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Ed Hamell – RANT & ROLL (DVD, Righteous Babe Records)

Posted: August 21st, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

“Hamell is Bill Hicks, Hunter S. Thompson and Joe Strummer all rolled into one sweaty, snarling, pugnacious pit bull of a man.” Well, the press release is half right. You could just as easily say this rasping American comedian is one very angry bastard – you would be if you were brought up in a horrendously conservative American family in horrendously conservative America in the 70s.

There is one gem of a story involving a mother’s dead body and her son’s extremely inappropriate humour. The whole DVD is worth just this story, and I won’t ruin it for you. Hamell says his excuse for divulging in his friends’ most private of stories is, with an irresistible shrug: “well, if you’re my friend and you tell me these stories…”There’s also a horrifying satirical song about ‘The Trough’, an ultra-modern restaurant of Hamell’s invention which advertises “our friendly immigrant staff will even chew the food for you… you know, doing those jobs us Americans don’t wanna do.” Despite the unattractive aspects of ‘Rant and Roll’ there are some pretty clever cracks (e.g. Hamell visits “a crack bar from ‘Cheers’”, whatever a crack bar is) and without being patronising his memory for lines is astonishing.

Footage from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival seldom tickles the un-PC ribs; a great deal of his material can be lazily vulgar and extremely irreverent. This is just a personal thing, but I’m not massively comfortable when drugs are glamorized. Luckily for Hamell he doesn’t exactly do this, yet he looks on his drug-fuelled days (we’re talking crack, here, ho bloody ho) with undisguised nostalgia. A lesser prude would probably love the spaced-out tales more than I do – going to church on acid and being horrified by ‘eating the body of Christ’ is a good one, admittedly.

The incessant verbal attacks, the angry ramblings get a bit too much towards even the half hour mark, but if you think you can stomach some seriously crude material, then give ‘Rant and Roll’ and spin and I think you’d enjoy his “wicked sense of humour” more than I did.


Pascal Ansell

Onion News Network

Posted: August 5th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Haven’t bothered visiting the Onion for quite a while, it seemed that either the written content was getting formulaic or I couldn’t find the lulz because of the redesign.

However, I’m liking their video podcasts. From the 2 I’ve seen, they’re doing for US cable news what the Day Today did to News at Ten. This one (Beijing Olympics: Trap?) is like a 3 minute primer on Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.

In other news: beat rising prices by holding a barbecue at your house. Result: fridge full of food.

Bostin’ Birmingham band

Posted: July 19th, 2008, by Simon Minter

By crikey, I really like the Johnny Foreigner album. I know it’s been out a little while now, but I’ll reiterate what you can already read in many other places – get it, it’s great. Here’s some music:


Name that tune

Posted: July 17th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

If someone who knows more than me about riot grrrl-y tunes could tell me what the song on this video is it would make me happy.


diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #12

Posted: July 15th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted January 2004)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

The Fantastic Forbis world of Film, Part 2

May (dir: Lucky McKee)

May is a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies.

To be fair, it’s also a horror movie for people who do like horror movies, which makes it a horror movie for pretty much everyone, and not to be missed.

The set up is as follows. May Canady (Angela Bettis) is a socially awkward young woman with a wandering eye (corrected by glasses and contacts) and a penchant for talking to the ceramic doll given to her as a child. Having grown up with no real friends, May’s interactions with others are strained, often to a comical degree, and I found myself watching her with equal parts pity and bemusement. Having recently passed into the realm of womanhood, May becomes attracted to Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a mechanic whose shaggy mane and blue-collar clothing make him look like an amalgamation of all the members of The Strokes. In particular, May is fascinated by Adam’s hands, bringing to mind the Seinfeld episode in which George becomes a hand model (a reference that’s vaguely alluded to in the film.) Adam initially finds a certain charm in May’s naiveté and the two hit it off. But he soon notices a darker side to the waifish ingénue’s behavior and spurns her, sending her reeling into the arms of Polly, a lesbian cad and co-worker of May’s played by Anna Faris (Scary Movie).

As May is exposed to both the pleasures and perfidy that are inherent in modern sexual politics, she becomes more and more unhinged, and her psychological disintegration is represented by the slow cracking of the case in which her favorite doll is ensconced. Finally, May snaps and decides that since everyone has at least one ‘perfect’ part, she’ll take the best parts of everyone and combine them into a ‘perfect’ friend.

What will non-horror fans like about May? For starters, it’s original. May doesn’t go anywhere near the predictable path of a slowly mounting body count that most horror flicks follow, and instead looks to May’s disturbing inner battles to create tension. And cinematography buffs will appreciate May‘s eclectic angles and set design. While I’ve read reviews that compare the film to the work of Italian horrormeister, Dario Argento, I found myself more reminded of Cronenberg (The Brood, Naked Lunch) on his good days. May also has a contemporary feel, showing young adults who have a modern set of sexual mores as opposed to the pre-HIV mantra of ‘Let’s fuck anything’ that most accessory slasher movie characters seem to inherit. (This is may be the first horror film truly aimed at Generation Y).

Finally, May has an intellectual girth that would appeal to highbrow viewers – it’s a reflection on the lonely individuals who fall through the cracks of society yet yearn for normal interaction. But lowbrow horror buffs (a group to which I proudly claim membership) will find plenty to like too. Though the bloodshed doesn’t start until late in the game, it’s by no means sparse. And director Lucky Mckee proves more than capable of creating an unsettling mood throughout the film, imbuing the viewer with the notion that something’s wrong here, even if they can’t quite put their finger on it. Combine all that with – praise Jesus! – lesbian scenes with the divinely beautiful Anna Faris, and May definitely passes the mustard for the Fangoria set.

This is not to say May is perfect. I found the title character’s transition from timid geek to murderous chick a bit too sudden. (Though Angela Bettis certainly comes across as a capable actress – it’s more a flaw of editing). And the final concept of May Frankensteining together a perfect person wasn’t particularly intriguing.

Nonetheless, you could do a lot worse. The film is an excellent example of a self-actualized voice sneaking from the sidelines of cinema and using the limitation of a low budget as an impetus to get creative. The film easily trounces such recent genre offerings as Darkness Falls and Fear Dot Com, both of which operated with bigger stars and greater FX budget. With a little luck, the creative forces behind May can go far in the movie world.

diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #11

Posted: July 11th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted October 2003)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

[A note from your editor…] Wil has been a busy man recently, and so you have been neglected from reading his deranged columns of late. I assure you that he is on the case and will be submitting new things very soon, but for now, may I present you with a couple of movie reviews which Mr Forbis has written in one of his ‘other lives’? You might not feel that these are strictly relevant in this day and age (ie, the films are quite old), but hey, that’s all you’re getting. Enjoy!

The Fantastic Forbis world of Film

Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (dir: Sam Raimi)

Recently a friend of mine satiated my quest for 80’s kiddie porn by lending me a copy of the Molly Ringwald classic, 16 Candles. Upon its return my friend insinuated that I should reply to the favor by lending her a copy of one on the many fine films in my video collection. “How about Evil Dead II?” “I asked. “It’s just like 16 Candles, but with more flying zombies!”

In truth, Evil Dead II – Dead By Dawn is undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever made. Directed by Sam Raimi (Of current A Simple Plan fame) and starring his childhood friend, Bruce Campbell (a modern day Buster Keaton) the film is essentially a remake of the first Evil Dead with a much bigger budget. Really more of a comedy than a horror flick (albeit a comedy where all the characters either die or are hideously tortured) the plot ghosts the story of its predecessor – young people arrive in spooky house, summon forces of evil and then wackiness ensues. A lot of what keeps the film becoming a cliché of the Friday the 13th part 7 variety is Campbell’s wonderful overacting; he seems to have a continual body tic that offsets his “boy next door” good looks with spastic twitching. He then proceeds to heighten that effect with quietly mumbled curses in the flavor of Elmer Fudd.

Also impressive is the pure physical abuse Campbell takes during the film: he’s thrown from a car window, repeatedly smashed into trees, maniacally saws off his own demon-processed hand and has enough dishware smashed against his head to knock out Iron Mike. One gets the feeling that if Campbell wasn’t available for the role it would have gone to Roger Rabbit.

Despite the underlying farcical nature of the film, there is a moody eerieness. Raimi is one of the few directors who can use a fog machine in a way that doesn’t remind you of a 1989 Whitesnake concert and also has some patented violent camerawork that continually disorients the viewer and creates the illusion of panic. His “rushing along the ground” shot that represents an evil force we never really see is perhaps the most instantly recognizable and identifying camera shot of any director. (Though I just recently read the idea wasn’t Raimi’s but some forgettable AD or something.) There’s also some great claymation work right out of the Ray Harryhausen catalogue that it its own way seems far more impressive than the computer generated effects of films such as Deep Impact or Jurassic Park. You can see the elbow grease that goes into claymation; it’s strikingly obvious that the only way to create such effects is to diligently manipulate clay and camera for what must be days. The purity of the effort overcomes the obvious limitations on realism.

So the film moves along, humorously eliminating its human characters while Bruce Campbell’s alter ego, Ash, progresses from a nervous simp, to a kick-ass, battle ready simp. The plot leads directly into what was essentially the third Evil Dead, Army of Darkness. All three films are vital to any connoisseur of cult, but I do believe it is the second Evil Dead that stands the strongest. Evil Dead II also made a minor contribution to pop culture that I never really noticed until a visit to my friend Dan’s House, this past summer. “You know,” I mentioned. “I don’t think you really saw zombies with eyeballs until Evil Dead II” (A large grinning and eyeballed, zombie stares out from the EDII poster.) And this is true. The old style zombies of the Christopher Lee mummy films to even Ed Wood’s work have no apparent vision devices. But a few years after Evil Dead II, films like Return of the Living Dead (another classic, the film that got me into Punk Rock) or Scooby Doo on Zombie Island appeared, featuring zombies with full ocular abilities. I know many of you have often wondered when the undead first appeared with functioning eyeballs and hopefully this goes a long way towards answering your question.

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Summer catch-up: Films

Posted: June 25th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

What the diskant team have been watching this Summer.

Jandek On Corwood
Now on DVD is the by-now quite old documentary Jandek On Corwood. Although it means putting up with yet more American talking heads who insist on phrasing everything they say like a question, it’s a remarkably gripping film made with very little source material save for the aforementioned interviews. I can take or leave most of Jandek’s music and I have my own theories about what’s behind it but the documentary is incredibly watchable even for people who aren’t fans. Video 1 | Video 2. [Chris Summerlin]

In Search of a Midnight Kiss
In the same week that I took a lucky lady (ho ho) to the SEX AND THE CITY movie I really liked IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS, which I instead found myself watching on my own.  I am officially becoming more soppy with age as my demographic appears more lovelorn than ever but can still manage to be so in a cool, black and white way that is sharper and spikier than those two drips in Before Sunrise ever got. [JGram]

Blades of Glory
When I saw it recently at ATP I genuinely thought it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. I like it when that happens. [Simon Minter]

Joy Division
Written by Jon Savage, who reviewed ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in 1979 this is the story of the Manchester band whose music captured the post-industrial world of the late 70s and features all surviving protagonists. The grimness of their urban reality is captured via archive footage of high-rise flats that developed ‘concrete cancer.’ Bernard Sumner met Peter Hook in Salford and the story of the band really begins when they paid 50p for the legendary Sex Pistols gig at the Free Trade Hall and the ‘exciting mess,’ inspired them. Soon Ian Curtis answered an advert and Stephen Morris became their drummer. The film documents the transition from their early outings as Warsaw and their name change to that of the Nazi brothel. It details Gretton’s management, their signing with Factory. Peter Saville discusses the bleak cover art and on the road stories are interspersed with live performance footage. Throughout the film the lyrics to tracks such as ‘Digital’ and ‘Dead Souls’ are emblazoned on the screen as you are delivered to places such as The Electric Circus, their rehearsal rooms and the Russell Club, first home of Factory. Personal viewpoints come from Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P. Orridge, Paul Morley, Anton Corbijn and Belgian journalist Annik Honoré who speaks for the first time about her relationship with Curtis. This documentary is at times laugh out loud funny. Darker moments are Curtis’s struggle with epilepsy, and the bands guilt about not realising his intent. The film briefly touches on their rebirth as New Order after this tragic event.  This will appeal to people who are Joy Division fans as unlike ‘Control,’ it tells the true story rather than the printed legend. It is all acutely real, depicted in technicolour thirty years on.  ‘The thing is, it was all very easy,’ says Hooky. ‘It only got difficult after he died.’ [Mandy Williams]

No Country For Old Men
I always say this but I don’t like watching films. That said, No Country For Old Men blew me away despute being a tense and unrewarding cinema-going experience thanks to the crowd as per normal. It’s just out on DVD so I will be picking through the details again in the comfort of my own home. Video. [Chris Summerlin]

Rambo / Cloverfield / Indiana Jones / Iron Man
For some reason I’ve really been missing out on any kind of ‘credible’ or ‘art house’ films at the cinema this year – I think Persepolis is the only thing I could be bothered with. But then I’ve also had a great time switching off my brain and revelling in the awful spectacles of Rambo (brilliantly bloody), Cloverfield (gets better with every annoying castmember offed) and Indiana Jones Checks Into The Retirement Home (flashes of brilliance, long yawning stretches of Lucas-inspired drivel). I even saw Iron Man the other week and it was pretty good in places (read as: Robert Downey Jr made the film), if annoyingly transparent in its attempts to set up yet another ‘franchise’. [Dave Stockwell]

Continue reading »

Chart Show indie charts

Posted: June 12th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Damn you, Sweeping The Nation. A mention of The Chart Show’s indie chart run-downs of the nineties and two hours later I am still watching them on YouTube. There are millions of them and I pretty much remember every single one. As a teenager, my life pretty much revolved around Wednesday mornings when the Melody Maker/Sounds/NME came out and every third Saturday morning when The Chart Show did its run down of the Indie charts and the thrill of wondering which two videos they would play. The early days were the best, when at least half the chart entries would be played over a dodgy press photo and even the two videos would be ridiculously obscure. Below is an amazing example where the two videos shown are My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3, on a prime-time Saturday morning TV show. Sadly the Bruce Willis video afterwards is cut off after a few seconds.


Of course, the best part was the shoddy graphics and terrible ‘facts’ about the bands which became increasingly ludicrous. As the years progressed, the graphics improved, Britpop arrived and indie got more mainstream losing some of the thrill as the #1 video could just as likely be played in the ‘proper’ top 10 later in the program. It seems like an age ago, in these days of MySpace and Amazon. I’m glad I no longer have to buy all my records from adverts in the back of the NME or drag a tape recorder around the house to try and get a decent radio signal for John Peel because we didn’t have FM radio yet up North.

Of course, I can’t finish without mentioning the never-bettered Snub TV. It’s just too good to know where to start so just watch them all. Like you’ve got anything better to do.

ANI DIFRANCO – Live at Babeville (DVD, Righteous Babe Records)

Posted: June 3rd, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

After 17 studio albums and having a foreign organism having fed off her food then forcibly left her poor body in a process known as ‘child-birth’, the Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Ani Difranco decided not to put her feet up. Instead she decided to make a live DVD of her band playing in a converted church in downtown Manhattan. It happens to be one she restored into the delightful venue Babeville, named after her record label, Righteous Babe.

Ani plays a sophisticated strain of acoustic pop; intelligent, tasteful and shrewdly put together. Her music resembles a toned-down and less bloody-minded Alanis Morissette, but not without a terrific bite to the lyrics. They concern a few main topics: politics, activism, identity; a good number of songs sketch out the ‘get-out-of-my-house-and-my-life’ scenario, or the pursuing of a successful relationship and the inevitable pain of it never succeeding. And how bloody awful men are. Hmm. Ani’s a long-suffering activist and outspoken critic of, well, lots of things, evident in this gem of a justification:

Every time I say something they find hard to hear / They chalk it up to my anger / And never to their own fear

As she begins her set, Ani tells the crowd that “I hope you feel photogenic” as 6 cameras dart around the hall, her drummer, percussionist and bassist retaining poise as they poke around their unmentionables. The percussionist, Mike Dillon, is Difranco’s discreet but remarkable bandmember, who warps his vibes through a delay pedal, squashing the signal about the tall church walls, with some delicate tabla tapping to compliment the mix.

While trying to avoid, avoid, avoid the irresistible cliché, (her lyrics are so clever that it will out anyhow): every song is a story, an argument. Let’s not forget the magnificent lyrics to her latest song ‘Present/Infant’ – (very touching considering the arrival of her child): “I would defend to the ends of the earth / Her perfect right to be”. The sight of a parent moulding their young to an ‘ideal child’ is always worrying – Ani’s artistic and maternal dignity is sealed in a sentence. I think I love her.

Pascal Ansell


Like Pie? Support pie-throwers!

Posted: May 22nd, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Diskant likes pie. This New York Times columnist doesn’t like pie as much as he likes rich people. And wars. He’s boring. This video is the best thing he’s ever been (inadvertently) involved with:[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=sv6nvMUq10U[/youtube]

Apparently the pastry-wielding prankster in the video is facing expulsion from their university. Online petitions don’t amount to much more than a biscuit, but, hey, a University’s more likely to listen than a government, so why not sign this in support of the pie-thrower.