Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Monday, 28 March 2011
Sunday, 27 March 2011
Saturday, 26 March 2011
Friday, 25 March 2011
Glen David Gold's first novel Carter Beats the Devil was one of the best debuts I've read. It seemed to be one of the those word of mouth successes, where people who read it bought it or recommended it to others (if you've not read it then give it a go - it is a great galloping romp of a read).
It has taken 8 years for his next novel to appear so when reviews for Sunnyside started to feature in the sunday papers anticipation started to build.
Sunnyside takes as its main themes the birth of both the film studio system and cult of celebrity along with America starting to flex its muscles on foreign shores through world war one. As a result there are lot's of parallels with what is going on in the wider world at the moment.
To get this across Gold weaves together 3 main stories, the first and by far the best involves Charlie Chaplin, the second and almost as effective focuses on a frustrated actor who is forced to join up and serve in Belgium, the third involves another army recruit, this time stationed inside a Russia tottering on the verge of revolution.
It is this 3rd part that highlights the problem with such an approach. It isn't nearly as effective as the other 2 and so every time the story switches over to Russia I couldn't help rushing through those pages eager to get back to the 2 other strands. Also although various elements cross over the image of Chaplin rather than the man himself stitches the strands together, I was expecting some convergence at the end. This doesn't happen, instead it is as if a camera just fades to black as the action keeps going so it just felt that the author had a surplus of good ideas, spending all his energy on big set pieces and giving too little thought to fitting those pieces and ideas together. This is made worse by the comparison with Carter which was so tightly plotted.
There are flashes of what made Carter so good, the period detail and sense of time and place are skillfully evoked, fact and fiction blend seamlessly, the big set pieces fizz along and evoke the kind of one reel serials of early hollywood, the myriad of characters are well drawn (although too many appear and disappear too abruptly,leaving you unsure of what they add)
The whole Chaplin strand had me hooked, his friendship with Fairbanks and rivalry with Pickford, his complicated love life and his even more complicated relationship with his mother. He manages to make Chaplin's inner voice as he struggles with his art and his ambitions completely believable. The Chaplin strand left me wanting more and kind of wishing he had dropped the other two elements and stuck with Chaplin's story
Overall, it is a wildly ambitious novel from a very talented writer but as with a lot of big budget films individual scenes stay with you at the expense of a satisfying sense of the whole. Something that you can get away with in film but is much harder to pull off in a novel.
You can buy Sunnyside here
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Monday, 21 March 2011
Jack were a Welsh band with the soul of Scott Walker in their sound and an orchestral take on pop that at times could be compared to The Divine Comedy and at others The Tindersticks.
They produced 4 lps of the usual critical acclaim and close to zero sales - too smart for the charts
Anthony Reynolds the lead singer with rich vocals ,kind of an English Paul Quinn, has made various records under various guises the latest of which under his own name and called English Ballads continued the big emotional songs but a tad more retrained and was the better for it.. although it still didn't sell.
My monday Moment this week comes from the second lp and follows a love affair on a drive across the states with a typically cinematic backing. it has some great lyrics
"she smiled and said you know a love like ours is as doomed and stained as snow" and "like our youth and the road below we both knew it couldn't last"
My monday moment comes in the anticipation of the song, the slight pause, the space between the initial plucked guitar before the vocals start
Lolita Elle - Jack
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Jamie Yorkston is probably the closest to the traditional sound of folk music of the people I've featured. Originally from Fife and backed by the Athletes as well as various other well known Scottish musicians who er on the side of acoustic.
After various singles and eps the first lp was released in 2002. Moving up Country had a folk/country feel to it but not in the traditionalist sense in that the whole thing was mixed by Simon Raymond of the Cocteau Twins.
It is a set of songs that simply seem to melt out of the speakers with the subtle musical arrangements matching perfectly his understated vocal. I do think the lp should come with a free bottle of malt whisky as they make perfect companions
As further lps came out the path does move closer to a traditional folk sound with the soon to be released new lp covers of traditional songs from around the globe. I lost a bit of interest along the way although I'm not sure why as the reviews just kept getting better and better. Re - listening to Moving up Country again has made me want to check out the later lps
"For me, listening to James Yorkston’s music is like coming across the interesting-looking person on the fringes of a party. Before you know it, you’ve spent the evening listening to their compelling tale. In this record, I get a real sense that he has found his true voice. There’s a quiet confidence in his craft; his singing, the words and instrumentation, all blend seamlessly to produce a really affecting record.” – Philip Selway, Radiohead on 2008s "When the Haar Rolls in"
You can buy the lps from his website which you can find here.Tender to the Blues - James Yorkston and the Athletes
Friday, 18 March 2011
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Nu folk is the name associated with a loosely associated series of bands and singers whose music seems to set echoes of earlier folk music in a pop song setting. It does feel a bit of a marketing ploy as there have been plenty of others before Noah and the Whale , Mumford and Sons etc came along.
One of these fore runners is 3 piece (although often helped out by a collective of other musicians) Candidate.
I'll quote from the bands website
At the very fag end of 1998, after years in other bands making a noise in rehearsal rooms, Candidate turned their back on the noisier end of their record collections and recorded a series of basement demos (at a volume that wouldn't disturb the neighbours) that pricked record company interest.
After a few bruising experiences at the hands of a confused and bewildered music industry, the band took matters into their own hands, and began releasing records themselves. The Snowstorm label was willed into existence and three increasingly confident EPs were put out, ending with the “Leader” EP, whose catchy, thumping title track, with its upbeat, Nilssonesque chorus, gained the band an enthusiastic following.
A first album, "Taking On The Enemy's Sound" came out in April 2000. An independently released, self-financed, self-produced record, Candidate's first album stood out like a sore thumb, and got suitably enthusiastic reviews.
Candidate had never really planned to be a live band, so they played a single celebratory gig and went into hiding, building their own home studios so they could work quietly without time limits or outside pressure.
Obsessively writing and recording for six months before finding the right blend of ideas for their new record, dozens of songs were completed and summarily rejected.
Finally, it clicked. In two parallel home studios on different sides of London, a set of tracks were worked up that took the band where they wanted to go. More considered, layered and textured than the spare music on the first album, this was somehow a much more intimate and personal record than the band had attempted before.
“Tiger Flies” was a sprawling, wilful oddity, filled with fingerpicked guitars and wheezing synthesizers, clattering drum machines and cavernous flutes. More ambitious than its predecessor, with a wider range of influences, Tiger Flies was a confident and ear-catching achievement. The record was picked as Album of The Week by The Sunday Times and hailed everywhere as announcing the arrival of a band to watch.
It was with Tiger Flies that I picked up on the band. The lps does have a folky feel but what you really notice is the melody and an ear for a catchy tune
Wreck of the Breeze - Candidate
What happened next was the band took a further step to the folk and recorded and imaginary soundtrack to the film The Wicker Man, recording on location and staying in the same hotel where Edward Woodward's doomed policeman stayed and Britt Ekland's body double did a dance.
Not wanting to get pigeon holed as a nu folk band (before the name nu folk had been used !) They changed direction with the next lp Under the Skylon and went for a more widescreen sound as the songs covered the ride and fall of a love affair, but explored through the metaphor of the Skylon built for the 1951 festival of Britain (so much for straight forward pop/rock songs)
Nothing Between us But Sky - Candidate
Another lp followed which I've not yet heard although I soon will as you can download the back catalogue here for the princely sum of £1:28 per lp (it is publicised on the band's website so it isn't a dodgy rip off)
Monday, 14 March 2011
Sunday, 13 March 2011
Saturday, 12 March 2011
I saw the Triffids play live to support their as it turned out final lp the wildly ambitious Black Swan. David McComb the singer had envisaged a double lp where every song was recorded in a different style. His band members were doubtful his record company hostile so it ended up being butchered into a single lp which although a bit of a mess , is one hell of a beautiful mess.
Recently and sadly after David McComb's death the lp has been re-released in the way it was originally meant.
The 2 things I can remember about the concert were the intensity that David McComb brought to every song and the quality of the bands playing as styles and instruments were swapped around. It was a shame that the richness of the sound deserved a Royal Albert Hall and not where we were, a dark room with beer sludge on the floor at the poly.
The track I've posted is their attempt at an Eastern European Gypsy folk song... no come back it is great
The Clown Prince - The Triffids
You can buy the Black Swan here
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Let the Right One is probably better known for the author John Ajvide Lindqvist's film adaptation and the recent American remake than for the original source novel. The film helped by two outstanding child performances was about as close to an art house vampire movie as you could get. I had heard in reviews that there were various threads in the novel that the film didn't cover and so was intrigued enough to give it a go.
For those of you that don't know the plot, the story focuses on Oscar who lives in block of flats in Sweden with his mother. Oscar is bullied at school and has fantasies about taking violent revenge on those that torment him. He makes friends with a new girl, Eli, who has just moved into the block and who is amazingly agile , doesn't feel the cold and whose flat has all the windows blocked out. The community is gripped not only by winter but by a series of "ritual " murders that are happening in the local area, carried out by an old man Hakan who is "looking after" and providing food for Eli.
I guess the big question is if you have seen the film , does the book offer anything more? The story is broadened out , we learn a bit of Eli's back ground and how she became infected. Hakan is given a back story so we get to see what his motives are which always seemed a bit odd in the film, as he wasn't a vampire himself. The events of the film are pretty much confined to the first half and very end of he book. There are a couple of major changes , the first probably removed from the film due to timing (it takes up a big chunk of the second half book and the other, specifically involving Eli, because in a 90 min film without the benefit of hearing the character's thoughts, it would have complicated the relationship between Oscar and Eli too much.
However as a result of the first omission it does mean that the book offers a number of story strands and characters that were dropped from the film. These only go to heighten the theme of loneliness and isolation whether it is Oscar for his lack of friends , the local drunks for the death of their dreams , Tommy for the death of his father, Hakan for a physical desire he can never satisfy, Oscar's parents for the death of their marriage and Eli the ultimate isolation of living forever. All heightened by the sense of being trapped by the winter, poverty and the country (the only clunky bit has a soviet submarine run aground in Swedish waters)
It can alos be seen as a horror version of Larkin's view of parents, none of who come out of it well.
Can there be such a thing as a social commentary vampire story? ..well this is as close to one as it gets
You can buy Let The Right One In here
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Monday, 7 March 2011
Strange Kind of Love recently had a re release and can be bought here
Sunday, 6 March 2011
Saturday, 5 March 2011
Formed by Paul Simpson in 1980 the band were an essential part of the the Liverpool early 80s scene and supported both the bunnymen and the teardrop explodes on tour. They released the classic single Revolutionary Spirit. For some reason the music buyer in my local Boots bought a job lot of them and it was in this shops bargain rack that I bought it, if I'm honest purely on the back of liking the cover.
The band broke up in 1982 and Paul Simpson went on to form Care with Ian Broudie who also in Flaming Sword made a classic single that sold zilch. When that band broke apart the Wild Swans reformed ans signed to a major label releasing the lp Bringing Home the Ashes in 1988. Not much had changed in terms of sound , although with more money behind them the rough edges were smoothed off. The lp has aged well and has one classic single on it
This lp and it's follow up didn't sell that well (they were re-released on one disc in 2007) and the band were dropped by Sire.
Apparently the lp features the following :Paul Simpson, Les Pattinson (ex Echo and the Bunnymen), Ged Quinn (former Wild Swan), Ricky Maymi (Brian Jonestown Massacre), Mike Mooney (Spiritualized), Will Sergeant (Echo and the Bunnymen), Henry Priestman (Its Immaterial/The Christians), Candie Payne, Steve Beswick (The Heart Throbs)
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
A while back I did a post on the Sound and how you can hear their influence in the likes of the Editors and The Doves. Another band whose big guitar sound can be traced back to that band are Stafford's The Open. In 1994 they released their debut lp The Silent Hours which was full of soaring vocals and swirling guitars.
They didn't get the sales they deserved maybe not helped by the fact that the 2nd lp swerved off into a direction closer to Talk Talk's later lps and away from the big guitar sound of the debut.
In the meantime here is one of the singles
Close My Eyes - The Open