A bit of repurposing here, but it's for the good of the community. This piece on the debut film by Mysterious Skin director Gregg Araki persistently racks up more traffic round here than anything else, so for ease of access, and because we like to give you what you want, here it is again. I've not seen Araki's two most recent releases, Smiley Face and Kaboom, but a quick scan of imdb suggests the first is a hash-gobbling comedy with Anna Faris and the second has something to with sex and space. The Living End, from 1992 - and boy, it shows, but we kinda like that - follows two gay lovers off the leash and on the lam in LA. This piece is on the 2009 'remixed and remastered' DVD release...
The Living End
Way back then in 1992, before the spread of the net, the death of Cobain and the crowning of Tarantino, there existed a self-sufficient sub-strata of frank, horny, hedonistic gay filmmaking called 'new queer cinema'. This was a movement which brought together a coterie of out 'n' proud, what-you-gonna-do-about-it indie directors including Todd Haynes, Rose Troche (Go Fish) and the young Gregg Araki, whose disturbing, dreamlike Mysterious Skin from 2004 compared teenage sexual abuse to alien abduction.
It takes after-the-fact knowledge and a bit of a squint to see the roots of that film in this spirited but primitive, quasi-satirical road movie, a film which Araki boldly described as a "a Hope/Crosby movie in which Crosby fucks Hope". Intriguing as that sounds, Thelma & Louise via 'On The Road' with a quick swerve through Paul Morrissey's Warhol films Flesh, Trash and Heat is probably a more accurate indication of the territory covered. The Living End comes loaded with angry energy, black leather swagger and a soundtrack of the era's grinding 'n' bleeping industrial rock. But the rawness which impressed critics back in 1992 is undercut by a tone which trips between outright satire and meaningful engagement - a discrepancy which occasionally renders Araki's radicalism slightly self-conscious.
Wry young LA film journalist Jon (Craig Gilmore) is the modest kid who in the film's opening sequence is struggling to come to terms with an HIV diagnosis. Luke (Mike Dytri) is the buffed-up, nihilistic drifter he picks up that night on the highway, and who shares Jon's newly discovered condition. At this point Luke's already racked up the murder of a submissive john and taken out three dumb-ass homophobes. The boys become lovers and hit the road to nowhere, the relationship driven by lust, booze, a desperate desire to live in the moment and an equally desperate sense of doom.
The Living End is blessed with two heroically beautiful leading men, but Dytri in particular is no natural actor and the tensions in the film's tone are made manifest in a performance which feels chronically under-directed. Neither actor would pursue a long career in front of the camera, but Gilmore is a much easier presence and his relationship with grunge-queen artist Darcy (Darcy Marta), whose own straight relationship has hit the skids, is the only firm connection with emotional reality.
But then The Living End is a film about - and made with - roaring passion rather than calm convention, and Araki signals his own passions constantly: the Godard poster on Jon's apartment wall, Luke's Jesus And Mary Chain T-Shirt, references to Ian Curtis and the Butthole Surfers as well as Coil and Psychic TV on the soundtrack all indicate a film steeped in what used to be called alternative culture. It's in this spirit perhaps, that Araki recruited former Warhol Factory worker and star of the Ramones film Rock 'N' Roll High School Mary Woronov, who might stand as The Living End's mascot, were it not for the fact that her appearance as a gun-toting kidnapper is among the weakest sequences here.
As Jon and Luke's trip gets wilder, and the relationship turns more destructive, Araki drops the satirical angle and aims instead for a more straightforward tragic love story. The writing and acting are too blunt for it to convince entirely, but the conclusion does convey the sense of fury, alienation and thwarted hope which won the film its support in the 1990s.
Looking back at the film from the twenty-first century and what remains significant about The Living End is its frank portrayal of a gay relationship from the inside out and its absolute refusal to be afraid of Aids. For all the flaws and evident budget restrictions, Gregg Araki demonstrates a steadfast dedication to the mantra adopted by John Lydon in the 1980s: anger is an energy.
Bob Dylan is 70 today. For strange, copyright-related reasons he's a fleeting figure on YerToob, so rather than a blistering version of Maggie's Farm from Newport in 1965, two ace covers.
Dylan's mid-80s 'Oh Mercy', with its shimmering Daniel Lanois production and battered, bitter undercurent is one of my favourite Bob albums. Here Mark Lannegan growls his way through Man In The Long Black Coat. Below that, two minutes and eleven seconds of Hendrix's version of All Along The Watch Tower from Withnail & I.
A predilection for Cocteau Twins, Cranes, MBV, the Mary Chain and other feedback-filtered, shoegaze-related stuff prompted Last.fm to recommend to me a track called Spatial Love by Lush. Happily, this turns out not to be the Lush of the 1990s who spearheaded what Melody Maker used to call The Scene That Celebrates Itself (well, somebody had to) but someone else entirely. This happy accident, however, brought us to the free album Cut Vol 1 which features the track - a pleasant mix of electronica, dub-inspired beats and whooshing noises. Get it here.
Clearing out a cupboard in the windy west wing of Roundmine Mansions, I re-encountered a copy of lost and lamented rock mag Playmusic featuring an extraordinarily in-depth interview I wrote a few years back with Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals.
I remember we met in the glassy offices of an enormous record company in London's difficult Soho, spent the afternoon chatting about Hawkwind, Wales and being shot at, then mooched around with a photographer while the desk-workers pulled up their trousers and pretended we weren't really there.
Gruff Rhys has a new solo album out, themed, it appears, around hotel shampoo. We approve of SFA.
Did you want to read the whole article? Jeez, we'd have to prop it up on some sort of lectern and then type it out using our hands. It may follow, should demand dictate...
Sad news this week: Poly Styrene, ex of X-Ray-Spex, latterly devoted Krishnite and spiritual seeker, died of cancer aged 53. Rather wonderfully, an official statement describes her as "having won her battle to go to higher places." Go Poly, go!
Neu! x Ozric Tentacles (unmarked C90 found in a shoebox under the bed) ^ Kraftwerk (Vangelis x Hawkwind ÷ windy dawn at European festival in mountains) = Maserati. Potent 21st century psychedelia available here:
We are very much in an oozing, woozy dubstep frame of mind round here. Something about this music's thick consistency suggests summer in the city - dried beer on the pavement, cigarettes in doorways, sticky discomfort in airless rooms and the full weight of London's carbon lid.
Dadub are an Italian duo based in Berlin and their new EP Backward Forward throbs very satisfyingly: the melancholic strain(s) of minor-chord dub given a machine smooth finish while unidentified objects hiss and growl in the background.
You can get it for free here courtesy of indie net label A Quiet Bump, alongside a bunch of other sombre-minded, dub-inclined stuff.
Nicobobinus is a photographer. I can't remember how I stumbled across his stuff on Flickr. But it is excellent: odd city scenes, depopulated landscapes in which something may or may not be about to happen, a faintly surreal sense of humour. He's taken a lot of pictures of my manor. It kinda works with the music. See him here and below.
Tooley Street, by Nicobobinus. I haven't asked him if I can use this. I hope he doesn't mind.
Alvin Toffler is the US author of 1970's 'Future Shock', among other things, which considered the impact of accelerated change on a system - human society - unable to adapt to its own advances. "Shattering stress and disorientation" was how he described the impact of information overload, a phrase he also coined. "The future comes too soon," he once wrote, "and in the wrong order."
I have been working on updating that maxim. So far: "the future always arrives exactly on time: just after it's too late to do anything about it."