Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

“Through the darkness of future past

The magican longs to see

One chance out between two worlds:

Fire walk with me”

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me posterBefore even embarking on Twin Peaks I had been warned that, despite it being a prequel (of sorts), Fire Walk With Me was best left until the end, and, before I go any further I would suggest the same to anyone else who hasn’t yet seen the full TV series.

Well, now I’ve watched it all, I can entirely see why as, without a knowledge of the ins and outs of at least the basic ‘who killed Laura Palmer’ thread this would be entirely nonsense – and even with that knowledge it teeters perilously close to this anyway.

Over the years though I have often learnt that this is something that director and co-creator David Lynch does and, most of the time, he seems to hold things together just enough.

Plot wise the film starts of with FBI Regional Chief Gordon Cole (Lynch) getting the call that a body has been found that matches an ongoing investigation so he calls in Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) to investigate. This turns out to be a precursor to the Laura Palmer case and is instantly drenched in the paranormal goings on that gradually built across the TV show.

David Lynch as Gordon Cole

David Lynch as Gordon Cole

Here we encounter the first problem of the film. The slow build of the TV series, in a recognisable generic context, served to draw the viewer along as their expectation was confounded time and again, but in stages. Here no real convention is set as from the off this is clearly not the campy soap/Americana setting of the show, but there isn’t time to establish anything else before we are plunged back into the Red Room.

Thrown into the midst of this is a nearly unexplained cameo from David Bowie that, while it’s always nice to see Bowie, just serves to further escalate the weird and ends up seemingly over clarifying the essential mystery of the show. Though this being David Lynch things are never actually fully explained (thankfully).

Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer

Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer

The second part of the film takes us to Twin Peaks itself and charts the final days of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) that lead into the TV series, with the odd reflection or interjection from Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in the Red Room.

Unfortunately, what made the TV series work so well, once again the generic conventions of a murder mystery and soap, are missing and the feel is much more that of a teenage horror, but it never quite coalesces entirely to riff on that satisfactorily. Though the denouement heads for Suspirialike levels of Grand Guignol surrealism.

The other issue is that, of course, if you’ve seen the TV series, you already know what’s going to happen.

Where Fire Walk With Me becomes most successful is in its further deepening the creepiness of Killer BOB (and his alter ego) as he becomes a primal and feral presence as we see him both in the Red Room and ‘real world’ contexts.

In the end Fire Walk With Me feels like a piece of fan-fiction filling in gaps that didn’t need filling in, and reading Lynch’s own comments on why he made the film (since I watched it) I’m not surprised I felt this way.

Sheryl Lee and Kyle MacLachlan

Sheryl Lee and Kyle MacLachlan

While the filling in of the gaps is entirely unessential it is interesting to see Lynch’s own view of this, but there were points where I couldn’t help wondering whether this even counts as canon to the TV series or whether it is purely a flight of speculative fancy.

While an engaging two hours, with some genuinely horrific and disturbing scenes, Fire Walk With Me can’t help but feel like an add-on to something that didn’t really need adding too or further explaining. Though it leaves much unanswered and does ask a few more questions that, if we’re lucky, might be explored in the upcoming new TV series.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five ArmiesAfter six films and 15 years I have finally reached the end of Peter Jackson’s ‘Middle Earth Saga’ with the third of his movies based on JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit; The Battle of the Five Armies.

Certain things are to be expected by this stage in a series and, on many counts, this doesn’t disappoint. For two hours and twenty minutes we are treated to a visual feast mixing live action with photo-real computer generated animations and, as has become the series’ trademark, indistinguishable performance capture.

From the start The Battle of the Five Armies doesn’t let up dropping us into the heart of Smaug’s attack on Laketown, where the previous film ended. As it goes on we see a range of conflict from the personal and small-scale (Thorin’s inner battle and conflict with his loyal band) to the genuinely epic (the titular climactic clash, that goes on for around half the film).

While this makes for an amazing spectacle, there are points where I found it hard to engage with what was going on. This was especially noticeable in the opening sequence where, unless you’d just watched the previous movie, there was no chance to really re-acquaint yourself with the many characters.

Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen

Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen

As the film goes on reconnection does occur and a few of the hints of the character work that made the previous films, particularly the Lord of the Rings series, so engaging return.

This is particularly evident when the real top-level actors in the cast are given their time away from the near non-stop action, with Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman doing a great job of taking dialogue that could be painfully ridiculous and delivering with real scenery chewing conviction, but also a sense of fun.

Cameos from Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett also have this quality, though they are brief and, unfortunately, there are many points where no one is given much chance to actually act as action takes centre stage.

Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman

Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman

The main issue the film has is that throughout, it feels like a third act so, while an attempt is made to make it work in its own terms, this is never successful. This means that watching The Battle of the Five Armies in isolation is a strange experience that is, ultimately, less than satisfying.

In its climactic moments though the film does manage to pull back something of the grandeur that marked Lord of the Rings, and even the previous Hobbit films as Thorin’s story (which really is what a lot of this series has been about) reaches its climax and the wheels are set in motion that lead into Frodo and company’s adventures.

Though once again the entire saga’s Deus Ex Machina, the giant eagles, strike again.

The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five ArmiesWhile The Battle of the Five Armies may not be the epic conclusion that I can’t help but feel such a vast saga should have, it is certainly a spectacular and enjoyable visual feast. That said I can’t help but feel it will work much better when viewed closely alongside the other films in the series.

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JT Rocks on Liberation Day – North Beach, St Peter Port – 09/05/15

The Recks on Liberation Day 2015

The Recks

Saturday 9th May in Guernsey saw the island celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Occupation during the Second World War. Along with the traditional cavalcade along the seafront and all sorts of other things the evening was given over to live music on the JT Rocks stage organised by Centre Stage.

The first half of the evening was dedicated to original music from the islands with Asylum Seekas, Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks and Static Alice, before the fireworks and two of Guernsey’s most celebrated tribute style acts Fade2Grey and King Rat & The Soul Cats.

You can see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review, which was printed in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 16th May, is below:

Liberation Day 2015 review scan - 16:05:15

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Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks bluray coverIn the 25 years since its first broadcast Twin Peaks has become a genuinely cult television series with aficionados debating seemingly every second of the show to explore its hidden (or not so hidden) meanings and in that it has become hugely influential on a lot of TV (and general pop culture) that was to follow.

Particular to this was the mid-1990s trend for supernatural themed TV that peaked with The X-Files and almost certainly led to the likes of Lost having a home on international TV. But, for a newcomer, what charms would David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks have two and a half decades on?

Going into my first watch of Twin Peaks I knew very little, simply that it was set in a remote town on the US/Canada border and that the general theme was a murder mystery with the body of a local girl called Laura Palmer being the catalyst for everything that was to follow.

For the first, shorter, season of the two, my expectations weren’t far wrong as I was plunged into an almost soap opera like setting with a host of characters; from our maguffin chasing lead, FBI Agent Dale Cooper (the always convincing, Kyle MacLachlan) down to seemingly bit part players of the various, eccentric, townsfolk.

Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper

Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper

As the series goes on a more esoteric thread is gradually introduced through Agent Cooper and his various visions that seem at odds to the almost heightened, soapy, feel of the rest of the show. All this builds to create at atmosphere that could only come from the mind of David Lynch.

Given the extra scope of a TV series, compared to a movie, this off kilter feel is explored with great success and gradually builds in such a way that it becomes simply part of the nature of life in this town.

While some of this leads to some funny moments, that always feel intentional, the main arc of Laura’s murder and Agent Cooper’s investigation always has a serious feeling to it and the series actually deals with some pretty serious themes as the bodies pile up and drug running and prostitution get added to the mystery.

The Log Lady

The Log Lady

Ending on a great cliffhanger Season One of Twin Peaks is a tight, undeniably weird, murder mystery with hints of Lynch’s ever present theme of exploring behind the veneer of, so-called ‘normal’, small town American life.

While season one seemed content to merely hint and suggest at a paranormal aspect from the start of its second season Twin Peaks escalated this and never let up. As intrigue and mystery piled on top of one another the plot does waver at times as it develops from a relative simple murder mystery into something much more.

To the show runners’ credit despite this escalation in scale it never really loses sense of its underlying feeling of peeling back the skin of Americana as everything is heightened and cranked up further and further.

Twin Peaks - The Red Room

The Red Room

Again there is some great comedy, particular coming in Lynch’s cameo as deaf FBI chief Gordon Cole and this is very welcome as other threads becoming increasingly disturbing – particularly those surrounding the mysterious BOB and Agent Cooper’s former FBI agent partner.

The most impressive thing as the series continues is how the various, often separate storylines, are intertwined and all join together as we head towards the dénouement.

Even 25 years later it seems wrong to spoil the ending of Twin Peaks, but its safe to say that the concluding few episodes capitalise on all that’s come before to create something the likes of which I’ve never seen in a supposedly mainstream TV show.

Twin Peaks opening titles

The original opening titles

Across both series the soundtrack and score, from Angelo Badalamenti, is a permanent fixture, often leading the action and emotion of the action or counterpointing it with reverb drenched twangy guitar and bass tones that hint at Lynch’s love of 50s rock ‘n’ roll and, in this, suit the off-centre Americana of the series.

With a movie (Fire Walk With Me) following soon after and a new series in the pipeline as I write, its clear that Twin Peaks had a strong, lasting effect on pop culture and, while I know there’s a lot more to it than one watch could ever give, it more than stands up 25 years down the road as both a landmark series and genuinely fascinating and enjoyable experience that I would describe as essential viewing for any fan of modern television.

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Cobain: Montage of Heck

Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck posterThe number of words written about the life (and more specifically the death) of Kurt Cobain are innumerable. Equally several documentaries have tried to explore both the young man from Aberdeen, Washington and the band he fronted (Nirvana, as if you didn’t know) in the years since 1994, but few have been in any way satisfactory.

In Montage of Heck, director Brett Morgen takes a slightly different angle on things. Gone is any speculation and largely gone is the view of Kurt as a rock ‘n’ roll mega-star (though in some of the interviews, particularly with his mother and wife this does sneak in) leaving us with the story of Cobain’s life as if he was any other person.

It just happens this person’s life involves being dubbed ‘the voice of a disaffected generation’, headlining Reading Festival and releasing one of the defining albums of the 1990s.

If you’ve read Charles R. Cross’ biography, Heavier Than Heaven, or any of the other writings about Cobain, the general story won’t be that surprising, but what Morgen manages to do is bring this to life in a way I’ve not seen before.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain

Using a mix of archive video (a lot shot by Kurt and his companions), animation (often based on Kurt’s own artwork), archive interviews with Kurt and newly recorded interviews with his friends and relations, Morgen paints a vivid picture of a troubled, ultimately tragic, life in a way that doesn’t paint Cobain as anything but a man.

This delivery is, for the two-hour and twelve-minute running time, intense and raw, particularly in the early scenes that are the least obviously documented aspects of Cobain’s life – his time growing up in Aberdeen.

With archive footage of the snowy town and some great animations Cobain’s early years are painted as troubled and, for want of a better word, ‘dark’.

Montage of Heck animationThis view is backed up by his own voice telling stories of jumping from house to house as he stayed with different relatives, petty crime, bullying and drug use.

On top of this we get candid interviews with his mother, father and stepmother that really don’t hold back – with his stepmother coming across as the most analytical and his father still seeming as distant as he is described by Kurt.

As the film continues things get loud and don’t rarely let up, save for a few sequences following the birth of Kurt and Courtney Love’s daughter Frances that actually have some genuinely cute and touching moments, before the inevitable ending. Though, in once again doing something a bit different, Morgen doesn’t dwell on Cobain’s already well-documented death.

Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love

Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love

While there are some great snippets of live footage and input from Krist Novoselic, if you’re looking for a complete look at Nirvana this isn’t the film for you.

As a documentary Montage of Heck came as close as any to evoking something of the style of Julien Temple, while also having something of Morgen’s own, particularly in the soundtrack, that sheds new light on a well covered story and really brings to life the story of Kurt Donald Cobain in a genuinely intense way without ever succumbing to the standard telling that makes him into some kind of martyr for a generation.

and, just because, one of my favourite (from a list of many) Nirvana moments:

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Witchfinder General

Witchfinder General posterOn paper almost everything about Michael Reeve’s 1968 horror masterpiece, Witchfinder General, suggests a film that shouldn’t really work.

Taking the style of Hammer, melding it with the incoming violence of ‘The New Hollywood’, casting an American as a notorious British historical icon and filming on location in East Anglia smacks of a production gone awry before the camera even rolls, but somehow Reeves took this and constructed something that has entered the lexicon of popular culture.

The film recounts a fictionalised version of the exploits of Matthew Hopkins, a man seemingly self-described as England’s Witchfinder General, as he wrought a wave of terror across East Anglia at the height of the English civil war.

In this version he encounters and condemns a priest whose niece is betrothed to one of Cromwell’s soldiers, vowing revenge the soldier hunts down Hopkins to the film increasingly brutal dénouement.

Vincent Price in Witchfinder General

Vincent Price

The 1960s, Hammer like, style in which the film is shot, for the most part, makes the countryside look genuinely stricken and barren with very few people, and those encountered clearly terrified of either the war or the witchfinder. This combined with the opening where we see a woman being taken to the gallows and hanged sets the scene for what is to come.

The script and much of the acting is, at best, workman-like but the film centres on the charismatic presence of Vincent Price as Hopkins and, as ever, he dominates.

Even speaking with his distinctive American twang and his wryly ‘knowing’ manner he becomes a threatening figure with simply a well-placed look (much like his work in The Abominable Dr Phibes).

Ian Ogilvy and Hilary Dwyer in Witchfinder General

Ian Ogilvy and Hilary Dwyer

This is particularly noticeable during the judging and torture of the aforementioned priest where he and two more accused witches are dangled (for want of a better word) into a river. Throughout the scene Price’s Hopkins stands separate to the almost Python-esque mob and we see him observing through varying levels of close up which builds tension in a phenomenal way that never lets up for the rest of the movie.

The film became notorious for its violence and, while it’s not as graphic as some more modern fare, the particular style of violence is still amazingly effective. Often perpetrated to accused women and with much screaming and harsh sound effects, on top of lashings of ‘Kensington Gore’, it all adds to the view of the true brutality of Hopkins work.

Vincent Price and Robert Russell in Witchfinder General

Price and Robert Russell

Added to this the knowledge that, somewhere along the line, there is a hint of fact in all this, serves to heighten it even further making it clear why the film is still considered horrific enough to receive an 18 rating from the BBFC.

The final masterstroke that elevates the film comes in that it both opens and closes with a harsh, scream and a horrific scene and, while some things come to resolution, it is left open-ended in such a way as to merely hint at the horrors perpetrated by Hopkins in the name of God and the horrors of war and acts in the name of God to follow.

On top of all of this the film never lets up, across its 87 minutes it is packed with chases, action and horror in the way of the best of exploitation cinema. All of this combines to create a movie that with very good reason is still highly regarded along with the likes of The Wicker Man as something that marks a high point of British horror cinema.

and, as a bonus, because its a song a like a lot, here’s Hopkins (Witchfinder General) by Cathedral:

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Thee Jenerators – Jenerator X

Thee Jenerators - Jenerator XHaving recently picked up a copy of Mystery Man, the lead single from Thee Jenerators debut LP, I thought I’d take a look back at the album but found my original review was no longer available on the BBC Guernsey website. So here is a slightly updated and revised version of that review (originally published in August 2006).

Jenerator X

The debut full length release by Thee Jenerators, released through Twist Records in 2003, does many things, but the most important one that manages to capture something of the band’s formidable live energy on disc.

As soon as I put Jenerator X into my stereo I knew I was in for something a bit different, looking at the case it says there are 10 tracks, but the display said it was only 18 minutes long, ‘surely this couldn’t be right?’ I thought.

Having now listened to the album I know it was right and 18 minutes was the perfect length for this set of songs.

Steve and Mark in 2007

Steve and Mark in 2007

Blasting through 10 tracks in a way I didn’t think possible Thee Jenerators prove that speed of sound does not always mean thrashing through half-formed ideas like some lesser punk bands would, as here they present fully formed tunes in spaces no longer than 2 and half minutes. And they seem to prove that less speed can equal more pace.

Starting out with a minute of storming mod-ish rock ‘n’ roll in Dirty Water the four-piece continue in a similar vein throughout, defying any specific genre definition by constantly modulating through eras and genres with ease. At times they sound like they fell out of the 1960s while at other times flirting with mid 90’s guitar acts (and falling into any number of styles in between).

The band’s sound is constantly underpinned by a fuzzy, rumbling, bass line from Steve Lynch (now of The Electric Shakes) that holds down every track on the album.

Thee Jenerators - Mystery Man

Mystery Man single cover, featuring the original line up

This is augmented by the powerhouse drums of Stuart ‘Ozzy’ Austin, the over driven guitar of Matt Stephen and the howling vocals of Mark Le Gallez to produce a sound that doesn’t come from the world of solos and posing but from the down and dirty garage rock scene providing a united sound of a truly together band who know what they’re doing and why.

After listening to the record all I wanted to do was dance that leads me to believe that this disc captures the bands live energy, as its rare that feeling truly over takes listening to a CD through headphones.

Highlights on the album come in the form of singles Fight The Power and Mystery Man (featuring a familiar sounding voice credited to ‘Blind Jack Lazarus’) along with guaranteed dancefloor filler Shakin’ Shake. These three songs also serve to highlight the diversity of themes in Le Gallez’s songwriting which ranges from the political to the personal to celebratory but all in his own inimitable style.

As a debut ‘full-length’ release, or any release, this is an excellent example of quality song writing, musicianship and most importantly heart and soul, and looking back on it now set up exactly what was to come as the band expanded and evolved onwards.

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Howl

Howl posterGoing into this movie one thing was certainly clear, it was not, in any way, an attempt to translate Allen Ginsberg’s Howl for Carl Solomon poem into a movie, at least not directly.

The poem itself is one of the linchpin works of what became known as The Beat Movement (or The Beat Generation) alongside the likes of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. In this movie, much like in the movie adaptation of Naked Lunch, the filmmakers take something of the essence of the source and attempt to convey it onscreen.

While in David Cronenberg’s version of Burroughs this happens in the form of a surreal flight of nightmare (it could never be called fancy), here Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman take the poem, along with transcripts of interviews with Ginsberg and transcripts of the trial for obscenity against the poem’s publisher, Laurence Ferlinghetti and use that to create something of the story of the poem.

Howl animation

Animated Ginsberg

What this serves to do is an interesting thing as it at once makes for a fascinating look at a mid 20th century cultural event (the trial was, in San Francisco at least, front page news and came early in the general post war liberalisation of literature and art) while also rendering it as a kind of footnote to the actual poem – something like a set of academic notes on the original text.

As a big ‘fan’ of the poem this is a conflicting thing. My appreciation of the poem came about on my own terms, without a lot of background knowledge of the source. So, hearing some of my ideas confirmed and others not in the words of the author (delivered by James Franco), is a strange experience, but one that I think has, ultimately, added an extra layer to my appreciation of the poem. Though having art explained too much can serve to render that art somehow redundant.

Thankfully Howl (the movie) treads just on the right side of the line for this.

James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in Howl

James Franco

Away from thematic argument, as a film, Howl is equally interesting. It mixes live action (a dramatised recreation of the trial and an interview with Ginsberg) with animated visions of the poem.

Laced through and around the impressively abstract animation is a dramatised version of the poem’s first reading at The Six Gallery (as documented by Jack Kerouac in The Dharma Bums) rendered in a smoky monochrome that really captures the scene excellently.

Franco is very impressive as (a slightly Hollywood version of) Ginsberg bringing the man to life in his youthful vigour as he reads the poem to a room of all the key figures of the Beat and also as the more thoughtful and analytical Ginsberg of the later interview, seemingly recorded at the time of the trial. In this he manages to reveal a vulnerability to Ginsberg that I had previously not seen in the versions of him delivered by Kerouac or in other interviews I had read, which did make the internal source of the poem somewhat clearer and more relatable.

Joe Hamm and David Strathairn in Howl

Joe Hamm and David Strathairn

The animation too manages to capture something of the essence of the poem, though there are times where it (by necessity of a visual of this nature) takes a too literal view of the text.

Meanwhile the trial scenes are simply an interesting, and well executed, cultural context to the poem including a few very good, but ultimately two-dimensional, performances. It’s safe to say, away from Franco’s Ginsberg, this isn’t ‘an actors film’.

While Howl the poem is a high point of 20th century literature capturing both a personal and cultural view of an aspect of life at the time, taking in everything from immigration to homosexuality to drug use to what has become known as ‘Beat’, the film Howl is far less essential, but none the less an interesting companion work to Ginsberg’s masterpiece.

and here is a recording of Ginsberg himself reading Howl:

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Clameur De Haro, The OK and The Crowman – The Fermain Tavern – 02/05/15

Clameur De Haro

Clameur De Haro

On Saturday night three acts took to the stage at The Fermain Tavern to help raise funds for The Ivy Trust charity. The Crowman & The Fiddling Pixie, The OK and Clameur De Haro spanned genres from folk to blues rock to garage rock but all came with a real sense of fun.

First up was The Crowman & The Fiddling Pixie and they treated us to their rough and ready, self-styled, “garage folk” just as we’ve come to expect. Tonight the balance between The Crowman’s jagged, harsh instrumentation and vocals and the Pixie’s violin and vocals worked very well and made for a real extra depth to Crowman’s songs of blues, heartache and booze.

The Crowman

Crowman, Pixie and Tinshack

Crowman was in fine, charismatic frontman, form tonight and had the audience laughing between songs and keeping rhythm when he got fed up with his own stomp box and everyone in the Tav seemed willing to get involved.

Rounding off the set with a few songs featuring The John Wesley Stone’s Tinshack on harmonica finished things on a high with the crowd still eager to hear more.

Having been together for a couple of years now The OK took to the stage with a set, mixing covers and originals, that we have become used to. While the four-piece may have stuck to the same repertoire its safe to say they seemed to have stepped up a level in terms of the tightness and fluidity of their performance, with Dave Wratten in particular really coming across well on guitar.

The OK looked to have some talent and real potential but their overall performance remained somewhat stilted and soulless (though the audience seemed to be having fun) and frontman Joe Le Page still came across like he was genuinely terrified at first – though he did seem to have relaxed a bit by the end.

The OK

The OK

With a genre spanning set of songs it was on the more blues rock and garage rock flavoured numbers that The OK really seemed to come to life and rounding off their set in that style meant they ended on a high with a few of the audience having made their way onto the dancefloor.

As they approach their first birthday at the start of July, Clameur De Haro have had a very impressive first year which has seen them win over a large number of fans, and, it seemed even more were added here.

Their brand of folk rock may have a thick layer of fun and ‘novelty’ but underneath are some great performances amongst the seven-strong outfit that really cuts through to give them a wide appeal, and they displayed that well.

Clameur De Haro

Dave and Rich of Clameur De Haro

Their set was great fun throughout and they had people dancing after a couple of songs, eventually nicely filling the dancefloor with folked up covers of Kiss and Van Halen really going down a storm.

The one slightly off moment came in the form of a new ballad that, while still a great song, dropped the energy of the performance possibly a little too much, but it wasn’t long before ‘The Clams’ recovered and by the end of the set the audience was calling for more.

Highlights came in the form of originals Happy Little Mr Sunshine and Chinese Burn and despite an encore they left the crowd wanting more ending an enjoyably fun night of live music on a high and helping raise more than £300 for the event’s chosen charity.

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

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Lord Vapour – The Vault – 22/04/15

Lord Vapour at The Vault

Lord Vapour

For their first Bandstand Showcase night The Vault in St Peter Port welcomed a brand new band to christen their band new event – Lord Vapour.

Having released a three track EP late last year the three-piece have since been publicly quiet, but clearly working on their live performance as well as writing new songs, so they launched into their debut set at full, pounding, force.

From the off it was clear what realm we were in with much long hair and dreadlocks nodding to the blues infused grooves while heads banged to the more speed metal driven parts and the two met in the middle through a psychedelic prism creating a bass driven sound that can only really be described as ‘heavy’ – in a particularly traditional way.

Joe Le Long of Lord Vapour

Joe Le Long

Being a familiar face on Guernsey’s metal scene for a few years Lord Vapour has given bassist Joe Le Long a chance to take a step forward and front the band and here he did this with aplomb.

Across the set he demonstrated a way of playing that stylistically evoked the likes of Geezer Butler and Cliff Burton (with whom he shared a certain loon panted fashion sense as well). Particularly impressive, and new, to this performance though were his vocals that hit the sweet spot between metal growl and bluesy soul.

The performance in general didn’t go as smoothly as the band might have liked with first a piece of drum hardware breaking and then several guitar issues, but all three members dealt with them as smoothly as possible.

Particularly impressive in this was guitarist Henry Fears not letting a broken string bother him as he played around it for a fairly lengthy instrumental song before taking a short break to replace it and carry on the set. This was then followed by fixing the jack input on his Telecaster mid song later in the set, though did get me thinking he maybe should have had a back up instrument.

Henry Fears of Lord Vapour

Henry Fears

Taking a break to replace a string might, in some situations, come off as a band being unprepared but in the format here it didn’t seem to be too much of an issue and it was swiftly sorted out before things continued.

Across the set there was a mixture of instrumentals and tracks with vocals and it was clear (by the band’s own admission) that some of this was more a combination of raw ideas, yet to be tempered, than finished songs, but it nonetheless had a coherent sound and style. Along with which it was the best sound I’ve yet heard in this particular venue – maybe it’s unintentionally custom designed for hard and heavy rock?

While it was rough around the edges in places and was clearly a band still finding their songs, Lord Vapour put on an impressive show and certainly presented a unified sound and style in their music, bringing something of their own to the heavier side of Guernsey’s music scene with which they should fit in well and I could see them becoming one of its highlights.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here. My review was also published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th May 2015:

Lord Vapour review scan - 09:05:15

Here’s a flavour of what Lord Vapour do from their debut EP:

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