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Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Kerouac and the Beat Generation", Friends & Lovers

Kerouac and the Beat Generation (Kerouac et la Beat Generation. Une enquête, French original title)- Jean-François Duval

Who would have guessed? Don't want to sound pedantic, but I have devoted a very remarkable amount of my time reading about the beat generation, so, being honest, when I received "Kerouac and the Beat Generation" (a birthday gift) I thought it was going to be a waste of time. How wrong I was.

Jean-François Duval looks to me like the quintessential beat obsessed, but he is wise enough to use his vast knowledge on the subject to look for something else. He doesn't aim to build yet another chronicle of the times and lives of the Beats, but instead, find the surviving "starrings" of these era and let them speak, allowing them to explain, to unveil a vivid picture of the Beats, as revealing as refreshing.

Shifting the focus from the investigator/author to the opinions of the people interviewed makes "Kerouac" a lightweight and engaging read. But that doesn't make the book "simple". On the contrary, different personalities result on a very complete, multi-directional, look to the Beats. In particular on his most famous member: Jack Kerouac. The six personalities interviewed can be divided into two categories. First, the survivors: close friend and pivotal member of the movement (although it is dubious there was one) Allen Ginsberg, plus Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady's wife, and Joyce Johnson, both once Kerouac lovers. And second the "next generation beats", counterculture propelled by the first beats, like poet Anne Waldman, LSD guru-icon Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey, writer and Merry Prankster leader, arguably the one who tried to make "On the Road" a larger-than-life experience outside Kerouac's pages (and with too many drugs involved). Duval has read it all, so he knows what the questions must be, but that means he knows (we know) the real story? The answer is not really.

For a confessed fan like myself, it was puzzling to realise we have been living with the myth, the image portrayed by the books and the impact-influence of their literature, as well as the supposed aesthetics-attitudes related to it, believing that was the truth. Well, that's the constructed truth, half the truth if you prefer. Jack Kerouac slowly killed himself because he couldn't get along with his myth. Cassady, in the words of his wife, was a guy struck between his father-husband obligations and his will to explore the world. Kesey and Leary wanted to go "Further" not because they were experimenting with drugs, but because they were convinced life as we know it is not all it should be. In a way, America needed the Beats to offer a definition of the changes the country was going through, building a generation from very different personalities, literary ambitions and attitudes... I can go on, but I don't want to spoil "Kerouac", a book that, needless to say, is incredibly absorbing, and also one that I'm sure will stimulate more reads.

My only complaint about the book? Longer, I wish it had been much much longer!

SCORE: 9/10

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"The Spirit of '45", the 99%, back then

The Spirit of '45

So glad to see Ken Loach back on track. "The Spirit of '45" is a moving documentary and a crystal-clear tribute to the British people that, together, were capable of leaving behind the scourge of the II World Wars, and along with the '45 Labour government rebuild the country. A new England under a new vision: a fair and united society. Tories, Republicans, Merkel fans, PP voters... all right-wing devotees, as well as Tony Blair or Zapatero nostalgics, 80-90s socialists, you should stop reading right now. This is going to give you hives (skin rash).

Loach doesn't care about the possible (obvious) criticism he has/is going to face. I assume he's got so used to the accusations of being heavily biased that he probably doesn't waste a single second to read critics opinion (who cares about the right-wing opinions anyway? we all know they are all crazy). After all, "Spirit of '45" is the next step of a director who has always had a coherent political speech, something showed in his long filmography. 

As expected as well, Loach is not interested in portraying a flamboyant, state-of-the-art documentary. He combines footage from the vast British archives with contemporary interviews, many of them people who were there and, with their answers can define how dramatic was the situation after the war, how the changes arrived with the labour government. The film is not the most dynamic, but on the other hand, is powerful and determined to get its point exposed: there's an URGENT NEED of another SPIRIT OF '45.

Co-operation, solidarity, unity, support, but also nationalisation of any economic-productive sector that was pivotal for society, and the creation of a welfare system (health, education, subsidies). Does it sound familiar to you? Yes, that's the same social protection system our despicable politicians in Europe are trying to destroy. Or the national health program Republicans from the States would qualify as evil (meaning communist, of course). Keynes against the "market law", now updated into an even more criminal version, Friedman's privatise-everything (that serves to my only benefit) law, packed with shameful speculation. Sorry, but like Loach, I have decided it makes no sense to waste my time trying to be more "polite/tolerant" with the people who are the reason of the disaster we are in now. Let's say it out loud and clear: we have enough of criminals who are there just for their own greed

Let's go back to the documentary then. It's so evident Loach is trying to tell us we can't give out hope today. Yes, the bastards are everywhere, and extremely powerful and the situation is extremely difficult. But was it worse than 1945? Don't think so. And then, the 99% of Great Britain decided it was time for a change, a revolution. And so came the change. Loach rediscovers history to show it's time for another revolution. That we can fight and succeed.

I personally missed the voice of young people, believing it would have been nice to confront the current generations with the memories and thoughts of the elders. Also I'm kind of dubious of the last-minute attack to Thatcher. Don't get me wrong, Thatcher can't be condemned enough, but it's kind of tricky the way it is exposed. She introduced the criminal (sorry liberal) economic policies in the country, trying to dismantle the Welfare System. But Loach doesn't take the time to explain how the monster arrived to Downing Street, and she wasn't alone. What about John Major? And Blair? Aside from that, a documentary to watch and think about it.

SCORE: 7/10

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Pistol", the Elvis of Basketball

Pistol. The Life of Pete Maravich- Mark Kriegel

Sadly, I was too young to watch Pistol Maravich in action, and when I really got into NBA, he was already dead. But as a basketball addict I quickly discovered the talents of Pete "Pistol" Maravich, an American icon and, foremost, a unique ballplayer that made that elevated that sport to unparalleled levels of spectacle with his never-ending talents (watch video below or links). I believed that I already got the chance to knew a bit of his turbulent life, but after reading this addictive biography, I realise I didn't have a clue of what really went on with Pistol. For good and bad.

Writer Mark Kriegel achieves what I thought it was impossible with this sort of "commercially appealing" biographies. There's very little, if any, bias from the author. Zero hagiography, instead a highly documented work, fuelled with the opinions of countless who were there, plus a will to make no prisoners, but tell a story that is shocking, powerful and touching enough by itself.

Have you seen any "Behind the Music" program? Sure, after seeing too many they look rather silly and cliche-bounded. But it also shows the classic structure of rise-fall-final rise (redemption) that is so recurrent on American mythography (literature, music, cinema...). The Maravich tale is no different... with one exception. This time it seems it was completely for real. The Elvis of basketball.

This is a tale of obsession as much as frustration, with basketball being the joy and ruin of the Maravich's family. Father Press lived for the sport, to push the game forward and making his son Pete a child prodigy fated to be "the million dollar contract kid". Pete even surpassed the expectations, averaging the never to be beaten mark of 44,2 points a game at Louisiana State University. He became a legend, a Southern icon capable of building venues thanks to his presence, more like a rock icon. But also his worst enemy too. The dream  quickly transformed into a terrible nightmare once he went professional, one where playing the ball, always his shelter, turned also to be his curse.

Kriegel does a fantastic work in showing us all. The nature of Pistol's myth and his endurance among generations, his role on transforming the game. The impossible father-son relation, leaving alone their doomed wife-mother, the contradiction between his flamboyant, individual genius style on a team sport, his incredibly lacking social skills and struggle with fame against his will to be the focus of attraction on court, and all his obsessions, including the final and relieving finding of Catholicism. And how his legend and fate haunted his family even after his death. "Pistol" is an incredibly absorbing read, even for non-basketball fans. But hey! don't just believe my word, just watch the Pistol play...

SCORE: 8,25/10

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hear Basia Bulat's new album "Tall Tall Shadow"

Sometimes words fall short to describe what music can achieve... I'm completely taken away by Basia Bulat's new album, "Tall Tall Shadow", set to release on Monday 30th. As expected, the new record is amazing. Well, is much more than that, is a blast. But you don't have to believe me, just judge yourself by clicking on any of the following links, where you can stream the whole record entirely.,103233/

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Boss (with covers)!

No, I'm not getting mad, Bruce Springsteen wouldn't normally be included on this blog (a lot of respect but not really my taste). But as the Boss turns 64 today, I thought it was a good opportunity to pay him a little homage remembering a few covers of his songs done by some of my favourite artists. Happy B-Day Boss!

Camera Obscura- Tougher than the Rest

Basia Bulat- Glory Days

The National- Mansion on the Hill

10.000 Maniacs- Because the Night

Arcade Fire- Born in the U.S.A.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Phil Spector", Wall of Muted Sound

Phil Spector
It's quite strange. Being objective, "Phil Spector" doesn't have any big flaw. Good acting, a serious script, and a point of view that wants to offer something different, something more: a trial film no focused on the trial itself (something that would had been very dear to Hollywood), a drama without willing to "sell the drama" or win thanks to its impact, and a look to fame quite distant from the cliche-prone that celebrity biopics tend to be. But despite the remarkable virtues, the film is quite empty, lifeless.

Now go figure, the movie is about Phil Spector, a myth now in jail, a music producer legend transformed into the perfect example of an eccentric celebrity wasted away. What a potentially irresistible candy this could be in the hands of a greedy producer or/and an ambitious director. But that's not the case, prestigious director and writer David Mamet transforms a potential blockbuster into a radically unexpected proposal. A pretty obscure investigation/analysis of the clash between society and justice: was Spector convicted because a murder or because his fame and odd lifestyle?

And to show the dilemma Mamet delivers a script heavy on dialogues to two heavyweight actors: Helen Mirren and Al Pacino. To be honest, I was expecting nothing but another solid performance from Mirren and she doesn't disappoint in her role of defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden, but I was quite scared with Pacino, thinking that with such an eccentric and extreme character he could create another abomination like his Tony Montana (sorry Brian de Palma fans, not my cup of tea, to be polite), grotesque and annoying. But on the contrary, Pacino's Spector seems real, the rage episodes balancing admirably with the fragile looks of a wasted old man. Frustration and ego dramatically colliding on a person that really believes he should be treated like the legend he is.

Indeed, the elements are there, but the movie never really grabs you. It's a very cold movie, probably too analytic and little rewarding for the viewer. But aside from the emotional, then subjective, factors, the fact is "Spector" doesn't go further on the actual events of the case, there's zero detail about what went on court, which might be a brave or at least coherent move from Mamet. The director wanted to depict the relation between the music producer and his attorney while pointing out the "shadows" of a process too full of other elements than just the need to clarify if there was evidence enough to condemn Phil Spector as the murder of Lana Clarkson, but really ruins the whole point about the film. Once the trial begins, the film ends, so the spectator has the feeling the he has been watching the whole preparation of the trial just to be left without it. The way the whole thing concludes makes Mamet's proposal look biased and incomplete. This shouldn't be called "Phil Spector", but rather "The Phil Spector's defense preparations". That's enough to make a solid film? I have some serious doubts about it...

SCORE: 5,75/10

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Dodgeball", good fun for a plane

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Only on a plane someone would end watching a film like this. Hey! I'm not complaining with the affirmation. Just pointing out that I don't see myself looking for a film like this one if not on a particular circumstance like the aforementioned. Which it is a bit unfair, considering how many advertised and announced terrible films (don't get me started about "Gatsby" again). Sure, this is not a indispensable film, a masterpiece, or even a movie that you could define as really "worth watching". The fun is silly, agreed, but it gets going, you will laugh, and lacks any pretension. More than many Oscar-worthy numbers, teen terror stupidities, state-of-the-art movies, or 3-D bluffs that saturate theatres every year.

"Dodgeball" doesn't have a lot to be remembered in terms of storytelling as Director and writer Rawson Marshall Thurber is not worried at all about his script, a mere copy of the underdog tales seen a million times in this sub-genre of sports films, now with dodgeball, an uncommon practice out of the States (at least in Europe to my knowledge), an excuse to design a series of physical sketches based on the irrational but universal fun of seeing how someone is hit by a ball. Plus White Goodman, Ben Stiller's character, a villain so grotesque that's completely hilarious and steals the whole show. The whole Globo Gym, a few other secondary roles (the ESPN 8 announcers of "The Ocho", Gary Cole and Jason Bateman on top), the end of the credits, and an easygoing, little demanding vibe overall is quite enough to make you watch it, and for the majority of time, enjoy it. Then you have Lance Armstrong playing the mentor/oracle role, the living example of human success thanks to not to giving up when all hope seems to vanish to the hero (a not very funny Vince Vaughn). What an incredible gag done by accident (or better said, because of the hypocrisy/greed of someone who was a hero for many).

Trivial, but fun enough to be an ok choice to watch on a plane.

SCORE: 5,5/10

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Discoverer 70: new indie findings

The "jet-lag week" ends with a new round of indie proposals for your listening pleasure!

The Proper Ornaments. Indispensable name here. Veronica Falls guitarist James Hoare and Argentinian Max Clapps met in 2005 in... not your average story: Claps’ kleptomaniac girlfriend asked him to distract Hoare, then a shoe shop assistant from a vintage shop in Notting Hill that was reading a book on The Velvet Underground. That's how their friendship began... Five years of writing occasional songs while their lives had several up and downs until in 2010 they begin playing shows and released debut 7" "Recalling/Are You Going Blind?" on Make A Mess Records, followed in 2011 by an eponymous EP on No Pain In Pop. Finally, after the advanced same titled single, debut album "Waiting For The Summer" has arrived. Sun-soaked indiepop, hazy and narcotic, the impossible collision of C86 and the 60s West Coast. A MUST.

Chalk and Numbers. Another duo, Sable Young and Andrew Pierce, this time from New York, that met online in 2011when the latter randomly checked Sable's demos on her page and asked her about the possibility of recording together. In a matter of months they debuted with the six songs EP "He Knew" in 2012, followed by the Christmas single "Happiness this Time of the Year". Another EP, "Parade", out since March, completes the reduced but delicious career of the combo to date, a joyous vindication of retro pop, 60s girl groups and pop classics. Think on She and Him, or Cults embedded on Dusty Springfield. Very hard to resist.

The Swapsies. This quartet hails from Liverpool and started around in 2011. "The Swapsies EP" was their debut that same year, and now the great February Records has just released the CD single (please buy the lovely soccer physical copy!) "Another Game on Saturday/A Fleeting Summer". Modestly understating themselves as a "shy band trying their best to make friendly music", this is not just friendly. This is a little dose of the best euphoric pop since The Housemartins! Or when Belle and Sebastian could make your cheer up on your worst day! Plus, their addictive songs have ridiculously catchy vocal harmonies, football and handclapping! You have a new hooligan Swapsies.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"The Great Gatsby", Fitzgerald for Dummies

The Great Gatsby

I knew this was going to happen. I really saw this review coming. And I was right. Ouch, that hurts beyond what's bearable...

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe director Baz Luhrmann is a visionary. Maybe he just made this awful, incredibly simplistic and shallow film just to attract the youngster generation. Maybe he thought "look at these kids, they cannot read more than their whattsup one-liners. We need to bring them the best stories, in this case one of the finest examples of American literature, in a language they can understand". In Luhrmann's opinion, I believe, that means reducing Fitzgerald's book to a one-line plot: incredibly rich millionaire gives amazing parties but he's unhappy because he can't have the chick he loves. Period.  I imagine Luhrmann adding: "Now kids, here's the lesson to learn, the profound message I'm offering you in this film, so try to be focused: even the richest cry sometimes. Astonishing, right? You don't have to thank me. I'm just that great". Well Baz, NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

Sure. Even the less smart of the Smartphone users can get Luhrmann's only idea on his "The Great Gatsby". But that doesn't mean they will have even the less remote clue of what was Fitzgerald's masterpiece about. It's not a question of being faithful or not to the original text (it was ages ago, but I do remember being extremely bored with Robert Redford's Gatsby version, and believe me, few books are more moving and engaging). It's just that he has decided to go for the most superficial, to an incongruous extreme, take of the book. It's all surface, as bombastic, flamboyant and 3-D as you want, but with less than zero insight. So, even you don't give a damn about the adaptation of the original story, what you get is so shallow that you won't get a film that's worth the effort either. "The Avengers" might have the same amount of depth than this Gatsby. And that's unacceptable.

Granted, "The Great Gatsby" first half is a visual feast in the vein of "Molin Rouge" (but now on 3-D folks!, so go to cinema and pay even more for that!). But exclusively visual. From the very beginning, characters are introduced and then completely ruined. A good actor like Tobey Maguire makes the dumbest impersonation of Nick Carraway I could ever imagine. He just stays there, mouth open, a silly kid enlightened by the exotism, the noise, the chicks, the confetti and grandeur of his neighbour. That's not the character Fitzgerald wrote. At all. Carey Mulligan's as Daisy deserves a separate comment. Don't know if that's Luhrmann, Mulligan or both fault, but what a disastrous performance. Exactly in the same vein as she did in "Shame", without the suicidal tendencies, with the similar annoyingly results. DiCaprio, the only remarkable of the film (and the reason the rating below isn't lower) makes a vivid impersonation of Gatsby, that grows from the shameful "perfume advertising" first looks to a much somber character, much closer to the troubled, complex and absorbing character Fitzgerald penned. Still, Di Caprio is alone, so he can't help the feeling he's performing on a ridiculously expensive and lush but fake and empty set. Fitzgerald's were powerful, extremely rich yet still misterious, obscure, not very likeable yet absorbing characters. Human contradictions, ambitions and miseries revealed. Nothing to do with this. The National's Matt Berninger penned the perfect definition for the characters you'll find on the film: "a television version of a person with a broken heart". Fakers.    

There's more to rant about. Of course, the music. We get it, partying is partying, but being a film directed to kids it's better to go for a much modern, cooler soundtrack, full of Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Will.I.Am... well hell no Baz. You did quite well (at least watchable) with "Romeo & Juliet" before with the soundtrack... because you translated Shakespeare story to a contemporary context, but not this time. Do you know what the Jazz Age means? Jazz is a very important part of the context where the story takes place... oh sorry, I forgot the director didn't care about the story. Ok, let's change the subject .Transitions. Hard to remember a film worse constructed. First, a lame lame trick so Nick Carraway can explain his insane fascination for Gatsby, so flashbacks are justified. Second, you can film as many flamboyant, flashy or slow-motioned dancing scenes you want, but they should carry you somewhere, or are we just contemplating a terribly long videoclip? Third, I can't remember just a drastic change in tempo and mood in any film seen in a long time. Party is over, so then let's go for a romantic drama. Drastically. And fourth, symbols should be subtle, if not become seriously upsetting there's no need to repeat once and again adverts or the green light. We got it. The kids too.

So, If you believe "The Great Gatsby" needed an adaptation for our digital age where information MUST fit in your mobile phone, then you have reasons to celebrate. Luhrmann has nailed it. But if you don't want to watch this "Fitzgerald for Dummies" version, just stick with the book. Have some faith in the kids next time Baz.

SCORE: 2/10

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Discoverer 69: new indie findings

Last round (and post) of new indie proposals before flying back home!

Eux Autres. Why took me so long to discover you? Born in Omaha but based in Portland, the Larimer brothers, Heather & Nicholas began their career a decade ago, with drummer Yoshi Nakamoto joining them since 2008. Three records, "Hell Is Eux Autres" (self-released, 2004), "Cold City" (Happy Happy Birthday To Me, 2007) and "Broken Bow" (Bons Mots, 2010) and a bunch (up to eight) of 7" and EPs (don't miss their last release to date, "Sunk Is Sunk", from 2012) conform a delicious career. Fire-powered pop, witty and pinching lyrics hidden behind candy-like vocals, plus an incredible talent to find the perfect melody, one after another. I've found a goldmine!  

The Death of Pop. Atlantic cross to meet Oliver & Angus James, a young duo from London, that despite their somber (ironic, don't panic) name are making of this 2013 a debut year to remember. Presenting quality songs since January (hurry, check their bandcamp), with two physical, highly collectible releases out, the "Tombola" cassette and "The Soundbox Record Player" EP, they define their sound as "janglegaze". Confused? Don't fear. Think on The Smiths meeting Wild Nothing, or a synthesized Robert Smith dreaming of jangling guitars played by Kevin Shields. Listen them and replace confusion for a genuine pop excitement.

Baby Island. Back to the States to meet this combo from Whidbey Island, Washington. Leaded by Eli Moore and joined by Mark Buzard and Nick Dubesa, they formed in 2010, with a self-titled album on 2012. This is a parallel project of Mr Moore, also known for being part, along with his wife Ashley Eriksson, who occasionally plays and sings on Baby Island, of the group LAKE. Moody without losing the infectious nature of pop (hear "Backwards and Forwards"), chilly without losing the close interaction with the listener any great music has (check "King's Cross") Baby Island only release to date is one of this little, (and sadly) rarely known gems awaiting for you.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Alan Lomax", the Folksong Hunter

Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World. A Biography- John Szwed

My interest on Alan Lomax's figure comes from one of this rare cinematographic experiences were one enters to a theatre with little-to-zero expectations and then leaves the venue almost in tears, deeply moved by what has seen. The film, better said documentary, was "Lomax , the Songhunter" written and directed by Rogier Kappiers. What an impact. Since then I've been looking for something to read about the man and his work. Now, after reading this biography, I can say I'm still impressed and amazed by his story, but also a bit confused, dubious to some extent, about his motivations. Damn, I have to find the film and watch it again...

"The Man Who Recorded the World" is an immaculate, scrupulous and fine biography, at least on its surface. Informative and argumentative, rich in statistics, facts, figures and complete, even to the point of saturation sometimes, in what regards to explain with detail every book, play, recording and field work Alan Lomax did (add letters too). And he did many (and I mean MANY). His task was so gigantic that becomes scary. That's not a relentless passion but probably also a worrying obsession. A feeling I was confirming while reading John Szwed's book.

The depth of the biography in Lomax's activities provides a rich account of a work life that really escapes from just one categorization and had several sides. Lomax was a musicologist, folklorist, filmmaker, music producer, television & radio host, writer, actor, singer, lecturer, ethnomusicologist (he's recognised as the father of the discipline by many), anthropologist, political activist (among the most interesting for me is the People's Song platform or being accused and surveyed for being a communist)... He tried everything for folk music, to restore its legacy, to make it known and popular... but in his very own terms, something that also  involved him in several controversies. Was he a purist or a popularizer? The book doesn't hide the contradictions and the heated debate around his figure and role in music's history, although Szwed take a clear side at the end.  

But unfortunately, and despite being very informative, "The Man Who Recorded the World" has some regrettable misses. Lomax's family is neglected from the book. Wives, daughter and sentimental partners are getting in and out at Szwed's will, while the extremely peculiar relation with his father and mentor John Lomax is almost left behind after Alan's goes on his own. Even worse is the lack of interest of Szwed in providing some space to the artists that Lomax recorded, and in several cases, discovered. Legendary musicians like Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger or Muddy Waters (or the thousands of unknown performers) don't anything to say in Lomax's story? That's a serious flaw.

In that sense, I certainly believe that Kappiers film pays a better tribute to Lomax's figure going to the places he visited to meet the folk singers he recorded and how they remember that peculiar song collector. I'm sorry but I don't care that much about cantometrics (to be honest, that will to measure and categorize folk music is as ambitious as questionable, to be polite, music doesn't need to be constrained by artificial definitions) or the dollars he received from every foundation or government institution he reached for his music investigations. The man and the music he discovered should have been more than enough for a fascinating biography. But we have an incomplete picture of the first, and even way less about the second. Interesting, but rather flat.

SCORE: 6,25/10

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Weekend with The Very Most (part II)

As promised, here's the next chapter of our recount of the days spent in Boise, Idaho, visiting our friend and indiepop genius Jeremy Jensen, aka The Very Most. We ended part I of this special double post with the rehearsal at Jeremy's house. After it was over, we quickly moved to downtown Boise to carry the equipment to the gig's venue. My first experience as a roadie was quite curious, learning two lessons: 1) Backstages are not very glamorous (at least the indiepop ones); 2) The loneliness of the self-made man artist is blatantly evident (only indiepop artists?). Still, after a quick dinner and a very awkward act prior to TVM (the night's line-up had four bands/artists scheduled), and some tension because a couple of band members didn't show up until the very last minute, it was finally time for Jeremy and Co. to pack the stage (I mean it, six-seven musicians on such a tiny place). Aww! I've been waiting so long to write this!

The Very Most. The Crux, Boise, August 24th 

TVM's on stage. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Yes, I know that Jeremy wasn't very happy about the gig, frustrated by how they sounded and some coordination issues. And yes, I'm the first to agree that seven tunes aren't enough to have even a little hint of such a wonderful career represented live. Not with the amount of songs "our man" can offer. At all. But how can one aspire to be really objective when a gig starts being publicly dedicated to you and your girlfriend?  

Man on duty. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
No let's get back to the "serious stuff" here. What can you say if the opening trio of tunes are "Today It Is Even Better", "We Don't Have Any Cuts to Waste" and "Good Fight Fighting"? Blink and you missed it. Hard to find a better start, with "Cuts to Waste" in particular revealing itself as a tremendous song live with this fierce and upfront version. While it might be truth the pace was speed-up a bit during the whole set, I don't think that until the final number, the joyful "Congrizzle 4evzz", presented by Jeremy as "their danceable hit", that meant a sounding issue.   

Two more rescues from the unmissable "A Year With The Very Most" (one of these records that should be in every indiepop collector shelf), "The Motor-Vu Lights" and "When Summer Finally Dies" where followed by another favourite, "Changed Me", from the magnificent "Ununiversalizable Us" EP, allowing the female-male voices shine live, before the rousing finale with "Congrizzle 4evzz". Too short, sure (not even 40 minutes), but as intense and lovable as expected. Which made the last band of the night pale by comparison. Hearing them after TVM didn't make sense to any of us (think on The Fray meeting The Lumineers, or on every chapter's "Grey's Anatomy" epic song and you'll understand why we ran from the place). Another day was expecting us. 

Bloodbuzzed & TVM in McCall.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Sunday was reserved to visit the touristic and picturesque town of McCall, a two hour drive from Boise, which allowed us to "fill" the trip with endless talks about politics and oh surprise!, music. If you allow me to make a quick digression on the first issue, one of the worst things we, citizens (doesn't mind if you are from Spain or the United States) have done, is to forget WHY do we want/need politicians for, what are the reasons of giving them the power to take decisions for us. It's so gratifying to see Jeremy is an exception: he does remember perfectly. Anyway, between giant ice-creams, a soundtrack composed of Luna, McCarthy, The Go-Betweens, Aztec Camera or The Soft City among others, pleasant views of the Payette Lake even despite the smoky day (caused by the terrible fires devastating Yosemite National Park) and the unbeatable company, the journey was just lovely. Back home, and after discovering I have been missing Arrested Development for many years (something that must be solved as soon as I get back to Barcelona) it was time to close the day and, after saying 'til soon, early next morning (Jeremy back to work, us ready for several hours on the road again, towards Salt Lake City), also put the end of a great weekend, that I do hope is only an unforgettable chapter of a friendship that will provide many more stories to tell.

I do have one final question, though. Does anybody know why everywhere Jeremy goes The Beach Boys' music start playing?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Weekend with The Very Most (part I)

It took me a little while, but here it is: the first part of the summary of an unforgettable weekend in Boise, three days with The Very Most! First I thought on focusing just on Saturday's gig, but then I changed my mind. Trying to bring you the most complete picture of these days is way more fun (its the first time I'm doing this sort of travel journalism so be kind with the writer)!

Introducing Boise's finest (views & musician)
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
We arrived to Boise on Friday afternoon, after a long drive through Oregon along Interstate 84 (don't miss the views of the Columbia river if you are able, mesmerizing) just in time (time zone mistake included) to finally meet Jeremy Jensen and his wonderful family and go dinner together. Took us just a matter of seconds to realise TVM's music and the person behind it are inseparable. As his tunes, Jeremy is shy & subtle, unpretentious and natural, warm, inviting, sweet and friendly. Talks about the differences between the States and Spain, the current politic situation and of course, music and more music began. Back home and after watching a pretty curious movie, "Jeff Who Lives at Home", the exciting first day was over. And the best was yet to come...

Nostalgic Jeremy strikes gold!.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Saturday morning was devoted to visit Boise's downtown, bursting with activity as they were celebrating their weekly street market, and of course, couldn't be any other way, "hunt" for some music. Heart's "Dog and Butterfly" (I know I know, but he said it was just for sentimental reasons, so we can forgive him) and Real Estate's masterpiece "Days" were the findings of the day. Call it coincidence if you like or the little homage of the record store, but why once Jeremy stood in The Beach Boys's songs started playing on the speakers? After a very funny family lunch that included purple fries (I'm not mad), Sarah Palin's dolls (I repeat, I'm not crazy) and candies that makes you speak with Irish accent or erase your memory if you don't want to remember (swear you can buy this) everything was ready for the final rehearsal, at Jeremy's living-room, prior to the night's gig.    

TVM's home rehearsal.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed 
Yeah, for a fan, a rehearsal or soundcheck can be very special. It has a sense of discovery, maybe because of the intimacy of the situation, being part of what's supposed to be a private moment. Maybe because of the feeling that songs can be deconstructed and re-built several times, that can sound very different each time the band plays. Like a mystery being revealed just in front of you, and it this case revealed exclusively to me. Can you imagine? The first time I hear such a fantastic song as "Good Fight Fighting" live is on Jeremy's house, after several takes and a couple of serious issues (oh the drums, the drums) that could have been dramatic without more time before the gig. And just when you don't expect it, here it comes, an incredibly perfect, shiny, mind-blowing rendition of the tune, heard just by the five musicians rehearsing and you (and Carla). Same goes to "When Summer Finally Dies". Or "We Don't Have Any Cuts to Waste". A privilege.

In part II... the gig, of course, and more!

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Jeff Who Lives at Home", quirky feel-good fun

Jeff Who Lives at Home

Feel-good movies is not exactly a film category, but there are so many out there I'm convinced it deserves a genre entirely of its own. And the vast, immense majority of them are awful, bland and phony numbers. That's why, despite its flaws and shortcomings, one doesn't want to be very tough (there are also some personal reasons, as where and with who I was watching it)  with a movie like "Jeff Who Lives at Home". A feel-good film that is not embarrassing? Hey, these are surprisingly good news, folks.

Indeed, there's nothing to be ashamed of in "Jeff". Mark and Jay, the Duplass brothers have penned a quirky little movie, mixing comedy, an off-beat and surreal sense of humour, with some pretty serious issues, like relationships, familiar as well as sentimental, or our definition of "what's normal and reasonable"... oh, well, the meaning of life, you know. Not shy on ambition, ehm? Honestly, it had all the elements for being insufferable, but you know what? It is not. The film is really enjoyable. Although sometimes moving on a very thin red line, shifting from almost slapstick scenes to utterly dramatic moments, "Jeff"'s  awkward, nearly impossible script works, also offering a vital, positive message with charm (and without being too cheesy).

Such and odd-ball couldn't work without committed and credible actors. And in that sense Jason Segel deserves a separate mention. He carries the whole film of his shoulders. He turns Jeff, a 30 years-old slacker-loser by definition, into a fragile, sweet and collapsed adult that is going to be the major force on a series of life-changing situations for him and his family with compelling freshness. Extraordinary job. In comparison, the other main actors, Ed Helms, his brother, and Susan Sarandon, his mother, are just ok.  

Precisely, if "Jeff" fails short is on the parallel stories of Pat and Sharon, leaded by Helms and Sarandon. The first one lacks verisimilitude because the drastic personality shifts on the character, which makes him hard to believe in what regards to the dramatic side of the story, around his failing marriage with Linda (played by Judy Greer). While the second is by far the less inspired, looking somewhat forced (the shower scene is a bit gratuitous). That unbalance on the stories, and the epic, bombastic finale makes "Jeff Who Lives at Home" a flawed film. But as I said, thanks to Segel, the originality in how the story develops and its comedy side, is nevertheless a recommendable movie that can endure with the spectator. A remarkable feel-good movie.

SCORE: 6,5/10