Failure and Surrender

"As you have all heard hope of the states is no longer. " - Open letter from Sam Herlihy.

Here's another indispensable non-album track from the band.

They'll be sorely missed.

[download Hope of the States - The Last Picture Show]

These ain't the last days at all

Following the lukewarm reception to their newest record (not least from this site), comes the as-yet unconfirmed announcement that Hope of the States could be heading to splitsville following this weekend's Carling Weekender shows. Sure, it doesn't say "The band is breaking up", but for them to not play live anymore, it can't be a good sign, can it?

I would be really sad to see them go. I stand by the fact the newest record, 'Left', sounds unambitious and kind-of-like a better Embrace. Outside of some soaring choruses, I found little to fall in love with. And this is all the more frustrating because when they first came out, they had so much promise to them, which they delivered upon with 'The Lost Riots'. I can't articulate very well how much that record means to me, but this review from the NME puts it close. Suffice to say that 'Enemies/Friends' will always be one of my favourite songs.

If the rumour is indeed true, then shit, let's go out on a bang. Today's song is their usual set-closer 'Static in the Cities', a song so good that they never bothered to officially record it. This is the demo version of the track, and the band realised that they'd never be able to improve on it. This song kinda captures everything that I love about HOTS. From humble beginnings to the Apocalypse over about eight minutes, I always thought it'd make a better album finale than '1776', but maybe that's just me. Enjoy!

[download Hope of the States - Static in the Cities (demo)]

(go to thehalfwayhome for lots of bootlegs and rarities)

[UPDATE: Steve Lamacq wrote a guest entry at the blog saying:

"It is with a heavy heart that I sit here, having just witnessed the last Hope Of The States gig. Watching the as ever, charismatic Sam wandering off stage at the end was one of the most poignant sights I've seen this year. But then Reading, for the most part, hasn't been the place for massive pop landscapes, the like of which HOTS specialised in."

And he would know. Balls.]

They're novelettes!

I don't really have much to post about tonight. I begin law school in twelve hours' time, so I'm hoping to have an early night, maybe watch 'Akeelah and the Bee' til I fall asleep.

But, rather than leave you suckers hangin', here's a short clip from The Mighty Boosh. It's one of the funniest things I've seen in years. If you don't think it's hilarious, fair enough. But you should probably loosen your tie and chill.


The pre-eminent Proust scholar in the U.S

To atone for the brain cells which may've died on Friday night during Snakes, I went today to watch Little Miss Sunshine with the girlfriend and a lot of Sunday afternoon old folks. Nice to see the Science of Sleep trailer on the big screen beforehand. That Gondry sure is mental.

Little Miss Sunshine is riding on a wave of really great reviews, is released by a trendy studio, and has Sufjan on the soundtrack. It has the potential to drown in some sort of hipster mudslide. Luckily, it's brilliant and you should all see it. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments, characters you can really warm to, some really uncomfortable parts, and it never has any of that "LOOK! WE'RE MAKING A STATEMENT!" gaudiness. The soundtrack, with a lot of Devotchka songs, is spot on, and although there are a couple of parts where it gets a little too slapstick/crazy (there's a corpse scene), the performances are so earnest that it's hard not to at least like the film.

Going down faster than a Thai hooker

Look, the title was Snakes on a Plane, and frankly, nobody has any reason to be disappointed. It delivered exactly what it promised. Definitely not a classic, nor even something I'd watch again, but dear lord, was it fun. From the guy in Gainesville who had printed out a picture of Sam from The Man and taped it onto his t-shirt to this dude from Tallahassee, people were excited, and the fact that the opening titles say SNAKES in huge letters and then ON A PLANE in much smaller letters got everyone cheering. The acting was pretty poor from the start, especially from Nathan Phillips, and there's a Chinese gangster, Eddie Kim, who beats a prosecutor to death with a bat and screams 'Whoo!' in the process.

Does anything else really matter about the film? Snakes, and indeed people, get killed in a variety of gruesome and hilarious ways. There was lots of hi-fiving in the crowd. Kenan is funny. The lines are corny. David Ellis said he wanted it to be taken seriously, and not just enjoyed on a "so bad it's good" level, but as long as people are enjoying it, what does it matter? I sure enjoyed it - perhaps not as much as the guy who saw it ten times in a row at my favourite cinema in America - and if there is a sequel, I'd see it.

As a footnote... the theme to Snakes on a Plane is by Cobra Starship, a supergroup comprising various blokes and, for clearly no reason other than to appeal to males, the singer from The Sounds. The song itself is pretty rubbish, of course, but Sounds lady looks really uncomfortable in it. Maybe that's what happens when there's a guest cameo from Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy. I guess I'd be uncomfortable too. Check the film, laugh at the music video.

Woke up with a shoe in my mouth

Today's post is about the album "Through the Windowpane" by Guillemots. It's nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and I sincerely hope it wins. Perhaps you've heard their "Made Up Lovesong #43" which is effortlessly sweet, daft and lovely. The album is really ambitious, and I like that it doesn't always work - there are a lot of open spaces, where it's just the singer's voice over very bare backing, and even though his voice is pretty special, at times it's not that great. But oh shit, when they get it right...

Especially check out the last track, Sao Paolo, which lasts for ages and is layer upon layer of awesomeness.

[download Guillemots - Les Black Sessions (full show)]

She has a real problem with promiscuity

I saw a handful of films in the past week. Mostly because, as the summer is winding down, I need to utilize all possible moments with mindless, unimportant crap, before law school crushes me and my gentle and adorable spirit.

First up, Water. Another Fox Searchlight winner, I was amazed that it was playing at our local dollar theater. Read this, about the making of the film. Death threats, secret location changes, and so on. The movie itself was very pretty, very sad and very good. The darker sides of religious fundamentalism come out to play, and it’s set against the rise of Gandhi in the late 1930s. Check it out if you can.

Pretty much as different from that as you can get, is John Tucker Must Die. Have you seen Mean Girls? Or How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days? Or Never Been Kissed? Or Down With Love? Or any other “pretend to like someone just to ultimately get revenge upon them, and whatever you do, DON’T actually fall in love with them – oh, crap” film? Well, then, you have the idea. This one could have been good, but where Mean Girls liked to be intelligent and catty, this just went for thong jokes, or volleyball-to-the-face jokes. And also the line “She likes early Elvis Costello, and listens to podcasts, and reads Dave Eggers. She’s deep.” And, sorry for the spoiler, but John Tucker doesn’t die, although it would’ve been great if the last scene was him getting hit by a bus.

After years of rubbish films, Woody Allen regained a lot of respect last year for Match Point, and his new film is called Scoop. He’s in it, again, and he’s the best part of it. He talks and talks and talks, and Scarlett Johansson does the same, less convincingly. It’s a fun film, there’s a “Boat of Death” and Hugh Jackman is very charming. The plot isn’t amazing, but it’s enjoyable, so check it if you can.

Finally, I caught last year’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was very day-glo, as you’d expect from Tim Burton. Depp was alright in it, he had a few good lines, but it was really unsatisfying. There was a lot of back story about Willy Wonka’s dad, which was really weird and didn’t fit very well. Overall, it was the equivalent of a fistful of fudge – cool for a little while, but ultimately thick and gross.

A song about myself

Tomorrow, August 15th, marks four years since my family and I moved to the United States. Now, I'm not going to post a sentimental "Oh my, how I've grown" kind of entry in here, but I did want to post this song. It came out a few months before the move, after I'd told my friends that I'd be goin' Transatlantic on their asses. We'd been into Idlewild since the Captain days, and this song was their most epic yet, and the lyrics, title, everything just had an incredible poignancy. So, I can't listen to it now without thinking of the summer of 2002, watching them play it at Glastonbury, the beautifully lit video, and my London peoples.


[download Idlewild - American English (live in Shetland)]

We can dance if you wanna

You should probably know this about me. I love to dance. Not seamless, fluid, confident dancing like the kind you can see in Step Up (in cinemas now!), but more akin to (a) a man getting an electric shock, or (b) Anthony Rapp from ‘Rent’. In the States, I don’t get to dance in clubs too much, because most of the ones I encounter tend to play either low-slung booty hip hop, or eighties classics. And whilst I’m not entirely adverse to shaking it like a rattlesnake, or doing the ‘Like a Prayer’ shuffle, I don’t go out dancing too much.

In Miami earlier this year, I chanced upon a place that played ‘Pilot’ by the Notwist, and I couldn’t believe my luck. It’s very rare to find clubs that play the same sort of music as the clubs I’m used to in London, certainly here in Florida. So when my girlfriend texted me a few Fridays ago to say she was at a place in Orlando that was playing Bloc Party, the Pipettes and the Arctic Monkeys, I was pretty excited, and eager to check it out for myself.

So last week I did. The place was not bad, filled with emo-haircuts, but quite cool. The music selection was very odd, though. Aside from ‘The Fallen’ and ‘Cheated Hearts’, there was nothing played that I really liked. There was some Sounds, Wolfmother, Darkness, and other bands who I don’t really like, and although there was someone wearing that Pipettes blue dress, there was nothing I could really go on a pointin’ extravaganza to. And weirdest of all, at one point, they played two Vines songs in a row. Two Vines songs?! ‘Get Free’ and ‘Highly Evolved’, you ask? No! Two songs off the newest Vines album. Can anyone even name the newest Vines album?

It was just a bad night’s spinnin’, I’m sure.

Don't forget that you're living

Q: What do you get when you combine Brighton Beach, David Line’s piss-poor acting (and newly un-collapsed lung), a remote controlled car, a baby, walls with graffiti on them, and a budget of about six pounds?

A: The actually-quite sweet new video for ‘Signal Sparks’ by Seafood.

Best bit: Dave’s totally gay camera-point at the 3.08 mark.

Be a Winner! Not a Weiner!

Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit this, but lately I’ve been following, and getting quite into, a reality elimination show. In own defense, though, it’s Who Wants to be a Superhero? It’s executive produced by Stan Lee, and isn’t really very reality-based. So why is it so interesting? I can’t really explain it – Major Victory points at pigeons, there’s a character called Fat Momma, and one of the contestants shrieks like a monkey. I downloaded the first episode off iTunes because it was free, and both the girl and I were surprised at how enjoyable it is. It doesn’t have much in the way of “they’re living together in a house, let’s get some bitchy dirt on each other”, except that The Iron Enforcer, apparently, smells quite bad. Since Cell Phone Girl’s elimination last week, something I’m still quietly fuming over, by the way, my new tip for victory – and a Stan Lee-drawn comic and movie – is Major Victory. And whilst we’re here, screw Creature. God, she’s annoying.

Who Wants to be a Superhero is on the Sci-Fi Channel on Thursdays at 9pm.

Drinking Hennessey with Morrissey

I've trained my girlfriend well. Now, every time I say "I'm considering a move to L.A." she knows to say "He's considering a move to L.A."

[download Art Brut - Moving to LA (live)]

Is that a catchphrase? Or epilepsy?

I saw a couple of newish comedies this weekend. Thanks to American Eagle's "try a pair of jeans, see a movie for free" promo, we went to see Talladega Nights last night. It's written by the guys who wrote Anchorman, directed by the guy that directed Anchorman, starring the guy that starred in Anchorman and was produced by the guy that produced Anchorman. That's a whole lot of uses of the same word. It should give you a pretty good idea of what the movie's like.

Now, I can understand why people hate this kind of film - the plot is thin, almost nonexistant, and essentially, it's just a series of one-liners and a few cameos. If you don't think it's funny to see an man saying "Shut up boy, or I'll put you in the microwave" to his grandchild, then fair enough. Unfortunately, I do still find that very funny, and so I enjoyed the film horrendously. There's a lot of joy in seeing John C. Reilly screaming "That's egrarious!" Also, the film has - count 'em! - one people who went to the same high school as me, a silly cameo from Mos Def and Elvis Costello, and the line "If you don't eat Big Red chewing gum, then fuck you." Dumb as three planks of wood, for sure, but at least six percent more fun. Only gripe is that (Academy Award nominee) Amy Adams was barely in it, and her character was pretty useless.

Also, as a footnote, they played a trailer for 'Employee of the Month', which, like the internet one, doesn't look very funny, but this one had 'Good Weekend' by Art Brut playing at the start, which I'm sure only I yelled out loud.

Also, lady and I watched 'Clerks 2' because, well, it's there. I think that being really hardcore into Kevin Smith's earlier films is more of an American thing. To me, they've always been good enough, but with the exception of 'Dogma', nothing has really stood out. 'Clerks 2' features liberal use of the word 'porch-monkey', rooftop dancing, Lord of the Rings, and the usual mix of lowbrow conversation, Randall Graves being Randall Graves, Jay and Silent Bob and Jason Lee being funny for one minute. I lasted longer than Joel Siegel with this film, but I don't think I'd ever see it again. If you like bestia inter-species erotica, check it out. Otherwise, Nascar it up with this guy.

An argument, an ambulance

The video for Hope of the States' new single, Left, just got put up on ye olde Interweb. Unlike their last two, which featured dancing lady Communists, and electro-shock therapy respectively, this one focuses almost entirely on singer Sam Herlihy's face. Now, I'm not one to judge people on their looks or anything, but all I'm saying is, Sam's looks are not exactly the band's strongest asset.

[watch Hope of the States - Left video]

Step Up! In theaters August 11th!

Anyone who knows me, and even many of the people who have served me at coffee houses, Chinese restaurants and, when I still lived in England, newsagents, will tell you that I love fish out of water comedies. The format is so simple! Take someone who’s very set in their ways, to the point of stubborn hilariousness. It doesn’t matter what their initial lifestyle is – they could be a surly police chief, an effete pastry chef; or a surly and effete police chief from the pastry division. Then, and here’s the science part, they are put into a whole new environment, one for which they are miserably ill-suited. Imagine the limitless joke potential of a tough white guy from the so-called “wrong side of the tracks” – just as an FYI, that’s the north side – taking up something totally uncool and unstreet, like, oh I don’t know, ballet. Or taking a bunch of tough inner city kids (inner city kids will be a recurring theme, you’ll get used to it) to ballroom dancing classes.

If they don’t have difficult backgrounds, then they’re fast talkers. Oh man, if you have a smart alec, a wiseguy, someone annoying, then put him (or her, but mostly him) in a situation where he’d never belong. Like a library. Or a convent. Or Hong Kong.

Next time you’re at a loss as to what to watch, or indeed write, if you’re that way inclined, just remember – nothing is funnier than an ex con acting as a detective.Join us next time on Are You Gene Hackman? for “When the humans aren’t around, animals do/say funny things!”

The future is in your hands

I recently got a new laptop, and I’m in the process of copying my music onto it. Today I noticed that I have over 900MB of Super Furry Animals tunes. Now, some people might say that’s a little excessive. These people are hoodlums, plain and simple. Anyway, that was pretty much the entire reason why I thought I’d post some SFA here on Are You Gene Hackman? That and the fact that Bring Me The Heads just posted a gargantuan live recording of their profanity-tastic ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’. Further, the whole world seems to be undergoing some sort of genetically engineered super-summer, so the song ‘Ysbeidiau Heulog,’ which means sunny intervals, sprang to mind. But that’s in Welsh, and this is an English language website.

So, here are two SFA songs for you. One is a b-side called ‘Foxy Music’, possibly based on a true story about a farmer who shot a fella. If you only take one moral from a song you download this week, make it “just because he’s got red hair, it doesn’t mean that he’s a fox”. Secondly, and even more obscurely, there’s ‘Charge (Theme from Das Koolies)’. It was the b-side to Ysbeidiau Heulog, and it features samples, fuzzed-up bass, and shouting, so you should love it. Also, there are chimps. It’s how I imagine a zoologists’ rave would sound. This is a very high endorsement.

[download Super Furry Animals – Foxy Music]

[download Super Furry Animals – Charge]

The sound that machines make

I’ve been really enjoying the band Duels this week. They’re from Leeds, there are five of them, and they’ve just put out their debut album, “The Bright Lights and What I Should Have Learned” in the UK. Apparently, they were at SXSW earlier this year, but I’ve only just heard of them recently, possibly because I’m completely uncool. They’ve got that very British vibe about them – along with iLiKETRAiNS and My Latest Novel they write songs that are big enough to fill large rooms. It’s epic stuff, I was going to use the word grandiose but that’s a bit lame, innit?

You can hear some tracks on their myspace page, including The Slow Build, which appropriately enough builds very slowly. I like it very much. Further, here’s a song hosted on the SXSW website. Enjoy!

[download Duels – Potential Futures]

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