Like watching a straw eat a melon

Two in a row! I wrote about Aidan last time, and now here's some more Chemikal news for your bottoms. Stewart and Alun, former delgados both, have put out the label's first ever podcast. It's great fun to hear them swearing, laughing at their own lack of consummate professionalism, and playing songs from The Phantom Band, whose album I ought to write about soon 'cos it's ace, and Angil and the Hiddntracks. And best of all, they phone up Aidan to get some comments from him - mostly involving more swearing. And you can hear the song 'Oh Men!' from his new album.

All this for free! World's greatest label! Here's some more info, or you can just download it below. 

[download Chemikal Underground - Podsketch #1]

How to get to heaven from Scotland

From bad things come good things. Arab Strap called it a day, it was sad. Malcolm put out an album that was very good, it was happy. Now, Aidan Moffat and the Best-Ofs have an album too! It's called 'How to Get to Heaven from Scotland' and is due soon. All manner of activity at Aidan's web HQ, too - go to his Gifts page for a live version of album track 'Living With You Now', and a Katie Melua cover (?) with Alun Woodward (!) and some other goodies.

Keep an eye on the site, there's going to be a game on there before the end of the month. Here's a stripped-down live version of first single 'Big Blonde', and then its rather charming video. Aidan rocks the facial expressions.

4play: So Long, Astoria

The London Astoria is closing its doors tomorrow, to make way for Crossrail, some sort of bullshit train station. This is incredibly sad news, because it has been one of London's best venues for decades. I've been to many, many, many gigs there, and have struggled to narrow it down to four unforgettable highlights.

This selection is so good that NONE OF THESE EVEN MAKE THE CUT: seeing the sixth gig that Gomez ever played, or watching Lo-Fidelity Allstars (still with Wrekked Train!) brandish firecrackers, or Soundtrack of our Lives playing second on the bill and blowing away headliners Ash and Hundred Reasons, or interviewing MoHoBishOPi in the tiny, tiny, dressing room upstairs there, or, at the same gig, The Vines underwhelming despite a mountain of hype, The Music being amazing, and Doves unveiling 'The Last Broadcast'.

But here are the four strongest abiding memories I have of the soon-to-be-demolished music cathedral.

The White Stripes, November 2001: The NME was all like "They're the best thing to ever happen to recorded sound" but all I heard was hypehypehypehype. So I wasn't particularly fussed when they announced a couple of shows at the Astoria. Day of, I get a call from the woman at their PR company who said "Just come and see them" and I did, and you know what? They were really rather good. I'm not too fussed about any of their records, nor have I ever seen them again, but they definitely killed it that night.

The Flaming Lips, July 2002: The best concert I have ever seen. But I've written about that before.

Asian Dub Foundation, January 2000: Supported by short-time heroes the Regular Fries, the mighty ADF took to the stage and previewed forthcoming classic 'Community Music' in all its kaleidoscopic glory. Before 'Collective Mode', someone ripped off their t-shirt and threw it onstage. And Deedar was still in the band. Unforgettable.

Super Furry Animals, June 1999: This was an afternoon gig, a recording for Japanese TV. The day after GCSEs finished. It would be the first time I'd see SFA, and I'd go on to see them another six times in the next twelve months, the closest I've ever been to being obsessed. It being early, Guto managed to fall asleep. The era when they began with 'Wherever I Lay My Phone, That's My Home' and rocked like bastards. That last video link is actually from the gig in question, so watch it!

And the Oscar goes to...

As has happened before, my end of year wrap up sort of ran out of steam because I was pretty busy over the break. At least two artists still to write about, so look out for that sometime in the near-to-mid. Today, I thought I'd write a little bit about some of the films being bandied about as the Awards Buzz picks up.

The first one I saw, a couple of months back, was Rachel Getting Married. Though a lot of things were incongruous in the film, like the Indian theme of the wedding, I thought it was rather good. Although Anne Hathaway got all the plaudits, Rosemarie DeWitt's role as Rachel was less traditionally nuts, and therefore meant more to me. Also, since I am not responsible for choosing Oscar categories (...yet?), I would propose that "Best Supporting Actor that is a member of the band TV on the Radio" be awarded to this film.

Although it was only very loosely based upon the wonderful book, I loved Slumdog Millionaire. I went to an advance screening in Orlando, where I sat next to an older Indian couple, and we chatted in Hindi before the film started. The lady was impressed that Mr. India appeared in the movie, but the gentleman sounded disappointed that no famous Bollywood actresses were involved. Anyway, the film is ace - the opening chase scene through the slum is incredible, there are laughs, the ending is corny but appropriate, and it's almost perfect. My only, major, gripe - at the end, over the credits, there's a massive dance routine on the train platform, and that made me so mad. The whole film does SO WELL in making Indian films look more serious, as they're usually seen in the west as being silly and full of arbitrary dancing. So they avoided all the stereotypes for the whole film and then pandered at the end. Ugh. But seeing the young Jamal and Lathika dance was pretty cute. Also, if we're talking about Best Original Song nominations, how fucking amazing would it be to see 'O...Saya' performed at the Oscars? A.R. Rahman is the man.

Was looking forward to Frost/Nixon because I'm interested in history, and especially Watergate and all that jazz. Plus, the cast was pretty solid. Watched it, and it was good - well put together, well acted (esp. Frank Langella) and well, that's about it. Seemed like an Awards film, y'know? Didn't move me or make me think after it ended. Competent but nothing special. Although the use of 'I Feel Love' towards the end was completely unexpected. "Cheeseburgers".

On the other hand, Milk succeeded in actually connecting. It was moving, I did care, and yet it was very enjoyable. May have started dancing a little when 'Queen Bitch' comes on. Penn, Franco, Hirsch and Brolin all are great. It's a shame that Prop 8, etc, show that we haven't come all that far since then.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: I hate to go with the flow, but I feel like it was a film more to be admired than loved. Technically, it was amazing. The scope and scale are amazing. I am repeatedly assured by my better half that Brad Pitt - when he's on that motorcycle - looks more than amazing. But did it mean anything? The way it's framed, around Hurricane Katrina, doesn't do much, and it definitely drags in the final hour. Fincher for direction maybe? It did have more laughs than any of us could have expected - that was a nice plus.

Should mention a couple of older films (i.e. from the summer) that are still in contention. Watched Wall-E for the fourth time yesterday, and it's still lovely and moving and hilarious. And The Dark Knight, the biggest thing to ever happen to anyone at any time ever, is still running lukewarm, but Heath Ledger's apparent lock on the Best Supporting Actor award seems pretty fair. Man on Wire is great and should win everything including best foreign language film but you already knew that.

I am yet to see The Wrestler, though last night on Monday Night Raw, I was surprised to see that Goldust is still kicking it. Remember when he feuded with Val Venis? No? Why the hell do I?

There are some other films, which get mentioned a lot in these circles. There are a couple of movies about Nazis, one of them being The Reader, or as Patton Oswalt called it, "I FUCKED ILLITERATE HITLER BY PROXY." Once I found out that the film wasn't about Google's bonza RSS suite, I wasn't interested. Like Kate Winslet's other awards-tip, Revolutionary Road, I don't care - sorry! Seen the trailers, both films look technically sturdy, but... blarg. Apparently, the latter is not Titanic 2 after all. And I want Kate Winslet off of Titanic to win her Oscar. One day.

What's left? Can't get past Eastwood's delivery of "Get... off... my... lawn!" to see Gran Torino, something about Doubt makes me not interested, and I haven't seen, but would rather like to see, Vicky Christina Barcelona and The Visitor.

Fun Fact: This post took ten hours to complete, during which time I drove from Orlando to Gainesville to discover that my room smelt of rotten meat.

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