My unabashed love of FANTOMAS has made its way into the virtual pages of my writing on more than a few occasions, specifically for that of their 2001 album THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. A record dedicated to classic cinema by re-imagining a collection of famous film scores and themes, THE DIRECTOR’S CUT has become a classic in itself – respected by music and film buffs alike.
Having just passed the 10-year anniversary of the record, Ipecac Recordings is revisiting the title with the release of THE DIRECTOR’S CUT LIVE: A NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTION.
Available as a concert DVD or audio-only download, the set was captured on December 31, 2008 at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall (dated on the DVD as “1/1/?” and “January 1, Whatever”) and contains a full performance of the album along with two non-album tracks. The lineup for this recording includes Mike Patton (Faith No More, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom) on vocals and effects, Buzz Osborne (Melvins) on guitar, Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, MadLove) on bass and “special guest” drummer Dale Crover (Melvins, Shrinebuilder) filling in for Slayer’s Dave Lombardo.
Unlike the majority of recent “full-album” performances that have become commonplace, FANTOMAS mixes up the setlist by performing the album out-of-order. In keeping with the thematic structure of the record, the DVD opens with a “fake trailer” green screen complimented with a vintage film filter. We see the outside of The Great American Music Hall as a passer-by takes it upon himself to intro the band – even though he has not a clue who FANTOMAS (he pronounces it as FAN-THOMAS) is. The mood inside the theater is festive as balloons are passed around above the crowd and the opening notes to the iconic theme for THE GODFATHER are played.
Mike Patton leads the band through sonic mayhem, commanding the performance like a crazed orchestral conductor. From his personal workspace that includes keyboards, effects processors, a laptop, and a mixing board, Patton works a pair of microphones that represent the clean and the dirty for dramatic effect. Throughout the set, those familiar with the construction of THE DIRECTOR’S CUT will notice subtle reworkings of the songs for the live setting. Changes in the riffing that Osbourne delivers on CAPE FEAR, for example, or the switch between guitar and bass on INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION are strikingly noticeable. Dale Crover is a beast behind the kit, bringing forth that Melvins-thunder while easily navigating the chaos that Lombardo laid down on the original recordings.
While the performance is stellar as expected, the highlights include SPIDER BABY and THE OMEN (Ave Satani) complete with a lifeless female dummy suspended above the stage by a noose (“look at me, Damien! It’s all for you.”). What’s unfortunate about the DVD is the direction and editing by Vincent Forcier.
While the “film look” is actually pretty good in capturing that kind of Grindhouse-esque grit, just because they exist should not be an excuse to use every single effect and filter available in your editing suite. There’s a lot of psychedelic effects applied, and when they work – they work well. When they don’t, they seem horribly out-of-place. The unnecessary overuse of these digital tools is uneven, which makes some of the effects particularly jarring in a bad way. A less-is-more approach would’ve served this work for the better.
The Neil Hamburger Commentary:
From a room inside the Destiny Inn Motel in Commerce, California, “America’s $1 Funnyman” – delivers commentary for these “rock and roll assholes.” Hamburger’s dry act is an acquired taste, though his commentary here is funny – for the most part, while dragging here and there. As he becomes bored with the DVD, we see him attempt to cause car accidents by shining a laser from his motel window in-between keeping his drink topped-off. If you catch yourself making a break for the fast-forward button, you wouldn’t be alone.
The mean-spirited Easter Egg:
There’s a moment after the credits roll in which THE DIRECTOR’S CUT logo reappears, quickly fading to black as several minutes of audio from what sounds like a motorcycle parade plays in the background. When the audio stops, there’s a pause before we see a (presumably) homeless black man with a walker, sitting in the back of a camper being shown the very performance that we’ve just enjoyed. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is visible through the windows, as one curious onlooker even peeks inside to see just what in the hell is going on. Fueled by Taco Bell and Natural Ice Beer, we get a running commentary from this guy as video from the DVD appears in the lower right corner. As he clucks like a chicken, attempts to give beer to his penis and a toy pig, the crazed, one-way discussion continues into that of “titty tacos” and the fact that Taco Bell Hot Sauce packets can be used to keep warm, by “saucing your ass.” This all comes to an abrupt end when the man rips off his headphones and informs the off-camera director that he “has to go now.”
The Bottom Line:
The flawed aspects of THE DIRECTOR’S CUT LIVE have absolutely zero to do with the music. From a musical perspective, the set is immaculate for a live performance of these songs, making the digital album come highly recommended for purchase. The visual component is where the faults lie, and stripping away the bonus materials, the core performance segment is still enjoyable despite the overkill on the effects angle. Casual listeners should purchase the album at bare minimum, while diehards will surely find the DVD a worthy acquisition as well.
PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5 | DVD 3/5