Saturday, December 27, 2014

Steve Winwood: Before He Went Yuppie

Before the '80s, no one would have dared utter the phrases "Steve Winwood" and "credibility problem" in the same sentence. As far as most people were concerned, Winwood, no matter what band he was playing in, was one soulful, tasteful dude. Steve Winwood was like the Eric Clapton of keyboards. And like Clapton, the material on which his legacy was, is, and forever will be based was not actually released under the name "Steve Winwood." Many have been the Generation X-er to hear someone talk about "how amazing Eric Clapton is," only to think, "'Lay Down Sally'? 'Wonderful Tonight'? That shit really ain't that amazing." No, no, no, it's the earlier stuff, man. The Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers ... you had to be there. And so, by the same token, allow me to briefly but informatively explain how another one of Britain's '60s rock legends completely lost his edge and rode the one-way train to Yuppieville.

Whether or not the world wanted a 15-year-old British Ray Charles, the world got one. Calling Steve Winwood's first band "the Spencer Davis Group" was a bit like calling the Jimi Hendrix Experience "the Noel Redding Experience," but they probably didn't know what they had on their hands (and it was probably best to not put too much pressure on the kid - not that he seemed to care). There were other Spencer Davis Group hits in the UK, but the two that most people remember are "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm A Man" from late 1966/early 1967, prime examples of wild, gritty white guy R&B that are right up there with ubiquitous oldies from the Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds, and Them. Brace yourself ... for the Hammond B-3 organ:

Yes, Steve Winwood was going to kick ass and take names. But then the Summer of Love hit, with all its incense and sitars and tie-dyed toilet paper, and Winwood had other ideas.

I'm talking about Traffic. At first, Winwood wasn't necessarily the "leader" of Traffic, but that's quickly what he became. Traffic are one of those bands that nobody really dislikes, but they don't have the hipster cache of contemporaries like the Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd. They weren't overly pompous or self-important (like the Moody Blues or Yes), but they weren't very irreverent or aggressive (like Roxy Music or The Move) either. Oh come on, we're talking about a great era here, and Traffic recordings couldn't help but be soaked in that era's special glow. I'm not sure how many highlights I want to post. Should I go with debut single "Paper Sun"? Surreal jungle adventure "Forty Thousand Headmen"? Surprisingly effective stab at British folk-rock "John Barleycorn"? I think I'm just going to do two lengthy ones: 1) 1967's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (with a "Hey Jude" coda, a whole year before "Hey Jude"!) and 1971's hypnotic eleven-minute progressive rock excursion "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys." Light a candle, pull up a rug, and let your spirit wander:

Imagine only being familiar with Steve Winwood's '80s Top 40 synth-cheese, and then discovering this stuff. Welcome to my world.

Of course, smack in the middle of Traffic's existence, Winwood inevitably teamed up with Clapton, although the resulting group, Blind Faith, only lasted one album. But ... but ... it's Winwood! And Clapton! Ironically, I think my favorite Blind Faith performance wasn't actually released on that album. It's the "electric" version of Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home," which showed up years later on his boxed set The Finer Things, and is now also on the Deluxe edition of Blind Faith, which also features four fifteen-minute songs named "Jam #1," Jam #2," etc. If you're wondering whether Winwood and Clapton could possibly jam too much, there's your answer.

I don't know why, since it was basically Winwood's show, but Traffic broke up in 1974. The man wandered in the wilderness for a little while. There was his jazz fusion period (Stomo Yamashti's Go?). Then, out of nowhere, he finally released his first solo album in 1977. AMG's William Ruhlmann writes:
Rock fans had been waiting for a Steve Winwood solo album for more than a decade, as he made his way through such bands as the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. When Winwood finally delivered with this LP, just about everybody was disappointed ... That great voice was singing the songs, that talented guitarist/keyboardist was playing them, and that excellent songwriter had composed them, but nothing here was memorable, and the long-awaited debut proved a bust.

It doesn't sound all that bad to me, but no, the late '70s were simply not Steve Winwood's time. He needed a new decade, one with the numeral "eight" in it, to truly shed his artistically legitimate past and forge a new, schlockier identity.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

So This Was Early Wham!, Huh? AKA George Michael: Godfather Of Gay Hip-Hop

Just when I thought I knew you, Georgios.

Until this very moment, I'd never quite understood why music writers and their cohorts have treated Wham! as a distinct artistic entity separate from George Michael. Wasn't Wham! basically George Michael's early career under a funny, gimmicky name? Why do people talk about Wham! as if it was its own "thing"? That's like treating the Tubeway Army as its own "thing," or the Stone Poneys as their own "thing." Nowadays, people just admit that the Tubeway Army was basically Gary Numan, or that the Stone Poneys were basically Linda Ronstadt, so the record companies just add "Are Friends Electric?" or "Different Drum" to their artists' respective "best of" compilations and everybody's happy. Besides, didn't Wham! only have three or four hits anyway?

Not so fast, my American friends. Because once again, the Yanks missed out on the early chapter of a revered British performer (or perhaps dodged a bullet?). It is time to tell you about Wham!'s first album, Fantastic. This album spawned not one, not two, but four UK Top Ten singles, none of which made a mark across the pond. Four hit singles? Must have been quite the album, right? Well, once you hear early Wham!, you might understand why George Michael is glad it still bears the name "Wham!" and not "George Michael."

The All Music Guide gives Fantastic one-and-a-half stars. Some excerpts from William Cooper's review:
With Fantastic, George Michael and partner Andrew Ridgeley introduced themselves as leather jacket-clad, street-smart "rebels" ... much of the material on Fantastic suffers from the duo's pretentious, tough-guy posturing ... Michael's smart-aleck, self-conscious lyrics are often unintentionally hilarious ... Fantastic isn't a good album, but it's oddly entertaining ... Unfortunately, that probably wasn't George Michael's intention. But even he might get a good laugh out of it.
And yet, inquiring minds wanted to know, so I gave it a listen. Maybe I have the taste of a three-year-old, but I actually kind of like this shit! What I didn't count on, though ... was the rap.

Oh yes. Before George Michael set his sights on becoming the next Marvin Gaye, apparently he set his sights on becoming the next Sugarhill Gang. If you've ever heard Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and thought, "This is pretty good, but I wish they were white, British, and gay," then Fantastic is the album for you.

Exhibit A: "Young Guns (Go For It!)." It turns out Wham!'s whole illustrious career was, arguably, a BBC programming accident. From Wikipedia:
The song was Wham!'s first hit, although it came with some help from the BBC music programme Top of the Pops, which invited Wham! on to the show as a last-minute replacement for another act which had pulled out. It helped that the producer of Top of the Pops had seen them previously on another programme: Saturday Superstore. Wham! were just outside the Top 40 threshold of the UK Singles Chart at the time, which meant they had not climbed high enough in normal circumstances to get on the show, but they were recruited nonetheless as the highest-placed artists still climbing the charts from outside the 40.
The BBC probably figured, "Well, these guys are obviously a flash-in-the-pan, what's the harm, really?" Once the British viewing audience caught a glimpse of the previously unknown George Michael, who at first glance is wearing a leather vest, although one could arguably claim that the leather vest is wearing him, they surely must have realized that Elvis Costello was not about to perform "Shipbuilding." Throw in a quasi-teddy boy flat-top hairdo, and who could resist?

As for the "rap": it's an anti-marriage, pro-bachelorhood saga pitting the carefree male pal of a young man against that young man's commitment-hungry girlfriend. I mean, yeah. Who wants to marry some girl when you can hang out with your shirtless biker buddy, right?
Hey sucker
(What the hell's got into you?)
Hey sucker
(Now there's nothing you can do)

Well I hadn't seen your face around town awhile
So I greeted you, with a knowing smile
When I saw that girl upon your arm
I knew she won your heart with a fatal charm
I said "Soul Boy, let's hit the town!"
I said "Soul Boy, what's with the frown?"
But in return, all you could say was
"Hi George, meet my fiancee"

Young Guns
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep 'em on the run
Wise guys realize there's danger in emotional ties
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!
For this Top of the Pops performance, Andrew Ridgely attempts to play the uncertain young man, but fittingly, he merely mouths to the sound of George's voice from the studio recording. Also of note: the female in this little drama is played by Shirlie Holliman of future Pepsi & Shirlie fame (the black woman here would soon marry Paul Weller, and Pepsi eventually became her replacement - although Coca-Cola would argue that Pepsi can never be a suitable replacement for anything).

Props to the funky bass player laying down the imitation "Rapper's Delight"/"Good Times" groove while George rocks the mic, but it's the chorus that hints at the silky, soulful George Michael sound to come; check out that tasty self-harmonization on the line "danger in emotional ties." Also, after the exclamation, "Death by matrimony" (clearly the most gruesome kind of death), I like the rapid-fire series of synth notes suggesting wimpy conjugal gunshots. The crowning touch would have to be the rapid flashing of the word "Wham!" repeated across the screen Warhol-style in the final seconds. In short, "Young Guns (Go For It!)," both song and television performance, is the most ridiculous pile of nonsense I have ever seen. Naturally, the song shot to #3 and turned Wham! into megastars.

So hey, why stop rapping now? Because next came "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)," an ode to the joys of registering for unemployment, which I assume in the UK was a bit easier to do than in the US ("DHSS," a chant in the song, stands for Department of Health and Social Security). "Wham Rap!" is sort of a conservative's worst fears realized: if young people can receive money without working, then maybe ... they won't work!
Hey everybody take a look at me
I've got street credibility
I may not have a job
But I have a good time
With the boys that I meet "down on the line"
I said D-H-S-S
Man the rhythm that they're givin'
Is the very best
I said B-1, B-2
Makin' claims on your name's
All you have to do

Wham! Bam!
I am! A man!
Job or no job
You can't tell me that I'm not
Do! You!
Enjoy what you do?
If not, just stop
Don't stay there and rot
I'm not sure if this one is painfully shallow or oddly profound, but I've probably just spent more time analyzing "Wham Rap!" than Wham! themselves ever did. I mean, you could forgive the British public for thinking this "Michael George" fellow wasn't going to last: he's openly bragging about sitting on his ass and not amounting to anything!

The most unintentionally revealing moment in the video arrives at 2:20, after the lyrics "If you're a pub man/Or a club man/Maybe a jet black guy with a hip hi-fi/A white cool cat with a trilby hat/Maybe leather and studs is where you're at," when Mr. Michael promptly appears in leather trousers, jacket, and cap, looking a little too comfortable for the occasion.

In hindsight, it's tempting to ask oneself, "How could people not realize that he ... you know ... 'buttered his toast with the other side of the knife,' " but I think this topic was a little trickier back then, because, let's face it, most British male pop singers of that era came off as slightly gay anyway. Quick: name one that didn't come off as slightly gay. Adam Ant? Nope. Robert Smith? Nope. That guy from the Human League? Nope. Sting? Nope. Probably Phil Collins, and that's about it.

Professor Higglediggle provides the appropriate cultural perspective. From Father Figure:
By appropriating African-American inner city culture and transmogrifying it into coded homosexual behavioral tropes, Wham! turned embryonic Old School hip-hop into a Hegelian dialectic between black struggle and British effeminacy. The vernacular of the "street" became the vernacular of the "bath house." With "Young Guns (Go For It)" and "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)," Michael and Ridgeley subverted the macho braggadocio of Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC and utilized it to dance along the liminal space between hetero-normative cool and the outlandishness of Queer Theory. They dared to suggest, to a nescient public, that one could indeed embody both "gay" ... and "ghetto."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thus Spoke Zrbothustra (after the rain)

“Silence is worse; all truths that are kept silent become poisonous.” - Friedrick Nietzsche

I suppose it's time to break that silence. Yes, your good pal Herr Zrbo is here, after a long bout of ... having a kid.  I am now indeed a father to a little Gollum of a daughter. Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves here - I don't know just how much I'll be contributing now that I'm back, but you'll at least see my annual favorite songs of the year returning shortly. But enough with the small talk, let's get to what we really came here for:

After the drenching rains we've recently had come through California (not that that's where we're based, we are Cosmic Americans after all, adrift in both time and space) I caught myself singing Nelson's "After the Rain." The last time that Little Earl and I met during our annual Cosmological Congress I mentioned to him how I was currently into rock music from right before when Nirvana/"alternative music" hit the airwaves in the early '90s - those last glorious days when the '80s and its associated "hair metal" took one final breath before suffocating under the rain-drenched mopings of Seattle-based grunge.

Nelson are a perfect fit in this category that I don't have a name for (late hair metal?). Identical twin brothers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson were one of the last hair metal bands with a hit. The single "After the Rain" hit #6 on Billboard in late June of 1990, with their other hit "Love and Affection" hitting number #1. This put Nelson into the history books - well, at least the Guinness Book of World Records - as being the only family to reach number one record status in three successive generations (Ozzie and Harriet Nelson being the first, their father Ricky Nelson the second). Just over a year later, in September of 1991, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" would hit America by storm. Coincidentally, the album After the Rain remained in the charts for 64 weeks. You do the math.

Let's just watch this beast of a video. That opening with the drunk belligerent stepdad in what I presume is a trailer is pretty dark stuff. It's certainly not a tacky '80s anti-drug commercial. Yeah kid, go listen to that Nelson on your headphones, because when the song is over you're still going to be living in a nightmarish shit hole.

But then.. the kid is off on a hilarious vision quest complete with Native American appropriation. But... who are those two identical dreamboats with the outrageously long blond hair? Why, it's Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, sons of teen idol Ricky Nelson!

And what locks of hair they are! What teenage girl wouldn't go head over heels for Nelson? That's fairly indicative of late hair metal as well; it seemed increasingly tailored to a female audience. Just check out nearly any song by contemporaries Slaughter or Winger - these songs are made for chicks to dig, you dig? Don't believe me? How about that Full House episode where DJ scores tickets to see Slaughter. If you were a hair metal rocker in 1990 America, you could have any 13 year old girl you wanted. Seriously. (Confession time: little Zrbo really liked Nelson as well).

Back to the video. Enter: the arena. Yes, another staple of any good hair metal video is to highlight your band's "live" chops by having the video filmed "live" in a massive arena filled with adoring fans. Look at the smoke, look at the lights, look at those explosions, look at all the people having fun ... all in some sort of rock garden arena!

It's the little things:
  • The long velour coats that match the softness of Nelson's hair
  • One band member didn't get the memo and brought along his acoustic guitar
  • @3:28 The classic hair metal video trope of the drummer pointing the stick at the camera
  • @3:54 There's a Yacht Rocker in the audience... or at least a guy sporting a Captain's hat
  • @4:10 Are they identical twins or are they lovers 'cause they're getting awfully close
And then the kid wakens back in his shit hole - was it all just a dream? But what's this! What a twist!

And that's it for our time with Nelson. I think you can still see them performing at the Santa Cruz boardwalk on occasion, watery remnants of a time when big hair was the thing. These washed out rockers pouring out their hearts in a gush, no, a rain of emotions. All right, enough water-based puns for now. Back to the Gollum.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Meet James Mason: Belinda Carlisle's Father-In-Law

Yes, meet James Mason - although Belinda herself never did: he died only a few months before Belinda and his son Morgan's paths ever crossed. Ah, but the boundaries of connection often have a way of extending far beyond this mortal coil, and so, despite the esteemed British actors' (most likely) complete ignorance of a certain '80s all-girl New Wave band, he and that band's lead singer will be forever linked in the celebrity family tree.

In an era when major Hollywood leading men (like Paul Newman, William Holden, or Burt Lancaster) were relatively straightforward and conventionally masculine, James Mason was a bit of, shall we say, an "Odd Man Out." I'm sure at various times he must have played more conventional heroes, but if so, those aren't the roles for which he's remembered. No, Mason was the inscrutable English gentleman, part ambivalent anti-hero, part seething everyman. He spoke with an immediately recognizable and often imitated wheezy refinement, as if he'd turned his natural lung power down from a 10 to about an 8. Even when he was professing his undying love for someone, he always seemed like he was about five seconds away from sending in the pit bulls to tear her limbs apart. Underneath the surface, his characters might have been pathetic victims or evil geniuses, but you usually needed about twenty minutes to figure out which one it was going to be.

His wishy-washy intellectualism was perfect for the role of Brutus in 1953's Julius Caesar, a Shakespeare adaptation that everyone in Hollywood thought was going to be a prestigious flop, but turned out to be a surprise hit. Or rather, everyone thought that the casting of Marlon Brando ("that no good, mumbling, Method acting punk from A Streetcar Named Desire, who didn't even seem like he could stand up straight to save his life!") as Marc Anthony was the worst casting decision in the history of cinema. But about halfway through the film, Brando not only demonstrated that he could learn his lines, he could deliver them better than the creme de la creme of British theatre legends surrounding him. Dude could set that iambic pentameter on fire. Although it was Brando who received top billing (and stole the buzz), in terms of total screen time, Mason was essentially the lead. Sure, he didn't bring the raw sex appeal, but he brought the tortured British grativas. Brutus is that special, unique politician who carefully thinks all his actions through, has all the right motives, even has the genuine long-term interests of the public at heart, and yet still does the wrong thing (you know, murder somebody). Nobody could do "guilt-ridden philosopher-statesman" like my boy James.

Just a year later, Mason again ended up being overshadowed by another co-star, and another legendarily volatile Hollywood icon, Judy Garland, in 1954's A Star Is Born. Ironically, it was the more stable Mason who played the declining film actor Norman Maine, while the doomed Garland played the young starlet Esther Blodgett, whose fame quickly surpasses that of her mentor/lover. I remember Garland doing a lot of singing, but unfortunately I don't recall Mason giving the ol' razzle dazzle a try. Mostly he just slowly, agonizingly self-destructs. There are about an hour's worth of scenes in which Norman somehow embarrasses Esther in public, whines about how terrible he feels about it, claims that she'd be better off without him, and then does something embarrassing again. You want the dark side of the Hollywood dream? Mason is your man.

The award for "Best Cortisone Addiction Movie" has to go to 1956's Bigger Than Life - which Mason also produced and co-wrote - in which Mason plays yer all-American dad (with an incongruous English accent) who slowly loses his marbles after becoming addicted to the experimental new prescription drug. Although the film was ostensibly a searing family drama, I think director Nicholas Ray secretly played certain scenes for laughs, such as the infamous climax in which Mason goes so far off his rocker that he threatens to sacrifice his own son to God with a pair of scissors. Yep, this one was out there.

More nakedly out there, but no less controversial for it, was Kubrick's 1962 adaptation of Lolita, in which Mason plays the one and only Humbert Humbert. I remember reading Lolita and thinking, "Well, even though I already know that James Mason plays Humbert Humbert in the movie, honestly, if I could have cast anyone as Humbert Humbert ... I think I would have gone with James Mason!" He has just the right mixture of erudition, class, caution, and buried perversity. For two-and-a-half hours, Humbert's ambitions are continuously thwarted, as he attempts to outwit Lolita's mother, the mysterious rival Clare Quilty, and Lolita's own faltering interest. You'll never root so hard for a pedophile in your life.

And that's just the tip of the James Mason iceberg. We've got North By Northwest, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Georgy Girl, The Verdict - look, I haven't even seen most of these. Apparently the man was not picky with his roles; that's how his filmography includes such titles as Escape From Zahrain, The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go, Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!, The Flower in His Mouth, Evil Under the Sun, and Hot Stuff. Certain British thespians who made the transition to Hollywood (such as Laurence Olivier or Alec Guinness) might have expressed some concern at the effect their roles would end up having on their acting reputation; James Mason was not one of those people. He was like the Nicolas Cage of his day: send him a script, and it was as good as a "Yes."

But sadly, or perhaps mercifully, the role of father-in-law to the Queen of Yuppie Rock is the one role he never got the chance to play. I'm inclined to believe that if he'd lived to see it, the story of his son and new bride would have struck him as one even more implausible than the most far-fetched plots in his tawdriest of film scripts.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Les Boys": Knopfler Goes Fosse?

If Side 1 of Making Movies is like the original Star Wars trilogy, Side 2 is more like the prequels: ostensibly cut from the same cloth, not as good, but still kind of enjoyable if you're high enough. All right, fine, the four remaining songs aren't really that disappointing. "Expresso Love" is a nice mid-tempo rocker that probably sounds too much like "Tunnel of Love" for my taste. Come on Mark, you're supposed to wait at least one album before you rip yourself off. It might be the closest thing to a "happy" love song on Making Movies, but Knopfler delivers the seemingly optimistic lyrics ("She was made in heaven/Heaven's in the world/Is this just expresso love?/You know I'm crazy for that girl") with plenty of uncertainty and caution. He's flying high on a new fling, but maybe that's just the caffeine talking.

If "Hand In Hand" is probably my least favorite cut on the album, I'm not saying that I skip it. Roy Bittan provides some nice piano tinkling, but doesn't it feel like Knopfler is preparing himself for his inevitable foray into Adult Contemporaryland? With its break-up sentiments, it certainly fits the mood though ("If I've been hard on you, I never chose to be/I never wanted no one else/I tried my best to be somebody you'd be close to/Hand in hand like lovers are supposed to").

Although "Solid Rock" is actually about Knopfler's longing for emotional and/or geological stability, and is not an attempt to describe its own musical qualities, with its chuggin Stonesy energy, the song is more or less a chunk of "rock" that is "solid." He's moved on from obsessing about a particular woman and is now trying to formulate a more universal state of mind through which he can deal with "struggle and strife," as he would put it later:
Because the heart that you break
That's the one that you rely on
The bed that you make
That's the one you gotta lie on
When you point your finger 'cause your plan fell through
You got three more fingers pointing back at you

What about the fifth finger? Has it been severed in a horrific accident? Anyway, if Side 2 is like the Star Wars prequels, then the closing track, "Les Boys," is like Revenge of the Sith. And you know what? I enjoyed Revenge of the Sith! But not every Star Wars fan did, and not everybody enjoys "Les Boys." Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes that "the record runs out of steam toward the end, closing with the borderline offensive 'Les Boys' ..." You know what I say? Borderline offensive is the best kind of offensive.

"Les Boys" is, apparently, Knopfler's semi-affectionate ode to German gay bars:
Les boys do cabaret
Les boys are glad to be gay
They're not afraid now
Disco bar in Germany
Les boys are glad to be
Up on parade now

Les boys got leather straps
Les boys got SS caps
But they got no gun now
Get dressed up, get a little risque
Got to do a little S&M these days
It's all in fun now

Les boys come on again
For the high class whores
And the businessmen
Who drive in their Mercedes Benz
To a disco bar in old Munchen

They get the jokes that the D.J. makes
They get nervous and they make mistakes
They're bad for business
Some tourists take a photograph
Les boys don't get one laugh
He says they're useless

Late at night when they've gone away
Les boys dream of Jean Genet
High heel shoes and a black beret
And the posters on the wall that say
Les boys do cabaret
Les boys are glad to be gay
Say what? Did Knopfler accidentally cover an unreleased David Bowie song? How did we go from abandoned fairgrounds in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to disco clubs in Munich? If each song on the album is a miniature "movie," then this one stars Liza Minnelli and she's wearing lacy black stockings and a bowler hat. And Chet Atkins is sitting in the corner for some reason.

If Making Movies is a great "break-up album," one could argue that "Les Boys" has absolutely nothing to do with relationships or heartbreak and is therefore completely out of place on it. But on an album that's otherwise so heavy, I find "Les Boys" a refreshing change of pace. It is so goofy, so playful, whenever it comes on, I just have to smile. I can almost hear Monty Python announcing, "And now for something completely different!" You know what it is? It's campy. And how many Dire Straits songs could you say are campy?

But on a deeper level, I think this song is more related to the albums' themes than it might initially seem to be. I feel like "Les Boys" is Knopfler's way of saying that, despite all the pain that comes from relationships (which he's just spent the previous six songs describing), eventually you can come out of it OK and enjoy life a little. Yeah, it isn't quite On The Beach and "Ambulance Blues," but if it's always darkest before the dawn, "Les Boys" is like Making Movies' silly little dawn. Knopfler spends most of the album wrestling with the concept of romance, and he struggles to reconcile the ideal with the reality. Suddenly, he's in a gay club in Munich, watching this freaky subculture appropriate Nazi imagery for kinky giggles, and quite obviously, these guys aren't trying to reconcile anything with anything. Why take love so seriously? Maybe it's supposed to be messy. Maybe it's supposed to be illogical. Maybe it's all just a farce. Maybe love isn't a movie, and what we really need to do is just throw out the script. Maybe Les Boys ... are really on to something.