Wednesday, March 3, 2010


This movie piqued my curiosity since I was around twelve years old. You see way back in the 80s there were these things called video stores and VHS tapes. In my hometown we had five of these mom & pop stores before Blockbuster came along and ruined everything. Everyone of these of these stores had a copy and it was always checked out. My brother and I would just look at the cover and laugh at it and read the description and think it sounded cool and want to rent it, but we never did. They never showed it on cable TV or even late night regular TV. So I gave up on it.

Fast forward (see what I did there)to 1997 my first year at Sam Houston State University. I was a stranger in a strange land, Huntsville, TX to be exact. I didn't know anybody and this town was as small and boring as the one I'd lived in all my life. I was here to earn my college degree in video production. So where would be the first logical place to go? The unemployment line. But seriously folks I found my way to the first mom and pop video shop (yes they still exist). I perused the aisles not really finding anything that jumped out at me. Then there it was, that weird familiar box: Tapeheads! It was in stock and I could actually rent it! Would it be worth the ten year wait? Yes my friends it would be.

This movie is just cool on so many levels. It is a cult movie and music lovers dream; it was made for us. It has so many cool musicians and bands making cameos and some have supporting roles. Can you tell me any other film that features Sam from the soul group Sam & Dave, Junior Walker, Ted Nugent, Weird Al, Doug E Fresh, Lords of the New Church, Jello Biafra,King Cotton and an uncredited Courtney Love? Didn't think so. It also features awesome (newcomers at the time) John Cusack and Tim Robbins. John and Tim have a wonderful chemistry as two best friends who continue to work at dead end jobs until they get an idea to make music videos. They start out making videos for Mo Fuzz (Don Corneilus of Soul Train fame) and also have to make a few crummy commercials. One of the commercials is for Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles ( a real place in California). It smells of the 80s. Wonderfully bad rap and tacky visuals.

Their big break however comes by accident. It must be seen to be truly enjoyed. They are soon enjoying fame but what they really want to do is get a reunion of their fave soul group Swanky Modes together. During all of this they get wrapped up in a black mail scandal.

I could quote from this movie all day it is that awesome. I can't give it a proper review as there is a lot going on the film and I don't want to ramble. This movie is a lot like Repo Man, another movie you need to check out if you haven't already. It's weird, it's funny, and it has a great soundtrack. What more could you want?

Enjoy it or don't.

Darren Menendez

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Belle & Sebastian-If You're Feeling Sinister

Part 3 of the Sophomore Success series:

Belle and Sebastian are a band that survive almost exclusively on cult status. They've garnered a few more listeners after their songs were featured in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Juno, but like Stuart Murdoch (leader of the group) said "It's not like we're a big famous band. I really can't imagine anyone saying "ooh, I can't wait for the new Belle & Sebastian record."
I guess I'm one of the few that would like to hear a new B&S record but the closest thing we'll get to that now is God Help The Girl. This is a project of Stuart's in which all of B&S plays except him. He wrote this musical and hired three different females to sing all the songs he wrote. I've heard snippets. It's a pretty cool soul thing. There were hints of a soul direction on the last B&S record The Life Pursuit. But it also marked a big turn/departure in their sound and a lot of fans jumped off the band wagon. Life Pursuit had a lot of songs with a Northern Soul or T. Rex rock sound. Several critics and fans cried fowl "Why can't they make stuff like If You're Feeling Sinister anymore." To which I reply "Why don't you just go listen to your CD then if you want to hear stuff like that?"
I like it when bands change up their sound a bit and are still good. The Beach Boys, Rush, TMBG, Belle and Sebastian, Bowie, and Zappa. They all did it and still put out good stuff. If You're Feeling Sinister is one of those records that's mentioned on so many critics lists as an album you have to hear. So, here I am another critic telling you yes you must hear it.
Let's start this review off with a warning that may sound like I don't want you to get this CD, but oh my friends, I do. First off I have a few friends that don't like B&S because Stuart has a "weird voice". That's fine, Bob Dylan has a "weird voice" and what we must remember is that like Dylan, Stuart is an excellent songwriter and these songs have heart. Secondly, the CD is poorly recorded, even though it's some of the best songs he wrote at times it sounds like a demo rather than a master. Finally, if folky "twee-pop" isn't your thing you probably won't dig it. That being said if you're in, I'm in.
The CD opens with the brilliant track "The Stars of Track and Field" and closes with the sad yet hopeful "Judy and the Dream of Horses". The reason I love this album is that every track reminds you of some experience in your life whether it's something you've actually dealt with or someone you've known experienced. It's a perfect lazy Sunday sit in your bedroom type record. Some critics compared it to Nick Drake's work. I love Nick but the only comparison I could draw was that both artists music is timeless because of the wonderful stories told through the characters in the songs. Stuart's writing is a bit like Morrisey in the sense that it's poetic and there is some clever humor mixed in with the sadness. The lyrics wonderfully off-set the music. The music has some sad tones but over all has a little jaunt in it and when set against melancholy lyrics it just works. Kind of like chocolate and peanut butter, you get the salty and the sweet and all is right with the world.

Enjoy it or don't.

Darren Menendez