Frank Doris’s Best of ’17
Kraftwerk: The Catalogue 3-D (Blu-ray)
I admit it—I love Kraftwerk. They’re astoundingly brilliant and innovative, creators of a prescient synthesizer-based musical world that is still galaxies apart from all others. The Catalogue 3-D Blu-ray set contains all eight of Kraftwerk’s officially-sanctioned albums performed live in concert, reworked and remodeled in arrangements that advance their electro-futuristic music even further.
In these shows, the band blends classic Kraftwerk sounds like their hallmark vocoder robot voices, the massive synth bass line of “Autobahn,” and the bloops and ticks of “Numbers,” with a dazzling array of newly created synthetic and electronic sounds, beats, and textures. As a result, the music sounds not only up-to-the-second but still years ahead of its time.
The Dolby Atmos (5.1- and stereo-compatible) surround audio is remarkably immersive, each track a painstakingly crafted sonic virtual reality where ever-morphing sounds come from anywhere and everywhere. The retro-minimalist visuals (viewable in 3D on a compatible video system) perfectly complement the pristine, deep, extended, intensely dynamic sound.
The Deuce (HBO)
I have to confess I haven’t watched the last three episodes yet, but it doesn’t take very long to see that this series about the rise (ahem) of the porn industry in Manhattan’s Times Square in the 1970s plays more like a voyeuristic glimpse into real life than a TV series. It’s frank, rough, and unflinching. James Franco is both gritty and funny as twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino as they get pulled into a far bigger and badder world than the street life they were used to. Maggie Gyllenhaal deserves an Emmy (as others have pointed out) for her sensational portrayal of Candy, a streetwalker who’s smarter and more ambitious than any ten of her peers.
The supporting roles are unerringly cast, bringing a multifaceted humanity to the characters and their lives and motivations. (Why would anyone want to live as a prostitute?) The Deuce (the nickname for Manhattan’s 42nd Street) is disturbing, funny, nuanced, enlightening.
Oh yeah—as a lifelong New Yorker I can tell you that this series is no exaggerated Hollywood-ized fantasy portrayal. Times Square really was that dirty, garbage-strewn, and sleazy back in the day.
The Punisher (Netflix)
Yeah, it’s violent. Extremely so. Yeah, it raises some tough and not-too-pleasant questions about morality, society, and human nature. But it’s exceptionally well written, produced, and acted, with plausible storylines and well-drawn characters with motivations you can understand even if you don’t agree with them. Jon Bernthal absolutely inhabits the role of Frank Castle, The Punisher, with complexity, conflict, and, yes, nuance—he’s no one-dimensional, unfeeling one-man revenge machine. There are dozens of edge-of-your-seat moments.
The cinematography is superb. Countless movies and TV shows have used Manhattan as a cinematic backdrop, but here, as in the companion Marvel/Netflix series Daredevil, the location shooting and interiors make it feel like the show simply couldn’t have been filmed anywhere else.
Did I mention it’s violent? Watching the fight scenes may feel cathartic after a bad day at the office, but I’d think twice about letting your children watch.
OK, I know this isn’t a new thing, but 2017 was the first year I got into streaming audio in a big way, trying Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora, and Spotify on various devices. While I have a major problem with artists getting paid disgracefully small royalties from these services (I fervently hope there will be a course-correction soon), I just love the ability to immediately access tons and tons of songs, and deeper catalogs than even a short while ago. (Note that I’m talking about streaming, not downloading, which can be . . . more complicated.) The sound quality varies, but it’s serviceable at the least and hi-rez satisfying at best. But none of the providers have “Farmer John” by the Tidal Waves or “Fool” by China Crisis yet, so they ain’t perfect.
Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.