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AGC2070 (Ashford, Kent, UK)

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Black Mirror: White Christmas [DVD]
Black Mirror: White Christmas [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Hamm
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkest Christmas special ever!, 23 Dec 2014
Personally I think this is the best Christmas special for a long time, making a few nods to festivity without compromising the unrelenting darkness of the series. The master stroke was the ironic use of Wizard's perennial Christmas hit at the end, which left me thinking about the programme for days after viewing.

Great sci-fi questions are raised such as, do we have a moral obligation to artificial intelligence - digital clones of ourselves?

Perhaps the ultimate fear is being trapped in a state of altered perception or isolation for eternity (a theme I explored myself in Seven Dreams of Reality and The Kent-erbury Tales). Here it is taken to its extreme, but before you get to that there are 3 stories all with their own twists - voyeuristic dating advice, a blue-tooth 'you' and real-life blocking from contact.

This is perhaps the ultimate proof that horror can have far more impact without the gore and even a bit of dark humour. Roll on series three.

Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror - Series 2 [DVD]
Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror - Series 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charlie Brooker
Price: £7.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Any Colour You Like..., 19 Dec 2014
Perhaps the darkest thing to hit our screens since the golden era of Chris Morris, and much needed in a culture where everything can be reduced to a vacuous spoon-fed pulp for the masses. Have you seen any pop videos recently? Both series 1 and series 2 should have you asking some existential questions or your money back!

The notion of a tragic/sad ending had almost disappeared from Western culture until this series (save for Lars von Trier, who is name-checked in series 1). Of course the big money is in giving the people what they believe they want, so a million more episodes of X Factor it is. This whole situation was brilliantly satirised in the second episode of series 1, which had added poignancy when the central female character was earnestly singing about real feelings, before being coerced into taking a job in pornography. Is it necessary to sell out to achieve success? Big questions again.

This was my favourite episode of series 1. I was not so keen on the politician/pig episode which I found rather coarse in spite of its valid point, although the 'redo' episode adroitly confronts the concerns that many of us have about Google glasses and the like.

So what of series 2?
I found episode 1 rather too similar to the Kubrick/Spielberg film A.I. which pretty much had the subject sewn up IMO. It was nice to see Beachy Head as a backdrop. Yes, there is an undercover counselling team stationed at the nearby pub there.

Episode 2 reminded me of the Derren Brown episode where a guy is put into a real-life simulation of a zombie computer game. Maybe this even inspired it, but this particular tale has a brilliant twist which points the gun squarely back at modern society and its 'everything is entertainment' attitude. Jeremy Kyle, anyone?

And finally, the third episode actually had me laughing out loud for the first time in Black Mirror. It was therefore no surprise to see Chris Morris's name in the credits. Does a 'punk' attitude connect more with people than 'politics?' I guess the answer is 'yes'. This seems strangely prophetic now that Russell Brand is speaking out for the common man on shows like Question Time. And fair play to him, politicians aren't speaking for us, right?

Finally, I feel that Charlie Brooker's writing and ideas are getting sharper as Black Mirror develops, with perhaps less reliance on swearing, than in series 1. The White Christmas episode (not on this DVD) was phenomenally dark and would get the full five stars from me, with the 'Roy Wood and Wizard' finish being perhaps the darkest punch-line ever delivered on TV - a lingering image that stayed with me days after watching.

The Endless River
The Endless River
Price: £8.00

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleached Floyd?, 14 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Endless River (Audio CD)
It's that album everybody wants to review, so what the hell, I thought I'd have a go too.

Firstly I have no doubt as to the integrity of Gilmour and Mason in wishing to pay homage to Wright with this album. I think Gilmour may have deliberately toned down his usual style to put Rick's keyboard playing centre-stage. Listen to the blistering guitar on the Division Bell's 'What do you want from me?' and you'll see there's really no comparison when it comes to guitar.

I like the idea of four long, mainly instrumental and ambient tracks too. Atom heart mother was mostly instrumental too, remember?

However I think that the closer artists are to madness the more poignant their works are. Nothing here will make your spine tingle or your eyes water like many tracks on Dark Side or The Wall. Compare this with the sheer power of The Great Gig in the Sky and you can see that it's not just about the lack of lyrics either.

All in all it's a noble effort to visit the psychedelic sounds of the past, but listen to the live tracks on Ummagumma and it's as though the hard edges have been knocked off, with the sound somewhat bleached by what Roger may have called 'soft middle age.' To illustrate how the comfort that everybody deserves can have this effect, compare Lennon's Double Fantasy with Plastic Ono Band, the Chili's Stadium Arcadium with One Hot Minute or even the Kings of Leon's later albums with their first three.

The album starts off well and even sounds a bit 'Aphex Twin' at the beginning, but it's a long wait until the welcome bit of rock on Nervana, which would have been better incorporated into one of the four main pieces to pep things up a bit. The other two deluxe edition extra audio tracks would have been better omitted IMO.

'The man and the journey' must surely be aching for an official release, as is the John Peel session containing lengthy versions of Fat Old Sun and Embryo. Also I see no shame in releasing early Syd-era stuff like Lucy Leave and Vegetable Man. In my opinion all would be a far more edifying addition to the Floyd canon. I hope this album grows on me, but after three listens it's taking its time for a Floyd album. I will update this review should I reach that Eureka moment.

I'm not 'dissing it' (there's a good old 90s word), but IMO the best post-Wall era Floyd album is Waters' solo album, 'Amused to Death.'

Easy Rider
Easy Rider
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £14.65

3.0 out of 5 stars Easy riding, but not the soundtrack album, 20 Oct 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Easy Rider (Audio CD)
Great songs, but do look at the album photographs for the track listing. This is not the Easy Rider soundtrack per se, in fact only three of the original tracks appear here. These are Born To Be Wild, The Weight and The Pusher. The Ballad of Easy Rider on this CD is The Byrds' version (sadly there is no sign of Wasn't Born to Follow which IS in the film).

As for the other tracks, they are undoubtedly classic and White Rabbit and American Woman are particularly welcome additions.

Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties
Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties
by Ian MacDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

5.0 out of 5 stars You don't have to be a Beatles fan, but it helps!, 6 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Ian Macdonald's style of writing reminds me of Dylan's mid sixties lyrical style - crammed to the brim with phrases that seem to linger in the mind and re-emerge sporadically. For example he describes the 60s as the 'last gasp of the Western soul.' Personally I think bands such as Radiohead and Nirvana communicated the same existential longing, so if society pops up for another gasp of air every 30 years I look forward to the 2020s.

He is not afraid to criticise some of the Beatles' best loved work, such as the film soundtracks to Help and A Hard Days Night for example, and some of his put downs are quite frankly hilarious: "the immature egoist who frittered away the group's patience on sniggering nonsense like this" (Maxwell's silver hammer).

In spite of the above phrase, there is a sense that Paul hasn't yet had the appraisal his songwriting deserves, no doubt this will come posthumously.

Some of the heavier tracks on The White Album in particular come in for a drubbing. Personally these are some of my favourite tracks - The Beatles with no constraints going for an all-out rock sound which just displays their versatility. Surprisingly Revolution 9 is viewed as something of a triumph in getting an avant garde collage of dreamlike madness into millions of homes. I think one has to view many of the song reviews as a matter of opinion and just enjoy the writing, which never falters.

Macdonald's searing analysis of our times compared with the sixties and how they are a direct result of the change in values that occurred in that decade is worth a purchase alone. "The First World is currently sinking as if into a babbling, twinkling, microelectronically pulsing quicksand."

If you are over 35 you will probably agree with much of what he writes. It helps to be a Beatles fan too. I only wish that he could have written a similar track by track analysis of other artists like Dylan or Pink Floyd too.

I Care Because You Do
I Care Because You Do
Price: £10.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Selective brilliance!, 15 July 2014
This review is from: I Care Because You Do (Audio CD)
With the exception of SAW and SAW2, I find many Aphex Twin albums like those John Lennon CDs where you need to program the player to skip the Yoko Ono tracks. In my case, I want the chilled out ambient tracks but not the more dance orientated stuff. This album is a perfect example.

The opening track has a hypnotic drumbeat and you instantly feel you're on course for a SAW style experience. Track 3 let's the side down a bit but then Icct Hedral takes you to another dimension with it's superb multi-layering of string sounds to give a sinister classical feel and extra punch when the chord change in the middle kicks in.

After this I skip to Mookid, for the final four tracks are sublime, Alberto Balsalm in particular. This has an addictive baseline and seems to relax the mind, as the 'balsam/balm' in the title might imply. The final track returns to layered string style of Icct Hedral.

The tracks I always skip include Ventolin which simulates the tinnitus-like side effect that some people get from this asthma reliever. This is a real 'Marmite' track that you will either love or hate.

Personally, I would love to see the excellent Pancake Lizard (B side) included on this album to tip the balance further in the direction of the lounge as opposed to the dance floor. So it's 3 out of 5 for me, but with the wonders of CD programming I can easily make it a 5. It's worth the admission fee for Icct Hedral and Alberto Balsalm alone.

Supertramp - The Very Best Of
Supertramp - The Very Best Of
Price: £14.83

5.0 out of 5 stars It's logical to buy it!, 9 Mar 2014
You'll buy it for the hits and keep coming back for the tracks you didn't know. You're Bloody Well Right and Ain't Nobody But Me have riffs worthy of any of your 70s rock groups, and if you feel nothing when hearing the tale of Rudy's train to nowhere then there is clearly something wrong. I particularly enjoy the inclusion of the train announcement from Paddington to the West but that's probably just me! School has great lyrics too. And you've still got all the hits to go. Listen; ingest; enjoy.

Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The USA CD track listings explained!, 25 Jan 2014
Disc 1 is generally relaxing, with a few scary moments (especially Grass and Tree). White Blur contains a few voices (reminding me of the similar use of voices in the second track on SAW I, which in my opinion is the bridge between this collection and Richard's later work, in spite of being produced earlier).

Disc 2 is perhaps more of a challenge, with two tracks that go on far too long IMO - 'Tassels' which sounds like electronic interference and the repetitive penultimate track. However, as there is no option for 4.5 stars, I have to go for 5 after the experience of putting the CD on as a sleeping aid and drifting back into consciousness with the blissful 'Lichen' playing. Also, the final track reminds me a little of Daevid Allen's 'Euterpe Gratitude Piece' (also well worth checking out if 'eerie ambience' is your kind of thing).

The USA version seems to be cheaper than the UK version (Cornish to be precise!) but it has some differences.
The artwork for side 1 still contains the hankie image, a track that is omitted, and the artwork for side 2 contains a blank square which would have been the track 'Stone in Focus' which is also omitted. Two of the images are different on the first CD:

7)Ropes (Curtains in UK edition)
8)Circles (Blur in UK edition)

Many images are different for the second CD, so I've done a full listing:

1)Blue Calx
2)Parallel Stripes
3)Metal Grating (Shiny Metal Rods on UK edition)
4)Windowsill (Grey Stripe on UK edition)
5)Black and white stripes (Z Twig on UK edition)
6)Siding Nails (confusingly Windowsill on UK edition)
7)Corrugated Tubing (Hexagon on UK edition)
9)Leaves (Spots on UK edition)
11)Rusty Metal (White Blur 2 on UK edition)

Using the pie charts to work out the imagery for each track is all well and good if there are one set of images for all versions, but that's Aphex for you - always enigmatic. Personally I find the later 'beat style' work harder to get into but still worth persevering with, but this is the perfect CD to listen to around a campfire at 3am in the middle of a forest after a flagon of booze. It will either send you to sleep of scare the bejesus out of you!

In my review of Pink Floyd's 'Ummagumma' I provocatively commented that none of the modern artists produce experimental music of this ilk due to commercialism/marketing, then I thought about Aphex as an exception, until I realised that 1994 is now two decades ago. Tempus fugit!

by Simon Crow
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gruesome yet compelling debut, 22 Jan 2014
This review is from: B.O.D.I.E.S (Paperback)
Dreamed up in the rural fenlands of Eastern England, this book is a million miles from the author's pastoral home. The opening catapults the reader into a dark world of extreme violence where anything can happen.

What follows has the feel of a USA prison drama with a surreal and mysterious twist. The shocks keep coming, but the plot is nearer to Stephen King than the 'slasher' style of the Saw films.

My favourite section is when Morgan meets the mastermind behind it all and discovers the true scale of things and that the horrors he has witnessed are really just an exaggerated version of our everyday world (creating a need or dependency in order to guarantee profit for example).

The final chapters reminded me of John Carpenter's 'The Thing'. This is an easy-going read for anybody who isn't too squeamish and I await the author's second book to see what emerges from the dark mind of Simon Crow next.

Stewart Lee - Carpet Remnant World [DVD]
Stewart Lee - Carpet Remnant World [DVD]
Dvd ~ Stewart Lee
Price: £17.58

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars City meat - meat from the city!, 10 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
On my initial viewing I was disappointed, but as with 'Milder Comedian,' bits of this epic routine tend to stick in your head and eventually one comes to embrace it.

For me it was the timely 'Scooby Doo / Thatcher' section that stood out. Following the rose-tinted media-obituary of MHT and the insidious acceptance of the current 'cut and privatise' ethos, this is satire done in a subtle and clever way. Sometimes I am longing for Stew to get political and tear the Government a new mouthpiece 'Ben Elton style' but his cleverness is in always doing things his own way. The 'Magners / give it to me straight' section of 'Milder comedian' was similar in its take on 'nothing is sacred' commercialism.

Be warned: this is Stewart's first 18 certificate, and I guess that it is the repeated use of C word in the 'Twitter' section that has added 3 years onto Stew's usual suitability rating, but you can't blame him - you lot wrote it!

The fake nervous breakdown is perhaps not as dramatic as in 'Milder comedian' but the sight of Mr Lee doing 'sad comedy' whilst swigging from a bottle of wine is very memorable. The audience analysis does get somewhat repetitive, but he is perhaps pushing this aspect to the limit before moving on into new territory (see the accompanying interview).

All in all, it's good to see that a comedian can be edgy and even shocking without resorting to the rising tide of prejudice and misdirected anger shown by many 'comedians' as well as the 'would be comedians' we meet every day! CRW is also an 'I hate the Travelodge' style tirade against banality on a national scale.

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