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Thursday 28 February 2013

Beautiful Creatures/Warm Bodies/Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

There's been a great many lightweight supernatural films proliferating the listings over the last few years.
Let's call it the Twilight factor.
Vampires, werewolves, witches and demons have all had the blood drained from them and coursing through their dark veins is now a love for all things mortal.
Everywhere you turn there's a bogeyman from yesteryear looking to get down with a teenager of the opposite sex.
Not down and dirty, but instead the preference seems to be that they just want to gaze longingly with smouldering eyes, accompanied by a flick of the hair, at the object of their affections.
A vampire is now is more apt to facebook their mates than go out on a murdering rampage, while witches who have the power of the elements at their fingertips just want to neck with their boyfriend on lovers ridge as the lights of Anytown USA are spread out below them.

The problem is that while some bemoan the lack of horror in them they are really missing the point.
Without buckets of blood, or if not that some suspense, these films aren't really horror movies at all.
They are teenage chick flicks dressed up in alternative goth clothing to appeal to a demograph made up of mainly teenage girls.
It's boy meets girl or girl meets boy draped in the supernatural.
Not horror as we perceive the genre.
Every vampire boy could be a Montague and every mortal girl a Capulet.
It's just an age old tale retold ad infinitum.

However some are not without their charm.
The most recent I seen was Beautiful Creatures as my better half had read the book and had been impressed with it.
As the credits rolled at the end she aired her disappointment at how little it had to do with the novel, but for me it was a pleasant enough bit of escapist fun made better by the performances of Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson.
As mentioned it was just the usual boy meets witch and falls in love with her to the abject horror of her family.
Much smouldering of the eyes as expected then takes place.
That's really about it.
The only thing that elevated it from being virtually identical to the over long music videos that the Twilight films are was some of the performances, and a nice side swipe at those who unquestioningly accept the word of the Lord as the be all and end all of everything.
Small town bigotry is actually well targeted, and the inclusion of mentions of Bukowski, Henry Miller and Vonnegut were for me a nice touch as if it leads to any singular teenager to explore these peoples works. then the film has sort of given itself a bit more worth.
So really one of those films that was better than expected, but not really anything to write home about.
Damned for eternity by faint praise I suppose.

Then there are the exceptions that prove the rule..

On the surface Warm Bodies is the same deal.
Only this time the zombie gets the hots for the warm blooded girl.
The main difference between this one and others of its ilk is that there's some intelligence on display.
The voice over of the internal thoughts of the main character are very well done, and in a very subtle way he is really extolling the existential question that is 'why are we here' and what is this all about', and it also delivers the love conquers all, even death, message in style.
While it has been pretty successful it's more quirky cult like than shiny MTV bright and that alone should be enough to give it a longer shelf life than Beautiful Creatures or similar films that have been making the rounds of the cinemas.
I would personally recommend it, and over the last few days I've seen quite a bit of praise being bestowed upon t from some unlikely sources.
I went in to the cinema thinking it would be one thing and came away realizing it was another.
Well worth checking out.

As is Hansel and Gretel : Witch Hunters.
This time we see them step cleanly away from the teenage love story and instead go for the throat, albeit with slapstick gore rather than any 'I think I may hurl at this disgusting spectacle' way.
Think a Disney action movie with balls, blood and severed heads and that's you in the mindset for this.
It reminded me of the marmite of movies that was Van Helsing.
A film that I have a very soft spot.
The only downside to an enjoyable couple of hours in the cinema was that it was the 3D version I seen.
There's not enough in it to justify it being a 3D release.
Better to save some cash and sit back and immerse yourself in the 2D version.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Swingin' Utters - Poorly Formed

There doesn't seem to be a week that goes past that I don't hear about a band reforming to grab at some past glories.
It always seems to be about fifty fifty if their efforts are worthwhile or not.
For every band who should have left their instruments gathering dust there's those who we welcome back with open arms.
The latter was the case when Swingin' Utters returned in 2011 with 'Here, Under Protest', and from the opening track it was very clear that they weren't looking to reform and tread water, but instead that they were back fully recharged and ready to write some fresh new chapters to their story.
Now here we are a couple of years down the road and they're back again with 'Poorly Formed' and to my ears this sounds like the best album that they have ever done.
It's the perfect example of why some bands shouldn't leave their business unfinished.
There's quite literally no slack on this. No fat that needs trimmed.
The song writing and musicianship is ripping the first coming of the Swingin' Utters a new one.
That's not to have a dig at all their early albums, but more to highlight how far they have come.
It's the most mature material that they have laid down, but at no point have the lost the humour or the fire that was always inherently a part of them.
This isn't a slap in the face for anyone who dared say that the band had had their day, but more a knock-out blow.
Kick ass from start to finish.

Reverse Cowgirls/Sleepy Eyes Nelson - Split single

With their trashy country swagger The Reverse Cowgirls are the band that everyone who likes their garage rock and roll delivered with a healthy portion of grits will love.
There's no real downside to the band.
Absolutely nothing that could be picked at that needs worked on.
The lo-fi – sometimes deliberate, sometimes not – production that seems to go hand in hand with bands of their ilk is nowhere to be heard.
They don't need to make a poor recording to imbue it with a sound that lends itself to conjuring up images of half drunken bottles of cheap liquor clutched at by hands that have good honest dirt under their fingernails.
It just oozes from the speakers that this is the deal.
Dead Will Rise rolls along as it it rocks.
It's a sepia tinged dungaree wearing foot stomper of a song that has a solid groove that is ideal for dancing on table tops to and the blues.
Why anyone wouldn't want to buy this really doesn't make much sense to me.
It makes less when you consider that it is free.
Meanwhile Sleepy Eyes Nelson has surpassed himself with his ramshackle blues The Rats Are Coming In.
It's a singular example of how it doesn't matter where someone comes from, but instead it matters where you are at.
Forget geographical locations as this is the blues.
It could have been recorded anywhere in the last god knows how many years.
If the sun is in the sky and you are lying back lazily cloud catching with this on then it doesn't really matter if you are chilling out on the muddy banks of the Mississippi or the river Clyde.
I've always been impressed with Sleepy Eyes Nelson, but with the additional female vocal on this the song has just been lifted from out of the very good box and dropped into the exceptionally good one.


When I said that I was going to try and post daily I was obviously lying.
Well I wasn't actually lying, but the best of intentions didn't translate over to me maintaining the momentum.
Not through any sort of laziness on my part though.
Instead my energies have been expended elsewhere.
I've written some bios and press releases for some people.
Had some artwork used as Steve Conte's new tour t-shirt
Mainly I've been dabbling in promoting though.
There's been some gigs that I have worked alongside the bands to do their album/ep launches, and right at this moment I am creeping up on ten shows just about sorted that I'm promoting myself.
Plenty have already been confirmed.
Pretty much on a daily basis I've been run ragged doing one thing or another, but today I'm going to jump back in the saddle and more content to the blog will be added.
There's a run of gigs starting from tomorrow night that I will be attending, a pile of music that needs reviewed and some films to.
There will also be interviews appearing with Stonehouse Violets and Billy Liar.
So here we go.
Once more into the breach say I, but only after a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Steve Diggle - Maggie Mays - 23/02/13 (Glasgow)

Diggle and some weird fella.

Ali Kennedy sports a Dead Kennedy's 'Too drunk to fuck' t-shirt and as he took to the stage I thought we might be about to get some vitriolic acoustic punk rock, but it wasn't to be on the cards.
Instead a friend commented that it sounded like acoustic improv and that sums it up.
In fact it's the perfect description of the performance as it did come across as if much of it was being made up on the spot.
The young guy has a superb voice, and as musicianship go he knows his way about his guitar, but the lyricism of his own material falls far short of matching his other talents.
Barring a passable cover of Buffalo Springfield, that was carried by his vocal, the rest was rather dire.
The closing song that had a repetitive refrain about how we have to eat and take back the street, while maybe heartfelt, was embarrassingly basic.
The sort of thing that a kid toying with anarchy would write on the back of a jotter with every A in the prose being circled.
While some would be quick to claim I am being harsh in offering a less than flattering opinion it seems fair to say that if anyone is going to pay to be entertained then we should expect a certain level of talent.
It's a different story if it's an open mic night, or a bunch of local musicians putting on a free show to get some live experience, but this wasn't the case.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but Ali Kennedy fell far short of being ready to open for Steve Diggle.
Give it a year and maybe he would be, but at this moment in time it's all filler and no killer.

The Beat Movement were to offer us some timely salvation with their retro mod set that pulls all the best moves of the Small Faces in together with a liberal does of The Who.
The four young guys in the band make a sound that was fresh decades ago sound startling vibrant in the present.
The original material they have is already of a standard that they could very easily fulfil the support duties to some larger bands, and in time, once they have an albums worth, then I would fully expect them to be a solid headliner in their own right.
With a rendition of Del Shannon's Runaway, that sounded like an out take from a session that Steve Marriott would have led, and the Small Faces classic Watcha gonna do about it added to pad the short set out it was really a case of all systems go for the band.
There's some apparent choreography involved in the Townsend styled jumps and windmills that proliferate the set, and while entertaining enough they seems too structured to feel genuine.
It's possible that instead of working on them they should use the moves when the mood takes them and see if that can match the effortless way they invoke the exuberance of the sixties.

Sonic Templars along with Diggle himself were who we were there to see and once again they didn't disappoint.
Like Brit Pop take on Muse or even Radiohead they are another band that are on the cusp of leaving the support slot behind them.
The songs, the attitude, and a sense of self belief that all bands have to possess to get anywhere are all in place and the next 6 months to a year should provide them with that pivotal moment when a band goes from being being big fish in the pond to migrating to the bigger pool with more national attention coming there way.
Easily a faultless show for them and one that they should be proud of.

Unfortunately they were to be followed by a sub standard band of Strokes copyists called Younger.
Everything about them screamed Julian and the boys and I would have probably appreciated them more of they just dropped the pretence and gave up on the B quality strokealike songs and just covered the bands material.
In fact I can't be arsed writing any more about them and you can read what you want into that.
Steve Diggle, who I consider to be the beating heart of Manc legends Buzzcocks, was on fine form bringing us his acoustic take on the bands back catalogue and his own solo material.
I never get tired of watching him when he is with his bandmates and the enjoyment that I have always got out of seeing a Buzzcocks show easily transferred over to a Diggle solo slot.
There's just something about the guy that seems to convey a lust for life and it's quite infectious.
It's hard not to sing back the woohooos of Promises with a big grin on your face and it was at that point that I thought to myself that this exact moment is what going to live gigs is all about.
There's a great sense of communal love in Maggie Mays from those present and my only complaint would be that the venue should have been packed to the rafters.
Maybe next time because he undoubtedly deserves to be playing sold out venues up and down the country.
Here's a guy who has participated in providing us with songs that are for many of us the soundtrack to our lives. 
Now that's something damn special, and so was the gig.  

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Billy Liar - The Ghosts of Punk Rock

It's been a while since Billy Liar released any studio material, but after just one listen of 'The Ghosts of Punk Rock' it's very easy to forgive him.
With one leap forward he has went from being a very good acoustic punk troubadour to a level that leaves that behind and sees him settling shoulder to shoulder with some of the people that he would consider to be his influences.
For instance I love the the lyrical approach of TV Smith and would consider him a poet who effectively puts his prose to music, and this is exactly what we have here to.
Not a facsimile of what is already out there, but instead a real poet who has the ability to express himself in a wonderfully heartfelt and entertaining way.
There's three in Scotland just now who are lyrically as strong and I wouldn't like to say that any one was better than the others.
With the likes of Roscoe Vacant and Cal Murray, Billy Liar is right up there forging ahead without any consideration of trying to fit in, but instead carving his own career path as he delivers a solid organic punch to the chest with his material.
Sometimes it's a jaundiced view paired with a call to arms, and then equally he can express something less tangible that gives the impression that he knows that like us all we are thrashing about looking for something.
There's a great deal of bare emotion on display and that's a good thing.
There's others trying to do this, but unless they are open to revealing something of themselves instead of shouting slogans it's an empty experience listening to them.
Of course in the shadow of Frank Turner it would be fair to say that there's been a proliferation of acoustic punks stepping up to ply their trade so why should anyone plump for this ep over all the rest?
There's actually a couple of answers to that.
One is that Billy has been doing this for a long time now and didn't spring forth from Turners wake and instead from a pot pouri of influences from the Clash to the Adverts.
The other is quite simply because he's better than Turner.
You wouldn't have to push me out of the way to grab one of Frank Turners CDs from the table if The Ghosts of Punk Rock was sitting there alongside it.
Okay that's a subjective view, but try and get a hold of this limited release and then come back and tell me I'm wrong.
Although I'm not.

Website  Bandcamp

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away

For years now I seem to have been providing the same review for every album that Nick Cave has released.
Not word for word of course, but the bones of them remain the same.
I flesh it out with some broad brush strokes of praise, but fundamentally I just keep reiterating that when I finish repeatedly listening to his latest offering that I then can't imagine how he will top it when he revisits the studio to provide the next one, but then with each release he does.
He simply stands knee deep in shards of glass as he smashes each ceiling he makes for himself.
As other peoples career paths rise and then fall, or even just reach a plateau, he continues mapping out new ground, or in some cases, like on Water's Edge improving on what is in most listeners mind the Nick Cave sound and style.
When you sit Dig Lazarus Dig next to Push The Sky Away, and then consider that there's been the Grinderman material between them, it's difficult not to think that here is an artist that deserves every over inflated god like genius award that is going.
I guess my point is that whenever we listen in awe to what his latest release reveals that it is easy to think that he will not be able to surpass it, but we can't commit ourselves to that thought as he consistently does.
I would struggle to think of anyone else who has not only maintained a level of quality like this throughout their careers, but continuously worked positively on their artistry in the manner he has.
He is the renaissance man of this era.
Song writing, film scores, scripts, acting, novels and more.
With Push The Sky Away it will be said that he is at the top of his game, but only until the next release.
Utterly compelling, and if we did have souls then this is what would be used to fuel them.

Friday 15 February 2013

Tenement Trail - Sat 9th March - Glasgow

When the loose term 'music fan' is bandied about I'd collectively describe them as people who still buy vinyl releases, attend gigs by unsigned bands, look for artists to listen to rather than wait for an outdated chart to tell them what is cool or not, and of course they would watch Tenement tv.

Now if that last bit threw you then shame on you.
For a while now Tenement tv have been doing some excellent sessions with a range of artists and the quality bar has been set very high.

As expected they haven't just been basking the high praise that they have been continually gathering, but instead stepped out onto the streets to deliver a one day festival in Glasgow.
It's the type of thing that pops up now and again with varying degrees of success, with that success usually based on how good the line up is.
Not how hip they are, but how good, and with this being the case it's doubtful that those behind Tenement tv will have much to worry about as the talent on display already has sure fire winner written all over it.

Have a perusal of the poster here. Just click on it.
Now there you go.
Pick a band at random from it and check them out.
Pick another, and then another.
After a while you will realize that there no filler.

Well worth a tenner of your money.

If you need anymore proof of how on the ball these guys are them jump over to and enjoy whats on offer.

Friday 8 February 2013

There should be no second class citizens.

The recent successful House of Commons vote on supporting gay marriage was for me less to do with same sex relationships and more to do with equality.
That's really at the root of the issue.
The question should have simply been do we feel comfortable in excluding a percentage of the population from enjoying and participating in a life that is freely available to heterosexuals?
And of course the logical, and correct, answer would be no.
How could we feel comfortable with that?
It's divisive, and if we swapped gay for black, Polish, disabled, or any religious group who make up a portion of our population, then everyone would be up in arms about it, and quite rightly so.

So why are some people still hung up on two adults expressing their love for each other?
Because that's really the problem isn't it?
Lets not be coy about it and call a spade a spade.
Strip away all the religious arguments, and the woolly stuff about the sanctity of marriage, because to be honest not much of it holds any water, and what we are left with is that those who oppose equality for the gay community simply have an issue with homosexuality.

I don't know why though.
I really don't have an answer as it makes no sense to me at all why anyone would care.
When I see a couple holding hands, leaning in to whisper something that makes the other smile, or just very obviously in love with each other then alarms bells don't ring in my head if they are of the same sex.
I personally don't care if it is a woman with another woman, or a man with a man because what they are displaying to the world is a positive thing.
That's not some politically correct BS on my part, or even a staunch liberal view.
I just think that it is nice to see people sharing happy moments.
The genders of the couple are irrelevant and I have yet to hear a cohesive argument to dissuade me from this opinion.

From reading some of the hyperbole coming from the opposition camps you would think that the end of civilization as we know it is just around the corner if we allow homosexual couples to marry.

Really. I mean really.

If there's any evidence to support that then please enlighten me.

If we accept that the day after the homosexual community are given the same rights as everyone else that not much would change then why would anyone wish to opposes it.
Seriously, what is the problem?
We have had Conservative ministers who have been divorced (in some cases multiple times) commenting on the sanctity of marriage, while others who are on record for having affairs claiming the same reason for their opposition.
It's a joke that no one is laughing at.
When they talk about it they are obviously referring to other peoples marriages as they have shown scant regard to their own relationships.
So it sounds a bit hollow coming from them doesn't it?

Then we have the religious groups falling over themselves to point to texts from their holy books to support their abhorrence for homosexuality.
It doesn't matter that pretty much every religion has dropped aspects of their teachings, and even added a few on over the centuries to suit.
They choose to cling to an outdated view because deep down they don't like it.
Well that's what I think.
Homosexuality just makes them feel uncomfortable.
They have no reason to feel this way, but as they can't just say they are against it because they don't like it they have to look for something to hang their argument on, and a religious view will do.
The very people who probably haven't darkened the doorway of their respective church, or whatever, in an age, are now hell bent on expressing their right to adhere to one tenet of their religion.

It's rather pathetic really.

Maybe they should all grow up a bit.
The whole opposition argument just sounds like a child saying I don't like vegetables so no one else is allowed to have them.

Friday 1 February 2013

Rose Parade - Sell out B*st*rds

There are two words that when put together elicit equal amounts of joy and sadness.
They are sold, followed by out.
If we aren't going to go down the path of talking about artists who have allegedly sold out their credibility for stardom.
Then what we are left with is the proclamation of the two words together regarding an event being now ticket-less.

On the one side of the coin are the artists who know that people are going to make the effort to come and see them, and a busy night rather than playing to one man and his dog, is ahead of them.
For the venue the words are accompanied by the ringing of their tills.
For a promoter the sound is one of a sigh of relief, and for those with tickets there's a smug little voice reminding them that shelling out early for a ticket was a good idea.

On the other side of the coin are those who thought that they would just leave it until the night and pop in.
The ones who know that they had the chance to attend, but let it slip through their fingers.
With them sharing sad faces are unfortunately the people who simply didn't have the means at their disposal to grab a ticket and are now a tad pee'ed off that the night has arrived and they are still skint.
I feel for the later, but I'm not so fussed about the former.

And tonight is one of those nights that draws out all those feelings.

Rose Parade actually sold out weeks ago, but tonight is the night where all the work they have put into recording their debut album is revealed.
The excitement is mounting and with three excellent supports in place it's all shaping up to be a 'you had to be there' gig.

I'm fully expecting to indulge in a weekend of reading posts from people on the social networking sites that mention how utterly fantastic the gig was.

I would advice people to pop in as early as they can so that they can grab a bite from the much loved menu that the 13th Note has prior to them securing a space with a prime view.

I can feel it in my water that this is going to kick off in a spectacular manner.

Book some quiet time

From childhood until rather recently I was a voracious reader, and similar to my love of music I had catholic tastes and would delve into pretty much anything.
It wasn't unusual for me to be partially through about four books at a time, fiction and non- fiction, working through them all like a chain smoker who has no wish to quit.
Then for a few reasons I tailed off from being knee deep in books, and very often I would have only one on the go that was being read in snatches.
This change was partly because my eyesight had slightly dipped and reading was becoming a chore rather than a pleasure.
It wasn't something I noticed as a problem at first, but subconsciously I was just setting books aside and often not going back to them.
When I did click on it as an issue I went for an eye test and sure enough I needed reading glasses.

From then I had a short spurt of getting back into books in general, but life sort of got in the way, and finding time to read was far more difficult than I thought.
That is until I made a conscious decision a few weeks ago to just knuckle down and push myself out of the not reading rut I was in.
I think the catalyst was the discussion had on Facebook about the Jack Reacher books that are written by Lee Child.
I felt I was missing out on something as a good solid percentage of people I know had read them all.
Not one or two, but had rattled through all seventeen and were waiting for the eighteenth to be released.
So what I did was have a quick look about and I bought a few.
I managed to get the first two so that I could have a good run at immersing myself in them, but while I was searching for Jack Reacher bargains I returned to the Stephen King novel 11.22.63 that I had picked at and gave it my full attention.
Within a matter of an hour the book I thought had been dragging when I was reading it in snatches came to life and I was hooked.

In no time at all I felt that I had reacclimatized myself and I could now describe myself as a reader, a lover of books, again.
From finishing that the first two Jack Reacher novels were then quickly demolished, and while I waited for the third to be delivered I started on The Yard, the debut novel from Alex Grecian.
That was torn through in record time and now my eye is on the newly delivered Reacher.
I know have ten of the seventeen of the series in my possession and I'm 'aving them large.

The reason I'm sharing all this is because the newer books that I will be reading will be getting a short review along with the live gigs, album/single releases, theatre and films that get a mention on the blog.

And I would advocate that those who have eased away slightly from reading should maybe think about losing themselves in one or two as I've found it to be a great stress buster.