Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This Week's Music and Movies

Wilco, like only Bruce Springsteen, is in a groove. What those two powerhouses share is an ability to create brand new albums that are instantly knowable. Not sure how they pull it off, but with Wilco (the album), Jeff Tweedy and the gang have created a canon of songs that sound like old friends. There's a familiarity to the tunes that makes you feel you've heard them before, but not in a hackneyed way. It's the effortless pop hooks that grab you, and Tweedy's inscrutable lyrics give the tracks a unique blend of artiness and bubblegum. The duet with Feist is a marvel. Her voice is sure to knock you out. And there are a couple of nods to George Harrison - a stolen guitar riff here, a classic Harrison sound there.

I writing the Maybe Baby (or, You Know That It Would Be Untrue) series (it's over on the right under Daily Reading List), I have been immersed in rock, musically and literarily. I never knew much about The Pretty Things past the fact that Dick Taylor had started out with The Stones. I also was only a little familiar with The Small Faces, owning, as everyone should, a copy of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. But I got to thinking I needed to get some more of both band's material and, binge buyer that I am, looked for lots on eBay. And, in a sign that would make anyone a believer in a higher power, there it was, an 11 lot of Small Faces and Pretty Things CDs. Un-friggin-believable. I won the auction, there was no other possible outcome, and, I have to say, The Pretties can hold their own against virtually all '60's legends, barring The Beatles and Dylan. Emotions, a highly produced entry from 1967 which the band didn't care for, is one of the best records in a year of legendary output (Sgt. Pepper, The Doors, Are You Experienced? et. al.).

The worst movie/venue combo in my life was seeing Apocalypse Now at a drive-in. Not only is it a tough movie to understand, and Brando's diction wouldn't get him to finishing school graduation, but hearing on a slotted toaster hanging on the driver's side window was impossible. As ridiculous as watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPod. When Apocalypse Now Redux was released in the summer of 2001, I saw it on one of the only remaining huge screens in Chicago. A miracle to behold, unforgettable. As a matter of fact, I saw Lawrence at that same theater on its re-release in the late '80's. I bring this up because, as the kids go through movies they MUST see, we are on the verge of watching ANR at home. But with a huge screen and great sound system, it should still blow away the drive in experience.

One of my favorite movie genres is "dirty New York of the late '60's and '70's. That's my NYC, not the clean, Disneyish look of today. They Might Be Giants, with George C. Scott as a loony who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes is one of the best of the category. What a shit hole New York was. Taxi Driver, of course, and Midnight Cowboy. Also, Where's Poppa? And The French Connection.

We watched The French Connection a couple of nights ago. It had been a long time since I saw it, and it plays wonderfully against type. It seems like a standard cop drama, but Gene Hackman as "Popeye" Doyle is a terrible cop. You get glimpses of it during the film - some bad act in the past that involved the death of a cop, terrible surveillance work that has him made for the get-go, an obsession that borders on the insane. Plus, Roy Schieder as Doyle's partner can't help but cracking up hearing Hackman's nonsensical banter. Worth another look.

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