American Rants

The understated king of cool

Link Wray is one of the greatest artists to have eluded even the most interested of music fans. His music has  consistently slipped under the radar of awards and recognition, but he’s someone that probably demands considerably more praise. His guitar skills are definitely remarked upon from time to time when referencing the heavy sound that later inspired heavy metal bands and punk, but this is a career music much better when you take in the sum of all parts. Wray definitely had a unforgettable style.

Beyond his early days in the 50s of rockabilly instrumental hits like “Rumble” and “Rawhide” (as heard in the video above), further albums of his career are incredible hidden gems. His 1971 self-titled album is one of those gems, which to this day still seems to be over-looked and under-appreciated.

Can you start a renaissance for an artist that seems to be blowing away? Hopefully. Wray is certainly an artists that needs to be re-evaluated. Maybe someone will take the time.

The day an obsession went too far (probably)

Being unemployed for any amount of time has never been good for my health.

Since I was 15, there have been few periods in my life not spent either working, going to school (or usually both). People have told me to enjoy this time I have before I enter the “real world” of adulthood. There is nothing enjoyable about waiting around for two months waiting to get back to work. Maybe I could get a hobby, but there is no motivation when you could just sit around and watch a marathon of Hoarders: Buried Alive.

This is my reasoning for playing the Gremlins Gizmo game for the Wii. Probably because I really have no other excuses.

IMG_0571 My poor father took me out of the house for the first time in a few days. As there is a used gaming store going out of business, we decided to take a look at the picked-over selection.

As a side note, the Gremlins have somehow taken over my life. Even reading that sentence over has made me realise my situation is perhaps a little more pathetic than I’ve been able to admit to myself. The movie terrified me as a child. Stripe and co constantly raided my nightmares and I absolutely refused to join in at the height of the Furby craze.

And yet… and yet mogwai have now become ‘my thing’. I even went as a sort-of female version of Billy Peltzer for Halloween. Even as we approached the store, a vision of Gizmo flashed into my mind. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t surprised to see him staring back at me from the shelves of the sad store.

Unfortunately I’m the type of sucker who can’t resist the sweet face of a fictional monster, so I bought (25% off, baby) the game completely unaware of what I had done.

Gremlins Gizmo is kind of a shit game. There really isn’t two ways to put it. Like most Gremlins merchandise, the game is aimed towards young children. Always a bit bizarre considering the movie’s dark tone and the sequel’s occasional mature-content (sexy gremlin, anyone?).

I could tell instantly when turning on the game I had entered some sort of bizarre mishmash of a child’s innocence learning to be spooked for the first time and a game made purely for Gremlins die-hards. There are plenty of references in the game that only people who know their Gremlins films would get (the dancing game, being able to play as one of the scrapped mogwais from New Batch).

Before I knew it I was three hours in and had poor Gizmo dressed as an alien. I couldn’t resist. Even in a video game I couldn’t stop myself from needing to reference the book’s back story for the mogwai from an alien world. He bobs around playing with toys, racing a little doll car and spends time learning about constellations. It’s a strange universe, but it’s the one I’ve entered.

The mental decline of a young-woman and her mogwai.

The mental decline of a young-woman and her mogwai.

I’m not even entirely sure if I’m supposed to say if this is a good game or not. If there’s any dignity involved, I would say this game is a completely stupid waste of time.

But there I am, still thinking about trying to play it again later. Even if it’s just to see what other costumes there is to unlock.

Whatever. Haters gonna hate. Right, Giz?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIwrP1Od0Qw&w=420&h=315%5D

Wicked Wednesday: What’s the point of the Universal Monsterverse?

black_lagoon_2

I’m not going to be cynical.

I’m going to try not to be cynical.

Oooooh but I’m going to be cynical.

A few months ago, it was confirmed that there will indeed be a “Universal Monsterverse.” This is a project that has probably been something a long time coming after the success of the Marvel Universe. As each Halloween goes by, there seems to be less horror films to be excited about – let alone anything of substance (remember when horror films could be the occasional Oscar contender?). Where has all the horror gone?

Could the Monsterverse be the resurgence in suspense that horror fans have been waiting for?

More importantly, is there an audience waiting for this? The first film to begin the ‘universe’ was October’s Dracula Untold. So far, the film has made $212.7 million on a $70 million budget and that’s nothing to scoff at. It’s no surprise that the studio is seeing dollar signs. No matter that it was not a terribly interesting or inventive vampire movie, it’s always money that speaks. The film had a quick re-shoot at the end where the ending was given a more “open” ending, meaning (cynically, sorry) that the Dracula story will be worked into future projects.

Claiming that Dracula Untold was a part of the ‘verse seems lazy and very much an after-thought, but vampires are easy to sell to a modern crowd. How will a 21-century Creature from the Black Lagoon look? Will audiences still care about an invisible man? Will we have to sit through another shit-show like 2010’s Wolfman? The most intriguing aspect will be how they will proceed with directors and what style will be chosen.

There is definitely a major cult following for the original Universal Monster films going strong, but I’m not convinced that there will be one in this decade for a new batch. Most of the original monsters in the Universal films had origins dating beyond film, so why brand this as a “Monsterverse”? Will be seeing some those famous tropes? Or is this just another way to cash in on an ignorant and bored audience?

It has been easy to be cynical, but any positive movement in horror films is a welcome one – fingers crossed that this might be the moment.

The Monsterverse is coming whether we’re ready or not. If I may have one humble request: please, PLEASE stop with the origin stories! PLEASE.

The horror! The HORROR! 

Martin Scorsese to direct Ramones biopic

It was bound to happen some time: a Ramones movie is possibly on it’s way by 2016 with director Marin Scorsese is attached. The film will be a part of a large number of projects being released for the 40th Anniversary of The Ramones.  Where did this desire come from for big directors to be in charge of music films? I mean, Clint Eastwood, did you really think making Jersey Boys was a good idea?

I love the brudders. Since I was 12 I have read every piece of literature about them that I could possibly get my hands on, and have written extensively about it. And yes, this adoration is definitely skewing my thoughts about the film. The Ramones have one of the most interesting stories of any band I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. It’s almost like a complex drama that played out in real life. A lot of it is actually really heart-breaking like Joey Ramone’s struggle with OCD or the “love-triangle” between Johnny, Joey and Linda Ramone.

If anyone has the grit to do it, it might just be Scorsese, but I’m not too hopeful. The Ramones’ estate promises authenticity, but don’t hold your breath. If there’s anything Hollywood loves to do, it’s fuck up a good story. Hopefully I am proved wrong. If any band deserves the biopic treatment, it’s the Ramones. It really needs to be done right, and if casting somehow is spot on it might just succeed.

But really, who on this planet could come anywhere near Joey Ramone?

Can older music really damage new talent?

For the past number of weeks, I have been working on my final project for my masters program – a magazine made up of all articles written solely by only myself. The project takes a look (a rather abstract one, I must admit) at whether or not the popularity of older music has a damaging effect on new music.

Although I have my suspicions, I have come to no conclusions.

It’s a difficult idea. On this blog I almost strictly write about music at least twenty years or older. Why? I believe in preserving this music for future generations of curious music-lovers. Journalists who wish to write about new music are just as important. Music needs to thrive and whether or not you like it, writing about music helps spread the love.

Even though I rarely write about it or talk about it, I solidly love a lot of new musicians. I think there is a lot to be excited about despite there being a lot of cynicism in modern music culture by many fans (and musicians themselves). But there needs to be some sort of responsibility with how we all handle new talents. I’m not going to say that we should throw our Stones records in the bin, but maybe we need to attend more gigs of bands that perk our curiosity instead of bands we have sworn by our entire lives.

In the end, it’s always about listening to what you love. One day, if we are not careful, there may not be any more music to get seriously excited about.

Just nurture the sounds you love.

And some days life pummels you

I’ve been watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer later with my free time. The most recent episodes I’ve rewatched are about Buffy’s initial struggles when she arrives at UC-Sunnydale. She has it pretty rough. She has a tough time making friends and then she has a roommate that doesn’t stop listening to Cher’s ‘Believe’ on repeat (oh and she’s a demon).

These episodes are just too relatable at the moment. Thankfully there are no actual life-threatening ass-whooping demons in my life but it has been those types of weeks where everything seems to knock you back down. The most recent set back being the cancelled Echo & the Bunnymen gig that I was suppose to attend this Saturday.

I suppose missing a gig isn’t much of a big deal, but missing the chance to see one of my top three favourite bands perform live really has gotten me down. I suppose these feelings come after wave and wave of bad news happening at the moment.

But Buffy has the right idea. Things aren’t great for her, but at the end of every episode she kicks some demon ass. Whether its missing that dream concert or the lose of an old friend, I can’t let this get me down anymore. So here’s to Buffy. Our heroes are just as weak and strong as we can be. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

My guilty pleasures (or lack thereof)

One of the most inescapable phrases when trying to talk to someone about music is usually something along the lines of: “Oh my god. They are my guilty pleasure.” This can be in reference to any number of musicians from boy bands to greatest hits albums. This saying has always gotten on my nerves because, get this, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Or rather that they shouldn’t exist.

For Esquire magazine back in 2004, essayist and journalist Chuck Klosterman tackled this very subject in one of my favourite articles by him. A book was being released called The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures: 1,001 Things You Love to Hate. A silly book, but it still brings up an interesting part of our culture.

Klosterman writes, “What the authors of The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures (and everyone else who uses this term) fail to realize is that the only people who believe in some kind of universal taste—a consensual demarcation between what’s artistically good and what’s artistically bad—are insecure, uncreative elitists who need to use somebody else’s art to validate their own limited worldview.”

I openly and freely admit that I love and deeply care about A Flock of Seagulls (yes, the guys with ‘the hair’ and did that one song). In fact, many of my favourite bands are ones considered one-hit-wonders State-side. While I write this I’m listening to the Generation X ‘Anthology’ album because I love every decade of Billy Idol. Does this mean I have bad taste in music? Possibly. But I also don’t really believe in music taste being good or bad. Sometimes we just meet people who think exactly the way we do, and nothing feels better than having our thoughts validated by someone we think is cool.

I never understood why people felt the need to list their enjoyments as guilty pleasures. At what point do we need to feel bad about the things we choose to like in life? Taste is, obviously, subjective. Especially if you’re into music, there is often the pressure to like the right kind of music (if that’s even a thing). Nothing pisses me off more than someone telling me what to like.

The reasons I enjoy the Flock is because their music makes me feel like I’m slowly and sadly falling in love with someone in an 80s dream (or a John Hughes film). I like the way their music makes me feel. A lot. To some they might be cheesy and dated as hell, but that’s okay. What history says about them shouldn’t determine what I decide to drunkenly cry to.

Klosterman was perfectly right when he said, “It never matters what you like; what matters is why you like it.” 

In other news, I haven’t stop watching this all day.

It’s all rock and roll to me

If it has some how escaped your attention, that blabber mouth Courtney Love has decided to make another bizarre rant again. This time she was targeting Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band (that latter of whom was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). According to Love, “saxophones don’t belong in rock’n’roll.” Of course everyone is entitled to their opinions, I just really disagree with hers.

The woodwind instrument has long been in rock music and its deep roots. Although it was originally one of instruments made for use in military bands, but it was later found in most jazz bands which, you know, was one of the predecessors to rock. And I mean, this guy is all I really need to mention.

The saxophone isn’t the most ‘classic’ of instruments in rock. You don’t look inherently cool playing it. But since when did rock have rules? We are better than that. We piss on  those rules and those expectations. Rock can do whatever the hell it likes.

But instead of moaning about it, I’ll just counter her opinion with a playlist of some of the best songs in rock. Oh and they all also happen to include the saxophone.

And yes. I played alto sax for eight years. No shame. Sax for life.

 

A change in direction for the American of London

It has been very difficult to write lately. Very difficult. My semester at grad school has been very time consuming and thus the blog has been on a steady decline. It has become really tiring to constantly be writing about music when I don’t even know what I should be saying anymore. So I’ve decided to change the blog.

I will still be spouting nonsense about music that no one cares about (and the music people do) when I feel like it. But I have also decided to include other things such as general thoughts on journalism, feminism, my life and this grand city of London. The life experiences that I’ve been having this year are too great not to be writing about. That’s what I wanted American of London to be about to begin with: me in London with cheesey music references.

So we go back to square one, but I think it will be worth it.

Be on the look out for different things. Maybe I’ll even write about Basket Case some day soon.

)

 

Music therapy

You know those weeks? The ones where you feel so embarrassed by every move you make that you just want to crawl in a hole until Spring in hopes that the human race will forget about you? Oh it is that week for me.

Thankfully, if you play music loud enough, it is difficult to think straight. There are times where music really is put under “scientific” therapy (well, anyway, I saw it in a movie once), but it is a truth universally acknowledge that music is actually medicine with a fancy haircut and tight trousers.

Cue in today’s music. I have been indulging myself on my ever-growing playlist of 80’s pop. Full albums need concentration and there will be none of that “thinking” to be done today. No thank you.

There is one song that never fails to get me at least smiling, and that’s “In a Big Country” by Big Country. In the States the Scottish group were mostly known for this top 20 single and is otherwise noted as a one-hit-wonder. Thankfully there’s much more love on this side of the Atlantic (or at least I’m guessing. No one here has actually said they like Big Country but they’re Scottish so there’s my argument).

The actual story of Big Country and the poor Stuart Adamson is sadly tragic. Nonetheless “In a Big Country” is a song that transcends time and releases such a euphoric feeling that is irresistible on days like today. Christ, where would be all be without a good song to distract us from anything in our minds.

I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered