Believe it or not, there are downsides to being a Chimpomatic reviewer. The parties, premieres and indecent proposals all pale into significance when deadline day looms and the Alpha Males at Chimp HQ start bearing teeth. To stay in favour, it is necessary to listen to albums at inappropriate times and locations. For example; The Fucking Champs. As you may have guessed, they don’t do subtle. They don’t do singers either. I guess they believe that singers are for pussies and most definitely not for Fucking Champs. Besides, who needs words when you have a couple of Jock electric guitars beating the shit out of all-comers like a Double Dragon Tag-team (ably assisted by their sidekick Powerdrummerdude).
Yes, there is a time and a place for the Champs and it’s not on a crowded commuter train at 8.30 in the morning (professional courtesy prevents me from playing anything under maximum volume) or at 11.30am whilst trying to see off a particular enthusiastic hangover. No. The Fucking Champs are most definitely a band for the night before - this is music for movie double acts: Bill and Ted. Wayne and Garth. For all the dudes that like to R.O.F’ing.K!
I feel bad about rating this; like the old codger telling those darned kids to turn the party down AGAIN. But those leading chimps are showing signs of chest-beating with all these recent stars flying round and it is pretty one-dimensional (unless you count the Brian May-esque guitar duet of Abide with Me as another dimension) with its (party) Time and (ice cold and refreshing) Place.
But hey. Ratings are probably for pussies too. The Fucking Champs are here to take over the world, so you might as well shotgun a brewski and join ‘em.
Listening to Beyond, the first album featuring the original 3 members of Dinosaur Jr (J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph) since 1988’s Bug (and a subsequent falling out), I was going to write at length about an old interview with Mascis on Snub TV - but, sure enough, YouTube and Wikipedia fill in the back story there. What struck me was the stark contrast between Mascis the interviewee and Mascis the musician. As he himself points out “There’s nothing going on anywhere really, so you might as well sit where you are.” I can’t imagine the Mascis School of Motivation is over subscribed, but put a guitar in the man’s hands and he’s off and running, screaming fury and love, all articulated over the space of 6 strings and a fretboard.
This is what we want from Dinosaur Jr. Mascis’ shy, laid-back but sweet vocals, hiding behind some simply stunning electric guitar work. Extended solos and walls of effects might be the stuff of Spinal Tap gimmicks and indeed Barlow himself had a couple of digs at Mascis when first starting up ‘rival’ band Sebadoh (“Pedal hopping like a Dinosaur” he sings on Gimmie Indie Rock), but such is Mascis’ mastery that the guitar is the integral part, the character and essence of each song. Now, with Murph back behind the drums and Barlow, surely one of the hardest Bassists around (in playing, if not fighting terms), reconciled and ready to rock, the rhythm section is there to add the muscle behind Mascis’ wanderings and meanderings - you want a power trio? Here you are.
After almost 20 years apart it is in-keeping with the Mascis’ persona that the first song is called Almost Ready and yep, we’re straight into a blistering solo and ‘immediate classic’ territory. Almost Ready kicks down the door of Indie Rock 2007 and politely screams ‘What the fuck’s up with this party?’ Less of an edge, but no slacking in quality for the poppier Crumble. Then early favourite Pick Me Up - 6 and a half minutes and what a journey. The opening riff could be lifted from a scene in an 80s movie, where the baddie is finally getting the upper hand, all adrenaline and activity, working through a chorus that sees Mascis singing - dueting with his guitar before concluding with a 3 minute guitar solo (that’s three minutes). Awesome. Play it alongside No More Shoes by Stephen Malkmus to get an idea what these two heroes are all about.
After all that hi-octane, it’s time to bring things down a bit, with Lou taking over vocal duties on Back to Your Heart. I’m on record as a huge fan of Sebadoh and a large part of that is down to Barlow’s song writing - so when he’s backed by the power of Dinosaur Jr. it’s a no-lose situation. This Is All I Came To Do lifts the mood again and whilst the title may or may not refer to guitar solo-work, the song contains a couple of beauties. Drummer Murph gets to flex on Been There All the Time, laying down some powerful rolls as the band rock out. Hard. Mixing things up, they follow the harder, darker, metal-er(?) It’s Me with the light and airy We’re Not Alone and I Got Lost, which has Mascis’ falsetto voice, sitting atop acoustic guitar, tom rolls and a cello. Lou and his bass take centre-stage for Lighning Bulb before What if I Knew bids us fairwell in the way Mascis knows best…that’s right, a blistering solo.
It’s good to have them back. Since re-forming in 2005, they are amongst a very select group of bands I HAVE to see if they tour near me - and I look forward to seeing them punishing the Marshall Stacks with Beyond.
Moby Dick Club, Madrid
“The latest revelations from Great Britain!” or so say the posters outside the Moby Dick club, nautically themed and one of the better live music venues in Madrid. I have no idea if they are setting scenes on fire in the uk, but they’ve just come back from the South by Southwest festival in Texas, invitations for which are generally only handed out to those ‘buzz’ bands looking to arouse industry suits. And it’s easy to get a buzz from Hot Club de Paris, influenced by the likes of Minutemen, Don Caballero and Shellac, theirs are short, energetic, jerky songs but with the charm and wit of their Merseyside roots never far away.
They begin with an off-mic a capella, in which they introduce themselves and then get down to business reeling out most of the songs from their debut album Drop It ’Til It Pops mixing it up with a bit more a capella, some jokes, a spot of Q and A with the audience and rounding things off nicely with last single Shipwrecked, leaving the typically quiet but appreciative Madrid crowd that little bit happier than they had been 45 minutes earlier.
Check out Archives, the new band from ex Band of Horse, Matt Brooke. Great stuff.
Also coming your way is the recently (re)mastered album from Jim James's pre-My Morning Jacket band Mont De Sundua. Slightly sub-My Morning Jacket perhaps, but then you could say that about Band of Horses and it would be a compliment.
Olé! Matador do it again. Since its formation in 1989, the New York label has maintained its position as one of the main players in Independent underground garage rock n roll whatever you want to call it. Such luminaries as Superchunk, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Pavement have passed through their doors and now, as the good music revolution version 3.0 keeps on rocking, they show no sign of dropping the ball.
Hot on the heels of the fantastic album by The Ponys, Matador have now added Melbourne 3 piece Love of Diagrams to the stable. As CSF has already posted, they are probably tired of the Gang of Four comparisons, so I won’t tire them further with that one. But there is no getting away from their stripped down sound of driving bass, urgent drums and sparse, reverbed guitars underneath it all, with Guitarist Luke Horton and Bassist Antonia Sellbach sharing call and response vocal duties. But this economy of parts does not sacrifice the whole; as smalltown butchers once said (before getting swamped by Major Label, Tesco) whilst extolling the virtues of a particularly fine piece of meat “Look at That. Not a bit of waste on it.”
And they waste no time in kicking off the album, Form and Function is a 90 mph statement of intent, Sellbach and Horton’s dual vocals recalling Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. The next few tracks continue in the same urgent vain, before they treat us to an interlude with the track ’Interlude’ - a nice and moody bass heavy instrumental, which shows they aren’t mere one-trick ponies - it reminds me of how fugazi used instrumentals to break up an album and take a breather. The next track Ms V. Export, is one of the strongest, Sellbach’s chantlike vocals take sidestage to her bass that practically eats up everything else around it.
Pretty much every press release that accompanies the latest hot new group, comes with the promise of incendiary live shows. The energy of the songs alone, makes me think that Love of Diagrams, wouldn’t disappoint on that front. However, until they are passing through your town - give some love of your own and get hold of this record.
I’ve got a theory about bands like Germany’s Harmful. Bands that aren’t afraid to properly ROCK - nice fat dirty riffs that recall early 90s greats Quicksand and Helmet - but have a singer dude with a nice-voice, telling us about how nasty the world can be. I imagine the band compliantly rocking out in practice and the singer really ‘feeling’ it, then once he goes off to meet his superior girlfriend or get his hair done, the rest of the band crack open the smokes and fire up the beer and produce some of the awesomest music possible.Read more 2.5 star reviews
Turn The Lights Out
Flying in the face of Chinese Wisdom, 2007 could well turn out to be the Year of the Horse. Chimp favourites Band of Horses are in the studio and on the European road, and now their equine-ly named contemporaries The Ponys release a strong album - that is setting the early pace for my Album Of The Year awards. Recently signed to Matador, Turn the Lights Out is the 3rd album from the Chicago 4 piece and is assured and promising in equal measure.
Theirs is a confident, multi-layered guitar sound that recalls Goo-era Sonic Youth and the Jesus and Mary Chain, but The Ponys aren‘t simply a fawning tribute band, there are enough ideas across the whole album to ensure that no lame tracks appear.
Out of the gates strongly and I’ll tip ‘em to remain ahead of the pack for the year to come. Good stuff.
Sub Poppers Rogue Wave cover the Beatles' All You Need Is Love over at myspace hq, with the added bonus of their summery take on Pixies classic, Debaser too.
My finger is about 789 miles away from the pulse of what’s the shit and what’s just plain shit, but if Milan’s Hot Gossip aren’t the name on every groover’s lips at the moment, then I don’t want to be anywhere near that pulse, or the stinking corpse it used to work for.
At least that’s what I thought on hearing track 1of their debut album Angles - a straight to it 1 minute riff, with some proper meat behind it and has the balls to call itself ‘Intro’. What an introduction, sadly the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to this, admittedly high, early promise. It’s like being told you are going to spend the night with Christina Ricci and then end up with Charlotte Church. Sure, it’s still going to be fun, with some obvious ups and surprises along the way - but after a while, when the pace slackens, you’ll be thinking about what might have been.
In summary - a nice slice of hardcore pop that lives up to its angular title. Better than a lot of stuff I’ve heard recently and ones to keep an ear out for.
Wincing The Night Away
Anyone not taken with the first two albums by The Shins - 'Chutes too Narrow' and 'Oh. Inverted Word' - won't find anything here to convince them otherwise. Those, on the other hand, who found them to be a refreshing breeze of Beatle-ish pop should be satisfied, as 'Wincing the Night Away' is basically more of the same 'It shouldn't work but it does' formula.
Opener, 'Sleeping Lessons' has already edged into the leading pack of my favourite Shins' songs. The band obviously feel comfortable that they have a committed fan base, so start the song off slowly; main-man James Russell Mercer singing over looping keyboard scales, before the rest of the band confidently crash in after 2 and a half minutes. First single 'Phantom Limb' sounds a bit cheesy at first, but is a grower (there's that Shins formula).
Things take a slight left turn with 'Sealegs' slowing it down and making good use of a new drum machine, the squelchy synth solo at the end gets dangerously twee however. But hey. This is The Shins. The band that Natalie Portman said would change your life, in the film ' Garden State' and if there is one thing I'm sure of in life, it's that when Natalie Portman talks to me, I listen and I listen hard.
'Allo Allo. This is Paris Calling.' It turns out 2003 was an important year for French music, with The White Stripes, The Strokes and The Libertines all touring new material; and whilst this tight-trousered triumvirate may not be obviously Gaelic in origin, their musical charms crossed various seas and passed into the ears of a bunch of young friends in Paris, who picked up guitars, formed a number of bands and let rip unto the world their take on Jack, Julian and one man crime wave Pete's rock n roll philosophy.
And if that paragraph felt like it was struggling for breath, well screw you old man - these kids aren't hanging around with their cocksure energy and sexy French cool dammit! Such is the adoration of the above music, the compilation could well be called 'Paris Calling: the state of UK guitar music today.' Most of the songs are sung in English and at times the music is a note for note sound alike of some of Britain's finest. Special mention to the Hellboys and Les Shades (great name - sound like a new wave oldboy down at the Royal Variety) who stick to singing in French, which gives them a bit more attitude and the four girls of Plasticines, who sound like Sleater-Kinney meets Gang of Four and are definitely due further research.
So if you are tired of the exposure of The Kooks, The (Arctic) Monkeys, The Razorlights etc but still get a kick from the tunes, then this is a safe bet to play on a Friday night, before wrapping on a long scarf, sucking on a non-filter and heading out into the streets with your crew, looking every inch the two-page fashion shoot.
Listen to the whole album here:
There is an episode of Father Ted, where a drunken Father Jack gets stuck in a cupboard with the world's most boring priest. I was reminded of that scene whilst listening to 'Anti-Anti' from Atlanta's Snowden. Not that I had an urge to down a bottle of Toilet Duck and swear at nuns - it's just that after a few listens I was sapped of any will to write about it.
It's not the songs themselves, which are nicely played and put together. It's more singer Jordan Jeffares' monotone voice that does it. He sounds so bloody bored and miserable, it is as if he himself can't wait for the songs to end. Of course there's nothing wrong with misery, as the Emo hordes will no doubt pasionately concur and which their obvious inspirations - Interpol - do particularly well. But whereas Interpol's songs work on building layers of atmosphere, the Snowden tunes are more punchy and direct and Jeffares' vocal sits moodily on top of it all - like a pissed off teenager at a family function.
In isolation it's fine, I heard title track "Anti-Anti" before the rest of the album - and was immediately taken by it. It's probably the most upbeat and easily the strongest on here. To be honest there's not a bad track as such, obviously a lot of thought has gone into it and the music itself is interesting, working best in 'Counterfeit Rules' and 'Stop Your Bleeding', where the tempo is kept relatively high.
But as a whole, its just too mopey for me. To cheer him up, I might buy Jeffares some helium ballons before he records the next album, which even if they don't lift the mood should lift his voice a touch.
Now even J Mascis is having his shoes made by innocent Vietnamese slave-children.
I've got to say that my biggest revelation this year has been wondering why I didn't get into Yo La Tengo sooner. Their concert in Madrid at the start of December was one of the best I've seen for a while. Although they had a new album out this year, I still need a few more listens - besides, i'm still working through last year's Best of: Prisoners of Love.
Music (In no particular order)
The Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off (Rambling Shambles)
Band of Horses - Everything All the Time (Sublime)
Constantines - Tournament of Hearts (Frontline)
Steve Turner - New Wave Punk Asshole (Comforting)
Wolfmother - Wolfmother
Swearing at Motorists - Exile on Grippe Strasse (Pure)
Hit = The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Miss = The Departed (Not a bad film, but up against Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas which I watched around the same time - seems Scorsese tries too hard nowadays)
New Wave Punk Asshole
"No-one gives a shit what you think. No-one gives a shit what you do. No-one gives a shit what you say, so you might as well do it anyway." - 'No-one Gives a Shit' - Steve Turner.
From the opening track on his new album, it appears that Steve Turner has decided to take a piece of his own advice. Much like Graeme Coxon had to separate himself from Blur to make music more to his liking (which coincidentally sounds a bit like Steve Turner) it seems that Mudhoney guitarist Turner has a creative itch he can only scratch when the rest of the band aren't looking. So off he went and recorded this, his 3rd album.
Musically, it is unsurprisingly from the same gene pool as Mudhoney but with less fuzz and more keyboards. Less Grunge, More Garage. Like his suprising and good previous album 'Bad Ideas' (not suprising that it was good, suprising that that's what a Steve Turner solo project sounds like) New Wave Punk Asshole continues Turner's apparent preoccupation with an approaching middle-age. Where 'Bad Ideas' was slightly melancholic, 'New Wave Punk Asshole', as the title suggests, is more self-deprecating, a shrug of the shoulders and a grumble at the ageing process.
All the songs have a certain charm and some are genuinely funny, Turner would make a great narrator in a sitcom. Here he is trying to get laid on Sex Date Saturday Night "We're not getting any younger, our relationships are pretty much failures, we might as well do it together" or this fantastic salvo on Stupid Blues "My friends are stupid, some of them are morons, I don't understand how we got to be so boring." A depressing thought for the rest of us when you think he still tours and records with Mudhoney.
A fine record of 16 little gems coming in under 35 minutes. Like the sitcom, I look forward to seeing what Slightly Grumpy Steve is up to in series 4.
9 Reasons why this gig ruled hard.
1. Three excellent musicians, concerned more with the tightness of sound rather than the tightness of denim.
2. No singer. Led instead by one of the best drummers I have seen.
3. High Riff percentage - was like the best bits of Slayer and Slint.
4. Even when they broke it down and went light on our ass, they still rocked.
5. The support band was Spanish and didn't suck.
6. They are called Don Caballero (pronounced Cabayero) - a cool name anyway, when translated it reads 'Mr Gentleman'.
7. The small venue was so crowded that a lot of people just gave up trying to see and sat on the stairs just getting into the music.
8. Their pre-gig rider appeared to consist of Twixes, Kit-Kats and Coca-Cola.
9. Hard Riffs + incredible drummer(squared) - singer x 1 1/2 hours = Awesome performance.
Under A Billion Suns
I owe a lot to Mudhoney. Listening to their self-titled 2nd album many years ago, took me away from a West Midlands world of Megacity 4/Neds Atomic Dustbin and onto a beer-fuelled journey into independent American music - a journey that has shown no sign of slowing down over the subsequent 16 years. The superfuzzed bigmuffed mayhem of tunes like 'This Gift', 'You Got It' and 'Flat Out Fucked' opened my eyes to a "Screw you we are going to get loaded" attitude that played soundtrack to much of my teen years.
But, as often happens with many of your oldest friends, you inevitably lose contact after a while. So, on the first listen to Under a Billion Suns, the first new Mudhoney material I've heard in a while, it's something of a surprise to hear a joyous brass section, working its way from the background to the fore in the opening songs 'Where Is The future?' and 'It Is Us' as well as closing the album on 'Blindspots'. Very Californian for these archetypes of the Seattle sound. It's like that old friend has turned up on your doorstep after all these years and, well, he's wearing a dress! At first, you'd perhaps be like 'Err, ok!' But once the shock subsides and you get a chance to sneak a look up that dress - bingo! There's a Big Muff, as in your face as ever. Open up that handbag and - yep! - there's some beers, so fuck it, let's party like the old days.
All those things that made you want to hang out with Mudhoney in the first place, are here. The sleazy, sludgy guitars, underrated solo work, Mark Arm's sneering vocals, Dan Peters driving drums and all the snotty attitude that made them the scourge of parents - before they presumably became parents themselves.
Whilst the sound remains the same, the band (Arm?) themselves seem to have become polticised. It's a pretty damning indictment of George Dubya, when perennial slackers and party animals Mudhoney feel the need to weigh into the debate about how much of a Chief he really is. In 'Where Is The Future?' Arm wonders what happened to the promised future of his late 60's childhood "I want a world run by giant brains, instead of small minded arrogant fools" the theme continues on the faster 'It is Us' "I've seen the enemy and It Is Us!" Muff vs. Bush! Even the war gets a look in, but with a particular Mudhoney spin on things "Hard-on for War" is pro-war in the sense that; with young men serving abroad, it's left to the dirty old men to have the pick of the young girls left behind. Whilst it's nice to hear their take on current affairs, the highlight has to be the instrumental 'A Brief Celebration Of Indifference" - a 2 minute supercharged throwback to 1990.
All in all it's a welcome return to the speakers for these Seattle legends. Whilst they may have lyrically grown up (just a bit though) the sound and energy that blew me away all those years back, is still very much in place.
It takes a while to read through it all, but Iggy's rider is good for some laughs. Written by his comedy roadie apparantly.
First, a bit of back story: Jeremy Enigk used to be lead singer in Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate, whose 1994 album Diary (released on Sub Pop) is quite rightly considered something of a classic. The success of Sunny Day Real Estate's sound lay in the combination of Enigk's incredible, almost angelic, voice and a rhythm section that gave the songs a harder/darker edge. When you take into account that William Goldsmith (drums) and Nate Mendel (bass) went onto join the first incarnation of Foo Fighters, then you get an idea of the calibre of personnel.
And herein lies the problem of an Enigk solo project. Stripped of the energy and aggression that a 'band' provides, it is left to his voice to carry the songs, the music barely putting up a fight in competition. But is singing alone going to make a good album? Meatloaf has a good voice right? A bit harsh maybe.
Things start off well, Been Here Before showcases the complete range of Enigk's talents, starting slow and introspective before getting BIG, so big, that it takes a church organ to provide the song's break. In fact, what goes on pre/post organ could neatly describe what does and doesn't work on the album. The better songs are the quieter, more acoustic songs, where the music assumes a bit of character, rather than being a bit-part vehicle for 'the voice'. Canons, Damien Dreams and Dare a Smile fall into this category. The latter of which could almost be a Guided By Voices song, that is if GBV's Bob Pollard was to put down the bourbon and beers for a moment.
It's when the songs get epic that things start to go awry, City Tonight being a fine example. Not content with a dodgy synth opening, it begins with the line "Am I Late to the Kingdom of Love", before POWER drumming and guitars kick down the door and take the song home. This is Simple Minds in all their 80s glory, it's a song that conjures up an image of Richard Gere in slow-motion - probably on horseback. But Simple Minds not only had massive songs, they also head massive success, so I suppose dues should be given.
Overall, genuine good points beat potential bad (depending on where you stand on Simple Minds). It's actually quite refreshing to hear an honest album by a singer/songwriter doing what he does best, without compromise, rather than the multitude of bands around at the moment simply aching to be cool.
As for a score. I'll start with a 2 and award an extra mark for being a nice alternative to those other Golden-voiced Juggernauts, Keane and Coldplay, (at least Enigk sings like he means every word). But I'm going to have to dock half a mark for Am I Late to the Kingdom of Love. I hate Richard Gere.
There's a free mp3 album over at Secretly Canadian from Swearing at Motorists, recorded in the echo chambers of Berlin's Gipsstra?e underground station.
"One night I finally got the courage to wait until the station closed, then climbed over the entrance gate and hurried down into the tube. I got about an hour of uninterrupted recording in before the Polizei politely informed me I had to leave."
...Or as CSF quipped 'You will know us by our really long name' and to be completely honest, that was all I really knew about them. Of course, I knew of them - a name like that doesn't erase quickly - but I mostly remember them for the one, very Sonic Youth-ish track; Mistakes and Regrets and the hectic video that went with it. After that, I mentally labelled them art/prog rock (ie. 'difficult') and filed them alongside the likes of The Mars Volta.
So, when the new album arrives and the first thing I hear is a church bell on Intro: A Song of Fire and Wine, it's a case of rolled eyes and "Here we go again!" But then track 2, Stand in Silence, bursts through the speakers and I apologise. This is one of the best tunes I've heard this year. Admittedly, I am a sucker for a meaty riff, and this one is a beauty, but to get from said riff, into a military type fanfare that wouldn't be out of place over the final scene of Top Gun and then back again: it's a tip of the hat to you guys (who we will know )
The band then seem intent on keeping the listener guessing what is round each corner, so much so that So Divided could simply have taken it's title from the range of music within. Wasted State of Mind begins with Indian drums and ends with French Accordian, Naked Sun is a 70s blues rock/groove with rousing brass section. Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory is a note perfect cover (if slightly slicker) from the mighty Guided By Voices album, Bee Thousand. Eight Day Hell is all joyously upbeat a la The Polyphonic Spree - who I find too saccharine, but in isolation one song works well here.
All this leaping around does indeed leave the record slightly divided and lacking in a clear vision. However, this can also work to it's advantage, as there is something for everyone here. All the songs are written with intelligence and performed with mucho passion so that, like the seasonal selection boxes soon to appear on supermarket shelf: you may well have your favourites (more track 2 please) but once in a while you can gorge on anything - and when the quality is this good you welcome the change.
Of the new bands I've listened to recently, it's quite clear that The Drones would beat them all in a fight. A coiled aggression runs through Gala Mill and frontman Gareth Liddiard sings like a man with experience of a hundred brawls and of pain in all its varieties.
Two things about The Drones previous (and 2nd) album, that will give you a good idea about what you are going to get from Gala Mill:
1. It was called 'Wait by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By'. A title suggesting themes of conflict, nature and vengeance, a title that says "We aren't messing about here."
2. It won the Australian Music prize for best album, beating off the likes of Wolfmother.
Gala Mill, whilst more economically named, is an album full of conflict, nature and vengeance and perhaps more importantly, has Australia running through its adrenalin-charged veins.
It's straight down to business on 'Jezebel', an 8 minute epic that staggers and sways like a hardened fighter whose legs refuse to buckle. Liddiard's unashamedly abrasive accent snarls about subjects such as nuclear testing in Australia, the Beslan school massacre, a cow that glows in the dark and the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl. Track 1: like a punch in the gut!
There you are - winded. So they follow up with 'Dog Eared', a sinister ballad and 'I'm Here Now' another 8 minuter about heroin addiction that starts slow but ends up pinning you against the wall, threateningly requesting your full attention. 'The Words of the Executioner to Alexander Pearce' is self-explanatory - as long as you know that Alexander Pearce was a cannibal, rapist from The Drones' home state of Tasmania. Phew! 'I Don't Ever Want to Change' changes pace and provides some welcome rocking out, and even though it is about depression and denial, it is a strangely comforting song in the midst of all the down-tempo sluggers. The final track 'Sixteen Straws' is Gala Mill's most ambitious. Close to ten minutes, it's like a traditional folk ballad, as Lilliard spins 30+ verses into a 1st person tale of forlorn convicts avoiding the Catholic prohibition of suicide, by drawing straws to decide who will kill another and thus send them all to the gallows,
It's a hard and dark album, but a rewarding one. That is, if you can stay the distance.
(dir. Adam McKay)
Legendary 70's News Anchor and leading chauvinist, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has his world thrown into chaos, with the arrival of rival Victoria Corningstone (Christina Applegate) and her fabulous 'heiny'.
It's The Frat Pack, so you know what you are getting. Ferrell just stays the right side of completely maniacal. The 40 Year Old Virgin, Steve Carell, is excellent as mentally retarded weatherman Brick Tamland (who will go on to be a key advisor to the Bush administration) and old friends Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Tim Robbins drop by for a nice set-piece on feuding News Teams. However, it's Burgundy's Spanish-talking dog, Baxter, that steals the film - with the frankly brilliant ending.
It's growing on me this one. I was ready to dismiss it as an immature effort from a band with a terrible name. However, as a teacher friend assures me; sometimes it's the cheekiest students you warm to the most, you just have to look that bit harder for their strengths and qualities.
It starts off promisingly; the picked guitar and vocal harmonies of album opener, 'Panthers in Crime', are a walk in The Shins territory, but that is as well behaved and grown up as the record gets. Once the drums kick in after a minute or so, it's all hyperactive energy and fun, fun, fun! Track 2, 'The Veil Comes Down', stays dangerously close to the Mcfly (band, not Parkinson's Ambassador) school of conventional, guitar pop. But they pull it back after that. If all this adolescent bounding around and Ryan Allen's nasal singing, make them obvious contemporaries of The Spinto Band, then 'Open Us Up' is their 'Oh Mandy' with its 'Woah-oh Woah-oh' shouty chorus. This is the one that will probably jump out of the record and onto the indie radio stations.
It's more of the same for the next few songs. The dubiously titled 'Shit Gold' is possibly the most interesting on the album. Here, they take a few breaths and slow things down a bit - letting the bass, irregular drums and quirky little synth noises drive things forward.
It is a fun album, they are pretty tight and have a confident sound, but I can't help thinking they have better songs in them. I'd have to check out their previous two albums to see if this is true or not. Were I to write a school report for this Detroit 4-piece, it would read "Could try harder to release their obvious potential." Or as Allen himself sings on 'PPL R ANMLS' "We gave you a chance, now give us a results!" Ditto.
Brightblack Morning Light
I was due to review this a while back, but like the vibe of the record itself, I couldn't really be arsed. This is seriously chilled music, all brushes on drums, echoed vocals, wah guitar, deep bass and lolling, rolling organ - with the occasional visit of a slide guitar, to add a touch of spice to this herbal heavy recipe. It's the sort of music to listen to when doing something else, like sleeping or fending off the Sunday morning hangover. As the whole album is so one-paced, ie, Sloooooooooooooooooooow, it feels like one long song, punctuated by a few pauses - no doubt a time for the band to get another lungful of Mother Nature's finest. I like it though. A good one to listen to as an alternative to Zero 7's overplayed 'Simple Things', that is if you can be bothered to put the disc in the player.Read more 3 star reviews
Who are Sebadoh? Well, Ill let them introduce themselves, courtesy of Showtape 91 the 11 minute spoken-word epic that closes side 2 of the re-issue of 'III', the aptly titled 3rd album, from this Massachusetts 3 piece.
Amongst other things, Sebadoh are:
- "Your new favourite dope-smoking renaissance threesome"
- "Your post modern folk-core saviours"
- "Featuring that guy who played bass in Soul Asylum, Lou Barlow"
- "3 more reasons to leave your boyfriend. Way to Go, Sebadoh!"
So there you have it; cynical, sarcastic, funny, confident and impossible to pigeonhole. Whilst III was their third album, it marked something of a starting point for the band. Previous albums The Freed Weed and Weed Foresting were self released cassettes that unashamedly wore (literally) their creative influence upon their sleeves. For III Lou Barlow and Eric Gaffney were joined by Jason Lowenstein, and whilst not compromising their taste for musical extremes, produced an album that heralded the introduction of 'lo-fi' in the midst of the Grunge Explosion.
Barlow, freshly liberated from a traumatic stint in Dinosaur Jr. (not Soul Asylum) used III as something of an exorcism, wasting no time in having a dig at J Mascis on track 1, The Freed Pig "You were right, I was battling you, trying to prove myself". From then on, the album takes the familiar shape and form of a typical Sebadoh album, ie. all over the place. Track 2 is a blistering cover of Minutemen's Sickle & Hammers, the heavily distorted bass (a signature sound) and blood curdling screams of Scars, Four Eyes is followed by the delicate Truly Great Thing "Make it easy and I'll hold it against you, Make it hard and I'll run away". Back to their herbal muse for Smoke a Bowl, a song which wouldnt be out of place on the Black Lodge Jukebox in Twin Peaks. How do you follow that? With the country hoe-down tinged Black Haired Gurl of course.
The album continues in this vein before closing with As The World Dies, The Eyes Of God Grow Bigger which captures the split personality of the band perfectly; acoustic singalong, followed by distorted screamalong, all ending with the cheery farewell "BLOOD ON THE WALLS, BLOOD ON THE WALLS." Hey, a trip with Sebadoh isn't ever easy, but you go to some interesting places along the way.
Disc 2 of this re-issue is immediately a winner, in that it includes the Gimme Indie Rock EP - the title track of which, is possibly the finest 3 and a half minutes this prolific band ever laid to tape. The rest of the extras all add to the whole; unreleased songs from the recording sessions, raw 4-track versions of old songs and the bizarre closer Showtape '91. At a hefty 41 tracks, the new 'III' might help solve that terminal puzzle: 'What to get the Sebadoh fan who has everything?'
Lie Lover Lie
They're a confident bunch, The Blood Arm. One would suppose you don't get nominated for Best New Band in LA (2004) through modesty and reticence. "I told you before, when I was young and obscure, it takes more than an ocean, to keep me ashore" proclaims singer Nathanial Fregoso, on album opener 'Stay Put!' a White Stripesy number, that has forceful pianos accompanying Fregoso, before being joined by crashing cymbals and distorted guitars.
Confidence, doesn't necessarily mean substance though. The piano hammers and cascades, driving all the songs along at a brisk tempo, so that as a whole, the album sounds like a collection of Show Tunes; 'Blood Arm: The Musical' if you will. Here's our hero proudly announcing that "I like all the girls and all the girls like me." 'Suspicious Characters'. Here's the chorus-line, linking arms and belting out an ode to the Road Trip 'Going to Arizona'. Like its theatrical cousins from the West End, 'Lie Lover Lie' isn't going to change the world, but for those times when you just want to get drunk, forget about thinking and have a good time, this could be what you need.
Songs From The Lodge
"Tonight Matthew (or Cat), I'm going to be Morrisey" is something New Rhodes singer James Williams might say, were he appearing in the final of Stars in their Eyes. He'd win it too, so good is his impression.
The songs zip along pleasantly enough and will presumably have the indie teens shaking the clubs, as well as the 30 somethings who still yearn for those indie teen years - jiving after the dinner parties. But having all songs sound like potential singles; chart-bothering singalongs loses points in my book. After a while, you want to grab the band and shake them 'Do something naughty!! Spit on the floor. Steal a Magazine. Anything!' However, when they do: "When you look in the mirror tell me what you see, because all I see is a useless, worthless piece of shit" (Cowardice), you feel a bit guilty that you made them do it. The style of Morrissey's singing, present; the wit of his lyrics, absent.
They are technically well put together songs, if slightly forgettable. I expect they'll get themselves quite a sizable following and they are certainly inoffensive enough to do so. But if your natural leaning is towards something with a touch more hair on its balls, this isn't going to do it for you.
Watch the video for "History of Britain" here.
(dir. Jeff Feuerzeig)
A truly incredible film. Daniel Johnston is possibly most widely known for having a piece of artwork adorn a t shirt, extensively worn by Kurt Cobain at the height of Nirvana's success ('Hi. How Are You?'). This prolific artist and musician from West Virginia, achieved notoriety and a certain degree of fame in the 80's and early 90s, through his home-recorded cassettes and subsequent descent into madness. As Daniel was also an avid film-maker, as well as frequently recording his thoughts onto tape - this is as thorough a documentary as you could hope for. From troubled/gifted teen - to the overweight and fragile Daniel of today, you are taken every step of the way. Whilst the journey is exhilarating and exhausting, you can take your pick from the hundreds of sub-stories that make up its whole.
- A worried Thurston and Lee from Sonic Youth, driving around trying to find Daniel, clearly losing his mind on his first visit to New York.
- A typically twisted Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) conducts his interview from the dentist's chair, recollecting the time Daniel first took LSD
- Or when Daniel tried to force the demons from an old lady (an ongoing obsession, hence the film's title) she was so frightened, she jumped from a 2nd floor window.
One of his friends hits the nail on the head when describing his guilt at having Daniel committed to a mental hospital. Explaining that he had always been on the side of history's tortured artists, such as Van Gogh, here he had shot had helping such an artist, but he simply couldn't handle it. And that is what this film is above everything else: A document of the battle between Genius and Insanity. The last line from Daniel's remarkable parents, looking after a recovering, but still clearly unwell son, is an absolute killer. Awesome.
Bubble And Scrape
Before MySpace. Before The Strokes. Before Pete Doherty. Before rock bands arrived image-ready with an NME endorsed 1st album to force down your throat. Before this, there was a gentler time. Where bands recorded music and couldn't give a Razorlight what they looked like. Sebadoh, were kings of such bands. How tight the jeans, how battered the converse? Wouldn't have crossed their minds.
Sebadoh probably woke up around 4, mooged around the house in a dressing gown, eating breakfast cereal and drinking a beer. Then they'd pick up a guitar, a 4 track recorder and knock out great tune after great tune. Ex- (and now 'present' once again) Dinosaur Jr. Bass-Pounder, Lou Barlow, was the main man, whose songs seemed to be a result of putting his private diaries to music. They were mostly about relationships; how wonderful they could be, how devastating they could be, but were never anything less than brutally honest.
'Bubble & Scrape' is slightly more coherent than its predecessor 'III' yet less polished than 'Bakesale' which followed. It's a good place to start if you want to get into Sebadoh, which is something I would personally recommend. The relationship theme runs through it, as are the polemic ways it is expressed, both lyrically and musically. From hurt, honest, tenderness "I think our love is coming to an end." - 'Soul and Fire', to angry, bitter and cutting "I love you sister/ I love how you condescend." 'Sister'. There are no bad tracks here. Of the 17 (Count' em!), I'd say the following would make my Sebadoh 'Best of ': Soul & Fire, Happily Divided, Cliche, Sixteen, Homemade and Forced Love. With at least 4 others on standby. Not bad for a band that released 7 albums between 1989 and 1999.
Yep, Sebadoh have a MySpace site, I'd like to think though that perhaps they'd prefer to just send cassettes through the post. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but then most Sebadoh fans are
Click here for our Bakesale Review
Click here for our Live Review
Following on from our enthusiastic Tortoise review, I thought it might be good to post the Squirrel Bait family tree. Although the quality of the jpeg is a bit ropey, you can follow the evolution of many major bands and personnel - including Slint, Palace, Gastr del Sol, Tortoise and of course Steve Albini.
Everything All The Time
First up, comparisons with My Morning Jacket are inevitable. On the first few listens, I had to check that Jim James himself wasn't providing the vocals on a couple of tracks. With that in mind, the chase cut to as it were, let's base the review around that knowledge. Let's suppose that MMJ had a younger brother, who hung around the practice sessions and was witness to their particular brand of genius. He's maybe thinking to himself, yeah that's pretty good - but those extended, distorted solos are a bit distracting, at times they get in the way of a nice, clean, imaginative pop song. I like the reverb on the vocals, I'll have that (It's possible that a couple of tracks were actually lifted straight from the outtakes of a MMJ session - Part One and I Go To The Barn Because I Like The could well be from At Dawn). The result is a charming, dreamy album with enough emotional weight to demand full attention. Comparable to MMJ and completely comfortable with that comparison.
Apologies, if you've never heard of My Morning Jacket. If this is the case, I can only presume it is your first visit to Chimpomatic - welcome.
Update: With the Chimp team seemingly in approval, it looks like this is going to stay the distance. I'm prepared to admit it when i'm wrong: This is not just a good album, it looks like it's going to be a classic.
(dir. David Cronenberg)
Smalltown family man and all-round good guy Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) has a hidden past. It is so well hidden that not even his wife and teenage son know about it. So well hidden in fact, that not even Tom himself is sure whether it really happened. However, gangster Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) is absolutely sure of the facts, one being that he now only has one eye, which is a pretty constant reminder. So when Carl and a couple of goons come to town, it's time for Tom to get out of the comfort zone and face up to what he did or possibly didn't do.
At around 90 minutes, it's a good length for it's short story feel, striking a balance between tension and action. With it's name in the title, the violence, when it appears, is short, sharp and particularly brutal and the gradual unravelling of the family unit as the truth comes to the surface is nicely weighted.
Performances are good, although I haven't seen enough yet of Mortensen to know if he was asked to look a bit demented in this film or whether that's his stock face. William Hurt can lose several points for being a bit camp and just a bit too crap for the end-of-film bad guy.
La Boite, Madrid
A good live show has to offer something more than simply loud renditions of familiar tunes. This could take the form of plenty of long haired extended jams, a la MMJ, or perhaps some audience participation and a nice line in dark humour. The Broken Family Band fall comfortably into the latter. Onstage just before midnight in this cosy Madrid venue (which turned into an incredibly camp disco afterwards) singer Steven Adams is a funny guy ('funny how? You know, the way he tells a story') as anyone familiar with their albums will no doubt already know. They played about an hour and a half of their particular brand of twisted country music (via Cambridge) taking in Banjo solos, Acapella singing and good solid rocking out along the way, as well as banter and jokes in-between songs (and the songs themselves) including some sort of explicit mobile message played over the mic. A highlight being Alone in the Makeout Room with part time banjo player and beer-getter Tom/Ben(?) filling in the role of the female, whilst Adams added some rather rude lyrics definitely not on the album. Great tunes, good lads. "It's a Hit" say the critics!Read more 3 star reviews
Broken Family Band
1st Oct 2006View this picture and comment at Flickr
Broken Family Band
1st Oct 2006View this picture and comment at Flickr
Bad news for budding guitarists: Tab archive Olga.net (amongst others) is under some serious legal pressure from The Man.
1st Sep 2006View this picture and comment at Flickr
1st Sep 2006View this picture and comment at Flickr
Fopp, Camden, London
In the abscence of dark lighting, a PA system, a raised stage and alcohol - the Spinto Band sounded like a bunch of special kids let loose in music class. Plus, we were the oldest there by about ten years.Read more 1 star reviews
A Hundred Miles Off
The last album by The Walkmen, 'Bows and Arrows' was a real favourite of mine and in 'The Rat' featured a track that would easily make the starting 11 of the best songs ever (probably as a tireless, attacking full back) ...but then they seemed to disappear for a while. Their new album is a beauty, and while they haven't changed much since 'Bows and Arrows' and that is no bad thing. I just love their sound: all saloon pianos, shambolic guitars, irregular drumbeats and a howling Dylan-esque vocal. All this loosely hangs together and is heavily reverbed, making it sound as if you have just walked in some bar somewhere, mid-set and they couldn't care less whether you like them or not.
A few songs tick all the boxes for immediate favourites. Album opener 'Louisiana', with its brass section and Mexican-fiesta feel, the driving/drunken singalong of 'Lost in Boston' and mournful closer 'Another One Goes By'. But there is enough quality here to suggest other songs will come to the fore after 6 or 7 listens. Early frontrunners: 'Good for You's Good for Me' - which has the nice line "I don't get some people/but I don't really try", the slightly sinister 'All Hands and the Cook', but my money is on 'Don't Get Me Down (Come On Over)' and its awesome guitars.
(dir. Nathanial Hornblower)
The masters of re-invention, re-invent the concert movie. For anyone who's avoided pre-release hype and marketing, here's the deal: October 2004, the Beastie Boys are up to play Madison Sq Garden for the first time, so to mark this event they arm 50 fans with Hi-8 cameras and one proviso: just keep rolling. The result? True to Beastie Boy form down the years, what starts off as a crazy idea ends up (with the occasional patchy moment) a triumph and leaves you thinking 'Why did no-one do that earlier?' The filming takes some getting used to. It is a load of shaky hand-held cameras after all, so the first five or ten minutes are spent getting your Sea-legs so to speak. But it soon settles down and hits its stride, editor MCA weaving in more and more visual effects as the show progresses (witness an edited Mike D slow-dancing with a fan on a tropical beach) and after a while you know you're witnessing the next best thing to getting a ticket to the Beasties show. Not just the performance, but all the sights and sounds associated with any gig; the demented fans who know every line, the guy queuing to get a beer, the blaggers trying to get backstage, Ben Stiller with a cap on backwards.
The show itself absolutely rocks. You definitely get the feeling they put in the extra few miles for both the film recording and finally playing 'The Garden'. The set-list comprises a pretty definitive 'best-of...' from a career into its third decade. Highlights? Time To Get Ill with with human beatboxing from Doug E. Fresh and entire the audience participating got the goose bumps pumping. I forgot how good Gratitude was and it's great to see Keyboard Money Mark back doing handstands on his organ for finale Sabotage. Overall, Mixmaster Mike's beats are immense and varied enough to give old favourites a remix feel, it's worth getting to the cinema and its more capable sound system for the tunes alone.
Basically, the 10,000 strong crowd (and Ben Stiller) can't be wrong. Highly recommended for fans of both live shows and innovation. Essential viewing for Beasties fans.
Camber Sands Holiday Centre, Sussex
Before going to the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival (at Pontin's Holiday Camp) I wasn't sure what to expect - and leaving a few days later I'm still not sure what I made of it all. Staying in a chalet as opposed to a tent had it's obvious benefits, especially as the rain was fairly relentless the entire weekend - making those swimming trunks I packed optimistic at best. But the constant grey skies and rundown look to the place gave it an Apocalypse Now feel - a surrealness not lightened by having to negotiate 'Funland' to get to the bar (my funland). The winner of ATP however, is that it truly is all about the music. Each headlining act allowed to choose their favourite bands to play bill - so the opportunities to discover something new were high.
So heading to stage 2 (downstairs) on the Friday and lifted by the news that Guinness was coming in at a reasonable £2.70 a pint, The Magik Markers were a good place to kick things off. I'd read a bit about this Hungarian/American three piece and was definitely loving the fact they only played two songs in their 40 minute set (I preferred track 1) allowing me to catch up with mates, whilst dipping in and out of their (at-times) fairly rocking jam sessions. I was told however, that Dead Meadow upstairs (stage 1 of 2) were awesome, with a particularly excellent drummer -a vital ingredient for any self-respecting rock band. So upstairs we went -happy with the fact you could walk to a fairly good spec in the crowd relatively hassle free. Broken Social Scene were excellent -the surprise package of the weekend. I'd heard the name, but didn't really know their sound - they reminded me a bit of Mercury Rev - how they would allow a euphoric brass section to creep up and get you grinning by the end of each song. Also, it's the sign of a great band when you are thinking 'There's no way they can top that tune' then halfway through the next you've already forgotten the previous one (if you know what I mean). We were also treated to an early glimpse of Friday's curator J. Mascis - with long grey hair, shades and adidas shell suit. The man is a hero. He came out for a bit of a guitar duel with Broken Social Scene. Odds were stacked heavily against BSS though, as J's guitar sounded like it was turned up to 14, drowning out allcomers. Still, that whetted the appetite for Dinosaur Jr. later. Next up, indie stalwarts Teenage Fanclub. Although they opened up with personal favourite 'Mudhoney' I thought I'd go and check out The Brian Jonestown Massacre instead. Shouldn't have bothered. I liked their music in Dig!, but they were a bit boring really. I guess I was as guilty as many others, down there for the 'Car Crash' effect - waiting to see if Anton Newcombe was going to crack and kick anyone in the head (he didn't). I was told that Teenage Fanclub were great though - fair play to those lads.
A drum kit flanked by 10 Marshall Stacks; Dinosaur Jr made their intentions clear from the off. They were extremely loud, but equally awesome. What happened to Lou Barlow? From nerdy Sebadoh boy, to some sort of pumped up uber-bassist - he easily promoted himself to Lead Bass in my fantasy super group. A fairly healthy split between Lou's and J's songs - with all the 'hits' in there, they are certainly a band I'd make every effort to see whenever they are in town. A blinding set to round off day one.
The day started with a hair of the dog in the pub at twelve and ended 17 hours later being kicked out of the ATP disco. As a result, my memories of Saturday's bands are sketchy at best. The Fiery Furnaces were pretty good. Spoon reminded me of Wilco, but didn't really do enough to lift me out of my stuper. Main act Sleater Kinney were really good though (I think). They certainly rocked the house, with some powerful drumming being a prominent recollection. Worth checking out more of their stuff to plug those holes. Highlight of the day though has to be R Kelly's bizarre Hip-Hopera 'Trapped in the Closet' - showing on the ATP TV Channel (each headliner also gets to create a days schedule of TV). A 40 minute epic with R. Kelly lending his golden tones to the story of various dudes getting caught with each other's girlfriends and threatening to blow everyone away and shit. Was it for real? Who knows - but he did rhyme Bridget with Midget (the midget in question, was uncovered hiding in a cupboard by a policeman returning home early to his wife - bizarre indeed, but try and check it out).
With the rain still coming down and the hangover a large one Sunday was always going to be about re-grouping. So, finding a spot on the back wall to nurse some beers was the order of the day (although this is obviously much more pleasant on a sunny last day of an outdoors festival, as opposed to an airtight bingo hall after a three day rock festival). To be fair to the bands, it was going to take something special to rouse me from that position. Aussie band The Drones had a good stab with their better than average pub-rock. The Decemberists were clearly a crowd favourite, reminding me a bit The Levellers, Placebo and the Polyphonic Spree - but not at all as bad as that sounds. They did manage to get the whole crowd to sit down for a quiet number (no problems for me) then getting them back up for a rousing finale. The lead singer of 70's style rock Dungen also played a flute. Then the highlight of the weekend, The Black Keys. Two songs in and I was up off my ass and into the crowd. The drum and guitar two piece played heavy blues and once again made me wonder what all the fuss is with the White Stripes. Following them was going to be extremely tough and so it proved for biggest disappointments The Shins. The band I was most looking forward to seeing, as I'm a great fan of both their albums, were let down by a number of circumstances. Following Black Keys, early sound troubles, being shy and too quiet. They almost lifted it a couple of times but not enough. Maybe I hit a wall, but I never thought I'd be walking out of The Shins early. That was that - some serious drinking and some damn fine bands. The music-first policy is clearly a winner, could do with a bit of sunshine though.
Probably worth a 4, but the rain and my own laziness in not checking out other bands knocks it down a half.
1. The Black Keys
2. Dinosaur Jr.
3. Broken Social Scene
4. R. Kelley
5. The Chappelle Show
3. Eating too many crisps
4. The smell of the main room Sunday night
5. The disappointing Shins.
(dir. Andrew Adamson)
Phone call from Hollywood Powersuit to prospective director of The Chronicles of Narnia…
‘.....we’re all going nuts here over the massive success of Jackson’s Rings Trilogy. Adapting much-loved children’s books and turning them into fantastical action movies is the shit du jour. So, how do you feel about the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?’
‘What? The CS Lewis classic about 4 children evacuated from WW2 London; sent to live in a big stately home they stumble through a Wardrobe and into the magical world of Narnia, where animals talk. Unwittingly, they become drawn into a war between good and evil. That could be a really good film.’
‘Exactly. So we want something similar to LOTR, but working with a far smaller budget.’
‘Oh. So who’ve we got to play the children? Some gifted child stars? An Elijah Wood type figure?’
‘Afraid not. Just a bunch of kids straight out of drama school, all of whom are extremely posh and extremely punch able.’
‘Really. But you must have some stars involved’
‘Well Tilda Swinton is down to play the Ice-Queen. Only, if you ask nothing of her, allowing her to coast through the film with the odd look of embarrassment. You can also have a really good cameo from Jim Broadbent.’
‘But only if you use him for less than 5minutes.’
‘Oh. And for voice-overs?’
‘Well the highly skilled Liam Neeson is on-board, so skilled in fact that he can make Aslan, the Mighty Lion King, seem more irritating than heroic.’
‘We must have some money for CGI.’
‘There’s a bit of cash for a couple of scenes. You’ll have to make do with fairly cheap looking sets and costumes for the rest. Can you bring it all in close to the two hour mark as well’
‘But won’t trying to squeeze all that into 2 hours, mean we leap from one ‘action’ scene to the next, without developing character or building tension.’
‘Maybe, but little children will love it.’
‘Shouldn’t we just not bother, save the money and not fuck up Pullman’s Dark materials Trilogy?’
‘Are you still there?’
(dir. Lexi Alexander)
Or what Frodo did next. Tired of mixing it with Orcs and the like, it turns out he decided to test his skills against an altogether different fighting challenge; the football hooligans of England.
Promising journalist Matt (Elijah Wood) gets set-up and thrown out of Harvard, so he heads to London to catch up with his sister. Thanks to her brother-in-law, he wastes no time getting in with a West Ham firm and into a series of pitched battles with rival supporters. When I say he wastes no time, literally on the same day he sets foot in Heathrow he later has his teeth knocked out by a Birmingham City thug.
Its an interesting idea, what attracts young men to the world of football violence, but Im sure it has been done better elsewhere. The shoe-horning of an American tourist into the story doesnt sit comfortably, it feels that the desire to get a Hollywood name on-board comes at the expense of deeper analysis into the minds of the gang members.
The supporting chavs are believable with special mentions to Mark E. Smith lookalike Bovver and Geoff Bell, who gives another fine display of London menace (as previously seen in The Business). However, the film is let down by the casting of the leads. Considering he has a psychotic aversion to Yanks and Foreigners the leader of the gang talks like a South African Tim Westwood and Elijah Wood looks as lost as, well, as an American trying to understand the offside rule.
Certainly not a date movie and probably more suited to a well-scripted TV drama, its better than a kick in the teeth and there are certainly plenty of those in the 90 odd minutes.
(dir. Nick Love)
If Goodfellas was a painting it would be a Masterpiece. Now, imagine you reduced that painting to a line drawing and invited a load of 6 year old Peckham school kids to colour it in with their crayons. Chances are youll end up with The Business. With its rise and fall of a gangster story, voiceover and freeze frames, it throws much more than a cheeky wink in the direction of Scorseses classic.
Back in the Thatcher years, scoundrel Frankie gets in a bit of trouble with the law and heads to Spains Costa del Crime to lay low for a while. On arrival he quickly aquaints himself with the neighbourhood villains and embarks on a sun-filled life of birds, drugs and crime. As he makes his way up the ladder, our man Frankie wears a permanently confused expression; whether taking his 6th line of coke of the morning, having a shotgun pointed at him or being explicitly propositioned by the pretty femme fatale he constantly looks as if he is trying to make sense of Hebrew. Its somewhat suprising therefore that Frankie eventually becomes Mr. Big, with a direct link to Colombia. The 80s were indeed ker-ayzee! Hes surrounded by equally wooden pastiches of Sarf Landan gangsters, so much so that I was expecting Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse to turn up and launch into a routine You Slag! You Muppet! You Slag!etc, etc.
The attention to detail with the costumes and music is a nice touch, and to be fair ginger-haired gangster Sammy does come across as properly hard. But this is a bad film. So bad, that it is completely watchable, if you know what I mean. Luvverly!
(dir. Wes Anderson)
With his career fast heading for the rocks, washed up oceanographer/documentalist Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) embarks on one final mission to find, and kill, the rare Jaguar Shark that ate his best friend. And off they set onto the high seas, under the captaincy of the pot-smoking Zissou, the watchful eye of a heavily pregnant reporter (Cate Blanchett), Zissou's soon to be ex-wife (Anjelica Huston) the on board guitarist and his Brazilian Bowie covers, a stiff from the insurance company and a few interns. Joining this crew of bobble-hatted misfits is Ned (Owen Wilson) who may or may not be his son.
Murray invests enough feeling into Zissou to lift him above simply being 'Bill Murray' in amusing costumes, whilst Wilson happily goes toe-to-toe with Murray in their Saharan battle of dry humour. The rest of the cast roll up their sleeves and get stuck into their roles, with Willem Dafoe being particularly excellent (Not something i've said for a while).
Director Wes Anderson now has 4 films under his belt and is yet to put a foot wrong. With his offbeat stories, always imaginatively and colourfully shot, excellent soundtracks and performances, he has achieved that desired goal of creative filmmakers and created a new genre 'A Wes Anderson Film'. Until further reviews are posted, his previous films - Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are all highly recommended. According to IMDB he's down to make Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox next - most intriguing.