Post-War Dreamer Roger Waters Turns 70

Roger Waters turns 70 today. So take a moment to enjoy some of the music from the man who penned lyrics for five of Pink Floyd’s concept albums: Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983).

In September 2010, Waters began "The Wall Live" world tour, which concludes in Paris on September 21 after being performed a remarkable 219 times—and making a case for 70 being the new 30.

But there is much more to Pink Floyd’s conceptual torchbearer than music that has moved millions (both people and units: the band has sold more than quarter of a billion albums worldwide, and the bassist from Great Bookham has an estimated net worth of $139 million, according to the 2009 The Sunday Times list).

In addition to being a high-ranking member of the rock-n-roll pantheon of deities, Waters has spent much of his time as an activist, raising money for the tsunami victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, raising awareness of extreme poverty and malaria as a spokesman of the non-profit Millennium Promise and leading Stand Up for Heroes, a 2012 benefit for American veterans. (Waters discussed his charitable work when he appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in January.)

Watch David Gilmour’s very special appearance joining Waters at "The Wall" concert at London’s O2 in May, 2011, to perform Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit, "Comfortably Numb." The song was ranked number 314 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Taking a Look Back at the Best of Barbet Schroeder on His Birthday

 

Born in Tehran in 1941, the son of a Swiss geologist and a German physician, Barbet Schroeder worked as a film critic with the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma and assisted New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard on the 1962 film Les Carabiniers before releasing his opera prima in 1969: More. You may have been one of the 1.78 million American television viewers who saw his most recent directorial outing: a season three episode of Mad Men, "The Grown-Ups", which aired in 2009. To mark his 72nd birthday, take a look back at Schroeder’s long and successful career in celluloid.

 

More (1969)

Schroeder’s psychedelic directorial debut told the story of a couple addicted to heroin on the island of Ibiza, starring the adorable Mimsy Farmer and featuring a soundtrack written and performed by Pink Floyd.

 

La Vallée (1972)

In 1972, Bulle Ogier made a splash in Luis Buñuel’s masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Less known is her other appearance that same year in Schroeder’s La Vallée, in which she plays the wife of the French consul in Melbourne. She goes into the New Guinea bush searching for the feathers of a rare exotic bird and ends up…(wait for it)…discovering herself. Pink Floyd was enlisted again to provide a soundtrack, which they recorded as the album Obscured by Clouds. Footage from the film was later incorporated in the 1980 horror film Hell of the Living Dead.

 

 

Barfly (1987)

Talk about a labor of love. Schroeder commissioned the original screenplay of Barfly—in which Mickey Rourke plays of Henry Chinaski, the perpetually drunk and down-and-out alter ego of poet Charles Bukowski—and then, as Roger Ebert reported, "spent eight years trying to get it made." Ebert noted that the director even "threatened to cut off his fingers if Cannon Group president Menahem Golan did not finance it." Thankfully for Mickey Rourke fans—and Schroeder’s own digits—Golan did.

 

Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Jeremy Irons won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor for his chilling portrayal of Claus von Bülow, the German-Danish socialite who was acquitted of murdering his wife, Sunny (played by Glenn Close). Schroeder was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.

 

 

Single White Female (1992)

Ever since Jennifer Jason Leigh’s psychotic turn as Bridget Fonda’s new roommate suffering from Dependent Personality Disorder in Single White Female, looking for potential living partners through the want ads has been tinged with a wee bit of fear.

 

 

Kiss of Death (1995)

While David Caruso nabbed a Razzie Award nom for "Worst New Star" for his head-scratching turn as an ex-con trying to lead the straight life with his family in Queens, a muscle-bound Nicolas Cage (sporting a super-coiffed yet oddly sinister goattee) delivered the bizarro goods as a local crime boss/homicidal maniac. The Washington Post‘s Hal Hinson wrote that Cage "dominates the camera, stealing scenes by the sheer intensity of his inimitable strangeness."

Some Songs About Margaret Thatcher

Welcome to the internet, where lists published on Wikipedia can quickly be turned into blog posts. Did you know that recently deceased Margaret Thatcher was a very divisive figure in cultural history? I am sure you did, especially if you saw that terrible movie about her that starred Meryl Streep. Naturally, people wrote a lot of songs about her. Here are a few. 

Morrissey – "Margaret on the Guillotine"

Paul McCartney – "All My Trials"

The Beat – "Stand Down Margaret"

Pete Wylie – "The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies"

Elvis Costello – "Tramp the Dirt Down"

Pink Floyd – "The Fletcher Memorial Home"

Our First-Impression-Based Recommendations for the Chicago Underground Film Festival

For those who find SxSW’s film offerings a bit too safe or blasé, the Chicago Underground Film Festival also begins this week. This celebration of all things experimental and independent from around the world is now in its 20th year, and begins tonight at one of the best places in the city to watch a movie, the Logan Theatre. Experimental film can be pretty hit-and-miss, but many of the offerings looked pretty intriguing. Here are a few selections that caught our eye (based on first impressions); a full schedule can be found at the CUFF website.

Thursday, March 7th

Shorts Program: “Spectrum”: A handful of deeper observations of objects can be found in this nicely varied hour-and-a-half collection of shorts, including Nellie Kluz’s Gold Party, a look at the gold industry up close as the precious metal is processed; Cameron Gibson’s 10-19 Return to Base, a response to a History Channel series on the Vietnam War that “searches for empathy within representational clichés” and Bill Brown’s Memorial Land, a short tour of unofficial and contested memorials to the September 11th attacks from around the country.

Ape: Joel Portykus directs this “ultra-low budget” look into the mind of Trevor Newandyke, a failed comedian with a punk sense of humor and an appetite for destruction, who decides to barter with the Devil. A portrait of the artist as a young man, cracked, doused in grain alcohol and set ablaze that seems equally capable of resonating and shocking. Paired with Kat Candler’s short Black Metal.

School of Change: Jennet Thomas directs this “sci-fi experimental musical film” with elements of reality, high school stereotypes and Lewis Carroll. According to the program, the film is “inspired by traditions of absurd British satire,” so if you’re into that sort of thing, here’s your film Paired with Alee Peoples’ Them Oracles.

Friday, March 8th

Retrospective Shorts Program: Summarize Proust Competition: CUFF founder and former director Jay Bliznick offers his favorite selections from the early years of the festival. Not your average #Rememberthe90s session.

Pig Death Machine: Festival favorites John Moritsugu and Amy Davis return with a science-gone-wrong tale where a “brainless brunette” becomes a “dangerous genius” and a punk botanist develops the power of talking to plants. One of the most enticing elements of this selection is the soundtrack, which features Deerhoof, Dirty Beaches and Moritsugu and Davis’ own band, Low on High, who are also playing the following evening at nearby Township. Paired with Kent Lambert’s Wrest.

Saturday, March 9th

Taken By Storm: The Art of Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis: You may not recognize Storm Thorgerson’s name, but you will certainly recognize his work from record collections and college dorm rooms the world over. Several generations of musical luminaries come together in Roddy Bogawa’s documentary about Thorgerson’s iconic album album covers, including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.

A Band Called Death: If you thought finding Sugar Man was a feat, you should see A Band Called Death. Before punk, there was a band called Death, who not only played music unlike anything the Motown and disco-loving populace had heard (but would be echoed later by the likes of Bad Brains and the Sex Pistols) but exemplified DIY and punk ethics in their recording process as well. They never even released an album, but their demo tape is earning them a new generation of fans. Jeff Howlet and Mark Covino chronicle their story and their journey to receiving the recognition they deserve for inventing punk before punk was invented.

Sunday, March 10th

Vigilante Vigilante: The Battle for Expression: Max Good chronicles a battle between graffiti artists and street artists and an unlikely enemy: the “Silver Buff,” a vigilante dedicated to eradicating graffiti, exploring the complexities of what is considered art and what motivates people to create and destroy graffiti works. Paired with Bryan Boyce’s short Road Show.

Watch the trailers for CUFF from Jennifer Reeder and Bryan Boyce, featuring a choir of teenage girls driven to hysteria by festivals and a disturbing take on infomercials, respectively, below.

Robert DeLong is an EDM Artist on the Rise

Seattle-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Robert DeLong has a flare for the alternative. In a good way. The 26 (soon to be 27)-year-old EDM mastermind, dubbed a Young Artist to Watch by MTV, has the music scene in his hands—quite literally. Indeed, among the myriad instruments he manages to maneuver during performances are Wiimotes and Joysticks, rigged like MIDIs and adding edge to his already memorable brand of booty movin’ tunes.

Seriously, though, this whiz kid’s got the chops and multitasks better than the best of us—in front of an audience, no less. He’s a one-man-band who sings, drums, and fiddles with game controllers and keyboards, sometimes going so far as to incorporate guitar, too. His live set is something to behold, a sweaty mid-twenties talent, hair slicked down in an exaggerated comb-over, putting every effort into churning out original numbers while keeping the beat.

“I’m always writing songs,” says DeLong, whose debut album, Just Movement, drops today. Makes sense, since he constantly rocked out in bands back in high school. Now he’s signed to Glassnote, label to the likes of Phoenix and Mumford & Sons.

Recently, DeLong released a video to accompany his catchy track “Global Concepts.” The visual rendition of this f-bomb laden rhythmic ditty features a foggy interior, warehouse-like, smoke somewhat obscuring the agile dancers in the background. Tube lights suspended from above flicker and flash whilst DeLong engages in various aspects of performing, most notably wandering around and gesticulating with Wiimote or drumsticks in hand, or hitting his steel drum to excellent tribal effect as he marches subtly in place. Towards the end, the space is overrun with revelers, morphing into an all-out party you wish you’d been invited to. (The platinum blonde mop you may glimpse amid the shadows belongs to talented dancer James Koroni, the individual responsible for my introduction to and fast fandom of DeLong.)

Another nuance unique to DeLong is his affinity for orange, which he wears with pride in the shape of an “x,” big and bold on a classic black tee, as well as painted with precision on his cheekbone in the shape of a lightening bolt. More on this defining aesthetic to follow.

New Yorkers can catch DeLong in action on February 15 when, as part of a greater tour, he plays The Studio at Webster Hall. Festivalgoers will have several opportunities to indulge as well, from SXSW to Coachella, Ultra to Governors Ball.

Not long ago I sat down with the confident up-and-comer at The Commons Chelsea, one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, where over iced tea we discussed the multi-instrumentalist’s inspiration, interest in hacking HIDs, and what it all means.

What’s it like being dubbed a Young Artist to Watch?
It’s great. I grew up watching MTV, so it’s cool. Wild ride. Exciting. Surreal.

How have people reacted? Any super fans?
Nothing too weird so far. But, it’s definitely getting weirder. After the video came out, all of a sudden friends from high school started reaching out, sending messages. It’s fun to hear from people I haven’t heard from in years. But, it’s just funny.

I bet. Did you always know you were going to go into music?
Near the end of high school I knew I was going to do music. I started out thinking I was going to be in science or something. But, I was better at [music]. I think people knew I was a musician, but I don’t know if people knew I was into electronic music and that I was going to go that route.

What would you be doing if not this?
Since college, all of my jobs have been music related. I taught drum lessons, so that was my thing. If it wasn’t music at all, I guess I’d be going to school.

To become a scientist.
Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

So, tell me more about this Wiimote rewiring…
You can hack [a] human interface device, anything from Gamepads to Joysticks, and turn it into a MIDI. Basically, the idea is you’re just sending information to a computer and can turn it into whatever you want. It’s the same thing as having a knob, slider, drum pad. It’s all the same if you can hack it and make it work for you. I found out you could do it, it seemed interesting and it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of expensive musical equipment. And it’s fun, people like it.

How many instruments do you have up onstage with you?
Three different electronic things, two computers, game pad, Joystick, Wiimote, six pieces of percussion, drum set, keyboard. Like, 15-20 things. Sometimes I’ll have a guitar. Oh, and two microphones.

Wow. That’s a lot for one guy to keep track of. So, are all your shows like the last time you performed in New York? No pauses between songs, stuff like that?
The show is always continuous and flows together. When I do a longer set, there’s more drumming. I play guitar sometimes, too. It’s high-paced. Jumping around doing a lot of different things.

I’m getting that vibe. You sampled Moby when you last played live in NYC. Have you been a long time fan of his?
When his album Play came out, I was probably, like, 12. That was when I first started experimenting with making electronic music, because it was kind of accessible, mainstream electronic music for the time. It was kind of something I grew up with.

Aww, an audible homage. Thoughts on our fair city?
I love this city, but Manhattan is a little terrifying. And it’s a little colder here. Do prefer the warm. Other than that, it’s beautiful. It’s awesome. Good people.

Who else besides Moby inspired or inspires you?
The songs on the album especially are an amalgamation of a lot of songs over the last four years, so it’s a wide variety of things. I grew up in Seattle, so there’s the whole indie singer-songwriter vibe that I kind of grew up with, like Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, Modest Mouse. I think you can hear that whole Seattle sound in the way I write melodies. As far as things I’m listening to a lot right now, I’m listening to Lucy and Sports. I also grew up listening to a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Talking Heads. Those are some of my constant jams.

Can you tell me what inspired the lyrics behind “Just Movement”?
“Just Movement,” the first track, is sort of the thesis statement for the album. It was written right after college, a time of mental exploring. Just movement: the idea that, if you take this reductionist perspective, everything we do is just atoms moving around. It’s all meaningless. But, once you break it down, where do you go from there? Just movement, the double entendre. Dancing, philosophy. Take it or leave it.

Have you yourself always been into dancing? I’m thinking, too, of “Global Concepts”…
I go out dancing a lot. Do a lot of jumping around on stage. I think that’s an awesome thing. It’s the oldest response to music that human beings had, so it only makes sense to think about that. For a long time I was in the indie scene and no one dances. Everyone looks at their feet.

[Laughs] Shoegaze. How would you describe the music scene in L.A.?
It’s actually pretty cool. There’s definitely a burgeoning DIY electronic scene in Los Angeles. L.A.’s big. There’s always something happening. You can always see new music. It’s good stuff.

So, how did the face painting start?
The whole thing was a group of me and my friends called the Tribe of Orphans, a bunch of people who hang out and go to dance events and stuff. It kind of just evolved over time. My girlfriend Heidi face paint[s] at shows.

So she’s your professional face painter. Does she paint in real life?
Besides face painting she does studio painting and stuff, so it’s great.

Why orange?
Initially? That’s the color paint that shows up the best under black light. It glows the brightest.

Has anyone ever said something to you about your “x” symbol? How it very much resembles the “x” symbol of The xx?
Yeah, people have said that before.

Does it piss you off?
It does a little bit. It doesn’t really. I didn’t even know about them, that that was their symbol. The “x” just was kind of an organic development. My girlfriend had painted it on my headphones probably three years ago or something, so it was before that first The xx album came out. It was just kind of a simultaneous [thing]. We both did it. And then they became famous first. It’s just an “x.” It is what it is.

Emblem wars aside, what’s the greatest challenge of all this?
I think the greatest challenge is to not get sick all the time from running around. But, I have a lot of energy and this is what I wanted to do, so it’s all working out. So far. I get to do what I love. I love playing shows. That’s what it’s all about.

Photo by Miles Pettengell

Will There Be a Pink Floyd Reunion Tour?

Like all self-respecting musicians in good bands, the remaining members of Pink Floyd hate each other. Guitarist David Gilmour and bassist Roger Waters were entangled in one of the longest and most vitriolic disputes in rock ‘n’ roll history after the band’s split. I use the past tense because things seem to be cooling between the two. For example, in May, Gilmour made a special guest appearance at a Waters concert. They were joined by drummer Nick Mason and performed “Comfortably Numb” together. While one song may not constitute a “reunion,” Neil McCormick of the London Daily Telegraph says that there are whispers that a full-fledged Pink Floyd reunion tour is in the works.

Writing about the 35th anniversary of Animals, McCormick says he “heard an odd piece of gossip last week at a music industry bash, when a well connected friend of drummer Nick Mason claimed the band have been in discussions about the possibility of one last tour.” There was a point in time when the biggest piece of news from that sentence would be that the remaining members of Pink Floyd had an interaction that was civil enough to be deemed a “discussion.” But considering their new buddy-buddyness (they even played together at Live 8 in 2005), this ”odd piece of gossip” doesn’t seem so odd.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Animals, a giant pig zeppelin is being released over the power plant featured on the iconic artwork for that album. According to the press release, “the remaining members of Pink Floyd will not be able to attend the event.” If they can’t be coerced to be with each other for one photo-op, how can they be expected to travel together on a massive reunion tour? As they said themselves, “Money, it’s a gas.” After all, floating recording studio boats don’t pay for themselves.

The Antlers Cover ‘Wish You Were Here’

The A.V. Club has been running a phenomenal series, titled ‘Undercover,’ in which it invites current bands to cover classic songs. The web feature has resulted in some killer pairings, including The Wedding Present covering The Rolling Stones and Ben Folds covering Elliott Smith, but the latest entry is really a doozy—Brooklyn’s own The Antlers covers Pink Floyd’s classic ‘Wish You Were Here.’ The band turns in a great, droning, supremely melancholy rendition that is must-listen stuff.

If you’re interested in hearing more from The Antlers, here’s their single ‘Bear,’ off of 2009’s Hospice.

Beyond ‘The Wall’: 6 Other Albums That Are Worthless Unless Complete

Yesterday heralded a landmark development where rock band Pink Floyd won an estimated settlement of $90,000 against EMI, who had been selling tracks off the band’s concept albums individually on digital retailers like iTunes. The band basically argued that albums like The Wall are meant to be experienced as entire entities, not piecemeal. And their victory begs the question: What other celebrated bits of rock and pop should be sold as entire extravaganzas? To keep this manageable, let’s look at it through the same rose-colored filter through which everyone’s waxing nostalgic about the ’90s. Mind you, these are in no way the best records of their time–although such an assessment wouldn’t be untrue in any of these cases, either.

Liz Phair, Exile In Guyville. Few records have ever cohered as well as Guyville. It pulls off the achievement of being thematically and sonically consistent — without verging on redundancy.

Aimee Mann, Magnolia soundtrack. Although the Tom Cruise-starring film is epic in length, the soundtrack is a showcase of Mann’s finest moments. More than that, the soundtrack manages to re-create the film without putting you through the punishing ordeal of having to sit through all three hours of it time and time again.

Garbage, Version 2.0. Essentially Shirley Manson’s gift to the world, Version 2.0 did what no other album by the band could: It straddled a line between pop and rock that put both audiences ill-at-ease. And it did that without any filler.

Björk, Homogenic. To this day, this record remains the warbler’s most eclectic, buoyant offering. And released during an age of MTV when the network still encouraged forward-thinking media.

Radiohead, OK Computer. The case could probably be made for In Rainbows or Kid A similarly — or any of the band’s other records — but the versatility of Computer is better experienced as a whole, not simply track-by-track.

Spice Girls, Spice World. No, wait! Come back. Though neither lofty in concept or execution, this worked as an unofficial soundtrack to the band’s $29 million-grossing film of the same name. But mostly, the album, in its less-than-40-minute entirety hearkens back to a golden age of pre-Ke$ha pop. It’s one of the most airtight summaries of what the genre was before the age of Twitter and Facebook.