Friday, May 30, 2008

The Monkey Reads: I Have Fun Everywhere I Go

Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World
By Mike Edison
(Faber and Faber)
If the subtitle of this autobiography doesn’t make it abundantly clear, Mike Edison confesses outright in the author’s note: He’s prone to hyperbole.

Edison -- a musician and former magazine editor, publisher and writer -- spins his overlong yarn like a sometimes-entertaining attention hog at a party where the reader is a stranger, trapped by this odd man and his ramblings.

Most of Fun chronicles Edison’s career as a writer and editor of pornography, wrestling fan magazines and eventually as the editor-in-chief/publisher of the infamous weed magazine, High Times. But he spends too many pages detailing his time in various hardcore, garage-rock and experimental rhythm & blues bands.

An early section about Edison’s childhood and adolescence spews excessive vitriol about what sounds like a fairly typical life for a child of divorce. Mom and dad fought, split up, and Edison, the oldest of two boys in a Jewish family in 1970s New Jersey, sought refuge in the common outlets of music and recreational drug use. What’s he so upset about?

His rock & roll tour diaries are repetitive and ultimately dull. Vicarious drug stories always run the risk of boring and Edison's recounting of his Homeric indulgence of booze, pills, hallucinogens and marijuana hits the wall quickly. He's also the biggest fan of his own music. While not a crime, that doesn't help move the story along.

Edison’s time served in the Kafka-esque High Times offices are a bright spot. These tales would entertain readers who’ve never worked for a magazine -- let alone those who've never smoked pot -- primarily because a poisonous job situation is a nearly universal misery.

Fun could have been an insider’s history of High Times, the world of non-WWE professional wrestling, or a sharp portrait of a life lived in the twilight of a pre-internet publishing world.

Instead it's an overwritten memoir that makes everything catalogued in the book's subtitle seem boring. Edison may have fun everywhere he goes, but does he have to take us with him?

Reference materials: If you must read Fun, The Typing Monkey warned you. Allow us to suggest an alternative: Listen to some dirty blues, ingest mind-altering substances, and watch old wrestling footage yourself. Just don't tell us about it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Science and Booze: A Fine Pairing

As a rule, The Typing Monkey likes to pretend that there are no other news media outlets in existence by simply not linking to them or repurposing their content here.

However, sometimes a newspaper or Website reports a story that gets the Monkey staff so excited that we decide sharing the information is our only option.

The Telegraph published a story on May 20 regarding a favorite topic of The Typing Monkey: alcohol. It discusses, from a scientific perspective, the classic James Bond martini debate -- rightly coming out in favor of shaken -- as well as other physics, chemistry and psychological aspects of the boozamahol.

Read it here.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spoiler Alert!

We are delighted to bring you this Typing Monkey exclusive:

The Typing Monkey, in cooperation with Frenzy of the Visible, has acquired more than six minutes of footage from the forthcoming summer blockbuster The Incredible Hulk. Ang Lee can keep his angsty, existensial 2003 film, with its vaguely disturbing CGI green giant, and critical disappointments. This new version looks action packed!

Special thanks to Dr. Fred Beldinstein, without whom, none of our ideas would be stolen.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Waterbeds and Puka Shells

June Degrees in December
(To the Curb Productions)
Anybody who wishes to travel back to the time when soft-rock and sleek, subtle funk ruled the radio could do worse than to stumble into this multi-instrumentalist’s loving arms. Ling’s emulations of all things Silk Degrees-era Boz Scaggs, Hall & Oates and even Toto (oh my!) are uncannily accurate and surprisingly pleasant.

Pay close attention to the multi-layered guitars in “Home” -- if that’s all him, Ling’s got a secret skill that’s likely overshadowed by his voice and songwriting. And just for fun, imagine sinking into that cushy bass in “This Song is For You.”

June Degrees aims for the bedroom, but these five tunes slink rather than thrust. The soft-touch percussion, keyboards as warm as a snifter of brandy, melodic low-end and Ling’s smiling, earnest croon all add up to an authentic make-out record. At just 18 minutes though, you’ll have to work fast.

Reference materials: Think that Justin Timberlake has it too easy? Does the ironic/un-ironic enthusiasm for this ridiculous notion of yacht rock irritate you for reasons you can’t adequately explain? Bing Ji Ling can help.

Unwarranted salacious commentary: Remember when it was okay for singers to look like Rupert Holmes? The Typing Monkey takes hope that the charmingly fugly Bing Ji Ling probably gets more tang than an astronaut.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Loving You, Oh Baby

Going Places: The August Darnell Years 1974 - 1983
Some of these cuts sizzle so hot that The Typing Monkey had to go buy a popsicle. August Darnell, nee Thomas August Darnell Browder, was a bassist and songwriter from the Bronx who, after scoring a few genre-blurring disco hits as part of Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, went on to moderate fame -- at least in the U.K. -- as the titular Kid Creole with his back-up singers The Coconuts.

A long time DJ and hip-hop sampling favorite, Kid Creole may not get much more love with the Going Places collection, but damn if it isn't a great showcase for his composition and studio skills.

The opener "Sunshower" by Dr. Buzzard's OSB reaches the playful, African abstractions that Talking Heads often aimed at. And The Aural Exciters' track "Emilie (Night Rate)" pulls off that rare and intoxicating sensation of the tropics at night. The percussion's arranged so well it sounds like the beach, birds and insects making their usual noises -- with a subliminal dance rhythm.

Creole went on to write a few musicals, and that shows in songs such as "Goin' to a Showdown" and "He's Not Such a Bad Guy After All." Even his production work and co-writing of Machine's seminal (tee hee) gay anthem "There But for the Grace of God Go I" can't help but turn the proud declarations into something resembling a cast number from a big production.

There are dry spells. Tracks six ("There But for …") through nine (Coati Mundi's "Pharoah") probably did wonders with the booger-sugar crowd who hustled and strutted to the 12-inch singles of the time, but don't do much beyond that atmosphere.

And though Creole did excel at his blend of disco, Latin and big-band/jump-blues style, Going Places smartly includes a few left field songs to show off his diversity. Cristina's reading of "Is That All There Is?" towels away the carnival sweat from Peggy Lee's defining rendition and replaces it with a seen-it-all attitude of a post-Studio 54 devotee still snorting, drinking and dancing even though her enthusiasm tamped out several cigarettes ago.

Better still is Kid Creole & The Coconuts' "Off the Coast of Me" that closes the disc. It's a lot of Van Dyke Parks, and a little bit Leon Redbone and five kinds of weird fun. If he didn't record it while lying in a hammock, we should be quite disappointed.

Reference materials: August Darnell dabbled in too many styles to list here, but for this collection, anyone unafraid of the more theatrical side of Blondie, Josie Cotton and Rachel Sweet and who also has a fondness for the kind of disco that didn't make it on to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack will have plenty to chew on.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dipping a Toe In

Ghotsly Swim
(Ghostly International/Adult Swim)
The highs are very high. The lows -- eh, not so much. As a label showcase, Ghostly Swim brings the goods, giving curious Adult Swim viewers a chance to kick the tires of one of the most reputable electronic music labels in the United States. The 19-track collection hits a sweet spot about half the time. That's not a bad return for a promotional freebie.

The Chaps' "Carlos Walter Wendy Stanley" does little for the reputation of smarty-pants electro-pop. "Hit and Run" by Kill Memory Crash sounds silly and dated, like the industrial-lite goth of the 1980s that paved the way for Nine Inch Nails. And The Typing Monkey still can't understand what's so exciting about the music of Ghostly co-founder Matthew Dear.

Of course Dabrye's retro-futurist hip-hop ("Temper") satisfies. But Deastro's "Light Powered" and School of Seven Bells' "Chain" share top billing. The former recalls vintage sci-fi theme music in the vein of Dr. Who; the latter has twin-sister vocalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza lamenting through a vocoder about being unable to remember their dreams lately, while big square-wave synths cascade behind them.

The Ghostly artists who follow ambient techno (Tycho), cosmic disco (Dark Party, Cepia) or anxious techno and house muses (The Reflecting Skin, JDSY) fare best. And being that this music is entirely free, anybody who's read this far should just go download Ghostly Swim and have at it.

As for Adult Swim -- this almost makes up for unleashing another season of Assy McGee on us. We said almost.

Reference materials: If you find things on Ghostly Swim to enjoy, please seek out other recordings by those artists via Ghostly Int'l. But here's a short list of non-Ghostly musicians with similar appeal ...

diskJokke, David Last, Leyode, Bjorn Torske and TRS-80

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The $16,190 MP3

The Typing Monkey's parent company, Typing Monkey International (TMI), didn't get to be a global multi-media behemoth by playing nice and giving products away because it makes the primary shareholders feel all warm inside as they use $100 bills to spark up bongloads of military-grade marijuana grown in covert C.I.A. laboratories.

Yet Adult Swim, the late-night programming block on the Cartoon Network (owned by Turner Broadcasting System, Inc, a Time Warner company) has teamed up with the tastemaking independent electronic-music label, Ghostly International, to offer 19 tracks of music for free. Yes, free.

TMI knows that nothing's really free. So by downloading this music, users are probably tagged as part of the demographic who enjoy both comedic animated television programming and dance music made by white guys with high-tech gadgets. You'll be marketed to accordingly, we are certain.

[There's an advertisement for the 2009 Toyota Matrix right there on the download page that encourages us to get in touch with our dark side. See, nerds like that movie The Matrix and the "dark side" calls to mind both Star Wars and horror films. All of which are the exclusive domain of people who also watch Adult Swim shows and understand where the band The Reflecting Skin got its name.]

However, The Typing Monkey cannot resist. So we gobbled up the bait and are enjoying Ghostly Swim while we cautiously continue on with our lives, waiting for the trap to be sprung. Soon enough, we'll probably be cruising the streets in our new Matrix, bumping Dabrye's "Temper" -- which we got for free from Ghostly Int'l and Adult Swim. Did you know, the MSRP for a 2009 Matrix starts at just $16,190?

Get the download here.

Review to come ...