I Don’t Like Gory Movies… Or Do I?
Invisible Lantern, Forbidden Beat, and Preorder Giveaway Winners
One of the things that’s given me the most pleasure this year is a brutal little horror movie called Psycho Goreman. Here’s the plot: two siblings dig up a strange crystal that summons a vengeful demon, but whoever controls the crystal controls the demon.
I generally don’t like exceptionally gory horror films. I prefer tension and suspense over blood and guts, but I make an exception for horror films that are also comedies. One reviewer on letterboxd called Psycho Goreman ET meets GWAR, which is absolutely perfect, as you can see in the trailer.
The movie has a number of interesting subplots that subvert expectations and beef up its absurd premise. For instance, Psycho Goreman isn’t your garden variety demon but a being from another dimension with a compelling backstory. Also, the kids’ abundantly ineffectual father is also good for some lulz.
The star of the show is Nina-Josee Hanna, whose over the top performance as Mimi makes the movie work. Mimi wields the Crystal of Gygax, names Psycho Goreman (PG for short), plunges her family into chaos, and is absolutely insane. For all Psycho Goreman’s destroyer-of-worlds talk, it’s Mimi who is truly terrifying. The reason they discover the crystal in the first place is because she’s coerced her brother to dig his own grave in their background.
One of the running gags in Psycho Goreman begins with a scene where Mimi deposits Psycho Goreman in an abandoned warehouse to pass the time while she goes to school.
Psycho Goreman looks and feels like move from the late ’80s or early ’90s, but it’s so much more transgressive. In addition to PG’s coming out, there’s an amazing scene (hinted at in the trailer} where Mimi kneels down to pray but ends up ripping the crucifix off the wall and declaring, “There’s a new god in town and his name is Psycho Goreman!” I can’t imagine seeing something like that splashed across the screen at the local cineplex back when Tipper Gore was policing pop culture.
By now you undoubtedly know whether Psycho Goreman is weird and wonderful or just not for you. I’m not holding it up as a paragon of indie cinema, but it’s a movie that knows what it’s trying to achieve and delivers on the premise with an abundance of style—and plenty of disturbing gore. Plus, it’s got a banging horror rap song that rolls over the end credits and was made into a ridiculously kitschy music video:
Corporate Rock Sucks Preorder Giveaway
Thanks to everyone who entered the preorder contest for my new book. The following five Message from the Underworld readers will receive a signed copy of Do What You Want, the book I co-authored with Bad Religion, who are on tour as we speak:
Mark Nichols, Dreux Zimmer, Shaun Cowan, Rob Hudgins, Chris Terry
And these loyal readers will receive a Punk Van Gogh enamel pin:
Sal Panza, Kurt Morris, David Jaudon, Émilie Baron Arguin, Elizabeth Marro
I’ll be reaching out to the winners and sending out prize packages by the end of the week. If you’d like a signed copy of Do What You Want and/or a Punk Van Gogh pin, you can make it happen at my store.
PssSST! (Screaming Trees Edition)
Many, many books have been written about the Seattle sound but one of the things I’ve always found fascinating is how one hundred miles to the east in tiny Ellensburg, Washington, the Screaming Trees created the template for everything that followed.
When I pop in my tape of Invisible Lantern (SST 188), which was released in 1988, I hear hints of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana, but I also hear elements of the Sonics, the Wailers, and the Ventures—three garage rock titans of the Northwest.
It was this garage rock influence that vocalist Mark Lanegan demonized in his 2020 memoir, Sing Backwards and Weep. Lanegan was surprisingly candid with regards to how he felt about those early Screaming Trees records released by SST. He slagged everything from his bandmate’s physical appearance to the Screaming Trees’ sound. He does it early and he does it often—even as he glosses over a lot of the band’s early years:
“The Trees, on the other hand, were always fighting: fighting each other, fighting fans and promoters and bouncers, fighting to find a direction. Three records in, we still didn’t know what the fuck we were. We had no identity beyond our notoriety for our unhinged live show.”
Harsh? Lanegan was just getting warmed up.
“Our records were a shitty mishmash of half-baked ideas and catchy tunes derailed by the stupidest of lyrics. I fucking ached when I thought of all the opportunities we missed as we churned out shit record after shit record.”
A lot of people I talked to in the Northwest for Corporate Rock Sucks were caught off guard by Lanegan’s vitriol. While they were willing to accept Lanegan’s unflattering comments as his version of the truth, no one saw them coming, which made them all more hurtful.
Well, Invisible Lantern is not a shit record. Screaming Trees’ third studio album was the band’s fourth recording with producer Steve Fisk, an exceptionally talented musician and audio engineer who went on to work with virtually everyone in the Northwest.
When Fisk moved to Ellensburg to run a recording studio, Gary Lee Conner realized he’d been handed a golden opportunity. The extremely prolific songwriter and guitarist made the most of it by cranking out a series of fuzzed-out records drenched in frenzied feedback. Screaming Tree’s SST catalog sounds cohesive to my ears. The band was raw but Gary Lee Conner was miles ahead of his mates.
The main takeaway from Invisible Lantern is that Gary Lee Conner is just a ripping good guitar player. Riffs, hooks, melodies—he can do it all. He knows what made ’60s garage rock great. Lanegan knocks these songs as being derivative of that era but what I think he means is that he felt it was passé to be playing that kind of music in the mid-’80s. On that count I think Lanegan was wrong. Screaming Trees—along with other SST acts Das Damen and Dinosaur—were ahead of their time, playing loud, fast guitar rock to audiences who mostly weren’t ready for it. (The Lemonheads played a string of dates with Screaming Trees and Dinosaur and Evan Dando insists there was never more than thirty or forty people in the room.)
Songs like “Ivy,” “Invisible Lantern,” and “Even If” all capture the spirit of what Conner was striving to achieve. “The Second I Awake” is a total shredder that might benefit from a more energetic performance by Lanegan (just saying). But his laconic vocals are perfectly suited for “Grey Diamond Desert.”
While listening to the song last night, Nuvia called out from the next room: “Is that Nirvana?” No, but yes. It’s everything that made the music of the Northwest great.
One last word about Lanegan’s rift with Screaming Trees. When I talked to Lanegan for the book, I asked him if there was a follow-up memoir in the works. He said no, but that his upcoming poetry collection, Leaving California from Heartworm Press, was the sequel. So I ordered it and was very intrigued by one of the shorter pieces in the book called “Poem for G.L.C.” Here it is in its entirety:
Although you were hard
I am sorry
For my discourteous
I realize now
That most stories
Are much better
Interesting, no? I wonder if Gary Lee has seen it (or if he even cares). I thought it would be fitting to let Gary Lee have the last word so here’s a song that didn’t make it onto Invisible Lantern that he posted to his YouTube channel:
S.W. Lauden has announced an anthology of new writing by and about legendary punk drummers. It’s called Forbidden Beat: Perspectives on Punk Drumming, which all the Bad Religion fans in the house will immediately appreciate. The book includes writing by Ira Elliot, Curt Weiss, John Robb, Hudley Flipside, Bon Von Wheelie, Joey Shithead, Matt Diehl, D.H. Peligro, Mike Watt, Lynn Perko-Truell, Pete Finestone, Laura Bethita Neptuna, Jan Radder, Jim Ruland, Eric Beetner, Jon Wurster, Lori Barbero, Joey Cape, Tré Cool, Marko DeSantis, Mindy Abovitz, Steven McDonald, Kye Smith, Ian Winwood, Phanie Diaz, Benny Horowitz, Shari Page, Urian Hackney, and Rat Scabies. (I contributed a profile of Bill Stevenson of the Descendents, Black Flag, ALL, and many others.) Forbidden Beat is scheduled to come out February 8, 2022, and is available for preorder now.
If you want to look sharp, Bifocal Media is offering a limited edition Stains t-shirt. The image was taken by Wild Don Lewis, who shot the cover of the record and is contributing several astonishing images in Corporate Rock Sucks. I spend a little time talking about the cover in my book and this image is one of the images from the photo shoot at the Vex. The fifth person in the photo is a friend known as the Maniac who factors into the Stains story in all kinds of interesting ways. This is an officially licensed product, which means both the band and the photographer were compensated so go ahead and do your part.
Joe Carducci, former SST co-owner and author of Enter Naomi, Rock and the Pop Narcotic, and many others, just dropped a new book called Western Stories. The longtime Wyoming resident’s new book collects four screenplays—all Westerns in case you didn’t get the message. It arrived a few days ago and I tore through the first script—Coyoteros—and I’m looking forward to reading the rest.
Water Under the Bridge just released a double album from Saccharine Trust The Great One Is Dead. With album art by Joe Baiza, double gatefold, and translucent vinyl, this is a gorgeous product. Get your copy here.