They can't all be 'Man on Wire'

Dumbest Documentary of the Year: Another three way tie? What are the chances?!

This one is tricky to choose. I wrote about Morgan Spurlock's horrid 'Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden' over the summer, so refer back to that one.

More recently, I caught 'Heckler', a documentary by Jamie Kennedy with as redundant a thesis as Spurlock's film. People that heckle at stand up comedy shows are annoying? No shit! It's nice to see some comedians I like (Mirman, Oswalt, Cross, Tompkins) offering their experiences, and some of the stories are pretty funny, but really, who cares? Just as nobody (nobody rational) really believes that ALL Muslims are terrorists - you don't need to see '...Bin Laden' to know that, nobody is standing up for the rights of hecklers, claiming that it's a valid art. So that whole thing was a little redundant. But after about half an hour, it takes a sudden turn, and becomes a film that ought to be subtitled: "Jamie Kennedy: Why didn't people like Son of the Mask?", a rant about movie critics, online and in print. Now, I'm aware of the irony inherent in me writing about this movie, but come on. Everyone gets bad reviews, not everyone goes crying to the reviewers about it. He talks to some internet guys and Richard Roeper and ends up looking kind of silly and thin-skinned. I felt bad for the critics having to explain their reasons to the man face-to-face. Only one of them was ballsy/confident enough to say "Your movies all fucking suck" directly to Kennedy. Even though I found the documentary almost entirely unnecessary, I agree that one particular critic should be stopped.

Finally, a few nights ago (not on Xmas Day) my parents and I watched Bill Maher's 'Religulous', an extended stand up routine interspersed with Maher yelling at people, many of whom didn't really deserve it. Sure, he interviewed plenty of kooks, but you can't only talk to people on the fringes and then say that they're representative of religion as a whole. One guy has his own business, where he makes devices to help orthodox Jews to use certain appliances, while still observing the Sabbath. Fair observation: "What, are they trying to cheat God?". Too often though, it's smug (imagine that), uses silly sound effects, and overbroad. No doubt, religion is at the root of a lot of problems, and there are plenty of people out there who use religion to line their own pockets, but Maher's approach is just to say "If you believe in any religion, you're a moron" and that's pretty hard to take.

A drink and some palaver

Fastest Workers - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

They wrote a song, based on radio listeners' lyrics, in like three hours! And it was a kickass song. And Stereogum linked to me for writing about it. That was nice of them. As if that wasn't enough, young Ted also took a stand against police brutality at the RNC and wrote a song in like two days, sending all proceeds to Foods Not Bombs and Democracy Now! I'm not going to put the song up here - buy it from Touch And Go, ya bums - but here's a live video. Jimmy, Steve, Violence and Ted: you slags are alright.

[download Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The World Is In the Turlet]

You were a champion in their eyes

Gig of the year: Kanye West


This category is getting lamer and lamer every year, with my declining concert attendance. This is absolutely true: I attended more shows in one week in November 2001 - including but not limited to Jimmy Eat World and Mogwai at different venues in the same night - than I did in 2008. How weak is that? Apologies to Teddy, BSP and Kimya, but this one is a no-brainer. Early May, K-West killed it (KILLED IT) in Tampa.

If you saw Kanye's appearance on SNL not long ago, you may recall that singing=not so good, but visuals=awesome. Well, the Glow in the Dark Tour was all visuals, no singing. Even though my hand got covered in glowstick juice at one point, it was still a whole spaceship-called-Jane-load of fun. Dancing, singalongs, Journey, lasers (probably) and Lupe Fiasco. I hope they hurry up and put out a DVD.


Sometimes actresses get slapped

The "Oh, I Get It!" Award: The Hold Steady

It's not that I ever disliked this band. I just... There's only so many bands you can listen to, y'know? And there's a lot of bands that get bigged up online. Every week there's a new one. So The Hold Steady I always lumped in as "one of those bands that a lot of people seem to love, but I probably won't get". Then I heard 'Chips Ahoy!' last year and thought "This isn't so bad" but didn't give them a second thought.

This June, there was a lot going on, and 'Constructive Summer' came out, and blew me away. Musically and lyrically and thematically and grammatically. Even though 'Stay Positive' - the album as a whole - didn't really sink in for a while, by November it was a mainstay. My lastfm page will verify this. By now, 'Stay Positive' is a staple for long drives. Woah-woah-woah! I like the horns and legal-jargon riffing on 'Sequestered in Memphis', the straightforward rocking of 'Magazines' and 'Yeah Sapphire', and especially the title track. And there's something about the Cassavetes tribute 'Slapped Actress' that always gets me. I guess they're really that good.

Christmas in adventure parks

Who Are You,You Are Awesome Awards (Three-way tie)

Here are three albums that came out this year which I liked, from acts about whom I knew very little at the time, and still barely know anything about. Other than that I like them. Obviously.

1. Surrounded - The Nautilus Years

These guys are from Sweden, and a solid review from DiS made me seek them out. They sound like Grandaddy with richer strings, fewer robots, and almost as many moments of heart-stoppage caused by sheer prettiness. There's a song towards the end that's like ten minutes long and just spends eight of those minutes slowly shuffling away, hands in pockets, as if after a great conversation with a long lost friend.

[download Surrounded - Safe Tomorrow Sun]
[Surrounded official / myspace]

2. Paris Motel - In the Salpêtrière

The internet tells me this one was actually released in October 2007, but I certainly didn't hear them til this year. I've believed for years that women's vocals + strings = perfection. And Paris Motel, who as the name implies are from London, get it just right. It's music that you'd want to see performed at the kind of place you have to dress up to go to. And you'd be seated. And it'd be magical.

[download Paris Motel - Three Steps]
[Paris Motel official / myspace]

3. Get Well Soon - Rest Now! Weary Head, You Will Get Well Soon

This is the only album of these three that I actually wrote about already. Konstantin Gropper nails a lot of styles on this album - all manner of instruments swell, and he's got a way with words too. Also, cover of 'Born Slippy'!

[download Get Well Soon - If This Hat Is Missing, I Have Gone Hunting]
[BONUS download Get Well Soon - It Must Have Been Love (Roxette Cover)]
[Get Well Soon official / myspace]

Fortunately for whining snotface...

Person I wish I was more like: Charlie Brooker

His show 'Screenwipe' is unmissable television - like 'The Soup' if Joel McHale was a trillion times more angry, his Guardian column is top-notch entertainment that makes me incredibly jealous of his writing abilities, and this year he even wrote a zombie series which I'm yet to see, but am promised is excellent. In the off chance that you don't know who Charlie is, here's what he had to say in his own end of year post, about Hole in the Wall, a television show that defies reason.

The WTF? prize goes BBC1's Hole In The Wall, the least dignified, most unashamedly imbecilic gameshow in living memory. Apparently conceived by a three-year-old, it consisted of K-list celebrities in spandex contorting themselves into puzzle shapes in order to avoid being dunked in a pool of water. They failed 95% of the time, but the show carried on and on regardless, like a Super Mario cutscene stuck in a loop.
And here's a clip from an older series of Screenwipe, where he goes to town on My Super Sweet Sixteen. Spoiler alert: not a fan. Spoiler alert 2: The phrase "squealing shitcake friends" is used. 


You never asked for an audience

Most unfortunately slept-on album of the year: Sons & Daughters - This Gift


It felt like 'The Repulsion Box' got some blog attention when it came out a few years back, and their U.S. tour with the Decemberists probably helped, but when S&D's second album was released in January, it barely registered. This is a real pity, since it was a really solid album. Not as gothic and and inward-looking as they were, this was a more concise, harder rocking set of songs from a group that's really finding its sound. The songs are compact, taut, radio-friendly (like the band gives a hoot about that), and like I said, just plain more shit-kickin' than ever. It's still dark - Adele is threadbare on the bathroom floor on the hot-as-hell title track - but this time you can dance to it.

Things that we all need to navigate

Since I have real trouble with putting a ranking on stuff I've liked this year - what does it mean to be the 7th best album, etc? - for the last couple of years, I've elected to come up with arbitrary awards to honour stuff that I've liked. And thus begins the AYGH 2008 retrospective!

The "Where the fuck did THAT come from?" Award: British Sea Power 


Last time I checked, British Sea Power were a weird looking, ok-ish indie outfit that sang love songs about Dostoevsky and had stuffed animals and kestrels onstage with them. Not a bad band, but still one lodged firmly in the periphery. But this year, they put out 'Do You Like Rock Music?', an album that aimed big and really achieved something great, despite what one "hilarious" rating may imply. Whether singing about light pollution, the influx of eastern Europeans into Britain, or a trip out (that'll be 'A Trip Out'), the record just sounded harder and more focused than anything they'd put out before. I could've done without the extra intro and outro on album highlight 'Atom', but kudos to whoever transcribed the lyrics here, and managed to convey the noises at the end as "the sounds of a crying baby being spat on." Their live show was fun, too, though possibly more for them than us towards the end. But overall, the transition from also-rans to still also-rans but also-rans that appeared on Letterman (and got bleeped!) suited them very well.  


Stay away from fleeting favour

Coming soon, the AYGH awards (?) for this year, and Ms. Marling is sure to be recognised with some glory. In the interim, though, he's an unreleased song that she played on the Marc Riley show last week. It's got a sense of menace previously seen on 'Night Terror' and a fair sense of bleakness. This version is very stripped down, and that suits it just fine. 

No lyrics to adapt into post title

Like Robert Louis Stevenson, Trainspotting and yesterday's hot new band How to Swim, Popolo are from Scotland - Dundee, to be precise. They've only got a couple of songs at the moment, and here's one of them now. For an instrumental band, they cram a lot into a short song - it sets a mood and then builds. It's a pity the song is so brief - I'd have liked to hear it unfold slowly like a Mamet play. They've played with Errors and 65daysofstatic, and you can see the family resemblance. As someone that doesn't exercise much, I see myself putting this on the iPod and going for a run, because it's nice and upbeat, and my run will last exactly three minutes - the ideal length for me. See what you think.

I've had too many Christmas drinks

In the scheme of things that I hate, Christmas music is less offensive than Hitler, but less fun than getting caught in rainstorms. Yes, I understand that it's completely seasonal, but since it's that season at the moment, and since both my sister and my girlfriend LOVE that shit, I feel justified in ranting. Every year, I hear 'Feliz Navidad' earlier and earlier, and it makes me want to draw blood and kick strangers. Also, I live in Florida and ten days before Christmas, it's still t-shirt weather, so anything about snow is entirely redundant. Humbug.

Thankfully, there are some great exceptions. 'Fairytale of New York' is one (original or Ted's). Others? I'll get back to you. London-based label Tough Love Records has made available a free 6-track EP of seasonal original songs from a handful of London bands. Gotta admit, I hadn't heard of any of them before, but I listened to the song by Favours for Sailors, and that's enough for me to want to hear the rest. It's upbeat, spiky and there aren't any sleigh-bells. Instead, there's a line about hanging one's self from the Christmas tree, and the imagery of such macabre ornaments over some nice old-fashioned indie rock gets a thumbs up from me.

Download the whole Listen, The Snow is Failing EP here.

Put a you-shaped hole in me

As promised, I can write about music again! Rejoice, Rejoice, Ring the Bells!

First up are How To Swim, a band who get an instant look-see because they're from Glasgow, there are a hundred of them (well, ten), they wrote a song about body-changing, and look incredibly young. This song is warm with brass, singalong refrains, some pretty kickin' guitars and noises that are a bit like lasers. Also: rickety piano! And a nice, My Latest Novel style finale. There's a lot going on in this here song so you'll probably have to hear it about three times before you come to love it. Did I mention that it's about surgery?

More on their myspace. Recommended.

[download How To Swim - Genesis P and Me]

If your boyfriend's got beef

Over the last few weeks, I've been rather obsessed with Blizzard Man. Couldn't tell you why - it's just the right balance between dumb and goofy to still be hilarious to me. Laughing at Andy Samberg looking like the dude from Color Me Badd while singing "I wear very nice duds" was a great antidote to the joyless pressure cooker that law school becomes at the end of each term. 

Adding to my non-scholastic distractions over the last fortnight was this music video, by a band I'd never previously heard of. My roommate's boyfriend Travis mentioned them, and our collective curiosity made us watch the video. Behold. 
Now, I'm as judgmental as the next person on the internet, but I can't quite bring myself to hate it. I know I should, and here's a bunch of reasons why. 
  • The band name is formatted "Number/Word/Exclamation Point/Number"
  • They're named after their telephone area code. There is no way that is ever cool.
  • The video tries to set itself up as having a plot. Sort of Cloverfield meets 28 Days Later/Blade Runner?
  • Mitigation (or possibly aggravation): The set up has nothing to do with what actually happens in the video, which doesn't really make a lick of sense.
  • Abundant male semi-nudity.
  • The long haired guy's job description: "Repeat certain words, make actions"
  • At one stage, the line is something "Back east", and that guy points to the left, with nary a glance at a compass. Or the sun's trajectory. Geographically misleading!
  • Something about two white guys singing "Don't trust a ho" is just weird to me.
  • In the future, models will be called to wrestle each other, incorporating some sort of modified Boston Crab.
  • ...something about tribes?
  • Simulated sex with a giant ram
  • "Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips" is tasteless enough, but add the actions/dance routine, and it's golden.
  • Everything is smashed up at the end for what should be obvious reasons. 
  • Like the year's best TV advertisement, it ends with a giant explosion. 
  • The band also has a song called Holler Till You Pass Out. 
  • "Crunk hop" has been used to describe the sound.
  • Two songs were played on 'The Hills'.
Yet, like I said, I can't hate the song. What's wrong with me/right with them? Just harmless hi-energy fun, right? Right? Either that, or these guys are evil geniuses who are corrupting our youth and must be stopped at once. 

Something happens that's relevant to previous AYGH updates

Just a heads up - the Soulwax documentary which I wrote about not long ago is now up on Pitchfork.tv, so if you'd to see it, do that. For the next week.

Part of the Weekend Never Dies.

Back from the brink

Hey everyone!

I'm back, after a grueling end-of-the-semester slog that involved exams, presentations, revision, seminar essays, and one Championship game. Now I have free time again, so I can read some of the books that have been piling up, and I can write in here a little more. So, I guess it's time to talk about some good films I've seen lately, the world's greatest music video, do as I did the last two years and start some sort of arbitrary end of year hoopla, and possibly work my way through the hundred-plus band-promotin' emails that are waiting to be looked at.

This song says it all. (I'm still a little bitter about it beating 'A Design for Life' to number one, twelve years later).

Make someone's day

Hey guys,

Quick note asking you to do something nice.

Send a lady with cancer a postcard. Wish her well. Make it funny.

Here are the details:

http://www.tibbysbowl.com/bowl/2008/11/18/a-small-request/

Thanks!

Video of the Day (Follow Up?)

I'm amazed that my post from Friday about B4-4 generated as much interest as it did. Far more than most of my posts do. So, of course, I had to investigate the band a little more. Here are some nuggets.

- The band were around in the 90s, and are (were?) from Toronto.
- There were three of them in the group, and since three comes before four, the name was B4-4
- They really appreciated their fans.
- The little kid from the video is now in a fraternity with my friend Tom's friend Logan. So I'm three degrees from him, and therefore four degrees from B4-4.
- Since the group broke up, one guy is now a model.
- The other two, the twins, now record together as RyanDan.
- Their album (RyanDan) went top ten in the U.K.
- RyanDan's new sound is far from the "LFO-from-Canada" vibe of B4.


Video of the Day

I saw this music video posted over at Videogum today, and I can't quite find the words. There's a number of things to focus on, but I don't know where to begin. Fortunately, my friend Tom summed it best when he said "Is this, like, supposed to be an inverse of the Stepford Wives?"

Watch and enjoy

I just hate having dinner with people

Maybe it's because of hype or gimmicks, but as I've said before, the comedies of 2008 have failed to make me laugh too much. (A second possibility, that I'm a miserable, humourless bastard, is not an option). So it was all the more of a surprise that I found Role Models, a quiet-ish film with no big buzz or major name stars, to be the funniest of the year so far. I'm increasingly coming around to David Wain (in addition to Wainy Days, his entry in the Ben Karlin book is ace), and here he has put together a pretty basic but very effective film. It definitely has the best Marvin Hamlisch joke I've heard in a while.

In the leads, neither Paul Rudd nor Seann William Scott is really straying from what they do best - straight faced sarcastic dude and carefree party machine respectively. Why deviate from what everyone loves? (Though I continue to defend SWS in Southland Tales, much to my increasing spiritual detriment). The dynamic between the two here is perfect, and both are given some great lines. There are good performances from the youngsters - the McLovin kid is given more to do than just be a caricature, and the kid from Shutterbugs gets plenty of raunchy lines. Throw in appearances from many recognizable comedy faces (yes Matt Walsh, no Michael Ian Black), a ridiculously over the top finale that's somewhere between Darkon and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.

There are moments of sweetness, Jane Lynch is hilarious, a child's drawing of a man getting raped by a robot, Rock You Like a Hurricane, and plenty of boobs.

Go see it.

There is no why

Completing a standardized test on Saturday morning meant that I earned the right to do nothing else productive for the rest of the weekend. So I watched Man On Wire. Now, at the time of writing this, the documentary is the best reviewed film of the year, with 129/129 raves. Of course it's fantastic. If you haven't heard, it's about a guy named Philippe Petit who walked tightropes, and in 1974 decided to walk across the towers of the World Trade Center.

It's an amazing story of defying the rules of both gravity and law and order. He does it "because he can". To see Petit talk about it, more than thirty years after the fact, still hugely animated, and moving about all over the place, is incredibly infectuous. Then there are his pals, who posed as contractors to get up to the top of the towers, get the wire across there, and provided Petit with support for his terrifying yet amazing objective. His girlfriend-at-the-time tells the story today with the same wonder that she had back in 1974. As you hear the crew talk of lying perfectly still and silent to avoid getting caught by WTC security guards, it's hard to not get caught up in the tenseness. Yes, we know how it ends, but it's still a thrilling ride to the top.

And then, we get to the day itself, and the footage is truly breathtaking.

Watch it as soon as you can.

You thought Brad Pitt was a cave in Yorkshire

As you hopefully will have noticed, this blog has been following the lead of Sleater-Kinney and global economic stability, by going on indefinite hiatus. Lots of things going on at the moment for me, so writing about music for ten people to read hasn't been too high on the to-do list.

But with Arsenal winning again today and my completion this morning of the MPRE, I've a bit of time, so I can tell you what I thought of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which I watched recently. I've a horrible habit of watching Simon Pegg in whatever shit he agrees to appear in, and with the reviews generally being pretty poor, I wasn't expecting much out of it.

Based very loosely on the autobiography of Toby Young (who was on Have I Got News For You last night, but that's an aside), the film is terrible, overbroad comedy with lots of overdone gurning and falling over for the first hour or so. Pegg's character is idealistic but hampered by his complete arrogance and unlikeability. If you've seen that clip where he's playing with the chihuahua, it's like that for an hour. Then it suddenly takes a sharp twist towards responsibility, maturity, self-awareness and (relative) seriousness with - hoo boy - a rant from Kirsten Dunst. The film hasn't earned the right to become reflective, so it doesn't resonate much, and soon enough we're back to dumb comedy set-pieces (food fight ftw!) and a predictably corny ending. Also, there's a transsexual lapdancer, which is always funny.

It's a big problem for the film when the best reactions are for two of the three people from The I.T. Crowd in brief appearances, a coke dealer who was in ONE SCENE of 'Spaced' (hey, it made me happy), and a pretty decent soundtrack. Guillemots! Robyn! Dragonette! There's some props to 'Con Air', though, so that's good. If you're not a Pegg completist, then I envy you, and don't watch this.

I wanted the world

The Long Blondes are no more. It's sad that their break-up is based upon the guitarist's poor health. Writing on the myspace today:

We have decided to call it a day.

The main reason for this is that I suffered from a stroke in June and unfortunately I do not know when / if I will be well enough to play guitar again.

On behalf of the band I'd like to say a big thank you to anyone who ever came to one of our shows, bought one of our records or danced to one of our songs in a club. Thank you, if it wasn't for you the whole thing would have been pointless.

Finally on a personal note, thanks for all your well wishing messages.

Dorian xxx
I'll miss 'em. Here's their best jam.

[download The Long Blondes - You Could Have Both]

Asthma Squad! Inhale!

Pete Serafinowicz does fifty impressions in two minutes, of all your favourite heroes.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die UK

Like fish and human beings

If like me, you're concerned about your dietary habits, here's an old chestnut to help you remember what not to eat. It's presented by Marilyn Manson, the popular entertainer, and is from Clone High, a long-deceased television program that if you've never seen, you really ought to seek out. It's on the Youtubes, so go there now and watch it.

And, uh, maybe there'll be a real update on here sometime soon?

[download Marilyn Manson - The Food Pyramid Song]

Sit down and shut up

There's a good reason why more bands aren't formed after near-death experiences, involving crashing cars into churches. But that's what happened to Noel Kelly, that led him to form The Hush Now. The band has an album coming out later this month, and before that, here's their single. The verse part is a little wimpy, which almost turned me off, but come the chorus, they stepped on the pedals and it rocks pretty hard. Reminded me of Film School, and that's no bad thing.

[download The Hush Now - Traditions]



[The Hush Now myspace]

A wee bit o'blarney

I found out on Friday that one of my close friends from college is very sick, and so that served to take a lot of the wind out of my weekend. Tried everything I could to take my mind off it - watched some Saxondale, went to see TL/Rx, listened to a lot of the Best Show, didn't do any work, etc. For laughs, I also listened to the new stand up CD from Andrew Daly. Dude has been a staple on the New York and L.A. scenes for a while, which explains why my only exposure to him has been on Root of All Evil and Semi-Pro. Of course, he's a lot funnier than those things allowed him to be.

'Nine Sweaters' consists of nine (actually, eleven) different characters, each very meticulously planned out, that deliver varyingly insane rants. One of them, Jerry O'Hearn, you may have heard on the Comedy Death Ray compilation which I've mentioned on here before. There's an Irishman that loves to spin a tall tale, a smalltown actor who's just arrived in L.A. and is going to make it there, an eighty-year old man with a mind in the gutter, and a comedian whose gimmick - being invisible - may not necessarily be beneficial to the craft. Best of all, and by that I mean most deliriously batshit insane of all, was a guy who is the Life of the Party. I can't really describe him, but suffice to say, he'll get you conga-ing, or die trying. I've put up the shortest clip from the CD (most are >10 mins) for your enjoyment. Unlike Hap Arden, Shooter is about to leave L.A. and this is his send-off. Enjoy!

[download Andrew Daly - Shooter's Bon Voyage Set]



[Andy Daly myspace / Buy 'Nine Sweaters']

All my accounts will be settled

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists / Future of the Left
Gainesville Common Grounds
October 5th, 2008

Firstly, I should point out that this gig was headlined by local heroes Against Me! but I left after only a couple of their songs, so I don't really have anything to say about them. Nothing against them, pun absolutely intentional - they sounded ok, and the crowd were really into it - but I was very hungry, and had seen the bands I went for. Maybe another time.

Prior to their set, I managed to have a chat with Andy Falkous from Future of the Left after I bought their live CD 'Last Night I Saved Her From Vampires'. Among other things, he suggested that, since I was a fan of his former outfit Mclusky, they might stick an old classic in their set. "By a certain previous band... and I'm not talking about Whitesnake". What a nice man. Put him on stage, though, a million miles from home, and in front of a scant and disinterested crowd, and the mood shifts. As the band plows - nay, steamrollers - through songs from their ace album 'Curses' and some new ones, you could see him and Kelson seething. "I've had better reactions alone in my bedroom" he said at one point. They opened with 'Wrigley Scott', a tale of two people who enjoyed sausage on a stick, and straight into 'Plague of Onces', and then lots of others. Very bass heavy, atonal, screamed-out, and awesome. And my special treat? Only 'Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues'! Fanfuckingtastic to hear it again. Finished with 'Cloak the Dagger' and then stormed off. Don't know if they made any new fans - too abrasive? - but they still did the business as far as I'm concerned. They've made a brand new song available for download, check the link below.

The memo about rocking harder-than-hard evidently made its way to Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. No room for the more radio-friendly likes of singles 'Me and Mia' or 'Colleen' tonight. Opening with 'The Sons of Cain', Count Violence, Little Jimmy, Big Steve and the other guy (I always forget his name) played a set high on energy and crowd enthusiasm. Songs from 'Living with the Living' - there is no way that that album is 18 months old - still sound fresh, with 'Bomb.Repeat.Bomb' being the heaviest and 'Annunciation Day / Born on Christmas Day' the awesomest. Not too much chatter from the stage, although Ted bigged up the Civic Media Center, for whom this gig was a benefit. I wish they'd have played 'Paranoia (Never Enough)' from their new EP, but who am I to complain. Finished with a rousin', audience-participatin' take on 'Rappaport's Testament', a song originally by Chumbawamba. I don't think anybody was aware of that, though. All too short, so y'all best come back soon.

Just as a final thought - this gig housed the most tattoos I've ever seen in one place.

[download Future of the Left - The Hope that House Built]
[download Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Rappaport's Testament: I Never Gave Up]



[Future of the Left official / myspace / buy 'Curses']
[Ted Leo official / myspace / buy 'Rapid Response EP']

The drug of the nation

I don't really watch a whole lot of television. At this point, I should stress that I'm not one of those insufferable pricks that looks down on the medium and brags about only reading Mamet plays and drinking Belgian lagers. I don't watch a lot of television because I'm a law student, and that means I'm mostly reading about (this week): trademark ineligibility based on disparagement, women's rights to work, government-sponsored speech and administrative review of consulate decisions. I'm sure you're all very jealous of my rock star lifestyle.

And yet, this past Sunday I managed to be excited about four different shows. This never happens! First up, was The Simpsons. The premiere of their 20th season. As you know, I'm an apologist and I was at least a little bit excited for the new episode, but ended up very disappointed. Homer and Marge both get new careers for the sake of it, not too many funny lines, good gags over-explained. They billed Julia Louis-Dreyfuss' guest spot as a big deal, and she had precisely one line. Best part? Flanders surprising himself by knowing the entire Old Testament. Also, the ending to this episode came off as exceptionally abrupt and unsatisfying. I hope things pick up.

Watching Entourage is now more of an obligation than something to look forward to. And sure enough, this latest episode hit all the buttons - Ari yelled and swore, Turtle didn't do anything, Drama was awkward and then embarrassing, Vince was boring, and E was E. There's the potential for E to make a choice between his own best interests and Vince's, but they're getting to that so slowly. So very slowly. If you've never seen the show before, this is all you'll ever need to know.

HBO then turned out two brand new shows. Little Britain USA was sort of like Little Britain but a little tamer. I've always found the show funny for about ten minutes and then grating. It's amazing that they've managed to stretch three series (four, now) out of one-note characters like Lou and Andy, or even Vicki Pollard. For this series, they've brought in some new characters, and of them only grumpy astronaut Bing Gordyn hit the right notes in the opener. Oh, and the evil dog was quite funny. There's a great Rosie O'Donnell joke to be made here, but I'm not that mean - her cameo was good, too. But even for LB, there was an over reliance on fat and gay jokes. And we didn't even get to the only gay in the village yet...

(Incidentally, notice how the banner on the HBO site: i. said "series" instead of "season", and ii. misspelt Britain)



Finally, there was The Life & Times of Tim which has nothing to do with the Replacements album. Didn't know much about this one beforehand, and it really wasn't about anything. Just a dude and his situations. It was funny. He tries to pay a prostitute with meatloaf. His co-workers are equally bland but in completely opposite ways to Tim. Also, there are gay-rape jokes. As a lightweight source of easy laughs, '...Tim' might become a staple of Sunday night viewing.

Oh, and while I'm here - I did like the new Chris Rock special Kill the Messenger. A lot of the material is what you'd expect from him - black and white people are different, men and women are different - but there was some nice political material in there. Like "John McCain is so old, he used to own Sidney Poitier." I did think that it was a poor choice, though, to splice the show from three different live performances, so mid-sentence his outfits would change, and sometimes we'd get the punchline three times in three different cities.

Staring until we suddenly burst

Ten years after their opus 'Deserters Songs', Mercury Rev are back with two new albums. Two! One of them, 'Strange Attractor', you can get right now, for free, just by clicking here. My download only just finished, so I obviously don't have any thoughts on it yet. Other than "My word, that was a nice, fast download".

Onto the other, 'Snowflake Midnight'. On this album, the band has discovered electronic drum beats and loops, and put them to substantial use. This is a pretty jarring switch for them to make. The biggest appeal to their music was always the ethereal prettiness of it, the noise you'd expect from handsome vampires, fragile but beautiful. In fact, the one time I saw them that wasn't life-changing was at a festival when they played while the sun was still out. Didn't work nearly as well. Mercury Rev's Bottleneck Stomp is a nocturnal beast, and there is something old-fashioned and timeless about their sound. Drum sounds from a computer will take some getting used to.

They work it in well, though. And besides, the other elements are still in place, with lyrics about squirrels, butterflies and raindrops. Jonathon's voice remains creepy but perfect, and he can still trot out poignant lyrics like "A bag full of second chances, overflowed and spilling out". There's a wall of feedback and chanting on 'Senses on Fire'. Handclaps on 'Faraway from Cars'. And best of all, a thundering wall of REAL drums and bells and harmonies on album highlight 'People are so Unpredictable'.

It's great to have them back.

[download Mercury Rev - People Are So Unpredictable (There's No Bliss Like Home)]



[Mercury Rev official / myspace]
[Buy 'Snowflake Midnight' US / UK / iTunes]

The scarf is for football

I know that most of you reading this probably don't care too much about football, and especially not the Carling Cup, but indulge me a little, because this week there were some really great results and stories. Which is nice, since the Carling Cup is the third most prestigious domestic competition in England, so it's often an afterthought, accompanied by a shrug and a who-cares. But not this week! (PS - I don't want to end up sounding like this guy)

Arsenal 6 - Sheffield United 0

I have to begin with this one. The average age of the Arsenal team that started this match was 19, their youngest ever. And while Sheffield United are in a lower league, they were in the Premiership not long ago (the debate is still raging in courtrooms about that) and therefore would be no pushover. But our kids knocked them out. A hat-trick from Carlos Vela, who was starting his first competitive match! His second, in particular, was a peach. As an Arsenal fan, it often gets frustrating to hear "We've got great young players, in a few years' time they'll win trophies" but nights like this make it worth the wait.

Brighton 2 - Man City 2 (Brighton won 5-3 on penalties)

Manchester City are the world's richest club. They just signed the most expensive player in English history. At the weekend they put six past Portsmouth, who are no slouches. And yet, they just got beaten - on penalties, no less - by a team who, this past weekend, lost to nine-man Walsall. This is the kind of result where you just have to rub your eyes and say "What?!"

Newcastle 1 - Tottenham 2

This was one of those matches where I wished that both teams would lose. Newcastle are currently undergoing a huge, and dare I say, hilarious, meltdown. Their hugely-popular manager was fired, leaving the club in the hands of a beer-downing millionaire who's way out of his depth. Their season has already imploded, and yet they still had a chance against Spurs, who're rock bottom of the Premiership after selling all their decent players. Spurs got the win, but not being bottom of the league is probably their greater priority at the moment. Also, they're Arsenal's big local rivals, so any failures they encounter are, as a rule, hilarious to me.

Watford 1 - West Ham 0

I was in New York over the weekend seeing some old friends, one of whom is a Watford fan. Hopefully at least one of you will appreciate his Luther Blissett t-shirt. At the weekend, they had the world's biggest refereeing blunder go against them. So, it was great to see them pull off a pretty big upset against West Ham, a team with a high-profile new manager, who are a league above. I love it when Premiership teams (that aren't Arsenal) get knocked out by lower teams. See ya later, Fulham and Villa!

Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd all won their fixtures, so we'll see how interesting the next round is.



Also, this:


Much against everyone's advice

You don't forget your first time. Mine was in 2000, when I saw Soulwax open for Muse at ULU. (Stadium-slayers Muse headlining 800-capacity ULU? That was a long time ago). Didn't know anything about them, but they blew me away. I was hooked enough to see Soulwax return to headline the same venue a couple of months later. They had tubelights for mic-stands! They sang in English as a second language! They made entire rooms dance like bastards! For a while, they were always playing in London - and I was always there. These guys, formed around the nucleus of Steph and Dave Dewaele, soon started 2ManyDJs, a club experience that I didn't get to nearly as often as I'd have liked. Also, they now play live sometimes as Nite Versions - a band that reworks Soulwax songs.

It gets confusing. The new documentary Part of the Weekend Never Dies (warning: website is incredibly annoying) attempts to explain the differences in nomenclature, plus show exactly how hard they tour, and capture the manic exhiliration of the live experience. The doc was shot entirely on one camera, which makes it different from all others. There's a lot of up-close-and-personal interview footage with the band, but also with newer bands who're far bigger, at least in the States. Klaxons, Justice, Tiga and James Murphy all extol the virtues of the band. Nancy Whang from LCD Soundsystem, the voice of one of Soulwax's best songs, also is involved, and tells the story of how she hates 'NY Excuse'. The footage from concerts is spliced from all over the world, and it really is rollocking. I watched half the film on headphones in the library yesterday and it was hard to stay sitting still in one place. God, they're so much fun.

The main weakness in 'Part of the Weekend...' is that a lot of it is showy and doesn't have too much substance. There are lots of shots of empty hallways - stuff like that. It sets a mood, but doesn't tell us much. It's just a series of very brief snapshots of life on the road for Soulwax, without much context or depth. And that's ok. But there are parts where it kind of drags. But it's worth seeing for moments of insight like "It's like a place that sells dragon sticks" (Tiga) or "They're like cocaine but without the big ideas' (James Murphy).

Here are three songs from Soulwax. Firstly, there's 'E-Talking', out of which the documentary got its title. When this album ('Any Minute Now') came out, I played it to death, and my roommate Justin thought the guitars on 'E-Talking' sounded like Godzilla crying. Also, there's a live cover of 'Poplife' by Prince, and their song 'Saturday' mashed up with 'Billie Jean'.

[download Soulwax - E-Talking]
[download Soulwax - Poplife (live)]
[download Soulwax - Saturday Meets Billie Jean]



[Soulwax official / myspace]

I make my own luck

Being part of the 'read it before you see it' brigade, I picked up 'Q&A' by Vikas Swarup last week, and ended up ploughing through it in two days. The novel has been adapted into a film called 'Slumdog Millionaire', which has played very favourably at Telluride and Toronto already. Also, did I mention it's directed by Danny Boyle, who has yet to make a film I didn't like? Very yes.

The story begins with a scene of heavy action, with a lowly waiter getting arrested and beaten up by the cops. He has just won the top prize of a billion rupees on a TV gameshow, and the producers of the show don't want to give him the money, so they're convinced that he has cheated. The body of the book involves him explaining, at length, how he knew each of the answers. The story pans his whole life and its myriad colourful experiences and personalities, from an insecure, aging actress to a venerable war hero to gangsters to Taj Mahal tourists to the world's greatest movie star. The individual stories are all attention grabbers, and it all connects neatly back to the overall narrative. And there's a nice little bit of extra drama at the end which'll surprise you.

That the film is worth seeing is of course a given, but I'd recommend the book highly too. Check it!



[Buy 'Q&A' US / UK]

Too many numbers, numbers, numbers

Last week, Manic Street Preachers performed a six-song-set at the Festival Hall in London, supporting Doves, to celebrate the birthday of their first record label, Heavenly Records. The band put out two singles on that label in 1990 and 91 before moving on to bigger and (eventually) better things. Listening to the bootleg of the show, it's fun to hear the older, wiser band tearing through songs written when they were so much younger and angrier. Hard to imagine the Brit award winning, happily married Manics of 2008 writing a song called 'Ceremonial Rape Machine', isn't it? And it was a jolt to hear 'Starlover' played live. My favourite song from the set, though, is one of my all-time faves by the band, 'Sorrow 16'. Rarely played live, it sounded mature and polished at the Festival Hall. In other words, it wasn't interesting at all. So here's the original version. Again, it's ok for a young band to sing about class struggle and "paint your ego in blood", but it'd be ridiculous if they did it now. Seventeen or so years ago, though, it was pretty cool, and the song remains a whole lot of fun, particularly Nicky Wire's gleeful shout of "...in HATE".

[download Manic Street Preachers - Sorrow 16]

I still get nervous around ethnics

I saw 'Hamlet 2' a couple of weekends ago, and I've been struggling to get inspired to write anything about it since then. Not that I didn't like it - the film is very funny, very often. It was really nice to see The Coog hamming it up in a shitty wig, American accent and jazz hands. Like Smelly Alan Fartridge, this was a character that was annoying the whole time and couldn't see why everyone else was frustrated at him and finally developed to a stage of self-realization. Not really a stretch, but it's still a joy to watch. It's the second Coogan film in a month to open with some hilarious fake commercials. It's the first Coogan film in a month to feature an O'Toole style voiceover, narrating about "The Craft". Not the film about witches. 'Hamlet 2' is entirely the Steve Coogan show - Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler and David Arquette are all involved but I couldn't tell you why.

It's a shame that a lot of the film's big laughs are given away in the trailers. Even so, there's plenty of not-safe-for-TV material, presumably courtesy of South Park co-writer Pam Brady. So, abundant anti-Mexican slurs, gay jokes, capital-B Blasphemy, and, well, if you're not a fan of seeing women get hit in the face with dustbins, you might just want to give this one a miss. Also, there's a character called Epiphany, who is entirely too racist.

So, it's pretty close to a laugh riot but, the climactic jam 'Rock Me, Sexy Jesus' notwithstanding, there's nothing that'll really stick with you the next morning. But given the state of comedies this year, that's probably too much to ask.

I am shipwrecked on the rocks

It's kind of mindblowing that a band as young as The Coral have a best-of collection out today. They're as old as I am! It really puts things into perspective. What have I achieved? Certainly not, like, four albums, many tours, and an endorsement from Noel Gallagher. I remember when (eh, Coral fans?) they first came out, sounding and looking like a weird bunch of scruffy kids from Liverpool writing sea shanties and covering Bob Marley. Then I heard 'Skeleton Key', a single which, inexplicably, is not included on the new Singles compilation. It's a song so strange that it's hard not to pay attention. It's the sound of getting beaten up by Turkish pirates. The word "intricate" is terribly underused in pop music word, but they fit it in. There's breakdown and then it all comes back in. And even a bizarre jazz-influenced outro. Their second album 'Magic and Medicine' was far more conventional, but had a few very pretty songs, and I must confess I haven't really listened to anything they've done since that. But today, enjoy 'Skeleton Key' and try not thinking of mutiny upon yonder high seas.

[download The Coral - Skeleton Key]



[The Coral myspace / youtube / official]

Use it or lose it

In of my favourite Simpsons episodes, "teen sensation" Britney Spears says "In today's youth obsessed culture, we sometimes forget that older people are still alive" and the new documentary Young@Heart reminded me of that line. It's a crowd pleaser, for sure, but there's far more to it than just "aren't old people adorable?" There are moments in this film that had me in tears, and as you all know, I'm tough as nails.

The film's about a choir based in Massachussets, whose average age is eighty, who sing songs by the Clash and Outkast. And, in this film, Sonic Youth! It's a quirky enough combination to have people interested, but there is enough focus on some of the cast members to make them actually come off as interesting. Plus they all have various forms of health problems so there's more gravitas to their personalities. It's genuinely moving to see them talk about how singing keeps them sane, and genuinely hilarious to see them struggling with the words of Greasy Funk legend Alan Toussaint.

I recommend it to anyone who likes to really enjoy films and feel happy. If nothing else, the chorus makes 'Fix You' actually sound moving, which is more than Coldplay ever did.

You'll probably like it.

Let the journey begin

Despite being excited before its release, I noticed that I never really gave the latest Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly record much of a listen. Maybe I'll address that at some point. In the meantime, here's today's Song of the Day, from an XFM session earlier this summer. Sam weaves in a few recent indie-dance smash hits into one song. It sounds cool and all, but I couldn't help but think that the selection was self-consciously cool - Hot Chip, Justice, Klaxons (and Michael Jackson, but that doesn't really help my argument). It's still fun to hear these dancefloor slayers done by a wimpy guy with a battered acoustic. Enjoy!

[download Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - MegaMix (live on XFM)]

And the winner is...

Well, if it wasn't going to be Laura Marling, I'm glad the winner of the 2008 Mercury Music Prize was...

The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow.



Congrats to Guy and the Guys.

[download Elbow - The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver (live)]

Meet me in the dollar bin

You like receiving emails, you like free music, and you like unzipping zip files.

Ergot, go to Wichita Records (homepage), give them your email address and they'll send you a zip file's worth of tunes.

Tunes from Los Campesinos!, Conor Oberst, Les Savy Fav, Peter Bjorn and John (and just Peter by himself), Euros Childs and others can be yours. Oh, and These Dancing Days, whose album 'In Our Space Hero Suits' is called 'In Our Space Hero Suits' and therefore going to be mega. Go now!

Here's a picture of Wichita Kansas, which has no involvement with this promotion at all.


First impressions of 'Glasvegas'

Almost a year since first bigging them up on here, Glasvegas have gone from latest-buzz-band-from-Glasgow to NME cover stars to festival slayers to almost-top-ten stars. It's safe to say that I've been looking forward to their debut album more than any other this year.

At least half of the album are songs that've been floating around in various demo forms for a while. They all finally sound the way you'd always hoped - massive, with the drums turned all the way up, with the feedback rippling gently but powerfully (check out the way the record begins, with 'Flowers and Football Tops' taking a couple of minutes to simmer before those drums kick in), and suitably grandiose. 'Geraldine' and 'Daddy's Gone' are already colossal live favourites, and others will follow. If it's not already, then just watch 'Go Square Go' get people singing its "Here we fuckin' go!" refrain in the very near future. Only 'Stabbed', in its new slowed down, piano-led reworking, doesn't quite sound its best. Check out the original sounding version below. Also, I've put up a cover of Glasvegas' finest song by Carl Barat's band Dirty Pretty Things which manages to suck out all the essence and emotion from it.

And as for the newer songs, there's nothing quite as jaw-dropping as those that were demos, but 'Ice Cream Van' sends us home with a slow-turns-huge finale; and 'Lonesome Swan' is pretty rockin'. I think it's a good thing that James Allen has such a thick Scottish accent, because if you knew what he was saying, you'd be in tears most of the time. This is a sad album, guys. From 'Flowers and Football Tops', about a mum finding out that her child's just dead, complete with a devastating verse of 'You Are My Sunshine' at the end; to 'Geraldine' (about the "deep and darkest place around"); to 'Daddy's Gone' - nuff said - to the promise of "a storm on the horizon" in the final track. Oh, and there's a song about winter depression ('S.A.D. Light') and 'Go Square Go' about bullying at school. And yet it sounds so warm, so approachable, so sensitive, so not-want-to-kill-yourself.

They're coming over to the U.S. later in the year, go and see them if you live in a town that isn't shit. The band are interviewed on the latest Music Weekly podcast, which always deserves a shout out. 'Glasvegas' the album is eloquent, moving, sad, heavy, everything. It'll make you punch the sofa in time to the drums, and you'll listen repeatedly.

Glasgow does it again. Your turn, Edinburgh!

[download Glasvegas - I'm Gonna Get Stabbed (demo)]
[download Dirty Pretty Things - It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry (Glasvegas cover)]



[Glasvegas - myspace / official site]

Back in the days before 'The Witches of Eastwick'

Every year, Yo La Tengo play a huge set of covers during the WFMU Marathon fortnight, and here's a song from this year's shindig. Everyone knows Iggy Pop's 'The Passenger' but do you know the second verse? Me neither. Ira's knowledge of the words fails him halfway through, so it turns into a profound meditation on the career highs and lows of one Jack Nicholson. It's pretty great.

[download Yo La Tengo - The Passenger (Live on WFMU)] [alt link]



[Yo La Tengo myspace / official]

Aw hell no, Kung Fu Panda!

It's very gratifying that Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's latest cinematic monstrosity Disaster Movie has failed to do well at all. Like their previous masterpieces, this one has dropped off the box office radar after a week. Unlike those, though, this one didn't rocket straight to number one - it landed seventh in its opening weekend, still not coming close to making back its modest budget. Good. The reviews probably didn't help too much (my fave being "a movie so bad that it’s almost avant-garde" from The Times). But those guys will always have a viewer in me - I don't know why, but I'll watch all their flicks. Here's what's passing for funny this time around (I suppose there are spoilers, but that'd imply that there was a plot):

  • More so than previously, this time they're relying heavily on not-really lookalikes. They're so unconvincing that the main characters need to spell everything out. "Amy Winehouse?!" "Hannah Montana?!"
  • Their Dr. Phil, fortunately, introduced himself.
  • Far too many people put "Bitch" at the end of every sentence.
  • There's a priest molestation joke.
  • Still funny: Michael Jackson, myspace, facebook.
  • Did enough people really see 10,000 BC, Beowulf, Prince Caspian, Speed Racer or Jumper to make them parody worthy?
  • The plot is loosely themed around Cloverfield - too high of a reference for the eight year olds that'll watch this?
  • Still funny: "I'm Fucking Matt Damon" - this time, adapted at the end to incorporate EVERY character that had been in the film. With "Dating" in place of "Fucking" because the PG-13 rating was more important than it being funny.
  • One of the cast is called G-Thang. Really.
  • Only one fake commercial in the middle of this one, for HEAD ON. I guess that's an improvement over 'Meet the Spartans', which had like three.
  • But this one still had plenty of musical breakdowns. Including a medley from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Also, they sang a death metal song. Also also, they had rabies.
  • I thought it was interesting how a lot of their spoofs, and I'm using that word loosely, were based on the trailers for summer hits. They won't have seen The Dark Knight or Hancock or The Hulk or Hellboy 2 before making this, and it's so lazy to do the slightest riff on those.
  • Still funny: "Brangelina"
  • In Spartans, a Happy Feet penguin started beating the shit out of one of the characters. Here, it's Kung Fu Panda. Why?
  • Being gay is still the worst thing ever ever ever.
  • Still funny: prissy white people talking 'street'. Also, breakdancing.
  • It just looked very cheap.
  • One of the last jokes is a shoutout to the Love Guru.
I've gotta say, this one was worse than 'Meet the Spartans'. That had, at least, a direction. This was literally a journey with "someone made to look like someone from a movie / oh, they've got hit by a cow" repeated over and again.

Which, as a metaphor, describes these guys' films pretty damn appropriately.

Doin' fifty-five in a fifty-four

Being an east-coast rapper and a member of Oasis, respectively, you'd think that Jay-Z and Noel Gallagher would be no strangers to beef. And so the war of words that erupted earlier this summer between the two over Jigga's Glastonbury headlinery was momentarily interesting, but then, with his little 'Wonderwall' riff, Jay sort of ended that one on top.

Oh, except he didn't - perhaps you've heard 'Jockin' Jay-Z' from his new record. So this feud is still going on, and in case anyone in the world was waiting for it, there's now an Oasis v. Jay-Z mash-up album up on the 'net. It's been put together by Cookin' Soul, and it's available for free on his myspace. The name of the album is "Ojayzis", which sounds like something Dylan Moran would say. And it looks like the album artwork was done by the floating heads guy! Here's a sample from the mixtape, with two of my fave songs by each party.

[download Cookin' Soul - 99 Supersonic Problems]

Let's rewrite our last chance

In the summer of 2001, I was travelling around the U.S. with my parents. The music site I edited at that time had just started to take off, and I was getting CDs in the post every day to write about, which was terribly nice. For the trip, I brought two albums with me, to listen to on my temperamental Discman and subsequently write about. One was 'The Cold Vein' by Cannibal Ox - thoughts in a nutshell: amazing first song, forgettable rest of album - and the other was 'Vague Us' by Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi.

If you haven't heard of them, there's probably a good reason. The band were one of those ultra-indie types that existed around London quite a lot in the early years of this decade. Heavily influenced by Sonic Youth and Pavement, they wore visors onstage, put out singles on indie labels, played gigs in the capital all the time, and were generally unremarkable. Amazingly, though, they got picked up by V2 records, who put out 'Vague Us', the CD in question. Wacky guys, wacky album title. I actually got to interview the guys once, and I remember the sentence "Graham's just another word for wanker" coming up.

I played the album a few times on car rides around New Jersey, Pennsylvania and some other states in that area. And coming back to it after seven years, I'm pretty glad to say that my opinion hasn't changed too much. Maybe three great songs, and a lot of throwaway rubbish. But let's talk about the great songs - 'Hear the Air', particularly, is fantastic. It's fast, furious, doesn't really have a chorus, stops and then starts again and features the phrase "gallons of semen". All within the space of like two minutes. Enjoy!



[download Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi - Maverick]
[download Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi - Hear the Air]

The dog will piss on your career

When you hear talk of hits at the cinema this summer, it's all Batman this and Iron Man that. Chances are, nobody's going to mention a thriller that's two years old, stars nobody famous and is in a different language. And yet, 'Tell No One' has already played at my local arthouse, and is - get this! - coming back due to popular demand. On a more national scale, even the Hollywood Reporter has called the film a word-of-mouth hit. For a foreign film to push close to $4m in domestic box office with barely any advertising is pretty spectacular.

And so it should be, because 'Tell No One' is fantastic. The plot follows a solid, old-fashioned arc: man hears his wife scream, goes to investigate, gets knocked unconscious and when he comes around, she's dead. Eight years later, he's not really moved on, and finds himself the prime suspect of (possibly serial) murder. It turns into a French 'The Fugitive' as the mild mannered doctor tries to prove his innocence, whilst being chased most of the time, with only one cop who believes in his innocence. Also, his wife might actually be alive, I should probably mention that.

The plot is dense, too dense, and there are plenty of "wait, what?" moments, and there is a clunky big exposition/explanation scene at the end. Yet none of this gets in the way of the film being incredibly tense and watchable. And the scene where the doctor is running down the street with an adorable huge, shaggy dog, while 'With or Without You' plays is disarmingly cute. Contrast this with the incredible footchase scene across one of Paris' busiest streets, or the very intense scene of a woman getting beaten. It's a heavy film but incredibly rewarding.

The characterization is really intricate and well thought out, with even minor roles being well thought out, like the neighbourhood tough guy who helps the doctor when he's on the run, or the terrifying torture specialist who knows pressure points and inflicts max damage. Francois Cluzet is great (and Cesar-winning) as the doctor, pulling off young Dustin Hoffman looks with genuine anger and confusion at being wrongly accused. Marie-Josee Cruze, not content with being in this year's other amazing French film, does well as the enigmatic is-she-isn't-she wife. And Kristin Scott-Thomas has a nice turn as the doc's confidante.

The film is still playing at cinemas in the U.S. though it may be hard to find. It's expected on DVD in November here, but I do believe it's out in Europe already. Check it out, make it an even bigger hit.

The Lord take Peth away

I posted an early version of this song a year and a half ago (!) and now The Peth are here, this time to stay. As you may be aware, the Peth consists of Daf from SFA, Rhys Ifans from Notting Hill, and a gaggle of other Welsh talent. Their album 'The Golden Mile' has been long-awaited (I guess) and is out next week. But they've made the single available, and here it is!

[download The Peth - Let's Go Fucking Mental]



[The Peth myspace / youtube / official]

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