By Tim Murr
Writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima’s manga epic Lone Wolf And Cub hit the stands in 1970. It was a massive success, with meticulous details, historical accuracy, and gorgeously realistic artwork. Lone Wolf And Cub would, and still does, have a strong influence across various artistic forms. By 1972, the series was already adapted into a film, a huge success itself which launched five sequels.
My introduction to Ben Wheatley was Sightseers, a film based on characters so hilariously loathsome I wasn’t even sure I actually liked the movie until days later. That’s when I knew that Wheatley, who already had two other features under his belt (Down Terrace, Kill List), was destined for greatness.
Wheatley has only directed three films since then—A Field In England, High-Rise, and Free Fire—and is still working, so he might seem an odd subject for a career retrospective. This is something that film critic Adam Nayman acknowledges in his new book Ben Wheatley: Confusion and Carnage. It’s a clever bit of self-deprecation that puts the reader at ease.
By Tim Murr
Psychomania has been on my list to watch for a long time, though I never knew anything about it outside of the trailer. It features troublemakers that return from the grave to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting English town; there are motorcycles, action, cool costumes, witchy undertakings, shades of A Clockwork Orange and The Wild One, a badass 1970s soundtrack. That’s what the trailer for promises. The film itself breaks most of these promises and is instead a dry, absurdly comic B-movie, that’s too slow and doesn’t play up any of its strengths.
By Tim Murr
Gabby Gaborno; Photo © Riff55
The Pacific Northwest’s Dark Palms return with a four-song EP that expands the group’s sound in fantastic ways. Smoke opens with a title track that sounds like Black Sabbath by way of Hüsker Dü with a Funhouse Stooges digression. “Heroes” has a push and pull rhythmic thing going, almost as if the song is fighting against being buried alive. “Salton Sea” is more of a straight-forward rocker, like it could have been on the band’s previous release, Hoxbar Ghost Town, but there’s an aged quality to it, like a hot rod running against a desert wind.
The album closes with “Margarita And The Master” which borrows its title from the Mikhail Bulgakov novel about the Devil visiting the atheistic Russia. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on the lyrics and if they actually reference the novel, but the song conjures an interesting notion. All four tracks are damn good and Smoke is a great companion to the group’s debut from last year.
Ah, Werewolves In Siberia, one of the most kick-ass synth-wave projects out there… This album hits Bandcamp today to coincide with the release of Death Race 2050. You get three tracks: the title track, plus two versions of “Frankenstein, The Indestructible,” one with a sample from the original film and one without. The trailer looks like a direct sequel to Roger Corman’s original Death Race 2000, and it looks fucking awesome. The EP is pretty great itself, as one would expect from WiS.
A while ago during my hiatus from Popshifter, Gabby Gaborno, lead singer of the Cadillac Tramps and Manic Hispanic, passed away after years of struggling with health problems. He was a great singer and frontman and both bands are well worth your time to seek out if you’re unfamiliar with them. From interviews I’ve read Gabby seemed like a really cool, nice guy. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
Do you want to know what surprised me the most about Sad Vacation: The Last Days Of Sid And Nancy? What surprised me was how very young Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen were at the height of their infamy and subsequent deaths. Sid was 21 when he died, and Nancy just 20. They were just babies.
By Tim Murr
“The box. You opened it. We came. Now you must come with us, taste our pleasures.”
Those iconic words spoken by Pinhead in the directorial debut of Clive Barker are still chilling nearly 30 years after they were first heard. The film Hellraiser, based on Barker’s own novella The Hellbound Heart, is a harrowing, shocking, graphic slab of supernatural erotic body horror. It divided critics and thrilled horror aficionados and launched a franchise that still, for better or worse, survives today, not to mention the various comic book series and tie-in books from Barker and several others that continue to be published in regular intervals.
The people at the Vinegar Syndrome imprint are like late-night college DJs, the ones who pull out weird and obscure music, sharing songs they had to track down for years after hearing them once in a bowling alley. They’re the hardcore fans, the crazy ones, who not only reference movies you’ve never heard of, but can quote them verbatim. There is a need for people like that in this world, the cultural archaeologists, the keepers of the flame.
By Julie Finley
This year was unbearable in so many ways it is hard to even compute mentally. Too much LOSS! I am not going to go off on a tangent about what was bad; if you lived through this year, you know how bad it was!
Despite so many mishaps, there were actually some things I enjoyed this year. I decided to divide these up by cultural experiences, music releases, TV shows, and movies.
2016 was full of personal and professional triumphs and external troubles. Here is my bloated 2016 cultural year-in-review list.
David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia)
Anna Meredith, Varmints (Moshi Moshi)
Bent Knee, Say So (Cuneiform)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Ears (Western Vinyl)
Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, Stranger Things Soundtrack (Lakeshore Records)
Chromb, 1000 (InOuie)
PJ Harvey, The Hope Six Demolition Project (Vagrant)
Swans, The Glowing Man (Young God)
Bon Iver; 22, a million (Jagjaguwar)
Ian William Craig, Centres (FatCat)
Ital Tek, Hollowed (Planet MU)
Maxwell Sterling, Hollywood Medieval (Memory Number 36 recordings)
Jaga Jazzist, Starfire (Ninja Tune)
Elysian Fields, Ghost Of No (Ojet)
Klara Lewis, Too (Editions Mego)
Gnarwhallaby, exhibit A (Populist Records)
Peder Mannerfelt, Controlling Body (Peder Mannerfelt Produktion)
John Zorn, Madrigals / Painted Bird / Commedia Dell’Arte / Sacred Visions (Tzadik)
Vicky Chow, AORTA (New Amsterdam)
Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Rest In Fleas (Northern Spy)
Zwoyld, 200 000 (Bandcamp)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity (ATO)
Tristan Perich, Noise Patterns (Physical Editions)
Alessandro Cortini, Risveglio (Hospital)
Nicotina es Primavera, Animal Cerámico (Bandcamp)
I went to dozens of concerts and events in 2016. Here are some of the most notable. All in NYC except where noted.
Jan 8 and Jan 19: Holy Holy at The Highline
Mar 10: Messiaen’s Turangalîla-symphonie at Lincoln Center,
Mar 19: Matmos at National Sawdust
April 1: Magma at Le Poisson Rouge
May 10: Diamanda Galas at the former St. Thomas the Apostle church in Harlem
June 13: Anthony Pateras and Erkki Veltheim for The Inland Concert Series at Church of All Nations in Carlton, Melbourne
July 28: Jaga Jazzist at Le Poisson Rouge
Aug 10: Senyawa at a loft on Bowery for Blank Forms
Aug 14: Kris Davis Quartet play John Zorn’s Bagatelles at the Village Vanguard
Aug 16: PJ Harvey at Terminal 5
Sep 10: Wet Ink present a multi-channel concert at St Peter’s Church in Chelsea
Sep 14: Suzanne Ciani at Roulette
Sep 18: ELO at Radio City Music Hall
Sep 27: Morton Subotnik at Issue Project Room
Oct 8: Glenn Branca at Roulette
Oct 22/ 23: John Zorn at National Sawdust / The Guggenheim
Oct 29: Ghédalia Tazartès at First Unitarian Church, Brooklyn
Nov 3: Mivos Quartet and others play Patrick Higgins at Pioneer Works
Nov 11: Aurélien Bory’s Plexus at BAM’s Harvey Theater.
Dec 4: Ashley Bathgate at Dither Festival, 17 Frost Theater
Dec 11: Vicky Chow at National Sawdust
and Tredici Bacci, everywhere
The Neon Demon
I also keep a Tumblr blog where I talk about events I check out and other cultural obsessions.
Find out more on JG Thirlwell on foetus.org.
We reviewed JG Thirlwell’s Venture Bros. Original Score Volume Two on July 21.
The year began with the death of David Bowie and then just got worse. Prince died in April, and throughout the rest of the year, dozens of other well-loved, talented, influential artists continued to leave this earthly plane. December continued the onslaught of pop culture deaths, with George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Richard Adams (Watership Down), and Debbie Reynolds dying within days of each other.
Still, there was a lot of amazing pop culture in 2016, which definitely helped ease the pain of these sad passings, as well as the foreboding political climate of the US (not to mention countries around the world; too numerous to mention). Here’s hoping 2017 is less traumatic for all of us.