The electro post-rock band Collapsing Scenery has been hailed as “the voice of LA’s new underground,” so it only makes sense that their tripped-out, abstract videos are essential to their music. Cool, but doesn’t every synth-dominated band these days sorta need visuals to make what is by and large a cold-blooded genre cluster feel even remotely emotive? And what’s so special about swiping a bunch of “found footage” from YouTube, throwing on a glitchy distortion filter, and calling it a “short film”? If you answered “yes” and “nothing,” in that order, then you’re exactly right– only, not about Collapsing Scenery.
When I first locked eyes with The Teen Age, I wrote that once the band’s music “gets stuck in your head, you’re screwed.” And truly, the Brooklyn band’s concoction of vibey, stoned doo-wop, cut with surf-rock and steeped in pop, hasn’t left my innards since. Theirs is the kind of pop music that seeps into your bones, made up of individual ditties that, after your first dose, can cause foot spasms and whistle symphonies for months on end.
“At that time in New York things were really wild,” Emily Armstrong recalled of the ’70s punk scene. She and her partner, Pat Ivers, are old school East Village types– they truly lived the Downtown era, and lucky for us they documented over 100 shows at CBGBs, filming bands like DNA and unbelievable moments like Iggy Pop covering Frank Sinatra for their weekly TV show, Nightclubbing. After NYU’s Fales Library acquired their archive for the Downtown Collection, thousands of the duo’s film reels were digitized and, for a time, were part of a weekly column at B+B.
Alone at Last emerged out of that archival effort and now, after more than 30 years since the artists last saw them, the 1981 black-and-white vignettes featuring 52 people who were prompted to seduce the viewer, will be shown at Howl! Happening. The video series captures the last breath of the freewheeling ’70s Downtown scene right before AIDS hit. “People who have seen it feel that it’s a very interesting depiction of that culture, that moment, because it was truly a moment. Soon after it was shot, people realized what AIDS was. So having a lot of sex for pleasure was completely redefined: having a lot of open sex was suicide. Things really changed, really fast.”
Why settle for catching glimpses of Alex Karpovsky on the set of Girls when you can see him in a genu-whine short film? “Actor Seeking Role” kicked off the Rooftop Films Summer Series not long ago, and now it has descended onto your humble small screen. As of this week, it’s available on Vimeo.
Time again for Word Up, our weekly roundup of readings and talks worth getting up and out of the house for.
Thursday, July 10
Emily Gould and Elif Batuman
Gawker blogger turned memoirist Emily Gould’s new novel, Friendship, is about (you guessed it) a young Brooklyn blogger whose boyfriend happens to keep a studio in Greenpoint’s Pencil Factory. “Amy loved visiting Sam there, seeing all the other artists in the hallways and on the roof,” Gould writes. “It was so cheering to know that there were still people who made their living by creating physical things—even if some of them were commercial illustrators and graphic designers. Well, Sam wasn’t, anyway! He was just a guy who made giant oil paintings of Cuisinarts.” She’ll be discussing fiction and friendship with Elif Batuman, who has written for the likes of The New Yorker and n+1, and is the author of The Possessed.
7pm, McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince St). FREE.
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