Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: End of Year Last Minute Panic Best Of Extravaganza

Hello dear reader.

Sam and Richard and I finally woke up from the Sugar and Noise Office/Bunker Christmas Party and we realised it was almost 07. We all have parties to be getting to so this will not be In Depth or particularly Extensive. Pull up a chair, open a bottle of your favourite non-alcoholic beverage, throw on that Pitchfork's Top 50 mix you downloaded and see which of your favourite releases of the year we've cruelly ignored. And be sure to Right Click and Save As on those mp3 links.

Miles' Top 5 Albums of the Year

Ok, I did not buy very many records that were actually released this year but here are the best five of those that I did. If that makes sense. Sorry everyone who's albums I did not buy!

5. Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
Oh yes I did. Yes it's "more of the same" and yes they are just out takes and alternate versions but who cares when they're this good? Also: Three versions of Chicago, one of my favourite songs ever? SOLD.

4. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
Divine god-bothering alt-country indie-pop (I love hyphens) from everyone's favourite indie songwriting godess. Harmonies tighter than your younger emo brother's jeans and lyrics sharper than his razor blade collection. New Rilo Kiley record in 07? Hell yes.

3. Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
Oh yes I did AGAIN. Look, bloggers/critics - I don't care that it doesn't sound like If You're Feeling Sinister. Are you still doing exactly the same thing as you were ten years ago? I hope not. It's fun, it's summery, it's floaty-light and Dress Up In You is some of Mr Murdoch's finest writing yet. If you've spent most of the year telling everyone how good The Drift is, cheer the hell up, throw this on and let the good times roll.

2. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
"The Crane Wife at two? TWO?!" Yes, I hear you. Believe me it was an extremely close call between this and the first place. The Crane Wife is in places a masterpiece. A few of the songs on it are so good that it gets to be the second best album of the year whilst still having songs I don't really like that much on it. The Crane Wife Parts 1+2 and 3, O Valenica, Sons and Daughters, The Landlord's Daughter, Yankee Bayonet... Just absolutely fantastic. Epic, moving, warm, hyper-intelligent, unmissable.

1. The Long Winters - Putting the Days to Bed
Catchier than SARS and much, much more fun this is my favourite album of the year. Every song is a little bundle of melancholy power pop perfection. The horns on Teaspoon, the guitar riff of It's a Departure and the lyrics... The lyrics are brilliant throughout ("You should've been a Rich Wife") on what may be John Roderick's best record to date. I dare you to listen to this all the way through and not fall madly in love with it. To hook you in, here's the opening song "Pushover"

(Honourable Mention: Harvey Danger - Little by Little... whilst initially released last year it was reissued by Kill Rock Stars in 06 and were it that this were it's initial release, it'd be number 1. You can still get it free at but go and buy the thing unless you hate Good Music in which case go die in a hole. And take your Justin Timberlake/Nelly Furtado/Sam's Town CDs with you)

Sam's Top 5 Films He Actually Saw This Year
1.The Departed
2.Brick (Miles nods vigorously)
4.The Proposition
5.Miami Vice (Miles looks aghast)

Miles' Top 2 Live Music Experiences of the Year
1. Death Cab for Cutie at Leeds
2. Summer Sundae (Espescially: Belle and Sebastian, The Boy Least Likely To, Calexico)

Sam's Top 5 Films He Really Should Have Seen This Year
1. Pan's Labyrinth (Miles will be seeing this in the next few weeks)
2. Marie Antoinette
3. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
4. The Death of Mr.Lazazrescu
5. A Cock and Bull Story (Miles says it's absolutely freaking brilliant)

Miles' Most Overrated Bands of the Year
The Killers - The Arctic Monkeys - Kasabian - The Kooks - The Fratellis

And now, over to Richard

1) The Long Blondes – Someone To Drive You Home

A giddy blast of pure glamour, akin being sprayed in the eyes with Chanel. Despite losing out on the NME’s cool list to superblimp Beth Ditto, Kate Jackson and the Long Blondes are one of the coolest bands to emerge for a long time. Marrying rich, varied vocals to some killer post-punk guitar lines and witty lyrics that cross gender boundaries, this debut brings Blondie into the 21st century and sticks them at the back of a Sheffield dole queue. Responsible for more than just scarf trends, the Long Blondes are a truly great new band and in the slightly out-of-character words of [an S+N staff member]: "NME's Under the Radar award? I'd get under HER radar" What more needs to be said?
(Miles Note: Hell yes!)

2) The Hold Steady – Boys And Girls In America.

Shouty Kerouac-rock about drugs and drinking, and occasionally fucking, but mainly just the drugs. His voice shouldn’t work but it does, and once you get hold of the lyrics there’s no going back. I took a while to warm to it, but one full concentrated listen/read of ‘Chillout Tent’ and there’s no going back. Long live ‘America’s best bar band’.

(Miles Note: Amen!)

3) My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

I didn’t want to like this record. I don’t like the band and I don’t like their fans, so I thought I didn’t like their music. The Black Parade bitch-slapped my prejudice away. MCR have been carried by such a wave of eyeliner and hype, that it’s easy to miss just how much their songwriting has developed. The album abounds with an odd amalgam of speedy punk, brass instruments, Brian May-style guitar heroics, Britpoppish la-la-las, and silly concept lyrics about cancer. But I have to admit: it’s really good. Nearly all the songs have memorable hooks, and an appealing dark drama. And one more thing: it’s not emo. Listen to this compared with something like Hawthorn Heights, and you’ll see what I mean. A closer take would be Queen-punk, which is blatantly rubbish, but there’s nothing I can say about this record that it doesn’t say for itself. Fuck the haters, and fuck the identikit fans – much to my surprise, MCR have truly impressed me.

(Miles Note: No, it's not emo. It's mall punk. Which is far worse.)

4) Taking Back Sunday – Louder Now

A pretty accurate title, by all accounts. Lazzara and co returned with ‘What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost’, a taut riffathon imbued with powerful melody – which pretty much describes the whole album. Having been hyped enough by the major rock rags, you’ve probably already heard what I have to say about this: ‘muscular’, ‘confident’ etc. And to flog the dead donkey just a little more, it raises them above the scene and right onto the stages of the stadiums. ‘Nuff said.

5) The Mountain Goats – Get Lonely

In some ways I feel guilty about putting this in, having previously dissed it enough as ‘not their best’ and ‘a bad starting point’ etc. However, John Darnielle is still God, and even when he’s whispering over the gentlest of guitars, so softly that you don’t realise how good his writing still is, it eventually reveals its own particular treasure. Basically a concept album about lost love, it’s not fast and angry but that’s a conscious choice, not a design fault. And the Babylon Springs EP, to be mentioned later, shows that the Goats have still lost none of their fire.

6) Dirty Pretty Things – Waterloo To Anywhere

So two years after the end of The Libertines, what have we learned? Essentially that Pete is a better lyricist than Carl, but as a result of not spending most of 2006 on crack, Carl is musically a lot more consistent. This album contains sucker-punch after sucker-punch of martially-tight guitars and general indie-punk cool. It’s not The Libertines, but it has its own merits, and as the NME has probably said already, Carl’s done a good job of rescuing his own legacy from the mess of blood and drugs surrounding Pete. (Who is still fantastic, when sober…)

7) Larrikin Love – The Freedom Spark

Taking the Libs format and running with it, picking up influences from ska and Irish folk along the way, Larrikin Love are among the best of the post-Bracket bunch. This debut album focuses their sound and beefs it up, while retaining a good deal of their whimsically weird charm. Edward Larrikin’s gasping camp is still an obvious focal point, but the album has more to it than a strange pale man twatting around with a cowbell. Top tunes.

8) Morrissey – Ringleader Of The Tormentors.

Twenty years after ‘The Queen Is Dead’, the Pope of Mope is still cranking out flawlessly gloomy anthems of love, loss and despair. Morrissey is a singular performer, and while his backing band may not be the Smiths, it’s clear they understand him enough to make the music a perfect fit to his rampantly idiosyncratic lyrics. Featuring a riff or two from glam-rock, the usual jangly guitars, and just a smidgen of ‘minaret music’, the musical palate is diverse, but the voice is the same. I’m not going to analyse this record; suffice to say Moz has a certain job to do, and he’s still doing it well. Yo, Attenborough – go fuck a dolphin.

9) Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Though in constant danger of being devoured by their own hype, the Internet’s most famous creation haven’t made too bad a job of it. Like Pulp without the dancey bits, there’s a dismally funny working-class core to the Monkeys sound, and whether you think they’re gifted with lyrical madness or just a bunch of scruffy oiks with bad grammar who look like fat mechanics, you’re unlikely to be able to escape them any time soon. If I were Miles are this point, I might chip in ‘people say they’re good. Hey, the title works!’ But I’m not. So pretend that sentence never happened.

(Miles Note: They're alright, really. I like them as people (I was converted by a particularly entertaining Q interview) but musically they don't interest me)

10) The Killers – Sam’s Town

Another polarising record. Maybe I’m just blinded by the Vegas glitz, but I think The Killers have cemented their reputation as one of the best pop bands around today. Moving from thumping indie-dance to Springsteen impersonation, Brandon Flowers and crew tick all the cliché boxes: highways, hurricanes, Grandma Dixie. But although it’s pretty stupid, it’s enjoyable. There’s some lyrical deficiencies, but the music is big enough to flatten the odd note of dissent, and garrote it with the Stars and Stripes. This is the sound of The Killers reclaiming America, for better or worse. As the album is named after a casino, the most apt advice is to simply hang up your brain with your hat and coat at the door, and submit to the showmanship of Sam’s Town.

... MCR? Sam's Town? Richard, you're fired.

S+N's Songs of the Year
The following have all been in heavy rotation on the office stereo. Dig it:
The Long Blondes - Lust in the Movies
-M: MUCH better than Once and Never Again. EDIE SEDGEWICK! etc.
Guillemots - Trains to Brazil
Flaming Lips - The Yeah yeah Yeah Song
- M: I really liked At War with the Mystics and this is a gloriously silly highlight.
Regina Spektor - On the Radio
Pipettes - Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me
-M: Actually just that little bit better than "Pull Shapes"
Calexico - All Systems Red
-M: Epic, majestic, heartbreaking
Mates of State - Fraud in the 80s
The Divine Comedy - To Die a Virgin
Thom Yorke - Harrowdown Hill
The Starlight Mints - Inside of Me
Muse - Starlight
-M: You're humming the piano line right now. I can hear you.
Viva Voce - We Do Not F*** Around
The Polyphonic Spree - Lithium
-M: Best Nirvana Cover EVER.
Bound Stems- Andover
Ben Kweller - Penny on the Train Track
Cold War Kids - Hospital Beds
Chin Up Chin Up - This Harness Can Ride Anything
Beck - Cellphone's Dead
Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy
The Mountain Goats - Woke Up New
Jarvis - Black Magic
-M: Most of the Jarvis album really. But it's this one that I just can't stop playing.
Snow Patrol - Hands Open
Gnarls Barkley - Smiley Faces
-M: Actually quite a lot better than Crazy.
Bishop Allen - Flight 180
-M: Possibly the best song of 06, from their April EP. If you do not go to and get every free mp3 they have going then you are Missing Out.
Sparks - (Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?
The Divine Comedy - Lady of a Certain Age
Oxford Collapse - Please Visit Your National Parks
The Thermals - A Pillar of Salt
-M: Impassioned, witty indie-punk goodness.

So there you have it. That was 2006.

Next Year Miles is Looking Forward to: Radiohead, The Shins, Bloc Party, Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright, Arcade Fire, Rilo Kiley, The Good The Bad and The Queen, Of Montreal, Modest Mouse, The Pixies, Air, Interpol, The Cure, Nick Cave's Grinderman and on the off chance: BLUR, THE POSTAL SERVICE. PLEASE?

Next Year Richard is Looking Forward to: Radiohead.

Friday, December 29, 2006

On The Wire Magazine and Wolf Eyes

It's 1am, a few days after Christmas.
I'm listening to a SubPop sampler
which has got passed all the good songs on to the "noise" tracks near the end. At the same time I am reading The Wire's review of the year. They love "noise and also "dubstep" and "improv". They don't so much dislike mainstream music as completely disavow any knowledge of it. They say that Scott Walker's The Drift is his finest release. I seem to recall most people giving it middling reviews.
Scanning the various writers and musicians little Year in Review pieces, I occasionally see an artist or band I know mentioned but by and large they are in the "Bad/Cons" sections. Oh except Joanna Newsom. And the one guy who praised the Jarvis Cocker record. God bless you sir.
Halfway through reading the "This Year in: Noise" page, Wolf Eyes begins playing. Nice instrumental stuf so far, creepy and weird and with cool drums. Apparently the noise community has seen Wolf Eyes putting out records on SubPop as "selling out".
Oh, The Wire. They think of "song" as a genre .
Wolf Eyes are now screaming at me and not in any kind of pleasant melodic way.

"Forget that" I think, and put on The Best of Blondie.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Few Things

1. I really want one of these despite my having no guitar ability whatsoever

2. I envy Pitchfork writers, I really do. If they paid me then I really could write nonsensical/pretentious concept reviews of albums nobody will ever hear as well!

On the other hand I could NOT join in with their current trend of liking Justin Timberlake. Just NO guys. No. But thanks for those Best of the Year mp3s.

3. I will try my damndest to get a Best of the Year done before the end of the year

4. I am sitting in bed typing this and there are two fresh new Nada Surf posters above my head. Barsuk didn't send one of the badges I ordered from them (along with a bunch of other stuff I'll be getting for Christmas) so I e-mailed them and they sent me the badge plus two posters and a big shiny Nada Surf sticker. Barsuk, we salute you.

5. Lists are fun!

Who loves Jarvis?

We love Jarvis.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Really Good Christmas Songs III

What does everyone do at Christmas?

Play in the snow? ...Nah. It never snows.

Rejoice in the coming of Christ? ...More of an acquired taste.

Get drunk and argue with your immediate family? ...Hell, yeah!

And that's exactly why 'Fairytale of New York' by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl is the best Christmas song ever.
Shane 'Black-tooth' MacGowan is Irish and proud, which means he gets to growl, slur his words and introduce fiddles into punk rock. Although this is a ballad, it's none of your sappy shit; his voice is still rough as hell, and he was almost certainly two-thirds gone in this recording judging by the sound of it.
The song starts in the form of a piano-led, lonely plod through snowy streets, or so it feels, before the immortally drunk line 'so Happy Christmas, I laaaaave ya boooooooybeeeeeeee' and those fiddles kick in, along with Kirsty.
From then on it's prime vocal sparring: 'you were handsome, [you were pretty, Queen of New York City]' leading to a chorus about 'the NYPD choir', which may or may not exist.
Perhaps the most memorable exchange in the song is the infamous
'You scumbag, you maggot,
You cheap lousy faggot,
Merry Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last'.
But somehow despite this, by the end MacGowan has turned the disintegration of their relationship into something truly romantic, about shared dreams and bells ringing out, delivered in a fine whisky-sodden snarl. And here come the violins.
I can't offer you a direct link like Miles, but here's my MySpace, which features the track: CLICK IT
So joy to the world (you cheap lousy faggots) and welcome to Christmas, O'Brien style.

Irish Blood, English Heart

Sir David Attenborough vs. Morrissey vs. Sir Paul McCartney. No, it’s not a WWE Triple Threat Match, although that would be a fine way to settle the score; it’s the top 3 finalists in a poll held by The Culture Show to determine the Greatest Living British Icon. After weeks of voting by the general public, the plethora of talents most beloved by the British public was whittled down to a final ten, and now only three remain. By the time this is published, the winner will have been announced, and maybe we’ll all laugh at this with the benefit of hindsight – but for the moment, let’s compare our choices. Two knights of the realm versus a man who once threatened to ‘drop [his] trousers to the Queen’. It’s quite a bizarre match, not least for the generational difference.

Personally, I’d imagine there were more devoted Smiths fans among the main audience of The Culture Show than Beatles obsessives or nature enthusiasts, but maybe that’s just judging on the viewers I know. I predict a Morrissey victory, and for what it’s worth he has my vote.

McCartney has always irritated me on some implacable level, most likely for outliving John Lennon – although Heather Mills is still an evil, money-grabbing witch. Least favourite Beatle or not, he’s still been around a lot longer than she has, and displayed a considerable amount more talent, hence earning the dinero that she’s now pursuing. But when it comes to song-writing, there are definitely far more Morrissey than McCartney compositions on my own playlist – I’d go so far as to say I consider The Smiths more influential than The Beatles. (Feel free to abuse me in the street).

Attenborough is an entirely different kettle of fish. The comparison is therefore completely different. In his own field, Sir David is clearly the master; there’s no one in broadcasting to rival his experience or pedigree. Some of his advocates on the show have even said that he is saving the world. This wild claim, like the one that Morrissey’s lyrics save people’s lives, should probably be put aside, but it’s a good selling point nonetheless. Attenborough is a hero to many, and deservedly a very respected man. But is he iconic? Is he the symbol of a whole culture, or even a generation? He can lay claim to many acheivements, but I feel he is more saint than icon – working good works for the good of planet Earth, but not embodying a mindset, a genuine uniqueness.

Whereas Attenborough is essentially a naturalist, albeit a very good one, to many people McCartney – but more specifically Morrissey – are most than just singers. The Smiths, as one review put it, carved out ‘a world not defined by standard rock iconography’; and there’s that word again. His lyrics are synonymous with unrequited love, teenage depression, and poetic nostalgia. The Beatles changed the world of pop, but Morrissey is thought by many to have challenged its foundations. He is seen as a prophet for those whose awkward, vivid feelings were never before so truly, eloquently expressed. For all these reasons and more, it seems to me that Morrissey has had a more direct effect on the minds of people across Britain than either of the other two contenders. Perhaps he has sold less records than McCartney, and is less popular than Attenborough, but as a lyricist and spokesman he is inspirational to millions; truly British, and truly iconic.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Really Good Christmas Songs I

Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes) by Harvey Danger

Mid tempo seasonal indie rock in which Sean Nelson weaves a tale of working in a repertory movie house on Christmas day. Lonliness and the commercialisation of Christmas and a trippy reversed guitar solo and sleigh bells.

What more could you possibly want?

Video here

Download here

Both couresty of the brilliant Harvey Danger fansite Hardly Dangerous. More unrleased tracks and videos there

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Good Saturday Night

You want to know my idea of a good saturday night?

1. Hot Chocolate/Instant Coffee. Combined. Oh yes I did.

2. Either the This American Life streaming archives or the Verge of the Fringe Podcast



Missing the Mark: The Embarassment of Robin Hood

First things first: I like Robin Hood. Let’s get this straight from the outset. As the archetypal English folk tale, it has everything a good story should have: outlaw bravery, pretty maidens and plenty of socially-just swashbuckle. The ballads of Robin Hood, whether or not they have any basis in fact, have delighted children and adults alike for centuries. From Errol Flynn to Kevin Costner, his celluloid adventures have enchanted generations of the modern age. Robin Hood is a story that ought to resound through the ages, from its 12th century origins to long into our future. And so it should, barring one small fact. Because for the last two months, the BBC has set out on a dedicated quest to ruin it for it for everybody.

Theoretically, Robin Hood should be impossible to get wrong. Most of the original folk tales contradict each other, but nobody cares, because the main story is too simple for such sniping. He robs from the rich, he gives to the poor. He lives in Sherwood Forest. He shoots arrows. And that’s the story.

Here’s a list of things he would probably not do, all of which can be found being blithely shoehorned into the new BBC series starring the dashingly insipid Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood, outlaw sociologist.
 Assisting with a miners’ strike.
 Pulling off ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ style air-hanging kung-fu.
 Quoting the Koran.

In the old versions of the story, there is a minor subplot to explain why England is so fantastically screwed-up. King Richard is fighting the Crusades; hence King John; hence that nasty, twisted Sheriff. Before he begins his daring deeds, Robin Hood returns to England from the crusades, sees the mess it’s in, and generally sorts it out. Never mentioned again.

The BBC see it differently. Nearly every major plot in this mind-blowingly PC series is dominated by the Crusades. The Crusades are used, with a stunning lack of subtlety, as a wholesale parallel for the War on Terror. [Obligatory disclaimer: I’m a leftie, I hate racism, I hate American foreign policy as much as the programme’s producers and I’m all for every form of tolerance and integration. However…]

While I would happily welcome incisive political undertones in any series in which they would be appropriate, the BBC seems determined to insult its viewers intelligence at every turn. There is absolutely no attempt made to disguise their flagrant pandering to every lefty-media stereotype they can lay their clammy hands on.

The acting is shoddy; but I kept watching. The script is dire; but I kept watching. The plot has more holes in it than an archery board full of arrows; but I kept watching. At some point during the first, or maybe second episode, the Sheriff of Nottingham said the following line: “there are camps in the Holy Land where they can turn a man against his own country”, referring to the Che Guevara tactics of their Topshop Robin Hood. I snorted in derision. And I kept watching.

Here is the point at which I stopped watching. During the episode ‘Turk Flu’, which the BBC would have saved time by simply titling ‘HEY KIDS, DON’T BE ISLAMOPHOBIC’, a new Merry Man joined the clan. A little background information; ‘Djaq’ was an Arabic slave, educated in the medical use of healing herbs, kidnapped by the Western invaders to work for our corrupt, war-mongering government in a metal mine. Enough modern relevance for you yet? Wait. Sorry. Did I say merry man? Of course, ‘Djaq’ was in fact Sofia, a battle-hardened runaway woman fighting the good fight for freedom disguised by a masculine haircut. Point 1: she was visibly, obviously female for the entire length of the programme. Point 2: Why?!

Djaq/Sofia’s story is just one example of the political injustice which the independent BBC feels the need to rail against on Saturday evening family television. Personally, I felt insulted that there was a implicit comparison being made by the Sheriff and his cronies between Robin Hood and British-born tube bombers. However, despite packing in all the Iraq war references that 45 minutes a week will possibly hold, the BBC couldn’t change the fact that their hero was male. Not content to put up with this patriarchy, someone had a brainwave: give Maid Marian a cloak-wearing poor-feeding vigilante alter-ego called ‘The Nightwatchman’. That’s right, kids – in the 12th century, girls could kick butt too! I await with baited breath the day that a lipstick-wearing, sass-talking Maid Marian doll appears on the shelves of Woolworths alongside the Bratz and Karate Barbie. A selection of phrases at the pull of a string: ‘I couldn’t go to war, so I decided to go to war against poverty.’ ‘I will not be told what to do by any man.’ ‘Robin, I’ve changed my name to Bono.’ NB: This does not happen. But it’s not as if Robin Hood doesn’t do anachronisms.

It seems in most cases that salivating correctness in the political sense has been pursued at the cost of any semblance of accuracy when it comes to historical detail. In fact, if the producers of Robin Hood actually employed a historical consultant, he or she should be arrested for failure to report a crime. The characters speak completely modern English apart from the maddeningly clunky refusal to use any contractions. (‘Cause, that’s how they spoke in the olden times, innit.) All the clothes look like something you could buy in Burton. In the Sheriff’s institutionally bigoted court, in 12th century Nottingham, there is a highly-ranked nobleman who appears to ethnically originate from sub-Saharan Africa. There is absolutely no explanation.

Writing this, I almost feel like I owe a series of apologies. I don’t mean to insult any minorities – I feel that this programme has already done that enough. Political correctness is like a tightrope; anyone seen to criticise it risks falling off it themselves. But I am not a Mail reader, I am not an Islamophobe, and unlike this programme’s apparent target demographic, I am not an idiot. At the outset of this series, I felt that the programme chosen to fill Doctor Who’s slot was watchable trash. Everything was wrong, of course, but shutting off my brain it was almost entertaining. The zing of the arrows; the green of the (Hungarian) countryside; the delirious pantomime performance Keith Allen gives as the dastardly Sheriff. But after four more weeks of being beaten incessantly over the head with the blunt stick of right-on Galloway-esque propaganda, it had become unwatchably bad.

Yes, it’s entertainment. Yes, it’s not based on fact. Yes, I’m a petty, snobby, grammar-school student with nothing better to do with his time than pick holes in lowbrow family comedy. But for Christ’s sake, who put this on the air? There will, inevitably, be a second series. The critics mauled it, and the public love it. But for one of the world’s most respected broadcasting organisations, and one of the nation’s best-loved stories, this is just not good enough. Robin Hood is an absolute shambles. If you like paper-thin plotting, Orlando Bloom acting, and scripts a dog could have written in the dark, you’ll love this series. For everyone else, this is an arrow in the eye of the monarch of British television.

Richard O’Brien.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Richard Linklater Wants To Scan You Darkly

Ok, not really, but it makes a good title, no?

A Scanner Darkly then. Yes, That Movie About Drugs Where It's Live Action But Then Coloured In.
I finally saw it last week thanks to the ever wonderful Phoenix cinema in Leicester.

And it's been a week and I am still unsure as to how I felt about the movie. I mean it was definitely good, it remains intruiging (but not gripping) throughout and is frequently amusing (but never hilarious). I just don't think I really ENJOYED it very much.

Linklater is brilliant, let us not quibble here. His directing is great as always and you owe it to yourself to go and rent Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Robert Downey Junior is also wonderful and perfectly cast as a paranoid conspiracy-theoriest junkie.
Keanu... is in the film.

Oh that's harsh, I mean he's not terrible. Keanu is Keanu. Some films suit his "style" of "acting". Luckily, I think this is one of them. As our introspective main cha... Did I mention the plot? I best mention the plot hand't I? Man, I am SO out of the Reviewing game.

So Keanu is an undercover narcotics cop, no one he works with knows who he is and vica versa. Thanks to this, he is assigned to his civilan alter ego.

Not much then happens until about 20 minutes before the end. Then lots happens all of a sudden, including two plot twists: one clearly signposted from the start and one clearly signposted from a minute or so before it happens. But for the majority of the film, it's a little slow in terms of plot, but heavy on the dialoge and charachter development.

It's a damn shame Radiohead didn't end up doing the soundtrack, it would've benefited from some Kid A style weirdness instead of the standard orchestral score.

The rotoscoping (Coloured In Live Action, kids) is nice. I mean it looks great most of the time but is never really utilised to it's full potential. You really want somebody to have a bad trip breakdown halucinato-fest and it never happens. The animators never really get to flex their muscles.

I just don't know. It's not a fun movie. It's not a great movie. But it is a good movie and it's certainly interesting. Worth renting or catching at your local arthouse theatre. Not worth buying.

6.5/10 - More marajuana than cocaine. Or... or something. Drugs are bad, stay in school.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Who loves The Long Blondes?

We love The Long Blondes

Two more for the road

Larrikin Love – The Freedom Spark

Given the buzz surrounding Larrikin Love, you’d think they’d colonised Mars and, just to cap it off, beat up the Pope. In fact, they’re a relatively good indie band who’ve just released a relatively well-realised first album. In some ways, it’s a logical step up from the scrawny melodic genius glimpsed at in their demos. ‘Six Queens’ is a case in point – like Dirty Pretty Things moved on from The Libertines, Larrikin Love have made their sound harder, faster and tighter for their first full-length release. The debt Edward Larrikin and co owe to that band is clear, in the Albion-influenced lyrics, fey vocals and ragged guitar shuffles. One main difference is the occasional appearance of Irish folk elements, and at times something that might just be calypso. This musical magpieing works best on ‘Happy As Annie’, where an off-beat skank and jigging fiddles mask a dark lyrical core. In the crammed-in rhymes its easy to miss at first the rather unpleasant tale of rape in a field that leaves Edward ‘choked with fear’. For those familiar with the band there are only three new songs, all not among the best, but definitely growers. But whatever your level of prior knowledge, the uproarious joy in this riverdance-rock ought to be persuasion enough. All hail the new lords of the dance.

Bob Dylan – Modern Times

At the end of the day, who am I to review Bob Dylan? Unlike the greenhorns making up the rest of this section, ‘Modern Times’ marks the 32nd studio album the old crank has released. Think about that for a moment – thirty-two! At 65, he’s also now the oldest person to go straight in at number one of the American charts. And he must be doing something right. Here, it’s a well-worn combination of rollicking roots music, the deft lyricism that sets him above mere musical acclaim, and the age-torn voice that has divided critics for more than forty years. He croaks, snarls, grumbles and mumbles, and sometimes slips into what could kindly be described as a death-rattle. It roughs up the swing ballads and fires up the roaring heart of his blues numbers. In the 30 years since 1966, he’s crashed a bike, split from his wife, found God, sucked in the 80s, and somehow come out of it all with a rough-neck road-dog dignity that’s truly outstanding. ‘Modern Times’ is not ‘Bringing It All Back Home’. It’s not ‘Blood On The Tracks’ either. But it’s the raw distillation of all the living Bob Dylan has done over 65 years and 32 studio albums. Now come on – what have you done with your life?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Re: Sam's Town

It's not very good. At all.

Horrible stuck-in-the-80s Springsteen-goes-synth cliched-lyrics-a-go-go rubbish.

Balanced music journalism: It's what's for breakfast.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Brucie Bonus

The Killers – Sam’s Town

On the opener and title-track of their new album, synths ebb and flow over the subdued prowl of the verses before Brandon Flowers weighs in with an electrifying hook that makes it clear The Killers are no one-disc wonder. Much has been made of their newfound obsession with Americana, and that influence can be found in the gleaming Springsteenian swayalong of ‘When You Were Young’, and indeed throughout the album. The lyrics are littered with references to highways, hurricanes, wild rivers and people named ‘Grandma Dixie’. But it’s all filtered through their irresistible disco switchboard; although this time the synths feel more organic, the rhythms less processed, and (thankfully for some) there’s nothing to compare with the club-slut kitsch of ‘Somebody Told Me’. But the songs are still just as memorable. There’s the robotic love buzz of ‘For Reasons Unknown’, which sees Flowers emoting ‘my lips, they don’t kiss the way they used to anymore’ over washes of keyboard and guitar. Later on, the pendulous thrust of ‘Uncle Johnny’’s riff saves it from the disgrace of its rhymes, and ‘My List’ practically turns your speakers into two giant waving lighters. ‘Bones’ shifts from twinkly stadium rock to lean cymbal-splashing poetry, until the unexpected, gleeful ambush of some kind of circus brass band. And back again. Sadly it’s not a cover of the Dry Ocean classic – but if you got yourself in a hot fuss over their debut, Sam’s Town has rooms for everyone.

Getting lonely

You haven’t heard of The Mountain Goats. This is a bona fide certainty. If you have, and you didn’t hear about them from me, you just made my list of heroes. But for the rest, consider this an introduction.
Everyone has their own little personal music obsession, and The Mountain Goats are mine. I started with one song, then one album, then three albums. Then all of them. Every album, single, and EP. Most of these aren’t available to buy in the UK. For most of the 1990s, they weren’t even available on CD. All I can say by way of explanation is ‘God bless the Internet’.
The Mountain Goats are essentially John Darnielle, and John Darnielle is The Mountain Goats. An ex-psychiatric nurse and associate of meth addicts, he grew up in Southern California and sometimes in the early 1990s decided to set a few songs down on tape. The primary recording device was a department-store boombox. In the years since the band’s inception, they have recorded over 400, and all but the most recent 50 or so have been recorded on the boombox, and most of these released by one-man-and-his-dog indie record labels on good old fashioned cassette tape. The clarity of the recording in these cases is literally dependent on how close to the microphone Darnielle is standing. His voice often struggles to break through layers of tinny tape fuzz. And if you weren’t put off enough already, there’s the question of his voice. High and nasal, it holds desperately on to notes it barely has the breath to produce, and bleats in your ears like a sheep being kicked as he plays jarring chords on an acoustic guitar that nearly always sounds like its strings are about to break.
But I love it. And why? Because I don’t see these as faults. In every strained, stirring syllable, every frenzied, claw-fingered chord, there is an honesty, an integrity, a passion so desperately lacking in so much of modern music. John Darnielle is a human being, not an industry robot, and he does not play by any rule that Sony ever wrote. No promotion, no money, and not even a studio to record in until the last four years or so. But somehow he has built up a solid internet fanbase, and 27,000 people quietly came to one recent London show. Sadly, I wasn’t one of them, but I wish I was; I would love to stand in a crowded room, sweat dripping from my brow, singing every lyric back to the stage at the top of my hoarse little lungs.
This, more than anything, is what inspired people so much about his music. Darnielle has been called ‘the best non-hip-hop lyricist writing in America today’. To my mind that would make him simply ‘the best lyricist writing in America today’ – but that’s another story. His poetic flair, imagery and often jaw-dropping rhyme often feel like, in his own words, ‘the last best thing I got going’. While always spirited, his backdrop of acoustic indie-folk is almost inconsequential. That’s right, folk. And I don’t really even listen to folk. The only other folk singer in my regular listening is none other than Bob Dylan, and to my mind the comparison speaks for itself. Darnielle is a Dylan for modern times; the best reference point I can find for his literate lyrical urgency. And they said he couldn’t sing, either.
His 2005 studio release, ‘The Sunset Tree’, is one of my favourite albums ever written. Nearly every song contains a phrase scored indelibly in my mind. ‘This Year’ is a rousing sing-a-long of escape from your problems, through love, alcohol, or whatever comes to hand. It moves from deadbeat romance – “I played video games in a drunken haze, I was seventeen years young; hurt my knuckles punching the machines, the taste of scotch rich on my tongue” – to the dark threat of domestic violence: “I downshifted as I pulled into the driveway. The motor screaming out stuck in second gear.
The scene ends badly as you might imagine, in a cavalcade of anger and fear.”
The perpetrator, Darnielle’s step-father, rears his ugly head again on ‘Lion’s Teeth’, an unflinching confrontation powered by simmering strings and a martial drumbeat. They brawl in his car as the words spill uncontrollably from Darnielle’s lips: “Nobody in this house wants to own up to the truth. I crawl in shotgun, and reach into his mouth, and grab hold of one long, sharp tooth and hold on, for dear life.”
Then there’s the nervous, gasoline-fuelled death-dance of ‘Dilaudid’, the violent transcendence of ‘Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod’ and the sheer, giddy joy in the eye of the tornado that whirls through ‘Dance Music’.
Despite all my raving, most of you probably still won’t like it, and if you did, you probably can’t buy it in the shops. What you can buy is the next album, ‘Get Lonely’, which is something of a departure. On first listen, I felt let down. No fast songs, no manic strumming, and Darnielle’s voice a soft whisper neutered by its polish. Or so I thought for a few more listens. But in a dark room, over headphones, staring at the ceiling, the sad strings and gentle, unostentatious turns of phrase speak volumes. The lyrics aren’t as dense; but they are as strong, given time and space. So if you see it, it isn’t my most highly recommended – but it’s a start, if only for the lines:
“I will get lonely, and gasp for air, and send your name up from my lips, like a signal flare.”
This pointillistic heartbreak, made starker by its juxtaposition with desperate observations about the weather and the state of the concrete, sits like a stone in the centre of all twelve songs. I listened to my favourite, flawed singer with only the dark for company, and I got lonely. Will you?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What did you just do and what are you going to do now?

I just saw a film, now I'm going to review it. See? The system really works.

Children of Men is a near future sci-fi thriller in which Clive Owen attempts to save a pregnant mother in a world where no children have been born for 18 years. Much violence ensues.

And I mean, much. Loud bangs and shocks apleanty. Not for the highly strung.

To cut to the chase: It's quite good. I'd probably recommend renting it on DVD and perhaps even seeing it at the Cinema if you want to see something at the moment. One might call it "harrowing" and "thouight provoking" but I think I'll stick to "quite good". Clive Owen does a good job of looking reluctantly-heroic.

The directing is competant throughout, the plot twists are genuinely unexpected (well, some of them) and there's a rather brilliant almost-first-person sequence where the blood spattered camera chases Owen through a war torn city in the midst of a gun battle.

7/10 - It's near future not-quite-the-end-of-the-world-o-riffic!

Other films I saw this weekend: The Weather Man. In which Nicolas Cage is a fortysomething local TV weatherman. It's a rather bleak little drama/comedy and I liked it quite alot. Not very laugh-out-loud hilarious but amusing and entertaining. Worth renting, certainly. Nicely weird electronica score too. If.. you care about such things.

8/10 - It's funny-but-also-sad-but-good-o-riffic!

Next week: Almost certainly A Scanner Darkly and quite possibly Another Film

Saturday, September 30, 2006

We're still here

We're just busy at the moment.

Hey , remember that list of stuff I said I was totally going to review?

"Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens
The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens
Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads
The complete Long Winters discography
Silent Alarm by Bloc Party

The Shining, Evil Dead 2 and 3, Superman Returns, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks"

Here is that review: All these things are totally freaking awesome, except Superman Returns which is pretty ok.


More soon, try next weekend.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Tell-Tale Cathart(ic).

I've spent literally about three hours producing this review out of necessity and in my quest for heinous objectivity and all that crap, it's tarred with bookish results. But I haven't contributed anything in a while and am in need of blogging. Maybe we can all look back on this moment and giggle.

People think they know Edgar Allan Poe because he married his thirteen year-old cousin. Granted, its ethical implications are more than a little questionable and as such could be considered grounds for an appropriate affixation for Poe’s foaming, vitriolic ramblings on love, hate, insanity and ostensibly everything in-between. Such a criticism, though, profoundly over-simplifies and understates a personality at once disconnected and yet palpably ferocious.

This duplicity is no more prevalent than in The Fall of the House of the Usher, one of many short stories by Poe, which does away with the usual barmy protagonist as narrator and instead supplants this upon Roderick Usher: the one-time friend of our nameless guide, not only plagued by his unearthly place of residence and ill-fated twin sister but also an oppressive mental disorder which may or may not have something to do with the previous two. By eschewing the first person in this manner and up-playing the non-didacticism, Poe simultaneously adorns and degrades the soul. For itself is an emotional terror, not one of factual integrity. And so, as you’d expect, initial descriptions of the house sniffle of perpetual indulgence (“a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit”), but Poe merely uses these fantasist extortions to legitimise his realist intentions. Thusly Usher has little to do with a wildly transmogrifying abode, and everything to do with the wearing of individualism – an admittedly sensationalist conclusion is poignantly two-fold; as the Usher house falls so, too, do the lives and lineage of the ashen siblings.

One can accuse The Fall of the House of Usher, and by extension most of Poe’s repertoire, of being comfortably digestible in its own horrific way. Its finale is a fitting one, it flirts with both the supernatural and spiritual, and the plot serves to typify insanity just enough to entertain. Poe is restrained and let loose at the same time, both pure and puerile, frothing at the mouth like a witless animal circling the epicentre of innate ‘Baroque-ness’. And yet this is not a desperate lunge like the slovenly poet who overflows his passion in For Annie, neither the murderous semantics of The Tell-Tale Heart. Instead Usher teeters somewhere in the middle: suitably aware of its own grunge and stream of consciousness but less audaciously. Then it is not with grim fascination we enter the House of Usher as the host’s ‘friend’, rather with a snooping curiosity. We are drawn to its grotesqueness not because we ourselves are grotesque – that honour is bestowed upon, ironically, a house more animated than its inhabitants- but because we ask why. Why is it the house compares to “no earthly sensation” other than “the bitter lapse into everyday life” one receives after an opium trip? Our narrator even feigns a shaky justification, and in this vein taps into some odd wealth of primal human emotion. Poe makes us afraid, and out of nothing other than opinion and manipulative observation.

The fact that Poe is able to mask these machinations so completely is nothing short of intimidating. So whilst there’s a veritable gamut of now familiar horror staples (internment while alive, doors slamming, the original haunted house) it’s a tribute to the author that his story of the corrupted individual transcends any potentially dating genre trappings. The most obvious manifestation of this would be the invention of The Mad Trist, supposedly by Sir Launcelot Canning in fact Poe himself, which serves as unlikely means to extrapolate the reader’s fear further as the sounds contained within the story-within-a-story begin to mimic those in reality. Appropriately, though, Poe drenches the story of the knightly drunkard deep in satire and the plot is intentionally nonsensical. This gimmick in other hands would be nothing other than a scant excuse to showcase the author’s talents. In Poe’s case, it rings of a knowing selflessness many strive for but few achieve.

Subtlety is not something one usually associates with Poe, and The Fall of the House of Usher is no exception. Indeed, he all but stops short of bludgeoning us over the head with the novella’s wanton spirituality and vagaries of quietude. But there, in that moment, in that house, when Roderick Usher gives up his soul to bellow “MADMAN!” at his alarmed guest, there is an instant of such utterly sublime terror that strikes such a chord of unspeakable feeling that it warrants the excess that has preceded it. Expectedly compulsive and emotionally shattering, yet just as deliciously disordered as its titular dwelling, Usher is a decisive work with a slobbering intensity. Just what you’d expect, then, from an American who married his thirteen year-old cousin.

“By utter simplicity, by the nakedness of his designs, he arrested and overawed attention. If ever mortal painted an idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher.”

For Edgar Allan Poe, that idea is fear.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Some Films You Should See

Little Miss Sunshine

The Squid and The Whale

If you do not see them and enjoy them, I will come to your house and punch you in the face.

What do you mean what happened to quality reviews? We're busy! And lazy. And busy!

Fine -

Little Miss Sunshine starts off as a subtley funny Wes Anderson-a-like dysfunctional family comedy and half way turns into an outright hilarious Coen Brothers movie. For reasons you don't need to know, the family (mother, self-help-guru-wannabe father, heroin sorting grandfather, silent marxist son and beauty queen in training daughter and mum's just-failed-to-commit-suicide brother) set out on a road trip from somewhere to somewhere else. It's really, really funny. Some journalists have accused it of having a "cop out" ending. These journalists are soulless bastards who probably kill puppies for fun. Sorry, qualit reviews, right - If you wanted it to be all Royal Tenenbaums then you will perhaps feel let down by the ending. If on the other hand you "like comedy" and "enjoy fun" and "have a soul" then there is no reason you will not love it.

God I write some apalling stuff when I am not trying hard. Let's see if I can get back into the game

The Squid and the Whale - A lot has already been written about this by the rest of the world who saw it last year. But still. This might be my new favourite movie. Definitely into my top 5. Another comedy about a family (but definitely not a family comedy) this time one being TORN APART BY INNER TURMOIL (Any movie studios need writers for those idiotic trailer voiceovers?). Yes, parents divorce in Brooklyn in the late 80s. Hilarity ensues. We learn a lot about life, love and tennis. Well not much about tennis really. Basically nothing about tennis. But there is tennis in it.


It's a fantastic film anyway. Very smart, very well writte, brilliantly acted, wonderfully shot, perfectly soundtracked, [positive adjective] [verb]ed. Go rent it now. Now. Right now. Go on.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


We've all heard about this right? Major record labels band together to give free music to the world. Daw, how nice of them. All I have to do is sit through a few advertisements to get the hot new joint from Britney Spears? Sign me up!

Or, you know, don't.

I am of course being overly harsh. There are lots of good artists and bands on major labels. But I'm only expecting the really mainstream popular stuff to make it to SpiralFrog. And I would bet the farm (if I had one) that their will be some hideous, crippling DRM on the downloads.

Still, we shall see come September.

As I write this I am listening to the delightful Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads and David Bryne shares some thoughts of his on SpiralFrog at his journal - click here to read.

I'm going to see Little Miss Sunshine this evening so review tonight or tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back with a Vengeance: Bad Music

Ladies, gentleman, that sort of mole type thing

All is not well in the world

1) The Arctic Monkeys won the Mercury. Admittedly they very rarely get it right but surely Thom Yorke or the Guillemots or, well, ANYONE deserved it more than the Sheffield Strokes

2) The new My Chemical Romance song that they performed at/before that MTV awards show. I'm not embedding the YouTube video. If you want your ears to be assaulted by a minute of drum roll (OMG, MCR ARE BAK! THEYVE BEEN AWAY FOR LIKE SIX HOLE WEEKS!!!) followed by two minutes of hideous Queen pastiche that then descends into the usuall "mall-punk"(Thanks Stereogum) rubbish. I mean i didn't like MCR before but this is the worst thing of theirs I've ever heard.

3) I can live with the Monkeys being popular. I just don't like them, you do, that's ok. We probably both like The Strokes. But who in their right mind is buying that Kooks record? All of you are BAD, BAD people. I hate you. I still hate you less than anyone who bought the last Oasis album though.

4) Oasis in general. Their continued existance is most displeasing

5) I think I'm done.

Seeking solitude from all this horrible music? Perhaps you will find better music at some of my favourite mp3 blogs. I'll post a list of the ones I check regularly tomorrow.

Till then - It's good to be back.

Friday, August 25, 2006


What with people being away and everyone trying to make the most of the last few weeks of holiday - Sugar and Noise will be back sometime in September.

I shall leave you with this - What the heck are the critics whining about with Cars? It's a good movie. A great movie perhaps. Yes it is not as good as The Incredibles but so what? Go see it if you were put off by the reviews. You won't regret it. And if you are a Pixar nerd you will fall off your chair when it gets to "the cinema bit" during the credits.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

We'll be back

Miles shall return as soon as his home internet connection starts working again. Right now he is posting from a public library. And writing in third person. May god have mercy on him all.

Or something.

PS - Miles is going to be at the Summer Sundae festival in Leicester this weekend. In the extremely unlikely event of a) us having any readers and b) any of them being there, say hi to the guy in the ThinkGeek/Harvey Danger/Weezer t-shirt(s).

And yes, expect write ups. When the my interwubs is back. Also expect a return to Normal English. ¬_¬

Miles out

Monday, July 24, 2006

Slow down now.

Excuse me while I recover from a conniption as my third most anticipated film of the year (the first being INLAND EMPIRE and the second Pan's Labyrinth), Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain just got its full-length trailer right here. I really don't have a lot to type -it pretty much speaks for itself- other than it's been six long years since the over-sexed and over-disturbing Requiem for a Dream was unleashed, and now I think we're all ready for a little space-time continuum fiddling. One thing's for sure: The Fountain is going to be very, very pretty.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bad Night, and bad luck.

I can't feel too bad for M. Night Shyamalan. Not only is his surname the spelling bane of my life, he also makes terrifically 'self' movies. That meaning self-righteous, self-involved and frightfully self-indulgent, unless of course he's being tamed by Disney (as I assume he was with The Sixth Sense and, to lesser extent, Unbreakable - films at least penetrable to us not of the faux-pseudo-intellectual brat variety). Critics have ripped him a new one with his latest Lady in the Water, which makes me happy, but I am assuming it'll still be making oodles of cash.

Here are the reasons I will not be subjecting myself to Lady in the Water:
  • Just like Signs and The Village, the premise is stupid as you like.
  • Just like Signs and The Village, it squanders a perfectly good cast (Question: how do you fuck up the delectable prospect of Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt sharing the screen? Answer: make them stupid, mongoloid-like automatons caught up in apparent genre fiddle-faddle; and whose zero emotional relevance is only capitulated by an equally dour grasp on what people should be saying in these ridiculous situations, only they don't, and never will).
  • Therefore I don't wish to see Paul Giamatti violated in this way.
  • And just like Signs and The Village, it's being sold as a supernatural thriller, when we all know -third time's a charm!- that it'll be a bunco attempt at forced melodrama, and with an unwelcome splash at subverting non-didacticism flung in for the sake of it.
If Shyamalan was quietly wanking away from the limelight, I doubt I'd mind so much at these delusions of grandeur and the even more horrendous allegations of Spielbergian proportions.

A watery tart in your swimming pool does not supreme executive power wield. I'm just happy a sizeable backlash has begun. Let the drubbing commence.

P.S I excitedly recommend Joe Morgenstern's to-the-point and hilarious critique of Lady in the Water - listen here, if you will.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Coming Atractions

Things Miles really, really needs to get round to reviewing:

Chicago by Sufjan Stevens
The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens
Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads
The complete Long Winters discography
Silent Alarm by Bloc Party

All the other CDs I got for my birthday and/or bought with birthday money

The Shining, Evil Dead 2 and 3, Superman Returns, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks


This is the To Do list. It's been a week with a very high level of media consumption.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


And just briefly, IGN are offering the first twenty-four minutes of A Scanner Darkly which has left me in a moral quandary. I mean, I'd like to see Winona rotoscoped now, but surely this is ruining things a little? Anyways it's here so I entrust that decision unto you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Finally Bricking it.

I try to write occasionally when I get depressed, and you'd think doing something that often would make me half-way good at it. Not the case. When I do finally sling the ink, it's sparse and awful, but it nearly always encompasses three crucial elements. These would be dystopia, adolescence, and detective noir. I'm telling you all this because Brick, the critically lauded debut from writer/director Rian Johnson, is a clear amalgamation of the last two; or if you're feeling naughty then all three. After all, discounting science-fiction, our befuddled and brooding protagonist is just as emotionally disparate as Rick Deckard or John Murdoch, and the world he lives in is just as hot-blooded and ethically corrupt. Only this time, he's a teenager.

If the opening of the last paragraph was embarrassingly self-congratulatory, it's only because I'm fiendishly jealous of Rian Johnson. And if you've read anything about Brick, you'll know it's 2006's Donnie Darko. Whilst a certain amount of that writing is on the wall, Johnson is far less eager to please than Richard Kelly, and far less audaciously self-aware (at least not in the bad ways). Brick is a grown-up, potent and haunting piece of work: still zinging enough to wear the fresh-out-of-film-school badge with pride, unafraid to call attention to its economic inventiveness, and yet never haughtily so. It takes time to legitimise its intentions, and thus Brick is far more humble than Darko - it's not as self-catered for a legion of Taranteenies as one might expect. So sure the dialogue is wicked-smart, the music wily, and cinematography painstakingly beautiful; but the movie is hardly an accommodating one and deliberately so. If I were ever to write something like this, it could never be this eloquent, and with such little speech.

It's impossible not to mention Dashiell Hammett at this point, and even Twin Peaks. Clearly, Johnson wears his influences on his sleeve: Emily's alluded-to grubby downfall is similar to Laura Palmer's and more obviously our anti-hero Brendan is a quietly tough nut on the edge of cracking just like Sam Spade. Stylistically, though, Johnson empowers his actors and his screen with an independent vivacity. His world is a decidedly hyper-realistic and dispassionate one, but thankfully entrenched in a believable seriousness for the bonkos to ensue.

I've waited a long time to see Brick, a long time to find out who put Emily in front of the gun, and I cannot over-express my brutal satisfaction. Really very good.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Indie Alphabet 2: Electric Boogaloo with the letter B

B is for . . .
Belle & Sebastan

Miles: Twee, yes. But more accuratey, pop for grown ups. Sex, drugs, insecurity and lovely Scottish people.

Richard: Updating the fey sensibilities of The Smiths to '90s Scotland, Stuart Murdoch and his merry men melt hearts with their folkish harmonies and toy-orchestra instrumentation

Bloc Party

Miles: Here is what's wrong with Bloc Party - The NME loves them. But ignore that and just listen and like me you too will crumble to the charms of Kele Okereke's howling vocals and somewhat Radiohead-esque lyrics over Matt Tong's frequently insane dancepunk drumming. Their second album is shaping up to be quite stunning.

British Sea Power
Richard: British Sea Power deserve a longer write-up from me, because as evidenced by my MySpace name I fucking love them, but here's a taster. They play epic, sweeping, geography-rock (you think of something better) based on ebbing and flowing guitar lines, with haunting, hushed vocals and occasional snatches of birdsong. They've also been known to record one-minute wonders featuring psuedonymed vocalist Yan screaming 'FYODOR YOU ARE THE MOST ATTRACTIVE MAN!' over a wall of barbed guitars. They call these their 'spiky' songs.

Bright Eyes
Richard: Conor Oberst has apparently been dabbling in this music game since he was a tender 13, and may well still be playing the same acoustic guitar. From the dark heart of Omaha, he was instrumental in the setting-up of so-credible-it-hurts record label Saddle Creek, and is a hero to many with his sinister folk, all wordy warbled nasal vocals and string-breakingly manic strumming.

Miles: I like him. *shrugs* I'm Wide Awake It's Morning is on my To Buy list.

Ben Folds (Five)
Miles: Ben Folds is too indie. Well, maybe. And Ben Folds Five certainly were. Whatever And Ever Amen (yes, The One With Brick On) is one of the finest albums of the 90s (Yes, really) and since then Ben Folds has not weakened, but matured. His most recent LP Songs for Silverman is perhaps a little too close to Radio 2 MOR territory for those who long for his "punk rock for pussies" days but Prison Food is the most haunting song he's ever produced.

Badly Drawn Boy
Miles: I like to think of him as the English Ben Folds, though his weapon of choice be the guitar rather than the piano. Notably did a very good soundtrack for otherwise unimportant Nick Hornby adaption About A Boy.

Ben Kweller
Miles: His first album sounds an awful like Weezer, his second an awful lot like... Weezer meets Johnny Cash meets Nick Cave. With occasional piano pop interludes. Self titled possible atempt at mainstream breakthrough to be released later this year.

Bishop Allen
Miles: Click here and go get all the mp3s they have for free on their website. You will not regret it. Unless you are deaf, in which case you just wasted a good 30 seconds of your life.

Miles: Hey, you remember that other band that Damon Albarn had before he became Gorillaz? Yeah? Pretty good I think. Certainly a million miles better than their 90s britpop rivals Oasis. Go find their best of in a bargain bin. It's a very entertaining 17 songs. And then one slightly rubbish dance-techo-experiment thing. Which says it all really.

Indie Alphabet: Once More With Feeling - A

Alright, we're going to get it right this time. One post for each letter with every band we can think of. Got it? Good. So, A!

Arctic Monkeys
Miles: Overhyped, under performing dull as dirt and twice as common. Everything that's wrong with "indie rock" as percieved by the mainstream press and worshiped by the NME.

: It's grim up North, but these internet megastars have enough angular riffs to shake booties from Sheffield to Scunthorpe.

Architecture in Helsinki
Miles: Think The Shins on a playdate with the Polyphonic Spree to see a They Might Be Giants concert for kids only for grown ups. Still with me? Symphonic indie twee pop with more instruments than you can shake a stick at. And they're from New Zealand. Or Norway. Somewhere begining with N.

Arcade Fire
Miles: It's unfortunate that this is next to the AiH one as my only reference point soundwise would once again be Polyphonic Spree. But if AiH is kids music for grown ups, this is grown up music for grown ups. Imagine if Tim Delthingy was manic depressive rather than constantly upbeat. Canadian, apparently. Pitchfork love them lots.

Apples in Stereo

Miles: I am by no means an expert on these Colardo (Possibly ¬_¬) based rockers but based on what I've heard, psychedelic power pop is the order of the day. Guitars that sound like synthesisers, that kind of thing. They seem fun.

Art Brut
Richard: Eddie Argos has successfully made a career out of shouting things about modern art and the Velvet Underground over a backdrop of ramshackle indie-punk. I also happen to have interviewed him, and he really is a lovely bloke. At this point, if I were working for Pitchfork, I'd be contractually obliged to type 'I've interviewed Eddie Argos... TWICE!' or something along those lines. But I haven't, and the joke's getting old, guys.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Hey, You

Dear Everyone

You're wrong, you're wrong, you're wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.



Dear Miles

No we're not. You're wrong. What is it this time? Better not be a musical opinion thing because that is of course completely subjective


Dear Everyone

It's about Muse. You seem to think that Origin of Symmetry is the pinacle of their achievements and whilst it is a good album with a few excellent songs and is growing on me with each listen... it pales in comparison to the mighty Absolution


Dear Miles

Absolution is nice and all but it's overarchingly bombastic and self indulgently epic and overblown. Also, it does not rock as hard


Dear Everyone

So? There's nothing wrong with being epic and bombastic and operatic. In my opinion at least, it's that very quality that makes Absolution so glorious. You're wrong.


Dear Miles

Well whatever. But are we all in agreement that the new single is pretty horrible?


Dear Everyone

Yes. Yes we are. We should meet up for drinks some time. Have a good summer.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Death Cab for Cutie - Live in Leeds

At one point during the show, Ben Gibbard quipped about how he'd thought it was hot playing in somewhere in Washington when it was 54 degrees... and then they came to Leeds University Union Refectory. Seriously, what kind of music venue doesn't have air conditioning of some sort? Eh? Still. Even the insane heat could not stop Death Cab from bringing the rock and performing a fantastic 17 songs.

Opening with Marching Bands of Manhattan with it's rousing organ intro followed by the more hard rocking The New Year, the crowd was enthusiastic from the start with impassioned singing along for much of the show. They were a little less enamoured with the older songs because not many knew them but Photobooth and Amputations were still visibly enjoyed by the majority, even if they didn't recognise the songs.

Death Cab brought a certain energy to proceedings that enlived even Soul Meets Body, a song that I thought had been ruined for me by infinite overhearings and being perhaps a little bit dull. But live, with Ben bouncing from foot to foot and Nicholas Harmer on bass throwing himself around the stage and seemingly the entire building singing the "ba-da-ba-ba-ba" section it was glorious.

Similarly joyous to behold was the sight of Ben Gibbard viciously assaulting a drum kit during the extended drum duel that took place during We Looked Like Giants. Never have you seen the man look quite so furious and intense (except possibly if he heard the guy requiesting Such Great Heights). It was also good to see him playing the drum machine part in Title and Registration (well, to begin with). Did you know he played drums on Carparts by The Long Winters? Because he did you know.

Chris Walla is also quite something and it's a shame that his backing vocals were so quiet as when they're loud enough to hear they're nothing short of breath taking. To say the guitarist has the voice of an angel would not be an exageration.

After playing a few of my favourites that I didn't expect to see live (Expo '86 and Your Heart is an Empty Room), the band finished up the main set with the power-poptastic Sound of Settling, a brilliant little upbeat song about giving up on romance and life in general. Sadly the crowd didn't do the stomping and clapping parts but they loved it, sang it loud and in some cases, jumped around very enthusiastically.

After a fairly brief break (during which the crowd got through at least two chants of "BENBENBEN!" and "DEATH-CAB!DEATH-CAB!" and all the OC kids moved to the back or left) Ben returned with an acoustic guitar, thanked the crowd, grinned and began to play I Will Follow You Into the Dark. The audience were for a moment undecided on wether hushed silence or singing along was the correct response, but soon went for the latter which Ben seemed happy about. I think the guy standing next to me might have cried at some point during this song, or it could just be sweat. Did I mention that it was very, VERY hot? Because it was.

And then the rest of the band (including drummer Jason McGerr who I had never really realised was quite so good until seeing him busting out the beats in person) returned to the stage for the epic lighter/mobile phone/matches (there was a guy lighting matches and waving them in the air. Really) waving anthem that is the title track from their 2003 masterpiece Transatlanticism. And whilst a few mumbled about it being really long, I for one loved every second. The piano intro, the guitars ringing off forever, the slowly building pounding drums and once again the majority of the audience doing a rather good job of backing vocals. There could not have been a better ending to an all round wonderful show.

Tonight's Brixton Academy gig is sold out but you really should try your best to catch them whenever they next hit the UK. Ignore the dual "emo" and "OC Band" stigmas and just apreciate the masterful songcrafting of Gibbard and his fellow brilliant musicians.

Natural's Not In It is in it.

Sofia Coppola has never been one to shy away from stupendous soundtracks, and Marie Antoinette seems to be no exception. The audience cheered and booed in equal measure at Cannes, apparently because of the supplantation of French with American, all set to a chic indie rock background. It's interesting to note that they catcalled, too, at Wild At Heart; only that time the personable vulgarity allowed Lynch to bag the Palme D'Or. I think booing is fun.

Historically inaccurate or not, a movie promising The Cure, Gang of Four, The Strokes, Aphex Twin, Phoenix and Kevin Shields re-mixes had better deliver. Personally, I was sold on the teaser - anything which exudes the tenderness of New Order's 'Age of Consent' has my immediate blessing. She's used them again in this new ditty, along with everyone's favourite Communist foursome. I'm hoping this will be a successful marriage of Lost In Translation's weary lyricism with the tragic exuberance of The Virgin Suicides. Things certainly seem to be heading in that direction: both stylistically, thematically and with an enviable ensemble to boot (her cousin Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Steve Coogan, the incomparable Rip Torn). The only seemingly dud note is Kirsten Dunst herself standing in our doorways. As an actress, I can take her or leave her - I'm sure she'll be all sultry and goo-eyed, just hopefully not at the expense of drama. Allow me to paraphrase Mark Kermode: when she's good she's pretty good, when she's bad; she's Mary Jane.

Speaking of which, you can see her looking slightly miffed in the Spider-man 3 teaser (only ten months to go!) and while you're at it, why not check out some trippy scenes from Michel Gondry's next movie The Science of Sleep? Pedants will point out they're in French.

Also, before I cap off with a lame cake pun or New Order lyric, I promise I'll stop name-dropping David Lynch at every opportunity. Honestly. I'm not the kind that likes to tell you just what I want to do.


Friday, June 23, 2006

A touch of the dizzies.

There are many gaps in my filmic knowledge, but the one that's always bothered me the most is Hitchcock's Vertigo. It has all the obvious hallmarks of his best work -blondes, mystery, adultery- and also includes the consistently dumbfounding Jimmy Stewart. Add in a couple of favourable comparisons to Mulholland Drive and you've got me salivating like Pavlov before he eats a dog. And today, I'm happy to report, a gap has been plugged. Vertigo, without a shadow of a doubt, is notoriously spellbinding: Hitchcock's most nuanced, rapturous and disturbing work I've had the pleasure of laying eyes upon.

Where to begin? The duality of Kim Novak's alternately arming and disarming performance is staggering, Stewart's another variation on his everyman theme - only this time an obsessed, lusty everyman with an astute case of acrophobia. This picture easily transcends his earlier conventions, and deliberately so, overridingly less concerned with the MacGuffin and more with primal human monomania. Bluntly, we are Hitch's bitch. Spliced moments of psychedelic brevity, a feverously unsettling use of colour, and fourth wall not as much broken as it mercilessly bulldozed. We are given knowledge, then robbed of it. Put on a steady footing; then flung into the San Francisco Bay.

But, hey, don't take my word for it. Let Saul Bass tease you.

And if that's not one of cinema's greatest openings, I'm all a muddle as to what is.

A Collection of Wonderful Things

Wonderful Things
1. Staying awake all night

2. It being 4 in the morning and yet as bright as day

3. The morning sky-gazing being soundtracked by Us and On the Radio, both by Regina Spektor. Who is rather wonderful herself. Think Bjork meets Ben Folds. Seriously. Grab some.
Or just enjoy the video for Us. What did we do before YouTube?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A-Z Beginners Guide to . . . "Indie" Bands/Artists: Part 1

In A to Z form , with your hosts - Miles and Richard! (If ever there was proof of one of us being more eloquent/verbiose than the other)

A is for Arctic Monkeys

Miles: Overhyped, under performing dull as dirt and twice as common

: It's grim up North, but these internet megastars have enough angular riffs to shake booties from Sheffield to Scunthorpe.

B is for Belle & Sebastan

Miles: Twee, yes. But more accuratey, pop for grown ups. Sex, drugs, insecurity and lovely Scottish people.

Richard: Updating the fey sensibilities of The Smiths to '90s Scotland, Stuart Murdoch and his merry men melt hearts with their folkish harmonies and toy-orchestra instrumentation

C is for Coldplay

Miles: Glumrock? Yes. Dull? Yes. Mainstream garbage? Yes. But secretley, I quite like them. Come lynch me, blogosphere (blergh)! And The Scientist is bloody brilliant. So nyer.

On tracks like 'The Scientist' and 'Fix You', Chris Martin's soaring vocals channel the angst of grunge into the pop of housewives to globe-levelling effects. Elsewhere, their inoffensively forgettable pretension confirms his public image as a whiny vegan pianist.

D is for Death Cab for Cutie

Miles: Ben Gibbard is the thinking man's Chris Martin. And Death Cab are wonderful. Be it rocking up a power pop burst on Sound of Settling or laying down a quietly angst ridden piano-lead tale of love and death on What Sarah Said, they get results. Live review next week after I see them on Tuesday.

A Morrissey for the MySpace generation, sensitive Amerindie monolith Ben Gibbard's heartbroken crew bring the pain with a densely melodic sound, and his keening vocals are the soundtrack to many an adolescence. As a new initiate to the Death cult, a longer post will follow.

E is for Eels

Miles: Mark Everret is a tortured genius. And I mean REALLY tortured. All his family have died(one being a suicide even) and as a child a plane crashed into his neighborhood. But by god if he isn't a genius. Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is one of few double albums with nothing that could be accused of filler and is generally an all round perfect record, bouncing between upbeat piano pop, quiet instrumentals and acoustic angst rock.

I must profess my ignorance on these reclusive press darlings, but TV soundtrack smash 'Novocaine For The Soul' bodes well for any further material to lovers of lush, intelligent pop

F is for Franz Ferdinand

Miles: Scotland again, but this time with a bit more RAWK. Well , mostly. For as they showed on their second album - they can do balladry too. But do-do-do-do you want them to? Frankly Alex and co are at their best when combining danceable beats with catchy guitar riffs and as chart topping pop goes, they've got pretty good lyrics too.

Richard: Dancing their jerky way straight of the art schools of Edinburgh into the mainstream NME consciousness, Alex Kapranos provides fans of tightly-wound guitars and bizarre references to Chairman Mao with sharp suits and sharper tunes that are catchier than a yeast infection. Bonus points for clearly worshipping at the altar of Gang Of Four.
(These 'one sentences' are getting progressively longer)
(Yes, they are)

G is for Guster

Just don't call them wuss rock to their faces. Because, well, they aren't any more. As a number of tracks from their new album shows, the boys with the bongos from Baltimore can rock harder than some. Crafters of perfect pop with the most ridiculously talented multi-precussionist this side of... um, God - Guster: It's what's for breakfast. Give 'em a chance. You'll like the end results. Expect a post soon.

G is also for Gang of Four

Richard: Gang Of Four are the reason your favourite band exists, and you probably don't even know it. Punk came to Leeds, and came out of it a funny new shape, all scathing guitar noise and scritchy-scratchy danceable rhythms that paved the way for the 00's post-punk revival. Reforming last year, in the current climate they ought to finally see the recognition they deserve.

That Band Name Dropped In Every Bloc Party Review EVER

H is for Harvey Danger

Miles: They may have gained fame for a) "Flagpole Sitta" - That Paranoia Paranoia Song and b) Releasing their third album for free online... but neither of these are the reasons I worship lead singer and writer Sean Nelson. No, I do that because their first two albums (Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? and King James Version) are packed with more brilliant lyrics than most bands entire catalogues. The new one is not quite as sharp but still worth getting. I will probably do a post on them at some point.

Richard (Only familar with the new album, just so you know): Not in fact a snappily-named solo artist, but in fact a lyrically-brilliant indie rock trio (?) with more hooks than an abbatoir, which should appeal to fans of Ben Folds, albeit with a heavier emphasis on the guitars.

And no, not a trio. Pretty sure.

I is for Idlewild

Miles: Ok, I admit. I am not very familiar with Idlewild. I only own one album of theirs so I'll talk about that. The Remote Part is fantastic. Sounding like some sort of bitter, outcast version of the Manic Street Preachers meets Bloc Party meets Scotland they rock the socks off the listener whilst singing heartfelt introspective lyrics that somehow come off feeling Just A Bit Epic.

Richard: Since their clattery post-hardcore inception in the Highland wastes, Roddy Woomble's out-of-time wordier-than-thou screaming has been transformed into radio-friendly soft-rock balladry, somehow keeping their intelligent poetry and, indeed, dignity, intact.

J is for John Vanderslice

Miles: A man with an entirely analogue studio and a somewhat scary mind. For who else would write songs called "Time Travel Is Lonely" or "Bill Gates Must Die"? Genre jumping between big fuzzy rock scariness and quiet acoustic tenderness, the Man from Barsuk creates truly haunting music. To put it another way, in trying to help a customer at his merchandise stall pick a record post-gig, his merchandise person asked "Do you want to die young or crazy?" And really, however you want to go, this man has probably got a song to suit your funeral.

J is also for Joy Division

Like many a musician before and after him, Ian Curtis sadly sealed his legacy by promptly dying after writing 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', one of the best songs of his generation. Today's wave of dark indie bands, from Editors to Interpol, owe a huge debt to his gloomy tunes and baritone croon.

Miles: I think we've all heard the Fall Out Boy cover of that masterpiece by now. Needless to say, it is utterly godawful. They raped it. Pure and simple. Don't do drugs kids, and steer clear of horrible emo covers of 8Os classics.

More of this tommorow, probably. Stay tuned!
Chapter the Sixth: In Which Our Hero is Converted

Yes, those damned Guillemots bastards got me. I really, really like their new single Made-Up Lovesong #43. I was totally not getting the blogosphere (blergh) going ga-ga over that Trains to Brazil song but on this one, I'm sold. I was going to link you to the proper high quality official video but you have to give them your name, adress, blood type and favourite colour so forget that. Instead, YouTube rip ahoy! The video is nothing special but the song is, well, entirely lovely.

Expect me to babble about the first two Shins albums sometime soon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sixteen Military Wives - The Decemberists

I'm sure everyone else on Earth has seen this twice already, but I just discovered it today and love it lots and lots. Colin Meloy plays the USA in a Model United Nations and... Oh just watch it. All will become clear. And like me, you will suddenly love The Decemberists

TV Jab: Beau Brummell - This Charming Man (BBC4)

James Purefoy suits the part as 19th century dandy Beau Brummell in a classy BBC costume drama

Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me watched a programme repeated throughout the night on BBC4, entitled ‘Beau Brummell – This Charming Man’. I didn’t know a great deal about our protagonist – the inventor of the modern suit – but I decided to watch because a) it starred James Purefoy, who had impressed me in ‘Rome’, and, err, b) it was called ‘This Charming Man’ so I thought the producers must have some taste.

Turns out I was more or less right. The show was generally well acted and improved markedly as time went on. The hour and twenty minutes of footage could perhaps have been docked of those extra twenty for a more concise production: the first few scenes were relatively staid and dull, but were probably necessary in hindsight to set up the 19th century period and introduce the relationships between characters. At first, it did seem like the story wouldn’t be quite as exciting or sensational as I had expected – Beau took a comical wig off the Prince Regent’s head and started a fashion for wearing trousers, and thereby, apparently started a revolution. Interesting to historians perhaps, but not overly attractive to the average viewer.

However, with the appearance of Matthew Rhys as the louche, sneering Lord Byron, everything seemingly went up a notch. Rhys’s performance as the young poetic rebel was magnetic and charismatic, giving a real sense of the shock he must have induced in Regency London with his sexual misdemeanours and his utter disrespect for authority. The Prince Regent loathes him, leading to some tense exchanges which are highly watchable and well-scripted. One argument ensues over the gift of a snuffbox, in which the fearless Byron describes the Prince as ‘so petty’ and the most powerful man in England can seemingly do nothing but seethe. There is also a commanding turn from Phil Davis as Brummell’s rough butler Robinson, who sometimes seems to be the one giving the orders when not busy fighting off bailiffs and serving the debt-ridden Brummell bootlace soup, before his appointment as sartorial advisor to the Prince.

Throughout the show, powder-faced fops in multi-coloured flamboyant attire gradually transform, one by one, into black-suited, unostentatious ‘dandies’, inspired by Brummell’s royal example. The Prince himself, played by Hugh Bonneville, is a dull, faintly pathetic and needy individual, calling Brummell round in the early hours of the morning to read Shakespeare with him, because he can’t get to sleep. At this point, the dandy is too tired to care about his reactions, and physically groans when asked once more to play ‘Fatstaff’, insulting the Prince with a friend’s confidence before checking himself just in time so as not to set off his childish temper. He asks, just for once, to be allowed to play the Prince, to which Bonneville retorts ‘well of course you can’t be, I’m the son of the King!’ Personally, I thought many of the assorted lords about town looked better in the original outfits, with more than a couple looking like overdressed versions of the Kinks.

Byron is the only character seemingly determined to keep in colour, with a stylish purple jacket that reflects his rakish personality. The affair between Byron and Brummell seems to go more or less unremarked by the Regency society, which struck me as odd, although it is because of his dalliance with the wayward writer that the Prince severs all ties with his ‘sartorial adviser’. In some ways it was reminiscent of the relationship between Oscar Wilde and the younger, petulant Bosie Douglas as seen in the Stephen Fry film, but Rhys throws his toys out of the pram far less than Jude Law did in that role, and there seems to be a true, if wicked, mutual love between the characters. The best line in the show comes from one of these scenes – Robinson interrupts the two men gaily rogering a female admirer to pass on a message from the Prince, which Brummell completely ignores before taunting his butler and shutting the door in his face, saying “this is between Lord Byron, Julia, and myself.”

As expected from a BBC costume drama, the camera-work is tasteful and elegant, if sometimes a little cheesy (characters rippling into view in front of mirrors like anachronistic holograms). The footage of Brummell dressing (watched, rather bizarrely, by a room full of eager-to-learn fashionable men) is a prime example, as the shirt glides effortlessly down over his shoulders like a handkerchief swooping through the air from a magician’s pocket. This scene is used again as a backdrop to the end credits, while the titular Smiths song plays the show out as a subtle reminder of Brummell’s charm and prescience: he knew so much about these things.