Monday, January 23, 2012

Portfolio entry Part 1

I've been digging through past articles I've done during my journalism career and because I failed to keep a digital portfolio during that time and don't have a scanner, I am retyping some of my favorites -- and some to show just what I did. It's kind of a "greatest hits" if you will. Or, better yet, a digital perspective on my past work.

I am starting with one of three CD reviews (yes, CDs -- remember 'em?) written for The Daily Journal in Vineland, N.J., in the late 1990s that, together, earned an award for critical writing from the New Jersey Press Association. Music always has been a favorite subject of mine.

This review was published, as written, on B2 of The Daily Journal on Nov. 28, 1998:

Headline: "Soundtrack remembers glitter rock era"

By Todd Norden
Staff Writer

Disc: "Velvet Goldmine" soundtrack
Artist: Various
Label: London Records

"There was a time\everything was fine\...and all the children\they put the flowers in their hair\and all the grownups\they put daggers there instead." -- From an intro to 1971's "RawRamp" by T. Rex

Every decade has its day, whether it's grunge of the 1990s or disco from the 1970s.

Besides disco, another scene flickered and faded quicker than a moon-age daydream in the '70s. It was glitter rock; part bubble-gum bliss, part gritty hard rock with an undercurrent of sexual ambiguity.

Several British artists were caught between the demise of hippie culture and the advent of punk -- T. Rex, Mott The Hoople, Sweet, David Bowie, Slade, Gary Glitter -- and they wrote songs about alienation, spacemen, unicorns and being pretty. Todd Haynes explores glitter rock's sheen in his new film "Velvet Goldmine." And the soundtrack is a fitting tribute to all those young dudes.

"Velvet Goldmine," named after a Bowie B-side, forges a bond between the old and the new. The Venus In Furs and Wylde Rattz are two glitter band prototypes fronted by Radiohead's Thom Yorke and actors Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. McGregor and Meyers play the lead characters in the film, which are very loosely based on Bowie and Iggy Pop.

Meyers does a fine job singing "Tumbling Down" and injects Brian Eno's "Baby's On Fire" with demented glee. Yorke astonishingly sounds like Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry on the smoky, dreamy "2HB" and the band supplies "Ladytron" with the quirkiness of Mott The Hoople during their "Brain Capers" period. However, McGregor's flat take on "T.V. Eye" is a downer.

The best efforts from a newer group come from Shudder To Think. On "Hot One," the band arranges the perfect balance of fayish falsetto and machismo characteristic of glitter rock. Shudder's "Ballad of Maxwell Demon" also contains the perfect guitar notes, pristine harmonic trills and chopsticks piano accompaniment. Other highlights are Grant Lee Buffalo's campy "The Whole Shebang," the raucous "Personality Crisis" by Teenage Fanclub with guest vocalist Donna Matthews, and the razor-sharp snap of Pulp's "We Are The Boys."

The few bad spots are the boring schmaltz of "Bitter's End" by Paul Kimble and Andy Mackay, and the equally patience-testing "Bitter-Sweet" by The Venus In Furs, lead by Meyers. And while most original glitter rockers either took themselves too seriously or not seriously enough, the cheeze and indifference becomes too heavy-handed after listening to the soundtrack's 19 songs.

While reflecting on this disc, I discovered it's easier to embrace cynicism and reproach as you get older; when I loved glitter rock as a youngster for its imagination and innocence. "Velvet Goldmine" is a worthy nod to the Children of The Revolution. And the Children of Rarn would approve.

Other recommended listens: Sweet's "Desolation Boulevard"; T. Rex's "The Slider" or "Electric Warrior"; Bowie's "Hunky Dory" or "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars"; and Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes."

1 comment:

  1. Being a huge 80's music lover you just gave me more new(old) bands and albums to find and start listening to on my way to work.thanks and nice article. Man I wonder how you would write about one of my favorite groups The Smiths