Sight & Sound

Revisiting Emo: This Afternoon’s If We Gave Up Now

afterSometime in 2002, I received This Afternoon’s third full length, If We Gave Up Now, from now defunct label Emplane. Revisiting this release some 11 years later, it’s interesting to revisit my initial thoughts on the record when I wrote the review of it (back in 2002).

Here’s how I initially described the band; “mid to late 90s almost Midwestern indie rock influenced punk. There are catchy hooks, heartfelt vocalizations with a distinct mid tempo rock feel. You can compare them to the likes of Texas is the Reason, the Enkindels and maybe some early Elliott.”

It’s a pretty accurate description upon re-listening to the release. I do however, have to note that while I originally said that some of the longer song lengths tend to feel like “four hours of driving through Kansas,” their effect today is a little less draining. Almost as if a four hour drive through Kansas really isn’t that bad. Maybe it’s just the decade in between, but I seem to appreciate the slower build up, the more languid song structures, and the less than urgent demeanor in which the music unfolds- much more than I did back in 2002. Texas is the Reason is probably the closest recognized sound This Afternoon emulates, and while the paced approach to songwriting may not appeal to every post-hardcore enthusiast, If We Gave Up Now may just surprise a few.

It just takes a little time. Have a listen:

“Made By Make Believe”
Made By Make Believe

“Stop-Sign Racing”
Stop Sign Racing

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Trailers

Trailer watch: Edge of Tomorrow

In what could be one of the more fascinating science fiction cinematic treks of 2014, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in the dystopia-fueled Edge of Tomorrow. The film tells the story of Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Cruise) and Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Blunt) who join forces to fight a hostile alien race known as Mimics, with Cage continually returning to a fatal battle through a time loop.

The film is based on the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill with a screenplay written in part by Transformers/Star Trek scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Doug Liman, who helmed box office successes such as The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, directs.

It would easily be one of the most engaging and thought provoking films of next year, giving audiences all the necessary CG-laced action with an added helping of a cerebral workout. Or it could end up being Groundhog Day with guns. And explosions.

Edge of Tomorrow opens June 6th, 2014.

 

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Sight & Sound

LISTEN: Joshua and the Baggage EP

joshjoshJoshua are quite the emo anomaly; once the darlings of the genre, their presence went from the thoroughfares of file sharing’s best days to the unfortunate mumblings of ‘what ever happened to?’ and the occasional joyous find at local Mom and Pop record stores. Capturing much of the attention in their early Doghouse Records days, they reached a pinnacle through, of all things, a self-titled single that still holds their two finest offerings; “Divide Us” and “Your World is Over.” It is quite strange to think that while many of their counterparts (who ply their trade in very much the same scope) have ascended to far greater heights, Joshua have never scaled higher than occasional scene reminiscence and the inquisitive wondering of lost potential…

One wonders if the band had been around today, whether their brand of pop-tinged emo would find its way onto grander settings. Truth be told, their final release, the Baggage EP, doesn’t differ too far from what popular acts like Say Anything did during their heyday. Yet there is a certain air of unpretentiousness that comes with Joshua that is sorely lacking in the music Max Bemis (of Say Anything) generally writes. Perhaps this is due to the relative obscurity that Joshua had in comparison to Say Anything, an aura of undiscovered riches amongst a sea anemone of emo-flavored indie rock. It’s what gives their music replayability years and years after the fact. Have a listen to the very breezy “Perfect Man” and tell me you’re not swayed … and then listen to the track “A Better Place” to see just what could have been.

“Perfect Man”
“Perfect Man”

“A Better Place”
“A Better Place”

Note: We are of course talking about the Joshua formed in 1995, who went on to release material on both Immigrant Sun and Doghouse … not the metal band.

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Trailers

Trailer watch: Godzilla (2014)

Having laid dormant for more than a decade, one of the most celebrated monsters of cinema returns to the big screen in Hollywood’s second imagining of Japan’s biggest import. Godzilla, the much anticipated new film in the long running franchise stakes claim as the preeminent city-destroying beast once again next May.

Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn and Juliette Binoche, Godzilla is the “epic rebirth to Toho’s iconic Godzilla, a spectacular adventure pitting the world’s most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.”

The film is the spiritual successor to the 1998 Roland Emmerich film of the same name. That film, while doing fairly well at the box office, failed to impress critics and fans of the series with its hokey dialogue and much revamped monster. Next year’s Gareth Edwards-directed film however, looks to be true to the original Godzilla concept, with the monster looking more like the traditional Japanese vision. I am however, one of the few that enjoyed the 1998 version of the film, but this new movie certainly looks much larger in scale and far less comical than its predecessor. The trademark Godzilla roar at the trailer’s end was all I needed to be on board come next May.

The trailer unfolds in a strange serenity; a beautiful descent from the skies into the destruction, madness and chaos of a world torn apart by monsters. Straitharn’s narration gives the film gravitas, and the smoke-clad unveiling of Godzilla almost awe-inspiring.

Godzilla features a screenplay co-written by Frank Darabont, Max Borenstein and David Callaham. If we’re lucky, Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page will be nowhere near the soundtrack.

May 16th, 2014, Gojira returns.

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Sight & Sound

LISTEN: The Wunder Years – Pitstops On The Road Less Travelled

pitstopsThe festive season is an amalgamation of many sentiments. For some, its time is best shared in the comfort of those closest to them- be it friends or family. Others find solace in the seemingly endless road that beckons- solitary journeys that evoke the deepest of personal introspection and wonderment. If the latter is true, than perhaps the overtly bubbly nature of this time can be a little soulless- one too many “feliz navidads” sung by wide-eyed children in busy shopping malls.

In 1999 I discovered an indie/punk band on my travels around Northern California called The Wunder Years. A perfectly monikered band for those who happened to grow up alongside the troubled (but very thoughtful) childhood of one Kevin Arnold dreaming of someday landing their very own Winnie Cooper. Regardless, this particular Wunder Years took their cues more from the likes of Jawbreaker than Joe Cocker- resulting in a near seamless blend of Kerouacan contemplation and road weary rock n’ roll.

They sang about what it is like being lost in youth, finding one’s self on your travels, and growing up along the way. I for one, thought that at the age of 18/19, it was the perfect accompaniment to those years— like the audio version of On The Road. Plus, they threw in a rendition of a Cars classic, which was very well done. Appropriately, the album was called Pitstops On the Road Less Traveled. And at the time, it felt right- another chapter in a book we’re all writing.

In the years since, the band dissolved and the moniker was taken up by Pennsylvania pop punk act The Wonder Years, who felt it wasn’t necessary to avoid copyright issues. This band, while at times seemingly energetic and youthful, is by far the lesser of the two. It’s a shame that they’re the band most people will associate the name to. But as this is a nostalgic trek down the road less travelled, here are three songs from Pit Stops.

Listen: “Go Kid Go”
Go Kid Go

 

Listen: “Vacations/Seperations”
Vacations Seperations

 

Listen: “Just What I Needed”
Just What I Needed

 

 

Supplementary notes: Members of The Wunder Years went on to form The Ghost, and The Velvet Teen. Brian Moss, the band’s primary songwriter and vocalist, does time as Hanelei.

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Film Interviews

The Big Heat: An Interview with director Robbie Studsor

There can be great mystery in filmmaking, one solidified in the annals of film noir and historical film movements. There were stories hidden amongst the cigarette lit shadows and fire and ash, protagonists whose motives lay hidden behind sweat and reflection, and the echo of dialogue shrouded in the black of night. These are seemingly forgotten traits of modern film, blasted into yesterday by the intolerance of leaving more to the imagination and an impatient audience.

Filmmaker Robbie Studsor is not one to partake in such beaten paths. Having studied film’s great past and the many great filmmakers whose craft was deeply coiled in mystery and imagination, Studsor is taking Australian filmmaking into new and unfamiliar territory. Little is known about his feature film The Burning Kiss, and from its beautifully detailed and richly painted trailer, we can see that mystery and suspense is a big part of its existence. Officially described as a “hallucinogenic summer noir cocktail spiked with surrealism”, The Burning Kiss aims to give Australian cinema its much overdue neo-noir revitalisation. We talk to Studsor about the film, his motives behind its creation and perhaps, a small revealing of what we can expect when the film opens in 2014.

We’ve also got an exclusive still from the film which you can view at the end of this interview.

I was immediately taken aback by the trailer for The Burning Kiss; visually stunning. But it was both revealing and secretive at the same time. How important is it to the film that you’re not revealing too much about it?

Very important. I tend to agree with Roman Polanski’s sentiments from a few years ago that the modern film experience essentially has no regard for mystery or surprise, particularly in terms of promotion. I don’t think I’m alone in the sense that I appreciate film promotion that respects posters, trailers and the likes as pieces of art on their own terms and not even necessarily something that has an obvious connection to the film. I’m very fortunate that my VFX artist Josh Weeks is not only incredibly gifted and original but also very imaginative and completely open to experimentation. He understood the concept instantly, which at the time we were actually calling a ‘moving poster’ rather than a teaser.

What can you tell us about the film in regards to its narrative?

Without giving away too much, the film exhibits a range of different influences and inspirations in its narrative. It essentially combines a character structure you might find in both gothic and southern gothic fiction (archetypes like a stranger, a tyrant, an ingénue etc) with a crime subplot maybe somewhere between Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion by Elio Petri and This Man Must Die by Claude Chabrol. It’s also got elements of surrealism, mystery and psychodrama, which make it a very, very wild ride.

There is a distinct visual and aural tone to it; can we expect the film to continue what the trailer has teased in that regard?

Absolutely! This first teaser was designed to communicate a particular mood of the film and it certainly gives a glimpse into what to expect. The music for example is a small sample of a very unique score that is almost impossible to describe. Our composer, Christopher de Groot, is incredible and has created something that falls somewhere between Les Baxter, Delia Derbyshire, John Zorn and Bernard Herrmann. It’s a sci/fi, exotica, noir nightmare and I think people are going to love it.

tbkplaybillWhen can we expect a full trailer?

Mid next year, however we have lots of cool things before it that I’m excited about getting out there. There will be a couple more teasers, more artwork and other cool stuff by a very talented designer based in Perth, Western Australia called Ash Pederick, who has handled all our artwork so far.

Tell us a little bit about your directorial history and how the idea of The Burning Kiss came about?

The Burning Kiss is my feature film directorial debut. Prior to this I was lecturing in film and screenwriting at university and working as a co-writer with a super talented Australian genre director by the name of Sam Barrett, most recently on his film Sororal, which is Australia’s first neo-giallo film and something I’m very proud to be a part of.

It’s hard to tell how the idea came about to be honest, I do remember being very fascinated by the opening titles for the film Lady in a Cage and wanting to do something with the same vibe. It creates this menacing, summer atmosphere in about 2 minutes. It’s like Weegee meets Saul Bass or something. If you haven’t seen it, check it out! I put it up there with the opening of Blue Velvet.

You cite Chabrol and Mario Bava as some of your influences, is there a period of historical film you can say is your favourite or most influential to The Burning Kiss?

Well, firstly let me say that growing up in the 80s and 90s means some irreparable damage has been done to my brain. Sometimes I find myself thinking that I’m doing something reminiscent of Les Biches or Les Diaboliques but it’s actually more like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle or Single White Female if you know what I mean?

That aside, I certainly love a lot of cinema from the 60s and 70s, but let’s face it, who doesn’t? It’s pretty hard to argue with the output during those decades.

The Burning Kiss absolutely draws from those decades, but we were very determined not to be ‘retro’ and were more interested in capturing a certain mood, emotion or sense of style from a specific set of influences. I actually spent about a month before pre-production searching through photography books and capturing screen grabs from films which I then turned into these crude ‘mood reels’ which I would show to the key creatives and actors. There are a variety of influences outside of film that informed the look and style of the film from photographers such as Martin Parr and Clifford Coffin to painters such as Clovis Trouille and David Hockney.

What were some of the benefits of shooting in Western Australia, in terms of the visual elements you wanted to achieve in the film?

Western Australia has some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet, which obviously doesn’t hurt the look of a film. Sometimes it feels like if you just point the camera in one direction you’ve got Paris, Texas and if you point it the other way South Pacific or something. That being said, filmmaking is equally difficult to do wherever it goes down. Even considering all the advances in technology, I think when it comes to actually creating a film and telling a story, it’s no easier than it was in the silent era. There are a million problems, anxieties and difficulties that have little to do with what kind of camera you’re shooting on.

The film has quite an ambitious scope and the production was extremely fortunate to have dedicated and helpful contacts that helped us shoot in some very obscure and interesting locations.

The film is slated for release in 2014, will it be aimed at the festival circuit or will it be out on a much wider release?

Definitely the festival circuit at this stage. As we are still in post-production it’s difficult to predict what will happen in terms of distribution although there has been some very positive early buzz which is very exciting, so I don’t want to jinx anything!

I like the idea of presenting a “different kind of Australia”. Why do you think so many Australian films have yet to do this?

I’m sure they all do in their own way. I love Australian films, we just used that description to hopefully pique some interest as the film has genre elements, yet stylistically it isn’t connected to Animal Kingdom or Chopper nor is it Ozploitation. So in that simple sense it is different. In terms of drama and design it’s quite expressionistic and fun which I think people will respond to. A bit more “Ken Russell” than “Ken Loach”.

Our team basically just used influences from European to American, to Australian and arrived at a style that excited everyone associated with the production. It’s not like I’m using the film to apply for residency or anything so I don’t feel the burden of trying to prove my ‘Australian-ness’ onscreen. I do live in fear that the film might be declared ‘un-Australian’ and there will be a rushed Kangaroo court (pun intended!) hearing and Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson will come to my house and personally kick my arse! The last thing I need right now is a beat down at the hands of Doug from Cocktail.

 

The Burning Kiss opens in 2014. Check out an exclusive still from the film below.

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Sight & Sound

WATCH: Pennywise live in 1993 (Jason Thirsk vocals)

Our friends at Dying Scene have uncovered some rare live footage of Pennywise live from 1993. Live not because it is Pennywise from 1993, but because the footage showcases Jason Thirsk singing vocals in Jim Lindberg’s absence. Thirsk was the band’s bassist until 1996 when he was tragically killed in a freak gun accident.

The footage is from a 1993 Hollywood show which lasted about 16 minutes before cops showed up and shut it down.

Thirsk wrote the song “Bro Hymn” for his friends who were killed in a car accident. After Thirsk’s death, the band re-wrote the song for Thirsk and released it on their 1997 album Full Circle. You can listen to that version of the song here.

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