The Electric Shakes

The Electric ShakesWith a name like The Electric Shakes and monochrome artwork like they have it was clear, even before I heard debut ‘single’ Lightspeed Mother, what sort of thing this band’s debut EP would contain – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Starting as means to go on with the r’n’b driven, fuzz drenched, garage rock of Go, The Electric Shakes instantly evoke the sounds of the late 60s, but with their own twist. Go itself is an upbeat, punchy opener that sets out their stall of doing exactly what they want, how they want, in the most positive of ways.

Before you’ve got over this first burst Get Loose kicks in and ups the speed, building on Go’s strong start before we get a dose of garage blues with Get On Love. Across these three tracks a strong vein of psyche is also present whenever S’s guitar has the chance to let loose which keeps things interesting as the instrumental sections throb by.

Daddy’s Girl throws a bit of a curveball into the mix with a mod-soul flavour combined with something of early 90s Brit-rock, but still with S’s guitar bringing the garage-fuzz to proceedings.

The Electric Shakes - photo by Darren Bonner

Photo by Darren Bonner

This is all topped off with the aforementioned Lightspeed Mother that seems custom-built for driving fast cars on open roads in a way that I can only imagine would get heads nodding and bodies shaking when the band play live.

Across the EP S’s vocals have that odd combination that marks out a lot of this style, in that are at once aloof yet engaging (much like The Cryptics demonstrate on Black Lucy) and the words themselves are just as catchy as the tunes making for some instant sing-along moments.

While that rounds off the digital edition, for those who splashed out on a physical copy of the EP there is a bonus track. Test of Time adds another string to The Electric Shakes sonic bow, slowing things down and adding something of a Black Sabbath vibe to proceedings it gets a groove going under the fuzzy guitars.

While The Electric Shakes is certainly all a bit retro in its influences, the production is surprisingly crisp and modern, and there’s no sense that this is an ironic pastiche of past sounds as the punk-y and garage-y combination are delivered with a conviction that make for a great debut and has made me eager to hear what more The Electric Shakes have to offer, and to see them live.

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Jurassic Park 3D at Beau Cinema

Jurassic Park 3D posterNote: This is more a review of a screening experience than of the movie, just in case you wonder as to the tone…

21 years since I first saw Steven Speilberg’s action-adventure classic, Jurassic Park, in this theatre, and well over a decade since I last saw any film here, I headed back into the newly revamped Beau Sejour cinema – or ‘Beau Cinema’ as its now been rebranded – with some high expectations, both for the film and the cinema experience being offered.

While the seats remain the same, so legroom is lacking for anyone over about 5’8” and the seats are very low, the new screen itself was an impressive thing to see as I headed into the almost full theatre and there was certainly a generally positive murmur to be heard from the surprisingly widely aged audience.

As the lights dimmed to half way and the trailers began though, things seemed to be getting off to a slightly inauspicious start. The first trailer, for an upcoming screening of Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille, stalled in the manner infamous of digital film screenings, so it was quickly canned – the other trailers though ran smoothly and, other than an obvious crease down the centre of the screen, the 2D projection looked good, even if the sound was a bit wobbly.

Beau Cinema (photo by Jack De La Mare)

Beau Cinema (photo by Jack De La Mare)

Then though, as the lights dimmed fully, it was time for the main event.

Jurassic Park is an undeniable classic of the Hollywood blockbuster canon – with a mix of action, adventure, romance and comedy it genuinely has something for everyone, topped off with the coup-de-grace of seeing dinosaurs interact directly with humans on-screen.

21 years ago this was a marvel, and even though in the time since we’ve become used to computer generated effects on an even grander scale, there remains something about the first shots of the Brachiosaurus and then the wider shots of herds of herbivores that still astounds and hits the spot like only a genuinely genius director can (Michael Bay, please watch Jurassic Park and realise you will never reach this level).

Jurassic Park - raptorsSpielberg is sometimes criticized as being an emotionally manipulative director, and, while I can see what people mean by this, in Jurassic Park he treads the line of this excellently. This makes the threat of the T Rex, and especially the velociraptors, all the more real and the scene with Tim and Lex trying to evade raptors in the kitchen is a masterpiece of tension and suspense.

Across its two-hour running time the film rarely lets up but rather than becoming exhausting it remains exhilarating right up to the final helicopter shots of pelicans, which are surprisingly majestic in their own right.

Unlike my earlier experiences of the movie (which are numerous and span media from cinema to DVD) this was in 3D and, while I’m still of the school that thinks 3D is not an essential element for most films, it is well done here, particularly for a retroactively 3D graded film and brings fresh life to a film I’ve seen many times.

T Rex - Jurassic ParkThe 3D presentation in the cinema was the best I’ve experienced yet; maybe its to do with the larger screen size, maybe the choice of projector, maybe I’m just more used to 3D now, I don’t know, but certainly it felt clearer than past 3D screenings.

On top of this the new surround sound system really came into its own at points when we knew raptors were just out of shot and could hear them moving off-screen giving the best sound effect I’ve ever heard in a Guernsey cinema.

While the Jurassic Park is rated PG, I was surprised at quite how young some of the audience were and I think a few may have found the more threatening sequences a bit much, but most seemed to enjoy it and, thankfully, were relatively well-behaved.

Jurassic ParkThe same goes for most of the audience, once the popcorn bag rustle had died down (another note to Beau Cinema, bagged popcorn doesn’t make for a good cinema experience because of the noise of the bags), though there were a few moments where a reminder of the Wittertainment cinema going code of conduct would have been handy.

So, despite a few too many comings and goings during the screening and lack of leg room, I think its safe to say that the re-opening of ‘Beau Cinema’ was a success, and, while it may not have the newest films, it will give us a chance to see a different selection on a big screen with a genuinely impressive projection and sound system for our island, and giving us a third option for watching films, (along with CineGuernsey and unfairly maligned Mallard) in which we are rather spoiled.

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Halloween Metal Mayhem IX – The Fermain Tavern – 25/10/14

Choke

Choke

Nine years in I think its safe to say nights of heavy metal marking Halloween at The Fermain Tavern have become something of a tradition and 2014 was no different as three Channel Islands metal bands took to the stage and the Tav was duly decorated with skeletons, tombstones, zombies and a projector screen showing the gory ‘highlights’ of various films that came under the gaze of the 1980s Video Nasties happening.

Bedecked for their annual “girls’ night out” Brutus Stonefist made their first appearance since last year’s Halloween gig and did what they do best; bludgeoning metalcore delivered with a surprising sense of a fun.

Brutus Stonefist

Brutus Stonefist

Going on first meant they had to work had to get the crowd involved but as the set went on some did head down to the front, though most were happy hanging back, though they seemed to enjoy the show.

While this wasn’t Brutus’ best show ever, was surprisingly tight considering they’d not played a gig in a year and the sloppier moments were still dealt with confidently and they had the audience on their side, which is always going to help.

For me the set of songs that have been heard many times before had something of a sense of nostalgia for shows going back to the L’Ancresse Lodge where Brutus Stonefist played their early shows so.

Choke

Bryn and Stace of Choke

As the Tavern reached the busiest it would get tonight, with demons, zombies, witches and more rubbing shoulders with each other a Gremlin took to the stage fronting on-again-off-again metallers Choke.

Running through a set that has become their standard combining the ‘hits’ of Slayer, Pantera, Sepultura and Machine Head they should have been the perfect band for tonight, and for part of their set at least they were.

The likes of Davidian, Walk, Attitude and Angel Of Death are sure-fire classics that everyone in attendance was going to love hands down, unfortunately, between these and other classics, some less well-known (at least to the less die-hard) numbers combined with a murky sound mix that lost a lot of the technicality of the guitar work. This meant the set became over long and repetitive and many who had started down on the floor began to drift back as the set went on.

Choke

Daz of Choke

That said, the band played a tight set, again for a band who aren’t gigging regularly, and Stace Blondel remains a charismatic and engaging frontman, despite the Gremlin onesie – and fitting the words “Benest’s of Millbrook, and Fineprice” into a thrash song deserves some kind of prize from those of us who remember the classic Channel TV adverts of old.

Following Choke a large number of the crowd seemed to disappear so, when Masticated were ready to go, their audience had dwindled massively. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen when a visiting band headlines and maybe Buffalo Huddleston had the right idea last week putting their visiting act on in the middle of the night.

Anyway that didn’t seem to bother the Jersey boys as they fired into a set of one note technical death metal that they played very well. Again they suffered from some sound issues, particularly feedback, but didn’t seem to let that slow them down.

Masticated

Masticated

For me though I found it very hard to become engaged with the band as all seemed so focused on their instruments that nothing in the performance even seemed to suggest they wanted to draw anyone in who wasn’t already familiar with what they do – at points I even ended up watching the Gorgoroth videos and the like running on the projector at this point.

That said, the few who were down the front seemed to be very much enjoying things leading to a number of extra songs after the band announced their final track, but unfortunately for me Masticated failed to set the world alight in the way recommendations and word of mouth suggested they might.

So, nine years in, Halloween Metal Mayhem continued to do exactly what it said on the tin, but, for the most part, left me more with the feeling of a nostalgia show than anything new and exciting.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: October 2014 – Static Alice, Buffalo Huddleston, Sark Folk Festival

Static Alice

Static Alice

Listen to the show here.

For the October 2014 edition on the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show I was joined by three different sets of guests.

First was Static Alice, the four-piece pop-rock band told me about their history together and how they are preparing for the release of their debut album next month.

Simon Harvey and Jess Nash from the Sark Folk Festival joined me as they announced that tickets for next summer’s festival go on sale on Saturday 1st November at noon, and as they sold out in less than an hour last year it seems more than ever are preparing to log on and get tickets as early as possible. They also explained how artists from the Channel Islands can apply for a chance to play the festival.

And I had a session from Buffalo Huddleston who have recently launched their debut album, Sunrise.

You can listen to the show on the BBC iPlayer until the evening of Saturday 1st November here.

Tracklist

And, because it’s probably my favourite new track this month, here’s The Electric Shakes with Lightspeed Mother:

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Buffalo Huddleston Album Launch with CC Smugglers and Whose Shoes – Fermain Tavern – 18/10/14

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

On Saturday 18th October 2014 the Buffalo Huddleston Band launched their debut album, Sunrise, with a very special gig at The Fermain Tavern.

Sold out less than 30 minutes after doors opened, Buffalo Huddleston were joined for the show by upcoming UK new roots music band CC Smugglers, who had previously stormed this years Sark Folk Festival, and Whose Shoes.

You can see my full gallery of photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th October:

Buffalo Huddleston album launch review scan - 25:10:14

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The Abominable Dr. Phibes

The Abominable Dr PhibesAs a film from the American International Pictures studio I had certain expectations heading in The Abominable Dr. Phibes; lurid Technicolor, a sense of 60’s oddness transposed onto a period setting and Vincent Price taking over the entire film – and on those counts, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The plot, if it can be called that, concerns the titular doctor (Price) and his quest for revenge against the doctors and nurse who, in his view, allowed his wife to die on the operating table.

In this Phibes sounds as if he could possibly be an almost heroic figure and protagonist, out for revenge on those who wronged him. Certainly, he is something of an anti-hero simply by being played by the star, but his gruesome methods, based (loosely) on the plagues of Egypt from Exodus, mean he is the monster.

Unfortunately, what this does is leave us without a real hero. There are various ‘good guy’ type characters, particularly Inspector Harry Trout of Scotland Yard (Peter Jeffrey) and Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotten), who are, respectively, trying to track down the murderer and avoid becoming a victim. Neither though is ever convincingly effective, as a mixture of bizarre comic relief and lack of charisma render them second players to Price and the mystery thread of the police of the police procedural is never entirely convincing as we see Phibes throughout, and even before we meet the police.

The Abominable Dr Phibes setSomehow, this doesn’t really lessen the impact of the film, possibly due to my expectations going in, but mainly because it’s clear that The Abominable Dr. Phibes is built more on the idea of stringing together set pieces than telling a real story. These set pieces are weirdly great, and very well delivered considering the special effects available at the time. The standout is the ‘plague of rats’ sequence with its parallels between Phibes and his pursuers and, had there been more of a sense of mystery, this could have had a similar effect to the tracking down of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

Imbalance though is the films main feature. For every well executed set piece there is a comedy moment which falls entirely flat, Price is genuinely disturbing as the disfigured Phibes and his lair seems to come from the same world as Argento’s Suspiria (albeit a toned down version), while the rest of the production design (supposedly the film is set in 1925) feels like as much generic 1960s tat.

Dr PhibesIn the end though the film falls together just on the right side of fun, and its lineage can most clearly be traced to BBC Two’s The League of Gentlemen (hence their presence in the extra features of the Arrow Videos edition) and Psychoville as well the slasher movies of the 80s even the likes of Saw. As excpected Price comes away from it with his reputation as a genuinely creepy horror icon more than intact while I’m pretty sure the producers also considered it a success – what Terry Thomas was doing here though remains something of a mystery…

And here’s the Arrow Video box-set trailer:

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Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari

Der Cabinet Das Dr. CaligariAt 96 years old Robert Weine’s Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is often cited as being the first identifiable horror movie. While I can’t be totally sure of this, it’s certainly a believable thought, as it combines pretty much every element one would expect from horror, from the silent era and early sound films of Universal, via the 1950s monster movie, Hammer, gialli, and all that has come since.

The plot concerns the titular doctor (Werner Kraus) and his charge, a ‘somnambulist’ by the name of Cesare (Conrad Veidt) and their visit to a small village fair. Following the startling revelation of Cesare, in a shot that is still hauntingly effective as he wakes from his slumber, a series of murders occur and the culprit is caught in the act and then revealed by a young man, Francis (Friedrich Feher) who was witness to the initial awakening.

This leads on to a chase and a revelation, followed by a sting in the tale that, even 96 years in I had not heard the details of, so I won’t spoil it here.

Das Cabinet Des Dr. CaligariOf course, Weine’s film is famous as the touchstone of the German Expressionist movement in cinema, with elaborately un-naturalistic, angular sets creating a sense of something other and building a feeling of claustrophobia that grows as the films goes on and, as they do in most films of this nature, the plot moves towards its inevitable conclusion.

Amongst the sets, the performance of Conrad Veidt stands out. It is mannered in the way all silent performances must be, but there is a sense that it is a much more controlled mannerism than many others exhibit, even Kraus, who gives a good performance as the doctor, comes across as something of an overblown hack in comparison – though compared to many other films of a similar era he too has his controlled moments.

Conrad Veidt as Cesare

Conrad Veidt as Cesare

But, what sets this apart as something special is something that is inescapable in the film’s production history and artistic concept. It’s a point that has been stated countless times before, but, in seeing it in the flesh for the first time it still resonates.

Der Cabinet Das Dr. Caligari was made in 1919, almost immediately following the First World War and the fingerprints of this real life horror are all over it. First we have the expressionist design that demonstrates a broken world, where the normal man, in this case Friedrich Feher’s Francis, strives for control but ultimately has none as power is ceded to an authority run amok.

More famously and obviously is the position of Cesare. Controlled by the same rogue authority he has no choice but to commit murder, he literally sleepwalks into it, and the fate of guilt is left nicely ambiguous.

Werner Kraus and Conrad Veidt

Werner Kraus and Conrad Veidt

I won’t labour the point further but, like most worthwhile horror, Der Cabinet Das Dr. Caligari exists as a product and commentary on its time and, again like many that were to come, leaves things on an ambiguous note that is surprisingly downbeat and sets in motion wheels cinema is still feeling turn today.

A note on the version of the film.

I was watching the newly released Eureka: Masters of Cinema edition of the film which is a restoration and transfer in HD (4K should your system allow it) and, for a film of 96 years, it is truly amazing. Still in place are a number of jumps and scratches that are unreconstably of the time but the image is sharper and clearer than any restoration I have yet seen of almost any film, not to mention one of this age.

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Vale Earth Fair Reggae Night – Rentoclean and Citizen-X – The Jamaica Inn – 11/10/14

Rentoclean

Rentoclean

Less than two months since this year’s Vale Earth Fair the Collective were back with a reggae(ish) party to continue their ongoing fundraising.

While it was billed as reggae the night actually started out with some electronic sounds thanks to Citizen-X. Armed only with an iPad, X creates sounds live using various electronic music apps on the tablet – usually this takes the form of soundscapes inspired by everything from science fiction and fantasy movies to the moon landings, tonight though he headed more into EDM territory.

While this was a bit different to normal it certainly gave his live show more groove that got a few of the small number in The Jamaica Inn moving on the dancefloor and, in a busier venue slightly, later in the night, I could see it going down very well.

Citizen-X

Citizen-X

While it was clear this was something of a new direction and there were a few technical glitches, it was good to hear X developing his sound and, while a more visual aspect to the performance would be of benefit, it sounded good and seemed to go down pretty well with those who’d turned out for the music.

Despite the EDM opener, between the live acts the reggae was in full flow thanks to DJs Limey Banton and Rob R. While I’ll be the first to admit extended sessions of reggae are not really my thing, Lime once again demonstrated his ability to keep the music varied and interesting but still within the general confines of the genre.

Alongside Rob they both dropped some great tracks, with some of their own embellishments, which kept the upbeat vibe of the night flowing – and it was great hearing some classics of the genre, like Uptown Top Ranking, through a proper PA.

Dan of Rentoclean

Dan of Rentoclean

As Rentoclean took to the stage the small crowd seemed a bit reticent about coming forward but it wasn’t long before the bands infectious reggae-gypsy-punk drew a few onto their feet and kept them their for the best part of the next hour.

Mixing older originals with newer ones the band were on top form tonight showing, once again, why they have become such a renowned party band, as the likes of Opium War and Bean Jar were greeted like hits and new songs went down just as well.

With a longer set Rentoclean had more space to explore more and fluidly slipped in variations and deviations into their more well-known numbers without missing a step with all four members really showing off their musical skills.

While the audience were into it Rentoclean are a band that deserve a bigger crowd as their sense of musicality and fun is genuinely infectious and, after they closed the set with the rather frankly titled We’re All C**ts they had people calling out for more.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

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Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien

Gerard Way - Hesitant AlienFollowing hot on the heels of his former band mate, Frank Iero’s, Stomachaches, ex-My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way has released his much hyped debut album, Hesitant Alien, on the world.

From a first glance at the album cover, as well as the title, its clear that Way is taking some influence from Bowie, but that’s more on the design side of things than the music, as what’s on the disc (or download depending on your preference) is very clearly Gerard Way.

Continuing where My Chemical Romance’s last album Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys left off, but with something else thrown in too, Hesitant Alien is a bit of a mish-mash of sounds that seems designed as a concept album, but one where the concept never entirely coalesces.

So while opener The Bureau seems designed to pull us into the world of Way’s new alter-ego (an idea he’s been toying with at least since The Black Parade if not ever since forming My Chemical Romance) which is backed up through all the associated visuals, the rest of the album comes and goes in terms of reflecting this, which, at times, leaves the whole thing feeling a bit disjointed.

That said, individually there are some great sounds here.

2014_gerardway_reading_AF_22.08.14-0794While Britpop has been heavily mentioned in other reviews it is only a small part of the overall vibe on offer. As well as this there are moments of grunge, pop, rock and electronic with a bit of glam thrown in for good measure and something of a debt to Iggy Pop and The Stooges too. Quite tellingly as well, there is nothing even close to the punk or emo-core that made Way’s name in the mid-2000s.

At its best this mix of styles creates a kind of alternate reality sci-fi pop, with fuzzy guitars and bass, some pounding rhythms and Way’s distinctive vocals. At its worst the album is some decent, if not astounding, pop-rock and, while there is certainly nothing bad on the record, there’s not a lot (on the first few listens at least) that really stands out as a sure-fire killer song, though ‘singles’ Action Cat and No Shows come close.

In the end Hesitant Alien sounds like an artist trying to find their sound, an understandable position for a debut solo record, and has some very good, catchy pop-rock with a nice amount of fuzz laced through it. Following the weight of expectation, though, it doesn’t quite set the world on fire like it was clear many had hoped, and some are claiming, it does, though there is definitely something here worth listening to and a lot of promise for what’s to come.

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Heymoonshaker – Shakerism

Heymoonshaker - ShakerismProudly proclaimed as “the world’s only beatbox-blues album”, Heymoonshaker’s debut, Shakerism, certainly comes highly anticipated based on word of mouth from their live shows.

Heymoonshaker are Dave Crowe (beatboxing) and Andy Balcon (guitar and vocals) and, as I recently witnessed, they create an astonishing sound in a live environment that, at times, confounded any expectation. This combines relatively traditional blues guitar and vocals backed by hip-hop and dubstep influenced beatbox rhythms.

I did wonder how this would translate to record and the results are a mixed bag. While their live show really seems to focus on Crowe’s impressive vocal rhythms, the album, wisely it turns out, leans more toward showing off Balcon’s work. So we get a range of blues tones from dirty electric sounds to semi-acoustic ‘Dobro’ resonator vibes, topped with Balcon’s vocals which follow a similar range and are fiery, impassioned and soulful in suitably equal measure.

HeymoonshakerThe tracks which highlight this side of the band, with Crowe’s beatboxing acting simply as a rhythmic underlay, work well, though a few feel a little like unfinished ideas rather than complete songs.

Unfortunately a number of the tracks highlight the beatboxing and, while this works excellently live, on the record something seems to be missing in capturing just how impressive the range of sounds Crowe is capable of creating is. So, rather than impressive dubstep style bass drops and the like, what can be heard on the disc just seems to get lost.

This is a real shame as, while the songs show promise, and the band have a formidable, and worthy, live reputation, Shakerism fails to capture this successfully and, if I hadn’t been witness to Heymoonshaker on stage, it would, I think, have caused the record to entirely miss the mark.

So, if you even half like the sound of the record, go out of your way to see this band live!

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