MOUTHY ISSUE FOUR
by Ian C Stewart
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE
The packaging on this DVD is utterly misleading. I'm not sure who it's supposed to fool, looking like a rave film. No Tony Wilson anywhere on the thing, not that Americans would know who he was anyway. Which is why I'm amazed this thing came out domestic in the first place. I'm sure there were lots of us Big Macs who got caught up in the music and the hype of the Madchester era from afar; some of us even going so far as to spend a night at the Bronte Guest House in Manchester in April 1991, unsure of how to go about finding or gaining admission to the Hacienda. 24 Hour Party People features Steve Coogan (I'm Alan Partridge) as Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records and the Hacienda nightclub. Coogan's portrayal of Wilson as a pretentious but loveable twat is equal parts historical fact and Alan Partridge-like improvisation. He's the star of the film but it's not necessarily a film about Tony Wilson. It's about the things that happen around him, including the rise and fall of Factory Records, Joy Division and the Happy Mondays, with actors in period clothing cutting eerily-lifelike caricatures. Many of the actual musicians from the era are in the film, including Howard Devoto saying that the previous scene, in which he was alleged to have nailed Wilson's wife in a toilet stall, was complete fiction. Coogan's Tony Wilson narrates the film, giving it a behind-the-scenes feel that somewhat moots his portion of the director's commentary on the DVD. It's enjoyable to watch the film the second time with Coogan's commentary and the third time with Tony Wilson's commentary, which simultaneously negates and legitimizes the semi-autobiographical account of his life. And the actor who plays Martin Hannett also plays Golem in Lord Of The Rings.
Endless penis jokes and occasionally obscure, scatological humor have kept this series off the air in America. And I'm really shocked that BBC released this set here. I can't think of another American who likes the show enough or even knows enough about it beforehand to shell out the cash for a box set. I'm just glad it's out. Bottom is a slightly more mature (did I just say that?) continuation of The Young Ones, featuring many of the same players. Everyone but Nigel Planer, it would seem, and he is sorely missed. The three DVDs contain the three seasons of Bottom that ran on BBC in the 1990s. They also have outtakes of varying length and description on each disc.
Three albums played live by The Cure in their entirety across two DVDs. Pornography and Disintegration on the first and Bloodflowers on the second, along with a lengthy interview with the band. The shows were filmed in Berlin, at the shallow end of an arena, and include note-perfect renditions of some of the band's best songs. Onstage and in the interview, Robert Smith seems to be in suspended animation, the only member of the band to still have the makeup and big hair they largely dispensed with a decade ago; he looks like the fat Martin Hannett in 24 Hour Party People. Meanwhile, the rhythmic dirges of Pornography are blanded out by this too-proficient lineup; the drugged-out primal screams of the early 1980s replaced by middle-age spread. The Disintegration material comes across better, but just leaves one longing for a nicely-filmed concert film from 1989. Bloodflowers fares best, since this is the same lineup that recorded it. The encore cuts include two Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me classics stretched out to bloated Greatful Dead proportions: an over-ten-minute reading of "The Kiss," (with Smith providing an endless, Garcia-like wah-wah guitar solo) and "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep." The Trilogy concert is an interesting idea but it doesn't exactly bode well for the present (or the future) of The Cure. Robert Smith needs to quit pissing around and check his calendar. Just like he sang on the Reeves Gabrels solo album track a few years ago, yesterday's gone. Fatass.
The Complete Truth About De-Evolution
1992 roundup of DEVO's music videos with bonus commentary by Gerald V. Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh. The group was making videos before there was even a name for them. The eponymous student film that first showcased DEVO as a concept (known then by its full name DE-VO The De-evolution Band) opens the disc. With Casale's commentary, this really is the complete truth. I thought I "got" DEVO before I saw this but now I realize I had no idea. The videos themselves hold up remarkably well for the first 3/4 of the disc. By the late 1980s (the years the band spent on the doomed Enigma label), much of their shock value had been lost, transforming their image into one of rapidly aging smarm. But even that makes perfect sense with Casale's commentary. "Satisfaction" is still jarring and wonderful to behold. "The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise" still looks futuristic. "Whip It" looks uniquely glorious. "Beautiful World" is poignant and funny and disturbing at the same time, which makes its use in a Target commercial a couple of years ago even more ironic (or "de-vo,"): Booji (pronounced "boogie," though I still think "boo-jee" is a funny word) Boy in control of the universe, directing increasingly-disturbing stock footage on a TV that looks like it's straight from Pee Wee's Playhouse. There's also a great live clip of DEVO performing as their own opening act under the guise DOVE The Love Band, singing the good-timey "Worried Man." Even though it says that DEVO fans pelted DOVE The Love Band with foreign objects, I have a hard time believing that even the thickest spudheads wouldn't figure out that a band with five identically-attired guys, including a lefty (in both senses) bassist, playing "up with people" music was DEVO. Dance the Poot.
Eyes Wide Open
Two live DVDs that include gigs from Tokyo in 2003 and London in 2000. The Tokyo show begins with almost two full minutes of Robert Fripp sitting silently onstage with his guitar at the ready before lilting into a signature Soundscape. His ambient washes are brief and he is soon joined by the rest of the band. Singer/guitarist Adrian Belew takes the spotlight for the processed vocal "The Power To Believe" before launching into "Level Five." They look and sound amazing in this performance, the staging and lighting accentuating the musical action. Rhythm buddies Trey Gunn (touch guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (drums) are ninja-like in their precision, holding down the low end while Fripp and Belew's guitar playing entwines. The London show on disc two was shot by Bootleg TV, DGM's would-be entry into pay webcast/downloads. Though certainly eminently watchable, the camerawork is much rougher than the Tokyo show with fewer angles and much longer shots. The performances are excellent, inlcuding a solo, acoustic "Three Of A Perfect Pair" with the entire audience singing and clapping along. Bonus material includes several improvised pieces of varying description. Of all the official live Crimson stuff floating around, this set gets my money.
Alive IV: Symphony
This is the musical equivalent of a Superbowl Halftime show... spreadeddd across two DVDs. The show begins with a regular KISS set followed by an acoustic set and finally KISS is joined by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The cheese factor is predictably high but the so is the fun. The making of nearly outshines the feature material. It's a look at the preparation that went into this massive concert event that took place in Melbourne, Australia, in early 2003. Witness the mating rituals of the saggy Gene Simmons, when a young, female cellist happens by. Witness the awkward rehearsals with KISS on one side of the room and the orchestra on the other. Speaking of which, the seemingly up-for-anything Melbourne Symphony Orchestra wears KISS makeup for their time onstage. It sounds like a bad idea but it works. The first third of the concert is typical live KISS stuff. "Deuce," "Strutter," "Calling Dr Love," and my favorite, "Psycho Circus." The second set of the concert is unplugged. Finally, the set with the orchestra. I don't know what the thinking behind the editing of the concert footage was, but it's sort of odd to see, in rapid succession: boobehs, Gene Simmons sticking out his tongue, little kids in KISS makeup and pyro onstage. Tits, kids, tits, kids, fire, tits, kids. What?
This subtle, documentary-style TV show is office humor what This Is Spinal Tap was to musician humor. It takes place in a distribution office for paper products in Slough and centers around the manager, David Brent, a tactless, incompetent, self-obsessed loser who streams endless business cliches and unfunny jokes. The camera is nearly as obsessed with David Brent as he is. The show has an improvised feel and no obvious format, which makes it much more realistic; it's a subtle riff on the themes of Office Space, namely the gallows humor that accompanies dead-end jobs and the people who work them. Disc one includes the first season; disc two is outtakes and interviews with the cast and creators.
THE YOUNG ONES
All of the episodes are here, along with a bonus disc of related coolness. This is the only sitcom to feature Motorhead and Madness as musical guests. A cult hit in the US during the 1980s thanks to years of Sunday night airings on MTV, The Young Ones encompassed college life: parties, anarchy (real and imagined), shouting, fighting, vomiting, spanking the monkey, farting, obsessing over Cliff Richard, a hamster, an ax-wielding homicidal maniac, hippies, punks, ghosts, vampires, police, boredom, laxatives, blowing things up and an unexpected musical guest every week. BBC really needs to send me free shit. It's taken almost a year for me to be able to afford The Young Ones box, but it's totally worth it. Now then, BBC: about this Filthy, Rich and Catflap box set.
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