Tuesday, July 25, 2006

tuesday's children

1. Music: If you did not spend part of your adolescence, post-adolescence, or just plain extended adolescence in the American Southeast during the '80s and/or '90s, you may not quite understand why every band in that region, during that time period, who was even remotely more interested in being arty or pretty than they were in being punk, took their cues from this one. If you've never given a rat's ass about REM (as I haven't, either, since everying after "Automatic For the People" has bored me to tears), watch this previously unreleased video from 1981's "Chronic Town" EP. The tightness and the melody are both feverish, and Peter Buck's jangle would be imitated by nearly every "college rock" band to come out of Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas for decades after this, sending critics back to the Byrds for something to reference. And the visuals: Mike Mills before his Encyclopedia Brown phase; the cameraman's reluctancy to show Bill Berry, unaware that the drummer would one day make the unibrow iconic; Buck just fucking smoldering (kinda looking like Carrie from Sleater-Kinney here); and Stipe, an angelic bisexual art school dream, all curls and pout, giving up a nervous shimmy a little more than three minutes in.

For further study, watch the clip of the band on Letterman a few years later; it's of shitty quality, but an interesting historical clip. Plus, this song was such a viral college hit that even my Billy Joel-loving brother owned a 45 of it.

(The first video is appearing now thanks to the September release of CD and DVD collections of the band's IRS material. Read about what you're buying me for Christmukkah here.)

2. Movie: Finally saw this last night, after many years wanting to; I have a soft spot for films that reek of scandal, and director Peter Bogdanovich hooked up with 19-year-old Cybill Shepherd on the movie's set, eventually divorcing his set designer wife for her. This is a shame, since the sets are hypnotizing, so surely she deserved better, yeah?

Two separate people told me I would fall asleep watching it -- granted, I started it at midnight, and I've been falling asleep watching movies at home lately. But I stayed up till after 2 this morning. I found the wisdom and power of the women -- in 1950s Texas, where they really shouldn't have any power, and were assumed to have no wisdom -- fascinating. A pre-Paper Chase Timothy Bottoms is a squishy moral center (the center of horny teenage boys cannot hold) and Cybill's not really much of an actress at 19, but they both sure are pretty. Ellen Burstyn is fucking amazing as Shepherd's mother -- no surprise to me, since her acting is part of what makes The Exorcist as much of a psychological thriller as it is a Satanic wet dream. Plus: Eileen Brennan (who I will always think of as the drill sergeant who takes a shower in ink in Private Benjamen) as the strongest woman in town, and Cloris Leachman (Frau Blucher!!) as the weakest, totally blossoming and then falling back apart during the film's progress.

3. Music and Movie: The new Leonard Cohen film is wonderful, as long as you ignore how the last ten minutes completely ruin it. I am actually not destroying your moviegoing experience by telling you this. I am warning you to enjoy the film while you can; revel in Nick Cave's long-coming transformation to lounge singer, Rufus and Martha Wainright's genetically given talent and awkward grace, Antony's otherworldliness, Jarvis Cocker representing "the punksters," and The Man himself's humility and power. And then maybe go to the bathroom. And come back to watch the credits.

Oh, and then go see the Beards when they come back from summer break in September.


Blogger CLAY BANES said...

the jangly guitar, melodic bass, vocal countermelodies against stipe's indecipherable growl all backed by thudding, dark drums with weird fills — when they were what they were those first few albums, r.e.m. were great.

sadly the cohen film's got more problems than U2. i don't think the director had a clue. i mean, like, how to make a film.

1:41 PM  
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3:39 AM  

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