Category Archives: 1989

The ‘Burbs.

The ‘Burbs. A film by Joe Dante.


I grew up in what was by no means the rural outskirts of a city and was not within sixty miles of what the government class as a city in England, but it certainly had that feel about it. My childhood residence was in a cul-de-sac so this movie has a very close place not only in my funny bone but also to my youthful years. My folks were by no means people who would twitch curtains and are not what I would call nosy but they certainly had an interest in what went on and still goes on in their little corner of the world. The Burbs takes this nosy neighbour idea, multiplies it by a considerable number, adds paranoia and general boredom to the character’s lives and tops it off with a very American cold war unease but without the actual threat.

What makes this Movie so enjoyable for me is not the plot, as it is pretty singular and you think is only ever going to come to one conclusion, but the different characters that interact within the piece. Each member of the neighbourhood adds their own elements to the story and the comedy, the stressed business man who is taking a week off work to relax only to have his plans dashed by his interfering neighbours. His wife who can see her husband getting more and more worked up by the events unfolding before her and continuously tries to help him relax. The two main culprits that drag her husband into all the stupid games are a Korean War veteran with every type of military equipment available for them to do all the spying that want and his partner in crime a bored house husband with too much time on his hands and an overactive imagination. With the laid-back teenager, painting his parent’s house for the summer whilst they are away, looking in on the whole scenario as if he is almost part of the audience. All of them are spying on and surmising over the movements and habits of the less than social new family on the street with the run down house and unkempt lawn. It is this lack of social interaction that brings about the main plot device. Who are the Klopek’s? When did they move in and how many of them are there?

What I think also draws me to it are the subtle underlying levels of horror and peril that are thrown in throughout posing a very real question that we must all ask ourselves at times. How well do we actually know our neighbours? You may disagree, thinking that it is merely a comedy, but I think that there is a very fine line between horror and comedy. This seems to be a running theme throughout many of Joe Dante’s movies, Gremlins, Innerspace and The Howling all having their roots grounded in comedy but including sinister undertone.

A number of people within my social circle all share the same appreciation for this movie as I do and we have been known to spend an overly long time discussing it, sometimes on a meaningful level, but mostly with jovial recollection.  One of my sisters used to sit and watch it with me when we were younger and my wife beamed about the fond memories the movie gave her the first time we discussed it. A number of my close friends all perk up and discuss it at length when it enters conversation. However, I have also seen people give a very negative opinion about the film and as with most comedy the humour in it is not for everyone. Many a time my sister and I would be watching the movie when my Mother would enter the room and state ‘I hate this film’ in her broad Geordie accent before turning around and exiting the lounge as soon as possible. Another of my sister’s also use to leave the room if we decided ‘The Burbs’ was what was going to be watched, although a lot less vocally than Mum.

The paranoia of the unknown neighbours takes the lead characters measures of finding out more about the Klopek’s to the extreme when they start using night vision goggles to spy on them in the dark. Slip notes under the outcast’s front door, ringing the door bell and then running away like a group of mischievous schoolboys. Forcibly stopping the Bin men from doing their jobs by going through the Klopek’s bins in the middle of the street, in search of any shred of incriminating evidence they can find.

When an elderly neighbour’s dog shows up cold and shaking they presume the worst, thinking that his absence is down to the Klopek’s, so they take it on themselves to check and see if the he is okay. After some snooping around and some breaking and entering they get into the house. Signs of a struggle in the lounge area send the imaginations of the group into overdrive and a whole new bunch of even more outrageous ideas are hatched.

The wives are more sceptical, deciding to put a stop to everything by inviting themselves over to the new Neighbours house and cooking Brownies as a greeting gift. The Klopek’s very reservedly invited their neighbours in offering them pretzels and sardines. What follows are in my opinion moments of comedy gold. Awkward silences and stumbled attempts at pleasantries are the crux of the scene with the social inadequacies of the new family made even more apparent by the invasion of their home. The evening ends when an uninvited guest makes a rather loud entrance through the back garden.

Having had a chance to snoop around the Klopek’s house the husbands hatch a plot to have a more though look around the house when the occupants are away on business the very next day. Again, moments of comic genius unfurl in an over the top and very Hollywood ending.

My conclusion is that if you are at a loss for something to do this coming Sunday why not get hold of a copy of the ‘Burbs, leave all sensible thinking behind you and enjoy this little gem.


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Bleach by Nirvana. 1989

Bleach by Nirvana. 1989.


This article is for those of you out there whose love of Music did not start after hearing the opening bars of Smells Like Teen Spirit which left them obsessed with a 3 piece Garage band from Seattle for most of their adolescent life. My aim is to give you the reader an insight into an album that is largely disregarded due to the popularity of the two preceding studio albums from Nirvana. I feel that people should take an hour out of their busy lives and listen to each of Nirvana’s studio albums and unplugged in New York at least once. But with this article I would like to concentrate on their debut and probably least revered album, Bleach.

Released in June 1989 it received positive reviews but failed to reach the US Billboard album charts selling 40,000 copies in North America. Its bleak lyrics and heavy riffs were at the time competing against albums such as Madonna’s Like a Prayer, Queen’s The Miracle and Aerosmith’s Pump, and the mainstream market was not quite ready for this sound. It would only gain recognition firstly after the release of Nirvana’s second album Nevermind when Bleach was re-released in 1992 and then later after the Death of Kurt Cobain, where all material by the trio was bought en masse. Bleach subsequently reach number 6 in the Top Pop Catalog Chart and sold over 4.0 Million copies worldwide.

But enough statistics!

Let me tell you what I love about this album. From it’s opening Bass riff it drags you down into a beautifully bleak sound that is not quite Heavy Metal, nor is it Rock but the foundations of an entire Genre that would rise out of the rainy region of the Pacific North West of America. Grunge.

I will admit that I probably did not own this album until maybe 1992 or ’93 but in my defense I was 8 years old when it was released and at the time was still worshiping 4 mutated reptilian New Yorkers. Even after it became part of my ever expanding music collection it was hard to see past Nevermind. However my years have learned me and made me realise that although Nevermind is a masterpiece my love of Bleach and In Utero runs deeper. Whether it is because I played Nevermind too much? Probably! Bleach just has that raw energy to it that comes so often with debut albums.

Normally reviewers will advise certain songs that you should skip to because they jump out at that person when listening but I feel that the album has a wonderful fluidity about it and should be enjoyed in its entirety on the first consumption. Picking it apart would be an injustice to the piece of work as often in this MP3 age tracks of albums are disregarded because people are not familiar with them or have not found the time to truly listen. But as this is a review I will list a few of the songs that people should pay specific attention too.

We open with, Blew. Krist Novoselic delivering a truly dirty opening Bass riff  before bursting into life with electric guitar, feedback, drums and rough vocals. It has an almost anthem sound to it and is a true classic that purely and simply starts the whole thing off. Then comes Floyd The Barber that chugs along at a more melodic pace. The first verse begins with the story of a man going to get a wet shave, by verse two it has moved onto the man being strapped into the Barber chair and then sexually molested. And by the third verse the Barber has been joined by his friends where they take turns torturing and finally murdering the man. About a Girl which is arguably one of Nirvana’s finest pieces of work and could be called the calm amongst the storm on this relentlessly heavy album is proven so by the exquisite acoustic version performed in New York during their Unplugged set. It was also used in one of the Guitar Hero games for all of you out there that need a popular culture reference to help you along. Negative Creep which is a lyrically cynical attack on Cobain himself and his own personality flaws, a reoccurring theme across all of his songwriting. It is also one of the heaviest tracks on the album which has lead to it being covered by the Californian Metal band Machine Head. You might also want to check out School, Love Buzz, Swap Meet. In truth I could name all 13 tracks on the Album and point out the pro’s of each but I don’t think that would make for an interesting read. Instead I will leave the conclusions of the reader and their opinions down to their ears and whether they feel inspired or repelled by this article.

I would like to think that you would be able to pick this album up for a couple of quid in a back row of any Independent record shop but sadly this is probably not the case. However, with the wonders of the World Wide Web a copy could easily be delivered to your doorstep with a minimal drain on your income. I would be equally surprised if you can’t find a friend who has the album stored away ready for an all important nostalgic day. If you don’t know anyone who would have it in their record collection then you need to search out and discover better friends.

Finally, I think that I should add something profound to get you to acknowledge this album if the ramblings above haven’t done so already. Nirvana may have ignited the World music stage back in 1991 with the release of Nevermind but it was back in 1989 when Bleach debuted that the fuse was truly lit.