Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Musical Views

We're trying to get back to technological equity around here. In the process, we again have acquired the ability to look at not only recorded video on DVD, but also on that most modern technological wonder, VHS tape. Since our original DVD player (early-adopter syndrome) wouldn't play the latest discs, we've been accumulating content for viewing without actually seeing them. So, we're in a catch up phase. Except for watching Young Frankenstein on VHS, most of what we've been watching is musical in nature.

Recent viewings include:
  • I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, the Sam Jones movie about the making of Wilco's most recent record, complete with their being dropped from their record company (Reprise, a Time-Warner company) only to eventually be picked up by Nonesuch (another Time-Warner company). Good, with a pretty good music mix (that I can tell. We're still running Dolby Pro Logic, having not quite reached Dolby 5.1 tech equity, much less the various higher circles of surround-sound hell). An interesting view of the whole record-making and record-selling process. It has some obvious omissions, like any good documnetary, but the band's music comes across as vital and challenging.
  • Bittersweet Motel, a Todd Phillips flick which chronicles a tour by Vermont jam band Phish. There are some great visual moments, but little of the great musical happenings that make Phish fun and interesting to listen to here. Of particular note is the balloon drop at a New Year's Eve performance while Phish bangs out their own arrangement of Auld Lang Syne. Replace "balloon" with "trippy beach ball" -- like a Residents eye beach ball, or one that looks like that attacking weather balloon off of The Prisoner. The film is way too centered on guitarist Trey Anastasio to the neglect of the important contributions of the other members of the band. It's likely just a reflection of the activity level of the various participants, but the director, in my opinion anyway, is supposed to present at least a decent glimpse of all. Musically, it's even more skewed towards Trey, even if the guitar is buried in the not-very-good mix.
  • Styx, Caught in the Act, aka Kilroy was Here. "Pretty scarey," but a great illustration of the forces that actually brought musical vitality back in the various forms of punk and underground in the late 70s and early 80s.

    Addendum: By "brought musical vitality back", I mean as a reaction to the lumbering dinosaurosity of bands like Styx, Journey, Kansas, et al. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy their music, but the staging, the pomposity, etc. was a lot of what led to punk and the like.
Saving what might be the best for last, we've still got Standing in the Shadows of Motown and the DVD that came with the most recent Metallica record to watch before we're all caught up on musical programs.