It’s always a special thrill to see a band that forces itself to do
more with less. Not only do they end up finding all sorts of ingenious
backroad ways to arrive at their music, but their shows seem to
radiate with this funny, inspirational charm. It’s a little like
watching that video
of the kid with autism who got to play on his high school basketball
team for one game, except that it’s art and it’s totally not nearly as
Buke and Gass, a budding two-piece from Brooklyn, is one new band whose
ramshackle approach continues to make me smile. Their sound consists
of what they call a “buke” (a six-string baritone ukulele), a “gass”
(a guitar-bass hybrid they invented), some bells, and a kick-drum.
Each member plays both strings and percussion simultaneously, even at
live gigs. Impossible, you say? Exactly what I would have said—until
my mind was utterly blown, that is, by the musical advent of
Even more amazing, Buke and Gass’s live shows actually sound a lot
like their recordings. What does that sound like? Well, folks,
it’s complicated—but I’d venture to say they’re a mainstream mix
between DNA and The Carter Family (though for the reductively
inclined, a folkier Yeah Yeah Yeah’s would be a safe bet, too). Their
tinny, rankled chords at times sound like sawing sheet-metal, their
kick-drum like a hammering in the next room. Yet this is pop music,
people. And it makes me happy. —Matt Robison, Mar. 26, 2009
Starship Troopers, in the year it came out, was one of most profound moviegoing disappointments of my life. I was 13, and a little idiot. I sat there blinking up at the screen, feeling dull and confused.
But it wasn’t Neil Patrick Harris dressed up in Nazi SS gear that confused me—that I didn’t even notice; what I couldn’t get was why the acting and writing were so horrible. It felt like the Comic Sans of sci-fi action films—big and bold and very bland. My poor reading skills were outmatched. The genius of such a satiric juggernaut was just too much for my small, fat head to wrap itself around.
OK, so skip over Starship Troopers 2; as far as anyone knows, no one has ever seen it.
No enter Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. If Starship Troopers was a critique of the U.S. reaction to Sept. 11 (remarkable for a movie that came out in 1997, no?), then Marauder, a direct-to-video release written and directed by Ed Neumeier (who wrote the screenplay of the original), is a critique of the years following—of the continuing Iraq War and the stay-the-course mentality that dominated American politics until about, oh, November 2006.
Fair warning: There are about 45 minutes in this movie’s midsection that probably skirt the limits of what even a diehard fan would endure. I suggest you take that time to eat three or four slices of pizza, guzzle a 20-ounce bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi, and by all means, talk through it. The first 10 minutes and the last 10 will make it all worth it.
Check out this clip from the film, in which the militaristic, previously atheistic government discovers (spoiler alert!) it can use religion to prolong its version of what Stan Goff coined, in an essay about the Bush Administration in 2002, “infinite war.”
For ages 16 and up; some cultural theory recommended. —Matt Robison, Dec. 10, 2008
After graduating from U.C. Santa Cruz, Matt Robison moved to Brooklyn and briefly worked at a bookstore, a grocery store, and as an extra on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Now he works in an office building, and is grateful. On the side, he sometimes stars in short films made by his friends, and writes fiction in his room. Email him here.