Johnny Ray Huston

Lit: A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness

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This review originally appeared in the Jan. 7-13, 2009 issue of the Bay Guardian:

John Gall's art for A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness (Vertical 160 pages $19.95) is unique in a gaze-snatching fashion. It combines hues of yellow and green, block patterns, and a news photo backdrop into an attractive, enigmatic, and faintly disturbing image that makes a browser wonder, "What exactly is inside this book?" Read more »

The net: Young victory and top-ranked tennis musings at the BNP Paribas Open

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The process of parking and getting to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is a bit of a roundabout involving dusty lots and a bus ride. On the morning of March 11, day five of the two-week BNP Paribas Open, touring tennis professionals drive up and sidle through a lot by the main stadium, some passing two-story two-dimensional images of themselves on the building's wall. Read more »

Looky-loos and show ponies: A day in the life at the BNP Paribas Open

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On one side of the main stadium at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, white picket fences separate the players, their entourages, and assorted tour types from the fans. There's a small plot of green grass near the practice courts, where the athletes jog after matches, or – like Scotland's Andy and Jamie Murray – kick a soccer ball around to pass the time. The setup has a looky-loo and show pony quality, like a human version of horses being led around before a race, though in truth, the BNP Paribas Open presents one of the most free and easy atmospheres in terms of player-fan interaction, with many of the pros walking through the complex amongst the general public. Read more »

Beth Ditto, "I Wrote the Book"

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See video

One of our favorite Katy Perry-shredders, Beth Ditto serves a "Justify My Love"-era Madonna look and the kind of sound Madonna lost touch with after her first album. Guardian Video Issue cover star Justin Kelly made a fab recent Gossip video, but this teaser from an upcoming solo EP hints that it might deliver the dancepop Rick Rubin didn't for Ditto's group.

As close to the lens as possible: A (too brief) Q&A with David Weissman

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One of the strongest aspects of the film We Were Here is the intimacy and depth of its interviews (read our review here), so it's with embarrassment and regret that I'm presenting this relatively casual Q&A with director David Weissman with the caveat that it's been marred by a snafu. While transcribing, I discovered that the 'Rec' button on my ancient tape recorder had been triggered when it was in my carrying bag, and a sizable portion of the talk – including passages about archives, filmmaking, community, San Francisco, the cultural influence of The Cockettes, and a younger generation's view of AIDS – had been replaced by the muffled sound of footsteps and traffic. The conversation is lost, but the story isn't: We We Here is screening at the Castro Theatre through Thurs/3. Here's some of what Weissman and I discussed. Read more »

Rediscovery: The hypnotic appeal of Jeff Phelps' Magnetic Eyes

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"That album is something I've known about for a long time," Dâm Funk says of Magnetic Eyes, which was written, recorded and produced by Jeff Phelps in 1985. Thanks to the German label Tomlab, more people are finding out about Magnetic Eyes today. Along with the Tony Cook compilation produced by Dâm's cohort Peanut Butter Wolf and released on Stones Throw, Magnetic Eyes is a rediscovered jewel of '80s funk. But whereas the Cook album has roots in classic soul, Phelps' album is a cool, synth-powered collection that brings techno figurehead the Electrifying Mojo to mind. It's also blessed with peerless cover art and -- as you'll find out after the jump -- it inspired a fantastic music video. Read more »

Snap Sounds: Forest Swords -- and the spirit of Aaliyah

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FOREST SWORDS
Dagger Paths E.P.
(No Pain in Pop/Olde English Spelling Bee)

High on the "Ideas I Wish I Had" list is Forest Swords' cover of Aaliyah's "If Your Girl Only Knew," a different (if equally idiosyncratic) take on R&B than that of fellow Olde English Spelling Bee act Autre Ne Veut. The group's M. Barnes taps into the recessive, almost ghostly shade-throwing of the original — one reason why Aaliyah was a unique pop phenomenon — and slows it down to near-Gothic stasis, while adding another twist to the lyric's romantic intrigue by flipping the gender of the vocalist. The spirit of Aaliyah haunted dubstep and its mutant kin in 2010, thanks to Forest Swords' "If Your Girl," and also James Blake's "CMYK," which sends the vocals of her best-known hit, "Are You That Somebody?," through a series of flying-floating transformations. Check out the originals and covers/updates, as well as some more ruminations about this phenom, after the jump.

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Rediscovery: Peanut Butter Wolf puts Tony Cook's and Dâm Funk's '80s jams in the spotlight

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In conjunction with this week's Noise Pop cover story on Peanut Butter Wolf (a.k.a. Chris Manak) and Dâm-Funk (a.k.a. Damon Riddick), over the next two days I'll be sharing some quotes from the two, as well as music and video from a couple of recently-issued mid-1980s recordings that the pair love. First up is Tony Cook's Back to Reality, which has just been released, with equally terrific orginal cover art, by Manak's label, Stones Throw. Read more »

Snap Sounds: Prefab Sprout

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PREFAB SPROUT
Let's Change the World With Music
(Tompkins Square)

Strange world we live in, where the likes of Björk and Stephin Merritt have written musicals, but we don't have one by Paddy McAloon, whose songs far outdo contemporary Broadway's best in terms of melody, emotional poignance, and poetic wordplay. It's a tragedy that a composer and vocalist of such unashamed purity has been stricken with Ménière's disease, which effects hearing. But it's a blissful pleasure to hear previously-unreleased music by one of the late-20th century's greatest pop songwriters. Read more »

Printed matters: A specific glance at the 44th California International Book Fair

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Do you want the pristine first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula for 45 grand, or the slightly worn copy for 25 grand? Such were the questions that presented themselves at the 44th Annual California Antiiquarian Book Fair, which took place at SF's Concourse Exhibition Center from February 11 through 13. Read more »