Celebrating All Things Dieselpunk

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bonjour Batfrog - New CD by Frenchy and the Punk

What makes a song dieselpunk? Applying the basic definition of dieselpunk (zeitgeist of the 20s – 40s, contemporary in origin, and the nebulous characteristic of ‘Punk’) allows for a wide variety of musical formats to carry the label. Examples of dieselpunk music styles commonly recognized include Retro-Swing (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy), Industrial Rock (RPM Orchestra), Electronica (VNV Nation), Swing Punk (Wolfgang Parker), Electro-Swing (Tape Five), Progressive Bluegrass (Nickel Creek) and Symphonic-Opera (Clockwork Dolls).

The indie duo Frenchy and Punk, known for their minimalist high-energy style of music, (see my review of Hey Hey Cabaret for more about the duo) offers a different way of conceptualizing dieselpunk music in that the lyrics of a song is used to point to the Diesel Era. Their newest CD Bonjour Batfrog has several songs that fit this description.

The subject of the song She Was a Flapper (Ode to Lois Long) is exactly what the title states, which is the Roaring 20s writer Lois Long. The lyrics of the song truly capture’s Long’s amazing spirit. I think Long would be very pleased.

A few other songs on the CD have dieselpunk references. Strangers After Midnight references to a speakeasy while Bringing Out the Dead makes a reference to a “vat of moonshine”.

Frenchy and the Punk new CD Bonjour Batfrog is excellent and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Cradle Of Country Music

During the summer of 1927, American music was forever changed in a small recording studio in Bristol, Tennessee. Known as the Bristol Session, this set of recordings, which included songs by The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and the Stoneman Family, would later be described as the “Big Bang” of Country music not just for their influence on Country music but their influence on pop and rock for generations to come.

The building where the recordings took place is now The Birth of Country Music Museum. NPR recently had a fascinating audio program about the Bristol Session and the museum.
Click on the NPR logo to hear the audio program.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dieselpunk Shakespeare: Richard III (1995)

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. In 1995, Sir Ian McKellen took Shakespeare’s play Richard III and reimagined it into a powerful dieselpunk play and movie.
In the dieselpunk play and movie, the setting of Richard III is changed from Britain of the 1480s to Britain of the 1930s. The film combines a wide variety of uniforms and weapons to create a yet very believable alternate universe. Early in the film, the uniforms and equipment are largely British however, they do at times still have a Soviet element (note the helmets of the soldiers at the train station when the young princes arrive). As the film progresses, and Richard rises to power, the uniforms turn more and more fascist until it achieves a full SS appearance.

The acting of Ian McKellen is extraordinary in this movie. Deliciously evil is the term that comes to mind whenever I watch it. Rickard III has a powerful cast including Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth, Jim Broadbent as Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Robert Downey, Jr. as Rivers, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne Neville and Maggie Smith as The Duchess of York. The acting, direction and cinematography are superb.

The overall effect makes Richard III into an extraordinary movie. Roger Ebert included it in his list of Great Movies and described it as “perversely entertaining.”

I highly recommend Ian McKellen’s ‘Richard III’.

To read a great dieselpunk review of Richard III check out this article by Cap’n Tony at Dieselpunks.org.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dieselpunk Themed Beers

The Fourth of July just passed and Americans everywhere where enjoying barbecues, fireworks and hanging out by the pool with family and friends. For many, cold beer was the drink of choice. Beer of course plays an important role in the dieselpunk mythos thanks to Prohibition of the 1920s. Therefore, I thought it might be nice to mention two dieselpunk themed beers that are currently on the market.

Metropolis Lager (Brewed by Speakeasy Ales and Lagers)

Metropolis Lager is the recent beer by Speakeasy Ales and Lagers. It hit the shelves in San Francisco in February 2014 with its distinctive dieselpunk label. Metropolis is found only in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the company web site is currently under construction. The official propaganda reads:
“Metropolis Lager pours a radiant gold, with tropical fruit aromas and a delicate floral note. Caramel malts lend a subtle sweetness to balance the dry, crisp character of the lager yeast. Generously dry-hopped with a blend of Mosaic and Saphir hops, Metropolis unites classic German-style brewing and West Coast innovation to create a refreshing yet flavorful lager.”

Dieselpunk Beer (Brewed by World Brews)

Of course, I have to mention Dieselpunk beer. Besides the obvious name, the label art for all three brews (IPA, Porter and Stout) is wonderfully dieselpunk. In addition, the company certainly knows what dieselpunk is for the brand web site reads:
“Once, ours was a dark metropolis rife with corruption and urban decay; our soot-covered city needed to be restored. Fueled with inspiration, we look to what the future holds in our new city — our vision inevitably tainted by a layer of grime. Fuel your vision with Dieselpunk Engineered Ales.”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Chance to Help

Would you like to get your hands on some great dieselpunk art and help a great cause at the same time? Here’s your chance. A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help raise needed funding for the Second Annual North Texas Vintage Life Expo, which will take place January 10, 2015 at the Manske Library in Farmers Branch. The hosts of the Expo, the North Texas Dieselpunks, need help in providing advertisement funds, ink for posters, tablecloths, and any snacks.

Click Here to Donate
By contributing to the Expo, you can acquire prints of some of art that have been generously contributed to the Expo by the fantastic dieselpunk artist, Stefan Prohaczka.

Donation Levels

At the $25 level, you would receive one print; at the $50 two prints; and at the $100 level all four. If even $25 is too much one can contribute either $10 or $5 and while you won’t receive a print you will have the benefit of knowing that you helped advance the cause of dieselpunk.

Give now for supplies are limited.

Examples of available prints

Sunday, June 8, 2014

70th Anniversary of D-Day

On June 6, 2014, world leaders converged on the beaches of Normandy to remember the men who fought and died there 70 years ago during the greatest sea invasion in history.

A grateful world must never forget the sacrifices of those men who landed on the shores in 1944. They didn’t fight to oppress but to free. They didn’t fight for wealth but to secure a world free from tyranny.

It’s events like D-Day, a battle of mythical proportions, which inspires dieselpunks like me. During the 70th anniversary ceremony, President Obama summed up my feelings best:

“Whenever the world makes you cynical, stop and think of these men. Whenever you lose hope, stop and think of these men.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Foyle's War

Occasionally there comes along a television series centered on World War II that breaks new ground. One of the most truly unique is the British series by ITV, Foyle’s War.

Set in the English village of Hastings during the 1940s, Foyle’s War combines Agatha Christi style detective stories with World War II intrigue. The lead character is Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle who is wonderfully played by Michael Kitchen. Other main characters are his driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart played by the lovely Honeysuckle Weeks and Detective Sergeant Paul Milner played by the dashing Anthony Howell.

Each installment is more like a feature length movie than a television episode. Every installment faithfully recreates wartime Britain and runs for an hour and half. In addition, they take place in chronological order with each one opening with the month and year of the story.

Foyle’s War differs from other wartime themed series in many ways. Not only is the concept unique, combining police detective with war, but its exploration of the varied civilian’s reaction to the war. Rather than a united front, it shows the British people severely divided in their support. This might seem odd to Americans in which World War II had so much support however, we should remember that Britain joined the war voluntarily while it was forced upon America. In addition, some British are shown with many of the same prejudices as was seen in America with the detention and attacks on ethnic Germans and Italians living in Britain.

Foyle’s War is a fantastic series that I highly recommend. Seasons One through Seven are available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and on Netflix. It's broadcasted in the US on PBS.