Category Archives: music

The GAR! Podcast: Negative Fandom and Underwear

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The Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network presents The GAR! Podcast, the Glenn Walker and Ray Cornwall weekly podcast where they talk unrehearsed about whatever happens to come to mind. It’s an audio-zine for your mind, a nerd exploration of a nerd world, coming to you from across the vastness of suburban New Jersey via Skype. This week, we’re talking about music and underwear, along with all the usual stuff. See and hear more after the jump.

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The Ten Percent – Let the Sunshine In

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“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Ten Percent! Every two weeks, Ensley F. Guffey and I use this space to take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. Viewed as a whole, Sturgeon was right – the vast majority of movies, television, writing, art, and so on really is crud – but there is that slim slice of sublime. In this space, we’ve talked about slapstick comedy, high-toned drama, quality animation, blood-curdling horror, spectacular science fiction, and more besides. We get to do that because the Ten Percent isn’t limited by genre – these rare gems last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

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The GAR! Podcast: Black Friday with The Time

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The Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network presents The GAR! Podcast, the Glenn Walker and Ray Cornwall weekly podcast where they talk unrehearsed about whatever happens to come to mind. It’s an audio-zine for your mind, a nerd exploration of a nerd world, coming to you from across the vastness of suburban New Jersey via Skype. This week, we’re talking about Black Friday, The Time, and Arrested Development, along with all the usual stuff. See and hear more after the jump.

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Biff Bam Pop Remembers David Bowie

David Bowie

Andy Burns: I saw Bowie three times – the first was at a 2,000 seat club in Toronto called The Warehouse. He was touring Earthling, which I thought and still think was a fantastic album. Seeing him that close was amazing. A few years later, he was second on the bill to Moby for the latter’s Area 2 festival. We leaned against the stage at a giant amphitheater. We were closer. The third and final time was an arena show, and I was far away. I didn’t love it, though. It felt too much like a greatest hits show. But it didn’t matter. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

We all have our favourite David Bowie. Mine is the one I’ve listened to since 1993, when Black Tie, White Noise came out. The first Bowie album I bought. Jump, They Say, was about his brother who had committed suicide. I bought every new album after that. I loved OutsideI Have Not Been To Oxford Town. Little Wonder on Earthling. The title track to The Next Day. I could go on. But I’ll let the music speak for itself.

Robin Renee: David Bowie turned my teenage isolation into an inspired knowing that I could be all I wanted to be in life – creative, queer, bold, outside the box in any and all ways possible. As an artist and as a being, he was, and always will be, my most profound influence. One day I could write something more intellectual on the myriad ways Bowie expanded and shifted the trajectory of modern rock, multimedia, and fashion, but today this feels all too personal, and I have no more words. There is just love, deep gratitude, and the near numbness that precedes grief.

JP Fallavollita:David Bowie, the artist, has passed away, leaving behind an ever-lasting influence over music, fashion, film, art and pop culture. I welled up when I heard the news. So much of what I listen to or see has his fingerprints, heavy or light on it. Whether it was his performance on stage as Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke, or on the screen as Major Jack Celliers or Jareth the Goblin King, his work, his life, was always a modern love; ours timeless. There’s another star brightening the night sky. Play his records. Listen to his songs. Never wave bye bye.

Less Lee Moore: Like many people my age, I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t listening to David Bowie. It started with “Space Oddity,” a song which terrified and fascinated me in equal measure, and it never really stopped. In 1998, I gained an entirely new appreciation for the Bowie mileu thanks to Todd Haynes’s brilliant film Velvet Goldmine, which quite literally changed my life forever, as well as increasing my already massive adoration for the man himself. Like everyone else, I was surprised and delighted by the release of The Next Day in 2013, which quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year. And here we are with the new album, ★, yet another triumph in a lifetime of triumphs, and it’s glorious and beautiful, just like the man who created it and even more so when you consider the circumstances.

“It’s funny how beautiful people are when they’re walking out the door.” — Mandy Slade, Velvet Goldmine

Glenn Walker: Last night’s news of David Bowie’s passing hit me hard. I was devastated. Many of you know I’ve been seriously ill for a month or so, but I’ve been making forward progress and trying to be positive – but this loss was a physical blow and crushed my spirits. I loved and love Bowie, he was a favorite, an idol, an inspiration, and the man marked my life.

My first exposure to Bowie, and also to the offensive gay epithet that starts with an F, was when I saw the “Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth)” duet with Bing Crosby originally air. I remember seeing him on “Soul Train,” and in drag and as a puppet on “Saturday Night Live.” “DJ” from Lodger (which I had on 8-track) was probably the first proper music video I ever saw, another field in which Bowie was a pioneer.

I remember vividly the first times I heard many of his songs. “Golden Years,” “Cat People,” “Station to Station,” “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “Let’s Dance,” “Sound and Vision,” and a dozen others all hold specific memories for my first listens. How many other artists or songs can one say that about?

This weekend, the weekend of both his birthday and death, was filled with Bowie for me. I watched him on “Storytellers” telling tales and performing for a small audience songs from his then-new album Hours. I also finally got around to listening to Blackstar, a fabulous collection.

And today I am crushed, numb, and indescribably sad. Rest in peace, man, I love you, you changed my life.

David Sandford Ward: When I woke up this morning, I read the words “David Bowie died!” in a
text message.

I understood the words; I could not, cannot, and do not understand
their context.

The sentence still doesn’t make sense to me.

My experience of the world has always included David Bowie, and I am having serious trouble contemplating a world where he does not exist. I feel I will struggle with this for a while. Unlike the loss of some of my other heroes (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Hitchens), I am having serious difficulty understanding that he’s gone as he has always been there. I remember my introductions to Pratchett and
Hitchens; I do not remember the same for Bowie as he was always there.

Always.

Andy asked us to include our favourite song, if possible. I cannot pinpoint it with such precision, so, instead, I’ll include something from Bowie’s goodbye:

Goodbye, David. We miss you; we love you. Thank you.

Daniel H. Reed: David Bowie’s spirit has quietly followed me in a number of crucial and random moments throughout my life. Most of the time, I didn’t even know he was there.

I remember a friend of mine from elementary school had a husky named Bowie with two different coloured eyes. At first I was too afraid to go near the dog, as he was loud and larger than myself. When I would visit my friend’s house after school the dog would bark and jump towards me with an incredible, supernatural force. It was definitely intimidating, but as time went on, Bowie recognized my scent. I remember curling up with him and watching a ton of movies together. There were times when I struggled to behave myself in class. I would lose my cool and it was hard to escape my head. Somehow, this majestic husky knew how I was feeling on those days and would nestle himself right against my legs to bestow a sense of calm that I would never forget.

Every time I hear David Bowie’s music I think about the dog as a reflection of his intangible greatness – one that channeled the mysteries of the universe in order to change the earth.

Amanda Blue: How do you say goodbye to someone like David Bowie? Where do you start? He became so many incredible people over the years, and so his spectrum of influence was massive. Though his musical career was obviously astounding, I personally found my Bowie connection in film.

Labyrinth was one of my many childhood obsessions, and (as anyone who knows me knows) Twin Peaks has become one of my many adult ones. So from Jareth to Jeffries, and all the songs, dances, music videos, and hilarious interviews in between, David Bowie had always just… been there. He was always doing something you needed to see and hear, and he was always being talked about (in a good way). The inevitable void that his absence will leave is currently being filled with messages of grief and concert reminiscence, but those things will taper off, and that lack of Bowie’s presence amongst and between us will be felt in a big way. I have no doubt about it. But as a child, watching the Goblin King spin those crystal balls as he climbed stairs that fascinatingly made no sense, and as a teen watching Bowie concert DVDs with friends, he had an influence. Without my even realizing it, I became a fan.

He was someone who made it ok to be weird. He made it beautiful to be weird. He helped so many of us along the path towards finding and embracing ourselves, either directly through his lyrics or indirectly by his music happening to be playing in the background during a pivotal life moment (that of course you didn’t realize was pivotal at the time), or simply having a minor role in a favourite film. So in that way, he will live on in all of us. As long as we remember.

Luke Sneyd: David Bowie was a synthesizer. In the purest sense of that word, he pulled from everywhere, fashion, art, pop, funk, rock, disco, electronica (remember that word?). He pillaged rapaciously, but when all those influences melded together, when they were fed into the Bowie machine with its blue and green eyes and its angular brain and jagged melodies, what came out was always Bowie. Always unique. The influences were there, the diviners could find them, rods straining toward the ground, but the well that sprung from David Jones’s mind was deep as time and wider than the cosmos. Each seismic shift in his discography is another branch of history, music, expression being subsumed and reborn, ashes to ashes, funk to funky.

I only saw Bowie a few times, not enough, nowhere near enough. I caught the raucous return to theatricality of the bewildering Glass Spider tour in the late eighties, and the stripped down classicism of the Sound+Vision tour. Both shows were great, but it’s the records that speak to me, an embarrassment of brilliance across decades.

The irresistible transport of “Space Oddity” captured my childhood self early, and “Ashes to Ashes” whisped echoing in my consciousness, but it wasn’t until “Let’s Dance” that I really discovered Bowie, and discovering him dug deep. Individual singles that escaped the album catalogue, the superb dance with Freddie Mercury’s Queen in “Under Pressure” or the soporific angst of “This is Not America” with Pat Metheny.

The seventies records are an uninterrupted transmission of alien genius, and there’s so many releases I’ve adored since then. The NIN-scape of Outside, the alt-art scaffolding of Heathen, the otherworldly finality of his last gift, Blackstar. I sit amazed at so meticulously planned an exit. Watching the “Blackstar” video, with its collapsed astronaut stranded on the moon, you have to marvel at the incredible circularity of his career addressed with a subtle yet commanding pathos. Bowie knew it was checkout time and they were getting ready to clean the room. And he could still contrive, dying, to make a record powerful and challenging and riven with haunted emotion and intellect. Even more amazing, that’s only one facet of a vast cultural coalescence, the Bowie.net we find ourselves living in. There’s presaging punk, the birth of glam, white soul, gender-bending, the uncategorizable revolutionary sex-toy poster-being from another planet, the questioning, really just endless questioning, of what it is, how wonderful and strange, to be an outsider. Whitmanesque, Bowie contained multitudes. How remarkable, for us, to be alive for the Mozart, the Da Vinci of this couple of centuries in time. Shamanistic voodoo, skeleton in space, thank you David and sorry kids. You might have to wait a long long time till there’s someone new at the centre of it all.

A few of Andy Burns’ favourite things in 2015

So long, 2015!

It was a good year for pop culture lovers like you and I, and to see it out, I thought I’d share a list of a few of my favourite things. Keep in mind – this isn’t a ‘best of”. What I consider ‘the best’ is likely different than what you do. This is my faves, pure and simple. Feel free to chime in with yours in the comments!

Favourite Album – AC/DC, Rock or Bust: To be fair, I wouldn’t have anticipated putting an AC/DC album at the top of any list, but this is far and away my favourite album of 2015. I listen to it weekly. It’s short (less than 35 minutes) and full of killer riff after killer riff. All killer, no filler, as they say. Had Rock or Bust followed the 1980 release of Back in Black, I think it would have been hailed another masterpiece of cock n balls rock n roll. Which it actually is,

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Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Hip-Hop Reissues

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While most of today’s commercial music is being sold in digital formats, hard copy music hasn’t totally died. We’re seeing many of the great albums of yesteryear getting deluxe re-issues across all genres and platforms. Vinyl especially is seeing a steady rise in popularity among the younger, millennial generations. Now, trendy multi-national boutiques like Urban Outfitters are dedicating whole sections of their stores to the sale of pressed wax.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Elvis Costello’s Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

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From those devoted to nervous, modern rock to lovers of sweeping, classical-infused melodies, from lyricists to critics, hipsters, and Gen X fans who caught the buzz in the days of “Watching the Detectives” and “Alison,” Elvis Costello has found many audiences. He has always had a lot to say. This year he’s written a lot of it down in an autobiography, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink (Blue Rider Press/Penguin Random House, 2015). I am a longtime fan of Elvis Costello, but based on the strength of the prolific career of the artist alone, this book would make a great gift for those into his work specifically, or into literate rock and its permutations, in general. Read the rest of this entry

The Official Popshifter Podcast Episode 05, plus David Bowie and… Wrestling?

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Biff Bam Pop! presents The Official Popshifter Podcast, featuring Popshifter Managing Editor Less Lee Moore and Featured Contributor Jeffery X Martin.

In their fifth episode, X interviews horror writer Thomas S. Flowers III on the date of the release of his second novel, Dwelling. They discuss the nature of evil, the curious decisions of book marketing, and why no one needs sweaters in Houston, Texas. You can check it out here.

Check out Episode #05 of The Official Popshifter Podcast right here.

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But wait, there’s more! David Bowie fans can enjoy Popshifter’s Special Podcast, Bowie Covers (And Super Creeps).

Less Lee Moore and Jeffery X Martin examine the wide variety of cover versions of the songs of David Bowie, focusing on Cleopatra Records’ release A Salute to the Thin White Duke, the female-fronted Spiders from Venus album, and others. The show concludes with a discussion of Bowie’s single/video release, “Blackstar.”

You can check it out here.

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Still not enough podcasts for you? Wrestling fans, take note. Jeffery X Martin throws another contender into the ring with The Intercontinental Title Podcast on Popshifter, which covers the WWE, both presently and historically. In Episode #01, Jeffery X Martin and Paul Casey also take a look at the larger questions involved with the business, such as how it impacts popular culture.

You can check out Episode #01 here.

In Episode #02, Paul and X give their predictions for TLC 2015 and discuss the shining glory that is Jesse Ventura.

Check it out here.

Popshifter is shifting the tone of pop culture criticism and can be found on Twitter and Facebook, as well as their own website.

Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Music and Movies You May Have Missed

Every year, bloggers put out their Best Of 2015 lists. Every year, you read them and think, “Wait, I’ve never even heard of that movie/band/burger joint/cat video/etc.” Let this year be different. Here are a few recommendations for music and movies that might have flown under your radar.

MUSIC:

wand-golem-coverWand, Golem: Singer Cory Hanson explains the origin of the band’s name by saying that a wand is “a means, a vessel to execute a superhuman thing.” With three albums released in the past three years, California’s Wand may seem superhuman, especially when their music tends to transport you into heightened levels of ecstatic consciousness. (Released March 17 from In The Red Records)
Best track: “Planet Golem”

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Allie X, CollXtion I EP: Katy Perry fans who spend a lot of time on Twitter might remember the singer praising Allie X’s single “Catch” last year. CollXtion I features this track and six other confections that are catchy, but also have sometimes-creepy lyrics like, “When this is over / I’ll need a surgery /’Cause you were a tumor / You left a hole inside of me” (“Tumor”). Allie X is the kind of pop princess that even Goths can get behind. (Released April 21 from Label X)
Best track: “Good”

ffs-coverFFS, FFS: In the works for over a decade, but delayed until this year due to the busy schedules of the involved parties, FFS is a truly inspired synthesis of peculiar pop purveyors Sparks and indie darlings Franz Ferdinand. The resulting concatenation blends the humor and wit of both bands with their individual musical sensibilities, not to mention the delightful combination of Russell Mael’s peerless falsetto and Alex Kapranos’s debonair baritone. I dare you to find another album this joyful. (Released June 9 from Domino)
Best Track: “Police Encounters” Read the rest of this entry

TVO World Premiere: Lowdown Tracks

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Lowdown Tracks, the latest documentary from Shelley Saywell, examines the lives of Toronto’s homeless musicians. This film takes a compassionate look at those enduring hard times and are using music to earn a living. It shows a different side of the great Canadian city. Beyond the shimmering glass skyscrapers and picturesque residential neighbourhoods, is a group of people that live and perform their songs in the ravines and railway tracks.

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