Bryan Ferry – Olympia

In the summer of 1972 a friend and I were seeing London record store by record store, club by club, absorbing as much of the music scene as possible.  We saw the Annie Haslam edition of Renaissance performing for free in a pub before their first album came out.  We went to a weekend folk festival that featured Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, the Strawbs, Al Stewart and lots of others.  Bowie doing Ziggy Stardust at the Rainbow.  Yes premiering Close to the Edge, opening acts included Mahavishnu Orchestra and Gary Wright.  Mungo Jerry in Torquay (long before Fawlty Towers).   The one group I was most curious to see but didn’t was Roxy Music.  I’d been reading about them in NME and bought the album, even though I had nothing to play it on, just staring at the cover images.  I got back to the US, played the record, it lived up to all my expectations, and I’ve been a fan of all of them – the band, Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Paul Thompson – ever since.   (I did get to see them a couple of times later on, the last time being a reunion tour in the U.S. in 2001.)

Bryan Ferry is now 65 years old (gulp!) and has just released a new album, Olympia.  It’s his first album of mostly original songs since 2002.  (The covers include Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren and Traffic’s No Face No Name No Number).  One song is a collaboration with Groove Armada, another with Scissor Sisters.  Musicians on the album include Eno, Manzanera, Nile Rodgers, David Gilmour, Jonny Greenwood, Flea.   And I can’t figure out if I like it or not.

(That’s Kate Moss on the cover.)

The sound of the album is what you expect from a Ferry album – very lush and “produced,” it may initially hit you as a wall of sound but listen closely and there’s a lot going on and it sounds as if they labored for years over every note and arrangement, it sounds carefully crafted and completely un-spontaneous, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But the first thing is Ferry’s voice.  Never your typical crooner, I think in the early years many saw that voice as an acquired taste.  (Roxy Music was practically booed off stage on their first US tour, opening for Jethro Tull.)  But his singing here, where his voice is mostly little more than a harsh whisper , it sounds as if he’s singing a half tone flat for the entire album.

As for the songs?  You Can Dance is remix-friendly, the Traffic cover sticks in my mind, the rest of the album sort of floats by, not much is really sticking.  To me this is mood music, atmosphere music, a soundtrack or background to some club that would never let me past the velvet rope.

I’m gonna keep playing it.  There’s something about it that I can’t quite put my finger on.  Curious to get other peoples’ impressions on it.

Bruno Mars

I don’t listen to too much current pop music.  Most of what I do hear leaves me cold.  Bruno Mars is the rare exception.

25 year old Peter Gene Hernandez is Puerto Rican/Filipino and raised in Hawaii.  He rose up the music ladder by co-writing songs like Right Round by Flo-rida and recent global hit Fuck You by Cee Lo Green.  His first album is called Doo-Wops and Hooligans and I think it’s a real winner.

While one might have expected a hip-hop heavy album from Mars, he has instead released a mix of pop and soul with a touch of reggae thrown in.  He has a pure falsetto voice that at times will have you thinking of Michael Jackson.  He has a habit of writing ridiculously catchy melodies and hooks.  His lyrics may not be deep but they are not stupid or insulting.  I predict that within five years, lead single Just The Way You Are will be played at every wedding – not saying that’s a good thing necessarily but it is one pop song you don’t have to feel ashamed for liking.

When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change
Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause girl you’re amazing
Just the way you are

Not the deepest stuff in the world, as I said, but what guy hasn’t felt this way about some girl at some point in his life?

Check out his recent SNL performances of Just the Way You Are and Grenade, the second single from the album.  And while I’m at it, here’s a link to the video of the ridiculously catchy Fuck You by Cee Lo.


I’m in the mood for an action movie, something that will keep me awake, said my girlfriend on Sunday afternoon.  And so I put on Machete.   But first I had to explain the back story to her.

Back in 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on a film called Grindhouse.  It was supposed to be like going to the drive-in or a Saturday afternoon at the movies, with two B pictures and some trailers.  Rodriguez did Planet Terror, Tarantino did Death Proof, there were trailers for 4 films that didn’t exist made by them and by their friends, it had a running time of well over 3 hours and almost no one went to see it.  It was considered such a flop that it wasn’t released on home video in the US until just this year – instead the two films within a film were each extended and released separately.  No fake trailers but they probably continued to exist on Youtube.  Me being gonzo, I’ve got a 6 disc Japanese DVD boxed set that features Grindhouse, the two extended films and three discs of bonus features.

At any rate, the Machete trailer was so popular that Rodriguez went and turned it into a feature film, making this to my knowledge the only feature film ever based on a trailer.  And give Rodriguez and his co-writer and co-director some props for coming up with a vaguely coherent final product.  Of course they’re striving to make an over the top B picture and they succeed.

As for the cast, well of course it stars Danny Trejo, the 66 year old former boxer and convict who cleaned up his act and has appeared in more than 200 films and TV shows.  Along for the ride is Robert DeNiro (!), Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Jessica Alba, Michele Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan (dressed as a gun-toting nun), Steven Seagal, Tom Savini (who knew he was still around?) and introducing Don Johnson (a joke, geddit?).

The thing is, back in the 70s when Roger Corman’s New World Pictures was churning out drive-in fare like The Big Bird Cage and Big Bad Mama and Candy Stripe Nurses, Corman told his directors that he was okay with them inserting a social message into the films as long as there were also enough bare breasts and things blowing up.  Rodriguez takes that and fashions a story about illegal Mexican immigrants in Texas and goes on and on (and on) about how the economy won’t function without them.  He gets carried away with his social message and it makes the 105 minute film seem like 150 minutes.

Then again, Machete does get stabbed and kicked by a voluptuous nude woman, Lindsay Lohan gets naked, Jessica Alba sort of gets naked (with some help from CGI).

And let’s not forget the Avellan twins:

(above image not from the movie though they do play nurses … with guns).

You don’t go see a movie Machete expecting to see a Bergman style philosophical dissertation.  You go to see pretty much what Rodriguez delivers here.  If you like this kind of thing, this is a lot of fun.   I just wish it was 15 or 20 minutes shorter.