Monthly Archives: December 2012

Anything Goes at The Fermain Tavern

Sam McKerrel of Twelve Tribe Mansion

Sam McKerrel of Twelve Tribe Mansion

Guernsey based clothes brand Anything Goes Apparel presented a night of live music at The Fermain Tavern on Friday 28th December 2012 – also making it my last gig of the year.

The night featured live music from Twelve Tribe Mansion, From Bedrooms To Backseats, Twelve Ton Trouble and The DeadBeats as well as The Phantom Cosmonaut (aka me) DJing between the live stuff.

As you might expect from those bands it was a varied night but showcased a great selection of the music Guernsey has to offer.

You can see my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page (for a direct link to the gallery click on the photo to the right, if those links work).

Review

So my last gig of 2012 and, following what has been a generally great year for local music, I was hoping things would end on a high.

01 - The Deadbeats

The DeadBeats

First on stage were The DeadBeats – following their entertaining, but largely messy, set here last week I was a bit concerned but, thankfully, a week of practice behind them saw The DeadBeats on much more controlled and proficient form.

While they will probably never be the most controlled band, largely thanks to frontman Bobby Battle’s unique stage presence, their music, which, at its best, combines the energy, power and style of grunge and 90s Brit-rock to create something a bit different, and tonight they hit some fine moments of this.

While I did enjoy their performance it did leave me wondering what they’d be like if they could dedicate themselves to this more rather than just when the members were all back on the island…

James and Rob of Twelve Ton Trouble

James and Rob of Twelve Ton Trouble

Second on the bill was another band who played here last week, but tonight Twelve Ton Trouble had a very different vibe to their performance.

While last week felt like Rob Hunter with a backing band, tonight had the feeling of a leader marshaling his troops for battle, albeit one involving playing some great blues rock tunes.

This extra ‘togetherness’ was really obvious with the guitars of Rob and James Gray, which were playing off each other much more than previously.

Cheese of From Bedrooms To Backseats

Cheese of From Bedrooms To Backseats

Another band who always try and fit a few gigs in when they’re all back on the island, and featuring the organiser of tonight’s show, are From Bedrooms To Backseats.

I’ll be the first to admit I often find their ‘easycore’ style hard to get into and tonight was no different. That said, for the dedicated few at the front it seemed to be a great show and the band were the tightest I remember seeing them in a while, it just all left me with the feeling that it was probably a great show if you were good mates with the band, but that not being such I was maybe missing out on something.

Guitarist Charlie ‘Cheese’ Holmes, however, once again demonstrated himself to be an excellent player and the highlight of the set came when Elmer Henley’s Ben Lickley joined James Radford on vocals for a song and upped the intensity considerably.

Twelve Tribe Mansion

Twelve Tribe Mansion

Finally tonight were a band who never cease to amaze me with their musicianship, Twelve Tribe Mansion.

Once again I was blown away by their “gypsy funk ‘n’ roll” sounds that combine everything from jazz to math rock in a way that flows as if this is the conventional way for the music to go.

It was Sam McKerrell’s guitar and Chris Howitt’s drums that really struck me tonight as they switched tempos, time signatures and styles with a flawless ease that left me wondering not only how they play these tunes, but also how they even remember them (not wishing to discredit Tom Bradshaw’s bass playing, I think there’s just too much to take in with this band in one go).

Saying much more than that about Twelve Tribe Mansion is a challenge, they really do need to be experienced live, but what really made the set for me tonight was seeing the real connection between the band members in their eyes as they hit the more improvised portions of the performance.

As a final live music experience of 2012 Twelve Tribe Mansion certainly ended things on a high and, across the board, 2013 has got a lot to live up to!

Guernsey Gigs were also on hand getting some video evidence of the night which you can see on their YouTube channel.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: Review of the year

BBC Introducing Guernsey - December 2012For the December 2012 episode of BBC Introducing Guernsey I took a look back at the past 12 months in music in Guernsey.

Its been a busy one with four major festivals and more gigs than I care to count bringing everything from black metal to hip hop to folk music to Guernsey’s audiences.

Rather than one two-hour show, this month’s we divided into two one hour-long shows, the first went out on Thursday 27th and the second on Friday 28th.

You can listen to part one here, and here is the track list:

And you can listen to part two here (its starts about 15 minutes in) and here is the track list:

Also included in the original (unaired) version of the show were tracks by Darker Shores and Distant Shores, check them out on Facebook or have a listen here:

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Dune (1984)

Dune posterThis introduction will probably make it clear just how much of a mess the 1984 film of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune is, so here goes: for this review I am referring to the two and a quarter hour cut of the movie, which credits David Lynch as director, rather than the TV cut or extended cut credited to Alan Smithee.

That means, in theory, that this is the nearest to David Lynch’s original vision of the film that was ever released…

I have to admit that due to its part in my process of learning to love movies, I have something of a soft spot for Dune, but also, I am aware of its (many) flaws, so I will do my best to offer a fair review of the movie.

On its release the film was given something of a kicking by critics and audiences and I can entirely see why. From the opening monologue, which is clearly intended to set the scene, we are thrown into a universe at once as complex as that of Lord of the Rings in terms of cultures and A Song of Ice and Fire in terms of characters and noble families and, re-watching the film again, it really didn’t shed much light on the story we are dropped into.

Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides

Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides

From there it gets even more confusing as the plot seems to be at once rushed and very slow paced and often overlooks any element of emotion or sense to move it along so it can fit into its two and a bit hour frame.

As it moves on I don’t think it ever really overcomes this and, for anyone who doesn’t already know the story from the book, I can only imagine it becomes a baffling display of imagery – though I have to admit this is how I’ve felt watching other David Lynch films and could in many ways be a description of Eraserhead or Lost Highway with The Elephant Man arguably being his only mostly conventional work.

The barrage of imagery though is one place where the film does manage to claw back some worth. Produced by Dino Di Laurentiis it does retain something of the aesthetic of his previous endeavours into sci-fi, most notably Flash Gordon, but in a much darker and more luxuriant way.

Kenneth McMillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen

Kenneth McMillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen

With each House in the story represented very much in terms of their associated production design, Dune is very impressive to look at as the militaristic and structured Atreides are reflected by the animalistic and grotesque Harkonnen and the gilded and extremely wealthy Corrinos of the Emperor’s court are reflected by the dirty, dusty and (comparatively) primitive Fremen of Arrakis

It is this description of character through production design, along with the sound design that are the films two most successful elements.

Hall of FremenIt is clear why Dune was nominated for an Academy Award for its sound design from the very opening shot of a star field with a rumbling, penetrating single tone blasting from the speakers.

Across the film this remains, as there is a near constant soundscape, be it music, sound effects or just ambient noise, which leads us, much like the production design, to fill in some of the blanks left by the unfortunately constructed story.

dunefightIn the end Dune is a mess of a movie that doesn’t tell its story in a satisfactory way and leads to general confusion and even its director all but disowning it. Nonetheless it is an interesting thing to see as it lives in a world where Return Of The Jedi had just been released and demonstrates how an ambitious folly can be a remarkable thing, even if its not actually very good.

Apparently there’s a remake in the works and it will be interesting to see if it can wrangle Herbert’s complex epic onto the silver screen or if it will be yet another valiant, but ultimately futile attempt.

There was also an earlier attempt to make Dune into a movie by Alejandro Jodorowsky with productions design from H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Moebius and Salavado Dali, there is some very interesting stuff about this, failed, version of the film on the duneinfo website as well as in the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune.

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Ferox – Insides Out At The Mortuary Gates

Originally released in 2008, Ferox’s debut album has resurfaced on both CD and download formats thanks to new record label Test Type Records.

It is available via Bandcamp here.

I reviewed the album on its original release for BBC Introducing Guernsey and though this would be a chance to revisit that review, so here it is (click on the screen grab below to go to read the whole article):

Ferox review screen grabAt the time of the albums release I also interview the band, made up of Black Star Tattoo‘s Matt Burdett, Pip Blondin and Jonny Holloway, which is still available to read and listen to here (the media in this instance streams as RealMedia but can be played by VLC amongst other software):

Ferox interview grabAnd here’s a little snippet of the band live in their prime:

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The Blues Brothers – Blu-ray edition and extended cut

The Blues Brothers posterOwing to its combination of ‘blues’ (in a very broad sense) music and classic SNL comedians The Blues Brothers has long been a favourite movie of mine, but, until I slid the recently released Blu-ray edition into my PS3, I hadn’t realised there was an extended cut.

Now I have watched the extended cut… well… it is far from essential compared to the original but, as a fan, it is great simply because most of the extended scenes are simply the full versions of songs shortened for the theatrical release.

The movie itself though, whether standard or extended, remains something very special.

The late 70s Saturday Night Live team went on to make quite a few movies in the 1980s with varying success, in fact even Dan Aykroyd (aka Elwood Blues) was in a few of the not so good ones himself, but with The Blues Brothers this team seem to have ridden the razor’s edge of movie making to perfection.

The Blues Brothers

Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

As films go both musicals and comedies seem, to an outsider to the movie-making world, the hardest to pitch right, so combining the two surely is extra hard, but that’s what Aykroyd, John Landis and co did.

While the opening seems to hint that this is the real world, it soon becomes clear, as the Blues Brothers visit their childhood residence and “The Penguin”, that we are actually in a fantasy version of Illinois and its from the set up here that the whole film is allowed to go on its merry way with many surreal and absurd twists without batting an eye lid.

As the leads Aykroyd and John Belushi combine a perfect sense of this absurdism with great cartoon like characters to drive the story ever onwards as they go about their “mission from God” and, as well as great comic performances, their musical side really shines as well, more than I had expected, if I’m totally honest, when I first saw the film.

Aretha Franklin and Matt 'Guitar' Murphy

Aretha Franklin and Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy

Many of the rest of the cast are bit part performances from top-level blues, soul and jazz musicians with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Cab Calloway all providing highlights in this regard.

Its here that, for a fan of the films music, the extended cut comes into its own as we see extended versions of not only their songs but also John Lee Hooker’s ‘busking’ performance (amongst others) that really do make it something extra special for the music lovers.

As the movie heads towards its climax the absurdism ramps up further and the film, in its final third, becomes a thing of bizarre beauty that only the USA could produce, and probably only at the time this was made.

Ray Charles and The Blues Brothers

Ray Charles and The Blues Brothers

So we get a big performance from the band before the car chase to end all car chases heightened by comic artifice to such a degree that, even in this world, it teeters on the precipice of the extreme but never quite goes over the edge.

This leaves the film on a real high that, while structurally it is a little messy, is no doubt a classic comedy and a classic musical all in one and certainly one of the best products of the SNL team of the era, if not ever.

Special features

So, as well as the extended edition, there are a couple of other extra bits on the Blu-ray.

First up is an hour long series of talking heads telling stories about the making of the movie – this may sound like a pretty dry thing but the talking heads are all people with genuinely interesting things to say who were involved in the film.

It also doesn’t seem to fall into the trap of many talking heads extras of people just saying how good each other are and actually talks about the production of the movie in entertaining terms.

The second, shorter, talking heads style doc about the movie, Transposing The Music, is something of a waste of time as it doesn’t really add much more to its longer brother, but seems to be a slightly more recent production and has a few different voices.

The final extra is a short tribute to John Belushi, focusing on his work on The Blues Brothers. While nothing particularly deep or enthralling at 9 minutes it is interesting to hear stories about this man who left such a mark from his short career.

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Vale Earth Fair presents The End Of The World

Heave

Heave

For the supposed End of the World, on Friday 21st December 2012, the Vale Earth Fair Collective held a night of music as only they can at The Fermain Tavern.

With the returning Edith’s Head sharing the stage with relative newcomers Heave, The Deadbeats and Twelve Ton Trouble (along with The Phantom Cosmonaut on DJing duties) its was a varied night of music spanning elements of everything from jazz and blues to heavy metal and grunge, and a lot in between.

I was taking photos for BBC Introducing Guernsey and you can see them on the Facebook page, here.

My review of the gig was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 29th December 2012, and can be read here:

VEF End of the World scan - 29:12:12

I got a video of The Deadbeats:

and Elliott from Guernsey Gigs got this much better video of the epic Heave:

and this one of Edith’s Head:

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Skyfall

Skyfall PosterI may be fairly late to the dance on this one, but here we go, I have, at last, got round to seeing the latest in the James Bond series – Skyfall.

From the start I’m going to say I think this is probably in my top 4 Bond movies (though I’m not sure where in that top 4) alongside Dr. No, Goldfinger and GoldenEye and that is for one major reason that I think has been hampering the series for a while – that of its own logic and ‘universe’.

From the start we are still clearly in the ‘grittier’ world of Daniel Craig’s Bond, as established in Casino Royale, but it is soon evident that is not all, as we get hints of the Bond of old coming through across the movie with various levels of obviousness.

This could end up making for a very imbalanced movie, but, thanks to the deft work of director Sam Mendes, it all holds together excellently and the Goldfinger-esque Aston Martin DB5 is a prime piece of evidence for this (saying more would only lead to major spoilers I’m afraid).

Bond-Skyfall-motorcycle-chase-sceneDespite my overall enjoyment of Skyfall by the end, I will be the first to admit that, following an excellent opening action scene where Bond is involved in a chase across rooftops and onto a train, the film seems to take a while to get going.

Once Bond puts on a tuxedo and heads to a casino, though, things start to pick up and the Bond universe really begins to coalesce in a manner it hasn’t since at least the mid-80s (with the exception of GoldenEye) thanks to the frankly genius inclusion of a pit of Komodo Dragons.

silva skyfallIt’s soon after this that we meet the villain of the piece, Javier Bardem’s Silva, who harks back both to Bond villains of old and another recent iconic screen villain, Heath Ledger’s Joker, to create the most memorable ‘bad guy’ from a Bond movie in a long while.

Silva is another element that seems to solidify something of the ‘new’ Bond universe, which I see as being somewhat less self-conscious than it has been since Roger Moore’s heyday.

What I mean by this is that, while it is undeniably a more realistic world than that of Moore’s era, it has regained something that is undeniably Bond and it doesn’t seem bothered by itself – loosing it’s almost post-modern nature but gaining a lot of confidence with it.

Q and Bond - SkyfallAs well as the villain some new supporting cast members are introduced, alongside Judi Dench’s continually excellent M, in the form of Ben Wishaw’s Q, a new take on the character that seems to combine Matt Smith’s Doctor with Desmond Llewelyn’s classic take on Major Boothroyd and could become a classic character, and Naomi Harris as Eve who sets up a great rapport with 007 from the start in a way I can’t wait to see grow.

With a climactic third act that turns some classic Bond clichés on their head and introduces us to whole new aspects of the character’s past, present and, potentially, future, Skyfall stands apart from its two closest predecessors in a way that really has returned Bond to his pedestal as a current and relevant action hero on his own terms, just as he should be.

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The Nelkons – The Fermain Tavern – 15/12/12

Some videos from a one-off special set the original line of The Nelkons played at The Fermain Tavern, still a favourite band of mine in Guernsey.

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End Of Watch

end-of-watch-posterIt’s always nice to head into a film with no expectations – tonight that’s just what I did as; other than knowing Jake Gyllenahaal was in it and it was about cops I had little idea as to what End Of Watch was about.

In the end I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be an interesting take on a fairly well trodden path of the cop buddy movie, though this wasn’t a buddy movie of the wise-cracking, happy smiling sort, more the “we’re in this together no matter what” sort.

The most notable thing about End Of Watch is certainly its camera work and editing and editor Dody Dom and director David Ayer deserve a lot of praise for wrestling a coherent story from the non-stop ‘hand held’ documentary style shots of Geoffrey Jackobsson.

There were moments where it felt like watching an episode of Cops, though never with the sensationalist tone, and other moments that had a real Cinema Verite vibe to them, but all combined to create a mockumentary/found footage style piece that actually worked.

End-of-Watch_05This style of shooting really worked in convincing that this was a genuine story we were watching unfold and, if it hadn’t been Gyllenhaal, I may have believed that it was real (though as the film went on there were some obviously cinematic sections).

What this style of shooting and editing did was highlight something about how the story unfolded. While every element was in place for a fairly direct narrative it wasn’t at any point rammed down the viewers throat with painful exposition, instead we sat in the car with our two heroes and learnt about their relationship with each other, while watching their lives away from work grow too.

End of WatchThis made the film’s climax, where the one seemingly forced element of the film, a Mexican drug cartel, reared its ugly head all the more effecting, but I won’t say anything more on that for fear of spoilers.

The only real criticism I can find for End Of Watch was that it felt as if it should be making some kind of point. Whether that be social, political or what I’m not sure, but it certainly felt like it meant to say something, but in the end I didn’t really get a clear idea of what this might be which left me with a bit of feeling that this whole film might just be a big PR exercise for the LAPD (albeit not a totally positive one).

endofwatchThe other thing that struck me about the film was its occasionally surprisingly graphic nature both in terms of physical ‘gore’ and what, sadly, seemed to be worryingly real depictions of neglect, though the effect both these things had on our lead duo was expertly handled so as to maintain the verite feel to proceedings.

So in the end, while I struggled to find the purpose behind End Of Watch, it was a great way to spend two hours in a cinema and showed how the ‘found footage’ approach to film can be used to great effect when in capable hands and is certainly one of the best dramatic ‘cop films’ I remember ever seeing.

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Beyond The Mat

Beyond The Mat coverI probably first saw Beyond The Mat, a somewhat infamous (to fans at least), documentary about professional wrestling in 1999 or 2000 as I was getting back into WWE (or then WWF) and exploring further into the worlds of ECW and other independent promotions.

Revisiting it now, 12 or so years on, it remains a striking look at the ‘sport’ and the personalities behind it and, I have to say, it really is far from a positive view.

Across the film director/writer Barry W. Blaustein focuses on a few of the men who have become internationally famous for their involvement with pro-wrestling, Mick Foley, Terry Funk and Jake Roberts, and paints a picture of them as they all stand at different stages of their career.

It gives an insight into the little known backstage world which, at that time at least, still had a lot of the feeling of the travelling carnival it grew from hidden within its façade of big business, or so this film seems to suggest.

Terry Funk

Terry Funk

As a fan of wrestling I find this dichotomy fascinating and while Blaustein never really challenges much of what we are seeing (he is a self-confessed fan too) what we see does raise some questions and provides a few answers – if more by luck than judgement.

If you come to this film for the first time now, and have seen Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, there are some things, particularly in the story of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, which may already be familiar but here we get something approaching the truth of it, particularly from Roberts’ estranged daughter.

Mick Foley and family

Mick Foley and family

While the picture that Beyond The Mat paints of both the wrestlers and their fans isn’t always entirely complementary there is an element of the film that hints that Blaustein himself may not be blameless in constructing some of this view.

Of course I have no proof of this beyond the feeling I get from the film, but there are moments where I wonder if the mere presence of Blaustein’s camera escalates the situations depicted.

This is particularly noticeable during the segment on the Mankind’s (Mick Foley) ‘I Quit’ match with The Rock from the 1999 Royal Rumble where Blaustein follows Foley’s wife and two young children as they watch the, frankly brutal, match and their reaction to it and I couldn’t help but think would Foley have brought them along and would they have stayed in the front row as long as they did if the film camera hadn’t been on them.

Jake 'The Snake' Roberts with a fan

Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts with a fan

But I guess that’s speculation.

In general terms the film doesn’t really feel like a cinematic documentary, rather it almost sits well as an extended edition of the episode of Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends which dealt with the same subject, but in greater detail and with more background knowledge on display.

Its hard for me to say whether Beyond The Mat would be of interest to non-wrestling fans but, as a fan, it is a fascinating look into a now seemingly lost era of attitude in “sports entertainment” and I can’t help but thinking a version of this film now would tell a very different story and that this film may have sparked a lot of those changes.

and just to give you an idea of the I Quit match a few (fan edited) highlights:

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