Songs of the Week / Movie Friday 07/22/2022

SONGS OF THE WEEK 07/22/2022

I’ll be the first to admit I’m too lazy for manifestos, but I figure it’s a good idea to give some context as to what these weekly updates are all about (but I’m not gonna pretend I invented weekly songs or movies—actually, I sorta ripped off A Song A Day when I started making these back in the day. I’d link their website, but I’m fairly certain it was shut down a while ago. We are well into digression territory here… maybe this should be a footnote). Since the new year began in 2018, I’ve been creating lists of five songs in Instagram and Snapchat story format and posting them weekly. In the beginning, it was mostly another creative outlet that allowed me to put my own interests out there— back then, I was still in high school, and was fairly convinced that sharing my music with my friends was on par with cropdusting in an airplane cabin. Since then, I’m glad to say I’ve found many people beyond my lovely family (who I owe my music taste to) who are excited to exchange songs, and they’ve propelled this little ritual into something that provides structure in my life through highs and lows— perhaps a bit too much structure. If you know me, you know I rarely drink, and I certainly don’t in the house, because if you know me, then you also know I have less impulse control than a toddler in a shock collar. These days, I’m trying to take a similar approach to social media management, but I’d be remiss to sacrifice this tradition— in fact, one of my main motivations for raising this blog from the grave was to give these a new home. I hope they bring you the same peace and structure as they do for me.

Alright, so maybe I’m too lazy to actively make a manifesto, but too wordy to not accidentally vomit one out. I guess that might be worth getting used to if you want to survive around these parts.

And you know what’s cool about posting this with space for extra words? All you can do is watch as I crack my knuckles in painstaking sequence and get ready to wax poetic about ALL FIVE SONGS.

LOVE & ANGER | Kate Bush Okay, look, I know I’d be promoted to conductor of the insufferable train if I said “I liked Kate Bush before Stranger Things,” but even if I did say that, it’d only be half true. I knew Kate Bush before Stranger Things 4— allegedly, I’d listened to her from the womb, since my parents are certified super-fans— but I didn’t like Kate Bush up until this past fall. I remembered revisiting something off of this album— I think the title track, “The Sensual World,” as well as everyone’s favorite “Running Up That Hill“— and was tentatively interested. I must have been replaced in my sleep, though, because I spontaneously listened to the full Hounds of Love album one morning this June and I don’t think I’ve 180’d so fast in my life. I will not shut up about Kate Bush. Shrine in progress. I’d say God bless this woman, but He probably reports to Her (just kidding, love you Grandma!). Anyways, um, this song. I’d still love Kate Bush at her most inaccessible, but as a former hater, I can totally understand why her more theatrical moments could appear on the surface to be a little community theater (I shall not blaspheme in her name). In that case, this might be a better place to start— still full of passion and loud proclamations, but with a contagiously dancey tempo. It’s got a really fun and emotional crescendo, and boy am I gonna regret saying that if the lyrics are sad.

MIDNIGHT TRAIN | Wolfmother As a bit of a return to form for this blog, we’re back with a classic certified epic fantastical celestial cosmic feral transcendental banger from Wolfmother, AYO!! Calling all ummm Wolfies, amiright?! Mothers unite, let’s go mothers, moms against uuhhh..!!! Back in the salad days (an oxymoronic pairing with middle school but I’m sticking with it), I used to be about as fanatical as a quiet kid could get about Wolfmother, even though they’d already seen better days. Now, call me a wet blanket, but I may have hopped off the Midnight Train… or the Love Train… or the G*psy Caravan (yikes wolfies)… after their album Victorious got a little too… glam? nu? hair? for me. I tried, I really did, but the cheese was too much (“Pretty Peggy” didn’t help). If I didn’t fall off the wagon then, I would’ve after two consecutive albums with black, spacey backgrounds and eighties pink-and-purple highlights entitled, I kid you not, Rock Out (2021) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Baby (2019), the latter of which featured tracks like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor.” I know that sounds bad, Andrew Stockdale, Andrew Stockdad, Andrew Stockdaddy, but a wolfie’s only got so much cookie cutter rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ in him before the rock ‘n’ roll starts feeling a little chafed, you know? Wolfmother’s newest single, “Midnight Train,” though? Consider me desperate, but I’d say it’s a return to form. If you’re missing the pure rock energy somewhere between Led Zeppelin and the White Stripes that Wolfmother has brought since the beginning, and you’re down for a little AC/DC or Ozzy Osbourne-style cheese, then this song will be worth your time.

QUEEN OF THE BEES | Jack White And hey, speaking of the Stripes, Jack White, what a guy! After releasing what I’d argue is a no-skip album with Fear of the Dawn, it’s my understanding that he’s dropping another one on us?? Do we even deserve that, as a people? While Jack White’s ever-inventive weirdness absolutely carries through, he’s clearly drawing from a completely different creative well with this one, which is sort of insane given how close it is to his last release (and how good it is despite that). After Fear of the Dawn‘s electricity and eccentricity, complete with some wack samples I’m still sorting through and a concept that ties the album together, this feels like easier music that’s riding the inertia, not losing any of the spirit but feeling far more easygoing and graceful. This song is cute in the least condescending way I could possibly say that, and manages to pull off marimba with its acoustic guitar, combining the domesticity of the lyrics with some fun little um insecty-ness or something man I don’t know

MURDER AT THE BINGO HALL | Amigo the Devil To all of the thousands of millions of avid, rabid, Max Todd Dot Com fans out there, you’ll probably think this song ripped off my most recent dream story’s title. Before you rip apart Amigo, though, let me humbly ask you to stand down, and admit that it’s actually the other way around (unthinkable). If you haven’t heard any Amigo the Devil before, this one might be a bit weird to start with— not because it’s not fantastic (it very much is), or because it doesn’t capture his sharp sense of humor (it very much does), but because his music often leans more into a sort of Marty Robbins ballad-style. This song feels far more frenetic— fitting for the cocaine-addled narrator. As I’ve said, though, this is a really witty song, and it’s in keeping with his often satirical lyrics straight out of a metal song. If I write anything half as funny as this, I’ll die happy.

THIS IS THE PICTURE (EXCELLENT BIRDS) | Peter Gabriel Speaking of Kate Bush and Great Albums and Excellent Birds, Peter Gabriel’s So is another tour de force album, even if it does get a little 80s-ballad-y (if anyone can pull it off, it’s Peter Gabriel, and he does). I saw an interpretation of this song that read these incredibly simple lyrics as a critique of lazy TV-watchers, which I feel a little called out by, so it’s a good thing this song is awesome despite that. It’s definitely not the most palatable on this album next to stuff like “Big Time,” but it’s become one of my favorites for how hypnotic it is, and how the duet style and the almost mantra-like lyrics create a sort of intangible build that the backing track on its own might not initially suggest. It’s super interesting, and there’s a good reason I keep coming back to it— this one is absolutely worth a listen.

And finally, something I never got a chance to elaborate on when these were just snapchat stories— something that’s recently become part of my process for creating these little snapshots is the art in the background! I don’t ever want to become one of those “I’m paying you by exposure” art thieves, so please, call me out if I’m unfairly utilizing an artist’s work. In this case, seeing as she’s featured in the Denver Art Museum’s Disruption exhibit, I feel like I’m probably safe to use Lisa Yuskavage’s work. This is a section of a piece called Importance of Association IV, and it depicts some warped charcoal figures playing floor pool? I don’t know, use your own eyes. I really like how the pair in this piece (my pattern-sensing ape brain saw a mother and daughter, so it was a great and fun surprise to know that their body types were supposed to actually be evocative of unrealistic body standards in porn? Nobody tell Freud about the importance of any of those associations) look as though they’re shadows cast on some cave wall by the firelight. Anyways, Lisa Yuskavage, everyone— check her out!

Credit: Denver Art Museum

MOVIE FRIDAY 07/22/2022

Another long-standing inconsistency tradition of mine since 2019 has been (attempting) to make good on watching every single movie everyone’s ever recommended to me, all compiled on a single, Sisyphean checklist that has grown more than shrank over the course of three (three?) whole years. Hopefully posting these here will function as some sort of accountability for my list-checking. This stipulation might also be another futile fight against fate, but I’m going to proclaim here and now that these won’t be formal reviews— if I felt that insightful, I’d make a Letterboxd— rather, they’ll just be my general thoughts. This week, a modern classic that’s been on the list since its inception:

Credit: IMDb

Spoilers Ahead for 28 Days Later

I know I’ve gotta start somewhere, but making this my first Movie Friday post feels a little bit disingenuous, because I need to make something clear: I am NOT a zombie guy. Like, straight-up, not even in a pretentious way, I just cannot handle them. Everything else horror is exactly my kind of movie, even Ari Aster stuff is up my alley, but I’m a total sissy about zombies. When I was 13 my mom sent me this cute animated zombie short film about a Corgi finding his boy in the zombie apocalypse and I was ruined. Destroyed. Go watch “Steadfast Stanley” if you have the stomach for this wildly inappropriate gut-wrenching cute-fest (this is the internet, so I need to clarify that I’m joking, it’s undeniably great but it still ruined my seventh grade day and I felt a pit in my gut just finding it for the link). I think the crux of it stems from the gruesome moral dilemmas that happen in any survival situation— I get the same lump in my stomach during zombie movies that I do when hearing about winter survival cannibalism stories and plane crashes. The objective and unavoidable bleakness of these scenarios is often compounded for me when not only the protagonists but often the narrative seem to get a kick out of kicking everything I value deep in my core. Feeling ones feelings, processing grief properly, and healthy communication with both one’s companions one’s inner self are all treated as at best sympathetic flaws and at worst excuses for our pragmatic action man to leave behind their friends because “it’s the logical thing to do.” I think it goes without saying that in life-or-death scenarios, the processing has to step aside in the moment, but it feels rather disheartening to see some of the parts of my soul that I cannot change portrayed as weaknesses. Where a lot of people enjoy zombie movies as an odd form of escapism into a pre-industrial society where no one makes the rules and one survives on one’s own wit, I can’t help but be way too horrified by all of the implications. What if your family initiates group suicide thinking you’re already dead? What if you have to kill those closest too you because they’ve lost control of their own mind? What does it say about the nature of consciousness if we are all slaves to our brain chemicals and can be hijacked by other cellular machines to commit unspeakable acts? Would a wittle cowgi be sad and fwightened if he got wost fwom his wittle boy when the dead wise?

I feel that all of these are questions that would ultimately bring undue stress and worry into my life, and it would be the best choice for my mental health to avoid watching further zombie media and—

…wait, what? You’re saying Alex Garland wrote this? Ex Machina Alex Garland? Annihilation Alex Garland?? Devs Alex Garland??? Ah, fuck it.

28 Days Later must have been an incredibly fresh and energizing theater experience back in the day, as it still holds up well even after the oversaturated zombie craze of the 2000s— which, by the way, this movie is credited as reinvigorating. While the tropes present in it (joint suicide, loved ones becoming infected, traps set by nihilistic survivors for sex slavery and other depravities) might seem played out today, they were innovative additions to an already inimitable zombie story (I know this for certain, by the way, because I read the wikipedia page in full before watching the movie because my lovely lovely girlfriend has taught me the tried and true technique of spoiling the entire movie for oneself if all signs point to a traumafest ahead. Didn’t make the parents committing suicide any better, but I tried). Even if these tropes feel just too overused for the seasoned zombie connoisseur, the execution is more than enough to make up for any concerns of originality. I haven’t seen director Danny Boyle’s other ostensibly heart-crushing movie Trainspotting (everybody say it with me: It’S oN tHe LiSt), but his incredibly captivating directorial style for this movie makes me slightly less nervous (maybe even very excited) to check it out. Of the many movies labeled “gritty” from this era, I think this is one of the few truly gritty movies I’ve seen. The decision to use older cameras for more handheld mobility not only makes the action feel more frenetic but it lends a general vintage quality to the film that goes beyond grungy. Honestly, the best way I know to describe many of the London sequences (specifically when the survivors first find Jim) is British Punk Rock. Everything’s so high contrast against the dark, and the old masonry lit up by explosions propelling flying blood and trash gives this movie such a distinct aesthetic. This doesn’t even cover some of the very strange double-exposure shots, which I’ve read (in my, um, research) are quite controversial. While undoubtedly a little jarring, both of my favorite shots of the movie happen to be these strange creative decisions— one with Jim’s chin in a dark room above the raging London sunset, and one with the painted field of flowers alongside Frank’s tiny taxi. It’s just so visionary, but not distractingly so— in fact, while most times I’d tend towards just going ham with weird stuff, I think this movie’s simplicity is part of its magic.

While the action was steadily more heart-pumping as the movie went on (and the care for these characters rose steadily with it), I think my favorite moments in this entire story are those spent in silence. Choosing to begin this film’s story (aside from the prologue… we’ll get to that…) with a coma victim waking up 28 days AFTER the zombie apocalypse? Seriously a stroke of genius. Cillian Murphy is already a win in my book, but if there was any doubt, he absolutely sells this role, and his desperate wandering around a completely deserted London in the wake of an ambiguous disaster was shockingly some of the most compelling story in the movie, even without many emotional stakes. The eeriness of it all was so engaging, so much so that I almost wonder how this movie would watch for someone who doesn’t know it’s about zombies (that prologue, huh? We’ll get to that). Cillian Murphy being a relative unknown at the time probably sold this even further, along with the rest of this movie’s cast. There’s no way to say this next part nicely (though I swear I mean it nicely), but even though many of them have since become recognizable faces, nobody in this movie looks completely Hollywood normal. Everyone’s a little bit imperfect, and therefore more human-looking, if that makes sense? Like, nobody could sell me on Chris Evans in Snowpiercer (it WAS on the list) being this hardened survivor, but I absolutely bought everyone in this movie. So, as is already quite apparent, though I’m not the fondest of zombie movies (by no fault of the zombies), I really, really enjoyed this movie and its execution— mostly.

This is all a hot take, so keep that in mind as you proceed, but my critiques are all pretty minor. It should be noted that I was very much blinded to some of the storytelling craft at play by the horror of it all, which I guess is just another effectiveness point in this movie’s favor. That said, I think with the whole “infected dad trying to save his daughter and then getting shot in front of her” and the whole “parents commit joint suicide because they want to join their son who isn’t actually dead” and the whole “child nearly raped by soldiers who think they need to repopulate the earth” and the whole… you get the idea… distracted me from the biting political message that was apparently there? I don’t know, the wikipedia was pretty vague about that. I recognize that’s a thing with me and my sensitivity, so I’m not counting that against this movie, I just figure it’s worth noting. That said, it’s hard for a portrayal of an arrogant first-world country in complete, apocalyptic shambles to not feel satirical, especially when Jim first encounters the rage zombies in a church— not to mention the chimps that carried the disease from the lab being fed human cultural atrocities A Clockwork Orange-style (It’S oN tHe LiSt). Speaking of chimps, though, I do feel like there’s one message (maybe unintentional but likely not) that I’m not sure I can get behind, as is shown to us by the prologue: the world is ended by those who are trying to save it. I’m gonna pat myself on the back here and say it sounds profound when put that way, but having stereotypical animal rights activists break the disease-carrying chimps out of the lab feels like a really strange choice if it’s meant to be viewed thematically. Environmentalist/eco-terrorist villains feel like such an eye-roll these days, but perhaps my climate anxiety is once again making me overlook any nuance here. Or maybe I’m just still mad about Manbearpig.

Anyways, that’s enough prattle from me. I’m gonna go hug a corgi and watch something funny. Schitt’s Creek, anyone? See you guys next Friday.

6 comments

  1. emilyclaireynolds · July 23

    I am an avid, rabid Max Dot Com fan 4lyfe

    • maxtodd · July 24

      Of the many millions of billions of them, you are my favorite

  2. John · July 24

    Yes! I love this. It’s great to have the reviews of the songs was well. I listened to the Wolfmother song and it’s fun. Love that bridge.

    • maxtodd · July 24

      Thanks!! It’s definitely more freeing, but also a time sink for sure. Also I agree, it’s not their best but it’s better than anything from the last three albums

  3. going back to our roots with the wolfmother I see…I was just wondering about what happened to them the other night 💀 Andrew Stockdale returns…rock n roll survivor I guess?????
    love the songs of the week though!!!

  4. Pingback: July 2022 Wrap-Up 🫠 – The Bookish Mutant

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