March 2007 Archives
March 2, 2007
You might think this is another song about anal sex, but you’re wrong. It’s actually an anti-immigration song focused on the joys of mixed-race relationships. Despite the lyrical content, I think this remains my most poppy song. The only thing that bugs me is the choice of effect on the final guitar solo. It doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the song. Alas, I’m too lazy to rerecord it, so it’s canon.
I actually recorded the acoustic version first. I bought an inexpensive percussion kit and wanted to experiment with creating my own rhythm section. I had some good results with “A Very Abysmal Christmas”, so I decided to continue that with a semi-jazzy rendition. In many ways, I prefer this to the electric version.
March 5, 2007
During the summer of 2007, I became convinced one of my ex-girlfriends had been parking outside every night from midnight to four in the morning. I realized I was just being paranoid, but it inspired this delightful ode to the consequences of stalker behavior.
March 6, 2007
I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. If you take the time to read through the Abysmal Crucifix blog, you’ll find it littered with references to their history (among other iconic rock moments). I wanted to pay homage to (1) the derivative nature of pop songwriting, (2) Brian Wilson’s insane 1977 debacle Love You, and (3) phone sex. One of my ex-girlfriends quite enjoyed the latter, but I found it to be the silliest thing two people could ever do. This song is a reaction to that, with a redundant chord progression and melody directly inspired by “Mona” from Love You. The name “Starla” comes from a combination of sources: the Smashing Pumpkins’ 11-minute epic on Pisces Iscariot, and the name of the woman Kirk Van Houten shacks up with when he gets a divorce.
March 18, 2007
Another homage to the Beach Boys’ Love You. This time, the inspiration is the song “Solar System.” The lyrics describe the act of a star birth. I used some unsettling metaphoric imagery to imply the physical act of “star sex,” leading to the birth. The idea was to deviate from the expectation that this song would be all about having sex with a celebrity.
March 21, 2007
“Album” Version/”Radio Edit”:
I’ve long been obsessed with Nigerian 419 scams, because they’re the most dangerous form of hilarity on the planet. Long before I wrote Debt Collection, I wrote this song (and decided, in the Abysmal universe, that it was the soundtrack lynchpin of a fictitious 1998 Steven Seagal epic called, um, Debt Collection). It’s essentially a fevered warning against the dreaded 419 scam, replete with offensive broken English. For those interested in the technical nuts and bolts, I had this song up on the site for two years before adding the bongos and pseudo-African chanting. While recovering from wrist surgery in the summer of 2009, the combination of boredom and Vicodin caused me to rerecord the vocals (which were pretty sloppy in the “first draft,” since I was essentially making up the melody on the fly during that take). While I was at it, I used Reason to lay down a quick bongo line, and then I added some layered harmonies of generic African chanting.
This song is not live. I’m not sure who it’ll fool. I rerecorded the guitar parts using different distortion pedals to give it a slightly different sound, boosted the speed a little, then rerecorded the vocals. After that, I added generic crowd noise from sound effects CDs and really fucked with the EQ shelves to give it that “live” sound. I know I’m biased, but I actually think it sounds pretty convincing.
March 28, 2007
This song is exactly what it sounds like. To quote one of my friends upon his first listen: “It really does sound like a quest!” Be warned: this song contains arguably the filthiest lyrics I’ve ever written. If you are easily offended or related to me, or just don’t want the mental picture of me doing an erotic pie-eating contest, do not listen.
March 7, 2007
Source of inspiration: on choir tour senior year of high school, we stayed at a nice resort hotel on one of the arms of the Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, Michigan. One night, for reasons unknown, a young black saxophonist sat on the beach, playing some smooth, solo jazz. I don’t know if the hotel hired him to play for guests, if he himself was a guest, or if it was a weird bum thing. Whatever the case, I said to my best friend, “I’d love a little sax on the beach.” He immediately shot back, “I’d rather have a little sax on my cock.”
I was really set on recording the entire Backseat Delightlah! album, and I had it in my head I would split it in half (a “hard” half and a “soft” half) using “Sax on the Beach” as a sort of bridge from one half to the other. I thought I’d just make a short song with a vaguely Hawaiian feel, so I mapped out a basic ukulele chord progression set to a melody I had in my head, then constructed harmonies based around the chord and melody. When it didn’t sound quite right to me, I added some echoey guitar shit and the ocean waves. I think it has a nice, lulling feel, like a Corona commercial.
March 12, 2007
Viewers of Private Collections, an anthology of 1970s “erotica” from three “masters” of the medium (Just Jaeckin, Shuji Terayama, and Walerian Borowcyzk), might find the title Issues with Women: The Movie a bit more truthful. It’s obvious from the get-go that the bulk of pornography (past, present, and undoubtedly future), which is largely dominated by male “writer”/”directors,” is little more than a fount of negative views of women. The difference is, prior to and after the wave of semi-mainstream “legitimate” erotica, budget and time restrictions precluded frivolities like plot, characterization, or craftsmanship. The result? While most no-budget pornography contains endless examples of both bizarre misogyny and repressed homosexuality from its male “protagonists,” they manage not to come across nearly as sadistic or baffling as their “artistic” cousins from the erotica boom in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Perhaps this is why none of the three films that comprise Private Collections are particularly erotic. They all spend so much time hating women that it’s hard to work up the courage to find anything in these films titillating, despite ample nudity and vague, confusing attempts at “sexy” situations.
Just Jaeckin (clearly the real name of the director of Emmanuelle and The Story of O) has the first entry, “L’Ile Aux Sirenes,” in which a doughy French sailor gets thrown overboard and washes up in a deserted island — or is it?! No, it isn’t; it’s populated by a bevy of topless natives led by Laura Gemser (Black Emmanuelle). Despite the endless nudity and occasional sex scenes, this is portrayed almost as a thriller rather than an erotic film. The natives begin talking behind the sailor’s back; he doesn’t understand the language, but he keeps discovering not-entirely-subtle suggestions that that they have bigger plans for him than endless sex. Eventually, they turn on him — and try to eat him. Or at least chase and bite him and enjoy his blood. It has a “surprise twist” ending that doesn’t manage to undo the damage of misogyny.
The second entry, “Kusa Meika” by Japanese director Shuji Terayama (Fruits of Passion), left me baffled. I’m not great with experimental cinema to begin with; experimental erotica is a whole new level of strangeness. Maybe the abstract imagery and relentless symbolism makes sense to people smarter than me; perhaps something was lost in translation (the dialogue is in Japanese, with French dubbing/narration that are subtitled in English). Either way, the emphasis on women-as-abusers (the protagonist is essentially tortured by nymphomaniac sorcerors) combined with the overall strangeness will leave viewers either confused and frustrated or enlightened, but I doubt anybody will find it erotic. At all.
The final entry comes from Walerian Borowczyk, whose issues with women have already garnered an entire review from me. Although this time around he isn’t portraying victimized women as evil and immoral, he creates yet another film whose sole erotic moments seem like an afterthought. His film, “L’Armoir,” is really a misguided exploration of Sartrean philosophy more than anything else. In 19th-century France, a depressed man (who rambles endlessly in voiceovers) pays a dance-hall girl to have sex with him, then plays mind games with her for his own amusement. They spend the bulk of the film just talking and talking and talking, and we come to realize that Our Hero is thoroughly unpleasant; despite this, Borowczyk doesn’t really shift our sympathies over to the girl. It still feels as if we’re supposed to rally around the bored rich man who sees emotional torment of women as entertainment.
Maybe these films are trying to accomplish more than your average porno flick; it’s an admirable goal to put thought into using the art of cinema to titillate. Unfortunately, all of these films overreach to the point of failure. They suffer from the inherent misogyny that underscores depraved male sex fantasies.
March 11, 2007
With their awesome powers combined, three short films form Immoral Women, a provocative and baffling film that provides audiences with the following insights into feminine psychology:
- Women will murder men for fun and profit.
- Women will murder their parents and servants as a symbol of their sexual maturation.
- Women will allow their huge pet dogs to chew off the tender vittles of any man, be it a kidnapper or husband, and will watch with apathy as the pain forces them to roll into an awkward jump cut that lands them in a river, where they drown.
The first and third stories are largely a waste of time, both in terms of erotica and in terms of cinema. Though the “immoral women” featured in them (Marina Pierro and Pascale Christophe) are attractive, each section gets too bogged down in their stories to be erotic. This would be fine if not for the fact that each story manages the impossible feat of being both incoherent and plodding. The only entertainment derived from “Marie,” the third story, is the bizarrely inappropriate Kraftwerk-esque theme music assigned to Marie’s dog. “Margherita,” the first story, tries to pad its runtime with awkward papal satire, even more awkward physical comedy, and an attempt at “art” by showing the way Margherita inspired Raphael Sanzio’s later works. This would be a great sentiment if not for the fact that in the end, she poisons him to steal his money to share with her real lover. She also murders a banker. But hey, at least she’s not Marie’s dog, who has an affinity for biting off men’s penises for no coherent story reason (okay, okay, the kidnapper deserved it — but why the husband?).
On the other hand, the middle story, “Marceline,” tells one of the most disturbing stories I’ve ever seen. Unlike the other two stories in Immoral Women, this one reaches heights of complexity and dramatic intensity that make it almost brilliant. Too bad the subject matter is so vile and twisted it’s hard to recommend in any form.
Marceline (Gaëlle Legrand) is a childish teenager (it’s never said, but I think we’re supposed to believe she’s 15 or 16) in 19th-century France. She spends the bulk of her time with a pet rabbit. This rabbit… How do I put this politely? She has trained him to lick her where it counts, and they maintain an alarming “secret” relationship until Marceline’s parents decide it’s time for her to grow up. Their servant/cook kills the rabbit, cooks it in a stew, and they all tell Marceline it’s lamb. After Marceline has made a big meal of it and expressed how much she enjoyed the lamb stew, her father explains the manner in which they’ve traumatized her (clearly not the first trauma Marceline has faced).
Horrified, Marceline runs away to the slaughterhouse from which the family gets most of their meat. I’m not sure why. I guess so she can run into a delivery boy who felt up Marceline at the beginning of the story. She asks to see the living lambs, so he takes her to their pen…and then rapes her. Viewers know a sex scene is coming (no pun intended), but anyone who thought it would be a horrifying, intense, suspiciously well-acted rape scene — seek help. Afterward, the delivery boy thinks he’s accidentally killed Marceline; there’s virginal blood everywhere, and Marceline has fallen asleep. The delivery boy tries to hang himself, then begs for help when Marceline awakens; instead of helping, she lets him die, then goes back home to kill her parents, framing the delivery boy for the crime.
This is 1970s European erotica, a relic of a bygone era where pornography had story, character, and halfway decent (in some cases exceptional) acting. Sadly, this era has passed mostly because the stories are half-assed (in more ways than one!) and incoherent, the characters usually have one trait (“lustful”), and they usually become so focused on a story few viewers care about that there’s little time left to be erotic.
One thing that makes the “Marceline” section so special is that nothing about it is remotely erotic — it’s very sexual and contains excessive nudity, but it’ll leave you more nauseous than aroused — and yet it tells a focused story with well-drawn characters. Disturbing as hell, yes, but it’s using the “advantages” of erotica — excessive nudity and an ability to unflinchingly portray bestiality and rape — to underscore its story, rather than tossing in some T&A for the hell of it.
Perhaps the biggest complaint of these three stories is that two of the three of these “immoral” women are victims; in fact, aside from lying idly by while her dog chewed off her husband’s johnson, Marie is a victim for every frame of her story. It’s never made clear why she allows herself to be repetitively victimized, and while it sort of makes sense that she’d be happy that her kidnapper/rapist and oppressive husband are disposed of by her loving dog, Marie herself doesn’t take the “immoral” action. Meanwhile, Marceline is a victim first of abusive parents, then of a terrorizing rapist of a delivery boy. Does it justify triple-homicide and accessory-after-the-fact to a suicide? One of the reasons “Marceline” stands out is that a case could be made to justify either side of that argument.
The only character who isn’t a victim is Margherita, the sultry and unpleasant minx who seduces and then murders two men for money. We never find out what motivates her, other than pure greed, which perhaps is enough. A more accurate title is Immoral Woman Plus Two Victims of Horrific Misogyny.
If you want a movie to disturb you without remotely arousing you (despite what the back of the DVD box suggests), at least look at the “Marceline” section. The other two aren’t really worth the time. Hell, “Marceline” will give you nightmares if you have any decency. Happy viewing!