Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Film Review: Tabloid

Errol Morris made what is probably my favourite movie of all time, Vernon, Florida. I saw it at precisely the right moment, with exactly the right people, to understand it completely and become enthralled for life. It is made up of a series of interviews with the residents of the titular Southern city, which initially drew Morris' interest because of the high number of insurance claims for amputation coming out of it. Nothing about amputation made it into the movie, just clips of people making observations that veer casually between inane and batshit crazy.

It's not for everyone. Morris' later work is more focused and linear, his tv show First Person being a fine example. On it, he drew exceptionally deep interviews out of a diverse and bizarre lineup of personalities, including Temple Grandin, leading expert on cattle pen design, a mob lawyer, a cryogenicist who may have personally decapitated his mother, a retired CIA spook, and the world's foremost expert on giant squid. The show should be for everyone, whether they like it or not.

So a new Errol Morris is big news, and I finally found a copy of his latest, Tabloid. The movie investigates the strange case of Joyce Kinney, a former beauty queen accused of kidnapping and raping her Mormon lover. The case was the subject of a tabloid frenzy, hence the title, but Morris follows McKinney up to the present day, through a trip to Korea and revelations involving her pet pitbull Booger. Don't watch it if you don't like being haunted by uncertainty.

Like Marwencol, which I reviewed a year ago, the film does an excellent job of deepening the weirdness precisely when you thought it had gone to the hilt. Through it all McKinney seems comparatively well-adjusted, and the dissonance between her persona and her actions make for juicy discussion with your watching partners. I was hoping that stylistically the movie would harken back to Vernon, Florida, but it is more like a particularly gratifying, lush episode of First Person. The use of pop-up text and stock footage is probably necessary given that the film is talking about events that took place over thirty years ago, but also makes the presentation seem slightly more formulaic. That criticism is only a niggle, however, since there's nothing formula about the convolutions of McKinney's life. Also, the insights about the Mormon church are particularly interesting at a time when a Mormon contender for the presidency of the United States is big in the news.

So if I'm still waiting for the next Vernon, Florida, I was thoroughly entertained by Tabloid. Eat it up, Morris fans, and if you haven't seen any of his work yet, you've got hours of incredible documentary ahead of you.

Special Bonus Recommendation: If you enjoyed Tabloid, you might also like Crazy Love, about the deranged relationship between Burt Pugach and Linda Riss! Riss continues to live with Pugach, even after he hired someone to throw lye in her face. Not an Errol Morris but also quite confounding, with similar themes.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 3, Episode 15: Year in Review

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour wrapped up a year's worth of programming and went on hiatus last night. With forty-one episodes to chose from, I culled sixteen tracks and almost ran overtime trying to fit them all in. Here are the tracks I chose for the Year in Review episode:

Hans Reichel - A Life without Lychees
Yol Aularong - Cyclo
Blind Roosevelt Graves - Hittin' the Bottle
C.W. Stoneking - Goin' the Country
Roscoe Holcomb - Hills of Mexico
Koko Taylor - Wang Dang Doodle
Sun Ra - I Am Gonna Unmask the Batman
Bobby McFerrin - Good Lovin'
Billy's Band - Muz Zambela
Sheesham and Lotus Trio - Givin' It Away
Petunia - Mercy
Bloodshot Bill - Be Mine Tonight
Timber Timbre - Demon Host
Kodo - Lion
Frank Pahl and Klimperei - Cats' Tongues with Cream (excerpt)
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - I'll Fly Away

Having to track down a dozen or more original tunes each week and fit them to an overarching theme can make the search for music seem a bit clinical, but I realized as I was putting this episode together that not only had I seen all my favourite bands of the year live, they were all Canadian; not only that, I didn't have to leave Peterborough to catch 'em. In a decade's time, I'm sure Sheesham and Lotus, Petunia, and Timber Timbre will all take me back to Perry St. circa 2012. That makes it a banner year of music listening for me, and I hope you enjoyed listening to the Bang & Jangle too. If you're a regular listener, do keep checking the blog for more musical curiosities and hopefully a radio revival in a few months' time!

Season 3, Episode 15

Saturday 14 April 2012

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour Season Finale!

You may have noticed I haven't been updating things around here as often as usual. It's not because I'm getting slack, I swear, it's because I'm toiling behind the scenes. My little project studio is finally off the ground, and though I'm not quite over the learning curve on my recording software, I've climbed the biggest hump. I've only just begun working on a new album, but already it promises to be a quantum leap in quality over my older stuff. I've put a lot of time and energy into acquiring and understanding the equipment, and I hope it'll pay dividends this summer.

I also hope you've noticed that this past season of the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour has been the best yet. To keep up the standard I've had to go further and further afield in search of new material, which has broadened my musical horizons exactly as I'd hoped. It's also consumed more of my time, so I'm taking the summer off to rest and give the artists whose work I only skimmed a nice leisurely listen. Meanwhile, I'll be starting my MFA in creative writing this July, and I don't want the quality of the show to suffer while I figure out the whole back-to-school thing.

So after this Monday, April 16, there'll be no more Bang & Jangle Radio Hour until September. I'll send us out with the biggest bang and jangle I can muster, though, and keep the rest of the blog updated with new and exciting posts. And believe me I've got plenty of big ideas. By my tally, I'm only four diners away from having eaten every greasy breakfast in the city of Peterborough. If you're a gourmand who also appreciates formica tabletops and peeling wallpaper, you cannot afford to miss this report...

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 3, Episode 14: Fifteen Flavours of Jesus

Yesterday was Easter Monday, and I spent the holiday thinking about Jesus. The devil got his crack at it a couple weeks ago, and this week I gave Jesus a whirl. Although this episode probably won't appeal to the hardcore Jesus freak, tossing off lame Jesus jokes is like shooting fish in a barrel. Ergo, I concocted this strange mix of misguided piety, healthy cynicism, cornball rock and haunting gospel:

Ernie Marrs and Family - Plastic Jesus
Wayne Raney - We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus (and a Lot Less Rock and Roll)
Lowell Blanchard and the Valley Trio - Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Jesus Met the Woman at the Well
Richard Cheese - Personal Jesus
King Missile - Jesus Was Way Cool
Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs - Gettin' High for Jesus
Violent Femmes - Jesus Walking on the Water
The Minutemen - Jesus and Tequila
Tom Waits - Chocolate Jesus
Mississippi Fred McDowell - Jesus on the Mainline
Seasick Steve and the Level Devils - Sorry Mr. Jesus
Viola James - I'm Going Home to Live with Jesus
Jesse Mae Hemphill - Jesus Will Fix It For You
Johnny Cash and Billy Joe Shaver - You Can't Beat Jesus

That's enough Jesus to see me through to next year. I hope you appreciate the hard work and research that went into this episode - now all the targeted ads when I web search are for miracle cures, spiritual retreats, and large-print bibles...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at

Season 3, Episode 14

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 3, Episode 13: Writers and Music

Shockheaded Peter
Last night we took a look at writers and music, covering both music inspired by writers and writers who make music. If the playlist looks a little haphazard to you, the organizing principle is: Early Example, Children's Literature, Beat Literature, Charles Bukowski, Ken Nordine and Tom Waits Talking. Here's how it turned out:

Woody Guthrie - Tom Joad
Leonard Nimoy - The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
Louis Prima - I Wanna Be Like You
Donovan - Riki Tiki Tavi
The Tiger Lillies - Bully Boys
Jack Kerouac & Al Cohn - American Haikus
William Burroughs and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy - Spare Ass Annie
Tom Waits - On the Road
Charles Bukowski - On the Hustle
Modest Mouse - Bukowski
Ken Nordine and Tom Waits - The Movie

As I said on the show, some longer running times shortened up the playlist, but honorable mention goes out to Hawk and a Hacksaw for the album Darkness at Noon, Beat Circus for referencing Kevin Baker's Dreamland, Trey Anastasio for "And Your Little Dog Too," and the Pogues for namedropping Brendan Behan in "Streams of Whiskey." So there's your homework, and if "The Movie" was your flavour, note that there's another couple minutes left that didn't make it to air...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at

Season 3, Episode 13