Sunscreem! I always loved the first album, 03, but it’s their second one, Change Or Die from 1996 that’s got me this time round. It does a thing I really like, where the tracks transition into one another so that it sounds ‘of a piece’, and it has themes and motifs that recur throughout, like little treats rewarding you for listening to the whole album. What else? Oh yes, it’s got trippy 303 wig-outs and anthemic singalong bits; it’s uplifting and life-affirming in a goofy, group-hug sort of way; it’s incredibly well thought-out and beautifully sequenced and yet never loses sight of the fact that at heart it’s an exuberant pop-dance album, and I love, love, love it.
Some of you may recall Lucas Hare, who used to post on the old Word site. Luke and I know each other in meatworld, and so I happen to know that he and Kerry Shale (another Word alumnus) have been putting together a new fortnightly podcast, called ‘Is It Rolling, Bob? Talking Dylan’.
The format involves discussions with actors, writers and other interesting creative types about Bob Dylan and what he means to them, and the first one, featuring David Hepworth (oh yes, another Word alumnus) is out now on Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes Podcasts) and Podbean:
The second episode, with David Morrissey, will be out on Monday next week:
In next week’s podcast episode, we talk to @davemorrissey64 about Bob Dylan and the music that has punctuated his life. Available to download on Monday October 8th. Subscribe so you don’t have to remember. https://t.co/ULYMdonvoI pic.twitter.com/7kDw2ZA9XK
— Is It Rolling, Bob? Talking Dylan (@isitrollingpod) October 1, 2018
They have several recorded and ready to go – Kenneth Cranham, Barb Jungr, Jon Canter, Paul Morley – and many more booked in the next few weeks. Happy listening!
What does it sound like?:
A mix of ambient, modern classical, drum & bass and techno – occasionally in isolation, sometimes all together but never less than gorgeously mounted – ‘Portrait in Firewood’ is not just an audacious album, it’s also perfectly realised. Right now, just a few listens in, I think it’s flawless. It’s certainly my favourite album of the year so far. Singer Lola Empire contributes heartbreaking vocals for ‘Waters Rising’; elsewhere there are filmic samples from — of all places — ‘Meet Joe Black’, which, considering that DnB producers normally like to quote Scarface or Vietnam movies, contributes to a sense of Djrum (aka Felix Manuel) baring his soul. ‘Beautiful’ is the only word to describe most of what’s on offer here, and that’s not normally an adjective you get to employ around bass music or DnB.
What does it all *mean*?
It’s inspired by the artist Marina Abramović, but I won’t pretend to know anything about that.
Goes well with…
Sitting, listening, in awe.
Might suit people who like…
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you like electronic music — any electronic music — you’ll love this.
‘Halloween Box’ for £4.51.
True, I don’t know what the ‘Halloween Box’ consists of, because even in my wildest dreams I can’t imagine that it’s an actual box-set of Halloween music on vinyl for just £4.51. But I’ve ordered one anyway, just in case like.
My novel, Bloody Kids, is currently free to download on Kindle across Amazon. It’s a gory and at times decidedly unpleasant horror-thriller about a guy who comes a cropper at the hands of feral children. It isn’t for everybody, obviously, but there have been some pretty decent reviews of it on Goodreads, here. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36639487-bloody-kids#other_reviews
If you do download it, thanks! And if you download it and actually read it, then I’m buying you a pint.
Jolly exciting news, this.
Year: 2018 Director: Sophie Fiennes
Let’s face it nobody wants a Grace Jones film to be a ‘standard’ rock biography, much in the same way that nobody wants a ‘standard’ rock biography of Laurie Anderson or Patti Smith. You expect some degree of artiness or avant gardism, or it just wouldn’t be ‘them’.
But at the same time what you don’t really want — trust me on this — is what you get here: a cinema verité approach where you spend the first twenty minutes waiting in vain for some kind of context, backstory, explanation — anything — and the next hour-and-a-half (it’s a long old film) resigned to the fact that you’re not going to get any, just enjoying the great moments the film does occasionally throw up, and thinking, ‘God, what a lost opportunity this is.’ And, ‘How can anybody make a film about Grace Jones — Grace Jones! — that is so BORING?’
Honestly, I wanted to throw things at the screen. Fifteen minutes of Grace and family sitting around a dinner table having an impenetrable conversation? You got it? Context? Fuck you. I know a fair bit about her, so at least I knew that » Continue Reading.
Beautiful, I think you’ll agree.
Year: 2018 Director: Ron Howard
Checking the reviews and box office receipts, and considering that I thought The Last Jedi was PANTS, I’m supposed to hate this. But with the benefit of lowered expectations and a quarter-full cinema, I actually had a blast. True, there was a huge amount of box-ticking at work. Has there ever been a film whose remit is to explain a single, throwaway line in another film, made over forty years ago? Probably not. And there’s a shitload of ‘this is how X happened!’ — from the Falcon’s distinctive shape to the way that Lando pronounces ‘Han’ — which is no doubt intended to be ‘fan pleasing’, but is in fact a little bit icky, oh, and it’s way, way too long.
But actually, if you can ignore all that — and you can, dead easily — then what you have here is a fairly cookie-cutter action movie, but one that’s done done really, really well.
Good points? A train heist set-piece that’s worthy of anything in the Mission: Impossible franchise; a really good performance by whatsisname in the title role, properly ‘doing’ Harrison; a funny turn from Fleabag lady; a fantastic Paul Bettany, being » Continue Reading.
No more Fabric mixes ‘in the current format’ (see link below) which people seem to agree means they’re going digital.
This is very sad. I’m a subscriber and a sort-of collector (I have about 120 in total), though it is of course exciting news to have Sasha doing number 99. The ‘Fabric’ side concentrated more on House and Techno, whereas FabricLive was more Drum & Bass, Hip Hop, Dubstep etc. Both lines produced more brilliant mixes than I care to list, and certainly the ‘FabricLive’ stream was *the* best purveyor of D&B mixes. I’m using the past tense because it just won’t be the same as a stream. No more distinctive tins for a start, and no doubt they’ll be twice as long and less concise and thoughtfully worked out as a result. Hashtag sadface.
Meanwhile, it seems to be end-of-days for the mix CD. Global Underground appear to have given up the ghost, likewise Renaissance and At The Controls. Thankfully Balance are keeping the faith with recent mixes from James Zabiela and Max Cooper among the best they’ve ever put out. Can’t recommend those two enough if you’re into your electronica.
Year: 2017 Director: Michael Gracey
A lot of critics had a lot of very bad things to say about The Greatest Showman, but mainly they criticised what it’s not. What it’s not is a serious biography of PT Barnum. It’s not subtle. It’s not at all fleshed-out or characterful.
While these are all points that certainly apply, they’re hardly valid criticism when the film itself shows not the slightest interest in hitting those particular markers. This is a movie where at one point plot exposition is relegated to a sign propped up in the background of a song. Almost all of the important storytelling beats, in fact, turn up during songs, a cinematic sleight of hand that leaves a contemporary musical like La La Land looking positively leaden by comparison. During an early sequence we see the young Barnum grow up fall in love, get married and have kids of his own – all during the course of one song. Meanwhile, a reprise (we’re big on reprises in The Greatest Showman) is sung by his daughter, closing the circle.
In the absence of all that stuff that isn’t there, The Greatest Showman gambles hard on its songs, and on » Continue Reading.
(Hope this works!)
Say you’re skidding right? As in, your car has gone into a skid because you’ve hit some standing water or black ice. And let’s assume that it’s the back end that’s coming round. The advice in this situation is to ‘steer into the skid’.
Now, what I understand by the phrase ‘steer into a skid’ is if the back end is slipping to the right, then you, the driver, should also turn the wheel to the right, in the hope of bring the front and rear of the car into line.
However, whenever I hear this piece of advice given out — as I did just now, on the radio — it’s almost always qualified by something along the lines of ‘it might feel weird’ or ‘it sounds counter-intuitive’.
But why? Why do they always say this? In effect what you’re doing is turning the steering wheel in the direction you want the front tyres to point, which is the basic principle of all steering. So why in a skid situation should it feel strange to do that? Is it just the case that it does, and I would understand if I ever went into a skid? Or have » Continue Reading.
Year: 2017 Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Despite being adorable, mute woman Elisa (Sally Hawkins) has only two friends: one, a closeted artist who lives next door (above a cinema permanently showing sword-and-sandal epics), and two: a fellow cleaner at the high-security government facility where they both work.
That’s the opening hook right there: this is a film about cleaning ladies at a top-secret government installation, where the newest asset is an amphibious creature captured by an agent played by Michael Shannon. And it’s a great hook. In the trusty hands of the brilliant Guillermo Del Toro it should be a great film. Should.
The problem is his treatment. Billed as Del Toro’s love letter to movies, that’s mainly because of the downstairs cinema and the fact that musicals are always playing on TV and act as a motif throughout. No doubt the 1950s setting is supposed to evoke the golden age of monster movies, or maybe Frank Capra, but in fact it’s nearer to the steampunk whimsy of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and even Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’, meaning that what the film most closely resembles is a mix of ‘Amelie’ and the director’s two ‘Hellboy’ movies. (And given that the creature looks a » Continue Reading.
PC owners look way now, this is for Mac users, to whom I’d like to ask: have you updated to High Sierra?
Reason I enquire is that I’ve been holding off the update after reading that my version of MS Word (2011) won’t work on High Sierra. But now with all this talk of the Spectre bug I’m well frit that I’ll be bombarded with malignant viral whatsits if I don’t update.
All advice, experience, thoughts welcome.
Santa’s bringing my 13-year-old a laptop and naturally I’m keen that he doesn’t use it to access unsuitable content. I intend to do some childproofing ahead of Christmas Day, but I’m a Mac user with no experience *at all* on a PC so I’m already a bit frit about the process. I’m also keen to avoid an issue we have on a family Mac, where I’m an administrator and am constantly being called upon to enter my admin password. Basically I want him to have autonomy but without access to anything unpleasant. Is that possible, or do I have to bite the bullet, withstand a barrage of disgruntlement and set myself up as admin? Yours, cluelessly, LB.
I’m reading a good book at the moment: ‘Paperbacks From Hell’ by Grady Hendrix, a lavishly illustrated history / guide to the horror fiction of the 1970s and 1980s. My must-read list is mutating and growing like radiation-afflicted crabs, while the shots of lurid, dog-eared covers are acting like a Proustian time machine to my childhood. It is, as they say, all good. Apart from in one crucial respect.
I used to own lot of the books pictured and, reading about them now, I’d love to revisit them. But I can’t, because there was a particular house move in 1996 where I boxed up tons of novels and took them to the paperback-book recycling bin at Sainsbury’s car park in Market Harborough. It must have been a significant visit because I can still remember the time of day, dusk, and how I felt at the time, which was not all regretful or reluctant, just excited, because I had a great new girlfriend, a new job in thatthere London, and I was in virtually every respect of my life starting again.
That was 21 years ago. We married, had children » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
I must admit that I pre-ordered this as soon as I knew it was in the pipeline, thinking that a collection of classic Carpenter tunes on vinyl — we’re talking Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog, Halloween, They Live, Escape From New York… all the classics — would be tippety-top, just what the doctor ordered.
It wasn’t until I actually played it that I made what was an initially dismaying discovery: yes, it’s all the classics, but they’re not the originals. Instead, for reasons best known to themselves, Carpenter, aided by his daughter, Karen, and his son, Ifiwera, have revisited and re-recorded the gems from his back catalogue.
This is the same team behind Carpenter’s recent musical-renaissance albums, ‘Lost Themes’ and ‘Lost Themes II’, but the results here are less mixed. While both of the ‘Lost Themes’ album had tentpole moments surrounded by a fair amount of half-arsed noodling, every track on ‘Anthology’ is solid gold. Correction: almost every track. Personally I can live without the bar-brawl electric guitar he’s always been fond of, most evident here on Big Trouble In Little China’s ‘Porkchop Express’ and ‘In The Mouth Of Madness’. But » Continue Reading.
Serious question. Does anyone know? I’d have thought check-in was a way of saying ‘I’m here,’ but obviously not if you can do it online, days before your flight. What purpose does it serve? And how do travel companies know whether or not you’ve turned up?
Yours confused, of Leicester.
I really hate the bit where you put the needle on the record. Obviously I don’t, I love it, but it sort of stresses me because I often get wrong, like the song has started playing or the needle does that noisy thing before it finds its groove or in really extreme circs actually falls off the side of the rekkid.
So, the question is: am I the only one who suffers from drop anxiety? Do you have a trick for your needle drops that I’m not aware of?
So we’ve done favourite songs and favourite films, but the really pressing question is what is our collective favourite version of this much-recorded classic? The Dixie Cups? The Belle Stars, Natasha? Dr John? Joy Division? The Grateful Dead? Cyndi Lauper? Another one?
Just want to say congratulations to Harry Styles, who not only has a new album out today, but is also forging ahead with a promising acting career. Well done, Harry! I always knew there was more to you than One Direction!
…on a scale of one to ten?
You know what I’m talking about.