Monthly Archives: January 2011

Song to Angelo: The Almost Badalamenti-less Career of David Lynch

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Of all the signposts of Lynch’s oeuvre, perhaps the most recognizable is the soundtrack work of composer Angelo Badalamenti. A combination of melodramatic vamp, seedy jazz, and atmospheric menace, his work on Lynch’s major films and television since Blue Velvet (absent only for the recent Inland Empire) is breathtaking, one of the all time great director/composer collaborations. But it’s also a collaboration that almost never happened.

Although Badalamenti had done some relatively obscure composition work (for Gordon’s War and Law and Disorder), his initial role on Blue Velvet was only as Isabella Rossellini’s singing coach for the movie’s rendition of “Blue Velvet.” Lynch also planned on having Rossellini sing Tim Buckley’s “Song to a Siren.” But, depending on whom you ask, Lynch either failed to secure the rights for “Siren” or couldn’t find the room in his budget. Needing a similar song of longing love, Lynch decided to write the lyrics for “Mysteries of Love” himself. And turned to Badalamenti to write the music. The rest is film history.

Tim Buckley, “Song to the Siren”
Julie Cruise, “Mysteries Of Love”

But Lynch wasn’t done with “Siren”; he used This Mortal Coil’s version for a love scene in Lost Highway. Speaking of Lost Highway, if you haven’t read David Foster Wallace’s brilliant essay on the making of the film, get on “David Lynch Keeps His Head” stat. And, this little tidbit about OJ Simpson from Lynch’s book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity [via Scanners] will melt everything you thought you knew about LH:

At the time Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for “Lost Highway,” I was sort of obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about it this way, but I think the film is somehow related to that.

What struck me about O.J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term — “psychogenic fugue” — describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, “Lost Highway” is about that. And the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever.

This Mortal Coil, “Song to the Siren”

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Cass McCombs new album, song “County Line”

If it had been announced, Cass McCombs’ WIT’s END, to be released 4/12 on Domino, would have made a serious dent (#4? #5?) in our most anticipated releases of 2011. Catacombs was my third most favorite album of 2009. To call WIT’s first song “organ-drenched” would be a wild understatement. This song has Southern river baptism-levels of organ. I can’t wait.

Cass McCombs – County Line by DominoRecordCo

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Announcing David Lynch Week

A couple of months ago, several of the Narcs realized that we’d posted quite a few David Lynch-related posts. When we learned that David Lynch would be releasing two singles on Feb 1, it only made sense to do one thing: turn Noise Narcs into David Lynch central. Between Jan 31st and February 4th, we’ll be posting (almost) exclusively on David Lynch.

A Philadelphia-based blog devoting a week to David Lynch isn’t as random as it may first appear. In the mid-1960s, Lynch attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It was in our fair city, with the creation of two experimental animated shorts (“Six Men Getting Sick” and “The Alphabet”), that Lynch began his film career.

Lynch’s experience with the city wasn’t, shall we say, entirely positive:

The house I moved into was across the street from the morgue, next door to Pop’s Diner. The area had a great mood – factories, smoke, railroads, diners, the strangest characters, the darkest nights. The people had stories etched in their faces, and I saw vivid images-plastic curtains held together with Band-Aids, rags stuffed in broken windows, walking through the morgue en-route to a hamburger joint.

We lived cheap, but the city was full of fear. A kid was shot to death down the street, and the chalk marks around where he’d lain stayed on the sidewalk for five days. We were robbed twice, had windows shot out and a car stolen. [The City of Absurdity]

Thank God Lynch didn’t live in Philly during its current cultural revival because his crime-plagued stay in the city of brotherly love was a formative experience in the creation of his masterful debut, Eraserhood. In a move symbolic of Philadelphia’s troubled struggle with history and rebirth, the neighborhood that Lynch lived in (his apartment was at 13th and Wood) was blandly rechristened “the loft district.” But Philadelphians are both too clever and resistant to PR speak for that. A movement has started to rename the area, paying tribute to Lynch and his first film: Eraserhood. Check out the neighborhood’s Facebook page and check back next week for a truckload of David Lynch goodness.

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Colin Farrell’s Taste in Hotel-Waiter Music Can’t Be Wrong

Remember "American Dreamz"?

I don’t generally fall for music videos or concert films, and with the obvious exception of American Dreamz, I don’t have any special affinity for movies that are  centered on the music industry. But I’ve always been interested in the ways that movies use preexisting pop songs, and I love being introduced to random scraps of pop through film. (A classic instance, yes, is The Beta Band’s “Dry The Rain” in High Fidelity, but there are others.)  I also love when movies – even movies I don’t love – produce a new perspective on songs I thought I already knew. It pains me to admit this, as much as I worship the Kinks and cherish a healthy skepticism toward the live-action films of Wes Anderson, but The Darjeeling Limited did push me into an even richer appreciation of “This Time Tomorrow” and “Strangers.” The all-night champagne parties in Sofia Coppola’s fluffy Marie Antoinette vaulted New Order’s “Ceremony” from a random ‘80s synth riff to The Most Played Song In My iTunes.

All movies should have "Guitar Hero" scenes.

This is all a very roundabout way of suggesting that if you haven’t yet, you go see Coppola’s latest, Somewhere. Sure, most of the movie is just Stephen Dorff lounging around his Hollywood hotel room, playing Johnny Marco, a kind of moody, melancholy version of Matthew McConaughey in his bachelor days.  (Ah, the limitless pathos of Matthew McConaughey!)  But the use of music is subtly awesome. Coppola bf Thomas Mars of Phoenix contributes a few well-handled tunes; Gwen Stefani turns out to be the best possible accompinement to a preteen figure skating routine; and there’s even a great guitar hero sequence where Dorff doodles along to T.Rex’s “20th Century Boy” and The Police’s “So Lonely.” OK, so not everything about the music is subtle.

The best bits, though, fit into both categories above: in the old-music-in-a-new-way department, the opening scene, set to the the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero,” is utterly transformative. Well, maybe not, but it does involve graceless (but not sexless) pole-dancing, and from a comic perspective certainly far outstrips the band’s own Mentos-parody video back in 1996.

In the new-music-to-me department, there are two clear winners.  First, an early demo tape of the Strokes’ “You Only Live Once”, this one called “I’ll Try Anything Once,” and prominently featured in the trailer.  Soggy-sweet and slowed to a crawl, it blows the 2006 album version right out of Johnny Marco’s pool. Second, a brief little guitar version of “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” performed by the legendary Hollywood hotel waiter/singer Romulo Laki.  Well, I’m not sure how large his legend is, but Colin Farrell thinks he’s awesome, and so do I.

The Strokes, “I’ll Try Anything Once (You Only Live Once demo)”

Romulo Laki, “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” [embedding disabled by copyright holder]

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Upcoming Philly Shows: Dismemberment Plan Reunion, Wavves & Best Coast

Real talk: I was too lame to listen to Dismemberment Plan in 1999. Despite the accolades, despite the badass cover, despite the sweet ripped-from-Groundhog’s Day band name, I dropped the ball on listening to Emergency and I (and then, later, Changes). And by the time I really got into them, and boy did I, they were wrapping up their last tour. And I’ve bitterly regretted that I never got to see them ever since.

But even the uncool get a reprieve. And we’re all invited to Philly’s Starlight Ballrooom to see them tonight, with the excellent Cymbals Eat Guitars opening. And for those whose stomach lurched when tickets sold out months ago, a doulbe reprieve: R5 has re-opened the box office and a limited number of tickets are available.

The Dismemberment Plan, “You Are Invited” [Buy]

The Dismemberment Plan w/ Cymbals Eat Guitars, Trophy Wife
8:30PM Thu, Jan 27, 2011
Starlight Ballroom, 460 N 9th St, Philadelphia
[Buy Tickets, $20]

Even more evidence of my continued uncoolness. When Wavves first hit the scene, I wrote them off as just another likable noise outfit. But a video of “So Bored” set to Home Improvement wipes and a fucking killer third album wrote me off as just another clueless Noise Narc. Wavves’ stoner noise rock is for real.

And to prove that the concert gods love us, The Wavves are touring with girlfriend/killer musician Best Coast. And if you don’t love the Ronettes with a Wall of Noise (yuck yuck) sound they’re laying down, exemplified by the absolutely perfect “Boyfriend,” then you should check your pulse.

Wavves & Best Coast w/ No Joy
8:30PM Tue, Feb 1, 2011
Starlight Ballroom, 460 N 9th St, Philadelphia
[Buy Tickets, $15]

Wavves, “Post Acid” [Buy]

Best Coast – Boyfriend by snipelondon

UpdateNot to mention, Best Coast played one of my all time favorite songs on the 24th, Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City.” Please, please, Bethany, once again in Philadelphia?

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No Escaping Lil Wayne

This isn’t And usually I have no time for remix, much less mashup, culture. But SP-33’s (aka Ezra Funkhouser) reworking of Lil Wayne and John Carpenter’s score for Escape from New York is oddly compelling. Sort of like 800% slowed-down Bieber without the novelty act. Carpenter’s menacing, murky, molasses palette is the perfect foil for Weezy’s ping pong brilliance. A much better mix than, say, the unfortunate raprock placenta that was Re-Birth.

SP-33, “Cooking Eggs”
SP-33, “Asthma Hoes”

Download the entire Escape from tha Carter at

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Neutral Milk Hotel’s Magnum to play ATP in Ashbury, NJ

Well, there’s no way to not get excited about this. I’m not the festival type; I get sick of hearing music by hour four (my desire to hear Can’s six hour shows notwithstanding), but goddamn! Jeff Magnum!

Pitchfork has the dish:

Neutral Milk Hotel mastermind and notorious recluse Jeff Mangum … will perform at the Portishead-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival I’ll Be Your Mirror, which takes place in the Jersey shore town of Asbury Park September 30 – October 2.

Mangum’s performance takes place on the first day, and only those who purchase three-day passes to the festival will be able to attend. A press release notes that Mangum will also perform the Monday after the festival, October 3, at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre.

Portishead themselves will perform on the final two nights of the festival– the band’s first East Coast shows since 1998. Other acts announced for the fest so far include Shellac, Chavez, Cults, and the Album Leaf.

The rest of the lineup (minus Shellac, who have the most delightfully hateful song of all time) is pretty yawntastic. But you saw the words “Jeff Magnum” in there, right?

Neutral Milk Hotel, “Holland, 1945”

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Cheers Elephant Work Out The Kinks

In November of 2009, a New York friend was in town with his girl. As one of my major goal’s in life is to have denizens of other cities repent of their evil ways and admit Philly’s superiority, I leafed through the listings, desperate to find that ONE PERFECT SHOW that would blow his Five Boroughed mind. And I came up empty.

But I had heard some vague buzz about Cheers Elephant, and set out to hear them at Johnny Brenda’s, sound unheard. Long story short: his (cutely dressed) girlfriend worried that she wasn’t flanneled up enough “for Williamsburg” (ouch) but then Cheers Elephant took the stage. Their heavily early-mid Kinks sound ripped through us. And I couldn’t scramble home fast enough to grab a copy of their self-titled debut.

I loved it. And then forgot about it. Somehow it never got added to my iTunes. So it was a real pleasure to find it lurking in a random folder a few months ago. Even more of a pleasure? Finding how much they’ve improved with their sophomore album, Man Is Nature, which was released on January 8th. The Kinks influence is still there, but much less pronounced. If The Kinks were known for zigging and zagging with their sound, Cheers Elephant are staying true to their spirit by moving away from their sound. More lush. More guitar jams. Further refinement of their superb songwriting. And like any good Philadelphian, they love them some bikes.

Cheers Elephant, “My Bicycle Ride

[Buy and stream Man Is Nature at Bandcamp]

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Upcoming Shows: Blood Feathers w/ Birdie Busch, Cozy Galaxies

In the next two days, some of Noise Narcs’ favorite Philly acts are playing in Philly. And both have some Noise Narcs connection. And man are we excited.

Tomorrow, 1/20, a Drew Mills and Ben Dickey of Blood Feathers perform a rare, stripped-down set at Philly’s intimate Tin Angel, featuring “material from the Blood Feathers songbook as well as a few surprises.” I wonder who suggested that a stripped-down set at the Tin Angel? And more importantly: Ohboyohboyohboy. Sounds like new material to us. As if that weren’t enough of a draw, charming-as-all-get-out Birdie Busch co-headlines. [Tickets]

Blood Feathers, “Sea Legs” [Buy]

Birdie Busch, “Joey” [Buy]

And tonight, Philly’s Cozy Galaxies (who recently got both WXPN and Philebrity love, not to mention releasing a new video, right ) play at Kung Fu Necktie with Secret Mountains, Clean Equations and Giant Mind. Cozy Galaxies should be no stranger to the Noise Narcs audience, but Baltimore’s Secret Mountains probably need some introduction. Coming from the same rich vein as fellow Poe-citiers Beach House and Lower Dens, they’re a band I’d keep a very close eye on. Starting tonight. Oh, and speaking of Cozy Galaxies, someone floated a rumor that they might be playing a gig on March 19th as well…

Cozy Galaxies, “Dreamer” [Buy]

Secret Mountains, “Rejoice” [Buy]

Ben and Drew of Blood Feathers with Birdie Busch
Thursday, 1/20, 8:30PM @ Tin Angel
20 S 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA

Giant Mind, Cozy Galaxies, Secret Mountains, Clean Equations
Wednesday, 1/19, 8PM @ Kung Fu Necktie
1250 N Front St, Philadelphia, PA

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Noise Variations: Sneezing in Memphis, Tennessee

I’ve been thinking about Memphis all day. In light of MLK Day. In light of the excellent Joe Brouwer poem “Lines in Memphis, Tennessee.” In light of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis. In light of his speech the day prior where he gloried in having lived through a previous stabbing and a little girl’s letter professing happiness that he didn’t sneeze when even a sneeze would have killed him. In light of King’s joy at having lived to having seen the sit-ins, the Bill, the marches, the mountaintop. In light of his refusal to fear, as he arrived in Memphis, the threats of “sick white brothers.” For he had seen the mountaintop. And was ready to face Memphis.

I’ve never been to Memphis. But I think of it often. Certainly, because of King. But also because it’s home to the greatest song ever written about a city. Or about fatherly love.

Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” (sometimes recorded just as “Memphis”) may not match King’s gravity or rhetoric, but it’s own small miracle. Against a jaunty jangled blues lick, Berry starts it off as a classic torch song for a distant love. Calling a long distance operator to try to get in touch with his baby. And as a torch song, it’s a near perfect example of the form. But then. Oh my. The reveal in the last stanza. And the song’s bottom drops out. And so does my stomach.

Last time I saw Marie she’s waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye
Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis, Tennessee

And within twenty seconds, the song reverses itself. From erotic to paternal love. From staid to heart-wrenching. From a great song to one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Chuck Berry, “Memphis, Tennessee”

Covers abound, with a surprising amount of good versions. And even the bad versions couldn’t wear away the brilliance of the song.

Faces: A subdued pedal guitar draws this version out. A fair version that fails to get that brevity being the soul of this song’s wit, but with a fun barnstorming ending. Rod Stewart’s vocals don’t suggest he has a particularly strong understanding of fatherly love. Sorry, Rod’s seven kids. Wait, what? He has another on the way at age 66?

Faces, “Memphis, Tennessee” [Buy]

Elvis Presley Look. It’s Elvis. Of course it’s excellent. But still a tad disappointing. Love the “jungle” era Duke Ellington drums that kick the song off.

Elvis Presley, “Memphis, Tennessee” [Buy]

The Monkees: A promising version that descends into disaster: an unfinished version. Love to hear the squeaky-clean band of Marge’s lunchbox swear at each other as they blow it.

Monkees, “Memphis, Tennessee” [Buy]

The Beatles: Neither this version, nor the Plastic Ono Band’s live take with Chuck Berry, are very good. But this version, live at the BBC, sure beats the crap out of the one for their Decca audition tape, which makes me doubt they had even heard the song before recording it. (The Stones also did a version. It sucks. Keith Richards solo demo is slightly better.)

The Beatles, “Memphis” [Buy]

Foggy Mountain Boys: Surprisingly, one of the better covers is the Foggy Mountain Boys’ bluegrass version. Keeps the tenderness, amplifies the song’s teasing jokiness.

Sandy Bull: The best cover, however, is a complete shocker. Ignoring Shakespeare’s advice about brevity, Bull stretches the song into an endless, perfect groove. Who knew this song could accommodate psychfolk so perfectly?

Sandy Bull, “Memphis, Tennessee”

The worst cover: This video of Hank Williams Jr. where he trades off every instrument. Like an asshole. He’s so busy playing all the instruments that he forgets to do the last verse. You know. The verse with the reveal. The most important verse. The worst. I hope his father called long distance (from the grave) to tell him what a crime against music he committed with this song. And everything else he’s done since.

Other covers of note: For some reason, as far as I can tell, Nina Simone didn’t cover this song. Why? “Memphis in June” is such a tease. Del Shannon has a solid straight-up version. The Statler Brothers do it country gospel style. The Silicon Teens come close to ruining this song with their cheesy new wave. Faron Young does a decent honkey tonk. The Ventures do a decent surf rock. John Cale does a sneering version that doesn’t really have a reason to exit.

And finally, one last note: this Fair article detailing King’s final years, when he railed against poverty, is very much worth a read.

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