Kiss Napoleon Goodbye

Kiss Napoleon Goodbye despite all its inane depravity is indeed hard to look away from – it’s like a punk rock car wreck. A short art film by artist and filmmaker Babeth (aka Babeth Mondini vanLoo), there’s not much substance to be had. Henry Rollins, (self-admittedly) not the greatest actor, basically fucks and fights his way through the film – and he’s not overly great at either act. In fact, for a ripped, Oak tree trunk of a guy his most menacing moment is the reveal of his now infamous “Search and Destroy” back tattoo.

The story is filmed and edited with an obvious and direct influence on the post-punk, spoken word craze that was happening in the late 80s/early 90s. For a great sampling of some of the spoken word art that Rollins, lead actress (and writer) Lydia Lunch and the other male lead, Don Bajema, put together around that same time, check out this link over at the Brunski Beats blog and download an entire out-of-print spoken word compilation from Lunch’s own Widowspeak label, crica 1990.

If you are convinced you want to take a chance on the super low-budget, poorly acted and edited, but impressively set designed and photographed slice of cinema, see it for the gloriously warped and creepy music by Jim G. (aka “JG”) Thirlwell. Digging up the soundtrack to this film on vinyl (if it even exists) would be a real prize. You get the impression this film was supported and saw the light of day probably because Babeth (a Warhol alum) was chummy with the veritable who’s who of underground angsty artists of the 80s, she inserts randomly placed scenes which seem to do nothing more that linger on their characters in (sometimes) ridiculous poses or scenarios. The only reason this film retains any cult stature is because of who’s in it. Pass.

What We Do Is Secret

The L.A. punk rock scene in the late ’70s produced a lot of noteworthy bands and even more one-hit wonders. None was so “one-hit” though as The Germs. Punk, as a subculture, is no stranger to violence and self-destruction, but L.A. punk was more clean-cut in its appeal than East Coast punk. More… glamorous. If there’s one area in which this cult classic-aspiring film What We Do Is Secret does excel, it’s depicting the systematic destruction of a punk icon by his need to maintain image.

Let’s break it down. First there’s the blue circle: perfection; a branding; lead singer Darby Crash (played by Shane West) always wears it. But the idea of punk rock is to not subscribe to a branding or perfection, so it seems in direct opposition to any punk band’s way of life. I think that’s what bothers me most about The Germs and singer Darby Crash in general. What’s more, this (in places) badly acted biopic of the rise and fall of the band hints at this same concern of mine (whether or not they intended too).

The Germs basically are started in a fit of milquetoast boredom. They don’t know how to play any of their instruments, the singing is less than spectacular, but the lyrics of Crash are decent and youthfully powerful. On their first gig, Crash feels compelled to slash himself across the chest with a shard of broken glass, in maybe in an effort to appear violent or menacing, but all he ends up looking is disillusioned. At any rate, the crowds in the punk scene are looking for anything that involves cutting or bashing or breaking or beating, so Crash finds himself causing disarray and horror at many of their following gigs. Once they get a bad name for themselves (with club owners), they basically can’t play anymore in L.A.

Do they every consider going anywhere else? No. Or, at least not Darby. But just when you think punks don’t travel, he heads off to London in a vain attempt to forget the capitalist suckling he’s been doing on both his mother-figure of a groupie/manager and the whatever little reward came of The Germs’ debut album getting a release. He comes back from London (where he was impressed by music that would not appear to be his style, e.g. The Go-Go’s, Adam and the Ants) with a mohawk and plays one final show in L.A. (the only one that will book him). When no one at the L.A. gig gets the new image (which you’d think the idea of being different was part of a punk rocker’s joie de vivre) the next time we see him he’s changed his hairstyle.

This film doesn’t do anyone justice and certainly doesn’t make any great, defining points. The Germs were always overshadowed by their own scene, always concerned with their own appearance and style and many of the members (who stayed on the longest) wanted to do something more with the band. The film also lightly infers Crash was homosexual, but then suddenly seems to drop it. At the end we see where apparently Crash died on the same night as John Lennon, so of course he was overshadowed by that too. Oh well.

Shane West apparently garnered some appreciation somewhere in his role as lead singer of The Germs, as the band reunited and have been touring with him since. Too bad I’ll never see them.

Ian MacKaye Via Sir Ben Kingsley?

Here’s a nice plug for Mean Magazine that’s been making its rounds on the ‘net.

Top that Gary Oldman!

If We Pretend That We’re Rockstars

I never really got into the whole Rockband video game thing probably just because the plastic instruments looked a little Fisher Price, but I would always grab the mic when at a certain friend’s house. None of the songs I heard (other than Faith No More’s “Epic”) were ever ones I could really get into though, until now. That’s right, the Rockband 2 song list has been dropped and some of the tracks have got me ready to wail again.

Highlights are L7’s “Pretend That We’re Dead,” SY’s “Teenage Riot,” the Beastie’s “So Whatcha Want,” Idol’s “White Wedding” and Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box.”

Here’s the entire “set list”:

01 AC/DC – “Let There Be Rock”
02 AFI – “Girl’s Gone Grey”
03 Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know”
04 Alice in Chains – “Man In The Box”
05 Allman Brothers – “Ramblin’ Man”
06 Avenged Sevenfold – “Almost Easy”
07 Bad Company – “Shooting Star”
08 Beastie Boys – “So Whatcha Want”
09 Beck – “E-Pro”
10 Bikini Kill – “Rebel Girl”
11 Billy Idol – “White Wedding Pt I”
12 Blondie – “One Way Or Another”
13 Bob Dylan – “Tangled Up In Blue”
14 Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on A Prayer”
15 Cheap Trick – “Hello There”
16 Devo – “Uncontrollable Urge”
17 Dinosaur Jr. – “Feel the Pain”
18 Disturbed – “Down With The Sickness”
19 The Donnas – “New Kid In School”
20 Dream Theater – “Panic Attack”
21 Duran Duran – “Hungry Like the Wolf”
22 Elvis Costello – “Pump It Up”
23 Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
24 Foo Fighters – “Everlong”
25 Go-Go’s, The – “We Got the Beat”
26 Grateful Dead, The – “Alabama Getaway”
27 The Guess Who – “American Woman”
28 Guns N’ Roses – “Shackler’s Revenge”
29 Interpol – “PDA”
30 Jane’s Addiction – “Mountain Song”
31 Jethro Tull – “Aqualung”
32 Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”
33 Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation”
34 Journey – “Anyway You Want It”
35 Judas Priest – “Painkiller”
36 Kansas – “Carry On Wayward Son”
37 L7 – “Pretend We’re Dead”
38 Lacuna Coil – “Our Truth”
39 Linkin Park – “One Step Closer”
40 Lit – “My Own Worst Enemy”
41 Lush – “De-Luxe”
42 Mastodon – “Colony of Birchmen”
43 Megadeth – “Peace Sells”
44 Metallica – “Battery”
45 Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “Where’d You Go”
46 Modest Mouse – “Float On”
47 Motörhead – “Ace of Spades”
48 The Muffs – “Kids in America”
49 Nirvana – “Drain You”
50 Norman Greenbaum – “Spirit in the Sky”
51 The Offspring – “Come Out & Play (Keep ‘Em Seperated)”
52 Panic at the Disco – “Nine In The Afternoon”
53 Paramore – “That’s What You Get”
54 Pearl Jam – “Alive”
55 Presidents of the USA – “Lump”
56 Rage Against the Machine – “Testify”
57 Ratt – “Round & Round”
58 Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Give it Away”
59 The Replacements – “Alex Chilton”
60 Rise Against – “Give it All”
61 Rush – “The Trees”
62 Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye”
63 Smashing Pumpkins – “Today”
64 Social Distortion – “I Was Wrong”
65 Sonic Youth – “Teenage Riot”
66 Soundgarden – “Spoonman”
67 Squeeze – “Cool For Cats”
68 Steely Dan – “Bodhitsattva”
69 Steve Miller Band – “Rock’n Me”
70 Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
71 System of a Down – “Chop Suey”
72 Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer”
73 Tenacious D – “Master Exploder”
74 Testament – “Souls Of Black”
75 The Who – “Pinball Wizard”