Terrapin Terrors: Playmates’ TMNT Monsters + Mutants Figures

teenage mutant ninja turtles, nickelodeon, playmates toys

Playmates Toys’ TMNT Mickey Werewolf is on the prowl this Halloween

Spooky Sunday #3…
Our weekly Halloween advent continues with a look at Nickelodeon’s fifth season of Tales of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which ties up the Monsters + Mutants story arc. Our fearful feature is illustrated by home brewed photos of Playmates Toys awesome action figures that mirror the TMNT plot line.

It’s Halloween night, trick or treaters are afoot, but New York City is being attacked by real monsters. No one is safe. Even TMNT compadres April & Casey have been turned into vicious vampires. Not so surprising that the evil Savanti Romero is behind the mayhem. Aided by time traveler Renet, our heroes – those green teen pizza eatin’ machines – are back to battle classic creepers, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy and Werewolf. Along the way we’re treated to a fast paced, pun filled, thrill ride that takes us through time and across the globe in an attempt to stop Romero from recruiting the creatures into his legion. It’s a concept not unlike Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, which is my all-time favorite seasonal story. Solid animation, visual nods to original source materials, and quality voice talent make the series a great watch for kids and parents as well. “Monster Kid” Dads and Grand-Dads will positively love it.

teenage mutant ninja turtles, nickeloedeon, playmates toys

Playmates Toys’ TMNT FrankenDon action figure is ready for his close-up.

Shell Games…
Playmates Toys let’s you bring the Mutants and Monsters action home with six figures based on the series.

Each turtle is presented in mutated monster form. There’s Vampire Raph, FrankenDon, Mummy Leo, and following in the footsteps of those other two Michael’s (Landon & J. Fox) is teenage Werewolf Mickey. Raphael and Leo are also available in their Van Helsing “Monster Hunter” personas. In true Nickelodeon “Stay 90’s” fashion the series harks back to TMNT’s previous Universal Monsters characterizations.

There are some fun accessories in every package. Werewolf Mikey sports a monogramed varsity jacket, a pair of boney nunchuks and the ubiquitous slice of pizza. In addition to his sarcophagus wrappings the Mutant Mummy Leo is ringed by a golden cobra and sports a scarab. Vampire Raph is accompanied by a companion bat which attaches to his shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. He wears a real cloth cloak. Man-made monster FrankenDon is ready to take a powerful energizing lightning charge through the single bolt on top of his noggin, and the power modules on his shell.

The approximately 5.5 inch figures are suggested for children ages 4 years and older. They have a nice chunky feel and plenty of articulation points. They are easy to manipulate and hold their poses quite nicely. I was able to get to them to stand on their own easily during the photo sessions. Sculpt details, like FrankenDon’s stitches and the garlic bulbs hanging from Vampire hunter Raph’s utility belt, are very nice touches that add lots of collectors item class to these reasonably priced products.

Monsters + Mutants figures can be found at major retailers including Walmart, Target, Toys“R”Us  and on Amazon for $8.99 each. They join Playmates’ recent portrayals of the turtle team as samurai warriors (with a great Yusagi Yojimbo tie-in) and as well known members of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.).

teenage mutant ninja turtles, nickelodeon, playmates toys

SkeletonPete Says…
With limited “studio” space at the SkeletonPete abode, tabletop toy photography is exactly that, an endeavor that engulfs the entire dining room table. The fun part of these projects is repurposing regular household items to serve as appropriate looking props. With attention to depth-of-field choices most items are blurred just enough to trick the eye.

Serendipity plays a big role, everything that happens to be within reach is up for consideration. For instance, a recent “paint night” canvas that my wife created, with its orange moon and indigo sky, served as a perfect backdrop for Werewolf Mikey. FrankenDon’s castle walls are foam core flats I painted for a Halloween gig Andy and I did years ago with our cover band Firing Blind. A purple gell over the background flash matched Donatello’s mask and the Kenneth Strickfaden inspired laboratory apparatus is a mix of candy jars, salt shakers, spray bottles and aluminum foil.

teenage mutant ninja turtles, nickeloedeon, playmates toys

Behind the Scenes: The dining room table doubles as toy photography studio.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman is one of my favorite Universal Monster movies. I remember as a pre-teen having a “Monster Flip Book” (think of it as a really old-school gif) that featured frame blow-ups of the two tearing it up during the film’s climax. I pretty much wore it to shreds. So I absolutely had to attempt my own version of a peak battle moment, when the Wolfman prepares to pounce as water from the burst damn begins to flood the laboratory.

I’ll definitely be photographing the Leo Mummy and Vampire Raph figures in the near future and will be happy to share the results here.

teenage mutant ninja turtles, nickelodeon, playmates toys

My TMNT Toy Photography homage to Universal Film’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman

Click Any Image to Launch the Gallery

Beautiful Dreamer Wake Unto Me: Dream Syndicate 30 Years On

dream syndicate, anti- records, how did i find myself here

Meme-A-Fied, not Mummified. Dream Syndicate return with “How Did I Find My Way Here?” after 30 Years.

The Dream Syndicate
How Did I Find Myself Here?
ANTI- Records
Release Date: September 8, 2017

Steve Wynn: Guitar, vocals
Dennis Duck: Drums
Mark Walton: bass
Jason Victor: Guitar

Kendra Smith: Vocals on “Kendra’s Dream”
Chris Cacavas: Keyboards

Produced by Dream Syndicate & Chris Cacavas

October Surprise…
I recently popped into my Apple Music account to add “Halloween,” a favorite track by The Dream Syndicate, to a seasonally appropriate playlist, and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a new album by that very band. What a surprise. How Did I Find Myself Here? is the title, and also the question I asked myself because this is their first new release in nearly three decades.

30 years hasn’t knocked any of the edges off of Dream Syndicate’s brand of noir psychedelia. Opening track “Filter Me through You” walks the listener through an intertwining haze of angular guitar work. Fans of mid-period albums by The Church (Gold Afternoon Fix, Priest=Aura) will recognize this sound space. It’s lyrics, “Slice myself thin, so I can live beneath your skin,” remind me of The Soft Boys similar take on the nature of infatuation, “Kingdom of Love.” It has already found me hitting the single track loop icon.

I’ve always found it perplexing that Dream Syndicate was lumped in with the Paisley Underground movement. Geography aside, they share nearly no genre similarities. Their list of personal influences includes NEU!, Gun Club, a far cry from the neo granny glass crowd. In fact Dream Syndicate always had a decidedly more East Coast vibe. A single listen to “Tell Me When It’s Over,” the first song on their 1982 debut album (Days of Wine and Roses) demonstrates a sound more akin to Velvet Underground, Television, and Boston’s The Modern Lovers.

Steve Wynn’s vocals have always tread a line between Tom Verlaine’s bent warble, Jonathan Richman’s adenoidal exclamations and Lou Reed’s laconic Dylan-by-way-of-Long-Island delivery. They all share a meter breaking, prose punctuating, singing style. It’s as much recitation as it is vocalizing that lends itself well to their lyrical story telling. For instance, “80 West” is a dark road scenario introduced by a menacing bass throb. The inner dialog of its frayed nerved protagonist conjures up both the psychological torments of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings and David Lynch’s behind-the-driving-wheel visuals. This guy could be Talking Heads Psycho Killer 30 years on and The Dream Syndicate could have been right at home on stage at the Bang Bang Bar (the Roadhouse) in Twin Peaks: The Return. It’s a missed opportunity that’ll I’ll remedy by tossing this tune into my Lynch themed playlist.

the dream syndicate

The Dream Syndicate (Photo by Carlos Quindos De La Fuente)

Still Playing, Still Dreaming…
On HDIFMH? the band stays true to their original sound but offers up plenty of diversity within those stylistic parameters. “Out My Head” and “The Circle” are driven by a delicious dose of discordance, while “Glide” bathes us in a warm wash of ShoeGaze. (“I don’t have to come down. I just glide.” )

Interviewed about the origins of the project Wynn said, “I tried to imagine the characters and personalities and narratives on The Days of Wine and Roses and then wondered, “well, what ever DID happen to those people? What are they up to now? Did things work out for them?” I just took where I was at and where the band was at back then and turned the hands of the clock forward about 35 years. You know, just like real life.”

Though a rumination on characters from the past, the songs on HDIFMH? never slip into sentimentality. Wynn’s writing reveals Los Angeles roots most when focusing a Raymond Chandler style detective’s eye on the title character of “Like Mary.” It could easily serve as a Philip Marlowe voice-over.

“As soon as the pills kicked in, she decided to go for a ride.
She had pictures of her children, she remembered all of their names.
She knew it was much better for them, but it hurt just the same.”

The 11 minute title track takes the band back to its basement jam roots. It’s set up with an extended intro of fuzzy overdriven guitar lines before the lead vocal arrives to express the lyrical theme. “A prodigal son, who could not go on, how did I find myself here?” The effects-laden instruments float and meander over a steady but loose drum beat. It’s a groove that would be home on The Rolling Stones’ Jamming With Edward (Rolling Stones Records/1972) but would also have been put to great use by DJ’s and samplers had it been dug from the dollar crates back in the previous century.

To complete the circle and create a tail swallowing symbiosis with Days of Wine and Roses, original bassist Kendra Smith returns to co-author and sing lead vocals on the album’s final song, “Kendra’s Dream.” It’s mantra “I keep having the same dream, it’s a beautiful dream.” is sung over a wave of synth pads and pink noise to its fade out.

SkeletonPete Says…
A perfect surprise find for me, How Did I Find Myself Here? is a spot on return to form from a band that deserves much more attention than they have been heretofore afforded. It might be the group’s best record next to their debut. It makes me wish another of my favorite 80’s groups had been kind to me and 2U and taken a 30 year recording hiatus to return with music as excellent as this.

The Dream Syndicate has lined up European Tour & North American Tour dates in support of the album. They start in Norway on October 14. A complete list of dates & venues can be found on their website, linked above.

Clocking in at a single LP’s worth of tunes makes How Did I Find Myself Here? a good candidate for purchase on vinyl. I’m looking forward to grabbing one from their merch table when they come through New York in December.

Spirited Away: A Look Back at the Spooky BBC Series Apparitions

Martin Shaw as Father Jacob in Apparitions

“God will speak! You will listen!”- Father Jacob / Apparitions

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(Don’t) Fear the Riffer: Cutting Edge Expo for Music Gearheads

Fear the Riff Effects Pedal and Gear Expo
Saturday October 7, 2017
11AM through 8PM
(10AM entrance for VIP ticket holders)
Brooklyn Expo Center
79 Franklin Street, Brooklyn, NY
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Blood Simple: Just Play’s “Vampirina” Toys Ready As Disney Junior Series Debuts

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Just Play Toys has plenty of “Vampirina” goodies to compliment the new Disney Junior series.

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