October is already here, and that means that the school year has begun. And with a vengeance. We’re flooded with new proposals and there isn’t enough time to assimilate them all. Overwhelmed? Indecisive? You don’t know where to start? You’re stressed out, and you don’t know how to deal with your life? Relax then, because here I am again to pass on the news that interests us , through the filter of “Excuse Me for Telling You” so we can stick to what most interests us, from our own particular point of view (of course). So let’s go.
Casey, Graham and Nicki
This month we’ll start off by taking a look at the musical panorama. In the distance loom three solo debuts, each of them very different from the others, but all three highly curious. Some of them are even familiar. We already knew Casey Spooner, for example, from when he was the refined frontman of Fischerspooner, the project that he shares with Warren Fisher. Insulted by music critics for their decided focus on visual excess and because their live performances seem more like a show than a concert, their three albums to date are full of great songs that show that “Emerge” –which continues to be their biggest success– wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Now, Casey is presenting his first solo album, “a project that is spontaneous, all emotion, without an image or a concept, simple and direct,” in his own words , and which doesn’t at all imply that the Fischerspooner adventure is over. It’s another album released independently—he’s selling it on his own website, probably having been scared off by the industry after how hard it was to get “Entertainment”,Fischerspooner’s third album, released. Under the title of “Adult Contemporary”, Casey is now presenting twelve songs, some of which could form a part of his previous work, but others of which go off on a tangent from the electropop that we knew him for.Where is the New Yorker headed? A little towards rock, using a lot of guitars and woodwinds, and a sound close to new wave. But with Mr. Spooner, you never know: “Spanish Teenager”, his duet with Jake Shears ( Scissor Sisters) seems like homage to The Beatles. They say that Casey forms a part of the group of friends of the Scissor Sisters, so much so that the group even offered to take him on tour with them as an opening act. Spooner took up a collection among his fans online to get together the money to pay for travel expenses: in one week, he managed to get together $US 13,000 and Voilà! he’s made his debut live and on his own. (That story about the money, which has just come out, is interesting: do you remember that famous million dollars that Ministry Of Sound paid to release Fischerspooner’s first album in the UK? We’d have to suppose that all of that cash has been more than spent already).
Since we’re talking about Scissor Sisters, here’s some more red-hot information. We read, for example, with great pleasure, that for most of 2011 they are going to be opening for (drum roll, please) Lady Gaga! That is promising. It seems that Scissor Sisters get along well with everybody, and they love to collaborate with anyone who asks them (as long as there’s a good vibe). Although when it comes to being everywhere and with everyone, there’s someone who tops them. I’m talking, of course, about the official fag hag of pop, Kylie Minogue, who can just as soon be seen with Rufus Wainwright in Central Park as on Hurts’ debut album.
Let me recommend to you as well a Spaniard who you might not be familiar with, but who is worth keeping in mind. He would be something like a Latin version of Casey, fresher and younger. His name is Graham Newey and for years he has been doing his own show, absolutely do-it-yourself, with incredible nerve. The first time that I saw him live, with his attitude and incredible ease on-stage, I was fascinated. He has some songs with electronic arrangements bordering on naïf, but he makes up for what he lacks with ideas and a stage set with two dancers and choreographies that have a great stage presence, something that is oftentimes lacking in many live shows. Newey himself has even directed his videos with highly acceptable results, whether they are amateur or those produced with a bigger budget, like “Maria Antonieta”, Graham, now more adult –but only just barely– and as gorgeous as ever, is putting out his new album, “Neonium”, Finally! There he is, as always, with imaginative, ingenuous lyrics, his passion for technology and electropop overflowing with analogue keyboards and barefaced homage to New Order. Even his old songs, re-worked for the occasion, sound better (my favourite is “Oh La La”). “Neonium” has all of the pros and cons of an opera prima (and besides, it is a conceptual album, with its intro and its interludes), but take a chance, set your prejudices aside, and dance!
More music. Who we are also going to hear about in the coming months—a lot—is Nicki Minaj. We saw her in the MTV Video Music Awards showing off her galactic power, about to be crowned the new eccentric figure of the pop and urban scene. She is the queen of mixtapes, though she has yet to put out an album of her own (it won’t arrive until November). But it’s as if we had already heard it: in “Pink Friday” we will find songs that have already circulated, like “Massive Attack”, “Your Love” and “Check It Out” (with the collaboration of will.i.am - another omnipresent figure). What does Nicki Minaj have that we like so much? She has it all, basically. She has a powerful image, of course, but also a hip hop sound that verges on mainstream, multiple personalities to reinforce that aesthetic craziness, she flirts with bisexuality, and produces powerful videos that could make her into “the next Lady Gaga.” For the moment, she is on her way, showing that in and around hip hop there are some people with thoughts in their heads, not like others (did someone say 50Cent?) who vomit what little comes out of their brains on Twitter (even if they try to fix it afterwards , you can see what they’re really like)
We’ll finish this musical section by getting out on the club floor. The sensation of the moment, if we’re talking about what is danceable, is absolutely retro, but it isn’t a comeback (and not because there aren’t candidates trying it: Aqua, Ace of Base, and even Vengaboys, who haven’t even managed to make noise by getting together with Perez Hilton or making bad jokes – “ Rocket to Uranus ,” are they serious?). But I’m getting sidetracked. I was saying that what I can’t stop dancing to is the latest from Duck Sauce (that is to say, Armand Van Helden and A-Trak’s project). The cover of the maxi is priceless, the riff of the song is catchy (a fixed sample of “Gotta Go Home” by Boney M, one of my favourite songs), and we already have “Barbara Streisand” , one of the hits of the year. We can’t stop singing it. So rough, Barbara Streisand! It’s not that it’s going to be a hit—the song is going to INVADE every dance floor on the planet. You have been warned.
As far as film goes, we’ll start with one of the surprises of the TIFF 2010, the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s called “Beginners”, the new film by Mike Mills, whom you will remember for his curious previous work, “Thumbsucker” (2005). It has taken Mills five years to direct again, and with a story based on his own experiences: the star (Ewan McGregor), in the midst of a pre-40 existential crisis, is surprised to receive a call from his father, already quite old (Christopher Plummer), with two pieces of news: the first, that he has terminal cancer, and the second, that he is gay. Mélanie Laurent also appears, the great surprise of “Inglorious Bastards” by Tarantino (Hans Landa apart), in her first film in English. We can expect, then, a different treatment of homosexuality, in light of the warm reception it got from the critics in Toronto, which should also guarantee it a good commercial run. Has anyone heard about Oscar nominations yet?Also out now are a documentary and a curious musical. The documentary “The Adonis Factor” by Christopher Hines is the author’s second after “The Butch Factor”, which is a sociological study of the Los Angeles gay community’s obsession with image and physical appearance. What can you expect? A lot of interviews in gyms and a lot of stereotypes.
The musical that I was referring to enters into the new sub-category of indie-gay musical, which seems to be all the rage among limited releases in the United States, those films that open in few and very well-chosen cinemas in New York, Los Angeles and one or two other cities. In previous seasons, there were titles like the subtle “Were the World Mine” and the direct “The Big Musical”, two works that had notable repercussions.Now “ Fruit Fly ” has come out, from Philippine director H.P. Mendoza, a creator who jumped on the bandwagon of that current of films with songs in 2006 with an unusual film, “ Colma: The Musical ”, and who has now turned to the peculiar story of a Philippine performance artist in an artists’ commune in San Francisco. This film mixes comedy and drama, without a lack of the usual musical numbers of all kinds, including two especially memorable ones: a praise of fag hags ( “Fag Hag”) and another one in which two guys who, on a blind date, discover that they have practically nothing in common except their sexual roles of being versatile and passive (huh?). It promises to be good entertainment, while we anxiously await the great delirium that “Burlesque” looks to be, the film that will bring together Cher (in her return to film) and Christina Aguilera (in her debut as an actress). I can hardly wait. It smells like a bluff at the box office, but we’ll sure have a great time.
True disappointment As far as television goes, I’m a little disenchanted. One of our “musts” from this summer has already finished its third season (of course, I’m talking about “True Blood”) and the end was a total disappointment. Not just because of the sadness of having to accept that there won’t be any more weekly rations of vampire sex for a few months, but also because Alan Ball’s series has ended up turning into an incredible bore in the final episodes. There’s a lot of dirt, yes, but very little excitement and even less intrigue. So what’s the point? We’ll see what happens in Bon Temps next summer, I trust that it will get back up to snuff. Thank goodness that “Glee” came back a few days ago. Many of us would like to tell its creator, Ryan Murphy, to give up the self-help thing with Julia Roberts once and for all, and to pay more attention to this television project, which does him infinitely more justice. “Glee” has started off the new school year strong, with a first re-encounter episode full of current successes, and a second one dedicated to Britney in which, in spite of all the publicity, Ms. Spears herself only appears for 30 seconds. But look, I couldn’t care less: the Brittany from the series replaces her very well. And the thing is that Heather Morris, the actress who plays the role, does it like a student who is on the verge of stupidity, with those lines of dialogue that are few, but all memorable. The first season she left us with pearls like “dolphins are gay sharks” or the revelation of her lesbian relationship with Santana: “Sex doesn’t mean that you’re going out, if that was the case, Santana and I would be going out,” which she said without batting an eyelid. It seems that this dyke relationship will follow its own course, so there may be more about it in coming episodes. By the way, they’re looking for a boyfriend for Kurt, so there will also be fun to be had there. And tying into last month’s column, before I forget, let me take advantage to mention that on “The Modern Family” the gay couple has already kissed (well, it wasn’t a close-up, but you can’t say it hasn’t happened).The new season of television fiction always brings new things, although this year I don’t know if anything will be salvageable, it doesn’t look too good. We have “Undercovers”, for example, another novelty from the Abrams factory that promises to pick up on the best of “Alias”, put it together with “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and delight us with the impossible feats of spies, but it’s so ridiculous as a whole that you can’t even enjoy how bad it is. For CIA agents for post-teenagers, action, and embarrassing local customs, we’ll stick to “ Covert Affairs”, another of the summer’s revelations that at times borders on juvenile, although it is enjoyable, deep down (perhaps because of its star, the perky Piper Pirabo). The characters of “Undercovers”, on the other hand, would be better off if they didn’t even open their mouths.
“No Ordinary Family” is another of the new items within the category of “embarrassed for others,” at least in its pilot episode. I don’t know whether it’s because we already have its star couple overly pigeonholed ( Michael Chiklis will always be the fabulous Vic Mackey of “The Shield”, a real D.I.L.F., and we can only see Julie Benz as Dexter’s dead wife), but the thing is that they make a really strange couple, almost as strange as the superpowers that they acquire in an airplane accident that they have on vacation in Brazil. We’ll see how it goes, but it doesn’t look good.As far as gay characters on new TV shows, don’t think there’s much to write home about. We do appreciate, though, that on series like “Running Wilde”, there’s an old homosexual man, something not usually seen on television unless you’re thinking about “Family Guy” (in any case, that title smells like cancellation, I must say). If what you want is to see a pretty sight and have a few laughs, maybe it’s better to get the first from the guys on the remake of “Hawaii 5-0”, and for the second, you should try “The Arrangement” (on the Logo channel, of course), a reality show that is highly promising – I don’t know whether it will be a joke or serious. After so many reality shows in recent years about cooking, design, fashion, hairdressing, and drag queens, now it’s about flower arranging. It couldn’t be more queer, so it will be fun.
And if what television has to offer doesn’t interest you, do what I do and leave the small screen behind, read a book once in a while. When I finish writing these lines, I’m going to submerge myself once again in the New York of the late 60’s: I am totally stuck on “Just Kids”, Patti Smith’s autobiographical book, in which she tells her story, focusing on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, of whom she was first the girlfriend and later the best-friend-forever when the relationship cooled off and he dedicated himself to investigating the homosexual option, taking it to the extreme, in the free-sex whirlwind of the 70’s. In any case, I’ve always been a bigger fan of Robert’s photos than Patti’s songs, but I admit that it’s very easy to relate to the rock star, at least in that early pre-stardom phase of theirs, living close to poverty, surviving and creating non-stop. Don’t miss the videos of the book presentation (the first American edition is from last spring), with Patti reading fragments of the pages and then singing “Because the Night”: indispensable. By the way, for the record: we DJ’s also read, don’t think that we aren’t cultured—or what were you thinking? See you next month, when I’ll be back with a fresh load.