Leader of the Starry Skies – A Tribute to Tim Smith

Posted in Music with tags , , , on 9 December, 2010 by Ally

Leader of the Starry Skies is a tribute to Tim Smith, the mastermind behind such cult bands as Cardiacs, The Sea Nymphs and Spratleys Japs. Tim suffered a severe stroke in 2008 and all proceeds from the album will go towards his care.

The album will be released on Monday 13th December 2010. It features interpretations of Tim’s unique songs, performed by an array of his bandmates, friends and fans. The impressive lineup includes, among others: The Magic Numbers, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Oceansize, Andy Partridge (XTC) and the specially-reformed Ultrasound.

Those who pre-order will receive an exclusive bonus album free of charge. I’m delighted to say the contribution from my band Bug Prentice is included on the bonus album. So pre-order before it’s too late!

Knifeworld — The Stench of Honey:

Pre-order Leader of the Starry Skies — A Tribute to Tim Smith from the Genepool.

Underrated Band of the Week: Chavez

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on 17 September, 2010 by Ally

I’ve been listening to a lot of mid-’90s alt-rock lately. The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Jawbox, that sort of thing. About a week ago, a friend asked me if I’d heard of Chavez. “Vaguely,” I said, then checked youtube to remind myself.

I found the music video for Break Up Your Band, which starts with a standup comedian who seems to be getting big laughs with the word “yes.” He then introduces “the men of Chavez,” who play the song to accompany a succession of male strippers. The audience is composed entirely of middle-aged women. I had seen the video before, giggled and thought nothing more of it. This time I liked the music. I really liked it. I wanted to hear more.

“Damn, that’s actually pretty good,” I said.

“I know,” my friend said.

He knows these things.

Medium story short, a few days ago I bought Better Days Will Haunt You; a 2CD anthology of both Chavez albums and various singles, b-sides and compilation tracks. I ripped the tracks to my computer in a lossless format, separated the bonus tracks from the original albums (as is my wont) and transferred them to my Personal Portable Digital Music Player for Convenient Listening.

I haven’t listened conveniently to much else this week.

Chavez — Top Pocket Man

And you can listen conveniently to Better Days Will Haunt You on Spotify, if you care to.

1001: A Screen Odyssey

Posted in Film on 20 August, 2010 by Ally

If this blog had any readers, it wouldn’t have escaped their notice that I don’t really post much anymore. However I have resumed regular blogging with my friend Rachel, as we are trying to watch and review each of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. The list spans 105 years of cinema and we have committed ourselves to watching it all. Even Top Gun.

Follow our progress on our blog, 1001: A Screen Odyssey.

Claudia Winkleman to host Film 2010

Posted in Film, Television with tags , , , on 29 March, 2010 by Ally

Today the BBC announced Claudia Winkleman will replace Jonathan Ross as host of Film 2010. Even for an ardent Wossy detractor, this does not strike me as A Good Thing. “Everyone has an opinion on film,” she states in the press release, ignoring the fact that some are more informed than others. Claudia Winkleman, while eminently likable, has no previous form in film criticism and apparently nothing more to guide her than gut instinct. That’s also true of the viewing public, but we expect our opinions to come from those more knowledgable than us.

This is merely speculation of course: Not just counting chickens before they’re hatched, but deciding said chickens will be shit. Nevertheless this wonky egg doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Song of the Day: “Marrow” by St. Vincent

Posted in Music, Of the Week with tags , on 14 January, 2010 by Ally

St. Vincent is the “nom de tune” of Annie Clark, a very fine musician comin’ straight outta Tulsa. Having heard the name bandied about by numerous trustworthy sources, it only occurred to me a few days ago to actually listen to some of her music, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The music seems to fuse the ethereal melodic arrangements of Sufjan Stevens with the crunchy electro-funk of TV on the Radio, not to mention the occasional distorted guitar assault reminiscent of Glenn Branca. These elements are perhaps best represented in the song “Marrow”, embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted in Film with tags , , , , on 24 November, 2009 by Ally

Mere words cannot express how much I love this video. Sesame Street aside, my youth is sadly lacking in fond Muppet memories. That doesn’t diminish the affection I have for Kermit and the gang, and the pure joy of muppetry is abundantly clear in this new video. I recommend going directly to youtube and viewing it in HD.

Many thanks to @GarethFW and @Glinner for tweeting the link.

Why do I watch the X Factor?

Posted in Music, Television with tags on 17 October, 2009 by Ally

There is a certain satisfaction in having your prejudices confirmed. Despite immense resentment and frustration, that satisfaction is what moves me to watch The X Factor. As a musician and music-lover, the programme goes against my fundamental beliefs about art and entertainment. Which is precisely why it’s unmissable.

Tonight my senses were once again assaulted by the boorishly loud audience and the murder of songs I couldn’t fucking stand in the first place. And if there is such a thing is a hate orgasm, John & Edward never fail to bring me to it. Not to mention the judges’ assertions that any of the acts even approached authenticity. Just thinking about it makes my fists clench, forcing me to type this article by stabbing wildly at my keyboard with a pen.

I refuse to call it car-crash television, because I respect crash victims’ privacy enough to avert my gaze. It’s more like pornography: Depressing, demeaning but shamefully compelling. But this I watch with my family.

That’s entertainment!

The Loneliness of a One-Player Game

Posted in Nothing Really with tags , , , , , on 3 September, 2009 by Ally
The Loneliness of a One-Player Game

The Loneliness of a One-Player Game

I appear to have accidentally encapsulated the human condition by naming a photograph of a games console.

Bend Me, Remake Me, Any Way You Want Me

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , on 20 August, 2009 by Ally

I was dismayed to hear of two remakes in the pipeline. Steven Spielberg danced a merry jig on a few graves whilst announcing plans to remake Harvey, the classic 1950 screwball comedy (based on a 1944 play) starring James Stewart as a man who befriends an invisible rabbit. Meanwhile Disney and Robert Zemeckis are collectively pissing on the Beatles’ legacy by collaborating on a 3D version of psychedelic 1968 cartoon Yellow Submarine.

The cover version is a useful analogy. Cover a less successful song and discover it was a hit waiting to happen, such as Hendrix’s Hey Joe. Recreate a classic song accurately and it’s written off as pointless, like Westlife’s various crimes against music or Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. Transform it beyond recognition and it’s desecration — i.e. Mark Ronson’s godawful output (even if you didn’t like the Zutons to start with).

And it’s hard to imagine Spielberg’s Harvey as anything but a Ronsonesque exercise in memory-soiling. We still regard the 1950 version with fondness. Anyone quoting it is compelled to mimic James Stewart’s distinctive Southern drawl, and another actor stepping into his shoes will find it damn near impossible to fill them. As for Yellow Submarine, didn’t Across the Universe serve as a stern warning that Beatle-inspired musicals just don’t work outside the 1960s? And do we really need to see the Fab Four rendered as eerie, dead-eyed avatars like those in The Polar Express?

Yes, remakes can be worthwhile. John Huston’s iconic version of The Maltese Falcon was the third adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel, and it made Humphrey Bogart a star — partly because George Raft’s contract enabled him to pass on remakes! But while the third Falcon movie tried to fix some failings (or cash in on a hit book), modern remakes exploit the enduring popularity of the originals. Hands up who preferred the recent Taking of Pelham 123. How about Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

Thought not.

Roger Ebert on US health care

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on 18 August, 2009 by Ally

The notion of “universal health care” does not mean “socialized medicine.” It means just what it seems to mean. America is the only developed nation on earth that does not provide it. Why does it inspire such virulent opposition? Who is behind it? It is opposed mostly from the far right, whose enthusiasm seems to be encouraged by financial support from some (not all) insurance companies. Those companies have priced American insurance out of the reach of millions.

~ Roger Ebert, 2009

Roger Ebert’s latest article is a beacon of reason in a whirlwind of ill-informed, bitter polemic. There is nothing I can add, so I simply urge you to read it.

Read “Death Panels. A most excellent term” by Roger Ebert.