Author Archives: landofsunshineblog

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 18

Many moons ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Alien IAlien_Intruder_VideoCoverntruder

Ricardo Jacques Gale

 (1993)

 Rating **

Sounds a bit rude. Go on, admit you thought it too.

 

 

You just know you’re in for some top quality film making when the opening credits proudly announce that the special guest star is the guy who played Kenickie from Grease.

Although I’m starting to suspect that was just a polite way of saying ‘dies in the first eight minutes’. You see we open with Kenickie shooting up a storm on a spaceship (read: a boiler room). It seems he’s being controlled by a sexy lady although he blows his brains out before we can find out why (including a frankly disturbing shot of the inside of his mouth). I’ve been compelled to do a lot of stupid things in the name of sexy ladies but a gun toting rampage isn’t one of them. Maybe I just haven’t met the right girl yet. The plot thickens…

We cut to Billy Dee ‘Lando Calrissian’ Williams (to give him his full title) who is recruiting a bunch of rough, tough prisoners to go on a salvage mission to bring back the spaceship where Kenickie went loopy. This ragtag group consists of an ex-navigator, played by Maxwell Caulfield (Empire Records, Grease 2, er…Emmerdale), a creepy ex-alcoholic engineer, an incredibly infuriating explosives expert who enunciates every line like a coked up sex pest crossed with Yosemite Sam, and, er, an IT geek.

They are enticed on the mission with promise of the use of a virtual reality machine which can make all their fantasies come true (as long as these fantasies involve boobs and are within the budget). This sadly leads to incredibly awkward scenes of each guy’s fantasy, all of which involve rubbing up against a hot girl in differing time periods (Wild West, a 1950’s biker gang, a Casablanca rip off, and some generic beach house). No matter what the era, all the girls look like they just walked out of a Whitesnake video. But hey, boobs right?!

alien intruder 4

…and for the ladies, an oiled up Rex Manning!

Their fantasies keep getting hijacked by the same broad who sent Kenickie gaga in the opening scenes. This doesn’t seem to bother anybody much except for old Billy Dee who has been monitoring their fantasies, which is in no way creepy at all.

alien intruder 2

“Beats cable!”

It turns out Billy Dee has been searching for the mystery woman and has engineered this whole debacle so he can be with her. You see, this lady (if you hadn’t guessed about three minutes into the film) is some sort of alien siren who lures men to their deaths with her feminine wiles. Anyway, she plays them all off against each other (leading to one of the most ridiculous fist fights this side of They Live) and they all end up shooting, punching, or plain testosteroneing each other to death. Except for Maxwell who manages to escape, or does he? Trust me, you won’t care.

I can only surmise that this film was written by a couple of 11 year old boys. They wrote a list of all the things they loved and decided those things were spaceships, boobs, and punching, and if they could squeeze in some cowboys too then all the better.

The aforementioned fantasy scenes are cringe worthy. Oily convicts pawing at Playboy models in period clothing does not entertainment make. That these scenes are even in the movie at all is on such a flimsy pretense that doesn’t even really make much sense if you think about it too hard (I know, I know, why am I thinking about it too hard?).

But the main issue with Alien Intruder is that there is virtually zero threat throughout the entire movie. The alien herself doesn’t even become a real danger until the final minutes of the film and even then it’s really quite difficult to get that scared when the alien looks like this –

hqdefault

THE HORROR!!!

In all it really feels like an amalgam of several Red Dwarf episodes (Psirens, Better Than Life, and Gunmen Of The Apocalypse particularly) only without the laughs. Actually even Red Dwarf managed to be scarier than this on occasion. Alien this is not.

The film gains a star for some unintentionally funny moments. The fistfight being a highlight and the death of the nerd being way funnier than it was intended to be. It also earned some kudos for having a title that instantly reminded me of this joke from Top Secret.

top_secret_intruder_2

Although, once again, probably not their intention.

The Land of Sunshine albums of 2015

10. They Might Be Giants – ‘Glean’

 LJX095_They_Might_Be_Giants_GleanThere are some people who think They Might Be Giants career began and ended with 1990’s Birdhouse In Your Soul. These people are idiots.  TMBG are one of the most consistently excellent bands working today, who have, to date, released seventeen studio albums plus a whole plethora of other material.

Glean began as an updated version of their classic Dial-A-Song service (where fans could call an answer machine onto which the Johns had recorded songs). They recently took the idea online and ‘Glean’ is essentially the collection of the best of those songs, and in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from these boys, it’s a quirky treasure trove of pop nuggets and idiosyncratic stories.

Opener Erase is pure Linnell pop goodness, while Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2 is Flansburgh at his Flood level quirkiness. Sorry, that last sentence probably only made sense to about eight people. Look, it’s really great, go buy it, then all their other albums. Thank me later.

9. Turbowolf – ‘Two Hands’

tumblr_static_aeejjpuln88cw8wwg8s44s4o8I must admit I never really took to Turbowolf on their first album. I was never quite sure what they were supposed to be. Not that being uncategorisable is necessarily a bad thing but they just never quite clicked for me.

Now, armed with a new rhythm section, they’re back with their second album ‘Two Hands’ and I’ll be putting my two hands in the air and admitting I was wrong (see what I did there? You don’t get quality journalism like that in the NME). ‘Two Hands’ is a dirty bomb of kinetic energy. Thick fuzzy riffs, clattering drums, and with singer Chris projecting his insane lyrics over the top.

Solid Gold is a big filthy groove stomp of a song, American Mirrors sounds like doing cocaine on a rollercoaster, and Good Hand sounds like T-Rex being played by Monster Magnet.

They may still be uncategorisable, but ‘Two Hands’ is fiercer and more focused than they ever sounded before.

8. Lyla Foy – ‘UMi’

a2115163361_10Lyla’s 2014 album ‘Mirrors The Sky’ was a lovely discovery for me last year. So much so that it made my top 10 of the year. UMi feels very much like a companion piece to ‘Mirrors…’. A lilting, dreamy, lovely little seven track mini-album that makes me sleepy in the very best possible sense.

River is simply gorgeous (listen to it on headphones, the backing vocals are amazing!) and Tiger ranks among her best songs, but much like her last album, there’s really not a sour moment on the whole thing. It may all be over in a little under half an hour but I guarantee you’ll be reaching for the play button the second it’s finished. That is if you haven’t already drifted off into a wonderful dream about clouds.

7. Chris Cornell – ‘Higher Truth’

Chris-Cornell-Higher-TruthCornell’s last album, 2009’s ‘Scream’ raised more than a few eyebrows. Its slick Timbaland production did not sit well with fans of his heavier output. Cornell apologised in the best possible way by getting Soundgarden back together and recording 2012’s excellent ‘King Animal’. Now he’s back on his own and while ‘Higher Truth’ is unlikely to appease the rabid Badmotorfinger fans, it is. In many way, the anti-‘Scream’.

In lesser hands this is a collection of songs that could run the risk of sounding twee or mawkish, but in the hands of Cornell (and long time grunge collaborator Brendan O’Brien) ‘Higher Truth’ is an earnest stripped back, heart on sleeve, acoustic rock album, and it’s pretty damn lovely.

Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart and Our Time In The Universe are the closest the album comes to straight up rock songs, and while they’re definitely both highlights, it’s the gentler numbers that really creep up on you. The near bluegrass Dead Wishes or the stunning Before We Disappear create images not of a dark grunge band but of two old songsmiths, sat on a back porch, playing for the love of it.

As I say, if your favourite Cornell tune is Slaves And Bulldozers this may not be for you. But if you’re in the mood for some beautifully organic song writing, sung by one of rock’s greatest vocalists, you will find so much to love on ‘Higher Truth’.

6. Veruca Salt – ‘Ghost Notes’

Cover_to_Veruca_Salt's_2015_albumWell this one was a nice surprise. The first Veruca Salt album in nine years and the first to feature the classic line up since 1997’s ‘Eight Arms To Hold You’. With the formidable tag team of Nina Gordon and Louise Post back together (along with Jim Shapiro and Steve Lack bringing up the rear) they have made an absolute corker of a record.

Ghost Notes tales the melodic fuzz we’ve come to expect from this lot (or maybe that you vaguely remember from seeing Seether on MTV back in the 90’s) and imbues it with a depth and maturity that sometimes borders on the genuinely beautiful.

The Sound Of Leaving and Empty Bottle are stark, beautiful and passionate while the likes of The Gospel According To Saint Me and Love You Less prove that they can still knock a great fuzzy pop song.

It’s really great to hear Post and Gordon’s voices back on the same record. Let’s hope this is the (re)start of a beautiful friendship.

5. Therapy? – ‘Disquiet’

therapydisquietcdEnemies to grammar Nazis the world over, Northern Ireland’s Therapy? have been a bloody consistent (and persistent) lot. Even the weaker moments in their fourteen (FOURTEEN!!!) album career have produced some amazing moments. ‘Disquiet’ is not one of their weaker moments. A decidedly more melodic beast than their previous couple of releases, ‘Diquiet’ may just be the closest in sound they’ve come to their mighty ‘Troublegum’ album in a long time.

Opener Still Hurts feels very much like a spiritual successor to Knives the opener from the aforementioned ‘Troublegum’, and Insecurity could have sat happily anywhere on their 1994 opus. This isn’t straight imitation though, the chorus of Tides soars in the bleak way only a Therapy? chorus can, and closer Deathstimate (they’ve always loved a good portmanteau word) is a broody Sabbathy beast with a monster riff hanging off of it.

Therapy? have produced some phenomenal work in their 26 years and if Disquiet is anything to go by, they show no signs of stopping.

4. Skindred – ‘Volume’

skindredvolumecdBOOM! Just over a year after they released ‘Kill The Power’, Skindred are back with what might be the album of their career. The sound is absolutely huge! Monster guitars, play Godzilla sized riffs while frontman Benji continues to be one of the most underrated vocalists in rock.

Opening salvo Under Attack explodes from the speakers with a riff guaranteed to have you bouncing off the walls. Title track Volume is straight up one of the best tunes they’ve ever penned, The Healing has an absolutely monster riff hanging off of it, and closer 3 Words is actually pretty damn gorgeous and heartfelt.

Then there’s Mr. Benji Webbe. Fusing searing metal, soulful reggae and fearsome ragga styles into one glorious whole, he is one of the most unique and gifted vocal talents around, and on top of that, one of the most magnetic frontmen to grace a stage.

Get this album, go see them live, and give ‘em a Newport Helicopter from me (you’ll know).

3. Clutch – ‘Psychic Warfare’

clutch-psychic-warfareIt is pretty much par for the course that if Clutch have released an album this year, it will make its way into our top ten. However, the Maryland boys have really outdone themselves this year.

Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of 2013’s ‘Earth Rocker’, but ‘Psychic Warfare’, for my money, outshines it. Taking the pure rock fury (see what I did there?) of the previous album but adding some more colour and variation, this is possibly the closest in sound they’ve come to their magnum opus Blast Tyrant. If you aren’t already in a full sprint to the record store after reading that sentence then I’m just going to assume you already own a copy.

Opener (intro track aside) X-Ray Visions gives you everything you want from a Clutch song, driving guitars, grooving drums, and Fallon’s fascinatingly off-kilter lyrics, it gives Earth Rocker a run for its money in terms of sheer, balls out drive (plus how many times have you heard a singer introduce his band by their star signs?). Firebirds contains some of the best lyrics Fallon has ever written and Quick Death In Texas is one of their best songs period. And we’re only at track 4!

Other highlights include the funktastic Your Love Is Incarceration, the dirty lounge blues of Our Lady Of Electric Light, and closer Son Of Virginia which, to my ears at least, sounds like the boys channeling ‘Murder Ballads’ era Nick Cave (imagine a Fallon / Cave collaboration. Go on, imagine it?).

Psychic Warfare is the boys on top form. And to be honest, it’s almost pointless even writing about it because if you were going to buy it, you probably have already, right?

These last two albums got swapped between the number 1 and 2 slot so many times that I just decided to make them both joint number 1. They’re impossible to compare and each brilliant in their own way. 

-/1. Chelsea Wolfe – ‘Abyss’

chelsea-wolfe-abyss-cover-artI’ve been dreading writing about this one. I mean, how do you sum up an album like Abyss in a few pithy paragraphs? What words do you use? Beautiful, harrowing, hypnotic, devastating? It is an album that defies words. It is an album to be experienced, to be felt, not thought about.

I didn’t get it at first. I mean I liked it sure, it was heavy as shit, with Ms. Wolfe’s signature wail on top of it all. But I didn’t ‘get it’. Then I listened to it on headphones and my mind exploded. This isn’t an album for the car, or to put on in the background. It deserves to be listened to in a dark room through good quality speakers, without any other distractions. That when you finally realise what a densely layered beast Abyss truly is. Among the wall of doom guitars float delicate vocal loops. Ethereal strings and broken pianos play among the carnage.

You may have guessed by now that this is not a happy album. In fact it is one of the darkest albums I have ever heard. But it is also so beautiful it nearly makes me cry. I can’t even bring myself to highlight individual tracks as it needs to be experienced as a whole. Once I start listening I cannot turn it off.

Abyss is not for everyone, but if you think you can handle it then you owe it to yourself to check out this truly stunning piece of work. Thank you Chelsea, don’t go getting happy on us any time soon.

-/1. Sleater Kinney – ‘No Cities To Love’

SleaterKinney_NoCitiesToLove_coverComeback albums have always been greeted with some trepidation. Often very large rose tinted glasses are required to convince yourself that the magic you heard in your youth is still evident. And yet, for the second year in a row, our number one slot has been taken one.

It has been ten long years since SK’s excellent swansong The Woods. Time which has seen the ladies embark on numerous other musical projects and even a successful TV sketch show (the excellent Portlandia). But now it’s like they never left.

Everything that makes Sleater Kinney such a great band is here in spades. The jittery guitar riffs, the vocal interplay between Tucker and Brownstein, and Janet Weiss’ propulsive drumming, all wrapped up with their trademark socio-political lyrics.

This isn’t a left turn for the band, there is nothing on here that will shock or surprise old school fans, it is simply what Sleater Kinney do best, done really fucking well. Unlike Ms. Wolfe’s album, I can’t claim No Cities… will change your life, or redefine what you think of modern rock music, and that right there is the biggest compliment I can give. It earns its number one slot on the sheer strength of ten incredible rock songs. This is not just a great SK album, it’s possibly the best thing they’ve ever done. Ten sublime slices of catchy, beautiful, furious alternative rock that never put a note wrong.

Over their 20 year career, Corin Tucker has gone from someone who basically wails in fifths to an absolutely formidable vocalist, and her talents really shine through here. From the staccato rage of ‘Price Tag’ to the soaring anguish of closer ‘Fade’ she is nothing less than superb.

No Cities To Love came in early (it was released at the end of January) and has fearlessly batted away all competition for the next eleven months. It is simply a fantastic album that you will want to play again the second it stops. More please ladies!

 

Honorable Mentions: Faith No More – ‘Sol Invictus’, Eagles Of Death Metal – ‘Zipper Down’, Foo Fighters – ‘St Cecilia’, The Dead Weather – ‘Dodge & Burn’, The Front Bottoms – ‘Back On Top’, We Hunt Buffalo – ‘Living Ghosts’.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 17

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Home Team coverHome Team

 Allan A. Goldstein

 (1998)

 Rating *

Just another reason to hate football

The last time I took a dip into the murky depth of the Family Films boxset it was one of the most diabolical movie watching experiences of my life. A cheaply made, animated musical ripoff of James Cameron’s Titanic, featuring a rapping dog.

I managed to watch ‘Titanic – The Legend Goes On’ in a single sitting. The same cannot be said for Home Team.

You could argue that I may not be the target audience for this film, however even if I was six years old and had just fallen out of a very tall tree on to my head I still could not imagine getting more than half an hour into this but I turned it off and put The Goonies on again.

Steve Guttenberg plays Mr. Butler (if they ever said his first name then I missed it), an ex ‘party boy’ (their words) who’s been in some trouble and now must do community service as a handyman for a small orphanage. Also he’s the most irritating man alive. The orphanage is occupied by a bunch of plucky young scamps with nicknames like Pineapple, a comedy fat cook called (wait for it) Cookie, and a fairly normal, if slightly saccharine, lady called Karen, who we’re told is from Paris even though she’s clearly French-Canadian.

What aboot that Eiffel Tower eh?

         What aboot that Eiffel Tower eh?

Mr. Butler isn’t happy about this arrangement but tries to ingratiate himself with the household in the only way he knows how. By steamrollering into every situation with a barrage of supposedly funny monologues, impressions and comedy skits. No one takes kindly to this, least of all me. I’ve never had much of a problem with Guttenberg in the past but here he delivers every line with the all confidence of a mid-1980’s Eddie Murphy and all the wit of a mid-2010’s Adam Sandler. Every gag is like nails down a chalkboard, but not just to me, all the kids and the Canadian lady think he’s a tool as well. We’re all cringing together and wondering what possible motivation the director could have for making our main protagonist so utterly, utterly irritating. At one point in the film he kisses a live cockroach, this is easily one of least nauseating parts of his performance. And this from a man who appeared in his breakthrough role dressed like this –

BOOM! COMEDY!

                      BOOM! COMEDY!

To be honest it’s not all Stevie Boy’s fault. The script he has to work with is so moronic that even Robin Williams, at the height of his powers, would struggle to wring a chuckle out of it. In the first half hour the comedic highlights include the fact that Pineapple farts a lot and that Cookie the cook, can’t actually cook (oh my sides!).

Anyway, the kids, for some reason, don’t warm to Mr. Butler so pull some pranks on him which generally end up catching poor old Cookie instead. During all this hilarity, Canadian lady is trying to train their football team, however, as the first match proves, they are just dreadful (if you like seeing footballs in the groin and people running into goalposts, buddy this scene is for you!).

Then the orphanage burns down for some reason, plot progression I guess, and suddenly Mr. Butler decides he will train the team, and the kids all suddenly like him. Hurrah! And so with the help and funding of a comedy undertaker (I don’t know, so don’t ask), they start traininnnn…….nurgh…..I can’t, I just can’t relive this any more. Look they train and they win, and Mr. Butler snogs the Canadian lady, and something about Cookie winning a bet so he can buy a new orphanage. The end!

Man this was painful! There are few things worse than bad comedy and this is bad comedy…aimed at children! Also having everyone else in the movie agree that the leading man is painfully unfunny is an odd stylistic choice, I mean this isn’t Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy. We’re suppose to like this guy. Instead the first hour is like watching that embarrassing uncle who thinks kids love him when they’re really all Tweeting about what a dick their uncle is.

Making Police Academy look like Police Academy 6

‘He makes Police Academy look like Police Academy 6. ROFL!’

And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with Home Team. A kid’s comedy about kids finding themselves in a predicament, should focus on the kids, not the guy in his late 30’s. In fact the kids are fairly likable for the most part but we rarely get to root for them before Guttenberg blunders in with another routine. It can be fun to side with the kids against the adults in a movie but not when the adults are completely dominating the scene. Take Home Alone or the aforementioned The Goonies for example. That’s how you get the balance of kids to adults.

Instead what we get is 40 minutes of eye rolling, clenched teeth and forced smiles while Steve churns out another tired barrage of gags. I imagine the filmmakers probably hoped they could use some of Guttenberg’s star power to propel this film to success.  However, as this was a good few years after his brief comedy reign, they’d have been better off focusing the story squarely on the kids and making the adults the supporting cast.

I’ve sat through rubber dinosaurs, rubbish vampires, and six hours of shit Robocop, during this series. I never expected an innocuous family comedy starring Mahoney from Police Academy would cause me the most pain. To be honest it’s got me scared. All bets are off now. I’m never going to make it out of this with my sanity!

Next time – Billy Dee Williams fights cheap aliens with Rex Manning from Empire Records!

(Send help!)

Safe Gigs for Women

Somewhere back in the mists of time I wrote this article. It was a ranty yet lighthearted list of the people who get on my nerves at gigs, from the talkers to the fuckers who watch the entire show through the screen on their phone. It got a pretty overwhelming response  (thanks, in no small measure, to a reposting on the Roadrunner Records Facebook page), plus it also prompted readers to suggest offenders who I may have missed. Prompting me to start compiling a second list for later publication.

In the interim between articles, my girlfriend at the time went to see a band with her sister. At some point in the night she was groped by an arsehole in the crowd. On confronting him she was greeted with the usual “I was only ‘aving a laugh darlin'” sort of response that has sadly become so expected from this type of prick. So she threw her drink at him, at which point he pushed her quite hard, and if it wasn’t for the intervention of his slightly less meat-headed friends, I dread to think where it would have ended up.

Guess what landed the number one spot on my second article?

I was supposed to be at the gig with her that night but was feeling unwell so stayed at home. I was beside myself with anger and guilt that I wasn’t there to protect the woman I loved, and to this day I regret not being there to punch that little weasel in the face.

But that is not the point.

A woman should not need a burly protector in order to enjoy a band. In the same way that she shouldn’t have to dress conservatively or stay sober. And what this highlighted to me personally is how easy it is to enable sexist behaviour through ignorance. Let me explain.

Firstly, I sincerely hope that everyone who reads my humble blog thinks it’s wrong to feel up an unwilling female at a rock gig. If you don’t then please leave…have they gone?….good. I’m sure you were all appalled by the behaviour of the ‘gentleman’ in the above story, and would have been apoplectic if that happened to your friend or partner. I was livid. Beyond livid. I wanted to strangle the fucker to death….and yet I had recently written a list of eight types of people I considered to be the top ‘persona non grata’ of a rock concert, and he wasn’t on there.

Why? Well two reasons. Firstly, I am a 6’3″ tall man who, despite truth to the contrary, looks a bit scary. The closest I’ve come to getting sexually assaulted at a rock show is accidentally getting elbowed in the bollocks in the moshpit of a Wildhearts gig once. The article I wrote wasn’t ‘The 8 Worst People To Meet At A Rock Gig’ as much as it was ‘MY 8 Worst People To Meet At A Rock Gig’.

The second reason is really the main point of this article (see, I do reach the point eventually), and that is that most of us have a tendency to assume that everyone else follows the same moral compass that we do. Sure we know there are rapes and murders and wars but we like to think (or maybe ‘hope’ is the better word) that the person next to you in the supermarket, the bar, or the gig, is generally decent. It’s this thinking that probably prevents us all from being hopeless agoraphobics. Terrified of the outside world. I assume that the person next to me at a gig wouldn’t grab a strange girl’s behind for no other reason than ‘it’s a bit of a laugh’ because I know I would never do that, and as a result it has made me blind to the fact that it does go on. A lot!

Through my incredible female friends I have had my eyes opened to the sort of shit women put up with on a day to day basis. It is through them that I have gone from being someone who respects women to someone who proudly labels themselves a feminist (it turns out there is a massive difference). One of those friends has recently launched an awesome campaign called Safe Gigs For Women which aims to bring greater awareness of the sort of acts mentioned at the start of this article. One point she brings up again and again is this is not about separating the sexes (like some sort of junior school disco), it is about uniting everyone who thinks this sort of behaviour is unacceptable as this is the best way to filter out the small but persistent element that’s trying to ruin it for the rest of us.

So, if you believe that gigs should be a unifying and inclusive place for people of both sexes to enjoy then click on the logo below, share your stories, show your support, and let’s help make the mosh pit a more beautiful place.

1966221_10152827246547373_7676150316219832747_o

The Strange Psychology of Internet Complaining

Let me start by asking you a question. Have you ever written a review anywhere that began with words akin to these –

‘I never usually write reviews but this was so terrible…’

You have? In which case sir or madam, it’s my sad duty to inform you that you are an asshole. Wait, stop punching me, let me explain…

There’s nothing wrong with complaining per se. Without constructive criticism nothing would ever improve. If your hotel carpet had CHUDS living under it or they reversed the brake and the accelerator pedals on your car or your iPod will only play Coldplay then you’re absolutely right to complain and inform the public so they may make an informed decision. But that’s not my point.

OK, here’s a decidedly anachronistic example, but hell, I don’t know what kids are listening to these days (Jungle or something right?). Anyway, so you’re a Metallica fan, Master Of Puppets absolutely changed your life, Ride The Lightening made you want to learn the guitar, you even loved that one without a bass player on it.

Poor old Jason Newsted

Poor old Jason Newsted

Then they release The Black Album. “What the fuck is this?” you cry. “Where’s the speed? Where’s the aggression? Is Lars actually getting worse at the drums?”.  So you take to your computer and you write a sternly worded critique of this terrible new album and the sell outs that Metallica have become.

But wait, I’m assuming you’ve already written lovely reviews of their other albums right? The world definitely knows about your passion for Call Of Chtulhu doesn’t it? Or how the bass solo in Orion brought a tear to your eye, yeah? Because if not that pretty much makes you THE WORST FAN IN THE WORLD!

Imagine that in real life. Say you did peerless work for a company for 10 years without a word of praise from your boss only to be chewed out in public when you turned in a slightly shoddy presentation. It would suck right? Even if the boss then took you aside and told you he’d actually always loved your work up to that point, you’d feel pretty hard done by.

"Oh and another thing, Nothing Else Matters totally rocks"

“Oh and another thing, Nothing Else Matters rocks!”

The problem is two fold. Firstly the anonymity of the internet means that anyone can spout their bile without much fear of reprisal. But the second is a far more human problem, and that is that we’re far more likely to get vocal when something is bad than if it’s good. When we’re happy we don’t need to get anything off our chest. Our lives continue on the same happy course, uninterrupted. It’s only when we’re vexed, when something hasn’t gone as we had hoped, that we feel the need to shout about it, and that’s a real shame.

I’m willing to bet that the average Westerner has more things go right during an average week than go wrong. I bet the trains were mostly on time, that your lunchtime sandwich was tasty and enjoyable, that your pot dealer turned up when he said he would. But we don’t notice those things because we expect them, we think we’re entitled to them.  Ask a person what they remember most about the past week and they’ll probably list all the things that went wrong. If you read my teenage diary you’d think I was a terribly miserable kid. I wasn’t, I was a pretty damn happy teenager, I just only wrote in my diary when stuff pissed me off.

'Dear Diary. My Dad thinks U2 are better than Pearl Jam. I can't live under these conditions!'

‘Dear Diary. My Dad thinks U2 are better than Pearl Jam. I can’t live under these conditions!’

It has become a cliche that the internet is for moaning, but it doesn’t have to be. We can change that! Next time you stay in a lovely hotel, get on Trip Advisor and write a review. The next time your favourite band writes an awesome song, shout about it on Amazon. The next time you play a video game that isn’t crippled by a terrible multiplayer platform, go tell everyone on whatever message board it is you lurk on. Who gives a shit if Kanye acted like a dick in another interview when Sleater Kinney released the best album of their career this year?

There is so much beauty and wonder and joy to be found in the world, lets get sharing that, not bitching about all the bad stuff. Wouldn’t that make the internet a more wonderful place?

 

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 16

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Bruce cover

  Bruce Lee – The Man The Myth

           See-Yuen Ng

           (1976)

           Rating ****

‘Bruce Lee – The Man The Myth’ is a biopic about Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee, staring renowned Bruce Lee impersonator Bruce Li (real name Ho Chung-Tao). If that sentence hurt your head then I’d back out now if I were you. Go on, I understand.

You see, BLTMTM (as it shall hereon be known) is a biopic with a twist. The film makers decided, in a revolutionary take on the biopic tradition, to brush over such life events as Bruce’s first major role in The Green Hornet, the birth of his children, or his marriage to Linda Lee, and instead decided to focus on mostly fictionalised street fights, Bruce doing weights workouts in the gym, and frankly bizarre scenes of him willfully electrocuting himself or punching strange machines.

bruce-lee-the-man-the-myth

You thought I was joking didn’t you?

Most important life events are brushed over by a narrator or simply ignored altogether. In fact the film seems so desperate to race towards its next fight scene that it may be one of the worst paced films I’ve ever seen. Suddenly he’s played Kato, suddenly he’s in a completely different country, suddenly he has a wife and kids, couple of headaches, dead! They even drive a final nail in the coffin marked ‘fact’ with a surreal coda that suggests that Lee may have faked his death and disappeared. Poised to return in 1983!!

So why the four star rating? Well, despite this being a terrible, terrible, film, it is, without a doubt, the most entertaining movie I have watched so far in this interminable series. Therefore I have decided that the films hereon out shall be ranked by how much I enjoyed them, rather than as an indication of actual quality (I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing this unconsciously anyway).

Yes this film is awful. The transfer is so scratchy that I had pirate videos in the 80’s that looked better, the ADR (the dubbed over voices) is jarring and unsubtle, the acting is truly horrible, the foley (sound effects) is jacked up to 11, every swish of the arm sounds like a jet aircraft going past, and the aforementioned plot is laughable at best. But then isn’t that exactly what you want from a 70’s Kung Fu flick? I know I do.

Bruce Li plays the part of Lee with a smug arrogance that makes him fairly unlikable for the most part. In the opening scenes he moves from China to Washington and instantly becomes the most popular guy in town. He then saves an old guy from two unbelievably 70’s black guys which gets him in trouble with the local Karate teacher (“Karate is superior to Kung Fu!”). Lee sets him straight by beating him up.

0 (1)

You can almost hear the funk guitar.

Then the movie pretty much carries on in that vein. People challenge Lee, Lee beats them up. The absolute pinnacle being a scene where some road workers are assaulted by a bunch of English geezers, out on a run. The whole mob sound like they’ve been voiced by the cast of On The Buses,  throwing insults at Lee like “You horrible little bleeder!”. One guy even yells “CHARGE!” as he runs, fists first, at Lee. It’s a truly wonderful scene.

On a genuinely positive note, the fight scenes work pretty well for the most part. Nothing compared to the hyper-choreographed fights of today’s cinema but they retain an honest realism. It’s also full of wonderful 70’s fashions and cheesy disco synth music. Even Lee gets in on the action!

vie-fantastique-bruce-leebruce-the-man-the-my-L-dXvLFD

He could kill a man with just one of those collars.

So there you have it. I’ve seen in the new year with a film I genuinely enjoyed. Not for many of the right reasons, but still, I’ll take it over Dark Side of the Sun any day. HIIIIYYYAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!

The Land of Sunshine albums of 2014

When I began compiling this year’s list I was pretty sure I would struggle to think of even 10 albums worthy of mention. But as I trolled through my iTunes ‘recently added’ I kept finding more and more, and as you can see from my lengthy ‘Honourable Mentions’ list, in the end I was struggling to get it down to just 10. 2014 has really been the year of the sleeper hit. Albums that have crept in under the radar and nested in my brain, slowly growing without me really noticing. Only on review did I realise quite how much awesome music had been made this year. But hey, enough of my yacking. Let’s get down to brass tacks…

10. Valley Of The Sun – ‘Electric Talons Of The Thunderhawk’ valley-of-the-sun-electric-talons-of-the-thunderhawk Hands down the winner of 2014’s greatest album title, this is a monolithic, groovy slab of stoner rock from the unlikely town of Cincinnati, Ohio. Valley of the Sun make way more noise than three people should rightly be able to. All the ingredients for a great stoner album are evident. Fuzzy bass, grooving riffs, soaring 70’s rock vocals, and just the right amount of cowbell (ie. loads of it!). This is an incredibly assured debut album and I can tell you from experience, they’re even better live (their drummer is a maniac!). Check out the chorus hanging off of this bad boy and you’ll see what I mean. 9. Ginger Wildheart – ‘Albion’ albion For the third year in a row Mr. Wildheart makes an appearance in our top 10 and I must admit this one nearly slipped my mind. After 2012’s Pledge Campaign smashing ‘555%’ and last year’s pop / metal double whammy of Hey! Hello! and Mutation, ‘Albion’ almost seemed to arrive without much fanfare. It’s just the new Ginger Wildheart album. Fortunately that’s much like saying ‘just the new Scorsese movie’ as the guy never disappoints. All the things that make a great Ginger album are evident in spades. Soaring melodies, inventive riffs, songs that jump from out and out pop to crunching metal in a matter of minutes. There may not be many surprises on Albion compared to some of his other releases but if you’re after incredible melodic rock that never fails to stir the emotions then there’s really only one man I would turn to. 8. Lyla Foy – ‘Mirrors The Sky’ mirrorsthesky There aren’t many albums in my collection that one would describe as ‘chilled out’. There’s a bit of Sneaker Pimps lurking in there and an Ennio Morricone collection that has some relaxing moments on it, but other than that it’s pretty much on the other end of the scale. Therefore this wonderful little album from London based songwriter Lyla Foy is both the literal and metaphorical ‘sleeper hit’ of my year.  Coming to my attention when, of all things, horse based, animated comedy Bojak Horseman decided to end an episode with her song Impossible instead of its usual closing theme. The song got under my skin so much that I found myself on Spotify listening to the entire album. For want of a better description, Miss Foy sounds somewhat akin to Lana Del Rey but at no point did I feel like cutting myself. All mellow synths, jangly guitars, and restrained, sensual vocals. It is deceptively catchy indie pop at its best and it’s fucking beautiful. Someone make this girl a star. 7. Sons Of Merrick – ‘Of English Execution’ Of-English-Execution-2014 But enough of this relaxing stuff. Kent boys Sons of Merrick aren’t interested in your spiritual well being, they want to strip the flesh from your bones and pour cheap booze on the open wounds. Their first album, 2009’s ‘Tight Nerves & Suavity’ was a rollicking slice of ragged stoner metal, yet was very much the sum of its influences. Of English Execution sounds like them and them alone. Still retaining the dirty Down style groove, the boys have added a proggy experimental edge to their sound. While monsters like Volley’d And Thunder’d and Hideously Taloned (what a song name!) will sate the riff mongers out there, the brooding epic Of Dusky Palour and loony closing instrumental The Rats Are Coming / The Werewolves Are Here (!!!) really show how much they’ve grown as songwriters and musicians. Vocalist Nick Berkshire has grown so impressively as a vocalist, and backed by such a talented bunch of bastards these boys are a force to be reckoned with. 6. Malibu SharMalibuk Attack – ‘Malibu Shark Attack’ I can’t really add anything that I haven’t already said in my review earlier this year. Indie hip hop at its best. Just go grab a copy! 5. The Hold Steady – ‘Teeth Dreams’ 91nqhzzkddl-sl1400-1395337976 I was worried that The Hold Steady had lost something with the departure of their keyboard player Franz Nicolay. 2010’s Heaven Is Whenever, while still better than most band’s albums, lacked the spark that made ‘Stay Positive’ and ‘Boys & Girls In America’ such instant classics. Having returned from hiatus they have seemingly embraced the fact that they’re a guitar band and made a wonderfully earnest album of stripped bare guitar rock. No bells and whistles, just great tunes led by Craig Finn’s trademark story telling lyrics. Teeth Dreams should please fans old and new, blending the raw honesty of the early albums with the melodic sensibility of their later work. It might not quite reach the heights of ‘Boys & Girls…’ but it’s pretty damn close. 4. Jack White – ‘Lazaretto’ Jack_White_-_Lazaretto Let’s get this out of the way, I never liked The White Stripes. All that monotonous drumming and lack of bass player never really worked for me. As a result it took me a while to be talked round to listening to White’s first solo album ‘Blunderbuss’, but when I did I was blown away. It was how I always wanted The White Stripes to sound. Lazaretto makes Blunderbuss look like shit, if you’ll pardon my French. It is easily the most effortlessly cool album since Queens Of The Stone Age’s ‘Like Clockwork’. Veering from all out Prince-esque groove, to the gentlest of piano led bluegrass, it plays like a CV of everything that makes Jack White one of the most talented and creative songwriters around today. If you’re not humming the piano riff from Alone In My Home after the first listen then there’s something wrong with your ears. Believe me, it’s taking the suppression of every part of my male ego even to post this video – 3. Möngöl Hörde – ‘Möngöl Hörde mongol_1344067775_crop_550x550 And now on to the biggest surprise of the year. Folk troubadour Frank Turner had been threatening this project, which sees him returning to his hardcore punk roots and teaming up with old Million Dead bandmate Ben Dawson, for some time. I was excited, but I never anticipated the monster that this album turned out to be. At little over half an hour ‘Möngöl Hörde’ is a blistering exercise in intelligent, face melting, post hardcore, and boy is it exciting. Despite being just a singer, guitarist and drummer (they have no bass player, repeat, they have no bass player!), they sound enormous.  Frank is especially in top, throat grating form, as he belts out tales of marauding Mongolians, celebrity tape worms, and how he really, really, hates emoticons. His lyrics are furious and hilarious in equal measure, bringing to mind such lumiaries as Jello Baifra rather than today’s metalcore crowd. That’s not to say it’s mindless. In fact a lot of it is incredibly catchy. Take one listen to lead single Casual Threats From Weekend Hardmen and you’ll be ‘whooing’ along for the rest of the day. I had the pleasure of catching these guys in London and it was terrific. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from them. 2. Manchester Orchestra – ‘Cope’ homepage_large.cc98c6af Did I say that ‘Teeth Dreams’ was raw and honest? My apologies, I had forgotten that this was coming up. Playing more like a spiritual successor to their 2009 album ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’ than the more mellifluous ‘Simple Math’, ‘Cope’ is Andy Hull at his soul bearing, heart bleeding best. Gone are the strings, the gentle acoustic numbers and the lilting southern rock of their last album, this is pure ear-bleeding grunge guitars and wounded animal vocals, cornered but furious. But this isn’t metal, these are still some of the most beautiful and melodic songs you will hear all year. Like Neil Young channeling Kurt Cobain, this is pure, unfiltered, alternative rock and it’s incredible.  Andy Hull’s introspective, small town tales tug at the heart while being strangely inspirational. The title track is one of the bleakest and most beautiful songs they have ever written and even lighter songs like Girl Harbour drip with brutal sincerity. Manchester Orchestra may be the greatest alternative rock band of the last ten years. 1. Afghan Whigs – ‘Do To The Beast’ Whigs_cover_noband There are two types of people in the world, those who love Afghan Whigs, and those who have never heard Afghan Whigs. Possibly the most under rated band of the 90’s, they went from raw grunge rockers to dark, sexy soul rock pioneers over the course of six albums before disbanding in 2001. Ten years later they reformed for a handful of gigs, but it was three years after that that they finally announced they’d be making a new album. Had time been kind to the Whigs? Would this be simply a cash in album made by a bunch of comfortable, middle aged men? I think its position on the list answers these questions. Of course I already new the answer. I had seen them back in 2013 and they were nothing short of stunning. Although nothing could prepare me for just how sublime ‘Do To The Beast’ turned out to be. It does exactly what a comeback album should do. It harks back to the band’s signature sound, but at the same time brings something fresh and never before heard. This isn’t ‘1965’ pt 2, this is entirely its own…er…beast. Obviously there’s still much for lovers of their back catalogue to get their teeth into. Opener Parked Outside is classic Whigs. That threatening two chord riff recalling the darker moments of ‘Black Love’. Dulli’s lovelorn lyrics read almost like call to arms and an announcement to the fans who’ve stuck with them (‘If time can incinerate what I was to you, allow me to illustrate how the hand becomes the fuse, if they’ve seen it all show them something new’). The Lottery, meanwhile, stirs memories of Gentlemen (from the album of the same name) with its jittery riff and soaring, majestic chorus. But there’s an unexpected spring in the step of new Whigs. ‘Matamoros’ is the first Afghan Whigs song you could genuinely dance to, and Can Rova even has, dare I say it, a house beat underneath it. But it works. All of it works. Which is why this is my album of the year, and that’s without even mentioning the laid back delight of Lost In The Woods, or the dark, heart wrenching beauty of It Kills (‘it kills to watch you love another’). If you have yet to discover the wonder that is The Afghan Whigs then ‘Do To The Beast’ would be a worthy way to start. Honorable Mentions – Machine Head – ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’. Weezer – ‘Everything Will Be Alright In The End’. The Menzingers – ‘Rented World’. Boy Hits Car – ‘All That Led Us Here’. Foo Fighters – ‘Sonic Highways’. Slipknot – ‘.5: The Grey Chapter’. Mike Doughty – ‘Stellar Motel’. Royal Blood – ‘Royal Blood’. Atmosphere – ‘Southsiders’. Sage Francis – ‘Copper Gone’. Christian Fitness – ‘I’m Scared Of Everything That Isn’t Me’. Mastodon – ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’. Linkin Park – ‘The Hunting Party’.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 15

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

 

Def By Temptation102612-celebs-movies-def-by-temptation

James Bond III

(1990)

Rating **

 

 

We open on a libidinous bar tender casually telling an unseen conquest at the other end of the phone that he will pay for her abortion. This bastion of chivalry then shifts his attentions to a seductive woman who has entered the bar and within minutes they are back at her place doing the nasty. Karma’s a bitch however as she turns out to be an evil, vampire succubus who eviscerates him and drinks his blood. Women huh? Right guys?

Focus shifts to a young man called Joel who is being haunted by dreams involving his preacher father and a mysterious figure in black. His father is played by Samuel L. Jackson! Yes! Maybe this film is going to be OK after all. It turns out he’s dead, and, aside from a very short scene at the end, this is the only time he appears. DAMN YOU MOVIE!

Def-by-Temptation-1

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and…ah forget it!”

Joel is training to follow in his father’s footsteps (to be a preacher, not dead) but is suffering a crisis of conscience so goes to spend some time with his black sheep brother ‘K’  in New York. K takes his brother to the bar from the beginning of the film and wouldn’t ya know it, they run afoul of miss bloodsucker, who slowly tempts Joel away from his brother and his beliefs. Apparently Joel is last in the line of something, I’m afraid this is as much as I can elucidate as it’s never properly explained. All we do know is that the sanguine queen needs him dead. As we’ve seen from her previous handy work, she’s not a gal to mess around when it comes to killing, which makes it all the more odd when she proceeds to take Joel on several coffee dates and even gets him alone on more than one occasion. Perhaps this is vampire foreplay.

K teams up with an undercover cop (Bill Nun of Spiderman fame) and attempts to save his brother from the clutches of this nocturnal harridan. They both do spectacularly badly however, as one is killed and the other turned into a vampire. In a weird, dreamlike ending that makes very little sense, Joel manages to kill the vampire and save his soul with a little help from his dead father and his mother who is about 600 miles away in a different state (I told you it made no sense).

defbytemptation

She was starting to lose her looks anyway.

It may look like I’ve been lazy with the old plot summary but for a 95 minute film there’s actually very little plot. If you remove the weird dream sequences and gratuitous vampire lovin’ then there’s barely a skeleton to hang a story on. Vampire seduces men to their deaths, one of them fights back. End.

It all comes across as an attempt to make a cool, African American version of Fright Night (or perhaps more appropriately Fright Night 2). However unlike those movies, the attempts at comedic moments just jar awkwardly with the horror. Also the clearly minuscule budget makes every scene look very much like it was shot in a studio (which they clearly were), mist and coloured lights are used to disguise the edges of the scene which makes it hard to feel like any of it is grounded in reality.

Dodgy editing also makes the film hard to follow at times. Scenes jar into each other, sometimes at random. The filmmakers must have been aware of this to some extent because on a couple of occasions a cue card would appear stating ‘The Next Day’ or ‘Later That Night’ to show the passing of time.

It is also so unbelievably ‘of its time’. Released in 1990, everything from the fashion, to the music, to the awful pun in the title screams ‘late 80’s’. I was half expecting to see a comedy cameo from The Fat Boys.

That said, the acting is fairly solid. Jackson puts in a good turn in his brief appearance, prefacing his bible spouting turn as Jules in Pulp Fiction, and Bill Nun provides some comedy as the undercover cop pretending to be a hopeless romeo while scoping out the bar.  Cynthia Bond has fun as they evil seductress even if her performance does come close to scenery chewing at times. The worst scenes sadly involve the brothers (one of whom is played by the director himself), not because of the acting but because each scene feels like it was improvised, badly. They mumble half conceived lines at each other in a directionless manner until the scene just peters out. This happens several times.

There are some effective scenes however. Some of the dream sequences are quite spooky and surreal and there’s at least one unique death where a guy is sucked into his own television which then spits out his guts and bones. However Cronenberg or Lynch this is not, and most of the time these scenes are either confusing or hilarious, or both (confarious?).

The director gets the last laugh though with his unintentionally hilarious dedication before the credits roll.

0V8eh

“Suck it forebears!”

 

Album Review! – Malibu Shark Attack – ‘Malibu Shark Attack’

MalibuThe story behind Malibu Shark Attack is as fascinating as anything found on their debut album. The band consists of Belfast based Producer Rocky O’Reilly and Atlanta based vocalist Tribe One. Rocky had found some success in his previous band Oppenheimer whose music has appeared on such shows as Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother. Tribe One had previously fronted hip-hop act The Remnant. These two people had never met.

As quoted from their official bio ‘as one uploaded tunes and hit the hay, the other would wake up and start recording lyrics and stories’. By the time I discovered them supporting MC Lars in London they had been in each other’s company for exactly four days. Considering the fact that I immediately went over and bought the album after their set, you would never have known it. What they have created is an album of heartfelt and intelligent, yet joyous and uplifting indie hip-hop. Rocky’s 8-bit bouncy synth tracks beautifully complimenting Tribe One’s considered lyrics, perfectly balancing each other, never allowing the songs to become too maudlin or too light in touch.

The album launches from the gate with a triptych of upbeat, toe tappers.  ‘Better Of As Friends’, with its wonderfully self deprecating lyrics, humbly explains the new project to the most stubborn fans of their previous acts (‘This isn’t rock n roll, it sounds so thrown together, what happened to Oppenheimer? I liked they’re old stuff better’). Stomper ‘Yo Into New York’ with its driving synth bass hook and shout along chorus and ‘Doing It Wrong’, an uplifting yet laid back ode to following your dreams, set the precedent for what’s to come. This may be upbeat but MSA are no novelty act. They share as much with artists like Sage Francis and Atmosphere as they do the ‘nerd hop’ scene of MCs Lars and Frontalot. There’s a melancholy but it’s an optimistic one.

Things do get serious though as the following two tracks show. ‘Back To The Start’ is an ode to lost friends and the beautiful ‘Internal Organs, in which Tribe One, at his most bitter, decries love and the pain that it causes (‘They say it’s better to have loved and lost, I say it’s better if we’d never been involved. Cos it doesn’t make it any easier to shrug it off knowing our connection will eventually dissolve‘). The song plays like a beat poem performed over and eerie children’s song, eventually reaching a stirring finale of guitars and mariachi trumpets. It is a beautiful high point on the album.

This review is in danger of turning into a track by track account and that’s just lazy journalism, it’s just so hard to leave any of them out. I will however spotlight two last high points of the album. Firstly the eponymous Malibu Shark Attack. If Better Off As Friends is an apology then MSA is a joyous celebration of their collaboration, with its shimmery synth riff and so many quotable lines it seems churlish to single out one. If I was the sort of guy who liked to wave his hands in the air like he just didn’t care, this would be the song I’d do it to.

Lastly there’s Plans For The Weekend. Words cannot describe how much I love this song. It has become the anthem of my summer. A celebration of the simple joy of asking out someone you like (and them saying yes), it is so unremittingly upbeat it would have Edgar Allan Poe dancing. it also showcases just how good a rapper Tribe One is. The way he spits out the rapid fire chorus while still imbuing a warmth and passion would put some much bigger rappers to shame. It also contains the only use of the term ‘YOLO’ that hasn’t made me want to claw my own eyes out (‘And there’s just so much that he don’t know, what if she won”t go and he’s stuck solo? What if she doesn’t even answer the phone though? Only one way to know, so fuck it, YOLO’).

Oh yeah, and that’s Ash’s Tim Wheeler on guitar. He appears on several track alongside a number of guest vocalists including Jesse Dangerously and MC Lars himself.

So there you have it. It’s Hip Hop you can dance to but made by two intelligent and talented individuals who have clearly put their hearts and souls into this project. I’m so chuffed to have seen them live as I imagine it can’t be easy to get the pair together. Hopefully they’ll come to London again soon.

There really are far worse ways you could part with £7 – http://malibusharkattack.bandcamp.com/releases

Here’s the brilliant Better Of As Friends featuring Belfast based vocalist Bee Mick See, who does appear on the album, just, er, not on this track.

A Beginner’s Guide to – The Wildhearts

In a brand new series for Land of Sunshine we shall be taking a look at some bands who deserve far more recognition than they receive. As a beginners guide for the uninitiated we shall be taking a look at their often extensive back catalogue and taking you, the reader, through the highs, the lows, the OKs and the experimental, drug induced mistakes, so that you may shop for your new favourite bands with confidence.

We kick off the series by taking a look and England’s own The Wildhearts. Formed around a man called Ginger. Singer, guitarist and greatest songwriter who ever lived (I will fight you with swords to defend this point), they have seen many line up changes throughout their 25 year existence. Blending pop, punk, metal, new wave and many other genres, they have produced a fine back catalouge of endlessly inventive and endlessly hummable rock, bolstered by consistently fantastic live shows. Falling outs with each other and their record company along with many a battle with drugs and alcohol have threatened to derail them on more than one occasion, but while Ginger seems more focused on his solo work these days, they still lurk poised, ready for their red headed leader’s call to action.

Note: Each album will be marked out of 10. This grade reflects how the album compares to the rest of the back catalogue rather than music as a whole. Otherwise most of these would be nines and tens.

Don’t Be Happy, Just Worry (1992) 7/10

WildiesDontBeHappyThe band’s recording history began with an EP called ‘Mondo Akimbo a-go-go’. I have not included that here for two reasons. Firstly you’re very unlikely to get your hands on a copy, and secondly all four tracks were remixed and included here on this eight track mini-album.

Showing, straight out of the gate, Ginger’s knack for songwriting. Songs like ‘Turning American’ and ‘Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes’ wear their influences on their sleeves but still highlight a keen sense of melody and an unending supply of riffs that would go on to be the template for the band’s career. ‘Splattermania’ is a delightful ode to Ginger’s love of horror movies and ‘Weekend (5 Long Days)’ can still get me in the mood for Friday night to this day. Closer ‘Dreaming In A’ is an underrated classic and doesn’t sound quite like anything else they have ever done.

It’s rough, it’s ready, it’s a bloody brilliant debut that would put most bands, 10 years into their careers, to shame.

Highlights – Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes, Splattermania, Dreaming In A.

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts (1993) 9/10

Earth_Vs_The_WildheartsThe point where it all began for most fans and still considered their magnum opus by many. From the opening riff to the closing grind, it is a raw, rollicking, beautiful bastard of an album, full of angry guitars and singalong vocals. Ginger’s cynical and often darkly humorous lyrics really begin to shine through here with song titles such as ‘Greeting From Shitsville’, ‘Love You ‘Till I Don’t’ and ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’ displaying  a keen sense of humour even in the darkest of times. Each song contains more riffs than most bands fit on an entire album and the aforementioned ‘…Headfuck’ closes with three increasingly epic guitar solos, one of which is played by none other than David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson (in what is believed to be his final recording before his death).

It is one of the most startlingly assured debut albums of all time that deserves to be ranked among Appetite For Destruction, Ten, and Led Zeppelin I, it’s that good! So why only 9 out of 10 you say? Well if anyone can top this album, it’s Ginger himself.

POP FACT!: Stevie Lange, who provided the awesome backing vocals on ‘Loveshit’ is best known on UK shores as the voice behind “Whooooah Bodyform, Bodyform for you!”

Highlights: Loveshit, My Baby Is A Headfuck, Love You ‘Till I Don’t.

Here’s the three minute carpet bombing that is Suckerpunch!

Fishing For Luckies (1994) 10/10

5165iht63yLSo how do you follow up an album like Earth Vs The Wildhearts? Merely rest on your laurels and repeat the formula? Well not if you’re Ginger. Instead you release a six track ‘mini’ album where four of the songs run to over the 7 minute mark.

Fishing For Luckies is The Wildhearts’ epic, pure and simple. The long songs are simply incredible in their scope and breadth while at the same time still truck along like classic pop songs. If you even notice that ‘Do The Channel Bop’ or ‘Schitzophonic’ are around 8 minutes long on the first listen then you’re a liar. These are prog behemoths disguised as four minute pop songs. Eight minute epics that you can still sing every word to. If you wish to fully understand the genius of Ginger in 11:36 minutes then sprawling closer ‘Sky Babies’, Ginger’s ode to life beyond the stars, sums up everything you need to know. Starting as a perky punk song, it derails at around the three minute mark, spiraling into an epic midsection that defies a single listen. before effortlessly sliding into a beautiful middle eight or perhaps middle sixty four is more appropriate, as the original song never resurfaces, the new sections just keep coming and coming until we all collapse, spent and sweaty. It really is one of the most stunning pieces of songwriting ever committed to record.

And what of the two diminutive numbers? Well one is a rowdy drinking song called ‘Geordie In Wonderland’. So catchy it was even played on Top of The Pops. and the other is called ‘If Life Is Like A Love Bank, I Want An Overdraft’, a song which Ginger once described thusly – “I wanted to write the worst song ever written, but it turned out quite good so we released it as a single”. Bastard!

Highlights: Impossible to choose. Only six songs, every one perfect in its own way.

Here’s the aforementioned ‘worst song ever written’ and its NSFW video.

The album was rereleased twice with different track listings, once without the band’s permission and once by the band themselves. The other versions are worth checking out for the extra songs (especially the band sanctioned version) but for my money, the original six track is the best there is.

PHUQ (1995) 10/10

phuq-11407165-frntlSo here it is, my favourite album by The Wildhearts.

PHUQ (and yes, it’s pronounced ‘fuck’) takes the epicness of Fishing For Luckies and condenses it into Earth Vs style melodic blasts. Opener ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ may be one of the catchiest songs they’ve ever recorded, but songs like the staccato march of ‘V-Day’, the dark grind of ‘Be My Drug’, or the Beatles-esque ballad ‘In Lilly’s Garden’ showcase sounds never before explored by the band. ‘Caprice’ is hands down one of the best songs they’ve ever written and every other song has a unique shape of its own. Even the singalong bonus track entitled ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ has become a staple chant of the fans while waiting for the band to return for the encore. How many bands can claim that?

More varied than Earth Vs… and more compact than Fishing For Luckies. PHUQ is everything that makes this band so great in one complete package. Just fucking buy it!

Highlights: V Day, Caprice, Nita Nitro (just the whole damn thing really!)

Now enjoy The Wildhearts at their most anthemic.

Endless, Nameless (1997) 5/10

The-Wildhearts-Endless-Nameless-118964Ah the difficult third album. Rumours have ranged from drugs to internal tensions to pressure from the record company to conform to a sound more akin to The Prodigy or The Chemical Brothers, both hugely popular at the time. Although I always suspected his new found kinship with Canadian metal madman Devin Townsend was no coincidence. Perhaps only Ginger truly knows. What we do know is that Endless, Nameless is a cacophonous mess. Albeit a fascinating one.

The hallmarks are all there. The big riffs, the melodic vocals, the driving drums. However every song is awash with huge levels of top end distortion. This works in some cases, like the epic closer ‘Thunderfuck’ or ‘Urge’, still one of the best songs in their back catalogue. But many of the tracks  just sound like great Wildhearts songs that you can’t quite hear properly, as if they’re being played thrown a blown speaker. It makes for a frustrating listening experience. Bad songs are one thing, but good songs ruined by bad production are worse in many ways.

There is still a lot to love about Endless, Nameless but, after the epic triptych which proceeded it, it was definitely a big disappointment even to the most devoted fans. Definitely the sore thumb of the oeuvre.

Highlights: Urge, Thunderfuck, Junkenstein.

Here’s the confusingly alluring Urge.

The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed (2003) 7/10

The_Wildhearts_Must_Be_DestroyedTo no one’s real surprise The Wildhearts pretty much imploded after the release of Endless, Nameless. Ginger threw himself into a number of projects ranging from the good (Super$hit 666) to the superlative (Silver Ginger 5’s ‘Black Leather Mojo’. Seriously buy this album!) to the frankly bizarre (Clam Abuse). It would be six years before the public would see another Wildhearts album and one that would see a complete line up change from Endless, Nameless (seeing the return of CJ and Stidi from the Earth Vs line up) and a return to a more pop oriented sound. Sometimes a bit too pop.

Completely moving away from the wild distortion of the previous album TWMBD is easily the most straight pop record of their career. Massive singalong numbers like ‘Vanilla Radio’ and ‘Top Of The World’ sit alongside mid-paced rockers like ‘Someone That Won’t Let Me Go’ and ‘One Love, One Life, One Girl’. The closest they ever get to metal is in stomping opener ‘Nexus Icon’ and ‘Get Your Groove On’ which features Justin Hawkins on typically high backing vocals.

It may sound like I’m down on TWMBD but I’m not, I’m really not. It’s a great album that most bands would give their hind teeth to put their name on. It’s just that us fans know that Ginger can shit out songs like this before breakfast. Probably a great intro album for those less inclined to heavier music.

Highlights – Vanilla Radio, Nexus Icon, Someone That Won’t Let Me Go.

Everybody! “Where’s my Elvis? Where’s my Elvis? Where’s my Elvis?”

The Wildhearts (2007) 6/10

thewildheartsThe Wildhearts’ self titled album is the one I find the hardest to appraise. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not quite special in the way a Wildhearts album should be. Every song is solid, in fact it’s incredibly consistent, but they all sound a little like lesser versions of their predecessors. Opener ‘Rooting For The Bad Guy’ aims for the highs of Fishing For Luckies with its eight plus minutes of ever shifting riffage but never quite reaches the heights of ‘Inglorious’ and its peers, and the rest, well I’m listening  to it now, and it’s good, it’s really fucking good. It brings back some of the heaviness of the earlier stuff while retaining the pop of the last album and ‘The New Flesh’ is incredibly infectious. It’s just not special. Not Wildhearts special anyway. Put it this way. Question a fan on her or his favourite Wildhearts songs and I’d be surprised to find that many from this album.

Highlights: The New Flesh. Rooting For The Bad Guy, Destroy All Monsters.

Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before vol.1 (2008) 6/10

Wildhearts-StopUsI almost didn’t include this one as it’s a covers album but as it’s officially part of the discography I felt compelled. Also it was made with the best intentions. Rather than just churning out a bunch of popular songs to get album sales, instead the band picked songs by bands they love in order to bring them to the attention of their fans, in the hope that in doing so we would go out and further investigate their back catalogues. Pretty cool huh? Each page of the CD booklet even has a little explanation of the song and the band to give you a little insight.

And what of the songs? Well as you might expect its a mixed bag. No one is going to enjoy somebody’s compilation tape as much as the creator, but the band really give it their all with each song. It also marks the only time that every band member has contributed lead vocals on a Wildhearts album. In a wide array of genres from a storming cover of Fugazi’s ‘Waiting Room’ (with bassist Scott and guitarist CJ handling the dual lead vocals with aplomb) to a spirited version of ‘Ice Hockey Hair’ by Super Furry Animals, the band clearly show a lot of respect for the source material. Sure the covers are faithful to the originals but then that’s the whole point. I do have one criticism however. CJ you got the lyrics wrong in the chorus to Regurgitator’s ‘Everyday Formula’. Shame on you CJ!

So there you go. Not an essential Wildhearts album but a great curio for the fans who might even find themselves broadening their musical horizons a little.

Highlights: Waiting Room, Possum Kingdom, Geez Louise.

Chutzpah (2009) 8/10

ChutzpahOur time is nearly at an end as we approach the last Wildhearts albums to date. But don’t be too sad. It’s a stonker!

You know how I said that the self titled album lacked something special? Well what ever that intangible factor may be, this album has it. Seemingly taking all the good aspects of their last three studio albums and smashing them together with a new, almost industrial sheen, Chutzpah is a lean, dangerous beast. Most songs only run to around the three minute mark. They get in, grab you by the lapels, scream in your face, and are gone before you have time to even wipe the spit from your brow. Not that these are all screaming fast metal songs, most in fact are decidedly mid paced. They’re just incredibly efficient. Following a decidedly un-Ginger ‘verse-chorus-verse’ pattern for the most part but without ever leaving you wanting more. No stand outs, no weak songs, just a gloriously unit that work beautifully as a whole album. If I was forced to pick favourites it would probably be the two songs that bookend the album. Exhilarating opener ‘The Jackson Whites’ with its air of menace and deceptively catchy chorus and the title track closer with its pulverizing riff and, believe it or not, Vocodered chorus are as strong a foundation as any album could hope for.

If Chutzpah ends up being The Wildhearts swansong then they went out with their heads held high, kicking and screaming. Let’s hope not though eh?

Highlights: The Jackson Whites, Chutzpah, You Are Proof That Not All Women Are Insane.

Further listening:

Chutzpah Jnr – Eight awesome outtakes from the Chutzpah sessions including an unlikely experiment in Euro-Pop.

Coupled With – A collection of B-sides from The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed era. The Wildhearts are a rare band whose b-sides are just as good as the a-sides. There is literally no drop in quality.

Every B-side from Earth Vs to PHUQ  – Same as above only better. Contains some of their greatest tunes. Girlfriend Clothes, 29 x The Pain, Hate The World Day. Better than most band’s a-sides. You’ll have to work a bit harder for these though as there was no official compilation. Your best bet is to pick up The Works compilation which contains a fair few of them.