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.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Jack Cohen impedes my viewing.

I subscribe to Tesco’s DVD rental serivce – an offshoot of Screenselect – and so far things haven’t been too bad. I’ve been going at it, so to speak, since April and chalked up a total of about ten shiny discs so far (which isn’t bad going, seen as they only send me one at a time) out of an ever-increasing list of 421.

I was more than pleasantly surprised when John Curran’s We Don’t Live Here Anymore splashed through the letterbox. After all, it’s been touted as a modern education in misguided marriage and features an impressive smattering of talent, (Lynch cohorts Laura Dern and Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Six Feet Under’s Peter Krause) along with mostly gushing reviews from my one-stop Metacritic.

Due to the neglect of my predecessors, the extreme sensitivity – and unlockability – of my Sony, and the bottom-side of a disc while raped by African tribesmen and scratched out of all proportion by Sharon Stone’s masseuse, I was forced to relocate to my computer. No biggy. I must’ve given it about fifty minutes before I finally gave up: not, you understand, because of the film’s quality (although it wasn’t up to much), rather it had more false starts than Linford Christie and skipped merrily to and fro as much as a French waif does on a Friday. Which is a shame because I had my review all neatly lined out, replete with phrases like ‘mirthlessly vindictive’ and ‘glabrous paucity’.

What I did ascertain from my largely joyless fifty minutes was that We Don’t Live Here Anymore is to marriage what 2005’s Crash was to race: an overreached stab at an ‘adult’ interpretation of modern disillusionment. Characters were uniformly and lankily disjointed by consistently slight, dreary and clunky dialogue (“You know, you're a funny girl. After a long carnivorous fuck, you're talking about a marriage counsellor? Who are you?”) relying on belligerent, contradictory shock tactics . In fact, the whole thing felt like a contradiction in terms. Even the usually vivacious Naomi Watts was surprisingly unremarkable.

The movie centres around four self-pitying and unhappy adulterers – Terry and Jack, a couple of dull penny-squeezers, as well as Edith and Hank, two individuals living in an idyllic state of haute arrested development. They all do each other over for reasons stupidly specified, much in the way Closer had its protagonists gallivant around gaily for two hours, but at least Mike Nichols had the decency to inject a little warmth and morality into the whole bloody affair.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so jarred. The warning signs were there. House of Sand and Fog, a movie well-meaning but intrinsically blah, took its source material from Andre Dubus III. Anymore has its taken from Andre Dubus Sr. and clearly Pa’s had an effect on the sprout. House of Sand and Fog buckles under its own pretension not because of the impressive performances from Jennifer Connelly and [Sir] Ben Kingsley, instead it collapses in a wave of churlish melodrama; something Curran’s movie pretty much epitomises, at least for the fifty minutes I saw. It’s simply not worth the wealth put into it.

My rental died the death just as Dern and Krause were about to do the dirty. If they were younger, more attractive, and not so absorbed in their dull little lives, it would’ve been a crying shame. Instead, I can always rely upon the mirthlessly vindictive to shower me with blessings in disguise. Perhaps the second hour redeemed this film in some way, or maybe it wallowed in its frass a little longer. Either way, I’m not in a hurry to find out any time soon.

Pitchfork and Music and Technology

So a little while ago I wrote this on my personal blog:
"An unexpected thing happened today. I geeked out over a Pitchfork article.
Yes those bastards once again proved that whilst I may disagree with them on everything ever, they are rather good. This kind of music tracking/recommending type technology is something that I find ridiculously cool. So, as such I will shortly be trying (and of course, reporting back to you) on a couple of these things - 1. MusicIP Mixer and 2. Audiobaba."

And I did try them. In fact I even got to try the full paid for version of MusicIP thanks to some kind person from their PR department (well, someone from MusicIP who saw my blog and sent me an unlock code). Do not worry. This won't sway my review at all because I really couldn't tell any difference between the paid for and unpaid versions. I mean I'm sure there's some extra features in there but I'm damned if I can find/use them.

Audiobaba has been uninstalled. That is probably the most damning review I can give it but it had to be done. It's not that it did badly at playlisting, more that every time it was started it told me that that 1640 new music files had been added and needed to be synchronised. Which would take 20 hours. This was exceedingly annoying.

Music IP Mixer meanwhile provided equally good playlists (generally conforming to the feel of the starting song if not the mood) and never had to rescan the entire library. And it did it's initial indexing much quicker too. Resultingly, should I ever know that I want to listen to 6 songs that are a bit like The Boy with the Arab Strap, I shall turn to Music IP Mixer. In fact hey, let's do that now and see what playlist we get.

So, I load up Music IP Mixer, search for Belle and Sebastian, right click on Boy with the Arab Strap, select Create Mix and voila...

1. The Boy with the Arab Strap by Belle and Sebastian
2. Cigarettes Will Kill You by Ben Lee - Very different mood, more bitter and less bouncey, but similar instrumentation and I certainly wouldn't mind it coming up.
3. Flying Foxes by Moby - I'd guess the piano is the reason this is here. And B&S and and Moby are both inherantly summery.

4. Lovers in a Dangerous TIme by Barenaked Ladies - Similar in mood to Cigarettes Will Kill You, no real instrumental links to the start song. But still very good and not out of place here.
5. Too Young by Phoenix - Definitely as bouncey as Arab Strap, but in a far more dancey way. Goodness knows how Music IP decided that everyone's second favourite French band would fit in here, but they do.
6. Rent a Cop by Ben Folds - My favourite track from the Super D EP (which I recently purchased, review soon) seems a little out of place here. The rhythmic piano give it a tenuous link to the starting point.

I realise that as far as an assessment of how well it works goes, this is useless unless you''re familiar with all those songs.

But still : I probably wouldn't strongly recommend either of these programmes just yet. Give the tech wizards a few more years and perhaps magical playlist generation will be able to give you the perfect song based on mood/location/time of day. Until then, just keep listening to whatever Pitchfork tells you to. I mean, uh... Music you like.

Coming Up this Week: Some reviews of records Miles bought in the last month.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

United 93

United 93 is a difficult film. Difficult to make, difficult to see and difficult to write about. It's uncomfortable to watch. It is not a sentimental soulless disaster cash in. And it may not be an entirely true version of events.

The "build up" to the hijacking is tense from the start. The first scenes show the terrorists praying the night before their flight. We then see the various charachters arriving to work at the airport, boarding the plane and so on. The attack on the World Trade Centre disaster is kept distant, seen on TV monitors and in the distance. The scenes in Air Traffic Control and similar places become worried and frantic but quietly so.

Once the hijacking starts, the scenes on board United 93 are intensely unpleasant to see even though the majority of the violence is not seen and certainly not shown graphically. Here is perhaps where the film could be accused of stumbling a little. It would work better if once the hijack started we stuck with the plane, but unwisely the narrative jumps back to ATC and the military air base. There is a somewhat questionable sequence where the prayers of passengers and terrorists are rapidly intercut but mercifully less than 60 seconds is spent showing the final phone calls of passengers. And the final 30 seconds or so are probably the most afectingly brutal 30 seconds in any film you'll see this year.

Also slightly suspect is the epilogue which bluntly points out the incompitance of the military and government in dealing with the situation. Personally I can see nothing wrong with this but I think it's what's caused some people to brand the film as "politically motivated" and "America hating".

United 93 is a good film. I'm not sure if it's essential. It's definitely moving. It's definitely been made with good intentions. But know that you are not going to enjoy this movie. You perhaps will, however, apreciate it.

Member IV: The Quest For Peace

Samuel Price is a simple, country boy - one might say a cock-eyed optimist- with a borderline personality disorder and a passionate bloodlust for the whimsy of Larry David and the schizoid rumination of David Lynch. To his contemporaries: a pale, friendless virgin.

I'm trying to broaden my horizons currently by picking a band for every country around the world. At first this may seem easy (Sloan for Canada, NZ: anything from the Dunedin mould, for Australia The Birthday Party, Japan had the wacky Happy End, and so forth) but it's quickly become something of an erectile challenge which keeps me up at night.

There's an odd phenomenon which seems to sermonise itself to me whenever I feel the need to relieve myself by way of fibre egestion. I sit on the ergonomics, crank my first one out, and the familiar onomatopoeic plop distils my heart. And yet when I creep over bowl, and bowel, I am greeted by nothing but white water. Nothing materialises on the first drop. This is a regular occurrence, and something which troubles me greatly, but seems an apt justification of my life thus far; a long uphill struggle characterised by heinous embarrassment and -more pickly- a fruitless nothing in particular. So excuse me if I shit all over the page.

I'm really a very nice person :)

Cigarettes in Space

It's been one of those high-level-of-media-consumption weekends. So far: Three films, two albums, a bunch of comics and I finally finished JPod by Douglas Coupland. I'm going to split up my reviews into seperate posts, first up: A film.

But before the actual fim - Yahoo Movies. I think Yahoo want it to be the common man's IMDB. Which is a noble enough aim. I like it for it's easy to use rating system and resulting movie reccomandations. It also allows user reviews, which I occasionally indulge in and are sometimes useful.
Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, Yahoo Movies (and to a lesser degree IMDB) is not your political soapbox. I don't care if you think the liberal conspiracy (pfft) has taken over Hollywood, just cause you voted Bush is no reason to pan a movie for having a lefty main charachter. And just because you're a hardline Christian that doesn't actually make The Passion a better movie.

This comes up because the first film I saw this weekend was Thank You For Smoking. Somebody had posted a review saying "This film will annoy the liberals". Somebody was wrong. TYFS is a satirical comedy. It's funny. The acting is good all round. Rob Lowe and That Kid From The OC have fantastic small roles. Game over, the movie's good, go see it, goodnight.

Still here? Ace. Let's adress that "liberals" issue first. I don't think this film is arguing either for or against smoking. It's not clearly pro or anti liberal. I'd say it's quite wonderfully amoral. Yes the "villain" of sorts is a liberal senator. But did that reviewer not notice that he was an extreme charicature of liberalism in such a way that only a lefty could write? Meanwhile the conseravitive charachters are equally ridiculous but somewhat more subtly so. Wherever you stand on smoking, you'll find something to laugh at.
This has been described as a cynical film. I'd disagree flat out with that. We here at Sugar and Noise have a ban on the word "heartwarming" but it really is. And it achieves this without being "schmaltzy" (The best film-reviewer word ever) or overly sentimental..
So go see it. Find a fellow good looking young self styled pseudo-intelectual and go have a good laugh, safe from the cinema going masses who you will pass as they make their way into Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. It really is the only worthwhile film in cinemas at the moment. Except perhaps for the third of the three films I saw this weekend (more on that later) or if you're lucky enough to be within driving distance of somewhere showing Brick.

If I had an EZ Archive account, I'd be posting mp3s of Cigarettes Will Kill You by Ben Lee and Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo by Harvey Danger ("The Marlboro man died of cancer/Aaand he wasn't a rocket scientist when he was healthy, hahah")

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Midnight Oil and Music as a kid.

This week, I've done such pop culture related things as denounce Che Gevloviniro, and attempted to replace him with Ghandi… which hasn't worked because shirts are expensive and people are rubbish.
This is as good a place as any to advertise, so if you're interested in a shirt that looks like this:

drop me an e-mail on (this is a UK thing really).

I could go into all that a lot, but I don't think it's interesting enough (well OK, I do, but I havn't had a great response about it so far… maybe if there's enough begging comments for a post on it from our non existent readers…)

So I need to talk about something else. Everyone else has done some sort of review or opinion on musics lately, so I guess I could get away with doing that.

You know who the first band I ever listened to were? Midnight Oil: a political Australian Rock band, who's main issues were about how Australia had been taken from the Aborigines, as well as other stuff about how the land (specifically Australia) is being abused. They're not that unheard of, they were pretty popular, so if we had any readers, there's a chance they would have heard of them. I first listened to their Album Diesel and Dust when I was 3, 7 years after the album came out. It is then that I gained a concept of a "favourite band", despite them being really the only band I had heard… for the next 10 or so years, if anyone asked who my favourite band was, I'd say Midnight Oil. I first listened to the whole album in the sitting room of our old house, sitting infront of the stereo, and my Dad tried to explain what each of the instruments I was hearing were, which is actually moderately hard- having to describe what sound an instrument made, without the person your explaining to ever having seen the instrument played before. I remember eventually realising that the bass, the guitar, and the keyboards were all different instruments- which I know sounds basic, but when you're a kid, picking stuff apart like that isn't what you naturally do (well it wasn't for me); before, it was just music.

The music I listened to as I grew up was pretty much dictated by whatever my parents liked playing in the house or in the car. There was just the one Midnight Oil album, and it wasn't remembered that often. And so, I ended up listening to other great bands like The Who, Level 42, Prefab Sprout and Santana. The stuff I heard the most though were Steely Dan and The Robert Cray band. So many Steely Dan songs I am incapable of forgetting now, after the long hours of car journeys and background spent listening to them. Unsurprisingly enough, although I think Steely Dan is great, I still havn't put any on iTunes, just 'cos I still need to recover from it. Robert Cray I've started putting on my iTunes a few months ago- and am thoroughly enjoying all over again (side note: Robert Cray was the first band I ever saw live- at the Manchester Apollo, I loved it.).

Ofcourse I am not at all upset about missing out on the the latest popular songs on the Radio- as I discovered when I took the bus to my 3rd primary school. All the good stuff still got through to the family CD collection, like R.E.M. If I ended up listening to the Radio at an earlier point in my life, I'd hate to think what kind of person I would be now…

Back to Midnight Oil, a few months ago, I found the CD I hadn't listened to since I was 6, and discovered I could remember every song perfectly, and even after everything I had listened to since I still considered the songs to be great pop or rock songs. They were easy to sing to, the guitar and keyboard parts were interesting as well as moderately simple, the obligatory use of 80s style effects was tasteful. If you're short of something to listen to, and you want something that just sounds good, and has relevant, if slightly out of date messages to it (to be honest though, morals and good messages never go out of date), I would recommend Midnight Oil, especially any Live recordings, most of their tracks are dynamic enough for a live performance to really just perfect it ( I picked up Scream In Blue - Live off iTunes and instantly played it over so many times it got near my top albums). In the same way Prefab Sprout makes the perfect softer or more relaxed pop songs, Midnight Oil make the perfect more edgy pop/rock songs.

If you weren't sure, this post was about how great Midnight Oil is, and a slight look into how the music you listen to as a kid comes back to you, and how it affects what you come to like. Lets hope you listened to good music as a kid eh. Also, as a total non-parent, I suggest never letting your kid listen to the radio until they have a solid base of music you know is good under them!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Great Albums Of The 20th Century 01 - PULP, His'n'Hers (1994)

PULP – His’n’Hers

Blur vs. Oasis. The Battle Of Britpop. Working class tosspots with classic rock heritage square off against the art school Mockneys with the pop tunes and the experimental pretentions. But for me, neither is the winner. Both have some merits – but give me Pulp any day. In 1994 Pulp were already something like the old men of Britpop, having preceded the genre by many years and gradually evolved into something resembling the classic 90’s sound. Jarvis and co had just about hit their stride, after NME’s ‘Single of the Week’ accolade had recommended their previous release and their disco-pop-rock chimera was by now a fully-fledged creature of its own.

What better way to kick off their breakthrough album than with ‘Joyriders’, a beautifully ordinary statement of intent beginning ‘we like driving on a Saturday night’ and meandering through Cocker’s trademark meditations on the banal failures of working-class life, made poetry by his witty, eloquent lyrics. The song is suitably driving, with sections of tender atmospheric quietness being overtaken by bursts of riffage like boy racers tearing up suburbia.

Next up is single ‘Lipgloss’, a more melancholic song with an infectious synth loop that reappears at the end as an exuberant guitar solo. Despite the lack of passion in the character’s life, the passionate lament in the vocals is ear-grabbingly real.

‘Acrylic Afternoons’ is a bassy claustrophobic fumble on the sofa, with Jarvis mumbling and yowling about children who ‘wait for their mothers/to finish with lovers/and call them inside for their tea’. The verses are delivered in a fraught near-whisper, each ending with a rather unexpected whinny, in one case sobbing ‘thankyou, thankyou’ in broken breath in a verse about… tea, before the magnificent ‘YOW!’. Then he calls a series of children with dull English names in for tea, before dusting off his moaning falsetto. It really is quite excellent.

On ‘Have You Seen Her Lately’ Cocker pleads with an unnamed female friend not to go and see an uninspiring lover, saying ‘he’s already made such a mess of your life’ with a majestic keyboard outro. ‘Babies’ is classic Pulp. Who else could write a song about hiding in your girlfriend’s sister’s wardrobe to watch her go ‘with some kid called David from the garage up the road’ – and then fucking her? Its simple, jaunty guitar melody and synth squelches are balanced perfectly by a piercing violin overlay. And ‘I know you won’t believe it’s true/I only went with her cause she looked like you, my God!’? You don’t get charm like that in the 00’s.

‘She’s A Lady’ begins with ominous synth and violin and a throbbing bassline, before Jarvis starts chanting ‘m-m-m-mao-mao, m-m-m-mao-mao’ like a Sheffield shaman, and the icy, thumping drums of the sparse verse kick in. Then there’s something about ‘selling pictures of yourself to German businessmen’, before it bursts into dance-driven life as the narrator’s lover is ‘coming back to me!’. And for some reason, ‘the moon has gone down on the Sun’, in a chorus strangely reminiscent of ‘I Will Survive’. M-m-m-mao-mao-m-m-mao-mao. There that is again. All in all it’s multi-layered and rather splendid, and would probably go down very well in seedy discos everywhere.

Sweeping strings from Russell Senior herald the opening of ‘Happy Endings’, which is a sedate love ballad, crooned in that inimitable way. It builds over a gorgeously-textured backdrop of rippling electronics and slow waves of violin, before petering out elegantly with a soft reminder that the narrator’s beloved once said that she ‘liked happy endings’.

‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ continues in the same fashion, with a resigned verse and gently insistent melody, breaking into an assured, uplifting chorus, Jarvis wailing ‘I don’t care if you screw him, just as long as you save a piece for me’. The rhythm chugs along, ending with a drill of drums, over those backing instrumental washes again, and perky synths carry the song aloft to its conclusion.

Panting over a measured, constant bass, ‘Pink Glove’ kicks off, painting a shabbily elegant picture of a former lover who ‘got it right first time’. Jarvis laments her current, underwhelming lover (a common theme), before a stirring chorus of fuzzy guitars and soaring vocals which moan ‘I realise that you’ll never leave him, but every now and again in the evening…’ Who can argue with that?

The mellow atmospherics come out in full on ‘Someone Like The Moon’, which is the most underwhelming song on the album. Quiet drums bring in a soft, minor-key chorus, while electronic elements hum miserably away behind lyrics such as ‘the radio will only play love songs, so she cries’. It’s drawn-out and going for epic, but sadly this track isn’t wholly effective.

The album closes with the jauntier ‘David’s Last Summer’, in which Jarvis monologues like a more chilled-out Phil Daniels on ‘Parklife’ through a non-sensical summer ramble involving ‘talking to somebody polish’ and a groovy keyboard part augmented by some ‘ooh-hoo-hoo-hoo’s. Everything slows down on the chorus, a comment on the brevity of young love, which stretches the song out to nearly 7 minutes. The lyrics are, as ever, both grotty and heartbreakingly romantic, and this is a large part of the band’s appeal. Hopefully history will elevate them above the petty rivalry of the Britpop scene, and acknowledge this, ‘Different Class’ and ‘This Is Hardcore’ as their holy trinity, and rank them among the key albums of the 90s. Jarvis Cocker returns this year after a 5-year hiatus with his first solo album. I expect great things.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Weekend List

Top 5 Guitar Solos
1. Paranoid Android by Radiohead
2. Undone - The Sweater Song by Weezer
3. Why I'm Lonely by Harvey Danger
4. Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
5. Nora by The Long Winters

One is a glorious spasm of a guitar solo
Two is a burst of nerdy teen delight in solo form
Three is the most heart melting guitar solo ever
Four is just really really good. Even if I do feel a bit cliché by listing it.
Five is the most frustrated, lonely trippy guitar solo ever.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tales from Instant Messaging Volume 1

Richard: my computer is munitying against me
Miles: Mutiny! MUTINY!
Richard : so if i don't speak/post for a while that'd be while
Fergal says: Munity isn't a word
Richard: stuff isn't [working]. it is.
Miles: Heh. Ok
Richard: else what did they do on the bounty?
Fergal: Munity is what cows do when they gang on up on something
Miles: No that's mootiny

Cow puns, ladies and gentlemen. That's the level of high class discussion going on at Sugar and Noise HQ.

So onto stuff: Pop culture.

OK so yeh, everyone knows about pop culture. What I wanna know though, is when will Latin be a viable pop culture in the UK.

I mean think about it, emo really sucks because blah blah. But think how cool Latin would be! We would be able to walk around shouting "¡Arriba!" and playing trumpets and playing salsa music (salsa music is the best set of semi common musical principles after the blues(more on that later)). And instead of wearing black, we would wear bright coloured clothes and have cool moustaches. Admit, all the girls would look way better wearing big colourful dresses instead of crappy run down or fake run down black stuff. And guys, you wouldn't have to bother with all that hair straightening crap and mascara, you could have curly hair and have moustaches that even look a bit like banditos'!

And instead of the necessary emotion being depressed and having problems 'cos abusing your hormones as an excuse is cool, you'll be really happy, and you'll do loads of things with loads of other people other than moping; like instead of playing in a crap band with three poor guitarists, you'll be playing in a full Latin band shouting "¡Aye aye aye!" as loud as you can with the other 20 percussion players, and the trumpets and the bass and the piano will all make you feel great.

Seriously everyone, if you have to be a social stereotype, be Latin. Emos tell all your friends, then you won't have to do it alone (I'll admit that could be hard). And Maracas are cheap!

Guess what music I've been listening to...
Seriously Carlos Santana is a great guy, have you ever read the album sleeve notes from some of his stuff?
And you can't tell me the Voodoo Glow Skulls aren't having fun.

So yeh, keep all that in mind, and you know which blog to forward all your emo... friends... to.

(Note: I'm not that bothered with emos, it's just I really dig how great Latin would be, and emo is the biggest group it needs to replace at the moment- it is the Hot Topic of the times. *chuckle*)

Topical sound snippet: 4 bars of salsa I recorded with a bass and midi instruments.

I am Fergal

I enjoy Music, Social Adventures and Adventures of Discovery.

Music I like lots can be more easily realised by looking at this link.
I guess the stuff I like the most are:
Midnight Oil
as stuff I like listening to most, but I wouldn't be able to listen to just them.

I'm kid age. I go to school. I play guitars.

Introducing me:

Richard O'Brien was born in Peterborough in 1990, and has been trying to escape ever since. He is currently still trying to get an education, and resides in a Lincolnshire village with his parents and his labradors with nautical names. He likes to act, listen to music, and write songs that will never be sung.

Top 5 bands:
1) Manic Street Preachers
2) The Libertines
3) Pulp
4) British Sea Power
5) The Clash

Welcome to Me

Good evening one and all. I am Miles. This here blog was my idea. I've had a few of my own but I thought that if I was part of a team I might work better. So here we are (unintentional Bloc Party references a-go-go)

And now, a list. Expect lots of lists from me. I like lists. Blame Nick Hornby.

Top Three Albums Miles Is Looking Forward To Right Now
1. Putting the Days to Bed by The Long Winters (more on them soon)
2. Radiohead's Next Album (Due 2007 now apparently. Still, worth waiting for)
3. Ganging Up on the Sun by Guster (Again, expect a post)

You notice how two of these are out this month and one is not out till next year? This tells us something important about my character but I'm not sure what.

Favourite Movie Quote: "You're gonna need a bigger boat"

And in the words of Ben Folds, sham on!


I shall introduce myself in a moment, but first - Welcome to Sugar and Noise.

This is a blog made by pop culture, we are simply its tools. Pop culture never sharpens its tools. Pop culture doesn't make good chairs. We are blunt.

We shall write about whatever we wish, but expect it to center around music and, well, popular culture. And now, meet the team..