SXSW Report: I Love You, “Winnebago Man”

wm450MAGNET’s Mitch Myers files his second round of notes from the SXSW Film Conference And Festival:

After being mocked by some of the MAGNET editors for seeing I Love You, Man on SXSW’s opening night, on day two I got down to the business of watching obscure documentaries like a hip indie journalist should.

Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo focuses on one of the last prison rodeos in the United States. Once a year, the Oklahoma State Prison allows a select group of inmates to compete against contenders from other institutions, including women. The chance for injury is high, and there’s a gladiator feel as inmates ride bulls and bucking broncos, placing themselves in dangerous situations just to get out of their prison routine for a couple of days. Filmmaker Bradley Beesley (also responsible for Flaming Lips documentary The Fearless Freaks) follows the inmates through their efforts, and it’s a surprisingly sentimental meditation on hope and the human spirit. And like the man in the movie says, “In the rodeo, you hope that nobody gets hurt. But if they do, you sure don’t want to miss it.”

Documentary All Tomorrow’s Parties reveals the music festival in all its shambling glory. Taken from found or contributed footage from umpteen filmmakers, this movie is stitched together and reflects the controlled chaos of ATP years past with performances by Nick Cave, the Stooges, Belle And Sebastian, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Portishead, Daniel Johnston, Patti Smith and many others. The music-loving youth culture is showcased as much as the music itself, and while the narrative thread is choppy and indistinct, you get a good idea what goes on at these events.

The highlight of the night was Winnebago Man (pictured), which takes an inside look at Jack Rebney, a distinctive character who made an obscure promotional film for Winnebago back in 1989 with so many angry, foul-mouthed outtakes that he (unknowingly) became a VHS-viewing oddity and, later, a YouTube sensation. Tracking down this combustible personality and peeling back the layers of his rage was not easy for filmmaker Ben Steinbauer, but the results are fascinating. The rise of Rebney’s video notoriety is a story unto itself, and the unexpected coda that arrived two decades after the fact is a happy ending in the most classic sense. Check him out on YouTube and you’ll be hooked. Like many other people, I love this guy, man.

Mogwai’s “The Sun Smells Too Loud” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TheSunSmellsTooLoud.mp3

Crime Stories: George Pelecanos Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

pelecanos544MAGNET has long been an admirer of

George Pelecanos, a D.C.-based author who’s penned 15 crime-fiction novels and written for HBO series The Wire. As we prepare to dive into a weeklong series of posts examining Pelecanos’ literary work (starting later today), we asked the man to clue us in to his latest musical interests.

Continue reading “Crime Stories: George Pelecanos Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape”

SXSW Report: “I Love You, Man”

iloveyouman540bMAGNET’s first missive from Austin doesn’t involve any hot new bands or sold-out showcases. The film portion of the SXSW festival got underway Friday night with the screening of Paul Rudd/Jason Segel comedy I Love You, Man. We sure hope SXSW gives this underground art film and its unknown cast a chance at mainstream exposure. Mitch Myers reports without sarcasm:

The 2009 SXSW Film Conference And Festival kicked off with the premiere of I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel along with Jon Favreau, Rashida Jones, SNL’s Andy Samberg and Jaime Pressley. Rudd carries the lead far better than he did in last year’s Role Models, and there are plenty of laughs generated by this talented ensemble. There were a couple of obligatory gross-outs involving puke and dog doo-doo, but this is a mostly straightforward comedy about a guy about to get married who’s confronted with the fact that he doesn’t have any male friends to invite to his wedding, let alone be his best man. Segel steals plenty of scenes as Rudd’s irreverent, fun-loving new best friend, and the chemistry between the rest of the cast works equally well, especially Favreau and Pressley as a married couple who fight so they can have make-up sex. Most of the actors were on hand for the premiere, and the Q&A afterward was fun despite the fact that all everybody wanted to know was when Segel’s Muppet movie was coming out and whether or not Favreau was working with Vince Vaughn. Verdict: Better than Forgetting Sarah Marshall but not quite up there with The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” from the I Love You, Man soundtrack:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/OxfordComma.mp3

Wrens Watch, March 16, 2009

wrenswatch9211We’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Lois Gerage-Lamb.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—eight weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). When we checked in with Bissell five weeks ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pages. Anyway, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions this week about the Wrens’ Friday show in New York City and their SXSW gig this Thursday, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned. The waiting is the hardest part.

Lost Classics: Duster “Stratosphere”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

duster550:: DUSTER
Stratosphere // Up, 1998

There was no shortage of psychedelic listening options for the late-’90s space cadet; you simply had to navigate the substrata of drone-friendly bands such as Spiritualized, Flying Saucer Attack and Bardo Pond. San Jose, Calif.’s Duster flew closer to Earth, offering more structured guitar-rock compositions and the kind of muffled-yet-melodic vocals that hadn’t been heard since the (original) shoegaze era. For debut album Stratosphere, the songwriting duo of Clay Parton and Dove Amber recruited drummer Jason Albertini (an original member of Queens Of The Stone Age) and created a sound akin to Yo La Tengo playing beneath a heavy winter blanket. For an exploration of the pop side of the space-rock moon, Stratosphere is one place to start.

Catching Up: Duster managed one more album, 2000’s Contemporary Movement. Albertini and Amber formed the trippy Helvetia, while Parton makes four-track psych/pop as Eiafuawn.

“Reed To Hillsborough”:


From The Desk Of Cursive’s Tim Kasher: “Smother”

timlogocCursive frontman Tim Kasher continues his graphic storytelling on sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen, out this week on Saddle Creek. He keeps it blunt and lyrically entertaining on the Omaha group’s moodiest LP yet, with song themes ranging from masturbation to tales starring Pinocchio. Kasher is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

smother5550b

So I had seen a trailer for this awful-looking film called Smother, sadly starring Diane Keaton, whom I still respect and adore despite her not making it easy for us over the last 10 years. I saw the trailer quite a while back, but it never seemed to hit theaters, so naturally I forgot about it. Forgot about it until a month or so ago when it popped up as a Lifetime original—or exclusive or however they billed it—movie. Lifetime? It wound up debuting on Lifetime?! Wow, it must be even worse than the terrible trailer lets on … I couldn’t wait. So, here’s the catch: It’s actually pretty good. Or, at least, a hell of a lot better than a Lifetime premiere, a hell of a lot better than a ton of shitty comedies that hit the big screen. Dax Shepard also stars in it, and now I really like Dax Shepard. And Mike White is in it, who I’ve always liked. And the craziest thing about this small, completely overlooked comedy? It’s the best role Keaton has had in I can’t imagine how many years! Since 1987’s Baby Boom?! I’m probably forgetting something in the ’90s, but I personally wouldn’t include The Godfather Part III or Something’s Gotta Give as inspired roles. Privy to Baby Boom, close to my heart. Moral of the story? Don’t watch the trailer for Smother—it’s terrible! This film must be an example of good filmmakers teamed up with a bad production company, because the trailer advertises all the worst aspects of an otherwise decent film. They also seemed incapable of marketing this film in any way whatsoever. I think this current campaign I’m writing is likely the biggest one Smother has yet to have. To be safe, I might suggest you watch this film hungover with not much else to do that afternoon. I don’t want to blow this pitch with lofty expectations. Thank you for hearing me out.

This concludes “Tim Kasher Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to Tim for writing about some really cool things, especially all the movie-related stuff. Be sure to check out Cursive’s new album, Mama, I’m Swollen.

Free MP3 From Western Civ

westernciv2Although the three core members of Chapel Hill, N.C.’s Western Civ have known each other since high school, their forthcoming album Shower The People You Love With Gold (self-issued, out March 17) is only the band’s third release. Under the guidance of veteran producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement), Western Civ has honed its brand of meandering and complex indie rock. Shower The People You Love With Gold is crisper than the band’s 2007 effort, Remington Steele Magnolia, and it certainly features more eclectic instrumentation (think children’s toys and metal folding chairs). Still, the album adheres largely to Western Civ’s original sound: rambunctious guitar melodies intertwined with spasmodic yet strangely infectious vocals.

“I Am A Waterfall” from Shower The People You Love With Gold (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/iamawaterfall.mp3

In The News: Green Day, My Morning Jacket, Devo, Iron And Wine, Jarvis Cocker And Free MP3s

ironwine370Starting March 24 and continuing throughout 2009, Reprise is releasing Green Day’s entire catalog on 12-inch vinyl. 1990’s 39/Smooth and 1992’s Kerplunk, the multi-platinum nimrods’ first two records, will be the initial offerings; LP number three, 1994’s Dookie, is out on April 18, which, if you’ve been paying attention, is Record Store Day … And speaking of this now-ubiquitous occasion, Louisville, Ky.’s My Morning Jacket has picked Record Store Day to issue Celebración De La Ciudad Natal (ATO), a live EP sold only in independent shops. The seven tracks are from gigs at Louisville’s famous Ear X-Tacy record store and local landmark Waterfront Park. Download “Evil Urges” … The new-wave pioneers in Devo are readying their first record since 1990’s Smooth Noodle Maps for a fall release (title and label TBD). The band, last heard from on 2007 single “Watch Us Work It,” is playing a one-night-only set at SXSW March 20 … Iron And Wine’s Around The Well (Sub Pop, May 19) collects out-of-print and never-before-released nuggets dating back to sessions for 2002 debut The Creek Drank The Cradle through material put to tape for 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog. Broken into two sections, the first features raw home recordings while the second contains the more polished stuff. Download “Woman King”Further Complications (Rough Trade), the new effort from Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, is also scheduled for May 19. The LP was produced—sorry, recorded—by Steve Albini in Chicago … Folk-country troubadour/car pitchman Steve Earle once said, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Hence Townes (New West, May 12), a 15-song set of Earle doing Van Zandt tunes available as a two-CD package and a double, limited-edition 180-gram-vinyl edition. Download “Some Dreams” … Old 97’s frontman/pretty boy Rhett Miller is releasing his fourth solo record on June 9. The self-titled disc (on Shout! Factory), billed as his darkest (ooh, scary), is the follow-up to 2006’s The Believer … Back in 1991, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey of the dB’s released Mavericks, an excellent collection of fine pop songwriting and soaring harmonies. They took their sweet-ass time getting around to another outing, but Here And Now (Bar/None) will finally be here and now sometime in June. The album features guest appearances from Branford Marsalis and Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Robert Pollard, A.C. Newman, Mountain Goats and who knows what else). Download the dB’s’ “World To Cry” … While we ponder if they realize the irony of the tune’s title in relation to the important work they missed out on while going through the process, we’ll tell you that the Oklahoma legislature voted the Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” the state’s official rock ‘n’ roll song. More than 2,498 nominations were submitted for 458 songs with some connection to Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain … Lastly, a favorite Sesame Street segment of ours has always been “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others.” (“One of these things is not like the others/One of these things just doesn’t belong/Can you tell which thing is not like the others/By the time I finish my song?”) It came to mind when thinking of Tinted Windows, a new supergroup comprising Hanson’s Taylor Hanson (vocals), ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha (guitar), Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger (bass) and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos (drums). The band is releasing its self-titled debut (on S-Curve) on April 21; our hint as to who’s not like the others: It’s not Schlesinger, it’s not Iha, and it’s probably not Carlos.

The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/DoYouRealize.mp3

From The Desk Of Cursive’s Tim Kasher: Mike Leigh

timlogocCursive frontman Tim Kasher continues his graphic storytelling on sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen, out this week on Saddle Creek. He keeps it blunt and lyrically entertaining on the Omaha group’s moodiest LP yet, with song themes ranging from masturbation to tales starring Pinocchio. Kasher is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

happygolucky550One of my favorite directors is, hands down, Mike Leigh. He has a large catalog of films dating back to BBC TV movies in the ’70s. Dialogue-driven, character-driven dramas set primarily in the working-class neighborhoods of the U.K., many of these films could translate to stage plays, while others already are; 1977’s Abigail’s Party being one of the best. His latest, Happy-Go-Lucky, came out last year and is one of the best films of 2008. And if you’re already familiar with Leigh, then yes, I am pissed about the Oscars snubbing Sally Hawkins (pictured above) for a Best Actress nod. I believe Leigh is best known for 1996’s Secrets And Lies, 2004’s Vera Drake an 1993’s Naked. All exceptional films, but I would like to recommend one of my personal favorites that doesn’t seem to receive as much attention, 2002’s All Or Nothing. It kills me.

Lost Classics: Cardinal “Cardinal”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: CARDINAL
Cardinal // Flydaddy, 1994

cardinal400bCardinal—the only full-length from Australian singer/songwriter Richard Davies and Portland, Ore., multi-instrumentalist/ arranger Eric Matthews—generated at least one review anointing it a “religious experience.” That’s a bit much, but credit Cardinal‘s 30-minute album with advancing the symphonic-pop movement of the mid-’90s that included Belle And Sebastian and Rufus Wainwright. Davies’ twee-time tales were decorated with various ornate finishes (horns, strings, layered harmonies), while Matthews’ lone vocal contribution (the hypnotic “Dream Figure”) emerged as the album’s signature track. Alas, ego clashes split the duo almost instantaneously, with the album eventually passing out of print until the Empyrean label reissued it in 2005 with demos, outtakes and a killer cover of Love’s “Willow Willow.”

Catching Up: Davies released three solo albums (including 1998’s excellent Telegraph); he has an album due in June with Robert Pollard. Matthews has issued six solo LPs, including last year’s The Imagination Stage. The two got back together last year to record a second Cardinal album, but things didn’t quite work out; read about it here.

“Silver Machines”: