Monthly Archives: November 2012

BBC Introducing Guernsey: November 2012 – Mike Meinke and Sark Folk Festival

Sarah, Becky and Mike live in the studio

I was back on BBC Guernsey tonight for another two hours of unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar music on BBC Introducing Guernsey.

I may have made little sense in my ramblings, but thankfully my guests Mike Meinke, Sarah Van Vlymen and Becky Hamilton and Simon, Paul and Dave from the Sark Folk Festival were on better form.

You can listen to the show for the next 7 days here and this is what I played:

Track List

And I thought I’d tag this video on too as its a cracking tune – The Killing Floor with Star Baby:

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World War Z by Max Brooks

While they most commonly appear in movies, Max Brooks takes on where most films leave off to create an amazing story of a world clawing itself back from the hell of an undead apocalypse.

With The Walking Dead back on TV and a seemingly never-ending slew of low-budget zombie movies appearing both in cinemas and on DVD it is interesting to find ‘Zacks’ appearing in the form of prose, an area they are not most famous for.

What Brooks does with his exploration of a world ravaged by apocalypse is something that no film could ever hope to do, in that it paints a picture of a world-wide zombie pandemic while still doing the thing that all the best horror movies do of being socially relevant to today.

Set in a very near future that could be tomorrow, World War Z commences with a note from ‘the author’ which sets the scene perfectly explaining we are in a post apocalyptic world that is rebuilding and that the person writing these words is doing his best to chronicle what could otherwise be a lost period of, seemingly, more than a decade of ‘war’.

From there we get a first hand account of the first recorded zombie outbreak in China and the book hits a tempo that it never drops as we are given a series of vignettes from around the world, all delivered in the form of interviews by the author.

At first I worried that this format, where we only meet characters for one chapter and then never hear from them again, might make it hard to identify with the story being told. However, once I was into the swing of the book (and it does swing, in the same way as the best music) this did not matter as I began to gain a general connection with all the characters and their tales (ranging from extreme military situations to very personal family moments).

One such tale that struck most is told by a young woman whose family headed north from the USA into Canada to escape the Z’s only to become trapped in a frozen winter with hints of the huge scale of lawlessness and barbarism growing as the pandemic worsened that has, simply put, haunted me ever since, but for all its its horror story feeling seems to strike amazingly close to home.

As the book goes on we get the story of the military fight back and some more insights into people from all corners of the globe.

What I think works best about World War Z, beyond the gripping story, is how it clearly draws on elements of the international situation of the mid-2000s to make its point about our society, and it has to be said that in many places the picture it paints isn’t all that flattering.

Despite this it still manages to be a brilliantly entertaining book with a very visual edge to it as it paints its picture of a world gone mad. I just hope the upcoming film can live up to this in some way, though I can’t see it working as a direct translation in a major motion picture…

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Marley

One song I clearly remember liking a lot when I first heard it when I was a child was Iron, Lion, Zion. To be honest I’ve no idea why it struck me so, but since then Bob Marley’s music has always sat on the edge of my musical consciousness while always retaining a certain place in there.

Despite this I didn’t really know much about the man himself, or the culture that produced such a distinctive sound, so I came to Marley eager to learn more.

When it comes to his story, it is a fairly simple and well-travelled one, in essence, as it’s a rags to riches tale of a young outcast boy from a very rural background finding fame and fortune and some of the potential troubles he encounters along the way – in this case women and gangsters (though we get the impression that to Marley himself these weren’t too much of a problem, but maybe were to those around him).

Besides the fairly run of the mill story, what is most interesting about Marley is its exploration of the culture that Marley’s music comes from and the cultural impact it had around the world.

Of course a major influence on Marley and his music was religion, in particular the Rastafari movement.

The impression this film gives is that, while Marley himself was influenced early on in his career by the faith as it grew in Jamaica, and he was present when Haile Selassie visited the island, by the time of his death Marley had become such a figure in Jamaican and Rastafari culture his funeral was treated much like the visit of the Ethiopian Emperor.

Having been made with the direct involvement of Marley’s family leads me to a certain amount of skepticism with this story, but the archive footage of the funeral does certainly demonstrate how much of a revered figure he was in his home country.

The brief exploration of some of the main features of Rastafarianism and its relationship to Selassie was certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the film as this is, something I had previously heard of but had no understanding of, and that the belief that Revelations discusses a type of music that will spread around the world, of course here believed to be reggae, quickly and easily explains why there is such a strong link between the faith and the music and, therefore, arguable the most internationally successful reggae artist ever, Bob Marley.

The other major aspect the film deals with feels, in comparison, a little bit soap opera, as we hear about and form some of the women Marley had relationships with (seemingly most while married to his wife Rita).

What this shows is an odd aspect that again relates back to the religion and, more so, to the spread and promotion of Jamaican culture that Marley seemed to embody, as his wife says she looked past it as she saw how important his work and music were and, towards the end, she says she even brought together as many of his children as she could to take them to Miami to see Bob just before he died – if anything this demonstrates a huge strength in her character while saying something that is left ambiguous about Marley’s.

Production-wise Marley is a slightly odd film. While it is clearly a fairly high budget production that travels the world and is shot very well there are some elements, which were reminiscent of some amateur documentaries I have seen over the years, particularly in the use of captions.

This is an odd thing as most mainstream, high-end, documentaries these days will use the visuals and the interviewees to explain things without extra captions as this feels like something of an old-fashioned device and at times, particularly at the start of the film, they did take me out of the movie a little bit more than I would have liked.

While Marley certainly is an interesting movie, and sheds light on the life and culture of a performer who had always had a place in my musical life (albeit one I can’t exactly nail down), it also suffers from a couple of problems mostly based on trying to tell us too much and therefore is a little on the long side for a casual viewer (which I consider myself here) and at times seems to become a bit of a structural mess.

However, in its best moments it is enthralling and enlightening and certainly shows how such an outcast boy from rural Jamaica managed to spread a message, and more importantly his music, to the entire world.

And here’s Iron, Lion, Zion:

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The Festival of Steel

Hellfighter at The Festival of Steel

Guernsey power metallers Nemesis staged the first “Festival of Steel” at The Fermain Tavern in Guernsey on Saturday 17th November 2012 along with Dead Wing and Hellfighter.

Dead Wing kicked the show off with a selection of original stoner metal that was also their best set to date, followed by the undeniable heroes of the night, Nemesis. Things were rounded off by Hellfighter making their Guernsey debut off the back of building a reputation around the UK and Europe for their modern hybrid metal sound that combines NWOBHM with 90’s metalcore.

You can check out my photos from the Festival of Steel on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page (click here or on the photo).

My review of the gig was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 24th November 2012:

And here are a few videos of the show from Elliot at Guernsey Gigs and Rod Gavey:

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Thee Jenerators, SugarSlam and The OK at The Fermain Tavern

Steve and Mark of Thee Jenerators

On Friday 16th November The OK made their live debut with a gig at The Fermain Tavern supporting a pair of veteran bands; Thee Jenerators and SugarSlam.

The OK may have brought most of the crowd with them but those who stuck around for the later bands certainly seemed to get into the swing of things with the room bouncing, skanking and generally moving to the psychedelic garage rock of Thee Jenerators.

You can see my full gallery of photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here or on the photo.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1st December:

The OK, SugarSlam and Thee Jenerators scan - 1:12:12

And here are few videos, first is my video of DTS by SugarSlam:

And this is Thee Jenerators, recorded by Plumb:

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Portinfer and Hellfigther in Gallery Magazine

For the November issue of the Guernsey edition of Gallery Magazine I took a look at two new albums both with a direct connection to the island.

First was the debut from an act called Portinfer, but more likely known to those in Guernsey as Ben Hinshaw. Having played with Our Sleepwalking Hero in the mid 2000s Ben has since moved to the UK and now California but has kept on his own acoustic music projects and this is the culmination of his latest work.

Secondly is Hellfighter, fronted by Simon Gordon who used to be a Guernsey resident and may well be known from his time front Thousand Points of Hate. Hellfighter sees him team up with some of his former band mates from Xentrix to create some great heavy metal.

Anyway, full reviews can be read in the online edition of the magazine, or below:

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Suspiria

A surreal nightmare vision that combines extreme gore with extreme music to create a film that has clearly influenced horror cinema ever since.

Before sliding in the Blu-ray and sitting down to Dario Argento’s Suspiria last night I did have a few expectations; first was that it would be bloody in a Grand Guignol sort of style and second was that it may not make a huge amount of logical sense.

Well, on both counts I was certainly correct, and that is something of an understatement.

Plot-wise it essentially tells the tale of a young woman moving to a new town and experiencing some bizarre goings on to do with the supernatural, but, in Suspiria plot is really not the main thing we are watching.

As soon as out protagonist arrives at her new home, a dance academy in Munich, it is as if she has stepped into another world, which we experience through the use of some extraordinary set design and music.

The sets are what first strike, mostly for their heightened colour schemes, often reds and blues, which verge on the headache inducing, or their over cramped print patterns, which look as if they are spoofing 1970s fashions but actually must be reflecting it and using to create an uneasy sense in the audience as the film was made in the mid 70s.

The design sets one’s nerves on edge from the off as not only is the colour scheme absurd but the architecture and physical geography of the sets have something of the feel of a combination of Dali and Escher which makes for a very claustrophobic and trapping feeling which I certainly felt from both the school and the flats we see in the movie and is clearly reflective of the feelings of our heroine and her ill-fated predecessor.

On top of the visual design the audio builds on this with regular Argento collaborators, Goblin, providing Suspiria’s demented soundtrack.

From our arrival, and it genuinely does feel like our arrival rather than just the character’s, at the school the music becomes a somewhat clashing and discordant experience which, in some scenes, is almost the only thing providing a sense of threat and really serves to create the unnerving atmosphere of the whole film, particularly with the demonic sounding choir chanting throughout.

It’s almost as if the music is present in the world of the film, just on the edge of the character’s perception and we are getting an extra loud dose of it.

When it comes to the gore I was expecting, it wasn’t as much wall to wall blood and guts as I thought it would be, however, when it did come it more than made up for it with the fate of a couple of the school’s students raising the gore game to a couple of impressive crescendos which produced some more imagery that is likely to stay with me for a while.

All of this comes together to create something that is possibly more experience than movie, but listening to interviews with Argento this may well be more what he was trying to achieve, and its impact on horror cinema that was to come after is undeniable.

There are moments in The Evil Dead that clearly not just borrow, but essentially steal, from Suspiria and even a great master director like Kubrick seems to have been effected as the design of The Shining seems to owe a lot to the school here and many smaller moments and features of horror movies right up to today have been influenced, either directly or not, by Argento’s nightmare vision.

Films that are heralded as much as Suspiria for their impact on cinema are often a disappointment when experienced first hand, however, I am happy to say that this is certainly not in that camp, as it is both a great document for those interested in the history of horror and a fantastic film in its own right that is at once both disturbing and fascinating.

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Looper

Films and TV shows centering on time travel are notoriously tricky affairs, dealing with the logic issues that can be brought up by characters shuffling through time often leads to a distraction that overpowers the film.

Other films and shows get around it in different ways; Back To The Future uses it to drive the plot, while Doctor Who puts things down to rather simplified phrase “Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey” – Looper, however, overcomes this through a brilliant conversation between our ‘hero’ Joe and his older self where the older, played excellently by Bruce Willis, essentially instructs himself to not ask too many questions and, with that out the way, the film continues and never looks back.

Well that’s the time travel issue dealt with, onto the rest of the movie.

Looper is both a “proper sci-fi” movie and a “proper action” movie melded into one, but in a way unlike most of the sci-fi actioners coming out of Hollywood in that it doesn’t all culminate in a big fight between a bunch of computer generated robots/superheroes/creatures.

From the start we are dropped into a highly believable near future (2044 to be exact) where the US has undergone economic collapse and, at least the city we see, is in the clutches of organised crime with all those not associated with it in some way living on the streets.

In this future it seems everyone is armed with at least a shotgun and think nothing of shooting someone down in the street for stealing their luggage.

This future world is realised in fantastic style by director Rian Johnson, his production designer Ed Verreaux and artistic director James A Gelarden so, rather than something incomprehensible, we get a very familiar world with cars we see on the streets today, just battered and patched up, alongside a few hints that this isn’t today, such as one of the looper’s hover bike and the occasional air ship like vehicle hanging in the sky.

What I think makes this future world so beautifully realised is that, other than the parts essential to the plot, we are not mired in exposition about what’s going on. Beyond a brief introductory voiceover from Joe, we are left to see this world and find out about it through the visuals rather than clunky dialogue, which is a refreshing change for a relatively mainstream movie.

Away from the production design Looper also has a clear vision of what it is, another thing that blockbuster culture seems to have lost as it tries to appeal to the widest possible audience.

What we get here is a film that very obviously knows its sci-fi and its action, and specifically its Bruce Willis action movies, so we get nods and references to some classics, such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind alongside dialogue that seems written for a classic Willis tough guy character.

This tough guy character is highlighted through an astonishing, if at times unnerving, acting and make up job from and on Joseph Gordon-Levitt where he seems to channel Willis’ essence while still remaining his own self.

Plot wise the film certainly teeters on the edge of incredulous (even in terms of its own logic) and did leave me with the thought that their may be one unresolved plot hole caused by the time travel, but that is easily looked over as this is such a delight of a film that sucked me into its world and pulled me along with it on what is a well paced action movie with some nice sci-fi ideas and some interesting plot twists and turns that lead to a satisfying conclusion that left me with the notion that this was, in essence, one feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone (and I mean that in the best way possible).

And well, why not…

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Twelve Tribe Mansion on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Guernsey based gypsy funk ‘n’ rollers Twelve Tribe Mansion on the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show.

Here is my article on the band for BBC Introducing Guernsey (click on the screen grab to read the whole thing):

Here is a video of Twelve Tribe Mansion playing at the Vale Earth Fair this summer to give you an idea of what they do (video by Guernsey Gigs):

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Futureshock present: Jonny Lives!, The Killing Floor, The Inevitable Pinhole Burns, Of Empires and SugarSlam

Jonny Lives!

For their latest show local promoters Futureshock presented a varied night spanning a wide breadth of rock ‘n’ roll music featuring bands from New York, London and Guernsey at The Fermain Tavern.

The bands were quite a line up with New Yorkers Jonny Lives! and The Killing Floor, who are touring the UK as I type joining The Inevitable Pinhole Burns who, though based in London, feature a couple of Guernsey boys amongst their number and Guernsey duo of blues-rockers Of Empires and grunge rockers SugarSlam.

The visitors seemed to go down pretty well with the Fermain crowd and the locals once again showed the quality of their music when faced with international level acts.

My full review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 10th November, and you can read it here:

In the meantime you can check out my photos on the night by clicking on the photo above or by going to the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

I wasn’t able to get any videos on the night but SugarSlam frontman Plumb got a few which you can see on his YouTube channel and here:

Photo by Tom Girard, courtesy BBC Introducing Guernsey

Bonus bit:

And just because I love the song and Jonny Lives! played a cover it at the show in their encore, here is The Jim Carroll Band with People Who Died:

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