Interview: The Rifftrax crew on movies that ruin Christmas

As integral cast members of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett made mocking Z-grade movies into a fine art. Their latest project, Rifftrax, widens the scope to major-market films like Twilight and Star Wars, with the trio’s acerbic commentary available as audio. After debuting Rifftrax in movie theaters in August with a simulcast screening of Plan 9 From Outer Space,  they’re back with a holiday-themed edition playing in 500 theaters across the country Dec. 16 and 17, gathering a mostly-unseen collection of short films, which will likely run the gamut from the goofball to the disturbingly strange. They’ll be joined by another connoisseur of the so-bad-it’s-good genre, “Weird” Al Yankovic. The A.V. Club gathered the trio to riff on the Christmas movies they love to hate.

Originally published on Dec. 15, 2009. Read the complete article.

The best local music of 2009

My picks for the Minnesota music scene’s best albums of the year. Here’s #1:

1. P.O.S., Never Better
(Rhymesayers Entertainment)
Stef Alexander opens his third album with a down-to-earth apology for the three-year gap between Never Better and 2006′s Audition—”sorry I took so long,” he says, before launching into “Let It Rattle.” It’s the only thing the Doomtree rapper needs to be humble about when it comes to his music. Drawing energy as much from his punk-rock background as his hip-hop side, P.O.S. is as verbally propulsive and nimble here as Savion Glover, the dancer he namechecks on Never Better‘s third song. The Twin Cities is not exactly hurting for talent when it comes to underground hip-hop, but here’s a solid sign that P.O.S. will be counted in the highest echelons of that group for a long time to come.

Originally published on Dec. 10, 2009. Read the complete article.

Suburbs guitarist Bruce Allen dies at 54

courtesy Twin/Tone Records

Guitarist Bruce C. Allen, a mainstay of the Twin Cities music scene best known for his work with New Wave band The Suburbs, died yesterday at 54. According to the Star Tribune, Allen was taken off life support after being admitted to Hennepin County Medical Center for complications resulting from triple bypass surgery. “Family and friends had time to gather around his bedside,” said Chris Osgood, guitarist for The Suicide Commandos and Allen’s friend and bandmate in his post-Suburbs group The X-Boys.

Allen co-founded The Suburbs in 1977 with four friends from, true to their name, the Twin Cities’ western suburbs. The following year, their self-titled debut EP was the first album to be released by esteemed local label Twin/Tone Records; The Suburbs went on to release four full-length albums, from 1980′s In Combo to 1986′s The Suburbs, including classic singles like “Love Is The Law,” “Rattle My Bones,” and the charmingly strange “Cows.” The band’s catchy fusion of New Wave pop, punk, funk, and dance music combined the suavity of Roxy Music, the manic energy of Iggy Pop, and the offbeat humor of Devo. They broke up in 1987, but reunited occasionally in subsequent years, last performing in 2006 on Harriet Island. Although co-frontmen Beej Chaney and Chan Poling tended to draw the most attention, Allen’s contribution to The Suburbs’ sound was significant, helping provide the driving rhythms and spiky, high-energy riffs that were part of their signature.

Garage D'Or Records

Also a graphic designer, Allen created logos and album-cover designs instantly familiar to many in the Twin Cities, including the cover of The Replacements’ Let It Be, the Uptown Bar’s sign, and The Suburbs’ own iconic five-men-in-a-circle logo (which can be seen at right, on the cover of the 2006 live album High Fidelity Boys).

He will be missed. Here are a couple of videos of The Suburbs in their prime, “Love Is The Law” and “Cows.”

Originally published on A.V. Club Twin Cities.

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