Monthly Archives: December 2013

[Spunge] – Greatest Hit…s

Spunge - Greatest HitsOne of the main styles of music I was into when I was first seriously getting into listening to stuff was ska-punk – mostly the American stuff from the likes of Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and their ilk – and, while it has not always been on hard rotation on my stereo/CD player/iPod, there has always been something about that odd mixture of sunny punk-pop and bouncy ska that has kept me interested.

So, when one of its top UK exponents, [Spunge], have visited Guernsey over the last few years it has always been a treat and when I saw they were putting out a newly recorded best of album through Pledgemusic this year I just had to get involved.

What the album delivers is exactly what one would expect from [Spunge] with sing-and-bounce-a-long choruses packed tight into great songs that are guaranteed to make you feel good.

[Spunge] live

[Spunge] live

While reflecting the band’s live shows is never going to be possible on record, as its hard to include random drinking competitions and stage invasions on disc, what the album does do is go someway to brining the energy from those shows into your ears.

From the starting point of Lyrical Content their really is no let up and I was bouncing my head as I listened to the record and it was all I could do to not start skanking along (particularly to Skanking Song) as I walked.

SpungeThe collection of songs is really the albums strongest point as, even though I’ve seen them live several times, I don’t own much of [Spunge]’s music, so I was surprised to find that every track here is one I recognised almost straight away, always a good sign for a greatest hits record, and the re-recording of the tracks with the band’s current line up, with a bit of added organ and horn here and there, has served all the songs excellently as many feel even more alive here than they did on the band’s previous best of collection The Story So Far.

Highlights come in the form of the aforementioned Lyrical Content and Skanking Song, as well as Jump On Demand, Kicking Pigeons and great cover of The J. Geils Band’s Centrefold, although as I’ve said there isn’t really a down moment.

[Spunge]

[Spunge] at Chaos 2013

So, whether you’re new to ska-punk, or, like me, reliving old memories (while building new ones) Greatest Hit….s by [Spunge] is a surefire winner of a record that captures just what you’d want it to, though this is a band I would always recommend catching live if you have the chance.

Also, the CD booklet features a few photos taken at Chaos by Andrew Le Poidevin who is a great Guernsey music photographer, so there’s another reason to check it out!

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The Thing (2011)

The Thing 2011 posterFilms made as sequels or prequels to others long after the original are always going to be problematic, and, when they do what The Thing does, it heightens these problems further.

Ok, maybe that sounds a bit negative to start off, and Matthijs van Heijningen’s 2011 horror The Thing is far from being a bad movie. Throughout it is, in its best moments, genuinely suspenseful, shocking and generally inventive as it tells the story of a team of scientists holed up in a research station in the Antarctic after they discover what seems to be a crashed alien spacecraft, and the remains of its inhabitants.

If you have seen John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name, this is all stuff we already know, and throughout this movie pays homage to that earlier ‘version’ of The Thing. But it does manage to stand on its own legs as a horror movie as well with a paranoid, haunted house feeling that builds up to mostly satisfying denouement, and then in the credits links us to where the earlier movie came in.

The Thing 2011Unfortunately what the movie fails to do is really give any sense that it is a story that needed to be told. I am not someone who holds Carpenter’s film in high reverence, it is good and I understand why it has a place in the horror canon, but, coming to it later, it is no Halloween, and upon watching it I never had a feeling that going back and seeing what happened before was necessary.

What doing this did was somewhat spoil the sense of mystery that the Carpenter movie had. In not knowing more precise details of the monster and what had happened at the Norwegian base, that film had a greater level of suspense than this one and telling that story now, spoils something of that unknowing.

The Thing 2011 - two faceAlso what the 2011 version does in many scenes is use beats and moments from the Carpenter version with a slight twist and, while this pays homage to the original, it does give the impression that, really, what Heijiningen and his team wanted to create was a remake, but instead made a prequel, and one that doesn’t quite have the same inventiveness of its predecessor.

That said the monsters here do generally look good and expand on the excellent designs of Carpenter’s movie in suitable ways with them growing larger and, with the aid of CGI, more inventively gruesome. But, by being CGI there are a few points where they lose the immediate sense of body horror some of the monsters in the original managed and it took me more out of the film than I would have liked.

So, while this version of The Thing is far from bad, and if you like paranoid horror movies with a bit, but not too much, gore, then this is certainly well worth a watch, for me it just seemed to stand far too much in the shadow of John Carpenter’s version to be truly satisfying.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: December 2013 – Lifejacket, Ukuladeez, 2013 review

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

For the December 2013 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I, for the most part of the show, took a look back at some songs from bands and artists who had made a splash in 2013, including highlights from acoustic sessions recorded specially for the show.

As well as that though I took a look ahead to the new year with an interview with Lifejacket, who are currently working on their first proper recordings, and a session from Ukuladeez who will be releasing their debut album early in 2014.

The show was broadcast on Saturday 28th December and is available online for seven days either through the BBC Guernsey website or the BBC iPlayer.

Tracklist

You can also read my review of the year that was published in the Guernsey Press on the same day here.

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Music in Guernsey – review of the year 2013

The Recks at the Vale Earth Fair

The Recks at the Vale Earth Fair

On Saturday 28th December 2013 my review of the year for music in Guernsey was published in The Guernsey Press.

Limiting it to only 800 words was a challenge so it really is a highlights of the highlights kind of thing but there was honourable mention for The Recks, Last of the Light Brigade, Of Empires, Teaspoonriverneck, Twelve Tribe Mansion, SugarSlam, Insurrection, The John Wesley Stone, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine, Tonight The Skies, Twelve Ton Trouble, Buffalo Huddleston, Wilko Johnson, The Killing Floor, Thee Jenerators, [spunge], The Correspondents, Lifejacket and Bright_Lights.

Also mentioned were the big events Sark Folk Festival, Chaos, The Peace Tent, Vale Earth Fair and The Get Down.

Anyway, here is the review, and below are links to my full reviews of the events and albums it mentions:

Review of the year 2013 scan - 28:12:13Full reviews:

And here are some videos I got at gigs this year (these are mostly from the first half of the year) you can find more videos from various gigs on Guernsey Gigs‘ and Plumb‘s YouTube channels:

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Watchmen: Director’s Cut

Watchmen PosterHaving seen the theatrical cut of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen several times I thought it time I investigate the Director’s Cut version of the movie – not the Ultimate Cut which adds another 26 minutes on top of the 186 minute version I’m discussing here.

As the film that must have been a major contributory factor in Snyder landing the job of directing Man of Steel it is odd quite how different the two films are, for films based on comic book origins.

While Man of Steel predominantly tries to place its super-characters in a ‘real’ world, from the start Watchmen, taking its cue from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons tour-de-force comic, is very much set in a stylised world of mid-80s America where Nixon is still president and super heroes are real, and it is here that the film finds one of its major triumphs.

watchmen on setIn both the plot of the film and the visual style we are one step away from reality and it is this that makes the film work quite so well so that, as well as being a great action movie, it is also able to do the thing that sci-fi does best of reflecting our reality back at us and commenting on it. Ok, so the comic was better placed and poised to include social and political commentary, but, considering when the film was originally released, in 2009 as tensions surrounding Afghanistan, Iraq and terrorism were still major issues, it still has something to say on this, albeit through a slight extra prism, but I am glad they didn’t try and bring the film up to modern-day and stuck with the mid-80s.

Watchmen - ComedianVisually the film does a lot to mirror the comics and, while in some movies this seems to lumber them with static moments, Snyder seems to have the feel for this just right so we get the feel of the same New York created by Moore and Gibbons, but with a few updates in terms of costume and such that make it a modern motion picture.

The action too reflects this and gives some great, if occasionally extreme, fight scenes and larger set pieces that really satisfy like very few in modern cinema, particularly in the comic book movie genre which has become somewhat stale over the past year or so.

Watchmen - Night Owl and Silk SpectreIn terms of the director’s cut element here what we get is largely extended scenes and extra character moments that just fill in a few blanks from the original that you wouldn’t notice unless you saw this version, so in that regard it is unessential.

However, we also get a few extra moments of world building and mystery building (particularly regarding one of the ‘heroes’) that do add a little extra, particularly for fans of the comic. The Ultimate Edition combines the Tales of the Black Freighter animation with the film (like the comic book comes into the original source) but I find it hard to see how it would work in such an effective way in the film as it does in the comic so, in a way, I am glad that wasn’t included here.

The WatchmenWhile Watchmen seems to have been somewhat lost in the shuffle of Batmen, Avengers and Supermen, on reflection, it stands above all of them as a film that really does get what it’s doing and combines the aesthetic of its source material with being a movie and while Snyder’s Superman may have missed the mark, here he more than shows that he gets this genre, possibly more than the producers behind the scenes.

And simply beacuse I love them and love this song, here’s My Chemical Romance’s version of Desolation Row from the movie’s soundtrack:

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Ginger Wildheart – Albion (Pledge Edition)

Ginger Wildheart BandHaving released the Mutation double album, Hey!Hello! single album and touring with his own and Courtney Love’s bands in 2013 you might have thought that would be enough for anyone making music this year, well, two days before Christmas, Ginger Wildheart released Albion, the latest record released under his own name, and therefore the follow-up to 555%, through Pledgemusic.

Before I go any further my usual caveat on Ginger’s stuff that I am a long time fan and have pledged on this project so I guess that may add a bit of bias in my review, but, I have tried to look on this as evenly as I do any record (see my review of Mutation for proof that I don’t unconditionally love his entire oeuvre). Ginger Wildheart Band

So onto Albion (Pledge Edition) which, at 15 tracks, is five longer than the one that will eventually be released commercially. From the start this album is clearly the follow-up to 555% in every sense and, while it has elements that reflect Ginger’s other output, it is very much the next in the line that began, in full album terms, on Valor Del Corazon.

Albion starts off in typically schizophrenic power-pop/rock style and opener, Drive, had me singing along by the half way point with its catchy hooks which were abruptly thrown into a vicious contrast by the storming blast beats of Cambria.

Victoria Liedtke

Victoria Liedtke

Across the record its clear that, while the songs are all the product of Ginger’s mind, the rest of the band he has put together over the last few years have all had their own input and impact on the record.

This is most notable in the vocals of Victoria Liedtke (the other half of Hey!Hello!), that counterpoint the frontman’s own voice excellently, and Chris Catalyst who’s input has led to a few songs having a strong sense of his song writing in Eureka Machines, this being particularly noticeable on Burn This City Down and adds an extra dynamic to the album’s sound.

Chris Catalyst

Chris Catalyst

This band feel also comes across in the increased presence of the piano and organ on Albion and this adds a real rock ‘n’ roll feeling in places. The Wildhearts had, at times, shown a similar feel, but it is something often missing from modern records and this made me realise what a strong part of rock ‘n’ roll the piano can be.

Amongst the 15 tracks there are certainly a few highlights. First is Chill Motherfucker, Chill which, with the line “Sometimes you’re the shit, other times you’re the pan” shows Ginger still has a unique way with words that, out of context or in the wrong hands, could be laughable but somehow works in his songs. Other highlights are Body Parts, which is an upbeat track that is probably the closest the album comes to a lead single and Beat Goes On, which comes close behind.

Across Albion the production is the best on any Ginger Wildheart album so far and at times the sound is huge with the title track in particular sounding like it’s designed for stadiums, although its acoustic coda shows where the heart and soul of all these songs comes from.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

As with all albums from Ginger there are tracks which, to some, might be overlong, but as a fan they never out stayed their welcome for me and, compared to all of Ginger’s other ‘solo’ albums, this stands above for being generally more controlled, in terms of song and album length, which I think can only be a good thing as it retains its complex moments but in a much more digestible form.

Along with that the album has a much more upbeat feel than many of Ginger’s others which sits better with the pop element of the sound, though that’s not to say there isn’t still an angry streak here which Capital Anxiety shows off in fine form.

In the end, I doubt Albion will win over many new fans, as he seems to be a polarizing musical force at times, but it is the strongest selection released under the Ginger Wildheart moniker to date and, if you like power-pop/rock type sounds I’d strongly advise you to give it a go.

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Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Fermain Tavern – 20/12/13

The DeadBeats

The DeadBeats

The Friday before Christmas is always going to be an odd night for going out, but, considering the Christmas parties and celebrations going on elsewhere a reasonable number turned up early at The Fermain Tavern to see the public debut of new band Francisco.

Mixing covers with a couple of originals the five-piece are certainly not short on confidence and, once they got rolling, certainly seem to be well on the way to having the skills to back this up.

Frontman Jack Sinclair-Stott was all swagger and pose and, while it at times felt a little misplaced as the appreciative audience tended to hang back and he seemed to be addressing an empty dancefloor, it was nice to see in a young band going all out from the off and not just playing the same old covers or style as many others.

Francisco

Francisco

While the band may have somewhat massacred The Undertones classic Teenage Kicks, the rest of the set sounded great and the original numbers showed a lot of promise, particularly the second that had a great indie/garage rock vibe which fit in brilliantly with the rest of the bands on the night.

For a first gig Francisco played a great show and I look forward to seeing what they can do as we head into the new year.

From a new band to one of the more experienced (but still young) bands on the circuit, Last of the Light Brigade started out with a sense of reserved tightness but, as the dancefloor began to fill up they really came to life and seemed to be having more fun on stage than I’ve seen them have in a while.

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

Once again Tyler was in command of proceedings and is growing in this regard with every performance and it is good to hear Waste of a Good Weekend and No Ambition back in the set alongside the newer songs all of which seemed to go down well with the many new faces in attendance.

Following the departure of founding member and long-term guitarist, Steve Lynch, last month, Thee Jenerators were making their first outing with their new line up featuring Andy Sauvage on guitar. While Andy’s presence brought a slightly different vibe on stage, the sound was still exactly what we’ve come to expect as a wall of garage rock noise blasted forth from the stage and PA while Mark Le Gallez was a non-stop dervish of energy as he channeled Lux Interior in his own unpredictable way.

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

It seems the new line up has also given bass player Jo Reeve more licence to rock out on stage and he added yet more energy to proceedings.

Thee Jenerators added yet more new songs to their set tonight and showed that they haven’t slowed down one bit with the recent line up change as they head toward a fifth album in the near future.

It had been almost a year to the day since The DeadBeats last took to the stage and, as ever, they proved to be something of an oft forgotten, hidden gem of a band. Fronted by Bobby Battle, performing like someone who doesn’t care, but making a great sound that belies his attitude, the band are a wild and an untamed thing blasting out grunge in just the way it was meant to be.

This went down very well and, while following Thee Jenerators is never going to be an easy job, it seems for many they were band of the night, and they certainly brought the night to a great close as Christmas was celebrated without much mention of the event itself, which is always refreshing.

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

And here’s the review as it appeared in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 4th January 2014:

Fermain Christmas gig 2013 scan - 4:1:14

Here’s a video of Francisco thanks to Plumb:

And one of Last of the Light Brigade:

And here’s a bit of The Deadbeats:

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An Evening With Edith’s Head – The Doghouse – 14/12/13

Edith's HeadEdith’s Head have been together, on and off, for around 20 years and rounded up 2013, the year they returned to the stage after a lengthy absence, by playing a show at The Doghouse alongside The Id Shade and The Fuzzey Group.

The Doghouse is more commonly known for having a mix of local cover bands and visiting tribute acts grace its stage, so it was nice to see a change of style with three of Guernsey’s most original bands playing there too.

You can see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 21st December 2013:

Ediths Head scan - 21:12:13

And here’s some music from The Id Shade:

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Festive Folkal Point – Fermain Tavern – 6/12/13

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

On Friday 6th December the Sark Folk Festival held their annual Christmas show at The Fermain Tavern with three of the Guernsey bands who have been most well received at the summer festival taking to the stage.

The gig saw performances from The John Wesley Stone (in a three-piece arrangement), The Barley Dogs and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine and, compared to some of the more busy but subdued show the festival have staged in the past, this one was pretty raucous from the off and by the end of the night the dancefloor was packed.

You can see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th December 2013:

Festive Folkal Point scan - 14:12:13

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Stalk The Lantern on BBC Guernsey

Proq at BBC Guernsey

Proq at BBC Guernsey

Following on from my debut musical radio outing last week, today I appeared, along with the other three members of Stalk The Lantern on BBC Guernsey‘s Live and Local session with Jenny Kendall-Tobias.

On the show we spoke a bit about our influences, how the band came together and where the name came from as well as playing acoustic versions of three of our songs; Dust, Walk With Lights and Home.

The session is available to listen to on the BBC Guernsey radio website and through the BBC iPlayer until Friday 20th December 2013 – just click the links above, or here, and scroll through to 2 hours and 38 minutes into the show to listen.

Stalk The Lantern’s next gig will be supporting Thee Jenerators at the De La Rue on 11th January and you can find out more about us on our Facebook page.

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