MP3 At 3PM: The Horrors

horr0rs390Somewhere between Joy Division, the Damned and a can of hairspray, you’ll find the Horrors. Their NME-approved brand of manic garage goth might’ve seemed like a joke at first (a drummer named Coffin Joe wasn’t helping), but the Horrors aren’t laughing anymore. The songs from upcoming album Primary Colours (due in May on XL) are the U.K. group’s strongest yet. The echo-laden “Sea Within A Sea” sounds like Ian Curtis waking up next to Robert Smith with the ultimate goth hangover. It’s also nearly eight minutes long and genuinely spooky.

“Sea Within A Sea” (download):

Listening To The Best Show: The Marathon Episodes

bestshowlogobA weekly review of The Best Show On WFMU, Tom Scharpling’s call-in/comedy/music show broadcast every Tuesday night from Jersey City. The three-hour program is available for free download at iTunes.

As previously mentioned, WFMU is a listener-sponsored station, and two weeks a year are dedicated to the fundraising marathon. So the past two episodes of The Best Show (3/3/09 and 3/10/09) are completely dedicated to that effort and consist largely of reading off pledges and trying to keep the phone lines busy with donations. Why bother downloading these podcasts? A few things come to mind:

Philly Boy Roy returns! Whenever PBR has an extended absence from the show, we like to start rumors of a new Superchunk album. Turns out we’re almost correct—there’s a new EP and some live dates happening next month.

Comedy guests include Paul F. Tompkins (host of VH-1’s Best Week Ever) and John Hodgman (the PC in the Apple commercials). Musical guests include Ted Leo and Aimee Mann. I was going to complain about Leo being a little too omnipresent on The Best Show, but he proved his worth by composing a Mike Show theme (Mike is the call screener whose antics threaten to usurp Tom) and a really solid version of “Timorous Me.” Tompkins joined Mann for a jokey version of Magnolia hit “Wise Up,” which went off the rails early and often. The show should’ve closed with Mann revisiting the song by her lonesome because, you know, it’s not going to stop. (The second show actually ended with a kinda-terrible group singalong of Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” apropos of nothing except that it uses the term of endearment “sugar bear,” which is funny.)

Worth visualizing: Tom commandeered the phone room in a yachting outfit inspired by Ted Knight’s Judge Smails character from Caddyshack.

And finally, you have to be the cynic of the century not to appreciate the ideas behind WFMU and the need for the fundraising marathon. Hearing Tom thank each and every caller who pledged money as their names are read is a nice touch. Let me know when he’s done stirring the Kool-Aid.

Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: “Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls” (Part 1)

Josie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

josie-dolls375Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)
In the world of b-movies, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls stands alone. It’s hard to even call it a b-movie (or b-movie musical). It is simply the apex and zenith, and there will never be another movie like it. The film’s premise is deceptively simplistic: part Partridge family, part Manson family, an all-bombshell trio called the Kelly Affair follows its rainbow unicorn dreams to the charred ruins of a cultural and sexual revolution the likes of which the world had never seen. It was the end of the ‘60s, it was Los Angeles, and director/producer Russ Meyer was the high priest ordained to carry out the last rites.

The fact this movie was ever made is nothing short of miraculous. Dolls slipped under the radar of a major movie studio (20th Century Fox), which gave Meyer, sole creator of the sexploitation genre, carte blanche with no supervision. It was described by Roger Ebert (who co-wrote the script) as “when the lunatics took over the asylum.” The ‘60s had passed Fox by, and maybe the studio equated free love with pornography but without big money problems. Still there was no denying that Meyer was a seriously talented young filmmaker, making hard cash with soft porn on low budgets. For whatever reason, Fox decided to throw him a bone and baby, he ran with it. Lucky for us.

Having been called both the worst and best movie ever made, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is simultaneously a melodrama, a skin flick, a violent exploitation movie, a satire of a satire, an exposé on real people, a rock musical unparalleled and a comedy often accused of being a movie that didn’t know it was a comedy. Mercilessly panned by film critics, Meyer was going into such uncharted post-modernist territory that he had to make it up as he went along. Quentin Tarantino, Russ Meyer was doing this 40 years ago without a map and doing it without the artifice of affectation.

Thanks to the bevy of busty babes who could act only seconds at a time, Meyer had to develop a kung-fu-fast editing style. The writing ranges from cheeky Shakespearean prose to drug-addled street slang, which always seems slightly out of synch, as if it were written by squares trying to be “hep.” Nevertheless, the dialogue in the film has become archetypal: “This is my happening and it freaks me out!” was shamelessly lifted by Austin Powers in 1997. “You’re a groovy boy. I’d like to strap you on sometime” was uttered by the incomparable Edie Williams, Russ Meyer’s real-life wife. It remains the best pick-up line ever purred by a bottomless man-eating sex hyena on the make.

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls required a protracted prologue, an epilogue to harelip all epilogues and ongoing narration that, at times, includes the actors describing their own characters in the third person while they are trying to act like they’re acting in the first person to an actor also referring to them in the third person! Crazy shit. To say that Meyer had a demented sense of humor would be the understatement of the century.

“Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):

Lost Classics: Rollerskate Skinny “Horsedrawn Wishes”

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.

Horsedrawn Wishes // Warner Bros., 1996

rollerskateskinny390For a band named after a phrase in The Catcher In The Rye and featuring percussion from the younger brother of My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields—in other words, cultural references that might’ve forgiven the Dublin group the usual fortnight at the top of the pops, only to sink forever from view, Rollerskate Skinny’s handiwork has aged remarkably well. Constant press references to MBV forced Jimi Shields’ departure by the time of sophomore LP Horsedrawn Wishes. Like the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, the album contained meticulously constructed, extraordinarily druggy to-and-fro (the liner notes credited each band member with “orchestration”), with guitars of every shape and size poking through every available surface, its pacing a testament to a lysergic imagination.

Catching Up: Since splitting in 1997, all the Skinnies have remained in music. Frontman Ken Griffin moved to New York, released 1999’s Dead City Sunbeams as Kid Silver and formed Favourite Sons (with ex-MAGNET intern Matt Werth) in 2004. Guitarist Ger Griffin (no relation to Ken) and bassist Stephen Murray teamed up in Walker; Murray now leads the Radio, while Griffin records as Super Electric. Shields founded the Chicago-based Lotus Crown and, later, the NYC-based Wounded Knees.

“Speed To My Side”:

TiVo Party Tonight: Prince, Ra Ra Riot, Jesse Harris With Norah Jones

tivoraraEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

Late Show With David Letterman (CBS): Jesse Harris With Norah Jones
Harris (who wrote Jones’ hit “Don’t Know Why” and played on Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning) will perform “It Will Stay With Us” from new solo album Watching The Sky.

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC): Prince
The first of three consecutive Leno appearances to promote three simultaneously released albums that will be available exclusively at Prince’s local hometown store (Target, whose corporate HQ is in Minneapolis). It would be wild if it turned out that Prince owns Target.

Late Late Show (CBS): Ra Ra Riot
The Syracuse, N.Y., band will be playing “Can You Tell” from last year’s The Rhumb Line.

Ra Ra Riot’s “Dying Is Fine” (download):