Champion Versions

1. Amy Winehouse's 'Rehab' is ace and has been played a lot by my iTunes lately. I'd write about it, and how it's sassy Motown blues with a 21st century edge - or something - but Fluxblog has already done that, so just read what he said. Anyway, my favourite TV-offshoot-pop-band Girls Aloud just did a cover of 'Rehab' for Jo Whiley's radio show, and you can nab their cover of it right here. It's not as good, but, y'know, an interesting listen. And for a great post about the two songs, and Girls Aloud as fem-pop icons, click this one. With the current storm about girls in the NME, it's worth a read.

2. A cover of 'The Dark of the Matinee' by Franz Ferdinand in Spanish? Yes mate! Makes their sexiest song even sexier. Have at it.

Maybe our connection is unique

As previously discussed on these pages, sensational Scotch grumpies Arab Strap packed it in earlier this year. Well, here's a live show of theirs from February this year, recorded in Malmo, Sweden. The quality is really good, the setlist focuses mostly on 'The Last Romance', and Aiden is in top chatty form. Of special note is the ridiculously heavy take on 'New Birds', the last minute of which is as powerful as the band ever got. Check out their official site, which finally got a facelift, and enjoy the songs. Don't enjoy them too much cos, well, they split up. But just enjoy it enough.

Christ, I miss the Cold War.

You know that part in the first Austin Powers film where Dr Evil famously demands one million dollars from the U.N. and everyone laughs at him? That’s kind of what I was thinking of when watching Casino Royale, the new James Bond film. Amidst the standard plot hoo-hah (terrorists, weapons, blah blah blah), there was a thing where one bad guy was ruthlessly trying to get back $150m which Bond had caused him to lose. One hundred and fifty million? That’s like, stealing Chelsea. Hardened international criminals? You’re having a laugh.

Anyway, that aside, it was a very decent film. I know that being the best James Bond film ever is up there in terms of credibility as being “the best Nickelback album” or “the least unhealthy McDonalds item”, but even so, it was enjoyable enough. Daniel Craig did well as Bond, not too many appalling one-liners, and a nice high badass rating (at one point he performs auto-defibrillation). Double crossing, a nice car, a neat chase, some torture, hi-jinx on the runway at Miami International… and a really hot Bond Girl… so what if the story didn’t really make much sense, the theme song was one of the worst ever and there was hardly any nudity?

Not as great as the RT indicator would suggest, but worth watching at a dollar theater or on a plane, easily. Sorry, these guys, but it was good.

There's a time, and there's a place

Last night the good ship Cursive sailed into Gainesville. The gig was in an auditorium on the third floor of the student union, with the only bar anywhere nearby closing at 8pm. That, and everyone in the audience having beards, did not set it up as a great concert atmosphere. Jeremy Enigk, formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate was in support (The Cops, too, but we missed them), and the extra-bearded older emo dudes lapped up his heartfelt-troubadour solo set.

Cursive’s newest record ‘Happy Hollow’ sees them taking on a newer, deeper sound, and so it was nice to see their set begin very quietly, with Tim Kasher strumming, joined gradually by a clarinet, some brass, a cello, and then the other members of the band. After a couple of minutes of gentle warm-up, they kicked into ‘The Game of Who Needs Who the Worst’ off their ‘Domestica’ record. The crowd remained pretty still throughout, maybe they were taking easy because of some student government meeting downstairs. Cursive played a pretty even mix of songs from their three most recent albums, with guitarist Ted Stevens (yes, I know… not that Ted Stevens, although he’s on my Fantasy Congress team) taking lead vocals on ‘Flag and Family’ and ‘Bad Science’. With strings AND brass, songs like ‘Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand’ and ‘Butcher the Song’ sounded newly beefed up. Kasher went from scream to whisper and back again in under ten seconds, and spoke a little about Thanksgiving.

For the big finale, the band rocked through an extended version of ‘Art is Hard’, with a breakdown in the middle that began with a pretty cello solo but lasted a little too long. There was a lot of energy onstage throughout, but not really matched by the audience. It was still really good, though, despite the lack of ‘Bad Sects’. Good beards, no beer, a song about heathens. Fair thee well, gentlemen. Oh, and their cellist seemed to be named Annyong.

I think the setlist is pretty much correct, maybe one or two errors. Also, the video is of the 'Art is Hard' breakdown from earlier this tour.

The Game of Who Needs Who the Worst / So So Gigolo / Driftwood: A Fairy Tale / The Great Decay / Flag and Family / The Radiator Hums / Butcher The Song / Dorothy At Forty / Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand / Bad Science / The Recluse / Am I Not Yours? / Hymns For the Heathen...
Encore: Big Bang /The Martyr / Art Is Hard

The Batshit Crazy State

What did you do last Friday? Me, I saw the Oracle of Truthiness, Stephen Colbert do a rare live, stand up style performance, for Florida State's Homecoming. It was ace, and despite what he said at the beginning, many clips are surfacing on Youtube. Here's The Word. The filmer appears to be really close to where I was sitting, although I don't remember the person with the ghoulish laugh. Enjoy!

Looks like your nose needs some Corrections

People always diss the Simpsons.

But tonight's episode featured Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, Gore Vidal, Tom Wolfe and J.K. Simmons, and it made this jaded Literature major very happy. Good stuff.

Another Awards Ceremony!

The World Music Awards were last night, in popular national capital London, hosted by someone affectionately known as Firecrotch. The main controversy of the night seems to be centred around Michael Jackson not, as promised, performing 'Thriller'. On the plus side, Kanye won an award, but sadly T.I. didn't storm the stage. The best thing to happen all night, though? Guess who the, ahem, "Best Rock Band in the World" is.

No? This is how I remind you.

Lord, let us go.

A couple of things to waste your time with today. Firstly, here's a clip of Borat on Fox News last week. I know he did promo out the wazoo all month and you're thinking "it's always the same ten jokes!" Well, you're mostly correct, but here there are some new bits which are funny. Not least because poor Alan Combes doesn't really seem to know what to make of his guest. Some nice talk about how Borat would vote if he were American, and disgraced Mark Foley.

Also, Information Leafblower has just put out its fourth annual "Best Bands in America" list. If, like me, you haven't heard of most of the bands, fear not, they have plenty of downloads for you to sample.

Meanwhile, here's a song from an American band who I love, that didn't make the list (of course), but they're coming to Gainesville next week and I'm excited, so there. If you'd like a full live show of theirs, from Ryspace, go here.

[download Cursive - Retreat!]

Even fratboys get the blues!

From BBC News:

US students sue over Borat film

Two US students are suing a film studio claiming they were duped into appearing in spoof movie Borat starring Sacha Baron Cohen as a Kazakh journalist.

Legal papers said the two men "engaged in behaviour that they otherwise would not have engaged in". ...The film "made plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community," the papers stated.

Spokesman for 20th Century Fox Gregg Brilliant said the case "has no merit".

You are what we French call ‘Le Fruitcake’

Here’s why I really enjoyed Aardman Animation and Dreamworks’ new film ‘Flushed Away’.

  • Hugh Jackman seems to be channeling Geoffrey Rush’s voice in ‘Shine’ for his character.
  • The baddie is a giant toad who loves the British Royal Family and is voiced by Ian McKellen.
  • There are little slugs who sing ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ and ‘Proud Mary’ in completely cute fashions.
  • They parody James Bond and Benny Hill, though not concurrently.
  • There’s a crazy old grandma character that’s in love with Tom Jones.
  • There is a joke about England losing on penalties to Germany. It always hurts!
  • One of the characters is an evil French mercenary called Le Frog voiced by - who else - Jean Reno.
  • Two really funny things happen right toward the end, when the (big danger to the good guys) is (averted at the last minute). Whilst everyone is celebrating and cheering, one slug says to another “Hi-Five!” and then they look at each other, both say “Oh, right” and look sad. I dare say it’s even funnier than “My wife is dead, hi-five!”
  • The other thing, which really summed the film up for me, was a really small visual gag. (Slight spoiler alert) – The big danger is a tidal wave which is about to drown everyone, but at the last second it is somehow stopped, hence the aforementioned cheering. So whilst all the rats in the sewer are cheering and hugging and otherwise displaying their rodent joie de vivre, this young rat comes running up with a surfboard with a huge smile, looks up at the now-frozen solid wave, gets annoyed, and throws his surfboard to the ground. That to me is what makes Aardman films stand out from most – it’s a Simpsons style touch, throwing in an extra laugh which doesn’t further the scene, but just makes it funnier. That’s good writing.

It’s very high-paced and action heavy. The voices are spot on (especially Bill Nighy as a tough henchman) and the shift to computer animation really suits them well. Take a child to go and see it if you feel silly going to a kid’s film.

All other countries are run by little girls

Those of you who don’t know me personally, and I perhaps naively choose to believe that some of you that read this site DO indeed fit that category, should know some things about me. I am not Jewish, female, homosexual, Uzbek, native American, an evangelical Christian, black, a former star of TV’s Baywatch, southern, or a prostitute. None of them. And, as such, I wasn’t too offended by ‘Borat’, the film currently sweeping the critics, the box office, Best Week Ever, and, uh, John Mayer’s thoughts.

The first half of the film was merely quite funny, mostly because much of it was regurgitated from ‘Da Ali G Show’ – most noticeably the interview with an etiquette specialist – and also because the media frenzy over the last couple of weeks has caused the clips to be played on TV repeatedly. Not that the driving lesson scene isn’t funny, it’s just not as funny as it was the first time, although when he shouts “Suck my shit!” at a fellow motorist, it’s hilarious.

The second half, though, where an actual story sort of develops, is terrific. There are three really great scenes, involving frat boys on an RV, evangelicals at a super-church, and finally, that chick from Barb Wire. The laughs come thick and fast. As you may have already heard, your enjoyment of the film will depend greatly upon how you feel about naked, hairy men wrestling.

There’s been talk after seeing the film about how much of it was scripted, and I’ve heard people use that as criticism. I don’t really agree that it lessens the film if some of the scenes are staged, it’s still funny as aw’hell, and there’s at least three parts where he would have got arrested or stabbed or arrested and stabbed. All the laughs you need, and at the end the line “Everyone knows that iPod Minis are for girls!” and a cheesy romantic ending – I think? – make this a great comedy. Not the funniest film ever made, but certainly very funny. Funniest of the year? What other good comedies were there this year though?

Go and see it, just don’t take your grandparents to see it with you.

We. Are. Your Friends.

Good: Muse won an award at last night's MTV European VMAs.

Gooder: Video of the year went to Justice v Simian's 'Never Be Alone'. [The ever reliable GWFA has their even sexier video for 'Hustler' right here]

Goodest: Kanye West didn't win Video of the Year, and not for the first time, he complained about it: "Best video should have been mine. I should have won." He said that MTV was "sharing the wealth" by awarding it to JvS.

I love bitter Kanye.

Edit: Much more about this at the Superficial.


From the XFM Scotland archives, go here, and scroll down quite a bit, and you can find an old cover of Take That's 'Back for Good' by the Concretes. It's interesting, but I think that sometimes Victoria's ice-coolness doesn't help the song, and this is an example. She's so detached from a really warm lyric that it doesn't work too successfully. Still, it's a nice curio.

Trifecta of Filmic Gooditude

Been catching up on recent and not-so-recent films lately, here’s a quick summaview.

Confetti: British. Funny. Fake documentary. Stars lots of familiar faces from the small screen. Jessica Stevenson (Spaced), Martin Freeman (The Office), Rob Webb (That Mitchell and Webb Look), Olivia Coleman (also Mitchell and Webb), Jimmy Carr (Distraction) and Mark Heap (Spaced) to name more than a few. It’s an iffy premise – three couples compete to be named Confetti Magazine’s Most Original Wedding of the Year. Some of the characters are great – the two gay wedding planners, Mark Heap’s holy man – but most of them are kind of forgettable, such as the Billy-Baldwin-in-Squid-and-the-Whale-lite tennis coach, the estranged dad, and, and… I’ve forgotten. It’s an enjoyable film, that I really wanted to love because of the really strong cast, but it really lagged in parts, most notably when following the couple who are really into tennis. There’s one great line about the Flaming Lips that I can’t remember, and a really sweet emotional scene between the couple who are into Broadway, but overall there was a little too much of Rob Webb’s penis (his numberwang?) and not enough of the heart, or indeed of the laughs.

V for Vendetta: Slightly older, and I finally got around to seeing it. By pure coincidence, I also just rediscovered ‘The Day that Thatcher Dies’ by Hefner. The imagery and cinematography alone are really powerful, and Natalie P’s patchy accent doesn’t overshadow how pretty the film looks. The flashbacks are really well handled, the visuals are just incredible. V’s dialogue is great, too. He’s a very verbose villain. Eh? Eh? So yes, see it if you haven’t already, and there are no longer prizes available for watching the film and thinking “Hey! It’s just like our society!” so don’t try and claim that.

The Departed: Until today, it was the best reviewed major-label film of the year, but a certain ubiquitous fake journalist is overtaking it. That doesn’t matter. The Departed is indeed fantastic. The plot is brilliantly tense, Leo and Matt Damon are on the top of their games, Jack hams it up more than usual but I definitely prefer overacting psycho Jack to wishy-washy romantic comedy Jack. In the bit parts, Alec Baldwin and Marky Mark are funny and tough and just right. The soundtrack is solid, and what can you say about Scorsese? It’s surprising to me that critics keep calling this film a return to form, as if ‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘The Aviator’ weren’t any good. Regardless, this film is a must-see, so long as you don’t mind a lot of people getting shot in the head. Go see it!

"I don't wanna be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me."

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