AYGH's 25 Films of the 2000s

Since everyone with a website and hands is pre-occupied at the moment with making lists, here’s one I made about films that I like. I don’t know if I’ll do a corresponding one for music, because I’m lazy and that sounds difficult. Here’s the list, in chronological order. Why don’t you list YOUR favourites in the comments? That’d be ka-blamo.

O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

My favourite Coen Brothers film. I know, I know. It almost got me into bluegrass music, but fell a little short. That aside, the scene towards the end at the Klan rally is insane, Clooney is really funny and I’ve enjoyed many hours of saying “I thought you wuz a tooooad” like Tim Blake-Nelson.

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Loved it, will never watch it again. The sequence where she sings ‘I’ve Seen It All’ around the train is mesmerizing. It’s the only von Trier film I’ve really enjoyed, and even so, I can’t imagine I’ll ever watch it again. It’s a shame the film is only remembered for Bjork’s Oscar dress.

24 Hour Party People (2001)

Coogan and Winterbottom (they’ll be back later) told the story of Tony Wilson’s life in full, bonkers, technicolour glory. From the introduction, that’s addressed plainly to the viewer, to the closing Revelation, this was enjoyable, often funny, didn’t gloss over Ian Curtis’ suicide too flippantly, and featured some amazing tunes. Also, the scene where the Ryder brothers put rat poison on bread and then dead pigeons fall out of the sky is way funnier than good taste would suggest it should be.

Hero (2002)

My pal Nick brought this one back from Japan, a year or so before Tarantino got onboard and it made decent money in the States. We watched it on DVD at Kirk and John’s, and it blew my mind. Maybe it’s because I didn’t see Crouching Tiger until long after its hype had died down, and seeing this felt like a little secret. After this one came House of Flying Daggers, which I didn’t like nearly as much. The scene where there are thousands of raining arrows is the only thing I can remember all these years later – I really need to see this again.

City of God (2002)

This one almost cost me a girlfriend. We were watching it at the SLB, and the violence was too much for her, so she said “I’m going home.” Apparently, good boyfriends would get up and walk their partners home in this situation, but I was way too immersed in the film, so I let her go alone. Admittedly, our residence hall was a one minute walk away, but I appreciate the principle that makes me out to be a jerk. But in my defense, how ace is ‘City of God’? The cinematography, the way the colour saturation changes as the movie progresses to indicate the passing of time… it’s tremendous.

28 Days Later (2002)

The first of two London-set zombie films. Here, the zombies appeared to be well-mobilized, though. This one really worked on an emotional level. When Cillian Murphy’s character roams the deserted streets of central London, and then goes to his parents’ house, it’s genuinely affecting and creepy. Plus, ‘am180’ in the supermarket made me all happy.

Spellbound (2002)

How did a documentary about some kids manage to be both incredibly suspenseful, and also really really funny? While I naturally had a soft spot for the Indian kids, but my friend Nadia and I mostly just did impressions of the little boy who spoke like a robot. Wiki tells me that kid is now studying for a PhD. I feel very unaccomplished.

Jackass: The Movie (2002)

Yeah, yeah. Turn your noses back down, snobs. I didn’t really have any interest in this, missed it in the cinemas, but was working the night we played it at the SLB. I sat in the back row, so I could see the entire audience – all 380 seats were full – and it was an amazing movie-going experience. It was insanely fun to watch a big roomful of people all turn away, shriek and cover their eyes at the same moment. And later, I have fond memories of going to John and Kirk’s and watching the extra footage on the DVD that was also insane. There’s going to be a 3D Jackass movie soon? Hooray! I mean... probably not.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Will Gondry, Kaufman, Carrey, Winslet, Wood or Ruffallo ever reach these heights again? Also, T-Wilks!

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Probably my fave of the decade. They just get everything spot-on. When it has to be, it's hilarious, and the last act gets really heavy. I just found out that Shaun's last name is Riley. I live for trivia like that.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Not my fave book in the series, but definitely the best film. The final act, with the Time-Turner stuff, is majestic, and I’m always happy to see David Thewlis in things.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Despite the best efforts of everyone who still quotes it to death, ‘Anchorman’ is still the balls. I’m no cine-anthropologist, so I won’t go into how its success opened the door for many other great comedies, but regardless, it probably did. The giant newscasters’ brawl still makes me fall out of chairs, so I usually watch it while sitting on the floor.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Beginning to end, I just love it. My #1 Wes Anderson film. I am not on drugs.

Kung Fu Hustle (2005)

I saw this one by myself at the Paramount Theatre in Austin for SXSW. Obviously, I wasn’t alone, but everyone else in our group went to see something else, leaving me as Billy No-Mates. Luckily, the film is magical. The opening scene features bad guys getting laid to waste by some stylish vigilantes, culminating in a woman getting SHOTGUN’d. From there, it just gets better and better. Stephen Chow is a pretty bonkers filmmaker, and even his kids’ flick CJ7 had some things to love. But Kung Fu Hustle is his greatest.

Brick (2006)

I’d heard a lot of good things about Rian Johnson’s film, but didn’t bother to actually seek it out until it was recommended by my Torts professor. I’ve never claimed to be cool. Really gritty, with especially noteworthy dialogue and some really well-defined characters, it is an under-the-radar gem.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Wow, writing paragraphs for each of these films is getting tiresome. So I’ll try and be briefer. Firstly, this film made me even more afraid of amputations than I previously was. The magical creatures are only half the story here – the plot is amazing, and the ending perfect.

Mission Impossible 3 (2006)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If ‘The Woods’ was a film, it’d be Mission Impossible 3. And I love ‘The Woods.’

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2006)

Coogan and Winterbottom reunited, and it feels so good. An entirely self-aware film that is very very funny and features a brief appearance from the late Tony Wilson.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2006)

The lineup was made in my dreams. One of the most straight-up JOYFUL films of the last few years. My favourite character was the dude in charge of the marching band who was disarmingly proper throughout.

Man On Wire (2007)

Oscar winner!

Once (2007)

Oscar winner!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

Should’ve been Oscar winner!

The Wrestler (2008)

Should’ve been Oscar winner! Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to bitch about how ‘Big Fan’ STILL has not made it to Central Florida. What the hell, distributors?

Wall-E (2008)

Pixar at its finest. If you didn’t get misty-eyed when Wall-E was nursing Eve, and wrapped the Christmas lights around her and held her hand (claw?), then you’re made of granite or some other, more porous rock.

In the Loop (2009)

“No, you're right, I'm being unfair. I should be thanking you for not throwing up. Well done, you're a star. You didn't wet yourself, did you? You're in the right city. You didn't say anything overtly racist. You didn't pull your cock out and start plucking it and shouting "Willy Banjo". No, I'm being really unfair. You'd got so much right, without actually being there in the beginning of one of the most important moments of my career. Thanks, you're a legend.”

Unrelated: ‘The Thick of It’ as greatest TV show of the decade?

From the dusty crates #6: My Vitriol

Unlike some of the other bands mentioned in here thus far, My Vitrol were actually from London, and as such, there was an eighteen month period when they were always around. I'm sure I've seen them like ten times, supporting Mansun, King Adora, JJ72, Feeder, at festivals, at random headline gigs... and I don't even like them that much. What's most significant about why I kept coming back to My Vitriol despite my, at best, kinda liking them, was that a) two of them were Indian (possibly Sri Lankan?), and b) their PR guy pushed them REALLY heavily. As in, I'm sure I received their album - and their subsequent and entirely superfluous album reissue - at least three times. They put out a string of singles that were okay, with 'Always Your Way' being a favourite that was released twice. The band's primary influences appeared to be My Bloody Valentine and Nirvana. Vincent Gallo appeared in the 'Grounded' video. Wait, what was that last one?

Once, at the insistence of said PR guy, my friend Natan and I went to interview the band, prior to a gig at Shepherds Bush Empire, supporting Mansun. We went to a pub around the corner, and half the band couldn't be bothered, and went off to talk with their mates. So, Natan and I chatted with Carolyn and Seth, the bass player and guitarist. I thought it went rather well, both were very nice, and just to give you an idea of how long ago this is, we discussed Zach de la Rocha's "imminent" solo album. Yikes. I was happily typing it up the following afternoon, and their PR guy called me up, saying that the band had complained about us, that we'd been really horrible, and that we're never allowed to talk to My Vitriol again. That definitely was unexpected, and took a little sorting out.

That mostly turned me off the band, although our paths continued to cross for a while longer. As far as I can tell, they still haven't put out a second record. Apparently, they are on the covering-Crazy-bandwagon, and were the last band to rock the Astoria before the Man won.

[download My Vitriol - Always Your Way]
[download My Vitriol - Falling Off the Floor]

The Rakes break up

It's that time again, another band I quite like have called it quits.


A statement from the band explained that their hearts just weren't in it any more. "The Rakes have always been very adamant and proud of the fact that we give 100 per cent to every gig we've ever played," the statement read.

"If we can't give it everything then we won't do it. That was the rule we set ourselves from day one. After much deliberation we have come to the shared conclusion that we can't give it 100 per cent any more and regret to announce that The Rakes are calling it a day."

Play it loud, play it proud.


[download The Rakes - Strasbourg]

From the dusty crates #5: JJ72

I'll admit it. JJ72 was one of the first bands I really fell in love with from the ground floor. First heard about them in Select, interviewed them before they headlined the Barfly, wrote some overly sycophantic reviews about their live shows, left the country right before their second album came out. Incidentally, that show of theirs where I interviewed them was when the Barfly was still at the Falcon, before it moved. Supporting them that night were My Vitriol, who may also appear in this column at some stage.

But JJ72 were a three-piece from Ireland who were only a few years older than me, had a sexy bass player, and knew how to do choruses. Also, the singer kinda sounded like a girl. I read a review at the time that said "This is the first band to listen to 'Everything Must Go' and think "Yeah, we can do that"", which probably explains their appeal to me at that time. In a few months, I saw them a lot of times and fell in love with them. Their faster songs were, and remain, okay, but they wrote some really great slow and pretty songs, that still hold up. Supporting the Dandy Warhols at the Astoria, the Reading Festival, two nights at ULU, a couple of other times that I can't remember. I was head over heels. The rest of the world, not as much. I remember other writers for my site saying "The guy sounds like a girl and all their songs sound the same" which was a pretty valid criticism. Also, when playing live, he'd always - always - smash a guitar at the end of set closer 'Bumble Bee', which came off as contrived after the seventh time of seeing it.

By the time they headlined the NME Tour (supported by Amen, Alfie and Starsailor - yikes) even I had grown bored. Or more likely, found a newer band to get behind. The band's second album 'I To Sky' came out very soon after I left for the U.S. and after that they broke up. Mark Greaney started a new band called Concerto for Constantine, with a dude who was in Idlewild, but I don't know anything about them.

[download JJ72 - Undercover Angel]
[download JJ72 - Willow]

Just don't put that calzone in your pillow

I've been meaning to write about Matt Braunger's standup album 'Soak Up The Night' for a while, but didn't get around to it, what with the packing, moving, and unpacking. And then I saw him last week on Conan and thought "Damn! If I write about it now, people will think I only heard about him because of his appearance on national late-night television" and that's not the case. It is terribly important for me to be seen as cool and ahead of the trends at all times, so there.

Matt Braunger - not be confused with Matt Besser or Matt Belknap, two other L.A. comedy types - used to be a cast member on MAD TV but I only heard of him recently, due to his appearances on I Love Movies and some other pod-oriented broadcasts to which I subscribe. The album, which was put out by Comedy Central Records, is pretty good. The comedian that Braunger reminds me the most of is Dane Cook. Wait, come back! It's mostly his style of delivery - very confident and with a bit of swagger - and the fact that there's quite a lot about drinking, and a bit about watching pornography. But even these are funny, so don't let the D-word C-word put you off, indie-comedy-nerds. That demographic will especially enjoy a bit that's entitled 'Lifting Weights to the Smiths'. Like me, Braunger doesn't like The Doors or 'Piano Man', but unlike me, he hates Cadbury's Creme Eggs, which, if I gave scores, would cost him some points. My favourite bit on the CD is here for you, and involves the guy with the funniest name in all of Portland. I laughed out loud, and hopefully you will too.

[download Matt Braunger - The Two Funniest Names in Portland, Rusty Nail]

[Matt Braunger - MATTs Radio/ twitter / tumblr]
[Listen to 'Soak Up The Night' at lala]
[Buy 'Soak Up The Night' (iTunes)]

From the dusty crates #4: Regular Fries

The other day I mentioned a genre called 'The Scene with No Name', which a) did, in fact, have a name, and b) it was a fucking stupid name. Well, today to (almost) match the inanity of that title, let me tell you about Skunk Rock. The Lo-Fidelity Allstars were the biggest names within this scene, and that ought to tell you something about it. Other bands in the bracket included Campag Velocet (starring the world's most handsome man), and London heartthrobs The Regular Fries.

Now, usually when you hear about bands with journalists in them, you think "oh, this probably won't be good", and that's what I first thought about the Fries. They were an eight-piece who put out a couple of insane EPs that were simultaneously funky and confusing. Seeing them live was equally mesmeric - there were grooves and beats and also camouflage netting and birdcages. They had a single called 'King Kong' which might have been a love song. And then came the album 'Accept the Signal', which paired some pretty great songs - witness 'Dust It', below - with some truly horrific lyrics. "Deep sea diver, dear Lady Godiva, lend us a fiver... the girls" went 'The Girls'. It got mostly poor reviews, but catching them at festivals and around London was always fun. I remember one time they supported Asian Dub Foundation at the Astoria, and it was a severe mismatch between the bands, and I was one of the few who enjoyed both sets immensely.

And then... somehow their second album, 'War on Plastic Plants' was MORE mental. For one thing, there was a song called 'Africa Take Me Back, which was incongruous coming from the whitest, palest men you will ever look at. But there's a track featuring their spiritual forefather Kool Keith, a man so nuts, he makes the Fries look like Dr. Stephen Hawking or something. My buddy Sal once wrote of the band, "they're what you get if an Ikea Store crashes into Cape Canaveral with 8 joyous, energetically manic Bez type people including a legionnaire, thrown in? That covers it pretty well, I feel.

I don't know what happened to them, I can only assume they broke up and did some more drugs. Here's a couple o'tunes for you.

[download Regular Fries - Dust It]
[download Regular Fries - Supersonic Waves ft. Kool Keith]

From the dusty crates #3: Crashland

Well, we moved into the new place. You know what's a whole bucket-ton of fun? Carrying eight car loads worth of stuff across a car park, up a flight of stairs, and down a hallway. Fortunately, it's done now, so I can return to the feature that internet denizens the world over are calling "instantly forgettable" and "more than superfluous".

Today, we're talking about Crashland, a three-piece who I believe were from the West Country. That's Bristol, not, like, Arizona. I may be wrong about that, though. For a very short time, they were a staple on Steve Lamacq's Evening Session, and every time, without fail, Steve would refer to them as "the tightest power trio in the country." The singer came off as arrogant in interviews, but they didn't get much press, and though their album 'Glued' was pretty good, they disappeared not long afterward, leaving very little impact on the music scene, and, as my research this evening concludes, even less impact on this Internet.

They wrote pretty straightforward indie-rock songs with big choruses which were, by and large, unremarkable, but struck a chord with me at the time, and 'Glued' remains a CD that stays (guess what word goes here) to my car stereo most of the time. The last song on there, 'We're on Fire', is especially lovely, although calling it this generation's 'Yesterday' may be pushing it, writer of Crashland's last.fm bio. I once saw the band open for Reef (Terrifying true fact: Reef had TWO number one albums) at Shepherds Bush Empire, and of course Crashland were vastly superior. After 'Glued', the band was dropped by Independiente and put out a pretty killer EP before calling it a day. When the EP came out, we went to see them at The Monarch, and it was one of those gigs. We got there (we being myself and Alex Wells), assuming that it'd be pretty empty, and it was a sellout, with every single person - band and crowd - being surprised to see so many fans for the band. Here's a couple of songs and the video for their first single, 'Standard Love Affair'.

[download Crashland - We're on Fire]
[download Crashland - Money Shot]

From the dusty crates #2: Ikara Colt

Since the inaugural post in the new series was a runaway, resounding success that people are still talking about worldwide in hushed, reverent whispers, it's time for volume two. Today, it's London's own Ikara Colt. For a while, the NME put them, the Parkinsons and some other bands that I remember even less than the Parkinsons into a sub-genre called "the scene with no name" or just "no name". This really did happen.

I first received the band's debut single 'Sink Venice' to review, and while the lead track, was okay and featured the lyric "two thousand damp bricks won't save you now" which is far better than okay, the b-side 'At the Lodge' really caught my attention. They followed it up with a couple of singles that were both stone-cold stunners: 'One Note' and 'Rudd,' and then the album 'Chat and Business'. A singer who couldn't really sing, some killer choruses and a ton of energy, they became a live staple in 2001, and I caught them at Reading and supporting my beloved Six by Seven (future candidates for this feature?) amongst other places. Glancing at old reviews, I noticed that my esteemed pal Olly Parker once said of them:

The Colt have a song, it is a fine song, tight, honest, rocking, catchy and cool. Unfortunately their insistence upon playing the song five times diminishes from the overall effect. They're a fine band but any longer than twenty minutes and you would see me expressing some entirely different opinions.
And that sums it up very nicely. Apparently, in the States they were on Epitaph, where I'm sure they didn't sit comfortably next to all those punk bands. I never listened to Ikara Colt's second album, and apparently they split in 2005. Remind me to ask Eddie Argos if IC were an influence on Art Brut - I definitely can hear the resemblance.

Here are two of their best songs.

[download Ikara Colt - One Note]
[download Ikara Colt - At the Lodge]

From the dusty crates #1: Audioweb

I'm moving house this week, and as such, cleaning out the existing house. Trying to get rid of stuff that I really don't need anymore, rather than carry it to the new place, and then the next place after that, and so on and so on until I become a prime candidate for 'Hoarders'. During this process, I've donated a load of old books to the local library, and made two trips - so far - to Goodwill, giving them a box of movie posters*, lots of old cassette tapes**, and most crucially, loads and loads and loads of old CDs. Most of these were things I got for free during my time as a music writer in London. So, there's a preponderance of British indie bands from 1998-2001 that nobody has thought about for years and years.

Looking through these CDs, I got a bit nostalgic and gave them a play. I thought it'd be interesting to write a bit about some of these bands, who are long forgotten, who I was into as a youngun.

First up: Audioweb

These guys were on U2's label, and even supported the Irish behemoths at Wembley Stadium once upon a time.*** They put out two albums, both of which I have, before calling it a day in 1999. Musically, they were pretty much a standard indie band, with decent riffs, choruses, etc. But their singer Martin brought an extra element, with a soulful voice (bear in mind: other bands around at this time were Space and Shed Seven), and he threw in some "lawdamercy" and skankin' over the songs. In hindsight, I think what appealed to me the most about this band was that they weren't just four identical looking white guys, like just about every band I was listening to at the time. Also, Ian Brown was a big fan, and as we know, that guy's judgment is top notch.

Here are their two "biggest" singles. I must confess: I heard their version of 'Bankrobber' before knowing that it was a cover. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Clash's original, which doesn't have any lyrics about cocaine. Also, 'Policeman Skank' from their second album, which is ace and tells the story of a fight in a courthouse.

Another forgotten indie band tomorrow, probably!

[download Audioweb - Bankrobber]
[download Audioweb - Policeman Skank]

* Including, but not limited to, Stealth, The Barbarian Invasions, War of the Worlds, Hustle and Flow, and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.
** Turns out, I did own 'Music Box' by Mariah Carey.
*** The lineup for that gig, amazingly, also featured the Longpigs.

If this is my public, I'm ready for you

My little sister, who is very busy and important, went to see Colin MacIntyre last week, here's her review.

Colin MacIntyre

The Living Room, New York
October 6 2009

The curly haired Scotsman from the Isle of Mull delighted the audience at the Living Room in New York’s Lower East Side on Tuesday night. Playing a mix of songs from his Mull Historical Society days to his new album, ‘Island’, Colin’s sensational voice and amusing commentary in between songs entertained the audience for the hour long set.

Sitting solo on the stage, facing a dozen or so small round tables, Colin played two songs from his new album, ‘Island’ early on in the set: ‘Cape Wrath” and 'The Edge of Nearly'. Both are my favorites on the record, particularly because of the powerful violins which give each song an eerie complexion. That is what I love about Colin’s music. It’s hard to pinpoint, but there is something joyful and yet slightly haunting about it. His adaption of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Maps’ was a beautiful and touching acoustic piece. It truly tugged at the heart strings.

He played the next few songs with excitement and energy – stopping in-between to share some stories with the audience. He pulled out a music report card from his schooldays, in which the teacher wrote “Colin spends too much time showing off to ever make anything of himself” and sharing the inspiration for ‘Tree Scavengers’ – a trip to upstate New York where he felt as though turkeys were flying in the air. He was cheeky and charming, at one point mentioning, that he “really learn to play the guitar for this one” before starting one of his more difficult musical pieces.

But it was Colin’s performance of ‘Samuel Dempster RIP’ that was the most memorable part of the evening. Before he started playing, Colin explained that the song is about his great grandfather, a man who served in world War and never returned, or knew that his girlfriend was carrying his child, “the girl he’ll never know as his own”. It felt as though the entire room was moved almost to tears as he poignantly shared this tragic moment in his family’s history.

Colin closed the set on a high note with “You’re a star” – leaving the crowd head-bopping, fist pumping and grinning ear to ear. He even managed to squeeze in a Letterman gag mid-song when he sang, "TV hosts write their own epitaphs”. It was pretty amusing.

In summary, Colin is simply a brilliant musician. His beautifully written songs are moving, thoughtful and at times heartbreaking. He is tremendously talented and an absolute pleasure to watch. Thankfully, Colin mentioned that he married a New Yorker, so in his own words…he’ll be back soon.

- Anu Mathur

[download Colin MacIntyre - Samuel Dempster RIP]

He played 'Watching Xanadu'!

You've never won anything fairly

When I was in London in March, I had a conversation with my friend Tom1 about the big-screen adaptation of David Peace’s hugely acclaimed novel The Damned United. We played the parts of one of the film’s producers2 and an American studio executive. The role-playing went something like this:

American studio executive (ASE): So what have you got?
Damned United Producer (DUP): Well, it’s a British film about soccer.
ASE: Ugh. Well, Bend It Like Beckham did well enough. Go on.
DUP: This one is set in the mid-70s. In northern England.
ASE: …
DUP: It’s a biopic, about Brian Clough.
ASE: Who?
DUP: One of the greatest managers of the 70s and 80s. You know! Ol’ Big ‘Ead.
ASE: Never heard of him.
DUP: The guy from Frost/Nixon is in it!
ASE: (Momentarily interested) Frank Langella?
DUP: No, the other dude.
ASE: Oh.3
DUP: Did I mention, there are no women involved.
ASE: Thanks for coming by. We’ll… uh, we’ll call you. Good luck with that.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder film to market in the United States. I caught it today, and try as I might, it’s hard to detach it from the novel, which is terrific and dark and gets deep into Clough’s neuroses and psychoses. The film strips most of that away, and what remains is a solid story of a man addled by ambition and principle. It’s hard to talk about the film without getting into football philosophy, so I’ll try and keep it brief. Cloughy believed in playing attractive football and as an Arsenal fan, I can relate. In Arsene We Trust and such. His nemesis, Don Revie, succeeded at Leeds by having his player kick lumps out of each other and worse, once refused to shake Clough’s hand after a match.

Performances in the film are uniformly great, with Timothy Spall and Stephen Graham as standouts. Sheen himself didn’t work any miracles for me – maybe it’s because I’m only familiar with Clough as an older man and didn’t know him in 1974.4 As a debut feature, this was good stuff from John Adams director Tom Hooper – there was a nice combination of archived footage, the voice of Barry Davies, and Bowie5 over the credits. There’s definitely a gravity that the book had, that this doesn’t have. But the look and feel of the 70s, the sodden pitches, the ugliness of the game – and the players – come across very well.

I don’t think you have to be a football fan to really enjoy this film, though that’s easy for me to say, so hopefully it’ll catch on here in the States. But I wouldn’t put any money on it.

1 Not the Tom I mentioned in a previous post, but another Tom. What? I know a lot of Toms. Get over it.
2 For some reason, I played the producer as a bumbling, effete, Hugh Grant in Four Weddings type.
3 The suit actually thought the producer meant Oliver Platt, but that’s neither here nor there.
4 Or anyone, for that matter, for another nine years.
5 ‘Queen Bitch’, since you ask.

Now, THAT'S interesting

As you know, I don't update this site much. Consequently, the site gets - at best - modest hits. I've a decent collection of archived pages, so if I get about fifty visits a day, I'm pretty happy. Of course, if I updated more regularly, that'd go up, but in this era of cars and sunshine and Netflix Instant Queue, who has the time?

So, imagine my surprise when I checked my Statcounter this mornig, for the first time in a while, to see that, since Sunday, I've received over 500 visits to the site. 296 on Sunday alone. "What the what?" I said, not out loud because I'm at the Honda Dealership and that would mark me out as a crazy person, but to myself. I assumed that someone had linked to one of my posts on a more popular blog, and that's what brought in the traffic. But no, that wasn't it - there wasn't one source link that was responsible.

Turns out, lots of people were coming to my site after Googling "Is Gene Hackman Gay?" and one of my old posts - a review of the already forgotten film 'Blades of Glory' - features the word "gay" in its title. But why the sudden interest, since Sunday? After some curious research: apparently there's a reference to the Mighty Gene's sexuality in the pilot for 'The Cleveland Show', and so people wanted verification.

So, that's one good thing to say about that show, then.

Just thought it was interesting how the internet works, sometimes.

The five steps of Muse

This week sees the release of the new Muse album, their fifth, entitled ‘The Resistance’. I’ve not yet listened to it, so I can’t write about it yet, but I am interested in the band’s progression from fresh-faced Radiohead rip-offs to VMA playin’, Stadium-sell-outin’ multi millionaire crazy people. I’ve seen Muse five times, and here are the stories of each.

1. Glastonbury Festival, June 1999

They played the new band tent, which was a long, long trek from where we were camped. Having heard ‘Uno’ on the radio, we were intrigued. We made the journey, losing two or three good men on the way – to ice cream vans, not death – and the band promptly opened with ‘Uno’. The rest of the songs all sounded the same, and we all left very unimpressed. Also, they played ‘Instant Messenger’, a song that’s both instantly forgettable, and a spiritual forebearer for both ‘LOL Smiley Face’ and the band LMFAO. Not a good thing. “Hah,” I said on the walk back to the Pyramid Stage, “I don’t imagine we’ll hear any more of these losers.”

2. London ULU, February 2000

Alright, so I went to see them again because Soulwax were supporting. And guess what? Somewhere after ‘Showbiz’ came out, Muse became amazing. They played a couple of new songs, including a Nina Simone cover, and a little song called ‘Plug In Baby’, which Matt Bellamy would later say is about genetically engineered puppies. The band was pretty unrecognizable from those I saw the previous summer. I was well and truly converted.

[Note: At that year’s Reading Festival, I foolishly chose to see Oasis headline the main stage, rather than Muse on the second stage. The reason: that week there was a strong rumour that Oasis were about to break up, and I wanted to catch them at least once before they did. Unfortunately, they somehow dragged themselves through another nine years, and I missed what I’m sure was a much better show in the tent.]

3. London Brixton Academy, May 2001

This one was cool. I received a promo copy of ‘Origin of Symmetry’ a few weeks earlier, and frankly, I played it to the point where the ink was dripping off the compact disc. Their PR guy called me the day of the show – about a week before the album came out – to say there was a single spot on the guest list for me, so I hurried along, alone, to south London. The Cooper Temple Clause played first, and I like them, so it was fun. Then Muse came out and began with ‘Citizen Erased’, an amazing song that is eight minutes long, and at that point, hardly anyone had heard. But I loved it. At the end, during ‘Bliss’, some fat guy gave me a hug as the giant balloons dropped from the rafters.

4. Orlando, December 2004

Oh, look, I’m living in the United States now! This was on the ‘Absolution’ tour, and as I remember, we drove from Tallahassee to Gainesville, to pick up my sister, and then on to Orlando, but got stuck with the worst traffic in history. Made it to the gig just in time to miss support band The Exit, but given that I have never heard of them, I can live with that. The set was rather new-album heavy (not a surprise) but hearing ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes’ live gave me butterflies sans hurricanes.

5. Jacksonville, April 2005

This gig was at a very nice, fancy looking newly renovated club in a strip mall. Openers on this occasion were a little band called Razorlight, who only had one album out at that point, and didn’t play ‘Dalston’ so I was mad at them. Muse played a pretty similar set to the one a few months earlier, but the fact they had RETURNED to Florida after only four months was a big deal. A couple of songs that wound up on ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ were played, but none of them did much for me that day.

So those are the five times I’ve been to see them live. The last album didn’t wow me too much, and I haven’t really been back to it since then. I thought it took itself a little too seriously – the sense of fun was missing from previous work. But then, the ‘Knights of Cydonia’ video addressed that particular concern of mine.

Can’t wait to hear ‘The Resistance’ – apparently there’s a clarinet solo?

[download Muse - Citizen Erased (live)]

I Ain't No This Or That

Rather than pick up physical copy of David Cross’ new book, I Drink For A Reason, like some sort of pre-historic Luddite Neanderthal, I took it in in audiobook form. This was a wise move for two reasons. Firstly, by many accounts, the book is addled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, which would bug me if I was exposed to them because I’m annoying like that. And the audio recording obviously doesn’t have these problems. Secondly, the book is read by Cross himself, and this definitely benefits the collection of essays, lists, true stories and made up stories. This way, it’s more like his stand-up, with accents, inflection and pauses, which are lost in print. Also, there are little cameos from H. Jon Benjamin, Les Savy Fav and Kristen Schaal, which is pretty cool.

The content itself is fairly uneven, as you’d expect from a compilation of thirty or so pieces of varying length and humour. There’s a fantasy segment where David is a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s show, which I didn’t find too entertaining, and one about disgraced-by-Oprah writer James Frey’s latest book, which stretched one joke out for a long, long time.

I far prefer Cross when he’s being rational and making fun of stuff. There’s a great essay about a scrapbooking convention in Michigan, which he happened to chance upon. There’s a reprint of his legendary open letter to Larry the Cable Guy, which you should definitely read if you never have. And a really interesting explanation of his feud with Jim Belushi. Cross’ feud that is. I don’t know if Mr. The Cable Guy is feuding with Jim Belushi. Although the correspondence with Patton Oswalt regarding Cross’ appearance in ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ is omitted, there’s a nice discussion about the “hipster backlash” that he went through. Cross, that is. Not Patton. I’ve gotta cool it with the pronouns.

As with Cross’ stand-up, the strongest material in the book concerns religion and nationalism. There’s a brief section concerning Orthodox Jews who have devised various technological methods to “get around” the laws of the Sabbath. I liked the essay towards the end about our overuse of the word “Hero” (Firefighter? Yes. Guy who ate nine hot dogs in three minutes? Not a hero). And one of the highlights is called “I Hate America! Or, I Hate America?” where he quibbles – very reasonably and articulately – his perception as a liberal Jew that hates his country. (Unrelated: one of the companies behind this book is called Liberal Jew-Run Media Productions, Inc.)

The book is resolutely not a memoir, but Cross teases some anecdotes that will be in his life story when he gets to it. In the meantime, this collection is worth checkin’ out, but if you can, definitely get the audio version. Do that.

A drinking town with a football problem

A quick glance at my friends’ statuses on the Facebook will confirm: It’s college football season again. At the time of writing this, seven of the most recent ten updates are “Go Gators!” and a lone “Go Noles!” although to be fair, they don’t play until Monday. Try as I might, I’ve never got whole-heartedly, drop-all-else into American football. Plenty of people have tried to explain it to me, and I’ve been to Superbowl parties and even an ACC Championship game. And while I’m definitely more into “football” – at the college level, at least; the NFL still holds no appeal – I have trouble with paying attention to a fixture for more than three hours at a time.

All that said, I really do enjoy the game-day atmosphere. This is the first season in six years where I’m not in a college town, and I do miss the environment, the team unity, the tailgates, and for want of a better word, the inebriation, that a home game brings. My experience in Gainesville over the last three years lacked some of this excitement because at my house, we sold parking to match attendees, and this overlapped with pre-game festivities. By the time we were done, everyone would be settled inside the stadium, so there’d be no fun left.

Since FSU is facing Miami on Monday in Tallahassee, I’m reminded of my favourite experience – four years ago today. Again, Miami were up in Tallahassee on Labor Day (a Monday), and as you might expect, the drinking began sometime early on Friday. After something of a rest for a couple of days, I got the call on Sunday at lunchtime that everyone was meeting at Tim’s. These were the days when I didn’t have a car, so someone came and picked me up, and after picking up a 24-pack, we got to Tim’s house. We spent the next thirty hours drinking, barbecuing, watching sports and movies – it was one of the most fun nights of my college career. In the morning, we went to the supermarket, bought eggs and made breakfast for about twelve people, all of whom had made it through the night.

The house was a few blocks from the stadium, and on the way there, we joined an ever-growing throng of painted people heading to the game. In the stadium parking lot there were more burgers and beers, and by the time we sat down, we’d been awake for about forty straight hours. I don’t know if this is a standard thing for hardcore football fans before every home game, but for a curmudgeon like me, it was taking its toll. At half time, FSU was up 10-7, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I headed home – an uphill walk on Pensacola St. that took far longer than it ought to – and went straight to sleep. Luckily for me, no more points were scored in the second half, so I didn’t miss anything.

I definitely miss the days of spending entire days doing nothing but feeling like it’s everything. And even though following one football team is stressful enough, I promise: I’ll try and care more about the college game this season. For at least a week.

And now for an old favourite.

You think it's King Lear

There once was a time, a darker time, let’s call it the late 1990s, when I was a big, big fan of the band Manic Street Preachers. I’ve mentioned that before, no big whoop. I didn’t do the whole eyeliner-and-tiara thing that many MSP fans used to go for – and, I presume, still do – but there do exist photos of me in a feather boa. On the scale of obsessive Manics fans, I was pretty tame, although I did go to a fan convention in Cardiff once, which was a lot of fun. For me, being a fan of the band was more of a social thing: it provided a group of friends who loved the same songs and went to the same gigs.

One time, my friend Tom and I bought a bootleg tape from Camden Market of the Manics’ headline slot at V99. At this gig, the band debuted their forthcoming single ‘The Masses Against the Classes’, and so Tom and I sat for a couple of hours, trying to transcribe lyrics from the terrible quality recording that we’d just dropped a fiver on. We thought one of the lines was “Attack me wearing Tommy Girl”, which it obviously wasn’t. The reason we were trying to figure out all the words was simple: we were members of the alt.music.manics newsgroup, and nobody had yet posted them. There was a real sense of pride when we posted our take on the lyrics, plus an mp3 file, encoded at a dial-up friendly 32Kbs, of the song. Man, we felt pretty cool when the praise and admiration started pouring in from people we didn’t know.

The reason I bring up this episode is because I just finished reading an advance copy of the new Nick Hornby novel Juliet, Naked, and there’s a very similar situation in there. One of the main characters is an obsessive fan of an obscure American singer and longs to be envied in the eyes of fellow fans, people who he’ll never meet, who share his passion for a musician that most people have never heard of. There are three main players in Juliet, Naked, and they all have very distinct personalities and motivations, but I found Duncan, the music fan, to be the most interesting. He’s pretty much dedicated his life to being an “authority” – whatever that means – on the life and work of singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe. He’s dismissive of anyone else’s opinions, be they about Tucker or anything else.

The book begins in a toilet. In Minneapolis. Duncan has dragged his long-suffering girlfriend Annie on a pilgrimage across the States, going to various places of interest to Tucker Crowe fans, all six of them. And this toilet is supposedly where the singer made the decision to disappear from the public eye. That ought to explain to you the levels of Duncan’s devotion, and also why Annie might be a little sick of it.

Tucker Crowe, meanwhile, is portrayed as a quiet parent of five, from four different mothers, who is trying to settle down with his young son, having made a lifetime of mistakes. He takes his kid to little league games and doesn’t think about his earlier glories and transgressions. The book charts the relationships between the three, and I found it very good. I don’t know when Hornby became really uncool – was it the Songbook? – but this is a solid piece of work. There are some parts that call for serious soul-searching from Tucker, where he has to reconcile with his many estranged ex-wives and even more estranged children, which I found rather unsatisfying and hollow, but those aside, it was fun to read. Hornby makes good use of Wikipedia postings and message board posts to convey the joys of being an internet fan of a musician. There's even a troll who loves Morrissey!

Best part of the book? There’s a couple of guys who are really into Northern Soul! Shout outs to Major Lance and Dobie Grey! I'm a big Northern Soul fan.

I’m a dork.

One of the plot points in the book involves the rival reviews of an album from Duncan and Annie, so why not read a review of Juliet, Naked by Lauren over at HalfDesertedStreets?

Can't wait to come home from school because it's a drag

Well, I'm back, everyone! The Bar Exam has been taken and - hopefully - vanquished, and now I'm back home, searching for jobs, swimming in pools, rediscovering reading for enjoyment and generally being quite cool. Here are a few bits and bobs to warm you up for what I hope will be more regular posts in here from now.

- I was in severe danger of failing my exam because of PFT and Kid Jersey's discussion about the Gathering of the Juggalos. It's been a long time since I've laughed this hard. Listen to it here - it's the fresh-ass-est comedy you'll hear today.
- After the first day of my two day exam, I returned to my hotel in Tampa, feeling a little deflated, turned the telly on, and was greeted with Southland Tales on Starz. A film that I rather like despite everything. It is just insane, and I appreciate that. Once I played it for my (now-former) housemates, and one of them got up and left within six minutes.
- Saw 'In the Loop' - it's very very funny. Maybe I'll write more about it another time. Weird to see all those people from 'The Thick of It' as different characters, except for Jamie and Malcolm.
- Charlie Brooker's newest column contains the phrase "Nic Cage: My Life as John Lennon the Cow", which is very funny, but his TV show 'You Have Been Watching' is surprisingly not very funny. I blame the involvement of other people.
- Friend-of-a-friend Ross appears in this music video as Edward Cullen. It needs to be seen to be believed. The band is so earnest! None of the deliriously silly fun of Harry and the Potters.
- These STFU facebook sites are pretty funny. Some more than others.
- We got rid of Adebayor and Kolo. We'll miss one of them.
- There was a great series that just finished on UK television called Inside Nature's Giants, which enabled me to say "That woman is knee-deep in whale" for the first time and hopefully the last time. Look it up on youtube, it's amazing.
- Got rid of a bunch of old CDs through SwapaCD.com - turns out, someone wants my neglected Blue States albums.
- Congratulations to Slipknot for winning big last night.
- Guerrilla is ten years old! I still remember when Nico bought an advance copy, and we all listened to it while studying for our GCSEs. Here's my copy signed by the artist Pete Fowler. What a great, summery album.
- Last week some relatives came over, and one of my nephews asked "How OLD is this?" in reference to my Game Boy. When I told him it was from 1992, he said, and I quote, "Wow, that's three years before I was born". I felt old.

[download Super Furry Animals - The Teacher]

The nicest thing you'll hear today

Hey cynics, here's something to put a smile even on the most wretched of your faces.

My friend Jessica lost her job recently (wait, that's not it, you ghouls) and sent a mass-text out to her contacts as to said fact. Unfortunately, one of the numbers she had was old, and so the text was received by a stranger named Gwen.

Gwen called back, and her voicemail message is (woah woah) the sweetest thing you'll hear today.

[download Gwen's voicemail]

(Thanks for letting me post this, Jessica!)

More Statcounter fun

Someone in Norway put "coke.no/summer" into Google, presumably looking for some summer-themed promotion from Coca-Cola, on its Norwegian website. Somehow that linked to my post about the Hold Steady from last year. Fair enough. So, they followed through to my site, must have though "oh, this isn't what I was looking for"...

...and then clicked the same link ten more times in fifteen minutes. I appreciate the hits, but even I know my writing isn't that good.

(click to enlarge)

Let's go out and find some trouble

The best thing to come out of Wimbledon since The Crazy Gang, Jamie T has a new EP out today. His first new music since Panic Prevention - a favourite here - is led off with Sticks n' Stones, a song that doesn't see Jamie doing anything drastically different from before, which suits me just fine. The tune has two choruses, though, which throws me just a little. But then I'm easily confused.

Saw some video footage of Jamie and the gang performing the song at Glastonbury on Friday - second to Doves on the Peel Stage is not bad at all - and I can't wait to hear the rest of the EP. Album #2, apparently called 'Kings and Queens', is due later in the year.

Warning: Video contains clowns.

[Jamie T official / myspace]

That's my new favourite camel

For an hour and a quarter, The Brothers Bloom is totally ace. A well-plotted con-man flick with great performances, funny dialogue and great cinematography and imagery. Some have criticized the similarity in look and sound with Wes Anderson's films but I thought it worked really well here. OK, sometimes the quirkiness is overplayed, but I confess, I laughed at loud when Rachel Weisz was rapping and DJing. And I can see why the idea of a hard-drinking, mute Japanese explosives expert seems like it's trying too hard to be eccentric, but it plays just fine here.

The relationship between the principal characters is well set-up and feels pretty natural and uncontrived. There's a very sweet opening segment that shows the brothers as younguns, which sets up what follows nicely. And if you didn't already know, the film is writer/director Rian Johnson's follow up to Brick, which gave high school noirs a welcome kick in the pants a few years back. So far, all swell.

Problem is, like similar themed films, there's too much going on. The final act takes things in a different direction - is someone after the Brothers, or is it all another job? Even they don't know. It gets pretty convoluted toward the end, with there being a new "a-ha!" reveal every few minutes. It reminded me of 'Matchstick Men' from a few years back, which I thought was a perfectly okay film which threw in about six new twists in the last fifteen minutes.

So 'The Brothers Bloom' grabbed me, kept me, but lost me before the end.

De Rosa are no more

Here's yet more sad news from the world of music, though I suppose that a sense of perspective dictates that it's not the saddest news of the week. Still, fresh off the release of their ace second album 'Prevention', Scotland's De Rosa have split up.

This is what Chemikal had to say about it.

It's always hard to break the news of a band calling it a day and in De Rosa's case it's particularly galling because they were so fucking good. Having announced it on their Twitter account it's now our turn to mourn the end of a band who were at the very top of their game.

De Rosa's music was as complex as it was melodic - it exercised the head as well as the heart and their live performances could be as thrilling as any we've ever seen. Great bands are hard to come by - especially ones as literate and engaging as De Rosa - so they will be sadly missed and we can only hope that they go on to release music in some other guise in the near future, they know where we are if they do. A great, great band.

It's a pity.

Here's two delgados talking about it on the new podsketch, and download the highlight from their new album below.

[download De Rosa - Flight Recorder]

The train will invariably come to a halt

It's knee-jerk hyperbole hour here at AYGH towers. I've already peed my virtual pants over the merits of Arming Eritrea, and today its parent album hits stores, both actual and computer-oriented. And dare I say it, Future of the Left's 'Travels With Myself and Another' is the best album of 2009 so far. Yes, I'll say it.

Where 'Curses' saw the band trying to find its voice, 'Travels..' is gloriously focused. It's also hilarious, righteous, rocks like a ten-tonne bastard, and - here's the revelation - has some tunes you can hum the next day.

Witness 'Throwing Bricks at Trains', a song with more melody than anything they've put out before, and with harmonies! 'Drink Nike' has a chorus - not just one sentence (cf "Sausage on a stick", "why put the body where the body don't wanna go?") but an actual, straight-up chorus. 'Chin Music' spins from a fuzzy, accelerated verse to a delirious payoff. And 'Lapsed Catholics' discusses the 'Shawshank Redemption', making this arguably the first rock album of the year to tip a cap to Frank Darabont. They still play their "bass-tuned-all-the-way-down" card, on tracks like 'You Need Satan More Than He Needs You', so this isn't a complete reinvention. They've just smoothed some - some - of their edges and honed themselves into a leering powerful machine.

There's a great interview with Falco over at DiS, where he talks a British inferiority complex when it comes to bands that rock. With 'Travels With Myself and Another', the band has reached the potential we all knew they would. In a perfect world, they'd become massive after this. It's not a perfect world, but this is a damn-near perfect album.

[Future of the Left official / myspace / buy 'Travels...' US / UK]

I am just a bitter boy

Hey guys, here's the final update of this little wave of prolific-ness. It's mostly a heads up: some of my pals in Tallahassee play in a band called The Woods and they've got a new EP that's out today, and can be yours for free. So go and check it out - five tracks of pastoral simplicity. It's folk music, it's Americana, it's music for when you're looking out of the window in the morning with a cup of tea and appreciating the view before it gets to 107 degrees later. NB: this may just be what I do. They also have a new video up for their song 'The Final Breaths of Main Character'.

All the above can be found by clicking here.

Hit them on myspace too, won't you?

Not at the table, Carlos

It blows my mind, in an entirely good way, that a film starring this guy was number one at the US and UK box offices. I love Zach Galifianakis, have done for ages, and it's so nice to see him getting some props. He ain't gon' email you! So I finally got to watching The Hangover last night, and it's even nicer to see ZG steal the show.

As you've probably heard by now, the film concerns three guys in Vegas who lost their pal overnight and are struggling to piece together what happened over the last twelve hours. Simple enough premise, and to its credit, this is not a film where you can say "I saw that coming a mile off!" because things get sillier and crazier. I don't know if The Hangover is a film I'd rush back to see again, and some have talked about its less-than-ideal portrayal of women and minorities. And while I've got my critical hat on, the much-discussed cameo from professional crazy person "Iron" Mike Tyson seemed like a for-the-sake-of-it pop culture gag, which wasn't as funny as the Dairy Milk ad that also featured 'In the Air Tonight'.

But Zach and Ed Helms make up for all the deficiencies. Hopefully, both will get higher profile roles after this. Zach's song about friendship, and a speech about forming his Wolfpack were clear highlights, and there are enough car crashes, nude men, nude women and wild cats to keep everyone smiling. The best thing about 'The Hangover' is that it really is a comedy about the people, rather than the circumstances - so it rarely feels contrived. And to bring it back to him once more, Zach Galafianakis' Alan is actually quite sweet beneath all the stupidity.

If you haven't seen it by now, you're unlikely to go and see 'The Hangover', but if you're studying for a Bar Exam and you need a laugh, there's little better to offer this summer. So see it. Just don't wear this t-shirt - the only people who'll think you're cool or funny, are people that you don't want to think that you are cool or funny.

[download Gomez - Hangover (live)]

Metal on metal

I've always admired the seige mentality of heavy metal fans. Let me give you an example. My friend Tom has, for many years, been such a person. Grown out the hair, plays in a pretty successful band, dresses in leather, gets excited about going to Donington, etc. Like most fans of that type of music, he knows it's not - and is never going to be - cool, and frankly, he doesn't give a hoot. There's the attitude of "this is what I love, balls to the world" that I think is pretty cool, and that's at the heart of the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which is about a band called Anvil and the tribulations endured by the band Anvil. Did I mention that the group is called Anvil?

Anvil is composed of Lips and Robb Reiner (really), two guys in their 50s who momentarily flourished in the early 80s, then watched as their peers Bon Jovi and Scorpions sold bajillions worldwide, and nothing came of them. Following them around a European tour in 2007, having taken a month off from their jobs in Canada, you see how far they've fallen, and also how much they still believe in the band. It's impossible not to sympathize with them as they play to six people in Prague, miss trains, get lost and sometimes don't get paid. The lengths to which they go, and their refusal to throw in the towel and say "well, maybe it's not to be", is inspiring and also moving.

Well worth a watch, and yes, they do wind up at Stonehenge at one point.

You're winning me over

For a change, today I'm going to write about a new album from a Scottish band. Imagine that. At this juncture, I might as well rename this site something like Aye Tunes. Oh, wait. From Glasgow, We Were Promised Jetpacks have not only a terrific name but, in 'Quiet Little Voices', one of the catchiest singles I've heard all year. Comparisons with the Futureheads will abound because of the "woah-oh-ohs" that everyone ought to shout along with. And, happily bucking the trend I've mentioned before, 'Quiet Little Voices' isn't even the first track on the record.

What of the rest of their debut album, 'These Four Walls'? Two words: Drums and Accents.

Oh, you want more words than that? They remind me of the great Northern Irish band Jetplane Landing, not just because of the aeronautical themed band name, but both like to meld riffs with massive choruses and songs that go in about six different directions. 'Short Bursts', for instance, begins with drums being rolled down a hill, then some chords hammered in isolation, then just a pounding wall of sound for a minute, then the repeated instruction to sit back and loosen your ties, and then back to the rolling drums, then some vocals over those drums, then he shouts "We'll teach you to die!" and then the wall of sound for another minute. I love how the opener, 'It's Thunder and It's Lightning' kicks things off, with a really plaintive discussion of walking before running, quite delicate, and then those bastard drums kick in and shake things up like a snowglobe.

There's a lengthy track called 'Keeping Warm' towards the end, which is nice enough as a gently building instrumental, but it lost me before its eight minutes were up, and then the album closes, quite literally, with 'An Almighty Thud'. Well, that's the name of the track, but musically it's anything but - the album's only moment of quietness, just Adam Thompson's voice, an acoustic guitar, and some feedback. I do like albums that end peacefully, and so the change in gears is welcome, but I wish there'd been a little more variety in the record prior to the last song. I don't mean within each song, where there are plenty of shifts and speed-ups. But a couple more slow songs might make their next album a bit less exhausting. Maybe I'm just getting old.

[We Were Promised Jetpacks official / myspace]

Make it for yourself

I'm by no means the first person to write about this new single from the San Francisco band Girls, but I'd wager that I am the swarthiest. 'Hellhole Ratrace' is ostensibly about the high speed of modern living, but it's told really calmly, with uplifting lyrics, a gentle melody, a vocal that sounds like Elvis Costello, and some nice harmonies in the background. The tune stays in one gear throughout, though the feedback builds and builds, and that suits it just fine. Snag the single, watch the video, and hear a couple more tunes at their myspage. Just don't try Googling them, the results may not be work-appropriate.

[download Girls - Hellhole Ratrace]

Give it to me, Andrew Ridgeley

Since I don't listen to the radio much anymore, it's very infrequent that I hear a song without immediately knowing what it is. The magic of hearing something in passing and then trying to hunt it down is mostly lost now. Last summer, I always heard the same catchy-as-hell tune every morning when my clock radio went off, and it took me ages to figure out that it was 'Hot N Cold'. Man, I spent ages trying to figure out what it was.

Similarly, last night while listening to the Comedy Death Ray radio show, I heard a song that was pretty silly but actually quite funny, and worth looking into. It took some work, but it was a song by R.O. Manse, who's got an album out on AST Records. Comedy music is really hit or miss, but this song - a moderate hit in Denmark - definitely made me chuckle. The project is the brainchild of Chip Pope, and features a little help from various L.A. comedy types, including Natasha Leggero and her incredible English accent. Don't know about the rest of the album, but in the meantime, check out Ladyboy. And try not to think of Alan.

[download R.O. Manse - Ladyboy]

[R.O. Manse facebook / myspace]
[Buy 'R. O. Magic: The Best of R.O. Manse']

The greatest shakedown

Posts on here are once again few and far between, as you may have noticed. This is not - entirely - as a result of the pure and unbridled contempt in which I hold all my readers, but because I'm studying for the Bar Exam, which I'm taking at the end of July. If I pass it, I'll get to chuck an "esquire" after my name and charge everyone hundreds of dollars for the privilege of talking to me. So, as you can imagine, I want to get it right on the first crack.

That said, there is plenty of new music out there worthy of your attention. Today, I wanted to write a little about two albums that recently were released in the UK, which I am lazily lumping together because the bands are from the same country, have both been written about favourably on this site before, and frankly, have a similar sound to one another. Though both albums are accomplished and deserve their own attention, and though music is not a competition, I'm going to pit them against one another for no reason other than my own personal convenience.

In the red corner, My Latest Novel, with their follow up to 2006's 'Wolves', a previous fave here. For the new one, 'Deaths and Entrances', the band has stuck with the formula which worked so well the last time out - massive arrangements, huge strings, a million things going on, layered, harmonised vocals and, for want of a better term, sweeping grandeur. There's less musical variety on offer than was on 'Wolves', and as a result, it can sound a bit samey at first, but I've played the album a few times now, and it definitely seeps in. There's much to admire but some changes in pace would definitely have been welcome, especially in the second half. I'm thinking specifically of the playfulness on songs like 'The Job Mr Kurtz Did' or 'The Reputation of Ross Francis' from the first album - where they kept it small.

The tremendous opening track, 'All in All in All is All' can be downloaded for free here. Do that. Also, see if you can't hear some Arcade Fire in 'I Declare a Ceasefire'. In a good way.

Edinburgh's Broken Records, meanwhile, also have a new album, with the equally dramatic title 'Until the Earth Begins to Part'. I wrote about their EP more than a year ago, and now they've followed through with the album, delivered under the hype and burden of being called "the Scottish Arcade Fire" by people who really should know better. Broken Records have the temerity to name a song 'If Eilert Loveborg Wrote a Song, It Would Sound Like This', and yet the song itself is not absolute pretentious dogshit. The album is conspicuously uneven, though - while 'A Good Reason' still bounds along like a demented gypsy wedding, songs like the title track seem to be BR on autopilot. Start quietly, and then gradually build to majesty. They do the trick well, but they do it repeatedly. They do the same on 'A Promise' and 'Wolves', the latter a song apparently and confusingly named after My Latest Novel's debut album. Crazy. The potential is clear here, but a little more ambition would have gone a long way.

[My Latest Novel official / myspace / buy 'Deaths and Entrances']
[Broken Records official / myspace / buy 'Until the Earth Begins to Part']

Pizza ready for some football... for free

I had a lovely Memorial Day weekend, seeing lots of relatives after a long time, spending some time in NYC, and going to a funny comedy show at the UCB Theater. On the plane back to Florida, I caught the second half of the Champions League final - it sure was nice seeing Thierry Henry with a winner's medal, and Christiano Ronaldo crying. All in all, a great little getaway.

Had to come back down to earth somehow, though, and that happened when I got back to my house here in Gainesville, to find that we'd been burgled over the long weekend, and my laptop and external hard drive were both stolen. The computer was literally the only thing of value that I owned. Cue calls to the cops, my immigration lawyer - it had scans of important legal documents on there - the bank, etc. At the moment, I'm using my roommate's laptop, while I wait for my newly ordered Lenovo IdeaPad to arrive. 

The one good thing that happened upon my return home was the arrival of Team Submarine's new CD, Correctamundo! It's hilarious and has really lifted my spirits this week. Steve (or is it Gareth LC! ?) and Nate are based in NYC, and have a great set which you ought to check out post haste. References to Nazis, Jay Leno, Garfield - the cat, not the slain President - and the film 'Failure to Launch' abound. They have a great chemistry and play off each other very well. See them share embarrassing stories about each other, make prank calls, prepare for a college tour, and address weightier topics like abortion. 

The album is a mere $7 from their website, and as the clip below will illustrate, you should drop that money at once. Highly recommended!

"You just opened up a whole bucket of owls, now you've gotta let them fly."

How can we continue with better things behind you?

According to my download stats, you guys don't like the song 'Witness' by the delgados as much as all their others. What's up with that? Still, it's interesting to see how many downloads each individual song from the live vault has been getting.

(click to enlarge)

Something bigger than the heartache

I know, I know. It's been at least nine days since I last wrote about a Scottish band, so I'm addressing that imbalance right now. Got the new De Rosa album 'Prevention' in the post the other day (thanks, Stewart!) and not shockingly, it's really good. Martin Henry's voice, and the folksy arrangements here remind me of King Creosote, but there's a more sinister undercurrent to 'Prevention'. One song, 'It Helps to See You Hurt', sets the tone - really bitter lyrics but over incredibly lush backing. 'A Love Economy', which opens the album, is particularly ace, so listen to it below. 'Flight Recorder', an album highlight, builds and builds to a beautifully tense finale. 

The band recently played some dates supporting Doves, and you can see a musical similarity for sure. Bringing in drum loops and a load of extra orchestration definitely helps the album. On a day like this, when it's pissing down with rain all over Florida, 'Prevention' is the perfect accompaniment. I'd say it's better than the Cure, but that would be a horrific joke, so probably best to avoid that. 

[download Chemikal Underground - Podsketch #5] Contains two De Rosa songs, including a Kate Bush cover.

[De Rosa official / myspace]
[buy 'Prevention' UK / US]

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