Saturday, June 27, 2009

WANNA BE SOMEONE WHO COW WOW WOWS



The New York Dolls played Music Hall of Williamsburg this past Monday to a confused crowd of hipsters and people way past their prime. Hey, kind of like the band members themselves!

I'm kidding. Well, no. Well, kind of. David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, in their wonderful post-drugged-out glories, are the only two original members still performing today. And good for them, because they can still rock harder than probably anyone I've ever seen. They have a good sense of humor about themselves and are very playful - encouraging the crowd to have even half as much fun as they clearly do.

Also with them is my hero Steve Conte, who is the hardest working man in punk who still "get it", holding his guitar out to the crowd so they can pull at and run their fingers across its strings and running it across his monitor for feedback effects. A band like New York Dolls should be a novelty act playing Vegas at this point, which makes seeing them in one of the smaller famous venues in NYC all the more exciting.

Williamsburg is small and decidedly very un-punk. The crowd moved during the songs they recognized, some even going so far as to jump in place. But you do not go to Music Hall of Williamsburg to mosh. You go to show off your new beard and nod your head to the loudest act you can find. "Am I being ironic?" Who knows! Moshing is for teenagers.

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This past week I read Ode to Kirihito, oft cited as the masterwork of my other hero, Osamu Tezuka. Long-time FTH readers will note my affinity for this man's work, which has made significant contributions to the culture of sf in pure artistist form.

It's about a brilliant scientist named Kirihito who is investigating a mysterious disease called "monmow", which has been turning people into primative animals, eventually killing them. As per his mentor's request, Kirihito goes off to a secluded town where cases have erupted, eventually contracting it himself. The 800+ page graphic novel then follows his downward spiral and the scandal that envelopes it in one of the darkest Tezuka stories I've read thus far.

I very much enjoyed this; I actually wound up reading the majority of it one sitting, because I had no desire to stop. While Tezuka's silliness and cartoony caricatures are absent, many plot points spiral haphazardly toward conclusion in his signature fashion. There are also a number of "breakdown" moments (as seen above) where the reader suddenly enters the abstract psyche of a main character going through stressful agony.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Black Jack Vol. 5.

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Also in the world of bizarre Japanese things is Flower, Sun and Rain released for the Nintendo DS. It was created by grasshopper manufacture, Marvelous Interactive, outsourcing studio h.a.n.d., and published in America by XSEED and Marvelous. It's a port of the sophomore effort of Suda 51, whom I think is the only man in video games worth noting these days.

FSR is a pretty bad game, featuring lots of backtracking, puzzles requiring obscure algebra, and just a general outdated design. Much like other Suda 51 games, it's not so much about the game as it is the story and unique presentation. It goes something like this:

Sumio Mondo, a "searcher" who is a master at cracking codes, is sent to Lospass Island, a small resort island that serves as the home to Flower, Sun and Rain, a high-class hotel. His mission is to prevent a terrorist plan to explode an airplane, which is set to take off the day Mondo gets there. On the first day, Mondo is stopped by a hotel resident and asked to use his expertise to crack a code for them. Because he is nice, he gets to work. After he achieves his goal, he steps out onto the veranda and witnesses the airplane take off and explode in mid-air. The next day he wakes up, and the airplane hasn't taken off yet. He gets up to find the bomb, but it stopped yet again by another resident. This happens over and over again.

As the days go on, Mondo begins to unravel, and he starts to believe in conspiracies against him. More and more outlandish things happen to him at precisely timed moments as the hotel and its entire cast of characters begin to warp and torment the poor searcher.

The game has a nice sense of humor and I enjoy its surreal narrative. I love anything that has a large ensemble for a cast. But it's difficult for me to recommend it, because it's not for everyone. You really need to be patient, because there's a lot of walking (no transportation is allowed on the island). There are some chapters that require you to move Mondo from one end of the island to the other, which isn't difficult as there are no obstacles, but it is tedious work.

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Last, but certainly not least, is my second trip (and possibly last) to Celebrate Brooklyn this summer. Blonde Redhead played a free show last night, marking the third time I've seen this fantastic band.

The pictures I have of the show are pretty bad, and BrooklynVegan hasn't updated yet today, so deal with it. BR's set consisted mostly of material from their albums 23 and Misery of a Butterfly, much like the last two times I've seen them (although Kazu Makino was not wearing a plastic nurse outfit, and there were absolutely zero technical problems! Imagine that!). I also finally got to see them play "Messenger" without Amedeo Pace's voice going out midway through the song. (Quote of the night: When they broke out into "Spring and by Summer Fall" and someone yelled out "THAT'S THAT SONG FROM THE CAR COMMERCIAL!")

The crowd waited in line through a downpour to see them and it was worth the effort, because the rest of the night was cool and clear. The space in the Prospect Park Bandshell is large, as I mentioned in my Byrne post a few weeks back, and we actually got into it this time, with primo seats.

Every time I see Blonde Redhead there's always one guy behind me explaining to his group of friends about how Makino fell off a horse, had to undergo major surgery, and then wrote an entire album about it. This same expert thought that any song the band played before their Misery is a Butterfly album was "new" and his mind was blown each time. The band has a large repertoire - I believe they don't exploit it enough, but the crowd might be bored with their early psychadelic and no wave efforts.

Still, you know what would really floor me? If anyone knew where they got their name from.

3 comments:

ZAC said...

if you don't hang out with me this week, i will never forgive you.

Victoria said...

New York Dolls, NOM NOM NOM. Thank you for coming with me!

Yair Oelbaum said...

The DNA song, Blonde Red Head, durrrr.
No wave never dies.