And now our roots grow deep

There was a band during the Britpop years called Brassy. They weren’t very good. One of their songs was their band name spelled out. I think their lead singer Muffin was related to Jon Spencer – the Blues Explosion one, not the Chelsea one.

Anyway, the new Cursive album Happy Hollow is out next month, and it, too, is Brassy. I really dug their previous record, The Ugly Organ, because it had cellos and sounded mournful but still heavy as aw’hell. When I heard that the cello player had left, I was a little trepid. I think that’s the word. When you display trepidation? Instead of strings, there’s a lot of brass on Happy Hollow, and consequently, it’s a really uptempo album which I’m pleased to say, is fantastic.

Tim Kasher’s lyrical themes are always very strong, and this album seems to center around Red State/Blue State values and politics. ‘Flag and Family’ is about a soldier sent off to war as a last resort, ‘Big Bang’ is brilliant and about evolution (“They said there was a big bang once, but that don’t jive with Adam and Eve”), and “Retreat!” almost comes across as an open letter to Mr. Christ - “since you’ve been away on holiday, we’ve hosted a few wars over you” - and probably won’t win the band too many new Bible-Belt fans, although there’s some gospel crooning over the end of it. The first and last tracks have the same tune, and I'll even forgive the way the opener comes to almost a complete stop a minute in, after building some heavy momentum.

Saddle Creek have put up a couple of tracks, showing off the album’s different styles. ‘Dorothy at Forty’ is hard and heavy and features Kasher’s bellow; whilst ‘Bad Sects’ is much more gentle, perhaps more in line with old Cursive. I’m putting up another song, ‘Bad Science’, which really highlights the new trumpets, but still rocks like a hurricane.

So, it’s a healthy departure, not entirely a complete reinvention, and the only disappointing thing is that album cover – what’s going on there?

[download Cursive – Bad Science]

So I'm guilty of violating Section 34 Double-D?

Watched the latest Spike Lee joint, Inside Man, today. I realise that this is hardly topical, but you know. She Hate Me, his previous film, was universally shat upon, and not without good reason. It was pretty horrendous.

Inside Man is brilliant, though. Clive Owen and Denzel Washington are as solid as ever in the lead roles. Jodie Foster and Willem Dafoe back them up well. Spike films New York City the way a dad might film a newborn baby, with love, pride and tremendous care. Not, like, in a silly hat with its eyes closed. The real star is the story, though. Tense, with twists but not too many twists, and a nice ending, it really works. Of course, there's some social commentary about racism thrown in for good measure, but it works. There's incongruous Hindi film music at the start and end, not sure why. Waris Ahluwalia, who was in The Life Aquatic, plays a character also called Vikram. There were a lot of iPods, and a nice Vice-City style video game cutaway. "Like my man Fifty says, you gotta get rich or die tryin'."

Catch it when you can.

A Change in the Weather

Oh man...

Victoria Bergsman leaves The Concretes

Maybe, like me, she thought the newest album, In Colour, was a bit lame. Good luck to her, and indeed the rest of the band. Let's all get out of mid-tempo limbo now, shall we?

[download the concretes - you can't hurry love*]

(*my favourite pop song of the last five years... FACT)

All my life, watching America

I thought Razorlight's first album, Up All Night, was a bit rubbish. It was TOO debut album-y (song titles like Rip It Up, Vice, In The City, etc) had didn't really have any substance. And their singer Johnny Borrell always comes across as a bit of a knob - he once said "If Dylan's making the chips then I'm drinking the champagne." My impression has always been that they're a sub-Libertines band doing a Strokes impression.

(Edit: To affirm his "being a knob" status, listen to Johnny talk about the album on XFM here. Apparently the music scene in London is now totally different from three years ago, there's no creativity any more, and every new band owes him a fiver)

Anyway, they've got a new record out, called Razorlight. The first single is kind of lame, but the rest of it is pretty good. It's mature, confident and has a really strong Springsteen/U2 vibe. It's an album that moves out of the narrow confines of East London where Up All Night was rooted, and it's much better for it. It's still not a great record - his voice still rubs me the wrong way, and 'Back to the Start' and 'Fall to Pieces' belong on the last album. But 'Los Angeles Waltz' is easily the best song they've ever written, not just because it namechecks Turnpike Lane (five stops on the Tube from me). There's nothing on this album with the instant radio-appeal of 'Golden Touch', but who cares? Kudos for making me change my opinion.

[download razorlight - los angeles waltz]

Wild Wild West

I mentioned recently the mental track Knights of Cydonia off the new Muse record. They've just put out the video for it, since its the song getting the airplay in America, and suitably enough, the video too is a little nutbar. Chris looks like the Edge circa the Popmart tour.

[Watch Muse - Knights of Cydonia (youtube)]

Finiculi, finicula, finiculi, finicula

Saw the Richard Gere flick 'Bee Season' last night. It's based on the novel by Myla Goldberg. Perhaps you've heard the Decemberists song about it. (If you haven't, link below!). The film was put out by the reliable studio Fox Searchlight, and as such was very dramatic, arty, pretty and well soundtracked. Combining a cute spelling bee candidate with intricate Kaballah teachings and spiritual journeys, plus deep-seeded dark family secrets made for a messy film. Every major character has their own issues which could do with more explanation, or at least some context. The visuals are really nice, though, and the performances are good. Even though I don't like Richard Gere much.

[download The Decemberists - Song for Myla Goldberg]


If they're anything like their last record, the singles from The Killers' new album Sam's Town will be inescapable for the next twelve years. To that end, the taster has just made it to the interweb. Considering this is meant to be one of the greatest of the last twenty years, I'm a little underwhelmed, although giving Jesus a namecheck is usually a way to my heart. If you haven't yet, you can nab the track here.

It's kind of a long-distance relationship

You guys should thank me, you know. In order to make Are You Gene Hackman? a better, more rounded compendium of opinions and news, I sometimes subject myself to absolute shite, in the name of research. Granted, as I write this, I am not watching The Devil Wears Prada with my sister and girlfriend – gotta have some standards – but the other night, we caught The Lake House. Behind Snakes on a Plane, this is perhaps the summer’s most ri-goodam-diculous major release. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock play unlikable people who live in the same house, but two years apart. They start exchanging letters, and then in a hilarious You’ve Got Mail style manner, go from hating each other, to loving each other.

Of course, the film is pretty rubbish. There’s plenty of clunky dialogue about how, doubtless anticipating the audience’s reaction, neither understands the situation regarding the year: “Everyone knows it’s 2004!” and all that. It’s written by a Pulitzer Prize winner, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense, follows any of Newton’s laws of the universe, is cogent, etc. There’s a really awkward and ultimately useless subplot about Keanu’s dad. There’s a rival love interest who has no personality. Fortunately, there is a bus, so in one way, there’s something else in common with Speed. Keanu’s “huh?” face was the prototype for Derek Zoolander’s Blue Steel. Like in American Dreamz, Shohreh Agadashloo is the best thing in a horrible film. It wasn’t even so bad that it became good in a kitsch way. The ending was daft, the beginning wasn’t much better, and damn, even with five minutes left, it felt like two hundred.

Did anything else happen in the final?

Smell ya later, Zissou.

Dirt... this is a jar of dirt

Like $55m worth of people, I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest last night. The trailers beforehand began unimpressively with Top Gun but less gay, Tony Scott by (recent) numbers, but then picked up considerably. We got a first look at 'Night at the Museum' (co-starring Ricky Gervais!) and then another for a live-action version of Pixar's Cars, with at least two laugh-out-loud moments. "I can't control my heart rate, I got a cougar on me!" Oh, and there was this, which two people applauded. Including me.

OK... Pirates. It's very action packed. Not much cohesive storyline. Unsurprisingly, not nearly as good as the first one. Captain J isn't as awesome or hilarious this time around, maybe because there isn't the novelty that he had last time. The action is exhausting and spectacular. There are cannibals who dance, a heart in a box, and Stellan SkarsgÄrd has a starfish on his face. This man is terrific in it.

The ending is pretty interesting. In case you haven't seen it, I'll put my comments in white. So if you want to read them, just highlight the text. Fair?

It really has bad middle-film-of-trilogy syndrome. I was unsatisfied at the end, because absolutely nothing had resolution. This one was building and building but then just sort of stopped. Jack's in the belly of the Kraken, the East India Company has Davy Jones' heart, Davy Jones is still, presumably, at large, and best (and most inexplicably) of all, Barbossa is back! I didn't have this many questions at the end of 'Back to the Future 2', you know. I thought of the Harry Potter series - although as a series, they're building to an overall conclusion, at least each individual one has its own story and satisfying climax, whereas from this there's little story and just a bizarre set of cliffhangers. It's a kid's film at heart so I don't want to pick holes in the story, that'd be really pointless (but how did Will get the key from Davy so easily? etc.) but the (absence of an) ending kinda soured the film for me.

Can't wait for Part 3, though.

Ow! My face!

My sister got back this week, after two months in England and France. I am, of course, delighted that she's back. Not so much because I obviously haven't seen her since May, but because she bought me the Big Train DVD whilst over there.

C'est quoi? A BBC sketch comedy show from the late 90s, starring - amongst others - Simon Pegg and Mark Heap (who'd go on to be in Spaced) and Kevin Eldon (Jam, Spaced, Black Books). It was very surreal and silly and funny and to show you what I'm talking about, here's a couple of sketches of theirs.

* Parlez-vous Anglais?

* The American General

Alas, I couldn't find the clip online of Chaka Khan taking on the Bee Gees in an Old-Western saloon fight, maybe look for that on your own?

Our hopes and expectations

The new Muse record, Black Holes and Revelations, is out next week in the US. I have to say that even though I do like it quite a bit, it's the first album of theirs that doesn't have any "smack you in the face, that's incredible" songs. It's definitely solid because there are plenty of really good songs on there. I like 'Starlight' for beginning like Kraftwerk and then having the riff from 'We're Not Gonna Take It' on piano. I like the way 'Map of the Problematique' sounds like Depeche Mode but heavier. I really like 'Invincible' and 'Exo Politics', but there's nothing that sucks the wind right out of me the way 'New Born' did, or 'Micro Cuts' or 'Butterflies and Hurricanes' or even 'Showbiz'. The closest thing is the last track, 'Knights of Cydonia', which is mental and features horses and lasers and probably cannons and fireworks, and has a part that sounds like 'Atomic' by Blondie and is terrific. It's a pretty nice place for a band to be when their fourth album isn't quite as good as some of their others, but is still a towering inferno.

Like I said, it's out next week in America, and will come with a live DVD from their last tour. Can't recommend this highly enough. Onstage they're borderline live-changing. Don't believe me? Download some live videos here, including aforementioned 'Knights', the video projection for which even features horses.

We have too much surplus

I saw a couple of big Hollywood films, because, well, England aren't in the World Cup anymore, and I had the day off work today. Go America and all that.

First in line was The Break Up. Interestingly, the trailer makes it out to be very funny, and outside of those jokes, it isn't very funny. For a big-name summer blockbuster, it gets pretty heavy, but the funny moments sort of detract from the drama. Plus, for a break-up film, you never really want the two to get back together, so it drags. One thing, though. Justin Long is in it, and contrary to what I posted a few days ago, he is outside of his stock character, so fair play to him. Besides, Vince Vaughn is in the film, and he does his stock role just fine. He's funny! But insensitive! It's his thing. His screen chemistry with Favreau is better than it is with Aniston. Say something nice? Jon Brion's score is warm and pretty. And Chicago looks lovely.

Today I watched (Pixar's) Cars and guess what - it was dead good. The signs weren't promising - delayed for like two years, overwhemingly similar to Doc Hollywood, and about Nascar (what can I say? I'm a skinny Brindian) but Pixar have earned their reputation. Nice short at the beginning, decent story, good voices, jokes that the kids won't get, corny ending. Good stuff. Can't wait for Ratatouille next summer.

In other news, at the opposite end of the budget spectrum, the best film I saw at SXSW 2004 is finally getting a DVD release later this month. If you like He-Man, the Daily Show or paintball, you'll dig it. If you're Canadian, you may have some reservations.

Faster than fast

Like overpopulation, call-centers and making a song and dance out of things, staying very close with your extended family is a very Indian thing. This past weekend, we had my grandparents over from Delhi, and my aunt's family from Boston. My four-year old cousin is totally cute, and he's totally affected by Hollywood advertising. I pushed him around in a shopping cart at Target, and he kept shouting "I'm faster than fast! I'm Lightning McQueen! Vrooom!" in tribute to the current hit animation. The adorable thing here, though, is that every time he would refer to the film, he would always say "Pixar's Cars".

Bear in mind what I was saying about brand loyalty the other day. He's four, and he already knows to say the name of the studio before the film. I thought it was cute, if worrying. I'm pretty loyal to the Pixar brand, although I haven't yet seen "Pixar's Cars", planning on catching it tonight, so I'll let you know what I think. Aren't I sweet?

There's only one Gareth Southgate

Well, we lost on penalties again. Fortunately for Lampard and Gerrard, they'll be remembered for being great players, as opposed to Gareth Southgate, who, though being a solid defender, will always be "the bloke that missed against Germany in 96". I was pretty gutted yesterday, but I'm over it already, such was the sad inevitability that we would lose in the worst possible way.

The fallout has already begun. Beckham has resigned as captain and Sven has left. Christian Ronaldo is not high on my list of favourite people. Aaron Lennon and Joe Cole had good World Cups, nobody else did. If we make it to South Africa in 2010, Steve McClaren needs to make England amazing. Good luck to him.

Really happy for Thierry and Les Bleus, though. Sincerely hope they beat the Portugese on Wednesday.

[download coldplay - 'don't panic/do the crouch' live at isle of wight]


I kinda want to buy this, since it's only $8.99 at Circuit City this week, and Leo Gregory was ace in 'Green Street Hooligans' (for a Spurs fan), but the reviews have been pretty deplorable. Anyone seen it?


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