Wednesday, June 29, 2011
In the wake of successful reunion gigs and a Best Of disc released in 2010, UK dream merchants Suede (known elsewhere as The London Suede) announced on June 29 the reissue of all of their studio albums this summer.
Deluxe, vastly expanded editions of 1993's Suede, 1994's Dog Man Star, 1996's Coming Up, 1999's Head Music and 2002's A New Morning will be released, in turn, every other week from now until late August. The highly influential band's website is taking pre-orders, with bonus incentives attached.
For those who spent the Nineties preoccupied with grunge, Lilith Fair acts or other phenomenon, this might be an opportune time to discover (or re-discover) some major players in a scene that was playing itself out across the Pond. Clearly inspired by mid-80s Manchester and other forces, Suede in turn laid a sonic bed of roses - thorns and all - for later acts to rest their heads upon. Their timeless offerings could certainly be mistaken for "new" on alternative radio today.
Heartthrob frontman Brett Anderson stated in a press release that "... this is the definitive collection of pretty much everything we released in 14 years together - and some stuff which we didn't. It's all re-mastered and includes unreleased, never-before-heard oddities and gems which even I'd forgotten about. It's the complete audio history of a band and, like any band of interest, it's flawed, strange and sometimes beautiful".
The band is scheduled for an exotic summer tour that includes dates in the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
It may be an odd admission to hear from a music journalist, but I don't think I've enjoyed new music this much since the 1980s. Great, "independent" sounds seems to be pouring into my radio and computer in a torrent from all over the globe, making me as giddy as a 16-year-old waiting in line for tickets to see a new sensation named Madonna.
In between yelling at kids to stay off my lawn and cleaning the heads on the Betamax, I'm catching up on the comings and goings of Swedish sensation Lykke Li. "I Follow Rivers," produced by her pal Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John, is my obsession for the week, though it was released this spring.
Though the video by Swedish director Tarik Saleh is breathtakingly gorgeous, I actually prefer the acoustic "Live On The Moon" version (see below). Not only does simplifying the arrangement accentuate the sensuality of Li's voice, the clip gives a deserving, nifty nod to the song's Sixties roots.
- Steve Stav
Monday, June 27, 2011
Classic episodes of Perry Mason have been irresistible to me for about 25 years now, since high school. Its predictability was part of its appeal, strangely enough. Episode after episode, the famed Los Angeles attorney, his secretary, Della Street, and private eye Paul Drake would come to the aid of someone falsely accused of murder. Forty-five minutes' worth of cool cars, Mad Men wardrobes and fresh-off-the-bus-from-Kansas starlets later, Mason would extract the truth from the real culprit.
Indeed, Perry Mason was all about justice, no matter how damning the evidence seemed, or how little money the defendant had. In turn, actor Raymond Burr became synonymous with justice with his iconic portrayal of Earl Stanley Gardner's legendary character.
Offscreen, Burr's philanthropy and humanitarianism was impressive, and well-known. His beneficiaries included countless law students and numerous needy children. He had the strongest of work ethics, and was reportedly widely admired by Perry Mason's cast and crew. Barbara Hale (Ms. Street), for one, remained loyal to Burr until his death.
I write about Perry Mason today because, during Gay Pride Month and in the wake of the fortuitously timed legalization of gay marriage in New York State, I must confess that — of all people and situations — it was Perry Mason who prompted me to fully accept the concept of a same-sex union.
You see, Mr. Mason, defender of so many damsels in distress, was homosexual. Raymond Burr, to my astonishment, was a gay man.
I, like most others, did not learn of this fact until years after Burr died in 1993, at age 76. According to various articles and two biographies, the very private actor fabricated some of his personal life, including possibly more than one marriage. In the innuendo-only Forties, Fifties and Sixties, the idea of an openly gay celebrity was obviously unthinkable; you couldn't even get Liberace to address the subject. And for good reason. Twenty-five years after the public learned of Rock Hudson's preferences, the revelation of an actor's homosexuality still prompts a scandal of minor or major proportions... somehow.
Burr reportedly willed the bulk of his estate to his dedicated, yet secret partner of thirty-plus years, who was at the actor's bedside when he passed.
I grew up in the Seventies and Eighties, when the terms "homo" and "faggot" were almost as common in school hallways and playgrounds as "dork" or "loser." That's a difficult environment to forget, especially with my Don Rickles - inspired sense of humor. Though I've never been on a mission to prove my heterosexuality, you've never seen me at a gay bar or on the sidelines at a Gay Pride parade, either. You still won't, even though I have gay and lesbian friends... not acquaintances, but friends. Though some of my favorite actors and musicians are gay or lesbian, I will still avert my eyes from two men kissing on television, or in public. I can't help that; human sexuality has been and will always be a tricky, often unfathomable subject. It certainly makes for some interesting contradictions.
Today, it's odd to think that I had to learn, over time, that a person's sexual preferences — which are often cast not in black & white, but in varying shades of grey — aren't any of my business. They're not anyone's business.
Opposing same-sex marriage, to me, is not a vote for decency, nor is it a "nay" vote for granting "special privileges." It is a vote to marginalize and demonize someone — a bus driver, a soldier, a schoolteacher, an actor — for what they might choose to do in the privacy of their home. Let's not pretend it's anything else. Let's not pretend that this legislated prejudice doesn't trickle down to the bullying of gay kids, or doesn't translate into denying someone other freedoms and/or opportunities. Marriage is often overrated, but human beings are technically equal under U.S. law, and everyone should have the right to be as potentially foolhardy as the next hooplehead. Life is hard enough without our government and our religions judging our neighbors, family and friends by who and how they love, for god's sakes.
Ah, the elephant in the room. If one's god dictates that someone made in His image is wrong, even Hell-bound, for loving another person... then perhaps one should reconsider his choice of deity. Church leaders who want to legislate "decency" should be using their considerable political influence to ensure that the poorest among us can afford food, housing and a doctor. That's decency.
It's time for evil distractions to cease. It is past time to officially ignore those whose ridiculous upbringing in fear and ignorance has caused so much pain for others. Cops no longer assault and courts no longer incarcerate our neighbors for their sexual preferences. Let us, state by state, take the next magnanimous step and seat the busybodies, the charlatans, the fear-mongers and the apathetic in the back of the bus for a change.
We can discuss this topic forever. In the end, though, it all boils down to Perry Mason, to Raymond Burr. I know that it's a simplistic, perhaps odd example. However, it's shamefully sobering to consider that a man of such fine character had to hide his identity, had to hide his lover and companion from the world. Even more importantly, the irony that our society decided Burr was not fully entitled to the justice he so memorably championed is not only sad, it's also so very, very wrong.
- Steve Stav
Friday, June 24, 2011
Paramount has just released a final, full-length trailer — and a new poster — for Captain America: The First Avenger. The comic geek in me is salivating in anticipation, even though the clip/highlight reel still leaves questions yet to be answered. Marvel fans will just have to wait until July 22 to see if there's an all-important good script to match the period cinematography, and if the relative lack of star power (Tommy Lee Jones excluded) will be a plus or a minus. Oh, and there's that little bit of odd casting to swallow — actor Chris Evans (The Fantastic Four's Human Torch) is now playing Steve Rogers, aka Captain America.
This effort certainly has a lot going for it: The film appears to stray very little from Cap's classic origin story, and everyone loves a WWII film. There's the Red Skull, Nazis, even The Howlin' Commandos... most of the essential elements seem to be in place.
Given that Captain America is the "rock" of the Marvel Universe, it's odd that so much time passed before a studio spent any real money on a film adaptation. The super-patriot has had to weather a by-the-numbers 1940s serial, two crummy 1979 TV movies (in which actor Reb Brown tooled around in a date-rape van and a dirt bike), and a feature film starring J.D. Salinger's son that was so weird and cheap, it bypassed U.S. theaters.
With three solid superhero flicks ahead of it this year, there's a lot at stake... and a lot of competition in a busy blockbuster season. My fingers are crossed, for Cap deserves some glory.
- Steve Stav
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Thomas Dolby's ingenious Internet game, A Map Of The Floating City, was released June 22, and I've already set sail for adventure. Dolby discussed this free, promotional tie-in with the upcoming album of the same name in an interview with me last month. The trailer itself is stunning, the graphics are gorgeous, and the game... well, I'm no game player, but with music to be discovered and apparently real prizes at stake, I'm on board. It's a map/treasure seeking experience that relies on trading with other participants to propel your vessel across a map. The player chooses a ship, captain's name, and can write his own bio before taking the plunge. Locales, ships, et cetera refer to Dolby's lyrics.
The singer/songwriter is no stranger to online community-building; Dolby's fan site, The Flat Earth Society, is one of the most diehard clubs around... we'll see how this fares as an auxiliary of sorts. A Map Of The Floating City has all the tools and encouragement needed for fans and novices to have fun exploring Dolby's world together. At first blush, it's certainly wondrous... from the creator of a song such as "Windpower," one could hardly expect anything less.
Steve Stav (Skipper, DSV Miss Sakamoto)
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I don't review nearly as many concerts now as I did when I was a man-about town columnist in the Jet City, so it is good that my trained nose (or ear?) almost never steers me wrong in choosing a show these days. Case in point: Anna Calvi's June 1 show at the Crocodile, which I reviewed for Ink19.com. www.ink19.com/issues/june2011/eventReviews/annaCalvi.html
It was one of those truly thrilling situations where the performer actually tops the hype and expectations. Calvi, an up-and-coming Siren from England, is somebody special. Touted and supported by Brian Eno and Nick Cave, this gal is going places. And on a Wednesday night, she stopped in Belltown to blow everyone away before starting another round of UK/European engagements.
If my review seems too enthusiastic or embellished, it's not. Check her out on Youtube, and you'll be buying the album.
ps. When my webmaster is feeling better, a gallery of additional photos from the show will be posted.
- Steve Stav
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Premier instrumental combo Los Straitjackets have announced a number of benefit shows for master guitarist/co-founder Danny Amis, who has been battling bone marrow cancer.
In an open letter on his website, Amis, AKA "Daddy O Grande," mentioned his stem cell transplant procedure, and a recuperation that is expected to last through the summer. The procedure is expected to knock the cancer into remission.
Amis had no health insurance, but was partially covered via The Affordable Care Act. As one might expect, the ongoing out-of-pocket expenses are staggering.
The benefit gigs will be interspersed among a heavy summer touring schedule (which includes a number of gigs with Dave Alvin), and a slew of guest appearances have already been slated - with more doubtlessly to come. The band has enlisted Greg Townson (dubbed "Gregorio El Grande") of the Hi-Risers to step in for Amis.
Revered by their fans (i.e, anyone who has ever heard or seen them), Los Straitjackets' in-turn reverence for all who came before them is even cooler than their Mexican wrestling masks and super-abundance of talent.
Direct donations can be made through www.daddyogrande.com. Tour dates and news updates can be found at www.straitjackets.com.
Keep rockin', Danny!
Friday, June 3, 2011
It's no wonder that the most popular stills from the new X-Men : First Class are of January Jones — she makes for a great Emma Frost, White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Why were no photos of the lovely Rose Byrne available? After all, her Moira MacTaggert is a bit fetching in lingerie, as well.
I explore this exciting new installment of the Marvel franchise — a great date movie — at Ink19.com today.