Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pop Offensive returns this Wednesday!


They said it wouldn't last. Of course, they were talking about my recent, whisky-infused-gummy-worms diet. And they were right. Meanwhile, my pal Jeff Heyman and I are coming up on our fourth Pop Offensive over at Oakland's 9th Floor Radio, and there is no end in sight. People like the thing, apparently.

Is it possible, you might rightfully ask, that there is enough retro pop, dance and film music of a sufficient level of awesomeness to sustain us, or will Jeff and I be left gasping in a barren pop cultural landscape leeched clean of all grooviness, the victims of our own unchecked consumption? There is only one way to find out: keep shoveling those nuggets into the boiler and make full speed toward the horizon!

Pop Offensive #4 airs this Wednesday, July 30th, at 7 pm PDT. You can stream it live at 9thfloorradio.com and tweet your objections, raves, or sympathies to us at @FOURDK. Oh, and don't forget to check out our fun filled new Facebook Page.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

POP OFFENSIVE WANT FRIEND!


I excel at nothing if not creating derelict FaceBook pages. Some say the old places are haunted, perhaps with the ghosts of would-be friends floating in the limbo of your incessant waffling ("not noooow", they moan) -- either that or they're honey traps for Nigerian dick pill pirates. In any case, the new and blindingly official Pop Offensive FaceBook page is nothing of the sort. "Popping" (see what baby did there?) with a wild variety of pics, clip, and links -- including to downloads of past Pop Offensive episodes -- it's the closest thing online to experiencing Pop Offensive live, with it's fun-focused mix of retro pop, dance, and movie music from around the world. If I were you, I'd head on over there and like the shit out of it right now!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hot Plate Girl in the Land of Simper Fist


Last night's tweet-along by the 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down crew to Zodiac Fighters was a concatenation of sharp wit and dull-eyed confusion. We could see what was happening, but we weren't always sure why it was happening, or, more importantly, why it was happening to us. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, you can now  follow our addled thought processes step by step in the Storified transcript linked below:


A hardy thanks to all who participated. And now, a preview of next month's feature. Hold onto your balloons!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tonight! The 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down zeroes in on ZODIAC FIGHTERS!

The debut of distinguished fightress Polly Shang Kwan as a subject of the 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down is as auspicious as Santo's was back in May. And tonight is the night! The stars are favorable, the planets are aligned, and all signs point to ZODIAC FIGHTERS, a full version of which is linked below (be sure to forward through any pesky ads at the beginning).



All you need to do is log on to Twitter tonight -- that's Tuesday, July 8th -- at 6pm PDT, fire up the movie and, using the hashtag #4DKMSD, join in what will no doubt be a pretty freewheeling conversation. I'll be looking forward to hearing from you!

Friday, July 4, 2014

This Tuesday: The 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down returns with ZODIAC FIGHTERS!


That's right, comrades. Once again comes the time for us to assemble and press ourselves to the hard work of nattering along to silly movies on the internet. The night is Tuesday, July 8th, at 6pm PDT and the film is the hallucinatory Taiwanese fantasy martial arts romp ZODIAC FIGHTERS, in which the adorable Polly Shang Kwan leads an army of animal themed kung fu warriors against Lo Lieh and his medieval shark-mobile. As the trailer below demonstrates, it contains more than your annual allowance of crazy, and continues on from there:



As always, all you must do, come the alloted time, is sign in to Twitter, fire up the movie via the link that I'll provide here, and, using the hastag #4DKMSD, join me and a host of other wits, wags and scoundrels in what will undoubtedly be a very lively conversation. Believe me, this is the one not to miss. Did I mention the flying sharks?

For more details, see the official Shout Down site.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Friday's best pop song ever

Repeat offenders


Why "Pop Offensive", you ask? Simply put, the experience of listening to Pop Offensive reaches such extremes of sublimity that it can only be expressed in the language of warfare and violence. To wit: Last night, Jeff Heyman and I once again strafed our unsuspecting listeners with a merciless barrage of head wrecking pop, dance and movie music from around the world, leaving them with sucking chest wounds of pure pleasure. Sound like your idea of a good time? Well, the good news is that you can now either stream the episode from the 9th Floor Radio archives or download it, podcast style, here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ago Go 67 (Singapore, 1967)


Produced by Shaw Brothers’ Malay language division under the direction of Nordin Arshad, Ago Go 67 hews very closely to the template set by the “pop review” type of films -- think Pop Gear, or Live It Up -- that were issuing from Britain during the 1960s. We have two nice kids with dreams of stardom, disapproving parents, slick music biz types, rapturously frugging teens, and just enough of a plot to serve as the connective tissue between numerous musical vignettes showcasing the hitmakers of the day. Along the way, those of us at a historical remove from the proceedings are given an alluring snapshot of the Beatles-influenced “Pop Yeh Yeh” movement that was exploding throughout Malaysia at the time.

A pair of popular young actor/singers, Aziz Jaafar and Noor Azizah, respectively play Johari (“Joe”) and Fauziah. Fauziah works days as a shop girl while Joe labors at a stable with the film’s designated comic relief (S. Shamsuddin). Nights, however, are dedicated to practicing with their beat band, Dendang Perindu, which, as far as I can tell is played by the real beat band Dendang Perindu. This is an activity that Fauziah must keep secret from her father (Ahmad Nisfu), a blustering martinet who loudly objects to the youth music of today with all of its “yeah yeah yeah”-ing and such.


While visiting a recording studio at the behest of a slick music biz type played by Kuswadinata, the kids in Dendang Perindu see a poster for a record company sponsored talent showcase that just may provide them with their big break. It just may also provide Ago Go 67 with the opportunity to present us with a string of musical performance clips by groups with names like Wan Intan & The Mods, M. Ishak & The Young Lovers, The Terwellos, and Orchid Abdullah & Les Coasters.

One thing I learned from Ago Go 67 and my subsequent research into same is that the associations between Malay singers of the era and the bands who backed them up were somewhat transient, with the bands allying themselves with whichever performer opportunity -- or, perhaps, commerce -- smiled upon at that moment. For example, The Rythmn Boys (sic), who here perform behind singer S. Mariam, became one of the most in-demand backing bands on the scene after winning a Dave Clark 5-themed talent contest, and resultantly played with a number of different artists. On the other hand, singer Siti Zaitan, who here beams through an energetic, spy-themed number called “Alam Seni” to the accompaniment of The Hornets, was more often seen fronting a group called The Firebirds.


Despite defying the prevailing naming conventions, Denang Perindu ultimately win the big break we all knew they would. Unfortunately, as fate and the necessities of three act structure would have it, it is at this time that Fauziah’s father chooses to bring the hammer down on her musical activities. Providing further complications is Salvia, the singer for a rival band played by Malay sexpot Norma Zainal, who has unwelcome romantic designs on young Joe. It will take all of the moxie these teens can muster to make sure everything is set right before the producers of Ago Go 67 see fit to cram in another uninterrupted block of musical performances.

While Fausiah’s dad getting all het up about it provides the required note of generational tension, there really isn’t much on display in Ago Go 67 that one could imagine presenting much of a threat to the status quo. The music is undeniably fun, but lightweight, perfectly suited to the wholesome prancing of the clean cut -- shirts and ties for the boys, knee-length jumpers for the girls -- dancers who shimmy along to it.


This is not to say that there are not standouts among the performances, the aforementioned Siti Zaitan & The Hornets’ being one of them. On top of that, there is the striking androgyny and haunting vocal of D4-Ever singer, D. Hatta, who came into this world as one Mohamed Hatta Abdul Wahab (like some Jewish American singers, Malaysian singers of the era appear to have had a tendency to deracinate their stage names -- perhaps understandably, given the racial strife that was gripping the country at the time). Elsewhere, Blind singer S. Jibeng -- rather than presenting himself as an inspirational figure like so many other disabled artists before him -- seems to be milking his condition for pathos with the song “Nasib si Butah” (“Blind Luck”). He starts by dropping his cane onto the set from off-screen, as if by accident, and then scrambles for it pathetically on the ground before launching into his mournful tune.

Also bearing mention is the level of musicianship on display in Ago Go 67, which is exceptional. The guitar instrumentals of groups like The Ventures and, especially, The Shadows had an enormous influence on Southeast Asian beat groups at the time, which is given ample testament here. The resulting prominence of busy and interweaving, melodic guitar lines requires a lot of lightning-fingered picking on the part of the axemen in these groups. This, of course, does not cancel out the need for showmanship, as equal prominence is given to lots of choreographed guitar moves -- a tradition that I wish would return, along with the practice, abundantly in evidence here, of conveniently labeling the kick drum head with the band’s name.



A movie like Ago Go 67 was likely seen as a quick money maker for Shaw, unworthy of the vibrant color lavished on its Hong Kong productions. Still, one can’t help wishing it could have been otherwise, especially when considering the delightfully campy designs of the individualized sets on which each group performs. All of the staple elements of 1960s variety show mise-en-scène are on view: the giant musical notes, the ascending rampways to nowhere, the stylized street scenes populated by bizarre, human-like effigies. Singer S. Mariam is even provided with an on-stage vanity table and mirror, into which she stares with delicious melancholy, like a Malay Francoise Hardy, brushing her hair absently as the intro plays. What M. Ishak & The Young Lovers did to have their song, “Menari Go-Go”, simply performed in someone’s backyard, I’ll never know.



I think it goes without saying that Ago Go 67, which is currently available in its entirety on YouTube, is a real treat for fans of world pop, be it of the musical or cinematic variety. If, like me, you are a fan of both, it is a little slice of heaven. As an added bonus, the steadfastly formulaic nature of its plot renders subtitles completely unnecessary. For example, I don’t need to speak Malay to know what Fauziah’s father, predictably humbled and chagrined at the film’s end, is saying. Darn those crazy kids!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pop Offensive returns this Wednesday!

This Wednesday, July 2nd, at 7 pm PT, Jeff Heyman and I will be returning to the studios of Oakland's 9th Floor Radio to flood the netwaves with retro pop, dance and movie music from around the world. Yes, it's Pop Offensive, the essential soundtrack to the 4DK lifestyle, and it is not to be missed! Though, of course, if you do miss it, the episode will be available indefinitely for streaming from the show archives, where you can now check out episodes one and two.

Want to heckle us while we're on air? Simply give me a shout on Twitter, using the hashtag #PopOffensive. Maybe we'll dedicate a Thai surf instrumental to your mom!