james debate
james debate

Thursday 26 March 2009

Genre Electronic, Psychedelic
Label Carpark Records
Producer Dan Deacon
Release date(s) 24th March 2009 (UK)

The word genius is thrown around far too often these days. However there are times when it is appropriate. Steven Spielberg is a genius. Sir Isaac Newton was a genius. And Mozart was a genius. Dan Deacon is probably the closest thing we've had to Mozart since.

Now let me clarify: Dan Deacon does not record classical music in the style most of you will have come to know and love of Mozart. Dan Deacon preaches a uniquely psychedelic form of experimental electronic music. What I mean when I compare him to Mozart is that he is simply a master of compositions. His music, as a style, can be described simply as 'information overload' and yet so meticulously sublime are his compositions that each and every one of his hundreds of notes in a stretch of a few seconds is perfectly and thoughtfully placed, forming a symphony of sound the likes of which could only have been put together by someone with the gifted musical brain of a Mozart or a Bach. Make no mistake, if they were still alive, they would be pushing the envelope with sounds like this.

This has always been obvious to fans of his, even with his old albums like Spiderman of the Rings. One needs only to listen to the likes of the epic 11 minute long Wham City to get a taste of the intricacy and beauty of which this man is capable. But in his latest album, Bromst he has achieved his most mature and complete work yet, and one which may finally bring him the recognition he deserves.

So first a little background on the man that you probably are not too familiar with. Deacon is a member of a Baltimore art collective named Wham City where, with his degrees in electro-acoustic and computer music composition he specializes in experimental music and audience participation. For Deacon there's no such thing as a stage, there's no barrier between artist and audience. Instead, his famously exuberant gigs usually descend into mass dance-offs with Deacon conducting the madness from behind his set-up in the middle of the dancefloor.

His live performances typically involve audience participation, often requiring the attendees to perform physical tasks and games en masse during the songs, like opening a big circle and ask two people to dance in it. If this sounds incredibly pretentious, don't worry. For Deacon dance music is a serious, almost scientific experiment, a quest for sensory bliss.

In his previous albums he almost achieved this with some trippy tunes that were at times brilliant, at times off putting and over the top. That's where this most recent, more mature effort comes in. Replacing a neon rush of synthesizers and heavily pitched voices with real instrumentation and a little self control.

The result is an album that I am prepared to declare the best of the year so far, despite only having handful of top notch songs. The reason for this is that these songs REALLY are top notch. This entire album sounds like Deacon has taken the sound of the song Wham City and turned it into an entire album of different tracks. The opening song Build Voice, starts in an off key of harsh repetitive noise before the full melody builds a crescendo, pushing through the chaos like a ray of light through the clouds and culminating in a slow building but powerful masterpiece of melody.

However the highlight of the album is the 7 minute long Snookered which begins with a calm and earthy xylophone intro to set the tone before coalescing with a heart pounding rush of electric strings in a simply stunning fashion.

This is the best album of the year so far. Dan Deacon is a genius, who has finally hit upon a formula that will spread his brilliance to the mainstream. This album nevertheless falls short of perfection by having a few sublime songs and a few forgettable songs, but when the sublime songs are this good who really cares?

See this is precisely why people didn't want to co-operate with the Government's bailout bill. Sure, I can see exactly why it was needed, and I agree that the country could well have been fucked had we not done it, but at the same time, who's going to make sure that these dumbass companies don't go and blow their bailout funds and land us in even more trouble. Never underestimate the power of greed.


The first warning signs came mere days after the bailout funds were handed over, when AIG executives blew several hundred grand on a completely unnecessary and extravagant corporate retreat to congratulate themselves for... uh... sucking enough to be given several billion dollars in free money.

Outrage ensued, then we stewed over it for a bit and declared that nothing of the sort would ever happen again! Of course even more money was dispensed after Obama's election (most of which was necessary) and what did AIG do to celebrate this time? handed out several hundred million dollars in bonuses to the executives who had failed so spectacularly, some reaching tens of millions for individual bonuses when the rest of us are struggling, on a few hundred thousand if we're lucky!

Given this outrage (read: stupidity), the house democrats can almost be forgiven for flying off the handle with their extremely over the top bonus tax of 90%.

Now so far it probably sounds like I'm some right wing nut or something, but anyone who's ever read this blog, or knows me at all, knows that I am a serious liberal, perhaps a little more centrist fiscally, have always been a democrat and have been the most devout of Obama fanatics since way back in 2006. However this really is going too far. The bill calls for 90% of bonuses given to people working at banks, earning more than $250,000 to be taxed. This effectively punishes those douchebags with $20 million bonuses of course, but the problem is it also devastates the little people whose bonus was only a hundred grand or so to begin with in this recession. And let's not forget that not every bank is like AIG, some, like JPMorgan, barely even needed any bailout funds and certainly didn't give ridiculous bonuses paid for by the bailout, and yet they're still suffering.

This doesn't even mention the ethic behind such a bill, and whether or not it's even constitutional. To me it sounds like the house democrats, god bless em, are getting a little trigger happy. And frankly they need to cut it the fuck out, lest they end up like the GOP is now, in a complete shambles brought on by their own greed and stupidity.

Of course Obama, being the simply brilliant leader that he is, went so far as to oppose the bill at the risk of being unpopular. And let me just say it is so refreshing to see a President take a stand against his own party. The President simply needs to be central and unbiased and that is exactly what Obama has shown us in this instance. I for one applaud him.

Directed by Michael Grandage
Written by William Shakespeare
Starring Derek Jacobi
Production company The Donmar
Theatre The Wyndham

My regular readers, and particularly those of you who are seasoned theatre patrons, will remember my previous review for the first production in the Donmar season at the Wyndham, Ivanov, starring Kenneth Branagh. In case you missed it, it was an absolutely wonderful production of a play by one of the finest ever playwrights, Anton Chekhov and achieved a maximum 5 star rating from me.

This bode well for the remaining plays in the season, and it was with some serious excitement that I went to see this second entry in the series, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, starring the legendary Derek Jacobi.

donmar twelfth night derek jacobi

Now the issue for me with Shakespearian productions is that generally they are hard to pull off without sounding contrived or ridiculously dated with obtuse language. This is where most productions fail, simply unable to convey the full detail and subtext of the play to audiences who are not always attuned to such phrasings.

Notable exceptions to this include any play starring Simon Russell-Beale, a man who is naturally gifted to making even the most absurd of Shakespearian dialogue sound completely natural and understandable. And for whatever reason, this production accomplishes a similar feat.

It could be the excellent acting, whether it is the impeccable Victoria Hamilton as Viola, or the comedy stylings of Ron Cook, an energetic dynamo who drives along any scene he is in, and Guy Henry, who you will recognize from Extras, who shows us what a talented (and frighteningly tall) actor he really is.

But of course one must mention the star of the show Derek Jacobi, playing one of the more understated roles, yet traditionally popular amongst thespians, of Malvolio. And indeed this Malvolio is one that will go down in the ages, alongside Henry Irving and William Ferrin.

However once again, as with Ivanov, special kudos needs to be given to the director Michael Grandage. This production is supremely pleasing to the eye and perfectly directed, bringing Shakespeare's work alive in ways that you will likely never have seen before, and full credit has to go to him for this excellent work.

The excellent run continues, on to the next, Madame Du Sade starring Judi Dench

Genre Electronic
Label EMI
Producer Luke Steele, Nick Littlemore, Peter Mayes
Release date(s) 16th February 2009 (UK)

OO excitement. Here comes another one of my hotly tipped properties for 2009. So far it has been a mixed bag, with the White Lies album being incredibly mediocre and disappointing, Revolutionary Road which was 'just ok', and Watchmen which was pretty awesome, if flawed.

So now let's hope that the Aussie electro-rockers Empire of the Sun can deliver, otherwise my 'nostradamus' rating for this year is going to go down the tubes.

The first thing you notice about this album is the incredibly camp and over the top artwork and promotion, like something out of Star Wars. And I say that as a positive thing because I quite like it, it's the good kind of camp. However call me old fashioned but I'm still of the school of thought that one should judge a band by music alone and looks come second, and as such I am innately skeptical when presented with such a show as more often than not artists use showiness as a method of covering up a lack of talent.

However, that is not the case here, and in fact the superficiality of the album art works well as it goes very well with the music. The album presents a concept new world order of peace and hedonism, where pleasure is the main goal of life. For the sound, imagine a fine disco tune, 'sci-fied' up a little bit and then topped with sunshiny choruses.

It works well, even if it does feel a bit exploitative in the wake of the success of MGMT last year to just replicate the phenomenon with a similar type of album. The problem is that while a handful of songs are pretty good, like We are the People and Standing on the Shore, or excellent, like Country and Walking on a Dream, the rest are pretty forgettable. So while this is a pretty decent album, it is no more than that, and definitely not as good as MGMT, for those of you who wish to compare the two (personally I don't 'do' that sort of thing).

This is definitely worth a listen, better than the majority of music that has been released this year.

song of the day: "Build Voice" by "Dan Deacon"

thing that makes me smile today: Obama completely burning Ed Henry. These journalists are clearly used to a President who keeps putting his foot in his mouth, but no longer.

pic of the day:
simpsons springfield isotopes
West Middlesex
Michael Grandage

Spiderman of the Rings
Chelsea & Westminster
William Shakespeare

Sunday 8 March 2009

Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by David Hayter (screenplay), Alan Moore (comic)
Starring Malin Ã…kerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson
Release date(s) 6th March 2009
Running time 163 minutes

Well it is finally here. After 25 years and so much hype, a lot of it coming from me (and I previously listed Watchmen on the 'hot tips' for 2009 post), Watchmen finally hit the cinemas yesterday amid a frenzied media blitz. Indeed unless you've been living locked up in your bedroom for the past few weeks you will have seen this film being mentioned, and hyped up, everywhere you look. I can't even walk out of my flat without seeing billboards plastered everywhere and commercials on tv and newspapers everywhere.

This degree of hype can be dangerous for a film, particularly when the source material is as revered as the original graphic novel in this case. I could prattle on for hours about how the book redefined the genre and the legacy it created, but frankly it would distract from the real focus of this article, the film in question.

Similarly I'm not going to go down the road many of the hackier reviewers have gone down in spending most of the review comparing this film to the Dark Knight. It's simply not relevant and the two are very different prospects. The Dark Knight was an original film idea with comic book characters, but it would have worked just as well as a crime drama with regular people. Watchmen on the other hand is a direct adaption of a comic book, and it has to be, in keeping with the main focus of the graphic novel, a psychological and sociological deconstruction of superhero archetypes and the genre in general.


Now there are two ways to evaluate the success of this film. First we look at how well they manage to adapt the book to the screen, no easy feat considering the depth of some of the darker themes in the graphic novel. Secondly one has to look at how well it works, simply as a cinematic experience in its own right.

First, how faithful of an adaption is it? It is pleasing for anyone who has read the comic to see that Snyder has treated his source material with complete reverence, almost to the extent where the film feels as much a tribute to the comic as an adaption of it, filled with nods to the original's fans. Now this is really neither a good thing nor a bad thing, just a risky thing. Fortunately while the film is full of this fan service, it never starts forcing it down the audience's throats, and so manages to avoid alienating first time viewers and those who have never read the book.

However, it is clear that a fair bit of the book is lost in the translation. The characters in this film simply are not developed to the extent that they are in the book. You don't get enough of an impression on how much of a pathetic loser nite owl is, and why he needs to be a hero so bad. In this film he is presented more as a standard everyman type. You don't get a good feel of the relentless idealism of Rorschach, making his principled stance in the film's finale, even in the face of certain death, seem almost out of character, just because his character has not been as fully established as in the novel.

Most crucially however, the comedian is not fully developed here. For me, the real highlight of the book is the comedian. He does some seriously horrendous and abhorrent things, but in the book you get more insight into his tortured mind, overwhelmed by the absurdity of the world around him. As the comedian puts it in the book, "once you realize what a joke everything is, being the comedian is the only thing that makes sense". You simply don't get this in the film, where the comedian comes off to first time viewers simply as a villain, a bad guy.

A 12 book series full of deep character development and complex themes was always going to be impossible to make a 100% translation to cinema, as with most book to film adaptions, and so this is to be expected. As a result it is hard for me to hold this against the film, but it is worth mentioning when considering why one of the most complex and deep comics of all time might not be so revolutionary on screen.

At the end of the day, Snyder has done a simply amazing job of getting as much of the book as possible into a film, so while it might be missing some of the depth of the book, it's a film so it's really all that could have been expected.

However, as a film in its own right, Watchmen is truly excellent. This film is a feast for the senses. The visuals, the direction, the cinematography, all are nothing short of breathtaking for the full duration of the movie. The soundtrack is stellar, and works perfectly (aside from Hallelujah during the sex scene) and Snyder does a miraculous job of telling a good deal of story in the time allowed, particularly in the inventive opening credits sequence set to the backdrop of Bob Dylan's 'The times they are a-changing".

The performances are generally very good too, and bring the beloved characters to life. Jackie Earle Haley is simply perfect as Rorschach and is rightly earning high acclaim for his performance, with many comparing it to Ledger's immortal Joker. I won't go that far, but his is still an amazing performance, truly Haley IS Rorschach. Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are also nuanced and exemplary as Nite Owl II and the Comedian respectively, but for me it is Billy Crudup's Dr. Manhattan that is the most impressive performance. Understated yet powerful, the computer graphics in this film mean Crudup is robbed of his eyes, which as any actor knows is a tall order for conveying emotion without. That he manages such an affecting performance without them is pretty special.

Really the only performance I was not so keen on was that of Ozymandias, who to me just didn't look right for the part, looked far too weazly and sinister, and the german accent didn't help, it all just made it seem to me a little too obvious that he was a bad guy, although admittedly it's hard to judge since I already knew the end of the story going in to this movie.

Now undoubtedly a lot will be said about the modified ending, however I have to say I did not like it. Don't get me wrong, I DON'T like the squid, and I think the idea behind this ending is a lot better, but I just don't think it was very well done. Considering how brutal and uncompromising the rest of the film is, the final scenes of destruction and chaos seemed a little flat and scaled back. They simply don't convey the magnitude and horror of it all, in the comics you literally see a gruesome sea of dead bodies, in this one you don't get any of that, it just looks like any old sci-fi movie sequence of destroying a city. It's Snyder's only real miss in this movie, but it is a shame nonetheless.

All in all, it is hard to dislike this movie, despite its flaws. As a film it only contains such minor flaws, and the only real complaints I can level at it regard the loss of depth from the novel, but quite frankly if you expected perfect transition of all that detail then you clearly know little about films, and so it is hard to hold that against this film.

This is simply, about as perfect a film as could ever have been made for Watchmen, and Snyder has pulled off something very impressive indeed, just don't expect it to equal the achievement of the graphic novel.

I like my new digs. It's weird to be back here again, especially with so many people who used to be in my life last time I was here who are now gone, either graduated, changing uni, or just plain vanished off the face of the Earth. I guess after three years of it some people just get tired of the social side of uni, because there are one or two people who literally, no one has heard from in months.

That being said it's a pleasant weirdness, and it's bloody good to be back in south London right in the thick of the action, able to go out and do things without an hour commute first! Crazy Larry's is still as epically cheesy as ever, the Slug still shows all the football, and god bless that cinema, been there twice in the past week.

Restaurants I've been to in the past week that earn my seal of approval: La Famiglia, The Big Easy, Bodean's and the Waterside. Restaurants that sucked: El Metro, dear god what an awful place.

However this weekend I am away, birthday party Saturday night (a long train ride away - oy vey) and Sunday, assuming I actually wake up before noon I'm going to lunch with the film soc. And then, finally, comes the final week in this accursed Chelsea & Westminster firm that has been taking so much of my time, followed by a quick excursion to Boston for my 4-day weekend, which will likely be filled with much boozing as it is the first time I'll have been in America since turning 21! kick ass, is all I can say.

Send you guys a post card from Boston, have a good weekend all!

4 short years ago, the Republican party had near complete control of the country, the White House, and both chambers of congress. Now, they have suffered one of the biggest defeats in modern political history, in an election with easily the highest turnout of any election. Now even high priority members of the party are sounding the alarms, warning that the GOP is on the verge of becoming a regional party. Today we ask, how did things go so wrong, and how bad are they really?

sarah palin disaster

It was obvious for most of the election season these past two years that the GOP has been in major trouble. Their image and popularity is at an all time low as they become increasingly associated with ignorance, intolerance and deceit. Bush and his cronies used fear and intolerance to mobilize the masses, and last year the Republican party figured they could just pull the same tricks over again, and failed.

What happened next is a perfect example of the disdain and condescension with which the Republican party views the American people. The GOP then nominated Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate, a move that even McCain was against. The logic behind picking a political nobody who was not even highly regarded in her own state or party was that American women who were bitter at Hillary not being nominated would be dumb and shallow enough to vote for Palin, just because she was a woman, even though she was ideologically the opposite of Hillary. They weren't even shy about admitting this, as you can see from this example of many adverts aimed explicitly at Hillary supporters.

Needless to say, this was highly offensive to most women and backfired spectacularly on the party. At this point most Republicans were hoping that this would be a wake up call to higher ups in the party that these tired, childish tactics wouldn't work anymore on an increasingly informed and educated populace, freely accessing facts and information on the internet (the ultimate disaster for any Republican). Then they went and did the exact same thing again. In the wake of Obama's crushing victory, the GOP figured all it needed to get back on top was a few high profile minorities of its own; cue much hyping over up and comer Bobby Jindal and the election of Mike Steele to RNC chairman.

Not surprisingly these moves have proven to be disasters as well, with Bobby Jindal's hilarious attempt at charisma roundly panned and mocked by pundits and politicians the world over, and with Mike Steele's racist and token attempt to court minorities with speeches about giving the party an "urban-suburban hip hop makeover" and running an "off the hook campaign" to appeal to the kids. You know those really really bad comedy movies where old rich white guys start acting like young black guys and the viewer dies a little inside? Yeah that's essentially what's happening at the GOP right now. It's embarrassing and cringeworthy that the GOP really thinks it will appeal to minorities and kids by spouting off random buzzwords. Clearly the GOP is still completely clueless as to what it is about Obama that people like.

At this point, the state of the GOP was simply embarrassing at best, and mind numbingly stupid at worst, but that wasn't even the end of it. Amidst the chaos rises Rush Limbaugh to serve as a unifying voice for a party in disarray. Rush is basically your stereotypical fat, white, ignorant Republican who is more concerned with partisan victory than in what is actually best for the country, as exemplified in his completely humorless assertion that he wants the government to fail. So much for the GOP's "Country First" slogan eh?

On the surface it would seem easy to just ignore this guy, as simply another of many radio shock-jock idiots, but what really makes this guy scary is the power he holds within the Republican party. Not only did Rush give the keynote speech at the recent CPAC conference, but after initially strong bipartisan support for the Obama presidency, it was Rush on his radio show who threatened Republican members of congress that anyone who voted for Obama's stimulus would be campaigned against and lose their positions in the next election. Then surprise surprise they all complied, suddenly scared by the sway Rush holds over Republicans.

Particularly shocking is seeing even the highest ranking GOP politicians sucking up to Rush. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford said that anyone who shares Rush's desire to see Obama fail is an idiot, before quickly and desperately apologizing making every effort not to offend Rush. Then congressman Phil Gingrey lambasted Rush for putting partisan politics ahead of his country, before publicly and explicitly imploring Rush for his forgiveness. Worst of all is when token RNC minority Mike Steele referred to Rush as just an 'entertainer' in an (actually pretty wise) attempt to distance the party from Limbaugh... sadly less than 24 hours later he took it back making absolutely clear that he did not intend to undermine the great "leadership" of Limbaugh. This clearly undermines his point, and seems to specifically refer to Rush as a 'leader' of the party.

So what does it say about a political party that is under the thumb of a sensationalist radio host like Rush? This may be one embarrassment too many for the party, as Republicans have effectively become split down the middle between those who hang on Rush's every word and really will boycott any politician who disrespects him, and those more respectable Republicans who wish Rush would shut up, and are mortified by the wishy washy weakness that GOP leadership is showing in dealing with him. It is especially devastating in the wake of everything else that has happened in the past year. It has become clear the the GOP is simply clueless, and doesn't seem to learn from its mistakes.

The result is a party consumed by infighting and division, which still treats its voters like uninformed dopes and somehow believes that the way to win back popularity is to act like stubborn babies and antagonize Obama's efforts. It is of course having the opposite effect as more and more people give up on the Republican party, which is crashing and burning far more quickly than anyone could have imagined. Recent surveys show a record low 27% of Americans see themselves as Republicans, fewer than the number of people who now see themselves as independents.

The message here is obvious, the Republican party is on the way out. It is torn between the extreme rightists of Rush, and Bush, and Palin and the more sensible Republicans who want to become a legitimate and respected political party again, a position which right now is irreconcilable. As long as the extremists maintain such a strong hold over the party, it will never recover. All signs point towards the imminent demise of the GOP.

So surely I should be thrilled and ecstatic about this? No, not even a little bit. Politics really is NOT a team sport despite what most Republicans seem to think. In order to work, this political system needs a counterbalance, the Democrats need opposition, and right now the GOP simply isn't providing that. The GOP NEEDS to fix itself or everything will fall apart, mark my words.

But as I said before, this will never happen with the GOP being run by Rush and his ilk... so what can be done? Most analysts are anticipating a party split, with the more central and pragmatic Republicans jumping ship to a third party of a similar ideological persuasion. The likely contenders? Smart money is pointing towards the rise of a New Libertarian Party, basically taking all the Republican ideals of economy and small government, whilst abandoning the absurdly backward social and religious aspects. These two parties have always been close ideologically, Ron Paul who ran for the GOP in 2008 was really a Libertarian, and most people agree that that seems the logical next step in American politics.

Frankly I am excited by this prospect. I strongly and vehemently oppose a political party based on lies, ignorance and rabid anti-intellectualism, but I am not opposed to opposition, so long as it is at least a sensible opposition. An America with two legitimate and respectable political parties at the core is a recipe for revitalization and renewal, and at this rate it could happen sooner rather than later. Another massive defeat in 2010 (which right now looks inevitable) and the GOP could well find itself falling behind third parties in 2012.

Genre Indie Rock
Label Fiction
Producer Ed Buller, Max Dingel
Release date(s) 19th January 2009

Football Manager Live

I had high hopes for this album, as many of you regular readers know. After hearing the first single Death, which was amazing, the hype started building for this almost to a fever pitch. And following positive endorsements from big names in the music industry, like the Killers, this album quickly rose to the top of many people's most wanted lists, billed as the first major release of 2009.

As is the standard on this website, we were a bit ahead of the curve, talking up the potential of this album for months now, and listing it on our New Year's list of hot tips for 2009. So clearly White Lies had a lot to live up to, and unfortunately I have to say that they have not managed this.

Death, is an excellent excellent single, as I have already mentioned. Dark and bold, this melodic single channels the epic grandiosity of 80s new wave bands like Tears for Fears and raised high hopes of an album that would follow suit and maintain this sound.

Sadly the album, aside from this song, seems to devolve mostly into a wannabe Interpol/Editors style. The lyrics are mostly over the top and obvious, and every single chord seems forcefully designed to scream 'oo look how dark and epic we are'. It's all very forced, and this comes across in the slow and clunky songs that seem less about music and more about appealing to depressed and nihilistic teens. What this results in is an album ultimately devoid of any originality or soul of its own that is, sadly, still destined to draw many fans and much fame (and as such I'm maintaining that my prediction of this album being big was accurate, even though I don't like it).

I really wanted to like this album, but none of the songs will live long in the memory aside from Death. Fortunately this one song is good enough to gain the album an extra star on my overall score from what I would otherwise have given.

song of the day: "Use the Same Old Song" by "Mighty Mike"

thing that makes me smile today: Tetris block ice cube trays

pic of the day:
hand dryer bacon
New Libertarian Party
The Pirate Bay Trial

Traditional Superheroes
Republican Party
The OJ Simpson Trial

Newer Posts Older Posts Home