There’s no reason being clever or coy about it: Hole’s “Live Through This” is — in 2014 — a weird listen. It’s not that the music has aged BADLY, exactly, but it’s just aged into something different. I’ve been trying to think of another example where a piece of pop art was changed so much given the space of time. I can think of things like OJ Simpson’s performance in “The Naked Gun” (which still somehow works because he’s being physically punished the entire time) and, say, some of Roman Polanski’s films, or maybe the final performances of Heath Ledger and Brandon Lee. History — especially the history surrounding a grisly death — make things very interesting, but what’s happened to “Live Through This” is really, just… weird.
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This one’s a mess.
I’ve been listening to Nirvana. Again. As I’ve written before, I seem to fall into a rut with this band around this time of year, every year, for the last couple years. Near the anniversary of Cobain’s suicide. It’s a contemplative time that ultimately succeeds in ruining me for my mother’s birthday. But with this contemplation, I start to get big picture with things. I swear, for someone who has never had an interest in smoking pot, I come up with a lot of “What’s it all mean, man?” type of ideas. This leads me to assume that “pot wisdom” is more bullshit than ever. Continue reading ‘No More Pop Culture Big Bang’
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We’ve all heard the hits, especially “The Boys are Back In Town” and “Jailbreak.” And we’ve all pictured the images created by the lyrics, particularly of jails being broken out of and boys coming back to towns. Music-loving revisionists like to claim Thin Lizzy is an underrated band musically, but just as underrated is their album cover art. Take a look at awesomeness, starting with their self titled 1971 debut.
Normal by today’s standards, but nonetheless interesting. A car inside the fisheye bubble reflection of another car’s taillight inside another fisheye bubble. It’s somewhere to start.
1972′s “Shades of a Blue Orphanage” found the band’s cover art trying to be the Band, “Led Zeppelin II” and the Moody Blues. I guess that’s supposed to be them as kids. I only include this rather mundane cover to set up the punch provided by the next entry.
NOW we’re getting somewhere! 1973′s “Vagabonds of the Western World” could not feel more 1973. This would stop any casual shopper walking down the aisle. One glimpse of this baby on the rack and you might think, “Is that Jimmy Hendrix? Visiting the Blue Meanie planet? With a bearded and horned Robert Plant behind him? And are the other planets crystal balls? And is this planet underwater? I can’t even read the title. WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!?”
Just hold on to your hats, buddy.
If you were a child of the 1970s, then Thin Lizzy album cover art grew up with you. At first your parents took your photos, then you drew comic books, then you became a seventh grader and it was your mission to make everything “bitchin’.” We continue the planet motif (and in a way, the circular objects motif going all the way back to the first record) but add a panther. On a rock. In the middle of Los Angeles, I guess. Hells yeah.
1975 “Fighting” is pretty standard, and is therefore the lamest. It’s like they wanted to beat the Ramones to the punch, but a jacket over no shirt with a little sheriff’s badge isn’t the way to look tough. Fortunately we can presume that there was a band meeting prior to the next album cover where someone said, “Guys, we gotta get back to our bitchin’ roots.”
1976′s “Johnny the Fox.” We’re now six albums in, and I’d say only 3 come close to feeling like “Thin Lizzy.” That three includes this one, and it’s technically right on the bubble. Still, circles and moons/planets. And it seems that while their style may not be the sci-fi blues of Hendrix, their album covers are still keeping that torch alive.
Their breakthrough (or “breakout”) album, and one of the inspirations for this post. You’d think with a title like “Jailbreak,” you’d have a picture of the band, you know, breaking out of jail. That’s narrow thinking. Expand your mind, man. This is 1976. It’s not just a jail – it’s a weird TV kind of jail. And they aren’t kept there by mere prison bars. There’s a giant silver Magneto-looking guy who tries to keep them there. It’s the rock n’ roll version of the Kryptonian Phantom Zone.
1977′s “Bad Reputation.” Maybe they ran out of money.
1978′s “Live and Dangerous.” I understand the reasoning here. It’s a live album, so how about a real photo. But couldn’t they have taken a real photo of a dragon?
1979′s “Black Rose.” At first glance, kind of lame. But upon further examination, it looks like it’s a denim rose against a denim sky, and the rose is bleeding. It’s the mature version of “bitchin’.”
1980′s “Chinatown.” This is why I’m not a successful album cover art designer person guy. I would have stopped at the Chinese Dragon. I would have never thought to make that dragon have lazer eyes/x-ray vision beams. At least not since I turned 14.
1981′s “Renegade.” You: “Oh, it’s a flag. Big deal. . . waitasec is there an AXE ONTOP OF THAT FLAG?! YEAH!!!!!” Mind blown.
1983. “Thunder and Lightning.” Kind of says it all, doesn’t it? This is possibly the origin for “Smell the Glove.” Like all good art, it asks gives more questions than answers. Does that fist belong to a recently-buried man? Did he punch through the ground and THEN conjure the guitar via lightening, or vice versa? Why is that guitar so far away? The answer to most questions could and should be “‘Cause it’s awesome.”
1983′s “Thin Lizzy Life Live.” It can only disappoint, due to a lack of flaming tigers or space Vikings, but at least the finally nailed the font.
See? Don’t you feel better knowing those are out there? And don’t you feel angry that more bands don’t try harder to be badass like this?
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The internet doesn’t need more arguments, yet that won’t stop me. I’m going to weigh in on some (young)age-old Batman debates:
Issue 1.) Which is better: “Batman” (1989) vs. “Batman Returns?” A divisive issue since their release. Generally speaking, if you enjoyed the first one, you were disappointed in the second. If you were bored with the first one, then you prefered the second. I’m in the first camp, and I’ve given way more thought about it than I ever should have. Because, really, neither is a cinematic triumph. Both have story problems, they make questionable choices concerning the characters, and they seem more concerned with style than with substance. So when dealing with this level of film, I think it’s best to look at it simply, and I’ll say that the original film works better than the second. True, “Returns” has some darker elements, and some weirder humor, and even my personal favorite version of Catwoman. But that doesn’t mean it works. At all. Often times the argument in favor of “Returns” is for those elements, but I think they actually weigh the whole thing down. As I’ve said many other times, “Batman” works because it’s a crowd pleaser. The crowd forgives lapse in logic (Vicki just shows up to the Batcave, Batman rarely stopping* crimes, etc.) because that forgiveness is rewarded with a happy ending. With “Returns,” the audience is asked to work really hard to follow along, like the characters, understand the weird plotting, and their reward is a gross anti-climax with 2 deaths, possibly a third, the unmasking of Batman and a penguin funeral. Its climax is both uncharacteristic of the comics and just plain strange.
Issue 2.) Which Is Better: The Burton Movies or the Schumacher Movies. It’s a common belief that Schumacher is a hack who should have never done Batman movies, and that Burton’s sensibility best suited the tone, therefore resulting in better films. I’m not going to invite trouble by saying Schumacher is a better filmmaker, but I think his skill level is much closer to Burton’s than people give him credit for. At least in terms of Batman movies. Basically, I think both have a Batman win and a Batman loss in their canon, and while the “Batman & Robin” loss is a greater one than “Batman Returns,” I believe the quality of “Batman Forever” is close to the level of “Batman.” Yeah, it’s a little lighter. That doesn’t automatically mean it’s worse, and the camping around of Jim Carrey is no worse than the scenary chewing of Jack Nicholson. What I’m trying to say is that drawing a hard line between them is a foolish, which assumes that one guy hit two homeruns.
I think we’ve accomplished a lot today.
*I get this one, but I don’t think it’s as major of a flaw as the fanboys would have us believe. Take the opening scene, where the young family is mugged in the alley, seen by Batman, who proceeds to beat up the muggers. First off, it is very difficult to anticipate a crime. You wanna talk “realistic,” Nolan fans. That’s realistic. You just can’t do it. So following the flow of the movie (which is an important key to enjoying the movie), Batman may have just happened upon seeing that crime and instead of rushing to help the family decided to go get the criminals. OK, we go to the rooftop, and the muggers are divying up the money when Batman shows up and kicks the crap out of them. I’ve heard people gripe that he didn’t even turn the criminals in to the cops, which is TECHNICALLY true, but in the next scene, the cops are there, rounding up the muggers. I think we can safely assume that the mother called the police and Batman gave an uncredited assist.
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Recently, a number of things have lined me up with the work of Stanley Kubrick. A viewing of “Room 237” led to a viewing and discussion of “The Shining,” which lead me to seek out more discussion on that movie, which brought me to a number of podcasts, and as you might suspect, there is a lot of type- and airspace dedicated to Stanley Kubrick. I’ve been picking the general brain of the world.
Without getting into a whole thing here, I’d say my relationship with Kubrick’s work is at an admiring level at best and a confused level at worst. I recognize his work intellectually, but have never FELT it as it would seem some people have. For instance, I can recognize “2001” as some kind of cinematic masterpiece, but I don’t feel it in my bones the way I do about, say*, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” There’s a true distance I feel between myself and Kubrick’s films. I find many of them fascinating, but would never pretend to list them in my personal favorites.
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