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The Congress [Blu-ray]
The Congress [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Robin Wright
Price: £16.25

3.0 out of 5 stars SF that compromises its arguments against 'sci-fi' by becoming what it critiques, 12 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Congress [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
2013-2014 may in the near future be regarded as a mini-golden-age for interesting and accomplished -but flawed - Science Fiction films. 'Under The Skin' (based on Michel Faber's novel), 'Radio Free Albemuth' (based on Philip K. Dick's novel) and now 'The Congress' (partly based upon Stanislaw Lem's novel 'The Futurological Congress').

'The Congress' is very much a film of two parts. The first 48 minutes is conventional realist cinema, the latter 74 minutes is largely animated, with some realist sequences and a return to full live action in the last twenty minutes. The first part of the film is simply excellent, a brilliant piece of recursive SF cinema (SF that comments upon SF) that is beautifully filmed, acted and written, with superb acting from a stellar cast. Robin Wright plays "Robin Wright" a beautiful but ageing actress who has shied away from overly commercial features to the despair of her studio boss. But now, it is possible to 'scan' an actors' character, abilities, image and consciousness and thus allow a full computer simulation of a star to take the originals' place in movies, allowing a studio to keep the player young and -more importantly - utterly malleable for any commercial purpose. The artist is no longer an active part of the creative process, just the template for a piece of manipulated software.

Initially, "Robin" balks at the idea of signing a scan contract, which will allow her to retire while her image is used in the movies - she will no longer be allowed to act, even in a school play. But alongside this technological innovation comes legal opportunity and in the end, Robin only signs a twenty-year contract. Living in a converted airplane hangar alongside a commercial airfield, with an irritatingly precocious daughter and a son who is gradually losing his hearing and sight while enjoying a fixation upon kites and the wright brothers' pioneering 1903 Kitty Hawk plane, Robin signs the deal and in a superb sequence, is scanned into the studio's computers.

In this initial part of the film, the feature addresses' the perceived obsessive narcissism of the artiste upon themselves and their art as opposed to the hard-headed commercial realism of corporations producing entertainment and also comments trenchantly on the value of SF cinema by using the recursive, as I've said - sometimes, SF can only be discussed adequately within an SF story, so there is a quite an element of postmodernism here. Robin initially refuses to allow her scanned construct to participate in any SF features (in the film these are referred to in the pejorative and neologistic term 'sci-fi'), her agent (Harvey Keitel) saying "sci-fi is a dumb genre,". The studio exec very much wants Robin's construct to be used in SF films, saying "This contract would be worth six times what it is if you'd starred in any sci-fi already.", then going on to say "Sci-Fi is Fantasy", which of course it isn't, the two genres are linked but distinct and distinguishable from each other by the type of novum the author selects to set the story as separate from realism (once any supernatural 'explanation' or novelty or trope is included, a film or story is fantasy, while a purely scientific novum sets the piece firmly as SF - this is why 'Star Wars', which appears to be SF, is actually Fantasy, as 'the force' is mystical, not scientific).

I digress above, but you get the idea - the film does comment on SF and its popular misuse as mere spectacle in cinema.

The plot switches to twenty years later and the animated sequence begins. Loosely based on Stanislaw Lem's novel in this part, Robin attends a 'future congress' where she has to inhale a hallucinatory ampoule before participating. The animated segment of the film that follows represents either/or/and her hallucination or a consensual hallucination that the studio and its employees are participating, where it is announced that actors will now be sampled not as bits of software but as psychoactive drugs in food or drink, allowing imbibers to 'become' their own subjective image of the actor/character they worship.

Lem's novel is about the use and abuse of psychedelics, the search for utopia via this means and the dystopian possibilities drugs offer, alongside searing satirical critiques of corporate/organisational totalitarianism. The film follows these intentions, but in its use of animation, tends to put more poetry into the mix than absurdism, though it is at times scathing in the manner that Lem could be. There is little doubt in my mind that the film-makers were also influenced massively by the work of Philip K Dick and the rotoscoped film version of his novel 'A Scanner Darkly'. The animation itself is brilliant, beautiful, at times breathtaking, packed with references to many icons of popular culture (and high culture), not to mention references to other SF - Kubrick's 'Dr Strangelove' (and in the closing live action phase '2001') are present and arguably a bit of Tarkovsky's 'Stalker' (based on 'Roadside Picnic' by the Strugatsky Brothers.

Although it is a massively ambitious labour of love, the film is too long, too vague and too 'poetic' to a level of cliché in its humanistic attack on corporatism and the desire of organisations to dominate our subsconsciousness by dumbing down entertainment until it becomes a 'Brave New World'-like drug.

Why is the film too 'poetic'? Because it is undermined by the excess of spectacle and imagination for its own sake in the endlessly inventive but often over-the-top 'sense of wonder' implications of the animation itself. Initially using animation as a means to an end (to show the consensual -or maybe totally subjective -hallucination), the animation becomes almost an end in itself; the kind of viewers who will coo in wonder at the imagery and become 'drugged' by it are typical of 'sci-fi' fans who mostly relate to the surface glamour of SF tropes rather than the metaphors they contain. Good SF is always about reality, but 'The Congress' undermines its own arguments by making the animated world too attractive. In the end, it becomes tiresome, despite its inventiveness and its is mere confectionery that pales beside the representational first part of the film. The seriousness of the ideas in 'The Congress' that critique dumb 'sci-fi' , drugs and corporate fascism are undermined by the excess of novelty in the animation.

'The Congress' is destined to be a cult film - anime fans, if they ever get to see it, will love it. For me, I prefer hallucinogenic movies that present their altered states of consciousness in a manner that engages with the meat of flesh and brain - think 'Videodrome', 'Naked Lunch', 'Altered States' and 'Radio Free Albemuth'. All of these -with the possible exception of 'Videodrome'- have humanist agendas, which is fine, but 'The Congress' too often presents an overwhelming surface that perhaps masks very little beneath its skin, rather like the works of Terry Gilliam - 'The Congress' is more 'Brazil' than 'Alphaville'.

Despite my belief that 'The Congress' cuts its own feet from under itself, it is an ambitious and interesting - if flawed -film that every serious fan of SF cinema will want to see.

Stephen E Andrews, author, '100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels'

Mammon [DVD]
Mammon [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Ĝigarden
Price: £11.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Mammon: it's not science fiction, despite what one reviewer claims..., 8 Dec 2014
This review is from: Mammon [DVD] (DVD)
One of the reviewers here claims that 'Mammon' is Science Fiction. It's not SF, which is a shame, as the literary roots of what has come to be called 'Nordic Noir' actually have strong connections to SF and had 'Mammon' been part of the genre, it might have ultimately been more interesting.

I bought 'Mammon' to see if it really was SF, as I am a keen devotee of the genre. Plus, I've been reading and watching Eurocrime for a very long time. So you could say that this review is aimed at people interested in this claim that 'Mammon' is SF.

Although it begins very strongly - episode one is very gripping, powerful and elegantly written and played, with the following three episodes almost as good, the series goes off track badly in the final couple of episodes in terms of increasingly muddy plotting and diminishing impact. The final episode is a real let-down, with much of the apocalyptic feel and intensity of the early episodes being lost in a morass of twists and a denouement that lacks any real punch. There are some surprises, one real deus ex machina moment and the revelations in the plot tend to leave the viewer unsatisfied after such strong material early in the story that suggests the outcome will be something highly original, stunning and ground-breaking.

In terms of production quality, 'Mammon' cannot be faulted though and it does have some genuinely frightening, tense and shocking moments. The acting is fine and the cast are all interesting in that none of them are immediately physically attractive - character is at the fore here, not looks.

Overall, I feel that 'Mammon' is worth watching, but it is not up there with the first season of 'The Killing', 'The Bridge', the Millennium films and the TV Eurocrime that outstrips all of these - i.e. French series 'Braqup' and 'Spiral', the French films of Olivier Marchale and Italian series such as 'Romanzo Criminale' and 'Gomorrah'. Nordic Noir hasn't been 'the new thing' for some time now and if you like Eurocrime, its high time you started giving your attention to the French and the tougher Italians.

Footnotes on SF in Nordic Noir:

If you are interested in the Science Fiction influence upon Nordic Noir, try reading Per Wahloo's Jensen novels ('Murder on the Thirty-First Floor' and 'The Steel Spring', which preceded the Martin Beck books he wrote with partner Maj Sjowall. If you don't know the Beck books, read them, as they created the genre back in the 1960s - prior to this Scandicrime was all effete cosies that imitated Agatha Christie.

The Wahloo books cited are dystopian near-future SF that feature a single-minded cool policeman and the first of them is set at a newspaper/magazine publishing house, which clearly influenced one Stig Larsson, who was a huge SF fan. I've also no doubt that the source model for Larsson's girl with the dragon tattoo (Lisbeth Salander) who has spawned a vast number of driven and compelling female Scandicrime antiheroines with issues is Molly from William Gibson's 'Cyberspace' series of novels and stories - Molly is tough, damaged (she was abused as a 'meat puppett' and is inwardly heartbroken over the loss of Johnny Mnemonic) and the whole backdrop of the world of these books, which is rife with information technology, hacking and so on - as it pioneered many of these concepts in SF in the early 1980s -clearly influenced Larsson's approach to using hackers and the online world in the plotting of his novels. IT and new media are, of course, very prevalent in 'Mammon' in the same way that they are in other Scandicrime series such as season two of 'the Bridge'.

Stephen E Andrews, author, '100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels', A & C Black 2006

Love Bomb
Love Bomb
Price: £10.25

2.0 out of 5 stars Nobody loved it, and it bombed, 8 Dec 2014
This review is from: Love Bomb (Audio CD)
I loved The Tubes - I still do, though they no longer have a record deal, haven't made a studio album since this one (unless you count the dreadful 'Genius of America' and its offshoot 'Hoods From Outer Space', which appeared in the 1990s from a lineup that was missing some key members). They toured the UK twice 10-12 years ago and it was great to see Waybill, Steen, Prince and Anderson again in concert, but boy I missed Mike Cotton, Vince Welnick (RIP) and - more than any of them -Sputnik. We'll never see their like again.

'Love Bomb' was a sad end for The Tubes. Nobody loved it and it bombed. Despite some hit single successes with producer David Foster ("Don't Want To Wait" and "She's A beauty") in the USA, for some reason Capitol records employed Todd Rundgren to produce 'Love Bomb'. Frontman Fee Waybill has said in interviews how much he disliked Rundgren's approach and results on 'Remote Control' in 1979. 'Love Bomb' appeared in 1985 and at this time, Waybill was trying to launch a solo career, writing with Richard Marx (!) and a solo album followed. Sputnik Spooner, the leader of the band, who had allegedly lost influence over the rest of the group due to his persistent substance abuse, had tried to point out that Fee's seeking to record solo could hardly help the band, but reportedly the others wouldn't take a stand and talk Fee out of it. Waybill, who had received some kudos for writing "She's A Beauty" with David Foster and (yawn) Toto's Steve Lukather, was clearly hungry for more and greater commercial success - as he became more dominant in song credits and number of lead vocals per album, The Tubes' artistic credibility had shrunk - after all, it was Spooner, Steen and Welnick who had been the most active composers on the bands' first three albums - which are magnificent, amongst the best rock records of the 1970s (or ever). But by this point, the use of writers outside the band in collaboration with The Tubes as a democratic unit had led to blander, more generic material - The Tubes had been going steadily downhill since 1978. 'Love Bomb' actually has quite a number of lyrics by keyboardist Vince Welnick's wife, which baffles me when the band had writers like Sputnik and Roger Steen on board...

Oddly, Waybill only takes four lead vocals on 'Love Bomb' - the opening trio of songs and 'For A Song'. Opening with "Piece By Piece", a solid, impassioned rocker about how a guy is going to put all his effort into rebuilding a failing relationship with his girl, even if the struggle is one-sided, this single is one of the highlights of the album, with a great vocal by Fee. It's very mainstream fare, though. "Stella" is very average and the saxophone, which is quite dominant here, only makes this seem less Tubular than most of the bands' songs. It's hard to relate too unless you're in love with a girl called Stella, too...

"Come as you are" is best passed over. I rarely play this album, and before writing this review, I was lying in bed, with the CD playing on a ghetto blaster downstairs in the hall. It was only 8 am and my day off, but hearing Sputnik's voice on "One Good Reason" got me out of bed. His vocal tones, which can slide from gravelly to honey-sweet manliness, always move me enormously. This is a voice rich with flaws and character that make it sublime; you can hear an individual speaking to you, not just a good singer. Contrasting with Waybill's voice, which was originally loud and unsubtle and creaky in higher register (he improved technically over the years, but I prefer the grandiosity Fee displays in the early recordings), Sputnik's is finer. Shame we never heard more of him and Steen trading lead duets in the same songs. "One Good Reason" is, however, uncomfortably close in its main lyrical line to the 1978 single "Show me a Reason", which remains unissued on CD or LP. It is, however, the best thing on display here alongside "Piece By Piece".

The remainder of the album is one long suite of music, some sections of which reprise. Much of it is quite lite and funky and Waybill's lead vocals are absent except on "For a Song" which is plesant, sung well, but unspectacular, though it does grow on you. Although the suite is reasonably clever, experimental and original, it is overly influenced by dance music, with a steady 4/4 beat that totally fails to allow Prairie Prince to show off his chops as a drummer and the overall results lack the dynamics, tempo changes and instrumental virtuosity and melodic skill the band were so adept at. What can you say, it was the mid eighties and almost every good band from the 70s had gone a bit crap (even Bowie himself fell at this stage). For example, there's a fairlight all over this record, instead of Cotten's sublime analogue synths and as a result, the electronics, though smooth, are nothing special. Roger Steen sings lead on "Eyes", but other than that fact, it's nothing special, there are lots of vocal samples and the first mash-up I can recall hearing, a meshing of "Woolly Bully" and "Theme from a Summer Place" (for a moment it might have been the band in the 70s, but it doesn't really work). As interesting the suite is as an idea -and it's not unpleasant - it's not deathless stuff, either.

Shortly after the album was released (a month), Capitol dropped the band as they were about to go on an already booked tour. This crippled them financially, Fee left and got his solo career going but this came to nothing and The Tubes limped on until Sputnik left, followed by the two keyboardists. For a while the original bassist of Steen and Prince's pre-Tubes band The Red White and Blues band took over as vocalist, which was later realised to be a bad idea. Things have never been the same since.

'Love Bomb' is for completists only. When it came out, I didn't buy it - I could tell by looking at it that it would suck. The awful cover design (and this from Prince and Cotton, who had done such sterling work for the bands' sleeves before this), the name Rundgren in the credits and the dull song titles out me off for years. When I eventually purchased the record some 20 years later on CD, my instincts were confirmed. A tragic end to the recording career of a group who were, in their commercially unsuccessful period, total world-beaters artistically.

Tubes Trash
Tubes Trash

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important (albeit flawed) rarities and singles album.., 7 Dec 2014
This review is from: Tubes Trash (Vinyl)
Although no CD version of this is listed on Amazon as of 2014, there was once a CD issue of this important rarities compilation some 10-15 years ago. It's also a good guide to the bands' early singles (up to a point). The cover design, which shows Re's hand forcing the cover of the band's debut album through a shredder is a wry comment on the poor sales the group suffered from on A & M, while making their best music, most of which has only enjoyed cult status and has yet to be appreciated by mainstream rock fans and the critical consensus. It seems that the Tubes may never get the respect they deserve...shame!

Sadly, there are numerous pointless, badly designed and jarringly track-selected 'best ofs' out there, but this is the album serious Tubes fans need to help get their collection near completion. The one cut it is missing is the single version of "Show me a reason" which was only ever issued on 7" and has never been collected onto CD (the in concert version from 'What do You Want From Live?' is vastly inferior). Hopefully, A & M will one day reissue this album with this important single added as a bonus track.

'T.R.A.S.H (Tubes Rarities and Smash Hits) opens with "Driving All Night", a track intended for their fifth, unfinished, unreleased A & M studio album, 'Suffer For Sound' (aka 'The Black Album). Other tracks from this project have surfaced as bonus cuts on 'Remote Control' and bootlegs. This track is one of the best of these, but it is far from original and shows none of the flair the band display on the first three A & M albums (their best and most important period).

"What do you want from Life?", which was the bands' first single, is represented here not by the single edit, which omits Fee Waybill's varispeed consumerist litany (the single fades out with the backing vocal refrain instead and is shorter than the album version by a good thirty seconds), but by the original album version.

"Turn Me On" and "Slipped My Disco" are next. Why? Who knows. "Don't Touch Me There" closes side one of the vinyl abum, and this was, of course, the bands' second single. Where exactly did Re Styles not want to be touched? If you'd seen The Tubes live, you'll know if was her knee she objected to Fee grabbing. As Waybill himself said, "If I go too far, Pairie throws a drumstick at me,". The Tubes' drummer was, of course, Re's fella at that time.

"Mondo Bondage" appears here in the taut and short (3.25) version from the live album here. "Love will keep up together" from the bootleg 'Darted in my own Armchair' (now released officially as 'Don't Touch') is next up, which is welcome, as it is separted here from the dull Beefheart cover "Gimmie dat Harp" it was segued from on the bootleg.

"White Punks on Dope" appears here as a two-part medley: first is the country-rock intro version that later appeared on video in 'The Tubes Live at The Greek' (a VHS showing the band in concert in LA during 1979's 'Remote Control' tour). It's absolutely great, if short, and I have vivid memories of the band playing this in Cardiff in '79 before blasting into the familiar version. I seem to recall them doing this on the 'Wild West Show' tour back in 2004 as well. It forms a perfect foil to live versions of the song I've always thought of as the sequel to 'WPOD' - 'Young & Rich'.

This in-concert recording segues into an edited remix of the original version of 'WPOD', that comes in at about 5.45, a minute shorter than the original, the instrumental section after the verses is excised and after the fadeout, the track doesn't fade back in. Sonically, its different too, softer and with minor timbral differences, some elements stronger in the mix -some of the synth and backing vocals (and leads have some additional delay effects) sound different. Lyrically, like the single version, it is edited for language and drug references, which is ironic.

Arguably the most important cut is up next, the original, previously unreleased single version of "Prime Time", which instead of being a duet between Re and Fee, is a solo vocal by Re. It's actually much, much better than the duet version - except in the middle eight, where the ensemble singing of Fee, Re, Roger and Sputnik remains. The story goes that Fee was unhappy with the fact that Re was fronting the single, so A & M acquiesced and let him record the duet lines in case the public got confused when they bought the 'Remote Control' album and found no more Re Styles leads. Myself, I feel that 'Remote Control' would have been much improved by more vocals from Re.

"I'm Just A Mess", which is easily one of the very best Tubes songs, was meant to be the single from 'Now', but I've never seen any evidence that it was released. If anyone has one, post a comment here! Sung and written by Roger Steen, this is a lovely, mature song. Fee's backing vocals mesh beautifully over Roger's on the chorus, and Steen's tale of an autumnal love affair is achingly gorgeous and quirky. The best moment comes in the final verse, however, where Sputnik takes the lead and his nasal, gravelly tone takes the song into a different league. The meshing of Roger, Sputnik and Fee on this number is just great, up there with "Haloes" from the first Tubes album. Just brilliant.

The album closes with "Only The Strong Survive" from 'Remote Control', sung by Sputnik. Why? Again, who knows!

'TRASH' is a quirky record and very bitty, but it's a must-have for serious fans. Try and track it down and A& M - if you're listening, reissue it with ALL the 'Suffer For Sound' cuts AND the studio version of 'Show Me A Reason' - PLEASE!!!

Outside Inside
Outside Inside
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £16.24

3.0 out of 5 stars Some high points and some nadirs, 5 Dec 2014
This review is from: Outside Inside (Audio CD)
This was The Tubes' sixth studio album (they made eight in all) and the one that yielded their biggest US hit, "She's a Beauty" which reached - if I remember correctly - #5 in the US charts. This was in 1983 and the video for the singles saw heavy rotation on MTV. Ironically, The Tubes made and released the first commercially released full-length rock video on VHS ('The Tubes Video') at the time of their previous album ('The Completion Backward Principle') in 1981, but this pioneering effort has yet to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray. Like The Tubes themselves, its is forgotten by all except fans.

'Outside Inside' is remembered - in my opinion - largely because of the single. After their first three landmark albums, the band punctuated their career with the magnificent live double LP 'What do You want From Live?', then dropped acoustic instruments, orchestral sections (strings and horns) and first rate production, abandoning many of the factors that made their music and songs so amazing in the first place, while embracing more direct, commercial approaches to songwriting. Frontman Fee Waybill took more of the lead vocals (key songwriters and guitarists Sputnik Spooner and Roger Steen's vocal contributions being drastically cut) and songwriting credits were shared more evenly. Unfortunately, this democratic policy resulted in records that while good in their own right, are pallid in comparison to the bands' opening trilogy.

'Outside Inside' was produced by David Foster, who had also masterminded its predecessor ('Completion backward'). Overall, 'Completion' is a better record than 'Outside', though the latter has a few songs that are stronger than almost all of those on the former. It also has a few fillers that really don't cut it. Admittedly, the production -typical of this kind of (largely) straight-ahead AOR - is excellent and the mix is more spacious than that of 'Completion Backward'. The keyboard tones in particular benefit and although it's not as powerful as the production of 'Remote Control', Foster's approach suits the best songs here.

The single opens the album and I have to say it's never done much for me. It has a catchy tune, but little character. Written by Foster, Waybill and guest guitarist Steve Lukather (who guested on and co-wrote some songs on the previous album), this lacks the verve and falir I associate with The Tubes. I believe Lukather played for Toto, are band who are so middle of the road AOR they shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as the Tubes, who were iconoclastic and wonderfully original when they were allowed to be themselves. In fact, several members of Toto play on the album - not necessary when The Tubes equal (and surpass) any of Toto as musicians. I wonder if Foster drafted them in to play things members of The Tubes wouldn't play? Allegedly, some of the band really didn't like Fosters' involvement, approach or results. That said, the keyboard solo and harmony vocal that follows it are lovely on the single. Ken Scott, the front rank producer/engineer who looked after 'Young & Rich' - the tubes' best produced album -says in his autobiography that Foster hardly used the band at all on this and 'Completion Backward' apart from the vocals, which might explain why the later albums don't sound like the A & M records - if you look at the credits on the CD/LP, there are loads of other musicians credited. Why? The Tubes could play this stuff easily, I saw them do it.

"No Not Again" is much stronger, the frustration in the lyrics and vocals palpably present. "Out of the Business" is a fun, rebellious rocker about walking out of a dull office job, in the vein of "Talk To Ya Later" (from 'Completion'), but better and heavier. Look it up on Youtube, where there is a cracking live version from san Francisco in 1983, which shows how on it and powerful The Tubes were live 0-even on this later material, which is simpler than their 70s classics. Just watch Steen's hands as he plays that blistering solo.

Next comes a fairly funky cover, Curtis Mayfields' "The Monkey Time". Now I'll admit I'm not a big fan of funk or dance music of any kinds (with some exceptions), but I really like this cut - Fee duets with the marvellous Martha Davis. Interestingly, the liner notes to the album are at pains to say that Sputnik Spooner had 'nothing to do' with this track. The original side one of the vinyl LP closed with "Glass House", which is a bit of a lovelorn number, with some gorgeous bittersweet moments (including a great, brief, moving bridge sequence), but an irritating, unimaginative 'I love you too' refrain and overly simplistic and repetitive sax motifs.

'Wild women of wongo' (which takes its title from a daft midnite movie) is dreadful - instead of being funny in a satirical or outrageous way (something The Tubes excelled at), its simply dumb, stupid and entry-level, with trite lyrical rhymes. For me, this was the worst thing the band had done by this point by a long, long chalk and it makes me cringe with embarrassment even now.

'Tip of my Tongue' is a track I used to dislike - it's funky, light and has some tediously predictable lyrical puns about oral sex, plus Maurice White (of Earth Wind and Fire) helped write the words - but it is good fun live, with Fee posing as "Russell Chaps", a disco-dancing cowboy in a silly wig. The Tubes are actually pretty good at playing funky stuff, but the dancey cuts on this album don't come close to "Slip My Disco" (from 'Young & Rich'), which has subtle things like an interestingly recorded harmonica, first rate psych synth and acid-drenched guitar. It is succeeded by one of the very best songs on the album, 'Fantastic Delusion', which is probably the best track in this set. Thematically, it's similar to "I Want it All Now" (from 'Remote Control'). Fee sings this one beautifully, suggesting that the shiny surfaces of the world around us are just that, concealing a void beneath. The telling line 'Don't you wish you could stop wishing,' for me sums up The Tubes' perennial interest in the hollowness of contemporary life and consumerism. This track has a gorgeous, sad melody and great, plangent keyboards.

'Drums' is a filler, as it's basically a drum solo. That would be fine live, as Prairie Prince is one of the worlds' best and most characterful rock drummers, but although this is a bit of a novelty, it really does come across as filler here. A weird little ballad from Sputnik or Steen (or even a Mike Cotton synth instrumental) would have been better placed here.

'Theme Park' is excellent and alongside 'Fantastic Delusion' candidate for best song on the album. Sung by Sputnik and Fee, it has more vocal character than the other numbers, a more angular melody than anything else here, a feeling of blissed out psychedelia in the chorus melody line and a jerking synth riff breakdown and coda that is edgier than anything else on the album. At the time, The Tubes were planning a theme park, but I don't think this ever came off (obviously the costs would have been huge and I can't imagine there'd have been a big enough audience for it).

The album closes with "Outside Looking Inside", a brief, clicky drum-loop/sample type affair that reminds me enormously of the Brian Eno/David Byrne album 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' (1981), which featured Prairie Prince and Mingo Lewis (Tubes' 2nd drummer and percussionist from 1977-1979). It's OK, reasonably pioneering, but never sounds like the Tubes to me at all.

Writing this review, I'm struck by how varied the album is - and that's part of the problem; it never really gels into a coherent whole, which every previous studio album the band did actually does (even the weaker 'Remote Control' and 'Completion Backward'). While I enjoy "Fantastic Delusion", "Theme Park", "The Monkey Time" and "No Not Again" more than almost anything on 'Completion', 'Outside Inside' is overall a much weaker record, the more prosaic tracks really dragging the good ones down.

Sadly, The Tubes' brief commercial success didn't last. They'd had hit singles before -"What Do You Want From Life?" and "Don't Touch Me There" and "Don't Want To Wait" had been minor US hits, while "White Punks" and "Prime Time" did some UK business - but "She's a Beauty" wasn't really representative of the band, so they struggled to match its success again. The even more lacklustre 'Love Bomb' album (1985), which saw the tragic return of Todd Rundgren was the end of the bands' studio career, with the group splintering, followed some years later by the even more disappointing 'Genius of America'. Shame that a band so original as The Tubes - who could pack halls with their stage show - never managed to get the public to buy their best records, as at their finest, The Tubes were as good as Roxy Music, Hawkwind, David Bowie, Alice Cooper or The Stranglers at their best.

Remote Control
Remote Control
Price: £16.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in concert, but no match for the first three albums, 1 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Remote Control (Audio CD)
Cardiff, Sophia Gardens Park, summer 1979. I'm 16, recently finished my O Level exams, most of which I flunk due to spending most of the last two years listening to Punk Rock and the music that inspired its key protagonists. I'm with my two best friends and we have tickets for The Tubes first ever show in Wales. We sit around on the grass in the blazing sun, the gig is hours off. We start queuing before anyone else. I'm first through the door and get the best space in the house, up against the elbow-high stage, in front of the centre mike. There's no pit.

The support band are The Starjets, a Northern Irish Punk-Pop oufit, who have charm, but musically, they don't excite me. This show has been added to the tour late, so original support band Squeeze, who have enjoyed one hit by this time (the fabulous "Take Me, I'm Yours") are much missed by me and the boys.

At this time, The Tubes are legends in the world of rock and roll. They've enjoyed two hit singles in the UK - "Prime Time", from the new album 'Remote Control' climbs to around #14 and the group appear on TOTP. I've seen them on the Whistle Test and on the amazing Arena Theatre Rock special on BBC2 (which also covered Bowie's Isolar Tour that spawned 'Stage', one of the best live albums ever released that I was playing all the time that summer). Shamefully, that Arena programme hasn't been repeated since a second run in '78 and its the best bit of video about the band ever (I recorded the audio on a cassette player -no-one had a VCR then). This TV show was better than 'The Tubes Video', better than 'Live at the Greek', neither of which have ever been issued on DVD - which is shameful, since the band pioneered video and the former was the first ever commercially released rock VHS tape.

The band hit the stage - Spooner, Steen, Welnick, Cotton, Anderson, Prince and Lewis - dressed all in white, they blast into "Getoverture", which until the moment I see them playing it live hasn't really thrilled me. Although compared to the overture tracks from their debut and live albums, "Getoverture" is thin stuff, I have to say it was the most exciting moment in my rock concert attendance history at that stage - the intense joys of punk rock hadn't prepared me for this top-flight American band, all of them with 10 years live experience behind them.

The backdrop is a huge TV screen. At the end of the opening cut, the screen rolls down and Fee Waybill is standing there. He leaps down over Prairie Prince's drumkit and Mingo Lewis' percussion rig and runs to the front of the stage. The fading chords of "Getoverture2 have segued into the thudding pulse of Mike Cotten's synths that tell us "Turn me On" is next. As the intro to the number builds, Fee runs to the centre mike and I throw out my hand. He takes it and shakes it, then grabs the mike and starts singing, kneeling down, looking into my eyes (I know every word of the song and I'm singing along) and proceeds to sing the whole of the first verse shaking my hand and staring straight at me.

I'd been nuts about The Tubes for the last two years and had played their three studio albums and double live LP constantly. They were then second only to The Stranglers in my personal rock pantheon. So this gig was a sublime moment for me. My mates loved it too - how could they not? The band played like demons, the sound was immaculate, no detail lost or obscured, the singing was amazing and the stage show - with costume changes, props, explosions, a motorcycle, massive amounts of dry ice and a huge TV that moved around the stage of its own volition - was exciting, shocking and even seemed dangerous. At the climax of the set, Waybill, who had already performed several stunning somersaults and leaps from the ambulatory TV ran at the device headfirst at the climax of a stunning rendition of "Telecide" and smashed his head into the screen, which blew up, showered the front row with water and...well, it was mayhem....

So if you missed this tour, the closest you can get is to try and obtain a copy of the long-deleted US VHS tape 'The Tubes: live at the Greek', an edited down film of the band playing the 'Remote Control' set at an LA theatre in '79.

So why three stars for 'Remote Control'? Well, despite the brilliance of that gig, during which every song from the album was played apart from "Prime Time", I knew even then that the finest moments of the band had gone. As great as much of the new record was, it wasn't a patch on the first three albums. It had no acoustic instruments, few instrumental passages, no lengthy workouts and a lack of variety in the singing - ok, Sputnik took one lead vocal, Re Styles took half a song, but the rest was all Fee...and no Roger Steen lead.

What was exciting was Mike Cotten's dominance - his huge array of analogue synths formed the basis of much of the best material on the album -"Turn Me On", "TV is King", "No Way Out", '"Telecide" - was built around the electronics and sequencers. Producer Todd Rundgren seized upon this and did his usual bombastic, sheeny, overly-commercial job on the record. He also reportedly played a lot of the instruments on the record, laying down any parts they couldn't play - which to me means 'wouldn't play in the dull, bombastic style he preferred'. I've always thought Rundgren is hugely overrated. Like a lot of bands at this time, The Tubes were feeling the pressure from the New Wave to start digitising, dropping acoustic instruments and Rundgren ensured that no string or horn sections garnished the record. The result was a smooth, slick, shiny album that is fun, but ultimately lacks character compared to its brilliant predecessors. Personally, I feel that Rundgren ruined The Tubes - but there's no doubt that had they not started delivering more commercial material at this time, A & M would drop them. Which they did anyway....

The albums' loose theme of a life dominated by TV is present in the stronger numbers, but the album is badly let down by plodding, average AOR love songs such as "Be Mine Tonight" and "Love's A Mystery". Earlier albums had subtler love songs, like the highly original "Brighter Day" and the mature, characterful and moving "I'm Just A Mess" and these leave the love songs on 'Remote' standing. The Tubes recorded similar material later - notably 'Don't Want To Wait' (from 'Completion Backward Principle'), while Steen's great love song "Show me a Reason" ( a standalone single from 1978) remains unissued on CD (there is a live version on the double live LP, but this is vastly inferior to the in concert cut). "Show me a Reason" would have made a great bonus track on this CD, but it remains lost.

"I Want It All Now" is one cut that was much better live than on the album, but it does have some dreadful lyrics at times - a better, similar song in terms of theme is "Fantastic Delusion" (from 'Outside Inside'). "Telecide" had been performed with different lyrics and title in previous years - it was on the arena programme - and was lyrically more interesting than the version on 'Remote'.

Do I blame Rundgren? Mostly, yes. What the band needed was a producer who would have made less of a grasp for the commercial, monolithic sound of the record, which is, compared to The Tubes' earlier efforts, a real dumbing down - in itself, its not unimpressive, it just pales beside its more sophisticated predecessors in every way. Too dominated by cheesy backing vocals and an over-present Fee Waybill, resident geniuses Spooner and Steen (the bands' finest songwriters) are relegated to virtual sidemen here. Shame, for as great as all the band were, it was the two guitarists that really lifted the band.

Like all truly great, original bands, the rot sets in when they stop doing exactly what they want and let commercial considerations become paramount. Sadly, these commercial demands overwhelmed the rest of the bands' recorded career, a fact which reportedly didn't sit well with some of the group. I have to say I regard Spooner, Steen, Welnick, Cotton and Prince in particular as amongst the finest rock musicians EVER when they were able to do just what they wanted. It's difficult not to love Fee when you've seen him live - he is such a great, great entertainer - but in all honesty, I'd rather hear Sputnik and Roger sing anytime.

It seems to me that Spooner, who had reportedly and arguably been the most dominant person creatively in the band until 1979, appears to have lost control of The Tubes on this album. It is alleged that his substance abuse issues alienated him from the band and he was never readmitted to the group after the disasterous 'Love Bomb' album circa 85. With Sputnik no longer helming things, The Tubes became shadows of their former self on record. While there was some good material after this, none of it could match the early A & M days and although The Tubes are still touring now (with Waybill, Steen, Prince and Anderson still in the lineup), the absence of Cotton (for many years the most successful pop stage show designer in the world), Welnick (sadly deceased by his own hand) and Spooner makes for a bittersweet concert experience. When I've seen them in recent years - as great as its' been, with 'Haloes' back in the live set - Sputnik's absence is almost physically painful for me, I just love the guy.

Despite all this, I always recall that great gig when I listen to this album. That night, the band also played "Tubes World Tour", "Young and Rich" (the highlight of the night), "Don't Touch Me There", "What Do You Want From Life", "Stand Up and Shout" and "White Punks on Dope".

Bonus tracks: previously unreleased, though hardcore fans will have heard other cuts from the unreleased 'Suffer For Sound' (aka 'The Black Album') on bootlegs, these cuts are fairly unspectacular.

The Vampire Tapestry Charnas, Suzy McKee ( Author ) Aug-19-2008 Paperback
The Vampire Tapestry Charnas, Suzy McKee ( Author ) Aug-19-2008 Paperback
by Suzy McKee Charnas
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Blood: One of THE classic vampire novels, 30 Nov 2014
The biggest problem which novels that feature vampires face today is cultural overkill and the assumption of understanding that comes with it. As books, TV series and film have swamped us with rather unfrightening and silly vampires over the last fifteen years or so, our patience with this once seductive symbol has worn thin. For devotees of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction -unless they are young - this patience ran out a very, very long time ago.

For me, the game was up by the mid 1990s at the latest. I'd read Stoker, leFanu, Polidori, Byron, Matheson and Rice as a teenager and I'd seen all the major (and many minor) feature films. By the time that Stephanie Meyer, Charlene Harris, Buffy, Hamilton and Smith came along, the subgenre had already been denigrated by teen movies like `The Lost Boys', interesting but deeply flawed films like `Near Dark' and the rising of new generations who had never seen `The Hunger' (easily the best modern vampire movie) or `Martin'. Despite her initial promise, Anne Rice's sequels to `Interview with the Vampire' grew more breathless and camp with each volume issued (which was a shame, as her initially dark, morose and despairing tone was overwhelmed with adolescent shrillness and ideas liberally borrowed from other modern vampire novelists which her fanbase assumed she had introduced to the subgenre). After a start as a cult novelist (`Interview' didn't sell massively internationally at first and spawned its first prequel some 8-9 years after it first appeared), Rice almost vanished into the realms of historical fiction and erotic fantasy, while her admitted rebooting of the vampire novel was soon recognised as the first flowering of a new wave of modern (not contemporary) vampire fiction. Chelsea Yarbro's `Hotel Transylvania' appeared in 1978, spawning 5 initial sequels before a hiatus of some years, whence she has produced another twenty since, Whitley Streiber's `The Hunger' was published in 1981, George R.R. Martin's `Fevre Dream' in 1983, Ray Garton's `Live Girls' a few years later. For the record, Rice's Egyptian borrowings in `Queen of the Damned' were preceded by these ideas appearing in Streiber and Yarbro's work, while Lestat's laughable "rock star" reappearance was preceded by S.P. Somtow's `Vampire Junction'.

Then there is Suzy McKee Charnas, whose `The Vampire Tapestry' appeared in 1980, after some of its five parts appearing as short stories in magazines prior to the books' publication. `The Vampire Tapestry' is a science fiction novel, like Matheson's `I Am Legend' and Streiber's `The Hunger' (the physiognomy of Streiber's vampires is akin to Charnas' anti-hero Edward Weyland). Readers will also note that Edward is used as the name of Stephanie Meyer's key vampire in `Twilight'. The third part of the book, "The Unicorn Tapestry" won the Nebula Award for best novella in 1981. The Nebula is an award administered and voted by members of The Science Fiction Writers of America, all of whom are professional writers, so it has greater literary credibility than fan awards like the Hugo.

`The Vampire Tapestry' is regarded as a modern classic of the subgenre. It is referenced and praised in all the key reference books on SF & Horror (the other reviewer here who seemed uncertain of the usage of the term `classic' regarding this book merely has to look at the review copy and comments from other authors such as Yarbro, Marge Piercy and Joanna Russ inside the current Tor edition - if she bought a new physical copy, this would have been the edition she bought- to see what notable newspapers, magazines and writers thought of the book). Having read all the vampire fiction I mention here -and a lot more- I can say this: it is a book that reawakened my interest in the over-tired trope of the vampire and that convinced me that if there is one book that adults interested in mainstream literature should read from the modern era that approaches the vampire, it is this one. There is nothing in it that is any more preposterous than any of the events or tone of `Dracula', in which is a deeply melodramatic book -don't get me wrong, I love it, but it owes its longevity to a successful early stage adaptations and a few memorable films starting with `Nosferatu' (1919).

`The Vampire Tapestry' is often described as a "feminist" take on the vampire legend. This is arguable, but there is no doubt that Charnas' placing of prominent female characters in the opening segment - an Afrikaans widow and university campus cleaner who realises that the charismatic Professor Wayland is a vampire and a female psychoanalyst in "the Unicorn Tapestry" - adds weight to this reading. Charnas is noted for her feminist SF and the last UK edition of the book under review here was unhelpfully published by The Women's Press (I say `unhelpfully' because this series had dreadful, dull cover designs and because of an overemphasis on their `feminist' content they tended to put many male readers off - a pity as many of them were excellent). However, I feel this element of the work has been overstressed, as the main theme of the book is how a vampire would cope (or fail to cope) in a world where science and reason have become predominant and the danger of discovery is arguably greater than in the ages of superstition, when people actually believed in revenants.

The book has a cold, flat tone at times, which I enjoyed, but this is enlivened by the characters and situations. Weyland is a predator, seeing human beings merely as cattle and he has no redeeming features in human terms as he isn't human - though he is fascinating. Initially imperilled by humans in the first two segments of the book, he rallies significantly in "The Unicorn Tapestry". The weakest segment is the fourth, which demands knowledge of opera to be fully appreciated (it is also the most pulpy and melodramatic section of the book and this particular tale seems to me to be below Charnas' usually high standard). The final segment is the most emotive and chilling and sad, as Weyland - whose purity and rapaciousness make him as strangely attractive as Lestat was in `Interview with the vampire' (this unambiguous nastiness was lost in later books) - realises there is only one way to evade certain discovery and death at the hands of humans.

Overall, `The Vampire Tapestry' succeeds as a novel and as a startling modern classic of the subgenre because it is a tapestry - one can relish the interesting human characters, the novel situations and scrapes Weyland gets into (which reminded me of gritty urban vampire films such as `Martin' and `The Last Man on Earth' plus the TV pilot `Kolchak: The Night Stalker') and Charnas' subtle explorations of human psychology as it is affected by a predatory blood-drinker. Her description of Weyland himself in science fiction terms is also fascinating and mysterious and to my way of thinking laid the groundwork for Streiber's Miriam Blaylock, though this could be coincidence.

For anyone who thinks they are tired of vampires, for anyone who seeks something intelligent in the genre, for anyone who has only read `Dracula', `The Vampire Tapestry' is indeed a modern classic. No reader of fantastic fiction or modern literature can consider themselves educated on the vampire as a symbol until they've at least read "The Unicorn Tapestry". If you loved the key works by Polidori, LeFanu, Stoker, Matheson, Rice, Yarbro and Streiber, you'll love this. If your only experience of "vampires" comes from `Twilight', Charlaine Harris, Buffy or `The Lost Boys', your true education begins here. For this reader, bored by bad rehashes of tired old lore, `The Vampire Tapestry' was a welcome taste of fresh blood that for him reinvigorated a subgenre that was dead on its feet.

Stephen E. Andrews, author, `100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels' (A & C Black, 2006)

Dont Touch
Dont Touch
Price: £9.32

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legendary bootleg gets expanded official release, 24 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dont Touch (Audio CD)
Back in the 1970s some in concert bootleg recordings had legendary status - for example, for Bowie fans, it was the `Santa Monica' recording, which was deemed to be the best available representation of the Ziggy Stardust/Spiders from Mars era. For fans of The Tubes, the legendary San Francisco theatre rock bands, there were two must-haves, "Rock and Roll Hospital" (largely because it included the eponymous title track, which never made it onto an official studio album by the band) and "Darted in My Own Armchair", cut from a 1976 FM radio show broadcast.
"Darted" appeared years later on a CD of allegedly questionable legality in the `Super Golden Radio Shows' series, entitled "The Tubes in Concert 1976". A truncated version appeared many years later as "Live In America".

Now what we have here in 2014 is an apparently official version entitled "Don't Touch", which features an in concert still of Fee Waybill and Re Styles from the 1979 tour (I was there, folks and I recognise Re's hairstyle and her thick dance tights - I was the sixteen year old in the front row of one of the UK gigs in '79 who reached out and had a good, slow squeeze of her shapely pantyhosed calf when she came to the front of the stage while singing `Don't Touch Me There' with Fee). What is unique about this release of "Darted" is the addition of `White Punks on Dope', which is very welcome as a Tubes live recording that climaxed with `Stand Up and Shout' always felt like a short-changing of the fanbase.

Despite the excellent production quality of official 1978 double concert album "What Do You Want From Live?"(notably the brilliant drum sound) and the fact that it contains several songs that never made it onto the studio albums, I've always preferred "Darted", as it showcases The Tubes at the moment I've always felt was their creative peak. It is rough around the edges at times, but of good enough performance and production quality to be acceptable to the selective listener (I'm not a dedicated bootleg listener who will buy anything no matter how poor it sounds). It should be said though that this release is no better in quality than previous CD versions.

Opening with a huge medley of `Young & Rich'/'Grandiose Instrumental Overture'/ `What Do You Want From Life?' which goes on for over eleven minutes, this is Tube-heaven. `Grandiose' is comprised of instrumental sections from 'Space Baby, 'Haloes' and 'What Do You Want From Life?' plus some less familiar tube-tunes. 'What Do You Want From Life?' itself omits the actual song, Fee Waybill delivering a different variation on the game-show schtick chat different to that on the version on the official live album and the original studio version. The Tubes were masters of arrangement and hearing these different versions of these classics is a real treat.' Young & Rich' is sung by Sputnik, whose voice I personally like more than Waybills'.

`Tubes World Tour' follows, with its dazzling sequencer runs, sparkling Sputnik Spooner and Roger Steen solos (the opening one is by Sputnik) and great pre-song banter from Fee. One of the most exciting pieces of rock the band ever wrote, this is textbook stuff - if only more musicians listened to The Tubes in their prime, they'd have a better idea of what levels of dynamics and thrills rockers should strive for. Steen is, in my opinion, one of the greatest psychedelic guitar soloists ever, with magnificent command of wah-wah and tone colour.

The only dull part of the recording comes next, with a Capt Beefheart cover. Personally, I've never appreciated why people feel Don Van Vliet was one of the THE geniuses of rock music - he clearly had original ideas and vision, but his work has never moved me an inch. The Beefheart song here is a sore thumb, a grinding and dull moment in an otherwise explosive and timbrally expansive recording. Segueing into The Captain and Tenille's `Love Will Keep Us Together' (yes, REALLY), the Beefheart song is quickly forgotten though and despite the unthinkably lightweight fare this second cover suggests, its actually pretty good, though not a patch on The Tubes' own songs (some fans will know this cover from the 'T.R.A.S.H' rarities compilation album.

The rest of the recording is pretty unbeatable, going into the darkest and strongest material in the bands' oeuvre at the time. `Pimp', easily one of the very best songs the band ever recorded is delivered here with a great spoken intro by the mighty Sputnik Spooner, guitarist and one of the four lead vocalists the Tubes featured at this time. Sadly, Spooner was eventually ousted from the group some ten years later despite his genius and leadership, allegedly for his addictive behaviours. He remains for many Tubes fans the key architect and visionary of the group, his beautiful, rough voice underrated guitar-playing and seminal songwriting skills forming the core of the Tubes' spirit. The version of `Pimp' represented here forms a perfect prelude to the hardcore sex-violence-rock&roll suite that follows - a segued suite of `Mondo Bondage'/'Don't Touch Me There'/'Boy Crazy'/'Stand Up and Shout'/'White Punks on Dope'.

Mondo Bondage' is fierce here, with a foreboding intro, stomping like a rubber and leather armoured monster, whipping and stripping the listener into submission. The gentler `Don't Touch Me There' follows (hit single and Phil Spector parody) - most listeners will be more used to hearing the songs the other way around in concert (as they are on "What Do You Want From Live?"). `Mondo Bondage' reprises powerfully and leads immaculately into `Boy Crazy', whose portentious riff was cut short on the official live album. We get the full song here, a tale of disgust with promiscuity that reveals the morality at the heart of The Tubes' satire. Then we go into the celebrated Quay Lewd section of the show, where English Glam is lampooned. Fee's calls of "Ken love, are we rolling? Ken love," and "Ed, love, are we rolling? Ed love..." have always tickled me, coming here during the epic nine minute version of `Stand Up and Shout' here, some 6-7 minutes longer than the album version. `Shout' was composed by Mike Condello and Ray Trainer, bandmates of Spooner's in the 60s band Condello. This is audience participation at its best, rather than at its most clichéd and pointless.

The album climaxes with the previously unreleased version of 'White Punks on Dope'. Coming in at 8.47 (the album and single cut both come in at 6.45, though the latter is edited for language- while Fee doesn't hold back on this live version), it's actually shorter than 'Stand up and Shout'. The inclusion of this track means that as a live album, the CD now feels more complete, being a fuller representation of the bands' carefully constructed stage set/show.

One of the great live recordings of the 1970s, this CD is testament to an amazing band whose adventurousness, songwriting skills, satirical insight and sterling rock ability matched and surpassed that of much more famous bands with far less imagination. If you like intelligent prog, theatrical and Glam rock, you'll love The Tubes, whose ability to entertain and astonish was second to none. Sadly, it didn't last as the majority of their audiences, while loving the stage shows, couldn't appreciate the ultra-colourful music and the band compromised more and more with commercial requirements as time went on. While this eventually led to a few hits, The Tubes were never as good again as they were in the golden age 1975-1978. After their first three studio albums, this is their most essential recording.

DC Universe Justice League Unlimited Exclusive Doom Patrol Set of 4 Action Figures Negative Man, Robot Man, ElastiGirl Mento by Mattel
DC Universe Justice League Unlimited Exclusive Doom Patrol Set of 4 Action Figures Negative Man, Robot Man, ElastiGirl Mento by Mattel
Offered by M&E Store-USA
Price: £36.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Great set, but a six piece would have been ideal, 23 Nov 2014
If you are a fan of The Doom Patrol, I salute you. Way too few superhero comics fans know the original Patrol from the 1960s and -even more tragically - even fewer seem to know of Grant Morrison's Patrol from the late 80s/early 90s, which is every bit as good (better in my view) than the best work of Alan Moore (seriously, if you like Swamp Thing, Watchmen, 'The Killing Joke' and so on, you're really missing out if you've never read Granty's Patrol).

I'm not usually an action figure fan, but I did have a bit of a jag recently buying DP figures and X-Men villains (I know, I'm an incorrigible flake). This little set comes in a white slipcase and look great left 'on card' and still sealed. These are fairly TV-cartoony renderings but great fun, so even a silver age purist like me can enjoy them.

One caveat: The DP originally comprised Robotman, Negative Man and Elastigirl (where do you think Disney's 'Incredibles' movie got the name from? It wasn't all Fantastic Four references, there is some DP stuff in there too), augmented by their leader, The Chief. The Chief isn't included (shame), but Mento, who courted Elastigirl and appeared later in the original run is. Sadly, neither is Beast Boy, whom most comics fans from the 80s onwards know from Teen Titans -and these days I believe he's called 'Changeling'. Pity this wasn't a 6 figure set with The Chief and Beast Boy.

I paid £25 for my set, which I felt was reasonable. As always, action figures go up in price once the manufacturers sell out and retailers will then put prices up. I'd say shop around for these and don't pay silly money.

The Tubes
The Tubes
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars This is eleven...we're on..., 22 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Tubes (Audio CD)
The Tubes formed in the early 1970s and adopted San Francisco as their hometown. The legend runs that the band came together after two groups moved into the same rented house, had a fight and while some of the musicians quit the homestead, the remaining survivors melded into The Tubes. These two bands were (1) The Red WHite and Blues Band (maybe they were called Arizona by that time though) and featured Roger Steen (guitar/vocals), Prairie Prince (drums) and a bassist, plus (2) The Beans, who were comprised of Bill 'Sputnik' Spooner (guitar/vocals), Vince Welnick (keyboards), Rick Anderson (bass) and a drummer. Therefore, the initial Tubes lineup was Steen/Prince/Spooner/Welnick/Anderson. This quintet was later joined by John Waldo 'Fee' Waybill (originally a roadie for the band) on lead vocals and Michael Cotten (a friend of Prince's, who, like the drummer was an accomplished desiger/artist) on synthesizers. So with three lead vocalists - Waybill, Steen and Spooner - The Tubes were born, later adding a model/dancer renamed Re Styles on second vocals.

One more preparatory footnote: At least some of The Tubes hailed from Phoenix, which was,as one of them said on a 1978 BBC 'Arena' Tv show about Theatre Rock (that also featured Bowie) 'So oppressively hot that all we did was stay in and watch TV,'. The result was a band hugely influenced by TV and the mass media, so much so that their songs - esepcially in the early days - were highly satirical, like those of thr Alice Cooper group. It's worth noting here that the man generally regarded as being the "leader" of the band, Sputnik Spooner, went to the same school as three members of Alice Cooper. Incidentally, Bill also played with The Trips and The XLs and Condello, whose sole album is now available on CD.

Using outrageous props, costumes, stunts and other theatrical accoutrements live (including groundbreaking use of video cameras and screens), The Tubes soon built up a reputation as a cult act on the live circuit in California. Early material wasn't always as conceptually strong as the songs that made the cut for the first two albums (as archive CDs 'Dawn of the Tubes' and 'Mondo Birthmark' have revealed), but A & M eventually signed the massively talented group, whose stunning musical abilities were often obscured by the focus on the stage show. Often compared to Zappa for their mix of progressive/[psychedelic techno-flash and satire and Utopia for their quirky style and that prog-psych t-flash (again), I've always found The Tubes to be be more spiritually and sonically akin to Alice Cooper. They have elements of True Glam - which Alice Cooper pioneered alongside The Stooges and before Bowie and Roxy Music did - but are not usually very gritty or crude musically, unlike the Punk Rock movement which they have so often erroneously been allied with but happily exploited and satirised come '77='78. The Tubes' take on the American Way is as celebratory and damning as that of Alice Cooper, their humour meant very seriously, As a perfect example of doublethink, simultaneously deriding yet hailing the horrible shiny glamour of consumerism and tat, The Tubes are unsurpassed. If you think they are just a joke, you're wrong - they're very serious about their satire and have said so in interviews.

The band have also said they could never agree on what songs to issue on albums, so they left it to the producer. Their debut was laid down by Al Kooper, who did a creditable job, delivering a huge production, lacing the 6 musicians with immense string and horn sessions of the kind that graced (or destroyed according to your view) 'The Soft Parade' by The Doors. As much as I love the voluminousness of "The Tubes", it is a little lacking in space and ambience compared to the much better produced followup ("Young and Rich"). However, Kooper was lucky to be able to select what are almost certainly the bands' most memorable iconic and affecting numbers for this magnificent debut.

After a characterful, unforgettable and 'what were they thinking of' introduction, opening cut 'Up From The Deep' acts as an entirely fitting overture to the proceedings. This is classic Tubes - over the top, interesting, never sitting still for a monute, yet with a musicality and melodic core that leaves pointless prog noodling standing. Melodic themese that are reprised in tracks later in the album (such as 'Mondo Bondage' and 'White Punks') are present here. There's a brief vocal from Sputnik, that sets out the bands' stall as theatrical rock entertainers and his gravely voice is immaculately selected here. Alternative live versions of 'Up From The Deep' come up on the concert album "What do you want from live?" and the once-a-bootleg "Don't Touch" (better known as "Darted in my own Armchair".

After the track builds to a crescendo, it fades over the introductory strings of 'Haloes', these days my favourite song on the album. For many years after I first bought this album in 1977, 'Haloes' was the song I often used to skip, feeling it was the most conventional track and of less interest that the rest. Sung by Spooner, with backing from Steen and Waybill (though written by Steen), this sunny, multi-textured psychedelic mid-tempo number is the very essence of sunny, optimistic, acid-prog, with marvellous, infectious guitar lines, thumping double-bass drumming and majestic orchestral backing. I can't be objective about this magnificent, strip-crusing bit of lysergic bliss, I love it too much. Sheer genius.

Next up is 'Space Baby', some of which is sung by Sputnik, some by Fee. If you want to know who is singing what, the opening lines of teh first two verses (the lyrics which address the Space Baby) are sung by Sputnik, while Fee takes the part of the Space Baby and sings the responses and all the leads from the middle of the song on, with Sputnik on second vocals. It's a multi-facetted, expressive Science Fiction song with numerous tempo changes, a wild keyboard solo, lovely synth effects (if you love truly great analogue synth playing, you'll really dig early Tubes, as Mike Cotten is up there with Eno and the guys from Hawkwind- in fact, I feel he's the best pure synthesist of the era and I say that having owned and played such instruments myself). This cut is typical of the Tubes, whom I'd describe as 'Grandiose' rather than 'Pompous'. Yes, the ARE excessive and expressionistic, but with such verve and colour that they never feel overpowering, but instead deliver their ideas with finesse - baroque, but never overblown.

I'll just point out here (again) that Sputnik is the primary vocalist on the first three cuts, as his status as the driving force behind the band in their greatest period (the initial A & M trilogy) was in danger of being forgotten as Fee became more dominant from 'Remote Control' onwards.

'Malaguena Salerosa' is baffling but superb - a Mexican mariachi/flamenco blast of Spanish Passion, it's as effervescent as it is absurd. You'll either love it or hate it, but for me it's like watching a Spaghetti Western in drag, but in a good way. Fee takes lead vocals here.

The remaining tracks make up what was side 2 of the original vinyl album. It has to be said that what comes next is pretty devastating, desperate, cruel, vile, colourful and breathtaking. Arguably a moral critique of the death of affect,shallowness, decadence and ugliness of corporate, consuemrist, sensation obsessed America, you can taste the hollowness and despair - and it is all wrapped up in music that is at times frighteningly smooth and accomplished, other times harsh, grating and astonishingly savage. 'Mondo Bondage' is lyrically about S & M - and musically it is too. It's very difficult to describe, so I won't even try, but it features grinding riffs, impassioned choruses, tension and release and whenever I listen to it, I feel like I've been tied up and whipped - and what's worrying is that it's all enjoyable. Feeling kid of dirty, the listener is then sucked into the game-show nightmare of 'What Do You Want From Life?' a paen against materialism that pulls no punches. The musical arrangement here is lush and fascinating, as it is throughout the album. You may laugh at Fee's varispeed litany at the end, but really, this is tragic stuff.

The penultimate cut is the harrowing 'Boy Crazy', a searing indictment of female teen promiscuity and vacuousness that makes Meat Loaf's 'Paradise by the dashboard light' seem like a vomit bag of hypocrasy. It has to be said though, that there's (maybe) an element of jealous moralising in the song, which actually makes it all the more powerful. It also has one of the best and most compelling guitar riffs in the history of rock, which live was one of the most exciting things any music fan could ever hope to hear - it's full of urgency, occassion and vinegar, just magic. This is probably my favourite cut on the album alongside 'Haloes', but its grim stuff.

The album closes with the full, uncensored version of anthem 'White Punks on Dope' (although a full 6:45 version was issued as both a 7" and 12" single in the UK, it was lyrically censored, Fee's desperate cry of "I'm ****ed up," - a drug reference -and a harrowing utterance of "Thank you Jesus!" both excised from the release bound for the charts). This track, more than anything else, is what led to The Tubes' affiliation with Punk Rock. Inspired by something country rock pioneer Gram Parsons allegedly said about Jefferson Airplane many, many years earlier ('Oh, they're just white punks on dope,'), 'WPOD' is a tale of rich kids getting high -and eventually addicted- in Hollywood. Live, 'WPOD' was sung by Fee in his persona of 'Quay Lewd' - who was a parody of English Glam Stars and those who tacked themselves onto the movement, like Rod Stewart (the Glam scene was big at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Discotheque on the Sunset Strip in LA circa 73-75). Written by Spooner, Steen and their friend Mike Evans, 'WPOD' found a sequel in 'Young and Rich', the song which became the title number of the bands' second LP.

Although it's actually more about Glitter Rock than Punk, The Tubes' released 'WPOD' as a single in the UK to tie-in with the Punk explosion in 77. Creeping to #28 in the UK charts and accompanied by a headline-grabbing tour that promised lots of sex and violence onstage, this was a masterstoke that showed The Tubes' simulataneous understanding and exploitation of the absurdity and value of mass media sensationalism. The tabloids ate it up and all of a sudden, The Tubes were a Punk band, not a technoflash psychedelic prog unit, whose music was more like that of 801 than The Clash (or even The Tubes' chums The Stranglers). As for the song itself, it's huge, over-the-top, great fun and full of calla nd response hooks that are impeccably arranged. You haven't lived until you've sang along to it live with the band standing in the front row of the concert hall.

Colourful, witty, abrasive, multi-layered and dazzling in its complexity, 'The Tubes' is one of the great debut albums, up there with 'Roxy Music', 'The Velvet Underground and Nico', 'The Doors', 'Stranglers IV(Rattus Norvegicus)' and anything else you might want to name that isn't by The Beatles, Dylan and The Stones. It's a unique experience, performed by brilliant sylists who have no real peers in ther annals of American rock - the Tubes are instantly recognisable as inidividual instrumentalists, even when they are playing straight ahead rock - and anyone who really loves 70s rock music and has a brain in thier head needs to own this album. If you're a fan of intelligent, timbrally broad music like that of Bowie, Hawkwind, Roxy Music, King Crimson, you'll really get off on this.

Sheer genius.

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