Monthly Archives: January 2016

BBC Introducing Guernsey: January 2016 – Robert J Hunter and Flexagon

Robert J. Hunter on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Robert J. Hunter

Click here to listen to the show

A new year on BBC Introducing Guernsey started with a lot of new music spanning everything from folky jangliness to raw hip hop to dirty blues to psytrance.

The dirty blues came from Robert J. Hunter who came into the studio to record a four track acoustic session and tell me about his second album, Before The Dawn, and the release of a pair of new EPs coming up in the very near future.

Flexagon provided the psytrance and Goa style sounds as he told us about his debut album Helios and we premiered a new track of his remixing BLAKALASKA‘s Machine.

As well as that there was new music from Atari, Ukuladeez, Citizen-X and Ramblin’ Nick Mann and we took at listen to the three artists nominated for the Guernsey Ambassador of the Year Award; mura masa, Of Empires and Robyn Sherwell.

Click here to listen to the show or download it on the BBC iPlayer Radio App


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The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight posterHeading into the film billed as ‘The 8th Film From Quentin Tarantino’ it was inevitable that a lot of questions would be floating around The Hateful Eight. While I have enjoyed all his movies, its hard to argue that he peaked way back in 1994 with Pulp Fiction and, with this coming with the extra added bonus/burden of being shot and screened in 70mm Ultra Panavision/Cinerama and in a so-called ‘roadshow’ format.

Of course, not all screenings feature the ‘roadshow’ edition with the 70mm projection, not many cinemas are equipped to deal with such, but either way, I couldn’t help but wonder if all of this paraphernalia might be designed to distract from what was actually on screen.

That said, as I headed into the Odeon Leicester Square’s huge ‘Premier’ screen, it was hard not to feel a sense of anticipation. This was only further heightened as the lights dimmed and the vintage, stylised image of snow-capped mountains and a stage-coach, along with the word ‘Overture’, appeared on screen and Ennio Morricone’s specially written intro music blared from the speakers.

After some typically Tarantino opening titles that set the stage of this being not only an attempt at evoking elements of Leone’s ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ but also Tarantino’s own big budget exploitation movies, we get some genuinely fantastic snow-covered vistas introducing us to the semi-mythical winter mountains where we will spend the next three hours.

Kurt Russell and Samuel L Jackson in The Hateful Eight

Russell and Jackson

As the name suggests the main body of the cast is something of an ensemble, but it is the first two major players we meet who really lead the pack, in the form of Major Marquis Warren, aka The Bounty Hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Ruth, aka The Hangman (Kurt Russell).

As soon as these two begin their discussions its clear that, while the settings may change, there’s no mistaking Tarantino’s unique dialogue and we are firmly in his universe once more.

As we meet Daisy Domergue, aka The Prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Chris Mannix, aka The Sheriff (Walton Goggins) more of the Tarantinoisms come to light with the typical controversial language and a particularly nasty streak of violence directed at Domergue. Coming from one of the characters who seems to be the movie’s hero these are shocking and brutal, though as the film continues and we realise the title certainly holds true, and the violence is, at least, in keeping with the character and some level of comeuppance is had.

Tim Roth, Kurt Russel and Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Roth, Russell and Leigh

Following some more impressive landscapes we arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery where we meet the rest of the titular cast and, thanks to a convenient blizzard, all are marooned on their journey and things take on something of the feel of a period set Reservoir Dogs with the players stuck in kind of limbo.

It’s while at the Haberdashery that the ingenious use of the 70mm format really comes into play as we are constantly aware of the finite confines of the location that really helps in building the pervading sense of isolation and paranoia needed to drive the plot.

As the paranoia and uncertainties pile up Jackson really takes the lead and is hugely impressive. He manages to do what many struggle with in taking Tarantino’s cartoonish characters and dialogue and imbuing them with a real genuine presence that here plays on ideas of racial tension (somewhat fitting for current real world political events, though that feels coincidental) as well as building a kind of analytical streak for the character that really pays off as the film goes on.

Tim Roth and Walton Goggins in The Hateful Eight

Roth and Goggins

In the roadshow edition an intermission cuts the action on a real cliffhanger and, along with the overture, added to the sense of this being something special and a cinema event like few others.

15 minutes later, following another mini-overture to get us back in the right mood, we get a recap voiced in knowing style by Tarantino that reveals a fairly major plot point and I’m interested to see the movie in a more standard screening to see how this is dealt with without the intermission.

With the paranoia and tension suitably elevated things descend into a fairly typical Tarantino style Grand Guignol Danse Macabre. Every time I thought it might become predictable some twist or other came to play and it managed to balance this to lead to satisfying dénouement that lived up to the title’s suggestions excellently.

Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight

Samuel L. Jackson

While surrounded by much pomp and circumstance The Hateful Eight is just what you’d expect it to be from Tarantino as it plays with cinematic cliché and convention with a rich seam of knowing exploitation and controversy baiting violence and language.

Along with that Jackson and Russell steal the show while all the other members play their parts in solid fashion with Goggins and Tim Roth as other standouts in that regard.

In all though it once again feels like simply just another Quentin Tarantino film with him almost playing to his own reputation rather than building on it. So, while enjoyable and in places technically impressive, its falls short of his best, but I’d say stands strong alongside Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained and Reservoir Dogs in his second tier of films.

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Highly Suspect, Of Empires, Critics – The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch – 27/01/16

Highly Suspect, Of Empires, Critics - posterHeading out to The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch on a Wednesday night I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Despite having been to plenty of shows at bigger venues, from the Mean Fiddler (under the old Astoria) to the O2 arena, I had never been to a London pub gig.

Upon arriving I found a surprisingly authentic, old-fashioned looking pub, that despite the overly trendy looking clientele, looked like it had been there for decades (if not more) and it was instantly obvious the night’s live music would be taking place in a separate room upstairs.

Heading up the narrow old staircase I emerged into a dark room packed with, at a guess, just over a hundred people, stood watching and listening to Critics who were midway through their set. The London-based band, who are set to support Theory of a Deadman in the near future, delivered a selection of bass and groove driven pop-rock with a good layer of synth included.

Frontman, Lynn Paignton, displayed a friendly charisma in his performance that was confident but not over bearing while bass player Carl Warren delivered the grooves with an admirable cool, smoothness. This all combined into something the crowd in the busy venue really seemed to be enjoying.



As the bands switched over, not an easy task with the only way on and off the stage being off the front into the crowd, it was interesting to see many of the audience stay put, waiting expectantly for the next band to start, not something commonly seen at pub gigs in Guernsey where drawing the audience away from the bar is often a big challenge.

Having seen them many times on their home turf, I was interested to see Of Empires in front of a less familiar crowd, and it was clear from the start that this wasn’t phasing the four-piece at all as they launched into a set made up almost entirely of new material. The new songs continued the band’s development with their cool, slick, rock ‘n’ roll swagger now being matched entirely by the music.

Liam Bewey and George Le Page, as the engine room-like rhythm section, may have provided the power but much of the essence of what makes Of Empires sound came from Matthew Berry’s dexterous, reverb laden, vintage guitar sounds that bring to mind a slowed down version of classic rock ‘n’ roll mixed with something of The Doors and 60s counter-culture vibes.

Of Empires

Of Empires

As always their stage presence is focused and transmitted through frontman Jack Fletcher, who, despite the small stage had all the stances, shapes and poses you’d expect to see from someone like Bono in a stadium, but in this case all driven with a barely contained frantic feel that proved infectious.

While the audience’s response to Of Empires started positive but polite it grew as the set went on and by the time it came to middle-eight of Carla Jack had many singing back to him, ending the set on a high, suggesting this could be a band on the brink of taking the next step.

Despite the positive reception afforded the two opening acts it was clear, as the already busy and hot venue, filled up even more, that many had come out to see the headliners, Brooklyn three-piece, Highly Suspect.

From the start the trio came on with a soulful power in their mix of blues, garage and rock ‘n’ roll, tinged with the infectious energy of punk. Even though this marked their first appearance in London the crowd were clearly already familiar with the band and this gave guitarist/lead vocalist Johnny Stevens already positive stage presence an extra boost.

Highly Suspect

Highly Suspect

Stevens’ jagged and fractured punk-blues guitar brought to mind the likes of Jack White but with an extra speed and intensity which was nicely offset by Rich Meyer’s smooth, progressive bass lines all backed by the strong, thundering drums of Ryan Meyer that brought to mind Teaspoonriverneck’s Brett Stewart.

As the set went on Highly Suspect showed a real dynamic sense to their music with more traditional power trio blues (featuring a lead vocal turn from bassist Meyer) along with a semi-solo track from Stevens that showed a dark side within the band’s positive presence driving home their already honest and authentic feeling.

Having been unsure what to expect at the start of the night I headed back to the tube station having seen three good bands and two stand out performances and, while I assume not every pub gig in London is of such a high-caliber, it certainly was a good one to start of with.

See a few more photos from the show on Facebook

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Sound Guernsey present Lifejacket and Lord Vapour – The Venue – 22/01/16



After hip-hop and reggae last month and punk-ska and folk-hop the one before, things got undeniably more rocky for the third Sound Guernsey live music event for under-18s as they welcomed stoner rockers Lord Vapour and ‘hard-indie’ troupe Lifejacket to their stage at The Venue.

Lord Vapour started things off with their brand of groove fueled, vintage-tinged, rock and immediately seemed to engage the young crowd getting more than a few heads nodding.

With new songs mixed in with those we’ve been hearing for the best part of the last year they have extended their range somewhat to include a slightly broader mix, but it’s certainly the more groove based tracks that work best compared to more the more heavy metal flavoured numbers.

The trio suited the small stage well with Joe Le Long and Christiaan Mariess really rolling with the rhythm on bass and drums, while Henry Fears lead guitar wailed impressively over the top (though his vocal moments were less impressive).

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

As the set went on the audience began to drift somewhat and I’ll be the first to admit that there were points where Lord Vapour’s sound did get a bit ‘same-y’. At just over an hour their set felt over long no matter how well delivered their lose, semi-improvised, jams were.

Far more to the point were Lifejacket who blasted out of the blocks in their usual intense fashion. Seemingly fuelled by a barely contained ire at the world in general, they too grabbed the attention of the crowd and held it in probably a more sustained way.

With a few newer songs laced through the set the trio were at their slickest tonight and there were points where the performance was almost too slick for its own good, losing a bit of the intensity they have at their best. Nonetheless they gained cheers and applause after every song, I think much to their own surprise given the fact this was an audience most of whom had never had the chance to hear them before.



Even with the good response the audience remained largely static and maintained a polite distance from the stage. This is something that has come up time and again with regards to many gigs on the island in recent years (with a few notable exceptions) so its hard to tell if the reason for the lack of interaction from the audience is down to this crowd being less experienced gig goers of if it’s just something to do with audiences in Guernsey in general. It could of course be the music, but all of it seemed to be eliciting a strong positive reaction.

Back to Sound Guernsey though and once again both bands put in great performances that were generally well received and  more youngsters seemed to appreciate what they were experiencing than previously (with the notable exceptions of Buffalo Huddleston’s wildly received set a few months back) and the organisers seemed confident they are now reaching the untapped audience of young music that exist on the island.

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The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and Alan Lovell – The Golden Lion – 09/01/16

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

A couple of weeks ago I headed down to the newly refurbished Golden Lion for a night of busking old-time skiffle street music from The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers.

Being the first weekend properly clear of the holidays the place was packed with many hoping to escape the cabin fever the festive period can bring on and the Skillet Lickers music was a perfect accompaniment to this.

Along with them Alan Lovell of the Swinging Blue Jeans was playing but to say the Skillet Lickers blew him away with their energy, inventiveness and honesty of performance would be an understatement.

My full review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 23rd January (you can read it below) and you can see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers - Golden Lion review scan 23:01:16

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IWA Japan: Kawasaki Dream 1995 – King of the Deathmatch

King of the Deathmatch DVD coverIn the summer of 1995 professional wrestling was in the midst of a transition. The then WWF was trying to recover from Hulkamania with its so-called ‘New Generation’ being led by Kevin Nash’s Diesel feuding with arguably their worst King of the Ring winner Mabel. Meanwhile in WCW Hulkamania was doing its best to run wild but was, at best, faltering a year before the major impact of the nWo began to change American wrestling forever.

While North America was in the doldrums, in Japan business was booming, with the stalwarts like New Japan and All Japan leading the pack and new promotions such as FMW, Michinoku Pro and the then brand new IWA Japan doing a very reasonable trade as well.

With that in mind IWA Japan staged their biggest show to date, Kawasaki Dream, at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium in August 1995 and, inspired by OSW Review’s look at the show, I thought I’d give my slightly shoddy DVD of it another watch as well.

The DVD kicks off with some terrible heavy metal overlaid on the introduction of the show’s competitors (this kind of soundtrack is a strong negative against this version of the show). The main bulk of the card is made up of the titular tournament and entrances of note come from Leatherface (waving his chainsaw through a terrified looking crowd), Terry Funk in cowboy mode complete with horse and Cactus Jack dragging, appropriately given his role here, a barbed wire wrapped crucifix.

Aside from the tournament there are a few other matches highlighted by an NWA World Title match pitting champion Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn against Tarzan Goto, so we see Severn arrive in a not-quite-limousine and show off his gold (also including the UFC #5 championship strap).

Cactus Jack with barbed wire crossCactus Jack with barbed wire cross

Cactus Jack with barbed wire cross

The matches start off with the quarterfinals of the tournament and Tiger Jeet Singh (a Japanese gaijin veteran in the vein of The Sheik and more recently Sabu) against Mr. Gannosuke. Within seconds the match heads out of the ring for an extended crowd brawl, despite the fact this is supposed to be a chain match, and very soon Gannosuke is bleeding in particularly nasty looking fashion.

After about five minutes they do make it back into the ring, not that any actual wrestling happens, and the chain eventually comes into play in fairly typical choke and fist fashion. Throughout its clear Singh either can’t, or isn’t willing, to sell or bump in any real fashion and he eventually picks up the win with his signature claw hold forcing Gannosuke onto a bed of barbed wire for the pin to end a lifeless brawl.

Before the next match we get an excellent old-school Terry Funk promo; serious, considered and respectful before it all kicks off, that shows just why Funk is the legend he is. This is followed by a promo from ‘Leatherface’ (a low-level American veteran in a bad mask) that is in no way suitable to his character and really spoils his potential mystique before he even leaves the dressing room.

The match itself is another Chain and Barbed Wire Board match and is a much more structured affair. Impressively Leatherface hits an early moonsault before the hardcore stuff begins with chainsaw blows to the head (from the body of the device rather than the clearly false blade) before they head outside the ring for a bit of walk and brawl.

The high spot of this match comes as the competitors climb a fence dividing the stadium seating from the arena floor but it’s largely anticlimactic and is followed by a very safe and disappointing table spot from Leatherface before a bloodied Funk connects with a chained fist for the win and we get the more usual for the time ‘middle aged and crazy’ Terry Funk promo as he heads back to the locker room.

Terry Funk and Leatherface

Terry Funk and Leatherface

From there we cut straight to Cactus Jack and immediately Foley’s most extreme alter-ego shows he’s a cut above the other performers on the show (with the exception of Funk). The speech is exactly what a promo should be and makes this whole show sound like the biggest event ever while really getting his slightly unhinged character across. Then Terry ‘Bam Bam’ Gordy rambles something far less impressive that really demonstrates a man out of time and out-of-place following the dissolution of the Freebirds.

The match itself, a Barbed Wire Baseball Bat Thumbtack match, starts with the wrestlers running to the ring to race for the bat and after a few reasonably safe shots both men are brawling on the floor (you’ll notice the theme here I’m sure).

Cactus and Gordy go back and forth out and in the ring with some decent teases of thumbtack spots that do a decent job of building the psychology and mystique of the weapon before Cactus takes a nasty slam from the ropes to the arena floor that is classic Foley of giving far more than he ever needs to.

As the match goes on it becomes obvious Gordy isn’t going to be taking any big hits or falls so Cactus bumps around for him, starting a trend for the whole show, and eventually ends up taking a nasty looking curb stomp face first into the thumbtacks. This is followed by a pair of poorly performed powerbombs that Cactus was lucky to walk away from as Gordy clearly can’t muster the strength to lift the 270 pounder, before Jack hits a DDT into the thumbtacks on Gordy (Jack takes all the impact on his back) for the win.

Cactus Jack and Terry Gordy

Cactus Jack and Terry Gordy

The last quarter-final pits Shoji Nakamaki against Hiroshi Ono in another bat and thumbtack match. Starting off with some back and forth barbed wire bat shots to their well padded chests.

The duo then exchange some seriously stiff looking punches before its back to the walk and brawl which takes them from ring to ring (three are set up around the stadium). While outside both men get busted open in particularly nasty looking fashion before, back in the ring, we get a real wrestling hold, an STF, much to the surprise of everyone.

That out the way the match concludes with a series of thumbtack spots including a brutal looking headfirst back suplex into the tacks before a full nelson facebuster into the tacks gives Nakamaki the win.

In all the first round was hugely underwhelming with little in the way of story or psychology and very few genuinely impressive spots and if it hadn’t been for Cactus and Funk would have been all but unwatchable.

That done we get a break from the tournament with first a lightweight title match that is very loose and features a few good suplexes but sloppy high-flying, culminating in Takashi Otano getting the win over Kid Ichihara to win the WWA Light Heavyweight Championship.

Kamikaze and Iceman

Kamikaze and Iceman

This is followed by a sloppy not-quite-lucha match from a masked duo that has little story or psychology and not even any real high spots to make up for it, before it ends with a series of botched roll-ups giving Iceman the win over Kamikazee (nope, me neither…).

With Cactus Jack in one match and Terry Funk in the other there seemed to be a bit more promise to the semifinal matches of the tournament but, as the first starts out with Tiger Jeet Singh attacking the referee with the handle of his sword it’s not a good sign.

From there Funk interferes and another crowd brawl ensues that soon seems to step over into genuine brutality as Singh jabs and gouges at Funk’s arm with a broken metal chair leg. This all looks hugely unprofessional and, judging by the rest of the night, does seem to do Funk some real damage which is never a good thing to see.

The gimmick for this match is a Barbed Wire Board and Glass match and its Funk who ends up going back first into the bed of glass which, thankfully, the camera spares us a close up of. Its clear throughout that once again Singh is either unable or unwilling to sell or bump, even for Funk, and the end comes with a fairly run-of-the-mill interference spot from Cactus Jack that allows Funk to pin Singh.

Despite Funk’s excellent selling and genuine professionalism in the face of Singh’s ‘work’, this is another sloppy mess of a match.

Cactus Jack delivers his flying elbow

Cactus Jack delivers his flying elbow

For the second semifinal it’s a Barbed Wire Board and Spike Nail Match between Cactus and Nakamaki that follows the now standard routine of brief in-ring section before bailing to the floor for a scrap.

Unlike the other semifinal, this is a very give and take match with both men feeling the barbed wire before the nail board comes into play and both men feel that too. This looks particularly nasty, though seemingly more due to selling than actual injury.

One of the first proper big ‘spots’ of the night comes as Cactus hits his diving elbow from apron on Nakamaki who is under the nail board before some more back and forth barbed wire spots in the ring culminating in Cactus’s trademark double arm DDT on the wire for the win.

This is the best match so far by a country mile and potentially match of the night that once again shows Foley’s innate ability at telling stories and bringing psychology into even the most full-on brawling hardcore matches and is followed by yet another exceptional Cactus promo.

For another interlude in the tournament we are ‘treated’ to a pair of championship matches.

First up The Headhunters (a pair of enormous twins) take on Los Cowboys for the IWA tag straps in a match that, save for one big plancha spot from one of the Headhunters, is near pointless as the twins do very little while the Cowboys sell and bump. It ends with a Headhunters win but the whole thing is messy and unconvincing and at 17 minutes vastly overlong.

NWA and UFC Champion, Dan Severn

NWA and UFC Champion, Dan Severn

Following one of the worst wrestling promos I’ve ever seen, courtesy of NWA champion Dan Severn, and a good look at the horrifically scarred forehead of his challenger Tarzan Goto, the world championship match gets underway. It actually starts off like a conventional, if stiff, wrestling match which shows promise, but as ever it’s not long before Goto heads outside followed by Severn and what looks like a genuine fight ensues and somewhere along the line Goto tries to use a bottle as a weapon!

The fight soon gets sloppy and overlong before both men are back in the ring and Severn hits a nice and legit looking suplex, but then its back outside and chairs flying around with no real purpose.

Back in the ring again it’s a sloppy sequence that seems as if its meant to look like a shoot, but clearly isn’t, before a lengthy sleeper/choke spot gives Severn the win to retain followed by another terrible promo almost word-for-word repeating his earlier effort

This looks as if it could have been a decent match had it been more structured and booked with more consideration, but ultimately it ends up being a mess like nearly every other match on the show.

From there we head straight into the now legendary tournament final of Cactus Jack vs. Terry Funk in an over gimmicked Barbed Wire Rope, Exploding Barbed Wire Boards & Exploding Ring Time Bomb Death Match.

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

The duo excellently play the psychology of the barbed wire ropes, teasing interaction with it before both taste it in different ways. Following this Funk is the first to taste the pyro board which looks spectacular and must have been astonishing to see in person.

As the match goes on the duo head outside, but unlike the other matches every moment feels built to (if at times slightly rushed) and there’s a real story of rivals really fighting for something along with the sense of a torch being passed from one generation to the other.

Despite the brutal nature of the match they still find time for Funk to use his signature spinning toe hold before an unnecessary run in from Singh hasten things toward their conclusion, but not before a hugely anticlimactic time bomb moment that gets a lot of heat from the otherwise surprisingly polite crowd.

Cactus elbow to Funk

Cactus elbow to Funk

Cactus and Funk win them back slightly with back suplex into the exploding barbed wire that seems to be the source of a severe cut to Cactus as well as major burns to his arm as recorded in later photographs. The match concludes with what feels like a slightly botched ladder spot that sees Cactus collapse into the barbed wire ropes before getting the pin on Funk.

In the end though this is, for the most part, the best match on the show and a fitting end to the tournament. That said if it weren’t for where this launched the career of Mick Foley the whole event would have been long forgotten as, despite he and Funk’s best efforts it really doesn’t deliver in any meaningful way and left me wondering if it was really worth it for any of the performers many of whom seemed to be legitimately injured in one way or another for very little gain – especially Cactus Jack who earned his win by taking the nastiest looking moves of the night and getting the worst looking injuries.

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

The show ends with another excellent promo from Cactus – quite how Foley delivers this given the state he’s in is beyond me – while Terry Funk is shown climbing into an ambulance making for a great ending that keeps the storyline strong, showing respect between the two finalists but maintaining their respective positions of face and heel and selling the events legendary brutality.

Really though, unless you are a completest there is little to recommend here that you couldn’t see in a 10 minute highlight package of which I’m sure many exist floating around YouTube.

Anyway here’s the OSW review of the show which I’m sure is more entertaining than mine…

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Tromeo and Juliet

Tromeo and JulietIn 1996 Baz Luhrman and his leading man Leonardo DiCaprio shot to mainstream international recognition with the release of a new retelling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. A couple of months later, keeping with the long-held tradition of exploitation cinema, Troma Films released their, rather more unique, version of the story, Tromeo & Juliet.

From the off we are in fairly familiar Troma territory, albeit with what looks like a far higher budget than most of their output, as Motorhead’s Lemmy welcomes us to “Fair Manhattan, where we lay our scene” and introduces the principal players (then the less principled ones… that’s the level of humour we’re dealing with, for the most part).

Then we head to Lloyd Kaufman’s vision of a punk club where we meet various members of the Capulet family and a piercing and tattoo parlour where we meet various of the Ques (this film’s version of the Montague family) including Tromeo.

From there the film takes on a very loose version of the origin story, albeit with extra gore, body modification, sex, bondage, penis monsters and drugs that induce transformation into a cow-human hybrid… as anyone who’s knows Troma’s work will recognise its almost pointless trying to explain how most of that fits into the story.

Tromeo and Juliet - Will Keenan and Jane Jensen

Tromeo and Juliet – Will Keenan and Jane Jensen

As you’d expect Kaufman’s direction is at best bad and at worst atrocious, especially when a slightly clever attempt at montage is attempted and things become momentarily impossible to follow (this happens a few times, particularly when we go into a dream sequence).

Probably the best attempt at ‘clever’ editing comes when we are introduced to our two leads romantic situations as we cut from Juliet and her nurse/housekeeper, Ness, in bed and Tromeo watching a porn CD-ROM (it’s definitely the 90s, folks!) – again this pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the movie.

What makes this film stand head and shoulders above most other Troma movies I’ve seen, such as their legendary Toxic Avenger series and the likes of Class of Nuke Em High, Surf Nazis Must Die and Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, are the contributions to the script from James Gunn. Gunn would go on to write the Dawn of the Dead remake and write and direct Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and hints at his slightly off beat, irreverent style poke through here.

Lemmy - House of MotorheadA highlight of this is the intertwining of the original text with a more Troma sensibility which range from the obvious (a blind drunk Monty Que asking the whereabouts of his son) to the, comparatively, clever.

For example, to Juliet’s “Parting is such sweet sorrow” Tromeo retorts, “Yeah, it totally sucks”, this ‘couplet’ somewhat sums up all you need to know about the movie’s ‘bard-sploitation’ ambitions as it clashes the text with the basest of things in its own style.

As the film climaxes with a twist on the original tale (though West Side Story this isn’t) I couldn’t help but be entertained by what is not just on paper, but for the most part on film, a fairly awful movie but what seem to be Gunn’s contributions helping elevate it, slightly, above the rest of Kaufman and Troma’s oeuvre.

This review is based of the 16:9 version of the film included on the 2015 88 Films edition of the movie that gives a very good visual transfer with generally very good audio, this trailer isn’t…

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Elliot Falla – Screaming At The Sky

Elliot Falla - Screaming At The Sky EP coverFollowing the success of the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Blake, George Ezra and more, the world has hardly been short of well turned out, young, male, singer-songwriters and one at the top of the list of those coming out of Guernsey right now is Elliot Falla. Having gigged as a solo acoustic act his debut EP, Screaming At The Sky, takes four of those songs and expands them to have a full band sound.

Opener, Say Goodbye To Our Minds, starts things off strong with that acoustic sound as other instruments gradually build behind it until it becomes a nice slice of fresh, young sounding, middle of the road rock.

You’re My Way Out builds on this with hints of blues added to the template (it’s no surprise Falla has shown himself to be a devotee of fellow islander Robert J. Hunter). This is followed by the EP’s potential misstep, Mystery Woman, that lands just on the wrong side of the balance between naïveté and immaturity, while its mix of sounds doesn’t coalesce as well as the other three songs.

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla

Closer, You’re All Gone, however is possibly the record’s strongest track and, for me, has the feel of being a ‘lead single’ to it.

Across all four tracks Falla’s rich voice is generally impressive, though there are a few moments where it’s slightly mid-Atlantic sound feels put on and it sounds like he’s maybe trying too hard to sound like those who came before.

Musically the songs mix a few styles to create something that, while familiar, also has its own feel. Through the singer-songwriter template, comes hints of indie, blues, pop punk and MOR rock which is combined with some great production work and additional backing vocals to create an impressive full band sound.

For a debut EP Screaming At The Sky lays some solid foundations from which Falla can, hopefully, build a more coherent sound of his own as he and his writing mature and he adds a full live band to the mix, both on stage and in the studio.

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Wondergeist album coverAppearing out of the blue in the dying moments of 2015 the self-titled debut album from acoustic duo Wondergeist is something of an oddity.

Comprised of Peter Gilliver and Tantale frontman Steve Wickins, the duo have played a few semi-acoustic gigs over the last year or so, but on record have expanded that to add a full band to their songs.

Things start in promisingly easy fashion with a double tracked acoustic guitar hinting at something of Bowie’s work (that being very much in my mind as I write this) before growing into a kind of psychedelic folk with reverb and delay alongside not only Peter and Steve’s vocals but some excellently placed backing vocals from Jo Lamb and Jo Rathband – across the record these add a nice extra and more developed dynamic to the songs where she appears.

From there the songs jump stylistically from one to other but with most falling broadly into a kind of folk tinged indie area (though there is a blues rock song and a kind of country gospel number in there too). At points this has the feeling of wanting to have the grand sound of the stadium indie that emerged in the late 1990s while at others the songs very clearly demonstrate their origins as acoustic duo numbers with added instrumentation.

The two lead vocalists also have their own very distinct voices, which gives a sense of contrast between the songs and, while Gilliver’s is unique to this album and matches the ‘big indie’ feel, Wickins’ is so clearly characteristic there are points where his songs come across somewhat as Tantale-lite.

Wondergeist - Steve Wickins and Peter Gilliver

Steve Wickins and Peter Gilliver

Unfortunately what this also does, in places, is make it all sound a bit disjointed, as if it were a collection of singles rather than a coherent album. I’m not saying it should be a concept album, just there are points where it sounds almost like a different band, track-to-track.

Recorded in the same bunker as Tantale’s Just Add Vice the production work from Mikey Ferbrache (who also played bass) is extraordinary and I’ve heard much worse come out of supposedly professional establishments on major labels. In fact the production is almost too good with the whole thing sounding more like a studio project losing something of the feeling a band might bring to the songs. That said all the guest performances sound great with Pete Mitchell, Stuart Ogier, Graham Duerden, Greg Harrison, Tim Adkins, Jo Lamb, Jo Rathband and Louis Le Couteur all providing extra instrumentation on everything from drums to flute and violin.

In the end Wondergeist is a nice, easy listen with some great playing and some exceptional production given the situation of its recording but, beyond that, it had more the feeling of being a collection of singles and ideas than a coherent album.

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Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter posterAfter watching Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and given the circumstances surrounding my watching it which have had something of the feel of the end of era, I headed back four years from Bowie’s iconic concert film to another, that also is said to capture a conclusion, the Maysles Brothers’ and Charlotte Zwerin’s Gimme Shelter.

Famous for capturing on film the Altamont Free Concert of December 1969, Gimme Shelter is more than that. Starting out in New York it offers a glimpse into The Rolling Stones US tour with concert footage from Madison Square Garden and material gathered in the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama where they were seemingly working on their Sticky Fingers album (which was released in 1971).

The sections of the film from MSG are astonishing in their own right, with the crowd packed to the front of the stage and Mick Jagger a bundle of jittery, untamed energy on the surprisingly small stage. It’s like a less studied version of the performer he has become reacting more fluidly to Keith Richard’s guitar and posing and posturing to the crowd like no other.

In these sequences (and throughout the film) Keith is unrecognizable to the man he is now, but his unique guitar work, playing wild and lose with rhythm and drenched in blues, is as characteristic as ever.

Mick Jagger at Madison Square Garden

Mick Jagger at Madison Square Garden

A standout in these sequences is the (these day comparatively mild-mannered) drummer, Charlie Watts. He has a look of amazingly understated intensity and his tight playing seems to be what keeps the band on track throughout the six songs we see from the New York show.

Intercut with these sequences (along with a track from Ike and Tina Turner) are shots of the Stones, particularly Jagger and Watts, in the editing room of the film watching and listening back to footage from Altamont and audio of some of the radio broadcast reactions to it. Whether you’re aware of what’s coming or not these instantly bring up a sense of something dark impending, and the inclusion of the Hell’s Angels’ Sonny Barger’s response to events is both fascinating and fairly shocking given what happened.

Along with the Stones we get clips of those trying to organise the free concert as it moves venue from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to one race track and finally to the Altamont Speedway race track, despite preemptive protestation from various neighbouring land owners.

USA Altamont Rock Concert 1969


Once the Maysles Brothers and Zwerin have shown this rising tension expertly we arrive, along with the band, at Altamont via helicopter as cars line the narrow, two-lane road to the site for miles as an estimated 300,000 revelers head to the concert.

While the directors show the tension of the event building, they do so in a way unlike many documentary makers as, it seems, they are simply capturing the events rather than setting out with an idea of story – though of course the edit must be designed to tell the story of what they saw. Their method gives a feeling very similar to the Woodstock movie, but, while that feels largely summery, happy and a celebration of music, Altamont is clearly something, in its way, far more sinister.

Accompanied by the music the Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane (Santana and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young also played but don’t appear and The Grateful Dead pulled out upon seeing the way the event was going) we see an already awkward event begin to descend into chaos.

Altamont crowd

The audience climbing a scaffold tower

Once the Stones take to the stage just after sunset we see the audience in front of the stage erupt into seemingly spontaneous fights with the Hell’s Angels (supposedly providing event security) clashing with (arguable) agitators in the crowd while those who genuinely seem to be there for the music look on distraught.

The style of the filmmakers, simply to record the events, gives the whole thing a feeling that we are watching it happen live (even though it was nearly 50 years ago and clearly edited) and as Jagger’s face shows the realisation that they’ve lost control and that bright lime green suit flashes from the crowd only to be quickly swallowed again by a mass of men in denim and leather, its clear this isn’t really a concert anymore.

This and the following shots of the end of the concert and revelation that the man in green has been killed would have been enough to capture a tragic, chaotic moment, but the directors then cut back to the editing room and we get to see Jagger’s reaction to it all emphasised by a freeze frame as he leaves the room clearly distressed by what he’s seen.

Jagger on stage at Altamont

Jagger on stage at Altamont

Seeing these events is deeply, deeply, uncomfortable and, to be honest, I’m not even sure the film should have been released given the circumstances. But, what the directors do with the build and coda, which feels like climax of a lo-fi horror movie, is genuinely make this feel like the end of something, the end of an era, so to speak.

Its become cliché to say this documents the day the hippy dream died but, in watching it, there is a genuine sense of that captured in a visceral and vital way juxtaposed with some great, urgent, rhythm and blues music that, in a way, makes the whole thing all the more impactful and gives an amazing context of much of the music, film, writing and art that would follow and mark the move into the more cynical 1970s of fear and loathing.

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