May 11, 2010
As DVD dies away to make way for an array of new visual new mediums from downloads to on demand HD to even a revitalized interest in 3-D movies in theaters, I’m afraid we’ll be seeing less of mass-manufactured oddities like the now long out of print Disco Inferno. I may hate disco, but this DVD entertained beyond expectations.
This is an amazing throwback to the 70s. Some if it’s pretty damn hilarious in its horridness and speaks to the idiocy of many popular music trends that too many swallow without any aesthetic consideration. Kelly Marie, Imagination and Baccara are particular travesties to pop music featured on Disco Inferno that are obviously forgotten for a reason. Now, 30 years later, these performances are heightened by their dated qualities.
Most of the stuff on the DVD is lip-synced, but who cares with all of the dated eye candy. The audience can be freaking amazing to look at. Yes, some are bored (these are a bunch of white Europeans mostly, and as many of these performances are indeed from the Musikladen show, then that means they are Germans, so what would you expect! [I'm half German, so I can make that joke]). But the dated style of what was cool in the discotheques is extraordinary. Dancing behind Donna Summer, on one track, there’s a guy dressed as a farmer and another guy in a running outfit and a trucker’s cap! Also, I must admit it’s cool to see the bra-optional fashions seen in clips by the Gap Band and Lipps Inc. (the actual band in the latter is never seen in the video, however, as a white girl lip synchs to the music and another dances along). Then there are the skimpy outfits on the girls in the Imagination clip that paved the way for the style of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Peaches.
The production on the DVD is slap-dash effort, as a lot of the songs are cut short, but what does that matter when most of them are not even live, so there is no loss there, and you get enough of the songs as not to get sick of them because, let’s face it, disco is dated for a reason. However, James Brown is only guy who performs live because he has a real, plugged-in band, and his track grooves with nature and strong energy. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, gets carried away with his dancing and even gives up trying to lip synch, which is cool in its shamelessness. There’s nothing like it when the singers get into it: Boney M’s singer is downright scary, but, man, is he into performing (plus, their track is one of the few complete ones).
There are some great moments of music history captured here. Check out Sugarhill Gang with their pioneering hip-hop track “Rapper’s Delight.” Back then, rap seemed like a gimmick that would soon fall out of fashion, like disco did, but who would have thought that song would have paved the way for the leading form of pop music of today. On the other hand, you have “Mariana” by the Gibson Brothers, black guys doing a hybrid of soul and Latin music that, of course, failed to catch on with the same fire.
In the end, Disco Inferno is a thoroughly entertaining piece of pop music history, even for someone like me who preferred the post punk and prog rock of the time. Though DVD has ceased its run, you can still find it from secondhand sellers here. Even YouTube has some, so check them out here:
March 18, 2010
It has happened: the Flaming Lips are now taking pre-orders for their collaboration with Stardeath and White Dwarves, Henry Rollins and Peaches doing Pink Floyd’s the Dark Side of the Moon. . . on regular 140 g weight vinyl, which comes with a bonus CD! Click here to pre-order the item direct from the Flaming Lips’ website.
The official release date for this reportedly limited edition vinyl is slated for April 17, which happens to be National Record Store Day. The CD-only version comes out later, on May 4.
Originally released as a digital-only album on iTunes, Napster and other sources, this collaboration blew my mind from the first few seconds, when the Lips and Stardeath crew decided to turn the original mellow, wash of “Speak to Me/Breathe” into a driving noisy bass hook. The rest of the album comes across just as inventive while still showing great affection and respect to the original work of Pink Floyd.
I immediately pined for how this might sound on the openness of vinyl, and I wasn’t the only one. I’m glad to see this is coming out on my preferred music format.
As for that annoying Parental Advisory sticker, I don’t know if it will really be on the album sleeve, but the Christmas on Mars LP was supposed to have it, and mine does not.
January 10, 2010
The Flaming Lips’ collaboration with Stardeath and the White Dwarves, Henry Rollins and Peaches is a track-for-track remake of arguably one of the most notable rock albums in popular music’s history. Their remake, a digital only release, proves stunning in its originality while maintaining a dedication to the original work.
It should go without saying that these alternative rock artists are too progressive to produce a note-for-note retread of the album. That said, I had high expectations for the collaboration.
Before I go on, allow me to note one human inconsistency in my appreciation of remakes of the Dark Side of the Moon. I can also wholeheartedly say that I appreciate a faithful reinterpretation of this classic album.
Last year, I had the pleasure to see Classic Albums Live, a troupe from Toronto who performed an amazingly disciplined interpretation of Dark Side. They captured every detail, except they did it all live, including the distinctive samples. For example, an array of non-traditional percussion instruments captured the opening sounds of “Money” with surprising precision. They also had an amazing young woman who sang the soaring improved solo in “Great Gig in the Sky” with mind-blowing precision and soul. If you know the record inside out, it was a delight to see and hear live.
But would it have made a good recording? Why, when you have the original? It was about seeing and hearing the album live, and that is where Classic Albums Live derive their much deserved notoriety. One of the best concerts I ever paid for.
Now, on the other side of things, if you want to hear real musical pros re-record Dark Side of the Moon, invest in the Flaming Lips’ collaboration with Stardeath and the White Dwarves, with supporting performances by Henry Rollins and Peaches. It’s mp3-only and available from iTunes and most mP3 sites like Napster (I personally would love to see a vinyl version pressed from the master, though).
The album opens with the familiar heartbeat and whir that kicks off the original, but instead of the sampled voice being buried below the mix, Rollins’ vocals are loud and up front: “I’ve been mad for fuckin’ years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yons…” continuing in the spirit and pace of the original, but adding his own distinct spin on it.
You know this will be a different work by those opening seconds. Then, instead of the smooth, clean guitars of the original “Speak to Me/Breath” that offers a relieving juxtaposition to the screams that precede it, these guys offer the same kind of scream in a distorted, quavering howl and decide to go with a loud, noisy fuzzy, driving baseline with swelling but gentle guitar feedback weaving through it. It’s brilliant, catchy and groovy and a stark difference to the original.
The album is full of such surprises, and there is no sense in spoiling the rest of it with words. It’s worth buying in its entirety from Napster or iTunes, so go to those sites and download it now.
The inherit quality of the original album makes for an amazing springboard for these contemporary and always creative musicians. You can tell they are having a ball throughout and love the source material with verve. This is not a parody at all but a totally respectful reinterpretation. Some purists might call it blasphemy, but I would beg to differ. If you have heard it for yourself, do share your own thoughts in the comment box below.
*You should really get it on the highly rated vinyl reissue.
November 7, 2009
Peaches could be considered the queen of the Electro Clash scene of the late 90s/early 00s. Her raunchy disco meets industrial style shames Lady Gaga’s over-exposed “Disco Stick” in its profane abandon. Plus, she puts on quite a show. She’s still at it, and sang to a packed crowd of youths (it was an all ages show, no less) on Friday night. I caught her in action last night at Fort Lauderdale’s Club Revolution (I think she did a costume change for every single song), and I’ll let the clips I’ve uploaded to YouTube speak for themselves. Check some more out here (and there’s more to come):
OK, this doesn’t feature much Peaches, but it’s pretty hot: