Fluff and Toenails: Mainstream Media, Indie Opinion

Above all of the fluff and the toenails floats a melody, some rhythms, flickering pictures, a sensation to be had. Capture it in your computer, buy it on your high street or cram it in your senses from hijacked radio waves. Our subject is everywhere so let us pick at it like a favourite scab.

Monday will find me blogging on TV, Thursday on Film and the Weekends on Music.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Royal Wedding

Seeing as it was one of the most watched television programmes ever it would be weird if I didn’t comment on it. So here is my comment. Thank God that is over with, some real news now please.

Why The Wombats are a Fine Blue Cheese to Jeff Buckley’s Baby Bell

The Wombats 9/10 & 2/10

I would like you to consider cheese...

Are you thinking of cheese?

Good. Then we may continue.

If you are picturing a nice expensive mature blue cheese then good on you. If you’re not then why not! I asked you to consider cheese and you have done what exactly? Thought of Tesco Cheddar? A cheese string? A fucking baby bell? To be honest if this is you then you probably have self-esteem issues and you should spend the time that you would have spent reading this review finding out how to get that sorted.

Anyway the Wombats new album ‘This Modern Glitch’ is a little like that cheese. Everyone knows that a good cheese matures with age, (Bad cheese just goes off and an undisturbed baby bell will outlive us all making us look like a right bunch of tasteless twats when the alien archaeologists start poking around our long dead planet) once purchased and sitting in your fridge the cheese starts a further micro maturing process. Stage One: Stinky Blue Cheese, Stage Two: A Manly Cheese and Stage Three 3: Stinking mush. The time lapse between stage two and three can be as little as a couple of hours and it is this great cheese divide that the Wombats album straddles.

I wanted to write this review now so that I would still have nice things to say about the poptastic choruses, witty lyrics, narrative approach to song writing and ever present vocal harmonies aware as I was that after more than a few hours of play (about 6 listens) the album trans mutates into a big pile of over played chart stink.

So enjoy it while you can the antithesis being listen number three when you are weirdly convinced that the album is one of the best pop albums of the decade whilst being simultaneously aware that the next listen will smash this illusion.

Friday, 29 April 2011

“I find your interpretation of Nietzsche only slightly less offensive than your choice of film this evening my dear Herr Hitler”

After well over a month with no cinema going, check listing s for the reasons why. I have now attended the flicker box picture show twice in the last seven days. The two films that I subjected my brain to really couldn’t have been more different for the reasons outlined below.

In forming an uneasy alliance between a cat and a dog, a bin man and a seagull and a Lib Dem and a Conservative this is the compromise to which my less cinematically fussy better half and my-self have come. We have given up trying to find films of common ground and instead, upon each proposed cinema trip we swap the role of ‘Film Fuhrer’ and dictate to the other which film is to be seen. That isn't to say we don't campaign for the others approval (Source Code: yeah it sounds like it is going to be like ground-hog day...yeah nothing like Inception...yeah I suppose it must be a comedy & Beastly: Well yes it does have that girl from high school musical in but it is in fact a postmodern retelling of a popular folk tale which tells a story of anti-consumerism triumphing over the materialistic.) Though ultimately the opinion of the dictated over really is an irrelevance even Hitler must have liked to think that his decisions were popular.

Any way onto the films:

Source Code 7/10

I’m not really going to go into the plot on this one as it would put most people off and that would be unfair because those people would be missing out because of their prejudices. Other more positive presuppositions are probably what have kept this film high in the UK box office top ten with what appears to be extremely limited marketing. These presuppositions being namely Jake Gyllenhaal and Duncan Jones. The last time I discussed Jake Gyllenhaal he was flogging Viagra and jiggling his arse on top of Jayne Austin. This time he keeps his clothes on for the entirety and doesn’t even have an arse to flash, being, as it turns out nothing more than half a torso and a bit of a brain. Duncan Jones directed one of my favorite Sci-Fi films, Moon, which was a massively ambitious low budget affair that won something or other when I saw it at the Edinburgh Film Festival a few years back. While he has only acted as director on this project (as opposed to Writer/Director in Moon) many folk such as myself weren’t going to miss out on a chance to see what he can do with a proper budget and I am pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

This film has had to wrestle with constant comparisons to Inception due to them both brushing with existentialism. In my opinion the films are very different and the way that they are being compared says more about the poor (but improving) state of Hollywood Sci-Fi where these ideas and concept led movies stand out so vividly from the action driven turd flinging contest of the Transformer and Resident Evil Franchises. (The Image came with the caption Inception with cats)

Detracting from my enjoyment of the film was the ending which I felt was just a little bit spelt out and a little bit fairy tale and could have been left somewhere in the darkness of ambiguity (alla Inception). However, I could be very wrong in this as on the way home I discovered that me and the long suffering lady left with differing interpretations of the films conclusion which resulted in us driving home with me shouting about Schrödinger’s cat and her reminding me that I never actually finished that particular book.

Beastly 4/10

I would love to say that Beastly is one of those rare films that is its own review. However the world beastly makes the film sound a little too edgy.

For those of you who don’t know Beastly is a high school adaptation of the story of beauty and the beast. The fact that the film is based on a folk tale means that the criticism that the film was predictable falls flat. However to me the whole project seemed to be massively lazy by all involved.

One of the more unfeasible aspects of the film was the role played by one of the Oulson Twins. Her being a witch seeming perfectly plausible compared to her being in high school. I really wish that American high school dramas would start using high school aged actors. It really is very distracting and confusing trying to work out who it is ok to find sexually attractive. (I only come to objectify in such a chauvinistic way because the stories in these films are so predictable that they need little or no attention paying to them).

To this films credit it was a little more dark and a little more moody than I expected and the comic role performed by How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris went down well in the screening I attended but then again this was a crowd that whooped at kissing and squealed with teenage zeal at anything that fit into the Hollywood construct of teen romance. If you are a twelve year old girl who hasn’t seen very many films yet you may enjoy the film but then I would urge you to move onto more challenging fayre rather than re-watching the same drip fed high school drivel for the rest of your years.

Overall the film is ultimately harmless, portrays a positive message but has little artistic merit or ambition.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Five Things I Love About The BBC

I am a little bit on my high horse this week and telling jokes from such a beast is particularly difficult so please excuse the dry nature of this post.

This week there has been a lot of debate about cuts that the BBC face mainly due to the unique way in which it is funded. The Murdoch media seem to want rid of the BBC sighting reasons of competition. This could be an extremely persuasive argument but for the fact that I am choosing to stick my fingers in my ears for two reasons: One, my extremely limited understanding of economics and two, my belief that the Great British public occasionally need to be treated like a hyperactive toddler reaching for a fist full of lolly pops. Let loose in the sweet shop I believe that commercial TV would quickly pander to the lowest common denominator leaving us with hundreds of channels chock full of reality TV reruns and sham docu-soaps.

The BBC does things that no other commercial broadcaster would do. Why wouldn't any other broadcaster do these things? Simple, they would lose money. I am talking about programs that are either so extortionately expensive to make or programs that cater to such a specialist audience that no advertiser would touch it with a sterilised government issued socialist barge poll. Here are five things that I love about the BBC and you should too.

1. News Coverage at home and abroad.

The news coverage provided by the BBC is world famous for its quality and reliability. There is no reason that commercial news channels shouldn't be able to match this quality but I am always far more suspicious of hidden agenda's buried within the stories of ITN and SKY. That being said the BBC isn't exactly a bastion of unbiased opinion. It does sometimes lean shamelessly to the left and its science reporting on magazine style news shows is often as suspect as its competitors but overall there is a quality about the BBC not replicated elsewhere. To sum up its news coverage I would simply say “I Trust The BBC.”

2. It's British

We British like to think of ourselves as being a complicated bunch, in fact we like to flatter ourselves into thinking that we are one of the most complicated nations on earth. This is unquestionably untrue and smacks of an anti-Copurnicus attitude steaming from times of Empire. However, untrue as it may be this is the spirit of our nation and the BBC captures it perfectly with Snog Marry Avoid on BBC3, QI on BBC 2, Eastenders on BBC 1 Behind the Scenes at the Museum on BBC 4 and Pincidh Dincidh Du on BBC Alba. the last of these channels producing programming that is only comprehensible to 0.5% of 61 million people. Even an advertiser that specialises in producing whiskey filtered through haggis flavoured kilts wouldn't support BBC Alba yet it exists. Because of the way that the BBC is funded it can cater to these audiences that would otherwise be totally neglected.

3. Live Music Programming

When the BBC record a live band it sounds amazing. Always and without exception. Years of know how, quality equipment and the best engineers have made television and radio broadcasts of live music on the BBC simply the best.

4. Documentaries

The BBC's nature and science documentaries are exported all over the world because they are brilliant. The BBC would be able to continue its flagship natural history documentaries due to these sales even if funding was cut entirely. What they wouldn't be able to do would be to continue in the production of the niche and obscure documentaries that just this week have covered subjects as diverse as quantum physics, the social history of the sitcom, an in-depth look at the process of putting on a ballet, the beauty of diagrams, the history of the working classes, medieval religious architecture the blues and farming to name just a few. The BBC gives us British the option to be better educated and expand our horizon and our sphere of knowledge to places that only a university education might otherwise have taken us.

5. Radio Four

It's mental. Turn it on right now. I bet you learn something. Or hear something odd or something funny or engaging or incomprehensible. Go on do it. Start listening to it in your car and the quality of your chat will improve by at least 50% that isn't an opinion that is a cold hard untested scientific fact.

I'm on holiday next week but your normal program of low brow poo slinging will resume shortly.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Vaccines and Strokes

This week I have been listening to two new albums, one from either side of the pond as the Atlantic has come to be known. I am not a fan of this metaphor as when taken to its logical end we find that it is the Americans with the grand house (grand enough at any rate to call the Atlantic a pond) and us humble Brits living in some kindly allowed granny house at the bottom of the garden just beyond the aforementioned water feature.

The Vaccines: What did you Expect From The Vaccines: 6/10

Let us begin at home with the Vaccines. I have read extensively about an anti vaccination movement that is sweeping America due to a poor understanding of Science and celebrities worrying their pretty little heads about it and magazines being all too keen to print what ever nonsense these pretty little heads have to say about absolutely anything. We (the British) are somewhat to blame for this state of affairs as we let the farther of the movement a Dr (now struck off)Andrew Wakefield be born, live, work and publish on our shores (You know the MMR, fuck the science fruit loop). Well now, as way of apology the UK has produced not just 'a' vaccine but 'The Vaccines' who like their names sake take just a little bit of something (The Clash, The Ramones, California Pop Punk and New York Shoe Gazers) and inject it into something to produce bla de blar...(I have walked too far down this metaphorical garden path only to discover it leads no where.)

The Vaccines have been much lauded by the media and appeared highly placed on the BBC's sound of 2011 list. This however is no guarantee of success or quality I'm sure the Twang once appeared on this list. Were the Vaccines a Californian band then this album would be been a pop punk flash in the pan. Who knows maybe a few singles may have made it to our shores, as it is the Vaccines are British and therefore instead of a polished pop poop they have given the world an album that is slightly rough round the edges and in places sounds like it was recorded in a tin can garden shed circa 1979. With off mic comments that are still audible in the mix and amps over run with reverb that give the album a live urgency as opposed to the sterile sound of our Cowell/Fuller overlords.

On an aside note British bands have the best lyrics, I'm not offering it for debate just stating it as a matter of fact. There is nothing lyrically brilliant in the Vaccines album but there is some kind of unique sensibility, black humour and desperation that few mainstream acts outside of Britain commit to record. There isn't much to dislike about this album. It is nothing ground breaking and wares its influences on its sleeve but pop music performed by real musicians pisses all over that produced by pre pubescent boys and music moguls. Not that I would ever accuse the Vaccines of pissing on pre pubescent boys, but saying that I don't know them and London folk are a little odd.

The Stokes: Angles: 8/10

The Strokes are back with their fourth album. I bet no one predicted that happening after the solo successes Albert Hammond Jr and Julian Casablanca but happen it has and they have pulled out all the stops not to sound like The Strokes and in doing so have only managed to sound even more like The Strokes.

The opening track has a Reggie sound and a structure more complex than you average Strokes track but by track two, which is the lead single 'Under the Cover of Darkness we find our selves on familiar territory with classic sounding and signature garage production, clashing guitars that duel across the verses and call to mind the excellent Reptilla. Except something is different, very different. I'm not staining to here the lyrics, they are high in the mix and have more than a few notes that are sung with real confidence all of which done without the mask of the broken mic distortion that was hidden behind most notably on their first record. Your So Right is where The Strokes mould is truly broken with a song that has a sinister electronic base and layered vocals that give a new dynamic to the band that I would have never suspected that they had it in them.

I was sure that the Strokes were a band running out of steam but for me this album marks a definite transition from indie fashion darlings with little substance beyond a few pop tunes into a serious 'albums band' but will anyone still care by the time their next album is out? I hope so. Even with all these changes The Strokes remain a band that sound like no other band than The Strokes.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Wonders of the Depravity of Reality Tv Producers.

I'm back! What do you mean was I gone? I've been gone for weeks and your saying that you didn't even notice that I was away! Well that's just fine! No I mean it. Fine! To make up for my being away for so long this post was going to be epic. It was going to make you laugh and then cry. It was going to contain a nipple slip and a clip of a symphony that I have composed made up entirely of brown notes and notes oscillating at a frequency that would tickle you pleasure centre like a dildo covered in sexy ants. And only then, after your cacophony of shitting ecstasy, would you get a pissey review of a film with which to remind your selves how lost you were without my guidance.

But seeing as though you have barely noticed my being away (I have web statistics as evidence) I will proceed straight on to the reviews with none of the aforementioned grandstanding.

TV is awful at the moment. Usually I have around four shows with which I try to keep up with but at the moment that number is down to just one, that being the reintroduction of Prof Brian Cox and his wonders of the universe. The wonder of wonders is the wonderful way in which it avoids dumbing down. Brian Cox stands behind you coaxing you along “come on, you can do this, I know it's hard but trust me, stick with it look, see, you do get it you cleaver bastard. Now go down to the pub and talk about the reverse entropy involved in downing a pint. Go on your friends will love you for it.”

At the other end of the scale there has been a slightly worrying trend in reality competition TV. That being the inclusion of additional elements into the mix making shows all the more convoluted and often sinister. In the early days of reality TV we had shows like Airport. Where we followed the lives of those working in the airport. There were no winners, no losers, the show took a loose documentary format and became what was termed a docusoap. Were that to be broadcast now the passengers on the plane would probably vote on the quality of trolley dolly service with the winner receiving a book deal and a meals on wheels franchise and the looser being ejected from the plane some where over Greenland.

This week my attention was drawn towards a frankly frightening program broadcast some where deep in the realms of Sky TV. I am going to outline the concept of the program, but you wont believe me. You are probably going to think that I have ripped off a joke from Allan Partrige or Jack Donaghy, but I haven't. It is true, every word of it.

The Show is called Bridalplasty and it combines elements from The Generation Game, America's Next Top Model, Big Brother, The Apprentice, Extreme Make Over, Amazon DOT com and The Book of Revelation. Brides to be live together in a house and vote weekly to get rid of the other brides until one remains and is declared the winner. So far, so standard. This is where it starts to get what can only be described as 'fucked up.' Each of the 'brides to be' has a grizzly 'wish list' of plastic surgery. These typically contain nose jobs, boob enlargements, tummy tucks, face lifts and other stuff that I don't know about nor care to discuss. Each week there are a series of generation game style challenges, the episode I was subjected to had quite a quaint game in which the brides were presented with two of various foods associated with weddings, one of which was of a premium variety and the other was from a dollar store with a little extra ingredient such as compost in the cake. The brides would then have to successfully identify the quality product. Imagine this on Bruce Forsyth's generation game and you will see smiles and gentle encouragement from the host and fellow contestants alike. Not so on Bridalplasty! The host berates the contestants and keeps asserting that the purpose of the game (or test as she refers to it) is to determine who is the classiest and who is trash. Footage of the game is intersected by cut-aways of contestants bad mouthing each other in interviews recorded after the event. The winner of the competition becomes top bride for the week is whisked away to have her surgery and can't be voted out that week. Later she is returned to the house to stay in the recovery room (usually looking something like Frankenstein's monster, cue more bitching). Then some kind of vote takes place and one bride is eliminated. In the long run those eliminated early are unquestioningly the winner as they get to return to their fiancé unscathed by surgery.

I don't think the show requires a review the above description will suffice.

Don't have nightmares.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Three Super Quick Music Reviews

Cold War Kids, Mine Is Yours 7/10

Cold War Kids have another album out, yeah I didn’t realise either. For fans of numbers this is actually their third album but you may not have noticed as there has been little fan fayre about the band since their opening effort ‘Robbers and Cowards’ topped many muso lists. Their second album was somewhat more of the same with the same hissing retro sounding recordings and a ‘passion over tunefulness’ approach. Expecting more of the same I was instantly hit by the plush almost pop production on this album. The yelps of the vocalist and the hammering of percussion are still there but it no longer sounds like it has been recorded on a reluctant tape deck in a soviet bunker. Many won’t like the new polished sound but these would be the same people who go off punk bands as they become proficient on their instruments. Cold War Kids are evolving and maybe in 5 more albums could be as radio friendly as The Script (which means that this could be their peak.)

Adele, 21, 7/10

Pop music used to be short for popular music. Now it is usually short for turgid half thought out throw away music peddled by the fame hungry and PR people rather than artistic intent or, god forbid, talent. Good ‘potential pop’ is far too quickly relegated to specialist playlists where commercial radio wont dream of touching it and mainstream audiences won’t hear it meaning it will never be popular and therefore never be described as pop music. That is why I was so happy to see the return of Adele. An unlikely looking pop star (always a good barometer for talent) Adele has a beautiful voice that screams soul. Lush arrangements, velvet production and spotless vocals give this album the same timeless sound as her first. The album is uncompromising in its approach which is clearly artist driven and makes no concession to what has been riding high in the charts in the years since her debut (except for some suspicious Florence’esq harps in ‘He Won’t Go’) The cream will always rise to the surface but much of it becomes tainted by the turds that also have a nasty habit of floating, Adele has dodged this brown bullet and I look forward to 23, 26, 35, and 40.

Chase and Status, No More Idols, 3/10

Do you have an 1856 Mecklenburg-Schwerin Stamp? If you do get it out now you’re going to use it as a visual aide. Imagine how much information you could fit on the back of it. If the subject upon which you were writing was ‘All I know about dance music’ and it were I who was doing the writing then there would be comfortable room for illustrations (That was a joke for the philatelists boom ya!) I only know of Chase and Status for some pretty nifty leftfield remix work on some indie tracks. I would have preferred to have not listened to the album and only have this memory of them. Unfortunately some things can’t be undone…