Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

News Link: "Recapping Carson's 2014 Reality Show"

I have a direct link (at least for now) to my news round-up that ran in the Jan. 9-22, 2015 Random Lengths News.  It's titled, "Recapping Carson's 2014 Reality Show" and it's a summary of the news that happened in Carson, California, in 2014:

Friday, December 26, 2014

BAM Review: American Martyrs (1987)

Of all the dozens of unsigned rock artists I reviewed back in the eighties, one of  the ones I most often wonder "whatever happened to?" is the American Martyrs.  They were named after their Catholic school in Manhattan Beach, so maybe someone there knows.  The lead singer's name, Mike Kelly, is too common to easily single out on social media.  Things ended badly with their one-time manager and she (the last I knew) severed all ties with them, so she probably wouldn't know either. To represent my body of live club/concert reviews in those years--I've posted below my review of the American Martyrs that ran in BAM, Sept. 25, 1987. 

With a college-circuit popular EP behind them and four years of experience, the American Martyrs are poised to follow in Wall of Voodoo's footsteps.  The two groups are similar enough to attract the same audiences, and like Voodoo singer Stan Ridgeway, Martyrs singer Mike Kelly is more a talker, with sharp-imagined New Wave poetics, while his moves have that herky-jerky quality.

However, to say American Martyrs are simply Wall of Voodoo types would be inadequate, for they have enough variety in their overall sound and image that they can appeal to a broad spectrum with sounding schizophrenic.  They're folksy without being New Folk, they're energetic enough to dance to, and relaxing enough they'll lull you into a satisfied stupor if you're not careful. 

Putting their most compelling song first tonight, their college turntable hit, "Soldier," got their set off perfectly. Unfortunately their entire set was not perfect--and here's a group that perfection's not too much to ask of.  The pace was rough--not slow, just rough--and some of the songs could use some revamping and editing--notably "Spare Friend" and "No Politics."  The American Martyrs remain a group to be recommended highly, because of their eccentric-without-even-trying visual style, and their, well, melodic melodies over punk rhythms.

Friday, November 21, 2014

X Plays Folk Fiasco: 7/30/81 at the Whiskey

Here's a slice of what the seventies-eighties Los Angeles music scene was like in all its goodness, badness, and ugliness—mostly its badness and ugliness.  In 1981 I sent this review (of Los Angeles punkers playing unplugged, billed as a "folk night" at the Whiskey on Sunset) to BAM. (Remember that paper? It stood for Bay Area Music but covered Los Angeles, too.) The editor didn't get it. He sent it back with snide remarks written all over it, and I didn't write for BAM as long as that editor was around. I still think it's hilarious, though. Critical language is best when it's critical!

Good ideas should make a good show. The line-up and idea at the Whiskey on July 30 (1981) looked good. The bill said Phranc (the 'female Tom Robinson"), Tito Larriva (leader of the Plugz), and Exene and John Doe (who lead X) were getting together for an acoustic "folk music night."

How nice to see punk-rockers going back to folk! In this era it sometimes seems all music has to be amped-up and "original," like a song written by somebody else is no good. Maybe I'm too old (as in out of college) but I remember what folk shows were like in the pre-Beatle sixties. 

To me, a folk show means jamming, improvising, surprises, solos, duos, trios, and songs that have survived decades and even centuries. I don't think I was expecting too much.  I don't think anything could have prepared me for what the Whiskey passed off as a show.

For the first hour after the billed start time, nothing happened except projections of old TV commercials that appeared to be courtesy of someone's Beta Max. If I wanted to watch TV, I'd have stayed home. 

I didn't catch the name of the first guy that (finally) got on the stage and I don't think we need to publicize his appearance by publishing his name, anyway. I have nothing against sexy literature but what this guy read was the definition of "utterly without redeeming social value." It was just certain four-letter words thrown together for shock value. It wasn't poetry or literature--it had no rhyme, no rhythm, not even any expression or emotion. If a little kid wrote or said these things, he'd be spanked and sent to his room. Somebody allowed this grown man to get on a legit stage and say these things. If I want this kind of entertainment, I'll read the Whiskey's bathroom walls. 

Then came another interminable, inexcusable break for more Beta Max viewing--like anybody who wants to watch Beta Max is going to pay good money to come down to the Whiskey to do it.  Finally someone who was introduced only as “Hal” showed up with a guitar, looking like a prom-going extra from the TV show Happy Days (more TV that we left the house to get away from). 

“Hal” sang three of his own songs (I guess that’s what they were because I sure didn’t recognize them) and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”  He left.  Another break that must have lasted an hour—and this time, instead of a Beta Max, was a recording of a squawking woman telling racy jokes to a shrieking audience. If I want to hear squawking and shrieking, I’ll stay home and watch my parents fight.

Tito Larriva finally showed up, but it was a different image from the Larriva with flashing dark eyes and glistening good hair. He wasn’t anything like that Larriva that leads the Plugz through hard-rocking swinging music.  This Larriva wore a suit and his hair was greased, and he barely looked up as he sang his signature song “La Bamba” and two other songs in Spanish. He acted like his guitar wasn’t plugged in meant he wasn’t alive.

He left after being on-stage for perhaps ten minutes. Listen, I’m glad he performs songs from his Hispanic heritage, that’s all well and great, more power to him—but he wasn’t singing to a Hispanic audience. Would it have killed him to stay around an extra three minutes and sing a song in a language his audience could understand?

At this point we were three hours past the billed starting time and we’d seen maybe a half-hour total of anyone doing anything on-stage. Finally three-quarters of X (John Doe, Exene, and Billy Zoom-- plus a guy on bass fiddle) gave us a faint glimmer of what we’d expected—but only with four songs. 

John Doe sang “God Made Me, He Made a Travellin’ Man” and “Rock Island Line.” Then it was Exene’s turn, and she, dressed humorously like a Dust Bowl Okie, sang “Broken-hearted Me.” They sang a duet of “Jackson” (the duet Johnny Cash and June Carter did in the sixties). Exene danced. Billy Zoom actually looked at the audience and smiled as he played rockabilly guitar.

Did they continue?  Did they introduce the acoustic bass guy or give Billy a solo spot or call back Tito for a guest vocal?  Are you kidding?

Back to another interminable inexcusable delay—and nearly midnight. In four hours we’d seen perhaps 45 minutes of live music, and Phranc still hadn’t shown. This writer gave up and went home.

So many questions! How many people will never go to a show billed as “folk music” ever again after this exercise in audience masochism? This was a folk show—an acoustic show—no big tech demands, so why on earth were the breaks so long and the sets so short? Lastly, who’s responsible for (dis)organizing this fiasco? If he/she’s planning another one, it better be called “Boredom Night” or someone’s likely to charge false advertising.   

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Concert Review: Flashback to the Eighties With Paul Young

We're going through another wave of totally eighties flashback fever, with a retro World Series on the way. (The baseball broadcasters are getting out their MTV-era music.)  Here's a previously unpublished review of Paul Young in concert that I wrote in 1985.  OMG I loved his voice (and looks).  For what Young's doing now see his official Web site:

Atrocious stage lighting and a restless audience couldn't stop Paul Young from giving a superior performance at the Wiltern on June 12 [1985].  Half the show was below average (by Young's standards), but "Love of the Common People" and a string of other songs clicked and the distractions suddenly weren't so distracting anymore.

In England Young's status is right up on the charts with the likes of Culture Club.  In this country he may be best-known as the guy that sings before Boy George on the Band Aid record but he's got the basics to be a major star here as well.  He's got a classic bluesy voice, virile build and big dark soulful eyes, but he couldn't tour last year so was unable to capitalize on the success of his No Parlez album. 

This tour can't afford a bad part, and tonight Young's voice began as rough and incomprehensible--not in good voice, along with that miserable spotty lighting.  Then his a capella rendition of Sam Cooke's "Cupid" changed everything.  He went through his best songs (penned by Los Angeles music vet Jack Lee), "Come Back and Stay" and "Sex" (that included a verse of FGTH's hit "Relax" thrown in).  Here he hit notes beautifully, throwing himself and his mike stand at the female portion of the audience--and of course graciously accepting their flowers and teddy bears.  It was a seductive and sexy (but not tacky) finale.  The momentum built up and carried him through his encores, "Broken Man" and his current single, "Every Time You go Away," which could be his much-needed breakout American hit.

One of the reasons the momentum picked up was that Young's backing band, The Royal Family, was finished showcasing themselves.  They're no match for Young's showmanship and they amounted to just one more distraction.

As for those other distractions--some restless members of the audience apparently insisted on standing (not even dancing, not even watching) for The Royal Family and made anyone with a seat behind them wish for comfortable shoes (or that the idiots would sit down).  However, the award for Egomaniac of the Evening goes to that atrocious visual lighting crew, who must have had fun flashing powerful spotlights directly into the audience's eyes all evening long.  Next time you guys want to light up the audience--turn the house lights on!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Style and Effect in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT

In observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' pioneering rock movie, A Hard Day's Night (1964), I've reached into my archives for an academic paper I wrote about it for UCLA film school circa 1979--I couldn't just review the film, I had to analyze its cinematic style. 

The professor and teaching assistant hated it and gave it a bad grade and wrote condescending negative comments all over it.  I guess it wasn't full of enough Marxist-Freudian film-school terminology for them, or something.  However, it represented my thoughts on the movie (as well as my development as a rock journalist) at that time. 

 Since the entire paper runs more than 2700 words, I've posted it in my portfolio.  Here's the abstract/introduction:

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) owes its effect to a film style characteristic of the 1960’s.  In it rock music and British New Wave cinema combine to create a high-energy, relentlessly compelling, and hilarious docu-drama (actually, docu-comedy).  The Beatles—and their music—match the high-energy style that grips the viewer’s attention.  As often, the British New Wave cinematic style gave the feeling of a documentary, and here the effect is enhanced by what goes on in front of the camera.  When the film deviates from a documentary style, it’s to provide a higher level of energetic rock ‘n’ roll excitement.  In turn involving viewers in this high level of creative energy is entirely appropriate to a film starring the Beatles, who were part of the changing times and the musical counter-culture of the sixties.

A Hard Day’s Night remains important because it functions as a contemporary viewpoint that tells a story about some of the most influential musicians of this century—early rock stars when the genre was still being created.  The movie remains contemporary, not an artificially backwards look.  (Artificially backwards looks are provided in the sixties-set period pieces Stardust and I Wanna Hold Your Hand, for example.)

At the time A Hard Day’s Night was made, rock was still considered a type of non-music—no history, no theory, no culture.  [Note:  If you disagree, I suggest you read the first American reviews of the Beatles’ music.  Perhaps one critic wrote something positive but that had nothing to do with the collective social  and cultural attitudes of the time.]  The Beatles—partly because of this movie—changed that—along with being a part of so many other changes in the sixties.  This film was not made with any magic insight into the future—no film is.  Instead it records and presents a spirit that nurtured rock into an entire counter-culture movement, into one of the basic ingredients of what made the sixties what they were.

Here's the link: