Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011 SoWeBo Festival Snaps

26th Annual SoWeBo Arts & Music Festival
Memorial Day Weekend: May 29, 2011
Hollins Market Neighborhood

Jam band jambience with signature shoulder ink typifing a misguided generation

This town will swallow you whole

Sowebo Art: a Steve Blickenstaff-styled eyeball tree

State-of-the-Art hipster couple with leopard-skin cap, marshmallow shooter and man-bag

Sowebo babes looking for meat-on-a-stick; I suggested the beer garden.

Attention-loving hipster doofi entertain the masses

Go-Go Retread Threads: Magic Cool Bus Makes a Stop

What a great idea! Amy and I stopped by the vintage clothing "bus stop" to check out the "wears" on offer from Go-Go's Retread Threads, a mobile resale clothing store that's "out and about" all over Baltimore and surrounding areas. The proprietess buys and sells "gently used, fashion-forward and vintage" women's (and some men's) clothing. She's on Facebook and can be reached via e-mail at gogosbaltimore@gmail.com.

Get on the Go Go Bus!

Step right up: "wears" on offer inside!

Go-Go Retread Threads kept its word; our organs were stimulated by the threads - but not harvested!

"You're either on the bus or off the bus," muses vintage clothing shopper Amy Linthicum, as she explores the Go-Go Retread Threads Bus.

Is the mighty Oz behind that curtain?

Baltimore, the City That Reads "Please Don't Steal" Signs

We repeat: Don't Steal!

Go-Go Ghoul loves its stylish retread threads

Happy Shiny People

Mike Rios, flower child

Behind every great local jeweler stands a Mike Rios

Stephney Wallace & Mike Rios: happy shiny people

Amy holds up her b-day present from jeweler Stephney Wallace

Amy models her Stephney Wallace-crafted earrings

Familiar Faces in Different Places

Merkin Joe Goldsborough and friend debate the great ukelele controversy

Former Daedalus Books employee Cameron shows off his stylish timepiece jewelry

My former TSU pal Valerie and her new beau

Wendy and Rob make the Sowebo Scene

Sowebo Surfink Safari Silliness!

Billy McConnell and This Year's Model

Late in the day, Amy and I ran into the always sartorially resplendent Billy "Bardot" McConnell with his latest young nubile girlfriend. Nice gal, though I forget her name, and she and Billy apparently wear the same jean size because Billy was squeezed into her denims (though the zipper burst, providing much-needed ventilation on this sunny day).

Rumor has it that the secret to rocker-filmmaker Billy McC's youthful vitality is drinking the blood of young nubiles. What exactly IS in your cup, Billy?

Billy McConnell always picks a winner

"I saw these guys at Woodstock!" Billy boasts

"P.U. - was that you, Billy?"

"No way, I didn't cut the cheese!" Billy cries, fanning away the evidence

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hello Pop!

Ted Healy and the Three Stooges in "Hello Pop!"

I got an interesting reference question today at work concerning my beloved Three Stooges. A Patron wanted to know where he could find a copy of the 1933 Stooges short Hello Pop!, the final musical short that the Stooges made with Ted Healy at MGM. The correct answer: nowhere.

According to the Official Three Stooges Website (www.threestooges.com), no prints or negatives of this short are known to exist, making it unique in the Stooges canon.

Turner Classic Movie's "Lost Films" link adds: "In 1967 a vault fire at MGM was a major fire that took place on Saturday, May 13, 1967 at studio at MGM Vault #7. An electrical fire burned the vault and destroyed hundreds of silent films, including A Blind Bargain, The Big City, The Devine Woman, and, more famously, London After Midnight. Early talkies such as the Technicolor scene of The Broadway Melody, Chasing Rainbows, The Rogue Song, or the uncut version of the Laurel and Hardy short Blotto and the early Three Stooges musical short Hello Pop! were also destroyed at the fire, as with the original negatives for cartoons produced by the studio during the 1930s and 1940s, including the unedited versions of the pre-1951 Tom and Jerry shorts."

Hello Pop! may be gone forever, which is a tragedy, but as far as Three Stooge legacy goes: Time will not dim the glory of their deeds!

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Laughter in the Dark

Wednesday, May 25 @ 7:30 p.m.
HI-Baltimore Hostel
17 W. Mulberry Street

My new acquaintance E. Gage (yes, as in film gage), a film fanatic who recently relocated here from San Francisco, stopped by the library to drop off flyers for his inaugural film series at the Baltimore Hostel (conveniently located right across the street on the corner of Mulberry and Cathedral). Called "Laughter in the Dark," the initial five-film screening leans towards mostly comedy shorts, like Laurel and Hardy's classic The Music Box and two extremely obscure Soviet silent comedies (Dziga Vertov's animated anti-capitalist Soviet Toys and Vsevolod Pudovkin and Nikolai Shpikovsky's Chess Fever)), though Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's experimental Meshes of the Afternoon and George Melies's Trip to the Moon are thrown in for good measure.

Gage wrote program notes for his screening, including this opening mission statement:
"Obsessions, dialectics, physiologies and fantasies inspire these early, liminal works of cinema art so odd in our binary epoch. Enjoy experiencing luminous evocations of the extraordinary that cannot be easily explained, as well as dismissed, as today's reshuffling of stacks of ones and zeros." (E. Gage)

Gage's enthusiasm for screening shorts has reinvigorated my programming spirit and inspired me to start showing more shorts at my monthly library film program.

"Laughter in the Dark" presents a great film line-up - so in case you missed it, be sure to look the following flicks up some time! Gage is a skilled and knowledgeable writer, so I've included his excellent notes for each film description that follows.

1. The Music Box
(James Parrot, 1932, 29 minutes)

Director James Parrot (a Baltimore native son and the younger brother of comedian Charley Chase - who famously co-starred alongside Laurel and Hardy in Sons of the Desert) won an Oscar for this 1932 Hal Roach short, which chronicles the Sisyphean labors of two dim-witted piano movers to push a boxed piano uphill and upstairs into Professor von Schwarzenhoffen (Billy Gilbert)'s house. (Though the film won an Oscar, the Best Supporting Actor may well have been Dinah the Piano Moving Mule!). So storied in Hollywood legend is this short that the City of Los Angeles has erected a "Music Box Steps" street sign denoting the film's location on Vendome Street near Sunset Boulevard.

Gage's program notes add:
Early on, Laurel and Hardy understudied Charle Chaplin in English vaudeville. Hardy sang in bars in the South before acting in silent films in Jacksonville, Florida.

In this early scene in The Music Box, the principals of Laurel and Hardy Transfer Co. have chosen attire patrician, proletarian and prankster: starched white shirts, stiff white collars and cuffs, dark ties, cufflinks, derbies, huge white work gloves and overalls. Laurel, with a grave nobility veiling bafflement, shields his eeyes as he assesses the 131 steps at 923-935 Vendome Street, close to Sunset Boulevard, up which he and his partner must carry a boxed piano to affluent customers.

Dismissive of Laurel's concern, his countenance displaying a rapid and mistaken discernment of the Sisyphean effort before them, Hardy looks down and away from both his partner and the 131 steps with a resolve as decisive and as stupid as usual. Clownish animosity simmers continually between this antithetical pair as they meander through awkward social and physical encounters.

Hardy, known for his philtrum moustache, also worn by a popular tramp and an infamous tyrant, is full of passionate intensity. He is a Number 1 clown, also called a Whiteface, who dominates an Auguste clown, sometimes called a Number 2. Laurel's Auguste lacks all conviction and often wears a bowtie.

These establihed clown roles succinctly define Laurel and Hardy characters in this winner of the 1932 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Comedy.

Watch "The Music Box."

2. Chess Fever
(Vsevolod Pudovkin and Nikolai Shpikovsky, USSR, 1925, 28 minutes)

Sage advice from "Chess Fever"

With an international chess tournament in progress, a young man becomes completely obsessed with the game. His fiancée has no interest in it, and becomes frustrated and depressed by his neglect of her, but wherever she goes she finds that she cannot escape chess. On the brink of giving up, she meets Jose Raul Capablanca, the Cuban "Human Chess Machine" who reigned as World Chess Champion from 1921-1927.

From E. Gage's program notes:
Educated in chemical engineering at the University of Moscow, Pudovkin entered the artillery at the outbreak of WWI and was wounded and captured within a few months. In a Pomeranian prisoner of war camp for three years, he learned English, French and Polish and acted in productions of Chekhov's plays. After an earlier attempt, Pudovkin escaped by floating downstream on river ice. After an eight month walk, he was back in Moscow by the end of 1918.

In 1924, nearly 80% of the films screened in the USSR were produced outside of the country. Pudovkin was disinterested in the new medium until seeing D. W. Griffith's 1916 Intolerance. His filmmaking studies began, when cinema was a matter of optics, mechanics and chemistry, as actor and cinematographer at the USSR State Film School.

He then worked with Lev Kuleshov on "films without films" (they could not afford film stock, and completed the entire film process without film in the camera) including an adaptation of the story A Piece of Meat by Jack London. Impressed, the often-renamed Gorky Film Studio (which worked with many actors from Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre) obtained raw film stock for Kuleshov (director) and Pudovkin (co-screenwriter and art director) to make The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the land of the Bolsheviks - probably the first film with a cowboy character made in the USSR.

Kuleshov's theories of the temporal juxtaposition of images strongly influenced Pudovkin's masterpieces, Mother, The End of St. Petersburg and Storm Over Asia.

Selected because of his scientific studies, and his work with Kuleshov, Pudovkin directed a 90-minute educational film of Ivan Pavlov's investigations of condition reflexes, Mechanics of the Brain. During a break in this production, Pudovkin made the surrealist comedy Chess Fever with his spouse, Anna Zemtsova, playing "the Heroine."

Watch "Chess Fever."

3. Meshes of the Afternoon
(Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, USA, 1943, 14 minutes)

Anybody who has ever taken a Film 101 class has seen this collaboration between one-time husband-and-wife team Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, but that doesn't mean it still doesn't have the power to amaze with every new viewing. Plus, there's even a local connection to this iconic experimental film: Maya and Alexander's daughter Julia Hammid lives in Lauraville (and is still active in the local arts community)!

From E. Gage's program notes:
Besides choreography, dancing and acting, Maya Deren wrote aesthetic theory and eventually studied voodoo in Haiti. With Alexander Hammid, she created some of the first US experimental films with a used 16mm Bolex camera. I make pictures for what Hollywood spends on lipstick, Deren stated. Marcel Duchamp, Andre Breton, John Cage, Abnais Nin, Chao-Li Chi and Antony Tudor were among her collaborators.

Shot in and around her Hollywood apartment with Alexander Hammid, her spouse, Meshes of the Afternoon won the 1947 Grand Prix International, section avant-garde, at Cannes.

Alexander Hammid made experimental films in Czechoslovakia, co-directing Crisis about the Sudetenland in 1939. After emigrating, he co-directed The Forgotten Village in 1941 about the modernization of a traditional Mexican village written by John Steinbeck. In 1947, he made The Private Life of a Cat shot entirely in the Greenwich Village apartment he shared with Maua deren.

His To be Alive! won a 1965 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Watch "Meshes of the Afternoon."

4. Soviet Toys
(Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1924, 11 minutes)

Vertov's fat greedy capitalist pig, feasting

From Raymond Owen's blog: "Dziga Vertov’s little-known propaganda cartoon, the first Soviet animated film, seems crude—but it’s more sophisticated than it looks, and was loaded with meaning for viewers in the tumultuous Soviet Union of 1924. “Soviet Toys” depicts a worker partnering with a peasant to defeat the machinations of a capitalist “NEPman,” a caricature of the entrepreneurs who blossomed under Lenin’s short-lived New Economic Policy." (Read the complete review here.)

From E. Gage's program notes:
Vertov played piano and violin; recorded collages of phonemes inventing new words including his own nickname; wrote poetry, science fiction and satire; and, in 1917, was a medical student at St. Petersburg's Psychoneurological Institute.

Awareness of the ontology of cinematic images may begin with Vertov's reflexive camera, named the Kino-Eye, that he considered superior to human sight.

I am the Kino-Eye. I am the mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you the world as only I can see it.

Jean-Luc Godard, Lars von Trier, Chris Marker, Stan Brakhage, the Maysles brothers, and Frederic Wiseman are among the many filmmakers strongly influenced by Vertov's theories and his most famous film, the 1929 urban documentary Man with a Movie Camera.

Watch Soviet Toys.

5. A Trip to the Moon(Le Voyage dans la Lune)
(Georges Melies, 1902, 8 minutes)

Melies was the first Moonie

Loosely based on Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon and H.G. Well's The First Men in the Moon, A Trip to the Moon was the first science fiction film. It's still hard to believe that George Melies created all the animation and special effects back in 1902. But it's there for all to enjoy because it's in the public domain (yes, copyrights from the turn of the century tend to expire!).

From E. Gage's program notes:
Melies, always fond of surprise appearances and explosive disappearances, relied on mechanical skills acquired in his family's boot fabrication business to create his own cinema machinery and build his factory - Star Films Studio.

This transmogrification from spectacle to cinema has many antecedents: Plato's Cave, Liszt's Dante Symphony with lantern slides and wind machines, Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung and Le Chat Noir's ombres chinose (shadow plays) including Henri Riviere's full production of Flaubert's exotic The Temptation of St. Anthony with a 70-foot wide rolling stage, and scores of shadow puppeteers.

A 19th century stage magician, Melies conjured into existence some of the first works of cinema. Thomas Edison duplicated and distributed A Trip to the Moon in the US without ever paying Melies. Bankrupt, his life ended selling toys at the Montparnasse railway station.
Watch "A Trip to the Moon."

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Everybody Loves Raymond

And Everybody Loves Product Placement

Hugo Weaving in Andrew Kotatko's "Everything Goes" (2004)
A rumination on two new films that make me think back to two forerunners of their themes...

Everybody loves Raymond. Raymond Carver, that is. And his short stories. Robert Altman is the most high-profile director to adapt Carver's short stories into film, with his Short Cuts (1993), based on nine Carver stories, an instant Criterion classic, and Ray Lawrence later adapted Carver's "So Much Water So Close to Home" into the feature-length Jindabyne (2006). But it's Carver's shortest short stories that continue to fascinate filmmakers, especially the (in my hardback edition) 7-page story "Why Don't You Dance?". (I don't know what it is with feature-length adaptations of certain authors shortest works - the first Haruki Murakami film adaptions were for Tony Takitani (2004), an excellent film by Jun Ichikawa based on a 17-page short story in Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman anthology, and Robert Logevall's piss-poor mumblecore adaptation All God's Children Can Dance (2008), which was based on the 22-page short story from Murakami's collection of stories inspired by the 1995 Kobe earthquake, after the quake.)

"Why Don't You Dance?" tells the story of a man, newly separated from his wife, who starts drinking early in the day and decides to get rid of everything in his house by scattering it all over his lawn and holding a huge yard sale; a young couple stop by and stay a while, drinking with the man and dancing to records he plops on the record player. The woman senses the estranged man's desperation, but later trivializes the encounter as an amusing anecdote she tells her friends and aquaintances.

Not exactly an epic narrative, but surprisingly it's now been filmed twice. With the Will Ferrell and Rebecca Hall starring- turn Everything Must Go due to hit theaters this week, I thought back to an earlier, 18-minute short film version of the Carver short story that I recalled seeing years ago at the Maryland Film Festival: Aussie director Andrew Kotatko's Everything Goes (2004).

Kotako worked for years as music director on various Australian films, which might explain how he got access to such a stellar cast for his first short film, one that truly clued me in (more so than The Matrix) to the acting chops of the superb Hugo Weaving, not to mention Abbie Cornish (of Somersault, Candy, and Bright Star fame).

Though Kotatko changes a few details, most of Everything Goes' dialogue is lifted word-for-word from Carver's short story (OK, full disclosure: I haven't actually finished the short story yet; I have a bookmark inserted at page 5). It's everything a short film should be: well-acted, thought-provoking, and leaving one wanting to ruminate further about what has just been experienced. I just wish it was available on DVD (maybe Sundance or IFC will air it some day on their shorts programs?).

In Kotanko's short film, Weaving plays "Ray," Nikki Bennett plays his wife, and the young couple is portrayed by Abbie Cornish (as "Brianie") and Sullivan Stapleton (as "Jack"). In Dan Rush's new feature film, the narrative is fleshed out with Will Ferrell as the estranged husband (now named "Nick Halsey"), Laura Dern as an old girlfriend, Christopher Wallace Wood as a neighborhood kid helping "move" Ferrell's yard sale items, and Rebecca Hall (from Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town, and the Red Riding trilogy) plays a next door neighbor.

Everyone Loves Product Placement
Logorama vs. Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Morgan Spurlock's NASCAR-inspired birthday suit

On Sunday, Amy and I (and apparently no one else - other than two Landmark Theater ushers) caught the new Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) documentary, Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. As the title implies, it's a doc about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement. Actually, it's yet another doc about Morgan Spurlock (and not his greatest, I must admit), but hey, I like the Morgan Spurlock brand. The guy has charisma and great ideas and while this is mainly a one-off raspberry at the shameless corporate shilling that has infected major motion picture making, I loved that the entire film was financed by sponsorship and product placement - Spurlock always frames his films with an intriguing hook, and this one's no different. It's basically a "meta-concept" movie in which the-making-of-the-movie is the movie, but full of delightful moments, from Spurlock's hilarious Mane 'n' Tail commercial to OK Go's "greatest theme song" to "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."

Pom Wonderful landed the coveted "Brand X presents" honors!

It's a joke, for sure, but a good joke! And Amy and I, wearers of Merrell shoes, love that Merrell was hip enough to jump on board as "The Greatest shoe ever sold!" (Interviewee Ralph Nader even scores a pair of Merrell kicks by film's end, courtesy of Spurlock!) Now Amy wants to seek out the Sheetz (another brand highlighted in the film) gas station in Dundalk! And I'm gonna start drinking POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranite Juice after learning from the film that drinking just 8 ounces a day purportedly has Viagra-like attributes in boosting men's boners - guess that puts the "Wonderful" in their product (or in baseball parlance, this might be called "juicing the ball"). (Hmmm, on second thought, it may lead to embarrassment if I drink it for breakfast before coming in to work...I've save it as a late night snack to go along with my deep-chill Lazy Cakes!)

Afterwards, Amy said "That doc reminds me of that other film we saw with all the logos popping up." She was, of course, referring to the 2010 Oscar winner for Best Animated Short: Logorama.

I had blogged about Logorama right before last year's Academy Awards show and, while loving it, incorrectly predicted that it couldn't possibly win because of possible litigation over its use of various brand logos. What do I know? (As in thoroughbred racing handicapping, so in Oscar predicting...) Anyway, here's that original post...

Dir. Nicolas Schmerkin (English, 17 min.)

Hi-larious and seditiously snarky, I'd give it top props in any other year that didn't include a Wallace and Gromit short and The Lady and the Reaper because, despite the brilliance of the concept and the high-tech artistry of the execution, it still is pretty South Park-sophomoric in its F-bomb-laced dialogue/narrative. Michelin Men police chase armed killer clown Ronald McDonald in a brand name version of Los Angeles comprised entirely of some 2,5000 (unlicensed) corporate logos and mascots - including iconoclastic shout outs to Borders, Bob's Big Boy, the Utz potato chip girl, a flamin' hot Esso gal...

...the mustachioed Pringles guys (both Original Flav and Sweet and Sour Flav!), a way-gay Mr. Clean, and even Shepard Fairey's ubiquitous Andre the Giant "Obey" sticker!

Andre the Giant has a logo posse!

According to web site Flux, the four-years-in-the-making short was created by a group of directors within H5, a French graphic studio renowned for its music CD front covers (Superdiscount, Air, Demon) and artistic direction (Dior, Cartier, YSL). Members François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain directed many music videos (Massive Attack, Goldfrapp, Röyksopp), and, in fact Logorama initially started out in 2002 as an idea for a tribute music video for George Harrison!

"By George, I approve!"

Logorama is the H5 trio's first short film, and premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Kodak Short Film Discovery Prize at the 48th Critics' Week. The short even features a voice cameo by filmmaker David Fincher as the Pringles man.

According to co-director Herve de Crecy, the story had to take place in America's West Coast City of the Angels. "The perfect grid of the city, represented by the Burberry pattern logo, and the permanent earthquake threat matched with the concept we had in mind from the beginning: the opposition between order and disorder."

"People don’t realize they’re facing another reality behind the smiling icons they see everyday," adds co-director Francois Alaux. "You can drill for oil but have a green and yellow flower logo, [making people] feel like they’re in a field full of flowers. That’s no more and no less the kind of trick that we used in Logorama – this time not to tell a happy and smiling story."

And speaking of the perception vs. reality dichotomy, an earthquake-ravaged Los Angeles isn't the only thing connected to Logorama that split up; following Logorama's UK premiere, the H5 trio announced they were splitting. Houplain will keep the H5 moniker, while Alaux and de Crecy will work as a duo under Little Minx.

My only regret was noting the omission of Mr. Boh - I thought of him when I saw the Utz Girl (that's the power of advertising, guess I was thinking of that Smythe Jeweler's ad across from Penn Station that has Mr. Boh proposing to the Utz Girl!)...

...but I guess Mr. Boh was too regional to show up on the Transatlantic radar of French filmmakers.

This is easily the wildest and most imaginative short on offer, but with its potty-mouthed soundtrack, Tarantino-esque violence, and a plethora of unlicensed corporate logos, there's no way it'll win - it would need to win 100 Oscars just to pay off the legal team!

Watch the official Logorama trailer

Watch the full Logorama (from Garage TV).

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Undertones - "Positive Touch"

Positive Touch
Originally released in 1981 on EMI; digitally remastered w/extra tracks on Rykodisc 2003 - currently out-of-print

[This is a long-lost post that I meant to publish last December 2010; as you can see, it slipped what remains of my mind.]

Every generation thinks the bands of its time are the greatest ever - and I'm no different. My "time" was college during the Punk-New Wave era of the late '70s and early '80s and my idols, from across the The Pond, were Manchester's Buzzcocks and Derry's Undertones - the latter my fave Irish band of all time (sorry, Bono). I can still remember - as vividly as I recall the day JFK was shot - the first time I heard my twin faves: the black-shirted Buzzcocks were on the Brit music video show Rock World lip-synching "What Do I Get?," while I was introduced to the Undertones when the sonic onslaught "Jump Boys" blasted out of the Marble Bar's sound system one night in 1978.

I've been revisiting the wonder of the Undertones lately because of my friend Dave Cawley's renewed interest (or rather fanaticism) in them. On Christmas day, pop music fanatic Dave was at a party where he talked to an Irishman and, of course, began talking about Irish rock music. (Not U2, of course, because they're no longer an Irish rock band but a global, "stadium rock" phenomenon now.) No, like Bushmill vs. Jameson, the only real Irish Question is: Undertones or Stiff Little Fingers? Dave's Irishman was an Undertones fan and Dave started talking about how great the 'tones first album was. It is! From opening seminal single "Teenage Kicks" through primal rock closer "Casbah Rock," it's the proof that they were the Irish Ramones - or the Irish Clash (though that analogy would anger Dave, especially since the Undertones at this point were so happy-go-lucky and unpolitical.)

The Undertones (1979)

So I burned Dave the singles compilation True Confessions: Singles = A's + B's, while his youthful protege Jason "The Scorcher" burned him the 'tones second Sire Records release, Hypnotized (1980).

True Confession: Singles = A's + B's (2000)

Hypnotized (1980)

But much as I love the fast and furious early Undertones songs about chocolate ("Mars Bar") and girls (virtually every other song - including the Chocolate Watch Band's "Let's Talk About About Girls" and the 'tones own "More Songs About Chocolate and Girls"!) - and the youthful punky energy that infused their three-minute pop paens to rock 'n' roll and its elders (like the Gary Glitter-flavored "Hard Luck" and Glam Rock-tinged "Top Twenty") - I remember always thinking that their 1981 record Positive Touch, with its elaborate production values and more mature songwriting, represented their progression from "Teenage Kicks" into full-blown adulthood. It's basically the 'tones Sgt. Pepper's or (since that's my least fave Beatles record), better yet, their Rubber Soul. Fans of the earlier Undertones style say getting old got the better of the boys, but despite the O'Neill brothers indulging in making a "studio" album (like the Beatles on Revolver), the hooks are still there, as witnessed on "Boy Wonder," "It's Going To Happen," "His Good-Looking Girlfriend," "Hannah Doot," and (of course) the title song "Positive Touch."

Yes, the Undertones had matured, leaving their old label Sire Records (unhappy with their promotion, especially in the US) to form their own Ardeck label (the name came from "A record deck" – simple as that!), and also getting more cynical in their worldview, with a number of songs now tackling, albeit tangentially, the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland such as "Crisis of Mine" ,"You're Welcome" and the single "It's Going To Happen!", which preceded the release of the LP and was allegedly inspired by Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikes.

And Feargal! Was he ever more warble-y? (No doubt anticipating the overeach that would define the 'tones foray into Motown and R & B on 1982's The Sin of Pride - the last album to be released by the original 'tones line-up - and Feargal's subsequent later career.)

And though their attempt at pop-soul crossover on The Sin of Pride would ultimately prove to be a misstep (though I love "Valentine's Treatment"!), everything on Positive Touch had the Midas Touch.

Not only that, but the "look" - in terms of typography and graphics - of the Positive Touch album and related singles was top drawer, reminding me of the product solidarity of sound/image/concept the Buzzcocks enjoyed on their Linder Sterling- and Malcolm Garrett-designed releases. Kudos to art director/designer Alwyn Clayden.

OK, 'tones fans, herein is the track-by-track breakdown of the record (voted #28 in the 1981 NME Albums of the Year polling) that gets my vote as best-ever Undertones album - watch, listen, and learn!:

1. "Fascination"

2. "Julie Ocean"

Watch "Julie Ocean" (Live)

3. "Life's Too Easy"

"'Sodomy!' my girlfriend started screaming/This had never happened to me before"

4. "Crisis of Mine"
Watch "Crisis of Mine/Julie Ocean" (Live)

5. "You're Welcome"

6. "His Good Looking Girlfriend"

"Everybody wants to know his good looking girlfriend..."

Watch "His Goodlooking Girlfriend"

7. "Positive Touch" (Live, Germany 1981)

"You can't slow down manic depression!"

8. "When Saturday Comes"

"Any day of the week's when Saturday comes"

I'm sure the boys didn't mind that "When Saturday Comes" was later borrowed for the title of a UK football fanzine, WSC ("The Half Decent Football Magazine").

Watch "When Saturday Comes" (Live)

9. "It's Gonna Happen!"

The single reached #18 in the UK charts.

Watch "It's Gonna Happen!"

10. "Sigh & Explode"

11. "I Don't Know" (B-side of "It's Going To Happen!" single)

Watch "I Don't Know"

12. "Hannah Doot"

13. "Boy Wonder"

14. "Forever Paradise"

*** CD Bonus Tracks ***

15. "Kiss in the Dark" (B-side of "Julie Ocean")

16. "Beautiful Friend" (non-LP single)

Watch "Beautiful Friend" (Live)

17. "Life's Too Easy" (B-side of the "Beautiful Friend" single)

Stop complaining boy - your life's too easy!

This alternate B-side version from the 1981 "Beautiful Friend" single on Ardeck is much heavier on the horns.

18. "Fairly in the Money Now" (B-side of the "It's Going To Happen" single)

Credited to "Tommy Tate & The Torpedoes" (aka Damien O'Neill)

Watch "Fairly in the Money Now"

19. "Julie Ocean" (rerecorded version)

This version from the 1981 Ardeck single (#41 on the UK charts) is different from the album version.

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