November 20, 2008

ladyhawkeThe self titled debut from New Zealand singer/songwriter Ladyhawke (Pip Brown) is charming, ingratiating synthesizer driven rock that immediately hits all the pop pleasure centers. Her music evokes such 70’s and 80’s acts as Kim Wilde, Gary Numan, Devo, Sheila E, Missing Persons and Depeche Mode, and has a decidedly retro feel, but she’s so good at finding new hooks in music from a bygone era that most listeners will be happy to party like it’s 1985. It drifts a bit too far into Belinda Carlisle solo territory towards the end of the album for my taste, but in general, Ladyhawke is a lot of good, uncomplicated fun. Fans of bands like Cut Copy, Freezepop, Ladytron and Santogold will want to take note of Ladyhawke’s unabashedly entertaining music. Standout cuts: “Magic,” “My Delirium,” “Paris Is Burning” and “Dusk Til Dawn.”

The first new album from Omaha based the Faint in four years is also the first for their brand new self-owned label, blank.wav: The ten tracks on Fasciinatiion cover everything from tabloid coverage of celebrities, identity, consciousness, self-image and bioengineering. Fortunately, like their fellow travelers Devo, they have a knack for putting across weighty ideas without getting bogged down in pretension, wrapping them instead in irresistible melodies and a healthy dose of humor. The music here is a combination of synthpop and New Wave and punk style guitar rock, and you may wonder, can you dance to most of it? Why, yes, you can. Fasciinatiion is a welcome return for a band one hopes won’t take so long to put out their next album. Standout cuts: “Get Seduced,” “The Geeks Were Right,” “Mirror Error” and “Forever Growing Centipedes.”

This Is Not The World is the third album from UK based the Futureheads, and their first indie release from their very own label, Nul Records. It’s a mixed bag for me, all in all: On most of the songs, the band recalls either the Cure or XTC, which is not itself a bad thing, but this set of music started out strong for me, in particular the first three tracks (“The Beginning Of The Twist,” “Walking Backwards” and “Think Tonight”) but then it tapered off as it went on. It’s certainly not that the energy ever flags, as virtually every song is hard driving, New Wave style rock, and you can imagine nearly every song being pogo-ready in a live setting. My enthusiasm for the whole proceedings just flagged after a few songs, and nothing, save for those initial songs, much stuck in my head. I’ve noticed this album is getting raves in other quarters, so it may be just a matter of taste, but for my part, This Is Not The World was an album that only half worked for me.

mybloodyvalentineSince the 3-D (!) remake of this 1981 cult favorite comes out January of next year, I figured I’d watch the original, having never seen all of it. (I think the first time I saw it was on late night cable, and only caught bits and pieces of it.) My Bloody Valentine is afflicted with a lot of the same problems that afflict low budget 80’s slasher movies, that is, bad dialogue, spotty acting, highly derivative plot with the characters making the standard poorly thought out and often fatal decisions once they realize danger is afoot, but the movie nevertheless succeeds almost in spite of itself, mostly owing to its unique premise: A psychotic miner stalks Valentine party goers 2000 feet underground in a Canadian mine shaft. Once the action moves into the mine, the filmmakers exploit the location pretty effectively, working up an atmosphere of fear and tension, not to mention claustrophobia. A couple of standout scenes involve a harrowing trip up a ladder and a rail car ride to the surface. The killer also looks singularly scary, decked out in a jumpsuit with a miner’s helmet with a light, a gas mask and goggles. One great shot of him shows him slightly backlit at the end of a tunnel, his ax at the ready, and that shot alone practically made the movie for me. Relatively speaking, it’s light on the gore, having had 8 or 9 minutes of violence edited out owing to the threat of an MPAA X rating, but you end up seeing just enough for it to be effective. Another point in My Bloody Valentine‘s favor is its fairly brisk pace. A lot of slasher movies have long, boring stretches in between the times the killer makes his/her appearance, sometimes as long as half the movie, but this movie gets down to business almost immediately, the killer making an appearance every ten minutes or so. Of course, that also means a lot of characters meet a sorry fate, but that’s the way it goes with these sort of movies, anyway. A lot of people champion My Bloody Valentine as being one of their favorite slasher films, Quentin Tarantino included, and having now seen the movie in its entirety, I wouldn’t rank it as being my favorite, as Halloween will always occupy that spot, but it’s pretty good, especially for its genre. It remains to be seen as to whether or not a director’s cut of the movie, with the excised footage restored, will ever be released, as some hoped it would be when the movie was initially issued on DVD. Now that the remake is forthcoming, there’s renewed hope that this will happen, but if it doesn’t, oh well: What exists is good on its own. The print of the movie on the DVD is excellent, better than you would have expected for a 27 year old low budget release. No extras, though, but apparently that’s just how Paramount treats its 80’s horror releases, the Friday the 13th movies included. Is My Bloody Valentine a great movie? Well, no, but it’s a highly effective one, with some truly creepy final moments, and I definitely recommend it for horror fans.


(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)