September 2010 â€“ The Indie Issue
SEPTEMBER 2010 - THE INDIE ISSUE Editors
Mathew Parri Thomas (email@example.com) Adam Gibby (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Editor - Film
John Rain (email@example.com)
Nick Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Richie Brown (email@example.com)
Cover Design Matthew Bassil
Kevin Burgess, Salwa Azar, Matt Churchill, Mark Webb, Matt Fearon, Chantelle Pattemore, Ross Park, James Threlfall, Robert Miller, Dave Reynolds, Graham Shannahan, Andy Johnson Copyright Culturedeluxe 2010 www.cuturedeluxe.com Culturedeluxe is published on 100% virtual paper. No trees were harmed.
For our indie issue we couldn’t get in an established artist to do our cover -- it just wouldn’t have been right. We’ve scoured the land and found quite the talent. Fresh out of uni and with strong ideas and artwork, Matthew Bassil tells us how music influences his art and where he’s going. Hi Matt, thanks for doing the artwork for our Indie Issue. Talk us through the design and its genesis.
Hey, thanks for showing an interest in my work. My artwork for this issue reflects a single identity reaching out and touching people with its artistic creations. I wanted the image to convey independence and be in control so it shows that its creations aren’t effected by external bodies such as record deals. Like any artist, having control and freedom with what you produce is what makes art so powerful. I want to paint subjects that I find interesting and meaningful not paint images because I think they will sell.
How strong is the link between music and art for you? The link is massive; music and art go hand in hand with each other. I listen to lots of different music when painting, depending on my mood. When I’m working on pieces with a darker subject I tend to listen to heavy dark drum and bass that helps to set the appropriate atmosphere.
Listening to music when painting is very powerful and stimulates my senses. My brain becomes zoned in on what I’m doing and my work just flows. The link is so strong that I can look at a previous artwork of mine in detail and remember the music I was listening to during its creation. Music and art generate a very special feeling inside me and acts as the best form of escapism for me.
How much did your university course help to shape you as an artist?
I wouldn’t be the artist I am today if it wasn’t for my uni course. Having studied Interior Architecture it gave me a very strong knowledge of space and form. I specialised into Production Design and based my
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Final Major Project on creating a set design for the comic book anti-hero Spawn. I really engaged with the project and spent everyday making sure I was meeting the criteria. I wanted to combine my love for film with my love for design. I used a lot of complex perspective drawing and challenged myself with surveying and drawing up a dis-used church for my main set. I drew up a comic strip for my final visuals, a scene from the comic taking place in my set design. My specialism of set design on my course has definitely shaped me as an artist. Having drawn characters in environments it has given me a richer direction for expression.
What do you want to do next now you’ve finished uni?
It sounds very unconventional but I actually want to become a tattoo artist. I have always had a fascination for the permanency of tattoo artwork and how they can tell a story. I have been doing tattoo designs for some years now and thought I might as well tattoo them on as well. I now have my kit which I have been practising on pig skin and oranges and am looking for an apprenticeship too. I will still carry on being a painter as its my life but I also want to diverse into a new area.
What do you find to be the differences between creating art for yourself and creating art for others? When painting for myself I always feel more free in what I do, I paint want I want, if I feel it should be a certain way I won’t hesitate. If I’m painting for someone else I am more restricted because I have to capture what they want and give them something better so I am always trying to push myself.
I usually always scribble down in a sketch pad what I’m going to paint or draw first so I have an idea of space, form, colour and composition. When painting for myself I usually always capture images from my imagination, images that no one else can see unless I paint them. I have a very powerful imagination and can see images in my head that I feel I have to capture.
What inspires you as an artist?
I am constantly inspired by watching human behaviour and how it is manipulated. I am very analytical and am constantly thinking. I don’t really see what other artists are doing, I just do what I feel. If I do see an artist’s work that I like I will have a look at it and try to put myself in the artists mind and understand the meaning of the painting and why. I do find a lot of older artists very inspiring, such as Goya, Mucha, Ernst and Van Gophwho have very distinct styles and subject matter.
Who do you look up to?
I don’t really look up to anyone, I find some people very interesting and think that it would be fascinating to think like them or be able to achieve what they have. In the art world I suppose I look up to painters and artists that are at the top of their game and have sculpted a career from doing what they want. I look at painters such as Greg Simkins and Michael Hussar and love what they do; I love their dark and evocative
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style that captivates me.
You did an illustration for Bat for Lashes, how did that come about?
Yes, I caught up with a friend from college on Facebook that I hadn’t seen in a few years and he told me to check out his sister’s music on YouTube. Being a fan of acts like Portishead and Lamb I automatically found her music extremely beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me to paint a picture of his sister and show her. I drew and painted the piece within a day, driven by her music I tried to convey her feelings and mood. She loved the piece and put it on her website which gave me a real boost of confidence with my work.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years? At the moment I am in my experimental stage of life, playing with different materials and learning new techniques. Becoming a master in my area of art is my ambition and what I aspire to do. As long as I am making a living drawing and painting I will be happy, I don’t particularly crave to have lots of money. I would like my artwork to be appreciated by more people so getting it out there is essential for me over the next few years. Like many artists I want to exhibit more and approach galleries with my work.
Words: Adam Gibby
September 2010 â€“ The Indie Issue
As part of this month’s Indie Issue, Kevin Burgess looks at the original Indie label: Motown.
hen most people think of the term ‘indie’ in this day and age, they are most probably thinking of scruffy boys with guitars. Ranging from new found stadium monoliths like Kings Of Leon to 80’s originators like The Smiths or Orange Juice, ultimately it will be focused on guitar based music. The term indie as we know it really took shape in the early to mid eighties on both sides of the pond, with bands like the Smiths, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera in Britain and the likes of The Pixies, Sonic Youth and The Minutemen in the states, the term stemmed from the fact that these bands were all signed to independent record labels tied in with the cheaper, DIY ethic of many of the artists involved. Since then the term has morphed into somewhat of a loose phrase labelled at anyone with an instrument strapped on that isn’t using a choreographed dance routine as part of their act. However, taking a step back into the 1960s around the birth of popular music reveals that this isn’t such a grotesque fallacy. I’m going to discuss the merits, talent and, most importantly, the bulging tonne of great ‘manufactured’ music that flew out of one of the most successful independent record labels of all time: Motown.
Now Motown is an independent label in the truest sense of the word. Detroit local and part time song writer Berry Gordy started the label in 1959 with a loan he got from his family and, over a short period of time, turned it into a money making franchise that housed a tonne of great artists, songwriters, musicians and producers. It remained an
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independent for the best part of three decades. It became more than just a record label; it turned into a giant family, with various members of Gordy’s immediate family eventually becoming involved in the day to day running of the label. The family spirit that ran throughout the company was at the heart of the whole experience and everyone had a part to play, ironically for a label based in Detroit (the ‘motor town’) the whole label ran like a finely tuned engine, with every person being a well oiled cog in the proverbial machine. That’s not to say that
everything always ran smoothly, but even the best engines need a tune up every now and then. What Motown did so successfully in the ‘60s was reach an audience that had never been reached before by black artists, ie the popular white market. Some people have criticised this tactic for a multitude of reasons; where labels like Stax were making rawer R’n’B for the black market, some thought that Motown were selling out, using the basis of R’n’B and jazz and smothering it in enough pop polish to make sure it sold to the wider market, but this is exactly what the Beatles were doing in those days and who can blame them, they had the mighty task of taking on the British invasion and they pretty much succeeded in become the most successful American music of the time (maybe even all time?). Most importantly, they did it with such great and powerful ammunition: the songs. It’s interesting to note the way in which Motown worked in those days; Gordy initially purchasing a smallish house in Detroit and converting it into a multi-purpose
studio and label headquarters (as well as living quarters for Gordy), Hitsville USA -- as it become affectionately known -- was the hub of the operation. Everything happened there. Writers would be writing songs, the musicians would be recording all day, the admin team would be working away, all in the same place. This really was basic stuff but they got things done through sheer determination. It’s a far cry from today’s artistically clad offices and grandiose recording studios, and it’s amazing to think how some of the greatest music of all time was coming out of this small, almost family run business in a small house in Detroit -- but it indeed was.
The list of artists on Motown is seemingly endless: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Four Tops, Michael Jackson & The Jackson 5, The Isley Brothers, Jackie Wilson, The Marvallettes... they all recorded for Motown at one point (some still do). All great artists in their own right, some had great success in the sixties; The Supremes stamped firmly into the record books as the most successful girl group of all time with no fewer than 12 number one singles, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles were the back bone of the label and had great success. Then you The spirit and ethos of this label have the artists who branched out is what makes it so unique and so in the 70’s; Marvin Gaye releasing independent. Indie isn’t just about the label’s first real seminal album being small or slap dash or cool, it’s with his masterpiece ‘Whats about the ethic and the spirit, and Goin On’ and then you have the you can hear it in the songs; they wildly imaginative and personally bleed soul; you can feel the heart independent Stevie Wonder who pulsing in the rhythms and beats dominated the 70’s music scene with of every song they recorded; it’s his run of five ground breaking why they still stand the test of time albums starting with 1972’s Music today. of My Mind and ending with highly
acclaimed Songs In the Key Of Life in 1976. Then there’s the success of the label itself, recording 110 top ten singles in the 1960’s -- that’s almost one a month for an entire decade. As well as the front of house stars Motown was also gifted with some of the greatest background staff of all time, and no article about the label can justifiably pass without mention of the musicians, songwriters and producers who did all the hard graft. The team of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote, arranged a produced a plethora of hits for the label as well as other great writers like Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, Gordy himself and Smokey Robinson. Then you have the beating heart of the whole thing, The Funk Brothers, there are probably millions of fans of the Motown catalogue of songs throughout the world who love the
songs dearly and can tell you the artist who sang them, but they probably couldn’t tell you who actually played the music on those records: the most under appreciated group of musicians in the history of music. One thing Motown was good at was promotion and they had a strict ideal for what they wanted, smart, good looking singers up the front, but the great musicians sitting at the back were never credited, because they didn’t need to be. The Funk Brothers were a collection of extremely talented musicians, mostly hand picked by Gordy or the songwriters, often plucked out of late night jazz bands and thrust into the heady whirlwind of the Motown recording process .In its very business like approach they would head to Hitsville USA in the morning, enter ‘the
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snake pit’ (or its official title, Studio A) and record a song, break for lunch, back to the studio and record another, without any real worries or cares. They were tossing off songs like I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Baby Love, Uptight, Get Ready with what would seem a lethargic nonchalance, but they were so good it probably didn’t matter. If they needed help, there would be someone next door to come in with a set of fresh ears to help them out, or Marvin Gaye would come in and lay down a backing vocal or a drum part (he was originally hired by Motown as a drummer), or little Stevie Wonder would suggest a 12 bar middle section he had written. Everyone worked with and for each other, but the Funk Brothers and the Motown sound in general were extremely influential, particularly certain parts of
that band, namely the late great bass player James Jamerson and the band leader and fierce organist and pianist Earl Van Dyke (who has also sadly passed on). Jamerson is without question the most influential bass player of all time, he is the Jimi Hendrix of bass playing and anyone who has ever picked up a bass since is indebted to his brilliance. Entwhistle, McCartney, Baker... all those great rock n roll bass players of the sixties have openly admitted they were doing nothing but mimicking and trying to sound like Jamerson. Sadly, he passed away before anyone ever really got to know it was him on all those songs, even though he played on more top 10 hits than Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones combined. Listen to the drum parts of songs on the early Stooges or Velvet Underground records, all inspired by Motown. Listen to ‘Lust For Life’ and then put on ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ by the Supremes, sound familiar? Its
quite remarkable to consider how, essentially, a family-run business became so successful. Obviously once the success started coming they branched out a bit and in the early seventies upped sticks and relocated to Los Angeles, Gordy eventually selling the label off to a major at the back end of the eighties.
being almost conveyor belt-like in their approach to music wasn’t such a bad thing. Unfortunately today that technique has been adopted by many of the majors and we seem to be hit with a ceaseless supply of banal pop bands that fit the Motown Its impossible to really consider a formula, but there is one vital small label in today’s climate being difference: the music is rubbish and able to compete with the big boys the people behind it all just don’t in the same way, maybe we’ll need care enough about it for it to ever to wait for this much talked about be any good, which is, I suppose, implosion in the big business areas the fundamental point to this whole of the music world for the smaller thing. If you want to make good labels to really take a grip, but for music, everyone involved -- from the moment it’s nothing but fantasy start to finish -- has to care about talk. Although it was the early it. Nine times out of ten you’ll days of popular music and with the get that at an independent record success of the Beatles really taking label, whether that is a small label it that step further, maybe it was releasing scuzzy lo-fi garage rock a time and place thing, but the records or one releasing polished underlying factor about Motown is R’n’B and pop masterpieces. that it worked hard to get to where it got to. Words: Kevin Burgess All the great songs in the world can get you to a certain level, but you really need a spirit and a love of the music for it to go to that extra step. They proved that
ndependent (or indie) labels have a long history of developing slightly off kilter talent that the major labels were either too scared or, perhaps, too deaf to touch. Labels such as Chrysalis, Island and Virgin dared to be different in the mid- to late seventies as well as many small D.I.Y. businesses that rode the punk wave which, arguably, wouldn’t have happened at all if it wasn’t for the spirit of the independent sector. However these small labels were few and far between and had only a relatively small impact on the overall music business in comparison to the UK
“indie” explosion that happened in the eighties. Buoyed by the ongoing popularity of John Peel’s Radio One show and his continued quest to play the less popular or more obscure bands ( small labels finally had an champion who could help shift their budgetproduced wares) indie labels starting springing out from all over the UK -- not just London. Glasgow’s seminal Postcard label, Manchester’s mighty Factory, Birmingham’s Chapter 22, Derbyshire’s Ron Johnson and Bristol’s Subway Organization were just a few independents that bucked the capital trend and started out from their own home towns.
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influential independent labels from that era, Rough Trade and Creation Records, were both London based.
Rough Trade was formed in 1978 after record shop owner Geoff Travis decided to release material himself after his store inadvertently became a distribution hub for hard-to-find, independent, punk and reggae releases. Amongst the many bands that Rough Trade signed (The Fall, The Raincoats, Scritti Polliti and Aztec Camera all appeared on the label at some point of their career) one stood out as the defining sound of the 80’s independent scene. The Smiths managed to do the impossible, at the time, and broke out of the confines of the UK That said, arguably, independent charts to conquer two of the most the upper echelons of the “groan up” charts (although Morrissey was to complain that Rough Trade’s incompetence cost the band higher chart positions).
Johnny Marr’s Byrds-like jangle coupled with Morrissey’s off melody, intelligent and witty musings set the bar for many of the ‘indie’ bands that followed in their wake and the money that the band made for Rough Trade helped make the label and its distribution arm into an independent tour de force able to take on the majors at their own game. They had grouped with fellow other small labels, record shops and distributors to form ‘The Cartel’ and, as Geoff Travis put it: “Short-circuited the need for anyone to sign to a major to get their records into the charts”. little resemblance Unfortunately, even after having to the work of other hits with bands like The Sundays McGee’s favourite and helping many labels get their acts”. As with Travis and wares into the record stores and the Rough Trade the label wasn’t charts, Rough Trade and The Cartel the only musical outlet for McGee; stopped trading due to investing in he had also started the Living Room a distributing software solution that Club on Tottenham Court Road, didn’t really work and major tax debts. London where he met some of the The label name and back catalogue acts that would appear on the label. was acquired by another independent Although Creation’s first release by One Little Indian which is where NME/Melody Maker scribe Everett it remained until 1999 until Travis True (under the pseudonym “The managed to buy it back. The label’s Legend”) didn’t exactly set the world fortunes improved greatly with Travis alight it was McGee’s next signing, signing both The Strokes and The The Jesus And Mary Chain, that put Libertines to Rough Trade. Creation on the musical map. The Mary Chain’s combination of sixties One of the labels that suffered surf melodies smothered by feedback during The Cartel’s crash was hit a chord with the alternative crowd Creation Records. Formed in 1983 by and along with other Creation signings Glaswegian music fan Alan McGee Primal Scream, Felt and The Weather with friends Dick Green and Joe Prophets (and of course The Smiths) Foster, Creation was created as an started the blueprint of what is now “opposition to the “manufactured” commonly referred to as “indie” music synth pop (although the original meaning was an of the era act signed to an independent label – in that bore which case Kylie Minogue would be included as an “indie” artist).
While Creation’s artists usually found favour in the weekly music magazines the sales didn’t tend to match the critical acclaim. By 1992 McGee sold half the company to major label Sony ending its period as a truly independent label. Eventually Sony would take control over the whole of Creation’s catalogue leaving McGee to form Poptones, but not before building an impressive catalogue from bands as diverse as The Bodines, Kevin Rowland and of course Oasis. Compilation LP’s were a useful weapon for independent labels to get their musical message across and there were several compilations of note during the eighties including Cherry Red’s Pillows And Prayers which sold for the price of a single and introduced the world to The Monochrome Set and Everything But The Girl. The NME’s C86 compilation cassette was pivotal in introducing the music buying public to the world of the small independent label and its music whilst Creation Records 1988 Doing It for the Kids compilation became synonymous with the “indie” sound. Words: Nick Foster
parents assumed they were places people went to ruin their brains with loud noise, alcohol and smoke of a questionable nature. The same was said about clubs, with dubious hormonal proximity not to mention the stinky and harrowing night-busses home! Luckily, I’d found some friends who lived locally, so it became easier for my parents to relax since we’d all be coming home together -- safety in numbers! The first club I went to was, I believe, Popstars, and I marveled at the unusual blend of disco and indie, the shuffling and the jumping to music “Was it something I said? Was it that heralded a bygone era but with something I, I didn’t do?” snarled loudly a new animalistic quality. Men and from my cassette player.... women having a direct sense of style, of composure -- I couldn’t get my hair t was the mid 90’s, Britpop was in to do anything I wanted it to, but these full swing and as a near-adult this people wore product and had been to era coincided with the moment I was hairdressers! finally experiencing the apron strings being loosened at home. Having had So, at the tender age of 16 or so, mainly a fairly strict upbringing, including through my little group of indie kids, I’d not being allowed to listen to anything heard Marion’s Let’s All Go Together other than classical music or world -- a wonderfully jangly and angsty music (as anything else was deemed a song on the radio (perhaps even on TV) bad influence, noise or “not for me”) and became hooked. It sounded Goth I became quickly obsessed with this without being scary, it was visceral new band-centric movement. A new without being frantic, it had this kinetic start at a new college for my A-levels, energy with a great guitar riff that new friends and most of all, finally as a song seemed to reach into my being given my own radio -- I could spirit and pull me along with it. The listen to the music I wanted to listen lyrics were reassuring me that they to for the first time in my life (in truth understood me and how tough life could I had started at school becoming a be -- which you feel it really is under total “grunge” fanatic, but had never the heaviness of teenage hormones and been given the physical freedom to hard future choices. Very few songs truly immerse myself in the “scene”). have affected me in the same way since. As a way of fitting in, my friends in I was already into indie music by then the first year were all indie kids, into but only in a fringe way. Unlike many Ocean Colour Scene and Blur or Oasis other teenagers, I didn’t then become and Radiohead so I naturally drifted obsessed for the rest of my life with a into this unknown and almost baroque particular band, but it was a rare social world of jangly guitars, men-wearingmoment when everyone else likes the eyeliner and mod style -- although at same thing as you and you can bond the time I was wearing flares and Vans and club together to experience all space with maybe a tailored leather jacket if I and time had to give. was lucky. I was so in love with this single (I’m I’d never been allowed to go to a gig sure I eventually owned the album but before, being deemed too young and this was the song that affected me the impressionable as, back then, my most from their 1996 record This World
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and Body). More to the point, I was also rather in love with the lead singer Jamie Harding in his pixie haircut and watery, Keats-esque styling -- a less-scary version of Brett Anderson from Suede. I think I must have begged and begged my folks to let me go to their concert and it must have paid off. Me and a bunch of now rather longlost friends trotted off to the Astoria in London (I think it was anyway!) to witness the great band Marion perform. Ironically, I don’t remember much of the night except a fervent and almost devout feeling of awe and fascination. I remember the bass coursing through my veins and nearly crying when they played my favourite song... I remember thinking how different from the album live music sounds but that all these cool hip young bodies pressed together was somehow essential magic and worth any tender ears. It was an introduction to the effect live music could have in unifying a group of strangers, in lifting up and out of oneself whilst remaining completely focused. This modern church of hope and mirth and drama coupled with music that spoke in the tongues of one’s soul. Needless to say I made a point of going to as many gigs as I could afford after that, and although my musical taste changed soon after, this experience was a formative one which remained with me since. It was a resplendent moment in my life, my first gig merged with my first hint of freedom. Whilst refreshing my memory on the wonderful Marion, I am very happy to hear they are writing again -- though probably nothing will ever come quite as close to those early teenage sing-alongs with my little radio to the Marion of 1997. “It’s hard for you they don’t understand that life’s an exam and you need something...” Words: Salwa Azar
re-flared flower power sound – with soft flutes and White Album bass and spiralling male/female harmonies breaking out over drums from swinging London. Last Broadcast, in no way related to the Doves track of the same name, encompasses what you can The Soundcarriers – Celeste expect to hear Words: Matt Churchill throughout the The Soundcarriers are (allegedly) rest of the LP as it opens Celeste
Echoing the main melody of Last Broadcast, Step Outside is a reprise encapsulated in a new song continuing the dreamy feel with a softer edge. There are moments of glorious quiet on Celeste, often it is what’s not played that can be most important on second albums, following the success of a debut and potential to go a little too far musically. Morning Haze and Rise & Fall demonstrate this perfectly with calmer sounds explicitly telling some lost story that you
again backed by beautiful slick cyclical bass. With the Glasto sweat sweetly washed away (what do you mean you’ve not had a shower yet?) this is released to keep you in the summer spirit. 11 months on, it will be this same music that you’ll turn to to get back in the festival mood – don’t rule out an appearance on a decent stage at a decent time at Eavis towers next year. Harmonium, The Soundcarriers’ debut was good, but lacked a little in bite; it was almost too Space-rockish in its approach and final delivery. This is better, it feels complete, it feels from Nottingham, but this record in a blaze of Flaming Lips-esque can’t quite, and never will, find the just as a summer record should. could have been stripped out of staccato keys, forced out-chest end to. Positive, with a hint of melancholy, the safety of 1969 West Coast vinyl drums repeating hypnotic bass and Firmly indulging a new/old Celeste strikes a balance between and re-packaged on a “Best bands airy vocals. It instantly grabs and sound is There Only Once which being tangential and obvious, of the hippy-age yeh maaaan” takes you somewhere out of the could be from the Zombies’ humble but knowing, insecure but Compact Disc thinger-majig. place you’re at — be it on the bus, Odyssey and Oracle in another strong in its own presence. And It’s almost 60’s revivalist – in in your front room or strolling dimension which is then followed just what a presence it has. the same way that Proud Mary down your high street — it lifts by Out of Place, like Zero 7 but and Hal attempted to hit a 70’s and wants you to be lifted with it. with a more earthy appeal that is
in nostalgia. A bygone era either experienced or imagined by Win Butler and co., where living in a sprawling suburban landscape was all one knew for that brief but everlasting age b efore adulthoo d. Fuelled by a pulsing, frustrated Arcade Fire - The Suburbs undercurrent, songs Words: Salwa Azar on the album deal Their fervent and vibrant with the teenage yearnings to debut album, Funeral, dealt explore the wider world and with personal loss as well as move one’s feet — to look up safe, comfortable familiarities. at the stars and imagine what This latest release is a step someone else’s life would b e into murkier, less personal like. territory in an altogether more The Suburbs is less glittery considered sum of its parts. and dreamlike than previous The Suburbs, Arcade albums, with less musical Fire’s third album, is steeped variation, but in that sense it
is more of a concept album. If you’re stuck in the suburbs, your choices are limited; your day-to-day life is a constant repetition. From the surprising and scorning musings of Ro co co (a commentary ab out bandwagon-hopping and hipsters encapsulated in flute and gentle steps) to Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) a disco-led o de to the mores of teenage restlessness, we journey through a kid’s endless summers and long years interred in their ‘burb-bubble’ (“Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small, then we can never get away from the sprawl.”) There seems to b e deep meaning in even the choice of rhythm for each song, everything highlighting this return to youthful familiarity, b oredom and frustration at
routine and the never-changing environment. The magic of this album is that Arcade Fire have turned what typically sucks the souls of the young and disenchanted into a thoughtful and evo cative look at times gone by. Suburban sadness and drudgery, with its lack of imagination and excitement, has b een transcended but also fondly re-packaged into a musical mirror image that is more observation and reflection than an anthem for a new generation. Despite its length and sometimes all-too-similarsounding tracks, it’s definitely worth a listen to catch the gems that, like in any real suburb, stand out and end up blossoming — rising to the surface of those still waters to reign.
going out drinking with in a place where the night might end in fisticuffs. Should that give you an idea of what the music sounds like? I believe so. Reasons For Leaving just sort of blasts by, filled with good old hooks and your basic alibi for lyrics. Anyone bitten The Suzukis – Reasons for by the rock n’ roll Leaving Words: Mark Webb bug knows his or her The world needs a bit of ‘reasons for leaving’ any given unfettered rock music. Somehow, situation, place, conversation, etc. the best of it always seems to Sometimes this is accompanied come from Northern England, by a single finger salute, which or some other post-industrial is how this single rocks. Big, wasteland. The Suzukis deliver loud guitars, no fancy effects, it, no-frills, no B.S. I get the keyboards, or studio magic. Like feeling this band will be quite an F-U to the over-complication popular, they fill a void left by of everything so self-consciously other bands who got too big for modern. Turn it up and enjoy the their britches. They look like catharsis. your mates, or your friends’ mates, or at the very least a bunch of dudes you’d feel safe
back in ’09, a homebrewed mix of drugged auras and undulating synth split into 11 tracks of sun kissed brilliance. Another year has passed, Chaz is back, and if you weren’t all that enthused by his lofi psychedelic dreams, perhaps his new single Leave Everywhere will convert you to jumping on the Toro Y Moi Toro Y Moi – Leave Everywhere wagon. Ditching the Words: Matt Fearon electronics, Bundick uses nothing but The music industry seems to be conventional rock band instruments erratically spouting more and more this time around. Fortunately genres by the month, more often though, this hasn’t fully reinvented than not becoming more and more his sound, and is a nice twist on ridiculous than before. Fortunately, retaining the ever so desirably lo-fi some new aural fusions seem to bedroom quality his previous efforts be doing the world of music a bit are wrapped in. Chaz’s ability to of a favour recently, especially in pen a decent hook, piece together a the case of Toro Y Moi. Emerging svelte string of minimalist melody from Carolina, Toro Y Moi (aka. and to creep slowly under your skin Chaz Bundick) has been marked a aren’t going anywhere just yet by primary catalyst in the ‘Chillwave’ the sounds of things, which sparks movement. Debut album Causers Of another wave of excitement as to This set the soundtrack for summer what he’s going to bring us next.
manages to retain a sense of awkward adolescence. This is one thing that makes them so appealing; whether those angstfilled teenage years were two or twenty years ago, we’ve all been through them and can totally empathise when lead singer Dave Monks recalls the experiences Tokyo Police Club - Champ of youth in the lyrics. Words: Chantelle Pattemore Funnily enough, Considering their fairly young for a band who manage to pull age, you’d almost expect Tokyo off maturity so successfully, their Police Club’s new release Champ song titles seem to be somewhat to display (albeit unintentionally) eager for us to perceive them in as rather immature and unrefined childish light as possible. With the qualities. In reality, what we first two tracks entitled Favourite find ourselves presented with is Food and Favourite Colour it a developed sound that craftily seems as though we should be
listening to a conversation in the school playground, rather than the workings of an up-and-coming indie rock band. Luckily, as soon as you listen to said tracks, Monks’ gnarly vocals, the distorted, bounding guitar riffs and the simmering drum beats suggest it was all just a jovial ruse of four lads temporarily trying to throw us off the scent. Wait Up mixes lyrics reeking of yearning with an upbeat vocal style and harmonies which are so unbelievably catchy that as Monks implores, ‘what did you want me to say?’ you find yourself desperately wanting to help him seek out the answer. Breakneck Speed possesses fluctuating twangs and oscillating vocals that would make this album prime material for an American teen drama soundtrack, and their quintessential indie-
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pop will undoubtedly be echoing around Frat houses for the forseeable future. Bambi takes proceedings up a notch with a fast bleeping riff whizzing throughout and demonstrates that they’re not afraid to veer away from a formula they know works successfully, although it would have been nice to see this aspect explored slightly further. Yes, this Canadian quartet may have lumbered themselves with a name they’re slightly embarrassed about, but their unassuming instrumentals and Monks’ nonchalant, drawling vocals leave the listener coveting their style. Who the hell cares if they name songs after frivolous subjects - this band oozes cool out of every possible pore and theirs is one club I most definitely want to be a part of.
criticism sums up their latest release perfectly in seven succinct words. Serotonin is not a bad album by any means, it’s just that as soon as it gets close to reaching the heights featured in second album Twenty One, something, whether it be in turn the riffs, melody or lyrics, Mystery Jets – Serotonin falters slightly and Words: Chantelle Pattemore promise displayed At their recent Somerset House takes a slight decline. gig, lead singer Blaine joked One reason this album seems that new album Serotonin ‘isn’t to lack the biting panache of its as good as their last one’, and predecessor is because overall it ironically for him, his faux takes a more melancholy route.
Tony Da Gatorra vs Gruff Rhys – The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness Words: Richie Brown
The Qemists – Spirit in the System Words: Adam Gibby
Happy-go-lucky ditties about falling in love with the girl next door have been replaced by yearning and pensive lyrics such as “better to have loved and lost than to have lived and never loved anyone.” Despite the switch in both lyrical content and pace, the buzzing, poppy beats flutter through the background continually and restrain the record from becoming a more sombre affair entirely. Too Late To Talk and The Girl Is Gone explore the darker side to love that the band rather avoided in previous releases, but lead single Flash A Hungry Smile with it’s witty talk of birds, bees and STDs shows us once again the jovial aspect to the Jets that has won
them hoardes of admirers over the past few years. Title track Serotonin recalls the 80s synths and vibes that featured heavily in their previous record, and the chant-along bridge towards the end of the track will translate well live as it draws the crowd back into the group’s merrymaking ways. If Twenty One was the album documenting the throes of love, then Serotonin is the one made six months after the break up. Although perhaps slightly less fun in spirit, the development this album demonstrates signifies an important progression in the band’s maturity and ensures they will be more than just a passing flash in the musical pan.
Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys can probably have his pick when it comes to collaborators on a side project, which is why this time round he has ditched the electrofinery of Boom Bip et al that was Neon Neon and shacked up with Brazillian VCR repairman Tony Da Gatorra. The result is the aptly named The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness:
an experimental meeting between the two recorded over a five hour period in a Sao Paulo recording studio. Fans of the Super Furry Animals and Rhys’ previous solo output expecting to pick up this record and play it will need to prepare themselves for an audio slog – although both A House With No Mirrors and Oh Warra Hoo! could have sat relatively happily on last year’s SFA album Dark Days – Light Years, the remainder of the album, which largely finds Gatorra on lead vo cals, are more psychedelic soundscapes.
Although not entirely devoid of melody, these audio collages are a tough listen for even the most ardent Gruffite. Even the Welshman’s trademark lyrical absurdities take on an altogether more macabre shade with such couplets as ‘In a room full of turtles you stood on a toad / You saw your reflection in the slime on its back / In a house with no mirrors…you never grow old’ and, as for Gatorra’s vo cal beseechments, your guess is as good as mine. I guess this is what happens when the curate likes his eggs scrambled... if not his brains.
The Qemists’ sophomore album ‘Spirit in the System’ follows their 2009 debut ‘Join the Q’ and promptly cranks the volume up to 11. Drawing heavily on the likes of Pendulum and The Prodigy, The Qemists successfully blend drum and bass, rock and electronica, enlisting the help of several other artists along the way. From Enter Shikari on
album opener ‘Take It Back’, a growling guitar and synth laden number, through to the more unusual choices such as The Automatic’s Rob Hawkins on ‘Apocalypse’, guest artists feature on seven of the albums nine tracks. While it is testament to the appeal of the Qemists that they are able to call on such a supporting cast it is also, ultimately, what puts me off it slightly. Throughout the album I never really got a sense of who The Qemists really were. The fusion of different genres along with the guest vocals combines to create
an album that has an almost compilation feel to it. If you heard all of the tracks individually I don’t think you’d be able to link them all to the Qemists. That’s not to say that they’re bad songs or it’s a bad album, far from it, it’s a very good album but it lacks a certain cohesion that would take it to the next level. However, if you like your Pendulum or your Prodigy then you’ll love ‘Spirit in the System’ and, even if you don’t, The Qemists might just convert you.
Best Coast – Crazy For Words: Nick Foster Retrospective (from Latin retrospectare, “look back”): directed to the past; contemplative of past situations, events, etc. Now being an honest sort of fella I am well aware that I´ve been very hypocritical about artists who bring nothing new to a particular genre whilst praising bands that literally pilfer a sound wholesale and resale it back to the public (TPOBPAH for example) and seeing as I´m about to do the very same for Best Coasts debut
Young and Lost Club – Compilation Words: Chantelle Pattemore As a venture set up just five years ago by two teenagers wanting to introduce a solely singles (release format, not dating status) label to the music scene, Young and Lost has done pretty damn well for itself. To
I´d thought I´d try and explain what I mean by ways of this simple analogy. Star Wars vs Mr Ben T-Shirts As a child in the 70´s (note I said child – not teenager) two of my most prominent memories were making my parents queue for three hours so I could see You Star Wars on the day of its release and watching, psychedelic, time lord, Mr Ben on TV. Now both had a profound influence on my childhood and both were extremely popular in their day, however now you can find a Star Wars T-Shirt in any low rent clothes emporium (they also do funny ones... which are shit... and not very funny) in any market town, where as a Mr Ben T-Shirt??? I´ve only ever found one, in a small boutique stall at a
festival. So what the hell am I wobbling on about I hear to ask, well if you were a t-shirt manufacturer who wanted to make money then, sensibly, you would go for the Star Wars licence, perhaps put your own spin on it and wait for the money to role in. Mr Ben, however, well someone in the design department must have really loved that TV show to make that sale to the board, you could most hear the pitch “I know what might cost a bit of money to produce but will only sell to a few thousand, 40 plus saddos, with maturity issues”. Ok crap analogy but please bear with me here. There have been so many retro bands around that take from the bands of an era but do not inject the spark that made those records sound so great all those many years ago. So Best Coast, Beth Consentino and partner Bobb Bruno, are a Mr Ben T-Shirt then, well only in the way that the emulation of debut
“Crazy For You” goes way beyond the commercial and into the realms of love. The trio (they have been recently joined by ex Vivian Girl Ali Koehler) have created an album full of pop songs that you could easily fit into any into an early sixties, surf, girl group compilation and not stand out from the classics within and while song subjects are all simple and familiar (boys, boys and umm cats) this is exactly what you´d expect to have wrapped around their beautifully realised early sixties sound. As well as the overall sound Beth has captured the melody, innocence of that period and most importantly the band haven´t tried to over complicate what they are doing. So from opener “Boyfriend” , to “Crazy in Love”, “The End” right through to final track “When I´m With You”, “Crazy for You” is a collection of lo-fi sixties sounding songs that you should love but so could your parents and even grandparents. Pop perfection.
celebrate their minimilestone birthday, the label have decided to release a 35 track compilation record packed with releases by some of their best signings, including Noah and the Whale, Bombay Bicycle Club, Everything Everything, Johnny Flynn, Larrikin Love and Good Shoes to name but a few. Kicking off the party is Vincent Vincent and the Villains, Young and Lost’s first ever signing, whose two featured tracks Blue Boy and The Boy who Killed Time were the label’s first releases. Luckily Vincent and his pals with their barbershop quartet-esque melodies and good ol’ rock and roll
style instrumentals proved to bode well for the launch of the label and subsequently do just as good a job in preparing us for the remainder of the record. Current indie darlings Bombay Bicycle Club feature with Evening/Morning, a heady mix of guitar riffs and shakily assured vocals before New York scenesters The Virgins swoop upon us with a taster of their uber-cool punk-pop via annoyingly catchy One Week Of Danger. Planet Earth bring the tone back down a notch, their beautifully lugubrious harmonies presenting a sound not too distant from one of Young and Lost’s biggest successes, Noah and the Whale. With both the jovial Five Years Time and in contrast the more melancholy Blue Skies featuring by the latter artist, we’re given a glimpse into not only how the label’s artists have developed but the label itself. Although the
bustle of guitars and slew of hasty vocals still feature in many bands on their rostra, the more recent inclusion of electro and slightly contorted sounds by acts such as Everything Everything and Oh Minnows demonstrates that founders Nadia Dahlawi and Sara Jade are as keen to explore new avenues as their acts are. Everyone knows a compilation is usually released as a quick money-spinner. Supporters of Y&L are devoted and snap up special editions and limited releases like their lives depend on it, so chances are that the label’s hardcore fanbase already own the majority of tracks on this record. Nonetheless, it acts as a great overview for enthusiasts and a brilliant introduction for anyone new to the Club, all the while demonstrating just how influential a good ethos and a passion for music can really be.
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songs, that night sung alone with acoustic guitar, and some just with tambourine, rarely suggested anything beyond another traditional female country singer. This debut album however, proves that she most definitely has something worth listening to. Rose has a Caitlin Rose – Own Side Now breezy style Words: Ross Park of letting After seeing her last year at lyrics slip The Social in London and by no from her breath and means capturing the audiences there will understandably imagination, I was somewhat be comparisons to Zooey surprised to read that Caitlin Rose Deschanel, with similarities to her has recently playing in the US rounded delivery, along with a few with the likes of Phosphorescent, big choruses Jenny Lewis would be
runs through both her lyrics and delivery. Typical of this is first single For The Rabbits, apparently written when she was just 16. String laden with a rich, building 60s sound. there’s a seriousness and almost a naivety that befits her tender age whilst still displaying a way with words that resonate through any age. It’ll be hard for any listener to hear lines like ‘looking back over my life it’s wrong how much I’ve changed for you’ without taking a moment of reflection over their own lives. Things Change, at just under six minutes, is the stand out track for various reasons and is very much the beauty of the album encapsulated in one track. The lyrics paint a picture of a
supports Rose’s vocal, allowing all the space her delivery and tone needs. What’s remarkable about this song is not only the world weary lyrics but an astonishing vocal performance. Despite still sounding like the 23 year old you know she is, lines like “No I never wore your wedding ring, I regret I never could. Never mothered your child or seen you in its smile” are delivered with such startling tone and beauty that you entirely lend your heart to this woman. In the literal sense, this album is easy listening. To have it on as background music provides a pleasant enough listen but the more time you give it, the more you are rewarded. With a more concentrated listen there are plenty of universal truths in her everywoman lyrics that will
Bill Callahan and Akron Family. proud of. There was a pretty, young girl with The winning factor Rose has a quaint southern twang but her here though is the earnestness that
life hardened woman reflecting on wasted times spent on wasted men while the sparse backing
immediately resonate with you and, if you let them, bring a tear to your eye.
to this era, however this retrospective attitude towards music will never quite live up to the original charm, character or personality of the original, and it soon becomes clear that this album is undoubtedly lacking these vital characteristics. Of course some will disagree, that it Smiles and Frowns – The is admirable that they Smiles and Frowns are creating music Words: James Threlfall that pays so much homage to bygone Arizona duo Smiles and Frowns days, however tracks such as introduce their eponymous opener ‘Sam’ eventually become 8 track mini album, clearly rather monotonous due to its middrawing comparison from mid tempo background musical hum 60’s psychedelia, the glory years and the uttered vocals. These are of Syd Barret era Pink Floyd lyrically interesting and fit the and the release of seminal album tone, but the vocals themselves Rubber Soul. However to compare tend to just reel off, with little in these musical milestones to Smiles the way of hooks or even a chorus and Frowns is undoubtedly to speak of, creating a song that an oversight. It is of course tends to eventually just drone. commendable (to a point) that an Conversely, the next track independent artist has released ‘Cornelius’ presents a more a piece that is even comparable up-tempo, interesting piece that
offers a catchy chorus and cutesy vocal that will no doubt have you humming to yourself for the rest of the day. However, this is short lived as tracks such as ‘Memory Man’ and ‘Huevos Rancheros’ return swiftly to the familiar mid tempo territory that this album so eagerly clings to like a safety blanket. To top these two tracks is an instrumental; ‘March of The Phantom Faces’, a three and a half minute ‘song’ comprised of a haunting organ, distant drums and a barely strummed guitar which frankly becomes extremely irritating within seconds of its arrival. A further question is what is its purpose? Is it meant to be the soundtrack to our haunting arrival to the second half of the album? Well, the destination is ‘When The Time Should Come’, which slightly eases the pain of the last few minutes and fortunately bumps up the tempo and offers a catchier chorus twinned with familiar surreal vocals that do actually create one of the strongest tracks on the album. Next track ‘Mechanical Songs’
can’t help but be seen as a slightly ironic title, as it is the mechanics of this album that the minority will enjoy, but many will find a difficult listen. Many of these tracks on this album stick to the familiar mid tempo pace and uttered, echoed vocals that barely rise above the surface of the instruments. Creating an album that will no doubt be enjoyed by connoisseurs of the genre, taking in its lyrical depth and its ability to echo a glorious bygone era. However to everyone else, the album tends to just dribble past you, sticking to a slow, repetitive, borderline irritating BPM that barely drifts off its regular heartbeat throughout. This is not assisted by the monotones, murmured vocals that slide alongside the instrumentation, like ‘that guy’ at a dinner party who simply can’t resist but reel off, with dull monotony, just how much he enjoyed the coffee and tea making facilities at his latest ‘Health and Safety in the Workplace’ conference, for half an hour, with a piano, a microphone and an organ.
Edwards replacement in Morcheeba. The K-O Chorale is Noonday Underground’s fourth album, and this time round Martey’s vocals are suspiciously absent, instead Dine relies solely on samples of choral vocals, which, along with frequent orchestral loops, Noonday Underground – The sound as if they were K-O Chorale lifted directly from Words: Robert Miller a warped 45. This If you haven’t heard of them produces a uniquely eerie quality before, Noonday Underground are which underpins the entire album. a duo consisting of frequent Paul It is a bizarre and daring twist Weller collaborator Simon Dine, from their previous downtempo and Daisy Martey, best known style, into something that invokes for her short lived career as Skye the spirit and sound of a period
somewhere between the late 50’s and mid 60’s that never truly existed. The bypassing of a standard song structure, as well as the lack of a defined lead vocal, creates a soundtrack like quality, and whilst this gives the album definition as a whole, it also misses out on any real variety between songs, causing everything to become more monotonous than should be allowed on an album that barely reaches half an hour. There’s no escaping that this is an album built upon an idea. Always and Kiss Me showcase this idea working at its best. My Silent Heart at its worst. Unfortunately, this is the opening track. After this many of the songs end up being far too similar. This
needless repetition means that The K-O Chorale is not given enough of a chance to produce the stand out track it needs. The only time the mould is really broken is during Yours Forever. Its layers of choral harmonies, distorted guitars and cut and paste samples build the song into something verging on a choral homage to Tomorrow Never Knows. The K-O Chorale is a truly bold effort, and whilst it is not a brilliant album, it cannot be faulted in what it is trying to do. It creates a unique sound, and contains some really interesting moments. Martey’s vocals are clearly missed though, and you cannot help but feel that the inclusion of these, offsetting the choral samples could of created something truly special.
Beefheart going cold turkey after a 20 year crack addiction. Yeah its rather odd. But the They Shit Horses, Don’t They? EP, the bands debut release through Odessa records, is weird and odd in a good way. Opening up with Twelve Horses , the sound of a choir fills the air for a brief moment Horses before all goes quiet and an eerie, reverb drenched guitar part slowly builds accompanied by droney voices proclaiming ‘I wish you 12 horses when you die’, before the rest of the band join in along with lead singer Danny Mason bellowing the refrain, the song slowly builds and accelerates in speed before dropping out. Four minutes into this bands debut release and you can tell this is utterly unique, and though obviously heavily inspired by 60’s psychedelia, it sounds so fresh and vibrant. As we clatter our way through
the remaining six songs of the EP, its clear the band are actually quite savvy and they lay down a perfect platform throughout for Mason to spit his bile and rant and rave in his own unique way, his voice acting like a complete instrument in its own right, constantly soloing throughout. That’s not to say the man can’t sing mind, it would be harsh to say otherwise, and although at times his voice sounds croaky and raw as he waxes lyrical with a delivery that’s perched somewhere between the aforementioned Beefheart combined with the off beat scat type musings of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, just one listen to the aptly titled Floating/Drifting shows that the guy can hold a note and for a man of his age, his soulful delivery sounds like the voice of a world-weary and well travelled pilgrim, which he may well be. The entire EP is short and compact coming in at just over 18 minutes and a familiar coherent theme runs throughout the record, opener Twelve Horses is reprised somewhat with the predominantly
instrumental, pysch wig out Thirteen Horses, showcasing the bands ability to drive a song on its musical merits alone. This isn’t just about Mason, the band have a major part to play and have somehow put their own bright twist on a well trodden path and although its lo-fi in nature, its not really a sound that lends itself to any of the current lo-fi/no-fi trends, its set apart from that, and in 2010, sounds rather refreshingly odd and new. The EP is currently only available on cassette, and with the Odessa website having little information about the band other than a small blurb about the record, we don’t really know what the next step is for Shit Horse. A full length LP is rumoured and we can only but hope they get the chance to come and play some gigs over here in blighty; a few rough YouTube clips would imply this would be a great band to witness live and something of an experience, and as the last song on the EP claims, in its theme tune-esque call to arms, we can only prey that Shit Horse is gonna ride!
Shit Horse – They Shit Don’t They Words: Kevin Burgess At a first glance, this might all seem just a little too weird. Not much is known about Shit Horse, surprisingly, in the current world where information is readily available at your finger tips in seconds. There isn’t much about Shit Horse to be found anywhere, not even on the world wide web, but what we do know is that the band is a four piece that consists of three youngish white boys playing psychedelic charged rock n roll, augmented by an older (50 ish..?) black guy wailing and screaming like a disheveled Captain
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
chords evolving and developing across 8 minute masterpieces. For people new to the Mogwai sound, they can often find it a challenge to grab a hold of their music, to contextualise it to their own needs, particularly with the absence of lyrics in many of their tracks. Mogwai’s music Mogwai – Special Moves/ cannot be controlled, Burning it has to control you. Words: Dave Reynolds That is why this Special Moves/Burning is the album is stunning. live CD and DVD release from With the live CD, Scottish post-rockers Mogwai. It you can get a taste is surprising that it has taken the of the atmosphere at band fifteen years to release a live a Mogwai gig. The album as they have such a great music really bursts to life live sound, but Special Moves/ more in the live show than Burning is well worth the wait. on a standard album. As for the The CD and DVD feature tracks live DVD, it is a thing of absolute and footage from three special beauty. nights in Brooklyn, New York in For many bands, a live DVD 2009. would be a simple and obvious The live CD is a rousing affair, operation. Fixed cameras would featuring eleven tracks littered rotate you around a gig, but this with Mogwai classics such as does not create any feeling of Mogwai Fear Satan, Like Herod atmosphere or emotion. Instead and Glasgow Megasnake. The it leaves you feeling somewhat driving guitar riffs build upon sterile. Mogwai have clearly themselves, often with one or two thought long and hard about what
they want this live DVD to be, and what they have produced is something that would be more aptly described as a piece of cinema. The 8 tracks have each been shot in their own style, and all in black and white. The first track, The Precipice, features a long and continuous shot of individual members of the band, moving slowly between them. There are no audience shots. Gradually through the DVD, more audience shots are introduced, and by the 8th and final track, Batcat, there is such energy created that the shots are cut thick and fast, with many crowd shots. These clever editing choice gives the feeling that by this point in the gig, the band and the audience are now one.
bring the song to life in such an epic barrage of lights, sounds and feeling. After a flicker of opening riffs, the track slows down and trickles along hauntingly until it is barely a whisper, with just a gentle drum beat ticking along. During this moment there is a brilliantly framed shot from a side angle of the three guitarists and the bassist facing the drums. We see Stuart Braithwaite, mouthing in slow motion, “one, two,” and right as we expect him to say “three,” everything goes crazy. Lights flashing, short, sharp camera shots, an eruption of sound, and faces being melted in the audience. It’s a frenzied and furious attack on the senses, but so perfectly constructed and so well achieved. Mogwai have always been successful in being able to paint a
Between each track, there are short little vignettes, filmed in Brooklyn. These help to add depth and meaning to the DVD. We see a guy in a giant panda costume crossing a rainy Brooklyn street in a moment of beautiful surrealism. It sounds as if it could come across as trying to be a bit too artsy, but in the context of the film, it works. Mogwai Fear Satan is the standout track on the live CD and on the DVD. The DVD helps to
stunning picture with their music, and with this live DVD, they can give us that extra visual nudge. Special Moves is a must for any Mogwai fan, but it also acts as a great introduction to the band for newcomers. Be sure to do it justice and treat the live DVD as a film. Watch it on a big screen, turn the lights off and turn it up loud. Let Mogwai come stampeding into your life.
the bright lights of psychedelic 60’s Americana. Their River Run EP, already available through iTunes, is a three track exemplar of what to expect from a band who are making some serious people pay attention to the music they’re creating. They’ve already got Sunbirds – River Run EP a Glasto appearance Words: Matt Churchill under their belts and Sunbirds are a London based are starting to flirt quartet with their musical vivaciously with the London heartbeat based somewhere in music scene.
River Run itself is a driving, kind of Fleet Foxes if they rocked out, exploration of fast tempoed bass, backed with a sunshine arrangement of vocal backing reminiscent of Secret Machines before they became rubbish. Second track Roses Are Blue picks up the upbeat reverbed vocals and adds a quieter dynamic to the band’s vibe, before exploding into a middle eight that is saturated in fuzzed guitars and high floating harmonies. We Won’t Sleep Tonight smacks of anxiety and pent-up aggression, locked up in an off
the cuff jam that seemingly resulted in a song that jumps into a dawn-broken haze, with River Run this is potentially the track that would grab in a live setting. The three track extended player is well worth the investment providing a solid 12 minutes worth of expansive harmonies, glorious sounded guitars and positive temperal vibes. It makes you want to know more about the band, listen to more of their music and to make them a part of your life. Outstanding.
but wonderful Static On The Wire EP. As the number of DJs using their decks to produce original creations increases, it would be very easy to assume that these guys are going to end up as another name indistinguishable from those currently piled high on the bandwagon. Holy Ghost! – Static On The However, it Wire EP does not take Words: Chantelle Pattemore very long to Formed in 2007, the first few years realise that such assumptions of Holy Ghost! (exclamation mark would prove unfounded. Rather included) saw Brooklyn duo Alex than stick to the pop/synth/bass/ Frankel and Nick Millhiser spend drone (delete as appropriate) their divine existence remixing formula that many find themselves tracks by artists including Phoenix, led by, Holy Ghost! have taken Moby and MGMT. Swiftly building the best elements of the current up a solid fanbase and a sterling electro-pop movement and thrown reputation in the industry, the pair them into a blender with some have finally moved out from the lusciously retro disco beats to shadows and released their own concoct an utterly delightful debut. material in the form of the small Impressionable whilst unimposing,
the four tracks on this EP would be equally as at home on the dancefloor as they would on the car stereo and with their appeal increasing after each listen, you’ll undoubtedly want them on both soon enough. The record clocks in at almost thirty minutes despite only showcasing four tracks, yet at no time feels unnecessarily prolonged. Opener and title track Static On The Wire commences with an electro pulsation that slowly layers and builds into a synth-driven pop delight. Say My Name sees a discernible drumbeat provide a sturdy foundation for the cosmicesque keys and I Know I Hear features elements of eletro-techno that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Daft Punk record. Come Back is undeniably the stand-out track of the EP, as purring synths mixed with brusque electronica beeps and a memorable and repetitive
chorus equate to a result that’ll be running round your head for hours afterwards. The vocals featured on all songs here are nice enough; unoffensive and certainly easy on the ears and the breathy tail-ends of some melodies serve to create a smoother finish that many others in the genre are currently lacking. However, the duo’s main focus appears to be on the instrumental elements and with the stellar material they are producing in this area, that’s the way it should stay. Despite not performing as a live act until a couple of months ago and then swiftly bagging the coveted spot of opening act for electro-dance gurus LCD Soundsystem on their recent tour, it’s obvious that Holy Ghost! have something special in themselves. Static On The Wire may have been a way for the duo to initially showcase their personal talents, but it’s simply served to provide a tantalising taster of a forthcoming album that’s due to be even more delectable.
Carey, the fact of the matter is clear: this is a corker of an album. Mr Carey, otherwise best known for his collaborative music via Bon Iver, has done himself and his band of brothers proud with what is a release full of whimsy and analogue structure. It S Carey – All We Grow keeps the Words: Salwa Azar soft-spoken Americana As the first dulcet tone from Move vibe of his band’s better blows through the speakers of this, known albums, but in terms of the first solo album from Sean Bon Iver, where there is angst and
heartbreak and sparsity, in this album, they are replaced by sweet melodies, harmonies and additional layering of sounds that give an overall lush, protected bubble quality to the album. This is summer haze, sharing an ice cream on a swing, sitting in a taxi in Spring being driven around your favourite city whilst holding the hand of your crush. It is steeped in nostalgia for those who grew up in the 70s/80s with Sesame Street, Barbara Streisand movie re-runs on TV and sunburn. With Carey’s dreamy, mumbly
vocals All We Grow manages to retain its modern edge by way of the different time signatures, electronica mixed in with piano and guitar and general suitability for the urbanite of today. For those who love One Line Drawing, Bon Iver and Dinosaur Jr, this album will please your ears greatly. For everyone else, it’s a lush, warm cocoon of sonic harmonies with offbeat additions that will keep your ears interested through the whole 40 minute
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
After gushing ever so slightly about their last single OK Corral, CDX thought it about time we had a chat with the brilliant Thee Single Spy. Here, Nick Foster chats to TSS’s Alex Mattinson about new beginnings, not being a folk band and the soon-to-be-released Ship wrecking LP The last time CDX spoke to TSS was in March last year. You had one release under your belt (double A sided single If You Walk on Gravestones/ Smoke That Tea) and were looking at the possibility of touring the UK. What has happened since then? We spent hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds working out what sort of band we are. We bought expensive electric guitars and organs, and had synths delivered to us from Manchester in the back of a green Mini. We wrote new songs that mean I don’t really have to bring an acoustic guitar to gigs anymore. We got noisier and gave up drinking for a short while. We acquired lawyers and had meetings. I took up drinking again and wrote a B-side in record time. People started to like us. We didn’t tour the UK. We sold all but 25 of that first single, and now have a new single to focus on, which is a
million times better and a hundred times more fun to talk about with you. The old days are definitely behind us temporally and spiritually, but I don’t know where they are exactly. I live in fear of old songs attacking me at night with sharper teeth than ever, making me sing forgotten words over and over. Some people prefer the old Spy. I don’t.
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Your new single, OK Corral, and forthcoming LP Shipwrecking has a very orchestrated feel. Does having members of your band playing instruments like the clarinet and melodica help when scoring the songs and do you start with the initial guitar parts and build in the instruments or come up with an idea and all jam around that?
We don’t use melodicas any more, they’ve got no guts in them so we replaced them with organs or accordions, but the clarinets are still around. When we made the album we were mindful of wanting to create a textured and orchestrated sound, but equalled by an aggression in the guitars and in the drums and bass. We all have a good ear for melody and we enjoy the rough beauty of a French horn and a distorted electric guitar running side by side, all the frequencies pulsing and coming apart, throbbing bass tones and strange feedback. I think OK Corral has a weird threat in it that I’ve not figured out yet. Something happens when I listen to that song. I think maybe the brass instruments in the choruses are haunted.
Who or what are the band’s main inspirations?
Younghusband, Jeff Mangum, Robert Pollard, Flanders & Swann, Jazzmasters, bedrooms, Conor Oberst, Rosie Roberts, the inside of the head,
crows, water, and lightning.
In some interviews/reviews you have been lumped in with the nu folk movement that was burgeoning last year. I hear more Nick Cave than Mumford & Sons in your songs so do think the nu folk tag is justified for TSS?
I think nu-folk drowned in waistcoats didn’t it? No, we’re not a folk band. I don’t see anything folk in us apart from perhaps an affinity with some strong lyrical traditions that folk carries on – a sense of narrative, myth, death and rebirth, nature, undying sadness and universal happiness. Even though we began life with an acoustic guitar and a strippedback drumkit, singing admittedly quite folky songs, I think we’ve moved about as far away from that as we could without buying turntables. Lyrically our songs are made up of spinning disparate images thrown in the same bag and willed to get along with one another: seas, bullets, burned skin and kissing. Musically, I don’t find any comfort in writing folk music, I need screaming ears and electric guitars, manic organs and death rattles on the snare, beautiful chaos and controlled anger. However, the same amount of intelligent thought and careful consideration as before goes into what we do – no-one wants to be in The Fratellis.
From November 2008 to now is a long time between releases. Has all this time been spent
putting Shipwrecking together?
Well we’re not signed to a big label, so for a band like ours there are not necessarily infinite opportunities to release music physically. We’re dancing around the debt fire. The first single was co-funded by Jamie Dale from Goldheart Assembly, a solid gold friend of our music and the first person to put money into the band, and for this single we feel lucky to have the chance to release music with one of the most exciting new independent labels around. Robot Elephant Records are massively passionate and supportive of new bands, and have given us the creative freedom to have Leonard Cohen-esque B-sides and illegible band logos on the record. This is musical heaven. The album did take a good deal of planning, but for most of the time we’ve just been gigging regularly, acquiring new fans and trying to convince people we’re worth loving. We ARE worth loving.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Scottish castles, Russia, lots of high-quality gigging, find a manager (PLEASE GOD), keep writing, stay happier, swim, record new songs, go to Paris, remember my lines, fix a hole, dig a pony, right a wrong, get healthy, see the Flaming Lips live, convince Mersault to answer my emails, find someone to release our album, don’t give up.
Words: Nick Foster
One Night Only took the UK by storm back in 2008 when their seemingly had a monopoly on the nations radio stations. Now wi matter of weeks away I caught up with the band to talk about liv friends and their dream festival. When you named yourselves One Night Only you can’t have imagined that you would be where you are now?
I don’t think any of us would have expected we would have got this far after that first gig. I certainly don’t think anyone in the audience would have expected us to get this far. It’s great to look back to that first gig every now and then, its gives us a great perspective on how lucky we are.
How have you dealt with your rise to fame? I think we’re all pretty much the same people we started out as. It helps living in a small town like we do; no-one treats us any differently because of being in the band. If they suspect it’s all going to your head they’ll shoot you down straight away.
Tell us a bit about your new single ‘Say You Don’t Want It’.
It’s a real statement of where we want to go, it’s a big sounding song that we can see people of all ages and genders liking. Both lyrically and musically we feel like we’ve stepped up from the first record and this track is a great taster for the rest of the album.
Emma Watson is in the video for it, how did that come about?
Emma was a fan of the band and got to know George through some modelling work for Burberry. They became friends and when we were recording the new record we sent her some of the new material across. She really loved it and
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asked if she could get involved somehow, so we suggested a role in the video.
Do you feel like there’s any pressure on you to write another ‘Just For Tonight’?
r biggest hit so far, ‘Just For Tonight’, ith their sophomore album only a ving up to fan expectations, famous Yeh it’s a pressure we put on ourselves. We see how the fans react to Just For Tonight at gigs and it makes us want to write more tunes to get people dancing. Saying that we don’t want to simply try and write Just For Tonight again, we always like trying new things.
On a similar note what can we expect from the new album?
There’s a lot of different influences on the album, i think a lot of people will jump on the 80′s vibe. We really tried to bring out the synths and working with producer Ed Buller (Synths in Psychedelic Furs) really helped us. If you like the first single you’ll love the album.
What’s been your best festival experience this year?
Unfortunately I haven’t made it to any UK festivals this year so I’d have to say South By South West, it was our first time playing the festival and it really is an amazing experience. We’ve experienced street festivals before in the UK but SXSW takes it purely on atmosphere. Yes it tends to contain a few too many wasted music industry types but not even they can ruin it.
What would be your dream festival line up?
Hendrix, Beatles, Nirvana, Rolling Stones, The Zombies, The Prodigy (in no particular order)
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Release our debut single Say You Don’t Want It on the 16th of August, closely followed a week later on the 23rd by self titled second record (sorry for the shameless plug). We’ve got a UK tour planned in October and after that who knows. Words: Adam Gibby
September 2010 â€“ The Indie Issue
June 1, 1942 – July 31, 2010
n 1974 Alexander Salkind, Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (European uber producers) bought the rights to Superman from DC comics. The Salkinds and Spengler’s approach to making movies was very much like Real Madrid or Manchster City’s approach to football. You sign big names to the project and the rest will fall into place. They started off by signing Mario Puzo (Oscar winning writer of The Godfather) at a salary of $600,000 (which by today’s standards is an absolute fortune) to write the film. They next signed up Marlon Brando at a cool $3.75 million (and 11.75% of the box office) with a
contract stipulation that he would only work for 12 days. Lastly, Gene Hackman signed on to this epic production. Soon after, Mario Puzo delivered his script for Superman. It was over 500 pages long
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and was in two parts. Though the Salkinds were very happy with Puzo’s script, they were worried it was slightly too long (which is a bit of an understatement) so they hired David Newman for rewrite work. David’s wife Leslie was also brought in to help her husband finish the writing duties. This was finished in 1976 and the
script carried a very camp tone, including a cameo appearance by Telly Savalas as his Kojak character. The scripts for Superman and Superman II were now at over 400-pages combined (the average finished movie script is generally under 100 pages). Guy Hamilton, director of Bond films such as Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger was then hired to direct. At the time, Hamilton was living in Italy as a tax exile. Most British celebrities were living abroad during this time as tax in the U.K. was so very high if you earned over a certain amount a year. From his studio in Rome, Hamilton had shot lots of test footage already and sets had begun to be built at a combined cost of over $2 million. Production was going ahead at a fast rate. Meanwhile, countless actors were approached to play the man of steel himself. Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds, Patrick Wayne, James Caan, James Brolin, Lyle Waggoner, Christopher Walken, Nick Nolte, Kurt Russell, Jeff Bridges, and David Soul all turned it down. This was becoming a problem. How could you begin filming Superman without Superman? The producers were keen to start filming as soon as possible as otherwise they could risk losing Brando and Hackman, actors who were in high demand. Another problem surfaced: Brando told the producers that he couldn’t film in Italy because of a warrant out for his arrest – a sexual obscenity charge arising from the movie Last Tango in Paris. So in 1976 production moved to England but Hamilton could not come back to the U.K. unless he wanted to pay tax again. So, regretfully, Hamilton left the project. Things looked to be stalling once again until the producers happened to see the 1976 horror classic The Omen, directed by Richard Donner. Donner was immediatly hired for $1 million. Donner’s first directorial decision was to start from scratch and abandon all the previous work on the project, “They had prepared the picture for a year and not one bit was useful to me,” he said later. Disatisfied with the campy script and irreverence to the subject matter’s comic book origins, Donner brought on board the one man he knew could improve on the length and tone of the script and
give it real class: Tom Mankiewicz. Tom Mankiewicz was brought up on film. His father was the celebrated screenwriter/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Cleopatra, Guys and Dolls and co-writer of Citizen Kane) and his godfather was MGM studio exceutive Eddie Mannix. Tom Mankiewicz was a graduate of Yale University (1959–63). He majored in drama, completing the first two years of the Yale Drama School while still an undergraduate. In 1963, he wrote his first original screenplay, Please, about the last ninety minutes in the life of a suicidal young actress. It was optioned at times by three different studios, never made, but served as an example of his talent and was responsible for his first writing assignment, a Bob Hope television special. He received a credit as “Thomas F. Mankiewicz,” but thought it looked so pretentious on the screen he became just “Tom” Mankiewicz for the rest of his career. Broadway producer Fred Coe then asked Mankiewicz to write the book for the musical version of the film Georgy Girl. It opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1970 and was nominated for three Tony Awards, but closed after four performances. Attending one of the four performances of Georgy was United Artists production head David Picker who admired Mankiewicz’s book for the musical. Picker and James Bond producer Albert Broccoli were looking for a writer to do a major reworking of Diamonds Are Forever in hopes of luring Sean Connery back to play Bond. Picker
suggested that Broccoli add Mankiewicz to his list of possibles. He was hired on a two-week guarantee, stayed on the film for six months and received shared screenplay credit with the original writer, Richard Maibaum.
on the next, Live and Let Die, shared credit with Maibaum on The Man with the Golden Gun, did an uncredited rewrite on The Spy Who Loved Me, and helped Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert get Moonraker off the ground.
This began a long relationship with the Bond films. Mankiewicz received sole writing credit
Mankiewicz really gave Bond the almost otherworldly qualities that served the character so
September 2010 â€“ The Indie Issue
well during that period. While the films may not have been the best, the character himself was seemingly more charming and, dare I say, cheeky. He was certainly no drag or bore. This was the power of Mankiewicz, he knew how to make Bond likeable. This Bond didnt just use women, he smoothed them and always had a great line to go with it. He was much the same way with his foes, they were ridiculed to their face by this Bond with laser sharp wits. I defy anyone to watch Live and Let Die and not come out of it with at least three or four killer lines. This isn’t just writing, this is charm school 101. In 1975, Mankiewicz wrote the screenplay for Mother, Jugs and Speed, a dark comedy about ambulance drivers starring Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel. He co-produced the film with director Peter Yates who later asked Mankiewicz to come to the British Virgin Islands to do a major rewrite on Yates’ next film, The Deep, with Robert Shaw and Jacqueline Bisset. The film was a huge box office success and cemented Mankiewicz’s reputation as a “script doctor”, a role he was to perform for the rest of his career with aplomb. When Richard Donner called in 1976, Mankiewicz jumped at the chance to work on Superman. According to Mankiewicz: “Not a word from the Puzo script was used. It was well-written, but still a ridiculous script. It was 550 pages. I said, ‘You can’t shoot this screenplay because you’ll be shooting for five years’”. Mankiewicz went into creative overdrive. He tackled the script and broke it down making every aspect as rooted in reality as possible. He also conceived the idea of having each Kryptonian family wear a crest resembling a different letter, justifying the ‘S’ on Superman’s costume. Donner agreed, giving the production of this movie a byword that it had to live by, verisimilitude. Donner and Mankiewicz went full steam ahead with this concept. The audience had to believe a man could fly, that was their major job because without that the whole exercise was pointless. They wanted the film to be basically three parts. The destruction of Krypton, the Smallville years and the arrival of Superman. Donner and Mankewicz became obsessed with their vision of verisimilitude and it is evident throughout the movie that was eventually seen on screen.
The Writers Guild of America refused to credit Mankiewicz for his extensive rewrites, so Donner gave him a creative consultant credit, much to the annoyance of the Guild. The screenplay was ready and Donner and Makiewicz began their search for their Superman. Time was still a factor with Hackman and Brando still attached to the project. Mankiewicz claimed that there were many great strong brutes who couldn’t act, and many great actors who weren’t physically right for the role. Casting director Lynn Stalmaster introduced Salkind and Donner to unknown actor Christopher Reeve. They were not convinced, feeling Reeve to be far too skinny. After persistent pestering by Stalmaster, Donner and the producers agreed to give Reeves a screen test. The rest is history. It was an inspired choice. Christopher Reeve was then taken under the mighty wings of English body builder David Prowse (Darth Vader) and turned into a six foot beefcake. Filming began in May 1977 at Pinewood Studios. The Krypton scenes were filmed first and this was the earliest opportunity for Mankiewicz to flex his considerable dialogue muscles with this line (the first to be uttered in the film): “This is no fantasy – no careless product of wild imagination. No, my friends. These indictments that I have brought to you today, specific charges herein against the individuals. Their acts of treason, their ultimate aim of sedition. These... are matters of undeniable fact. I ask you now to pronounce judgement on those accused”. Not bad eh? The film was released in 1978 and went on to be a massive blockbuster hit, due in no small part to Tom Mankiewicz. Without him, I dread to think what film would have arrived. Without his careful and considered feather-lite touch to the script and creative process, we would never have believed a man could fly, and even if we did, we just simply wouldnt have cared enough. Heres to you Tom Mankewicz. Thanks for all your work. Tom Mankiewicz June 1st 1942 - July 31st 2010 Words: John Rain
f Ealing Studios had decided to make a horrorcomedy-zombie film it would be Return of the Living Dead. Actually, to put it another way, if Ealing Studios had decided to make a horror-comedy-zombie film and had a head injury or were into drugs, they would make Return of the Living Dead – probably with Alec Guinness. Released in 1985 it has since become a cult classic and a fantastic example of how horror and comedy can work together to acheive a great result. The film has its roots in a novel by John Russo which was also called Return of the Living Dead. When Russo and George A. Romero parted ways after their 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, Russo retained the rights to any titles featuring Living Dead while Romero was free to create his own series of sequels, beginning with Dawn of the Dead. Russo and producer Tom Fox planned to bring Return of the Living Dead to the screen in 3D, directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Blue Thunder) was brought in to give the script a polish and after Hooper backed out to make Lifeforce (also from a script by Dan O’Bannon), O’Bannon was offered the director’s seat. He accepted on the condition he could rewrite the film so as to differentiate it from Romero’s films. The final film bears little to no resemblance to the original novel. O’Bannon’s script also differed from the Romero
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series in that it is more comedy-based than Romero’s films. Employing “splatstick” style morbid humor and very eccentric and snappy dialogue. The film is eminently quoteable from start to finish and has a great soundtrack that just oozes 80s nostalgia, which is great if that is your thing. The film begins with an alarming message (which is obviously bollocks): “The events portrayed in this film are all true. The names are real names of real people and real organizations”. Seeing that message you are immediately aware that this film is not taking itself seriously.
The plot is based around a medical supply company (fantastically named “UneedaMedical Supply”) in which a new employee (Freddy) on his first day is being shown the ropes by old hand (Frank). During a chat about the weirdest thing he’s ever seen, Frank tells Freddy about the fact that Night of the Living Dead was based on a real event of dead bodies coming to life and that some tanks containing the bodies of the living dead were accidentally delivered after “a typical army fuck up, the transportation department got the orders crossed. They sent those bodies here.” Frank takes Freddy to look at them and whilst playing with the tank, gas pours out from within the tank and Freddy and Frank are knocked
Meanwhile, Freddy’s friends (terrific 80s retro punks with dyed poodle hair and chains on their torn clothes)
arrive to pick him up from his first day. Assuming he is working late when he doesn’t appear, they decide to have a party (as everyone did in those days when bored) in the graveyard next door. It is then not long before one of them is nude (I will give you a clue, it isn’t a man) and dancing around to 80s rock music. This gang by the way have great names such as “Trash” and “Suicide”. Life was hard in those days, folks. Freddy and Frank come to and things begin to gradually go wrong. It is then only a matter of time before the dead rise and the body count really begins. This film is such a pleasure to watch; there are frequent, and often subtle, jokes – such as the eye-test poster in Burt’s (the boss of Uneeda-Medical Supply) office, which actually reads “Burt is a slave driver and a cheap son of a bitch who’s got you and me here” if you put the letters together, which is a joy to spot on every viewing. There is also great dialogue such as: Burt: I thought you said if we destroyed the brain, it’d die! Frank: It worked in the movie! Burt: Well, it ain’t working now, Frank! Freddy: You mean the movie lied?? Don’t get me wrong however, this film still has its fair share of jumps and scary moments. The “tar man”
zombie in this film is one that gave people many a fright and there are many scary situations that are certain to get pulses racing. 1985 was a great year for zombie films with the Ying of Day of the Dead coming out along side the Yang of Return of the Living Dead. For pure entertainment value, Return is aruably the better film. It was also a moderate box office sucess upon its release. Costing four million dollars to make and grossing well over fourteen million at the box office. A sequel followed in 1988 and much like Evil Dead 2 was very nearly a remake of the first and even had some actors return playing different parts. Three subsequent sequels followed but both were far removed in tone from the first two and were just simply not as much fun. There is a 25th Anniversary Blu-ray and a book entitled “The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead” due out in October 2010. The book will cover all five ROTLD movies, focusing more on Part 1. It will feature interviews from over 70 members of the cast and crew and will also feature over 150 never-beforepublished filmakers photos, film stills and posters. Words: John Rain
When anyone utters the word “spoof”, chances are you will immediately think of Airlane! 30 years on we remember this classic of modern(ish) day cinema.
he writers/directors, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker had come up with the idea of Airplane! after countless watches of a little known film from 1957 called Zero Hour!, the story of a routine flight that turns into a major emergency as passengers and crew succumb to food poisoning. Terror strikes the passengers as the stewardess asks if there is anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane. Sound familiar? We all have a film that takes itself far too seriously that we like to watch every now and then and ridicule and Zero Hour! was David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker’s weapon of choice. Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker started off performing sketches under the name of the “Kentucky Fried Theatre”. A friend of theirs by the name of John Landis (Blues Brothers, Trading Places, An American Werewolf in London) suggested they turn their ideas into a short film. The prospect of shooting the short film so excited the trio that they decided to pay for it themselves. The ten-minute film cost $35,000, and with it they approached the Hollywood studios who turned them down. Curious as to how audiences would react to their film, they persuaded exhibitor Kim Jorgenson to show it before one of his regularly scheduled movies. When Jorgenson saw the short, he “fell out of his seat laughing.” He was so impressed that he offered to raise the money needed to make the full-length version. By having his fellow exhibitors screen the film before audiences in their theaters, he convinced them to put up the $650,000 budget. The Kentucky Fried Movie was eventually made and directed by
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their friend John Landis – not a bad choice for your first movie. When released, Kentucky Fried Movie, a collection of sketches and a feature length parody of Enter the Dragon, was a box-office success, leaving the trio well set up to begin their next project. After the success of The Kentucky Fried Movie, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker (or ZAZ as they were known) set about writing a sequel. The format was to be same, but instead of having an Enter The Dragon spoof within the sketches, it would contain a spoof of Zero Hour! After a while however, it became apparant that the Zero Hour! spoof had a lot more scope and so they decided to abandon the Kentucky Fried Movie sequel idea and go full steam ahead with the Zero Hour! spoof. This time they insisted on directing it themselves. David Zucker explains: “(Kentucky Fried Movie) was the first time we had ever been on a movie set. We learned a lot. We learned that if you really wanted a movie to come out the way you wanted it to, you had to direct. So on the next movie, Airplane!, we insisted on directing.” The first masterstroke that ZAZ hit upon was to cast serious actors in comedic roles. Nowadays this is the norm, actors are pretty malleable and can often appear in comedy (even Arnold Schwarzenegger) but in 1979 that just wasn’t the case. You had comedic actors and serious actors. David Zucker explained that “the trick was to cast actors like Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, and Lloyd Bridges. These were people, who up to that time, had never done comedy. We thought they were much funnier than the comedians of that time were.” For the confused and dubious pilot, they cast Peter
Graves (who was apparently insulted to be sent the script at first) who was best known for playing Jim Phelps in the TV series of Mission Impossible. For the eccentric doctor, they cast Leslie Neilson; now a world renowned clown, in 1980 he was as serious as actors get. Most famous for playing the lead in the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet his deadpan delivery contrasted with the continual absurdity surrounding him. In the film when asked “Surely you can’t be serious?”, he responds with a curt, “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” He later reflected in several interviews on the significance of the comedic line: “I thought it was amusing, but it never occurred to me that it was going to become a trademark. It’s such a surprise...the thing comes out, people say, ‘What did he say?!’” Nielsen has also stated that he was “pleased and honoured that he had a chance to deliver that line.” Lloyd Bridges was cast as Steve McCroskey, the gruff control tower boss with quitting problems. Bridges was unsure about taking the part but was advised by his children that he had to. Lastly, there was Robert Stack as Captain Rex Kramer. David Zucker felt Stack was the most
important actor to be cast, since he was the “linchpin” to the film’s plot. Stack initially played his role differently from what the directors had in mind. They showed him a tape of impressionist John Byner impersonating Robert Stack. According to the producers, Stack was “doing an impression of John Byner doing an impression of Stack.” There are other cameos that are casted against type. Barbara Billingsley, known at the time as June Cleaver, from American kids TV show Leave
It to Beaver, makes an appearance as a woman who announces she “speaks jive” and can translate for two African-American passengers. Maureen McGovern appears as Sister Angelina, a spoof of the nun in Airport 1975, and a poke at her involvement as the singer of the Oscar-winning songs for the disaster films The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974). Jimmie Walker cameos as the man opening the hood of the plane and checking the oil before takeoff; Walker also had a minor role in the air disaster film The Concorde ... Airport ‘79. Howard Jarvis, the property tax rebel and author of California Proposition 13, plays the taxi passenger who is left at the curb with the meter running in the film’s opening and closing scene. Ethel Merman, in her last film appearance, plays a shellshocked male soldier who is convinced he is Ethel Merman. Finally, NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar plays co-pilot Murdock, who is later revealed in dialogue to actually be Abdul-Jabbar living a secret double life. The two leads were the most important piece of casting and boy, did they get that right. Robert Hays played Ted Stryker (which is the same name of the lead character in Zero Hour!). An ex-fighter pilot who has become traumatized after an incident during the “war”, leading to his fear of flying and his “drinking problem” (implying alcoholism, but specifically the “problem” refers to the fact that he misses his mouth every time). Recovering his courage, Stryker attempts to regain the love of his life, Elaine (played with amazing timidity by Julie Hagerty), now a stewardess. In order to win her love, Stryker overcomes his fear and buys a ticket on a flight she is serving on from Los Angeles to Chicago. However, during the flight, Elaine rebuffs his advances. They have amazing chemistry and the scenes detailing their first meeting and efforts to help an African tribe are just so rewarding, not to mention her visit to Ted in hospital. Another character to the film was very important.
Elmer Bernstein’s (Magnificent Seven, Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters) music. Without it the film just simply would not have the same sense of ludicrous urgency and bravado. It is a perfect marriage and much like the casting process it is played straight but works in tandem with the comedy. Filming took 34 days, mostly during August 1979. The plane used throughout the film was a TWA Boeing 707 model. The ambient noise of the plane is not that of a jet but a propeller driven plane; it was taken from the soundtrack of Zero Hour!, making it the longest running gag in the film and one that always makes me laugh. This film is a never ending production line of great gags, be it visual or verbal. It is just never ending and must surely have a gag ratio that is out of this world. Airplane! received universal acclaim from critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1980. In 2008, Airplane! was selected by Empire Magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. It was also placed on a similar list by The New York Times, a list of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made. Leslie Nielsen’s line “I am serious...and don’t call me Shirley,” was 79th on AFI’s list of the best 100 movie
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quotes. In 2000, the American Film Institute listed Airplane! as number ten on its list of the 100 funniest American films. In the same year, readers of Total Film voted it the second greatest comedy film of all time. It also came second in the British 50 Greatest Comedy Films poll on Channel 4, beaten by Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. Airplane! is 30 years old this year and a perfect example of how to make comedy. While there have been many spoof films since, it has never been bettered. There was a sequel in 1982 (which oddly suggests there was a third to follow it during the end titles which never surfaced) which ZAZ declined to take part in. While being amusing, it was never as charming or as funny and was basically retreading the wonderful ornate path that Airplane! had already laid. The ZAZ team went on to make some great work (Top Secret! The Naked Gun) and some not so great work (Scary Movie 3 & 4) but they should be celebrated far more than they currently are. Heres to you ZAZ! I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley. Words: John Rain
ames Horner got his start in the movie business in much the same way as James Cameron before him; they were both pupils of legendary BMovie king Roger Corman. Horner’s first composing credit was on the legendary sub-par Star Wars rip off Battle Beyond The Stars.
score for the mighty Krull (the best film about bearded men with a Glaive ever made), Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock, Commando (again utilizing unusual instruments and percussion that some would say sounds just like 48 Hours) and Cocoon.
nearly a decade, before they sadly (for the world) reunited on Titanic. With the monumental success of the 1997 epic ,the subject of Aliens between the two of them has smartly been dropped. The score for Aliens is a classic and for used incessantly in trailers for films made from In 1986 James Cameron hired Horner 1986 onwards. In fact, one piece of Even though the film is balls, Horner’s to score a little film he was working music from Aliens (Resolution and score is not. It is full of his now on called Aliens. The film was over Hyperspace) was even used at the end trademark pomp and circumstance running badly and time was incredibly of Die Hard (spoiler alert) for the scene combined with winding and tight. Horner only had a very short in which Sgt. Al Powell shoots Karl . whirring horns. It got him noticed in time to score the film and he and Hollywood. Although the film had Cameron didn’t necessarily see eye After the Aliens experience Horner a space ship that looked like a set of to eye on much. Cameron would went on to score another two ovaries, Horner had a score that was constantly cut or replace Horner’s soundtracks that would also be the dog’s cahonies. score or demand too much at the last considered classic works: Willow and minute. Horner did not have the time The Land Before Time. At this point In 1982, the makers of Star Trek II: The or frame of mind to keep up with all in his career Horner was receiving Wrath of Khan approached Horner of these changes, and although he regular criticism that his work had about scoring the film and he delivered was excited to be part of such a large begun to become derivative of itself the best Star Trek score yet and almost budget and a potentially classic film, (a criticism often thrown at John over night established himself as he walked off of the scoring stage a Williams) and while Commando one of the big boys and was quite frustrated man, having completed sounds very much like 48 Hours, for rightly in high demand. That same the work. It was a bitter working the most part this is unfair. Willow year he scored the Eddie Murphy/ relationship that would cause and Land Before Time certainly Nick Nolte action/comedy 48 Hours. Horner and Cameron were evidence that his work Horner took the unusual step of to dislike each retained originality. using predominantly steel drums and other for percussion on the soundtrack giving In 1991, Horner the whole piece a Latin/Caribbean composed his best feel. However, it really suits the piece piece of work, the and sets the mood. You could never score to the much imagine the film keeping the same maligned (though frenetic pace without it. actually pretty good) Rocketeer. This Over the next score is a piece of art and few years he improves with every listen. The composed gentle piano introduction opens the the door to the velvet-lined string section to roll out the red carpet for the majestic fanfare of horns. It is like audio butter melting on hot melody toast and is up there with the best of them. Horner, like Jerry Goldsmith, used the early ‘90s to fill up his CV with smaller films. He became a master at scoring children’s films while also composing more subtle, powerful works for such films as The Man
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
Without a Face and The Pelican Brief. In 1995 he burst back into the national spotlight with an amazing streak of impressive scores. Hot off the success of Legends of the Fall, Horner was nominated by the Academy for both Braveheart and Apollo 13.
section to roll out the red carpet for the majestic fanfare of horns. It is like audio butter melting on hot melody toast and is up there for me with the best of them.
The two scores for which Horner is probably best known are Braveheart and Titanic. While many people will stand up and shout from the rooftops about how amazing they both are, they are both terrible. The horrible twee sounding ethnic pipes against the background of droning strings make the stomach turn. Never mind the horrible song he wrote with Celine Dion. He hasn’t been the same since Braveheart. Recently, Horner composed the score for the monster hit (and bore) Avatar. While watching Avatar I was hoping it wasn’t Horner scoring it and merely an impostor as every time a Na’vi appeared there was that same twee sounding ethnic pipe sound. Disappointingly, I was saddened to see it was him in the end credits. Let’s hope he gets his groove back soon. We miss you James. Top 10 James Horner scores to make him try harder (in no order):
The gentle piano introduction opens the door to the velvet lined string
The darkness of space and the fear of marauding Aliens trying to get in the room brought together in one eerie package (with added metal clangs) - Brilliant work. Used in pretty much every movie trailer. Proving that steel drums and percussion do go hand in hand with action.
Golden globe nominated and a lovely piece of work, also used in many a trailer.
Music to help the old feel young, sweet and not too over sentimental.
The world of Krull is invaded by an evil alien entity known as The Beast and this music will make you want to help.
Star Trek II : The Wrath of Khan This really is the best Star Trek has and ever will sound.
Summing up the marriage of magic and fantasy adventure with a dwarf that the film presents you with in one perfect theme.
Yes it sounds a bit like 48 hours but it is the perfect score to accompany the angry John Matrix in his angry quest to save his daughter - worth it just for the slowed down sentimental part in which Matrix and his daughter bond over ice cream and lumberjacking.
The Land Before Time
The land before a time when Dinosaurs were cool, but the score is lovely. Words: John Rain
964, fresh from the success of The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark, Peter Sellers came to Hollywood to work with legendary Director Billy Wilder and Dean Martin for the ribald comedy Kiss Me, Stupid. Things were really looking up, he was world famous, sought after and had just married Britt Ekland. Not only that but he was in Hollywood enjoying his honeymoon and had even stopped by to meet his idol Stan Laurel. After a trip to Disneyland Sellers suffered his first heart attack. Excessive drug use (amyl nitrites) and wild dieting had put too much pressure on his heart and that night it just gave out. During the first of
a rapid series of eight heart attacks, when his heart stopped and he was clinically dead, he had an out-of-body experience and saw a bright light. Sellers later said, “Well, I felt myself leave my body. I just floated out of my physical form and I saw them cart my body away to the hospital. I went with it ... I wasn’t frightened or anything like that because I was fine; and it was my body that was in trouble.” Meanwhile, the doctor saw that Sellers was dead and began to massage his heart vigorously. Sellers stated, “I looked around myself and I saw an incredibly beautiful bright loving white light above me. I wanted to go to that white light more than anything. I’ve never wanted anything more. I know there was love, real love, on the other side of the light which was attracting me so much. It was kind and loving and I remember thinking ‘That’s God.’” Sellers’ out-of-body soul tried to elevate itself toward the light, but fell short. Sellers stated, “Then I saw a hand
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
reach through the light. I tried to touch it, to grab onto it, to clasp it so it could sweep me up and pull me through it.” But just then his heart began beating again, and at that instant the hand’s voice said, “It’s not time. Go back and finish. It’s not time.” As the hand withdrew Sellers felt himself floating back down to his body, waking up bitterly disappointed. Although Sellers survived, his heart was permanently damaged. Alexander Walker, his biographer, stated that “The repeated act of dying became for Peter Sellers the most important experience of his life.” Sellers himself said of death, “I’ll never fear it again.” Family and friends found him more spiritual and reflective than before. He began to trust spiritualists over all others. Most (if not all) decisions were based on advice received from Maurice Woodruff, his clairvoyant and astrologer. Walker stated, “The experience of resurrection intensified Sellers’ spiritual concern and
friends discerned the start of a new introspectiveness, a sense of his not “being there” in spirit, though present in body.” Sellers’ new wife, Britt Ekland, found it unnerving that her previously restless husband had now become so quiet. He was now “sitting still over lengthy periods, saying nothing, but staring at her with his thoughts turned inward.” Sellers returned to England for an extended convalescence. Even though the film was six weeks into shooting, Billy Wilder replaced Sellers with Ray Walston, reshot his scenes and Kiss Me, Stupid carried on without him. Sellers was tempted out of his convalescence with a whacky performance as Dr. Fritz Fassbender in the “out there” film (and Woody Allen’s film debut as star and writer) What’s New Pussycat. He then appeared in a wonderful cameo role as the cat-crazed confused Dr. Pratt in the British Victorian comedy The Wrong Box alongside a very young Peter Cook. Now fully convalesced, Sellers took on the role of Aldo Vanucci in the Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys) debut screenplay, After The Fox. There was even a part for Britt Eckland, who played his young sister who has aspirations to become an actress. It was his next project however that Sellers began to get a reputation for being a pain in the arse to work with. Casino Royale was Sellers’ chance to prove that he could be a straight lead actor and play James Bond like Cary Grant. He became very disappointed when it became apparent that it was to be a bawdy comedy. He became disillusioned with the project and would often disappear from the set for days at a time. He also began a feud with Orson Welles (by whom he felt intimidated) and refused to be on the set at the same time as him. This caused further problems as they shared a scene that was very important to the film. It was his behavior on Casino Royale that perhaps ultimately finished the “love-in” he had been having with Hollywood. The production proved to be rather troubled, with five different
directors helming different segments of the film, and stunt co-ordinator Richard Talmadge co-directing the final sequence. In addition to the credited writers, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Val Guest, Ben Hecht, Joseph Heller, Terry Southern, and Billy Wilder are believed to have added to the screenplay. Val Guest was given the responsibility of splicing the various “chapters” together, and was offered the unique title of “Cocoordinating Director” but declined, claiming the chaotic plot would not reflect well on him if he were so credited. His extra credit was labeled “Additional sequences” instead. The end product is an utterly incoherent, semi-unwatchable, over indulgent mess -- with the only good point being a great soundtrack.
While this is funny, it is odd and smacks of a desperation to be funny to change the character you played as a mild bumbler in the previous film to an all out idiot who can barely speak his own language. This unfortunately is what Sellers had been reduced to. With the subsequent sequels the character devolved into further idiocy and became more dependent on outrageous disguises and farcical situations. At the time of his death, Sellers was working on a new Pink Panther film (Romance of the Pink Panther).
There was one project throughout this entire period though that engrossed Sellers and became his obsession to get it on the big screen. The book Being There by Jerzy Kosiński, the story of simple-minded Chance the There followed a few more films gardener, who has spent all his life which were all disappointing to in the Washington D.C. house of an Sellers, The Bobo, There’s a Girl in old man. When the man dies, Chance my Soup and the seldom seen Where is put out on the street with no Does it Hurt? Perhaps the only film knowledge of the world except what which is note worthy from this period he has learned from television. After is the odd character piece Hoffman in a run in with a limousine, he ends which Sellers plays an older man who up a guest of a woman (Eve) and her invites a young lady to his flat for a husband Ben, an influential but sickly sexual liaison. As the film progresses, businessman. Now called Chauncey you find out that Sellers’ character Gardner, Chance becomes friend and caught one of his workers dealing in confidante to Ben, and an unlikely a scam, and decided to blackmail the political insider. Sellers fought to man’s lovely fiancée away for a full buy the rights and felt he was the week to convince her to fall in love character Chance, a blank canvas with him. Mostly a drama, the film who seemingly has no personality. has an almost terrifying performance He would call Kosiński constantly by Sellers, involved in intricate mind and send postcards and letters signed games with the other protagonists. “Chance” and “Gardener available The film is worth watching as for work”. The stumbling block was according to Sellers, it is the only film initially that Sellers’ output in the which captures his own personality. 1970s had meant that he had hit rock It is also a very powerful straight bottom and no studio in Hollywood performance and really shows that would dare work with him. Luckily the line between comedy and pathos is for Sellers, the Pink Panther movies very fine. had made lots of money and it was felt that he was worth the gamble. The 1970s was a very unfulfilling Would this finally be the ticket to period for Sellers, with every film artistic acceptance? flopping at the box office. It became so desperate that he eventually Part 3 - Being There and the many agreed to return to the Pink Panther wives of Peter Sellers - Next month franchise. Initially it was to be a 26 part TV series but eventually it Words: John Rain became the 1975 film The Return of the Pink Panther. This is the film in which the Clouseau character becomes heavily diluted and begins to speak in the exaggerated French accent.
Knight and Day
Released: 23.06.2010 Directed by: James Mangold Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Grace
ven without first names to help you out, just mentioning that Cruise and Diaz are involved brings a burden of Hollywood royalty to the table. Knight and Day has reunited the pair on screen for the first time since Vanilla Sky in this action comedy escapade. That was way back in 2000, although the script doesn’t feel like it has come together with 10 years of fine tuning – more like 10 minutes. The plot is fairly unsurprising and basic – a supposed rogue agent trying to protect an item of great value and its genius young inventor with a hostage / love interest involved against her will. Even with its simplicity it seems tolerable as there are some solid scenes and a believable chemistry between the two leads. Tom Cruise is the perfect choice for Roy Miller – a suave but slightly off the wall agent with the skills to do just about anything. For the early parts of the story it’s hard not to actually think to yourself that he may just have a screw loose upstairs. As always he brings his impeccable charm to the screen, at one point keeping a gentlemanly manner in the midst of a heavy fire fight. Think of Cruise in Collateral with a little more humour and a lot less creepiness and you would be just about spot on for Miller. Cameron Diaz is on form as June Havens, mixing her trademark dazzling smile with an enchanting naivety throughout. Considering what Diaz has to work with as a character here, a back story of bullet points thrust in your face – sister getting married, ex boyfriend , tomboy mechanic – she manages to steal your focus as the key personality on screen. This is no easy feat taking into consideration she is sharing almost every scene one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. There are some well timed comedy moments that will raise laughs throughout – although the recurring joke of Miller drugging his tagalong to save her from the mayhem unfolding grows boring quickly and happens a few too many times. On the subject of sedating a woman and taking her to different countries each time, surely this is just human trafficking trying to get a giggle? The action manages to stay under the completely ridiculous barrier for most of the time which is actually quite refreshing for a film like this. It could have been extremely annoying if this wasn’t the case, particularly as Cameron Diaz is meant to be just an
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
everyday girl thrust into the world of agents and gunfire. The majority of the extreme scenes are played out by Cruise which is far more tolerable as he is actually the super agent of the pair. One major concern is the lack of shooting talent in the chasing American agencies though, seemingly managing to miss even the simplest of shots even with a clear line of sight and a slow moving target – a child with a BB gun could do more damage! Knight and Day trundles along as a predictable but enjoyable ride. The frustration you feel is not from watching the movie itself but from knowing that this could have been much more. Cruise and Diaz deserve all the credit for making this a fairly pleasurable summer film. It is hard to remember another character involved once you exit the cinema as the other members of the cast aren’t given the screen time of characters to do anything with it. It makes no qualms about using the leads as the be all and end all of what to focus on but it just seems to work. It is nowhere near a stunning success in cinema terms though it doesn’t pretend to be, this is silly fun and one thing is for sure – you will walk away smiling. Words: Graham Shannahan
September 2010 â€“ The Indie Issue
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Released: 13.08.2010 Directed by: Edgar Wright Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman From the moment the 8-bit Universal logo and theme appear on the screen, you know you are in for no ordinary film experience. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is just that. Watching Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is like getting into the over 16 disco at school. â€” the place where all the cool kids hang out. The only issue is that it will probably only drop in the box office at mid table and almost certainly slip out of the top ten without a whimper. Therein lies the problem: over 16 discos where they play The Cure and smoke French cigarettes have an exclusive audience and the majority are simply not interested in attending. This is geek-pie and not everyone wants a slice. The shame of it of course is that if the general public did have a taste they would definitely enjoy it and make it the massive hit it deserves to be, but Iâ€™m afraid most people would rather watch Liam Neeson stinking up the screen in the A Team. Indeed last night I saw Scott Pilgrim in a near empty screen and that is a real shame. I hope I am wrong and I hope it makes tonnes of money as this is film-making on another level to most of the usual dirge that makes its way into the box office charts. We shall see over the next few weeks.
The plot revolves around Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), bass player in Toronto band Sex Bob-omb, meeting the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falling head over heals in lesbians. In order to win Ramona over, Scott learns that he must defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes, who are coming to kill him. Mortal kombat! If there is another film out there with as much visual flair, relentless joke firepower and great sound design, I would love to see it. While some may argue that Edgar Wright’s style of quick cuts and snappy pan manoeuvres are getting a little stayed, I think it suits the subject matter perfectly. There is even a further Evil Dead 2 parody moment that Wright seems so keen on putting into every project with the protagonist getting ready for action and each movement requiring a fast zoom (a la the “groovy” scene from Evil Dead 2) but on this occasion with a wonderful pause for Scott to slowly and clumsily tie his shoelaces. Wright has never made any secret of his love of Sam Raimi-style camera techniques; he has taken them into the 21st century and has evolved into a seriously good film maker with perfect flair. He also co-wrote the screen play to this film which is also evidence that his comedy skills honed on early projects such as Asylum and Spaced are still alive and well. The supporting cast are out of this world, from Scott’s band (with the wonderful Alison Pill as drummer Kim Pine) to the evil exes (including Superman Brendon Routh and Captain America Chris Evans) who are suitably threatening and ridiculous at the same time — the real star being Jason Schwartzman as the slippery Gideon Gordon Graves. Scott’s super-gay flat mate Wallace Wells is played with sublime panache by Kieran Culkin who very nearly steels the film from
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
under the nose of everyone concerned. He is a joy to watch and, along with Ellen Wong as the wonderfully named Knives Chau (Scott’s fake high school girlfriend) and Anna Kendrik as Scott’s concerned sister Stacey, the support cast feel like one big lovely hug. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great as Ramona Flowers — you understand perfectly why someone would want to fight to win her hand. The real star is, of course, Michael Cera, without whom the film would not have the same loveable charm. Like Edgar Wright, Cera is often criticised for playing the same card. This time however he plays the perfect card. Cera is the loveable, hilarious, awkward and flawed man he needed to be and he is amazing in this film. The part demands a lot of Cera with the action scenes and the musicianship and he does it all perfectly. The music choices in this film are just sublime, from the great use of T-Rex’s Teenage Dream to the wonderful original Sex-Bob-Omb Beck Hansen-written raw material (with the wonderful song for Ramona). The original score is by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead producer) and has some lovely moments. Add to this countless little touches – such as a dream sequence featuring music from Zelda, a Seinfeld parody scene, sound effects from Flash Gordon, lots of 8bit game references, a snatch of The Bluetones and wonderful jokes about Vegans — and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is the best film you’re likely to see this year for pure unadulterated enjoyment. Surely now Edgar Wright should be given a serious superhero film. (The Ant Man he has been writing for years with Joe Cornish perhaps?) Words: John Rain
Released: 13.08.2010 Directed by: Sylvester Stallone Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis
ylvester Stallone. Jason Statham. Dolph Lundgren. Jet Li. Mickey Rourke. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bruce Willis. Steve Austin. For the majority of people, those words are all you need to make your mind up on this film. And here’s the best bit: it’s everything you expect it to be. From the opening moments, when Lundgren inexplicably shoots a Somali pirate in half, it’s clear that the expendable elements of this film are: plot, dialogue and character development. However, whilst it’s not going to win the Palme D’or The Expendables is a thoroughly enjoyable, excessively bloody romp, where more is more. Eye-boggling action is sandwiched between extreme, often hilariously overboard violence. When the storyline hits a dead end, obstacles in the plot are literally and metaphorically blown to pieces, and The Expendables juggernaught is simply redirected at the next set piece. What keeps the film buzzing along is a dialogue peppered with tongue-in-cheek zingers that hint that Stallone, in the director’s chair, knows his audience. There’s several laugh out loud moments, with maybe half of them from jokes, the other half just in disbelief.
Apparently there’s some sort of storyline about an evil drugs baron and a misguided dictator but that’s mere distraction. This is about the action, and there’s plenty of it. There’s a high death count (40 within the first 10 minutes), and even when someone’s dead, they’re still not safe, as baddies are often repeatedly shot and then stabbed in the face. Some unfortunate extras are even machine-gunned in the arse. The most distressing scenes however are when Stallone and Rourke are on screen together. It’s like meeting Joan River’s twin sons in a tanning salon. In a world where Hollywood films are congealing into a conveyor belt of franchises, shaking the shekels out of a bored audience with every remake, 3D spin off and special edition Blu-Ray release, The Expendables is a surprisingly genuine, give-them-what-they want circus of mayhem. It’s awful. It’s amazing. It’s brilliant. It’s rubbish. I loved it. Words: Ross Park
The Blind Side
Released: 09.09.2010 (DVD & Blu-ray) Directed by: John Lee Hancock Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Kathy Bates
he Blind Side seemed to pass by with little fanfare until it received an Oscar nomination for Best Film at the 2010 Oscars and became the film for which Sandra Bullock won her Academy Award for Best Actress. After that I, along with millions of others, became interested to see just what had attracted this critical acclaim, especially as most reviews had been lukewarm at best, criticising the film for showing an overly Christian and politicised portrayal of American lives and motivations. Whilst it is easy to see how these criticisms came about it’s also strangely hard to use them as criticisms as the film is based on the true story of Michael Oher (played wonderfully by Quinton Aaron) and is set in Tennessee in the heart of America’s ‘Bible Belt’. Other, less harsh, reviewers might take these criticisms and place them under the category of realism. The Blind Side tells the story of Oher, who is wandering from place to place after losing touch with his drug using mother. Passed on from school to school due to his poor academic record he is finally taken in by a Christian school after the coach is persuaded of his sporting potential. He is eventually spotted wandering the streets in torrential rain by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock) who takes him in and ensures he’s looked after.
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
From this point on the film, although based on a true story, does seem to become a bit formulaic and predictable. Oher at first shies away from the Tuohy’s before gradually ingratiating himself in to the family and seemingly becomes an American Football high school superstar in the space of one match. There are some genuinely touching moments however most noticeably when, during a car crash, Oher blocks the passenger airbag in order to protect the Tuohy’s young son. The interplay between Aaron and Bullock is what sets this film a cut above the usual fare and their relationship is put on the screen with genuine affection. If Bullock won an Oscar for her performance then Aaron seems to me to have at least deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film ends with footage of the 2009 NHL Draft, which shows the real Michael Oher being drafted in to the Baltimore Ravens, a timely reminder of the real life events that inspired the film. With many having missed the theatrical release the arrival of The Blind Side on Blu-Ray and DVD is the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. Words: Adam Gibby
Gueule – a physical representation of the decadent side of Gainsbourg’s psyche. A concept which works to a point but is wholly unnecessary in the greater context of the film.
Gainsbourg (Vie heroique)
Released: July 2010 Direct ed by: Joann Sfar Starring: Eric Elmosnino, Lucy Gordon, Laetitia Casta, Doug Jones
Comparisons have been made to this year’s Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll in that both films chronicle the entire life of a flawed yet highly talented genius from childhood to death. Like Dury, Gainsbourg jeopardised his fame by tackling off-limit subjects in his lyrics but at the same time cementing his place in counterculture and, like Sex & Drugs director Mat Whitecross, Joann Sfar has been keen to include these (his 1975 Nazism concept album, his reggae-erotica retelling of La Marseillaise although sadly not his ridiculous duet with daughter Charlotte on Lemon Incest) to give shape to the life story of this imperfect swashbuckler. Where the films differ, however, is in the ease with which a novice may pick up on the events unfolding. Gainsbourg almost demands that you know him and his work well, which is fine if you’re French but not so easy (albeit shamefully) if you’re British where he’s known almost exclusively as “that pervert who did that dirty song with all that heavy breathing”. It’s this fact that could make watching Gainsbourg a trying experience for some as, with so much to cram into the film’s two hour running time, there is little time left to tie the events together and explain to the uninitiated who some of the characters are. It’s almost impossible to mistake Brigitte Bardot (played with racy vigour by Laetitia Casta) but only Brits with an active interest in Serge Gainsbourg may know the history behind his Eurovision song with France Gall, for instance – too many chapters of his life are covered at speed. With this in mind, it would do you well to at least read his entry on Wikipedia before entering the cinema.
ainsbourg, the directorial debut of director Joann Sfar, chronicles the life and times of French singer-songwriter Lucien Ginsburg – more famously known as Serge Gainsbourg – from precocious, artistic Jewish prodigy hiding from German soldiers in the French countryside to the battled, senescent and increasingly bizarre man he had become before his death from a heart attack in 1991 and all the while watched over by his imaginary “guardian angel” La
However, there is still plenty to recommend Gainsbourg: from the set piece performances of his best known work (including an outrageously sexy ‘Cartoon Strip’ with a half-naked Casta and a chuckleworthy first play of Je t’aime moi non plus to his comically outraged manager) to excellent central performances from tragic Lucy Gordon (as Jane Birkin) and Eric Elmosnino as Gainsbourg himself. There is little doubt though that the overall film would have benefitted from concentrating on a lesser timeframe than an entire vie héroique. Since the film’s interest seems to peak with Je t’aime and then fall steadily afterwards, mirroring his career somewhat, perhaps that would have been a more logical point to end? Words: Richie Brown
September 2010 â€“ The Indie Issue
In the games world, the term “indie” is often as difficult to define as it is anywhere else. To attempt to pin it down here just isn’t needed; if you’ve made a game completely singlehandedly and released it for free with scarcely any outside help, you’re surely within any conceivable definition of the term. If, like Derek Yu, your game has been downloaded countless times, has consumed tens of hours from each of its players, has been received with rapt acclaim across tens of reputable publications, and is in the process of being ported to the Xbox Live Arcade then you are quite an extraordinary exponent of the term. This is the story of Derek Yu’s game. This is the story of Spelunky. The game puts you into the boots of an Indiana Jones-like cave explorer, tasked with exploring randomly-generated caves and completing the challenges within – fighting enemies, collecting gold, evading traps and rescuing damsels in distress (to be rewarded with extra health by means of a kiss, naturally). Fearsomely difficult and unpredictable, few players see Spelunky’s fabled ending, as they
September 2010 – The Indie Issue
must navigate not only the top level of normal caves but also the jungle, ice and stone caves below. To hardened cave-dwellers, those initial caves become a simple inconvenience swiftly bypassed to reach the tougher ones beneath, they become
but the “tourist caves”. But why does Spelunky create hardcore players? What can a game with graphics and gameplay twenty years out of date offer that a modern game does not? To me, the answer is that whilst the game mechanics are old hat, they contain two features which interact in a fascinating way; the difficulty inherent in the sense of no-goingback, and the unpredictability created by the random generation. These features have always been a powerful cocktail, but both gradually fell from favour years ago when games became more forgiving and when technical advances made fully pre-designed levels not only possible, but soon mandatory. Spelunky succeeds because it is a
throwback to earlier times when technical limitations advantageous to gameplay still persisted. In Spelunky, death is death and whilst you can very quickly start again, making a mistake can cost you two hours’ progress. Later
in the game, when a single mistimed jump can dash any hopes of reaching the fourth and final world, Spelunky seems almost as brutal as the infamous Infocom text adventure Zork, with its similarly irretrievable disasters around every corner. The spelunker’s dances with death are the very antithesis of Prince of Persia’s time-rewinding mechanic – there is no way back.
the more reason to feel compelled to try again when one occurs. Here lies the core of Spelunky’s “just one more go” magic, its successful bid to capture the spirit of games of old. The addictiveness that results puts the game in the same ballpark as Blizzard’s Diablo series, soon to receive a new entry and also exploiting the cocktail of challenge and unpredictability. Spelunky is an exciting entry in the indie game canon because not only does it overcome the technical limitations inherent in indie development compared to commercial development with expensive graphics engines, it cleverly exploits those limitations in the same way as the classic games it emulates. This makes it a singularly engaging experience, a world away from the often altogether too predictable experience of today’s blockbuster games and an encouraging example of its kind. So come on in, the caves are lovely... well, wonderfully brutal.
With its random generation also harking back to the 1980s, Spelunky also has parallels with the early graphical adventure games like Rogue and its successors. No two games are the same, so the lessons of one attempt cannot always be applied to the next; all the more reason to not make mistakes, and all Words: Andy Johnson
September 2010 â€“ The Indie Issue
Published on Sep 3, 2010
The Indie Issue Featuring: The History of Motown, Airplane! 30 years on, The indie label uprising of the 80s, Part 2 of our Peter Sellers re...