Sunday, August 29, 2010

Polaroid Comeback Gets A Lift

The life, death, and resurrection of the Polaroid brand has been well documented and lamented in the last couple years, especially by me. After the good people at the Impossible Project took the first tentative steps to saving the original Polaroid process, the company that started it all is potentially poised to make a comeback. The first step towards that comeback is the introduction of their first new production line, instant film camera - the PIC 1000.

My deep love of the Polaroid line goes way back, and they are the company I would most like to work for in terms of product development as well as marketing and branding. It seems that due to poor leadership, a distinct lack of understanding has developed towards their audience. Their customers are like me - artists/designers/nostalgics/young creatives/etc. who are absolutely enthralled with everything about the traditional Polaroid experience - the noise the shutter makes, the white border format, the time it takes to develop, the incredibly beautiful saturation of the images it so magically produces. For a long time (and even now) the people running Polaroid don't seem to having any understanding of this, and attempt to "update" the brand for a contemporary, digital audience by producing homogeneous/boring/indistinguishable products through a pixel-based medium.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to go out and buy a Polaroid digital that doesn't offer any of the sentimentality or fun - fun is a term that Polaroid exclusively owns in the photography business - of the original brand. Nobody. Their is no appeal in it. Even when they attempt to combine new, digital technology with the instant photo print template, they screw it up. The evidence of this is the new Polaroid Insta-Print. Had they sought to replicate the inherit charms of the original Polaroid experience - those instantly recognizable white borders, the autumnal colour, the unmistakable Polaroid flash lighting - people might respond to the product. These descriptors are for all intents and purposes the Polaroid brand - these are the real assets of the company itself. Instead, the camera produces bland, printed-at-Walgreens, completely-devoid of personality "shots". And nobody, nobody buys a Polaroid product to engage in a meaningless, boring, anonymous activity.

So that leads us to the PIC 1000. It seems that someone at Polaroid has at least a little understanding of their audience by creating a Polaroid product that:

A. Looks and feels familiar to the user and
Actually embraces the retro appeal and enjoyment of the original.

The all silver plastic version is OK, but the wood grain version is awesome, such a big step in the right direction. It is clearly related to the late 70's, early 80's SX-70 Series models that didn't have a hinge to flip open, but were always ready to shoot.

No word yet on when film will go into production, but at least these prototypes show some rudimentary understanding of their audience. I can't find a release date on the PIC 1000 but I know that I will be the first in line to try to pick one up.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

At Long Last, Howl Comes To The Screen

Way, way back in the mists of time, somewhere in the mid-nineties, I was a young man. My literary education started when a neighbor gave me the Complete Edgar Allen Poe and completely blew my 9 years old mind (I know exactly when this was, because this same neighbor took me to see Back To The Future at the Court St. Theater in Saginaw, MI in the autumn of 1985). This was the beginning of a chain reaction of love affairs with the authors of my youth - I can draw a direct line from Edgar Allen Poe - Jim Morrison - Arthur Rimbaud/French Symbolists - The Beats.

Finding good books was like finding the portal to another universe back then. This was pre-internet, and Saginaw only had one crappy bookstore, which really didn't offer much beyond whatever was popular at the time. So in order to find these books, you had to work for them. I would drive down to Ann Arbor, specifically to hit the used book and record stores (the same challenge held true for music too - we didn't have any good record stores either). I never had much money, and it was always an adventure trying to stretch my meager finances into as many books and records as possible while still having enough to get home on. Those few purchases then, were not to be taken lightly. You might spend the entire day rushing down back alley shortcuts, trying to get into as many stores as possible, and with list pre-written (sometimes weeks in advance) would pore over the shelves and racks, trying to find that one big fish you'd been hearing about but never had the chance to read or hear. This list keeping process was ongoing, and would be kept as sacred information culled from older kids, then trusted professors and my cherished NME and Melody Maker imports from the UK.

It was on one of these trips that I finally got my hands on Howl by Allen Ginsberg. I had already picked up On The Road, experiencing the obligatory life-altering that said novel incurs in any young man who reads it. I knew from doing my research that you can't have Kerouac without having Ginsberg, and so my next purchase was the aforementioned Howl. And wow, it didn't disappoint. From the very first line (one of the greatest first lines in history) "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked" I was hooked. Man, was I hooked. From that point forward I dove headlong into Beat Lit and Beat Culture. From there I got into the secondary names, like Corso and Burroughs, and even had the opportunity to meet Gary Snyder and hear him do a reading. From there I found Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson, and Thomas Wolfe. But I will never forget the thrill of that moment, hunched between the stacks, feeling those words burn from that page on a rainy afternoon in Ann Arbor.

So now comes Howl, the film, starring James Franco as Ginsberg. From all accounts, it is good, having made the festival rounds to solid reviews. It hits the US September 24, and I am dying to see it. Give it a shot, then pick up the book it's named for. You won't be sorry.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dreams Do Come True: Darkness Complete Emerges

Bruce Springsteen - "The Promise: The Making of 'Darkness on the Edge of Town'" Sneak Peek from Columbia Records on Vimeo.

The debate has raged on in late nights in darkened rooms between friends for years. Just what is the greatest Springsteen album of all time? Born To Run is wall to wall ragged epics; The River is a supersize sprawling masterwork; Nebraska might be the greatest set of singer/acoustic guitar songs ever recorded; Born In the USA obviously is the most popular. But for me the best has always been Darkness On the Edge of Town. Very, very few people have captured what it is like to watch your dreams die, and Darkness is the final word on this sentiment.

I've been hoping for a Born To Run style reissue of Darkness, and here it is, in massive form.

From Spinner:

Fans of Bruce Springsteen's 1978 album 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' will be overjoyed by the details of the rock legend's forthcoming box set, 'The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story.' According to Springsteen's official website, the sprawling effort will boast three CDs, three DVDs and an 80-page notebook facsimile of Bruce's original notes from the album's sessions. An alternate edition, known simply as 'The Promise,' will only include the project's 21 unheard complete songs.

"'Darkness' was my 'samurai' record, stripped to the frame and ready to rumble," Springsteen said on the site. "But the music that got left behind was substantial." In advance of the record, Springsteen is streaming the previously unheard song, 'Save My Love' and an excerpt from the previously announced documentary on the record, which will debut on Sept. 14 at the Toronto film festival.

As for the arsenal of unreleased material, Springsteen admits it "perhaps could have/should have been released after 'Born to Run' and before the collection of songs that 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' became." 'The Promise' is the biggest unearthing of previously unreleased material from Springsteen since 1998's four-disc box 'Tracks.'

Among the goodies fans can count on, 'The Promise' touts a rock version of the classic 'Darkness' ballad 'Racing in the Street,' original renditions of 'Because the Night' and 'Fire' -- which were chart hits for Patti Smith and the Pointer Sisters, respectively -- plus the pop-inflected 'Someday (We'll Be Together).' Springsteen's manager Jon Landau described the newly unearthed material, which was mixed by Springsteen's long-time collaborator Bob Clearmountain, as "a great listening experience" and added, "There isn't a weak card in this deck."

The aforementioned notebook will feature alternate lyrics, song ideas, recording specifics, personal observations, rare photographs and a new essay by Springsteen. In addition to the Thom Zimny-directed documentary, the Deluxe Package will count a classic 1978 Houston performance by the band, their 2009 performance of 'Darkness' at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, N.J., and a DVD dubbed 'Thrill Hill Vault (1976-1978)' with live performances of material from the era.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kids, This Is The Template

Recently found out that college freshmen were born in 1992, never learned to write in cursive, and have only known a digital world. Rap or Hip Hop has been the most popular music since they were born. Country is second and Pop is third. Oh, and they are the first generation without Rock Stars since World War II. Really, let that sink in for a second.


Look kids! This is what Rock & Roll looks like!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kill City Gets the Full Reissue Treatment

Ed. Note - My love of Iggy Pop is well documented. But just to clarify, I love Raw Power, even the reissue. However, Fun House is my favorite Stooges album, but I digress. OK, now that I've said that, I can continue.

When the Stooges imploded in 1974, Iggy Pop and semi-new Stooge James Williamson began recording some demos with the expressed desire of earning a record contract. Iggy, strung out on heroin and generally haggard, worked on the material with Williamson while on weekend furloughs from the mental institution he was residing in at the time. These sessions did not lead to a record deal, and Williamson parted ways with Pop, working as a session guitarist, producer, and finally to head the Music Technologies Department at Sony, a position he held until Pop plucked him out of retirement to come back full time in the retooled Stooges following Ron Asheton's untimely death in 2009.

Iggy needed a saviour, and lo and behold found one in brilliant superstar David Bowie. Bowie literally pulled Pop from the gutter, signed him to his MainMan Mgmt. company and produced and helped write not one but two Pop masterpieces, the oft mentioned, immortal The Idiot and Lust For Life.

Following the success of those albums, Kill City was released to the public as is and warts and all. While not being as brilliant as Raw Power (nothing could really) Kill City is pretty good, straight forward, Stone-sy style rock and roll.

Speaking to BLURT earlier this year, Williamson was enthusiastic about the project, saying, "I finished mixing Kill City and we're going to release that this year, as well. A friend of mine is a really, really good engineer, Ed Cherney. He went in and mixed the album with my help. This guy has done records for everybody and he just made this record sound, well, like it should have sounded all along. It has finally reached its full potential and that's exciting. We're now going to remaster that and do all the artwork and Pop is going to rerelease it, probably late summer early fall."

I am very excited to hear this release, as I feel that there is a gem of an album beneath the hiss. The best possible thing they could do is remove the saxophone from all of the songs - it takes away much of the impact from the tracks, wafting in all soft and buttery on top of some really visceral guitar work. Hopefully Iggy realizes this and makes the move, as he is not shy from making significant, if controversial moves when remastering his past work, as he had in his Raw Power remaster of 1997.

The Kill City reissue will finally see the light of day on October 19th.

For more good stuff, read this interview with James Williamson over at Blurt.

UPDATE: Below is the trailer - good stuff!

Buy the Dead Weather Poster Set

You can buy the entire 20 poster run from Rob Jones of his Dead Weather series in one go. Over at the great Animal Rummy, there is alot more to see.

Buy em here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Phantom City Posters Are Scary Good

Phantom City designs some great posters, especially for horror movies. Above is their take on Let The Right One In, a totally awesome film that you should check out too if you already haven't.

Find Phantom City here.

Find Let The Right One In here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Minimalist Album Covers Are Awesome

Classic album covers - photographic imagery + minimalist shapes and typography = awesome.

Enjoy them all here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Walkmen Debut Angela Surf City On Fallon

OK, so here is a follow up post to my previous one about the Walkmen. Last night they debuted the first track from Lisbon, the new album. It's called Angela Surf City and it rocks.

Turn it up really loud.

Waiting For Superman Is Heartbreaking

Waiting For Superman
is the new documentary from Davis Guggenheim. In it, the failing American education system is dissected. It is a sad, sad state of affairs, and even watching the trailer will make you want to cry. It's more than a dumbing down of America, it's to the point where this generation will be less literate than the one before it, for the first time in several generations.

This is worse than mere consumerist, plasticized culture. This is a disaster.

New Walkmen Album Is On It's Way

It Came From Brooklyn: The Walkmen // In The New Year [Part 1 of 3] from Ray Concepcion on Vimeo.

One of my very favorite bands, The Walkmen (winners of my Top Ten Albums of 2008 list, with their raggedly elegant You & Me) are about to return with a new album. That album, entitled Lisbon, was written mostly during the tour behind their previous record, and is reported to share much of the same DNA with that period. Which suits me fine, as the band had truly moved into a higher plane with the release of that beautiful set.

The Walkmen have an interesting story. Back in the late Nineties most of the members were in another band - Jonathan Fire Eater. JFE were immensely hyped, and a bidding war kicked off between several record companies to sign them. Eventually they did, and their lead singer - Stewart Lupton - promptly got hooked on heroin, forcing a major rift between him and the rest of the band due to his unreliability as well as his desire to go in a different musical direction. They finally put out an album, which died a quick death, and band and singer parted ways. The guys then met raspy soul singer Hamilton Leithauser and reformed as The Walkmen. I picked up their first album - Bows & Arrows in 2002 and went crazy for The Rat, one of the best rock songs of the past decade. They grew and matured, but appeared to be moving kind of sideways - covering Nilsson's Pussy Cats in it's entirety, and kind of floating. Then came the aforementioned, beautiful You & Me and suddenly it seemed like all that potential had come together.

So we are today, and Lisbon will be released September 14th. I am very excited. Check them out - you won't be sorry. There is a nice article about them here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Moz Lists His Top 13 Albums of All Time

Morrissey is one of my big heroes, so pretty much whenever he ever does anything at all, I am totally interested. Morrissey recently listed his Top 13 Albums of All Time, and they are killer, as expected. Gotta love the choices, especially the standard VU, Patti Smith, Stooges, and Jeff Buckley selections.

Also, on a completely unrelated topic, Moz is re-releasing his immortal 1988 single Everyday Is Like Sunday on September 24th. One of the greatest songs of all time, remastered in September.

Here's his list in full:

1. New York Dolls - New York Dolls (Mercury, 1973)
2. Ramones - Ramones (Sire, 1976)
3. Patti Smith - Horses (Arista, 1976)
4. Nico - Chelsea Girl (MGM, 1967)
5. Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power (Columbia, 1973)
6. Sparks - Kimono My House (Island, 1974)
7. Velvet Underground - 'White Light/White Heat' (Verve, 1968)
8. The Velvet Underground - 'The Velvet Underground & Nico' (Verve, 1967)
9. Roxy Music - 'For Your Pleasure' (Island, 1972)
10. Damien Dempsey - 'Seize the Day' (Attack, 2004)
11. Smoking Popes - 'Born to Quit' (Capitol, 1995)
12. Jeff Buckley - 'Grace' (Columbia, 1995)
13. Jobriath - 'Jobriath' (Elektra 1973)

Yeah, Pantone Pencils Are As Cool As You Might Think

Saw these today - Pantone coloured pencils.

How amazingly cool.

Get em here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jean-Luc Godard Is One of My Heroes

Jean-Luc Godard is one of my heroes. If you don't know him, get to know him. Here he is at a mid-sixties press conference, telling journalists what he thinks of them.

That is all. More at another time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mademoiselle Is A Lost Classic

Mademoiselle was a film produced in 1966 by director Tony Richardson, (he of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner fame). It stars one of my favorite actresses of all time, the stunningly beautiful, preternaturally talented Jeanne Moreau, (she of Jules and Jim fame). It is a story of sexual repression and reprehensible evil, written by the immortal Jean Genet.

The film is set in a French country hamlet, where a series of mysterious, tragic events have befallen the town. Arson, livestock poisoning, etc. have occurred, causing confusion and loss amongst the villagers. Soon the angry citizens turn their focus on the Italian laborers who are the only outsiders amongst them, slowly tightening their noose around them as their suspicions grow. What they don't realize though, is that the gorgeous schoolmistress, pillar of the community, is responsible for all the disasters. This is not a spoiler - the film opens with her opening the dike to flood the village.

's performance is so far ahead of it's time - this was her "female vengeance" part, the precursor to her role in Francois Truffaut's full scale femme revenge fantasy The Bride Wore Black (clearly a Tarantino favorite, as virtually every female character he has ever written seems to be the offspring of Moreau's bride character, especially Kill Bill I & II). She is complex, placid, feral, authoritative, and in control, simultaneously. Her performance is so unconventional - simmering malice can be detected in the slight details. The way she puts her black gloves on when preparing to do some unspeakable evil, her awful berating of the Italian laborer's son - constantly presage her nefarious intentions.

The stark black and white imagery is stunning, and individual frames appear as pieces of art unto themselves, with amazing depth of focus and asymmetrical compositions. This is wicked good film making, where all the usual audience conventions are subverted from the get go.

This is a fascinating moment in cinema, and if you are a fan of Moreau, especially her impeccable work of the period, then seek it out. I bought it on DVD for $2.50 on Amazon, so you can buy it cheaper than to rent it. Definitely worth a look for any cinephile.

TCM has a great review of it here.

IFC's Top Fifty Trailers of All Time Is Good, Incomplete

Recently IFC ranked the Top Fifty Trailers of All Time. Some are right on, like the above, while some are missing. One of the greatest trailers of all time is missing though - the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing. That trailer was so good the film couldn't live up to it. And that's saying alot.

Take a look at the full list here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pilot Handwriting Fonts Are, Um, Interesting?

Pilot pens have created a way for users to make and use a typeface from their own handwriting, really, really easily. Go here to try it out.

From Core 77:

We're digging Pilot's fun bid to stay relevant in the computer era. As their products have increasingly become disconnected from correspondence, the writing instrument manufacturer gives you one last opportunity to use an actual physical pen for e-mail, if only once, and inject a bit of your personality into as many future e-mails as you like.

2010 Rolling Roadshow Tour Is Beyond Cool

The 2010 Rolling Roadshow Tour is a traveling film fest that shows a film in the actual city it is set in. Example: Robocop is set in Detroit, so they are showing it in Detroit. It's a cool idea, but these Saul Bass inspired posters are just too, too awesome for words. Go to their site and check them all out - each one is killer in it's own right.

Enjoy it here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Josef Albers Film Is Awesome

The Full Spectrum for Dwell | Josef Albers from gary nadeau on Vimeo.

Josef Albers
, one of the pioneers of modern colour theory, is the subject of Dwell Magazine's documentary series.

Awesome. Enjoy.