Cinematic Titanic

The Complete Collection

img_7090Cinematic Titanic – The Complete Collection

After the original demise of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1999 the principal players from the series eventually coalesced into two distinct camps. Mike Nelson (Mike Nelson), Kevin Murphy (the second Tom Servo/Bobo) and Bill Corbett (the second Crow/Observer) formed first The Film Crew and then Rifftrax.  The remaining talent, Joel Hodgson (Joel Robinson/series creator), Trace Beaulieu (the first Crow/Dr. Forrester), Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank), J. Elvis Weinstein (the first Tom Servo/Dr. Erhardt) and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester) became Cinematic Titanic. I am a big fan of all these incarnations as evidenced by my recent post on the forthcoming Mystery Science Theater 3000 Trading Cards. In truth I have watched one of the groups in one form or another nightly since January of 2000. I know that sounds impossible and ridiculous but its true. I can’t overstate my love of movie riffing!

Cinematic Titanic began as studio versions of the cast playing themselves being forced to riff on movies in an effort to preserve them from erasure due to some event that was destroying all digital media. This was all taking place in some underground bunker controlled by a company or the government. Not too many details were provided but it was obvious Joel intended to build a new mythology similar to that of MST3K. After 7 studio releases the DVDs switched to live recordings of their touring show for the final 5 DVDs of their 12 (there were two more live shows that don’t seem to have ever been recorded sadly).  Joel commented many times that he came to realize that the vibe of CT was really in its live riffing. It was on these tours, performing the riffs live to a theater audience that Hodgson and the crew got a chance to connect with fans and see the real immediate effect of live riffing as well as the adoration for their legacy. Certainly in many ways this helped pave the path for the return of MST3K as well as the recent live MST shows with the new cast.

I actually already had all of these movies individually since I ordered them from Cinematic Titanic as each of them debuted. I picked this up because I thought it would be cool to have them collected together and the set does have a few small additional extras added to the original releases. In the end though, as much as I love all of those involved, to me CT was never equal to the sum of its parts. I can’t explain exactly why but it never quite seemed to find its stride to me. Maybe 6 performers is just too many riffers, or maybe it was that some of those involved were actually new to riffing having played other roles on MST3K. I’m not sure in the end but while I enjoyed these movies they aren’t my favorites compared to MST or Rifftrax but are very much worth having, especially when the complete set of all 12 films is so affordable.

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The Complete Collection from Shout Factory
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Atticus Ross

Love & Mercy Soundtrack

img_7084Atticus Ross/Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys – Love & Mercy Soundtrack

On one hand this is a shared release between Atticus Ross, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, but on the other there is really no doubt that the name on the cover should be Atticus Ross as its his work that made this an extraordinary project. Love & Mercy, the film, is not a Beach Boys biopic nor even a Brian Wilson biopic but a document of Brian’s descent into a mental and emotional breakdown in the mid-’60s and his eventual recovery in the early ’90s. While the soundtrack showcases a few classic Beach Boys songs, and some fantastic live as well as new Brian Wilson songs it is Ross’ creations that bring the viewer and listener into the hallucinatory viewpoint of the film.

Anyone who has seen my previous post on the recent Beach Boys’ 1967 Wild Honey release will know what a gigantic fan of the band in general and of Wilson in particular I am. It was a stroke of genius and an amazingly difficult task to make a film that told the story of this aspect of Brian’s life. The movie could have so easily gotten it all wrong and instead it nailed it, from Paul Dano’s, John Cusak’s and Paul Giamatti’s performances, to director Bill Pholand’s picture perfect recreation of actual Beach Boys events to Atticus’ audio depiction of everything from Brian’s internal musical monologues to the swirling voices in his head.

I’ve been a big fan of Atticus Ross since his early days of working with Bomb The Bass and Barry Adamson. I really loved his band 12 Rounds as well but about the time he came on the scene in the Reznor-verse I had kind of moved on from NIN. I have however truly enjoyed his soundtrack work with his wife, Claudia Sarne, and brother, Leopold Ross though none of it really prepared me for the immersive and transportive material he created for Love & Mercy.

Ross crafted the music for the film by sound collaging bits and pieces from numerous Beach Boys master tapes, old audio tapes of Brian Wilson speaking as well as dialogue and sounds from the film itself. Ross layered, combined, manipulated and arranged these to create swooping melodies that represent the harmonic orchestra Wilson claims to hear constantly and is the muse to the music he creates. Conversely these same sounds represent the madness inducing voices in Wilson’s head that lead to his extended and repeated breakdowns. The effectiveness of what Ross created for the film and soundtrack can’t be understated and shows his mastery of the sonic form. In an interesting fashion it took the genius of Atticus Ross to illustrate the genius of Brian Wilson and I’m blessed enough to get to enjoy them both.

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Love & Mercy from Amazon
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Johnny Jewel

Chromatics – Cherry (Deluxe Edition), Twisted Wires – Half Lives, Johnny Jewel – Music To Drive, Various Artists – After Dark

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Chromatics – Cherry (Deluxe Edition), Twisted Wires – Half Lives, Johnny Jewel – Music To Drive, Various Artists – After Dark

In a recent post I wrote about receiving an order from Italians Do It Better and ended up pledging my undying love to Johnny Jewel for everything he has created. Well here we are less than two months later and here I go again.

First up is the newly released deluxe edition of Chromatics’ album Cherry. This version extends the release from its original 8 songs to 18 tracks total. Like the first version of it all of the songs are culled from different eras and releases from the band, some in new forms and versions. It definitely has enough cool additions to make this well worth any listener’s time. Next, it is great to finally have a Twisted Wires release on CD. This one collects material from 2009’s One Night At The Raw Deal up through last year’s Struck Twice. The style and tone of Twisted Wires really connects with me and I would love to see a full album of new songs from this project in the near future. Finally we come to the skillfully tracked compilation Music To Drive, curated to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Winding-Refn’s movie mood masterpiece Drive. The original soundtrack to the film featured the likes of Chromatics and Desire and in Johnny’s words “introduced the electronic underground to audiences everywhere”. So its great to see it celebrated with a nice collection of songs from Johnny’s various label projects.

As always this order arrived from Italians Do It Better with an awesome FREE oversize poster, a FREE sticker and a FREE CD. Name me another label that does more for their fans.

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Thor

Sh*t The Pants

img_7096Thor And The Ass Boys – Sh*t The Pants

I recently posted about Thor’s new album Beyond The Pain Barrier. In that blog I mentioned his amazingly candid, funny and cool documentary I Am Thor. Well anyone who has seen that will recall the antics of Thor’s punk band side project, Thor And The Ass Boys. Although fronted by Thor one gets a sense that the band is actually helmed by Thundergeek (a/k/a Michael Pilmer) whom some may know as Devo-Obsesso or through his I Threw Up stickers or his Draw A Dick On It efforts or any other of Michael’s myriad of creative outlets. From seeing the film its obvious that when Thor, Pilmer and the rest of the Ass Boys get together, a good time is had and as a byproduct a bit of ridiculous, hilarious and kick ass punk rock is created.

Their newest novelty is a killer 7″ EP containing 4 songs. This limited edition of 500 is available with a photo cover on blue vinyl (400 pieces) or a special art cover by Micki Fever on gray vinyl (100 pieces). Both versions come with a lyric sheet backed with a label catalog in good old fashioned punk rock photocopy quality.  Two of the songs on this release,”Sh*t The Pants” and “F*cking & Fighting”, are taken from the 1999 shared CD by Coalition Against Shane/Thor/Thor And The Ass Boys called Keepin’ The Dogs Away. That disc was a strictly limited pressing of 500 so its pretty hard to come by. The tracks did turn up again recently on the I Am Thor soundtrack CD but they appear here on vinyl for the first time. The other two offerings on this EP, “Exploding Head” and “Spaceships In The Sky” initially appeared on a split Thor/Thor And The Ass Boys 7″ back in 2000. That record was a limited edition of 300 and is long sold out so its great to have those titles available again here, especially as they have been remastered for an even more intense and skull shattering effect!

I’m going to let you go watch I Am Thor to discover the origin of the band’s rather smelly moniker so don’t bother asking me about it. Hopefully these guys can jump on stage to join Thor for a couple of songs if his upcoming tour for Beyond The Pain Barrier stops in The Ass Boys’ area of North Carolina.

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Thor Website (Thor Central by Michael Pilmer)
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Sh*t The Pants from Thor Central

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Cheap Trick

Woke Up With A Monster and Special One

img_6693Cheap Trick – Woke Up With A Monster and Special One

Checking through my collection I realized that I was missing a couple of Cheap Trick studio albums. Somehow I had skipped over two of their lesser known (and lesser liked) CDs from the mid ’90s/early 2000s. It was a time period where I was guilty of not following their new releases too closely as they had left longtime label Sony/Epic and seemed to be jumping from one sinking ship to another with each subsequent disc. Nonetheless I had to correct the error of my ways and get my hands on these records.

1997’s Woke Up With a Monster with the band’s first album away from longtime home Epic records. They had moved over to Warner Brothers and recorded this album with the legendary Ted Templeman of Van Halen fame at the helm. Just as it was released the execs who signed them were let go and the record fell into a black hole as the band was quickly dropped. This is some undeserved treatment for a record I came to love from first play. I can easily call it their most aggressive release since their early days. I really enjoyed hearing the band dispense wth their softer side, forego the ballads and hold their pop sensibilities in check long enough to just rock the hell out. I’m not saying its a perfect album, in fact its a downright weird one with lots of experimentation going on but it has really struck a chord with me.

Conversely, we have 2003’s Special One, a self produced release on their own label in partnership with Big3 that is frankly a very mixed bag and possibly my least favorite Cheap Trick album. Sadly there’s not really a true rocker among the tracklist, a few of the songs try to break out and jam but the odd restraint never seems to fall away. It feels like this album was written in a hotel room on acoustic guitars, had some electrified stuff added as an afterthought and was recorded and mixed with little to no direction. Cheap Trick’s leftovers and bits and pieces are usually better than this stuff. And even that is not to say I hate it, it just doesn’t measure up to any of the standards the band has set.

So there we are. Collection complete. Until the next one. Which I understand will be November. Long live Cheap Trick.

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KISS

10th Anniversary Tour Shirt by Tee Exclusives

img_6547KISS – 10th Anniversary Tour Shirt by Tee Exclusives

Well I gave in again and picked up yet another KISS shirt so here I am posting about it. Non-media items usually don’t make their way onto In The Mail Today but I couldn’t help myself with this one. Recently I wrote about getting some KISS Shirts from Tee Exclusives, one of those sites that offers shirts on a countdown then once the order taking period is over they print only the stock that was pre-purchased and delete the design. I was pretty happy with them and when I saw this one come up I couldn’t resist grabbing it as well.

Call me a sucker but this design hits the nostalgia sweet spot for me. I love the Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent era of KISS, especially this tour (10th Anniversary) and album (Creatures Of The Night). The stage design of the tank, the heaviness of the new songs and getting to see Eric and Vinnie live for the first time cured (almost) all the pain of losing original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  So I added one more to the already ridiculous number of KISS shirts in my collection.

That’s not to say I don’t have a good excuse for getting a new one, especially something that shows an often forgotten and rarely represented time in the band’s history like this. In a couple of weeks I will be heading to the mostly KISS related Nashville Rock-N-Pod Expo, plus seeing KISS themselves  on tour in September, sailing on the Kiss Kruise in November and going to a Gene Simmons solo show as well. So I will be getting some good wear out of these shirts as I rock and roll all night (and party every day)!

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The Rain Within

Dark Drive, Thunderheart and Self-Titled

img_6564The Rain Within – Dark Drive, Thunderheart and Self-Titled

The Rain Within is Andy Deane of alt/goth band Bella Morte. This project reveals his retro-electronic side. It is synth-based and full of lovely analog keyboards pumping out sounds reminiscent of ’80s alternative, dance and new wave music. Bright washes and moody vocals with lots of fun vocoder style voice effects dominate these releases. The songs have a great flow and an easy presence, suitable for cranking them up and jamming full throttle or turning down and enjoying as a background mood-setter.

This type of music is not new for Deane. Bits and pieces of these sounds can be heard peeking through on a few of the earlier Bella Morte releases. The Rain Within has become Andy’s outlet to indulge in these influences fully. Technically The Rain Within began with the full length album Pain Management in 2010 but it is in the last three years that things have really been developing with the project. The self-titled EP release from 2014 is the more melancholy of the bunch, being synth-wavy and introspective. The Thunderheart EP, released the following year, picked up the pace a bit with its knockout title track. The 5.25″ floppy disc case packaging is a lot of fun and the perfect touch for these now sold out self-releases. I believe they are still available digitally and combined onto a single regular disc.

Last year’s full length album Dark Drive develops the sound even further, the songs have more individual personality and diversity. The music conveys a deceptive simplicity, leaving the listener to focus on the mood being created. Its hard not to pick the single “Murder” as the stand out track here, with its visions of purple neon, angst driven lyrics and dance floor ready chorus. I’ve got to hand it to Andy Dean for simultaneously reminding me of Martin Gore and Carpenter Brut. If that is a collaboration that would make you excited then The Rain Within is for you!

*full disclosure – this item did not come in the mail. I picked it up in person at the merch booth when I saw The Rain Within live recently.

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Dark Drive from Amazon
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