“It’s not every day that you get to see a monster piñata killing teens on a paradise island…”*

October 19, 2011

Oh how true that statement is and, thanks to a bout of insomnia and Piñata: Survival Island, I can now rebuff anyone that uses that line as a selling point.

(the titular quote was from a long-lost review of this cinematic tour de force)

If you’re a piñata enthusiast – and, really, who isn’t? – or simply have an interest in really bad movies, Piñata: Survival Island might just be for you.

I cannot recommend it as “so bad it’s good” as I only caught the last ten minutes and that brief glimpse led me to believe that it’s so bad, it’s just bad.

(it’s the kind of movie where you mumble to yourself, “Someone actually believed this needed to be written down?”)

I was channel-surfing, minding my own business, when I was confronted with…well…it appeared to be the little tiki idol that caused so much mayhem when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii.

This tiki idol, though, was much larger, breathing fire, and rampaging through the jungle wielding a battle axe.

Understandably, my hand froze on the remote as I watched, boggle-eyed.

Piñata: Survival Island is not without star power. There is, of course, the tiki which had burst forth from a piñata.

And, one of the survivors of the piñata creature run amok is Jaime Pressly formerly of My Name Is Earl and currently shilling for the restaurant chain Zaxby’s.

(home of the most sodium-laden chicken in the Western world)

In fact, it is Pressly who dispatches the evil spirit by quickly and deftly assembling a Molotov cocktail and handcuffing it to the creature’s ceremonial headdress.

It also stars Aeryk Egan who seemingly put more thought into making his stage name a bastardization of Eric than in choosing his roles.

(or perhaps in choosing an agent)

The fact that the film was showing on AMC, which allegedly stands for American Movie Classics, is another kettle of fish altogether.

I do feel enriched and enlightened for the experience. It’s not often that I will have the opportunity to write about piñatas and, for that, I am grateful.

And, if any of you are now filled with a sense of urgency to seek out this film and are unable to find Piñata: Survival Island, try Demon Island.

(a cinematic endeavor of such magnitude could not be constrained to merely having one title)

Sadly, my music collection is sorely lacking in piñata songs. So, here are four island songs…

Sting – Island Of Souls
from The Soul Cages (1991)

To a lot of young music fans who came of age during the mania surrounding The Police and their album Synchronicity, Sting was the paragon of cool.

(of course, there were a lot of folks who also consider(ed) him to be an insufferable, pretentious twat)

The moody Island Of Souls came from Sting’s third solo album, The Soul Cages, and, even though I own several of his albums released since, it was really the last one which I awaited eagerly and listened to devotedly.

(though our paths would kind of cross years later)

Blondie – Island Of Lost Souls
from The Hunter (1982)

Island Of Lost Souls…nothing more than a wholly transparent attempt by Blondie to duplicate the success of The Tide Is High from their previous album, Autoamerican. There are a handful of good songs on The Hunter, the trainwreck of a follow-up to Autoamerican, but I wouldn’t consider this to be one of them.

However, it is always amusing to hear Debbie Harry sing the line, “Hey buccaneer, can you help me put my trunk in gear?” and, personally, even bad Blondie is something for which I have a weakness.

Japan – Taking Islands In Africa
from Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980)

I snagged a copy of Gentlemen Take Polaroids on a whim, having read acclaim for the band from critics and praise from a couple of friends (both of whom, as I recall, actually preferred the band’s Tin Drum).

I liked the chilly, electronic music and on tracks like Taking Islands In Africa it’s not difficult to hear Duran Duran’s claim of Japan as an influence.

Megadeth – Devil’s Island
from Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986)

I’ve noted that I never truly went through a metal phase as a high school kid (though I have long dug Iron Maiden), so I vividly recall seeing Peace Sells… in the record bins and being immediately dismissive and disinterested.

Oddly, over the past twenty-five years, I’ve become a fan of Megadeth’s thrash metal and gained an appreciation for their groundbreaking sound. It’s not something I listen to often, but there are times when a track like the galloping Devil’s Island is just what’s needed.

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The Day My Universe And Sting’s Collided

January 22, 2011

I’m not absolutely sure, but, I think the first band whose entire catalog I owned was The Police.

Music was just beginning to be an obsession for me when the trio relesed Ghost In The Machine in the autumn of 1981. All I knew of the band were the hits – Message In A Bottle, Don’t Stand So Close to Me, and De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da – but I loved everything I had heard.

By the early summer of 1983 – with the arrival of The Police’s fifth album Synchronicity – my friend Beej, a Police obsessive, had caught me up on the four previous albums, dubbing me copies of them from his older brother’s vinyl.

I taped Synchronicity from the radio on Frog’s Midnight Album when it was debuted prior to its release and weeks before I could get into Cincinnati and to a record store to buy a copy.

And for a period of time, Sting was one of the coolest cats on the planet and The Police were as big as almost any act of the rock era.

In high school, The Police might have been the only band for which there was a consensus among all demographics.

And then they were gone.

Sting went on making music as did Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland.

(I might be one of the few people that owned both albums by Animal Logic, Copeland’s short-lived band in the late ’80s/early ’90s with bassist Stanley Clarke and singer Deborah Holland)

I hung with Sting’s solo career into the mid-’90s and though there were some moments that matched the brilliance of The Police – the gorgeous Fragile from …Nothing Like The Sun comes to mind – the music didn’t resonate as much as the stuff he’d done with Andy and Stewart.

Then, sometime in 2002 or so, I was doing some freelance work for Billboard and the editor contacted me about doing something on a new group’s debut album.

The interview with the band’s singer, Joe, began slowly. He was polite but there was a lot of silence coming from the other end of that trans-Atlantic call.

Then, I noted that one of the songs – titled Listen To My Babe – was, if you listened closely, not about a girl but a pet.

“Good man,” he said. “Good man.”

He seemed geniunely pleased and a bit surprised.

(apparently most reviewers had missed it)

Near the end of the call, I told Joe that, while doing some research, I had discovered that his father was Sting. which hadn’t been in the press material the publicist had sent to me.

He politely expressed not wanting that to have that be the focus and I assured him that, though I had to mention his father, I was writing about his band.

So, I was mortified when I read the piece in print.

The editors, who titled my submissions, had affixed a headline that mentioned Sting’s name but not that of the band.

Perhaps worse, a line had been added, one which I hadn’t written that – as I read it – stressed the advantage of having a well-known musician father in getting a record deal.

I felt horrible, but there was nothing to be done.

No more than a week or so later, I was speaking with a woman who, as the owner of a large yoga studio, had a number of famous clients. I knew her casually from a piece I had written on her years as a DIY musician in the ’80s.

I’d asked what she’d been up to and it turned out that she had just returned from some time visiting Sting and his wife in France.

She then informed me that she had mentioned to them that I had written about a reissue of one of her albums as well as about Joe’s band.

This news had, apparently, piqued Sting’s interest and – I was told – he proceeded to ask a number of questions about me.

Cool.

Not cool.

I realized that it was entirely possible that Sting had read or would read what I had written about his son’s band.

The man who had once been one of the coolest cats on the planet and whose lyrics I knew backwards and forwards when I was fifteen might actually have read something I had written.

And, if he had, he probably thought I was a douchebag.

I’ve always believed that The Police had an almost perfect career – five stellar albums that each sold millions released over five years and an exit from the stage as the biggest band on the planet.

Here are four tracks by The Police that just seemed right this morning…

The Police – Walking On The Moon
from Reggatta de Blanc

Sparse and chilly, with a reggae vibe that was elemental to the sound of The Police, Walking On The Moon indeed captures the mood that I can imagine would be fitting for a stroll on the lunar surface.

If the next human to set foot on the moon is a music fan who lived through the ’80s, will they be able to do so and not have this song playing in their head?

The Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
from Zenyattà Mondatta

Three albums in and the British trio broke through with Zenyattà Mondatta which took them to the Top Ten on the album chart as well as the singles chart with the deceptively insightful and ridiculously catchy De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.

The Police – Invisible Sun
from Ghost In The Machine

The Police had begun to address political issues on Zenyattà Mondatta with songs like Driven To Tears and Bombs Away. With the moody, darkly tinged Invisible Sun, Sting’s lyrics broached the subject of the strife in Northern Ireland.

The Police – Synchronicity II
from Synchronicity

Like a lot of listeners during the summer of ’83, I wore out my copy of Synchronicity which spawned four hit singles including the aggressive Synchronicity II which gave guitarist Andy Summers an opportunity to cut loose.

I have to admit that, at the time, I found the song a bit jarring within the context of the album and – aside from manic squall of Mother – it was my least favorite song on the record.

(and, personally, I don’t think I knew anyone that liked Mother)

But, over the last twenty-five years, Synchronicity II has grown on me because it is so wickedly aggressive and apocalyptic.

Also, the lyrics resonate more as I now can relate to things like “every single meeting with his so-called superior” being “a humiliating kick in the crotch” and the depiction of the rush hour as a “suicidal race” amongst contestants “packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes.”


"It’s not every day that you get to see a monster piñata killing teens on a paradise island."

October 26, 2008

Oh how true that statement is and due to a fortuitous bout of insomnia that had me channel surfing in the early-morning hours, I can now rebuff anyone that uses that line as a selling point. Of course, the fellow who reviewed the film for Slasherpool might be the only human in the history of humans to state the titular quote.

If you’re a piñata aficionado or simply have an interest in really bad movies, well Piñata: Survival Island might just be for you. I cannot recommend it as a “so bad it’s good” feature as I only caught the last ten minutes and that brief glimpse led me to believe that it’s so bad, it’s just bad. It’s the kind of movie where you mumble to yourself, “Someone actually believed this needed to be written down?”

It was entrapment that I watched what I did. As I said, I was channel-surfing when I was confronted with…well…I really don’t know how to describe it. Remember the little tiki idol that caused so much mayhem when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii? Well, imagine that tiki idol roughly eight-feet tall, breathing fire, and rampaging through a jungle wielding a battle axe. Understandably, my hand froze on the remote as I watched, boggle-eyed.

Apparently, the angry tiki thing burst forth from a piñata. Man, I already have a feeling that someone out there, either suffering from insomnia or bad taste in viewing choices, caught this flick and will be touting it as a solution to the illegal immigration debate.

Piñata: Survival Island is not without star power, though. One of the survivors of the piñata run amok is Jaime Pressly from My Name Is Earl. In fact, she dispatches with the evil spirit by quickly assembling a Molotov cocktail and handcuffing it to the creature’s ceremonial headdress (or maybe it was just its misshapen cranium). It also stars Aeryk Egan who seemingly put more thought into making his stage name a bastardization of Eric than in choosing his roles (or maybe he had parents with too much time on their hands).

The fact that the film was showing on AMC, which allegedly stands for American Movie Classics, is another kettle of fish altogether. However, I suppose that I should feel enriched and enlightened for the experience. It’s not often that I will have the opportunity to write about piñatas and, for that, I am grateful.

And, if any of you are now filled with a sense of urgency to get to your local movie rental outlet, be sure to check under Demon Island if they don’t have Piñata: Survival Island. Apparently a cinematic endeavor of such magnitude could not be constrained to merely having one title.

Sadly, my music collection is sorely lacking in piñata songs.

Sting – Island Of Souls
Perhaps like many young music fans who came of age during the mania surrounding The Police and their album Synchronicity, Sting was the paragon of cool (of course, there were a lot of folks who also consider(ed) him to be an insufferable, pretentious twat.

Island Of Souls came from Sting’s third solo album, The Soul Cages, and, even though I own several of his albums released since, it was really the last one which I awaited eagerly and listened to devotedly.

Blondie – Island Of Lost Souls
Ah, Island Of Lost Souls – nothing more than a wholly transparent attempt by Blondie to duplicate the success of The Tide Is High from their previous album, Autoamerican. There are a handful of good songs on The Hunter (see/hear the dreamy English Boys), the group’s wreck of a follow-up, but I wouldn’t consider this to be one of them.

However, it does have one of my favorite cringe-inducing lyrics from a band that definitely had a few such moments (that would be, “Hey buccaneer, can you help me put my trunk in gear?”) and, personally, even bad Blondie is something for which I have a weakness.

Heather Nova – Island
Nova made some of the most atmospheric and ethereal music of the mid- to late-’90s, but she seemed to, unfortunately, get lost in the glut of post-Lilith Fair artists who worked the same territory.

She was attractive, talented, and had a cool back story (raised on a houseboat in the Bahamas, as I recall). When she was picked up by Sony following a couple independent releases, I told a friend at the label that, if they couldn’t break her, they should give up.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Coney Island Whitefish
When I posted some Joan Jett awhile back, there was much love as the tracks proved to be some of the most popular of anything I have ever posted. And why not?

A little research revealed the title of this song to be slang for a used condom washed ashore on Coney Island. A listen reveals that – not surprisingly – Joan is one woman not be trifled with.