Saturday, October 20, 2018

Ten reviews of no albums by Robert Christgau

THE CURE: Disintegration (Elektra)
With the transmutation of junk a species of junk itself, an evasion available to any charlatan or nincompoop, it's tempting to ignore this patent arena move altogether. But by pumping his bad faith and bad relationship into depressing moderato play-loud keyb anthems far more tedious than his endless vamps, Robert Smith does actually confront a life contradiction. Not the splintered relationship, needless to say, although the title tune is a suitably grotesque breakup song among unsuitably grotesque breakup songs. As with so many stars, even "private" ones who make a big deal of their "integrity," Smith's demon lover is his audience, now somehow swollen well beyond his ability to comprehend, much less control. Hence the huge scale of these gothic cliches. And watch out, you mass, 'cause if you don't accept this propitiation he just may start contemplating suicide again. Or take his money and go home. C PLUS

Obviously, this album is a classic; like The Pixies and Depeche Mode, Robert Smith's mutable outfit contemporaneously enjoyed a concurrence of of artistic and commercial apotheosis. Christgau almost fathoms cynical marketing, but seldom music, hence this momentary meditation on Smith's presumed careerism. The album? Who knows. Speaking of the boys from Basildon...

Violator [Sire/Reprise, 1990]
Fearing the loss of their silly grip on America's angst-ridden teens, who they're old enough to know are a fickle lot, they forge on toward the rap market by rhyming "drug" and "thug." And for the U.K.'s ecstasy-riding teens, who God knows are even more fickle, there's the techno-perfect synth/guitar sigh/moan that punctuates the easily rescinded "Policy of Truth." C-

Somebody's pettish dad heard a few lyrics during a strictly perfunctory spin and clumsily supposed something about "the hip-hop." Policy of Truth is so unequivocally disposable that it was a radio staple and concert favorite for fifteen years, and nearly three decades later, oldies stations from the rancid northeast through the 'murkun midwest to the left coast persist to broadcast it.

The Mix [Elektra, 1991]
best-of with the bass boosted--very funktional, meine Herren ("Pocket Calculator," "The Robots") ***

Can you imagine receipt of a paycheck for the indolent authorship of an unfunny sentence? Note that scamsters like Boesky or Madoff were actually punished. That's a not a review. It isn't an epigram.

Loveless [Sire/Warner Bros., 1991]
If you believe the true sound of life on planet earth is now worse than bombs bursting midair or runaway trains--more in the direction of scalpel against bone, or the proverbial giant piece of chalk and accoutrements--this CD transfigures the music of our sphere. Some may cringe at the grotesque distortions they extract from their guitars, others at the soprano murmurs that provide theoretical relief. I didn't much go for either myself. But after suitable suffering and peer support, I learned. In the destructive elements immerse. A-

Nota bene: this maladroit fustian was penned by a man who constantly censures pop acts for their pretensions. One might surmise that it's easier than apprehending MBV's musicianship. As for (very little about) noise...

Daydream Nation [Enigma/Blast First, 1988]
At a historical juncture we can only hope isn't a fissure, a time when no sentient rock and roller could mistake extremism in the defense of liberty for a vice, the anarchic doomshows of Our Antiheroes' static youth look moderately prophetic and sound better than they used to. But they don't sound anywhere near as good as the happy-go-lucky careerism and four-on-the-floor maturity Our Heroes are indulging now. Whatever exactly their lyrics are saying--not that I can't make them out, just that catch-phrases like "You've got it" and "Just say yes" and "It's total trash" and "You're so soft you make me hard" are all I need to know--their discordant never-let-up is a philosophical triumph. They're not peering into the fissure, they're barreling down the turnpike like the fissure ain't there. And maybe they're right--they were the first time. A

Moore oughtn't have fretted about Christgau; at least he was amusing when he larruped Sonic Youth, whereas this uninstructive, sophomoric, logorrheic claptrap beggars belief for a middle-aged man. He's never worse than when he agonizes with all his little might and fails to wax profoundly florid. Whenever I read something tolerable from Christgau, my integrity itself recalls "a philosophical triumph," and I giggle.

Heart in Motion [A&M, 1991]
Xian Xover queen: "What's the difference between a PMS'ing woman and a bulldog? Lipstick! See, only a woman can tell that joke." Don't be so sure, lady. And note Hits's gnostic riposte: "What do you get when you cross an atheist with a dyslexic? Somebody who doesn't believe in dogs!" C

He might've been generous enough to warn her fans that amid all the catchy, snappily produced hits, Hats is among the worst clunkers she's ever recorded. Of course, the Village Voice was far too kewl and edgy to accommodate a Christer with a review, even if this consistently popular bestseller circulated far more successfully than the paper. Do consider Christgau's recycled irreverence if you notice that year after year and album after album, he actually takes Kanye West seriously.

The Final Cut [Columbia, 1983]
Though I wish this rewarded close listening like John Williams, Fripp & Eno, or the Archies, it's a comfort to encounter antiwar rock that has the weight of years of self-pity behind it--tends to add both literary and political resonance. With this band, aural resonance is a given. C+

I'm a Floyd fan who's dismissed this album for decades, and terse adversion to its burden doesn't consititute a review.

Cosmic Wheels [Epic, 1973]
Yellow Jell-O, or: didn't you always know he'd go bananas? C-

Everyone who's heard three to thirty-eight minutes of this knows it's heinous, but this gibber isn't clever.

The Bends [Capitol, 1995]
Admired by Britcrits, who can't tell whether they're "pop" or "rock," and their record company, which pushed (and shoved) this follow-up until it went gold Stateside, they try to prove "Creep" wasn't a one-shot by pretending that it wasn't a joke. Not that there's anything deeply phony about Thom Yorke's angst--it's just a social given, a mindset that comes as naturally to a '90s guy as the skilled guitar noises that frame it. Thus the words achieve precisely the same pitch of aesthetic necessity as the music, which is none at all. C

It could be the last great sensitively posturing rock album, not that Christgau noticed -- like any teenage quidnunc, he's primarily concerned with industry scuttlebutt; whatever residual allusion to The Product he might tender results from whatever was heard in dereliction during routine playback in an adjoining room.

The Very Best of the Doors [Elektra, 2001]
Shaman, poet, lizard king--believe that guff and you'll miss a great pop band. Ass man, schlockmeister, cosmic slimeball--that's where Jim Morrison's originality lies, and he's never been better represented. Right beneath the back-door macho resides a weak-willed whine as El Lay as Jackson Browne's, and the struggle between the two would have landed him in Vegas if he hadn't achieved oblivion in Paris first. Compelling in part because he's revolting, Jimbo reminds us that some assholes actually do live with demons. His three sidemen rocked almost as good as the Stones. Without him they were nothing. A

As an encapsulation of Jimbo's act, it's at least adequate, but he might've mentioned something about this (sixth? seventh?) studio compilation's particular transposition. Even capsule reviewers aren't paid to blithely expect, "They've heard it all, so they pretty much know what they're getting, I guess."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Egregious ideas: A Night at the Theater

Imagine, if you will...

...this portrait of a puerile, etiolated manchild. Weaned on soy formula and redigested popular culture, Breighdyn bears every peculiarity of the "soy-boy": the hypersensitive and effusive disposition, receding hairline, patchy beard, ponderous spectacles and a rictus agape in every photograph for which he postures. Tonight, Breighdyn feels secure in the society of his fellow sub-nerds, in attendance at a screening of the latest cinematic spectacular adapting for the silver screen a Marvel comic published during his infancy.
What he doesn't expect is that at this particular showing, Breighdyn alone will bear witness to an event of unprecedented, toxic masculinity and its repercussions, which may well shake the very foundations of his convictions and psyche, here in the the most offensive recesses...

...of The Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Egregious ideas: Orchestral Pop!

A comprehensive reference of popular music featuring orchestration titled Orchestral Pop! is published as a trade paperback, boasting a cover wherein a conductor turned to his orchestra is irreverently habilitated in Converse sneakers and grinning smugly at us over his shoulder. Maybe he's flanked by guitarists in regalia conformable to that of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A chapter therein dedicated to progressive rock spans no fewer than 300 pages. Within its first month of publication, over 200,000 boomers (nearly half of whom are still subscribed to Rolling Stone in 1988) purchase copies of the book. It was compiled by some asshole named Lifschitz who shaves his back every week.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Roger Ebert Reviews (Without Viewing) Hellbound

Assessors of motion pictures who are adversely prejudiced against a genre ought to oblige their audiences by excusing themselves from appraisal of movies in said genre. Notwithstanding his jejune dudgeon against horror flicks because they're mean and all the blood therein perturbs him, petulant, celebrated, overfed hack Roger Ebert ineptly professed to viewing Hellbound: Hellraiser II, for yet another review garners more cash, more cash purchases provender, and fat boy must glut.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of nightmares: the kind that you actually have, and the kind they make into movies. Real nightmares usually involve frustration or public embarrassment. In the frustrating ones, a loved one is trying to tell you something and you can't understand them, or they're in danger and you can't help them. In the embarrassing ones, it's the day of the final exam and you forgot to attend the classes, or you're in front of a crowd and can't think of anything to say, or you wandered into the hotel lobby without any clothes on and nobody has noticed you yet - but they're about to.

As I'm a cult hero and nonesuch of my trades, most of my oneiric experiences involve erotic, gastronomic, and auctorial indulgences of Caligulan proportions, but Ebert's dreams are to be expected for a petty, corpulent changeling.

Those are scary nightmares, all right, and sometimes they turn up in the movies. But "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" contains the kinds of nightmares that occur only in movies, because our real dreams have low budgets and we can't afford expensive special effects.

Ebert's abject absence of imagination is no revelation.

The movie begins a few hours after the original "Hellbound" ended.

This isn't a puzzler: Hellbound is the sequel to Hellraiser. Even New World Pictures issued press kits to professional reviewers; those with IQs exceeding room temperature could infer this titular detail.

A young girl named Kirsty has been placed in a hospital after a night in which she was tortured by the flayed corpses of her parents, who were under the supervision of the demons of hell.

In a sane world, any reviewer paid for his output who can't or won't synopsize a film accurately would be called to the carpet by his readership and employers alike.

What this girl needs is a lot of rest and a set of those positive-thinking cassettes they advertise late at night on cable TV.

Has she also need of a regale?

But no such luck. The hospital is simply another manifestation of the underworld, hell is all around us, we are powerless in its grip, and before long Kristy and a newfound friend named Tiffany are hurtling down the corridors of the damned. Give or take a detail or two, that's the story.

It isn't at all, but this is what proceeds in a review indited from hearsay, because Roger Ebert didn't watch Hellbound ere he reviewed it, as he'll promptly evidence.

"Hellbound: Hellraiser II" is like some kind of avant-garde film strip in which there is no beginning, no middle, no end, but simply a series of gruesome images that can be watched in any order.

One can envision Ebert stamping his pudgy foot whilst typing this surmisal. Hellbound's plot is quite commonplace.

The images have been constructed with a certain amount of care and craftsmanship; the technical credits on this movie run to four single-spaced pages.

I'm almost surprised that Ebert deferred from his engorgement for perchance a minute to riffle through his press kit.

We see lots of bodies that have been skinned alive, so that the blood still glistens on the exposed muscles. We see creatures who have been burned and mutilated and twisted into grotesque shapes and condemned for eternity to unspeakable and hopeless tortures.

So, the reviewer images what he's heard of the production for the benefit of teenagers and concerned parents whose regard for it's expected to be antipodal.

We hear deep, rasping laughter as the denizens of hell chortle over the plight of the terrified girls. And we hear their desperate voices calling to each other.

"Kirsty!" we hear. And "Tiffany!" And "Kirsty!!!" and "Tiffany!!!" And "Kirstiyyyyyyy!!!!!" And "Tiffanyyyyyyy!!!!!" I'm afraid this is another one of those movies that violates the First Rule of Repetition of Names, which states that when the same names are repeated in a movie more than four times a minute for more than three minutes in a row, the audience breaks out into sarcastic laughter, and some of the ruder members are likely to start shouting "Kirsty!" and "Tiffany!" at the screen.

This never transpires in the picture; Imogen Boorman's character couldn't call to Ashley Laurence's repeatedly because she's mute for the nigh-totality of the film. She literally utters not a dozen lines, all of which are vocalized in the movie's last fifteen minutes, and not one of which is a vociferation bespeaking her co-star. Ebert substituted pettish conjecture for actual evaluation because he indiscriminately hates horror movies and didn't even watch this one.

But this movie violates more rules than the First Rule of Repetition.

How did anyone countenance this little imbecile's "rules?" Nothing's as evidential of impotence than the compulsion to propound arbitrary rules pertaining to a medium rather than simply assessing a work's quality and idiom its own terms.

It also violates a basic convention of story construction, which suggests that we should get at least a vague idea of where the story began and where it might be headed. This movie has no plot in a conventional sense.

As those of us who've actually watched this movie know, it was written in particular abidance by narrative convention.

It is simply a series of ugly and bloody episodes strung together one after another like a demo tape by a perverted special-effects man. There is nothing the heroines can do to understand or change their plight and no way we can get involved in their story.

During this movie's second and third acts, its heroines are entirely preoccupied with opposition to preternatural antagonists and phenomena, upon which they prevail with the exercise of some ingenuity. An especially heinous critic wouldn't know this and couldn't be engaged by the movie if he hadn't seen it.

That makes "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" an ideal movie for audiences with little taste

Ebert lauded The Women, Home Alone 3, Clash of the Titans, Cars 2, Escape From L.A. and Knowing, and famously panned A Clockwork Orange, Blue Velvet, The Flower of My Secret, The Tenant, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Taste of Cherry.

and atrophied attention spans who want to glance at the screen occasionally and ascertain that something is still happening up there.

That would connote more attention than that demonstrated in this review, which represents an egregious dereliction of occupational responsibility.

If you fit that description, you have probably not read this far, but what the heck, we believe in full-service reviews around here.

You're welcome.

Which is most appalling: Ebert's blatant contumely for his audience, fatuous self-satisfaction or fraud disclosed in penning a review of a picture he clearly hadn't seen, for which he was paid?

Personally, I love Hellbound, but can't deny that it's a deeply flawed picture: its continuity is a shambles (especially in severalty from its predecessor); production design and effects alike are inspired but fashioned and executed with slipshod inconsistency; good performances are squandered on dialogue of equally varied quality, and the entire undertaking was obviously festinated to capitalize on Barker's hit. Ebert didn't advert to one of these glaring faults because he didn't even watch the movie. How does a professional, syndicated reviewer get away with this sort of stupid dupery?