Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Inside the Wall, Vol. 4 (2012 Wrap-Up)

I'm writing one last post to wrap up 2012, as well as to announce my intention to post at least once a week going forward  -- including, to kick things off, an epic rant on Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy" next Monday.

This isn't a "best [blank] of the year" list, really, though I am a big fan of those if only to help me discover the gems out there that I missed.  Here are some of my favorites and what they turned me onto (call it my "Best of the 'Best [blank] of the Year Lists' List"):
The rest of my thoughts on 2012's highs and lows after the jump ...


The back-half of 2012 was full of highlights for me, but the week of September 23-29 may be a top contender for the single best week of music in my concert-going life.  First, just a bit of background --  I came to Lou Reed the same way I imagine many people in my generation have, through the influence he had on so many musicians who followed in his footsteps (frequently - and ironically - to greater fame than he ever achieved).  I remember hearing U2 name-check Lou Reed during the Zoo TV tour during a cover version of "Satellite of Love", then there was the stunning cover of "Sweet Jane" by Cowboy Junkies, as well the far rougher covers of "Pale Blue Eyes" by R.E.M. and "Sister Ray" by Joy Division.  It's fair to say that nearly every band I counted amongst my favorites through high school and going into college was inspired directly by the Velvet Underground catalog.

So despite having never purchased a Lou Reed album in my life, the force of the man's presence hit me like a rush of wind when he made a surprise appearance onstage during the encore performance of Metric at Radio City Music Hall on on September 23rd.  Sure, the man looked more than a little zonked out, and I had to give the man a pass on missing the melody and the rhythm of both Metric's "The Wanderlust" and his own "Pale Blue Eyes" (sorry, but check out the videos posted on this write-up and tell me I'm wrong).  But damn, I'm ready to say that, if I end up leaving New York City in 2013, I will leave convinced that I saw it all.

Later that week, I caught Twin Shadow at Webster Hall and -- all due respect to Mr. Reed -- thought I'd seen the greatest live performance I was going to see that year.  I've greatly enjoyed Twin Shadow's last two albums, but they hadn't prepared me at all for their massive stage presence, rocking the house like Prince with a voice falling somewhere between Frank Ocean and Steve Winwood.  Just two days after that, rounding out the week, I caught David Byrne sharing the stage with St. Vincent in Brooklyn in support of the fantastic grower of an album, Love This Giant.  Again, David Byrne ... playing Talking Heads classics like "This Must Be The Place" and "Burning Down The House" ... with Brooklyn favorite St. Vincent?  You can't beat that.

I'd close 2012 on that note, except that the rest of the year brought fantastic performances by Deleted Scenes and Mates of State -- the latter in the incredibly intimate setting of the Mercury Lounge -- as well as what I have to say is the absolute greatest concert experience I have had (and may indeed ever have, for what it meant to me on a personal level):

All I can say here is that New Order was the music of my teenage years.  We all have that band, that album or soundtrack or song, and New Order is mine -- and, no surprise here, the Roseland Ballroom was wall-to-wall with thousands others just like me, screaming along to every lyric and breaking a mad sweat dancing to every song.  I'm going to just say that it was a religious experience.  Bernard Sumner might as well have pointed me out between songs and said, "Yes, we wrote this song for you, just you", because that's how it felt.


If I haven't said it already ... this is a Golden Age, an embarrassment of riches.  Just looking ahead to next year may say it all --  Mad Men, Homeland and Community returning triumphant, while 30 Rock and Breaking Bad both come to a close.

And that's even before I mention the Messiah-like return of ARRESTED F'ING DEVELOPMENT!!!

Yeah, 2013.  Unbelievable.


I'll close off 2012 with a couple parting thoughts inspired by the films I caught over the last couple of weeks--
  • It was a great year, on the one hand, for movies that we need far more of, regardless of whether the individual movies are particularly good or bad  ...

    ... like a return of the Blaxploitation cinema of the 1970s (honestly, why do we not see a ex-slave revenge flick like every few years, when it's so damn ripe for good cinema?) ...

    ... or serious, mature dramas that confront death with eyes wide open ...

    ... or even worthy follow-ups to Bridesmaids that give strong, raunchy-yet-relatable roles for women - the kind in which they're entire existence isn't defined by their relationship with men.
  • It was also a terrible year for bullshit book-to-movie "adaptations" that miss the point of the source material by a country mile.  There's no way to call the first movie in the Hunger Games series anything but a pale gloss on what is perhaps not a "great" young adult novel but that certainly shows more grit and bravery than anything we saw on screen.  The crime is all the greater for wasting the estimable talent of Jennifer Lawrence, among an otherwise solid cast, without ever letting her get more than a touch dirty when the book was willing to mutilate this woman to convince the reader of the true brutality of the "games".

    Yet, there may be no greater potential-to-disaster ratio than the absurd spectacle of suck that was the first three hours (!) of The Hobbit ... a roughly 300 page book that could not be stretched further if Peter Jackson let us see Bilbo and the dwarfs sleeping in real time.  Besides the unfortunate choice to showcase the 48 FPS technology in a movie that was predisposed to come off as a low-budget BBC miniseries to begin with, the disjointed, indulgent editing had an effect roughly equivalent to trying to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy while your spastic nephew repeatedly flips the channel to a Saturday morning cartoon.  While I cannot claim to be the biggest fan of Tolkein, I know enough about the source material to say that any movie that renders Bilbo Baggins into a minor character in his own movie is veering wildly off track ... but then, who knows.  Maybe Jackson will right the course somewhere in the next six hours (!) of movie to come ...

And that's it, people.  Onto 2013.

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