Monthly Archives: October 2012

BBC Introducing Guernsey: October 2012 – Darker Shores and Twelve Tribe Mansion

Sam and Tom of Twelve Tribe Mansion

I was back on the airwaves tonight for another two hours of BBC Introducing Guernsey featuring new music from around the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

As it was Halloween I thought it only appropriate to feature one of the darkest and heaviest bands Guernsey has to offer, Darker Shores, who came in for a chat.

And as they have a debut album in the works and some gigs coming up I also spoke to Twelve Tribe Mansion who played a short live session too.

You can listen to the whole show for the next 7 days here, and here’s the track list:

Thee Jenerators – Yellow Fruit Pastille
Sugarslam – Fameless
Jonny Lives! – Parking Lot
The Inevitable Pinhole Burns – Sparks and Fireworks
Mr.D 45 – The Nu Age
Jack McGahy – Wonderful Wonder
Darker Shores – Drowning In Chaos
Darker Shores – Into The Storm of Battle
Darker Shores – The Hate Reflex
Tim Bishop – Who Gave Away Our Gold
Twelve Tribe Mansion – Third Up Third Down
Twelve Tribe Mansion – Miskin Street (live)
Twelve Tribe Mansion – Yokel and the Plough (live)
Twelve Tribe Mansion – Hill Bill
Nemesis – The King Is Dead
Hellfighter – Damnations Wings
The Barley Dogs – The Bel Air Affair (live)
The Black Vote – It Was So Cash
The John Wesley Stone – Caffeine, Benzedrine, Nicotine (live)
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – Victoria’s Secret

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Halloween Metal Mayhem 2012 – Darker Shores and Brutus Stonefist

Phil of Darker Shores

On the last Saturday in October every year The Fermain Tavern in Guernsey is transformed into a hellish doppelgänger of itself for a night of heavy metal and elaborate costumes.

This year saw two of Guernsey top metal bands, hardcore enthusiasts Brutus Stonefist and black metallers (with a touch of punk) Darker Shores, grace the stage in front of the undead (and various other costumed) crowd.

I was taking photos on the night for BBC Introducing Guernsey which you can see on Facebook here.

My full review of the show was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 3rd November along with a couple of my photos:

While I didn’t get any videos on the night some others did, and here is one of them:

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Sarnia Shorts in The Guernsey Press

Following my weekend at the first Sarnia Shorts film festival I wrote an overview of the weekend for The Guernsey Press which was published on Saturday 27th October:

And you can read my in-depth reviews of the individual films I saw at these links:

Sarnia Shorts 2012: Opening Night – Chimes at Midnight and La Ultima Secuencia

Sarnia Shorts 2012: Day 1 – International Fiction Screening

Sarnia Shorts 2012: Day 2 – Winners, UK Fiction and Mixed Entries

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Sarnia Shorts – Day 2: Winners, UK Fiction and mixed entries

For the second full day of the inaugural Sarnia Shorts film festival I saw 33 films spanning pretty much every genre going including a screening of all the festival winners.

Sarnia Shorts 2012 came to a close on real high point with a showcase of all the winners of the weekend, rounded off by Best Film Matar A Un Nino – before that though were around 30 more films from various categories starting early for a Sunday morning.

Mixed screening

The morning’s screening was a mixed bag of films starting with a trio of documentaries and what can only be described as a conspiracy-horror-docudrama. The three documentaries were made with varying levels of success exploring subjects as diverse as Ethiopa’s Christian heritage, life in a Belgian forest and the creation of a song.

While the subject matter of Timkat in Lalibela was by far the most interesting, it was hampered by a somewhat stilted narration track that lost something of the potential intrigue of the footage.

Anatomy of a Song

The opposite could be said of Anatomy of a Song, where the film was well constructed but the subject matter left me thinking this was a somewhat one sided view of what could be a rather controversial subject (in the subject matter of the song being explored).

The other film in the first half of the morning screening, The Haunting of Memory, was, for me, a very odd piece of cinema.

Looking at the potentially true story of Hitler’s pre-First World War visit to Liverpool through the filter of a pair of sisters discovering a box belonging to their great aunt, which told of her admiration and love of “the Fuhrer”.

Beyond this subject matter, what made the film seem so strange, was the imbalance between supposed historical accuracy, soap opera style drama and moments that could have come from a horror movie, which made what could have been an interesting story into something of a mess.

La Lavadora

The second half of the morning session provided a much more balanced selection of films starting with La Lavadora, a sweet (or possibly very bleak, depending on your point of view) romantic comedy focusing on a magic washing machine and a couple living in adjoining flats.

This was followed by another sweet, but in this instance somewhat melancholy, tale of an elderly man making his way away across to for a picnic, Bis Nachste Woche. What made this film work so well was how it explored the precision of the man’s preparations and then revealed quite why he was being so precise and why it meant so much to him.

Date With Fate

Australian entry Date With Fate was another romantic comedy with a twist, shot through the medium of video dating tapes. With its style and plot it added a nice new dimension to what could easily have been a very predictable little film.

The morning session was completed by another documentary, Shooting Blind, exploring the world of the England blind football team as they prepared for the 2010 world cup, which was held in England.

Even as someone with no interest in football this was a fascinating insight into a sport that is rarely seen and through its production managed to capture both the amount of work that goes into training and the drama of this unique form of the sport and for my money, if it wasn’t for Walk Tall, this would have been the best documentary of the festival.

UK Fiction screening

The second session I got to today was the UK fiction films and it kept up the high quality established in the second half of my morning viewing.

Miss-guided

First up was Miss-Guided by William Fuller. An at once comical and slightly melancholic little short that seemed to deal with issues of a young couple’s relationship through the medium of a satnav.

Mum’s Not In was the first of the days more serious dramas and featured an excellent performance by both the young girl and her cat and this was the first of the festival’s films to really get to me, mostly due to the way the cat featured in the piece.

The next film, First Bite, was one I’d had a chance to see before the festival and found to have a slightly ambiguous edge, and this is an edge that remained on the second viewing. This didn’t stop it having an oddly effecting feeling though, and certainly it seems to say something about aspects of modern youth, though to me it leaves what it says open to the viewer on at least some level, not that this is a bad thing.

Birdie was a short and sweet film looking at a retired golfer that, while well made was probably the least memorable of this session, though its shots of Edinburgh in particular seem to have stuck with me.

The Venial Society

The first half of the UK Fiction section was rounded off by three films from Jersey, under the Primavera Pictures banner. While the first of these, Unanswered, was a quirky little piece with a few witty ideas, it was the two other films, The Venial Society and The Final Straw that stood out from the trio.

Both films fell into the horror/thriller category but in slightly different ways with The Venial Society exploring guilt with a great visual style and some excellent special effects and The Final Straw feeling like the set up to a great post-apocalyptic saga, and again made with some more great special effects.

Fall To Grace

The second half of the UK Fiction section started in fine style with Fall To Grace. Telling the story of a puppet who makes himself a man and uses him for a ventriloquist act. Its darkly humourous edge, combined with the brilliant puppetry made it one of the highlights of the afternoon for me.

Room 4 was another highlight as it told its somewhat puerile, but ultimately very entertaining, tale of a trio of 20-somethings investigating a mythical technique being used in a local brothel. While fairly simply shot it told its story in a very effective way that was reminiscent of the best, slightly surreal, TV comedy.

Mug was another effectively shot and edited story with a well done twist that made it memorable and added something extra to its light urban setting.

Room 4

The final pair of films of the UK Fiction came with a bit of a caveat from the festival organisers that due to the seemingly high production values and lack of communication from the films producers they had been disqualified from the competition (which is for amateur filmmakers only), but that the organisers thought they would still be worth screening, and I have to agree, as both were very good films.

First was Brotherhood, which told a story about a pair of immigrants to the north of England and how one brother had turned to crime while the other was training to be a doctor and how their sense of family loyalty clashes with their newly adopted home.

The second, MAM, was set in and around a tower block in the north of England and looked into the life of a young boy who was looking after his brothers and sisters while his mother was ill, again this film came with a sting in the tail that it would spoil things to reveal, but made for a very effecting little story.

While both of these films were very good I have to agree with the Sarnia Shorts orgainsers that the production values seemed suspiciously high for amateur work and the appearance of Josie Lawrence and a few other recognisable character actors seemed unlikely for a truly non-professional production.

Not wishing to down play the fact that these were very good films but, if what is suspected was the case, all the other films we saw this afternoon really did stand equal to these in terms of everything but production values which shows just how good a set of films we were seeing this weekend.

(Warning: This is the uncensored version of the film so probably best not watch if you’re easily offended by comedies about brothels… that sounds a lot less funnier as a description that the film is)

Winner’s Show

So, with all the general entry screenings done, the first Sarnia Short Film Festival came to an end with a session showing all the award winners from the weekend.

Six

The session started off with the announcement of the Best Guernsey Entry, which went to Jack De La Mare for his film Six.

I’ve had the chance to see Six a few times over the last few months, but this was the first time seeing it alongside other short films and I’m pleased to say it more than stood up against Sarnia Shorts’ other award winners and really highlighted what a directing talent Jack is.

Best Student Entry and Best Use of Sound was awarded to Mathew Nesbeth for New With Tags, a great film exploring a young man’s attempts to escape his old life and deal with guilt with some excellent effects work that left me thinking of Fight Club.

Another Guernsey entrant was up next winning the Best Mini category (for a film under two minutes), Josh Fletcher, for Make Your Money Grow. This animation took the notion of its title and explored it in very well realised fashion as coins and notes transform from trees to houses to planes and onwards in visually remarkable fashion.

8-Ball

Next up were a couple of my personal highlights of the weekend; first was 8-Ball, by Mark Brennan, Carl Austin and Geoff Harmer. Picking up the best script award, this was a simple film of two men on a bench that played with notions of destiny with humour, pathos and real emotion.

Best Direction winner, Clown vs Society (directed by Brindusa Ioana Nastasa), was the second of these highlights, as it explored, superficially, how traditional clowning has fallen out of favour in the world of entertainment, while subtextually, it looked at a deeper change and issue of lost innocence in society in a mock documentary style.

The second half of the Winners’ Show started with another fantastic film (as all of them were tonight) They Say (or Dicen) by Alaunda Ruiz de Azua. A Spanish/American co-production that looked into the world of High School bullying in the USA and was shot on location in a school in New Jersey.

Exploring not only bullying but issues of homophobia it told very effecting tale, seemingly based on real events, and painted a very bleak picture of modern teenage life, and deservingly won its Best Use of Camera award.

Room

Best Use of Editing was a very interesting choice from the judges as Room (by Fernando Franco) actually didn’t seem to include any actual edits. Again telling a tale inspired by a real event to do with youth in the USA, this Spanish language film also featured little spoken dialogue and instead put the viewer in the place of, seemingly, a teenager, viewing another on webcam and chatting with a few others through text appearing at the bottom of the screen.

As the film continues the horror of what we may be seeing comes to light through this text in which each character soon takes on their own personalities and, while the film itself leaves the ending open, the title card that follows hammers its point home in very effective style.

Eso Te Pasa Por Barroco

Best Animation was up next for a surreal little film that maybe had a point to make about eating meat, or maybe was just a strange and entertaining ride about a blue plasticine fellow trying to eat his tea. Either way Eso Te Pasa Por Barroco by Pable Serrano Rosillo was great little film in one of the most hotly contested categories in the festival.

Another of my personal highlights came next, picking up the prize for Best Non-Fiction, Walk Tall by Kate Sullivan. My main reason for enjoying this documentary was down to its sheer entertaining quality as it mixed well-made animation with historical photos and new footage of a former Olympic gymnast who represented Great Britain in 1948.

Walk Tall

This entertainment combined with a fascinating subject and amazingly charismatic nonagenarian who not only told his story but offered us all some advice on keeping fit and healthy.

Best UK Entry, Buon Giorno Sayonara by Karen Hope, was the penultimate film of Sarnia Shorts 2012 and for my money, was the one film of this final session that didn’t really stand up next to the others.

While by no means a bad film this nice little tale of pair of couples day out in Bournemouth didn’t quite hit the mark for me in the way that the other films did, but, none-the-less, it was well produced and shot and entertaining in its way.

Matar A Un Nino

Finally for the festival we got the Best Film (and Best International Entry), Matar A Un Nino by Cesar and Jose Esteban Alenda.

Exploring how and when childhood and innocence end (in one sense at least) this seems to be a semi-autobiographical tale of someone and deservingly won as the script, editing, action, camera work, sound and direction all come together to create a truly great short film and while others came close, for me this was a deserving Best Film and closed the first Sarnia Shorts Film Festival in fantastic style.

While turnout for this weekend’s screenings certainly could have been better and low turnouts are always a disappointment, I sincerely hope that organisers Wynter Tyson and Lisa Gaudion aren’t disheartened by this and that the festival continues as, looking at other festivals around the world (most notably Shetland or New Forest), they can become major events for small communities and are indispensible for breeding new filmmakers.

Read my review of Day 1 here and the launch night here.

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Sarnia Shorts 2012: Day 1 – International Fiction Screening

Ten films made up the evening session of the first day of the Sarnia Shorts 2012 short film festival spanning everything from zombie horror to romantic drama.

After their opening night screening of Orson Welles’ Chimes At Midnight the first Sarnia Shorts film festival got going in earnest on Saturday 20th October with four sessions of screenings covering documentary, animation, ‘mini’ and Guernsey produced films ahead of an evening dedicated to the festival’s international fiction entries.

Unfortunately the real world got in the way of my attending the day time screenings today, but I made my way down to the Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts for the evening session and came away having ten at least very good films.

With most of the entries in the international fiction category coming from Spain tonight did have a surreal feeling as every film was in the same language, but, none-the-less, it was a thoroughly enjoyable selection.

Nadie Tiene La Culpa

The evening started with Nadie Tiene La Culpa, a very well made light drama set around a conversation between a husband and wife on the verge of separation. What really made this film stand out was the way it kept a remarkably light touch while still having a serious feel and ended up turning things on its head from both what I expected and what is usually seen in this sort of story.

Next up came another film dealing with communication between a couple, Guillermo Magarinos’ A Tiempo. My first impression of this was that it didn’t quite make sense, however, having now had time to settle down it was a well constructed, if abstract, exploration of communication issues which built a great sense of tension with a brilliantly cathartic release.

La Familia De Mi Novia

La Familia De Mi Novia brought us our first particularly quirky offering of the evening telling the story of a young man meeting his parents family for the first time and, with a style that seemed reminiscent of Natural Born Killers ‘sitcom’ scene, descended into a rather dark but still oddly humorous place in a way that was both funny and disturbing at the same time.

Next up was another film that mixed humour with a sense of the slightly odd, Interés Variable. This credit crunch tale of a couple loosing their house added elements of toned down Tarantino and a nod to The Dark Knight to create a mildly distracting film centered on one man’s unemployment induced paranoia.

La Broma

Luis Arenas López’s La Broma rounded off the first half of the evening with a story loosely exploring immigration issues but mostly using this to focus on themes of trust, friendship and betrayal in a close-knit, ethnically mixed Spanish community. While this film was well constructed it did seem to act mostly as a treatment for a potential larger story, always a challenge for short filmmakers to overcome.

The second half of tonight’s screening started off with Sin Palabras that told a rather effecting tale of a teenager getting to know his reclusive grandfather and bonding with him despite their initial situation. Despite the emotional ups and downs this film did, in the end, leave me with a smile on my face for which I was thankful as, at times, it teetered very close to being a quite depressing, if well constructed, piece.

El-Pela-Ajos

The evening’s shortest film, El-Pela-Ajos, was up next and, while entertaining, its short running time left it feeling a bit hard to know exactly what was going on in the relationship between the lead couple, though it still managed to produce a darkly humorous edge.

Next it was time for a dose of zombies, something seemingly inescapable in current cinema, with the Shaun of the Dead influenced Muertos Y Vivientes and the more 28 Days Later inspired Fase Terminal.

The first of this duo was certainly the most light-hearted of the two with an Ash from Evil Dead like old lady fighting her way through the hordes of the undead to find her late husband. Featuring an astonishing number of zombie extras this film really managed to build up both a great sense of comedy along with a real story and journey for its lead character and her knitting needles.

Fase Terminal

Fase Terminal on the other hand was a much more serious affair that built up a good sense of unease and some genuine horror as we follow a young boy in the middle of an “infection outbreak” (though I think the person behind the credits sequence may have seen a few too many episodes of The Walking Dead).

This evening was rounded off with a series of ultra-short films compiled under the title Slides and, while slightly imbalanced and certainly dark in tone, really served to demonstrate just how short a film can be while still getting across a sense of basic narrative and character.

So, for their second evening, Sarnia Shorts has once again triumphed in the films they have chosen to screen as these 10 pictures really showed the variety and skill in the world of short film and has got me properly excited about tomorrow evening’s Winner’s Show if these are ones that didn’t make the cut.

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Sarnia Shorts 2012: Opening Night – Chimes at Midnight and La Ultima Secuencia

The newly reformed Sarnia Shorts Film Festival got underway with a duo of movies that couldn’t be more different.

After two years of planning and several special film screenings (and for organisers Wynter and Lisa, a lot of film watching) Sarnia Shorts 2012 launched on Friday 19th October with a special double bill screening at Guernsey’s Princess Royal Centre For The Performing Arts.

Though the turn was, admittedly, low, things started in fine style with a Spanish short film designed to give us a flavour of what was to come over the next two days, as well as being a perfectly suited film for a cineliterate audience.

La Ultima Secuencia (The Final Sequence), by Arturo Ruiz Serrano, is set on the set of a 1960s Spanish shot Western and uses a lot of little nods and references to other films shot in the “Spanish Hollywood” at the time, most notably Patton and Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood.

Though only short the film is undeniably one of the funniest things I’ve watched in a cinema for a while, although I appreciate its humour may not travel too well with people who don’t get the references.

Following a short introduction from one of the two people behind Sarnia Shorts, Wynter Tyson, it was time for the ‘feature presentation’ a newly restored version of Orson Welles 1966 film Chimes At Midnight (aka Falstaff).

My experience of Welles in the past seems to have missed something in that while his films often get cited as some of the best made I, simply put, just don’t get it – aside from the spectacular opening shot to Touch of Evil and his turn voicing Unicron in the original Transformers movie (sublime to ridiculous? almost certainly!).

None-the-less I headed into this with an open mind as the concept at least, taking all the bits of Shakespeare’s history plays to feature Sir John Falstaff and turn them into a coherent narrative, was certainly very interesting to me.

From the off this was shot in Welles own unique style with a lot of close-ups, and even some extreme close-ups, on the actors which really highlighted some elements of the acting and the design of the make up and costumes, but also gives the film a somewhat off-kilter feel which doesn’t always sit well as it makes it hard to judge whether this is a comedy (as some scenes are particularly broad) or a serious film, as the scene with Prince Hal and his father and their relationship are.

As the film goes on the plot seems to disintegrate into a series of vignettes, included an extended and confusing battle scene that does feature some great comedy moments from Welles’ Falstaff stuffed into an oversized suit of armour.

In the end though Chimes At Midnight, for me, was too imbalanced to hold itself together and, while it had some good laughs and some great acting from its frankly spectacular cast, as well as some great design and technical work – but it has to be said Orson Welles could have been born to play Falstaff.

While the film may not have been my favourite it still made for an interesting start to the festival which will see around 70 films screened over two days ranging from documentary to horror to drama from all over the world.

As I can’t find a proper trailer for Chimes At Midnight anywhere, here’s the intro sequence to Touch Of Evil instead:

And a bit of Welles in Transformers (he’s the big talking robot planet):

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Ginger Wildheart and PledgeMusic – Gallery Magazine: October 2012

Along with my review of the new album from Tantale, I also featured a short article on Ginger Wildheart, his involvement with pledgemusic.com and what such crowd funding could mean to new artists in this months edition of Guernsey’s Gallery magazine.

You can read the whole magazine online here.

And here is a scan of my piece on Ginger Wildheart and pledgemusic.com:

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A Night of Blues at The Tav

Dave Arcari

On Friday 12th October 2012 there was a night of blues music at The Fermain Tavern featuring Dave Arcari, Hevvy Bevvy Blues Band, The Crowman and Robert J Hunter.

You can see my photos from the show over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and part of this review appeared, along with Emily Burden’s review in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 20th October (you can see it below).

I also got some videos that you can see after the review.

Review

While I am well aware that most (if not all) of the music I listen to a regular basis has at least one ancestral foot in the blues, by itself it is a genre I generally find hard to get into when presented in the form of an entire night of live blues music.

Tonight at The Fermain Tavern, however, the varied line up of four acts seemed to be the sort of thing that should make for a great night regardless as to the blues tag.

Robert J Hunter

Robert J Hunter was first on stage armed with his acoustic guitar this evening and, as ever, he played a great set based largely around his own songs, with a few choice covers of more traditional blues numbers.

The first half of Robert’s set was what we’ve come to expect from him but it was when he swapped guitars that we got to see a new side of his sound. With a bottleneck slide on his finger Robert played a few numbers based around slide guitar which, though new to his set, sounded just as good and fit right in with his more well-known material.

With the audience steadily growing throughout his set it seemed Robert won a lot of new fans tonight as well as adding a new string to his bow for those of us who’ve long known of his talents.

After some more blues and roots tunes from DJ Patrick Devaney it was time for the steampunk garage folk racket of The Crowman.

The Crowman

Starting off his set with a selection of songs featuring “Fiddling Pixie” Emma Weldon on the fiddle The Crowman started his set in a slightly slower fashion than sometimes.

As things moved on though both ‘Crowie’ and Emma were soon hitting their stride though and the set’s folkier portion ended with the two sparking off one another in fine form.

Then The Crowman plugged in his resonator guitar and cranked up the overdrive on his Tiny Terror to create a sound that can only be described as PsychoFolk as he tore through Lucifer Lady and a brand new original song while sending a monitor flying from the stage and drawing the now busy Tavern crowd in and leaving them on a real high.

Arguably the show’s headliner was up next in the form of Scottish alternative bluesman Dave Arcari.

Armed with three resonator guitars, a pint and a whiskey Dave also started his set with some slower numbers, but all infused with something of a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility behind the blues. Playing bottleneck slide style throughout he came across as something of a demented hybrid of Seasick Steve, Jack White and Hat Fitz.

Dave Arcari

While the slower songs took a while for the set to warm up, but as it rolled along both Dave’s energy and evident musicianship really drew the crowd in and as he picked up his black resonator and hit the overdrive pedal the audience seemed to really perk up with some starting to move to the music.

After a well deserved encore Dave Arcari left the Fermain crowd buzzing tonight and left me wondering if he’d had a past in a metal band, as he certainly seems to have more than a hint of that hidden behind his unique take on the blues.

Following all these great solo (or semi-solo) musicians tonight, things were rounded up by the Hevvy Bevvy Blues Band. This was my first chance to see this band who I heard a lot about since they got together a year or so ago.

Hevvy Bevvy Blues Band

From the start it was clear that this five-piece were going to be a very different prospect from the other acts this evening and from the start the floor in front of the stage was packed with people looking to dance.

They were certainly not disappointed as the combination of Shaun Broughton’s charisma and vocal delivery and Dave Chatfield’s screaming blues harp was certainly the perfect combination of blues and pop to get people moving.

Across the set the band covered many blues standards and showed themselves to be a great party style band. However, for me I couldn’t help feeling that after the three other acts tonight Hevvy Bevvy’s schtick had a bit too much of the cabaret and not quite enough of ‘the blues’ for my tastes.

But, to be honest, on a night like this that is a small personal quibble, as the busy Tavern was rocking til the bitter end and Hevvy Bevvy certainly rounded off a varied night of blues music in a way that reminded that certainly the music I love owes more than a small debt to the classic style of music named after a colour.

Scan of my review of the Hevvy Bevvy Blues Band from the Guernsey Press on 20th October 2012.

Someone else also got some videos so here’s a link to one of theirs of the Hevvy Bevvy Blues Band:

Photos by Tom Girard courtesy of BBC Introducing Guernsey

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Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols: Deluxe Edition

35 years on the Sex Pistol’s iconic debut gets the remaster/deluxe edition treatment to great effect.

I’m aware that 35 years after its initial release there may not be much point looking too critically at Never Mind The Bollocks as it has be assessed and re-assessed time after time over those three and a half decades.

But anyway here are my two cents, though I will try to focus on the remaster and deluxe edition more specifically.

Since I first heard the album, or in fact since I first heard single Pretty Vacant on TOTP2 sometime in the mid-90s, I have very much liked the sound the Pistols created in their heyday and, while they may not have put out the first punk records, or, arguably, been the ‘most punk’ of the first wave of British Punk bands, their debut remains probably the largest touchstone of the genre on this side of the atlantic.

Throughout the album is filled with a fast and harsh pop/rock ‘n’ roll hybrid over which the band’s real trademark, Johnny Rotten’s sneering vocals, give us an early version of the socially aware punk rock that was to be expanded upon in various directions (from street to anarcho) over the coming years.

What this remastered version of the album really does is bring out a lot of the sound that was lost, or was certainly largely inaudible, on the previous CD edition of the album. So we get to hear not only Rotten’s vocals, but also the music behind it, in a much clearer way than previously.

What it shows is the actual talent and songwriting that was at work behind the press coverage and controversy and shows why the album has endured long after many of its contemporaries have been forgotten.

On this edition, along with the original album we get the b-sides to the singles most of which sit well beside the rest of the record, though show why they are b-sides as they are generally the less memorable cuts.

One however stands out from the pack, the Pistol’s cover of The Stooges proto-punk classic No Fun. While the band remain their usual tight selves that they are across the rest of the record (including Glen Matlock on bass here), it is again Rotten that stands out as his vocal performance here, and the production of it, hints at what was to come after the Pistols as he went on to form Public Image Ltd.

The deluxe set also comes with a second disc containing a full live show, recorded in Stockholm in July 1977 and three songs from a show in Penzance in September ’77.

While the Penzance material is sonically poor, it does still give a sense of some of the chaos that followed the band on tour with Rotten telling the audience to stop spitting and announcing the band are playing Anarchy In The UK for a second time and not messing it up this time.

The Stockholm show is something of a slicker affair, despite it featuring Sid Vicious on bass, and, like the remastered album, shows that the band actually had a set of solid poppy rock ‘n’ roll songs behind the controversy and rhetoric.

While I’m sure many will already own a previous copy of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, this remaster deluxe edition is none-the-less something of a must have as the sonically cleaned up versions of the original recordings sound great and give the songs a new vitality without losing any of the power they have always possessed.

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The Walking Dead: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

Season two of the zombie survival TV show ups the stakes in every sense as it heads towards a spectacular and shocking finale.

As we head towards the premiere of season three of The Walking Dead I thought it appropriate to revisit the second season of the show.

While season one had been entertaining it did seem to drag in the middle part and at only six episodes long this had been a concern as season expanded to 13 episodes, however the writers seem to have over come this and given us a well balanced season that balances shocks and horror with the groups human drama while constantly building to the series inevitable dramatic conclusion.

Once again the thing that really stands out on season two of The Walking Dead is the production values, particularly in terms of the make up effects, as we get to see literally hordes of the undead all unique and all suitably gruesome.

Credit for this has to go to Greg Nicotero and his team who return from season one and, having made his name on Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and George A Romero’s Diary of the Dead, Nicotero seems to have the knack of creating zombies that manage to be at once terrifying while also showing that they were once a human being.

Not only is it the individual zombie design, but also the realization of some of the writers more gruesome ideas, that really stands out as in this season we see a zombie hanging from a tree with his lower legs eaten off and a geek forcing its way through a glass windscreen (amongst many other gruesome sights) which are spectacularly realised.

Away from the make up effects the cast, initially streamlined and then bolstered, seem to be much more relatable now that we know the characters and so we are deeply involved with them from the off as tragedy after tragedy strikes and they go from the remains of the CDC to find some level of respite on a rural farm.

Alongside this we also a further development of the characters reactions to the apocalypse and, while these sometimes head in clichéd or archetypal areas, they remain interesting and certainly in season two some characters gain an extra depth and identity which lifts them from their background roles in season one.

As the season continues new characters come and go and again the more permanent of the new characters seem better drawn than their season one counterparts making for a better connection to them and a bigger sense of threat when they fall into peril.

As the series ends we are given a few teasing glimpses at what is to come in season three, and while I don’t want to spoil them for you, all I can say it seems season three will once again up the stakes with some of the comic books most well-regarded characters being added into the fray.

Extra features

Considering this is a three-disc Blu-ray set, with one disc entirely set over to extra features, they feel somewhat sparse.

What we get are a bunch of deleted scenes ranging from a few seconds long to whole new locations, but all of them really are hugely unessential. The best of the bunch sees Dale stumble upon a radio station broadcasting a preacher type voice telling anyone who might be listening why it was the fault of society that the dead had risen as a punishment from God – while Dale’s reaction to this is interesting and adds an extra element to his character, it is far from being anything that adds to his character later in the series.

Alongside the deleted scenes are a series of featurettes, most of which add little to the background work on the show. A couple however are relatively interesting as we get to see how some of the sound effects are made by the show’s foley team, how the score is put together and how the writers adapt the comic for the screen and their reason for some of their choices (in general terms).

While this isn’t a stunning set of extra content, it does add a few things to the show and, along with season two’s generally more consistent offering that season one, I’m very much looking forward to see what happens to our ‘survivours’ as they head to their next challenges.

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