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2007 ISSUE #92
Radio The Criterion Collection
Film by Allison Anders, Dean Lent, and Kurt Voss
When you think of The Criterion Collection, you
probably don't think about low-budget, first-time films from the
student level---usually quite the opposite. But this one is a
little different, as it gives us a rare opportunity to see the
early work from a group of filmmakers who went on to award-winning
Border Radio takes us back to the crazy, hazy days
of mid-80s, post punk California, where the film is set in the
ugliness of the underground music scene. The film stars Chris
D. of The Flesh Eaters, along with John Doe of X, two of the icons
of independent music from this era.
Make no mistake, this is a student film through
and through. The story is a jumbled concoction of plot lines,
centered around a would-be indie rockstar who steals cash from
a club owner and has to flee to Mexico. There's a love triangle
of conflict which forms between the rocker, his wife, and his
best friend, providing the impetus for his eventual return. The
acting is sketchy, the production is even sketchier, and the overall
end product is haphazard at best.
But beyond that, there is a beauty here which belies
the reasoning behind warranting a Criterion release. The independent
spirit which drives the film is quite palpable, and the music
scene is the obvious motivation. It's art for art's sake. Border
Radio wasn't made to please an audience or gain accolades in the
mainstream, it was made to capture the essence of independent
Ironically enough, the film which started out as
a bare-boned class project gets the full Criterion treatment,
which means plenty of extras on the DVD, including deleted scenes,
a making-of documentary, and two separate commentaries from the
directors and the actors.
MISH MASH Mandate: Mexican Radio
The Criterion Collection Website
History Of The Music Video From The Beatles To The White Stripes
by Saul Austerlitz
Hardcover, 250 pages, $24.95 USA
Did video really kill the radio star? Or has it
been around longer than we realize? Saul Austerlitz examines the
long overlooked history of music combined with images, from the
beginnings of sound in films in the 1920s, to the golden era of
MTV in the 80s & 90s, to the present explosion of vast amounts
of music video available on the Internet.
According to Austerlitz, music video has far more
impact than we give it credit. One part art, another part commercial,
the modern music video is a unique combination that serves many
purposes beyond simply showcasing the latest and greatest pop
act. He argues that music video can be political, artistic, or
commercial, that it can't be neatly put into one category so easily.
The history that Austerlitz unravels is one that
focuses mainly on the music videos themselves, those that garnered
the most attention over the years, and the trickling down of their
impact to the rest of popular culture.
MISH MASH Mandate: I Want My MTV
Continuum Publishing Website
- Hill Country Troubadour
- a film by Max Shores
- University Of Alabama for Public Televsion
This is the mesmerizing story of Richard Johnston,
a one-man band blues street musician who has ignited a new
spark in the world of Southern blues. The film shows Johnston
in his element, playing on the sidewalk on Beale Street in
Memphis, singing into a microphone, strumming his guitar,
and playing drums with his feet. It's an amazing performance,
and by the size of the audience, he is obviously a crowd pleaser.
The film traces Johnston's music-making history,
starting from his early days playing in Junior Kimbrough's
juke joint in Mississippi. There he learned how to play in
the style of north Mississippi blues, honing his chops in
the so-called "Hill Country" to play his music in
a self-described "trance"-like fashion.
From there, Johnston has taken this unique sound
from the backwoods of Mississippi to the rest of the world,
as he has graced stages all over the globe. The added bonus
is the nature of his performance, being that it is unusual
to see a middle-aged white man playing gritty blues songs
in such an honest and genuine way --- especially in a one-man
band format. It's an odd sight to see, and the fact that he's
so good at it makes it even better.
The documentary features interviews with Johnston,
along with interviews with a couple of his blues inspirations;
Jessie Mae Hemphill, and R.L. Burnside. There is also a wealth
of performance footage, showing Johnston doing what he does
best. The film is now making the festival circuit, with plans
for it to be released on DVD in the near future.
MISH MASH Mandate: Street Corner Blues
Max Shores Website
HEY BANDS! OPEN YOUR ONLINE T-SHIRT
SHOP FOR FREE!
Wait Out The Rain
5 song CD
TRACK = BEAUTIFUL DISGUISE
Taking their moniker from lead singer/guitarist Eric Stepanian,
this four piece roots rock band serves up a highly memorable pop-influenced
EP. With only five tracks, they show off their songwriting chops
and leave us wanting more.
The first thing that caught my attention was the smooth and
subtle saxophone lines on the opening track, Beautiful Disguise.
The sax is an instrument that seems neglected by bands lately
-- perhaps because it was so overused in the past -- and the
group does a wonderful job of incorporating it into their sound
without overdoing it.
Song-wise, the group is tight and eager to wring every drop
out of their pop hooks. It's a solid sound that doesn't rely
on frills or showiness; instead, they let the songs speak for
MISH MASH Mandate: Saxophone Colossus
9 song CD
TRACK = BOAT
With a name like Deathmask, you would imagine that this might be
some sort of hard core metal band. Well, thankfully not. Instead,
Deathmask goes down the way of darkness with a quiet and mysterious
sound, built around the intriguingly seductive vocals of Katy Cunningham.
The group blends a bluesy, psychedelic rock sound with an improvisational
jazz attitude. The music doesn't follow the set pop patterns, as
each song seems to go off in its own direction in an exploratory
way. Cunningham is the glue that holds it all together, as she wraps
her voice around the scattered feel of the music, keeping it in
MISH MASH Mandate: Feed Your Head
The Finest Of The Wheat
9 song CD
TRACK = IN THE MOONLIGHT
The Watercallers are about as old-fashioned in their approach as
you can get. The duet uses a simple blend of guitars and vocals
that harkens back to the early days of 20th Century pop and country
Even though it's a contemporary recording on CD, you can easily
picture hearing the songs on a scratchy and tinny sounding 78. Yet,
at the same time, there is a modern sensibility about their music,
which probably comes from the hindsight of knowing what works and
what doesn't. In other words, they've done their homework, and it
shows in the songwriting.
MISH MASH Mandate: I'll Fly Away
The Watercallers Website
6 song CD
Eta Carinae starts off their new album at full throttle and doesn't
let up until this blistering EP is done. Part modern rock, part
emo, part prog, and part metal, the band mixes up the best of hard
rock and spits it back out with a vengeance.
The songs drive and tumble with rhythmic ferocity, borrowing the
disjointed time signatures of prog --- yet the band maintains a
perceptible amount of pop sensibility to keep the hooks interesting.
It's a young and fresh sound that doesn't rely on the stale same-old-same-old
that seems to plague most of contemporary rock.
MISH MASH Mandate: Prognosis
Eta Carinae Records Website
The High Class
The High Class Elite
4 song CD
There's more than enough pouting, preening, and strutting packed
into these four songs to please just about any glam rock aficionado.
Frontman Franco V knows how to swagger in his high-heeled boots,
and his attitude is all all over this one.
The music is a smash-up of the misplaced glam of The New York
Dolls and the lo-fi guitar noodling of The Strokes, providing
the perfect background for Franco to let us know who's boss. The
performance is fast and loose, and I can only imagine it translates
well to the stage, especially if that stage has a disco ball.
MISH MASH Mandate: Glamosaurus
High Class Elite Website
Red Star Records
11 song CD
Ernie Halter's voice has a classic blue-eyed soul sound that is
timeless in its quality. He grabs your attention on the opening
track as soon as he sings the first note.
The songwriting hits the target, too, as each one fits the groove
of his voice flawlessly. He seems right at home with these tunes,
and he knows how to work his way through them with skill. The standout
track here for me is Lisa, a Latin-influenced love song (with a
sense of humor) that revolves around a classical guitar line, showing
that Halter is versatile in his soulfulness.
MISH MASH Mandate: Soul Man
Ernie Halter Website
Let's Not Tell Lies / Our
Time In The Colonies
Lesser Note Records
17 song CD
TRACK = DOVER HILL
Man, this Indianapolis three piece is one hot little group. They
sound like they came right out of a time warp, beaming back from
the days of late 80s underground college rock. The thing is, they
make it sound like it's never been done before, and that makes it
It's reckless power pop surrounded by big fuzzy guitars and frantic
drumming. The vocals are half-yelled over the din, drifting in and
out as each wave of dissonance crashes in around them. The group
creates a wall of sound that is much bigger than the sum of their
MISH MASH Mandate: Mars Needs Guitars
Eisenhower Field Day Website
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