Friday, 30 December 2011

My top-10 albums of 2011

Even if it has been a great year for music, it hasn't been a particularly great one for new albums. I've discovered a lot of new bands and been to alot of awesome shows, but I was struggling a bit to find ten records that had impressed me.

But, I got there in the here reverse top-10 albums of 2011

Apologies for the random mixture of videos, sound cloud players and youtube 'audio streams'...these are actually just boring "videos" of the album artwork that someone has uploaded, but I've turned the height way down so you only see the player bit. I'm sure this will mess up in some browsers. Sorry.

10. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
There were some major warning bells when I heard that Mark Ronson was producing the new Black Lips album, but it turned out alright...great even. Arabia Mountain is just a really awesome record! Their last album didn't do much for me, but this one really brought back memories of their incredible Good Bad Not Evil from 2007. Although this is a much bigger sound and much more polished than we're used to, it's never "too much" and in the end the record just feels well-produced rather than over-produced. Great stuff! It's difficult picking a favourite track. There are so many awesome songs to pick from, but in the end I just love the chorus to Mr. Driver too much. It has to be that one. It was stuck in my head for so long over the summer.

Favorite track: Mr. Driver
The Black Lips - Mr. Driver by pillowjungle

9. Cloud Nothings – s/t
This one was released in the early days of the year and I was still listening to it regularly in the summer. That doesn't happen very often, so hats off to Dylan Baldi & Co. This is fun and bouncy garage pop of the best kind. Not overly serious, but never too juvenile either. I also managed to catch them live twice and they're sooo much fun. And then there's the videos! Eeek...some maximum weirdness going on there. It's a great song, but I'm still not sure how I feel about the gagging-on-hair video for Should Have. It's on youtube if you like that sort of thing. So, high expectations for this gang in the next year, since they already seem to have everything sorted...great on record, great live show and great (but weird) videos.

Favorite track: Not Important
Cloud Nothings - Not Important by polaroidblog

8. Standard Fare – Out Of Sight, Out Of Town
After their amazing debut album last year, this was surely one of the most eagerly awaited indiepop releases of 2011. Did it live up to expectations? Of course it did! Emma is one of the best songwriters in indiepopland and this is another great record. And it's not just Emma...some of my favourite tracks on the record are Danny's this time. The songs on here are all great, but I must say that for me Standard Fare are really a live band...that's when the songs really shine.

Favorite track: Call Me Up

7. Let's Wrestle – Nursing Home
Let's Wrestle went all the way across the Atlantic to record this one. And who was doing the knob turning if not indie legend Steve Albini! Was it worth it...did they really need to? I'm not sure. The songs are all great, but I do find some of the production a bit strange...especially the drum sound on some of the songs (mainly on If I Keep On Loving You). Was this on purpose? Maybe. I don't know. The classic punk records are not really famous for their amazingly recorded drums. Anyway, who cares? It's all about the songs and as I said they are all amazing! Another brilliant record from London's finest punk kids.

Favorite track: In Dreams Part II

6. Veronica Falls – s/t
It was a long wait, but Veronica Falls finally released their album. Yes, there are quite a few songs on there that had already been released on various seven-inches, but those songs are all fucking ace and it would be a shame for people discovering the band to miss out, so that's fine in my book. This is dreamy garage pop at it's very best. It's not often I notice these things, but I really love their drums. They take you by surprise over and over again and just when you think it's not just becomes part of it all and works just perfectly. Did that make any sense? Probably not. Same thing with the lyrics. I have no idea what most of the songs are about, but every time I try to listen and make sense of them I get carried away by the music and the subject matter becomes irrelevant.

Favorite track: Bad Feeling

5. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
I don't really know much about John Maus, apart from that he occasionally plays with Ariel Pink and is on Upset The Rhythm's label. Oh, and that this album is fucking incredible. That's all I need to be sure of for this kind of list, I suppose. It's full of echoey and reverbey goodness, with repetitive melodies that wrap around your brain like some sort of warm crazy blanket. Erm...yes...and then you find yourself humming 'let's kill the cops tonight' out loud on the tube and people stare. But, it's great! He's also a complete loon bag (in the best possible way) absolutely mesmerising performer.

Favorite track: Cop Killer

4. The Death Set – Michael Poiccard
I've listened an insane amount to the Death Set's 2008 record, Worldwide, so this one had a lot to live up to. After the sad death of bandmate Beau Valesco in 2009, the band understandably took a bit of time to figure out what to do. Nobody would have blamed them for calling it a day, since Beau was very much part of what made them such a great band, both on record and live. But they decided that he wouldn't have wanted them to give up...and what better way to keep ones memory alive than to keep doing the thing they loved. From the first line "I wanna take this tape and blow up your fucking stereo!" to the last note, Michael Poiccard is just bursting with energy, some happy, some sad, some angry and some just very sweet. It's certainly better produced than Worldwide and although I kinda miss the rubbish drum machines at times, Michael Poiccard is still definitely a record that I'll keep on playing for a long time.

Favorite track: Can You Seen Straight?

3. Times New Viking - Dancer Equired
If there was one band I hoped would never "clean up their sound" it was Times New Viking. I adore all of their previous releases and as news of a change in direction for this record started popping up on the interwebs, I was getting worried. Part of their charm (to me anyway) was that you had to work hard to appreciate the songs. Somewhere under the cloud of hissy, distorted noise were these beautiful and incredibly catchy melodies. I shouldn't have worried...even though this is a massively smooth record in Times New Viking terms, it is still far from clean and dull. And those melodies...they're are as strong as ever! Awesome!

Favorite track: Fuck Her Tears
Fuck Her Tears by Times New Viking

2. Humousexual – Grenzenlos
It's only seven tracks, but I'm gonna call it an album. Sue me. This record just blew me away in a way I never expected. Sure, I like Tahini Beach Party, but it never made me feel like this. From the first song to the last, this is an incredible little album and sadly one that far too few people will ever hear. Or is it sad? Maybe we don't want "them" to find out about Humousexual? Maybe they're one of those bands that should be treasured by a few. I'm pretty sure Victor and Boitel are reasonably happy with that...if not, I guess I'll help spread the word some more.

Favorite track: No Borders (but a very close second is the quieter last song, Come On In..and that one is on youtube)

1. Japanther – Beets, Lime and Rice
Readers of this blog will know how I feel about Japanther. They keep impressing me more and more, record after record, show after show and this is no different. It's just awesome. It's a bit less upbeat than last year's Rock n'roll Ice Cream, but you can't just spend your entire life just bouncing up and down, right? Sometimes bad or sad things happen. Heroes die, girlfriends's all just part of life...and that is one thing this record is full of. It is almost impossible to pick a favourite track here, but I've settled for the opening track. The first time I listened I thought there was something wrong with the recording in the beginning...and then drums kicked in properly...and I was totally blown away. Awesomeness indeed.

Favorite track: First Of All

I think that's it. Can't wait to see what 2012 has in store for us...I hear rumours of a Japanther European tour in February! Eeeek!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

I watch movies so you don't have to #6 - School Of The Holy Beast (1974) Warning: SPOILERS!

It took me quite a while to get into Japanese movies. I realise this is a mindbogglingly stupid generalisation, but I really tried. Then I tried again and still just never found anything that I liked. Eventually I kinda got into Seijun Suzuki and movies like Branded To Kill (1967) and Tokyo Drifter (1966), but I'm not sure if I actually liked them back then or if it was because Jim Jarmusch told me I should. some point, without the influence of Mr Jarmusch or anyone else, I discovered Kaneto Shindo and his incredible Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968). These two films completely blew my mind at the time, in a way that no other Japanese film had ever done. So, a whole new world of cinema opened up to me. Eventually I came across the 'Pinky Violence' genre...and I was sold. There were some incredible films made under this vague blanket description. And in general, Japanese indie cinema in the 70's was fucking incredible...a great mish-mash of horror, martial arts, sex and violence that crossed borders we hadn't even dreamt of yet in the West. And it wasn't even scrappily put together, like so many American 70's sex/exploitation movies. The Japanese ones often looked absolutely INCREDIBLE.

School Of The Holy Beast
Directed by: Noribumi Suzuki
Starring: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi, Ryouko Ima

OK...School Of The Holy Beast. An mind-boggling mix of sex, violence and religious imagery, as well as absolutely stunning to look at. The following review/run-through, contains some mild images of violence and nudity, so read on at your own risk...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


I know it's probably a bad idea, but I've kind of started buying VHS tapes again. Not too many and not just any old films. At the moment I'm sticking to the ones with incredible/ridiculous artwork. It's just too sad to leave them in the charity shop bargain bins.

They just don't make sleeves like these anymore...

I haven't had the chase to sit down and watch any of these yet...yes I also bought a VCR...but one of these days I definitely will. I think Invasion USA will have to be the first screening.

Monday, 26 December 2011

I watch movies so you don't have to #5 - 99 Women (1969) Warning: SPOILERS!

99 WOMEN (1969)
Directed by: Jess Franco
Starring: Maria Schell, Mercedes McCambridge, Maria Rohm, Rosalba Neri

Even if I've seen a fair amount of Jess Franco's films, I have barely scratched the surface on his almost ridiculously long filmography. It's always difficult to pick one...there’s just so much to choose from and from what I’ve read, there are alot of terrible ones. Since 1959, Franco has directed close to 200 films, many of which (pretty much everything post-1983) are meant to be barely watchable. But, amongst all the shit, there are also many films held in high regard amongst cult/exploitation cinema fans. 99 Women is one of those.

The film start off with three women arriving at The Castle of Death, a women’s prison where they’re about to start lengthy sentences. If the name of the place wasn’t bad enough, the music tells us it’s not going to be a leisurely stay. As soon as the superintendent appears, some seriously dramatic music starts playing. BAD LADY ALERT!

The three girls are stripped of their identities and assigned numbers 97 to 99. See, 99 Women. Although we only really get to meet a handful of inmates, the title of the movie refers to the total number of prisoners in the castle.

Baddie superintendent on the left...laying down the rules...

“From now on you have no name, only a number. You have no future, only the past, You have no hope, only regret. You have no friends, only me.”

Cheery start, huh?

These prison cells aren’t your normal concrete boxes. Instead this is more of a cave with bars...which is nice for a change...for the viewer, that is...

At first there seems to be a bit of camaraderie between the inmates, but if I’ve learnt anything from previous Women-In-Prison movies, it’s that there’s always an evil experienced one, used to getting her way. Who’s it going to be this time? Chances are it’s gonna be number 76, Zoei (played by the gorgeous Rosalba Neri)

And as expected, there’s a sleazy Governor involved...

We learn early on that he likes to have his wicked ways with some of the prisoners. He certainly seems intrigued by the news of a new blonde arrival, number 99 (Marie to you and me).

That night, Natalie is very sick. Not yet familiar with the do’s and don’ts of the prison, Marie screams for a doctor. The Superintendent is having none of it.

“We need a doctor badly, mam”
“The result of insolence is seven days in the punishment cells”
“But the girl in the next cell, she needs help”
“The result of repeated insolence is fourteen days in the punishment cells”

Natalie is already dead when the doctor finally arrives. He questions the recent three deaths and the repeated delays in calling for assistance, to which the superintendant coldly replies:

“you’re a doctor, what could you have done? They were dead. All of them, dead when we found them.”

Marie and Zoei are confined together after a fight breaks out.

“Shut up! Why are you crying? You and that bitch of a friend have hurt me. Look at my leg! My beautiful leg!”

The Governor pays them a visit...wonder what he has in mind?

“Love and hate are never very far apart. And sometimes they go together.”

“It’s hot in here. Let’s make ourselves comfortable.”

Zoei knows the score. She’s obviously been here before. She tears the clothes of Marie.

Word is out that there’s something dodgy going on at the castle. An inspector is sent over by the Ministry of Justice to assess the situation. The Superintendent is not too pleased about her working methods being questioned.

Zoei (76) and Marie (99) start warming to each other a bit. We get to know how Zoei ended up on the island.

She used to be a dancer in a club and soon learned that taking your clothes off is part of any job and always makes things easier.

Her lover wanted to take her away from the club, but the female boss refused to let her go. During a fight Zoei accidentally killed her boss and was found guilty of murder.

Anyway...back to prison...

Apparently this is what hard labour does to your finger nails.

The new inspector takes a bit of a shine to Marie and starts taking an interest in her case and her treatment. But, can she be trusted? Marie is willing to take a chance...for now anyway.

We also learn that Diego, boyfriend of redhead prisoner Rosalie and prisoner in the male prison on the other side of the island, is planning an escape.

Meanwhile, tensions are growing between the Superintendent and the new inspector.

“More trust in your prisoners, Miss Diaz, could mean fewer punishments and make this a happier place.”
“The purpose of a punishment for crimes. This is not meant to be a happy place!”
“In that case your efforts here can be considered extremely successful.”

The girls start discussing escape plans, to coincide with the escape over at the male prison. As part of a more lenient approach by the new inspector, night warden duties have been cancelled...something which should make the whole thing easier to pull off.

“It will be tough if we make it. If we fail, it will be worse”

Zoei is not really to be trusted, so is not part of the escape plans. Instead, she spends alot of time showing off her legs.

Night time! Prison break! And it’s the classic bedlinen rope technique! Hooray!

They run through the jungle...

...kill a snake...

...and find a lake.

Here they bump into one of the male escapees, Ricardo. We learn that Diego, Rosalie’s boyfriend, was shot by guards during the escape. Distraught, she finds some solace in Ricardo, who promised the dying Diego to look after and love her.

The love scene that follows is actually surprisingly tender and well-handled, but this is one of Franco’s main skills. When at his best, he has a natural gift for being charming and seedy, disturbing and beautiful at the same time.

It looks like Marie could do with a cuddle herself.

The four continue their trek through the jungle, but the problem just keeps stacking up. Ricardo is shot by male escapees, who instead of feeling sympathy for our gang and working together, are more interested in female flesh. Rosalie is attacked and left for dead.

Our remaining two ladies struggle on. They manage to get to the fishing village, but their joy is short-lived.

The Governor and the Superintendent are waiting for them with heavily armed guards and it’s back to prison, where things are about to get BAD.

The inspector gives up. She has failed in even gaining the trust of the prisoners...and the Governor and the Superintendent has no interest in changing their ways.

“I seem to be a victim of a disease that doesn’t flourish behind prison walls. I suffer from an excess of humanity.”

She leaves...

Hmm. So, it ends on a bit of a downer. Our girls are left with the baddies.

99 WOMEN is better than many WiP movies. Even if there is a fair amount of female flesh on show, it’s not excessive. The love scenes are surprisingly tender and in general it is a very well-crafted film. The photography is gorgeous and the film is a pleasure to watch. The violence is not really exploited either and is usually hinted at rather than being too graphic.

Saying that, I watched the Director's cut. There is also an XXX-rated version out there, that apparently adds several xxx scenes into the mixture. Like so often is the case, these scenes are supposed to sit pretty awkwardly with the rest of the film.

So, that's one more Franco film ticked off to list...and it's good one...just 190 or so to go.

Sunday, 25 December 2011


It's Chriiiiiiistmas...

Here's Kermit and John Denver...I'm pretty sure I posted this one last year as well, but no Christmas would be complete without the voice of that sweet little green frog.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Allo Darlin' and The Wave Pictures (live at The Railroad Cafe)

Last night was great. Two amazing bands playing to a crowd of 40 people in a little basement in Hackney. That's how you're supposed to experience live music.

Allo Darlin...

The Wave Pictures playing an old classic...Now You Are Pregnant

1 Day to Christmas...depending on where you live (Disney)

Today is a bit weird for me. Being Swedish and all, today is THE DAY, the day when Santa comes round and does his thing. You have the big meal, the family gathering, all that stuff. It's all meant to happen today. So, being in the UK is always a bit weird at Christmas. The 24th isn't really a big thing here...and then the 25th never meant much to me.

But, goes...

Disney is a big part of the Swedish Christmas celebrations. That sounds horrible, but it's actually kinda sweet. At 3pm everyone watches Donald Duck's Christmas Special. Seriously, everyone...they've been showing the same programme at 3pm every year since 1960. It's a collection of shorts, some of them Christmassy, some not. It's hard to pick a favourite, but this is probably it...

Or this's definitely the best Christmassy one...

Friday, 23 December 2011

2 Days to Christmas (Merry Christmas from Nirvana)

Not long to go now!

This clip always makes me smile...a little snippet of We Wish You A Merry Christmas from Nirvana.

And while I'm at it...if you need a yuletide horror for the weekend, I suggest you check out Silent Night, Deadly Night. Contains DEATH BY ANTLERS! yup.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

3 Days to Christmas (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

"Charlie Brown. You're the only person I know, who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem"

Aww...I looooove A Charlie Brown Christmas...I haven't watched this in its entirety for so long. I definitely think that needs to be rectified this Christmas.

46 years old and still just perfect. general you shouldn't mess around with these things, but I do love Scrubs. So, here's A Charlie Brown Christmas performed by the cast of Scrubs.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

4 Days to Christmas (The Vandals live)

Only four days to go. I even baked yesterday. Oh yes. Gingerbread men, gingerbread ladies AND gingerbread trees.


Sadly, being in the UK meant I couldn't find and pig shaped cookie cutters. Well, I did find some, but they were not the right this one:

Stupid country. But, we'll have to survive.

Where was I? Oh, yes...counting down to Christmas with music.

The Vandals was one of my favorite bands growing up. They've been around for early line-up of the band even feature in Penelope Spheeris' classic 1983 punk film Suburbia.

Only remaining member from those early days is Joe Escalante, a man of, to say the least, many talents. Not only is he a bass player in a punk band, he also finds the time to be a lawyer, bull fighter and filmmaker! Yikes! Well, at least he used to find the time to do all those things.

The band is still going, but haven't released an album since 2004. That was Hollywood Potato Chip, an album that has been surrounded by controversy ever since. Not for any opinions expressed or for lyrical content, but for its album cover, which was a parody of showbiz industry shitrag The Daily Variety. For the band name they used a font similar to The Daily Variety's logo...and then all hell broke loose. I won't go into any detail, but the evil big guys sued the nice little guys and the expensive lawsuit has been going on ever since.

You can read all about it on the Vandals vs Daily Variety blog

OK...back to Christmas. In 1996 The Vandals released Oi To The World, a totally awesome festive pop punk record. Here are a couple of live versions of tracks from that release.

Hang Myself From The Tree (live in 2009)

A Gun For Christmas (live in 2003)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I watch movies so you don't have to #4 - Rape Squad, aka Act Of Vengeance (1974) - SPOILERS!

Christmas is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate the jolliest of season than by watching a seasonal rape-revenge thriller from the mid-70's, the golden age of such films. Rape Squad (aka Act Of Vengeance) is perhaps not one of the best in the genre, but it's definitely a weird one, mixing an aggressive all-men-are-potential-rapists sentiment with regular naked-jacuzzi-revenge-plotting and comedy fighting, often put together with the energy of a corporate video.

Personally, I think Rape Squad is a far more attention-grabbing title than what they eventually settled for. Maybe it was giving people the wrong idea.

So, what is it all about...

Our main girl Linda is attacked and brutally raped by a maniac wearing an orange jumpsuit and a hockey mask (a whole EIGHT YEARS before Jason Voorhees finally dons his iconic mask in Friday The 13th III (1982). It's an absolutely horrific scene, with the rapist forcing her to first thank him for choosing her and then to sing Jingle Bells for him during the rape.

Bruised and battered Linda goes to the police station to report the rape, but is met with no sympathy from the officers. Despite the 'Jingle Bells rapist' being known at the station, she is put in one uncomfortable situation after another, where it is repeatedly suggested that she might be partly responsible for what happened.

"Did you say no at the first point of body contact" asks the interrogating officer, to which she bluntly replies "well, the first body contact was a kick in the face". "It's just a routine questionnaire", he sheepishly and half-heartedly apologizes. That's it. Linda's had it with insensitive cops. "It's not routine to me! I've been raped and want something done about it!", she screams.

Eventually, all five victims of Jingle Bells are called in to the police station to try and identify him from a line-up. The difficulties in identifying a hockey-mask wearing maniac soon becomes obvious and the police tells them there's not much that can be done.

But the girls won't give up. They decide to form a Rape Squad, a group providing support to rape victims. They also intend to help prevent more attacks, by "taking care" of potential rapists through anonymous tip-offs .

Probably half an hour in and we still haven't met a single likeable male character. The police certainly doesn't approve of their group. Even Linda's boyfriend suggests that she probably was responsible for the attack in some way. When they put up their Rape Squad flyers, they are immediately accosted by male creeps, incapable of showing any sort of sympathy for the girls or their cause, with one stranger commenting that "a little rape once in a while should make life more enjoyable".

But, despite the hurdles, the girls soldier on. They have no intention of giving up, oh no. They start taking karate lessons (from a female teacher naturally) and are told to concentrate on what is every man's weak spot and to not be afraid of fighting dirty.

And then it's time for some topless-jacuzzi-revenge-plotting! Seriously. It comes as quite a surprise, but I can only assume that the filmmakers were doubting the commercial appeal of going all-out with the anti-male agenda...and since men would have been the main audience for the film, they felt the need to at least give them a bit of flesh.

Other women start taking notice of the Rape Squad and soon the tip-offs start coming in. A sleazy nightclub owner was apparently let off by the court, so the girls head over to his club. Linda dresses seductively, starts flirting with the owner and soon finds herself on his sofa. When he tries to come on to her and she objects, he gets violent.

BOOM! Rape Squad to the rescue! The other girls have been waiting outside and kick in the door, beat the creep up and trash his house. They tie him to the bed and pour permanent blue skin dye on his penis, so he can be easily identifiable, should he ever try his dirty tactics again.

"You like to force yourself on women, stud?"

So, we're getting quite far into the movie and it's starting to bug me on many levels. One problem is how it's all shot. It's not that it's badly made...quite often it's just handled in a frustratingly boring way. And it really is a shame. Jingle Bells is an extremely creepy character and it could have been done much more efficiently. It looks like a graduation project where some film school student has decided to make a gritty exploitation film, but been afraid of leaving the textbook behind when it comes to the techhnical aspects. So, there are loads of interesting ideas, but the execution just contradicts the grittiness of the plot.

Anyway...unfortunately, our gang are not getting any closer to catching Jingle Bells...and he's still very much out there. "I'm just your friendly neighbourhood hockey player" he says as he approaches his next victim.

After accidentally killing this victim, we get a disturbing glimpse into the mind of Jingle Bells, through some internal monologue.

"Damn, I actually killed someone. Don't think I want that to happen again, now. It's not a nice feeling. Got to find a new one. Get my mind off that"

With Jingle Bells now being both a murederer and a rapist the police are beginning to object louder to the work of the Rape Squad. But the girls won't listen and decide they are now needed more than ever.

They're alerted to an abusive pimp and practise their karate skills on him.

"See you around, pimp!"

Here's another problem. Thorughout the film, much of the fighting just looks like comedy fighting and it makes it very hard to take it seriously. It just doesn't know what kind of film it wants to be.

However, there's never anything funny about Jingle Bells and he's following the work of Rape Squad closely. He finally lures the whole gang over to an abandoned zoo. I think I'll leave it there for you to find out what happens.

I don't know if I can really "recommend" Rape Squad. It certainly has some interesting ideas going, but the execution lets it down. Jingle Bells is a truly creepy villain, one of the better ones I've seen in a long time.

So, there are definitely better rape-revenge thrillers out there, but there are probably many worse as well. Watch at your own risk.