You know what I said earlier today about the album being available by the weekend? I was wrong. It’s available today, because some things I thought would take until the end of the week were ready sooner than expected. So here’s something else early — this month’s video progress report. There’s lots of talk of the new album in the video, lots of ridiculous public domain film content, and Chester the Walrus returns! Everybody dance.
The little “music video” introduction is completely bonkers (mostly down to the juxtaposition of the music and the video content), and I’m kind of proud of my editing job there. I shaved about eight minutes of drawn-out montage crap down to two without really losing anything important, and I don’t think it seems jerky or unnatural at all. How far we’ve come from the choppy editing and wild volume fluctuations of the first few progress reports.
I can’t, however, take credit for that hilariously bad car crash edit that makes it look like the dude just jumps out of his car as if he was never in it to begin with. That’s exactly what you see in the movie. It’s really something.
If for whatever reason you’re unable to watch the video (slow internet connections can make life difficult), here’s the gist: the new album is finished and now available at Dr. Disc. Soon it will be available at Phog as well. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Then again, every album I’ve made since CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN feels to me like some of my best work, so I’m either on a long-running hot streak and I keep getting better at what I do, or I’m deluded.
I think I’ve mentioned that I anticipate this being one of the least popular albums I’ve made. When I’ve had that kind of feeling before it pretty much always turns out to be wrong, but this time I think it’s a bit of a different story. I’ll be very surprised if this album doesn’t leave at least a few people cold. It’s pretty sprawling and freewheeling, even by my usual standards. You can read more about it if you’re so inclined over HERE, though I think the video is a pretty good primer all on its own.
You know the drill — the CD is free. It’s tangible. You spin it and it sings to you. Grab it if you want it. If you want to know what I’m singing about or you just like reading the lyrics while listening, they’re there for you in the booklet (except for the bits I improvised, which are mostly absent once again). The cover art was a happy accident, and I think it’s another one of the cooler-looking albums I’ve made. It’s also only the second album I’ve ever made with a song on it I didn’t actually write myself, and another case of the cover song fitting in so well it’s kind of absurd.
If you don’t live in Windsor but I have your address — and if you occasionally acknowledge that I exist — you should be getting a copy in the mail pretty soon. If, on the other hand, I send you mail but you never acknowledge receiving any of it, you won’t be getting any more mail from me. To be blunt, I’d rather spend my time giving myself a sore hand and a lighter bankroll for people I know at least go to the trouble of listening to the music I send them. It isn’t cheap sending a bunch of CDs all over Canada and the US on my own dime, and it’s going to hurt a bit more this time after having to spend $800 before any of my usual expenses just to get this CD in releasable form when two essential pieces of equipment died on me at the last minute. So I really don’t feel like wasting my resources on people who don’t give a shit.
Realistically, it only means a slight reduction in the length of my regular mailing list. But it feels healthy to lighten the load. My right hand is going to appreciate it, anyway. After being frustrated for a while by people who can’t even take the time to say, “Thank you,” or, “You sent me stuff and I got it”, I figure this is a good way to eradicate that frustration in one fell swoop. Those people probably won’t care anyway, because for all I know they’ve never bothered to listen to a thing I’ve sent them, so everybody wins. Huzzah!
Back to the video. I think this could be the best one yet. If I say that every time (and I think I do), it’s only because I feel like each progress report video is better-put-together than the one before it. This is the longest one so far, clocking in at almost forty-five minutes, and it could have been twice that long if I’d talked about some more of my favourite songs and how they ended up that way. I didn’t want to let things drag on for too long, though. The idea was to talk a bit about the album and give you a taste of it without giving too much away.
I think I accomplished that, even if I start counting on the wrong measure when I isolate the drum part for “Shrink Is Loss” and somehow get Peta Wilson’s name wrong. I always thought it was Petra, and I’m not sure how I ever got that idea, but once it was in my brain it stuck.
Though it’s a bit early for an end-of-the-month progress report to show up, with more than a week left before January is gone, I didn’t feel like holding off when the album and my thoughts about it are fresh and lemon-scented right now. My impatience is your gain. At least it is if you watch these things.
The chopped-up public domain content mixes live footage and animation once again. Most of the meat this time comes from the cult classic The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. One thing that struck me while watching this film was how similar it is to Georges Franju’s Les Yeux sans Visage in some superficial ways, and how different it is in some other, less superficial ways.
The plot outlines aren’t so different on the surface.
In one film, a doctor who caused a car accident that horribly disfigured his daughter’s face lures women to his house, drugs them, and attempts to graft the skin from their faces onto his daughter’s so she can look like herself again. He’s assisted by one of his previous test subjects.
In the other film, a doctor who caused a car accident that led to the decapitation of his girlfriend lures a woman to his house, drugs her, and attempts to fuse her body with the head of his girlfriend. He’s assisted by one of his former test subjects.
In both films, the doctors are consumed by their work and the women who are supposed to benefit from the experiments and operations are driven mad as a result of their suffering. One film is a work of art. The other is a giant hunk of cheese — supremely entertaining cheese, but cheese nonetheless.
I think it’s a fascinating illustration of how a similar story can be transformed by two different treatments. In Les Yeux sans Visage, the doctor is driven by guilt. What he does is despicable, but in a twisted way he does it out of love for his daughter, in an effort to make things right. While his actions are monstrous, he isn’t a monster, which makes what he does all the more disturbing. Edith Scobb, who plays the daughter, spends most of the film with her face obscured by an eerie, lifelike-but-expressionless mask, wanting more than anything to have her life back, taunted by the possibility of reuniting with her fiancé (who thinks she died in the car accident), only to have it ripped away from her when her body rejects the attempted facial transplants.
None of the characters are entirely good or bad, and the film is both frightening and moving, because you can only truly be unsettled if you care about the characters and what happens to them. The doctor’s assistant was the beneficiary of a facial graft experiment that was successful, so he has hope that he’ll be able to give his daughter her face back…even if he has to destroy the faces of a number of innocent people to make it happen. The way the story plays out is pretty realistic, there’s no goofy supernatural stuff going on, and no one really gets a happy ending. While there’s very little gore, that just makes it more effective and unsettling when it does show up.
In The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, the doctor is an egotistical prick who cares more about a scientific breakthrough and manufacturing the “perfect” woman than he does about saving the life of his bride-to-be. He leaves her body to burn in his car almost as an afterthought, convinced he doesn’t need it and will find a suitable replacement in the form of an unwitting and unwilling donor. There’s nothing the least bit sympathetic about him, and his assistant is the victim of an unsuccessful series of operations that were supposed to replace his amputated arm and have left him feeling less than human. He sticks around less out of loyalty than the waning hope that someday the doctor will get it right and give him an arm that works.
Virginia Leith is a lot more effective and charismatic as a dismembered head than she is during her brief time onscreen as a full-bodied person, which I find kind of hilarious. Not that the material allows her anything close to the pathos Edith Scobb was able to generate in Les Yeux sans Visage, but she makes the most of what she has to work with. The way the story develops is absurd — the chemicals the doctor uses to keep his girlfriend’s decapitated head alive imbue her with some sort of psychic power, which she uses to command a hideous creature made of animated spare body parts. It’s captivating in its badness. The jazzy music that plays whenever Dr. Dickface is on the prowl for a sexy female cadaver is pretty catchy, too.
Having said all that, my favourite moment of context-warping in the whole video is probably the bit from the animated film A Corny Concerto — another sort-of parody of Fantasia, with Elmer Fudd as master of ceremonies — that I threw in when I was talking about giving up on ever reconnecting with the girl I was friends with in grade school. What could have been a pretty defeated, downcast moment is instead twisted into something insane and self-mocking. It cracks me up. That’s all I’m going to say about it, lest I give the surprise away.
Elliott even gets a brand new jingle/introductory montage and shares an oddly melancholy tender moment. What can I say? He’s a born star, that little purple guy.