The music of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (part 3 of 5)

Album: Henry’s Dream (1992)
The album is considered by some to have a vague "concept", i.e. song narratives overlapping and/or sharing characters. On first listen I'm not as passionate about the record as his fans seem to be. A few of the songs are just too intense for my taste, though I have a feeling the album will grow on me over time.

Favorite tracks:
I had a Dream, Joe
Straight To You
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry

Favorite lyrics:
Well, the moon it looked exhausted
 Like something you should pity
 Spent an age-spotted
 Above the sizzling wires of the city
 Well, it reminded me of her face
 Her bleached and hungry eyes

Album: Let Love In (1994)
While not as well-known as 1996's Murder Ballads, I feel  Let Love In (1994) works better as a full album, with more variety.

Favorite tracks:
Red Right Hand  (Subsequently included on the X-Files compilation Songs in the Key of X (1996). A remix was used on Scream 2 soundtrack)

Nobody's Baby Now
I Let Love In
Do You Love Me?
Do You Love Me? (Part 2)

Favorite lyrics, from I Let Love In:
“Despair and Deception, Love's ugly little twins
Came a-knocking on my door, I let them in
Darling, you're the punishment for all of my former sins”

Album: Murder Ballads (1996)
As its title suggests, the album consists of new and traditional murder ballads, a genre of songs that relays the details (and often consequences) of crimes of passion. "Where the Wild Roses Grow," a duet featuring Cave singing with Kylie Minogue, was a hit single and received two ARIA Awards in 1996. Murder Ballads was the band's biggest commercial success to date, most likely helped by the unexpected repeated airplay of the "Where the Wild Roses Grow" video on MTV. MTV even nominated Cave for their "best male artist" award of that year, though this nomination was later withdrawn at Cave's request. Entertainment Weekly rated the album an A and warned it was "Not for the squeamish, this is the rare pop record that resonates with the weight of the ages,"

Thoughts: Stagger Lee could be some of the most vulgar lyrics of his career. I love 2-3 songs from the album(see below), but overall I find the LP a bit impersonal and disconnected from reality. Granted the tribute to old-fashioned storytelling was the concept, and Nick Cave’s lyrics are well-written, but I don’t feel much about it, and I wouldn't listen to the album often. For me, slightly repetitive that all the songs are about death and murderers. Perhaps as with Henry's Dream (1992) repeat listens will win me over.
Fun trivia: The death count on the entire album comes to 65, or a mean average (rounding) of 6.5 deaths per song.

Favorite tracks:
Where the Wild Roses Grow (featuring Kylie Minogue)
Henry Lee (featuring PJ Harvey)
The Kindness Of Strangers

Favorite lyrics:
“And I've been known to be quite handsome. In a certain angle and in a certain light”

Any thoughts on the music? Have you listened to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds? Or are you new to the band as I am? As always, comments are welcome. Part 4 of 5 coming soon.

2014 Blind Spot series: Castle in the Sky (1986)

Castle in the Sky (1986)

My contribution to Ryan McNeil's 2014 blindspot series blogathon, where I watch a film each month that I have never seen before.

Japanese animated feature. Certainly the most mainstream and action/adventure orientated of the Miyazaki films I’ve seen. The chase story is reminiscent of Indiana Jones.
There’s definitely a little social commentary, that we shouldn’t misuse the earth’s resources for selfish reasons, which in the film is in the shape of the powerful crystal weapon, which comes from the earth.
Pity about the overlong running time of over two hours, which is quite common for Asian productions.

While My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and The Wind Rises (2013) I was moved by emotionally and felt suitable for both young and old, Castle in the Sky left me unmoved, and I would say the target audience is younger than I am.
Wonderful animation, average characterization and story. The situation is really just goodies vs baddies. The film is not bad, but I guess I expected more considering it's ranked  in the IMDb top 250. My least favorite Miyazaki film so far.
Rating 6/10 

Have you seen Castle in the Sky or other Miyazaki films? Are you a fan of his style?

Top 10 viral videos of 2014 so far (2 of 2)

My favorite viral videos of 2014 so far part 2 of 2. I shared the other five videos in part 1 of 2. Considered including an ALC ice bucket challenge, although I don't think those videos are that amazing, did I miss a good one?

Eyes on the road Volkswagen ad  (1 min)

Look Up by Gary Turk (5 min)

Frank Sinatra vs Freddie Mercury - Epic Rap Battles of History (2 min)

World's Toughest Job  (4 min)

Epic proposal from 26 countries 4 years in the making (6 min)

Feel free to comment on the choices above, or share your own!

New music

Cosmo Black by Dynatron (from COLD IN JULY soundtrack. Reminds me of Refn's Drive)

American Dream Plan B by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Love the guitar)

Pickles From The Jar by Courtney Barnett (Album due in early 2015)

High Ball Stepper by Jack White (His new album has really grown on me)

Would You Fight For My Love? by Jack White (”But I can't kiss you 'til you lift up your chin. You have to want to stop being alone”)

Fever by The Black Keys

World Peace is None of your Business by Morrissey

Istanbul by Morrissey

The Pictures Of Sasha Grey by Kristeen Young  (Sounds remarkably like Kate Bush)

Endless Sleeper by The Raveonettes

A Place With No Name by Michael Jackson (While a little similar to both America's "A Horse With No Name" and MJ's  "Leave Me Alone", I still feel the new track holds its own. Can't get out it of my head.)

Wanderer Wandering by Slow Club

The One That Lives Too Far by John Fullbright ("Some folks make something out of nothing, some people have to cry too long. While others wait beside the window, wondering why the wind would blow so strong”)

5785021 by Jessy Lanza  (From compilation album Hyperdub 10.2)

Top 10 viral videos of 2014 so far (1 of 2)

According to me, here are the Top 10 viral videos of 2014 so far.

Ian Up For Whatever - 2014 Super Bowl Ad  (4 min)

Dan and Jackie 05.31.2014 (live)  (10 seconds)

Will Ferrell and Chad Smith Drum-Off  (Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) (6 min)

Useless Box Kit from ThinkGeek  (30 seconds)

Seasons Waiting On You by Future Islands (live on David Letterman) (4 min)

Have you seen these before? Or other great clips that you loved from this year? Be sure to watch the next 5 videos in Part 2 of 2 next week.

The music of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (part 2 of 5)

Album: Your Funeral… My Trial (1986)
While I don't love this record, the lyrics deserve respect, and read like poetry. The weirdest tracks are Scum (the single) and Stranger than Kindness, where he sings about masturbation, among other things.

Favorite tracks:
The Carny
Your Funeral My Trial

Favorite lyrics from Jack's Shadow:
And the bulb that burned above him
Did shine both day and night

Jack wept and kissed his shadow
Spat from their dirty dungeons
Into a fully different din

Album: Tender Prey (1988)
Opens with frontman Nick Cave's signature song, "The Mercy Seat”, which deals with a man facing death by the electric chair, and would later be covered by Johnny Cash.
The album was listed in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums, together with Cave's 1997 album The Boatman's Call.

Favorite tracks:
The Mercy Seat
Up Jumped The Devil

Favorite lyric, from Slowly Goes The Night:
The nights, they are so long now
 I can't remember it being light
 Call it sleep, call it death, call it what you like
 But only sleep, dear
 Only sleep brings you back to life yeah

Album: The Good Son (1990)
After an album as dark and intense as Tender Prey, some fans were disappointed to hear a relaxed and loving Nick Cave on this record. The change of mood was due in great deal to Nick Cave falling in love with Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro, and an apparently salutary spell in rehab which purged the despair and squalor of the previous two albums. However, today, most fans consider 1990's The Good Son as a classic that was unfairly judged at the time.

More accessible and mainstream than the five 80s records. Additional care seems to have been given to memorable melodies, piano, and instrumentation, which is more pronounced than the last couple of albums. On the downside, the lyrics maybe are a bit more repetitive than the 80s, and some of the tracks are overly sentimental, especially the closing track Lucy.

Favorite tracks:
Foi Na Cruz
The Good Son

Any thoughts on the music? Have you listened to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds? Or are you new to the band as I am? As always, comments are welcome. Part 3 of 5 coming soon.

Anticipated Albums (second half of 2014)

Palo Alto (Music From The Motion Picture) By Various Artists (Already released)

(Any film music by the Coppola family has my interest. Sofia Coppola's soundtracks are all-time favorites of mine)

Listen to:
Palo Alto by Devonté Hynes
Champagne Coast by Blood Orange

Boyhood (Music From the Motion Picture) by Various Artists (Already released)

(Going to see the film, before I get the album. I've heard rumours that the film references The Black Album, which is a collection of Post-Beatles solo work. You can listen to that at The Playlist)

Guardians of the Galaxy (soundtrack) (July 29)

Again, I haven't seen the film, so these are just a few selections from the tracklist:
Spirit In The Sky by Norman Greenbaum (trailer music)
Hooked On A Feeling by Blue Swede (trailer music)
I’m Not in Love by 10cc

I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss by Sinead O'Connor (August 12)
Listen to: Take Me to Church

My Everything by Ariana Grande (August 25)

(I like the summer hit Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea). If annoying auto-tuned second single Break Free feat. Zedd is anything to go by, I doubt the rest of the album will appeal to me)

Creation by Pierces (September 1)
Listen to Believe In Me, and Kings

Barragan by Blonde Redhead (September 2)
Listen to: Dripping and No More Honey

Picture you Staring by Tops (September 2)
Listen to:  Change of Heart, Way To Be Loved, and Sleeptalker

Madman by Sean Rowe (September 9)
(I'm a fan of his two previous studio albums, hopefully his new LP is is just as good)
Listen to: Madman

Ryan Adams by Ryan Adams (September 9)
Listen to: Gimme Something Good

Crush Songs by Karen O (September 9)

(Her acoustic Moon Song for Her soundtrack was amazing. The new album is a collection of other acoustic recordings)
Listen to: Rapt

Into The Wide by Delta Spirit (September 9)
Listen to first single: From Now On

El Pintor by Interpol (September 9)
Listen to: All The Rage Back Home

Sukierae by Jeff Tweedy & son Spencer (September 16)
Listen to:
Summer Noon (from Boyhood soundtrack), I'll Sing It, Wait For Love, Low Key, Fake Fur Coat, and Diamond Light Pt. 1

This Is All Yours by alt-J (September 22)
Listen to: Hunger of the Pine 

Muna by Marketa Irglova (of Swell Season) (September 23)
Listen to: This Right Here

Strut by Lenny Kravitz (September 23)
Listen to: SexThe Chamber

Allergic to Water by Ani DiFranco (September 30)

Innerworld by Electric Youth (30 September)
Listen to: The Best ThingRunaway, and Innocence 

Tough Love by Jessie Ware (October 6)
Listen to: Tough Love and Share It AllSay You Love Me

Playland by Johnny Marr (October 6)

Our Love by Caribou (October 7)
Listen to: Can’t Do Without You

No One Is Lost by Stars (October 14)

The Endless River by Pink Floyd (October)
(The album is the band's first in twenty years, the last being 1994's The Division Bell.  The Endless River is mostly an instrumental album consisting primarily of ambient music. Based on unreleased material the band produced during sessions in 1994, so my expectations are fairly moderate)

Other albums announced:
Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen (September)
Plectrum Electrum by Prince and 3rd Eye Girl (September)
Art Official Age by Prince (September)
Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters (November)
24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault by Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks (October 7)
Classics by She and Him

Agree or disagree? Which upcoming albums (or soundtracks) are you looking forward to? As always, comments are welcome

Viewing recap for July

Under The Skin (2013)
There’s a beauty and an ugliness to the film, if I had to sum up the movie in one sentence. Plenty to admire, the atmosphere, Johansson’s performance, tension in the storytelling, and the unique filmmaking style of walking among regular people who are not even actors. The cinematography is brilliant, I especially loved how the motorcycle scenes played out
But similar to the book, the story is for me too repetitive, in terms of the scenes in the vehicle and what takes place afterwards.
I feel the dialogues in the car are more interesting in the novel.  The scene with the deformed man is powerful and stayed with me, interesting the way she doesn't have prejudice about beauty and ugliness (as a normal person might have)
The adaptation lacks the thought-provoking meat industry elements, a lot is unexplained in the movie.
On Mica Levi’s soundtrack Ryan Pollard perceptively wrote: "cleverly concocts the feelings of seduction, foreboding and haunting creepiness. (...)  has these strange groaning, sound-fragments of what could be like an alien language"
Read my review of the book here

City of Lost Children (1994)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. A futuristic dystopia, where children are abducted for experiments by a mad scientist named Krank. Krank is unable to dream, so wants to steal the childrens dreams. Since the kids are scared of him, the only thing Krank obtains are their nightmares.
The set design is fantastic, and is really a character in its own right. It was the first film in France to be shot entirely in a studio for 40 years.
I like the ideas of the story, even though the way it plays out is a bit predictable. The relationship between the girl and Ron Perlman was intended as cute, yet at times was slightly creepy, which prevented the film from becoming a favorite. The brain with the eye voiced by Jean-Louis Trintignant reminded me of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Marianne Faithful sings the end credits song Who Will Take Your Dreams Away?

Four Lions (2010)
 For me, the scene in the garage with the guy who attempts different voices was the funniest part.
I hope the birds weren’t harmed in the making of! In the end credits it says "one sheep was blown up in the making of this film"
I didn’t understand what the filmmakers message was. Maybe to suggest that terrorists are just regular people.
Not as funny as I had hoped.

Persona (1966)
Rewatch. Bergman drama. I think I liked and understood the film better on second viewing. A woman is looked after by a nurse. The young woman has an unusual state of mind, she laughs at her own acting, cries at classical music, and then there are moments were her reactions are understandable, when she witnesses in horror a man on fire on TV.
Is it a performance, or how she really feels, or a bit of both? It could be a mid-life crisis, not wanting to pretend in her job, not wanting to pretend in her actual life.
The two women venture to an island, where they are free from societies obligations, reducing their needs, and only speaking when they want to, or in the case of the patient, she enjoys just listening to the nurse, who herself enjoys being listened to. The nurse behaves in a quite immature way, berating the patient, and not keeping an emotional distance.
Interesting how the nurse sort of transforms into a patient herself.
The second half of the film is possibly all a dream, after the picture breaks up.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Nicely paced, but as is often the case, a watered down version that lacks the nuances of the novel. Rooney Mara was seldom better than here. Shame about the Epsom printer and Apple product placement. 

Woman On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Considered among the directors best. I like the visual style of the film, the colors, clocks, the miniature apartment block, and so on. To me, Pedro Almodovar stories are often messy and unmemorable, and this script I would once again describe with those words. 
Almodovar has such beautiful screenshots, that it’s almost a pity to read the subtitles. What sticks with me weeks later is that drink containing sleeping pills that puts you to sleep.

The Great Dictator (1940)
A talking Charlie Chaplin, in what was a parody of war, and especially Adolf Hitler.
Chaplin gives it his all, unfortunately the Hynkel character I had mixed feelings about, I don’t think Hitler is a laughing matter.
I’d admit the frying pan scene made me smile, the mustard on strawberries, and sawdust in the bread. The scenes with the Jewish tramp I prefer. The scene in the barber shop when the girl and the tramp talk about daydreaming and being absent-minded was quite sweet. The plane scene at the beginning was well-done. 
Favorite quote: -Strange, I always thought of you as an Arian. - I’m a vegetarian

The Circus (1928)
Written, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. He also produced, composed the soundtrack, and sung the title music. 
The opening chase is funny.
So are the circus sketches: barber shop and William Tell. 
The ending on the tight rope is impressive, and looked highly dangerous.

A Woman of Paris (1923)
Silent drama directed by Chaplin, in which he doesn’t star. Predictable, and not one of his best.

Christiane F (1981)
Powerful German drama. A simple authentic story about teenagers getting lured into drugs. The film is famous for use of David Bowie music, especially Heroes, and also memorable is the Warszawa (instrumental) when she takes the pills.
Heck there’s even a mid movie concert with Bowie, watching the concert gives us the same live experience as the characters. There will be those who say the movie is too long at over 2 hours, yet you do get to see Christiane’s gradual descent into the abyss, which wouldn’t have worked if too rushed. A warning about the consequences of drugs and lack of parental presence. 

Ipcress File (1965)
British spy thriller with Michael Caine in his star making role. Based on the bestseller by Len Deighton. Harry Palmer was a new kind of agent that appealed to audiences, an antihero with a domestic life, down to earth personality, and capable of making mistakes. . He was someone closer to real life, and not a superhero. Instead of jail time, Palmer is given a job by the defense ministry, and we follow him in that line of work. The film probably had a bigger impact in 1960s. Decent, but nothing remarkable.
Caine would reprise the role of Harry Palmer in several other films.

Gertrud (1964) 
The acting is stiff and unnatural. 2-3 good scenes, but the story lacks the power of Carl Th. Dreyer’s best work. About a woman split between duty and desire, and how she demands unreasonable devotion from her husband, while he is too concerned with his job to give her enough attention. The story calls out men who don’t love their wives enough. 

Cloverfield (2008)
Found footage horror. Bland, forgettable characters. Tough to care who lives or dies. I fast-forwarded most of the movie. 

Zodiac (2007)
Rewatch. Well-made, although there really is only one legitimate bad guy, do I don’t think it’s as big a mystery as some people claim. Suspenseful, just not quite as amazing as first viewing.

Mistaken For Strangers (2013)
Documentary about The National. Or is it? I took it at face value as fact, but have read it could be partly staged. Once I had finished, I was undecided if this was great or just bad. An uneven, messy film, by a first time filmmaker. In some ways, it’s most about his unknown brother Tom Berninger, who is the director of the film, he turns the camera towards himself. He’s not even a member of the band.
This unexpected approach could piss off fans, who probably expected to watch a documentary about the band and the music. If you look at it as a character study about brothers and living in the shadows of fame, then it is quite revealing.
Especially the last 15 minutes were moving to me, even though it was done in a manipulative way, when Tom cries, and Matt gives Tom advice:
“Tom, you focus on the wrong stuff. It’s true you are terrible at a lot of things, but there are a couple of things nobody else does as a well as you do. Drives me bananas that you will throw yourself away completely because of one or two things that you think are wrong about you. That breaks my heart. You’ve got to ignore those, and lean towards the things that you like about yourself. Forget everything else. Fake your way upwards”
“Having Matt as my older brother kind of sucks, because he is a rock star, and I am not, and it has always been that way”

Army of Shadows (1969)
Often talked of as a masterpiece. For me, an overlong and uneven WW2 drama, that lacks emotion. Has its moments, unfortunately the rest is a slow moving snoozefest. Perhaps I need to give it a second chance, it certainly feels authentic.
There are 6-7 scenes that I found memorable:
Running and escaping into the barber shop.
The execution of a traitor by French resistance members which they have to improvise as they cannot use a gun.
Jumping out of a plane with a parachute.
Picking up the kid at the station and pretending to be the father in order to hide from the police.
The attempted rescue of a captured resistance member from the Gestapo.
The Gestapo playing a game with their captives and a machine gun.
The powerful ending where a decision has to be reached.

No Country For Old Men (2007)
A well-told thriller. Has an exciting chase story, a memorable villain, and oozes of Texas.
To me, the last 20 minutes or so feels superfluous, and maybe could have been cut out. The ending scene is a bit undramatic, as if the directors didn’t know how to end the story, even though I've read the book also ends in the same way.
I checked the IMDb board, because I was confused what the writer was trying to convey, and found this interpretation:
"The film is about the vanity of youth, and how it fades as you get older.
The main character thinks he can take on overwhelming odds, but the older wiser sheriff who knows better tries to protect him and fails.
You see the longer you survive and the older you get, you begin to realize after seeing all the horrible things that there's no order to the world, no deliberating force that favors good over evil.
There's just trouble if you go looking for it"

Fanny and Alexander (1982)
I watched the 3 hour version. There is also a 5 hour tv edit. The story is a worthy time capsule. I can admire the acting, candle lit sets, and so on.
This most personal of Ingmar Bergman’s feature films was to some extent based on his and his sister Margareta's unhappy childhood under their extremely strict father, a Lutheran priest.
Set around 1900, and told from the perspective of children. There are dated elements, but also timeless themes of growing up, struggling financially, adultery, and getting married without first getting to know the new family.
Seldom have I been so uninvolved by a film at first, and then was completely captivated by the brilliant second half. I was willing to give the film a 6/10 halfway, but the second half is much stronger and lifted my rating significantly.
The ghost elements are ambiguous, and add to the mystery. Perhaps Bergman is saying don’t we all have ghosts from our past that haunt us. The sequence when Uncle Isak visits the Bishop's House is extremely ambiguous(you can find answers at FAQ on IMDb).

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
The acting and authenticity are all fine, it feels like WW2, but I don’t see what the big deal is. Not that memorable to me besides 2-3 great scenes, when they go into the forest, the Chaplin cinema showing, and of course the powerful ending. The rest of the film didn’t really captivate me on an emotional level.

Day for Night (1973)
Won Best Foreign Language Film. Directed by François Truffaut. A story about the making of a film. The sequence where the actress repeatedly opens the wrong door while they are shooting a scene illustrates how difficult the collaboration of filmmaking can be. There’s also a starved cat which refuses to cooperate, and there are other unforeseen complications later on which force the script to be altered. What I also took away from the film is how so many non-related issues go on behind the scenes, relationships, visitors, parties, conversations, and so on. Often, I wasn’t even sure which is fiction, and which is real life, because in this case it really is all acting. You could say we are putting on a performance in our normal lives, trying to be the best we can be.
They jokingly say next film should be called “a lovely mess”, so the messy structure of Day for Night could well be intentional, to show how movies are shot in non-sequential order, with lots of  improvisation. If I'm being tough on Truffaut, then I could say the film just confirms what I already know, yet it is told in an entertaining way.

Mystery Train (1989)
Directed by Jim Jarmusch, I definitely prefer this over Only Lovers Left Alive (2013).
Deadpan humor in Memphis, the town celebrated as Elvis Presley's home. Three stories that take place at the same time but are told sequentially (end-to-end) rather than through intercutting, which is Hollywood's prevalent norm.

The Conformist (1970)
Italian drama by acclaimed director Bernardo Bertolucci, starring Jean-Louis Trintignant. The politics went a bit beyond my comprehension. The cinematography is majestic, and almost a distraction while following the story. The film was an influence on such directors as Scorsese and Coppola. Each frame is like a painting, the camera work is impressive in how it zooms in and out, and moves around. There’s even handheld camera in several scenes. Another highlight is the brilliant use of light and shadow.

The Art of Negative Thinking (2006)
Norwegian black comedy, where a group of handicapped people run wild. Shows compassion towards the suffering of the characters, but has implausible moments, particularly the Deer Hunter reenactment. The simple message is in the title, about facing the darkness, and not just being concerned with the bright side of life.

Involuntary/De ofrivilliga (2008)
Has been described as a sarcastic dissection of Swedish society. The characters have difficulty navigating in their own lives. Directed by Ruben Östlund, he has been compared to Roy Anderson, but to me is not quite as funny.

Seen anything great this month you want to recommend? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome


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