waits is at his best when he does ballads and Bawlers contains some of the very best songs he has ever written and recorded. It’s a wonder they remained officially orphaned until now.

As suggested by its title, Bastards is the most eclectic of the three discs and the one most redolent of Waits’ exotic, erratic tastes and dark, earthy wit. During this hour-plus of esoterica, you will be exposed to, among other things, creepy spoken monologues (an unorthodox “Children’s Story”, a list of disturbing facts about insects on “Army Ants”), adaptations of Beat writers Kerouac and Bukowski (“Home I’ll Never Be”, “On The Road”, “Nirvana”) and engaging oddities laced with Waits’ patented vocal percussion (“Spidey’s Wild Ride” and a roaring, chest-beating cover of Daniel Johnston’s “King Kong”). Tom also turns the Disney tune “Heigh Ho” into a taskmaster’s chant, bleats out an Appalachian murder ballad on “Two Sisters” and goes electronic on “Dog Door”. Finally, this third disc is capped with two very entertaining hidden tracks: one is a piece of live between-song banter in which Waits relates his discovery of a sinister variety of dog treat, the other has Tom narrating the kind of adventure at a supermarket that only he could experience.

Though many of these tracks have been previously available on bootleg albums and a few more songs have been left behind the stove, Orphans satisfies this fan. My only nitpick are the liner notes, which are scanty on recording dates and vague on exactly which musicians played on which tracks. Lack of such information does reinforce a sense of continuity between the songs, but I wish Tom would have offered some of his usual documentary details in the listings. Waits neophytes probably shouldn’t start here (try Rain Dogs instead) but once one has acclimatised oneself to this legend of American music, Orphans should be an indispensable listen.

This review was published, with minor alterations, in the Summer School 2007 issue of Craccum.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

boy in the 'hood

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tim Finn and Richard Thompson - Persuasion

Thompson's lead guitar and backing vocals make a great song even better.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Well Well Well

I'm flattered. Ellis Sharp has responded to my comments on his piece on Little Chef. Instead of debating any of my key points, he decides to ridicule me. No surprises there of course - I wasn't expecting him to descend to the level of us mere mortals.

I’ve been aware for some time that this blog has a small but zealous following in the troll nether-world. It is avidly monitored for the scandalous outrages it commits against The Only Democracy in the Middle East.

He said it, not me.

I am not going to supply any links because, where trolls and Klingons are concerned, I do not believe in decency and fair play.

No news there. Sharp doesn't believe in decency or fair play anyway.

As for my closed Comments box – guys, just think of it as a separation barrier and you’ll feel much better about it, won’t you?

I'm surprised he didn't ask us to think of it as an "Apartheid Wall".

Sharp takes me to task over my apparent misunderstanding Azorim's last plan for Little Chef. Seems it was just a sardonic comment on the food they serve. I'll take that, but it seems a rather gratuitous inclusion in what was just another "the Zionist Entity is Evil" rant.

I do wish people wouldn’t get obsessed about Israel and have to bring it into everything.

This from a man who tried to explain the previous year's Mumbai bombings by pointing to India's supposed pro-Zionist Hindutva foreign policy.