Spice World, 10th Anniversary Edition

spice world dvd

Format: DVD
Label: Columbia Pictures
Country: US
Year: 2007
Price paid: $2
Purchased at: thrift store, Syracuse NY

 

 

“Okay, girls, that was absolutely perfect without really being any good at all…”

If you came to this blog entry looking for a review of ‘Spice World’ the movie, let me save you a little time. The film is not very good. Now that that’s out of the way…

 

Does that make you horny, baby?

Does that make you horny, baby?

I must confess that I saw ‘Spice World’ in theaters back in the day. I’ve never been much for the group’s generic- but not altogether unpleasant- brand of music, but going into the theater I was hoping for at the very least a fun musical odyssey brimming with enough kitsch to be a cult classic. The trailer would have one believe just that:

Looks pretty sweet, no? Don’t be fooled.

On the plus side, the film’s certainly not wanting for star cameos. Elton John, Roger Moore, Bob Hoskins, Jennifer Saunders, Meat Loaf, Barry Humphries (aka- Dame Edna), Jools Holland, and Stephen Fry make appearances and- with the exception of Roger Moore- actually seem to be honored to take part. Gary Glitter shot a four minute segment for the film, but after his arrest on child pornography charges his scenes were deleted from the final cut.

The film’s visuals are appropriately saturated and candy-like, borrowing heavily from ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’, released earlier that same year. Their double-decker tour bus painted up like a bloated Union Jack is impressive. Baby Spice’s shoes- often as large as a double-decker tour bus- are equally impressive. The girls look great in their late-90’s shimmering DayGlo wardrobes.

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Ginger Spice performs

Being basically a musical it probably won’t be a shocker that the film has a fair number of music video-esque moments. The group’s second studio album ‘Spiceworld’ was released in conjunction with the film, and acts as the movie’s unofficial soundtrack. Or the film acts as the album’s 90 minute commercial. Either way, it’s not a completely unpleasant experience to watch five comely lasses prance merrily about. I found the cover of Garry Glitter’s ‘Leader of the Pack’ especially amusing. When the singing stops the movie grinds to a halt, however…

The film ultimately fails four two reasons.

The first, and I suppose the most forgivable, are the Spice Girls themselves. They may be able to sing, dance, and mug suggestively during photo ops… but actresses they are not. Baby and Ginger are passable, but the best Posh can do is carry a lingering pout. Sporty and Scary have such thick accents (to my ears anyway) that the energy expended in understanding them is barely worth the effort. Sporty’s delivery is especially bad; the girl sounds like she’s got a disturbing aggregate of marbles in her mouth.

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Another unfunny scene. Boot Camp- could have used less camp and more boots…

The second reason the film fails is direction… as in there doesn’t appear to be any. Couple that with what appears to be minimal editing at best and what we’re given is a series of vignettes that have little to do with one another, strung together with lip-synched performances. In one scene there’s a British character actor vehemently clamoring for the downfall of the Spice Girls, in another the Spice Girls run through the woods looking for a place to pee and run into ET-knockoff aliens, in another we’re subjected to a lame musical number on a speedboat. I’m sure this all seemed like a brilliant madcap adventure on paper, but the execution of these scenes is muddled at best. These disjointed narrative chunks could be rearranged in almost any order and it would make little difference to the plot.

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“Baseball, cold showers, baseball, cold showers… Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day! Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day!”

Perhaps I’m just of the wrong age and sexual demographic to properly appreciate what transpires. Putting myself in the shoes of a late-90s thirteen year old girl for a moment does not alter my opinion considerably however. If I were she I’d certainly want less prattle and dreary first-take performances from old fart actors I’d never heard of like that fat dude from Roger Rabbit and some creepy guy in a bathrobe holding a piglet for half the film. I’d want more Spice Girls singing songs and talking about shoes and boys.

Such was the (girl) power of the Spice Girls in the late nineties that all this mattered little. It raked in 77 million at the box office, over 100 million including video sales (roughly 147.5 million in 2014 dollars.) To put this in perspective compare that to other rock films such as ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (1964) which only made 12 million on initial release (91 million, adjusted) or Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ (1982) which made 22 million (55.5 million in adjusted dollars.) Even the contemporary film rock opus ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’ (2011) made a measly 99 million in theaters.

This DVD is the special 10th anniversary edition. What this means in terms of bonus features I’m not sure. I believe the cut of the film is the standard version. It’s not letterboxed. The only bonus content is the theatrical trailer and a music video segment that was cut from the film with good reason.

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The author with the band, sans Ginger c. 2000

The Go-Go’s: This Old Feeling / It’s Everything But Party Time

gogos_this old feelingFormat: 7″
Label: IRS Records
Country: US
Year: 1982
Price paid: $2
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

 

Talk about decorating, a room that needs sophisticating

When conversations become straining, no one’s good at interest feigning…

gogos_this old feeling2The Go-Go’s were a pretty big deal back in the day. One the best selling and hit-making female bands of all time, they chiseled away at the sausage factory that was pop music and opened the doors for many female artists to follow.

Their record label IRS knew this, or a the very least could smell the money to be made from a bunch of skirts holding guitars, and exploited their resource for all it was worth. In their zeal to release Go-Go’s product questionable choices like this single came about…

Both tracks hail from the band’s sophomore effort, 1982’s US certified gold album ‘Vacation.’ The LP spawned three hit singles- the title track, which reached #8 on the US Hot 100, ‘Get Up And Go’ which reached #46 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, and ‘ He’s So Strange’ which also reached #46 on the same chart.

‘This Old Feeling’ is decidedly a second-tier offering, coming off as a 7″ hoping to ride the coattails of the ‘Theme of Summer ’82’… and as such it’s one of the rare Go-Go’s singles that DIDN’T actually chart. It’s notable that sax is provided by Steve Berlin, a member Los Lobos and the Blasters; as a session musician he’s worked with such varied acts as The Dandy Warhols, Sheryl Crow, and The Tragically Hip.

The generic yellow Go-Go’s sleeve is believed to first used on this single, but also sheathed the ‘Yes Or No’ 7″ (both versions) released in 1984,

The Dishes: Hot Property! EP

dishes1Format: 7″
Label: Regular Records
Country: Canada
Year: 1978
Price paid: $4
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

Canadian band The Dishes formed in Toronto in 1975 and were an early example of the Queen West scene, a ‘movement that would spawn arguably Canada’s best New Wave act Martha and the Muffins.

dishes3The band released two 7″ EPs- ‘Fashion Plates’ in 1977 and this EP in 1978. They disbanded shortly thereafter, but a retrospective CD ‘Kitschenette: The Best of the Dishes’ (Bullseye Records) was released in 2002. Perhaps their brightest moment was opening for Talking Heads in a small local club circa 1978.

Little is known of the ‘Regular Records’ label. It is believed that the two Dishes 7″ were the only product they ever released.

Sleeve design was done by the Canadian artist collective General Idea (Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson), a group active from the late sixties to the mid-nineties.

dishes2

Generation X: Valley of the Dolls / Shakin’ All Over

genX_valley
Format: 7″
Label: Chrysalis (CHS 2310)
Country: UK
Year: 1979
Price paid: $4
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

 

In the valley of the dolls skank girls shanking

In the valley of the dolls I saw love vibrating…

‘Valley of the Dolls’ was the second single released from the 1979 album ‘Valley of the Dolls.’ It reached number 23 on the UK charts and was their second highest charting single, bested only by the first single off of VOTD, ‘King Rocker’, which came in at number 11. The B-side ‘Shakin’ All Over’ is a cover of the 1960 Johnny Kidd & the Pirates tune (made famous internationally when it was covered by The Guess Who in 1965.)

The disc was released in a variety of colors from pale butterscotch to raspberry to splatter dirty-rainbow, and many stages in between as chance and the skill of those pouring the admittedly odd mix of vinyl dictated.

genX_valleyb

The version displayed here is by far the ugliest (and least expensive) variant. When I first pulled it out I thought ‘baby diarrhea with hints of blood in the stool.’ I’m guessing this is probably not the look they were going for; based on the theme of the song I like to think of it as ‘hot lady flesh’ version.

With its shiny black and hot pink aesthetic, the sleeve foreshadows what would quickly become a New Wave cliche. At this early date, coupled with the giggle-inducing scowls of the bands, it must have been an edgy presentation to contemporary consumers.

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Shakespears Sister: Cosmic Dancer

 

shakespears_cosmicdancer1

Format: CD

Label: SF Records

Country: US

Year: 2011

Price paid: $11.98

Purchased at: Amazon

 

‘When you think the night has seen your mind… that inside you’re twisted and unkind…’

There are certain artists who’s voices transcend their context. Crooning warbles so luscious that I’d listen to them read the ingredients off the back of a cereal box or sing about paint drying for hours of end. Enya and Siouxsie are two that spring to mind. Siobhan Fahey certainly makes it onto this short but sweet list; her rich seductive voice evokes images of dark city streets shiny with rain, cold dark ocean depths, and brooding forests thick with moss.

shakespears_cosmicdancer3

 

I must admit I prefer my Shakespears Sister (not a misspelling, look it up) with Marcella Detroit, as I felt she was the perfect lilting counterpoint to Siobhan’s sulky nature, but its been twenty-one years since the split so I should really just get over it and move on. ‘Cosmic Dancer’ is their fifth studio album (the third sans-Detroit), a glorious expression of what the evolved face of New Wave looks like in the 21st century.

 

shakespears_cosmicdancer2It’s primarily a cover album, but so precise were the decisions for song inclusion and subtle the mastery of their execution that the experience is truly unique. It festers and bubbles with leisurely acoustic grace. Songs include ‘Baby It’s You’ (the Shirelles, the Beatles), ‘Dancing Barefoot’ (Patti Smith), ‘Wish You Were Here’ (Pink Floyd), ‘My World Is Empty Without You’ (the Supremes), and ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ (the Velvet Underground, also covered masterfully by the Primitives back in 1989.)

 

The CD art is basically a showcase for Fahey’s sultry pouty beauty; no objections here. What a long winding road from the ditant perky BananaramaWorld she has traveled…

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Jill Kroesen: I Really Want To Bomb You / Jesus Song

Jill Kroesen

Format: 7″

Label: Infidelity

Country: US

Year: 1980

Price paid: $5

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

“You’ve been fearing the moment so much you didn’t hear the warning ring.”

Jill Kroesen bThe Jill Kroesen story is a complicated and convoluted affair. Suffice it to say she was a late 70s NYC performance artist and composer of some note. This single, along with her 1982 LP ‘Stop Vicious Cycles’, appear to be her only ventures into what could loosely be deemed ‘pop.’

I’d love to know more about how this single came about. There’s got to be a story here. The music is a rambling disjointed thing, while the vocals are ‘less than polished.’ Or to put it bluntly- they kind of suck. No level of conceptual veneer can disguise what’s probably best left unheard.

But, as is the case with many of these nearly-lost gems, the parts are far greater than the whole:

Fred Smith provides bass. He was the original bassist for Blondie and replaced Richard Hell in Television when Hell left to form The Heartbreakers.

Arthur Russell provides cello. He has worked with David Byrne and wrote/produced the first disco single released by Sire Records. He died of AIDS in 1992.

Tony Machine provides drums. He’s got a long rap sheet including working with such acts as The Criminals and David Johansen.

Engineer Jay Burnett is a prolific artist probably best known for his behind-the-scenes remix work for artists such as Kim Wilde, Oingo Boingo, Colourfield, Katrina and the Waves, and Rick Springfield.

The sleeve art was designed by Jill herself. I’m really fond of its crude but honest look. Low budget and ill-conceived, it nonetheless evokes the spirit of the times. Very DIY, very NYC.

Jill Kroesen a