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Mr. T. S. Guy (London, England)

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London Triptych
London Triptych
by Jonathan Kemp
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.96

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the hype, 14 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: London Triptych (Paperback)
This book has received some great reviews (albeit for the most part from obscure gay press), and I for one feel cheated having purchased it. The writing is overly simplistic, relies very heavily on dialogue rather than any kind of character development, and is extremely clichéd.

The author very much seems to believe that all gay men are either sex-obsessed or so repressed that their lives are constant misery. Almost every character in this novel is a rent boy, and a good 50% of the novel is sex. It reads more like pornography than literature - the sex is explicit, over-used, repetitive and often superfluous to the story. This is both tiresome and borderline offensive to the average gay man - yes sex is a part of life, but it's far from the be-all-and-end-all that the characters in this book suggest it to be.

Around two thirds of the way into the book the author delves into the depths of plagiarism, quoting lyrics from Hole's "Violet" mid-paragraph without referencing them or acknowledging that they are the work of another (a risky tactic given Courtney Love's penchant for litigation).

So why have I granted a second star in my review? Well, the novel is actually surprisingly readable - it's a page-turner, albeit one that makes you hate yourself for turning those pages. Being so dialogue-heavy makes it a very easy read where one doesn't need to engage one's brain to keep up with the plot. The almost comical (and almost constant) sex scenes also make it entertaining in a cringe-worthy way.

If you're looking for quality fiction with gay protagonists please, please don't buy this book. Look into Sarah Waters, Armistead Maupin, Jake Arnott or even Christopher Rice instead.

Live At Stockholm Concert Hall
Live At Stockholm Concert Hall
Price: 12.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the moment perfectly, 8 Dec 2012
"Live At Stockholm Concert Hall" was released in 2009 following her first three studio albums "Spending Time With Morgan", "A Temporary Dive" and "Changing of the Seasons". Ane herself has referred to these three records as a trilogy where she developed her craft as a folk singer. The progression was clear from each album to the next, and it culminates with this live collection, which acts as a beautiful retrospective of this period of her career.

The DVD captures a wide range of songs from Ane's first three albums, including all but one track from her then latest release, "The Changing of the Seasons". The songs are given a warm, full-band setting - at its height there are 21 people on stage performing alongside her. And yet, at no point is her voice drowned out or anything other than the centre of attention. The songs are as emotive and heartfelt as ever (sometimes more so), and some of the instrumental choices really bring out new facets to much loved tracks. The addition of an accordion in the chorus of "The Treehouse Song" works surprisingly well, and the 11-strong backing choir on "Ten Seconds" is breathtaking. For the fan who already has her first three studio albums there are a few treats in store - new song "Petrified Forest Road" and covers of "Falling Down", "Big In Japan" and a lovely version of the Cyndi Lauper classic "True Colors" sit comfortably alongside the better known numbers. Sivert Höyem joins Ane on stage for a great live rendition of their duet "Lift Me".

Throughout the performance Ane is filled with poise and her timing and phrasing are immaculate. There is not a weak moment in the set list and this really feels like an artist captured at the peak of her game. Given the moderate change in direction that her next album took ("It All Starts With One"), this is a fantastic document of the sound that Ane tried so hard to find and develop over the first phase of her career.

Unfortunately the CD had to cut several of the songs due to space limitations, but they have included a nice bonus with a studio recording of the track "My Baby's Arms" - previously only available as a demo on her "Sketches" disc. The CD tracks have been cut very well - where Ane talks to the crowd quite regularly in the DVD (in Swedish), this has been seamlessly removed from the CD to give the album a better flow. My one improvement I would suggest for the set would be a download link to the missing audio tracks, but that's a really tiny shortcoming in such an excellent package.

If this collection is your first introduction to Ane I would recommend either "Changing of the Seasons" or "It All Starts With One" as your next step - COTS if you want to hear a similar sound in a studio setting, and IASWO if you're feeling a little more adventurous and want to hear Ane really push her voice and her sound in exciting new directions.

Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners - The Best Of
Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners - The Best Of
Offered by positivenoise
Price: 5.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Sprawling, unfocussed, but full of gems, 18 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is one of the oddest compilation albums I've ever purchased. At 47 tracks long it is far too sprawling to be a straightforward greatest hits, too mainstream to be a proper b-sides collection, yet too inclusive of oddities to be a best of.

That said, it is still a rather sublime look into the genius of Evan Dando at his finest, and disc one in particular is a very strong set of tracks.

There are a small number of glaring omissions (Stove, It's All True, Become The Enemy) and a small number of dreadful tracks that should never have made the cut (Step By Step, Ballarat), but overall this is a nice collection. Ideal for the fan who only has a couple of their albums and wants to explore.

Having said that, if you're looking for a straightforward hits collection then The Atlantic Years is a stronger and more concise set at a similar price.

The Prince Of Mist
The Prince Of Mist
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a book for grown up Zafón fans, 10 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Prince Of Mist (Paperback)
As with the majority of readers, I was drawn to this having loved Shadow of the Wind and very much enjoyed The Angel's Game. Whilst the cover of this book does indicate that this is young adult fiction, it has been put into a binding that appears more of an adult book, and is clearly labelled as being also suitable for adult readers.

Sadly, this is hugely misleading. Whilst there are still elements of Zafón's magical way with words, it is far too simple and uninvolved a read for the average adult reader. It is broadly on a par with the Point Horror series of books I remember reading when I was around 11-14 in terms of complexity of plot, structure and language. Furthermore, the book feels incomplete - several strands of plot that are started are never wound up such as the story of the black cat, the true nature of the statues and the significance of Max's new watch and the clocks running backwards. The ending on a whole is hugely unsatisfying because the book had so much potential and just feels rushed.

As a young adult book, I would give this three stars - Zafón does still have a great storyteller's voice, but the whole thing feels rushed and unfinished. If it were another 100-200 pages longer it could have had the space to develop into an execution to match the idea behind it.

Lungs (Deluxe Box Set)
Lungs (Deluxe Box Set)

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great box set with frustrating absences!, 2 Dec 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lungs (Deluxe Box Set) (Audio CD)
I won't focus this review on the main album here, Lungs, as chances are you have already heard it if you are looking at this box set. Suffice to say it is a fantastic album and easily worth 5 stars in its own right.

The remainder of the box is a very worthy addition to the collection of any Florence fan - the Live At Abbey Road disc has very strong live performances of 8 tracks from the album (including all 5 singles) plus a good cover of "Oh! Darling".

The third disc is actually quite a disappointment - the "Remixes Covers and Rarities" on offer are a woefully small selection of the great rarities that Florence already has to offer. What is there is generally good, but there are glaring omissions such as her great covers of "Hospital Beds", "Addicted To Love" and "Going Down" and the contents of the original bonus disc from the 2-disc version of the album. It also would have been nice to see the acoustic version of "My Boy Builds Coffins" there given that to date it has only been made available on vinyl (on the Drumming Song 7"). Finally, it would have been amazing to have the bluesy, gutsy demo version of Coffins on there too. But for all these flaws in the track listing, I can't really fault what is there as there are still some strong tracks on this disc.

The fourth and final disc is a DVD, live from the Rivoli Ballroom. I haven't actually watched the DVD yet, but I was in the front row at the concert back in July and can safely say that Florence was on fantastic form and provided that the camera has captured the set well it will be a fantastic DVD that I look forward to watching soon. It's also good that the entire set that she played that night has been included on the DVD. As a bonus to this DVD there are also acoustic versions of four songs and videos to four of the five singles from the album. Sadly it doesn't contain the video to Kiss With A Fist, but in my opinion that was her weakest video so far so if they had to leave one out at least they picked the right one!

In summary, this is a very nice extended version of a fantastic album, which loses a star because of the missed opportunity to really capture Florence's outstanding collection of rarities on Disc 3. The casing and booklet are also very attractively designed.

Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: 5.59

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new direction..., 18 Mar 2008
This review is from: COUPLES (Audio CD)
Having heard the pre-release of this album a few times, I'm pretty hooked on it. Stylistically, it is very different from "Someone To Drive You Home", so it is bound to split the opinion of old fans, whilst winning over some new ones (like me).

Where the first album was indie (with very slight punk leanings in places), this is more electro-indie. The guitars are still there, but they're accompanied by a lot of synths, and it's quite a radical change of direction.

There's plenty to dance to (lead single "Century", or the spectacularly silly "Here Comes The Serious Bit"), some more straightforward indie-tinged tracks that will appeal to early fans ("Guilt", "I'm Going To Hell", "The Couples"), and a couple of really different songs like the dark-sounding "Round The Hairpin" or the almost falsetto vocals of "Too Clever by Far".

All in all, I really enjoy this album, it's very catchy and diverse enough to make an interesting listen. Personal highlights are "Guilt" and "Too Clever By Far", and I'd say that the vocalist has improved since the first disc. Some old fans won't like it, but if addressed with an open mind they may surprise themselves.

Price: 11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most fun record of 2008 so far..., 15 Mar 2008
This review is from: Transmiticate (Audio CD)
This album is a lot of fun. It never takes itself too seriously, but there's more than enough there to entertain.

First of all, forget any pre-conceptions you may have of Donita's music from her L7 days, as this is completely different. It has much more in common with the recent works of former Shakespear's Sister frontwoman Siobhan Fahey or even The Long Blondes than it does with L7.

The grunge and anger that made L7 so great at their peak has been replaced by a deliciously modern-sounding take on a retro 80s style. There's still plenty of guitar and a fair bit of distortion, but this is essentially a whole new direction. Tracks like "Fly, Feather, Fly", "He's Got The Honey", "Dare Dare" and the addictive "Curtains For Cathy" are great to dance to, and the slightly eerie sounding "Take A Few Steps" is easily the high point of the slower tracks.

So why only four stars instead of five? Well, there are two main reasons. Firstly, the lyrics are pretty naff - the album relies on style over lyrical content, but gets away with it. Secondly, probably as a result of the first point, the slow songs aren't nearly as strong as the faster ones (with the exception of "Take A Few Steps"). Luckily there are only three slow tracks though, so this isn't a major issue.

Donita has set up all kinds of interesting products on her website ([...] such as buying shares in songs, a quarterly vinyl club and so forth. So if you love the album there's plenty more to explore over there.

And if you enjoy this, it's worth checking out Siobhan Fahey too - she has a handful of singles out, and is allegedly issuing an album in the summer.

Best Of (+ Bonus Disc)
Best Of (+ Bonus Disc)
Price: 15.32

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the finest best-of collection ever, 13 Feb 2008
This review is from: Best Of (+ Bonus Disc) (Audio CD)
Given that The Cardigans have only ever reached the top 20 four times thus far, along with four other singles scraping the lower regions of the top 40, you may think that a 46-track Best Of would be excessive. But oh, how very wrong you would be.

Alongside the radio hits "My Favourite Game", "Lovefool", "Erase/Rewind" and "Hanging Around", this double-CD contains a number of lesser hits, the band's favourite album tracks, and an almost complete collection of b-sides.

The first disc contains all the singles that have been released both here and abroad, with the exception of "My New Cuckoo" (which the band hate), and a couple of the very early ones. Personally I've never been much of a fan of early Cardigans, so this is no major downfall. There are sufficient early tracks to get an idea of their roots without getting bogged down. High points of this disc include recent singles "Don't Blame Your Daughter" and "I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to be Nicer", alongside four tracks from the amazing Long Gone Before Daylight album, the aforementioned big hits, and the lovely song "War" which featured on a couple of soundtracks in the late 90s.

Disc two is where things start to get exciting for the super-fans amongst you... Back in the mid-90s, The Cardigans released a 16-track b-sides collection called "The Other Side of the Moon", however it was only available in Japan. 12 of those tracks now appear on disc two of this album, including a much heavier early mix of "War", and a dark version of "Carnival". Following on from this there is a lovely acoustic version of "Lovefool" (recorded live in a hotel room with police sirens in the background), and a rare early take on the song "Happy Meal". Then comes the second half of the disc, which is definitely the most important reason why any Cardigans fan should own this CD. Tracks 16-24 are the complete b-sides to the Long Gone Before Daylight and Super Extra Gravity albums. Every single one of these is a gem, and it is criminal that they've been so hard to track down until now. These five ballads and three up-tempo tracks really showcase the band at their finest, with "Hold Me", "If There Is A Chance" and "If You Were Less Like Me" being possibly three of the best recordings the band has ever made.

If I really had to pick fault with this album, it would be the dubious inclusion of Tom Jones duet "Burning Down The House" on the first disc instead of "Your New Cuckoo" (or another track from one of their two latest albums), and the few omissions from the b-sides disc due to lack of space. The songs that haven't been included on disc two are all either covers, live or alternate versions of album tracks, or in one case a 16-minute instrumental track. However, some of these arguably merited a place on the album more so than some of the early b-sides that did make it, particularly their lovely versions of Black Sabbath's "Changes" (from the "Live & Learn" single) and Kraftwerk's "Das Model" (from the "For What It's Worth" single).

All in all though, it's a pretty awesome album. Even with its (very minor) flaws, it still deserves five stars as I can't think of a more comprehensive and well thought-out Best Of. The disc comes with extensive liner-notes from the band and quirky cover art that looks like it is hand-written.

Once you've discovered this disc, you'll probably want to go on to hear more of their albums. "Long Gone Before Daylight" is a great place to start, then "Gran Turismo" or "Super Extra Gravity". The songs on the first disc are fairly representative of each album/era though, so just follow up on whichever group of songs appeals to you the most I guess.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2009 4:08 PM BST

Michael Tolliver Lives
Michael Tolliver Lives
by Armistead Maupin
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but not Tales of the City, 22 Sep 2007
This review is from: Michael Tolliver Lives (Hardcover)
The other reviewers are right - this definitely is not a Tales of the City book. In terms of structure it is much, much closer to Maupin's later works "Maybe The Moon" and "The Night Listener".

I say this because unlike the other Tales books there is a single narrative, instead of a collection of sub-stories going on all at once. Personally, I enjoyed this book, but then I also enjoyed the two books mentioned above. Yes, I missed the excitement of following several intertwining stories that I so enjoyed in the earlier Tales books, but it does a pretty good job of holding its own.

There are some downsides to it - about three quarters of the way through you get a lot of rushed, un-necessary run-downs on what the old characters are up to now, which just seems shallow and detrimental to the novel as a whole, as well-loved characters from earlier titles are just brought up without adding to the story in the slightest. Maupin also repeated the unthinkable and killed off a much-loved character "off-screen", just like he did between Further Tales and Babycakes. I won't say who or how as that would take away from reading it, but it bothers me that he can be so blasé in killing off characters we all liked without even chronicling it properly in one of the stories.

Other than these shortcomings, it's still a good read and Maupin still has a great way with words. The story has plenty of Anna Madrigal in it which is never a bad thing, and Michael's biological family are portrayed well and have a good storyline. There are some likeable new characters such as Ben and Jake who the reader could easily warm to just as much as we did with the old characters if Maupin decides to continue the series in the future.

In summary, no it's not a Tales book, and no it's not Maupin's finest hour. But it is thoroughly readable and a welcome return from some of the characters so well-loved the first time around. I'd give it three-and-a-half stars if that were possible, but as it's not I'll give it four.

Under The Blacklight
Under The Blacklight
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 16.03

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly enjoyable., 22 Aug 2007
This review is from: Under The Blacklight (Audio CD)
Given the backlash from long-term Rilo Kiley fans, and a number of disappointing returns from bands and singers that I like recently, I felt a slight air of apprehension towards this album. It is with great relief that I find it to be an enjoyable and fun listen.

Much of what has been said about it is true - a lot of the lyrics have been "dumbed down" when compared to some of their earlier work, and yes their sound has changed. But what people seem to forget is that Rilo Kiley have changed their sound with every album. From the low-fi indie-pop of Take Offs & Landings to the more accomplished indie sound of Execution, through to the beautiful and under-stated folky-indie-pop of More Adventurous. Add in the countryesque influence of Jenny's solo album and the retro sound of The Elected (Blake's other band), and you have a creative force that is always on the move stylistically.

This album is definitely the closest to a mainstream pop sound that the band have ever toyed with, yet it still has substance and you can hear a number of their musical roots throughout it. "Give A Little Love" wouldn't have sounded out of place on their earlier EPs with its heavily synthesised backing, whilst title-track "Under The Blacklight" would have sounded at home on Jenny's solo album. Although the vocal on new single "Silver Lining" is performed by Jenny, it still sounds like it could have appeared on The Elected's last album, and "The Angels Hung Around" could just as easily have appeared on More Adventurous.

Provided you approach this album with no preconceptions of what a Rilo Kiley album "should" be, I think you'll enjoy it. To me it will never be up there with my personal favourite "More Adventurous"; many would argue that it doesn't compare with their first two albums. But that's kind of the point - it is the incomparability that makes each Rilo Kiley album an independent and worthwhile body of songs.

One final note - this is an album that should be heard live. Even the somewhat dire album low-point "Déjalo" sounds great in a live setting, and the band are absolutely on top form at the moment as a live act.

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