BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2014 – Guernsey Song Project and Live & Local

BBC Introducing Guernsey studioFor the sixth anniversary show of BBC Introducing Guernsey things got hyper-local as I took a look at the ongoing Guernsey Song Project which has challenged musicians in the island to write and record a song using Guernsey’s native language, D’Gernesiais (or Guernsey French or Patois).

Also I featured a few songs from recent BBC Radio Guernsey Live & Local sessions that happen every Friday lunchtime.

You can listen to the show until the evening of Saturday 4th October on the BBC iPlayer here.

Tracklist

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Guernsey Press articles – 2010-2011

In going through some of my old stuff, I’ve found these few articles published in The Guernsey Press (and its free weekly supplement The Globe) before I started this site, so take a little trip back in time a couple of years with these.

From Chaos to the Tav to reviews of the year its a bit of a mixed bag, but I hope someone finds it interesting:

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GBG Magazine articles – 2007-2008

Before I started this site I was already writing regularly, with my focus being music in Guernsey.

As well as my articles for the BBC Guernsey website as part of the forming BBC Introducing Guernsey brand, I also wrote a few articles for the locally produced GBG Magazine, in the interest of general interest to those of us who remember the glory days of My Last Victory, Gay Army and others, the swan song of Mechanical Lobster and the only Guernsey Live festival, and for those wanting to look back at what came before some of the things going on in Guernsey music today, here are those few articles:

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From Hell

From Hell coverAlan Moore’s writing has always been something apart from what was around him. Certainly his 1980s work for American comics giant DC has, and can be, included with that decades re-evaluation of the form, but even next to his contemporaries from that era his work has always seemed to stand apart.

So, from the voice finding 1984-like super-anti-hero series V For Vendetta, through his epic retelling of 20th century history with ‘real world’ superheroes in Watchmen (and more in between) we get to From Hell, his take on the Jack The Ripper story.

Much like his previous work, Moore doesn’t take the usual route with his tale of murder on the foggy streets of Whitechapel. Rather than the police procedural a story like this would often be (and to an extent is in the lackluster film adaptation), From Hell focuses as much on ‘Jack’ and the lives of his victims as it does Inspector Abberline of the Yard.

From Hell 1But, what really sets this entirely apart from what it could have been, is its speculative fiction approach. This mixes elements of historical fact with reasonably well supported conspiracy and the odd moment of outright invention to create something genuinely compelling in its basic plot, with a couple of extra layers of social commentary laid over the top.

The basic plot deals with one of the stronger theories of who the Ripper might have been, looking particularly at Sir William Withey Gull and the idea of a Royal and Masonic conspiracy to cover up the birth of an illegitimate royal baby.

This explains, fairly satisfactorily, why the five specific women were killed and, by Moore’s own admission in the book’s footnotes, explores a fairly biased conspiracy against Freemasonry – though coming from where I do I have to admit to finding this hugely compelling as well.

from hell 2On top of this we get flashes of Gull’s supposed madness. While this isn’t entirely based on fact there is evidence he suffered a stroke, which may have led to seizures and arguably ‘visions’. Moore runs with this idea to turn Jack The Ripper into the progenitor of the serial killer as we see it portrayed in both the real world and fiction today and give a twisted motive to his crimes.

This portrayal of the serial killer idea is a fairly obvious, but very well executed, comment on how the media has dealt with the subject since and references the likes of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and Ian Sutcliffe.

In the eyes of some this may be a controversial set of  direct references to make but, for me, it brings home the reality of the crimes portrayed in From Hell and acts as a reminder that, while this is a compelling mystery narrative set in the now-alien streets of Victorian London, these murders did rally take place and involved real people having a major effect not only on the life of those involved, but also the psyche of certainly the city and possibly the entire country.

From Hell 3While Moore’s writing is, rightly, the most focused on aspect of From Hell, that is to do artist Eddie Campbell something of a disservice. Without his scratchy black and white imagery the feel needed for this story would be lost.

The detailed line drawing style feels right for the setting of the story as it evokes a sense of mystery and gloom that working class areas of Victorian London had. Along side this, it gives a transcendental feel when the visions occur and, with more detailed backgrounds when we see into the lives of the upper class, helps show the social divide at work in the story. Chiefly striking in this is Queen Victoria who appears surrounded and shrouded in her mourning black throughout.

from hell 4If all you know of Alan Moore is his famous American work, or all you know of From Hell is the Hughes Brothers mildly diverting but flawed not-quite-whodunit movie, then I couldn’t recommend From Hell more as the vision of a singular artist, both in its writer and, as described here, in its main character.

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True Detective

True DetectiveGenerally speaking the TV detective drama is not one that appeals to me greatly. From the standard fare of British made TV shows, to the more recent spate of Scandinavian series and more intense and modern British variants, aside from the comic book inflected Sherlock, none have appealed enough in their marketing to make me actually watch.

So I came to HBO’s True Detective hopeful, yet cautious, once my friends’, who’s opinion of TV shows I trust more than any advertising, convinced me it was worth my time.

As things started, I wasn’t entirely convinced as we got a semi-flashback related tale of an ‘exotic’ (for want of a better word) murder that fitted the mould of many seen in films and TV over the years.

What did hook me in though in these early episodes (and the whole series is only 8 episodes long) were the performances of the two leads.

true-detective-the-long-bright-darkWoody Harrelson has long been a reliable screen presence seemingly easily turning his hand to pretty much anything from the light comedy that made his name in Cheers to more sinister roles in the likes of Natural Born Killers. Here was no different as his conflicted, but generally straight and by the book, detective was as believable and well explored as any TV character I’ve seen.

The real gem of True Detective though comes in the form of Matthew McConaughey. Aside from his impressive cameo in Wolf Of Wall Street, this was the first time I’d seen anything from his screen “renaissance” away from the role he’d been stuck in of romantic comedies and leaning on things in posters, and to say he impressed is an understatement.

true-detective-mcconaughyWith a character that shows two different sides from the start, his performance across the series is exemplary and he does what is the most impressive thing an actor can do of disappearing into the role. This is something the likes of Johnny Depp try to do through the use of excessive make-up and physical ticks but here (aside from a wig and a moustache) McConaughey does it purely through performance.

The relationship that builds between the two characters becomes the over arching linchpin of the series and is genuinely engrossing to such a degree that there were points where I though the murder mystery might become pure maguffin to the two detectives’ tale.

True Detective landscapeThe mystery plot however is the series’ other hook. It’s going to be hard to discuss much without spoilers but, having 8 hours to play with, gives the series time to develop what in a movie would be derivative. This creates a creeping Southern Gothic vibe and make the characters, no matter how big or small, become part of the Louisiana landscape that seems to somehow be feeding the events, with the music acting to complement this in one of the strongest ways I’ve seen in TV or film.

With a culmination that adds this to the high-end of the horror-mystery genre seen in the likes of Silence of the Lambs, but with a whole lot more on top, along with a continued focus on the titular detectives’ lives, True Detective has landed near the top of TV I’ve seen.

true-detective-harrelson-mcconaugheyIt combines real high tension mystery with a deep plot, based both in the mystery and in the characters involved, while keeping enough un-shown to make for a genuinely satisfying conclusion that doesn’t instantly set up, or even hint at, a second series.

Added to this there is a sense that this is more than just a murder mystery or detective procedural, but I think the extras everyone takes away from it will be different, so I’ll leave it up to you to discover those.

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Joe Driscoll and Buffalo Huddleston – The Fermain Tavern – 12/09/14

Joe Driscoll

Joe Driscoll

With summer festival season over one of the bands who were a major highlight of all the local festivals, Buffalo Huddleston, rounded off a week of gigs across the Channel Islands with a set supporting Joe Driscoll at The Fermain Tavern.

Their set started off in low-key form with frontman Mike Meinke on stage alone treating us to Peeping Through The Windows, an impressive tune that has long been one of his calling cards but, in the full band line up, rarely makes it into the set these days. Throughout the track Mike used a series of loops of acoustic guitar to build up the music, and foreshadow tonight’s headliner.

Following the technically impressive start the rest of the band joined Mike on stage and ran through a selection of their songs that have become well enough known to get people on the dancefloor and singing along from the start.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

As ever, part of the way through the set, MC Jull-Z took to the stage with the band and it was here that this already hot set really took off. With Chillin’ the crowd were singing back every word and for the most part, this trend continued with at least all the choruses for the rest of the set.

With Jull-Z on stage, joining Mike as co-frontman, the dynamic changed allowing Mike more scope to focus on his guitar and vocals and relax into it, while the MC took on the banter with the audience, and things built to a big climax with an encore called for, and delivered.

Before that though, newer song Sunrise provided a highlight as it seemed to be stripped back at the start yet built to the same ‘hoe-down’ crescendo.

Jull-z and Mike Meinke

Jull-z and Mike Meinke

While Buffalo Huddleston played a very good set tonight, it was the crowd that really took it up to the next level as the response was on a par with those seen by few, save The Recks, in recent years.

Following that, visiting artist Joe Driscoll continued with the night’s big audience response as he took to the stage with a pair of mics, guitar, loop station and various other musical bits and bobs. Using all of these he built up each track combining beatboxing, percussion, bass affected & electric guitar and vocals.

Seeing this done live, as with Mike earlier, is always very impressive and Joe takes the process to a fairly extreme level and certainly this technique creates something that, in this situation, provides music that feels like more than the sum of its constituent parts.

Joe Driscoll

Joe Driscoll

Unfortunately, a bit like a card trick, once you know the process the novelty of how the tracks are made (even when done live and in the flesh) does start to wear off and, for me, the hip-hop and funk inflected sounds became somewhat repetitive and the performance/production side wasn’t enough to carry them through.

As is often the case in situations like these though, I seemed to be in a minority, as every song was greeted with loud applause and a lot of dancing and Joe had the audience packed onto the dancefloor at the Tav and engrossed for the full hour and a half he was stage, which takes some doing.

So, while I wasn’t really won over by the significantly hyped visitor, Joe Driscoll still played a very well delivered and received set that had the Fermain Tavern dancing to the bitter end, but, for me, Buffalo Huddleston were the highlight continuing their run of great form as they prepare for the release of their debut album next month.

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

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NXT Takeover: Fatal 4 Way

nxt takeover logoI don’t usually do full reviews for pro-wrestling events, preferring to ‘live’ tweet them as I watch over at @TomGirard, but as this is my first proper taste of NXT I thought it would be worth it.

Coming in, I had heard all the hype about NXT being where the best of WWE’s output now is and, for the most part, its hard to disagree as this show combines the small arena vibe of an indie show with the high budget and high concept that has become WWE’s trademark along with some great in ring action.

Onto the actual show and its all action straight from the get go, as the NXT Tag Team Championship is defended by The Ascension against Sin Cara (mk.2) and Kalisto. As the luchadores come to the ring, with a great reaction from the crowd, we get a nice quick recap of their tournament wins to get here before the Ascension come out looking every part the big, tough, mysterious guys they want to.

Kalisto flies at The Ascension

Kalisto flies at The Ascension

The match itself is pretty non-stop with the big guy heels getting to show some power, but the lion’s share of the impressive moments going to Sin Cara and Kalisto with a bunch of high-flying offence you’d expect from a lucha-gimmicked team.

It was also nice to hear the masked men get some mic time and good to see Sin Cara (or Hunico as I guess this now is) getting some good time to work and not just get squashed or ridiculed.

This was a great way to start the show with action throughout and set up exactly why NXT has been so hyped for a newcomer like me. It also saw the first of a few botches of the night but none were really so much as to detract and mostly came off as the guys trying to impress rather than sloppiness or laziness like botches on the ‘main roster’ often appear.

Next was the first of four promo packages focusing on the guys in the titular main event of the show. All four of these do an excellent job of hyping both the match and the wrestlers letting us know who they are, what they do and why this is an important match for each of them, while not giving away so much we know what’s going to happen in the match.

Baron Corbin

Baron Corbin

The second match is the first squash of the night with the debuting Baron Corbin destroying CJ Parker in seconds. Corbin seemed over and Parker looked interesting but as the match was two moves long it was hard to get much out of it, other than Corbin sure has a look, but it will be interesting to see what they can do with it.

More main event hype (that is actually making it feel like a ‘main event’) before the hair vs. hair match. With a French team here, a pair of Mexican luchadores earlier, a British champion and the upcoming debut of Kenta, I was amazed at how international the NXT roster feels, especially for WWE who are usually a very ‘USA, USA’ kind of organisation.

The hair vs. hair match itself is ok but the promos before outshine it a bit as Enzo Amore and Big Cass are very over and have something of Shawn Michaels and Diesel to their characters that is good to see again. The match tells a good story and, even if they bottle out a bit on the actual head shaving, it does save us from the often slow, crowd killer moment, of trying to shave someone’s head on live TV.

Hideo Itami aka KENTA

Hideo Itami aka KENTA

Now its time for one of the big moments of the night as new ‘General Manager’ (and wrestling legend) William Regal comes to the ring to introduce ‘international superstar’ Kenta.

Its clear here, if it wasn’t before that this crowd know their stuff as they give Kenta a great reception, although they quickly seem to tire when he delivers the first half of his promo in Japanese – though I liked that, especially as this was going out live on Japanese TV.

Once he’s speaking English the crowd are back into it though and we find out he’s now going by the name Hideo Itami, an odd choice after hyping Kenta, but I’ll go with it for now. He gets ambushed by The Ascension but then cleans house and physically says, to quote the Undertaker, “this is my yard” and the crowd seem to get the name change with a few Hideo and Itami chants amongst the Kentas. This was a nice segment and got Itami over big, although I’m not sure how good it will be for The Ascension as they just got bested by one guy…

Bull Dempsey's flying headbutt

Bull Dempsey’s flying headbutt

Another squash match next which pretty much just fills the space after Kenta’s appearance but manages to give some heat to Bull Dempsey and show that NXT isn’t afraid to be hard-hitting as some of the shots here look stiff. Then we get a follow-up to the hair vs. hair match with Amore and Cass finding Marcus Louis and revealing his newly shaved head and again being generally entertaining.

Now its time for what the commentators refer to as the first part of the double main event. It’s first mention of that but its nice to hear and generally the commentators are on much better form than I expected – they don’t really call moves a lot but they help tell the story and don’t just talk about Twitter and the Network all the time and having a female voice adds a nice new dynamic too.

Charlotte's moonsault

Charlotte’s moonsault

The match in question is for the NXT Women’s Championship (I was very pleased not to hear Diva’s used in that context) with underdog Bayley going up against the daughter of Ric Flair, Charlotte.

Bayley does a good job playing the enthusiastic underdog, but it was hard to tell whether she’s actually a bit green or was just playing the part, while Charlotte has all the arrogance you’d expect from the offspring of The Nature Boy and clearly got a lot of the wrestling talent from her dad that David didn’t.

The match is good, and up there with the best main roster Diva’s matches I remember seeing in years, so, while it’s not perfect, it is entertaining, has some nice spots and tells a good little story, that builds in the post-match.

And now its time for your main event…

The titular fatal 4 way pitting high-flying face champion Adrian Neville against hard-working face Sami Zayn, arrogant heel Tyler Breeze and comparative veteran heel Tyson Kidd.

Tyson Kidd, Taylor Breeze, Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn

Tyson Kidd, Taylor Breeze, Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn

This is a match of two halves as the first half is something of a boring ‘schmoz’ (thanks OSW review) on the outside of the ring, followed by an extended beat down from Kidd on Zayn. There’re a few good spots here but mostly it drags and had me wondering if these four would pull off a fatal 4 way that could live up to the hype.

Once they properly get back in the ring though it really picks up with Zayn on the receiving end of pretty much everything and building a huge amount of face sympathy from the crowd that is perfectly worked for his character.

With some great spots, including the always scary looking four man superplex/powerbomb from the top rope, the match manages to get all four men over well with signatures moves from each of them, though I felt Breeze lost out a bit compared to the others and the cameras cut away from Zayn’s Helluva (Ole) kick.

Top rope superplex powerbomb

Top rope superplex powerbomb

The ending was equally well done so as not to have anyone come out looking weak while not being a ‘bullshit finish’ and launch a new angle with Zayn and Neville.

With Itami booked for the next NXT show and a bunch of interesting angles being developed here, I certainly intend to keep watching and, while there were a few botches and the squash matches weren’t up to much, this was a much more consistently entertaining show than pretty much any WWE shows so far this year.

Photos by WWE.

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Of Empires – Stranger Sensations EP

Of Empires

Of Empires

With three years under their hyper-stylish belts already Of Empires are on the verge of releasing their debut EP.

Having made their name with abundant classic rock stylings the Guernsey/Brighton based four-piece have had something of a change of direction, but all in their own particular rock ‘n’ roll idiom.

The EP comes out on 30th September 2014 and will be available via the band’s website, here.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 13th September 2014:

Of Empires Stranger Sensations EP review scan - 13:09:14Here’s a preview of the EP from the band’s Soundcloud:

 

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Chaos Returns – The Fermain Tavern – 06/09/14

Stone Em All

Stone Em All

It may be a few weeks earlier than usual but the annual Chaos end of summer party took over The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 6th September with From Bedrooms To Backseats, Static Alice, The Doomsday Project and Stone Em All taking to the stage.

First up were Stone Em All and following what was certainly the best show I’ve seen from them at Chaos 10 they continued in much the same form. While they may not be doing anything too original with their particular brand of thrashy, heavy metal the current line up seems to be the strongest yet, altered as it is slightly since Chaos with past guitarist Aleks Ward taking over bass duties.

Stone Em All

Stone Em All

Frontman Robert Hotton is certainly more at home on a bigger festival stage and there were moments tonight where his particular schtick didn’t quite translate, but its safe to say his performance is heading in the right direction – though constantly telling us the crowd they had in Jersey a few weeks ago at Jersey Dead were more energetic became a little repetitive and probably didn’t win the band any friends.

That said, with a continued focus on originals and the great guitar sounds being made by Lee Oliver and Bobby Didcott, Stone Em All seem to be finally getting their act together and becoming a much stronger proposition.

Another band focusing more on originals here, though with a few covers still in the mix, was The Doomsday Project.

Starting their set with more speed and power than I have ever seen from them added a lot to their performance as it felt like much more than a band just playing songs by rote, as they have come across at times in the past.

This added something of a rough around the edges feel to the performance that helped make for a more convincing pop-punk proposition and, combined with George Russell’s growing confidence as a frontman (especially as some of the audience started getting involved), is starting to build on their evident potential.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

As ever they were joined for a couple of numbers by Sophie Mahy and, while Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life still feels like a holdover from their early days, their run at Blink-182’s All The Small Things was a great fun version of the track.

Much like their last Chaos gig at the Jam, they added more originals to the set, including one semi-acoustic number that again saw the young band growing and, while their youth makes them stand out, The Doomsday Project have the potential to be a band worth keeping an eye on – though they should probably drop Electric 6’s Gay Bar, it wasn’t funny in 2004 and it still isn’t in 2014…

Having seemingly become the Chaos guys’ go to band for their gigs, Static Alice were all high energy pop-rock from the off.

Static Alice

Static Alice

Once again Dominique Ogier’s off-kilter charisma carried the performance and, while it can be divisive, it worked for me tonight, while it also struck me what a good bass player Scott Michel has become since his early days in metal bands as, while I’m sure he can still do metal if called for, his playing with Static Alice shows another side that demonstrates a broader musical palette.

With a debut album in their near future it was Static Alice’s songs that really drew my attention here as, while they are all good and in places nicely varied bits of cross over rock, it struck me that they don’t quite get stuck in my head the way these sorts of tunes should, but I got the feeling they are very close to it. That said as soon as each song gets going it’s clear they have a certainly familiarity after a few listens.

While the crowd had shrunk a bit by the time Static Alice took to the stage those that were there began to come to life and they certainly showed why they’ve become favorites at both these gigs and on the local pub circuit as they were called back for an encore and treated us to their take on The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz.

From Bedrooms To Backseats

From Bedrooms To Backseats

With the crowd having shrunk even more, From Bedrooms To Backseats took to the stage in front of only around 20 or 30 people, which is a shame as this was one of the most coherent sets I’ve seen the band deliver.

While I don’t think I’m ever going to be a fan of their particular brand of crossover metal, tonight, for the most part, their performance seemed to be one of their more focused, despite being yet another slightly different line-up to past gigs, with Mike Le Huray joining them on bass.

For me the highlights of their set came in a pair of tracks from their recent Bow Down EP, the title track and The Dark Passenger, as well as a slightly odd, drop-A tuned, version of New Found Glory’s My Friends Over You.

This, along with a few more covers from the likes of Enter Shikari, went down well with those down the front with a good amount of bouncing and singing along happening that, despite the lower number there than earlier in the night, brought the evening to end on an up, even if it wasn’t the night’s highest point.

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

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The Cryptics – Black Lucy

The Cryptics - Black LucyLaunching back onto the scene, garage rockers The Cryptics leave listeners in no uncertain state as to what their all about on five track EP, Black Lucy.

With something like the sound of a tape machine rolling to get things going, fuzzy bass and rhythm guitar, from Billy Cryptic and G.T.O. respectively, soon blast from the speakers with a sound that cried out to be coming from vinyl (for me it was coming from CD, so I guess that’s one step better than pure digital?).

The title track sets the scene well as the fuzz is joined by the amphetamine spiked speed of Woody ‘W’ Woodsman’s drums, some psyche solos from G.T.O. and an aloof, almost painfully cool, but knowing, vocal delivery from Screamin’ Johnny Moth.

The CrypticsWith a chorus featuring the ‘words’ “shangalanga” and “ramalama” its clear The Cryptics come from the same school of songwriting that brought us Louie, Louie, and this is no bad thing.

The EP continues very much in the same vein and, listening to it anywhere, its all I can do not to bounce and sing along as the sound is genuinely infectious and the lyrics drill themselves into your head after just one listen create a set of regular ear-worms.

With references to an elevator going up to the 13th floor, The Cryptics wear their influences on their sleeves and end up with a sound that is something of a combination of classic rock ‘n’ roll and 60s psyche rock all coming from and early 70s Detroit garage (with something of a knowing nod and wink) to create something joyously trashy which is celebrate in the EP’s closing number, Do The Trash.

The CrypticsWith Ghostriders, Gold and Jitterbuggin’ all evoking the same, but in varied enough ways to keep it interesting, in between, Black Lucy is a storming release that is a must for fans of all things garage-y and retro, and really should be listened to by anyone who likes things loud and fuzzy.

My one recommendation, once you’ve got your hands on this disc though, is two words:

‘PLAY LOUD’

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