Sunday, February 2, 2020

20 Watt Tombstone

Let's trace a chain of events so that I can better explain my current musical obsession.

My good friend and collaborator Jonathan Grimm messaged me recently telling me he'd been hired by an awesome band to do a design. A day or two later, I see that the band, Wisconsin's 20 Watt Tombstone, had released an absolutely killer limited edition baseball tee featuring Grimm's design.

Order Here
I ordered one immediately.

The next day at work, where I can often do my most concentrated listening of the day on headphones, I swung over to the band's page on Apple Music and loaded up their 2015 record Wisco Disco.

Immediate love. I listened to the album on repeat all day.

Here's the thing; it's not just that this is an awesome two-piece band. These guys have such a thick, dirty sound that it recalls music long ago ingrained in my blood. Back in the mid-to-late 90s, Mr. Brown, Sonny, Joe Grez, and I - basically the core of Schlitz Family Robinson - used to hang out at Chicago's Empty Bottle a lot, and we took quite a liking to two-piece Touch and Go Records band Cash Money that played there often. We started to kind of follow them around to other venues when they'd play as well, often opening for other Touch and Go bands. But Cash Money - later Cash Audio because of a bullshit lawsuit by the shitty rap label - stands as one of my all-time favorite live bands. John Humphrey and Scott Gimpino had a sound that is so unbelievably similar to 20 Watt Tombstone, that I can't help but feel like I've known 20 Watt a helluva lot longer than I have. Their sound is in my blood. And I don't mean to say I think there's any imitation going on; this is a natural progression of how two guys can set up and play dirty ass blues rock just fine without anyone else in the band. The Gretsch both Humphrys and 20 Watt Frontman/Guitarist Tom Jordan play has a lot to do with the sound, as does the slide, and the rough hewn blues-on-delta-rock vocals. I could go on, but I'd rather just shut my mouth and urge you to go check these guys out on their website and bandcamp, they are a fantastic band in their own right, and come from a lineage of blues/metal/fuzz icons.


This past Friday, K and I went to the theatre to see Osgood Perkins' new film Gretel and Hansel. I'll say right off the bat, I was very surprised to see this one getting such a wide release, and despite the fact that I am not a fan of Perkins' previous film, Blackcoat's Daughter (aka February), there was no way I wasn't going to support this one in a major chain.

So what did I think of Gretel and Hansel? All the acting is fantastic, it's a very pretty film, and I love the soundtrack. However, the soundtrack largely does not fit the movie. Synth-based music over old world settings play at being anachronistic, but in this case at least, I just don't think it worked. In fact, there were a few other elements that seemed to tease at the idea that Perkins sees this film as inhabiting an anachronistic space similar to, say, David Robert Mitchell's It Follows. Mitchell's film pulls it off in a very strange way; Perkins' film, in my opinion, does not. It's just too half-hearted and feels thrown in after the fact, as if the other elements that made me wonder - a few snippets of colloquialisms in Gretel's dialogue, or the coffee cup the Witch serves her from in one scene - were thrown in simply to try and justify the synth music. There's no doubt that the film, like BlackCoat's Daughter, is shot beautifully, and at least one scene is enhanced by that synth music, but as good as that scene is, it takes away from the overall film, and should have been removed or scored differently. Kill your darlings, dude.

Oh, but it was also really cool to see the old Orion Pictures logo come up at the start of the film. Not sure if that's being brought back, or if I'm just unobservant and it's been around since back in the day, but it feels like we haven't seen it in at least fifteen years if not longer.

All in all, I'd definitely say that, while I had some gripes, Gretel and Hansel deserves your support in the cinema, it just might leave you feeling 'meh.' Then again, I am largely alone in my disdain for Blackcoat's - I simply cannot reconcile the red herring that conceals the twist at the end; it's only accomplished by cheating - so who knows, everyone may very well love this one as well.



Butthole Surfers - Rembrandt Pussyhorse
Nothing - Guilty of Everything
Bohren and Der Club of Gore - Patchouli Blue
David Bowie - Heroes
20 Watt Tombstone - Wisco Disco
Chris Isaak - Heart Shaped World
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
The Misfits - Static Age
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead - X: The Godless Void and Other Stories
Clark - Daniel Isn't Real OST
The Body - I Have Fought Against It, But I Can't Any Longer
Lingua Ignota - Caligula
Greg Dulli - Pantomina (pre-release single)
Greg Dulli - It Falls Apart (pre-release single)
Me and That Man - Songs of Love and Death
Zonal - Wrecked
Mol - Jord

K and I had a marvelous weekend celebrating our four-year anniversary, now and I have a truncated week at work this week as my buddy Dave is coming out and we're seeing two of the three Mr. Bungle shows (*excited*), so I'm digging back into work on Shadowplay and I've begun the first steps preparing the book I will be releasing this year, what I consider the first successful novel I ever wrote, back in 2008.

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