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Matt Pucci "mattpucci.com" (Here, there and everywhere)
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Crack the Skye [Special Edition]
Crack the Skye [Special Edition]
Price: £5.69

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving, musical masterpiece, 7 April 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Crack the Skye is Mastodon's fifth album and musically it picks up where the highly acclaimed Blood Mountain (2006) left off. Once again we are served with an abundance of dazzling, technical playing and mind-boggling lyrical concepts, but this time the band also succeed in capturing a degree of emotion hitherto unheard on a Mastodon record.

The writing of this record was informed by some troubled times for all four members of Mastodon, and the title itself was conceived in homage to Brann Dailor's sister, who tragically died at the age of 14. It also ties in themes of astral travel and Tsarist Russia. As you would expect from an album of such poignancy and scope, Crack the Skye is not an easy record to get your head round, perhaps even for long-time Mastodon fans who are used to unexpected left turns and constant progression - often within the space of a single track. Only opener 'Oblivion' - a fairly straightforward verse-chorus, verse-chorus track - is what you might call 'catchy' and yet it still manages to be unfathomably affecting. The album's first single, 'Divinations', meanwhile, is instantly recognisable as a Mastodon track - all chaotic time-signatures and Dailor's awesome drumming. However, almost all subsequent tracks include more measured, restrained passages, coupled with greater subtleties than before. The opening notes of 'The Czar', for example, are exquisitely haunting, while the title-track features long-time Mastodon collaborator Scott Kelly of Neurosis, to superb effect.

Ultimately, this is prog rock at its finest; it's also a thoroughly modern and vital-sounding record that deserves your attention. Yes, it will take repeated listens to fully appreciate, but I for one am certain I'll be listening to this for many, many years to come.

The DVD too is something of a revelation, giving you an intimate insight into the making of the album, the inspiration for the title and the story behind the album's concept as well as the requisite clips of the band playing live (including a devastating 'Blood and Thunder') and generally goofing around. Watching it makes you appreciate the album to an even greater degree and realise both what a cool bunch of guys these are and how much of a great band they are. Well worth the extra couple of quid.

Matt Pucci


Kensington Heights
Kensington Heights
Price: £6.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great rock n' roll, pure and simple, 31 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Kensington Heights (Audio CD)
The fact that this is the first review for an album that's been out for over six months says a lot, really. Very few people - comparatively speaking - have heard this amazing group and yet they are one of the finest from across the Atlantic right now. Canadian by nationality, they have the uncanny ability to pen superb, heart-felt songs that sound absolutely huge without ever resorting to sentimentality or over-wrought playing. They've been dogged by comparisons to Bruce Springsteen - not least for the affinity with the working man that their lyrics seem to display - but let's face it, there are far worse artists to be accused of emulating than The Boss. The fact of the matter is that this is uncomplicated, honest, life-affirming rock n' roll and with bands like The Gaslight Anthem garnering rave reviews of late, Constantines are more than deserving of similar levels of recognition. Newcomers should get this, along with previous album, the sublime Tournament of Hearts, to which Kensington Heights bears the closest resemblance, and then check out the more punk-driven earlier stuff.

Matt Pucci
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2009 10:30 AM GMT


Preteen Weaponry
Preteen Weaponry
Price: £10.51

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Patience-testing jams from divergent New Yorkers, 31 Jan. 2009
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This review is from: Preteen Weaponry (Audio CD)
Criminally ignored by the world at large, Oneida are a three-piece from Brooklyn, NY, who have eschewed the more fashionable elements of New York life in favour of something more fascinating for over a decade now. With previous releases, that "fascinating" was sometimes psychedelic, sometimes folky, sometimes rockin', and sometimes just plain bonkers. They're contrary bunch, for sure, and no more so is that apparent than on Preteen Weaponry - the band's latest venture and the first in a self-described "triptych" of albums: three tracks, just over 39 minutes in total and, um, not a great deal of excitement, it has to be said. In many ways, it's typical Oneida fare - the drums, for example, courtesy of the awesomely-monikered Kid Millions are instantly recognisable, but where before the band could serenade you as easily as send you to the brink of insanity, Preteen Weaponry fails to really take off. Kudos to them for branching out further into unchartered sonic territory but improv jams like these are unlikely to broaden their fan-base. Maybe that's the point. Don't get me wrong, this ain't bad - just not that good compared to stuff from Secret Wars (2004), Each One Teach One (2002) and Come on Everybody Let's Rock (2001).

Matt Pucci


Hollow Crown (Limited Digi-Pack)
Hollow Crown (Limited Digi-Pack)
Price: £15.10

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brighton boys build big noise, 30 Jan. 2009
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Architects are a relatively new band for me - I'd heard the name bandied around and caught snippets of previous release, Ruin - and although this is their third album, it's undoubtedly the one the band will most want you to hear. Theirs is a punishing, unrelenting take on metalcore with flourishes of Converge-style atmosperics, bludgeoning beats and a smattering of soaring, cleanly sung vocal lines. There's innovation aplenty, and a real sense of ambition, and it's this combination, coupled with the conviction with which they deliver the whole thing, that carries Hollow Crown into the realms of something special - both within its genre and beyond. Difficult to pick any stand-out tracks as such, this is an album best listened to in its entirety. That is, if you have the required endurance levels...

Brutal, ear-splitting exhiliration.

Matt Pucci


Choke [DVD]
Choke [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sam Rockwell
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £4.39

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "What would Jesus not do?", 25 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Choke [DVD] (DVD)
First of all, I should probably point out that Choke - Chuck Palahniuk's novel on which this film is based - is one of my favourite books, so there's an element of bias to this review, since unless they'd made an absolute pig's ear of it, I would feel obliged to give it full marks.

In actual fact, this is a pretty faithful adaptation of Palahniuk's book and as a movie it works well. Starring Sam Rockwell as Victor Mancini, a sexaholic who pretends to choke in restaurants in order to generate funds to meet the escalating costs of his mother's hospital bills, it explores a myriad different themes and ties them all together into a surprisingly moving, darkly funny tale of love, escapism and the power we have over our own destinies.

Like the book, Choke contains some fairly sordid moments, but they are balanced by scenes of a strange pathos - especially those between Victor and his ailing and deluded mother. The film benefits immensely from a strong cast, which includes Anjelica Huston, who is simply superb as Ida Mancini and Kelly McDonald (Trainspotting, No Country For Old Men) who just broke my heart as Doctor Paige Marshall. Brad William Henke, meanwhile, is almost precisely how I had envisaged Denny - another sex addict and Victor's best friend whose transformation over the course of the film is central to Choke's message.

It's certainly not going to be to everyone's taste, but this is a daring and, in places, downright hilarious film that succeeds in capturing Palahniuk's twisted vision. If you have no prior knowledge of the book, or of Palahniuk's work, I recommend it nonetheless - but be prepared: despite the promotional taglines, it's not quite what you might expect. And, in my opinion, all the better for it.

Matt Pucci
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2010 12:48 AM GMT


Cross of My Calling (Ocrd)
Cross of My Calling (Ocrd)
Price: £16.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overlooked but fantastic album, 4 Jan. 2009
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Released with very little fanfare at all, this is the (International) Noise Conspiracy's fifth album, and second to be produced by legendary Slayer/Red Hot Chili Peppers/Johnny Cash man, Rick Rubin. Perhaps best known for featuring Dennis Lyxzén from Refused (incredible punk band from mid/late nineties) the (I)NC's music is inextricably tied up with their politics - this is a band, after all, who once penned a song called 'Capitalism Stole My Virginity'. Indeed, the song titles here offer clear indication of some distinctly left-wing ideals: 'The Assassination Of Myself', 'Hiroshima Mon Amour' and 'Storm the Gates of Beverly Hills', to name but a few, while a quick scan of the lyric sheet provides further glimpses into the tenets of Situationist ideology.

Thankfully, the band's accessible, up-beat and hugely danceable punk 'n' soul means the whole thing works fantastically. The vocal hook in the chorus of 'Dustbins of History', for example, is redolent of northern indie-rockers, Embrace (in this case, a good thing) while 'Child of God' has room enough for some ethereal swirls, courtesy of Kalle Jacobsen's keyboards. 'Black September', 'Washington Bullets' and the aforementioned 'Storm the Gates...' are all simple, catchy and direct, and as a whole, The Cross of My Calling is a surprisingly potent cocktail of an album, imbued with a galvanising spirit of revolution and change.

Intelligent, eloquent and ambitious, this has sneaked in to become one of favourite records of 2008.

Matt Pucci


The Bronx III
The Bronx III
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: £5.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Third killer album from LA punks, 4 Jan. 2009
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This review is from: The Bronx III (Audio CD)
How much do I love the Bronx? Answer: a lot. Why? Well, in a word: passion. They're a punk band that plays rock 'n' roll music - or maybe it's the other way round. Whatever you wanna call it, the Bronx do it with nothing less than less than 100% commitment. It's genuine, honest and direct. It's also sweaty and desperate; raucous, loud and utterly liberating. Case-in-point: the LA quintet's third eponymous album opens with a track called 'Knifeman', on which hoarse-voiced vocalist Matt Caughthran bellows the lines "I wanna be original, I wanna be surrounded by art/But everything is digital, the formula is falling apart" over a simple, stabbing riff. By the end of the song - via a couple of equally simple yet highly effective chord changes - he's screaming for you to "tear it down!" like his life depends on it. If you're anything like me, you'll be screaming along with him.

There's nothing ironic about Caughthran's lyrics - although they are infused with a healthy dose of humour in places - or indeed, the Bronx's music. But rarely does it fail to hit the mark. The key here is the honesty and - again - the passion with which they deliver it. And the fact that the band - who comprise guitarists Joby J. Ford and Ken Horne, bassist Brad Magers and drummer par excellence Jorma Vik - are great song-writers, who understand, among other things, the value of a good old-fashioned, sing-along chorus. As simple as they may seem, these songs are far from formulaic (no super-fast SoCal punk for the scenesters here) and one gets the impression that if Charles Bukowski were still alive and writing today, the Bronx would be providing the soundtrack to the beat poet's tales of nights and days spent in the bars and on the streets of Hollywood.

Matt Pucci


Gardens of Water
Gardens of Water
by Alan Drew
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A man gives up and anything can happen to him.", 16 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Gardens of Water (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In 1999, Istanbul and its surrounding suburbs were hit by an earthquake, leaving thousands dead and causing devastation to the lives of those that survived. Among these survivors is Sinan Basioglu, a family man, a Muslim and - perhaps most significantly - a Kurd. In the aftermath of the quake, Sinan finds he has little choice but to accept the help offered to him by an American man to whom he owes his son's life, and yet distrusts inherently. So begins an extremely testing time for Sinan, as his daughter, Irem, is drawn inexorably toward the American's son, the enigmatic Dylan, while his own son, Ismail, appears to find greater solace in Christian doctrine than that of his own religion...

Gardens of Water is a highly accomplished and compelling novel. Having lived in Turkey at the time of the earthquake, author Alan Drew is obviously well-informed on his subject matter and has succeeded in creating a moving and insightful account that details the challenges, the dilemmas and the doubts of a man pushed to the brink by circumstances beyond his control. While Sinan inevitably suffers heart-break and tragedy over the course the story, his mental fortitude keeps the story moving in a manner that is both realistic and inspiring. Drew adopts a somewhat sombre tone for the telling of Sinan's story, and yet the dialogue is crisp and kinetic while his observations on the East-West divide are both revealing and incisive.

Matt Pucci


Choke
Choke
by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My all-time favourite, 5 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Choke (Paperback)
Choke is cult author Chuck Palahniuk's fourth novel, and there's a strong case for stating that it's also his best. Never one to shy away from dealing with society's less pleasant afflictions, Palahniuk tells the story of self-confessed 'sexaholic' Victor Mancini, who, in an effort to cover the costs of his ailing mother's medical bills, cons diners into making donations by pretending to choke on a piece of food. The rationale being that the person responsible for 'saving' Mancini feels indebted to him for making their own life seem meaningful.

By cataloguing Mancini's despicable behaviour, Palahniuk makes short work of a plethora of complex, seemingly contradictory and unrelated issues, revealing the protagonist to be both a victim of his erratic mother's parenting techniques and of the inherently selfish motivations at the heart of modern American society. So far, so cynical. Thankfully, Mancini is possessed of other, more redeeming qualities which eventually enable him to break the mould, and in this respect Choke is an inspiring, inspirational novel. Furthermore, in dealing with traditionally delicate topics such as mental illness and addiction, Palahniuk succeeds by injecting a healthy dose of pathos and humour into his writing, resulting in one of the funniest and thought-provoking books to have emerged in recent years.

Choke is certainly not for everyone - the language is spectacularly simple, occasionally profane and littered with graphic depictions of lewd sexual antics, while the dialogue is markedly 'dude'-heavy. For these reasons, it will appeal primarily to men of a certain age and demographic. Similarly, his use of metaphor could only be missed by the most naÔve of observers: Mancini's sex-addicted best friend Denny starts collecting rocks in an attempt to achieve 'sobriety', and ends up building something much bigger than he ever anticipated. But therein lies the beauty and, indeed, the artistry of Palahniuk's work, and of Choke in particular. By delivering his ideas in bite-size chunks, he gets the reader thinking on much grander scale and before you know it you'll be pondering Michel Foucault's theories on the connection between knowledge and power without even realising.

Top stuff.

Matt Pucci


Punkgasm
Punkgasm
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.93

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don Cab - now with vocals! Still amazing!, 30 Sept. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Punkgasm (Audio CD)
I really can't say enough about how good this band is. With only one member of the original line-up remaining (guitarist Ian Williams having gone on to form Battles) these highly influential 'math-rockers' have totally justified their re-emergence with this, the follow-up to 2006's World Class Listening Problem. It's a more diverse, more eclectic collection of percussion-heavy instrumental tracks than earlier albums, with more guitar and a far rockier bent than the aforementioned Battles. It's literally impossible to take in everything this album has to offer in just one listen, with each track building upon itself, changing gear and shifting shape, before threatening to explode at any moment. That a number of them do not is impressive enough; all the more remarkable is the fact that the band manage to evade any of the self-indulgent trappings this type of 'noodling' often falls into by making music that is unfailingly accessible and wonderfully evocative. Only three of the songs feature vocals, and like everything else about this album they're both sublime and slightly bonkers: at one point we are serenaded with the line, "I'm gonna turn you to a bottle of bleach, and pour you into the rug."

Certifiable genius.

Matt Pucci


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