Monday, December 5, 2016

Inspired by Marcus Greil's REAL LIFE ROCK TOP 10

I have created my own with the direction to do so, by professor, Dwight Garner.

My Top Ten List from the past 4 decades

1.     Boys Don’t Cry (Movie) 1999 Written and directed by Kimberly Peirce and produced by Christine Vachon (Killer Films) includes a stellar cast such as then start-ups: Peter Sarsgaard and Brendan Sexton. Chloe Sevigny play’s the character of Teena’s (Hillary Swank) love interest and who was already an indie heartthrob and Harmony Korine’s muse, prior to Boys Don’t Cry. Lynard Skynard’s Tuesday’s Gone is truly a musical pairing masterpiece. It comes on while the gang are all in the car driving in the middle of nowhere drinking and smoking you can feel their youthful and wild high. It grows darker when they found out one of the friends is a pyromaniac, and maniacal. In all, am in pure amazement of the acting capabilities of the then unknown, Hillary Swank. Her raw talent in taking on such an intriguing and challenging and role moved me like no other, with the close exception of Deer Hunter viewed much earlier. Based on a true story, Swank plays the character of Teena, a transgender girl who lives as a male in a small town in North Dakota. We walk on eggshells with her praying she doesn’t get ‘found out’ because when she does, it will be violent and deadly. With my the tendency to gravitate towards dark stories with charged writing and performance, this film is one of the best films ever made because of Hillary Swank’s unmatched acting ability. Which leads me to a later, darker, and aligned film, Monster

2.     Monster (Movie) 2003 Written and directed by Patty Jenkins. Based on a true story of the first female, American serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. Aileen is played by the truly talented Charlize Theron and Selby her girlfriend, played by Christina Ricci. Deep sympathy is felt for Theron’s character who has endured such an unfortunate life without options, but when she begins tormenting and killing her john’s it becomes a horror movie. Taking of one of Hollywood’s most beautiful women and transforming her into an Aileen Wuornos look-alike that includes implementing a protruding mouth piece and chin, marking up her skin’s texture, and adding the brown contacts lenses is impressive. But its not the physical alteration that astounded me rather Charlie’s uncanny mimicking of Aileen herself: her mannerisms, voice, accent, intensity, and crazed eyes. It is an out of body experience to watch Charlize embody and own this character. I will speak little of the rest of the crew or cast, because this movie is all about the acting and portrayal of a hurt, damaged vengeful woman whose only option to make money is though prostitution. The best scene is when Aileen goes to the local roller skating rink and asks Christine’s character to dance, and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing comes on. The timing and excitement is impeccable. She is so intense she makes you uncomfortable. She has the ability to take it far, and really make you join her on this rode to her inner turmoil and path to destruction.

3.     Boys Don’t Cry, Album by The Cure, 1979 And like the title of the film as aforementioned, another favorite worth mentioning is Boys Don’t Cry, the album by The Cure. One of my favorite bands growing up, this post-punk, new wave band’s album was recorded and released in 1979. Their next album would be even more magnificent, Standing on the Beach. But Boys Don’t Cry was my gateway to the rest of The Cure and similar bands. My cassette tape had been played to obsession that the tape frayed and eventually dissipated in the tape player of my 1970 VW bug. The B Sides to Standing on the Beach will always be in my top ten favorite albums because the sound is wonderful: beautiful, trippy, ethereal guitars and somber voice and (silly, love struck) lyrics of Robert Smith. It was the beginning of the black eyeliner and teased hair sensation as also seen with Echo and The Bunnymen, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Love + Rockets. The Cure’s beauty was more about the sound for me than the lyrics. My favorite band and lyricist was and still is, Morrissey of The Smiths. 

4.     There is a Light That Never Goes Out; The Smiths (Song) 1986
This was the first song I ever heard by The Smiths, which from that moment on, no other would ever compare after. This song is on The Queen is Dead album (1986). I remember as a solemn, skate-punk, Goth in 1987, MTV was playing on the background while doing homework and the kitchen table, and the sound overcame me. I stared at the green and pink video keeping my eyes glued, not to miss a second of the last four seconds to the bottom right and corner screen which displayed the song’s title, band’s name and name of album. The next day I went to Tower records in Philadelphia (not trusting our suburban mall’s music store to carry this album) I ended up buying that and another one of The Smiths’ album’s, Meat is Murder (1985) as well. By the end of that month I had collected every album they had made and became obsessed, a Smith-ophile. They were unbelievably talented for such young, smart, tainted, moody, snarky Brits. From Manchester like Joy Division and later, The Stone Roses and Oasis they come out of the lower/middle class. Johnny Mars’s 12-string guitar strums is so suited to his partner, singer, Steven Morrissey whose lyrics for a young lad of 19 years of age are truly impressive, so intelligent. He sings referencing poets, “Keats and Yeats are on your side, wile the love of Wilde is on mine.” He was a literature junky, making him a wonderful lyricist. The Smiths pull on your conscience as if you want to die, right there with him. 

5.     Over the Edge (Movie) 1979- Laden with Cheap Trip songs, this coming of age nostalgia, how can a suburban kid not love this B-grade film? The best musical part is when the song “Ooh Child” plays at the end when Carl, the protagonist good boy, turned bad, is hauled away in a bus with the rest of the juvenile delinquents, and his friends are running after him and waving. Oddly, the worst of the kids stay behind and the one with a pretty decent head on his shoulders gets sent away. In that moment you can see that pivotal point where he becomes a man, so to speak. He understands the weigh of the world and it’s consequences. I bask in its 70s/early 80s depiction of newly developed housing developments being built on dirt piles in the middle of nothing states in nothing places. It depicts American suburbia: the music, pre teens, danger, drugs and crushes the feathered hair, bobbed hair on the boys. They even show two of the kids, tripping on too much acid, and a drug deal along with a gun that is handled carelessly by the kids foreshadowing a death by gunshot. They were the kids I wanted so much to be like; bad kids with a chip on their shoulder about nothing, really. A typical revenge on parents for living in a safe, boring suburban environment. (Ah white people problems). This is a low-budget, no-name cast. Even to this day with the exception of Matt Dillon who was fourteen and his first role after being discovered at a Westchester, NY mall. 

6.     Psychedelic Furs, The Ghost in You (Song) 1984  From their fourth album, Mirror Moves (1984). I fell in love with the lead singer Richard Butler’s raspy, cigarette voice and tall, thin emaciated British frame. I was in love with British new wave: The Smiths, The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, Bauhaus. I couldn’t help but feel incredibly detached from America’s bland, vapid musical landscape. I remember sitting in the back of my best friend’s sister’s car when this song came on. Bing bing bing, bing ….bing bing… the tickling keys of a synth, then enters Richard,

“ A man in my shoes runs alight,
And all the papers lied tonight,
But falling over you,
Is the news of the day

I couldn’t understand a lick of what he was saying through his thick brogue, and still don’t understand its meaning. What I did understand was that it moved me unlike the poppy, hoppy keyboards of Howard Jones or Boy George. For those three minutes in the back seat I welcomed it’s soulful, echoing, dark, sinister sound to wash over me. I was only fourteen at the time, so I couldn’t compare the feeling to codeine or pot, but I knew I was under the influence. 

7.     Valley Girl, (Movie) 1983
Nick Cage is so dreamy in this 80’s movie that parallels to the likeness of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and all of the John Hughes films. The soundtrack alone is awesome which includes: Psychedelic Furs, The Sparks and Modern English. A very adorable valley girl, Julie (Deborah Foreman) totally, like, ya know, falls for a sexy, punk rock, bad boy Randy (Nick Cage). Their combined chemistry and innocence is palpable. Its funny, fun, sweet, and demonstrating the typical love story a preppy girl influenced by her friends and the bad boy, the anti-social mysterious guy, like blue collar, punk girl Molly Ringwald, and rich, preppy Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink. Valley Girl is the valley, the mall, and bad eighties dancing in upper-middle income house parties. It’s everything you want in one.

8.     Harold and Maude (Movie) (1971) Directed by Hal Ashby, it stars Bud Court (Harold) and the lively, spritely, honest and alive; Ruth Gordon as Maude. The dichotomy between the young (and death obsessed) and the older (life obsessed) makes this a truly warming, funny, odd movie. But the sadness is amplified by the music accompaniment of Cat Stevens. The entire soundtrack is Cat. The upbeat ballads that seems to honor Maude’s inner motto of (life is good) with “If you want to Sing Out Sing out”, praising individualism. The gut-wrenching scene where Maude commits suicide, or rather, welcomes her death, (a goal of hers that on her 80th birthday she will sleep forever) Harold, her biggest, adorning fan rides his manmade hearse to the hospital to prevent her from dying. We hear Stevens growling, “Trouble”.
Trouble move away
I have seen your face
and it's too much for me today
with each line getting heightened to the next, when he really become audible,
I've seen your eyes
and I can see death's disguise
Hangin' on me
Hangin' on me

The song is so strong a lump hardens in the back of my throat. We see Harold’s hearse fly over a cliff. We think, he did it, the morbid kid commit suicide. The very next second he playing Sing Out on a ukulele. We see Maude’s influence on him and he wants to live.

9.     Cat Stevens (compilation of Songs) Trouble, Sing Out, Where do the Children Play, Father and Son, Oh Very Young. His musical career lasted from 1966-1970 before her converted to Islamism. Raised in London, by his Greek-orthodox Father and Swedish Baptist mother. He’d go on the roof of Dylan, Nina Simon, Lead Belly and Muddy Waters, were his major influences. I’m less interested in his past and more of his music and how he seems to have always been a peaceful sole and only sought happiness, and its rare to find someone that really owns and feels that enlightenment. He once was the music on my parents ‘ car radio with Moonshadow and Morning has Broken, and became something so much more to me later in life after I watched Harold and Maude, moving from the comforts of easy listening to a powerful singer/songwriter.

10.  Ethyl Methyl (band) 2016 I just heard this band this weekend when they opened for The Preoccupations (formally Viet Cong) at The Warsaw in Greenpoint, Brooklyn last night. They are on the 4AD label, so that speaks for itself. Their album, Oh Inhuman Spectacle is great, if you are seeking some somber, fall music. As soon as I heard the band begin and the heavy, dreamy guitars begin fill to the room, it was if these seemingly adolescent, pubescent band members were channeling The Cure's B Sides or the later days of the 90’s shoegaze, synth, Slowdive sound. The lead, small, hydrogenous male singer sounds like the Cocteau Twins, circa 1989. The Warsaw is an old polish entertainment venue with a bar and kitchen the size of a high school gym, decked out for prom. Albeit now it is a venue that is committed to hosting, obscure punk bands it continues to nourish the young millennials with homemade, pierogies, potatoes and slaw.