Amy

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I loved Asif Kapadia‘s documentary Senna. It took existing footage and crafted a compelling, haunting tale of the rise and tragic death of a modern hero. It was marvellous.

With Amy he has done a similar thing with the life and (spoiler) death of Amy Winehouse. There is nothing heroic in this. But, the tragedy definitely goes one louder.

One of the strengths for me of the other film is that I have absolutely no interest in F1, but it didn’t matter. This is about music and the industry surrounding it. It’s the shit I’ve been obsessed with for most of my life. Add to that nearly every step of this story I knew. As we all did through the part in haunting the poor girl to death that the press played. What the film fails to convey is any real sense of the talent that has been lost to us. Certainly, there’s no great shortage of folks lining up to tell you she was. I always thought of her a stage school kid with a far to mannered voice for it to be anything other than put-on. Kinda the UB40 of torch jazz. The film manages to emphasise her songwriting. Matching it line-for-line with what happens in her life along the way. Its effective and beautifully sad. Does it mke me think the songs are any better?

Am I dead inside?

Written by Tony Kiernan

10 July 2015 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Film

Slow West

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Cards on the table: I never liked The Beta Band. In fact I actively disliked them. Not for their insipid, fey folk particularly. But, for the frothing frenzy of outpour they inspired in others. There was a period of a decade from the late 90s on where every six months or so I’d read something that made me revisit the Three EPs. From one point of view, I just didn’t ‘get’ it. From another the emperor is nekkid. Most accurately, I just don’t like them.

Slow West is the debut movie by John MacLean. He was the bloke that did some perfunctory scratching on the BB’s stuff. I’m a little wary. But, it’s a Scottish Western (and I’ve got an Unlimited card. And, it’s been too long since I went to the cinema). Scots naïf Kodi Smit-McPhee is taken under the wing of fashionably gnarled proper bounty hunter Michael Fassbender on a journey west to join the love of his life.

Don’t think I’d go as far as calling this a love letter to the western, but it’s definitely a crumpled note saying my mate fancies you. New Zealand stands in for Colorado and Scotland and a mighty fine job it does too. As is required in something like this, the landscape becomes the third hand in a dirt road movie. Reminiscent of (the recent) True Grit or something with Eastwood. (I think it’s aiming for Josey Wales. I keep thinking Sister Sarah. This is not a bad thing.) Its chockfull of allusions, and cine-literate in-jokes and references.

While nowhere as elegiac or meaningful as it thinks it is. (I know I use that phrase a lot. But, here there’s a definite heavy-handed message driven home at the end f it all.) But, it’s got MF doing his “look at me! I’m Michael fecken Fassbender” thing, which is always good. And, that’s not even the best thing in this. It’s much, much better than Beta Band.

Written by Tony Kiernan

08 July 2015 at 9:02 am

Posted in Film

Dawn of the Humans/No/Bad Noids – Montague Arms (9th May 2015)

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There’s always something not-quite about genre bands. Bad Noids are tight. They’re fast. But when I say hardcore, you know what they sound like. Thankfully, the frontman looks like an Andy Kaufman character’s walked on stage. So, they’re entertaining enough. But is that enough? When your band looks like an art-prank rather than, well, art?

No are pretty much the same band. Except, their drummer is a maniac. So, a lot more driving and urgent. AND, they at least have bits that you could imagine are choruses in there. There’s a point at which the vocalist (who looks frighteningly like Jake Shillingford) drops the cliche growling and they become a much more interesting prospect. It doesn’t last, though. 

Don’t get me wrong, both these bands are good. I just want to see more archetypes that the stereo varietal. I don’t see myself crossing the road to catch either again. 

There’s always been a certain frisson about a mosh pit. Seriously, go to a Pogues gig in Glasgow and you will see way too many guys with their Celtic tops off wanting to slap beer-guts with each other. It’s societies fault. We’re all denied the right to express our emotions fully. While I’m not going to suggest that there’s any all-out state of denial with the moshers. There is a definite erotic charge to it all.

Dawn of the Humans singer performs completely nuddy-nekkid except for his boots, on of them reflecty doctor discs and what looks like half a can of axle grease. Every time he stage-dives there is such a brilliantly confused real once from the pit. It’s all well and good sweating on another man I the throws of musical joy. But when he actually lands his bollocks on your head…

And they are shot hot. Yup, you can label them, but also recognise them. They’re from NYC. So everything’s On the downstroke. Locked grooves and velvety guitars. A few forays into no-wave atonalism, but it never gets wanky. Still their own voice. 

Yeah, probably will cross the road for these guys when they’re next in town.

Written by Tony Kiernan

10 May 2015 at 12:45 am

Oddbox Weekender – Shacklewell Arms (1-3 May 2015)

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Dalston. Within about two weeks of me moving to London, Harry Styles had been spotted enjoying the hotspots of the, then, synonymous hipster capital of London. Although the young and the beautiful had already been squeezed out towards Hackney, this was seen as the death knell of the cool in the area and Peckham was already declared pretender to the crown. Which is just a way of pointing that all I know of Dalston’s ‘heyday’ is folk whining about how it used to be better. But, even in the three short years I’ve spotted the legendary late-nght noodle bar being replaced by a fauxmerican diner. The building going on etc. The shabby chic boozers are now populated by the cultural tourist. I hate coming up here for gigs. Of course, making me one of them. (I will come back to this.)

This bank holiday weekend, I’m taking up residence in the Shacklewell Arms (oddly first time there) for the 5th and final annual Oddbox Records weekender. These things are always a grab-bag. Let’s see how it goes…

Friday

Slum Of Legs
I suspect this 6-piece (with fiddle and fecken theremin) are suffering from the sound in here. So, it’s all the more impressive that they are coming over a tuneful and adventurous. Admittedly, they have some of the most dreadful lyrics I’ve picked out in some time. Even that’s not spoiling it. They’re going on te list to investigate further.

PinkShinyUltrablast
I’m later told these guys are russian. It’s no excuse. They obviously have all of Stereolabs records, but never bothered to listen to them. Slick and empty.

Fever Dream
You know when a band just make you think of someone you don’t like, and you can’t shake it? This lot remind me of White Hills. They’d probably be chuffed with that comparison. Me? I’d take you outside.

Saturday

So, on the way here, someone local to me that I follow on Twitter was at Brockley Market and bitching about how white and middle-class it was (which is a pretty good description of themselves, TBH). All rounded of with the 1st-world lament of “the things I put myself through for a decent organic galette”. Couldn’t help thinking that’s what everyone else there is telling themselves. A bit like me and the hipsters. I take a good long look at myself and the bitching about who’s in the pubs and gigs I go to. I’m clinging to being too old to regard myself as one of them.

Okinawa Picture Show
Like Glasgow in 1989. Twee indie-pop filtered through Daydream Nation. And, jolly good. Great start to the day.

City Yelps
Swampy stompy guitar punk. With the vocals buried beneath muttering away fairly tuneful songs. I’m picking out Joy Division and Buzzcocks in the melodies. The small piece of between song chat we get reveals and accent that explains that. I hope this is how they’re meant to sound.

Feature
Ungoogleable! Groovy cyclical riffs and close Californian harmonies. Both driving and dreamy. And, I love a band that enjoys themselves on stage. Smashing stuff.

During this set I take a good look around at the people in the room. Such a shambling sack of indie-schmindie losers. Yes, definitely. These ARE my people.

Giant Burger
Ooh. Look at you with your fancy time changes and stuff. There’s a thin like between quirk and irk. Ok, there’s two letters. This lot may think they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Devo. But, really, all I keep thinking of are those American bands that have a bloke I shorts and a bow-tie who only dances (or raps occasionally). I believe the term is “not for me”.

Sarandon
First all-male band of the weekend. (At least that I’ve caught.) Spiky, spiky, spiky. See? THATS how you do time changes and not look like a cunt: By not being a cunt about it. And, having some pop-nous. And being pretty good. Etc.

Dog Legs
Two piece with punk attitude and girl-group tunes. Excellent stuff. Certainly used up a fair chunk of the weekend’s oo-wah-oo allowance. ‘Frontperson’ Moe is a total star. Very pleased to realise I’ll be seeing them again later in the week.

The Fish Police
“All the way from south-east London”. Mixing soul grooves and urban beats and rap, they seem as out of place on this bill as – well – four black guys would. (The Oddbox world may not have a glass ceiling, but it’s not exatly a microcosm of a multi-cultural Britain.) But, their infectious enthusiasms a the crowd eating out of their hand and gets one of the best receptions of the weekend yet.

Slowcoaches
Seem to suffer initially from their place in the line-up. Or maybe they’re just nothing special. Entertaining enough, solid power-punk trio. Nothing more. Is calling a song Really Stupid really brave or…


The Spook School

Ah, it’s them. Seen these guys a few times. They’re very good, but not special enough to keep me here after 10 hours of it. They seem to be in fine voice. I’ll see them again.

Sunday

14:00 The Wednesday Club

Only caught the last tune. Seemed a bit lacklustre. Drummer is bare of foot and waxed of moustache. I’m not having that. Unless you’re Hüsker Dü. And, even then…

14:50 Nervous Twitch

Surfing riffs and girl-group. Have I said that one before? Ace shouty punk pop with groovy keyboards bits.

15:40 Charla Fantasma

You’d be forgiven for believing it was a dawdle to do endearingly shambolic punk-pop tunes from this weekend. Thankfully, there’s always someone to disprove that. 

Steven James Adams

When I finally got to see The Broken Family Band live, it was possibly one of the most heartbreakingly disappointing live experiences of my life. Adams solo is slightly reminding me why (it’s too long to get into in this mammoth post) but mostly of why that disappointment was so heartbreaking. Which is good, I reckon.

Fishboy

Feeling slightly dyspeptic after some questionable Mexican food, I’m perhaps not as tolerant of this guys cutesy cookiness as I might be at other times. I’m sure at another time I’d have found him great, as opposed to insufferable. 

The Middle Ones

See all that stuff I was saying about whimsy and romance versus melancholy and anger? (Ok imagine I didn’t cut it out as being tangential.) this pair are embodying it. At least they’re quite sweet about it.

The Manhattan Love Suicides

I find this band an affront. They are so risibly derivative.

The Just Joans

“The tragedy of teenage pregnancy summed up in a three minute pop song. Genius”. Why can’t all bands write their own review?

Written by Tony Kiernan

04 May 2015 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Gigs, London, Music

A New International – Come To The Fabulon

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I wrote a thing about the new album by A New International over on Is This Music?. It was a bit scrabbled together while I sat in the office late at night waiting for databases to propagate or somesuch. As such, a prime candidate for pseuds’ corner. That, however, should not dim the fact that the album is pretty fucken wicked

Written by Tony Kiernan

06 March 2015 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Music, Records

Interstellar

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As mentioned previously, I’ve got myself back on the old Cineworld Unlimited ticket. This means I get to use their numerous in-case-you-missed-it type showings to catch up with, well, the stuff I missed. This week it’s the Bafta winners ‘tour’.

Actually, I’m not certain I missed Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar as just really couldn’t be arsed at the time. Nolan’s work has been a considerable case of diminishing returns for me. With his last – non-BatmanInception convincing me he was nothing more than M Night Shyamalan with a bigger budget. In view of how much money his films keep making, he’s going to keep getting those budgets. And, pretty much a free-hand. This is not necessarily a good thing.

His latest, is a lunatic

Supposedly this has had physicists up the ying-yang advising on the theory. Like the inexorable Sunshine, this is no guarantee of quality. But, worse, seems to be an accepted excuse to throw the need for internal logic out the window. Add to that some serious pretensions to be 2001 and you’re left with a serious sackload of bollocks.

Plus points; yeah some. The cast are about as good as you can expect. They all give a pretty good stab at handling the mangled exposition that makes up most of the dialogue. Mackenzie Foy, the young girl that’s central to the plot (and who grows up to be Jessica Chastain) manages to give more dimensions (oh, how apt) to her character than most of the more experienced actors in here. (Again, not really their fault.)

Not usually a fan of Hans Zimmer. But, his soundtrack here is pretty awesome. Not a single original moment in it, but it’s pretty damn slamming.

Anne Hathaway‘s still pretty.

Erm, that’s about it. Within half an hour you’ll have taken a guess at where it’s going and dismissed it with the phrase “nah, there’s no way they’d do THAT“.

Written by Tony Kiernan

24 February 2015 at 10:00 am

Posted in Film

The Theory of Everything

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Yes, the acting’s great. Not just Oscar shoo-in Eddie Redmayne. Felicity Jones does amazingly with very little. The film being based on her characters autobiography, does make her a little saintly. But, she still brings some depth to it.

Maxine Peake is in there too :)

Ultimately, though, this is a Sunday night TV drama. Albeit an enjoyable one.

Written by Tony Kiernan

19 February 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in Film

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