There is nothing outside, above

Since you guys really did a number on my bandwidth with my last Hot Chip live track, here's another! Set closer, alas no Sinead to cameo, but nice and gentle and a huge singalong.

[download Hot Chip - Nothing Compares 2 U/In The Privacy of our Love (Glastonbury 2008)]
mirrors: sendspace / zshare

Usually drink, usually dance, usually babble

Here's a little sample of this year's Glastonbury shenanigans. There was more than just Winehouse punching fans, and Jay-Z covering Oasis, though the latter was amazing and you should seek it out at once. From the Other Stage, this is Hot Chip covering 'Wearing My Rolex', a recent top ten hit from Wiley. Also, they are joined by Wiley.

Incidentally, I'm sure someone else must have noticed that Alexis Hot Chip is clearly stealing sartorial nous from Eddie Jemison of the Ocean's Movies.

[download Hot Chip ft. Wiley - Wearing My Rolex (Glastonbury 2008)]
mirrors: ysi / sendspace / zshare

edit: here's another track from the same set.

The ripples of our decisions

First, some pearls of wisdom from the gentleman sitting behind us at yesterday afternoon's screening of 'Wanted':

  • (On Jason Statham in 'Death Race' trailer): "Awww, that's my MAN! When's that shit coming out? August? Write that down. WRITE IT DOWN!"
  • (On the violins playing over the Universal logo at the start of the film): "This is some James Bond shit, son! Double-oh-seven!"
  • (On seeing Terence Stamp): "That was Zod in Superman 1 and 2!"
  • (On struggling to recognize Common): "This guy's a rapper, who is it? (To partner) Do you know? Awww hell, she don't know!"
He was there with young kids. At one point, when McAvoy and Jolie kiss onscreen, he said "Cover your eyes" to them, and I thought that was kind of sweet, although this was after several people's faces had been blown clean off with massive guns, and there'd been a pretty hot and heavy sex-on-a-counter scene. Plenty of swearing, too. There was something adorably puritanical about this guy bringing his kids to a hard-R rated film and then getting protective at one of the milder scenes.

Anyway, on to 'Wanted', a film that's ostensibly about some weavers that kill people. My fundamental, inescapable problem with the film was that it had a completely flawed moral compass and just came off as incredibly misanthropic and unpleasant. There's some nonsense about a giant thread that tells the assassins who to kill (The Secret of the Loom?) and the entirely superficial justification is "Kill one, save a thousand". And yet, there are several scenes where two rival hit-people are going at it in hugely elaborate setpiece scenes causing just about every innocent bystander to die / get in car wrecks / fall off bridges. There's one scene toward the end where a large number of people eat it and it's terribly sad and it's written off as nothing. So that's a bad thing. Then there's the fact that the film was presumably written by 14 year old boys, certainly for 14 year old boys. Blah blah blah revenge fantasy, lots of swearing, loser finds meaning and gets angry and gets beaten up a lot. And don't get me started about the bullet-curving stuff. Whoop de doo. (For more, read Peter Bradshaw's review)

So it is a mean-spirited, nasty piece of work. But the thing is, with the guy from Night Watch and Day Watch in charge, it looks amazing. There's some genuine flair, creativity and talent on show in the visual department. Is that enough to make up for the complete lack of redemption or proportion? Not really. Nicest thing about it: Best use of CGI rats and peanut butter as a weapon... EVER! Seriously, though: stay the fuck away from this film.

4play: Glastonbury Memories

The Glastonbury Festival is underway, and will keep you informed on what you're missing. (So far: Vampire Weekend, Santogold, Get Cape, and rain). Here are four songs that I saw live during my two visits to the festival, in 1999 and 2002. I've got so many amazing memories of that festival - from wandering around at 4am with my pal Nico and a girl from Coventry, looking for a teepee that was playing Trap Door*; to the mass Korean wedding that we spent two hours looking for in 2002. Also, live music was performed.

* Yes, I realize I mentioned this in my post last year, but that's just how insane it all was.

The Beta Band - Life: There was hardly anyone at the Other Stage when they started, because of those lousy White Stripes on the Pyramid, but it quickly swelled to a massive crowd for Los Beta Bandidos. "We won't play any Wurzels, Oasis or Travis!" said a cheerful Steve Mason, and they were amazing. And finally, six years later, I've forgiven them for not playing 'Dry the Rain' that night. [Bonus: some video!]

Jurassic 5 - Jayou: The dance tent was SO PACKED for them. And they tore. shit. UP. Everything that is good about live hip hop happened in that tent. Some breakin' to close out the set, after Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist spent ages showing off and blowin' minds.

Seafood - Western Battle: The first part of a double bill that's made in my dreams, the 'Food were on before The Music in the new bands tent, and Kev Penney was wearing a t-shirt that said ROCK N' ROLL MOTHERFUCKER. Kev H, meanwhile, said "We're Glastonbury virgins! We're not real virgins, though... we're all studs!" and that embodies the dorky charm of these guys. Also, 'Western Battle' is a fantastic song with about six choruses.

Elbow - Coming Second: This was the show where me and about thirty thousand friends sang back-up vocals on an Elbow song. Got 'A Cast of Thousands' to hand? Yeah, that's me in the acknowledgments. This set drew entirely from 'Asleep in the Back' and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Although 'Scattered Black and Whites' didn't make me cry, the way it did at Reading the previous year, it was still pretty stunning. Did I mention that I love Elbow?

[download The Beta Band - Life]
[download Jurassic 5 - Jayou]
[download Seafood - Western Battle]
[download Elbow - Coming Second]

That's just the prescription talking

More 'Be My Baby'... this time from Glasvegas.

Lest we forget, I've written about them a couple of times before, but now they're NME cover stars, about to crack the top ten, and mates with Lisa Marie Presley. And good ol' Alan McGee is STILL firing up the hyperbole machine about them.

Download their Be My Baby cover (in English, alas) from the Guardian.

[Glasvegas - myspace / official site]

All the Beauty You Will Ever Need

When David Sedaris came to speak in my town last year, I didn't go because tickets were $33 and I can't justify spending that much on one night's entertainment. [Caveat: Unless they bring their own motherfucking spaceship]. But no hard feelings - I picked up the man's new book When You Are Engulfed in Flames last week, having kinda enjoyed 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' and not read anything else of his. I wasn't really aware that there's a whole lot of controversy around Sedaris and his authenticity at the time, but to be honest, it doesn't really bother me. I don't read his work because I necessarily believe it to be true, so much as it's pretty interesting, often very funny, and ocassionally quite moving.

After 'When You Are Engulfed in Flames', though, my opinions of him have slipped. Not because of the embellishment nonsense, but just because I didn't really enjoy it much. What I liked about 'Me Talk Pretty...' was all the discussion of his family, their togetherness, their fallings-out, etc. Here, there isn't too much about them. A lot of stories focus on larger-than-life characters like a grouchy, bossy next door neighbour ('That's Amore'), a crazy babysitter ('The Understudy'), a trucker who really wants a little relief ('Road Trips'), an NYC cabbie who really loves lesbian pornography ('Town and Country') or a really mean co-passenger on a flight ('Solution to Saturday's Puzzle'). All of these are interesting enough, but didn't really have anything to say. They at least keep you hooked, but are kinda disposable. I enjoyed listening to them, and forgot about them pretty quickly.

There are many more tales which are far more instantly forgettable, too. His partner Hugh gets a skeleton as a gift, David collects spiders, Hugh's mother gets a stomach worm, Hugh walks too fast, David is fascinated by corpses. Blah blah blah.

Only a couple of times does Sedaris react to genuinely sympathetic characters with some tenderness and these stories stand out the most. An eccentric landlady struggling to take care of her elderly mother and mentally handicapped daughter. A grieving man on an aeroplane. An outcast French villager. These, and one about using album covers to repel woodpeckers from the windows, show a little more emotion and really stood out for me.

The focal point of the book, though, is the big finale - a huge piece called 'The Smoking Section' which is about his sisters' smoking, visiting Tokyo, learning Japanese, a history of tobacco in the United States, a treatise on why he hates cheap hotels, a history of tobacco in the rest of the world, and Sedaris' personal quest to give up smoking. Yep, it's huge, sprawling and all over the place. Like a microcosm of the book as a whole, really. Some good bits lost in the midst of a lot of not-so-good bits. For fans only.

This past weekend, I drove a lot in pretty heavy rain. And listened to 'The Fidelity Wars'. This song could be playing in 'The Smoking Section'.

[download Hefner - A Hymn for the Cigarettes]

Satan's your best friend

Back when Audiogalaxy ruled the - ahem - audio galaxy, it kept telling me that the genre I listened to the most was "chamber pop". What does this mean? Who knows? I've never heard of that genre outside of that short lived software. But this week I've been listening to the album 'Rest Now, Weary Head! You Will Get Well Soon' by Get Well Soon, and it sounds like it was recorded in a chamber. I mean this with great admiration - it's a fine record, very richly orchestrated and well put together, with long song titles not getting in the way of clever arrangements and just plain good songs.

Because I'm lazy I don't mind saying that the first song, with its lazy horns and prevailing sense of Eastern bloc ambiance, sounds like Beirut, while the very slowly unfurling chorus on 'Christmas in Adventure Parks' is lovely, as is 'Witches! Witches! Rest Now in the Fire'. Also, there's a song where he's singing in a deep, country voice with banjos in the background and a female co-vocalist. The pace picks up with 'If This Hat Is Missing, I Have Gone Hunting', which has big, echo-ey drums and a chorus of cheerleaders. Brilliant! I also like the calmer songs, like 'People Magazine Front Cover', 'Help To Prevent Forest Fires' and the cover of 'Born Slippy' by Underworld. Lager Lager Lager.

GWS is apparently one Konstantin Gropper from Germany (Mannheim?) and hopefully we'll hear more of him in the future. This record is perfect for listening to repeatedly, allowing it to get under your skin, and warming you up in the cold, barren winters which we don't enjoy anymore.

[download Get Well Soon - Christmas In Adventure Parks]

[Get Well Soon myspace / official]

Welcome, Politicians!

I like to keep an eye on my Statcounter page, partly out of vanity, and partly to see where visitors to this site are coming from. It's nice to know that I have readers in just about every country out there. But imagine my surprise to find the following today:

Just to clarify: Someone at the Houses of Parliament in London went to my facebook page, and from there clicked the link to this site. Twice in ten minutes.

Cool? Or Unnerving? I mean, I know there are no pressing current affairs that the British government should be focusing upon. But surely even they have better things to worry about than my excitement for movies that are still a year off? Weird.

"This is a terrible day... for Leeds United"

Let me go on record right now, in June 2008, and say the following. The future film release that I'm looking forward to the most is:

  1. The book it's based on is incredible.
  2. Brian Clough is a legend.
  3. It's directed by Tom Hooper, whose recent work includes Longford, and John Adams, a miniseries which I, inexplicably, am yet to see.
  4. Jim Broadbent is in it! And Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall and Michael Sheen as the man himself. Throw in a T-Wilks, just to complete the set of great English (and Irish) actors, and I'll probably start crying for joy.
  5. Look at the clip on this page. Sheen has really got the Clough voice down already.
  6. It gives me an excuse to post a Luke Haines song.
[download Luke Haines - Leeds United]


I wrote a piece for another site. (Don't tell anyone!) It's pretty different from the tone that you've come to love and worship here - but if you're interested, go over to Half Deserted Streets and read it.

(Those of you who read this and are part of the Brain Farm crew will get a particular kick out of it. But you don't have to be part of that legendary outfit to enjoy it)

The view's too good to jump

Ten years ago this week, 'The Good Will Out' by Embrace went to number one in the UK album charts. They're totally uncool, and have always been uncool, but so help me God, I still listen to 'The Good Will Out' sometimes. In the summer of 98, Oasis had already gone off the deep end, and these guys were a) also two brothers, b) from the North, c) were prone to statements like "We're the best band that ever lived and everyone else can fuck off", and d) wrote massive singalong anthems with huge choruses. So, their debut album was a "buy it in the first week" kind of deal, back when people actually bought CDs. Also, I first read about them in Select Magazine, which doesn't exist anymore but was, at its best, unimpeachable.

Anyway, Embrace's rockin' songs were pretty good, but they really did ballads especially well. 'Fireworks' and 'Retread' and 'Higher Sights' make for a trilogy of pretty songs which made the girls swoon. Things got more noisy with 'The Last Gas', and 'All You Good, Good People'. Plus there was 'One Big Family', which got the lads shouting "We are family!", only more drunk. The slow songs might have been more effective if their singer Danny McNamara didn't sound like a Yorkshire Walrus, but you can't have everything. 'The Good Will Out', the final song, was a massive singalong with broad lyrical themes like conquering demons and overcoming adversity ("You don't know how well you've played until you've won"). It may add up to a pretty basic formula: simple verse + colossal singalong chorus = hit! but that's fine with me.

With their everyman choruses and mass appeal, I can see why most critics rarely had much nice to say Embrace, and why they're still considered resolutely uncool. And to be truthful, I didn't really care for anything they did after their second (of five) album(s). But I was 15, went to see them live a few times, and really enjoyed this album.

And yes, I know Ian MacKaye has a post-hardcore band with the same name. I don't think there's much overlap between the two sets of fans.

[download Embrace - You've Got to Say Yes]
[download Embrace - Retread]

[Embrace myspace / official]

Sink to the bottom of your room

Some links.

- A new game. Religious zealots or rappers: Who has the worst rep for homophobia? [Radar]
- Rivaldo: Genius or face-grabbing cheat? [Guardian Blogs]
- Hulk (2003): A spirited defense of Ang Lee's most hated film. [Slate]
- The sheer vitriol that's being thrown at The Love Guru means that I might have to see it, given my inexplicable desire to watch all horrendous films. The MTV Movie Awards, which happened recently and was hosted by Mike Myers, was a terrible car-crash of lowest common denominator jokes and skits. And by most accounts, so is this film. [AICN], [Slate]
- I'm sure you know this already, but here's the new Girl Talk [Illegal Art]
- If you haven't already checked out this live camera feed of a lioness and her cubs, what the hell are you doing with your life? [Some Norwegian Zoo]
- There's a music festival coming to my town. And I don't mean The Fest, which is a pretty well established punk gathering. No, in September, there'll be an event with actual bands I've heard of, like Drive-By Truckers and Mates of State. Not sure how much it costs yet, but I imagine I'll check it out. Radiohead probably won't be there, though. [The Real Big Deal]
- I was pretty disappointed by 'The Secret Migration', so I'm excited that Mercury Rev are releasing TWO new albums later this year. One of which'll be free. Bonus! Here's an old gem. []
[download Mercury Rev - Frittering (live)]
- Heavy metal fans in "actually racist" shocker. [Guardian]
- I was happy to see old Oasis singles get a look-in. Because they used to be brilliant. The 'D'You Know What I Mean' single, particularly, was unique in that all the b-sides were vastly superior to the lead track. In fact, from that single, here's my favourite Oasis song. [AV Club]
[download Oasis - Stay Young]

- Finally, THIS is how you advertise your upcoming film.

Reason and practicality are mean

As if his own comedy background wasn't impressive enough - former editor at The Onion and executive producer of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report - Ben Karlin has drafted in some comedic heavyweights to contribute to his book 'Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me'.

Like who, you ask? How's about Patton "The Wizard of" Oswalt, David Wain, Mr. Colbert himself, Bob Odenkirk, Nick Hornby, Larry Wilmore, SNL's Will Forte, and a few other comedians of whom I hadn't heard. Oh, and Karlin's mother provides a preface, charmingly entitled "I Think My Son Is A Catch". Apparently, the print version of the book has more stories than the audiobook, which is what I enjoyed, so hunt that down, completists!

The essayists are now in place, and the theme is made pretty clear by the title. So, is it any good? Like any collection - it is and it isn't. There are plenty of big laughs - Karlin's own essay is angry and funny, Patton's is about dating a stripper, Dan Savage's is the filthy (I know, right? Him?) story about how he progressively turned gay, Jason Nash talks about his own complete unlikeability and Colbert's wife heavily edits his contribution. Nick Hornby himself couldn't read his essay, so fellow Brit John Oliver provides the voice, which is just as appropriate, since the subject matter concerns Blitz-era London. And David Wain, who I've never much cared for - his effort is capital G great - if you've ever had an unreliable friend, you'll enjoy it.

At times the stories were sad, pathetic, desperate and once or twice, sort of pertinent. Everyone feels rejection, betrayal, disappointment - and apparently, some positive emotions too? - and these are usually softened by the laughs. (Larry Wilmore's piece, about his newborn daughter is very sweet, and sticks out a little in this collection). A couple of the writers didn't really have much to say and went for the "It's a guy's book, so let's be graphic with the body parts" approach, but that's ok. You need some balance. Even the story that is helpfully entitled "Don't Come On Your Cat" is, against all odds, sort of charming.

'Things I Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me' is an easy read/listen, and will give the guys (and the girls) plenty to chuckle over during this turbulent time.

Thank you, and good night.

The lad from Knockbridge County

To some extent, I'm very glad that Euro 2008 has been getting good coverage in the States. All the matches have been on one of the ESPN channels, as was the case in '06 with the World Cup. Even though the sport generally, and the European Championships more specifically, aren't of interest to most U.S. sports-watchers, it's nice that they're being given air time.

What is a shame, though, is the poor level of analysis and commentary that ESPN has. Here's an article that well articulates the failings of the "worldwide leader in sports". Gotta give a shout out to the "gnome" Tommy Smyth. He does most of the co-commentating on ESPN, along with Derek Rae, who is fine. Smyth, though, is really grating. Unlike your Robbie Earles and your Trevor Francises and your David Pleats, dude has no experience as a big time player or manager. Sorry, but the German American Soccer League doesn't quite count as "big time". That said, fair play to him for getting the job seemingly on the basis of "sounding like he knows what he's talking about". Smyth spouts all the usual cliches and nonsense that you'd expect, along with some truly great phrases. "Why's his arm that high up? Is he calling a cab? There's no cabs in the stadium!"

His catchphrase, if you will, is "bulge in the ol' onion bag", which really doesn't mean anything. It's not even, like, an old-fashioned saying, which we can forgive on account of the man's advanced years. Nobody in the history of time, sports or television has ever said "back of the ol' onion bag"! I'd tell you more about Mr. Smyth, but an Irish singer-songwriter called Aine Woods has done that for me. I'm not kidding. Click here to listen to her song 'New York Grand Marshall'.

4play: 'Be My Baby' drums

Say it ain't so! It's the welcome return of this feature, depending on how you define "welcome" and "feature". In my last post, I made reference to the trademarked 'Be My Baby' drum intro, without giving it a moment's thought that you may not have known what the fudge I'm talking about. So here are four songs that are united by that signature boom boom-boom thud sound. Three of the songs are from London, and one from Liverpool.

That Johnny Boy song is unimpeachably incredible, making it a shame that the band's album sank without a trace and they were never heard from again. Elsewhere, there's the first we ever heard of Clinic, back in their still-wearing-surgical-masks days; something heartfelt from the Hef's 'Fidelity Wars' album; and one that you may already have, from Radiohead's European tour support BFL.

Expect another 4Play in seven months' time.

[download Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve]
[download Clinic - I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth]
[download Hefner - The Weight of the Stars]
[download Bat for Lashes - What's A Girl To Do?]

Reviens Vite Et Oublie

'Be My Baby' by the Ronettes is one of those songs, that if you don't like, I can never be friends with you. It's a prime example of a song that has a 'Be My Baby'-intro (you know, dum dum-dum TSSSH dum dum-dum TSSSH). It's been covered by everyone, from John Lennon to We Are Scientists to Maroon 5 to Whigfield (!). None of those covers are particularly good, but why try and improve on perfection? The only possible way I'd even consider listening to someone that isn't the Ronettes sing 'Be My Baby', would be if it was in a foreign language. Probably French, because 60s pop songs always sound good when covered in French. Of course, regrettably, that'll never happ...

Thanks, Mod-ified Music. Your site rules.

Next dance party I throw will totally be a ye-ye barnstormer.

If I'm not me, who am I?

To celebrate the launch of NME Radio, their big draw is: a new episode of the Ricky Gervais show. Steve and Karl are along for the ride, and it's as good as you'd expect. Karl doesn't understand midgets, monkeys, admires beetles, and would be rubbish on the Apprentice. Like the new song from The Music, this new episode won't make any new fans, but if you're a fan, you'll be loving it. Of course. Some good tunes, too - Vampire Weekend, Guillemots, the Stones...

They're repeating it a whole lot - check the schedule here.
(Or, you know, maybe just go here for a download)

New Radiohead - 'Super Collider'

You don't even have to choose how much you'd like to pay to see it.

Live in Dublin t'other night!

You can find a million faults in me

This one is pretty tardy. To be honest, I listened to 'Red', the second Guillemots album, a couple of times when it first hit back in March, but it made so little of an impression upon me that I kinda forgot about it, preferring the instant and continuously ace Laura Marling, LC! or Elbow records. But last night in the car I decided to revisit 'Red'. After all, the band's previous album was my favourite of the year in 2006, so they deserve another listen. My initial gripe was that despite beginning strongly, it sort of blended into a dull mess for a large swathe of the middle of the album.

That impression remains, unfortunately. The first three songs are still storming, though - 'Kriss Kross' fails to get old or not-huge; 'Big Dog' seems to divide opinions but I really like it, coming across as a polished RNB stormer (check it on my muxtape); and 'Falling Out Of Reach' is gorgeous, with gospel choirs, soft vocals and the fact that Sir Ian McKellen is in the video is just icing on the cake. Fyfe said he wanted to make this album the inverse of 'Through the Windowpane', this time beginning with the most mental track and ending with the quietest, and that makes for a great first ten minutes, although the last song, 'Take Me Home' is dreary and forgettable.

Trouble is, despite being more adventurous 'Red' is too often just alright. 'Last Kiss' is uptempo and is their most dancey-song, but other than that, it's unremarkable. 'Clarion' and 'Cockateels' pass you by, the later has the Bollywood strings but that's about all. 'Standing on the Last Star' is the biggest weak spot - it sounds like the least inspired tunes from the Britpop days with pretty bland lyrics and for once with this band, pretty boring instrumentation. "Is nothing in the world going to make you happy" is a nice refrain, I suppose, but if you're still listening that far into the song, kudos to you. What it boils down to is: there are fewer drop-dead instant classics on 'Red' than 'Windowpane', and more filler.

Since I am a fan of the band, and don't want to end the review on a sour note, I'll just say that 'Don't Look Down', the penultimate track, is really good - Fyfe's voice begins all deep, over sombre background, before it unfolds deliberately, slowly, into a much prettier swooner; and then it becomes a drum-n-bass stormer, with some amazin' work from Greig.

I hope we can still be friends, Guillemots.

[download Guillemots - Don't Look Down]

[Guillemots - official site / myspace]

New Ted Leo/Rx - The World is in the Turlet

Holy Jesus!

On tonight's Best Show, Tommy Thunder took lyric suggestions from listeners. And Ted Leo and the Pharmacists MADE A SONG OUT OF THEM. One line rhymes "palaver" with "cadaver". And there's a full band introduction, even Count Violence. It's about the end of the world, fifteen years from now, and it is rock heaven. It really is.

Can't put it up just yet, but run your ass to the Best Show archives, find tonight's episode, and forward about 2.40 into the show. Or, you know. click here.


Double whiskey, coke, no ice

So there's a new record from the Hold Steady that you don't have to be particularly web-savant to find on ye olde internet. I'm not a particularly big fan of theirs, though this is changing with just about every song I hear, but I was keen to listen to 'Constructive Summer', if only for Stereogum calling it "the opening and arguably best track on Stay Positive". Gotta say - the song is really resonant with me, with its celebration of drinking, friends, and more than anything else, the long hot days of summer.

As it happens, I'm having one of the dreariest summers of my life. Taking classes, napping all the time, spending almost entire days at home alone, 96% of my friends are out of town... I don't mean to come off as a sad-sack, though... After all, the solitude just led me to watching the entire first series of 'The Wire' over three days. That show is fantastic! Turns out, everyone was right when they said "Best show on television".

I don't really need any excuse to get all wistful and nostalgic, but this song, 'Constructive Summer', really makes me think of the summer of 2005 - the last truly great summer I had. There's one line in the first verse - "Our songs are singalong songs" - and that recalls the song we wrote in 05, 'That Guy', which became an anthem among my group of compadres, a singalong at just about every party for three months. There was even a doo-wop remix! There's a line in 'Constructive Summer' about "Drinking on top of water towers, with love and trust that shows all summer" which pretty much encapsulates that summer of 2005. There's even a shout out to St. Joe Strummer.

Craig Finn's lyric "Let this be my annual reminder that we could all be something bigger" is particularly powerful - the summer being the lowest ebb of my year, when most people I care about have gone their own way for a few months and there's precious little to do anywhere.

For now, though, I'm loving this song, and thinking of that time we walked around the Tuscany apartment complex in Tallahassee, Florida, trying to get back Matt's santa hat, which was stolen from off his head by some drunk girl in the world's most terrible party.

Stay Positive is out in mid-July. should have a new live show from the band posted next week.

[The Hold Steady official site / myspace]

Area Man cannot find his good socks

Talk has been flying around for ages about The Onion Movie, with the internet suggesting that it was filmed back in 03, but has just been sitting around gathering dust. Wikipedia, the most reliable name in research, can't be wrong. But patience being the virtue that it is, the film is finally getting a DVD release this week. Hooray!

The site has been an internet favourite for as long as the internet has been around. I remember working at a boring job in central London, where I'd paste the stories from The Onion into a Word document, print them out, and then read them on the Tube on the way home. And this was like ten years ago! The film plays out some of the most memorable stories from the Onion vaults - remember this, this and this - and throws together a loose narrative around the sketches, involving corporate interference at a news network. The veteran anchor isn't happy with being interrupted by Global Tetrahedron's mascot penguin marching out over his serious headlines. (That is not a sentence I expected to use today, but now I hope to use it again tomorrow).

There are sketches, news stories, commercials, public interest stories and periodic reviews of the film so far. It's all over the place, but they manage to satirize successfully and more often than not, with pretty funny results. Targets include public impressions about race, sexuality, obesity, government, obsolete technology, prison overcrowding, military recruitment... I could go on.

One of the less successful sketches involves a role-playing game focused on rape - it reminded me of the legendary Brass Eye episode that got all those complaints, only less subtle. Another is a send-up of heartwarming news stories about a man in a wheelchair who is good at sports, which lasts for ages and isn't particularly funny.

That said, there's a running gag about jailbait popstar Melissa Cherry, whose songs are patently not about sex, and that is very funny. Also great is the running trailer for the 'Ow, My Balls' style new movie 'Cockpuncher'. Amazingly, the ending of the movie actually draws a lot of these strands together for a kind of cool last scene, and the phrase "Film critic intellectuals are a bunch of gaywads" comes up. There's a couple of "too racy to include" clips at the end, one of which involves a nun having a drink - say no more.

So, The Onion delivers with a satirical film that doesn't always work, but when it does, it's really funny. It's good!

The adrenaline burns a hole

Despite having chosen the world's least Google-friendly band-name, The Music have done very well for themselves - they're a band from "The North" who've been on Jimmy Kimmel's show, that has to count for something. (Of course, that video clip is impossible to find, but I'm 100% sure I didn't just imagine it. They played 'Breakin'.) Anyway, I caught the band live once at the Square in Harlow, a venue slightly bigger than my kitchen, and they absolutely slayed. The guys with instruments are proficient and make some amazing noise, but the focus is undoubtedly Rob Harvey, the singer, who can't stand still - it's nice to see a singer who can outdance his own audience.

Several years on, they're back with a new album, the first in four years by my count. I can't really speak of any change in direction, it looks like the primary shift within the band is that Rob doesn't have any hair any more. The lead single and title track is 'Strength in Numbers', which like I said is same ol' Music, but I happen to really dig that. The lyrics are the usual ol' bollocks about working together, optimism blah blah blah. What matters is that it has a 4/4 drum beat that you can't avoid nodding to, a simple chorus to sing along to, and above all, it's catchy as hell. If you didn't like them before, this song probably won't convert you. But if you're looking for a solitary Monday night dance party, you could do a lot worse than this. 'Strength in Numbers', the album, is out in Britain on the 16th.

The video, which they won't let me embed, is some OTT Cloverfield-meets-mushroom-clouds shit. No idea what's going on. Check it. Also, here's an old song of theirs, from 'The People EP'. And, as a further bonus, if you click here, you can get a remix of new album track 'Fire', by the equally stupidly named Does It Offend You, Yeah?

[download The Music - Jag Tune]

[the music myspace / official site]

Why would they go to the Russians?

I like to imagine the first day of filming for 'Burn After Reading' thusly:

The Coen Brothers, fresh from their 'No Country' success, are first to arrive, each holding a few Oscars just to show off. And with them is Frances McDormand, who didn't want to feel left out, so she's clutching her Oscar too. Then Clooney arrives, with his charm dripping out of the bottom of the limo, with his Oscar hanging out of his pocket. And who's this giant that just got here? She looks like she's made of ice - pale, pale, British ice - and she too has a new-looking shiny Oscar. It's Tilda Swinton, her off 'Young Adam'!

Meanwhile, in another corner, Brad Pitt and John Malkovich, who on other days would be considered fine actors, are scowling, since they don't have that token of recognition that the others are flaunting. Malkovich turns to Pitt and says, "Just remember, Junior. I've been nominated more times than you". Then can begin the first read-through.

Anyway, as if all those amazing people don't make you excited to see a new Coen comedy, how about the fact that the trailer has an Elbow song in it?

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