or An Article Graveyard…
A final resting place (for now) for the online content that used to be found at the qmunicate blogspot. Until I shut it down. About five minutes ago. The archive stretches all the way back to 2009 and is full of good stuff so please do take a look! There will be no apologies for the terrible formatting. I did just copy and paste, deal with it.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Summer CD Reviews
James Blackshaw – All is Falling
Beauty is hard to attain. In honesty it a very expert and delicate mix of the finest ingredients one has at one’s disposal. Frequently it is tried with sounds mashed together thoughtlessly, or in other cases too much thought. In James Blackshaw’s, beauty is a perfectly balanced blend of folk, acoustic and simplicity amounting to an album so pretty I’m finding that it is hard to describe the feelings in words.
All is Falling is not an album. Parts 1-8 are not mere songs. Blackshaw is not a musician. He is an artist who has created drama and emotion using soft, understated and unpretentious sounds. It is not an album one could merely pick tracks from as being ‘the track that typifies the album’, it is beyond that. All is Falling is truly a 44 minute track in itself, each piece flowing gently into the next. There is a sense of story and lore weaving its way through his music. Each note of the 12-string is not picked at random because it sounds good, in this album it has been crafted into something able to weave its way into your ears and fill you with calm.
Beauty is hard to attain; Blackshaw’s album is beautiful.
Blue Sky Archives – Blue Sky Archives EP
Blue Sky Archives are a Glasgow five piece have put their debut self-titled debut EP together in seemingly record time since forming earlier this year, but you couldn’t tell from listening to it. The short player, whilst a little rough around the edges in production values, showcases clever songwriting and an acute self awareness of the current Glasgow music scene, doing just enough to pull itself above the swathes of post-pop, accent-capitalising bands this city seems to breed. It shows bags of promise, especially the female-vocal lead Crash Your Face, which is infinitely listenable. Looking forward to more.
Kitsunetsuki – Doll to Doll
Kitsunetsuki’s debut single Doll to Doll is set to be released on the 6th September. The track is a dark, apocalyptic thrash of guitars and drums frantically ripping to the heart of the listener. Silvia Marton snarls his way through with what can only be described as a Placebo-esque voice. The track is reminiscent of the band Fields’ first single Song for the Fields released a few years ago. Unfortunately it lacks that killer instinct, that hook that kept the listener coming back for more with Fields. It does nothing wrong, yet it does nothing that will blow you away either. A dark, haunting obscure track for any fan of Fields and The Kissaway Trail.
Jaymi McCann on why we should appreciate part-time employment
Student employment has never been an easy thing. We are forced to deal with poor circumstances, low pay, high expectations, long hours, etcetera, etcetera. And, for the most part, we are happy to deal with it. This is mainly due to the fact that way over there, on the distant horizon, we can see the glimmer of our ‘real lives’; days when we’ll be free of underpayment, and bad tips. Forgetting, of course, that over there on the horizon there are also council tax bills, TV licenses, and full time work.
Even now, most students have the financial responsibilities of rent, bills, extortionately priced books, and ridiculous loans. For the mean time, we have the right to think past these things; to spend our last tenner on a night out rather than on food; to spend the day watching reruns of the Gilmore Girls instead of studying for finals. It may not be the smartest way to spend your university career, but it’s the most fun!
The stereotype of a “Young Ones” student, although funny, isn’t strictly true anymore. We don’t all live in nasty bedsits, riot regularly, or live off baked beans for a year. And most importantly, we don’t receive any of the same grants as they did in the eighties. Hence the Saturday jobs.
As much as we love to hate Saturday jobs, employment while at uni has a number of advantages. As we are all becoming aware, experience is essential; almost as much in the marketplace as it is in the bedroom. Experience will help in future employment and – more importantly – any shred of experience can be spun to look impressive on a CV. Regular work in an abattoir can be used as evidence that you are a committed, hygienic and newly–vegan employee.
A further advantage of work is that you get to meet lots of new people; networking will give you the opportunity to meet your future business partner, or the love of your life, or an awkward one night stand.
Pushing aside the benefits of experience and networking, work has that obvious plus: money. Money can be converted into nights out. Just try not to think how many teacups you had to wash to pay for that one White Russian…as the money slips from your hand…and…slowly…slowly…into the hands of Kushion.
The best thing to do, if possible, would be to get a job in a profession relating somewhat to the subject you are studying. Someone training in business and tourism might get a weekend position in the office of a hotel. Or if you long to work in theatre, you could get a job in a box office and slowly build up a book of contacts who could give you future employment. If you can’t get a job relating to what you want to do, then try and get a really monotonous, boring, tedious, mind-numbing job. Then you can enter a trance-like state and while performing repetitive tasks automatically and mechanically, you can plan your essay, your novel, or that great idea for a film you have with zombies, lasers and Scarlett Johansen.
Don’t work for jobs. Make jobs work for you…
I expect you can buy that phrase on some kind of motivational poster. Actually, it was a moment of inspiration. Maybe I could sell that – and never work again. Despite how contrived it sounds, let’s just say it’s true. Jobs should work for you. Employers benefit from you being there as you help to make them money. You can benefit by gaining experience, contacts and all that other stuff mentioned above. A good job will usually require plenty of searching, but so will a shitty job. Bloody recession. So get on your bike. If you can afford one, you fucking toff.
The Wicker Man is a 1973 British film that combines the thriller with existential horror; it contains a lot of nudity, a lot of violence and a lot of other freaky shit, and every year it is celebrated in the form of the incredible Wickerman Festival.Taking place deep in the Dumfries and Galloway countryside, the festival started off in 2001 when Sid Ambrose, the festival’s artistic director, hit upon the idea of a local counter-culture based, family friendly festival, grounded in the surrounding area being inextricably linked with various locations used within the aforementioned film, The Wicker Man. It has since been dubbed ‘Scotland’s Best Alternative Music Festival’ and was nominated for ‘Best Grassroots Festival 2006’.
The first thing that hits when you get to the Wickerman site is it’s size: it really is tiny. Now, I hate to admit it but the festivals I generally frequent in the summer are rather more mainstream and about a thousand times the size. Despite it’s smallness, though, the atmosphere was amazing, and I was astounded by the range of people there; children, teenagers, parents, grandparents and even dogs all living side by side and enjoying the festival vibe. So, me and the missus set up camp and set off to explore the Thursday night hubub. The main arena was full of little thrift stores and hippie shacks, selling tye-dye t-shirts, handmade crafts, lucky dips, confectionery and a startling number of bizarre looking hats. Jolly music floated from the bar tent every now and then, but curiousity about the rest of the arena landed us in a 3D Headphone Disco for the night, and it soon seemed like time to head back to the tent.
Friday kicked off bright and happy, with everybody in the campsite buzzing with anticipation for the weekend ahead. Mountain biking display team 7Stanes were our first port of call before the bands started up, showing off their impressive skills and providing the fun and friendly variety of entertainment that Wickerman is famous for. Then came the Summerisle Stage’s first act, Polarsets, who won the privilege of opening the festival through the Wickerman soundtrack competition. Based in the North-East of England, they played catchy, upbeat music that could have been enjoyable had it not been for the whiny voice of the lead singer which ruined every song.
After that we took a wander and wound up at the Acoustic Stage we caught the opening act, Fudge and Meg. It was easy to see why they were on so early in the day; he was a cringey, guitar playing, red-faced guy and she wasn’t doing very much, but they kept the crowd happy. The rest of the afternoon was spent mulling from tent to tent getting a feel of the surroundings. The brilliant thing about Wickerman is that there really is something for everyone – yoga, mini golf, mountain biking, crafts, tea shacks, and even a children’s area to keep the kids happy while the adults grab a beer and chill out on the grass. To keep the adults happy, the huge variety of music, from reggae to dance to acoustic to ska, does not disappoint.
Come Friday afternoon, one of the more controversial acts of the weekend, Welsh rap act Goldie Lookin’ Chain, step up to the Summerisle Stage. They brought welcome comic relief to the stage and had even the most reluctant laughing and singing along to hits such as ‘Your Mother’s got a Penis’. The next unmissable act of the day was Geordie lads The Futureheads, who never fail to delight. It seemed that most of the festival was there singing along to all of their biggest hits, and they pleased the crowds as always with their cover of ‘Hounds of Love’, leaving everybody in high spirits as they left the stage. The final part of the evening saw The Charlatans, who showed why they are still royalty in the alternate rock genre, as the crowd hung on their every word as they played hit after hit. Teenage Fanclub rounded off the night, and they embraced Wickerman with passion and excitement. The boys from Glasgow really looked at home on the stage with their diverse music reflecting the atmosphere of the festival, and finished the day with a bang. And so the late night activities began, for those who could handle them – headphone discos, late night DJs and the Friday night special, a sing-a-long-a showing of The Wicker Man film in the cinema tent. For us, though, it was time for bed.
Saturday arrived and we were ready for the final day of music. At the Summerisle Stage we caught the Glasgow Gospel Choir, who proved the perfect accompniament to the relaxed, sunny atmosphere, and proved that you don’t have to have a guitar to sound amazing. The rest of the afternoon kicked off to a flying start with The Grass Mountain Hobos who were arguably one of the best bands all weekend. Canadian potato farmers, this fast-paced folk band sported banjo, mandolin, double bass, guitars and a fiddler who played the instrument behind his back whilst tap dancing. Incredibly entertaining, these guys are worth looking out for. A while later saw Erland and the Carnival who, although musically excellent, were much more standard indie than I had hoped, and not really worth staying for the whole time. In the Scooter Tent, Bombskare drove the crowd into a frenzy of high kicks and spins with their energetic brass-driven ska, and Doll and the Kicks took to the stage not long after, entrancing the audience by their powerful music and powerful front woman.
By the evening it was time for one of my all-time favourite bands, The Saw Doctors. The Irish five-piece never fail to please, as they blast out nostalgic melodic anthems, and it’s not hard to see why they’ve been popular for so long when they put on such a spirited live show. On the stage soon after are The Go! Team, one of the most energetic live bands I have ever seen. Fast and furious, their music, attitude and atmosphere gives the festival a new energy just as it’s drawing to its close. Following them are the headline act, Ocean Colour Scene, and unfortunately I was disappointed. Maybe I was drained from the rest of the weekend, but there seemed to be something missing from their set that really drew me in. In true festival style, we headed to the Ingrid Pit World Stage, where we saw the hilarious, if crude, Kier McAllister performing stand-up comedy.
And finally, it was time for the main attraction that we’d all been waiting for, the burning of the giant Wicker Man. As everybody at the festival gathered at the edge of the field to watch the Wicker Man burn before the rolling hills of this tiny little place in Scotland, it became clear that Sid Ambrose’s idea of a family festival which brings everyone together had been more than achieved, and as I curled up in my sleeping bag for the last time, I vowed to come back next year.
Festivals have always been held in something of mixed regard by this reviewer. Muddy, overpriced, corporate mega-events populated by a collective of teenage pricks and drug dealers compete with muddy, non-corporate non-events populated by a collective of Greenpeace activists and The Levellers. For every jaw-dropping performance that lives long in the memory (hello, Arcade Fire: Leeds 2005!) there’s a stinking turd of a set that lives long in the memory (please get out of my head, Placebo: Benicassim 2006). Whether it’s exploding gas canisters or the Kaiser Chiefs drowning out Sonic Youth in the next tent along, festivals sure have a lot to answer for. Luckily then, a secondment to Kendal Calling festival would prove to be a weekend to remember for the right reasons…
As you pass through the entrance gates to the site, it’s hard not to fall in love with the place from the off. Rolling hillsides and a beautiful Cumbrian landscape open up to a cutesy arena entrance, with friendly staff welcoming you into one of the coolest festival sites you’re likely to experience; a real ale tent to the right, next to a stage run by sunlight, with a giant whale sculpture straight ahead and the natural amphitheatre surrounding the main stage just peeping out in the distance. Exploring the site, a trip to the Riot Jazz Café throws up the first surprise of the weekend: singer-songwriter Greg Holden draws in a big crowd to hear his delicate, folk-inflected sunshine pop. And very nice it is too. After a little while at the real ale tent (and with a life membership of a real ale society now in tow), there is a short stumble to the Calling Out Stage where Wave Machines prove to be an early contender for band of the weekend, ‘I Go I Go I Go’ provoking an early sing-along amongst the gathered throng. It’s only the fact that most of the general public have shit for brains that is keeping this band from being number one every summer from now until the coalition decides that summers should be abolished in a cost-cutting exercise. Whilst Stereo MCs prove entertaining for the entire duration of ‘Connected’, it is not until darkness falls that this get interesting again: Calvin Harris is given a wide berth after sitting on the banking for one song, before The Kiara Elles raise spirits with a solid set of punky girl-fronted rock reminiscent of Bis and Siouxie and the Banshees.
When Saturday comes, a hangover follows, and the best cure for that is clearly to go and see a band with the moniker of Seal Cub Clubbing Club, who specialise in loud post-punk with an added dose of flashing lights. It does the trick, and the set is a testament to the quality of the bill right down to the lower stages. There can be no denying who steals the day – and probably the weekend – however. OKGo fire confetti canons, drag dancing mimes, smurfs and a storm trooper on stage, and produce a truly stunning crescendo as ‘This Too Shall Pass’ is harmonised amongst the few thousand who had decided to hang around for their mid-afternoon slot. The Futureheads suffer in comparison, and are good without ever getting the crowd going to the same levels, and Wild Beasts are slightly disappointing in front of a huge local crowd. ‘Hooting and Howling’ and ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’ still sound as intense and inventive as always, but the set never really steps out of second gear. Goldheart Assembly are a nice time-filler between sets, their folk-rock and glittering harmonies recall Fleet Foxes and are deserving of a bigger audience than that found in the Calling Out stage. Erol Alkan entertains in the Dance Tent, but the real treats on Saturday are to be found in the Soapbox stage, where an inspired turn by comedian/musician/poet Mickey P Kerr leaves the audience in stitches: when followed by bona fide legend John Cooper Clarke, it leaves you wondering why you ever forked over half your student loan to get to Leeds Festival when you could be having this much fun for a comparative pittance. Later in the weekend, the same stage would host Howard Marks, who is perhaps the second most captivating act I’ve ever witnessed at a festival after The Glitter Kittens. They’re a burlesque show, and they get their boobies out. Saturday headliners Doves have a formidable back catalogue, and waste no time in bringing out the big guns: ‘There Goes The Fear’, ‘Pounding’ and ‘Catch The Sun’ are familiar and comforting songs to see in the evening. Or not, as it happens, as a visit to the Kaylied Stage pays dividends, with two gorgeous Swedes performing the sort of stirring folk anthems that you only ever seem to hear on the tiniest of stages, but that deserve to be head by anyone who has a pulse. First Aid Kit: you have stolen my heart.
Sunday has a lot to live up to, and cannot quite reach the heights of a wonderful Saturday. Average sets abound, only broken up by a surprise triumph on the Main Stage. Badly Drawn Boy has been once around the block and back again (geddit? ‘Once Around The…’…ah, forget it) by now, but he proved that he could still captivate a crowd with a set that was perfectly suited to the hazy sunshine of his late-afternoon slot. Hits from all of his albums were performed lovingly, and even a duet with his seven year old daughter Edie strayed just the right side of cutesy, leaving the large Main Stage crowd in a buoyant mood. However, these spirits were soon dampened after fifteen minutes or so of These New Puritans’ performance at the Calling Out stage. Noisy and pointless, they stink the place out: it’s hard to reconcile the contrast between their recorded output and this dirge. Not helping matters are headliners, The Coral. Workmanlike at best, and determined to alienate the crowd with a set packed with songs from their newer, less popular, albums, the crowd for them dwindles with each passing setlist faux-pas. So to Dananananaykroyd to see the festival out, and a fine job they do too. Their set is chaotic, brash, but packed with tunes, and the “Wall of Hugs” is a moment of comedic brilliance, as a hundred or so drunken festival-goers charge together for a comforting collective embrace.
Kendal Calling is a festival that should be cherished: small in stature, large in outlook, it punches above its weight with its acts and offers a brilliant package for anyone looking to have a brilliant weekend on a smaller budget. So next year put on your deerstalker, bring fancy dress for the Saturday, bring some short shorts for the Cumbrian Olympics, and get yourself down to Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District. You won’t regret it.
Monday, 23 August 2010
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Edgar Wright has almost created a masterpiece with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, his follow up to lauded Brit flicks Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but where it excels it also fails in a film which will polarize opinion.
Wright’s first foray into the Hollywood blockbuster is the latest in a string of comic book adaptations, unsurprising given the last five years’ box office figures for the spandex clad heroes. In Pilgrim however, the audience will find no such heroics, but rather a linear story of an average Canadian twenty-something who has to fight the seven evil exes of the girl he has fallen for.
The story never becomes much more complex than that, after a comparatively slow introduction, the cycle of meet ex, fight ex, aftermath is repeated at rapid pace until the film’s chaotic climax, but it’s a film which doesn’t need a complicated plot when there is so much else going for it. Jason Shwartzman, as the final boss, excels, as does Alison Pill as the deadpan drummer of Scott’s mediocre band, Chris Evans cameoing as a generic action star and the rest of the supporting cast; even Michael Cera in the title role avoids his usual awkward-charm trappings to ride the line between selfish bastard and empathy-winning hero quite aptly. In fact, the only feeling of possible miscasting arises during Anna Kendrick’s unconvincing scenes as Scott’s younger sister, although this may be hangover from her overtly mature Oscar-nominated role in Up in the Air.
The audio effects and music are incredibly well done, providing variety and intrigue as the action moves along at incredible pace, complementing the clever visuals and excellent editing which push this film into the category of outstanding. It’s a fantastically well made film, with Wright injecting subtle wit and visual flair into every scene, and it’s a joy to watch seemingly minute details done in such a precise, masterful way come together to create an incredible visual and aural delight. It is truly Wright’s vision which makes the film a success, and achieves something rarely seen in comic book adaptations in surpassing its source material.
The film’s only failing is that whilst it knows its audience, it makes few allowances for those outside the demographic. Those expecting fluttering capes and overt morals without ever so much as touching a graphic novel are likely to be disappointed.
Wright’s Pilgrim is an absolute triumph if you’ve ever loved comic books or videogames or even been exposed to them on a more-than-casual level. It’s a comic book film which will appease fans of the source material by sticking closely to it and will thrill videogame fans with well paced and well shot action sequences and injokes aplenty. It’s a shame then that so many casual cinemagoers will fall outside these categories and fail to see that at the heart of a film laden with what may be perceived as gimmicks is cinematography at its best.
Film Review – The Expendables
The Expendables boasts an ensemble cast of almost every action star from the past thirty years, from Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke to even Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone, the story follows a group of mercenaries sent on a mission to assassinate a dictator; but things go wrong.
The film feels more like a video game than anything else. The storyline is predictable and dull with some truly terrible dialogue. However that is not what people have come to see this film for. The action is impressive, yet it fluctuates. The first half of the film suffers as it seems as if the writers have forgotten that they have any other cast members apart from Statham and Sly. Then suddenly they return in part two with no explanation as to where they have been and without character development.
One of its main problems is that it has such a huge cast; some should simply be cannon fodder but are kept around for their star appeal. It is clear they have enlisted the appearance of every actions hero from the last three decades solely to widen their fan-base. Yet these fans will be disappointed. Fans of Willis and Schwarzenegger will be shocked as they get five minutes screen time (already seen in the trailer) and clearly showing that this is a favour to Sly, nothing more, nothing less.
Unfortunately for The Expendables, its crux is that we have seen this all before and twice this summer already. The Losers and The A-Team produced smarter, funnier versions then this, leaving the viewer feeling hollow, wondering why three almost identical films came out at the same time. The Expendables is a perfectly passable action film but The A-Team and The Losers are so much better. Go see them if you are looking for some good action this year.
Film Review – Cats & Dogs 3D
Let’s get one thing straight, first off… I’m a cat person. Cat
crazy. Cat biased in every way shape and form.
Perhaps that explains why all the best bits of Cats and Dogs; the
revenge of Kitty Galore involve any scene involving Kitty Galore
herself, voiced by the glorious Bette Midler. The plot? An evil cat
who, seeking revenge for ill treatment by her previous owner, plans to
create a sound only dogs can hear to make them all ‘barking mad’ and
attack humans. The evil plan means all dogs would be put
in kennels and cats would be able to rise as the superior creatures
and eventually take over the world… Genius, right? Kinda wonder why
you didn’t think of it?
No, probably not mostly because it is total nonsense, lacking in
substance, humour and frankly anything else of artistic merit.
Totally estranged from the first film, where our sprightly young
beagle hero saves the world from the evils of Mr. Tinkles (voiced by
Sean Hayes, known best for Jack in Will and Grace, an
interesting thought when watching this evil CGI cat) this furry little
sequel failed to be even half as amusing as its predecessor to the
point you wonder why they bothered making it. Strategically placed
adult humour belongs in the kitty litter, overkilled slapstick is
cringe worthy… in fact, perhaps it is only because I am a child of
the lolz-cats era that allowed me to appreciate the beauty of a rather
well rendered cat in a bow tie, a cat tied up like Hannibal Lecter, a
cat evilly cackling on a rooftop (which in itself I will hail as
cinematic cat triumph).
To make things worse, a range of high tech words are thrown about by
dogs who are secret agents, terrorist bashing dialogues (only from
America, eh?), pointless interrogations involving water spraying… in
fact, I’ll stop. Don’t see this movie. Take up horticulture instead,
and hope a cat doesn’t shit in your flowerbed.
Nothing about this movie was cool for cats, everything about it was
barking up the wrong tree – however I thank director Brad Peyton for
creating something that lends itself so beautifully to punnery.
Emma Jayne Coops
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
The Rebound, starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Justin Bartha, is the story of a forty year old divorcee, Sandy (Zeta Jones), who is learning how to be single again whilst still being a good mother to her two children. She hires Aram (Bartha), a coffee shop worker, as their nanny. Aram is also newly divorced but is only twenty-five. Before long, Sandy and Aram begin to fall for each other, leaving the question open: is Aaron just the rebound or the man she has always been looking for?
The film carries on the fad that seems to be created by (500) Days of Summer by providing a truly modern, 21st century, quirky Rom-Com. It is not as much of a triumph as (500) Days of Summer as it relies on the old formulaic Rom-Com recipe with a slight twist; but this does not stop it from being any more enjoyable.
Both the leads play to their strengths. Although this is Bartha’s first major role, he plays the same character that he always plays: the lovable Peter Parker-esque guy that we all want to root for. Although he is clearly typecast, this is not a problem. The script is fresh enough and the vast amount of the audience have not seen enough of him to be bored yet. The few who managed to see his appearance in the short lived US version of Teachers are also still clambering for more.
The film is full of stand out scenes such as the first date Portaloo and Aram & Sandy going to see Aram’s lackluster actor friend perform in his ‘postmodern’ take on Top Gun. The supporting cast of Sandy’s children and Aram’s parents are given comic line after line, making the viewer laugh hysterically.
The Rebound is a formulaic Rom-Com, yet feels so fresh that it is as if this is the first time the idea had been thought up. (500) Days of Summer started the indie Rom-Com revolution and it would seem that The Rebound is continuing this craze. A must see.
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
qmunicate Festival Features: Casiokids at Standon Calling
With our earlier festival tip Kendal Calling announcing yesterday that it had sold out its 8,000 capacity, and with tickets for T in the Park, Leeds Festival and the other big names going for mad money over the internet, you may be wondering how you might get your domestic fix of mud, booze and quality music this summer. Well fear not, as we’ve dug up an event that is equally good, has a similar name, and still has a few tickets going!
Standon Calling has a line-up that is worth heading that little bit further down the road for: Buena Vista Social Club, Liars, Metronomy and qmunicate favourite Jeffrey Lewis all play alongside a huge line-up of up and coming acts vying for your attention. Most importantly at all however, is the fact that Standon Calling has a GODDAMN SWIMMING POOL. A swimming pool. At a festival. With bands. At £95 for the weekend, it’s hard to feel too upset at missing out on Kendal Calling tickets: instead look forward to packing you bags and going nighclubbing in a cowshed, an all-night license for the whole weekend and the aforementioned swimming pool. We got talking to one of the acts at this years festival- Casiokids- to find out a little more about Norwegian pop and what the future may hold…
A bit of history to kick things off… What were you all doing before Casiokids was formed?
Omar was (and still is) a guitar teacher, I was studying art history, Aabø was a sound technician and doing music for dance performances, and Feddi was eating things.
Was the plan always to produce songs with Norwegian lyrics?
In the beginning we actually decided not to sing, and only used human voices sampled from audio books and interviews we did ourselves. As we experimented more with vocal harmonies in the studio we decided to follow the idea of making something as true to our everyday lives and personal experiences as possible, hence using the Norwegian language. I truly believe one of our main goals as artists and musicians has to be to create something unique and original, and the Norwegian language was for us a natural part to achieve just that.
You have had a very positive reaction from UK audiences, is thereanywhere you have been that just didn’t ‘get’ Casiokids?
It seems like most audiences get something out of it. We’ve played all age groups, and although we’ve only done 2 continents it does not fail to amuse me that I see our music being played on the catwalk in Sao Paolo one day and the next it is playlisted on the radio in the Faroe Islands. Honestly, I don’t know what it is.
You have your own studio, so can you run us through the process of how a Casiokids track is put together – is it a team effort, and what comes first, the live version or the produced, finished article? Kjetil, Omar, Feddi and I have very different musical backgrounds, and all the songs have different starting points, sometimes one of us did almost everything on a song and sometimes we made the whole thing together in the studio. We have certain pointers, boxes we have to check before we finish a song, production tricks and signature sounds, but apart from that the writing process was very different from session to session.
There is a lot of instrument-swapping at a Casiokids gig – can everyone play everything, or do you race to your favourite instrument and whoever is last gets the cowbell?
When we play so many shows as we do (almost every day) we keep the music fresh by swapping what instrument we play and also improvise a lot around the songs. Feddi I guess is the only one that can play everything, so he swaps around the most. I think I am the worst on the drums, but still I’ve found myself on the drum stool now and again. The most fun is when we get wireless mics. I saw some photos from the Moscow show in December last year, and there is quite simply no one on stage.
Your only UK festival this year is Standon Calling, did last year’s hectic schedule mean you are chilling out a bit more this year?
Not at all. the reason why we’re doing so many festivals elsewhere this year is that we played so many UK festivals last summer. In 2010 we’re doing a lot of festivals we haven’t done before, notably more festivals in Eastern Europe as well as many in Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany. We’re very happy to come back to Standon as we had such a great time there last year, the weather was so nice and we also got to see and meet our hero Femi Kuti
You have recently released “Topp stemning på lokal bar” in the US; is this an album, or a collection of singles to allow the US to catch up?
It’s basically a best-of Casiokids 2009 compilation, with all the singles also released in the UK on Moshi Moshi, a couple of new tracks, and collaborations, cover versions and remixes.
…and can we expect to see an album out in the UK any time soon?
Yes! Working on it! Very very soon!
More information on Standon Calling can be found at www.standon-calling.com. Tickets are £95 for an adult weekend ticket, and the event takes place from 6th-8th August 2010.
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
qmunicate Festival Features: Optimo at Stop Making Sense
As we at qmunicate look for somewhere to bask in the glory of an exam-free summer, we felt it was a good time to look a little bit further afield in our festival previews and see where the opportunity might arise for some sun, sand and erm… seriously good music. Croatia is not somewhere that sprung immediately to mind, but having had a gander at the stellar line-up for the brand new Stop Making Sense Festival- and with cheap direct flights from Edinburgh- we think we might have found an answer. At a gloriously cheap £80 for the 3 days, and with bands and DJs varying from live performances from Nathan Fake and Django Django to the obligatory Friendly Fires DJ set (seriously, where AREN’T they playing this summer?), Stop Making Sense offers a great alternative to the usual humdrum of the UK festival market. We caught up with Glasgow legends Optimo for an exclusive chat on their plans for the future and their billing at the festival…
Summer’s coming, what’s on the agenda?
Twitch: “On the road all the time but hopefully will get a bit of time to relax.”
JG Wilkes: “2 or 3 club gigs most weekends. Rockness, The Electric Frog, Glastonbury, Ibiza, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, USA.”
Tell us about your latest projects?
Twitch: “Working on my label – Optimo Music. In the studio producing Scottish legends Sons and Daughters. Lots of remixing.”
JG: “We run a new weekly party on Sunday in Glasgow called “Hung Up!” It’s at the Sub Club. We program the line-ups, local and international, both live acts and dj’s and we play at it occasionally ourselves. Hung up! has run 3 weeks now with great local dj’s playing and it’s taking shape nicely. Next week, 30th May, Twitch will DJ and Chromehoof will perform live – should be great. Other stuff…We’re doing an Optimo party on a paddle steamer on the River Clyde and another on The Thames in London. We are also co-curating an all-day event at Tramway Glasgow on June 26th which culminates in an evening performance by one of our all-time favourite bands “Nurse with Wound” – we’ve called it ‘A Midsummer Day’s Dream with Nurse with Wound’. There’s some surprises planned too for the Summer/Autumn period.”
What current artists are you drawing inspiration from right now?
Twitch: “Amal Saha, Group Doueh, Chrissy Zebby Tembo, Troup Majidi, Christoph Buchel.”
JG: “Nurse with Wound, The Comeme artists, Divorce, Arvo Part, David Hammons, Factory Floor, Wooden Shjips, Paul McCarthy, Levon Vincent and more.”
What can we expect from your show at Stop Making Sense?
Twitch: “Lots of dancing.”
JG: “Music we honestly love that we hope will make people want to dance.”
Who are you most looking forward to seeing play at the festival?
JG: “Matias Aguayo.”
Any unusual festival tips?
JG: “I’m a relatively inexperienced festival goer and am usually in and out… I guess I would say remember that mosquitoes can ruin everything…. apparently Catnip is a more powerful repellant than DEET.”
Where will we find you at sunrise on Sunday morning?
JG: “Somewhere quiet.”
Stop Making Sense takes place on 3rd-5th September, in Petrčane, Croatia. More information can be found at www.sms-2010.com.
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
qmunicate Festival Features: Wickerman Festival
Continuing qmunicate’s coverage of the UK’s festivals, we take a look at Wickerman Festival; Dumfries and Galloway’s family-friendly event that prides itself on one of the most eclectic line-ups in the festival calender. This year features artists as disparate as Tony Christie, The Saw Doctors, Fenech Soler and the Glasgow Gospel Choir sharing the same stage, with big name acts such as The Charlatans and Ocean Colour Scene complimenting the lesser-known local acts further down the bill. Pad Hughes talked to Wickerman Festival founder and Artistic Director Sid Ambrose to find out just what it is that makes the festival tick…
Wickerman festival has been gathering a lot of hype over the past few years, even being compared to a smaller version of Glastonbury. Do you feel the success of the event is down to Wickerman’s wider appeal and musical diversity?
Society is in danger of adopting a kind of global conformity, not as bad as the stifling conformity of the 1950’s but conformity nonetheless. Diversity in all its forms including music needs to be encouraged, this is perhaps part of our appeal.
What were your main objectives when you started the festival? Did you feel there was a gap in the Scottish festival market that you had to fill?
Firstly I would like to say that T in the Park is a great event for Scotland but it is a case of not one size fits all. We instinctively knew that there was a need for a medium sized festival that was less overtly commercial that the big boys but at the same time more structured than the very small alternative gatherings.
Who is the most exciting act for you this year? Do you feel that this year’s line up is the best ever?
I think the line-up this year is more diverse than ever when you consider Goldie Lookin Chain rubbing shoulders with The Charlatans and Tony Christie but at the same time the acts are something united under a Wickerman flag of convenience and for that weekend the sum of the parts will be greater than the whole.
With regards most exciting I love “Back to the Planet”. Imagine if The Specials and Hawkwind had become new age travellers and shared a bus they might have emerged as something similar to “Back to the Planet”
Would you be happy for Wickerman to expand and become a larger festival, or do you feel that its comparative intimacy is half of its appeal?
Some call mid sized festivals boutique, we prefer pocket battleship sized but a little expansion would not hurt, say an extra 2,000 people.
You must have a big passion for music. How that was kick-started?
I grew up in the small market town of Newton Stewart which for some reason had a huge scooterboy population. My formative years involved listening to 60’s Jamaican Ska as well as space rock and the emerging synth music of the early 80’s. I think this gave me an appreciation of diverse musical genres.
Why did you decide to associate the festival with a cult movie? Was the film an inspiration?
My parents and family friends were involved as extra’s in the movie and Christopher Lee spoke to me when I was in my pram so maybe he left a lasting impression, but for those who didn’t know, much of the movie was shot on location in Galloway hence the tie-in.
The festival supports a number of hard-working charities. How important do you think it is to incorporate charity with music? Many people have done this on a far better and far bigger scale than us but musicians can influence people and I think it is tremendous when they promote charity work.
Are you proud of the awards Wickerman has achieved? Was winning ‘Best Grass Roots Festival’ in 2007 a shock?
We are very proud that a group of novices with no industry qualifications or real experience managed to turn a dream into a well organised reality. It was a delightful shock to get the Grass Roots recognition.
Scotland is becoming a summer hub of spectacular festivals: do you think your location is key in Wickermans strong identity?
Our location puts us in a three hour drivetime from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Manchester, this mix of Northern cities creates a very diverse audience. It is also important to remember that Dumfries & Galloway has one of the lowest crime rates in the UK making it ideal for families.
What advice would you give to first-time Wickerman festival goers?
Go with mates, be prepared to make new friends and on a serious note just steady up on the alcohol, many a weekend can be ruined by “one to many”.
Wickerman Festival 2010 takes place at East Kirkcarswell Farm, near Kirkcudbright on the 23rd & 24th July. Weekend tickets are still available for only £85, and can be found- along with further information on this year’s event- at www.thewickermanfestival.co.uk
Thursday, 17 June 2010
The Death of Hits with The Futureheads
Way back in the tender spring sun of late-April, The Futureheads made their way to Glasgow to play what many young people nowadays are calling a “gig”. We sent our intrepid reporter Pete Sansom to query guitarist Ross Millard on the state of pop music, starting their own record label, and puppy immunisation.
Your new album is called “The Chaos”. What is “The Chaos”?
Well, I think in relation to us naming the album that – if you ask me, it’s a good way of summing up the way we made the record. This is the first time we set out with no real plans, no deadlines, no kind of demos, no sketches of anything. We just kind of went home after the last record and the way that we’ve ended making this album has been kind of chaotic in the sense that we’ve recorded in Sunderland, Newcastle and London. We’ve done a lot of different sessions. It’s taken a long time to make the record. Twelve months. There’s a lot of stuff happening in our own lives. When you get a bit older all of those types of things come into play a little bit more and I think it’s a good nod to that. That idea that although everything is fundamentally ordered and structured and has that sense of routine about it, in practice it still always seems very chaotic.
So, has this been quite a long album to make compared to the other ones?
Yeah, it has. We’ve been spending about 12 months on it, which is rare. We usually just rehearse all the songs up and then go somewhere and record them over two or three weeks. But this time we just wrote some songs, recorded them, wrote some more, recorded them and just kept adding them to the pot until we had a finished album.
‘Heartbeat Song’ has done well in both the indie chart and the singles chart: what do you think of the music that’s in the charts at the moment?
I don’t know. Well, I think to be perfectly honest chart music isn’t an area that we comfortably occupy. We’re very grateful that our music affects them worlds but I think essentially that chart music will always be based on pop stars and not indie bands or rock bands like ourselves. I think there’s some good stuff out there, it’s kind of half and half. I know that there’s a big kind of love affair back with dance music and stuff. The pop music that I like that around at the moment is like Marina and the Diamonds and I think Lady Gaga is a tremendous pop star. She ticks all the boxes for what an iconic pop figure should be, whether you like her music or not.
Apart from other musicians, what would you count as your biggest influences?
I think sort of – uh – well, in the beginning we were influenced in a strange way by very minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass in terms of our arrangements and our music. Stuff like the photography of Man Ray or Edward Weston; really bold, striking, monochromatic, forceful images that were really playing with very simple, minimalistic elements. That idea of that Taking Heads song: ‘Say something once, why say it again?’ I think in terms of any medium of art that’s a great philosophy to stick to; that kind of directness and simplicity. We’re a big film band; we like watching a lot of stuff. I know Barry’s really big into Klaus Kinski and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”, things like that. And I’m a big fan of Norman Mailer, he’s one of my heroes. I think no matter where you’re pulling from, if you’re really fond of something – something that’s been created by someone else – you can’t help but be subconsciously influenced by that in some way or another. And how it manifests itself can sometimes be quite strange. Yeah, we’re big into absorbing all that type of thing.
You’re operating on your own record label now, Nul Records. How’s that going? Better than being on a major label? Stressful?
Yes to both of those questions. It’s been stressful in the terms of having to kind of – I hate to say the term – but to kind of micromanage a lot of things that you’d never expect to be involved in, in terms of working with distributors to get the records in the shops and working with online distribution. It’s all figures basically – you know, the business element that as a creator you don’t really want to think about too often because the two worlds don’t mix very well. We’re learning more and more to keep the two separate. To kind of split ourselves in two, keep an eye on the touring costs and how much we’re paying for this, that and the other with this side of the brain and with the other side it’s very much kind of a creative enjoyable process, you know.
But it has been very liberating for us and I think that we set up the label at the right time in terms of the way that people are absorbing music and the way that making an independent release work. It’s a time when you can be opportunistic in that respect and make it work for yourself. I think it was fortunate that we did it when we did.
I went on Yahoo! Answers earlier and printed off some questions. So, I thought that together we could try and help out these people with their queries. First question: How many times do you normally vaccinate for DHCCP in a puppy?
I haven’t got a clue what DHCCP is.
I would like to think only the once, if at all. But I’m down with just letting puppies do their thing, me like. Let them get on with it and live in a very drunk-free world. I’m straight edge in that respect, so none.
Where can I buy a concealable camera online?
Don’t know, I dread to think. That kind of question makes you sort of worry about when you go in the toilet at a place like this – whether someone here has been wondering about where they’re going to find a concealable camera online. But I think the first place to look would probably be concealablecameras.com.
What is a report monkey and what do they do?
That could be a red herring couldn’t it. That’s sound likes something I should really know what it is, but it might not be anything anyway. It reminds me of when people in Hartlepool hung that monkey when they thought it was a French spy. So hopefully it’s a monkey that checks that all the other monkeys coming in from the port aren’t French spies.
What is the esoteric word of the day?
Why is it every time a rapper becomes commercial people feel they don’t make good music anymore?
Because they start working with David Guetta.
What can I do for my sixteenth birthday?
[long, mischievous laugh] …Good times. It’s almost impossible to remember. [laughs] Well, go to Lindisfarne. You’ll have the time of your life there.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
qmunicate Festival Features: Kendal Calling
As part of our ongoing commitment to bringing our readers the best coverage of the summer’s festivals, qmunicate is going to spend the next few weeks previewing some of the sometimes overlooked gems in the festival calender: festivals great, small, and not-so-small that are deserving of your attention over the coming months, and won’t cost you the equivalent of a decent second-hand car to finance an excursion to.
First up is the rapidly expanding Kendal Calling festival, this year celebrating its 5th birthday. Kendal Calling is set in the beautiful surrounds of Lowther Deer Park, slap-bang in the middle of the breathtaking Lake District yet just a short hop from Penrith station on the West Coast Mainline, making it easily accessible to even the most geographically-impaired Glasgow student. The festival was Nominated for Best Grass Roots festival and Best Small festival at 2009 UK Festival Awards, and has expanded to an 8,000 capacity in 2010.
Don’t be fooled by the “small festival” tag though: 3 nights, 8 stages and headline acts with the calibre of Doves, Calvin Harris and The Coral make for a festival that is more than punching above its weight. Local acts are not neglected either: the vibrant Cumbrian scene is represented by qmunicate favourites Wild Beasts and Kendal natives British Sea Power, alongside a few somewhat less familiar names from the region. This year sees the introduction of a CAMRA-supported real ale festival on the site: music to the ears and taste to the… err… tastebuds of our music editor, and one more reason to bear the festival in mind when considering where to direct your hard-earned this summer.
qmunicate caught up with festival co-founder Ben Robinson to find out more…
You started off with club night promotion and now you are running an 8,000 capacity festival, what inspired you to take the leap and how did it happen?
When I started doing gigs it was due to my band deciding to go travelling and leaving me sitting in a bank job 9 to 5. It was pretty boring and there was no decent nights to go out to so I took it upon myself to start putting on local acts I liked. There was such a wealth of original local acts that just didn’t get any chance to play to large audiences and most people I knew were also travelling halfway across the country to watch bigger artists so it seemed worth a shot at putting them all on in a field and seeing what happened. I began by working on a community festival in my home village then after that met Andy and we decided to put on an event that Kendal would never forget. Four months later Pendulum and British Sea Power were performing in the centre of Kendal!
You’ve had some of the UK’s biggest acts playing at KC over the past few years, from Dizzee Rascal to Pendulum, what band has been your highlight?
That’s a difficult one as I have been lucky enough to book some of my all time favourite acts from Super Furry Animals, Lo Fidelity Allstars & The Streets to Sunshine Underground, Doves and locals Seven Seals. The greatest surprise for me last year was watching The King Blues. I actually missed Ash as they were so incredible I couldn’t drag myself away. That was a great way to finish last year’s festival and one of the reasons they are back this year.
Kendal Calling isn’t just about the headliners, the line up is eclectic & diverse and the festival features lots of performance art. Can you let us know an insiders tip for what to check out this year?
Keep your eyes peeled for the “The heavenly Court of Madame Fantasy” it’s an interactive trapeze being brought by Leeds based Urban Angels Circus. It is part of a cutting edge research project into how people interact at festivals and is exclusive to Kendal Calling and Bestival. No one is quite sure how it will work so it’s going to be fun for us all to check it out.
As some of the youngest festival organisers in the country do you find that your age is a bonus for understanding your audience?
We always built the festival around what we would like to see at an event, and as we all still go to a lot of festivals we are constantly coming up with new ideas for how we do things. I think this constant redevelopment of all the areas of the event has kept it fresh to the audience and also helped us grow so fast. As for what artists we get, it is very rare we book a band that one of the team has not seen live so we have the best idea of where to put them on the bill.
What do you feel are the strengths of being an independent festival in the current climate and what is your experience of maintaining the ‘grass roots’ nature of the event?
It’s a very hard job to be an independent festival as we have seen with Glade and many other festivals cancelling this year (and Big Chill being sold to Festival Republic last year). It takes a huge amount of planning to get all the element s of an event to come together and there is a big risk too. On the up side we get to really put care and attention into all aspects of the festival and give it heart and soul that is missing at a lot of the corporate events. We have been nominated for the Grass roots festival award the last two years and it is nice to get some recognition for supporting local talent and people within the festival.
The Dance Stage this year is bigger this year with some industry experts at the helm while the family camping & kids area has grown considerably as well – How do you ensure that all the elements of the festival fuse together to offer something for everyone?
We take in a lot of feedback from our crowd following each event and react to every comment we get via email and online. As well as that we go to a lot of events and speak to festival goers to gage what they want. The introduction of the family camping area came through this as we realised that more families were coming.
Tell us your funniest Kendal calling memory…
I once had about 100 people in a campsite laughing at a guy who had gone for a number two behind a bush and been caught in the act. I made him go back and shovel it up himself and waited the other side of the hedge. Two minutes later all we could hear was the sound of him throwing up and all we could see wash a shaking hedge! He certainly learned his lesson and insisted on getting me a pint…. declined as I wasn’t sure he had washed his hands!
How would you sum up the Kendal Calling experience for someone who has never been?
Old fashioned fun in the country with bang up to date music and entertainment.
Where do you see the festival in 5 years time?
I tend not to look that far as if I’d said we would be at this point five years ago I would have seemed a bit optimistic!
Kendal Calling takes place July 30th-August 1st at Lowther Deer Park, the Lake District. Weekend tickets are priced at a very reasonable £85, and further details, including a full line-up, can be found at www.kendalcalling.com
Live Review: The Futureheads, Oran Mor 29/04/10
The Futureheads have been together for ten years now and their work so far has remained consistent throughout this time. Playing at The Mill beneath the Oran Mor, The Futureheads displayed why this opening statement is true. The fact is that the four band members enjoy playing music and enjoy doing so with one another. Throughout their set they appeared just happy to be there and to be performing. Obviously well-practised, the band were consistently tight and with the confidence to throw in flourishes and alterations to their songs.
There was an undoubtedly warmer reception to their older material; those minimal songs of their eponymous debut album, such as ‘Le Garage’, ‘Decent Days and Nights’ and ‘Meantime’, though the newer material went down well; songs that can sound a bit flat on an album came to life when performed on stage. With the instruments sounding heavy, the harmonies perfect and the back catalogue well-employed, The Futureheads proved why they are one of the most solid indie-rock bands around. Anyone who isn’t compelled to sing along to ‘Hounds of Love’…get out, just get out.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Replacing Ruaraidh MacIntyre
As you probably know, Ruaraidh J. MacIntyre and his sparkling wit are leaving the position of regular columnist in qmunicate, leaving it wide open for anyone who would like to have a crack at it. Naturally, the obscenities Ru has provided for us over the last couple of years will be a tough act to follow, and so we need to make sure that our next regular columnist can write to a good standard on a wide variety of topics, and is entertaining about it. It’s not about finding another Ruaraidh, we’re after someone who can show a clear, individual writing style.
In the hope that there will be a reasonable amount of interest for the position (you get your own column in every issue, who wouldn’t want that?!) I’m going to ask that everybody who would like to give it a go send me three mini-articles, around 350 words each, on three different topics of your choice. I’m obviously aware that this is exam time and so you’ll all be busy, so I’m going to give a cut-off point of the 30th June, giving you a whole 2 months, at least one of which is completely exam-free so you have time to do your best job!
If there’s anybody you know who you think might be interested in the position, please forward this on to them, and let people know by word of mouth etc. Obviously, those interested have to be matriculated Glasgow Uni students, but there are lots of us so that should be okay. I’d also appreciate a brief statement of who people are, why they want to be qmunicate’s regular columnist, and how I can be sure they won’t let us down if we do decide on them.
Replies should be sent to email@example.com under the subject of something like ‘Regular Columnist Articles’ or something equally uninteresting so that we know what it is! If you have any questions, feel free to email me to ask. Thanks for reading, have fun writing!
Publications Convenor 10/11
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Stag and Dagger Preview – 22nd May 2010
Stag and Dagger makes its return to Glasgow next month following last year’s hugely successful debut in Scotland. The one-day festival mixes artists from all over the world with some of the best local talent, and this year’s line-up is a belter.
Bands confirmed so far include:
The Antlers * Blood Red Shoes * Chapel Club * Copy Haho * Crocodiles * Divorce
Django Django * Egyptian Hip Hop * El Rancho Relaxo * Erland & the Carnival * Esben
and the Witch * Frankie & the Heartstrings * Fun * Gold Panda * Hot Club * Islet
Jesca Hoop * Joker * Kid Adrift * Kong * Male Bonding * Men and Machines
My Latest Novel * Olympic Swimmers * A Place to bury Strangers * Schnapps
She’s Hit * Silver Columns * Sky Larkin * Sleigh Bells * Sparrow and the Workshop
Tazz Buckfaster * Telegraphs * Titus Andronicus * Tripwires * Unwinding Hours
We were Promised Jetpacks * White Hinterland * Wild Beasts * Wilder * Wilson Tan
There’s more to be announced in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to http://www.staganddagger.com/ for the latest information. qmunicate will be reviewing the event exclusively on this website, so check back following the event for our views.
Tickets are available now from all the usual ticket outlets.Thursday, 25 March 2010
British Sea Power Interview and Hinterland 2010
With Hinterland just around the corner, Paddy Hughes caught up with the engimatic British Sea Power to have a chat about things.
Hey Guys, it is good to hear that you are gigging again, excited to play Scotland?
Yes, It is always very lively up there, it is exciting to start touring again. We did a few gigs in Australia which went very well. Those guys love to have a dance, and a few drinks.
So what music do you have on your ipods at the moment?
Mainly Kesha…………. No, not really. There are just not many good bands bringing out new music. Obviously we like The Pixies and the Cure, but everyone knows that.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has not hared of the band?
I just couldn’t and would do that. I hate describing our music, it is impossible for me to do.
How did you decide on the name British Sea Power?
Well you just have to come up with a name that nobody has right? And nobody had that one, thats it.
Your first album was called The decline of British Sea Power, however it appears that since then you have made a lot of progress. Where you really that negative when starting out?
Yes, i was pretty sure our first album would be our last
What do you guys do to unwind?
We love to play Mario kart on the wii. In fact i was just playing a game as you called me and I got my top score. We just like to play against the whole world.
Theatre – The Gilding Room
The Gilding Room is a one-woman performance “responding to the music video as both cultural icon and corruptive influence.” On entering, I behold a lady stood waiting, stock still, in a bodysock (like tights, but for the whole body), an envious floor-length gold satin dressing gown and a pair of heels. White noise is playing in the background. It takes a good ten minutes or so until the whole audience is seated in the tiny, dark studio room, and her stillness, the noise and the silence of everything else is starting to get intense already. This kind of conceptual art worries me, because I don’t know if I’m just not getting something, or if I’m getting it, I just don’t understand why it’s there. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting anything good.
The lights turn off and the performer starts to do a couple of stretchy things; before long we are witnessing a mimed re-enactment of Kate Bush’s ‘Wow’ video, and as the music starts to falter the performer carries on, oblivious to everything except for her own involvement in the song. A couple of make-up changes and an exercise ball set us up for the next ‘video’ sees a violently involved performance, ending in her being brought back into reality by a fall. The rest of the performance was essentially audience and performer staring at a false lit up TV screen until the end of time, before she finally, finally rips the screen away to reveal gold paint and disillusionment.
What I want to say about this performance was that it proved to me that I was wrong in my preconceptions of conceptual art. Yes, it was weird and yes, it left me kind of baffled. But the performer was exceptional, the whole idea and the way it was done made sense If you want to be shocked by liking something you want to mock, see The Gilding Room. And, besides, I don’t think anybody else could have pulled off a bodysock quite as well as her.
Glasgow Student Dance Company – Mardi Gras Movements 19/02/10
So you think you can dance? Glasgow Student Dance Company’s latest offering, ‘Mardi Gras Movements’, certainly seemed to believe so. The show, which is the result of six months’ rehearsals by the company, changed venue this year to the smaller and more intimate setting of the Scottish Youth Theatre. Yet in these fairly intense surroundings where even the smallest error could have been easily noted, the company of over sixty dancers pulled off a repertoire of no less than fourteen dances confidently and with style.
The show began with a dynamic group performance filled with energy which set the tone for the evening. The dancing throughout the evening emerged from a range of inspirations including Bollywood and tap. Nothing emphasised this eclectic range of talent better than the juxtaposition of an almost frenetic hip-hop solo followed by an elegant classical ballet performed with grace to emotive music.
Although some dances began in an admittedly slightly lacklustre way, most managed to pull it together with a twist in the choreography – such as the use of props in what was assumed to be just another disco-inspired performance. Colourful costumes and very little visible error also contributed to the overall impression that this was a well-rehearsed, well-orchestrated show.
One of the highlights of the show was the impressive Chicago-inspired ‘He Had It Coming’ which mimicked elements of the hit film and show to create an energetic display of creativity and movement. In other memorable moments, classical ballet with a contemporary interpretative twist combined with well-timed lighting. Music was cut in one dance to emphasise the starkness of the dancers’ toes tapping – an innovative and exciting display of precision.
Any doubts about the divided nature of the show’s programme – of fourteen separate dances – were soon erased, as the evening was pulled together by a combination of mixed styles keeping things dynamic, inventive choreography, and, of course, the talent and energy of the dancers. Katie McQuater
Film Reviews – Glasgow Film Festival
Friends With Benefits
Friends With Benefits, directed by Gorman Bechard, is the story of six friends at college in America. They start to realise that being friends, with something a little bit more, is maybe the best way to have a relationship. The film comes to the Glasgow Film Festival after debuting at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival in 2009.
Bechard, before writing and directing Friends with Benefits had written many novels and it can be clearly seen by the innovative directing style that is used. The film plays itself out as if it is a moving book, with chapters and the like. The film often resembles last year’s sleeper hit, (500) Days of Summer, yet to see it as an imitation is not fair to Bechard, who at the same time has managed to create his own unique style. What is more, Bechard’s style lends some artistic style from acclaimed director Ang Lee, making it work to perfection: it feels as if it truly fits with the characters and the story that is presented.
Although the plot may not be the most original you will ever see, Bechard is able to put a fresh, quirky, funny slant on something that a lesser writer or director would have failed to do. In fact, Bechard’s ability to make corny ideas feel new is to his credit and the benefit of the film. The story is a very modern way of looking at the way in which people in their twenties deal with love, relationships and sex. A 21st century American Pie to the extent that some of the characters feel like the American Pie cast’s younger siblings. For example, the film has its own Finch and Stifler with a less combustible relationship.
The true genius of this film is the strength of the script that provides the viewer with six believable, likable characters that by the end of the film, the viewer is urging them onto get what they want. Although the basic idea may not be the most innovative thing seen at this year’s film festival; the style it is produced in is, and this is what makes it a must-see. A stylish, new take on a love story.
As a lover of French cinema, I was automatically drawn to Hidden Diary with its stellar cast and a promise of subtle, meaningful drama. It did not fail to satisfy, with each member of the cast performing the thought-provoking story with excellent fragility.
Hidden Diary is about Audrey (Marina Hands of Lady Chatterley fame), who returns home to France from her hectic life as an engineer in Toronto to clear her head and decide what to do about her unplanned pregnancy. Within minutes of her arrival at the family home the difficult relationship between Audrey and her mother, Martine (Catherine Deneuve), becomes apparent; Martine is haughty towards her daughter for arriving unawares and outwardly rejects Audrey’s gift of a digital camera. After numerous attempts of working in the house (which also acts as Martine’s doctors surgery) Audrey decides to relocate to her grandfather’s house, which has been vacant since his death some years previously. Wanting to improve the dated house and make it more hospitable, Audrey buys some mod-cons for the kitchen and whilst doing so uncovers her grandmother’s, Louise (Marie-Josee Croze from Tell No One), diary. The discovery of the diary causes Audrey to pries open emotions which Martine has wished to ignore since Louise abandoned her and her brother when they were children. As more is revealed about Louise’s situation, her reasons for leaving and the circumstances of her disappearance, an altogether different theory about her disappearance becomes apparent.
As the events of the narrative are slowly revealed the film, tactfully addresses the issues of individuals’ perceptions, the role of women and their right to freedom but most of all the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters. Hidden Diary is both realistic and insightful. It does not handle the sensitive subjects with the melodrama which an American blockbuster would, but instead they are handled with delicacy and allowing the story to develop. Legendary Catherine Deneuve portrays the role of Martine to perfection; outwardly she conveys a woman who has strongly battled without a mother and shows little signs of how it has affected her, but behind the stern mask there are glimpses of a scared child and a fragile woman. The revelations emerge gradually throughout the film, allowing the audience to deduce the meanings of the events and its consequences, instead of pounding them out at a pace which confuses and alienates the audience. Of course this slow pace can make the film seem a little dull at times and doesn’t allow you to emotionally connect with the characters, however, the realistic timescale of events does allow you to think and reflect about the issues which emerge as the film goes on.
Although far from perfection, Hidden Diary is a film which handles sensitive issues with grace and patience, and although not necessarily entertaining it is a rewarding film to watch.
As part of the Glasgow Film Festival, the GFT was showing Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) and Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Proceed Alone, the second being its UK premiere. As the speaker explained to the audience before the films started, Evangelion was originally a Japanese television series started in 1995 to be the adult answer to the current trend in modern anime; the final word on giant robots. However, towards the end of the series, the show’s helmer Hideaki Anno became increasingly depressed, and the show began to lose its traditional narrative structure, posing more questions than it answers. Thus in 2006 it was announced to the glee of international fervent fans that the same team would remake the series as a trilogy of feature-length movies. Hence the fevered excitement of the showings, being the only time UK fans could see them on the big screen, with the all important Japanese language version with English subtitles.
The films are set in the near future of 2015, in Tokyo-3, a city designed to repel the attacks of the Angels, alien beings that have been attacking earth since the second impact, named after the first that destroyed the dinosaurs. Evangelion’s main character Shinji, is the pilot of Eva 1, the second model of experimental giant robots by Nerv, the company whose business it is to defend the earth. He starts the first movie very introspective and self-pitying however as the films progress he finds his confidence, the films are about Shinji’s salvation as much as earth’s. The film looks absolutely beautiful, jumping from the horrific to the light-hearted without losing sense of its own artistic style. The complexities of the films often arise from the nature of the Evas, which are not merely robots but have an inner animalistic core, which the pilots tap into thus risking their own humanity while piloting them. Much as the show does, the films become both darker and more confusing at the end, where the audience finds it harder to discern between reality and the metaphorical and psychological aspects of the movies. Nevertheless, these films stand proud among the finest instances of cinematic anime, and add artistic and emotional context to the genre of big stompy robot movies.
If you feel like you need to re-evaluate yourself, if you’re feeling a bit lost or if you want to curl up in the dark and absorb yourself in somebody else’s life, then watch this film. If you just want to see a brilliantly done, emotionally moving and thought-provoking movie, then also watch this film. Momoko Ando’s directorial debut, Kakera: A Piece of our Lives, follows the story of two girls, Haru and Riko, over the course of a few months of their lives. The two girls meet by chance in a café when Riko, who does not like to see opportunities pass her by, strikes up conversation with the somewhat introverted student Haru.
Haru is having problems with her boyfriend, and as we see the relationship between the two girls evolve we also see the torment caused by confusion over love, sex and a lack of freedom. Like all films, there are some parts of Kakera that don’t make an awful lot of sense (soda bottle turning into a two-headed dove, anyone?), but this doesn’t detract from the fact that this film will make you re-think what you’re doing with your life, and only make you wish you’d seen it sooner.
Monday, 1 March 2010
America: Just Doing It Better?
The Americans have always and will always be masters of spectacle (they need something to make up for the painful lack of history). You only really need to do a cursory comparison between what passes for an event of social importance here and what our North Atlantic cousins do to notice that what we have here in Britain is severly lacking in show and spectacle.
The last few weeks have been hideously busy. You see, I’m not the biggest fan of competitive sport but recently my free time has been filled to the gunnels with a series of world class, and a number of definite second class, sporting events.
Last weekend saw perhaps the biggest weekend of testosterone filled man bashing we are likely see to see for some time. Both the start of 6 nations rugby and, the largest sporting event in the American calendar, the 44th Superbowl. I had the personal misfortune of viewing Scotland’s woeful performance against a vastly superior France. It wasn’t just the lack of basic handling or the fact that I have seen pensioners in palliative care move with more grace and speed than Scotland’s backs. No, it was the basic lack of enthusiasm and spectacle that accompanied Scotland’s first game on their home turf. The Flower Of Scotland instead of rousing the fans behind a beleaguered Scottish first 15 floated around Murrayfield like the mournful sobs of a widower in a double bed that now seems cold and empty – except more heartbreaking. Even the cries of “Allez les bleus” from the victorious French fans lacked the enthusiasm that was seen later that same day just a hop skip and a jump across the pond.
The Superbowl isn’t a sporting event as you would understand it if you’ve spent the winter months huddled in the stands of Pittodrie or Ibrox. It’s a bonanza of American culture – the high altar to the two mains strands of contemporary America, a ruthless commitment to the free market and a loyalty to both the nation and state which can only normally found in lap dogs or services for which you have parted with a fair bit of cash in one of your cities seedier districts. Caustic cynicism aside, the Superbowl is how sporting events should be run. Sections of play are served in short bursts which builds tension for fans and makes sure casual viewers don’t become bored. It’s also quite handy to be able to go for a drink or take a slash at regular intervals. All in all the spectacle is fantastic, and despite the fact that the Superbowl is the representation of so much that is wrong with modern America, it’s also the biggest and most entertaining sporting event I’ve ever watched.
In the entertainment world things are quickly reaching fever pitch as awards season picks up. Media hacks everywhere are already whipping themselves into a fury as the try to guess the colour of a dress that some here-today, gone-tomorrow starlet will wear. This is a fantastic opportunity for a direct comparison between the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the far more down to earth, and therefore shite, nature of British celebrity occasions. At the time of writing, the BAFTAs are just over a week away. I won’t be watching. I have literally no interest in watching as we haul out Stephen Fry for the millionth time so he can exchange dubious banter with the gay guy from Corrie while the cameraman focuses on the blond one from Emmerdale’s double Ds. The whole thing feels four vodka lemonades from a dirty weekend of dogging in Blackpool – with your gay grandad. The Oscars, on the other hand, make you feel genuinely aspirational. Disgusted with your own bloated shell which you call a body, but aspirational. They still won’t give the right awards to the right people, but at least you leave the evening feeling disgusted with yourself and not with the entire entertainment output of a nation.
But things are looking up I suppose. In line with current thinking on entertainment, Britain has shifted a number of high-profile American sports into cities across the country. For us weegies (or those trapped here with us) the closest access to the spectacle that is American sporting events is the Glasgow Rocks. Immediately if you’re anything like as painfully cynical as I am your thoughts will turn to something along the lines of “what a load of pish”, but surprisingly, going to watch the Rocks is the perfect mix of British rage -you can still scream at the players- and the American – each timeout is accompanied by the Rockquettes. Unsurprisingly, the Rocks got beat, but with clips from Braveheart pummelling my ears and the classy dancing of the Rockquettes, I barely noticed a thing.
New QM Charity – Mary’s Meals
Mary’s Meals: a simple solution to world hunger that works.
The QM has chosen Mary’s Meals as its new charity for this semester. The decision was reached in a committee meeting on Monday where there was a vote between Mary’s Meals and the GU Red Cross society. The selected charity works with local communities in places where the world’s poorest children are found, such as Romania, Malawi and Haiti and works under the doctrine that every child who goes to school should be given a meal. The charity sets up an infrastructure so that the food given to a school child is locally produced. This means that the scheme is not only beneficial to the child but also to their community, boosting the local economy.
The charity, which is based here in Scotland, began work in 2002 feeding 200 orphans in Malawi; in the last decade the operation has expanded to now providing a daily school dinner for over 375,000 children worldwide. By providing food, Mary’s Meals hopes to increase the number of children who can go to school and learn effectively. An education can set a child free from poverty, not only for this generation but for their children in the future too. It takes as little as £6.15 to feed a child going to school for an entire year in Malawi and on average about £9 to fund each individual child involved in the scheme.
The charity is currently running a campaign called the backpack project, in which people are invited to fill a backpack with things that a child would need to go to school. To find out more, the Mary’s Meals website is http://www.marysmeals.org. For information on getting involved with the GU Red Cross society, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Support and Services committee is held in the Board Room (3rd Floor) at the QM on Mondays at 5:00.
Interview: The Drums
You may or may not have heard of The Drums – I know I hadn’t until a few weeks ago – but on listening to their hit ‘Let’s Go Surfing’, you couldn’t fail to be impressed by their catchy lyrics and poppy rhythms. Named #5 on the BBC’s Sound of 2010 list, the Brooklyn-based four-piece have gained growing popularity thanks to their Beach Boys-esque sound and the boundless energy in their live shows, resulting in them joining the likes of The Big Pink, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees for this year’s sell out NME tour. I met vocalist Jonathan Pierce and guitarist Adam Kessler after the gig to discuss their inspiration, their future plans and their new-found fame.
Surprisingly, the band’s fame was not so much an aspiration as something that happened as the result of a shared project between the foursome. Jonathan tells us that he saw them as a band that would have been happy ‘just putting out a couple of 7” vinyls.’ Adam insists though, ‘It was definitely a planned thing. We planned to do a studio project called The Drums.’ However, it is evident that the band never expected to get as far as they have done. Before starting up The Drums in late 2008, members had been involved in various musical projects, including Jonathan and Adam’s band Elkland. ‘We were all in bands when we were younger, when we were teenagers,’ says Adam casually. ‘We’ve all been in and out of bands.’
But they seem to have hit the nail on the head with this one. The sound of their music is influenced by the clean sounds of 1950’s pop music, and bands such as The Wake. Jonathan tells us that they aren’t so much inspired as have a desire to ‘bring back pop’ and give it the name that it used to have. ‘People’s perception of pop has changed,’ he says. ‘We want to bring it back to sounds like The Smiths and Orange Juice.’ As for their new-found fame, it seems to still be a bit of a shock to the system, after working jobs such as shoe salesman, Disneyland security guard, carpenter and barman. In fact, Jonathan reveals, ‘when we go home, Jacob [guitarist] bartends for free, just to have some kind of normality,’ comparing him to Stevie Nicks who, at the height of her fame, kept a New York apartment with a mattress on the floor like she had when she was just starting out, in order to keep some ground under her feet.
For now, though, The Drums are too busy touring the country to bartend. ‘It is exciting,’ Jonathan tells us. ‘This feels like our tour, like our time.’ And even the first couple of days have been eventful, with them kicking off in Newcastle and inadvertently hitting a fan in the head with a tambourine, before travelling on to our glorious city of Glasgow. ‘It was really nice coming in, just seeing all these castles on the skyline,’ says Jonathan on their journey up here. ‘We haven’t had chance to see much of it, but I took a walk round the square out here. I’d like to write an album here. It seems like a good place to write an album.’ Not quite Florida, the inspiration behind their last album, but hey, you never know.
However, after spending a good fifteen minutes talking about nothing much, their lovely manager Sean comes and tells us to wrap it up. I manage to get a brief look to the future before we part though, and ask where they think they’ll be in five years, to an agreed response – ‘Probably dead.’
Live Review: Chapel Club, King Tut’s, 12/02/10
First on were Micky 9s, who provided a theatrical and avant-garde performance fusing funk, punk, electro and polka. Unfortunately, like most things avant-garde (think: dropping a kitten repeatedly from a tower block), the act became tedious after the first ten minutes. Pretty soon there’s very little substance left and just a few scraps of fur and half a jawbone. Next on the bill was Redtrack, a band so mediocre that my whole operating sytem went onto standby. Apparently, they’re playing on Hollyoaks sometime; not that you’d even notice their presence.
At about quarter to eleven, the headliners made it onstage. Chapel Club are a band from London, taking their name from the fact that they first starting practising in a church. After mounting the stage unassumingly, the band started with a strong opening song. The lead singer had perfected that ‘overly-skinny, heavily-medicated’ look. He stood static throughout the majority of the set, looking off somewhere into the ether despondently and distractedly, most likely thinking how being in a band is such bullshit and wondering WWSD? (What Would Sartre Do?) Actually, this persona fit the music well; I found Chapel Club’s brand of groaning eighties-gloom-indie-pop particularly compelling and emersive. The audience were clearly rapt, watching with drunken eyes while swaying slightly. To complement and contrast with the lead singer’s reserve, the rest of the band forced their bodies into the music, engaging in some energetic knee-bending.
Chapel Club showed their influences, giving nods to, among others, Placebo and Joy Division. The band and their music seemed to have a kind of kinetic energy which was building all the time. The combination of the droning, layered music and the vocalist’s inaction (and possible anaemia…) made it seem that the band was steadily growing with potential. Unfortunately, this constrained and vibrating energy wasn’t released. The final song of the set was good but played without any more gusto than the rest of the performance. What’s more, the band walked off the stage without saying a word of thanks or recognition; only the drummer taking a moment on his hasty departure to shake a fan’s hand. This display of louche indifference showed that the band members’ mothers had never taught them the old maxim: it’s cool to be despondent, but you don’t have to be a wanker.
New Theatre in Jim’s: The Egg & Sperm Race
Opening lines that involve the words “cup”, “into” and “wanking” are far too thin on the ground, so I’m thankful to Jack Worthington for redressing this disgraceful imbalance. Based around an otherwise perfect couple’s inability to conceive, The Egg and Sperm Race is a brave effort to tackle a serious subject without resorting to sloppy sentimentalism. And overall, it was pretty damn good. The script was clever and witty, the direction was inventive and the whole production had heart. However, the QMU boardies might want to start including a theatre etiquette guide in the programmes. From simulated sex scenes to brutally honest language, there were plenty of opportunities for the young cast to corpse already but they might have managed slightly better if their pals weren’t heckling from the front row…
Still, it was obvious the shouting and mouthing was good-natured, if a bit misplaced. It only detracted slightly from the professionalism and not from the audience’s enjoyment. And yes, Graeme Stewart and Kirsty Hill could have done with some more rehearsal (there were a few prompts) but when they remembered their lines and weren’t being distracted (Here’s looking at you, qmunicate columnist Ruaraidh J MacIntyre) the performances were sweet and genuine. The long voiceovers might have been occasionally hard to hear, but they were a great device and hidden amongst the mumbling were some hilarious lines. Props also go to the supporting cast for managing to be a subway train, an escalator and a busy street at various points. There’s some kinks to be ironed out, but at a fiver a ticket (which includes a pint of Tennent’s and a tasty panini) it seems callous to complain. New Theatre in Jim’s may still be in its infancy but it’s not afraid to deal with growing up. I’ll definitely be staying around to see how they get on.
Music (CD) Reviews
You Me At Six – Hold Me Down
Whilst recording this album, You Me At Six claimed they wanted to create a sound that would remove them from the ‘Fall Out Boy wannabes’ genre, and they’ve certainly done that. Without straying too far from their original ‘emo’ style, the five-piece have created an album full of catchy hooks, clever lyrics and a perfect blend of fast and slow tracks. It’s safe to say they’ve roamed further than their previous pop-rock releases, sounding much heavier than before – a sound that suits their style. It’s obvious from the punchy opening track The Consequence how much the band have grown since their arrival in the music scene. I can guarantee this album will gain a greater adoration from already loyal fans, and win over a legion of new fans who were previously too embarrassed to admit to liking them (I’ve already seen it happen). I challenge you not to love it. [Kirsten Murray]
Stevie Hoang – No Coming Back
According to the press release, Stevie Hoang is “a slice of slick and refined R’n’B taken straight from the top drawer”. Although I’m no R’n’B expert, I’d say Stevie is more of a ‘middle drawer’ kind of guy. Sure, it’s catchy enough to match the likes of JLS and, yes, he has some musical talent which is likely to thrust him into the charts. However, the monotonous synth lines that repeat non-stop and Stevie’s (slightly whiney) claim of “there’s no coming back” gets a bit boring pretty quickly. It’s undeniable that this track will be pumped through loudspeakers and headphones and receive a considerable amount of radio play as it’s a great example of the manufactured pop that’s returning to our culture from the 90’s. I’m sure 12-year-old girls and their mums will love it, but Stevie Hoang is no Usher.
Shy Child – Liquid Love
New Yorkers’ Shy Child are back in business after a three year hiatus. The intoxicating, if a little surprising, album Liquid Love hits shelves this March, and looks set to impress existing fans but also to encompass new audiences. Sadly, these fresh audiences will most likely be the NME; it’s all very danceable with charming little choruses. In spite of this somewhat mainstream appeal, Shy Child haven’t removed the rough edges and slightly unfinished sound which grants the duo with character. Many tracks from the album carry certain sophistication and class that I feel Shy Child haven’t given us before, and the more tailored sound works without sacrificing the duo’s recognisable personality and sound. I didn’t want to pin all hopes of marriage on vocalist Pete Cafarella before, but after this album I’m quite happy to do so. Yes, I do love Liquid Love and yes, you should listen to it immediately. [Ashleigh Willis]
Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
The new sound of Arctic Monkeys’ third album, Humbug, has not been without criticism alongside praise. From the drum roll that starts the opening track, doubling as third and final single, ‘My Propeller’, the change in style is self-evident. What can’t be refuted however is the talent and ability on show in each instrument, from the tight understanding of the rhythm section and the harmony singing so rarely employed before, the James Bond-esque guitar hook and the, nonexistent at times; sublime at others, lead guitar of Jamie ‘Cookie’ Cook, to last but far from least, the laid-back vocals of matured frontman Alex Turner, whose lyrics, filled with imagery and metaphor, display the end product of the potential he always had. The song’s progression through various phrases, and how parts like the opening riff are brought back later on is skilfully executed meanwhile the way in which the track ends, cool and collected after navigating through a blaring bridge section leaves only one thing unanswered – where will Arctic Monkeys go next? They have the world at their feet now but are staying grounded despite the success and fame – with a special 10” edition of this epic single being sold exclusively in Oxfam shops, all the more reason to go out and buy it. [Robert Fairbairn]
Roscoe – Phantom Power
Glasgow’s Roscoe is somewhat of a maverick. On his new album Phantom Power he demonstrates this by skilfully playing every instrument, rising above the standard guitar, bass and drums to also include slide guitar and banjo. What’s more is he wrote and produced all of it himself. His style is what I call commercial country, meaning that on the country music spectrum he shies away from one-offs in the vein of Ryan Adams and Nick Lowe in favour of slightly more clean-cut and generic songs, quintessentially represented at the very end of the spectrum by the dirge of Gretchen Wilson’s ‘Redneck Woman’, but take nothing away from him – he clearly has class. While songs such as ‘Broadway’ may be predictable, the skilled instrumentation keeps it varied enough to appreciate and enjoy. Roscoe’s talent is obvious but a few songs are so stereotypical of country that some people may fail to take it seriously. Others that are less so will remind them they are listening to a skilled songwriter and musician. [Robert Fairbairn]
Owl City – Ocean Eyes
Somehow, lyrically challenged but disturbingly catchy single ‘Fireflies’ has managed to take the number one spot for too much of this year. Hopefully, this will be the only hit from Owl City’s album Ocean Eyes, which serves absolutely no purpose except to excite tween girls and provide mindless background noise. The album is pretty much an ongoing stream of synth and xylophone sounds about situations dreamed up by the childlike imagination that inevitably springs from the loneliness of years cooped up in your parents’ basement. ‘The Bird and the Worm’ seems to be trying to make a synth-pop version of songs such as those heard on the Juno soundtrack, and Dental Care has such ridiculous lyrics that I would recommend listening to it just to be glad you didn’t come up with them. If you want 40 minutes worth of uninspiring synth-pop, this is for you; if not, steer clear.
Goldhawk – Where In The World
Described in its press release as ‘Big Music’, ‘Where In The World’, the second single from west London five-piece Goldhawks, sounds a bit like the new stuff of all the indie bands that were much cooler before they became ‘cool’ [Kings of Leon, The Killers etc.], maybe with a splash of U2 thrown in. The song isn’t too bad, though – a bit whiney in the vocals, but fair enough to listen to if you like a decent amount of drums contrasted with an equally decent amount of piano. It’s definitely catchy enough to become popular, and could definitely make a good live show if the audience were as willing as the band seems to be, but this seems like one of those songs that could either make it really big or just be seen as another song from another indie band. And do we really need another one of those?
Cosmo Jarvis – Crazy Screwed Up Lady
With nasally vocals reminiscent of Jamie T, strummed acoustic guitars and an annoyingly catchy chorus that explodes into life with a pulsating synth-bassline that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sugababes record, it’s difficult to know how to categorise this would-be pop gem lifted from Cosmo Jarvis’s debut album. While the song is likable enough with its bouncy rhythm and hooky melody, the lyrical content suggests Jarvis is trying to capture the kind of kitchen-sink grittiness that The Arctic Monkeys got music fans drooling over a few years ago, but he never quite pulls it off. Instead, the slickly produced backing track, awash with stabs of violins and a skeletal piano loop, ensures that the faux-profound lyrics are the last thing you notice. And by the time the frankly ridiculous key change arrives for the final chorus, it’s hard not to have been swept away by the endearing naffness of it all. [Sean Keogh]
Nuala Dalton – Breaking The Spell
Off to a good start, ‘Get Go’ really does get the album going, although in general, the pace is a little too sluggish and the lyrics a little too much about womanhood, liberation, happiness; you get the drift. Nevertheless, Dalton sticks out, and her unconventional 60’s-hippie-style is refreshing. The faster and more distorted songs are definitely better; in slower ones, like ‘Circle’, she almost sounds like someone in a karaoke bar who has had one too many. She should have left them out for the more post-punky tunes towards the end, that I didn’t actually get to until the fourth time I had listened to the 13-track-album. Evidently Dalton is a strong, independent woman and that’s good for her. Maybe this is the sort of thing I will listen to when I’m a middle aged mother of two in need of some comfort, but I’ll save it in some drawer till then. [Jenny Nordman]
Tiffany Page – Walk Away Slow
Despite a residual girls-with-guitars appreciation (from my days in an ill-fated, short-lived, all-girl punk band) making me less critical of ax-wielding females than my peers, I have to admit Tiffany Page is no Courtney Love. Page is easy enough on the ears but ‘Walk Away Slow’ is just a bit boring. Pop-rock-by-numbers instrumentation and over-repetition of lyrics that weren’t that amazing to begin with stop this song being something memorable. Her voice is interesting though, keeping some vintage tones without resorting to Duffy or Adele overkill, and could conceivably be something quite special live. ‘Walk Away Slow’ isn’t pretentious or lofty like a lot of music that’s floating around just now but it also lacks any of the innovation that the pretentious aspire to, and is all the worse for it. Maybe worth giving a listen if you’ve just moved on from Cheryl Cole and fancy something more upbeat than The Saturdays. [Nina Ballantyne]
Archie Bronson Outfit – Shark’s Tooth
‘Shark’s Tooth’ is the first single from Archie Bronson Outfit’s third album, Coconut. Whilst Shark’s Tooth carries echoes of its parent work; primal, forceful and aggressive, with a typically deformed marching sound, a certain bite is given to their latest single.
A compellingly unsettling lone guitar introduces the track, winding its way like a fuse to the rest of the band. The gritty intro runs unpredictably into tumbling, tinny guitar riffs that hold a metallic quality to them. The disco-punk influences of DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy compliment ‘Shark’s Tooth’. From its bony guitar melodies to its drum march, both are granted dance-ability by the throbbing synths of Goldsworthy’s production.
Despite this new angle, at times Windett’s echoing vocals are swallowed by the surging cacophony of instruments. For better or worse, this rough-edged taster to the upcoming album Coconut (due March 1st) reveals a new bite to the psychedelic trio. [Patrick Byrne]
The Candle Thieves – Sunshine and Other Misfortunes
You may think ”Aw, what a nice name”. Don’t be fooled, this band suffers from being Superbland. They are sort of sunshine pop, but with a hugely morbid undertone. Their sound is at best a confused medley of other popularish bands: The Feeling, Dandy Warhols, Elbow, James Blunt and Imogen Heap. Easy listening for sure: it’s probably the sort of music your mum would like. The lyrics are quite nice, but for me it feels a tad unfinished. The randomly thrown in shalalala’s and the harmonica doesn’t do them any favours either. [Sarah Joy]
Mumford & Sons – The Cave
I love Mumford & Sons. You could serve them up on a platter to me, and I would wolf it down immediately without feeling embarrassed. If anyone could make banjos sound cool, they have definitely succeeded. Not even watching the duelling banjos in Deliverance could change my mind about them. The mixture of quirky lyrics and the toe tapping folksy sound really seems to appeal to something in me. The lyrics seem to increasingly revolve around choking on their album and this song is no exception, auto-erotic asphyxia anyone? They make me want to don a checked shirt and start a thigh-slapping barn dance. Yee haw. [Sarah Joy]
Music Reviews: Niteflights, Nedry, Hot Chip, The Merchants
Niteflights – The Delightful Fall of Niteflights
Initial impressions of the band are not promising as the attached album photographs serve only to give the impression of some poncy and pretentious arty boys who possess none of the Belle and Sebastian charm. With first listen it appears this may be what they sound like too, with track one sounding like a rather poor attempt at a Kasabian style moody song, complete with pointless “ahhhh-ohh” for what I presumed was the chorus.
However, the next two play to a much more upbeat tune, more in the vein of The Thrills than some moody generic rock. The unique array of instruments on show and the way each seems to mesh well together makes for much more interesting listening and gives them a fresh sound which isn’t often heard.
Though it may be titled The Delightful Fall of Niteflights, it is rather more a first step towards a hopefully delightful career for a band who, despite deceptive appearances, have the raw talent to rise above the normal indie band genre.
Nedry – Condors
London electronica trio Nedry are releasing their debut album Condors on 22nd February. They started producing their own fusion of electronica, instrumental rock and dub-step in the summer of 2008 and since then have come a long way, having recently been signed to Monotreme records.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a massive fan of anything that has “electronic” in the synopsis. I don’t know why, but that style of music just never seemed to appeal to me. Yet after listning to these guys (and girl) I’m starting to feel like I’ve been missing out. Their mix of acoustic guitars, what can only be described as random beats and Bjork-esque (yes I said it, but seriously don’t let that put you off) vocals come together beautifully. The fourth track on the album, the fantastically titled Squid Cat Battle is fantastic. Sure, the vocals are unintelligible, and I still have absolutely no idea what “dub-step” is, but I really do like this band.
Hot Chip – One Life Stand
I have a confession to make; I have never really been bitten by the Hot Chip bug. Sure I have screamed the words “over and over” over and over at four am at a 12-Hour Cheesy, maybe followed by a warm potato-based snack. I felt that this made me a prime candidate for Hot Chip syndrome but it never really happened until now!
One Life Stand is the fourth offering from the well liked British electro pop band and I believe it to be their best. As the musical youth dust down their neons and recover from the electro based hangover which was the last five years, so do Hot Chip. The album holds together very well and evokes the idea that Hot Chip are now more musically involved, swapping repetitive choruses for mellow thoughtful passages of music. Synth is still important within their music but it is less frantic and complements Alexis and Joe’s vocals which are enjoyably soothing.
I feel One Life Stand is a more mature offering from the British five-piece who could easily just released more of the same music which has been tried and tested. However by the first song “Thieves in the Night” Hot Chip express their intentions to blow us away in a dream like hallucination and by the last track “Take it in” (The albums first single) you will want to listen to this album over and over and over…
The Merchants – The Merchants
This self-titled EP is by no means innovative but is enjoyable to listen to. The bands combination of dirty guitar licks and soothing violin backing creates a folk/rock album with a bite. The music is rhythmically bouncy and songs such as “Gatsby” and “Wish” keep the torch burning for post-Libertines indie music. So keep up the good work boys.
This post was edited on 8/2/2010 to correct an inaccurate account of The Merchants. qmunicate would like to apologise to the band for the error, information about The Merchants can be found on http://www.myspace.com/themerchantsonline.
Live Review: Malcolm Middleton, Oran Mor 10/12/09
Oran Mor is the last stop on the Long, Dark Night tour and might be released as a live album “if it’s not shit”. Outside, the night is obligingly black and bitterly cold. Luckily, the only support tonight comes from Malcolm Middleton’s former bandmate, Aidan Moffat, who soon thaws out the audience. Relying on a selection of unusual instruments, ranging from an autoharp to a squeezebox, Moffat’s lyrics are left to penetrate, being supported only by the harshest of sounds. It was refreshing to see such an entertainer performing so bare, with so little musical support. There’s some class patter between songs (“I’d like to dedicate this one to Tiger Woods”) but the perfect precision of his timing within songs would leave many comedians ashamed. Moffat’s observations on heartbreak, threesomes and pre-natal life are touching and hilariously honest. His drawling brogue reveals each couplet in opener “Oh, Men!” like a punchline but keeps “Knock on the Wall of Your Womb” bleakly beautiful. Perhaps in recognition of sharing a stage again with Middleton, Moffat even includes a stripped-down Arab Strap cover before finishing. And although I see why the stark instrumentation grates on some listeners, it works for me, serving only to emphasise the richness of Moffat’s words, leaving the air clear for Middleton to take to the stage.
Middleton, for all his protesting, is another expert in on-stage banter, asking for requests and criticizing our responses. There’s a real intimacy to tonight. The seated audience listening raptly to Middleton’s tales of inadequacy appears to share a closer connection than they might at a standing gig. We see an artist performing to rather than at their crowd. Middleton plays new tracks and old, fulfilling most requests by the end of the night. The downbeat anthem “Blue Plastic Bags” is preceded by a warning, “You bastards better sing along at the end”. Safe to say we do all “sing along with a sad song”. And the last line of “Devil and the Angel” is used to play a cruel trick, almost succeeding in getting Middleton’s fans to sing “…and your songs are pish” at the man they’ve paid to see. Eventually they manage instead to call his songs “alright”. Glowing adoration it may not be, but the standing ovation given to Middleton after his encore sure as hell was. In this case, it was richly deserved. As the weather still refuses to let up, I can think of few finer ways to spend a Long, Dark Night than this.
Live Review: Tickley Feather @ The V Club
Odd but nice is probably the best way to describe this one. The posters alone were enough to convince me this was going to be a good one so I had no idea of any of the bands or songs. The first band ‘Cheer’ were actually one of the best opening bands I’ve seen with his atmospheric acoustic sound soothing you away. It’s not the best gig kind of songs but I couldn’t help but listen to some as I write this review. ‘Animals and War’ are up next with some slow paced genre mixing. I still can’t tell wither I enjoyed this or not, sometimes the clunkiness of the songs just didn’t pan out as well as they should have and at others it worked amazingly well. Anyway, in follows ‘Calacas’ with what felt like the heaviest set of the night and taking the standard straight back up. They were easily the most accessible band all night with a much more mainstream feel while retaining their unique indie sound. But on to our headliner.
Signed to the Animal Collectives record label she is very much an indie artist and though her two albums have not had huge success she does have many devoted fans. As she walks in you can already tell this is going to maybe be a bit freaky, and it is. The sound is some what unnerving; with heavy use of voice echoing and odd synth beats but I was a little disappointed at how similar some of her songs were. I was interested very much in her sound but I felt she didn’t really show any depth to it and just stuck in the “a little bit creepy” ball park. There were some songs that were quite nice but all in all if you don’t like one song you won’t like any. Tickley feather are worth a listen but if you haven’t been into similar music before it is unlikely you’ll jump on board for this one.
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Film Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ is the film adaptation of the beloved children’s book written by Roald Dahl. Mr Fox (George Clooney) and his wife (Meryl Streep) are in the chicken hunting business. However, when Mrs Fox becomes pregnant, they both promise to give up the family business for something less dangerous. Years later, after words of warning from his friend Mr Badger (Bill Murray, making his contractually obliged appearance), Mr Fox decides to go back into the hunting business where he plans on making one last great heist known as the master plan against the three biggest farmers in the town. Meanwhile, Mr Fox’s son Ash begins a battle with his cousin over who is the better fox.
It is a glorious return for Wes Anderson with something that somehow tops his masterpiece ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. A beautifully crafted labour of love, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ is ‘Oceans 11’ meets ‘The Royal Tenebaums’. It takes all the best parts of Anderson’s previous endeavours and merges them into his best work to date.
There is nothing bad about this film. It has been along time since I could say that I had a permanent smile on my face all the way through, yet ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ does just that. The Dahl family have publicly stated that this the best adaptation of one of the master’s books and they are not wrong. Anderson takes the books premise and actually improves it. The warring children are comedy gold and Ash (Mr Fox’s son) is a work of film genius. His quirky character is just what Wes Anderson fans have come to expect from his creations.
Anderson, like Nolan with the Batman series, makes all the other writers/directors of a Dahl film look ashamed and embarrassed to think they produced such drivel such as the film adaptation of ‘James and the Giant Peach’ when something similar to this could have easily been made.
The reason ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ succeeds is because of its razor sharp script and phenomenal acting especially from Clooney and Murray. Clooney gives Mr Fox the cool and sophistication we all hoped he would. What is more, Anderson as the director needs to have the credit pilled on. His quirky, eccentric style suits the original text that Dahl wrote down to the t. this is the kind of relationship, a film lover can only hope for when one of their favourite books has been adapted.
So, if you love Roald Dahl, go see this movie. If you love Wes Anderson, go see this movie. If you love films in general go see this movie. You will not be disappointed.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Film Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Heath Ledger’s final film has had much hype around it for precisely that: that this will be the last film we will ever see the 10 Things I Hate About You star in. However, it is definitely not his finest moment – he didn’t end his career on a high.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is about a touring magical show and how the leader, Doctor Parnassus, makes too many deals with the devil. Doctor Parnassus agreed to allow the Devil to have his daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), on her sixteenth birthday in return for being with the woman he loved. So when the Devil turns up a few days early Doctor Parnassus panics. However, the Devil is a gambling man, so challenges Doctor Parnassus to get five souls before Valentina’s birthday, and if he manages to acquire five souls before the Devil does then he can keep his daughter; and so the race begins. Tony (Heath Ledger, Colin Farrel etc etc) inadvertently gets involved when he is rescued by the group and is not all that he seems.
Ledger fortunately will be remembered as the joker rather than his role as Tony; his accent consistently changes and is outshone by Johnny Depp. The true star of the show is Lily Cole who is surprisingly brilliant, not the late Ledger.
Although the supporting cast are marvelous and the visuals spectacular the plot is all over the place and the film just drags on for too long. Inside the Imaginarium it is a cross between Beetlejuice and Alice in Wonderland, which works magnificently alongside the changing faces of Tony, which is what makes this film worthwhile.
Live Review: Frank Turner – QMU 16/10/09
Entering Qudos to massive cheers, I feel guilty and a bit put out about arriving too late to see the first act of the night, Beans on Toast, who has clearly been successful in gearing the crowd up for what is set to be a good night. A close friend of Turner’s, Beans on Toast is an upbeat London artist with witty lyrics and lots of personality, an ideal way to kick off the evening.
Following Beans on Toast are the Florida-based Fake Problems, who keep up the energy in a very American-rock sounding way, with a bit of pop, punk and a dash of funk thrown in for good measure. They keep the crowd in good spirits until their last song, when the beat slows down and we all become a little bit depressed, and hope that Frank begins with something a little bit peppier.
Thankfully, our wish comes true. The lights go down, we all get excited and the man of the evening makes his way onto the stage and hits it all off with the lively Live Fast, Die Old, the first track from his new album, which has already proved itself to be a sing-a-long hit with fans. With his band behind him, he works his way through his set with a mixture of new, old and somewhere-in-the-middle songs, including the new single Poetry of the Deed, the awesome tribute tune Long Live the Queen, and Million Dead track Smiling at Strangers on Trains for the diehard devotees. Highlights of the middle of the show include the dick who tried to have a fight at the front, only for Frank to stop at the end of a song to chastise him for being an idiot, also excellent was audience member Nathan being invited on stage to accompany Dan’s Song by blasting out a solo on the harmonica.
He finishes up with the epic Journey of the Magi to give us time to cool off before giving us an encore, which ends with a bang as the crowd goes mental singing along to Photosynthesis. Thoroughly sweating my tits off, I join the throng and make my way up to Unplugged at Jim’s, where an hour or so later we’re greeted once again by Frank, his guitar, and his underpants, apparently…
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Live Review: The Cheek – King Tut’s 22/10/09
The following are Tweets taken from Iain Smith’s twitter feed. The times are a bit wrong, for 2pm, read 10pm. Full(er) review below.
At The Cheek gig at Tut’s, will be doing a live play-by-play review. Be prepared to block me.
2:22 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
Last support band (name forthcoming) have a lead singer with a keytar, making him equal parts hero and tosser.
2:23 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
They also have an afro’d singer, no drummer and a Songsmith-style synth track. There are no adjectives for this; I may invent one.
2:26 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
Dimblebeian. Adj. Describe those who create the feeling that someone should have skipped something in order to watch Question Time.
2:32 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
Credit where due: bassist is decent enough. Keytar player just became 100% tosser by putting on a pair of 3D glasses pre-synth solo.
2:38 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
I was wrong. There are drugs strong enough to make this enjoyable, judging by the group of girls dancing enthusiastically at the front.
2:43 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
“This is our last song” prompts chants of ” two more tunes”. I may be alone in my opinion here.
2:53 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
No jokes. Either this band have a lot of friends or everyone here is trashed.
2:56 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
The Cheek are loud, and are brilliant by comparison. Something a little punk about them.
3:18 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
It’s probably worth noting that Tut’s is now less than half full. It’s a shame, it’s hardly groundbreaking, but it’s decent.
3:22 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
oh a ballad. That was unexpected, but it’s quite lovely, but for the singer’s posturing – much like the rest of the set thus far.
3:29 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
The lead singer isn’t Alex Turner, just thought I’d add this incase it transmits through his head on it’s way to the internet.
3:33 PM Oct 22nd from TwitterBerry
Final support for the night are Glasgow natives Nevada Base, and are just painfully bad, depite their popularity with tonight’s crowd. It’s a strange mix of deep, slightly out-of-tune vocals, laptop synth and neat bass lines that only the “those who don’t like our music just don’t understand it” crowd could enjoy. Eugh.
It’s a real shame then that Nevada base take their fanbase away with them when they depart, with just over 50 people left in Tut’s for when The Cheek take to the stage. With two vocalists portraying each side of the indie-stereotype coin. One in full three-piece suit, the other a long-sleeve checked shirt done all the way mincing about like a poor imitation of every famous indie singer ever.
They’ve written a few catchy songs which have the potential, with a little refinement, to carve the band a niche in the over-saturated market that is indie-pop, but they’re let down by a number of other tracks, which are, quite frankly, dull. Perhaps it was the lack of energy in the room following the departure of so many audience, perhaps the late stage time (11pm) but the band lacked a certain spark to really convince the remaining few that they’re worth keeping an eye on. Based on tonight’s performance, there’s a bit of potential there, but it’s going to take some improvement to really capitalise on it.
The Cheek’s new single Hung Up is out on Monday Oct 26th, and have a few live dates still going before the tour wraps up on November 2nd. See http://www.myspace.com/wearethecheek for more info.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Music Review: Basshunter – Bass Generation
I would be bold enough to say that Sweden has the greatest music scene in the world at the moment. The likes of The Knife, Loney, Dear, Jose Gonzales and Jens Lekman amongst dozens of others are producing stunning albums, not to mention Sweden’s plethora of heavy metal groups. With all this great music it is hardly surprising to come across some acts that just don’t make the mark. And so it is with Basshunter.
The album starts off with “Every Morning”, which sounds almost like a ballad until the generic dull beat takes over. The lyrics, rather than being quirky like other Swedish groups, are plain dull. Following on are 14 identical tracks with worthless drum machine backing, and equally mundane lyrics.
Saying that, this is exactly the kind of Eurotrash that is being spewed all over dancefloors across the continent, becoming popular through sheer repetition. Nil points.
qmunicate issue 70 – Graduate Pay
Garduate Action on Pay Issue
qmunicate speaks to graduate tutors regarding proposed strikes
A new set of terms and conditions put in place this academic year by the University has caused uproar amongst GTAs (Graduate Teaching Assistants i.e. postgraduate tutors) resulting in a number of them threatening to strike. These new terms and conditions, which do not have union backing, have raised many concerns for the GTAs in relation to the welfare and support of their students.
One major concern of the GTAs is the official condition that gives them only 20 minutes of paid preparation time per tutorial, which they feel is not a sufficient amount and may have a “detrimental impact on students,” according to our anonymous spokesperson for the cause. One issue the GTAs were clear on was that their principal aim is to give the students the quality of education that they deserve, and for this reason many are spending their own free time outside of the allocated 20 minute slot reading and planning in preparation for their tutorials.
A similar issue that has cropped up is that there has been offered no standard of consistency in the time suggested for essay marking, sleading to large variations in the length of time spent marking each essay depending on department, from some tutors given 10 minutes per essay where others spending more than an hour. To the GTAs, this system seems unfair on the students who have put time and care into their work, and the effort cannot be reciprocated. Mainly for these two reasons and in the interest of students’ education, the GTAs want a revised, more reasonable set of official terms and conditions from the University.
There are other reasons for the discontent, however. Despite the University’s aim to become one of the top 50 universities in the world, the size of some classes are too large to provide the ‘world-class’ education needed to gain that status. For example, some tutorial classes have been known to hold 25 or more students, whereas Oxford, for example, limits its tutorials to no more than 4 students. This issue is one that the GTA spokesperson claims they are “deeply concerned” about, as although they agree with the ambition to be world class, they do not believe that the conditions they are currently working under can help to reach this goal.
Furthermore, some GTAs are struggling to gain a secure working environment within the university, with a minority of GTAs who are neither postgraduate students nor officially staff listed being unable to access the University library in order to read the books necessary for them to teach their tutorials. There have been instances of tutors borrowing their students’ library cards in order to withdraw the material they need to read around the subject, which is a massive concern in terms of the way the University treats its GTAs, not to mention a huge inconvenience for the tutors and their students alike.
In addition to this, the tutors affected also do not have any space provided for them in which they can meet students or do paperwork, which has resulted in meetings between tutors and students in hallways and other makeshift spaces.
All of these issues must be addressed and resolved under revised terms and conditions, the GTAs insist, in order to support students fully and effectively. Despite discussion regarding the economical reasoning behind the cause, the GTA spokesperson maintains that they are “happy with our rate of pay”, and that their interest is directed solely towards the welfare of their students.
No official action has been confirmed at the time of going to press but disruptions to tutorials are a real possibility unless the GTAs are satisfied.
Film Review: Surrogates
As a semi-dystopian near-future thriller, Surrogates has rather a lot in common with films like Minority Report and I, Robot. All three share a promising central premise, but while Minority Report capitalised on its idea by telling an engaging story, Surrogates falls embarrassingly flat. I left the cinema wondering how the writers managed to meld such a clever idea to such an awful narrative.
Surrogates tells of a world full of controllable robots that look just like humans. The upshot is that old, ugly FBI agent Bruce Willis simply lies back in his chair, pops on a brain-wave helmet, and remotely controls his robotic avatar all day. This is a world where no-one leaves their house, preferring to send out their beautiful, young, disposable robot “surrogate” to live their lives in complete safety instead. But then people start getting murdered in their chairs, Brucie loses his surrogate for some contrived reason, and he has to go outside for the first time in 20 years, looking for the killer.
Surrogates’ biggest flaw is that none of the characters are likeable; they’re all so lifeless and self-centred that you don’t really give a shit about what happens to them. The dramatic conclusion devolves into an “it was me all along!” Scooby-Doo villain reveal, while Bruce’s big final decision – whether to destroy surrogacy once and for all – is meaningless for the viewer. It’s impossible to care about the fate of a world populated by such vain, unlikeable people.
This is a shame, because Surrogates throws up some truly interesting questions about what it would be like to live in a world with surrogacy. Unfortunately, these ideas work better as a thought-experiment than as the basis of an action film.