All the blogs are about you

I went to a wedding this past weekend in Jacksonville (read about it here and here). On the drive there I listened, twice, to 'Partie Traumatic' by Black Kids. It was fitting, since they are a band from Jacksonville. The album just came out a couple of weeks ago, to pretty solid reviews in the U.K. and pretty weak reviews here in the States. You've probably seen the most notorious of these already.

After seeing them in November, I mentioned that if you expect nothing more than a good dance, you'd be golden, and that's pretty much still the case half a year later. 'Partie Traumatic' is a solid album, never amazing but never horrendous, with a few really good songs. If you're expecting anything more than a decent album from a very young band who're already considered last year's news, you'll not like this. And 'Listen to Your Body Tonight' is a bit rubbish.

But this is a band that can get people dancing, even when the song is dumb as hell and rhymes "eat some grits" with "this song is the tits", as the title track does. Even in its new and far inferior recording, 'I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You' still sounds ace. 'I'm Making Eyes at You' sounds a little like a more adolescent 'Love Cats', while 'Hit the Heartbrakes' rebounds nicely from a terrible knock-knock intro into a pure pop chorus.

Reggie doesn't have much to say, but his laments about women are a failsafe subject to sing about. The girls in the band provide bratty back-up shouting, most effectively on the straight-up fun album closer 'Look at Me (When I Rock Wichoo)'. I also like 'I've Underestimated My Charm (Again)', and danced when I heard it in Urban Outfitters the other day, particularly during its Motown-lite outro.

So, anyone that expects Black Kids to deliver a debut album that will match 'Pet Sounds' or 'All Eyez On Me' in terms of permanent cultural relevance and immediate success, will probably be disappointed. For what it is, a collection of ten songs by a band younger than me and mostly younger than my sister – it's pretty okay. There is probably something to be said about the nature of the music press, and how this band has already gone from darlings of the blogs to forgotten also-rans in the space of a few months. But I'm not nuanced or analytical to say that today.

[download Black Kids - I've Underestimated My Charm (Again) (EP Version)]

[Black Kids official / myspace]
[Buy 'Partie Traumatic' UK / US]

This ain't High School Musical!

It's hard to write about Step Up 2: The Streets. On the one hand: yes, it's a completely generic, predictable, poorly acted and worse written tale of Andie, a girl from the streets getting into a fancy school, becoming an outcast there because all the suits don't recognize her genius, getting kicked out of her street crew for deserting them, and ultimately smiles all around. It's pretty poor. One Hispanic girl throws in an "Ay dios mio!" when we first see her, just to prove that, y'know, she isn't Hungarian. Andie's guardian is trying to look after her, but is painted as the bad guy for looking after Andie and trying to keep her out of trouble. (Incidentally, she is played by Kima from The Wire – Baltimore what what). You'll notice it's her guardian and not her mum. That's because the mum died of cancer, of course. The characters are entirely rigid in their "bad guy" or "good guy" roles. There's the usual gut-wrenching decision to be made: should Andie stay in her crew and exist solely to win dance competitions in an abandoned warehouse and almost get arrested; or should she try and get an education? It's a tricky choice.

But the thing is: We KNOW this. I didn't watch the movie expecting to see a novel new plot arc that wasn't already in Flashdance or Fame or the first Step Up – though I've only seen one of those three films. You KNOW the characters are going to be ultra-broad stereotypes. You KNOW the ending before it's even started. You KNOW that everyone's going to learn something about acceptance. But you watch it exclusively for the dancing. And some of that was intense. Most of it wasn't, though. Bonus points for using a dead fish as part of a dance routine – that needs to happen more often. And there were some pretty nifty moves (tricks? steps?) on a trampoline. But for the most part, it wasn't all that hot. The music was top-notch: I don't listen to the radio too much, so I'm not sick of that Flo-Rida jam just yet. There was some comic-relief from a character named Moose, who was funny despite apparently only being directed to "do exactly what the nerdy character is supposed to do in films and nothing else". But the dance numbers weren't nearly as eye-popping enough to make me tune out the terribleness of the rest of the movie. Beyond watching it as a drinking game – drink every time someone says "The Streets", three drinks in the first two minutes – there is no reason for anyone that's past the age of majority to go anywhere near this.

There's a well-argued piece about the film here , calling it "the single most racist movie that will be released by any major American studio in the first 10 years of the twenty-first century." Definitely worth a read.

To me, to you. Bitch.

Finally, the question "What if a beloved, if entirely corny, kids' TV personality covered a contemporary rap classic?" is answered. I give you Barry Chuckle, from the Chuckle Brothers, covering '99 Problems'. Of course, American readers won't get as much joy/confusion out of this clip, but I think you'll still enjoy it. Wait, which one is "enjoy"?

Me and Hanson: We'll go dancing

At the moment, there's a lot of talk in the U.S. about endorsements. Not just who's endorsing Obama or McCain, but on the radio yesterday, I heard about which Union is supporting which candidate for Circuit Court Judge. It's on all levels.

So, to that end, here's my big revelation. The Mercury Music Prize shortlist was announced today, and it's my pleasure to announce that the nominee that gets my support is... Laura Marling. She'd be a worthy winner, tough on crime and lenient on foreign policy. Also, 'The Captain and Hourglass' is fuckin' awesome.

You could have predicted that, obviously. (I also like BSP and Elbow, though)

Here's a song that's not on her album, though. A live Kimya Dawson cover, complete with fluffed lyrics, laughter, and Nick Valensi shout out.

[download Laura Marling - 5 Years (live)]

Let's put a smile on that face

Have you guys heard about this new Batman flick? Apparently, (at the time of writing this) it's the greatest film ever made. Take it from me - I think it might be a sleeper hit, remember where you heard the name first. It's a shame that here in the States, it opened against box-office juggernauts Mamma Mia! and Space Chimps - both of which I kind of want to see - but good luck to this Nolan guy all the same.

Anyway, I saw The Dark Knight, at an almost full 10am screening and though I was reluctant to write about it, here are some thoughts. Reluctant just because, well, there's no dearth of opinion about it floating around, so who needs another?

- The first scene, which you can actually watch on its own for free, is really great.
- Not just because I'm a big fan of people getting hit by buses for comedic effect.
- William Fichtner. I see his face everywhere.
- Wait, was that Colin McFarlane? From Black Books and The Fast Show? Brilliant!
- Nice to see, at the beginning, that "Honest" Abraham Lincoln was one of the Batman suspects.
- Yes, yes, Heath was great, but for me the star of the show was Aaron Eckhart. Dude killed it. Makes up for the god-awful 'Bill' and 'Black Dahlia'.
- The Batman voice is so silly sounding.
- Scarecrow is in it for like two minutes, and I could've done without him.
- The last line in the film is super corny.
- The stunt stuff in Hong Kong is awesome, the shot of the 18ft truck doing a pirouette even more so.
- I'm now even more eager to become a lawyer.
- That accountant was a jerk.
- There were loads of trailers: I can remember Watchmen, Terminator 4, Body of Lies, The Mummy 3, and Burn After Reading.
- I guess what I'm saying is... go and see it.


So check it out... we had a facelift.
At the moment, it looks great but some of the links are screwy.
But I'm working on it.
What do you guys think?

You were working for the Government

Every day, I walk to and from my place of work and think of the lyric "On the lam from the law / On the steps of the Capitol". This is mostly because I work at the Capitol, and to get to it involves steps. Explaining it definitely takes away some of the magic.

New job is keeping me busy too much to listen to new music and write about it. Maybe over the weekend. Also, from my desk at the new workplace I have a perfect view of this poster.

[download The Decemberists - The Bagman's Gambit]

Mistaken for Strangers, and Disorganized

Today I moved to Tallahassee, a different town than the one I usually live in, to start a six week job. I'm looking forward to that, but here's a funny story from my drive up here. Despite being pretty meticulous about packing all the things I'll need for a month and a half - alarm clock radio, tie rack plus ties, John Adams on DVD - of course I forgot something at home.

I got on the road, filled up with petrol, stuck 'Boxer' on, and skipped 'Fake Empire' - not because I don't love it, just because it's not a hot-rockin' song to drive to - and heard the lyric "Showered and blue blazered". Yup, my suit was still hanging in my cupboard at home. Now, if it were something else, like shoes or a towel, I wouldn't be too fussed. But a suit isn't something that I can just buy when I get there, or borrow from someone else. Plus I'll be working at a fancy-pants place, so I couldn't just say ahhh forget it.

Luckily, I was still in Gainesville, so I could turn back and pick it up. But I just think it's funny that, had it not been for The National, I'd have been far more screwed. God bless that band!

Riot, disorder, set the banks on fire

Due to a friend's bachelor party and law school exams, I won't be posting here for a few days. Yes, I wish the two weren't so close together but as you guys know, I'm prone to throwing caution to the wind.

In my absence, go to these two new interblog things and tell them I sent you.

1. LSD and Lollipops: FOT Beth, who's largely responsible for my ye-ye affliction, has finally set up her own shop, and it's essential reading.

2. Kramer vs. Predator: Gainesville, Florida's very own Matt writes about films, but with the cool detachment of someone who could only be a friend of mine. In post number one, look out for the phrase "neck sex".

American readers, enjoy your three day weekend. Here's a song that's patriotic.

[download Hope of the States - George Washington]
(YSI link, sorry. Those Hot Chip files DESTROYED all my bandwidth)

The summer's worst movie

Based on all the buzz, I had low hopes for The Love Guru, and yet I knew I'd end up watching it. There's something about horrific comedies that always pique my interest, far more than bad dramas, horror movies, etc. Why else am I always drawn to the shitfests thrown up by Friedberg and Seltzer? But even with such a high tolerance for absolute bilge, there wasn't much to look forward to when it came to Mike Myers' big comeback flick. I think the guy on Slate's podcast articulated it best when he said "Myers might just be slightly mentally retarded".

So here's the bad news. I laughed during 'The Love Guru'. Twice. Admittedly, that's an absolutely horrendous return for a major studio comedy, but in all honesty two laughs (chuckles, really) was still far more than I expected. There was a bar-fight scene that was funny. And something about Morgan Freeman's voice. That's about all I can remember.

So here's the really bad not-really-news. The film is fucking terrible. I like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Jim Gaffigan, Romany Malco and Omid Djalili but now I just feel bad for them. (Truthfully, I don't even remember Omid being in it). At one point, I was seriously considering the following quandry:

Justin Timberlake singing 'Because You Loved Me', while Mike Myers gets violently attacked by a rooster. Is that funny?

It isn't.

I talked about 'Wanted' being written for 14 year old boys over the weekend, and this one sets the bar even lower. Penis, fart and midget jokes? The ten year olds must've been loving this. But then, I thought - one of the big recurring themes here is the main guru's struggle to be as famous as Deepak Chopra. Is that not a pretty obscure reference, given that nobody aged over fourteen will find this film funny? Even Mariska Hargitay, whose name is used as a stupid mantra... Are middle schoolers going to know who she is? The primary lesson that impressionable youth can take from this film: Indian people are dumb as hell. Thanks!

Timberlake's character is entirely superfluous, Jessica Alba looks great but is incredibly dull and somehow finds the Guru hilarious when everyone watching thinks he's insufferable, and Sir Ben Kingsley just lost all the credibility he's EVER accumulated. All of it. I know - House of Sand and Fog, Schindler's List, Bugsy, Sexy Beast, Gandhi of course. All that goodwill is lost with a violent crosseyed man pissing into a bucket and then spraying it onto people. Done.

Even the dream-team of Colbert and Gaffigan, the two guys who could redeem this craporama, are given such awful material to work with that I quickly lost interest. They play commentators with very much the same dynamic (only less funny) as Gary Cole and Jason Bateman in 'Dodgeball'.

Worst thing: Lazy jokes making fun of Spears, Hilton and Lohan. Great. OR: "Your agent, Richard Pants is here" "Oh, you mean Dick Pants?" (Accompanied by wink and mass-retching). OR: the musical numbers. OR: Elephants humping. I could go on.

Best thing: Director has the same last name as the guy responsible for the year's best film. They're probably not related.

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