Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Depeche Mode – A Popjunkie concert review

Depeche Mode – A Popjunkie concert review
Barclay’s Center, September 6, 2013

“Goodnight Brooklyn!”

Now there are three words you would never expect to hear at a Depeche Mode concert! But there they were – the kings of electro gloom in the house that Jay Z built.

Only a few shows into the North American leg of their massive Delta Machine tour, Depeche Mode packed Brooklyn’s year-old Barclay’s Center, for a career-spanning set laden with hits, deep cuts and new material. Over thirty years into their influential career and Depeche Mode attacked the stage like elder statesmen showing that they can stay musically relevant in a volatile musical climate and prove to the younger, uninitiated in the crowd – of which there were many – why they are still selling out arenas.

Lead singer Dave Gahan was in especially fine voice; his deep baritone echoing through the hall with authority and swagger. He presided over the fervent crowd like a preacher holding court in front of his doom-infused followers. His glam-cohort, Martin Gore, alternated between keyboards and guitar and more than ably held his own with his beautifully careening tenor harmonies.      

The group’s tight set was both delicate and dynamic in equal measure – from the bombastic A Question of Time to the gentle piano-only version of Home. The selections from this year’s fine Delta Machine album held up well against the more familiar material; a testament to the band’s songwriting craft. Those looking for hits were not disappointed as the band tore through well-worn hits such as Enjoy the Silence, Personal Jesus and Just Can’t Get Enough with aplomb. The crowd went berserk as the band reached back to Black Celebration and Policy of Truth but the surprise of the evening was But Not Tonight

This track was single in 1986 and even tacked onto US editions of the Black Celebration album – but until this tour had never been performed live. The piano-only version sung by Gore saw an impassioned, joyful sing-along from the crowd. Gore himself seemed pleasantly surprised by the response the song generated – the large video screens could not hide his smile.

Despite the number of full-throttle moments in the show, there were a few misfires – 1990’s astounding Halo was performed in a recently remixed by Goldfrapp version which was anti-climactic considering it was parts of the band’s encore set. New single Should Be Higher was going over famously – the digital images which shot around the venue’s multiple screens was beyond cool – until they reached a breakdown where Gahan tried to encourage a sing-along with the crowd. Unfortunately, the attempt fell flat as the song was too new and the falsetto part he asked people to sing was not really what you would ask 15,000 rapturous concert-goers to join in on. While this section was short, it felt like a lifetime.  

Of course the weak moments were few and could not diminish the power of a show this strong. Not many bands can stay this potent three decades into their recording career but Depeche Mode is performing at an all-time high.

So when is the concert film coming?

This was actually the best of the photos I took - which says a lot for my photography skills!

Set List:
1 Welcome to My World
2 Angel
3 Walking in My Shoes
4 Precious
5 Black Celebration
6 Policy of Truth
7 Should be Higher
8 Barrel of a Gun
9 The Child Inside (Martin)
10 But Not Tonight (Martin)
11 Heaven
12 Soothe My Soul
13 A Pain That I'm Used To
14 A Question of Time
15 Enjoy the Silence
16 Personal Jesus

17 Home (Martin)
18 Halo
19 Just Can't Get Enough
20 I Feel You
21 Never Let Me Down Again

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In case you missed it – Deathstalker – a Popjunkie movie review

Journey to an age of awesome magic – that’s an 80’s tagline for you!

It is curious how 80’s pop culture was so wrapped up in the latest of things – even the future of things. We were enamored with the latest technology, hot new music, cutting edge music videos, etc. But there was also a strange trend of sword & sorcery epics that hit cinemas regularly in the early part of the decade. Maybe as we were so entranced being in the ‘now’ – parachute pants, Culture Club and the like – that there was a secret desire for a more humbling experience; a paean for the “good old days”. Of course, in 1983 it was not as if one’s grandfather were alive in the Middle Ages so it is odd that fantasy genre became as marketable as it did.

And if any time in history could have combined the Dark Ages with smoke machines, lasers and teased-out hair; and still make it work, it was the early 80’s.    

But then we come to Deathstalker – yes, it is spelled as one word – a film that is almost unfair to review because everything about it reeks of awfulness. It’s as if the sole purpose of this movie is for the audience to make fun of it – which is going to be easy to do. To be honest, it would come as no surprise if the entire cast and crew knew they were working on a stinker of magnificent proportions. It really is that bad. And yet, unbelievably, three sequels were made!

The film has a very simple plot – there is not much of one. The main character is out in the wild raping and pillaging when an old witch somehow, randomly contacts him telling him how to find a mystical sword that will make him invincible. She then tells him of a villain called Munkar who has a mystical amulet and chalice, which when combined with the aforementioned mystical sword, would make the bearer… even more invincible?

Munkar is holding a tournament to find the most powerful warriors in the land – this way he can kill them and have no competition when he finds the powerful sword. Since Munkar is a wizard – and an evil one at that – he has already prophesized about Deathstalker having the sword. If he can kill him in the tournament, he can get the sword and be all-powerful. Or at least the most invincible-est wizard ever. But things don’t really go his way and Deathstalker gets both the amulet and the chalice and shoots a green laser from the sword and the movie ends.

The official trailer will show you all you need to know. Unless you want to see boobies and then you have to sit through the entire film

A deep and multi-layered story for sure but let us turn our attention to the Deathstalker himself.

The central character is a bulked-up thief, murderer, and womanizer. With all these attributes, it truly dazzles that he is the ‘hero’ of the film. And of course, the fact that the hero’s name is Deathstalker should make you question why we are rooting for him anyway – it’s just not the name for a hero is it? And let’s not forget the whole womanizing, stealing, killing thing going on.

Let’s pause there and look at how women are treated or thought of in this film. Mostly it comes off as a complete narcissistic (and chauvinistic) male fantasy – the sex and nudity are completely over the top! The women are there only to delight the men in the film as every woman (save one) is a sex slave in Munkar’s lair. And the men most certainly take advantage of this fact - breasts are constantly bared for no real reason and the sex happens often; just to give us something to look at! The gorgeous Lana Clarkson – bare-breasted under her very open robe - makes for quite the appealing warrior. All one can say after looking at her nubile frame is, “burn in hell Phil Spector”!

Even Deathstalker himself partakes in the pleasures of the flesh; in fact, his normal stance goes something like this: “Hi, my name is Deathstalker and I just ripped your top off. I didn’t get your name but you can tell me after we have sex.” He’s a smooth talker all right. It is possible that in 1983, this would barely have raised an eyebrow but 30 years later, it is quite surprising.

The gore spews freely – including a little creature in a box that eats a man’s eyeball – but the action is fairly tepid. The campy special effects are also completely fake-looking - like the miscellaneous trolls and beasts that look like men in cheap rubber suits sprayed in a clear slime, because fake creatures look much more real if they are covered in shiny goo.

And then there’s the pig man. Piggy looks like one of the Gamorrean guards from Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Return of the Jedi. At one point, we find him sitting at the dinner table, looking with disgust at the cooked wild board spread out before him. As he takes in the gastrointestinal debauchery on the table, he surely must be contemplating the irony of his existence, living in Mukar’s dungeon, a mere minion for the evil wizard, cast out from his native lands by the other pigs who shunned him for walking upright - and not possessing the body of a pig. But the conflict wells up within him as he picks up the boars head on a stick – and starts eating it! Sweet revenge? Hunger? Discuss among yourselves.    

And there it is – far too many words devoted to a single, horrendous film that time has mostly forgotten. But I really must leave it here as I am currently seeking out a copy of Deathstalker II.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Aguilar Artist Interview with... Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins
Coaxial Flutter

Steve Jenkins is clearly enthused about the release of his long-awaited new album Steve Jenkins and the Coaxial Flutter. And how could he not be? His last album as a bandleader was 2004’s critically-acclaimed Mad Science, which cemented his status as one of the new breed of modern electric bassists who fuse Jazz, Rock, Avant-Garde, Funk and Heavy Metal into an experimental springboard for musical exploration.

Jenkins sets himself apart from the pack through his strong compositional sense rather than his instrumental prowess – although both, not surprisingly, are incredible. But raid-fire bebop licks or machine gun slapping is not where Jenkins puts his focus. Lately, his use of sonic manipulation is intended to be revelatory and inspiring to the listener. His use of effect pedals on …Coaxial Flutter will leave even the most jaded listeners questioning if what they are hearing is indeed a bass solo! This approach allowed him to expand his musical vocabulary and opened up new possibilities for his solos, which, rather than merely impressing listeners will certainly surprise many.

We recently got the chance to talk to Steve about the making of his new album and how he got some of those cool bass sounds!

To read the rest of the interview, please click here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Aguilar Artist Interview with Darryl Anders

Darryl Anders’ AgapeSoul

Some people look great in hats. Some people wear many hats - metaphorically speaking that is. Bay Area bassist Darryl Anders clearly falls into both of these categories as his reach in the music industry extends far and wide - and he looks rather dapper in a fedora!

Known by many throughout the MI world as the Bass Products Manager at Jim Dunlop, Darryl also has an impressive roster of performing credits including stints with Tower of Power and Booker T. Jones as well as records with Zigaboo Modeliste, Vicki Randle and Charlie Peacock. His recording/ production credits also include creating music for RockBand and Guitar Hero video games.

Darryl can now add the title of "Band Leader" to his skill set as evidenced by his recently released album Believe in Love from AgapeSoul. With his bass sitting loudly (and proudly) in the mix, Anders clearly steers the ship but his years of experience as a sideman give him the restraint needed to bring a well-rounded – and soulful - listening experience rather than being a straight "chops record". Anders agrees, "For me, the most important thing was to make a record that was not a bass record. I wanted listeners to focus their attention on the songs as a whole and to make music that makes people feel good in a world that is constantly throwing you curve balls".

Ditching the electronic trappings that plague so much modern R&B, AgapeSoul relies on the band member’s killer musicianship and strong writing rather than loops or samples to bring their songs to life. From the straight-up funk of the title track to the sublime balladry of If I Ever Loose This Heaven, Believe in Love is one of the finest modern Soul/ R&B albums you will likely hear in 2013.

To read the rest of the interview, please click here.