Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Less-Is-More Please

Angry Bear
(Coming Home/Los Feliz)
Please remember: Pop is short for popular. Rock is short for rock & roll. Mellowdrone make pop-rock and are good at what they do. The trio's 2006 major label debut, Box, came stocked full of polished, broad-appeal tunes delivered with the kind of hairstyled sex-appeal that television producers seek out to soundtrack the choreographed make-out sessions of pretty young actors. Box was fine, but the danger felt a tad calculated.

The band has since parted ways with Columbia Records, taking time to write and record Angry Bear in a more casual manner, letting the tunes, not the studio, rule the day. An outstanding example of this change is the song "Elephant." An open, playful arrangement makes enough room for a short organ-led waltz amid the guitar scratches, pounding snare and '80s-rock synth coda.

Mellowdrone uses dynamics more fluidly too, releasing smoldering tension with thunderous guitars that smash up against choruses. Singer Jonathan Bates' lackadaisical baritone swings up to a scream only when necessary, enhancing the too-many cigarettes weariness of Bear. The effect is a less deliberate eroticism, colored by resignation, confusion and myriad other emotions that clog and complicate romantic entanglements.

Listen closely to "Jumping Off the Pier." The rhythm guitar and drums crib from Motown, and though the song does layer on more instruments, Bates and his band (multi-instrumentalist Tony DeMatteo and drummer Brian Borg) don't build a wall of sound. Instead the recording echoes the recollections of the lyrics by putting the pieces together a little bit at a time, rearranging the details as the song unfolds.

Bates, multi-instrumentalist founder and chief songwriter of Mellowdrone, recorded and mixed Angry Bear himself. That's not an unusual feat these days. That it sounds so good is.

Reference material: Though Bates' vocals recall Beck, Angry Bear should find a comfortable home with fans of Eels (circa Daisies of the Galaxy) and Pulp's Hardcore. And check out the Mellowdrone website -- a rare example of a band site that's more than PR copy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One More ...

And then we'll stop. Serious. We can quit any time. But this Lambert, Hendricks & Ross clip from Playboy's Penthouse is too good not to share.

Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert sit this one out, letting Annie Ross show off. (Though they do respond to a few of her lines.) Count Basie, suave as always, and his rhythm section back her up. For an added bonus, at the 1:19 mark, Tony Bennett smiles and the angels sing. How many jazz cigarettes has he had before the cameras rolled?

Annie Ross (of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross)

[Courtesy voxpopulai]

For additional fun with the amazing vocalese trio, dig this other voxpopulai-provided clip from the same outing, with the trio at full power. Watch Dave Lambert's confident, comic entrance as he "well, er-um-ahs" his way into a solo.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sorry, Howard

August 20 was writer H.P. Lovecraft's birthday. It's okay we just found out too. Lovecraft was a contemporary and pen-pal of Robert E. Howard, both were highly influential to future fantasy, horror and sci-fi writers, artists and filmmakers. [And blatant racists too? -- ed.] 

Even if you've never read any Lovecraft, chances are you've seen a horror film that used Lovecraftian (yes, really) ideas and imagery. Director Stuart Gordon is particularly Lovecraft-savvy, and two of his most entertaining films are based on Lovecraft stories: Re-Animator and From Beyond. And John Carpenter's underrated In the Mouth of Madness hinges on an idea used in nearly every Lovecraft story -- that there are other worlds in other dimensions, separated from ours by an all-too-thin membrane. 

The Lovecraft Archive has a well-organized list of films and TV shows (plus other media) with Lovecraft connections. It's also a good reference on the writer in general.

You can read every Lovecraft story at Dagonbytes' Lovecraft Library. And because it's not a mention of Lovecraft without it: Cthulhu.

Happy birthday, Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reader Mail

I've noticed you are posting a lot of video files lately. This isn't going to become one of those blogs filled with YouTube and Vimeo clips, is it? I mean, the video stuff is cool but I guess what I'm trying to ask is this: Is everything okay?

Bryant Dietzman
Eugene, OR

Thanks for reading The Typing Monkey Bryant. We're fine. Our editorial staff has no plan to convert to a video-only format. Why would we when other sites, such as Frenzy of the Visible, do that so well already? What you're noticing is most likely due to the effort of our managing editor, Claudette.

She's French and has difficulty understanding the fact that American workers don't take the month of August off, as is common in her homeland. As a result, she enforces strict use of vacation time and urges our writers and editors to take as many days off as possible during summer months. This translates into fewer posts of our high-standard criticism, cultural obsessions, aimless rants and wild speculation.

TMI staffers are gradually returning and beginning to sober up, so expect new and thrilling content in the near future.


We welcome your comments, corrections and criticism. Write to us: typingmonkey@live.com

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

We pause now to bring you this important message:

[Courtesy cabinboy454]

Bonus Batgirl: If you've never seen it, the producers of the Batman TV series made a short pilot to introduce Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (played by Yvonne Craig). It never aired, but "mhirtes12" posted a good, clear copy to YouTube. The whole thing is less than 8 minutes long, so click and enjoy. Notice at the 4:20 mark how leisurely Ms. Gordon goes about hanging up her jacket as she dons her Batgirl gear.

Monday, August 10, 2009