Friday, October 18, 2019

Nice pumpkins!

I'll be traveling to my homeland of southern Appalachia over the next week and unable to do any posts, so in honor of my birthplace, today's song is by Appalachia's patron saint, Dolly Parton. Dolly is by far my favorite musician, but sadly she hasn't done a lot spooky songs that fit our purposes here. The closest we've come is when her former TV singing partner, Porter Wagoner, showed up the first year of this blog with his unsettling madhouse ode "The Rubber Room." Dolly has done a few creepy numbers, like her ghostly dead child ballad "Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark," her beautiful woman-gone-mad epic "Mountain Angel," and her rendition of the classic murder ballad "Banks of the Ohio."

But my favorite Halloween-worthy Dolly composition isn't a song but a recitation of a scary story her mother used to tell her and her siblings to make them get in bed at night. "Bloody Bones and Scratch Eyes" comes from Dolly's first live album, 1970's A Real Live Dolly. It was recorded in the auditorium of her alma mater, Sevier County High School in Sevierville Tennessee, so Dolly's mother was probably sitting there in the audience when Dolly admitted this story used to make her wet the bed. She says that now that she's grown, she's still not sure if there's not a real Boogerman, Scratch Eyes, and Rawhead Bloody Bones lurking the hills and forests of Appalachia. Who knows, maybe I'll encounter one of those creatures while I'm home. If so, I hope my bladder isn't full...

Thursday, October 17, 2019

¡DiversiĆ³n monstruosa!

Of all the new horror shows clogging up streaming services and TV airwaves these days, my favorite of the year (and maybe of the past several years) is one I didn't think I'd like at all. When I first saw ads for Los Espookys in the subway, I thought it would be yet another teen supernatural drama. I mean look at that poster--you could easily drop a teenage witch or two in there without stirring the fog. But the only somewhat correct thing about my assumption is the supernatural part.

In reality, Los Espookys is one of the most delightfully odd shows I've ever seen. It concerns a group of friends in an unnamed Mexican city who turn their love of horror into a business staging supernatural events for paying clients. For instance, in one episode the group creates a sea monster for a seaside village needing a tourism boost. In another they help an ambassador stage her own abduction with the help of a cursed mirror. The show is as funny as it is strange--kind of like if Pete and Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete grew up, learned Spanish, and got really obsessed with the supernatural.

Los Espookys got renewed for a second season, so hopefully by this time next year we'll all be watching the further adventures of Renaldo, Tati, Ursula, and Andres (and maybe more than six episodes this time, pretty please?). Until then, enjoy the song that opens and closes the show, "Ellos Quieren Sangre" (They Want Blood) by Varsovia.

The trailer doesn't do justice to how hilariously surreal and surreally hilarious the show is, but if you haven't seen it before, this will give you an idea of what you're missing. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Hex the patriarchy!

If you've been wishing our modern era of free gender expression would extend itself to our most popular deities, Twin Temple is one step ahead of you (at least on the Satan front). We heard from this devilish doo-wop group last year, with a song from their self-titled debut. Just this month they released a new single: "Satan's A Woman" backed with "I Am A Witch." The album's cover describes these songs as "The diabolical new singles from the wickedest band in the world, presented in monophonic sound for your listening pleasure. Suitable for ritual use."

In the case of "Satan's A Woman," however, the ritual wouldn't involve virgin sacrifice so much as a mean Watusi. This Dame Scratch doesn't need your money or blood because she makes her own and is proud of it! Mama never said there'd be days like this, when the devil comes out as female through the medium of a song you can do The Twist to, but I'm glad they're here.

Twin Temple is on tour right now, so go bow down as low as you can go if they come to a town near you! I have tickets to see them in December and am already breaking in my cloven dance shoes. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tis the season to be witchy

2019 seems to be the year of so-so horror films with better-than-average spooky song remakes on their soundtracks. In addition to the reimagining of "Pet Sematary" by Starcrawler that we heard yesterday, Lana Del Rey did an excellent spooky/sexy cover of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

We heard a song from the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books back in 2014, long before there was word of a movie version in the works. Those books are sacred ground for me, since they both terrified and fascinated me as a kid. I can't say the new film flew over the bar I had set for it in my mind, but it didn't crash and burn, either. It's actually a fairly decent gateway horror film for tweens/teens, as well as a nifty nostalgia trip for people like myself who want to see Stephen Gammell's hideous artistic creations rise from the page. To my delight (and probably to the credit of producer Guillermo del Toro), the movie doesn't hold back on breathing putrid, rotten life into Gammell's monsters. See for yourself in these side-by-side comparisons of The Pale Lady and Harold the Scarecrow!

No need to fear a shoddy rendering of a perennial Halloween playlist tune, either. However you feel about Lana Del Rey, her ethereal melancholia is perfectly suited for "Season of the Witch."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Sometimes dead is better.

This weekend I visited one of the spookiest sites in rock 'n roll history--the graveyard where The Ramones filmed their video for "Pet Sematary"! It's located just an hour north of New York City in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which at this time of year you can tour in the dead of night by lantern. According to our tour guide, Stephen King is a huge Ramones fan and in the early 80s invited them to dinner at his house in Maine. Marky Ramone claimed King gave them a preliminary copy of Pet Sematary, at which point Dee Dee Ramone shut himself up in a room in King's house for a couple hours and wrote the lyrics to the song.

Stephen King later said this story is complete bs, but also told his publisher not to change a word of it. Quoting James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, he said "When the truth and legend are in opposition, print the legend." Whatever actually happened, the song certainly got written and used in the 1989 film version of King's book, and the video for the song certainly got recorded in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Keep your eyes peeled, a couple of those weirdos hanging out in the graveyard at night are Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie!


I wasn't a big fan of the Pet Sematary remake that got released earlier this year, but the remake of the Ramones' classic title song featured in it is actually pretty decent! It's by the band Starcrawler and brings a 70s Blue Oyster Cult-ish vibe to the song. Check it out!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Since You're Gone

Just last month we lost one of the most iconic voices of 80s pop, who also went on to produce some of the biggest albums of the 1990s and early 2000s. I think Ric Ocasek's obituary in The New York Times describes his seminal work with The Cars best: "[They] merged a vision of romance, danger, and nocturnal intrigue and the concision of new wave music with the sonic depth and ingenuity of radio-friendly rock." Which basically means they were ultra-cool and rocking and smarter than the average radio sludge.

Throughout the 80s while The Cars were having monster hit after monster hit, Ric Ocasek was also releasing some solo albums. Today's song comes from his second solo work: 1986's This Side of Paradise. "Hello Darkness" is the only song on the album that Ric cowrote with his Cars bandmate/keyboard player Greg Hawkes, and you can certainly hear the moody/synthy crossover. Ric said it's about his love of darkness, which of course makes it perfect Halloween listening. Slip on a pair of black shades in Ric's honor and dig!  

Ric Ocasek grew up in Baltimore, so naturally he ended up in a John Waters movie!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Eighth Wonder of the World!

Another theatrical highlight for me this year was finally seeing one of my lifelong heroes in person--King Kong! The Broadway musical version of his classic story opened last winter, after an initial run in Australia. Much like Bat Out of Hell, its appeal isn't so much its story (or in this case its songs, either), but its amazing visuals. The King Kong puppet is a true wonder to behold, and by far my favorite performance of the year. He could make me cry with just a twitch of his eyebrows--can't say that's true for any human Tony winners out there. 
Hail to the King!

The musical's story follows the plot of the 1933 film pretty closely, although the Ann Darrow character is updated to be a little less "damsel in distress" than when Fay Wray embodied her. But Kong is still the gorilla we know and love, fighting a giant serpent, rampaging through New York (and up the Empire State Building), and falling much too hard for the lady he loves. The Kong puppet is an artistic masterwork, and the projections and set pieces perfectly animate him within his world. After just a few minutes, you forget that he can't move without a small swarm of black-clad ninja assistants. If you're curious how he works, check out this insightful clip from CBS This Morning.

So far no cast album has been released for King Kong, and the only video for a complete song I can find from the show is the performance of "Full Moon Lullaby" the cast did for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade last year. The song is pretty sappy, but at least there's some sweet Kong action at the beginning and end of it. This song comes just before Ann betrays Kong's trust by luring him to the men who will capture him. I like to imagine the song ends with Kong smashing her, and he's still living happily on Skull Island today.